Machinations of the Slave Lords!

Shadows of Thundertree, Episode 1
Ill Met Near Phandalin

Shadows of Thundertree

Ill Met Near Phandalin

Our heroes make their way home from Phandalin, with the body of Gah Ri in tow. Each day, Sten performs clerical magic to maintain the body, lest it rot on the two-week journey home. After nearly two months away, the group are road-weary and looking forward to a break.

By the third day on the road, however, they all begin to feel uneasy. The forest is too quiet, seems somehow darker than usual, and the air feels heavy and oppressive. Sten becomes convinced that someone—or something—is tracking them in the night, but it never shows its face. The feeling gets stronger as they go, and everyone is on edge.

By day six, the PCs have begun a forced march to cover more ground, not stopping to make camp until well into the night. As they prepare to step off the road to make camp, they hear the sounds of battle somewhere in the near distance, followed by a booming thunderclap. Minutes later, a dragonborn dressed in traveler’s clothes comes staggering into the road, covered in gashes and cuts, a couple of small crossbow bolts sticking out of him.

“Drow,” he says. “We should run.”

At that moment, his drow pursuers emerge into the road and the battle is joined. Our heroes emerge victorious, with Faervel pursuing the lone survivor into the woods, while Gurtak leaps to his aid, neatly beheading the drow.

Searching the bodies, the heroes discover two things upon the body of the lead drow. First, he wears the symbol of Tharizdun, the Elder Elemental Eye :

Symbol_of_Tharizdun.png

Second, he bears a scroll case. Punty tears it open, suffering a lightning shock from the magical traps securing the message, before the group reads the contents. Upon realizing that Harmun Kost and Agatha are villains that the group encountered on their first adventure together, and let live, Punty mutters, “what a douche,” and the group vows to discover what’s going on and put an end to this nasty bit of unfinished business.

After healing their new friend and making introductions, the group camps for the night and the next day continue their trip. As they will be approaching Phandalin from the south and passing within a few hours of it, the group decide to stop in and check on the Rockseeker clan at the Mines of Phandelver. Upon hearing that the Lost Mines and the Forge of Spells are no longer lost, Nav’ron is eager to see the sight for himself.

So the heroes continue on. The closer they get to Phandalin, the more their sense of doom and foreboding grows, as if something intangible but dark and evil is spreading across the Menowood.

Three days out from the mines, just as the sky is fading from the blue-black of midnight to the gray of pre-dawn, the air is split by a horrific scream of agony, followed by a quiet chanting in the distance. Sten, who was sitting watch, arouses his companions and they send Faervel ahead to scout while they make their way behind them.

The first thing the group comes across are the bodies of three dead centaurs, each of which has been torn to shreds by what looks like a combination of weapons and the claws of great beasts. Gurtak notes what appear to be warg tracks on the ground, but far larger than any warg he’s ever seen, and marked with vicious claws that aren’t normally seen with these creatures.

The chanting, however, still goes on ahead and the group continues on.

Faervel makes his way to a clearing where he sees six cultists chanting around six dead and mutilated victims, arranged around a bonfire. He pulls his bow, takes aim and sticks one of the two priests leading the ritual. Unfortunately, the priest does not fall, and while Faervel is exceptionally stealthy, his shot gives his position away to his victim, who points and shouts an incantation, freezing the rogue where he stands.

The cultists close in…

The heroes arrive on the scene just in time to save their roguish companion from a fairly grisly demise, making short work of the cultists. Their sorrow and rage builds as they realize that they know every one of the six victims—two men, two women and two children—as townsfolk of Phandalin. Nav’ron and Sten recognize the ritual as one to gather power, though for what dark purpose they cannot discern.

Gathering their wits about them, the group press on, determined to reach home as soon as possible. The rest of their journey goes without challenge, but when they reach the Mines, they are shocked to find them closed, the doorway concealed so that none can find it.

Gurtak assures the group that the dwarves would never simply abandon Phandalin, and that there would be secret ways into and out of the mine. The group turns north, pressing on to get home and discover what horrors have occurred in their absence due to the machinations of this dark mage and his undead lover…

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Danger at Darkshelf Quarry, Episodes 6-7
The Warlock's Last Gambit

The group, determined to root out their enemies, employs outstanding strategy to tear their way through Level 1 of the mines. They discover a group of miners who have no idea that evil is going on and who, upon being presented evidence of the slaver machinations, promptly walk off the job and join the slaves and Kwon below; these are sent under Kwon’s guardianship to sneak out through the lower level and make their way back to town.

No, seriously, it was a total slaughter. Punty gave the bad guys every chance to surrender, but facing death at the hands of a halfling paladin, or death by hanging, they chose to the last, death by halfling paladin.

After clearing out the top level, the group discovers the “main entrance” to the caves—a massive, open quarry pit at the far end of which stands the keep in which their enemies presumably reside. Sick to the point of recklessness of the sneaking around and subtlety, Punty and Zym begin to openly stride across the quarry pit, while rest of the party slinks around the edges.

Halfway across the floor, Punty and Zym begin to take heavy arrow fire from the sentries atop the castle. The rest of the group makes it to the bottom door, which is locked, and Faervel works feverishly to pick the lock to allow them entry.

Realizing that Punty and Zym may not make it across to the castle under the current circumstances, Gah-Ri uses “Misty Step” to transport himself to the top of the parapets, directly in the midst of the archers. He manages to dispatch the archers, buying Punty and Zym the time they need to get to the castle, but then finds himself alone on top of the castle, and facing another group of guards, plus the half-orc, half-dwarf Brubgrok and his lieutenant Glythriel, who finally appear on the scene.

Brubgrok.jpg
Original Picture Source

The fight is wildly one-sided, and Gah-Ri meets a heroic end as the group enters the basement of the keep, just in time to see the guards hurl Gah-Ri’s body from the parapets. Enraged, the group quickly dispatches the two guards in the basement and makes their way straight to the roof, ignoring the rest of the encampment, where Punty strides into the main courtyard and calls out Brubgrok.

The fight is epic, the group facing two dozen human and goblin guards, five bugbear lieutenants, Glythriel and Brubgrock themselves. Twice, Punty and Zym fall under the blades of their adversaries, only to be brought back to their feet by Sten Karn, and the group tears through the mass of foes until, in the end, it is Faervel who puts an end to Glythriel with a sword through her back, as Zym and Punty together fell the leader of the slavers in this castle. The group is unsurprised when they discover Glythriel wearing a magical ring, which when removed, reveals her as a drow. Faervel takes the ring, which he discovers has the power to alter the appearance of anyone who wears it into what they would look like were they a high elf.

Wounded, tired and victorious, the crew clears out the rest of the castle, most of whose inhabitants run for the hills when they realize their leader has been dispatched, and return to Darkshelf, where they are hailed as heroes and allowed to rest up for several days before they return to Phandalin, where their next adventure awaits…

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Danger at Darkshelf Quarry, Episode 5
Plan, What Plan?

Again we find our heroes searching through the the remainder or the second level of this cavern, er, quarry. Much discussion is had as to what to do with the slaves found being guarded by the Bugbears in the prior episode. Eventually the decision is made to explore the remainder of this level and decide their fate later. Faervel Galadthor and Gah Ri aka Gary scout ahead and find a small group of goblins working away, actually mining near the ramp to the next level up. Much discussion about the pros and cons of attacking them are discussed to the point that Gurtak simply marches over and starts the battle. That occurs quietly off screen to no great effect. Other than dead goblins.

From there the group decides to explore the last sets of passages visible to them on this level. Again, Gah Ri aka Gary and Faervel Galadthor scout ahead and find a large temple room with an obelisk inscribed with the symbol of a single eye. This marks these as the priests opposed to the priest of Lolth whom the group had encountered before.

After regrouping, the heroes discuss options. The group moves in and in a series of events that are not well known or understood to at least one dwarf (Gurtak), the murder hobos go for the kill (Looking at you Faervel Galadthor). As it turns out there are two priest, a number of the electrocuting eel/fish from earlier, and eventually a whole pack of Goblins. In a stunning turn of events, no one gets particularly beaten up. Sten Karn has a bit of bad luck with hitting things as does Gah Ri aka Gary. Otherwise, everyone performs admirably and the slaughter is total, well almost.

Belatedly a lone Goblin makes the incredibly foolish mistake of showing up late to the fight. When given a moment to surrender the poor over matched creature does in a heartbeat. After questioning it becomes obvious that the Goblin doesn’t know much, but he does confirm much of what the party already knows. There are no dwarves running this mine and in fact the whole operation if run by a Hobgoblin and two sets of fighting priests. When given the opportunity to flee, the offer isn’t even spoken before the Goblin disappears.

More loot is found and the last of the obvious nooks an crannies explored on this level. Next time….. The First Floor!!!!

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Danger at Darkshelf Quarry, Episode 4
Goblins, and Bugbears, and Kwon - Oh My!

With a… night…? of rest, the party left the water chamber to explore the upward bound corridor that would hopefully lead to more revelations about the mysterious disappearances on the surface.

All things being normal, Faervel Galadthor sneaked off into the darkness to scout. However, cosmic scales finally tipped the other way, and Faervel snuck effectively, coming back to report on a cavern occupied by goblins, many of whom were asleep. The plan came down to Faervel murdering as many as possible, and the party charging in once he needed to squawk for help. He murdered an admirable number of greenskins before needing aid, but with “Punty”, Gurtak, and Sten Karn off killing the goblin archers that tried to rush in as back up and rush out as cowards with springing axe swipes and sacred fires, Faevel used his time to find PHAT LOOTZ in the firepit.

He was startled when the party caught him. The party was not startled that Faevel had found treasure and wanted to keep it secret.

Exploring further, Faervel reported on a barred gate with a bugbear guard in a recessed alcove further on. The group also found another locked door in a chamber above the middens hole encountered below. Deciding to explore open passageways before monkeying with locked, guarded chamber, the group pressed on, but shortly realized they were being tailed.

With delicate subtlety, “Punty” whirled around, shone his bullseye lantern on the sneak, and blurted (he liked to think of it as ‘challenged’), “Who’s there?!”

Fortunately, it turned out to be Kwon, the monk initially hired by Lord Nestor of Darkshelf to investigate the goings on. He filled in several blanks for the party: the area behind the barred gate was a slave pen, guarded by a pair of bugbears; the so-called dwarf quarry master Basili Erak is actually an ork called Brubgrak, with a female elven lieutenant named Glitherial; and the locked door in the middens chamber is a rear entrance to the slave pens.

He tells us that he has been gone long enough that he must be getting back – the bugbears are surprisingly vigilant in their monitoring of the slaves. The party agrees that if the bugbears are dead, they can’t check on Kwon’s presence, and backtrack to the locked door to make it so.

The plan is to lure out the bugbear with some noise so that Sten can use a hold spell upon it, leaving Faervel and company free to puncture its organs with impunity and then act similarly upon its companion. However, the bugbear is smart enough to wait to investigate until joined by its compatriot. When “Punty” steps out to taunt them into attacking, they instead demand he come to them, with which he is happy to comply. He knows that Faervel, Gurtak, and Sten are there to back him up. Between some mighty smiting and some persistent paralysis spells, the two bugbears fall.

The party spends a few moments catching their breaths, and then considers the slaves and corridors yet to be explored, and we fade to black before the next plan is made.

To be continued…!

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Danger at Darkshelf Quarry, Episode 3
The search for more rest

After some recuperating from the fight with the ghouls, the party decided to find a place to rest and take stock before continuing to explore the mines. Someone, likely Sten, mentioned that there were actual closed doors closer to where the group entered the caves. Taking a longer route back, the ghouls that had been turned previously were discovered and dispatched (with horrible icky slurping noises and preternatural darkness).

We then had to tackle the inscrutable and unknowable puzzle….. of doorlocks. (OOC I actually missed the resolution of this, but it involved using the iron key found on the dead priest and figuring out which keyhole was the right one).

Inside the room was a pool of water, and a watery tentacle that was almost impossible to see prior to it reaching out and grabbing “Punty”? or maybe Faervel Galadthor. Either a combat of waiting for the monster to strike so it was visible ensued. Once it attacked Gurtak did his Ginsu routine and took down the monster.

Then we rested. Sweet, sweet, restorative, spell memorizing sleep. Also the entrance to the level above was located off this room, requiring some precautions to protect the resting group.

We then decided to explore the rest of this level prior to moving up to the higher one. We then encountered troglodytes, which are remarkably more difficult to fight than advertised. We managed to put down the group without any serious damage to the group.

We then continued on to finish the exploration and encountered a group of zombies in another midden area. Sten Karn managed to turn a fair number of the zombies, turning them to dust. The rest were quickly killed, more permanently, by the group.

A magical item was found in the midden, etched with the symbol of a darker religion – Tharzidun, the Elder Elemental Eye. After a quick casting of identify it was determined that the artifact attracted undead and controlled them slightly. After some debate, and “Punty”’s fairly strenuous argument to destroy the object, we very carefully and deliberately smashed it to little bits with a warhammer. Gah Ri aka Gary was not pleased.

We will continue in this backwards dungeon crawl next time…

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Danger at Darkshelf Quarry, Episode 2
Faervel tries to commit suicide by ghoul

The party continues to investigate the suspicious mining operations.

The boom that killed the giant frogs at the end of last session had attracted attention of other dungeon denizens. We decided to press on rather than wait for them to come to us. We entered a large cavern with a small underground lake. Several kobolds and one of those lightning lizard things were there (The DM let slip they’re called Mud Tigers even though we all failed our knowledge rolls). Punty, Gary, and Gurtak charged into those foes. Sten was the only one who noticed the purple robed human hiding in the shadows and attacked that foe with his mighty clerical rays of goodness. Faervel used Sten’s magical rays like tracer rounds to find the robed assailant.

A few swings and spells later, (including one critical failure that hit Punty in the back eliciting a complaint of “Cheap shot Gary”, and all of the bad guys were dead.

Curiously, the human was dressed as a cleric of the drow goddess Lloth who apparently is known by Sten as only having female drow elves for clerics. Why did she accept this male human? What does the “33” mean on a bottle of Rolling Rock? How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll Center of a Tootsie Pop? The world may never know. The cleric also had two strange vials of non magical liquid that Sten thinks are likely some kind of medicine. Also, found out during a short rest later that the cleric’s leather armor was magical black dragon leather that is both +1 and gives resistance to Acid.

Faervel and Gary scouted stealthily in two different directions and reported back. Faervel found more kobolds in another cave arguing with each other and pointing to the cave with the PCs. Gary found a weird fish butchery (It’s can’t be a cannery without cans) with two pools of water.

Sten speaks Draconic, dressed in the dead cleric’s garb, and tricked the kobolds into an ambush where we made fast work of them. Ironically, Sten is the only one who failed to kill a kobold during the ambush.

OOC we have amusing sidebar while discussing on who should wear the pair of boots of springing and striding that we’d found previously. A cursed version of those boots, called the Boots of Tigger, where in the curse being you must choose jumping and bouncing as your movement. In short, we’re hilarious.

After a short rest, Gary attunes to the Black Dragon Leather armor & Gurtak attunes to the Boots of Springing, we headed towards the room with the two pools of water and fish cleaning stuff. We think the pools are occupied, and possibly a spawning pool for baby lightning lizards. We decide to avoid contacting the pools in any manner. Gary & Faervel attempted to stealth by the pools towards a passage to the south, and both fail spectacularly and end up knocking stuff over and nearly face planting. Gary responds by trying to hide again, and Faervel just ran off down the hallway. Sadly, he ran down the hallway into a pack of 6 ghouls. Faervel attempts to acrobatically flea only to critically fail another skill check, and falls flat on his face. The six ghouls proceed to gang up on him and the rest of us hear his gurgling screams. Punty gets there first, and using his paladinriffic smiting ability, dispatches a ghoul. Gurtak used his power surge to leap (literally using the magic boots) into the melee, grab & toss Faervel’s limp form out of the melee, and then killed a ghoul. Sten turned the undead, but only two of the remaining 4 fled the room. The ghouls manage to paralyze Punty. Gary bravely leapt in front of the now helpless paladin and Gary and Gurtak managed to finish off the two remaining ghouls.

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Silly Faervel, ghouls are for fighters!

In an attempt to prevent a perceived escape (after making noise trying to sneak in to the next room), Faervel the thief leapt forward into the dark ahead and directly into six ghouls leaving the rest of his party behind him. Luckily for him, his party leapt in directly behind him.

Punty, even being only about 3 feet tall, manages to Divine Smite one ghoul dead. Gurtak proceeds to hike Faervel to safety and the rest of the party proceed to massacre the ghouls, chasing 2 away.

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A Call to Action
Danger at Darkshelf Quarry Episode 1

Six months have passed since our heroes have established themselves and played a major hand in defeating the drow agent known as the Spider and his band of Redbrand Roughians, returning the lost Mines of Phandelver to the Rockseeker Clan of dwarves, who have moved in and begun operations once more. In the following months, the former wild frontier hamlet of Phandelin in the north of the Menowood has transformed into a bustling export town, and the homestead gifted to the Paladin Punty by the Lords Alliance has boomed into a popular Inn for those traveling between the town and major seaport cities such as Naerie, over a week’s journey to the northwest. The Gnomish merchant clans of the Waltons and Dayton-Hudsons have set up respective operations at opposite ends of the town, engaging in underhanded industrial espionage operations which are typical of their kind.

The Lords Alliance has assumed nominal administrative oversight of the town under the guidance of Sildar Hallwinter, who has been largely successful in building a society dedicated to commerce, law and respect for all life. The former Burgomaster, Harbin, still serves as mayor, though in a more nominal sense as Hallwinter’s assistant, a position which Harbin is more than happy to fulfill.

So it is that things are progressing very well for the town, until one day a visitor comes to town, a cleric named Sten who has traveled approximately 100 miles from a town called Darkshelf in the east. Darkshelf is a far outpost in the Kingdom of Sunndi, whose entire economy is based upon the export of stones of varying types from Darkshelf Quarry.

Sten has been sent to ask the heroes’ help by the overlord of Darkshelf, Nestor, who has concerns on several accounts:

  • The mines have been suddenly producing too much, too fast since a new, mysterious clan of dwarves under the guidance of one Bazili Erak. Erak has been astoundingly successful at overseeing the mines, but is never seen, instead sending an elf named Glyrthiel to handle all dealings and negotiations.
  • A few weeks ago, there was an accident in the mines where an underground aquifier was accidentally breached, flooding some of the lower portions, and resulting in a number of miners’ deaths. That has since been cleaned up, but since that time, there have been disappearances and deaths around town. Bodies have been found partially eaten. At first the bodies were near the local river and carnivorous fish were blamed; later, bodies have been found further inland.
  • Slavers have been active in the area. Several weeks back, Bazili led a raid on a slaver camp, killing the slavers and freeing 20 captives. The surviving slave leaders were brought back to town and quickly tried and executed, a process that Nestor felt was “too fast and too clean.”
  • Nestor sent an agent named Kwon into the mines to investigate operations. He hasn’t heard from Kwon in several weeks; his last report revealed two alternate entries into the mines: a hidden shaft and a hidden dock on the local rivers.

The heroes agree to investigate the situation, discover if there’s anything untoward going on, and if possible, find Kwon. The direct approach fails, largely due to the PCs attempting to be honest about their intent to just have a look around and make sure everything is all right. A few warning shots from the guards convince them that there is indeed something to hide, and to pursue an alternate entrance. They opt for the river dock. It takes them a few hours to find it, and Gah-Ri and Faervel co-opt a small boat from a local fisherman and they set off to find the hidden entrance.

The boat leads them to a cave that leads deep into the depths of the mines. As they stand on the shores, they are suddenly attacked by two fearsome creatures, amphibious in nature with enormous claws and teeth, and displaying the ability to emit electrical fields. They manage to deal with the monsters, theorizing that these are the cause of the local deaths, and move deeper into the mines.

After assessing their options (passage ways all leading east at the north, due east, and southern areas of the large cabin), the group opts for a south passage where they enter a room with a hot spring, full of sulfurous air. Here they are attacked by a group of giant frogs that emerge from the spring. Gah-ri launches a fireball, which detonates the flammable air. He manages to kill the majority of the frogs, but the group gets a bit singed as a result. Teh remainder of the battle goes quickly, little more than a cleanup for the more experienced heroes. From here, the group decides to take a breather to consider their next move…

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Background and First Steps...
The Lost Mine of Phandelver

The first steps for this group were to complete the Lost Mine of Phandelver mini-campaign in the D&D Starter Set for fifth edition. We unfortunately only began this site after that adventure was completed, but for those who are curious, check out the Starter Set, which is well worth the cost even if you’re a veteran D&D player.

As the adventure logs begin, it has been six months since the No-Longer-Lost-Mines re-opened under the care of the Rockseeker Clan of dwarves, and the Redbrand Roughians in association with the drow known as the Spider were driven from the area. The surrounding Menowood remains an untamed and dangerous place, but the town of Phandalin has turned from a small village outpost to a thriving trade town directly on the southern road to Naerie City, which is 200 miles to the northwest.

The Forge of Spells, so far as anyone is aware, has not been re-activated as the mystical knowledge required to use it is lost to the mists of history, but the dwarves have hope and have sent emissaries to seek out goodly magi they feel they can trust for counsel and advice.

Our heroes are celebrities in town, have been awarded the title of Town Protectors, and are colloquially and collectively known as the Heroes of Phandalin.

Of note to this campaign, the following things happened in the adventure:

  1. The heroes did not explore the ruins of Thundertree.
  2. The heroes did parlay with Harmun Kost and Agatha, and left both alive (or existing, in Agatha’s case).
  3. Punty became a member of the Lord’s Alliance
  4. Faervel made certain acquaintances in the local underworld.
  5. The group was awarded Transadar Manor as a base of operations. They set up the place as a boarding house, and allowed Mirna Dendar and her children to move in, offering free room and board in exchange for the family of the deceased woodcutter acting as caretakers and administrators of the business. The heroes have cleaned up the dungeons beneath the manor, which act as their personal quarters and base.
  6. In return for ongoing services rendered to the town, Sildar Hallwinter (now the mayor and administrator) has agreed that the town will foot the bill for property upkeep and security. Business expenses and supplies still fall upon the shoulders of the PCs to manage.
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