Tomb of Abysthor

Session 3
When is a ghost not a ghost? When it's Skum!

<u>Session 3: Arodus 22 to Rova 11, 4716 AR</u>

Natalia decided to retire from adventuring, as her encounters with the stirges had brought home the reality of the adventurer’s life. Galdar also announced that Abadar had finally revealed the reasons for him to accompany Corian to Crimmor—to establish a temple to Abadar in the lawless town. Fortunately for the rest of you, you were able to recruit a replacement for Galdar. An exotic priest named Atish from lands to the far south had appeared in town over the past few days claiming to be on a mission for the sun goddess Sarenrae. After welcoming Atish into the group and mulling over your options, you all decided to investigate the reports of ghosts on Lake Crimmormere causing all of the fish to disappear.

It was sunny day as you set out and Belflin recommended that you all traverse the western shores of the lake and circle back around to the northeast, where the bulk of the ghost sightings had been. On the way, you were ambushed by a trio of pony-sized spiders indigenous to the area. Belflin and Atish were caught in webs and one of the nasty creatures managed to bite Corian before you all dispatched them thanks mainly to Drebb and Drinna, although Belflin was able to impale the last spider with a bow shot as it fled.

Late that afternoon, you came to an area that contained a small grove of trees alongside a babbling brook. Drinna and Belflin noticed that the pool was filled with humanoid bones. Upon investigation, Belflin spotted a cave entrance about 20 feet up the hillside, and even more ominous was the presence of two human bodies in chain mail hanging upside down from one of the trees. Atish wanted to pull the bodies down and give them a proper burial, so Drinna climbed the slope. All of the activity roused the inhabitant of the cave, which Belflin identified as a troll. The troll informed the party that there were no ghosts here, just some mysterious “fish-people.” He then demanded that the party pay 100 gold crowns for trying to steal his water, but you all refused and attacked. In the course of the battle, the troll inflicted wounds on Drinna that should have killed her, but her miraculous meditative powers acquired as a monk allowed her to cling to life. In the meantime, Drebb, Belflin, and Corian were able to bring the beast down bolstered by Atish’s blessings from Sarenrae. The key was Corian’s use of a magical scroll to spray the creature with acid, which prevented it from regenerating while Dreb lopped off its head.

Atish used his powers to heal Drinna and Dreb (who had received some minor wounds) and you all decided to stay the night in the cave. Amidst the litter of the cave were quite a bit of coinage from past victims as well as gold ring set with a pearl. There were also some more bodies, which Atish interred with appropriate rituals.

The next day brought rain and as you all reached the northeast shore of the lake and began searching it for signs of the ghost, you spotted two hunchbacked, green-skinned humanoids with wide, frog-like heads and a fish-like mouth filled with teeth watching you. As soon as they noticed that their observation was spotted, they fled into the lake. Dreb speculated that perhaps these unknown creatures were responsible for the declining fish population. Belflin found a nice cave to shelter in and you all settled in for the night.

Your rest was interrupted, however, by an onslaught of the strange fish creatures. Ten of the creatures snuck up on Dreb as he was on watch and rushed into the cave. Atish was overwhelmed in the initial assault and soon Corian and Drinna were beaten into submission as well, although Drinna managed to get in a punch before she went down. Dreb and Belflin managed to put up a valiant prevent and prevent the fish folk from carrying their unconscious companions away. Dreb was finally overwhelmed, leaving Belflin in a desperate battle. He was able to mount Atish’s war horse, Seekeks, and drive the last of the creatures off. Having survived this harrowing kidnapping attempt, you all had to spend the next two days recovering, healing up, and planning your next move.

The rain had finally subsided by the time you resumed your exploration of the northeastern portions of the lakeshore. Drinna’s keen eyes spotted an underwater cave about a half-mile out on the lake, which you all surmised was where the fish-folk had their lair. You all came up with a brilliant plan to use Drinna as bait (posing as s simple pilgrim) to draw the kidnappers out, while the rest of you set up an ambush. The plan worked to perfection. This time the fish-folk marauders were accompanied by their leader, and the bulk of them fled once their leader and three of their fellows had been taken out by the ambush. The leader had a nice magical trident as well as some magical bracers. After spending the next two days completing your exploration of the shore, you all were convinced that there was no ghost and that these bizarre fish-folk were the source of Crimmor’s problems.

You arrived back in town on Arodus 28 and reported your findings to Flendon, the lumber magnate. He thanked you for the information and paid you a nice reward for your efforts. He decided to round up some of the local militia to seal the cave and end the fish-folk threat. You all also turned over the head of leader to Kentus, head of the local temple to Desna, to see if he could identify it. He reported that they were hybrid race called Skum that had been created from ancient Azlanti slaves by foul creatures known as the Aboleth. The Aboleth had been driven deep into the Darklands by the events of Earthfall 10,000 years ago, but their slaves, including the Skum, had been left to roam free, where they plagued many coastal communities to this day. Corian remembered that the crazed druid Yandarral had mentioned being in alliance with creatures that were the last remnants of the old Azlanti and speculated that these had been the creatures.

As you all rested the next few days, Atish traded the trident for a magical crossbow and Belflin used some of his money and the ring to upgrade his bow. Drinna kept the bracers, which enhanced her defensive prowess. The militia force returned the last day of the month to report success. There had been a vicious battle with the few remaining Skum, but they were routed and the tunnel sealed. In gratitude to the party for allowing the town to end the solution to its fish depopulation, Flendon offered some treasures that had been found in the Skum lair. Atish received a ring that had the ability to arrest his fall from virtually any height as well as a magical scroll that allowed him to generate a beam of searing light to devastate his foes, Corian received a wand that he could use to make people invisible for a brief time, Belflin received a masterwork glaive, and Drinna received a magical elixir that could provide her protection from electrical attacks for a brief period of time.

Drinna asked the party to accompany her to her home, the Standing Stone monastery, which lay a little over a day’s journey north and east of Crimmor, so you all set out on Rova 1. As you all settled in for the night, you were hailed by an elderly elf named Herl who was dressed in trappings of a ranger (excellently-crafted studded leather armor, buckler, hand axe, and long bow). He was friendly enough, but seemed to be hiding something. He was able to tell the party that there was a Druids’ Circle in the region that focused on worship of the moon. Over the course of the conversation, he revealed that he knew much about the party, including their role in the demise of Yandaral. He indicated that Nathaniel’s band had spoken poorly of them in Fairhill so that they should not expect the warmest welcome there. He finally got around to making a request. He was the self-appointed guardian of the blind seeress Gethrame, who had been cast out of Fairhill and cursed with blindness by the priestess of Erastil, Shandril, ninety years ago. She had been gifted with a staff that restored some of her sight by the wizard Eralion, but this staff had recently been stolen by a band of wererats led by a coven of witches. These thieves were too many for him to take out by himself, and in addition he was getting frail in his old age and did not want to leave Gethrame alone for an extended period. He played upon the good will of the party, but for those of a more mercenary bent (such as Drebb), he claimed that the Wererats had accumulated many treasures, which the party was welcome to keep. After much debate, you all agreed to help. Gethrame’s cave and the Wererat lair were both near Eralion’s tower. Herl thanked you and departed the next morning, saying he would await the return of the staff at Gethrame’s cave.

As you all continued on your way the morning of Rova 2, about 2 hours from the monastery, Drinna and Atish spotted a creature swooping towards you. It had a humanoid head, the body of a lion, dragon-like wings, and a spiked tail. It was 10 feet long and looked to weigh about 1000 pounds. Atish identified it as a Manticore. These creatures were likely magical creations that over time established themselves as a naturally occurring species. They were known as fierce predators who constantly sought fresh meat, especially human meat. Drinna and Corian ran for cover in a nearby small patch of undergrowth, but Atish, Belflin, and Drebb were caught in the open. Belflin nearly went down under a barrage of spikes before he was able to dive for cover behind his horse, kept alive by Atish’s healing energies. Drebb charged forward, but his horse was cut down by the deadly spikes. Corian then used his wand to turn the various party members invisible, and when the creature made a move to pick up Drebb’s horse and flee, Belflin, Drebb, and Drinna struck the creature and killed it.

Dragging your wounded selves to the monastery, you received a warm welcome from the Abbess Kayla. You were able to relax and heal over the next week. Atish enjoyed the monastery’s vintage wines, Drinna caught up with her former associates, and Drebb received a divine vision from Torag. In this vision, he was shown a sacred site to Torag that contained fabled Earth’s Blood but was in danger. This site was supposedly in the region and could be accessed through an abandoned temple complex dedicated to some other deities.

On your way to Fairhill (a journey of just over 2 days), you all shared a fire and some wine with grateful villagers from Crimmor your first night on the road. The next day you came upon a way station maintained by the Knights of Ozem out of the country of Lastwall. The way station was occupied by a patrol of six Knights, led by Sir Erlinar. They were looking to round up local help to drive out a dozen Gnolls that had taken over another way station further to the east. Belflin was incredulous that the knights needed help. He did not want to help them, but when you all were reminded of your poor reputation in Fairhill, and at the urging of Drinna and Atish, who wanted to help, you all agreed. You then proceeded on to Fairhill, arriving in town on the late morning of Rova 11. You all took rooms at the “Drunken Cockatrice,” the inn recommended by Erlinar.

The village of Fairhill rests on the largest of several gently sloping hills about 10 miles from the Tradeway. Four-hundred and twenty souls inhabit the village and surrounding farmland. The village is governed by Arlen, the village magistrate. The town has a general alignment of neutral good, though individuals of all moral codes live here under the protection and goodwill provided by the temple of Erastil. Though numerous other shrines are present (Abadar, Iomedae, Desnah, Gozreh, and Gorum), Erastil is the patron deity of Fairhill and her temple is the most prominent. Thus, the true “leader” of Fairhill, according to rumors, however, is Shandril, the priestess of the Temple of Erastil. Rumors also conflict on exactly what type of relationship she has with Arlen. Fairhill is a peaceful town and has not had any real troubles with bandits or monsters. That is, until recently… For the past several weeks, orcs have appeared of the outer farms and roads of Fairhill. A village family was raped and mutilated on the road leading from the village to the Tradeway a week before the players arrive. Rumors of a vampire in an old ruined keep are running rampant, and the peace that the villagers once enjoyed is seemingly at an end.

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Session 2
A Rival's Jealousy and Secret's Revealed

<u>Session 2: Arodus 9 to Arodus 21, 4716 AR</u>

The cost to travel upriver by barge was too prohibitive, so after Belflin acquired some silver arrows, you all set out along the lesser-traveled interior road towards Fairhill. The first day of your journey was through thunderstorms, which was appropriate as this was a regional holiday—the Day of Silenced Whispers, which commemorated the imprisonment of the Whispering Tyrant in Gallowspire almost 900 years earlier. The interior road would take you through the so-called “Stirge Wood” and through the smaller village of Crimmor. It did not take too long for you all to realize that the forest through which you traveled had earned its name honestly. The small woodland was dominated by a hill and you all found a trail leading to the hill that showed signs of massive stirge activity. You all wisely gave the hill and path a wide birth and found a decent shelter for the night. The only incident that disrupted your first day of travel was when Belflin spotted a strange-looking raven shadowing the party. Corian admitted that this bird was the familiar of his rival, a necromancer named Vortigern, who was probably after the amulet that Corian had stolen. Belflin chased the raven off with a bow shot.

The next day, as you were about an hour outside of Crimmor at dusk, you saw a farmhouse off in the fields, near the woods, and immediately noticed that something was terribly wrong. The farmer—or what was left of him—lay in the front yard of the home, missing one arm. His wife and three small children lay in various contorted positions, the smallest boy completely disemboweled. Blood covered the hay in the yard, and a chicken pecked at the corpse of a young girl lying in front of the barn. You all moved in to investigate and determined that the people had been slain within the past few hours by manufactured weapons. As you prepared to bury the bodies, you all were startled by a voice that spoke the final words for a spell coming from a copse of trees near the farm. Corian immediately identified the figure as Vortigern, who was accompanied by two half-orc thugs with bows. The spell that Vortigern had finished turned out to be a summoning spell that called forth a roiling wave of flesh, from which wriggled half-formed limbs and a dripping, tumorous face. Natalia eventually identified this as a minor type of devil from the Nine Hells known as a lemure. At the same time, the corpses of the farmer and his family rose up as animated zombies.

Vortigern gleefully taunted Corian as he sent his devilish raven to grab the amulet from around Corian’s neck while the zombies and the lemure engaged the rest of the party. Before the raven reached the young sorcerer, however, Drebb stepped forward and obliterated the foul bird, sending it back to the Hell from which it had been sent to aid Vortigern. The shock of his fiendish bond with the raven being severed proved too much for the necromancer, who expired on the spot. Seeing their employer dead, the half-orc mercenaries abandoned the field. Drinna and Galdar engaged the zombies, while Drebb took on the lemure. Natalia bolstered the party with an inspiring performance on her mandolin and aided the fight against the zombies by creating a patch of magical grease. She tried to enchant the mind of the lemure, but apparently these creatures were immune to such magic. Belflin and Corian contributed magical and mundane missile fire, but were constrained by not wanting to hit their allies in melee. Drebb finished the lemure, but not before being seriously wounded. He then lumbered over to help Drinna and Galdar, arriving just in time to kill the final zombie.

You all spent the night in the farmhouse after burning the bodies. You found a magical short sword and Galdar talked the party into donating it to Crimmor when you arrived there the next day. Crimmor is a small town, slightly smaller than Fairhill. It was once a rather prosperous fishing town and a gathering place for merchants on their way from Vigil to Caliphas. The town is run by a merchant’s guild, headed by the lumber merchant Flendon. Rumor has it, however, that the town is actually run by a Thieves’ Guild headed up by the local banker. Originally, the lake near Crimmor, Lake Crimmormere, was a source of a rare type of fresh water fish—a type of large-mouth bass famed for its flavor and its ability to be dried and preserved. In the last 10 years, however, these fish have all but disappeared. Rumors abound in Crimmor about strange creatures that have been spotted by fishermen. They are only seen in the water at night and are considered by locals to be the ghosts of Crimmor fishermen who died in boating accidents on the lake. The lack of fish, however, is not Crimmor’s most pressing concern. Every night, the village is beset by stirges. Now, with the ascendancy of Fairhill, the lack of fish, the corruption in the guilds, and the stirge attacks, Crimmor has declined, and is rarely visited, except by the traveling merchants who visit Stipish, a famous local wainwright.

Once in town, you all discovered that Nathaniel’s Magnificent Miscreants had taken on a contract to rid the town of its stirge menace. Drinna was dismayed to see that her rival from the monastery, a cold-hearted woman named Lasha, had decided to join Nathaniel’s company. After exchanging pleasantries with your rivals, you all decided to speak with the lumber merchant Flendon and offer your services in competition. The merchant agreed, saying he would pay 800 gold crowns to the first party that eliminated the stirge threat.  Drinna visited the local smith and had him coat her kamas in alchemical silver, while Corian visited the local witches and acquired some alchemist’s fire.

As night fell, you all holed up at “The Merchant’s Wagon,” and waited for the stirge attack. Natalia was challenged to an entertainment duel by a member of Nathaniel’s band, a hulking elven woman by the name of Gariela. Natalia put on a great performance by performing a series of bawdy songs favored by fisherfolk and lumberyard workers. She was matched by Gariela, who used her harp and sung and ode about the Ulfen hero Ragnar and his famous battle against a crag linnorm. For those in the know about the technical side of performance, the two entertainers were dead even, but Gariela’s song won her more coin. As the performances ended, a wounded villager burst into the inn and shouted that the stirges were invading in numbers never before seen. You all were met outside by the head of the town guard, a gruff human man named Corlar. He said there were four waves of attacks from each of the cardinal directions.

Nathaniel’s band took off for the west and you all decided to go south. Corian turned out to be quite knowledgeable about these creatures. Stirges are one-foot long magical insectoid creatures that weigh just under a pound. They are reddish-brown with with two pairs of bat wings, a tangle of thin legs, and a needle-sharp proboscis. They are vicious, blood-drinking swamp pests that prey on wild animals, livestock, and unwary travelers. While weak individually, swarms of the creatures are capable of draining a man dry in minutes, leaving only a desiccated husk in their wake. They are also known to be carriers of various diseases.

At the southern edge of town you encountered a dozen of the beasts. You were able to take them out, but not before Belflin and Natalia were wounded. Belflin was able to determine that both he and Natalia had contracted the disease Filth Fever from their wounds. As you returned to Corlar, you all found that the Miscreants had taken out their stirge group and then charged off towards the main lair. As you all debated what to do, Galdar helped out the townspeople who had been wounded while driving off the other two stirge groups. He was assisted by Kenthus, a local priest of Desna, goddess of dreams, luck, stars, and travelers. Through their efforts, only one of the two dozen wounded villagers died. Kenthus, in gratitude for your assistance, healed Belflin of the effects of his blood loss, though the ranger would still eventually have to deal with his disease.

You all decided to track Nathaniel to the stirge lair. This long march caused Drinna, Natalia, and Corian to become fatigued, but you all found the Miscreants confronting the author of the stirge menace just as dawn broke on the 12th. This turned out to be Yandarral, a twisted and half-mad elf mage/druid, who resides under the hill with his “pets.” He had apparently crafted a strange baton that allows him to control the stirges. He spewed his hatred of the development of Fairhill and Crimmor, seeing them as a blight upon the natural landscape. His plan was to unleash his stirge army on the unsuspecting villages. He also hinted that he was in league with forces from beneath the earth that were responsible for the corruption of Lake Crimmormere. He called these forces “the ancestors of the last truly civilized humans,” but none of you could figure out this reference.

Attempts to reason with Yandaral failed and he finally unleashed his stirges and magic upon the two groups. The Miscreants were closer and surrounded him after easily beating off a wave of stirges. You all were delayed somewhat by your stirges, although Belflin and Drebb were able to close with the mad druid. Nathaniel’s band survived a burst of magical flames from Yandarral’s outstretched hands, but Belflin was almost killed when he was struck by a potent acid attack. As Drebb and the Miscreants overwhelmed the old elf, Corian and Natalia noticed that the female human Jarra, the Miscreant’s mage, and Korungra, the group’s half-orc healer, targeted Drebb with charm spells. Drinna rushed in and convinced Drebb to fall back, just as the rest of the Miscreant’s felled the druid. You all noticed Korungra and Jarra moving in a position to flank your group, so you all fled.

You debated simply abandoning Crimmor, but Galdar and Drebb were appalled at the hit the party’s reputation would take as Nathaniel and his crew would soak up all the glory and portray you all as treacherous cowards. In the end you traveled back to Crimmor and were rewarded with 400 gold crowns and a magical cloak for your participation in stamping out the stirge menace. The Miscreant’s left town the next day, claiming they were headed for Vigil. Over the next week, Kenthus helped Natlia and Belflin fight off the effects of Filth Fever, Corian continued to help out the local witches in making alchemist’s fire, and the rest of you enjoyed some much needed rest and relaxation. You decided to investigate the source of the lake’s corruption before heading on to Fairhill.

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Session 1
The Adventure Begins

<u>Session 1: Arodus 1 to Arodus 8, 4716 AR</u>

Your party of six gathered on a misty summer morning at the Starving Stirge inn in Calpihas. The sorcerer Corian had an amulet whose secrets he wished to unlock. This would require a journey to the small town of Fairhill in the Hungry Mountains Valley of Virlych.his haunted region was technically a part of Ustalav but was essentially uninhabited as it was the planar prison of the dread Whispering Tyrant. To aid in his quest he had recruited Galdar, a priest of Abadar from the city of Vigil. The dour priest claimed that his god had given him a vision of the amulet’s importance. The monk Drinna also agreed to accompany the sorcerer after he had helped drive off some muggers that were attacking the monk. The half-elven bard Natalia was convinced that there was an epic story somehow involved with this amulet and was determined to be the one to write it. The final two members of the company were wandering mercenaries—the elven ranger Belflin who simply wanted to exterminate any giants encountered, and the dwarven warrior Drebb, who sought to erase the stain of shame from his good name.

Natalia was amazed that Corian had not tested the amulet to see if it was cursed. The sorcerer claimed that he had acquired the amulet by accident from a more powerful wizard. The amulet supposedly belonged to Eralion of Fairhill, who had perished 20 years ago amid rumors that he was seeking to become a lich. Galdar identified the amulet as bearing the 4-horned goat symbol of Orcus, Demon Prince of the Undead. Natalia and Galdar related that Orcus was a minor deity in Golarion whose power was held in check by the dominance of Urgathoa, goddess of gluttony, disease, and the undead.

The first four days of the journey were uneventful aside from a tornado that passed near you all on the second night. As was typical for Ustalav, the weather was gloomy and rainy. Late on the afternoon of the 4 Arodus, you all reached the small town of Grayce, where you did some shopping, restocked on supplies, and picked up rumors. This quiet township serves as the gate to Lastwall, its devout community of farmers, shepherds, and weavers revering a provincial pantheon including Iomedae, Pharasma, and the empyreal lord Andoletta. Here the Chapel Bridge, a wooden drawbridge built through an ancient shine to Pharasma, spans the Path River and connects with roads leading northwest to Vigil and south to Vellumis. While at the main inn there, the Guiding Star, Natalia, Corian, and Galdar encountered a rival group of adventurers led by a half-elf named Nathaniel, who tried to recruit Natalia to his group after hearing her performance.

It was four days to your next destination. On 7 Arodus, you all encountered a small band of four Gnolls and two hyenas. Drebb and Belflin took out the hyenas, while Natalia used her magic to incapacitate a Gnoll. Drebb and Drinna, with the help of Corian’s magical attacks took out the enchanted Gnoll and one of the others. The remaining two fled into the rain. Natlia and Corian recognized Gnolls as evil, hyena-headed humanoids known for the worship of demons and the goddess Lamashtu, Mother of Monsters. These Gnolls bore the emblem of a gory axe on their shields, which Natalia recalled was the symbol of a Gnoll tribe living in the mountains north of Vigil, a week’s journey to the west. It was a mystery what they were doing so far from their usual haunts.

Late on the afternoon of 8 Arodus, you all arrived at Hallein Town. From here, south and west of the Path River would put you into Lastwall. Your journey would keep you north of the Path River and into the southern fringes of Virlych through the Hungry Mountains Valley. While but a relatively tiny settlement down river from Vigil, Hallein Town is nevertheless an important component of the nation. Virtually inaccessible by land, Hallein Town hosts the workers for the salt mines in the Virlych hills. In generations past, salt was carried down the road along the river by mule, but this became a dangerous route in winter because of Kaltia, the Haunter of the Hills. This haggard ghost from a long-lost dwarf-clan was accursed and murdered by her own people for trying to make peace with the orcs of Belkzen. Though she’s been slain repeatedly by the crusader knights, her resting place has never been found, and she returns again and again to menace the salt-bearers, especially in the winter months. You all did some shopping, restocked on supplies, and picked up rumors as you prepared for the last leg of your trip.

Over the first eight days of your journey, you picked up the following rumors regarding Eralion, Fairhill, its neighboring town of Crimmor, and the Hungry Mountain Valley in general:

  • Eralion was a half-elven wizard and devoted servant to the recently deceased deity Aroden, and like many of his followers underwent a crisis of faith when that deity died. Ninety years ago, Eralion retired to the village of Fairhill. There he fell in love with a local soothsayer, even crafting a staff to help her restore her sight, which had been stripped from her by the spirits who gave power to her. Something, however, went horribly wrong and Eralion’s lover disappeared. It was at this time that Eralion began to stray further from his faith and dabble in dark powers best left alone. Just over twenty years ago, he wrote to his the old friend in Caliphas, a fellow elven wizard named Ferablin. Ferablin was disturbed that Eralion was seeking information on becoming a lich. Ferablin refused to provide Eralion the information he sought and never spoke with him again. Ferablin heard that shortly after he refused to give Eralion information on the rituals to become a lich, his friend locked himself in his tower near Fairhill and never came out again, presumably dying in despair over his lost love and the perceived betrayal of his old friend.
  • Something appears to be hunting the inhabitants of the two villages, with increasing numbers of residents disappearing. The most notable victim was the daughter of Fairhill’s blacksmith. There are also rumors that stirges have been attacking the town of Crimmor. Nathaniel and his band were actually heading to Crimmor to offer their help with this issue.
  • Fairhill is run by an elven priestess of Erastil named Shandril. She has a reputation for cruelty and harshness. She is rumored to have charmed the head of Fairhill’s militia, a man named Arlen.
  • Eralion’s abandoned tower is rumored to be the lair of a vampire, and many locals are blaming the disappearing villagers on this creature.
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