<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.