Neth 20, 4707 AR
Rescuing the three Black Arrow rangers from their filthy cells, the Priestess of Calistria, with the help of her Korvosan sell-sword companion, began to examine the extent of their injuries and performing a Lore Keeper check on each ranger. As she and the Erekhil examined the youngest of the Black Arrows, they noticed an odd tattoo on his left calf: a Sihedron Rune.
Meanwhile, the ranger from Sandpoint hurried to this youngest ranger, and after wiping the blood from his face, and imagining what the young man would look like under the severe swelling and bruising, realized that this ranger was not his childhood friend, Gunthred Ullen. However, the sad revelation set in, either at the hands of the Kreeg ogres or the Grauls, Gunthred was most likely dead.
As Ayra brought the Sihedron Rune tattoo to our heroes’ attention, the grizzled, one-eyed Black Arrow hoarsely whispered that one of his warriors, Macar, had been taken to the house not long ago. With the rangers still drifting in and out of consciousness, it was decided that Shalelu would watch the Black Arrows, particularly the one with the Sihedron while the group headed into the decaying Graul home.
The incessant rain pounded its thick, heavy drops as the party slowly, carefully, made their way from the barn to the house. The house was boarded over with thick planks of wood nailed into the walls. The front door was an exception and it appeared to provide entry.
As the party approached the dilapidated farmhouse, the overpowering stench of rot, mold, blood and decay became overwhelming to Lindin, who had to vomit into the rank, foul well nearby. Erekhil examined the decomposing porch, complete with humanoid bone wind chimes, thumb-sized ants and an over-sized rocking chair that creaked eerily in the breeze. Using his sell-sword skills, Erekhil took note of the wicked, rusted blades hidden in the wind chimes, a punishing trap for anyone wanting to enter the Graul home. He decided to investigate the side door.
Which he did and realized it was just made to appear boarded over. Not finding any traps, Erekhil lit Lindin’s bullseye lantern and, with the help of the dwarven fighter, opened the door, exposing a foul kitchen.
Entering the kitchen, the group found a stench worse than they could have imagined from the outside. It over powered Bahne, and continued to wreak havoc on the ranger. In the beam of light provided by the bullseye lantern, they began to search the fetid, roach filled, blood stained kitchen, reeking of rotten flesh, and then our heroes heard the toddler-like voices of two orge-kin boys arguing about deformed legs and stolen skulls.
The two ogre-kin boys children were, in actuality, fully-grown but dressed in toddler clothing and over-full diapers and it didn’t take them long to recognize “dem people’s walking around our house wits lights on…” and ordered the Champions of Magnimar back to their cages or “Lucky gonna eat’s [them] for lunch…” and then Lucky threw a feces filled skull at Bahne.
Bahne and company didn’t appreciate that welcome and quickly applied brutally efficient violence upon the two Graul brothers.
After terminating the brothers, the group listened for any reaction to their activity. Hearing none, they turned to the stairwell leading into the basement of the house and descended the stone stairwell leading down. With Bahne, making use of his Darkvision, taking the lead in a modified FTOJ, Erekhil wasn’t able to detect the bear trap that sat at the bottom of the stairwell, ready to strike unsuspecting visitors.
The bear trap was sprung and its rusty blades snapped viciously into the calf of the dwarf. But, magic and stout dwarf-made armor protected him as he strode forward, unfazed, and peered into the open doorway that stood to his left. Inside the room the slobbering sounds of two over-sized and over-fed donkey rats were in the corner feeding on the remains of some unfortunate human while two Graul boys were doing whatever Graul boys do.
One, a typical sized ogre-kin, but with huge, ogre-sized arms and a tiny, pin head, was yipping a strange, high-pitched squeal and using his large ogre hook to butcher a human male, fitting the description of the last Black Arrow ranger taken away, who was stuck to the wall by two meat hooks. His brother, a strapping ogre-kin lad with a grunting, and slobbering, vestigial twin attached to the back of his neck, was putting human bones together to make a chair.
Without turning around, the brother with the grunting twin, said to the dwarven fighter, “You’s gits back ta where you’s come from,” his twin grunting affirmation all the while, “Me’s busy’n don’t wants ta kills you’s all, so you’s go back!!!”
Bahne and his comrades didn’t take his advice and readied for battle. Bahne charged forth, a metal encased vision of death, his hammer swinging with determined might. Magic flew from the sorcerer, his Burning Sphere casting light into the dank, blood-soaked room, burning the rats.
Meanwhile, the dexterous Erekhil sprang into the fight, dancing his battle dance and working his short blades in blinding fast movements. Lindin moved in to join the fray; his arrows plunging deep into the orgre-kin boys.
The battle was brief but brutal, with the heavily armored dwarf creating a path of death around him.
With the brothers and their donkey rat pets butchered, the group began to search the basement. Ayra cast Detect Magic, finding the traces of several magical items from deeper in the basement. Searching systematically, our heroes discovered the Graul’s skin shucking room, with piles of humanoid flesh being tanned for whatever disturbing uses the Graul’s have for it.
Moving on, following Ayra’s magical detection, Erekhil opened a single door off the set of double-doors, and peering in with the aid of his bullseye lantern, found a damp, steamy room reeking of rotting vegetable matter. Pools of mud and stagnant water dotted the slick floor, while the walls were caked with thick swaths of puffy fungus and mold.
Switching places with the cleric so she could pinpoint the source of the magical auras, Ayra now stood inside the doorway when from its position along the wall, a creature of rotting vines and teeth, grabbed the half-elf , biting and tearing with a sick, wet, slobbering sound.
Watching their cleric get torn apart with vicious bites, the group launched into action. Bahne stood against the creature, forcing it to drop the unconscious Ayra to deal with its new threat. Lindin fired arrows at the beast, while Deivon moved to a position to survey the scene.
Erekhil sprang along the walls with his patented élan, blades out, ready, and deftly avoiding the beast’s razor sharp tentacles, and…went to find the treasure.
As the spells and arrows flew, and hammer struck, Bahne found himself caught in the iron grip of the creature and then, quickly, found himself being chewed and swallowed. Grabbing his dagger, he began to hack his way out, from inside the throat.
Sensing an opportunity when the creature was focused on swallowing the metal clad dwarf, Erekhil stealthily made his way to the cleric, and using a wand of healing, brought the cleric back to consciousness.
Seeing her comrades bloodied and battered, Ayra channeled the power of her Goddess of Revenge and healed those she could. The dwarf, inside the monster, didn’t get the benefit of this aid, but he did not need it. With his dagger carving a way out of the beast, Bahne pushed himself out of the creature as Lindin’s arrows extinguished his life-force.
With the creature down, and a mental note to themselves not to let the cleric enter room first, they healed their wounds and allowed Ayra to Detect Magic in a more secure manner.
She indicated the source was behind a wall, and Erekhil quickly popped the mechanism open, revealing a hidden room full of gear and weapons. Finding gear, some with the emblem of the Order of Black Arrows, our heroes gathered it and took it upstairs, leaving it in an easily accessible place to take on their way out.
Lindin filled his quiver with arrows found while Erekhil, tossed oil throughout the rooms searched to give the building a Viking funeral on the way out.
Methodically working their way through the vile home, with Ayra’s Detect Magic spell sensing several Necromantic auras from the western end of the house, the party discovered the living room and dining room, complete with human bone and skin furniture and a hacked up bearskin rug. The hacking occurring before the rug was created.
In the dining room, thick with the reek of putrefying flesh, on top of the four-foot-high human boned dining table, serving as a centerpiece, the group found among a horde of fat, buzzing flies, the decapitated head of a red-haired man. Remembering hearing that the red-haired woodsmen, Ol’ Red, had gone missing in the Kreegwood, the adventurers realized they were gazing upon the decapitated head of Ol’ Red.
The stench was too much, causing Erekhil to grab a goblet off the table and vomit into it. He decided to take it with him. Weird. But, his companions didn’t seem to mind.
Even more weird.
Hearing moaning from behind the door to the west, where Ayra was detecting substantial magic, the group readied themselves to meet whoever, or whatever, lurked beyond.
With the door partially open, Erekhil spied an obese, nearly naked ogre-kin woman sprawled on a large bed being attended to by the animated corpses of three ogre-kin boys, all fully naked with their wounds still visible and their lips sewn shut.
As the bullseye lantern scanned the room, Mammy Graul noticed it and let loose a profanity laced torrent of anger addressed, not at our interloping heroes, but rather, at her sons for allowing “these pigs” into her home.
Then, the battle was on.
Zombies plodded their way to our champions, grappling Lindin while Mammy ordered them to “Bring that scum here, I want to feel him!!!” she said, and indicated the gaping area between her fat, spread eagle thighs. Lindin, not wanting his face to reach her spread-eagle thighs, fought with a fury to escape the clutches of the zombie.
Bahne stepped up, and began pummeling the zombies with his hammer while Deivon’s ball of flame erupted near the ogre-kin woman. Erekhil, dodging the ogre-kin zombies, pounced into the room, blades flashing, to engage Mammy, but first tossing his vomit filled cup towards her.
Mammy found the intrusion by this little man amusing, and the vomit, arousing.
Licking her lips thinking about what she could do with the rogue, she summoned fiendish creatures to assail the group, while her zombies kept up their assault on the group. Erekhil, closest to Mammy, toyed with a variety of offensive techniques until Mammy tired of his pestering, cast Reduce Person on the thief/sell-sword/accused murderer, shrinking him to Halfling size.
Bahne, dropping his hammer in favor of Nualia’s bastard sword, carved his way through the zombies. Ayra and Deivon’s magic supported the fighter and took the fight to Mammy. Lindin, fighting off the clutching hands of the zombie he faced, was soon able to hack it to an inert corpse.
Mammy Graul laughed with glee as her necromantic magic drained the strength from the fighter and beckoned the group closer.
But, with the combined power of the Heroes of Sandpoint arrayed against her, Mammy was defeated.
The group gathered the scrolls and magic items Mammy had in her horde while Erekhil waited for the spell’s effect to end. Several comrades chuckled, inwardly, at the tiny, young lad.
Back to regular size, Erekhil continued to douse the house in oil, then as his party gathered the Black Arrrow’s gear they discovered, the sellsword lit the oil on fire, the flames growing swiftly, even in the dampness, and headed off to link up with Shalelu and the rangers.
When the group returned the barn, they discovered Shalelu on one knee talking to the oldest Black Arrow, who appeared to be crying. While this was going on, the large, black-skinned Black Arrow looked uncomfortable and the young one, with the Sihedron, was smirking, finding the whole thing amusing.
Ayra didn’t appreciate his smirking.
Shalelu rose from the man and headed to the group, informing them that she’s given them more healing, but they absorbed all they could, until they got food and warmth, they’d not take any more. Shalelu did say that the Black Arrows thought, with help, they could make it Bran Fernel’s home at the bridge stockade.
It was agreed that withdrawing to the stockade would be the plan of action, and Shalelu introduced the group to the Black Arrows. The Garundi, was named Vale Temros, who nodded painfully; the young Chelaxian, was Kavan Windstrike, who managed, even in his bruised and beaten state, a charming smile. And finally, she introduced “Lt. Jakardros Sovarak, my step-father…”
After retrieving the magical bow the group found for Jakardros, she explained it was crafted by her mother and was a gift to the ranger, and he was the reason she joined them on this journey. The other two Black Arrows survivors indicated which gear belonged to them: magical studded leather, magical rapier and dirk for Windstrike; magical chain, battle axe and hand axe for Vale. Then, the group headed into the cold, heavy rain to make their way back towards Turtleback Ferry.
Lindin scouted ahead to make sure the party didn’t run headlong into ogres or orge-kin, and with the Graul farmhouse blazing behind them, the group made left.
The going was slow and rough. Slippery pathways coupled with the stumbling, weakened rangers made for an arduous journey, but finally, the Skull River was crossed at the bridge and the wooden walls came into view.
It was a beautiful sight to the rangers.
Bran opened the gate immediately and led the group into the huntsmen’s great hall where women brought food, ointments and bandages for the wounded rangers and began to tend to their wounds.
Two huntsmen’s sons took horses to report to Father Shreed in the town church, while Deivon found Ol’ Red’s widow, Iseult, and told her of the fate of her husband. Then, when all returned to the warming and drying fire of the great hall, Jakardros told the Black Arrow’s tale.
With all the rumor of Kreeg activity the Black Arrows decided to mount a patrol doing what they call “The Big Loop.” It is a heavily armed patrol of 15 men that goes to the foothills of the Hook, along the Storval Deep, near Skull Crossing, then across the river, into the Ashwood, then back to the fort.
It was in the Ashwood that they found signs of Kreegs, which was unusual. The patrol followed the tracks in a giant circle, taking an extra two days to do so. When they returned to the fort, they sensed something was amiss, and seeing the carnage of the fallen fort, they made battle plans to retake it.
Their plan failed.
Vale Temros grimly stated that the ogres must have had an inside source. His remaining two comrades agreed. Striking when the patrol was away, leaving a false trail, those are things ogres don’t think of on their own, he declared. Again, his comrades agreed.
Jakardros finished by saying how half the force was killed in the assault, then told how he tried to rally the survivors to Turtleback Ferry but were ambushed and overpowered by the Grauls on their way south. They were taken to the Graul barn and tortured for almost three weeks, with their comrades taken away every few days, Macar being the last.
A sense of hopelessness and despair fell over the aged ranger.
Vale tried to spur his emotion by saying, “We’ll take the fort back, Jakardros. We rest for a few days, recover, scout, then retake the fort: you, me, Kavan, your step daughter. I thought of nothing else while we were captured. I know how a small force can do it.”
Kavan agreed with Vale. “We owe it to our brothers,” he said.
At this point, Lindin stepped in and said he’d offer whatever assistance he could, and the Champions of Magnimar agreed.
Erekhil, meanwhile, had been taking in the whole scene with the skills learned in the streets and alleyways of Old Korvosa, and had begun to notice how Kavan’s eyes would dart around the room, as if looking for ways to leave. When Kavan stated his support for retaking Fort Rannik, Erekhil felt Windstrike’s words were nothing but show and empty of any honesty.
Lindin decided he should tell Jakardros of the group’s suspicion of Kavan’s tattoo, and, at the request of Windstrike to get fresh air, the group headed out. Lindin went with Jakardros and Shalelu, with Erekhil joining, to express his greater concerns.
While that group headed off in one direction, a somewhat animated Vale began to discuss his plans with a receptive appearing Windstrike. Ayra, Bahne and Deivon joined this group, with Ayra noticing her goddess’s message of revenge was finding fertile ground in Kavan’s mind.
The ranger from Sandpoint expressed the concerns the group had about Kavan’s tattoo to Jakardros, who didn’t find the tattoo particularly incriminating, but kept an open mind. Erekhil expressed his concern that Windstrike was keeping more than his tattoo a secret.
While this was occurring, and Bahne and Ayra were listening to plans to take the fort, Deivon was off to the side, observing. He, too, began to notice that the young Windstrike appeared more concern with fleeing than with recovering, regardless of what his words said.
And when Lindin and company returned, he told them of his concerns, coupled with Erekhil and Lindin’s concerns, the party decided to act.
Getting the Black Arrows back into the hall, with the huntsmen and women there, also, Kavan Windstrike was shackled with Shalelu’s manacles, much to Windstrike’s confusion.
“What is this?” he confusedly stammered, as the group began to question him.
Regarding the tattoo, he appeared forthcoming about where he got it. It was the VIP tattoo for the gambling barge, Paradise, he said. It got the owner into special rooms and discounts. “I’m not the only one who has it,” a disgruntled, shackled Kavan Windstrike said. “I’m sure a dozen of folks in town have it…”
The group decided to check on that assertion themselves.
Ayra asked if he knew Lucrecia, the Mistress of the Paradise, to which he claimed to have met her once or twice, but fear began to grow and Kavan’s polished gift for deceit began to unravel. When pressed, he claimed, initially, that he had met her a few times but “she must be some kind of sorceress! Yes, that’s it! She’s some kind of witch who cast her witch spells on me!!!”
The room went silent at that point. Temros and Sovarak staring at their Black Arrow brother, taking measure of the situation.
Windstrike maintained that he was under some kind of spell where she forced him to tell her about the fort and their patrol schedules. She was very interested in the “Big Loop” wanting to know everything about it “and under her vile, witch spell, how could I resist?” Windstike asked. “Besides,” he said, “I could have been in that fort, you know!!! I could have died!!!”
At that point, Vale mentioned that Windstrike volunteered for the Big Loop, and he never volunteers for the Big Loop…
“Ha…ha…” Awkward laughter from Windstrike, “what are you implying? Jak…he’s talking crazy…”
“Kavan, you’ve paid others to do the Loop for you in the past because you hate it,” Jakardros stated. “What did you do, Kavan?”
More awkward laughter. “What are you guys…Oh…my wounds…I must…” and Kavan passed out from his wounds.
With a solid kick to the back of the head from Lindin, who was imaging the horrors done to his lifelong friend, Gunthred Ullen at the hands of the Kreeg during the fort’s fall, Kavan quickly came to. Lindin had no more time for games and demanded Windstrike talk.
The ranger clammed up, making excuses, until Erekhil played “indifferent cop” with Windstrike who must have felt a kindred spirit with the young Chelaxian and talked more of spells and witchcraft.
Erekhil had had enough of the games at this point and introduced Kavan Windstrike to an interrogation technique used often in Korvosa: Water Boarding.
With this technique and the collective fury of the Champions of Magnimar, a whimpering Kavan Windstrike told all.
He had fallen in love with Lucrecia and tired of the life of a Black Arrow and she promised she’d run away with him if he gave her some information about the fort. He still claimed he didn’t give any information until “she cast her vile spells” at which point he could not resist and told all she wanted to know. When she told him to make sure he was away from the fort on the last Sunday of Lamashan, he volunteered for the Big Loop and escaped the fury of the Kreegs as they poured over the ramparts.
He was supposed to meet Lucrecia the following Sunday south of Turtleback Ferry where they would run away together, but he met the the Grauls instead. Kavan knew nothing of the Paradise sinking and had the nerve to begin to cry at the thought of “that beautiful angel” drowning.
When released from the water boarding, he went to a knee in front of Jakardros, begging for his life. “I never meant for any of this to happen…I’m so sorry…I was under a witch’s spell…”
His pleas fell on deaf ears as Jakardros, the ranking member of the Order of the Black Arrows, reminded Windstrike of the oath he took, and pronounced him guilty of treason “punishable by immediate death by hanging. Do the Brothers of the Order support this decision?”
“I do.” Vale Temros harshly stated.
“Wha…Well, I do not!!!” Kavan tried to protest, and looked again to Jakardros for sympathy.
He again got none as Jakardros mustered what little strength he had left and delivered a solid backhand across the whimpering face of Kavan Windstrike.
“Silence!” he shouted. “You are a traitor. You brought about the death of your brothers; brothers who took you in when your miserable family disowned you; brothers who stood by you; supported you and defended you in combat. You killed our Order!!! You are scum, Kavan Windstrike, and I look forward to watching you piss yourself as you body twitches in its death throes. And, Kavan Windstrike, I look forward to pissing on your miserable corpse as it lies rotting, unattended in the forest.”
With that, Jakardros asked Bran and his sons to take Kavan out to the nearest suitable tree, which they gladly did, several of the women of the compound spit on Windstrike as he was taken away.
A noose was hoisted over a sturdy, tall branch and the Fernel men slipped the rope over Windstrike’s head and pulled.
Everyone stood by and grimly watched as the traitor to the Order of the Black Arrows, the man responsible for the fall of Fort Rannik and the death of nearly 40 rangers, twitched, pissed himself and died.
Vale Temros spat on the corpse, then handed Ayra a sketch he made, “If you’re interested in our revenge,” he said and walked back into the hall.
In the distance, from the direction of the town, the pounding of hooves could be heard approaching.