This campaign is set in the Blacktooth Ridge – a corner of the Forgotten Realms.
The town of Botkinburg lies far from the settled lands of the south and the fabled kingdom of Outremere. It sits upon a bend in the Hruesen River in the shadows of the slopes of the rugged hills of the Blacktooth Ridge, in a land known as the Barren Wood. However, it was not always referred to in such dour tones. In happier days this land was a wild, forested country named the Hruesen. The forest was of an exceedingly large expanse filled with many beasts as well as the settlements of man, halfling, and elf. The great ridge offered hunting aplenty and was called by men the Highlands and by the elves the Avishean Ridge. There was peace in the country and little troubled the folk who lived there. But the world’s ages turned, and so with them the fortunes of those in that wondrous wood.
Long ago, beyond the memory of most in the Barren Wood, a power arose in the north and the whole part of the world fell under the rueful eye of a great evil, the Horned One. He turned his armies loose on the lands of the Hruesen. A great many orcs and goblins issued forth from the foul pits of Aufstrang and laid waste to the lands - driving the inhabitants south into the sea, enslaving them and scattering wide the free peoples that had been living there. His evil emptied the forests and laid waste to the towns and cities. For centuries the region lay under the Horned Ones evil shadow. The ridge now stood forth from the wasteland as a black scar, as the orcs occupied it and made it a fortress of sorts. They tunneled beneath it and built squat towers upon it. The ridge was renamed the Blacktooth Ridge, as it devoured all who entered it, and the lands about were renamed the Barren Wood.
After centuries the fortunes of those lands finally changed with the passing of the great evil in Aufstrang. The Horned Ones armies scattered and the region around the Hruesen River was given a respite, although for many years it remained barren and empty. In time, people began to move back into the region and found both the lands and the river fertile. But so too arrived remnants of the horned Ones armies; for the Blacktooth Ridge lies in the shadow of Aufstrang and the fell pits of that place are a never-ending source of foul creatures. The ridge itself, riddled with caves and ruins, is a wild land filled with evil creatures. In it’s shadow along the river and in the woods, civilization has begun to take root.
The town of Botkinburg is one of the settlements that has been built along the river. Over the last 50 years it has grown into a community of several hundred and boasts a keep built by Lord Clement Botkin. Recently something seems to have stirred up the creatures of the Ridge and they have experienced a series of goblin raids. Messages have been sent out seeking adventurers willing to search the ridge and discover the source of these new raids and put an end to them. You have arrived in Botkinburg in response to this summons and now find yourself at the town’s tavern: The Bent Hook, known locally as Ortolf’s House of Sludge.
The caravan approached the town of Botkinburg from the South along a road that passed through the Barren Wood. In some ways you can easily see how the woods earned their dour name – for over 100 miles the small road you followed encountered only a few small settlements and even those were new. In terms of civilization, the woods were indeed barren. But in other ways the name seemed misapplied – while lacking in settlements it was not lacking in life. The birds and beasts of the woods had clearly come back and the woods were alive with creatures. You saw game and heard predators. But barren or not, your trip through the woods was uneventful and you encountered none of the dangers you had heard might lurk in these woods. You were getting paid to protect the caravan at least as far as Botkinburg, although it was likely headed past that village to Ludensheim and beyond. So far it had been easy money.
After days of walking your caravan neared Botkinburg. The caravan’s route brought you here, but you had personal reasons as well. You had heard that the town was experiencing dangers such as goblin raids and might be hiring adventurers to deal with the threat. Plus, the whole region of the Blacktooth Ridge was a known target for adventurers – an old stronghold of the Horned One’s minions and rumored to be filled with ruins and the gold that people always believed could be found in ruins. Adventure was something you were seeking. It seemed that the seven of you were all seeking something and had a personal reason to seek out the Blacktooth Ridge – for some of you it was just that adventure, for others it was more. But as the caravan wound northward you had discovered that you had a lot in common and formed a bond. You became something of a group, and as a group decided to see what challenges awaited on the Ridge. Botkinburg was your first attempt to put that unity to the test.
The woods as you traveled were thick and frequently dark. Not usually a gloomy dark or foul, but just lacking in light as in many places the light from the sun had to fight its way through many layers of vegetation to reach the ground and it was often not up to the task. Because of this there was little warning that you were near your destination – you simply rounded a corner and a little way ahead saw that the tunnel that was the road on which you travelled seemed to emerge into a well-lit clearing. You had seen these before, although rarely, and were not certain that you had reached your destination. But when you reached the opening you saw before you the towers of a keep atop a hill and surrounded by an agricultural community. You sensed, but could not yet see, the Hruesen River which you knew must be on the other side of the town.
Your first impression of the town was of a thriving community. You saw many houses scattered around and beyond them fields filled with alternately crops and herds. To the left as you approached rose another hill that was a bit smaller than the one the keep topped that was filled with what appeared to be halfling holes. It was early evening when you arrived at the end of a fine day. The locals seemed to be bringing their herds in for the day and heading for the local tavern. It wasn’t hard to find. Near the center of the village was a large, square, two-story establishment with a stone facing on the lower story and wooden planking facing the upper floor. The roof was made of red slate, steeply pitched as if to spill winter snows, and had a cluster of chimneys and heating pipes poking out of it. Behind the tavern you saw a stout stone wall surrounding what appeared to be a barn, stable and residence. The sign hanging from the front showed a twisted fishing hook and proudly claimed the name as the ‘Bent Hook’ in freshly painted lettering. You had previously been told that the tavern in town was known as ‘Ortolf’s House of Sludge,’ but there could be no doubt that this was a tavern and a quick glance around raised doubts that there could be another. (#1 on the map when it gets posted)
Before going into the Bent Hook and enjoying its legendary sludge, however, the group needed to finish their job. The carvan wound its way through the village and set up on the far side. There was an open area centered on a small hill with a huge oak tree atop of it. (#4 on the map) It was obviously what passed for the village green in Botkinburg. The Hreusen River flowed past on the other side of the grassy area. A small cluster of three Tinker’s wagons were already circled here, but they didn’t take up much space. Your caravan filled much of what remained and set up for the night. As you were technically still in the employ of the caravan you could sleep under a wagon as you had done for the previous nights, but the Bent Hook also offered the promise of beds – at a price. The two merchants in charge were clearly interested in beds. Whatever your ultimate choice for a place to lay your head, the tavern offered warm food and news of the area, so the group headed there once the caravan was settled.
Returning to the tavern, a few steps up brought you to a small porch with double doors open on the warm evening. As you stood and looked around you saw several young local men walk up the stairs and disappear into the interior. Following them you saw a typical tavern – there was a large fire in the fireplace and various tables and chairs scattered around the room. In the back near the fireplace a set of stairs led up to the second floor and on the other side of the room two large oaken doors likely opened on the kitchens. You saw a pair of young women wander out carrying food and beverages to the rooms inhabitants. On the whole the place seems quite pleasant, although it is rather dark and stained from years of smoke.
A few moments after you enter your presence is noted – it is a small town and your eclectic group easily stands out as visitors. The room is filled with humans. The only other race to be seen are halflings – a small group of the little folk are sitting at a table near the front windows. You sense no hostility, just curiosity. Steel, in particular seems to draws some looks. You are quickly approached by a middle-aged woman with an apron. “Welcome to Botkinburg and to the Bent Hook. We have food, drink and rooms to suit your needs. What can I help you with?”
You quickly find yourself seated at a large table and provided with a better meal then you had seen in weeks. It seems that the “Sludge” for which the place gets its second name is a thick, dark, viscous brew officially called Kaiseren Bock. (Think Guinness if any of you have had the misfortune to ever taste that sludge from a tap.) A chatty barmaid and friendly locals quickly provide a few basic pieces of information.
*The keep is ruled by Lord Clement Botkin, but he has grown old and most of the actual “ruling” seems to be done by his grandson.
*Goblin raids from the Ridge have been growing more frequent lately.
*Recently two young men, the Molkin twins, had disappeared.
(You are welcome to ask questions, seek out various people or do whatever you want. These are the basics that anyone would learn in the first 5 minutes in the tavern. And . . . Huzzah! I got a map posted on both the Q&A page and the campaign notes on D&D Beyond. Thanks to Tann for getting me the information that finally allowed me to get over this hurdle.)
Posted on 2020-06-28 at 12:45:48.
Edited on 2020-06-28 at 13:13:50 by Nomad D2
It had been a long journey, but thankfully, there had not been any dangerous encounters along the way, which was fine with the Cleric of Helm the God of Protection. He had hired on as a Healer and Protector for the caravan of merchants and settlers, but only a few minor ailments had required his attention.
“What is your name?” was the oft-asked question, as the Cleric of Helm made his rounds along the way, followed by his simple reply:
“No,” was the usual answer. “What is your name?”
“I know you are a healer,” was the next response, followed by, “healing is what a doc does!”
“Dok,” the dwarf Cleric of Helm would respond with a grin, “D-o-k is really my name.”
His spelling out his name was usually followed by quizzical looks with spontaneous laughter. Many times it served as an ice-breaker to further conversation, because the dwarf Cleric did not go out of his way to socialize, especially when he was hired to heal and to protect. He spent much of his time communing with his deity, unless he was called upon to make further conversation.
He was especially the object of infatuation by the small number of children riding in the caravan. Many of them were taller than the four-foot dwarf, but none of them had either the long hair nor the long beard that the 60-year-young dwarf had managed to cultivate over time.
Dok had grown attached to this caravan of merchants and settlers, especially the children, but he knew this chapter of his life was coming to a close, as shouts of “Botkinburg!” were heard as the caravan emerged from the dense vegetation, along and above the road, into a broad clearing where the twin towers of a keep atop a hill could be seen glistening in the sunlight from afar.
Once the caravan was settled on a hill that served as the village greens, the seven adventurers made their way to the Bent Hook to unwind with good food, good drink and good friends.
In a few minutes they had learned the following:
“The keep is ruled by Lord Clement Botkin, but he has grown old and most of the actual ‘ruling’ seems to be done by his grandson.”
“Goblin raids from the Ridge have been growing more frequently lately.”
“Recently two young men, the Molkin twins, had disappeared.”
This was the information quickly gleaned by the seven comrades-in-arms, as they dined on a fine home-cooked meal and drained their ale tankards more than once or twice.
Upon finishing his meal, Dok excused himself from the table; informing Hornet, Steel, Soledad, Silver, Ewyn and Thaoran that he would be bedding down underneath his wagon post for one last night and that he would rejoin the party after his morning devotions.
The Cleric of Helm made it a point to speak with the halflings who were sitting at the table near the front windows, hoping to glean some further information regarding either fact or rumors about what had transpired around the town and the Blacktooth Ridge in particular.
((OOC: I will rely on Nomad D2 to report any further information from the halflings in his next post.))
Dok slowly made his way towards the caravan, calling upon Helm to grant him favor with any of the town folk who he may encounter as he leisurely strolled in the evening air.
((OOC: Again, I will rely on Nomad D2 to provide any further information that Dok may gather.))
The Cleric of Helm made it a point to stop by the halfling tavern, greeting any of the patrons who may be willing to divulge any secrets or factual rumors regarding the Blacktooth Ridge.
((OOC: Yet again, I will rely on Nomad D2 to provide any findings that Dok may gather.))
Dok did not stay long at the halfling tavern, because he wanted to say his goodbyes to the settlers and children who were journeying beyond Botkinburg. He wanted them to feel safe in their new surroundings and he wanted them to rest assured that their healer and protector was on guard.
The next morning, Dok said his goodbyes and broke bread when it was offered. Then after gathering all of his belongings, he found a somewhat secluded place of solitude where the Cleric of Helm could meditate and pray without being disturbed, making sure that his spells would be ready, should they be needed before the day was done.
((OOC: These are the Same Spells that I sent to Nomad D2 in a Personal Message the other day!))
Dok made it a point to visit the sheriff’s office, enquiring about the missing Molkin twins, plus gathering any information about the strange occurrences happening around Botkinburg and especially any facts or rumors about what had been transpiring around the Blacktooth Ridge, including if any other adventurers had been hired to investigate the environs of the Blacktooth Ridge?
((OOC: Again, relying upon Nomad D2 to provide any info in his next post.))
Once Dok was satisfied that he had gathered as much information as possible; he made his way back to his companions, greeting any other town folk who may be willing to share information regarding facts or rumors, so that the Cleric of Helm could share what he had learned, before his companions settled upon an immediate course of action, regarding journeying into the maw of the Blacktooth Ridge!
I'm so sick from the drink, I need home for a rest...
While not particularly hard, the road had been long and Ewyn was grateful to finally be in Botkinburg. A decent meal, a decent drink and a decent bed... these had been on the red-headed man's mind almost since they had begun the 100-mile journey. Dutiful Dok be damned! Ewyn thought, shaking his head as the dwarf spoke some nonsensical notion about sleeping under the wagons one more night. Something about honour and the right thing. Pssh... the right thing would be a warm bath and a stout beer to wash away the road's dust!
And the man wasted little time moving towards his goal! Ewyn quickly unhitched Brock from the cart and gave his mule the evening inspection, ensuring no part of the day's journey had lodged itself in the mule's coat, hooves or mouth. Once the animal was looked after and well-fed, the man gathered his gear, washed his face in the river and made his way to the Bent Hook with the others. Sitting around the table, Ewyn tried to read his companions even as he tried to read the room. Decidedly, the group was more "diverse" than Ortolf’s usual clientele, but the locals seemed openminded enough and soon began sharing freely the local gossip of the day.
The companions had agreed to explore the possibility of employment here in Botkinburg. It was good to hear the rumours confirmed by the locals that they were indeed in need of some hero types. The question remained how much the job paid. Looking around the town as they came in, didn't give the impression there was a lot of wealth lying around... still, Lord Botkin might have some coin in that keep. Ewyn had his own reasons for digging into the Ridge but there was nothing wrong with having someone fund his project.
The man followed all the conversation lines that sought to gather more information on the job, the town and the pay:
The keep is ruled by Lord Clement Botkin, but he has grown old and most of the actual “ruling” seems to be done by his grandson.
"Really? How long has Botkinburg been around for? And the rule has stayed within the family line all this time?"
"And what's Lord Botkin's grandson's name? Any good as nobility goes?"
Goblin raids from the Ridge have been growing more frequent lately.
"Aye, we've heard them rumours already a hundred mile back. Sounds like you got some real trouble on your hands. What's Lord Botkin doing about those green-skinned toads? He raising some local militia to handle the problem?"
Recently two young men, the Molkin twins, had disappeared.
"Terrible. Terrible." Ewyn mutters, shaking his head. "Betcha they were upstanding lads, too, eh? The good boys are always the first to go. Terrible, though. The lads have family in town? Betcha their mother's beside herself in grief, yeah?"
Posted on 2020-06-30 at 02:09:24.
Edited on 2020-06-30 at 05:10:40 by Ayrn
To Steel riding a horse was still a very curious thing as he could walk faster then the animals themselves. However at the urging of Silver, his friend, well his only real friend if you considered friendship to be a real thing and not an abstract of emotional need for such. However the rest of the group her and he were among had also wanted him on said horse so as to not attract attention to him and the group themselves. Steel still wondered at that and could not help ask himself why a metal construct wearing chain mail was less of an attraction riding a horse then he just walking. Then again he also still could not understand why they referred to him as a he. He was neither a she having no female parts or a he having no male parts and could not have or do what the humanoids called sex. Yet once again the people he and Silver had joined were equally or more so strange in that they insisted he pick a sex so Steel had decided on male. However in truth Steel just saw himself as a walking, talking, though mostly just with Silver, made of metal Warforged fighter.
As they entered the town and found a place for the party to rest Steel was the first through the door beating Silver by a few seconds. In a strange way this had become a game between them that Silver mostly won thanks to her quickness and agility. As they sat down, Steel again as had become normal, with his back to the wall the sound and stories of the town folk began to gain form. However only one caught the warforged attention.
“Goblin raids from the Ridge have been growing more frequently lately”
Created to kill in a war long over, that was what Steel did best and he had to admit he enjoyed it, after all what else was there for him to do? Farming? Mining? Babysitting? A human family had actually asked him to do so once, as he needed no food or sleep to live they thought he be perfect. Ahhh no not for him with the kids nothing more then screaming whelps in all likely hood he just end up killing them because they had become too annoying…. However show him something that needed killing and he was the creature you wanted on your side. Watching the bar for any danger, sword and shield close by and ready as the huminiods gained their nutrients, Steel was quite happy and started to think about Hellhound puppies and plate…..
Posted on 2020-07-05 at 00:47:16.
Edited on 2020-07-05 at 00:48:58 by TannTalas
Thäoran narrowed his sapphire catlike eyes against the sparse rays of sun that succeeded in filtering their way through the forests' thick and dense canopy. The elf knew that he must focus on the task at hand and be on constant alert for any potential danger that may threaten those he had been hired to protect, but he could not stop his troubled mind from wandering despite any attempts to rein it in.
Father...what has become of you? Where are you now? And what is the meaning of your abrupt disappearance? How do I find you?
He swallowed hard, trying in vain to dispel the lump that had become wedged in his throat as the concern for his father's fate smothered his thoughts like a thick, shadowy blanket that threatened to snuff out all hope of ever being reunited with his father. The elf inhaled sharply and shook his head slightly, casting his gaze to left side of him at the caravan of humans ((OOC: are they all humans?)) that he was tasked with guarding in an attempt to distract himself from his current turmoil.
The humans appeared to be a friendly lot, but Thäoran was still not at ease around them. True, he had encountered their kind before on the various quests his king and commander had sent him on, but there was still something about humans that caused him to fail to be completely comfortable around them. And distrust them. Perhaps it was because of all the tales he had heard being recountered by his fellow elves of men being easily manipulated and corrupted, especially if gold was the prize. Thäoran shook his head slightly again. Maybe he was just being cynical and perhaps humans were not as weak minded as he was lead to believe. Still, it was best to be wary and cautious, lest his lack of awareness cause his untimely demise at those he thought were his allies.
His mind was drifting again. Always a problem of his ever since he were a boy though he had gotten better at keeping his wandering thoughts in check over the years but he was well aware that much more practice was required until he was fully the master of his mind.
Thankfully, his ponderings were brought to an abrupt halt as cherrful shouts of 'Botkinberg!' filled the evening air. The elf straightened his slender frame and walked on the balls of his feet in order to try and get a glimpse of the town from where he was. As their destination crested the hill, he immediately started to study the settlement. It was an earthy place situated next to the gently flowing Hruesen River and surrounded to grassy hills, the tallest one dominated by a keep where Lord Botkin resided, ruling over his people.
As they entered the town proper, Thäoran constantly flicked his sharp eyes from side to side, alert for any dangers that may befall him or his companions. He had always been the cautious sort, which his father approved of as it helped keep his son out of trouble. No threats appeared to be forthcoming, so he allowed his narrow shoulders to relax a little. The caravan lead them to a squat two-storey tavern that also served as an inn that offered them better fare than they had had on the road. As uneasy as was to have to be in a human town for a prolonged stay, he was nevertheless grateful to rest his weary limbs and partake in what was sure to be better food than that he had consumed on the road.
The interior of the tavern appeared rather homey and inviting, although Thäoran disliked the somewhat scruitinizing looks the other patrons directed his way. He frowned slightly in response to their curious gazes, but thankfully and to his relief, the eyes were quickly cast elsewhere as the other customers resumed what they were doing before his and his companions' arrival had briefly interrupted them. It wasn't long until a serving woman approached them with a warm, welcoming smile stretching her plump lips and asked them in a bright voice if she could be of assistance. Thus, they were soon lead to a scrubbed wooden table and seated on stout chairs and while he waited for his food to be served, the elf studied the other patrons more closely. The vast majority appeared to be human as expected, but there were a small group of halflings as well.
After he had consumed his repast and wet his throat with the chilled water-refusing to drink any alcohol for fear of it clouding his mind-, he thought it wise to gather what information he could, his main hope being that he could discover a clue, no matter how small, on the whereabouts of his father.
Among other things, he discovered that the Lord of Brotkinburg was too aged to rule as well as he wished, so he allowed his grandson to carry out his orders in his stead. Could be worth conversing with both the Lord and this grandson of his, Thäoran decided.
Also, the goblin raids were occuring more frequently as of late. Were they just becoming more bold, or was someone-or something-driving them on? An unknown leader, perhaps? Or (and he gave an involuntary slight shudder at this possibility) had the Horned One returned and was gathering his forces once again to wreak a fresh wave of terror on a land that was still recovering from his last horrific regn of tyranny?
The third fact he gleaned from the woman was that two twins had ventured out in an attempt to quell the raids but as of yet failed to return. Two more lost souls I must retrieve, Thäoran thought determinedly. I shall not leave these brave humans to fend for themselves.
After speaking with the woman, he approached the barkeep who was scrubbing clean a tankard but smiled as he saw the elf coming his way. ((OOC: Sorry if I'm not allowed to play as NPCs. Please tell me if I'm not).
'What can I do for you, son?' The man asked roughly, though not unkindly.
'I am seeking someone very dear to me,' Thäoran informed him, lowering his voice, lest any unwelcome ears were present. 'My father abruptly vanished while undertaking a mission to combat a group of what remains of the Horned Ones' forces. Have you, perchance, heard any whisperings of any elves besides I recently? Or any information that may aid me on my quest to locate him? I believe he was taken by the foes he was tasked with slaying, though for what reason I know not.' A quiet sigh caused his shoulders to rise and fall slightly and he awaited the barkeep's response.
((OOC: Nomad, could you give the barkeep's reply in your next DM post, please?))
Afterwards, the elf made his way back to the caravan as he preferred sleeping surrounded by nature and he was still under the employ of the caravan's master to guard them for a final night. As he approached, he saw the stocky dwarf he had travelled with to the town. Dok, if he recalled correctly. The elf softened his footfalls in case the dwarf was asleep.
'So sorry to disturb you,' Thäoran apologised in case Dok was awake. 'I wonder if I may join you?'
If the dwarf was indeed slumbering, he would find another place to rest that night.
At the signs of the Bent Hook, Swilling Swan and Shefiff's Office
The group settled into their seats and enjoyed a good meal and rest. The trip to Botkinburg, while uneventful, had been long. The owner of the Bent Hook, presumably the big man sitting at a table in the middle of the tavern going over books was Ortolf himself, had a couple of puppies playing energetically around the room. As they wrestled, Steel suddenly perked up as the eyes of the larger one flashed in the firelight and for just a brief moment the construct thought that it might be a Hell Hound pup. But it was just the reflection of the light and the pup was just that – a gangly, long-legged, young hound eager to get at the Plate of scraps the barmaid was putting down for the animals. It was a scene that could be found in many small towns in the world and spoke of a peaceful life.
But that peace was apparently a façade at the moment, with goblin raids undercutting what should have been a peaceful existence. Any member of the group that spoke to the others in the tavern found them friendly, but also filled with stories of goblin raids and missing twins. Ewyn discovered that the mother of the twins lived a couple of blocks away near the edge of the town and that the twins had disappeared a few days prior when going out to bring the cows in for the evening. The cows were still in the pasture, but . . . no twins. They had been young men. Had been. People made presumptions about goblins and their fate.
Such questions easily brought up the local ruler – Lord Clement Botkin. He was generally considered a wise ruler. He had taken this small town, a new outpost in a wild region and only about 100 years old, and had helped it to grow. He had built the keep and provided for the area. Was he really a Lord? Well, most of the locals seemed to think “lording” was more about what you did than about some title, so they figured he must be. He was liked and admired. But he was also old. His grandson was a young man named Volkmer who seemed to be doing most of the lording now. Nobody said anything directly negative about the lad, but neither did they seem to use the same affectionate language his grandfather received. You had little doubt who was preferred. And the question that had brought you here and that had many in the tavern curious about your group – what was being done about the goblins? Not much, it seemed. But the Lord had spoken of hiring adventurers. The locals wondered if that was you?
While others chatted with the locals, the elf Thaoran approached the bar and the barkeep and asked the questions that had pushed him out of his elvish homeland. Where was his father? Had anyone heard anything? The barkeep had looked him up and down when he asked, and shook his head. “Sorry, we have missing people of our own. It’s hard to notice other peoples’. And elves? I think you are the first I’ve seen in a few years. They’d be welcome mind, but were mostly humans and the little people here. None of your kin.” He set down the mug he was wiping out. “Though you’ve an odd way of putting it. If your father was hunting creatures to slay them, well, it hardly seems like you need to search for a reason why they would want to stop him, now does it? I’d be set for capturing him what was trying to slay me.” He shook his head. “But that doesn’t help you any, does it? That ridge across the river has plenty o’ things in it that might be in need of slaying or be interested in taking, but I can’t say as I have information to point you anywhere particular.” He picked up the mug again and started rubbing. “But I do wish you the best. Sons and fathers gone missing – none of it is good or would be happening in good days. Something is wrong on that Ridge. I wish you luck.”
The Dwarven healer, Dok, meanwhile sought his information outside of the Bent Hook. He went first to the Halfling Tavern. A place known as the Swilling Swan, it was clearly built for and served primarily halflings. Even the dwarf found himself to be too tall for the small interior. But when he arrived, he found several tables scattered across the lawn in front of it seating numerous halflings and a half dozen humans as well. It seems the owner and vintner, Megarin Paracook, had recently harvested a large batch of sunberries and black berries and made a batch of wine. This was the beverage of choice at the swan – a very different flavor then Orltolf’s sludge at the Bent Hook. Dok found the people friendly and willing to talk with the strange flavor of the week – a dwarf at the Swilling Swan! One young halfling, a lad named Mose who Dok later discovered was the son of the owner, added a few little rumors noting the presence of “pixies and nixies that needed their food!” He strongly suggested that the dwarf leave out a bit of food for the tiny fey when he went to bed. “Don’t forget to feed ‘em!” Another noted that “The Blacktooth place, it be home to evil sorcerers and the living dead!” he halfling shuddered and ordered another wine as he spoke. It certainly hadn’t been the man’s first of the evening.
The other stop Dok made was to the Sheriff’s office. The sheriff was Aaron von Beddering, whom Dok quickly discovered was appointed by the Botkin’s to deal with issues. He seemed like a solid local man who knew full well which end of the sword to hold, but didn’t look like he had done so in some time. When asked for information about the situation, he noted a few raids on caravans recently – including one a few days past coming down from Ludensheim to the North. A sad business with most of the merchants killed. Until recently the goblins had stayed on the other side of the Hruesen, but something seemed to be pushing them. At this point he looked at Dok and noted that if the dwarf and his friends wanted to find some adventure Lord Volkmer would likely pay them a bounty for goblins. The going rate was 2 gp for each goblin ear – it had to be the right ear, no double dipping! And a solid 50 gp for each of the twins. “Keep whatever else you find. Volkmer just wants peace in his lands.”
When the topic shifted to the missing twins, the sheriff passed the conversation to one of his militiamen, named Erhardt. Erhardt was one of two men that the sheriff kept on semi-permanent hire for dealing with stuff and he had investigated the twin’s disappearance. “This was a few days ago, I went the next morning out to the field where the lads, Aaron and Dmitri, were supposed to have collected their mother’s cows. The cows were there, but no sign of the boys. Nor was there really and sign of a struggle. They just weren’t there. I walked the perimeter of the field looking for something and found some signs of a group entering and exiting the field. Smaller feet, but not tiny. Booted. Goblins boots, I’d wager, especially since we know there are goblins about. Goblins had been there. They lead back into the woods – away from the community. But they seemed to know what they were doing and clearly didn’t want to be tracked. I’ve spent enough time in the woods in my time. There are times I’d have said I could track a breeze over solid rock. The goblins clearly didn’t want to be followed. The tracks disappeared quickly. Those boys are on the other side of the river by now, although whether there is enough of them left to be aware of the fact is another matter.” The sheriff’s assistant shook his head a bit. “I know it isn’t much to go on, but if you are able to find the lads, their mother would certainly be grateful. As would the whole town, actually.” He smiled as Dok rose to leave. “And we all need to know what is going on over the river. I’d be much obliged if you’d let me know whatever you find over there.
Dok was only able to glean a small bit of information from the Halflings at the Swilling Swan, including Fey in the area; plus, Evil Sorcerers and the Living Dead at that ‘Blacktooth Place’!
If that were the case, the Hill Dwarf Cleric of Helm, the God of Protection, was glad that he had (what seemed to him so long ago) heeded his mentor’s advice to coat his battle axe with silver!
Goblins were the talk by both the sheriff Aaron von Beddering and his militiaman Erhardt, including a bounty of 2 gp for every right ear severed from a goblin that Lord Volkmer would be glad to pay! This was because of the repeated caravan raids. The most recent raid had left most of the merchants dead from a raided caravan that had come down from Ludensheim from the North.
There was also a bounty for the recovery of each of the twins, 50 gp each. Sheriff Aaron von Beddering also noted: “Keep whatever else you find. Volkmer just wants peace in his lands.”
Regarding the missing twins, Aaron and Dmitri, the militiaman Erhardt was convinced that the boys had been abducted by goblins and carried off across the Hruesen River:
“This was a few days ago, I went the next morning out to the field where the lads, Aaron and Dmitri, were supposed to have collected their mother’s cows. The cows were there, but no sign of the boys. Nor was there really and sign of a struggle. They just weren’t there. I walked the perimeter of the field looking for something and found some signs of a group entering and exiting the field. Smaller feet, but not tiny. Booted. Goblins boots, I’d wager, especially since we know there are goblins about. Goblins had been there. They lead back into the woods – away from the community. But they seemed to know what they were doing and clearly didn’t want to be tracked. I’ve spent enough time in the woods in my time. There are times I’d have said I could track a breeze over solid rock. The goblins clearly didn’t want to be followed. The tracks disappeared quickly. Those boys are on the other side of the river by now, although whether there is enough of them left to be aware of the fact is another matter.” The sheriff’s assistant shook his head a bit. “I know it isn’t much to go on, but if you are able to find the lads, their mother would certainly be grateful. As would the whole town, actually.” He smiled as Dok rose to leave. “And we all need to know what is going on over the river. I’d be much obliged if you’d let me know whatever you find over there.”
“I will inform you of our findings when we return from the Blacktooth Ridge!”
Dok was more than a bit troubled by the news of the Molkin twins, Aaron and Dmitri, vowing to find them and exacting a swift and just punishment upon their captors!
Dok had just settled himself under a wagon to take his rest when a familiar voice called out:
'So sorry to disturb you,' Thäoran apologised in case Dok was awake. 'I wonder if I may join you?'
It was Thaoran, but Dok chose to address his name as Thor, because it was easier to pronounce his name as Thor … with Dok’s obviously heavy Dwarven accent.
Dok invited his new friend to sit down, so the Dwarf Healer could share the information that he had gleaned from the Halflings, Sheriff Aaron von Beddering and Erhardt.
Then the Cleric of Helm spent some time telling Thor about his background: being orphaned at the age of 10 some 50 years ago. His parents were Priests of Light and their Temple of Light was razed by a Goblin War Lord, but Dok was spared by Helm the God of Protection, at least that is what he was told by the Old Priest of Helm who found the Dwarf Child buried beneath the rubble of the Temple of Light.
The Old Priest was also named Dok, or so he said, which comforted the younger Dok. He was raised by this Old Priest of Helm, who also told him that if he ever had the opportunity to become friends with an Elf … that he was to do so without question … because Dok would outlive any Human friends … but Elves were known to outlive Dwarves! Plus … an Elf could be trusted in battle … sometimes more than Dwarves … so Dok recognized that Helm had guided the young Cleric to cross paths with Thor, for some unknown reason!
“I joined the caravan because I heard an audible voice speak to me one word … ‘Botkinburg!’ … so I knew that Helm the God of Protection was directing me here for some as yet unknown purpose!”
Dok paused long enough to reflect upon the wisdom of his deceased mentor, before looking intently into the eyes of Thor … before emphatically asking:
“So … My New Friend … What Is It ... That Is Troubling You?”
((OOC: In the morning Dok will prepare the Spells that I have submitted to Nomad. He will also locate his other adventuring companions to share with them what he has learned from the Halflings, Sheriff Aaron von Beddering and Erhardt. If he has time he will take a bath, but he has a sense of urgency to journey into the maw of the Blacktooth Ridge in search of the Malkin Twins and to hunt Goblins!))
Silver always liked coming to a new town, new city, a country side hamlet, because there was always a good chance there would be something nice to steal. She was a rogue, she knew it, the the open locks, find secret doors, steal whatever was inside type, yet she still had her martial talents to fall back on. Though no where near her partner Steel, I mean come on he’s a freaking Warfoged, she was still much faster then him. However as they reached the tavern he beat her inside to sit with his back to the wall. Gliding into the seat next to him she ordered an ale and a pot full off chicken legs. Just giving the order to the tavern wench made her stomach growl causing Steel to look at her, his head tilted side ways.
“What I’m hungry, I can’t help it you don’t need to eat. I like to eat, so keep watch”
As the big man, creature? No he was a man if not flesh and blood, of metal looked away Silver could see he had a smile on his face, yeah he was a good person to have beside you in a fight but she had to admit he was also a friend. As she eat she listened catching various stories, tales and the normal barroom BS you hear in any bar anywhere and caught that two kids, twin boys were missing. ~Hmmm wonder how much the parents would pay to get them back. As she continued she watched as the rest of the group found a place with her and Steel or wondered about the bar.
She watched as Dok made his way talking to people gaining their stories and if she knew the Dwarf Cleric, as much information on the two lost boys. Whatever came of his info gathering she was sure Soledad would chose the best way to make the most money. Looking back to Steel she could see he had taken her suggestion to heart as no one moved inside the bar he did not see,
For now wait and watch and thanks to her Rogue skills she was quite good at waiting........................
As the news, or rather lack thereof, fell on the elf's ears that there had been no hint of his father around Botkinburg, the earlier feeling of dispair once again cast a shadow over Thäoran's distraught heart. A hint of discouragement also crept into his soul that he would never locate his father, but, with an effort, he cast the negative feeling aside, lest it completely conquer him and put an end to his quest.
Nay, he thought, willing himself not to fall under the weight of grief. I must press on, no matter how dire things become. Father never gave in when things seemed grim, and neither will I.
Squaring his slender shoulders, he politely thanked the barkeep for his time and made his way outside to rest under the stars.
The gruff voice of the stout dwarf cut through the calm evening air as he replied enthusiatically to Thäoran's enquirey.
'Friend Thor!' Dok beamed, mashing the elf's name with his thick, Dwarvish accent which Thäoran found somewhat amusing.
I wonder if I greatly mispronounce words when I speak in the dwarven tongue? I might sound comical to them, too. A small smile tugged at his thin, sculptured lips as he thought this.
Upon receiving the invitation to join Dok by his side, Thäoran settled on the grass next to his companion. There, elf and dwarf communed, with Dok informing Thäoran what he had learned while seeking any information that may aid them on their quest. The disappearance of the twins sounded earily (apologies for my bad spelling haha!) familiar to the manner in which his father was abducted. No sign of struggle, just...gone. Could the disappearance of his father and the twins have any connection? Perhaps he would discover this if and when they located the twins. To do so, it seemed they would have to venture into the nearby woods, which emboldened the elf. He had been born and raised surrounded by trees and foliage and felt his familiarity with nature may assist them with spotting any clues that may help them.
The dwarf then proceeded to reveal to the elf his tragic past. A past that involved the poor dwarven child losing both his parents, thereby orphaning him. Thäoran hoped that he, too, would not end the same way and that his father, wherever he was, was still alive. Dok told the elf that he was a Priest of the Helm of Light, and was an experienced healer ((sorry if I got this wrong!)).
That is reassuring, Thäoran thought with a mental nod. One skilled in the art of healing is always a welcome companion on the road.
When Dok reached the prophecy which the elder Dok had recounted to the younger Dok, Thäoran's pointed elf ears pricked up slightly as he became ever more attentive.
Interesting..., he pondered, I do not know wether I believe in such fortellings, but it would be folly of me to dismiss them without care. I do not know all thr ways of the world so I cannot cast something aside as silly merely because I do not understand it. And if this prophecy helps us to become stronger and closer allies and friends, then I welcome it.
When the dwarf had completed his tale of woe, Thäoran finally spoke, sounding his words with care and delicacy as he was communicating in a tongue that was not his own. His mind flashed back to his earlier thought about him sounding amusing to the dwarf the same way Dok sounded amusing to him.
'I am deeply sorrowful for your loss,' the elf consoled him, the words he uttered rather slow and a little clumsy (for which he silently berated himself for. Perhaps Dok could help to strengthen his Dwarvish? If so, Thäoran would respond in kind, teaching him more of his elvish tongue). 'I hope that one day, we can avenge the deaths of your parents.
When Dok enquired as to why Thäoran had embarked upon this quest and what troubles ailed him, the elf's weary mind was instantly cast back to everything that had befallen him.
Again, he said his words slowly, but this time it was not soley because he wasn't very familiar with the language in which he spoke. He was attempting to gather his scattered thoughts and build them into a cohesive whole.
'My mother,' he started, frowning a little, 'was tasked with serving the house of a noble elf family in another elven town. We do keep in touch via hawk mail ((OOC: similar to carrier pigeon)), but we have not for some time. I can only pray that she is safe and well. My father raised me on his own, and with his wise and fair guidance, he instructed me in the ways of honor, of justice and of equality. He also bade me to assist those that could not help themselves and he inspired me to become a soldier in the elven army. Under the watchful and experienced eye of both my commander and my father, my skill with the bow and blade increased and so did my station. I rose through the ranks until I became an officer.
'Then, one fateful day, tragedy struck. The Commander of the group of soldiers my father was with on his mission informed me that my father had vanished. The Commander said he and the rest of the soldiers had searched the area thoroughly, but no trace of him was to be found. Nothing, except this.' Here, Thäoran unsheathed his father's slender blade, the rapier that had been by his father's side until the day he disappeared. Thäoran caressed the sword as he would a newborn baby, his eyes fixed on the gleaming elf-steel becoming misty, his throat tightening. 'That is why I have undertaken this quest,' he informed the dwarf, 'in the hopes of finally rescuing and being reunited with my father, or, if the unthinkable happens, deliver swift justice on those responsible for his demise.' The elf blinked his sapphire cat-like eyes a few times in rapid succession in order to clear his blurry vision before casting his gaze up at Dok. 'That is why I understand how you must be feeling having lost both your parents, but with you having lost both I think your grief could be even more profound than mine.' He replaced the precious blade back in is elaborate sheath then gently placed a slender hand on the dwarf's thickly muscled shoulder. 'And that is why I will assist as well as I can with your quest for justice, if that is what you seek. And if you will permit me in aiding you on this journey.' The elf smiled warmly, albeit a little sadly, at his companion.
Posted on 2020-07-10 at 13:09:11.
Edited on 2020-07-10 at 13:19:21 by dragon-soul92
All of them are so ugly, beloved. Why did you not let me out to bite them?
The sibilant voice echoed through Soledad’s mind as the shimmering gold serpent slithered up her arm. The young elf laid her own golden hand upon the familiar before sending her own psychic reply.
Now, Z’zzip, if you poison bite every ugly face we see there would be hardly anyone left.
I fail to see the problem with that! Z’zzip shrieked their reply before tucking back into the pocket fey dimension.
Shaking her head, Soledad laughed softly as she brushed a silver white curl from her cheek. Not that she disagreed with the snake. True, ugliness was an unforgivable sin, but she did have enough impulse control not immolate every bulbous-nosed oaf that walked past her. Folks generally frowned upon mass murder.
It was decidedly a very good thing she had sent Z’zzip into the pocket dimension at the first sights of Botkinburg. The previous day had been trying to say the least and the irascible snake almost certainly would have bitten a bumpkin or ten. Soledad had found herself forced to eat a bowl of vile, gloppy sludge. FORCED. It was utterly foul, but, having manners, the elf made sure to sing praises to the rotund woman that made it. And the stupid cow lapped up every word with a grin. Oh the tortures she had to endure...
At least there had been a bed. Soledad could for the life of her understand what sense had led Dutiful Dok and Thäoran to elect to spend yet another night underneath a wretrched wagon. The very thought of it had the little witch setting charms to banish every last drop of sweat and speck of dust from her person. To be beautiful and clean was the only acceptable path. Soledad maintained that at all times with what some might call a compulsive devotion. Let them judge, SHE would not be the one smelling of horse rump!
Their time in the hamlet had shown the locals abuzz with talk of missing twins and goblin raids. This was something they could actually do something about AND turn a profit. Soledad wasn't in it for the altruism, witchery wasn't cheap. It was high time they formed a plan and got to work, before she found herself in front of another bowl of mystery concoction.
The group woke up the next morning, some in a bed at the Bent Hook and some under a wagon, to a new day. Your contract with the caravan was now complete and you are free agents able to explore new options. The town of Botkinburg seems to offer opportunity for adventure. News of the missing twins and goblin raids can be heard around town and from many voices. This is a town in need of heroes. Or, perhaps, in the minds of some, it is a town willing to pay mercenaries. But whether the group saw need or potential profit, they all saw a need for your services.
The group met at the Bent Hook for breakfast and shared their stories. There wasn’t much new to add, although Dok seemed to have gathered the most information. He shared the rumors he had come across at the Swilling Swan and news of the search by the sheriff’s assistant, Erhardt. Erhardt’s story got the most attention as it included two things of note. The first was money – a bounty on goblins and a reward for finding the twins. The second was information about the twin’s disappearance and possible signs of a goblin raiding party.
Unsure of the best path to follow, but needing to start somewhere, the group decided to head to the pasture where the twins disappeared. Although the sheriff had been unable to follow their track very far, it was the best lead they had. The mother of the missing twins lived just a scant 2 blocks from the tavern – the group had little trouble getting a young barmaid named Elaida to show them to her home – a simple peasant cottage with a small barn behind it. The entire way there she told of a grieving mother and the devastation of such a loss only stopping when they reached the door. In response to a brief knock you met the worried mother and her friend who was caring for her. Both seemed exhausted and grateful for any hope the group might offer. In this case, Dok spoke up and offered the blessings of the God of Protection and promised to do his best to discover what had happened to the poor woman’s two children. The woman didn’t quite seem to know what to make of a dwarven cleric in the middle of her home, but hope was hope and she clung to it tightly.
The woman’s friend led them out to the barn and from there to the pasture – it was a short walk of less than a quarter mile. There really wasn’t much to see. It was a cow pasture. The old cliché “If you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all” seemed to made for cow pastures. Especially this one. It was as cow pasturey as you could get, as Soledad discovered when she accidently stepped in one of it’s numerous cow pies. As the elf attempted to scrape the pie from her boots the rest of the group surveyed the grounds.
The field was several hundred yards from end to end with a half-dozen cows in the field. To the North was the path back towards town down which the missing twins should have returned with the cattle and from which the group had emerged into the field. To the East (riverward) there was another pasture. To the West there was a thin line of trees and then more meadows. Judging from the animals grazing there it seemed additional pasturage had been carved from the wood in that direction as well. Straight ahead from where the group entered (South) was a solid line of woods. It seemed this was the extent to which the village of Botkinburg had intruded upon the Barren Woods.
It was on this southern end of the pasture that the group found the traces of goblin tracks that Erhardt had mentioned. In fact, it was doubtful that you would have even noticed the disturbances if you had not been told to look for them. But when your attention was drawn to it you found several small boot tracks. The creatures making them were probably around 5’ in height and wearing, obviously, boots. Goblins certainly seemed a reasonable guess. Multiple goblins likely, but no real guess could be made of numbers. No other discernable tracks were visible. This meant there was no obvious sign of the twins, who were both fairly good-sized young lads from what you have heard. But this was no great surprise – there were few tracks at all.
It was still not yet noon as the group set out after the goblins. None in the group were really expert trackers, but Hornet and Silver led the way. It was not an easy track to follow, but the group began moving into the woods – not directly South, but also moving a bit westward, veering slightly away from the river. Or maybe it veered. The trail ran out so quickly that it was hard to decide where it was headed. Dok thought that Erhardt had claimed to have followed the trail for a couple of hundred yards, but the group seemed to lose track of it after only 50 yards or so. No doubt, as they all agreed, because the trail was now several days old.
But whether the trail was old or new, the group found themselves with nothing specific to follow while they could still look back and see the pasture. As a place to start, the pasture hadn’t led them very far. Lacking other great options, the group pressed on hoping to find some further sign farther in the woods that would allow them to pick up the trail again. At first you continued to veer a little bit to the west and away from the river trying to follow the direction the path seemed to have been going, but trees, rocks and undergrowth soon proved that no path would be straight. At this point you spread out a bit to cover more ground looking for signs and moving generally southward. You didn’t know exactly where to go, but if everyone was so sure that the goblins and twins had ended up on the other side of the river it stood to reason that at some point they would have to head back towards the river. So you tended that way, but without any real conviction that your path was the correct one.
By midafternoon you had spent several hours traversing the woods slowly and carefully looking for signs with no success. The most you had found was a small deer path and a couple of deer that might have been responsible for the tracks upon it. At this point you were a couple of miles away from your starting point and any chance of finding a trail would be pure luck. You needed a new plan.
It is around 3 in the afternoon and you are several miles South of Botkinburg in the Barren Wood. At a guess you have moved roughly parallel to the Hreusen River which might be anywhere from ½ to 2 miles to your left. (East.) The Barren Woods extends around you, especially to the South and West. You could make it back to town for the night or continue on . . . somewhere. The weather is fair.
(You will need to identify a specific direction to go before the next posting. In addition there is some information about making camp and marching that I will need clarified in the Q&A section.)
Though she had been out front of the party with Hornet next to her and Steel behind to her rear covering both, she had been unable to find any sign of a trail or path to possibly lead them to the missing boys. Turning to Hornet she received a confirmation that he to had found no sigh of of the boys at all, Turning to Soledad and the rest.
“Sorry Sole nothing at all to push us forward. If the Goblins did indeed take them they carried them and even with the boys, they themselves where light on weight. What next? Camp or return to town?”
Not needing to eat or really sleep, Steel did as he always did, and stood, well seated, guard. As the rest of the party made their way into the upper levels of the inn and their rented rooms, the warforged fighter took up his spot at the bottom of the stairs, closed his eyes and slipped into his ability of Sentry’s Rest.
Then the sun was up and so too the party and over the course of breakfast it was decided to look for the missing boys…. Which quickly became harder then any of the group had thought it would be. Even Steel was surprised that Silver found no true trace of the two boys as he knew her to be quite a seasoned tracker. Though the big warforged was good in a fight, even he had to admit he was better then most, his ability to track was non-existent so he fell back allowing Hornet to assist her. However it again became quickly evident that even between both Rogues any remaining traces were gone. He along with the rest of the group listened as Silver gave Soledad her report.
“Sorry, Sole nothing at all to push us forward. If the Goblins did indeed take them they carried them and even with the boys, they themselves were light on weight. What next? Camp or return to town?”
As Steel waited on Soledad along with the rest, he continues to keep an eye out for trouble…..
Posted on 2020-07-24 at 03:15:11.
Edited on 2020-07-24 at 16:57:22 by TannTalas
After the group had spent some time searching out the woods near where the twins were last assumed to be, Ewyn quickly knew they weren't likely to find much... Erhardt had not given a lot of hope in the first place, but it was a place to start. And while there was little found to follow, Ewyn had a sense there was more at the scene than they were seeing.
"Anyone remember how heavy those twins were?" the warlock asked to no one in particular. "Strapping young lads, right?" He paused, looking at where the tracks began. "Something's not right here. There are no signs of a struggle, no signs of the boys being carried off... no signs of their presence here at all.
"And the booted prints... maybe goblins... maybe not though. I'm not sure why goblins would come all this way around for a slight chance of such a small reward. Why not just stick with raiding caravans?
"I don't know... My gut says something's up here. This doesn't feel like it was opportunistic... My guess, if it was goblins, someone specifically hired them to do this job and the lads were targetted.
"Still, it doesn't even seem the lads were here in the first place. Maybe they got nabbed somewhere else and someone is trying to make it look goblins' work. That seems to fit better to me.
When Steel asked Soledad for where they were going to sleep for the night, Ewyn echoed Dok's hopes. "I'm for all for another night of tavern fare and a soft bed. Not sure if we need to report everything we've discovered.
"Maybe tomorrow we can go examine the place of the last caravan raid and see where that trail leads."