Heroes of Hillsfar

Insidious Experiments - Part 1

When ogres attack...

The party woke to the news that the community of Lighthouse had been attacked by ogres for a second time. The party rushed off to meet the leader of Elventree the Herald Elanil Elassidil. The elf looked concerned, looking up from a scroll as the party entered.

Elanil.jpg“Lighthouse has been attacked a second time, as you know, by the same group of ogres it seems. Initially it was thought they were just a wandering band, and had moved on, but now it seems they are staying somewhere in the area. Will you please head on up to Lighthouse and see if you can find out where these ogres may be lairing. The elven wizard Haedirn and his wife Lyonthal have provided some protection for Lighthouse in the past. It appears he has not recently. If you can, find out what has happened to him. Cundall and Zelda, I believe Nymarrath wishes to speak to you both before you leave.”

As the party made to go, Elenal asked Maire to stay behind. When the others had left Elanil spoke.
“If you find yourself exploring Haedirn and Lyonthal’s home, which I suspect you might as I fear the worst, I need a personal favour. For a long time now I have been trying to find a particular item called a shade coin. It is an old coin from the Netheril empire and will appear as gold but black with accumulated grime and may have a … darkness.. about it. I have been trying to find such a coin for a long time. It is likely, in fact I am almost sure, Haedirn, as a collector of historical items, has one. If you find it please bring it to me. You may be able to help me further with this, but the coin is the key otherwise nothing can happen.”
Maire said that she would certainly do this, if they find the coin.

Nymarrath.jpgMeanwhile while Minimus took himself off to the Tree Spirits tavern to await the rest, Cundall and Zelda visited the aged elven druid Nymmarath in the Silver Shadow Cave, the temple to the moon goddess Selune. Nymmarath explained that Haedirn and Lyonthal were both alchemists. Lyonthal was also an astronomer and a herbalist, while Haedirn was a historian who liked to collect items involved in elven history. In his collection was a shield from the Crown Against Sceptre Wars.
“More of an ongoing series of skirmishes really, between the empire of Netheril and the elven empire of Cormanthyr,” said Nymarrath, serving Cundall and Zelda tea. “But it drained both sides of resources. Eventually the elves of Cormanthyr managed to intimidate the Netherese into stopping their attacks. One of the most famous elven warriors of that time, over a millenia ago, was Faimcir Glitterwing. His shield, used during those wars, is now in the hands of Haedirn. In these dark times, that shield could be a symbol of the courage and tenacity of our people, of all who live in the Cormanthyr Forest. If the worst has happened to Haedirn and Lyonthal, as we think it might, it will no doubt be stolen by thieves who don’t know it’s true value. Return it to Faimcir’s people.”
Cundall and Zelda agreed they would help.

pack-mule.jpgSome time later the party were on the road north to Lighthouse, with Elum, the mule that Cundall had obtained by swapping the cart and draft horse acquired at the Red Plumes camp. It took about half a day to get to Lighthouse. Some horror had fallen upon this place. The town’s gates were mangled beyond recognition. The cobbled streets were stained with blood. Throughout the road leading into town, building walls were smashed in and the sound of sobbing echoed in the distance. The party encountered a funeral procession leading out of town, carts with many bodies. Cundall stopped to ask an old man for information. He told Cundall that the the first raid by the ogres was bad enough, but the one last night was awful.
“These raiders act with a lot of bravado, even for ogres. We don’t have no town guard, with a couple of exceptions those that took up arms against them were killed or took serious wounds, and no one wants to
chase them down to the shore. If Haedirn is dead, then all hope is lost.”
When Cundall asked more about Haedirn and Lyonthal, the old man replied;
“Haedirn and Lyonthal have been coming to Lighthouse since it first became a community, selling potions and offering advice and help. A few months ago Lyonthal stopped coming and Haedirn still came, but was upset and wouldn’t answer questions about his wife. He also stopped helping people.”
The party thanked the old man and moved on.

As they moved through the community built around the old lighthouse, they saw results of the ogres rampage – blood, damaged buildings, people of all races blank faced with shock or grieving. Even now efforts were being made by work parties to repair the worst of the damage, but they were listless and without hope, perhaps realising that tonight could bring another raid and all their work would be undone.

The adventurers arrived at the only tavern in town – The Five Legged Unicorn. Zelda looked at the sign with some distaste, obviously it was meant to be amusing because the unicorn’s fifth leg was not a leg at all. Cundall tied up Elum the mule to the post outside, and the party went inside, to find a subdued crowd. The heroes moved around, talking to people and gathered the following information.

“The ogres carried a lot of dead townsfolk back with them. Gods, what for? To eat? They also grabbed anything that caught their eye, coins, jewellery, anything shiny really.”

“Never trusted wizards as far as I could throw them, but Haedirn was more than that. He used to be an adventurer back when I was just a tyke, and they say he’s got gold and magic trinkets out in that house of his in the cliffs.”

“Haedirn was gentle, but he was powerful. Even in numbers, I don’t think these wretched ogres would be a match for him. It’s a sad day if he is slain by their ilk.”

“Sage Haedirn saved me mum’s life once, he did. She took a nasty fall on the business end of the wheat scythe that day he rode into town, and me and sis thought fer sure she was a goner. He came up to us, standin’ there, cryin’, when he saw us passin’ by on the way to the gate. I’ll never forget, he bent down, gave ma a drink o’ somethin’, and next thing I knew she was scoldin’ me agin like nothin’ was wrong. If you find the elf, tell him I owe him one.”

“Sad, thing, really, that old elf. Been comin’ round here since me pa was me boy’s age now. Never could afford what he sold, but he was kind and the kids liked him when he came about.”

“Haedirn and Lyonthal lived in their home built into the cliffs in a place called The Wailing Crag. There’s a tower stickin’ out the top of the cliffs, and the main entrances are down the bottom of the cliff on the beach. We had to make some deliveries now and then, furniture usually, or large crates or boxes he couldn’t carry himself.”

“When someone cried out, asking why Haedirn hadn’t saved them, one of the ogre brutes laughed and said ‘your wizard is dead, you gnats!’ and went on smashing things.”

Rasputin2.jpgThe party also met Rasputin, a half orc with a bruised face. Rasputin had been knocked unconscious by an ogre during the battle, and was bent on tracking the ogres to find out where they came from. He asked to join the party, and after some discussion, the party agreed.

Deciding they had enough information, and perhaps depressed at seeing the misery this town had endured, the party set off for the Wailing Crag and the house of Haedirn and Lyonthal.

“You can see what’s happened here,” theorised Cundall. “The wizard is apparently too powerful for the ogres to overcome. So I think he’s gone bad, the ogres are acting on his orders. He likely wants the bodies of the victims to make zombies.”

“We certainly have anecdotal evidence for that,” agreed Maire. “His change of manner. He could also be dead, or he’s changed because of the madness that has infected the lands. I did not detect any taint in Lighthouse though.”

The party chose to approach the manor built into and under the cliffs from the top.
“Wizards put all of their good treasure at the top,” said Cundall.
“Good point,” said Minimus. “We should definitely go through the tower.”
“I don’t know if that’s true in all cases,” said Maire, thoughtfully.
“The manor could have several levels into the ground,” pointed out Rasputin, “it would make sense to put his valuables as far away from any entrance as possible.”
The half orc had been mostly quiet. He carried an iron tipped quarterstaff, and at his belt a strange weapon consisting of two iron balls joined by a thick wire.
“Bolas,” he said, in answer to their question. “Sometimes in my profession, you want to take people alive.”
Rasputin’s profession had turned out to be bounty hunting, tracking down criminals and fugitives and taking them dead or alive back to whoever was paying.
“It’s not something I will do forever,” the half orc said. “It was something to do after I left the the community of monks I grew up with. I was told it would teach me many skills. And so it has.”

By the edge of the cliff, a great stone tower rises some thirty feet into the air, with parapets at the top, and some kind of strange structure with a giant telescope poking out of it.. There was no visible entrance on the ground level, but a half open door could be seen leading into the tower at the top level, behind the parapets.
Cundall walked Elum into the treeline some hundred yards away, tethering it loosely, making sure it could reach grass to munch on. He spoke to the mule, and was satisfied the mule could break free in case of danger, but would not wander far.

On returning to the party Cundall looked at the tower, noticing that something clawed had climbed its way up the wall. He pointed the claw marks out to the party.
“Whatever it was has come this way recently,” agreed Zelda, looking closely at the scratches in the stone. “Powerful claws, probably humanoid.”
Cundall shapechanged into a squirrel and easily climbed the rough stone to the top of the tower. Finding no danger the druid changed back again to human form and dropped a rope to the others. While he waited for them to climb up to him he looked at the half open door, which had been forced open, splinters of wood still on the ground. Movement from down on the beach caught his eye. He crouched behind the parapet and pointed to the others. Below the tower the cliff tumbled down to the shore abruptly. At the bottom, jutting out of the sides of the cliff, they could see two buildings. Three ogres were slowly piling boulders in front of the entrance to one of the buildings.
“What are they doing?” asked Minimus. “Should we go and take them out now so we don’t have to deal with them later?”
“They seem to be trying to keep something inside from getting out,” said Cundall.
“Or something from outside getting inside,” suggested Maire. “Maybe Haedirn does not want visitors – ever.”
“Or he’s gone mad or created something the ogres are scared of,” put forward Rasputin.
“We’re up here now,” decided Cundall. “We’ll deal with the ogres later.”

They made ready to go inside the tower.

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