The party awakens to the aftermath of a mercenary camp who spent the night drinking and from what they could tell, light sparing during the night. After leaving their tent, they found that the camp was in some disarray, but whatever fighting went on in the night didn’t really seem to leave a lasting impact on the camp, nor did it appear that the mercs took many (if any) casualties. The party found the merc captain, Selwin, to try and discern what had happened overnight. Greeting the party with open arms, Selwin told them that there was a great party that they had missed the night before. There was much drinking to be had, as a large stock of wine and beer seemed to appear out of nowhere. There was more than enough for everyone to drink, and drink they did. Showing no concern for where these beverages appeared from, the mercs blew through most of the lot before having a small army apparently storm the camp. After a swift defeat of the attacking “army”, the mercs went back to finish off the booze that had been left.
Finding this event a bit more peculiar than Selwin, the party set out to see what damage had been done and whether the merc camp was the only one hit during the night. After speaking to a few other scouting parties, it appeared that the mercs were not the only group hit by this seemingly random attack. The party did learn that there were much heavier casualty rates and damage done to the other areas that were attacked. At this point, the party were even more suspicious of the mercs and their captain than before.
Not wanting to stir the pot anymore, the party decided it would be best if they just settled in for another day or two to see what further information they might be able to gather about the city and the mercenary camp. As the day went on, the party noticed that the mercenaries had a rather old mangonel that they were using to launch stones at the walls of the city. The stones were not really doing any damage but the party did see that occasionally, some would fly over the walls. It appears that even Selwin would get in on the fun, laughing and joking as he sent forth another benign missile towards the city walls. None of this seemed out of the blue at first, but as the day went on, the party noted that these missiles, especially those sent by Selwin himself, were making it over the wall pretty regularly. At first, no one gave it much attention, but after some time Jimmy made the assumption that the mercs might possibly be passing messages over the wall to those in the city. It was easy to see how gold thirsty Selwin is, so the party wouldn’t put it past him to be working with the army inside the city for additional golds.
Again, the party decided to camp out for the night in the mercenary camp. They would probably wait a few days before doing anything drastic, as they knew an attack on the city was imminent but not quite sure when it would occur. Since the army was unsuccessful at blowing down one of the walls, all attack plans seemed to have stalled. There was still plenty of movement in the forest where additional siege weapons were being built, but outside of that, the siege of the city was at a standstill.
Over the next few nights, the party noted that a single civilian would be escorted through the camp and to the tent of Selwin. After some time, presumably after some chatting, this civilian is seen leaving the area with two guards escorting him along the way. One night, the group chats about what might be going on and Jimmy decides that he’s going to follow the mysterious civilian (presumed spy) to see what exactly he is up to.
When the group was a few dozen yards away from the camp, the escorts break off and turn back to return while the civilian kept moving away from the camp. Jimmy, seemingly unnoticed by the escorts, continues to follow for a few hundred feet farther until, when reaching the top of a taller hill, Jimmy appears to have lost the individual completely. Feeling a little confused, Jimmy starts to poke around the area a bit to see if he manages to find any passageways or grass covered hatches, etc. Jimmy does take note of a weird formation in the river. After taking a few steps into a river that was running perpendicular to the path he was on, Jimmy found a spot that dropped off significantly deeper than the surrounding water bed.
At this point, Jimmy decides that it’s best that he return to the party to let them know what he’s found. He is able to make it back to the party with no issue as most of the guards know who the members of the party were and wouldn’t harass them (other than possibly Ulthar, as he’s just a small gnome). The party decides to go out that night and follow Jimmy to the stream where he found what appears to be a passage underwater. As they leave, the guards do ask some questions, but easily let them pass when the party mentions that they are going out on patrol. Following Jimmy, they managed to find their way back to the area of the stream that Jimmy found and the party wades into the stream. Lune is the first to dive under, as he was wearing a Ring of Adaptation, which allowed him to swim without worrying about breathing. After a bit of time, he pops back up out of the water and lets the party know that it’s not a far swim to a small cave. With that, the party took turns dipping under the water and swimming their way through the passage.
They find that the passage is dug out of relatively smooth stone that leads them underwater for about 50 or so feet that opens into a larger area where they can surface. The party finds that they are in a cave and move to the edge where they see some torches and flint just waiting. The path appears to be rather dry closer to the walls but there are wet footprints leading down the hall. Lune, with his exceptional dark vision, takes the lead with the party lighting some of their ever-burning candles for some periphery lighting. They then proceed down the passage, with Ulthar bringing up the rear.
As they walk, the party can tell that the passage seems to slope ever so gently downhill but it’s hard to tell, even for the Gnome. After a relatively long walk of nothing other than stone wall (as far as the party can tell) they reach a door that is locked. Taking their time, Jimmy checks for traps and tediously picks the lock, allowing the party through. Down the hallway, a bit further, they run out of hallway space but find a ladder which leads to a rather sturdy looking wood hatch
Jimmy hushes the party and begins to climb the ladder. Using his keen thief ears, he can make out some chattering above them in whatever room the hatch opens into. After some discussion, Ulthar decides to go invisible and then utilize Wraith Form to work his way through the hatch to see what is on the other side. Once he works his way through the hatch, Ulthar observes 3 guards just chatting; two of them are playing cards and none of them are exactly paying attention to their surroundings. Looking down, Ulthar figures out why, there is a large bar covering the hatch making the hatch even more secure. After taking a quick peek out into the hallway (still in wraith form) Ulthar finds that there appears to be no one else guarding the area immediately outside this main room.
With this knowledge, Ulthar quickly pours down through the hatch to the party and informs them of his findings. Ulthar then explains a plan that he’s formed. He will go back up through the hatch, drop the wriathform but staying invisible and moving the iron latch to allow for the party to pop out of the hatch, where Perudo could launch a Hold-Person spell against the three guards. Everyone agrees and waits for their cue. As explained, Ulthar floats back through the hatch, leaves wraith form, and flips the iron bar.
Obviously surprised, the guards stumble to their feet only to be caught in the path of a Color Spray spell by the now visible Gnome followed up directly with a Hold Person by Perudo who had push his way up through the hatch. This left the guards both unconscious and held, with the hopes that none of them got a good look at anyone before they were knocked out. After some discussion of what to do with these guards, it was decided that the party would leave them alive. The bodies were positioned to make it appear as they had fallen asleep at their post. Ulthar took some of the guard’s wine and poured it down their throats as well as spilled around a bit and on them to make it appear as though they got a little too into their bottles that night. The hope is that once they awoke, they would still be extremely confused and would not report what they saw; mostly out of fear that what they saw would be too unbelievable and they would be removed from their post. Ulthar decided to take the rest for himself as it was decent wine for guardsmen.
The party then set out to find their way out of this building and confirm that they were, in fact, inside the city. The party pushes to go West, they best they can tell, to ensure that they were inside the city limits. After a few turns, the found themselves at a staircase leading up. Without much other choice, the party decided to take the stairs and see where it leads. At the top, the party comes across a few closed doors, but decide that it’s better they just move on, as they could hear a fair amount of chatter behind each of the doors. After one or two more turns, they came to a passageway that needed in a rather stout wooden door, with a single sentry. Being a little confused as to why the party was wondering down this hallway, the sentry started to question the party. Luckily, the sentury was rather favorable to them and happily accpeted that they were a “secret” representatives of Lord Makalvy who were sent to confirm the defenses on this side of the city. It seemed the sentury was not a member of Lord Makalvy’s army so he wouldn’t have a lot of knowledge on the members of that group. After some additional small talk, the sentry was happy to point them to the door out of the tower at the request of the party and they walked out onto a city street!
The party had finally made it into the walls of Holyton.
The party determined that it was around midnight when they finally walked out into the city streets. The roads were completely empty, with only the occasional drunkard leaving a tavern or a watchman wondering around, more out for a stroll than patrolling. Where the party entered, the city seemed to be more farm land than anything. This must be where the city was growing crops to support those within its walls. Along with the street “patrol” the party noticed 1-2 patrols along the river and a few small groups patrolling along the walls, but fewer than they expected.
As the party made their way through the city, they tried to keep to the shadows the best they could. Three members having an easy time doing so, while the platemail wearing Priest having a more difficult time staying quiet. They eventually came to the area of the city where the river cuts the west and east parts of the city off.
The party noted that there were three separate bridges that were used to go between the city. Deciding that it would likely be easier to do some recon in the morning, the party wondered around until they could find a tavern that looked quiet enough for them to stay in the accompanying barn. It appeared their luck had continued the next morning as the stable hand that came in to tend to the horses didn’t even notice the slumbering party.
When they were ready to start their day, the party hid any weapons that may bring unwanted attention to them in the bag of holding, as well as attempted to adjust their clothing to better hide their armor. Once this was accomplished to the best of their abilities (given the situation), Jimmy made his way to where the three bridges were located and took some time to investigate. From what he could gather about each bridge was the following:
- Southern Bridge: Smaller stone bridge, just catering to foot traffic. There was a guard house on the east side of the bridge with a small patrol of guards stationed in the house. It appeared that anyone walking through would be stopped by the guards.
- Middle Bridge: The largest of the three bridges, this bridge was made of stone. It seems more open to general traffic, both cart and foot. The guards do stop those crossing to check the carts and evaluate the general business of those crossing.
- Northern Bridge: This bridge was significantly smaller than the other two bridges. This bridge was specific to just foot traffic, but the guards are using the same questioning process as the other bridges.
All bridges have some sort of guard presence and are stopping all people to question them about something, what exactly, Jimmy couldn’t tell.
After Jimmy returns with that info, Ulthar decides it might be best for him to change self into a bird and fly across, since there are little to no presence of non-humans around the area to begin with but especially within the city walls. Ulthar takes the form of a pigeon and takes off across the river without any issue. With Ulthar safely across, the rest of the party decides that the north bridge is their safest best for getting across.
As expected, they are immediately stopped when they get to the bridge by the guards for some questioning.
“What is your name and why were you on the other side of the city?”
“My name is Perudo the Blessed and I was tasked with blessing the fields to the North.”
“Why would a priest of Maladominus be blessing the crops, when we have priests of the nature goddess to do that for us?”
“Well, I’ve been asked to bless the fields, as have all of the other priests of all the gods. We would rather hedge our bets and ensure this city has the crop needed to defend its walls, wouldn’t you say?”
“Yes yes, that sounds right I suppose.”
The guard flinches a bit when he notices the oversized man with the party, who’s face is mostly covered by a mask.
“Why is his face covered up? We don’t allow those to cross the bridge unless we know who they are.”
“This poor fellow has had his face horrifically burned by fire and acid during a campaign a few years ago. To help protect the women and the youth from such tragedy, we have had a mask made for him to help cover up his deformity.”
“Alrighty then…I do apologize about that, just protocol but I think we’re all set on the face covering front. Now, Perudo, why is it you’ve decided to use the Northern bridge to cross.”
“Well, it’s closer than the Southern bridge that we crossed over on. I’m rather tired after spending so much time blessing all that I could and would like to get back to my temple to rest.”
“Ahh yes, well that makes sense. Well, thank you for your service, we all do appreciate it. Please do cross carefully.”
And with that, the party was crossing the bridge to meet back up with their (now invisible) Gnome.
After Ulthar finds the party, they all head over to the temple of Maladominus. Perudo decides to go in on his own, as Ulthar makes it well known that he wasn’t about to enter a temple of this god.
Perudo enters the temple and is stopped by a priest.
“Who are you friend? You appear to be dressed in the clothing of our god, Maladominus, but you’ll have to forgive me as I do not recognize your face.”
“My name is Perudo, from the Holy Sea.”
“How did you manage to get here Perudo?”
“By the Grace of Gods.”
“Ahh, I see. What business do you have in our city?”
“Where you not told of my arrival?”
“I unfortunately was not.”
“We are here in search of the Thurible of Heavenly Meditation.”
“Hmmm…” The priest looked a bit puzzled, “I do not know of the object that you speak of.”
“I would appreciate any assistance you may be able to provide me.”
“Well, I will call upon the head of the temple for some further guidance, but I am still perplexed as to how you managed to make it into the city. The walls are guarded and the entire city is encompassed by some very powerful magic warding to keep all who attempt to enter out.”
“Well, your city is not as air tight as everyone has lead you to believe.”
“That is….troublesome. I will speak with our chief priest now, Dominim, and I would assume that you would like to speak with him as well? It appears we both have matters of an urgent nature to discuss with him. First and foremost, how you managed to gain entrance into the city. You mentioned a party earlier, would you like to bring them in with you to speak to his holiness?”
“That won’t be necessary, they are capable of taking care of themselves and I believe it would be better for use to speak without their presents.”
“Very well, I will take you to him now.”
Unknown to Perudo, he was only partially right about the rest of the party. A little while after he entered the temple, the party heard a bit of a soft rumbling followed by the sight of a larger stone fall from the top of the temple directly towards them. Lune and Ulthar managed dodge out of the way, but Jimmy was not so lucky. Fortunately for Jimmy, the large stone only grazed him causing some damage but not a permanent effect on his ability. A crowd then started forming around the party to see if everyone was all right and talk about how that’s so weird and was just so random.
Back inside, Perudo had been brought to Dominim’s chambers to speak to him more directly about the artifact the party is here to find.
“Greetings Dominim, I am here in search of an Artifact. The Thurible of Heavenly Meditation to be more precise. I have been sent on a quest of the highest importance from the Holy Sea. If you can assist me, I may have additional info to provide to you in regards to our entrance into the city.”
“Good day Perduo. It is rather unusual for a lower ranking member of our order to come into our house of worship to bribe me into assisting them on quests that I’ve never heard of. I have received no such word from the Holy Sea and even if I had, their word means little so far away from Bolteria.”
“Well, I promise you that I would not be bothering you if it were not of the upmost importance for me to retrieve this artifact. We have been told that it is within a temple in this city and we have travelled from far away to retrieve it.”
“We are willing to assist you as best we are able to, however, protecting the city is our top priority. We can discuss this Artifact you speak of, but I need to know exactly how you could enter the city. As you may or may not know, I am a member of this cities holy council, which has pledged to keep this city safe. If you and your party could penetrate our walls, then maybe others can as well.”
“Thank you. I understand that the city is more important now for you, but I can promise that this quest is of the upmost importance to not just your city, but to the entire land.”
At this point, Dominim begins to question Perudo about the faith, church, the gods, etc. It seems that Dominim was just confirming that Perudo wasn’t just a fake dressed like a priest. After some time, Dominim seems satisfied with Perudo’s answers but still unimpressed that the Holy Sea would send someone so low in the order to demand such a request but he proceeds anyway. Perudo does eventually explain to Dominim the way the party gained entrance to the city, however the high priest was not completely convinced.
“Everything seems to be in order Perudo. However, I would prefer you subject yourself to a Detect Lie spell as well before we continue this conversation.”
“I have no quarrels with this.”
The Detect Lie spell is cast upon Perudo. First, Dominim confirms what Perudo has told him up to this point, including the way he could enter the city.
He then asks his final question, “are you a danger to this Holy City.”
“Thank you Perudo.”
“To get to your questions about the Thurible, are over forty such temples within the bounds of this city. Without any additional information, I may not be able to assist as much as you have requested.”
“From what we’ve been told, this Artifact was associated with Elsirion, brother of Maladominus and god of time and infinity, not that I need to explain that to you.”
“Ahh yes, well, that does help to narrow it down,” remarked Dominim. At this point, he walks over to a large bookshelf and pulls out one of the larger tomes and sets it on the table in the middle of the room. Flipping through some pages, he stops at a page with the image of a large moon and a goddess.
“The priestesses of Velune are known to be in position of a powerful Artifact, a thurible to be exact. It is likely that this is the Artifact that you seek. Valune herself is the goddess of the Moon and Stars, an ally of Elsirion. I will tell you that there is the Temple of the Valune, not far from here. I would imagine that this would be the best place to start your search for this Artifact.”
“Thank you Dominim, if you could just point me in the right direction, I will take my leave.”
Dominim assists by providing Perudo with the directions to the Temple of Velune. Perudo takes note of where the Temple of Velune is and requests some additional rations and refreshments for himself and the party.
Walking outside, Perudo was extremely confused as to why the rest of the party is currently being surrounded by a small crowd and why Jimmy was on the ground bleeding, again, from the head. After some healing words from the priests, the party starts their move to the Temple of Velune.
Upon arriving at the temple, the party surveys the outside of the building. It appears the building has not been inhabited for quite a while. The party thought it’d be best if they approached the temple after nightfall, to avoid any more attention. The party managed to find a deserted shop right next to the Temple that they could break into and use as a hideout until nightfall. As the day went on, they noticed that not only did nobody come in or out of the temple, but it was almost like nobody even noticed the temple as they walked by.
A few hours after nightfall, once the general traffic of the area stopped, the party set forth from the abandoned shop and towards to front doors of the temple. Jimmy attempted to listen at the door but didn’t hear anything. While he attempted to start checking for traps, the large wooden doors silently started to slowly swing open. Deciding that the best option was just to walk in, the party enters the temple, ensuring to check for any traps laid out for any unwanted guests. It appears to be pretty pitch black, so the party attempts to light their everlasting candles, however they notice that the light doesn’t seem to do a whole lot.
After some time wondering down a hallway, the party stumbles into a larger room. At first, nobody notices anything strange about the room other than it’s more brightly lit than the hallway they were just walking down. Seemingly all at once, the party looked up to see that the ceiling appeared to be filled with stars. There doesn’t appear to be any moon in the sky but everyone swears that this is exactly what the night sky would look like right now as if they were outside.
As the party turns back to the way they were heading, the notice a shape now in the doorway. As if out of nowhere, a person had appeared in the door way. The figure made no movement, but just watched the party as they stood in the middle of this larger room. After a few more moments, the newly emerged individual breaks the tense silence, nodding his head, greeting the party in a slow, measured/calculated tone of voice.
“Good evening my brethren, why are you here, to the palace of stars and moon unbidden?”
“The gods bid us,” Perudo replies. “Have they not told you of our coming?”
“I am just a peasant, a humble servant. Just like the rest of us.”
And with that, the group looks around and see groups of figures appear to the North and South. All of them are dressed like peasants, as the individual stated. Nobody can quite tell whether they’ve been there the entire time unnoticed or appeared after the individual greeted the party.
“What is it that you seek here?”
“Ahh splendid! How wonderful for you to seek out enlightenment. The goddess can assist with this.” The individual says the group, still in his slow and measure manner. He then turns and begins to walk away down a hallway.
Perudo is the first to start following the individual down the hallway, with the rest of the party following with the rest of the followers bringing up the rear.
As the party passes by a group of the followers, Ulthar takes note that there is something different about these people. It’s almost like one of the members has some tusks in his mouth, but it’s hard to really tell as they are walking by.
After a few minutes of following the individual, the party is lead into a small temple like room, the Temple of Order. The next room they enter is larger, like the room where they met all the followers, only this time, there is a full moon accompanying the stars. At the front of the room, there is a large dais and an intricate carpet that covers the floor. Upon the dais sits a lone priestess, dressed in a rope that glowed ever so slightly, just as the glowing of the ceiling.
The priestess greets the party and beings to question them further about their quest of enlightenment. After some time, the party is told that the goddess has held onto the Thurible for many generations. The followers of Velune have been waiting for them for quite a long time now; your coming was foretold. While Perudo was quite focus on the priestess speaking about the goddess and the Thurible, the rest of the party was looking around the room. Each member can tell that there is something not quite right about the followers who are watching them, but nobody can quite put their finger on exactly what is different.
“Which of you would take up the honor of accepting the Thurible of Heavenly Meditation?” Asked the priestess. “But not the tainted one,” she points to Lune, “he reeks of chaos and doom.”
Perudo was rather quick to volunteer his services in accepting the Artifact.
One of the followers approaches Perudo with a large golden box, contained inside was the Thurible that the party had been seeking.
“Thank you rat,” the Priestess speaks, “I will now seek guidance from the Goddess.” The priestess falls into a deep trance. “Your path is laid out, you have but to follow it. I see you know where you must go next. Next to Morlin Island and it’s blasted plain of evil and death. I must warn that it will be filled with great evil. Chances of failure are…extremely high.”
Now falling back out of the trance, “Fairthee well travelers. My Moonchildren will show you out.”
It is at this moment that all becomes clear to the party. They are surrounded by were-creatures. Were-boars with their tusks slightly sticking out of their mouths and the Were-rats with the long narrow faces and abnormally long front teeth. Each member’s flight or fight reactions were screaming fight, but due to what they had just been given and witnessed, there was but a flinch from Jimmy but no more. Walking back through the temple, it was much clearer to the party that all of the décor revolved around the Moon and the Stars. What should have been plain as day to the party was shrouded in the mysteries that the night brings.
As the party leaves the building, they looked behind them only to see darkness as the doors appeared to close on their own, just as they had opened when the party arrived. And just like that, the party was one step closer to accomplishing their goal that they had set out upon just a few short weeks ago.
Quickly, they placed the golden box within the bag of holding, as it would look rather suspicious for four unlikely party members to be wondering around Holyton with a golden box. After the box was concealed, the party made their way back to the Temple of Maladominus to seek audience with Dominim.
Again, Perudo enters the temple alone to speak with Dominim, the High Priest. After confirming with the Priest that the group had accomplished their mission within the city, Perudo asked if the High Priest would assist them with leaving the city as they show him the secret entrance that the party had used to gain entrance to the city the day before. Agreeing to this request, Dominim and the party set out to cross the Northern bridge. When they all reached the bridge, the guards that were on duty quickly stepped out of the way, all bowing their heads and not making any sort of directly eye contact with his holiness.
The entire group makes it to the tower without any further interruptions and proceed to the room where the party first entered the city. Dominim did make mention that all of these guards were under the command of Count Wolfrom, and it was rather unusual for him to keep any secrets from the rest of those defending the city, especially if it were a weak point in the security of the city.
As the party entered the room, the three guards stationed in the room stood to attention. All of them seemed to be a bit more on edge than they previously were when the party entered the room through the hatch, which was once again locked. The guards moved to open the latch as commanded by Dominim. All members of the party went down the hatch with Ulthar the last to go through. Noticing that all the guards had a curious look about them, Ulthar gave them a quick wink as he was about to go down the hatch. With just that wink, the guards all gave a bit of a jump as if they feared the little Gnome. Ulthar had a great laugh on his way down the ladder while the rest of the party continued down the hallway to show Dominim where they had come in.
The High Priest thanked the party for showing him their entrance. He let the party know that he knew that there were a few lines of travel between the city and the outside world, but most were kept secret in fear of the outside armies finding them. It was curious why Count Wolfrom would hide this entrance from the rest of those in command and vowed to seek the answer to his questions.
The party took a short swim out of the cavern and through the small underground passage until they were outside the walls again. Deciding what to do next, they decided it was best that they not go back to camp, as their absence would likely have been noticed. Instead they sought out one of the cavalry units that they had ordered to patrol a road not far from their current position. While the unit was rather surprised to see the still damp party, they had no problems supplying horses to them as Lune, Jimmy and Perudo were made higher members of Baron Brandoch’s group. With that the party rode off on a “recon” mission and with the help of their knowledge of the local road blocks and patrols could easily sneak away from the the city and the impending siege. They rode north and east towards Harland, the next stepping stone in their trek to destroy the finger.