Rise of the Warlock King

Dark Times in Rannon's Hill: Chapter Two
Further Investigation.

Heironday, 14th of High Spring, 211 I.Y.

The following morning, Grax awoke in his own bed for this first time in what seemed like months. Although it had only been weeks, he could barely remember the last time he had risen before dawn to help with the chores around the Shrine. During this time he had an opportunity to speak with Cleric Lodin about the spirit from the night before. After some in depth discussion they begin to believe that the spirit they faced was different to the spirit they had faced previously. This, of course, was contrary to what Hoatzin had come up with the previous evening.

After finishing the morning chores, Grax then heads off to find his companions and pass on what he and his entire had been discussing. He was soon able to find them all down at the Hillbottom Tavern, where they had gathered together perhaps out of habit.

Together they decide to return to the Shrine to ask Cleric Lodin if he has learned any more about spirits in general since they last encountered one. As it turns out, Cleric Lodin has indeed learned more about spirits, including some details which are of great import. He has learned that, to defeat an undead spirit you generally cannot just destroy them in combat; you must instead find what it is that is holding them to this place and resolve that issue. Additionally, he has found that animals, either domesticated or wild, often can’t stand the presence of spirits and can barely be driven to be near one; they can apparently sense when an undead spirit is close by and will react accordingly.

Kara asks if there is anyone else who knows more about spirits that they could speak to (I’m sure she didn’t mean to question Cleric Lodin’s accuracy), to which Cleric Lodin mentioned the learned Cleric Narthun who can be found in at the Great Temple of Pelor in Feneris. Hearing of this the heroes contemplate seeking out this Cleric Narthun, but decide against it as Feneris is many days travel away. They thank Cleric Lodin for his assistance and leave him to his work.

Following up on laying spirits to rest, the heroes decide to find out if there have been any traumatic events in the history of Rannon’s Hill that might have caused spirits to rise, so they head over to the Temple of the Mind to check out the books concerning local history.

Well, that was the plan, except then Hoatzin ran off ahead to speak to Rag’azzahd at the Temple of the Mind. Of course, Rag’azzahd isn’t at the Temple (no-one living is currently at the Temple of the Mind) and so he runs back to the Shrine of the Old Gods, passing his friends on the way. At the Shrine he asks Cleric Lodin about where the hobgoblin is, but Lodin hasn’t heard about the hobgoblin yet and so he can’t help. Hoatzin thanks him anyway and then runs off around town for almost an hour before he happens to see Rag’azzahd inside the house of Elsa Strongwillow. When he is admitted to the house by the elderly elf, he almost immediately asks Rag’azzahd (who was speaking to Garl Heatherblossom at the time) what he knows about ghosts and spirits. After Rag’azzahd has determined that hoatzin seeks information about undead spirits, he admits to knowing little about them.

At the Temple of the Mind, Kara and Grax had settled down to studying the local history books, not noticing when Nortrix decided to go gather information back at the tavern. Realising that Nortrix was missing, Kysmer went off to find him and soon found him at the Hillbottom Tavern. It was at this point that Kysmer realised that, if the original spirit was still around, then his family might be in danger. He immediately left the tavern and made all haste to the farm.

In regards to Nortrix’s information gathering, he couldn’t find out anything useful at the tavern, although the town drunk did imply that the halflings staying at the Greenthumb farm were to blame (somehow) for just about everything.

At the Greenthumb farm Kysmer found that there had been no further spirit activity, for which he was profoundly grateful. He tried to talk to his family about the possible dangers of the spirit returning, but no one would hear him out except for Lorne, who then promised to keep a keen eye out in case the spirit returned. This was the first that Kysmer had seen his brother look energised since arriving back in Rannon’s Hill.

Back at the Temple, Kara and Grax had discovered that roughly a century ago there had been a horrible accident, resulting in a barn burning down with seven people inside it. As far as they could tell from their book searching (or possibly researching), this was the only horrendous event that had occurred in the town’s written history. They decided that this location bore further investigation in case the spirit was originating from here. Hoatzin, who had finally caught up to them at the Tempe of the Mind, was happy to carry word of this to Nortrix and Kysmer. Knowing that animals could sense the presence of spirits, they also decided to bring some along.

They find the rough area of the barn burning easily enough, as the farm it belonged to lay to the west of the Western Orchard. Reaching the rough location they decided that they should then spread out to cover more ground, taking some of the animals with each of the three search parties. Kara (with her mule Markus) went one way, Hoatzin (with a sheep from the Greenthumb farm) went another way, and Kysmer, Nortrix and Grax (with a duck from the Greenthumb farm) heading in a third direction.

Kara’s search leads her to a small farm shed, within which she finds two rough men lurking. The men demanded her silence and surrender, but she refuses and manifests her psychic weapon instead. The men are not overly fazed by this dramatic display of supernatural might, as they then proceed to attack her. A heavy crossbow bolt slammed into the door beside her, momentarily distracting her (and startling Markus who quickly scuttled away a few feet) before a wickedly curved slaver’s sword tore open her abdomen. Somehow the second attack, which was sure to finish her, missed the mark and Kara was able to stagger away from her attackers while also raising the alarm for her companions.

From that point the battle was short and furious with the remaining heroes rushing to Kara’s aid. Kysmer also took a severe injury from slaver’s sword, whose wielder was quite skilled, but Grax was able to see both of his companions swiftly healed. Nortrix managed to fell the crossbow wielder with a well placed rock as the man was exiting the shed and, finding himself surrounded, the sword wielder then surrendered (having already taken a blow or two from Hoatzin).

Following the attacker’s surrender, Kysmer realised that the leader was the half-orc bandit Alan who had captured them several months earlier while they had been wandering through the Northern Woods. The others also soon recognised him, remembering all to well how easily he had captured them. Although Alan initially refused to answer any questions they posed to him, he eventually explained that he and his men had been attacked by an evil spirit a couple of nights earlier. They had made camp and then, late at night, the spirit had come out of the woods and began killing them all. During the attack several of his men were slain; seeing how the fight was going, he and Betram (the crossbow wielding man) had unintentionally fled towards Rannon’s Hill and had then hid out in the shed until being found by Kara.

With a new spirit attack to investigate, the heroes quickly decide to take Alan and Bertram to the town sheriff, Arval Zannis. Sheriff Zannis recognised Alan on sight as the wanted bandit leader Alan Hardt and was more than happy to lock both of the captives away in the single cell that he had on the side of the guard’s house. Sheriff Zannis was also happy enough to confirm Hoatzin’s query that there was indeed a reward for the capture of Alan Hardt (a nice 500 GI to be exact), which would be paid when a representative from Lanarell arrived. He mentioned that he would send a rider to Lanarell that very afternoon with the news.

So, with the afternoon already upon them, the heroes set out to try and find the location where Hardt’s men were attacked, somewhere to the west of Rannon’s Hill…

Dark Times in Rannon's Hill: Chapter One
Arriving home to dark news.


I do not know if this message will find you well or even at all, but if you are indeed in Lanarell I must urge you to return home with all haste. Something dark and dire has befallen Rannon’s Hill and I believe that we are in need of you and your companions.

Garl Heatherblossom.

Yondalladay, 13th of High Spring, 211 I.Y.

Having learned the contents of the letter that Kara had received the previous day (see above) the heroes were prepared to leave early the following morning and they did. Though they had stayed in Lanarell for little over a week and half, it seemed so much longer. They left the city through the Highlands Gate after letting Selinda know that they were headed back home.

Their first stop was at the small roadside stop over called Ivan’s Inn, which was where they had arranged to meet up with Rag’azzahd. As arranged he was waiting for them and he was still eager to accompany them to Rannon’s Hill. As he was riding he bid them carry on as he would soon catch them on the road (which he did).

The walk home was pleasant and familiar. They passed through Greenvale and then turned north, treading the very familiar road between Greenvale and Rannon’s Hill with some nostalgia. In total it took them a little over seven hours to walk from Lanarell to Rannon’s Hill, so they arrived back in the late afternoon.

Arriving home they can sense a forbidding around the town. The companions immediately begin to split up to check in on their families and interests. Hoatzin and Nortrix travel to the Hillbottom Tavern, where Nortrix had spent a great deal of time and, of course, where Hoatzin’s family were. Kara and Rag’azzahd made their way to the Temple of the Mind to hear from Garl Heatherblossom exactly what his message entailed, while Grax and Kysmer made their way to the Shrine of the Old Gods to pay their respects, make their offerings and, in Grax’s case, catch up with his mentor Cleric Lodin. After thanking Fharlaghn for seeing them safely home to Rannon’s Hill, Kysmer set off back to his family farm (which they had passed on the way into town). Having caught up with Cleric Lodin, Grax (having learnt from Lodin that the Mayor had despatched missives to Lanarell and Respite) went to speak to Mayor Jhon Twoaxe.

Upon arriving back at the Greenthumb farm, Kysmer is a little surprised to see a halfling woman sitting on the front porch mending clothing while his mother sweeps. He soon learns that the woman is Raimie Merricreek, a caravan halfling whose family has been granted leave to camp on some of his father’s land. His father has always been kindly disposed towards the caravan halflings and this is not the first time a family has been allowed to camp here.

As each of the heroes begins to ask what has transpired in town recently, they all hear a variation on the following (from either Marigold Fairweather, Garl Heatherblossom, Mayor Jhon Twoaxe or Sterryn Greenthumb):

“It began seven days ago. A group of local business people were leaving the Mayor’s residence when, out of nowhere, a dark spirit materialised and attacked Hurn Axebeard. The attack lasted only a moment, leaving the dwarf more shaken than anything else. This was thought quite odd, but aside from the militia being alerted, no actions were taken.

Perhaps there should have been a thorough investigation then and perhaps Alicia would still be alive, for the following night Alicia Greenbough was attacked while she walked through the woods. The poor lass left the Temple of the Mind to go meet someone and was never seen alive again. We found her body the next morning, unmarked but as cold as the grave. Her death was a mystery and was not connected to the spirit until later.

Two nights later young Skip Fairweather was attacked in the Hillbottom Tavern yard. He saw the vile spirit and tried to run and, for some reason, the spirit let him be after its first vicious assault.

After this attack we feared that we now knew what had befallen Alicia and so the Mayor charged two riders to make all haste to Lanarell and Respite. They bore messages requesting the aid of the Imperial Northern Rangers, but as yet we have had no response.

Then, two nights past, the sweet Liana Dale was meditating on the loss of her friend Alicia in the Temple of the Mind when she was assaulted by this foul spirit. In terror she fled the Temple and the spirit did not pursue her.

We fear that we are at the mercy of some evil force.”

Thus informed, Kara also learns that, ever since the attack on Liana Dale, no-one has been allowed into the Temple of the Mind. She quickly has a look throughout the Temple but, aside from finding Alicia Greenbough’s body still laying out to receive visitors, she found it as she remembered it.

Kysmer was also informed that Alicia Greenbough had been secretly meeting with Lorne Greenthumb (one of Kysmer’s brothers) in a relationship that was most certainly not approved of by Sterryn. Kysmer well knew his father’s opinions on having “relations” with humans or half-elves, so the half-elven Liana would never have been an acceptable match for Lorne.

At the Hillbottom Tavern, Hoatzin goes to have a chat with his younger brother, Skip, concerning the attack he endured (while Nortrix gets reacquainted with his favourite seat near the fire). Skip was able to recount what he remembered of the attack as follows:

“I could hear Ma calling out from down near the split fence, which was a bit weird, but I went over to see what she wanted. Then that thing was on me, raking at me with its cold claws. I swear they went right through my arm and then my chest. Next thing I know I’m wakin’ up in the common room with Mister Goldenbraid and Mister Ironarm lookin’ down at me. Ma was in quite a state.”

Recalling that the spirit they had faced and defeated previously in Rannon’s Hill had also been able to imitate voices, Hoatzin soon realised that they faced the same, or at least same type, of evil creature. Thanking Skip for his story, Hoatzin immediately dashed downstairs and out the side door. He knew he needed to go fetch some holy water straight away!

Grax had finished meeting with the Mayor and had gone to meet up with Kara and Rag’azzahd. Hearing what she had to say about the interior of the Temple of the Mind Grax felt there was no need for him to look inside. Together they decided it wold be best to go and speak to Liana Dale about the attack, and so they bade farewell to Rag’azzahd (whom Garl Heatherblossom was going to find some accommodation for) and headed off to Liana’s house. They had made it only as far as the main street, however, when they encountered Hoatzin. He had spoken to Skip and it was clear that they faced that spirit that they had faced before. He urged them to get everyone assembled and then continued running up the hill towards the Shrine of the Old Gods. He hadn’t even paused long enough for them to ask him any questions. Sharing a shrug, Kara and Grax decide to leave talking to Liana until later and then head back down to the Hillbottom Tavern, where they found Nortrix (unaware that Hoatzin had already charged off). Grax then continues on to the Greenthumb farm to find Kysmer.

At the Shrine of the Old Gods Hoatzin explained his suspicions to Cleric Lodin who agreed that it certainly sounded like the same spirit. Cleric Lodin agreed to make up two batches of holy water for them to use that night.

Grax arrives at the Greenthumb farm in time for dinner. Being a generous family they welcome Grax to the table and he enjoys a meal of roasted vegetables, meats and generous amounts of gravy. While they usually eat well at the Greenthumb farm, it is apparent that this is in celebration of Kysmer returning home unharmed. After dinner they head back to the Hillbottom Tavern to meet up with the others.

At the Hillbottom Tavern Kara, Nortrix and Hoatzin have all eaten a hearty meal and enjoyed a mug of ale by the time Grax and Kymser show up. they discuss how best to tackle the problem of the spirit attacks and, not knowing the best place to find the spirit, decide to patrol the town in the hopes of either flushing it out or a least being on hand should another attack occur. So decided they divvy up the ten vials of holy water provided by Cleric Lodin (Grax doesn’t take any, as he points out he will most likely be busy generating light) and head out into the night.

They had patrolled for an hour or so when they hear the scream. Rushing ahead of the others, Hoatzin is the first to make it to the aid on Donal Meers inside a dark, empty building. He finds Donal backing away from a dark, shadowy figure with a swirling halo of hair surrounding its head. Hoatzin attacks and chases the spirit through the building while the others arrive at the darkened Temple of the Mind to find Donal now cautiously standing at the front doorway. He had disregarded the warnings of a spirit as superstitious nonsense, but was now very much convinced of their veracity.

Spreading out through the main chamber of the Temple of the Mind, the heroes tried to box the spirit in (difficult when it can fly through walls) and pour the holy water onto it. Their task was made easier by the light provided by Grax, though the spirit still proved to be most elusive. Faced with the holy light of Pelor it fled through the back wall only to return when most everyone had followed it outside to cruelly slay Donal Meers in front of Kysmer. Within short order they are able to finish the creature off, watching as it dissipates into wisps of darkness in the night, but not in time for Donal.

They immediately report this occurrence to both Cleric Lodin (who had been mystically empowering the holy water from afar) and Garl Heatherblossom, who sets about preparing Donal’s body for viewing. With nothing else for them to do that night, the heroes return to their homes for sleep…

A Mystery in Lanarell: Chapter Fifteen
Tracking down the elusive Elwynd Tavasqa.

The heroes determine that they should try to track down what has happened to either Lina Oakfriend or Elwynd Tavasqa. Before they can further discuss this a messenger arrives from The Respected Poet carrying a message for Kara. She moves a short distance away to read this while the others try to decide what to have for lunch, then with a shout she begins jogging off, declaring that they they need to leave immediately and something about Rannon’s Hill. The others are left a little confused by this.

Nortrix, who had just almost caught up with everyone was also confused when Kara went running past him for some reason. She didn’t even seem to notice that he was there. When he reaches Zentoun Fortress the others are all glad to see him and ask where he had gotten himself to. He explains that he had wanted to see his uncle about some family business, but he had found out that his uncle had already left for Feneris. A note had been left to let him know that, should he want to take up his family responsibilities, his uncle would be staying in Feneris for some time and could be found there. The others then brought down his mood by explaining what had tampered at Zentoun Fortress the previous night.

It s at this point that Selinda returns to say that she will be chasing up a lead on Lina Oakfriend and asks if they could help her out by searching for Elwynd Tavasqa. She thinks it unlikely that Tavasqa was a traitor since the armoury had been untouched. The heroes agree to help out in his manner and so go to seek out Cleric Symon for his specialised assistance once more.

They find Cleric Symon easily enough and are then able to locate the body of Lott Fireleaf, who had worked as Elwynd Tavasqa’s assistant in the armoury. They reasoned that Lott Fireleaf might very well know about Tavasqa’s movements of the previous night. It turned out that Tavasqa had been fairly secretive and Lott Fireleaf didn’t know much about the gnome outside of his duties within the fortress. However he did recall Tavasqa mentioning that he would be having dinner at The Silver Crest the previous evening. Thanking Cleric Symon, and Lott Fireleaf, for their assistance, the heroes headed off.

At The Silver Crest the speak with the bartender who remembers a gnome of Tavasqa’s appearance visit the inn the previous evening. The name Elwynd Tavasqa means nothing to him, as he knows the gnome by the name of Corwin. He remembers that Corwin spoke at length to a merchant named Allos who is at that time eating meal in the common room.

Allos the Merchant proves to be helpful, if a little expensive. He confirms having met with Corwin the previously evening but does not mentioned of what they spoke. After they have parted way with a few gold, he also mentions that Corwin was headed to a dive called The Grey Hood after leaving The Silver Crest. In passing, Allos mentioned that Corwin had mentioned meeting up with wizards.

At The Grey Hood they speak to a man who is cleaning up the general filth and spreading new sawdust. This man also recognises Tavasqa from their description (Tavasqa’s distinctive moustache was proving very useful), though he knew the gnome as Synath. He knows that Synath was in the tavern the previous evening, but suggests that they should speak to the barkeep as they were on speaking terms. As the barkeep is not currently available, the heroes go in search of wizards.

They ask around and are directed to a strangely shaped house near the banks of the river that seems vaguely familiar. When the wizard in residence, Altous, opens the door they recall that they have had dealings with him before, as he was able to determine the use of some of their mystical items fro them. Altous recalls meeting with Elwynd Tavasqa the previous evening, but does not disclose of what they spoke. He says that Tavasqa was planning on heading to The Silver Crest after they spoke.

Returning to The Grey Hood the heroes find that the barkeep has arrived for his shift. He says that Synath had been in the previous night (as the cleaner had already mentioned); he had sat in the corner and spoken with a procession of people for a couple of hours. This was kind of usual for Synath. When pressed, the barkeep remembered that one of those who spoke with Synath got into an argument with him, it was a filthy street dweller called Sarrack the Gutter Wizard. This was not long before Synath had left the tavern for the evening.

Suspecting that this Sarrack may have had something to do with Tavasqa’s disappearance, the heroes then began asking questions of the locals to determine where they could find him. Sarrack was apparently fairly well known (or at least distinctive). Several people remember seeing the gutter wizard attacking a gnome (with his fists) the previous night, before dragging the hapless gnome away for some purpose. No-one had felt inclined to interfere. By continuing to ask questions and passing around Sarrack’s description they were able to track the beggar across the city to where he lived: the old Lanarell mausoleums.

Within the necropolis, Hoatzin questioned some filthy beggars who gave an “address” for Sarrack: he could be found at the old Alvenwoad Crypt. Being familiar with the Alvenwoad crest, the heroes found it easy to locate the crypt in question. Here they also found Sarrack.

Sarrack was a twitchy looking fellow who wouldn’t look at anyone straight on. He was also filthy and a little raving. They asked him what he knew of Synath and he claimed to be able to help them in exchange for remuneration. Despite them paying him, he then lied to them about where Synath was (as Hoatzin could easily tell if he told the truth or not). In frustration Kysmer began to raise his crossbow and then Sarrack unleashed some of his magic (which was anything but gutter level). With one gesture he felled Kysmer and things looked briefly grim. Luckily Grax was able to stabilise Kysmer and Hoatzin was able to strike down Sarrack before he caused any further damage.

They then decided to investigate the crypt that Sarrack called home and, sure enough, found Tavasqa bound and gagged in the interior darkness. Soon they had freed the gnome and, somewhat reluctantly they had healed Sarrack of his more grievous injuries (and taken back the money they paid him).

On the way back to Zentoun Fortress the heroes found out, from Tavasqa, that he was a “gatherer of information” for Ranger-Commander Jorlas Braveheart and he had been making his rounds the previous evening. Sarrack had taken umbrage at the amount Tavasqa had offered to pay him for information and had decided to take it out of his hide. The heroes then informed Tavasqa of the events that had befallen the fortress in his absence. He was visible taken aback to learn that his world had so swiftly and terribly changed.

Back at Zentoun Fortress the heroes met up with Selinda again. She had chased down a few leads concerning Lina Oakfriend and it now seemed all but certain that Lina Oakfriend had in some way been behind the recent attack. She had probably been behind the rangers being captured all the weeks ago a well. Selinda said that she would be held up here at the fortress for some weeks yet as they tried to get things back in order.

As the heroes made their weary way back to The Respected Poet they were met by Kara who was confused as to why none of them had followed her earlier. They pointed out that they had been in the middle of helping the Imperial Northern Rangers and, also, she hadn’t explained herself. She then explained that she had received a letter from Garl Heatherblossom in Rannon’s Hill. He had written to say that some catastrophe had befallen the town and she insisted that they should make all haste to return home.

Hearing this the heroes agreed and they all determined to leave Lanarell at first light in the morning.

A Mystery in Lanarell: Chapter Fourteen
Dire tidings at dawn.

The heroes get roused early from their beds by a banging sound at their doors (each of them were in different rooms, but the door to each room was being banged on). When they each independently cautiously investigated the noise, they found that there were a number of city guardsmen in their hallway, insisting that they accompany them to Zentoun Fortress. They had apparently been sent by Captain Karath.

Worryingly, there was no sign of Nortrix (who had gone to bed the previous evening at the same time as everyone else). However a stable boy was able to tell them that Nortrix had headed off an hour or so past. He had mentioned to the stable boy in passing that he was going to see his uncle.

Content that they knew where Nortrix was (generally), the heroes then headed to Zentoun Fortress. They were a little surprised when the guards formed up protectively around them but kept walking. They were met at the fortress by Captain Karath and Selinda, which surprised them after their discussions of the previous night. However the reason for this soon became clear when they learnt that the fortress had come under attack the previous night, leaving most of the Imperial Northern Rangers present dead or seriously injured. As they watched, dead rangers were being carried out of the fortress to be laid beside other dead rangers. They agree to help Selinda (who is the highest ranking serving Imperial Norther Ranger at present) to find out what has transpired.

The heroes begin by searching Ranger-Commander Braveheart’s chambers and the areas around there. Here, every body they find is dead. All have been killed in a similar manner, with either their throat being slit or multiple stab wounds to the chest; sometimes they have both. Some of the leadership group is missing (or at least not in the leader’s area of the fortress). They determine the presence of poison, having noticed an odd odour in the food that was still sitting on the Ranger-Commander’s table.

Following the poison they investigate the kitchen next, where they find the head cook dead, having been stabbed in the back repeatedly. Hoatzin also also discovers a clay jug that smells like the poison they had noticed upstairs (only stronger); the jug was lying, discarded, next to a mostly empty cauldron of stew (which was the previous night’s meal).

To better understand what had transpired, the heroes sought out a cleric skilled in the necromantic arts of speaking with the dead. Almost all of the city’s clerics had assembled at the fortress and were assisting in the healing of those few survivors, as well as saying prayers for the fallen. After a few direct questions the heroes were soon introduced to the gravely voiced Cleric Symon, a priest of Nerull, who agreed to help them in questioning the head chef.

The questioning was easy (at least for the heroes) as they asked questions of Symon who in turn then mentally questioned the deceased cook. From the cook the discovered that he had been killed by a kitchen hand, “that bastard Raskin”, just after he had noticed someone pouring something into the stew. He had then died without learning anything else. With a name to follow up they returned to Selinda, but she was unfamiliar with any “Raskin”. Next, Kysmer went and looked through the Ranger-Commander’s records of staff (a weighty tome) until he found a Raskin, an unfortunately named man: Raskin Rankin. The records list an address, a rented room, for Raskin Rankin so the heroes decide to go and check it out. For safety reasons, Captain Karath insists on four guards accompanying them.

At the guest house they are show to Raskin’s room by the grumpy desk lady. His room is on the third floor with a window that looks out into an alley. They scour the room for clues (even thinking to check outside the window, in case the man was hiding out there) and they find a small wooden chest with a yellow star on its lid (just like the one they had found previously). The chest itself it empty, but they decide to go check out The Golden Star in case anyone is there.

They find The Golden Star as they had last left it: abandoned and looking in need of burning down. Kysmer decides to give the upper floors a quick once over and heads off alone, which was how he then found a scrappy looking cultist (who immediately attacked him). Although initially surprised, Kysmer was able to swiftly deal with the attacker. With nothing else of interest to be found at The Golden Star, the heroes got the guards accompanying them to carry the now dead cultist back to Zentoun Fortress.

Back at the fortress they once again sought out Symon, who again agreed to speak to the dead on their behalf. The dead cultist from The Golden Star admitted to having taken part in the attack on Zentoun Fortress. He explained how everyone was poisoned and finished off by hand while they were incapacitated. Sheepishly he also admitted to not having paid attention to where they were all supposed to meet up following the attack and had ended up returning to The Golden Star. He had no idea what was to happen next, but he was able to supply the identities of some more cultists, some of whom turned out to be members of the city guards. Captain Karath was immediately summoned and told of this and the matter was investigated, only to turn up that those guards had all been stationed on the Trayal Gate the previous evening. None of them had been seen since last night and the Trayal Gate had been unguarded this morning at change of watch.

At that moment a commotion is created by Ranger-Lieutenant Throon the Mighty as he arrives back at the fortress to discover what has transpired. He had, until now, been missing presumed dead. Reluctantly he took on the mantel of acting Ranger-Commander (from Selinda). Thrown the Mighty is devastated by what has happened, but manages to bring his emotions under control to take care of his responsibilities.

Freed from being acting Ranger-Commander, Selinda manages to catch up with the heroes. She mentions that one of the rangers they had rescued all those weeks ago, Lott Fireleaf, had been found dead, butchered, in front of the locked armoury door. This death seems strange to the heroes (no-one else had been carved into, just stabbed a few times and then left) so they once again beseech Symon’s assistance. He is, once again, happy to oblige.

From Lott’s corpse they learn that the attackers had wanted access to the armoury. To thwart them, Lott had swallowed his copy (he had one, being the armoury assistant) of the key. When they realised what he had done, they savaged his body for it. He died before they had finished.

After releasing Lott’s spirit Grax searches through Lott’s inner body (messily) until he locates the armoury key, apparently undiscovered by the attackers. To be sure that the armoury was still secure, they then went and checked it out, with Selinda in tow, and found that it was completely untouched. Selinda explained that it was good to know that the enchanted weapons and items located in the secure armoury were thus still safeguarded. However, it did make her wonder where the fortress quartermaster (and master of the armoury) Elwynd Tavasqa had gotten to. From what they could now piece together, Elwynd Tavasqa and Lina Oakfriend (the assistant to Ranger-Commander Braveheart) were the only people with any rank still missing.

Could either of these two have been a traitor?

A Mystery in Lanarell: Chapter Thirteen
Travelling upriver and finding Selinda.

The heroes rouse Grax, who is feeling somewhat better, and he agrees to pray to Pelor for guidance. While he does this, Kara goes off to keep Rag’azzahd company.

It takes a short while for Grax to pray, but he eventually receives a response, or the impression of a response, telling them to follow the southern bank of the Lanarell River upstream on the morrow. This seems fairly straight forward, so they all determine to head to bed and to make an early start in the morning after seeing off Rag’azzahd. Having decided this, Nortrix reluctantly admits that Kysmer was correct in their bet, earlier, in which the elf had the dwarf that they would not be moving in to The Respected Poet that evening. Nortrix had been so sure of them moving that he had accepted this bet and now, as a result he went off to consume the remaining oysters (that had made Grax so ill) with Kysmer watching.

Just after Nortrix had left, Kara and Rag’azzahd entered to announce that the translation was completed. In the final entries the journal referred to the successful capture of the two groups of Imperial Northern Rangers and their imprisonment. Then, mention was made of the rescue of the captured Rangers, with the journal sounding quite angry and disbelieving of this. The journal referred then to the news of the Rangers rescue reaching the city, some days after which the rest of the city had become aware of the matter. It then mentions the return of the missing Rangers as though this was a personal failure by the author and some mention is made of needing to make amends. Lastly, the journal talks of the heroes who rescued the Rangers; apparently The Teacher has sent word that those responsible should be sought out and made to suffer.

The following morning Nortrix is now feeling quite ill from the oysters and any remaining shellfish are disposed of before they can lead to further illness. The healthy heroes, now including Grax, bid Rag’azzahd well as he set off to recover his horse before travelling to their prearranged meeting place (along the road up to Rannon’s Hill). He says he will wait upon word from them before moving on.

With the hobgoblin on his way the heroes then head to the river and investigate the river gate to see if they can begin following the bank. They quickly gather that there is no way out of the city via the river gate and so head to the Oldoak Gate to leave the city. A brief walk has them rejoining the river and they begin following the southern bank. Kysmer keeps an eye open for any tracks as they walk along, but finds no trace as they travel.

Having walked for several hours, Hoatzin’s sharp eyes caught sight of some goblins hidden in a copse of trees up ahead. He could tell they were watching the trail that the heroes had been following (a trail that ran parallel to the river), but weren’t watching in the direction that heroes as were approaching. In hushed voice he raised the alarm to his companions, who could not catch sight of the goblins despite Hoatzin’s assistance. As Grax decided to call out to the goblins (in their own language), Hoatzin decided to seize the element of surprise and loosed an arrow at the unsuspecting foes.

Despite catching them unawares, Hoatzin’s initial attack flew wide of the mark and soon a rain of arrows came flying back at the heroes, scoring some minor injuries on Hoatzin and Kysmer. While Kara and Kysmer (and shortly after Grax) immediately made for the tree line to seek cover, Hoatzin exchanged fire with the goblins. The battle was then made more intense by the unexpected appearance of a human warrior who was aiding the goblins, who was the very same man who had attacked Kara several days earlier on the street. Gradually Hoatzin and Kysmer were able to pick off the goblins with their ranged attacks and Kara was able to keep the warrior occupied long enough so that Grax and Hoatzin could arrive to help her fight him. Seeing his position as hopeless, the human warrior threw down his weapons after Grax’s call for surrender and with that the fight was over.

In the course of procuring some bow string to bind their prisoner, Hoatzin caught sight of a well crafted short now amongst the otherwise poor fare that the goblins had been using. This he gathered up for later inspection.

With the prisoner bound they were able to question him while Grax saw to the minor injuries that they had received. The warrior was fairly open about what he was doing there: he had been contacted again by the person who had hired him (and others) to kill the heroes and had been hired to assist these forest goblins in ambushing a returning group of rangers. He had no ideas of the identity of the person who had hired him, but did intimate that he knew how to contact them. He also mentioned that there was another group of ambushers laying in wait on the opposite side of the river somewhere, as they hadn’t known which side of the river the rangers would be using.

Without any further hesitation the heroes then continued on their way, keeping an eye out for signs of Selinda’s passing and keeping a steady blade to the prisoner’s back. It was after about another hour’s walking that they rounded a bend in the path and they saw, up ahead, Selinda step out of a copse of trees and wave to them. They had found her.

Upon joining up with the rangers, the heroes were lightly scolded by Selinda for searching for her. However she wasn’t too upset with them, since they had foiled the ambush and Grax was able to take care of the still seriously injured Rangers in her party (though the effort did tire him out). Within minutes they were back on the trail and headed once more towards Lanarell. When they got back to the area where the ambush had been set they did take some time to locate and search the goblin camp, recovering the warrior’s gear in the process. Amongst his possessions the warrior had two letters of contract, confirming that he was to kill Grax, Hoatzin, Kara and Kysmer (for a price of 200 gold each), as well as Selinda (for a price of 500 gold). The goblins had nothing else of any real value.

It took them several more hours to reach the safety of the city, so by the time they had arrived they knew what they were going to do. Selinda had mentioned that she did not feel that Zentoun Fortress would be safe for them, so they elected to take her and the surviving Rangers (and the prisoner) to the main guard garrison and Captain Karath. The guard on duty recognised the heroes as they walked in and they were able to arrange to see the Captain in short order, though Hoatzin elected to watch over the prisoner (who was placed in a private cell as well).

Captain Karath listened as they explained what had been going on. When he asked why they couldn’t go to Zentoun Fortress, Selinda brought out her bag of evidence: a sack filled with severed goblin ears and one human head. The human head, she explained, had belonged to a man aiding the goblins who had ambushed her squad; she had immediately recognised him as a serving man from the Zentoun Fortress kitchens. She surmised that this man had not been acting alone and had been receiving his instructions from someone else in the fortress, someone higher placed who wanted her dead. Captain Karath agreed that this was a possibility and also agreed to arrange for a safe (and secret) place for Selinda and her men to stay. When Kara asked where they would be, Captain Karath bluntly said that the fewer people who knew, the fewer people who could reveal the information (whether under interrogation or by magical mind probing). The heroes then reluctantly agreed with this reasoning and bid Selinda and the other Rangers a good evening.

Returning to the Alvenwoad Estate they found that Nortrix, despite being ill, had been arranging for everyone’s gear to be moved to The Respected Poet. All that was left for them to do was to say farewell and thank you to their host. Unfortunately Lady Alvenwoad herself was unavailable, being called away on some city business, but Eleanor was there to see them. She was quite surprised by their sudden decision to move (Nortrix had given her only an hour’s notice), but was pleased to hear that they wouldn’t be travelling far. Kara even arranged to meet with her on the following day so that they could further discuss these events.

When they asked Rolif if he would be accompanying them to The Respected Poet, the heroes were astonished at the change that had come over him. The lascivious dwarf was now dressed in fine silk clothing and sported an elegant black eyepatch (he was still missing an eye). He explained the change by saying that Lady Alvenwoad had recognised him and had insisted he wear something more appropriate. Eleanor then explained that Lord Garnetbeard was now a guest of Lady Alvenwoad and was free to stay until he was quite recovered. When the heroes asked about him being a noble, Rolif explained (while leering at Eleanor) that his brother is the Count of Riverston, though he had joined the Imperial Northern Rangers to get a little more excitement out of life.

With all of that explained, the heroes then retired to The Respected Poet for some well deserved rest. The food and lodgings of the inn were quite good, although nothing compared to what they had become accustomed to, and the evening passed without incident. Then, shortly after dawn on the next day, they were all roused by something quite unexpected.

A Mystery in Lanarell: Chapter Twelve
Visiting Lord Roxin and a change in the status quo.

The following morning Grax woke up feeling decidedly unwell, possibly due to a number of oysters he had consumed late the previous evening, and elected to forgo getting up for the moment. Upon learning this, the others all decided that a trip into the catacombs of Lanarell wouldn’t be the same without Grax (as in it would probably be more deadly) and so the sought a different course of action.

Something safer that they lit upon was the previously floated idea of visiting Lord Roxin’s estate, as Lord Roxin was listed as the owner of The Golden Star. Having decided on this, our healthy heroes set out through the Trayal gate and spent the next hour and a half walking to Lord Roxin’s estate. Having arrived there, and having determined what their course of action would be during their walk, the heroes were easily able to gain access to the manor house and were admitted into a sitting room by a senior servant. After waiting a short time to see Lord Roxin they were shown into a large, well furnished study where the elderly noble was seated behind a desk. He tottered out and greeted everyone, being quite happy to receive guests as he received so few. After some small talk the heroes carefully questioned the lord about The Golden Star, but he had no recollection of having purchased any such inn. He help settle the matter he summoned his seneschal, Johns, but had fallen asleep before the servant had arrived. Johns turned out to be the servant who had greeted them upon arriving.

Johns took the suddenly sleeping of his lord in stride and continued to assist the heroes in their investigation. He showed them the estate ledgers where they could see that there was no purchase of an inn recorded and he even showed them Lord Roxin’s seal, which would have been used in the event of such a purchase. The heroes then thanked Johns, and the sleeping Lord Roxin, for their time and explained that this had all served to clear the Roxin name from being associated with any of the goings on. Johns thanks them for their efforts and, after supplying them with some small snacks and cider, asks if they would be so kind as to deliver a letter from Lord Roxin to Ranger-Commander Braveheart (since they are headed back to Lanarell anyway). They agree to this and set off back to the city.

During the walk back to the city the heroes decide to confront Lord Finthastle back at City Hall and get more information out of him. Or, at the very least, they could perhaps get a look at the paperwork and compare the seal on the letter they now had to the seal on the deeds.

Arriving back in Lanarell they head immediately to the City Hall, but have to wait for Lord Finthastle to get back from his lunch break before they can see him. When he arrives back they are allowed in to see him and he agrees, reluctantly, to go and retrieve more information for them. When he eventually brings out the actual deed to the property they can see that it has been sign off by “Lord Dalimar Roxin” in a clear, strong hand. The seal affixed to the deed also seems to be a match to the seal on the letter that they bear. Having just visited Lord Roxin, they doubt that he has written anything in a clear, strong hand for many years and so they surmise that some sort of duplicity has taken place at some stage of the proceedings.

Thanking Lord Finthastle for his time the heroes then decide to head back to the Alvenwoad Estate to see how Grax is feeling, however when they arrive they are immediately summoned to an audience with Lady Alvenwoad.

The heroes, including an ill looking Grax, and Rag’azzahd all assemble in a large sitting room where Lady Alvenwoad is waiting for them. Without preamble she explains to them that due to certain unalterable facts, it would be best if Rag’azzahd were to leave the city as soon as possible. Kysmer asks what the problem is and he is told, politely, that Rag’azzahd is a hobgoblin. Rag’azzahd, for his part, takes this in his stride and simply asks if he may be allowed to complete the translating, which he estimates should be done by that evening. Lady Alvenwoad allows this and then they are all dismissed.

While Nortrix helps Grax back up to bed, and Kara and Hoatzin accompany Rag’azzahd back to his work, Kysmer takes the opportunity to ask Eleanor if she could arrange for a letter to be delivered to Ranger-Commander Braveheart. He explains the circumstances that led to them having the letter, which Eleanor finds a little odd, but she acquiesces. Kysmer and Nortrix then decide to head out in search of new accommodation, as they feel that their welcome at the Alvenwoad Estate is surely beginning to wear thin.

In his makeshift study, Rag’azzahd updates Kara and Hoatzin on his progress. The journal had referred to some good news in the author’s other, “false”, life; something that would make their work that much easier. It then referred to finding the last piece of the puzzle, followed by reference to several weeks of preparing for the ritual. Lastly, the journal, in now fluent infernal, mentions that the ritual was a complete success and that it is time to initiate stage two. Rag’azzahd does not know what this all means, exactly, but he fears what it implies.

After he has finished explaining what he has recently translated, Kara proposes that Rag’azzahd could travel to Rannon’s Hill and stay a while in the Temple of the Mind there. She feels that he is a trustworthy soul and has been treated poorly by circumstance. He explains that he has already been run out of Trayal in a similar fashion and had expected it to happen here sooner or later. He is more than happy to travel to Rannon’s Hill next, as he had no further idea of where to go (he had considered Feneris, but also thought he would not last long in that city). They arrange that he will, Lady Alvenwoad permitting, leave the following morning and will camp a short distance outside the city and wait upon the heroes as he doesn’t relish the thought of entering another town unannounced.

With this decided, Kara goes and asks Eleanor whether it would be fine for Rag’azzahd to stay until the following morning, which Eleanor says she will have to check with Lady Alvenwoad. Eleanor then apologises to Kara for how Rag’azzahd has been treated. She explains that Lady Alvenwoad has no problems with the translator, but Lord Goldseam came to the house that morning and there were discussions between the two nobles behind closed doors. After the dwarven noble left, Lady Alvenwoad alerted Eleanor of what would need to be done.

Nortrix and Kysmer, meanwhile, had been investigating The Respected Poet, a modest yet classy inn not far from the Alvenwoad Estate, and had found it more than adequate to their needs. After sitting around for some time, enjoying a cider or two from the inn’s cellars, they see Hoatzin wandering past outside the inn, up to something no doubt, but they leave him to his business.

Hoatzin had, of course, grown bored of waiting around the manor and had headed out into the city in search of Nortrix and Kysmer. He wandered around and had some experiences but didn’t find them.

That evening, shortly after dinner, the heroes were relaxing and waiting for Rag’azzahd to complete his translation when Eleanor came to their sitting room and announced that there was a dirty dwarven beggar outside for them. The beggar insisted he had a letter for them but refused to hand it to anyone except the heroes. Kara agreed to come down and see what it was all about and she agreed, he was a dirty dwarven beggar: he was “A ragged looking dwarf with a bandage over half his face; he is wearing a torn, dirty cloak over simple farmer’s linen and a rope belt is tied at his waist”. She had no idea who he was, even after he greeted her by name. In exasperation he explained that he was Rolif Garnetbeard of the Imperial Northern Rangers (who had, in the past, made various amorous advances towards Kara) and he was just disguised as a filthy beggar.

Now recognizing him, Kara vouched for his conduct and Eleanor showed them both to a nearby sitting room. While servants went to fetch the other heroes (barring Grax), Eleanor then arranged for somewhat cleaner clothes to be brought in for Rolif. When the others had assembled (and Rolif had changed) he gave over the letter he had brought for them; it was a letter from Selinda, which read:

Dear Friends,
I hope this finds you well, as I fear I have been kept from you quite longer than anticipated. The matter with which I trusted you has come to a head and I now have solid evidence of my suspicions.
I will make all possible speed for Lanarell, but with the death of Norzud, our squad druid, we are slowed down considerably with the wounded. Of course, I dare not leave them behind for goblin raiding parties grow strangely bold of late and would no doubt take great delight in falling upon a group of wounded Imperial Northern Rangers.
If you should not hear from me within two days of receiving this message, then please make sure you carry news of my passing to my brother back in Rannon’s Hill.
Your friend,
Selinda Goldenleaf.

Upon reading this, the heroes began immediately planning the best possible way to aid Selinda. From Rolif they were able to roughly gather what had transpired. Selinda had lead a small squad of ranger out on patrol (Rolif had been part of a different squad, also on patrol) which had been ambushed, losing one member and taking some injuries. After this initial ambush the squad that Rolif had been a member of chanced upon them and they determined to track down the goblin ambushers and make them pay (or at least drive them away, as they were very close to civilized lands). This plan had worked somewhat, although they had lost more than half their number (including their healers) and had suffered many grievous injuries (including Rolif’s left eye). They had found that there was a human helping the goblin raiders in some way and Selinda seemed to recognize him.

Having heard all of this the heroes soon decided that they should travel out to aid Selinda and ensure that reaches Lanarell safely, but Rolif admitted that he was bound to not go with them as Selinda had directly ordered him to not come looking for her. He could, and did, help by telling them everything he knew about where he had last seen her, but noted that she could be making for either of two gates into the city, with dozens of paths, tracks and roads leading to those gates. She might even be coming down river.

With no clear way of knowing exactly how to locate Selinda, the heroes began thinking that maybe Grax could seek assistance from Pelor… if he was feeling up to it.

A Mystery in Lanarell: Chapter Eleven
About The Golden Star.

Following their trying night and early morning, the heroes have a satisfying, though not quite as sumptuous as is usual, breakfast before setting out early to the Lanarell City Hall for their appointment with Lord Finthastle. They arrive at the city hall before he does and so they end up waiting for him. When he does arrive he initially ignores them (despite Hoatzin’s attempt to ascertain his identity) for ten minutes before they can go in and see him.

Upon meeting him, the heroes almost immediately realize that Lord Finthastle is full of himself. They settle in and ask him about the ownership of The Golden Star and he lets them know that, with the right payments to cover “administrative costs” he can help them. They agree to these “administrative costs” and he goes to retrieve the appropriate volume of city records. He returns after some twenty minutes had passed and reads to them from the leather bound volume of city records that pertains to the neighbourhood of The Golden Star. After some reading he informs them that the current owner of The Golden Star is Lord Roxin, who purchased the inn a little over a year ago.

With nothing more to be learned from the records they leave Lord Finthastle and the Lanarell City Hall, though they do enquire with the head clerk as to where Lord Roxin lives. The head clerk tells them that Lord Roxin has an estate outside the city, about an hour’s ride south down the Trayal Road. They thank him for this information and then leave.

The heroes decide to return to the estate to ask Eleanor about Lord Roxin. She confirms where he lives and also mentions that he doesn’t come into town very much. She relates what little she knows about him and his standing: he is an older (human) man, the member of a moderately powerful family that is based in and around Feneris; his family came to Lanarell and bought some lands, mainly for farms and the esate, some 60 years ago.

Around this time Nortrix also decides at this time to get the opinion of the common folk about Lord Roxin, so he visits a nearby tavern’s common room and spends some time subtly asking questions. He finds out little that they didn’t already know, but he does learn that apparently there is a yearly party held out at the Roxin Estate (though not for a few months).

Unsure about travelling off to visit the innocuous sounding Lord Roxin, the heroes decide to drop in to have another look at The Golden Star. Upon arriving they immediately notice a foul smell, which they soon discern is emanating from the kitchens. While Grax and Kysmer approach from the hallway, Hoatzin, Kara and Nortrix creep through the bar area. Simultaneously they flung open the two doors that lead into the kitchen to find two foul looking, half rotted corpse standing there. The corpses let out a shriek, indicating that they are undead, and move to attack, though they are preceded by the horrendous stench that they were creating. So bad was this stench that Kara found herself severely sickened. Grax proceeded to summon forth some holy light to try and keep the creatures at bay (to limited success) while the others tried their best to destroy them. After a tense but short-lived battle the two filthy ghasts (as Kara identified them as) lay destroyed.

Cautiously the heroes then re-searched the entire inn to see if there were any other changes. Although Kysmer was able to find some evidence of tracks leading from a nearby sewer entrance to the inn (possibly indicating where the ghasts had come from) they found no other signs of disturbance. Nonetheless they all headed off to the main guard garrison and reported their encounter to Captain Karath, who was very thankful. He didn’t know why the two ghasts would have been at the inn, but he did dispatch some guards to take care of the bodies.

From there they headed back to the estate and had lunch. While there Rag’azzahd updated them on his progress. The journal made mention of searching through the catacombs and recovering a receptacle, though several helpers were apparently lost to the “followers of the spider”. Further, the journal mentions receiving a gift from “The Teacher”, an exquisite shadow blade. Rag’azzahd explains that shadow blades are said to have been made in ancient Qeth, forged from pure darkness by magic long lost. He also mentions that he thinks it will only take him about one day more to complete translating the journal.

Following luncheon the heroes decided to visit Priest Lorith once more to see what he might know about ghasts and to see if the new information they had about the “Ritual of Calling” might be enough for him to figure out what was going on. On their way to visit him Kara purchases some pastries to share with the kind and friendly priest. Luckily they find Priest Lorith available and are able to see him straight away. While they sit enjoying the pastries and drinking hot tea they discuss what they have found. Knowing that the ritual requires a receptacle doesn’t help Priest Lorith determine anything new about what the summoner is working towards. At mention of the “followers of the spider”, whom he identifies as Spider Cultists, he does go and refer to a couple of his books. In one text, Beneath Lanarell (the sequel to the ever popular Beneath Feneris and Beneath Respite) the author refers to encountering Spider Cultists in a vast cavern system off the catacombs. Lorith is quick to point out, however, that this book is highly fanciful and was written for the mass market. No one has ever been able to reliably prove that the Spider Cultists even exist, let alone that they have a presence beneath Lararell. When the heroes ask more about the Spider Cultists he reluctantly adds that they (if they even exist) are believed to venerate an ancient goddess of spiders and caves, known only as the Spider Goddess.

When the heroes then relate that they have also just encountered ghasts in The Golden Star, Priest Lorith is quite agitated. While he admits that undead may exist beneath the surface of the city, as there are apparently many sewers, catacombs and natural caverns down there, he finds it almost unthinkable that these creatures would try to force their way into the light.

Before they leave to return to the Alvenwoad Estate the heroes learn from Priest Lorith the location of the entrance to the catacombs, which is south of the river in Lanarell.

Back at the estate they discuss the merits of visiting Lord Roxin or venturing into the catacombs to confront the Spider Cultists and ghasts. It was decided that the following morning would be a better time to investigate the dark dank places beneath the city and so they all had an early night.

A Mystery in Lanarell: Chapter Ten
Of doppelgängers and assassins.

Kara arrives at the Great Shrine to see Priest Lorith without any incident. While they have tea she asks him about the “Ritual of Calling”. He’s very helpful, grabbing four books from his shelves that all contain a “Ritual of Calling” (one for an extraplanar entity, one for spirits and two for the presence of the divine) and these are just examples. He explains that magical rituals are ways in which the uninitiated can use magic, but they require specific components and can take hours to perform. There may very well be hundreds of “Rituals of Calling”, but if Kara can tell him what some of the components are, he might be able to help her figure out what the cultists are “Calling”. Kara agrees to find out (if the information is in the journal). She also mentions the strange grey creature they encountered at the Inn. From the description of the dead creature, Priest Lorith is able to identify it as a doppelgänger. He warns her that these creatures are masters of disguise and are capable of reading people’s minds. She thanks him for his help and leaves as the Shrines bells toll the hour.

Kara walks back to the estate the way she came, paying only a little attention to the people around her and the carts selling produce. The seller at one cart distracts her though as he holds out a shiny object that turns out on closer inspection to be a polished copper brooch. As she leans forward to see this however she feels a tugging at her sleeve, which turns out to have been caused by an arrow passing through her sleeve before bouncing along the street’s cobblestones. Suddenly on the alert Kara tenses to flee only to feel a second arrow scrape along the skin on her shoulder, missing the flesh but breaking the skin none the less. Before she can then escape she feels her body go slack and the cobblestones rush up to meet her. Around her people start moving around in a panic, some even move over to see if she’s all right. She tries to tell them that she can’t move, but it just comes out as mumbled words. Then the third and fourth arrows strike home in her back and she screams (well, mumbles in pain). Luckily her paralysis wore off then so she was able to scramble to her feet and seek cover behind a now abandoned vegetable cart. The street was rapidly clearing, so she was easily able to locate her attacker: an archer crouched on the rooftops, an arrow drawn as he tracked her movement across the street. Keeping her head low Kara then made her way down the street, a further two arrows hitting her cover only inches from her face, before breaking from cover and running for safety. The archer followed as best he could but almost tumbled to the ground when he leapt over an alleyway and so Kara made it to safety.

Kara, Grax and Hoatzin all arrived back at the estate within moments of each other and were met by Nortrix (who had been sunning himself). Grax hurriedly tried to tell the others (including Kysmer) that they might be in danger from assassins to which Kara was able to describe how she had been attacked in the street. This worried them all, for they knew that the two (they hoped only two) remaining assassins could lie in wait for them at any time. While they rested them also brainstormed and so came up with the idea of sending out false information. If the hired killers thought that no one would be paying them (which might even be true) then they might abandon their task.

It was at this point that a very weary Rag’azzahd came and found them in their sitting room. He was weary from deciphering infernal scratching all day and was going to take a break, but he thought he should share with them all the latest piece of important information he had found. The journal referred to receiving visitors from “The Teacher”, visitors who could assume the forms of other people. There were three of these visitors that stayed behind in Lanarell after the others all left. The heroes all made the connection between these visitors and the “doppelgänger” that they had faced several days earlier. So now they knew that there were another two of them.

Before Rag’azzahd left for his rest Grax asked him if, in his worldliness, he knew how to stop hired killers or pass around false information. Rag’azzahd suggested going where men of ill repute gathered. They all immediately thought of Rascoe’s Den.

After recovering somewhat Grax, Hoatzin, Kara and Nortrix all headed off to Rascoe’s Den. They travelled by roads they didn’t usually use (always main roads, never alleys) and made it to their destination without incident. At the Den, Grax, Hoatzin and Kara met with Rascoe while Nortrix kept a careful ear on the general talk of the common room. Rascoe didn’t seem surprised to learn that they had a price on their heads, but neither did he try and kill them. After they explained what they wanted, he agreed to pay some people to spread false information around the city. Kara paid the halfling and they all got ready to leave, when Grax asked him about how he, Rascoe, would go about trying to find the people trying to kill them. Rascoe thought a moment before saying that, for starters, he would find out who owned The Golden Star inn to see if they were involved.

Meanwhile, Nortrix had overheard two men (a half-elf and a human) discussing the price on the heads of his companions. As the two strangers rose to go outside he calmly intercepted them and used his powers of persuasion to convince them to abandon their intended goal.

Following Rascoe’s advice, the heroes then made their way to the Lanarell City Hall, where they hoped to find out who owned The Golden Star inn. They managed to meet wth a head clerk, who informed them that Lord Finthastle, the Keeper of the Archives of City Allotments, was too busy to see them that afternoon, but he was free on the following morning. So Grax arranged to meet with Lord Finthastle early the next day and then they all left. They were all then able to return to the estate without incident.

Much later that night, while the household was dark and silent, the noise of a ratline door handle woke both Hoatzin and Kara from their light slumbers (Nortrix, Kysmer and Grax slept on). Carefully they independently crept to their bedroom doors and listened, hearing the slight, unmistakeable sound of a door handle being tested again. Calmly, Hoatzin opened his door and crept out into the almost pitch-black corridor to see what was up, silent except for the snick of his door unlatching. Alert, Kara slowly and silently opened her own door to be able to dimly see Molly, the stable hand, crouched in front of the door to Rag’azzahd’s room. Manifesting her psychic weapon she demanded that Molly stop what she was doing as Hoatzin rounded the corner to also be able to dimly see what was going on. Letting out a frustrated cry, Molly then spun and began to tense so Hoatzin stepped up threateningly only to watch in horror as Molly’s features melted away before his eyes. In a matter of moments the stable hand was gone and a doppelgänger stood in her pace. All too briefly battle was joined, but after two swift blows to the head from Kara’s psychic weapon the shape changer fell.

Within moments the corridor was soon filled with the other heroes (and Rag’azzahd, who’s door had also been bolted from the inside). Hoatzin fetched and lit a lamp from his room while Kysmer secured the prisoner with some rope from his own room. Then they revived the creature and tied to get answers from it, but it proved intractable. Repeatedly they felt it try to enter their minds and each time they punished it, only to have Grax revive it once again. Eventually, after it had assumed the forms of both Grax and Hoatzin they finally slew the captive and ended its suffering.

In the meantime Kara and Kysmer had discovered the dead town guards (who had been there to keep an eye of Rag’azzahd) and so they all began rousing the household. As dawn was rapidly approaching, this wasn’t too disruptive. With Eleanor’s assistance they arranged a thorough search of the grounds and with the sun’s rays just breaking the darkness they discovered the body of the real Molly, dead several days and hidden in a storage shed behind the barn beneath a pile of hay.

A Mystery in Lanarell: Chapter Nine
Where the translation of the journal begins.

Later that evening, just after dinner, Eleanor informs the heroes that Rag’azzahd will be allowed to stay at the estate while he translates for them, but their will be two city guards posted on him at all times. While this seems a little extreme, the heroes accept it and move on. Kara begins to get a space set up for the hobgoblin to work in while Hoatzin and Grax head back across the city to Rascoe’s Den to let Rag’azzahd know. Rag’azzahd is happy to hear this, partly as he feels the accommodation in Rascoe’s Den is very noisy and not very private, and says he will see them the following morning.

The next morning they meet Rag’azzahd at the Alvenwoad Estate gate and show him in to his workspace and bedroom. He likes the amount of space he will have for sleeping (a small room opposite Kara’s) as it is larger than the room he had in Rascoe’s Den. He then begins translating the journal and Kara elects to keep him company (trying her best to ignore the two guards outside the room).

Nortrix sets himself up in a nice sunny spot outside and begins working on his oft-neglected sculpting, using his magic to actually do any of the hard work, and slowly working his way through a carafe of wine. Kysmer occupies himself with constructing spare snares; he reasons that these will be needed when he gets back to the farm and out into the wilderness once more. Hoatzin takes the time to practice his archery in, although he is interrupted almost immediately by Molly who is awfully curious about their new guest. She is astonished to learn that the heavily robed man is a hobgoblin and that he is helping them to translate a journal that they have found. She is almost just as amazed to learn that hobgoblins can read. She says the other servants would be fascinated by all of this and then left Hoatzin to his practice, which doesn’t last long as he is interrupted again shortly after by Grax, who proposes that they go see what they can find out in the city. Hoatzin of course thinks this is a swell idea so they head out for the market place. Although they spend an hour or so questioning people they don’t learn anything new, aside from learning that news of their exploits at The Golden Star are being gossiped about. They make sure they return to the estate in time for lunch.

Over lunch, Rag’azzahd tells everyone what he has learned from the journal so far, being details that he has already shared with Kara. The journal doesn’t mention who the author is and the first entry is dated roughly two years ago (in the year 209), although dated entries soon become quite scarce. Early on the author refers to “returning from a great gathering, where they have gained a great understanding of how everything works”. Later, the author starts to talk about research that they are carrying out. They seem to be researching something called “the Ritual of Calling”, whatever that might be. Further, the author mentions having recruited assistants, or helpers, who now also see the truth of things. Rag’azzahd says he is still early in the journal, but he will keep everyone updated if he learns anything new.

Following their sumptuous lunch, Nortrix returns to his sculpting and Kysmer returns to his snare making. Hoatzin and Grax are then free to return to the city to keep asking questions. They make for The Cartography Shoppe, where the storeowner remembers Hoatzin from their previous visit. They spend an hour or so in the “shoppe”, but don’t learn anything of relevance to their present situation (though they do hear so good tales). Grax then thinks of revisiting Rascoe’s Den, as they would be sure to find some juicy gossip there. So they head off, but sometime after crossing the bridge into the southern half of the city Hoatzin realises that they are being followed. After a bit of back and forth, they manage to confront their follower in an alley, where he promptly attacks them (after being wildly swung at by Hoatzin). While they try to capture their hooded follower turned attacker, a second assailant attacks them from behind! Things briefly look bad for Grax who takes several nasty looking injuries, but he is able to heal himself and they manage to capture the second assailant (while the original one escapes, after leading Hoatzin on a merry chase). Some town guards finally show up to check on the disturbance and they arrange to get help taking their prisoner back to the nearby main garrison.

Meanwhile, Kara has learned from Rag’azzahd that the author of the journal refers to purchasing The Golden Star inn, which is apparently quite run down. While Kara finds this interesting, she begins to wonder about the “Ritual of Calling” and so leaves Rag’azzahd to his translating and checks out the estate library for any occult books. There aren’t any to be found, though this doesn’t really surprise her. She then decides to head off to see Priest Lorith again, as his library is sure to hold something of use (and he was quite friendly).

Outside in the courtyard, Nortrix had just finished an average bust of Hoatzin (having already attempted busts for both Kara and Kysmer) when Molly the stable hand wandered up with a broom. She was curious to see what he was doing and she was also still curious to know more about the hobgoblin visitor. Nortrix, of course, didn’t really know much about Rag’azzahd but he did talk to the girl for a while about his sculpting. Following all of this she even asked him if he could sculpt her, which he agreed to. For half an hour he concentrated and shaped the stone before him until they became quite a good likeness of Molly. She was pretty rapt about this, but then had to hurry back to her work.

At the main garrison, Grax and Hoatzin had revived their prisoner and were trying to question him. He wasn’t being very cooperative (or perhaps they weren’t very good at asking questions). Although Hoatzin could tell if he was lying, they had no way of forcing him to tell the truth. He wouldn’t admit to anything, including attacking them, and would quite happily lie to their faces (especially after finding out that they could tell if he was lying). In the end, threatening the man with allowing the guards to torture him began to loosen him up and when they offered to walk him out of the city he finally offered to tell them what he knew.

He never gave his name, which is probably understandable, but he explained that he “had heard” that three men had gone to The Golden Star a few days ago, where there had been a large number of people waiting to see them. A “Hooded Man” had given them their instructions, which were to kill Hoatzin, Kysmer, Kara and Grax (though not Nortrix for some reason). The man couldn’t describe the leader (aside from calling him a Hooded Man) and had no more information to offer. Hoatzin and Grax then gave him back his possessions (not his sword) and warned him about returning to Lanarell before turning his loose. They didn’t bother to untie his arms though. After he had walked away a short distance he wriggled out of his bonds and put his armour and shirt back on. He then waved cheerily to the heroes (who were still watching from the gateway to make sure he left) and continued the long walk towards Trayal.

A Mystery in Lanarell: Chapter Eight
Where they all attend a party and then begin investigating once more.

The party begins and guests start entering the ballroom at the Alvenwoad Estate. To start with the heroes remain together, but they soon separate to deal with the party in their own manner.

Nortrix, of course, was very sociable to all he encountered and he spent his time remaining in the main ballroom, listening to the string music and talking to the various people who came to meet him. One of those people was, unfortunately, his uncle: Althur Marbleweaver. Finally catching up to his wayward nephew, Althur gave him a long lecture about family responsibilities and so on. These were things that Nortrix had all heard before. Eventually Althur left Nortrix alone and he was able to go back to enjoying the party.

Kysmer had decided to try and avoid people, as he was more accustomed to solitary walks through the forest than crowded functions in a noble’s estate. However, despite his best efforts guests kept cornering him and talking at him. Just when things were getting particularly claustrophobic, Captain Karath (resplendent in his official dress uniform) swept in and walked with Kysmer out into the gardens. In the gardens they could see acrobats and jugglers entertaining some guests in the dimming dusk light. Servants were moving about lighting lanterns to provide light as the sun set. As they walked Captain Karath managed to question Kysmer about the kidnapping, particularly the cause. Kysmer had no new news to share on this however and so Karath eventually left to circulate.

Grax and Kara, the two former orphans, had both gravitated towards the buffet table where they were doing their best to eat and drink without having to entertain. This was working out quite well for them. Grax in particular tried to overcome his social awkwardness with copious amounts of wine, to varying effect. They were approached at the table by Ranger-Lieutenant Throon who was very friendly towards them. After crushing their hands in his massive grip, the burly, ageing half-orc happily entertained them with tales from his younger days, such as the time he had to track down and kill a rogue shard beast while wounded. He even showed them the wounds from the beast’s shards that he still bears. Throon may have kept this up for much longer, but he swiftly left when he saw Lord Goldseam approaching. Lord Urliak Goldseam, a fancily dressed dwarven noble, then briefly addressed the pair. He was very dismissive of them both and left without allowing them to verbally defend themselves. Grax, being somewhat inebriated at this point, called him a dick behind his back, but this seems to have been heard by one of the dwarven servants following Goldseam around, as she turned and glared at Grax after he had spoken.

Hoatzin had been enjoying himself, while not being quite as sociable as Nortrix. While he was in between conversations, one of the estate servants sidled up to him to pass on message: there was a dwarf waiting to meet him outside. Cautiously Hoatzin entered the gardens to see who was so eager to meet him, only to discover that Geel Stonefist had snuck into the party somehow. Geel was here to report that in the course of snooping around Zentoun Fortress he had discovered a bloodied cloak in the officers’ halls. The cloak was not an Imperial Northern Ranger cloak and it was highly unusual to just find a cloak, let alone a bloodied cloak, just lying around. Hoatzin paid him for the information and then Geel snuck back out of the party. A short distance away Kysmer had noticed Hoatzin meeting with someone, but he hadn’t recognised Geel.

Having eaten quite enough for the moment, Kara accepted some invitations to dance from some of the younger noblemen and merchant’s sons. She dances with a few of them, all of them too flustered to do more than smile and stammer, before a grizzled one-eyed ranger asks for a dance. The ranger introduces himself as Ranger-Lieutenant Harn Durlis and while they dance they make small talk; he is quite charming and flattering. As they continue dancing, he begins to suggest that they should meet up again, at a later date, at a tavern he knows. Kara, realising where this is headed, gently rebuffs him but he then gets the wrong idea and believes that she is romantically involved with one (or more) of her adventuring companions. As he leaves, he assures her that the offer is still open should she tire of her current company.

Eventually, as the night wears on, Lady Alvenwoad calls everyone together in the ballroom and announces that Ranger-Commander Jorlas Braveheart is going to say a few words. Jorlas, an aged man who still stands straight and proud in his uniform, praises the efforts of the five heroes, and then makes them an example of how everyone should be seeking to do more for their community. If only more people helped one another, or had community spirit, etc. etc. His speech lasts for about ten minutes and ends to much applause.

With the speech done partygoers start leaving and all too soon it seems that only the heroes remain (with the obligatory few late stragglers who are still making the most of the free food and alcohol provided). Lady Alvenwoad thanks the heroes directly for being such good guests of honour. Grax almost embarrasses himself due to his excessive drinking, but Eleanor makes sure he is led away to his sleeping chamber. Kysmer and Hoatzin have realised, during the evening, that jugglers always seem to be right near them, and always the same jugglers at that. Hoatzin is able to make one uncomfortable and then he makes his exit, while Kysmer begins unsettling the other.

Soon they all retired to bed.

The following morning they all gathered for their usual sumptuous breakfast. All aside from Grax, that is, who was suffering the after effects of having consumed so much wine the night before.

While they eat they discuss what they should be doing next, as the party from the previous night was most likely all that Lady Alvenwoad had wanted their presence for. During their discussion they all talk about their experiences the previous night, with Hoatzin remembering to mention his strange meeting with Geel Stonefist in the gardens. While there had been some thought of perhaps heading back to Rannon’s Hill, this news did remind them of the unresolved business about a possible traitor within the Imperial Northern Rangers.

Shortly after this Eleanor arrived bearing some messages that had been dropped off for the heroes. One was addressed to Grax, which she held on to for later, while the other two she handed to Nortrix and Hoatzin.

Predictably enough Nortrix’s message was from his uncle Althur, informing Nortrix of when they would be leaving Lanarell and heading back to the south. The clear expectation being that Nortrix was to finalise his affairs and join them. Nortrix threw the letter into the fireplace.

Hoatzin’s message wasn’t signed and was mysterious as well. It informs him that a friend of his has made it to the guard’s garrison and that he should go and check him out. A little perplexed by this, as all of the other heroes were accounted for, Hoatzin and the others all decided to go off and check what this was about (leaving Grax to sleep off his hangover).

Reaching the garrison the four heroes see a disgruntled guard trying to mop up a large dried pool of blood. The guard complains about a grubby, drunken dwarf getting his throat cut the previous night. Inside the garrison Hoatzin queries the duty guardsman about any recent arrivals. They find out that the only recent arrivals are a rowdy elf bard and the dead dwarf. The guardsman on desk duty informs them that the dwarf had a distinctive stone fist. Realising that this can only be Geel Stonefist, Hoatzin and Kara tell the guards that he was a member of the Imperial Northern Rangers. They also arrange to carry the news to Zentoun Fortress.

By this time Grax has awoken back at the Alvenwoad Estate and has managed to eat a less than sumptuous breakfast. While eating he received a note from Eleanor, which was also when she told him that the others had all headed out to check on something at the guard garrison. The note is from Priest Lorith, the leader of the shrine to the Old Gods in Lanarell, inviting him to come visit as they didn’t get a chance to meet on the previous evening. Grax decides to wait until Kara and Hoatzin can join him for this as they know more about theology than he does. To fill in time while he waits for everyone to return to the estate he then goes to check on the progress of his armour. The smith informs him that they are waiting for the mithral to arrive, though he does stay a while and talk.

Having reached Zentoun Fortress, Hoatzin and Kara are allowed to go and meet Ranger-Commander Jorlas Braveheart. His young elven assistant, Ranger Lina Oakfriend, shows them into the elderly ranger’s office where they are able to pass on the terrible news of Geel Stonefist’s death. Ranger-Commander Braveheart thanks them for bringing this news to him straight away, yet hints that Ranger Stonefist was not the best example of the Imperial Northern Rangers. Hoatzin, without Kara’s approval, then begins telling Ranger-Commander Braveheart about the possibility of there being traitors within the Imperial Northern Rangers. He also mentions that Stonefist had brought them information in relation to this the previous night. Ranger-Commander Braveheart grows stony-faced as this all gets mentioned, particularly in relation to “spying within these halls” and he eventually dismisses the two adventurers quite abruptly. Ranger Oakfriend then escorts them back to the main gate and, despite her superior’s now disapproval of these two, expresses her appreciation for everything they have done.

Everyone soon meets up again at the Alvenwoad Estate for yet another sumptuous lunch. Grax broaches the subject of Kara accompanying him to meet Priest Lorith and Kara agrees. Hoatzin also decides to come along. As neither Kysmer nor Nortrix are feeling particularly religious, they decide to go check out The Braying Donkey and see if the wine is as good as they remember.

At the Shrine of the Old Gods Grax and Hoatzin feel a sense of peace and contentment that Kara does not share. The Shrine is far larger than the Shrine in Rannon’s Hill. They enter through the main hall, which is lined with tall, round columns, and enter the large circular main chamber which has a small shrine devoted to each of the Old Gods. A staircase leads up high, to where the Shrine’s bells are located. The three heroes are introduced to Priest Lorith who, it turns out, is quite eager to meet them. They all sit in his study and they talk about his vast book collection (which gets Kara excited), the official collection of the Priests of Lanarell. This collection has been accumulated over the centuries and fills the walls of Priest Lorith’s modest study. He has hot tea and cakes brought in while they talk. Eventually they get around to asking the kindly Priest about the journal they had discovered when they rescued Kysmer. He is interested in seeing it so they let him have a look. Immediately he can tell that it is written in the language of the lower realms, the Infernal language. Since he knows the Celestial language he can read a word here or there, but he cannot understand the meaning. The heroes thank him for this valuable insight before getting ready to leave, however before they can leave he does make an effort at swaying Kara over to the worship of the Old Gods. He recommends Boccob in particular, as he feels that she might find that deity most appealing.

From the Shrine of the Old Gods the three heroes travel across the river to the main guard garrison. They wish to ask Captain Karath about the hobgoblin mystic who aided them earlier, Rag’azzahd, as he seemed like the sort who might know all kinds of hidden things (like the Infernal language). They are able to get in to see Captain Karath fairly easily (he’s walking through the garrison common area when they arrive) and is quite willing to direct the heroes to where his men were able to track down Rag’azzahd: a lowly tavern called The Grey Hood.

Being already a little familiar with The Grey Hood the heroes are able to get there pretty swiftly. Asking around the almost empty (it is still during daylight hours after all) common room for “the hobgoblin” gets them no answers. They do learn, however, that a “mysterious hooded man” had been lodging in a room at Rascoe’s Den. For some coin they are even able to find out where to find Rascoe’s Den.

Upon reaching Rascoe’s Den they find that it just looks like a house, not a “fine” establishment like The Grey Hood at all. As they approach, a man sitting outside the house denies that there is any such establishment there (although Hoatzin can tell he’s lying). They let it be known they are looking for a “mysterious hooded man” and that they will be waiting at The Bull and The Wench use up the street.

The Bull and The Wench (which, from the picture out the front, doesn’t look like any kind of normal relationship) is a slimy kind of tavern, which is, like The Grey Hood, more than half empty. After a few minutes of waiting the heroes are approached by a halfling who questions them briefly before introducing himself as Rascoe and inviting them to come to his establishment (after they pay the cover price). Inside Rascoe’s Den (which is located in the basement of the house they were standing out the front of earlier) Rascoe gives them a mug of ale each and points them towards the hooded hobgoblin, who is sitting by himself in the corner. As they cross the dingy, crowded “common room” they can hear the sounds of gambling: the rattle of dice, the flip of cards, the clink of coins and the snarl and whine of dogs. The pursuit of vice does not care that it is still daylight apparently.

Rag’azzahd greets them courteously when they introduce themselves. They cut to the chase and he cautiously admits to knowing the infernal tongue and then leads them to a nearby copse of trees just inside the city walls where they can talk privately. They come to terms about how much he will charge for his services and they agree to arrange for him to come to the Alvenwoad Estate to work on the translating. He is happy to be able to move out of Rascoe’s Den.

When the three heroes get back to the Alvenwoad Estate Kara immediately seeks out Eleanor so as to make sure there won’t be any problems with inviting a hobgoblin in. Eleanor is at first quite happy to have a travelling scholar coming to the estate to help the adventurers with whatever they are currently in the midst of doing, but she soon cools upon learning that this scholar is a hobgoblin. She says she will go and check this with Lady Alvenwoad and the Captain of the Alvenwoad guards before giving the all clear.


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