The hovering halfling begged for her life and dripped something on Lance below. Crossbows and bows were readied against her taking any aggressive action. She told the heroes that they had prisoners, and that these prisoners were in the basement, and Christian went in to investigate. However, in his hurried state, Christian failed to take extra precautions and tripped a wire which sent a ballista bolt flying from a nearby trap which slammed against his armor and knocking the wind out of him. He winced and pushed forward. He took a quick study of the dusty restaurant and the burnt meat smell coming from the kitchen before finding himself downstairs. There were indeed two girls, but they were dead. He could surmise that they were young, maybe teenagers, though their bodies looked like they were dead for longer than they should be. Their skin was darkened and their muscles recessed, as if hollowed. He fought off a familiar feeling of discomfort. A feeling similar to that which he felt a few nights ago by the fire.
Outside, the halfling tried to float up more, and made it a full 5ft before being told to stop. She was clutching at something. Lance and Redden told her to drop it. She did so and Lance barely had time to react to the sight of a vial. He jumped back just before it exploded into alchemist’s fire.
The fight started anew. Redden took a shot at the halfling and hit her. She said some words and floated up another twenty feet. In the basement, there was a bright flash from a nearby grate, and Christian was surprised, while Lance and Redden were surprised outside as a familiar grinning skull appeared in the flames and started drinking away at Lance’s lifeforce.
Christian had to rush outside after the flash, but the distance kept him out of the fight for a short while. Redden and Lance were alone in the fight as it began and the skull used its magic to put Redden to sleep. Fortunately for him, Tequila and Boram were not far away and able to assist. The angel flew to Redden’s side and woke him with a slap from her tiny hand. Boram raised Adrian and took aim at the little witch floating precariously higher and higher above the battlefield.
The party focused most of its attacks on the undead creature which took every opportunity it could to greedily feast on their lifeforce. The halfling woman kept moving up, and up and up. Once she reached above the tree-line, she spread open her cloak, hoping to catch the breeze, but the winds did not favor her. She moved ever so slowly towards the Lethe river.
The party flanked and foiled the undead menace, crushing its skull and destroying it. It let out a sigh of seeming relief and words of thanks upon destruction. By then, the halfling was more than a hundred feet in the air above them before being shot down. She exclaimed something indecipherable, which Tequila later paraphrased as “Janosz Poha, I join you in death!” Her body fell down in a loud thump on the snow and her head slamming against the wood of the walkway. Her illusion was broken as her skull no longer supported the magical headgear she wore. She was revealed to be a frog-like creature known as a grippli and was dressed in wet robes with bone charms. In her pockets, she had a stained bone-hilted dagger, gruesome trinkets, and a pet frog that was crushed in the fall.
The party searched their other adversaries bodies for loot and went inside to find out what else they could of the situation. Boram kept by the boat, keeping his precious River Rat safe. Inside, the group found the bodies of the teenage girls were likely from a nearby village in the reach. They were caught and likely fed to the malevolent spirit that was also seemingly held captive by means of dark magic surrounding something that looked like a lantern at the end of a chain that was dangling in a drain or well below. Tequila took some time to study it more and was focused on finding the best way to dispose of the cursed container.
From there, the group moved back upstairs and searched through the rooms. They found hunks of human meat burning in the kitchen and more long shanks hanging from hooks in dry storage. They found and looked through the rooms where the goblinoids and grippli took rest. Christian took great pride in his duty in destroying some Lamashtan prayer books and a gruesome idol of Lamashtu with a garnet inside. They also found the bags of the two girls. They didn’t get names, but found a shield with initials carved into the back with “Winter of adventure” This shield, along with their matching bracelets might be enough to identify the lost girls by their people.
More pressing was the discovery of a carrier bird; an imposing arctic raven that was kept caged. This white feathered animal was used to relay messages between the villains here and whoever they work with. A letter written in an unknown script (goblin?) was found on the desk of a nearby office. The party decided to keep the caged bird with them for the time being.
Also in this office, the party found the journal of the owners of Pleasant Pines. They took it over years ago after the previous owners sold it after heartbreaking tale of a young camper getting lost and dying from exposure. The new owners seemed optimistic in taking over and bringing happy times back to Pleasant Pines. Crumbled on the floor was another letter, written in two parts. The first part explained to the owners that some unpleasant people had taken residence in their establishment, the writer went on to explain that they took care of the problem as best they could, and would send people in the spring to ensure that everything was safe and okay for them. The second part of the letter was addressed to any other squatters taking residence in this place, warning them that their evil deeds would not go unpunished and that they should run away while they can. The notes were signed by a circled R, like a Returner’s badge, and Redden could recognize the hand-writing as Gwyn’s. It would seem that Gwyn and her group had taken to the heroic side of Returner work as well.
As they started to make arrangements to finish up here, Lance’s could no longer resist the liquor shelf behind the bar. Most bottles were emptied or broken, but there, miraculously unbroken was a bottle of rum. The same spiced-rum that was his father’s favourite. The same rum that his father gave him his first drink all those years ago. As he grabbed the bottle, felt compelled to take a drink. It was a tough fight and he had earned it, after all. As the familiar taste filled his mouth and he gulped it down, he felt an instant feeling of drunken euphoria wash over him. On the other side of the bar, he saw Thais looking just as saucy as he remembered, though perhaps a little more faint and ghostly. He tried to say hi, but she motioned for him to be quiet and pointed to the corner of the room. Christian and Redden watched as Lance gawked at seemingly nothing.
Lance had a visualized memory of sitting there as a happy young boy with his dad watching a man they called “Billy-Goat” telling all kinds of stories of monsters and adventure. In his memory, he could see that Billy-Goat wore a holy symbol of Desna. The image faded and Thais lead him down the hall towards the office. Redden and Christian tried to interject as he was acting strange, but he pushed past them as he had “something he had to take care of.” Lance found Thais in the office with her hand on the bookshelf. She flung a book off the shelf which opened in front of him with a map of some Sabre Mountain trails as detailed by a mountaineer named William “Billy-Goat” Woodward. Lance barely had a chance to look up before Thais winked at him and waved goodbye as the feeling of drunkenness left him and the itching in his arm where the rusty beartrap clamped down on him had somehow subsided. Dad’s favorite drink had hit the spot and, thankfully, there were a few good swigs left.
After explaining yet another instance of divine intervention, Lance and his friends could look over the map a bit. The map was old, but the journal had plenty of helpful tips for people climbing the hills and mountains of the region. Difficult and easier trails were marked, as were scenic spots. However, it was a warning of harpies that stirred another memory in Lance… the day his father was taken, standing in a daze as his father was carried away by a harpy years ago on the Lethe river. Was it the harpies’ infamous song, the booze, or his own pain that made him block out the memory? He couldn’t be sure, but today, it was staring him in the face though with a chance for a revenge of sorts? He wasn’t sure how to feel.
The group buried the bodies and hurried to shut down the restaurant as best they could, leaving Gwyn’s notes for the owners. They left with a guide to the mountains, an arctic raven, an ‘evil lantern’ of sorts to dispose of, four more caps of human guise, and even more questions.
The first and foremost was would they climb the nearest peak and face the threat of “the Widowmaker” trail and potential harpies, or would they defy myth and cross Sabre Beak’s lake to take the “Long and Winding Road”? The rest of the questions were mostly for Oracle, who waited for them at the twin peaks of the Sabre Mountains.
* END OF SESSION *
William “Billy-Goat” Woodward – Story-telling mountaineer and devoted follower of Desna. Part of Lance’s past and your present as his journal was presented to you by someone with Lance’s best interest in mind.
- Arctic Raven An imposing bird that squawks out the occasional “Durr-kaw! Durr-kaw!” a tool of the enemy for sending messages somewhere up north.
- Evil lantern In the right (read: wrong!) hands, can be used to capture and exert some control over spirits. Tequila thinks that a well-placed holy smite and some of her own magic might break the dark enchantments bound to it. Christian’s idea to put it at the bottom of the lake so that no one would be likely to find it might also be a good idea. You can never be too sure with these things.
- Mountaineer’s Journal William “Billy-Goat” Woodward has spent years exploring the mountains of the region, and without a guide to take you up, his journal is the next best thing. Filled with trail maps, tips, stories, anecdotes, and occasionally his dreams. This book is a helluva find for a group of adventurers wanting to reach the peaks of the Sabre Mountains.
- Diamond Lake – Ahead of you, rumoured home of the mythical Sabre Beak.
- Sabre Mountains: Two major trail entrances at either the west or east of Diamond lake, each with potential danger. Your goal lies at the peak.