This adventure was Friday September 11, 2015. T.F., E.G. and C.H. were present.
Jere Collado regrets having gone with Xorn to pick up the maps from Administrator Lumberg. He definitely should have joined Wee Jack for that late lunch.
The Cleric and the Ranger stand in the Administrator’s tiny office. Lumberg sits unusually upright on his sofa, hands knotted with anxiety, eyes darting back and forth between Collado and Xorn, suspicion and anger twisting up his face. Behind the two supplicants stands half-Orc guard captain Norrick, blocking the exit, brawny hands tense upon the hilts of the weapons on his belt.
About three hours ago, Ranger Xorn asked Administrator Lumberg to search his collection of scrolls and papers for maps of the region. On returning to Riddley’s Crown and this office, Xorn finds Lumberg agitated and discontent, and Norrick ready to draw steel.
Collado stays quiet as Xorn calmly asks the nature of the problem. Lumberg hesitates to say. Or, he cannot find the words. Collado’s Sense Motive suggests the Administrator is more at odds with himself than them. It is Norrick, actually, who respectfully suggests to Lumberg that the people who came looking for maps are probably not the ones who stole them in the first place.
Xorn’s look of surprise convinces Lumberg that his accusation is unfounded. The Administrator explains what happened: At the Ranger’s request, he went digging through his trove of documents. It had been about a year since he last referenced his map collection. When he looked under “M” for Maps, Lumberg was horrified to discover they were gone. Stolen, every last one. The crime may have been committed weeks or months before Collado and his party arrived at the enclave. There’s no way to know when, and far too many transient suspects could have done it.
As a cleric of the Planning Domain, Lumberg must immediately Atone for his failure to plan a contingency for this kind of calamity. But at the same time, being of the Sloth Domain, Lumberg must not atone right away. This dilemma is worse than the raid of his files.
Ranger Xorn is disappointed; he now has no leads on what the goblins were supposed to scout in the forest. He and Collado may as well leave. Lumberg stops them. The disgraced cleric does have something. After discovering the theft and checking the rest of his files for gaps, Lumberg found a map filed under “T”, for Timber-lease. The thief missed this one.
He shows it to Xorn and Collado. It is a map of the forest, from the border of the plains up past the old Trade Route to the lake below the castle cliffs. Much of the forest area is lined with a grid pattern; these were parcels of woodland rented to lumberjacks. The document is about twenty-five years old, and largely outdated; the forest boundaries, rivers and streams, foot paths and Trade Route shown are relics of the past. But there are several points of interest – settlements within the forest; a watchtower to the west similar to the goblin watchtower in the east; and a clearly defined but unexplained ‘no-go’ zone northeast of the goblins’ temporary base.
The Ranger cannot have this map but Lumberg will permit him to trace a facsimile. Xorn sets to the task, and when completed he and Collado take their copy to show Wee Jack.
Wee Jack is alone in the main hall, lunch finished and drink halfway there. Jenny attends to chores in the kitchen. Xorn and Collado quietly describe their encounter with Lumberg and Norrick. The Gnome Barbarian wonders aloud how the map theft might relate to goblin scouts sent by a Dwarf benefactor whose name starts with “D”.
Returning to their storefront cabin, the trio gathers up all the recent plunder and lugs it over to the blacksmith’s shop. Riis buys it off them, pleased with the condition of the gear and intrigued that it came from goblins, particularly from ones that aren’t Undead.
Xorn hands over the short-sword he found in the cellar of the keep, for inspection and identification. The instant she touches it, Riis curses and drops the weapon as if it bit her. The short-sword is magical, adamantine, and Undead-Bane – that much she knows. But some unknown aspect of it must conflict with an axis of her alignment; the sting was that of a temporary Negative Level bestowed by contact. Xorn’s not looking to sell, but Riis wouldn’t buy it if he was. The Ranger picks up and re-fastens the weapon on his belt.
Next up is Dredburn’s shop. Before entering, the three party members agree to play this meeting carefully. They won’t mention the letter found on the goblin captain, but they will show the Dwarf the map. If they are perceptive, they might catch a reaction from him.
Stepping inside, they greet the stout, heavily-armed trader. The party asks after some uncommon goods, exchanges gold for gems, and chats a bit. Casually, the party steers conversation around to the forest. Wee Jack describes their encounter with goblins. Dredburn is mildly curious. Xorn asks about sites of interest within the woods from before the Undead plague. He lays out their copy of the timber-lease map. A Sense Motive check does not indicate that Dredburn is surprised to see it.
The trader looks it over. He comments that that ‘Silverhead’ was a Dwarf settlement, primarily a lumber town. It was abandoned when the Undead came. Wasn’t an interesting place when it was inhabited. No deception is found by the party’s Sense Motive checks.
Seems another dead-end. Collado’s party concludes business. Dredburn expresses sorrow for the loss of their friends as the group leaves his shop. Word gets around quickly in a small enclave like this.
Outside, the sun is in descent. Mid-afternoon is upon them. Most sites on the timber-lease map are deep in the forest, except one. The Ranger taps the western watchtower. He thinks they should check it out tomorrow. If they leave at first light, there will be time to scout it and be back by dusk, if the Ranger correctly interprets the scale of distance on the map.
Xorn leaves to ask guard captain Norrick a few questions. Collado and Wee Jack see Ranger Carson Readey and the two surviving Redmond Brigade fighters, Carol and Barry, limp through the enclave gates. They are splattered with gore but not visibly injured. All three look exhausted. Each carries or drags two stuffed burlap sacks. Jere Collado figures the bags are full of weapons and armor, from the look and sound of them.
The arrivals don’t acknowledge anyone on their forced march to the bunkhouse. Cleric Collado goes about his business. Later on, Barbarian Wee Jack finds Readey, Carol, and Barry, in the main hall, quietly plodding though dinner. They have changed clothes and cleaned up, but the look of utter fatigue and mental exhaustion didn’t wash out.
Carol greets Wee Jack with as much ‘friendly’ as she has left in her. She gives the Gnome no real details on their quest today, but confirms they took a major haul of treasure. Readey looks a bit uneasy. Wee Jack doesn’t think anything of this.
Carol sighs deeply. This is it for their group; today was their last outing. They have risked too much, and lost friends and family, in the pursuit of riches. They stand at the line between ambition and greed, but have now the wisdom and clarity to walk away. Tomorrow, at first light, they will start the long travel back to Redmond, catching the weekly eastbound caravan at the road south of the bog.
Readey will go with them. The Ranger has his fill of danger. His other skills might find use in the quiet life of a friendly farming village. Carol, Barry, and Carson thank Wee Jack for all his help, and repeat the offer of home and hospitality should the Gnome Barbarian ever pass their way.
The Redmond Brigade occupies Wee Jack’s thoughts as he falls asleep that night. In the morning, he sees no sign of them as he and his fellows gear up and leave the enclave.
The day is fair and fine, the wind mild from the east, and open grasslands draw them to the northwest. Xorn consults the timber-map every so often. They are on-course for the western watchtower, which may only be an hour or two away.
Ahead, almost perfectly in their path, the group Spots a large horde of zombies. Fifteen or sixteen of them; not particularly tough or well-armed, but numerous enough to concern the group. But no so much a concern that the party won’t fight their way through.
Proper tactics make all the difference. Jere Collado casts Bless on his group. Ranger Xorn drops an Entangle spell into the center of the zombie mass; weeds and grasses come alive to ensnare the entire horde. The unintelligent zombies are paralyzed and unable to attack. Wee Jack patrols the perimeter of Xorn’s spell and hacks down immobilized zombies. Cleric Collado summons a Spiritual Hammer to smash away at undead near the center of the cluster, then casts Divine Vigor. Light of Mercuria is next, with its ray attacks toppling targets too far from melee range.
Careful movement and smart coordination lead the party to swift victory. There is no treasure of significance, but lots of zombies will walk no more. Nature’s rot will consume them.
More miles to make to the northeast. The party wipes their blades clean and move on.
It is now mid-morning on the 29th day of March, by the local calendar.
(end of Part 22)