AiS #018: Into the Hills

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The party were devastated at the loss of their companion, Toliyrath, and drank late into the night at the Orc’s Head. In a bizarre twist of fate as they were deep in their cups and their sorrow seemed deepest an old friend of Johann and Thangrimm arrived. The newcomer—an elf improbably named Alice was accompanied by the gruff dwarven warrior Wrag. The two had come to Languard to see their old friends and they were welcomed into the group with open arms.

For the next few days, the party were busy planning their expedition to Coldwater with the half-elf Kanbrar and healing their various diseases and curses. Thangrimm had his curse removed at the Father’s Hall while Johann struggled to throw off the filth fever that had him in its fell grip. Eventually, however, with the aid of Veronwe’s skilled healing touch, and several potent, foul-tasting alchemical substances, Johann was finally free of the disease. Johann’s vitality had reasserted itself just in time for Kanbrar was becoming increasingly keen to flee the city with his lady love. The half-elf feared disaster and wanted to be away as quickly as possible to start a new life with his beloved.

The party agreed to meet him outside Traitor’s Gate the next morning, an hour after dawn.

Thus, the heroes made their final preparations—Orithur with some misgivings as he was convinced the entire thing was a trap.

Early next morning, the party were at Traitor’s Gate. Chatting with the guards they learnt bandits lurked in the hills to the east of Languard, but that essentially the hills were free of any large predators. Such rumours agreed with what Thangrimm had learnt the day before from the aged sage Urmas about the hills, except that somewhere within the range lurked the infamous Deszraul’s Hold—a dungeon complex reputed to be claimed by a medusa. None of the party were keen to find—or even look—for such a dangerous locale. However, a spot of bandit hunting didn’t seem too much of a stretch particularly as Orithur had happened upon a couple of wind-blown Wanted posters offering large rewards for the capture of two notorious bandits—one of whom was thought to lurk in the very hills the party would be passing through/
Meeting Kanbrar, the party were surprised the half-elf was on his own—no lover in evidence. It transpired the pair were about to elope when Aune’s father caught them together. Kanbrar explained how he had been forced to flee a severe beating and that he now feared the angry, over-protective merchant would send bounty hunters or the like after him. This story seemed a little far-fetched to the party, but Johann was very keen to learn more about his thunderaxe and so the party agreed to keep their bargain with Kanbrar—escorting him to Coldwater in return for the information Johann so craved.

Setting off, Orithur commanded his wolf companion to guard Kanbrar, but his furry friend seemed strangely reluctant to get too close to the half-elf. No matter—the party set off and the first part of their day’s travel was without incident. Around lunchtime, however they encountered two halfling traders—Arumric and Lunderee—who were travelling in the opposite direction to the party. The pair had just come from Coldwater and couldn’t wait to get to Languard; in fact, the pair were arguing (good-naturedly) about what was worse about the dismal village. They were particularly amused and shocked at the rumours that the local baroness, the widow Elina Vuolle so hated the village she was ready to sell her title and holdings to anyone who had sufficient coin so that she could live out her days in peace elsewhere.

The pair also had some goods to trade and while some of the party inspected the halflings’ wares Veronwe climbed to the top of a nearby hill. In the distance, the keen-eyed elf spied a partially collapsed tent standing at the base of a tall hill. The canny elf kept his discovery secret until the two friendly halflings had waved goodbye to the party. After Veronwe had explained what he had seen, the party were keen to investigate. Kanbrar tried to talk them out of it, but there was no dissuading them.

Reaching the partially collapsed tent shortly thereafter, the party made a startling discovery: behind the tent someone had dug a small hole into the side of the hill and had apparently uncovered some kind of old burial chamber. Abandoned spades and crowbars lay on the ground and beyond the crudely dug hole the heroes could see a large space. Intrigued, they immediately decided to investigate, again over Kanbrar’s objections.

Crawling inside, the party discovered a largish chamber from which three passageways led deeper into the hill. Faded murals of ancient humans decorated the walls. Old muddy footprints led down the middle tunnel and so the party cautious explored that way. A straight corridor led to a small burial chamber complete with stone bier and a faded mural on the far wall depicting a map of the surrounding area.

There was no time to examine the mural, however, as two undead warriors—clad in archaic breastplates and wielding simple, but yet-sharp swords lurked in the chamber. A short, brutal and one-sided fight ensued. The undead were quickly destroyed and their choicest pieces of equipment shared out among the party. Quickly, the heroes looted the chamber taking several ancient objects including a sword decorated with golden sigils and an oversized, gem-studded drinking chalice from inside the stone bier. Investigating the mural, the heroes quickly realised it depicted the surrounding hills at a time before Ashlar. Intriguingly, a structure stood at the site of the Black Tower and a faded pair of bat, or perhaps dragon, wings could just be made out above the tower.

With the possibilities of this chamber seemingly exhausted, the party’s thoughts turned to what may lie up the other two passageways…