The Swallowed Sun

A Battle with History

Arriving in Caermor, the party began investigating the disappearances, starting with the cottage of an itinerant artist named Albee, largely regarded as the culprit. He and the missing girl Gwendolyn vanished the same night, and villagers found a bloody painter’s smock left behind at the cottage. The group looked around and found little else — a few drawings of Gwendolyn and art supplies. Adara assumed animal form to investigate the smock, and concluded that the blood was likely not human.

The party met with another group of adventurers that were conducting their own inquiries into the disappearance. The leader of the group, Lane the Archer, advised the party that the locals seemed unusually tight-lipped and suspicious of outsiders. The party’s own inquiries in town bore out this observation, until a note was subtly passed to them at the tavern. The group met with Lara, wife of the innkeep MacHeath, privately. She shared suspicions about some sort of local conspiracy, including a fear that her husband might be implicated. The group had little other success in their investigations, so Marsk turned to a hunchbacked old woman in the tavern to have his fortune told. Mother Gloam, as she is known locally, warned him of a dangerous woman that might oppose his prosperity.

Some of the party decided to take the long walk up the hill outside of town to the standing stones that gave the village its name. Investigating the weathered dwarven inscriptions, they learned that this was the site of some doomed final stand between evil dwarves and an army of humans and elves. The dwarven leader struck some deal with an entity named “Cador,” but was still defeated. Reporting back to the rest of the group, the party decided that everyone should return that evening, as some rumors in town said strange lights could be seen flickering on the hilltop late at night. Sure enough, in the dead of night, a ghostly dwarven figure clad in ancient armor appeared and attacked. After defeating him, the group investigated and found dwarven bones and a shield crushed beneath a fallen lintel stone. The group claimed the shield, and Tarmo consecrated and buried the bones.

Trouble in Caermor

Having liberated Andreas’ lieutenants, the group decided the next step was to recruit the river pirates to aid the cause of the resistance. Despite the violence of their previous encounter with the pirates, the group believed some mutually beneficial arrangement could be made. The group made their way cautiously along the shore downstream. Half a day to the east, they encountered the pirates’ sentries, and made it clear they didn’t want to fight.

Despite the reservations of the pirates (and the significant casualties inflicted by Gustavus in their first encounter), diplomacy won them over. The price of peace and cooperation was sufficient funds to acquire a rowboat to replace the one Gustavus destroyed, as well as replacement lines and netting for their blockade. In exchange, they would focus heavily on ships loyal to Beaumont, and provide a cut of any taken provisions to the resistance upriver.

Returning to the camp, Thrasek shared a lead he’d picked up from a traveling merchant. Upriver a few days, the small community of Caermor has been recently plagued by attacks on livestock, culminating with the disappearance of a village girl. With no delay, the group headed upriver to Caermor, circling the moors. Other than an encounter with some toads of unusual size, the trip was an uneventful few days.

Planning for the Winter

After making contact through an intermediary, Andreas met at the old stone cabin with the party. He presented a fairly full picture of the current situation with Lord Marshall Beaumont, how he rose to power, and how Andreas’ small resistance hoped to harry and weaken the Lord Marshall’s position until he could be unseated.

The northerners hatched plans to spend the winter selling the idea that vast wealth awaits in the north, in hopes of enticing Beaumont to send troops to get rich — troops that would have to deal with Northern troubles to get to wealth. To this end, Gustavus and Marsk would spend lavishly on drink and comforts in the city, while talking up the wealth in the dwarves’ holds at Vorn Uhlum.

While those two pushed the deceptions in town, Adara would lend aid to local farmers to gain their sympathy and support for the resistance. At present, Andreas commands ~100 men, focused mostly on self-preservation and shielding the weakest of the populace from Beaumont’s predatory taxes and brutal regime. They use hit-and-run tactics in an attempt to weaken Beaumont’s support and defend the weak.

Andreas said he could spare some men for help in the North, but not without some key help from the party. He presented several pressing needs that the resistance faced, which the party would be uniquely capable of helping meet. First, he asked the group to expand their hiding place in the woods to accommodate some of Andreas’ troops and offer some training to those troops in wilderness survival to get them through the winter.

Second and more immediately, three of Andreas’ most trusted lieutenants are being held in captivity in the Beaumont’s dungeons. Unbeknownst to Beaumont, there are escape tunnels beneath the former council hall dungeons, but those tunnels have lately been taken over by a gang of thieves that strike at the city’s merchants. This gang is led by a man named Khozagh, said to be untouchable in a fight and responsible for the deaths of several members of the town watch.

The party agreed to rescue the lieutenants. One of Andreas’ men guided them on a long circuitous route around the city walls, to a small grated tunnel emptying into a stream on the south of town. Picking the lock on the grate, the group ventured into the tunnels. After a brief battle with sentries (one of whom was sent deeper into the tunnel to inform Khozagh of the party’s desire to parlay), the group waited…and waited. Eventually surmising that their messenger had made his escape and that Khozagh wasn’t coming out to meet them, they proceeded inward. They saw crates and barrels of trade goods, bearing a variety of merchants’ marks. The tunnels eventually led them to a room with furnishings much grander than the others, where a man they surmised was Khozagh sat upon a makeshift thone, flanked by guards.

Though the group attempted to reason with Khozagh for access to the hidden dungeon escape (a feature of his tunnels about which he knew nothing), negotiations — as they are wont to do with northerners — broke down. Khozagh lept from his throne with astonishing speed, wielding a narrow-bladed short sword and dagger. As the battle was joined, Khozagh’s features warped and twisted into a snarling, rat-like visage…pointed teeth, elongated snout, whiskers, and solid black eyes. Undeterred, the party fought on, but blows that would have felled most men barely seemed to affect Khozagh. Ultimately, the magical power of Adara and Tarmo proved a match for Khozagh, and he fell, his appearance returning to normal.

After a moment to gather both their thoughts and whatever valuables they could carry, the group unlocked the hidden door into the dungeon and freed not only Andreas’ lieutenants, but a few townsfolk imprisoned for a variety of petty offenses. Returning to their hideout, they informed Andreas and Thrasek about the goods left behind in the tunnels, so that Andreas could claim the supplies for the resistance.

Bigger On the Inside

After the group’s discussions with Thrasek, they agreed that remaining in the city long-term was risky — at least until they better understood the complex political situation in Ellowen. Kyr and Ulfberht were confident that there were ample resources in the woods across the river to support them if needed.

The following evening, another blank-faced citizen came to the group and said that Ydrion was prepared to meet them, if only they would follow. Fearing another ambush, the northerners cautiously followed the messenger through twisting alleys to what appeared to be a dead end, until a doorway appeared shining in the stone wall. After a moment’s perplexed investigation, the group passed through the doorway into an immaculate, gleaming entry hall that could not possibly be there.

A beautiful elven woman descended a staircase into the foyer and introduced herself as the sage Ydrion, confessing that this was merely one of several aliases. Instructing the group to call her Allifreya, she gave them more information about the political situation in Ellowen. Allifreya promised them she was working to put them in touch with Coucilor Andreas, who has gone deep underground in an effort to avoid persecution (and prosecution) by the self-styled Lord Marshall Beaumont. To aid them in gathering information inside the city, she provided Gustavus with a pack containing theatrical disguise gear.

Following their meeting with Allifreya, there was much debate about the group’s best course of action, with some adamantly against getting drawn further into the political intrigues of Ellowen or trusting these various contacts and others equally insistent on continuing the mission as it was given to them by the Keflavik elder council. Eventually they decided to set up a place in the woods to hold their meeting with Andreas, and to make their stay in the area a little more comfortable without spending too much time within Ellowen’s walls.

Adara communicated with local fauna, finding an abandoned stone cabin in disrepair, a few miles deep into the woods across the river. Adara, Kyr, Ulfberht, Tarmo opted to remain in the woods, preparing the cabin to accommodate the party, setting traps and alarms around the perimeter. Argvidr, Marsk, and Gustavus went back to town to wait on contact from Andreas.

Slow Boat to Ellowen

At daybreak after their battle with the sea creature, the heroes freed their ship from the sandbar with the rising tide, and steered for the river entrance. Marsk directed the others to assist him in navigating the deepest part of the river to avoid running aground, and made their way upriver with an inland wind at their backs. While it was slow going, they made it upriver with little difficulty for the first two days.

On their third day on the river, the heroes were ambushed. Archers peppered the deck from a hiding spot along one shore, while two of their associates hauled a makeshift rope net across the river at a narrowing of the channel. As the heroes returned volleys of their own, a pair of rowboats shot from hiding places along both banks full of boarders. Gustavus, in a rare show of athleticism for a man of his advanced years, leapt from the boat into one of the rowboats, and with a single shout, shattered the rowboat and blew the boarders into the river. The other crew of boarders fared no better, as Ulfberht and the archers thinned their ranks. With the netminders dead or fled, the heroes’ boat hit the net and (with a little hacking at the ropes by Marsk), snapped the makeshift trap. Scooping up the fallen with their fishing gear, the heroes collected arms and armor to use in trade and tossed the bodies overboard as they continued on their way.

Two days later, they could smell Ellowen before it was in view…an unfamiliar mixture of people, smoke from cooking fires, tanneries, with the more familiar undertone of fish. Rounding a bend in the river, the sheer size of the town before them was baffling. The entirety of Keflavik would’ve fit along the confused jumble of piers at the river’s edge, and the town stretched away as far as the eye could see. Wooden walls surrounded the core of the town, with a few scattered farms along the river outside the walls.

Steering carefully to an open pier, Marsk put the boat in as a handful of dock workers swarmed out to aid them in securing the vessel to the pier. An officious-looking man bustled out to them, and the villagers of the north were told it would cost them two pieces of silver for every day they left the boat moored here. After a little back and forth with this official, a dockworker was dispatched to help them find accommodations and conduct trade in order to pay the fees. While the currency proved a bit confusing, Argvidr exhibited a knack for figures and was named the keeper of the group’s “money.”

They took a room at an alehouse called “The Shattered Shiellelagh,” and traded their scavenged weapons to a dwarven smith named Gravrock, whose smithy was not far from their room. With the dockmaster appeased, a little coin in their pouch, and a place to stay, the group traded some of their copper coins to have nearby urchins run messages to their four contacts and seek meetings. After a meal and a few ales, they retired to their room to get some rest, exhausted and overwhelmed by the scale of Ellowen and strangeness of their customs.

The group was awakened in the night by a magical alarm placed by Gustavus, which shouted a warning when their door was opened by masked assailants. Kyr, having heard suspicious noises before the door even opened, loosed an arrow into the first assailant into the room, and the sheer force of the shot hurled the assassin back into the hallway. The other three killers fared no better, and in mere moments, they had been cut down. As the heroes tended their wounds, the proprietor thundered up the stairs to see what the commotion was, and quickly moved to get the killers into the room and hush the matter up. Among the killer’s possessions was the note the heroes had previously sent to Councilor Morgan, but little else to indicate the assassins’ identities

Rolling the bodies in blankets and weighting them with stones, he led the heroes through back alleys to the riverfront, and helped them toss the bodies in. Eager to keep the matter out of the town watch’s attention, he promised the heroes free room and board for as long as they cared to stay. The heroes found the offer insufficient to stay, and moved the next morning to new quarters at the Old Mug Alehouse. It was during their relocation that a woman with a strangely blank expression approached them on the street, warning them of danger and telling them that the sage Ydrion would make contact soon.

Later in the evening, they had their first success since reaching Ellowen. They were approached at the Old Mug by the merchant Thrasek, one of the four contacts the council had given them. Withdrawing to their room for privacy, they learned from Thrasek that one of the councilors they sought, Morgan, was dead. The other, Andreas, had gone into hiding in fear for his life. Turmoil in the city’s leadership dated back several years, and the current regime were still attempting to stamp out any remains of the previous council. Thrasek cautioned them to be circumspect in their dealings, and said he would be in touch again when it was safe, most likely through intermediaries.

Council of the North

Eldrin and his band led the party deep into the woods toward their home village, Tir Ablach. Along the way, they taught Kyr some of the woodcraft and hidden signs the elves use in the forest to mark danger, caches of supplies, and paths to safety. Tir Ablach proved to be very well-hidden, as well as unexpectedly warmer than the rest of the forest. Foliage was more diverse, and of kinds that Adara had never seen in all her studies with Mogroith.

Upon entering the elven village, the heroes were taken to a guest house to wait and recuperate while Eldrin consulted with his own leaders about the events in the ruined keep. Fed delicious elven fare and served the finest honey wine, the heroes were left to their own devices for the evening, told only to remain on the side of Tir Ablach reserved for visitors. The next morning, Eldrin set out with the heroes to return them to Keflavik.

The heroes relayed their story of the trip up the river, the strange creatures they fought in the woods, and the hidden shrine beneath the ruined keep. After a brief conference, the elders of the village called upon Mogroith to convene a council of all the peoples of the northern realm. The old druid sent word to the dwarves, and runners were dispatched to Findon and Crimond. Eldrin immediately turned back to fetch representatives from Tir Ablach. The adventurers took a few days of much needed rest to await the council, suspecting that any course of action would likely have them trekking into the wilderness again.

It took five days for all the representatives to arrive. Eldrin returned with Rhovanor, leader of Tir Ablach. Biran and Brunhild accompanied Duareg, clan leader of Vorn Uhlum. Elders from Findon (including Tarmo’s father) and Crimond arrived with a small band of warriors. For two days, the elders discussed recent events and the troubling signs. The heroes were called upon to relate their experiences and answer questions from the assembled leaders. The leaders, sensing that the growing troubles will rapidly outstrip the north’s collective ability to meet them, decided to seek outside aid.

To that end, the village elders tasked the adventurers with traveling to the distant town of Ellowen, far to the south and west. The heroes discussed the best course of action with the elders, and determined that sailing far to the south and up the Nolt River would put them in Ellowen in just a couple of weeks, rather than trekking overland for a month. With winter coming on quickly, the sea would be difficult, and only Marsk was an experienced sailor, but the heroes felt the time could not be spared for the safer route. The council provided the heroes with four letters of introduction to leaders in Ellowen, including two council members, a wealthy merchant, and a sage. Duareg presented them with a pair of bars of silver, stamped with the mark of Vorn Uhlum, explaining that the metal would have value to the people of Ellowen and could be traded for goods or services, should they need them. Rhovanor presented two gifts from the elves — an enchanted rope that could tie its own knots, and a pure white feather that, if dropped into the sea from their boat, would anchor them securely against any gale.

The next morning, work began to rig one of the village’s fishing boats for the long voyage, as the heroes started assembling supplies for the trip. Marsk and Ulfberht put their talents to use repairing sails and patching up the boat. Two days of work, and the ship was ready to sail. With no time to lose, the heroes climbed aboard and began the long journey to the south, planning to put in at Findon and Crimond for safe harbor before the long stretch of rocky coast that would afford them no landing place.

Despite a few rough days of sailing, the next week passed without significant issues. As the mouth of the Nolt appeared to them in the fading light of their seventh day at sea, Marsk miscalculated the tide, and the ship ran aground on a sand bar. A quick inspection revealed there was little to be done except waiting for the tide to come in at dawn, so the crew set their watches and settled in for the night.

In the dead of night, Tarmo was alerted to a scraping sound along the hull of the boat. No sooner had he shouted a warning to rouse his fellows than a massive creature hauled itself over the side. Standing more than eight feet tall, the thing stood on two legs like a man, but the similarities ended there. Long, sinewy arms ended in vicious claws. The creature’s hideous fish-like face with spiny tentacles and needle-like teeth roared at them, as it hurled a crude harpoon to begin its attack. Despite inflicting a few injuries on the crew, the creature fell quickly beneath the arrows and axes of the heroes. Argvidr claimed one of the face tentacles and the harpoon as a souvenir, and the heroes hurled the creature’s body overboard.

A River Runs To It

Born and raised in Findon, Tarmo took the opportunity to visit family while passing through. The rest of the group gathered in the longhouse for temporary accomodation, though Argvidr spent much of his evening in the company of a local girl that had struck his fancy (presumably by being the first young woman of his age he’d met that he wasn’t related to).

Stocking up for a week-long trek up the river, the group set out in the morning. Days of travel through the trackless wilderness passed uneventfully. On their fourth night camped on the bank of The Wash, the group’s watch heard the sound of a crying infant in the woods nearby. Naturally suspicious, they roused the group and set out to investigate.

A hundred yards away from the camp, the heroes spotted a hideous creature. The beast, mewling in pitch-perfect imitation of a crying human infant, had the body of a stag and the head of a diseased badger…it’s teeth were solid bony plates with chisel points. The group fanned out into the trees and continued their cautious approach. As they drew within a few dozen yards, the beast caught their scent and sprang to the attack. As it did so, the archers spotted another, larger beast lurking in the shadows behind the first, and shouted warnings. Ulfberht suffered the brunt of the thing’s initial assault, but in just a handful of bloody moments, the battle was over. Mother and “child” were dispatched, and Adara studied the unusual creatures carefully, hoping to glean some notion of their origins. As she did so, the hunters found the creatures’ tracks, and the group followed them back to a filthy den full of bones and bits of forest animal, but nothing to shed any light on what the monsters were or where they had come from.

After another few days of travel upriver, the heroes found the collapsed remains of a stone pier on the riverfront. Scouting the immediate area, the group located a partially collapsed stone structure, overtaken by nature after ages of neglect. Cautiously entering the ruins and scouting atop its crumbling walls, they located a few distinct structures…some sort of animal pen or storage area, a crumbling well, and a larger structure. It was in this larger structure that they began their search for the missing elves.

Searching the few chambers that were still in any way intact, the group found signs of recent passage, but nothing of the elves themselves. Searching the remains of an old stone hearth, Marsk found a hidden catch that opened up the fireplace to expose a steep and narrow stone staircase. The group lined up and cautiously proceeded downwards, into a worked cave system. An early chamber contained a grisly find — an altar, though the armored woman depicted was unfamiliar to Tarmo or the others, had been desecrated with filth and what appeared to be dried blood. A heart was also on the altar, pierced with a pair of daggers as the group had seen before in the draugr caverns to the north.

Further investigation led them to Eldrin and his compatriots, chained up and beaten. No captors were in sight, but the remains a flayed elf were also in the cave. Once released, Eldrin indicated that the flayed elf was one of the scouts he was sent in search of, but could shed little light on their captors or what had happened. Rather than risk the rescue, the party withdrew with the elves away from the keep and made haste to return them to their homeland of Tir Ablach.

Missing Elves and Ancient History

After escorting the dwarves safely to the edge of their underground realm, the heroes set out for the return to Keflavik. With the chill air of the mountains indicating winter was just around the corner, the heroes were eager to get back to their home. They were equally eager to be rid of the dark book they discovered in the strange cult shrine.

Once back in town, they consulted with Mogroith, who withdrew with Adara and Tarmo to study it and cast auguries to determine the best course of action. They surmised the book was not something that could be destroyed by normal means, so the village elders decided it should be taken by one of the fishing boats to the deepest spot known to the local sailors, and cast into the sea, sealed in a cask covered with warning marks and warded by Mogroith.

Concerned about the increasing darkness in the forest, Mogroith made contact with an acquaintance named Fjolnir, a sage with extensive knowledge of the occult. He arrived to consult with the elders, bearing more grim tidings. The elven patrol encountered by the heroes during their search for the black dog had gone missing, in the vicinity of an old human ruin to the southwest, deeper in the forest than any from Keflavik had gone in decades. Suspecting some connection between the rise of the draugr and the disappearing elves, the elders dispatched the heroes once again to investigate.

The most efficient route involved a trek south to the village of Findon, where they could follow the small river known as The Wash until they reached the ruined keep. After a good night’s sleep in their own beds, the group set out in the morning on the day-long walk to Findon.

Rise of the Draugr

Having dealt with the terror of the giant spider, the group opted to avoid the ravine, and return to an unexplored portion of the cavern complex closer to the exit. Kyr’s keen senses detected sounds of armed and armored opponents, the group burst in on a handful of hobgoblins. As archers fired at them from cover and others charged with swords, the apparent leader of this band uttered some black magic and fired a ray of sickly energy at the heroes. No sooner had the spell been cast than the runes along the cavern walls flared to life, and a hideous screaming sounded from deeper in the caves.

The hobgoblins, already suffering losses at the hands of the heroes, had seen enough. Wide-eyed in terror, they began to flee, and while the party considered these new developments, the awful screams of the dying reached them from the hallway. Before they could follow their opponents’ example and run from the place, a half dozen walking dead, dressed in ancient armor, set upon them. Overcoming their momentary terror, the heroes rallied to defeat the unliving foes and exited to find the remains of the hobgoblins that had fled the battle. While some argued that discretion was the better part of valor, others feared that if they did not deal with any remaining undead, they would not be able to successfully extract the caravan’s goods from the caverns.

Having grudgingly decided to cross the ravine and investigate the source of the undead, the group worked out a method to get a rope across to allow them easier passage. Beyond the ravine, they discovered a chamber with more of the undead. Having dispatched the immediate threat, they investigated and found some sort of dark ritual magic circle, in which a desiccated heart was pierced to the floor with a pair of daggers. On an ancient altar, a leather-bound book covered with the same strange markings as the runes on the walls rested. When Gustavus went to retrieve it, a jolt of dark power coursed up his arm. Carefully wrapping the book in a blanket, he stuck it in his pack to consult with Mogroith upon their return to the village.

With no more hostile foes assailing them, the group was able to gather the stolen caravan goods and retreat from the cavern. As night fell, they made camp at the wrecked wagons. The next morning, Biran set out with Brunhild to go fetch more wagons from the dwarven stronghold, reclaim their gear, and carry their dead under the mountain to be interred.

What's a Hobgoblin?

A few days after the departure of the dwarven caravan, a commotion from the edge of the village drew everyone’s attention. A battered and bloody dwarven guard named Biran stumbled into the village along the northern road, and promptly collapsed. The village heroes quickly carried him to the longhouse. After some healing from Tarmo, Biran was able to relate his story. The recently departed caravan had been attacked by monstrous hobgoblins, on their second day out of Keflavik. These creatures had slaughtered most of the retinue, and Biran had barely escaped with his life. Another guard, Brunhild, had been taken prisoner. He pleaded with the humans for help in saving his compatriot and recovering the caravan goods.

After a brief conference with the village elders and a night’s rest, the village heroes set out with Biran toward the site of the ambush. After a full day’s travel, the group stopped and made camp. Biran assured them that it would only take a few more hours in the morning to reach the spot. At daybreak, the group covered the last dozen miles to the ambush site, and found wrecked wagons and the strewn bodies of the caravaners. For the seasoned hunters, finding the assailants’ tracks was not difficult.The group set off into the thinning woods in the mountain foothills, following sign of at least half a dozen assailants in hobnailed boots.

Moving quietly and cautiously, Kyr and Argvidr spotted a pair of figures hiding in a thicket at the base of one of the hills. As the group advanced, the two archers flanked the hiding hobgoblins, and sprung a surprise attack. One of the creatures fell immediately, but the other fled into a cleverly hidden hollow beneath the hill. The heroes pursued, finding a small cave system that had clearly been occupied for some time. Strange runes along the walls suggested it predated the hobgoblins by quite some time, but no one had the knowledge to translate the unfamiliar symbols.

As the group systematically worked their way through the various chambers, they encountered a hobgoblin who appeared to be the cook for the bandits. He surrendered in broken Dwarven, and the heroes locked him up in a small cavern that contained a few empty iron-barred cells. The cook, eager to appease the furious dwarf and his human allies, told all he knew of the small cave complex, including where to find the leader of the band. The group moved quickly down a side passage indicated by the chef, and found a larger, scarred hobgoblin barking orders at three others, one of which was clearly the wounded sentry from outside.

While Ulfbert charged forward and the archers picked off the leader’s minions, Tarmo and Adara unleashed blasts of magical fire. In short order, and with only a slightly singed Ulfbert to show for their labors, the heroes were victorious. Behind a hidden door in the leader’s chamber, they found Brunhild, battered but alive, chained up in a torture chamber. Freeing her and healing her most serious wounds, the group moved further into the complex in an attempt to find the lost caravan goods. It didn’t take them long to locate the supplies, but it would require a few hours to haul all of the goods back out and repair a wagon or two. Leaving the goods in place, they continued deeper into the caves hoping to drive out any remaining hobgoblins so that they could recover the goods safely.

Not far from the chamber holding all the caravan supplies, the heroes found a ravine, sign of some distant earthquake or tremor, splitting the passageway. Across a 10’ gap, they could see the hallway continue, but peering over the edge, they were dissuaded by an indeterminate drop…and the sudden scrabbling assault of a massive spider! The spider, nearly the size of an ox, came up the side of the ravine and lurched into the passage with them, fangs dripping. Already exhausted from their fight with the hobgoblins, it took all their strength to slay the hideous thing.


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