Session date: 12/2/00
Characters participating in story: Collan Rosvenir, Lady Shera Gulderhorn, Brother Asher, Alark Mohair, and Kenon Ryltal
Members of the Fellowship joined Lord Hestean and Squire Avery on a trip to Hlintar to celebrate Higharvestide with a feast at the Master Merchantís keep. Apparently the former Master Merchant had passed on and the new one wished to make amends for the previous one sticking it to the members of the Tankard a few months ago.
Lord Hestean also received an invitation and decide it might be worth a trip since it would give him an opportunity to negotiate an alliance with the Council of Eight merchants. Master Merchant Cambridge had never seen a need for such an arrangement, perhaps Master Merchant Briaroak would. Either way, Lord Hestean felt it worth the trip if only to take measure of the new man running the town.
Most of the ride to Hlintar from Thall was uneventful, though as the hours passed it was evident that a storm was brewing. About an hour and a half outside of town, the travelers found the wreckage of a couple of merchant wagons. Approaching the accident site, the companions found no sign of life besides a group of large bombardier beetles. After dispatching the oversized vermin, the group found evidence that something had burrowed up from under the ground.
Hestean simply looked on and distastefully said, ďghoulsÖĒ.
Reports of attacks on the road as of late had turned from bands of humanoids to vicious attacks by the undead. This was apparently just the remains of the latest victims.
The Fellowship arrives in Hlintar to find a great deal has changed. All evidence of the bombard attack of months ago has been erased and the Master Merchantís keep is being fortified with additional stone walls of magical origin. In addition, they note that the presence of a large contingent of mercenary soldiers both walking the battlements of the keep and patrolling the streets. It is evident that these professional soldiers are very competent.
Lord Hestean informs the group that he and Avery are to settle in at the keep and then meet with Master Merchant Briaroak and the Council prior to the feast that night. The sky above is turning ugly, so the group hastens to Beindoldís Broken Bones, the inn which was referenced in their invitation. The inn turns out to be a short distance from the keep, and the party enters the tavern just as the sky begins to open up.
The dark tavern is fairly empty except for a few off-duty mercenary soldiers. The hostler introduces himself as Mor Cambridge, and the Fellowship recognizes a family resemblance between this man and the former Master Merchant. He is indeed the younger brother of that man, though he seems untroubled by the death of him. It seems that life in this town is indeed cheap.
The characters find Mor amiable enough, and he shows them to their comfortable rooms and some of the other amenities. The inn does sport some unusual tubs for bathing in that are magically able to heat water to a comfortable temperature within moments, removing the need to have for water to be heated over a fire before poured into the tubs.
The group runs into some hostility from one of the mercenary soldiers, but quickly changes his perspective. Sergeant Toajar of the Company of the Ebon Blade turns out to be bitter that some of his men are dying without receiving an ounce of respect that the Fellowship had garnered.
From conversations in the bar, it is learned that ghouls have been attacking with enough cunning, that even the experienced soldier are suffering losses on occasion. Further, while the mercenaries travel with a few of their own priests, there is just not enough to travel with all of the patrols.
The time for the feast arrives and the Fellowship makes its way through the rain and muck over to the keep. The seneschal announces their arrival and it is met with polite applause from the guests already in attendance. The grand hall is overflowing with about ten times as much food and drink as there are guests. The tables almost strain under the wait of cooked fowl and beasts. The music from a group of three lady troubadours plays continuously in the background. Lady Shera feels uneasy about being here, but she canít quite place her finger on the source. She chalks it up to the general cut throat attitude of many of the people in attendance at the feast.
They make their way over to where Lord Hestean and Avery are engaged in conversation with the Council of Eight. After introductions are made, the Master Merchant presents the group with enough platinum coins to repay all of the members that participated in the liberation of Hlintar from the stolen Gond bombard.
Overall, the night ends up being somewhat of a bust, though Kenon and the others have the amusing opportunity to discuss magical theory and perspectives with two Red Wizards of Thay. Kenon is relieved when the brother and sister seem to show no knowledge of who he is.
Meanwhile Alark expends some effort trying to develop some sort of a relationship with the Council of Eight. He soon realizes that he doesnít quite have the business that they are looking for at the moment. Several of the men do mention interest in trading any unusual items that gnome may come across in his adventures.
The group, somewhat bored, head back to Beindoldís Broken Bones, where they find there was party here and it was apparently a hell of a lot more fun than the one at the keep. The Fellowship makes note to stay away from fancy parties whenever they have an opportunity.
The bad weather brings more than wet clothes that night. Brother Asher wakes up to find a ghoul standing over him as he sleeps. The creature fails to paralyze the monk, and Asher eventually manages to pummel the ghoul to death. It is then that he hears sounds of battle coming from outside and confusion from within the inn.
The rest of the Fellowship is awakened to find that the town is virtually overrun with ghouls. Three guests from this very inn, the lady troubadours from the party, are missing and it is obvious that something dragged them from their rooms. While the party readies to join the soldiers in the street, Squire Avery arrives at the inn to find them and let them know that the keep was somehow overrun with the vile creatures. Further, Lord Hestean apparently fell while protecting others as they tried to escape the keep.
The companions decide to head over to the keep to see what they can do. Commander Vyrdan is attempting to coordinate his soldiers to deal with all the random attacks on homes and businesses in the town. He sent a group of soldiers into the keep to fight the ghouls but they havenít returned. He also has yet to figure out how they got in, though it seem obvious that there is a secret passage within the holding that he was not made aware.
Vyrdanís soldiers return and inform him that they canít find anyone or anything within the keep. Deciding that they donít need any direction from the mercenary commander, the Fellowship enters the holding to do what they can to deal with the situation within.
Some of the companions remember that the Master Merchant seemed to have several bunkers accessed from the kitchen area. Sure enough, the characters soon discover evidence that there has been activity around a certain cellar door. Descending into the dark chamber find that the trail ends at what obviously must be a secret portal of some sort. A few minutes of searching turns up a trigger the causes the wall to rotate open, revealing a dark corridor.
After making sure they have sufficient light, the group enters the corridor. Lady Shera is immediately hit with a sense of overwhelming evil upon entering. They walk for several minutes without encountering anything. Alark mentions that the corridor is definitely sloping downward. Eventually they pass a corridor going off in a perpendicular direction, but they elect to stay the course and continue straight. The group is subsequently ambushed from both in front and back.
The combat ends up being deadly for several of the participants. Lady Shera is removed from combat almost immediately by the paralytic bite of one of the ghouls. Collan soon follows with a similar fate. While the others are engaged in the rear, the two are dragged off down the corridor. Alark attempt to save Shera by casting Grease upon her frozen form. It is successful initially, but the ghoul just sinks its claws in deeper and continues to drag her.
Kenon and Asher successfully deal with the three creatures that attacked from behind, and sprint to help Alark save their friends. Hearing the approaching party, the ghouls turn to attack, dropping their victims. Alark becomes paralyzed during this renewed attack. The combat ends a bit more swiftly as Kenon uses his wand to slam magic missiles into each of the ghouls.
Collan, Shera, and Alark eventually recover from the paralysis and the group continues their search for any survivors. At the end of the long corridor they find a large chamber, and apparently the remains of the man once known as Marakus Beindold. His sins in life apparently caused him to be changed into a ghast in death. Though the creature attempts to parlay with the Fellowship, they decide they have had enough talk this evening and press an attack. Lady Shera channels the power of Siamorphe and causes Beindoldís two ghast guardians to retreat into separate corners of the chamber. The easily allows the group to destroy the cursed creature.
Upon his death, Lady Shera feels a lightening of the evil and dread that has been clouding her since entering these catacombs. The party quickly canvasses the remainder of the areas and finds an even larger chamber where they find the rest of the missing people, most still alive though really beat up. Lady Shera is relieved to find that Lord Hestean is among the living. The group also locates some interesting treasures among the filth back in Beindoldís chamber.
They find out later that the final death of Beindold cause the spontaneous destruction of most of the ghouls plaguing the town. In the days that follow it is speculated that the Master Merchants from the time after Beindold until now have always had a secret agreement with that powerful undead creature. The death and subsequent disappearance of Cambridge apparently revoked that agreement, and thus Beindoldís minions were allowed to act with impunity.
What happens next with the town is unknown. Surely these revelations will bring about some changes. Perhaps with the final death of Beindold, the dwarves will venture back once again if the council has sufficient guilt to pay some reparations to the few survivors from a century ago.
Experience Award: 2000
Role-playing Award: 400, Chris
Quote of the Week Award: 100, Joan
Solo Award: 300, Jeremy