The Cupboard is Bare

Why Me?

Pippa’s Gang eventually finishes re-burying the bodies and grooming the graveyard at Plumly. Kithri went back into town to have a meeting with the elders while various PC’s wandered around the graveyard looking for clues. Between the group of them they are able to determine that the aura of evil is still hanging over the graveyard at least as strong as the previous night, and that its source is arcane necromancy, not any sort of divine magic. As the group heads back towards town they meet Kithri, who is returning to the graveyard with Vondal, the father of Zephyr, who is the teenage orc boy who died recently of disease and whose body went missing last night. The two of them are going back to the graveyard to mourn. Vondal shows an obviously deep-seated prejudice against wizards, but nonetheless expresses his thanks to Pippa’s Gang for being present to help. Kithri implores the group to remain another night to help, as the council could not think of any ‘Plan B’ if the group was not willing to remain.

Everyone returns to the village to rest up and to make plans for what they expected to be a long evening. Entering the one tavern in town, which was obviously where the council meeting took place, the group, with Pippa taking the lead, meets a friendly elderly orc named Taney who runs the establishment. He offers food and drink on the house. When Raslin asks about anyone here who can set traps, Taney says he knows just the person and that he’ll go get her. He walks to the front door, opens it, and shouts out calling for Reverence, who shouts back and comes quickly. When the orc walks in Raslin explains his desire to set a trap using flour, which Taney happily provides, in order to perhaps see any invisible figures working in the graveyard. Reverence seems quite excited to have a plan and tells them to meet her at the graveyard after she gets her trapping gear.

Soon they have all met at the graveyard. Vondal is not in a talking mood, but Kithri likewise seems excited to have a plan. The group scouts out the graveyard and settles on a strategy. They will dig a grave at the end of one of the rows that has not been dug up yet. Reverence sets trip-wires running to three nearby trees. In each tree she hangs a shortbow with an arrow tipped with a bag of flour. Upon triggering the trap, the idea is that a string will pull a post that is holding the bow armed, causing it to fire its load at the fake grave. The group excitedly sets to work digging while Reverence and Kithri hurry back to town to get the needed items. When the group next looks up they see the whole town coming out to the graveyard in a solemn procession. They gather around the mock-grave, and the priest stands at the front to give a mock eulogy. They all throw flowers on the grave and return to the town.

With the trap set, Reverence returns to town to have dinner in the tavern. Pippa returns to the tavern and, after learning from Taney that ‘The Bloody Ear of Dunbarrow’ is a favorite in this town (as it was at The Birel’s), she leads the group in a chorus. The entire bar rises for the last verse and sings in unison with her and cheers at the completion of the song. With the mood obviously lifted, Pippa sits down to eat with Reverence. While they are talking, the door opens and a tired Pim enters. Seeing Pippa he makes his way over and, after the formalities, asks if she knows where Marthis might be. He is directed to the graveyard and, though it is nearly dusk, he begins to make his way there.

Meanwhile, at the graveyard, Marthis, Raslin and Cavalier have settled on a watch order. Marthis has climbed into the tree. Raslin has made friends with a local squirrel, named Damakos, who is going to help them watch but isn’t so good at staying awake and who has taken up a perch sitting on Marthis’ shoulder. Cavalier is resting against the base of the tree. When he arrives, Pim expresses that he had been quite concerned that the group had left. With no family left in the area he feels there is nothing for him here. He is awed by the strength and grace shown by Marthis and desires to join the order if Marthis is any sample of what its members are like. He asks them not to leave the region without talking to him. He then returns to the town to sleep.

Explaining that her groups lacks any significant outdoor skills, Pippa asks Reverence if she will help them keep watch for the night. She seems honored to do so and joins them at the graveyard. Before the first watch is even over, at perhaps about 11:00, Cavalier hears the same scratching sound that Dig had heard the night before, but coming from much closer. Damakos also hears it and begins chittering loudly, which wakes the whole party and causes the sound to stop. The whole graveyard is disturbingly silent for several minutes before the scratching resumes. Those with darkvision can see the grave from which it is coming but are not able to see any individuals or any wisp of smoke at the grave. Raslin creates the image of an orc in mourning by the new mock-grave.

As everyone readies themselves, a movement at the edge of her field of vision catches Pippa‘s eye. Coming out of the shadow of darkness over the graveyard she sees an orc boy that she would estimate to be a teenager. He steps cautiously into her field of view, and looks first at the image, then directly at the party. He then steps silently back into the darkness. Obviously uncomfortable stating what she’s seen with Reverencepresent, Pippa does a horrible job communicating to the others what she’s seen. Eventually, Reverence realizes that she has seen the raised body of Zephyr and she collapses against the tree hugging her knees. She declares that she is aware it is not really Zephyr, and that in a few moments she feels she will be ready to do whatever needs to be done, but she is obviously very distraught at the thought of fighting what her senses tell her is Zephyr.

A battle ensues between several skeletons and zombies of orc, half-orc and human bodies from the graveyard but Zephyr himself remains hidden in the dark. Raslin climbs into the tree to manually fire the rigged shortbow, but proves to be a better wizard than archer. Just then a series of four blasts of light fire out of the darkness toward Raslin, burning him in his perch in the tree. Then the figure of Zephyr steps into his view. Zephyr sees the other members of the group, but his gaze is fixed on Raslin. As he moves decisively toward the tree he flicks both wrists simultaneously and glowing blades emerge from his hands. Raslin takes this opportunity to climb higher into the tree.

Just as he reaches the base of the tree, Zephyr is attacked by Reverence, whose hunting knife strikes true. However, even though she knows it is not truly Zephyr, the trapper is overcome. She drops her knife and becomes ill on the battlefield, clearly unable to continue fighting the one who so recently was taken from her community. Zephyr himself fires another blast of light from his left hand into the tree, striking Raslin. He clearly intends to do the same with his right hand. A streak of light begins at his elbow and travels to his hand but seems to ‘hang up’ there and the spell fizzles. Zephyr does not speak but is clearly frustrated by this. He begins climbing the tree, but Marthis climbs as well, hot on his heels.

At first the monk is not able to dislodge Zephyr, but he distracts him enough that Zephyr is not able to strike Raslin with his sword or grab his legs. Having climbed as high as he can go, Raslin strikes back at Zephyr with his witch bolt spell, which seems to take a heavy toll on the orc. Cavalier and Pippa are able to hold off the remaining zombies and skeletons at the base of the tree, keeping them from coming to Zephyr’s aid. Eventually Marthis is able to grab hold of Zephyr’s legs. At first Zephyr holds fast, hanging from the tree while the monk hangs from his legs. But with a second effort Marthis dislodges them both and they fall prone at the base of the tree.

Zephyr lands flat on his back facing Raslin‘s backpack. Even from the top of the treeRaslin can see the orc’s eyes grow wide as he looks at the pack and then looks with renewed intensity toward Raslin. Zephyr moves to stand, obviously intending to redouble his efforts to attack Raslin, but Cavalier is ready for him and strikes him with a radiant blow that ends the orc’s state of undeath. The zombies collapse in a heap, the scratching stops, and a bat that Raslin had killed reverts to its form as a small demon.

After a few seconds of quiet Zephyr’s body begins to convulse violently. A wisp of smoke leaves his body through the mouth and nose and floats away into the night sky, leaving Zephyr’s body calm, though beaten and bloodied, on the ground. After she regains her composure, Reverence apologizes for her inability to help. She is obviously very embarrassed by what happened and returns quickly and quietly to the town. Raslin goes to pick up his backpack and sees that the spine of one of his tomes is visible through the top of the bag that he had left open. He assumes this is what caught the interest of whatever was inhabiting the body of Zephyr.

The evil aura that has hung over the graveyard begins to dissipate and the group returns solemnly to town while Dig remains at the graveyard burying the bodies.

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Dem Dry Bones

After watching Pippa’s Gang defeat the demon and his small cohort of skeletons, Gro’thuk declares that he thinks it would be best for him to move his tribe back north to their winter settlement until the issue here with the graveyards can be resolved. He also tells the group of two other settlements where they have had issues with their graveyards being disturbed, one to the east and one to the south. Dig spends the bulk of the day grooming the graveyard and blessing it. All of the members of the team hep except Pippa, who cites her musicians’ hands and heads back to the settlement to find something to eat. She enters the great hall and finds Lia waiting for her. Raslin also returns to the settlement to gather provisions.

In the late afternoon, having rested, gathered provisions, and groomed the graveyard, the team travels east. They crest a hill just beyond the Orc graveyard and see a large obelisk in the distance. They ride their horses closer and notice that the door in the base of the obelisk is open. A few from the group are able to see that there is a large figure standing in the doorway, but they do not have an angle to see what it is.

The group comes to a stop to discuss what to do and Cavalier shouts to the obelisk asking who is there. They then see the head of a large, skeletal bull reach around the corner and look toward them. Several members of the group dismount to try to sneak closer and several others ride through the open field to find better position. Lia rides wide in the open area to see more clearly what is in the door and she sees a gigantic skeletal orc riding on the skeletal bull. The bull prepares to charge at Lia, but Raslin creates an illusory copy of Cavalier in the way.

As it charges the bull attempts to gore the illusion. The force it puts into the gore meets with nothing but air, which puts the bull off its stride. It continues its charge, but Raslin‘s illusion stalls the bull just enough that only the Orc is able to attack Lia. The orc and the bull both strike some powerful blows against the group, but in the end Raslin’s magical assaults and Marthis’ blunt attacks bring them down before they are able to do serious damage.

Dig, Pippa and Raslin lead the way in exploring the obelisk. The base of the obelisk is made up of 5 chambers. The two chambers to the left and the two to the right still contain the bodies that were buried there, but they have obviously been disturbed. The chamber at the back of the obelisk is obviously the honored spot. It has a low wall with the inscription “Taurian” on it. It is apparent that there is a spot where a body should lie and a spot where the favored animal of that warrior should lie. Both bodies are missing and the group presumes it is Taurian’s skeleton they have just defeated. This also seems to confirm what they saw in the orcish graveyard, which is that whatever is looking for bodies seems to prefer adults, stronger individuals, and more recently deceased individuals.

Lead by Dig several members of the group groom the graves and repair what they can. Cavalier, using his ability to sense evil, informs everyone that there was a faint sense of evil when they entered and that it is fading. Rather than groom the tomb to his normal level of perfection, Dig agrees they should move on to the town they are going to. They ride until dusk and arrive in a small village, which they learn is called Plumly. The village is made up of 14 huts around a common area. All of the people come out to see the riders approaching the town. When they arrive, the first to speak to them is Kithri, the half-orc mayor of the town. She confirms what the group has heard: the town’s graveyard has also been vandalized.

Most of Pippa’s Gang desires to sleep, and Kithri confirms they are welcome to sleep in the houses of her people. But Dig and Marthis convince them they should go up and at least look at the graveyard. Kithri is surprised, but agrees to show them up there. She shows them the way then immediately leaves, obviously uncomfortable being at the graveyard at night. They can see that the gate has been forcibly opened and that some of the graves have been dug at a little, but the worst thing is that Cavalier detects a very heavy aura of evil over the graveyard. Dig tries to bless the graveyard but does not feel that he is able to make any difference.

Marthis, Dig and Cavalier remain at the graveyard while the others return for the night. During Dig‘s watch of the night he hears a sound like rustling leaves, but too constant to be leaves, at the far side of the graveyard. He wakes Cavalier, but the paladin does not seem interested, though he agrees to stay awake while Dig checks it out. The cleric walks through the graveyard, lantern in hand, toward the sound. Eventually he finds himself 60 feet away from the last line of graves on the far side of the yard. Right at the edge of his lantern’s bright light he is able to see what looks like a wisp of smoke hovering over one grave. The sound seems to be coming from within the grave he is looking at. As Dig watches he is able to see the dirt begin to fall in. Something inside the grave is digging its way out.

He runs back to the others, who feel satisfied that they’ve learned what they came to learn and begin to make their way back to town. Flabbergasted, Dig returns with them, all the while arguing that they need to make their way back to the graveyard immediately. They wake some of the members of Pippa’s Gang, scare the crap out of some of the locals, and have an intense debate about whether they should return immediately. In the end, Cavalier makes an offer they can’t refuse and all remain in the town resting for the night.

In the morning, the group and Kithri are brought up to speed. DIg takes the mayor out to the graveyard to find roughly 1/3 of the graves have been totally dug up. Bodies lie all over the graveyard in various states of disarray. Kithri immediately makes her way to a particularly fresh grave and, becoming panicked, runs all over looking at the bodies before declaring that Zenith is missing. She tells the cleric that Zenith is the son of one of the townsfolk who fell ill just recently and was buried not one week ago.

The two go back to Plumly and fill everyone in again. The whole group goes out to the graveyard. The aura of evil still hangs heavily over the area, but they are able to re-bury all the bodies that are there. When they are done, they find that there are three other bodies unaccounted for in addition to Zenith.

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Heroes of the Day!

After resting the group advances semi-cautiously into the temple to see what caused the drow to drop his weapons in such shock. They come upon the ghastly scene of a mass suicide. The drow in the room appear to be grouped into family groups with an empty vial of spider venom on the ground next to each one. In the middle of the room is an altar with candles and an open tome. In the center of the wall on the far side of the temple is a place where the wall has crumbled away to reveal a coffin-sized empty room that had been sealed away behind a false wall. The body of the spider witch has fallen, seated against the altar and facing this coffin-sized hole in the wall. The dead face has a certain satisfied look on it, as if the witch is particularly pleased with whatever her final action was.

Upon examination, Raslin notices that the cover of the tome perfectly matches the cover of the tome he has been carrying around. He takes the tome to study it. Dig prepares the bodies for burial and buries them. As they are about to leave, it strikes him to suggest to Grub that perhaps he should bring something to the surface to prove the task was accomplished. Grub thanks him and returns into the temple. It takes a few minutes, but he returns to the group with the severed head of the spider witch. Appalled, Dig returns into the temple to re-bury the body. The ascent back to the surface has little excitement, apart from entering the room at the end of the alternate path from how they came down. They find that it was used to store grain and some other equipment as well.

The group returns to the surface and arrives early in the morning. They go to Lord and Lady Birel‘s manor house to show off the head and tell the tale. Lord Birel thanks them profusely, informing them that they will be the guests of honor at the feast. The group then returns to their places to rest. Upon entering the Weary Sailor Inn and Tavern they are surprised to find a white dragonborn paladin helping himself to an ale. They find that he is a friend of Fargrim’s and of the Birel’s and that his name is Cavalier. Over the course of the day the group tells and retells their tale, helps set up for the festival, and helps the local folks with their various work that has to be done.

As evening arrives there is a trumpet blast signalling the start of the feast. Amid a great cheer, the doors of the manor house open and scores of servants come out bringing food to the tables that are set up in the market area. All eat and drink to their heart’s content, and Cavalier adds to the festivities by blasting his icy breath into the air. The evening sun filters through the crystals adding a sense of additional awe to the atmosphere. After about an hour, Lord Birel interrupts the festival to honor the group. He asks Pippa Weaverdew, who is on stage to perform, what the name of the group is and she informs him that they call themselves “Pippa’s Gang”. He invites Pippa’s Gang to come up to be honored. Not realizing they are “Pippa’s Gang”, nobody comes up until the crowd lifts them on their shoulders and carries them to the front. Not wanting to get upstaged, Pippa quickly starts the story before anyone else can tell it. She embellishes a bit but the story is great and the crowd hangs on every word. When she is done the festivities continue.

After the toast, Fargrim pulls Marthis aside and takes him back to the tavern alone. He informs him that a well-armored guard with an entourage came through while Pippa’s Gang was on their quest. He was looking for a person of Marthis’ description, though he did not refer to him by name. Fargrim did not lie, but he was selective in his response, stating that Marthis was not staying in town that night and had not stayed in town the other nights. The human gave his name as Javier and moved on. Fargrim pressed Marthis for information about what was going on so that he could make a call about if he wanted to put his neck on the line to protect him. When Marthis did not provide any information, Fargrim suggested that perhaps he should not sleep in the town, but rather in the outlaw camp on the other side of the river. He also informed Marthis that he had a method from inside of switching the sign out front to a red color by moving a certain beer mug that hung on the wall. This was his arranged method to communicate to anyone that it might not be safe for an outlaw to enter. Then Fargrim left, apparently not concerned in the least about leaving the monk alone in his tavern.

The next day saw a continuation of the feast. Pippa’s Gang was well represented, if perhaps a little drunk, in the games of bobbing for grapefruit, whack-a-gnoll and the sausage eating contest. As the festivities continued, a huge orc rode into town on a warhorse. None of the festival goers seemed the list bit perturbed by this, and the orc made his way through the crowd to the Birels, who greeted him warmly. The orc was not aggressive, but was obviously here on business and kept pointing at the graveyard. Pippa’s Gang made their way through the crowd to find out what was going on and overheard a conversation about all of the local graveyards being desecrated the night before. They quickly rode out with the orc, who they learned is Gro’thuk, the chief of a local group of orcs, to view the Birel’s graveyard. There was some sign of forced entry at the gate, but the graves themselves were untouched.

This infuriated Gro’thuk who concludes that the Birels must be behind the desecrations, since theirs is the only graveyard that was not dug up. His own graveyard had many graves dug up and bodies were left laying out. He is very angry and tensions are rising when Dig remembers that he had blessed and tended to this graveyard. He offers to go to the other graveyards to tend to them. As it is late, Pippa returns to the tavern to rest. The others ride to the orc village planning to rest, but Dig wants to move straight to the graveyard. The others reluctantly agree and make their way out. Gro’thuk is obviously very uncomfortable from a cultural standpoint of visiting a graveyard at night, but he agrees to take them. When they get close they hear a scraping, digging sound and they see a small demon digging at one of the graves. Cavalier is also able to sense an aura of undeath coming from some of the graves. Dig wishes to advance immediately, but he and Raslin realize that they are in no state to fight (after the day’s festivities) and that they are also not a complete party at this time without Pippa (who, incidentally, Cavalier has taken to be their mother). The group decides to return to the village and rest in the greathall.

Before first light, Marthis wakes. He finds that Dig is also awake, having not slept at all the night before, but he sneaks out of the hall and makes his way to the graveyard. Not being able to see in the dark, Marthis does not see the demon, but he gets close enough to hear that it is still digging and he returns to the hall. When everyone awakes and has eaten, and after Pippa arrives, the group heads for the graveyard. The sun is now up, but the demon is still there digging away. Gro’thuk bellows a threat at the demon and the group begins the attack.

The demon and three skeletons from the graves that Cavalier sensed the night before try to put up a fight but they have been working all night and are no match for the group. They are dispatched easily, and Dig tends to the graveyard, but the group is left to wonder what has caused this coordinated assault on all of the regions graveyards.

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Webs of Lies

After handily defeating two large wolf-spiders, the group decides to rest. While they are resting, Pippa Weaverdew makes her way back out of the tunnel to perform in the tavern. Dig Underhill decides to bury the spiders as best he can beneath their webbing when he notices an unusual lump. Working quickly, the group frees a Dwarvish druid named Drew. It comes out that he was captured by the spiders while coming down to talk, and Dig insists that they are going in to talk to the spider witch themselves, so Drew joins the group.

After a short rest, the group proceeds down a long hallway that descends steeply into the earth. They reach a fork in the road. To the left is a hallway that is relatively level. To the right the hallway descends sharply again. The group, led by Raslin, chooses to continue their descent into the earth. After descending a few hundred feet of switchbacks the tunnel opens into a path that hugs a cliff on the left. There is a sheer drop to the right, and there is a ridge in front of them that moves off to the right. Above the ridge they can see another cliff with a cave near the top. To the right they can see a large body of water with a bridge. As they look down the cliff to their right they can see more switchbacks that ultimately disappear into a cave that appears to go under the ridge.

The group proceeds down the cliff face and enters the cave, which has spider webs covering the walls, ceiling and floor. Drew decides to speak with animals and has a discussion with the small spiders. He asks if there are any larger spiders. They mention that “mom” is down there, but none of them has seen her lately. It also comes out from Grub that the Spider Witch is in fact an elf, and not a spider.

The tunnel opens into a very large room with a cliff-face on three sides and open to the right. Marthis enters the room to explore and is immediately smothered from above in webbing. Raslin charges into the room to see a small, fat-bodied spider on one wall (who becomes known as “Walley”) and a larger spider of the same sort, but fat and “rough” looking (Raslin knows it to be a pregnant female, who becomes known as “Preggers”). He fires off magic missile, hitting both spiders. Preggers shoots Raslin, smothering him with webbing, and then drops onto him, biting him and inflicting him with venom. He is knocked unconscious, but the venom actually keeps him stable and paralyzed. Preggers begins wrapping him more tightly, presumably for a later meal. Everyone charges into the room (except Dig, who remains in the tunnel firing futile crossbow bolts at the backside of one of the spiders and never hitting) and battle ensues. When Lia kills Preggers with an arrow to the abdomen she bursts into a gigantic cloud of tiny spiders who immediately swarm, dropping Marthis to near death. Some clever spider deception and fire from Drew, a well-placed backpack smash from Lia, and a bellyflop move from Drew and the spiders are defeated. Everyone is healed and then rests to recover before following the room towards its open end.

At the end of the room they reach a large underground salt-sea with a bridge going across to what appears to be an island. The bridge is suspended by ropes from an unseen ceiling above and is about 5 feet wide. The group makes their way across and, just as they are about to reach the far side, Marthis hears a spell being cast from one of the two guard-towers at the end of the bridge. He shouts that a spell is being cast and runs to the far side. He is able to get behind one of the towers, but is not able to attack before the spellcasters get their spells off. The next thing they know, the torch that Marthis is holding changes from providing light to being a source that is emanating magical darkness. Then a mist of lights falls on the party who is still on the bridge. Grub and Drew are covered in lights and feel vulnerable to archers. Dig and Raslin dodge the lights but, in doing so, fall into the water under the bridge. On the bridge the battle rages with the drow elves, but under the bridge the pair swim for the shore and find themselves face to face with a crocodile who disappears under the water.

Drew is able to light one of the towers on fire before he is felled by archers. Dig is able to make it to shore and foregoes attacking to continue running away from the water. Raslin gets almost to the shore where he casts burning hands, which lights the other tower and the bridge on fire. Immediately after this he is engulfed from behind by the crocodile, which drags his unconscious body into the water. Grub disengages from his combat, taking a serious blow to do so, and charges into the water to try to pull Raslin out. A heal from Dig and a little luck freed him from the crocodile, which swam out to sea.

After a little more cleanup there is only one drow left. The elf retreats into a large temple-structure, appearing to prepare to set up a new line of defense there. However, when he reaches the doorway he stops in apparent shock. His arms go limp and he drops his weapon and then is hit from behind and killed. Rather than go into the temple to see what caused him to be alarmed, the group sets up a defensive position outside the temple to rest while Dig buries the drow. After a few minutes of resting the group hears a chant from inside the temple that rises to a crescendo and then suddenly stops. There is a sound like a deep, loud sigh. Then a cloud of smoke wisps out of the temple and floats toward the ceiling until the group loses sight of it in the darkness.

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Going Down

The crew from the barge continues the battle for a bit in the tunnel with the local guards. Soon it becomes apparent that Grub is down (though Dig Underhill has stabilised him, and the battle is not worth continuing. Lord Birel also arrives on the scene to break up the battle. He instructs the guards to gather the grain and bring it out, and for everyone to meet in his manor house to sort out what’s going on. Dig and Raslin in particular do not trust the guards to do the job, so they go into the grain-filled room and help bring grain out.

At the Birel manor the story comes out. Lord Birel acknowledges that Grub is obviously not perfect, but that he is very dissatisfied with how this band of outsiders from the barge has handled the situation. He requests that they all meet again the following day after Grub has revived.

While the meeting is going on, Lia, who was not involved in the battle and so is not noticed as absent from the meeting, picks the lock on the cupboard in Grub’s quarters. She finds a little food, a few valuable trinkets, and a journal.

After the meeting, Pippa Weaverdew heads back to the tavern to spread gossip about Grub, but her tune changes a little when she sees the journal. Gradually the journal is passed around and the group learns of a ‘spider witch’ and a coercive presence that was forcing Grub into the situation where he found himself. Dig and Marthis find Pim and inform him of what has gone on. Dig even offers to go with him and bless and tend to the graveyard, which Pim accepts gratefully. The two spend the night at his house again and help him with the last of the harvest in the morning.

After the meeting, Raslin makes his way back to room with the grain to explore. He finds a locked door. He tries everything he can think of, including freezing the locking mechanism with a ray of frost, but is not able to open the door. So he has dinner in the tavern and returns to the trading post to rest.

The next day the group meets with the soldiers at the Birel manor to conclude the previous day’s business. The journal is read aloud and Grub confirms everything as fact, even showing a missing pinkie finger on his left hand as proof of his claim. Lord Birel instructs his guard to bring the grain out and distribute it to the people and he asks for volunteers to go into the tunnel and find this spider witch. The group from the barge all volunteer to go, and they volunteer Grub to come with them. Lord Birel wishes them well, and says that with a little luck they’ll clear the place out and be back in time for the harvest festival to celebrate the next day.

Before they enter the guard house, Dig insists that Grub should apologize to Pim. Marthis goes first to smooth the path, and Grub goes after, bowing before Pim to explain himself and ask for forgiveness. Pim kicks him in the face, knocking him down and bloodying his nose, but then declares they can be considered even, which Grub accepts.

When they reach the locked door, they find that Raslin has come prepared with a retinue of spells to help them enter. With some research, Lia gives her expert opinion that the door is simply bolted on the other side with a wooden bar. Raslin uses his mage hand to lift the bar and the door swings open. At the bottom of a long passage the hallway widens into a long room. The floor and walls are covered in spider webs. Dig casts detect poison and is able to discern two hidden giant spiders, lurking in alcoves in the walls. With their locations known, the group, lead by Marthis are able to make short work of the spiders.

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The Cupboard is Bare

There has been a major drought for the last three years in the region along the River Ungart to the east of Great Fork. One evening in the fall, a barge full of merchants and travelers docks in a small farming community that is under the oversight of Lord Birel and Lady Birel. Not wishing to risk getting attacked on the border river at night, the captain informs all crew and passengers that they will remain docked here overnight, plus one extra day for any merchants who care to trade in the area.

A gnome wizard named Raslin is the first to disembark. He notes the Weary Sailor Inn and Tavern to his right but chooses instead to visit the trading post, which is the only other building in view apart from the actual compound of Lord Birel and Lady Birel. The shopkeeper, Martha, is a short, rotund gnome who walks with a cane. She is most hospitable, inviting Raslin to stay the night, but it is quite apparent that the region is poor from looking at the humble items that Martha has to sell. While Martha is pleasant and inviting, her husband, Perrin, is not. He lightens up a bit upon learning that they will not need to share any of their food with Raslin. Martha proceeds to spend the rest of the evening telling Raslin of how wonderful Lady Birel is, of how they cut the tariffs for the farmers in the region, and of the splendid harvest festival coming up just this Saturday.

Just a short while later, a half-elvish bard named Pippa disembarks. She immediately makes her way to the tavern hoping to perform, picking up a few gold pieces and a free room for the night. The Weary Sailor Inn and Tavern is not your typical warm, welcoming, jovial place. There are four drunk men sitting at a table, one of whom is digging at the table with his dagger. The barkeeper, Fargrim, seems quite shocked to see anyone new in his bar. Pippa begins to perform, much to the dismay of one of the men, who Fargrim informs her is named Pim. But the performance is of such majesty that the other patrons applaud grandly and offer tips. One of the patrons, who introduces himself as Ungar, is brought to tears and requests a rendition of “The Bloodied Ear of Downbarrow”. Pippa does her best, but it is fortunate that the men are drunk and singing along.

A halfling rogue named Lia finds her way to the tavern as well. Feeling exhausted, she eats her supper and makes her way to her room. Apart from being awakened in the night by Pippa, who was distraught over the lukewarm reaction her performance brought that night, Lia proceeded to spend the two days that the barge is docked resting at the Inn.

A Halfling cleric named Dig Underhill noted the tavern and the trading post, but had other things in mind. He made his way straight for the manor house, climbing over the low, stone wall and into the grapefruit orchard. He picked eight grapefruits and, laden to the brim, began to make his way back to the boat. After struggling back over the wall with his load he is met by the point of a sword. The human at the other end of the sword, who introduces himself as the head of the guard, does not seem happy to see someone stealing grapefruit from Lord Birel’s personal orchard. Dig happily returns seven of the eight grapefruit and makes his way back to the Inn after threat of violence if the guard catches him near the manor house again. After learning that Pippa got a discounted room for the night, Dig requests the same accommodation. He is invited to also sing and he proceeds to do something that could perhaps be referred to as singing. Pippa, incensed that someone, especially someone of this low quality, would try to steal her spotlight, unleashes a stream of insults that only a bard could weave together, cutting Dig to the quick and reducing him to tears.

The last individual to leave the boat was a halfling monk named Marthis. He makes his way to the tavern where he is the first one to be able to befriend Pim. Pim has been hit particularly hard by the famine, losing both of his sons to starvation and his wife to suicide shortly thereafter. He blames Lord Birel and Lady Birel for the deaths. They did reduce the tariffs, but not far enough to save his family. And to add insult to injury, they have the gall to ‘use the food they stole from us’ to throw us a harvest festival to try to ‘raise morale’. He loudly declares that he has half a mind to ‘do something about this festival’. Marthis commiserates with his lonely plight and ends up being invited to stay at Pim’s house if he can help him with the harvest.

Raslin decides to roam the grounds. As he is exploring the market area where the merchants are setting up their tents for the next day he runs into the head guard, Grub. After some small talk Grub tells Raslin that he thinks this fellow, Pim, might be up to no good at the harvest festival this weekend. Lady Birel will not tolerate Grub trying to preemptively handle the situation, but he tells Raslin that he would make it worth his while if he could ‘handle things’. Raslin agrees to look into it. Grub gives Raslin a grapefruit from a small stack of seven that is sitting next to him for some reason.

The next morning Marthis helps Pim with the harvest and gives him some of his fish, which brings Pim to tears as he has not received such a thoughtful gesture in a long time. Pim asks a cryptic question of Marthis about if he would be willing to help him ‘bring down the nobles’. Marthis asks for clarification and Pim lets the conversation die.

Several of the group make their way to the marketplace and are able to speak with Lady Birel. She confirms that they have tightened their belts and reduced the tariffs as far as possible to help their neighbors. The last thing they can do is continue to host the harvest festival, for which preparations have begun that day, to try to keep morale high in the region.

In the early afternoon, Pim and Marthis arrive in the market with the barley they harvest. They are only able to get enough for each of them to carry one pack on their back. Grub interrupts them on the way in to collect the tariff, which he declares to be 1/2 of the pack each. Marthis begins to argue and, while they are talking, Lady Birel walks up. As soon as she arrives, Grub agrees to reduce the tariff to 1/4 of a pack each.

Marthis begs leave of Pim and encounters Raslin, who he remembers from the tavern the previous night. They both have suspicions about Grub and want to go to the guardhouse to investigate. They notice Pippa approaching Grub. They have a conversation and then begin walking toward the manor house. Seizing the opportunity, Marthis and Raslin make their way to the guardhouse. Dig notices them going up and watches from the market.

At first they are not able to pick the lock. While Pippa and Lady Birel negotiate Pippa’s performance terms for the harvest festival, Grub makes his way back to the market. He does not notice the wizard and the monk hiding behind his house. On their next try, Marthis succeeds in gaining entrance to the house. There is a bed, a locked pantry and a low bookshelf that they are able to move to reveal a low, wooden door. In an attempt to buy them time, Dig strikes up a conversation with Grub. It goes poorly, however, and Grub arrests the cleric, taking him up toward the guardhouse. Marthis and Raslin hear them coming. They open the secret door and hide behind the bookshelf. When Grub arrives at his house he discovers that the door is unlocked and realizes there is a problem. He calls for assistance and two additional guards arrive with a teleporting dog. They burst into the guardhouse and proceed to chase Marthis and Raslin into the tunnel.

The tunnel descends for 60 feet and then opens into a room that is full of grain. A group of humans in the room attacks Raslin when he enters. However, he is quick to shout that Grub has been stealing from the people. This is enough to give one of the guards, who Grub refers to as Nora, a moment’s hesitation. Seizing the moment, Pippa charms Nora and converts her to fight against Grub. With the added firepower the group from the barge dispatches Grub and the remaining guards surrender and call off the blink dog.

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