The Cupboard is Bare

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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