The Cupboard is Bare

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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