The Pantos Dominion

The Ranger's Journal - Day 11a

As the sun was coming up over High Peak Pass in the east, we prepared ourselves for the day’s adventure and then set out from the Wandering Mule following the road west on our way to Denhelm Hold. After a few miles we came to the Dead Forest but continued on without hesitation. About a mile after we left the Dead Forest, we came across a small path heading south from the road but we decided we would continue on and come back to investigate the path at a later time.

After another mile, we came to the entrance of Denhelm Hold. All around the entrance, expertly carved in the mountain side were a number of runes that Biggun read as saying: “Here lie the halls of Jarn Hellir, Fortress of the Mighty Rune Kingdom.” As Biggun was reading and translating the runes, a goblin arrow from a port hole in the west wall flew past him. Biggun and the rest of us darted into the hallway on the east side of the entrance to get out of view of that port hole. At the end of the hallway, it opened into a large room with another hallway leading off to the west. Knowing the room behind the port hole couldn’t be too far down this west hallway, we headed that direction to try to find this goblin before he could sound any kind of alarm. As we ran down the hallway, I stopped briefly to look down another hallway that ran northward. I could see the hallway ended in another with what appeared to be statues in the two far corners. I didn’t see any other creatures in the room and so continued on down the west hallway.

At the end of the hallway, we came to a T with a hallway that ran both north and south however the north hallway was mostly blocked by a large stone door. The door, although open now, was the exact same as the walls lining the hallway that ran north and south. This gave it the appearance of what may have been a secret door to the small room directly to the west. While Sykon and Guy investigated that door and the small room, Quan Di’, Biggun and Felthion headed south down the hallway to the room with the port hole where they quickly dispatched the three goblins that waited there. Biggun came back up the hallway and decided that we needed to close the secret door so that we could get passed it and continue on exploring the Hold.

Just before Biggun could get to the door, a goblin arrow flew past my head from behind the door. I swung around and looked between the door and the wall and could see three goblins in a room at the end of the hall. As Biggun pushed and pulled on the door unsuccessfully, I took out the goblins. At that point Felthion took a hold of the door and between the two of them, they pulled the door back far enough that we could get passed it and down the hallway. Unfortunately, the hallway ended in a small room that appeared to be the current camp for the goblins. We checked the goblins for anything valuable and searched the room for any secret doors or panels but we found nothing.

With nowhere else to go, we headed back down the hallway and turned northward to go into the room with the statues that we had passed earlier. When we entered the room, we found four statues, one in each corner, that were fine carvings of what looked like four different dwarf heroes each holding their own unique weapon. There was one dwarf holding a sword, another holding a spear, another holding an axe and the last holding a staff. While the party studied the four statues, noting that they were each on a stand that allowed each statue to rotate easily in a full circle, I searched for any kind of secret doors or panels. On the east wall I found what appeared to be a twenty foot wide secret door but there were no indications on how to open it. Looking at the statues, each capable of pivoting in any direction, we decided to see if we could maneuver the statues in such a way that could cause this secret door to open.

On our first attempt, we pointed the weapons of each of the four statues toward the center of the room. That apparently was the correct combination as the secret door slowing started rising with a low rumble noise. When the door had opened far enough, Guy, Biggun and I all stepped into the wide hallway that headed off to the east and searched for any method to open the door from the inside but was unable to find any switch or other controls. We talked about having a couple of people stay in the statue room, just in case the door closed but decided that there had to be a way to open the door from the inside, we would just need to find it if the door closed.

Inside the wide hallway, we could see another hallway that branched off to the north as the current hallway continued on to a large room. We turned up the north hallway and entered a large room that may have once been a dining room with wide hallways leading off in each of the other three directions. In the far left corner, there was a large table on its side but otherwise the room was empty.

As we moved further into the room, two hobgoblins appeared behind the table and launched arrows at us. Biggun, Quan Di’ and Felthion charged. Just before the first hobgoblin died, it let out a terrible scream and we heard a loud rumble coming from the right hallway. A large, low voice called out to what we could only guess as the two hobgoblins asking if everything was ok. Fiswyn tried to yell back in his best imitation of a hobgoblin that all was well but the other hobgoblin yelled that they were being attacked and needed help. The large, low voice answered back that it was coming to help.

As Quan Di’ wrestled with the hobgoblin, Biggun headed for the right hallway to see what had made all the noise and came face to face with a huge two-headed ettin carrying a large tree trunk as a club. Guy swung around behind the ettin and hit him so hard blood went everywhere. As the ettin roared with pain, he turned and swung the tree trunk right into Guy’s side. Answering the ettin’s roar, fifteen goblins poured into the room from the left hallway. Hearing Guy groan with pain and seeing the goblins coming into the room, Quan Di’ let go of the hobgoblin and a headed for the goblins. The hobgoblin started to crawl into the corner but Felthion’s mace was too quick. I shot and hit one of the goblins with a deadly arrow as Felthion and Quan Di’ engaged two others coming into the room. Draug lunged at one of the goblins but was knocked down while another hit him hard across the back causing him to let out a painful yowl. Several other goblins shot arrows toward us but with poor aim. I quickly shot and killed both of the goblins hitting Draug while next to me, Sykon cast a spell that sprayed vivid colors all over the goblins in front of him and Fiswyn causing three of them to fall unconscious. Another swing of the ettin’s tree trunk and Guy went down, unconscious or dead we couldn’t tell. Sykon, Fiswyn, Draug and I finished killing the remaining goblins while Quan Di’ and Biggun got the ettin’s attention and finally killed him. Felthion checked Guy and cast some healing spells on him and he got back up but had a terrible headache. We searched all the bodies but found nothing aside from a few coins.

We decided this room with all the entrances was not a good place to be so we headed back down the southern hallway and then turned east. In just short distance we came to another large room, although not quite as large as the dining room. This room had several ornately carved columns along the east wall and only one other exit, to the north.

We turned and headed north coming to a four-way intersection of hallways. The northern hallway was completely barricaded but we could see goblins watching us from behind it. The western hallway led back to the dining room where the fifteen goblins and the ettin lay dead. We turned to the right and headed down the eastern hallway. At the end of the hallway, we came to another large room. This room looked about the same size as the dining room but had no other exits except a small room on the eastern wall and a large fireplace on the southern wall. The room appeared to be the lair for the ettin with a large nest in one corner but was otherwise empty.

We began searching the room for anything of interest. Sykon was searching around the fireplace when he suddenly turned and ran past Biggun yelling that there was a huge bat in the fireplace. Felthion laughed and started teasing Sykon about being afraid of a bat when a huge bat soared out of the fireplace right at me. The bat’s head was bigger than my head and its wing span was at least seven or eight feet wide but I didn’t have any time to react as it landed on my chest and bit down on my head. With the weight of the bat and the pain in my head, I stumbled backwards causing the bat to fall to the ground and drew my long sword but I couldn’t concentrate and swung my sword a bit wildly totally missing that huge bat. The party all rushed in to surround the bat but with its large wings, no one could really get close enough to hit it before it lunged at me again biting me in the chest. Out of pure rage I swung my long sword as hard as I could and by luck I made contact with the bat, slashing its throat. As the bat dropped dead I sank down to my knees in pain but Felthion was quick with his healing to cure my wounds. For a while, we all just stood there and stared….that was a huge bat.

We went back to searching the room and Biggun headed over to the small room on the east wall. The floor of the room was covered in a green soggy moss as water dripped from the ceiling. Biggun took a few steps into the moss and a vapor began to rise from his boots and he turned and jumped back out of the moss but the vapor still came from his boots like there was some sort of acid on them. He tried to get whatever it was off his boots but everything he tried started dissolving in the acid too. Finally giving up, Biggun pulled off his boots but not before some of the acid dissolved the last layers of the soles and reached the bottom of his feet. As the rest of us stood there staring half amused, half bewildered, Biggun performed an interesting dance, as much as a dwarf could dance, until he was finally able to get the acid off his feet.

We looked back at the mossy room but as far as we could tell, there was nothing else inside. We wondered if there was anything that could contain the acid as it might prove useful in the future but as we dropped a few things onto the moss, each one dissolved completely in a just a few seconds.

Although we were inside, we could tell the day it had been a full day and we decided that we would rather take our chances making camp outside until we had explored a little more of the hold. As we headed back to the room with the statues, we stopped in the room where we had fought the ettin, goblins and hobgoblins and Biggun was able to get his feet into a pair of hobgoblin boots. When we reached the room with the statues, we turned each statue and the secret door closed behind us. We moved on through the hallways, went back outside and headed back to the road.

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The Ranger's Journal - Day 10

At sunrise, we all gathered outside the Happy Halfling and headed out of town. It was a long walk to the Wandering Mule and it took us all day to get there but the trip was uneventful. We did make sure to head a little off the road to the south as we passed the towers to Stone Tooth Stronghold so as not to draw any attention to ourselves.

As we reached the Wandering Mule in the late evening, it was much the same as we had left it a few days earlier. Felthion and Biggun set out in the back to bury the remains of the four bodies while the rest of us did what we could to air the place out and do a little more searching. The only noticeable change we found was that the mattress on the bed in the back room had been completely shredded as if someone was searching for something in the mattress, we can only guess that this may have been the work of the peddler and his guards. After Felthion and Biggun finished burying the dead, we closed and secured the doors for the night. Just to be safe, Fiswyn and I took our typical four hour watches but the night passed without incident.

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The Ranger's Journal - Day 9

In the morning I spent some time around town replenishing my adventuring supplies; among other things, I picked up some more trail rations and another quiver of arrows. The party met at the Happy Halfling late in the day and Sykon and filled us in on the research he had been doing. He now wore Patch’s ring of Mind Shield and had identified the vials that we had as healing potions of moderate strength. Sykon also said that he had spoke with Moor, the blacksmith, about what he might know about Stone Tooth Stronghold. Moor had told him about the legends that say that Stone Tooth Stronghold held the legendary forge of a great dwarf named Dellinhall but that it was only a legend. Sykon also spoke briefly with the boy but was not able to get any information from him. When Sykon asked about the large bug like creatures around the farms, the boy became very nervous and said he had to get back to work. Felthion also explained that he had talked to Captain Beld again inquiring on the whereabouts of the farmer Doran. The Captain told Felthion that there was nothing for Doran in Leona and had sent him south to Pembroke the day after he arrived in Leona.

We spent the remainder of the evening discussing what our next plans were. Guy wanted to head south to Pembroke but Sykon wanted to find out what that peddler and his guards were after that made them so nervous about the Wandering Mule being attacked. Several of us also felt that the original quest to rid the valley of orcs and goblins was not yet complete. After further discussion, we made the decision that we should head back into Stone Tooth Valley, check out the Wandering Mule again for anything we may have missed and then head on to Denhelm Hold. After making plans to leave first thing in the morning, we spent the night in town.

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The Ranger's Journal - Day 8

We broke came during the early morning and headed east down the road toward High Peak Pass. About mid-day we met a small band of human travelers headed west. We approached the four men and inquired about their journey as well as offered our warnings regarding the orcs and goblins in the area. The man on the wagon, that appeared to be a peddler with his guards, told us that they had come from Gorton and were on their way through the pass to Tobvich Keep. From our warnings, they asked about the Wandering Mule and we told them that the place had been attacked and everyone was dead. They acted a bit strange regarding the information about the Wandering Mule as if they knew something they didn’t care to explain but then they quickly changed the subject and asked about Denhelm Hold but we were unable to provide any information as we have not been there. Even after our repeated warnings, the peddler and his guards seemed to disregard them and continued on westward down the road but with a little more urgency than before. We continued on through the day and through High Peak Pass without any further interruptions until we arrived at Leona that evening.

It was clear that the militia had made it to Leona while we were gone. Large spikes had been placed all around the town and guards were positioned at various intervals all along the edge of town. As we approached the western entrance we were stopped and questioned by a guard as to what our intentions were for coming to Leona. After a brief explanation about a boy’s family that had been attacked in Stone Tooth Valley and that we were the adventurers that had set out to investigate, he nodded and told us that we were to report to Captain Beld immediately to report any information we had.

Captain Beld was a stern looking man that seemed pretty set in his beliefs and his ways with dealing with trouble. He accepted Felthion as a fellow brother of the faith but glared disapprovingly at Sykon. The rest of us he seemed to pay very little attention to. We gave Captain Beld our report of what had happened to the farms, the orc and goblin encounters and the discovery of Stone Tooth Mountain keep. We inquired as to if he had men to spare to help retake the keep but he said he only had enough men to protect the city. Biggun offered up one of the platinum coins to Beld asking if Beld had seen the coin before and if he knew where it came from. Beld said the coin was from The Dragon Lands far to the north but that was all he knew. We also showed him the various tribal patches that we had taken from the orcs and Beld set a scribe to making a record of the patches so that he could research them further.

After our report, the captain dismissed us and as we left, we each had our own needs to fulfill. Quan Di’ said he was headed to the monastery; Felthion said he was going to the church; Fiswyn, Biggun, Guy and I headed to the Happy Halfling for a few drinks and some entertainment; and Sykon headed off to study the spell book that he had gotten from Patch. As the night came, I headed up to one of the rooms in the inn for the night.

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The Ranger's Journal - Day 7

About mid-morning, after giving the relieved goblins and the twos orcs time to make it up the mountain pass, Quan Di’ and I headed north away from the towers and then cut back through the forest to the east to the base of the path to meet up with Biggun, Sykon and Felthion. By late morning, Fiswyn and Guy had arrived and we began comparing notes on the days’ events. Biggun, Sykon and Felthion didn’t have much information to report as from their location, they just saw the groups as they traveled back and forth between the keep and the towers. Fiswyn and Guy had shared with us that on the first evening, ten goblins, ten bugbears, four orcs and Unlagu had come out of the keep and had organized on the ledge. It was clear the Unlagu was displeased and made several references to his superior not being happy with the current situation . When five goblins, five bugbears, two orcs and Unlagu headed down the pass, the remaining goblins, bugbears and orcs stayed out on the ledge making it extremely difficult to do anything for a few hours until Unlagu returned with his five bugbears. When he returned, the whole group went back inside except two bugbears that were posted guard. Like the orcs by the towers, the bugbears were replaced several times during each night. Guy also noted that one night three orc women came out to chat with the bugbears but otherwise the days and nights were much as Quan Di’ and I had described. One important observation was that the large doors had been opened that first night when Unlagu had left but had not yet been closed again.

We decided that there was a considerable force in the keep and that assaulting it directly would not be the wisest decision and we were sure that the doors would be closed at any sign of alarm. Instead, we decided to see how they would react if their tower guards were not relieved. The plan was that the party would move to the middle of the forest about a hundred paces west of the trail that lead between the towers and the base of the mountain pass. When the group of five goblins and two orcs arrived that evening, the party would assault them well out of range of the towers but also well off the mountain pass. Quan Di’ and Guy would hide to the northeast of the trail ready to prevent any retreat toward the mountain pass.

As late afternoon was approaching, we quickly moved into position and readied ourselves. As the sun began to set, we were surprised to find a different group coming down the trail. This was the group of five orcs, five goblins, two mounted orcs and the large orc we now called “Patch”. Just behind Patch, were two large wagons drawn by oxen and filled to the top. This wasn’t the group we had planned to attack but we quickly decided that we should take advantage of the plan anyway.

As Sykon launched a flaming sphere at Patch and Fiswyn began to play an encouraging tune, I took aim and dropped the first two goblins, while Biggun and Felthion charged toward the group. Sykon moved the flaming sphere up to hit one of the mounted orc riders causing the rider to scream in agony and fall of the wolf while Sykon launched a second flaming sphere back on Patch. Patch roared with pain as the second sphere hit him. He shouted something and a large ball of thick fog appeared all around him, the two riders and the two wagons. As Biggun and Felthion began fighting the orcs, one of the orc riders came charging out of the fog toward Felthion but the fog must have disoriented him too much as he nearly fell off the wolf during the charge before he was knocked off and killed. Two more goblins died and the fifth goblin took off running but Quan Di’ came flying out from behind the fog chasing him down. While we finished off the five orcs and the large wolf, Guy came out of the fog headed our way and told us the five goblin relief guards and two orcs guards were nearly here. He also told us that Quan Di’ had killed Patch before taking out after the goblin and the other wolf had run without rider east into the forest.

The two orc guards approached the large ball of fog in wonder and we saw two goblins circling the fog at a distance. We couldn’t see them, but we suspected the other three goblins were on the other side of the ball of fog. Guy headed off into the forest hoping to get around the two goblins and kill them before they knew what happened but unfortunately the party was spotted by the leading goblin and he began to scream and point toward us. I shut him up quickly with a well placed arrow but it was too late as the other goblin and orcs came in for the attack. We quickly dispatched the orcs and the other goblin as Quan Di’ came up the path chasing Sykon’s hawk. Quan Di’ saw the other three goblins and headed toward them as I launched an arrow at the one I could see. We quickly killed the three goblins but not before one of them sounded the horn and which was answered by both the tower horn to the south and the low long horn to the north from the keep. The alarm had sounded and we knew the doors would be closed again so we decided we would have to leave the Stone Tooth Stronghold for a later time.

We searched the bodies for anything valuable and found a few hundred gold pieces. Patch had about forty platinum coins, a ring and a spell book. When the ball of fog cleared, we checked the wagons. One wagon was filled with what appeared to be newly forged weapons while the other wagon was filled with newly forged armor. We talked for a while about taking both of these wagons back to Leona to help outfit the townsfolk but determined that although weapons and armor were newly formed, they appeared to be made to outfit a goblin and orc army and not townsfolk, not to mention the time it would take to travel back to Leona with the slow moving oxen. As we set the wagons on fire, we headed off toward the east through the forest until we were well clear of the towers and then turned south to meet back with the road. Once at the road we made camp for the night and planned to head back to Leona first thing in the morning.

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The Ranger's Journal - Day 6

Just before sunrise just like the previous morning, Quan Di’ got up and we had a little breakfast. As we were quietly discussing the evening’s events, a group of five goblins came down from the path and changed guards with the five from the towers. Also, matching yesterday’s events, the five relieved goblins and the two orcs headed back up the path, once again leaving the towers only guarded by the five goblins during the day.

Again the day was uneventful. Quan Di’ and I took turns watching the towers as the other one got up to stretch his legs and forage for food.

At sunset, just before our scheduled changing of the goblin guards and arrival of the two orcs guards for the first of the evening’s shifts, we heard some noise coming from the road to the south headed north toward the towers. Quan Di’ and I, after seeing the pattern of the changing of the guard, had gotten a little relaxed in hiding, had to scramble to get hidden again just before five armed orcs appeared by the towers marching toward the pass. As the orcs passed the towers, five goblin archers came into view behind them and behind the goblins were two orcs mounted with lances on what appeared to be very large wolves. Following the wolves and last in the group, was a large orc with a cloth around his head covering his right eye like a patch. As far as we could tell, he was the leader of the group but for his size, he was armed with only a staff. Quan Di’ and I had managed to stay hidden well enough that the group made its way past us and toward the mountain pass without hesitation. Only a short time after, the orcs came down to assume their post between the towers while their goblin companions changed the guard with the goblins in the towers and headed up the pass. Again, on schedule, three times that night, two new orcs arrived to replace the orc guards.

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The Ranger's Journal - Day 5

Just before sunrise, Quan Di’ got up and we had a little breakfast. As we were quietly discussing the evening’s events, a group of five goblins came down from the path. As expected, much like the orcs changing guard throughout the night, this time the five new goblins changed guard with the five goblins in the towers, however there were no orcs to relieve the camping orcs and instead of changing the orc guard, the orcs headed up the path with the five goblins from the towers leaving only the five new goblins. There was no further changing of the guard the rest of the day while Quan Di’ kept watch and I took my mid-day trance and hunted down some food for us for the evening meal so as not to run out of trail rations.

At sunset, two orcs and five goblins appeared from the Stone Tooth Mountain pass. Once again, the five goblins exchanged places with the goblins in the towers and the two orcs settled down at the small camp between the towers. Exactly as it happened the night before, it started shortly after Quan Di’ settled down for the night, two orcs arrived to change guard and then twice more at regular intervals during the night.

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The Ranger's Journal - Day 4

In the morning, we ate breakfast and discussed what we would we do next as the magic users studied their spells. We decided to head back up the trail along the west side of the dense forest to the road. From there we would make our way to the Wandering Mule for a bit of relaxing and then start the journey back toward Leona.

In no time, we had reached the road and headed northwest. As we neared the Wandering Mule our spirits sank as we saw several arrows across the half open front door. We approached the door and found what appeared to be the owner lying dead in the doorway and horrible stench from inside. We pushed open the door and found three more dead humans, a barmaid and what appeared to be to patrons. We quickly searched around the common room but there were no signs of any survivors or their attackers. Biggun and I headed to back rooms to check there. As Biggun went on into the back bedroom, I started looking around the kitchen and noticed a loose board on the wall. Carefully I pulled it back and found a sack with some glitter grass, what appeared to be a magic scroll and a very nicely crafted dagger. As I was examining the contents, Biggun came back from the bedroom and I showed him what I had found. We left the back rooms and met back with the rest of the group. As Biggun headed out back to check around, the rest of us made ready to head back to Leona.

We set out from the Wandering Mule headed east down the main road. After a few miles I noticed what seemed like a very odd looking tree a few paces north of the road. What seemed odd was that the trunk was complete covered in bushes so that you couldn’t see the trunk at all. I hollered at the group that I wanted to investigate this a little further and headed toward the tree.

Just a few paces off the road, an arrow struck me in the arm…a goblin arrow. Looking up the tree, I now realized that this wasn’t a tree at all but a camouflaged tower with two goblin archers on top. I wasted no time in drawing my bow and returning fire dropping one goblin while the other goblin dropped out of site. From off to the east, we saw another tower with a goblin at the top but he quickly ducked out of site before I could get a shot off in his direction. Fiswyn and Guy headed for that second tower and I turned and headed for the first tower as a horn sounded, coming from that goblin in the second tower. In reply, a much lower and longer horn sound came from quite a distance to the north. Biggun, Sykon, Quan Di’ and Felthion followed me over to the first tower and I made my way to the top. Two dead goblins, one with my arrow and one with hole in its head from a sling rock, lay at the top of the tower but there was nothing else. I looked back northward to see if there was anything that maybe moving from the horn but there was nothing to be seen but a long path winding its way up to Stone Tooth Mountain and behind it a bit to the east, was a trail of smoke.

After a while, I came back down and met back up with the group to report what I had seen. Guy and Fiswyn indicated that they had seen to it that the other goblin in the tower would not be blowing the horn again. We decided to head north and follow the path up to Stone Tooth Mountain.

We head off through a forest for about two miles before coming to the base of the path that lead up the mountain. The path itself was not very steep and every so often we would pass an orc totem that was position on the side of the path as if to scare away anyone that dared to head up the path.

After many switch backs we finally arrived at place in the side of the mountain that had been carved out to be a sort of ledge. From the ledge, we turned another corner to find a tunnel carved in the mountainside with stairs leading down to the east to another turn to the north. As we approached the stairs, an arrow flew from a port hole about fifteen feet above us. In surprise, we all ran to take cover against the wall under the port hole while Quan Di’ ran on into the tunnel and down the stairs. A quick look and we discovered a second port hole and realized that there was really nothing we could do to take out the archers in them. Quan Di’ returned indicating that there were massive doors around the corner and they too were guarded by more port holes and archers. We decided to retreat back to the towers along the road as a defensive spot should anything decided to attack while we discussed what we should do next.

After quite a bit of discussion we decided that we really had no way to get through the doors with the information we currently had. Guy had thrown out the idea of going back into Leona and trying to recruit men and a battering ram but with the guards in the port holes, we felt we would suffer too many townsfolk loses while trying to bring down the doors. We talked about possible methods to kill the archers but we felt we could not kill them effectively while preventing new archers from just moving into place. We talked about disguises, even having someone act as a prisoner while others were invisible via Fiswyn’s invisibility spells but it all sounded too risky. What we needed was to gather as much information about what was in the stronghold and about their movements as we could.

We made a plan as follows: Quan Di’ and I were to stay at the towers. We would find a good spot to hide near them and watch the towers from there. Guy and Fiswyn were to go up to the stone ledge and find a place to hide above the tunnel to observe from there. Sykon, Felthion and Biggun would find a hiding place near the base of the path that lead up the mountain. We would split up, and meet back at the base of the trail by mid-morning on the third day.

At mid-afternoon, we finished our plans and Quan Di’ and I headed into the woods just west of the towers and found a good place to hide while the others set off to their respective hiding places. We decided that I should get some rest now during the daylight hours while Quan Di’ watched and then I would take the evening shift while he got some rest.

Just before sunset, I had finished my restful trance and we sat down to have some dinner. As the sun was shining its last rays of the evening we heard quite a noise coming from the mountain toward the towers. We counted five goblins, five bugbears, two orcs and a half-orc approaching the towers. When they arrived at the towers and surveyed our handy work from earlier that morning, we could tell the half-orc was very displeased. Listening to his shouts and commands, we knew it was a familiar voice and getting a good look at him answered all of our questions about who it was, it was Unlagu, the half-orc we found in the southern keep who claimed he knew nothing of the goblins and orcs in the area. Unlagu barked a few more orders and the five goblins scurried up the two towers, three in the east tower, and two in the west tower. The orcs positioned themselves between the two towers as if to stand guard and Unlagu and the five bugbears turned and headed back toward the pass.

As soon as Unlagu was out of site, the orcs relaxed, and made a small camp. Quan Di’ and I discussed whether we could kill the two orcs without getting the attention of the goblins in the towers, but we decided that our mission was to gather information, and killing the orcs was not part of that plan, so Quan Di’ settled down and went to sleep.

A few hours into the night as I watched the two orcs playing doubles and arguing about cheating, two more orcs came down to the towers from the path. After a brief discussion, the original orcs gathered their things and headed toward the path while the two new orcs settled down at the small camp. Again, after a few hours, another two orcs came down from the path and changed places with the orcs camping between the towers.

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The Ranger's Journal - Day 3

As the sun began to rise, we ate breakfast and prepared ourselves to head into the stone archway. When we arrived at the archway, we secured the horse and the mule outside and I commanded Draug to guard them while we went inside. As we moved through the stone archway, we found a set of stairs heading down into a small hallway. Off the hallway was a set of double doors behind which we could hear a couple of creatures, speaking in goblin and playing “Doubles”. For those that don’t know, Doubles is a well-known dice game were two opponents each roll a pair of six-sided die and add the results together to determine who has the highest score and thus wins. The name, Doubles, comes into play when someone rolls both die with the same number. Doubles, as it is called, will beat any other non-double total, for example double ones, the lowest of the doubles, will still beat a five and six (the highest total of the non-doubles). Double sixes is the highest possible score and will beat anything else.

Hoping to get a little more information about what is going on around the area, Fiswyn disguised himself as a goblin and knocked on the door hoping to “join the game” as the rest of us moved around the corner or up the stairs to hide. Hearing the knock, the voices called back asking who it was and more specifically if the visitor was Unlagu. Not knowing who Unlagu was, but sounding like a good cover, Fiswyn replied that he was Unlagu and to let him in.

As the door opened it was obvious the disguise had failed as a very confused bugbear drew his weapon clearly acknowledging that this was not Unlagu. Knowing the disguise had failed; Fiswyn retreated to the far corner with the bugbear in pursuit. But before the bugbear knew what was happening, he was quickly brought down by Biggun and Guy, the rogue. Seeing Fiswyn retreat, Felthion and Quan Di’, the monk, quickly moved into the doorway to stop anyone else from leaving the room and became face to face with a second bugbear. By the way Quan Di’ attacked the bugbear, it was clear he didn’t want to kill him but I wasn’t exactly sure why. I drew my bow and placed an arrow in to the bugbear’s chest but I took careful aim not to pierce his heart. Fiswyn attempted to shoot the bugbear as well but with Quan Di’ and the bugbear fighting toe to toe it was hard to time the shot right. As the arrow headed straight for Quan Di’, he quickly stepped back and deflected it off to the side.

After dropping the first bugbear, Guy whirled around to catch Quan Di’ attempting to subdue the second bugbear. Seeing the doorway mostly blocked by Quan Di’ and Felthion, Guy dropped his daggers and dove between them, rolled over and in an instant was back on his feet behind the bugbear. With quick sap, the bugbear dropped unconscious.

Almost immediately after dispatching the second bugbear, two more came running in from the nearby hallway. The first headed straight for Fiswyn while the second headed for Biggun. Sykon cast a spell and an arrow of acid flew from his hand toward the bugbear headed for Fiswyn. The bugbear dodged to one side as the acid arrow sailed past. I quickly fired two arrows toward the same bugbear but he managed to dodge one of them too however the other arrow hit him square and brought him down quickly. As the second one neared Biggun, the dwarf swung his battle axe with all his might and sliced the bugbear right in half.

A quick look around showed no more bugbears in the immediate area so we checked the dead and found only a few copper coins. I didn’t have a shield to use with my long sword so I snagged one from the dead bugbear as I headed over to the unconscious one and proceeded to tie him up. We stripped off his armor and weapons and Fiswyn tossed them into a nearby well however there wasn’t the expected splash sound, more of splat as if the armor and weapons landed in mud, although from the smell, it wasn’t mud. Although the well held no water, Fiswyn commented that the armor had a shine to it as if water had washed over it and left it completely wet.

While peering down the well, we noticed an inscription written in the side of the well. It was written in Sylvan and read, “Speak kindly and thou shall be blessed with the giver of life.” Not sure what it meant, Fiswyn tried saying “Kindly” in every language he could come up with but nothing seemed to happen. Felthion cast a light spell on a bugbear’s shield and tossed it into the well. We could see clearly what the well was used for as well as the armor and weapons Fiswyn had tossed in earlier but nothing else. We tried various other “kind phrases” but nothing seemed to happen.

As we turned back to the unconscious and bound bugbear, we tried to wake him up but he did not come to until Felthion cast a minor heal on him. When he woke, we began asking him questions regarding what he may know about the farms being destroyed and what he might know about the well with the Sylvan inscription. He claimed to have no knowledge about either the farms or the well, except that they used the well for a latrine, and he begged and pleaded us to let him go and not kill him. He told us that Unlagu would pay a ransom for him if we brought him to Unlagu. Although this was hard to believe, we were getting nowhere otherwise and we thought it an opportunity to get a guide for the rest of the area and perhaps Unlagu would know more. We untied his feet and told him to lead the way.

Just a few paces down the southern hallway we came across another set of doors on the east side. The bugbear indicated that Unlagu was inside. We did some cursory checks but found nothing unusual about the door and proceeded to open it and push the bugbear inside.

Inside the small room, Unlagu was standing behind a small table, weapon drawn and ready to fight. Unlagu was a half-orc, not a goblin or bugbear and which explained why the previous bugbears were so confused to see a goblin claiming to be Unlagu standing at the doorway wanting to join in on the game of Doubles. Although Unlagu was standing weapons drawn, he spoke in a calm voice and in the common language asking us to let him leave and offering us the tied up bugbear to keep and do with whatever we wanted. We didn’t need the bugbear, what we needed was information. We started asking our questions about the farms but Unlagu was more interested in getting away then answering. Sykon mumbled something that I wasn’t paying attention to but as I turned to look at him, a small smile began to appear on his face and then disappeared almost immediately as if he knew something but didn’t want anyone else to notice. Shortly after I turned back to the conversation with the half-orc, Sykon inquired about a couple of parchments on the table, but Unlagu claimed they were nothing, just some notes, random pieces of paper with no real value. Again, more interested in leaving, Unlagu paid little attention to Sykon while he approached the table, picked up the parchments and glanced over them. After a brief moment, he quickly pocketed them and turned back to the conversation.

Unlagu realized we were not going to let him go so easily so he decided to challenge us to a game of Doubles. If Unlagu would win, we would let him go, if we would win, he would give us his “treasure” and be free to go. Although the treasure did peak our curiosity, we wanted to find out as much as we could about what the orcs and goblins were doing in the area and to the farms and who better to ask, than a half-orc but Unlagu was determined not to provide any answers without some sort of promise that he would be set free.

Through a little persuasion, Fiswyn talked Unlagu into a new bet, if Fiswyn wins, Unlagu tells us all he knows and we set him free, if we lose, we pay him fifty gold coins and set him free. Seeing that either way he would be free and that he would keep his “treasure”, Unlagu agreed and the dice were rolled with Unlagu coming out on top with a set of doubles. As Fiswyn started counting the fifty gold coins, he offered Unlagu a new bet, another 100 gold coins, on top of the original fifty, for a second chance, winner take all.

After a bit of thinking, Unlagu agreed to another game. This time Fiswyn came out on top. Not giving up yet, Unlagu shouted for the best three out of five games and that his “treasure” was back on the table. Two more rolls followed both with Fiswyn besting the half-orc. Unlagu admitted defeat and, from his belt pouch, produced a large red gem, his treasure, and handed it to Fiswyn.

All said the half-orc knew nothing about the farms except that he and his companions were not involved with what was going on. Try as we could, we couldn’t get any more information. So, keeping to our word, (Biggun and Quan Di’ saw to that) we agreed to let him go. Biggun and Quan Di’ escorted him outside to insure he didn’t try anything foolish, like trying to take our mule and horse, but once he was in the light of the morning he took out running and didn’t look back.

While Biggun and Quan Di’ were gone, Sykon and Felthion said they wanted to check out the well again and took our tied up bugbear with them while Fiswyn, Guy and myself all headed further down the southern hall to another set of doors. After Guy made some quick checks verifying nothing was odd with the door, we started to open it when Biggun, Quan Di’, Sykon and Felthion all returned. Biggun headed into the small room first and I followed him in. At first, all we found was a pitcher of awful wine (Fiswyn tasted it and said so) next to some old crates filled with flour, molded cheese and some very foul smelling meat. But, after moving some crates out of the way, we found a small panel concealing a small hole in the floor. Inside the hole was a very dusty small vial of liquid but nothing else. Sykon picked up the vial and placed it into safe keeping until a later time when he might be able to test and analyze the results to determine what the liquid was. I wanted to take some of this food back to the insect holes at the farms to see if we could lure the insects out but the cheese was all I could stand so I emptied the flour sack and filled it with the cheese and carried it with me (at a distance) as we headed for the stone archway. I saw no further signs of the tied up bugbear. Sykon and Felthion seemed to indicate that he had fallen into the well but offered no more details and so we discussed it no more. Sykon did mention, however, that the two parchments that he had taken from the table were scrolls containing a magic wizard spell on each. Why a half-orc had two magic wizard scrolls we didn’t know.

We exited the stone archway, gathered our mule and horse and headed back north to the last farm. As we reached the farm, I emptied the moldy cheese on the ground just outside one of the insect holes and watched while we discussed our next steps. To my disappointment, nothing happened. I guess the insects do not like moldy cheese.

We decided to head off to the west and check some more farms and set out that direction. Like the other farms we had already explored the day before, the further west the older the charred wood that at one time were farm buildings and each farm continued to have a number of insect holes around them.

At the farm furthest west, we found tracks heading off further westward and followed them until we came across a very dense forest. We traveled for a few paces into the forest but soon realized that it was much too dense and decided to circle around the southern edge. Part way around the forest we came across another forest. This forest was completely lifeless. All the trees were dead. It felt like the forest had been dead for a long time yet the trees were not rotten; they were just dead as if they died last fall. The grass just before the forest was green and full of life but the grass stopped abruptly at the edge of this dead forest. There was no underbrush and no signs of wildlife anywhere. Felthion entered the forest and inspected some of trees. There were no signs of any magic or other that could have caused this wide strip of death. Based on our map, we knew the main road was not far to the north and seeing no real harm, we headed north through the dead forest toward the main road.

When we reached the main road, we turned eastward and followed the road heading toward an area that was identified on our map as the Wandering Mule hostel. Just before arriving at the Wandering Mule, we caught some movement just south of the road. It happened fast enough that we weren’t sure exactly what it was we saw but it looked like a large group had marched across the north face of the dense woods and turned south to go along the western edge. Thinking this might be the orc and goblin band we were looking for; we headed off south and met up with the trail.

About half way down the western edge of the forest we came to a fork in the trail. One path continued on south and the other turned a sharp left heading east into the dense forest. We decided to take the east path and moved into the forest to see where it might lead us. A short way down the path, something caught my eye. I turned and noticed a very intricately carved stone squirrel dangling from one of the tree branches just off the road. We moved over to look more closely at the squirrel and soon speculated that something had caught this squirrel by surprise and “petrified” him right where he hung. This was not a very pleasant thought.

We looked around the forest a bit more and I caught the sight of a goblin, armed with a bow and arrow drawn, aiming in the opposite direction from us. I quietly warned the group and Fiswyn set off to investigate. He crept up behind the goblin and discovered that it too had been petrified. We quickly decided that this was not the place to be and we headed back west out of the forest.

Back at the fork, we turned south and started following that path again along the western edge of the dense forest. As we were nearing the point where we had turned toward the dead forest earlier that day, we decided that since the night was approaching and since we had not found any signs of the orc and goblin band that we should make camp for the night. He headed a little further south to get off the main path (if you could call it that) and made camp.

I took first watch and my four hours passed without a stir. I woke Fiswyn for the second watch and settled down for the night.

Just a short while into my meditation I was abruptly disturbed by Fiswyn screaming both with pain and alarm. He had three goblin arrows sticking out of his chest but I only caught a quick glimpse of him before he vanished; why he didn’t wake us sooner, I don’t know.

The arrows came from five goblins hiding at the edge of the woods behind two orcs and five bugbears that came charging out at the sound of Fiswyn’s scream. Biggun, Felthion and Quan Di’ jumped up to intercept the orcs and bugbears. As I took out two of the goblins, the two orcs fell to Biggun’s axe, Draug bit and tripped one of the five bugbears as Sykon unleashed his acid arrow at another. Cries from what sounded like human’s charging came from behind but I was focused on the targets in front of us to pay any more attention to them. Two more goblins dropped, one to my bow and one to Fiswyn’s bow who appeared a short distance away, but the fifth goblin panicked and disappeared into the forest. When the bugbear that Draug tripped tried to get up, Draug and Felthion put him down for good. After dispatching the two orcs, Biggun turned his axe on a bugbear with a mighty blow while Draug and Felthion dropped another. With the final screams of pain from the bugbear hit with Sykon’s acid, the fifth bugbear turned and headed for the woods. As we surveyed the scene after the battle, Quan Di’ stared toward where the bugbear and goblin had ran and then told us that something else was out there and that he just heard that goblin and bugbear die. We quickly gathered what we could from our camp and the fallen enemies and head west away from where Quan Di’ heard the noises as Felthion threw a couple of heal spells at Fiswyn and anyone else that needed it.

After a few minutes, Fiswyn said that whatever it is, it was following us. We decided to break into two groups and ambush whatever it was. Quan Di, Fiswyn and Guy were to find a place to hide while the rest of us kept walking, hopefully leading them past the others. Once past, Fiswyn would cast a light spell as Guy and Quan Di’ attacked, seeing the light, we would join the battle from the other side.

As Sykon, Felthion, Biggun and I walked on; we kept looking for the light that was to be our signal. After a short while, we stopped hearing the sounds of being followed and stopped to listen. Hearing nothing, we began to head back to see if we could find the rest of the party and came upon a scene of twelve elves having a conversation. As we watched quietly we noticed that, Fiswyn was one of the twelve and soon he motioned that the rest of us could join him.

We spoke with eleven elves for short time but they did not offer much information. We had learned that the elves had come to the Stone Tooth Valley to study the dead forest and to see if there was any possibility of healing it. They told us that the farmers had settled here a short time ago and were farming Glitter Grass, a grass used in making magical items and that the goblins and orcs had arrived only in the last couple of years. The elves paid them little attention as they were not doing anything to harm the surrounding forest. We also asked them about the intricately carved squirrel and goblin along the trail heading into the forest. They would not tell us anything about it other than warn us to stay far away from the creature that turned them to stone.

As the elves departed, we made camp again and rested without incident the rest of the night.

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The Ranger's Journal - Day 2

The next morning after breakfast we took a few minutes of mediation to prepare ourselves for the day and we set out for High Peak Pass again. This time we decided to head straight through and wasted no time getting to the other side. We did notice however that the bodies of the orcs and goblins that we had slain the night before were nowhere to be found. Something had dragged them away in the night.

Our first stop that morning was an old poorly maintained farm house. We understood from Doran, the farmer we passed the night before, that this was most likely his farm. Although this farm house was not destroyed like Doran had mentioned, there was some evidence that all was not well. The house was in desperate need of repair and the crops in the field were withering as if no attempt had been made to maintain them. As expected, the house was completely empty save a few miscellaneous food items and so were the animal pens outside, with the gates left wide open. What did seem odd to us, though, was that there were no metal objects anywhere to be found. No silverware, no tools, nothing made of metal. It is possible that Doran had packed everything on his wagon but it still seemed a bit odd.

Searching around Doran’s farm we found no signs of any orcs or goblins so we decided to head off to another farm to the south that Doran had drawn on our map. As we approached, we could see that the farm had been destroyed and was still smoldering from the fires. We came across four human bodies; two children, a boy and girl, and presumably their mother lay lifeless on the ground near the farm house, the man, presumably the farmer and father, had been stabbed through the chest and pinned to a tree by a javelin. Whoever, or whatever, threw the javelin must have been pretty powerful as the farmer had been pinned to the tree with his toes hanging just inches from the ground.

Further searching revealed some drag marks from what looked like another body but we couldn’t tell if this was from a fifth human or a dead or injured orc or goblin. We followed the drag marks over to a hole in the ground about two to two and half feet in diameter. It appeared to be an entrance to an underground home for some sort of animal or insect. As we stood around the hole discussing what it was, a large six-legged insect with massive mandibles came partially out of the hole. From our best guesses, this insect had to be about ten feet long and could easily grab any of us and drag us into its lair. I think all of us, including the insect, were a bit surprised and therefore the party immediately turned aggressive and began attacking it. The insect, surprised as well, spit acid at the party hitting Biggun, Sykon and our trusty mule and then immediately ducked back into its lair. Our mule now burning with acid panicked and began to bolt so I turned and chased down the mule. When I got back, everyone was still on guard watching the hole but the insect did not return. As Felthion, the cleric, threw a couple of light healing spells toward the injured, we debated for a short while on whether we should try to follow the insect down the hole but decided that the hole was just too small. We looked around the farm a bit more and found five more of these holes but nothing seemed to be stirring around any of them.

We decided to head off and investigate more of the farms in the area, some further south, some east and more to the west. All were destroyed. The further west we headed, the more damage and less smoldering indicating that whatever did this had come from the west moving east. We found no more humans, dead or alive but found no orcs or goblins either. Each farm we came to had a series of these insect holes throughout the surrounding farmland; one can only guess that the insects are responsible for “burying the dead” so to speak.

At one such farm in the southern most area we found a sort of trail leading up through the hills and decided to see where it went. It was getting late in the day and if nothing else, it might not be a bad place to make camp. We followed the path up through an area where it looked as if the farmer had been chopping wood. From here the path was a bit less visible but we were able to follow it until we came to a large rectangular stone archway leading into the side of one of the mountains. We briefly peered inside but decided it was too late in the day to continue further.

We headed back down the trail a little ways and then off the trail onto a hillside and made camp. After dinner, Fiswyn and I once again each took a four hour watch but the evening passed into morning uneventfully.

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