Good morning! Well, let’s hope so anyway… So it is Wednesday, March 3, AC997. After a good night’s sleep in the barn, Nailo, Valak, and Farunwe wake up to the sight of a small man standing in the middle of the barn waiting impatiently for someone to acknowledge his presence. As he notices the beginnings of the group to stir, he introduces himself as Fotch – a person whom the group should appreciate. He indicates that he would be quite a good addition to the group – he doesn’t sound like he’s bragging, either.
Then Kryton bellows from in the house with the name “Fotch” on his lips. Fotch looks only slightly unnerved by the large man’s outrage. Kryton makes his way to the barn to find that Fotch has already introduced himself. Kryton demands that Fotch returns the items he took from his bedroom while he was asleep. Fotch does so rather sheepishly, but also indicates that his abilities allowed him to acquire said items without even waking the dog. Kryton develops a puzzled look on his face and tells Fotch that he does not have a dog. Shortly after this statement, Kryton’s assistant is heard shooing a barking, mangy-looking dog out the back door of the house. It is immediately obvious that Fotch brought the uninvited “guest” into Kryton’s house during his faux robbery. Fotch casually shrugs off the look of irritation given him by Kryton.
Fotch, having proven himself a capable thief – among other things – asks to be part of the group for equal shares of the payment and take. The group agrees with a small amount of apprehension, but also finds humor in Fotch’s antics, which relieves some of this doubt. Fotch does not seem to be a truly evil Hin…
With equipment gathered and prepped and a short trip to the ruins of the Old Mill, a search for some sort of entrance to a bug nest begins. It doesn’t take long for the group to find this hole in the ground. Fotch “supplies” a rope and a rather bumpy descent into the underground ant colony commences. Oddly, Farunwe is the only one to actually make GOOD use of the rope and gets to the bottom of the hole with the least amount of bruises and kicked up dirt.
It takes very little time for the group to encounter the first of the giant ants as their home is invaded. The soldier ant and a worker are dispatched quickly. The next “interesting” place is a colony food storage chamber. It becomes painfully obvious that these giant ants are omnivores since there are human body parts in the pile of “food” in the center of the room. This, of course, does not stop Fotch from nearly diving right in when Valak indicates he sees something among the body parts. After some digging through the disgusting mass, several items are retrieved for later examination. But it is certain that there is some money in the pouches…
A secret entrance leading away from the food storage room is discovered. Once opened the PCs quickly realize that the tunnel behind this door is man-made. They choose to explore this area in hopes that the source of the magic pouches may be close by. Fotch, being the “man of adventure” that he is, heads first down the tunnel. It is the mere fact of having nearly super-human reflexes that he avoids being impaled by some rather nasty looking darts that are flung from hidden spots in the wall. He is almost comical as he chides himself for not spotting the tripwire sooner.
A right turn at the first intersection puts the group into some sort of room apparently used for dissecting ants. The “home owner” arrives soon after the group begins searching the room for anything of importance or value. Saruf – a goblin wizard – is obviously unhappy about having his home invaded, and locks them in the dissecting room. They hear Saruf enter the door at the other end of the intersection and begin to wonder if there is any hope of survival, much less escape.
An unknown amount of time goes by, and the group hears Saruf come out of the other door. Some sort of chittering – ant communication apparently – ensues. The group then truly begins to fear the worst. Without any idea of how to escape this possible disaster, Fotch decides to do one of the things he does best, really piss people off. He begins to antagonize and attempt to provoke Saruf. Fotch’s success leads to an angry Saruf opening the dissecting room door. Without hesitation, a fight begins, and Saruf ends up dead. Fotch gets hurt rather badly. Valak scouts back down toward the secret entrance to find out if any of the ants they heard prior to the fight with Saruf have decided to hang around and acquire some more “food”. He kills another worker ant then returns to help get Fotch into Saruf’s other room. Searching Saruf’s body reveals a key that allows entrance into the living area and lab opposite the dissecting room. The group searches the large double room and finds the proof that Saruf was the source of the magic pouch found in Simi’s warehouse. They also find Saruf’s journals, 3 vials of some thick brown liquid, and a small chest.
Thursday, March 4, AC997
After letting Fotch rest a full day in the safety of Saruf’s former hideout, the group heads back into the ant colony to finish the rest of the mission – extermination of all of the ants. Three rooms are hit, eight ants are killed, and a pouch of coins is found in the second food storage room found. With some significant injuries, the PCs decide to return to the hideout to rest and heal. By this time, the group believes there is not much colony left to explore and that the queen must be one of the last of the members of the colony to take out. Friday, March 5 holds the promise of the end of the mission and a nice payday…
Friday, March 5, AC997
The group emerges from Saruf’s hideout to complete the task of exterminating the unwanted pests that have setup “shop” at the Old Mill. As hoped, there was not much left to be done – well only one chamber left anyway. The final battle is well fought and hard won like the others. The reward this time, however, will consist of a nice payment from Simi for services rendered.
During the process of evacuating the ant colony, it is discovered that the dead bodies and parts from others have been removed from one of the food storage chambers. It is also discovered that Saruf’s body is gone as well.
A well-earned round of baths and meals are doled out upon return to Kryton’s. The spoils of the fight with the bugs are laid out and sorted. Simi is prompted for payment, and he does so without hesitation as well as a bit of gratitude.
Talk of battling giant ants and dealing with an unpleasant Saruf turns to a discussion of what to do next. There is little question that Nailo, Farunwe, and Valak would like to find out who this “Ace in the Hole” actually is. Reading through Saruf’s journals reveals that he had some knowledge of the person known as “Ace in the Hole”. The problem, however, is that he never documented that knowledge in the journals. He does mention that there is a definite connection to the Iron Ring. Revealing this tidbit to Kryton puts him in a state of concern. The Iron Ring is bad news according to Kryton. Saruf’s journals have rants about him having to deal with Iron Ring thugs as middle men when doing work for the Ace in the Hole.
The Iron Ring
Kryton reveals what he knows about the Iron Ring…
The Iron Ring is a thieves’ guild of the worst kind. They have no scruples and an extreme thirst for money and power. The only thing that can seem to impede the Iron Ring is brute force ending in the death of as many members of the Iron Ring as possible. Very few members have ever been caught and brought to justice. Those that are caught typically hang for their grievous crimes or are killed before they can be questioned. It seems that the Iron Ring is connected enough to make this happen. It is believed that they have friends in high places.
Many members of the Iron Ring wear a ring made of iron to indicate their affiliation to other members. This is typically the only indication that a person has an association with this group.
Among other crimes that a typical thieves’ guild commits (theft, smuggling, extortion, etc.), there is one activity at which the Iron Ring excels: slavery. There are some nations of the world where slavery still exists and is perfectly legal. There are places in the world where slavery simply exists – legal or not. Nonetheless, slavery apparently can generate a lot of profit, and the Iron Ring cashes in. They are very good at abducting people without leaving a trace of evidence behind. When opportunities present themselves, the Iron Ring is very quick to add another asset to their business.
With this information and a desire to find out the source of this bug trouble – Ace in the Hole, discussion of finding out more about Saruf and his connection to the Iron Ring and Ace leads to planning a trip north. The plan is to head up the east lake road that passes by Bear’s Hold – a fort that houses part of Baron Halaran’s standing army – on the way to Pyreton. Pyreton is the northern most village that exists on the shore of Lake Windrush. It is there the group will find Darius, the owner and operator of the Inn of the Fallen Leaf. Kryton believes that Darius will have some valuable information about finding the tribe from which Saruf came. Kryton also believes that the group can likely help Darius with the goblin trouble he has.
Monday, March 8, AC997
With a couple of days planning and preparation behind them, Nailo, Farunwe, and Valak begin their journey to Pyreton. Now it would be silly to think that a multi-day journey would pass without a hitch, and of course, it does not. It seems that a small group of bashers from the Thieves’ Guild have developed a nice means of duping travelers into parting with their valuables. It seems that the old “damsel in distress” routine still works fairly well. The only thing the thieves did not plan on, however, was the fact that this group of unwitting travelers is a bit more capable than most and manages to turn the ambush into a day the thieves are certainly regretting in their newfound afterlives. This potential misfortune turns into even greater fortune when the group finds the thieves’ hideout on near the edge of the cliff.
The wayward travelers reach their first waypoint at Bear’s Hold Fort. There they seek out a place to possibly get a meal and a much needed night’s sleep. A decision is made by the posted guard to escort the group to the fort captain where they can show the Thieves’ Guild emblems that were thoughtfully plucked from the bashers. Captain Robert “Bob” Vasile gives the group 10 Royals each for the five emblems as a reward/bounty. Vasile also rewards a free meal.
It also earns some of the captain’s trust, and prompts him to ask a favor of the group. Vasile asks if the group would carry orders to his man out in the field since they are going the direction that will allow them to cross paths. He explains that the orders are for his Sergeant George Petras to investigate some smoke emanating from a valley east of the road some distance north of Bear’s Hold. The PCs agree to do this and set off the next morning toward Pyreton once again.
Tuesday, March 9, AC997
As planned, the group comes across a group of the local garrison marching south on the road toward Bear’s Hold. The orders are delivered to Sergeant Petras. Petras is aware of the reported smoke, but is obviously at a loss as to how to take the group of soldiers he has “quietly” into the woods to find out the source of the smoke. He asks the groups if they would give him a hand in this investigation citing that the group appears to be more capable of stealth than he and his men.
The group agrees to help with the investigation, and Nailo is tapped to go in since she is the ranger. Unfortunately, Nailo’s skill at stealth in the woods is not doing well this day, and she is quickly discovered by the camp of dwarves on whom she is trying to spy. Fortunately, however, it turns out that Fotch is actually friends with a member of this group of dwarves – soon discovered to be the remnants of the Undermountain Clan. Fotch is known and liked by Berault Undermountain. This connection prevents any potentially violent altercation.
An explanation of the reason for this “intrusion” by the group and Sergeant Petras helps ease some more tension, and the rest of the tension is relieved thanks to a good yarn spun by Farunwe. This leads to an apparently unanimous decision by the Undermountain Clan that the group is officially acknowledged as friends of said clan. The story and subsequent induction to the list of Undermountain Clan friends leads to a fairly good time had by all. This, of course, includes hangovers due to the significant consumption of ale… Fotch gets “robbed”… Valak and Farunwe apparently can’t hang with the Undermountain dwarves in the “art” of drinking ale
Wednesday, March 10, AC997
The group leaves Sergeant Petras and the Undermountain clan as they begin discussions about the occupation of the valley and what that could mean to Karameikos. Petras thanks the group for the help. Fotch discovers that he has had his sword modified to fit him. The rest of the group also notices that any ailments and injuries are no longer a problem thanks to some “quiet” work done by the dwarves during the night.
A flash flood is simply one more interesting event for the group on their journey to Pyreton. Now who would have thought crossing a quickly flowing stream with the help of a rope would have been so “interesting”? Valak and Farunwe fair the worst in this struggle against Mother Nature, but overcome the obstacle nonetheless and make it to Waylan.
For only having a population of 22, Waylan holds its own in “urban” adventure, especially when Fotch is involved. Some unruly patrons at the only inn/pub catch the Hin’s interest since they refuse to leave their weapons outside. An altercation is averted, however, thanks to the silver tongue of said Hin. He also “aids” the four to follow the rules later that night by helping set their weapons outside as asked by the inn’s owner.
Thursday, March 11 AC997
An early rise to begin the last leg of the journey to Pyreton is required since the less-than-happy thugs awaken to find themselves relieved of key possessions. But other than the hasty departure from Waylan, the way to Pyreton is free of “distractions”. Arrival at the Inn of the Fallen Leaf is as expected and soon introductions to Darius – the inn’s owner – are made.
No time is wasted as Darius sets them up with a meal and a place to stay along with discussion about the reason the group has arrived in Pyreton. Kryton’s package is handed over to Darius with his thanks. Darius lets them know that he will have something to send back to Kryton if they are willing to perform the task in reverse… there will be payment, of course. With that out of the way, discussion of Pyreton’s goblin problem becomes the major topic for the rest of the evening. It seems since Saruf has not been with his tribe, the tribe has gotten unruly and has begun nearly regular raids on Pyreton. While – according to Darius – this happens from time to time, the violence in the raids has begun to escalate. Blood has been spilled… innocent human blood. Darius needs help to stop this, and due to the fact that he must stay in Pyreton to organize the defense, he implores the group to do more than just seek out information about Saruf. Darius wants the tribe stopped for good.