Day 34 – early morning:
Théorn pats his neck and slumps to the ground. He appears to be in some sort of coma. We carry him with us. We attempt to flush out any more goblins by wandering around and calling them out, but despite some flashy displays of intimidation from Max none appear so we search the caverns to try find more sporks. Napoleon finds the site of some sort of ritual sacrifice, including a ‘sacrificial kit’ containing an ornate obsidian spork and a vial of inferno oil. We then decide to head back to Nepping as we don’t have time to travel to any other goblin tribes before the close of the contest. Back at the horses Max finds kenku tracks. Bigby clearly passed by here, though he didn’t sabotage our horses.
About an hour outside of the village, amongst rolling hills, we hear muffled sobbing coming over the next rise. It’s a human man’s voice with a similar accent to Max, who suspects it’s Viscount Verdun. Moving cautiously over the brow of the hill we spy Verdun on his hands and knees sobbing about losing sporks. The sobbing seems overplayed and makes us suspicious of ambush, so Napoleon attacks Verdun with a sling. Our suspicions are correct, and he launches an attack against us (Encounter 1). During the battle Hollan gets into a grudge match with Gunther, and swears vengeance on all his friends, family and everyone he’s ever loved. After the fight he finds a letter on Gunther’s body from his sweetheart Heidi, who wishes he’ll return soon so they can marry beneath the waterfall in their home town of Pepsburgh.
Max reveals her backstory with Sir Ulrich (NEED SOMEONE TO FILL IN THE DETAILS), whilst we interrogate the captives. They tell us that Clementine’s group has already claimed the early return prize, and that they have two members of their retinue back in town to sell on the stuff they bring back. We return to town with Viscount Verdun and Sir Ulrich in tow as hostages to ransom.
Back in Nepping children gather around us as we arrive, asking how we scored. We check in to the official hand-in tent, where the mayor is in conversation with Brysias, who appears happy to see us alive. We hand in 57 sporks and explain that we’re holding back the ornate obsidian one (Pennyworth wishes to convert it to a rod implement). Pennyworth explains that we eliminated the Bat-wing and Spider-bite tribes, while Napoleon orders a round of drinks for the gathered crowds.
With just minutes remaining before the deadline five figures are spotted riding over the horizon. The Order of the Hammer’s entry group enters town, leading Elkovar on a horse. Knight Saviour Stewart rides with the head of the chief of the Bugbear tribe on his saddle. After they check in we hear they have gathered 54 sporks, so we are the winners of Goblinfest 25. Mayor Thusia emerges from the tent and officially announces the end of the competition, and that in an hour the scores and prizes will be given.
In the tavern Napoleon approaches the group of paladins to offer then a friendly congratulation on a job well done. Unfortunately they act outraged at having their noses rubbed in their defeat, saying that they planned to use the winnings to fund an expedition to recover a temple. Elkovar joins the conversation to accuse us of ambushing him. We argue the point back and forth and the conversation gets turned to Hollan’s worship of Bahamut as testament to his character. He almost manages to sway them, but they aren’t convinced by the level of his knowledge and are alarmed further at the realisation that Hollan is wearing Knight Commander Dergan’s brooch.
Napoleon suggests that there might be rituals to verify the veracity of our words, but nobody present has enough knowledge of them to be sure. Instead Knight Adjunct Levia suggests a test of steel with a battle in the morning, to see who Bahamut favours. Hollan agrees on our behalf, as long as the fight is not to the death. If we lose they say Hollan will have to “pay for his crimes”.
The bell tolls and the crowds stream out to the presentation. Hollan and Clementine spy each other in the crowds and show their trophies (kenku feathers vs. goblin heads). The scores are announced and Clementine steps up to accept a blue suit of armour. Napoleon goes up on our group’s behalf to accept The Sword of Gales. It’s a longsword with a blue sheen and symbols of storm and lightning on it. Mayor Thusia says it was forged by the son of a storm giant, a great goliath smith, and was used to slay a follower of Orcus, Lady Adine of… and others.
We sell our various spoils of war, whilst Smax has another vision. This time it is of Stewart (40ish, greying hair and beard). There’s a woman in the shadows next to Smax, then a shift to an earlier time and a fight in a castle, with Stewart as a younger man thwarting someone’s plans.
We arise early and prepare for the ritual combat with the paladins. An area is cleared and the match set up (Encounter 2). After we successfully defeat the paladins they are healed up by local priests and everyone takes an extended rest, while Hollan tries to persuade some of the paladins to turn away from their oppressive humanocentric view of their mission. He has some success with one paladin. Knight Saviour Stewart asks to speak to Hollan and Napoleon. He says that Bahamut clearly favours us, though Knight Adjunct Levia is still concerned about evil magics used in our fight. Knight Saviour Stewart explains that they were searching for the Temple of the Clear Springs, a lost temple to Bahamut.
The Order of the Hammer have been searching for the temple for 6 months and located it nearby. Two weeks ago a group of their best clerics and warriors set out and found the entrance but were driven back by the inhabitants, an orc tribe (that they mostly slew) and a band of trolls. The troll chieftain cultivated rust monsters as dangerous ‘pets’ that caused the paladins much trouble. Before they were driven out, the paladins saw demonic influence on the temple entrance and are anxious that it be cleansed.
Knight Saviour Stewart asks Hollan and Napoleon to use their friends’ knowledge of infernal magics to cleanse the temple of evil and reclaim it for Bahamut’s glory. He suspects there are still trolls camped outside the entrance, and demons within. The temple is extensive and it will probably need to be cleared in one go as it is difficult to leave once entered. Since it ties in with our plans to raise our profile, we agree to help. Knight Saviour Stewart says he will spread word to Gosfair so that our mission isn’t interfered with by paladins, and that he will meet us in 6 days in Ravensburgh to give us the location and lend us a holy item that might help. The rest of the group will be paid for this task, but Knight Saviour Stewart expects Hollan to do it out of worship for Bahamut. As we leave we notice Knight Adjunct Levia glaring at Hollan with hatred.
We pick up a couple of Everburning Torches and some other supplies. Hollan negotiates with Brysias for the return of Kadira’s sword to her family. They settle on a price and Hollan hands it over. Brysias says she is leaving town on business now and will be out of the area for a couple of weeks. Brysias, who had already arranged to have the salvaged obsidian spork to be enchanted into a infernal implement, also agrees to set up a meeting between Pennyworth and her estranged brother, a warlock of some note and notoriety.
Meanwhile, Max is interrogating Viscount Verdun and deciding how to ransom him. Verdun agrees to hand over Wiedersberg, the jewel of his family’s lands. Max senses that there’s something being left out and presses for more details. It turns out it’s currently under the control of someone else, referred to as The Count. Verdun is hoping Max and her associates will help take back the lands and clear the stain from his family’s honour. Max agrees on condition that she is given a title in addition to the lands. Verdun agrees and signs an agreement, notarised by Mayor Thusia and Knight Saviour Stewart. Stewart asks us our plans for Sir Ulrich, and offers a reward if we sign him up as an indentured servant to The Order of the Hammer with the eventual expectation that he will become a paladin. Max readily agrees to this.
We ride to Ravensburgh. The trip is uneventful.
We arrive in town late in the evening and get rooms in The Temple inn. A messenger arrives shortly afterwards from Cezar, asking us to come and speak to him. Those of us who have already met him head over to The Orc’s Head to talk, while Max sneaks off in little girl form.
As we enter The Orc’s Head, Cezar slow claps us sarcastically. It seems he is unhappy with our recent activities after declining to do business with him. He had been sponsoring Elkovar’s team for Goblinfest and was in the middle of negotiating with Brysias for protection from Korax when we effectively undercut him. We weren’t aware of any of this, and Napoleon tries to keep it businesslike and impersonal, saying we chose not to accept his offer and did not intentionally take custom from him. Cezar doesn’t appear to be mollified and says we have 2 strikes against us and implies threats for if we gather a third. Napoleon offers some token compensation as a goodwill gesture and asks Cezar to suggest a price. Instead he gives us 7 days to offer whatever recompense we feel is necessary. Smax checks out the rest of the inn in case it comes to a fight. There are 4 bodyguards, as well as 20 to 30 seasoned adventurers that might be expected to weigh in on Cezar’s side.
Meanwhile Max goes looking for information and advice on dealing with rust monsters and finds a man named Marl, whose main advice is not to let them dribble on you and that they have a particular taste for enchanted metal.
After the chat with Cezar the rest of the group goes to talk to Pastor Waverley. Théorn asks him if he knows anything about the temple we’ve been asked to clear. He doesn’t appear to know anything, and turns the conversation around to angling for donations to the church. He mentions ‘the now disgraced Pastor Ferro, false prophet to Avandra’ in his rantings. When we ask him for more general advice on fighting demons he says that the way to defeat them is to turn them on themselves, though he also has vials of holy water for sale, of which Napoleon buys one.
Character status at end of session:
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