THE RUINS OF LODRIN
The party reached the ruins of Lodrin Village after about a week of travel. After they crossed the bridge over the Jesibil River and set up camp in the ruins of the inn – the only structure still standing. That night, they were assaulted by a force of hobgoblins, with their shields all bearing the same crest as the shields of the hobgoblins in the temple of Ares.
The fight raged, as both groups seemed evenly matched and defenses had the advantage. The hobgoblins sent in wave after wave of low-ranked fodder, some of whom were snared in Gwarryn’s entangle spell. Others fired crossbows from a safe position, while some had stealthily hidden in the reeds waiting for one of the adventurers to pass by so they could throw an axe at their vital organs. Henry flew into a berserk rage, hacking through those in his way and… also biting them, much to the surprise of his companions (and the hobgoblins, too). Hobgoblin shamans and sorcerers joined the fray, sending magic missiles and fear-causing spells against the adventurers. The spellcasters quickly found that their usual tactics were of no use against these well-trained hobgoblins: they were warded against both Timothy’s acid and Wraya’s fire. They were soon joined by a large hobgoblin warrior, clearly the leader of their group. In the chaos of the fight, some of the hobgoblins withdrew and the party, though they’d sustained no small amount of damage, regrouped to battle the leader and his personal cleric and sorcerer.
As the hobgoblins fell and the party emerged victorious, they surveyed their claimed prizes and found another letter in the same strange language. It was written in two different hands; one was an order to be at the crossing of the Jesibil River to stop the people matching the description of the party, and gave notes about the party’s fighting tactics and common attacks. The second was a note that the loss of the crystal was an expensive blow, and failure to recover it would not be tolerated. This note was signed by Grumush of the Legion.
After spending the next morning in recovery, the party set back on the road for Beryl. Upon reaching it, they found an extensive (and rather silly) list of laws posted. After paying the gate tax, they asked the guards for direction to Thomas Underrock’s establishment and an inn where they could stay. The guards directed the party to the Wagon Wheel as an inn where they didn’t have to worry about things like fleas, and raved about Underrock’s beef and barley stew. After obtaining rooms at the inn, the party split up: Jason and Corbin went to visit Underrock, Timothy visited the local sister branch of the Collegium, Wraya and Henry went to the travelers’ shrines and the merchant district to purchase local clothing, and Zaylan and Gwarryn went to the merchant district to sell the gems that the party had collected in their battles.
Jason and Corbin: Jason and Corbin went to Thomas Underrock’s famous restaurant, and while waiting in line Corbin got the proprietor’s attention. Underrock noticed and recognized the titanite set in the pair’s weapons, and pointedly scurried back to the kitchen to “add some spices to the stew.” Jason and Corbin ordered bowls of stew – indeed, the finest they’d ever had – and at the bottom of Jason’s bowl was scratched a brief message: “172 King’s Way, all, 4 hrs”. The two ordered a large kettle of stew and carted it back to the Wagon Wheel so the rest of the group could bask in its glory.
Timothy: Timothy visited an artificer at the wizards’ tower in hopes of gaining the knowledge he would need to begin enchanting items. He was given a price for a tome that would guide him on the right path.
Wraya and Henry: After Wraya visited the small shrine to Apollo, she and Henry went to the merchant district and procured clothing in the local style for everybody.
Zaylan and Gwarryn: Zaylan and Gwarryn found a gem merchant who turned out to be an honest sort, providing accurate pricing for the gems and jewelry that he was shown. He purchased the lot for a good price, and mentioned that he had buyers for obsidian until shortly after trading season started, since it was uncommon, and that quartz was currently a hot commodity.
Everyone reconvened at the inn in the early afternoon and over stew shared what they had learned. Jason and Corbin told everybody about the scheduled meeting. The party allocated money from the sale of the gems to Timothy, as that knowledge would be of great benefit to everybody. Most of the party changed into the local clothes, though Gwarryn would purchase an additional outfit later. The party again split up to take care of personal errands and agreed to meet at King’s Way before the meeting.
Jason visited the shrine to Apollo and left a small offering. Zaylan visited a small, out-of-the-way “curiosity shoppe,” and the eccentric old woman who owned it was able to identify a magical dagger that would not otherwise respond to magical identification. She offered him a trade of some useful items, and asked him to come back if he found anything else interesting. Timothy went back to purchase the tome of artificing, then paid the city’s bordello a brief visit.
A MEAL WITH UNDERROCK
The party regrouped at King’s Way and went down the street to the residence in question. The door, its knocker a large wooden spoon, was answered by a huge guy – most unexpected, when the resident is a halfling. He showed them in to Underrock’s large dining hall and bade them have a seat. Underrock joined them shortly, and after a quick barrage of “little people” jokes in which the halfling gave as good as he got (and showed that he was a man who did his research), they settled down to a fine meal. Underrock insisted: “You can’t talk business on an empty stomach.”
Underrock was a master chef, and the food and drink were from his private stock. Everyone ate better than they had in quite a long time… perhaps ever... and Underrock managed to put away twice as much as anyone else. (No one is quite sure how.)
While dessert was being prepared, the halfling got down to business. His trusted agents had checked out the birth records of the small towns and farmsteads in Berth, and while four children were of the proper age, he had determined that the one the Titanite Society sought was none of them; therefore their goal must be in the Valarian Valley. He had prepared a cover story for the party. The Valley was an exporter of much of the fresh food in the region, and Underrock purchased his directly from some of the farmers there. In fact, he had recently been expanding and spreading out his purchases, so he was buying from all of them. The people of the valley were somewhat guarded, though, and most travelers and merchants could only enter as far as Valor Hold. The party, therefore, would be Underrock’s agents, renegotiating prices with each of the farmers. This would give them an opportunity to observe the people at every farm and test the youths of the right age.
Dessert and an after-dinner brandy were served, and the generous pour of the potent liquor was enough to render most of his guests quite drunk; fortunately, Underrock (ever the consummate host) had guest rooms already prepared.
The party rose to a breakfast of crushed oats prepared by the doorman, gathered their goods, and ran a few more errands. They met Underrock’s doorman at the city gate and received a list of all of the farms from whom Underrock purchased, as well as the writs that would allow them entry into the Valley itself. They set off once again down the road…