Adventures in the Dessarin Valley

Part 3 - What Lies Under Red Larch

20th Day of Tarsahk - continued

Unexpected Advice

As the party neared the Long Road coming back from Lance Rock, two bird-like creatures descended from the sky in front of them. Some of the group recognized them as aarakocra; bipedal human-shaped beings that look like eagles which are known to be generally kind to like-minded creatures. The one in the lead warned the group that if they were on their way to Red Larch, the aarakocra heard tremors in the ground as they flew over the town, and also noticed some type of commotion or excitement from the people of the town. Therefore, the aarakocra suggested the adventures to enter Red Larch prepared for whatever is happening, and they also provided a suggested resting spot further down the road.

The group learned that the aarakocra were returning to their home in the north after visiting other aarakocra who live in the Sighing Valley, a valley in the Sumber Hills that is overlooked by a large spire that can’t be missed. Helka suggested that the group head straight for the spire, however, Diero convinced the group that they should heed the advice of the aarakocra and rest before investigating what is happening in Red Larch. Just before the pair of aarakocra flew away, the second one noted to Diero that he understood that the adventurers were doing good in and around Red Larch and that if anyone in the party found themselves being flung out of a tall building or a cliff, perhaps the aarakocra will be there to lend a hand. No one was sure if this was the aarakocra’s take on humour. The group then set up camp just off the Long Road a few miles down.

The Sinkhole

After resting, the party gathered themselves and headed to town. As the party neared Red Larch in the middle of night, they heard some of the trembling sounds that were emanating from the ground. Immediately as they entered, a young girl approached Gladigan and told him that Mangobarl Lorren wanted Gladigan to head straight to Mangobarl’s bakery (“Zhentarim business” she whispered). Gladigan excused himself from the party, as the rest of the gang moved towards the center of town.

As the party approached the center of town, there was a large tremor, and immediately after, two small children slid down into a sinkhole that suddenly opened! They disappeared from sight and started shrieking for help as a distraught woman sprinted from a nearby house for the sinkhole, but also fell down as more of the earth crumbled near the edge. Sudden cries of “A rope, a rope!” and “Get a ladder!” filled the air. Helka and Ginnifer wasted no time running for the sinkhole! As Helka reached the opening, the hole widened and she disappeared from sight, falling into the hole. Ginnifer, with what appeared as no effort whatsoever, stopped dead in her tracks at the sinkhole’s edge; she was already holding one end of a rope being held by Diero at the other end. Diero and Ullr held tight as the rope was lowered into the sinkhole and Ginnifer crawled down.

While this was all happening, a few town elders were among the gathered crowd barking orders to “leave this to us!”. Kaer Baer noted Albaeri Mellikho among the group telling the crowd “we will tend to this matter! The children won’t be harmed by being down there a little while, but no one must go down there. Keep back!” The gnome decided to keep an eye on the crowd and the elders while the rest of the party tended to those in the sinkhole.

No one in the sinkhole was hurt since there was cushioning loose earth at the bottom of the 30 foot drop. Ginnifer, Ullr, and Diero got to work getting the children and woman out of the hole while Helka investigated the dark chamber they found themselves in. Constable Harburk showed up and started asking Kaer Baer to catch him up on what was happening. During their conversation, Kaer Baer suddenly noticed that while she was talking to Harburk, the elders managed to sneak away. After telling Harburk this, the Constable frowned and left in pursuit. After successfully rescuing those who fell in the sinkhole, Diero, Ullr, and Kaer Baer made their way to the bottom of the sinkhole. Ginnifer investigated a long tunnel heading south from the chamber, and determined that it may continue for a while longer. Therefore, the party instead decided to push open a stone slab of a door that was in the chamber to venture beyond. But before they did, Diero and Kaer Baer put on some well-used cloaks that were sitting on floor near the door.

The Tomb of the Moving Stones

The door opened into a ten foot wide hall. About sixty feet into the hall, two stone reliefs of stern dwarves in chain mail and carrying battleaxes faced each other across the tunnel. Helka recognized that the stone reliefs likely served as both doorways and tributes to some important dwarves of the past. It was also likely that this was some type of tomb. Beyond the two doors the tunnel also carried on to the east, however, the party decided to push back the stone door that led to the south and walked down the short tunnel. At the end of the tunnel, the party only found an ancient dwarven toilet, so they turned back the way they came and walked through the stone dwarf door to the north instead.

After walking down the tunnel for 160 feet or so, the group came to a small chamber that smelled of death and decay. The stench grew stronger as they approached, but as they came to the opening, those in front could see three freshly dead bodies in a heap at the center of the room. Two giant rats were feasting on the flesh, and scampering could be heard behind smaller holes on either side of the room. Ginnifer quietly told the group that the giant rats would likely leave them alone if they didn’t disturb their meal. Diero then attempted to enchant the nearest of the rats, holding up some food and humming a spell, but it didn’t work, and the rat tried to bite him!

As Ginnifer set up a hunter’s trap in front of one of the openings in the wall, Kaer Baer attempted to shoot a fire bolt at the closest rat, but it looked like the edge of her wizard robes got in the way, and her robes suddenly caught fire! She quickly started patting down the flames while Helka and Ullr moved into the room. More rats ran into the room through the openings; the first one of which was caught and killed in the trap laid out by Ginnifer, and another attacked and bit Helka’s chest! Helka and Ullr flattened the rats with their warhammers, and Ginnifer killed the last of them with a well placed arrow (which ended up in the wall with a rat eye impaled on it). Kaer Baer just finished extinguishing the flames as the last giant rat was killed. The group investigated the three dead bodies and noticed that a symbol of a triangle with a vertical line going up halfway in the middle was carved into their foreheads.

The group moved through the tunnel opposite the room and found themselves in another similarly small chamber. In the middle of this chamber was a black rock hovering three feet from the floor. Ginnifer fired an arrow under the rock, and it noticeably lifted when under the rock and its trajectory rose enough that the arrow end up in the ceiling of the chamber. Ullr pushed the rock and it fell the floor near the wall. Diero then stood where the rock was, and he was suddenly lifted three feet off the ground. He could not really move until Ginnifer shoved him a bit, and he landed beside the area with the levitation effect. Though the party wasn’t really sure why things levitated in the small invisible column, they noted that this might be useful if they find themselves chased back this way by enemies. They then followed the next tunnel south to another stone door.

Inside was a larger chamber with similar stone doors both on the east and west walls. In the center of the room was a life-like and life-sized statue of a dwarf warrior wearing a chain shirt, helm, and big boots. He carried a shield on his left arm and a battleaxe in his right hand. The statue was clearly broken into and reassembled, and there was a dagger and a bunch of coins and gems scattered around it within a ring of fine gravel. Helka and Ullr moved towards the statue to read the inscription (and Diero transformed into a wolf):

Petrified Ironstar (?) dwarf,
found 1459 DR in Red Larch West Quarry
in broken condition.

Just as Ullr finished reading the inscription, the western door burst open and six leather-armoured people carrying scimitars ran into the room! The woman in front confidently said “We are the Bringers of Woe. We have come to reward your curiosity.” Then, all hell broke loose. Kaer Baer rushed to get a better angle on the newcomers, held her hands with thumbs touching and fingers spread, and engulfed the nearest enemies in flames! Within moments Ullr centered himself among the four Bringers of Woe distracted by the flames, held his warhammer in the air, yelled “for Steve!”, and pounded his weapon into the ground causing a thunderous wave to push the enemies away and douse the flames. Wolf Diero grabbed one of the men by throat, and Ginnifer hit another one with an arrow.

Ginnifer heard footsteps coming from the tunnel they came from, so she moved into the room for a chance at ambush. Helka, who was caught off-guard by the attack now entered the fray as additional Bringers of Woe stormed the room from both entrances. Kaer Baer, annoyed at another fire bolt going off the mark angrily threw off her wizard robes. The party quickly defeated the remaining Bringers of Woe and collected the treasure lying by the statue. Aside from coins and gems, Helka grabbed a dagger with star motifs and a grip of night-blue leather. Dried blood still coated the dagger (likely used to carve into the foreheads of the bodies they found earlier, the group surmised). The name “Reszur” was graven on the dagger’s pommel, and when Helka said the name aloud, the blade gave off a faint, cold glow, shedding dim light in a 10-foot radius. Speaking the name again, the light was gone. The party agreed that this weapon might best be used by Gladigan, and Helka would hold onto it until they met up with the halfling.

The party walked into the western door that the Bringers of Woe originally came from. An eight-foot-tall stone stood upright in the room’s center, so Helka and Kaer Baer each walked around opposite sides of the stone get a better view of the room. They both saw two interesting things: first, at the foot of the standing stone was a small child pinned, face down, by rocks placed atop his arms, legs, and back. Second, by the opposite door was a surprised looking half-orc holding one of many chains entering the room from the ceiling and wall. Helka, seeing the boy pinned down, immediately flew into a rage and stormed the half-orc! The half-orc let go of the chain and pulled out a mace, and locked into battle with Helka. As Kaer Baer started removing the rocks from the child, the rest of the party moved closer to the half-orc. Ginnifer yelled “Stop! You are no match for us! Give us information and we’ll let you go!”, but the half-orc only looked distracted, but this gave Helka the opening to land a punishing blow! As Wolf Diero moved up towards the half-orc, the half-orc exclaimed “Doggie!!!!”, once again distracted and open to attacks from Helka and Ullr. Ginnifer fired off a final arrow that finally killed the half-orc, a look of shock and sadness on his face as he fell to the floor.

As the boy came to, he immediately noted the dead half-orc in front of him and started crying “Grund! What happened to Grund! Oh, poor Grund…who is going to look over the market now? Poor, simple, Grund…” The adventurers attempted to calm the boy down long enough to ask him some questions. They discovered the following:

  • A group called the Believers was punishing him. His father (Rother) asked him to deliver a message to Ilmeth at his wagon shop, but he went out playing and forgot. Therefore, this was his punishment for disobedience.
  • He never read the message, since his father told him that he would get in trouble if he did.
  • The Believers are made up of some of the most important people in town, but father said they must be kept a secret. They guard the moving stones and make sure no one disturbs the Delvers, who are entombed here. They watch the moving stones very carefully, because it is a bad sign when they move, and they have to figure out what it means to avert danger.

The boy started to get scared from all of the questioning, and the group let him leave through the western door. After investigating the chains and the room beyond, the party learned that if they would have walked straight down the tunnel (instead of the north passage past the dwarf door) they likely would have walked straight into this trap; Grund was operating the chains in the room which when pulled, a cage dropped from the ceiling in the tunnel outside the door, and he could see people approaching through a small slit in the door. Ullr pulled on all the chains, dropping about ten cages and making the tunnel nearly impossible to walk through. The group now only had one unexplored area left, which was the eastern door in the room with the dwarf statue and the dead Bringers of Woe.

As soon as they opened the door, they saw a passage that ran about forty feet ahead. A small lantern hung from a hook in the wall next to the door at the east end of the passage, and sitting on a wooden stool by the lantern was a balding, beardless old male human in patched and faded work trousers and tunic. He was idly whittling a stick, but as soon as he saw the group (with the wolf in the front), he looked panicked. “Good wolf….good wolf…” he chittered while backup up against the door. The man quickly pleaded to be left alone, and the party learned the following from him:

  • His name is Baragustus Harbuckler, a retired carpenter and member of the Believers.
  • Recently, earth priests showed up in town, and one in particular (Larrakh) has learned how to read the moving stones in the next room and has taken over leadership of the Believers.
  • Marlandro Gaelker, Ilmeth Waelvur, Albaeri Mellikho, Elak Dornan, Ulhro Luruth, and Aerego Bethendur are all members of the Believers.
  • He is shocked when told of the dead bodies and states that he doesn’t know of any murders, but the Believers have certainly driven some people out of Red Larch.
  • He is taking his turn guarding the door beyond, where Larrakh is likely prepared for the group should they enter. Larrakh is dangerous, and Baragustas does not trust him. Larrakh has the ability to shape earth and make it bend to his will. Larrakh is some type of earth priest.

The group then let Baragustas leave the way they came (hearing a cry of “Grund! Nooo!” coming from the chambers behind them shortly after), and then moved into the next chamber. Inside was an enormous chamber with a twenty-foot ceiling that had been carved out of the rock. An odd array of stone monoliths stood around the chamber. Six low stone slabs were set against the walls, with each holding dwarven bones. They could see Larrakh and another Bringer of Woe behind some of the stones nearer the middle of the room.

Diero (now changed back to a human) grabbed the lantern from the previous room and started running towards Larrakh. He casted fairy fire, illuminating the Bringer of Woe in blue light, but there was no affect on Larrakh. Larrakh then raised his hands as a loud ringing noise, painfully intense, erupted near the entry to the chamber, clearly hurting Ullr, Helka, and Kaer Bear! Helka and Ullr ran to Diero’s aid closer to Larrakh as Diero toss the lantern at the earth priest, covering him in oil. Kaer Baer fired a chromatic orb towards the earth priest, but Larrakh easily dodged it. Larrakh then pulled out a glaive and in a furry made a multiple swings at Diero, critically injuring Diero with the final swipe! As Diero started swirling around dazed, he was met with an arrow fired from the Bringer of Woe, and he fell unresponsive to the ground.

Ginnifer then charged and jumped onto the stone beside the bringer of woe. In what seemed lightning fast, she took the arrow in her hand and drove it through the Bringer of Woe’s face, ripped it out, and then fired the gore-soaked arrow into Larrakh’s side! After taking some hits from Helka and Ullr, Larrakh again started to raise his hands from the ground, and this time he pounded his right fist into the ground. At that moment, Larrakh appeared as a blur and he took off at beyond human speeds towards the southeast corner of the room, narrowly escaping dual attacks from Helka and Ullr. Kaer Baer, frustrated from recent misfires, concentrated on Larrakh’s trajectory and shot a fire bolt seemingly far from the earth priest’s current position. However, given Larrakh’s speed, Larrakh and the fire bolt met dead on, lighting the oil and putting Larrakh up in flames! A stunned Larrakh was met by another arrow from Ginnifer, and he fell dead.

Some in the group noticed that when Ginnifer jumped down from the stone, the stones in the room raised slightly from the ground and could be pushed. The group surmised that Larrakh understood the magic that was used to create this effect and used that knowledge to impress the Believers, and that the Believers likely accidentally caused the effect to happen from time to time and therefore did not understand the trick fully. Helka found some coins scattered about, but the big find was the four Mirabar trade bars found on Larrakh’s body. Ullr revived Diero, and Diero summoned some goodberries to help regain some energy. While Helka, Ginnifer, and Kaer Baer searched the room, Diero investigated the area that Larrakh was running towards and found a hidden door in the corner.

The tunnel from the secret door led to a hidden entrance that opened to a quarry. The party quickly noticed that it was the same quarry they visited first thing in the morning before setting out to Lance Rock. As soon as they emerged, they were hailed by Constable Harburk. Harburk noted that he had Albaeri Mellikho in custody, and that he would send other deputies to each elder and to check out the tomb. The party let Harburk know about the three dead bodies, the cage trap, and the apparent cultists. Harburk thanked them, and told them to get to the inn and take a well-deserved rest – the investigation could continue in the morning. Harburk also, upon hearing about the Mirabar trade bars, told the group that an acolyte or priest was at the inn, and that Kaylessa told him that the traveller was concerned about a missing delegation from Mirabar. The group then walked to the inn for a rest.

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