“The Road to First Oak II”
The Traveling Journals of Molliam Merryweather
[Wherein the band welcomes Nickel Greenbottle to the quest, nearly fall to their own foolishness, liberate and claim a keep for their own, slay a green dragon and bring about the rebirth of the Blessed Fountain in a most unexpected manner.]
July 15, 315
After two weeks we have decided to bid a fond farewell to our gracious hosts and the kind kingdom of Tramilar. Our hosts have sent word on to the king, who has bid us free return at anytime in the future and pronounced us “friends of the court“.
We have secured our supplies, taking little advantage of the king’s generosity. We have, however, purchased four war ponies and contracted the construction of Halfling-sized military saddles for each of them at a considerable discount.
We require a fourth mount for the newest member of our company who has introduced herself as one Nickel Greenbottle#. Nickel is quite the well-known wizard around town. Apparently she’s made her meager fortune selling ever burning torches, among other things, and has even been summoned on occasion to the castle to offer her magical services there.
She has asked to accompany us on our quest, citing a sad lack in resources for her studies in the small kingdom of Tramilar. She hopes our journeys will prove both “fruitful in mystical materials for study” and in “opportunity to exercise her craft under field conditions”. Griffon was skeptical at first, as was I, but we all quickly changed our minds when she answered our challenge to demonstrate her abilities by tossing a bolt of lighting through a nearby tree.
Needless to say the locals were less than happy about that, but she’s certainly earned a place traveling with us. I must admit I’m more than a bit curious myself. I’ve never had an opportunity to associate with a wizard before and would learn more about the methods they use to harness magic without any inherent ability to wield it naturally.
In the meantime, we will be traveling on to the town of Marikest. From there it should prove less than two days ride to the Lockwindy forest, where deep within resides the Glen of the First Oak. Curiously, I have heard it said that the forest takes it’s name from a vulgarization of it’s original elvish name. If I guess correctly I would reckon the original would translate as something like “green girl”#.
We will begin our trek once Griffon returns from his share of the shopping errands we’ve split between us. Ham and Nickel are here and we have completed outfitting the horses. Nickel was kind enough to provide each of us with a dozen ever burning torches, which I find quite handy.
May the members of the Blessed Fountain Secret Society be visited by bored pixies within their outhouses.
June 16, 315
We have camped on the roadside and now suffer from a most unwise decision made earlier this day. We have engaged and defeated a hill giant. Indeed, a most extraordinary accomplishment but one which has left Two-socks, Ham and Nickel near death and the lot of us broken and badly wounded. In the end it has taken our last two healing potions and all of Ham’s abilities to save the lives of Nickel and Two-socks. Having exhausted all our healing for the evening, we are still each of us left in quite appalling condition.
We will camp here overnight and, most likely, the following day as well.
Concerning our earlier encounter with the hill giant: I was on point this afternoon, as usual, and spotted the giant milling# about off the road ahead. I was able to make my way back to the company without gaining his attention and report to them what I had seen. After some consultation we decided the hill giant represented a real threat to the local community. Indeed, there were two farms less than a mile back the way we had come.
In retrospect I admit the idea of besting a hill giant frankly appealed to us. And I can imagine that Nickel was eager to prove her worth to the company. The rest of us have so far been very lucky in the battles we’ve engaged in and, I suppose, we thought adding a hill giant to our list of vanquished foes to be an irresistible opportunity.
Utter and complete foolishness.
So over confident were we that we made no preparations at all nor discussed anything resembling a battle strategy before engaging the monster. I did manage to run ahead and position myself nearby and, when the rest of the company had it’s attention, I struck a hard blow to what I hoped was it’s hamstring. The blow was true and wounded it badly, but hardly brought it to it’s knees. Rather than strike out at me, however, it took up a small boulder which it had just been looking under and, roaring horridly, tossed it overhand directly at Ham.
Ham took the blow, reeling, but managed somehow to keep his feet and press on. Nickel tossed of a bolt of lighting directly into the beast, but still it turned to me and grasped it’s great knobby club from at it’s feet. I began then to reconsider the course of action we had taken. I did manage to dodge the swipe, however, and the rest of the company quickly closed and engaged the giant. What followed was the longest battle I have yet to endure. I saw poor Two-Socks fall to one mighty blow. Surely crushed to death, I thought. Ham took a blow from the giant’s club and fell soon after. While Nickel tossed various magics at the lumbering hill giant and Griffon sunk arrow after arrow into it, I was forced to fall back when I took a blow directly to the chest.
Despite it’s unthinkable size and girth, it was quite fast. Much faster than I had anticipated. When it suddenly charged upon Nickel, she too fell beneath it. In the end Griffon and I, both barely able to fight on and in danger of death from the next blow that fell, managed to bring it low and finish it.
It struck me with horror to see our companions tossed about like rag dolls upon our little battle field. I was too mortified even to react. Griffon, thankfully, was possessed of his senses enough to fetch the two healing potions from Ham’s backpack and use them to rouse the cleric. He, in turn, was able to stabilize Nickel and Two-Socks and expend his healing abilities on everyone.
After all was done, none of us were completely healed and we are camped now until we are able to go on.
Disappointingly, we found nothing of value on the hill giant’s corpse at all.
May the members of the Blessed Fountain Secret Society be possessed by even greater foolishness than we have exhibited today.
June 17, 315
Ham has completely healed everyone at last and we will camp the night here before continuing on in the morning#.
An interesting encounter occurred last night, however. It was during my watch that I heard someone approaching our camp from the west. Sneaking off to get a look, I saw a she-orc striding straight for our campsite, sword in hand. I allowed her to pass, jumped upon her back and slit her throat from behind. I doubt she even knew what befell her.
I found little of worth on her corpse, nor any indication as to why she was out and about alone. I took a look around but found no sign of a larger orc band nearby, either. I did find disturbing the color of her hair. It was silver, a most unheard of color for orc hair. Typically orc hair is black, with the only rare exceptions being brown or some other dark color.
A silver-haired orc I’ve never heard of#. I wondered if perhaps I should not have taken her captive or at least confronted her. But, then again, she could easily have been an orc wizard or some such. That hair of hers certainly bespoke of something odd about her, perhaps best left avoided in the end.
May the members of the Blessed Fountain Secret Society be infested with a fresh boil for every day of our quest.
June 18, 315
After two days of travel we have arrived in Marikest and taken two rooms at an inn. Tomorrow we’ll shop a bit, replenish our supplies and set out for Lockwindy forest.
May scarabs infest the various orifices of the members of the Blessed Fountain Secret Society and plentifully reproduce.
June 19, 315
After re-supplying we stopped at a local tavern for a drink. The townsfolk seem friendly enough, but the town is obviously on edge about something. Ham has heard that the local keep has been abandoned recently, making the locals somewhat anxious about security.
Asking around a bit I discovered that many of the more talented folk about town left on the heels of the army when it went on to it’s new post near the border of the Dragon Lands. Apparently there is also quite the enterprising little band of thieves operating in town and bandits have begun acting up on the road. Considering all this, I expect I’ll advise the others that we had best move on soon before he get ourselves in another mess.
It seems Nickel and Ham have been spreading tales and many of the locals have become familiar with our exploits to date. The local sheriff, Reg, has heard of us and approached us moments ago. It seems he wishes to hire us to scout out the old keep in the mountains. He seems sure that bandits will take up residence there soon, if they haven’t already, and can’t spare any men to go take a look at the place. He is offering five hundred in gold coins for a thorough inspection of the keep.
Griffon seems inclined to take the offer, as does Ham. Nickel has no opinion on the matter one way or the other. As it stands, having converted the rubies and jewelry to coin, we have well over six thousand in gold and platinum coins between us. I can’t see why we shouldn’t simply go on to the Glen of the First Oak and get all this over with, myself. We’ve accumulated more that enough wealth to retire quite comfortably. I think.
We have met with Reg and town council speaker Gerrard Ishkar. To our surprise we have managed to negotiate for possession of the keep and the small plateau on which it stands, with the understanding that we are to keep it out of the hands of bandits and such. Griffon and Ham are excited at the prospect and Nickel is more than willing if she is granted a permanent residence and study there. I myself am intrigued by the idea, though daunted at the enormous maintenance a keep would doubtless require.
Still and all, we’ve still some weeks before we need to complete our quest and it seems we’ve time for one more little adventure. If we are lucky, we will find the keep completely empty and need only claim it. Barring that, I doubt there is anything therein we cannot handle.
May the members of the Blessed Fountain Secret Society forevermore be confined within the chamber pots of bowel-inflamed dragons.
June 20, 315
This morning we have taken our vast reserve of wealth and set about better arming ourselves. Our latest battle with the hill giant has inspired us to seek better protection, at least. Thankfully, there seem to be a small population of Halflings hereabouts and armor in our size is available, if not in any great variety.
Ham has sold his banded armor for half it’s worth, replacing it with a striking set of gleaming full plate armor (which took all day to have fitted). Griffon has reluctantly found a new home for his richly designed studded leathers for a equally well-crafted chain shirt. I’ve decided to make due with my own studded leathers, reluctant to let go of such a finely crafted set. Nickel, poor thing, has decided she must do without as she prefers free range of movement to ensure the gyrations necessary for her arts.
Griffon has also decided to trade in his trusty long sword for a great sword such as Ham has used to such stunning effect#. We were also able to find a archery shop with composite short bows for both he and I.
Meanwhile, Nickel and I set about picking up a few knick knacks that might come in handy while they were about it. Most interesting of all we discovered a spyglass in the possession of one curiosity shop owner and managed to convince him to part with it. I’ll not mention the staggering sum he insisted upon, however#. We also managed to find an alchemy shop and secured several flasks of alchemist’s fire and acid.
I would think us well prepared for anything.
May the members of the Blessed Fountain Secret Society henceforth belch alchemist’s fire at the very mention of our names.
June 21, 315
We are camped within site of the plateau on which the keep rests. We have decided to forego a campfire, lest any inhabitants up there spy us. Tomorrow morning I am to scout around the base of the plateau for any alternate routes of approach. If none can be found we will simply make bold and march up the road to the keep’s gate at noon.
May the members of the Blessed Fountain Secret Society incur the wrath of sadistic dracoliches.
June 22, 315
At morning light I was able to use our spyglass to survey to top half of the keep unseen. I noted three stout orcs, each posted on a separate tower of the structure. They seemed particularly uncomfortable under the early sun I was pleased to note.
I’ve scouted the base of the plateau, still unseen I hope, and find no alternate route of approach. The cliff walls themselves are a full fifty or so feet high and far too difficult to traverse. I judge we could scale the cliff with relative ease with even standard climbing gear, but we have neglected to bring any with us. Not to mention such noise would betray our presence rather quickly anyway, I reckon.
As it stands, it seems we’ve no other choice but to approach the gates of the keep directly and hope the orcs above are so miserable under the open sun that they do not take note of us.
It is night and we are encamped atop the overhang in the courtyard, in sight of the massive iron gate of the mine entrance. The battle we concluded earlier was quite intense and afforded us all opportunity to acquit ourselves with appropriate valor. Indeed, Nickel has most certainly shown her worth beyond any doubt.
As it happened, we elected in the end to ride right up to gate of the keep, which we soon found had completely collapsed at some time in the past. We almost reached the opening without being seen but found ourselves challenged by one of the orcs just as we were about to slip inside.
Griffon managed to convince the orcs that we had been sent for by their chieftain and we were allowed in to see him. It seems that orcs are every bit as dense as I’ve been led to believe. We walked our ponies into the courtyard as casually as we could and made for the overhang to hitch them beneath it.
Once inside we immediately noticed a huge white wolf chained to a well in the center of the courtyard. It stood no less that four feet tall and nearly eight long. It fairly glared at us the whole time, which I found quite unnerving. We hitched our horses to some posts beneath the overhang and quietly conferred on how best to proceed. We all agreed we could do little without earning the further suspicions of the three orcs sentries, so it was decided we would have to take them out as quickly and quietly as possible.
We tried to talk them down to “help us unload the gear for the chieftain” but they refused to abandon their posts. Obviously, there were motivated more by laziness than duty. Failing in that endeavor, we decided to simply storm the nearest tower and hope for the best.
We quickly chose the east tower and found the first floor empty while the second contained seven sleeping orcs. We managed to kill all of them while raising little fuss and with no more than a few scratches to ourselves. Unfortunately, the orc on lookout above peeked in through the trapdoor and raised the alarm to the other two. Without thinking I launched a twin set of magic missiles through the opening at him, killing him instantly.
Up the ladder onto the tower top we scrambled, in time to see the other two orcs call down into their respective towers for their comrades. The one on the tower opposite the keep gate charged along the wall to edge of the collapsed front gate to throw javelins at us while the other orc sentry fled below into his tower. Griffon quickly dropped the one threatening us with two shots before he could even make his first throw.
Reasoning that we were undoubtedly in for a thick fight, we closed the trapdoor at our feet and prepared to make our stand. Soon orcs began pouring from the base of the far tower into the courtyard while the our twin tower disgorged it’s lot onto the parapet. We sniped those on the nearest tower first with arrows, while Nickel waited for the one’s below to completely exit the tower before tossing a huge ball of fire on that lot.
Ham and Griffon dropped three between them and I killed one and wounded two others with magic missiles before Nickel released her fireball. To my amazement I witnessed the exploding ball of fire utterly destroy the entire lot of them in the courtyard below#. As I said, Nickel certainly has shown her worth.
The devastation caused the group of remaining orcs facing us some pause as well, but we took advantage of their distraction to let loose another volley. We dropped two more and my magic missiles wounded two others before they were able to get close enough to let loose with their javelins. Two-socks and Nickel were both hit, but still standing. We loosed again, slaying four more. The remaining four decided at last to flee. We killed two of those before the surviving two ducked below into their tower.
Before we could relax, however, the doors of both houses across the courtyard were flung open then and two enormous trolls stomped out into the courtyard, yelling curses at the orcs they thought were raising a ruckus outside. One spied us immediately and yelled out to the other, pointing us out. We immediately launched upon them from the tower, hoping to catch them off-guard before they could storm us. We only managed to hurt one of the two, who immediately ran for the base of our tower. The other ducked swiftly back into his building. We pelted our only target as he ran our way, to little effect. Once it had gained our tower and ducked inside, we waited around the trapdoor for it to emerge. In the meantime, we spotted the other troll exit his building again, this time with a small, rather beat-up looking goblin, who it sent off out the back gate.
Once the first troll emerged howling from our trapdoor we hacked at it as best we could. It struck me hard nearly the instant it thrust itself into the opening. We continued fighting and it struck me yet again. I must say, being struck by a troll is like being struck by a falling tree. Not much you can do but yelp and try not to be incontinent. Ham and I finally struck true and managed to knock it down once it had scrambled completely up out of the trapdoor. We immediately poured an entire flask of acid on it’s remains to prevent it from rising again. By now we could hear the other troll charging up the stairs below, apparently having approached the tower while we weren’t looking, and we again took up position to ambush it.
By now I admit I was somewhat afraid. I know that I was in rather poor condition, as were Griffon and Nickel. Our luck with the first troll had been obvious and Nickel’s acid arrows had prevented it from healing itself all during our fight with it. But she had no more such missiles and we faced the coming troll with nothing but conventional arms.
When it emerged we struck, with nearly everyone landing a solid blow. Nickel tossed the lightning bolt she’d been saving right through it. The troll struck Ham and then Nickel, knocking her down and out. It struck at Ham again, but missed and we felled it at last. As with the other troll, we quickly burned the corpse with acid to prevent it from rising again.
Ham immediately roused Nickel and used his powers to partially heal himself, Nickel and I. We soon noticed we had lost the two orcs who fled into the nearest tower earlier, as well as the goblin that the troll has ordered into the mine. We then spotted the two orcs sneaking toward the mine entrance, however, and felled them with arrows from above before they could exit the courtyard.
As we emerged from the tower entrance into the courtyard, the winter wolf immediately began clamoring for attention and offered information for his release. Griffon also extracted a promise from it to flee the surrounding lands and do no evil therein in the meantime. It agreed and we released it. According to the wolf, there is a powerful orc cleric in the mines who commands the dead. There are also slaves in both buildings, who we immediately went about releasing. Among the slaves we noticed a few bedraggled goblins who we’ve elected to keep in custody for now. The others have chosen to flee the keep and attempt to make their way home to Marikest. The winter wolf bounded off through the broken gate and disappeared the moment it‘s bonds were severed.
At present we remain encamped with the mine gate in sight. Hopefully, we will have some time to rest and recover before we face whatever awaits us in there.
May the members of the Blessed Fountain Secret Society find enraged trolls in their bedchambers tonight.
June 23, 315
At nightfall last night we heard the iron gate of the mine creak open and out strode a large orc. From it’s bloody attire and the iron symbol hanging from it’s neck, it was clearly the orc cleric the wolf had warned us of. Following him out of the mine were no less than seven corpses and skeletons in various states of decay.
It immediately noticed the carnage upon entering the courtyard below us, though it seemed surprised. Apparently the goblin we misplaced during our earlier battle had neglected to report to him. Before we could spring an ambush it spotted us and let out a yelp, turning to cast some sort of magic upon itself.
We let loose a volley instantly, but we all utterly failed to land a single missile upon him and he concluded whatever foul magic he conjured. With a quick glance over his shoulder, he cast some form of spell# over his dead followers and the lot began slinking their way toward the western tower door. Griffon encouraged us to keep at the cleric, reasoning him to be the most obvious danger, and we did so. Only Nickel and I were able to land a hit, and it yelped and dashed off for the mine entrance before we could cast another volley at it.
We did manage to toss off a few shots at the dead milling about the tower door below before they all scrambled inside, but landed only a couple of strikes to little effect. Ham immediately ran to the wall and the top of the western tower to confront them, the rest of us at his heels.
We found the lot, moaning and drooling, on the second floor of the tower and engaged them. Ham leveled his iron symbol at them, commanding them to depart in Kord’s name. The three animated skeletons immediately tossed up their bony arms and fled gibbering down the stairs, but the four bloated corpses remained and closed to attack. We found their clumsy efforts to claw us easy to avoid and soon scratched them up a bit. Almost immediately, however, we noticed the banished skeletons return from below, with the orc cleric commanding them!
Unable to reach him without charging through the small horde of dead, we battled on. We slew two of the zombies then, but the three skeletons surged forward to fill the ranks. The orc cleric also sprang into action, brandishing his iron symbol and spouting something orcish and dire sounding at Ham. Ham was immediately struck dumb and stared in horror at the orc, though I don’t know what had transfixed him so.
Unable to defend himself for the moment, he was struck hard by the corpse facing him. Griffon and I also were wounded slightly and I had cause to remember we were all still recovering from our previous battle. Ham shook off whatever had startled him before and lay into the mass of dead again, as did we all. He dropped one of the skeletal fighters and yet we still faced two corpses, three skeletons and the orc cleric himself.
I was struck yet again and was beginning to wonder if my wounds were slowing me down after all. The orc began slavering at Ham again and I witnessed him suddenly slow and freeze up mid-swing, as if turned to stone. The skeleton facing him was on him instantly, rending him as Griffon hacked another corpse to the floor. It seemed unable to find a place in Ham’s plate armor to claw effectively, however, and Griffon had sprung upon it before it could do any damage to poor Ham. During the distraction the orc cleric had begun wailing something awful sounding in orcish and soon had summoned some horrid form of ape thing out of thin air!
Nickel I were still having little luck felling the dead that faced us, but Ham had shaken off whatever held him. He and Griffon quickly leveled the skeleton at his neck in time for the ape to spring at Griffon’s back. The orc cleric turned his attention then to me, commanding me to fall with some measure of dark power behind his voice, but I was able to easily resist the compulsion and battled on. Still Nickel and I managed to avoid the claws of our opponents while Griffon turned to meet the fiendish ape creature that howled at him. Ham, however, sprang past the beast, dodging a swipe of it’s paw, to level a might blow at the orc cleric himself. Which unfortunately missed quite badly.
Griffon struck the ape beast, dealing a glaring cut to it’s torso and I at last dropped the decayed corpse that challenged me. The ape struck back, however, dealing a staggering blow to the side of Griffon’s head that nearly knocked him off his feet. Deciding that the ape thing presented the greatest danger, I circled to it’s rear to try and disable it.
The orc cleric, meantime, managed to level a telling swipe with it’s great axe at Ham’s midriff that wounded him terribly as Griffon and Two-socks battled the ape. I managed a strong blow to the beast’s undefended back with some success, but the ape-thing shrugged off the blow and continued mauling poor Griffon. Amazingly, Two-socks soon managed to get at the things neck and brought it down instantly.
Ham finally landed a blow at the orc cleric, eliciting a painful grunt from it. I elected to aid Nickel against the skeleton she had been fighting from the beginning and allow Griffon and Two-socks to engage the orc. They did so immediately and fell upon the orc just as it struck an evil blow to our dear Ham, knocking him unconscious at it’s feet. The orc’s roar of triumph was cut short when Griffon charged and knocked it back to the edge of the stairs, however.
The skeleton Nickel and I faced managed at last to land a scratch on her, probably the first wound either of them had caused one another during the whole fight. I struck the head from the dreadful thing immediately, however, and Nickel and I turned to face our sole remaining opponent. Realizing all it’s minions had all fallen, the orc cleric snarled an orcish curse of some sort and turned to flee. Griffon struck the orc solidly through it’s back bringing it gurgling to it’s knees, killing it at last.
At present we have camped again on the overhang of the courtyard. We’ve no healing magics of any sort and have tended Ham as best we are able. It has been two hours since the conclusion of our last battle and he is still unconscious. None of us are possessed of any natural healing skills at all and we greatly fear his loss. We will keep watch over him during the night and pray for the best.
May the members of the Blessed Fountain Secret Society share Ham’s fate if should he fall.
June 24, 315
Ham has awoken and seems stable enough. Thanks be to Olidammara for the blessing. We are terribly wounded, however, and in no shape to brave the wilds between here and Marikest, nor to fully explore our newly won keep. We are moving into the eastern building to spend the day and night resting. With luck Ham can have himself and the rest of us up and about in a day or two.
I pronounced the members of the Blessed Fountain Secret Society free of curses this day to celebrate Ham’s miraculous recovery.
June 25, 315
Ham is still recovering, though his healing has sped it along quite a good bit. Nickel seems well enough and Griffon and I are still injured. We expect tomorrow to show us all fully recovered. In the meantime I was able to putter about the innards of the keep and gather what little booty there was to be had. The orc cleric yielded, to my surprise, some number of uncut stones which we all hope came from the mines behind the keep. He also possessed ten onyx stones, which I suspect he intended to use in animating various corpses. His axe and armor Nickel has confirmed are possessed of some slight enchantment. Ham has claimed the armor but everyone refuses the axe that nearly brought our dear Ham low. Beyond this I managed to glean a handful of gold and silver from various orcs but little else besides. The keep itself seems to hold little but broken furnishings, refuse and orc droppings.
The walls of the keep, and indeed the entire keep itself, is in tremendous need of repair. That the soldiers who recently occupied it allowed this sorry state to exist I find deplorable. To my discouragement I find the wall itself has collapsed in two sections and the front gate lies in ruins. If indeed there remain any store of gems to be unearthed in the mines at all they will undoubtedly go toward repairs, it seems.
We will continue resting and hope nothing else dangerous lies in the shadows of the keep still yet. I expect we’ll take a look at the mines tomorrow.
May the members of the Blessed Fountain Secret Society pee their breeches with envy when they learn we’ve claimed such a mighty fortification as our own.
June 26, 315
We are all fully recovered and after breakfast we will brave the mines to see if anything else remains to challenge our claim to the keep. For now we’ve brought out the goblin slaves, fed them and remanded them to the cellar of the building in which we reside, the door of which we’ve sealed with pitons and heavy pieces of refuse. Hopefully it will hold them long enough for us to explore the mines and return. With any luck we’ll be able to turn them over to authorities in Marikest.
We’ve explored the mines to their fullest, finding only a trio of animated skeletons to challenge us. We finished them off with ease and discovered the tunnel they haunted had indeed been excavated upon recently. With clear evidence of recent digging and the uncut gems in possession of the orc cleric, it seems clear the tunnel still holds some amount of wealth to be plundered. Unfortunately, none of us have any knowledge of mining whatsoever and, since we can saw no shiny gems poking out from the walls, we cannot solidly confirm it’s viability. Nonetheless, we are confident we’ve circumstantial evidence enough to warrant hiring a mining team in Marikest to make use of the place one day.
Of the other five tunnels we discovered all of them ended abruptly, with the exception of one rather long one which seems to have accessed a much larger natural cavern some time in the past. At present the tunnel looks out over what appears to be a large underground lake. Though our lights could not penetrate the darkness far enough to accurately judge it’s size, we have sounded it with echoes and estimate the cavern to be perhaps several hundred feet wide at the very least. Further, somewhere out in the midst of it I could hear a strange dull roaring sound I could not identify. Griffon seems to think it may be the reflected sound of a waterfall echoing in from an adjacent cavern, but it seems to me to emanate from somewhere amid the lake itself.
We decided that while we could send Nickel out flying over the lake to investigate, it would be far too dangerous. We have also noted that someone in the distant past has constructed a short pier onto the lake below us, but the stairs leading down to it have rotted too much to be safe. Further, from what we could see, the pier seemed rotted as well. Perhaps we could explore the lake by boat in the future.
In the end we decided we’d seen enough for now and further investigation would have to wait until we occupied the keep properly.
Upon returning we naturally found the goblins had escaped and though Griffon is confident he can track them, we have decided to leave well enough alone and return to Marikest for now.
We have arrived late at Marikest and taken rooms for the night. Tomorrow we will report to the sheriff and the speaker and receive the proper deed to the keep. May the members of the Blessed Fountain Secret Society be drowned in the bile of a thousand nauseated zombies.
June 27, 315
We have met with the town leaders and been granted our deed. Having scouted the town a bit we’ve finally gotten around to selling the onyx and uncut stones. We’ve also interviewed a number of men with some experience working in the mines years ago and the few other professional tradesman that we were able to find. In the end we managed to assemble a small group of men to oversee and repair the keep in our absence. We have given orders not to make any attempts at working the mine until our return and have hired a small guard to both ensure the security of the mine and of the keep itself until we do. We have granted them until tomorrow to gather what belongings they may, including their family members if they wish, and will escort them to the keep tomorrow.
We have, so far, twenty laborers, five masons, an architect and two engineers. We’ve also taken on an experienced labor supervisor to watch over the lot and a full-time cook to feed them all. Griffon and Ham had earlier conspired to round up a small band of five human mercenaries to guard the keep and the mine as well as a retired company commander to supervise them in turn. We’ve given each man, both laborer and mercenary, a gift of twenty gold coins to purchase what supplies they might require, at which they were all fairly astounded. Tomorrow we will turn over the sum of four hundred and twenty gold coins (enough to cover pay for all the men for two months) to the labor supervisor who will be charged with distributing daily pay to the men and mercenaries in our absence.
It is evening and we’ve managed to elude most of the mob of unemployed townsfolk who’ve heard of our generosity. The innkeeper has agreed to bar any visitors, not to mention providing us with a safe egress in the morning. Tomorrow we will escort our workers and guards to the keep, then head out for Lockwindy forest at last.
May the lands of the members of the Blessed Fountain Secret Society be forever salted.
June 28, 315
We have reached the keep and our supervisor has already begun doling out assignments and setting about making the place generally well organized and livable for his men. The guards have been granted one building to share with the supervisor, cook, architect and engineers. We’ve given them strict instructions to guard both the plateau itself and the mines and have received assurances they will do so to their utmost. The other building has been given to the general laborers, masons and family members to quarter in. All seem quite happy with arrangements so far.
Already the supervisor has the men clearing the trash and orc droppings from the place and the men seem to be of generally good spirit merely to be employed again, even at such nasty business. We’ve helped unload both of the men’s wagons of provisions and supplies and will soon set out for Lockwindy forest once we take a last look at things here.
An interesting development. One Belford Holimion (elvish for “diamond dew“, I think?), a half-elf from Tramilar has arrived at our keep this afternoon. Apparently he has traveled here to seek employment with our own Griffon, promising his undying loyalty and service, etc. Griffon was quite taken aback that he might have earned such a reputation that mercenaries would seek him out by name. Still, the elven half-breed was quite well armed and armored, had his own steed and generally seemed well enough equipped. In the end we offered him the same pay as the other mercenaries, which he graciously accepted, and assigned him to the guard group for the time being.
Belford made clear he wished to accompany us on our quest, but Griffon wouldn’t hear of it, claiming the keep required more immediate service than he. The half-elf relented with our promise that he would see action enough in days to come, most likely.
We are camped north of Marikest having inspected the keep earlier and found it self-sufficient. Tomorrow we ride for Lockwindy forest and the end of our quest.
May the members of the Blessed Fountain Secret Society find their tunics caught on the tails of mad tigers.
June 29, 315
We have come to the end of the north road and journeyed to the edge of the Lockwindy forest. Tomorrow we will enter the wood and seek out the Glen of the First Oak.
A pox of festering sores on the pates of all members of the Blessed Fountain Secret Society.
June 30, 315
We have entered the Lockwindy forest and found the Glen easily enough. I still marvel at the place even now. The Glen stands some half mile deep and is closed on one end by a huge oak tree easily some two hundred feet in diameter. Indeed, it casts a shadow this evening over the entire glen and it’s branches spread well beyond the edge of the vale. Surely, I assume this to be the First Oak of legend. We could see here and there about the glen small cottages of branch and thatch as well, though most seemed in sad state of disrepair.
Oddly, there doesn’t seem to be anyone here and the cottages dotting the outskirts of the place are all deserted. Griffon, Two-socks and Perry have had a good look around while we found a cottage nearby for us to stay in for the time being. They report there doesn’t seem to have been anyone living in this place for many years.
A mystery indeed. Further, a bit of a quandary as the mother spring doesn’t appear to be handy at all. There is a small brook running through the place from somewhere beyond the First Oak, but nothing resembling a spring. I assume it must be located somewhere nearby, most likely beyond the great oak, but I really had thought someone would be on hand to instruct us how to proceed. I managed to fish out the special container for the waters from the very bottom of my backpack in order to have it handy, but until we can locate the spring I’ve no idea what to do with it.
Earlier this evening a striking young elf (or so we thought) wandered into the Glen. When Ham challenged her she seemed quite startled to find us here. When we explained who we were and for what purpose we had come she seemed more at ease. However, to my surprise she explained that she had not expected to find us here today, as we should have come weeks ago. She had apparently assumed we weren’t coming at all. At our confused looks she sat us down to explain things a bit. It seems this woman is not an elf at all, but a dryad inhabiting the First Oak of the Glen, no less. Actually, on closer inspection she did seem to have rather bark-like skin and her hair was a definite shade of dark green. Odd that I hadn’t noticed those things before.
She has told us that the original inhabitants of the Glen, a cult of elven druids, had long since been massacred by an old green dragon which wandered through here from the north. It has since departed back to the Dragon Lands but it’s offspring, a most foul and evil young dragon, still haunts the Lockwindy forest even now and comes often to the Glen to torment her.
She also had deigned to fill us in about concerning the legend of the Mother Spring and Littleton’s own Blessed Fountain. It seems Gambino Longstrider, the Halfling prince of legend, once led a small band of adventurers in these parts and aided this very dryad’s ancestor in defending the Glen and the First Oak from ogres. In reward for his help he was given a sampling of the Mother Spring so that he might create the Blessed Fountain in whatever place he called home#. Assured that the fountain that sprung forth would heal any ill from anyone who drank from it on their birthday, he saved the waters and did not call forth the spring until many years later, when he founded Littleton.
When we apprised her of our own quest, she did not seem at all surprised. Apparently, descendants of Gambino Longstrider have been coming to the Glen every fifty years since the day of his death seeking to renew the fountain. We are the fifth such band of questing Halflings to visit the Glen so far. The dryad, who calls herself Oakwind, has offered us full details on the location of the spring and instructions on securing a sample of the waters. However, she stubbornly insists that we do a service for her as well, in the spirit of Gambino Longstrider and all that. It seems she wishes us to dispose of the dragon that haunts this forest.
Needless to say, this has caused us a bit of a crisis. Perhaps we have, over recent weeks, become something of a fool-hardy band of adventurers, but that is not to suggest we are lacking in any sense of self-preservation whatsoever. Indeed, orcs and hill giants are one thing, a dragon is quite another. But the dryad would brook no further discussion of the subject and has retired to her great tree for the night. So, it seems to us we’ve no other options beyond either abandoning the quest entirely or at least attempting to slay the beast.
I honestly hold little confidence in the ability of four foolish Halflings to successfully defeat a green dragon. I can only hope I am able to convince my company to at last abandon this entire line of foolishness and retire to our new keep. Surely, they can’t still remain loyal to Littleton and it’s cowardly elders. We will see tonight.
May the members of the Blessed Fountain Secret Society be scoured by the breaths of a thousand green dragons.
July 1, 315
My company has eagerly accepted the dryad’s offer to throw ourselves wailing into the maw of the green dragon. Despite my attempts to inject some reason into their discourse on the subject last night, I was unable to overcome the visions of glory and vast treasures that doubtless swam about their heads. We are to leave shortly and hike only a few miles to the cave of the beast. There, with luck, we might find the dragon napping or at least indoors. If we are truly fortunate perhaps we will be able to wound it a bit before it devours us all.
As this is likely my last entry into these journals, I will leave them here in this cottage in hopes that some future band of lunatics might learn some wisdom from our own foolishness.
May the members of the Blessed Fountain Secret Society be visited by all the curses of this tome combined and hunted through the Glandril plains by the disgruntled folk of Littleton.
July 2, 315
After a day of rest and recovery I take up my journals again. I will detail our battle with the dragon and offer some further notations about the days that follow, but I find myself weary of this quest altogether. This may likely be one of only a few last entries concerning this endeavor.
Having reached the cave of the beast, we decided it best to catch it indoors rather than out and about where it could breath death upon our heads from above. Stopping only to receive some minor blessing of Kord from Ham we entered the entrance of the cave. So it was that we marched straight into the lair of the dragon with all the foolish bravery I’ve come to expect from us. We quickly found the beast roosted within a smaller alcove in the very back of the cavern. It was clearly wide awake and watching our approach with all the fright and worry of a lion watching an army of field mice come to do it battle.
I must admit, it seemed that Ham was quite right about dragons. They do tend to horde the wealth of those they devour. Directly beneath the beast’s lounging form I spied what appeared to be a rather sizeable collection of coin, mostly gold. Still further there were a small number of other unidentifiable objects wedged almost carelessly here and there in various crevices about the beast’s niche.
Just as our light reached the end of the cavern and the beast was illuminated, it spoke. “So, the dryad of the oak has finally come to her senses and sent tribute to her king. Ah, but such poor fare you are. Surely she does not intend insult, does she? Perhaps I should send you back and demand proper, full-grown snacks.” With that it stood upon it’s four legs and strode forward to the edge of it‘s bedding nook. I was surprised to find it not much larger than a man-sized war horse. Large, surely, but not quite the gargantuan beast I had feared. Nevertheless, I was not disposed of all caution just yet. A dragon is a dragon after all.
“Well, what say you? Have you any defense of your worth as tribute to the king of Lockwindy forest? Or do you agree you are far too small and gamey a meal?”, it growled. To my fury the beast had the gall to chuckle at us and promptly turned full around and slunk back onto it’s bed of gold. By all appearances dismissing us completely!
If it galled me, then it properly infuriated Ham who immediately roared forth his own challenge, “By Kord, turn your back if you will beast, but I’ll see you bow before this gamey snack today!”, and drew his great sword. The beast wheeled quickly about at that, not quite as unconcerned as it had wished to appear, and our battle was quickly begun in earnest.
With a short command and wave of Kord’s symbol, Ham quickly summoned before him a great gleaming lion of some sort and Griffon began loosing arrows at the beast with dizzying speed. Two-socks wasn’t all too eager to rush and engage the beast, fortunately, and Griffon had ordered him to stay clear anyway. He did manage to contribute to the general din of battle with a solid round of yipping and barking, though. As I let loose my most powerful attack, scorching twin lines of fire across the beast’s flank, Nickel summoned from who knows what horrible place a swarm of chattering black bats about the beast’s head.
Startling at the swarming mass that suddenly appeared around it, the beast lashed out instinctively with a great gout of greenish gas. To our horror, the entire swarm of vermin instantly dropped convulsing to the cavern floor. We really had intended that to occupy the beast a bit, at least long enough for us to give it our best.
Ham sent forth his lion to engage the beast and held out his holy symbol toward it. A great light flashed from the iron symbol and shone on the beast, searing it’s evil flesh still more. Griffon again loosed with his bow, finally landing two strikes. One solidly into the beast’s neck! I managed to toss off twin magic missiles at the dragon and Nickel at last struck forth with a thundering bolt of lighting before it roared and bounded forward…directly past Ham’s lion and straight at Nickel!
The lion managed to snap at it’s flank as it passed, but missed, and Nickel was struck fully by both the beast’s great claws and fell in a bloody heap. Two-socks soon had enough of barking from the shadows. With a quick sprint he sprang up and snapped at the beast’s neck, but was shrugged off instantly. Ham’s lion, however, leapt full upon it’s back, bit deep into it’s neck and raked it’s flesh with one great gleaming paw.
Ham leapt forward himself and struck the dragon full upon the neck with his great sword even as Griffon sunk two more arrows into it’s head. With a roar the beast staggered to it’s rear legs and turned to face Ham, loosing a huge cloud of green gas on both he and Griffon. Griffon managed to leap out of it’s path just as it struck him but Ham was caught head-on by the hissing cloud. Both were left sputtering and gasping as the horrid gas burned their skin and lungs.
I launched yet another round of magic missiles into the beast and scored well. But the beast lashed out at me with it’s tail and struck me, catching me by surprise. It raked at Ham with one jade claw as he attempted to recover from the toxic gas, but only scored the rock at his feet. Griffon unleashed at the beast and again landed another fletched arrow into it’s neck. Two-socks had little luck landing a solid bite on the beast yet again, and the lion was quickly tossed to the cavern floor with one huge shrug of the dragon’s shoulders.
I let loose the last of my magic missiles and drew my sword, preparing to close with the beast myself. The dragon had apparently turned it’s full attention on Ham and I hoped to take it’s flank while so distracted. In the process, I witnessed it rear and strike Ham with one great bite and a swipe of it’s claw. Ham was thrown from his feet onto his back, but miraculously seemed yet to live.
As Ham gained his feet again, with some amount of effort, Griffon launched again at the beast to no effect. Amazingly, Two-socks managed a solid bite to the dragon’s leg and earned a yelp from the great green lizard. The lion also managed another leap to it’s back, biting and clawing into it’s flesh#. By now the beast was looking rather grim, scorched and bleeding from several arrow wounds, cuts and bites. With a near frantic startle, the beast suddenly darted for the entrance of the cavern, clearly intending to escape.
Ham and I managed a desperate swipe at the beast as it flew past us, the lion still dug furiously into it’s back, and Griffon loosed yet again at it’s retreating tail. To my utter amazement, our last desperate attacks all landed well# and seemed enough to finish the beast, and it quickly stumbled and collapsed at the cave entrance. With a final weak snuffle it twitch and moved no more.
With a disdainful snort at the corpse of the dragon, Ham’s gleaming lion turned and disappeared in a twinkling. Ham immediately stumbled over to Nickel and set about mending her until she was able at last to open her eyes and regain her senses. The lot of us, with the exception of Griffon, were sorely wounded. But quickly enough Ham’s healing arts had made us all whole again, if somewhat fatigued from the battle.
We set about gathering the dragon’s horde, hardly willing to let such an endeavor go unrewarded. To our annoyance, Nickel was soon up and around enough to insist on skinning the great beast. Apparently there were blacksmiths who were able to construct rather nice suits of armor from the hides of dragons and Nickel was insistent that we not forego the opportunity.
As Ham and Griffon set about skinning the beast under Nickel’s careful supervision, I gathered the coin as best I was able and divided the huge lot between the four of us. What items of art and other things I found in the mass I stowed in the boys’ backpack until they could all be properly inspected.
Having accomplished all of this we bundled the fresh-hewn skin of the dragon, brought forth our ponies from the woods and finished stowing the lot away securely. We left the cave of the dragon and returned to the Glen of the First Oak where we now await audience with the dryad of the oak.
Ham is quite furious with the dryad, as am I. It seems in the end the mother spring resided just beyond the First Oak after all. While it required a short scramble past the oak to reach it, securing a sample of the water was simplicity itself. I merely plunged the container therein and filled it. Hardly the convoluted ceremony we had been led to believe it would be.
The dryad offered no apologies, nor any thanks for slaying the dragon that had so tormented her for that matter, and quickly ushered us from the spring and into the Glen. Without further ado she disappeared within her great oak and we found ourselves muttering curses and standing about utterly bereft of glory in midst of the empty vale#.
At last, reasoning our quest largely at an end, we have retrieved our ponies and set out toward the north road. At present we are encamped roadside and expect to reach Marikest tomorrow.
I’ll waste no more curses on the Blessed Fountain Secret Society within these journals. I suppose I’ll have opportunity to pronounce them properly in person soon enough.
July 3, 315
We have reached Marikest and taken inn rooms for the night. Tomorrow Nickel and I will seek an armor smith with talent enough to work the dragon skin while Ham and Griffon ride on to inspect the keep.
July 4, 315
Ham and Griffon report that work on the keep has progressed well in our absence and the guard has managed to keep the mine secure so far. Nothing of any note has threatened our keep while we were away, thankfully, and Griffon has left word that we expect to return properly within a couple of weeks.
Nickel and I were able to find a smith for the dragon skin and are assured that the resulting armor will be completed by our return. I’ll not name the staggering sum that was demanded for the work, but considering it will likely take the entire sum of the poor smith’s working hours for the next week I can’t blame him for seeking a tidy profit. In the end Nickel almost decided to work the skin herself, having some training in armor smithy from her own family. But she decided at last that her skills were likely not up to the task and begrudgingly agreed to the price.
We are to leave on the road for Littleton tomorrow at dawn.
July 5, 315
After lengthy consultation I managed last night to convince the rest of the company to allow Nickel and I to inspect the keep before setting out for Littleton.
This afternoon, when the rest of the party was busy inspecting the keep and choosing where they would bunk therein, I left the keep unobserved and sought a nice spot to plant a spring.
Having located the perfect spot, I doused the waters of the mother spring on a middling sized boulder near the western cliff wall of the plateau. Immediately the whole plateau shook slightly and rumbled a bit. Suddenly, and with a sharp “twang”, the boulder fractured and there spouted forth a rather respectable gout of swiftly flowing fresh water. Before anyone from the keep was aware, the waters had found their niche and a small stream had quickly formed at the base of the boulder to flow majestically across the plateau and out over the edge of the cliff to the forest below#.
I must admit I am greatly pleased with myself, though I can’t say the rest of the party is nearly so pleased with me. Ham was quite livid and at the striking scarlet color of his face I feared his heart would fail him. Griffon seems more disappointed and hurt than anything, and has stalked off to sulk a bit while Ham rages and roars to his satisfaction. Nickel, of course, couldn’t care less whether Littleton’s fountain prospers or not and is far more concerned with studying the “interesting phenomenon” of the spring itself.
Frankly, I am not at all ashamed of my acts and Littleton can dry up and blow away for all I care. Why we should have suffered this horridly difficult quest and braved the monsters we have only to turn over the waters to a town that has showed us so little care is beyond me. Perhaps it satisfies our two warrior’s sense of honor but I hardly find it satisfies my sense of personal profit.
As it stands we’ve managed to claim a formidable keep, a (hopefully) lucrative gemstone mine and our very own magical fountain. Really, I can’t imagine a more appropriate ending to our little adventure.
Perhaps in time my comrades will come to see the wisdom of my actions. Until then I plan to join my lovely weasel Perry and likewise bathe stark naked in my new spring for the remainder of the day. Together we will snap our fingers at Ham’s wrath and enjoy a proper end of things.
And so I end this journal of the Blessed Fountain quest. May the members of the Blessed Fountain Secret Society be granted long life, so as to suffer their misfortunes all the more.
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