The Divine Scepter

Chapter 1: Excavating the Ruins

Several adventurers found themselves in the town of St. Barts, all for various reasons. Niem, the Wildling Seeker, arrived to find more information about the origin of a totem clearly originating from her desecrated village, which was traded for in St Barts. She met up with Mad Maluk at his trading post, who informed her that he snatched it off some goblins only about 2-3 days ago. He said someone else in town might know which direction they headed. As Niem was leaving the shack, she was spotted by Tobrin, the Human Warlord. Niem vaguely explained her interest in finding the goblins and Tobrin agreed to help. They heard that a stable boy named Maximilian had a scuffle with some goblins recently and went to see him. Max informed him that he went riding to a patch of forest up north where some ruins lie, and there was a handful of goblins there that warded him off. Niem explained more thoroughly her interest in the goblins, and Tobrin decided to accompany her to the camp to help in her cause.

Meanwhile, Beornwulf and Eanmund, the barbarians, arrived and traveled straight to the bar, despite the early hour. There, they overheard a conversation about an archeologist needing help with a dangerous expedition. Harper, the Sorcerer, was also able to find out about a warforged expert in town. The three met up at Liara’s cottage. Beornwulf helped the young scientist carry some parts over to a workstation and, impressed by his strength, she jumped to offer them some work. She explained that the ruins up north might house a golem, an advanced warforged relic from the War of the Planes. She expects that she might be able to salvage enough to maybe find some clue to unearthing the Divine Scepter. However, first she needs adventurers to clear out the baddies inside so she can safely get in to analyze the remnants.

The three agreed and set off on a different path than Niem and Tobrin toward the ruins. When Niem and Tobrin arrived in the forested area, they quickly located the goblin encampment and attempted to sneak up on them. Meanwhile, the barbarians and Harper attempted to search the area, but in doing so, mistakenly walked right into the encampment. With both groups somewhat surprised by the aimless meandering, Eanmund reached for his weapons and the goblins began retaliating. With a proper distraction, Niem and Tobrin used the advantage of surprise to flank the encampment from the other end, quickly wiping out the dozen or so camped out there. They left the leader alive, and were able to find out that they were a part of the group that attacked Niem’s village, but the main goblin camp headed somewhere else, which the goblin couldn’t disclose. Niem put the goblin out of his misery, and she and Tobrin joined up with the others to help clear out the ruins, which the goblins were camped out in front of.

A heavy stone slab covered the entrance of the ruins, with the words “This door yields only to…” carved over the doorway. The rest of the message had deteriorated. Tobrin and Niem looked about around the entrance to see if they could find the remainder of the message, and found two words on separate fallen stones: “Mortal” and “Blood.” Niem took a bloodied arrow and put it against the rock, causing it to open just enough for the group to squeeze through.

Inside, Beornwulf was quickly greeted with a hazard as the ancient floor crumbled at his step. The party hopped the pit and into an unlit room littered with skeletons from the war long past. Tobrin attempted to analyze one of the skeletons for the cause of death, but as he did so, the dead returned to life and grabbed the unsuspecting warlord. Throughout the hall, skeletons began rising to defend their tomb, but were no match for the teams combined effort.

Afterward, Niem began searching the walls for doors, as the only means of delving further was a 10 foot hole in the floor. She found that one of the walls was hallowed and weak. Eanmund and Tobrin had no difficulty breaking down the wall with brute strength. However, this feat created a fracture in the room’s structure, and parts of the ceiling began falling all around the party. Niem quickly rushed into the room to grab a cloak that was hanging on an upright bust before following the rest into the hole.

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Chapter 1: Festival Approaching

As part of the collapsing ceiling fell into the pit, Harper became separated from the rest of the group, but urged them to continue on while he found a way to rejoin them. The rest moved into the next room, which was a small, cavernous area with a pool of water collected in the middle. On the far side of the room, a single, crowned skeleton laid half covered in sand. As the group approached, a spectral skeletal mage appeared above the corpse and summoned several water elementals from the pool to protect his keep.

Even in death, the mage king boasted powerful magic. Fortunately, Harper was able to break through the barrier of rubble and lunged into the battle. Once the mage king was eliminated, the party agreed to rest for some time, as many of them had taken serious afflictions. Hours into their recover, sounds of activity from the floor above alerted the group. Fortunately, it was only Liara and two Dwarves, who, assuming the group had died, came to excavate the ruins. She hurried them into the next room, a collapsed great hall, where they found the deactivate golem buried amongst rubble. Liara gave the group half of their reward for now, and urged them to stay for the festival, when she could return the remaining 120gp.

Finished with their task, the five headed back to town quite late and got some rest. With a whole day until the festival, the party split into groups for various tasks. Niem and Harper went to investigate Liara’s house while she was at the site. Harper created a spectacle while Niem slipped in through a women, gathering whatever used parchment she could quickly find.

Meanwhile, Tobrin agreed to help find a shapeshifting thief who seemed to have been in town for the last few days. He met up with Niem and Harper to enlist their aid. First, they looked through Liara’s journals and letters, finding out that she has been in St. Barts for about 2 years, has been studying “Astral Plane Frequencies” (but without much luck), and seems to have the know-how to repair a golem. They agreed to return the journals after they got the rest of their reward before they hit the streets to look for the shapeshifter.

While asking around, Niem noticed that Maxamilian, the stable boy, happened to pass them twice in a short amount of time. They followed the half-elf boy into an alley, where he seemed fixed on something he was carrying. The three confronted him, calling him by the wrong name. However, he corrected them promptly. Niem introduced herself to Maxamilian, and he responded in a way that seemed legitimately faked. Tobrin and Harper managed to scare him into exposing his true form. He admitted to stealing, but pleaded that he would give them the goods he stole as long as they didn’t turn him in. They agreed to let him leave the village and returned the goods to whom they belonged. However, because they did not turn the shapeshifter over, the mayor only gave half of the reward he promised.

Eanmund and Beornwulf attempted to gather some information about Liara at the inn’s bar, but also didn’t find anything incriminating. Instead, they agreed to come back later and deal with a difficult drunk who needed scaring away. They returned that evening, able to spot the rowdy dwarf immediately. They addressed him kindly, and he bargained a drinking game for some coin. However, the brothers used the moment of diversion to grab him and give him a punch or two. The Dwarf broke free and insulted them for fighting cheaply. He said, for the sake of proper drunken culture, they must fight under proper circumstances, and the gather crowd seemed to encourage a Double Knife Brawl.

Eanmond and the Dwarf exchanged blows while standing their ground, but it was eventually the Dwarf who fell first. Ashamed and dishonored, he left the bar to drink elsewhere, for good. The bartender bought them a round and gave them a slight reward for ridding the place of him.

The day of the festival, the group awoke to a raid, as villagers fled the streets and packs of hyenas and gnolls swarmed the houses.

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Chapter 1: Fending Off the Hoard

Seeing the town in distress, the party quickly armored themselves and headed into the streets in time to intercept a pack of hyenas headed toward the inn with a gnoll archer. The hyenas quickly swarmed the defenders, but they were able to cut them down to one, leaving the last to scurry away in fear. Contemplating where to head next, they rushed to the mayors house, where a pack of gnolls were nearly through the barricaded door. They cut them down at the entrance, thus ensuring the mayor’s safety. However, he urged them to go to fairgrounds and protect the citizens there.

As they arrived, it appeared that many of the gnolls were in retreat from their raid, including several that came out of Liara’s house. It appeared that the golem had been boarded onto a carraige being reigned by two young behemoths. As the gnolls escorted the carriage away, the party notice that standing atop the golem was a male, blonde, eladrin, carrying a spear and looking directly their way despite wearing a blindfold. The several other gnolls joined up with the raiding party as they headed into the tablelands.

Though the party was able to save the mayor, they were not able to rescue everyone in the small town. Liara, Abbot Costello, and Maxamilian the stableboy died in the raid. Similarly, all the horses were slain save for one that Maxamilian died protecting, who he called Gertrude. As the town attempted to recover itself, Harper investigated in Liara’s house for any clues about the golem while the others did what they could.

The mayor said that he had heard rumors of a gnoll encampment somewhere to the north, but because of the vulnerability of an exposed raid, he hardly expected an attack. Curious about the Eladrin that was with them, he requested that the adventurers investigate the gnoll camp to: a) find out if they were planning another raid and b) learn what the motivation for the raid was. Gnolls do not seem intelligent enough on their own to know much about golems or even being able to harness one, if that’s what their intent ever was.

Just after noon, the party regrouped and followed the behemoth tracks into the tablelands. Eventually, they spotted the carriage resting atop a natural rock formation. As they approached, it appeared that the escorting gnolls and hyenas were all dead. Also, the golem, behemoths, and Eladrin were no where to be seen. Curiously, the grass all seemed to be facing away from an epicenter atop the hill, and Harper sensed the dim, fading presence of arcane and planar magic. Niem determined that the behemoths had wandered off, or fled from the site in different directions.

Tobrin found high ground to search the surrounding area. First noticing a distinct rumble in the ground, Tobrin spotted both Behemoths as the rampaged back towards the rock formation. He warned his allies and they all climbed to the high ground. As the behemoths approached, they pushed the cart down the slope, blocking the only ramp up to their location. Using a combination of ranged attacks and focus firing, they took out the two Behemoths one at a time as they thrashed apart the cart and surrounding boulders in attempt to reach the humanoids.

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Chapter 2: Exporing the Tableland

he next day, the group set out to the farms to see if they could track which way the ambushing gnolls came from. However, it seemed the gnolls coordinated their strike, as multiple tracks could be see coming NW, N, and NE. They headed off into a thunderstorm directly north, hoping to test their luck. At first, they spotted a shack next to a dried up pond where they sought shelter while the storm passed. Inside, they found a barely readable soggy letter among some miscellaneous gear hidden in the floor planks.

After the storm, they headed back into the fields. Tobrin came across a tree with some markings on it, reading “200 soldiers march at sunset while 20 monks quietly meditate.” Beornwolf thought this might be a riddle, with the numerals meaning steps. Also, Tobrin believed this was referring to an incident 500 years ago, where several monks at the Temple of the North Star defended their temple against a hoard of incoming Terran soldiers. They still weren’t sure about directions or pacing though, and figured this didn’t have to do with the gnoll encampment. So, they set off to perhaps returns at a later date.

Niem spotted some grazing horses over a hill. Everyone attempted to sneak up on the horses and hopefully catch a few. Despite being able to mount one or two horses, the overall racous activity was too startling to the wild creatures as they bucked and stamped away. As dusk approached, they found a small alcove in the hills that would properly keep a camp from any further storms.

The rain and storm returned periodically throughout the night, but there was little else to report for each watch. The next day the party set out Northwest of the town, where they came across a traveling missionary of the Sovereign Host named Sebald. The cleric announced that he was drawn to the area because he sensed a grave evil, and wished to accompany the 5 on their current mission, wondering if their goals were related. Together, they spotted two gnolls collapsed in the plains, dead from suffocation. They followed their tracks back to the gnoll encampment, which was a gruesome looking fort perched atop a hill.

Sebald didn’t think they would immediately attack a holy man with intent to trade, and agreed to trojan horse them inside where they could surprise attack. This proved unnecessary in the end, as all the gnolls within the walls were also dead in and out of their tents, like the two in the hills. The mouth of a cave leading into the hill, the gnolls den, emitted a dark miasma, and shadowy veins reached out from within along the ground.

The gnoll situation seemed to have remedied itself, but Sebald still requested they help him investigate the evil that was inside, and perhaps killed the gnolls. With the promise of spoils and one less threat to the region, they agreed. Sebald was able to keep the deadly miasma at bay using his religious totems and incantations as he cautiously led the 5 inside. Like the outside, this den was also littered with gnoll corpses, and as soon as they came to a larger room, growls echoed in the darkness. Shadow wolves leaped out from dark passages, surrounding the group. But the creatures were not any match for the party, and soon the halls of the gnoll’s den were silent once again.

First, the adventurers investigated a room that seemed to be well lit from behind the door. They found a room dedicated to Gruumsh, this tribes preferred deity. Similarly, they investigated a barracks room with little to be curious about. Eventually, they investigated a dark room which appeared to be empty as Harper slowly lit the room with torchlight. Eventually, the light hit a dark, specter, standing over a gnoll corpse. The creature, blindfolded, hideous, and draped in shadowy dark cloth, shrieked as it furiously turned its attention to the adventurers.

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Chapter 2: The Shrine of Dagon

While being swarmed with large shadowhunter bats, the sightless reapers summoned wisps out of the corpses of the gnolls. Though, the weak wisps were not enough to defend the bats or the reapers, and soon their corpses were among the gnolls’.

The party then advanced through several more rooms, unprovoked. At every open or closed door, they could hear nothing but silence. The area did not seem to be looted, as they were able to find several vials of poisons and some scattered coinage.

They continued up a small staircase until arriving at the only lit room in the dungeon: a throne room for the head shaman, who was deceased beside his makeshift throne of bone and hide. The middle of the room was dedicated to a statue of an octopus, set upon a platform. While examining the shaman, Tobrin and Sebald analyzed the statue and determined that this was a shrine to the cult of Dagon, an octopus monster. This was most unusual, as the location of the gnoll encampment was landlocked, and there are hardly any cultists of Dagon in this region of the world.

Tobrin also revealed that the idol was cursed and likely causing the miasma. Sebald offered to try to suppress the curse, but not wanting him to become incapacitated, Tobrin volunteered himself instead. Once he approached, tentacles of miasmic mist attacked and restrained the warlord. Similarly, from the growd, two massive tentacles emerged and began attacking the party. Niem and Harper attempted to suppress the cursed idol by closing up the vents causing the miasma while the others kept them and Sebald safe from the darktentacles.

Niem was able to clog up the holes, and the remaining limb weakened and dissipated. While recovering from the fight, Sebald queried as to how the statue ended up in a place like this. Niem told him about the Eladrin that stole the golem and who was working with the gnolls. Sebald didn’t seem convinced though, saying that it was even more odd for an Eladrin, denizens of the civil class, to possess such a wicked object.

Thoroughly stumped, the only thing left was to destroy the cursed idol once and for all. Beornwulf and Eanmund endured an overwhelming sense of drowning as they carried the statue outside, where Sebald cast the remove affliction spell on the statue. Now without any magical power, Beornwulf crushed the octopus statue with his axe.

Now that his mission was done and the evil vanishing, Sebald gave his thanks as he returned to his missionary duties.

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Chapter 2: The Vampire's Den

Beornwulf wandered into the cave, stopping after seeing some unobservant skeletons down two opposite paths. Before giving themselves away, they tried to deceive the undead to make them fight each other. Niem tossed a rock towards one and sneaked into the backline. The curious skeleton came to investigate and noticed the party patient waiting. Their cover foiled, the barbarians charged in down different paths as Harper and Niem helped to clear both rooms from the middle.

Afterward, the party looked around the clearly humanoid dwelling, eventually finding a secret wall behind a huge boulder. Beornwulf kicked the boulder aside and Niem unlocked the passage, finding a small room filled with a potion and some treasure.

Eanmund picked up the scent of death coming from both paths, and eventually lead everyone down the east ladder. They saw a hallway leading to closed double doors, and another open room glowing an ethereal blue. Niem and Beornwulf scouted to discover a large pile of bones, some more decomposed than others, below a hanging light fixture that had blue glowing candles. As the others came to join, the flames fell into the pit and went out, causing the room to go dark.

When Harper lit up a sunrod, several fleshy skeletons and one elite skeleton had emerged from the pit and were now surrounding the party. Beornwulf advised everyone to fall back so that they could funnel the powerful skeletons into a single hallway. Despite taking some heavy blows himself, the plan appeared to be successful as they hacked the flesh off of each skeleton one by one.

Harper investigated the room after the battle. Seeing the state of the corpses, he assumed that they might be in a vampire den of some sort. Meanwhile, Niem unlocked a door in the room. Inside, there was a fair looking young woman in a wedding dress, shackled to the wall. She seemed frightened and speechless.

Eanmund immediately recognized that she was undead, despite being seemingly in the flesh. He intimidated her for answers, but startled and confused, she collapsed on the bed and began yelling “Lorence! Lorence come save me!” Believing this to be a call to her master, the barbarians stormed in and killed her without hesitation.

Niem dissented with their rashness, but went on to steal the woman’s dress anyways. Similarly, Beornwulf suggested they set fire to the room, which they did before heading down the hallway to the doubledoors.

Not paying any mind to stealth, Eanmund opened the door to find a vampire standing near a ritual shrine, with more bones scattered throughout the room. He seemed shocked at the intrusion and prepped himself for defense.

Despite getting in a few early shots, the vampire retaliated with strong necrotic blasts and maneuverability, while simultaneously summoning goblin skeletons throughout the room. Just after, however, Eanmund dealt heavy damage to the vampire, forcing it to transform into an insubstantial form and attempt to flee. Eanmund chased after the flying undead, leaving Harper and Niem to take care of the remaining skeletons and aid his dying brother.

After chasing the vampire out of the cave and into the dark night, it was clear to him that he could not catch the vampire. He returned to the chamber to find his brother conscious again and the skeletons returned corpses. Harper determined that a ritual had been done in that chamber some time ago, that seemed to be much more complicated and use quite a few components. Meanwhile, Eanmund and Niem checked out the vampire’s cache, where they found some gemstones, gold, and a black, magic dagger wrapped in a velvet cloth with “S.T.” embroidered on it.

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Chapter 2: Wolf in Sheeps Clothes

While recovering from the fight, Niem proposed that they should return the bones of the undead woman to the grave, believing that maybe her removal was what caused the undead to stir. Back in the chamber she was being held in, the fire had dimmed and only her bones remained. They gathered up what was left and made their way back towards the village ruins.

There, they spent the rest of the night reburying the woman’s corpse. Just at sunrise, they witnessed the barely visible projections of Lorence and the woman sharing a kiss before disappearing completely.

They headed to the unnamed farming town to see if the ghosts had reappeared that morning. To little surprise, the attacks seem to have ended, and the party was rewarded with two riding horses. They later bought a cart. That night, they slept and ate for free before hitting the tablelands the next day, due North towards Woolhope.

Nearly to Woolhope, the party entered the forest of spires, a section of the tablelands where jagged rock formations littered the planes like an orchard. Harper reported that the area is prone to bandit attacks, but they risked going through to avoid the longer route. In the end, their day long travel through the spires proved uneventful.

The next day they arrived in Woolhope, a shepherding commonwealth that spreads for miles, mostly comprised of small shepherd families and windmills. The actual “town” aspect of woolhope, is the community that sits at the crest of a massive, arching hill, named Fafnir Head due to its similarities to a dragon’s upper torso. Niem pointed out that the massive hill was actually the result of a massive tree from long ago, which petrified and fell after an inhabiting dragon’s treasure was stolen. Regardless, they headed towards Fafnir Head Crest, which was a growing town at the center of the commonwealth.

On their way, they talked to a few shepherds who had little to report of goblins. However, it seemed many families were having their flocks attacked regularly from some type of monster. They headed to the crest to investigate. To the party’s surprise, very few of the people in the core town of Woolhope had any knowledge of these attacks, even the guards themselves. When approaching the mayor, he passed off the complaints as superstition and had no interest in investigating what was likely normal wildlife attacks.

Even without promise of a reward, the adventurers set to finding out more about the attacks, question the townsfolk about people who had been targeted most. Once more, the people at the crest were oblivious, but automatically had suspicions. Beornwulf found out about a goliath nearby that refused to join the commonwealth and was sometimes seen roaming other people’s land at night. Niem heard about a cave hermit who lived at the base of the hill who had a Dire Wolf as a pet.

They investigated the hermit first, finding a secluded cave away from the fishing communities along the lake. It appeared she was a shaman and did have a monstrous wolf as a companion. She denied the attacks, but didn’t deny giving zero shits about the welfare of the town. She reported that her wolf had smelt the monster regularly before the attacks. When asked to help track it, she said she would only comply if they brought her the Hunter’s Blessing ritual book from the Temple of Correllon, who refused to share it with her.

The adventurers headed to the Temple, despite it already being sundown, and, naturally, they were denied sale of the book. They schemed to break into the temple to snatch the book, but first needed thieves tools. Beornwulf and Eanmund burst into the general goods store and quickly snatch the tools, leaving behind coinage for pay and quite an obvious trail.

With the tools, Niem snuck in through the window, carefully avoiding the still awake head cleric. She was able to pick the lock on a case containing what she assumed was the correct ritual and brought it two the rest of confirmation. With the hunter’s blessing ritual in hand, they quickly darted back to the cliff cave, hoping to not get spotted by guards. Luckily, there were virtually no guards out.

The hermit woman quickly learned the ritual and performed it, letting the Dire Wolf lead them to the monster. Eventually, they found a giant, humanoid wolf devouring a sheep not far from Fafnir Head. The wolf had amazing regeneration, shaking off enfeebling powers nearly immediately and healing it’s wounds rapidly, which Niem believed had to do with it being night. Despite the clear advantage, the party managed to mostly weaken it, causing it to flee toward the town just before sunrise. Using fear powers, the beast immobilized the adventurers, allowing him to get a head start with only the Dire Wolf in pursuit. Seeing the uselessness of catching up at this point, the adventurers sans the shaman woman mended their serious wounds before following the trail towards town. Along the way, they spotted the Dire Wolf, who was seriously wounded from trying to fight the beast solo. The Shaman woman similarly seemed uninterested in the pursuit any longer.

They followed the tracks to the crest, where the early morning foot traffic made tracking the beast’s steps any further nearly impossible.

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