Asheraven Play Report #8
Surely, there's no such thing as a bad day in Narwell
Are you a new reader of the Asheraven Play Report? Consider reading from the beginning with part 0.
Good morning everyone. Here’s part 8 of the Asheraven Play Report, picking up where the party left off staying with the hill giants to the west of Narwell. The party has determined what plagues the guards - rot grubs - but await instructions from
Fredenick Terrence the Sage on how to cure them. (In the previous report, I mistakenly said it was Fredenick. After reviewing communications with the players, I see that it was actually Terrence. In the greater scheme of things, it makes little difference, but I wanted to correct it anyway. Part 7’s report has been corrected to reflect this). Lord Tarban hired a mercenary group to fill out the ranks of the guard until a cure has been delivered. The party delved to the lower depths of Castle Octavius and unearthed a new type of monster, called a wickhead, as well as clear indications that Octavius, prior to his disappearance, was either himself involved in learning to reanimate the dead or employing someone who was. The news of Aldo’s steaks had spread throughout the town like wildfire. “Aldo’s is all done”, they said. That sums up the important recent events. Onto the current task.
The party just learned some important information about the cyclopes, namely that they are superstitious to a grave fault. They intended to put this to use in the very near future, but, first, they spent some time becoming familiar with the hill giants and the area. Besides the daily skirmishes between the cyclopes and the stone giants at the site of the hill giants’ former village, the party noticed a small warband of unknown identity that moved northward from somewhere south shortly after sunset each night. It returned along the same path before sunrise each time. The party chose to remain unengaged with the warband, whose number was estimated at roughly two dozen, but made note of its trajectory for future reference. While the PCs waited for Stinky to return, they made plans to spook the cyclopes. firstly, they spent a day hunting to collect animal carcasses. They were successful, spent the next day harvesting the kills, and took what was left over to the hill giants’ stolen village after sunset. They spread the animal remains around the perimeter of the village, and they located and contaminated the cyclopes’ water supply with the bag of rot grubs. The next morning, they heard the cyclopes from over the hills feverishly speaking, yelling, and chanting. Stinky arrived with the supplies one mid-day, and reported success with informing Terrence of the party’s location. Stinky also shared with the party that, while he was acting as the secretary in Jude’s stead, prior to the summoning of the Lionheart mercenaries, he had done some research in some of the town’s archives with his temporary privileged status. His ambition in the activity was to find any information about himself, that he may purge any records of wrongdoing in his past. However, he uncovered something unusual that refocused his efforts. He learned that his name was actually Schinchy, pronounced shkin-chee, and not Stinky. His first name, Ronald, he already knew but went by what he thought was his actual family name since he was the only survivor with the name as far as he knew. The party would still mostly call him Stinky, except Figlar who opted to start calling him Ronald. Besides the news of his name, Stinky (I also still call him Stinky) also learned some history of his family but divulged little of this with the party.
With Stinky back, the party felt comfortable executing one of their more risky plans to sabotage the cyclopes. They snuck just before the village, tucked behind a hill, and waited for the regular skirmish with the stone giants. The cyclopes left the village to engage in the fight. It was obvious that they had attempted to hold the stone giants off while remaining in the village for at least one prior skirmish, since most of the original structures had been repaired haphazardly nearly from rubble. The party searched the village to locate the hut the cyclops chief, Grubary, had taken for himself. They took down and defaced the chandelier he had hung inside, Figlar wrote some menacing-looking words on the walls in goblin, and they hung a deer head over the outside of the dwelling’s entrance. They double checked the water to ensure that they cyclopes had indeed been drinking from it and left the village. They took a different way back to the cavity that the hill giants were calling their home for now, and they came across an odd camp-like setting in a clearing in the trees. It seemed to be done by people who were knowledgeable of the ways of nature, since none of the makeshift structures were made with manufactured material. Moreover, nothing was made of unliving plant life; tents were made with saplings that had been bent and woven together with their own branches. There was no sign indicating how recently the site had been occupied, so the party left it undisturbed and finished the walk to the hill giants. They asked the giants about the campsite, who said that it was a telltale sign that the “bearded ones” were in the area. If the campsite was still set up, then it was still in use. The bearded ones did not stay in one place for very long, but they were well-known residents in the forest and hills of the region, or, at least, their name and presence were known. The hill giants also knew that the bearded ones were content with leaving alone all who left them alone, that they were not quickly moved to strong emotion, and that they spent most of their time on a constant pilgrimage throughout the forest. They called them bearded ones, because they all have a rough coat of fur over their bodies, which includes a sharp beard.
Terrence had still not sent for the party, so they made seeking out these “bearded ones” their next immediate goal. They went back to the campsite, but it was, perhaps predictably, deserted and back to its natural state. There were obvious signs that the bearded ones had been there, and they seemed to be somewhat sizable in number, based on the fact that they left an equally obvious path of travel in the forest. The party followed the trail, and discovered the group of the bearded ones. These people were bugbears, which, in this region, appear like a human mixed with a goblin mixed with a bear. They are similar in appearance to a large Japanese macaque, except with brown fur, a complexion that tends closer to pink than red, and a subtle v-shaped dip in their fur at the top of their head. As the party caught sight of the bugbears, they too were observed by a few of their number, but the bearded ones did not break their pace and continued walking at their smooth pace. The party continued to follow them, attempting to get closer and speak with them. The bugbears spoke common and informed the party, without stopping or slowing from their walking, that while they are welcome to parley, they would have to do so while keeping up with the traveling bugbears. The party obliged, and got right to the point while on the move with the nomads. The party asked if the ongoing confrontation with the giants had any impact on the bugbears’ own activities, with the intention of convincing the bugbears to help rid the land of the cyclopes so that the region may again see peace. The bugbears had been impacted, since the cyclopes were less hospitable than the hill giants and forced the bugbears to change course or else themselves be the target of violence; the bugbears would prefer a less direct approach to removing the cyclopes with as little loss of life as possible, but they conceded that great bloodshed may be necessary to restore the land’s previous state. In any case, the bugbears would aid the party for this task only and should otherwise not be considered friends especially to men, who the bugbears consider to be the poorest stewards of the natural world. The party also inquired about the warband they had seen each night, and the bugbears only said that they were called chucklers and were best avoided.
The bugbears said they would remain close by to where the hill giants were for up to two weeks but would desert the area immediately after, whether or not the party had come for them by then. The party received a courier the same day, around dinner time, from Terrence. At last, the party would learn how to help the guards recover from their parasitic infestations. The cure, according to the learned man, was a simple recipe of lye, lard, and salt. The mixture would toxify the blood of the imbiber, which would in turn poison the rot grubs. The obvious downside was that it a had a chance to poison and kill the imbibers themselves, and it was not going to be a small chance either. Still, as long as the rot grubs went unchecked, death for the guards was certain anyway, so the odds were still better with Terrence’s mixture. (I made up the lye/lard/salt mixture solution to rot grubs. I didn’t base it on anything other than I knew lye was toxic when consumed. I figured I’d just make that clear before someone asks where I pulled it from). Gathering the ingredients was easy, as was making the cure. Of course, the tension was all in whether any of the guards would survive through the cure. Not many of the guardsmen actually perished, thankfully, but the captain of the guard, Sergeant Renault, did succumb to the effects of the poison, and he died after the second dose was administered to him. Further interactions with the remaining guards were somber and hindered by the weight of that outcome. Successors for the position are determined by rank, and Oliver Farrier, who was also one of the sick guards, would become the new Captain once he was fully recovered.
While in Narwell for the purpose of curing the guard, they were summoned to the cemetery that surrounded the town’s temple on three sides. They were called by a family of northmen to be received as friends of a deceased man. The party went and found the family standing around an unmarked grave as the inhabitant was being exhumed. They greeted the party as the Gingledoofs, a prominent family of great repute to the far north. They were grateful to them that they had aided their son and heir in rediscovering their family’s lost fortress as well as making sure his corpse received a proper farewell rather than leaving it to rot in some beast’s lair. In payment for this, the Gingledoof family conferred their holdings near Narwell onto the party; this sounds like a grand reward, but, besides the old fortress, they only owned a small plot of land, at least by lordly standards, with a small, decrepit shack on it. The northmen’s currency, of course, would have been totally useless in Asheraven as a reward, so it was both the least and the most that could be given to the party under the circumstances. The northmen were in Narwell only to collect Gingledoof’s body to give him a funeral according to their custom back in the boreal lands, so they bid farewell to the party, who returned to the hill giant camp to finish what they started out west.
Although the party has not yet witnessed the direct result of their actions against the cyclopes, it is safe to say that they will soon be low in spirit between their new decorations and the contamination in their water. The bugbears seem to be a lucrative professional ally for the party that may prove useful even after the pending strike against the cyclopes, although it’s clear they will only comply with the party in actions of mutual interest. The guards have been cured of their parasites at the cost of Sergeant Renault and a few other guards of less renown. His successor does not seem to be one of the guardsmen intent on crippling the force, but the party will still have to work with Captain Farrier to have a similar working relationship as they had with Renault. Now that Gingledoof’s family gave them an untended tract of land, the party will no longer be required to spend their money resting in Narwell, but taking the shack and turning it into a fortress of their own would easily outpace cost of staying in town. In the next report, we can expect the events with the giants to be concluded for the time being, as well as beginning the next major series of events. That’s all for today. Bless you, reader, and good bye.
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Next: Play Report #9 (To be published…)