Valiants of Varnhaven

Ritual Murder

So last time we met, you had been charged by the the Duke of Varnhaven to solve a grisly murder.  A murder that had the stink of arcane body swapping ritual all over it.  Something beyond the norm for Captain Levon and his crew of ex-farm hands and country folk guardsmen.

Your best clue was a blackened charred root, something you had seen before when Lyal came back from his disasterous deal with the Frogmen and the Gloam Hasher. Lyal had used his roots to raise monsters of mud and ooze near his profane altar in the woods, trying and failing to find a path back to prosperity and prominence.

You know those these roots have some sort of power, but you're not sure how its all connected.  The "duke" is convinced this killer has struck before, but was sneaky and subtle enough to avoid leaving any clues.  And he's convinced the killer will strike again, especially now with the influx of new victims from Londar, refugees seeking shelter within the Dukes domain.

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Mar Kus and the Frogs

Your ears ring, your head throbs, and you spit out blood as you slowly pick yourself up out of the thick mud. Gew Pum Lo laughs as he tosses his fish away.

“You fight like KOBOLD, pinky.”    You grope about in the mud for the shaft of your halberd, but Gew Pum Lo kicks it out of reach. “Enough, human!  You… beaten!  Again.  HAHA!”  He croaks loudly, and the frogmen gathered around to watch your duel croak in laughter with him.

A smaller frogman, shades of blue and grey where Gew Pum Lo is red and black, steps forward in the faint drizzle, raising his hand to end the match.  “Gew Pum Lo, you have made your point.  The human will honor his agreement… won’t you,  Mar Kus?”

The wizened old frog waves at you to rise and scrape the mud out of your eyes and ears.

“Mar Kus, you wagered three months.  We will hold you to that.  Come, gather your bag.”

Lud Ump So, the stooped shamanic leader of the Shade Knife tribe of frogmen, leads you up along a rain slick path, away from the beach, deeper into the center of their island.  Eventually you come to a clearing with thatched huts, smoldering cook fires, and bright woven hammocks strung from black willow and swamp cypress.  Frogmen (and frog-women, and even frog-kids) watch as you trudge along behind the old shaman, and you are sure you hear them snickering in their burbly, croaky language.

“Here, Mar Kus,” Lud Ump So says finally, in front of a tiny one-room hut.  “You will sleep here.”

You bend over double to enter the tiny hut.  Inside is a pallet of damp canvas stuffed with moss, and a small rickety, three legged stool.  Nothing more.

“I will come for you when the sun rises.”

For the next two months, the frogmen put you to work chopping down trees, hauling away brush,  and moving stones too heavy for the frogmen alone, and for every boulder you roll away to clear a patch of dry land, Gew Pum Lo and his crew unearth three more.  Gew Pum’s cronies hurl insults at you as you struggle to roll wet mossy boulders through the thick mud, pelting you with small rocks that sting like flies.  Eventually your rage gets the better of you, and with a roar you pick up a boulder the size of a tree stump, hurling it into the brush beyond the clearing.

The frogmen give you a wide, respectful berth after that.

On your last month with the Shade Knife tribe, with a mere thirty days of hard labor left in your debt, Gew Pum and Lud Ump approach your small cooking fire while you prepare your breakfast of eggs and fried fish.

“Enough of the labor, Mar Kus.  We have another task for you.  You will range with Gew Pum, clearing the last of the beasts that stalk our swamp.  Sharpen your spear-axe, Mar Kus.  Prepare for battle.”

Gew Pum Lo, you notice, has traded his usual long, dead fish that he uses for discipline for a great ivory sword, serrated with alligator teeth.

And for the next four weeks you tromp through the muck with Gew Pum Lo and his hand-picked crew of frogmen warriors, tracking down shambling mounds, swamp trolls, owlbears, and other critters that threaten the growing Frogman tribe and the swamp waters they fish and farm in.  Between the Frogmen’s swamp lore and cunning, Gew Pum’s skill as a close quarter fighter, and your reach and rage, you make quick work of most of the megafauna that lurk in the Anura Swamp

At last, you and Gew Pum stalk a flight of green dragon wyrmlings that have claimed a massive black willow on the far edge of the swamp..  Three of them, languishing among the branches after a meal of giant crawfish, doze in the afternoon sun, tails twitching slowly as they nap.

One of the wyrmlings went down fast under the initial onslaught, but the other two fought with all the ferocity and savagery dragonkin are known for.  You and Gew Pum focused on one together, while the rest of the hunting party harried the third with bows and spears. You don’t remember much after you raged… just a blur of blood, claws, and teeth.

You slowly come to consciousness, staring up at Gew Pum Lo as he laughs and croaks.  You find yourself back in a thatched hut with Gew Pum peering down at you and Lud Ump So muttering over your bandaged leg, peeling away a bloody swatch of cloth.  

“Ya!  Good fight, Mar Kus!”  Gew Pum croaks.  He claps you shoulder, shaking you and earning a glare from the old shaman as he finishes up with his mutterings and magics, cleansing your leg of the infection the wrymling’s bite had set upon you.

“You’ll be fine, Mar Kus… another day or two of rest now.  Lucky that Gew Pum got you back here in time for me to clean these wounds.  I’m surprised he didn’t just leave you to rot.”

You continue to recover over the next few days.  Gew Pum orders a feast in honor of the ranging party’s successful return, declaring  the swamp clear of any significant dangers to the Shade Knife tribe, and thanks in no small part to the pink human who fights like a kobold, Mar Kus.  Heaps of fish, bowls of rich gumbo, butter soaked crawfish, all spread out before you.

Mid feast, Gew Pum Lo approaches you with two monstrously large dead fish in his hands.  He tosses one to you….

Moments later you pick yourself up off the ground, ears ringing and spitting blood.  The frogmen croak and laugh, but you know now they are no longer laughing at you.  Gew Pum clasps your arm to help you up, clapping you on the back.

“Ha! Pinky, you now fight like a frog.  A grippli! HAHAHA!”

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The Bargain of the Nine

Last week the group helped the Sanderson farm settle an old score with a local goblin tribe.  Thankful Pa Sanderson spilled his guts on all the behind scenes he was aware of. 

He told of a secret vote between the Nine families involving the coven of bog hags living nearby in the swamp.  The witches had first come asking for the daughters of the small community in exchange for an abundance of peat.  The coven was denied but when they returned to ask for the lives if strangers …. few families refused the deal.  Those families that accepted have seen a peofitable year like none other.  Those that refused have met with mishaps, accidents, and possibly even a goblin raid.

Knowing that Magda the Bog Witch is behind the vanishings and other mishaps in town the brave party has decided to bait Magda and the town by having the newest and unknown arrivals of the group pose as a seperate party.

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No Peat for Whiskey

All went well.  No one died.  The bog witch had a little job for our local heroes and they set off to investigate a missing shipment from the peat farms far to the southeast.

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Downtime Part I

Having returned victorious from your journey into the swamp you have gained a small amount of fame.

The Captain was very interested to hear about the adventure and asked for it to be repeated a few times. His main points of interest were in Lyle's crops, theft from the Gloam Hasher and the mud creatures / golems. In order to protect the Brewbaker Farmstead and reputation the Captain asked that you leave out Lyle's involvement. At least the least savory parts of kidnapping, theft, and ritual magic.

The first week was full of questions, free drinks, and asking to hear the journey's events once more. The stories eventually became less asked for and life returned to normal.

The Brewbaker farmstead has been very quiet of late and not many of the family have come into town since the "illness" that claimed Lyle's life.

The Gripplie were able to move onto the southern lake shores with very little trouble or incident. Many of the children have befriended the little frog children and are often seen running around playing a new game called "leap frog".

Chief Acro has been working on building relations between the town and his village and has offered and had his village help in the replanting of the Brewbaker's burnt fields. Their love and skill with plants has been seen as a blessing and a boon to Bridgetown. The loss of the Brewbaker's crops may not be as devastating as first thought. With good weather and time it may not be long before the farmstead is back in order.

Spring fades away and summer arrives with its blistering heat and humidity. The Summer "Pool" Festival is fast approaching and although the blacksmith continues to work upon the "crocodile" boat he believes it will still be incomplete before the whirlpool's summer arrival. He hopes that the parts he has ordered will arrive with Thimble's next visit closer to the Pool Harvest.

The travelling merchant Thimble has come through town in time for the Festival. His wagon is always loaded up with cloth, tools, food stuffs, alchemical supplies and a few strange sundries. Somewhere along the way he also picked up a set of magic bracers of archery (450gp), a bag of holding (400gp), gem of seeing (3,300gp) and a potion of hill giant strength (200gp).

The town is ready for the Summer Pool Festival and it may be needed in order to relieve tensions.

Bandits have attacked the keep of Duke Varnhelm and many of his men were slain. In order to replenish his guards, the Duke has recalled all the soldiers except for Captain Levon. The villagers are worried that their defenses will be weakened, and have increased the training of the local militia.

Captain Levon has asked for Thorum the blacksmith to aid in training the town militia and asked for all tested and blooded to volunteer for nightly patrols.

The Festival is a mere two nights away and the low hum of excitement in town has steadily increased to an audible hum in the air.

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Dungeon of the Swamp Frogs

So last week you went to meet the Frogmen, who were pretty blunt with yout…

  • nope we don't have the kid
  • but we are owed three years of servitude from that kid
  • Lyal made the deal in exchange for some seeds
  • Lyal didn't keep his end of the bargain, so we burned the bushes down
  • No, we didn't burn any of the rest of the farm.  We're not MONSTERS
  • You want to change the terms of the deal?  You fight our champion.  You win, you get to decide how the terms are met.  We win, and WE decide.

And then the frogman champion beat up Jason with a dead fish.

The Frogmen agreed to release both the boy and Lyal from their obligations in exchange for you guys clearing out an abandond dwarven fort, deeper in the swamp, so the Frogmen could move in.

Harrell was squeemish about going deeper in to the swamp, but agreed to drop you off at the stone pier…

A path from the pier lead up to a patio of sorts, where visitors or dignitaries could meet with the dwarven commanders above ground for discussions and negotiations.  However, the patio was now sunk in to a foot of water, and inhabited by a couple of giant land crabs.  MELEE!!

And Jason gets beat up by seafood.

After you cleared the slime from your eyes, you made your way deeper into the abandond fort… now soaked with swamp water, covered in algae, and crumbling apart.  The first room you found was a chapel to the dwarven god Grimli, of the Fiery Axe, that still hummed with faint dwarven mojo.  Past that, a gaurd room at the base of a watch tower, with a distant buzzing, far above.

at the top of the tower, you found a couple of giant WASPS, left behind to protect their nest, while the rest of the hive did battle with a band of LIZARDMEN below.  The lizardmen took a couple of pot shots at you, but you easily ducked them and went back down the stairs.

You continued to explore, and found a long, sloping hallway leading under the water.  The hallway was trapped, and you narrowly missed the chance to be roasted alive.  Instead, you bypassed the trap to find a workshop further below.  

Benches, tools, rotting supplies, and a … crocodile?  Aligator?  Hard to tell.  As you got closer to the contraption floating in the dive pool, ropey tendreils of seaweed snaked out at you wrapping themselves around you and pulling you under.

And Jason gets beat up by nori.

Eventually you pulled the seaweed off you, chopped it into small enough bits to not be a threat any more, and settled down… figuring what with the trap up the hall and this room cleaerd out, it might be a good place to get a rest.

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Into the Swamps

So last week you fought fires, investigated some arson, found some clues (some crude arrows, a chipped knife wrapped in aligator hide, a broken clay pot with dried black mud inside, and a twisted, black root you found in a dried up puddle of mud), headed to the swamp, fought some wolves, met old Toothless Harrell, and decided to go visit the Frogmen.  

You skirted the swamp until you found a path leading deeper into the muck, and ultimately to a hermit named Toothless Harrell.  He offers guide services and information, and ultimately some facilitation in negotiating with some of the other creatures living in the swamps.

Toothless Harrell warns you that the Frogmen aren't so friendly any more.  He still does some trade with them, but is cautious and wary.  He knows that the Gloam Hasher has taken up residence with them, but hasn't seen her directly since she arrived.   He thinks she is a Bog Witch who was exiled or fled from the Black Witch Bog, but doesn't know for sure.  He knows that she's dark and scary.

Toothless Harrell's hut is built on stilts, keeping it above the muck.  A rickety wooden patio surrounds all four sides, covered in an amalgamation of oiled canvas, wood shingles, and animal skins.  Several wooden rocking chairs are scattered about, along with small crates he's flipped to make tables.  

Pots and planters over flow with flowers, herbs, and berry bushes.   Tomatoes, pepper plants, beans,  even some planters with rows of onions and potatoes line the railings of his patio. Stringers of fish hang to dry in the sun.  On the side of his patio overlooking the water, fishing poles lean against the railing, their lines stretching off into the water.  Harrell pasues to tug at a rope, pulling a trap up out of the water.

"Crawdads have been plump this year.  I'll toss some of these in a stew, if yer stickin' around for a bit."  He pulls out a crayfish as large as your fist, looking it over before dropping it into a nearby pot and reaching back into the trap.   "Got a dozen of these things in here!"  

He fishes the clicking, wriggling crawdads out of the traps and drops it back in the water.  He ambles through his pots and planters, plucking off peppers and pulling up a few potatoes.

"So… uh… you guys stickin around for a bit then?  Wanna eat some lunch before we go see dem frogs?"

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