Your DM for this excursion is JollyBootsofDoom, and your TAY players are:
Novibear playing as Ursin Obi, a druid
Rody2K6 playing as Noklo Geo, a half-elven ranger
DetectivePlunkett playing as Grarim Splitsmile, an orc barbarian
Spacegar playing as Mark, the rogue
LoserMLW playing as Corvin the Mysterious (and his familiar, Eeep), a half-elven sorcerer
SylvanKnight playing as Jasper, a fighter
**Fair Warning - this is a long form writeup of our session, and I plan to tell the story in this way moving forward. It's a long wall of text with few images at this point. We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoy playing it!**
Moonlight glints off of long abandoned mining equipment scattered through the streets and alleyways of Diamond Lake, a run-down mining town resting in the hills outside Kobol Del Sol. As the residents meander through the streets from shanty to bar to brothel, the occasional braying of stray dogs breaks the sad routine of the mist-filled evening,
As the night settles in, a small selection of local adventurers has each received a hand-delivered letter. Opening their letters to read, they find that someone is recruiting an expedition into a nearby cairn, and they have each been invited to meet shortly at an abandoned mining office on the western outskirts of town. The letter bears the mark of Kurbads, a major player in Diamond Lake and someone each of the adventurers has heard of. He's known for being one of the fairer mining bosses in the Diamond Lake region.
Scattered across the town, the adventurers waste no time in their individual responses to the request. Ursin Obi, a young and untested druid, packs up his meager belongings and sets out for the building from his camp on the eastern shore of the lake. Reading over the letter carefully, Corvin the Mysterious cancels his show at The Rusted Pick, then grabs a few things and calls his monkey familiar, Eeep to his side before leaving for the meeting. Across town at The Silvernode Inn, one of the finer inns available in Diamond Lake, Noklo Geo finishes a goblet of wine before standing, stretching and striding out of the dining hall. Jasper and Mark receive their letters at the same time, while playing a game of chance and nearly bump into each other on the street in their haste to get to the meeting place first. And last but not least in size nor strength, a burly orc known as Grarim Splitsmile wipes some of his opponent's blood from his fist, grabs his axe from the chair next to him and strides from the local watering hole Delver's Drink out into the dark.
Chapter One: A Job Offered, Deals Made and Missions Accepted
As the adventurers approach, the building looms above them, a heavy, broken structure. The age and sheer weight of the structure has caused the second floor to partially collapse on itself, but the first floor entrance has been left open. As the group enters cautiously, the interior is lit by a small fire and crouched near that fire, a big, burly, bearded man awaits. Grarim Splitsmile stands back, leaving space between him and the others he doesn't know. As the group gathers, Noklo looks around, wondering if he the only son of a noble here. Coming in last, Corvin the Mysterious keeps Eeep firmly in his grasp. Eeep looks determined to scamper off, and quickly does so, bouncing around the room with curiousity.
The beard with a man attached to it stands straight, his size proving to be nearly a match for Grarim, and he speaks, "Ha! Well, ain't you all a motley bunch! Thank you for coming." From the back of the group, Mark speaks up in response, "So, what kind of expedition did you want to attempt, requiring this 'motley bunch'?" Almost in sync with Mark, Noklo barks, "Kurbads, spill it. Why make us walk here in the middle of this cold night?"
Kurbads picks up an old pick handle, and pokes at the fire somberly. "Look, here's the score. A day ago, two cairns previously thought empty were discovered to have more to them. One, the Silent Cairn, has already been ransacked by my competitors. The other, Whispering Cairn, is ripe for the picking." Noklo, listening intently, prods Kurbads, "Go on." Kurbads stops poking the coals, and looks up at the group with a determined look. "I need that claim."
Corvin thinks a moment, then offers some information to the group. "There's rumors the cairn is haunted, but that can be said about every cairn around these parts.." Kurbads looks to Corvin briefly, then turns his attention back to the group. Noklo inquires, "Who are these 'competitors'?" while Ursin, Mark, Jasper and Grarim listen on. Kurbads responds, "Some rough and tumble, high-falooting adventurers, came into Diamond Lake no more than a month ago." He pokes harder at the fire, the topic obviously frustrating him. "I can't have these young-bloods showing me up. It makes me and my company look bad."
Mark pipes up, "So, Kurbads, we shouldn't necessarily be worrying about these adventurers, right?" Mark then flips a dagger into the air, catching it deftly. " 'Cause murders cost extra." Noklo interjects, "Also, do they have any of those pesky spellcasters running with them?" Kurbads, pokes at the flames one last time, then tosses the burnt pick handle aside. "No, these adventurers shouldn't be a problem."
In a booming voice, Grarim speaks up from behind the group. "Unless you want them dead, this sounds like a job for some mules." Jasper points his thumb over his shoulder toward Grarim and adds, "What he said." Grarim glares at Jasper for his interruption. Kurbads looks sternly at Jasper, then to Grarim. "Ah, but mules couldn't get past the defenses that may be in place. If this job was easy, I'd simply have my own workers do it." Corvin, ignores Eeep's struggling and turns toward the group. "Easy is cheap," he mutters, "but hard can get expensive pretty quick."
Jasper hears his opportunity, and steps out in front of the group. "Let's talk payment, Kurbads." Noklo steps between Jasper and Kurbads, interrupting Jasper. "Jasper, wait.
What's the catch first, Kurbads? There has to be a catch." Kurbads folds his hands over his beard and responds, "But for doing this for me, I will pay you each 100 gold, plus whatever you can find in the cairn itself, minus my 15% finders fee." Noklo looks a liitle taken aback, then concedes. "WHAT! 15%?... Ok. Fine by me." Grarim looks disgusted by the offer, growling "You want me to risk my neck in some crumbling old ruin, with a group of people I don't even know, for only 100 gold?"
Noticing a brief break in the conversation, Ursin exclaims, "I am in. Not like I was doing anything important and I just want to get paid." He adds, "After all, 100 gold is about 100 times the gold I have to my name!" Corvin clarifies, "Whatever GOLD we find in the cairn, yes?" Kurbads agrees, "Yes, Any gold found within is yours, minus my small commission" He adds, "I just need the claim. My company needs to be recognized as the company that discovered this, or else my customers may decide to go to these new adventurers instead."
Hearing the offer, Mark moves forward, his eyes lighting up with the thrill of the barter. "OK, here's a number I'm willing to go with. You get 15% finders fee up to 500 gold, equal to 75 gold, then it drops to 10%. Deal?" Kurbads eyes him for a moment, then responds, "Okay, Mark is it? I can deal with that." Mark quickly shoots back, "Gold talks, agree to the terms and I'm in." Kurbads acquiesces gracefully, "I agree with your terms, Mark. What kind of number would make you willing to go, sir?" Having already put thought to this, Mark answers, "Well, I'm fine with 150 gold upfront, since I don't know if I'll be coming back from this mission, but I don't know if anyone else is willing to accept that number." With that, Mark looks at the group for approval.
Ursin is the first to respond, pointing to Mark. "I'll have what he's having." Grarim tilts his head back slightly, surveys the group and adds, "150 gold, and an additional 100 gold for each of these fools I have to kill that you're sending with me." Corvin mutters, "Coin is coin." and tightens his grasp on Eeep. Jasper agrees quickly, "150. Deal." while Noklo admires Mark's deal-making savvy. "Mark, you seem to take these talks really well. You're not that green in this, are you?" Mark grins in response. Kurbads looks across his 'motley bunch' and sighs, "You drive a hard bargain."
Mark then turns to address the group. "OK, I say we have a team meeting. Everyone group up, huddle around!" The group comes together with only Grarim staying behind, uninterested in the conversation. Mark begins, "Look guys, we're obviously going to be working together for a bit. Let's come up with a fun name, something to really say 'these guys are real adventurers!" Noklo thinks a moment, then offers some rapid-fire suggestions. "Gentlemen Bastards? Windblown? Golden Company?" Ursin raises his hand and asks, "Can we be the Bears? Gold Bears?" Corvin throws in his idea. "How about the Cairn Jumpers?" Ursin jumps on this one. "Golden Cairn Bears!" Raising his hand to try to calm the group, Mark asks, "So, all in favor of takin' this lout's gold, and becoming known henceforth as the Golden Cairn Bears, say 'Aye'!" The group responds in kind, "Aye", save for Grarim.
Kurbads clears his throat, and the group turns back to him. "As a bonus, I'm including these healing drafts.." and he produces 3 reddish-brown potions from his pack. "And…this.." and with that, Kurbads tosses a folded piece of parchment on the table next to him. "It's the deed to this building." Jasper picks up the parchment, waves it in the air and says, "Free real estate." Grarim eyes the group uncomfortably, and utters something in Orcish under his breath. Jasper hears the Orcish mutterings and waves a discreet middle finger at Grarim when the orc isn't looking. Noklo looks around the dingy, dirty office and states, "We need a housekeeper now." Ursin replies quickly, "Not it!" Corvin pats Ursin on the shoulder, "I can get a lass from The Rusted Pick to give this… place… a once over."
On behalf of the group, Mark offers a hand to Kubards, "I think we might end up just getting along." Kurbads shakes heartily, then turns to go. "Well, I'll be off then. Report to me in the morning with your findings." He peers out the door at the night sky. "Better be getting home before the misses has my butt for breakfast!" Mark stops him, asking "Will you be willing to housekeep for us?" Kurbads looks back at Mark wide-eyed, and barks, "I don't do no house cleaning, boy! Hire a maid!" He chuckles heartily to himself, then steps out into the darkness.
After a few moments of silence, Mark addresses the group. "Seriously though, is the entrance around here, or do we need to go for a hike or something?" Corvin speaks up, "The entrance to the cairn isn't too far from here, just a short walk. I can lead us there, but I will not be going in first. I'll stand squarely in the middle of the group." Mark asks a simple question. "Alright – I guess we just have to decide who takes point." He pauses for a second, then yelps, "Not it!" Noklo jumps in, "Not me! – my blood line is too noble to die with you fools!". Noklo points to Grarim. "Let the orc lead us in." Jasper agrees, "Yes, send our brave orc!" Mark quips, "I mean, if the orc isn't afraid of the fierce monsters that test a ma- orc's bravery."
Grarim grunts at the group, and starts off for the cave without them. Jasper exclaims, "Oh how cute, he grunts!" Ursin tightens his pack and leaves just behind
Grarim. "This will be fun, I hope." Mark, Jasper and Noklo follow suit, with Corvin picking up the rear. As they make their way to the cairn, Corvin whispers to Eeep, "Now, don't mess about with this group. Between that orc and Jasper, you'll likely end up either eaten or shy a paw or two." Eeep chitters back, grabs Corvin's finger, and hurries him into the night air.
Chapter Two: A Cairn that Whispers, Some Fur and Some Teeth
The party moves single file along the trail, quickly arriving at the cave known as Whispering Cairn. As Grarim approaches, it is clear that others have been here before. Ale flagons, torn clothing and dented, dirty mugs lie scattered around the cave entrance, and there are profane carvings and other foul writings scratched into the rock around it. Noklo mutters under his breath, "Damn humans and their nature killing habits." Jasper kicks at the mugs, "Who cares about the garbage. This whole place is a shithole, anyway." Ursin pipes up, "It's not that bad.." Without a pause or beat, Grarim pulls his great-axe from his muscular back, and heads straight into the dank opening. His fellows pause a moment, then follow after.
The cave opens into a dimly-lit hall, covered in fine dust. It does not look like anyone has disturbed this place in ages, much less recently. As far as the eye can see, the hall extends into the darkness. Noklo pulls his bow and nocks an arrow out of habit, while Corvin squints, hoping his elven side will help with the low light. Ursin asks, "Anyone have a light?" Grarim growls back "Don't need" as he peers into the darkness. Corvin responds by pulling a torch from his pack, speaking a brief word in Elvish and the torch suddenly sputters to life. "Ask and ye shall receive, my friend" Corvin says as he passes the torch to Ursin.
Grarim tilts his head and moves toward the back of the hall, his eyes and ears alert. The group follows, sending dust into the air and cobwebs waving in their wake. The hall soon narrows, and a collapsed passage shows itself to the left, while the hall ends in a small alcove ahead and opens up to a room on the right. Examining the collapse, Jasper declares, "This would take weeks of dedicated effort to clear. And unless you're talking drinking, fuck dedicated effort." Grarim motions the group to stop, and tilts his head slightly. The faint sounds of growling ahead echo in Grarim's ears. Ursin whispers to Jasper and Grarim, "What's happening, you two?" Jasper hisses back, "I can't really tell with this fat orc in front of me!" In the hubbub, Noklo looks to the party, falls back a bit, then exits the hall. No one appears to notice that Noklo slipped away.
Moving slowly ahead, Grarim leans around the corner into the room on the right. There are several alcoves present, some with bars on them, and the smells of kept animals fill the noses of the group. Grarim steps into the room and at that moment, Ursin sniffs the air, and exclaims, "Wolves!" With that, four dusky gray wolves appear from the alcoves, snarling and drooling over their soon-to-be meals.
Corvin reacts first, moving his hands in a mystical fashion, hands aglow. He waits to see what the wolves will do while Grarim moves purposefully to the center of the room. Ursin takes up a position by the doorway, as Mark circles around the left side of the room, silently attempting to flank the beasts. Jasper pulls his blade and moves to Grarim's side, snarling back at the wolves. The alpha wolf charges straight at Grarim, teeth snapping . He connects briefly, nipping at the orc's exposed leg and drawing first blood. The second wolf follows the lead of the first, but he stumbles and slides to the feet of Grarim. Sensing more prey, a third wolf moves to attack Jasper, leaping at him and sinking his fangs into Jasper's forearm, pulling back delicious muscle and bone.
With a flourish, Corvin takes that moment to strike. His hands flash brightly, then an aura of light concurrently flashes around the third wolf's head. With a quick shake of his neck, he resists the spell, sending drops of blood and spittle flying around him. Corvin looks smug, then quickly disappointed as the spell proves useless. Grarim, his scarred mouth roaring with fury, raises his axe above his head and brings it down squarely on the alpha wolf. The blade slams home, digging into the meat of its victim's back, and collapsing it in a splash of blood and fur. Grarim grins and turns his attention to the second beast that dared turn its' teeth to him. Jasper, seeing the orc dispatch his foe easily, moves to do the same. As he swings his bastard sword, the wolf jumps to the left, evading the blow and turning with a snarl and growl. Ursin moves into the room, and stabs at the same wolf as Jasper, but to no avail. The wolf jumps backward, snapping it's jaws. Mark fades into the darkness, moving into position behind the wolves, while a fourth wolf circles behind the second which is attacking Grarim.
At that moment, the second wolf finds its' footing and snaps at Grarim, taking a small bit of meat from his right arm. The wolf shakes its' head and snaps down the morsel, hungry for more. Grarim laughs loudly at the wolf, almost scaring it away despite its' taste of the orc's flesh. The third wolf moves left, then lunges again, but not too quick that Jasper cannot react. He parries the wolf's jaws aside deftly, and the beast is left open to attack. Reaching into his sleeve, Corvin's hand flips forward, a dart whizzing through the air. His aim is less than accurate, however, and the dart falls short, skidding across the stone floor. Grarim takes the moment to pull the axe blade from the corpse of the alpha wolf, then sends it almost seamlessly into the second wolf, cleaving it almost in twain as the wolf is sent hurling away from the group in a bloody heap.
Mark moves up behind the third wolf, preparing to strike, while Ursin attempts another strike on the very same wolf. However, Ursin is over-confident, and his spear slips from his grasp, clattering to the floor. The wolf, sensing an easy kill, lunges at Ursin, but Ursin manages to dodge the savage bite. Jasper swings wildly at the remaining wolf in front of him, only to cleave air as the wolf evades to the right. Corvin's eyes glow white for a moment, and his hand extends, sending an ice-tinged ray across the room into the last wolf. However, the ray only appears to chill the wolf's fur, nothing more. Corvin's hand moves to cover his face in embarrassment as he once again proves ineffective. Grarim rears back his axe and takes a furious swing at the lone beast. The wolf cannot move fast enough, however, and the axe bites into its' back, crushing it to the floor with a wet, sickening noise.
With a loud, deafening roar, Grarim stands triumphant. He looks over his companions, and plainly states, "You lot are a bunch of useless whelps." Ursin stammers, "I tried, I'm out of practice, that's all!" Jasper turns slowly back to Grarim and curtly remarks, "Three cheers for the fat orc." Glaring, Grarim turns his gaze to Jasper. "Do you want to start something?" Jasper, in reply, silently spits at Grarim's feet.
Enraged, Grarim pulls the axe from the heap of fur and blood beneath him, and swings at Jasper's head. Jasper leans back swiftly to dodge the blow…