Søren and Kestrel went with Serako, a hill man, and a small pack of others. They traveled to Fort Dolmen, where Sir Carnifex held court. The trip took about a day’s long walk in the rain as the pika lizards continued swarming the countryside and fires smoldered from all the lightning strikes.
Arriving after dark, they wound up the strangely well-lit road to the narrow, tall fort. They stepped through the broken door upon being invited in by the door guards, who knew Sir Carnifex was looking for adventurers. Sir Carnifex liberated this hill from giant centipedes; a 60 foot specimen was stuffed and mounted in the main hall over the throne and around the balcony.
The adventurers met Ronam, the seneschal captain, and observed some other adventurers. Most notable: Greenfellow, the troll with a magic sword; Gimbie; the short but musical wizard; and Smatha, an expert swordswoman and captain from the war.
Søren warmed up Gimbie, finding out some more about the other adventurers and laying the groundwork for possibly swapping spells, and Kestrel chatted up Smatha. Through the course of conversation they discovered that a weird kind of goblinoid called tasloi were normally dormant in the area in cysts, but the lightning strikes had activated them, and their gestation would be complete within the week, overrunning the area. (Apparently Sir Carnifex consulted with an elfmaid named Torrain to find this out.)
Sir Carnifex ended the evening with a soaring hymn to the Saints. After a comfortable enough night, they were ready for work.
To the Mine
Sir Carnifex had three missions; the forest, the mountain, and the swamp. Greenfellow got to choose first, and he picked the mountain. Then Reya of the Nine Towers, a cleric with a polar bear mount; she consulted with Kestrel, who didn’t care, so she picked the forest. Kestrel got the swamp.
A dwarf named Kaz had a small silver mine about an hour’s walk away, and he was having trouble with a haunting. Since Kestrel had a wizard, Sir Carnifex wanted him to sort it out.
Kestrel and Søren took Serako and a handful of other hill people with them. Søren hired one of them, Cordo, to be his henchman. As a party of eight, they followed Sir Carnifex’s directions and a thready path towards the mine.
As they were traveling across the swampy ground, waist deep in water during a difficult crossing, they saw a stunted tree with a dozen tasloi in it. Shrugging off the initial hail of javelins (apparently the beastly humanoids had a keen eye for critical hits) they fought back, Søren torching a couple with his magical bolts and inspiring the rest to flee into the swamp.
They had no further trouble reaching the mine, and Kaz challenged them; he wore a rock camo hat, but was friendly enough when they name-dropped Sir Carnifex. Kaz used human miners to work his mine, but it was his project. They were all living on tent platforms outside the mine some distance, as there had been 3 disappearances in the mine and the workers would not go in. The prevalent theory was that the mine was too close to a hidden barrow, and the ghosts woke and pulled miners into their clutches in the earth.
Kaz sent them with a guide to the mine, and they resolved to investigate further. They took Serako and Cordo, and left the other hill folk in the camp.
Loose soil and soft rock made the mine stability difficult, and the place was abandoned as the adventurers investigated it by the light of Søren’s magic. They found cave-ins and dead ends, and the occasional smell of vinegar or sense of being watched. As they went deeper, Serako didn’t want to go on, and stood guard in an upper level instead. When they returned, he had vanished, dropping his weapon and light, and the signs around the disappearance made no sense.
Since Cordo was seriously alarmed by this turn of events, they sent him outside to protect their guide, and the two adventurers continued on alone. They found the deepest part of the mine, with a pool, and as they looked in the back area that seemed recently collapsed they found a scrap of leather that was smooth on one side and rough on the other; it reminded Søren of a leathery wyvern egg.
What Haunts the Deep
As they explored the last section of the mine, something collapsed the tunnel, and in the gritty fog of debris, Søren felt something grab his arm. It was an eyeless fleshy-horned little head of a snake thing sticking out of the wall. He blasted it with magic, and the whole wall erupted in snake tentacles!
Kestrel threw himself in harm’s way and fended off the tendrils as Søren blasted with adrenaline-fueled magic. All the tendrils came from a beak-thing, and Kestrel impossibly dragged it back as the thing tried to retreat into the wall, holding it long enough for Søren to destroy its life force with his blaze of magic.
As the interior of the creature gurgled and exploded around them, coating them in orange goo, Kestrel tried to find Serako. Against all odds, the hill man was injured by being swallowed but he was still alive, and they revived him. The deeply traumatized hill man left the mine with them, and they got cleaned up in the stream outside.
They reported back to Kaz, who was surprised that this creature was here; they are normally MUCH deeper. Also, it was clear that the egg was not the thing they killed, as it could not have grown so fast, so there might be further danger. Forewarned, Kaz would be able to take care of his miners and resume work.
In gratitude, he gave each of them a fist-sized nugget of fine silver worth 100 gold, and a strange flat disk with a dwarven rune on it that would be good for a favor in the dwarven culture. They returned to Fort Dolmen victorious.