Kareep feels the red fade from his vision as the battle with the halflings comes to a close. He looks down and sees Wiggin Nettlebee, an aged halfling with grievous wounds covering his chest and face. Kareep takes a deep breath, kneels down and touches the halfling, hoping for some life left… but he finds none. Kareep shakes his head, partially in shame, partially in confusion at these featherless humanoids who seem bent on destruction.
Kareep stands and quickly moves to the remains of the younger hobbit, Wiggin’s son, where the bolt of lightning struck him down. Though the halfling’s body is charred across his chest and left arm, it does seem to be taking shallow breaths as it fights for life. Kareep quickly administers some basic first aid, stabilizing the halfling for the moment. He does know that if the halfling is to be brought back from unconscious, time itself will be insufficient and magic will likely have to be invoked.
Certain the halfling will survive for a bit but not wanting to move the hobbit lest he tip the scale towards death, Kareep returns to the entrance of the burrow mound and begins the lengthy task of beginning to remove debris from the cave in.
After 30 minutes, Kareep can hear the sounds of moving skree from the other side and, likewise, the rest of the party can hear Kareep doing work as well. Some muted yelling of glad tidings that everyone seems to be alive invigorates the efforts and within another 20 minutes, a small hole is finally visible. Clearly, only a while longer remains for an opening to sufficiently sized for passage.
However, Kareep hears from behind him, approaching quickly, the sound of feet and hoofbeats. He turns around just in time to see a band of twelve barbarians with two riders on horseback, presumably Uthgardt barbarians, breaking through the treeline and approaching the barrow mound.
The barbarians close the gap rapidly and form up in a semicircle in front of the barrow, with Kareep standing there not quite knowing their intention. Though they do have their eye on Kareep, he does not seem to be the focus of their attention initially. They stand gawking at the destruction of the barrow mound.
One of the riders, her forehead marked with a tatoo of elk horns, dismounts. She says, “My daughter’s vision was true! The destruction is real.” She then focuses her eyes directly on Kareep with her hand on the hilt of her sword. “Are you responsible for this desecration, bird man?! Speak or be slain where you stand!”
Kareep is about to move into a defensive position himself when a deep, echoed voice speaks through the small opening into the barrow mound. The Revenant speaks, “Hold, youngling.” And the glow of the Revenant seeps through the opening as its body shifts through the small opening, re-forming in the open air.
In awe, the barbarian woman drops to her knees before the Revanant and her fellows follow her lead. She looks up and speaks, “We come to see you avenged, ancient one!”
The Revenant nods with grim approval. “This one here,” pointing to Kareep, “is not responsible for the desecration. That one is!”, and the Revenant points to the bloody body of the halfling, Wiggin Nettlebee. The Revanant then closes his eyes for a moment, “Yet there is one more who still lives…” He slowly turns his head in the direction of Wiggin’s son, the charred but living halfling, and he points to him.
The Revenant turns his body towards the living halfling and begins to stride in its direction…
Suddenly Templeton puts his face to the small opening of the tomb and says, “Ah… excuse me… Ancient One? I too share your desire for vengeance upon these foul hobbits for desecrating your hallowed resting place. But are you so certain it was only these two that were involved? Perhaps if we tend to this youngling’s wounds long enough for him to regain consciousness, we could interrogate him and discover if there were any other individuals involved. It would be a terrible crime not to reap vengeance upon all defilers of this tomb.”
Kareep stands tall and proud in the face of the spirit and the Barbarians. “The youngling was duped by the elder, I would like to administer healing and question him in time. My comrades and I came to investigate cultists and it led us here. The dead hobbit summoned an elemental and trapped my friends inside. Please, let me heal the child and then I ask your aid in clearing the passage and returning the burial mound to its proper state. What do you say horse rider?”
Templeton pipes up again, “Well we are not so sure that the youngling is without guilt as my bird man friend has said,but it would be a shame not to see if he has any additional information. As I said before there may be more who need to pay for this desecration. Please allow him to tend to the boy and help us get out of here so we can help set everything right.”
Kareep frowns. “Pay no attention to the man in the hole. Now let me heal the child and help me clear the blocked passage.”
The Revenant pauses for a moment to consider Kareep’s words. Then he looks directly into the Aarakocra’s eyes. “What is it that leads you to believe the young halfling was coerced by this one here? I see no such evidence,” pointing to the older hobbit’s corpse.
“Irregardless, I know that the young one was equally involved in the desecration of my barrow. Justice will be mine. Now.” And the Revenant begins to walk again towards the younger hobbit.
Templeton then speaks up through the small opening in the barrow’s obstruction. The Revenant does not look in Templeton’s direction as it responds while walking to the younger halfling, “You know not what you say. I know who performed this foul work.” In response, Puck leans over to Templeton and calmly comments that the Revenant’s very existence is innately and magically linked to the perpetrators of the desecration. He unerringly knows who did the deed.
The Revenant arrives at the stabilized body of the younger halfling and prepares to kill him.
Puck will exclaim, “Revenant! Please! I know that you cannot rest until the hobbit is killed. But, please, stay your hand until we have had an opportunity to question the hobbit. Do us that favor as we aided you in your quest for solace, did we not? We are on a quest to fight a great primordial evil and he may have information that is vital to that quest.” Puck drops his voice a level and says, “will you not help?”
Quintus yelled through the hole, ""Yo! Wait a second dude.I have suggestion. If the little shit was involved, perhaps we could put him ta work redeemin and rebuild what he and the other short f*kers f*ked up. We could ask these kind gentlemen to make sure as shit it gets done."
With his pale hand upon the halfling’s throat, the Revenant pauses. “Aside from the death of these defilers, there is one more task that needs to be completed before I rest. These halfling’s took the sacred treasure with which I was buried. Perhaps he can tell me where the treasure is…”
He stands up and looks at Kareep. “Bring him back from the edge of death. I wish to speak with him.” Kareep, you see a momentary flash of something in the Revenant’s eyes that frightens you to your core.
Kareep looks down at the charred hobbit with a mixture of pity and anger. He leans over, speaks a few gentle words and many of the burns on the hobbit’s body fade into scars.
As the hobbit regains consciousness, he gazes around, disoriented and uncertain what is happening. Kareep bends down to one knee to have the hobbit focus on him so he can ask questions. Just as Kareep begins to speak, however, the hobbit glances over Kareep’s shoulder to the figure of the Revenant standing calmly behind Kareep. A look of unadulterated horror forms on the hobbit’s visage, illuminated by a distant, pale glow. His mouth opens wide, as if to scream, but no sounds emerge. The skin of of the hobbit’s face begins to pucker and tighten, losing all color. Then the hobbit’s eyes open disturbingly, almost impossibly, wide, his pupils dilating to eclipse all but a halo of white. And he stops any sort of movement. In fact, for a moment, Kareep is uncertain whether the hobbit still lives, he sees no breath or even a sliver of facial twitch, but then there is a subtle, shallow inflation of the hobbit’s chest.
Kareep rotates his head to see the Revenant behind him. The flash of fear Kareep felt a moment previous returns. The Revenant’s eyes seem to draw Kareep in. The eyes are like the pits of hell, empty of all hope, full of fury and pain. For a moment, Kareep begins to lose himself in the fear, but he shakes his head and looks away, taking a moment to recover himself.
The Revenant speaks to the hobbit, “Where is my sword? Where is my helmet? Where are my totems?”
In a whisper almost too faded to hear, the hobbit breathes, “In the basement…”
With an imperceptible nod, the Revenant releases the hobbit from his gaze and looks to Kareep, “You may have two minutes with the hobbit before I destroy him.” The hobbit’s head falls to his chest and he starts to shake and shudder as if from a deep cold. When he slowly looks up, with deep trepidation, Kareep is shocked to see the young hobbit looks like he has aged decades. His face is pale and wrinkled. His eyes droop with palsy. He is in a very, very poor state.
Without blinking Kareep turns his gaze from the Revenant to what was once a boy. For a moment he thinks of doing something rash, but looks at the Hobbit and realized a touch from the creature behind him could send him to the grave.
“You have angered this ancient spirit, if you tell me the truth I will do my best to protect your kin in yonder valley. Why did you and your father (pointing to the corpse) desecrate this barrow? (1) Are there other fire cultists and where are they located? (2) Are you responsible for the brand of the Fire Cult on the livestock? (3)
May whatever gods you worship bless your soul…"
The hobbit looks at you with a hollow despair and with a voice like dry leaves rasps, “I… we… please, please don’t let it hurt my family! Please! They didn’t know…”
Kareep asks, “Why did you and your father desecrate the barrow?”
The young hobbit slowly turns his head, cracking the desiccated skin on his neck and face, and he sees his father’s body for the first time. Tears come to his eyes and whispers, “Oh, father, what have we done?” He slowly turns his face back to Kareep, “I… we… burned the barrow for you. It was a trap… There were rumors of a small group with a bird man who was wreaking havoc. When we heard the Abbess had been killed, my father was furious. Our… dealings had been so lucrative with the Abbess… information and power of the over the earth to help us farm… deep understandings of the way things work in the soils…
“My father, he wanted to kill you. He thought we could do it luring you to the barrow. But this? This was not worth it. It was the deepest folly… Oh, gods. Save my family! Please! It was only my father and me!”
Kareep asks, “Are there other fire cultists and where are they located?”
“I… fire cultists? No, no, you don’t understand. The fire cultists are in the Sumber Hills, they are not here. We… pretended.”
Kareep asks, “Are you responsible for the brand of the Fire Cult on the livestock?”
The hobbit drops his head in shame, “Yes… it was my idea… I thought it would help sell the story. My father’s idea was to torch the barrow. He didn’t know… he can’t have known.. what would happen. Gods. Please. Kill me! Please kill me now! Please!” Weeping and leaning forward with his last strength the hobbit pleads a final time, “Don’t let it have me! Gods… the terror. I’m so sorry! Please!”
Kareep tries to sneak in a fourth question. “Are the relics in your father’s basement? Is anyone or anything protecting them?”
“Yes, the basement, behind a… AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” And then complete and empty silence. The Revenant had walked up, grabbed the hobbit’s throat and gazed into its eyes, seemingly pulling the life from the frail body until all that remains is an empty husk. Just as Kareep turns his back and walks away, so does the Revenant.
The Revenant then looks to the barbarians who have been watching in stony silence. Though they are hardened warriors, though, most quickly hide a look of revulsion and fear. Many even take a subtle step backwards as the Revenant approaches them.
“Go. Retrieve my relics so that I may rest once more.” The barbarians come to attention look at each other and everyone can see that a bloodlust starts to rise. The female barbarian, the apparent leader, speaks, “As you will, ancient one. We will kill them all in your name! It will be a story that is told again and again so that none disturb another barrow! Let’s ride!”
Templeton pipes up from the hole. “Oh Mighty Ancient One, we fought side by side together against the earth elemental. And if it wasn’t for our friend Kareep, the perpetrators of this vile act would most likely have escaped. He was able to lay them both low and save the youngling for your vengeance. Please do not deny us the honor of going to help retrieve your relics. Please have your brethren help Kareep dig us out and we will go together to retrieve your relics.”
Puck will yell, “NO! You will do no such thing. We will retrieve your relics but you,” Puck pointing to the female barbarian, “will harm no one. Your lord’s revenge against those who defiled his resting place have been destroyed. All of the remaining people in that homestead are innocents. If you harm them, you will have to answer to us and you do not want that barbarian!” Puck will use his cantrip Minor Image to cloak himself in some subtle dark flame.
As the others scream from the hole Kareep turns again and looks right at the female leader and the Revenant. “Revenant, I beg that you ask your people (pointing to the barbarians) to hold their hand. There has been enough bloodshed and we already have spoken to the villagers and I know exactly where the basement is that the spoke of. Please let my friends and I find and retrieve your relics without further bloodshed.”
He looks with his big eyes at the female. “Will you not spare the innocent that were not involved in this charade?”
The Revenant looks to Kareep and raises a hand slightly, pausing the barbarians, “It is true that the family is innocent. I would know otherwise. Yet why is it that you care, Aarakocra? As my brethren here suggest, the destruction of the homestead would serve to provide a message to leave our barrows unmolested. Why should I sacrifice this opportunity?”
“I will be honest with you spirit, I was surprised at the old halflings intentions. I read that Hobbits were a kind and gentle folk and I think that may still hold true. It was greed that let this one to do what he did.” pointing to the old hobbit. “I think we both need to give them a chance as they are but farmers and shepherds.” He blinks and goes on. “My friends in the crypt are very clever and will have the relics back in your possession in a matter of hours if not sooner.”
“You are merely repeating your previous platitudes, Aarakocra. You have not answered my question. I will ask only one more time. Why should I spare the innocents when their death will serve a greater purpose… to tell a story of terror that will prevent others from desecrating our barrow mounds?”
“You are obviously incapable of empathy spirit as violence will only bring more violence. What I am saying is that if you spare the village I will parade these corpses around and spread the tale of your mercy. If your people kill everyone and burn their homesteads they will be to blame not you. Their families will be targeted by nasty hobbit spies and killed in their sleep, continuing a never ending Pattern of violence. I plead with you to spare their lives. Do what you will as I have nothing else to say about the matter.”
Templeton pipes up again from the hole. “I have something else to say on the matter. Those innocent hobbits are farmers. They are simple folk. They know nothing of weapons or battle. The Uthgardt are a proud people of warriors. Why would you sully your name and legacy by slaughtering weak and innocent halflings? They pose no threat to anyone. Killing them does not provide honor or prove your skill in battle. It only leaves a legacy of weakness. Only the weak prey upon the weak. Those responsible for this crime have been punished. We will ensure this tale is told throughout the Dessarin Valley. Only a fool would want to molest your barrow after hearing the fate that befell these two hobbits that lay dead at your feet. Help us get out of this hole and we will get the relics back and restore your barrow to its pristine state."
To be clear, the Revenant can easily hear everyone – that is clear to all. It just chose to ignore Templeton and Puck in the last part as Kareep was the most intimately involved and if the Revenant has respect for anyone outside the barbarians, it seems to be Kareep.
Also, to be clear, it won’t take but another 20 minutes of clearing for the tunnel to be open. In fact, you could have continued clearing during the last 5 minutes of time so I’ll assume you all continued so there is only 15 minutes of clearing left.
The Revenant speaks, "I have no specific desire for innocents die unnecessarily. I do have a desire never to be disturbed again once I return to rest, however. If I hold my brethren and allow you to return my relics without harming the hobbits, then there will forever be a mantle upon you. Choose it carefully. If anyone disturbs my barrow again, in addition to ending those directly involved, I will hold you all responsible, for now and forever. And I will hunt you to extinction. If you no longer live and the barrow is disturbed in the future, the debt would yet be paid by your children or your children’s children. I will hunt them instead. It is a burden your progeny will carry forever. Carry this story far and wide. Now and to generations in the future. Then I will be satisfied.
“And lest you think the agreement can be ended here by somehow confronting all of us and destroying these good folk,” pointing to the barbarians, “and my current manifestation, know that even if you somehow overcame us, tomorrow I would return to hunt you. And if again you were to overcome me, again, the day after that I would return.. to the end of time I would hunt you every day. One day I would best you. And if I did not, then on the day of your first born I would be there to destroy them. And on and on…”
“Do we have an understanding? Are the lives of a few innocent hobbits worth this burden? Choose now.”
At first, while the Revenant speaks, the barbarians seem to be holding in their disappointment and frustration at potentially being held back. By the end, however, they are eerily quiet and look upon you all with pity.
At the end of the Revenant’s proclamation, Puck stands there, shaking somewhat. He knows the Revenant is capable of such continued manifestations. He knows the Revenant speaks the truth.
Kareep speaks up immediately, “I will take the entire burden squarely in my shoulders spirit. Let them live (pointing to the village) and we will find your relics and seal this mound for all eternity.”
The Revenant looks Kareep directly in the eyes when Kareep responds. Upon finishing the statement of his commitment, the Revenant’s eyes seem to flash in acceptance.
The Revenant then moves and seeps through the crack once more and confronts each of you directly to ascertain the same commitment. Each of you must look into his eyes and agree.
“Gnome, do you agree?”
“Man of faith, do you agree?”
“Slippery one, do you agree?”
Quintus scratched the stubble on his chin and said, “Shit, as I see it there’s no downside. I gets ta protect the little f’rs and if they screw up I get ta have a fight every day, Ahm in.”
Puck and Templeton both frowned and looked at each other with dark knowing glances. Neither of them thought this was a good deal but saw little choice in the matter at the current point in time.
Puck gritted his teeth and said “Yes, I agree.”
Templeton shuffled his feet and looked around the cave as if trying to find a way out but eventually nodded his head, “Yes, I agree.”
The Revenant nods firmly. “It is done. Be back in the morning with my relics.” It slips back through the cave entrance and faces the barbarians. “Please make yourselves at home for the moment. We shall share stories and see what has changed since I was young.”
Kareep turns to the lead female Barbarian… “What is your name woman?”
As she turns to sit in a circle with her brethren and the Revenant, the female barbarian nods to Kareep. ‘I am called Fennor, bird man. You have been honorable and clear in your dealings. May your path be full.’ And she turns away.
The party spends the next 15 minutes getting everyone out of the barrow. You then gather the bodies of the halflings and make your way down to the homestead, arriving an hour after dark.
Kareep will carries the bodies down himself and says, “At some point my friends we will come back and make things right but now is not the time to discuss it. Templeton, please gather the Hobbits and explain what has happened to these two. We must get his books (Wiggin I think) and the relics the two of them stole from the burial mound.”
You can see the homestead is occupied and you can smell the waft of good food, fresh bread and cooking meat.
Templeton makes sure Kareep sets the bodies down somewhere out of view. Then he will knock.
Templeton hears the light walk of quick, halfling footsteps and the door opens. The young hobbit child opens the door. “Hi! You’re back!” He turns around and yells, “Their back, mama! The birdman and the others!”
From around the corner, Jayne comes into view and she shushes the child to the side, “Ignatius! Lower your voice! I’m right here.” Then she looks to you. “Well, you arrived just in time for dinner. I have some extra. Bertram and that old goat haven’t returned yet so they can just make their own dinner when they get home. Serves them right.”
Jayne opens the door and steps aside to let you enter. Inside you see Watson, whom you met previously, Ignatius, and two other young hobbits whose names you quickly learn are Darrow and Elisa. They all look excited to have you share their table.
Kareep come in and sits down on the floor without making a sound.
Templeton enters and says, “Good evening Mrs. Nettlebee. May I speak to you in private please? I need to tell you something very important.” Templeton will usher her into a private room or anyplace out of earshot of the other halfings.
Then he will continue, “I come with grave tidings indeed. My comrades and I investigated the Uthgardt Barrow. Just as young Watson had described it was broken into. We went in and found that not only had it been broken into but it had been desecrated with fire and ancient relics sacred to the Uthgardt had been stolen. We discovered that those responsible for this desecration of the site were your father-in-law Wiggan and his son. We learned that recently the two of them were involved in an evil cult of elemental earth magic. This particular cult has been killing folk, imprisoning innocents, and spreading its evil all through the Dessarin Valley. We have been fighting against this cult. It seems that your two relatives fell in with the cult because the entire fire witch story was a ruse to attract us to your farm and murder us for their cult leaders. They actually attacked us in the barrow and tried to seal us in the tomb forever. Their treachery was so great that the ancient Uthgardt Chief who was buried in that Barrow rose from the dead as a spirit to wreak his vengeance upon them.”
Templeton’s face grows very grave, “Wiggan and his son are dead. The ancient spirit called to his people. There are 12 Uthgardt barbarians up at the barrowmound with their undead ancestor. Although the perpetrators of the defilement are dead that has yet to appease the ancient spirit. If not for our efforts, the barbarians would have rode down here and slaughtered your entire family and probably many other nearby farms.”
Templeton’s face turns stern and angry, “Your foolish father in law and his idiot son has put your entire family in grave peril. We have negotiated a settlement to end the hostilities and put things to right. You and your family can be saved, but I will need your total cooperation to make it happen. I need to have your permission to search the entire house especially any rooms of Wiggin and his son and examine their papers and belongings. I also need to search your basement. I am looking for the ancient relics that Wiggin and his son stole from the ”/wikis/the-barrowmound" class=“wiki-page-link”> barrowmound. We need to return those relics to the barrow and seal it before the ancient spirit will finally rest and the Uthgardt barbarians will go home.”
Templeton’s face softens a bit and finishes, “I know this is difficult for you but we did manage to retrieve the bodies of Wiggin and his son. You can bury them in any fashion you like when this ugly business is finished but our first priority is saving the rest of your family and finding these relics. Our time grows short what say you?”
Throughout the retelling, Jayne’s emotions seem to swing from disbelief to anger to raw pain. When Templeton completes his tale, Jayne collapses on the stoop and begins to weep quietly.
“Bertram is dead! My husband…” Then she stands up and in a fury looks Templeton eye to eye, “How dare you accuse my husband of such… ugliness. Where’s your proof?!” And she points a sharp finger in your chest, Templeton?
Templeton stares down Jane Nettlebee. "Your husband tried to murder my friends and I. With his dying breath, Bertram confessed to everything but the undead spirit of the Uthgardt did not spare him. Additional proof will be in the documents of Wiggan and the stolen Uthgardt Artifacts that are in your basement. I will go and recover them now.
Templeton heads for the basement and begins a search. He is looking for a chest or container large enough to hold the artifacts. He will also look carefully for a secret trap door in the floor or a false wall board that might hide valuables. He asks Puck to cast detect magic and assist him as the artifacts may still carry some form of dweomer.
With a hard voice, Templeton describes Bertram’s attempt to kill the party. He then moves past her to enter the house to find the basement. When entering, Watson stands there and sees his mother weeping on the stoop. He gets in front of Templeton to stop him. “Hey, what’s going on? Mother? Are you ok?” At the moment, the situation looks like Watson is becoming very protective.
Templeton softens his posture and beckons to Watson, “As the oldest, you’d best come in and hear the news.” Again away from the ear shot of the younger one’s Templeton explains that his father Bertram is dead. He explains the treachery of Bertrand his father Wiggin and the terrible cult they were involved in. He also emphasizes again how great and immediate the danger is to Jane, Watson and the rest of their family. The Uthgardt will kill everyone here if they are not appeased. The relics that were stolen by Bertram and Wiggin are here in this house. Bertram said they were hidden in the basement. We must find them and bring them to the Uthgardt for the danger to pass. Templeton will do what he can to console the distraught woman and her son and persuade them that the time for grief is later after the danger has passed. They must pull themselves together for the sake of the children.
Over the next 20 minutes, Templeton and Kareep calm and convince Jayne and Watson that the story is true, at least in part. Jayne goes in and takes the children around the fireplace while Watson leads the group to Wiggan’s office in the basement.
After a little searching, Puck finds a niche in the flagstone floor that hides an iron chest. It is locked but Watson finds the key and opens it for everyone. Inside is the following.
- An ornate helmet made of leather, rope and bone. It combines a bear skull, deer antlers, and saber-toothed tiger’s lower jaw. It clearly looks very old and well made.
- An oiled hide wrapped around an ornate greatsword of ancient make. If you didn’t know better, you’d estimate it is of ancient dwarven origin. Perhaps Besilmer? The sword’s grip is bound in ancient leather that doesn’t look original and is marked with sequential notches. Bear claws are tied to the pommel.
- Four animal figurines the size of a large human fist. A bear carved of lapis lazuli, a tiger carved of red obsidian, an elk carved of banded agate, and a raven made of silver.
- A large pile of copper, silver, gold and platinum coins. Nine rose quartz crystals.
- An old sack with tattered designs of fields and fowl.
Upon seeing the helmet, sword and figurines, Watson slumps. These items confirm your story. “Take them.” He says and gently hands them to you. Under his breath, you hear Watson swearing. “Gods damn it, father. Grandfather what were you thinking?! Leaving your family with this burden?”
Templeton closes the chest and tucks it under his arm. He places a hand on Watson’s shoulder. “Watson, your father and grandfather made a terrible mistake. They got involved with evil folk and made bad choices. Please don’t let that happen to you or anyone else in your family. You’ve been given a second chance. Please use it wisely. Work hard on the farm. Live a good honest life and you will see it bear fruit. We intend to seal the barrowmound forever. Help spread the word far and wide of the terrible evil that befalls anyone who disturbs the Uthgardt mounds. We do not want this evil to walk again. In order to do that we need to be absolutely sure we have everything that was stolen. Can you think of anything else that has happened recently that was queer or struck you as odd. Did you notice any strange behavior from your father or grandfather? It might be helpful to read any journals or letters or documents they might have written lately. Do you know where you father or grandfather would have kept such things? Down here? In one of their rooms up stairs? Someone led your father and grandfather down the evil path of the earth cult and we intend to find out who they are and stop them from doing it to anyone else.”
Templeton looks through the items and is about to close the chest and take it all when Watson exclaims, “Hey, what are your doing? The chest is ours! You came for relics and you have them – take the sword, helmet and figurines. Everything else is ours… it’s what we have left out of all this….”
Kareep and Puck have been looking around for documents and such and you do find a desk with a bunch of notes and journals. However, once again Watson inserts himself. “Look, I get it. You want to see what history there might be in there… but so do I. I need to understand what’s going on. I am going to look at these while you are gone and you can look at them when you return. This spirit didn’t ask for journals, right? Give me some time. Please.”
Puck does discretely cast Detect Magic and sweeps the room and everything uncovered so far. Two items glow with magic. The silver raven and the old sack embroidered with images of farm and fowl. Puck discreetly casts identify on the items and finds the sack is a Bag of Holding. The raven is a Figurine of Wondrous Power. Puck will discreetly mention this in Elven to Templeton only.
Hmmm… Templeton’s spider sense is tingling a bit here. There is a chance that Watson may be involved with the cult and he is playing us for a chance to hide incriminating documents. Templeton will ask him directly if he knew anything about an earth cult and ask if he himself was involved. Insight 18+10 = 28.
Templeton asks whether Watson had anything to do with the cult. Watson responds with a wounded look in his eyes, “What? You’re asking me that now? Why would I risk my family? Gods…” Templeton’s insight check reveals that he believes Watson is innocent of the matter.
Afterwards Templeton will explain that we do not want to take any of the documents and we will leave them all behind for him to review himself but we need to review them before we return to the barrow. They may hold information about what exactly the halflings did to bring the spirit of the Uthgardt back from the grave. There might be some information that would help us put him to rest forever. Templeton sternly reminds Watson that he and his family are still in great danger and that he needs to follow our lead if he is to get his family out of this mess alive.
Templeton then says you are going to review the documents before you leave. Watson responds, “Fine. You read and I’ll read and we’ll change them around.” That being said, there are many, many journals. If you have a sense of urgency you will likely be unable to review all documents before needing to leave.
Templeton then says that they are going to take the entire chest. The spirit was intentionally very vague when telling us what was stolen and necessary to return to the barrow. We do not want to make a mistake and leave something vital behind. The spirit may still be looking for an excuse to destroy this farm in retribution. We will return whatever was not necessary to appease the spirit.
Finally, Templeton then firmly states he is taking the entire chest. Watson leaps up furiously and exclaims, “Are you telling me you don’t believe me? That’s our money! That’s our my great, great grandmother’s bag that has been handed down for generations,” pointing at the embroidered sack. “You will NOT take our things! I thought you were honorable! You’re just thieves, aren’t you? I don’t even know if I believe you anymore! What happened on the hill?!?”
Templeton looks right into the eyes of Watson and as he speaks his voice becomes audibly louder and more powerful. He gets closer to Watson and appears to be towering over him, ‘Watson Nettlebee do not take me for some Thief! I am not trying to rob you…’ Then Templeton seems to shrink back and his face softens, ‘…I am trying to help you…’
Templeton continues, ‘Coins? Old sacks? When are you going to wake up and realize what is going on here boy? Those are just things. You and the rest of your family are traversing a razor’s edge. Stray but a little and you will fall.’ Templeton looks at Watson very ominously, ’You will see for yourself what evil is up on that hill, boy. You and and your mother are coming with us back up to the barrowmound. You need to witness for yourself the terrible acts your father and grandfather committed. You need to see for yourselves what must be kept sleeping and never awoken again. You must spread the word of your tale of woe far and wide so that the barrow will never again be disturbed by anyone. If indeed nothing else in the chest is needed, you will get it back."
Watson is looking around with slightly crazed eyes. Everyone can clearly see that Watson is in a very difficult position. A group of adventurer strangers have just come to say that his father and grandfather are dead – by somebody else’s hands, but with no real proof of such. He is deeply grieving, realizing he is now the oldest in the family aside from his mother, and the same strangers are threatening to take all his family has in savings. And then forcibly saying he and his mother need to abandon the children as they are weeping from learning of the death of their father. No, Watson does not come outside with Kareep.
Watson grabs the chest from Templeton, pulls out the weapon, the helmet and the figurines and throws them to the ground. He then in a slow, cold voice, “Take them! These are not ours – but the rest of this is my family’s and you have no right them. Now you want to read my grandfather’s journals? Fine, read. But do so here while I read with you. I want to know what is here as much as you seemingly do. From this moment forward, though, you will treat me and my family with respect. I will have it no other way.”
Kareep looks Watson right in the eye and gets close. “You should count yourself lucky that we are fair. I will be waiting outside while you continue the investigation Templeton.” He goes outside and safeguards the bodies.
Quintus starts calmly and gets a little more irate as he talks…
Listen dude. I’m glad you found your sack, but let me point out sumthin here…
We could let the horde of f’n barbarians ride down and slaughter all of ya.
WE could have let the renevant make you his bitch and rain undead f’n horror on you and every one you have ever heard about.
Instead we took responsibility to protect all you little f’ers in return for your father and grandfather trying to f us over we told the thing in the mound that we would put out F’n lives and the lives of OUR F’n families on the line to protect and defend the LITTLE F’rs families that left us to die in that crypt.
Maybe we made a mistake in riskin our kin for yours BUT IT WAS THE RIGHT F’n DAMN THING TO DO! We are good people and we ain’t going to let you get screwed up the ass no matter how ungrateful or unworthy you are of our protection.
Show me you ACTUALLY have a pair and come and see what YOUR family did and WHAT we are risking to F’N protect you.
IF you don’t, well, I leave it in Tempus’s hands as we go an tell the creature that killed yer father that you choose to reject our attempt to pull your asses out of the fire…. If you choose to fight these things, I will give you the blessings of Tempus and let you prove yourself to Him.
Quintus will turn and walk out with Kareep.
After Quintus leaves, Puck simply stares daggers at Watson his eyes screaming disgust. He then turns his back on the little hobbit and leaves to join his friends outside.
Everyone walks out except Templeton and Templeton fumes and decides to distract himself by starting to review the documents that are at hand.
Templeton’s first impression, having great familiarity with, and perhaps great dislike of, financial ledgers, is that Wiggan, the “old goat”, was a very shrewd business man. The ledgers clearly document the amassment of a small fortune by a farmer’s standards at least approximately equivalent to the coinage and gems Templeton saw in the iron chest.
In addition, throughout the ledgers, there are numerous notes and references. With a focused hour of investigation, a rough narrative emerges. When the earth cultists started exploring the region, Wiggan took their money for information and occasional aid. However, Wiggan’s interest in the actual powers exhibited by the cultists becomes clear after a time. He seemingly got to know them and the earth powers intrigued him. There are multiple references for ideas on how control over the earth could facilitate better farming.
After a time, the relationship deepened when the cult “removed” some of Wiggan’s rivals in the area, and the cult leadership, Hellenrae specifically, assured Wiggan further wealth and influence as the cult’s influenced increased.
At some point, Wiggan began to share his collaboration and plans with his son, Bertram. There are explicit references to eventually pulling Watson into the fold at some point, but that “he wasn’t ready” and “Watson is too damn high-minded and noble”.
At the end of the notes, there is explicit reference to the cult reaching out to Wiggan to play a ruse on “the band of trouble-makers” who “wreaked havoc at the Sacred Stone Monastery.” They wanted Wiggan to play the “meek halflings” to lure the “trouble-makers” into a trap. Clearly, though, it was Wiggan’s idea to use the fire cultists as the means to deceive.
Throughout this review of documents, Watson has been reading and absorbing at the same rate. Clearly, he has a sharp mind. By the end of the hour, Watson is downcast and quiet.
Then he speaks, "I am sorry. I am sorry that my father and grandfather made… evil and foolish choices. Gods, what were they thinking. And I am sorry that you have been pulled into our family’s follies through no fault of your own. From what you say, you have sacrificed your future for ours with this barbarian Revenant. I don’t know what to say…
Templeton replies, “Well… hopefully that satisfies your need for evidence. You have been through a lot, Watson, but it is not over yet. Your trials have just begun. Next you must face the bodies or your father and your grandfather. Then you must face the Uthgardt Revenant himself. It will not be easy. The evil of the undead is difficult to understand. Prepare yourself as best you can. Please try and follow our lead. We have all sacrificed greatly to save you and your family and to be quite frank your behavior has made us all wonder if we made the right choice.
“I will come with you to the barrow. But my mother needs to stay here with the children. They cannot be left alone.”
Templeton replies, “That is fine. Please tell your mother where we are going.” Templeton gathers up the sword, the helmet, and the figurines and goes up stairs with Watson and then outside.
Watson then packs the iron chest back in its hole, walks upstairs to explain the situation to his mother and then says, “Let’s go.”
Templeton brings Watson over to the where the rest of the party is waiting by the bodies of his dead father and grandfather. “Look closely at your father’s corpse Watson. See the pale gaunt cracked skin, his eyes wide with terror. I know it is hard to believe but that is him. The evil that your family awoke from the barrowmound is capable of doing that to any of us. Look hard at the twisted lifeless husk that was once your father and understand that we must seal the barrowmound properly and never ever again disturb the rest of the evil that lies within. And we must tell the story of the Nettlebee Folly that was to disturb the barrowmound. This evil must never again walk in search of vengeance."
When Watson can stand no more, we will linger a bit longer and then finally depart for the barrowmound. Along the way Templeton will share his findings from the document review with the rest of the party.
As expected, upon seeing his father’s body Watson audibly gasps and cries out for a moment. With tears running down his already damp cheeks, Watson looks silently for a long while. Then he gently kneels down and kisses the forehead of his father’s corpse, “Rest in peace, father. I will do what I can… I know you did not see this end for you or for the family. I will make it right.” When Watson stands, his lips dusted white from the flaked flesh of his father’s corpse, he speaks, “Please help me move the bodies to the barn. I will bury them when I return,” and with a determined edge to his voice, “Now let’s go.”
You are all exhausted by now as you trudge under a half moon rising over the barrow hill. The mood is sour and quiet as you willfully travel back to an audience with the barrow king. The moon’s light is bright enough to let you walk slowly but safely over the next two hours. In the distance, the only sounds are the occasional hoot of a barred owl and the periodic rhythm of the barbarians’ chanting carried by the wind as the evening cold sinks into the valley.
When you arrive at the barrow, the barbarians sit quietly in a half-circle with the Revenant at its heart. They are waiting for you. Kareep steps up next to Templeton and quietly says, “Let me do it.” Templeton gladly hands the artifacts to him and whispers, “Be careful.”
Kareep approaches the Revenant who looks upon the objects in his feathered hands. The Revenant nods, making no sound, and gestures for Kareep to follow him. Looking a bit proud and a bit nervous, Kareep follows the Revenant into the fully cleared pathway back into the barrow mound. The glow of the phantom is sufficient for Kareep to see where he steps as he follows.
Inside the final chamber, the Revenant returns his bier and silently gestures for Kareep to place the objects in their places. Kareep carefully places the banded agate elk figurine on the alter with carved antlers. He then walks to the alter with carved fangs and places the red obsidian tiger. Then he moves to the alter carved with a bear’s paw print and places the lapis lazuli bear. Finally, Kareep approaches the central bier and places the sword, the helmet, and the silver raven amongst the bones which have been gathered once again.
With the final placement of the raven, a deep rumbling sends a vibration through the chamber, limning everything with aura of ancient dust for a moment. With the last glimpse of light as the fading Revenant disappears, Kareep notices the silver raven is gone. When the light becomes utter darkness a powerful gust of wind pushes Kareep backwards through the entrance passage and outside once again. Eddies of dust and ash seem to seek everyone out, ruffling feathers and blowing cloaks. And then all is silent and dark.
Kareep lands as the wind subsides and looks right at Fennor. “The spirit is at rest, but you must seal this tomb Fennor. I task you to martial the resources and seal this place from further intrusion.” He puts out his hand to hers. “Will you see to it that this place is sealed for ever?”
With an hour’s collective work, everyone participates, even small Watson, and successfully seals the barrow just as the sun’s first rays illuminate the hillside.
Now with the light of day everyone gathered more stone and dirt. Watson’s oxen, farm tools, and wagons plus the barbarian’s horses were employed to really seal this thing up nice and tight. Big stones and lots of dirt. Quintus, Kareep, and the barbarians can do the heavy lifting. Watson can provide the tools, livestock, and knowledge of the local resources (where is the best source of the stone), and Puck and Templeton can direct and organize the labor and use their smarts to strategically engineer a very strong and capable extra layer of wall.
After the barbarians depart, Kareep peels open the last layer and Quintus lays a Glyph of Warding underneath the stone. The explosive runes will detonate if anyone disturbs the outer stone. It will do 5d8 of thunder damage. The exception included in the spell is that it will not detonate if it is Quintus, Kareep, Puck, or Templeton disturbing the stone.
As they worked they discussed it and discovered that each was given a boon by the ancient Uthgardt Spirit. Kareep was given A Silver Raven Figurine of Wondrous Power and a boon that allows him to use the effects of a Potion of Speed twice. Templeton received a boon that allows him to use the effects of a Potion of Gaseous Form twice. Puck received a boon granting him the power of a Potion of invisibility twice. And finally Quintus received a boon granting him the power of a Potion of Stone Giant Strength twice.
With everything now in place the party left, glad to be done with the cursed Nettlebee Farm. Everyone hoped they never saw a hobbit again.
The Four journeyed through Womford and on to Red Larch. The entire way the told and retold the story of the Halfling’s Curse again and again to anyone they could. They made it clear that messing with Uthgardt Burial Mounds was a terrible losing proposition. The story is being spread far and wide.