Following up on the rumors of a ghost haunting some old ruins on the Red Larch trail heading northeast out of town, the party set forth in the morning. It didn’t take long for them to reach a point on the trail that Kareep knew was the place to head off. As they snuck up they saw a large cave with a partially open door in it.
Templeton Daltrey snuck up to the door to check it out. Puck sent his owl familiar to scout some trees and bushes on the far side of the area. There the owl found a male goblin and a female half ogre hiding in the brush. Quintus Andronicus moved forward and asked to parlay. The goblin and half ogre began arguing and eventually both ran off.
Templeton found a crude noise making trap on the door to the ruins. He easily disabled it and slipped in. The crypt was dark so he lit his hooded lantern and began exploring. Everyone else came in to explore as well. It was mostly a old crypt of falling apart stone walls and ceilings built into the side of the mountain. There were only a few empty rooms but near the end was an old rusted metal door. A ghostly apparition appeared in front of Templeton and said, “Turn back. Do not disturb the master!” Templeton tried to start a conversation with him but the specter would have none of it simply repeating himself over and over again.
The specter suddenly moved and passed directly through Templeton causing him to shudder in pain and feeling a deep evil within him. Templeton felt the life drain right out of him and collapsed to the cold stone floor, blood pouring from his ears. Quintus Andronicus, surprised by the sudden attack on his friend reacted by casting a healing spell on Templeton and taking a huge swing with his sword. The blade passed through the incorporeal nature of the ghost but still seemed to do some damage. Templeton’s withered body regained some color as the healing magic bathed over him. Kareep of Goldenfields hurled a javelin but missed and Puck cast a spell but it had no effect.
The specter moved again passing directly through Quintus and he too dropped like a lead weight to lie on the floor bleeding to death. Templeton rolled out of the way just barely being missed by the huge man in plate mail falling on top of him. Templeton rolled into a crouching position bringing up two hand crossbows each loaded with a silvered bolt. He fired both weapons and just like the regular steel weapons, the two bolts passed through the creature not at their full effect. Cursing the failure of his silvered bolts to do anything special against the supernatural creature, Templeton yelled to Puck to do something big and magical against the specter.
Puck finally complied unleashing a magic missile that slammed into the creature doing full damage to its incorporeal nature. The wispy creature dissipated into nothingness. Kareep moved quickly to Quintus’ side and administered the potion of healing to him. Color returned to Quintus ashen face and he struggled to get up, glad he was alive.
Templeton examined the rusty door and found it in needing of being forced open. Quintus obliged and bent it open. Templeton slipped into the room beyond and bathed it in light from his hooded lantern. Inside he found an open stone coffin with a skeleton inside wearing an old rusty breastplate and sword. There was also an old rusty metal chest. Templeton forced the chest open with his crowbar finding only a rotten decaying book and a tattered robe.
Unnerved by being underground, Kareep decided to leave for a breath of fresh air and to guard the entrance. He wasn’t gone long before we heard him cry out. He had been shot by an arrow. The goblin and half ogre had returned hoping that the party would be easy pickings after the specter. Kareep was badly hurt in the surprise attacks. He turned around and ran back into the crypt. Quintus ran past him, casting a healing spell as he went, and stood on one side of the door behind its cover while the half ogre did the same. Both were waiting for the other to make a move with a readied attack.
Templeton took cover behind a pile of rubble and pulled out his heavy crossbow. He viciously taunted the half ogre woman but could not convince her to expose herself. He could not get a shot at the half ogre but took a bead on the doorway looking to shoot something with a readied action. Puck excellently used his minor illusion to make it look like he was running into the doorway. The half ogres axe came down in a wild arc, dispelling the illusion but also ruining her readied attack.
Just then Templeton saw the goblin run past the door frame as he moved into position. He let a bolt fly from his heavy crossbow. His sneak attack found its mark in the neck of the goblin, spinning him around and down for the count.
Kareep then flew through the doorway and got into a position to hurl a javelin. It found its mark but it was clear that the half ogre woman was strong. Quickly assessing that her only friend was down and that she was outnumbered, the half ogre turned and ran.
Kareep used his talons to grab a hold of Puck’s shoulders and launched them both into the air with his mighty wings. From on high Kareep hurled javelins and Puck hurled spells. It was quite effective but not quite effective enough. The half ogress kept running. Quintus caught up to her and hit her with his greatsword. She grit her teeth a bit but then returned the favor with her axe. Quintus went down hard, blood pouring from his hip.
The half ogress suddenly had a glimmer of hope in her eye. But it was short lived. Templeton moved into position where he had a shot. Despite the tricky nature of the shot being through the trees, he fired through a small window and dropped the half ogress.
Kareep landed next to Quintus and used his healer’s kit to stabilize the dying cleric. After an hour of rest and patching up wounds, Quintus was back on his feet. With the situation now well in hand, Templeton searched the goblin and the half ogress. They found a ring of braided silver on the half ogress worth 25 GP and crude weapons but nothing of any real note. Puck used his detect magic spell to thoroughly sweep the cave and possessions but found no magic.
Still needing rest, Kareep suggested the party make camp close to the mouth of the cave intending to rest until dawn. Templeton Daltrey would have none of it, however. He would much prefer the soft pillowy delights of The Dripping Candelstick to sleeping out in some makeshift camp on the cold ground. So the party headed back to Red Larch.
The next day, the party stopped in at the leatherworkers. Templeton persuaded the proprietress, Phaendra Chanceril, to make a leather harness for Puck to wear that Kareep could easily grab onto and fly around. After some haggling a price was arrived at consisting of 25 gold now and 25 gold in 3 days when the harness was complete.
The group then set off back up into the mountains to find the black arrow in the skull that was rumored to be around. After some searching they found it. A black arrow piercing a white human skull and pinning it to a tree. There was black parchment wrapped around the arrow as if it were some sort of message. Templeton grabbed the paper and as soon as he touched it was beset upon by a a horrible curse. He felt as if undead were attracted to him and felt overcome by a terrible malaise.
The parchment read:
The Last Laugh
You’ll be next!
None of the party had ever heard of Valklondar. The skull had fallen away to nothing but the black arrow and parchment were still whole, so Templeton stowed them in his pack. Templeton felt horrible. He wanted to get back to Red Larch as soon as possible to try and have the curse removed from him at the temple.
Too late to head back to town, the party made camp for the evening, set watch and it passed fairly uneventfully. The only thing of note was that Templeton had nightmares all night. He can’t sleep well and keeps lurching awake periodically. None of the details of the dreams linger in Templeton’s mind, though.
The next morning everyone is ready to head back to town after Kareep scouts the area and finds nothing of interest. Templeton is exhausted however. He did get an extended rest. In game terms, Templeton has Level 1 Exhaustion. This means he has disadvantage on all ability checks.
It’s a good thing Puck is riding with Templeton. He half falls asleep multiple times on your journey home. He likely would have fallen once or twice were it not for Puck.
The party gets back to town in the late evening. The Allfaiths Temple is closed at this time of night. So they head to The Swinging Sword where Templeton is residing. No Dripping Candlestick endeavors this night. Quintus gets Templeton up to his room to see if he can sleep any better this night. Templeton falls asleep almost instantly.
Everyone else but Templeton comes back down to the larger room, tired and hungry. They sit at a large open table and order up a large dinner, charged to Templeton’s room of course. And spend some time eating and recuperating.
Thirty minutes into the meal, the proprietor of inn,Kaylessa Irkell, walks over to the table and pulls up a chair. She is a 40-ish sturdy woman with a firm demeanor, clearly a matriarch of sorts. She waits a moment while everyone finishes their bites or drinks of food and then speaks.
“Well, gentle… folk. I saw that Mr. Templeton was in a bit of a sorry state when you brought him in. I hope the road wasn’t too much for him…” And she sidles a bit closer with a smile and whispers, “You know how those gentry folk are. Not used to the hardships of exploring and rough roads, eh?”
She then leans back and continues, ‘So it has come to my attention that you folk have been asking some questions of late. And more than that, you’ve been taking action. I appreciate folk who can take action. With all due respect to our Constable, the townsfolk have forgotten the roots of this valley – they’re fraught with an ill history amongst the good.’
“I hear all the stories from the travelers moving through this here town. There’s some fell magic afoot, me thinks. I’ve heard the stories of gusts of hot wind sweeping from the hills to the east – where the breezes have always been cold. I’ve heard tell of bolts of lightning stabbing into the hills from a clear sky.
“Though I admit I ain’t seen none of it myself, I have a good ear for a tall tale or a real one. There’s something happening over these last months… and I think I know where it’s all coming from.”
She looks around to be sure no one else is listening and leans in closer, "… Lance Rock! I think there is some fell magic, some evil influence took residence there, I think… and I’m willing to bet my gold on it. Somebody needs to do something. You are sturdy, curious folk willing to take action… I’ll give you 50gp if you go to Lance Rock and rid us of that evil. What do you say?"
Puck raises his little hand over the table and asks, “pardon me, ma’am, but what is Lance Rock? Is it a fort or a tower? What had it been used for historically? If you don’t know the answer, do you think you could direct us to someone in town who might know?”
Kaylessa Irkell looks down and smiles at puck, "well, master gnome, lance rock is a big chunk of rock sticking out of the ground that, well, looks like a lance. though i’ve never been there, it’s common knowledge that there’s a small cave at the base. as far as i know, it’s never been used for more than shenanigans by some teenage boys… uh, human boys… not sure what gnome little ones do.
“the funny thing about the rock is that it ain’t like anything around it. the rock is made of one kind of stone, or so i’ve heard, and the bare stone around is something completely different.
“the old folks say it was dropped by a dragon flying up high battlin’ some enemy or other. it just dropped this chunk of stone to kill the critter it was fightin’. seems ridiculous to me. i don’t care how big a dragon gets, it can’t fly with a 30-foot chunk of solid rock.”
Kareep confirmed the Menhir’s location on his map and the party agreed to the terms of the investigation.
In the morning, Templeton awoke feeling no better, so he hired some porters to take him over to the The Allfaiths Shrine. The porters carried through the early morning mists covering the town with a few early risers looking quizzically as if there was some sort of funeral procession. Imdarr Relvaunder saw to Templeton immediately taking charge of the situation. Templeton proceeded to communicate the encounter with the specter in a weak and raspy voice.
Imdarr listened intently and then looked Templeton over, mentioning that the temple would expect due compensation, and prepared to cast the ritual ‘remove curse’. 15 minutes later, Templeton feels worlds better. Remove curse is a 3rd level spell. Templeton was lucky that Imdarr was capable of such a casting. This reflects the limit of his powers. He suggested a 100gp donation to the temple for the services.
Templeton slow stood up from his litter and stretched, shaking the evil out of his body. He thanked his porters and Imdarr. He put 100 GP in the donation box (50 GP of his own funds and 50 GP obtained from selling the bandits goods) and said, “You have my thanks Imdarr.” Templeton showed him the black arrow and the black parchment and explained everything that happened leading up to getting the curse. “Imdarr, can you shed any light on this mystery? Why would someone go to the trouble of cursing a simple arrow and leave it in the middle of nowhere? Have you ever heard of Valklondar? What does it mean? I am honestly quite perplexed. This Valklondar must be taught a lesson but I don’t even no where to begin.”
Imdarr look the evidence over. “None of this looks familiar to me, unfortunately. The curse was odd for sure, necromantic in nature. I’m not sure what any of this means either. Nor have I heard the name before… I wish you luck discovering it’s meaning.”
Templeton said, ‘Thank you Imdarr. I fear there may be more trouble ahead for us. Could I purchase some potions of healing from you? Or if you do not have any, do you know where I might procure some in town? I am looking for 2 of them. Also have you ever been to Lance Rock? The owner of the Inn thinks it may be involved in the troubles the Dessarim Valley has been experiencing of late. Do you know anything about it? Its history perhaps?’
Imdar frowned and said, “I am afraid I am manning this shrine on roation and are not from these parts I know little of the surrounding geography of local history. But I can offer you these…” And with that he procured two potions of healing from behind the altar of the shrine and offered them to Templeton. “Thank you Imdarr,” Templeton said as he handed Imdar two black pearls worth 250 GP each. “Praise be to Tempus for my health. May I use it to further his glory.”
Templeton took the two potions of healing and returned to find his friends. He gave one of the potions to Kareep and he kept the other for himself. Templeton assembled everyone in his room to prevent any sort of eavesdropping.
“Gentleman. Thank you for taking care of me during my extreme state of infirmity. When it comes to necromantic curses, I would encourage you to avoid them. They are not pleasant… at all… Praise be to Tempus for Imdarr used his power to remove the curse and I am thankful.”
Everyone noticed Templeton’s face turned grim and quite a bit more serious than they had ever seen it before, “I also am thankful for the opportunity to pay back this Valklondar for his curse with one of my own.” Templeton rubbed his hand where he first touched the black arrow. He worked the fingers slowly as if they were not fully healed. “Valklondar, I will hurt you for this. A day will come when you think you are safe and happy, and your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth…”
Templeton shook his hands and cleared his throat. “Well lads, what next? I think we are in agreement that we need to pay a visit to this Lance Rock. If it truly is some sort of nexus for the trouble in the region, perhaps it is there we will find this Valklondar. We have one more day before the leather harness is ready. I would like to spend that day finding out any more information I can about this Valklondar. Do what you will in town, get your provisions, on the morrow we pick up Puck’s leather flying harness and set off for Lance Rock.”
Templeton spent the day following a few leads to gain more information about Valklondar learning only that he came to Red Larch as a traveling pedlar and was spreading rumors about an ill omen.