Princes of the Apocalypse

21 Ches – 1491: Rumors of Red Larch

As the sun rose, so did the party, though drunk, Dvergar woke up without much trouble. This counted for the others as well. They soon felt really energetic and good because of the hearty meal they had. As they started to pack for their journey to Red Larch, Melody rushes over to Dvergar, who takes a sip of the Ale that was still on the table while wiping the drool from his face. "A DRAGON! DVERGAR, SHE CHANGED INTO A DRAGON!" Melody yelled with the same force of excitement she had as first. "A dragon?" Dvergar asked confused. "There’s no way she’s a dragon, ya hear lassie" He responded as he took another sip of the Ale. "BUT SHE DID! A REAL DRAGON WITH WINGS AND AND AND TEETH AND CLAWS!!! AND WINGS!!!" She said jumping up and down of excitement. "There’s NO way she was! Ye’ve been dreamin! Everytin was quiet ‘ere."

As they walked on the road towards Red Larch, Melody kept trying to convince Dvergar that there was indeed a dragon. She did not doubt what she has seen. This excitement, this joy. There was no way that this was a lie. Though Dvergar showed impressive feat of the stubbornness of dwarves and refused to believe such tale. On the way, about 10 miles on the left side of Red Larch, they saw a hill with a stone. The entire party decided to check out this stone before continuing to Red Larch and they started walking towards it. The way to the hill was a wilderness, though they did not seem to have any difficulties getting through it. Upon arriving at the top of the hill, they found a menhir. The menhir was well known. This was the Narrow Menhir of Bare Gray Rock. The menhir was clear to see between the other rocks. It was jutting towards the east and had a different hue than the surrounding rocks. As the party inspected the menhir, Melody saw a trial towards the south. About 100 feet of the menhir, there was a small trial leading towards a ravine. The trial was surrounded by thick bushes. As Melody walked towards it, she immediately noticed a sign. As she walked over, so did Dvergar and Nearis. The text on the sign was clear:

"Come no closer lest you catch the disfiguring plague that afflicts me!" – The Lord of Lance Rock

The party looked at each other… They tried to see if there was something else within the trail. They all noticed a 2nd sign a bit further in the trail. "Should we go in?" asked Melody. "I don’t know…. I don’t like what is written on the sign…" said Nearis. "ya scared, Half-Elf?" provoked Dvergar. Nearis glared for a second at him and as he was doing, he clutched his holy symbol, invoking a holy magic as he uttered a small prayer. "Tempus thanks you, to hunt these demons, give me guiding light to vanquish my foes and I thank Tempus". The ring bearing the symbol of Tempus started to glow. Melody immediately understood what Nearis was doing and glanced at him with curiosity as to what his magic will do. Nearis glared into the trail. The magic he cast was known as "Detect Evil and Good". During his focus, he could sense a dark evil from this trail. "Not scared, dwarf" he scoffed. "I have learned not to be as reckless" he said while glaring into the trail to ‘feel’. "This is stupid!" said Dvergar in a lightly irritated voice as he as well started casting. As he was casting, his veins in his arm became a bit pumped and he received a feign glow of aura around himself. He scoffed at Nearis. "Not reckless…" he mumbled to himself as he walks to the second sign.

Dvergar reached the second sign without a problem. "Well?? What does it say!" yelled Melody. "Looks like the same fer me lass!" he answered. "It says:"

"Come no closer lest you catch the disfiguring plague that afflicts me!" – The Lord of Lance Rock

Melody and Nearis looked at each other and started walking towards the dwarf, who was already, slowly but surely, walking deeper in this ravine. "You guys set camp, we will be back soon!" Nearis yelled at the servant and the squire. "Y-yes sir!" both replied.

As they went deeper, they got to an open area with an entrance to a cave. The evil coming from this location got stronger as they continued. Melody used her magical flames and created torches within the cave to light it up. They saw a body on the floor. As they slowly got closer, they saw that the body was already decomposing. Nearis felt an evil aura around the body. He glared as he continued behind the dwarf. Dvergar was eager to find what was within this cave, as he wanted to walk in the bigger room, Nearis sensed an evil presence almost directly above them. "Above!" he yelled as he ducked down. Dvergar, upon hearing this walked into the main room of the cave and looked up. He saw 2 undead standing on an edge with boxes in their hands. As he was reaching for his weapon one of them threw the box on to Dvergar. Caught in between pulling his sword and seeing the box come towards him, he was unable to respond and took the full blow. The undead jumped down and attack Dvergar. Melody was quick and her aim was true as she shoots the undead in the chest right after Dvergar missed his swing. Nearis rushed passed Dvergar "Let me show you how it is done, dwarf" he said and slide right behind the undead, cleaving it in 2. The other undead did exactly the same. It was noticeable to the party that these undead were not mindless. They were given instructions. Someone or something gave them these instructions to attack any intruder. As the second undead landed, he too got a bolt straight to the chest. Dvergar pummeled the undead followed by another cleave of Nearis. "I sense more…" said Nearis. "Ugh… I hate not being able to see in the dark!" said Melody with an unpleased voice as she light up the place once more. The cave had 2 extra narrow ways on each side. One was long and dark, while the other had a turn in it. Nearis and Melody noticed dragging marks right at the turn of the path. "Well… Can we enter this one? Oi! Lassie Light up this cave will ya!" yelled Dvergar as he was inspecting the path on the left. "Yes yes!" said Melody as she flicked her hands to create torches within the path. They both looked toward the way of the cave, but were unable to see something special. Dvergar then rushes over to the other side and walks right into the pathway on the right. Nearis, was already walking within the path. He had stopped because he sensed a presence there. Presence of more evil creatures. "D’ya see anything?" asked Dvergar. "There is something in there…" replied Nearis. As he says, he feels Dvergar pushing him aside to have a look. The room he was looking in was a small room. The drag marks were indeed leading towards this room. On the wall he saw bodies hanging. Some were fresh, others were less and more decomposed. In the middle of the room was a pile of bodies. Dvergar made notion to enter as he felt a hand on his shoulder. "Enter, and three undead will have your head before me" he heard Nearis whisper in his ear. Though this was neither in the habit of Nearis nor Dvergar, both of them slowly backed away. They had a different mission then slay these foul beasts. As they made their way to the entrance of the cave, Nearis stabbed the decomposed body as he still felt an evil aura being emitted from it. As his sword slides through its neck, the body suddenly lives and tries to grab Nearis. Melody shoots the undead followed by another stab of Nearis. He felt the evil aura fade away as he saw the life leaving the body. "Let us continue." He said to the other two. "Red Larch is waiting".

As they enter Red Larch, Nearis and Melody look for a blacksmith. They didn’t have to look long for a blacksmith. They soon enter the smithy ‘Tantur Smithy’. As they enter, Dvergar disappears towards the in for a keg of Ale. The smithy was run by a man named Eldras Tantur. It was noticeable that the smithy was a family business, as Nearis and Melody saw younger lads hammering on armor and weapons. "Excuse us!" yelled Nearis. "Aye, I’ll be right there!" they heard a man yell from the back. 3 minutes pass as they hear the clinging in the back stop. A well build man with black hair came forth. "Aye, thanks for waitin" His accent was a real local accent. It was Heavy, but understandable. "How may I serve ya!" he said. "I would like to trade this Scimitar" said Nearis as he hands the scimitar over. "Trade it? For what would you like to trade it then?" he asked while inspecting the scimitar. "Do you, perchance, have a longsword?" Nearis asked. The man looked at him. "A longsword? I see you have a mighty fine one right there. Is there something wrong with that one?" now glaring at the noble longsword Nearis is carrying. Nearis looked back at the man "Not really, she still cleaves as she must. But a change of arms for the young one outside might do well." he said while nodding his head to the entrance of the shop. "Aye, a good trade it is." He reaches out his hand to shake while he hands the scimitar back to Nearis. "I will have it ready by tomorrow morning!" Nearis takes the scimitar back and shakes the smithy’s hand. "Well met, master smith. I will see you in the morning then!" Melody jumped up and said "I would also like to buy something!" as the smithy turns over to Melody, and barters with her, Nearis wanders around in the shop. Once her shopping was done and she left the building, Nearis addressed the Smith once more. "Excuse me, Master Smith. I have another question…" "Aye? What is now? Your sword will be ready by the morning…" the Smith replied. "It is not about the sword… I noticed you have a lot of wagons to fix… might you have heard about rumors that wagons and caravans disappear?" he asked with a serious face. "Not really, I don’t leave my smith too much… is always lots o’ work" the smith said while trying to recall any memory of rumors he might have heard. "So… it is not like there are more wagons or caravans to repair than usual?" Nearis asked. "Not that I am aware of… business has always been good… Now, if you will excuse me…" as the smith turns around to go back to hammering, his wife enters the shop. "Oh? I am sorry to intrude dear. I didn’t know you were talking to a customer" she said looking at Nearis. "Nearis Hawkwinter, of Waterdeep" Introducing himself with a bow. "Might I ask you a question?" asked Nearis. "Well, sure… what is it that I can be of service?" She said. "Have you…perchance, heard of a rumor of caravans and wagons disappearing…?" he asked her. "Sir, I would like to ask you not to talk of such matters at this point" she replied hastily and with a cautious concern as she looked towards her children. "Right…" said Nearis. "Perhaps tomorrow then" he said while shrugging. "I think that would be best, sir" she replied. As Nearis walks outside, he noticed that Dvergar was not there. Holding his hand in front of his face he looks at Baladir. "Where did he wander off to…?" he asked with slight irritation. "Sir, that way sir! He went of that way" Baladir responded with an eager to help voice. "I can guess where he went to, probably to an Inn or Tavern or some sorts. His keg was empty!" said Melody.

 

Dvergar, who has indeed wandered off to find an inn, has stumbled into a building in search of ale. The building he has stumbled in looks too nice to be a local pub. It looked like a huge dining room. The likes of which only the higher society can dine in. Dvergar, however, wandered in without any thought of where he was heading. One could say his sense of alcoholic beverages has lead him towards this building. When he entered, he didn’t pay much attention to the environment and he hasn’t notice Dustin sitting in the corner of this establishment. No, he walked straight ahead towards the bar.
Dustin, who has been here before the party, just sat quietly and kept an eye on Dvergar.
At this moment, Dvergar was halted by a waitress. She was very tall and beautiful woman with long blond hair tied into a ponytail.
“Good evening, Master dwarf. I am Kaylessa. I am the owner of this fine establishment.” She says.
Dvergar, currently looking up to see her responds with an pleased voice “Ah yes, Good e’enin indeed! This is indeed a lovely place you have…”
“Why, thank you. Would you like a drink sir? A Mug of Ale? Or perhaps an entire cask?” Seeing Dvergar thirsty.
These words were like music to Dvergar. “A-A cask would do fine thank you!” he said with a sparkle of joy in his eyes. “A cask it is then.” And she made her way toward the bar.
Dustin, still sitting in his corner, sees Dvergar stand still in the middle of the way, looking around at the decorations on the wall. It is now that Dvergar notices that the tapestry on the wall pictures the gorgeous Red Larch trees. The tapestry covers a large amount of the wall and it adds a certain unique atmosphere to the inn. As Dvergar’s eyes are gazing upon the tapestry, the customers’ eyes are slowly turning to the dwarf standing in the middle of the way. But this didn’t seem to bother Dvergar. Kaylessa soon returned with a cask in her arms. “A Cask of ale, as request” She said smiling while handing over the cask. “Would you rather not sit?” pointing at an empty table.
‘Ah yes…yes…”Dvergar sits himself and immediately starts on the cask. After receiving the payment of the cask, Kaylessa turns to walk away but was stopt by Dvergar. “’Scuse me miss….”
“Kaylessa, The owner of ‘Tthe swinging sword’” she said with a smile. “Yes, Miss Kaylessa… I wonder if ya kno where I can find a barber.”
“A barber? Why sir, you should speak with Gilkaen. He will be able to help you with that. Anything else you wish to know, master dwarf?” She says with a smile.
“Yes… actually.. I’m looking for Harb….” He stops abruptly. Thinking. Kaylessa looks at him curious “Yes? You are looking for….?”
“Har… Harbuk…. Harburk! The constable!” Finally remembering the name.
“Ooh. The constable. You can find him a bit further down the road. Over the crossroad sir.”
“Thank you.” Dvergar said. And with this, Kaylessa makes her way over the barmaids. They start talking and pointing very secretly to Dvergar. Yet their eyes had a slight hint of fear in them. Dvergar and Dustin, who still haven’t talked to eachother, both notice that they are talking about Dvergar. Dvergar, however, has been pouring the ale n his mouth directly from the cask. This again called upon the gazes of the other customers towards the dwarf who, unknowingly, keeps drinking his ale.

Meanwhile, Nearis and Melody make their way towards the crossroad in search of the dwarf. They stumble unto the Swinging sword, where Dvergar is. The Swinging sword is right across a very dark and jolly pub. Nearis and Melody look at eachother. “There is no way he went in that fancy place…” Said Melody while she gazed upon the building of the Swinging sword qnd its wooden scimitqr qs q sign. “Indeed… Let us make way to the other side…” replied Nearis and made his way across the Swinging Sword.

The other side was the opposite. It is a ram shackled 2 story tavern with very dirty windows. The sign was a warrior’s bucket helm with the name written underneath it. “The helm at high sun”. Though upon closer inspection, Nearis saw that the warrior’s helm was a washtub turned upside down. Though ram shackled, it had more movement in it than there was on the street. A man was carried out on a gurney, half dead, half drunk. It was obvious that he had more than his share Nearis and Melody looked how the man was dumped in the middle of the street by 2 men, supposedly working in here.
Nearis walks in followed by Melody. It was as crowded as it sounded. There was not much light in this pub. It was a very old place. The floor was a dark colored wood. Nearis stops a waiter.
“Excuse me… I am looking for a dwarf”
Th waiter looks baffled at Nearis. “A…A dwarf, sir? I…I am sorry, I just serve here sir… I don’t pay much attention to the customers…” he said and scuffled onwards to serve a group of men.
Nearis and melody walked up to the bar. The bar was very long. It looked like it had its time, but it was still very sturdy.
“Excuse me, sir!” Nearis called out.
“I’ll be with you in a second” said the bar man busy tapping Ale and Mead.
Nearis and Melody waited. While they waited, they looked around to hear some of the local rumors. Looking left, Nearis spots a man and a woman. Obviously flirting with each other. “No rumors can come from those two.” he thought to himself. Listening further, he heard lots of War Stories and stories of people’s greatest exploits. These, however, didn’t catch his attention. Until he set his eyes on a table where 4 men were sitting. One was talking about monsters around Red Larch. Clearly exaggerated due to his drunken state, but Nearis was curious non-the less.
At that time, the barman turned towards Nearis. “yes? What will it be?” he asked.
Nearis, slowly turning his head to the barman while still gazing towards the table replied. “Five mugs of ale please!”
“Aye, 5 Ales. Coming right up!” he confirmed.
Melody, who was also waiting at the bar, tried to get the attention of the barkeeper. She climbed on a chair and spoke to the barman who had just handed Nearis his mugs. “’Scuse me. I notice that there is no entertainment here.”
“Aye, Th’is true.” He answered. Finally noticing that a small red haired Halfling is talking to him.
“How about I enlighten this place with my entertainment?” looking straight up to the barman.
“Sure, if you want to” he said, gesturing towards an empty table.
Melody nods and makes her way towards the empty table. She casts her Dancing lights on the table. This immediately got everyone’s attention. Except, not the attention Melody was expecting. Everyone reacted very scared. It was obvious that people were wary and even scared of magic being cast. This did not stop Melody though “Oooh, don’t worry! I am here to entertain you guys! Be happy that you have the privilege to hear my songs!” she said while pulling out her Kalimba. This scared the people even more as her Kalimba was made from bones. “No worries, this is just the look of my instrument! You shall forget it the moment you hear how it sounds!”
She starts to play a very slow and sad song. Though it seems that people, in their drunken state, failed to notice that this was a sad song and they start laughing and cheering. Melody, surprised by the reaction on the song, continued to play and switched to a faster song. This time, the people started jumping on their tables and dancing. Clearly enjoying the music.  Though none of them threw any coins to Melody. After her performance, she made her way back to the bar for her money.
“That was quite a performance. But I cannot give you money for it… How about a hearty meal instead?” Slightly disappointed, Melody agrees on the food. “Sure, for now I’ll take the food.”
She received a plate of Chicken with bread and some cheese. Melody started eating meal and it tasted not bad.

Meanwhile, Nearis had already taken a chair and sat next to the guys talking about monsters. “Hello gentlemen! How about a round of drinks for everyone! On me!” he said as he hands a mug of ale to each one of them. “Yeeeeaaaa!!!” they cheered.
“So, my ears have picked up on something you were saying. I would love to hear your story as well!” said Nearis.
“Story? Boooy have I some stories for you, heheheeeee” the drunken man said with a huge smile. “No no no, sorry, that is not what I meant!” Nearis said quickly before the man started talking. The man’s smile immediately turned into a frown. “I would like to know more about these ‘monsters’ you were speaking of! We will talk about your stories after this!”
The man, slightly disappointed but enthusiastic to tell his story after this, started speaking. “Well, I can tell you what I have heard. I mean, I haven’t seen them myself. But these monsters appear in the mines! Aye…”
“So you haven’t actually seen the monsters?” Nearis asked. “No, you should ask Dunkerd at the mines! He has seen them!” the man replied. “And when do these appear? Also, what kind of monsters appear?” Asked Nearis. “He was working late and suddenly these weird guys with long robes appear. They had stone faces!”
“Stone faces? That’s peculiar, isn’t it?” Said Nearis, not sure if he should take him serious. “I haven’t seen them myself, but if you want more information, you can speak to Dunkar or Mellikho.” The man replied.
“Mellikho?” Nearis looked at the man with a questioning face. “Aye, he runs the mine! Alberi Mellikho!”
“I see, well thank you very much.” Just as Nearis was about to stand up, the man immediately looks to Nearis with a strong gaze. “So, do you want to hear my stories?”
Nearis, looking at the man “How about I buy another round for you gentleman!” He heaved hs mug and let out a loud “Heeeuuuy!” the men joined him and seem to immediately forget about the stories. Giving Nearis the opportunity to walk away. Melody, who had just finished eating, noticed Nearis walk towards her. They both leave the tavern.

Dustin, who is still sitting in the corner in “The Swinging Sword”,  still keeps an eye on Dvergar. Kaylessa is still discussing things with her servants about Dvergar and the mark on his head. During this time, Nearis and Melody walk in in search of Dvergar. Dvergar, seeing them enter, start shouting and waving at them. “OOOI! O’er ‘ere! There’s a table fer us!”
Nearis, however, completely ignored Dvergar thinking “what a senile old dwarf” and heads towards Dustin. Melody makes her way towards the bar at the end of the establishment. “Excuse me miss, may I provide some music for this establishment in exchange of gold?”
Kaylessa, looking way down to see a small Halfling talk to her, replies in a gentle tone “Why of course young miss, please, go ahead. You shall, however, be payed depending on the entertainment.”
Melody nods and makes her way to the stage. Unlike the Helm, this place has a dedicated place for performaning! Melody played the same tactic as in the Helm. She starts with the slow and sad song, but unlike the Helm, there was a obvious bad reaction to this song. “I am not sure if this was such a great idea.” She thought to herself. Melody quickly finished her song and started her faster one. This one had a positive reaction. Some people were clapping, others were silently enjoying the song. While Melody started her second song, Dvergar had taken his cask in his had and started walking around the building. He had a lot of people staring at him while he was doing this. But he didn’t seem to care about them. When the second song finished, Melody received a hearty applause and even some gold for her performance. In the mean time, Dvergar had made his way towards Kaylessa. “I’m sorry miss, but this cask is on his account.” He said while pointing at Nearis. “He will pay for this.”
Kaylessa looked at the dwarf “Oh? I will inquire this immediately sir. Thank you for letting us know.” And she scuffled towards Nearis. “Hello sir, welcome to this establishment. I am Kaylessa, the owner of this place.” She said to Nearis. Nearis, as a nobleman he is, replied “Good Evening! This is a fine establishment you have here! Very lovely!”
“Why thank you, sir.” She said flattered. “I have been told that you are paying for his consumption of that cask. Is this so?” She said to Nearis while pointing at Dvergar, who is still walking around and enjoying the tapestry. Nearis sighed very deep and put his hand against his forehead. “What did he have? Just that cask?”
“Yes, sir. Also, might I get you something to drink?” She said. Nearis, glares at Dvergar for a second and then turns to Kaylessa. “ Sure, 5 mugs please” he said while gesturing Kildaraen and Baladir to join them. “Understood, sir.” and she made her way back to the bar. This time, Kildaraen speaks to Nearis with a trembling voice, scared of the reaction he might get seeing Nearis take out his churning amulet. “Sir, uhm, May I ask if we could get some spending money as well?” Nearis, sighing even more “Sure….” And hands 5 silver pieces to Kildaraen and Baladir each. “Why thank you sir!” they both thanked Nearis deeply for his kindness.

Kaylessa returned with the 5 mugs of ale and turned towards them all “May I ask, Are you adventurers?” she asked looking at them all. “We are, said Dustin. “There are some rumors going about here in Red Larch… and they are quite disturbing…” she said with a troubled look on her face. “What kind of Rumors” Melody asked. “Unexplainable things happen around here with the weather… sudden thick fog that rises around Sumber Hills. Hot winds coming from the west, where cold wind has always blown. But also violent sights… like Lighting Jolting upwards. Don’t you think this as strange?” she said. “This indeed not natural…” replied Nearis upon hearing this. “I have told Luruth, one of our towns Elderly, about this. But he said these were just rumours. Also, I have my theory about this. I think that this is all linked to Lance Rock. The hill with the Menhir not far from here. There were illegal people sighted in the caves around that area. I would like to offer 50 gold pieces to investigate this.” She looked up to the party. “Well… we cannot leave things as they are, now can we?” Nearis said towards Melody and Dustin. They both nod and Nearis turns over to Kaylessa “We will accept. We shall investigate this place. We already know where it is as well. So you have talked to the Elderly in the village about this?” he said to Kaylessa. She looked with a joy in her eyes that someone is finally going to investigate the events going on around Red Larch. “Yes, I have told the elderly and the Constable. But they all told me these were all rumors. I have a feeling that they are hiding something.”
“Not to worry, we shall take this up on us and investigate this. Do you perhaps have rooms for us to stay at night before we take off to investigate?” asked Nearis. “Why yes! We do! This will be free of charge as a thank you. We shall show you to your room once you are ready to sleep.” They both thank each other and Kaylessa makes her way back to serve the other customers. Meanwhile Dvergar has joined the group at the table. They tell the rumors that they have heard to each other and they make way to bed.  

While everyone is falling asleep, Dvergar puts his hand on the egg inside his bag as he always does when he sleeps. He felt something else though. He was not sure what it was. He took out the egg to see if it was not a fake. It was the egg indeed, there was no mistake. Though it seemed to have changed. The texture has altered. Dvergar inspected the egg further. The Crach had gone and the color changed. After inspecting the egg, Dvergar put it away, thinking of what might have happened to it for it to change. He put his hand on the book and the other on the egg and fell asleep.

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