Taverns, Tombs, and Orcs
17th Day of Marpenoth

Brastan briefed the adventurers quickly. His goal was to find and restore an ancient Temple of Tyr, but its location had been lost to the mists of time. He offered several possible leads; the tomb of an ancient monk dedicated to the defense of Justice, a monastery in the mountains known to collect holy artifacts, and local 'antiquity dealers' at the Hog and Thistle.

Argos was concerned about the Cloaks talk of the Cults of Elemental Evil, but without any solid leads they opted to undertake Brastan's investigations. Introductions to the local market stalls and stores were needed to purchase some necessary supplies. Bozel's Alchemical Supply & Potion Bazaar and Boris's Adventuring Supplies gave the adventurers a quick lesson in supply and demand.

Marching south the party marveled at the quantity and variations in the travelers on the South Rd. Caravans, adventurers, tourists, soldiers, moving in both directions in an almost never ending stream to and from Mulmaster. After the  human packed streets of the city, the Hog and Thistle surprised with its mix of peoples from almost every Prime race; and even some from further afield. 

Spread over two level the tavern was a whirlwind of ale, noise, and action. Elves and Aasimar traded magic scrolls, Dwarfs and Tieflings shared war stories, Dragonborn and Genasi reminisced over cold ales. In the chaos the adventurers found Gavin, an Elf who had spent the last century or so dealing in artifacts from all over Faerun. Although he was appreciative of the wine he had no knowledge of the Lost Temple, nor of any mysterious map that may lead to it.

Slightly disheartened the adventurers set off east to find the ancient tomb. The entrance was located in a hillside no different from any other in the undulating, rocky terrain. Cautiously Sendrina approached the tomb, choosing to investigate a collection of boulders nearby she felt could hide an ambush. Her stealthy approach ruined by a loose rock, she found herself under attack by a Half-Ogre and his Goblin sidekick. Alone and exposed Sendrina was almost taken down before her companions was cover the distance and take down the bandits.

Entering the tomb Sendrina finally found her first trap! Without checking the door she triggered a simple alarm, getting hit in the head with small scraps of metal as the rest clattered to the floor. Inside was what used to be an altar with armour and weapons, long since looted. A single metal door led deeper into the tomb, but the ghost of a cleric loyal beyond death was honour-bound to let no-one desecrate the tomb. Sadly he had to be vanquished before the tomb could be explored. Clutched by the interred monk was a broken tablet covered in an unrecognisable script, hopefully part of the map they were seeking.

Seeing the sun only just passing noon the party chose to press on to find the distant monastary. A few hours into their journey they were distracted by rising smoke in the distance, which they found to be a burning homestead. Anabelle raced ahead to the house looking for survivors finding am unconscious half-elf, Selwyn, in the front room. Taking him outside, and giving him a healing potion, brought him back to consciousness. He told of the orc raid on his farm where they took his pregnant wife and two farmhands, stole all their possessions, and then obviously set the farm on fire. 

Selwyn was frantic about rescuing his wife, and emboldened to act when Anabelle gave him her dagger to use. He almost ran along the well worn tracks of the orc raiding party, forcing the adventurers to to maintain a rapid pace. After a few miles the tracks split, the majority turning east and a smaller group with a wagon heading further west. Selwyn was sure the wagon would have his wife as the orc camps lay further west. Only minutes later they sighted the orcs, four of them with their wagon pulled by the farmhands and piled high with loot. 

Having the advantage of surprise would allow the party to approach the orcs, rapidly engage, and dispatch them before they could even react. Instead Anabelle and Selwyn began a reckless charge down the lightly wooded slope, alerting the orcs to their presence. Seeing the fresh meat of reckless adventurers the orcs saw no need for the farmhands, slitting their throats and leaving the corpses with the wagon. Once in range Saggy and Sendrina opened fire with their bows, wounding the orcs with accurate arrow shots. Returning the favour the orcs unleashed their javelins, missing all the adventurers but felling Selwyn.

Distraught, Anabelle stopped her charge and turned to expend her last spell to bring him back from the brink of death. Selwyn stood, hardly believing his luck as he looked at the bloody hole in his tunic where the javelin had just been removed from, marveling at the power of healing magic, as a second javelin pierced his heart killing him instantly. Thanks to the accurate archery the orcs were then finished off quickly by Bruce and Argos. Maygan, Selwyn's widow, is unable to contain her grief, and is barely able to tell the party about the refuge at the Dellmon Ranch.

Fortified and secure, the Dellmon Ranch has become a rallying point for the area's residents from the roving orc bands. Kerbin Dellmon, patriarch of the family, is happy to offer the adventurers a safe place to rest in exchange for assistance in the coming battle. Promising to talk more in the morning he offers them a place to sleep in the barn. Amongst the few dozen farmers the party found a place in the barn and slept.


Bowelsplitter's Seige
18th Day of Marpenoth

The sound of the forge bell ringing woke the adventurers, as the cry of Orcs! resounded throughout the ranch. Dozens of orcs were marching from the east, armed to the teeth and led by their Orog chief, Bowelsplitter. The attackers split into three groups; Bowelsplitter led the main group from rhe east, with two smaller groups flanking the ranch to attack from the north and south.

Although small in number the defenders were well fortified and prepared to die defending the ranch. Kerbin and his sons, Fyndrick and Perd, led the defense of the house. The dwarven brothers, Stowal and Branikan, stayed near their forge to defend the southern approach. This left Erned, a travelling Knight of the Order of the Gauntlet, to lead the defense of the main eastern defenses. To help bolster the defenders Argos and Bruce stayed in the barn, Sendrina and Sagluren stood at Erned's side, and Anabelle took to the house to assist the family.

The battle opens with the orcs attempting to use flaming arrows to set the ranch on fire. The Dellmons expected this, and had kept the roof wet to douse any flames. Not deterred, the orcs began their charge. Closing the distance quickly meant the defenders only got a few shots off before the orcs were upon them, but it was enough to thin their numbers. Sendrina and Sagluren joined the shooting, but Sendrina soon lost the blessing of Tymora as she her bow flicked back hitting her in the face. And so began a battle of many misses.

The orcs reached and easily breached the southern palisade, dispatching the commoners there and only being held by the dwarven brothers. Argos and Bruce hatch a devious plan, using Bruce as bait to get the orcs to gather together, Argos unleashes his Fireball scroll on them. In one fell swoop the southern flank is secured. The last surviving orc leaps into Bruce in an attempt at revenge, his axe landing heavily on Bruce's skull. If not for the casting Shield as a reflexive action Bruce would be dead instead of simply unconscious. Through sheer blind luck Branikan has, and is willing to use, a healing potion to keep Bruce in the fight. The dwarfs and the few surviving warriors rush to secure the other flanks.

Reaching the house the orcs are slowed by Kerbin, but without support are slowly being worn down by sheer weight of numbers. A group of orcs breaches a palisade next to the house, charging directly into the courtyard behind the defenders. Sensing the house is in trouble, Anabelle is able to repel half a dozen orcs with a single Thunderwave, almost securing the house before a second group storm the front door and cut her down. With Anabelle falling the fate of Kerbin and his sons is all but sealed. Flush with victory the remaining orcs charge through into the courtyard.

On the eastern flank Bowelsplitter has finally crossed the defenses and is engaging Erned. The Knight bravely keeps the Orog at bay with his greatsword, but is hard pressed by the duel weiled battleaxes. While focused on the Orog, Sagluren and Sendrina are surprosed from behind, with Saggy falling with an axe planted in his back. Quickly revived by Sendrina he returns to the fight, trying to stop Bowelsplitter. Although they are able to take down many orcs the ranch defenders are overrun, unable to withstand the weight of the horde.

As Erned looks ready to fall, forced to his knee and barely able to lift his sword, Argos and Bruce turn their attention to him unleashing magical attacks. Unable to withstand the combined assault Bowelsplitter finally succumbs to his wounds, leaving the orcs leaderless. Argos attempts to take advantage of this by intimidating the orcs into fleeing. Bruce takes the next step, casting an illusion of Bowelsplitter to order the orcs to retreat. Confused and now slightly spooked, most of the remaining orcs flee. With the help of Stowla, Branikan and the remaining guards the last few orcs are quickly dispatched.

Inside the house Anabelle is revived by Saggy, who can hear screams from the basement. Being told this is were the women and children were hiding causes Anabelle to rush down with Saggy. Below they find two orcs trying to get through a second door, one breaks away to delay them. Thinking of nothing but the pregnant Maygen; Anabelle charges past the orc, who is able to stop her with one swift hit from his axe. By the time Saggy finishes off the first orc the second has breached the door, entering and killing whatever he finds. Sagluren enters and dispatches the orc finding the body of Dreena, Kerbin's daughter, freshly killed.

The battle is over and the group gathers to rest. Erned reveals the non-combatants did not hide in the basement, but rather fled west over night when scouts revealed the attack was imminent. The only survivors were the dwarven brothers, Erned, and two commoners. Every other member of the ranch was killed. The day is spent gathering and burying bodies, and trying to bring some sense of order to the ranch. Erned expects the women to return over the next few days, after he sends word that they can return. As a reward for their service he offers the adventurers some gold and treasure he had collected in his search for Bowelsplitter. He would keep enough to help rebuild the ranch, but the rest was for them.

After a day of rest the adventurers moved on, continuing to the Sacred Stone Monastery. 

The Sacred Stone Monastery
19th Day of Marpenoth

The sun was high in the sky as the adventurers approached crested the final ridge to finally sight the Monastery. Built into a wide chasm cut into the hillside the monastery had a central stone keep, possibly millennia old, with a more modern building attached around it. Knocking in the door was met with rebuke, as the monks wished no visitors, no questions, and no new members.

Frustrated Anabelle and Argus continued to push the monk, asking more questions and getting the monk more frustrated. While the monk had the small door open Anabelle was able to snatch the his gargoyle mask away. In response the monk grabbed her wrist and in one smooth motion snapped her wrist. In pain and getting nowhere, the two adventurers pondered their next move.

Taking a different path saw Sagluan, Bruce, and Sendrina investigate the monastery's perimeter. In the northwest corner they found a walled garden, and were able to jimmy the door open quietly. Although parts were overgrown, the paths were clear and the statues of gargoyles looked well tended. Although suspicious of the statues a thorough investigation assured the adventurers they were simply statues. Until one of them began to attack.

The Gargoyle defeated, the adventurers began to check doors leading off the walled garden. One was magically warded, another simply too difficult to unlock, and the third was finally cracked by a combined effort. Sneaking as best they could, they opened a door to find a distillery manned by two of the monks. Quickly and quietly Sendrina and Sagluan attacked the monks, with Bruce finishing one off with a well placed firebolt. Although effective it was loud, alerting the abbotess, Hellenrae, and her sparring partner to the intruders.

Emerging from the dojo the monk was quickly killed, but allowed enough time for Hellenrae to come from behind. Enraged she unleashed kung-fury upon the adventurers, her stunning blow and flurrying fists almost proving too much. But for all her skill she was no match for the adventurers cold steel, and she fell cut to pieces. They then found time to 'acquire' several dozen bottles of strong brandy from the distillery, with Sagluan ensuring he sampled the wares.

Emboldened they proceeded into the next room, and stumble into a Lich buried in his studies. He showed no interest in the adventurers, repeatedly telling them to leave or he would destroy them. Although he was pushed to within a single word of destroying them, they got smart and retreated from the Lich's chambers.

After raiding the chambers of the now deceased Hellenrae the group found a Scriptorium where two monks diligently scribed texts. They were no match for the adventurers, and their death allowed investigation of the tomes. Here they found evidence of the true nature of the Monastery, that it was in fact a secret temple for the Cult of Black Earth and deep below was the true temple fashioned in the ruins of a Dwarven stronghold.

Some more exploring led the adventurers to the entrance of the central keep, and it was here they had their greatest idea. In the interest of caution they rolled a barrel of brandy to the door, cracked it open, waited ready with fire, and then knocked loudly on the door. Of course one of the Cult Guards opened the door, and was promptly launched back across the room to a concussive death. Now alert to the intruders Qarbo, the priest, and his single remaining guard moved to attack. The guard did not last long, but Qarbo was able to hold his own with a combination of glaive and powerful earth magic.

When the dust settled, literally, Sagluan was down, Bruce was out of spells, and Sandrina was almost dead. The adventurers were exhausted and desperately needed a rest, so they retreated to Hellenrae's room to barricade themselves in and rest. Just after first watch their rest was interupted by two Duergar investigating the Monastery. The explosion in the Shrine of Stone had caused the remaining monks to flee below, sending the Duergar up during the night to clear out the intruders. Sadly they failed as the adventurers killed them both and finished their rest.

In the darkness of early morning they rose and continued to explore the Monastery. Unbeknownst to them it was now abandoned, so they cautiously progressed to explore and loot the entire building. In the Shrine of Stone they discovered that the altar was once dedicated to Moradin, but has since been desecrated by the Cult for their own nefarious purposes. They utilised their barrel skills again to destroy an Umberhulk kept below the Shrine. The stairs were rigged to turn into a ramp, leading to the Umberhulk and what would have been certain death for anyone not prepared. 

Finishing their looting adventure the adventurers found a staircase down and descended into the mines below the monastery. The first chamber was the guard room, manned by three orcs and an ogre. Expecting a fierce fight they threw bottles of brandy at the orcs hoping to be able to set them on fire. Instead the orc 'commander', Jurth, asks for the pass-sign. Thinking quickly Sandrina makes the symbol of the Earth Cult with her hands, which convinces Jurth to allow the adventurers to pass. Once plied with brandy the orcs even provided directions around the mines.

Journey to the Center of the Earth (Cult)
20th Day of Marpenoth

Leaving Jurth behind the three adventurers continue into the mines, but are soon forced to turn back at the sound of arguing and more broken Brandy bottles from the guard room. Argus and Anabelle have returned and caught up, but are having trouble convincing the orcs they are allowed to be there. As Anabelle and Argus try to talk their way in the cogs in Jurth's small mind finally click into place, and he orders the attack. Even with the Ogre, Drool, the adventurers are quickly able to defeat the mine guards and continue into the mines beneath the Monastery.

Moving on they briefly explored the rough mine shafts, before finding a tomb containing several zombies. Apart from the zombies there was an empty sarcophagus that was meant for Sarus Caradon – Defender of the North. There was little else in the mines, the adventurers found the small prison where the cultists held their slaves. Unfortunately the prisoners had all been executed, seemingly this was easier than moving them or allowing them to be freed. At the opposite end of the mines, past the pen that once held the Umberhulk, they found a long stair, descending into the darkness and the Temple proper.

Completing the decent was uneventful, arriving at a chasm crossed by an impossibly thin stone bridge. Foolishly the party crossed with the rogue at the rear, and so didn't see the gargoyles laying in wait in the stalactites above. Diving swiftly onto the adventurers they struck Argos and Anabelle in an attempt to push them into the chasm. Argos was knocked off but able to catch the edge of the bridge, Anabelle was not so lucky. She first tried to grab the bridge, but failing that fell back on her acrobatic skills to try to grab the chasm wall. Sadly she was unable to find purchase on the rocks, and tumbled down the wall to finish in a broken heap some one hundred feet below.

Undeterred the party pushed on into the temple, quickly recognising it as an ancient dwarven stronghold long since fallen into ruin. Rushing headlong into the first chamber revealed an ambush set by the cult; Nartham, a burrowshark, and his squad of hobgoblin guards. The fight was long and tough, with enough noise to alert the remaining Duergar guards in a nearby guard room. With nearly everyone exhausted they finally defeated the last Duergar and stood victorious in the temple entrance. Taking stock of the situation they decided to retreat back to the monastery to regroup and rest. Only a single room in and the Temple of Black Earth had almost defeated them.

Journey to the Center of the Earth (Cult) - Redux
20th Day of Marpenoth

The luxurious guest quarters in the Monastery provided the perfect place to rest and attempt to recover. Conveniently located next to the front door, Sandrina was able to hear someone knocking looking for a way in. Brastan had sent another fighter to assist the group, and so did Corbilette join the party as they delved back into the temple.

Although reduced the defenses of the temple were prepared and expecting intruders. Entering for a second time the party found the main entrance blocked by a portcullis, with the controls well behind in the entrance hall. Fending off archers Sandrina used her Mage Hand to slowly move the portcullis lever, and one by one the bars began to raise. Finally inside they made short work of the few monks left to defend the entrance.

Moving quickly they entered another chamber, this one occupied by a Burrowshark, another guard and several monks. This fight was much tougher than the last, Dynath led his troops admirably attempting a flanking action and copious use of magic. It was for naught, as blade and fire reduced the Black Earth Warriors to ash. Briefly exploring led to a strange room filled with ancient dwarven statues, and a Genasi Mud Sorcerer called Miraj. Miraj did attempt to talk to the adventurers, to explain what the purpose of the Cult was, but they were only interested in blood and fighting. Using one of the reanimated dwarven Golems Miraj was able to hold her own, but it wasn't enough. 

In an act of overconfidence, Sandrina found a sleeping Bullette in the next room, and thought she could finish it off quickly. Unfortunately she was mistaken. Although in desperate need of recovery the party had to quickly fight a now upset Bullette before they could rest. Returning to Miraj's chamber the party settled down for a well earned rest.

20th Day of Marpenoth

Pondering his many statues Marlos was beginning to grow worried. The interlopers had penetrated the Monastery above and had actually entered the Temple.

"My Lord," began Yarsha, "Miraj has failed in his defence of the Temple, he needs to be replaced before they…
"Enough! I alone shall decide the fate of this Temple. I alone shall decree who is responsible for its defence." Marlos was in no mood to have his leadership or judgement questioned.

Yarsha scurried off, collecting the few Cultists still loyal to her and making her may to the Portal. Perhaps the Temple would be lost, but the Black Geode would never fall. She had to bring forward her plans, ad would have to again if Marlos was not able to prevent the Temple falling.

Marlos sent word to the Genasi, Miraj, to prepare for the adventurers return. He wanted contingents placed in the barracks and the old gatewardens quarters, Miraj could personally watch the south and he would finish the adventurers if they made it to his personal chambers. Clutching his pickaxe Marlos made ready for the invaders to come again.

The Temple of the Black Earth
21st Day of Marpenoth

Argos and Corbilette chose to stay behind to investigate the Mud Priests works, reducing the party to three. They were joined by a lost fighter, Grug, who had seen his companions seperated and killed by the Black Earth Cultists. 

Pushing forward the adventurers retraced their steps through the Gatewarden's Quarters, past a crude statue of Ogremoch, before finding another barracks room occupied by several cultists, knights and a priest. The fight was long and almost went badly, with the knights flanking the group putting pressure on the magic users. It was only the well timed arrival of Saggy that turned the tide against the cultists.

Sighting an ornate door they could not resist the adventurers found an ancient magic circle. Even combining knowledge and experience none could decipher the strange runes that appeared to control the circle. Before they could leave the circle activated, opening a portal which deposited a very confused ranger into the Temple. Thalar, although disorientated, offered to join the adventurers as he saw this as his only way home.

Deciding to skip exploring large sections of the Temple, they made their way north to a large, natural chamber. Strangely the chamber contained a dozen stone statues, chillingly lifelike in their depictions of terror and pain. Grug was brave enough to step forward to investigate, and fell victim to the gaze of Marlos. Turned to stone he could only watch as the other adventurers rushed in to confront the Medusa. Marlos fought to defend his Temple, but his over-confidence was his downfall. Sandrina cleverly used Mage Hand to float a small mirror in front of Marlos, and finally he succumbed to his own curse turning to stone and then to mud.

Spent after two draining fights, the adventurers settled down again to rest.

Cleaning House
21st Day of Marpenoth

With Marlos defeated the Temple of the Black Earth fell almost silent. Marlos had already given the order to retreat, resulting in the cult members all fleeing the Temple and leaving only automatons and monsters behind.

The adventurers moved north, finding an entrance chamber guarded by another ancient Dwarven Golem. They defeated the Golem and briefly pondered exploring the long tunnel leading West but thought better of it. Joined again by Argos and Corbilette they looted Marlos' library and re-examined the portal circle. Finding nothing immediately Argos decided to study what he could as they continued on.

Further south they found the old forge, recently abandoned but still holding some left over treasures. Nearby they found one of the last cultists to leave, the torturer Heldorm. With a swift blade to the back he was dispatched by a disguised Saldrina and the chamber looted. Meanwhile, Corbilette opened another door and discovered the southern guardpost, occupied by five ogres. Thinking quick she ordered them to follow Marlos' instruction and evacuate, which having no reason to doubt, they did so.

A quick detour to dispatch a squatting Ettin and finally to finish off the two remaining Bullettes and the Temple of the Black Earth was finally empty. Another quick rest and the party debated whether to return to the surface or explore a tunnel heading to the south. Using his expert Dwarven senses Sagluen convinced the party to continue exploring.

Crashing Into Adventure
22nd Day of Marpenoth

Fresh from vanquishing the Cult of the Black Earth the adventurers continued through the ancient Dwarven ruins seeking further riches and people…to kill…

Entering a collapsed chamber the party were cautious of the leering gargoyle above a pristine pool, remembering the last time they encountered a Gargoyle. After investigation it appeared to be a normal statue, with the true threat only emerging after they moved on. Having avoided the tripwire alarm on approach the guards were not alerted to there presence, allowing the party to almost surprise the guards in the first guard room. Beginning the attack distracted them from the Nothics sneaking up from behind, and they found themselves under attack from two fronts.

Defeating the first guards they discover this part of the complex contains a large canal, the source of the cold, wet air that permeates the area. Further in they find another guard room, but this time they are waiting in ambush as the door was opened. Although putting up a fierce fight the Cultists of the Crushing Wave were no match for the brave murder-hobos.

After discovering a large underground lake which gave them an idea of the size of the complex, the adventurers push on over the canal and into a new area. Off a chamber with the remains of a beautiful merfolk statue the party was surprised by two ogres and their mistress, a Sea Hag. Even her hideous visage was not enough to stop the adventurers defeating her and moving on.

To the north lay a large market place, an area that the cult was using as storage for food and supplies. As the adventurers entered the cultists were busily packing what they could ready for transport, it appeared that they were preparing to abandon the complex. While most of the party prepared to engage in the marketplace Corbi had investigated south, finding a door she could not help but open. Unfortunately the door hid two rather irate trolls who ensured Corbi was unable to return to the group.

Copious amounts of fire and acid made short work of the cultists and trolls. Argos was finally able to use fireball as intended, almost destroying the cultists with a single blast. With all enemies defeated the party decided to rest in the Troll Hole, which seemed like a good idea at the time…

Crashing the Wave
22nd Day of Marpenoth

The adventurers well earned rest was suddenly interrupted by the final troll returning, along with some Lizardfolk that also inhabited the temple. Fighting groggily they were able to defeat the troll and its minions quite quickly.

Moving cautiously the party returned to the marketplace, intent on finding any loot they may have missed. Argos, rather than looting, found himself drawn to the giant brass gong at the water's edge. Giving in to curiosity he picked up the large mallet and struck the gong. As the sound reverberated around the entire complex the lake began to bubble, and the giant head of a Turtle Dragon rose curiously from the water. Not knowing it was in the service of the Cult, the adventurers foolishly offered their services to help free the Dragon. It showed its refusal with a stream of superheated steam breath.

Choosing discretion over valour, they quickly rushed across the marketplace and headlong into wherever the next corridor took them. Finding another bridge over the canal that ended at perhaps the most ornate door yet, Sandrina chose to finally not check for traps. Of course, there was a trap. Inside was the heart of the temple, an area that was most likely the chambers of the cult's leader and high-priests. Instead they find only a few Lizardfolk and a summoned Hezrou Demon left to guard the chamber. 

To the west they find another portal chamber, this one guarded by a Mezzoloth. It is strikingly similar to the previous one they found, differing only in the main rune in the centre. Doubling back they stumble upon the Cult leader's private stash, seemingly left behind in the rush to evacuate. Further south an ancient distillery had been converted into a storage area for some form of minor water elemental, with Saggy managing to take one in its storage container. 

Just off the underground lakes shore a small party of Lizardfolk had set up camp, seemingly preparing to move in to the now re-abandoned complex. The adventurers were able to defeat them, but at the cost of loosing the fighter, Corbi. The copious amounts of treasure found did make up for some of the loss. After a small escapade across the lake to see off some water-ghouls, which took far too long to plan, the decision had to made as to push on or leave. After much discussion they decided to leave, regroup, and plan their next move.



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