Stalking Shadows

To Calamthis via Braden

The Road to Braden

A moist attack upon Althar as he is awoken by VERY cold water being dropped on him from above. Clearly the work of fairies, despite Honeysuckle’s protests. The first of many to come.


Braden

the arrival at Braden and its state
Honeysuckle and Simon decide to live in luxury to recover from their long travels. They each pay a gold piece to stay in a nice manor with a hot meal, bath, and large bed for each of them. A mysteriously damp evening ensues. Something about dolphins and faeries.


The Road to Calamthis

encounters with a troupe of apparent slavers in the woods, the subsequent acquisition of Braswell and Mila as reluctant fellow travelers after Rranjai ritualistically dismembers the slaver that she recognized,
Two quiet nights, then an encounter with a rabid owlbear with three more of the blurry bastards who followed the noise of the battle to really try our party’s reserves a day out of town. Simon takes a thorough beating from the hulking beast leaving him ill prepared for a tussle with the mysterious attackers to follow. Somehow Simon is able to call upon hitherto untapped reserves to withstand the relentless attacks. Even stranger, through apparent magical means he heals his own wounds, allowing him to fight on when the masked fighters descend upon the group.
Two nights of piece and quiet on the road, Honeysuckle trying to talk a mockingbird out of information (learning that there was a small group of the faceless to the north, who then moved southwards) and the next night an attack by a shadow mastiff wearing a Collar of Control

While everyone else was arguing over what to do with the collar (clearly magical), Simon was playing with it and one of the masks they had carved off of an attacker… and the mask started glowing as if with a Light spell! Panic begins, as you can imagine.

Quiet night, speaking to Bert the apple farmer and then the attack of malicious Obscuring Mists in the campsite that night. An epic battle ensues, though Simon is still convinced the mist was victorious in the end. Bloody fairies. As they camped close to Bert’s house, Honeysuckle and Rranjai run to check on the farmer and his assumed family.

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The Road

Our wouldst-be heroes rest as best they can in the small storage room below the inn. Over the next few hours, the sound of booted footsteps, moving furniture and some indecipherable words from above fade in and out as the apparent invaders sack the Half Moon Inn.

As Althar prepares to use acid to weaken the metal barrier between the room and the tunnel, RRanjai, no stranger to forced enclosure, spots something unusual about it and starts fiddling with the uppermost bars. Twisting this bar as such, and pushing that one while turning this… and suddenly the gate swung open list a blacksmith’s puzzle finally solved.

Carefully keeping the children in the room for now, the three mercenaries venture forth to discover that the tunnel changes from square cut stone blocks to more natural-looking cave walls after just a few paces. It splits in three directions: left, directly forward and upwards, and to the right and slightly downgrade. Arbitrarily choosing one, they explore to the left and quickly come to a sharp turn. The smell of ammonia and something – other- fairly reeks out of this room with its piles of detritus and trash collected from somewhere. But the curve of the room implies an exit right around the corner, so they move in to explore.

Out of the trash comes a squealing dire rate, charging at Simon who is blocking the exit. Two more rats (one wearing a simple saddle, though none noticed this detail) follow suit, biting and scratching at the party members. Large or not, these are still rats, and are subdued quickly.

They search through the smelly mess for riches, but in vain. The cave mouth they were heading towards was actually just a small indentation in the wall – there is no exit from this room other than the hall they came in and a few rat-sized tunnels far too small.

Meanwhile, Serenia and Honeysuckle are out near the main entrance, where the tunnel goes forwards and slopes upwards. They do not go far because, a mere ten feet in, there is a pile of boulders It would take days to clear this away, at best.
The men-folk lead the party to the right while Serenia and Honeysuckle mind the passage of the children. Suddenly, from VERY near Serenia, comes a terrible sound (and smell!) as a bizarre and frightening monster rises up. It would look like a giant cobra at first – until one realized that instead of a hood, that is a goblinoid head! Trying to clear a path to the smallest child, it lunges out at Serenia, narrowly missing a bite.

The others convene and the fight, while made all the more nasty by the goblin snake’s sickening belch attack, was short.

They moved up the tunnel to the right, taking the children with them. Near the entrance (two hours walk away), Simon scares away a small group of Rat-Folk hunters, who scamper back the way they came.

Emerging into the night, the group was lost despite Simon’s desperate attempts to position himself by the stars. Hungry, thirsty and without shelter, the children are far from quiet.
At dawn, Serenia volunteers her raven familiar, Poe, to go searching for the town while Simon and Rranjai went searching for food.
While doing so, they heard a noise and discovered a small group of goblins. “Who’s that?!?” whispered the goblin towards the large, poorly hidden shape in the dusk. “A tree!” answers Rranjai…
Simon steps out of the gloom, being his hulking half-orc self in armor and holding a huge Greatclub, and the goblins nearly forget the Tree Monster in their startlement. Simon and his TreeFriend intimidate the hell out of the goblins, learn the direction to the nearest creek and exact a promise from the goblins to leave the town alone.


Althar --
From here, we reached the town as quickly as we could – carting about 17 puling kids like we was some whorehouse’s wet nurse. Got there, Serenia’s dad had been abducted along with half the town and many of the weapons. Everyone who fought the invaders was either struck down or taken, while most who just hid or fled were left alone - or taken. The smoky assholes did not leave any more bodies behind.
We patched things up as much as we can, and I inspected the Black Company’s house… no one was left. Most of the troop was dead in the street, with a few missing. The armory had been sacked, but a little bit of pay and plenty of food was still sitting in the house. I took what I could use and told the others the house was clear.
We stayed a night, then set off to the town of Braden to the north – some freckle-faced kid had come racing in the night, asking for help. Sounds like the same routine as here, but there is a bigger contingent of TBC up there, so I’m sure it was fine. Kid bolted out of town before anything even happened.

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And it begins

The small town of Adavair was relaxed, with little cause for alarm other than a fire at an outlying cluster of farms that the bulk of the “townskeepers” had gone out to attend to. The Townskeepers in Adavair consisted of farmers, the harrier, the smith, some of the guards stationed in town, and a select few of the younger, less indolent merchants. For a house fire, many of the women went with their men to lend help. The goodwives would be upset already, and the menfolk just don’t know how to keep a wife or daughter calm – that’s for sure! Word was that none of the homes were destroyed beyond fixing before winter, but charity was still needed.

So it was no suprise that many of the town’s younger sons, daughters and wives were relaxing at the Half Moon Inn that night.
It surprised the few of the passers-through, but locals all knew that the Half Moon served as not only tavern and inn, but restaurant, Town Hall and storm shelter due largely to it being the only building made entirely of stone from the collapsed old fort behind (and around) it. And with the wandering singer Honeysuckle in town – well, where better to spend a lonely evening!

Soon, though, a call of alarm rang out – another fire, this time at the edge of town, just a few blocks away!

The fighter Simon was the only one to hear the alarm. Passing it on to the talented Honeysuckle (while she took a deep breath between verses of a children’s song). Rather than cause a panic, she passed a subtle message to the tavern maid.

Having received the message, Bale, the Innkeep (and Mayor) ran out to help, leaving his daughter Serenia in charge.

Honeysuckle, kept the children’s attention so well that none even noticed the departure of the mercenary captain nor the three Green Sash, Althar, Simon and Rranjai (essentially “interns” in the Black Company of Mercenaries). They even failed to notice Rranjai helping herself to some leftovers as she exited.
-————
At the Inn, Honeysuckle and Serenia concentrated on keeping everyone calm (or ignorant), and keeping all the children inside the Inn where they could not get into too much trouble. The children danced and sang happily while Serenia fretted about her mother Donia out helping midwife a birth.

Out on the street, though, was another story.

Simon, Althar and Rranjai soon discovered that on the other side of the burning building, a force of shadowy figures were assembling – this is no random fire, but an attack!

Simon and Althar were the first to engage, hurtling explosive bottles and arrows into the attacking force. Simon witnessed a townsman being dragged down a nearby alley by two of the attackers, and he and Rranjai rushed to save the hapless man. Althar, cackling a little wildly, continued to lob little bombs at the attackers – who stayed calm and in formation.
Each of the invaders appeared to be a thin, man-shaped apparition emerging only half-formed from the dark of night. Their edges were uncertain and wispy, wavering in the firelight and their faces were covered by dark masks with menacingly little detail.

The overpowering advance of the attackers forced Simon and Rranjai to withdraw, Althar not far behind, with the few remaining “pro” mercenaries holding attackers off for the precious few seconds necessary.


Bale, seeing the fleeing men and the attackers clearly for the first time instructs Serenia to “hide the little ones” before moving to help delay the bad guys.

Serenia enlisted Honeysuckle’s help, and between them they wrangled and danced the children and younger women (all that remained in the Inn), into the secret basement level of the Inn. While it sounds simple, it took much skill and several minutes. Serenia rushed to the kitchens to grab some supplies in case they would be down there long.
-————

Simon rushed into the Inn, having seen enemies on the other side of town as well, just in time to hold the heavy door (cunningly worked in as a portion of the counter) open for the last few townsfolk, Serenia and a chest-toting Althar.
The noise from the street indicating imminent arrival of the blurry attackers, Simon is forced to give Althar a… helpful push… down the stairs.

Unfortunately, even that moment was a moment too long – one of the more daring invaders crashed through a window and glimpsed Althar gracefully tumbling head over heals into the floor. He? It? dashed forward, diving after Althar almost between Simon’s legs and into the small room with the helpless (and shocked!) children. Simon lowered the door down over his head as he walked down the steep six steps into the basement behind the creature.


Simon and Rranjai descend upon the invader, injuring it mightily before Althar dropped some explosive fluid on it, finishing it off… and singeing Simon. There was a promise made of discussing this later.
-——-

The remaining townsfolk, fretting in the basement over what was to become of them and what was becoming of the others still outside, waited in silence, sweat and fear. Fortunately, blithe Honeysuckle cheerily worked the children into a distinctly non-rousing round of “the quiet game.”

They had little choice but to fret, because there was no immediate way out. There was a small tunnel (reminiscent of a sewer without quite that memorable smell), but access to it and the water that could be heared running down it was blocked by a rusted iron grate. Rusty or not, it was still too solid to remove without alerting everyone nearby.

The downed attacker’s blurriness went away upon his sudden demise, but the boys discovered that the mask wasn’t covering it’s face – it WAS the face, as far as they could tell. A face the color and texture of charred, ashy bone. They used its masterfully made falchion to bolt the door shut in case.

There was banging and many, many foot steps from upstairs along with some almost-but-not-quite recognizable words as (presumably) the invaders.

When finally the ruckus quieted, the five most capable adults remaining (Honeysuckle, Serenia, Althar, Simon and Rranjai) are left with a hard choice.
Do they try to escape down the tunnel, or risk exposure directly to the invaders above? They can only hide a little longer before, kids being kids, the choice is taken from them.

Regardless of that choice, what do they do with the children, now firmly their responsibility?

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