Path of the Scarlet Chord

Beast of Barren Hill

As opposed to the Beast of Baron Hill

The Meeting

After much death and chaos, the group at Weston disbanded. Ptolemy Luckblade wandered the Realms looking for heroes, recounting the tales of Raven, Nalak, Amras, and Lugdush in order to pay for his supper. Eventually, he found himself in Athkatla, capital city of Amn.

He found a tavern, The Happy Hero, that played host to an adventurer’s guild. The bard again sang for his supper, and attracted the attention of a few local sellswords.

Ptolemy’s Journal

Tall, slim, and sallow-skinned, Solyony is a man who says little. He almost always has the hood of his cloak over his head. He seems fascinated with death, which is an interest I can understand but I really don’t like the idea of getting fancy with corpses. He might enjoy the whistle I have, if he turns out to be trustworthy.

Then there’s a monk. I don’t know much about him, but he has taken a Vow of Poverty. I think he hopes to better the world, in some way. I don’t really care what he does if he’s not getting a share of the treasure.

Insert info about Martens’ character

Finally I met a whisper gnome. She’s tiny. maybe waist high, but she said she hopes to hone her skills. Apparently she is nimble with her fingers and deadly if you don’t keep your eye on her. I really wish I had Nalak’s ring and didn’t have to sleep. In the end she proved to be very capable. I’m glad to have her along.

Unlike most of the others in the bar, these folks actually seemed capable. With a desire for gold, they agreed to help each other out.

We heard three stories circulating the Happy Hero. None of them seemed to pay very well, however. Certainly not the haul that we used to pull. I’m still not sure why I gave it all up. That manor house was packed to the gills. Maybe Amras will be able to do something with the logging rights.

Solyony has an unusual affiliation with death. He has no qualms of delivering a mortal sentence to those who stand in his way. Apparently his goddess “has deemed it their time” and he won’t be upset when it’s his turn. Weird stuff, but he seems rather useful to have around. He keeps me patched up when I get a sword shoved through me.

Anyway, he heard tell of ghouls haunting the Graveyard district. Apparently, one of the workers was eaten by them. He got a little too excited by this idea, if you ask me, but he says he can keep the undead at bay. Quite frankly I’d rather put my trust in potions and holy water; they haven’t let me down yet.

I heard rumours of a caravan job headed north for three days. I’ve worked the caravan before. While something always goes wrong, the only worries were bandits, goblinoids and ogres. I’ve fought those before. They’re a known evil. It seems like easy money to me.

But the job we ended up taking was once that whisper gnome heard. Some beast that was haunting Barren Hill. I thought she was talking about the Beast of Baron Hill initially. Either way, we only knew that it was large and had glowing red eyes. No idea how powerful, or if it had any special tricks up its sleeve. I prefer to play a game where I know what the cards are, if you know what I mean. It’s easier to bet if you know what the other guy’s holding.

We took it because of the money. It paid as well as the caravan job till we got wind of increased urgency. As we were deciding, in popped a rather fancy-looking fellow. I recognized him right away as the prince’s retainer. He was prepared to offer quadruple the going rate if someone could bring back that beast’s bladder. It would make a great component for a healing spell for the prine.

With a lot of gold and the prince’s favour riding on the deal, I put on that hat of disguise I found a while back and dressed myself up just as fancy. We accepted.

After provisioning, we rode out. Ela’sen, the gnome, ended up sharing a saddle with the monk, being less than waist high. We rode for a while along a well-worn path until we got to a fork marked by a signpost. It was there that I realized we were looking for the beast of Barren Hill, not Baron Hill, and I was able to tell the group a fair bit about the creature.

When we made it to town, we entered the general store. There were a handful of men inside, one of whom scoffed at the idea of finding the beast. Many have tried, apparently. He was looking for a fight, but he had more liquid courage in him than anything else. Even <martens> could have taken him.

Dinner was served soon after. I paid the man two gold pieces and he looked like he was about to cry at the sight of so much money. I’d have given him ten if I’d known.

Over the meal, we found out that a druid had disappeared recently, maybe a few years back. The problems did not start that early, but I still had a hunch, shared by Solyony, that the druid with his wild shape was involved.

A forester, Rothgar, offered to take us to the druid’s abandoned hut. He really knows his way about the woods, though not as well as the Raven of Song.

Inside the hut, we found an open book on his desk. It read about a travelling circus and the bear, Kiki, that they had. A lot of bearbaiting was involved, but Kiki always seemed to prevail. Rothgar confirmed that they had not been through the area for about three years.

We also found a lot of pretties in the hut that were worth quite a bit. I felt bad taking them, but we agreed if we found the druid we would return them. That whisper gnome, Ela’sen, certainly is worth her salt. She might not be as efficient as Trapspringer, but she’ll be alive much longer than he ever will.

I heard tell of where the beast was supposed to live, deep in some caves. We found them out with Rothgar’s help, but he preferred to wait outside. As we enterred, we were attacked from behind by goblins. They thought we were working with the beast. It was the first fight with this group, and I like what I see. They are a little inexperienced, but if they survive that will be fixed with time.

It is strange that the goblins would think we were working with the beast. Maybe that’s worth investigatng.

The cave held a secret door which we entered. On the other side was a trap. A huge bulbous mushroom that shrieked. We didn’t know that at the time, so I pulled out my longbow and fired pot-shots. Turns out it wouldn’t have bothered us, but our light source would have set it off regardless.

There were a few more tunnels and secret doors, but nothing too difficult for our gnome. The trap, though, the trap. The tunnel descended into water, about waist high. In the water were vines that ensared anyone who tried to wade past. The floor was also sticky mud, making it difficult. I thought of climbing, but there weren’t enough handholds. I only brought about 45 feet worth of pitons. I’ve never used them before, so I didn’t know how many I would really need. It turns out, more. We ended up all swimming, but some of the less dextrous among us were caught. They ended up hacking and slashing, I used grease, <martens> pulled on some rope that was attached, and together we managed to spring them.

Then there was a door in the middle of the hallway. Ela’sen tried to pick it, but as soon as she touched it she realized it was not really there. When she said so, it became clear to all of us except <martens> that the door really wasn’t there. Nothing we could do would convince him otherwise. I even walked right through the door! He wanted me to cast that same spell on him so he could. Before I could trick him, Solyony made the water in the trap rise and tried to scare him through. In the end, though, I just dropped my shoulder and bull rushed him through. It’s a pretty neat trick of Nalak’s, but I don’t think I have the muscle to pull it off consistently.

Finally, we found the beast. It was a bear, a huge bear. With cubs, for added danger. It turns out the cubs were the druid’s. He fell in love with her—and mated. He was there too. He said he was the one killing the villagers and their livestock. I’m still fuzzy on the why. But as soon as battle commenced, he wild-shaped into a bear and melded with the stone like a pansy. We ended up fighting the bear and her youngling, and came out victorious. The monk dropped at one point, but Solyony brought him back.

The druid commanded we leave and not hurt his son, a very wee cub. Solyony said we’d leave only if we had the druid’s word he would stop harming innocents. He laughed and said if we left he would not kill us. Seemed rather bold for a man who was hiding in rock.

So <martens> went over to the cub with his sword out. The druid immediately popped out of the stone and swung his paw. Well, we all fell in around the beast. Solyony, however, cast a minor spell at the cub, hoping to kill it. That seemed rather harsh, but he took his beatings. Even the monk charged in looking rather wounded. It was reckless, yes, but it worked. None of my spells seemed to work. Heck, I didn’t even start my inspirational song until late in the battle. We eventually took out the druid, but Solyony lay on the floor, bleeding. Ela’sen, aided by my song, stabilized him and brought him back.

After cutting up the bear for its pelt and its bladder, we left the caves.

Comments

There we go. 1,573 words for you.

Beast of Barren Hill
aeolien

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