Wrapping up the cliffhanger from the previous session ...
It was a dark and dreary night as we trudged back into the courtyard of the ruined castle, laden with our gear and burdens of the day. Reuben and myself, Malasion Attukha, we both still under the ill effects of the earlier black mold spore exposure. Master Dwarf and Winterlion were bringing up the rear of the line with the last of the gear.
Suddenly the night was pierced by a eardrum-splitting shriek as a fell winged beast swooped down at us!
This is why Wizards wear brown pants. Demilo took the brunt of the first attack but dove or rolled out of the way and then struck off to safety in the central keep. Lucky him. The rest of us were left in the Courtyard by Marriot dealing with the foul valet. Reuben and quickly Master Dwarf found themselves alone in the middle of the courtyard. I think it it may have been Matt the Knife who came up with this bit of genius: hide along the walls. I would have much prefered this alternative bit of genius: hide in the tower with Demilo. But alas, I was still pondering the fleetness of my own mortality. Reuben managed a quick blast of projected light that temporarily blinded or stunned the beast and gave us a moment to seek shelter.
Quickly we were all, myself included, along the inside of the wall waiting for another swooping attack. The next attack caught us all off guard again and nearly skewered me outright. I barely had time to summon some elemental fire and incinerate the beast before it was on me again, head ablaze and thickened hide blistering. I'm told that thanks for driving off the beast go largely to our Master Dwarf, while thanks for my resuscitation go to Reuben.
Afterward resting and recovering we took some time to explore the vacant and uninteresting upper levels of the keep. At the top we found the beast's lair and droppings. Elise set a masterful snare trap for the beast and we monitored the trap for two days before giving up on it. I took the liberty of this time to personally and mystically examine the crown we had recovered, satisfying myself that it is either mundane and nonmagical, or if magical then latent and not usable except by someone so much more powerful than myself that adding a "crown" to his/her arsenal doesn't increase the threat to us. We marched back to the beach so that we would be sure to catch our scheduled ride.
At the dawn of the day we'd arranged for pick up, we were surprised to see rowing out of the mist a longship bearing the Margrave's flag instead of a couple of dingys with fisherman crews. Reuben took off to hide in the bushes, but much to our weary eyes who should appear but Don Jose himself, the Sicilian Mafioso who hired us for this job in the first place. Odd of him to come all the way out here for us, but it turns out that this whole "crown" escapade was merely some pre-planned test preparatory to a more permenant hire offer.
We're now commissioned as "Wardens of the March", or in honor of our last escapade I prefer "Wardens of the Marsh".
Our first mission:
The Margrave sends annually an armed longship out all the way to the coast to check that the way is still clear and to see if the mists at the coast have receeded. That ship was sent out about a month ago on what should have been a one week (maybe 10 days tops) roundtrip and has not returned. The captain had the leeway that if the mists had receeded he could explore a little further, perhaps to see where the mists had receeded to, but still should have returned long ago.
Seek. Find. Rescue. Return. Report.
Did I mention that as Wardens we get no salary or stipend? No income? I didn't mention that? Well it is true. We can, on the other hand, draw upon the Margrave and his nobles for supplies as needed. For this trip we didn't ask for much more than food and a 8-man longboat. I don't think we're taking sufficient advantage of this situation. Next time I'm going to get some new clothes tailored for me and see if we can get some better kit for some folks. A high steel rapier would be nice if I ever got myself in a situation where I needed to defend myself physically on the basis of my own skill and defensive magics.
It was about a day by longship from the Margrave's island to the outlet river, and from there it should be maybe 3-4 days to the coast. Perhaps longer since we'll be more drifting with current than rowing steadily.
After a couple days we found a nice hilltop keep on the south side of the river. We left it unexplored. A couple hours later we found the wreck of the ship we were looking for. We rowed back upriver, crossed to the north bank, disembarked, and walked up on the wreck to examine it.
Zombies. The crew had been zombified.
So after the zombies (score 2 for Reuben's magic and 2 for my magic, 2 ran away, and 3 were bludgeoned to death) we crossed back to the south and rested the night before exploring further. Took about half a day, but we found where the rest of the crew had been taken. We knew of 30 crew on the longship. We fought 9 as zombies. The other 21, including the captain? All executed, throats slit, lined up execution style, and bled out with nary a drop spilling to the ground. Reuben's magic divined this to be the work of three individuals working as a team. My magic determined that the nearby crop circle was indeed a magic circle powered for ritual purposes. We're picking up a trail that is almost a month old at this point, so clues were sparse and magic dispersed over time. Further examination may be possible, and the Weathertop on the other side of the river may yield more clues.