Just as you are about to enter the celebration feast, a messenger arrives and presents Jack with a letter. He is asked to sign a piece of paper acknowledging receipt of the letter and then spends a few moments with a very confused look on his face whilst he reads the letter. His companions look at him quizzically but he suggests that it is something they can talk about later on….when he might have recalled more details from the previous evenings gambling adventures.
You were then escorted into a feasting hall where many well-dressed people were gathered eating and drinking. There were minstrels playing background music (lute, harp, drums and flute), servants wandering around the room offering drinks and food from trays, and an exotic dancer at one end of the room with several noble men stood watching and politely applauding occasionally.
The afternoon progresses with a pleasant atmosphere and plenty of food and drink. You talk with the King and various other nobles and royals, all of whom seem a little uncertain as to whom you are or why you are there. Most of the general folk seem oblivious to the current situation, the occasional person gives you a knowing nod of acknowledgement though or offers guarded words of thanks for your service.
Towards the end of the afternoon the King stands on a chair and makes a small speech introducing a bard. The bard then spent half an hour spinning a tale about the “brave adventurers of Tringlee”. From the various descriptions he provided of the tales heroes it soon became apparent that he was singing about yourselves and before long everyone in the room was tipping their hats and raising their glasses in your general direction.
The king then performed an official award ceremony with you all being presented with ‘ The Key to the City’ and given a scroll of paper to represent it. Much applause was given, with cheering and toasting of drinks. Almost everyone wanted to talk to you after the ceremony and you were easily the most popular people at the function.
Afternoon eventually became evening, with more food and drink being served. Jingle offered round some Jingle Juice and managed to render some nobles unconscious with just a single draft each. He then proceeded to amaze those still standing by drinking bottle after bottle of the stuff himself.
Ragnar was bored stupid by posturing-noble men talking of their manly deeds such as shooting a rabbit with a bow and personally ordering a servant to skin the creature. The ladies fluttered around Mathas, charmed by his divine countenance. Some scholars nattered with Riley, interested in his studies of the tear, and Blackjack managed to engage a number of nobles in games of chance keeping the stakes low though.
Eventually the evening drew to an end with everyone collapsing into the rooms that Meridun the butler had shown you earlier.
The next day you all woke up with a sore heard and groaning stomachs from too much excessive food and drink. While you were still getting dressed an escort arrived from the King, summoning you to the war council chambers.
You were escorted there and presented to the king. He informed you that he has met with the representatives of nine neighbouring leaders and after lengthy discussions and contributions from elders, scholars and advisor’s, a plan has been agreed upon. Has then asks them if you would be willing to serve the kingdom and help execute the plan?
Before the King could even give details of what the plan was Ragnar quickly agreed that everyone would help and only cowards would turn down the opportunity.
The King went on to explain that the plan involved travelling to the Mistmarsh, a swamp 150 miles south-east from Greyhawk. There there is a half-sunken, long-abandoned temple of Avandra within the swamp. Reports suggest that a tear appears to be located within it. The fact that the tear is sufficiently far away from anything vital (in a swamp) but sufficiently close for a swift plan to be executed makes it an ideal target.
The aim is to have a solution to the tear problem in place before the “gods return” in a months time, and before the Tieflings Shadow Demon pays them a monthly visit. More details of the plan will be provided when they arrive at the site. But you needed to leave in two hours time!
Riley asked whom would be leading the expedition and was told that the Kings son, Prince Arvan would be. Concerns were raised (rather bluntly) about if he was capable of doing so….or even finding his own arse with two hands, and also if he was likely to be a target to any bad guys lurking nearby. The King had full confidence in his son though and was accepting no arguments on the matter.
Because you agreed to undertake the mission, the King insisted that you head down to the royal armoury and choose two enchanted items to take with you on your quest.
You then got to choose any one item up to level 5 and any one item up to level 3.
You were are also given some potions each: 2 x cure light wounds, 1 x holy water, 1 x resistance to necrotic energy, 1 alchemical potion of your choice (up to level 5).
You were then asked to report to the north-west city gate and from there the caravan will leave and the mission will begin.
Upon arriving at the gate you found the caravan easy enough, it comprised of three horse-pulled covered-wagons, forty capable looking city guards (on foot), the arch mage, two other mages, and the Kings eldest son; Prince Arvan.
The Prince greeted you, informed you that he has been made aware of your service to the kingdom, is very grateful for it and would appreciate your advice as it arises.
You then set off travelling south-west along the River Road, then south-east along the high-trail, through the Cairn Hills and eventually turning south towards Blackwall Keep.
As the days pass, it begins to rain with un-summer-like regularity. There is also a growing feeling of pressure in the air, like before a thunder storm. The rain makes the road muddy and slows your progress somewhat. Those on foot press onwards but struggle find a balance between making fast travel progress and exhausting themselves before they reach their destination.
You chat with the city guards along the way and find them nice, straight-forward folk. They don’t have any details of the mission, but were told that it would undoubtedly be the most dangerous thing they’ve ever done. Many of them seem willing to take the risk but none of them appear to have done anything like this before. They give the impression that they understand it is a serious threat though, with many of them checking the condition of their armour and weapons regularly. They also practised a little swordplay before the going got too tough, and they did generally look competent.
You reach Blackwall Keep after two and a half weeks, about three days later than initially hoped but still with time in hand. Once there the Prince displayed command competence by ensuring everything is organised and that he was armed with the latest reports from the area and also recruited a couple of local path finders. He also allowed the guards three quarters of a day to rest, relax, bathe, eat and even have a final evening of drink before they being their journey into the Mistmarsh the next morning.
The journey through the Mistmarsh was painfully slow, with rafts being needed to be constructed, taken apart, carried and re-constructed three or four times as you progressed from solid ground to swamp; all the recent rain having made the journey all the more difficult.
After four days of painful travel, with leeches, sores, insect bites and Stirge attacks, you manage to strike out on a raised bank of solid land that overlooks the sunken temple from a distance of about one mile.
Through the occasional gaps in the fog you could see fleeting glimpses of the distance temple, but more obvious was the circle of decay that surrounded it and began not far from the mound that you camped upon. You also caught the occasional glimpse of movement out in the swamp, but the distance and fog made it too difficult to discern much about what’s out there.
You camped for the night and had a restless night with bad dreams, a foul taste / smell in the air and were awoken occasionally from the sounds of distant wailing and moaning.
DM note: “If a arcane ritual is used to help rest etc then allow them an extra action point on waking.” Riley did happen to use a ritual of expelling vermin, so everyone began the day on two action points to represent the better nights sleep and their eagerness to get the task begun after such a long slog to get there.
The next day the rain finally stopped and you feel slightly more optimistic. The feeling of a thunderstorm long overdue persists though.
The Prince calls you guys, and the mages to his tent for a final mission briefing. He revealed his plan of action. His map of the local area, complimented with knowledge from the local rangers revealed a number of small islands around the sunken temple. It also showed four stone entrance ways to the temple, all just above the waterline and all with now submerged tunnels leading to a central area where the tear is assumed to be located.
The Prince stated that the group is to split up into four teams. Each one comprising of ten guards and one spell caster. The prince will also accompany the group with the arch mage.
He then produced four magical rings and explained that were “Rings of Coordinated Assault” and that they allow the wearers to have brief conversations over remote distances. They will be used to exchange progress reports, knowledge and co-ordinate progress. Riley gleefully grabbed a ring and put it on his finger, thus nominating himself as the person responsible for anything going wrong.
(Rings allow a 30 second conversation with other ring bearers over a distance of 2 miles. A short rest is needed to have another conversation)
The Prince continued, explaining that rafts will be used to transport each team to one of the islands near the stone entrances to the temple. When all are in place, a co-ordinated delve will be performed. Due to the harmful effects of the tear, he expressed the aim of minimise exposure time and thus he wanted all teams to start at the same time (again, Ring coordinated)
Each team will work to find a path to the tear and once there they are to perform the ritual that the arch mage has designed, to destroy the tear without harm becoming to the surrounding area. Communication will be vital and whilst success is vital, suicide benefits no-one. Riley and Mathas both learnt the ritual of destroying the tear safely.
Riley took some careful measurements on the night before camping and the next morning and confidently concluded that the zone of decay created by the tear had not grown overnight. He was unclear though if this meant that the tear had run out of power, reached it’s maximum extent or something else.
It was however clear that the tear at the Crypt of the Crimson Shield near Tringlee had a radius of around 500 foot and the radius of this tear was more like 4,500 foot.
Once everyone was ready multiple rafts were pushed out and everyone shipped into place. You guys were targeting the entrance way nearest to the island that you camped on overnight and this had half an hour to wait in the damp. Nervous tension built as the time ticked away, adrenaline making you all jittery and dry in you their mouths, also giving you shivers up and down your backs.
Eventually the final group reports ready and all teams board their rafts and launch into the zone of decay to approach their respective temple entrances. The guards freaked out a little and some look like they might jump overboard and swim for it…in chain mail. Ragnar stood tall though and gave a rousing speech and restored some back bone to the slouching masses (Successfully Diplomacy check of total 22 ensured that no-one bolted, nice!).
Half-way to the entrance……all hell breaks loose….