"Did we get fireball insurance for these horses? Mine's a little crispy on one side and I don't want to have to buy a half-cooked horse just because some cult is angry at us."
- Borc, after the group was ambushed and nearly obliterated by a mysterious cult
Last session, our adventurers infiltrated a hideout of the Bony Finger mercenaries. They freed a captured ally, Cadwgawn the Knight, as well as a spy that was working for his organization, the Four Swords. Having returned to Cadwgawn’s residence, he rewarded the group with a Ring of Feather Falling, a crap ton of coins, and the deed to a run-down inn a half-day walk south of the town of Hythe. Before the PCs left with their well-deserved reward, Cadwgawn offered to look into the Bony Finger and their claims of having infiltrated Erlestoke’s Council. He also told the group to look him up if they ever need some quick cash in the future, claiming that he always has odd jobs for able bodies.
Not long after they had grabbed their horses and headed towards the town gates, the group recognized Ecile, a bookshop owner from Hythe up ahead of them. In the same moment, they also noticed a dark figure on a rooftop aiming a crossbow into the street. Before the group could react, the assassin fired at Ecile and fled. Instantly, the PCs rushed into action. Borc and Julliumz raced to Ecile, revived her, and shielded her from any other assailants while Nuck, Wax, Magick and Muggle the Fox bolted after the mysterious assassin. A hair-raising and hilarious chase ensued.
Magick spider-climbed onto the rooftops while Nuck was inadvertantly embroiled in a bar fight that spilled out onto the street blocking his path. Luckily, Wax kept pace and harried the fleeing assailant who lunged into an alley without looking and clobbered an innocent bystander knocking both of them to the ground.
Magick and Nuck caught up to Wax as he grabbed the assassin and pulled off its hood revealing the purple grimacing face of a Tiefling. Nuck helped up the bystander to his feet and immediately recognized him as the street urchin they had given coins to the previous day. He introduced himself as Scout and claimed to have cut off the fleeing Tiefling on purpose having also witnessed the assassination attempt himself. The three PCs took both inside to question.
Julliumz and Borc tended to Ecile who had no explanation for the attempt on her life. She admitted that she was investigating various histories of the occult in an effort to explain the emergence of the black robed cult figures seen around Hythe. As soon as she had collected her bearings, Ecile quickly left for the residence of her friend Borianroth Deh so she could teleport back to the safety of her bookshop in Hythe. Before doing so, she urged the PCs to stop by her shop upon their return promising to do her best answer any other questions they might have.
As soon as Ecile had left, Wax and Nuck began interrogating the Tiefling assassin. They learned he was nothing more than a hired killer and had never met his target or his benefactor before this contract. The person paying him was named Dejan—a bald, muscular man with tattoos on his arms who had found the Tiefling in a shady tavern in Hythe. After some convincing, the mysterious and knowledgeable assassin agreed to let his target live and vowed to flee the town if they spared his life. In exchange for their mercy, he gave the group a hint about the strange riddle on the map they had found (which allegedly leads to a huge and mythical treasure – see Episode 8). He also recognized Nuck’s bronze sword, Pronghorn, and hinted that its sister sword was not as lost as the group had originally thought. In fact, he claimed its owner would be in Erlestoke in a ten-day for a feast hosted by the council.
After asking the rest of their questions and having accomplished what they set out to do in Erlestoke, the group headed back to Hythe with their new ally Scout along for the ride (and potentially hired to manage their new inn). As they traveled, the group guessed at the Baron’s response to their return. Not only had they failed to report back about the merchant they were hired to investigate, but they fled town immediately after their target was mysteriously killed. Not ready to worry about that just yet, Magick climbed and jumped out of trees whenever the group stopped, gleefully trying out his new Ring of Feather Falling while Scout made friends with Muggle the fox.
Having spent most of the journey wondering about the Baron’s perception of them, the group was surprised to find a different obstacle waiting for them on the road a few miles outside of Hythe. Dejan, the tattooed henchmen that had hired the assassin (and was working for the mysterious cult) stood waiting for the PCs on the road in front of an illusory replica of the monastery that Nuck the Monk had trained and grown up in. Flashes of painful memories came rushing back to the drow monk as he realized that he already knew this man—Dejan was the one who had led the assault on his monastery, destroying Nuck’s home and killing all his friends many years before.
As soon as he revealed this past connection, the group spurred their horses into action and rushed at the bald fighter awaiting them on the road. But no sooner had they sprung into action than the illusory rock formation vanished revealing a dozen black-hooded cultists ready for battle. One tall ominous man stood out in the crowd. He stepped forward and launched a massive fireball at the adventurers. The blast sent the entire group flying from their mounts. Nuck, Wax, and Borc took the brunt of the blast and were instantly knocked unconscious. Rage turned to terror as Julliumz and Magick raced for cover, clearly outmatched by the cult’s power.
“Consider this your warning!” Bellowed Dejan as he turned and casually marched off towards the forest. The powerful cultist that had launched the fireball gestured for the others to disperse before vanishing into thin air himself. While the hooded figures disappeared into the wilderness, Magick and Julliumz, with the help of Scout, revived their fallen comrades, healed their injured horses, and took stock of the situation.
The group quickly came to terms with their first real smack down. “That was a real slap in the face,” Borc exclaimed as they continued down the road to Hythe. Their first stop was the Keep where they sought an audience with the Baron. The conversation was nothing if not tense. From his perspective, the group had fled town after the man they were tasked with investigating was allegedly murdered. Unwilling to see it from his perspective, they agreed to disagree, and the group reluctantly accepted a new deal. The 1000 gold fee originally offered to investigate Adwald the (now-dead) Merchant would be carried over and paid upon completion of a new task: ridding the region of a pack of Gnolls and bringing the Baron the head of the Gnoll Fang.
The group departed the Keep through a thick cloud of mutual mistrust (“I don’t like that guy,” muttered Julliumz. To which Wax replied “I don’t think he likes us either.”) Before the day was done, they paid another visit to Ames at the Five Spears Temple as they needed to learn what a Gnoll Fang was. Ames graciously, but in few words, provided all the information they would need for the hunt (including the location of a Gnoll camp that his men had tracked down). But, as always, questions lingered. Are they ready to take out the Gnoll threat? Would they rather hunt mythic treasure? Could they follow the directions of their cryptic map? What had Thanel been up to? Did his snooping uncover anything about the cult while they were galavanting in Erlestoke? And why was that Tiefling assassin so charming?