We have two new additions to the party: the Wizard’s Familiars. Both of them, given a few rounds, can kill an adult human male of the begger or farmer variety. See my amusing and informative entries in the Characters tab!
A quick trip East to a trading outpost called Kelisk, manned by hardy frontiersmen and led by a large man called Harald, led to the discovery of a side path that leads off to rumored ruins according to Iraco, who is acting as guide to the outpost). The outpost itself yielded a number of useful items that the party had been looking for but unable to purchase in the backwater of Hirot, such as armor and weapons. The party learned of an enemy that the outpost deals with from time to time; fierce, large humanoids who speak a growling, barking language but don’t show much strategic sense, attacking piecemeal and getting wiped out when they try direct attacks on the outpost. Some of the homesteads have not been so lucky.
Upon entering the outpost you learned that the family of Bior the shepherd had disappeared from their secluded cottage in the forest; he, his wife, Mira, and their son, Cullen had gone missing, probably the previous night. There were signs of a struggle and blood. Since there was time to kill while waiting for some scale mail to be repaired, metal sling bullets to be made, and a sword to be crafted with gems, and also because the party likes a good fight, it was decided to see if the homesteaders could be found.
A guide, Stefan, led the party north of the outpost towards the home, but was intercepted by a local crank and hermit with his huge dog (wolf). He claimed to have clues from the homestead and insisted that the party follow him back to his house. Which turned out not to be a house, but a hollowed out chunk of tree trunk in a HUGE oak tree. Upon nearing his “door” the hermit turned and went immediately berserk. He attacked the party, as did his wolf and a lynx that was waiting up in the tree limbs.
However this was not the party’s first rodeo, and they fought back with spells, arrows, swords and a straight razor. The wolf was sent to Sleep by Star and was soon dispatched; the hermit succumbed to a Word of Power from Daphnee and dropped to his knees, unable to fight. The lynx tried to flee but was cut down by arrows. The hermit was pounded to the point of death and some attempt to get information out of him was made, but it was gibberish about how he was the defender of the forest and sacrifices were needed. Floyd grew tired of his voice and made sure he’d never speak to anyone, ever again. Where’s Andy, indeed.
The party was unharmed and saw drag marks leading up to the opening, so they cautiously entered. Finding a trap door with circular stars winding down, they sent Brume the Mist Elemental to scout and proceeded down. Brume discovered a chest at the bottom of the stairs and a locked room that contained torture devices and a few cages, one of which held two of the missing people—the woman and her son. The father was nowhere to be seen.
After looting the chest of some treasure and discovering a set of keys, the party unlocked the door and tossed the keys to the hungry, dehydrated, terrified young boy and told him figure out which key worked in the lock and open it from a bad angle, to let himself and his shell-shocked mother out of the cage. The party might have done this for him, but they were concerned about the deep black hole that extends halfway into the room, and which they are convinced is the home of a hideous creature. The boy confirmed this by telling the party, through his tears, that his father had been grabbed by tentacles that came out of the hole after the hermit had rung the big bell in the back of the room.
Stefan returned to the outpost with Mira and Cullen.
That’s where we are now—the party is trying to figure out the best strategy for dealing with whatever is in the hole. The bodies of the hermit and the wolf have been dragged down the stairs to potentially use as bait.