Parliament of Owls

None of Your Beeswax
Chapter 2

The party celebrated their triumph over the dragon cultist Arjhan at Oaktree’s number one (and only) tavern, the Honeypot. They recounted their adventures to the impressed locals, and Wrog picked up an admirer, a flame-haired young woman named Rhaella, a shopkeeper’s daughter.

The party also learns a little more about the village: it’s main claim to fame is the massive oak tree near the center of the village, which houses an enormous bee colony considered sacred to the goddess Calistria. This has made it a minor site of pilgrimage and also attracted a priestess named Alturess. A local curmudgeon named Bruno doesn’t think much of her, given that she’s taught some village girls too read—a practice he considers dangerous. Bruno warns that dark times have befallen the region of late, with livestock going missing, cultists attacking the keep, and a few villagers disappearing as well.

The adventurers play little heed to his doom-saying, however. Delcurion praises the group for their accomplishment, which delivered the adventure he has long craved, and suggests they continue to travel together. They agree to set out the following morning for the town of Great Fork to sell the gem they recovered from the goblin shrine.

When the rest of the party retires to sleep (or do other things, in the case of Wrog and Rhaella), Sariel climbes onto the top of the tavern to meditate and get away from the crowd. While basking in the cool spring air, she notices strange lights swirling around the great oak. The elven monk decides to investigate and stealthily approaches.

Once she gets close, she realizes that the lights are in fact the trails of tiny pixies, who are flitting about the tree, ducking into the bee hive, and emerging with wriggling bags. The fairies spot the elf and attempt to delay her with magic, but Sariel’s own fey ancestry protects her. The monk manages to catch one of the pixies and discovers it was stealing bees from the hive.

The next morning, Sariel reveals her discovery to the group. The pixie looks particularly strange, with horns, pure black eyes, and a sickly complexion. None of them are able to fully comprehend its sylvan dialect, so they lock the creature in a jar and take it to the Calistrian temple. There, the priestess Alturess translates for them and they discover the pixies are the servants of something called “all-mighty Yragmon.”

The priestess charges them with tracking down this Yragmon and killing it in the most painful fashion possible, to avenge this assault upon the goddess. They convince the captured pixie to point the way and follow its directions back into the Smallwood.

After fending off another baboon attack, the adventurers move deeper into the forest, until they approach a grove of dead and twisted trees surrounding a set of ruins. The party stealthily investigates, discovering stairs leading down into the darkness.

The stairs lead to a puzzle chamber, with Deep Speech glyphs inscribed on pillars that span a chasm. Mythra determines that they should spell out “Yragmon.” They leap across from pillar to pillar, but the warlock nearly falls to her death and it takes a team effort to bring her to safety.

Traveling deeper into the ruin, the party is faced with three passages. The one to their right stops at a cobweb-shrouded dead end. The one in front of them has two imposing double doors and they decide to go to the left instead. That tunnel takes them to a large chamber thick with cobwebs. They observe a shape lurking in the thick webbing at the far end of the room, near a strange altar.

After identifying the figure as a grotesque merger of arachnid and humanoid, the adventurers attack, with Wrog, Sariel and Delcurion closing in while Mythra hangs back to lob spells. The creature calls out in alarm, summoning several hideous little gray-skinned humanoids that quickly overwhelm the warlock. Sariel comes to aid the dying Mythra, while the others finish off Yragmon.

The humanoids fight on even after their master is slain, leaving Delcurion on death’s door as well. But as Wrog and Sariel thin out their numbers, the last of them break and flee, with one of the monsters successfully fleeing into the depths of the ruin.

After ensuring their companions are recovering, the half-orc and the high elf search the room and dismantle the strange altar. Meanwhile, the unconscious warlock and cleric have strange visions of a stature holding a glowing gem. The glow dims and darkness creeps up from below the statue, then spreads throughout the complex and up into the forest. The darkness repulses Delcurion, while Mythra is intrigued by it.

Once the two injured adventurers have recovered, the party goes to investigate the last chamber. The find it overflowing with gold and riches, while a statue of a stern elven man stands in one corner, holding a faintly glowing green gem. The room is inhabited by two evil little fey creatures, who pop out of hiding to find arrows at the party, then duck back into cover.

Wrog leaps into the room, but soon gets bogged down in the heaps of gold. Sariel tries to hunt down one of the fey, who look like shriveled old men with red caps, while Delcurion and Mythra hang back at the chamber entrance. The monk manages to bring down one of the nasty little things, while the other briefly charms Wrog into thinking he is being attacked by a freakish monster. A stray arrow fells Sariel and Delcurion advances into the room to aid her. He finally manages to bring down the last fey creature using the power of Lathander. With their high elf companion on the mend, the party searches the room.

They find a magic wardrobe that mends anything placed inside it; it currently holds a set of ancient leather armor, four scimitars and a longsword, along with a set of strange religious vestments. Wrog also finds a silver pendant of a dragon coiling around a sword, which he hangs onto for the village girl.

The faintly glowing green gem in the hands of the statue has a clear flaw in it. Wrog’s own gem is actually being drawn towards it. Sariel recognizes the statue as depicting the Elven god Corellon Larethian in his protective aspect. Recalling their dream, Delcurion and Mythra persuade Wrog to swap it out the gems. The half-orc grudgingly agrees, while Mythra speculates that the goblins probably stole the other gem from a different warding statues.

The replacement gem flares with a bright light that washes away the taint of evil from the chamber. Checking in with their pixie captive, they find that she has lost her horns and pallid appearance, looking instead like a healthy fairy. She chuckles as Wrog tries to gather up as much gold as possible and shakes her head. She flits down to one of the coins and makes it disappear with a touch. The half-orc figures it might be fairy gold, but still figures he can spend it before in disappears. Unfortunately, the gold simply vanishes once they leave the forest.

The party returns to the priestess Alturess, who rewards them for ending the threat to Calistria’s favored bees. They then inform Lord Quenthar of their efforts to cleanse the forest. He is relieved that they nipped this evil in the bud, given that the Queendom is already facing renewed orcish activity on the coasts and the intrigues of the dragon Vermanthrax. The adventurers then manage to sell him the wardrobe of mending, but when they inquire about purchasing a horse he he tells them to ask around the village.

Wrog presents the silver necklace to Rhaella, who is overjoyed. When it becomes clear that she’s angling to leave the village with him, however, Wrog takes her aside.

“The world is a scary place,” the half-orc tells her. “You’ve got a good thing here. Maybe some day, when you know how to defend yourself, the world will be a wonderful place for your to explore.”

Rhaella soberly agrees, thanks him for the gift, and says that he will always have a discount at her father’s shop.

Returning to the Honeypot tavern, the party plans their next move. The old man, Bruno, warns that with evil magic poisoning the forest, goblins coming down from the mountains, and dragons on the move, the Phantom Moon will be rising soon to usher in dark times. Wrog chastises the doomsayer out of the inn, and the old woman tending bar notes that Bruno has been like that for 50 years.

With the bee business settled and a gem itching to be sold, the adventurers agree to continue on to Great Fork.

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Secrets in the Dark
Chapter 1

Our story begins in the Queendom of the Owls, a realm populated mostly by humans but ruled by elves.

A group of would be adventurers gather together in a tavern to seek the bounty on a renegade dragon cultist who was part of a raid on the local armory in Oaktree. They are Delcurion, an aasimar cleric of the sun god Lathander; Mythra, a warlock obsessed with the occult; Sariel, a high elf monk unused to social niceties, and Wrog, a half-orc barbarian fresh off the barges at Great Fork.

Lord Quenthar of the Smallwood offered 50gp for the dragonborn cultist, dead or alive. The adventurers pick up the trail outside the lord’s keep and travel into the Smallwood, which is said to be dangerous to outsiders. They press on after the fugitive, exhausting Delcurion. The aasimar lags behind as the party is attacked by a ferociously territorial band of baboons. Though they bite Mythra and Wrog, the party gets better of them with sword, fist, and spell and soon the surviving apes flee in terror.

Their trail ends at the grim entrance to a cave. Delcurion casts light on Mythra’s dagger, which she ties to her quarterstaff to give her some illumination. With that, they enter the cave, where they observe not only the dragonborn’s tracks, but months old tracks of goblinoids, as well as more recent tracks of a man-sized spider.

Venturing further, Wrog blunders into a chamber with three zombie hobgoblins. The zombies prove resilient to sword and spell, clawing at both Sariel and Wrog. However, backed up by magic from the cleric and the warlock, the monk and the barbarian are able to bring the zombies down.

They take a short rest while the warriors recover, and retrieve several items from the zombies: a sheaf of papers written in Goblin, a single caltrops made of bone, and a rope necklace made of elf fingers which Wrog insists on claiming.

Pressing onward, they avoid the tunnel that seems to lead towards the spider’s lair and instead follow the dragonborn’s tracks. They move stealthily, sheathing Mythra’s glowing dagger and muffling Delcurion’s armor. Unfortunately, they walk into the cultist’s trap as Sariel realizes too late that she and Wrog are standing in a pool of oil.

The dragonborn lights up the corridor with his fire breath, immolating the barbarian and the monk. Sariel collapses to the floor, where death’s tendrils close around her. Delcurion rushes forward to cure the monk’s wounds and share a healing word with the badly burned barbarian. Sariel rises back to her feet and rushes to confront the cultist. He tries casting a spell at Wrog, but she punches him in the face and the blast veers off, slamming into the cave wall with enormous force.

The half-orc then charges forward with his greatsword held high. The cultist tries to block the blow with his quarterstaff, but Wrog sheers through it and badly wounds him. The dragonborn falls to the ground, seemingly bleeding out. Mythra and Delcurion suggest keeping him alive, while Wrog and Sariel prefer death.

Then the cultist rises back to his feet, surprisingly still conscious. Sariel tries to knock him out, but he insists he has Tiamat’s blessing and cannot be rendered unconscious. He offers them riches, information, and magical item if they will let him leave. Sariel tends to his wounds while the others interrogate him.

The cultist says his name is Arjhan, and he is a cultist of the red dragon Vermanthrax, which is trying to take over the town of Great Fork. His band of cultists were tasked with stealing weapons from the armory at Oaktree, but failed. He says that his contact in Great Forks was a local artist named Mogdred. He also tells them that the caves were once the lair of a band of goblins that were exterminated by the local lords a few months ago. There is a shrine deeper in the dungeon which holds a strange gem, but it is most assuredly trapped. He also warns them that an intelligent giant spider, P’tha, dwells in the cave and could pose a danger.

Arjhan will only hand off the magical artifact at the entrance to the cave, but the party judges that he’s told the truth. He provides them with a set of goggles of night, which Mythra immediately makes use of. The dragonborn staggers off, while the party heads deeper into the cave.

They come across the shrine, half buried in the collapse, and see the gem. Both warlock and cleric get a strange vibe from the room. Sariel recognizes it as a shrine to the goblin god Maglubiyet, while Mythra notices the explosive runes trap that will go off if a non-goblin disturbs the shrine. She clears everyone out of the room, then fires an eldritch blast at the runes, sending off a thundering explosion. With the trap’s power spent, Wrog attempts to pry the gem free, but fails, as does Delcurion. Sariel pushes them aside and snaps it out easily. “It’s all in the wrist,” she explains.

They then hear P’tha approaching. Sariel hurls a fire bolt at it, but the spider avoids the flames. Mythra has more luck with her dissonant voices and they learn the spider can speak. Delcurion wounds it with a guided bolt, but the creature insists it will defend its lair. They explain that they have no desire to take its lair and the spider backs down, allowing them to leave. Wrog bemoans the fact that they won’t be able to deliver their reward.

They rest under the leafy boughs of the ancient Smallwood and then emerge refreshed the following day. Arriving in Oaktree, they are brought to see Lord Quenthar, a wood elf known as a skilled huntsman. He asks if they have slain the cultist. “Yes,” Wrog announces loudly. His lie seems to convince the elf lord, who is delighted and provides them with their reward. Mythra also shares her notes on the information the cultist provided, claiming she found them on his body. Overjoyed at this good fortune, Lord Quenthar encourages to spend a night at the local tavern, at his expense.

They regroup there, where Mythra convinces Wrog that they’d get a better price for the gem in Great Fork, where they might also find a buyer for the goggles.

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