In a pub in the town of Loftwick, three adventurers meet for the first time. Eulalia Morningside, Bolan Amblerath, and Rin have responded to an advertisement by a man named Arnold Baggison. The adventure? To usher him and his caravan of goods safely down the road from Loftwick to Milburne. Upon his arrival, Baggison reassures the party that there hasn’t been anything SUPER unusual; other than the run of the mill looters and robbers, a variety of wolves, and perhaps one or two things slightly more sinister. He also mentions, in passing, the mage Toster, located in the city of Thermaster.
Without hesitation (or much discussion of terms), the party agrees to depart with Arnold. Setting out, the first day on the road between Leftiwick and Milburne is uneventful; the party spends the evening by a fire lit by Arnold, fed to satisfaction by a deer that was hunted by Rin. There was singing around the fire that evening, and everyone rested well.
The following day was overcast, and part way down the remaining road between the adventurers and Milburne, a arrow flew out of the woods. Strange men in black cloaks with a rusty red pattern came upon the group alongside archers, ready to attack. Luckily, the adventurers started out strong; attacks were sure and steady, and Bolan’s hits seemed especially critical. With some inspiration and healing from Eulalia, and some sure-fired shots from Rin, the party member hit the worst is Betsy, Baggison’s drafthorse. The adventurers pursue the last enemy into the woods, catching him before he escapes to notify others. Examining the bodies, the folks who attacked appear to be cultists; not carrying much other than daggers, their robes, and some pouches containing bits of bone. The party is able to collect 15gp and 42sp, which they split evenly amongst themselves. With some attention and a healing potion, Betsy is able to get the crew the rest of the way to Millburne.
Millburn is a small town, which has seen a recent boom in action and activity since Darrius Carmen reopened the mines. Arnold brings the party to the Baron of Mutton Inn, run by two brothers. He offers them 25gp each in payment their services, and offers to pay the Adventurers way at the Inn for the evening if they will accompany him to Thermaster, just south of the mountains near the Churnet river, in the morning. The party spends the remainder of the afternoon and evening hanging out at the bar. Eulalia plays music for awhile. Bolan offers Gerrald, the town constable, a recap of the battle; the party acquires some information about Toster, the fire mage, and about of the services and people that can be found in Millburne. There is a local priest, Samwise; a few shops; another Inn (with a poor reputation); a barge that runs up and down the Churnet, piloted by an eager lad named Giles; and a crew of local adventurers who have a nearby keep and who, it seems, keep mostly to themselves. Upon retiring for the night, a rowdy crew comes into the bar, but otherwise, it seems to be business as usual.
At dawn, the party is startled from their sleep by noises and loud footsteps coming up the inn stairs. The party takes cover, fearing that whoever is shouting as they come up the stairs is coming for them; but they quickly discover that whoever has arrived has come for Arnold. While the group can’t see everything that is happening, there is loud protestation coming from the room, and the group hears broken glass. Finally arriving at the door, 5 hooded figures are revealed. After some distraction and a lot of fire, the room is cleared of enemies, but the heroes were too late; Arnold has been kidnapped! Eulalia spots the wagon headed east out of town.
With haste, the party moves downstairs to speak with the proprietors of the Inn. With little knowledge of who the trespassers were (except that two of them were large), the party explains to them that Arnold was kidnapped and that they’d probably best put out the smoldering fire in his guest room. Asking about what hails to the east, they explain that they imagine the wagon was headed to Thermaster. The party could rent horses from Capella at the stables, but there are really only two tamed paths to Thermaster; the barge, or the old wagon path which follows the water’s edge. They ask the proprietors to inform the constable, and head to the docks, to find Giles and hop on the barge towards Thermaster.
For 5gp, Giles enthusiastically offers to take the party towards thermaster, a trip of about half a day. The party takes some time on the barge to recover from their early morning battle. Bolan takes the first watch while Eulalia naps and Rin restrings her bow; Eulalia takes the second watch while the other party members sleep.
About three hours into the voyage, the party sees Betsy, Arnold’s horse, at the intersection of a fork in the road. Wagon wheel tracks seem to lead to the north, which Giles noted used to be many old farms, before someone burned them down some years ago. Seeing that the kidnappers seem to have derailed from their trek to Thermaster, the adventurers ask Giles to bank the barge.
Headed down the path, the adventurers notice several large paw prints down the trail. Scouting a head, Rin notices that the road comes to a rise—which the road seems to travel right down the middle of. Coming back to share her intel, the party heads forward. Eulalia sneaks up to the edge of the rise first, hidden by some rocks, to scout out the surroundings. She sees an old house, with someone standing on the porch in black robes, and a bear chained to the house next to them. Rin and Bolan sneak up to the edge alongside of her, and they all see a few tents, surrounding a fire, over which a large, nefarious man seems to be holding Arnold. He is requesting Arnold give him the key to a small wooden box, which Arnold says he does not have. Calling their marks, the adventurers begin the battle. Eulalia casts a spell to make a small, black, swirling key appear in the palm of her hand, and as the man demands the key from Arnold, she shouts out to tell him that she in fact holds the key. She calls to him and holds it in the air. They go through some bait and switch which initially allows them to take advantage, but the battle is tough. A giant half-orc in full armor comes out from the edges to attack, and even with Bolan’s flaming hands, they take a beating. Mages wreak havoc, turning the bear lose and then having him turn into a MegaBear. Rin is finally able to fell the half-orc soldier with a well-placed arrow; Eulalia narrowly misses death by hiding just under the bears feet as she nimbly tries to work her way to safety. In the end, Bolan was able to take out the large, nefarious man in black AND blasts the bear; but it was too late for Arnold. Discouraged, the party surveys the scene for some answers.
They find on the body of the nefarious man in black a signet ring, a cape clasp in the shape of a skull, and a mace. From his compatriots, they collect 51g, 3c, 14s; from Arnold, they remove 220g, a small ledger containing the details of his deliveries, and a small dark wooden box covered with strange ruins. Bolan notices a small silver key has appeared, wrapped in Arnold’s fist. Although he uses a piece of cloth to pick the key up, it burns his hand; and when he looks down, the key has disappeared, leaving a silver tattoo of a key in its place. The crew loads Arnold’s body into the wagon, finding a chest of spell components still sitting in the back. As Eulalia sings a song of mourning, the adventurers go back to the barge, and finish out the trip to Thermaster.