If this is new to you then there are many things that you'll immediately notice are a bit different. We'll tweak some things as we go along, we'll do away w/ a few others. But what you have to remember is that this is YOUR GAME! Bottom line. If you have a suggestion for something you'd like to see or do then toss it out on the table and we'll see where it goes.
Anyway, enough rambling, on with the intro. Oh, you'll have to excuse the slight "hiccup" between sessions... I know that Keith ran you guys through a very brief portion of Keep on the Borderlands, and while this is similar, it's not exactly the same. If there are a few cracks in the pavement, per se, then please disregard, it'll smooth out eventually.
The Mug and Blade, while not necessarily a top notch establishment by big city standards, has been highly regarded along the border for generations. It's one of the best dives around! Claims Toothless Ed, one of it's oldest patrons. And yes, it's tradition for mercenaries of the adventuring stripe to congregate at taverns, as cliched as it might seem, it's just downright convenient. Let's just call it an unwritten rule.
Adventurers are not an unknown breed here in Wildsgate. No, in fact they're quite common. But what is uncommon are adventurers that return from their "adventures". So as you might well imagine, those that return are afforded a certain degree of status: 'Survivor'. Even if it's just a quick there and back again, and they faced nothing more ferocious than your average dog, they were there and now they're here. And that's what counts.
In the Mug and Blade there is a cadre of adventurers that have that 'Survivor' status, but they are not legion. And those that have been there and back again have an innate way of recognizing those others that have experienced the same. Whether they've been into the Foehammers, or in some other dark dank hole in the ground, they've all been "bloodied".
And the group that sat around the table telling tales of the Caves of Chaos were no different. Missing a few of their comrades, who were currently off on their own little side trek, they told a tale that people wanted to listen to. Ancilith, better known as Ancy, was front and center, firing off questions as fast as they occurred to her. And as soon as the group was done with their tale, Ancy stood up and motioned to the crowd.
"Most of you have heard me tell a tale or two..." and the crowd erupts w/ laughter, "But I've never told you about the time I lost one of my closest companions.
Our group had adventured to the west of here a ways, and had crossed swords w/ a group of swamp men. They were ferocious opponents, all scales and teeth. They'd hide beneath the water till you nearly tripped on them, then WHAM! Out they'd leap. Would nearly scare you stiff.
Well after our close scrape, we found an oilskin map of the Foehammers. Only we didn't really know them by that name back then. See, we weren't from around here. And the other thing we didn't know back then was their reputation.
But we were like most of you are now, you see a map and immediately assume treasure, right? Am I right? Of course I am.
Off we go. The trip wasn't particularly dangerous per say. We didn't cross the path of anything that made us scamper, nor even draw our blades if I remember correctly. The weather was beautiful. Fall around these parts, as you well know, is something to behold. But it can also be quite dangerous, as storms roll in w/out warning. And as you might guess, a storm rolled in that evening.
We had been camped out next to the Saerdre river, in hearing distance of the falls, when it hit. It was awfully dark, as you can imagine, and the lightning was dancing down amongst the trees. I'll tell you now, it wasn't a place you wanted to be. Packing all of our gear up as quickly as we could, we navigated by lightning flashes towards the closest hillside.
Circumnavigating the base of what must have been one of the spires, we found what at first we thought was a game trail of sorts, but about 1/3 of the way up it turns to stairs. Moss covered and slick, we made our way up the side of the hill towards what we thought must be shelter.
Making the cave mouth was a welcome relief as we took refuge from the pelting rain and hail as well as that gods cursed lightning. What we took to be a rather small, yet dry cave was actually much more.
Now I wont get into the entire story, as I'd like to save a surprise or two for another evening, but I will tell you this: Later that night, as I sat up on watch, firelight flickering against the walls, I thought I hear a scrape. But not out near the entrance like you might think, no, it was further back in the cave. Where no one was sleeping.
Curious, I light a torch from our fire and move to investigate. Thinking maybe it was a rat, or something.... I am surprised to find that the cave is all of a sudden much larger than I had thought. The whole back wall seemed to have suddenly vanished in the night. Like smoke from a fire...just up into the air and gone.
I should have warned the others right then. I shouldn't have hesitated. But I was younger, and a lot more foolish.
What I could see was a strange floor of slick black stone. Gleaming as if it were wet. And carved in that stone were what I took to be snakes...Only they weren't. They were all originating from the same place, some central thing in the center of the huge mural. Something that didn't quite make sense. And I know I'm not making any myself right now. But I can't tell you exactly what I saw because I don't have the words for it.
Whatever it was, I've never seen it since and I hope never to see its like again. It made my skin crawl.
I think what saved my life was the sound I heard behind me, a scraping noise as if something were being dragged across the floor of the cave. I spun about and found that my feet had taken me far beyond where my mind thought I had gone. I saw shapes then, all around in the dimness, just beyond my torchlight. I knew then that I had been under the thrall of some type of sorcery!
Crouching with my blade in my hand I frantically looked for the welcoming firelight of our camp. I saw it to my rear, about 30 paces away, like a beacon out across dangerous waters. But I knew I had to make that light, or die in the trying.
I muttered a quick prayer to Johydee and tossed the torch one way while diving the other, hoping of course to cause confusion and giving me an avenue of escape. Maybe it worked, all I know is that after coming up on the balls of my feet, those shapes had either retreated, or followed the light. With my new found freedom I sprinted for our fire.
It was further than I thought at first, and took me much longer to gain, but gain it I did. Only to find strange man-shaped beings wrestling my companions in silence. And I mean complete silence. I screamed a warning as I entered the area, but to no avail, not a sound emerged from my mouth.
So I did the next most logical thing, I picked up a brand from our fire in one hand, and w/ my sword in the other, I joined the fray. We were hopelessly outnumbered, and for some strange reason the light seemed to bend and dance in a very strange way. It was all so confusing and I know you must think I was drunk. But I'm telling this true, I was sober as a church mouse and as scared as if a cat were staring me down.
I was slashing at these odd man-beasts and it was like fighting shadows on a wall. They were here one moment, and then gone the next. I still don't know to this day if I ever hit one of them. All of the sudden we were alone in our cave. Minus Lyssa of the Lake People.
The back wall was where it was before. There were marks on the floor proving our scuffle wasn't the stuff of shadow magic, but still, no Lyssa. Where she had gone we don't know, but we can only guess that she was taken by those strange beasts. We scoured that ground the next day, in the hopes that we'd find some clue, some hint of where they had taken her. The only thing we found was a strangely carven idol that might fit in the palm of a child's hand.
A strange slick looking stone that makes one feel like they're holding onto melting ice. It makes me uncomfortable even today to be anywhere near that thing. Yet I still keep it amongst my possessions in the hopes that it will lead me to Lyssa.
Ah, but that was years ago, and the Foehammers keep their secrets close. I have no illusions that she's still of this mortal coil.
Anyway, that's my tail for this eve. Ware the Foehammers."