IN THE SHADOW OF THE SPIRE
PRELUDE 1A: THE LOST VAULTS
DAY ONE – 06/08/789
• Tee, a slim young elf with bright green eyes and coppery hair, stood on a mountainous ridge in the midst of a deep forest. Below her, to the east, lay the walled village of Stonemarten. The village had only recently been attacked: A hole in its eastern wall, clearly unnatural destruction, opened like the gap in a half-orc’s teeth. Devastated buildings still smoked. But most of the village had apparently been left unharmed in whatever attack happened here. Beyond the village rose hills and then, shrouded in mid-morning haze and smoke, the piercing peaks of the Mountains of the East punctuated the horizon.
• Tee turned at a sudden noise and saw, coming up the ridge behind her, a human man – tall and broad in the shoulder with long blonde hair and a full beard. He wore armor of polished black with spikes upon the shoulders. On a kilt about his waist he wore the symbol of a red elk.
• Tee scurried into a tree and hid. The man, Agnarr, strode up to almost the same spot she had stood and looked down into the village himself. Then he turned and called out to the elf: “What happened here, elf?”
• Tee slunk down from her tree and introductions were made. Tee told Agnarr that she had seen bestial, reptilian humanoids burst from the far treeline, break down the wall, and rush into the village. They killed any villagers they saw, burned down several buildings, and then left.
• The pair ran down towards the village, Agnarr’s large strides easily outpacing Tee’s nimble glide down the rocky slope. They were stopped at the gate by a city guard clearly on edge.
• They volunteered their aid to Dagil, the captain of the guard. He took them to Lady Arabella Varain to be deputized. She was tending the injured in the remains of what was, relatively, a mansion. For Tee, this was as far from civilization as she’d ever been. For Agnarr, it was the largest city he’d ever seen.
• It turned out that Stonemarten’s cleric had been slain during the attack – in fact, that seemed to be one of the goals (the other was seemingly to burn down the stables and release the horses). Varain’s father, the former magistrate of the village, had also been killed in the attack. Agnarr used a healing totem that his village witch doctors had given him to quickly heal the injured.
• Lady Varain concluded that Agnarr and Tee would be more help tracking down the source of the attack than menial guard duties. The villagers believed that the reptilian attackers were being led by an ogre named Logbrag, who had once been friendly with the villagers. Logbrag used to be peaceful – in fact, Varain’s father had traded with him in the woods. But lately he’d been acting erratic and the reptilian creatures seemed to be coming from the area Logbrag was known to live in.
• Tee and Agnarr headed east towards where Lady Varain told them Logbrag’s cave was. Agnarr got lost and although Tee was oblivious to it (she was more lost than he was), by the time they finally reached the cave, night had fallen. Agnarr built a lean-to and Tee climbed into a tree to keep watch.
• Near the end of Tee’s shift, the camp was attacked by two monstrous centipedes. After defeating them (Tee skewering one through the eye and Agnarr cleaving them both in twain), Agnarr’s first thought was that they might make a good breakfast… but upon a closer inspection he discovered that there was something unnatural and sickly about them: Red pustules, open sores, and strange eruptions covered their body. Agnarr dragged the bodies away and dumped them.
DAY TWO – 06/09/789
• Agnarr and Tee headed into the cave. There they met Logbrag the ogre. Something was clearly not right with Logbrag: He was suffering from the same pustules and sores and general sense of corruption that the monstrous centipedes had been.
• He mistook Agnarr and Tee for spirits come to take him to the next world. He resisted their “attempts to do so”. Eventually they managed to coax out of him the information that “everything has been bad” since the “reptile men came”. Clearly unhappy and in pain he eventually lashed out at them.
• Agnarr and Tee attempted to heal Logbrag, but the healing of his body left his mind corrupted, and they were eventually forced to kill him. In the end, as the light faded from his pain-wracked eyes, the ogre said, “Logbrag… sad…”
• Among Logbrag’s belongings they found a bag containing nearly 300 gp in wealth. Agnarr was ecstatic, but Tee thought they should give it to the villagers.
• Moving further into the cave complex they entered a mammoth cavern which swallowed up their light. They hadn’t gone far into its depths, however, before a small swarm of stirges attacked them. Landing on Agnarr, they sucked his blood until they burst.
• With Agnarr badly wounded, the pair of would-be heroes staggered out of the cave complex and retreated back to Stonemarten.
• In Stonemarten they met with Lady Varain again, reporting what they’d learned. She referred them to Mistress Beryllina, a herbalist. Beryllina sold them medicine to treat Agnarr’s wounds and loss of blood.
• Agnarr also insisted that Tee give Lady Varain the bag of gold they took from Logbrag. Varain thanked them. She thought that the money would help the village sponsor a new cleric and certainly help them rebuild the church and the wall.
• Agnarr and Tee spent the night in rooms at Lady Varain’s mansion. Tee was ecstatic when Agnarr agreed to take a bath (given that he was still covered in the green gore of the monstrous centipedes from the night before).
DAY THREE – 06/10/789
• The next day Tee and Agnarr left Stonemarten and returned to the caves. Agnarr revealed that his entire village had mysteriously vanished, and that he had been told that – in coming to Stonemarten – he would be able to discover how to restore his lost people. Tee said that she was there for a purpose, too. Agnarr asked her if it was because she had “seen the red elk”. Tee said no; that the only red elk she’d seen was on Agnarr’s kilt.
• Chatting amiably about their pasts and their purposes in being here, the two descended back into the caves… only to be ambushed by two reptilian men just beyond Logbrag’s cave.
• Agnarr easily routed the weak creatures – in fact, it seemed that they were suffering from the same physical malaise as everything else in the region. One of them fled from combat, standing in a shallow pool of water in a large cavern beyond Logbrag’s cave and shouting indecipherably up at the ceiling.
• Agnarr and Tee decided to move out of the cave as quickly as possible, assuming that reinforcements would be coming. Exploring one side passage they found a mass of insects (including three giant beetles with red carapaces) swarming at the bottom of a short, ten foot drop-off. They decided not to go that way.
• Up another corridor they stumbled into the hunting grounds of a darkmantle, which nearly squeezed the life out of Agnarr – but was dispatched when Tee stabbed it through the eye (a maneuver she was developing a penchant for).
• In a small cave accessible only by crawling through the muck of the cave floor, they discovered a chest. Opening the chest, Tee discovered four porcelain dolls of great beauty. She gasped in delight and leaned in to inspect them… only to have the dolls come to life and leap at her with a bloodthirsty red gleam in their eyes.
• After dispatching the dolls, Agnarr and Tee returned to the swarming insects, poured oil over them, and roasted the lot alive. Climbing down, however, they discovered nothing but a beetle lair and a dead-end.
• Returning to the large cavern they discovered a sizable hole in the ceiling immediately above where the reptile man had been screaming and carrying on. After some slippery and treacherous climbing, they managed to secure a grappling hook inside the hole and – with Agnarr carrying Tee on his back — began to climb…