After investigating the mysterious sickening of the Old Oak Tree in Larm, the Characters identify a suspect, Teutomar the Rag Merchant, following him to his home, vowing to come back and ‘investigate’ the location further when the owner is otherwise engaged.
Discussing matters in general however, Krotchet points out that their stay in Larm has somewhat sidetracked the original aims of the group, being to discover ‘The lost laboratory of the Plated Mage’, which Krotchet’s map suggests may be located somewhere in the dreaded ‘Stonehell Dungeon’.
The party agree that Teutomar can wait, although Rolandius seems particularly reticent to leave the matter of the Old Oak unresolved, and they decide to equip themselves for the journey and hire some retainers to accompany them, now that Aleena has returned to her temple duties.
After their shopping trip, they visit the Mayor Caius Rusticus, who identifies the wand they discovered at the temple as a Wand of Paralysation and potions as ‘Undead Control’ and ‘Gold Dragon Control’, along with making an offer to purchase the gems and jewellery that the party recovered.
Continuing on to the Borderland Tavern and after asking around, they manage to hire Rhona, a Septa of the Crone, Turix the Torchbearer and his Wardog ‘Big Red’ and after negotiating a 100gp life insurance policy at the bar, Brytik a Man at Arms.
Arranging to leave the following morning, the party then decide to let their hair down and embark upon a night of excess and debauchery that Larm has not seen the like of since its founding. The following morning finds the majority of the party significantly worse for wear and much poorer, with a special mention going to Ainesilver, who has very little memory of the evening and has earned himself a reputation as a drunken lout.
Soon our green at the gills party head out northwest into the hills, striking towards the distant mountains. Soon they settle into a steady rhythm and as they travel, Rolandius starts giving Turix lessons in swordplay. The party travel for two days and nights without incident, seeing only the occasional deer, rabbit or bird.
On the third, and what they expect to be their final day of travelling however, shortly after the party strike camp and head off they are ambushed by a group of brigands, wearing distinctive yellow and black chequered head scarves or belts and doing a bad job of hiding in the rocks with bows.
Unimpressed by their claims that the party are surrounded, the adventurers soon turn the tables on their attackers, Big Red tearing the throat out of one unfortunate, whilst Rolandius with his blade and Krotchet with howling missiles of blue flame, rout the remaining brigands who flee for the hills. Pausing only to loot the dead and take their scarves/belts, the party head on.
Shortly after lunch, Ainesilver cautions the group, pointing out a large winged shape swooping in their direction over the hills. Taking cover, the party see a powerful looking creature with the head, wings and forelegs of an eagle, and the torso, rear legs and tail of a lion. It’s 25’ wingspan leaves the party awestruck as it glides across the hillside, eventually heading off into the mountains.
Happy to have evaded detection, the party head off for the final party of their journey to Stonehell ….. only they do not arrive at the time they expected and can see no sign of the valley entrance as expected. They realise as the light fades, causing them to camp for the night, that they have somehow become lost. Krotchet suggests that they camp for the night, then head west along the mountains to try and pick up the trail to Stonehell.
The following day, the party head off west and after a few hours, Denagar spots some wagon tracks which appear to be accompanied, or perhaps followed, by a couple of sets of footprints heading off east. Electing to follow them, they find the Brigands they ran off the day before, attacking a tinkers caravan on the east/west path which runs parallel with the base of the mountains.
Charging down the slope towards them, the party drive away the brigands who melt away into the mountains at the first sign of resistance. Thanking the party profusely, the tinker explains that the brigands were members of ‘ The Ghost Beggars’, a group of brigands who had been preying on passing merchants for many months, until recently some merchants took things into their own hands, loading a covered wagon with guards and springing a trap on the beggars which killed more than half their number.
Asking about Stonehell, the merchant explained that they had missed the entrance to the valley, which was about three hours to the east of them. He offered to transport them there and give them free bandages in thanks for their assistance.
Climbing aboard the wagon, the party arrived a few hours later at the entrance to a steep valley. The merchant confirmed that Stonehell was up the valley, behind the ruined gatehouse. A well travelled path from who knows where, skirts past a dank marsh some way down the valley, from out of which the foothills rise. The party recollect rumours that flooded tunnels beneath this fen connect with the dungeon, but these tales have never been proven.
Once past the marsh, the road rises gradually, threading its way through the rocky hills and cliffs that lay at the base of the mountains. After several miles, the road terminates at the mouth of this narrow box canyon that bisects a high cliff wall. The steep cliffs and the tall mountains beyond the defile loom overhead.
The shadows of twilight seem to fall early here as the sun makes its way towards the west, cloaking the canyon in gloom. Across the mouth of the canyon stands an old curtain wall and gatehouse.
These fortifications once barred entrance to the canyon, but the curtain wall has crumbled in places, leaving large gaps that allow easy access into the canyon beyond. The gatehouse‘s doors lay rotting on the ground before it and its rusty portcullises are as gapped as a codger‘s smile. Those opting for a more direct route can enter the canyon through the gatehouse‘s central passage.