Kingdom of Arboria, Year 3, Month 5
Lake Hooktongue, Western Shore
"Look my son! All that your eye can see will one day be yours." "Dad, it's a swamp."
This morning we came to the edge of Lake Hooktongue proper. As opposed to the muck we've been wading through for days, which I suppose is the "slough" part? A mile along the shoreline we found a most peculiar shipwreck. The ship itself, the "Wind Furrow" according to her prow, was a simple trade vessel: low and flat and designed for calm, shallow waters. However, she was in two pieces and covered in uprooted trees. Moreover, the stone statue on her stern looked suspiciously as if it were once a man. Whatever inhabits these waters is not to be trifled with.
From the nearby cliffs we can see that the shoreline turns steadily south, but our maps indicate Drelev lies to the northwest. The quickest way is across the lake. We depart tomorrow in our magical pocket boat.
I'm going to record this for posterity, but chances are you won't believe it. Chances are I won't believe it either, when I read it later. So perhaps I am hallucinating or… but then again, there's the body of the beast right there, dragging behind our boat.
A bit of background is warranted: the Hooktongue Slough is named for a legendary water snake (Hooktongue, naturally) said to inhabit the lake. Or, so goes the legend, according to Gelros and Kris. Legend or no legend, three days ago we left the eastern shore and set a course toward Drelev, keeping a careful watch for whatever fate befell the Wind Furrow. Halfway across the lake, we spotted a huge school of fish. This wasn't remarkable (in fact, we had seen several), until said school of fish coalesced into a giant black serpent.
The combat that followed was fierce but brief. The serpent's eyes flashed and Kris's new pet Spike turned to stone. Kris, enraged and incoherent, leapt fifteen feet across the water and onto the beast's back, hacking wildly. Shella joined him in the water, while I took to the air (courtesy of this new chainmail!). Hooktongue (for it could only have been the legendary beast itself) breathed a cone of fire at me, but I dodged. Gelros was chanting now, and I could half see defensive magic happening below me.
The next few seconds involved me connecting with a volley of arrows (deadly to water snakes, apparently, courtesy of Everiel), while Shella opened several chest wounds from below to complement Kris's back wounds above. The creature's eye's flashed again and I felt cold magic flow over me, but I shook off the effect. It then bit Shella and dived. Shella dove too.
Luckily for Shella, she has that ring. A few moments later, Shella reappeared in a cloud of blood, dragging its head. She told us later: "It ripped a part of my soul out of me. So I went to get my soul back."
The body floated up a dozen yards away, and we pulled the boat around to examine it. Narzeth identified it as a water orm, but much bigger than usual. Gelros noticed that it had patches of stone and of bark for scales, which is definitely not normal for a water orm. After some puzzling, the two of them concluded that it may have had basilisk blood, and perhaps treant too. (How such a thing happened I don't want to think about.) I would have called bullshit on all of this speculation, except for what happened next.
There is an old legend about basilisks. Well, two, actually. The first is that they can turn you to stone. The second is that if you bath a basilisk victim in the blood of a freshly slain basilisk, the stone melts back into flesh. No sooner had Gelros calmly relayed this bit of arcane trivia than Shella had hopped out onto Hooktongue's corpse and sliced out it's cold, massive heart. Standing atop Spike's stone back, she sliced the heart clean in two, giving Spike (and most of the boat) a nice fresh Hooktongue blood shower. At which point Spike promptly bellowed and shook his way back to life, flinging shiny droplets of slowly congealing blood in all directions. The rest of us looked on in stunned surprise.
Shella was particularly enthused about this.
Now that we had established that the water orm's blood could reverse it's stone gaze, our statue friend was the next patient. He awoke on his back covered in blood, staring up at a nearly 7' tall hobgoblin in plate mail holding a slashed liver the size of a goat. That is to say, he awoke screaming, and kept screaming. After some magical sedation, courtesy of Gelros, we determined that his name is Robert Marshall Atticus Bogrunner III, or as his friends call him, Bob. He also positively identified the dead beast as Hooktongue, who he had personally encountered on the Wind Furrow.
And so, here we are, traversing Hooktongue Lake while slowly dragging the dead corpse of its namesake behind us, with an exhausted merchant sailor sleeping in the bow. I won't be surprised if any minute I wake up and find that this was all a dream.
Lake Hooktongue, Eastern Shore
Once Bob woke up, we learned a few things. First, he is a skilled bog runner; Gelros has therefore hired him to transport us around the slough. Second, until we killed it, Hooktongue had been preying on ships more frequently than usual. This had ground trade to a halt and depressed the economy of Drelev and the whole slough region. Third, the Baron has made an utter fool of himself and lost the people’s trust in the process. Bob wouldn't mind seeing him deposed and speculates that most of the populace of Drelev wouldn't either.
At Shella’s insistence, we’ve hauled Hooktongue’s corpse all the way to the eastern lake shore, where it is now hidden and resting peacefully under Everiel’s tender ministrations. Gelros has paid Bob to watch the ship and the corpse while we head north to Drelev.
The Velvet Corner, City of Drelev
Here we are, at midnight in a cozy pillow-filled room in a brothel, and nobody is getting laid. At least, not in this room. There’s enough banging going on next door that even the intentionally thick and padded walls don’t fully mask it.
"Here" is The Velvet Corner, gambling establishment and local brothel, owned and operated by Ms. Stainder Moorne, friend of Kisandra Numesti. We arrived in town late afternoon, having left Spike and Bessie in the forest. The city of Drelev is a mess of military construction. It appears that a large city wall is going up, but from the disposition of the guards it isn't clear if said wall is meant to keep enemies out or the residents in. We were briefly challenged at the west gate, but Gelros tossed the guard two gold coins and passed us off as the "Sons and Daughters of Gorum." The guard looked quite astonished. "Who did you say you were?" "We're the Sons of Gorum, man. We don't work for cheap."
Following Bob’s directions, we located the Velvet Corner with no trouble. Within, we made the acquaintance of Ms. Moorne, who was wearing some highly improbable leather armor… and knives. So many knives. Having identified her, Gelros purchased a beer and passed her Kisandra’s signet ring with his payment. Her eyes narrowed in surprise and she looked right at Gelros. I listened carefully to the exchange:
"Where did you get this?"
"From a young lady who worked hard to get it to us."
After that it was suddenly a practiced smile and "Oh, darling, meet me in the orange room. I’ll follow shortly." And here we are.
Stainder has come and gone several times on business, but also made time to answer Gelros’s questions. She’s quite the professional, in her way, and knows this town inside and out.
- What's the disposition of the military? Locally, there are six hill giants (an "honor guard" on "loan" from Pitiax) as well as many mercenaries. The barbarians, however, are somewhere to the north, days outside of town. 30-40 guards in the keep, 20-30 on patrol.
- How many barbarians? When they came through town, there were at least 2000 (most of the tribe, arrayed in a show of force). The Barbarian Lord Armag took women hostages and left toward the north.
- What’s this about a temple? Apparently, the Baron found an ancient temple to the north that he used as leverage in his surrender. It’s likely where the barbarians went.
- How is Drelev doing? The populace is on the verge of revolt. There's a famine for common folk, but the guards are supported from Pitiax and remain well-fed. Also, there's a curfew in force. Violators disappear permanently.
- What do you know about the Baron? The Baron, his wife, and his brother (said to be a powerful wizard) are all in town. The Baron also keeps a paramour, from Pitiax. Or maybe she keeps him. By reputation, she’s quite the looker, and a skilled musician.
- Any way into the keep? Rumors have it they are planning a party, so we could try to get in the civilized way. But a more direct route would be through the keep’s secret escape route, which exits in a cave on the lakeshore outside of town.
Stainder is fairly confident that if we were to depose the Baron, Drelev would join Arboria with open arms. There was some debate that Gelros should seduce the Baroness, or perhaps the paramour. But once a painting of the Baroness was produced, Gelros put an end to the discussion: "I don't want to seduce that hag." So we’ve decided to just take the keep by storm and sack the place. It’s more our style anyway.
- Explore (5,3) (150 XP)
- Explore (5,4) (150 XP)
- Killing the legendary water orm Hooktongue (76,800 XP)
- Quest to kill Hooktongue, acquired from Bob (19,200 XP)
- Bob the Sailor (NPC, ranks in Profession: Sailor)
- Hooktongue's Corpse