No rain but thunder, and the sound of giants.

2: Politicos of the Drippy Caves

The party resupplies and gains some weapons from the keep. As Deni rests the full duration of an elven reverie, Silas and Garonna take some short rests and do a sweep of the town. They find some bodies under rocks, six in total. Many of the houses are heavily damaged by the boulders, though most still stand.

Alara, the human guard, has volunteered to bring the party to the Dripping Caves, but requests to make a stop. She goes into a collapsed farmhouse near the inn, but only remains for a minute before returning to the group and resuming their travel. They take the horses, though Silas ends up riding with Deni.

The way to the Dripping Caves is only a mile up north, but the party converses with Alara on the way. She’s a polearm user who does not have much by way of experience, and is very impressed with the three adventurers. Deni is very encouraging. Alara explains that her adoptive father is the dwarven innkeeper, Moraq.


The party arrives at the Dripping Caves quite quickly, and stop about a hundred feet from its mouth to hide their horses. Alara explains that inside is a series of natural tunnels, and Silas takes up his usual role as scout. Unfortunately, even the impending sunrise is unable to illuminate far inside the cavern, and a blinded Silas is found out by a few goblins. He hears a large figure approach and flee outside, where a naked ogre 12 feet in height follows him out.


They engage the naked ogre and its armored companion and surprisingly make quick work of them, before marching into the cave.


Goblins surround them on ledges inside. Silas nimbly leaps his way to one and slaughters it, which Garonne uses to convince the other goblins to surrender to them. The goblins indicate that the party should talk to their boss, Hark, if they want to know where the villagers are, and lead them further into the caves. Hark, they find out, is a rather large goblin in patchwork armor with yellow, mottled skin. There is a dead villager being eaten by giant rats under his feet, which riles the party up, especially Deni.


Garonne and Deni negotiates with Hark; after some thought, Hark says that he will give them the villagers if the party kills “the blob”. A bit of prodding reveals this blob to possibly be a black ooze. Hark has a woman brought over to prove that the rest of the villagers are alive; the woman is Daphne, lady in waiting to Lady Velrosa. She’s in a sad state and seemed to have been slated to be the next meal of the ogres.


Garonne asks to check on the rest of the villagers, which is granted by Hark. He and Alara are led by a goblin, Flik, to the rest of the villagers. There is a pit with ledges all around it, where the villagers are quietly huddled. It seems that the pit is full of rather large bats that eat even goblins, so silence is necessary. There are rope ladders that the goblins use to retrieve the villagers. Garonne continues to converse with Flik, and eventually convince him to help them free the villagers in exchange for leadership of the goblins, Gurash’s salted head, and 5 gold coins. All he has to do is to leave the throne room when the party slays Hark. Flik is enticed by this and agrees to cooperate.


Back in the throne room, Deni tends to Daphne and threatens Hark with swift retribution. Upon Garonne’s return with Flik and Alara, more negotiations continue and they speak of this black blob. Silas gets exasperated with the proceedings and demand to be led to this blob alone, much to the protest of Deni.


When Silas and another goblin rounds the corner of the tunnel, Silas attempts to ambush the goblin and drop it silently. Unfortunately, the goblin notices his attempt and is able to shout — the throne room erupts into a fight.


Garonne immediately works to reduce the number of goblins and rats in the area, by convincing the goblins to leave Hark to his death and the rats that there is an earthquake in the tunnels. Deni engages Hark, holding him off as Silas creeps back into the throne room to join the fray. Between the three of them, the goblin leadership is successfully deposed!


Garonne joins the villagers, who have been led our by Flik and Alara, while Silas and Deni scour the rest of the tunnels for threats and villagers they may have missed. They make sure to keep away from the black pudding, though. Deni finds a chest with a few gold, some expensive salt and pepper shakers, and a holy symbol showing a silver tree. She keeps for herself a scroll of divine favor.


Alara introduces Moraq to Garonne, who has to break the news to him that Lady Velrosa is dead. It seems that some of the villagers were lost to the ogres, but for the most part remain intact.


Deni, incensed at what has been done to the villagers, threatens the goblins to never come near the villagers again. After that, she and Garonne argue about the leadership of Nightstone, and then the Nightstone phlint; the villagers don’t seem too fussed about its loss.


Back in the village, everyone pitches in to help with the wounded, taking stock of the people, shoring up the village’s defenses, and cleaning up the mess all the attackers left behind. Deni gives up majority of the loot they acquired since arriving at Nightstone so that the villagers might have some money.


It’s morning when the party finally gets some rest, hosted by Moraq the innkeeper. They wake up later in the afternoon to the smell of bacon, and Moraq gives them a more detailed damaged report on the village. It seems that most of the families had lost a member to the attack.  Silas goes off to help with the rooftops, while Deni heads to the keep to continue the investigation that brought the trio there in the first place. Deni finds the family genealogy and discovers that the Nanbar family branched a long time ago, but otherwise everything seemed in order. She has the document sent to Waterdeep, along with a written cypher for the Harpers.


Back in the town, Silas is approached by a young, halfling girl, Dollop who gives him a doll named Lala as thanks for helping them. Silas gives her his own lucky charm, a rabbit’s foot, and speaks with her mother Tayla. They seem to have lost a son to the attack, but the father is away on a trip. Furtively and making sure the others don’t see, Silas gives Tayla some of the money that he has to help.


Deni and Garonne investigate the boulders to determine where they are from — Moraq identifies the stone as granite, although there is no granite anywhere near Nightstone. The good thing is that making something out of all that rare rock might help Nightstone recover financially. Sidery comes soon after to give news that Waterdeep will be sending in help soon, in the form of new guards and a new high steward.


In the evening, Moraq and Alara approach the party for help. After some bickering between the three of them, they finally hear the father and daughter out. Alara wants to be taken home to her people up north, now that she is of age and can leave her foster parents. She wants to learn more about her roots in Bryn Shander, up in Ten Towns, in the region of Icewind Dale. The journey alone will take months at the fastest. Alara shows them an amulet that she has, of an unknown metal and shaped into a bear paw. It might be from barbarian tribes.


Silas is quite happy to take this job, if only because he can secure them passage in a ship for it, and finally, finally get Garonne on a sea journey as befitting of any follower of Valkur.


With that settled, the party once again hunkers down to rest. They wake up in the morning to screams. Above the village is a tower floating on clouds a hundred feet above them, sending the citizens into a panic as they once again rush to evacuate Nightstone.


A rope falls from tower, and a humanoid figure forms on the ground. “Zephyros will see you now,” it says softly to Denithione’s indignant demands, and despite their wariness, the party does climb up the rope. The rope is made of clouds, though solid. Above them, they notice that the tower is topped off with a rather large, pointy and blue wizard’s hat, with stars on it.


When they reach the tower, they find out that the door is 60 feet tall, and that inside, the ceiling is another hundred feet in height. There is a hexagonal chamber beyond the front door, separated by a thin but large curtain. There is a hole in the ceiling, and all the furniture are gigantic. After a couple of minutes, a giant floats down from the hole in the ceiling — it is an elderly man, 28 feet in height.


The man doesn’t notice them for a while, so Garonne casts Thaumaturgy to enhance his voice. The old man seems senile, and has a tendency to write everything they are doing on his book. He seems delighted to recognize their name, and seem to be looking for fourth — Alara. Since Zephyros is so addled, they decide to come up to the table and read through his book themselves, much to his curiosity.


Someone told Zephyros to look for the party — voices in his head from the other planes, apparently. “The four would be needed to restore the Ordning.” The Ordning, they find out, is the Giant caste system, starting from the Storm giants on top, to the cloud giants, the fire giants, frost giants, and the hill giants at the bottom.


Zephyros will take them to Icewind Dale where Bryn Shander is, and the trip will only take three weeks if done by air. The party murmurs amongst themselves and ask the giant for a day to make a decision.


They descend to questions from the fearful villagers, and they explain that the giant asked to take them away. The party stocks up on furs and other cold-weather gear. Silas sends off a letter to Arize Levy, Garonne’s twin sister and Silas’ own captain, even as Garonne finds out that the air humanoids from the tower is able to provide the town with protection.

1: Big Trouble at Little Nightstone

The party is hired to travel to Nightstone, a hamlet found between Waterdeep and Daggerford. There has been trouble with the wood elves of the area in recent times; House Nandar, the governor of the territory, put up a hunting lodge in wood elf territory for pleasure hunting, and the elves had retaliated and killed half the lodge’s occupant, including the high steward of Nightstone. The party is being tasked to investigate the genealogy of the steward’s wife, Velrosa Nandar and the new high steward of Nightstone, to ascertain the legitimacy of her inheritance.

It is just before sunset and after some days of eventless travel, that the trio arrive at a fork showing the way to Nightstone. They opt to walk the remaining few miles to the village hoping to make it to supper. As they travel through the forest, though, they hear the unending tolling of a bell, and discover that it is coming from Nightstone itself.


Nightstone is a village that bisects a river, which has formed a moat around it. It has palisades for defense, and a keep in the eastern side. The party notes that the ramp between the keep and the village has been broken in the middle, and that the watchtowers flanking the drawbridge are empty. The party cautiously but openly approaches.


From the drawbridge, they can see that the square ahead of them is empty except for a large crater and a boulder in the middle. There are many boulders botting the place. Silas moves ahead and skulks to the temple at the left of the drawbridge, which is the source of the bell sounds. As Silas inspects the temple, which seems to hold the motif of many gods (one of them Lathander), Garonne and Denithione outside see the figure of two massive wargs gorging on a cow. Deni and Garonne head up a watchtower and promptly pelts the wargs with magic and arrows. The wargs eventually realize that they cannot get up to the two, and hide behind some boulders. Deni and Garonne give chase, but the wargs circle around and ambush them, knocking Deni down even as she kills one of the wargs.


Meanwhile, in the temple, Silas finds the source of the bell’s movement — two goblins are in the bellroom playing with it. He locks them in and exits the temple, where he is able to assist Garonne in dispatching the remaining warg.


Nearby is the Nightstone Inn. Silas scouts it and finds that the middle has been smashed through with another large boulder, which has gone in from the roof and through its upper floor to the mess hall. A dead goblin, freshly slain, is also on the floor, an arrow through its neck.


Garonne finds a female human in robes is upstairs, who insist that she is a monk of Lathander. Her leg is hurt, which is why she has been unable to escape with the rest of the villagers. It seems that there was an attack at the village with the boulders some time during the day, which came from a castle in the clouds, and when she had come to the village was swarming with goblins. Kela, the girl, says that she is only visiting the village. Garonne and Denithione feel that she is lying about something, but only Deni continues to prod at her for information.


Kela reluctantly reveals that she had been here to study the Nightstone, an actual obsidian phlint in the middle of the town square with magical runes on it. During the attack, four giants had come down from the castle and taken it. The dwarven innkeep had rallied the villagers to evacuate them to the hill caves north of the village. Kela says the village had about 40 people in it.


Meanwhile, Silas, who had tired of the interrogation long ago, leaves his party members to explore the village. He comes upon the Lion Coaster trading post, which is basically the town’s general store, and finds a lone goblin looting the place. He catches the goblin in a barrel and rolls it over for further interrogation by Garonne.


Garonne uses Thaumaturgy to boom his voice louder, and speaks to the goblin in orkish. The goblin in the barrel mistakes Garonne for his boss, and tells them that the villagers ran into a cave — their cave. The goblins had nothing to do with the rocks, however, so Garonna satisfies himself with the interrogation and manacles the goblin.


As they are leaving to look for the villagers, seven figures on horseback enter the village via the drawbridge. They are all in black leather armor and are heavily armed — they call themselves the Seven Snakes, a group of bandits with a reputation for odd targets. Their leader, Zolkin, steps forward and blithely questions them on their purpose here. Kela materializes behind Deni and returns to Zolkin a snake. It seems that Kela had sent a message after being forced by Deni’s questions, and these are people she works with.


Zolkin interrogates their goblin captive before ruthlessly killing it. As Zolkin threatens them and they argue about whether or not Zolkin should spare their lives, they hear the sound of an orc bugle in the distance. There is a troop of thirty orcs coming up in the distance, though some seem injured. The party and the bandits reluctantly agree on a truce to fend off these orcs and set to work preparing for a siege.


Garonne broadcasts his voice from the watchtower to speak with the orcs, and the orcs mistake him as one of them. Apparently, Gurash and his band had been in a skirmish with wood elves, who are hot on their heels in pursuit. They demand to be let in. Garonne reveals himself to be a half-elf, which sends Gurash into a rage. He promises to get in, and retreats to ready his troops.


As the party and the bandits get ready and reprovision, Garonne hears a voice in his head…


The goblins that they haven’t dealt with in the village emerge to take potshots at the group, though they are very quickly disposed of. Garonne and Deni assist the bandits in repelling the orcs from climbing up the palisades, while Silas toils on securing them an escape route behind the keep. It’s as he’s doing this that he bumps into the guards who have hunkered in the keep the entire time. There are four of them, with their captain Siderie. Silas bids them to hide for a while, since he’s unwilling to deal with them, and continues to build his evacuation route.


The orcs find the prospect of getting burned and shot at while scaling the palisades to be too daunting, and after being challenged by Garonne, Gurash changes tack and moves to bring his forces to the gap in the wall where the ramp to the keep is. Silas bids Deni and Garonne to come to the keep side so he can trap the Snakes in with the orcs, but Garonne stays on the village side, forcing Silas to follow him on that side. Meanwhile, Deni commandeers the guards in the keep and rallies them to help in the battle. While Thorim is reluctant, Alara agrees and begin preparing crossbows at the keep roof. They prepare pitch and fire, which prove useful against the mass of orcs later on.


Silas and Garonne engage Gurash from the palisades. Silas gets a good hit in before Gurash clobbers him half to death, which prompts Garonne to humiliate Gurash in front of his band “for choosing to fight a child”. An attack at Garonne with the intervention of Valkur ends Gurash, however, and a victorious Garonne uses the orc chief’s severed head to dissuade the other orcs from continuing their frenzy. The orcs retreat, chased by an incoming battalion of wood elves.


The skirmish over and done with, the party realizes that the bandits have fled the village via the drawbridge. They retrieve some potions and a cypher from their dead and leftover saddlebags; here, Deni finds out a Zenth encryption stating, “The town is ready, come soon. — K”


The party discusses their next actions. While the village has been saved from the orcs, the villagers themselves remain missing, and in danger of having walked into a goblin-occupied cave.


In the keep, the guards somberly show them the body of the Lady Velrosa Nandar, who perished upon being hit by a boulder as she was helping the villagers evacuate.


Next up, the Dripping Caves!


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