Having successfully escaped from the city of Hillsfar, after having received Rudolfo’s abdication paperwork, we made our way back across the sea, headed for Phlan. With the ship packed bow to stern with people, it is very difficult to find a moment alone. When the need arises I practice my few spells, particularly the spell I learned that alters my appearance. Nothing dramatic, just subtle differences to enhance my visiulization and control.
As we head towards Phlan, it becomes apparent that some of the folks are indeed diseased with whatever was going around in the city. It is also apparent that I have contracted this infection as well. Seeing as how we don’t want to bring this infection into Phlan, there is a suggestion that we head to the deserted isle in the bay. Nat has been there before and died there and came back. Heading for the island, we make landfall and offload the folks that we gathered. Scouting around the island, there are remains of orcs and other creatures, but the island and the fort here have been picked clean over the years.
With what scrub can be gathered, since folks need to be fed, one of our crew begins boiling the orc to at least provide sustenance. I mean it’s not really cannibalism, they’re not human, right. Later we discover some boats and head out to the windward side of the island away from the pollution flowing into the bay and start catching fish. [Whose name I don’t remember], begins casting some explosive magical forces into the water and bringing up dead fish, which I help gather up. Fish is definitely going to be better than boiled orc.
We spend the next several days on the island, and I continue my daily practice with the disguise spell, augmenting with additional subtle changes from my kit. I subject myself to the healer to rid myself of the disease that has tried to take hold of me. He does an admiral job, even if he has some strange ideas about how to rid ourselves of it including this strange idea about bathing in the sea and this harsh material he calls soap. It’s a little odd and so is he, but what can you do. I time my practice to coincide with these activities. Finally after 5 days, the healer decides we are ready and we gather up all the folks back to the boat and head across the bay to make port and collect our earnings for bringing back new recruits. Pulling up to the dock, the harbor master appears in awe of the volume of folks that have been brought back and healthy to boot. I forgot, I’m not collecting any reward. The price of ensuring that I am not carrying that nasty disease…Sigh.
Arriving back at the Bitter Blade, we discover a wake/funeral/reception in progress as Rudolfo and Marcos’ father has passed away. There is lots of wailing and wringing of hands. Women. Of course I have no room to talk. Mel is a bit young and her sense of comforting is still developing. A bit like a bull in a bedroom. Marcos notes that we have returned and smoothly makes his way over to us. He definitely moves with a cat like grace through the room. Reaching the door to his father’s quarters, he quickly slips out for a quick conversation with us. We agree to meet in an hour down in the common room. Making our way back downstairs we find a nice corner table and order a round of food and drink.
Later, Marcos joins us. “Sorry to hear about your father.” I find myself saying. “I hope it was a quick end for him?”. “It was.” he replies. Interesting to note what he left unsaid that there is a suspicion that perhaps he helped the process along. Things to consider. “We found your brother in Hillsfar. He has no interest in the council seat here in Phlan.” “And you have proof of that?” he inquires. “We do.” and I produce the duly completed and witnessed document. He looks pleased. He hands over the deed paperwork and after a meaningful look from the party, the agreed upon cash payment amount. I review the documentation he has provided. Interestingly on the map he has noted that there is a secret back entrance to the estate, one Cryptkeep by name. There are several acres involved and as such we have effectively moved into the roles of minor nobility here in Phlan. A definite move up from my farmer’s origins, but looking at the documentation, there is still farming and cultivating involved. Perhaps if things go our way, we can get someone else to do it. I’d really rather not go back to doing that kind of work.
Gathering supplies for our trek to Cryptkeep, we head out the Slum Gate and as it is approaching evening make our way through the streets and head for the Whispering Forest headed towards Cryptkeep. As we are careful, we don’t encounter any oppostiion to our movements. Several hours later we reach our destination. We pause to take in the sight of the keep, and it becomes clear that there are currently inhabitants in the keep. Probably some sort of monster group. We make the decision to avoid the keep and head around it to the graveyard and the marker for the secret entrance. Arriving at the graveyard and in the rough vicinity of the secret entrance we discover two like locations for the entrance. One is a large mausoleum, the other a marker to Mystra, god of magic. Mel begins attacking the door as it is banded with silver and apparently she has some acquisiitve instincts. The door is unlocked and with a good shove, it opens. In one corner of the crypt, there is a dead body. Our resident physician moves over to take a look at it and while kneeling down, out from the sarcaphogus contained within the maustoleum, jumps another creature that attempts to run him through. Quickly mobilizing, the folks with bows handy fire into the creature, while I step up and wade into one on one combat with the creature. We handily take it out and ensure that the physician is taken care of and back on his feet. In the interim our anonymous masked friend has discovered that the shrine to Mystra houses the secret entrace to the keep.
After a few moments of fooling with the mechanism, it is determined that it is possible to open the covering from both the inside and outside, and now it is time to see what lies ahead. We descend the ladder some 50ft down with light spells and torches lit. Proceeding some distance down the corridor, with supports set every 10 feet or so, we come to a stone wall. Extinquishing the lights on our side, we see a faint outline of a door in the wall. The physician sends his familiar through the door, under the door? I don’t know exactly since whatever it is seems to be to small for the eye to see. It reports a hairy humanoid creature and an ape with pits in between the door and their location. It is decided that a ranged attack option is preferrable. Setting out our weapons, we prep for door opening and firing at the creatures as soon as they are visible.
The attack goes pretty much as planned other than the gorilla creature is much more difficult to take down and it lets out a couple of loud bellows before succumbing to it’s injuries. Moving across the pit on the planks that are available we reset and look for the door up. Heading up a set of stairs we hear more creatures moving around. We begin a stealth campaign to take out the creatures, that we have identiifed has hobgoblins that have taken over the keep. We acquire a hanger-on in the form of a very undersized hobgoblin that has no desire to die, but rather would see the rest of his troop taken out, as apparently they treat him worse than pond scum. We begin taking the interior of the castle, starting in the dining room. Opening the troop leaders room door, we again employee speed tactics, taking out the leader with a round of arrows and a quick follow up sword stroke. Making a note of his face and body, for future reference, we search the room and discover he has a few better weapons and some notes about a reinforcement troop arrrving in a month’s time. Our new hanger-on, leads us through the interior of the keep and the forbidden doors, which after a nearly fatal bought with a couple of more hobgoblins, we find some lost treasures of the keep. A dandy new sword, a wand and a scroll of spells for me.
This place is going to need some cleanup before it’s truly habitable again. The sword provides some interesting abilties and looking deeply into the blade there is a dwarf’s reflection that appears in the metal of the blade. Our hobgoblin guide, leads us up and we come out near one of the walls where we spot the wall guards that we saw earlier from the outside. The sword, giving me some interesting abilities, allows me to speak hobgoblin. Disguising myself as the troop leader I call out to the guards on the wall that they are to come down and be replaced by two other guards. Apparently this isn’t an uncommon occurence. The ambush that we set, didn’t let them last long. So far so good. The only remaining group was the barracks crew. Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry. Using our hobgoblin lackey, and maintaining my disguise, we call three of them out to take up wall guard duty. Then it all falls apart. The remaining eight that are sleeping are abruptly awoken when our ambush doesn’t take the three we called out immediately. Rushing in, I take the new sword I acquired and it’s capabilites and begin to go through the still waking hobgoblin crew like a hot knife through cream. In a whirlwind of attacks, I take out one and instead of a dead hobgoblin there is a dead dwarf on the floor. No time for comptemplaiting the result, have to keep moving. By the time I am done, most of the creatures are either dead or wounded and we mop up. We have retaken the keep!
After cleaning and residual wounds and dragging the bodies outside, we ensure the walls are secure and try to catch some sleep until the morrow, when we will begin our next steps.