ACT 1: The Investigation
Session 1: The Hopeknife Ceremony
It is a beautiful spring day in the northern town of Bolvirk, on 9th Rainfall, 692 G.R.. Everyone gathers in the town commons, a small outdoor amphitheater. They have come to celebrate a hopeknife ceremony of the beloved Chief Defender’s youngest daughter.
Agandar, the aged elven druid, spends the morning chatting, via hand signs, with Silvermane, another aged druid whom Agandar believes holds the secrets to restoring the Council of Thorns. This morning, Silvermane helps Agandar explore his dreams he has been having lately, something he feels is an important memory. However, his dream-like trance is interrupted by vision which he believes may be a premonition. He sees white swords wielded by an aged half-orc with empty white pupils. He then sees a hopeknife pointing the way forward. With the vision, Agandar decides to attend the hopeknife ceremony to see where this vision shall lead him. He calls to his devoted arctic fox, Ali, and they head towards the Commons.
Meanwhile, the Patrol Sergeant Arngeir, a typical Noradrie warrior, returns from a days-long patrol route and enters the Longhouse armory. A place he has been living for most of his life, in service to Bolvirk as a member of its militia. He meets with his brother, Svien, a one-armed quartermaster for the militia. Arngeir takes joy in the coming celebration at the Commons. Before the ceremony he heads over to the Sanctuary, a local church devoted to the Noradrie pantheon, to devote the rest of his afternoon to worship and helping the needy. Something he has done since he was a teenager.
Shortly after Arngeir left the Longhouse armory, a young half-elf named Esderal enters and drops off his equipment. He chats quickly with his patrol sergeant, Omast Frum. The young half-elf then heads home to his meager shack and assists his adopted father prepare illicit drugs to sell on the black market. His adopted father, Bhirn (a half-orc), tells him that he and his other father, Karguk (also a half-orc), intend to head to the hopeknife celebration that evening.
At the Ramblehouse, a sprawling tavern and inn, run by halflings, Duke Embercleave, an aged human professor of Runeology and the arcane arts, sits reading over his notes. The nobleman and his troublesome student, Kiltro, have been trying to study ancient Jotun runes in the ruins surrounding the area. However, he has had trouble finding more mercenaries to help him reach these ruins, which are often filled with bandits and monsters.
Kiltro then comes down to join Duke, despite his hangover from a long night of drinking. Kiltro is a young half-orc nobleman, who has been attending the Hopesdawn Academy of History and Art for nearly eight years. His only hope of graduating is if Duke approves of Kiltro’s progress on this expedition. However, the unmotivated half-orc seems more interested in spending time at the tavern than exploring ruins.
One table over, sits a mountains Noradrie human wearing numerous hides and furs. A closer inspection reveals the man, named Nyyrikki, to be a member of one the roving Dyrferd tribes of the far north. His body is covered in ritualistic tattoos and he seems to be mourning over a loss as he stares into his porridge.
The two noblemen and the wild barbarian are encouraged by Cham Larringfass, the halfling proprietor of the Ramblehouse to attend the hopeknife ceremony and celebration. The three of them agree and plan to do so.
Later that evening, at the Commons, a small amphitheater usually used for militia training, a large crowd of people gather. A short ceremony is performed where Chief Defender, Halgra Blackblades, presents her youngest daughter, Ruby, with her hopeknife. She says the words of the Standing Vow and presents the knife to Ruby, showing her how to use it should the worst happen.
After the formal ceremony, Rodrik Grath comes out. He is a charming man, well-known in Bolvirk both for his work as a Patrol Sergeant and his poetry and writings. He calls for a game of tug-of-war. He asks Ruby to choose anyone she wants from the large crowd to compete against members of the militia. She looks around the crowd, eventually picking a strange combination of characters: Arngeir, Nyyrikki, Esderal, Kiltro, Duke, and Agandar. The odd group grabs the rope with Ruby and faces off against some of the strongest members of the militia, including Rodrik and his brother Kurst. After a back and forth pull, Ruby’s group wins. Rodrik and Kurst head over to the winners and thank them for helping Ruby. He offers them to join them for a drink as the festivities erupt all over the Commons.
The characters gather together, chatting with Rodrik and Kurst for some time, and get to know each other. Duke and Kiltro try to arrange for Rodrik to allow them to join a patrol up into the mountains of Hethroth’s Hond to explore Jotun ruins. Nyyrikki tries to arrange to join the militia of Bolvirk, with Arngeir requesting the barbarian join his patrol unit. Esderal and Kiltro get along well, sharing stories of parties, drugs, and general good times. Agandar remains quiet, listening and laughing bemusedly at the conversations. Omast Frum, another patrol sergeant, joins them for some time as well. Eventually the party disperses and Rodrik invites everyone over to the Ramblehouse for more drinks. The gathering of people continue to celebrate well into the night, but Rodrik, Kurst, Agandar, Duke, Nyyrikki all turn in early. Arngeir keeps an eye on the party while the others get more rambunctious.
The next morning (10th Rainfall, 692 G.R.), Nyyrikki, Duke, and Kiltro awaken to the sound of screams, soon followed by militiamen charging past their rooms. Something horrible has happened. Soon, Arngeir and Esderal are tasked with checking out things at the Ramblehouse. They learn that Rodrik Grath may have committed suicide, his wrists slashed seemingly by his own hopeknife. They check Rodrik’s room, but find little out of place outside of the blood-soaked mattress. Arngeir then chats with Kurst Grath, who believes that Rodrik must have been murdered, he cannot imagine that Rodrik would commit suicide. He asks Arngeir and Esderal, and their new friends (Duke, Kiltro, Agandar, and Nyyrikki) to investigate the case and find evidence that a murder took place. Kurst points out three leads in the investigation: the Ramblehouse, the crime scene; Brinya Kelver, a half-orc weaver who was Rodrik’s secret lover; and Omast Frum, Rodrik’s closest confidant and friend.
The heroes chat with Cham Larringfass, proprietor of the Ramblehouse. They ask about the room Rodrik was staying. They eventually get Cham to show her ledger and admit that admitted a human man last night without giving a name. The ledge also show that numerous out-of-town half-orcs have been staying at the inn over the past couple weeks, but all checked out before Rodrik was found dead. The heroes then head to the Sanctuary and see Rodrik’s body. They speak briefly with Tyari Varvatos, the head priest of the church. The heroes then check out the cellar and the body of Rodrik. After some examination, it is clear that he died from blood loss and the wrist wounds. Duke and Agandar then checks the body closely and finds evidence of a strange substance, oil of taggit, a poison that causes unconsciousness. Esderal points out that Gorkis Meeson sells poisons to hunters in town.
The heroes head over to “That’n’Such” and chat with Jess and Gorkis Meeson. They learn that oil of taggit is very hard to create and the ingredients cannot be found anywhere near Bolvirk. They also talk about the graffiti that has been popping up all over town. The heroes then head up to the Longhouse, but on the way they see more signs of the graffiti that resembles “white swords”. They then find Omast Frum hanging from a tower in the Inner Quarter, desperately trying to scrub the graffiti off the tower. They chat with the patrol sergeant, who seems greatly affected by Rodrik’s death and is completely inebriated. Arngeir is able to climb up the wall and get a sample of the graffiti. They head back to Gorkis, who is able to determine that the graffiti is a mixture of a very strong adhesive with paints. It would require a powerful solvent to dissolve it.
The heroes reach the Longhouse, where Arngeir retrieves Rodrik’s hopeknife and discusses the graffiti with Kurst. Arngeir that speaks briefly with Jagrin who seems to have many regrets about arguing with Rodrik about his new fiance, Brinya. The heroes head over to speak with Brinya Kelver, but are stopped by Lessie Crumkin on the way, the priest and banker of the Hermaen Bank. The heroes then speak with Brinya, learning that Rodrik has been meeting with the blind half-orc, Katrezra at the Sanctuary, saying he was working on his “greatest work”, some sort of investigation. Brinya also confirms that the hopeknife found on Rodrik was not his, as the two lovers exchanged hopeknives when they got engaged. She says that the one Arngeir carries is not the one she grew up with.
By now, it is evening, and the heroes head back towards the Sanctuary and Ramblehouse. Suddenly, they are accosted by a trio of rabid wolves. Arngeir is nearly killed by the rabid beasts and many takes many bites from the creatures. However, the heroes are able to defeat them quickly. Agandar examines the wolves and finds they had been intentionally infected with rabies. The heroes ponder on these revelations as Agandar treats Arngeir’s wounds.
Session 2: The Mysterious Plague House
The heroes treat the wounds they received from the rabid dogs and decide to head back to their respective homes and sleep for the night. Agandar talks briefly with Silvermane, going over the various revelations of his vision with the old druid. The next morning (11th Rainfall, 692 G.R.) the heroes regroup at the Ramblehouse Inn for breakfast and decide that the aged half-orc named Katrezra seems to be next piece of the puzzle.
The heroes head over to the Sanctuary. Esderal has arrived there separately to seek treatment for his wolf bite, worried that he has been infected with rabies. The healer’s are able to provide some treatment and Esderal is expected to improve. The others look for the half-orc seer, named Katrezra, but find that he is missing from the Sanctuary. Tyari Varvatos, the head priestess of the temple, informs them that they found his bed empty the morning of Rodrik’s death. Agandar grows more suspicious of the half-orc after seeing him in his visions wielding the white swords that looked much like the graffiti on the walls. Arngeir recalls seeing Rodrik speak with Katrezra often in the past few weeks. Brantos Calderon, a champion of Forsoti at the Sanctuary, speaks kindly of Katrezra, noting him to be a staunch defender of Bolvirk and one to look out for other half-orcs in town.
The heroes then decide to head back to Ramblehouse to see if there are any more clues to be found. They first search the room of the unnamed visitor and find a secret false drawer. Inside is a strange letter addressed to someone named Melira.
The heroes then search the room where many strange out-of-town half-orcs had been staying. Duke is able to identify some marks of the same graffiti as found outside. This suggests that the half-orcs were responsible for the graffiti all over town. But the heroes are unsure why it was done. The heroes then check Rodrik’s room again, where Agandar discovers a small slip of paper between the bedpost and the wall. It seems to be a small receipt for a new hopeknife, commissioned by Rodrik.
The heroes realize that the hopeknife they found on Rodrik, as Brinya pointed out, was not his. The heroes decide to investigate this strange note and see why Rodrik had a new hopeknife commissioned. They head over to Morninghawk’s Fine Steel, known less formally as “Clamor”. They are greeted by Esderal’s father, Karguk Stolenhill. Eventually Sara comes out and speaks with them.
She is a mountainous half-orc/half-Dyrferd woman and seems to have no patience for the heroes’ questions. However, she does agree that Rodrik did commission the new hopeknife over a week ago and that she did the preliminary work on it before sending it off to an apprentice. Sara then goes to look for the knife, but finds it missing, blaming her former apprentice, Urnsul. She explains that Urnsul was new to town and she showed pity on her and gave her a job, but she was somewhat unreliable. Urnsul apparently quit and disappeared the day of Rodrik’s murder.
Agandar and Duke get a strange feeling about Sara’s behavior, as if she was hiding something. Nyyrikki sneaks back behind the smithy and sees a small storage room through a window. There is an out-of-place cot inside the room. When he returns, Esderal volunteers to check it out as the others make a distraction in the smithy. Esderal sneaks into the window and looks under the cot, where he finds the scared pale-white pupils of Katrezra.
Esderal sneaks out the window before Sara can see him. She then begins to argue with the heroes about sneaking about her place. However, Katrezra eventually comes out and invites them back to speak with him. The old half-orc explains how he and Rodrik became friends, at first speaking about Brinya, but eventually talking about Rodrik’s investigation and Katrezra’s visions.
The old man explains how Rodrik ran into a creature known as a flood troll near the Plague House and has been investigating it ever since. However, Katrezra had dangerous visions about the Plague House and warned Rodrik not to return. Eventually, Rodrik decided to head back, the day after Ruby’s hopeknife ceremony. He gave Katrezra his journal for safe keeping, not yet knowing what he was investigating or uncovering.
The journal explains how Rodrik lost the hopeknife given to him by Brinya and has been unable to find it, and thus commissioned a new one to replace it. He also speaks of something dangerous and wicked in the Plague House and how he intends to return.
After speaking with Katrezra, the heroes decide they must head to the Plague House themselves. However, Esderal heads back to the Sanctuary for continued treatment as the others have a meal and decide if they should wait until nightfall to head to the ruined structure. Arngeir relates the strange sightings of lights near the building at night. But that otherwise, mostly only children go there to scare each other, and teenagers head there to find privacy with loved ones.
Duke becomes quite adamant on searching the Plague House and demands the heroes follow him there. He marches off and the others follow. On their way out, they run into Arngeir’s girlfriend, a pretty merchant woman named Katla Jojurin. She tells Arngeir that her father is returning to town soon, from Aelgard, and that she wants them to spend time together. Arngeir reluctantly agrees and they say their farewell.
The heroes then climb through the rocky, wild hillsides outside of Bolvirk. As they come around a rocky, bush-covered bend. A crazed grizzly bear rushes out of the underbrush and grabs Duke, thrashing him to the ground. Agandar notes that the beast is rabid and wild. The heroes surround the bear and eventually slay the beast as it runs. They take many wounds and some are nearly killed by the wild beast.
The heroes then patch up their wounds and continue to the Plague House. They find the ruined structure, half-burnt and crumbling. Kiltro finds the remnants of a fire in a pit, and Duke determines that alchemical coal was used to make the fire burn a blue light.
The heroes then proceed into the ruined church itself, heading into the old healer’s ward, which is filled with rows of cast-iron beds, blackened and covered in the soot of the fire that claimed the building. As the heroes enter the chamber, they then see ghostly forms appear in the empty beds and scream in pain as they are seemingly burned alive by spectral flames. This powerful haunt nearly fells the heroes as their minds burn with the pain of fictional flames. Only Kiltro seems to retain himself and is able to heal some of the others and pull them out. The heroes treat their wounds and try to deal with the trauma of what they had just witnessed.
The heroes decide to head to a nearby hilltop and camp, in order to watch for signs of a fire near the Plague House. They rest all evening until late in the night. They then notice a blue fire down by the Plague House. The heroes then rush down to see who has come, but only get the faintest outline of a human-sized figure running away into the hills. They are unable to follow its tracks.
The heroes then return to the Plague House where Arngeir enters again, finding some graffiti sprawled on the large boulder on which the building leans. He calls for Duke to check it out and Duke reads the word “Skreed” written in Hashkan, the language of the gray orcs, upon the wall. They are not sure what this means. Duke then senses danger and pulls Arngeir out of the chamber as a giant spider crawls towards them. The heroes decide to return to Bolvirk and get some proper rest.
Late that night (12th Rainfall, 692 G.R.), as each of the sleep peacefully in their beds, assassins strike at them. The heroes awaken as daggers strike at them through their bedsheets. The heroes all rise up and fight back, narrowingly felling the attackers. Nyyrikki fells his assailant, as Kiltro and Duke are able to knock their assailants unconscious. Esderal stabs his assailant and kills him. Agandar is able to knock out his attacker in the woods near the Hopespring, and Arngeir knocks out his in the Longhouse. It is unclear why the heroes were targeted, but surely their attackers do not like where their investigation is leading them…
Session 3: Return to the Plague House
The heroes stand among the fallen assassins, perplexed on who would want them killed. It seems that whatever Rodrik was investigating, there was dire consequences and now the heroes are involved. The heroes are lucky that they have not fallen to the same fate as Rodrik himself. They each managed to fend off the assassins and fell them.
At the Longhouse, Arngeir calls for help and Kurst and a few militiamen help him tie up the assassin that attacked him and lock him in the town’s jail. Arngeir learns that the Rambehouse had some attacks as well and he rushes off to assist. On the way there, he comes across Esderal, finding that he too was attacked. Arngeir sends Esderal to check on the Ramblehouse as he heads over to the Hopespring grove to see if Agandar has been attacked. Sure enough, the druid has knocked out an attacker and the two of them bring the would-be assassin to the jail.
Arngeir and Agandar then head over to the Ramblehouse where they find the other heroes and numerous visitors standing outside in the cold morning as guards lift out the unconscious and dead bodies of the assassins. Duke speaks with Arngeir, reiterting his belief that these attackers were from Westgate (Vestdyrr in the Noradrie tongue). Arngeir takes one of the unconscious attackers into one of the inn rooms and revives him to interrogate him. The attacker seems to know very little. Saying that he was hired in Westgate a few weeks ago and only knows that the man who hired him was a half-orc with numerous facial tatoos on his face.
Nyyrikki and Esderal volunteer to take the other unconscious attacker to the Longhouse and jail, however, they stop off on a secluded spot for a moment. They awaken and interrogate the assassin but learn little more than Arngeir found out. However, the attacker does admit that they were only assigned the night before to attempt to kill the six heroes.
The heroes all regroup at the Longhouse and decide to talk to Ulger and Engrad, two guards who had been on gate duty recently. They do not recall seeing any half-orcs with facial tattoos. They mentioned that there was a group of out-of-town half-orcs who were staying in a rented house in the inner quarter. He recalls one of their names to be Tidfry. The heroes head over to this house and find a nervous human man that greets them. The heroes convince the man to let them search the house, but they find nothing more than some freshly procured drugs. The man, named Horik, mentions that his half-orcs friends from Jarnby had been visiting but have all left a couple days ago. He says that he too is from Jarnby and is looking at trade prospects in town.
The heroes then head over to the Killin’ Ground tavern, but at this early hour they find the place deserted. Esderal decides to check out the back storage room of the place, but is caught by the proprietor, Rabus Clarenston. The heroes chat with the half-drunken barkeep and learn that he hasn’t seen any half-orcs with facial tattoos. Realizing there is little other clues to go on, the heroes decide to head back to the Plague House.
After hiking through the rocky hills outside of Bolvirk, the heroes reach the burned and broken building. They climb up the broken steps and enter the dark and dusty chambers. They first explore a door to the north that leads to a small hall and side chamber. They find a ruined room where the outer wall has mostly crumbled and caved in. The heroes are then accosted by a pack of giant centipedes that have made their home in the debris. The heroes make quick work of the creatures and explore the ruined piles. Duke finds a fine composite shortbow among the rocks.
Esderal finds a small secret door to the side that leads under a stairwell. Arngeir bravely explores and comes across a giant spider that leaps at him. Esderal quickly flicks out his rapier and impales the spider before it lands on Arngeir. Arngeir looks among the debris under the stairs and finds a mysterious elixir and a greatsword once wielded by a Forsoti knight. Nyyrikki takes the sword.
The heroes then explore the upper loft finding the aged wood still holds the area aloft, though the roof is long gone. They find a lone statue to Dagda the Rider, Noradrie goddess of hope, horses, the moon, and guardians. Arngeir prays to Dagda and receives a blessing of courage. He then finds a small medallion that depicts Dagda upon a horse. It is a magical wayfinder, a compass and light source.
The heroes then explore the main hall of the ruined building. The spiders they had fled from previous reemerge and a grand battle ensues. Many of the heroes are stricken by spider bites and succumb to the powerful poisons, but in the end the heroes persevere and defeat the beasts. They patch up their wounds and treat the poisons before looking around. Esderal finds an abandoned hopeknife, it has an inscription that reads, “For Rodrik, my love.” This was clearly Rodrik’s missing hopeknife. Nyyrikki finds a carving into the wooden support beam, it reads “R + B” with a heart around it. Duke then finds a secret compartment in the bookshelf with a number of lost church relics inside. He finds two magical scrolls, two magical potions, and a moonstone gem.
Arngeir then heads into the haunted altar-chamber where the rows of cast-iron beds lie. He falls to his knees and immediately prays for passage from the Noradrie gods. Everyone then sees the ghostly images appear on the beds again, however, their faces show momentary contentment and the ghosts disappear. Esderal, Arngeir, and Agandar explore the chamber and find an elixir, a lost heart locket, and some coins.
Arngeir and Esderal then jointly open the southern iron doors, finding a stairwell that heads down into the basement of the building. There is also a large steel lockbox. The heroes wade into the room, but are then accosted by a pack of feral giant rats. The heroes make short work of the rats. Esderal then tries to unlock the lockbox, but has little luck. Arngeir tries to break the lock, but only jams it stuck. Nyyrikki then bear hugs the chest and rips it open. Numerous metallic items clatter out onto the floor. The heroes find the peices of half-plate armor and a finely made Dwarven battleaxe, composed of Kalavarian steel. Arngeir takes the axe and they leave the armor to grab later.
The heroes decide to take a break and tend to the many scratches and bites they have received fighting off the building’s vermin. They head outside and rest for a couple hours out by the firepit and enjoy a lunch. The heroes then head back inside and down the basement stairs. The heroes find a dust-covered statue of Forsoti in the corner of the basement chamber. Duke and Arngeir brush off the dust and find that the fine statue of Forsoti bears a real, fine-looking greatsword. Duke identifies the item as a magical sword of a Forsoti knight, once known as Honorbound. Nyyrikki takes the magical blade, eager to use it in battle.