The as-yet unnamed party:
Arxire Coilbone, tiefling warlock (Rory)
Beezmo, halfling druid (Michael D.)
-Dres, his mastiff
Erdon Thistleborn, elf cleric (Michael G.)
Gogh, half-elf rogue (Brian)
-Esh, his donkey
Mathis, human monk (Zach)
Misty, elf paladin (Allie)
Naivara, elf druid (Janine)
Kiko, Naivara’s ferret
Lichen, drow warlock
Tyriel Morlane, half-elf ranger
After their disastrous foray into a shunned cavern deep in Blackstar Canyon, our heroes broke camp, administered what little healing they had left, and prepared to stagger back to Fairbanks to resupply. But just before they left the ogre cave, they noticed a strange little figure standing at the back door. He was shorter than a dwarf and not as stout. With his crude armor and fearsome visage, one might mistake him for a goblin, but his features were more familiar, his skin less green.
Could it be a halfling? Could this be a cannibalistic barbarian of the Feathered Horde from the southern steppe? Indeed it was, and this one’s name was Beezmo. After some briefly alluded to tragedy and subsequent druidic vision, he had wandered up from the Charging Steppe with his loyal companion Drex the mastiff to seek aid—or perhaps to offer it. It wasn’t especially clear, and the barbarian was no wordsmith. But it was clear that he wanted to go into town for some reason, although Cavalcastians’ hatred of his people might make that difficult.
The party was intrigued by the bold-tongued druid, so they agreed to allow him to accompany them, provided he didn’t cause any trouble. Arxire delved into his kit and produced a passable dwarf disguise for the halfling, complete with a tremendous 6-braids-into-one-braid yellow beard, and they set off for Fairbanks.
It was late afternoon when they arrived, and they drew a great deal of attention as they made their way toward the Temple of Life: some villagers shook their heads sadly upon noticing that the drow prostitute and the half-elf ranger were no longer among them; some stared curiously at the additions of the well-dressed foreign dignitary, the skinny, yellow-bearded dwarf, and the giant dog; most were simply surprised to see them back from Blackstar Canyon at all.
At the temple, Sister Marla expressed her condolences at the loss of their companions, although it was clear that she was not overly fond of the drow prostitute. Since Erdon was himself a priest of Life, the party received her blessing and healing for free—and she even gifted them with several healing potions. She told Erdon that her nightmares about being trapped in a maze with the sound of cloven hooves behind her had not abated, and that her premonitions about some dark force rising in the canyon were torturing her. They again assured her that they would do all they could to help, and then they excused themselves to go on a number of very different, very educational, and in some cases, highly morally questionable errands.
Having learned from Marla and a shady elven herbalist that the town’s relationship with the nearby elf tribe had long been tainted by mutual suspicion and prejudice, the elf druid Naivara departed to visit them. She was greeted with caution by the elven guards and though she lacked knowledge of the local flora, her ability to make a flower spring forth from a seed impressed them mightily, and they announced her presence to the tribe’s rulers: a trio of elder female elves. They told Naivara that a plague was killing plantlife, and the epicenter was Blackstar Canyon. They could not tell here the cause, but they offered her a magical charm that would allow her to speak with trees, in the hopes that she might discover a cure. She thanked them and agreed to stay with them in their treetop village that night.
Back in town, Gogh and Arxire were planning a bit of skullduggery in the Winking Serpent. Convinced that the mayor had secrets worth discovering, the two decided that Arxire, whom the mayor had never met, would present himself to the mayor as the trade emissary of a foreign lord, keeping his lordship occupied in the Golden Stein while Gogh broke into his office in the town hall. When Arxire asked about including some of their more scrupulous comrades in the scheme, Gogh replied “I trust them to do the right things. I don’t trust them to do the wrong things.” And so they set off to do some wrong things.
Beezmo, who was busy getting drunk and teaching bawdy drinking songs to the locals, barely noticed their departure. His disguise appeared to be working well enough, and he lacked no confidence when introducing himself as Beezmo Hammerbeer the dwarf. He even boasted that if he soaked his massive woven beard in enough beer, he’d been known to swing it like a warhammer from his chin. After he was good and drunk, Beezmo decided to go visit this weird seer he kept hearing about, though he was told to mind his manners and watch out for scorpion-tailed cats.
Erdon, himself an alcoholic, approached the Winking Serpent’s sharp-tongued barwench Demma Kickbride to share the sad news about the death of Lichen. It appeared that the field in which Demma grew her fucks lay barren. She was, however, very sad to hear that they hadn’t yet recovered the bottle opener that her nephew had taken to the canyon some weeks ago. Erdon then paid a visit to the shifty-looking elf herbalist in the corner of the bar, who was a bit more sorrowful about the loss of Lichen, if only because that meant the loss of his drug distributor. The elf went on to say that he’d had a deeply disturbing encounter with a black-robed figure near Blackstar Canyon. The figure had floated in the air and asked the elf to “come see the colors” with him.
As expected, Lord Mayor Mustafa Whitebeard was holding forth in the Golden Stein when Arxire arrived, dressed in his nobleman’s clothes, armed with several expertly forged documents authorizing him to treat with important mayors and merchants on behalf of his patron Lord Adibudi Perotsiyan. The supremely self-important mayor was supremely pleased to meet him, and he then became supremely drunk on Arxire’s potent homemade spirits. Amongst the boasts and manufactured tales of glory, the mayor let slip various interesting bits of information, and Arxire succeeded in securing an appointment with him the following morning, as well as in distracting him while his friend broke into his office.
A few doors down, Gogh had no trouble scrambling up the facade of the town hall and through and open window. In the main council chamber, Gogh pocked twelve exquisite silver statues—all in the shape of merchant ships. He moved onto the mayors office, but the lock proved too complicated for his picks. It was no match for his brute strength, however, and he sent the entire lock flying out of the door with a forceful wedge of his dagger. The broken lock clanked loudly on the stone floor, and guards from outside came running.
But Gogh was already gone. Out the window, down the wall, and into a dark alley he went. The guards were causing quite a commotion, so he decided to ditch the twelve silver ships in the alley before making his way carefully back to the Winking Serpent, though none of his comrades were there.
Mathis had decided to pay another visit to the archives beneath the Temple of Life, where he discovered a great deal more about the mysterious Jampor who’d been coming down from the far north of late. He learned that this race rarely speaks aloud, for they believe words have great power and should not be expended idly. He even managed to unearth a dusty scroll that contained five characters in the Jampor’in script—symbols which were imbued with raw, mysterious power.
It was late that night by the time Beezmo found his way to the lonely hilltop shrine of Carlin the Seer. Carlin called himself the Shepherd of Answers, and the two engaged in a battle of wits. Beezmo lost the first round of riddles and was forced to give the seer a drop of his blood. He lost the second round as well, and was forced to tell the seer a deep secret that no one else knew. Beezmo won the third round, and Carlin confirmed for him that the dreaded artifact known as the Eye of Gruumsh was the source of the evil in Blackstar Canyon, and that a cult of another god had recently taken up residence there in the hopes of unearthing it. On the fourth and final round, Beezmo unleashed a mindblowing riddle that so pleased the mystic that he offered the halfling a pull from his bag of charms, an answer about the nature of a trinket he carried (“That lump of coal is nothing less than your soul.”), and a glimpse at his future (“One day you’ll meet a sculptor in a castle. Give him your soul and he’ll make you a god.”). Beezmo took his leave, very cautiously, and made his way back down the hill on a path lined with an army of scorpion-tailed cats.
It was dawn back in town, and Fairbanks was in an uproar. Mayor Whitebeard had every available town guard shaking down patrons of the Winking Serpent and scouring town for the burglar and his beloved silver ships. Gogh was getting wary of the heat, so he slipped out, snuck near the town hall, and with a sly flourish deposited a goblin armband he’d recovered from the canyon near the scene of the crime. It wasn’t long before a town guard found it and went running to the mayor with this valuable piece of evidence.
After a few minutes, Gogh recruited Beezmo and Drex, and visited the mayor, offering him his solemn pledge that with the help of the diviner Beezmo Hammerbeer, he would find the ships and punish those responsible. Then, with Beezmo standing guard, Gogh snuck back into the alley, recovered the ships, and returned triumphantly to the mayor. Mayor Whitebeard was overjoyed, as the ships were a Whitebeard tradition going back more than 1000 years. He immediately proclaimed Gogh, Beezmo, and Drex to be Heroes of Fairbanks and offered them silver broaches to signify their new standing. Furthermore, in light of new evidence, the mayor offered them a handsome reward for every set of goblin ears they brought him.
But then it was time for the mayor’s meeting with the newly arrived foreign dignitary. He ushered Arxire into his office and gave him a braggart’s tour of the decor and artifacts therein. Then they got down to business, hammering out the details of a new a prosperous trade agreement between Mayor Whitebeard and Lord Adibudi from a fictional land that the mayor was too cocksure to admit never having heard of. Sensing faint magic coming from a set a goblets nearby, Arxire suggested the two seal their contract with a drink, so the mayor hustled off to retrieve a bottle of his finest local wine. Arxire wasted no time in rifling though the mayor’s desk, where committed the mayor’s signature to memory for future forging and discovered several extortionary letters from an unnamed cult residing in Blackstar Canyon. Then he examined the goblets, noticing that on the bottom of one of them was a small etching of a mouth, while the rest had etchings of ears.
When the mayor returned, Arxire noted that the mayor took the mouth cup for himself, giving one of the ear cups to Arxire. The warlock suggested that they follow his country’s tradition and trade cups for the first drink, but the mayor refused politely, saying that while in Cavalcast, they will follow Cavalcastian traditions. Arxire then attempted to intimidate the mayor into complying, but he’d pushed his luck to far. The mayor became incensed, yelling loudly for the guards and having Arxire thrown out on his ass. He was bellowing about having him locked up, so Arxire decided to beat a hasty retreat.
The previous night had led them each on wildly different paths, but the morning found the companions together once more at the Leaving Tree, armed with new knowledge, fresh supplies, and renewed determination as they set of for their second assault on Blackstar Canyon.