The Chapters and Cast of the Ballad
Red Larch welcomed the return;
Of the travelers and their bounties;
With fresh news to learn;
At the spells of the Howling Hatred’s pet;
Harburk found his strength necessary to lend;
Against the part-time flyer’s magical threat.
With new charges of murder upon his head;
From which he might soon be bereft;
As a hanging was soon planned to leave him dead.
For Waterdeep or Yartar to take their trial;
But the impromptu jail was now bursting;
And the locals feared they might show guile.
The morning next seeing a twenty-mile trek;
For Tricklerock Cave was next of their delves;
For villains and treasure they planned to check.
The trip was calm and uneventful;
Arriving at the cave high and narrow;
A small stream trickling in manner contenful;
Into the bog wide and below.
The locksmith was still sleeping as they stopped;
A matter which the monk swiftly addressed;
With a prod of her spear the locksmith dropped;
And then out of the mud he quickly rolled.
Footprints in numbers decorated the mud;
Going in and out of the humid rocks;
They were walking within as a small human flood;
But leaving with speed like mice before hawks.
Cautiously the paladin took the lead;
Passing through the narrow gap;
A cavern from which the stream did feed;
Opened up before them its broad lap.
The party’s keen ears did catch a sound;
Of fluttering wings holding above;
Stirges dropping from the stalactites around;
Swooping down each like an evil dove.
Lohn drew forth his short sword;
Wary of being vulnerable against the foe;
He stepped back away from the horde;
And waited for them to come low.
The first edges of the swarm reached the party;
Three harassing the half-elven paladin;
As one other found the monk more hearty;
And a fifth sought blood of tiefling within.
Dodging aside of the blood-seeking pest;
Marle whipped across to another swarm;
Her voice raged through the cave with zest;
And erupted four beasts with a sonic storm.
Talindra held off two of her harassers vile;
And with her sword detached the third;
Then Fennle advanced in her own style;
Such that her speed left her form blurred.
A survivor from the teifling’s power chords;
Buzzed through the air and around her back;
To the bard’s back it aimed towards;
Between the fiendish wings for a snack.
Elivia brandished her blood-drinking wand;
And engaging one of its only features;
Three bolts struck where the enemy spawned;
Destroying all three bloodthirsty creatures.
Another two stirges sought out to sup;
Upon the blood of disciplined vows;
From this grotesque and bodily cup;
The horrible beast did well carouse.
The man from Two-Seventy-One sought to aid;
But his agile enemy he could not strike true;
The insectile thing darted about his blade;
And stuck the locksmith to drain him blue.
The tiefling fell back toward the stone;
Hoping to crush the creature on her spine;
But quickly the agile thing had flown;
And hovered above looking just fine.
One of the swarm drinking her life;
But the beast had well-chosen its way;
Attempting to aid the assaulted bard;
Fennle danced aside with her own stirge;
And sought to use one to strike another hard;
But one beast did escape this surge.
Elivia then brought her swish and flick;
To send three more bolts of directed death;
Ending the battle without so much as a lick;
And then all could catch their breath.
The cave within showed no treasure;
And the only people had been bled dry;
Discoveries which brought them no pleasure;
It seemed clear that this stake was a lie.
Rest the band did take within the cave;
Now clear of dangers and secure within;
On her watch the cleric a warning gave;
To the party of an Uthgardt din.
Tribal warriors of the Elk Clan;
Seeking out homesteads to raid;
Passed below and the party began;
To shadow the warriors in night’s shade.
The tiefling took to the darkened air;
As Fennle and Lohn stalked near;
With Elivia and Talindra at a distance fair;
They listened for anything to fear.
When heard they of the Elk’s bloody thoughts;
A pre-emptive assault was quickly sought;
An ambush to tie these raiders into knots;
And end this threat and simple plot.
The battle was begun with a blast from on high;
Laying low the bulk of the Uthgardt killers;
As Marle appeared out of the dark sky;
Rapier and dagger ready to be bloody fillers.
The berserker lead found himself growing an arrow;
As the guild-man of Two-Seventy loosed his dart;
The Elk’s lead of brutal health grew more narrow;
As the monk demonstrated for him her art.
The paladin charged forward stepping over the fallen;
As they struggled to rise after the bard’s crescendo;
Her swinging blade leaving the brute smitten;
He survived her holy power but still it brought him low.
Mystra’s chosen stepped in right then;
And wielded her prize from Lance Rock;
Three bolts of magical force each like a pin;
Striking the target in a painful flock.
Lohn’s line on the berserker was risky;
So instead he took aim at something lesser;
His bow string was plucked again;
And struck low one weak aggressor.
No initiative did the ambushed berserker gain;
Fennle struck first in a swift flurry of strife;
The monk’s dragon spear whipped through a vein;
And came just short of taking his life.
The paladin’s blade finished with a clatter;
Parting the brute’s head from body;
Leaving his mind with no matter;
With a motion simple and certainly not gaudy.
In outcry and wrath, a warrior stood;
Stabbing his spear into Fennle’s side;
A vicious grin spread under his hood;
As his clanmates likewise all cried.
Two more struck out at Talindra’s form;
But her shield held true and fast;
No spear tip found its way like a worm;
Through chain links nothing passed.
Marle danced in, now on the ground;
Her rapier was deflected by one spear;
But for the dagger a throat was found;
And another warrior forgot all fear.
Another warrior tried to strike a mortal blow;
Aiming for the beleaguered monk;
But failed land anything much less strike her low;
He had not time to have a funk.
For Elivia once again served;
As the party’s artillery corps;
And three magical darts swerved;
Bringing to an end the Elks’ roar.
The party returned back to their camp;
To continue their recovery before lighting out;
Beyond the Tricklerock Cave’s eternal damp;
One more rumor they had to rout.
A skull nailed to a tree by a black barb;
With little clue beyond a black parchment;
Wrapped about the shaft as garb;
No one knew what exactly it meant.
The note simply read in three lines;
“The Last Laugh” as a probable title;
“You’ll be next!” Valklondar signs;
It really didn’t seem all that vital.
The cleric’s ritual found that on which she remarked;
That necromancy was found upon the arrow;
With a weak enchantment it was marked;
Though could she say if was vulture or sparrow.
The mark had passed on to Marle;
Who had already plucked it from the tree;
And the tiefling found it a bit of a snarl;
In a moment of pique she cast the arrow free.
It ill-fit the tiefling’s crossbow;
And flew not far but clattered down;
Into a gorge far below;
To what end? Possibilities abound.
Back to town the party traveled;
Suspicions to track and bounties to earn;
A new gallows showed where life unraveled;
For bandits who would gold no more yearn.
A thought of beds and ale was interrupted;
When the earth shook and bent;
Then playing children by a sinkhole were swallowed;
To their company a frantic parent was lent.
Lohn immediately called on people to fall back;
Rope was sought as worried parents called out;
Some of the town elders seemed to lack;
Appropriate surprise when they did shout.
As others rigged ropes Elivia paid heed;
To these suspicious elders fading away;
One of whom had sent them, stirges to feed;
To Tricklerock Cave rather than in town to stay.
Marle hesitated to fly down below;
Fearful of exposing her demonic appearance;
Even to rescue children from the hole;
She helped rig ropes and keep clearance.
Fennle showed her acrobatic talent;
And took the rope to leap down;
Thirty feet below she was sent;
Where children and a mother were coated brown.
She found a wide cavern and more besides;
A stone door and another passage;
Lay below the town, a danger that hides;
The monk was quick to relay the message.
The rescue of bystanders moved with speed;
But the elders had already stepped out of view;
The party argued that Harburk their word should heed;
Supported by suspicion which in his wife did accrue.
Once the constable agreed to watch for interference;
Fennle set to guard and wait for the group;
They quickly passed through the quarry’s fence;
And through a tunnel to reunite the troupe.
Lohn investigated the door closely;
Seeking for traps, secrets and the like;
It was Dwarven work he decided quickly;
But armed with not even one little spike;
Opening the door the found a tiled path;
Leading forward to a place where there stood;
Two stone dwarves promised wrath;
With axe in hand but in truth all was good.
The stone dwarves were each merely a door;
They easily opened out to two halls hewn;
The main corridor had an altered floor;
For now the party decided on paths to prune.
The south door led only to an ancient latrine;
But heading north they found a cache of gore;
Three bodies murdered and left to turn green;
And a small host of rats into this meat tore.
Short-lived was the resultant scuffle;
As were the rats against the five heroes;
Though one of them tasted a bit of a truffle;
Flavored with Fennle and maybe a rose.
Investigating the corpses found something curious;
A triangular marked carved deep into their skull;
Scratched by a blade wielded by someone furious;
An action taken with a clear aim to cull.
Onward they found another strange sight;
A massive stone floating within mid-air;
The secret of this enchantment came to light;
After Elivia called on Mystra with a simple prayer.
The room had a very basic reason;
Merely to lift objects within a column;
A craftsman’s tool from ancient season;
To aid in a sculptor’s work solemn.
With nothing else in the sculptor’s room;
The party moved out the far egress;
The passage turned south away from gloom;
At the next door Lohn listened with success.
Two stood beyond, holding their breaths;
Waiting for intruders in ambush;
Quite clearly planning the heroes’ death;
But now revealed and set up for a push.
Talindra slammed the door outward;
Slamming one thug off his feet;
While her shield slammed the other backward;
The party flowed in after this feat.
Lohn and Elivia hemmed in the one prone;
Applying short sword and bludgeon to stone plate;
Fennle set to make sure Talindra was not alone;
While Marle’s crossbow chose a foe first rate.
The stone-armored warriors responded swiftly;
Each taking a strike against one of the party;
Though the heroes evaded most nimbly;
And they responded with blows most hearty.
Fennle danced up the form of her foe;
Her spear nicking on a plate of solid rock
But smashing his joints with solid blow;
And Talindra’s blade delivered a tight shock.
Elivia and Lohn continued to address;
The remaining Black Earth Guard;
When Marle stepped forward to add her press;
And the locksmith unlocked death’s shard.
With the battle done and the cultists slain;
The heroes looked about to find a small hoard;
Where a dagger named Reszur had been lain;
About an old petrified dwarf held tight by board.
Cutting back towards the first path;
The heroes found a half-orc and a child;
The half-orc was confused and feared wrath;
Demanded they walk out single filed.
The boy they found restrained by heavy stones;
In punishment for a failed message to deliver;
They quickly set to heed his pitiful groans;
And set right the exposure that made him shiver.
The half-orc, Grund, was clearly unaware;
Of what exactly his masters’ plans were;
And the party quickly guided him to care;
For the young child and not to stir.
Between the half-orc and the child Braelan;
The party learned of the secret Believers;
Who had found these caves in some span;
And came to worship those they called Delvers.
A Tomb of Moving Rocks they appealed;
Seeking knowledge within its mystery;
And a new priest had come to field;
Their questions and decipher the stones’ history.
Three doors beyond;
Two already seen;
The party passed on;
Their blades keen.
Before the last door they found old Baragustas;
Who quickly leaped to his knees;
And set to work his skillful pleads like thus;
A weasel’s breath caught in a breeze.
He knew nothing of murders or plots;
And yet was quick to direct many a blame;
For the clear corruption and moral rots;
He had a number of men and women to name.
Yet still he tried to keep them from the portal;
Fearing the results should the Delvers be wronged;
The party ignored him with nary a chortle;
Into the room they then thronged.
A dark chamber filled with great stones;
Pillars and arcs and other formations;
And along the walls many old bones;
Underneath Red Larch’s very foundations.
Spreading out with caution Fennle found;
A stone-robbed priest wielding a glaive;
Who set magic their speed to bound;
Though only two failed to make the save.
The monk surged forward to bring the priest down;
With a solid thud and sweep to the stone ground;
Unnoticed then the stones did lift off the dirt brown;
And by gravity were briefly no longer bound.
Lohn stepped back out to rear of the room;
Slowed by magic and paranoid of his doom;
Talindra surged forward through flicking gloom;
And from her divine force a blessing did bloom.
Marle leapt up and cheered on the half-elf;
His words slurred in the Black Earth’s curse;
But still inspiring as she took wing over the shelf;
Of a flight of stirges she did make a verse.
Elivia maneuvered to gain line of sight;
And used her blood-hungry wand;
The trio of missiles sending off in flight;
Before the cult leader could respond.
Larrakh, for that was the evil one’s name;
Stepped to his feet and stamped his feet;
A sudden tremor shook the room to maim;
Scattering stones but the monk was too fleet.
Fennle and Talindra thrust with fist and blade;
As Lohn backed off as slow as a snail;
The sight of flying stones telling him to fade;
Marle gradually cast a spell of hysterical tale.
With another barrage from Mystra’s cleric;
And smites and flurries from other foes;
Larrakh set to flee this disadvantage numeric;
Though still Talindra’s blessing guided their blows.
The Black Earth Priest fell dead to stone;
And soon came Constable Harburk to see;
With eyes filled with horror at how others had thrown;
In with these cultists in hopes for power carefree.
Three names were given of Believers who did murder;
Albaeri Mellikho the quarry mistress cheerful;
Ilmeth Waelvur of wagons much cheaper;
And Marlandro Gaelkur keeper of a bar full.
Ilmeth Waelvur would break down in confession;
While Gaelkur would slip out in the night;
And Mellikho protested continually the question;
And other Believers would find they had lost the right.
So it seemed Red Larch’s troubles had ended;
And yet their own quests had not been mended;
Each of the five had missions not yet tended;
But which to urgency of current woes had bended.
Waterdhavian noble was still lost to a strange order;
Elivia’s private mission still to convince this scion;
To return back to her house and forget this border;
Before the wind took her as it did a dandelion.
A fire-maddened sorceress still roamed the land;
Leading a cult that they had not yet seen a hand;
Save for Lohn whom lost a shop to her brand;
And now had a vengeance colorfully planned.
Little of the Sacred Stone had been seen;
And yet the Black Earth struck a subtle chord;
That worried Fennle about how clean;
Were the monks with whom she once had accord.
Marle had not yet had time to look into her map;
As bandits and villains precluded the personal query;
And now with skulls invading her nap;
She found herself of the name Valklondar leery.
Flight empowered cultists gave brought some attention;
To tales of bandits on flying monsters causing tension;
And Talindra hoped to follow up this mention;
Eventually to find the truth of this malicious ascension.
On top of all of this, Larrakh held a curious treasure;
Trade bars from Mirabar the dwarven kingdom;
A very particular currency used for high measure;
And not usually found as a normal person’s income.