After losing their jobs as caravan guards for a textile merchant and ending up stranded in Stanitoft, our heroes received word of a lesser nobleman from farther south that needed assistance (and was willing to pay for it). The village of Montre had spent the past few years being periodically raided by gnolls that would kidnap the peasants to use for slave labor (or worse) in the hills on the other side of the forest. Lord Jacques DeMontre had tried sending a few parties to retrieve them before but with little success. Then the gnolls went too far and kidnapped his daughter, the Lady Galia DeMontre, and he put out the call for brave souls to retrieve her.
After a bit of negotiation (not a difficult task given how preoccupied the Lord was with getting his daughter back) the party set forth to track down the gnolls and retrieve Lady DeMontre.
- Uhtred, the Human Fighter
- Wyn, the Elven Ranger and his hawk [unnamed].
- Miðan, the unusually-tall-but-still-definitely-a-Halfling Thief
- Bumpkin, the Halfling Druid with the nasty shillelagh.
As they crossed the woods to the south east of Montre (the last known direction the gnolls had been seen) a rustling was heard in the bushes. Recently left gnoll tracks were discovered, but as Wyn investigated them he was struck with a blowdart treated with a particularly strong dose of Oil of Tagit and fell unconscious. Hearing more rustling from beyond the underbrush the others charged forward finding a pair of gnolls. A fight ensued, Uhtred slashing at the gnolls with his family sword, Miðan sneaking up behind a gnoll to backstab him, and Bumpkin transforming into a coyote (like those of his homeland) and getting all up in a gnoll’s grill. After the stinking brutes had been dispatched Miðan went to scope out their camp while Uhtred and Bumpkin went back to make sure the horses didn’t wander off and to take care of their unconscious comrade.
As Miðan came to the gnoll camp she found that they had a hostage, a Wood Elven Cleric of Elad named Bran. He offered his services to attack the gnolls that had waylaid him while he was communing with nature in the woods. As Miðan and Bran came back to the clearing Wyn began to stir again and the party was able to move forward.
As they approached the far edge of the forest the party saw a small camp (with a crude banner, several cracked skulls on stakes and a small shelter) at the entrance to a jagged pass through the rocky hills. Two gnolls were huddled around a campfire for warmth in the dark and gloomy weather, arguing over a piece of meat charring over the fire. The party tied their horses to a downed log behind the tree line and made their plan. Miðan snuck forward to try to backstab one of the gnolls, but at the last minute he moved and her attack went wide. Alerted to the presence of danger the gnolls attacked and the rest of the party charged forward. The gnolls were no match for the mighty party though and soon lay dead while the party examined their camp.
They noticed that the shelter and some of the items around the camp were of better quality that what gnolls would have made for themselves, and gnolls didn’t work metal to make shackles like they found in a corner of the shelter. Possibly stolen from the people of the Southern Reaches? They also found the the banner the gnolls were flying had once been a standard from the military of the Southern Reaches before the human nations unified into a single kingdom some 214 years ago. While searching the gnolls they also found a copper ring with a small (but not particularly valuable) stone set in it, perhaps it was once a wedding band belonging to a peasant that managed to save some money.
As they continued along the narrow path through the hills Wyn’s hawk scouted ahead and alerted the party that something was amiss ahead. Miðan checked ahead on the trail and came across a trap of some sort, a section of the path that appeared to have been dug out and replaced with a layer of wood covered with gravel. Not wanting to set the trap off the party tied off their horses back at the gnoll guard post and worked their way around the edges on foot to continue.
Following the trail farther the party found it opened up into a rough clearing, an excavation site of some sort. A walkway rimmed the roughly circular space, in the center a large pit where slaves were using pickaxes to expose what appeared to be the top of a huge arched doorway made of oily looking green-tinted black stone.
After killing a sleeping gnoll guard the party was able to get a look around the area. In the center the archway was being excavated by slaves, clearly people from the Southern Reaches (Fun fact: the majority of residents of the Southern Reaches are gingers). And they were happened upon by an emaciated slave missing a foot and pulling a wheelbarrow. He seemed scared to discover that there were outsiders here even though they wanted to help him. The last time outsiders had come to “set everyone free” he had been punished for helping them (the party would later learn that incident was both how he lost his foot, how his foot came to be cooked, and the last meal he had eaten). Uhtred gave him some rations and helped him hide behind a rock to eat them to insure the slave’s silence.
The party bravely slew the remaining gnolls around the pit, even facing down one wielding a short metal rod with a large stone on one end that seemed to allow him to command the fallen skeletons around the area (apparently, even dying wasn’t enough to end their service as slave labor). But a large armored gnoll with a pair of unfriendly-looking curved swords made his way into the pit to attempt to put the party down.
After a difficult fight the party was triumphant and the boss gnoll lay dead at their feet. Then they heard a scream from the top of the ramp into the pit, the Lady Galia DeMontre, shouting at the party “After all my research and years of planning, you’ve ruined everything!” The Lady admitted that she had employed the gnolls and helped them acquire the slaves to do the digging to unearth “The Gate” beneath the swirling black clouds. The party freed the remaining slaves, shackled the Lady Galia and headed out for Montre to return her to her father.