Bjorn Berber: Dwarf/1
Wilber Wifflelinks: Halfling/1
Avallone: Elven Sage/0
Bubba Gump: Dwarven Stonemason/0
Jimmy: Confidence Artist/0
Sylvus: Elven Glassblower/0
Scroto: Halfling Chicken Butcher/0
James the Warrior: Warrior/1
Nallo Morningstar: Elf/1
Morgren Pickbeard: Dwarf/1
When we last saw our intrepid band of heroes, they were adrift on the dragon-prowed Viking-esque longship on open water along with 28 rescuees and not a lot of room. Enough time passes to rest a bit (regaining 1 HP), and their day is broken by the cries of two figures falling from the sky. The figurehead unfurls its wings, catching them effortlessly. He slides them gently to his deck, and they hear a baritone, "I believe these belong to you?"
It is revealed that, after returning the captives to The Village, Steig and Garrik had rushed back to the abandoned keep to help the fledgling adventurers thwart more Chaos. They'd whipped through the pestilence-ridden badlands, the way they'd come before, as the ground began to slip out from under their feet, coinciding with the collapse of the cavern and destruction of the underground ziggurat. Reasons/physics unknown, the ship had found a way out...and has now rescued these two from the same collapse.
Yeah. So. Not a lot of magic items found so far, but they've got a magic boat.
There are a lot of questions following these revelations: Not only is the ship sentient, but it talks. Many answers are enigmatic or rhetoric, but the party is able to ascertain its name - Paragon - and that they share many desires (one of which being the repair of the sigils along his side, which were not always that sickly green). In fact, the party has already had dealings with some of the objects Paragon is interested in, such as the black star stone (which sends Wilber into a fit of pining for the poor pretty dead lady Ivrian) and the black lotus. He also seeks the black corruption, the black pearl, the Black Mariah, and the black emerald (which really hurt Bjorn's brain). No information is given right away as to why he seeks any of this things. He is also kind enough to add that he can get them home from here, but it will not be a short journey. On the way, perhaps some of their black-themed goals will collide. It should also be noted that the new party members (i.e., rescuees from the ziggurat) were in a bit of disarray regarding their plane of existence, after the magnitude of events they'd just survived. They were assured that they were still in the land of the same crappy gods the villagers were used to.
With a little help from the "slave galley" [read: the table put some of the rescued villagers not represented by players today on the oars], Paragon smoothly takes them in a northwesterly direction and forks west/southwest, continuing on for about two hours. The passage begins to narrow, and when it is a mere 200 ft across, leading to a dam. It looks to be of natural creation...but huge, even for a beaver dam. Instead of branches, entire tree trunks stick out. There's a small trickle on one end, emptying into a vast lake, but it is otherwise pretty solid. Consulting with Paragon, they decide to moor on one side to explore the dam and possible alternative routes.
They head south along a rough trail that seems to follow the lake's shore toward a wisp of smoke curling up to the sky. Unfortunately, Stieg is not too observant, and stumbles right into the jaws of a trap! The party helps him out, and it is judged to be a little bigger than a normal bear trap, having been tethered with rope to nearby trees. Further inspection reveals the initials "T.N." branded into the metal. Wilber scavenges the rope, remembering that he has none. A short trek and no traps later, they come to a tree with a ribbon tied around its base. Looking up, a small wooden platform has been constructed within the branches some 70 feet up. Garrett attempts to climb up, but falls and is greatly hurt. Saving face for halfling pride, Wilber scampers up without an issue and surveys the landscape about him, getting a good scope of the mountain range and the sizable lake nestled within. He also spots the form of something floating on the surface to the north, around the other side of the dam. Wilber descends without incident and they proceed along the path, veering east toward the waterwheel house. The sign on the door, "Dead Goblin Brewery; no trespassing" emits murmurs of reverence from nearly everyone. As it is locked, they respectfully leave it be, as it "looks like a business," and they continue toward the signs of civilization to the west.
Once in Sagewood, the group descends on the local businesses. First, the pub -- of course! The Brave Trapper Inn's owner, Rosano, explains that trapping is the primary way of life for most of Sagewood's residents. Well, that, and Bloomfield's brewery (he points to a quiet man sitting alone in the corner), named after the lake. Upon hearing their plight, he is wary but blunt with the dwarves: "It's not our dam, but it'd be nice if you didn't scare all the gicastors away." Gicastors are, apparently, something akin to a bear mated with a beaver -- explaining both the dam and the size of the traps. A large, burly man pushes his way to the bar about then, asking if Rosano's heard anything from his brother, Sturnen, who was due home from his round of checking the traps this morning. As he leaves disappointedly, Rosano belatedly introduces him as Torfist Nurge, and the initials from the trap make sense (and nobody volunteers the information about having sprung his trap in error). There are, however, jokes about the Fulthon Mountains being "Fulthon Prison" thrown about while the dwarves decide to haul back a total of 6 travel-size kegs of the beer.
Now for the inevitable shopping: Gathos does a little trading with the armorer and incurs a debt to James the Warrior for the balance of the cost. Seth seeks out a fellow alchemist, where he hands over his herbs and the resident alchemist adds a pinch of something to enhance a portion of it, creating a small amount of healing poultice. At the party's request, the alchemist scribbles a note to take to the owner of the general store....who promptly overcharges them for the sticks of dynamite, as he fears there will be no further business in the town if people can pass through the lake by boat once the dam is eradicated.
Paragon is awfully patient, and ferries them from bank to bank. They decide to check out the object floating on the north end of the lake before demolishing the dam....and they arrive to find a humanoid form face-down in the water with two giant freshwater crabs, each with 4-foot-long claws, tearing at it in a feeding frenzy. Wilber slings a rock over and misses. Stieg rushes in and artfully separates both claws from one of the crabs, and declares them dinner. Nallo uses his spiffy mithril sword and kills the other. From the gear on the human body, they deduce that this is the missing trapper, and Morgan and Nallo heft it up and carry it back to the boat to take it back to Sagewood. While they're off delivering the good news, the others start a good ol' fashioned crab bake on the shore, and the rescued villagers still awaiting on Paragon enjoy the first good meal they've had in weeks. When everyone regroups, they decide to blow the dam on the sturdier side, and everyone makes their luck checks to keep their feet on the shore. Everyone boards and Paragon begins to glide southward across the lake, dodging a rocky island in the middle. A creature that must be a gicastor lies upon the rocks, dying, one side of its body charred and bloody -- an obvious casualty of the TNT. Oops. Moving on.
The southwest exit turns out to be a waterfall. Paragon comes to a halt beforehand, and says that the Black Corruption is very near. He could ensure safety on the way down, but getting back to the lake would require a long roundabout voyage, so they agree to stop before the rushing of the falls. A little careful exploration on dry land takes them down a muddy, winding path, in which some tracks have been made: some booted, some with large bony feet and webbed toes. They follow these to a cavern set in behind the waterfall, which requires a little cautious climbing. At the opening, their welcoming committee consists of a greenish-gray humanoid with an unrealistically large head and bulging eyes, wearing a leather vest and holding a club with sharpened sea shells fastened to the end. It emits some sort of croaking musical sound. Well, this is new -- and not right. Garrick (predictably) fails to summon an animal for aid. No worries; the rest of the crew piles onto it and it is almost immediately dispatched. Another similarly-outfitted creature emerges from the cavern behind, and its deafening croak affects 5 of the party, but it too is killed as quickly as it appears. Stieg laments: If only they'd saved some of the crab, they could've had a great Creole dish!
Pushing deeper into the cave and expecting to find more of seashell-mace-wielding frogmen, they're a little surprised to find, instead, what appear to be the relative teenagers of the group...guarding Mama. And Mama's in the process of dropping eggs. EWW. Gathos, Bob, and Bjorn rush in, but Bob the Farmer is taken off guard and killed in battle. Mama Frog chucks a spear square into Bjorn, but he's tough. Then she gives off a deafening croak, affecting half the party, but that's as far as the amphibians' advantage took them. As soon as all are dead, Jimmy begins looting, and finds a pair of leather pouches. The first satchel is ornately embroidered with a kraken, and contains what appears to be a long sliver of bone. There are 3 loops to hold such objects, 2 of which are empty. The other pouch is embossed with the Dead Goblin Brewery logo and contains a key. This causes no end of suspicion. Morgren squishes all the eggs that Mama Frog spawned. Back out to the cave entrance, Bjorn manages to snag Torfist's meager possessions before Morgren insists on hauling him (and Bob's body) back to Sagewood for proper burials.
Paragon feels their time here is not finished, and thus does not argue about turning back for the town side of the lake. However, as they are en route, Seth catches a glimpse of movement on the west shore, so the oarsmen help to get closer. Disembarking, the party is greeted by the sight of another frogman-like-creature bent over the body of another -- and the ground is positively treacherous. It's not just been covered with black sludge; the entire shoreline here looks to have been turned to sludge. The crew is almost graceful in their attack, careful not to touch the black stuff but determined to kill the abomination. In their hasty post-mortem search, they find a pouch containing a dagger and another long, white, slender piece of bone.
They pull in near the waterwheel house. The door's still locked. James nudges around the barrels in front and has to deal with a large rat who's been making his nest there. Well, that gives a real feel of neglect to the area: Who lets rats get that close to the beer? Using their newly acquired key, they open the door to a heavenly smell for the dwarves. As they start in, a gaunt, crazed man leaps at them and begins attacking, yelling about evil spirits. He is quickly subdued and restrained, while Scroto runs upstairs to investigate the beer-making facility. On a hunch, he starts searching the box filters, and finds traces of black sludge on one. Sure enough, another one of those bone shards has been secured to the bottom of a filter with three nails. Geeno, the new captive, comes to much sooner than expected, and explains that he's been locked in here for four days. (Wilber immediately gives him some rations.) The last thing Geeno recalls is Bloomfield telling him to take cover because creatures were approaching. This cements the suspicion among the party. The traveling kegs of beer are dumped for fear of contamination. When they return to the Brave Trapper Inn, they recommend Rosano do the same for any kegs received in the past week (which thrills the barkeep to no end). They also ask about Bloomfield, who - no surprise - hasn't been seen since the group's first visit to Sagewood. They go so far as to get directions to his residence. Farkus the Swineherd, the next door neighbor, corroborates the brewmaster's disappearance, and the party takes pleasure in tossing Bloomfield's house, where the only notable find is a duplicate pouch & key to the waterwheel house.
Next they visit the town's elders and explain the issue, and declare that they are taking over the brewery -- after all, they have Geeno's experience and expertise, and they can work on distributing it through the existing trade routes. (2 of the previous rescuees volunteer to stay and help man the works.) One of the elders offers to buy the shards for 35 GP apiece. Still on the alert for corruption, Bjorn runs back to Paragon to ask if this is a good idea. At this point, Paragon is able to impart more knowledge on the found pieces: They are scales of a forgotten sea goddess, Truloq -- obviously chaotic, based on the sludge. If left in fresh water, such as the Dead Goblin Lake, one of them could pollute the entire ecosystem within a year. When asked if he should (or could) sell them, Paragon made it plain that he would feel safer with them on board, where he could potentially guard them from the wrong hands. Bjorn asked if he should trust the elder asking, and Paragon merely suggested that he keep an eye on this individual. Once returned, this netted a "Not just no, but fuck no" in way of bargaining by Bjorn. At this point, it was generally agreed that they'd head out and down the waterfall as soon as some brewing business was finalized with Geeno and the volunteers...
Bjorn Berber: +15 XP
Wilber Wifflelinks: +15 XP, +1 Luck
Gathos: +15 XP
Seth: +15 XP
Avallone: +15 XP
Bubba Gump: +15 XP
Jimmy: +15 XP
Sylvus: +15 XP
Scroto: +15 XP
Steig: +15 XP
Garrik: +15 XP
James the Warrior: +15 XP
Garrett: +15 XP
Morgren Pickbeard: +15 XP
Nallo Morningstar: +15 XP, +1 Luck
Wilber: 2 "seashell maces" / 20 ft. rope
Bjorn: hide armor / shortbow / knife