S08E05 – The Lowoack Brothers

Previously on Zhymballa

The heroes frustrate two attempts to kill Davos and capture the assassins, two dragonborns members of a mercenary group hired by a Ridgeport merchant called Falgrom. On their way to Pelor’s Academy, up in the mountains, the group endures a strong snowstorm that doesn’t prevent them from reaching their destination.

Flash-back — “Bharash, you’re not a good dragonborn”

After setting his clan’s shrine on fire, a twelve year old Bharash gets scolded by his father who expels him from their village until the boy is willing to follow the clan’s rules.

While preparing to leave, Bharash hears a voice calling him. He follows it into the hills, and he ends up in front of a rift in the fabric of the universe inside of which he can see twirling shrouds and dark clouds. While Bharash is distracted with the rift, an old blind male human appears behind him, shares some fortune cookie-like encouraging statements with him about following his true nature, and then pushes the young Bharash into the rift.

Mabur Ridar

Back to the present, Mabur Ridar, the headmaster of Pelor’s Academy, welcomes the heroes who just arrived and offers to lend them two paladins to clear the old monastery of monsters in exchange of finding out what happened to two new recruits, the Lowoack brothers, who were supposed to arrive at the academy days ago. Til proposes starting the search right after dinner because the snowstorm is just getting worse. The group, with some initial concerns from Davos, agrees with the plan.

While waiting for dinner, the heroes also meet the academy’s second in command, the senior cleric and cook, Iuta Graykiller, who then helps Til identify magic items in his possession.

During dinner the heroes meet Trent Moonhorn, a visiting druid. He’s investigating a worrying vision he has heard about, that shows the Great Lake covered in a purple substance, and all life around it dead. The heroes tell him about the purple moss they found in the old monastery’s crypt, and they also tell him about their current mission to clear it. Til then shows Trent the purple moss he collected at the crypt. Trent says he believes the moss is alien, dangerous, and possibly connected with his friend’s vision, so he decides to join the heroes and help them with their quest.

Tracks

After a hearty cocido from Iuta, the heroes leave the academy at night in the middle of the now two days long snowstorm. With Trent’s tracking skills and Salazar’s knowledge of the area from when he trained as a paladin, the group reaches a spot with signs of combat: a damaged backpack containing a scroll of recommendation for the Lowoack brothers, and unidentified dry blood. Salazar is convinced that the brothers are dead and that they should go back, but the rest of the group persuades him to keep searching.

The recommendation scroll found in the damaged backpack.

The first cave

The group follows the faint tracks, mostly broken branches, that lead away from the scene, and after a while they arrive at a small cavern with a circled pentagram drawn with red chalk on the floor. Trent uses his wand of magic detection which reveals faint conjuration magic and whiffs of energy from the negative plane coming out of the pentagram.

Meanwhile Til investigates sounds coming from a corridor at the back of the room. The corridor is slanted downwards, and Til almost slips three times because its surface is covered in a slippery black oil. Unable to see more without getting deeper into the corridor, the risk-averse halfling asks Salazar, more resilient to frontal attacks, to take a look. Sadly the paladin has below average dexterity so he slips as soon as he steps into the corridor and slides down into a room full of floating gas spores and violet fungi. As soon as Salazar stops sliding, the plants attack him. Luckily the paladin’s magical resilience to disease and Bharash and Trent’s ferocity help make this a short combat.

While the big boys are killing plants on the room below, Til and Davos find a very small bald dark creature, covered in black oil, hiding between the rocks on the pentagram’s room and with its head between its legs. After a few seconds of intensely observing the creature in search of any incriminating gesture, Til loses his patience and drives his dagger violently through the creature, who then opens a hole in the air, gives the finger to the halfling, and vanishes.

On the other room, with the fungi lying on the floor and the spores sprayed on the walls, Bharash, Trent and Salazar loot the pile of debris and notice that the black goo on the corridor’s floor has turned sticky. Trent successfully sets a femur with goo on fire which forces Bharash to abandon his idea of setting the corridor on fire to clear it. After a lot of sweating, swearing and goo all over their clothes, the big guys manage to get back to the pentagram room.

The second cave

After this false lead, the heroes are divided between going back to the academy and continuing the search. While they are trying to decide, someone notices damaged ropes hanging from a tree close to the cave’s entrance. A closer inspection reveals broken branches leading away into the mountain, and with that lead the heroes decide to continue the search.

After getting lost a couple of times and fully covered with snow, the heroes eventually find a second cave. The inviting smell of stew is coming out of it. Trent summons his wolf spirit to heal the injured, and to support their next move: enter the cave.

When Salazar and Bharash, who were leading the group, approach the cave’s entrance they step on bear traps that clasp tightly around their legs. Bharash, Salazar and Trent focus on opening the traps with a crowbar, while Til inspects the cave’s entrance and notices a plaque that reads “HOUS OF UDAK. KEP OUT. YETIS NO FRIENDS.” When Trent ventures a bit further he finds a big room with two wolves in it. The druid tries reasoning with them, but the wolves are hungry and inform him that, regrettably, they need to eat the heroes.

When Salazar enters the room, though, his commanding presence sends shivers down the wolves’s feline spines, who then flee through a corridor at the opposite end of the cave. A few seconds later, six wolves come back from that same corridor and a mix of wolf bites, fire and magic from Bharash and Trent, arrows from Til and Davos, and Salazar’s attempts to shove wolves into the pit trap follows. Half-way through the combat, the paladin falls unconscious bleeding like crazy because of too many wolf bites. At that same time, a large half-ogre bursts into the room, jumps over the pit trap and into the middle of where the heroes stand and looks at them with rage: “I’M UDAK!”

The combat scene right after Udak (token "Moon 2") enters in the scene.

Featured characters

The heroes (level 3)

  • Bharash: male dragonborn sorcerer.
  • Dawn: male wood elf ranger.
  • Salazar Astorio: male human paladin.
  • Til Grassthorn: male halfling rogue.
  • Trent Moonhorn: male human druid.

NPCs

  • Davos Trickfoot: male halfling rogue, best friend of Til.
  • Falgrom: dwarf merchant who wants to kill Davos for getting his married daughter pregnant.
  • Mabur Ridar: headmaster of Pelor’s Academy in Northpond.
  • Iuta Graykiller: senior cleric at Pelor’s Academy.
  • Lowoack brothers: two sons of a Ridgeport noble gone missing in the mountains.
  • Udak: male half-ogre who lives in a cave with a pack of wolves, and hates yetis.

Places

  • Abandoned monastery: ruined monastery northwest of Rockbreach.
  • Academy of Pelor in Northpond: paladin training academy near Northpond, great views, terrible winters.
  • The Great Lake: large lake near the heroes’s home base, Rockbreach.

Quotes & mementos

  • Salazar pulling a sled with two dragonborn assassins tied to it, up a mountain in the middle of a heavy snowstorm.
  • Trent, convinced that the pentagram in the first cave must be disabled, uses his foot as an eraser while the rest of the group crouches behind cover in the farthest place of the cave. Happily, no extra-planar creatures appeared. This time.
  • Til barely noticing the dangerously slippery surface of the corridor connecting the two rooms of the first cave because of his high dexterity.
  • Trent rolling a total of 23 on his attempt to slide down the slippery corridor with style in the first cave.
  • Bharash hitting the only gas spore left in the plants’s room with all 3 ray attacks from his only level 2 spell, Scorching Ray. Total damage above 20, but the creature only has 1 hit point.
  • Salazar throwing of a torch into the room with the two wolves of the second cave triggered a pit trap open with spikes at its bottom. The trap was right in front of the heroes and they would have stepped on it on their next move.
  • Trent’s Detect Magic wand special effects: hundreds of dominate blue fairies came out of his wand, the cloud of fairies then flew around the pentagram and they came back to Trent, more specifically, into Trent’s ear canal, and whispered to him what they saw. Trent then repeated what he was hearing to the rest of the group.
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