Serenity, Indeed

The Culling of the Ankhegs

First gardening, now animal husbandry...

After an unusual errand, Poly, Raven Mourner, Thorial and Zephyr found themselves in the city of Serenity. It had been some days after they arrived, and the unlikely quartet awoke to the steady drizzle of the rainy-season.

As Raven Mourner overslept at The Silver Table, Zephyr tried to remedy a hangover in the common room. Around at the town hall, Thorial spotted a posting for some work in the farms north of the city: apparently some of the farmers have an ankheg infestation that needs to be dealt with. Armed with a new task and in need of reinforcements, the elf headed back to round up his companions.

Meanwhile, Poly was browsing the rain-soaked marketplace. One of the merchants flagged her down with a proposition: her name was Mareshka, and she had need of a delivery crew. Without knowing the full details, Poly returned to The Silver Table as well.

With everyone awake and together, the group decided to see what Mareshka had to offer, and try to help out the farmers afterward.

After returning to the marketplace, the group followed Mareshka back to her shop, where she revealed their task: transport an ice mephit to a wealthy noble in town. The shopkeeper had summoned the mephit and had it contained in a magic circle, and she needed the party to incapacitate the creature before taking it to another magic circle in the home of a man named Hanlon. Now confronted with their task, the party stepped aside to discuss their moral and ethical concerns. In light of the money offered for the task however, the group tossed aside their moral concerns and engaged the mephit.

As Thorial stepped into the circle, the ice mephit was ready to hit him with a blast of freezing breath. After a few traded blows, Raven Mourner finally knocked the creature unconscious. Then Zephyr suggested they put the creature in a sack to be less conspicuous on the streets of town.

The group reached Hanlon’s residence without incident. After knocking on the door, an elderly servant answered, asked the party their business, and then went back inside. Upon knocking again, the same elderly servant answered the door and repeated his prior inquiry, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he was repeating himself. This time, he let the group in to make their delivery… but he directed them to a completely empty room in the house. Poly decided to cast a detect magic spell, and felt a faint magical aura in the room above her. Upon returning to the entrance to go upstairs, the servant was surprised to see a group of unknown people in the home. This time, Poly’s quick thinking (and a case of mistaken identity) led the group upstairs to the presumed correct room. After going through the alarmed door, the group deposited the mephit into another magic circle, said their goodbyes, and left. Finished with their delivery task, the group decided to leave the city proper and head to the northern farms.

At the northern farms, the party was quickly met by a pair of local farmers. Apparently the local ankhegs were becoming too difficult to deal with, and the farmers wanted the party to kill off the current brood. Additionally, the farmers wanted all but three ankheg eggs destroyed from the main nest. As payment for their services, the farmers would give the party an enchanted cloak. Satisfied with the deal, the party was led to one of the nearby, known ankheg tunnels. As the group investigated the circular opening, they heard something moving down in the tunnel. Luckily, they were prepared when one of the ankhegs burst from the soil.

As the party traded blows with the ankheg’s bite, a second one burst from the soil and managed to grab Zephyr in its mandibles. As Poly, Raven Mourner and Thorial dealt with the first ankheg, Zephyr was dragged underground by the second. Between the crushing mandibles and the suffocating soil, Zephyr quickly lost consciousness. After they dispatched the first ankheg, the remaining three went down the tunnel after their companion.

The tunnel was dark, winding, and almost perfectly circular. Both Thorial and Raven Mourner had to duck in the tunnel, as Poly had no trouble at all. At the first fork in the tunnel, Thorial found evidence of something being dragged through the path straight ahead. At the end of the winding path, the tunnel opened up into a small grotto. In it were the second ankheg and the prone form of its victim. After Poly dispatched the creature with her crossbow, the trio approached the unconscious figure. Strangely, the figure was wearing all of Zephyr’s equipment, but it had a completely featureless, gray face and stark-white hair.

Upon healing some of the unconscious figure’s wounds, the person awoke. After some stilted conversation, the trio realized that this person was Zephyr. As the disbelieving trio watched, Zephyr’s face and appearance returned after a few minutes. Not wanting to fully discuss everything, Zephyr (the now-revealed changeling) just wanted to continue their task.

The regrouped party made their way back to the fork in the tunnel, and took the other path. As they approached another series of tunnel splits, they heard something burrowing through the walls. As the group advanced, a pair of earth grues clawed out of the walls. Though the corrupt elementals creatures had the tactical advantage (they could burrow through the tunnel walls), Thorial landed the killing blow on one of the creatures, and the other was felled by Zephyr’s aura of acid damage.

After the grues were dispatched, the quartet meandered through the tunnels until they found another grotto. This one seemed much larger, and opened into a larger, 20’-high circular space. At the center was a 15’-tall, rough column of some sort of brown stone, and around the perimeter of the cavern were verdant, green, thickly-growing plants. After examining their surroundings, the quartet noticed a conspicuous pile at the base of the pillar, another passage off to the left, a sword leaning against the far wall, and a pair of tree stumps between the sword and the central column. As the group approached the sword, the tree stumps turned towards them and shambled forward threateningly.

As soon as they were close, the plant creatures caused thick undergrowth to entangle the party. The tree-creatures seemed unaffected by the effect, and Thorial managed to evade it as well. As Poly, Zephyr, and Raven Mourner landed their attacks while trying to escape the undergrowth, Thorial took advantage of his freedom and eventually felled the tree creatures. Now free of the augmented plants, the group found a curiously-carved, enchanted skull in the pile at the column (which was composed of broken similar skulls).

Thorial, Raven Mourner and Zephyr all approached to examine the sword against the wall. Raven Mourner recognized the sword from his knowledge of some local history, but it was Zephyr who knew the weapon’s full background. The sword was the Giant’s Knife , an obscure weapon from ages past. After some discussion of its history, the storied weapon was taken by Raven Mourner.

Through the remaining passage, the group found their target: the nest of ankheg eggs. Of course, this precious location was guarded by another ankheg; though this one seemed oddly mutated and stronger than the rest. Almost as if it were part spider, this ankheg had additional legs and a poisonous bite. After a small scuffle, the group defeated the mutant ankheg, destroyed most of the eggs in the nest, and started to trek back to the surface. On the way back through the tunnels however, the group tripped an alarm-bell wire that wasn’t there previously. As they emerged from the tunnel opening, the group saw what awaited them…

The party came face-to-face with a squad of kobolds (and the prone form of one of the farmers). Zephyr recognized their leader as the kobold that escaped him at the end of the group’s first adventure. They were here for revenge, and engaged the party almost immediately.

A number of unexpected things happened almost at once: the kobold leader cursed Raven Mourner, the farmer stood up and moved to attack the party, and three of the kobolds screamed in anger before approaching. After another curse was uttered and one of the kobolds was defeated, another kobold summoned a thick fog in the middle of the combat field. As the assailants tried to sneak around their magical cover, Poly managed to hypnotize two of the kobolds and the already-enchanted farmer into attacking their own leader. It was a tense battle, but the quartet managed to spot the kobolds in the fog and eliminate most of them. Unfortunately, one of the underlings escaped down the ankheg tunnels, and the leader got away under the cover of the fog.

Afterwards, the party restrained the farmer until the charm wore off, and claimed their payment: a Cloak of Resistance +1 which was then donned by Raven Mourner. Needing some rest and recuperation, Poly, Raven Mourner, Thorial and Zephyr returned to the city proper.

[Note for players: updates have been made to Serenity.]

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