07

Assault on Raven's Ruin


THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE AND COMPLETELY ACCURATE HISTORY OF OUR JOURNEY THROUGH THE WESTLANDS OF THE REALM

Written by Paddi Whisperleaf

…brought to light by Glen Sprigg

 

Day 16

Well, after the excitement of Specularum we went north to Urnst, where we caught a boat downriver to the village of Kleine. My first thought upon seeing the place was that it was numbingly boring. A small village nestled in the hills, not much to do, everybody knowing what everyone else is doing...it makes it hard to practice my specialized profession in such a dull place. I already hated it.

When we got into the village proper, though, my ears were tingling. There was tension in the air, as if the villagers were expecting something to happen, something unpleasant. The town crier saw us and came up to us, deafening us with a loud message. Humanoids were threatening Kleine. This isn't really news; there are tales of humanoid invasions all over the Realm these days. These people must be pretty isolated to think they're the only ones the humanoids are bothering.

But in addition to harassing these wonderful people, the humanoids actually had the nerve to steal something! Shocking behavior, and so totally out of character for goblins and orcs. Imagine them stealing a valuable village heirloom. Some people have no decency.

Then the crier said something that actually interested me. The village elders were looking to hire someone to recover their heirloom. 'Hire' is a magic word with adventurers all over the Realm. Then he buttered the bread by saying they needed brave and strong people. Well, that description fit our little group; we had just handled a whole group of evil criminals in the city, we could deal with a bunch of humanoids.

Maybe they are kobolds. That would be good. If I wasn't so busy trying to become rich, I could spend my life hunting down every kobold in the Realm.

We went to the Melodious Harpy tavern, where the town council was holding their nightly meeting. Taverns always have the strangest names. Harpies are indeed melodious, as we had learned on our way to the Rock (was it really only a couple of weeks ago?). But after you get past the melody, they're really ugly and nasty. I hope that wasn't a description of this village.

The tavern was full, and we overheard people talking about 'cursed goblins' and 'Raven's Ruin,' whatever that was. No kobolds, more's the pity. Well, maybe the goblins will have some kobolds as pets. I can hope, right?

Near the entrance, we saw a well-dressed popinjay, watching us with an expectant look. I think he was looking at Caelisar; she's certainly pretty enough. But she's hardly the type to take up with a lecherous young man, even if he is pretty-looking himself (for a human).

He called us over, and we grabbed a few chairs and sat with him. He introduced himself as the councilman the town crier had mentioned, and said he spoke on behalf of the village of Kleine. He told us about the goblin raids, and that they were based out of a place called Raven's Ruin. Apparently this Raven is, or was, a master thief, and he might be ordering the goblin raids. The goblins had stolen the village's Sceptre of Truth, perhaps at Raven's orders.

He offered to pay us fifty pieces of gold apiece for recovering the Sceptre, which wasn't really that much to us. But Edward magnanimously agreed on behalf of the group (I really have to talk to him about negotiation tactics).

Alyssa was more practical, and asked some questions about Raven's Ruin and this Sceptre of Truth. Raven hadn't been seen in two years, and his hideout was a ruin now. But according to rumor, the place was still heavily trapped and deadly.

The Sceptre of Truth is a magical artifact that compels whoever is touching it to speak the truth. I silently vowed to aviod the thing like the plague; let the goblins keep it. Truth is all well and fine, but there are times when it's extremely inconvenient. Imagine if Edward made me hold this thing and asked me where the harpy queen's tiara had gone. There are some things humans just don't need to know.

After Alyssa had finished her questions, she nodded to Edward, who shook the councilman's hand to seal the agreement. We left the tavern and went in search of goblin tracks. Warren found them just north of the Harpy, and we went off into the forest in search of goblins.

We plunged into the forest, and as soon as we were out of sight of the village Warren swore a vicious oath. Even I was shocked at that one; I've heard some impressive swearing befre, but Warren was very good. Maybe that's why he saves up his words. He pulled a crossbow bolt out of his arm; it hadn't penetrated deep through his armor, but it was obviously painful. Looking around, we saw absolutely no sign of the mysterious archer.

Branden bandaged Warren and we continued on, and Caelisar spotted a concealed pit on the forest floor. We walked around it carefully, and came to a fork in the trail. Warren studied it carefully, and motioned to the south. We took that branch, and we came across a goblin training a wolf. Apparently it already knew the 'kill' command, because it leapt at us with a vicious growl. But Edward and Warren taught it to play dead, while Caelisar gave the same lesson to the goblin.

This clearing was a dead end, so we retraced our steps and went the other way. When I asked Warren why he had picked the southern path instead of the other, he just shrugged. Typical. We kept on going, and came across another pit trap. This one had a dead deer caught in it, and Warren knelt down beside it and mumbled a few words. I couldn't quite make them out, but they didn't sound like a prayer for the dead.

A bit later, we heard a terrible roar, which Warren identified as an angry bear. He was right; the bear came at us, and it wasn't in the mood for pleasant conversation with Warren. We had no choice but to kill it, but Warren wasn't happy. He didn't speak to us the rest of the day, but we were used to that anyway, so it didn't bother us much.

We soon arrived at the Burning Hills, where Raven's Ruin was located. We soon located the crumbled building that was Raven's Ruin, and we soon found the stairs leading down. Edward asked me to take the lead with Caelisar, since we were the best at sneaking around. I couldn't argue with that, although to me even Caelisar sounded like a rattling ironworks.

We saw some goblin tracks leading down the stairs, which was a good sign that we had the right place. Down we went, keeping our eyes open and our hands on our swords. There was a door down at the bottom of the stairs, which I checked very carefully. It takes a thief to know a thief, and I know that if I built a house like this, I'd be very sure to keep people from breaking in too easily.

We came into a large entry way that wasn't very well cared for; the floor and walls were dusty, and broken furniture littered the place. We went down a staircase to a long hallway, and carefully made our way into the depths of Raven's Ruin. Watching very carefully, I spotted something unusual in the middle of the hallway floor: a broken short bow. Now why would that be there? Perhaps it was a distraction?

Yes, it was. Just as I looked up at the ceiling, a set of nets came down on top of us, entangling us! A group of goblins howled and rushed us as we struggled to free ourselves. Caelisar once against demonstrated her newfound strength, ripping a hole in the net and drawing her sword to meet the goblin charge. By the time we had freed ourselves, Caelisar had already sliced through two of the goblins, and two were running away. Edward dispatched the last with Everbright.

Alyssa asked Caelisar where she had gained this strength. She then examined Caelisar's new gauntlets carefully, then cast a spell. The gauntlets glowed a bright blue, and Alyssa nodded. "These gauntlets are magical," she informed Caelisar. "They give you the strength of an ogre as long as you wear them."

I should have known. I wouldn't mind having those myself, but Caelisar probably won't be lending them out any time soon. And if they just happened to disappear, I'd have a very hard time explaining how they ended up on my hands later on. Curse the luck.

We chased the goblins that had run away, and burst through a door into a barricaded room where the two cowards had found some friends. Thinking they had strength in numbers, they attacked us, but Alyssa put more than half of them to sleep before they could take more than a few steps. We made short work of the rest.

The room probably looked much nicer before the goblins redecorated. They have absolutely no sense of style. Searching around, we found a few coins lying around, and Alyssa found a scroll with some strange writing on it. She seemed pleased with it, but I had no clue what it could be. When I tried to get a closer look, she glared at me so fiercely I thought she was going to turn into a goblin herself. Mages are so touchy.

We went further into the ruin, and came to a hallway that looked suspiciously safe. I opened one door carefully, and spotted the brick ready to fall down on our heads. Crude, but effective. But not subtle enough to evade my notice. And that worried me more than a bit.

But I didn't have time to think about it, because behind this door were a pair of goblins and a pair of wolves. The wolves charged us, but the goblins stayed on top of a table, as if they were guarding it. A chest of gold I can understand, but a table? Caelisar answered their arrow storm with one of her own, while Edward and Warren dealt with the wolves. I stayed low to the floor and avoided the fight, instead getting close enough to the goblins to kill them both while they stood on that silly table.

Being by the table, this put me in a convenient spot to go through the loot the goblins had been looking at while the others finished off the wolves. I pocketed the gold before anyone else arrived, and we shared the rest. There was also a cabinet in the room, which one goblin had attempted to open. The poisoned needle trap had taken care of him,and I was able to open it up without any problem. Inside was some treasure, and I also found a second cache with several gemstones. I pocketed a few of these before the others saw them; this place is definitely worth my time!

By this time we were all feeling pretty tired; it had been a long day, and we decided to head back up to the surface to get some rest. We'll keep a careful watch tonight; I'm even going to take a turn. We'll stay in the hills, rather than returning to the village. Edward says it's because we won't go back without their sceptre. For me, it's just too long a walk to go back at this time of night. So we'll get some sleep and head back down in the morning.

 



 

Day 17

This day started out slowly, but it got very interesting right at the end. When we woke up, there were no signs of any goblins having been nearby, and we were all still alive. So obviously they hadn't thought to look for us up here in the hills. So back down to the ruin we went, determined to find that sceptre.

We continued to explore, and we entered one room with a hobgoblin. He was overcome with a case of terminal stupidity, because he charged us by himself! It wasn't until after Warren had killed him that we found out he had an invisible friend. Everbright took care of that hobgoblin, and we found a second hobgoblin with a magic ring on his finger. I suggested that I should have the ring, since it would make it even harder for the goblins to see me. It would also make it easier for me to relieve my companions of the heavy burden of their valuables, but I didn't tell them that. They seemed to thing the same thing, though, and Branden gave the ring to Alyssa instead. Some people have all the luck.

Well, I could go into tedious detail about all the goblins we fought, but that would really be pointless. Suffice it to say that we found several more goblins in this place and killed them all. Except for the two sleeping ones. That was strange. They were just lying inside the room, sleeping. You'd think they would at least find a comfortable bed, but no. This was odd enough that we dragged them out of the room to see if we could get some information from them. Unfortunately, they woke up right away, and without even a 'good morning,' they attacked us. Edward and Caelisar made short work of them, and I decided to explore the room they had been in. Well, the next thing I know, I'm lying on the floor with Branden shaking me awake! I had fallen asleep! And me without my pillow.

Alyssa immediately informed us that the room was cursed and that we shouldn't even look inside, let alone go in. Well, that was a comforting thought. I'm sure there were several very interesting things lying around in that room, just waiting for me to find them. So we continued on exploring the ruin, since we hadn't yet found the sceptre.

We did, however, find Raven's treasure room. Now THAT was a nice room to be in. Of course, it was guarded, so we had to deal with that little detail first. Then I got to explore the treasure room properly. Well, there were just so many wonderful things to see in there, I couldn't decide which to pocket first. So naturally, Edward noted my indecision and asked me to watch the door to make sure any goblins didn't disturb us. Because of course, when you need someone to guard a door, naturally you choose a short gnome for the job. The goblins would certainly be intimidated by my menacing presence.

The others finally found the object of our search, the Sceptre of Truth. It was an impressive thing, but not really worth all that much in my opinion. After all, we were only being paid fifty pieces of gold apiece for recovering it. I suppose villagers aren't as wealthy as cityfolk.

Edward was ready to leave, now that our mission had been accomplished, but there was something else I wanted to know. Namely, what had really happened to Raven? We had looked everywhere for any trace of him or explanation as to where he had gone, but I realized that there could very well be other places to search. We just hadn't found the places yet. I started doing a careful search of the walls, ignoring Alyssa's protests that we couldn't search every square inch of the place. It was right after she told me that the Veiled Society wasn't operating here and that I should get those silly hidden doors out of my head that I found the door to Raven's study. That shut her up in a hurry, believe me. I'm very proud of myself; I stopped smirking at her every chance I got after only twenty minutes.

There were more interesting things in the study, including Raven's journal, where he explained everything about his house and what traps he had put in there. It was a little late for most of these little warnings, considering either we or the goblins had tripped every trap in the place! But it was still interesting reading. I got some good ideas for my own place, if I ever decide to settle down. Probably not, though. I'm still having too much fun.

We opened the door in the study, and there was a man sleeping on the bed in the bedroom. I started to take a step inside, but realized that this was the very room I had fallen asleep in before! And this man, who I assumed was Raven, was lying on the bed, sleeping...I told Alyssa what I had seen, and she agreed that he might very well be under the same spell that had put me (and the goblins) to sleep. Of course, getting him out of the room would likely wake him up, as it had to the goblins and I. But getting him out wasn't going to be easy, since anyone who stepped in the room fell asleep.

We discussed the situation for a few minutes. Should we even try to wake him up? If he was indeed Raven, then he was a well-known thief, and a dangerous one. Caelisar thought we would be better served by leaving him there. On the other hand, he would be grateful to us for awakening him from what appeared to be a two-year nap. I know some humans need their beauty rest, but this was ridiculous.

Edward finally decided that we would make the attempt. Warren had some rope in his pack, and he made a loop at one end and threw it like a lasso over the bedpost. We carefully dragged the bed over until we could reach the man without risking putting ourselves to sleep. Then, with a quick jerk, we yanked him out of the room into the study.

He woke up as quickly as the goblins had, and was much less aggressive than they were. He wanted to know who we were, of course, and Edward explained it to him as quickly as possible. He was very grateful to us for freeing him of the sleeping curse, and he agreed that we could return the things the goblins had stolen from the villagers, but he wanted to keep his treasures. However, being a master thief, he recognized that six-to-one odds weren't in his favour, and he let us go with everything we had. Smart man. I still think I could have learned more from him if I'd stayed around.

On the way back from Kleine, I was very pleased to run into a small band of kobolds. My day was complete, since it was their last day on this world. Stinking hairless rats! I can tell Edward wanted to ask me just why I hate those filthy parasites so much. Maybe I'll tell him someday. For now, I'll just keep on killing them every chance I get. Eight less kobolds infesting the world makes it a better place.

We returned to Kleine to a hero's welcome. The villagers were very grateful to us for the return of their treasures, and we got a chance to rest and relax while they sorted through everything. After they had determined what was and wasn't theirs, they let us take the leftover treasure for ourselves, including some fancy items we had found that had belonged to Raven (from earlier thefts, presumably).

We discussed our next move, and decided to head out of Kleine first thing in the morning. The city of Urnst would be a good place to dispose of the valuables if we wanted to, and we decided to head up the river. There's a boat waiting for us, which we'll catch at first light. In the meantime, I'm going to head back to the common room to finish celebrating, then I'm going to come back here and go straight to bed.

 



 

Day 18

Well, so much for Urnst. We had a visitor during the night, so there's really no point in going to the big city to dispose of the valuables. When we woke up, we noticed that some of the treasures we had collected were missing. In their place, there was a note in Edward's purse. It was from the Raven, of course. Rather than fighting us, he had let us return to the safety of the village, then come in during the night and relieved us of his valuables. He did thank us again, but pointed out that since he had stolen them in the first place, the things we had were rightfully his. It was a bit irritating to the others, but I took it in stride. These things happen when you cross paths with a master thief. Of course, he's not the only sneaky person around...

So instead of heading back up to Urnst, we decided to head further west. Stallanford is a good place to visit this time of year; it's nearly harvest time, and the King's Festival should be a lot of fun to attend. Village festivals are a lot more fun than those in the city; the people are usually friendlier, and they don't have the same tendency to riot. At least I hope not. One riot is more than I want to deal with. We camped out under the stars tonight, enjoying the last few warm evenings before winter sets in.

 



 

Day 19

He came back during the night, as I expected. The others don't know about this second visit; they don't really need to. After all, the note he left was directed to me alone. I had to get rid of it before the others saw it, but I'll make a copy here.

"My dear Paddi.

"It was a pleasure to see you all again last night in Kleine, though you didn't know of my visit. Or at least, the others did not. I congratulate you; there are few indeed who would have the nerve to pick my pocket while I was relieving them of my property. Fewer still would succeed without drawing my attention. I confess, I never even realized you were awake. As a token of my eternal admiration, you may keep the diamonds you found on my person. I hope that in the future, should our paths cross again, we will meet as friends, perhaps even as partners. If that is not the case, then you will be a worthy opponent. Farewell, and may the gods of your people smile upon you forever.

"Raven"

 

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All of the preceding modules and game worlds are trademarked property of TSR Inc, which is now the property of Wizards of the Coast, Inc. I take no credit for the stories or ideas presented here, save for the six characters created as a vehicle through the adventures, I merely converted them to a playable format for SSI's Unlimited Adventures game.