After a bit of traveling, we arrived in the little town of Stace. It was the last town on the way to the Elf kingdom — the Elf kingdom! I’ll finally get to see my father’s homeland! — so we decided to stock up on supplies. As we entered the village, though (It was more of a village and less, even, than a town), things started not to feel right. I’d heard better things about this place than what I saw. They’d had a mine. They were supposed to be prosperous. This village that lay before us was anything but prosperous, however. Buildings had fallen into disrepair. Shops and taverns were closed. No one smiled. I might’ve described this place in a song as “grey.”
We ended up at a place called Sump’s Stay-house — mostly because it was the only thing open. It was a little inn/tavern. Things were a bit on the expensive side, there, which I guess explains why they were still open, but I didn’t feel too bad paying for it because I could tell the village needed my outside money. We talked to the bartender (Mr. Stump, I presume? I don’t think we asked for his name) and one of the other patrons in the tavern and discovered that what I’d heard was true; this place had been prosperous only months before. After a bit of brain-wracking, I remembered hearing about an incident that had occurred in the mine. It was located at Cooper’s Hill, named after a Rorland Cooper and currently owned by his son Daniel Cooper, of whom I knew nothing. But soon after workers started working there, they reported a bad cough, then went blind and started to die.
Anyway, the bartender, who I’m going to call Sump on assumption, suggested that we either talk to Cooper himself or to the mayor about it for more information.
We decided to split up. Balasar and I would talk to the mayor, while Daye and Arannis would talk to Cooper and see what they had to say about the mine. So we went our separate ways. Balasar and I headed off to the mayor’s house. It was a humble little house, and his wife greeted us at the door. Apparently not even the mayor was immune to the slump the town was in, which I thought spoke well of him. He hadn’t let the corruption get to his head and so was in the same boat as everyone else in town. He repeated the information we’d learned in the tavern, plus some more. Apparently 5 or 6 years ago, Cooper’s hill was home to a band of gnolls. Tired of putting up with their attacks, Cooper led an attack against them, killed them all, and took the hill for himself, hence its name. There were rumors that the gnoll leader Gnoldemort, though, at the moment of his death, promised revenge, saying, “Yeenoghu will save us in the next life.” I didn’t know who Yeenoghu was, but it’s never good when gnolls are involved. The mayor also told us specifically that over 12 had died from the sickness, and that the first to die actually rose from their graves and shambled off to the mine where they wander around aimlessly at night and retreat into the mine during the day.
He then proposed to use a task. He said that the town was getting along fine before the mine and would get along fine without it, and that it should be destroyed. He offered to pay us and any other members of our party 80gp each to simply go in and collapse the mine. I thought perhaps we should meet and talk to the other two before agreeing to it, but I didn’t speak up and Balasar agreed immediately, so I agreed as well and we set off to find the other two.
Apparently they’d agreed to rid the mine of whatever was causing the sickness so that Cooper could reopen the mine. I guess he’d been hit by hard times as well, and wanted the mine open so he could earn a living again, because apparently he’d also offered to pay the four of us 80g each. Hard times all around in this place. We were then to give a public speech to the town telling them that the mine was safe now and they could go back to work.
We all shared the information we’d gotten about the mine from our respective sources and decided to head to the mine during the day when they were driven into the mine from the light.
We entered the cave and almost immediately were set upon by a group of zombies, including one strong little bastard that really could’ve done some damage had we not been so lucky. Something strange happened during that fight, though. One of Daye’s abilities did something we’ve not seen it do before. It made my arcane senses tingle a bit, but it made the paladin pretty much turn and stare at her in the middle of the fight. It was all we could do to make him wait until after the fight to address it. After the fight, though, address it he did. The paladin had apparently detected a great evil around Daye as that had happened. Between that and the way she talks whenever she’s asked a question, I’m not sure I can fully trust her anymore. I don’t know what it is, I guess nothing in particular, there’s just something there that puts me on edge. I don’t know, maybe it’s nothing. She did save me from the poison that one time, after all. The paladin, I think, definitely doesn’t trust her anymore, so she’d best be on her best behavior around him.
We continued into the mine and were attacked by spiders that dropped from the ceiling, but we handled them with relative ease. Even further back still, the cave opened into a large chamber. In the center of the chamber was a figure standing and chanting in the dim light. I couldn’t quite make out what it was, but a couple of the others could see that it was a gnoll, which was strange, because they should’ve been dead. It was clear that this was no ordinary gnoll. We didn’t want to give him time to react, so we charged in and managed to surprise him. Upon closer inspection, he was apparently a zombie, himself. The gnoll leader from the story, I assumed. Gnoldemort. We managed to hit him hard at the beginning of the fight, but he summoned skeletons to even the odds a bit. We managed to kill the gnoll, but still had to kill the skeletons. We thought were were done with the hard part. But no, a pillar of light, dark light, suddenly appeared around the gnoll’s body, and he rose up from the dead (again)! After some hard fighting and a few close calls, we managed to defeat him a second time and kill off the remaining skeletons, and during the fight, Daye’s spell triggered again! This time Balasar could tell the evil was coming from the rod itself. How long has Daye had a magic rod, I wonder. Why hasn’t she mentioned it? Shady, I think, keeping secrets.
I’m surprised Balasar didn’t take her staff and break it then and there, but I could tell he wanted to. Wanted to press Daye about it, too, but she closed up and didn’t want to tell us about it. I guess that’ll have to wait.
I did get a nice wand out of the deal, though. When the gnoll died, his wand split into three pieces. Two were unusable, but one seemed to have reverted to the thing it had originally been.
Anyway, since we left the mine without demolishing it, that meant we hadn’t completed the mayor’s task. I thought we should all go tell the mayor in person and then all go collect our reward in person, but Daye and Arannis were adamant (almost oddly so) that we split up again, exactly as before, so that Balasar and I would relay the bad news to the mayor while Daye and Arannis would relay the good news to Cooper.
The two of us arrived at the mayor’s house and delivered the news. He was very upset at us for not fulfilling our agreement, and so naturally we didn’t get paid. We tried to offer reasoning for not having done it. With the mine open again, the town could go back to work and prosper once more. The mayor simply shook his head and asked us if we knew anything about Cooper. About how he still lives in a mansion, with a butler. About how he lives in luxury while the town deteriorates around him. About how he’s nothing but a greedy bastard and how we’d probably been tricked, because the people would be too superstitious to ever want to go into the mine again anyway, speech or no. He told us he planned to have Cooper arrested in the morning, his property seized, and any further money going back to the town, and that we’d better leave early if we didn’t want to get caught up in it. We took his advice, stayed the night at Sump’s, and then set out early the next day.