Treona Hoyt was very excited when Blake offered to play some music that evening at the inn. “Wonderful!” she exclaimed. “It has been much too long since we’ve had a bard to perform for us here in Bree.” Treona tried to hide her disappointment when Blake said that he wasn’t actually a bard, and she hardly knew what to say when he mentioned that his instrument of choice was the cowbell. But Treona needn’t have worried, because that evening, as the shifter pulled out his cowbell and played a rousing rendition of “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper,” the patrons of Hoyt’s Inn went wild. As Blake’s bemused companions watched from a corner table, the locals showed plenty of fist-pumping, crowd-surfing appreciation for the shifter’s virtuoso cowbell performance.
Before we get to the recap of what happened during the first part of this past Thursday night’s session of Madness at Gardmore Abbey, let’s review our ongoing D&D campaign’s dramatis personae…
- Silas—an eladrin vampire (played by Drew)
- Dagon— a watersoul genasi artificer (played by Robert)
- Gaultis— a goliath warden (played by Chad)
- Boojum— a pixie wizard (played by Steve)
- Blake— a razorclaw shifter barbarian (played by Andy, a very talented, real-life musician)
Welcome to Bree
As Lord Bothwell and our heroes journeyed to Bree (the settlement nearest to the ruins of Gardmore Abbey), Bothwell shared many tales from his days as an adventurer. Silas did a lot of surreptitious eye-rolling during Bothwell’s stories, but the rest of the party listened politely to the aging paladin.
After arriving in Bree, Bothwell went to pay his respects to the area’s hereditary lord, Eric Harkness. While Bothwell headed for Harkness’ manor house, Blake and Gaultis decided to wet their whistles at Hoyt’s Inn, the local watering hole. A tall tower standing in the center of the village sparked the rest of the party’s curiosity, so Boojum, Dagon, and Silas went off to check it out.
Blake and Gaultis met Treona Hoyt, the inn’s owner. She was friendly and open, quick with a smile and a warm welcome. When they asked her about Gardmore Abbey, though, she said she wouldn’t know it from a hole in the ground. But she told the two adventurers that some of the locals who would be at the inn later might know about it. As the shifter and goliath settled in at a table to enjoy some ale and wait for the locals to trickle in, Blake mentioned to Treona that he’d be happy to play some music later on.
Meanwhile, after knocking on the tower’s door, Boojum, Dagon, and Silas were greeted by a servant who told them the tower was the home of his master, the renowned scholar, Ranklo the Crescentic. After a bit of confusion at hearing the word “crescentic,” our heroes rallied and asked if they might speak to Ranklo. The servant said his master was with another guest, Kharas the Just, but that he could send word to the inn when his master was free to meet with them. Thinking quickly, Boojum said that they were actually associates of Kharas the Just and that Kharas had asked them to meet him at the tower when they arrived in Bree. A successful Bluff check sent the servant upstairs to announce their presence to Ranklo and Kharas. When the servant reappeared, he looked a bit suspicious, but asked them to follow him upstairs to his master’s study.
As the servant ushered them into Ranklo’s study, our heroes saw two men waiting for them. One was a dwarf in leather armor emblazoned with the symbol of Erathis. He was slowly slapping the head of a warhammer into the palm of a calloused hand. The other figure in the room was a very, very tall elderly human… or the elderly figure in the scholar’s robes would’ve been very, very tall if he weren’t bent over so far that his long back formed a perfect crescent. The dwarf looked our heroes up and down, and then said, “I’ve just been told ye be my associates and that I asked ye to meet me here at me friend Ranklo’s tower; the only problem is that I don’t seem to remember ever meeting ye before.”
Boojum quickly started to explain about how they were adventurers in Bree with Lord Bothwell and that they were going to Gardmore Abbey and…
But as soon as the pixie mentioned the abbey, Kharas exclaimed, “Gardmore Abbey! Erathis be praised! I see her hand in this. I don’t know who ye are, but Erathis has obviously brought us together.” Kharas went on to explain that he’s a cleric of Erathis, teaches at the University in Hume, and is an expert on the history of the area now known as the Lake District. His particular area of focus is the minotaurs who ruled the area centuries ago.
“According to me research,” Kharas explained, “Gardmore Abbey might have been established on the site of an ancient temple built by minotaurs hundreds of years before humans settled these lands. I’m searching for hardy souls, such as yerselves, who be willing to explore the abbey and unearth the ruins of that temple. If ye bring me useful knowledge or relics of the minotaur civilization, you have my word, I will pay ye handsomely.”
Since they were already going to be at the abbey with Lord Bothwell, the three adventurers accepted Kharas the Just’s quest on behalf of the entire party. They then questioned the dwarf and Ranklo about the history of the abbey— especially about the “dark artifact” that Lord Bothwell had mentioned— but neither scholar could tell them much more than they’d already learned from Bothwell’s story.
Back at the inn, Treona had steered Blake and Gaultis to an aged human farmer who had come in for some liquid refreshment. She said the fellow knew more stories about the history of the area than anyone else. The farmer, Hepplewhit the Old, was happy to let the shifter and goliath buy him ale, but he couldn’t tell them much more about Gardmore Abbey than they’d already learned from Lord Bothwell.
Just as Blake and Gaultis were thanking Hepplewhit for his “help,” the rest of the party came into the inn, accompanied by Bothwell and a tall, slender man dressed in finery and with a longsword at his belt. The man was none other than Lord Eric Harkness; he and Bothwell had met Boojum, Dagon, and Silas as the adventurers were leaving Ranklo the Crescentic’s tower. As Harkness made his way across the inn’s crowded common room, he had a smile, friendly word, or hearty slap on the back for all of the locals.
After Bothwell introduced Harkness to Blake and Gaultis, the group sat down around a large table that a servant hurriedly cleared for them. Harkness said the evening’s meal and drinks were on him, and then said how pleased he was to finally meet his neighbor, Lord Bothwell, as well as Bothwell’s “esteemed champions.” Harkness was a former soldier himself, so he was keen to hear of our heroes’ exploits while hunting down the chaos crystals, which Bothwell had already mentioned to him. After the meal was over, Harkness said that he had a proposition for the party.
“Travelers on the King’s Road of late have been attacked by orcs,” Harkness said. “The attacks mostly occur in the vicinity of the old ruins of Gardmore Abbey, so I suspect the orcs are using the ruins as a lair. If I could, I’d raise a militia to go root out the monsters, but the good folks here can’t see past the village walls. If it’s not a direct threat to Bree, they don’t think it’s our problem. But the orc attacks affect merchants and traders coming here, so it is our concern, after all, and I need to deal with the monsters. To start, I’d like to hire you to scout the abbey and find out whether the orcs are lairing there. Come back and tell me what you find— as complete a picture of their lair and defenses as you can.”
Looking to Bothwell, our heroes saw him nod in agreement, so they told Lord Harkness that they’d accept his quest. As Harkness rose to return to his manor house, Bothwell said he’d stay a few moments with his “champions.” After the local lord’s departure, Bothwell hemmed and hawed a bit before finally admitting that the journey to Bree had taken more out of him than he’d expected, and that he obviously hadn’t bounced back from his recent wound and the poisoning like he thought he would. But, he went on, if he could rest for a few days, he was certain he’d be as good as new. If the adventurers would be willing, perhaps they could leave him in Bree while they scouted the abbey for Lord Harkness, then they could return with their report and by then Bothwell would be strong enough to accompany them back to the ruins. Our heroes, sympathetic to their patron’s plea, readily agreed to the change of plan. A grateful Bothwell stayed to see Blake’s cowbell performance and then exited the inn, explaining that Harkness had invited him to stay at the manor house. Before he left, he gave the adventurers gold to pay for their rooms at the inn and said he’d return in the morning to see them off to the abbey.
What will our heroes find at the ruins of Gardmore Abbey? Tune in to the next post to find out!