Taking up the investigation of the missing guardsmen from Itven, the Party had discovered evidence suggesting the men were somehow incapacitated and carried off. Pursuing this lead had placed the Group into the nesting ground of Assassin Vines and had resulted in Kir fleeing a Dire Boar deeper into the woods. Tracking Gram’s companion had taken the investigators off of their original trail, but had inadvertently revealed another target of interest, wanted man and brother through marriage to Constable Plonnor…“The Architect” Ervaln Norforn.
Pelsday, Twenty-third of Declarations, 1044 Y.K.
Growing concerned that a new day had dawned and the Group had yet to return, Stoat and Hilg took to the last known path of their company and began their own trek through the woodlands. They located the site of the Assassin Vine battle, and soon encountered Gram, who had been dispatched to ride to the homestead and lead them to the company. En route, he informed them of the discovery of the trap and the possibility of locating Ervaln Norforn.
With the company once again at full strength, the Group pressed deeper into the woodlands and eventually came upon a clearing encircled by a wicked bladed fence. They surmised that this most-assuredly must be the lair of The Architect and made preparations to enter. While a Fey creature summoned by Hilg scouted the clearing, the Group made it’s plan. They would surround the clearing and send a team in to capture Norforn or – failing that – flush him out to the others.
Being the swiftest member of the Group while astride Kir, it was decided that Gram would lead the company members surrounding the clearing. He, Sendrita Fordril, Hurthral Galborn, Constable Plonnor and the militiamen ringed the clearing while Cosdrelita and the rest of the Party approached the entrance at the center of the fenced landscape. Brendolm stayed ahead, walking point, and encountered the first of The Architect’s traps.
Additional blades, hidden amongst the tall grasses created a labyrinth of sorts and the Halfling Paladin called for the Group to stop. Moving into the maze, Brendolm learned that the hidden weaponry was also set to erect itself and create new walls, barriers that responded and changed based on his steps upon pressure plates hidden in the dirt and grass of the ground. He traversed the arrangement as best he could, but in time found himself boxed in on all sides.
Trapped in the maze, Brendolm learned that there was a penalty for his wrongful steps. The barricade of blades – reacting to the formation of a boxed in location – cut, slashed, gouged and stabbed him heavily before reverting to their standard wall-forming angles, leaving him stranded. Unable to press onward, he called out his pattern of steps so that a different path could be forged by another, hopefully with more success.
Hilg took to the task next, coordinating with Brendolm as to the steps not to take. As the Half-Orc moved through, his path soon took him into the location that Brendolm was trapped in, albeit from another direction. This time the barriers moved and allowed them access forward. A few movements later, the tall Druid was able to hoist the Halfling up and over the blade-wall, landing him next to the entrance, where the bladed labyrinth was able to be deactivated.
The inside of the lair proved to be just as dangerous, if not more so than the exterior. Puzzles, traps and additional blades sought to rob them of their progress and their lives as they moved through the subterranean passages. Relmir Dilomas suffered the worst of the injuries, being impaled on a wall of sharpened spears when a tilting floor released by a pressure plate caused him to fall forward and slide into the trap.
As the Group entered the final chamber, they discovered Norforn waiting for them, having been alerted to intruders by the sounds of triggered traps and howls of pain. They stood at the bottom of a pit with vicious predators in side cages. The Architect stood on the upper level above, largely unable to be seen. It was clear to the Party that their adversary intended them to fight against the large cats from the cages, while he himself fired arrows from above.
A lever was thrown and a portcullis dropped across the entrance, cutting the Party in two. Thinking quickly, Hilg summoned a large bear into the chamber, mauling one cat through its bars before the cage could even be opened. Zeph called upon his great strength, lifting the gate and allowing the remainder of the Group to enter. The remaining two beasts attacked the Group as Hilg’s summoned bear vanished from existence.
Believing he had everything well in hand, The Architect rained arrows at the Party, never thinking that he himself would come under attack from the rear. The look of surprise on his face when he was swiped by a second summoned bear filled Hilg with glee, and allowed the Group below to focus its attack on the cats. Norforn, taken completely by surprise suffered massive wounds and was forced to flee through a rear exit on the upper level.
Defeating the cats at last, the Party learned of Norforn’s escape. Following the trail of blood spatter lead them to the rear exit, far outside the surrounded clearing the rest of the company was holding… Their prey had slipped right through their fingers and escaped on horseback. The company regrouped inside the lair and plundered the vast riches The Architect had once enjoyed, making camp after. Any return from the lair’s previous owner was considered unlikely at best.
Katarday, Twenty-fourth of Declarations, 1044 Y.K.
Returning to Itven, the Group decided to take care of side business: identifying items acquired from the lair, burying the slain militiaman and paying his family a stipend, as well as bringing Roth up to date on the totals within the mission ledgers with money and items taken from the Norforn lair. Maldus had a bit of side business of his own to conduct, paying Defon a sum of 751 gp for services thus far. The rogue was stunned, having only been treated poorly as far as he knew.
Brendolm also conducted some side business, hiring the militiaman Celdren to travel to Cosolen on his behalf to procure and return with a specific magical shield that was to be purchased from the wizard’s guild broker Forberon. The woodcutter received a payment up front, with additional money to be collected upon his successful return. Brendolm also instructed Celdren to give the shield to Maldus if he himself were dead or missing.
For his part, Celdren eagerly accepted the assignment – being a man longing for a bit of adventure in lieu of his typical days of cutting wood in near solitude. Traveling to the capital to purchase a magical shield for an adventuring Paladin might not be a grand adventure, but it was certainly a step in the right direction, and a new contact for potential further missions.
As the hireling assembled his things and exited the town, the Party prepared to leave as well, intent on getting back on the trail. The day was still young enough to move onward, and with their deviation now completed, they could resume following the tracks left behind at the site of the missing soldiers. With any luck the Group would have news for Lord-Mayor Thalrel and the Galborn family the following day. With still greater luck, the missing men might still be found alive.