Codex II-Chapter 1

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It was two days journey to the hamlet of Newkeep, and as the party continued the land grew more and more lush and green. They were now several days away from the Niktean Wastes, and as they ventured further north they also climbed in elevation. They traveled quickly, their equipment on Nathan’s horse, which Khaska had convinced them to keep.

They arrived just as the sun was peaking in the sky, bearing down on all of them. Smoke from cooking fires and other things drifted over the treeline, and as they rounded a corner in the road the village appeared out of the trees.

The first building they came to was a grey stone building with no roof. Khaska’s ears perked up as he looked inside, a small altar with a symbol of Heironeous atop it. It was obviously some kind of shrine. Rynn lightly hit the cleric on his arm and indicated the ground around the shrine. There were a number of freshly dug graves. Khaska’s face hardened, and he and Rynn led the way into the town.

“Can I help you strangers?” a man said, emerging from one of the huts.

“I believe so,” said Rynn. He glanced at the others before stepping forward. “We are here on behalf of Lord Yellman. We hear you have an ettin about.”

“Lord Yellman sent you? Best thing that man has ever done for us. Follow me,” he waved his hand, “I’ll take you to Aranda.” He led the way into the hamlet, where the people all stared at the new arrivals. It wasn’t a very big area, and soon the party stood in front of a small keep. It was clearly unfinished, only one level even completed, and even then not completely. An old woman came out. “Aranda, Lord Yellman sent these folks to kill the ettin!”

“Oh praise Heironeous!” the woman said, clapping her hands together. “Henry, go tell Hannah to put on a pot of stew and get Malwick and Restik. Come, come, dear friends. You must be tired.” The matronly woman ushered them inside. The inside of the keep consisted of only two rooms, the front one housing a table with chairs all around it, as well as many odds and ends. “Do forgive the mess, the keep is still not finished, and I don’t have much room.”

“Very much a new keep? Is that why your town is named Newkeep?” asked Amara.

“Yes. We moved here from the old keep four years ago. An evil wizard forced us to leave, and by the time he was killed, well, we were already so well established here that we decided to stay. That doesn’t mean that the new keep is finished, obviously. Please, sit. Hannah will be by shortly with some food. I’m afraid we have no inn, but she has enough room in her house for four of you.” She looked at the party of five. “And we have accommodations elsewhere for whichever of you can’t stay there.”

“Thank you,” Khaska inclined his head.

“Now, tell us about this ettin!” Orensland said, seriously. The old woman took a chair.

“It started a few months ago. One of our men here was out hunting and he saw a giant in one of the fields east of town, but in the middle of the night. Malwick, he’s our constable, had us set up watches, but we didn’t see him for some time and to be honest, gave up. It appeared he had moved on.

“But then two weeks ago it came back, just before dawn. Tried to take some cattle. Malwick’s father led some men to try and kill it, but it smashed through them like paper. Malwick’s father, Heironeous bless him, was killed, along with three of his men. Malwick has taken his spot as constable, but isn’t as seasoned as his father.

“Since then, it’s come every few days, attacking people, smashing houses, stealing more cattle, things like that. There seems to be no reason or pattern we can see.

“It has also come at night,” came a new voice. A half-elf stood in the doorway, his body clad in scale mail, a sword at his side. “But it doesn’t steal our cattle then. In fact, it got spooked night before last and ran away when we went after it. At first I thought it was a different giant, but it had scars where we had injured it before.” He stepped inside. “I’m Malwick, and I lead the local militia. It’s good to see that Lord Yellman has sent help.”

“May Markus and Heironeous bless you,” said a third voice as a man stepped into the room. He was wearing priestly robes, and had a symbol of Heironeous around his neck. “I am Restik, and if you need anything, anything at all, let me know. I tend the shrine to the great god Heironeous you passed on the way into town, and have been very troubled by these events. My healing spells have saved several from their wounds, but I’m afraid not all.”

“Are there any injured now?” Khaska said, standing up. “I may lend my spells as well.”

“No,” said Restik. “Not now, and hopefully not again, at least not from the ettin. Oh,” he clapped his hands together, “do any of you worship Heironeous?”

He received blank looks from the party. Khaska spoke again. “I am a cleric of Teresh, whom you call Pelor, but also honor Heironeous.”

Restik hesitated, but Aranda leaned forward. “Show it to them. It may be the secret to what is happening, as you suspect. Surely this sign from Heironeous is meant for them as well.”

Malwick snorted and shook his head slightly.

“Show us what?” said Amara. “What sign?”

Restik hesitated, then beckoned them. “Come with me.”

“When you are done, please come back. Hannah will be here soon with food!” Aranda said.

Restik led them down the path to his shrine. Malwick followed, but it was clear from his body language that he thought it a waste of time. Rynn asked him about the local militia, and Malwick assured him that he could muster 25 men in a few minutes, but was quite clear that none of the militia was available to help. “What if you go after it and it sneaks back to the village behind you?” he said. “We need every available man to guard the hamlet!”

Khaska removed his helmet as he entered the shrine, and immediately upon entering, he saw the “sign” from Heironeous.

Scrawled in tar on the western wall, not visible from the road, were the following words:

“Two head have we, but born with one.
We avenged, healed, and protected.
Our master was Invincible.
But punished we all who objected.
Heeded we the six-armed king,
And so by our god was rejected.
Thus, this is our fate:
One head, twice bisected.”

Amara immediately frowned. “This is a sign from Heironeous?”

Malwick signed loudly. “Clearly not.”

Even Restik smiled a little. “I think it is clear that Heironeous did not write these words, despite what Aranda said. The tar was stolen from Jolden’s farm, just up the road. To me it looks like someone was writing a riddle, trying to solve it, and wrote it down to keep it straight.”

“Yes, but there’s no reason to think that the riddle has anything to do with the ettin,” said Malwick. “It’s big. It has two heads. It kills people for no reason, and it needs to be killed. It’s not a riddle to be solved, it’s a think to be slain!” He turned to the party.

“So what do you intend to do to help us?”

Eryx (DM)
I should note, don’t worry about things like paying for inns. I find that gets tedious, and will be using the Variant Upkeep rules on the DMG p. 130. At the end of the month, I'll just have you pay upkeep. It just makes things simpler.

Also, this is a pre-generated campaign story, so I’m going to ask you to refrain googling any of it. I have my plans of how to work it into the overarching storyline of the campaign, but I am largely basing this codex off of the pre-generated adventure.

So, what do you intend to do?

Sayyadina
Amara would raise an eyebrow at Malwick and say (somewhat condescendingly), "Dismiss this that casually, and you risk ignoring a problem far larger than a single ettin." She'd look at Restik, somewhat surprised that he hadn't made the connection to the "six-armed king." "Hextor is involved in this somehow."

From the riddle, it seems clear that one or more servants of Heironeous (the Invincible) began turning to his evil half-brother, Hextor, for power; he/they then lost whatever favor of Heironeous they once had and were somehow turned into an ettin. The message appears to have been left as either a threat or a warning, from a nearby cult of Hextor or possibly the ettin itself. Accordingly, Amara would ask Restik (and Malwick, I suppose) if any priests or acolytes had gone missing with the past few months, or if they've had any other unusual happenings or encounters with cults of Hextor in the past.

BlackWolf
As a player, I agree with Sayya. I think her interpretation of the riddle fits very well. But Rynn, he's not much for knowledge of religion. He vaguely knows about the gods, but doesn't really think on them often. Out of tradition or habit he looks to Fharlanghn to keep him safe in his travels and will sometimes visit the roadside shrines.

Rynn will heed Amara's warning though; there appears to be more going on here than just a rogue ettin. Rynn wonders who would have written this message; surely not the ettin, right? Are there others involved?

He's also interested in more detail around the ettin attacks. From what we've heard so far, it appears that sometimes it comes near the town without attacking. Is there a pattern there (e.g. it doesn't attack at night, but only at dawn)? Could we maybe communicate with it?

If this ettin isn't really an ettin but is a cursed person, Rynn would like to help save it. But it has already killed enough people — if worse comes to worst, Rynn thinks it should be slain. It's not worth losing many lives to save one.

Sayyadina
Since Rynn speaks Goblin, we at least have a shot, though it takes a DC 15 check for each bit of information…no one who speaks Orc or Giant, sadly.

Thevarou
Khaska concurs with Rynn's and Amara's assessment of the situation - he thinks it likely that the ettin is a person under a curse, supposing that he is the author (or at least the subject) of the verse at the shrine, and is loath to kill him unless all other positive resolutions of the problem are exhausted. He also would like to try to determine whether there is a pattern in the times of day of the ettin's attacks; this could help us in what we do further. Also, if speaking Goblin helps, Khaska can do that.

Crosis

Orensland agrees with the curse theory. Would it be possible to have a kind of werewolf scenario? If it only attacks at night (which seems unverified), it sounds like a theory to consider. Also, if it would be a cursed person and it is NOT a werewolf scenario, somebody would be missing from the village. It seems small enough for a missing person to be noticed. If not… he/she could change form at night. Assuming diplomacy doesn't work, I'm not sure how we would bring it down by force without killing it- any ideas? Is there an alchemist in town we could employ to create a sleeping draught? If that were the case, I would hope Rynn could track it's water source, or that the ettin would be dull enough to fall for a trap.

Deviating to the last codex, Orensland would want to submit some of the red leaf as evidence. However, keeping a significant portion of it sounds like a good idea. If not for bribery or some other underhand tactic, it would be a fun firewood supplement for a cocky merchant's fireplace. Who knows? Orensland could leave his own little mark in robbed dwellings.

DeltaWolf

To Jenika nothing has changed. We find this thing that is killing and stop it, by force if we can't communicate with it. If the others what to implement a non-violent plan then she is cool with it.
She is mostly concerned about Finals.

Amara raised an eyebrow and glared at Malwick. “Dismiss this that casually, and you risk ignoring a problem far larger than a single ettin.” She looked at Restik. “Hextor is involved in this somehow.”

“Hextor!” Malwick was genuinely concerned.

“Well,” Amara said, stepping forward, pointing at the wall. “ ‘Our master was invincible,’ clearly a reference to Heironeous the invincible. It seems to me that one servant, or possibly servants of Heironeous are what the riddle refers to. They used to serve the Invincible, Heironeous. But then they heeded the ‘six-armed king,’ a clear reference to Hextor. Doing so would clearly loose them the favor of Heironeous.” She pointed again. “ ‘So by our god was rejected.’ Such a betrayal would warrant a serious reprisal, and I don’t think being turned into an ettin is out of the question.” She turned to Restik. “Have there been any acolytes or priests, maybe a cleric, of Heironeous that have been missing lately?”

“No,” he said, genuinely concerned. “There is nobody from the town or even the surrounding villages that is missing. Just the ones killed by the ettin recently.”

“Still,” said Khaska, “I am inclined to agree with Amara. It does seem to me that the ettin is a person under some kind of curse, if this riddle has something to do with it.”

“It doesn’t,” said Malwick.

“And you’re willing so casually to dismiss its appearance around the same time the ettin appears?” Amara said. She rolled her eyes at him, but then turned to Rynn. “What do you think?”

Rynn looked at the wall. “If it is a cursed human, that might explain why sometimes it attacks, and other times it just approaches and does nothing.” He looked at Malwick. “Does its actions follow any kind of pattern? Something we might use? You said sometimes it comes at night.”

“Maybe like a werewolf or something,” said Orensland. “Only turns into an ettin during the night or something.”

“It’s been around both and night and during the day,” said Malwick. “It’s never attacked at night, even though we’ve seen it skulking around. When we chased it off, it never succeeded in whatever it was trying to do.”

“Does it skulk around during the day?” Rynn asked.

Malwick paused in thought for a moment. “Come to think of it, no. Just barges in, yelling and bellowing, screaming at us and generally causing havoc.”

“So it seems that night time might be the time to try diplomacy, if that’s even possible,” said Rynn.

“I think we need to be open to the possibility that whoever wrote this riddle is from a cult of Hextor,” Amara said.

“The ettin is the subject of the riddle,” responded Khaska. “There is too much coincidence for it to be not. I do wonder if it is the author of the riddle.”

“I doubt that,” said Rynn. “There’s something more going on here. We’d best be wary.”

“So,” said Jenika, “what’s the plan?” She was looking at Rynn. “If Amara’s right, we should see if we can talk to it. If she’s wrong,” she cracked her knuckles, “well, there’s that too.”

Rynn realized that the entire group was doing looking at him, and the thought gave him a moment’s pause. “Well, let's rest here in town for the remainder of the day. Get some rest. As the sun goes down, let’s head out. I’ll try to get a good bead on where it’s coming from and just scout the immediate area while we still have good light.”

From what Rynn could tell, the ettin had come to town several times, and each time had approached it from a different direction. But about a mile out, all of the paths converged and headed to the east. He and Malwick were out checking on the trails, the constable offering to point out where the beast had been. Following its tracks was easy, the creature was quite large and Rynn was quite confident that any ranger could have followed it what with the amount of damage it did to the trees and shrubs it crashed through.

“What’s to the east?” the ranger asked, crouching over a particularly ingrained footprint. .

“Just Oldkeep,” said Malwick. “Our old home. I suspected the creature was coming from there. This just confirms it.”

“Oldkeep is where you were driven out several years ago?”

“Yes.”

“So if you knew the ettin usually came from this way, why haven’t you gone after it?”

“Too few men. Have to defend the town with what little we have left. Don’t want to miss it on our way and come back to the town completely destroyed.”

“That seems a wise choice,” Rynn said, straightening. “We’ll hunt it tonight. You stay and defend your village. How far would you say it is to Oldkeep?”

“Few hours walk. Not far at all. The trail itself isn’t well-worn anymore, but you should still be able to follow it well enough, even at night.”

“Good to know,” said Rynn.

Eryx (DM)
This will end the chapter.

This page is part of the campaign story. << Previous Chapter | Next Chapter >>