On the road again.
Before entering the Deep Forest, we decide to stop by the Laughing Unicorn tavern, a well fortified establishment popular among the travelers of Deep Forest road. We sit for a bit to eat, chatting with the barkeep, Omar the younger. Omar tells us that the coward, Curran the bandit chief, just won’t leave well enough alone and has been stringing up travelers along the road as some sort of revenge for the deaths of his crew. I was perfectly willing to let the scumbag go, but it looks like we must finish him off before anyone else gets hurt. I wonder if there is a bounty on him and his remaining crew?
As we finish our meal, I notice a group of dwarves at a secluded table towards the back. Not one to pass up an opportunity to drink with some countrymen, I make my way over. But as I approach, I get an unsettling feeling about this bunch and notice their rather unusual dress…these dwarves are not from around here… or anywhere else I am familiar with. I decide to change my course and make for the crapper, which was probably a good idea anyway.
On my way back, I overhear one of them mumbling “that’s him” in a dialect I haven’t heard before. This can’t be good. As soon as I get a distance away from them, they all make a break for the back door. This is definitely not good.
I ask Omar about the dwarves and it seems they had been staying at the inn for some time, doing a whole lot of nothing. As we head out, hoping to get in our cart and go, we are told that our cart is waiting for us at the front gate, wheel repaired. The cart was no where to be seen. We rushed out the gate to find no sign of the cart, but off to the side, we spot the 5 dwarves just standing there.
I stomped over to the one who seemed to be the leader of the gang and demanded to know what in all the hells was going on! Instead, they started questioning me about some events 25 years prior. It seems they were under the impression that I was involved in some mess involving a burned and looted caravan, and the abduction of 3 three babies! I insisted I had no bloody clue what they were yammering about…but then it hit me. Not only did I have no memory of these events, I could not remember anything from that time…not a single thing.
Once it was discovered I was not useful, they seemed to have had enough of our conversation and suddenly blinked out of existence right before my eyes. They must have been in haste, for one of them left behind something on the bench they had been sitting on… a finely crafted ancient pipe on top of a scrap of parchment. Upon examining the parchment, it read “the stone of remembering” written in an ancient dwarven hand. This just keeps getting better and better.
Back to the task at hand, we decided to use our precious flying potion in an attempt to catch up to the stolen cart. We were successful, discovering a young lad feverishly pushing the poor donkey as fast as it could go. I managed to board the cart and knocked the thief cold. When he came to, he explained that his girl had been taken by ogres and that he was in pursuit. Well, we couldn’t just abandon the kid, Martin, and his love, Frea, so we decided to proceed to where he presumed to ogres to be.
Sure enough, we found ogre tracks and followed them to a cave and who did we see just standing in front of the cave? Frea… seemingly unharmed and in no hurry to escape. There was also the alluring smell of freshly baked pie in the air! Could this trip get any more bizarre? The ogre’s themselves (brothers it seems) then emerged from the cave, clearly not comfortable with our presence. Quinn chose diplomacy over aggression and discovered that the ogres had taken the wench for here pies and meant her no harm whatsoever, but were also not willing to give up their prize. After much discussion, an agreement was reached that if regular payments of pie was provided, as well as some ale to wash them down, that they would not longer disturb the travelers of the deep forest road. While it seemed absurd to me to reward these ogres for NOT menacing innocent travelers, everyone else involved seemed to think that this was a perfectly reasonable arrangement. Whatever. So the bargain was struck and we returned the happy couple to the Laughing Unicorn.
We decided to spend the night at the inn, choosing to stay in the same rooms as the dwarves, hoping to discover any clues they might have left behind. All I found was a small pouch of tobacco. Curious, I proceeded to try out my new found pipe. As the smoke entered my mouth, my consciousness was transported to what seemed like a cave, hearing several dwarvens speaking in an ancient dialect, which I could not understand. Throwing caution to the wind, I tried using some standard tobacco. Again, my mind was transported to another place, getting the feeling like I was trapped underground! Quinn cast a cantrip to discover if the pipes had magical properties and sure enough, both the pipe and the pouch of tobacco had a magical aura!
In the morning we proceeded to complete our quest to accompany Dunny to his home. As we left the tavern, I spotted one of the dwarves by the bench where we had encountered them previously, seemingly searching for something and then blinked out of sight. We proceed to Dunny’s home, where we bargained for a few potions as payment, 2 doses of Flame Arrow and 2 of Haste.
Upon leaving, we saw posted along the road a reward poster, claiming 500 gold for the head or capture of that bastard, Curran. It then occurred to me to check up on uncle Linder. Fortunately, all was well and the small community seemed to be thriving! I told him of the dwarves we had encountered and showed him the pipe. His reaction was that of alarm, telling us of a long lost tribe of outcast dwarves, known as the Charcoal Kings, thus named for their ability to transform themselves into coal dust and then transport themselves over great distances. He then dug up an old book describing the exact pipe and Linder warned me that the pipe was not to be taken lightly and that no good could come of its possession. He then suggested we check in with Sir Hoel of tradetown, who might have more insight about these Charcoal Kings.
We decided to spend the night at Linder manor and proceed out in the morning.