While trying to figure out what to do about the Pilgrim’s Passages, Bodkin went on a bit of a walk around the box canyon that houses the entrance to Stonehell. He had noticed many more doorways and other passages in the walls than the ones they had explored so far and was interested in asking the local birds, voles, and squirrels about them. But first, he approached the great, broken wall that spanned the canyon, and he found he could decipher some more of the graffiti.
Studying the scratches, he was able to read the following:
“Fuck monkeys. Kill a white ape for Evar.”
“Don’t stay in the canyon at night. The souls lost in Stonehell rise and your doom will follow!”
“We put it here” this was above a hastily scratched map
While studying this map, he heard some whispers coming from the top battlements of the wall. As he hid and listened, he was able to tell that they were speaking a form of the Goblin language. Unfortunately, he doesn’t speak it himself, so was unable to tell what they were talking about.
Heading through the gatehouse, he decided to check out the ruins on the floor of the canyon. Most of the ruined buildings are simply empty shells, but one contains a statue of and shrine to an ancient, mythical hero named Ras. Supposedly, he was a champion of the Aspect of Discipline. The weather worn and lichen covered statue depicts a plate armored human male, on one knee, head bowed. The broken left arm is nowhere to be found. The right arm is reaching down and the hand rests on a helm on the ground. Ras was a paragon of one of the more martial aspects, so Bodkin was unsure of how one would provide orison to him.
He then goes to look at the warm pool with the silver sphere in the bottom. Following the stream of hot water up into the cave in the side of the cliff, he finds another small pool. The water emerging from the pool is quite a bit hotter than it is after plunging down the rocks to the pool below. The small cave is full of steam but he spots what looks like a brass version of the hemisphere in the lower pool stuck to the bottom of this one. Nothing else seems to be inside the cave.
The large grove of trees proved very interesting. When Bodkin walked into the thick copse, he realized there was a glamour upon it. It is obviously some form of illusion magic, but what could be powering it, or what spell in particular, he couldn’t suss out. From outside, it looks like a very thick grove of trees with thick undergrowth. From inside, it is actually quite sparse. Seeing nothing else of interest, he went to check the numerous caves and doors around the canyon walls.
1 – This doorway (no door) is worked stone, carved into the side of the cliff. From the entrance, Bodkin smelled the distinct odors of something septic, old fire, mold, and the unmistakable scent of fresh blood. Speaking with some squirrels gathering pine seeds here, he asks about the caves, what goes in and out? “Big hot bugs and goat go in.” they tell him. “Bugs come out. No goat. Big men, like you. Sometimes. Not usually. Big hot bugs eat us. Don’t like big hot bugs.”
2 – This natural cave on the side of the steep slope is the home of a pack of wolves. As Bodkin approached, one of the beasts growled a warning, though not in anger, so he left them alone.
3 – This carved stone doorway (no door) has signs of irregular traffic. As he watched from the small grove of trees nearby, a group of kobolds emerged carrying nets full of giant pill bugs. They chatted amongst themselves in Draconic as they entered the main entrance to Stonehell, eager to quickly get out of the light of the sun.
After they are gone, he follows after them and cautiously heads down to the foyer at the bottom of the spiral staircase. He seeks out some rats foraging on the ditritus left by the adventurers and other denizens that pass through here. He asks them, “Do you live in stone place? Do you have secret safe place? Is secret safe place big enough for me? Do the rooms move? Where do they move?”
They all chitter at him at once. He is able to piece together their squeaking into the following answer: “We live in the stone place. We live everywhere. Everywhere is secret and nobody has any secrets. You can go some places. Many big men like you live in stone place. Some hide, like us, in the cracks. Some are too loud and too big for the cracks. Some are nice. Some cracks are not real. We don’t hide there… Some places move. One moves up and down. It’s too loud though. Some are there, but then the… (here they struggle to convey what they have seen) the… Thing that isn’t there comes out of the cracks that aren’t real and makes the big light. And then the stone place is not there anymore. The big light looks like the cracks we don’t hide in. You are nice. You should hide when the Thing that isn’t there comes. He will make you not be here anymore also.”
4 – Walking up the switchback trail that leads to the Ghost Beggars’ hideout and the wizard tower cellar, he noticed a small cave entrance covered in thick webs. The air inside seemed refreshing and cool, slightly humid. Some finches were nearby, so he asked them about the cave. “Big spiders try to eat us. Don’t like big spiders” they say, before flying away.
5 – Continuing up the path, he took a side branch they didn’t follow before. At the end, he saw a mountain lion lounging in the sun at the entrance to another natural cave. He stayed in the shadows and bushes as well as downwind of the beast. The breeze brought to his nose a fetid, pustulant smell. As he got closer he saw that the lion was scratching a lot and had patches of fur missing and was generally in a bad way. Trying to peer inside the cave he got a definite feeling of unease about the place.
6 – Following the slope of the canyon, he comes to a large cave mouth. The unmistakable musky scent of a large bear emanates from here. This must be the den of Coal, the bear who is said to safeguard those who leave him offerings. He doesn’t seem to be at home at the moment, however.
7 – Approaching this carved stone doorway (no door), Bodkin’s neck gets a chill up and down and his hair stands on end. While still, the air gets colder as he approaches the dark portal. He asks a possum around a ruined building nearby about this. She says, “Nothing moves. Cave is bad. Nothing goes. When it does, it doesn’t come out. Cave is bad.”
Deciding better of it, he starts to leave the canyon for now…
As he picks his way through the gap in the southern section of the wall, he notices a man running through the gatehouse from the road, looking around as if trying to avoid just such a noticing. Deciding to follow him, he sees that he goes up the switchback. Before getting to the Ghost Beggars’ hideout, he climbs up the side of the canyon. Thinking this is very odd, Bodkin follows him further, up to the plateau above the canyon. The man, seeming less cautious now, walks straight towards the destroyed wizard tower, opens up the heavy iron cellar door and, with one last look around him in the growing darkness, slips inside.
With much to think about, Bodkin makes his way back to the keep and enters the gates as nighttime falls complete, and the sounds of the raucous common room fills his ears.