Recap: Sad 4th, 1327A. Tol Red at the Red Flagon announced that parties were being put together for 1,500 SP. The mission was some sort of escort work to a monastery of Samis. A mercenary with shark's skin gloves named Geoff wondered at the price, and the mission. (Need to give Rain +100 XP for her work, last time; review indicates necessity.)

Mission: Thalock Stoneknee (5th-level LN cleric, male dwarf with armor beneath his midnight blue surcoat) is a dwarven priest of Samis in Teras. He needs a small coffer (6"x6"x12") delivered to the Star's End monastery. To preclude anyone from obtaining the coffer, or from tracking its exact route magically, Stoneknee has had six identical coffers crafted -- one to go with each of the parties he intends to hire. The first party to successfully reach the Star's End with their coffer -- be it real or fake -- will receive an additional 1,000 SP. All other parties will receive their full payment upon delivery; the arrangement was made via divine spell, two nights previously.

Roleplay: Prior to leaving, Tol gives Tram a potion of cure light wounds as a parting gift, with hopes the bard will return to the Red Flagon.

DM's Note: The coffer contains an ancient parchment roll, written in Karatikan by a dragon slayer of the 2nd century Avard. The parchment details the location of an ancient dragon shrine to Milthel, the Dragon God, who was supposedly killed during the Storm Wars. The plundering of the shrine would greatly enhance the power of the Star's End, and the Church of Samis in Rakore.

Route: There are several different routes to make to the Star's End. By sea, one sloop is making a supply run to Stomalin Keep, and then on to Firland. Captain Veregost (2nd-level CG sailor, male human with an infectious smile and lots of jokes) is willing to take on the party for 250 SP -- travel time would be about two days to Firland. In Firland, a rowman can take the party upriver to the Star's End in about a day and a half for 50 SP.

By river, a number of passenger sloops make the various jaunts, stopping off for the night in each way-stop city. Travel expenses for the party to go to Takanal would run 180 SP (20 SP per way-stop, 20 SP per inn per night, 20 SP for four per inn per meal) -- travel time would be about four days, including an overland trek of one hard day to Star's End.

By land, the road paralleling the rivers would take about six days, because of the heavy trails and sometimes roads. Straight travel, with orientation and a map, would take two to three weeks through dense forest and dangerous lands.

Encounters: No matter the route taken, several encounters are possible.

Medium-Size Skeletons (3): CR 1/3; Medium-Size Undead; HD 1d12; hp 6 each; Init +5 (+1 Dex, +4 Improved Initiative); Spd 30ft.; AC 13 (+1 Dex, +2 natural); Atk 2 claws +0 melee; Face/Reach 5ft by 5ft/5ft; SQ Undead, immunities; Al N; SV Fort +0, Ref +1, Will +2; Str 10, Dex 12, Con --, Int --, Wis 10, Cha 11.

Skills and Feats: Improved Initiative

Special Qualities: Immune to mind-influencing effects, poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, and disease. Not subject to critical hits, subdual damage, ability damage, energy drain, or death from massive damage.

Immunities (Ex): Skeletons have cold immunity. Half damage from piercing or slashing weapons.

Monsterous Spider, Small (2): CR 1/2; Small Vermin; HD 1d8; hp 4 each; Init +3 (Dex); Spd 30 ft, climb 20ft (40 ft, climb 20ft); AC 14 (+1 size, +3 Dex); Atk Bite +4 melee (1d4-2 and poison); SA poison, web; SQ vermin; SV Fort +2, Ref +3, Will +0; Str 7, Dex 17, Con 10, Int --, Wis 10, Cha 2

Skills and Feats: Climb +10, Hide +14, Jump +6, Spot +8, Weapon Finesse (bite)

Poison (Ex): DC 11, Initial and Secondary Damage 1d3 Str

Web (Ex): Escape DC 18, Break DC 24, hp 4. DC 20 to notice the web; attempts to break free gain a +5 bonus if there is purchase.

Vermin (Ex): Immune to mind-influencing effects.

3ft wide; body the size of a man's head

Stirges (4 - clutch): CR 1/2; Tiny Beast; HD 1d8; hp 5 each; Init +4 (Dex); Spd 10ft, fly 40ft (average); AC 16 (+2 size, +4 Dex); Atk touch +6; Face/Reach: 2 1/2 ft by 2 1/2 ft/0ft; SA Attach, blood drain; SV Fort +2, Ref +6, Will +1; Str 3, Dex 19, Con 10, Int 1, Wis 12, Cha 6.

Skills and Feats: Hide +14, Weapon Finesse (touch)

Attach (Ex): If a stirge hits with a touch attack, it uses it eight pincers to latch onto the opponent's body. An attached stirge has an AC of 12.

Blood Drain (Ex): A stirge drains blood, dealing 1d4 points of temporary Constitution damage each round it remains attached. Once it has drained 4 points of Constitution, it detaches and flies off to digest the meal.*

*Note: Temporary losses to ability scores regenerate at the rate of 1/day -- or 2/day with total rest.

Star's End: After arriving at the Star's End, Brother Irol (2nd-level monk, human male, extremely intelligent and capable) tells the party that one of the coffers was taken from Geoff's party by bandits, who headed into the Rakanus Mountains. Retrieval of the second coffer will mean payment for the second coffer -- another 1,500 SP.

The Star's End is a small monastery atop a jagged edge of Mount Caleverous, east of Firland, and overlooking the Panthera River. A rope-basket of 150ft is required to reach the entrance to the Star's End. Otherwise, the one foot wide path takes a full day to climb. The monastery is a fortress, and virtually unassailable, save by large siege engines. The monastery has perhaps seventy monks of varying genders, mostly human, the head of which is Abbotess Cassandra (6th-level LN cleric of Samis, human female, beautiful, calm, and deadly). One monk is always on watch at the rope-basket's apex, watching the river, and the trails leading up to the Star's End.

Though Lawful Neutral, the monastery and its inhabitants are none-the-less followers of Samis. They aid bandits and brigands as much as the Rakoran peoples, for the right price. Their primary pursuit is the study of the ancient languages, and so they often translate texts for a small fee. In addition, they have a large library of ancient, indecipherable texts, through which the monks are slowly making progress. Abottess Cassandra is a well-verse practitioner of law, and though not herself a study of languages, is a good administrator. The Star's End is self-sufficient, with small gardens and an orchard within its walls, and a small goat herd on the other side of the monastery from the river. Paddocks and a small post for the shepherds over-watching the flock are located away from the monastery.

Bandits (5): 1st-level fighters; CR 1; M-sized humans; HD 1d10; hp 5; Init +0; Spd 30ft; Atk +1 (1d6 w/shortswords); AL LE; SV Fort +2, Ref +0, Will +0; Str 10, Dex 10, Con 10, Int 8, Wis 9, Cha 9.

Skills: Climb +2, Jump +2, Swim +2; one has Craft (Leatherworking) +4

Feats: Armor Proficiencies (all), Alertness

Possessions: (en toto) 17 GP, 58 SP, 32 CP, 4 dukats; one plain gold ring (6GP); 2 potions of cure light wounds; golden broach with an uncut/polished ruby (120GP); one masterwork quality suit of leather armor (resizeable, valued at 160GP); shark's skin gloves (+2 to climb checks).

-Names: Djon (leader/elder, masterwork leather), Adel, Murvos, Tikalen, Richtor (leatherworker). Each is tired, hungry, desperate, outlawed, bountied, hunted, and plain mean because of several armed robberies, murders, and thefts. LE nature means they get along well together -- because they're all brothers.