Having defeated the thugs that threatened Hulberry’s fledgling farm and encountered Gnarl who sought Lorik – the same banker who founded Hulberry’s farm – the party makes it to the gates of Sprig Valley.
At the Gates
Sprig Valley has gates in every direction – north, east, south, west. Each gate operates the same and as the party approaches from the west we see that the wall in which the gate stands is a massive testament to the virtue of worked stone.
The wall itself is visible from a far distance and is nearly 30 ft. high. Observing the rangers that patrol the top of the wall suggests that it must be 10 ft. thick. The wall itself is old, having been erected soon after Sprig Valley was founded, but adornments and the armor of its guards are all fresh, elvan craftsmanship.
As the adventurers get closer, the nature of the gate is revealed. Instead of simply being a massive door in a massive wall, the gate is an open arch with a magically entangled thicket of vines and branches that reach up from the ground and fill the doorway. A DC 13 Arcana check reveals this to be a highly specialized magical effect that cannot be nullified by any attempts to dispel it. Above this door, carved deep into the stone, is the city’s motto: ‘Like a single sprig, we each rise to form a vast valley!’
Adventurers to the gate are met by guards of elvan and or human heritage. These are The Newguard, and party members with origins within the valley recognize this to be a strange and new arrangement, with the traditional guardsmen being dwarven. The patrols on top of the wall are still dwarven, but the humans and elves on the ground speak as people approach.
“What’s your business?” the guards ask. They are brief and to the point, and do not recognize any party members who may have lived here five years prior. Any attempts to speak with them end with the guards saying, ‘The Valley is not accepting any visitors at the moment, best be on your way.”
From here, any attempts to scale the wall reveal that the stone is enchanted so that it cannot be breached by climbing or digging tools – making going over or under the wall impossible. Speaking to the dwarves on the wall brings a friendlier tone, but they explain that their hands are tied ever since Brimlo Colder contracted with Lorik Featherfall to staff the gates with the benefactor’s newguard.
Speaking to the dwarves brings the attention of Sola Stonesteep who steps through the magical door and greets the party. Any confrontations that result in combat with the two newguards also results in Sola stepping out to calm the tension when both guards are reduced below 50% their max hit points.
Into the Valley
“I will take from her,” Sola says, as the guards begrudgingly step back to their posts.
“Forgive them, they are under strict orders from Sprig Valley’s benefactor to keep the gates secure, but I have the authority to let those I deem worthy in. Please, if you may, tell me why your here?”
Sola is more accepting of any non-evil reason for entering, and recognizes faces of adventurers who had lived here once before. Regardless of the party’s familiarity, she explains that entry into Sprig Valley is restricted behind a riddle, a poem those who seek to pass must answer. This riddle changes regularly for security reasons, so being from Sprig Valley does not guarantee an adventurer will know the answer.
The riddle: “I want to let you in, but you’ll have to step to your side to get to my door.
I’m a friend when I’m good, a foe when I’m bad, but always around regardless.
For you, I've got a cup of sugar, or maybe some helpful, free labor.
Say goodbye when you leave, and hello when you’re back, because I am _______.”
A DC 10 investigation or insight check suggests that the answer must rhyme with ‘labor’. Sola does not offer any help except to tell characters from Sprig Valley that ‘I think you were one once.’
The answer as designed is ‘your neighbor’, but any answer the DM sees fit can be used in its stead. That said, the theme of this story is community, and the riddle is designed for an answer that shares a meaning with ‘neighbor’, ‘family’, or ‘friend’.
Once the adventurers have successfully answered the riddle, Sola applauds their kind hearts and welcomes them to follow her in and implores the guards to remember their faces for they are now welcome anytime. Sola shows them around and gifts each of them one Lullaby Flower picked from her garden earlier that day.
(Wondrous Item, very rare)
Flower – 50,000 gp – .25 lbs
This rose shimmers with a magical, white aura and its petals glean like polished marble. When gifted to adventurers, the flower is often preserved – always ready for transplantation – in a slim glass bottle that keeps the magical plant alive for up to one year after being bottled.
The lullaby flower can be planted anywhere there is topsoil, at which point the plant begins to shimmer in a brilliant light show and the gentle sound of harps becomes audible.
For the next minute, the flower becomes a beacon of hope to all creatures within 120 ft. of the flower friendly to the one that planted it as if by the Beacon of Hope spell. After this minute, the flower wilts and is gone.
‘We make the world a better place by what we add to it, not what we take from it.’ - Sola Stonesteep
Life in Sprig Valley
Once in the city, Sola brings the party on a tour of the surface of Sprig Valley – see Sprig Valley city description. Throughout their tour, adventurers are liable to meet any and all sorts of residents including any relatives who live here.
If the party pursues Lorik at the bank during this part of the adventure, a DC 18 persuasion or deception check compels a banker to report on his whereabouts to which they simply say he is at Rugbee Hold, but they don’t know anything else. Adventurers that go straight to the prison are met with dwarven guards who maintain a police line due to ‘an incident’ in one of the cells. Any investigation undertaken while in the bank reveals a beautiful ingot of Amber Acer – fossilized maple – worth 10,000 Gp preserved in a display at the front of the bank. The plate under it reads: ‘a good soul can change the world, a gift from Mr. Featherfall to Sprig Valley’.
In addition to the regular goings on in Sprig Valley, adventurers will also be introduced to The Festival of Creaton’s Comet. The festival is in celebration of Creaton’s Comet which is a wonder of the world that passes close to this planet once every 500 years. The festival is in the final stages of preparation as children romp and play all the games and events set up for them, and older dwarves and gnomes enjoy the crowd of young people asking if they’d been present for the last festival 500 years prior.
At the time of this adventure, the comet is due the night after next and the city is lively with joyous celebration – not unlike a popular holiday.
The city is adorned with decorations that depict a golden comet arching through the sky, merchants line the streets with food carts of rock candies and other crunchy treats, and Thuk’s theater tells the tale of the first comet that passed over Sprig Valley over 2,000 years ago. This story describes how the people of the newly founded Sprig Valley all wished on the shooting star together for a long and prosperous life in their new home – and how every generation since has done the same!
While on this tour, Sola is hastily approached by a band of children carrying a small pet in a cart. The animal, the children report, has been sick for a few days and the children are looking for help to make him better. Sola says she needs a magical salve from her office at the clinic to help the poor creature, but, before she can instruct the kids to meet her there, Old Man Bramble joins the group and applies the salve and magical treatment.
Old Man Bramble.
Bramble is an old gnomish man who used to work with Sola at her clinic. There is a dynamic between them that suggests they were more than coworkers, but no longer. Bramble is a master healer, but his advanced age forced him into retirement. He is a staple of the local community as much as any council member and Bramble knows everybody in Sprig Valley – all of which have a fond story of how he, in one way or another, helped them in a time of need.
Still very close and fond of each other, Sola introduces Bramble to the adventurers with great enthusiasm and admiration for his character. She explains that if anybody can tell them about Sprig Valley, it’s him.
“I have to prepare for a council meeting tonight anyway, so I hope you don’t mind if I leave you in Bramble’s capable hands.” Sola says before departing, leaving the party with him. This council meeting is to discuss ‘a missing prisoner’ and the safety implications of her escape.
“She’s a busy woman,” Bramble says as she leaves. “And she has an eye for good people. So tell me, friends, what brings you to our gentle corner of the world?”
As the party speaks with Bramble, we learn the following things:
About eight years ago, some elvan privateers ‘discovered’ Sprig Valley and set up a small settlement adjacent to the valley, East Neavand. One of these elves was ‘the benefactor’, an Elf named Lorik Featherfall.
Featherfall ‘s motto was always ‘the soul of a good person can change the world’, which was also his reason for wanting to invest in the valley and help it grow, because it’s full of good people
It was about that same time that many evil forces were drawn to this place.
Ultimately, the day comes to an end with little excitement outside the quests outlined in the Sprig Valley city description. Bramble offers the adventurers to stay with him at his home – an artificial hill built of old stone.
As the Night Falls
As night falls, but just before the heroes can achieve a short rest, the whole city of Sprig Valley is shaken by an explosion outside the capitol. Bramble is already up and implores the heroes to help him figure out what is wrong.
As adventurers approach the capitol, the harsh glow of fire light in the distance stains the night sky, and the sound of gnashing teeth and angry howls grow louder. The structures and flora surrounding the capitol are engulfed in flame. Any efforts by adventurers to put the fires out and save the families within burning buildings is rewarded with inspiration or some other magical boon by Old Man Bramble.
Once in the capitol’s courtyard, the party is met by a band of three…twisted things. Similar in form to flesh golems, the creatures in the courtyard look like mutants of former citizens with ripped clothing and attempting to kidnap civilians they’ve cornered and whisk them away presumably out of the city to consume them.
In combat, one of the twisted things is always trying to grapple and dash away with their victims in tow while the other two attempt to fend off adventurers. At any point, if one of the twisted things escapes with its victims, the remaining things drop combat and dash away.
During combat, bramble attempts to help adventurers per his ‘Keep it Moving’ ability. If a Twisted Thing is reduced to below half its max hit points – or after combat – Bramble reveals that he recognized some of the clothes and jewelry on one of the twisted things – it was Sola Stonesteep, mutated into whatever attacked the party. The other two twisted things can be any prominent community member or council member described in the Sprig Valley description.
A DC 12 arcana or investigation reveals that transmutation magic was at the core of this incident here, but it is not traditional magic – that magic one learns through leveling up. Instead, the magic here was ritualistic, designed for a specific purpose. A success on these checks of 18 or greater also reveals that the magic is draconic but there is no trace of a dragon.
“This community aint nothing without its people, and them people were the best of the best!” Bramble says after the combat. He is distraught and helping as many people as he can out of the rubble.
Finally, a component of the ritual is found intact amongst the rubble, an ingot of Amber Acer. There is only one place that has ever been seen in Sprig Valley, Lorik Featherfall’s bank.