It's late spring. The party arrives at Murkwood Museum of Magnificent Monstrosities to find a building that probably doesn't quite meet their expectations. The structure is extravagant, but deteriorating, and eight miles from the nearest town. After a quick assessment of everyone's height, the party enters the building and finds an inside just as run down as the outside: areas where one would expect exhibits are vacant and everything is covered in a thick layer of dust.
Here, they meet Kosima Dagrun, owner and curator of Murkwood, as well as every other role that might exist in such an establishment. She tells the party that quite some time ago she inherited the museum from her uncle Raz Dagrun, a famed (in certain circles) explorer and monster expert, and has recently decided to try to get it running again. However, due to her uncle selling off most of the exhibits in a last ditch attempt to fund a museum that struggled to draw crowds, there is currently little to offer anyone who might wish to buy a ticket.
Should the party choose to work for the museum, they would be developing exhibits, researching monsters, and growing the collection. Because Raz traveled so much and was known for working with the weird and scary, people would write to him for assistance. Kosima has been making her way through several years' worth of such letters and has selected one to serve as a sort of interview/audition for the job. Not only will she learn if the party is up to the task, but the party can decide if this is truly the sort of job they wish to take. Especially, as Kosima points out, as she can't offer them regular pay, at least not while the museum isn't making a profit.
"And you want to work here? whispers We don't have insurance."
"That's okay, I have Cure Wounds. Thanks, Obama."
This first quest to test the party comes to them in the form of a letter from Ewin Sagehammer in Addersfield, only about half a day's walk from Murkwood. Ewin writes of a great beast with hundreds of arms that lives in the old well in Addersfield that has been known to carry off livestock and occasionally people. He claims the beast has plagued the town for over two hundred years. As Wynifred reads the letter to the rest of the party, she notes that it smells of ale.
Kosima asks that they investigate, noting that there's a good chance there's nothing to be found. Their goal is to help the town, whether that means relocating a friendly but misunderstood creature, killing a hostile one, or assuring the townspeople that their fears are completely unfounded.
The party accepts the challenge and heads off. They are just outside Addersfield when they encounter four wolves that attack from the forest that runs along the main road to the town. Vasa is able to convince one of the wolves not to fight, and the party quickly kills the rest of the animals and continues on their way.
Addersfield is a small town with old, but well-maintained houses. In the center of town there is a large well. Next to it stands a wooden structure from which hangs a large copper bell, with a thick corded rope hanging from it. The party also notes one house that stands two-stories tall—notable over the other single-story structures—and a tavern, The Full Flagon.
The party immediately investigates the well in the center of town, but are soon informed by a small boy fetching water that this is the new well. He directs them to the old well, on the edge of town near the woods.
"walks up to a well Well, well, well."
"Disadvantage. Disadvantage on you, disadvantage on your cow."
There they find a well about 100 feet deep, standing three feet above the ground. There is a rusty crank system and the rotted remnants of a rope on the ground beside it. They occasionally here a moaning sound echoing up from the depths below.
The party decides to split up as they investigate. Reynard, Aridella, and Vasa head over to the farm that has land nearest the well. There they meet Maxana, who informs them that she saw a creature with many eyes and many legs near her goat pen at night a while ago. She chased the creature off and watched it disappear into the well. Her goat pen has marks on it where something bit or scratched at it. However, when questioned by Vasa, the goats have little to offer on the matter.
"It was the middle of the goat-damn night!"
"I stand back up and say, 'the goat doesn't know anything'."
Reynard gives his city guard whistle to Maxana, instructing her to raise an alarm if she sees something strange again.
Over at The Full Flagon, Charlene and Wynifred meet Lysemius, the bartender, currently overseeing a nearly empty establishment. There is one customer: an older gnome, haggard and wrinkled, and deep in his cups despite the hour. They learn from Lysemius that this is Ewin Sagehammer. Ewin is overjoyed that the party has arrived to investigate, but has little more to offer than what he put in his letter, citing missing livestock and people who vanished in the night. He mentions Jonah Bauz, a man who disappeared late one evening; after that there were no sightings and nothing went missing for a while. Ewin insists that this is because the creature had Jonah to feed on for some time and did not need to hunt again.
Lysemius is delighted by their attempts to have a straightforward conversation with the inebriated Ewin and tells them that he's pretty sure the problem is that there's a nest of giant centipedes in the woods behind the well. Sometimes when they're hungry, they sneak out of the woods and snatch up livestock. When asked who else they might be able to talk to, he directs them to Jeshna Voicho, the Steward of Addersfield, who governs the town.
Having finished their conversation with Maxana, Aridella, Vasa, and Reynard return to the well. Reynard spots the rest of the party making their way to Steward Voicho's office, the larger house they noted when first arriving in town, and catches up with them, while Aridella and Vasa keep watch by the well and pass the time by getting to know each other a bit and weaving flower crowns.
At the Steward's doorstep, Wyn pulls out a ring and puts it on, reluctantly preparing to use her family's connections with the Ama of Yumeren to seek an audience with the Steward. She begs her companions not to mention this to the others.
The Steward's assistant Brijit leads them inside to the Steward's office, where the Steward allows them five minutes of her time. The Steward is certain that there is nothing strange living in the well. She explains that everything Ewin or anyone else claims is caused by this monster can be easily explained by other more logical things: the missing livestock is because of the booming wolf population in the woods next to their town or the nest of centipedes near the well. The moaning sound is caused when the wind comes in a certain way and blows over the top of the well. Jonah Bauz's sudden disappearance is exactly the sort of thing one might expect of a man with years of unpaid debts who was facing jail time.
The Steward gives them permission to continue their investigation, but states that if she finds her townspeople are being harassed or disturbed, the party will be asked to leave.
As Brijit escorts them out, she assures them that she's lived there all her life and has never seen any sign of a creature.
The group reforms back at the well and shares the information they learned. As they speak, a group of children watches from a distance, amazed that these strangers dare to stand so close to the well. The children in town are known for playing a game to see who can stand the closest to the well the longest without getting scared. One of the kid in the group says his brother has the record.
Wynifred asks if the brother or anyone else might be around who could tell them stories of what they've seen. The children point the party to Nasir the fisherman.
Nasir is easygoing and affable with plenty of stories, but he confesses that they are just that. All heard from a friend of a friend of a friend and embellished to frighten the children. Nasir encourages the party to just climb into the well if they're so concerned about the situation. Then they'll know for sure.
The group heads back to the tavern for dinner, but not before leaving a cloth over the top of the old well, held in place with rocks, hoping to catch a sign of some kind of disturbance should something enter or exit.
As they eat, surrounded by several of the townsfolk including the Steward, they make a plan to head down the well in the morning after a night's rest.
They are soon interrupted by the clanging of a bell, and everyone in the tavern goes quiet before rushing for the door. In the center of town they find Brijit, frantically pulling the alarm bell by the new well, insisting that the thing that lives in the old well grabbed her husband Varlam as they were walking and pulled him into the well. The Steward seems shaken by the fact that someone so close to her, whom she trusts fully, has seen this thing. She turns to the party for help.
The party rushes to investigate. They find their covering disturbed and a smear of blood on one of the bricks. They also hear the wailing sound again. Reynard notices some slime on one of the bricks and sends it off to the fantasy lab.
"You see some slime on the brick."
"I send it to the lab."
DM sarcastically "Roll an investigation check."
"Uh…that's a nat 20."
They carefully descend on rope and end up in about three or four feet of water at the bottom, and no sign of Varlam or any kind of creature. They find a large hole in one wall of the well, almost entirely covered by the water. One by one, they plunge into the water and swim through.
They reemerge in a large cavern, every sound they make echoing. The water gives way to mud, and the party notices bones sticking out of the soft earth in several places, mostly the skeletons of small animals, but a few other larger bones as well.
Here, there are four skittering creatures with tentacles and dozens of legs, very nearly just as Ewin originally described. The creatures attack, easily making their way across the muddy terrain and able to climb along the walls. The party kills them all, and luckily, only discover the quicksand-like patches of mud when they try to make their exit to the opening in the back of the cavern. A few of them get pulled in, but eventually they are able to free each other and proceed.
Through the opening they find another cavern, again littered with bones. There are two larger creatures here, and the party realizes that their encounter in the last cavern was with the young of these creatures. One of the creatures is circling around a prone humanoid figure who appears to be Varlam, unconscious in the mud. The other is watching from nearer the entrance, along with a giant frog, whose occasional croaks echo in the cave, making a sound similar to the moans the party heard emanating from the well.
Another fight ensues. The giant frog is indifferent and does not get involved, but the two adult creatures attack, paralyzing Wynifred for much of the fight with their tentacles.
"Is he prone?"
"Nah, he's got A LOT of feet to land on."
The party kills the creatures and are able to rouse Varlam. They feed the giant frog some jerky, which it happily accepts. Vasa talks to him and learns that it does not want to stay in the well, so they bring it with them as they carefully all climb back up the rope and out of the well. They also manage to bring one of the carcasses of the younger creatures up with them.
Brijit immediately rushes to Varlam and takes him to the local cleric to see to his wounds. The town is shocked at the carcass of the creature, and the Steward thanks them for helping them and promises to get them a cart to bring the body back to the museum. Lysemius comforts a sobbing, relieved Ewin, who for the first time in decades is maybe not just a drunken fool after all. Lysemius offers the party free lodging for the night at the tavern. The frog hops off to begin it's new life outside the well, full of jerky.
After sleeping late, the party descends the stairs to find the tavern far more full of people than they would expect at this hour. The crowd watches them, murmuring to each other, as the party has their breakfast. Brijit and a bandaged but otherwise healthy Varlam present the party with a small bundle, telling them that everyone offered what they could as thanks.
With the creature in the cart, the party sets back on the road to return to Murkwood.
Other things of note:
-Reynard is Foxkin, much to the DM's dismay.
-The party rolled the same initiative order for every encounter.
-This group will talk to every single person and animal they can find before actually sticking their noses in the place of interest.