25 Pharast, 4732
Lady Kyra Loranth of Korvosa, the only halfling noble in Varisia, has announced she is sponsoring a new knightly order to protect the land. The first five members of the Order of the Black Mushroom gather at the Smallcastle to meet with their patron:
- Ser Marl of Old Korvosa, an aged former sellsword who has aged rather gracefully.
- Teena, a Gnomish paladin of Sarenrae with pink pigtails and a cheery demeanor.
- Ser Bellia Bairnell, a hard-edged halfling knight.
- Reno, an awakened riding dog and friend of Bellia.
- Lucius Imperius Indomitus Rex III ("Lucy"), Bellia's pet rooster.
They wait for Kyra in the great hall of the castle, a large two-story room with a vaulted ceiling and overlooked by halfling-sized balconies. The hall itself is flanked on each side by lifelike heroic statues of halflings posed on pedestals with titles like "The Farmer Who Feeds the World," "The Builder of Cities," etc.
While the five of them wait in the castle hall to meet with Kyra, the doors are thrown open and four armored Hellknights enter. They are dressed in black iron sculpted to resemble flayed human bodies, very different from the armor of Korvosa's local Hellknight Order of the Nail. The knights are there to search for "escaped property" from Cheliax, acting under the authority granted their Order by the Empress.
The Black Mushrooms question the legality of the Hellknights' search, and the Hellknight commander begins brusquely questioning them. She and Marl trade insults, but the ex-mercenary gets the better of the exchange.
The commander turns to hassle Bellia, comparing her appearance to a description they have on hand. The Hellknights are disappointed to find she isn't one of the ones they're looking for. The commander starts to take an interest in the farmer statue when a voice chides the Hellknights from the balcony above.
A richly dressed halfling woman wearing an enormous feathered hat tumbles down to the floor of the great hall. Lady Kyra Loranth invites the Hellknights to search the entire castle. Since its their sixth visit, she tells them they get a free mushroom pastie at the castle gift shop. Whith that, she shooes the angry Hellknights out of the hall.
"Don't let the door hit you on the way out!" Reno calls after them.
After apologizing for the interruption, Kyra welcomes the members of the Order of the Black Mushroom. She presents them with official badges bearing their symbol, a black mushroom in a green circle on a brown field. She also introduces them to their eager squire, Gunny. The young lad presents them with their official mascot, a young shrieker mushroom named "Shrieky."
Kyra explains that she has a quest for them. South of Harse is the halfling farming community of Bebington, where many halfling immigrants have been settled. A major chicken farm is located there, but recently something has been stealing the chickens. The locals insist that it's a big monster, but the authorities have been slow to react to "halfling nonsense."
So Kyra wants the Order to go to the farm, find what beast has been stealing the chickens, kill the fuck out of it, and bring back it's head as proof of their triumph. That will win renown for both the Order and House Loranth, and will save the chicken farm. Unfortunately, no one has gotten a good look at the monster, other than to say it is very large, but Kyra is certain that the party can handle it. Kyra also emphasizes the importance of ending the threat to the chickens, as she has a personal stake in the farm.
The adventurers assure her that she has nothing to worry about. They set out for Bebington in a cart procured by Kyra, with Bellia and Reno riding alongside. They make a strange sight on the road: a halfling knight on a riding dog traveling with a cart driven by a 10-year-old and carrying an aged mercenary and a pink haired gnome in full plate.
"Paint a picture, it'll last longer," Marl grumbles at some gawking passers-by.
Bebington features traditional halfling hill houses, but the farm itself predates the halfling settlement and is built in the human style. The Order is met by Karlo Brooker, the farm manager, who is thrilled to finally get some help. He explains that the monster comes out only on nights when a heavy mist settles on the valley. No one has gotten a good look at the creature, but it is large even by human standards.
Farmer Brooker shows them a set of strange tracks around the chicken pens. They find the footsteps of an enormous cloven-hoofed biped, accompanied by what Marl identifies as goblin tracks.
Brooker asks Bellia to keep Lucy away from the chicken pens, as the farm's rare rooster is especially territorial. Marl and Teena pick up on the fact that Brooker keeps trying to deflect attention from the farm's rooster.
Rather than wait for the next attack, Marl and Reno follow the tracks to a nearby forest, but loses the trail of the big monster. Finding crisscrossing goblin tracks, they take the path less traveled. It leads up a hill, where they find a pair of bored goblins standing guard outside a crude hut. The goblins are kicking a dead chicken back and forth.
Marl stealthily approaches to crossbow range, then snaps off an arrow. The goblin turns its enormous head at the last moment and gets a bolt punched through its ear. Marl fades back into the forest while the goblins freak out.
Bellia and Reno charge the green critters, but the canny goblins ducks out of the way. The halfling knight wheels the dog around for another charge. Surprisingly nimble despite her plate armor, Teena charges forward to attack the goblins. They move to flank her, but their dogslicers glance off her plate. The goblins fearfully call out to someone in the hut called Frog Talker to save them.
The "Frog Talker" turns out to be a goblin witch who commands Bellia to flee. The witch retreats back into the hut, so Marl takes another shot at a goblin, bringing it down. Teena intimidates the other, who tells her that the goblins work with a "cow man" to take chickens from the halflings. He then turns and flees.
The Order regroups and traps the Frog Talker in the hut, foiling her attempts to escape. After Bellia and Reno shrug off a lightning bolt from her, the witch decides to talk. She explains that a "cow man" named Brulak bullied the goblin tribe into helping him steal the chickens and their strange purple and yellow eggs.
Brulak keeps most of the chickens and claims he eats them, but the Frog Talker thinks he is selling them instead because the birds taste terrible. Her interest is in experimenting with the strange eggs, with the goal of creating a brew that will produce a "super goblin." Convinced that the witch intends to flee the area, the Order allows her to flee.
The adventurers return to the farm to confront Karlo Brooke about the eggs. The halfling farmer admits that they are crossbreeding the hens with a cockatrice rooster. The resulting eggs are used in a potion that temporarily petrifies halfling slaves so they can be smuggled out of Cheliax as pieces of artwork.
But the Order still has Brulak the Minotaur to deal with, as the twilight mist seeps across the valley. The farmers, Gunny, and Lucy barricade themselves inside the farmhouse, while the adventurers find positions outside. Teena hides inside a doghouse, while Marl perches up on the remada over the well and Bellia patrols the perimeter with Reno. They are stealthy enough that Brulak is unaware of them as it approaches, allowing the Black Mushrooms to unleash a lethal ambush.
Bellia charges the minotaur, tearing into him with her lance and then ripping free, the shaft trailing entrails. She wheels Reno around to set up another ambush. From his sniper perch, Marl tags Brulak with his repeating crossbow. Teena then charges forward, shouting "For the Dawnflower!"
The gnome's greatsword slices clean through Brulak's torso, cutting him in half.
All the excitement startles the cockatrice and it gets free of the chicken coop. Marl and Bellia have to catch it and coax it back to its pen. They manage to avoid its petrifying bite.
Wasting no time, the Black Mushrooms lash Brulak's upper half to the back of their wagon and set out out for Kyra's Castle. Along the way, they pass the Order of the Rack Hellknights. Although Marl jeers at them, the Hellknight leader takes off her helm in salute, revealing a stern but beautiful face with dark, close-cut hair.
The return of the Black Mushrooms causes a stir at the castle, as Lady Kyra and the others are woken in the dead of night. The halfling noble has her daughter Izzy conjure up some lights to look at the grisly trophy. Kyra agrees with Teena that the half-Brulak should be bronzed and mounted.
Lady Kyra is thrilled that the Order had such a successful first quest and plans to spread word of their triumph across the city, including a special ceremony at Castle Korvosa with the King and Queen.
Marl also provides her with an indecipherable note that they found on Brulak. It bears a strange symbol that vaguely looks like a hand grasping a coin. Marl has seen the symbol once or twice before, always accompanied by the Sihedron rune. Lady Kyra promises to look into it, and invites the Black Mushrooms to celebrate, and settle into their new headquarters in the castle's south tower.