The party makes good time sailing to Ulvenwald. When they finally arrive to the dingy port they are stopped by the port master, an older man wearing a mix of normal and native attire. When he approached them informs them of a plague that has struck the town and that the source of the plague is further up the river, down the fork from Jane’s dream. Ignoring the port master’s warning, the party decides to go further up the river.
As the river gets shallower the party notices a boat docked on the side, with a trail leading deeper into the woods. The party follows the trail and finds the village where the plague started. They villagers were all watching the heroes, confused and curious… the healthier looking ones anyway. Most of them seemed so ill they were delirious, with the ones who still had to together trying to tend to the worst off. With a party of two clerics, the party naturally was inclined to help cure the villagers but even after using their spells it seemed to do little good to cure them. Immediately after trying to cure some of the villagers, from what seemed out of thin air, a voice said, “You dasn’t try and help… won’t do no good, and they dasn’t need any right now.”
He was seven and a half feet tall if he was an inch, and slender as a scarecrow. He didn’t look like your archetypical ‘witchdoctor’, by which I mean there was no headdress or bone piercings or facial paint. He wears only a simple pair of pants, from which dangle a wide variety of small bags and pouches, and carries a staff of dark wood that’s even taller than he is. There was no doubt about who he was, he had a foreboding presence that demanded attention.
“I know what causin dis here sickness. A Man causin dis here sickness, and when he leaves he takes that sickness with him. And he leavin real soon. Come, Papa HeeNo needs your help."
Slightly stunned, extremely curious, the party follows Papa HeeNo, who leads you to a dark and twisted tree growing half on the land and half out into the swampy water, when Hee-no reaches into its bundle of roots, and seemingly falls through them and into nothing. After a moment, Hee-no reaches his hand out and beckons for the party to follow. The passage leads into a dank and dark little room. There’s a bundle of rags in the corner that looks like a bed, a tiny table on the floor, and the walls are absolutely strewn with bones, shelves containing jars of eyes, live mice, and god knows what else. Hand-carved trinkets and voodoo dolls abound. Water is dripping from everywhere, and one would get the distinct impression that we are definitely under the water line of the swamp. Occasionally there will be a shimmer of something perfectly polished and cleaned, intricate gold objects and glass lenses and such, standing out against the otherwise filthy and horrifying surroundings.
The party sees Papa HeeNo sitting crosslegged at his tiny table (which is covered in runes and symbols and laid out in an obvious pattern). He’s shaking bones in his fists and throwing them across the table, scanning his eyes over to take them all in before scooping them up and shaking them again. He keeps doing this over and over while he talks, Rattle, Rattle, Clatter, Pause, Scrape, Rattle, Rattle, Clatter, in a perfect and unbreakable rhythm.
He starts talking. “You knowin dis Man I spoke of. You searchin for him, wantin to stop him. He bad man, doin bad things. I can help you against dis man. He almost finishin what he doin here, and when he leaves, the sickness leaves with him. But dis man, he comin back someday soon. And when he comin back, he bringin somethin worse. Aint no one gonna live no more when he comin back. I can ward dis place against Him for a while. Keep the sickness out. For a time. But I needin ya help to do dis. If’n ya help Papa HeeNo, Papa HeeNo helpin ya. The Spirits showin me a Boon for each of ya. Ya help me, and I give dis Boon to ya.”
Papa HeeNo just keeps shaking his bones and throwing them at the table. “A snake woman lives in the jungle.” He points off in one direction during the pause before scooping his bones back up. “She’s a bad snake woman, and she be mad at us. We be feedin her for years, meat. We’n too sick to feedin her anytime soon. She gettin hungry. She comin for us soon. She be sendin’ her dahrk creatures to hunt us. You bring me dis woman’s head, and I givin ya da Boon.” he laughs, an unnerving monotonous laugh. “But ya be watchin out for her pets now, ya hear?”
After some deliberation, the party agrees to help Papa HeeNo and sets out to fight the snake woman. The party suspects that the snake woman Papa HeeNo described is a medusa, and decide to take extra care when they encounter her.
A few miles from the village, there’s a stone path leading to a crumbling stone temple. Rough gravel in odd shapes (apparently from the collapsing stone) litters the area, and the whole building is covered in moss and vines. The whole area seems to be completely devoid of natural life. The silence of the temple looms over the party. There are stray bones and skulls in every direction scattered all over the temple.
Peering through the entrance, the party catches the occasional glimpse of a cloaked and hooded female form walking around. The party hears very faint, angry murmuring, but they cannot tell exactly where the woman is as she wanders the temple. As soon as they cross the threshold into the temple itself the woman rounds a corner and disappears. The party moves through the temple, encountering only rooms full of rubble and piles of bones. The party often hears the woman’s angry murmuring echoing through the halls, giving them a subtle clue about her current location.
Eventually, the party enters what appears to be a courtyard. The floor is littered with large piles of rubble, as if a large number of statues had been smashed. Large portions of the floor are therefore difficult terrain. From the balcony above, the party hears a voice that sounded like wet ash being run through a grinder, “Trespassers. What are you doing in my home.”
The battle is short but intense, Jane even became petrified, but the medusa did fall. Unfortunately, she fell a little too hard, causing a pair of magical dice to fall out of her hair. Once the dice land they summon a monstrosity, an undead sharkenbear. Fortunately, the party defeats the sharkenbear, stores the dice safely back in the container, then returns to Papa HeeNo.
When they arrive it is clear he has been busy, the entire hut appears to be rearranged. He fondles the medusa’s head through the fabric, nodding to himself when he feels the snakes. He says that he’s very glad she’s dead, and that he’s gonna cut the snakes off and put them around the village to ward off outsiders… that it’ll keep them all safer, longer. Then he informs the party that "The spirits got one more boon for ya now. A boon of knowledge.” He points at Jane and says “Dis boon for ya, most of all”.
He pulls a cage down from over his shoulder, full of the tiny little white mice. He opens the door and says “Allright now I need ten of ya babies to help Papa HeeNo now” and ten of them scurry out. They’re still moving like mice, randomly, darting around, but they all moved out as a group all the same. He shut the door to the cage, still teeming with the other rodents, and left it there on the table. Then he scoops up a cup and pushes one of the mice into it. The other nine just run around the patterns on the outside of the table, never crossing into where the runes and symbols and letters are. He gestures to Jane and leans across the table, until they’re almost nose to nose, before saying one word, "Prees-Tah.”
Seeing the surprise on Jane’s face, he goes on, “Ah, ya be knowin him den. Da spirits don’t lie do dey? Dis Prees-Tah, he a bad man. He doin bad tings, da spirits don’t like him none at all.” Papa HeeNo cups his hand over the cup and starts rattling it around ruthlessly, probably bludgeoning the hell out of the poor mouse inside, before uncupping his hand and pouring the mouse out into the middle of the table. The mouse runs in a dizzy circle, before finally coming to rest, at which point Papa HeeNo SLAMS a thin iron spike down through the base of the mouses neck and into one of the symbols.
He scoops another mouse into the cup and repeats the process. “Da spirits… dey gonna tell us where ya be findin more about dis Prees-Tah. Dey gonna show where ya goin to learn ta stop stop him.” He pours out another mouse, waits for it to stop and SLAMS another spike down into the table. He does it with all ten of them, before looking down at the pattern the mice formed, and mouthing wordlessly. “Papa HeeNo dont know what dis here means. But da Spirits say YOU do” pointing at Jane directly.
Papa Heeno just says one simple sentence. “Mercyglade.”
Jane nods in recognition.
Papa HeeNo nods and goes on “Ya be goin back to Mercyglade. Ya be findin more about dis Prees-Tah. Ya be learning how ta stop him.” Jane is still very quiet. Then he pulled out the spikes, scooped the dead mice into another box, poured some white liquid into it, closed it, and shook it all around while chanting. When he opened the box to pour the contents back into the cage with the mice, the ten ‘helpers’ he’d spiked all looked completely normal, hale, and healthy.
Then HeeNo reaches into the box next to his table and starts pulling out odd little trinkets:
- For Fenrir, Papa Hee-no plunges his hand into a pot of soil, and pulls out a seed several inches long, which fits comfortably in the palm. “Give her water, and treat her well, and she be protectin’ ya.”
- For Shira, he pulls out a pair of moccasins decorated with feathers. “For de girl who dances on de wind, these be guiding ya steps”
- For Jane, a pair of black leather wrist braces, laced, and covered in red runes. There are holes for more lacework to be done, and one thin silver chain laced on lower left brace. He also gives you a matching set of short black leather straps, and an additional chain. The way the extra straps sat, it looked like a loopy X made to go over a sphere.
- For Khemed: “That staff be a great source o’ powa to ya. Hand it ova’, and Papa Hee-no be makin it betta. Don’ worry, de spirits not be doin anything ya god be disapprovin’ of.” He does some voodoo to infuse some of the medusa’s snake heads into his Staff of Ra.
- For Keladry: Does some voodoo to her shield, causing it to become animated.
Finally, he plucks a feather from the angel and fashions it into a talisman, before handing it to Fenrir. “Prees-Tah and his masta be searchin for dis here angel woman, they not be stopping till they find her. She stay here, when I ward this place, it be safe. When de bad men be far-seein to find her, they be finding dis token instead. Take it far away from here, keep it hidden, and don’ let them know it ain’t she.