Crystal Cantrips

The Adventure Begins

Departure

June 2nd, morning, Year 3150 by the Imperial Calendar

It is the morning of June the second, and the sun is shining brightly over the port city of Cyoria, on the Grand Victorian mainland. Five adventurers, following their own separate paths, board a merchant caravel called the Fallen Angel, bound for the trade nexus of Port Alexandria.

Keladry Hillesland is a human woman in her late 20’s. She’s incredibly athletic, and the symbol of an eye on the shield she bears marks her as a war cleric of Odin. She her temple after the priest who raised her died, and is now off to seek adventure in the world beyond the temple she spent most of her life in. She spends most of the voyage alternately praying in the passenger room, practicing combat stances, and watching the sea.

Shira Bat-Or is also leaving home for the first time in search of adventure. Her parents were adventurers, and now she wants to follow in their footsteps, setting out on the road and letting her bardic music guide her. She is a stunningly beautiful young woman with dazzlingly white hair, skin that glows slightly, and pupil-less white eyes. She is an aasimar, which means she is part mortal part celestial. Part of why she travels is to find out more about what she is, and where to find her place as a child of two worlds.

As such, Shira spends quite a bit of time talking to Fenrir Liadran, who, as a water genasi, is also a child of two worlds. He doesn’t know much about his birth parents, but for the fact that one of them must have been a mortal, while the other was a marid, triton, or some other inhabitant of the Elemental Plane of Water. Fenrir has spent most of his life traveling, most of it by sea, and seems to have dropped hints of a troubling backstory. He spends the voyage working as a sailor, rather than simply paying his way.

Jane is an incredibly beautiful and alluring young woman, with blonde hair and a serious expression. Though she didn’t board the ship with the rest of you, she’s not exactly secretive about the fact that she’s sleeping with the captain. She often spends time doodling strange pictures in her notebook, or staring in apparent wonder at things like clouds or birds.

Khemed Mostana is a middle-aged, dark-skinned R’Kassian human man. His clerical vestments and staff bearing the golden head of a snake mark him as a Hierophant of Ra, God of the Sun. He is on a mission of “important matters of state,” but cannot disclose more than that. He’s sure you understand. He seems very fervently devoted to his god, and gladly explains aspects of theology to anyone who asks about it.

Pirates

June 13th, morning

The first two weeks of the voyage pass rather uneventfully. Then, one morning, you are awoken to the sound of a bell and the cry of, “PIRATES!” Everyone stumbles up onto the deck to see a dark ship flying a black flag approaching from the direction for the rising sun, only a quarter of a mile away.

Though the enemy ship is much larger and better armed than the Fallen Angel, the adventurers make up for it with unquestioned arcane superiority. Khemed and Keladry hurl bolts of divine fire at the enemy’s sails and ballistae, while Jane does the same with blasts of lime-green hellfire. Fenrir mans the ballista, then, once in range, follows a well placed entangle with an ice knife, dropping half a dozen pirates where they stand restrained by clinging vines. Finally, Shira’s dissonant whispers and a failed Wisdom save on the pirate captain’s part send the pirates fleeing for their lives. While everyone continues to bombard the pirate ship (knocking one of the masts down directly onto the helm in the process), Khemed takes a few critical failures as, “A sign from Ra that we should be victorious…but not vengeful,” and advises Captain Flint to break off pursuit. He then used thaumaturgy to send his voice bellowing across the water, “ FLEE, FLEE BEFORE THE POWER OF RA!

That night, there is a celebration aboard the ship. Fenrir is disappointed that they let the pirates go, believing that they will eventually continue their piracy, but Shira helps cheer him up, before going and dancing with literally everyone.

The rest of the voyage is, thankfully, uneventful.  

Arrival

June 22nd, early afternoon

The Fallen Angel arrives at Port Alexandria in the early afternoon. The city of Port Alexandria is built along a natural harbor on an extinct volcanic island. As the ship enters the harbor, it passes between two fortified watchtowers which double as lighthouses, one on either arm of the harbor. The harbor itself is bustling with ships of all shapes and sizes. Warehouses lined one end of the docks, at which the larger ships were moored, with dozens of workers loading or unloading boxes, crates, and even some livestock. The city itself is built upon on a natural slope, and the buildings get fancier the higher one goes.

Captain Flint bids you farewell, thanks you for the assistance with the pirates, and recommends an inn/tavern. Everyone at first goes their separate ways, but decides to meet back up later at the recommended tavern.

Jane goes to the city’s library to read. Khemed finds a temple for the R’Kassian pantheon, and attends to his mysterious “state business.” Keladry finds a temple devoted to the Northern pantheon, while Fenrir finds an old friend and gets the latest news from him. Shira looks for an apothecary, and located a magic/alchemy shop run by a man named MacGuiller. She asks about getting a job, but he says he already has a summer intern, but she might check the odd jobs board at the tavern.

At the tavern, there’s a job board. Most of the jobs are for temp jobs and menial labor, and pay accordingly, but there are two which seem a bit more lucrative. One is offering a 100 gp reward for the return of an engagement ring, which the owner lost in the harbor. Upon seeing it, Fenrir immediately goes swimming to look for it, but the sun is already setting and the light doesn’t reach down to the seabed, so he returns. The other is a vague yet intriguing:

Combat Capable Exterminators Wanted
Dangerous Pest Infestation
See Therin’s Shipping Company for more information
Competitive pricing guaranteed.

The adventurers agree to meet up around lunchtime tomorrow to see what Therin has to offer.

Two Side-Quests

June 23rd, morning

When it became lighter out, Fenrir easily swam down to the sea floor and finds the lost ring after only twenty minutes of searching, then heads up to the address listed on the flyer. While he’s doing this, one of the acolytes of the R’Kassian temple gives Khemed an address. The two of them meet up at the door to the same house, on the high side of town.

When they arrive, Sennefer Neferkare answers the door, and is soon joined by his fiancé, Idania Sadarene. Fenrir returns the ring and recieves payment, after which Khemed urges him to go, so he can discuss business with the man. When they are alone, Khemed informs the man, Prince Sennefer, that his grandfather has died, meaning it is time for him to take his place as Pharaoh of Old R’Kassi. Idania hears this exchange, and takes Sennefer into the other room to talk. It is very heartfelt and touching and occurs completely off screen, because the DM (Dramatic Monologuer) is not that adept at holding conversations with himself.

RETCON. When they get back, Idania explains the situation over tea. Sennefer hadn’t told her he was a prince, to assuage his fears that anyone he asked to marry him would say yes because he was a prince, not because they loved him back. He was going to tell her after he propose, but (funny story) lost the ring while trying to pull off a very flamboyant proposal involving no fewer than four separate simultaneously active cantrips and spell effects, all while on a boat.

Though she’s a bit peeved about the secrets, Idania is totally down with becoming the queen, especially the part involving access to the Imperial Library. They agree to pack up and ship out to Old R’Kassi as soon as they get their affairs in order. Khemed takes his leave to give his thanks to Ra at the temple before joining the rest of the party for lunch.

The Scarabs

June 23rd, noon

The party heads down to Therin’s Shipping Company to investigate the job posting. You find Indra Therin in her office. She explains how one of her ships was visiting Old R’Kassi to acquire some treasures recently unearthed from some ancient ruins. When they got back and started opening things up to examine them, they discovered that some kind of pest had apparently been sealed up in the packaging.

They were fist-sized scarabs, but with carapaces that seem to be made out of metal and crystals growing out of their backs. They had apparently been eating metal objects during the entire voyage, but now they were swarming anyone who tried to deal with them in order to eat their metal weapons and armor.

And that’s not all. They could apparently cast cantrips, because they’re spitting little rays of frost, bolts of fire, and acid splashes at anyone they saw. They’d already killed five of her men since they were unloaded. Therin finally had to seal up the building they’d unloaded the cargo into. The local authorities considered this her own problem. She offers the party 50 gp each for if they successfully clear all the bugs from inside.

So, off you go to the warehouse. As Therin had said, when the door to the warehouse opened, dozens of crystal-bearing scarabs began to swarm.

Jane had seduced some armor off a town guard, in order to use as bait, which Keladry tossed into the warehouse as soon as the fight started. This turns out to be a really good idea, since it caused the scarabs to swarm the armor, rather than the party and the metal armor-wearing Keladry. The bugs still fired off numerous damaging cantrips, and at one point a bug cast thaumaturgy, opening a crate to release even more bugs. At another point, a gold scarab with diamond crystals in its back seemed to have been killed/knocked unconscious, when it expended a crystal and stood back up. However, it and the rest of the bugs were disposed of without too much difficulty.

The Curious Ms. Therin

June 23rd, early afternoon

Jane loads up all the clearly magical gems from the scarabs into a sack, along with whatever scarab bodies weren’t completely destroyed. Then the party returns to Therin’s office for pay.

This is where things get fishy. Therin sees that Jane had gathered some bugs and crystals, and tells her to hand them over. Jane refuses, at which point Therin says to hand them over if she wants to get paid.
Khemed points out that they had examined the cargo list in the warehouse and seen nothing about any bugs. So it would seem that if they were a pest as she said, then Therin would have no claim over them. At this point Therin snarls and actually starts to draw her sword in anger, then calms.

“Alright, no, the bugs WERE an infestation,” she says, “But I need to recoup the losses of the cargo and crewmen the bugs killed. The bugs seem interesting, and I might be able to find some use from them.” (note: I’m not sure I actually said this, though it would have been clear Therin wasn’t being honest by this point)

Jane says she’d rather have gems than gold anyway, whereupon Therin draws her sword, but holds it loosely at her side. She says, “Listen little girl. Those bugs belong to me. Hand them over, or there will be trouble.”

Upon further refusal, there’s a moment where Therin tenses, seeming to consider attacking, but then she relaxes. “Fine. You five can enjoy your dead bugs, I’ll keep the pay. Wait, you said you were looking for work around here right? I just lost five dock workers. How about you take their places? I’ll pay you each 15 gold a week.” Fenrir immediately replies, “No thanks, I think we’ll pass.”

Therin glares daggers into your back as you leave her office.

MacGuiller the Mage

June 23rd, late afternoon

No one really knew what to do with the crystals, so Shira led everyone to the magic shop she had found earlier, to see if the owner knew what to make of them. MacGuiller is a middle-aged human male with spectacles. He’s initially dubious about cantrip casting crystals, but after briefly examining one of the dancing lights crystals, it activates, seemingly reacting to his mental desire to activate it. Jane pulls out a bug or two to show him where they came from, and while they don’t look familiar to him, he says that if they leave the bugs with him, he can examine them in his workshop and see if he can learn anything about them. You tell him the varied places they’re staying and leaves for the evening.

June 24rd, morning

The very next morning, MacGuiller was waiting at the bar of the inn, and told everyone to come back to his shop. He seemed a little strung out actually. He said that two of Therin’s workers had come and harassed him about what you were doing there yesterday, but he told them you were just shopping for some generic ingredients and that you hadn’t really stood out, apart from the water genasi and aasimar.

What was more immediately relevant though, was the state of the bugs, and the corpses that the bugs had killed. The corpses? There were no corpses. In fact, when he had asked around, no unnatural deaths had been reported in the past week at all. The arcanist was more inclined to believe us, all things considered, but it did raise the question as to why you would cover up five accidental deaths.

The bugs? Not just bugs. On the surface, they seemed like normal insects. Even at a glance dissecting them, they still looked like normal bugs, with a few oddities like some crystallized organs, but that seemed almost expected with the gems growing on their backs. But looking really closely? Parts of them were clearly metal. And not just metallic, but actual forged, tooled, and bolted metal. Everyone took a glance through some magnifying lenses and saw what he was talking about. Obvious traces of sanding, tiny little bolts, and a stray gear.

MacGuiller notices one of Therin’s dock workers watching through the window, and as he draws the blinds, he asks if you’d agree to be his night guards for the time being. He tells you that everyone on this side of the island knew “Indra Therin” had been up to some shady activities for months now, but no one had any evidence to warrant sticking their nose into things. But given her reputation, he wouldn’t put it past her to try something. Therin wouldn’t be so stupid as to attack in broad daylight, and the authorities would come running if MacGuiller was attacked, but the adventurers actually being on the scene might be the difference between a scuffle and an assassination.

At someone’s suggestion that bringing Therin’s connection to the murderous bugs up to the authorities, MacGuiller says that that seemed tricky, as Therin was the only one with any evidence they were ever a problem, and had apparently covered up the deaths or her dockworkers that they had caused.

This is where we ended the session. When we pick up, the party will have the rest of the day to do whatever they want, and then play night’s watch for MacGuiller.

Party Goals

  1. Keep MacGuiller from getting killed in the night.
  2. Figure out what Therin is up to, and why she needs those gems so badly
  3. Somehow deal with Therin such that she is either brought to justice or similarly rendered unable to harm you or MacGuiller.
  4. Side-Goal of Khemed’s: See that Sennefer and Idania get on a ship bound for Old R’Kassi.
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The Plot Thickens

Attack in the Night

June 24th

After everyone agrees to guard MacGuiller’s shop that night, you go your separate ways for the day. Khemed goes to the library to research the bugs. He finds they are a species of scavengers native to Old R’Kassi called gem scarabs. They usually live in ancient ruins where they scavenge for treasure to eat. He finds no mention of them usually being in any way metallic, so whatever the gears and metal bits MacGuiller found were, they aren’t the bugs’ natural state. Jane goes to her room in the inn to have Creepy Nightmare Foreshadowing Time™. The rest of you go around and try to surreptitiously ask random townsfolk about Therin. You find basically what MacGuiller already told you, though you meet one person who believes that his own business was destroyed by Therin (though again, nothing anyone could prove).

That night you do stop an attack. Three of Therin’s dockworkers break in through the back door. They are exceptionally burly, and wielding shortswords. One of them manages to knock Jane to zero hit points, but she expends one of the healing crystals to bring herself back to consciousness. After the others whittle their health down a bit, Shira kills two of the dockworkers with a dissonant whispers each. Khemed knocks the last one unconscious with his staff of Ra.

As you’re wondering what to do about the bodies, the authorities show up and arrest everyone present. This is standard procedure when a fight has taken place and one side is fairly obviously unable to explain their side of the story. Fenrir stops being a dinosaur and you all go quietly, if not happily.

Trial

June 25th, noon

The next day you’re taken to a courthouse for a trial. On one side there’s you, and on the other, Indra Therin. You tell your side of the story, while Therin is calling you cold-blooded murderers, and that her workers were just walking home when they were attacked. In fact, she’s speaking for them because the only one who survived the battle died in the night (which is suspicious, since Khemed didn’t mortally wound him). Therin’s telling doesn’t make THAT much sense on inspection, as she has a fairly flimsy reason for her workers being inside MacGuiller’s shop, but the adventurers roll fairly badly on their Persuasion checks, so it balances out. MacGuiller vouches for you, but at that point it’s a hearsay stalemate. Then Idania (Lady Sadarene) comes in and vouches for you, pointedly name-dropping her father to the judge. Noble allies are so useful.

The party is released. The judge tells both you and Therin that whatever is up between the two of you gets dropped, now, or the hammer of justice will be brought down with full force on both. Naturally, no one believes Therin will actually do this.

Bugs

June 25th, afternoon

After you are released, Idania accompanies you back to MacGuiller’s shop. Thankful for her support, the adventurers tell her most of what’s been going on with Therin. At Khemed’s inquiry, she says that her father’s lawyers are arguing over her position as heir to House Sadarene upon her marriage to Sennefer, and that they’ll leave after that’s done. To the rest of the party, she explains that her fiance’s grandfather is very ill, so they’re taking a trip to Old R’Kassi to visit him.

Upon arrival in MacGuiller’s house, Idania learns what’s up with the bugs. MacGuiller hasn’t found out anything since last you talked, quite naturally since that was only yesterday evening. But since Idania is a mage, is currently not busy, and had been working with him that summer, MacGuiller asks her to assist him with magical research. MacGuiller tells everyone they are welcome to remain here if they want, or go if they lock up behind them. Then he and Idania descend to his workshop, speaking excited thaumobabble to each other.

The adventurers make plans, and then mostly lie low for the rest of the day. Fenrir wants to break into Therin’s office that night and gather information on her, to then use to frame her and/or expose her for her crimes. In order to keep MacGuiller safe, you agree to send him and his work to Idania’s for the night. She’s a noble, and has guards to keep her residence safe.

That evening though, you hear loud whooping and, “Eureka!” coming from downstairs. It turns out MacGuiller and Idania had been able to cobble together parts some bugs to create two functional, living ones. Essentially clones of the first one (one of the healing ones, MacGuiller isn’t so careless as to try to revive ones that cast damaging cantrips). That’s when you find out another interesting bit of info.

The bugs weren’t naturally aggressive. The two just chittered happily around MacGuiller’s workshop, landing on things, exploring them a little, taking off little nips of a metal stick MacGuiller was feeding them. He said that whatever these things were, they weren’t aggressive by default. The ones that had been attacking were violent for some other reason.

One of them landed in Shira’s hair, seemed very friendly, and she asked MacGuiller if she could keep it. MacGuiller agreed, since he still had the originals and a new living one to toy with. So the bard acquired a pet with cure minor wounds twice a day. She named him Jeremiah.

Infiltration

June 25th, after sunset

That evening, everyone goes down to the docks. Fenrir turns into a black cat and starts exploring, while the rest of the party tries to be inconspicuous at a nearby tavern.

Fenrir cats his way into Therin’s office. On the desk, he finds a shipping manifest. Apparently Therin is leaving for Old R’Kassi early tomorrow morning! In the drawers he finds the shipping and receiving manifests for previous shipments, as well as records of purchases made by Therin’s Shipping Company. With an exceptionally high Investigation check, Fenrir notices a few things which don’t line up. What Therin listed as being shipped out couldn’t be what was in those cases, because she didn’t have any on hand. Fenrir has spent enough time at sea to know that this kind of fraud is a fairly major crime.

The party puts on hoods to at least somewhat disguise their identities, and then go to the sheriff’s office to anonymously hand over the documents, with the incriminating parts circled. After a few minutes, the sheriff leaves the building with a few guards and heads over to the Customs office. They then leave the office with what is presumably a customs officer and head down towards Therin’s offices at the docks.

Note: The DM (Diurnal Manager) sort of screwed up the timing of things here. At some point, night happened, and presumably the party took at least the equivalent of a short rest.

Confrontation at the Docks

June 26th, sunrise

The local authorities, including customs, went to Therin’s at just past dawn. Fenrir turns into a cat again to get close enough to hear what was going on. The authorities demanded to see what was in the crates that were, at the bare minimum, mislabeled and a gross oversight, and at worst a major crime. The rest of the party was watching this from a safe distance away, close enough to see what was going on, but far enough that their presence wasn’t an attention grabber.

So there wasn’t a lot anyone could do when Therin sighed, scratched the back of her head, and in one smooth motion tore the throats out of two of the guards with her bare hand. Then she started running for the boat, shouting for it to leave the rest of the cargo and set sail.

Fenrir shifts from cat to deinonychus and sprints to catch up to Therin, getting close enough to make an Opportunity Attack when she next moves. Khemed uses thaumaturgy to send his voice booming across the harbor, shouting, “MURDER! MURDER!” to call the city guard. Jane hits Therin from afar with her new eldritch spear, and the others just start running towards the docks.

The other dock workers started pulling weapons and trying to defend the area around the boat from the local guards as the ones on the boat started chopping at the ropes keeping it in place. Therin sprints 120 feet in one round, making a flying leap onto the boat when she gets there.

Fenrir the deinonychus starts hacking his way through the crowd of dockworkers, trying to reach the boat. When they get within range, Keladry, Shira, and Khemed start hacking and blasting at the crowd as well. Jane continues to blast Therin, and then the boat itself when Therin takes cover in the captain’s quarters, with eldritch spears, though she doesn’t manage to surpass the ship’s damage threshold.

Therin’s ship starts moving slowly, but gradually picks up speed as a few rounds of combat go by. Just as it’s clearing the edge of the dock, Fenrir makes it through the crowd and takes a flying leap at the ship, catching onto the side with his claws. The workers on the boat ready their weapons to attack him, while also calling to Therin for help.

As soon as the ship is clear, the dockworkers start pulling out flasks of oil and setting fire to Therin’s entire building. And themselves. They don’t even scream while they burn.

Fenrir leaps onto the deck of the ship and starts killing workers. Then Therin, hearing her workers’ cries for help, comes running towards the back of the boat, once again moving at ridiculous speeds. Without slowing down, she lands a single punch to the saurian equivalent of the solar plexus, sending Fenrir flying off the back of the ship, while also dealing enough damage to finally knock him out of wild shape. Therin glares at you from the rear, watching her place go up in flames, before ducking back below decks to avoid Jane’s continued assault.

The sheriff eventually manages to send a few quick skimmers to try to catch up, but the ship had gotten too much of a head start. Jane continues bombarding the ship until it leaves her range, managing to destroy one ballista and kill a few more workers. The fire brigade arrives, and manages to prevent any other buildings from catching fire. But you can do basically nothing else while everything else, including anyone who could answer a question, burns to ashes.

Aftermath

June 26th, morning

Everyone starts looking through the burnt out warehouse for clues. Jane notices that there aren’t any bones of the dockworkers that burned, which is rather unusual. A burning building shouldn’t get hot enough to reduce even bones to ash. She starts cutting up one of the non-torched bodies to see if she can figure out what’s up.

The sheriff shows up, and after an initial, “What the hell are you doing,” decides to leave the creepy witch girl to her thing in order to talk to the rest of the party. The sheriff (named Charles Coscorian, if you’re curious) and by association the rest of the island’s authorities are now firmly on your side. Charles apologizes to you on behalf of the city. If Therin shows up on the island again, they’ll naturally attack on sight, but now she’s off the island, she’s left their jurisdiction. He can’t follow up on anything that happens off the island without coming into legal trouble in a foreign land, so the adventurers will have to be his justice by proxy. He also gives you some extra gear from the armory and scrounges up 50 gp in the hopes you take Therin down on behalf of the men he’d lost.

As it so happens, Sennefer shows up at this point, having already gotten the gist of what happened from talking to others. He reveals that he is, in fact, the crown prince of Old R’Kassi, so Therin is now in his jurisdiction. Then he turns to Khemed. “Hierophant, I have a new mission for you,” he says. “I don’t know what this Therin woman is doing in my country, but I assume it isn’t anything good. Find her, and should you find her breaking the edicts of our country, bring her to justice.” He turns to the rest of the party. “I of course have no authority over the rest of you, but I hope you can assist in the matter as well.”

Sennefer says he’ll charter a ship to Old R’Kassi for everyone. That’s actually why he was down in the harbor in the first place that morning. He and Idania are taking a trip to see his ailing grandfather. Chartering a ship is expensive, but now that he’s no longer hiding the fact that he’s a prince, he can get a loan on behalf of the crown.

Jane goes to the library. Therin had appeared, for all intents and purposes, to be a totally normal human who came across as a shady manipulative businesswoman. Except she tore out the throats of two trained guards in the blink of an eye. And her dock workers lit themselves on fire to escape capture. These are not normal behaviors. Jane looks for books on evil creatures and necromancy.

Khemed decides to follow to bodies of the dockworkers to where they’re being buried outside of town. He gets permission to sprinkle them with holy water, upon which they fizzle and hiss as if the holy water were acid. This implies that the dockworkers were probably some form of undead, though they looked and behaved remarkably like normal humans, aside from burning down entirely to ash.

MacGuiller promises to continue studying the scarabs. At Fenrir’s suggestion, he also gives you a way of contacting him. He has a pair of twinned wax sealing stamps. If both are placed on sheets of paper, then anything written on one sheet will also appear on the other. He promises to leave his half on a blank sheet on his desk at all times, in case you need to contact them. He also mentions he’s giving one half of another pair to Idania, so she can keep in touch.

Everyone finishes up their business and prepares to leave the next morning. Onward, to Old R’Kassi!

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To Old R'Kassi

The Journey

June 27th – July 23rd

Sennefer charters a small, two-masted ship called the Wind Song, which is known to be quite fast on the open seas. Despite this, there is no sign of Therin’s ship over the three week journey to the desert nation of Old R’Kassi.

Over the journey, many of the party members take the time to get to know each other quite a bit better (i.e. lots and lots of off screen role-playing). Fenrir and Jane ask Sennefer if there’s anything he can do about the restrictions on magic use in his country. Given that the entire party is composed of mages, not being able to do magic would severely hinder them. Sennefer himself is dissatisfied with the ban on magic, and wishes to change that as soon as he can. However, given that he is not pharaoh yet, the best he can do is give the party signed documents stating that they are working in the service of the crown, and are allowed to possess magic. He advises them that they should still try to stick close to Khemed if at all possible. If caught doing magic, the presence of a recognizable hierophant could be the difference between being able to show those documents and being shot on sight.

Fenrir also sets up some code words with MacGuiller through the communication seal, to verify the other’s identity when communicating (Fenrir is rather paranoid). Since Idania also possesses a seal, he sets up code words with her and Sennefer as well, in case they ever need to communicate through MacGuiller.

One evening, a sea hag leaps onto the ship and attacks, enraged by the beautiful music Shira was playing.

After a few rounds of battle, the hag dragged Shira overboard, but Keladry finished her off with a guiding bolt just in time to prevent Shira from being dragged down into the murky depths. Other than that, the journey is uneventful.

Thanks to all the role-playing experience between sessions, this is enough for everyone to level up to level 3. Shira ditches her armor, since her alluring beauty now directly improves her Armor Class. Jane has another one of her nightmares, waking up everyone in her room by screaming in their heads. Fenrir is also woken up. Turns out Jane is now telepathic.

Arrival

July 23rd, late afternoon

The three biggest cities of Old R’Kassi are the two port cities of Nasivern and Hieracon on the two deltas of the Great River, and the capitol of Isunova where the river branches meet further inland. Therin’s ship was listed as heading to the smaller port city of Nivaos, a few days north of Nasivern. The Wind Song docks at Nasivern first, where Sennefer and Idania disembark in order to take a river barge up the river to the capitol. Before they go, they arrange payment for the Wind Song to keep following the adventurer’s direction for another month. This is so that if Therin heads somewhere else in a hurry once you find her in Nivaos, you can continue to pursue her without the delay of finding another ship. While the ship is stopped, Fenrir teaches Jane how to swim.

At the docks of Nivaos, there’s lots of unhidden staring pointing in your direction. You are obviously foreigners, and accompanied by a very recognizable hierophant. Everyone except for Khemed feels very much out of place.

The city of Nivaos is watched over by Lord Anubis and Lady Isis. Their temples stand on opposite sides of the city’s main square. Khemed goes to the Temple of Isis for a place to stay (they accommodate passing clerics, but not their companions). Fenrir goes off to find an old friend, but soon rejoins the rest of the party in finding an inn to stay in for the night.

Casual inquiries about Therin turn up not much. No one at the tavern seems to have heard the name, at least the ones who were willing to talk to you at all. Khemed goes to the local sheriff’s to make inquiries, where he learns that Therin is apparently in league with the local authorities. This is, as you can imagine, troubling.

The next morning, as Khemed is leaving the Temple of Isis, he is greeted by a cleric of Anubis, who warns him, point blank, that if Khemed and his companions don’t stop investigating, there will be trouble. He and everyone in town know that Therin and company are extremely dangerous, and he wishes to provide fair warning to a fellow cleric of the danger he faces.

Meanwhile, Fenrir has turned into a cat in order to investigate Therin’s ship. It turns out that it contains only a skeleton crew of sailors, and while what are presumably Therin’s rooms are locked, his cat ears don’t detect the sounds of anyone inside them. Talking to the portmaster’s clerk, the party learns that Therin’s ship unloaded its cargo without anything unusual catching the clerk’s eye, and no you can’t look at the shipping records themselves, who the hell even are you?

While the party is trying to figure out what to do next, a scared looking kid (named Aka) pops us behind you from out of the alley he’d been hiding in and tugs on Keladry’s cloak. He says he knows who you are looking for. That this Therin was a bad woman, and the group she was a part of had hurt his family (hit father, stole camels). And he said he knew where Therin was staying. The kid directs you to go out past the town walls, into the open sands to the north (a direction no one would normally need to travel), and then take a left at the first really big dune. Keladry thanks him for his help, and he runs off.

Ambush

July 24th, late morning

The party, lacking any other leads, grabs their stuff and heads into the desert. The kid’s directions indicate several hours of walking into the desert, where it is approaching noon, in July, and as a result is something like 120 degrees on the burning sands. However, Fenrir casts endure elements on everyone, so while no one besides possibly Khemed is comfortable, everyone is at least safe from heatstroke.

Following the kid’s directions leads to a small encampment nestled between two dunes. A few tents, a few crates, but no visible inhabitants. At least not until they jump out from behind the dunes for an ambush. There are bandits wielding scimitars and head scarves, and one extremely burly orc wielding a greataxe. When the orc sees Fenrir, he lets out an enraged bellow of, “FENRIR!” and charges.

In Old R’Kassi, magic is forbidden but for those who serve the pharaoh or clergy. But you now are far, far away from anyone who would try to stop you.

The orc berserker attacks Fenrir, who turns into a dire wolf to combat him while Keladry circles to flanking position. The rest of the party deals with the bandits, who mostly manage to die fairly easily. Then one of the most injured ones crowbars off the lid of one of the crates, releasing several swarms of cantrip bugs! The bandit runs off into the sand, but one of the bugs hits him with an acid splash and he goes down. The fight gets a bit harder after that, especially since some of these bugs seem a bit tougher than the ones you fought before, and are able to cast first level spells (magic missile, color spray, and Tasha’s hideous laughter). Keladry drops into the negatives at one point, but eventually the orc goes down, followed by the remainder of the bugs.

In the fashion of true adventurers, the party’s first action after healing Keladry was to loot the bodies. Dagoth’s bracers were magical, and there were quite a few more cantrip and spell crystals to be collected. Fenrir was extremely agitated after the battle finished, but when he calmed down he revealed that he used to be a part of a mercenary group, and that some members of that group have a serious grudge against him. The orc was one of those, a berserker named Dagoth.

You also find a trail leading away from the encampment, farther into the desert. But there is time for a short rest for everyone to bandage their wounds before following it. And so ended the session.

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The Ziggurat

Into the Waste

July 24th, noon

Before following the tracks into the desert, the party needs to figure out what to do with the single intact crate of bugs. You elect to bury it in the sand, so you can come back to it if necessary, but Therin and co. can’t use them for whatever she needs them for.

So into the desert you go. Fenrir the druid guides you past some minor desert hazards, like a sinkhole. One poisonous snake attempts to bite him, but he dodges nimbly out of the way and cuts it in two with his scimitar. A dust devil has obscured part of the path, but Fenrir’s tracking skills easily find it again.

The afternoon sun beats down upon you, but you are shielded by endure elements. Soon the ground starts becoming more rock than sand, and rocky outcroppings become more frequent. Then you reach the edge of a box canyon. At the base of the canyon (about 300 feet straight down), there is a small dig sit, which appears to have unearthed three layers of some kind of ziggurat.

Khemed notes that the ziggurat bears a resemblance to the step pyramids that were popular before true pyramids came into style. But the actual design is far older than he has any familiarity with.

There appears to be no way down the sheer cliff, and the party does not have enough rope to scale it. Jane abruptly realizes the significance of her most recent prophetic dream, in which she was climbing down a cliff on a rope, but it ended before she reached the bottom.

The rocky ground means continuing to follow the trail becomes much harder. Fenrir has lost the trail, but Shira manages to pick it back up (bards are Jacks of All Trades after all). The path leads to a natural cave near the edge of the cliff, which descends downward. At the first fork in the passage, Fenrir rolls a Natural 1 for his Survival check to choose the correct path, so he confidently leads the party down the wrong path, directly into a gelatinous cube.

The cube manages to engulf over half the party at some point during the fight, and knocks Khemed down to zero hit points. Shira’s healing bug Jeremiah stabilizes him afterward though, and everyone is left thoroughly grossed out, but alive. You find a potion of healing in the remains of the cube’s previous victims, which is nice.

Continuing down the cave, you cross an offshoot passage which contains a natural bubbling spring. Feeling generally gross and covered in ooze from the cube, Shira immediately sheds all her clothes and hops in. At which point a water weird, displeased at having its spring so contaminated, immediately rises from where it lurked below the surface and constricts Shira in its watery coils.

Shira spends most of the fight bound and grappled by the weird while the rest of the party hacks and blasts at it, eventually bringing it down. Undisturbed by the encounter, Shira immediately goes back to what she was doing, washing the cube residue off herself and her clothes. The rest of the party cleans up some as well, before going back to the cube’s passage to make camp for the night.

The Ziggurat

July 25th, morning

You are woken in the morning by the sounds of men talking and crates being dragged across the stone floor of the cave. Sticking her head around the corner, Shira sees men and crates being moved up the passageway, back toward the top of the cliff. You elect not to draw attention to yourselves, and wait for them to pass before continuing downward.

You eventually exit the cave with no further issues, and before you stands the ziggurat. The unearthed section is only 70 feet tall (it definitely seems mostly buried), at the top of which is a lone crossbowman standing guard. To deal with this, Fenrir turns into a bear, carries Keladry and Shira stealthily up the back side of the ziggurat, and knocks the guard unconscious with a swipe of his claw. Then Keladry stands where the guard was standing while Fenrir drags the guard back down for interrogation.

When he comes to without his weapons or armor, the guard is suitably intimidated by the LARGE BEAR looming over him. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to know much. He knows that “the bosses” are inside the ziggurat, but doesn’t know who they are or what they’re doing. He’s a local mercenary, who’s company was hired by someone from out of town, so he’s at least two or three steps removed from the people you actually want to know about. You tie him up and leave him in the cave, to deal with later, and head towards the ziggurat.

There are stairs leading to the top of the ziggurat. At the top, there is a 15 foot square platform, in the corners of which are the remains of what used to be stone columns. Near the center, there is another, smaller platform, about 5 feet square and 5 feet tall. On the side opposite the exterior stairs, there is a trapdoor. When opened, this reveals a short (10-ft) ladder ending leading to a narrow stairwell.

It is dark in the stairwell. The stairs descend quite a ways, definitely farther than the amount of ziggurat that had been uncovered on the outside. As you descend, the air cools noticeably until it is relatively comfortable, even without your endure elements.

Eventually, the stairs open into a passageway extending in front of you. Along the walls are doors, some open and some closed. At the far end of the hallway, there appears to be a much larger stairwell, going even further down.

All the open doorways lead to single rooms. Searching reveals that the rooms probably contained ancient objects (hundreds of years old, if not thousands), but that everything had already been picked clean. Probably a long time ago at that, based on the dust build up. The rooms with the closed doors (at least the first one you try after listening to verify no one is inside) are locked. Fenrir, still in bear form, straight up punches through the solid wooden door, then opens it using the handle on the other side. The noise echoes off the quiet hallways, and you all, realizing your mistake, immediately hide inside the doorway in preparation for anyone who comes to investigate.

This doesn’t actually happen, and after a while, you relax and look around. In the room, it looks like makeshift beds are being set up, and that what is possibly construction material is being moved in bit by bit, as if this place was being set up as a base of operations.

Descending a level, the stairwell opens into another hallway, this one extending left and right, perpendicular to the stairway exit. There are more rooms, mostly with open doors revealing nothing interesting inside. There are stairwells at either end of the hallway.

You become aware of an echoing whisper, which seems to be coming from the right stairwell (the left just leads to the kitchens as you’ll discover upon searching later). It’s distorted enough that you can barely make out anything intelligible. What little you can make out seems to be in no language any of you know.

Going down the right stairwell leads to a wider hallway, with taller ceilings. it extends half the length of the hallway upstairs, then ends in a T-junction. When you get that far, then the passageway leading left leads towards a wide stairwell, once again going down. The whispers are coming from the right, where the hallway opens into a large (at least 50-by-50 foot) room. Along the sides of the room, columns reach up to a ceiling the light doesn’t reach.

You can see this because, sitting in the middle of the giant empty chamber, facing away from you, is a human. He’s sitting on the floor, with two candles on either side, rocking back and forth and hissing and muttering to himself. The candles fail to illuminate much of the room, though they send the columns into dancing shadows. He’s dressed in dirty rags and a shredded brown overcoat, and looks like a decrepit homeless lunatic. It sounds like he’s alternating between crying, laughing, and muttering rhythmically to himself. Most of what he’s saying is in no language any of you can speak. Occasionally he slips into common, and you catch fragmentary phrases, such as, “…where to find the materials…” and, “…for activating the device…”

Not knowing what else to do, the party sends Shira to ask if this sorry looking fellow needs help. When she calls out though, the Creepy Whispering Homeless Guy (CHWG for short, as the party has dubbed him) immediately stands and turns in one lightning quick motion, glaring at you in the dim candle light. You can make out that he’s…clearly infected with something. His skin color is wrong, his eyes are sunken and hollow, his skin is bubbled and chaffed raw (show picture). And he hisses, seemingly to himself.

“Who are they? How long were they listening? We can’t know. Trouble. TROUBLE!” he shouts the last bit before backing up quickly and tossing out a gust of wind, blowing out the candles and plunging the room into darkness. You hear a lot of clattering and echoing footsteps on stone. The noises are coming towards you. Roll initiative.

Swarm

Firing a few spells into the darkness fails to hit anything, but reveals that a group of four new people aside from the CHWG (1, 2, 3, 4) come running out of rooms on the opposite side of the chamber. The CHWG shouts at them, “Leave now, start your tasks, you know what needs to be done.” They sprint out into the hallway past you, and head towards the stairs. Keladry casts light on her shield, providing enough light to recognize Therin. She glares at you, but, urged on by the CHWG, she runs past without attacking.

The party gets a few hits in, but then the high level villain NPC’s all run up the stairway, and the Drifter hits the area the party is in with a transmute rock to mud spell. Then hisses, "Children, come pick clean their bones.” Upon which a swarm of rats poured in from cracks in the walls, a swarm of bats shrieked down from the (too high to see) ceiling, and the entire area filled with locusts and beetles. A few spellcasting bugs were in the giant swarm of vermin too.

This fight was brutal. The massive swarm attacked everything inside it multiple times per round, and at one point split into two smaller swarms in order to attack more party members. And from the swarm there were occasionally fired random blasts of fire, force or ice from the spellcasting scarabs (these bugs were casting first and second level spells, not just cantrips). I think fully three party members fell unconscious/dying at some point during the fight, some (Keladry and Jane) more than once. Here the healing crystals collected from bugs on previous encounters came in very handy, as without them, at least one PC would have almost certainly died. In any case, by the end of the battle, everyone was exhausted and barely clinging to life.

Which is when you hear quiet echoing footsteps coming back down the stone hallway towards you. The players who had already escaped the muck ducked out of sight and froze. Khemed and Fenrir, however, were left out in the open, stranded in the mud. As the footsteps drew closer, Fenrir dropped into the mud to play dead. But Khemed, proud Hierophant of Ra that he is, would not demean himself so, not even in the face of demonstrably far more powerful foes. At least not until Fenrir physically tripped him into the mud next to him.

The footsteps stop at the base of the stairway, and there’s a long, incredibly uncomfortable pause, before you hear Therin’s voice asking if she should gut you where you lie. Then the CHWG’s raspy whispering voice answers her. “The rats will tend to them by morning, help Lucian and the others move as many crates as we can.” He laughs softly. “We don’t want delay, do we? No, we don’t.” Then the footsteps retreat back up the stairwell.

Return

July 24th, afternoon

Fenrir and Khemed wait a minute or two to be sure they’re gone before dragging themselves out of the muck. Then everyone retreats back into the now empty large room to bandage their wounds and try to clean themselves up into some semblance of decency. No one was in any shape to bring the good fight to the clearly much higher leveled NPC’s, so it was several hours before anyone felt up to tentatively exploring the rest of the ziggurat.

At the back of the large chamber, there is a smaller room that the NPC’s came out of. Inside is a table bearing a bottle of ink and a few quills, some chairs, and a chest. The latter contains 300 gp in loose change and 2 potions of healing. You also grab some spell gems from the bugs you killed. Down the final set of stairs opposite the large chamber stands a large, imposing stone door barred with metal, clearly the (currently underground) main entrance to the ziggurat.

By the time you make your way up to the section with all the rooms, you realize everyone was long gone. In the dust on the floor, you find the marks of crates being dragged towards the stairwell going up the passageway. You exit the ziggurat and follow the new trail made by your adversaries up the cave to the top of the canyon and then back to town. On the way, you pass the encampment where you were ambushed earlier, but decide that digging up the crate of bugs and dealing with them is more trouble than it’s worth. The whole trip takes 5-6 hours, so when you get to Nivaos it is early evening. You slink back to the inn, heads down, and try to figure out what the hell you’re going to do next.

Departure, Once Again

July 25th, morning

That night, Jane once again does her Creepy Nightmare Foreshadowing™. More to come on that later. Fenrir also, at some points, tells the party about his past regarding one of the villains, Lucian Glass.

This part was somewhat sped up since time was running low for the session. You go to the docks to see if Therin’s ship or any others have left in the past day, and if so, where to. There are some dockworkers milling about, grumbling about how the ships they were meant to be working on that day had shipped out ahead of schedule. Fenrir turns into a cat and sneaks his way into the portmaster’s office to get a look at the last day’s worth of shipping records. Turns out on casual investigation that fully five ships had shipped out last night without warning, all for different destinations!

Therin’s ship, which you know the name of, is heading towards the opposite side of Old R’Kassi. Lucian’s ship, which Fenrir knows the name of, is heading towards Ulvenwald, as is one other ship. On ship is heading for the Grand Victorian mainland, and the last is listed as heading towards the Arctic. Fenrir, with his years of sea experience, knows that “the Arctic” is a place you might list as your destination if you really didn’t want anyone to know where you’re going. So while that might be that ship’s actual destination, odds are that last ship could be heading anywhere else in the world. You agree to get moving before setting final plans for where to go.

When you get to your ship, you find an interesting surprise. The entire crew had been slaughtered, seemingly effortlessly. They were just lying there, soaked in blood in the morning light. You couldn’t see it until you started coming up onto the ship itself, which was why no one had reported it yet.

Since the ship is small, it only requires 4 crew members on shift at any given time. So the party, under the direction of Fenrir with his sailing background and Shira with her bard’s Jack of All Trades, know just enough about sailing a ship that the five of you can successfully get things moving onto the high seas. Exhaustion will quickly set in after more than a few days of round the clock crewing, but that’s a problem to deal with when you’re NOT somewhere that the authorities are demonstrably on your enemy’s side.

However, as you prepare to take off, you see guards come running down the pier at you, shouting that you hadn’t gotten permission from the dock keepers to leave, that we had to list our cargo and destination. Thinking quickly, Fenrir hops off the ship, and rolls pretty high Persuasion to get them to stop and listen to him BEFORE heading up onto the deck covered in blood and gore. Then he goes to fill out the relevant paperwork to leave, thus avoiding what would have certainly been a LARGE conflict had the guards seen all those bodies.

After setting sail, Fenrir messages Sennefer through MacGuiller. While the others try to scrub away the bloodstains on the deck, he and Khemed explain the situation, and ask for him to requisition a new crew to meet them in Nasivern. Despite the disquieting news, Sennefer agrees. He also says that he will be investigating the probably corrupt leadership in Nivaos, “promoting” the mayoral equivalent to the capitol for questioning.

Also after setting sail, Shira’s healing bug Jeremiah molts, gets slightly bigger, and can now cast cure wounds as a first level spell twice a day. This promotes his buggy status from “situationally useful” to “actually legitimately useful source of healing.” So that’s nice.

On the way to Nivaos, several party members come down with some sort of illness, most probably an infection picked up from the swarms of rats and insects in the ziggurat. However, the fact that you have two clerics means that the next sunrise, they can prepare lesser restoration and heal everyone. This does mean the trip to Nasivern takes slightly longer, as you’re fighting both exhaustion and illness as you attempt to maneuver the ship with minimal crew. But after 4 exhausting days during which fortunately nothing bad happens, you pick up a new crew in Nasivern and head out to sea.

So that’s where you are. Fenrir is the de facto captain of the ship, which he decides to re-christen the Raven’s Howl. You’ve decided to head for the closer Ulvenwald destination, the one Lucian’s ship was heading towards, stopping off at Port Alexandria on the way. And finally, everyone leveled up to level 4.

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To Ulvenwald

Return to Alexandria

August 21st, noon

After a thankfully uneventful voyage, the party arrives in Port Alexandria, which is a convenient midpoint between Old R’Kassi and Ulvenwald. You check in with MacGuiller, who has, in your absence, bred/cloned some more healing bugs. Since by default the bugs appear harmless, and these ones in particular contain useful healing energies, MacGuiller didn’t see any harm in making more of them. He’s considering selling them as novelty pets at some point in the future, but is concerned enough about Therin’s mysterious purposes with them that he’s keeping them under wraps for now.

Notably, none of the bugs in his possession have molted and gotten bigger/more powerful, as Shira’s bug did immediately after leaving Old R’Kassi. Not even the one that has existed for nearly as long. MacGuiller infers that whatever happened to Jeremiah, it isn’t part of the bug’s natural life cycle. This is very strange.

Fenrir updates the sheriff on how the search for Therin is going. He asks for recommendations for a first mate, and the sheriff introduces him to John Grey, a young-ish sailor with experience patrolling the seas around Port Alexandria. He seems like trustworthy first mate material, so he joins the crew, and the next morning you set out for Ulvenwald.

The Dark Continent

September 14th, morning

Lucian’s ship was headed towards the town of Blackrock, on the eastern coast of Ulvenwald. When you arrive, you find the coast enveloped in mist, with dangerous rocks protruding from the dark waters. One would think there would be a lighthouse to guide approaching ships into harbor, but if one exists, it isn’t lit.

The first thing you see that isn’t mist or rocks is the twin masts of a large ship protruding from the mists. Fenrir recognizes Lucian’s ship, and the party elects to turn around and make landfall a few hours up the coast, rather than sail into town blind.

Trekking through the jungle is quite the endeavor. Ulvenwald is called the Dark Continent for a reason. The jungle is dark, hot, and filled with tripping vines and tangled roots, making progress slow. The party manages to navigate around a few jungle hazards, quicksand and the like, before being drawn in by the sounds of a distressed baby triceratops. Shira heals it and manages to calm the mother before she attacks, and sends them on their way. A bit later, the party runs into some sort of fire plant that creates a ring of fire around them, but a clever application of create/destroy water allows everyone to escape only lightly scorched.

After a bit more walking, you come upon a small clearing, and hear something approaching through the trees on the other side. The party quickly hides among the trees. Then, a halfling woman stumbles out into the clearing, followed by a horde of zombies! She looks exhausted and beat up, and when the party moves to engage the zombies, she immediately drops to the ground behind a tree.

As it turns out, zombies are hilariously ineffectual on difficult terrain when facing a party of spellcasters. Fenrir deploys an area of spike growth over the clearing, Khemed summons a flaming sphere, and then Fenrir keeps the few zombies that make it out of the spike growth occupied while everyone else torches them from a safe distance. Zombies, being zombies, are fairly tedious to bring down, but eventually every one of them falls.

You then turn your attention to the halfling woman who was fleeing from the zombies. As it turns out, Fenrir knows her. Her name is Leena, and she is, or was, a member of his old mercenary company, the White Ravens. When they start talking, it come to light that Fenrir was accused of murdering one of the members of the White Ravens, and that is the reason for his estrangement from the group. Fenrir vehemently claims innocence, and expresses anger that Leena ever believed it to be true. There are some hints of unresolved issues between Fenrir and Leena.

After accepting some healing from Keladry, Leena launches into the story of what’s been happening in the White Ravens since Fenrir left, and why her involvement with them ended with her running through the trees from a horde of zombies.

Leena’s Tale

Many years ago, when Fenrir was still a part of the White Ravens and Lucian was not the leader, the White Ravens took a job that led them the Ulvenwald. This job turned out to be a trap, set by a man named Ralan who’d lost a lot of money due to one of the White Ravens’ missions. Many of them were killed, including their leader. Lucian then took control of the White Ravens after accusing Fenrir of the murder of another member, and driving him away.

Since then, the group has been taking on more unscrupulous members, and stopped taking on the missions for obviously just causes they’d been taking before. Leena was uncomfortable with the new makeup of the group, but they still weren’t doing anything obviously evil. Missions were things like, “fetch this magic item of unknown purpose from these ruins,” or, “guard this wizard’s tower for a few months while he completes his work.” So while she was uncomfortable, her loyalty to the group won out.

Something changed though, a few months back when they took on a contract for their latest client, the Man in Rags (this is what I’ve decided Leena refers to the CHWG as). There’s a madness in Lucian’s eyes these days, and he seems to care less for completing the job within the confines of the law. It didn’t become apparent just how far gone he was though, until they came to Blackrock.

They were sent by the Man in Rags to collect black onyx from Blackrock’s mine. Black onyx, being a major component of necromancy spells and rituals, is not usually available for purchase in large quantities, so the White Ravens were sent to collect it in bulk directly from the source. When they arrived in Blackrock, Lucian immediately instituted martial law in the town. Then he and a few White Ravens conscripted a dozen healthy miners and led them to the mine, leaving the rest of the White Ravens to basically do as they pleased, under Katherine Vera’s command. The White Ravens immediately began terrorizing the town, looting the tavern for alcohol and generally being enormous dicks.

The townsfolk were a hardy lot, and didn’t put up with this abuse for long. The night before, while most of the company were partying drunkenly on their ship, the townsfolk took back their town and barred the gates. The (drunk) White Ravens wanted to charge in and “teach them a lesson,” but Katherine ordered them to wait, and sent a message to Lucian via sending stone. A few hours later, Lucian swooped down from the night sky, and told the restless men to sit back and enjoy the show. He was going to take care of this town, personally. Then he took off again, flying magically with no obvious support, spontaneously grew horns, and then proceeded to bathe the town in fire.

Leena, horrified at the wanton slaughter Lucian was committing, lept from the ship and swam to shore. When she got there though, it appeared she was too late. Lucian threw open the gates to the town where he stood, horns covered in blood and backlit by fire. Leena confronted him, but he told her, basically, to either shut up or get out of his way. Leena replied that she would never follow him again. In response, Lucian drew an enormous black onyx crystal from a pocket, and smiled.

“Then run.”

Then he crushed the crystal in one of his bare hands, sending tendrils of dark energy spiraling out towards the smoking corpses arrayed around him, which began to stand, and then lurch forward towards Leena.

After that, the party knows what happened. Leena ran, pursued by zombies, running through the night and into the morning before stumbling upon the party. By the end of this story, Leena is crying silently, and looks about ready to pass out from exhaustion. The party agrees to make camp and plan what to the following day.

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Into the Caves

The Western Caves

September 15th, morning

You spend the morning hiking the rest of the way to Blackrock to scope it out. You see no good way for 6 adventurers to assault the 30-40 men in the town or on their ship, so you head west towards the caves instead. Aside from wading through a mud pit filled with leeches, the way to the caves is uneventful.

Around the entrance to the mine, there is a short wall, and a watchtower containing three guards. Shira turns Fenrir invisible, but he rolls poorly enough on his Stealth check that the guards are put on alert. This doesn’t make that much difference in the end though, as the rest of the party runs out of the trees spells blazing. The three guards go down fast enough that none of them manage to sound any sort of alarm. Contributing to this was a well placed crown of madness Jane cast on one of the guards, forcing him to attack the others rather than do anything useful.

Past the wall, there are a few makeshift huts and lean-to’s before the entrance to the mine. These are obviously not meant to be any sort of permanent habitation, as the mine is not operated year-round. Apart from the belongings of the dead guards, you don’t find anything of note.

You continue on into the mine. It branches several times, but usually only one of them has working tracks for mining carts, so it’s fairly easy to stay on the correct path. Soon enough, you start seeing traces of reflective black stones on the ground and walls. Jane pries one out with a dagger revealing it to be Black Onyx. Which she then pockets, because hey, free stuff!

The cart tracks branch off in two directions, and the party follows the rightmost passage to a barred metal door. After opening it, the party is immediately set upon by not one, but five giant bats that swoop down from the dark roof of the cave.

The party manages to take one down while retreating through the door and shutting it again, relatively undamaged by the encounter.

Returning back to the fork, the party follows it to a similar metal door. This time, it opens into a large cavern brightly lit by torches. Around the walls, a dozen skeletons dressed in rags , hacking at the walls with pickaxes. Some sort through the pile of rubble, picking out black gems and tossing them into the mining carts, or one of the crates lying open near one of the walls. In the center of all of this, pacing forward and backwards while reading from a book, is Lucian.

Battle in the Mines

This is a summary. The long form log will come later.

  • Lucian breathes fire at Fenrir the bear, standing in the doorway. He ducks out of the way, letting the rest of the party get scorched (whoops)
  • Lucian contemplates the skeletons, motions for them to keep working, and runs off down a hallway. Lucian talks to Leena, and then Fenrir when he realizes who the bear is. He is appropriately arrogant and creepy.
  • Everyone follows, Lucian calls over a pair of Allosaurus (like a T-rex, but smaller) skeletons, then jumps down a rock slide.
  • Fenrir, Keladry, and Leena jump down after him, the rest are cut off by the skeletons.
  • Skeleton deals massive damage to Jane, who then disengages and jumps down the slide. Khemed and Shira valiantly battle the skeletons while falling back towards more confined tunnels, so only one could attack at a time. Shira falls, and Khemed barely manages to bring down the last skeleton while he himself is in single digit hit points. He then stabilizes Shira and starts casting prayer of healing while waiting for the others to return.
  • The others battle Lucian, who casts darkness twice while ducking in and out from behind stalactites and generally being a pain in the ass to fight.
  • Lucian eventually gets beat up enough that he drops his rapier and surrenders. Fenrir is having none of that, and continues to attack, despite Leena and Keladry’s objections. Lucian then casts a spell (fly) and flies away, back up the tunnel. Because flying is so much faster than climbing up a rock slide, he gets away. He does not pass Shira and Khemed on the way out.
  • When the party follows back towards the cavern, all the skeletons are gone, as are all the crates of black onyx. It seems Lucian was purposefully leading you away from them so they could get away with the gems he was there for in the first place.
  • Session ends with party taking a long rest, trying to figure out what to do next.
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Leaving Ulvenwald

Storm the Lighthouse

September 16th, morning

-wake up and debate where to go
-Decide to go to the lighthouse
-Get to the base of lighthouse and start getting attacked by what-her-evil-face
-everyone bolts to the lighthouse while Fenrir (in maybe wolf form?) stays behind as a rear guard to make sure everyone makes it back safely.
-Leena gets shot down! Nooooo
-Jane gets a few shots in before they get to the lighthouse
-They search the lighthouse and find…? nothing really?
-Jane turns Fenrir invisible and send him to hunt down whats-her-evil-face while she pops a head out and blasts into the trees.
-Fen catches up to her and starts trying to find her in the trees but she keeps slipping away.
-They eventually all meet up in the woods and make their way towards the town.

Underneath the Town

September 16th, noon

-They find a door or window or something and go into the town.
-There is a huge pile of bodies in the middle, otherwise nothing noticeable.
-Keladry and Khemed guard the bottom of a watch tower while the rest climb up to get a better lay of the land.
-They start to hear sounds coming from the center of town
-They send ropes over the edge to climb down and call the others up
-Jane goes down last because she reaalllyyy wants to know whats gonna come out of the pit
-They escape around the size of the wall, out of sight from whoever was attacking them
-They manage to find a boat to escape in while exchanging blasts with whats-her-evil-face

Row row row your boat, away from Ulvenwald

September 16th, afternoon

-They make it back to their ship and decide to head to Grand Victoria

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A Terrible Ritual

After eight long days, our heroes arrive in Tanalin, a relatively small port town. The port has several other fishing boats that we see, but the Raven’s Howl (our ship) is the only one that is sea worthy. The landscape around the town is dominated by forests and hills, with a few snow-capped mountains visible in the far distance.

Tanalin is freckled by a number of watchtowers surrounding the edges of the town. However, there is a distinct lack of substantial defenses; it becomes readily apparent to the group that the town does not expect any real threat as they are comforted by the protection being a part of the Grand Victorian Empire.

As we enter the lively town, Khemed suggests that we warn the town and spread word about the massacre at Blackrock. A sound idea, because the travel papers that the team has state that they are destined for Blackrock, and they need an explanation as to why they are here. Fenrir is able to convince the portmaster that Blackrock was indeed destroyed, while avoiding the details of the White Ravens or exactly how much they knew about the destruction.

With their docking all sorted out, the adventurers set out to explore Tanalin’s numerous points of interest. As everyone splits up to do a variety of tasks, it is clear that Tanalin is a small but dense town with plenty of useful places to a group such as themselves. A single, comfortable inn stands in the town center, and a number of interesting shops that we all split off into. Fenrir and Khemed both go into the Jewelry, albeit for different reasons: Fenrir goes there to sell off some of the black onyx that they had (Jane was upset he took any at all) as he had depleted his funds in order to pay his crew, while Khemed went there to buy some material components for his spells. Keladry also goes to different shops to buy spell components, while Jane took a stroll past the town church and cemetery to see how if she would be able to start reanimating the cemetery’s corpses. (INSERT SHIRA ACTIVITY HERE). Eventually, everyone heads to the inn to reserve their rooms.

While at the inn, Fenrir slips downstairs to the inn’s bar, where he chats with old contact, who just so happens to be the barkeeper. Initially, the barkeep didn’t have any news worth bringing up, but a description of the two remaining lackey’s of the BBEG (AKA Creepy Homeless Whispering Guy) led Fenrir to discover that the man in a suit we saw in the Ziggurat had indeed arrived in Tanalin a few weeks prior. The barkeep was reluctant to say more about the man, save that he had a creepy smile and gave him the creeps. Fenrir tried to get more out of the barkeep, but was interrupted by a belligerent drunk, who loudly proclaimed, “We don’t come here to ask questions. We don’t come here to think. We come here to STOP thinkin’. So shut your mouth or I’ll make sure it’s the last time you ever open it!"

Shockingly, Fenrir was able to not get into a bar fight with the drunk, but merely bickered with him back and forth for a few moments before the drunk went back to his drink, but not before the barkeep went into the bar’s backroom. Irritated that he was unable to find out more, Fenrir reluctantly went back upstairs to inform the rest of the party what he discovered.

With this news in mind, Khemed declares that he is going to go to the local church to find out anything he can about this creepy man in a suit. Fenrir offers to join him, while Jane and Keladry decide to stay at the bar for unofficial Awkward Bonding Drinking Time™. On their way out of the bar, Fenrir and Khemed are approached by a barmaid who asks if Fenrir was the person who had questions about the creepy man in a suit. The barmaid asks if they can talk somewhere privately, to which Fenrir agrees. As Khemed continues on his way to the church, Fenrir and the barmaid go into a back alley to discuss the man.

The barmaid informs Fenrir that this man in a suit is named Priest, a man with a chilling smile: his smiles seemed too big, his stares lasted too long; his speech was close, but off in enough tiny ways that the whole picture became wrong. Along with this, Priest dressed over the top even by the standards of Grand Victorian nobility. As a whole, he gave almost everyone in Tanalin chills. Despite this, Priest seemed to be accepted by the blue-bloods and the clergy outright, so people were afraid to say anything. With a final word of warning to avoid the man as best they can, the barmaid tells Fenrir that Priest went inland along with several of the local church members, his own team of men, and some paid workers with dig equipment. He hadn’t really advertised what he was leaving for, at least not to commoners, and she thought she rather preferred it that way.

Troubled by the news, Fenrir rushes off to warn Khemed of the potential danger he might be placing himself under by speaking with the church about Priest. Arriving just as Khemed approached the doors, Fenrir informed him of what was going on. Khemed, ignoring Fenrir’s desire to leave the church immediately, decided to simply change his line of questioning. By doing what Khemed does best, being loud and religious, to masterfully charm the church’s kindly old abbot. The abbot informs Khemed and Fenrir that Priest was making preparations for a ritual, and that when they’re done the entire world will benefit from the wisdom they gain. Not only that, but Khemed was able to make dinner plans with the old abbot, with the entire party invited.

During dinner, Khemed tries to learn more about the ritual Priest is preparing, but the abbot does not provide any new illuminating information. Fortunately for Fenrir and Jane, the abbot failed to notice that the two of them were having a telepathic bickering about whether or not Jane should go to the graveyard to raise any undead that night. Keladry, however, manages to simply enjoy the dinner without being too concerned over any of these things.

Deeply worried over what sort of ritual Priest is really planning, the party decides to leave first thing in the morning. For INSERT REASON HERE, Shira decides to stay in Tanalin and not travel with the rest of the party. Fenrir instructs his first mate John to buy any goods that can be sold in port later, and to make sure none of the crew are massacred while the team is gone.

Traveling by foot along the main road, it is around 2.5 days to the small town of Driftdale. After half a day of walking, the straight road through farmland gives way to a winding road through temperate forest. The road narrows as the team gets deeper into the forest, but they are able to stop for a lunch where absolutely nothing of note happens. As the party moves further into the woods, the party rounds a bend in the road to see a fallen tree, halting their progress. Almost immediately, crossbow bolts begin flying towards the party. It becomes clear that two bandits are ambushing the party, and using similar hit and run tactics that were used by Katherine Vera on Ulvenwald. Learnig from their past mistakes, the party stays together close enough to move as a unit and fight the bandits, eventually catching them at a small clearing a little ways away from the path.

However, the bandits were clearly planning on bringing the fight to this clearing, as a twisted oak tree stands in the other end of the far clearing. The tree has a magical affect to charm whoever is near it, but only Khemed becomes charmed by the tree, as it seems to have awoken something in Khemed as well- there aren’t many trees as pretty as that in Old R’Kassi. Fenrir and Keladry are able to defeat the one of the bandits, with Wolf Fenrir pinning the bandit down as he surrenders. It is at this moment when the tree begins to wrap its branches around Khemed’s neck, strangling him. The tree then does the same thing to Jane. Fenrir being Fenrir, he telepathically communicates to Kel to keep an eye on the bandit while he moves to help Jane and then Khemed. It quickly becomes clear that this tree is a larger threat, Kel demands that the bandit tell her what’s going on, to which the bandit replies, “Hehehehe… No one escapes the Hanging Tree!!!” Keladry summons a spectral blade to start helping Khemed with his overbearing tree friend, and helps Jane escape from the hanging tree.

The battle becomes grueling quickly, Khemed manages to come to his senses and uses a flaming sphere to deal damage to the tree consistently, Jane puts oil on the tree to let it burn more easily before collapsing, and Fenrir runs out of wild shapes as shifting allows him to escape from the tree’s branches. It is when the tree begins to uproot itself and pursue the party that Keladry rightly urges the party to begin to retreat back to the road to escape from the hanging tree. Keladry and Khemed carry Jane through the thick forest while Fenrir keeps the tree busy, ready to escape. In a desperate attempt to take care of the tree, Fenrir summons a tidal wave, which generates enough force to shatter the tree into a million pieces. Relieved to have some time to think, they all decide to continue down the road in the event that the bandits return (it seems they ran once the party became occupied with the hanging tree).

The rest of the journey is fairly uneventful; there is a really large boulder that looks sort of like a face that Jane insists on climbing. Each night the party hears dire wolves howling in the distance, which is comforting to no one but Fenrir. The second night is interrupted by a nightmare of Jane’s, it is unclear what the dream could mean.

Around noon on the third day, you exit the forest and catch a view of the town. Driftdale is a run-down sort of town, more of a waypoint between Tanalin and the capital cities further inland. Since it’s in a bit of a valley, the party has a pretty good visual layout of things. Namely, they can see right away that there is some kind of recent dig site off to the east border of the town. The dig site is directly near an old and obviously abandoned church (roof caving in, dingy and dirty, but the stained glass windows were still intact, probably out of respect from the locals), and the digging itself seemed to form a giant star pattern around the building.

Khemed uses magic to magically spy on the dig site, which reveals that Priest will be finished preparing the ritual at dawn in two days’ time. The party decides to use the fact that most of them can disguise themselves to their advantage, and have Keladry, Jane, and Fenrir (disguised as a dog, as his normal form is much more rememorable) go into town to learn what they can.

No one really knows much. The clergy was preparing for some kind of ritual that they promised would be of immense benefit to everyone involved. We did pick up that it was Priest who’d come into town with the documents elaborating on the location of the stones they were unearthing, and the details of the ritual. Jane and Kel make plans to meet with the town mayor, who is completely on board with Priest’s plan, and finds it odd that Jane and Keladry are being so inquisitive about the ritual.

Deflated by this dead end, the team decides to change tactics. Fenrir goes off to get Khemed, and the team decides that since Priest is trying to keep a good public profile, they can simply walk up and ask around at the dig site. The party approaches the church, with dog!Fenrir sniffing around and seeing if there is anything interesting about the area. Everyone else walk right up to Priest.

When Priest turns to address everyone, the party realizes that he does indeed have a mile-long stare and an uncomfortable rictus grin. He seems as if he’s trying to be cordial, but trying way too hard. He addresses us in the same way, overly polite and paced slightly off from normal speech patterns, “Hello there folk, is there anything I can help you with to-" His last word cuts off, and his rictus grin drops into a flat tight lipped line. “Oh. You. How odd.”
Khemed tries to get more information out of Priest, but Priest is very firm in saying, “Get out NOW,” in a way that is still creepily polite. Reluctantly, the party leaves and returns to the inn. That night, Fenrir cats his way into the church in the center of the dig site and manages to steal some papers that reveal that the ritual is a summoning ritual, but it is unclear what exactly is being summoned. Additionally, there are what looks to be very, very old headstones being unearthed. The writing on them is not in any modern language, and they have random runes and symbols carved throughout them in bas-relief. Fenrir manages to memorize one of the runes, but no one in the party knows what the rune may mean once he returns to tell the party what he’s discovered. Not finished yet though, Fenrir goes back to the dig site to cast Erupting Earth to damage the dig site and interfere with the ritual, this calls on the attention of Priest’s men, but Fenrir is able to sneak away before they can identify him.

The next morning the party is awoken to the sound of guards knocking on their door. The guards threaten the party, saying it is easy to determine that they are the ones who messed with the dig site last night, and not to do it again or else (they have no definitive proof so they do not actually arrest the party). Everyone spends the day trying to come up with a plan to stop the ritual, but no idea seems to end well. Jane and Khemed both propose waiting for the summoning to occur and then intervene. The rest of the party agrees, Fenrir sneaks to the top of the church, waiting around to be prepared for the ritual to commence, while the rest of the party prepares a safe distance away to jump in once the summoning occurs.

And so began the waiting game. The first night, nothing happens. The next night, the ritual begins. Just before dawn, they begin lighting candles, heating oils, mixing arcane ingredients, laying powders, chanting… Everyone present except for Priest and the local pastor had on blank masks with crosses painted on the front. And just before light begins to break, the area inside the church brightens as if it was the middle of day, sunlight streaming OUT through the stained glass windows and casting colored patterns across the unearthed grounds. The light flashes brilliantly, and the shadows from the windows burn themselves into the ground surrounding the building, completing the pattern they had drawn across the floor on the inside. And suddenly, where there had been nothing, on a stone pedestal in the middle of the church, stood…

An angel.

There she stands, with all the overwhelming perfection of a divine entity. Clothed in garments of solid light, eyes pools of glistening silver, hair just strands of solid white gold, wings tucked serenely against her back. She turns her head calmly to the left and right, surveying the area while everyone inside, Priest included, stands in shocked awe of her divinity. She kneels, and beckons for the local pastor that had been working with Priest to come to her. She cradles his jaw line from above him, on her pedestal, and begins to weep. Her words were a whisper, but they rung throughout everyone present with perfect clarity and an unbearable sadness.

“Thou hast made a grievous mistake child.” She kisses the clergyman on the forehead in an act of forgiveness, takes his wrists and places his hands over his own ears, and SHRIEKS. The entire building, Priest included, falls to their knees clutching their ears. The stained glass explodes outwards in delicate shards. Priest gestures at the angel, and several pained looking men begin to attack her with some kind of black leather loops, trying to bind and silence her.

That is when the party springs into action. Fenrir jumps off of the rafters on top of Priest, turning into a giant octopus and trying to grapple Priest. Everyone starts fighting the Priest’s men, who fall easily. They also get up just as easily. After turning into ashes, the enemies rise back up and resume trying to bind the angel.
Priest turns out to have all sorts of magical items, a staff that is imbued with cold, and a sphere that can absorb the spells that Jane cast at Priest. The party does their best to prevent the angel from being carried off by Priest’s men, the angel’s eyes are sorrowful, as if they have already lost this battle.
And so the battle rages on…

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An Angel’s Saviors
Despite the party doing its best to save the angel, they are fighting a losing battle. Fenrir was already on his last wildshape, Jane was in critical condition with Khemed very close to becoming the same, and despite hitting them with everything the party had they were barely slowing down Priest and his men. Or rather, every time they knocked Priest’s men down they only had a brief respite until their defeated foes rose from the ashes of their remains.

Things were starting to look grim when the blink of an eye Shira was at the church. Shira, blinking rapidly for a moment, realizes she has appeared and jumps into the fray. She sends Jeremiah off to revitalize Jane and begins throwing daggers and dissonant whispers left and right. The rest of the party, boosted at the sudden return of their friend, continue the battle with newfound energy.

However, our heroes were not the only ones with sudden reinforcement. A thick, black carriage appears led by four horses and five more of Priest’s men. They pull the carriage around to the side of the church and throw open the back doors. It is readily apparent that they intend to throw the angel into the carriage. Priest, having been thoroughly damaged by the party, seizes the opportunity to run out of the church and hop on the carriage, ordering his men to help assist. Before following his orders, one of his men on the carriage throws Priest a potion, which Priest promptly chugs.

At this point, the party was once again in a difficult position. Jane, Shira, and Khemed were already outside of the church fighting the men. Keladry had just run out of the church behind Priest and was holding off several of Priest’s men from getting to the rest of the party. Fenrir was stuck, the exit out of the church was too small for him to fit through as a wolf and even if he squeezed through there were too many people right in front of the exit. He could turn back to normal and rejoin the fight using only his spells or run out of the front entrance as a wolf, possibly wasting precious time.

While this was all going through his head the angel was thrown into the back of the carriage and locked inside. Out of sheer desperation, Fenrir returned to normal, ran outside, and hit the carriage point blank with a tidal wave, knocking the carriage over and down into a ditch.

This provided our heroes the opportunity to show just how far they’ve come as a team. Keladry continued to steadily cut down the torching foes, Shira sent one of them running off into the distance with dissonant whispers, Jane ran down to the carriage and began cutting the binds off of the angel. Khemed, using the radiance of dawn, disintegrated every single one of Priest’s men instantly, followed by Fenrir using tidal wave to wash away the torching men’s ashes.

Priest, realizing that the battle was decided, fled the scene. Fenrir attempted to follow him but was called off by the rest of the party, who pointed out that they, Fenrir included, were exhausted by the battle and could not fight off the entire town. With the rescued angel in tow, the party fled into the woods.

Once they were settled in a safe clearing, the angel spoke with the party. The angel identifies herself as Anaphiel, who is the caretaker of their world. Anaphiel explains that Priest wanted her for something evil, and that she was going to be brought to Priest’s master, the Man in Rags. Disturbed by this news, the party then talks with Shira, who explains her absence.

It turns out that Shira had been in the ethereal plane, having accidentally put on a necklace that randomly causes her to switch between the material and ethereal planes. Shira had been following the party around the entire time, but was unable to hear or speak to them. The necklace was clearly cursed so the wearer could not remove it, but the angel was kind enough to help Shira remove the necklace.

Later that night, Jane has a dream:

You are standing on the deck of the Raven’s Wing. The skies are clear and the ship sails calmly with a pleasant tailwind. You look forward, and you see a great rainforest. Ulvenwald, but not, on inspection, the port you so recently left. In place of the ominous black cliffs, there is a river delta, and a pier waving the flag of Grand Victoria.
The ship is now sailing up a river. The trees hum with life as you pass beneath their branches. The river comes to a fork, and the ship deliberately turns and takes the right fork.
You walk along a forest path. You come to a point where the trail is flanked by two large trees, each bearing a large voodoo mask. For a moment, you feel their empty eyes staring straight through you, judging you. But then the feeling is gone. You step past the masks, and the tension leaves your shoulders as you are filled with a sense of peace and safety.

After explaining the dream to the party, they all agree to head back to Ulvenwald to the port matching the description of Jane’s dream.

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Electric Boogaloo

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.

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