Aphonion Tales: Ravenskrag and the Shadowline, a preteen D&D game (lightly edited notes, COMPLETED on 1/20/23)

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 29 (May 29, 2021)

16 O-Zar (cont’d)
They head to the palace from their meeting with the Bishop. The guards recognize them, and they are immediately taken to the Dogaressa.

“Hail and welcome back. What news?”

Runor says, “We think there may be a demon pretending to be human, and working for Sir Clarence.”

“He is Sir Clarence’s personal captain, and not part of the mercenaries,” adds Aleep.

“We are hurrying reinforcements here. Do we think they will have time to arrive?”

“We think so,” says Runor.

“Ah. Could be worse, then.”

“He also has access to powerful poison. We’re not sure what he intends with that.”

Merreep adds, “And there was also abyssal hay. It would cause any animal that eats it more aggressive.”

The dogaressa is very concerned about this, both with the effects on cows but especially on horses.

They also tell her about the long-lasting delay poison potions.

“You have rendered a great service here. I will order the palace sealed—it can be done surreptitiously. We will come up with some excuse—mourning for a distant ally or something.”

“You must remember they have access to the sewer system,” adds Runor. “They could use that to try to get people within the palace. Or to poison the general water supply. But we might be able to use some of the green slime we found to block off their entrance to the sewers.”

The dogaressa agrees that might be possible, and could be passed off as simply natural.

“Aleep thinks that the Bishop thought the attack might come before the reinforcements arrive.”

“Oh. That would make things much more difficult. I have found the military of the city has been… much more lax than I had realized. But I cannot not be seen in public. I will declare three days of celebration—my distant cousin has been found to be with child, I think. That will make it harder for them to plan things, I think. Besides, people will drink from the cellars instead of water, which would protect them from the poison.”

Ulgorio points out the poison could be in things besides water—wine, or beer. Any liquid.

Aleep also points out that some of the dogaressa’s guards have been drunk on duty before. It would be bad if they would over celebrate.

The dogaressa is concerned about that. “There is one other possibility. Sir Clarence has made a romantic interest in me known since shortly after my husband’s death—quite too soon, it’s still too soon, but perhaps if I invited him to a private meal in the palace.”

Runor responds, “I am almost certain he would try to kill you.”

“I am as well. But if you could arrange to be the guards assigned to accompany him, he would be alone. And I am not without my own capabilities. I have a special chain shirt that I can wear under my dress.”

Runor adds, “We must make sure that his guards are not allowed to enter.”

“Unless you are his guards. I think you have substantial influence. I can invite him for two or three days in the future, bringing six guards—the same number of guards as your group. I do not think he would attack if he thinks he can win without an attack.”

Runor comments that they know that Sir Clarence is not the top of the authority. “He serves a being on the power level of a lich—a greater vampire. But it is not here.”

“He may be place bound.”

“Aleep thinks Aleep’s friends know that, that he cannot leave the manor north of East Haven.”

“If you cannot arrange to be his guard when he comes in 3 evenings’ time, try to let us know in advance.”

“And if things go badly,” says Runor, “make sure that the people know, so he cannot take over without the opposition of the people.”

“I will send the invitation within an hour.”

“Aleep thinks you might also seek allies for at the dinner. Perhaps people from the temple, and perhaps some of Lady Fooblu’s troops.”

“Yes, I will ask her. Thank you again.”

They depart. Runor mentions that he would like to get some better armor, and they have plenty of money.

Almost as soon as they have left the palace, the Bishop’s chief demonologist slips up to them. “I verified it. The one you speak of is a field marshal under the Worm that Bores Beneath. He is a minor field marshal, and he partakes of the essence of Socothbenoth - Lord of Perversion and Taboo. His power relates to charm, travel, chaos, and evil. He is a competent torturer. He wields a quarterstaff, and is deadly with it. He has few spells, but he can often charm people, even in combat.”

“Abyssal field marshal sounds scary. Is that as scary as it sounds?”

“No, they all take whatever titles they can. He is potent, but not nearly as potent as say a field marshal in Hell would be.”

“Do we need any special weapons?”

“Yes, they should be silvered. And he is immune to cold and lightning, resistant to poison and regular weapons.” [Resistance (30) poison, damage reduction 10/silver.]

He departs quickly, and takes a carefully circuitous route back to the cathedral.

They decide to head to armorers to get better armor and silvered weapons. (Light and medium armor is 10% cheaper than standard, heavy armor is 10% more expensive.) Bartix gets two silver short swords; Bartix and Merreep both get silver arrows. Runor gets half-plate for 675 silver, borrowing some from the rest of the group. Ulgorio and Ashaltir each get silver swords.

The group then heads back to Sir Clarence’s tower, and when they’re waved through, they go into the barracks.

They head into their barracks room. One of the (Paranswarmian) captain’s trusted men comes to talk to them.

“Did you get the word out?”

“Yes.”

“Do you need anything else?”

“If we can delay the attack, that would be good.”

“Do you know how long until the reinforcements arrive?”

“No.”

“They’re preparing a caravan to head off with the trade goods to the frontlines; our unit might be one of the ones guarding it.”

“The dogaressa is inviting Sir Clarence to dinner to delay things.”

“Ah, good. But you folks are probably on your own until we get back.”

“Aleep, erm, Helmut wonders why they are sending a large caravan of supplies to the frontlines.”

“Brunhilde” suggests, “Maybe they’re concealing something dangerous in a large caravan.”

“Then Helmut wonders if they should prevent the caravan from being delivered, or make sure the Hastur inspect it before the goods are dispersed.”

Brunhilde agrees with that suggestion.

The captain’s man agrees that, by the time they reach the Shadowline in several weeks, they will either search the caravan for problems or make sure the Hastur do, since by that times everything here will probably be resolved. He wonders aloud whether they are distrusted, and thus being deliberately gotten out of the way.

After he leaves, Merreep wonders if they might be bringing the abyssal hay and poison to the frontlines to try to disrupt the Shadowline armies.

Runor decides to use detect poison and disease on the caravan. He casts the spell first, and then he heads into the courtyard and wanders near the caravan. He detects disease in the hogsheads of flour—a cholera like disease—and he detects the poison we knew about in the barrels of ale, beer, and wine. There is clearly also a lot of animal fodder, though he doesn’t detect anything there—but then, the abyssal hay is neither technically a disease nor poison. He also sees that the demon-disguised-as-a-captain is carefully watching the caravans. Runor slips back into the barracks and tells the rest of the group. They then make sure the Paranswarmian captain knows about the poison and the disease.

The group spends some time planning for how to try to make sure they get selected. Runor suggests making it clear they’re available, while Bartix and Ulgorio plan a one-two punch: Bartix making himself seem powerful and intimidating, and Ulgorio using his persuasiveness to befriend people.

Ulgorio starts performing in the mess hall, trying to impress people, while Bartix engages in displays of strength. Bartix is enormously impressive, lifting armored soldiers up to show how strong he is and so forth. Fortuitously, Lord Ishulvan enters along with several officers, and a robed figure, that looks vaguely familiar from the border, but now Sir Clarence is dressed in overdone mage clothes and with a staff. The group cannot help but notice that Sir Clarence is extremely thin. They stand watching Bartix and Ulgorio’s performance. The captain speaks to Sir Clarence, and gestures towards the group, and the group makes its way over.

“Sergeant. Have you met your employer?”

“No.”

“This is the Magus, Sir Clarence of the North. I was just telling him what an exemplary job that your group did retrieving the special delivery from West Haven. And Sir Clarence has a special mission for you. He would like your group to accompany him to a special dinner with the dogaressa on the third night. You should dress in your best armor, make sure that your clothes are clean, and if any of you are lousy, see the medical personnel for a powder.”

Sir Clarence nods to the group briefly.

Runor, even without casting an active detect good or evil, can sense the evil periodically rolling off Sir Clarence when he’s not in disguise.
[End session 29]
 

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CPaladin

Explorer
Session 30 (June 12, 2021)

17 O-Zar
The next couple of days pass uneventfully, with training and other routine duties.

Evening of 19 O-Zar
They are summoned by Sir Clarence’s personal captain about 2 hours before the dinner. His office is surprisingly opulent.

“Sergeant Brunnhilde, you are going into a circumstance that is very fraught. He may, or may not, call upon you to go above and beyond ordinary mercenary service—the sort of thing that might give you not just long-term employment, but even titles.” As he talks, he weaves a compulsion on the group. “Of course, while he cares about the interests of the Dogaressa and has a romantic interest in her, the good of the city must be paramount. He intends to give her a gift, that may persuade her to overlook her late husband for the good of the city. If not… he may need to take more direct action. Are you loyal to Sir Clarence, Sergeant?”

Everyone in the group resists the ensorcelment, and only Aleep even notices.

“Sergeant Brunnhilde” says, “Yes, sir!” enthusiastically.

“Good. There’s a lieutenancy in this for you, Sergeant. I must stay here to manage the garrison. Do not let this go wrong.”

They return to their barracks. Aleep ritually casts Detect Magic to make sure he didn’t miss anything else. They are all clean. He also tells the whole group about the charm attempt.

They get ready, and two hours later join an elaborately dressed Sir Clarence to go to the palace. In addition to much fancier clothes than usual, he wears an unusual ring, with a smoky amethyst on it, that they have not seen before. He also has several sigils on him, including one of binding that is strange to wear. He carries a large box, covered in beaten gold wrapping.

He makes nervous small talk as they walk.

Aleep asks if there is anything the group should be ready for.

Sir Clarence says that he hopes the Dogaressa will agree to marry him, but if not, she must be restrained for her own good while they deal with the large force approaching overland. She would of course be restored to rule afterwards, if not with Sir Clarence ruling as well. He says that they may need to… placate her guards.

The Dogaressa waits to meet him in a finely decorated dining room. She has six guards of her own. Before the meal begins, he gives her the small package, which she immediately hands to one of her guards, who clears it away. The two of them sit for a meal while the guards, including our heroes, stand. They eat and make small talk, and then he makes his pitch, which they cannot hear. She says that she must take time to consider such a thing. He says that time is running out, and this must happen before the forces outside reach the city’s wall. She feigns surprise. He then says, “I must take you in hand for your own good.” She is shocked by this.

The binding sigil glows and two demons of some sort, in armor, cleaned up to look good, appear. Sir Clarence casts a charm at the Dogaressa, which Aleep counterspells. Everyone leaps into action.

Merreep casts Hunter’s Mark and tries to stab Sir Clarence, and her sword slides weirdly off his robes. Aleep then casts Scorching Ray, hitting him twice for 16 damage.

Ulgorio summons a cloud of daggers around Sir Clarence.

Sir Clarence begins to move, and takes 10 damage from the cloud of daggers. “Calumnies! Treason! Kill them all!” He tries to cast lightning bolt, and Aleep counterspells it again. One of the demonspawn attempts to grapple the Dogaressa, though neither is doing very well.

The other demonspawn spins, jumps at Aleep, and claws him, doing 2 points of damage and poisoning him, although Aleep resists the poison.

Runor steps forward and casts inflict wounds on Sir Clarence, barely hitting and doing 36 points of damage.

Bartix stabs at Sir Clarence, but does not hit him.

The Dogaressa shouts, “Take Sir Clarence alive, and get this thing off me!” She casts a spray of magic missiles at the demonspawn.

Most of her guards hack at it as well, although one throws a dagger at Sir Clarence, managing to hit him.

Ashaltir smites the demonspawn, doing 31 points of damage.

Mereep stabs Sir Clarence for 15 points.

Aleep casts Magic Missile at Sir Clarence, using a 2nd level slot, for 16 points of damage.

Sir Clarence takes 10 damage from the cloud of daggers, which he is essentially boxed into by all the people fighting him. He touches a stud on his ring, and a cloud of a white-grayish powder sprays out in front of him. Three of the Dogaressa’s guard collapse, unable to breathe, but the Dogaressa makes her save as does Runor. The Dogaressa takes some damage from it, but is still up. The demonspawn both miss.

Runor misses with another inflict wounds.

Bartix stabs at Sir Clarence, hitting once for 10.

The Dogaressa casts another magic missile, finishing off the demonspawn attacking her. One of her remaining guards attack Sir Clarence, throwing a dagger wildly. Another guard—who Runor now recognizes as a disguised priest from the temple—pours water from a carafe over the Dogaressa.

Ashaltir smites the remaining demonspawn for 29 points of damage, dropping it. The demonspawn are rapidly turning to goo.

Merreep misses.

Aleep casts another 2nd level magic missile, doing 18 more damage.

Ulgorio misses, but Sir Clarence is still surrounded and unable to move out of the cloud of daggers. The cloud of daggers cuts him to pieces, and he tumbles to the ground.

The soldier who is actually a priest says—“That’s not good—the Dogaressa’s guard captain is dead.”

There is a shrieking noise, and a cloud of black mist travels from Sir Clarence’s body towards the northeast.

“What do you carry against long-lasting poison?” asks the priest to Runor. “That was a philter of love, mixed with breath of the wyrm. I’ve never seen the like of it. I don’t know what this creature was thinking.”

Runor casts a protection from poison on the Dogaressa, who shudders with relief as the poison is neutralized.

A city guard comes skittering into the room with her seneschal.

The seneschal says, “It’s alright. They are with us. You are still us, are you not?”

“Don’t plan on switching sides any time soon,” says Merreep with a smile.

“Good. This guard has news.”

“My lady, the dome around Sir Clarence’s estate has turned completely opaque. There were sounds of violence within, but it is now completely sealed off from the city. There was also a cloud of black mist that left the city travelling northwest.”

Sir Clarence had a poison ring with an amethyst, worth about 500 silver; a +2 dagger; a scroll of summon elemental; and a purse of 150 silver. The Dogaressa allows the group to loot him. She also gives them each another 100 silver in thanks for keeping her safe from Sir Clarence.

Runor realizes that the beautiful robes Sir Clarence was wearing were carefully stitched over some sort of hide that itself detects as evil. It is likely from the Shadowlands and should probably be destroyed.

Aleep points out that the only notable thing to the northwest of the city is North Haven, the only city the group has not been to.

Runor asks to be allowed to burn the hide robes. The group agrees.

Merreep gives the scroll to Aleep, because he is the most likely to be able to use it effectively.

Bartix takes the dagger, agreeing that if and when he gets a magic sword, he’ll pass it on to one of the other fighting types who doesn’t have a magic weapon.

Ulgorio takes the poison ring.

The Dogaressa knights all of our heroes on the spot, declaring them cavalieri with the honorifics of Don or Donna. They each receive a grant of land—regular land for everyone except Don Aleep, who receives a swampy area adjacent to their lands. They are essentially unpopulated.
[End session 30]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 31 (June 26, 2021)

20 O-Zar
The group discusses what to do next. Runor and Merreep want to travel back to recover their owlbear.

They also confirm that the eagle they freed and befriended is still with them, and check in on the quasit they have partially reformed—who is still sleeping in a backpack.

The owlbear, Clawy, is back in Ravenskrag. That’s about 500 miles away, so their options are a long overland trip on their own, an even longer caravan trip, or sailing to a port north of Ravenskrag and then a short distance over land—the shortest in time, but the most expensive.

After some debate, they decide to go by caravan, signing on as guards. They get offered 5 silver apiece per day. And they set off with a medium sized caravan. It’s a mule caravan, with all mules and no carts, which means they’ll probably take a somewhat unusual path. There are 92 mules, stretched out over about 400’ in double rows. The group are the only real guards, though the drovers (of whom there are many) are lightly armed.

The trip to West Haven takes about 3 days. They then go along an unusual set of roads or paths. The lead merchant is using a compass and seems to know what they’re doing. It will take about 10 days to go from West Haven to the town at the edge of the Eastern Trade Federation.

31 O-Zar
During the day, they begin to hear a lot of stomping and noise. The drovers start getting nervous and whisper urgently to the merchant chief.

Merreep goes ahead a little while to the crest of a hill, and there’s a small sea of wild buffalo. She does a quick estimate of about 600 head.

The drovers are nervous because of the risk of stampede.

The merchant chief asks them to try to deal with it and get them out of the way.

Ulgorio casts speak with animal, and then asks a bull if they could move out of the way for a while.

“You’re mooooving something through?”

“Yes.”

“I guess we could moooove down the valley. Good grass here, though.”

“We’ll be through soon enough.”

“Let me talk to the head cow.”

They agree to move down the valley while they go by.

The bull trots off in a slow way, and the herd starts slowly moving down the valley.

1 Ghast
That night, there’s lots of chittering. And then a cloud of bats sweep down out of the north and across the encampment. They are not deliberately attacking anyone, though their swooping and diving is nerve wracking. They pass peacefully.

2 Ghast
They arrive in the evening at a large but fairly rough town—stockaded not walled, earthworks, most of the buildings made of heavy planking. There are both human and centaur guards. A centaur tallies the goods being brought into the town. “No tariff on the way in; 3 copper per mule on the way out. Light guard, big load.”

“I’m not worried; they are the heroes of the Trade Federation, and they cleared a herd of aurochs without even killing any.”

They head into the town, and go to an inn. They are served incredibly hearty meals.

In the morning, they head on towards Ravenskrag.

9 Ghast
They hear extremely shrill whistling—like the whistling of bats, but much much louder—at about 1 in the morning. Runor and Bartix are on watch. Bartix recognizes it as the most over-sized sounding bat calls he has ever heard.

Bartix wakes the rest of the group.

Out of the darkness sweep nine taller-than-human bats. They are diving and separate with two headed towards each of the two fully awake, and the others dividing up. A bat latches onto Bartix and begins sucking out blood at a terrific rate.

Bartix stabs back with his magical dagger, doing 8 points of damage.

Runor casts Inflict Wounds and explodes one of the bats.

Merreep jumps up and draws her sword, as does Ashaltir.

Bartix kills his with his dagger.

Aleep engulfs five in a fireball—including one that perched on a nearby branch and is holding something. Four of them are crisped entirely, including the one that was carrying something.

One of them bites Runor and hurts him some more. He responds by killing it with an inflict wound.

Ulgorio stabs down another, and then Aleep finishes the last one with magic missiles.

Bartix examines what the last one was carrying—a roughly sewn leather bag. He immediately looks inside. There are several items—a couple small objects, one glittering yellow, the other very dark in color, and also a rolled up piece of parchment.

Aleep casts detect magic as a ritual. There are two types of magic—necromancy and enchantment. The dark object and the scroll are what radiate magic, with the dark object radiating enchantment. It’s a scroll of ray of enfeeblement. The yellowish object is a fairly low grade but large citrine. The dark object is what would be a perfect black pearl, but with runes carefully etched into the outer layer. The runes emanate enchantment. Aleep can’t recognize the runes, but thinks there is a similarity between the etching and the coat of arms Sir Clarence used.

The group theorizes that it might be a mind control object. Even in its damaged condition, the pearl is worth 250 silver, and the citrine is worth 55 silver.

Aleep identifies the black pearl, and realizes that it is a demon-powered pearl of animal control. They hypothesize that this was sent by Sir Clarence’s captain, or by his master.
[End session 31]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 32 (July 10, 2021)

10 Ghast
They have 7 more days of travel to get to Ravenskrag. The next several days of travel pass uneventfully.

15 Ghast
In the morning, Merreep notices a bright light, near to the ground, slowly coming closer. It’s in the west, so clearly not the Sun, and not a fire. Runor detects magic, but it’s too far away to register. It is getting closer though, at a speed close to a slow walk.

Merreep stays forward and tries to get a better look, while Ulgorio ducks off into some cover and Bartix heads forward. Aleep hides behind a mule, just in case.

Merreep and Bartix finally can tell that a creature that looks like an emaciated young child, with a blue flame burning in the left side of its chest, surrounded by a nimbus of bright light. It continues floating forward. The child spreads its arms out, and the nimbus of light grows so strong that they can barely look at it. It declares, in some way that they can understand even though it’s not using their language, “Embrace the Light of Sytry!” It floats a little farther up.

Both Merreep and Bartix look down so that they aren’t blinded. Ashaltir seems uncomfortable about this figure and positions herself to keep as many people as possible in her aura of protection. Merreep quietly says, “Hello?”

Runor can see that the blue flame is pulsing and growing stronger with each pulse.

He calls out, “What is that blue flame? And who do you serve?”

It clearly hears him, but can’t see him. “I am the Brilliant Child of Sytry, and the blue flame is the light of His servant, who reaches out to embrace the world!” There is a sudden bright flash of light.

Both Merreep and Bartix feel a tug in their minds pass over them, but they resist it.

The leaves on the trees turn translucent, and various small animals fall out of the trees, stunned. Runor could see that the flash came from the blue flame.

Bartix calls out, “Why are you here? What are you doing here?”

“I have been summoned to this cold, dark place, and sent out to do my master’s bidding, to convert more to follow the Ruler of Golden Purity.”

“You should go to a more populous area, then.”

“I am heading as fast as I can towards Westhaven. But I cannot travel very fast… perhaps you know where there’s a cart that I could take?”

“We might be able to.”

“But you’re traveling in the wrong direction.”

“Maybe you could buy a mule from us—here’s the head of the caravan.”

Merreep adds, “There might be a way we could help you.”

“I carry a small amount of silver. I could pay to speed me on my mission of conversion.”

Aleep calls out, “What was that flash of light?”

“My passion for the Lord Sytry and the Blue Star.”

The caravan master says, “So you wish to purchase one of my mules?”

“I will return it to you when your caravan returns. Would 10 silver be enough?”

“Yes, that would be fine.” The caravan master is clearly terrified.

They bring up one of the spare mules, and he heads off on the mule.

The money he paid with has a lingering sense of magic from him, although no actual magic on them. They appear to be pure silver, with a strange seven-pointed star and the number 1 on both faces.

Ghast 16
The rest of the journey is completely uneventful, and they arrive on the evening of Ghast 16. The caravan master pays them out: 135 silver each.

They have no problem finding the inn where they left Clawclawbite. The innkeeper bustles out immediately. “Ah! I thought you were dead. I had no idea what I was going to do with the beast in a little bit. He’s been pining for you.”

“Can we see our owlbear?”

“Of course, right this way. We set him up in the end stall, and gave him a post to sharpen his beak on.”

Clawclawbite rushes over to the edge of his stall, smelling the group carefully and then loudly letting out a contented sigh.

“Are you taking him back?”

“Yes, we are.”

The group discusses what to do next, and they decide to head back to their lands to check out the area they have been granted. It will take them about 17 days to travel back, since.

Ghast 17
They depart back towards their lands.

Ghast 18
The Sapphire and Violet Moons are both spectacular, full and high in the sky. Despite a strange sense of being watched and laughed at, the night passes uneventfully. Despite the fact that they would have expected to overtake the Brilliant Child, they do not see it at all.

Ghast 23
This night, the Ruby Moon and the Sapphire Moon are both full. Conjunctions involving the Ruby Moon are known to weaken the forces of good and strengthen the forces of evil while they take place.

While Merreep, Ulgorio, and Ashaltir are on watch, Ulgorio notices that there is something very odd about a tree near the camp. He heads over to investigate. The tree has a thick vine, maybe a foot in diameter, wrapped around the tree. Except suddenly, a humanoid head comes whipping around on that stalk—apparently it was more of a tail or snake.

It looks at him with contempt. “Mortal, why should I spare you?”

“Well, there’s no real reason to kill me.”

“That’s original. I don’t get to come to this plane very often, and where do I manifest? Out in the middle of nowhere, where there’s usually no one to find. And yet here you are, and here I am, and your people are all over there. Do you know what I am?”

“No, I do not.”

“I am a dark naga. You say that you have no reason to kill you, and I can find no fault in that statement. Amuse me.”

Ulgorio casts speak with animals and persuades a squirrel to dance, as if its life depended on it.

Merreep notices and approaches. “Hi.”

The dark naga looks at her. “I will ask you the same question I asked him. Why should I not kill you?”

“It would be useless.”

“You are an unusual group. Usually when I catch someone, they talk about their small children, their mates, or their miserable lives. But you tell me that it would be useless.”

“I just don’t see what you would get out of it.”

“Disturbingly rational. I hope the whole world does not become as rational. Very well. Amuse me.”

Ulgorio now starts playing his favorite Godzilla song.

She focuses. “I have a feeling that what you are singing relates to a very large relative of mine…”

They are still entertaining the naga when the next watch awakens.

Aleep hides in the underbrush and casts Protection from Evil on himself. Runor detects evil, and finds that it is evil. Amused, but definitely evil.

They entertain the dark naga all night, and as the moons begin to set, it rouses itself. “I must return to my home plane. I will be back in this glade soon.” With a shimmer, it is replaced with a normal vine.

Ghast 24
Ulgorio and Merreep are utterly exhausted, but they still try to press on as much as they can the next day to get far away from that grove by the next night.

When they make camp that night, the same two moons are still full. Runor hears howling off in the woods. The owlbear sits up and makes growling noises in the distance of the growls. From outside the range of the fire, they see five sets of eyes surrounding the camp, about 2 feet off the ground.

Aleep builds the fire up, and the creatures move farther back. They are five enormous, shaggy wolves, with a strange glow to their eyes. Eventually, around midnight, the eyes gradually, one pair at a time, vanish from the edge of the firelight. Some distance away, the group hears a horrible bellow, and then silence.

Ghast 25
They pass through a small town. They hear that one of the cows on a nearby farm was utterly mangled the previous night.

Ghast 30
That night, the Silver and the Violet Moons are full—a positive conjunction, unlike the Ruby conjunctions.

A small, brilliantly dressed figure glides into their camp. “Hail and well met, large folk.”

“Greetings to you as well.”

“It is a great pleasure to be here on a night like this when my Lady is great in power, along with the greatest of the moons. Hmm. Skeletal horses. I don’t know that my Lady would approve of that.” The fey sprinkles a large amount of dust on the skeletal horses. One of them regrows flesh and life, to its considerable disbelief. The other one reshapes itself into a huge living eagle. “There. Much better. I thought that it was really an eagle. You might need to teach it how to fly. I’m not sure it knows how—it used to be a horse. What else should I do? Would you like some bread enchanted?”

“No, thank you,” says Merreep.

“I’m always nervous when I do that. Sometimes they change into a giant crocodile. You can’t reason with a giant crocodile.”

“You can’t reason with any crocodile!”

“Soon the moon will be passing. I must find others to bless with the magic of Whimsey.”

Ghast 31
That night, in the wee hours of the morning, Bartix sees a hand with a bowl reach over the edge of the stew pot, dip into the stewpot, and go out the other side. He walks up and looks over the top of the kettle at a small ratty looking person in ragged clothes eating a bowl of their stew.

“Why are you eating our stuff?”

“Umm, hi, everyone. Well, you all ate, and I was sampling your cuisine to tell you how wonderfully cooked.”

“Would you like to join us?” asks Merreep.

“As in join you for more delicious stew? Or join you as you go into the city? Or are you not going into the city and join you going somewhere else?”

“The first one.”

“Oh, I would very much like that. Where are you going?”

Aleep says, “Aleep and friends are cavalieri. We have been given lands.”

“Oh, that will make Old Thurston very happy. He was caretaker for the old knight who was there, and he was never replaced. He’ll be very happy. But be careful, he’s really old. You going to rebuild the tower and everything?”

“Tower?”

“There used to be a tower, before I was born. They protected the people and everything. And then the tower fell down, and the knight disappeared, and the dead started walking around. I think I will join you then, if your worshipfulnesses are okay with that.”
[End session 32]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 33 (July 24, 2021)

5 Ta-Ghast
They have arrived in their new lands. There are the remains of farms, though they don’t seem like active farms.

They ask their new follower to lead them to where Old Thurston is.

He excitedly leads them to the tower—it was never more than 4 stories, and looks decrepit. But there is a nice, well kept garden around it, along with an elderly horse, a few cows, and a single sheep.

Thurston springs up excitedly, as quickly as he is able. “Welcome, my lady and lords. Does this mean the Trade Federation looks to us once more? There are only a few of the wood crofters left.”

He prepares a simple meal for the group.

“My master did have an apprentice, but he took the field after my master’s unfortunate death.”

He tells them about some of the things in the area. The swamp has a few lizardfolk; north of the swamp there are some bullywugs, though no froglocks. The bullywugs do not trade and are standoffish—they demand a toll to pass through. There was once a catobeplas to the west, but he wandered away—just as well.

Merreep expresses a plan to clean up the area.

Thurston prepares a room for them in the tower that’s not particularly leaky.

It’s a stone tower. It was roofed in at best rude thatch, and that has fallen into disrepair.

“How did old knight die?”

“We used to have more farms. And then cattle started coming up dead, with not a drop of blood left in their bodies. When a human was found the same way, the knight donned his armor and rode off to deal with it. Only the horse came back. He was declared dead by the priests. Then his squire rode out, too, and not even his mule came back. This was off to the northwest. After that, most of the farmers left.”

There’s a village about a day away east by southeast. It’s outside the formal land grant, but in nobody’s domain, so… There’s nothing else near here.

Ulgorio suggests we may be able to get farmers back by offering them money and protection. Ulgorio suggests going to the town first; Bartix mentions finding out what happened to the knight first. Then Merreep suggests talking to the lizardfolk first, since that’s in roughly the right direction to investigate the knight’s death, and then go investigate the knight’s death.

6 Ta-Ghast
The group heads out into the swamp. The water is basically not flowing here, though there are hummocks with trees on them. After about an hour, a couple of lizardfolk arise from the water. They are short-ish, about five feet, gray-green, dressed in loincloths, and one of them carries a wooden spear with a fire hardened tip and a spear thrower.

They have a quick conversation. The lizardfolk are glad to hear that knights are back and accept Don Aleep’s statement that he is their knight now. They lead us to a small village so that we can talk to all of them. One of them seems to be cooking.

The group asks about the blood-sucking among the humans. The lizardfolk say that they do know about it. “Mad man lived there. Built little fort, lived alone. Raised dead to walk. He was okay neighbor for a long time. Then… he died and was not good neighbor anymore. But left the People alone; not like our blood. We sent messenger to knight explaining, but he thought he could do it. He did not do it. Then young human followed. He did not come back. But not good neighbor kept flying overhead, every week or so. Not fly overhead any more—no farmers left. Can’t get in tower, I think. Once big fight on western border. Killed long-neck cow. Lost many of his dead people killing long-neck cow. Could not raise long-neck cow or bring his people back who died. But he lived.”

They are excited about the idea of new humans coming in and restoring trade.

The group travels on to look at the long-neck cow corpse. It is now a skeleton, with the flesh decayed away. Around it, there are some statues of lesser undead—no greater undead.

They scrape some catobeplas poison into a vial.

They head on towards where they think the vampire creature is. They pass some abandoned farms, with stone houses still standing. They then come upon the wreckage of a battle—armor, great sword, small sword, broken stirrups, and a mule’s skeleton. There is a quantity of white powder in the armor—powdered bone. It could be done alchemically. There is dull magic clinging to the powder. Aleep determines that after the person died, they were limed and it decayed to powder.

It’s coming up on evening, so the group decides to make camp. They decide to hide to try to protect themselves.
[End session 34]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 34 (September 4, 2021)

7 Ta-Ghast
The group wakes in the morning, camped near the catobeplas’s corpse. They head on towards the northwest, in search of the vampire or whatever, and they find an area that was recently cleared—perhaps three years ago, though now it’s starting to become overgrown again. In the middle of the clearing, there’s a small stone fort.

The fort has a curtain wall, a single tower near its northeast corner, and a single large building in the center. The gates are steel-bound wood, but are not maintained.

Aleep casts detect magic, and they creep up to the west wall, planning on scanning inside with detect magic and detect unholiness. The whole complex is not more than 90’ wide east to west and 50’ from north to south. As they approach, three of the group (Merreep, Bartix, and Runor) note that some of the ground is very spongy. They warn the rest of the group. Runor is pretty sure that the area that is not naturally spongy—there’s worked stone in there. He thinks that they’re pit traps that have become overgrown to the point of not working cleanly. The group begins testing ahead of themselves with staves and easily determines where the pit traps are, making their way up clearly.

Ashaltir detects evil in the central building but nowhere else. Aleep detects a magic item, also in the central building, and some lingering auras. There is a mix of necromancy and conjuration magic. The evil and the magic seem to be in the same location.

The walls of the old fort are only between 12 and 15 feet tall—never really meant to stop a serious siege, but enough to deal with minor threats. The group makes their way around to the north wall, and they now sense another source of magic and evil in the tower. The magic there is just conjuration… but it seems older. Along the north wall, they notice no pit traps—perhaps they’re farther out from the wall.

The group decides to go over the wall, on the west side of the building. They scramble up easily. The parapets of the wall remain in good repair, and the courtyard is cobbled—though now there is grass and the like growing through the gaps between the cobblestones. There are some standing horse skeletons near an old cart and carriage. The main gate is barred, and the area around it on the inside has been cleared.

They can also see two doorways into the main structure. The main structure is two stories tall and has a well-maintained slate roof, with a shallow incline. If the building has similar doors on the far side, it has many doors for a building that small—the group speculates that some of them might be traps. Merreep and Bartix try to identify which of the entrances have actually been used, looking for signs of use. They then change their minds before approaching and decide to scout the tall tower first.

Merreep and Bartix begin sneaking towards the tower, with the rest of the group clustered behind the northern point of the main building, watching their approach. They can see a shiny bauble around the top of the tower—almost like a giant soap bubble. There is no door on the tower, but there is an opening directly onto a staircase that winds its way up towards the bubble. Both of them can hear a very high-pitched sound emanating from the tower. They’re not sure what they’re hearing—it’s a repetitive descending series of notes. They begin cautiously ascending the stone stair case in a spiral around the inside of the tower, to the point where it opens into a larger floor. They felt a slight tingle as they passed through the bubble. Merreep peaks over the top of the platform that the stairs open onto. She sees a crystal ball on a stand, with a huge horn sticking out over the edge of the tower. Chained to the floor, there is a snoring imp—clearly the source of the high-pitched noises. They’re pretty sure he’s supposed to be watching the area with the crystal ball and alerting others with the horn.

Merreep and Bartix decide to wait for the imp to awake. After a while, it startles awake. It looks at the crystal ball, grumbles, and then takes out a snack and begins to grumble to himself about having let himself be captured by someone who then made himself undead, forcing him to guard an area for 100 years. He still clearly hasn’t noticed Merreep and Bartix. “Hmm. Something disturbed the grass I see.”

He then hears something from the stairs. “I heard that!” He peers in the direction of the stairs. Bartix waves at him.

“Ack! They’re already in here! Alarm… Wait, what am I thinking? Hail fair invaders. I will be compelled to blow the horn in a few minutes. There’s no one really to warn, since he became a vampire. But I’ll have to anyway. I don’t suppose you’re here to kill my master and set me free, are you?” They watch him quietly. “Well, I have to blow the horn.” He blasts the horn. “See, nothing. Who are you, anyway? Thieves?”

“No, we’re not thieves.”

“Too bad. Thieves have tools and might be able to free me… But hurry up and kill my master. It’s daytime and he’ll be asleep!”

Bartix and Merreep decide to bring the rest of the group up, much to the imp’s encouragement.

They ask the imp about the bubble. “It’s from the crystal ball. It lets me see 500 feet in any direction. Not sure what the point is, since there are no guards to call. Sorry about the horn blast, by the way.”

“Can you see inside the building? Can we see in the building?”

“I don’t see why not.” He makes a sigil. “That’s how you can control it.”

They carefully study the inside of the building. The main story is all one room, with a secret door in on the south face of the building—where no obvious door existed. All of the obvious doors in are fake, with bare stone on the inside. The upper story has two large rooms. There is an incorporeal undead moving around in the cellar—probably a wraith—and a corporeal undead, definitely not a vampire or a zombie but unclear what, moving around as well, on the second floor. There’s also a casket in the well-appointed cellar, along with various alchemical tools and apparatus.

The group decides to rush into the cellar after finding the secret door, and to then kill the wraith first, hoping to finish it off before the corporeal undead can close on them. Ashaltir and Bartix take the lead, because Bartix has a magic weapon and Ashaltir can make her sword holy. Bartix and Ashaltir attack first. Bartix hits it with his magic dagger, doing 8 points of damage. Ashaltir smites for 16 and then 27. A moment before the wraith would have gone, Aleep casts Magic Missile as a fourth level spell, finishing it off.

Runor, Ulgorio, and Mereep see a mumia, a partially mummified undead, closing with them. It can’t reach them, but it does gaze at Runor, forcing a Wisdom save. Runor saves easily. Ulgorio casts cloud of daggers, enveloping the mumia and doing 13 points of damage. Runor casts spirit guardians. The mumia takes 15 damage as it pushes forward through the guardians and attacks Ulgorio, hitting him hard and doing necrotic damage as well. Mereep strikes it in response, doing 11 damage.

Ulgorio stabs it with his rapier, doing 10 damage and dropping the foe to a heap of rotting flesh.

At this point, the group easily pries open the vampire’s coffin and Bartix stakes it and destroys it. The body crumbles to dust.

The group finds a large crystal bowl filled with water that emanates magic—a little necromancy, but mostly conjuration.
[End session 34]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 35 (September 11, 2021)

8 Ta-Ghast
The next morning, the group explores the fort. It’s in some disrepair—windows were left open, which ruined drapes and bedding. There is a well with crystal clear water in it.

They tromp back up the tower. The imp is still there, chained up but now freed from compulsion.

He offers to become a hireling, saying he’s good at cleaning and mopping.

Bartix is enthusiastic about this, but wants him to fight for them. The imp is a little hesitant about this—he’s only an imp—but willing.

Runor tries to convert the imp to follow Glordiadel, and talks about how great Glordiadel, Lord of Light is.

“So, you’re saying you’ll strike my chains and let me work for you, as long as I convert?”

“You wouldn’t even have to work for us if you convert.”

“But then I’d be unemployed!”

“Well, you could work for us if you want and we’d pay you.”

“I’m not really very attached to the Hells… they’re pretty awful places, really. What does Glordiadel have? Paranswarm has the Hells, but does Glordiadel have some place?”

“Glordiadel has the Heavens. He is like a good version of Paranswarm, also lawful but good.”

“Well, I guess if you’re offering me a job, and need me to convert, I guess I will. I can maintain the fort, clean things.” He kisses Runor’s holy symbol, and then yelps in pain when he does.

Runor sets a schedule for religious instruction for the imp (and for the quasit they’re also redeeming).

The imp mentions that the dead vampire was trying to become a greater vampire, like its master. Its master came here, but not for a long time—not since the dead vampire was firmly on its path. The imp also tells them where the greater vampire’s lair is, but warns them not to go there. (It’s the same location that they already knew about.)

The imp offers to reset all the traps, and tells them that it can teleport. It also maps out the path through the traps to get through to the door. The worst traps are anyone who tries any of the fake doors.

“If you go west, there’s a fairly good sized town. A whole day’s travel. It started out as a woodcutter’s hold, but slowly grew. He was ‘husbanding the resources.’”

“Did he likely have spawn if he’s been feeding there?”

“I don’t know if he had spawn, but he had a little cult—at least a half-dozen of them. They are on the edge of the town, this way. They would find victims for him and the like.”

The group discusses what to do and decides they need to stop the vampire’s cultists first. They also think that there may be other vampires in the service of the master vampire that they should also hunt down.

The imp shows them through the crystal ball, trying hard until a distant hazy image of a small stockaded town. It’s probably 1500 or 2000 people. It looks pretty self-sufficient, with some paths running in that are probably trade paths. There’s no sign of a manor or tower or anything that might indicate a noble. “You see those houses near here that are outside the wall? That’s where the cult is, along with a lot of other people.”

“Do you know what the bowl in the basement is?”

“I don’t know what it is, but I do know what he used it for. He could put a drop of blood in it—any type of blood—and then he could talk to his master. I don’t know if it could do anything else. He stole it—made a big trip, I thought he was dead—but then came back. And then people came after it—a tall women in silver armor, a young woman who rode on a mule behind her, and a half-dozen people with crossbows. But they were stupid—they attacked at night, and he defeated them and ate them.”

“Did he keep their armor? We might be able to tell who they were.”

“He buried them under those flagstones. Said they burned.”

The group pries up the flagstones, and finds a set of silvered armor, somewhat dented, a bunch of crossbows, and a holy symbol of Glordiadel. They think it might have been a paladin, and Aleep suggests that the bishop might know who the paladin was.

Aleep identifies the bowl. It is a bowl of memories, with hundreds of memories imbued in it. The vampire was clearly misusing it. The water contains specific memories, none longer than 5 minutes, some fairly old, some recent, with none of them in the past year. It is divinatory and can be used by either a bard or a wizard. It can draw memories out of people and store them as long as the water isn’t spilled. The most recent memory is a performance of a skald, in a rough-hewn pavilion made of wood, open on the sides. The people there are dressed in simple clothing. The song is ancient, well-performed, but showing no originality whatsoever.

They head off towards the town. The trip takes essentially a whole day, but is uneventful. There is a gate, which is open, with people passing through the gate. There is a single guard, in half-armor, keeping an eye at the gate. The other gates are closed.

“Halt there. Who approaches the Free Town? A priest, an elf, another elf… and you there, are you a bard? The mayor will want to see you. It’s been hard since our bard vanished.”

He gives the group directions to the mayor and to the inn, the Eager Beaver. As they go into the town, there are statues all over the place, of wood and stone, and paintings on white washed walls. They also see the pavilion that Aleep saw in the memory.

As they arrive at the inn, the innkeeper sees Ulgorio’s instrument. “Master bard?”

“Yes?”

“Welcome to Freetown. Are you here to perform?”

“I need to talk to the mayor, but probably.”

“Excellent, excellent. Our bard disappeared a year ago, and we haven’t had a bard visit since then. He left all of his things, his money, and everything else, but not his own harp, or him, or his magic pool.”

Aleep confirms that the magic pool matches the description of the bowl they found.

“Oh have you seen it? Have you seen him?”

“Bartix slew the vampire that stole it.”

The innkeep offers free dinners to the whole group in thanks, though he’s clearly deflated by the news and implication of the bard’s fate. “I must go and tell the priest of what happened to the bard.”

“The priest is of Glordiadel?”

“Of course! Are there others?”

“Yes.”

“Not here, there are not.” The innkeep bustles out.

They have dinner in the common room, and the innkeep comes back with a burly man. “I wish to introduce you to Mayor Kevin.”

“Ah, you’re the bard. I’m Kevin. I’m the mayor—at least until the next Judgment Day.”

“Judgment Day?”

“Every two years, our heart is judged. We each make a project, as best as we can, and then some people from out of town come and judge which project is best. The winner is mayor for the next two years.”

The group is somewhat surprised but accepts this.

The priest, Father Xerxes, arrives shortly thereafter. They conclude that this must be why there have been some blood-draining incidents. The mayor says that he’ll have to tell the militia and see about ferreting any other vampires out.

Ulgorio agrees to sing at the place. The mayor tells them that the hall was built by a traveling elf who came through and created it by growing the trees into shape. That was also when the town changed from a wood-cutting village to focused on art.

Aleep suggests the elf may have placed a glamour on them; the mayor agrees, but doesn’t care—“We are much happier than any of our ancestors ever were.” This happened within living memory—the elf said that he would return, and also said that the people of Freetown should continue to follow their human god and not the goddess that inspired him.

The mayor shows Ulgorio the performance hall—the pillars are still vibrant and alive. When Ulgorio strikes a note, the hall transforms, with golden leaves growing from the pillars and the mayor suddenly wearing a brilliant white toga trimmed in gold. As the note fades, the hall returns to normal. (Aleep later confirms that the hall is enormously magical, with elven magic that is far beyond him.)

With that, they return and sleep for the night.
[End Session 35]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 36 (September 25, 2021)

9 Ta-Ghast
The group travels outside the walls of Free Town to look for the followers of the vampire.

Ulgorio suggests talking to people in the tavern outside the wall. It is considerably more rough hewn than the inn inside the walls.

Marissa, the barkeep, is surprised to see visitors from outside. She serves them some meals and drinks.

“Ah, a knight—you’ve come to do something about it then.”

“We are all knights, actually.”

“Then you’ve definitely come to do something about it.” She sends her potboy to fetch Mrs. Smithers, telling him to tell Mrs. Smithers that they’re here to help her husband.

After a little while, an older middle aged woman comes to talk to them.

“He’s a lumberjack, you know. The other men came back with him, and he was stricken. Pale as a sheet and with no energy.”

The group goes back to his house. It’s a simple, split log house.

“The boys said they heard him shout, went around to the tree, and found him like this. I’ve never seen the like.”

They examine his body, and find a clear bite mark in his armpit.

The crew was out working at night—they had a big order to fill.

Runor casts remove curse on him. He still looks pale, drawn, and weak. He follows that up with a cure wounds spell, restoring 8 hit points. The glaze in his eyes clears up.

“Oh!”

“Now, look here,” says Merreep. “You’re not to go back to cutting wood yet. You need some rest.”

“Did they finish the order, then?”

“I’m quite sure it’s been taken care of, dear.”

“Did anyone send you to a specific area before you were attacked?”

“Aye. Frederic sent me to take down an oak in a dense thicket—I’m good at that and known for it.”

“Who is this Frederic?”

“He’s the crew boss. He picks the trees we cut.”

“What do you think of him?”

“He’s efficient. Cold, not the sort to have a spot of tea with you. But he’s good enough at his job. His wife’s even worse though—be ready for frostbite if you go to their house.”

“Do you attend the parish regularly?”

“On the high holy days, sometimes other days when the schedule allows.”

“Do you see Frederic at the holy days?”

“We used to. Not as much now. And never his wife. But then, she’s foreign, from one of the big cities. Ravenskrag.”

His wife pulls Merreep aside. “Do you think Frederic did this to him deliberately?”

“Possibly.”

She gives Merreep instructions on how to get to Frederic’s house.

After giving her some nutrition instructions and the like for Smithers’s recovery, they travel to Frederic’s house.

A strikingly beautiful woman, in a distant sort of way, opens the door. “Yes?”

“Hello there,” says Merreep. “We have a couple questions.”

“Perhaps you had better come in, then. It doesn’t seem polite to talk in the street. But there are so many of you, it’s surely safe for you to come in.”

She welcomes the group in. The quality of the cushions and the like greatly exceeds what we would expect from a random human woman.

Bartix asks, “What is that table, with the dragon and the black arrow?”

“Ah. That is an altar to Paranswarm, the Lord of Orderly Darkness, and that is Vitrix-Henoxi, the dragon saint of Paranswarm that we venerate.”

Merreep says, “We heard that one of your husband’s coworkers got attacked?”

“I told Frederic that that was what happened. He thought it was a seizure. But I wonder if it’s just that my homeland has more problems of this. Do you know who was responsible? I think it must have been one of the crew.”

“We think it was a vampire.”

“I had hoped that it was but a spawn. I figured it had to be a vampire of some sort. The cattle were the first sign. It would not surprise me if there were a vampire to the east. If it is a full-blood vampire, it will have twisted some of the people here.”

(They came from Caldefor, after the fall, and traveled as far from the border as they could without leaving the continent.)

She suggests they wait for Frederic to return.

“It must have watched us then. That’s a chilling thought.”

They talk for a bit. Frederic suggests bringing them back to the worksite, where they are planing the boards from the trees, so they can meet the whole work crew.

As they arrive, one of the crew members leaps up, throws something down on the ground, and a large cloud of pink gas envelopes Merreep, Ashaltir, and Frederic. Frederic is badly hurt and falls unconscious, but the others save against the poison.

Runor casts protection from poison on Frederic, saving his life. Aleep casts web on the person who threw the poison; Ulgorio follows up with cloud of daggers, which cuts him to ribbons since he’s trapped in the web.

After Frederic regains consciousness, he chuckles weakly. “Yup, you were right. There was someone in the crew…”

“Who was he?”

“His name’s Robert—Bob to us. He’s been with us for years. Acting strangely recently. I figured it was the baby. His wife’s expecting.”

Ulgorio searches the body. The belt is a false belt, with 50 silver hidden in it. He has a second poison ball. The belt also has a long slender piece of metal that’s flexible in it. Also, his left boot has a dagger in a special sleeve. Its edges also have a pinkish-white miasma on them.

Frederic sends Tim, one of the work crew, to bring the group to Bob’s wife. Runor brings the body with him, in case he wants to speak with dead.

A quite pregnant woman comes to the door.

Merreep says, “We have some unsettling news.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Is my husband alright?”

There is an awkward pause. She sees the corpse, and staggers back and sits down.

“Did anything strange happen with your husband over the last few weeks or months?”

“He got sullen as the baby was coming, and then he suddenly had a lot of extra money. I was surprised—Frederic paid well but not that well—but I was grateful.”

Runor says, “It seems, miss, that your husband was working for a vampire.”

“Aleep wonders, did your husband have new associates or friends around the time your husband started getting more money?”

“Yes… there was a young man with an ill-favored eye. I thought he might be a gambler. My husband liked dice. He was about as tall as my husband, but thinner. He wasn’t originally local, but he always had plenty of money. They would probably know him at the tavern.”

She checks his chest for them. Mostly, there is a well-used book of scriptures, a few random minor pieces of paper, and one with weird markings. Merreep looks at that one and her hands tingle.

Aleep casts identify on the piece of paper. He feels something become aware of him as he casts the ritual. The paper is a communication device of some type.

Runor casts speak with dead on the corpse.

“What should we tell your wife?”

“Tell her the rest of the money is under the loose flagstone.”

“Who was your employer besides Frederic?”

“Nandor hired me.”

“What were Nandor’s motives behind the attacks?”

“Nandor had no motives. I attacked because you endangered.”

“What is Nandor planning for the future?”

“Whatever Lord Acoldima tells him.”

“Who else worked or works for Nandor?”

“I do not know. He never had any of us meet each other, but there are others in the outer village.”
[End session 36]
 
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CPaladin

Explorer
Session 37 (October 9, 2021)

9 Ta-Ghast (cont’d, late afternoon)
The group heads directly back to the inn outside the walls to look for Nandor. By this time, dinner is clearly getting finished, and there are a substantial number of people in the inn drinking.

Ulgorio approaches the innkeep and asks if she has seen the tall, thin man with an ill-favored eye.

She asks if he knows the man’s name, and Ulgorio says it’s Nandor.

She says she does know him—every two to three days he comes in, buys a meal, and then gambles. She thinks he may cheat—he always seems to win, but then ends up friends with the people who he gambles with, which she thinks is odd. She also doesn’t know how he cheats—she figured weighted dice, but even after she made sure that the dice that were in use were fair, he kept winning.

Runor says a blessing before the meal is served, at Marissa’s suggestion. One of the patrons then approaches him, and he counsels her.

Aleep tosses around some money gambling, deliberately making sure to lose by doubling his bet each time he wins until he has lost. He makes some friends with some people who dice, who mention Nandor to him. They mention that Nandor is a farmer, but has more money than you would expect from a farmer. One of them also says that Nandor doesn’t actually drink—he pretends to, but doesn’t actually.

On the way back to their inn, Ulgorio notes someone shadowing them. He seems to be reasonably, but not enormously, skilled. They take no action, and after they reach the inn, the shadow disappears.

They set watches carefully because of the tail: Merreep and Bartix first watch, Ashaltir and Ulgorio middle, and Aleep and Runor last watch.

In the third watch, Runor hears horses suddenly—clearly several, going from a gallop to a dead stop. He then hears a crash downstairs, probably the riders crashing through the door.

Runor and Aleep wake everyone, and after casting Mage Armor and Invisibility, Aleep slips forward to the top of the stairs. He sees that there are 4 armored figures and that they have stabbed the innkeep, who confronted them after they barged in.

They head up the stairs and Aleep catches them in a fireball, badly burning three and lightly burning one (33 hp damage), but they all stay up. One of them says, “Forward! Don’t let them escape!”

Ulgorio casts cloud of daggers on the first one of them. They all plunge through the cloud of daggers, taking 11 damage each.

As they reach Bartix, he stabs the lead one with his magic dagger, doing another 8 points of damage.

That one misses Bartix. The rest spread out, engaging Merreep and hitting Merreep for 8. Another rushes pass both Merreep and Bartix to try to reach Runor, and their opportunity attacks cut him down. The last one slips pass them in the confusion and attacks Runor, clanging off his armor.

Merreep stabs the one she’s fighting for another 7 damage. Ulgorio stabs another for 4. Bartix misses with his magic dagger, but hits with his off-hand short sword for 2. Runor vaults down over the balcony (taking 6 damage from the fall) and heals the innkeeper (with a 3rd level spell slot, healing 14 damage), saving his life. Aleep casts a lightning bolt; he thinks he can hit the leader and another without hitting any of his friends, but he accidentally catches Bartix as well. The leader takes 31, the other and Bartix each take 15.

The one in front of Bartix smacks Bartix for 14 damage. The one fighting Merreep misses. The leader, who was fighting Runor before Runor apparently fled, flings a steel bolt at Aleep doing 5 damage and forcing a poison save, which Aleep makes.

Ashaltir hits the leader, smiting evil for 19 damage, and dropping him. At that point, one of the last two surrenders, at which point the other one does as well—they’re both badly wounded. Ashaltir heals the leader a little, to make sure he doesn’t die.

“Didn’t tell us you were a clownish group. Just said, ‘go to this inn, take this money, kill the group you find.’”

“Who sent you?”

“Normally we’re mercs. We usually work the line. But a man appeared in our camp, and moved us and our horses to outside this village after hiring us. Told us to kill you. Didn’t tell us anything else—should have known better than to accept a mission from someone like that.”

“You want us to describe the man?” says one of the other ones. “We can!”

“That would be helpful.”

“Helpful is our middle name! Tall, thin man. Clothes out of style. Clearly had a lot of money, with that ring on his finger.”

“Were the clothes drab, with a raven on them?”

“Yes! How did you know?”

They ignore the question. “And the money you were paid—show it please.”

It’s local coinage, but it’s all old—from several doges ago, coins that they haven’t seen before.

The leader comments that it wasn’t the sort of job that they would normally take, and Aleep confirms that they were ensorcelled. They suddenly realize that they abandoned the caravan that they were accompanying to Easthaven. They’re shocked by that when they realize it.

The group discusses recruiting them as soldiers for their new dominion. Two of them are Glor’diadelian, with the third Paranswarmian.
[End session 37]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 38 (October 24, 2021)

10 Ta-Ghast
Ulgorio is scheduled to perform tonight, during the Lesser Festival of Mists that takes place that night. They wait until evening. There are a large group of people at the performance hall; a huge number of people from the town, but also some who seem to be from beyond the town.

Merreep looks around to see if she sees anyone who matches Nandor’s description. She notices that there is also another group of people watching from the gate, deliberately not entering the town. She tells the rest of the group that she’s going to go over and talk to them. Aleep follows at a distance, in case Merreep needs support. They notice that the group includes Frederic and his wife, plus some woodsmen.

“Hello!”

“Hello! Magnificent performance, isn’t it?”

“You know, you could come in.”

“There are wards here that make us uncomfortable to pass, but we like to live nearby and enjoy the music and the other art. Some of us can pass the wards, but find them uncomfortable.”

Aleep casts Detect Magic as a ritual, and identifies that the wards are elven and hedge out anyone who is not a follower of Eiru, Elberith, Whimsey, Glor’diadel, or Gunnora. He is a little surprised that he hasn’t been affected, but concludes his association with a cleric of Glor’diadel and a paladin of Elberith, along with his respect for Glor’diadel, is enough to protect him from the wards.

After Ulgorio’s concert, the mayor gives him a wooden key to the city, though there is no actual lock on the gate.

Mereep tells the rest of the group after the concert that she received a note from Frederic’s wife. It said that they were expecting a priest of Paranswarm who rides circuit to arrive and minister to them. They are planning to go looking for him.

Aleep says, “If they go looking for him without us, they will surely die.”

They travel to the gate and talk to Frederic and his wife, Beatrice. The group says that they will accompany them, to their thanks. They say that Father Gillian is almost never late—perhaps a few minutes in a major storm, but never a day. He has been riding circuit for twenty years.

He is very peaceful—formerly a cloistered cleric, before he was called by Paranswarm to minister to scattered, underserved communities. He is an old man, and among the few Paranswarmian priests blessed with significant healing, likely because of his devotion to the Weeping Woman, who Beatrice describes as a saint (thus marking her as theologically conservative, perhaps even old-fashioned). She demonstrates a great deal of hagiographic knowledge, however, happily discussing the various saints of Paranswarm at length, while carefully avoiding anything that would seem like proselytization.

After about 4 hours of travel, they are in full dark, following a regular path that goes somewhere in the woods to the northwest. They then come upon an old man, in a habit, with one leg trapped under a badly mauled horse. A young bear is growling and crouched in a defensive posture trying to protect him.

Beatrice begins talking with Father Gillian, and the bear relaxes. Father Gillian says that a group of nine creatures set upon them, and he drove seven of them off through the power of Paranswarm. But the other two killed his horse, and would have killed him if the bear hadn’t defended him. The group levers the horse off him. He has a badly broken leg.

Runor sets the leg and then heals him. Father Gillian grits his teeth against the pain.

He reports that the undead were zombies, and that the last two fled after their attacks could not hurt the bear. Aleep points out that this means that there must have been something controlling them actively, because zombies are mindless and, on their own, would fight until the bear (Burl the Bear) tore them apart, even with his relatively small claws. The bear then trots off, apparently to look for the zombies.

They talk about the vampire activity, and the almost certainty that there are spawn in the area. Father Gillian does not recognize the name of Lord Acoldima, but mentions that legends say that vampires that reach enough power take on names of great grandeur to try to intimidate their foes. It could also be an actual name.

Once they get back to Beatrice and Frederic’s house, Aleep heads to the inn outside the walls to see if Nandor is there. Merreep and Ashaltir stay with the couple and the priest, and the rest head over to the inn.

It is very late as they arrive, but there are a handful of people still gambling and a couple still drinking. There are two men sitting with the gamblers that we do not recognize, both tall and thin. Aleep goes over to them, in his same alter self disguise, and asks to join the game.

One of them has a wall-eye and a heavy pile of silver in front of him, and introduces himself as Nandor. After enough money is on the table to match Nandor’s pile, the other man puts enough money in gold to match. He introduces himself as Archibald Ambrose. He later describes himself as Archibald Ambrose, of the Sixth Legion of Tarsh. After Nandor departs, Archibald Ambrose tells them that he is the general of the Sixth Legion, sent to determine if the Second Field Army should be committed to the Border Lands to help secure Caldefor. King-Emperor Jazeol trusts him, and wanted an analysis of whether Caldefor can be held before sending soldiers. He accompanies them back to Beatrice and Frederic’s house, wanting to meet the priest. He also tells them that Nandor was not using magic to fix the rolls; since it’s hard to see how he could have used thief skills (because rolls went his way even when others were rolling and he wasn’t touching the dice), so they figure that makes psionics likely, but he has no way to tell.

Archibald Ambrose (who is probably also a noble, but hasn’t confirmed it) decides to stay with Beatrice and Frederic to keep them safe—they’re being watched by bats, some of which have a divination effect on them. He plans on staying there while the group investigates further and clears up the problem, before heading on to the Shadowline, to help make sure that the efforts to cut off the supplies don’t succeed.
[End session 38]
 

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