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Aphonion Tales: Ravenskrag and the Shadowline, a preteen D&D game (unedited notes, updates Thursdays, updated 12/2/21)

CPaladin

Explorer
This is the storyhour for a children's D&D game. It's set in the same world as the Archducal Council storyhour and the Spice Lands storyhour, but both of those take place on the continent of Drucien, while this game is set on the continent of Zestqua. This is in the same general area as the old Journals of a Licensed Diabolist storyhour, if anyone remembers that. The players in this game are all pre-teen children, so it doesn't have any adult content or themes, unlike some of the Archducal Council and Journal of a Licensed Diabolist entries. These are basically unedited notes that I take as the game goes along--I provide some organizational support to the DM and play a sort of party NPC.

Session 1 (3/28/20)
(Mostly an organizational session 0 type of thing)

28 Skard

This group started in Ravenskrag on Zestqua. Ravenskrag is a heavily fortified city in a pass through the mountains between the border kingdoms (Tarkenia, etc.) to the east and the merchant cities and freeholds to the West. Trade passes through Ravenskrag regularly as does whatever tribute can be extracted from the merchant cities to fund the continuous war effort by the border kingdoms to restrain the avarice of the demon worshipers in the Shadowlands. Ravenskrag is not only heavily fortified, but very rowdy. There is constant intrigue - and agents of the enemy are deeply insinuated into the city structure.

Possible hooks might be: Contracted agents for the Holy Inquisition of Paranswarm: Lord of Orderly Darkness, such agents are used to ferret out enemies of the Temple and are considered expendable, but paid well; caravan guards guarding a caravan traveling either West to the merchant cities (safer) or east to the border (less safe); or private agents hired by a particular cabal or noble house (such as they are in Ravenskrag - closer to the Cosa Nostra or the Borgias) to investigate any of a myriad of local difficulties, humanoids, and monsters. Note: Ravenskrag does not really have an established faith - both major human temples have bishops here. Other temples are tolerated. Further everyone knows there are demon worshipers here as well, and other than the Temple of Paranswarm, no one seems to care unless they get in the way of something... so.... Oh and the Doge of the City State has also been in flux for several years now, with no single house able to hold onto control for longer than a few months - so there is also that.

Our heroes are Ulgorio, a rakasta bard; Runor, a dwarf cleric of Glordiadel, the Lord of Light; and Bartix, a half-orc ranger. They hear the opportunities, and decide that they want to sign on as caravan guards. The caravans heading towards the Shadowline pay much better than the safer caravan runs to the merchant cities, so they promptly sign up with a small caravan heading towards Tarkenia, one of the Border Kingdoms along the Shadowline. They head out, and make camp after an uneventful day of travel across the desert.

End Session 1
 

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CPaladin

Explorer
Since the first post was so short, here's an extra long one to compensate.

Session 2 (4/11/2020)

One day out from Ravenskrag, camped over night. 5 more days to Tarkenia.

Skard 29

Next day travel is uneventful.

The following night, it sounds like a human child yowling, maybe 300 meters out in the desert. Bartix is on watch, and he reports the sound to one of the older mercenaries. He says it might be a child, in which case you’d want to bring it in. Or it might be a mountain lion, trying to draw attention. And three of you could handle a great cat together. Bartix wakes the others and they head out towards it.

Ulgorio sees blinky eyes watching them out of some low scrub. It’s not where the howling is—it’s off to the right, while the howling is still ahead of them.

They find, laid on the ground, not very well kept, a baby. It’s kinda marked up, with a little scratching—it definitely didn’t make it here on its own.

Two humanoids, about 4’ tall, covered in patchy fur, charge at them with spears.

Runor makes a violent gesture at them with his mace. They jump back, stopping 10 feet back. Bartix swings his sword at them. And hacks one of them to pieces. The other one throws down his spear and flings himself down on his belly.

Runor interrogates the survivor.

“We crossed the border and found the baby to bait you. We did not know you were such mighty warriors. How can we serve, great lord?” He looks over at his buddy. “How can I serve?”

“Can you show a route that you never threaten?”

“We were scouting. We crossed over in an attack. We don’t know much about this land, except that there is much food here.” This sounds crazy in the desert. Runor scares it off.

The senior mercenary is surprised to here of eum this far from the border, but is glad that it was handled.

The next day goes uneventfully. There are some farms in the desert, irrigating from springs or oases.

The night passes peacefully as well.

The following day and night pass peacefully until the third watch. There’s grit in the wind. The more experienced mercenary tells them that it’s a sandstorm. They collapse the tents, put headdresses around the animals, and weighted blankets over the tents and people. The horses struggle—they really don’t like it, but the handlers prevent them from running off. It lasts 2-3 hours. In the morning, they dig themselves out. None of the drovers die. Everyone is apparently okay. It takes several hours to get the caravan on its way, but they succeed.

The next day and night are peaceful.

The next day, they start passing through more villages, doing some strange farming—trying to enrich the soil, perhaps. At the edge of their vision, they can see a tall walled city. Runor spots the fellow that they scared off about a quarter of a mile or third of a mile away, tracking the caravan. Runor casts sacred flame—not reaching him, but enough to scare him off. And he runs away.

They arrive in Tarkenia. The whole city is like a military fortification. The walls are pristine, 40 feet tall and thick as three carts wide; the gates are steel, but banded in a strange black metal. And the guards are careful and well disciplined, physically fit. They review the papers of the caravan carefully, before a priest of Glordiadel stamps them with a sun seal, and they give crisp salutes. It’s dramatically different from Ravenscrag. The caravan master thanks them, pays them the promised silver (8 sp/day * 6 days=48 silver each), and mentions that they had a difficult crossing a couple weeks ago, fighting a large band of eums. Offers them a place when they head back in a week or so, but no hard feelings if they don’t take it.

Several of them head to an inn; the Gryphon’s Golden Hind is the biggest, the Bespoke Dragon less so, and then there are some dives. They go straight to the Gryphon’s Golden Hind, looking for a medium priced inn. There is a stuffed Gryphon’s head on the wall, with a plaque that says in memory of my arm. They get a comfortable room with three beds and a private bath, for 3 sp/night.

Bartix hears offers of several types of work: caravan missions going west, paying 5 silver per day; caravan missions through the border kingdoms; guarding a colony against the border; hunting missions working for the Viceroy, paying 9 silver per day (hunting creatures that have crossed the border); there is mention of cross-border missions, but they are viewed as not ready for it.

Initially, they’re evenly divided—one wants guard duty, one wants caravan duty, and one wants hunting shadow creatures. Runor persuades the others by saying that pays the best. In the morning, they go to the viceroy’s office.

“It’s a fairly simple situation. The territory nearest the border, we use a reclaiming technique to restore the soil as best as we can. This was not always desert—the Shadowwar has made it what it is. Some Shadow creatures cross the border, and hunt the settlers. It’s not as dangerous as in Caldefor, but still always an issue. We pay 10 silver a day, plus a bonus of 5 silver per head for any of red or above among the eum, or any goblyn shamans. You can collect the bounty at any border fortress, and the daily fee after a tour of at least 10 days.”

They buy some mounts in the market—one horse, two camels. They exit through the eastern gate, having entered through the west. Both gates are equally well fortified and defended. Outside the east gate, there are merchants in tents offering large water skins, animal feed, and the like. They buy some emergency water skins, planning on mostly using Runor’s ability to create water.

They get a little ways from the city gates, beyond the merchants, and pass a group of beggars. One of them gives them a silver—very generous.

The next night, there’s a long, drawn out hoot—definitely not normal for the desert. It ululates again, staying out of the fire light. Bartix heads out of the camp towards the noise, as the other two wake up. Runor casts a light spell. It illuminates Bartix, but also a not terribly large creature, that looks like a small, feathered bear. It’s been injured. Something took a hunk out of its right flank—possibly a bite. Bartix leads it back to camp. Runor heals the wound as Ulgorio casts Speak with Animals and talks with it. That means that somewhere near here is the thing that killed its mother. It said “they were large and trying to eat it and its mother, with big bellies.”

Pet baby owlbear
Small, 1d8+5 hps, Beak attack 1d6, claws 1d4 each, Str 10, Dex 15, Con 12, Feats: Multiattack. It will be a baby for a long time, 10 years to grow up.
[End Session 2]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 3 (4/25/20)

4 Tar-Skard

They have entered the lands of House Vilra. Two additional adventurers join their patrol-Ashaltir, a wood elf paladin of the First Daughter (one of the major elven deities), and Merreep, an elven ranger. [I think Merreep is also a wood elf, but I'm not sure off-hand.]

The present Sultan is Barash Abin, of House Jard.

Day passes uneventfully. During the middle of the night, Ulgorio is on watch and there’s a howling. It sounds kinda like people howling, in a varied pitch going up and down the scale. They’re getting closer.

Ulgorio wakes the rest. The horses and camels are also uncomfortable. There are 4 distinct tones, so probably 4 people.

Runor casts light, and cresting a dune about 25 feet away, they see 4 thin, emaciated looking people, dirty, howling, and spinning.

Runor zaps one lightly with a sacred flame, while Ulgorio and Bartix both run.

Ashaltir stabs one with a longsword, while Merreep shoots one in the back with a bow.

The one in the back hurls a handful of ichorous, green-looking substance at Marreep, missing entirely, and it sizzles as it hits the ground.

Ashaltir attacks again, taking down one.

Ulgorio hides, while the owlbear keeps attacking and bites down another one.

Bartix shoots one with a long bow.

Merreep drops the second to last one, and then Runor strikes the last one with a sacred flame, and it collapses, burning slightly.

Runor examines the bodies. It is very obvious that they have not been eating properly for at least weeks. The one who threw the handful of green stuff has a pouch at his side with at least 3 more handfuls. All of them look like commons, but all have something twisted about them, and the one who threw the handful has a strange symbol. Runor recognizes it as a hand-made symbol of Orlodu, the Worm that Bores Beneath, one of the minion deities of Borsh’tro. They get a grand total of 12 sp from the 4 bodies, and 4 shoddy longswords.

The rest of the night passes uneventfully.

They travel on southwards towards Circle Perilous, in their second full day out. They reach the Circle uneventfully. There’s a 60’ tower, made out of some form of glittering crystal, and its top glows. A thin line of energy extends out in either direction from the Circle. And on the far side is the Shadowlands, where there is no sunlight, and it’s a depressing gray everywhere.

A handful of soldiers in glittering silver and crystal armor supervise regular humans, and there is a full legion of troops there.

Runor walks up and hails the soldiers.

“There have been more small border crossings. We can certainly use aid in taking care of the detritus that crosses. We have reports of goblyns, and also of some undead being raised this side of the line, towards House Nin. The viceroy made the standard offer, 10 silver per day for 10 days, plus a bonus for any appropriate skulls you bring back. Take care if you see any eums—we’ve heard no reports of eums on this side of the border, but you’re a little green to take on eums.”

They offer them rations and clean water to supply for the patrol.

He updates their papers to indicate that two more have joined the group.

They overnighted at the Circle.
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 3 [cont'd]

They head towards House Nin’s lands, looking for goblyns, undead, or other things. There are more humans watching from the other side of the Shadowline. They make no efforts to cross, but they are following their progress.

They travel most of a day out from the Circle on the 6th of Tar-Skard, walking together in a clump.

Bartix spots tracks in the sand, heading away from the border. They’re not animal tracks, but not exactly human.

They follow the tracks, staying together in a clump. The tracks are new, no more than a day old, and approximately 5 humanoid figures with 4 toed feet. The rangers suspect that these are goblyn tracks.

The goblyn watcher sees them coming.

All of a sudden, the tracks stop. They must be concealing their tracks—they know that they’re being followed.

Bartix keeps following the concealed tracks—it’s hard, but they can still manage it. As night is falling, they crest a dune and see a cold camp in the hollow beneath them. There are short humanoids, with bulging bellies, light armor, clubs and spears, and a sheep—probably stolen. They do not seem to have noticed our heroes cresting the dunes.

Ashaltir detects evil—one is distinctly evil, the rest are not.

Runor tries to sneak down the dune, planning on attacking the evil one, and he trips over his own feet and rolls down the dune, around 21 feet to the edge of the camp.

Ashaltir charges past him on her horse, and smites the evil one hard, but doesn’t drop him. Merreep shoots one.

Bartix charges another and cuts him down.

Ulgorio misses with his rapier.

The chieftain, who also is a shaman, touches Ashaltir and inflicts light wounds.

One of the goblyn tries to club Runor with his club, and hits him for 3.

The last uninjured one, grabs the sheep, tucks it under his arm, and runs off.

Merreep shoots her target again, dropping it.

Ashaltir gallops up to the goblyn carrying the sheep, and cuts him down.

Bartix finishes off the chieftain with his bow.

Ulgorio stabs one with his rapier, and Runor finishes him off with a sacred flame, dropping the last one.

Runor heals himself and Ashaltir fully.

They get the goblyn shaman as a trophy (which will get a bonus); 2 sp; a skin of very potent alcohol; and a sheep.

[End session 3]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 4 (5/9/20)
Nightfall on Tar-Skard 6

In the middle of the night, an unnatural chill settles on them. (Rolled encounter, then a 20 on the table…) The owlbear and sheep are acting skittish, and they begin to feel chilled even by the fire. They begin to hear whispers, saying “Come away from the fire, come out into the Night…”

Runor casts light, and triggers a shriek from a dark outline of a shape, with no person visible. There is a hissing noise, and it retreats from the light. Runor advances after it, hearing it saying, “Accursed cleric!” and muttering about getting him when he’s not ready. Runor returns to the light after it retreated. They’re pretty sure it’s a shadow or a wraith of some kind, but it doesn’t approach the light, and the noise stops entirely when the dawn comes.

The next day (Tar-Skard 7) they head on. They see scraggly farms and little villages as they travel. The farmers and villagers are supportive and respectful, bringing them drinks of water and the like and thanking them and bowing to them.

Both rangers notice that they’re being paralleled. On one side is the border, and while they’re being watched from that side, at a distance of perhaps an eighth of a mile in the other direction, into the desert, they’re also being paralleled. They can see the rising of the dust. It’s probably not a large group, but they feel scouted. When they stop, it stops. When they move, it moves.

The group travels to confront them, and they see a group with three individuals—two on camelback, and a third on foot.

One of the camel riders fires a bow at them, and misses widely. The other rider raises up his hand and two globules of energy fly from his hand, wounding the owlbear. The third figure charges on foot at the owlbear. It looks similar to the dirty creatures they saw previously, but whereas those had yellow fur, this one has patchy red fur.

Bartix charges to intercept the creature on foot, and hits it with a short sword.

Ulgorio heals the owlbear with a cure spell.

Ashaltir detects evil, and they are all evil.

Runor casts Blindness on the mage, but it does not succeed.

The owlbear unleashes a claw/claw/bite routine at the figure with a spear, hitting with one claw.

The red furred creature with the spear stabs the owlbear, hurting it badly. The archer fires and misses entirely. The mage stands in his stirrups, “Great Lord Gothatha of the Quenching Flame, strike down my enemy!” And he shoots two magic missiles at Runor, doing 5 damage.

Mareep shoots at the mage, hitting for 9 points of damage. The mage looks very unhappy.

Bartix heals the owlbear fully.

Ashaltir charges on horseback to smite evil. She smacks the red-furred creature. It looks startled for a moment and then collapses.

Runor runs up to the archer, Inflicts Wounds, and does 25 hp of damage. Right on top of the red eum being slaughtered, the archer gets instant gangrene and pitches off the camel.

The owlbear charges and attacks the mage. It misses with both claws but hits with the bite. The mage reels in his saddle, and tries to race away.

Mareep pegs him with an arrow, and the mage pitches off the camel.

They now have a dead red eum, two dead humans—an archer and a mage--, and two camels. The eum obviously has nothing on it. The humans weren’t starving, and that suggests they were from this side of the border.

Mareep searches one and Bartix finds the other; they have 10 sp total.

Ulgorio checks out the camels. They’re both healthy now, but their hooves are poorly cared for. They need proper care, because otherwise they won’t remain healthy.

They take the camels with them.

The mage was also carrying a small symbol—a carving of a flame with eyes, and a short scroll, not in a language they speak, but very brief—probably orders. Runor recognizes it as a symbol of Golthatha, one of the Council of “demigods”, really demon lords, that serve Borsh’tro. They know that there are cults of the demonlords on this side of the border. That means that, since he was a mage, he must be a member of a cult—so there’s a priest somewhere.
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 4 cont'd]
They travel for the rest of the day. They could travel into the night to reach Circle Constance, or they could camp and then finish the trip the next morning.

They rest for the night. And they have another encounter (a 19) almost as soon as they’ve gone to sleep.

Mareep begins to feel that same chilling effect that there was last night. The same whispering voice sets in—“come out. Come away from the fire…” Mareep wakes up her companions and lets them know.

They build the fire up and chase it away with a burning torch. It hisses and pulls away—not as quickly as it responded to the light spell, but enough to drive it away. It continues muttering, but it doesn’t close with them again that night. It’s obviously following them. They hear mutterings all night, but as long as they keep the fire built up, it doesn’t approach.

Dawn breaks (Tar-Skard 8), and they enter the lands of Circle Constance. The desert gives way to a little greenery.

The circle is militarized, like the previous one. The extra camels draw some attention, because they assume that’s missing riders. But they come out, check the papers, and then admit them. They thank them for coming—“we’ve had some problems. Not as bad as before Caldefor restored itself, but still some problems.”

It’s more developed than the other circle—perhaps older, or more successfully established.

They turn in the skull of the shaman, and Ulgorio sells the spare camel. They dicker over it, and settle on 11 silver as a price for it. They also shoe the camel that they’re keeping.

They turn in the skull and show the holy symbol of Golthotha. “Oh, I don’t understand why anyone would follow those… I suppose that’s less bad than some of the others. And earlier a follower of Urlodo? We have to increase our scrutiny of those areas.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Runor sees a figure gliding by the conversation. He turns to look, and it’s a slender woman, elven, with an elaborate hairdo and a long silver robe, floating along towards them. The villagers either drop to one knee or bow. Runor follows suit and drops to one knee, as does the officer. She nods in their general direction, and then floats up to the tower.

“Well, it’s not often that a visitor so new in our service gets to catch a vision of a Hastur going about their duties.” The officer gives them a dozen silver. “Please, continue your service. I think the thing speaking to you from outside your camp is a shadow. Someone is raising undead. But the Hastur are busy with the Shadow, and they do not have the time to find the necromancer on this side.”
[End session 4]

[A question for readers: I've realized that posting the sessions in roughly half a section chunks, one per week, means that we're generating new material nearly as quickly as the old material is getting posted, remaining about a year behind. That seems undesirable to me, since it seems like more fun for everyone to catch up to the current state of the game. So I have a question: Would you prefer me to post updates more often (probably adding a Sunday posting day to this thread and a Saturday to the Spice Lands thread) or would you prefer that I post longer updates with each post (roughly a whole session at a time)? Longer updates per post is slightly easier for me, but not so much so that I care much.]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 5 (5/30/20)
Tar-Skard 9:

They wake up from their rest in the area around Circle Constance.

They decide they want to hunt the necromancer raising undead on this side of the line.

They decide that they’ll try to find the necromancer by doing patrols in concentric semi-circles around the area guarded by Circle Constance. The lands of House Nin are much less heavily patrolled than the area around the Circle. There are reclaiming villages, where there are some houses, some fields, and every type of fertilizer imaginable. There are a handful of ruined buildings—probably the result of the border moving back and forth as they fight the war.

There is a thundering of hooves, and a cloud of sand off to their right. It’s at least 3-4 times the size of the cloud of sand that they produce when they gallop. Mreep gallops over to take a closer look. She sees a large herd of wild camels, clearly spooked. They are fleeing like mad, towards their group, as a lion chases after their hindmost. The lion misses one of the camels, pouncing on empty sand.

Mreep calls back that there’s a herd of wild camels coming, chased by a lion. Runor immediately starts plotting to tame the lion, and get another dangerous pet. The camels rush past them pell-mell. The lion stops running, having lost the chance. It looks over the group, and turns to slink away among the dunes. Ashaltir rides out towards it as it’s trying to slink away.

They cast animal friendship on the lion, and it walks over, growling softly in the base of its throat.

They feed it some dried meat and befriend it. They now have a young male lion as part of their menagerie. It’s not ready to fight for them yet, but it will travel with them.

The night passes peacefully. The shadow(?) does not appear.

The next day they travel on. There are more small villages, more ruined buildings, and small packs of hyenas that avoid them assiduously.

They have an encounter the next day.

One building is particularly large. It’s not in good shape—at all—but it’s still standing, and it has a huge tower, 8 or 9 stories tall. It’s clear that it’s been beaten and battered. There is a large symbol on the stone disk blocking the path to the building. It was a forbidden symbol, but has been broken in half—clearly deliberately.

This seems like an ideal place for a necromancer. There could be magical energy here, because both sides have valued it, and the frequent battles give a steady supply of bones. They decide to approach.

They enter a broken bailey. The exterior walls are breached but the tower still stands. They hear a grinding noise from an inverted stone bowl which rises out of the ground, and then two steel bolts slammed into Ashaltir’s armor. It sinks back into the ground, and the grinding noise starts again. The group all charges up and attacks the stone bowl.

Mreep tries to shoot her bow into the slots on the stone bowl. She shoots into the bowl, doing 8 points of damage as it pings inside. They shot more arrows and fire into it, and an imp crewing it came out. The imp talks to them and complained. It told them where they could find the necromancer, because it wants to get unbound. Runor wanted to kill it, but the rest of the group wouldn’t hear of it because it was cute. They found that this is the tower of the Great Bartholomex, and Bartholomex is three stories down. They went in, and headed downwards to try to find the necromancer.

They come down stairs, into a 30’ square room, with corridors opening north and south from the room.

After initially considering splitting up, Runor persuades them that they shouldn’t split up, and they decide to head north as a group. They follow a passage east, and while they don’t hear a voice, they feel the same cold feeling as they felt outside when the voice (the shadow?) spoke to them.

Humanoid figures made out of bones scrabble out of the weak light. They seem to be drawing bows. The cold is still there, and a voice begins to be heard, whispering to the skeletons.

Mreep charges into the darkness with her sword.

Ashaltir gets a critical hit against a skeleton and shatters it.

Runor zaps one with a sacred flame.

They keep hacking down the skeletons.

The shadow is still there, but it hasn’t done anything.

The Shadow says “Master, they are coming. The imp has betrayed you.”

They find 13 sp in the skeleton room.

[End Session 5]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 6 (6/13/20)
[A new character joined the group--Finn, a human fighter. He was only around for a few sessions.]

Tar-Skard 10 (cont.):
They open the door leading out of the room they were in. The next room, somewhat larger, was once a dining area, some time ago. The former diners are now just bones. The skulls have long teeth all the way around. Bartix begins examining the bones, while Finn immediately starts smashing them. The teeth were clearly artificially sharpened—filed into sharp points. Finn runs through a skull with his sword. It starts to get colder in the room.

The soft familiar voice says, “Ah… defilers! Defiling the bones that even the Master does not disturb. Defiling the bones of the old orc kind that used to dwell here. May their God curse you. May their god hear you!”

Runor says, “Ah, orcs! That’s what these were.”

Finn says, “We’re not defilers. We’re not necromancers. We just don’t know any better. We’re ignorant.”

Ashaltir senses evil, and senses a spot in the upper corner of the room that is mobile evil. She points, and her finger follows a moving point. Nobody else can see anything there, but they assume she’s indicating something real.

Ulgorio retreats out of the room into the passageway, and he sees something moving in the dim light, further into the passage. He shouts that he sees something, possibly undead.

Mreep attacks the spot on the ceiling, jumping up to try to hit it. She’s pretty sure she would have hit it if something were there physically, but her sword feels no resistance.

Ashaltir throws water up in that area, trying to outline it. Some water stops and falls, so there is definitely something physically there, at least sort of.

Bartix moves back through the north door to defend against the approaching creatures. Bartix sees a group of five shambling humanoid creatures. They are slow, and have a stench about them—they truly stink. Bartix slashes the lead one with his short swords, hitting twice. The first zombie falls apart before it can engage him.

Ulgorio stabs a zombie over Bartix’s shoulder, wounding it.

Runor casts hold person on a zombie, having no effect.

Finn tries to intimidate the evil spot, “If you don’t leave us alone, I’ll chop you into pieces so small that I can make a stew out of you!”

The spot flies downward and attacks Finn. It tries to touch him, and he almost feels like something almost brushed his hair, but it doesn’t touch him. It feels much much colder as it reaches out towards him.

Two zombies, including one that’s slightly larger than the others, tries to strike Bartix.

Mreep tries to hit the “spot” with her sword. Her sword just barely contacts something—it’s like cutting jello.

Ashaltir strikes the “spot,” getting a critical and smiting evil, doing a total of 40 hit points of damage. The smite causes a brief shriek of “Master!!!” before it falls in pieces of ectoplasm on the ground.

Bartix slashes again, chopping the big zombie to pieces.

Ulgorio stabs again, finishing off another zombie.

Runor turns undead, driving off the two remaining zombies.

The cold fades slowly from the room, but they continue to hear distant whispers.

Finn gathers some ectoplasm, and stores it in his backpack.

They advance forward, following a passageway as it curves to another door. Finn tries to detect traps, finds none, and Ulgorio opens the door. He jumps aside as a spear comes down from above the door at a slant and slams into the ground before retracting. Finn decides to bash down the door. At the same time, he wants to get the spear, which is metal all the way through.

They enter the next room, and there’s a dim, yellowish light from somewhere—not like sunlight, but like sulfur burning, and they can smell burning sulfur as well.

Finn immediately focuses on hoisting himself up with a rope, then opening the steel grate to get at the spring mechanism with the spear loaded in. He works the spear out of the spring mechanism. It’s a steel spear, nice and solid.

The sulfurous odor continues to waft out of a doorway to another room, where there’s also the sulfurous light. They proceed forward, and there are three upright urns of burning sulfur in the other room. As they get closer, they see scribed marks. Runor examines the runes, and he recognizes them as Shadowspeech, the language normally used on the far side of the border. On this side, Shadowspeech is only used for spells. Runor tries to read the runes, but fails—as he tries, the fire from that urn gets brighter, before dying back down. Runor casts sacred flame next to one of the urns. The sacred flame appears much brighter than normal. It flares up and it as if the two fires consume each other; the urn’s fire flares up as well, and then disappears completely for two rounds, and then slowly builds up.

Ashaltir is sure that the urns are evil. Ashaltir smashes one of the urns with her sword, and it flies apart. There’s a cloud of sulfur, and in its midst there is a small creature, very thin that’s released, another imp.

“Ah! I’m finally out of that place. I’ve been in their for years—decades-centuries. A long time! To think! Rescued by a paladin! I’ll never live it down. But here, take this. Don’t worry—I haven’t enchanted the money.” He gives her a small purse of 5 sp and disappears from this plane.

They smash another one, and a different creature appears. “Here, have my wine.” It holds out a vial.

“Wait till you break the third one—you won’t believe what happens.” He disappears.

They break the third one, a glowing symbol emerges, and the floor falls out. The glowing symbol is a chaotic symbol, but not a symbol of evil. It’s a holy symbol of Berta.

They end up down below in the next level of the dungeon, in a twenty foot square room.
[End session 6]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 7 (6/27/20)
Tar-Skard 10 (cont.)

They start in a good sized rectangular room with some fragments of the ceiling on the floor. There are open passages to the north and east.

Finn randomly chooses north, and they head up a short passageway to a large, completely empty room, with not even so much as dust here. Ashaltir detects evil—there is a miasma of evil through the entire chamber. It’s not like the cold that they felt with the creature, but it’s almost like there is a very old evil here that had mostly faded away. It’s coming most strongly from southeast of them. They head easterly, but through the northern most of the three passages all that lead to the east.

After another short passage, it opens into a very large—some 100 feet square—with the remains of about a dozen wooden long trestle tables, collapsed from age. There are remains of long benches. And there are a lot of scattered bones—they’re just laying around, but there are a lot of them, both within view and dimly visible beyond that. This room connects to several passages from the west, but not the southmost one. There are two doorways to the north, and a passage leading off from the east.

Runor hears a distant voice say “Non lumen,” almost like a distant echo, and the light fades to a quarter of its previous brightness. Finn lights a torch—it burns, but it’s also dampened. Standing spaced apart, they can illuminate a larger area. In the darkness, they hear a rattling.

Everyone stands around, trying to figure out what to do. Finn ties his torch to his sword, to keep his hands free.

Ulgorio goes to the very edge of the light, to check the rattling, and he can dimly see a few of the bones—not all of them, but a few of them—assembling into skeletons.

The skeletons that are forming are of larger creatures. They’re the bones of ogres, and in one particular case what they think was a minotaur—it has horns and a bovine head. There are only 4 of them, three ogres and the minotaur.

Ashaltir smites an ogre skeleton, doing 22 damage. Ulgorio stabs another for 7 damage. Bartix attacks the minotaur, hitting for 9 total. Runor casts sacred flame on the minotaur, doing 6 damage. Finn slashes the minotaur for 8 damage.

The ogre hit by Ashaltir falls apart. Another swings at Ulgorio, and misses. The third misses Runor. The minotaur attacks Bartix, Ashaltir hits an ogre for 16 with a crit. Ulgorio damages it further but without dropping it. Bartix hits the minotaur twice for 15 damage. Runor hits one with a sacred flame for 10 damage. Finn misses the minotaur.

The one on Runor and Mreep misses, and Finn gets raked by the minotaur, but it misses with its horns again. Mreep drops the last ogre. Ulgorio does 9 to the minotaur. Bartix finishes off the minotaur. As his skeleton falls apart, the lights brighten back up.

A swirling white mist rises from his body and forms an image of a minotaur in a tabard with a sunburst on its chest. We have been bound for decades upon decades, thank you, thank you. “Holy priest, please sanctify our bones so we cannot be raised again.” Runor prays over the bones, and the ghost points with a misty hand at what was once a dais. “Beneath the dais, under the compartment, the master always kept a few things. Neither he nor we will need them again. Victory to the Light!”

Finn pulls the trestle table off the dais. There’s an inset stone with a locking mechanism, clearly the location that he was referring to. There’s a lock, but Finn breaks the lock with a bolt. He pulls out a thin box. There are 60 sp, a Glordiadelian prayer book, a solid silver dagger, four potions, and a tightly wound scroll. The scroll is clearly magical, but most people can’t read it. Ulgorio realizes that it’s a Glitterdust scroll.

In the room to the northeast, there are a whole bunch of racks, now empty, with rust on the floor, and a trickle of water coming in. Finn searches around in the old weapons racks, possibly where they racked their weapons while they ate dinner. Most of the skeletons had no weapons, so maybe they left them here while they ate.

They travel northwest, and they see a set of stairs leading down. They go down those stairs and enter a very long corridor heading eastwards before reaching a door with a few passages leading off to the south. There is a single torch stuck in the right hand wall. It doesn’t seem to be made of wood, but it is on fire and producing light. Finn examines it carefully. He realizes that there is some sort of flexible copper tube running from that into the wall. It looks like it’s an oil lamp. Runor is positive that there were dwarves involved when this castle was built. The torch is a dwarven oil lamp, with an oil reservoir. But this is not a fortification anyone mentioned. It’s obviously been unused for hundreds of years, but the border has shifted. Perhaps it was once a border fort.

They take the first passage to the south, but about 20’ later it ends at a stone-covered well. There’s water in it. The water is clean and pure, and they drink and refill their water skins. They then move on to the next southerly passageway. It snakes its way south before it ends at a door.

They go to the end of the east passageway. The door here is locked. Finn immediately tries to bash it open. A voice from the other side of the door says, “Yes! Hit it harder! Hit it harder!” They hack at it and bash on it and it finally collapses. A person about 4’ tall with a very frog like appearance is jumping up and down and clapping. “You opened it! Aleep has been trapped here since Aleep got here. Aleep closed the door and it locked behind Aleep. Aleep is Aleep’s name.”

They talk, and Aleep says that he came to defeat the necromancer, too. He can avoid most things. But he got trapped, and he was almost out of mushrooms. The knight he was with didn’t make it—or at least he assumes he didn’t make it, because he abandoned Aleep. He hopes he didn’t make it—wait, that’s a terrible thing to say. Aleep is sorry. Aleep is a froglock. He offers to join them. He’s a minor mage.
[Aleep joined the party as a sorta party NPC. Starting with the next session, I play Aleep, but taking a less active approach than I would if I were playing a full PC. The goal is to be helpful to the actual players and add some amusing roleplay, while keeping the game focused on them.]
[End Session 7]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 8 (July 11, 2020)
10 Tar-Skard (cont’d)

They work to set up a barricade out of the fragments of the door into Aleep’s chamber so they can take a long rest. Finn and Bartix work together on the task.

The night passes uneventfully—something clawed at the barricade, but left when they stirred.

11 Tar-Skard

Bartix and Mreep go in to scout. They both sneak in successfully. This is the basic chamber he’s in. There is an altar at the right of the room, where the Necromancer is busily raising more undead. There is a large pit in the room, filled with skeletons and corpses, surely intended for later work. There’s also a door to the south. There are also at least 6 fleshy undead in the room, on either side of the altar.

The altar has a sign of a rearing worm incised in it.

Runor recognizes that as a symbol of Urlodo, the Worm that Bores Beneath.

Finn proposes a planned division of forces. Everyone except Aleep and the rangers will rush the necromancer, while Aleep and the rangers hang back.

Mreep shoots the necromancer in the back, hitting him narrowly. Aleep casts Web on three of the undead; two are restrained, but one is not. Bartix shoots the necromancer as well, hitting him solidly. Runor runs forward and inflicts wounds on the necromancer, doing another 10 points of damage. Ashaltir shoots at the necromancer and misses. Finn whacks the necromancer with his metal spear. Ulgorio shot one of the zombies.

One of the zombies breaks free of the web. Another whacks Runor for 5 points of damage.

The necromancer heals himself.

Aleep blasts him with scorching rays. Then the necromancer gets shot with an arrow, finishing him off.

The zombies fight on for a bit, but Runor turns most of them and they finish off the ones that keep fighting quickly.

The skeleton on the altar is not animate.

The necromancer has 1 gold and 17 silver, along with two potions. The altar has a gold-chased dagger laid across it, probably worth a fair amount. There is also a flawed gem set on the altar—and there’s a bucket of them. It was laid on the skeleton. There are a total of 39 of them, probably worth 1-2 silvers each.

Runor immediately knows that this is an unholy altar.

They have effectively finished the dungeon with the defeat of the necromancer.
[End Session 8]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 9 (July 25, 2020)
12 Tar-Skard

They split up the cash, giving Aleep a share.

They exit the dungeon, using Aleep’s leaping ability and some rope to climb up through the place where the floor collapsed.

Finn proposes going back to Circle Constance where they received the mission to track down the necromancer.

They travel back to the Circle uneventfully. They go to the tower, and they speak to a simple human who is a representative of House Hastur.

They show him the dagger. “That’s probably a ritual knife used for sacrifices. Won’t be used for that here, but it could still be sold for its gold value.”

“Here’s your reward for the necromancer’s death.” Hands them 100 silver in a bag. “There’s a goldsmith in the craft area—offer the knife to him, but hold out for about 20 silver more than he’ll offer at first.”

The goldsmith looks at the knife. “The workmanship isn’t of value to me, but I’d give you the full value of the gold. Say, 35 silver?”

Bartix pushes back, asks for 55 silver (after Finn says that they were warned that they’d be scammed out of 20 silver.) Finally, the goldsmith counts out 55 silver.

Finn also wants to sell the metal spear, but concludes that if he can’t really get new weapons, he should keep it.

They also seek out a mage to have the potions examined. There are a group of magi who help the Hastur defend the line. This is two doses of a potion of invisibility, and this one—very useful—two doses of cure serious wounds.

Runor observes that it seems like whoever made these expected them and one other person to need to go invisible and get hurt. They talk about what that could mean, and Aleep suggests that maybe the cult has a priest, as well.

The group decides to scour the desert for more signs of the remainder of this cult.

They agree to head south along the border, trying to find more signs of the cult.

They travel south, and they come upon the bones of an enormous worm of unbelievable proportions. They are the ribs of a doyle that was killed maybe a thousand years ago; doyles are creatures of negative energy that only the Hastur can face. There are runes carved into the ribs in shadow speech, and they face towards the border. The 1st, 3rd, 7th, and 9th ribs have the carvings. They are recent—no more than a few months old. The other ribs are untouched.

The rangers notice that although they buried it, somebody had some sort of fire on the top of the ridge of dirt inside the ribs of the creatures. It was clearly there, and is clearly recent.

Runor suggests that they examine the 5th rib. It looks to him as if the sand under the fifth rib has been disturbed. The group starts digging under the rib. They quickly find a double handful of bone disks, each with a rune scribed on it. The runes are also shadow speech. None of them match the same words as on the ribs.

The sun is slowly setting.

Aleep casts detect magic as a ritual. Every disk, and the carvings on the ribs, detect as magic, and they detect as necromancy.

Runor saws one disk in half. By the time he finishes, the sun is down entirely.

As everyone focuses on the disks and the magic auras, an arrow slams into Mreep from the back, scoring a critical hit.

They hear scrambling footsteps and some rapidly approaching figures with swords. Ulgorio stabs one with a rapier. Aleep hits the archer, who is surprisingly squat and may not be human, with one of three scorching rays. Bartix charges and attacks both swords people, hitting both. Runor casts hold person and freezes one of the attackers. Mreep drops the other sword person. Ashaltir hits the held attacker.

The archer fires an arrow that splits into three. All three arrows miss and as they flicker into the sand they have puffs of greenish mist. The heroes then rush him and overwhelm the archer.

They take the last attacker prisoner.

They make a camp, and wait for the prisoner to become unheld. They find a holy symbol of Urlodo on him.

Bartix interrogates the prisoner. “Who sent you?”

“We came here to the tokens under the great lord. We did not expect interlopers, so we struck. We should have waited for more numbers.”

“Who is the great lord?”

“Urlodo. We are a cult, we serve him.”

“We had new tokens. The priest said that when we had tokens we should bring them here and bury them, so that more undead can be brought forth.”

“Where does this great lord live?”

“Urlodo? In the Abyss! But our priest lives here with us.”

“Why did you attack?”

“You were disturbing the sacred tokens?”

“Why do you wish to raise the undead?”

“That the border may move. We serve a mage, and a priest, and together they are raising an army.”

“Is your mage the one in the castle over there?”

“Yes, yes, he is ours. But he, like we, serves the priest. The priest goes back and forth. But you have disturbed the tokens, and delayed us by many weeks.”

“Do you know where the priest lives right now?”

“He is with his tribe in Shadow. But he has a way through—he passes back and forth through the Shadowwall.”

They tie the prisoner up, stripping him of weapons. They give the holy symbol to Runor. Runor defaces the holy symbol of Urlodo.

“Is the priest a human?”

“No, he is a Eum.”
[End Session 9]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 10 (August 8, 2020)
[I think Finn left the group at this point]

13 Tar-Skard
They discuss whether to hug the Shadowline, or stay farther in from it and go near the fortress. They decide to scout around the fortress.

The first part of the march back to the fortress is completely peaceful. The next part is a little more exciting. A small train of people are marching along, a cleric with a sun disk and a group of companions scattering dust on the ground. They’re blessing the barren desert to make it grow better.

Runor greets the priest.

“We bear the light to all who would have it. It is our duty. What are you and your companions about?”

“Mainly getting creatures that have crossed from the Shadowlands.”

“Ah, you’re a patrol. Very important. Just last week Father Patrick was set upon by a group of Eum that had somehow crossed the border. He was badly hurt, though he lived, and lost two companions.”

They are blessed by Glordiadel for another 24 hours.

“We must move on. We have a certain amount of territory to cover each day.”

They camp for the night. Aleep suggests that if we could find the tunnel and close it, it would be really valuable.

The group agrees that the next morning, they’ll close in towards the border, and then patrol along the border, looking for tunnel mouths and signs in the sand or dirt of disturbances or footprints.

The night passes uneventfully, though they see a fire burning on the far side of the Shadowline.

14 Tar-Skard
The next morning they travel along the Shadowline, looking for signs of the tunnel.

The next morning, they see dust rising up, from further west, moving north (away from the Shadowline). It’s moving fast, at an angle that would take it to the Hastur circle.

The group heads towards it, to find out what it is. At an incredible distance, Runor feels overwhelmed by a sense of evil.

They are riding hard, not galloping but riding fast at a steady pace. There is a heavily armored humanoid, in baroque armor, with a banner with a curled worm or snake. There are a half-dozen yellow humanoids running literally in the dust of the horse, carrying light weapons and a few scattered pieces of armor. But it is the individual on the horse that is emanating evil. The sharp-eyed rangers can tell that the horse isn’t alive. It has skin stretched over its bones, but it is a skeletal horse.

Bartix fires an arrow at him, but misses so completely that the figure doesn’t notice at all.

The group decides to warn the Circle, so they gallop north riding hard trying to beat him to the Circle. They gallop up to the Circle, the horses exhausted.

They report to the first officer they see.

“A knight of Chaos? It has been a while since one of those made it through the line without setting off the alarm. I will inform the Tower.”

A group of magi float out to meet him.

They then float back. Bartix asks if they stopped him. “We have eradicated him. He was a knight of Urlodo. He was a great threat.” The Hastur reward all the PCs with 50 silver each.

“How did he get through the border, do you think? The wards should have lit up.”

“What if he passed through a different region’s Shadowwall, and then travelled.”

“What if the Shadowwall is broken?” the PCs ask.

“That would be very serious, very serious indeed. It strikes us as very unlikely, though.”

The group decides to follow the knight’s path backwards to reach the Shadowline, to see if there’s any breach they can find. Midway down the path, they find what’s left of the horseman, his horse, and the footmen. They are very very dead. The path where the dust was churned up by the horse is easy to find, at least for the rangers. They follow it directly back towards the Shadowline.

No more than 40 yards in from the Shadowline, they see an area where the ground has been churned up. There’s also a small group of eums—between 3 and 6 yellow eums—posing as rocks around the dunes. They are just there, quietly waiting.

Mreep scouts forward. The disturbance is definitely the mouth of a tunnel. And the Eums are definitely guarding the mouth of the tunnel. There are definitely at least 4 eums, and there are another two rocks that Mreep thinks are eums.

The PCs sneak close, then charge the eums from surprise. Two are dead before they even react. The eums roll low on initiative, so the PCs pound them for a second round. Two more die, and a fifth gets knocked out by a Sleep spell. The leader, off to the side, still uninjured, makes the hideous error of running directly through the Shadowline. There is a flair of runes across the surface of it, and he’s incinerated.

They now have possession of the mouth of the tunnel.
[End Session 10]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 11 (August 22, 2020)
15 Tar-Skard
They have possession of the mouth of a tunnel traveling east into Shadow.

They start to head into the tunnel. Mreep, Ashaltir, Ulgorio, Runor, Aleep, and Bartix bringing up the rear. The tunnel is crudely built, with wood supports that would be easy to collapse, and it exits a long distance away—about 1000 yards. It emerges into the gray haze of the Shadow, with no real sunlight, dust everywhere, and a large hulking fortress some quarter-mile away, with limp banners hanging from its ramparts. There is some speculation that the castle may be where the priest was from. The fortress is north of them.

To their east, further into Shadow, they see three groups moving in the distance.

The group decides to head towards the fort; some of the party are confident in their ability to handle threats, some are afraid of the dangers of Shadow. The group tries to be stealthy and to sneak up.

The fortification is gray, as is the plain of dust. There are repetitive thumps, thuds, and ringings from within the fortification. As they approach, Mreep notes that there are humanoid figures scattered about the top of the wall, marching back and forth. They’re not regularly spaced, but they’re definitely patrolling the wall.

At that point, the group decides to head back to the Circle to report.

The return to the Circle is uneventful. The same captain, still on duty, greets them.

They report. The captain says, “One of the dragonfortresses. We should seal that up. I wonder if that’s how the priest is travelling back and forth.”

The captain considers. “We could seal that up immediately. Or we could temporarily leave it open, and you could ambush the priest the next time he comes through.”

Everyone agrees to ambush the priest.

They return and set up a cold camp at the mouth of the tunnel. A small chubby humanoid with little tiny wings flies out of the tunnel mouth and looks around, and he takes a deep breath. Runor and Bartix are staring at him. Runor is absolutely sure this is a quasit, the least powerful form of demons. They’re very minor demons.

Bartix tries to sneak up to grab him. He bounces up and grabs him. As he’s being dragged to the ground, he’s saying, “Hey, what are you doing? Now you’re lying on top of me in your armor and driving all the breath out of me. Hey look. I haven’t taken any souls recently, or cannibalized any dogs. You should let me go.”

Bartix drags him back to their camp.

“Oh, don’t take me back to the Circle! They’ll incinerate me. It will be no more Bigglesnoz.

“That’s a dragonfort in there. That’s where my lord is, like your lords are in the Tower. My lord is a mighty demonlord. His name is Nightwalker, a servant of Orlodu, the Worm that Bores Beneath. He has ruled that fortress for… millennia.”

Nightwalker has an army. It varies in size. You try to control a group of Eums! And occasionally he has a demon knight, but they then ride off across the border because they don’t believe that they need to wait for the doyles.

They ask some more questions about Nightwalker. He’s a demon, like all the lords of the dragonfortresses except the great black dragons. (Runor fakes casting a spell to force him to tell the truth.)

Nightwalker started getting more powerful, but before he reached Balor status, he became a Lord. He stopped getting personally more powerful as much as he could, but started controlling more stuff.

Nightwalker became the lord of the fortress when he destroyed the previous lord, a minor Balrog, and now he’ll be lord until someone else destroys him. That’s how the lords of the fortresses work, except the ones held by the great elder dragons, which are too powerful for them to destroy.

They have a discussion about how the quasit can reform. He agrees to try, but may be lying.

They keep watching the tunnel mouth.

They hear the clanking of hooves coming out of the tunnel. Skeletal winged horses rise up out of the tunnel mouth, pulling an old style chariot, with a single human, in black robes, with a holy symbol of a coiled worm. The horses quickly settle back to the ground—they can’t fly very well. The horses start trotting slowly towards the fortress/dungeon where they dealt with the necromancer. The priest pays them no mind, but seems to assume the quasit is part of the guard posted by the Shadow to defend the tunnel.

The group attacks the priest, and the last attack on the surprise round is enough to defeat him. The driver, a skeleton, collapses.

The priest was alive but bleeding out, and they finish him off and take a trophy. (He was a 9th level priest.)

They bury the bones of the skeletal driver. They also detach the skeletal pegasi and try to take them with them.

They return to the Circle. The Seneschal of the Tower comes out to thank them personally on behalf of the Hastur, and gives them 50 silver each, and then sends a team out to collapse the tunnel. They have 2 undead pegasi, that can be ridden. They also still have a captive quasit.
[End Session 11]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 12 (September 5, 2020)
16 Tar-Skard

The group discusses what to do. Runor suggests that they could go scouting in the Shadowlands. Mreep agrees, as does Ulgorio.

They plan on bringing food and water.

They go to the officer of the watch for the Tower to tell him that they plan on scouting in Shadow.

“Really? Let me speak to a member of the Circle. There may be things that would be particularly helpful.”

After a few minutes, he comes back with a figure in crystal armor, who he addresses as “my lord.”

“If you are going in, there are certain things that we would like you to find. The Council of the Hastur has a reason to believe that one of the great dhoyles has spawned within a few days of the Shadowline. Their spawn are more mobile and less detectable until they cross the Shadowline. If you fought a dhoyle, you would be dust within seconds. It sheds an aura of chaos and destruction—you do not want to enter that aura.”

“Take this crystal. You can communicate to the Circle with it up to three times. After that, you will not be able to recharge it without a psion. You must bring clean water, and we suggest concentrated rations instead of foodstuffs. If you’re careful with water, and the mission is no more than 3 days in and three days out, 4 gallons should be sufficient.”

They travel directly to the Shadowline, cross through the tunnel that hasn’t been collapsed yet, and they travel a distance within the Shadow. It’s not truly dark, but it’s gloomy. Everything is a dull gray. The dust on the ground, the air above, everything is a shade of gray. They can’t see any clouds above, because they cannot see that high.

The group has a standard marching order:
Merreep
Ulgorio
Ashaltir
Runor
Aleep
Bartix

They travel directly east. Off ahead of them and to the right, they see what looks like a small fire. As they travel, Merreep spots a group of humanoid figures—only 4 or 5—approaching from the direction of the fire. They continue on, as if they belong there.

These are orange eums—they look like yellow eums, but a little larger, and they look at the group, at the quasit, at the skeletal horses, and they ignore them.

They travel on another hour or so, and then a figure settles down from out of the sky. He appears to be a very gaunt human as he resolves. His eyes travel across all of them.

“Trueborn scum—should I not call upon you for tribute?”

None answers.

“What tribe are you, that you would not speak to one of the Spawn?”

Bartix replies, “We are not of a tribe. We’re demon hunters.”

“Demon hunters? Here?”

“Demon worshippers! Demon worshippers!” says the quasit. “See! We have a frog demon with us.”

“Ah, so you are renegades, thrown out of your tribe for some offense. Perhaps I should eat one of you as a vampire Spawn in service of Cartaluma, the Weaver in Darkness.”

“Are you Nightwalker?”

“No, I am not. Is he the one you worship?”

“Yes.”

“Of course! He gathers such as you together as he prepares for his push. It will be glorious. His encampment is two days farther on, while he waits for his dhoyle to finish bringing forth its spawn. If you wish to join him, press on.” The vampire ascends into the sky.

They travel until it feels like night—there is no night and no day, so it’s hard to be sure. They stop and make an encampment.

Most of the night passes fine. Then, in the third watch, most of the way through the night, a tall scaled humanoid figure strides into their camp, arrogantly. “Hail!”

“I have heard a rumor, that your group goes to offer your services to the hoard being gathered by the Nightwalker. Is that true?”

“Yes.”

“I, a servant of Gnnnst, now ask you: what reason do you have to unite with the Nightwalker and not one of the other great lords? Can we entice you away? He will only waste your lives against the Shadowwall. It will be a great loss to Shadow after we have lost half of Caldefor. I will not stop you, but I urge you to reconsider.”

“What other lord would you propose we serve?” replies Bartix.

“Gnnnst would be my ideal choice, but you could also serve Carthaluma the Weaver in Darkness or the Lord of Disease and Decay.”

“Perhaps we should serve Gnnnst and then struggle against the Nightwalker.”

He is pleased, and gives them a single scale, that he says can be presented to any dragonborn encampment to get food and to hear the priest speak.

Bartix proposes actually throwing in with Gnnnst’s forces—he says that becoming part of the demon army could be good.

Runor opposes this as not what Glordiadel would want. Aleep expresses that he does not want to be in with the demon armies, because they spend lots of time killing and eating each other and he doesn’t want to get eaten.

The group splits up. Ulgorio and Bartix head off to try to find a dragonborn camp, while the rest of the group continues on towards Nightwalker’s camp.

17 Tar-Skard
Ulgorio and Bartix head off, carrying the scale, into the wastes away from the camp. They travel for most of the day, and then they realize that they are being slowly encircled at a distance by rather squat humanoid figures. Abruptly, 11 figures close in from all directions, out of the dust. They are paunchy, with distended bellies, large heads for the size of their bellies, armed with spears and primitive swords, and one in the back has fetishes that he rattles at them.

“Who approaches our tribe, and why should we not eat you?”

“We want to serve Lord Gnnnst, and we’re journeying to find his followers.”

“We are not cultists of his. Why should we let you go?”

“Because I could destroy you in five seconds.”

The shaman looks him up and down. “I think not.” It is the first time he has spoken. “You are water fat and food fat. I don’t think you come from the Shadowlands.”

“We don’t come from the Shadowlands, but we want to be demons.”

“Also, we can communicate with people outside the Shadow, and become spies.”

“You offer yourselves to become spies on the Light?”

“Yup.”
“Yup.”

“We will not eat you now, but you will come to our camp and I will consult with our lord. We have use for traitors.”

They return to a large encampment, and the shaman brings them to a large tent.

“What do you bring me?” says the elaborate lord.

“Two who dwell in the light and offer themselves to become spies.”

“What payment do you seek?”

“No payment, but we want to join you and become demons.”

“You realize that we are not demons. We are goblyns. You can become a servant to a demonlord, but you will never become demons. You are mortal, and they hold their privileges close. But if you would spy—we can pay you, and offer you well. What information do you have as an earnest for your services?”

“There are scouts in the Shadowland. And the tunnel into the Light has been discovered and captured by the Light.”

“That is a good earnest. You came with others, no doubt.”

“Yes, but they did not want to serve. They scout. They scout Nightwalker.”

“Pfft. They do not scout us. You must learn to be clever as a serpent. We serve Carthaluna. Return to your companions. Tell them you have had a change of heart. Then join them, scout with them, and return to the Light. Once you are back on the other side of the Shadowline, you will be contacted. You will be very useful spies. We will escort you back to rejoin your companions, so nothing threatens you.”

The other group has an entire day’s travel without incident.

They make camp. In the first watch of the night, a group of humanoids covered in greenish fur come to the edge of the camp. Ashaltir and Merreep are on watch. They carry shields and spears, and several carry lashes. There are 9 of them total.

“Whose are you?”

“What are you doing here?”

“We are slow players.”

“Oh. How are you doing?”

“We are… well. How are you doing? Nice horses. Where are you going?”

“To the next camp.”

“Oh. The big one. Yes, yes, some of our brothers went.” He sighs.

“Are you?”

“No, no, we are not stupid, we are not going. Yes, we know, he is new, he is powerful, the Nightwalker’s followers think he will be the one to breach the wall. But without something like when Caldefor fell, they will not succeed. I suppose we will not anger one such as Nightwalker by interfering with you. His camp is not far, another day and a little and you should reach his camp. You look like Trueborn—I did not know he was gathering Trueborn.”

18 Tar-Skard
In the morning, they decide to not continue on to the encampment. Instead, they send a message through the crystal reporting about the encampment; its location (3.5 days due east of the Shadowline); that it’s a very large encampment, gathered by the Nightwalker, because the Nightwalker is powerful and they believe that it will breach the Shadowline; that there is a great dhoyle and that the Nightwalker is waiting for it to spawn, which should happen soon; and that two of the people from the group left the group and sought to join the Shadow.

Ulgorio and Bartix get led back to near the main group. They cover themselves in dust and injure themselves lightly, planning on claiming that their offer was rejected and they were attacked.

They stagger out. Merreep shouts, “they’re alive.”

They tell their story, and that “you don’t want to know” about what they fought. Merreep and Aleep believe their story, but Runor is suspicious and watches them carefully.

They start heading back to the Shadowline. Midway through the day, they approach 4 tall, thin figures, thin but not emaciated, mounted on skeletal horses. They’re not pureblood humans, but they have some elven blood that Ashaltir can see. They are heavily armored, and have lances.

“Careful, cousins. There’s activity near the border. We have seen it. We return to the tribe because our champion foolishly crossed over days ago. He has not returned, so we return to our tribe to report him lost.”

The night passes without event.

19 Tar-Skard
They travel towards the Shadowline. They approach a small bunker from the rear. There are a half-dozen what appear to be humans, sheltering behind the bunker—it’s one sided and faces the Shadowline. It was not here before. It has a banner, with an ebon field and nothing but two red spots on it, that look kind of like eyes. They appear to be watching the Shadowline—they’re not paying much attention to movement in Shadow. They avoid the forward picket, and they go through the tunnel and come out on the other side.

They return and report again.

“We have spread word of what you have told us to the Keepers of the two neighboring Circles. We will gather energy while we wait for the attack. They will attack within two weeks, and they will have sufficient strength to break through the wall with the dhoyle spawn until it is slain. The lesser creatures will be dealt with by the military that we are bringing in now. We greatly appreciate your aid. We appreciate the risks you have taken. If you intend to continue serving in this area, we would be pleased to offer you quarters in the barracks here. We will ultimately triumph.”

They each get an additional 50 silver.
[End Session 12]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 13 (September 19, 2020)
20 Tar-Skard

The group decides to seek a new employer. Things have not changed much from where they were. There are caravans heading back to Ravenskrag. There is a caravan traveling through all the way to Delwan, pretty much all the way across. There are some people trying to hire bounty hunters to bring back creatures they think are on this side of the line. And they could volunteer for the replenishment efforts by the border, which are pretty dangerous as they’re spreading fertilizer.

They decide to seek out bounties. They go to the local inn. There is a far more elegant man than they would expect, looking to hire people to hunt bounties. He is looking for harpy parts, and there is a flight of harpies further along towards the neighboring area, Pestisranic. He offers them 25 silver per harpy, as well as wanting their feathers (especially their pin feathers). The group accepts.

He seems hurried. He acts like he has a lot of work. He offers rations as well to motivate them. He does not detect as evil.

The travel is uneventful for the first day.

21 Tar-Skard
The next day, Clawy, the owlbear, starts getting very nervous, as do the regular horses.

The horse under Ulgorio gives a hideous scream and its back quarter shifts downwards into the ground. Ulgorio slides backwards off the horse. For a second it looked like the horse sat down, but its legs have been pulled under ground.

The horse is frothing in terror.

They can see that there is an insect with mandibles trying to pull it under.

Merreep shoots it. The giant sand lion attacks Merreep, and another emerges nearby. Ashaltir smites the thing mightily.

Runor creates a continuous flame and uses it to scare them off, then casts cure minor on the horse to prevent it from bleeding out. (10 bonus xp for the clever idea.)

22 Tar-Skard
Merreep and Bartix see harpies off in the distance, in the sky. They tell the rest of the group. The two or three circling are probably just watchers.

They decide to approach the harpies and to talk to them to ask for some feathers.

The harpies are surprised to be asked for feathers. They’re used to being hunted for feathers. But they’re okay to give feathers.

The harpy guards ask them to come to the camp to talk to their queen.

This is a large harpy encampment—some 50 harpies, roosts, eggs, child harpies.

They’re led to a really old harpy, sitting at a loom, weaving cloth.

"We would trade with you for these feathers. We would be paid in song. What songs do you sing, mighty bard?"

Ulgorio sings and plays a song of Godzilla.

The loom is massively magical and not entirely there.

She plucks a feather from her wing and gives it to the bard, asking him to keep it with his lute.

They receive feathers of 25 harpies.

"This is a loom of fate. It was a great gift to my line, from a priestess of the Lady called by Many Names, and Many Faces, and Many Aspects, whose character varies from day to day. I find it a good way to weave the future of my daughters.

"We were waiting for you today. We could not tell if you were going to attack or come in peace. But we waited for you. Because we could not tell, we did not flee, but only sent our few males and our youngest away. I could also tell you much of the one who hired you, but that you must discover for yourself."

23 Tar-Skard
Passes peacefully.

24 Tar-Skard
Sir Clarence is still here. He seems startled when they enter, and present huge piles of feathers. “You’re more capable than I thought.” He counts out 1000 silver in gold coins, that almost none of them have seen before. “I will take this back to my own employer. May I suggest you to some colleagues of mine for more jobs?”

Bartix volunteers that they never actually killed any harpies.

“I see. So the witch and her brood are still free? I will report the result of this. I suppose you deserve some credit for telling me, so I did not report false information.”

He snaps his fingers and vanishes.
[End session 13]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 14 (October 3, 2020)

25 Tar-Skard
They look for a caravan going back in the direction that Sir Clarence came from, mostly hearing about caravans going to Ravenskrag, offering 4-5 silver per day (guarding empty caravans).

They decide to hire on with Misty Starfire.

Misty Starfire is a tiny winged figure, with a caravan that includes both normal horses and wagons, and a handful of small, winged horses. She’s heading to Ravenskrag, and then on to the coast. On the return trip, they don’t expect problems with bandits, but occasionally problems with Shadowcreatures.

Aleep and Ashaltir recognize Misty as a fairy. She’s scattering fairy dust as well as her wings and appearance—they’re rarely seen outside the faerie forests.

26 Tar-Skard
Depart in the morning, uneventful travel.

27 Tar-Skard
Uneventful travel.

28 Tar-Skard
Peaceful travel.

29 Tar-Skard
Peaceful travel.

30 Tar-Skard
They pass a caravan going the other direction. The other caravan says that they hit a problem with bandits about a day on, but cleared them out.

They’re traveling faster than normal—there must be magic in Misty’s pixie dust.

31 Tar-Skard
Uneventful

1 Zar
Uneventful

2 Zar
They rise into the foothills of the mountains. There is a shout and a group of humans wearing a pure white come charging out of the foothills at them, pointing their lances and charging.

Mreep shoots one with her long bow, and Ashaltir shoots the same target. He’s still up, despite two hits.

Ulgorio casts a cloud of daggers. It kills the horse on the right, wounds the rider, and he rolls to the ground and then regains his feet and starts drawing his long sword. Bartix shoots and kills that one.

Aleep misses with two scorching rays, but hits with his third. His target continues to sway in his saddle.

Two of the guards miss badly, and the third manages to fumble and break his bow.

Runor hits the center rider with a sacred flame, and he droops over in his saddle but the horse keeps charging.

Mreep shoots the next rider for 13.

Ashaltir charges the last rider, deflects his lance with her shield, and smites him, doing about 25 damage. Ulgorio finishes him off with a cloud of daggers.

There is a pure white, almost albino horse standing there—the last survivor of the attackers. It drops its head and starts chewing some grass.

“How did three Pureblood get this far from the border? Charging hapless travellers 6 days from the border.”

Misty has no use for the horse, so lets the party take it.

By the end of the day, they reach the city of Ravenskrag. She pays them each 40 silver for their wages. She offers for them to sign on again to get to the Trade Cities by the coast. There will be no Shadow creatures on that side of the mountains, but bandits, I guarantee you. The PCs sign on, while she’ll take two to three days to get new cargo for the trip to the Trade Cities.

The PCs decide to stay at the same inn as Misty, which is a slightly expensive traders’ inn, but they can afford the 2 sp a day each.

3 and 4 Zar
The PCs just relax and practice for two days.

5 Zar
They travel on. It’s 12 days to the Trade Federation Cities. The 4th and 5th days are patrolled by the elven forest and have no chance of encounters.

7 Zar
The land they’re passing through has a fair number of fortified farms with fields and fields of corn and wheat. As they pass one, they hear cursing and crossbows being cranked and fired. They just press on, leaving the farmers to kill the plague of rats on their own.

8-9 Zar
Pass the elven forest.

10-16 Zar
Uneventful travel, before they reach a walled city, with a sign above the city gates: Mintalentelonde, All Welcome. Its name is bastardized elven, but it’s certainly not an elven city.

Misty pays each of the PCs another 60 sp. “I’ll be here some time before I head back—I’ll need a cargo that will pay me to Ravenskrag, and then either a cargo that will pay back or on to the Borderlands. Be careful in the city. It has a large cathedral of your god, Runor; and if the same count who was in power here last time is still in power, it’s the head of whichever merchant house is wealthiest, he’s in the 4th house in Merchants’ Row, should you need him for some ungodly reason.”

It’s a large city, some 70-80 thousand, mostly human, with a smattering of half-elves and a few elves.

Ashaltir, Ulgorio, and Bartix go to investigate Sir Clarence, and ask some questions about him. They head to an expensive inn to ask about him. They come to the Eagle’s Feather, which has a liveried servant to open the door. The common room is well appointed, with stuffed hunting trophies—including an eagle—decorating it. The common room is full, with mostly wealthy people. The doorman opened the door for them, but was a little hesitant. A serving maid immediately approaches them.

They ask after Sir Clarence. “He’s not a member of this establishment, but we know of him, of course. He’s the city’s magus.” She leads them over to a window. “That tower, on the hill? That is his residence. He belongs to the wizards’ guild, of course, and some other honorable societies, but his knighthood is of some other continent.” She waives her hand as if other continents don’t really matter.

Bartix and Ulgorio decide they don’t want to actually talk with him, because he might attack them, but that they want to spy on him. So they decide to spy on his tower. As they approach the hill, the structures become less elegant. The inn was in a more affluent area, but the tower looks much richer. Various people ask Ulgorio for a song, and he plays the Godzilla theme again. By the time they get near the foot of the tower, it’s clear that the buildings on the hill are slums. The buildings are ill-kept, the people look poor, but the tower glitters above it all. The group blends in as well as they can, which is reasonably well. There are a few small temples of Glordiadel that are well kept, but everything else in this area is ragged and ratty.

The tower grounds are completely clear of people, and there is a shimmering barrier around the grounds. The grounds are immaculate—cleanly cut grass, carefully tended hedge gardens, and totally empty of people.

No one in the neighborhood looks at the tower at all. None of them, ever. It’s kind of offputting once they notice it.

An older women, wearing silvery clothing and a silver veil, with a prominent sun symbol at her chest, is the one exception. She looks wherever she wishes, and she’s carrying a basket of foodstuffs. She goes up to the door of a house near them, and hands the basket to the person in the house, who bows and makes the sun symbol sign. “From the Temple. We heard there was need.”

She notices the group, particularly Ashaltir. She is clearly a sister of the Silver Veil. “Good day, travelers. Are you lost? You do not seem to be in a place I would have expected to see members of the gentry.”

Meanwhile, Runor, Mreep, and Aleep head to the Cathedral of Glordiadel, at Runor’s suggestion. The temple as a whole respects wealth, but it is not oriented towards wealth. This cathedral is a strange mix of styles, with some displays being garish displays of wealth. The merchant houses obviously compete by giving chapels, artwork, etc. A young tonsured priest approaches and welcomes Runor to the cathedral.

“I share the light of Glordiadel in a different place, but I figured I would visit the cathedral.”

“Would you care for a tour or to meet his eminence at the Anointing of the Sun?”

“I wish to ask a question of a certain man you may know about.”

“I will do my best to answer.”

“Do you know anything about Sir Clarence?”

“The Chief Magus? He came from overseas, he brought great wealth with him which allowed him to buy the tower in which he dwells; he became the head of the brothers and sisters of the magi in a very short time. He is a cruel and hard man, not a member of the faith. He has curried favor with many of the merchant houses. He is rumored to have gain much of his wealth by hiring people to hunt forbidden magic components—such as those taken from sentient creatures.”

“Hunting harpies would be forbidden?”

“Not by the city, but by the faith, unless they were a threat. He is also suspected of hiring groups to hunt for werebear claws, which is strictly forbidden by both the city’s laws as well. His Eminence might feel more free to speak about what the temple believes but cannot prove.”

Father Runor is introduced to the bishop after the service.

“Come, come into the vesting chamber with me.” While he is stripping off his finery, he says, “what do you need to know that I might know?”

“There are rumors that Sir Clarence has done unfavorable things for magical components.”

“You are certainly correct that there are such rumors. Most egregiously, he sought werebear parts, and hunting them for parts is the same as murder. What appears to happen is that he hires underpowered groups so there are no survivors, but they locate the prey, and then he and a highly trained group of his own men target the prey.”

Runor describes our experience.

“So he was using a tracking spell, not a tracking item. It will be long since dissipated.”

The gold from him has an enchantment on it—likely a tracking spell. The bishop suggests taking it to a moneychanger.

Aleep asks if the bishop could mock up fake werebear claws. He says that he could arrange that with his contacts, and that we should return in 3 days. The idea is to try to sell it through the black market to try to get evidence on Sir Clarence.
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 15 (October 17, 2020)

17 Zar
The group has reunited and shared information. They change their money (most for silver), but Aleep gets a letter of credit. The money-changer is a dwarven man, friendly, who takes a 2% cut.

They stay in the city, in an inn.

18 Zar
The day passes uneventfully.

19 Zar
In the morning, they hear about a botched attempted robbery on the money-changer where they changed their money. A group of burglars tried to break in, but there were good defenses—several guards and a stained-glass golem. One of the guards died, and several were injured, but the burglars were repulsed. Four of the burglars were killed, the rest fled. Runor decides to provide holy rites for the dead guard; on Aleep’s suggestion, he plans on telling the money-changer that he suspects this was caused by the tracing message. Runor also decides to cast speak with dead on the burglar.

There is a very minor temple functionary with the bodies, performing the equivalent of last rites. He is friendly to Runor, recognizing him as a priest. Runor takes over saying the words for the guard, before turning to the thugs.

Each of the thugs has an identical tattoo at the base of their neck that looks like a broken bone—looks like it could be a broken tibia. It’s the only tattoo any of them have.

Runor casts speak with dead:

"Did someone send you, and if so who?"
"We were sent by the Left-footed Man."

"What reason did he give you?"
"We were sent to retrieve gold from the money-changer that should not have been there. We would not have taken the job if we had known how good the defenses were."

"Have you worked for this man before?"
"Yes, the same man, in cowl and cover, has been their before, through the Left-footed Man. The guild will work for anyone who has enough money."

"Do you know of anything of Sir Clarence?"
"He is rich and powerful and would be able to pay the guild for things, but we know nothing of that."

"Have you ever hunted for illegal magical components?"
"We are the guild. We do not hunt animals—only occasionally the children of men. The Left-footed Man would not take any contracts to hunt for animals or monsters, but would hunt for gold. Apparently not so well."

The functionary says, “They’re talking about the Hidden Guild! The Guild of thieves, and possibly assassins. Why would the Left-footed Man want to attack a money-changer?”

Runor explains why they might have attacked the money-changer.

The functionary asks if they want to meet the Left-Footed Man. They say yes, and he says that one of his cousins could put them in touch with the Left-Footed Man.

Off they go to meet the functionary’s cousin. They end up in a tidy, well-kept, but not rich part of the city at a small house.

The matron of the house invites them in, and brings in her husband. He’s wiping off ink-stained fingers.

Runor says that we are looking for a guild that we have heard you have contact.

“You’re not from the city government, are you.”

“No. I swear by Glordiadel that I will not harm you unless you take action against us.”

“I’m an accountant! I don’t take action against anyone. But I do some accounting for some businesses that a certain guild has, and some windfalls they have from … special tasks for well-healed individuals. If you intend to hunt them, it will mean my life. But if you wish to speak with them I can set up a meeting with someone who speaks for them.”

(They confirm they’ll be meeting with the Left-Footed Man, and he cautions them to not make fun of the peg-leg he has in place of his right leg, though he has accepted the appellation “the Left-footed Man.” He lost it years ago in a misadventure with a land-shark.)

The accountant heads out, and returns a half-hour later with the Left-Footed Man—who looks more like some sort of warrior-type than a rogue, although he’s accompanied by two obvious rogues. The Left-Footed Man joins them for dinner (though his companions do not). Runor tests the food for poison.

“I do not go to temple often. But what can I do for the church?”

“I am looking into possible dealings between you and the people you represent and Sir Clarence.”

“Sir Clarence is a careful man. Mind you, I think it was ultimately he who hired us, that son of a bitch—we lost four men to that golem, and if it was Sir Clarence, he should have known that there was a golem. But the person who contacted me was a city guard lieutenant who shouldn’t have known how to find me, but did, and who has been seen in the presence of Sir Clarence.”

We mention Sir Clarence’s history of setting up groups to fail.

“I can’t question a lieutenant of the Watch. His name is Lieutenant Godwin. He’s usually on the east wall of the city with his men, but he’s been seen a lot with Sir Clarence. Sir Clarence’s rise in the city was meteoric, and many of us watched it closely.

“Anything I can tell you about Sir Clarence on the off-chance that he was the one who sent my men to die?”

“Anything you can tell us about the rumors that he hunts sentient creatures for magic parts?”

“You mean the werebears. That group has been allied with this city since before there was a city.” The Left-Footed Man clearly disapproves. “I would tell you this—the people of the poor quarter are terrified of him. Be careful of the wards of the grounds—they’re hidden and potent. He’s not a normal mage.”

“Not a normal mage?”

“He is a powerful mage, but he is not normal. You see in the middle of the night his tower glowing purple—he’s summoning something. A few of the local youths were crossing over into his yard. They were found, but they were never the same. We only saw it from a distance way, but it comes in purple light, it’s winged, and it left the tower.”

Ulgorio asks, “Did it look like a harpy?”

“Y’know, they did say it looked like a harpy, but more vicious. But it wasn’t the first time we’ve seen the purple glow.”

If he were a necromancer, he could be summoning the spirits of the creatures’ whose parts he used. But he would have to be a powerful mage, at least 12th or 13th circle, in addition to being a necromancer.

Aleep says, “if you want, you might watch the money-changer. There may be a second attempt, and you might be able to get some licks in at those who set you up.”

-----
The group goes to talk to the money-changer and warns him of what they think is happening. That gives him time to go to the Guild of Mercenaries and Slayers to hire more guards. He is pretty concerned about the idea of attackers capable of making it past his stained-glass golem.

They then go to talk to Lieutenant Godwin.

Runor takes the lead. “Do you have any acquaintances by the name of Sir Clarence?”

“I would consider him more than an acquaintance, but yes, I know Sir Clarence.”

“What would you consider him?”

“An associate in keeping the city ruled in a rational and lawful manner.”

“We heard that you contacted a certain guild.”

“You use the tools that you have to hand, even if you must destroy them.”

“We suspect that Sir Clarence sent you to reach out to them.”

“The money-changer had some ill-gotten gold that belonged to Sir Clarence, and he wanted it back. I was surprised that the guild was so messy in how it handled it." Lt. Godwin pauses before continuing. “Were you hear a few years ago? Then you know that the city was falling into disarray. Why was this happening? Because we did not have strong governance. Now the Lord Mayor is better than he was, at least marginally competent. But a lot of it is Sir Clarence. He organized the mages, brought the trade back—we’ve established law and order, but more than a little was him. I’m more than willing to sacrifice some of the riff-raff that tear at the city to finally end the internal strife within the city that is mostly between the magi will cease.”

“To put things bluntly, we believe that he is not to be trusted and has sacrificed many people to find magical components to pursue his goals and think that he hurts good workers—not necessarily people I agree with—but kills people who were following his orders.” Runor changes subject. “Are you a follower of the Lord of Light?”

“No. I am a follower of Lord Sytry. Order must be maintained.”

“What does Lord Sytry teach about necromancy?”

“The dead must be left at rest. Not even the resurrection of our dead is permitted.”

Runor tells him some stories about hunting down the necromancers and their cult to build Lt. Godwin's support for them. The group then tells him that Sir Clarence has been implicated in necromancy, and that he hired the party to hunt creatures for their body parts.

Lt. Godwin is very troubled by this, and admits that he was a go-between to the guild from Sir Clarence. “Sir Clarence never said anything about his own faith, just that he was of Law. But necromancy? None of the lawful faiths permit that, except some followers of Paranswarm. This is very disturbing. I will investigate as well.”

“Do you know of any associates of Sir Clarence you do not approve of, but that he must associate with?”

“Yes. Some of the mages, and Lady Lillian of course.”

“Lady Lillian?”

“Yes. You would think that by now she would have been driven out of the city, yet there she is.”

“Who is Lady Lillian?”

“Lady Lillian was the widow of the old Doge. The Doge used to rule, with the Lord Mayor only a sinecure. She was regent when the old Doge died, and his son was too young to inherit. As the young Doge approached his majority, he sickened and died, and I’m sure she killed him. But even I have to tolerate her, so I may become guard commander and stamp out the heresy of chaos despite not being of the majority religion. But I can’t prove her guilt, at least not yet.”

Aleep speculates that this is part of a plan—to undermine the stability of the city, by causing the death of the last of the line of anointed nobles who ruled the city and maintained a stable government, thus setting up Sir Clarence to take over.
[End session 15]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 16 (November 1, 2020)

20 Zar
The group discusses what to do. Runor is worried that Sir Clarence is too powerful to take on directly, unless maybe they could fight him alone.

The whole group wants to investigate Lady Lillian further.

Ideas:
  • Talk to Church of Glordiadel about Lady Lillian
  • Talk to Left-Footed Man
  • Break into her house and search it; they decide to table this idea for the time being
Runor, Ashaltir, and Merreep go to talk to Church of Glordiadel while Bartix, Ulgorio, and Aleep go to meet with the Left-Footed Man.

Info from Left-Footed Man:
Lady Lillian loved her son; she married for wealth and power.
Son died of a wasting poison, maybe magic.

He was approached by an albino with midnight black hair, definitely not a Noldar, perhaps a tiefling, about three months before the Doge’s death, about killing the Doge.He suggests contacting the old servants of the Doge, including Timulthius, who was dismissed.

The bishop tells them that three merchant houses approached them about a change in the Doge. The bishop also thought Lady Lillian could not have killed her son, and had no motive to kill the Doge. He is very worried that this might have been a conspiracy, especially of Sir Clarence, who is not of the faith and a foreigner, and not well liked by the common folk though he has brought order. The Church and the common folk would both like a new Doge. He doesn’t know how the Doge’s son died, but knows that the church healers detected for poison and found nothing. The church healers tried really hard to save the Doge’s son, but could not succeed. He tells them where the Doge’s son is in the Doge’s mausoleum, and implies that he’ll turn a blind eye to them checking it out. He also hires the remaining PCs (besides Runor) to investigate for 200 sp.

They talk to Timulthius. He tells them: it was definitely a murder, because the Doge’s parapet was warded (mostly against intruders, but also creates a barrier against falls, a five-foot tall invisible wall of force); doesn’t know if the wards were broken or how, no wizard ever checked them. He suspects one of the three houses that pressed the Doge for major concessions, far more than they should have expected, but they had no agents in the palace, not even ladies in waiting. The three houses (out of 15) that pressured the Doge: Lithala (under Lord Postra Taka), Sran (Lord Divinder), and Fooblu (Lady Safana). He also mentions that he was fired by the House Head, Delbambi, for suggesting that it might have been a murder. Delbambi also insisted on being the only one to care for the young Lord as he was dying. He had worked for the Doge’s family for 40 years, and had no apparent social connections at all. But he would occasionally leave the palace late at night; the servants posit that this was for licentious purposes. Timulthius offers to give the PCs a letter of introduction to Lady Lillian to check out the wards if they want.

The PCs go directly to the Doge’s mausoleum. It has a lockable door, but was not locked. They entered, and immediately a lithe form that attacks Mereep; most weapon attacks are bouncing off of it. Merreep wounds it, but not as badly as would be expected; also, it’s not bleeding. Runor does some damage with an inflict wound spell.

It looks like a small child, and then it sinks its fangs into Ashaltir, but fails to drink her blood. Aleep blasts it with a Scorching Ray, and it slumps to the ground, mouldering.

They identify this as the Doge’s son, a vampire spawn.
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 17 (November 14, 2020)

20 Zar (evening/night)
They’re in the mausoleum of the Doge.

Runor searches the body of the Doge’s son carefully for bite marks, and finds a concealed, repeated wound in the calf of the leg, as if he were fed on repeatedly but with the attack concealed. Runor speculates that Delbambi might be a vampire. He also speculates that the albino figure who tried to hire the Hidden Guild to kill the Doge might also be the vampire.

Ulgorio suggests that they question Delbambi, but make him go outside for the questioning, with no shade. They also discuss finding out if Delbambi looks like a classic vampire.

They discuss the palace. The palace is defensible—it’s not a castle, but it is defensible, and most of the windows face into the courtyard and are heavily shuttered.

They put the body back into the casket, and they seal it up as if nothing had happened. They close the mausoleum back up, and then they travel back to their inn for the night.

21 Zar
They travel to the palace. There are public areas of the palace that they can enter. There are clerks at work, armed guards, and the like.

They ask one of the guards if they can meet Delbambi. “He’s a member of Lady Lillian’s entourage. You’d have to go to the private wing for that.”

The private wing is more heavily guarded. There are more guards, and a single clerk with a large book (and a set of books) behind a heavy desk. They ask after Delbambi. “He’s presently waiting upon the lady. He should be available to meet with visitors in the small sitting room in about half an hour, when the Lady meets with the Council. Is this a personal matter or business?”

“Personal.”

“Who shall I say wants to meet with him?”

“Adventurers.”

He raises an eyebrow. “Very well. I must say, he has many more visitors recently than he ever used to. Corporal, lead them to the sitting room and make sure a servant offers them tea and bread.”

After a while, an older looking gentleman, dressed in elegant clothing, with garters and leggings. Ulgorio can tell that in addition to wearing elegant clothing, he’s heavily made up, including enough base to change his skin color. “How can I help you gentles?”

“We were wondering if you know anything about the possible murder of the Doge’s son.”

“It was a disease, not murder. Not like the Doge's death. I feel absolutely confident that my master was murdered, but it’s not something to be bandied about. I do not see anyway that the spells on the balcony could have failed, to allow him to fall.”

“We were wondering if we could allow any sunlight into the room.”

“If her ladyship ever ends her mourning, yes, but while she mourns, she refuses to allow any windows to be opened, nor any mirrors to be left uncovered.”

“Can we go outside?”

“I won’t go about the city, but we can go into the courtyard.”

Aleep prestidigitates a mirror, which he uses to check Delbambi. He appears in the mirror. He also doesn’t seem to mind the sunlight, but he is clearly aged—he’s probably more than 80, but made up to look like he’s 60ish.

“We saw the doge’s son—he became a vampire spawn.”

“A vampire spawn? A vampire spawn? No wonder the priests couldn’t heal him. That damnable merchant. Not bad enough that he allied with that outsider.”

“What merchant?”

“Recently, some merchants sought to pressure the Doge to make changes that would hurt the city, and would hurt its standing in the trade federation. When I was a young man, the head of House Fooblu was a blood-drinker, but I thought he was destroyed—the Church sent hunters. You have earned your pay—which of the groups I approached sent you to investigate this? Never mind—you have brought me this information.” He hands them a gold sovereign. “I will pay you for your service. You must hunt down who is responsible.”

Aleep asks Runor quietly, “Can we accept his money as well?”

“It’s a different quest, a different goal, so yes.”

Runor asks, “Was there anyone else who would have regular access to the son of the Doge once he sickened?”

“Not once he sickened. He kept to his room, and I was the only one who brought him food and drink, and it was within the palace. That raises questions, doesn’t it… Will you examine the boy’s room?”

“It might be helpful to solving this.”

He leads us to a young boy’s bedroom. “I will remain without, so you can examine it more thoroughly.”

There’s a large bed. There’s a highboy dresser with hanging clothes and drawers. A chest, a window leading into the courtyard, and a couple of small rugs. Only one door enters.

As they look around, one of them notices that the wall behind the highboy isn’t quite even, as if there were a door. They move the highboy and they can find that it’s definitely a stone door.

Ulgorio asks Delbambi if he knows how to get the secret door open. “That’s not something that’s in the maps. I’ve studied the maps. This must be part of a secret escape path—I didn’t know that the palace had one. But I had no idea—and this has been a child’s room for generations.”

Eventually, above the lintel of the door, they find a stone that can be depressed just a little, which causes the whole door to move open a fraction of an inch with a click.

The door now can be pushed open.

“So… It was coming in and out of the palace through this. And draining the boy’s blood after I was going to my own rest. What will you do?”

“We must go in and find where it goes.”

“I will post guards. I must go back to wait upon my lady.”

“Does she ever go into the sun? The courtyard, or the parapet during the day?”

“Not while she has been in mourning.”

“We’re worried about whether she may have been attacked and turned as well.”

“I’m going to assume not…. But she went through no sickness. And if she had been turned, would he not already have control of the house? But tell me if the passage also reaches her chambers. If you find evidence, though, you must bring it to me. And not just me—the bishop must know as well. I’m not sure I would have the strength to act against the House if it were necessary.”

Father Runor prepares a note for the Bishop, reporting what they have found: "Doge’s son was slain by a vampire, Delbambi assisted us and is not a vampire, some suspicion about Lady Lillian, going to explore secret passageway into the Doge’s son’s room."

They secure stakes and 10 vials of holy water before going in, in case they meet up with the vampire, plus a small waterskin full of water from the holy font of the cathedral. They also get torches.

By the time they return, there are some guards looking official there. The guards don’t look very capable, but they’re dressed in pretty uniforms.

The passageway is about 5 feet wide, and it winds through the walls to stay concealed. After a while it reaches a peephole, looking into an unused bedroom. It then continues, splitting left and right. They go left. Ashaltir is in the front of the group, Mereep, Runor, Ulgorio, Aleep, and Bartix bringing up the rear. It goes perhaps 30 feet left, and then the corridor gives way to stairs down, still only 5 feet wide.

The stairs go down and then end at what appears to be an iron or steel door with a barred grate that can be seen through. Beyond it, they hear water running. There’s a locking mechanism that can be manipulated by hand—at least from this side. It opens onto a metal grate over moving water. The grate looks old and rusty. The water stinks—probably a sewer. Once the door is open, the grate goes in both directions—left towards the body of the city, and right towards the outer walls and wards and the bay the city is situated on (where the sewer probably empties). The group think that the main part of the city might be more likely to lead to Sir Clarence or House Fooblu. There are some tracks, mostly going left towards the main part of the city. Some did come from the right, though. (They shim the door.)

They continue to the left. They pass another steel door, but this one seems unused for many years. Then, suddenly several figures rise out of the muck to the right and fling a half-dozen javelins at the group. Runor and Bartix get hit by the javelins, which do damage and have poison on them. Runor makes his saving throw.

The attackers immediately sink back into the water. Those were definitely grippley. They are capable of remaining underwater for a long period of time, and moving around under water well, though not capable of breathing water. They tend to be mercenaries, though some are in service to various evil powers. They are also often cowardly. Aleep casts web, into the water and catching the whole area but not the walkway.

They travel on, seeing a thin greenish light ahead, both in the air and on the walkway as we approach, from the ceiling down. Aleep is pretty sure that it’s a magical barrier. It should also be at roughly the outer edge of the circle around Sir Clarence’s estate.

The group returns to the doge’s palace, and this time follows the path the other direction internally. The hidden doors are very obvious from this side. There are chain ladders that go up to upper floors. There are two more secret doors on this floor, that do not appear to have opened in many years. Both have peepholes; one enters an elegant bedroom with suits of armor decorating it. The other is obscured completely.
[End session 17]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 18 (November 29, 2020)

21 Zar (cont’d)
There are two chain ladders leading up, one at the end of the corridor and one in the middle. They climb up a chain ladder to a chamber with several piles of bedding, a pipe in, and some water pot. Under the bedding, there is a yellowing piece of parchment with a crest on it and a purse with 15 silver. They search the room some more. It’s pretty clearly a dead-end room.

They go back down and take the other ladder up, to a passageway that snakes around behind the walls of the third floor of the building. Runor keeps creating light with a cantrip, and Mereep notices tracks in the dust on the floor—recent tracks. They follow the tracks, and they pass two obvious secret doors that have nothing visible through them, clearly blocked, and then to a secret door through which the tracks go. Through the peephole, they can see logs on the far side of the room, leaning against the far wall. They finally figure out how to open the door and they wedge themselves around it into a large room, where something like a large bird is screeching at them. The logs are in fact large ballista bolts. There is a large door that leads through the lefthand wall. There is a large eagle chained to a stand, and screeching like mad.

Ulgorio casts speak with animals and talks to the eagle. “Why are you screaming?”

“Guarding! Guarding! Guarding! Guarding that door, and supposed to screech as loud as I could and peck whoever came through the door.”

“Who told you to guard the door?”

“Names are human things. The person who told me was human.”

“Was he a vampire?”

“Vampire is a human thing, too. He’s not a bat.”

“Was he tall and pale?”

“Yes, he was tall, and wore a very bland uniform.”

“Do you know why he told you to guard here?”

“No. He would feed me, then go through that door, then be gone for a long time, then come back and feed me again. It’s been a long time since he came through the door… I’m worried that he won’t come back. I’m getting hungry.”

They give him food to stop screeching. They also agree to free him.

“Did he have any strange symbols on his uniform?”

“Yes, something that was supposed to be a picture of a hawk. I don’t know why anyone would have a hawk when they could have an eagle, much more majestic.”

They show him the symbol of the house on the yellowing parchment, which has a stylized bird holding a sword, a sheaf of arrows, and a severed head held by its hair in its mouth; the eagle confirms that’s the same symbol.

Aleep works on the piece of parchment, trying to see if he can find any secret message or the like on it. Bartix picks the lock and frees the eagle.

“He said someone might come out through that hole like you did. But someone was supposed to come in when I screeched… but they didn’t.”

Mereep opens the door. It leads onto a crenellated parapet. There are some old ballista emplacements, but they don’t look like they’ve been used in a long time. The parapet goes all the way around the building. The entire center area is roofs of various parts of the palace, except for little buildings that stick up. The building next to us sounds like someone is sawing wood, but there’s no one going in and out of the building. They can also see legs sticking out horizontally.

The magic barrier is still up, making it impossible to fall. When they get to the place where the doge fell, the barrier is partially effective—you can feel it, then you can not feel it, then you can feel it again. The runes in this area—clearly within the barrier—have been deliberately obscured.

They look into the building and see three men sleeping, with empty bottles around them. They’re in the doge’s colors, and armed, but they’re drunk and not on guard.

They later find a second spot where the runes have been obscured. It’s not a spot that is commonly used. These appear to have failed from old age—weathered over time until they failed (although it could have been someone pouring acid on them). And here, there’s evidence that someone has climbed up and down on the outside. It runs down to a part of the hedge maze/formal garden outside the palace’s walls.

They head back out. The guards in the prince’s room ask us to meet with Delbambi, who left instructions for the guards to send for him when they re-emerged.

In the sitting room, Delbambi asks what they found. They show him the crest, which Delbambi identifies as House Fooblu. They also told him about the sleeping guards, and the person in the colors of House Fooblu who was coming in and out of the secret passageway. Delbambi says that he’ll see to it that the guards are disciplined and possibly replaced. Also, he says that he’ll have a mage repair and restore the wards on the parapet.

Delbambi asks if they’re willing to talk to Lady Lillian. They agree, and he leads them to a small chapel where Lady Lillian prays to Glordiadel for her son.

She seems very devout. They tell him that her son was turned into a vampire spawn, and then laid to rest. They also show her the crest of House Fooblu, and tell of the intruder. “There are not many males in that House. The grandfather, of course, was… The grandfather… Delbambi, summon the bishop. I cannot accuse them on the basis of a tall man wearing their crest. But I can invest you with the power of royal investigators throughout the city and the lands of the Trade Federation. If you can bring those responsible to justice, I can assure you that you will be well rewarded, and your fame known throughout the continent.”

They all accept this charge and are led to the presence chamber where she usually holds court. The bishop arrives shortly. Lady Lillian has Delbambi bring out her sword, which glows slightly but has a serviceable but worn handle. She calls for the group to kneel, and taps them each on the shoulder. She invests them as royal investigators and provides them with writs of authorization. The Bishop blesses them as well.

“Does House Fooblu extend beyond this city?”

“All of the houses have at least factotums in multiple cities. Some of the great houses, including Fooblu, have emplacements in multiple cities and are counted among the noble houses of each.”

Delbambi tells us to not hesitate to call on him, day or night, with information. They ask him how to find House Fooblu’s manor house in the city. He gives us instructions on how to get to their house—a shorter route skirts through Sir Clarence’s territory, but instead they go around. They come upon a well-appointed manor house. Guards in flamboyant uniforms patrol the area in front of the manor.

The group approaches directly and asks to see the Lady Safana as two guards cross their halberds to stop them. The guard demands why he should admit them, and Bartix says that they are investigating the death of the Doge and his son. He shows the writ of investigation from Lady Lillian.

“It’s genuine. We cannot bar your way. I will send someone to notify the Lady that you wait upon her for audience.”

They’re shown to a waiting room, and a considerable amount of time passes—enough that would insult a noble, but none of the PCs feel insulted. Finally, they’re led into the lady’s presence. The guards are more attentive than any of the guards at the Doge’s palace.

“The investigators from the Doge, my lady.”

“Enter and approach.”

(Aleep has prestidigitated a hand mirror, and is checking for people who don’t appear in the mirror. Lady Safana appears clearly.)

Lady Safana says that she knows all of the common knowledge of the death of the doge and his son, and that Lady Lillian seems to mourn deeply. Also, she knows that the Doge’s staff besides Delbambi is incompetent. “I can’t say I would know who would want to kill him. Certainly I wouldn’t. If my grandfather were still alive… but they did him in thoroughly.”

She happily strolls out into the square when asked, with a laugh. “I am not my grandfather. You see, young man, I do not fear the sun, though I do not worship its god. My house has followed the Lord of Orderly Darkness since the interregnum—the sun failed us, but the Darkness did not. It was the Darkness that covered our flight, the Darkness that protected us, and from the Darkness that we climbed up again.”

“Your servants wear bright and gaudy colors. Do any wear drab colors with your symbols?”

“Not anymore. That was my grandfather’s affectation. We renounced that voluntarily when we turned away from my grandfather’s way.”

They tell her about the witness’s report. “My grandfather brought this house low. That’s when we had to flee and hide, when we turned to Paranswarm. But the Bishop of Glordiadel reduced him to dust.”

“Is his body in the family crypt?”

“In the great mausoleum, in Easthaven. That is our traditional seat, though I prefer this city. It has more trade, and I like to keep an eye on my factor. But this place was bled far less than Easthaven by my grandfather and his spawn. I grant you my permission to check the mausoleums.” She offers them passage by a caravel in two days time, though they could ride there in the same time.

“Did you and some of the other merchant houses make demands of the Doge before his death?”

“Yes. He was tariffing goods unevenly, charging more for the families less closely aligned with his family. It created unfairness and made it hard for us to succeed.”

“Do you have any particular dealings with Sir Clarence?”

“Not like my husband did. He has been very kind to me since my husband’s death. The carriage horses bolted—I have never seen the like—and they were both trampled. My husband died, but Sir Clarence lived. We assumed they got spooked by something.”

Sir Clarence was not a coreligionist. She implies without saying expressly that Sir Clarence is not lawful, and she doesn’t know his religion. She knows he’s a mage, though of a different school from her, but doesn’t know his religion (or that he’s a necromancer).

“Do you have an heir apparent?”

“Not anymore. He went mad, suddenly. He is in Easthaven as well, under the best of care.” She asks that in Easthaven we check on her son in his sanitarium. She gives them 50 silver.

“Have the heirs of other great houses fallen as well?”

“Not in Easthaven, but there is a rumor the heir of Copervein has fallen ill suddenly as well. They have a younger one as well, but barely in arms. Copervein is primarily of this city.”
[End session 18]
 

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