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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
Session 19 (December 12, 2020)
22 Zar

The group travels to the cathedral again to meet with the bishop. They arrive during the rituals in the morning, and they can go to talk to him when the rituals end.

“We’ve come to ask you about the vampire head of House Fooblu.”

“That was a very unfortunate time, and an unfortunate circumstance. I was not bishop at the time—I was young. But he was ravaging the city at the time, at will, and the church sent a pair of paladins and myself to deal with it.”

“Go on with the story.”

“I was able to use divine power to turn him away from us, and then we were able to use a powerful artifact of the light to reduce him to dust. We still keep the artifact here in the reliquary. Any of the faithful may see where it’s on display for veneration.”

They ask to see it, and he leads the way. There is a case, magically warded, with a gold sun disk with a hollow center, with a burning glass in the center, incised with symbols of the church, which glows.

“We do not know why this fell to the Church to care for. Originally it was blessed to be used in battle, when a great knight died in battle with a mighty demon, that was also destroyed by its effect. I would have expected it to go to Tarkenia, but the knight was from this city, and it returned with his body.

“It reduced the body to ash, which blew away on the wind.”

“We were told that the body was taken to the mausoleum of the family.”

“There was no body—I can assure you it was not taken to the mausoleum.”

They discuss whether he might have survived.

“Were there other minions or spawn of his that might have survived?”

“He had two spawn at the time that we hunted down and destroyed. There have been no signs of him surviving or of more vampires since then, up until recently.”

The group speculates that either Sir Clarence may be the dead vampire, or may have resurrected or freed the dead grandfather.

“I can assure you the relic was and is real. But I wonder now if he might have used magical means to escape—but why would he not have defeated us then? He likely could have, but for the relic’s effect.”

The bishop is deeply concerned that Sir Clarence might have restored the vampire to undeath, but he doesn’t know if that’s possible.

“Perhaps a spawn escaped us. If it is him, he would have gained venerable power by now. But this one has definitely started to create spawn, whether him or otherwise. I do not know if they have yet gained enough control to pass in society.”

The group travels to House Copervein’s manor. There are ceremonial guards outside—they don’t look super effective.

They show the guard the writ. “We’d like to come inside to ask some questions.”

A house steward comes to talk to them. “We’d like to speak to the head of the house.”

“Of course. I’ll take you to his office.”

A man approaching middle age is sitting studying ledgers.

“They bear the royal seal, sir.”

He lays aside the ledgers. “Come in, come in. How can House Copervein help you?”

“We’d like to ask you about the sick heir of the House. We think it might have something to do with the death of the Doge’s son.”

“That was a horrible thing. You think my son is afflicted by the same thing? Great Lord of Light, do you think it’s a plague?”

“We think it’s vampires.”

“How would the Doge’s son know vampires? How would my son know vampires? Ferdinand, take the desk. Follow me. We’ll have to go into the House.”

He asks a maid where his wife is. He’s told that she’s in with the kitchen staff. “Can you tell her that I’ve taken some representatives of the Throne to see the boy?”

As they are walking down the hallway, Runor’s priestly senses leap into the highest alertness. Darkness falls over the hallway, as if the sun had been blotted out, there is a chill. And there is a shrieking howl that passes over them and away.

The lord of the house is now totally pale. “What was that? What was that? Why is this happening?” He rushes forward to the end of the hall, followed by the group, and rips open the door. As he rips open the door and starts to go in, a steel-shod spear comes straight through the door and into his shoulder. It does not look like a normal spear. He staggers back, bleeding, and slams into the opposing wall, and slumps down.

Mereep rushes up to the injured man—he’s nearly dead, blood gushing. She also sees men in the room—three of them heavily armored with spears. Runor rushes forward and casts cure wounds on the lord.

Aleep casts Lightning Bolt, catching two of the three. They’re both electrocuted and slump down with partly melted armor.

The last one drops his spear, pulls a dagger, and leaps over to slash the throat of the boy. Ashaltir slashes him with her sword as he steps away, staggering him with a holy smite with increased effect, but not quite dropping him.

The young boy seems either delirious or unconscious.

Ulgorio casts hold person on the last man, who freezes. Ashaltir immediately throws him to the ground and ties his hands behind his back.

The boy is still not responding at all. But in the lowest quadrant of his leg, there are toothmarks. His pulse is weak, but present, and he’s muttering to himself, obviously delusional. Bartix casts detect disease and poison, and there is a form of poison causing the delusion.

Runor casts a spell to remove the poison effect from the boy, who gradually, weakly, regains consciousness.

Aleep searches the room carefully for secret doors or ritual activity.

Meanwhile, Bartix begins interrogating the prisoner. “What is all this?”

“We came with the Master.”

“Who is the Master?”

“The Master is the Master, who else would he be? We follow and obey.” There is something unnatural about him.

“Does the Master have a master?”

“Yes…”

“What does the Master tell you to do?”

“Whatever he wishes. Often, we creep from place to place with him while he goes about his work.”

“What are you doing to the child?”

“He is converting him, to the true faith.”

“Who is the Master’s master?”

“A mighty prince, far from here!”

“Where exactly?”

A pause. “To the east. You have been to the east—I see its mark upon you.”

“How can you see the mark?”

“When one has been once to the east, the mark never fades.”

Ulgorio asks, “Where does your master live?”

“Somewhere you will never go, and live.”

“Is your Master or your Master’s master, possibly, Sir Clarence?”

“I cannot speak of such things.” (Bartix mutters, “It’s definitely Sir Clarence?”)

“What of the former vampire head of House Fooblu?”

“I cannot speak of such things!” He starts breathing heavily and shaking.

Aleep suggests that he may have a binding upon him, but that means that they are getting close to the truth.

“Do you have a spell on you that limits what you can say?”

“Yes! If I speak too plainly, it will tear me apart.”

“What is the true faith that you speak of?”

Heavy breathing. “The many lords of of the planes beyond.”

Aleep clarifies this means the Abyss, which means they follow the forces of Shadow.

“Follow? Or bound to by ties of blood.”

“Oh, are you a tiefling?”

“Yes.”

“And did one of you talk to the Left-Footed Man?”

“Yes.”

Aleep says, “I found a secret door!”

“I could have told you about that. Almost all of the old houses and great manors have secret passages.”

“What houses did you attack?”

“Only three were attacked. One was stupid and died, one was converted unwillingly to the true faith, and this one.”

They figure out that the second was the Doge’s son.

“The Doge was in the way.”

“Can you say who the third was?”

“House Velshoun. He realized what was happening, and he was a fanatic. He threw himself off a ship.”

“Where is the Master?”

“He returns to his crypt, to wait and grow in power. He has a magic that lets him travel during the day.” He begins twitching. “He has had time now to reach his crypt.”

Ashaltir casts protection from evil. It’s clear that afterwards, he will die from the bindings, which are too powerful for any of us to break and woven through his system.

Runor blesses him, and offers to hear his confession and bring him to Glordiadel. He confesses, horrifyingly.

At the end of that, he becomes dessicated and dies horribly.

None of the servants can be seen or heard. Lord Copervein promises to reward them, and agrees to bear witness.

“Where are the servants?”

A steward says. “I could not speak of it until they died. I fear the other servants are dead. They told me this was my last day.”

We look beyond the secret door—there are dead servants there.

“Why your house, the Doge’s, and Velshoun?”

“All three are in many cities. Ours and Velshoun here and in Easthaven. The Doge’s house in many of the cities, Easthaven and others.”

“We thought all of the houses had holdings in other cities.”

“Had. Now, it is mostly fiction. We trade among the cities. All the other houses only trade abroad. That’s where all the wealth is—trading what goods this continent has to other realms abroad, whence most of the wealth comes. All the wealth that enters this continent eventually ends up in the war effort.”

“So, those houses could, if turned to Shadow, bring down the whole trade federation, and that would cut off the supply of wealth and materiel that supplies the whole war.”

“I never thought of it that way, but yes, I suppose it does.”

Lord Copervein moves his son to a safer room, calls for the guards to equip with true armor, not ceremonial, and provides a reward: 100 sp for each, and a token of the family that will cause any in House Copervein to offer hospitality and support. Lord Copervein invites them to stay in House Copervein’s palace in Easthaven. He also has a weather mage there that they can consult if they need him.

They report back to Delbambi and Lady Lillian. They explain everything.

“And there were half-demons there, tieflings? I’ve heard of them. Well. You have done well. You saved the heir of a house. You proved your contention that vampires are involved. I will try to have delicate inquiries done about House Fooblu. We thought them uninvolved.”

We ask about the tariff discussion with House Fooblu.

“The issue is that certain houses’ stability in recent decades has been less robust. The Doge always paid the equal tariff with the other houses. But some doubted that, and if the tariffs were equalized, some of the houses would fail. We need all the houses to survive, for reasons that go beyond the oligarchy. Yes, some other houses paid lesser rates, but not because they were allied with the Doge, but because they could not survive the rates charged to House Fooblu and the Doge.”

“Do those houses that would not survive play an important role in the war efforts?”

“Yes. We need the central cities to take seriously that the border kingdoms and the trade federation cannot be the only ones fighting this war. But I do not think they will understand until demons are at their gates.”

They give the same report to the Bishop—he is horrified, as he doesn’t have the personnel to handle a major vampire here.
[End session 19]
 

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CPaladin

Explorer
Session 20 (January 9, 2021)
23 Zar
They set sail on the ship heading north to Easthaven. The ship hugs the coast, following it north. The first day passes peacefully.

24 Zar
Another peaceful day of sailing.

25 Zar
Another peaceful day of sailing.

26 Zar
Yet another peaceful day.

27 Zar
At the end of the day, they make port, still with no difficulties. The port of Easthaven is much less busy than the one they came from. There are a few fishing vessels, a couple of merchant ships in port, and the like, but it’s a quiet port. An inefficient port official checks the captain’s documents, and discharges them into Easthaven.

They head directly to the burial grounds. The mausoleums and graveyards are the only part of Easthaven that doesn’t seem run down. They are scrupulously well maintained. A watchman confronts them.

The watchman directs them to where House Fooblu’s burial grounds are, in the north quarter of the cemetery. There are a number of mausoleums, with various towering statues of various… divine beings, and various simpler grave markings. The markings on the graves are in an archaic form of Common. As they advance towards the present, there are fewer graves marked.

It was a slightly cloudy day when they came into the city, but it’s now windy and more clouds are blowing in, with lightning in the distance.

Aleep detects magic, and finds diffuse magic throughout the area—consistent with weather magic. Bartix also detects evil, finding five spots of evil. He approaches one and indicates the other four to the rest of the group. The ground then bursts open, and humanoid figures with lightning bolts around them and grayish-blue shadows about them emerge. “What do you do in the ancient burial grounds of House Fooblu?”

“We are here with permission of the Lady of House Fooblu.”

“Present the talisman of the house.”

They show the talisman and the figures fade away, and the clouds part.

The more recent tombs are distributed to the northeast, and the family must be both rich and arrogant to spend as much on the burial of the dead. Finally, they reach a tomb with burial dates in the last hundred years. There are the names of several members of House Fooblu on it—a married couple, and apparently their children. It is locked. Runor smashes the lock with a hammer. The first blow is glancing, but then the second smashes the mechanism. They pull the lock out, and open the tomb.

The tomb is ornate, and larger below ground than above, with the crypt expanding beyond the tomb’s footprint aboveground. With no warning, swarms of rats emerge from the walls and envelope Ashaltir, Runor, and Bartix. Runor gets bitten and has lice all over him. Ashaltir kills some rats with her sword. Runor tries to crush them against his body with his armor, killing some. Bartix rolls on the ground. Aleep casts sleep, affecting 22 of the rats, while Mereep flings some of the rats into the wall.

A man in ragged clothing appears from the back of the tomb. “Grave robbers! Grave robbers robbing my tomb! Killing my pets, the guardians!”

“Who are you?”

“I am Bernard! I am the guardian of this tomb. I and my pets. Once I was the servant of the great lord, but he died, and his wife, and his children.”

“Was he the vampire?”

“Yes, he fell into darkness and then death. He didn’t mean evil. But the one who meant evil, who used him, has come back. I sensed him walking outside—I can feel him. He was a greater vampire, and a sorcerer of great power. He came to House Fooblu as an ally, and then my master fell into darkness. I think he has corrupted the guardian spirits the sorcerers placed here. He always sought power. He sought power when I was a boy. He still seeks power, I’m sure.”

Greater vampires have many spells—almost as powerful as a lich, and able to appear as a human, even in sunlight.

“He came as an ally, but I did not trust him. He used the name Peter, but I did not believe him. There was something off about him. But my master did not listen, and he fell into darkness. He mesmerized my master, and then fed on him slowly. Once he had fed on him for some time, my master became a lesser version of him. And yet my master never harmed me, nor his wife, nor his children, though they have all passed.”

“Do you know where he kept his lair, this Peter?”

“I will tell you if you wish, but I fear that if you go there you will not come back. It is only a day’s travel from the city. It was once beautiful on that estate, we thought, but it was only an illusion. The bishop should pay more attention, I think. If you follow the trail to the old estate, they are supposedly abandoned. But I don’t think they are—I think he has come back, to try again. I do not know where he went in between.”

“Do you know anything about your master’s great-grandson’s ailment? We were told he went mad, suddenly.”

“That can happen if one resists the mind control of the greater vampire. I would be willing to bet he has been exposed—the same thing happened to the master’s wife. I do not know if it is permanent or if it can be cured.”
[End session 20]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 21 (January 23, 2021)

28 Zar
The group heads to the sanitarium where the son of House Fooblu is. The city was once greater than it is now, but it’s still a major city. The sanitarium seems unusually large for a city this size.

An attendant with a sun disk symbol greets them. “Checking in, or here for a visit?”

“Visiting the son of the House of Fooblu.”

“Ah, the young heir. He gets more visitors than all the rest combined! I’ll have someone take you to him.”

There are Glordiadelian nuns everywhere, from three or four different orders.

Young Lord Fooblu is sitting at a table in a private room, but he has a thin silver chain running from his wrist to a pole in the room.

“Hello,” says Runor.

“The sun rises.”

“We’d like to talk to you about any possible attacks or meetings with someone or some thing before this.”

“Shadows come, shadows go. They want to put a darkness inside me, but I will not have it. Shadows come, shadows go.”

“We believe that they put shadows into someone related to you, and that the one who tried to put it in you is still hurting others.”

“The darkness consumed, it will not consume me. They come and offer it over and over and over.”

“Do you know if they have gone to a different place recently?”

“The one who sends to me has gone to the capital. I tried to tell my mother’s steward when he came, but they do not trust my words. Have you ever been mad?”

“No.”

“In my stable moments, I do not recommend it. I wish they would stop coming. If they stopped coming, I think I might regain my mind.”

“We are determined to make it so.”

“He wants to rule. He wants to rule.”

“Do you mean Sir Clarence? Who do you mean by 'he'?”

“The darkness they want to put inside me. The one who wants to put it inside me is his servant, and he cannot enter here. So he sends his servants.”

“Where is he located?”

“In the cap—“ He goes into convulsions.

Aleep casts protection from evil. Two ectoplasmic entities literally pour out of him and attack us.

Ulgorio hits them with a cloud of dagger, and Aleep blasts them with a lightning bolt, destroying one. He also blasts the boy’s bedframe to bits in the process.

Runor casts a shield of faith on Aleep.

The remaining spirit attempts to possess Aleep, but Aleep resists the effort. The boy faints into Mereep’s arms. Bartix slashes the ectoplasm.

“Mercy lords, leave me incarnate and I’ll tell you everything.”

Bartix responds. “Well, then start talking. Why are you doing this?”

“I was commanded to after I was purchased.”

“Who commanded you?”

“A lord who I am compelled to not mention. He is to the south.”

“Was it Lord Clarence?”

“He didn’t compel me not to answer direct questions. Yes, it was! He bought a whole lot of us from a medium in a village south of the city.”

“Why did he do this?”

“Because the boy might tell things about being approached and offered great power to allow his great-grandfather’s spirit to live again in him. He refused.”

“Do you know anything about the vampire Lord of Fooblu?”

“He served a greater one, the same one that Sir Clarence serves. I do not know who that is.”

“Is Sir Clarence a greater vampire?”

“No, he’s a human. But he serves a master who is. And I think much of his wealth comes from that master. Oh, and he worships demons.”

“Do you know which demon lord he follows?”

“I can tell you what it looks like. It manifests a spirit form that looks like a giant worm. He summons a spirit form in his rituals.”

(The PCs speculate that that is Orlodu, the Worm that Bores Beneath.)

“Do you know anyone else who participates in Sir Clarence’s demon rituals?”

“I can give you an image. I don’t know their names.” He gives us an image of the people at Sir Clarence’s ritual. There are twelve of them, none of whom the group recognizes. “Sir Clarence does his rituals in the city. The place north of this city belongs to the greater vampire. He can’t leave his properties. Bound to them. But everyone knows not to go there—maybe really powerful adventurers could, but anyone else would be doomed.”

Runor provides funereal rites for the ectoplasmic image. A few chords of music sound, an orb of light appears, and the ectoplasm passes through the orb of light and is laid to rest.

The boy slowly regains consciousness. He looks around in a somewhat confused fashion. “I think I should thank you all, but I’m not sure why. Do I know you all?”

“You were just possessed, and we saved your life.”

“Well, then I should thank you. Thank you. Am I in the Easthaven sanitarium? It has that look."

"What do you remember?"

“I remember being asked if I would allow my great-grandfather to live again in me. He was an evil, evil man. So I refused, and I invoked my favored saint. Nothing is clear after that.”

They call for the priest and the chief nun.

Aleep and Runor come up with a plan to fake young Lord Fooblu’s death, and to bring the priest and the chief nun (a mother superior) into this.

The priest agrees to the plan. “There was a time when the old Lord Fooblu was a generous and a good man. But not towards the end… I remember that.”

“Do you know who has been visiting him?”

“We have a registry, yes. I always assumed it was because of his family’s influence. The Fooblus are wealthy people indeed.”

The group gets a copy of the registry.

They have a great deal of insanity in this area, focused around the greater vampire’s estate, but dating back before the greater vampire came. There have also been horrible cults springing up in the area, that practiced human sacrifice. They were stamped out.

The group sneaks out through the window. They resolve not to tell anyone in House Fooblu here, but Runor sends a Sending privately to Lady Fooblu telling her that her son is alive, that they have faked his death to protect him, and that she should play along and not let Sir Clarence know.

The group leaves young Lord Fooblu in the monastery of St. Dillygaff-in-the-Fields. They then resolve to head back to the capital.
[End session 21]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 22 (February 6, 2021)

29 Zar
They plan on heading back to the capital. They have a choice of going back by ship, by horse, or asking House Copervein for an escort. The voller tower is unused currently, and looks rarely used. The group decides to go back on horse, but with a cadre of House Copervein soldiers escorting the group and a single small wagon.

They arrive in the evening of the 31st of Zar. There is a raucous celebration going on, celebrating the Fall Solstice. The lieutenant with them seems very disapproving—he was highly religious—and apologizes to Father Runor for the circumstances that they must see.

Lady Copervein meets them in the courtyard of House Copervein as they arrive. The lieutenant reports to her. “The delivery.”

“I see. You have done well, and my friends return with you.” She approaches. “I’m glad for your safe return. Things have gotten interesting since you left. Lady Fooblu is in deep mourning and has her house shrouded. She intends to have a procession in his honor and memory. This has excited others. There has been more activity on Sir Clarence’s estate in the last three days than I have seen ever. I thought you should know. You’re welcome to seek shelter here. We are well aware of what you have done for us and you have our thanks.”

The group decides to report to their sponsors (Lady Fooblu, the Archbishop, and the Doge’s widow) and then to stake out Sir Clarence’s estate. They head to Lady Fooblu first.

The Fooblu estate is bunted in deep purple and black, and where everyone else is celebrating, this house is somber. “The Lady asked that you be brought to her on your return.” He shakes his head. “I hope the boy’s passing was peaceful. He was a good lad.”

“Thank you for all that you do,” she says, taking Ulgorio by the hand. She slips a small piece of paper to him in secret. She also gives each a small bag of silver (50 sp) to each of them. She talks nonstop, not giving us the opportunity to say anything until she’s sure we’ve gotten the idea. She then shoos the others out of the room. “Thank you, all, very much. Your news… you cannot imagine. I’m following your direction as best as I can. None suspect. I will make it up to my guards later for missing the celebration tonight. I am hopeful that we can… we are very fortunate that you came here when you did. Most of your stature are fighting at the line. I believe there is an incarnate demon loose in the city, and has been for two days now. If you wish, I can provide safety for you here. Or you could seek out the archbishop. But I am certain one is here, in human form. I maintain a medium, and they have let me know this.”

They travel to talk to the Archbishop, to warn him of the demon. En route, Ulgorio reads the note. “Friends, I have every reason to believe that Dame Belladonna of Irlu - who is in command of the harbor is in some way connected to Sir Clarence, my men saw her enter his estates twice while you were gone, without challenge.”

They make their way through the streets full of revelers, and reach the cathedral. They have huge trestle tables out feeding the poor of the city on the festival. A canon ushers them in and takes them to the Archbishop, Claude Flarvori.

“Lady Fooblu told us that Dame Belladonna of Irlu is connected to Sir Clarence.”

“She is in command of the harbor defenses!”

“Can you describe her?”

He does, and it matches fairly closely to one of the cultists they saw in the image with Sir Clarence.

Bartix tells the Archbishop, “A spirit that was under control of Sir Clarence showed us an image. It included Dame Belladonna and Sir Clarence in a demonic cult.”

“Very disturbing. But I can’t see how they could use the harbor—their ability in the water is very weak. But maybe if they were trying to smuggle something in or out.”

Bartix points out that Sir Clarence has grippley, which are sort of frog-hobbit hybrids, working for him.

The Archbishop pays them 200 sp, and thanks them for their service. He tells them that he has requested reinforcements from the Holy See, but that it will take time for Knights of Valor or similar forces to arrive. He asks them to continue working for him and to investigate Dame Belladonna. They agree.

They also tell the Archbishop about the demon in human form. The Archbishop says that he will notify the constabulary immediately. It will likely blend into the festival, among the people wearing fantastical costumes. The Archbishop asks the group to keep an eye out for the demon as well. He also says that he will quest for it with two church knights.

“If it is a servant of Orlodu, it is not a vrock. One of his greater servants could likely not disguise itself. So it must be a lesser servant, and cannot fly. If you find it before we do, and it seems a threat, do not engage. Raise the alarm and keep the people safe. Do not get yourselves killed.”

The group decides to wait until the morning to go to meet with Dame Belladonna.

1 O-Zar
The group travels to Dame Belladonna’s establishment, traveling past various snoring and disheveled people. The guards are bleary eyed and seem much less disciplined than the military around the Shadowline.

At the dock, the guards seem more alert. “Halt!”

Bartix shows the writ from the doge’s widow, and asks to see Dame Belladonna. The guard shows us to the harbormaster’s building.

There is no doubt when we see her that she was one of the cultists. She is in half-plate, sitting at a table, stringently questioning a man in merchant’s clothing.

The group waits for her to finish grilling him, and then greets her.

Bartix shows the seal. “We’d like to ask you a few questions if you don’t mind.”

“I can hardly refuse. But let’s make it quick.”

“Do you know anything of Sir Clarence?”

“He says he is a knight, though not of this realm, he maintains a sizable estate, which is a boon for the city, and he is no merchant though he engages in some minor trade. Why?”

“We suspect you have something to do with him.”

“While flattering, I have neither his wealth nor his power. And what do you mean by that exactly? Who are you, gentlemen?”

“Adventurers.”

She asks their names.

“Everybody in the city who hopes to get ahead has something to do with Sir Clarence, but I take it you mean something more sinister.”

“Evil plotting stuff.”

“You think I am plotting some evil thing. A take-over of the docks, perhaps.”

“Actually, yes.”

She laughs. “You are a bold one to accuse me of plotting vile take-overs with a man who is probably the wealthiest in the city, in my own duty station. You have the Doge’s seal. You could, theoretically, arrest me. But you would have to be able to prove a crime.”

“Of course, which we can’t do. Yet.”

She dismisses us.

“Aleep thinks, if Sir Clarence asked you to overlook some things, and you told us, that might just make you a witness if you told us, instead of a target if we found out separately.”

She remains dismissive.

They leave but ask some of the dock guards, “Are there any ships she insists on checking herself?”

“A few, ones that she doesn’t trust, and probably shouldn’t, that she does herself.”

“Any that arrived about two days ago?”

“Ayup. A bireme, heavily armed. Pirates, we think, but can’t prove it. The captain is onshore.”

The captain matches the description of one of the cultists. He is ashore currently.

Aleep casts detect magic and finds a powerful magic source on the deck of the ship, near the prow, along with a lingering magic in the hold.

The first mate, a chullik, says that the captain is crazy. “He has that strange stuff in his cabin. But I don’t think he worships it. But you think he’s in a cult, Father?”

The first mate has a tiny beaten gold sun disk on a chain around his neck.

They stop the gangplank, and ask the mate to take us to the captain’s cabin.

The upper deck of oars are shipped, and clearly used by the sailors. There are slaves chained to the lower deck. Slavery is illegal in the cities, but tolerated on ships if they don’t sell slaves.

In the captain’s quarters, there is a tiny statue of a marilith, which Runor immediately recognizes. It’s not Orlodu, but it might be a servant of Orlodu. It’s a demon statue. The altar on which the statue sits has minor lingering magic; there are various powders beneath that detect as evil, as well as an incense burner.

The first mate then leads us to the bow of the ship. “We obtained this from a strange merchant.” It’s a long rod mounted on a tripod. “If you stay near it too long, you start to feel weak.”

Aleep thinks it drains life energy through necromancy and then powers evocation magic. It’s not weak.

“What was strange about the merchant?”

“I’ve never seen something like that before, and I’m from a different plane before I came through the gate. It looked part worm and part man. The captain said that we would get to see it work after we left port this time. We had an important delivery to make. The captain took the special casket to wherever it is that he sells that, but said we would use the rod on our next trip.”

A very cringey man wearing the dockguards’ uniform is scampering in front of another man, dressed extremely well, and bringing him in this direction. The other man is striding along in speed, and is the captain of this ship. He is making as much speed as he can while maintaining his poise.

[End session 22]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 23 (February 20, 2021)

1 O-Zar (cont’d)
The captain demands that the gang plank be lowered immediately. The first mate refuses, because he is obeying the group.

Runor claims to be working for Sir Clarence. The captain sputters, saying that he’s always made his deliveries on schedule and asks whether we bear his mark.

“We do, but we’re too far away to show it to you.”

“Then lower the gang plank and I’ll show you.”

“Sure.” Runor says to the chullik, “Lower the gangplank, but be ready to raise it again at a moment’s notice.”

As the captain starts climbing the gangplank, Runor says “Raise it again! Don’t let him on.”

The chullik throws the gangplank overboard, and gangplank, captain, and all splash into the bay. Dame Belladonna has exited the guard house, and starts heading away onto the mainland after she sees the captain has fallen into the water.

The captain suddenly changes shape, shifting from the man he was to some sort of huge sea worm, which dives under the ship.

Runor says, “Full speed away from the dock.”

The first mate passes on the command, and the ship starts pulling away from the dock. The sea worm is paralleling the ship, but there’s enough wind that they think that with the sails set, the ship is faster. Runor orders the sails deployed, and then casts protection from evil at the water ahead of it. With the sails unfurled, the ship shoots ahead of the worm and out into open water.

Runor announces that he plans on claiming all the cult stuff, and then scuttling the ship. Aleep suggests that they give the ship to the first mate.

They take all of the cult stuff, including the strange weapon, and they search the hold. Runor, Mereep, and Ulgorio go into the hold. Bartix, Ashaltir, and Aleep stay on guard on deck, while the new captain unlocks the slaves at the lower oar-deck, partly to get himself some potential allies if there are problems with the rest of the crew.

In the bilges, in the back of the ship, there is a small chest, locked in place. There are emanations of magic and evil from the chest. Runor decides to carefully open the chest. He cannot help but notice a tag written on it some odd language. As he opens it, he sees a set of odd, mottled robes, from which the magical stench arises. There is a flash, and a crouched thing that looks sort of like a cross between a bird and a man appears.

“What is the word of passage?”

Ulgorio immediately says, “Swordfish!”

“No. You have two more tries. Oh, how delicious. A priest of light. A ranger of elf-blood. Fortunate I am today.”

Runor says, “Hmm. What is the answer to a mind-flayer’s riddle?”

“Mind-flayer? I am no mind-flayer. What are they teaching you in theology these days?”

Runor recognizes that it’s an immature vrock. “Oh, I meant an immature vrock.”

“Thank you, now you recognize my plumage. Now, you must make your other guesses. I cannot leave until you make your other two guesses—or unless you try to access the precious things in the chest that we’re bearing to Sir Clarence.”

Runor spends a moment confirming that the vrock is evil, and then casts Inflict Wounds on the vrock. The vrock is hurt substantially (15 hp, about a quarter of its hit points), and then releases a burst of poison spores. Everyone saves successfully and no one is hurt.

Merreep asks if the vrock could be freed, trying to make peace.

“I can only be freed by obeying my master’s commands. I was commanded to guard this chest from anyone who did not know the password.”

“Well, maybe we can free you.”

“You are no mage. How can you free me?”

“Maybe we can figure it out. Runor, might you have a spell to get this bird free?”

“Oh… umm… I’ll check.”

“Alright, I’ll stop trying to eat you while you check.” The vrock settles on the lid of the chest. “I admit, it’s much more fun soaring through the air of the Abyss that being bound to a chest.”

Runor says, “Remove Curse might work…”

“I guess we could give it the old academy try… Go ahead and try. I can always eat you later.”

Runor casts Remove Curse on the vrock. He tries to remove the binding on the vrock. Runor loses every spell he had memorized, as an angel takes notice. The binding dissipates.

“I’m free! You’re miracle workers. I can go home. I don’t have to stay here. Do you know what this means? Thank you, elf. Thank you all. I suppose I should warn you that the skull at the bottom of the chest has a dangerous spirit in it. It could possess you, especially now, and it won’t be as kind as I was.” In a flash of brimstone, it disappears.

They close the chest up and take it with them, along with the rod and all of the cults equipment. They also give the chullik a writ saying that he owns the ship now, and with the former slaves freed, he now outnumbers the sailors who might be a problem.

The group lands on the coast about two hours north of the city and hurries back to the city. Shortly after they return, a guard slips up to Ulgorio, and informs him that they should go to the palace.

They hurry to the palace. They are passed through immediately to the Doge’s widow. “I’m told my agents stole a boat.”

“Cultists.”

“I suspected as much. I hope you didn’t scuttle it.”

“We made the first mate captain, seized the artifacts of the cult, and sailed off.”

“I hear the fanciful tale that he turned into a sea slug. He did not look like one when he spoke to me.”

“That’s true. He may have other forms, as well.”

“Well, I sent one of my servants to follow him when he and Dame Belladonna left here, and they left together. The servant has not yet returned. Some form of lycanthrope or skinwalker. Wonderful. I am increasingly glad that I hired you.”

They explain about the artifacts they recovered, and that this was linked to Sir Clarence.

“You should take the cursed artifacts to the Church—they will be better suited to deal. We would be pleased if you would allow us to continue to retain your group. This is a trying matter to need to be in charge of the city.”

They agree, and she says that she will make them permanent agents of the court.

A young man enters. “They entered past the energy wall at the edge of Sir Clarence’s estate.”

“Well, that settles any doubt about his involvement. I would like you to probe the energy wall under ground—it may be weaker than the energy barrier above ground. If you can find a weakness or some way to pass through, you should be able to explore the grounds with only the monsters and traps to stop you. We need to get you inside his estate, and while he continues to play my friend in public, he has ejected our agents. I loved my husband dearly, but the military discipline of the troops here is less than it was.

“I have exchanged missives with my sister, though she is on another continent. She thinks this is a long-established chaos cult, seeking to topple the Trade Federation to weaken the war effort. I have few agents. Do not engage Sir Clarence. Do not endanger your lives. But find out what you can.

“If you can successfully bring low this cult over the coming months, I will knight all of you that survive. I cannot increase the salary, but I can offer you that, and there is land between the cities that you could claim at that time. You should bring the artifacts to the bishop to be cleansed or destroyed. He’ll know which to do. I must meet with the heads of the other houses, to see what we can do to increase trade. I wonder if this captain is part of the cause of the lost trade.”

She hands them each a sack of silver as they leave.

They go to the archbishop and are immediately shown in. “Oh, you’re back. And you’re carrying a chest, which drips with evil. I take it your mission was successful?”

“Our mission was horrifyingly successful,” says Runor.

“These are the items from the ship?”

“There are two items of note. This, which drains life energy from those around it and then uses it to release energy. And then, in here there is a skull with a fierce ghost inside of it.”

“Possession by touch?”

“Yes.”

“We’ve heard of these. That, on the other hand… Could you go and get the supplicant, please?”

An aide fetches in a novice in a pure white robe.

He raises two fingers to the young man in the robes, who is completely covered by his robe, and is much more slightly built than a human.

“Is this of your people’s?”

“No, it was not ours. This was at one time a Noldar death lance, but it has been altered. I do not know how. The gems have been stripped, and it has been changed to no longer be of psionic use, but to drain life energy instead.”

“Hmm. Perhaps taken from a fallen voller? We stop it from draining life energy, and then send it to the schola for further study.”

“We worry that Sir Clarence intended to use it, to power it.”

“If someone used these runes carefully, it could probably be used to drain life energy quickly from human sacrifices, and then be charged rapidly and used. If we needed any evidence of how twisted these people are… We will break it so that it loses its ability.”

The novice spins around. “Your eminence! No! I do not think you could break it, but if you did, it would release all the energy that it had absorbed at once. It is high glass—you would be hard put to break it at best.”

Runor says, “If we cannot break it, perhaps we can discharge it so that it would be less of a threat.”

Mereep and Ulgorio recognize that it is somewhat like a battery, and used correctly, could be used to power spells. But that would be energy drained from other people, so it might have strange consequences. The bishop offers to keep it in lead, but will let the group take it with them if they would prefer. The group decides to take it with them.

The skull and other items in the chest, he will deal with. The robes, alone among the items, can be purified without being destroyed. He offers to do that. They are robes of magical puissance—they strengthen spell casting while worn, at the cost of making you look like an idiot.

The Archbishop blesses the group (+1 on hits and saves for 24 hours).

The group plans to go in through the underground route after waiting to the next morning.
[End session 23]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 24 (March 6, 2021)

2 O-Zar
The group decides to head back into the sewers. To find a way in other than through the great houses of the city, they seek out the city engineers in the city government building.

They tell the engineers that they’re trying to find an entrance to the sewers, claiming that they’ve been hired to deal with an outbreak of oozes. They’re told that the easiest entrance is by the Seagate, but there’s also one on the market square, one near Sir Clarence’s tower, and one by the Farmgate.

Runor suggests breaking the entrance near Sir Clarence’s tower. Aleep suggests that we have it watched instead, to see who goes through.

The group discusses impersonating a different group of adventurers, and bringing a delivery of fake werebear claws to Sir Clarence’s tower. They discuss infusing the necromantic magic from the death lance into the fake werebear claws. They go to the Archbishop to see if he can help them move a curse onto the werebear claws.

The Archbishop asks, “Are you certain that you are ready to take on a mage of that sort of power?”

Merreep says, “That’s why we want to weaken him first. And we’ll be disguised so he won’t recognize us.”

“I urge you to be extremely careful. But yes… I recognize that he is a danger to the city, though that was difficult for me to acknowledge. And I hope…”

“You hope that we mostly know what we’re doing.”

“Yes. Yes. But it seems terribly dangerous to me, and you have been so successful, that I would hate to see you get yourselves killed.”

The group decides to try a practice run—perhaps selling a fake werebear claw without any curse on it. The group disguises themselves, using Ulgorio’s skills, and Aleep using an Alter Self spell.

There is a large building on the map next to Sir Clarence’s estate. The archbishop says that Sir Clarence had it built after he moved into the tower. It appears to be a warehouse of some sort.

The group heads over to the edge of his territory, where there’s an energy wall. There are guards near the inside of the barrier, which pulses with energy. The majority of the people avoid this area completely.

Merreep calls out to the guards, “Hello?”

“What do you seek here?”

“We have something for Sir Clarence. A werebear claw.”

“Ah. You’re here to sell parts.” The guard nods. He makes a gesture and an area of the wall becomes translucent. They go through, and he tells them to wait in the pavilion.

Aleep tests the lower the wall gesture and the raise the wall gestures, and they work for him as well. They are apparently just key worded gestures.

Ulgorio notices that there are a ton of guards in here, many more than we would expect.

Eventually, an officer or clerk in robes, but with a knife at his side, comes in.

“We have a claw for Sir Clarence.”

“On the table.” He puts on a loup. “Probably regular bear claws, passed off as werebear. But we can still make use of those. Here’s 5 silver. We’ll pay 3 silver for each bear claw, 4 silver for wolf paws, and 2 gold for any actual lycanthrope parts.”

“And then we could proceed?”

“We do our purchasing here except for Sir Clarence’s special agents. And his special agents tend to get greedy and overreach. You’ll do better in the long run if you don’t get greedy.”

He leaves.

We ask a guard about the large, well-built building. “That’s where we all stay. Poshest barracks I’ve ever been in. Of course, part of it’s for his special shipments.”

“How many of you are there? Is he looking to hire more?”

“There’s 160 of us, and I think he’s hiring more, but he isn’t hiring local. We were hired on Khamista, after the wars in the White Mountains ended and we needed more work.”

“So are you mostly Paranswarmian then?”

“Most of us, aye. Don’t know why he doesn’t hire from his own faith—it’s a Glordiadelian city. But we don’t ask questions, because he pays well.”

After they depart, the group discusses plans to break back in, defenestrate Sir Clarence, and then escape in the chaos. The plans are at best half-baked. They also discuss testing the gestures that raise and lower the barrier in the sewers and decide to head in through the Farmgate entrance, so that they’re as far from Sir Clarence’s tower as possible.

After removing their disguises, they make their way through the sewers from the Farmgate entrance. They then make their way through the sewers, though a different part from where they were before.

As they head through the sewers, Runor notices a patch on the walkway that is a different color than the rest and has many holes in it. Runor grabs Merreep and stops her. It’s bright green and full of holes, but it’s ten feet in width.

Runor casts mending on the area with the holes, but nothing happens. He then tosses a rock over it, to see if there’s any response. There is none. He then tosses a rock onto the walkway, and it plunges through into the sewer below.

Aleep jumps past. They throw a rope to him, but the back end hits the green area and immediately dissolves. He secures it to a rung on the wall. He then throws it back to Merreep, who ties it off on her end, and then run a rope harness around Ulgorio, who then makes his way across. They then get the rest of the group across, with Aleep jumping back to help secure it.

Having successfully bypassed the green slime, they then proceed forward until they reach the edge of the energy field. The gesture to make the barrier lower doesn’t work from outside. Merreep touches the field—it tingles, but it is weaker. Aleep checks whether the barrier continues under water. It does not. He swims under, then lowers the barrier. It works, and in fact basically disappears entirely down here. He crosses out and brings it back up.
[End session 24]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 25 (April 3, 2021)

3 O-Zar
The group decides to infiltrate Sir Clarence’s area, claiming to be newly hired mercenaries, fresh off the boat. They come up with a backstory—they were hired in Tarsh, and they’re Tarshan mercenaries. Aleep uses Alter Self to look like a Tarshan human sorcerer, and Runor pretends to be a warrior and hides his holy symbol. They get rucksacks from House Copervein to make it look realistic.

As they draw near the barrier, we see another group of seven men, who look like they also got off of a ship, but are clearly from the north mountains of Khamista. The group talks with them, and blends right in—we know that they’re hiring mercenaries from all over, and they seem to think that makes perfect sense.

At the barrier, the others say that they spent five years in service to the Queen of Black Ice, but took to the mercenary life when discharged.

The party is told that they need to pick from among themselves an officer after they tell their story about coming from Tarsh. The group picks “Brunhilde,” who is actually Merreep. They’re sent to the barracks to check in and got assigned a barracks room. Everyone seems to totally believe that they’re Tarshan.

They ask the sergeant if they’re expecting fighting soon, and he says he wish he knew, but that the master has started hiring a whole lot more soldiers recently. Also, he mentions that the city militia isn’t worth a serious threat. They’re told the captain will be along later to review them—the group assumes that’s when they would get issued the tabards that serve as uniforms. The sergeant says that they’re going to form up companies, but Sir Clarence doesn’t seem in a hurry to do that.

The group splits into pairs—Runor and Aleep; Ulgorio and Bartix; and Merreep and Ashaltir—and goes looking for soldiers who are hanging out and gambling, so they can blend in and listen for gossip.

Runor and Aleep join a card game and throw some money around, deliberately losing a little. They totally fool the White Mountain soldiers that they’re from Tarsh, although the mercenaries want to gossip about things going on in Tarsh, which Runor and Aleep very much don’t want to talk about, because they don’t know much. When the other players mention the corruption of the former Tarshan emperor, Aleep asks if they’ve done any work for the Inquisition, and they say yes, but that right now, they’d rather work jobs like this instead of walking into the dragon’s maw with the Inquisition. They are all clearly Paranswarmian. Aleep, in his guise as Helmut, asks about whether there are chaplains, and they’re told there aren’t any official chaplains, but there are some priests in the corps of mercenaries. They conclude that Helmut must be devout, and Aleep plays along, making the sign of the downward arrow. He asks where he could find a priest, and they tell him, accepting that he would want to see a priest after a long boat ride.

Ulgorio and Bartix join a different game. They hear that some of the officers have been talking and saying that Sir Clarence wants to become doge and displace the dowager dogaressa, who is acting as doge. Given the quality of the guard, and the size of the barracks if it fills up, the mercenaries think it won’t be hard for them to take over the city, and then there may be good work as the new doge’s guards.

Merreep and Ashaltir join a third game. They ask where the forges are, and are told that it’s in the fourth subbasement—the barracks goes below ground many levels, almost to the storm drain, and then extends towards the tower. They’re told that the barrack is supposed to be primarily a warehouse, and if they go out in the city “to support the dowager dogaressa in patrols” they should say that it’s a warehouse. They ship in lots of supplies, but immediately ship out to the east anything except for food, which goes to the kitchens, and metal ingots, which go to the forge. There are also some special storage rooms below ground. They assume the barrack rooms below ground were built in case they hired orcs, but they don’t seem to have needed to.

The party regroups and discusses what they learned. Aleep suggests a risky plan: he could go to a priest, and pretend to have seen something demonic associated with the person who hired them, to see how he responds. In part, this is to possibly see if they could flip parts of the army by revealing that Sir Clarence is in league with demons. The group thinks that this is a good idea. They also think that the dogaressa should be warned. Runor and Ashaltir are unwilling to receive Paranswarmian blessings, so they decide to sneak out to warn the dogaressa while the rest of the group goes to talk to a Paranswarmian priest.

They find the priest as they were told, with a group of Mandrathian mercenaries. As they approach, the group calls over their officer, who has robes on under his armor and a visible holy symbol of Paranswarm and is clearly a priest. They tell him that they are newly arrived and want a church service, and he immediately leads them to a field altar that he has set up in the Mandrathian barracks room. He performs an abbreviated but complete Paranswarmian church service. The priest asks if they have anything to confess, and Aleep says that he is worried about something that he saw. He tells a story about seeing the altar and marilith statue (that they actually saw in the captain’s quarters) in the inn room of the person who recruited them to work for Sir Clarence, having inadvertently seen it through an open door. The priest buys it completely and is very concerned, identifying that as a demonic altar. He says that Aleep did nothing wrong, but that he was right to tell them about it and he will discuss it with the other priests. He also tells them that they can always come back to that unit with any needs. He gives them his name as Captain Bernardo, or Father Bernardo if they prefer. (They also cover for Aleep’s strange way of talking by claiming he had an accident with a horse.)

As Runor and Ashaltir try to go to talk to the dogaressa, they get intercepted by a junior officer, who tells them that there are already as many troops as are allowed in the city, and they can’t go outside until others return. They play dumb, and the officer asks if they’re part of the new group, and they say they are. The officer accepts that they just didn’t understand, and sends them back to the barracks.

They then try to find their way into the sewers. The sewer grates are all heavily soldered in place and are very secure. They decide to go down into the basements of the barracks to see if they can find a connection to the sewers. They make it down to the fifth sub-basement where there are some very quiet people pushing around some wheelbarrows and the like. They say nothing. Runor finds a door that leads into the sewers, to a familiar looking platform, but farther in than they have gone previously. They find the barrier, drop it with the gesture and make their way to a sewer exit. Some people see them exit but are only moderately surprised. They ditch parts of their disguise, and go to the doge’s palace.

Runor tells the dogaressa that they think there is a coup in preparation. She is shocked, but believes him. She says she will immediately send for troops from East Haven, as well as for the archamaga there since there is no powerful mage in this city besides Sir Clarence.

Having made their report, Runor and Ashaltir return through the sewers, re-entering the barracks and meeting up with the rest of the party in their barracks room.
[End session 25]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 26 (April 17, 2021)

4 O-Zar
They go to the mess in the morning. An older, graying man in trim armor with the emblem of Vitrix-Henoxi stamped in his armor, approaches.

“An interesting group, an interesting group. What has led you here?”

“Brunhilde” answers. “The job offer seemed good enough.”

“It pays well, and we don’t ask questions. Have you been a mercenary long?”

“No.”

“Neither have I, but there comes a time, there comes a time.”

“What did you do before you were a mercenary?”

“I was a member of the guard of a kov in Hanal. My kov is no more, and so I became a mercenary. I brought my troops with me, and here we are. Do not take any work in Hanal,” the captain cautions.

He signals a lieutenant over, who issues them tabards and tells them they’ll need to show their skills in a room down the hall.

“Do you know where we can find out more about what we’re doing?”

“Nobody knows, though most of us suspect that we’re going to be part of an effort to overthrow the city government.”

“That’s what we’ve heard, too.”

“We’ve heard that Sir Clarence may not be as Paranswarmian as he seems.”

“My captain suspects this, too, and it troubles him. But the pay is good, and what can we do?”

“Is your captain head of all of us? Does Sir Clarence have his own man or woman as head?”

“He has a captain of his personal guard, but he leaves the mercenaries to ourselves. Captain Goddard is the most senior and experienced officer among us, so he was put in charge of all of the mercenaries. Only the Mandrathians are even close in experience. We fought our way all the way back to the kov’s citadel. He then ordered us to leave and to take his child to safety, but they tracked us with hounds—and things that were worse than hounds. It was terrible. The child did not make it, but we did. And so we came here, and that dreadful experience put our captain in charge.”

They go back to the room. Since Captain Goddard seems devout, they think that if they could prove Sir Clarence is in league with demons, they could turn him and the Paranswarmian priests.

They talk about it, and then Runor suggests scrying on Sir Clarence with Clairvoyance—perhaps tonight, when there are propitious moons for summoning. We think about the tower, which has a top floor with windows that bulges out from lower tower. Runor decides to try a test run, and he casts Clairvoyance. He sees an opulent room, with runes around the walls that he can’t see clearly, even through the Clairvoyance. The puce carpeting seems to be undulating, which might be a trick of the light. It’s very think carpeting. There is a variety of alchemical equipment, some of it on a thin table, covered in puce cloth, on a three step dais. There is a curved knife on the table and some other odd things, though no statue.

Runor switches to listening, and he hears a murmuring of voices. He can’t make out anything they are saying, but the sound is disturbing and seems to confuse him a little. He easily makes a Wisdom save. It seems to be coming from the floor, somehow.

Runor switches back, and after a little while, he sees a small faun or goat enter the room. It prances across to the table, seeming to be careful to only step on certain spots. Runor makes a map of where those spots were. When it reaches the low table, it transforms into a brown, 4-foot tall creature with fur, a bulbous nose, and wings. He recognizes it as a quasit. It picks up an alembic, with a viscous red liquid that swirls in it, and then carefully prances back out.

Shortly after the Clairvoyance expires, a sergeant tells us that in two hours we need to go to the display room to show off our martial ability and get our regular duties assigned.

The group discusses, and decides to tell the priest of Paranswarm, Father Bernardo, during the time in between. So the whole group goes to see Father Bernardo. Runor decides to pretend to be a not very religious follower of Dain, to explain why he doesn’t want any blessing.

The group pretends that “Helmut” scried on the room instead of Runor. “Helmut” describes what Runor saw, being careful to describe the quasit in detail. Aleep points out that it is a Lesser Festival of Mists tonight, which is magically powerful.

The priest says that the liquid could be red mercury, which some alchemists purify to create the elixir of life. Theoretically, it can be used to live forever, without needing to become a lich. He also says that the creature could be a quasit, which means that Sir Clarence might be working with the Ruinous Powers. He resolves to cast his own Clairvoyance. He tells us to come back after nightfall to discuss with him.

The group then goes to the display room. They see the captain behind a table, along with the mage clerk that they sold the bear claws to. They hope that the disguises fool him, but the mage doesn’t seem to be paying much attention and wasn’t at the previous occasion, so doesn’t notice that he might have seen us before.

“Each of you must demonstrate… wait, is that a lyon of Paranswarm?”

“We don’t know, she took oath not to speak.”

“Oh, she must be then, only lyons take oaths like that.”

“Each you must demonstrate your martial expertise so we can see what we’re capable of.”

The group talks among themselves. Aleep asks Brunhilde whether he should give a good demonstration, okay, or bad. She says good to impress them, so he casts a fireball that explodes overhead in the cavernous room stopping about five feet above their heads.

The mage suddenly takes a keen interest, and watches everyone carefully, examining the group.

“Magnificent! These would be wasted on patrols in the city, wasted in guarding the underways. We must find a better duty for them. They are brilliant, brilliant," says the mage.

“They are. What do you suggest?”

“The Master has asked me to find a group that could take a special shipment from Westhaven and return. I think they could do it.”

“The lord of Westhaven is no friend to our master.” The Captain’s lips curl as he says the word “master” as if it is distasteful. “But the lord of Westhaven does have great respect for adventures… Very well. I will instruct them personally and send them on the mission. You can tell your master… the master… that they are the best of the lot, and I will send them on the mission.”

The captain speaks to the group after the mage leaves. “I know that you have taken Sir Clarence’s coin. But as your commanding officer, I would take it as a personal favor if you somehow accidentally saw what was in the shipment. We normally send things to the border—we send food and things of value to the border. It is strange that something would be sent from the border to here, and for some reason, Sir Clarence does not want it sent with normal guards. I can send you with a homing pigeon. The master of the roost has been with me for a long time.”

He then wants them to leave immediately. We ask to see Father Bernardo before we leave.

Father Bernardo sighs. “You are correct. I watched part of a very unsettling operation. He is producing elixirs of life in very small quantities. With enough, he could immortalize himself. But he is doing it with the assistance of demonic powers. That was a quasit you saw. And it’s not the worst. I saw a vrock in the tower as well.”

“A vrock?” Marreep asks.

“A nasty buzzard demon.”

They tell him they’re going to Westhaven. He says that if they are not back in a fortnight—which they should be—he will try to convince the three cleric-led groups to decamp.

Helmut says, “Helmut think you might talk to Captain Goddard, too. Captain Goddard very devoted to dragon-saint.”

“Yes, he’s asked me to bless several things in the little time I have been here. This is a good idea.”

On the way out, they sneak over to the Dogaressa’s palace, to tell her about the situation and that there may be groups of mercenaries leaving Sir Clarence’s service soon that she might be able to hire.
[End session 26]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 27 (May 2, 2021)

5 O-Zar
They head out to Westhaven, on horseback. The first day of travel is in heavily patrolled areas. Initially, we see as many people in Sir Clarence’s livery as in the Eastern Trade Federation’s livery. After half a day of travel, we only see Eastern Trade Federation guards, but they continue to look very sloppy. After they’re clear of the city, they take off the tabards of Sir Clarence, but remain in disguise, just in case.

6 O-Zar
Second day is uneventful. They don’t even see patrols.

They camp in a reasonable seeming field.

7 O-Zar
Uneventful travel.

8 O-Zar
Uneventful travel.

9 O-Zar
Uneventful travel. By the end of the day, the density of the farms has increased; there are tinkers traveling among the farms. The group draws some attention.

10 O-Zar
After a half day of travel, they reach the city of Westhaven. Westhaven looks much more military than the other cities of the Eastern Trade Federation. The walls are well maintained, there is a heavy steel gate which stands open, and there are smart looking guards at the gate. They wear the local city’s colors.

They’re asked their business, and they report that they are here to pick something up.

“You’re picking up from the warehouses of Master Finaster, then. Finaster’s warehouses are on the farthest quarter of the city, by the Intake Gate at the west edge. They’re the largest warehouses in that area, and they have sigils on flags nearly the same as those on your uniforms.”

The guard finishes with a banal invocation of Glordiadel, to which Aleep (posing as Helmut) responds, “And may the Lord of Darkness keep you Orderly.”

The group then bickers a little as they walk away about whether that was a good or bad thing to say.

This is a good sized city. As they travel through the city, a young lad wearing a sash with the city’s emblem. “The captain asks, that after you have attended to your duty, you meet him at the Tavern of the Six Bells, for a drink and conversation.”

The group hurries on to the warehouse. The warehouse was clearly unused for a long time, but it was whitewashed recently. There are a handful of men in armor outside of it, and a man with a clipboard hurries out to talk to you. “Hail there, ye group. You have business with Master Finaster’s warehouse?”

“Yes.”

“Who do you represent?”

“Sir Clarence.”

“Ah, one of the Master’s favorite customers. Has his own section in the warehouse for trade in and out. The Master will want to speak with you personally. Sir Clarence is very particular—had one of his own couriers drawn and quartered for losing a shipment.”

A well dressed older man hurries out when a bell is rung for him. “Are you here for Sir Clarence’s special package? You’ll see that the seals are undisturbed. It will be nice to have my two guards who were guarding these specific barriers.” There are lead seals with sigils on it.

Aleep casts detect magic; almost all of the sigils have divinatory magic on them, except the one nearest the lock on each, which has summoning. They appear to be just to prevent the caskets from being opened. The contents do not detect as magic, and they can detect through them, so there’s no barrier in place to stop detect magic.

Runor casts clairvoyance to look inside one. Inside the casket -- half of it is filled with carefully packed and sealed glass phials full of a liquid the color of brown smoke. The other half of the casket is packed solid with brick sized, tightly packed brick shaped objects that are stacked like bricks would be. These brick shaped objects are the brown of dehydrated plant matter.

When they start moving the crates, Master Finaster (who had hidden during the magic casting) comes back and has “Brunhilde” sign the bills of lading, which she does illegibly.

The group goes to the Tavern of the Six Bells with the caskets, which weigh about 80 pounds each, planning on getting a room at an inn to try to investigate the caskets further. The Tavern is a middle of the run place. The captain of the gate guard is sitting alone and waves us over. “I did not know that you’d come, but I’m glad that ye have. Take their orders, all on the tab of the good Lord Lydell.” He taps himself. “My master.” Lord Lydell is the head of the lead house of the city.

“Sergeant Brunhilde, are all of your men Paranswarmian like Helmut? I could not help but overhear his response to the guard at the gate.”

“Yes.”

“What do ye see in your service to this man?”

“Mostly, it’s money.”

“I tell you in my heart, that I cannot prove anything about the man, but there is no one here who does not shudder when he deals with them. He came here from the west. He’s been here a few times. Master Finaster seems to owe him a debt. But every single liegeman he has sent here has been a servant of the Lord of Orderly Darkness—a respectable sect, though not mine. I understand why he hires you—you have the reputation as the most lawful of all sects. You will obey without questions.”

“I urge you to be careful. One of his liegemen dropped an item. Broke something. Sir Clarence had the man executed in a particularly egregious manner. His incoming shipments have been getting bigger. His outgoing shipments remain the same—weapons and food for the front. But the incoming shipments keep growing, and the money for the warehouse has to have come from Sir Clarence. Finaster was a two bit merchant before Sir Clarence came.”

He describes Sir Clarence as extremely pale and emaciated. Sir Clarence dresses in either the most ostentatious of wizards robes, or as a rich merchant, with padding to conceal that he is emaciated. He had a thin face when we met him, but did not seem thin otherwise.

“Brunhilde” says that we don’t trust him either. She also mentioned that he was hiring a large number of mercenaries, for an unknown purpose.

He thanks us and suggests the Strangled Goose for good rooms.

The group eats dinner on Lord Lydell’s tab and then goes to take rooms in the Strangled Goose.

In the suite, Runor carefully cuts a hole in the side of the casket. He pulls out a potion and a brick.

Aleep recognizes the smokey liquid as a diffusible poison—very potent, and capable of being spread through water and remaining effective.

The bricks are tightly packed, dried vegetable matter. Ashaltir tells the rest of the group that they emanate evil and chaos. Ulgorio notices inside the chest a folded piece of parchment. He pulls it out. It has writing on it, and as he holds it, his fingers tingle, as if electrical charges running through them.

Ulgorio lays it down, open, and reads it. The parchment says:

Sunsha'ill -- I am pleased to send you this shipment of death poison from the 9th layer and also a considerable lot of dried grasses from the plains of the 317th layer to be used in slowly influencing herbivores that you give small bits to so that they become destructive and violent.

I hope that your plan works well - we will have victory, the turning will come.
Ish'ill-tuvan

The names look like demon names. We’ve never heard anything like them.

Runor repeats the process of cutting a small hole in the other chest. The chest has more bricks, and more vials, though the vials are a slightly different color. Aleep describes this as a bizarre long-term delay poison.

The group prepares a message for the captain: “We have discovered half poison, half Abyssal hay, sent by (and to??) demons.” They send it back via homing pigeon.

They then put the items back in the chests, and use a Mending spell to repair the holes, leaving the caskets unmarked from their investigation.

In the morning, they’ll start the trip back.

[End session 27]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 28 (May 15, 2021)

11 O-Zar
They awake in the Strangled Goose, and prepare to head back to the Eastern Trade Federation capital.

They approach a nest of venomous snakes, but Merreep spots it easily. They avoid it, although Runor casts a neutralize poison on the snakes just in case.

At the end of the day, they make camp and the night passes uneventfully.

12 O-Zar
Day and night pass peacefully.

13 O-Zar
Day passes peacefully.

At night, they see huge numbers of fireflies flitting around. They also hear distant carnival-style music. A certain number of the fireflies appear to be dancing in time to the distant music. Runor recognizes that the Violet Moon is full, along with the Silver Moon, and he concludes they are likely tiny fae instead of fireflies.

Shortly after moonrise, a tall, slender figure, with barely pointed ears and violet clothes steps into the camp.

“Hail, well met in the midst of the woods in the midst of the night. I must ask, because if I do not ask the Lady will ask: Why does such a band, bright in the light, travel in the raiment of darkness, and carry with you abomination?” They think that it is a sidhe lord, though they are not sure.

“We’re trying to prevent something bad that might otherwise happen.”

“Ah, but you have not said why you travel in the raiment of darkness.”

“We actually made camp, so we’re not traveling actually.”

He laughs uproariously, and then decides they should dance, levitating part of the group up into the air and setting them to dancing. They all dance for an hour and then float gently to the ground, exhausted.

He then says, “I don’t think you know that you are drizzling chaos and evil behind you.”

“We are?” they ask, actually surprised.

“Yes, I was sure you didn’t. If you had, I might have had to draw my swords—you know how it is. I will cure that before I go.” He draws a sigil on each casket with a crystal blade of grass. “Do not worry—the one you deceive could not recognize fae magic to save his life. Not that it would.” He then leaves to attend on a group of chipmunks that are awaiting him.

14 O-Zar
Day and night pass peacefully.

15 O-Zar
Day and night pass peacefully.

16 O-Zar
Expecting to arrive at the city this day, the group puts on their outfits. The morning passes uneventfully, and they approach the city on horseback.

As they approach the energy barrier, they note the city folks again avoiding the area, but also looking at them somewhat suspiciously.

The gate guard lets them directly through the barrier, and calls for the captain to inform the tower.

A captain hurries up. He is quite happy. “I trust your trip was uneventful.”

After a pause, “Brunhilde” says “Yes.”

He is clearly a captain, but not one they have seen before. He wears no Paranswarmian symbols, but has very shiny armor and a swagger stick. “I had feared you might have had a problem. But I have now returned from my mission—storms at sea, you know—and I see you have as well. Sir Clarence will be very pleased. I was concerned, you know, when I learned fresh recruits had been sent. But you must be fully committed to the cause.”

After a little more conversation, he says, “I know the intent for these materials. Let’s get them into the secure chamber. Come along.”

He takes us to a door we haven’t seen before, into the tower, and makes a highly complicated series of gestures at the door. Aleep is fairly certain that he got the whole series of gestures. So is Ulgorio.

“You there!” He gestures at a guard who leaps to his feet.

“Yes, Lord Ishulvan.”

“Fetch the keys. The delivery has arrived.”

“Yes, Lord.”

He gestures into a storage room. There are a group of sea chests there, and a space for the caskets.

“You deserve good compensation. Here is a bonus from me—50 silver. Go out on the town. Enjoy yourselves, get drunk or whatever you do. Report back in the morning.”

As they leave, he makes another small gesture and the door disappears back into the wall.

Runor thinks about the captain’s uniform, and realizes that he has heard of cultists of the Worm who wear armor like that, generally as a way of emulating servants of the Worm. The captain also had no religious symbols on him at all, which is reasonably unusual (though not unheard of).

“Brunhilde” leads the group to find the captain who sent them.

“I’m pleased to see you alive. Things have gotten a bit more tense since you left. Sir Clarence’s personal guard captain has returned. He has taken charge of many things very quickly. But I have heard from the people who have been here longest that he is in charge of everything. He apparently was away at sea.”

They ask for a private place to speak, and the captain leads us into the Paranswarmian chapel that has been set up by now.

“I think he’s going to move soon.”

Aleep asks, “The personal captain is called Lord Ishulvan?”

“I have never heard that name. We were given no name—told only to call him sir. I do not recognize that name, or where that name would be from.”

“I think it might be Ish’ill-tuvan. The name of the second demon from the letter.”

“That is very troubling. We are not permitted out into the city any more. Some troops have arrived from East Haven. But they are still not many, and they have no archmage to counter Sir Clarence. And if they have a demon as well to back them… If only we could get a message to the Bishop of Glordiadel.”

“We could take a message to the Bishop,” says Merreep. “We were given liberty in the city by the captain.”

“Ask the Bishop whether he recognizes the name. And warn him, and perhaps the Dogaressa, that things may be happening soon. Some of us are not committed, but there are not many of us, and there are many troops.”

The group heads out. Shortly after leaving, they remove their uniforms and head to the Cathedral. They are passed through quickly to the Bishop.

“Greetings. It is good to see you alive. I was worried when they sent you to get a special package.”

Aleep says, “We looked in the package. There was a letter. Here is a copy.”

The Bishop calls for his chief expert in demonology. A very ascetic priest enters. “Are we sure that this letter is precise?”

“Aleep is sure. Aleep copied carefully.”

“This is a letter from the Seneschal of the Worm. The second name is in the Book of Names… I believe it is a field marshal. I could look if it was important. How did you get this?”

Merreep explains.

The Bishop continues, “There is an archmage en route, but I do not think he will arrive in time. He was shunted away from here when he tried to teleport here. He arrived north of North Haven and is now traveling overland. He will likely take a week to arrive. But I think that will be too late, and we will need to respond with what we have at hand. There are also troops marching from North Haven to reinforce.” He pauses. “How committed are you to this? I cannot ask more of you after all that you have done, but I want to know how determined you are to see this through.”

Merreep says that they are fully committed.

They decide to stay in contact via Runor, through magical means.

Aleep says that they worry that “Lord Ishulvan” might be Ish’ill-tuvan.

The demonologist says, “Then that almost surely is the demon lord in a human form. We will look in the Book of Names to verify his powers.”

“Do you have any way to get out of the city?” asks the Bishop.

Merreep says no, not without getting very lucky.

The Bishop discusses the possibility of hiring local mercenaries en masse, from the hordes of Fangtooth. “If I could hire even a force that seems to be invading, it might distract him long enough for the archmage to reach us. You must warn the Dogaressa. I think battle is coming soon.”
[End session 28]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 29 (May 29, 2021)

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

“Hail and welcome back. What news?”

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

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

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

“We think so,” says Runor.

“Ah. Could be worse, then.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He may be place bound.”

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

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

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

“I will send the invitation within an hour.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do we need any special weapons?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Did you get the word out?”

“Yes.”

“Do you need anything else?”

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

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

“No.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brunhilde agrees with that suggestion.

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

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

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

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

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

“Sergeant. Have you met your employer?”

“No.”

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

Sir Clarence nods to the group briefly.

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

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 30 (June 12, 2021)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He makes nervous small talk as they walk.

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

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

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

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

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

Ulgorio summons a cloud of daggers around Sir Clarence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ashaltir smites the demonspawn, doing 31 points of damage.

Mereep stabs Sir Clarence for 15 points.

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

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

Runor misses with another inflict wounds.

Bartix stabs at Sir Clarence, hitting once for 10.

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

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

Merreep misses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Good. This guard has news.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ulgorio takes the poison ring.

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

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 31 (June 26, 2021)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The drovers are nervous because of the risk of stampede.

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

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

“You’re mooooving something through?”

“Yes.”

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

“We’ll be through soon enough.”

“Let me talk to the head cow.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the morning, they head on towards Ravenskrag.

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

Bartix wakes the rest of the group.

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

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

Runor casts Inflict Wounds and explodes one of the bats.

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

Bartix kills his with his dagger.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 32 (July 10, 2021)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We might be able to.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Can we see our owlbear?”

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

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

“Are you taking him back?”

“Yes, we are.”

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

Ghast 17
They depart back towards their lands.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, I do not.”

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

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

Merreep notices and approaches. “Hi.”

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

“It would be useless.”

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

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

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

Ulgorio now starts playing his favorite Godzilla song.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Greetings to you as well.”

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

“No, thank you,” says Merreep.

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

“You can’t reason with any crocodile!”

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

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

“Why are you eating our stuff?”

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

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

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

“The first one.”

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

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

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

“Tower?”

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

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