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ZEITGEIST The Hounds - a Zeitgeist Campaign

MarkM

Explorer
As a quick editorial comment, I've been playing D&D for more than 20 years as an adult (with the same group) plus a few years in high school. I think the Dying Skyseer is one of the most interesting and well-done adventures I've ever seen or done. I wouldn't recommend it to new DMs or new players, but for anyone who already has some dungeon crawls under their belt and has mastered the basics, I think this adventure gives a masterclass on design and interesting intricate plots and investigation. I added a couple of small additional storylines to tap into or set up things from player backstories and also just to try to slow down a little to give time for Digging for Lies to come out on Roll20. This chapter was long and did have some frustrating moments for the players, but I think they were "good-frustrating" and will made their eventual triumph over the "Shadowman" and future rematch with the Steelshaper (who they just hated with a white-hot passion!) more rewarding.
 

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MarkM

Explorer
Session 9 (3-18-21):
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We slept for the evening at the RHC and awoke the next morning to report in with Delft. Bell went off to his lab to run tests on the blood and potion vial while the rest of us met Delft as soon as he got in.
Delft congratulated us on how much we were able to find out in only a day but urged us to keep at it and see if we could bring resolution sooner rather than later.

As we were about to leave his office, a letter arrived for us from Security Chief Le Brix. It was a list of items missing, all mundane, but it included a message in Danoran that seemed to suggest continuing our investigation would be a good thing.

I don’t remember who it was that brought up speaking with the dead girl but Delft told us we definitely had people who could do that. The reliable spell wouldn’t be available for a day or two but he had a… less reliable means of having it done immediately if we wanted.

We figured that was better than nothing at this point and so Delft sent for a man named Gaethan.

When he arrived, it was obvious why Delft described him as “less reliable.” He was very odd. We told him we needed to know any associates the woman had, what she stole from the embassy and what she said to the Doctor just before she died.

He wrote it all down but then looked at me and said, “You need to find out who killed your loved one. Their soul is in a very bad place right now.”

How he knew anything about me… I recovered quickly but I’m sure the others could see my troubled face. They didn’t press it however and we moved on.

We talked to a couple other constables who were going to do a little searching for the “family wharf” situation but they also asked if Heward Sechim was related to the skyseer Sechim? I’m not sure how we missed that connection but we did. It was an interesting lead to track down.

But first, we planned to stop at the Parity Lake police station and see what they could tell us about the victim’s recent arrests.

That turned out to be the right call as Sylvia and Vic were able to get ahold of her arrest record that included not only her address but the address of Heward Sechim! And, they were the same location!

We made our way there immediately and found it was a factory. Two other factories close by had protestors outside but Sechim’s didn’t. Sylvia got on a soapbox about working conditions in factories and made it very clear where her political leanings were on the subject.

That carried over once we got inside and found Sechim as she started the conversation off by talking about his factory. We moved further away from the task when Gyldiel jumped in and started asking questions about his relationship to the Skyseer. I pulled the team back to why we were actually here though and we got down to questioning him about Nilasa.

Apparently she was his adopted daughter. He was afraid we were here for the reason we were as his uncle, the Skyseer, had told him she would fly to her death about a week ago.

He told us she came from a rough background and that she ran with the wrong crowd sometimes but he thought all that was over. He did say she’d become enamored with Gale and he thought perhaps had tried to reach out to her.

He also told us a couple of men had come by in the last week trying to strong arm him into selling them strong corrosive materials off the record. He asked us to help him with that if we could.

We thanked him for his time, searched her room (producing only a book on how to learn elvish), and made our way out.

We decided to meet up with Bell before heading out to the Cloudwood in search of the Skyseer. Heward intimated that the Skyseer knew Gale and could potentially get us an audience with her.

Following the instructions from Heward on getting up to his uncle, we made our way out to the Cloudwood.

A bit of excitement occurred when, at one point in the mountains, we heard sounds of a fight up ahead.

We found an overturned wagon, three men with guns beside it and a host of others with crossbows firing at the men.

Not quite sure what was happening, we spent a few tense seconds getting everyone to cease fire. When we finally accomplished that, the men in the wagon had kidnapped a woman from the other side. The kidnappers worked for Lorcan Kell and this was a power move to try and branch out into the Cloudwood. The others were little more than bandits themselves but they hadn’t broken any law we could tell and so we let them go. In thanks, they showed us the fastest way to the Skyseer.

Finally arriving at our destination, the Skyseer told us he could indeed set us up to meet with Gale but he needed a favor from us first. He wanted us to take him up Cauldron Hill so he could get above the smog for a clearer reading of the stars… Cauldron Hill! Yikes.

We agreed as it didn’t seem we had much choice. We decided to stay up here for the night and then try to get up to Cauldron HIll after that…
 
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MarkM

Explorer
Session 10 (3-25-21):
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The next morning, we took a walk down the mountain to our carriage that was waiting. While traveling, Sechim spoke very directly to a few of my companions. What he said, though I didn’t understand it, actually made Vic tear up a bit and made Gyldiel angrier than I’ve seen him.

We dropped Sechim off at his nephew’s factory and made our way to the RHC to report. We interrupted a conversation between Delft and our senior leader, Margaret Saxby. We told them everything we’d learned so far and of Sechim’s request that we take him up Cauldron Hill in order to get him to agree to talking Gale into meeting us.

They processed all of that information and then Saxby recommended we take care of something for the mayor of the Nettles. He’d asked the RHC for help solving disappearances that had recently begun in his jurisdiction. We hadn’t taken it on yet but if we did this, it would give us a feather in our cap to ask the favor of him letting us up Cauldron Hill. She recommended beginning our search at Lastwatch Keep as it seemed centrally located to the disappearances.

Delft also told us the ghost whisperer reported back in. Unfortunately, he didn’t give us much we didn’t already know. New information was that she was attacked by a man with scars but no face.

We made our way to the Nettles and Gyldiel, who’d been placed in charge of this lead, began questioning folks we could find.

All of a sudden, there was the rumbling of an earthquake and a huge rock began tumbling down the hill towards us. When it passed, Vic noticed some shrieks coming from up where the rock had fallen. Running that direction, we found two goblins caught in a hunter’s trap. They begged us to let them go as their masters would be angry if they didn’t return to the keep with food. This seemed like a good enough lead… :)

We took them to the keep but just before we got there, Gyldiel took a swing at the goblins after they admitted to capturing and killing humans. He missed. Vic killed one and then the other started shouting. That’s when I acted and shot him dead with my crossbow.

At first, it didn’t seem like anyone heard and we made our way in. However, in the second room, an ambush was sprung on us. In addition to goblins, there were drow fighting us as well. They cast multiple faerie fires that eventually hit all my companions but me. I decided to drop a Fog Cloud spell as the enemy was about to shred us before we even had the chance to act.

It worked very well as it mostly protected us from their rain of arrows. There was a bit of chaos next though as Gyldiel ordered us all back into the hallway. The rest of my companions apparently don’t quite understand chain of command quite like I do coming from the military academy. They chose to ignore Gyldiel and pressed the attack.

The fight got a little scary as there were so many enemies. We held our own though and I eventually convinced our team to fall back to Gyldiel’s position. When we did, our enemies didn’t follow us though and, instead, set up their own defenses.

So, we pushed forward and eventually took them out after a long fight.

Interestingly, one of them seemed to recognize Gyldiel and called him “Slave 4031” or something like that. It left the impression that these Drow might actually be up here to capture or recapture Gyldiel. We decided to take a quick rest and perhaps have a little chat with our current group leader…
 

MarkM

Explorer
Session 11 (4-1-21):
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After taking a quick breather, we questioned the captured drow. He was a little more willing to talk than I thought but he still didn’t know too much. They were investigating something going on with the Bleak Gate? In addition, they were looking for the slave who was a “murderer.” This was later confirmed to be Gyldiel who admitted he’d been a prisoner of the Drow for nearly 30 years up until about 6 months ago.

Pressing on, we found a room with a goblin chained to the floor. He claimed he was left as food for whatever creature attacked the drow further in. Gyldiel wanted to kill him but Vic stopped it and let the goblin free. (Amazingly, I bet Vic wishes she hadn’t done this because the goblin is now VERY attached to her)

Pressing on again, we found a small cave with passages leading out to the North and the East. To the North, we could see a light and… the beast we’d all feared it to be… a Chimera. Fortunately though, it was sleeping. Gyldiel wanted to check the East first but found nothing.

Also to the North, we could hear the sound of light tapping… hammers on stone. We decided to strike the creature from afar and hopefully have it attack whoever was hammering. We hoped they were drow…

That part of the plan worked great. The creature was struck by a Sacred Flame. It woke up roaring and went immediately after what turned out to, in fact, be drow.

After a few seconds, we sprung our portion of the attack. It… did not start well. Vic and Sylvia were immediately immolated by the creature and I don’t know how they were still standing when it was all said and done. Bell’s strange cannon with healing magic is the only thing that kept them on their feet I think.

But, they kept fighting on. All of a sudden, a drow woman walking on the ceiling from the East appeared and took some shots at Gyldiel. We were in a tough spot and fighting the battle on two fronts. I tried to cast a spell on the Chimera and turn it to our side to fight against the drow woman. But, it didn’t work.

It was touch and go until Sylvia finally brought down the large creature. Focusing on the elf now, Gyldiel cast a spell that dropped her from the ceiling and into our range. It did not go well for her after that. We surrounded her and despite her attempt to flee, we were able to cut her down. I expected Sylvia to knock her out and take her prisoner but she stabbed her through the heart… strange. She later said she did it so Gyldiel wouldn’t have to face any uncomfortable questions. That’s a good team move. I just hope the drow didn’t have information about an incoming force that would threaten Flint.

On the body of the leader found some instructions to the Drow Commander. She was to capture Gyldiel and return him to a Drow city in the Bleak Gate. It referred to allies on the surface who had given precise descriptions of where Gyldiel lived, worked, and might be vulnerable. It also said that the Drow can only pass through the Gate during rare celestial events, but that others with whom they trade seem to be able to pass between the "Waking" and the Bleak Gate as they choose. The Drow were to discover how their trading partners can do this, but do do so without them knowing that the Drow are watching.

After the fight, we cleaned the place out of anything valuable and then made our way to Mayor MacBannin to ask permission to ascend Cauldron Hill when the timing was right. We were met by his butler, Cillian Creed who took us to wait in the garden until the mayor could meet us.

While in the garden, a courier named Doro came out of the house and had a very odd interaction with us. He lit up a cigarette and started philosophizing about chaos and the people and how one wished he could do something about it and how the mayor with all his resources couldn’t even do anything about it… I don’t know. Even for me, it came across a bit strange.

But, he left and the mayor came to meet with us. This was also an interesting encounter. At first, he came off a tad stern and seemed as if he was going to come down on us for trying to trade the drow/chimera information in exchange for admittance to the hill… but then he laughed and said he was just messing around and of course we could climb the hill. That was easy…

He said he’d help us as he could and provide amulets to protect us as well as goat’s blood he said would occupy the ghosts at night. We thanked him, told him we’d be back in a day or two and took our leave.

We stopped by Sechim’s factory to inform Nevard about the plans but he’d already left. Instead, I asked Heward about the receipt we’d found on Nilasa’s body that had small amounts of substances that totaled to very large amounts of gold. He said it looked alchemical, but that he didn't know what those substances were for.

After that, we returned to the RHC to turn in the goods we’d acquired from our day and talk about how to spend the next 24 hours.

We were pretty sure going to the Thinking Man’s Tavern was our next step for tonight. We thought maybe in the morning we’d head out to the prison barges to talk to Nilasa’s former associates. Then, maybe Cauldron HIll? It would depend on what those other leads turn up. So, we’ll see.

I also mentioned the names on the note about the family wharf could be ship names and asked if someone could try and run that down. Anyway… too much to do and not enough hours in the day…
 

MarkM

Explorer
Session 12 (4-8-21):

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We made our way to the Thinking Man’s Tavern and broke into a couple different groups so as not to give ourselves away as constables. There was a lot of talk to sift through. Some musicians there seemed to know of Nilasa’s connection to Gale and the Cloudwood… interesting.

There were college students there who also knew of some of her activities and provided some guidance on next steps as well.

After our time at the tavern, we made our way to Vic’s house to stay for the evening. Frank, the goblin, apparently is taking his role as Vic’s personal assistant very seriously. Vic, it seems, has finally accepted it…

That night, a man from Lorcan Kell came by and told us Lorcan wanted to meet us at a theatre tomorrow night and that he had news on Dr. Recklinghausen.

The next morning, we went out to the prison barge and spoke to one of the men Nilasa used to run with. He tried to hold us to getting him out of prison for the information but he eventually agreed for weekly visits with his son and clean sheets weekly instead of monthly.

He told us Nilasa recently asked about a Fey Pepper contact and he told her about a group out on Pine Island that supposedly had a connection. He gave us directions to their location.

We traveled there and tried to “sneak up” on them… it didn’t work. It was a quick battle where one of the men was a former Reaver!

We kept him alive and he told us about a tribe of lizardmen who are growing the Fey Pepper. He also told us of a Danika he said was the alchemist Nilasa was taking the product to.

After all of that, I came clean to them about my former life with the Reavers. I told them I didn’t deserve to be in the RHC and they could and should tell Delft about it. They told me they would leave it up to me…
 

MarkM

Explorer
Session 13 (4-15-21):

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We had a few hours before we needed to go to the meeting with Kell and so we decided not to waste them. We knew the general area of the alchemist that was supposedly manufacturing fey pepper for the Family. So, heading to that part of the city, it took us a couple of hours but we were eventually able to locate the shop of one Danisca Waryeye.

She had a couple of guards we noticed when we entered. But, ignoring them, Sylvia and myself moved up to Danisca. We beat around the bush a little bit and she wasn’t biting. I even slid my “friend of the family” card over but, surprisingly, that didn’t even make a dent in her veneer.

That’s when Sylvia let her know we were constables which began a good cop/bad cop routine. I played the bad cop as I was genuinely getting a bit annoyed at Danisca. I told her we could have this convo “downtown” and Sylvia told her we’d prefer for it not to go that far. That’s when Danisca told us to follow her and she’d give us some “powerful chemical” she said Nilasa was looking for.

That was when my suspicions started to rise. It all seemed fishy… and I was right. Danisca threw some powder at Sylvia and Vic and then opened a secret door in the wall and disappeared.

While fending off her guards, Vic was able to discover she had gone invisible somehow but Vic had a bead on her. I moved to intercept but that’s when a second gnome revealed himself at the top of the stairs. He introduced himself as a magician known as the “house elf”... jackpot. Didn’t think we’d be killing two birds… or gnomes as it were… with one stone but that’s exactly what we did.

It got a little hairy when they both started flinging spells at us but we knocked her out and that’s when the male, her husband we found out, told us he’d talk if we made a deal. I agreed and wrote up misdemeanor charges for them.

That’s when the gnome told us more information about the wand meetup happening tomorrow night.

But, first… Lorcan Kell...
 

MarkM

Explorer
Session 13 (4-15-21):

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We had a few hours before we needed to go to the meeting with Kell and so we decided not to waste them. We knew the general area of the alchemist that was supposedly manufacturing fey pepper for the Family. So, heading to that part of the city, it took us a couple of hours but we were eventually able to locate the shop of one Danisca Waryeye.

She had a couple of guards we noticed when we entered. But, ignoring them, Sylvia and myself moved up to Danisca. We beat around the bush a little bit and she wasn’t biting. I even slid my “friend of the family” card over but, surprisingly, that didn’t even make a dent in her veneer.

That’s when Sylvia let her know we were constables which began a good cop/bad cop routine. I played the bad cop as I was genuinely getting a bit annoyed at Danisca. I told her we could have this convo “downtown” and Sylvia told her we’d prefer for it not to go that far. That’s when Danisca told us to follow her and she’d give us some “powerful chemical” she said Nilasa was looking for.

That was when my suspicions started to rise. It all seemed fishy… and I was right. Danisca threw some powder at Sylvia and Vic and then opened a secret door in the wall and disappeared.

While fending off her guards, Vic was able to discover she had gone invisible somehow but Vic had a bead on her. I moved to intercept but that’s when a second gnome revealed himself at the top of the stairs. He introduced himself as a magician known as the “house elf”... jackpot. Didn’t think we’d be killing two birds… or gnomes as it were… with one stone but that’s exactly what we did.

It got a little hairy when they both started flinging spells at us but we knocked her out and that’s when the male, her husband we found out, told us he’d talk if we made a deal. I agreed and wrote up misdemeanor charges for them.

That’s when the gnome told us more information about the wand meetup happening tomorrow night.

But, first… Lorcan Kell...
 

MarkM

Explorer
Session 14 (4-22-21):
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As we made our way out of the RHC to board our carriage, Dr. Kindleton surprised us by showing up and letting us know she’d received a letter from Dr. Recklinghausen. He apparently was starting to lose faith in whoever he’d hired to guard him, which he expressed in his letter. He let her know that he was thinking of escaping his current location which put a quick timeline on our ability to catch him before he rabbited again.

We thanked her and headed to the meet up with Kell. On the way there, we were stopped when up ahead we could see a carriage stopped, a woman on the street screaming, and a couple of thugs with a bundle in their hands. The woman said, “They’ve taken my baby!”

So, we jumped out of our carriage and gave chase. In the end, it was a ruse as we were led into a building that turned out to be the theatre for our meeting. We even found ourselves out on the stage before the lights came up and Kell was laughing at us from a balcony suite while dozens of his men pointed guns at us.

He called us up to him while being entertained by a poor man being tormented on stage by his goons.

He told us he could not only tell us the doctor’s location but also the time and place of a shipment of “illegal” goods. All we had to do was let him keep the goods. Already knowing what he was talking about and what those goods were, we told him we couldn’t agree to that deal. So, he told us to make an offer.

We said we could have the sentences of some of his men reduced. He agreed if we’d let 7 of his men go by tomorrow. Then, he’d give us the address for the doctor.

It was a tough go to pull it all off but we managed and a boy showed up with an address in the Nettles.

Making our way there, I wasn’t sure if these were Kell’s men or Family men who were holding the doctor. I was hoping the former so we wouldn’t have to fight for him… too bad… when we got there, a fight broke out that was pretty tough.

The doctor didn’t trust law enforcement after his meet up with the shadowman and we had to knock him out just to stop him from running. His guards were tough too and we finally had to agree to let two of them go just to stop the battle before more of us got hurt. We still had a lot to do tonight after all…

We rested for about an hour waiting for the doc to wake up. When he did, we could tell he was surprised to be alive. It still took some convincing before he believed we might not be here to kill him after all. But, just as he was about to tell us where he’d hidden his papers… an alarm spell I’d cast on the entrance went off…
 

MarkM

Explorer
Session 15 (4-29-21):
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It didn’t take long for the ones who tripped my alarm to show themselves. Small, dark and shadowy figures seemed to materialize in front of my team and began ripping holes in us with vicious strikes of their weapons. Vic and Sylvia fell to their blows while the rest of us tried to fight them off while bringing our allies back to consciousness.

In the midst of everything, the shadowman made an appearance and tried to take out Bell. I jumped in to help but he, surprisingly, retreated after only a few moments. The small shadow creatures also began to fall back and they led us on a chase that took us to the temple entrance.

Sitting outside, there was a cocky looking gentleman who was pulling out a table and chair. He sat down and a bottle of wine and a knife to slice cheese floated up and onto the table. He told us his name was Leone Quital. We also found he’d somehow caused metal bars to grow and twist blocking the exit. We were trapped…

He said if we brought him the doctor and the stolen papers, he’d let us go. We told him we couldn’t let the doctor go but we’d give up the papers. However, the doc hadn’t told us where the papers were yet. Leone told us we had an hour to comply.

After hearing all of this, the doc finally showed us the hiding place of the papers. I began pouring through them to see what could be discerned in our short window. The others began looking for ways out. I don’t know who found it but someone found a latrine tunnel that seemed to lead out. However, unless we made the hole wider, only Bell would be able to use it. Vic got to work on that.

With the doc working with me, what I was able to pick up from the papers was that someone was purchasing materials from factories in both Risur and Danor. They were also purchasing factories by threatening owners here in Flint. The amount of materials we’re talking about are on the level of what it would take to build another Coaltongue… that’s a scary amount of material… who could have the funds to pull that off?

There was more I could have found if I’d had time but, unfortunately, time ran out. A wagon pulled up outside and two people were brought out of it. One was someone Bell seemed to know and the other was Vic’s younger brother. At the same time, he told us he’d blow the entrance to the temple if we didn’t comply.

We tried to buy a little more time but Leone’s response was to slit the throat of the one Bell knew. Bell had made it out through the latrine tunnel by this time and he was moving to either attack or perhaps save Vic’s brother. But, before we could find out which, the doctor called out he’d go. Unbeknownst to me, Sylvia also gave him all the papers to take out with him. I wish she hadn’t done that. I would have still tried to pull something off… maybe only sending half the papers out or perhaps getting the doctor to lie and say they were somewhere else and that he’d take them to them. But, heat of the moment… can’t judge.

Once the doc was let out, Bell and Vic’s brother were brought back inside. That’s when Leone double crossed us. He told him men to blow the temple anyway. We sprinted to the back, just in time, and the explosion rocked the building and popped our ears.

But, we were alive. In a relatively short amount of time, we were able to find another exit through a chimney and climbed out to the open air.

It wasn’t over between us and Leone but first, back to headquarters and on to our wand mission tonight…
 


MarkM

Explorer
Mixed, but mostly.good. One player in particular really didn't like the feeling that there was no chance to "win." On the positive, they HATED Leone,.so are looking forward to a rematch some day. The drama of an NPC being killed right in front of them as a warning had an emotional impact, and the fact that they were able to glean some info from the papers and to retrieve the npc body to get him raised gave a sense that their efforts weren't entirely for nothing helped. They also enjoyed the unfolding mystery of Leone and the shadow man seeming to be familiar with each other and maybe even aligned, but not on exactly the same team or with some rivalry, plus Kell who seemed to be playing all sides and who may have sold the Doctor's location to all three factions. Overall they were really good sessions despite some (planned and intentional) frustration.

I think they enjoyed this more than being tricked and toyed with at Kell's theater. At that one the initial chase (the stolen "baby") made them think there was going to be combat (I did it in combat rounds once they started chasing), so then when they faced overwhelming force in the theater there was that sense of frustration but without as much fun building up to it. It retrospect, I would have done that more as a montage. They did enjoy the tension and internal struggle of deciding to cut a deal with an utter scumbag like Kell, though.
 

MarkM

Explorer
Session 16 (5-6-21):

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We bandaged ourselves up back at headquarters, requisitioned a few new items, and made our way out to our cutter and the night’s activities. We found the wharf we were looking for and held our ship back quite some distance from it. I sent my familiar in high enough that it would be out of their sight but where it could still be helpful in tracking them. At the appointed time, the ship left dock and we followed.

It was a difficult thing with our lights out to safely navigate the waters as well as keep up with our target. But, luck was on our side as we kept up and soon saw another ship up ahead that our target seemed to be moving next to. We thought we had a chance to send Gyldiel in to sabotage their rudders before making our play but, unfortunately, we must have gotten too close as we heard voices on the ships calling out about us. Well… I guessed it was on…

Gyldiel still did his thing and, I hope, disabled the rudders enough for us that these ships weren’t getting away easily.

The tough part is we were still a little too far away to close the distance quickly and we were badly outmanned and outgunned. We took heavy fire and I ultimately decided getting to them as quickly as possible was our only recourse. But, that meant figuring out a way to slow down quickly too… nothing for it I suppose… RAMMING SPEED!

It didn’t quite work out as well as I’d hoped. The luck we’d had with us on the tail was quickly turning to the other side. When we connected on their ships, Vic and Sylvia both were dumped out into the water while none of our enemies met the same fate. They scrambled up and out as quickly as they could but it still felt like hours. The fight was intense. It didn’t seem to be going all that well for us… what can we do...
 
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MarkM

Explorer
Once a year our adventuring group (which started in person many years ago, but now is scattered from Atlanta to Anchorage) gets together in person to play over a long weekend. This will be a long entry, even though it was written later so is a bit less detailed:

Marathon (5-12-21 to 5-16-21):
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The fight with the smugglers wasn’t going well. Hopelessness isn’t an emotion I feel but I could see it on my companions face. I’m not sure the moment it happened, but the fight eventually turned our direction and we brought our enemies down and retrieved the shipment as well as a note worth 10,000 gold that was going to be the payment (these were both later held up as Crissilyr claimed they both belonged to them).

The next day, we made our way to McBannin’s mansion to begin the ascent to the top of Cauldron Hill. We were crossing our fingers hoping the skyseer would arrive as we hadn’t seen or heard from him in a few days. Sure enough, about ten minutes after our arrival, he showed up with a retinue of orcs. One was the shaman he told us about who cast the binding spell on Sylvia, Gyldiel and Vic.

McBannin gave us the goat blood we needed to make a ring at the top and we set off. We made it to the top not long before sundown, made our blood circle around some large, man made stones and waited for night to fall.

It was awful. Hideous creatures came out from all over as the skyseer focused on the stars. Luckily they found the blood and followed it around and around. But… that was still nerve wracking. It took a nasty turn when the Shadowman showed up and threw a light into the middle of our camp. This seemed to wake the ghosts up from their blood circle and it was like they saw us for the first time. (This did lead to the discovery of Nevard’s ability to bestow Skyseer Guidance AKA “Sky Guy” which was… awesome)

It led to a fierce fight with monsters that we eventually won but not before the Shadowman got away.

The Skyseer finished his vision which was pretty disturbing as it involved destruction in the city and three figures sitting atop Cauldron Hill. Our allies that had been bound to him had a vision of their own which was about a fire being set in Parity Lake that destroyed Nevard’s nephew’s factory.

In order to get down fast, we lept off the top and Bell cast a spell that floated us down. Not long after arriving at the bottom, a former student at the academy I knew showed up with a military force quite surprised we’d been the cause of commotion at the top of the HIll. McBannin also showed up and led us back to his house to perform the cleansing ritual.

Leaving there, we ran to Parity Lake to see if we could stop the fire from happening. We found two red dragonborn and a few others with a wagon of explosives. They tried to jump us but we took them out and arrested them for questioning later.

After a long night, we slept in, reported back to Delft and went to our office to discuss next steps. While there, a bird came to the window pecking. Letting it in, it was a message from Gale saying she’d meet us and we could follow the bird. Taking her up on the offer, the bird led us to the Cloudwood and to a well known area with a waterfall.

Gale appeared at the top of the falls and flew/floated down to us. She told us she hadn’t been responsible for any of the arsons but admitted to some unspecified illegal activity. She said there was something awful going on and she’d sent Nilasa to find out what. That’s what got her killed. There was a conspiracy of massive proportions going on and much of what we’d investigated the last several days was connected. She gave us a book with a spell that allowed us to cast a divination that would tell us whether there was planar energy nearby. This would help us find locations where bleak gate energy was strong.

When we got back to the RHC, Sylvia and I received a letter from Morgan Cippiano inviting us to breakfast the following morning. We talked to the Wire, our organized crime unit for more info on him and made plans for the next day.

We decided we needed to talk to the Danoran Security Chief again and thought we might want to invite him to sit in on the meeting with Cippiano to show him he should work more closely with us. We found him leaving the embassy and instead of inviting him to the next day’s breakfast, we decided to have the convo now. He took us to a wine bar and gave us some good insight into his personal investigation but also let us know clearly he had too much to lose to continue on. But, he wished us well and we parted on friendly terms.

Sylvia and I made our way to Cippiano while the rest of the crew hung back outside of his territory. It turned out to be a pretty frustrating meeting as he wanted us to release some of his men in a tit for tat since we’d let some of Kell’s men out in exchange for help finding the Doctor. But, Cippiano wasn’t offering anything specific. He wanted us to go first in a show of friendship… not smart on our part if we went for that “deal.” So… no thanks. We left after only a short conversation.

We got word Nevard was planning some kind of rally at midday and we were assigned to attend and keep him safe. Traveling to the location, we cast the planar spell and noticed bleak gate energy leading to a row of warehouses. We also found witch oil bubbling up in small amounts in the middle of the street.

Following it, we found a warehouse with strong bleak readings. Inside was a group of workers shredding paper and a golem guarding them! The golem was really tough. A portal opened in the middle of the fight and the workers jumped in. Finally, after we realized the golem could best be hurt by radiant energy, it fled into the portal itself pretty wounded. We found plans for some kind of cat creature infused with witch oil… not good.

Making our way to the rally, Nevard and some of his posse stepped up on stage and began to speak. But, almost immediately, jaguar creatures infused by witch oil jumped out of portals on wagons and began going after Nevard. Other men in white masks that turned out to be disguised skeletons also attacked. We fought hard and defeated them but Nevard was mortally wounded. He whispered a vision to Vic about needing to evacuate the Nettles as Cauldron HIll was going to blow. Then, he died. Good night sweet skyguy...

Gyldiel stood up and proclaimed to those left in the crowd who hadn’t fled yet what Nevard told us about the Nettles. People, even more panicked, began to run off presumably to tell friends or family in that area.
 
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MarkM

Explorer
Marathon Session, cont.

When we returned to RHC headquarters, Lady Saxby burst into Delft’s office while we were reporting. She was quite angry about Gyldiel taking it upon himself to make the Nettles announcement without first coming back to ask permission. Gyldiel tried to push back and Delft defended him but Saxby demanded Gyldiel turn in his badge.

Sometime later, we found out Delft deputized Gyldiel to help us finish the investigation which Delft fully expected to be fired over for going behind Lady Saxby’s back. It probably wasn’t appropriate but we’d get a lot of enjoyment over teasing “Deputy” Gyldiel.

There was a lot of debate in our group as to whether or not to give immunity to the arsonists for information on who hired them. Vic was particularly vocal about not letting them get away with the murder of so many citizens. Bell and Sylvia were more on the side of how many it could now save… in the end, I mentioned we could maybe have the best of both worlds. If my magic worked, we could potentially get him to talk without giving up anything.

So, we brought him up to a cell and I cast Suggestion after Bell Mind Slivered him… it worked! He spilled the beans and gave us a lot of information including their secret hideout with a letter from whoever it was that hired them.

When we found the letter, it was signed MM and it also matched the writing of a letter the Shadowman had given me earlier. Gyldiel and Vic both connected “MM” to Mayor McBannin. We couldn’t know for sure until we got a sample of his handwriting though and so we traveled to his manor hoping to get it.

He was coming out of his home as we approached and a dance began between us and him. We tried to convince him we were here for his aid and if he could write a letter we could take with us to other authorities, we could help with the evacuation of the Nettles. He, on the other hand, seemed like he knew the jig was up. We went back and forth for a while before another large earthquake hit and a geyser of witch oil burst from the ground into the sky. That’s when he told his employees to kill all of us.

Over the course of the fight, we found out not only that McBannin apparently is a witch (he cursed Gyldiel and centipedes came out of his mouth), but also that he’d cast the binding spell on most of his servants.

Vic and others tried to shackle McBannin while we also tried to take out his people trying to kill us. McBannin was eventually shackled and our enemies scattered. He told us we needed to go down into his lab and “fix” something if we wanted to stop this disaster from occurring. He said the lab was downstairs in a storage shed but we’d need his necklace to “pass through.”

Chaining him to a tree, we found the shack as well as more necklaces carried by a woman killed in the earthquake. It was good we did as the necklaces allowed us to pass into the Bleak Gate realm which housed the lab we were looking for.

Witch oil jaguars attacked us when we got down which turned out to be really bad as they almost took us out. In the end, it was just Bell and I still up. We woke our companions up and Sylvia drank a VERY expensive healing potion and we pressed on.

We found Doctor Von Recklinghausen in a room hooked up to anesthesia. When we woke him up, he didn’t remember anything after he was taken from us. I gave him a sword and we moved on. There was a machine that seemed to be a pump for the witch oil we found pooled below. I can’t tell you much about it but Bell figured out what needed to be fixed and which levers needed pulling in order to stop the impending explosion. But, before we could relax, we heard the lift lowering and the doctor called out someone was attacking us.

It was the shadowman and a couple of thugs. The shadowman turned out to be McBannin’s butler, Cilian Creed. Another tough fight ensued and, at the end, Bell yelled to a hiding Creed that he’d blow the witch oil if he didn’t come out. This got Creed’s attention and he came out just long enough to be knocked into the oil below. But, this was after he recognized Gyldiel and said, “I died because of you!”

With the danger averted and the shadowman dead (hopefully), we made our way back upstairs. I noticed a lab coat with the name Stewart on it… could it be Kaja Stewart? I’d only run across her name on my hunt for the Ragman but with her specialty in extraplanar runes… this would make some sense…

We were disappointed initially when we found McBannin freed from his chains but we later learned he was still picked up by soldiers and imprisoned.

His trial was set for the following day… that was really fast… and we were called to testify. But, when the time of the trial came, there was no McBannin. Fearing something had gone wrong, we returned to the RHC to find it abuzz. Apparently, McBannin had killed himself. When we questioned the guard, he said McBannin smoked a cigarette staring off into space and then casually beat his head against the wall until he was dead. The Spirit medium (who is apparently a ranger) came down and told us something interesting. He said his soul was gone BEFORE he died… what the heck does that mean?

Anyway, Delft told us we’d probably be needed in a couple of days but to lay low until then.
 

MarkM

Explorer
Marathon session, cont. (other projects)

We decided to take that time to help a lizardman we’d run into days before. He was a crazy shaman but, strangely, not only did Gyldiel want to help him… Vic wanted to as well… I’m not sure I’ll ever figure out why “by the book Vic” was so enamored with this quest but it got us out of town for a bit which I think we all really needed.

He led us into the swamp and told us a necklace (Fangs of Oatali) had been stolen and needed to be retrieved. He said a priestess had taken it and many of his tribe were following her now. We had a small fight with a very large snake that I was, unfortunately, not able to charm.

We then made it to his village and I tried to sneak in and steal the necklace without a fight. But, alarms went off (creepy heads on sticks actually) and the fight was on. The leader, wearing the necklace, threw a fireball at my friends and later summoned forth a huge crocodile… yeah take me back to the city please… We defeated them though and took possession of the necklace (It was later decided I’d wear it).

The Shaman said we’d need to take it back to Oatali’s temple. Leading us there, we found an underwater entrance. The shaman promised the temple itself wasn’t underwater, just the front door. Ok… dinosaur fight!

After killing dinosaurs, we entered the temple and found several rooms including one with a multicolored orb. Bell said it was very dangerous and so we avoided it and found a friendly priestess who’d been imprisoned. She said the evil priestess and her guards were down the hall.

We had a short fight with the guards and then found the priestess in the inner sanctum of Oatali’s temple. She was a VERY tough foe. It turned out she was yuan-ti like me and she did not like me at all. She kept calling me a traitor which could have something to do with the necklace I’m wearing… or maybe something else.

After finally taking her down, I placed the necklace upon an altar and an image of Oatali appeared. She thanked us for helping and then gave each of us a blessing… very cool. She also made Asi sprout a rainbow pattern and identified him to me as a couatl… also very cool.

And that was that. We returned to the city. Gyldiel was reinstated but assigned “special duties” away from our team. Delft was suspended for a month. Sylvia was reassigned to a different team looking into accounting fraud… gross. And, Saxby had us start directly reporting to her.

We had some downtime as our new assignments weren’t quite as taxing as our previous ones. So, Vic and I (Bell some too) dove back into the Ragman case. Fortunately, there was a bit of a break as we got word there was a survivor.

We found where they had him and, pulling some strings, got in to talk to him. He didn’t want to talk at first but Vic healed some of his wounds and he settled down. He told us he’d been at a bar and was attacked when he left. He described the Ragman as 5’8 to 5’10, young looking, wearing several layers of tattered clothes… but also carrying a really nice pistol and also wearing really shiny shoes.

We went to look around the bar where he was attacked and almost left without anything until I noticed a crawl space that looked a bit odd. Looking inside, there was a body… It was a couple of weeks old but it was the Ragman’s work for sure. He held an organ in each hand and his entrails were draped around his neck. I didn’t realize I was doing it, but I came to screaming and with my team looking over me. Apparently, the body triggered a flashback to the death of my brother Asi…

That was about all we were able to track down this time but I could feel we were close to catching this bastard...
 

MarkM

Explorer
Conclusion of our marathon weekend:

Chapter 3: Illuminati… I mean, Obscurati?

A few weeks later, Lady Saxby assigned us another crap “case.” We were to work security for the weapons expo which is a month long weapons fair here in the Central District.

We met the head of security on the first day and followed her on a tour of the expo. While walking though, Vic noticed someone tailing us… a red headed woman who Vic said was an expert. We tried to trap her but she saw through it and disappeared before we could find her again.

Later on, we walked through “Gun Alley” and Bell bought a badger gun… which is a really, really literal name… anyway. We also came across what was called a “Nocks gun.” It was incredibly powerful but would knock down a normal person. I had the idea of having it mounted on a wagon… hmmm...

Around that time, we heard screaming nearby. Running to offer aid… awful, weird creatures were attacking people. One was a giant mouth with teeth but no body. Others were flying insects but with elephant trunks and beaks. There was someone with a staff casting spells at them but every time he cast a spell, another would appear.

Fighting without Gyldiel and Sylvia sucks. The creatures came straight at me and despite my best efforts, I went down during the fight. Vic brought me back up and we eventually wore them down but it was tougher and longer than it would have been without the rest of the team.

After the fight, Rock Rackus, famous musician and personal favorite of mine was there. He’d helped kill some of the creatures and so I thanked him, told him to contact us if he remembered seeing anything else and… also if he’d give me his autograph.

RHC showed up a short time later, including Sylvia and Gyldiel, and began examining the scene. The military showed up including Colonel Harlock who taught a class of mine back at the academy. He asked if they could take the creatures and, in exchange, he’d send his report directly to us as soon as he finished. We agreed.

When we questioned the mage with the staff, he told us he’d just bought it from a person. In order to get access to this person, you had to go to a trinket stand and say, “I’m here to buy an anniversary gift for my wife Ethel.” Well… off we went to find this trinket stand...
 


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