Scarlet Moon Hall

Dramatis Personae: Berrian, Karth, Tasklar
Source: “Scarlet Moon Hall” (Princes of the Apocalypse)

NB. This episode’s recap is brought to you by Karth (edited by me)!

I was sitting at the inn, nursing another beer, my scowl enough to keep the other patrons from coming closer. My contacts had said they might finally have some information for me regarding the sigil I hunted. I thought back to how my life ought have been … actually not too different, a life of battle, but with my people rather than as a wanderer, the last of my tribe. I stroked Tamaich’s blade … something to be proud of, a remnant of my ancestors. I laughed to myself. The others looked on fearfully, remembering that septon who bad decried it as a cursed weapon.

The little halfling slid next to me, showing me the familiar bowl-like symbol of the fire cult. “A wagon heading north. A merchant carrying goods stamped with the symbol you had us watch for. He mentioned Scarlet Moon Hall, several days from here. Said he was gonna sell beer to the druids gathering there for a festival.”

I tossed over a small sack of coins.

The next day, I gathered what companions I could find, the elf and the bard. It would appear the elf’s sister (?) was off on a tryst with her lover, while my buddy Gil was on a heist. Or something. Though the elf is a dandy, he is deadly with the blade, and the bard has been a faithful companion for years. They would be sufficient. No need for the others … or so I thought.

The land was dry. The weather unseasonably hot. Following the merchant’s trail, we came across a hill, on its top a great burning effigy and a ruined tower or keep. Scattered on the hillside were several small campfires. We agreed that this was not a case of running in blades bared. For once, we would try talking first. Perhaps it was the absence of the elf’s sister, but more likely the thief, that made us act sensibly.

The first group we came across seemed harmless enough: a bunch of young tree huggers having fun. Apparently some grand druid was planning a ritual the next day that would stop the damn heat. A few pleasantries and then we moved on.

The next group were a strange pair of men in red robes. More druids, of the Circle of the Scarlet Moon. The hosts of this festival. They had a bear chained next to them. I didn’t like that, for bears are my totem animal. Fortunately, I was able to hold back the red wave and, literally biting my tongue, listened as Tasklar asked them of the wagon. They said they hadn’t seen it. Strange.

Heading further up the hill, we encountered an odd pair of hunters. Rough-looking men, but men who were still willing to share their beer. My type of men.

Further around to the right, we found another group of huggers, including a short stunted one from some swamp. They were dozing by their fire. They didn’t seem to know anything about a merchant either. Had the man not made it this far?

The group furthest to the right was different: three cloaked men and two enormous wolves, almost as big as me! As we got close, I heard one of the wolves speak, muttering something in Goblin. Stepping back in shock, I realized that these weren’t wolves but worgs! And the three men were actually bugbears in disguise!

A mighty battle ensued. The bugbears couldn’t get past Berrian’s shield as he gradually wore them down, while Tasklar attempted (and failed) to mark them with guiding bolts. As for me, I had held my temper long enough. As I felt the rage build up, I jumped towards the worgs, marking one as a new fur cloak and the other as a new bedroll for the bard. My shield and my furious resilience protected me from the worgs’ sharp teeth and claws as I hacked them down.

The nearest group of druids came running to see what had caused all the noise. They were horrified to learn that the druids they had previously met at this eastern-most camp had obviously been killed by the bugbears. Yet there was no sign of them anywhere.

With our enemies defeated and looted, I quickly cut out the heart of one worg. Searing it in the flames of the bugbears’ campfire, I offered to share it with the others, but they all turned the honor down. After a quick meal, I skinned the two worgs as I thought about how my new cloak would look.

Deciding to warn the other groups that all was not as it seemed, we headed off around the hill, past the hunters, and on to a larger group led by a half-elven druid in the same red robes as the druids with the bear. She did not seem concerned about the danger. However, when questioned of the wagon, Berrian let me know that she seemed to know more than she was saying. Curious.

Pushing on to the final fire along the western slopes, we met another druid, a painted wood elf named Gariena, who was making music with a pair of faeries! She seemed more with it than the other druids. I asked if I could make music with her and proceeded to impress everyone with my playing of the Orcish war screamer (aka “bagpipes”). Tasklar joined in too, but much to everyone’s amusement, he just made an awful noise. The faeries had a lot of fun teasing him after that. Gariena warned us not to stay the night with her because she couldn’t make any promises that her companions wouldn’t prank us. Fair enough!

I was still concerned about the bear, though, and managed to convince the others to head back down the hill. Instead of sticking to the trail, though, we went straight down to the first camp of druids, warned them of the danger and suggested they leave, and then headed over to the red-robed druids.

Ignoring their protests, I began a ritual to commune with the bear. The druids didn’t like that one bit and, attacking us, revealed themselves to be fire wizards! The battle was mighty, and the camp was soon a blazing ruin, but I was protected by my magic fire-resistant armor and my bestial rage. My friends and I cut down the hateful wizards, marked with the symbol of those that had destroyed my tribe!

Unfortunately, we also had to put the enraged bear down, but hey … it was war. And the bear had been about to maul the bard to death. I made my peace with the beast’s spirit as I committed its body to the flames. After that, we convinced the remaining druids to leave, explaining that the Scarlet Moon druids were really fire cultists. Most decided to leave at once, but the gnomish swamp druid said he would help. He claimed to have seen the fire mark previously. In fact, he seemed quite angry about it.

Heading back to the red-robed half-elf and her encampment, I crept up behind one of her guards and surprised him with a loud ”boo!”. A drawn sword wasn’t exactly the reaction I had been expecting, although he had looked pretty nervous about something! Once again battle was joined. The hunters from the next camp over joined in, revealing themselves to be werewolves as they clawed and bit at Tasklar!

Gariena and her faeries came down to help us, and soon the werewolves and the fire cultists all lay dead on the ground. Worryingly, though, the bard had been bitten at least once and was beginning to feel a bit funny. He will need watching in the future, especially around the next full moon …

After clearing out the last of the “false druids”, we headed uphill to the ruined keep … where it all turned to custard. As we crested the hill, we saw two fire mages praying in front of the burning wicker giant. Rushing forward, we focused our attacks on them, killing one mage before he could react. Unfortunately, the bard’s shatter spell also broke the giant apart, which unleashed a raging creature of fire that quickly enveloped Berrian and me in flames!

Though I was only mildly hurt, Berrian was not so lucky. With crossbowmen up on the scaffolding firing down on us, the surviving fire mage hurling flames at us, and hell hounds and a fiery-haired fighter bearing down on us, we were forced to flee.

Having been forced to put aside my desire for vengeance for now, I vow to return another day and finish the job …

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The Speaker in Dreams

Dramatis Personae: Berrian, Bhara (and some others)
Source: The Speaker in Dreams

NB. I only had two of my regular players for this session. My wife joined us and played Ser Alein.

The Guild Safely ensconced at the Reality Wrinkle, the Starflower siblings and Ser Alein rested and discussed their options going forward. They had no way of knowing if Karth had survived his heroic gesture, or where their friends Gil and Tasklar were. Nevertheless, they decided they’d try heading for the thieves’ guild again in hopes of making contact with some of their friends. From there, they would seek help in infiltrating the baron’s manor so they could investigate the hooded figure Bhára saw lurking in the shadows during the proclamation. After that, they’d deal with the hellish portal in the septry. [Their reasoning being that if they shut that off first, the hooded figure seemingly in charge of things might just open it up again. Better to strike at the head of the snake first, then take care of the body as it writhed about in its death throes.]

This time, they stuck to the back alleys and managed to keep out of sight of both the militia and their fiendish overlords. That is, until they were getting ready to cross Southspur Street. As they approached the mouth of an alley, a familiar voice called out from around the corner: “O wand of wonder! Please will you conjure something frightening, like a bolt of lightning!”

Sure enough, as Berrian popped his head around the corner and looked out into the street, he saw the familiar form of Bruce the Goose, pointing his wand at a horrid-looking fiend with a wicked glaive in its hands and a beard consisting of what appeared to be barbed tentacles. As the elf watched, a beam of light shot out from Bruce’s wand and caused the fiend to glow with purple faerie fire, marking him as an easy target.

Berrian and Ser Alein dashed out into the street, swords in hand, while Bhára moved to where she could see the foul creature and readied her magic. Although Bruce’s wand hadn’t given him the result he’d wanted, the effect nevertheless assisted his rescuers in making short work of the devil before it could harm the halfling. As Ser Alein landed the killing blow, the creature disappeared in a puff of black smoke. Seeing her companions exchange worried glances, Ser Alein told them not worry: “That fiend has gone back to where he came from. We won’t be seeing him again any time soon.”

Grabbing Bruce before he could finish thanking them for rescuing him, they dashed across the street into another alley and continued on their way to Brindinford’s thieves’ guild, using the directions Karth had given them before he’d disappeared. They arrived at the Gold Tabard Merchant Company building in Eastgate without further ado and found themselves being welcomed by an amiable human named Thos, who explained to the heroes that, while their companions had been and gone, they were welcome to make themselves at home in the warehouse.

Partaking of the guildmaster’s hospitality, the heroes soon learned that a hooded figure had been approaching various merchants in the Eastgate district with offers of large sums of money. When the thieves’ guild looked into it, they discovered that the figure was seeing to expand the influence of a diabolical cult – the one now in possession of the septry across town – to other towns and cities in the vicinity. One merchant had even accepted the offer.

Upon learning that the heroes had spied a hooded figure lurking behind the baron, Thos suggested they could be one and the same. He offered to have a scout around the baron’s manor, if the heroes were willing to wait overnight. They readily agreed and settled down to get more rest. Before leaving, Thos joked to Ser Alein that now that she knew where the guild was located, they’d have to move … once the fiends had been dealt with, of course.

Thos and his spies returned an hour or so before daybreak. They informed the heroes that a mysterious hooded figure was indeed hanging around with the baron. They hadn’t spotted the baron’s regular bodyguards either. Lady Eriana and her family appeared to be all right, though; they weren’t being kept hostage or anything like that. Giving a description of the manor layout, Thos added that there was a trapdoor on the roof of the tower.

The Manor
Following directions from the thieves, the heroes made their way across town without encountering any wandering fiends or militia patrols. They scaled the walls of the keep without any trouble and made their way to the baron’s manor.

Climbing up to the top of the tower, they found that Thos had even oiled the hinges of the trapdoor for them. It turned out to be a piece of cake to get into the tower. Creeping down the spiral stairs, they first passed a room in which Lady Eriana and her family were sleeping. Seeing that they appeared to be all right, they continued down to the next floor, where they found Baron Euphemes II snoring away in his large, ornate bed.

While the others waited in the stairwell, Berrian crept into the baron’s room and then eased open the door that led out onto the balcony overlooking the main hall. He spied two comfortable chairs positioned in front of a roaring fire. Two figures were sitting in the chairs, one wearing a dark robe stitched with arcane symbols, the other wearing hide armor and fondling an axe. The latter pricked up her ears and turned her sightless gaze toward Berrian. A grimlock! Probably the one that got away from the abandoned warehouse. Berrian quickly closed the door and went back to report what he’d seen.

Not knowing if there was any other way to flank these foes, the heroes decided to charge right in. Berrian went first and found that the grimlock was waiting. She tossed a handaxe at him as he came through the door. The figure in the robes, however, was now floating near the ceiling. He could see that the creature had tentacles on its face and its eyes were milky white, as was its skin.

Chaos ensued. Bhára cast thunderwave, which pushed the grimlock towards the balcony’s edge and woke up everyone in the manor. As the baron rose from his bed, seemingly in a trance, and reached for his sword, Bruce stepped forward and cast Tasha’s hideous laughter on him, causing him to fall back onto his bed in a fit. Ser Alein rushed in to assist Berrian with the grimock. As she did so, the heroes’s minds were pummelled with a blast of psychic energy. Ser Alein and Bhára were both stunned but Berrian managed to shake it off.

The grimlock soon fell to sword and spell, her dead body toppling off the balcony into the hall. The heroes were rather surprised to see that it floated down gently. They vowed to look into that more closely later. There was still the tentacle-faced mage to deal with! It attempted to take control of Berrian’s mind, but he was again able to resist. Then one of Bhára’s spells broke its concentration, and, as it floated back down to the ground, Berrian and Set Alein leapt forward with their blades. Just as Berrian thought he was about to land the killing blow, the creature vanished into thin air! It hadn’t merely turned invisible either. One moment it was there, the next it was simply as if it had never been there at all!

Perplexed, the heroes returned to the baron. As Bruce released him from the spell, he came to his senses. As the heroes explained to him what had happened, Euphemes was most remorseful. He told them that he felt like he’d been living a dream and couldn’t fully remember what it was he’d said or done over the past few days. He was most shocked to learn that he had invited fiends into his beloved town! When his thoughts turned to the welfare of his sister and her family, the heroes assured him that they were quite all right and suggested that he take them somewhere safe while they dealt with the fiends. Euphemes agreed to take them down into the dungeons beneath the manor house.

Berrian went and checked on the dead body of the grimlock. A quick search revealed a metallic ring in the shape of a twisted feather on one finger. Pocketing the ring, he later discovered that it was magical and conferred upon its wearer a feather fall effect. He offered it to his sister, but Bhára replied that she didn’t need it as she could already reproduce the effect with her own magic, so he decided to keep it for himself.

The Grove
After ensuring that the baron and his family were as safe as could be, the elf siblings and their companions set off for the druid grove in the woods across the river in hopes that they might be able to help them close the portal in the septry. Cutting across the Chatterstreet Market district to avoid having to pass the septry, they scaled the outer walls and headed across the open fields towards the northern bridge. They soon found themselves being approached by three hell hounds, though they were able to dispatch them without too much trouble.

They also discovered that the druids’ grove was not too difficult to locate either. The circle tending the grove was led by an elderly woman named Enselle, who was only too happy to provide what healing she could to the heroes. She was also able to provide them with a scroll of dispel magic inscribed on a strip of bark, though she warned them that she could not guarantee it would work. Successfully closing a gate was a difficult thing.

For some reason, Berrian then brought up their friend, Iriandel the unicorn, lamenting that he was too far away to be able to help them in their current predicament. At the mention of unicorns, both Ser Alein and Enselle perked up. It just so happened that this forest had its own unicorn, one who went by the name Dawnstrider! Berrian was able to convince Enselle to summon the unicorn. It took a few hours for him to arrive, but when the majestic beast strode into the grove, the heroes set about asking him for his assistance. Convincing a unicorn to enter a walled city and assist with driving out some powerful fiends was never going to be easy, but Berrian and Bhára proved to be up to the task. They even managed to convince Enselle to accompany them. [DM note: I went with the default DC 20 Persuasion check to get a friendly creature to take a significant risk to help, and they nailed both checks! I think they even rolled a natural 20 for one of them.]

After a quick pow-wow to discuss strategy, Enselle magicked up a view of the burning septry in the grove’s pond so that Dawnstrider could teleport himself, Ser Alein, and the elves to the back door, while Enselle shapeshifted into a large owl and flew Bruce across the river in her talons.

The Septry
Without Gil there to help them break in, Berrian decided to just smash a window. Luckily for him, it opened into a closed stairway. He climbed through and entered the hallway with great caution, but there was no one about so he went and unbarred the door to the outside so the unicorn could get in.

At that moment, a door across the hall opened and one of the diabolists stepped out … and died a swift death for his troubles. Berrian then had to fend off a pesky imp that came out of the kitchen it had been trashing to investigate the noise. The heroes could also hear scratching and pawing coming from the other side of another door.

Setting up an ambush, they had Ser Alein open the door so they could get at the hell hounds inside. Bruce’s magic wand turned one of them to stone and sword and spell made short work of the other one. Enselle and Dawnstrider provided the heroes with some healing and then they proceeded up the stairs rather than heading straight into the septry’s main hall. Upstairs they found what had once been the chamber of Ser Marith, the septry’s champion. A gory scene greeted them inside. They weren’t sure if the remains were those of Ser Marith herself or someone else, but they decided to leave the room be for now and headed over to a door leading onto a balcony overlooking the septry’s main hall.

Berrian pushed the door open quietly and then crept out onto the balcony. The roar of the flames rising up through the hole in the domed roof helped cover his movements. Peering over the railing, he saw the bone devil lurking amidst the wreckage below, talking to a blond warrior woman who appeared to carry some authority. The woman soon turned and walked out the door on the far side of the hall, and the bone devil resumed its watch over the portal. Berrian crept back to report his findings.

As the group headed back down the stairs, Dawnstrider used his magic to suppress the sound of their movements. This even enabled him to creep up on the bone devil without it being aware of him so that he could banish it back to its home plane with a touch of his horn. The devil never even knew what had hit it! Bhára then whipped out the bark scroll and intoned the words to dispel the magic holding the portal open. Her will was strong and as she read the last words, the portal closed with a strange sucking noise, and the fire dissipated. [DM note: With gate being a 9th level spell, the DC was 19. Bhára got a high roll on the check. If she had failed, though, she had been (jokingly?) intending to use Ser Alein as a sacrifice …]

With that done, the heroes decided to sweep through the rest of the septry complex. They encountered the blond woman and another diabolist underling in the library. A fierce battle ensued, in which Berrian fell not once but twice and wound up with partial amnesia, Bruce finally got his wand to cast lightning bolt, and the diabolist immolated himself and all the books in the room with a fireball. The blond woman did not last long under the combined might of the heroes and their allies either.

As Berrian wondered aloud where he was and who all these strange people were, the others patched up their wounds and set about searching the rest of the septry. They found another hell hound that had taken up residence in the vestry and quickly slew it. And that was it. No sign of any other fiends or diabolists.

Epilogue
As the heroes emerged from the still-smoking wreckage of the septry and headed back towards the keep at the top of the hill, a crowd of followers quickly grew behind them. Everyone wanted to know what had happened. The crowd’s curiosity quickly turned to elation as the heroes told their tale, and all of a sudden the heroes found themselves in the middle of a street party as vendors began handing out free food and drink and minstrels retold their story in song as the townsfolk danced in the streets. Brindinford was saved! All hail the mighty heroes!

After taking their fill of the festivities, Bhára and Berrian went in search of their missing companions. Those scoundrels had some explaining to do …

Taking Care of Business

Dramatis Personae: Berrian, Bhára, Karth
Source: The Speaker in Dreams

The Cellar
After reviving Karth and taking a quick breather, the heroes were ready to continue the search for the missing Ser Alein. As she did not appear to be anywhere on the upper levels, Torea suggested they look in the cellar. As the party headed back down, they found that the feelings of unease they’d felt when they first entered the bookshop were growing again. Citing the need to find somewhere quiet to lie down and watch the world spin around them, Gil and Tasklar abandoned their mates to whatever fate awaited them down below.

As the remaining heroes descended into what appeared to be a meeting room of sorts, their feelings of vertigo and disorientation grew unbearably intense. Bhára found herself clinging closely to her brother’s side as though he were some kind of good luck charm she could use to stave off her burgeoning feelings of inadequacy. Karth, meanwhile, found himself being deafened by a constant buzzing in his ears. Berrian, however, managed to hold himself together and moved to open a door in the south wall.

As the door opened, the group was assailed by a babbling of voices coming from an amorphous blob in the middle of the floor. Another gibbering mouther, this one flanked by two of the mad sorcerers. Beyond them lay a woman in a red gown, grimacing in pain as she clutched her hands to her ears.

Trying not to look at the maddeningly distorted walls and floor, Berrian charged into the room and swung his magic sword at the monster, Bhára following closely at his heels. While Torea stood motionless in the doorway, stunned by the mouther’s babbling, Karth pushed through and, blissfully unable to hear the babbling, charged into the fray.

Despite Bhára feeling like she was running on empty, and Berrian and Karth still injured, the heroes managed to prevail in short order. Soon, the mouther was nothing but a pile of goo, and the sorcerers had followed their leader into the afterlife. Trying not to throw up, Torea staggered across to her master and knelt down beside her. Shakily getting to her feet, Ser Alein asked for the heroes’ help to get her back to the shrine. Once there, she would explain all that she knew.

At the shrine, after changing into something more comfortable, Ser Alein thanked the heroes for rescuing her. She explained that she had heard a cry for help outside, but when she’d gone to investigate, she’d lost consciousness. When she’d next awoken, she’d found herself in a strange place. She didn’t know how she’d ended up wearing that red party dress, but she suspected that the crazy sorcerers, whom she’d heard refer to themselves as “Those Who Hear”, had planned to sacrifice her in some mad ritual. In gratitude for their efforts, Ser Alein offered to let the heroes rest in the shrine overnight. Karth happily accepted, while the Starflowers were simply too exhausted to go in search of more luxurious accommodations.

Downtime
The next morning, the Starflowers felt well-rested enough to head out into the fair and find a spot to set up shop themselves. They proceeded to spend the better part of the day using their magic to clean and mend people’s garments* to earn a bit of coin. As they worked, a small boy approached them with a message from the dwarf weaponsmith, Shoomma, congratulating them on their efforts to clean up the city and inviting them and their fellow heroes to a feast to be held in their honor that evening.

Meanwhile, Karth had wandered about, getting the lay of the land, and ended up paying a visit to the thieves’ guild. When he stopped by the elves’ booth, they showed him the invitation. Aware that they still had the wererats in the bell tower to deal with, the group decided that they’d leave them until after the party.

The Party
Everyone who was anyone in Brindinford was at the Stony Gaze Tavern, so named for its medusa theme, when the heroes arrived. Ser Alein and Torea accompanied them in their fully knightly regalia. Various aristocrats schmoozed with them, and the Starflowers were able to make accommodation arrangements with one well-heeled family for after the party.

Curiously, Baron Euphemes II did not attend the party, sending his sister, Eriana, in his stead. Various locals assured them that this was perfectly normal, however. As a token of the city’s gratitude, Lady Eriana presented each of the heroes with a fine silver brooch set with a purple amethyst.

The feast itself was lavish, with roast boar and plenty of ale and mead for everyone. The entertainment culminated with a poetic retelling of the heroes’ exploits, with some episodes fabricated from whole cloth but all very grand and heroic. There were also numerous toasts and much applause in the heroes’ honor.

Ambushed!
The party lasted well into the night, and as the last guests staggered away, the heroes departed with their would-be hosts. As they passed a dark alley on their left, a low voice called out to them. The heroes caught a brief glimpse of a hulking figure shrouded in a cloak that was quickly obscured by a blast of freezing air that billowed out into the street. As the heroes shook off the cold, they saw with dismay that both Torea and the kindly nobles who had been escorting them home were frozen solid.

Charging after the retreating figure, the heroes entered a confusing maze of alleyways. A number of assassins leapt out of the shadows to attack with steel and spell. In addition to a number of roguish types, armed with short swords and hand crossbows, the heroes also found themselves being attacked by another of the mad sorcerers from the bookstore, as well as a pale figure with hellish symbols on his robes who seemed to be able to conjure up hellfire. The hulking figure who’d cast a cone of cold at them was nowhere to be seen, but a well-armored woman wielding a glaive entered the fray and quickly displayed magical powers of her own, at one point rising up into the air to land on a roof above.

Berrian had climbed up onto a roof to take out a pesky assassin with a crossbow. Seeing the woman with the glaive standing across the alley from him, he backed up and attempted a running leap. Unfortunately, he misjudged the distance and began to fall. Luckily, his sister had his back and saved him from embarrassment by casting feather fall on him.

In the end, only two would-be assassins survived, hightailing it away into the darkened streets. Both magic-users were cut down, with the diabolist’s body turning to ash upon his death, and even the glaive-wielder was laid low, at which point her broken body transformed before the heroes’ eyes into a blue-skinned giantess with small horns on her head and hair as white as snow. An oni! How strange.

While the group searched their attackers’ bodies, Bhára sifted through the diabolist’s ashes and came across a small black pearl that was warm to the touch. Feeling it contained some magic power, she pocketed it. Later, when she’d had a chance to examine it properly, it turned out to be a pearl of power.

The heroes helped Ser Alein carry Torea’s frozen remains back to Lurue’s shrine. Although she again offered her home to the heroes for the night, they gave her some space to mourn in private. As they rested, the heroes were troubled by bizarre dreams. Images of their would-be assassins mingled with hissing words that twisted and writhed together, like snakes within their minds, making their sinister intent clear despite their foreign syllables. After what felt like an eternity, words suddenly rang out clearly over the cacophony, as if howled by a madman: “The bells toll! The gate swings wide!”

The Baron’s Proclamation
In the morning, the heroes were roused from their troubled rest by the blaring of trumpets coming from the direction of the keep. Gearing up, they headed out into the streets and followed the crowds to the square below the southeast tower. Up above, the baron himself appeared on the parapet. With an oddly emotionless voice, Euphemes began addressing the crowd. Speaking about the lawlessness and disorder that had overwhelmed even the efforts of an heroic band of adventurers, not to mention the town guard, the baron announced that he would be bringing in a new force of law to make the city safe again.

On top of that, the baron issued some new edicts, among them the ending of the street fair and the closing of the city gates. Carrying weapons would also be prohibited. The septry would be closed and the godsworn declared outlaws. All able-bodied citizens were also ordered to report to duty in the militia.

At this point, Bhára spotted a shadowy figure lurking in the background. Her keen elven vision allowed her to see a pair of milky white eyes peering out of the figure’s cloak. She passed this information on to her brother, who bristled in anger – the baron was being controlled like a puppet!

As Baron Euphemes concluded his speech, a tall, skeletal figure with shimmering gossamer wings stepped into view on the roof of the tower. A tail like a scorpion’s lashed around behind it, stinging at the empty air. With that, the baron turned on his heel and disappeared into the tower.

As the crowd erupted into chaos, Berrian let loose a fire bolt at the retreating figure. His shot went wide, but the town guard noticed and began making their way towards the elf warrior.

Just then, cries arose from the crowd as a column of fire rose into the air from the direction of the Andarian Septry. The sky began to darken with hellish smoke. As the guards drew closer, Ser Alein suggested they head for the Reality Wrinkle bookstore. It would still be empty, and it was unlikely that anyone would think to look for them there.

Evading the guards easily, the heroes soon found themselves on an empty street, face-to-face with a large monster with ruddy scales and sharp talons. As it leapt towards them, Karth and Berrian ran forward, blades flashing, and laid the creature low.

As they made their way back towards the bookstore, they saw a number of other fiendish creatures chasing people through the streets, laughing gleefully at the mayhem they were causing.

Terror in the Streets
Back at the bookstore, the heroes discussed their next steps. Bhára told everyone about the figure she’d seen lurking behind the baron, and they concluded that he was being manipulated by someone. It would also seem that someone had summoned fiends from the Nine Hells. They would have to be dealt with.

Ser Alein mentioned that there was a druid enclave in the woods on the other side of the river, not far from the bridge at the north end of town. The druids and rangers there might be able to provide some assistance, should help be needed.

When Bhára complained that this wasn’t their problem and they should just get out, Ser Alein pointed out that if left unchecked, the fiends would spread. It would eventually become everyone’s problem. If there was an open portal to the hells somewhere in the city – and the pillar of fire above the septry seemed to suggest to the knight that there was – it needed to be closed urgently.

After some further discussion, the group resolved to head for the thieves’ guild across town in an attempt to reunite with Gil and Tasklar. Unfortunately, as they made their way through the eerily deserted streets, they were accosted by a group of frightened-looking militia members led by the bony fiend they’d spotted earlier. It spoke in their minds, telling them they were under arrest for breaking the new law against carrying weapons in the streets. Berrian drew his sword and yelled at the fiend to come and take it. He charged in to attack, and the others watched on in horror as the fiend rent him with its claws and stung him with its venomous stinger. The elf collapsed to the ground, his face pale and sickly.

Karth dashed forward and grabbed his friend’s limp body, then everyone made a run for it. Grabbing a potion and pouring it down Berrian’s throat, he thrust the elf at his sister and then shouted for the fiend to follow him. He split away from the others, telling them to get back to the bookstore. The brave half-orc led the fiend away from West Hill, buying the elves and Ser Alein time to get back to the bookstore.

 

 

*Berrian and Bhára’s players have been using some of their PCs’ downtime days to run a “drycleaning” business. While they have a physical shop, run in their absence by an assistant, back home in the elf kingdom, they can actually operate from anywhere since they mostly just use their prestidigitation and mending cantrips to due the cleaning and mending.

Those Who Hear

Dramatis Personae: Berrian, Bhára, Gil, Karth, Tasklar
Source: The Speaker in Dreams

In which Karth and Tasklar caught up with their friends, the party fought a giant worm-like creature from another dimension, rescued a knight’s squire from a bunch of mad sorcerers, then did battle with the cabal’s leader in a bookshop called ‘The Reality Wrinkle’. By the end of it, Gil had acquired his trusty pair of slippers of spider climbing.

[NB. This is the only session recap lost during the Great EN World Forum Reset of September 2016 for which I have been unable to recover the full post. I will do what I can do restore as much of it as I can possibly remember.]

The Fair Streets of Brindinford

Dramatis Personae: Berrian, Bhára, Gil (and Bruce the Goose)
Source: The Speaker in Dreams

Dragonmarked
Over the winter, Kaylessa approached the Starflower siblings and invited them to receive the gift of the Platinum Dragon. Although they were somewhat dubious of the religious implications, they had no issues with swearing an oath to do good and oppose evildoers and the like in exchange for more magical powers! They both stuck their hands in the silver fire. Berrian received the mark of healing, which allowed him to heal with a touch, while Bhára received the mark of the storm, granting her the ability to rebuke attackers with stormy energy. (The late Keluak Frostbeard had the same mark.)

The Return of Bruce
In the spring, the rhyme-loving halfling peddler, Bruce the Goose, arrived in Larchwood in search of the brave heroes who had rescued him from the plant monsters many months before. He was somewhat disappointed to find that only Gil was in town, though he took an instant liking to the elf siblings. Bruce was hoping for some companionship on his way to Brindinford for the town’s annual street fair.

Kaylessa had earlier explained to the heroes that it was about time they took their talents into the wider world, so she urged them now to accompany the halfling. She promised to let the others know where they’d gone.

Brindinford
Some weeks later, the heroes arrived at Brindinford, a walled town of roughly 5,000 people situated on the banks of the Brinding River. The fair had spilled out onto the open ground outside the walls. As the heroes made their way toward the main gate, they came across an old beggar woman. Bruce nicked a copper from her bowl. Noticing this, Bhára and Gil both donated several coins. She thanked them kindly, then stared shrewdly at Bruce for a few moments. Berrian gave her some more money, at which point she turned to look at him, and in a harsh whisper, “Beware those who hear the whispers in their dreams! They sleep fitfully now, awaiting the Speaker’s plans!” With that, she turned to the next group of travellers.

The heroes made their way slowly to the front of the line, where they found four guards in red livery peace-bonding everyone’s weapons. Swords were secured in scabbards, leather sacks placed over axe and spear blades, and so on. Anyone who looked like they might be a spellcaster were politely asked to tie leather strips around their middle and ring fingers and tie their component pouches closed. The heroes grumbled a bit under their breath but acquiesced, knowing that this was fairly standard practice in more civilized parts.

Inside the gates, they found the town’s main thoroughfare crowded with people. Taking in the various wares and entertainments to be had, they noticed that everything got noticeably nicer and more expensive the closer they got to the hill on the west side of town, on top of which was a walled compound. Berrian decided he wanted to find a new jacket (and a dress for his sister), while Gil went in search of healing potions.

The Fair Gets Foul
As the heroes reconvened near the bell tower at the center of town, shouts from nearby signalled a disturbance. The shouts turned to screams, and the heroes soon found themselves up against a press of people trying to get away from the source of the commotion. Berrian used his lordly presence to clear a path, parting the crowd as if by magic. Within moments, the companions found themselves facing four rat-men with a bunch of giant rats busily trashing market stalls and harassing merchants and so on.

The heroes had all had the foresight to dispose of their peace-bonding devices on their way through the crowd, and with no town guards in sight, the heroes decided to take matters into their own hands. Berrian charged forward, swinging his moonblade at the leader of the rat-men, a particularly wily fellow who seemed to moving around a lot faster than ought to be possible.

Gil took aim at one of the rat-men with his bow, only to discover that his mundane arrows were of no use against these cursed creatures. He then attempted to put the rat-men to sleep with his magic but only succeeded in dropping two of the rats.

Bhára hung back, using her magic, while Bruce darted in and activated his magic wand, which turned him invisible. He turned this to his own advantage by surprise attacking one of the rat-men as it ran past him to deal with Bhára. Unfortunately, Bruce’s nonmagical dagger was as ineffectual as Gil’s arrow had been, and the rat-man just grinned at the little halfling.

Berrian soon found himself surrounded by rats and rat-men. As the leader stabbed furiously away, Bhára went to her brother’s aid by casting a shatter spell. The spell killed one of the rats and ruined some of the merchandise strewn about the road, drawing the ire of one of the merchants cowering behind an overturned cart.

When Berrian succumbed to his wounds and fell to the ground, Bhára cast a twinned ray of sickness, harming one of the wererats and slaying their leader! The surviving rat-men turned tail and fled. While Bruce chased after one of them, Gil and Bhára ran to help Berrian.

Once away from the main street, the rat-man Bruce was chasing shifted back into his human form and then proceeded to take a roundabout route back to the center of town, where he calmly entered the nearby bell tower. Bruce then ran back to his companions to tell them what he’d seen.

By this time, a contingent of guards had arrived. They thanked the group for their assistance in dealing with the rat-men and told them that they could keep their weapons un-bound from here on out.

Crime Scene Investigations
Bhára mollified the angry merchant by repairing some of his broken wares with her mending spell while her companions paused to catch their breath. Shortly after, another contingent of guards, this one led by a stocky woman, arrived to begin a proper investigation. As the woman was clearly some kind of officer, the heroes approached and attempted to share their own information with her. She made it clear she didn’t think much of adventurers, but she thanked them for their help just the same.

The officer, introducing herself as Lt Shella, told the group that she suspected the rat-men might be behind a series of grisly murders in Southspur, the city’s slums district. At that, a street urchin piped up with more detail: several people had disappeared off the streets of Southspur in recent times. No bodies had been found, but there was plenty of blood left behind!

Shella accepted the heroes’ offer to investigate the bell tower, although she almost instantly regretted doing so, for they proceeded to march over and bang on the door until the old caretaker, Turvin, appeared. Berrian tried to convince him to let them in so they could discuss some elvish methods that might enhance the sound of his bells. The old man was insulted and attempted to shut the door on the heroes, but Bruce got in the way and found himself wedged in the crack. As the heroes tried to overpower the old man, Lt Shella arrived and furiously told them to stop what they were doing, reminding them that this was the city and that they couldn’t just go barging into someone’s home like that! Bhára angrily snapped back at her and stormed off.

Gathering Information
Things didn’t appear to be going so well at this point, so the heroes decided to back off. Gil decided to see if there was a thieves’ guild in town. After greasing a few palms and wetting a few throats, he managed to locate the guild, based in a merchant company’s office. The head of the guild, a friendly human named Thos, was pleased to meet Gil and gave him a few tips. He suggested that Gil go and visit old Shoomma, an ancient dwarven smith who was well-liked by everyone in the city and knew just about everything there was to know about anything.

Gathering up his companions, Gil went in search of the dwarf. On their way to Shoomma’s smithy, Bruce and Bhára both noticed someone following them. The guy looked to be a thug, with long, slicked-back hair and a crossbow with a weird contraption on it. They suspected he wasn’t alone.

As Gil got down to business with the old lady dwarf, Bhára and Bruce kept an eye on the square outside. They could see the thug wandering around in the square, pretending to mind his own business. Another guy with much the same look came along shortly. Bruce decided to try and spy on them from closer up and attempted to sneak behind a statue but the thugs spotted him and headed towards him. They proceeded to get into a bizarre conversation (which Bhára was able to follow thanks to her ability to read lips) that started with the thugs attempting to lure Bruce into an alley so they could show him where the wererats were hiding and ended with Bruce attempting to convince the thugs that he was leading them into an alley to show them something.

Meanwhile, the others were able to glean some valuable information from the straight-talking Shoomma. She told them that she’d heard rumors that rats were crawling all over the old bell tower. The tower had been looked after by members of the same family ever since it had been built. Shoomma had known the previous caretaker quite well but didn’t really know the man’s son, Turvin, that well, since he mostly kept to himself.

She added that, over the past few weeks, a number of her fellow artisans and shopkeepers had reported being approached for protection money. Those who refused were frequently burgled shortly afterwards. She suspected that the wererats might be behind it, since it would be easy for them to escape detection via their shapechanging abilities.

Rats in the Alley
At this point, the rest of the gang noticed what was going on out in the square. Thanking Shoomma for her help, they followed Bruce as the thugs attempted to lead him (or was Bruce leading them?) into a narrow alley. There, they revealed themselves to be wererats themselves and proceeded to pump Bruce full of bolts using what turned out to be repeating crossbows!

Hearing Bruce cry out in pain, the others raced to the entrance. Berrian shot bolts of fire at the wererats, while Gil acrobatically bounced around the alley to get in behind the far wererat, which had succumbed to a fit of laughter brought on by Bruce’s magic powers. He was able to stab the downed rat-man several times with Reszur, his magic dagger, before it shook off the charm. Bruce pulled out his magic wand, but this time all he managed to do was read the surface thoughts of one of the rat-men (who was beginning to think about trying to escape, as well as wondering what would happen to “the plan” now that Squim was dead). Meanwhile, both rat-men were able to resist Bhára’s hold person. With both wererats quite hurt by now, though, Gil risked another sleep spell and was pleasantly surprised when one of them dropped to the ground unconscious.

At that, the one on the ground got to his feet, muscled his way past Gil, and disappeared into a maze of alleyways. Content with one prisoner, the heroes stripped the rat-man and tied him up. Along with the repeating crossbow and a spare cartridge, and some money, they found a small bag containing a strange white powdery substance. Suspecting that this may have been how the wererat leader had been able to move so quickly, they decided not to touch it for now.

They dragged the bound wererat into a backroom behind Shoomma’s forge. When he woke up, Berrian intimidated him into talking. The wererat told them that his gang did indeed live in the bell tower. No, there weren’t any tunnels underneath it. There were about ten wererats, including Turvin, and maybe a dozen giant rats in the tower. The tower had five floors. Turvin lived on the ground floor, while the rest of them lived on the second floor. The rats mostly lived on the third floor. The fourth floor was full of gears and pulleys and things. The top floor housed the bells.

Given how tough a time they’d had assaulting Feathergale Spire, the heroes were wary about trying to clear the bell tower. When their talk turned to setting the place on fire to smoke the rats out, Shoomma piped up that they’d be lucky to be run out of town on a rail if they tried a stunt like that. The bell tower was a believed landmark in the town, and wererats or no, the citizens of Brindinford would not appreciate it being damaged.

When Bruce got all up in the wererat’s face, he decided he’d had enough of the interrogation and shifted into rat form so he could escape his bonds. Bruce was too fast, though, and grabbed him by his tail and stuffed him into his handy haversack. Announcing to the rest of the crew that they had ten minutes, they hurried out to find a contingent of guards. They grabbed a large sack and wrangled the rat-man thug into the sack then handed it over to the guards with a hasty explanation that they’d caught one of the guys who had either taken part in the attack on the fair or was at least associated with those that had. The guards thanked them and then commandeered a cart to carry the wriggling sack back to their barracks.

At this point, it was late afternoon, the fair was winding down, and the heroes decided it was time to look for somewhere to stay. Suspecting that the town’s taverns would be overcrowded with fair-goers, the two Starflowers used their noble privileges to secure lodging with an aristocratic family living in the prestigious Keep neighborhood. They were able to vouch for Gil, as well, despite his rustic folk hero appearance. Bruce, however, opted to go and find lodgings with his friends in the town’s halfling camp, situated on the river just outside the north gate.

Dramatic Interlude

A Stitch in Time
As our heroes huddle together, trying to keep warm on the cold surface of the metal cube, Berrian settles into a trance. Through his reflexive meditations, he thinks back over recent events. He recalls the fierce fighting in the marble tower. He recalls the look of maniacal glee on the air priest’s face as he tears a hole in the fabric of reality, sucking himself and his enemies into a literal void. He recalls how a strange wind composed of lost memories and snatches of conversation buffets the group, pulling them through a swirling vortex of flaming red energy. Only this time, he keeps falling. The vortex is swallowing him up.

Just as he feels that all is lost, an image comes into focus amidst the swirling colors. He strains his eyes, trying to make it out. It’s a sewing needle! His hand reaches out to take it … and as his finger comes into contact, he realizes what must be done!

Berrian’s eyes pop open. He looks around at his miserable comrades. He looks at his sister, still unconscious, a frown creasing her brow. He pulls the needle out of his pack. The old woman who gave it to him said it could never be bent. He’d tried many times, and so far, it was still as straight as an arrow. But what if … Focusing on the visions in his trance, he takes the needle in hand and applies pressure with his thumb. At first it resists but then slowly, ever so slowly, it begins to bend!

Suddenly time starts to flow in reverse! He is moving backwards, rapidly, and is soon spiralling back up through the vortex into the void and back through the rift into the tower. The priest is nothing but mist again, but Berrian remembers … as the insane cultist begins to coalesce, magic bags in hand, Berrian gives a shout of warning and attacks, stabbing his sword through the man’s chest.

With a howl of rage and frustration, Azoth the priest collapses onto his knees. His back arches as his head snaps up towards the ceiling. A rush of air pours out of his mouth, rapidly dissolving him into nothing! As his empty robe flutters to the floor, a rumble of thunder shakes the tower, followed rapidly by a flash of lightning.

A massive bolt strikes the point at the top of the tower. Fearthergale Spire shivers and quakes. Cracks form in the walls. The tower is falling apart! Time to leave!

Berrian grabs his unconscious sister and slings her over his shoulder as the others hurry into the entry hall. As the tower begins to fall apart around them, they work as furiously as they can to lower the drawbridge. In a daze, they scramble across and onto the plateau. A fierce thunderstorm rages above them, and Berrian thinks for a moment that he can hear a voice on the wind, but he can’t make out the words. The remaining knights and their winged ally have fled. As the heroes watch from a safe distance, the spire crumbles and falls into the canyon below, leaving nothing behind but a broken stump of marble where the stables had been.

The heroes limp back to Larchwood. After a warm meal, they curl up in front of the roaring fire in the Swinging Sword’s common room. As Kaylessa sits down beside them, Berrian stares into the crackling flames and begins to tell the half-elven woman a story …

A Wrinkle in Time
Unbeknownst to everyone, Berrian’s use of the needle’s magic has had an unintended consequence: the PCs are now in a slightly altered reality, one in which divine magic no longer exists. Berrian is now an eldritch knight rather than a paladin, and as far as he (and anyone else) is concerned, he has always been one. Saul no longer exists, either, and in his place is an alternate version of Keth, who is (and seemingly always has been) a barbarian rather than a cleric.

Kaylessa also informs the group that they’ve done what they can to make the town of Larchwood safer, and it’s now time that they take their gifts out into the wider world in an effort to make it a better place too.

The Sowing of Death Continues

Dramatis Personae: Berrian, Saul, Tasklar (and Elia)
Source: “Feathergale Spire” (Princes of the Apocalypse)

A Few Surprises
As our protagonists set about discussing what to do next, the priest shouted down at them that he would give them 5 minutes to surrender or else they would regret it. “I reckon we don’t need much more than one minute,” Saul quipped to his companions.

But then, all of a sudden, Gil disappeared in a puff of black smoke, only to be replaced by a rather bewildered-looking Elia! She looked around at all the strange faces, then settled on Tasklar. “Where’s Gil?” she said.

“He was right there …” the bard replied, indicating the spot where Elia was standing. “You seem to have magicked him away.”

“Dammit! It was supposed to take me to Gil, not make me swap places with him!” Elia replied cryptically. She took a moment to compose herself. “Who are your friends, Tasklar? And where are we?”

After a brief round of introductory conversation, Elia got the feeling that she knew Saul somehow, but he wouldn’t admit to being Keth reincarnated. Tasklar also explained to Elia the current situation, and she agreed to help them out. As the group got back to planning the next phase of their attack, Bhára collapsed in a heap on the ground. No one had any idea why, and nothing could shake her out of her coma. Berrian decided to hide her body under the lord commander’s bed. He promised his sister he’d come back for her.

Hoping that would be the last of the surprises for now, the group resolved to tie a rope to the door handle, unbar it, then yank the door open in hopes that any spells or attacks the enemy had ready would be wasted. Then Berrian would charge out into the hall with his shield at the ready to protect the others.

Unfortunately, before they could enact this plan, a wispy form came down the chimney and whirled out into the form of an air elemental! It immediately attacked, attempting to pound the heroes with blasts of air and toss them about the room, but they proved to be too tough for it. Standing their ground, they slashed, poked, and magicked it away into nothing. During the fight, Saul was rather taken aback to see Elia using magic as well as she caused hellish flames to sear away some of the elemental’s substance. Where on Erathis had she learned to do that?!

The Plan of Attack
With the elemental dealt with, our heroes proceeded with their plan and yanked the door open from across the room. Nothing happened. Berrian advanced into the hall. Nothing. He checked the other rooms. Still nothing. As the others emerged from the lord commander’s room, the elven paladin gestured up the stairs. Tasklar turned Elia invisible and she snuck up to the pinnacle so quietly that no one could even tell that she’d gone. When she returned, she reported that a guy in white robes with a bird-like mask was standing at the ready on one side of the grassy lawn, while a bird-man was waiting on the other side. Several knights riding giant vultures were circling the tower. And it looked like a storm was brewing out there, too.

Nevertheless, they charged up the stairs, taking the fight to the enemy. Tasklar went up first and lost another eye to a readied magical strike from the bird-man. Ignoring his attacker, however, Tasklar turned to the air priest and unloaded fireballs on him. Unfortunately, the priest turned out to be quick enough to avoid the brunt of the blasts. Berrian ran out to engage him in melee, only to have the priest call down a bolt of lightning on him. The priest then flew up onto the roof of the pagoda, out of the range of Berrian’s blade.

Meanwhile, Elia was firing shots at the bird-man, who was blasting the group with spells. At one point, he swooped down and, as they were all nicely lined up inside the pagoda, sent a lightning bolt surging through them. At the same time, the knights on their vultures were flying past, taking potshots at the heroes with rays of frost.

Without Bhára’s spellpower, this proved to be too much for our heroes. They opted to retreat down to the armory by the entry hall. Grabbing bedding from the knights’ rooms (as well as the still unconscious Bhára) on the way down, they heaped it up in the stairwell on the ground floor and lit it on fire, then closed the doors to the entry hall and, at Elia’s suggestion, started cutting down the eagle-shaped battering ram with the intention of using it to barricade the inner doors.

Before they could, however, the doors burst open, revealing Whisper, the air genasi monk, and two initiates with crossbows. “Did you really think you could get away?” asked Whisper.

Tasklar attempted to parlay with her, but she was having none of it. She was dedicated to helping bring about the world’s destruction so that people could leave unfettered by physical things. She hit Tasklar with a fist of compressed air, blasting him back into the front doors and knocking him unconscious. The others moved in to retaliate, with Saul moving close enough that his guardian falcon spirits could do their work. The initiates died quickly. Whisper didn’t last much longer. The heroes rejoiced when the “blue bitch” collapsed onto the ground.

A Few More Surprises
While attempting to rest in the armory, our progatonists were surprised by another cloudy form slipping through the cracks. Only this one didn’t turn out to be an air elemental. It was Azoth the air priest himself! And in each hand he held a leather bag. “You must let go your earthly tether! Enter the void! Enter and become wind!” he shouted, as he shoved one bag into the other. Immediately reality was torn asunder and the heroes found themselves being sucked into a silvery void.

The priest was also sucked through, and then the rift closed. They were trapped! The priest continued to cackle maniacally until the heroes silenced him. They then tied each other together with rope so they wouldn’t get separated. Looking around, they found themselves surrounded by an endless silver sky filled with distant clouds. Here and there were strange roiling shapes of color. None of them had any idea where they were.

Suddenly the sky in one area started to rapidly darken, and the heroes found themselves being buffeted by a psychic wind composed of lost dreams and memories. All but Saul were able to resist the psychic storm; the halfling, however, was stunned by the overwhelming psychic surge. Saul was also dragged into a swirling pool of flaming red. Still attached to him by the rope, the others decided to follow.

They found themselves standing on a massive iron cube, cracked and pitted and rusty, floating in an airy void. It was cold here, unlike in the last place. They could see other cubes of varying sizes floating all around. As they watched, two cubes collided with a loud clang. They could also hear the sound of a massive battle taking place somewhere nearby. Wandering over to take a look, they found two massive armies of orc and goblin spirits attempting to slaughter each other. Not wanting to disturb them, they retreated to the edge of the cube and had a look over the side. They just found more of the same.

Where the hell were they?!