The Mountains of Morpheus

Session 6: At the Circle of Pines

Overview

Finally having trekked through the Mountains of Morpheus to the Circle of Pines, the Sect of Indigo’s principal holy site, the player characters (PCs) spoke to the Guardian of the Wood, one of the magical spirits conjured by the sect. (Such creatures are colloquially called “dryads.”) However, the Guardian, called Vil-Tessa-Soth (“mighty fortification” in Sylvan) proved cryptic and hostile. A fight between the PCs and the Guardian and its pets broke out. Although Morgran’s throat was torn, each PC survived, and the party interrogated Vil-Tessa-Soth, learning the following:

  • Mortal interlopers, led by two human women, paid a visit to the Sect of Indigo about three weeks ago. They have slain most — or possibly all — of the druids.
  • Somehow, the interlopers were able to corrupt the dryads “body-trees,” which anchor them in the physical world. For this reason, Vil-Tessa-Soth was physically and psychically weakened, as were two other Guardians of the Wood in the area: Shar-Kia-Nith (“night’s starry splendor”) and Fel-Turnus-Sorph (“mountain goat”). Vil-Tessa-Soth conjectured that these two have reverted to an even more atavistic, violent state.
  • The druids kept two sets of dwellings in the area: A cluster of sod houses near the Circle of Pines, and a “hidden temple” to to southwest, carved in the inside of a mountain ridge.

At Vil-Tessa-Soth’s behest, the PCs destroyed its body-tree, a large pine tree with the unusual features of a mortal face and hands. Presumably, this put the spirit to rest, decoupling it from material existence.

Setting up camp in the vicinity that night, the PCs encountered a human Sky-born soldier, wounded and wandering lost through the area. He introduced himself as Janduin: also interested in seeking out the Sect of Indigo for their counsel, and advised by his acquaintance, Cicero Woods, to aid Araceli, Cevei, Helm, and Polder if possible. However, Janduin had run afoul of one of the dryads, Shar-Kia-Nith, and not only nearly died in the encounter, but lost two of his friends to its sorcerous influence. Janduin was looking for those two rangers, Josephine and Isaiah, and inadvertently stumbled upon the PCs. However, he could not hope to accomplish much without the PCs’ aid.

The following day, the PCs debated their priorities. Cevei struck off by himself in search of Fiona’s Cairn, leaving Araceli, Morgran, Pip, Sequoia, Janduin at the Circle of Pines. Investigating the druids’ houses, the PCs discovered the aftermath of some significant violence:

  • Four humans — presumably druids of the sect — were found killed, their bodies placed inside one house. It appears they died by weapons and arrows, though Morgran also concluded a poison was used to attack at least one of the victims as well. The corpses’ heads were separated from their bodies, and smashed to bony, rotting fragments. The bodies appear to have been decomposing for about three weeks — roughly when a previous group of mortals visited the druids, according to Vil-Tessa-Soth.
  • In another house, a large pile of burned papers, books, relics, and equipment, suggesting the willful destruction of much of the sect’s knowledge and property.
  • Later, an old diary by one of the sect’s druids. The contents of this Daria’s journal are about eight years old since the last entry, and are personal and often cryptic. However, the PCs were able to take a few hours to decipher them.

The PCs also encountered two humans, presumably Josephine and Isaiah, who attempted to persuade them to give up the injured Janduin. Suspecting that they were indeed charmed by another Guardian of the Wood, Araceli and Morgran instigated a nonviolent confrontation, subduing them in hope of causing their charm to wear off. By nightfall, it appeared that Josephine and Isaiah had returned to their typical selves, and they reunited with Janduin. Araceli suggested the group’s next steps: Avoid Shar-Kia-Nith and Fel-Turnus-Sorph, investigate the sect’s “hidden temple,” and reconvene with wayward Cevei.

Meanwhile, Cevei had traversed over one of the mountain ranges, getting near Fiona’s Cairn, though lost as to his exact location. Taking shelter near a rock outcropping, he spotted a pair of what may be gnolls …

It is presently the early morning of November 4.

Details

According to the interrogated Vil-Tessa-Soth, it and the two other Guardians of the Wood had “orbits” of about a one-mile radius, forming a three-way Venn diagram, with the Circle of Pines at the center. This is consistent with Arawn-Thon-Tha’s account of the area.

Pip and Sequoia were unwell in their dreams, taking sustainable damage.

The PCs are able to avail themselves of what remains of the sect’s belongings in the sod houses. There appears to be nothing extraordinary, but typical food, medicine, and tools are in moderate supply. They also found two unidentified potions, and about 100 gp.

Josephine had dreams of her own. In addition to helping the PCs discover Daria’s diary, she claimed to have premonitory dreams of a woman who had recently visited the druidic sect: a warrior bearing a sword and a birdcage, with the bearing of a “dark knight.”

Information from Daria’s diary:

  • The Sect of Indigo is, philosophically and spiritually, a druidic mystery cult: a religious society whose mystical practices and teachings were reserved only for its members, and kept secret from others. Daria’s entries imply that the initiation rites were gruesome and painful, purposefully testing the body and mind that they would be protected from Morpheus’s Grip, the dreaming effect of the Mountains. It appears that the sect believed, with substantial evidence, that the “oneiric power” of the Mountains could be used to enter trance-like states, where they could see into the past, present, and future. However, initiation into the mystery cult apparently entailed numerous bloody rites, by which the mind would somehow become protected from the raw psychic energies of the Mountains of Morpheus.
  • In those oneiric trances, mystics could also adopt different shapes, changing into animals, or even plants and the elements. It appears that the pinnacle of this transformation is something called a Sacred Transformation, where a skilled magician becomes able to change seamlessly from natural form to natural form, and become an egoless, ever-changing guardian of the wilderness, free from conscious thought or static form. Daria’s diary implies that attempting this particular magic is very dangerous and risky, as it can go awry. It has not actually been accomplished before.
  • There is a reference to a powerful druid named Marten. Apparently he has been dead for about 25 years, but he majorly contributed to the sect’s mystical advancement and practical security.
  • As Vil-Tessa-Soth stated, there is a “hidden temple” located somewhere to the southwest of the Circle of Pines. Much as the surrounding woodlands are protected by dryads, which are magical nature spirits, the hidden temple is protected by what are called lampads, or Guardians of the Deep: Nature spirits of the underground, ferocious and temperamental. They carry torches of harmful violet flame, and can pass through solid stone as fish through water.
  • There is a reference to “killer mimics” in the sect’s company. No details on this.
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Session 5: Further into the Dreaming Mountains

Overview

The player characters (PCs) recovered after their fight with the gnolls, to whom they showed no mercy. They took a long rest, and continued their journey, reaching by noon of October 31 the South Pass, the entry into the Mountains of Morpheus proper. The South Pass is a rather peaceful alpine meadow, dotted by menhirs, dolmens, and standing stones, some of which form crude “houses.” The PCs observed simple but aesthetic carvings on these stones, depicting horses, birds, and butterflies, as well as a the trickster god of the Mountains, Morpheus — in this case, represented as a crone bearing a harp.

The PCs encountered a whip-poor-will, whose cry seemed to have a strange effect on the psyches of Araceli, Cevei, and Morgran: It seemed that its cry could at times break a person’s spell concentration, and even cause a spellcaster to lose spell slots, or cause a monk to lose ki points. Not deterred, the PCs put the injured bird out of its misery. Araceli, Cevei, and Morgran discovered that the whip-poor-will was infested with a strange parasite: a gray-blue, thumb-sized creature with a shrimp-like head and a leech-like body, with long tendrils. Though at a loss to understand its nature or origin, the PCs kept its corpse with them.

On the morning of November 2, the PCs encountered a strange traveler, seeming human but not quite human, of strange skin color and stranger mannerism. After some peaceful lies and questioning, the stranger, named Arawn-Thon-Tha (in Sylvan, “Gentle One”), introduced himself as a Guardian of the River, or better known as a “naiad,” which is conjured into physical being through druidic magicks. Though usually committed to deterring travelers through misdirection and charm, Arawn-Thon-Tha appeared to decide that the PCs were of noble enough intent, and merited guidance to the Sect of Indigo at their holy site, the Circle of Pines. But being mystically connected to fresh water, it could not travel all the way with them.

The Guardian of the River, however, was concerned over some recent events:

  • It has not seen the druids of the Sect of Indigo, its conjurers, for about two weeks. This disconcerts it, as while it cannot reach the Circle of Pines, the druids would visit it every several days.
  • Around the Circle of Pines are three Guardians of the Wood, or “dryads,” which are beings similar in fey nature to Arawn-Thon-Tha. They are at home in the woodlands, but they have recently fallen to strange, feral, even violent moods. Arawn-Thon-Tha is unclear whether this is merely a temporary oddity, or hints at a … darker possibility. Each Guardian of the Wood itself is capable of enchantment magic, and is also accompanied by worgs and forest animals.
  • About two weeks ago, it saw signs of a small group of adventurers passing through this area, heading from north to south along the same river that the PCs have been traveling along, from south to north.

The PCs approached the Circle of Pines, discovering a literal circle of 12 pines. Finding no druids, but two worgs, Cevei used a spell to speak with the worgs. After some discussion, the worgs agreed to lead the PCs to their master, presumably a Guardian of the Wood.

Details

The PCs intuited that Arawn-Thon-Tha, though initially honest, was not deceiving them in guiding them to the Sect of Indigo. However, they did suspect it was withholding information. Arawn-Thon-Tha remains near the river; it would (hopefully) not be too arduous to find him again.

The PCs encountered an apparent hunting party of gnolls, on the other side of a river. The two parties avoided each other, though the PCs were mindful of their potentially being tracked.

Cevei decapitated the four gnolls, keeping their animal heads.

Dreams: Sequoia acquired temporary magical power in his dreams, gaining the benefits of the Magic Initiate feat. (GM Note: I think Sequoia can keep this feat next session, since this session was quite short.) Cevei took damage. In the PCs’ dreams, a tall, dark-haired warrior was also present.

Inventory

The party spent:

  • About 10 lbs. of food over your travels.

The party gained:

  • A dead shrimp-leech parasite-thing found inside a bird whose voice is magic.
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Session 4: Into the Dreaming Mountains

Overview

The PCs enjoyed a minor celebration at the St. Hermos monastery with Lina Fisher’s militant rebels, resting after their attack on Rochia.

Fisher advised them to undertake several ancillary quests in the Mountains of Morpheus: (1) Attack an adventuring party sent by Baron Sata into the Mountains of Morpheus. Fisher will pay 100 gp for the head of their leader, a sorcerer named Olivia Vanani. (2) Go to Fiona’s and Demont’s Cairns and dream up information about the baron, about aristocrats’ loyalties, about the fate of the kingdom. At these sites, the dreaming effects of the Mountains seem especially controlled and “beneficial.” (3) Visit Little Flute, to find Araya Latewood, a druid exiled from the Sect of Indigo, in the hope that she could explain the problem. The PCs were to convince her to visit the St. Hermos monastery, and they might find more information about Cicero’s task by questioning a druid of the Sect of Indigo.

The PCs visited Little Flute. They did not find Araya, who turned out to have been killed a month ago. However, Araceli spoke with Otto, her surviving brother of age 13.

The PCs traveled through the wilderness for about four days, beginning Tuesday, October 27—. They made about 45 miles of progress. They encountered worgs along the way, but avoided hostilities. On the night of October 30, they fought gnolls. The PCs looted (or will be able to loot): 9 gp, 7 sp, and 129 cp, as well as a silver ring that might be worth 1 gp; a potion; about 10 lbs. of foot; 1 small glass jar of honey.

Details

One of the rebel-bandits, a young woman named Yara Foxwell, seduced (or was seduced by) Araceli. Araceli sensed something not entirely honest about her, as she seemed especially interested in the PCs’ cheese-delivering quest into the Mountains, but they nevertheless engaged in consensual activities.

Cevei and Sequoia negotiated with Nicholas Summers, Sequoia’s former comrade and Fisher’s current aide-de-camp. After some bargaining, Cevei received and learned a new spell, speak with wolves, provided by Nicholas, who received Sequoia’s assurance that the PCs would commit to the operations that Fisher suggested the PCs undertake. If the PCs can’t get results, then Nicholas would ask them to later pay the spell’s price of 30 gp.

Araceli discussed the Sect of Indigo with Otto Latewood, Araya’s younger brother:

  • Araya was initiated into the Sect of Indigo, the sect to which Cicero’s friend Rohfa Hazelwheat belongs. The initiation process is apparently something of an apprenticeship, and can take two to three years. Araya did not do well in this time, and left the sect instead. (Therefore, she is not an exile, as Fisher stated, just someone who failed admission into the sect.)
  • The druids of the Sect of Indigo “worshipped transformation,” though it’s unclear to Otto what this exactly meant. Araceli recalled some Old Faith texts describing a kind of apotheosis of form that enlightened druids could achieve, being able to take on any natural form at will.
  • Araya and her friend were killed by two bandits (or adventurers?): One, a dark-haired and fair-skinned woman of knightly bearing, and another woman with short, silver hair.
  • The PCs shared the information they gathered with Nicholas, who said he’d send people to Little Flute to pry what other information Otto had. Nicholas seemed to recognize the description of Araya’s murderers … but said nothing about it to Sequoia.

Side Quest 1: Attacking Olivia: About one week ago, an adventuring party commissioned by the baron of Illograno himself ventured into these Mountains. It’s unclear what they’re after, but Fisher surmises Baron Sata wants them to liaise with the Sect of Indigo, or possibly dream up information and prophecy. The party is led by one of the baron’s top sorcerers, a young human (Sky-born) prodigy named Olivia Vanani. The party’s second-in-command is an Ashoumite priest named Helm Browning. As he is a figure held in good standing by the people, who could be swayed from the baron’s control, he is not to be killed, whether deliberately or by secondary consequence. The party has three other members, whom Nicholas believes are rangers and/or soldiers.

Side Quest 2: The Cairns: According to Nicholas, one must bring an “offering” of one’s faith to receive the benefits of Fiona’s Cairn, worth a non-trivial material amount. He does not know the mystical peculiarities of this phenomenon. Demont’s Cairn requires no tribute, but a young red dragon is rumored to dwell somewhere near it.

Dreams: Araceli had a premonitory dream. He sensed that bringing Cicero’s cheese to Rohfa, the sect’s principal mystic, would foster good relations between him and the sect.

Cevei dreamed of Hades’s Moss, the supposedly mystical moss that grows in certain cairns in the Mountains of Morpheus, which his society’s High Wizard mentioned. Presumably, these are Fiona and Demont’s Cairns. The party will gain a 40% XP bonus if it can acquire this moss within two sessions.

Inventory

The party spent:

  • 20 sp and a prayer wheel (Araceli)
  • About 10 lbs. of food over your travels.

The party gained:

  • 9 gp, 7 sp, and 129 cp
  • A silver ring that might be worth 1 gp
  • A potion
  • About 10 lbs. of food
  • 1 small glass jar of honey.
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Session 3: Around St. Hermos

Overview

The PCs killed Rochia, the warlock serving Baron Sata, as well as a warrior accompanying her. The death occurred on Lady Othello’s estate, where Rochia and her party were staying; Lady Othello is the ruling aristocrat in the St. Hermos area. Having asked some villagers in St. Hermos — not too discreetly — about Rochia, the PCs likely face a great deal of suspicion for murdering one of the baron’s agents. For their troubles, the St. Hermos monastery rewarded them with an equipment upgrade.

The next day, the PCs had heard news that a peasant girl was killed that same night, apparently by a wild animal.

Details

Polder got cold feet about the adventure into the Mountains. He deserted the party.

The PCs invited Morgran to join their adventure. Morgran is a dwarvish cleric, seeking the visions of the Mountains for personal reasons.

Helm and his stepfather Pip, a halfling bard, encountered each other. Pip offered to take Helm’s place in the party, on the grounds that a lad of Helm’s age should not be adventuring. Pip also wishes to find more information about the death of Oneeta, his lover and Helm’s surrogate mother (as well as an infamous smuggler and criminal).

Some possibly intelligent crows bore witness to the PCs’ attack.

Inventory

The PCs spent:

• 1 silver at the “pub,” Pip only.

The PCs gained:

• Sequoia and Pip were able to upgrade their armor to studded leather (trading in their existing armor);
• Each of the PCs was able to acquire a weapon, and some arrows.

The PCs gained, from the two people they killed:

• 57 silver pieces;
• A crystal orb, worth perhaps 1 to 20 gold pieces;
• A gold ring, worth perhaps 1 to 20 gold pieces;
• An expensive-looking longsword, worth perhaps 25 to 80 gold pieces;
• A short sword;
• A warlock’s ritual dagger, about twice the price of an ordinary dagger.

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Session 2: At Trezzano

Overview

In Trezzano, group of thieves from a neighboring settlement had attacked a household at the perimeter of the village, slaying two of its residents and nearly absconding with its goods and livestock. The PCs intervened, defeating five of them; some died. One of their number, a young woman, fled into the night. The PCs heard rumors that these bandits might actually have been “encouraged” by officials under Baron Sata, the area’s new ruler — the family they attacked was known to have connections to Azna rebels and bandits in the area.

The PCs left Trezzano immediately, headed for St. Hermos. The village seems to have been plagued by a spate of strange attacks by wild animals: Wolves in the woods, flocks of crows, a strange large cat called a “tyger.”

The PCs, per Cicero’s encouragement, contacted the St. Hermos monastery, located about four miles south of the village. It appears that a number of Azna rebel-bandits are based here. They are led by Lina Fisher, a friend of Helm’s mother, and one of their lieutenants is Nicholas Summers, a former comrade of Sequoia. Nicholas offered some material help to the PCs, in exchanging for eliminating one of Baron Sata’s reeves and her retinue.

Details

The minion of Baron Sata in question is a warlock, and she’s seeking out a local madman that lives in the woods east of the village. Why the important lord baron seems interested in Morgan, an simple lunatic, seems unclear, but it may have something to do with his being a Malkavian: A person who driven mad by Morpheus’s Grip, who supposedly experiences strange, even oracular dreams. Though it may be superstition, Malkavians are widely considered to have a supernatural insight into the world, as well as the power to “infect” others with their madness.

Inventory

The PCs spent:

• A few silver pieces, each.

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Session 1: At Strigis

Overview

The PCs accepted Cicero’s request to deliver a wheel of cheese to a reclusive sect of druids in the Mountains of Morpheus. (Yes, a wheel of cheese.) They arranged for Cicero to send a contact to St. Hermos a month from their excursion, on November 16.

The PCs set out on the morning of Sunday, October 18. They traveled from town to town, village to village, reaching the village of Maria’s Meet by October 21. They stayed in Maria’s Meet until the morning of October 23.

The PCs met with Vohdor’s brother, discovered news of Vohdor’s murder, apparently by a member or members of the Brotherhood of Sumac, a secret society that may have disbanded after the recent war.

The PCs rested in the village of Trezzano, and were awoken by screams.

Details

The recipient of CIcero’s package is a druid named Rohfa Hazelwheat, who belongs to the Sect of Indigo. The sect is an Old Faith mystery cult in the Mountains of Morpheus, and how it (and the few other cults in the Mountains) endure Morpheus’s Grip is unknown, even to Cicero. Cicero and Rohfa haven’t made contact in some time, but Cicero believes that Rohfa and her sect can be found at the Circle of Pines, the sect’s principal holy site.

Cicero has plotted out a detailed path to the Circle of Pines. First, the PCs will travel to the southeast village of St. Hermos. Then, they will pass through the forest of Fangwood, arriving at the Mountains’ South Pass, then trek northward to the final destination. The journey will take about two to three weeks to complete.

Cicero discussed Baron Sata, the new ruler of the southeast barony of Illograno. A Sky-born human foreigner, he’s a sorcerer with a keen interest in magical affairs.

The PCs briefly ran into Septimus Margate, the Ashoumite Bishop of the far southeast Strigis area. (Ashoum is a monotheistic faith, popular throughout the land.) He took notice of them and seemed to find them suspicious.

Civié met with the Strigis Wizard’s Society and its High Wizard, Constansia Pasolini; Mrs. Pasolini explained some of the items Civié could gather in his travels: (1) samples of a rare moss, called Hades’s Moss, that grows among stone cairns in the Mountains of Morpheus; and (2) samples of trees with limbs and trunks shaped like human bodies.

Inventory

The PCs gained:

• Two mules;
• Two large crates of smelly cheese;
• Winter clothes;
• 10 torches and 2 bullseye lanterns;
• 50 lbs. of food;
• 100 silver pieces, each.

The PCs spent:

• 19 silver pieces each on traveling and drinking, each;
• 2 gold pieces at Maria’s Meet

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