The Mountains of Morpheus

Session 21: The Temple and the Brothel, part one

Overview

The player characters (PCs) elected to pause their objective of searching for Rohfa Hazelwheat, one of two surviving druids of the Sect of Indigo, and information about her past, to avenge the local burning of an Old Faith temple in the village of Seven-stones. In this attack, a respected druid and priest of the Old Faith was badly disfigured, and two of his family burned to death in the fire. The surviving priest, Father Marcus Pine, had been healed by Morgran, and was in shape suitable to speak and walk: He explained that the fire had been set deliberately by a group of six of Baron Sata’s soldiers, led by a “boss” named Carter.

Plotting an ambush of these soldiers with Aiesha, a brothel’s madam, in the nearby village of Lil’ Crabs, the PCs bode their time, waiting for those soldiers to arrive at the brothel. It appeared that Aiesha shared Araceli and Conrad’s outrage at the temple’s desecration, and sought revenge against the soldiers. However, Father Marcus and a village elder, Orlando, asked Morgran about the PCs’ whereabouts and designs, and met with the PCs. After a heated discussion among Father Marcus, Aiesha, and the PCs, the PCs elected to follow Father Marcus’s directions: that is, to capture the soldiers and discover whether they burned the temple upon the baron’s orders, or whether they did so out of anger or overzealousness. Father Marcus believed such a distinction to be meaningful, for if the baron himself did not intend for the temple to be burned, the captured soldiers could be handed over to him, and thus the village could potentially earn redress from Baron Sata (or, at least, embarrass and de-legitimize him).

The PCs thus stuck to their original plan, but with the goal of subduing Carter and his underlings in place of slaying them. Although Carter and his soldiers eventually came to the brothel, and were overcome by the PCs through force and sleep spells, one among their number was inadvertently slain, a fat bald man named Donnie. The five survivors were restrained with rope, and the PCs discussed how to best extract information from them with a zone of truth spell. Conrad also retrieved Father Marcus and Orlando, taking them to Lil’ Crabs. On the way, he reflected upon his recent actions with the priest.

It is presently the evening of Friday, January 15. The PCs are resting in Aiesha’s cottage.

Details

The question of Baron Sata’s retaliation upon the village of Seven-stones remains in question. Aiesha insists that: (1) The soldiers who visit her brothel don’t inform their colleagues or superiors of their habits, so if slain they will have simply “gone missing” from the baron’s point of view; (2) There is enough unrest and banditry across the barony that the baron wouldn’t associate the PCs’ attacks with the temple’s burning, even if he did order it. Father Marcus, on the other hand, has insisted that murder should be avoided on principle.

Father Marcus explained in detail the altercation that led to the temple’s burning. About two weeks ago, Carter and five other soldiers visited the temple asking for the whereabouts of a local Malkavian woman, with apparently less than benevolent intentions. The priest was reluctant to give up information, resulting in a heated argument, which he ended by casting a charm person spell on Carter. Carter departed, but then returned later in the same evening, attacking Father Marcus, burning the temple, and leaving him to burn inside the building.

When Conrad confronted Carter at the brothel, Carter insisted that bandits were responsible for destroying the temple, and that he and his soldiers were actually sent to investigate the incident. Carter’s version of events was persuasive to Conrad (at least in the moment), but given the contradiction between Father Marcus and Carter’s accounts, Conrad chose to believe the former.

Aiesha and the PCs agreed that the PCs would be allowed to keep coins and valuables, but she and her “family” would be allowed to keep the weapons and armor, with the exception of a high-quality longbow for Morris.

Gains and losses

The party’s adventuring bill for this session is 0 gp: They have been provisioned by local villagers.

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Session 20: The Search for Rohfa Hazelwheat, part two

Overview

The player characters (PCs) continued their assignment from the Temple Ilendra to gain more information about Rohfa Hazelwheat’s childhood. At the present moment, however, they searched four human bodies discovered in the cavern beneath the dolarium (meaning a “haunted,” magically active dungeon) where they had just fought a brood of gricks. One body appeared to be that of the infamous bandit Besha the Blade, as inferred by two letters found on its person. The identities of the three others were unclear, until the PCs reported their findings to the local lord and administrator, Lord Falconna. In their report, they discovered that three of Lord Falconna’s people had gone missing: two soldiers and his niece Jina. The PCs’ reportage created a bit of a stir with the lord’s wizard, Walter, who had claimed that he and the three others had been attacked by bandits in another location, leaving him as the sole survivor. Lord Falconna did not appear to immediately accept either party’s word, and left the matter unresolved before the PCs.

The PCs amicably parted ways with Lord Falconna, discovering on the same day that one of their partner mushrooms had turned to ash, indicating a communication from Cicero and Nestoria, “Lord Arawn has been made aware of our presence, act with greater discretion.” Shortly after, the PCs visited Rohfa’s native village of Summer Tide, finding that her mother and sisters had a rather low opinion of their mystical daughter and sister. After an evening of cajoling and quarreling, the PCs paid the family for Rohfa’s childhood ocarina.

The PCs also chose to visit the town of Granite-Castle to communicate to the Temple Ilendra, updating it on their progress, using the local temple’s animal messenger spell. The PCs also did some shopping around the town, browsing around for some curiosities. The temple’s presiding priest, Julian, also informed the PCs that soldiers of Baron Sata, provincial ruler of southeast Strigis, had recently burned and desecrated a once-long-standing temple in the (relatively) nearby village of Seven Stones. With Araceli and Conrad particularly incensed at this act of institutionally backed violence, the PCs agreed to travel to the village to set things right, the village being en route to the Mountains of Morpheus anyway. However, they were also advised by Julian to work with the advice of the locals, for although such vigilantism might be commendable, it might easily invite repercussion upon the villagers.

After three days of travel, the PCs encountered the village of Summer Tide, and found indeed that the local temple, a modest but relatively old building, had been burned to little more than two walls of rubble and half a roof, with the village priest badly burned and two villagers dead. Araceli spoke with the priest, Father Marcus, about further actions to be taken. Marcus himself seemed uncertain, knowing well the issue of retaliation, as well as being unsure of the location or identities of the attackers. He also stated that he was unsure about whether the soldiers had committed the act without being instructed to — possibly the baron simply sanctioned the act post hoc. Father Marcus suggested that he might go visit the baron to plea for justice on his village’s behalf, thereby granting at least the appearance that the villagers would not seek violent retribution. Without an immediate solution, Araceli donated a generous sum to the village, that the temple might be restored.

Later that day, the PCs visited the nearby village of Lil’ Crabs, some three hours away, at the suggestion of a local. They discovered on the outskirts of the village a rural brothel, and made acquaintances with Aiesha, the apparent madam of the place. After discussing with Aiesha the issue of the temple-burning, the PCs and she put two and two together, and understood that a group of Baron Sata’s soldiers who regularly patronized the brothel were likely the same ones as those who desecrated the temple. Aiesha herself seemed enthusiastic about harming the baron, and made plans for the PCs to wait in the brothel, and assassinate the soldiers upon their next arrival — hopefully soon. According to both her and Father Marcus, this patrol of soldiers is led by a bald, goateed, dark-skinned man named Carter.

It is presently the morning of Thursday, January 14. The PCs have currently rested in the village of Lil’ Crabs, at Aiesha’s brothel. Morgran is currently resting, by day, in the village of Seven Stones, at the same residence where Father Marcus is recuperating.

Details

The PCs found a variety of weapons and jewelry upon the corpses within the dolarium. Although they graciously returned these to Lord Falconna, he in turn moderately compensated the PCs. Lord Falconna also mentioned that he had heard news of a diverse and motley group of bandits, roughly matching the PCs’ description, causing trouble in Baron Sata’s domain. In particular, a knight recently minted by the baron, named Theodor, appeared to seek revenge upon them. Lord Falconna told the PCs that he misinformed Theodor about the group’s whereabouts.

The PCs found a number of unusual wares in the town of Granite-Castle, including a pet dolmma, which is a bizarre crossbreed between a lamb and a kitten; various potions whose claims of effect were likely exaggerated; and a variety of fried fish and spiders. Araceli bought a puppy dog.

Morgran and the other PCs were embroiled in a group-internal debate over the rightness of assassinating Baron Sata’s soldiers. Morgran recused himself from the entire task, though he returned to Seven Stones to provide magical healing to Father Marcus. Returning to the village, he was unable to successfully request lodging, instead building a meager campfire. At night, he was visited by an apparently supernatural being named Deva, who expressed the wish to taste his blood, though with his permission. Such an encounter upset Morgran, who attacked the being; she appeared hurt, but then transformed into a mist, and vanished.

On Sunday, January 10, the region of southern Strigis experienced a moderate earthquake. Although apparently quite a number of houses were damaged and outright destroyed, the PCs were not harmed.

Gains and losses

The party’s adventuring bill for this session is 2 gp: While well provisioned by their temple patron, the extent of their travels means that they have had to hand out the occasional bit of coin in exchange for shelter and hot food.

The PCs spent and donated a small chunk of their wealth, but did not add anything major to their group inventory besides the ocarina from Rohfa’s family.

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Session 19: The Search for Rohfa Hazelwheat, part one

Overview

The player characters (PCs) returned to the Temple Ilendra in urban Strigis, having obtained information from Lord Falconna in exchange for their services of spying upon his peasants. The PCs were not entirely honest with the lord, deliberately avoiding mention of the incident of an encounter with a ghoul with the Othergrass family. Morgran was also reluctant to speak of his unfortunate encounter with the Black Rock family, but Cevei supplied detail. It appeared that Lord Falconna did suspect the PCs of some untruthfulness, but he did not press the issue further.

The PCs returned to the city of urban Strigis, encountering little trouble through the snowy landscape of wintry countryside. Nestoria, High Druid of the Temple Ilendra, reviewed Lord Falconna’s texts with the PCs, and they came to understand details about the Sacred Transformation, and its botched counterpart, the Chaotic Transformation. In particular, a Sacred or Chaotic Transformation cannot be undone through violence, but can be undone by exposing the druid to familiar aural or olfactory stimuli of her childhood. To that end, it is vital to uncover more information about Rohfa’s past.

Nestoria and Cicero agreed that the PCs should resume their search for Rohfa, the temple being interested in rescuing a colleague of the Old Faith — especially such a skilled mystic as Rohfa. First, they instructed the party to visit the village of Summer Tide, to the south on the kingdom’s shoreline, to speak to Rohfa’s family about any information they may have about her. Second, they instructed the party to return to the Mountains of Morpheus, and investigate another temple, called the Temple of Storms. This is a temple built ages ago by the Orvahii (meaning “Forgotten”), a mysterious prehuman race that constructed numerous dungeons and temples that are today little more than dark ruins in the wilderness.

Cicero stated that Rohfa would use the Temple of Storms as a private retreat, sometimes spending days apart from the Sect of Indigo in private. While she was able to access her “residence” through flight (by way of the wild shape ability), the PCs would likely have to enter the temple from the ground floor, and work their way up to the uppermost stories where Rohfa laired. Moreover, this temple is believed by Cicero to be inhabited by a bronze dragon. Such a creature may be open to negotiation, rather than directly hostile, like many other dragons.

Such a quest would take them across the kingdom and again into the Mountains of Morpheus, with little hope of directly finding Rohfa, but ideally with more information of how to undo her Chaotic Transformation. In the meantime, the Temple Ilendra would continue to dispatch what druids and messengers it could to find news of her. There has been no information from such operatives so far, and Pip and Sequoia, who were sent to investigate in the northeast region of the kingdom, have not returned.

The PCs thus began this new mission, traveling first southward to Summer Tide. On the way, they returned to the "haunted tower’ in Lord Falconna’s domain. This time, they cautiously descended into the caverns beneath it, and slew (with some struggle) the brood of monsters within. The monsters seemed bestial yet unnatural, and as they recovered from their battle the PCs noticed several human bodies within the monsters’ lair …

It is presently the evening of Tuesday, January 5.

Details

The PCs were given a number of tools by the Temple Ilendra: some healing potions and kits, as well as five partner mushrooms, a wise dumpling (that, when consumed, grants linguistic proficiency in Draconic for one hour), an ornate bronze bowl (as an offering to the dragon, that the PCs may attempt to persuade it to grant them passage), and various mundane supplies.

The PCs were also given a handsome falconry glove. Nestoria instructed the PCs, should they seek aid from a local Old Faith temple, to have Araceli or Conrad don the glove on their hand, and silently present it to the chief priest. The chief priest at the temple should recognize the gesture, and respond with the statement: “I see the temple has sent a hunting hawk to aid us.” This exchange is the passcode (no doubt one of several) between the Temple Ilendra and several other temples of the Old Faith.

Gains and losses

The party’s adventuring bill for this session is 0 gp: They should assume that they have been adequately provided for by the Temple Ilendra.

The party has been given 50 gp as a stipend for their travels. Upon completion of this task, they will as a group be rewarded with 40 gp.

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Session 18: Hill-folk, part three

Overview

The player characters (PCs) had split up to investigate separate families of the hill-folk in Lord Falconna’s domain, in southern Strigis, with their goal to understand the extent of the families’ affiliation with local bandits. Morgran attempted to spy on the Black Rock family in the mid-night but was discovered, and then chased into the cold and lonely hills. Through not a small amount of luck and desperation, he successfully reunited with the other PCs. In turn, they decided to give another go with the Whitelaw family, this time sending Araceli and Morris, and apparently learned that the family was innocent of any dealings with local bandits.

The PCs reported back to Lord Falconna, who bade them continue to investigate the local hills: this time of a nearby “haunted tower” where might squat bandits. The PCs discovered a lone woman who was pressed into acknowledging that she was a thief; this Natasha was released, upon informing the PCs that she had heard that the Black Rock family was indeed sheltering a group of halfling thieves.

The PCs returned again to Lord Falconna. While they actually apprehended nothing more than a few common thieves who seemed to lack direct connection to any of the more infamous and dangerous bandits in the area, they provided the nobleman and administrator an honest report of their surveillance. However, they deliberately refused to mention the Othergrasses’ involvement with their “ancestor” ghoul, and may have incited Lord Falconna’s suspicion that they were leaving out an important fact or two.

Regardless, Lord Falconna deemed their work sufficient, if not quite the pinnacle of subtlety. He paid them a small amount of coin, and provided the agreed upon payment of information about the mysticism of the druidic Sacred Transformation, or the vanar vadrana.

Details

The tower that the PCs investigated was told to be a dolarium: a ruin of a site where unusual, dangerous eldritch magic was practiced in the past. (Not the horribly ancient past, but perhaps a century ago.) They noticed a few bizarre magical effects of the tower, but none lethal to them. Araceli also rappelled into a shaft beneath the tower, which led to a natural cave system; the PCs left that cave alone when they encountered a brood of monsters that they could barely identify.

Gains and losses

The party’s adventuring bill for this session is 0 gp: They should assume that they have been adequately provided for by Lord Falconna’s servitors.

Lord Falconna rewarded the PCs with 60 sp.

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Session 17: Hill-Folk, part two

Overview

The player characters (PCs) decided nothing seemed suspicious about the Whitelaw family, and attempted to garner information from the remaining three hill-folk peasant families, in a single night: the lonesome Fat Leo, the dwarvish Black Rock family, and the Othergrass family. Cevei, Conrad, and Morris chose to engage with Fat Leo, and Araceli and Morgran with the Black Rock family.

Conrad posed as a wandering paladin of the Old Faith with no particular fealty to Lord Falconna. He discovered that Fat Leo was simply being extorted by a group of bandits, likely led by “Bald-Axe,” who would come every one or two months to be bought off with a sheep or goat. (They last visited about half a month ago.) This satisfied Conrad, but later Cevei and Morris mock-invaded Fat Leo’s cottage, fleeing upon hearing that he intended (truthfully or not) to alert Lord Falconna of such villainy.

Meanwhile, Araceli and Morgran discovered that the patriarch of the Black Rock family, Baldren, was content to give them some bread and shoo them on their way. Stymied, Araceli and Morgran left, and returned concocting a story where they were assaulted and robbed by bandits. (This was well evidenced as Araceli actually injured Morgran with blows to the face.) The family gave Morgran shelter and medical care, but left Araceli outside. Although the patriarch and matriarch of the family were skeptical of Morgran’s concocted story (as his and Araceli’s accounts were inconsistent), they saw fit to let him stay for their night, in their largest of four sod houses.

Araceli, Cevei, Conrad, and Morris convened at twilight to investigate the Othergrass family. Conrad posed again as a paladin, unaffiliated with Lord Falconna and traveling to visit the local standing stones. It became apparent that the Othergrass family was nervous about giving him shelter, but eventually relented. Conrad saw and heard nothing suspicious, other than an older member of the family, Nicholas, was once a bandit some 20 years ago. Meanwhile, Morris crept up to the house, investigating two ancillary sod houses, which could well be root cellars, or possily small hovels.

Lured by the smell of decay and gore in one of the sod houses, Araceli, Cevei, and Morris crept up to sod house, and attempted to force it open. They encountered a ghoul (of some variety); they fled, the ghoul caught up to them, and the three managed to slay the monster. At the same time, Conrad and the Othergrass family assumed that bandits had attacked them, but Conrad caught a glimpse of the family’s “pet monster.” After some deliberating, Conrad confronted the family about this strange issue, and Araceli, Cevei, and Morris confronted the household directly as well. The family explained, in short, that the ghoul was their undead ancestor, and practicing obscure and ancient human traditions of ancestor veneration, it felt obliged to give it shelter and home. It also explained that the creature was not a killer, but surely attacked the PCs assuming they were bandits.

Details

Morgran has failed gain the trust of the Black Rock family. While still allowed to rest under their roof, and afforded no privacy, he has disadvantage on future Deception and Persuasion checks with them, at least until the situation improves.

Gains and losses

The party’s adventuring bill for this session is 0 gp: They should assume that they have been adequately provided for by Lord Falconna’s servitors.

Conrad gave the Othergrass family 6 gp.

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Session 16: Hill-Folk, part one

Overview

The player characters (PCs) frankly discussed their agenda with Lord Falconna on the evening they arrived in Quick Stag, the central village of the lord’s fiefdom: They come on behalf of the Temple Ilendra, the principal Old Faith temple in the city of Strigis, wish to find information that he has about the Sacred Transformation and the Chaotic Transformation. While Lord Falconna seemed content to aid the Old Faith, he insisted that the needs of his people come before the needs of his religion: Thus, the PCs would assist his men-at-arms and knights in conducting some routine patrols to search for bandits. After two days of patrols, however, Lord Falconna assigned them to a somewhat different task.

Lord Falconna suspected that any bandits that have attacked the area may not be hiding in the hills and forests at the periphery of his fiefdom: Rather, they may well be sheltering in the homes of peasants and hill-folk. This is not an unreasonable possibility, given the winter climate, bandits’ practice of self-interested charity, and that many bandits are related by blood or marriage to Lord Falconna’s own subjects. (Indeed, the PCs’ interrogation of two local roughnecks, caught in the act of looting a days-old corpse, seems to confirm this.) Therefore, Lord Falconna assigned the PCs to pose as weather-beaten travels to four households located in the hills, with the intent to uncover any bandits — or sympathies toward bandits — that these families may be sheltering. Lord Falconna’s own soldiers are unfit for this task, as the local population is generally familiar with them, but the PCs may be able to gain the families’ confidence, playing either on their sense of pity (posing as travelers in need of shelter) or greed (offering them money in exchange for food and lodging).

All this said, Lord Falconna was emphatic that the PCs not harm his own subjects. The PCs are to uncover information about these peasants and hill-folk, not visit injury upon them. If there is no alternative in capturing a bandit — for example, if they encounter one who realizes that the PCs are working for the local lord — then they may use force.

The four households are: (1) The Whitelaws, whom Lord Falconna suspects of being secretly Ashoumite; (2) Old Leo, a disagreeable old widower and shepherd who lives alone; (3) the Black Rocks, a large family of dwarves, who seem to vastly prefer speaking the dwarvish language to Mura, the common tongue of Drau-Mura’s humans; and (4) the Othergrass family, who seems to be a rather quiet, unassuming family … strange that the locals should state that they have sympathies toward bandits.

The PCs began with the Whitelaw family during the mid-day, with Cevei and Conrad posing as travelers in need of food. The Whitelaw family seemed somewhat standoffish, but served them some cabbage soup and coarse black bread. Cevei and Conrad did not find anything suspicious about this family, and did not even discern whether they were Ashoumites.

Details

The PCs met not only Lord Falconna, but a number of his retainers and locals in his fiefdom, including: the apparent captain of his soldiers, a knight named Rozna; a lackadaisical conjurer, Walter the Wondermaker; Indira, a local druid and priest at Quick Stag; and Old Leslie, a hypochondriac, possibly senile shut-in hill-folk who may have information about local bandits.

There are three standing stones on the west side of Lord Falconna’s fiefdom, which are according to Walter as old as Drau-Mura itself, and represent the ancient spiritual covenant between the land and the people of the Old Faith. Araceli meditated at these standing stones, and felt spiritually reinvigorated; he gained “extra” Inspiration.

The party’s adventuring bill for this session is 0 gp: They should assume that they have been adequately provided for by Lord Falconna’s servitors.

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Session 15: Snowy Hills and Dales

Overview

The player characters (PCs) returned to the Ashoumite Chapel to return their haul to Brother Benedict. Cevei, Conrad, and Morgran returned briefly, discovered the corpse of Reena: not only mutilated by her kidnappers, but partially consumed by (presumably) ghouls. The PCs returned Reena’s corpse to the chapel, and were compensated by her surviving lover Marcus. They spent the following day recuperating and reflecting on their past month of adventure. Across the city, in a tiny and dank pub, Cicero conversed with a ranger of the city named Morris, offering him the opportunity to be hired by the Old Faith temple of the city, the Temple Ilendra. Cicero encouraged Morris to meet with an old friend, Araceli …

The PCs, including Morris, met in council with Cicero and a trio of high-ranking druids (led by Nestoria, the High Druid) of the Temple Ilendra, discussing further steps concerning the “Rohfa question.” Cicero and the druids agreed unanimously that Rohfa, as a potent mystic, should be recovered and somehow restored to her original selfhood, trapped in a shapeshifting “Chaotic Transformation” as she appears to be presently. The goals, then, are threefold: (1) To locate Rohfa, who appears to be stalking the eastern edge of the kingdom, between villages and the Mountains of Morpheus; (2) To rescue Rohfa before an aristocrat such as Count Arawn or Baron Sata apprehends her, as this may lead to her imprisonment and execution; (3) Find further information about the Sacred and Chaotic Transformation, a peculiar magical condition that the PCs and the Temple Ilendra are, presently, ill-equipped to understand.

To accomplish goal #1, the Temple Ilendra would dispatch several druids across eastern Strigis, in hopes of discerning her exact location. The PCs, however, will concentrate on goal #3, by visiting a Lord Falconna, a local-level lord who staunchly supports the Old Faith. Nestoria explained that Lord Falconna somehow managed to acquire a series of mystical druidic tomes following the war, and he may be (on account of his spiritual allegiance) persuaded to share such knowledge with the temple. Therefore, the PCs were assigned to spend about two to three weeks traveling, to Lord Falconna’s fiefdom southern Strigis and back to urban Strigis.

Notwithstanding several peculiar encounters across the snowy hills and dales across Strigis, the PCs reached the village of Quick Stag, near the moorlands. As Conrad had a weak but personal relationship to Lord Falconna, he and Araceli introduced themselves to the soldier attending the lord’s manor. They were promptly told that they should return at the evening, when they might dine, drink, and converse more freely with his lordship …

Details

Araceli availed himself of the magical services of the Old Faith temple, and partially recovered from the wounds inflicted by the Vengeful Ones in the Ashoumite catacombs. He was not charged money for this (expensive) service, with the understanding that he would contribute his skills to the temple’s service. (Weaseling out of this agreement might damage his credibility with the temple.) Araceli was also forthright about the PCs’ recent actions in the Ashoumite catacombs.

Morgran sought out the counsel of one of the few dwarvish priests (perhaps the only one) in the dwarvish ghetto of Strigis, near the slums. He and Father Farin discussed Morgran’s past actions, and what actions might constitute appropriate penance; the older priest eventually counseled Morgran to regularly pray to his ancestors for guidance, and be more circumspect about taking mortal life.

The PCs investigated a ruined tower just south of Khrysmnara, which recalled a tower of which they dreamed in the Mountains of Morpheus: that of a wizard conducting magical experiments on a captured gnolls. They found, however, that the ruins contained only a ravenous mimic, and a bizarre, old, tattered painting of Morpheus — the trickster god of the Mountains — that seemed to enchant Araceli with an inexplicable, murderous rage. After an unpredictable scuffle, the PCs destroyed the mimic, torched the painting, and fled the tower’s basement. In the same night, they were encountered by a group of armed humans that claimed to be a patrol searching for bandits. A potential altercation was defused, as the group didn’t seem eager to tussle with the PCs.

The PCs encountered, on the road, a group of six humans who insinuated that they were bandits, and seemed to regard them as of a similar profession. (They asked: “Are you a hound or a sheep?” Conrad replied, “I’m a fox.”) Nevertheless, the two parties did not trust each other, and parted ways. One of the bandits told Cevei that if they needed a fence, they might ask for “Nicky” in the village of Quick Stag (though how they might gain her confidence, not being acquainted even by proxy with her, is uncertain).

Araceli and Conrad noticed that Lord Falconna was master of a pet wyvern, named “Skip.” It appeared to enjoy raw fish.

The party stored:

  • Marten’s Right Hand, in the care of the Temple Ilendra.

The party gained:

  • Various ordinary supplies for their journey, including a large sack of trail rations, bacon, and cheese;
  • Two mules;
  • An ornate dagger (worth perhaps 40 gp in Strigis), given by Cicero as a possible object for a bribe;
  • A bottle of whiskey (worth perhaps 20 gp), also given by Cicero for the same purpose.
  • 20 gp each (as payment in advance for their work), plus 20 gp for the whole group as a stipend.

The party’s adventuring bill for this session is 0 gp: They should assume that they sufficient food to last them for at least 20 days or so.

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Session 14: The Ashoumite Catacombs, part two

Overview

The player characters (PCs) rested in the city of Strigis after their scuffle with the dwarvish kidnappers, Riswoan and Leira. However, Cicero’s messenger Rachel requested they return to the chapel at which they had discovered those same kidnappers, to talk to the Ashoumite priest who had given them shelter. This is the same chapel that led to a portion of the Ashoumite catacombs beneath Strigis.

The old priest, a Brother Benedict, made a proposition to the PCs. Before they encountered him, he had given Riswoan and Leira access to the Ashoumite catacombs, so that they could plunder what riches — possibly conventional treasure, but also undiscovered scrolls and texts — lay within them. However, Riswoan and Leira had seemed to stall on this task, instead resorting to kidnapping and hiding their victims in the catacombs in order to get rich quick. (It was unclear to Benedict why they had chosen to kidnap Marcus, but Marcus may have hidden wartime spoils of his own in the city, possibly in the catacombs.) It was previously agreed, between the priest and the dwarves, that they would equally divide the treasure. Now that agreement is rendered null, seeing as how the dwarves are in the custody of the Magistrate of Strigis.

Therefore, Brother Benedict offered to make a similar agreement with the PCs: they would search through the catacombs for treasure, evenly splitting their gains with Benedict. Such a task now must be very quickly accomplished, as Benedict heard word that, now that Lord Arawn knows of an entrance into the Ashoumite catacombs, he will be sending masons and soldiers to seal up the entrance below the chapel. Brother Benedict predicted that these men would arrive just before dawn, giving the PCs about 12 hours to explore the catacombs. Traversing the catacombs is no easy task, according to Benedict. They are inhabited by “Vengeful Ones” — the spectral ghosts of Ashoumites, the effects of whose enervating touch can last for weeks. The Vengeful Ones also use ghouls and zombies — less powerful, corporeal undead — to do their bidding. A Vengeful One called “the Antiquarian” keeps various treasures and tomes in its lair in the catacombs, and should be the Vengeful One that the PCs target. Vengeful Ones are resistant to physical damage, but can be most effectively damaged by some spells, and by holy water.

In addition, Marcus requested that the PCs retrieve the body of his lover, Reena. Benedict also gave the PCs a specific pathway to reach the Antiquarian’s lair. Straying from this path could lead the PCs into segments of the catacombs dwelt by gangs of Vengeful Ones too numerous for the PCs to overcome.

The PCs wasted little time in arming themselves, and borrowing a few vials of holy water from Brother Benedict. They fought through two packs of ghouls and zombies (including a single Vengeful One), as well as a large gargoyle in the shape of an angel. They also defeated the minions of the Antiquarian, leaving his own destruction to one of his own spectral rivals. At the end of the day, the Antiquarian’s treasures were looted, and the PCs fled the catacombs to return them to Benedict, while discussing how to find Reena.

Details

Janduin left the PCs to serve Lord Arawn, effectively taking full credit for rescuing Marcus. (Not a selfish decision, seeing as how the Prince had forbidden entry into the catacombs.) Pip also left the PCs, accompanying Janudin. Araceli behaved very boorishly to Janduin and Rachel.

The PCs encountered several oddities in the catacombs: (1) They encountered and quickly destroyed a torpid ghoul, which according to Benedict may have been a ghoul in the process of “becoming;” (2) They encountered, interrogated, and permitted to flee a lone ghoul; (3) They encountered the preserved corpse of a gnoll; (4) They encountered relatively recent (perhaps by one month) remains of a young human, suggesting past entry into the catacombs; (5) They released a Vengeful One named Marva, apparently sealed in a magical clay jar. Marva claimed that unlike the other Vengeful Ones in the catacombs, she was a worshiper of the pagan goddess Hecate, and was thus imprisoned by the Antiquarian, her “nemesis.” While Marva took a rather flexible (and grandiose) approach to the truth, she aided the PCs against the Antiquarian, splitting its treasure with them.

Inventory

The party spent:

  • Several of their mushrooms of healing

The party gained:

  • Two doses of holy water, from Brother Benedict
  • A sum of fabulous treasure, in the form of old Ashoumite scrolls and texts, and a pile of old, battered gold and silver coins, and a rather sturdy treasure chest.
  • A strange, apparently unmagical cube of lumber, one foot in breadth.
  • A scroll of magic weapon, a scroll of lesser restoration.
  • A portrait (four by three feet), framed in brass, of a handsome, middle-aged woman; identity if any unclear.
  • A human skull, with a small emerald pressed within a niche carved into its forehead.

The party’s adventuring bill for this session is 4 gp: a bit higher than usual, thanks to money spent investigating in the slums. (This sum was not accounted for last section, so is repeated here.)

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Session 13: The Ashoumite Catacombs, part one

Overview

The player characters (PCs) continued to discuss future steps, eventually deciding on offering their services to the Old Faith in the city of Strigis, thus able to investigate Rohfa and her vanar vadrana, while being adequately compensated by an organization. Cicero was successful in scheduling a meeting with the Temple Ilendra, the city’s premier Old Faith temple, with the PCs set to discuss matters on Wednesday, December 2, with the temple’s High Druid, Nestoria Winters. In the meantime, the PCs ran a few errands. They were also acquainted with a paladin in service of the Temple Ilendra, a noble’s son named Conrad.

During the same night, Janduin met by chance an old soldiering comrade named Levon. Levon told him that Janduin’s friend and comrade, a soldier named Marcus, had gone missing during the riots of the previous today. It had seemed that Marcus had fallen in love with a prostitute named Reena working in the city’s west-side slums, and took advantage during the frenzy of the riot to attack Reena’s pimp, a man named Waylan.

Although it had seemed possible that Waylan had, in turn, injured or killed Marcus, the PCs found through their investigations (involving Waylan himself) that Marcus had in fact been ambushed by a small band of ruffians led by a dwarvish warrior. Reena herself had also gone missing a few days before this attack. The PCs, though briefly deterred, were able to track down these ruffians to the White Light Chapel, an Ashoumite haven for the slum’s destitute and lost. Though it seemed unclear why an elderly Ashoumite might allow criminals and kidnappers to roost in his poor chapel, the PCs instigated a scuffle. The ruffians — a male dwarf named Riswoan, and a female dwarf priestess named Leira — relented, being outnumbered. They offered to allow the PCs to rescue Marcus and Reena, whom they had kidnapped and stowed away in a segment of the Ashoumite catacombs beneath the city, the entrance to which lay beneath the chapel.

The Ashoumite catacombs were, according to Leira, walled off from the rest of Strigis’s subterranean world, all of which was forbidden to Strigis’s denizens by Princely degree. In pursuit of Marcus, the PCs, with Riswoan and Leira, trekked briefly through the catacombs. They were beset by “Vengeful Ones,” which were according to Leira Ashoumite spirits; in the ensuing combat, the PCs defeated the spirits, with Riswoan and Leira’s aid.

In the catacombs, behind an illusory wall, the PCs discovered Reena, dead from mutilation and torture. Marcus was alive, chained and also tortured. When pressed for an explanation, Riswoan simply said that he had wanted to get rich. Reneging on their agreement — that they would release Riswoan and Leira in exchange for their assistance against the Vengeful Ones — the PCs pummeled the kidnappers into submission. Morgran healed Marcus, and Janduin delivered the solider and criminals to the nearest of the Magistrate’s soldiers.

Being agents of order and justice, the Magistrate’s soldiers briefly detained the PCs to record their testimony. Gaining little from deceit, the PCs complied, turning over the kidnappers. The next morning, Janduin was summoned to the Fortress Strigia, the city’s principal government and military stronghold. The former solider was sternly welcomed by the Sky-born Lord Count Aneth Arawn, from the kingdom of Kala Anar, conqueror of the city of Strigis.

Lord Arawn chastised Janduin for flouting his decree that none should enter the Ashoumite catacombs. He congratulated Janduin for his heroics. He gave Janduin an offer to serve his lord and kingdom once again …

Details

Cevei showed Constansia Pasolini, the High Wizard of the Strigis Wizards’ Society, the “demonic” nightjar-parasite that the PCs discovered in their travels. Constansia preserved the creature’s decaying corpse, showing Cevei a tome on demons describing the parasite. She said that it could be some otherworldly creature summoned by magicians, to use as a weapon against other magicians. Although she was, at present, unable to aid the PCs in their investigation of this creature, she advised Cevei to return in a few weeks, when she could potentially give him a useful lead.

The PCs paid the Strigis Wizards Society to restore the Griffin Shield: a down payment of 160 gp, with another 160 gp to be paid upon the task’s completion. The Society pledged to complete restoration in about three weeks. This agreement was observed and recorded by the Society.

The PCs visited several of the slum’s seedy, decadent taverns, including the Silver Knife, the Hungry Boar, and the Goblyn. (Although Strigis’s slums are the poorest, most crowded portion of the city, the average slum-dweller lives about as well as the average peasant, and probably eats better. The area is probably better described as seedy, colorful, and vice-ridden rather than destitute.) At the last establishment, they sampled “goblin-wine,” a sort of drug-alcohol recently imported from Kala Anar, the kingdom to the west that now enjoys hegemony over Strigis. It’s dark red, sticky, thick, strong, and when drunk to excess creates weird hallucinations: the feeling of dizziness, and the perception of strange, blurry little men standing at the corners of one’s sight.

The Ashoumite catacombs are filled with numerous niches in the walls, in which Ashoumites likely stored corpses. Most of these columbaria are empty, but the PCs did notice that one was not: it seemed to contain a person or corpse with a heavy blanket thrown over it. The PCs speculated that it was some kind of undead creature, as the being was visibly moving beneath the blanket, as if a restless sleeper.

Inventory

The party spent:

  • 26 gp, purchasing goblin-wine.

The party’s adventuring bill for this session is 4 gp: a bit higher than usual, thanks to money spent investigating in the slums.

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Session 12: Crossways, part two

Overview

The PCs rested in the town of Wyvern’s Eye for three days, recuperating from their travails in the Mountains of Morpheus. They discussed events with Merissa and Daria, as well as sold some of their loot acquired in their adventures. Merissa noted that there were other sites in the Mountains of Morpheus that may be relevant to the PCs:

  • Another mystical sect was located in the Mountains, about 50 miles north of the Circle of Pines. The Sect of Hades was located in Dancingwood, a shriveled and dead forest. The sect practiced a “dark druidism,” bent on fusing plants and fungi with corpses, creating bizarre amalgams of the living and dead to serve them. Merissa knew little of their intentions or status, however. The sect had their own “hidden temple,” possibly much larger and vaster than her sect’s.
  • A “temple of storms” located southeast of the Circle of Pines. This temple was created by the Orvahii, some pre-human race that built numerous dungeons and temples in the Mountains of Morpheus ages ago. The temple was considered a nexus of elemental energies, though Merissa knows little about its actual purpose, if any. Rohfa stored some relics and books in this temple, and was able to reach it through_ wild shape_, turning into a bird. The temple is also guarded and inhabited by a bronze dragon, of unknown age and power.

They reached the city of Strigis one week later, relating their exploits to Cicero. Cicero seemed surprised at some of the events, and explained the situation to the best of his ability:

  • Before the war, the former Prince of Strigis had an alliance with the Sect of Indigo. Cicero acted as a liaison between the two groups, thanks to his friendship with Rohfa. After the war, the Sect of Indigo became disconnected. Cicero sought to make contact with them in order to broker a possible alliance between and Lord Count Arawn, a high-ranking nobleman in the Strigis’s new regime. However, Cicero hoped that the Sect would make its own (informed) decision — hence his desire for discretion.
  • Cicero understands that the druidic relic, Marten’s Right Hand, has powerful divinatory capabilities when brought into conjunction with its companion relics, Marten’s Skull and Marten’s Flesh. These relics were intentionally scattered about five years ago, for reasons unclear to Cicero. Rohfa gave Marten’s Right Hand to Cicero, and instructed him to return it in a time of need.
  • Cicero did not intend to manipulate the PCs into an undesirable position, though he did ensure their discretion. Now that the PCs have relayed news of the sect’s destruction, and of Rohfa’s condition, he considers all debts between him and the PCs cleared.

Cicero desires the PCs to locate and rescue his friend Rohfa from this “Chaotic Transformation,” but is at a loss as how to pursue this task. His contacts across Strigis are extensive, but mystical knowledge isn’t his forte. He proposed several alternatives of alliance: with no one, with the Old Faith temple in Strigis, or with Lord Arawn himself. The PCs seemed most inclined toward the second option.

Why the Sect of Indigo was destroyed remains a mystery. The PCs and Cicero speculated that someone — perhaps a powerful member of the aristocracy — sought to destroy the sect in order to prevent it from being used by Lord Arawn. Cicero supposed that a Lady Countess Ombrea, equal in rank to Lord Arawn but a rival to him, could have sent such marauders. There is no evidence for such designs, but then again, the Countess’s abilities of subterfuge and concealment are supposedly remarkable.

Details

On the way to Strigis, the PCs were detained by several soldiers acting in Baron di Zhatto’s name. A violent altercation ensued, but surprisingly, no one of either party died, as Morgran healed the brunt of the injuries the soldiers suffered. It remained, apparently, ambiguous as to whether the soldiers detained the PCs in good faith, or simply sought to extort them. It remains unclear to the PCs, however, whether the soldiers will identify the PCs as violent criminals, or simply keep mum about the incident due to humiliation.

There were riots in Strigis on the day of the PCs’ arrival. They were thus made to wait outside the city for a whole night.

Inventory

The party gained:

  • 150 sp each, from Cicero.

The party’s adventuring bill for this session is 0 gp, as Cicero has managed to cover the PCs’ expenses this session.

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