Sessions Played: December - January 2016-2017
Adventurers Present: Jinva, Nargrim, Valas, Odde, Alice, Aust, Jag
Quick Session Summary
1) During the fight with Ben, Jinva received a dark spear of energy through his chest, and is now "marked" by death via a rune.
9) The Road to Exian
Following their triumph (survival?) over the lost druid Ben Carpenter, the party makes their way back to Raffi's manor in the Kesselbark, where Amos - now free of his rune of possession, which is now burned into the red tree in the house - has taken up his "clerical culinary arts" and Raffi has begun to rebuild his network of roots and trees to regain sight over the Kesselbark and, as he puts it, begin reaching beyond the forest to ensure the safety of his region.
After watching the grand druid at work, Geff decides to stay behind as an apprentice in the Kesselbark, eager to help rebuild the plant and root system that saved his bacon more than a few times, and the rest of the party find their way back to Kilden.
A JOB FROM KEDDIGAN
Returning to Kilden, the party is happy to see Layla back in her place at the tavern, two half-elven wait staff with her. They don't seem fond of Jace's temperament, and he gets himself into a little trouble; trouble that he has to stay behind to deal with. Speaking of trouble for Jace, he accompanies Jag and Aust to Keddigan's workshop, along with Odde plodding alongside, and proceeds to make some demands and otherwise rub Keddigan the wrong way. The entire ordeal ends with him being shot, then immediately healed, and never allowed into Keddigan's back room ever again.
However, Jag is successful in converting an elk-sized set of chainmail to a half-elven-sized set of chainmail, and now has some better armor. Odde is lent a hand crossbow with unique bolts to test out for Keddigan (elemental, incendiary bolts).
After resting, Keddigan meets back up with the party at the tavern. By now, the group has gleaned that Keddigan, despite his small stature, commands immense respect in the town; he might actually run it, but makes no show of it.
The halfling has been keeping in contact with their sister city, named Exian, for some time, but the latest missives seem vague, and they've stopped for the last few months. He explains that the last time this happened, the city was in an internal crisis. He would be very grateful if they would go check on this crisis for him, but please do not mention him to their matriarch, Medivh. A quick insight gleans that the two of them may have been an item, but no more, and it's probably Keddigan's fault.
The trip to Exian takes a few days of travel. Uneventful, travel. But approaching the gate speaks volumes to the state of the city.
Exian is much larger than Kilden, a strong stone and log wall surrounding it, with parapets of protection and a few mounted guards. The city sits on a rounded slope of earth and rock, and uses the natural landscape to guide its layout toward terraced gardens and tree farms near the outer walls, keeping the residential and marketplaces centralized; what stands out is the winding, haphazard stone tower near the eastern edge of the city.
Their caravan enters without much trouble, and they quickly take stock of the local tavern, and are sent to meet with Ricknall, the town's caretaker. "Rick" is an older human, wiry and capable, but possessing more than a few gray hairs. They quickly learn that two children, Nioki and Hanna Senna, orphans under the care of the citizens as a whole, have gone missing. Further investigation yields that the manor at the northern end of the city has been surrounded by strange energies as of late. The building has been abandoned for years, but always stood as a testament to the past; for a hundred years, it was believed to bring good luck to the harvest and protection of the city. Only recently, though, dark sounds and strange sightings surround it. Rick hopes that this news is not connected to the two children.
Taking note of possible undead entities, Aust and the others keep exploring the remainder of the town, while Nargrim, getting straight to the point, begins moving directly toward the manor.
The stalwart dwarven barbarian makes it only halfway up the road...before blood begins to drain from his nose and ears. His body falls, a large pool of blood forming around him in the stonework...
10) The Manor
The remaining party, now satisfied with their gauging of the city's layout, begin to make their way up the winding path toward the manor. Only a few steps upon the road, Valas notices Nargrim's body and rushes over.
The arcanist, Arobane the Red, interrupts them and invites the crew into her magic shop. They rest briefly, listening to her tale of the two children, before stepping off back toward the manor, an eerie drone emanating from it. Even the Paladin is overcome with feelings of dread as they approach...
The team splits into two groups, each discovering strange ghostly events and magical traps within the manor. A dark presence looms over their actions as Alice makes her way upstairs. The second floor is dark, a small sliver of light spilling out from a door cracked open. Pushing inside, Alice witnesses a ghostly apparition of a woman draped in a layered shroud. "Hello?"
The spector's form elongates with sickening claws and a terrifying howl before blinking and flickering out of sight. A moment passes, and Alice suddenly sees the creature right next to her. A cold claw wraps around her throat and she is lifted from the floor, life force beginning to drain from her body. Valas appears in the doorway, "Get away from my friend!" and rushes to intervene, but his sword passes through the apparition as it snarls at him, protective of its prey.
Jinva rushes to the doorway, flame already forming in his palm and unleashes a few well-timed fire bolts into the creature, its many shrouds burning away as it screams into the night. At last, its claws retract from Alice's form, and one more blast removes its upper torso from sight, the rest of it drifting into the walls.
As Nargrim charges up the stairs, another door creaks open on the opposite side. As Alice heals, the dwarf pushes this new door open and enters. A lovely woman, silver and blonde hair flowing down from a ruby circlet atop her head, sits on a bed of silken sheets and many pillows. Her form is semi-transparent, and she turns her head to Nargrim and smiles warmly. She introduces herself as "Eva" and warns him that time is short. With another smile, she rises and fades through the wall; something soft and heavy falls to floor behind the bed. ...Nargrim shrugs and leaves the room.
Valas and Jinva instead walk in and investigate further. The room seemed to belong to a little girl, framed pictures and worn diaries littering the shelves and floor, a dresser of small skirts and fluffy attire. Behind the bed, Valas discovers an odd sight. It is a stuffed owl bear, bits of cotton sticking out where an ear appears to have been ripped off. Showing it to Aust and Odde, they discover a child-like threading in large letters upon its rump. It reads, "Michael Jeffrey." They all shrug in confusion.
Jag, wandering the first floor, uncovers a journal splattered with ink. Opening it, he begins reading, pausing in front of the stairs. The passages are from a young boy's perspective, recent, and details entering the manor...and the doors closing behind him. He was looking for his sister, and lost track of his other "friend." The entries quickly become more erratic and strange, the lettering becoming larger and more incoherent...until the final page. It is one sentence repeated over and over in fine, minute lettering. "Dark time, Michael Jeffrey, dark time."
As a chill runs up Jag's spine, a shockwave in the basement rocks the foundation of the manor. The stairs and first floor begin to cave in...
Immediately, those on and near the stairs plummet below. Odde, Nargrim, and Jag disappear into the darkness, slamming down on ashes, earth, and stone. Faint torchlight flickers over their forms as something large looms nearby. They hear heavy scraping, like vines along stone, and watch as a living tree of black and sickly green roots and branches trudges toward them.
One of the treant's giant stump arms slams into Odde, pressing his form into the earth and wrapping vines around him before flinging his stunned body across the room and into another pillar. Nargrim and Jag shake off the fall and set to work bushwacking this thing, but its hardened hide just doesn't cut. Far above, clinging to the cracked railing of the stairwell, Aust decides to test his aim, drawing his great sword and leaping down...
The large blade slams into the creature's back, slicing through the thick roots layered there. The creature roars as more impacts of arrows and fire rain down upon it from above, and it clearly doesn't like its "fish-in-a-barrel" status. The treant charges backwards, slamming Aust into the brick wall over and over again, until the paladin stops moving and crumples off of the creature. Embracing his rage and the opportunity, Nargrim's axe swings hard and fast, cleaving into the creature's side and it bellows...a small sound. Nargrim watches the roots fall away from it and sees buried within a dirty tunic, small, a tiny arm moving over a rapidly reddening tear, before being obscured by roots again. "Someone's inside!"
One by one, the party drops down to join the fight, a few slower or less acrobatic than others. Turning the tide to their favor, they finally wear the creature down and with one final blow, an irritated Jag beheads the treant. It falls to its knees, the roots sloughing off with wet, slick slaps onto the stone before rapidly desiccating. And there in the pile of ashen wood is a young boy, no older than 7 or so, gently swaying on his knees. His eyes are glazed over and he appears to be muttering something. "Dark time... Dark time... It's dark time..." The group begins to lower their weapons...
Blinded by his rage, Nargrim reads the child as still a threat and swings his axe toward the boy. As Valas screams, "Wait!" the blade cuts into the boy's side, fresh blood pouring from the wound. The child's eyes immediately clarify, fresh tears welling up and streaking down his face. Choked sobs of pain and surprise fill the room as the child keels over, arms wrapped around the gash, and tries to scoot away from the barbarian. He makes it only a few feet before his movements slow and he lies still in a pool of his own blood...
The blurred reds of rage finally subsiding, Nargrim looks at the crimson impact of his actions...and feels nothing. He sheathes his axe, and thinks to himself.
Aust rushes forward, laying hands on the boy's form and cradling him in his arms. A few tense moments pass...and the boy's eyes flutter open. He whispers, "Dark time? It's dark time, Michael Jeffrey, dark time." Jinva's eyes go wide with realization, and he fumbles for the stuffed owl bear as more roots begin to break forth from the floor and pull toward the boy.
"You mean this little guy?" Jinva raises the bear. The boy's sapphire eyes ignite with joy and surprise...and the roots fall limp on the floor. Still weak in Aust's arms, he lifts his hands toward the bear and the wizard presses the toy into them. Energy seems to surge into the child and he happily giggles as he squeezes the bear, gently rocking back and forth on the floor. Suddenly, his giggles cease and he looks at the group. "Did you find Hanna?"
Another explosion from above rocks the foundation, and before the party can react, the remaining structure begins to collapse in on them. Stones and splinters begin to rain around them and darkness fills their vision...
Until a high-pitched whine calls their eyes open. Daylight pours from an opening in the cellar wall, earthen stairs leading out into the morning sky. Looking around, the building continues to collapse in slow motion.
Wasting no time, Jag gathers the boy and he and Aust push toward the exit. Alice grabs Odde's stunned form, and Valas starts dragging Nargrim. One by one they pass under the threshold, and only Nargrim takes the second to see, but for a brief moment, an elven woman with a circlet of ruby smiling warmly at him as she stands in the center of the cellar, her manor collapsing around her...
In a burst of bodies, the group falls, trips, and rolls onto the grass behind the manor and watch as it's structure collapses in a heap of destruction. Breathing heavily, they suddenly become aware of a presence behind them. "Oh, dear."
Draped in fine robes of silver and violet, a young woman of deep black hair with streaks of bronze stands behind them. Her patient eyes move over the group until she stops on the young boy. "Nioki?"
Nioki springs into her outstretched arms, openly sobbing. "Shh. It's alright. You're alright." Like a mother checking a skinned knee, she lifts him up and cradles him against her chest, quietly sending healing and calming energy over his wounds. Her eyes move across the group carefully, piecing together a story. "Well. That settles that."
And with a smooth grace to her movements, still with Nioki wrapped up against her, his breathing slowed into an exhausted slumber, she approaches the wreckage. With the smoke barely cleared, and a wave of her hand, a massive chunk of the roof is flipped over, as if with a gust of wind. A hole, deep and long, appears in the earth.
After hurling an eager Odde down the hole, Medivh casts a Mass Levitate on the group, and they each descend with caution into the hole. Medivh listens intently as she descends, comforting Nioki as she goes. The little boy begins to whimper, and a cold chill flows through the party.
They land in a shallow pool of old water, and Medivh guesses that this was the first well of the city, before it was rebuilt. Ahead of them lies a small nook, only about 20 feet deep, with a risen mound and and a strange wooden chest resting upon it. Jag and Aust approach with caution, taking note of a thick layer of wet vines connected to the box. Aust reaches out and feels a warm heartbeat within the box...so Jag severs the vines as fast as he can. With a moist pop, the wooden chest bursts apart, and there laying in a soft bed of wet earth and roots is a young girl. Hanna.
Later, over hot cups of cocoa, and a few napping children, Medivh is able to piece together the fate of the manor. Its last living owner, a priestess named Eva Lisaarian, placed a ward of protection upon the building; but over time, her power was corrupted by another angry spirit. She guesses that this spirit called the children to the manor, and used one (Hanna) to power her dark energy and another (Nioki, who displays great druidic ability) to act as her guardian; she lulled them both into dreamlike existence, which, thankfully, may have lessened the psychological damage.
Medivh thanks the group and grants them free lodging for as long as they like and at any future instance if they visit again. A festival of sorts will be held tomorrow...she hopes they can stay.
1) Stolen Cows
Session Played: September, October 2016
Adventurers Present: Jinva Quinnar, Human Wizard. Nargrim, Dwarf Barbarian. Valas Hallows, Halfling Monk.
2) Cockatrice Camping
As dusk falls following the trail to the Northeast of Kilden, the party comes across another band of adventurers set upon by a pack of young cockatrices. They help the other party out and are surprised to learn this group, just like themselves, have been searching for the owners of the large tracks.
Happy to have allies, and a little beat up from the antics of the battle - including a harrowing mount attempt by the wily gnome rogue named Odde Cormirant (involving a flaming cockatrice) and some spitting acid by the young dragonborn ranger, Alice - both parties vow to join forces in their quest.
3) Entering the Kesselbark
Party of 5: Jinva, Nargrim, Valas, Odde, Alice
While making their way toward the entrance of the massive wood called the Kesselbark, the party comes across a scuffle in the entrance canopy. A dire wolf in close combat with a Treant, who is in the process of vomiting acid upon the wolf, and a drow who is screaming the words, "barbarian time" over and over again.
Odde leaps into action, clambering up a tree and launching himself on the treant's head, trying desperately to stab at the large, vacuous holes in its head he assumes to be eyes. But while staring into these eyes, the gnome begins to drool and forgets what he was doing. Jinva attempts a firebolt, setting the thing's head (and Odde) promptly on fire, and from there, Nargrim and his new barbarian buddy help the dire wolf hack it to pieces. As the Treant "dies," its body burns away in green and blue fire, leaving behind a strange, pulsing emerald stone. The wolf, who has changed back into a half-elven druid, pockets the stone.
As the two individuals introduce themselves as: Jace Balarin, the drow barbarian and Geff, half-elven druid, the party tries to figure out what to do next...when a strange voice interrupts them, "What did you do to my tree!?"
Party of 7: Jinva, Nargrim, Valas, Jace, Geff, Odde, Alice
There, before the group is a small...badger. Standing on its hind legs, it leans slightly on a gnarled, bronzewood staff. It wears red and tan robes tied around him by twine, and it studies the assembled party with interest, before lightening its visage and cheerfully explaining, "Follow me!"
The party, intrigued, follows. But something seems off about the creature, as his pace quickens through the woods, and some adventurers fail to keep up, as the badger takes a hard left and disappears over a ridge. While the team tries to orient themselves in the wood, Jinva notices a troubling sight: there are bodies in the trees. Some branches stick out at sharp angles, and he swears that he sees bone in the roots. He shakes off the vision and takes up the rear of the group.
Jace moves on a hunch, and climbs down the ridge, losing some footing and tumbling down on his butt, joined shortly by Odde and Nargrim. Before them lies a simple cottage, gentle light emanating from the few windows, and puffs of smoke escaping from its chimney. The vision before them is like a beautiful matte painting. They must have lost track of time, as they are greeted by starlight in a deep blue sky.
The little badger is waiting for them at the door. He knocks twice with his staff, and the party watches golden light pass from the staff to the door. They hear a click, and the door opens, the badger scuttling inside.
One by one, the party follows, noticing immediately that this building is no cottage. What lies before them is a glorious cabin mansion. The badger introduces himself as Amos Southpaw, and informs them that his master is away. He then hobbles toward a trapdoor in the floor and fiddles with the latch there; it seems like it isn't built for badger hands, and with Odde's help, he swings the door open and hops inside. He quickly emerges again with a small desk and a bundle of wares, immediately trying to sell things to the party, but he has no takers.
The group begins to fan out throughout the house while Amos speaks with Odde. Geff explores upstairs, taking note of the fact that the whole house appears to be built around a set of four massive trees, their branches forming the strats between the walls and their roots running along the floor. As he makes his way upstairs, he sees two trees on the landing, each set against a corner of an alcove. One tree is bright, standing tall, with leaves of glowing amber; the other is twisted, leaves a deep bloody red, and there appear to strange scars (runes?) in the tree. The latter especially slumps, moving its creaking branches away from Geff, while the other seems to move toward him. Unsure of what to think, he turns to look at a set of four distinct bonsai trees on a long table running along the railing of the dual staircase.
From left to right, he sees: 1) A bright orange sapling, luminscent and warm; 2) A flourishing tree of electric blue leaves; 3) A single gnarled spire of a tree with a bright amethyst leaf; 4) a deep black mess of roots and withered bark, with onyx leaves. Geff focuses in on #4, and notices small sprite-like entities moving between the roots...
Meanwhile, Valas, Nargrim, and Jace find their way past a strange wall covered in earthen armor, seemingly embedded halfway into the wall, before emerging into a dark library, complete with a black orb held aloft by a single cherry wood claw. Not one to hesitate, Jace grabs the orb and is immediately electrocuted until he is very nearly a smoking corpse... Before Geff can pump a Healing Word into his dumb face and Nargrim can pull his cooked hand and arm away from the orb. Valas kneels in front of the orb...and notices it open, like an eye, and stare at him, the pupil growing wider and wider, consuming the room... Nargrim pulls Valas away.
Jinva wanders, finding in the kitchen the bag of colding, as well as several healing culinary treats. Wandering upstairs, he finds two rooms: 1) A recently exploded alchemist's study, and 2) the most bland room he has ever seen. Within the latter, he investigates the far blank wall...and his hand passes through. He is fast enough to pull it back, but makes note that that wall passes through to the Void...
After thoroughly exploring most of the house, Amos ushers them back to the central living room, where he explains once again that his master is running an errand and he has a favor to ask of the party. According to him, there are aggravated, sentient plants attempting to rip their way into the house from the back garden. He asks that, in return for his hospitality, that they take care of it. The party obliges, and Amos steps over to the fireplace, tapping the stonework with his staff. The fire extinguishes, and the embers fall away to reveal a door, which opens to the night sky outside.
Outside, the party finds a strange sight. Plants, seemingly sentient, rising out of the earth and towering above them; the party wastes no time and cuts them down...easily. Taking note of their lack of resistance, Geff casts speak with plants and learns something interesting: these plants are just trying to get "home."
Upon this realization, the party watches Amos, through the fireplace, close the wall.
5) The Path Below
The party tries to find a way back into the house (it takes some time); with the plant's help, which they learn was named Horace by his "master", they find the path back through the fireplace.
The house is empty, and there is no sign of Amos. The group does a little more exploring as best they can, Odde getting into some trouble with a mimic in a storeroom, but through their antics they locate an entrance to a subterranean path.
Alice scouts ahead and discovers a cache of assorted weaponry, armor...and a barrel of bones and ash. She also discovers and confronts Amos, who seems annoyed with her discoveries...and immediately casts Charm Person on her.
But before he can take her away, the rest of the party confronts Amos...and a few, sick of this lying badger, attack.
The fight is...shortlived. Though Amos is a decent druid and a pretty good cleric, he is no match for an angry dragonborn who breathes acid. The stream of acid cascades over the young badgerlord, singing through his fur, and he falls, unmoving.
A few moments pass as the action sinks in.
And then everyone tenses as black elemental energy flows out from Amos's form. The smoke coalesces into a large, threatening form...and attacks!
6) The Keeper of the Field
The fight is chaotic, many members of the party coming close to death, but they manage to disperse the creature...it wisps into the earth nearby.
Further exploration into the weapon racks reveals a set of three roots feeding through a false wall. The group steps through and sees a set of three deep emerald crystals. They are each large, embedded in the earth, and filled with some bright green liquid. Each also contains a humanoid.
One wears only a pair of pants, strange tattoos lining muscular arms. His skin is tan, almost amber, a set of small tusks protruding out from his lower lip. Long black and silver hair cascades down his back behind long, pointed ears.
The other two appear...related. They are nearly twins by facial structure, but one is adorned in chainmail with a sigil of a god no one recognizes, while the other wears studded leather armor and no sigil. Both, however, carry identical great swords.
Satisfied with the idea that none of these creatures belong in these "pods," Jace decides to attempt to shatter the crystal. It takes a few attempts, but each explodes outward and the creatures are free.
The two related reveal themselves to the high elf paladin Aust Vemaris and the half-elf fighter Jag Vemaris. The larger one calls himself The Keeper of the Field, named Raffi Longmeadow. Through some questioning, he reveals himself to be the very rare off-spring of an orc and an elf; the product of an agreement to save his mother's clan and to preserve the Kesselbark's elven influence.
Party of 9: Jinva, Nargrim, Valas, Jace, Geff, Odde, Alice, Jag, Aust
Raffi heads back to his home, picking up Amos on the way, and setting to work healing him.
The party, after a rest, continues on their mission to locate the lost cow, heading toward the other end of their discovered tunnel.
They come to a small valley opening at the mouth of another cave...flanked by phase spiders. The group makes short work of these, but become distracted by another noise. Heavy footfalls, and something being dragged.
Emerging from the woods is a minotaur, dragging a large sack of something still moving. Upon seeing the party, it draws two massive cleavers and charges...
7) Planting Seeds
The minotaur slams its hoof into the earth, and the party watches red veins and tendrils run up its legs and arms...then its form blurs.
The party learns through its devastating attacks that the creature is hasted, a boon granted to it by a master. Jag and Aust prove to be powerful and valuable allies, offering up heavy damage and clutch healing.
With their larger party, the minotaur doesn't last that long, and Aust beheads the creature as an act of trust for the rest of the group.
Heavily injured, the party opts to return to Kilden to rest, get paid, then head back here to investigate the cause of this minotaur's activity.
BACK AT KILDEN
Not all is what it seems. The tavern keep, Layla, is nowhere to be found. Instead, a jovial replacement named Gerald is there. He promises the group no disturbances, and puts them up for the night...
As they rest, Odde realizes that there is someone in his room, and when he attempts to stop them, he is nearly killed. Screaming bloody murder alerts the rest of the party in their various rooms and an awkward fight breaks out in the hallway. The thief/assassin leaps out of the window and takes off into a run, Jag and Jace pursuing. The others instead head downstairs...to find Gerald, as his face is no longer that of a human man, but a flaming skeleton.
Recognizing an undead when he sees one, Aust springs into action, destroying the undead creature, while Jinva pockets a skeletal arm that seems to have a mind of its own...
Jag and Jace catch up to the assassin, who has a hard time hiding around Keddigan's shop, who kicks down his own door, draws his sniper rifle, and shoots her point blank. A moment passes, and her form ignites in a burst of radiant and necrotic energy. Jag and Jace get the sense that she is not dead...
8) Confronting the Druid
Returning to the cave opening, the party is set upon by strange creatures. An elk in armor, standing on two legs, wielding a crossbow; two cows, in armor, on two legs, each wielding halberds. The creatures appear smarter than they should be, barking orders in common to each other, flanked by more phase spiders. Things seem dire, but Raffi, riding a wave of earth, finishes the fight and heals the party, bringing a few back from the edge of death. He says he'll hold the line here if they go in now and finish whatever this is.
Within the cave system, the party discovers a forge and assembly line for constructing armor and weaponry for strange proportions. The second level is a study, with odd cans, discarded materials, as well as hundreds of parchment pieces with the inscription, "Push the button, take the ticket" over and over again. Jag discovers a journal and from its entries is able to glean that an entity here was transported from another plane or time (or both) and has slowly been going crazy as they learn the druidic arts. They manipulated and possessed Amos with another creature (that may be controlling/influencing them) and have been "awakening" other creatures, vowing to make his own family.
While the entering the third chamber, the party is attacked by two more awakened bulls with heavy crossbows. The party makes short work of these, but the real threat lies ahead.
In a bundle of rags, the group meets the eccentric Ben Carpenter, who seems obsessed with a specific teleportation circle. He seems kind enough, but the moment the last member crosses his threshold, he grows unstable. Each adventurer begins to feel their life forces being drawn from them, feeding some dark ritual. Ben, too, changes, transforming into a rock elemental.
Again, Aust and Jag are invaluable in healing and damage, but it takes everything the group has to destroy the ritual and beat the elemental back to his human form. Attempting to take him prisoner, he waits for the opportune moment, then dives into a plane shift.
For now, the party can do nothing more...