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...