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.