When we last checked in on our heroes, they had discovered and area beneath Származás Keep that looked old and relatively undisturbed for a rather long time…and which had been sealed. In their explorations, they fought some undead and recovered a magical staff, narrowly escaping some sort of angry spirits. Triumphant, they returned to Presov, shared the story of the their explorations and battles with the, as always, surly and unimpressed Captain Bernhard, and retired to the Lonesome Drake where they were warmly welcomed and sat down to enjoy some well-deserved ale and warm food. Their relaxation was shattered by a scream and Cailana found some sort of shadowy creature seemingly sucking the life from Sandra Papnő, the priestess of Talu Temple. As Cailana and Serena were tending to the slain priestess (after the others had returned to the Lonesome Drake), Captain Bernhard arrived and that’s where we pick up after the break.
This recap is from Rachel. Claudia, Forest, and Muse were missing so Rachel and RJ had their hands full. RJ played Cailana and Wink (along with Faelan) while Rachel played Raspin (along with Serena). As usual, my GM comments are in [brackets and italics]. There are potential spoilers for The Vault of Larin Karr as well as the Crucible of Freya below the break.
As Cailana was covering Priestess Papnő with a blanket and Serena was beginning to pray, Captain Bernhard burst into the temple and called for the guards to arrest us. He asked where Faelan, Wink, and Raspin were and sent guards to the inn once Cailana and Serena said they had returned there. The guards asked the three to step outside the inn [as the Captain wanted to see them] before arresting them [with the aid of more guards waiting outside with loaded crossbows]. We were put in cells in the barracks overnight, under guard. During the night, Raspin noticed that Wink was not looking so good, kind of like someone who is in withdrawal and needs a drink (feverish and with the shakes).
The next morning, the guards shackled us and took us to the manor to see Baroness Andrea Varga. The guards kept our gear elsewhere. The baroness was flanked by the captain, who looked very angry, and the old man who appeared to be her advisor the last time we saw her. Baroness Varga asked us to explain what happened and what we had been up to at the keep. Serena, unable to help herself, started off by dropping to her knees and saying we are at the baroness’ mercy. We were trying to be helpful by clearing things out of the keep but may have inadvertently released something really awful, and will do whatever we can to try to take care of it. We tell the baroness what we saw and did at the keep and that we saw several things that lead us to believe that Professor Arnek was there but that we have not found him or found out what happened to him.
We discussed Wink’s sickness and the injuries we sustained in our fights with the hobgoblins, ogre, and undead. Wink described the staff to the baroness and insists he did not use it to summon what killed Priestess Papnő. [Remember, Wink had shared that the staff could summon an area of clawing and screaming shadows as well as animate his own shadow…many in the party were not yet convinced that he wasn’t somehow involved…even if an unwilling involvement.] Baroness Varga asks if we will take care of what we released and help the village and valley (or at least die trying)—we say yes (Serena and Cailana a bit more readily than the others). The Baroness tells the guards to unshackle us and bring us our gear, much to the captain’s dismay. Captain Bernhard was practically apoplectic with his anger and smashed the corner of the table as he got up to leave the room with the Baroness. Before leaving, the Baroness asks her adviser to continue with us.
[The Captain saw where this was going and asked Andrea (yes, he called her by her first name and not title) to not do it. When she said that her decision had been made, Bernhard did become nearly apoplectic with anger, breaking a corner of the table with his fist before exiting the room. The Baroness then excused herself, stating that she needed to go speak with the Captain and left her adviser to continue the conversation.]
The adviser gives us a somewhat a toothy grin and introduces himself as Farkas Nõustaja, the Varga family advisor. He gives us a short contract to read and sign – we will be working on behalf of the Baroness and for any treasure we find, 60% will go to the Baroness and 40% will go to us. Farkas said that all of us have to the sign the contract and that the terms are not open to negotiation. Despite Raspin grumbling a bit about it, we all sign it.
[I believe he also indicated that if the contract was not signed, that he’d side with the Captain and do his utmost to convince the Baroness that the group was a danger to Quail Valley. Talk about some strong-armed tactics. 😉
He also indicated that the Baroness would be using some of the potential funds recovered by the group to beef up the defenses of the valley. Additionally, if the “adventurers” caused additional damage or the deaths of anyone in the valley, restitution would come from their 40% of recovered treasure.]
Farkas gives us a bit of insight into why the captain is so suspicious of adventurers—Captain Bernhard lost his arm while guarding the baron’s (Andrea’s father) body at the keep while they were fighting hobgoblins there. The Birds of Prey had been here then and had said they would help the village and guards fight the hobgoblins but did not show up, leaving Presov in a poorer position than they had anticipated.
[The Baron and the Captain had led separate forces in a two-pronged attack and the Birds of Prey were to provide additional support. When they never showed up, it left the attackers at a disadvantage. By the time the Captain had reached the Baron, his lord was already slain and the Captain lost his arm while simply defending the Baron’s body so the hobgoblins could not take it and defile it.]
We told Farkas about some of the symbols and things we had seen at the keep, asking him if he had any knowledge of what may have escaped from below it. Farkas has some information he is able to share with us and says that Kristo the wizard would probably be the only one in the valley who may know more about the shadow creature. Wink had sketched an approximation of the symbol that appeared the most on the dais where the skeleton holding the staff with the shadowy orb and showed it to Farkas. Farkas identified it as a symbol of Abraxas, the demon lord of forbidden lore and magic. Abraxas was said to know “The Final Incantation,” a single word that when uttered could destroy all magic.
Farkas also told us of Damara, a witch queen who was one of Abraxas’ followers. She led an army that that was conquering the elves here in the valley [a long time ago] but was ultimately defeated in battle by the Glen Blades, a pair of swords called Luath and Deimhin, the names translate as “swift” and “sure” from the Elven tongue.
[Cailana knew more about the Glen Blades and shared their sad tale. Essentially, an elven seer, Aurnia, beseeched a fae lord for aid in the fight against Damara and her forces. Her plea was granted with the gift of these blades, but the lord told her, it would not come without a cost. Aurnia gave the blades to her lover, Laoghire, a war captain of the elves. During the battle that turned the tide of the campaign, an arrow streaked straight for Laoghire’s throat. Luath flashed up on its own accord and deflected the missile. Returning home victorious, Laoghire learned that Aurnia had been killed in a freak accident. A stray arrow from some archery practice struck her in the throat at the same moment that Luath had saved her lover. Laoghire is believed to have left the blades in a monument to Aurnia in a place called the Hidden Glen…a place that Cailana believes is somewhere in the Quail Valley.]
Since Kristo may be the only other source of information in the valley regarding the keep and the shadowy creature, we asked Farkas what might make Kristo more receptive to visitors (since we have heard he does not like them). Farkas said sharing knowledge or information that Kristo does not already have would be a good start.
Farkas warns us that if we cause bigger problems and/or do not help the village, he may have to tell the baroness that the captain was right and should be able to deal with us his way. The guards brought us our gear but still eyed us suspiciously as we left the manor.
We headed back to Származás keep. A couple miles from town, Cailana asks Wink to summon the shadow ally with the staff to see what it looks like and ensure that this is not what killed the priestess. It looks very similar and is impossible to tell what elements of it may have differed. Wink is still feeling fatigued and ill, so Serena checks him out and determines that he has some kind of blood poisoning plus something else she is not able to identify. Serena thinks it will take at least several days for Wink to recover.
[I believe that Wink insisted that it was the bloody claws of the undead that they had fought the prior day that caused his illness…despite others not taking ill from more serious wounds by the creatures.]
At the keep, it appears nothing has changed since we left except vultures are now feeding on the ogre’s body. We moved all the corpses (hobgoblins, ogre, and two dwarves from below) into the pit trap inside the keep gate and burned them. The oil that was already in the pit and the wood from a couple of the bonfire setups created a large blaze in the pit.
We went back down below the chapel, into the room with the well and the vault door. Wink “rends the veil” at the dug-out area to the side of the vault—the room behind the vault door is now visible though the far walls are blown out some. It looks like a wood chest was obliterated except for a corner of it. Shelves that looked bare and dusty toppled over.
[Wink’s spell, Rend the Veil, can essentially disintegrate stuff that it strikes. In this case, the earth, the stone wall, items in the “vault” like the chest, more wall on the other side of the room, earth beyond it, and half of an unfortunate mole that was digging in the wrong place at the wrong time. Any items that may have been in the chest were obliterated along with it.
I also wonder how Metsä, Faelan’s goddess, might take such wanton slaughter of an innocent animal. It is one of Faelan’s vows to not allow acts of cruelty against animals or mistreating animals.]
Rather than dwelling on what may or may not have been in the wood chest, we decided to keep exploring and go down the well using the ropes. Cailana went first—the water at the bottom is moving east and is about 4 feet deep, but there is a natural ledge/walkway alongside the water. We all climbed down and started moving through the passage.
[The group traveled for almost two hours before reaching the waterfall discussed below, following the river the whole time. In some places, they had to travel in the river. In others, there was a relatively wide passage allowing for walking on dry land. They also came across what may have been a small campsite in one of the wider (and drier) areas of the tunnel.]
We came to a waterfall—fortunately, Cailana noticed a spike with a rope attached to it for climbing down. It was a little slippery but we all made it down and over to land. We kept going with Cailana in the lead. Not too far in we saw a dead hobgoblin and a dead gnoll, killed relatively recently. Other booted tracks continued east [away from the battle site. Bloody trails also led to the underground lake that dominated this large chamber that the party had found themselves. It looked as though something had dragged bodies into the water from the site of the battle between the hobgoblins and the gnolls.]
Pressing forward, it wasn’t long before three arrows came at Cailana from the darkness ahead. We all moved up and fought the three gnolls. Something big came from behind us—it smelled really bad and was some kind of water ogre. When the ogre showed up, the last gnoll standing looked at Raspin and urgently says “Run!” Fearing that this was a ploy and the gnoll was going to run to get reinforcements or lead us into a trap, Raspin went ahead and attacked the gnoll, who looked surprised and disappointed.
We all attacked the ogre. It wounded Cailana but Raspin was able to decapitate it. Just as we were catching our breath, the ogre’s arm reached out and picked up its head, putting it back on its neck where the skin started fusing together again. [It was a troll] We fought it and took it out again. Not wanting to have to fight it a third time, Faelan carried the head away from the body. Raspin could hear it saying “put me back!” in goblin. Raspin cut off one of the arms, and Cailana and Serena used a torch to destroy the arm while the head screamed, called us “land fishes,” and threatened us. We then destroyed the head [with fire] and everything became startlingly quiet. Then the ground began to rumble…
And that is where we ended a pretty eventful session. A good amount of backstory and history was learned. An NPC, Sandra Papnő, important to the community was killed…possibly as a result of the PCs actions. Was the priestess a random choice as the shadow’s target or did it single her out? A new…and formalized…relationship was established between the PCs and the region’s authority figure, the Baroness. The Captain is possibly even more upset with the adventurers. A whole new area beneath the valley has been discovered. A new faction may have been discovered…the gnolls. A troll was slain and something else might be approaching! What does the next session have in store for the band of adventurer? What about Wink? What’s wrong with him? Will he recover? Will Cailana find the Glen Blades? Will the shadow creature strike again while the adventurers are off spelunking? Where have the hobgoblins gone off to? It is pretty clear that at least some escaped the battle by the lake. Who was involved in that battle? The hobgoblin and gnoll bodies both looked to have been slain by weapons and not by a troll. Who are the gnolls? What about the orc that had been spotted with the hobgoblins?
Beer Log: Beers shared this session using, as always, our hit, miss, crit, and fumble rating scale.
- Westbrook Two Claw: A rye IPA that I’ve enjoyed a number of times before. I’ve been unintentionally sitting on this one for a bit, but it has held up pretty well regardless. A hit.
- Almanac Splendid Population: So Almanac is finally showing up in Tallahassee. That said, I don’t remember if this is one I got locally or not. Regardless, good stuff…tarty, fruity, with a hint of vanilla and wine. A definite hit.
- DESTIHL Wild Sour Series: Synchopathic: A nice little sour beer. Might not be quite as good as stuff from Almanac and others but solid. A hit!]