RPG@QUT Matt's D&D

DM log-- Fallcrest 2-4

Our heroes smuggled an excited Lady Jade out through the sewers. She continued to talk to Ralkil, who, to ease her passage, helpfully trimmed off some of her trailing gown and chopped down her piled wig to a spiky white-haired headpiece that looked rather like spiky feathers. Ralkil began to expound on the core tenets of the Raven Queen, and Jade was rapt with attention. The Raven Queen’s calm acceptance and expectation of death appealed to this aging socialite who suddenly seemed to disdain the hedonistic life of a rich eladrin in Fallcrest. As the night wore on, her personality was quite transformed. By the end, she seemed perfectly home amongst the raven people and eager to adapt to their underground life.

They snuck (surprisingly successfully) to a few large empty shipping containers waiting on the portage elevator. Coin fell into the hands of the town guard there. Soon they were all sealed up, thankful for Zepher’s gifts of prestidigitation that removed the sewer’s smell. They rocked gently in the dark, hearing the creak of ropes, talking quietly. When they arrived with a thump at the bottom, they were prised out again, this time by tough-looking dwarves. They slipped down a storm drain and soon were on a rooftop of Old Lower Fallcrest. This, as you recall, was the original town, which was eventually paved over at its first floor level to make new, higher ground not so subject to flooding. In the gloom they saw the ground floors of taller buildings whose next floor up was the apparent ground floor of modern Fallcrest. Now they stood on a crumbling house with a slate roof peaking several inches below the stone paving. The storm water had poured down onto this room for centuries, making a thick green slick. They carefully picked their way down the roof and into the street, led and warned by the kenku to stay on the path they showed, or risk stumbling into one of the many swarms of rats that plagued the place. Then Ralkil explained that they all needed to be blindfolded as they were led to their hideout. With some hesitation they agreed.

Blind among a gang of thieves, they were led into a building. Doors and shutters were slammed shut around them and their blindfolds removed. (They quietly eyed their possessions and found nothing missing.) They stood in the lobby of what once must have been a grand hotel. Doors, some open and some closed, led off to various sitting rooms and eateries. One door connected to a dining area was firmly closed. It has vividly blue and had a carving of a beard on it. {This extra touch was created by Scott’s expenditure of a Plot Point.} This building, some recalled, would be what used to be Fallcrest’s busiest hotel, before the paving over and the Bloodspear War. It was called Moon’s Landing. Now, hundreds of years later, it was apparently the central hideout for the Featherdagger Gang, and they had used it well. It was decaying but warm and as clean as could be expected. The smell of food and wood smoke was in the air.

From a room with the door ajar came a booming voice unlike the kenku’s croak, a human male’s voice. Something about a debt. Ralkil was told by one of the gang about the problem. His beady dark eyes went wide, he fingered his little book nervously, and he excused himself to that room.

Meanwhile, Lady Jade was terribly excited about her surroundings. She delighted in “the decay, the detritus, the downfall of such wealth!” She caressed peeling wallpaper as if it were more precious than the luxurious stuff that surrounded her just hours ago at her party. She clapped to see a pile of fallen-in brickwork. She marvelled at the stories the gang told her about places where battles were fought with rival gangs, with bloodstains to match. From one of the rooms came a senior gang member solemnly holding a long cloak. It was made entirely of black raven feathers, old but well kept. She gasped with delight as they placed it over her shoulders reverently and she preened in a mirror, muttering prayers to the Raven Queen she had learned. Her transformation was complete. With her spiky hair, tattered dress and black feathery cloak, she looked like the proper matriarch of this gang of ravens.

Bursting out from the back room came Ralkil with his feathered arm twisted behind him by a tall, rugged human man. He had dark skin, scale armor, and a short haircut which they recognised as likely that of a military man or town guard. But he had not needed to pass inspection for some time, so he looked dishevelled, dangerous, and savagely handsome. Ralkil squawked as this new man, who they learned was named Brad, thrust the gang leader into the main room. Jade demanded to know what was going on. Brad explained, bluntly, that Ralkil had amassed gambling debts so high that Brad had been sent by an aggrieved, unpaid party to collect the debt, or at least a few fingers as an incentive to pay soon. Jade’s demands fell on deaf ears and Brad looked capable enough to kill at least several of the gang if they had tried to attack, so Ralkil told them to hold off. Lady Jade archly said that she could easily repay the debt, double; she merely needed to send for it. When Brad declined to take her word for it, she helpfully offered the adventuring party as collateral. When that did not go over too well, she gave Brad two of rings worth at least 700 gold, repaying the debt instantly. {Note that Brad needs to give at least 200gp to his employer to placate him.}

Satisfied, Jade continued to hold court. Ralkil, the supposed leader of the gang, was curiously acquiescent, even complimenting her on the cloak, which had once been worn by his own father. The insightful members of the party suspected that Ralkil was buttering Jade up to keep her on side as a very valuable partner for the gang—a source of funds and knowledge about the houses of Inner Hightown, rich targets indeed. So he gave her the lead as she announced her plans. In brief: she is going to let everyone think she is dead. She will tell her trusted head of household to attest that she was found dead of asphyxiation in an upper room, from the fire. Then her body vanished. This was obviously the work of the assassins who were hiding in the “Lady Jade” mockery carriage. One assassin was found dead, wearing a dress that is known to belong to Lady Talltree. Very well known, it was said in a snickering aside. Between that and the way the carriage can be traced back to Talltree as well, and the falsified testimony of a few house guards, Lady Talltree will be pinned with enough evidence to convict her of assassination. The trial will be conducted by Stoica—this fact coming as some surprise to our heroes. Once the trial is concluded, hopefully with Talltree going away for a long time, Jade will reveal she is alive, to keep claim to her estate. She instructed our heroes to send word to Talltree to come meet them in Lowtown to see the evidence of Jade’s death—it is important to keep Talltree’s guard down and lure her into a hubristic mistake in trial. However, Jade warned, Talltree with be accompanied by several very strong guards, so in case the ruse fails, the party must be ready for a tough fight. That is why she ordered Brad to stay with them, for “extra muscle”. Jade, it became apparent, was very interested in Brad’s muscles, and more…

The adventurers were allowed out of the hideout sans blindfold, Jade’s blessing of their importance evidently being good enough for Ralkil, who practically fawned over her as they left. They therefore learned that the hideout is pretty much in the center of Lower Fallcrest. With more care and effort, they perhaps could pinpoint its location relative to the surface, because the hideout was in a building that apparently had upper floors on the surface streets. They were told that they would always be watched by the Featherdaggers for their protection. If they ever needed help, just call out and one of them would appear. Theren suggested that call should be “Caw! Caw!” Ralkil narrowed his eyes, offended, and said through gritted beak that such was the noise a crow would make, not a raven.

Our heroes’ next stop: the Blue Moon Alehouse. They were let in by Per, who complained about all the noise from the room while they were gone. They found the room far messier than it seemed possible for it to get in several hours, with clothes, bottles, and plates of food scattered everywhere. Sleeping in a twisted mess of sheets was Lev, with a huge grin on his face. They woke Lev, who seemed dazed and very happy. He immediately said he was really, really happy with the girls they sent up. But they had only arranged for one whore to visit Lev. Lev sighed, looking like the cat who ate the canary, that there were three lovely ladies who came to see him, and their leader was Ruby, an incredibly beautiful eladrin woman with red hair. Lev demurred on the details in deference to the innocent ears of young Quinne but sufficed it to say they had a very, very good time.

During this exposition, they made sure that their valuable shards were not disturbed from the hiding places Bastian secured for them. Emmeline’s necklace and its attendant lesser objects were safe. The crude necklace made from the gnoll’s shard… was gone. Bastian asked, containing his temper, where it was. Lev’s face drained of colour. Bastian, less patiently now, demanded the question again. He said, “She put it back… I saw her, I swear I saw her put it back!” It turned out that Ruby had “briefly worn” the necklace with the blazing red shard. He hastened to explain. Just as things were getting good, Lev said desperately, Ruby clutched at her neck and cried out, “My necklace! My red necklace! Where is it? I left it at home!” She explained tearfully that she always wore it during sex because it set off her naturally curly red hair so well. She got very upset and was going to leave and take her two friends with her. So Lev helpfully suggested that he had a nice red necklace, would it do for her to wear that one? He had seen where Bastian had hidden it, and got it out. Lev swore (and their insight all seemed to agree he was sincere) that he told her, I may have one leg, but I will fucking kill you if you steal it, it’s very valuable, I have my eye on you, and I am deadly with a crossbow. So she wore it, things… progressed for a while from there, and later he told her to put it back in the hiding place. He would have put it back himself but he was feeling rather drained and he did have only one leg. So he watched her carefully as she put it back in the hiding place. He swore up and down, with apparent sincerity, that this was all true, and he seemed genuinely horrified that he was responsible for its theft.

After the party ranted and raved at him for some time and proposed that maybe it was high time to take Lev back to Harkenwold, Zepher queried Lev very closely about Ruby. Lev was rapt as he described her incredible sex appeal, and that while they were… together… her hair and the shard glowed different shades of red. Her face even seemed to glow and blur. He had been very impressed by this, but Zepher realised something profound with his deeper questioning about every detail. By some miracle {Zepher’s roll on Religion for this check having been a natural 20} he had specialised in the study of a particular class of devil. Zepher was certain that Ruby was a succubus. This was a terrifying thought, as these devils rarely walk the material plane, much less rob random losers of their jewels by using their famed powers of seduction, disguise, and overpowering of the will. Surely she knew the nature of the gnoll’s shard and came here specifically to get it. How did she know? What value does the shard have to her? The party’s blood grew cold as they realised that a chaos shard which had spent long, dark years marinading in the sadistic, psychotic hatred of the gnoll leader was now in the hands of a devil who almost certainly served a higher master.

So that went well. {The DM assured the party that this theft was completely supported by world logic, and he was not being a bastard who was making things vanish into thin air for fun.}

They slept {see timeline}. Despondent and wondering if there was a connection with the theft, the party decided to talk to Lilliana, who Per informed them was at last arrived at the inn. Theren reminded Zepher that she came from the Thistledown Clan in the southern forest. {Give 1 Plot Point to Theren for helpful use of this world information.} Zepher knocked at Lilliana’s door to be met by the glare of Darrin. He was a human male, perhaps in his 40s, with a thin, angular, knife-scarred face and a wiry body. He wore very well-made tight leather armor, armed with two fine daggers, and carried himself with confidence. He could hear the rest of the party was out in the hall and slammed the door shut again, demanding (with several obscenities) that they all clear out: one customer admitted at a time unless they pay a lot extra. So Zepher alone entered a small, closed room with this dangerous-looking man.

The room was hung with a silky curtain to separate the bed from the rest, and Darrin, after collecting the requisite fee from Zepher, settled into a chair, pointed his dagger at the wizard, and said, “Don’t damage the fucking merchandise.” Zepher parted the curtain to see, kneeling on the bed, Lilliana. She was certainly the woman they had seen in the red mirror being frozen near to death and forced into supplication. She also matched the description her clan gave. Looking at the tattoo on her leg, the tattoo on the back of her neck, her metal collar, and her submissive manner, Zepher realised {with a History check} that this was a hereix. (Plural being “herea”.) Zepher’s skin crawled and he worried what his mother and father would have thought if they had seen him in the company of this woman, a tragic throwback to a darker time. Zepher looked at the back of the collar on her neck as she bent her head forward. It had the name “Darrin”.

Zepher, speaking in elven in the hope that Darrin could not understand, tried to convince her to come away with him. She would seem to agree, but then when he made to actually get off the bed, she looked confused: “But I am not to leave the bed. My desune says so.” Zepher knew that the desune was the male master of a hereix, and that this was Darrin. Zepher realised that any agreement she made with him about who she really was and about his noble intentions was merely her playing along with what she assumed was his fantasy, to do whatever he wanted, within limits set by her desune. It was simply her role. Zepher asked whether she missed her family, missed being in the forest. She said that she enjoyed that and she still cares for them, but that was her old life. She had a new life now, a far better one, one that suited her true nature. She had the air of a person who has had a profound revelation about the meaning of life, the true way that life should be lived, and was utterly content with her situation. She seemed genuinely puzzled that anyone in her position would choose to leave, to live any other kind of life. Zepher realised this was futile. He considered taking her by force. But he had taken his measure of Darrin and was not at all certain that he, even with his friends rushing into the room a few moments later, could best the man, who may have friends of his own close to hand. And even if Zepher prevailed, what prize would he be left with? From what he knew, this was not a magical spell that would be broken when the collar was removed or the master killed. Frustrated and confounded, Zepher left. Darrin said, in a snide and cutting voice, “Thank you, come again. Oh wait—you didn’t come once, did you? I hope you enjoyed your elfy little chat with such an obviously intelligent and interesting bitch.” He snickered nastily.

{Let me remind the party of my description of this story line when first encountered through the red mirror. It is dark, unsettling, gothic, and adult in nature (though of course it will not become too explicit while I am involving active uni students). I wrote up many parts of this world while watching True Blood, Breaking Bad, and the like. I draw many of these ideas from disturbing real-world parallels. I am very glad to have you all explore it, as it’s a significant area of artistic expression, to delve into the dark. But if it gets to be too much, there are plenty of other storylines with a classic heroic fantasy tone.}

Disappointed, the party reassembled in the lobby of the Blue Moon Alehouse. With his naturally high insight, Zepher noticed that when Kemara came in, she shot a look of extreme distaste at all the members of the party. It was hard to exactly pin the emotion, but it was some sort of dislike. She covered it up with a hostess smile before she went into her back room to attend to her brewing.

Lastly: Zepher performed an Object Reading ritual on the coin bag that he presumed belonged to Morgana, since it was found in the possessions of Farallax. He saw visions of the most significant things that happened to the object—and the party saw this too, thanks to the shared sense of vision and entanglement they started referring to as a soul link.

The first vision was particularly important to the coin bag as it marks a time when it changed owners (this being a bag’s primary obsession). The vision started as the bag was removed from a bloodstained backpack by a dwarven woman. It was in a rather small room with ice-covered walls. A white dragon lurked in the corner: Farallax. Yes, this was his lair in the Twisting Halls, and on the floor was the teleportation circle they had seen there. Just at the edge of the vision stood another dwarf, leaning heavily on an axe. Only his beard and boot were ever visible, though. The woman said: “How much will it cost, dragon? I’m not going to negotiate all night while we freeze to death.” The dragon said, with that familiar low rumble Zepher recalled with a shudder: “Freezing would be a mercy. You’ll starve to death in that room on the other side of the portal if you don’t know how to talk your way out… and might I say, your charm is lacking.” The woman snapped: “You’re merely a beast. I know how to get Citrian to let me out. I’m a better miner than any of their lot—I doubt any dwarves can stand the heat there in the Scar. And more of my workers will follow once I send word. So don’t worry about me getting stuck there, Farallax. Though your concern is touching.” They were interrupted by a messy sneeze from the half-seen dwarf. The woman continued: “So to conclude our business, how much?” Then followed some haggling and the measuring out of coins from the coin purse, an epic event in the life of any such container. In the end, the dragon wanted more than the bag actually contained; heated words were exchanged; the dragon’s fondness for the bag itself was revealed; and the dwarven woman tossed the entire, full, clinking bag between the dragon’s claws. He pawed the bag with satisfaction and said, ‘Very well. Take one of those scrolls from the shelf and… good luck, Morgana.’ This ended with a nasty snicker. The vision slowly tightened and centered on the bag as Zepher heard, in the background, dimmer and dimmer, the dwarven woman pop open a scroll tube, complaining about its latch, and start to read some words of power as the teleportation circle started to glow. But all this was not important to the coin purse. It slowly frosted over under the attentive breath of its new master. Its emotions, if a coin purse has emotions, remain a mystery that even arcana cannot penetrate…

The second vision must have been farther in the past, because Morgana was still its owner and it looked a bit less threadbare. It was sitting on a table in front of Morgana in a dark tavern which, Bastian recognised later on Zepher’s description, was in the city of Zeked-Dval. (For more on the context of this exchange, see Bastian) Across the table, feet up, was a dwarf with a strange, non-dwarven tattoo on his face. This, Bastian later revealed, was Karj, and realised that Karj must have been the other dwarf in the first vision: the beard and boots were the same. Some negotiation was proceeding as the bag’s drawstrings were fingered by Morgana, an event of great pleasure to the bag. Karj said: “But Sebastian and Syvallen are important diplomats. Why the hell should I piss off Rokholm? If I take them prisoner as you suggest, but the goblins don’t take over Rokholm, where would I be? Up shit creek is where.” Morgana answered, “Karj, forgive me, but you don’t see over the horizon like I do. I am a rich woman, and can pay you enough to change your mind. But what I really want is to convince you that I am on to a source of wealth and power far greater than trade rights through a dumb little mountain pass. Think big, Karj. I like you. I like the way you think. I like how you provide muscle in just the right places. I assure you, it won’t matter if the goblins take Rokholm or not. Take my money, get into the mining operation near there, and wait for my next move. Once chaos breaks loose, I will come for you and offer you a chance for an adventure you would not believe if I told you now what it was. But you will believe it once you see what happens in Rokholm.” From the bag Morgana counted out many platinum pieces. Karj looked at her appraisingly, sighed, “Oh hell, anything is better than this dump,” and took the coins. Morgana put a strong hand on his. “And Sebastian and Syvallen?” Karj grinned in a nasty way that made his tattoo look diabolical. He growled, “Don’t worry about the boy and his pet fey. They won’t ever see the light of day again.”

{ Give each in the party 200 XP each for general skill use and plot advancement. Oh, and I forgot to give XP for the previous session, in which Lady Jade was lured and smuggled out. That’s another 200 XP each. If this levels you up, please wait till after the next session, since I am expecting you all to be level 5!}

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DM log-- Fallcrest 2-3

Our heroes hid the dead bodies in the secret compartment under the carriage. They decided to keep the surrendered eladrin guard alive but unable to summon help. They put the locked hood over his head and questioned him. His name was Brell and he was terrified of the consequences of talking—but Theren reminded him the consequences of not talking were worse. He revealed what he knew about where the other guards would be and what was going to happen during the festivities—which as we will see was going to be quite a wild ride, with plenty of distraction and mayhem to allow our heroes, disguised as guards, to move around relatively safely. They tied up Brell in the bed of the guard room upstairs. {Give 3 Plot Points to each member of the party for following alignment and keeping this guy alive, even though surely it will make them fugitives if and when their description is released… unless for some reason Jade decides, and is able, to command her guards not to pursue the matter further.} They painted one of the dead guards with the same makeup that Bastian had, and put him in the old dress, in hopes that this would cover their tracks.

The party checked out a possible escape route, and exited the guard tower to mix with the rapidly dwindling crowd. Little Quinne, unable to plausibly pass as a guard for hire, hastily made a decent frock from bits of Bastian’s now-ruined dress {passing an Int check to discover she was a fine dressmaker} and carried a chamberpot. The performance was over and the main tower was blazing brightly. A few guests already seemed heavily inebriated and Theren took advantage of one unconscious guest, stealing a pricey ring as he dragged him in. {Give 2 Plot Points to Theren for sticking with his rash character—even rolling to see if he could resist—and taking this risk that could have scotched the whole plot.} Then our heroes entered the tower to see what Jade’s festivities had in store.

And what they had in store! This quickly jotted tale cannot recount it in detail. It must suffice to give up these few tidbits:

  • Peacocks are not effective weapons.
  • DTIS can do the robot super well.
  • Midgets are not familiar with standard court proceedings, but Bastian certainly is.
  • Beware sending 12 year old girls into dark, guarded rooms filled with debauchery.
  • Too much chaos shard is bad for you.
  • Never, ever say “Fuck these tigers” while in a position of authority.

This map they made says a thousand words…

At one point, they saw a bearded lady, and Zepher recognised this as a vicious mockery of Lady Talltree. {Give 1 Plot Point to Zepher for this amusing connection. DTIS already earned himself a PP during play by volunteering that his character would be compelled to clean up the peacock poo.}

Our heroes soon figured out some cunning tricks to lure Lady Jade from room to room, getting her next to the befouled, guest-free room in the corner where the Featherdagger Gang was waiting. Zepher lured Jade in with a very clever idea, to say they had been at the Talltree festivities a few days before and they had an especially enticing rumour about Talltree to tell to Jade in private. {Give 1 Plot Point to Zepher for this nice use of world information.}

Once Jade was safely in the Silence-cast room, they explained their real identity and tried to convince her to come willingly. {This was a skill challenge.} The diplomats broke the news that they were hired as assassins by Talltree, and DTIS regaled Jade with a story about another noble who fled her own house through the sewers. What put Jade over the top was Quinne’s enchanting description of the life of the Featherdaggers {rolling a 20 on Streetwise, and earning two successes plus the permanent effect of Jade becoming besotted with this very different lifestyle}. Jade agreed to the plan and eagerly slipped down the gaping loo to meet her newly admired raven friends.

Our heroes saved Jade and did not get killed in the process! Covered by the chaos of a wee fire they had set in the piñata room, they followed Ralkil through the sewers and out to the top of the portage elevator.

Now what? Will they convince Talltree that the assassination was really performed? Will they be fugitives once the truth comes out? What else awaits them in the city teeming with stories waiting to be told?

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DM log-- Fallcrest 2-2

Our heroes got ready for their “assassination” mission at Jade House. Bastian tried to keep a low profile as he got the fast-knockout drug they may need to make Jade cooperate with the ruse. Then he got the rest of the components needed to make a quite powerful {level 12} version of the rare coma drug. As he came out of one of the shops, he realised he was being tailed by a spy: a nondescript human man was intensely watching the exit of the shop, but when Bastian looked at him, the man pretended to be perusing the contents of a shop window… which was empty.

They all met Ralkil in the same private room of the public house as before. Apparently the Featherdagger Gang entered this room through a back door opening into an alley near a sewer grate, but the birdlike creatures were meticulously clean. Most of the gang was there, but they were missing two. Ralkil reckoned they had trouble sneaking up to Hightown and had decided to retreat.

Ralkil explained the plan: the kenku knew how to get to the southeast corner of Jade House, under one of the toilets. They will wait for a signal from Zepher calling down to say the way is clear and the Silence ritual has been conducted. Then they will widen the stone passage to let them smuggle Jade out. They will then take her down to Lowtown late at night via the portage elevator. Though Ralkil refused to share with the party the map of the Hightown sewer system, Quinne convinced him that she should see it. He showed it to her and she tried to memorise it. However, later in the night {because of the low hidden Int roll made for this memorisation} she realised she could not remember its details well enough to navigate; it was simply too complicated.

The group went to Talltree House and were let in by the halfling butler, who this time wore a pretty pink girl’s dress with stoic dignity. Some changed into their “assassin clothes” for better effect. Then they saw Talltree in the dining room. This time the house was largely empty, quite unlike the Bacchanalian scene Bastian witnessed last time. Talltree seemed like she was on a few powerful drugs, sitting surrounded by empty wine bottles and a picked-at sumptuous feast. She was upset about the news of how lavish Jade’s party was and how some of the same guests she had recently entertained were enjoying themselves so much. She channelled her frustration into the vengeful assassin plot, which she insisted had to be revealed a step at a time by the reading of sealed envelopes. She also handed over two vials of a crystalline powder which she said should be mixed into Jade’s sherbet. It would cause Jade a painful death within a day or so.

The plot nearly fell apart at the start. Bastian, in his most exaggerated Lady Jade getup, was to ride around in a grand carriage with one driver and horse. The rest of the assassins were to hide in a secret compartment under the carriage. But the carriage had nearly left when this latter part of the plan was revealed.

While riding around, drawing a lot of attention, Bastian opened the next envelope, which said that soon, due to his outrageous disrespect, he should be commandeered by the outraged guards of Jade House and brought into the secure courtyard. Once there, he was to fey step away and let the guards chase him while the other assassins slipped out to conduct the poisoning plot. The first part went well. After one pass by Jade House, the guests entering the party were scandalised by the vicious mockery Bastian provided. On the second pass by the house, a flaming arrow shot from a tower in Jade House went through the throat of the driver and set him alight, and guards swarmed the carriage. Unfortunately the first thing they did was to put manacles on Bastian and lock a hood over his head, which made it impossible for him to fey step. They rolled the carriage into a little house in the courtyard. The courtyard itself apparently contained a mob of party guests enjoying a very loud drum performance.

With Bastian blinded and the rest of party in the secret compartment, they could only hear what was going on. An eladrin captain of the guard, apparently named Querelian, and another guard waited a while, apparently under orders from Jade. Then entered a human named Donatien, who started gleefully making plans for how to disembowel Bastian while not killing him, so the carriage could then be rolled out again to show the guests and the rest of the inner Hightown what Jade thought of those who would mock her in this way. Even more disturbing was the passionate, artistic regard that Donatien had for this sadistic act. Once Donatien’s razor caressed Bastian’s bare belly, the party flew into action. The sounds of the drumming outside drowned out the combat, so the only help that came was from another spear-wielding guard and an archer from the second floor of the tower. Donatien, who took most of the opening shots, fled upstairs, cackling that all this had inspired him and he was off to Lowtown to tell “Sryca” about a new idea he had. He apparently left without bothering to tell any of the other guards outside, such was his obsessive glee and his cold disregard for the life of others. Querelian led his guards bravely and had fey powers that helped him protect his eladrin brethren. However, our heroes prevailed, not least because the new addition Quinne proved to be a killing machine, doing massive damage left and right. It was her flying knife (Fenstrom’s magical one, tossed to her gallantly by Zepher) that finished off Querelian in a gout of blood. The archer had surrendered, intimidated brilliantly by Bastian, who wiped off his makeup to reveal his scars and bellowed with threatening rage. {Give 3 Plot Points to Bastian for sticking to character and taking this significant risk by revealing his true fugitive identity.}

Now the party must decide how to recover Jade’s supposedly cunning infiltration plot. The guard tower they are in is separated from the main house by a courtyard full of revellers. However, Jade must have hired many of the guards just for the party—they had a motley assortment of armor and weapon styles but all had a sash that had, in corny archaic eladrin, the runes for “palace guard”. Chances are that they could don the same sashes, carry some weapons, and pass for the real thing. DTIS wore Querelian’s helm to cover his unusual features. But what to do with Quinne? Surely a 12-year old girl could not pass as a guard, and there was no apparent way for her to sneak into the main house. I’m sure our heroes will think of something… {And if not, the DM will happily charge a plot point to give a hint. Give 1 Plot Point to Quinne to make up for the disadvantage caused by her brave but temporarily problematic choice of a child character. Give 1 Plot Point to DTIS for his similarly problematic exotic race.}

{Give 250 XP to each for the combat and 50 XP to each for general exploring and plot advancement.}

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DM log-- Fallcrest 2-1

While the party was escaping from the farm, the following messages were exchanged through the purple necklace:

  • Someone: Who are you? Who is wearing this?
  • Bastian: Not a gnoll.
  • Someone: Did the gnolls break out of the mine? And again, who is wearing this?
  • Bastian: Someone who does not wish to reveal overmuch, but who does not mean harm.
  • Someone: Now I know who you are not. Where is she? If you don’t know, I expect you will return my necklace immediately.
  • Bastian: And to where should I return it, were I not to know?
  • Someone: I have a confederate in Fallcrest who I have told to expect it. Give it to Nimozeran, the septarch. What is your name? Reward forthcoming.
  • Bastian: Nothing can be delivered unless a tax exemption is given.
  • Someone: Confederate Darrin should soon be in Blue Moon Alehouse in Lowtown. Look for red sash and big mouth. This is last message, these are expensive.
  • Bastian: I would talk to Hadaniss. (Bastian here is referring to the name magically inscribed on the necklace)
  • Someone: I am Hadaniss you fool, and not one to be trifled with. Give me what is mine while a reward is still in the offing.

Bastian decided not to reply to this last.

Bastian received Zepher’s message on the whispering winds, and made ready to leave. Lev was only too glad to have the room to himself again, and lounged on the messy bed already dreaming of the upcoming visit by his favourite whore. Bastian told Lev to stay out of trouble, then found {by spending some PP} two very good hiding places in the room, under loose floorboards. He stowed the purple necklace and fuzzy handcuffs in one place, putting the board back in place quite skilfully as much as he could tell. In the other spot he hid the gnoll’s shard, the unripened chaos shard and the mining lantern.

Bastian left the inn incognito in a cloak, and nobody recognised him from the description on the poster (from The Accusation. He ducked into an alley and put on his Lady Jade makeup and clothes. Then he walked openly (nay, brazenly), to make it look like he was coming from the docks to west of the city. He traipsed through the guard point, undergoing strict examination by the guards and an eladrin mage, and caught up to the party in Hightown.

Meanwhile, in Hightown, the party got a few things done. They extended the stay at the Silver Unicorn Inn, and therefore the contents of their safe there, until 8 Ready’reat. Then, while shopping, they met Quinne.

Quinne Glasseater {newly made and played by Kim, who can make a character page with more info} was a precocious human girl of 12. She had been found in a basket as baby in Lake Nen. Traders found her and raised her. Her name comes from the clan’s word for “young female”, and it stuck. She has no recollection of her family. She talks fast, reacts faster, and has discovered she is stronger, smarter, and quicker than others even much older, and most of all, she learns very fast. Everyone knew that she was destined for great things. {In other words, she was a budding hero, of the rogue class.} She enjoys being a stowaway, hiding and exploring, and has prevailed in many scuffles with wild creatures of the north and the occasional bandit band who tried to waylay her trade caravan on the trip from Nen down to Fallcrest. Quinne is very loyal to those she loves but trusts no-one. Her close family are two human males— hunters, trappers and merchants— who taught her how to survive and take advantage of any situation. They have been to Fallcrest many times, and Quinne soon was a great help in smuggling things past the guards and their passage tax, stealthily slipping past while her two dads distracted the guards with a feigned fistfight. She clashed with the Featherdagger Gang at first, then won their respect by holding up in a fight, never backing down, but never reporting them to the guards.

Quinn was working in her dads’ market stall in the Hightown bazaar when she saw our heroes examining the wares. She immediately knew that these people were special, like her, with the power and confidence to outgrow this simple life and go on to great things. What’s more, her young heart fluttered when she saw DTIS and she bravely struck up a conversation. Soon they were exchanging swordplay tips and her fate was sealed. Before long she had charmed the whole party into taking her in, since they see she could be very useful in a pinch and she obviously had more potential than a merchant could ever realise. She obviously has a schoolgirl crush on DTIS (though she has never been to school) and though DTIS of course acts perfectly chaste towards her, it’s rather flattering to be utterly worshipped. {Give 2 Plot Points to Quinne for making some strong, daring, and not always advantageous choices in her backstory. Give 1 Plot Point to DTIS for taking on this extra challenge.}

At the House of the Sun, they met Senior Durden again, who gasped when he saw Scotty Macduff unconscious on the disc. Durden offered to take Scotty in for treatment to heal his body and mind. The party inspected the sanatorium in the basement. It was clean though worn and spare, and occasionally echoed with the screams of the insane kept in nearby cells. Looking at the other patients, no abuse was apparent, so the party decided to let them keep and treat Scotty. This was covered by a small deposit of 100 gold to get him through the first week; it will take an unknown amount of time to effect a cure. They handed over the sedating drugs they had been using to keep Scotty quiet. They will run out tomorrow but it’s likely that in order to treat Scotty, he will need to be awake. {Give 1 Plot Point to Zepher, Theren, and DTIS for this act of charity.}

Durden took them into the back room where Bastian smoothed things over by donating 20 gold to the temple. Soon entered Most Senior Ingelholven, a doddering ancient man with a strong facial tic. Bastian recognised this was the same man who he saw at Talltree House. Bastian convinced the priest that this secret was utterly safe with him. Theren was less cautious, putting the whole enterprise at risk. {But give 1 Plot Point to Theren for this in-character risk taking.} This satisfied Ingelholven, though he proceeded to harangue them to donate more to the temple, and not to traffic with that blasted Nentir Temple or for that matter any of those untrustworthy eladrin. The old man was quickly shepherded out of the room by Durden.

Zepher asked Durden about his mother, and Durden recognised the name. She was a devoted and generous (this last bit said pointedly) worshipper. Durden last saw her about 16 years ago. {Give 1 Plot Point to Zepher for exposing his vulnerabilities in this way, and therefore risking detection as the fugitive “assassin”.}

They then went to Nentir Temple to see Stoica. They paid a small bribe to the guards there to let them take Quinne along, without waiting for a letter back from Stoica to give passage. Stoica was glad to see them, and set to quizzing Quinne about why she wanted to be an adventurer. The party then told Stoica the full record of everything they did and saw at the Moon Hills farm, with one small exception: they did not say they stole Scotty away. Stoica was very interested in all of it, though a bit uncomfortable to hear that Dame Macduff and Baron Helmfield are first cousins. She made it clear that her reward to them was increased to 650 gold in order to make sure that the party keeps this little secret to themselves. She was especially fascinated by the transformation of the gnolls and the miners. She borrowed Zepher’s drawings of the were-gnoll anatomy, and the demonic organ he harvested. She politely examined the ribcage lyre as well, but did not ask to keep it. She emphasized how valuable ripe shards are and how potentially dangerous the gnoll’s shard might be. She gave a specially written security pass to allow these shards to be brought to her for evaluation, without incurring the usual passage tax. She also happily received the wedding chest with its heavy and mysterious load from the Moon Hills clan.

She listened with apparent concern about Scotty’s deteriorated state, and shuddered to learn that they chose the Temple of the Sun as his sanatorium. She invited them to let her people take care of the young man, free of charge. On the way out, she showed them the temple’s small but very well appointed sanatorium. Here the screams of the insane were discreetly muffled. It’s up to the party to decide whether to transfer Scotty.

Now the party turned their thoughts to the upcoming assassination plot for Lady Talltree to kill Lady Jade. As they bought cheap dark assassin-ish clothes, they discussed their plans to foil the plot and save Jade. Quinne piped up that she could help: she happened to be very close, like family, with an important lieutenant in the Featherdagger Gang, a kenku named Ralkil. {She spent 3 Plot Points to make this somewhat unlikely fact come true.} With a bit of investigating {using Streetwise, with the majority of the party doing well enough} they found this lieutenant in a members-only bar in Hightown, where they ordered piles of sweet rolls (Quinne’s favourite, and much enjoyed by Ralkil, who pecked at the pile rolls with abandon, much like a raven looting a trash bin).

Ralkil was very well dressed and apparently quite a successful thief. He had the beginning of white feathers around his beak that showed he was middle aged, but still confident and fit. Quinne got on the lieutenant’s good side by reminiscing about a time when they conned a prominent Fallcrest trader. Between her good diplomatic skills and the power of sweet rolls, soon they could get down to business. The gang could, for the right price, break into Jade House through the sewer, then receive and secrete a cooperative or unconscious Jade back to Lowtown for safekeeping. They could make it look like thieves broke in and kidnapped her or killed her and took away the body, complete with blood. But they greatly feared the guards in these eladrin houses (even though kenku embrace the Raven Queen and accept death, there is no need to hurry towards it) and needed both good cover if things went bad, and pay upfront. Thanks to excellent diplomatic skills by a few in the party, they talked him down to 5 gold per head, as long as they were able to steal whatever they could from the house, the probable wealth of which was richly described by Bastian. Ralkil said he should be able to get 10 good birds up to Hightown within a few hours. The party agreed, and he went on his way. On the way out he put a fatherly, feathery arm around Quinne and asked if these people really could be trusted; can she vouch for them? She said yes. He said he believed her, and asked her to look him up later.

The party realised that Talltree would not be satisfied with the mere presumption of death. Bastian suggested that they use a powerful drug, the secret formula passed down through his family for generations. {Aerro rolled a 20 on the Heal check to know about this, giving him special access to a high-level drug.} This would make the body appear dead and defy ordinary examination to prove otherwise. The plan is to later show Lady Talltree the body of Jade, then convince her that they should get rid of the body. They would take the body away and revive Lady Jade, who presumably would take this as her cue to get out of Fallcrest.

The party spent the next few hours gathering mild sleeping drugs to knock out Jade for transport, then going to the Septarch’s Tower to meet with Silva and get the critical ingredients for the drug that simulates death. The simpleton halfling expressed childlike glee to see them again, and they came away with the most difficult and expensive herbs needed to make the drug, as well as an armload of fresh veggies that Silva insisted they try. {Give 1 Plot Point to DTIS for thinking back to use Silva as a contact for these ingredients.} It will take more materials and an hour to make the drug. The harder the drug is to detect, the more expensive it will be. The range is 250 gold for a reasonably undetectable drug {A L12 item; examiner must pass Heal check of 20 to become suspicious or 28 to be sure of shenanigans} to 6500 gold for one very hard to detect {L22; DCs are 27 and 36 }, or something in between for 1300 gold.

The time for this “assassination mission” approaches…

{Give each in the party 200 XP for general skill use and plot advancement.}

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DM log-- Moon Hills feud 5

The party caught a rest after the defeat of the last gnolls. Bastian was preoccupied— his companions could tell he was occasionally communicating via Emmeline’s necklace, and he said he needed to think about what to say next, as well as think of how to handle the Talltree “assassination” plot. So he followed along but was not focused on the action. {Aerro was gone for this session, and Darcy remains on holiday.}

The party made sure nothing in the mine was dangerous. Looking farther back in the mine, they were certain nobody had treaded there for several years. It showed signs of silver and moonstone mining, and also the steep pits where miners pursued the trail of chaos shards downward until the rock surrounding them could be carefully removed.

Zepher made a careful drawing of the unusual demonic anatomy of the were-gnolls, thinking it may be of interest to a scholar. Zepher {with a good History roll} feels certain that the were-gnoll, and certainly its demonic organ regeneration, is unknown in history.

They left the mine and went to the Macduff house, where the dame was reading by candlelight. With a shrewd look she asked how it went. DTIS blurted out that they had found Scotty, and she went out to the porch on which hovered the Tenser’s Disc with its cargo, and the unconscious Scotty on top. The mother was shocked and concerned, examining him, and said it did not make sense he was in the mine, since she saw him running after the ranger after the gnoll attack, and the mine was locked up soon after. Something about this was odd, and {with Insight checks} Zepher and Theren both felt like she was being overly defensive, as if to clearly establish her story about seeing Scotty running off. She also semeed to be making a show of grief and concern, a well-practiced show.

The Dame recognised the silver visor as one Scotty had acquired a few months before the gnoll attack, but he had said it was an instrument to look closely at the structure of minerals, so she paid it no mind. She also was amazed to see the glowing red shard Theren wore, and seemed insincere in her assertion she, a simple country woman, did not know anything about what could make them glow.

When Zepher said Scotty Macduff needed to be taken to Fallcrest for treatment, Dame Macduff became adamant that he should stay here, where his family could take care of him. Zepher argued that this treatment was not helping Mikey and would not help Scotty either. Though he made a good case {with a good Diplomacy roll}, she was very firm in not wanting to let them take Scotty, and they suspected some other reason besides his wellbeing was in play. Jimmy was on their side, being especially fond of DTIS, but whispered to them they really did not want to make Ma angry and cross her when she was set in her ways. Things ecalated and Dame Macduff called her children down to forcibly take the young man from the disc. Zepher sent the disc scooting away down the valley, using prestigitation to startle the pursuing children and bursts of flame to intimidate them. Theren followed up with warning shots from his crossbow. Jimmy deliberately slacked off on the chase, but Della and Sophia followed their mom’s orders and chased the party. Theren had to kick and punch them to keep them away as the disc moved onward. Meanwhile, DTIS ran to the Helmfield’s and crashed through the window. {Several Plot Points were spent at various parts of this venture. DTIS, Theren, and Zepher each get 2 Plot Points for this daring escape at considerable risk, which severed ties with this family.} DTIS grabbed the wedding chest as a drunk and disoriented Baron Helmfield tried to get out of his chair. DTIS ran down the valley with the chest, and at a narrow choke point over the stream bed prepared a rotten log to roll down to block the passage and slow pursuers. {Give 1 Plot Point to DTIS for giving up a bit of certainty of the effectiveness of this, in consideration of his commitment to Erathis that forbade him from using a landslide or more impassible tree.} Soon the rest of the party caught up, the log was rolled, and they were away safely.

After an hour or so they struck camp off the road, covering their tracks well {with a Stealth check by Theren, made somewhat less effective by DTIS.} They slept till well after sunrise to get a full rest. It was now 5 Ready’reat; see the timeline. Bastian and DTIS traded off, needing only 4 hours each, to keep an eye on Scotty Macduff. At one point he woke up and panicked. DTIS held him tight, remembering he could shift into a gnoll pup, which he did. DTIS kept his grip. The pup crawled into his jacket, fell asleep, and slowly morphed back into hybrid form. Once they got to Fallcrest, they bought some soporific drugs to keep Scotty safely asleep. But he would require constant watching over to make sure he neither woke up nor fell into a coma.

They arrived at Fallcrest at about 10AM and paid the small toll to disinterested guards. They went to the Blue Moon Alehouse and found that Lev had been living like a slovenly teenager for the two nights of their absence, having spent all the money left to him and running up a tab for more, thanks to “some friends” he had over. They paid and topped up the tab, told Par to keep Lev under control by doling out a couple more sessions with his favourite prostitute over the next two days, and squared away their possessions. They all headed for Hightown, Scotty asleep on the Tenser’s disc. (Make sure that disc’s resummoning cost is paid for! Speaking of which, buy more residuum as needed for future adventuring; no more converting gold into residuum out in the field.)

At the bottom of the big stairs they declared all their possessions for the tax. They came under an especially watchful eye of one of the elite mage guards, and Zepher was lucky to evade recognition as a fugitive. {He spend Plot Points to do so.} The guards toted up the value of their possessions, not counting the weapons and armor since they had a security pass from Talltree House. The adventurers’ eyes nearly popped out of their skulls when the mage cooly assessed the unripened shard at 5000 gold, the red shard (which drew a disturbed and disgusted look from the mage and onlookers) at 5000 gold, and the shard in Emmeline’s necklace at 7000 gold. The onlooking eladrin in line were horrified to see the red shard, but the purple one was of mild interest. One eladrin man assured his wife that he would buy her a far better one than that, though; its glow was not very bright.

Unable to pay the 5300 gold needed as tax for this wealth, the party went back to the inn and left the shards with Lev, and Bastian there to keep an eye on this great treasure. They went back to the guards, now unburdened. The guard there—the same one who had stopped them earlier—said he hoped that those shards of such worth were somewhere safe, as there is a lot of theft in Lowtown. Zepher retorted that they were safe in the care of “the eladrin”. The party paid the tax on their other possessions and went up the stairs. They sold several of their things to the merchants there, including all the silver ore.

They went to the House of the Sun and Senior Durgen met with them in a once-grand, now rather dowdy sitting room. The party asserted that 4000 gold was far too much to pay for raising their two companions Ercullum and Zumtleheath, and that 1000 gold was enough to pay for the materials. Durden was quite put out by this and said they used the finest materials and well-practiced clerics, and that this was not something to be done on the cheap. Besides, the House of the Sun spent much on feeding and helping the poor in Lowtown, and the gold would go to a good cause. The argument escalated, however, and the normally soft-spoken Durden became more brittle. The party decided on a different tack and revealed what they know about Most Senior Ingelholven‘s scandalous participation in the party at Talltree House, that the elder cleric was seen there by Bastian in a state of partial undress and looking like he had been in full witness of an orgy of epic proportions. This made the scandal-sensitive Durden extremely nervous and soon agreed to do the ritual for 1200 gold, provided that Bastian come and personally vow that no more word of this scandal will escape. One must wonder just how “good” is the alignment of Zepher and DTIS, who how now blackmailed a temple of Pelor’s priests into forsaking thousands of gold pieces which would have gone to the poor. At least, that is what Durden said, and there is no evidence to the contrary. They assuaged their nagging conscience that they had already helped the poor a great deal by clearing out the goblins to the south and allowing the refugees to return home—though they had forgotten to provide them with weapons—and Jorn had hidden two 100gp gems in Lowtown. Come to think of those gems, that would explain why all the poor people in Lowtown this morning were turning over every rock, barrel, and pile of junk. They were searching for more gems.

Next stop was the Nentir Temple and then of course Talltree House for their appointment as “assassins”. For this they reckoned they needed Bastian, so Zepher sent a message by using his Whispering Winds power, to deploy this message in the room at the Blue Moon Alehouse (assuming the window was open, which Bastian has done, considering the smell in the place). The message said: “We need Bastian to help address Pelor matter. Bring Fenstrom’s ritual book if possible. Leave it if too difficult. Leave Lev.” {In keeping with RP, please avoid RL communication with Aerro about how to interpret this message—Bastian must decide what to do next based on what he knows, as told in the above log.}

Speaking of being apart, everyone in the party has noticed a few odd things. One is that ever since the mine, their mind link has been stronger. They can quite easily sense what each other is seeing, hearing, and feeling. Also, when they are apart, they feel itchy and uncomfortable. Bastian and the rest of the party each feel keenly aware of their separation, and are a bit distracted by this feeling. Strangely, they don’t feel that way about Amos. Of course they hope he is safe and well, but it lacks this strange, gnawing mental tug.

The party get 150 XP each for general exploration and plot advancement. (Note that actions which are primarily about the acquisition of wealth don’t earn XP, since the wealth is its own reward.)

Also note a modification in the rules about Plot Points. See the wiki page for the latest. In short, if you get a PP while you have the maximum of 12 PP, it is automatically converted into XP. Also keep in mind that at a major change of scene or chapter, PP in excess of 6 will be automatically converted to XP. So use them or lose them!

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DM log-- Moon Hills feud 4

The party examined the corpse of the gnoll priest leader and found that he was wearing a Symbol of Battle, which could be used by one of them. Someone took it. It was made of thin little bones and sinews wrapped into an arcane shape. Bastian realised that this was similar to the totems that Vilma made, and a closer examination confirmed this. {Give 1 Plot Point to Bastian for this discovery. By the way, at changes of scenario, Plot Points get cleared (and converted to a little bit of XP for the group). It’s not much XP so it’s a lot more fun to spend the PP! I won’t clear them as you leave Moon Hills, but in the future, this major change in scene would clear them.}

The party looked at tracks hardened in the mud at the sides of the stream. The water used to be higher, and must have retreated years ago, then the clay mud hardened. Some also saw blood sprays on the floor and walls that told a tale. From reading these old signs and other clues, they pieced together the following:

Mikey and Emmeline entered the mine secretly, Mikey wanting to get a shard like Em’s. There they found three unintelligent shards (this being the most direct term now, though the nature of this intelligence is alien and unclear) in the stream, brought there by the water from upstream where these were cast off. They argued over how to split them, each wanting two. She said she needed to send one to “someone special”. Mikey, growing jealous and covetous of her necklace, assaulted her, wrestled her, and this started to turn into rape. The gnolls heard the fight and came. The minor (who had been seeing all this) ran. The pair were dragged by the gnolls deeper into the mine, but the boy broke free and fought the gnolls, apparently to defend himself and Emmeline. He was overcome and she was killed, her head torn off and fought over by the gnolls. The skull and necklace in the mine are hers. Mikey used the distraction to escape. He came out with her bloodied headless body in her arms. He was babbling madly, referring to the gnolls. But the families were in denial about the gnolls, being their cause, and are sure they can’t still be alive; what would they live on? Bastian discovered that the gnolls here had been living off of a bizarre source of nutrition: they have been eating the demonic organs that are being washed down the stream. Theren and Zepher supposed that Emmeline’s skull was being courted by the gnolls, but for what reason they did not know.

Theren disabled the noisemaker— the rocks piled against door—and they snuck onward. Soon they encountered a new group of gnolls, in a room dim with more hanging glowing organ sacs, and the battle was again joined. As best they could tell later, this group of gnolls was in a state of constant war with the gnolls they had just vanquished. So the door they pushed open made a horrible noise and the gnolls were on alert. It seemed that they had just been in a kind of fight. But it was two strange half-gnoll creatures who were fighting with knives. One had just been sliced across the gut and a weird demonic-looking organ—not a gnoll’s—fell into the stream. These half-gnolls were apparently shapeshifters. When they were shifted into human form, they had the long hair, ravaged faces, and clawlike fingers of the miners in the first area. But they could morph into gnoll puppies at will, which made them mobile—and bitey. When they heard the party, they looked up, and their wounds closed as shapeshifters’ do.

The gnoll leader was known as a “Fang of Yeenoghu” and sported a wicked club. He also had around his neck a shard. This one glowed a fierce, bright, blood red and gave the party an unsettling shudder when they looked at it. It gave off a psychic aura of great anger, sadism, and ferocity. It matched its wearer, who was looking with glee at the two fighting gnolls, as if he had commanded them to battle and was taking great delight in the carnage. Let’s call this item the gnoll’s shard. In the end, Theren ended up with it, and is wearing it now. It pulses with light when Theren remembers his most violent impulses, and echos that feeling back a bit, which might be enough to drive Theren into a rage if he is not careful.

This was a nasty battle, made nastier by the appearance of a very thin, dark gnoll with crazy eyes that made you feel dizzy when you looked into them. He slipped out of one of the many long, narrow, finger-like tunnels which exited the room.

The party used good tactics and the fight was looking good. {Zepher was clever to use a plot point or two that dictated that Bastian’s new songblade was silvered.} Bastian’s silvered songblade came in handy: when he hit one of the weres, it lost its ability to regenerate its wounds. Though the demon-eyed gnoll slipped away, the room was soon cleared. They hunted that gnoll down later and finished him off, to make sure the mine was safe.

The shifters had had glowing eyes and a lightly toasted appearance in a rectangle around their eyes. One had hanging around his neck a silver visor. Theren realised this visor was the same as the ones Bastian had described seeing in the carriage and at the Talltree House party. {Give 1 Plot Point to Theren for that connection.} He further deduced that the burn marks around the eyes of the weres was the same shape as the rim of the visor, similar to how the miners had much worse burn marks around their glowing eyes to match the opening in the modified mining lantern they had found. Inside the silver visor was the same grit that they had identified in the lantern, and matched to the debris inside the silver box found in the tower puzzle.

Zepher led the speculation: so people in Fallcrest are consuming shards in these visors? DTIS concluded this might be why the fancy man from Fallcrest who was courting Emmeline wanted her to send more to him. {Give 1 PP to Zepher and DTIS for these connections.}

Zepher examined this visor and realised how it worked. With trepidation, he put into the visor’s slot one of the “unintelligent” shards. He put it on his head and used a simple arcane gesture to activate it. A very bright silver light shone into his eyes, and everyone heard a staccato snick-snick zapping sound. The air smelled of ozone. Soon it stopped, and the shard had been reduced to that grit. Zepher felt no effect besides a bit of blindness afterwards as his eyes adjusted to the dim light again. {Give 2 PP to Zepher for this daring experiment.} The visor, by the way, is worth 500 gold for its metal and fine craftsmanship.

The party came to the general conclusion these shards, at least the intelligent ones, were bad news. They realised there was no apparent way to destroy them except to consume them in this visor, and the visor would not activate if it were not on someone’s head. But it’s not clear why anyone would consume shards—they don’t seem to do anything. Meanwhile, they concluded that intelligent shards, when worn on that necklace, could absorb the emotions and sensations experienced by the wearer, and that must be what the “ripening” process must mean. {All this can be talked about more in the page chaos shard.} The sale value of these shards is unknown. For now, the party carries the three intelligent shards—the one in Emmeline’s necklace, the one called the gnoll’s shard, and the unripened one given over by Lady Macduff.

They had knocked out one of the weres and questioned it. It was nearly incomprehensible but DTIS said to him the name Scotty, and he reponded. {Give 1 PP to DTIS for this connection.} They could get hardly anything else sensible out of him, but they will take him out of the mine. Perhaps his mind can be restored. They estimated that to do so might end up costing about as much as a Raise Dead ritual, but take much longer.

In the room they found the following:

  • Shards the gnolls have dug, all nonintelligent and cast aside
  • Worn mining tools
  • Extensive finger-like tunnels (since gnolls can use better strength and tools)

{The party get 250 XP each for killing the foes, plus 100 each for quest progress and exploration, so 350 XP each.}

Now it is time to go back to the farm, and soon back to Fallcrest, and into a world which just got a lot more complicated and sinister…

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DM log-- Moon Hills feud 3

Strangely, the gnoll that saw our heroes ran back up the passage, and what followed were not the sounds of a readying battle but an odd, almost tuneful dog yowling. Amos resisted the urge not to respond, and the party decided to instead duck into the side door that some had been through before.

This time they were more stealthy, and the room full of rubble and lined with narrow wormlike passages was empty. They were all safely inside and ready when the two miners came scurrying out of one of the holes. As before, these blind, hideous men attacked them with chaos magic from some bizarre plane. But the party was unified and soon took them down.

One miner was barely alive and gave them some more information. The man was deluded, not least about the fact he was deluded. They sensed that this man had long since been driven mad, and fought from a paranoid territoriality over this part of the mine. His name was Ellis. He forgot the name of the one now dead. Ellis said that years ago he heard, then came and saw, Emmeline and Mikey. Emmeline was being flirtatious and luring Mikey onward as the latter seemed intent on getting a shard of his own, like the one in Em’s necklace. They found some in the stream but Ellis could tell they were “unimportant ones”. Mikey seemed to sense the same and became agitated. He wanted all three shards they found, but Emmeline wanted to keep one to send to someone. Mikey, becoming jealous, demanded to know who but Em would not say; it was someone far away. Their argument mounted and Mikey assaulted her, wrestling her, reaching for her necklace. Ellis thought that this assault had an overtone of incipient rape. Mikey called her “Darling Emmeline” in such a haunting tone that Ellis has never forgotten it (which was why he repeated this phrase during the combat). The struggle drew the attention of the gnolls from up the corridor. When Ellis heard them coming he fled for the safety of this room. This room, by the way, used to be a haven for several miners when the gnoll attack came. They barricaded themselves in here. But without food or water it soon became grim. The party later found evidence that several miners had been eaten here. But it was still unclear how the last two could have sustained themselves for years. Ellis died having revealed much, but presenting other mysteries.

Searching the room, the party found several interesting things:

  • By evidence of caked blood and skin, they saw that the narrow tunnels were ones the miners have been building and squeezing themselves into for years. They apparently had been slowly carved by the miners’ strangely sharpened fingers.
  • At the end of each tunnel was a concave pockmark from which a shard apparently had been plucked. A faint psychic energy residue remained.
  • Amos {having made an Arcana check to tune into this energy} thought to send a mental message out to whatever made this psychic residue. He got an answer: an unintelligible reply that seemed to return his greeting. This came from the dying miner Ellis. But ask Ellis slipped deeper into coma and then death, this reply faded. Give 1 Plot Point to Amos for making this discovery.
    • They could make a similar mental connection with one of the shards that Dame Macduff gave them. Anything besides a basic greeting was returned with an unintelligible reply that connoted confusion. Doing this gave them the heebie jeebies, so they did not explore further.
  • At the end of one tunnel they found a mining lamp that had been hacked into.
    • The outlet of the lamp was chopped and bent to form a rough rectangular shape. Bastian recognised that it was the same shape as the scorched spot across the eyes of the miners, as if they were fitting this onto their faces and something intensely hot had been burned inside it. {Give 1 Plot Point to Bastian for making this connection}.
    • Inside the lamp was a strange gritty dust. Theren took some on his tongue and realised it was the same as the grit found in that silver box they found in the tower puzzle. {Give 1 Plot Point to Theren for making this connection}.

Among the rubble on the floor the party found:

  • Worn-down bits of mining equipment, long since used up by miners
  • Bones from about eight other miners. {A Heal check revealed:} They had been gnawed on by humans.
  • 2200 sp worth of silver chunks, discarded like junk
  • 3 moonstone gems worth 100gp each, ditto

In Ellis’ pocket was a gold bracelet, worth 300gp. Around his ankle was fused one loop of a pair of finely worked bronze handcuffs, worth 200 gp. The lock was trivially easy to pick. On the cuffs was a fancy engraving of an H. {By spending a plot point, someone improved them to be:} They were lined with purple fur.

The party continued their adventure and went up the main passage, toward the yowling. They snuck as well as they could but were detected—though Theren remained well hidden. They saw an unexpected sight: three gnolls were in the room, clustered around a sort of altar. The apparent leader, recognised by some in the party as a priest of Yeenoghu {with a Nature check}, stood in a place of command watching over the other two gnolls, who squatted before the altar. One gnoll was playing an instrument made from a human ribcage, strung with tendons, making a dull twang, and yowling in a doglike voice. Funny enough, Amos recognised the tune perfectly {with a 20 on the knowledge check}, as such songs were apparently big hits in the canine world. It was a courting song popular in Fallcrest a few years ago, a favourite of the growing eladrin elite there. It was for the wooing of a lady. The other gnoll was feeding tidbits from some kind of horrible demonic organ into.. into what? The party, moving closer, saw that the feature of the altar was a skull. A female human skull. And draped underneath it was a necklace—Emmeline’s necklace. It glowed a beautiful faint purple, the glow pulsing ever so slightly to the time of the tune.

This strange scene was interrrupted by a sales pitch from the gnoll priest. He apparently was expecting this visitation for a long time, for rich adventurers to come to him to pay great sums of platinum for this rare stone. He called the shard “beautifully ripened”, an odd turn of phrase. He invited them to come closer, but not too close, as the other two gnolls, standing now and rippling with muscles and bearing very sharp claws, moved to block the exit from the room. The priest became more demanding of payment and did not look like he would take no for an answer. Zepher decided to use a new trick {a daily power he just learned for level 5}: an illusory pile of treasure that drew all towards it. {Give 1 Plot Point to Zepher for this especially clever and well-fit use of this power.} This suddenly appearing pile of platinum needed no magical psychic powers to interest the gnoll priest for at least a moment. However, when one of the guard gnolls stumbled to the pile, against orders, stuck his hands into it, and froze in place, the priest detected shenanigans. A fight broke out. Amos stuck to his principles and did not attack at first, unconvinced that the party was not in the wrong, and freely admitted the treasure was illusory. {Give 1 Plot Point to him for sticking to his RP.} Things did not go well for the gnolls, as the pile of wealth had great powers to draw them in and affix them there, and an ice storm, also courtesy of Zepher, broke out in the same zone, doing heavy damage. Theren shot from hiding, Amos slashed with his blades, DTIS sucked up the damage, and Bastian hurled terrible insults. Soon the gnolls were dead and the party left alone with apparent wealth—not the illusory platinum, which soon vanished, but a glowing stone of great rarity. Bastian in particular found it very compelling as he detected within it another alien intelligence, but this one seemed refined, pleasant, beautiful…

This area of the mine still needs to be explored to reveal clues, but one thing was discovered right away: the necklace has an engraving on the back which a bit of arcane fiddling reveals. It was the name Hadaniss. DTIS {thanks to a 20 on History roll} knew quite a lot about this eladrin gentleman from Fallcrest. {See the wiki page for some of the info I gave, but fill in more details yourselves from your notes and what you remember.}

During the fight with the priest, Amos had gotten up close and personal and became a special target. The priest said to him, “I have smelled your pack before.” Then a bit later in the fight said: “I have had a vision. Your pack is being hunted by a gnoll warband. Soon they will all die, and you shall see them soon in the afterlife.” Amos feels certain this is no bluff—even as the priest was dying he stuck to his story, taking great pleasure in the knowledge that the man who defeated him was about to lose his family. Amos immediately set off for his home territory. {Darcy will be gone for a few sessions on holiday; farewell!}

{This humdinger of a session, with two combats, awards the following XP: 120 each for the crazed miners, 135 each for the gnolls, plus 150 each for quest progress and exploration, so 405 XP each.}

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DM log-- Moon Hills feud 2

Our dauntless party {now with all players present} decided to go out and get Mikal’s artifact before the celebratory dinner commenced. They travelled east through the Moon Hills for a couple hours. On the way they could tell that they were being watched, and a rockslide {triggered by someone wanting to earn a Plot Point} bashed up its target a bit. A glance at the culprit revealed it was a gnoll. Aside from this, the party was not attacked.

They arrived at a little valley in the hills overgrown with grass. It showed signs of having been cleared of trees many years ago. This, the party realised {with a high History roll} was Helm’s Rock, which was founded by the father and grandfather of Baron Helmfield. True to form for that side of the family, these founders were charismatic but foolish, and heavily underestimated the threat from goblin warbands in the area. With cheerful optimism they cleared the trees and set in place a shrine to Erathis in the form of a cornerstone and pillar for what was to be the town hall. However, civilisation was stopped short by goblin attack, resulting in many lives lost and a rout of the pioneers. The younger Helmfield fled southwest and eventually settled along the river.

The pillar and cornerstone were still there among the waist-high grass. The party spent some time cutting the grass down as a sign of respect to Erathis. {Give 1 Plot Point for each party member for this and other good RP during this scene.} The pillar showed signs of goblin habitation a few years ago in a disgusting display of prowess: urine stains were on the pillar, each splash marked with a crude clan symbol carved into the stone, recording the results of a literal pissing contest. Theren gave it a go, to the chagrin of the Erathis worshippers in the group. The results {based on a Constitution roll} were not heroic.

Scratched into the lichen of the cornerstone was the letter M. Digging under the stone at that point they found a note in Mikal’s handwriting. It said, “Praise Erathis, ten paces toward the sunrise”. The party took their best guess at to that direction {with a Nature check} and started digging, Amos with special enthusiasm. They then saw that one spot looked like it had been freshly turned, though Amos insisted on digging sideways to it with doglike glee. They found, wrapped in an oilskin, a very fine sword {of a design that Aerro can specify, and can spend Plot Points to make its provenance ever more exotic}. Bastian determined that it was a songblade, a wonderful weapon that also served as a bardic instrument, making pleasing harmonic noises when swung properly. {This is a +2 Harmonic Songblade as in the character builder, with this additional bit to make it a Rare item: while wielding, you have blessing Erathis’ Persistence. This is like Kord’s Relentlessness L10 (as in compendium) without its damage bonus: +2 item bonus to death saves. Encounter: can stand as free action when using a surge. Daily: gain 10 HP daily when succeed on a saving throw. }. Mikal’s artifact was once again in good hands, hopefully hands with better fortune than its previous owner.

The party returned back to the house of Helmfield, where the dinner was to be set, to find preparations nearly done and the combined liquor cabinets of the families keeping things merry. The Baron and Dame were drunkenly canoodling in the corner and some party members eavesdropped to hear them talking about the old days and their parents and how they first met. With a sense of nausea, the eavesdroppers realised that the Dame’s mother and the Baron’s father were brother and sister. So much for the advantages of civilisation!

Meanwhile, Zepher and Theren were itching to find out what was in the attic back at the Macduff house—the ceiling trapdoor discovered by DTIS the previous night. They excused themselves for a piss {this apparently being the theme of the session} and quickly headed over in the darkening twilight. After some challenges in getting up there, the solution involving a knife, a chair, and some muscular boosting by Theren, Zepher got up into the attic and Theren easily scrambled up after him. Zepher created a light and was startled to see, just inches away from his face, another face. This face was frozen in an expression of horror, his eyes wild, his hair shocked white, and his cheek bloody with fingernail scratches. A shaking hand went to this cheek and scratched at it anew as the man gasped and reeled backward, babbling in horror, and backed into a corner of the attic. The small space looked like a longtime habitation: it had a cot, a plate and cup, a chamber pot. Zepher quickly guessed who this was, and called the name, “Mikey?” and the figure whimpered in recognition. {Give 1 Plot Point to Zepher for this connection.} They proceeded {with a short skill challenge} to deduce that Mikey was insane due to a past trauma, something so horribly shocking that it snapped his mind, and that he was not here as a prisoner but as a way to keep him out of harm, and from being the victim of revenge for Emmeline. Zepher conjured the image of a chaos shard in his hand, and Mikey dove for it with greedy obsession. Theren tried to comfort Mikey, giving him a feather to use on his cheek instead of his fingernails. All this took quite some time. {Give 2 Plot Points each to Zepher and Theren for this daring exploration in the face of grave consequences.}

Meanwhile, Dame Macduff grew suspicious that this toilet outing was taking so long. She told Sophia, Jimmy, and Tom to go out and make sure that Zepher and Theren had not come to trouble, and some in the party followed. Sophia pointed back to her home across the valley. “What’s that light doing in the attic??” she exclaimed, and set off toward it, telling Jimmy and Tom to go back and “tell Mom”.

Before long everyone was alerted and heading to the Macduff house. Theren and Zepher’s sharp perception heard and saw them coming, and decided to cover up their snooping: they scrambled back down the trapdoor and hid in the house, then snuck out the back. Meanwhile Sophia came in, looked up at the trapdoor, and went out back to get a ladder, placing it underneath. Zepher suddenly appeared outside the house, casting his voice over the valley {using Whispering Winds} to announce “The Great Zephisimo” and using his magic to create lights and sounds to imitate fireworks around and coming from the Macduff house. With this bluff {aided, I think, with Plot Points} he managed to fool the dumber members of the family that this was his idea of a surprise celebration. But the matriarch was not fooled. For good measure the other members of the party, including the now reappeared Theren, said Zepher was having a mad spell, and tackled him. Amos joined happily in the dogpile. In the end, through much cunning bluffing, only Dame Macduff remained convinced that Theren and Zepher had gone to the attic (the chair still sitting in the hallway being a giveaway, as was the mysterious feather that Mikey had,) but she did not reveal this suspicion, apparently having a strong motive to not let the Helmfields know that Mikey was still there. Somehow, they got away with it.

Everyone went back to continue the party. The party was offered a gesture of special thanks: a large moonstone {this being an extra reward for completing the skill challenge with no failures}. Graciously the party declined to take something of such wealth from a family with so little. {Give 1 Plot Point to all in the party for this in-character gesture, and remember to mention this to Stoica later. To be utterly fair, I’m not sure Theren should get the Plot Point here; he parted with that gem with uncharacteristic sanguininity…}

The heads of family bustled over the marriage box and were putting things into and out of it, arguing a bit as they did. They were hiding from our heroes what they were up to, saying it was a private matter between them and Stoica. They closed and locked and then unlocked and rearranged the contents a few times. They asked the party to return the box to Stoica as a gift for her help.

Now it was getting late, and the party had held off from the alcoholic celebrations for long enough. They had a mine to clear. They knew they could simply leave the next day, but they knew the mine would never again be usable while still filled with some danger. To truly fulfil the task set to them by Stoica, they had to take it on. So they geared up and headed up the valley to the mine entrance.

DTIS decided the best way to approach this delicate tactical situation was to kick down the large iron door leading into the mine, despite the fact it had already been unlocked and was designed to only swing outward. The resulting gonglike boom certainly triggered what came next. As the party made their way single-file into the mine, past the side door that led to the chamber full of raving, tattered miners, they heard, as before, the snarls and growls of gnolls, alerted to their presence. One gnoll briefly appeared far up the sloping passage to take a look at them, then retreated, barking ahead as a warning to her pack. The battle is set.

{The party gets 200XP each for all this general exploration, plus another 80XP for the minor skill challenge with Mikey, for a total of 280 XP each.}

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Wizard's Warpath
Theren's Log

After finally manage to meet up with the rest of our group (minus Lev – I was told he was left behind to look after a vast majority of our stuff) we all decided to go to the Wizards Tower mentioned by Trabek. Jorn had passed on the Red Inked Card to my safe-keeping earlier on – our pass to meet with Trabek. It was a little worrisome that Jorn was no longer with us, as he was the one Trabek really wanted to talk to, no doubt, but we had to find out what was going on if we ever hoped to clear Jorn of The Accusation of murder.

The Bridge to the tower looked good for nothing save tinder, as it was old, worn, and bound more together by a sense of duty to the definition of bridge than any physical means. Crossing with trepidation, the party was soon greeted by an odd fellow who was tending to an outrageously broad selection of herbs. His name was Silva and it quickly became obvious that he was not entirely sound of mind. We quickly earned his friendship with a few kind words & made sure he felt he was being treated well. This being said, he certainly had a flair for gardening – it makes me think a little of Zumtleheath, as she always had a modest herb garden & in the summers I used to enjoy lying in a particularly large section of lavender that had grown somewhat wild. I wonder if anyone is tending to her garden while she is away?

Silva guided us into the tower proper – it was made of massive heavy stones that looked so large that I can’t imagine how anyone might have carried them all the way up to the rocky spur, let alone used them for construction. Never-the-less here they stand, and walking in we were confronted with a richly decorated room. There were elaborately framed oil paintings of a foreboding sort of man that frowned down upon all visitors making them feel as though they needed to bathe and buy new clothes before they could so much as step foot on the carpets. Silva told us this was Nimozeran, the wizard of the wizard’s tower – the fellow seemed quite enamoured with his master. Other decorations included a strange angel figure & a few of those expensive heavy set goblets. If Nimozeran’s decor says anything about him, it is that he is a harsh and unforgiving sort, who is not stingy with dispensing justice, and is as unmoved in his inclination towards mercy as the stones of his tower are to the fickle breezes that play about them. Somewhat disconcertingly, we noticed another (?) red mirror lodged high in the rafters, tilted at such an angle that it reflected the room below.

Almost as soon as we finished our initial look around, the stalwart guardian of the reception desk gently reminded Silva of his duties to tending the garden. At once I knew this fellow must be a most dutiful, diligent sort to be entrusted with reception of visitors to the Wizard’s Tower. This most trustworthy of employees was called Borm, and I soon deduced that he was quick of wit and sharp of tongue. At first he didn’t believe that Amos was to be gifted with the Lucky, which is a shrewd position to take for a guard. Feeling that he was a discerning type, I showed him our red inked card, that had been supplied by Trabek. I must admit I had some trepidation as Trabek does not seem of a high enough moral demeanour to consort with the likes of Borm & Nimozeran, and I feared we were being led into a trap of some sort. Luckily he recognised the seal & told us he would seek out Trabek himself to verify our claim to the weapon. I must admit I don’t have much of a head for all this intrigue stuff, where even if you can spot those who are doing the wrong, you can’t necessarily stop them.

Soon enough Borm was back. He gave Amos the lucky, but seemed oddly attached to it himself. I suppose it is a lovely sword, but then we cannot account for the treasures of other men. After Borm came a common garden variety eladrin (that is to say a pompous, arrogant, twat) sauntering down the stairwell as if he were the wizard himself. He insulted Borm most cruelly, before setting on us. He too demanded proof of our connection to Trabek, and on seeing the red inked card, and realising his terrible error (not his only terrible error I assure you – he also was of the opinion that I am a mere human. How droll) he slunk back up the stairs to retrieve Trabek himself. In the intervening period I struck up a conversation with Borm, finding him both amiable and intelligent. We are clearly very alike in our interests, and soon were bonding over literature. I happened to mention my scrawlings, and Borm took a look at them, instantly recognising them for the best-selling pamphlet material that they are. We did not manage to discuss much further, however, before Trabek made his grand entrance.

With him came an entourage of sorts, including but not limited to the petulant eladrin from earlier, still wearing the sneer of a sore loser on his face. Trabek greeted us amiably enough, and we were just about to get past the pleasantries, when from out of nowhere Zephyr’s madness hit him, and he leapt at Trabek from behind, the words of a spell on his lips. Trabek was turned, quite without ceremony, into a toad. With a naively benevolent expression on his face, Zephyr declared that he and Trabek were even. Even for what I don’t know, as last time the fight was fair, and Trabek gave no insult to Zephyr’s dignity that the wizard does not inflict upon himself on a regular basis. Soon the spell wore off and Trabek set about reasserting his dominance over the young wizard by beating him soundly. None of our group was willing to intervene in this most personal of duels. I feel that allowing the eladrin to take what he would of Zephyr’s possessions was a little cruel, but without a harsh penalty, Zephyr will never change his ways I fear. We also did not want to start any trouble with the guards, of which there was an abundance.

Telling Zephyr to leave, Trabek turned to Amos and offered a hand of friendship. Seeing that Amos had just received the Lucky, I can’t imagine what possessed him to refuse the redeeming gesture. Seeing this surly treatment of him (quite rightly) as an insult, Trabek ordered the group to leave, however he called me back, and bade me stay to speak to him privately. Knowing that Trabek might be able to shine some light on the mess we have gotten ourselves into (or in my case that the rest of the group has gotten me into) I played along. Being an expert at deception, both visual and non-visual, I fooled Trabek into believing I would be willing to sell out my friends, my family, & anything necessary in order to become a part of his so called powerful group. I bluffed that Jorn had some sort of artefact of value to Trabek, as I can see that if we have no artefact, we have no foothold & Trabek will reveal nothing to us. I even overlooked the fact that Trabek has himself been distributing the wanted posters that have incriminated our group & soiled our good name. In return for my performance, I was invited back to attend some sort of meeting. I can only hope more will be revealed to me there. In truth it is probably better for the group that only one of us is to insinuate themselves into Trabek’s nest of vipers & for the others to have the freedom to keep their hands clean of it. In order to seem more the part, I implied that I was looking for revenge on the pathetic eladrin that attempted to insult my elf-hood earlier. Trabek fell right into it, showing to me that he is the sort that only really understands such undesirable motives. I sincerely hope that the eladrin has gone far away before I get back to the tower, for his sake & mine. For that reason I never mentioned to him that we may have found Lilliana, even though Tradek showed interest in the issue earlier – I would like to keep an ace up my sleeve.

Once I left the tower I discovered the entire conversation had been relayed to my friends via some unknown magic. Zephyr has taken my words to heart, unfortunately, but I am glad to see that the others know me better than that. We quickly took our leave of Fallcrest. I left the others to natter over matters of baggage & hotels, feeling somewhat adrift with my thoughts of current events. We will soon be travelling to the Moon Hills to help warring families – primarily in the hopes that we might obtain some trivial item to satisfy Bastion’s nostalgia for his former friends. I cannot blame him for the detour, but I feel as though we shouldn’t leave matters in Fallcrest unsettled for too long.

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DM log-- Moon Hills feud 1

Rejoining with Bastian {we explained his absence last session by saying he was chatting with The Baron—Aerro let me know by email if you want to have used this time to discuss a topic in particular,} and with Amos {also absent last session} having surveyed the land and found nothing unusual, the party decided to forego the mine for the rest of the night and instead make headway on reuniting the families. {This is a skill challenge in which the goal is to get the families to reconcile well enough to open the marriage box.} Stoica indicated that this peacemaking would be a step toward Bastian finding out where to get Mikal’s artifact. This artifact might come in handy when, say, delving into a dangerous mine in which asses were recently kicked. So they set about talking to the other side of the feud, the Macduffs. Unlike the Helmfields, this side of the riven family were as intelligent as the Helmfields were good-looking—which is to say very—and as ugly as the Helmfields were dumb. They approached the house, were plinked at by arrows, and then invited in by The Dame, the matriarch of the Macduffs. She introduced her children Sophia, Jimmy, and Della, all in their 20s, and soon they were drinking moonshine, and then a cocktail called the “Chaos Shard”, which was a bit of honeycomb mixed with moonshine. This last was hastily bluffed when an incautious party member blurted out that phrase in the earshot of Jimmy, from whom Dame Macduff apparently was trying to hide the fact these little black metal shards were still in the house. Upon telling their tales of experience with larger chaos shards, the Dame relinquished 3 such shards to the party. The mystery remains why these small shards don’t seem dangerous, and can be handled by the families and the party members with no ill effect. Still, the Dame was concerned enough about the tales of Fenstrom and Moosook to hand them over. The shard gave some of them a creepy impression that it was watching them, but this soon passed, and could be dismissed as a temporary delusion.

In the course of asking the Dame about her side of the story about what happened in the mine, the party gathered enough to piece together the following canonical record of what history the two families revealed. {As always, and especially for this mystery-themed part of the game, not all facts are recorded here—it is definitely in the party’s interest to record and remember more details, since these will increase the chances for success and open up new avenues for adventure and reward.}

Year -35: Heads of families came here in the same year as members of their own families. They made exploratory mines with modest progress.

Year -25: H and M married, started having children, and hiring workers. (Now living with Baron Helmfield are Tom, Charlotte, and Buck. Deceased daughter Emmeline. Living with Dame Macduff are Sophia, Jimmy, and Della. Mikey is unaccounted for. Scott left at the time of the mine disaster.)

Year -15: Families’ united effort on the main mine started to bear fruit: silver and moonstone and other “pretty rocks” which were in fact chaos shards, but they did not realise their dangerous nature; some kids liked to keep them as pretty rocks in their rooms. About a dozen workers were on. The kids helped tend the farms and visited the mine for fun.

Year -10: Workers started unrest and fights broke out. Some were terrified of being in the mine, others hard to lure out and were acting oddly. At night some had nightmares and others sleepwalked, babbling nonsensically. Beset by violent thoughts and acts.

Year -6: H and M disagreed about how to handle the upset workers. There was increasing violence between them and many demanded better pay so they could cash out and move away. Others were not mining for valuables but making long, narrow, bending tunnels like fingers reaching in every direction, obsessively, and refused to leave. H thought they were greedy and led by a greedy ringleader Burton who needed to be toppled; M suspected some foul cause in the mine, and did not want to disrupt the workers until they figured it out. H pre-emptively worked with a human ranger who knew how to deal with the problem, and arranged a secret strike by a gnoll that the ranger had captured, to kill the ringleader and make it look like an accident. The ringleader Burton was killed but the gnoll, with a surge of unexpected power, broke its lead and escaped into the mine. (The party knows {from a History check} that chaos shards and places such as the Chaos Scar tended to attract and excite all manner of unpleasant creatures.) Panicked and stupid, H agreed with the ranger’s solution: for another large fee, to lead the killed gnoll’s band to the mine where they would lure the first gnoll out. The ranger collected the fee, set the trail, and fled, knowing what danger this was. The gnolls arrived and entered the mine. M saw Scott chasing the ranger and was never seen again; surely he found a better life as an adventurer like you all. H had armed the miners to keep the gnolls from attacking but it did not work, gnolls being relentlessly combative and likely empowered by the proximity of chaos shards, and a running battle began. Many were killed but some got to a branch of the mine that could be locked away—this matched what the party saw of the room with humans still barricaded inside, though they had been much changed over the years by causes not yet understood. H, dumb, gave away several clues to M that he was behind this disaster, though he denied it at first. M organised as much rescue as possible, then sealed up the mine with the theory that the gnolls could not survive long underground, so they could wait a few weeks, then reopen the mine. A rift opened in the family, and even months later, the mine still sounded of screams and the stream still smelled of blood and gnoll shit. So the mine remained closed and the family stopped talking about it. Their finances started to decline.

Year -4: Emmeline wore a necklace that the party recognised, in her self-portrait, was a small, faintly glowing chaos shard, but she did not tell anyone where she got it from. She was delivered fine musical instruments, art materials, exotic fruits from a paramour in Fallcrest. She made “lovely” (actually very tacky) art, music, and poetry. Meanwhile, a Macduff boy Mikey who had worked in the mines before it closed, became obsessed with his estranged sister Emmeline and her necklace. She, dumb thing, saw no harm in his attention, and led him on in a creepily romantic manner. Mikey made a plan for each of them to steal the keys to the mine and meet there. Later that night, he came out with her bloodied headless body in her arms. He was babbling madly, referring to monsters in there. But the families were in denial about the gnolls, being their cause, and are sure they can’t still be alive; what would they live on? So H believes he murdered her for her necklace, and has hidden it. M admits they must have been attacked by something but is in denial about what it could be. The families got the keys back. M has vowed never to enter the mine. H wants to go back to get Emmeline’s head but knows they would not survive.

Present day: cooperation dashed, the farms are failing and there is no income. They are living off of scant savings.

In this night the party went a long way toward convincing The Dame that reconciliation with her estranged husband was in her interest, in light of the danger that lurked right up the stream. The party also ventured back over the Helmfield side to explain (slowly and with illustrations) how combining the inputs and outputs of each side’s farm would make for far greater yield and fertility. A great speech about Erathis was made which shamed the families into putting aside their differences in the interest of civilisation. Things were looking up.

However, the party knows that for Stoica to be completely satisfied, the mine needs to be reopened and the family put to work. But it is clear that this is too dangerous for them to manage. Mysteries remain: The Dame refuses to say anything about Mikey, where he was or what state he was in. Also, it still seems impossible that a small mine could sustain gnolls, humans, and who-knows-what demon spawn in there which should have no way to enter the material plane in the first place. And what really happened between Mikey and Emmeline? And where is her necklace?

{Free DM hint! The basic dynamic here is a detective story. As such you will tend to advance by finding physical evidence (clues) in the mine and then showing/relating those to various people in the families.}

Overnight, with the party split between the two houses, nothing happened. DTIS used the ruse of cleaning the Macduff place to search around, and notice a worn spot in the floor under a nearly hidden attic door. He kept that in mind for later.

The next morning was 4 Ready’reat {see timeline}. The party set the kids to work on the collapsed bridge over the stream, which apparently Jimmy blew up some years ago with an alchemical triumph. The bridge rebuilding was done under the guidance of Amos, who had in his youth observed the slow degradation of a stone bridge by the encroachment of trees, and thus learned something about how a good bridge held itself up. {This was a Dungeoneering check helped, as many such checks were, by players’ use of good RP and world details.} A lot seemed to hang on the outcome, as both families regarded the bridge as symbolic, and a failed attempt to rebuild would have soured the budding reconciliation. Fortunately Amos’ guidance was true and the kids’ backs were strong, so by noon the bridge was back in fine fettle. On the bridge the party presented the wedding box and with weepy eyes, Baron Helmfield and Dame Macduff met in the middle, each inserted their keys, and opened the chest. Inside Stoica had packed a few sentimental mementos: a mining pick from the Baron’s father, and a mining lantern from The Dame’s mother. Also in the box was a letter to Bastian. It was a note from Stoica congratulating him, and revealing the location of the shrine where Mikal must have hidden his artifact. Theren noted that the chest was cleverly trapped so picking the locks or forcing it open would have caused acid to dissolve the letter. He dismantled this mechanism for later use.

The party succeeded very well {with no failures in the skill challenge} and the families were in high spirits, eagerly planning a feast that night. With the reunion of each family’s liquor cabinets, it should be a merry night indeed.

The party plans next to jaunt over to the shrine to recover the artifact, get back in time for dinner, and perhaps for dessert to take on the mine. Their time is limited because tomorrow night (5 Ready’reat), Lady Talltree expects her crack group of “assassins” to arrive at her abode, ready to launch an assault against Jade House. The life of the adventuring party is nothing if not varied!

{The party gets 200 XP each for completing the skill challenge, plus another 100 XP each for general exploration and conversation. Because the challenge had no failures, everyone gets 1 Plot Point.}

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