RPG@QUT Matt's D&D

DM log-- Shadowfell 3

We last left our heroes in the Shadowfell, tripping hard on Dark Vilma’s tea blast. A weird tone filled the air in a minor key from far away and the disoriented adventurers followed it, as good as any a direction to pick. Their hallucinations got stronger as they waded through the dangerous bog. First they wobbled through a herd of giant turtles with glowing eyes and rocks on their backs. The team deployed various skills to avoid being crushed, most memorably Amos getting on all fours and channelling his inner turtle. {This was a skill challenge with the Obsidian rule set, making for group checks with a lot of creativity. By the way, Callum was away, so for this section Zepher was catatonic, too stoned to do anything more than flop over Brad’s shoulder.} Once they were free of the turtles, the bog belched up a figure: it was Dark Vilma again, with a wicked grin and holding two bundles. She called them her babies, and they were wriggling pupa. Vilma said, “Look at my two babies! And two of you will be the lucky parents. Each of these little pretties will grow up to become into something you desire if you keep it close to your breast… suckling. Ahh ha ha ha! But only two babies… so only two winners. Only two of you are real, my dears. The rest of are just my tea bubbling in your stomachs. The only way you can tell is to make them bleeeeed! Ahh ha ha ha! So bleed, bleed my dears!” She collapsed into the bog again and our heroes were overcome with paranoia. Each was suddenly certain the others were evil ghosts, and meant great harm. In a spasm of violence, the party began to fight. {The rules were explained: the first one bloodied would end the fight, so negotiation, alliances, and backstabbing were encouraged. Initiative and map placement order were determined by the skill check each had done in the previous challenge.}

Bushes were hidden in, most skilfully by Theren, most memorably by Brad. Amos remained on all fours and attacked anyone who was not. DTIS powered through the muck. Bastian was hit several times and was the first one bloodied. At this, Vilma reappeared with her “babies” and pointed at the bleeding Bastian with a cackle, declaring him out of the competition, no baby for him. Left alone again and their paranoia gone, but their brains melting from the tea, the party again followed the sound, now closer, mixed into a faint whirring noise.

The party wandered through a maze of tall grass filled with sucking mud and sinkholes. Rustling in the grass and the belching up of rotting skeletons from the depths kept them all jumpy. {This was another phase in the skill challenge.}

Again the paranoia set in, Vilma appeared to MC, and the party fought. As the loser of the previous fight, Bastian was bound up in vines that emerged from the mud, making him freak out. The terrain and mid-day(?) sun (?) left no opportunity for stealth. Soon DTIS went down, ganged up upon.

Next the party went through a forest of trees with very dark leaves and low-hanging limbs that reached out to grab and tangle the party. Shadowy creatures scurried around above and pelted them with wads of stinking moss. They beat drums louder and louder, making the heroes’ steps take on a strange rhythm that kept them off balance. {Last phase of skill challenge}

In the last fight, with Vilma watching, Brad, Amos, and Theren faced off. Theren surprised everyone by passively accepting all attacks, reasoning that there was no point weakening the party further with a big battle. {Give 1 Plot Point to Theren for this noble show of party unity.}

Vilma appeared with her “babies” and gave them to Amos and Brad: “Now, put it to your breast, my dear. It needs to feed to know what you most want.” They took the babies into their arms, dazed, and opened their shirts. The top of the pupa peeled back and inside was a hideous face with a toothy maw. Perhaps it was the tea, perhaps it was the mental violation visited upon Zepher, {and perhaps it was because certain people spent Plot Points to take full advantage of Callum’s unprecedented absence from the session} but the hideous faces of these babies were strangely familiar. With a gasp they realised they looked like Zepher! Each baby bit their new “mother’s” nipple and latched on. The party freaked out. {Everyone drew a Shadowfell Despair Card.}

{For great creativity and in-character actions during the skill challenge and combat, give 2 Plot Points to each member of the party.}

{Due to full success with the skill challenge} As the drugs wore off, what looked like a ring of mushrooms on the ground resolved into an amulet. It was an Amulet of Psychic Interference, claimed by DTIS.}

The strange harmonic noise was very loud and coming from a huge tree with dark leaves. Black mist rolled off the tree, making its trunk nearly invisible. Theren walked closer to it. The leaves stirred more strongly, propelled by a wind that seemed to come up from the ground, and the noise became deafening. With a great rush, the dark fog swept into Theren’s darkleaf armour. The leaves became glossy and supple, alive with dark power. The armour fitted itself more snugly, making Theren look, frankly, badass. {This is now Epic level armour, completing the long quest chain. It is now level 10 Gloaming armour as written. +2 item bonus to AC; stealth check remains as written (with another +2 in foliage); Utility Power (Illusion) Encounter (Standard Action) Effect: You become invisible until you attack or until the end of the encounter. You can end this effect as a minor action. Note: this armour probably can keep levelling up with further quests for shadow energy.}

When they searched the area, they found:

  • Carved into tree is a symbol that Zepher’s father used, and an arrow
    • This points southeast
    • {DM gave party choice of combat if they follow the arrow directly, skill challenge/combat mix if they leave the swamp and go the long way around to where the arrow points, or they can go back home. They chose the 2nd.}
  • Among the roots of the tree is a charm that looks like it could be put on a necklace. It is a green metal in the shape of a twig with three thorns.
  • Under the roots, a nest of mouldy eggs
    • In the eggs are odd etched gold spheres that seem to be a kind of currency. 640 GP worth.

{Give each in the party 290 XP for the skill challenge success plus combat}

DM log-- Shadowfell 2

Our heroes picked their way across the dark and stinking swamp to rescue the captured elf. DTIS triumphed when he used his powers to swap places with her. He fell into the worm nest and squished many of them dead. The elf ended up on an island with Zepher underneath and Amos nearby. She said, “Oh praise Avandra! At last I can be free!” She swept from her clothes and skin the clinging mud and moss of the swamp. And then the skin on her arm slid off. Then the other arm. The soft elven skin fell in melting splatters all over Zepher. Underneath was a glistening, sticky black flash, knotted with wiry muscles. Her voice deepened as she said “Ahh, much better to be clean from all that muck. Now let’s have a nice pot of tea…” Her clothes swept off along with the skin underneath, she rose to her full height, cupped her hands on her sagging elven face, and pulled the flesh apart, revealing underneath a hooked nose, pointed jaw, and glittering, malevolent eyes. She shook her head, the flowing blond tresses flapping off her head like a massive scab being picked away, to reveal thick, matted grey hair. The cackling in the hut had been drifting closer and now came from the hag’s mouth, turning to a wicked old growl they recognised as Vilma’s. “Hello again, my dears. Did you miss me? I come here to the Shadowfell when I’m in a dark mood.” At this an aura of darkness grew around her, darkening all the light and plunging dim areas into total darkness. Zepher heard rather than saw the whistling of claws before they sank deep into his sides, ripping the flesh easily and stunning him. She strode away through the darkness and they heard her mutter, “Do it now, you ugly lump!” A froggy croak rang out in the darkness with the shaking of a bone rattle. Vines leapt up around DTIS to tie him fast in place. The light revealed a black-skinned froglike creature with humanoid legs and a long, strong tail, raising a totem in its webbed hand, and soon others rose from the mud to surround the party. The fight was on.

Vilma breathed out with a strong scent of herbs and some in the party started to get sleepy. Soon Zepher was asleep, and as her minions attacked the others with massive hammers and powerful tails, Vilma strode over to Zepher. She breathed in his ear, “Sweet dreams…” and inky black mist poured from her mouth. It was like she was turning inside out, flowing out of her mouth into his ear, and vanished entirely. Zepher started to thrash and froth at the mouth as his mind (and by virtue of the soul link, that of his companions) was filled with a horrible nightmare about Vilma. We can only speculate what that dream was about, to render Zepher so psychically scarred. Soon, Bastian woke Zepher up {with an extra saving throw}, dispelling the dream. Though Vilma’s cackling voice echoed all around them, she did not attack. The frog creatures were tough, but they party eventually got the upper hand and Bastian intimidated them into surrender and flight. But the party was shaken by the awful things they had seen, in particular the elf’s creamy skin sliding off to reveal that horrible darkness underneath. They all suffered various ill effects {by taking Shadowfell event cards}.

Searching the small hut they found a bubbling cauldron which smelled medicinal. Someone got excited and hastened to fill a flask. Packed into a nest of muddy, rotting cloth they found quite a bit of gold, a fine obsidian gem, and three exquisitely crafted dolls, made in the style that Vilma did in the material world. But instead of nasty bits of bone and sinew, these were made of a glossy black wire that seemed alive, gently moving. They were in the form of humanoids… and the three in the hut realised it looked remarkably like them. There seemed to be no other magic about them. Perhaps they can be sold for quite a lot of money.

Bastian looked into Zepher’s eyes and saw there a dark flicker, a malevolence like that in Vilma’s eyes. Zepher felt fine, and the others saw nothing unusual.

Just as they started to breathe a bit easier, the swamp started to bubble. So did the cauldron. In a few seconds it was at a fever pitch, and the liquid burst out violently. The hut cracked open and the inhabitants were flung into the swamp. Hot rain fell all around them and the air smelled powerfully of tea. All of them got a nice big dose. When they raised their heads out of the muck and looked around, all the trees were waving. The ground was tilting and warping. Their arms seemed incredibly long. Oh dear. They were in the Shadowfell, and now they were tripping balls…

{Award 250XP to each for the monsters vanquished (not counting Dark Vilma). Keep in mind you all will get a bit of bonus XP as you tell me how many Plot Points you had left over when they all got reset!}

Errors in Judgement
Theren's Log

Getting back to the city was thankfully uneventful as we had a lot to plan before we got there. We had to tie up the loose ends with Lady Jade and Lady Talltree before it landed us in deeper trouble than we were already in.

Back at the city we organised a rendezvous with Talltree to prove our end of the bargain had been upheld. The meeting took place outside the city walls in the temporary village set up by the displaced halflings. At first Talltree was suspicious – we knew she would be – and she had with her a pet physician. That was the largest worry. It took a lot of tricky moves. DTIS showed us his worth with tampering with the physician’s gear so that Jade appeared to be truly dead. Zephyr helped out by… uh… enraging Talltree with his impudence. I of course smoothed the whole thing over with my silver tongue (not like that, and even if it was like that, a gentleman never tells). Apparently Brad set some hay on fire outside and caught a rat. I’m not really sure that he’s the sharpest tool in the shed, but even so he was of more overall help than Zephyr, who insisted on antagonising the lady patron that we were trying to cosy up to in order to sell our story. You’d think coming from a carny background he’d be better at lying and kissing up to people, but his overwhelming arrogance can occasionally blot out what little good sense he possesses.

In any case, by telling grotesque stories about how Lady Jade was murdered in a chamber pot full of the leavings of a sordid drunken eladrin party we convinced Talltree to run with our version of events. I could tell we hadn’t quite won over the physician, but in the end all that matters is Talltree’s trust. She gave to us a pass to avoid the tax getting from low to high town (something that caused a lot of anger and resentment amongst the guards when we showed it off) and a villa to sleep in. We figure that it’s unlikely anything would be stolen from it, as high town is not a place where thieves would thrive, per se. That is, casual thievery would not be something we need worry about. Assassination for one of the horses taking a dump on someone’s front lawn – well that’d be a more serious risk. These people are clean freaks – I think that’s where a lot of their tension comes from, because cleanliness is next to anal retentiveness.

Since then we’ve cleared up a few items of interest, endured a couple of days apart by and large, where we’ve all had personal matters to attend to (I spent most of my time working on my manuscripts just for you, my loyal readers) and in general had a wind down & a clean up. I must stop now as Zephyr has a trick he wants to play in Low town, and everyone here is in on it. We’ve decided to go to the Shadow Fell. It’ll be good for my armour I think – make it more potent. Zephyr wants to find out more about his dad as well, or something.

Please let this fall into someone’s hands so they know what has happened to us. We’ve slipped from the normal realm and ended up in the darkness. I can’t even begin to describe the darkness, but it’s like a nightmare that just won’t end. I can’t believe Zephyr has forced us to this place – he must be more insane than I ever previously considered. He tried to tell the others that it would be okay but it was a lie – I could see it in his eyes. Then again, maybe it was the weirdo mage he was talking to before we came here – the one who sold us passage. He was acting screwed up in the head, I don’t know. At the time I thought it had something to do with a mirror he was looking into but now it feels like he must have been a madman, infected by the same sickness as Zephyr. Only a madman would ever try to come here, and only a sadist would enable others to do the same. Perhaps something evil has called to Zephyr from this place. I know there is something in here with us. I don’t know what’s in here with us but I know it is watching. I can feel its gaze upon me as it waits to strike. I can feel its tendrils stretching out and tasting our fear. It’s not something we can escape, I don’t feel like we can fight. All that’s left now is waiting to be devoured.

Zephyr proposed we make a show of our departure. He opened a portal, and it nearly went awry when a child stepped through just after us. Luckily we were able to catapult them back into the city. From Daggerburg Keep we were able to exploit the weakened wall where Stormy had attempted to open the tear into the Shadow Fell by using a scroll provided to us by an insane wizard. We shouldn’t have. We should not have come here and now we’ll never get home again. Even the thought of home is impossible to conceive here. The foetid breeze, the sucking mud that mutes our struggles, and the claustrophobic darkness, where everything is both pressing close, and unreachably far, where nothing moves forwards or makes significant progress, where creatures lurk – all of them blot out memories of home and happiness. I would run, but there’s nowhere to go, and no way to get there. I don’t know what to do.

DM log-- Shadowfell 1

It is now 11 Ready’reat {see timeline}. Loose ends finally tied up, our heroes prepared to go to the Shadowfell, to investigate the mysteries of Theren’s Dark Leaf armour and to find Zepher’s father. They realised they needed a special ritual to cross into the shadow realm, so they visited the altar of Ioun in Nentir Temple. There Zepher talked with Eeelee, a human mage. He acted very oddly, distracted by the great mirror and bizarre mannerisms. He refused to accompany the party to Daggerburg Keep but did give them two scrolls of Shadow Passage which might work to get through the still not fully healed shadow portal there.

To get to Daggerburg, they used one of the Linked Portal scrolls from Fenstrom’s library. Zepher made a show of this for the residents of Lowtown by finding an empty storehouse, prepping the temporary teleportation circle, and then gathering a big crowd, mostly halflings, to see the amazing Polly cast a mystic ritual. He used ventriloquism and good old fashioned showmanship to make it look like Polly was sprinkling the residuum and chanting the words. The crowd was convinced {thanks to a good Bluff roll}. The portal opened and the party ran through. An excited halfling child wriggled free from his father and also ran into the portal. DTIS and Brad heave-hoed the kid back out just before the portal snapped shut. That would have been quite interesting, being stuck with a halfling child in the bottom of Daggerburg Keep and in the Shadowfell!

The black scabby shadow portal loomed in the darkness amid the stink and gore of the scene of their epic final battle with Fenstrom. The hole that the necromancer had been sucked through was still rough and flaky, and a clockwork bomb from DTIS broke through it enough for a little weeping stream of shadowy fog to seep out—just enough to use as a channel for their ritual. Within a few more days, they estimated, the portal would be healed over even more, and soon not even powerful magic could open any shadow passage—thankfully. But for now the weak separation of the two planes was to their advantage. They cast the ritual, and turned to mist themselves as they were inhaled into the crack in the portal.

Darkness. A sense of falling. Then a wet splat into stinking, sucking mud that buried them to the waist. Instantly our heroes knew, deep in their souls, that coming here was a terrible, terrible mistake. What were they thinking? This was a suicide mission. Even worse—they would expire here in the darkness, with nobody to know or miss them, and their souls would wander this shadow realm forever. They were overwhelmed with fear, despair, and anger, and immediately started blaming each other for their fate. Zepher cast a light but it was pathetically weak and dim, pressed on all sides by a shadowy fog thicker than any they had seen in the keep. Skeletal trees loomed around the bog they were sinking into, with moss hanging like the hair of a wet corpse. As they tried to pull their arms free, rising from the muck were rotting bones, the remnants of a huge battle at the shadow crossing centuries ago, when the portal was first opened by Orcus worshippers, before the forces of the Nerath Empire battled them back and closed the portal. They were utterly, utterly doomed.

Zepher recognised this despair and panic as the effect of the Shadowfell, and did his best to calm his team. His diplomatic skills came to the fore to assure all of them except for Theren, who could tell that Zepher was himself deep in despair and fear, and merely putting up a brave front. This made Theren feel even worse, to know that Zepher knew he had made the worst mistake of his life to come here. And Theren knew he too was responsible, in a greedy impulse to empower his armour. Now the two of them had led their friends to an ugly death.

Somehow they gathered the strength of will and body to pull themselves from the muck. They looked up at a short cliff face and smelled more than saw a trickle of fresh air coming from a crack in the middle of a barely visible circle—the passage back. The gory air of Daggerburg Keep, awash in the smell of the undead, seemed like the sweetest breeze compared to the stink of the bog they stood in now. They realised they had no idea which way to go. And Zepher realised with horror that he had never investigated the ritual needed to locate his father here. So they were lost. Perhaps they could scale the cliff and use the scroll to pass back to the material realm, but they rallied to not give up. They picked a direction in the dark fog and picked their way across islands of muck and bone. The hardest part was dragging Bastian along—the eladrin, suffering from his past horrors in the darkness, had become completely catatonic and they had to lead him like a zombie until his mind recovered. {Aerro was absent for this session.}

After nearly an hour, they saw a clearing in the fog and headed for it. A clearing free of trees and fog—and perhaps these were related. On an island in the middle of the clearing were rotting wooden pylons holding up a small hut from which a blue flamelike light flickered, and they heard a cackling mutter inside. Something was hanging from underneath the hut and it started to sway as they approached. They saw it was a figure—an elf woman in adventuring gear! She was tied up with rope and swaying under the hut. Beneath her was a nest of some sort, a circle of mud, and from this something stirred. Worms stretched up blindly from the nest, groping toward the elf’s bare feet which she kept lifting out of reach.

The elf saw the party clearly now and called out: “Avandra be praised! Save me! These worms are—“ and at that moment, distracted by calling out, her foot sank too low and a worm latched onto it. She screamed and pulled her foot free. The skin ripped away into the worm’s mouth and the foot started bleeding profusely. This activated the worms, which started to stretch upward with new fervour. Our heroes knew that the woman had little time left before her panic and the worms’ ardour did her in. The blue flame light from the hut brightened and the cackling within got louder and more sinister…

{Give everyone at the session 2 Plot Points for effective roleplaying of the panic and doom imposed by the Shadowfell. Keep it up! Each party member gets 200XP for general good adventuring.}

Demonic Intervention
Theren's Log

[As always, this is a retelling of Theren’s. Unfettered by the rigours of a factual account, it leaves the sensible, wide, well-guttered path of history to follow the game-trail of whimsy & delight without so much as a guilty backwards glance. Please read the DM log if you wish to know what actually went down.]

Getting on with the story – we continued to give the gnolls ‘what for’ when there was a fierce trembling of the ground that would have forced lesser men to their knees. A split in the earth formed beneath us, threatening to topple us into an eternal hellish darkness. From this gap came a creature, mutated grotesquely from what may once have been a natural form. I have conferred with my fellows, but they are similarly baffled. Our combined wisdom would hint that the creature might once have been an eladrin, but that is no more and no less than what we divined during the battle.

Hot on its heels came a horde of insects – I’m not talking troublesome-at-a-picnic sort of insect, these ones were more like fleas from the hounds of hell, supped on demon-blood, locust plague level of insect. There was no beating back their slow advance, and the demon itself was hardly even scratched by our mightiest of assaults. Amoss threw himself at it like a moth at a window, to more or less the same effect.

Having divined that the creature seemed to be formerly eladrin, and thinking back to the strange connections in Fallcrest with eladrin and the shard consumption that seemed to be turning humanoid creatures demonic, we tried to ask if it was after the ‘red shard’ necklace (stolen from us by a succubus). It seemed to understand our words, but was only interested in our destruction, flinging burning logs in our direction, as well as anything else it could lay its multiple pairs of hands on. We had no inkling of what it was saying, although I thought I recognised a few choice phrases that our old nan used to come out with when we’d been chasing the chickens, or had knocked the clean laundry into the mud (once when we threw the cat down the well she cursed so much that the cow gave sour milk for a fortnight).

Seeing that talk would get us nowhere, and fighting less than nowhere, we were just getting ready to make like a halfing & leave shortly when another of the horrible beasties burst from the ground like a pimple from the face of a teenager. Beneath its skin muscles writhed and fought like eels in mud, but it grabbed the first demon & stopped it from attacking us. We couldn’t really understand what they were saying, but it seemed as though the first demon was trying to end us, possibly on the orders of a higher-up. The first one was more interested in the red-shard, but we never really caught its motive as it forcibly dragged the first demon back into the earth, and zipped the hole up again like an embarrassingly open pair of trousers.

With the demons gone we quickly mopped up the gnolls. Thankfully a large number of wolf puppies, beyond all the odds, had found a safe place in the cave. When the fight was over they hurried out to make sure Amoss was okay in a furry tide of exuberance. We’re just seeing to our wounds now, but from here we must travel. We’ve been too long in the big city & have made (apparently) too many enemies. It’s time we sorted some of this out.

DM log-- Fallcrest 2-7

Back to Fallcrest the dazed party went, to tie up loose ends. First thing was the long overdue business with Lady Talltree of Talltree House. They arranged with the friendly halflings to the south of the town wall to provide a place to meet Talltree in secret, and sent a message once Lady Jade was knocked out with the drug Bastian made from his old family recipe. (Keep in mind, this was the weakest and cheapest version of the drug, taking a substantial risk of detection.) They managed to smuggle the “body” of Jade past the town gates with a clever story and disguise that they were members of a Raven Queen sect that has very strict rules about the transport and shrouding of the dead. This was improved with thoughtful details such as a raven feather and the stinky cloth that had wrapped Zumtleheath’s head, augmented by prestidigitation. That, a small bribe, and a bit of luck {the rolls greatly aided by the clever details added by the players and a few Plot Points} got them well placed for the visit. Bradd lurked outside the tiny shack, keeping a lookout and out of the way (since he was not known to Talltree) while the others waited within.

With a clatter of carriage wheels and angry protests by the peasants being run off the road, Talltree and her guards arrived. She swept in (wearing of course the very latest in fashion) surrounded by well-armed eladrin, and with a cloaked human woman—the healer. To get every advantage, DTIS stole a piece of her diagnostic equipment and sabotaged it—this last made easier by the healer’s distraction by a soulful (if out of tune) ballad by Polly. {Several points of advantage were gotten with these additions, as well as the Plot Points to bolster them, but it remained a tough DC.} This woman checked the body {with a Heal check against the DC dictated by the strength of the coma drug, made a bit tougher since the “body” was now supposedly a couple days dead} and declared her suspicions. Our heroes tried to talk their way out of it but were set back by a sketchy story of what happened that night, and Zepher’s offensive arrogance. As tensions rose, Bradd tried to cause a distraction by setting fire to a nearby stable, but was detected and foiled by angry peasants. Things looked like they were going to come to blows, but our heroes rallied to pull out some premium bullfeathers. They came up with a “ritual of the barley flower” that involved body preservation so the body could be melted properly. This fascinated Talltree who relished the idea of her old nemesis being melted and served as some kind of stew, with her own imagination filling in the details. With some more fast talking {in the form of a mini skill challenge} and grovelling by Zepher, the party avoided near-certain capture by Talltree. Instead, the lady was convinced that the healer was being too cautious, Jade was very dead, and our heroes were amazing assassins. It turned out that Jade’s message back to her head of household of Jade House had worked and the story stuck: a team of eladrin assassins had set the fire, killed Lady Jade with smoke inhalation, and stole the body. So not only was the deed done, but suspicion was diverted from the “assassins” completely.

As a reward, Talltree gave them two highly valuable things, especially in combination: a security pass which gave them full, tax-free passage around the city and throughout Inner Hightown, and the deed to a villa in Fallcrest’s Inner Hightown which they were free to use any way they see fit. A few details about the security pass: their items will still be examined to avoid contraband of an unspecified nature, but they pay no taxes—something that struck our heroes as personally advantageous but tremendously unfair, since the strained trading class had to pay so dearly. They can pass freely into and around Inner Hightown, but their pass is still endorsed by Talltree, and apparently can be revoked by her. They are “accountable” to Talltree for any actions they take. Bradd and Quinne are not included, not having been on the team of assassins, but they can travel inner Hightown as long as they are escorted by one of the people named on the security pass.

They moved all their things from the Blue Moon Alehouse to their new villa. They felt snubbed by all the residents of the immaculate Inner Hightown, with their common clothes and manners very much out of step with the extremely rich, fashionable, and ostentatious residents there. Nobody wanted to talk to them or even be seen with them.

The villa itself was very nice, clean and well-kept though apparently not lived in for quite some time. It had about a dozen rooms on two floors, and a staff of four, including a butler, two maids, and a chef. {The team was invited to design this villa, spending Plot Points to make it unusual to varying degrees. And tell me its name!} It was in a low-walled courtyard with a sturdy gate, and connected to a large, grand tower building by an inner gate which was firmly locked and could not be opened. It appears that this was once an adjunct property to the tower next door, but now is under separate ownership. The tower next door is occupied by some very rich eladrin, but any who appear on its balconies visibly shudder to look down on the rabble that are our heroes.

They went to the House of the Sun to retrieve their fallen companions. Ercullum was first. It was unclear if he was always a simpleton or something had gone wrong with the raise dead ritual. In any case, he was happy to be alive. They advised he go help the poor halflings in Lowtown.

Next was Zumtleheath, who held no grudge against Theren for failing to save her. She had a touching reunion with DTIS, who discovered that her husband has left her long ago, leaving her alone. And single! Unfortunately the touching reunion was tarnished by the fact that Zepher and Theren had just had a little spat that covered the walls and floor with glue, which got on the halfling’s smock, which then stuck to DTIS, which then was left behind as she tried to climb DTIS to kiss him, which led to some baring of hobbit flesh. She’s a very attractive halfling, but everyone was a bit embarrassed on her behalf. DTIS held her down and rebuffed her advances… for now. He does still love her, but must have his reasons not to show it at the moment.

Lev was sent packing with a last infusion of gold. At first the young man resisted, because Ruby was here in Fallcrest and he could not leave her. But Theren {with a natural 20 on Bluff} convinced him that Ruby had said that what she really wanted was to settle down in Harkenwold with Lev, and she was going there now, and expected Lev to be there with their new home all fixed up. This put Lev into a great hurry to get home and dub the Snake’s Head Inn as the newly refurbished “Ruby Rose”. He eagerly boarded the next carriage to Harkenwold.

Lev happened to share the ride with DTIS and Zumtleheath, who went to Harkenwold on a kind of sexless honeymoon that made everyone very uncomfortable, not least because the party still shared a soul link. Also, being apart felt as horrible as always. Harkenwold was doing as well as could be expected while recovering from Fenstrom’s undead attack, which was only a few days in the past. When the honeymooners returned, Zumtleheath immediately went to help the poor children of Lowtown.

While DTIS was away, our heroes occupied themselves. Zepher learned rituals. Theren wrote a book {Rachael, when back in Fallcrest, remind me to have you roll for how much it earns}. Brad got a spray tan and enjoyed the attention at the Drake’s Tail. He also cleared his and Ralkil’s debts and did some investigation about Ruby. He did discover that she was almost certainly not a regular working girl. It was as if she had appeared from nowhere. In fact, it was clear that though she was seen exiting the great stairs into Lowtown, she was almost certainly not seen entering the great stairs from Hightown. More investigation was possible but they decided not to pursue it.

Brad also {with a natural 20} gathered some very juicy information on Lady Talltree with an important inside connection. This had already helped them anticipate the composition of her guards when she came to visit, but he learned far more. {This will be exposed more when you all come back to Fallcrest from your current quest; for now the information is not actionable.}

{Each party member gets 200XP for general good adventuring.}

It is now 11 Ready’reat {see timeline}.

This brings this overall Fallcrest chapter to an end, so it’s time to cash in Plot Points! Everyone, send to me how many Plot Points you had, and then set your PP to zero. I will add up all the PP, multiply it, and tell you how much XP the party gets as a result.

{Everyone discussed the possible plot hooks to pursue and decided on the Shadowfell one as a side trip, and then to enter a major arc as they try to fan the simmering Fallcrest Revolt, joining the side of the downtrodden. See plot hooks for a recap of what else is out in the wide world.

DM log-- Fallcrest 2-6

Goodness, I fell behind a lot so these will have to be especially rough notes for the last three sessions. But there is some good stuff ahead so enjoy!

The fight with the gnolls was going reasonably well when it was interrupted by something not so well. The cave in which the wolves (and the puppies) had been taking refuge erupted with an acidic stench and a swarm of crawling beetles. The hillside cracked open in a giant fissure as our heroes were flung back. From the hole emerged a huge creature they recognised as a demon—the first any of them had ever seen, and virtually unknown even in horror stories of the area. The gnolls erupted in wild celebration. From the crevasse the demon (with one of its four hooked arms) pulled a wriggling pupa and ripped it open. In it was an old woman who gasped for air, and pleaded with our heroes: “I don’t know why he brought me here. Please please save me! The bugs—" The demon shook her violently and she was cowed into obedience. She seemed to be reciting a kind of script, looking at the demon with panic whenever she seemed to forget what to say: “I am supposed to bring you a message in your language. The gnolls told me. They are here to draw you away from the city to die. You have been noticed by the demons. You are a threat to their plans. They want to stop you before you gain more power. They will kill you and your bodies will be eaten.” She looked fearfully down at the growing swarm of acid green insects. “If somehow you get raised from the dead, never come back to the Nentir Vale or else your fate will become far worse.” Her face changed as she rushed out the next part with desperate sincerity. “Now please save me! They don’t need me anymore. They will—" The demon said something to the gnoll leader, who nodded. The demon used another arm to grab the old woman around the waist. He pulled sharply and spewed from his mouth a bright yellow spray. She screamed, turning to a horrible gurgle as she was pulled apart. Her face still showed her pain as the two halves of her body fell onto the swarm of bugs, which soon engulfed her and a sizzling noise surged.

With a gesture the demon infused all the gnolls with a shadowy fire. They regained their health and became resistant to damage. Soon the fight was looking desperate, and got worse as the demon forcibly teleported one of our heroes and eviscerated him from the back. This teleportation caught the attention of Bastian {with a natural 20, giving him a permanent ability to recognise this transformation}, who realised this demon had obscured eladrin features. It also had a rectangle of scorched skin barring its eyes.

Just as the party was concluding it was time to flee, something else climbed out of the fissure. It was another demon, of a different type, gruesomely muscular. To the surprise of our heroes, the two demons began to argue with increasing heat, and it seemed to be about the second demon forbidding the first one to attack the party. It was all in Abyssal, which none of them spoke. Brad tried to remember the words later and recited them to an expert, doing an especially impressive job with the memorisation, a hidden talent none of them expected {He rolled a 20 on the Int check}. See DM log— Gloomwrought 2 for that translation.

The first demon turned to attack again, so the second demon ceased with reasoning and wrestled his foe. They fell into the crevasse and their screams got more and more faint as they tumbled down into the abyss. The bugs receded and the walls of the fissure crumbled inward as the ground shook.

Now the fight was again winnable, and the gnolls in a panic as their protector left and the infusion of dark fire faded. Soon they were all dead.

In lighter news, {through the heavy expenditure of Plot Points} the puppies had somehow survived the opening of the chasm! And Theren’s lizard Polly broke out in a heroic song during the final phase of the fight, belying a hidden talent almost too improbable to be believed!

{For more about this fight and of course more about Polly, be sure to read Theren’s highly entertaining logs.}

{Each player gets 330XP for this fight.}

DM log-- Fallcrest 2-5

Our heroes were drinking despondently in the Blue Moon, mulling over their next move in this town of endless wicked secrets. Zepher wrote a draft of his epic log, but got only as far as to jot down A Brief Relection. Suddenly, they felt the presence of Amos. What they had started to call their soul link had ceased between them and the ranger soon after he left them from the Moon Hills mine, but now it was back and very strong. They could see through his eyes that he was on top of a charred and smoking hillside, large forest wolves at his either side, as well as a litter of wolf pups. Downhill he could see several gnolls maneuvering for an assault and the bodies of several more, bristling with arrows and oozing blood from bites. Amos was bloodied and bruised, bone tired, and muttering, “I don’t think we can hold out for another night like that one.”

Overwhelmed by the urge to get to their companion Amos as soon as possible, the party hurried to the stables in Lowtown, and found to their delight that Concorde was ready for service as a newly trained warhorse. An impressive steed he had become. {Due to his past history with Fenstrom, this horse can be equipped by Amos from the character builder as “Sleeper’s Skeletal Warhorse”, level 5. The horse (of course) is not skeletal but has the same properties. I have printed this out but it will look better if you print it from your character sheet, I reckon. Once you are paragon, ask me for a quest, if Concorde is still alive; you can upgrade him, perhaps to “Horse, Skeletal” level 11.} They bought a few more travelling horses for 375 gold {this is (75×5); Zepher be sure to subtract that gold from your sheet, or tap someone else to do it! } and rode off in haste.

They went down the King’s Road to the east. Zepher had a very odd look in his eyes for a few hours of the ride, and did not respond to his companions’ anxious queries. But he did not fall out of his saddle so they let the wizard be all wizardy. By the afternoon they were in a large stand of trees known as the King’s Wood, and sensed that Amos was to the north, off the road, deep in that forest. So they hid their horses, took Concorde along to break a trail, and headed in. They had several trials of their abilities in the forest {an Obsidian skill challenge }. First they had to contend with the overgrown and wild nature of the forest, which in past centuries had been well cultivated but now had gone feral and dangerous. Brad tossed Quinne like a medicine ball. Theren skulked behind to make sure no bandits or animals were following. DTIS swept mightily to clear the way. They reached a rushing river, and Bastian remembered tales of royal swims and tragic drownings to find a safe way across. Zepher merely walked across, wizard that he was. Brad took off his armor to swim, fearful of shrinkage. Quinne tried to tightrope walk across and got wet. Theren tumbled and flipped from tree to tree, impressively. They travelled on and smelled smoke. Soon the air was thick with it and fleeing animals, as embers fell all around them. Zepher used his elemental knowledge to battle the fire. Bastian deduced where the gnolls would have gone to inflict the most damage, and avoided their trail. DTIS stomped through the animals, Quinne clinging to his back, eventually becoming covered with skins and wearing real bunny slippers. Theren used Polly’s keen awareness to dodge the dangers. Brad swung from tree to tree, a right lord of the jungle, with a yell to match. During this trip, they were joined by a wolf {played by Darcy} who seemed to be trying to lead them onward. When they reached the next scene, the wolf bolted off to get more help. Overall the party had made very good time {getting full success in the skill challenge} and arrived before sunset.

The party came to the edge of a field of boulders and saw the gnolls on the side of the charred hillside. Fortunately the setting sun was right in the eyes of the gnolls if they tried to see the party sneaking up on them {the party got +4 to stealth rolls when the gnolls are looking back toward the rocks, thanks to skill challenge success}. At the top of the hill they saw Amos and the wolves, at the mouth of a cave. They deduced and later learned the following.

Amos arrived at the forest surrounding Harkenwold and found that his pack had been driven almost to the edge of the forest by gnolls, who were unusually bold. Amos being Amos, he launched straight into a counter attack with his brothers and sisters. However because it was unplanned and rushed, they were routed. Amos escaped, but was ravaged by guilt over the losses. Many of his pack died and a few others scattered in the night. Amos would always remember this disastrous battle to remind himself of the importance of planning and caution, and not to dive into a fight pell mell. {Darcy asked for this sharp personality twist to be reinforced for Amos.}

Amos spent the night evading capture. His mother and father (the wolves who adopted him as a baby) sensed the danger and tracked Amos down before the gnolls did. They all hurried to an old redoubt, a cave on a hillside that could be more easily defended… but also easily besieged. There Amos and his mother and father fought through the night and entire day, staving off the gnolls with arrows, sword, claw, tooth, and the occasional burning log as the gnolls burned down the forest. Several wolf pups were with them, and they insisted on trying to help fight. Without sleep or water, they all were growing weak, and the gnolls were smart enough to wait them out. Now the gnolls were readying for an all-out assault. Amos knew his companions had arrived, just in time. Amos’ smirk of new confidence was the gnoll’s cue to press the attack.

The battle was joined. {See Theren’s especially colourful log of this battle, Crying Wolf.} Some of the party tried to sneak uphill through the boulders but, very uncharacteristically, Theren was spotted by the keen eyed leader of the gnolls, called Gurgloth the Red. So it was an uphill slog under heavy fire. Gurgloth had the ability to cause a frenzy and, horribly, deluded Amos into attacking his own mother. Soon a swarm of wasps was released, and started to hunt them down. DTIS charged uphill on Concorde, leaping over a burning log to draw attacks away from Amos, who was withering under the assault. These gnolls showed signs of strong shadow magic at work within them. The battle still hangs in the balance.

{Give the party 200XP and 2 Plot Points each for the skill challenge. The XP from the battle now ongoing will be toted up after it’s over. If you survive, muhuahaha.}

Crying Wolf
Theren's Log

(OOC Disclaimer: Theren’s accounts tend to be a ‘re-imagining’ at best. Please seek the DM log if you are looking for a full and truthful account)

Suddenly the issue of the succubus fled our minds as we felt Amoss in danger. We knew as surely as we could see each other that Amoss had thrown himself into dire straits needed saving (I know one does not have to be psychic to deduce this, but I assure you it was a powerful unnatural sensation). I cannot explain this connection, although in truth it is more like a bond, with all the kinkiness, constriction, and difficulties that the word entails. I am just glad I do not have to endure being bonded to Lev’s mind.

We left with all haste, fleeing the city as though a pack of wolves were on our tails – even going so far as to buy horses. I can’t say I recall much of the ride, actually. Fire and smoke soaked the horizon red and black, like a warning beacon writ across the sky. The wind stung our eyes, and the horses were whipped into a lather by the time we were done with them, but they seemed to sense our urgency. Concorde was with us. He is no longer the battered beast he was when we rescued him, but a frisky vigorous war horse, with the gleam of battle lust in his eye that reminds me of Amoss.

We came to a point where we would have to go off road, and unfortunately only Concorde was equipped to do so, so we left the new horses behind. They were frightened by the scent of fire, and the distant screams of animals, but their exhaustion from the ride seemed to conquer their fears, so we left them tied to trees to set out on foot.

The further into the dense greenery we trekked, the more often we would be forced to run through choking clouds of smoke that stung at our eyes, blinding us to dangers. Small fires began to be more frequent, and tiny embers, like lazy insects, drifted through the sky amongst the ash. I slipped to the back of the group to guard us from surprise attack. We were in gnoll territory, and in our rush we might easily have fallen prey to a roaming pack. Bastion scouted ahead, while DTIS and Concorde blazed a path through the foliage, punching various panicked animals, and snapping twigs and branches respectively to clear a safe path.

We were soon joined by a wolf, one of Amoss’ family if my gut feeling was correct, for there was something about it that deeply reminded me of Amoss… probably the smell, or maybe the way it was pissing on the trees that we passed. In any case it seemed to be showing us the way.

We came to a river, and Brad, after swinging through the trees while wailing (I think it seemed to draw more animals in our direction if anything, but DTIS punched them all, so no harm done) promptly ditched his clothes and dived in, heroically taking a rope end with him to secure to the opposite bank. The icy water did his most private of parts no favours, but that only served to make his sacrifice more brave. Let’s just say the term ‘wet willy’ has never carried such meaning before today. Zephyr walked across the water like it was a Sunday stroll in the park, Quin balanced along the rope Brad had set up as though it were a tightrope, and the rest of us made our way across as best we could.

After the river crossing we quickly came upon Amoss, fighting gnolls on a knoll. He was back to back with two wolves, and scattered about their feet was a small litter of pups. The remnants of a fiery trap lay just beyond their small group, at the crown of the hill. On the slope of the hill a pack of gnolls were advancing for the kill. We stuck to the cover of the woodlands, nursing the hope that we might be able to push the burning log traps into the advancing gnolls, but the situation was too desperate, and we didn’t know how effective the logs would have been. Better to trust to our might, our swords, our crossbows… and weird miscellaneous magic icons, and rope that is sometimes used as an ineffective whip, and the clockwork bombs DTIS occasionally vomits up, and chickens that are tripping on mushrooms. Actually those logs don’t sound too bad in retrospect.

In any case, the battle was quickly joined, but not quickly enough to save a tiny rust coloured pup from being skewered like a shish-kabab by one of the gnolls. Amoss stood his ground valiantly as we ran to defend him and his kin. His swords flashed (not like Brad earlier, I mean like flashing with light) as they danced back and forth, spilling the blood of gnolls in great gouts and spurts, even though we could feel his fatigue. There was a sudden mental jerk, like a fish taking the bait at the end of a line, and with a crazed look in his eyes, Amoss turned on his own, slicing into one of the wolves at his side with the jerky motions of a marionette.

This sudden change seemed to trigger something in Zephyr, his emotion peaked. Magic snapped and whipped at his fingertips, barely visible except as a distortion of reality, until it materialised, coiling into threads of flame that enveloped Amoss in a fiery embrace. Cut off, and badly injured, Amos regained his composure. He had no time to become distraught over what he’d done. Bastion, cursing manfully, broke through the attack lines of the gnolls to bring his aid to Amoss, healing our stricken companion even as the gnolls closed in.

My own bolts struck true, opening up a gash in the armour of the pack leader. Unfortunately there was no time to exploit this. The gnolls were quick to take their revenge upon Zephyr for shielding Amoss, and one of the gnolls fell upon the wizard, tearing into him viciously as he struggled to maintain his spells. My bolts flew thick and fast at as many targets as looked open, but it was as if the creatures felt no pain – even with their own blood streaming into their eyes, they continued to fight. While we were distracted the gnoll pack leader released a swarm of wasps, not seeming to care if they stung at friend or foe, or perhaps exercising unknowable control over the insects. Gnolls closed in on Bastion and Amoss, but DTIS and Concord charged them down, wheeling and rearing to batter at the whelps and harry them, keeping them caught between a barrage of blows, and Zephyr’s fire.

Finally one of the creatures was cut down, but with a ear shattering cry, half agony half ecstasy, its death-slackened grip tightened once more on its weapon as it rose again, shadows streaming from its body where it had received its deepest wounds, like a fog off a lake, and an infernal glow to its eyes that announced its new otherworldly existence.

I must take pause here as Bastion has arrived to help inspect my own wounds, however I will continue the tale as soon as I am patched up.

Brad Joins the Party
Theren's Log

We left Talltree house by the sewers, but the High Town sewers don’t join up with Low Town so we had to hitch a lift on the pulley mechanism that the dwarves use to load cargo up to High Town. Luckily the kenku had some sort of understanding with the guards at the lift, and this understanding was reached in the universal language of gold. We were all slipped into a couple of huge empty crates and were lowered discretely into Low Town, while everyone in High Town was busy forming a bucket chain to put out a fire that we had set.

We went down into the sewers with the kenku to get to their base of operations. Unfortunately, with the muck, and the rain, I slipped up & everyone had a laugh at my expense (although what I was really trying to do was alleviate some of the tension with a little physical comedy) and then we were all blindfolded in a pathetic attempt to confuse our keen senses. Lady Jade was finding the whole affair rather titillating & the kenku lost no opportunity in buddying up to her. Her dress & wig had to be partially destroyed in order to safely smuggle her, as they were a little large and extravagant to actually fit in the sewers.

Downstairs at the kenku den, when we finally reached it, we were allowed to remove the masks, and Lady Jade was spluttering everywhere about how she wanted to join the kenku gang and live in the slums like some romantic lady criminal. To be fair though their hide out was a sunken ballroom of magnificent, if somewhat aged and ill-maintained splendour, lending the whole operation a touch of class that the otherwise shit stained sewers didn’t really afford. While all this was going on, the head kenku guy had to go sort out some commotion out the back – someone shouting about owed money – and the other kenku took it upon themselves to make Lady Jade feel at home. They flattered her with offers of initiation into the gang, and it was fairly obvious they were trying to secure friends in high places. Amongst other things she was given a cape of black feathers.

Suddenly the door from the back room burst open and the head honcho was being muscled out by some guy called Brad. Brad was tall dark and handsome. He had a rugged look and when he took his shirt off he revealed a six pack with a thick snail trail. He was saying he would have to be taking fingers but he didn’t like candles… something like that. Hard to remember much about the words he was saying. I mean I wasn’t personally checking him out – but some of the things Zephyr was thinking were pretty distracting. Zephyr approached diplomatically, but as I said, his thoughts were elsewhere, and negotiations didn’t go well until Lady Jade stepped in on behalf of her new avian accomplices, settling on allowing Brad to take some of her valuable rings in compensation for whatever he had to collect. Sensing that two rings (Brad’s asking price) was too hefty for what he was actually supposed to be collecting, Zephyr tried to apply more diplomacy, much like a toddler might apply a square peg to a round hole. Having nothing better to entertain me, I suggested that Brad should pop some of his shirt buttons to better convince Zephyr to leave well enough alone. Needless to say, Brad now has two gold rings.

Jade plans on informing her house guard that she is actually still alive, but to put out the word that she died from smoke inhalation. We are also to be freed of any suspicion that might fall on us. The whole idea is to get Lady Talltree up on trial before the Erathis temple girly who is supposed to mediate. I can sense that this is all going to go to shit very quickly, but we’d better follow through and find out just how deep we’ve dug ourselves in now.

We left Jade with the kenku (we’re good at leaving plot relevant characters in the basement) and went back to the blue-moon inn where we discovered Lev had been robbed blind by some whores, led by ‘Ruby’ the ‘amazing red haired one’… well more to the point we discovered that Lev had allowed US to be robbed blind – the red shard was missing. I knew I should never have let it leave my sight. Zephyr thought it was evil, but it’s been shown that these things respond to the emotions that are fed into it. I can’t imagine being that angry and sadistic all the time. I wanted to heal the red shard. It clearly had some sort of a mind, and it was deeply troubled. What does Zephyr have against conscious beings trapped inside jewellery anyway?

On Lev’s description of Ruby putting on the red shard & shifting her features & the changing, glowing nature of her hair, Zephyr realised this lady to be a succubus – incredibly dangerous, and probably worth a lot more than what Lev paid for, all things considered. Zeph warned that Lev might have been charmed & taken over & might still be in her thrall. We decided to put the matter off until the morning as we were all quite tired.

In the morning we realised that Lilliana was already arrived, so we tried to greet her. We discovered that although we’d been promised first place in the queue we were too late & that Mr Darren thought time was money. Zephyr insisted on beating back Bastion and my attempts to muscle into the room by contradicting us when we tried to bluff our way in. Instead he tried to get us all in with his diplomacy – unfortunately his diplomacy failed him as soon as he entered the room, and he completely forgot that he was walking into danger all on his lonesome in nothing more than the thin pyjamas that Wizards consider to be ‘armour’. Through our connection we could see that he was trying & failing to get Lilliana to escape with him.

So far Darren is unaware of this, thankfully the wizard has displayed unusual tact. More disturbing still is that Lilliana seems to have been coerced into becoming a sex slave, with a tattoo on her neck & ankle, and an iron collar filled with magic. This sort of thing should have been left back in the ages before civilisation.


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