The Insidious Threat Revealed, The Backwater Gambit Campaign Diary 9

 

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The Insidious Threat Revealed, Chapter 8

 

The party makes its way back to Foxon. Moving in the opposite direction is John on his way to the Hag Tree to bury the corpses. Arriving at the Hag Tree, he finds the corpses cut down and buried in stone kairns. Performing some Pelorian blessing rituals, he moves on to the shack where he discovers the dead bodies of the witches and undead. 

Seeing that the battle is over and there are no signs that his allies have taken any casualties, John decides to head back to Foxon. As he is about to leave, he hears the sounds of racing paws through the woods. A wolf bounds into the clearing and freezes as it locks eyes with John. Around the wolf’s neck is an onyx pendant. The wolf transforms into Nym. United again, the two exchange information and as they do they hear coming from the shack the sounds of objects crashing and a male voice cursing.

John casts a spell to make himself appear more foreboding calling out to whomever is in the shack to come out. There’s a beat, then the wide-eyed face of Mercer Thiel pops into a window frame. In a rather bumbling fashion, Mercer come out from the shack greeting John and Nym.

 

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John and Nym use their persuasion abilities to cut through Mercer’s rambling nonsense to discover why he’s searching the hag’s shack. Mercer explains he’s looking for the special items that the night hag would hold, specifically a Heartstone, the touch of which cures any disease. John invites Mercer to come with them to Foxon, but he refuses. His curiosity raised, John successfully charms Mercer to tell him why he’s so strident to not go to Foxon.

Mercer’s demeanor changes. Gone is the quasi-dude-like bumbler replaced by a serious, icy-eyed somewhat menacing fighter. Mercer explains he just was freed from the torture of a bunch of witches, so the idea to go to a town where there’s another witch doesn’t suit him. John persists in his questioning pulling from Mercer the information that in Foxon there is an ogre mage, an Oni, on the town council. John and Nym confer about who this might be. As they do so, Mercer slowly moves back towards the shack. He invites John to help him rummage through the shack saying “There’s a slew of neat shit in here…”

John and Nym decline deciding to get back to Foxon as soon as possible to let the others know about the Oni. It’s a day and half journey back to Foxon. As the two make their way through the swampy woods and forest, they stumble upon a caravan in the road ahead being robbed.

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The goblin gang, Zarongel‘s Boys, surround the caravan holding an adult male elf, a young human girl, and a human boy in his early teens on their knees. The gang of five goblins and three worgs are arguing with the captives and grousing among themselves. Nym and John can see what’s happening but are safely hidden in the woods. They decide to try to help the captives even though they are greatly outnumbered. John tells Nym to follow his lead.

Nym moves quickly and stealthily around to the other side of the road to wait in the woods for John to make his move. John leaps out into the road. His voice confident and booming, he commands the gang to leave or die. Traagaar, the lead turns around to face him, confused and angry. He commands the gang to kill John. Just as the goblins move towards him, John casts Lightning Bolt.

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The wild, blue lightning shoots from John’s hand instantaneously turning the goblin in front of him, the goblin riding a worg behind the first, and the goblin guarding the rear of the caravan into smoldering piles of ash.

Stepping to the edge of the woods, Nym casts Thunderwave damaging and sending the remaining two worgs crashing backwards into the caravan. Stunned by the ferocity of the attack, Traagaar calls out to the worgs to retreat. Back on their paws, the worgs are dazed but respond bolting towards the remaining two goblins, letting them jump on their backs as they flee down the road then disappearing into the woods.

The captives are stunned and still a bit afraid. John tries to calm them but it has minute success. Nym appears speaking elvish calming the three. The boy rushes to Nym hugging her in thanks. John again tells them they mean no harm and simply wanted to help. The elf steps forward introducing himself as Edda Taisi, a merchant from Monton. 

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He explains the goblin gang has been raiding his and other traders from Monton to Bas Eldritch causing Monton to feel more than a bit pinched. Edda has nothing but gratitude for the two. He promises to praise the two by name to his lord, Swift Masmond the mayor of Monton, and tells them to mention his name in the town’s boarding house for a much better rate. Edda and the others get back in their wagon and head off. John is worried the goblins may show up again but Edda calms this concern explaining the gang never attacks with less than five members.

John and Nym now continue on the road to Foxon. There they meet with Jorg who is working off a hangover in the inn. Jorg explains what happened to the party when John left the Hag Tree and the others tell him about their encounters at the shack and on the road. John feels compelled to tell the leaders at the temple of Pelor about the Oni in the town’s midst. They go to the Everbright Sanctuary meeting with the Bori, the head priest, and Elyn Balley, the temple’s scholar. The two explain to the party just what kind of creature an Oni is. It becomes clear that it is this Oni who is causing the disappearances and deaths of children in town.

The party devises a plan to have the temples in town host a kind of youth day and sleepover in order to have all the children in one place. The hope is all the children will be in one place safer than if they were on their own and the party believes that it could be a way to confront the creature. They also ask Bori and Elyn who they think on the council the Oni might be. Neither hazard a guess but when it’s put to them that it may be Wena, they can’t say that doesn’t make sense. Jorg is worried Celia may be the Oni but is confident that it’s not Zaghain, who has fought along side them. John and Nym are both leaning towards Wena. They try to pry more of her history from the priests.

As they’re talking, Godan, the mercenary who had accompanied the party in the maze ruins, shows up saying he’s been tasked with escorting the party, Celia, and Zaghain to the courthouse to report to the council by Wena’s orders. As they walk, Jorg hangs back a little to talk with Godan to get a sense of what’s going on within The Hundred. Godan reveals the mercs haven’t been paid for awhile and are restless. He also makes it clear the mercenaries have high esteem for the party for what they’ve done in the maze and with the Hag Coven.

Talking to Zaghain about what is going on, the party discovers all this is unorthodox and not protocol. Zaghain is angry Wena is breaking the rules of order for the council, and Celia is timidly anxious. The mercs tell the party they can’t speak unless spoken to and must stay behind their advocates (Zaghain and Celia). The door to the chamber closes and seems to lock. The party sees the town council seated around a huge table in a room with a thirty foot ceiling from which hangs a chandelier casting light in the windowless chamber.

At the meeting are the nine alders:

Zaghain Berylbow, male dwarf, 50ish, lawful neutral
Athur Berthold, male human, 60s, lawful neutral 
Wena Riffolk, female human, 40-50, chaotic evil 
Dandelene Thalasa, male elf, 50s, lawful evil 
Diamay Ambling, female halfling, mid-30s, lawful neutral 
Moin Peright, female gnome, 30s, chaotic good 
Celia Moncrief, female human, 30-40, neutral good 
Melvawen Lamilwen, female elf, 70s, lawful neutral 
Alfred Brewalt, male human, 50-60, true neutral

Zaghain gives the account of defeating the Hag Coven. He is interrupted by Moin who points out that while the party was gone two more children went missing. Wena dismisses this as the work of creatures in the thrall of the coven sent before the adventures defeated the hags. He then describes the Hag Tree and how the corpses were almost certainly from Monton and not Foxon.

Celia chimes in that Monton needs to be notified receiving vocal assent. Dandelene expresses the concern that Monton might blame Foxon. Zaghain explains how the party buried the corpses, and Celia backs this up with how John was sent to honor the dead with the rites of Pelor. Celia suggests Monton needs Foxon’s help. Wena quickly dismisses this idea stressing how dangerous it is for the town right now with the hobgoblin legions. 

Zaghain explains they’ve found a way to close the portal in Foxon Cellars. Wena asserts there’s no way to know if the town will be safe and the mercs must stay. In fact, they must be paid by the town as a permanent force. Almost none of the alders are comfortable with this. Celia presses Wena that with the portal closed the town is out of immediate danger, so there’s no need for the mercs. Wena then says that the corpses on the Hag Tree suggests another threat. 

Wena demands the mercs stay and are paid through the town’s coffers. She challenges Celia who with her new wealth hasn’t put in to defend the city. Celia and Wena get into a yelling match. Wena suggests the party is to blame for all the town’s troubles demanding they be expelled. Zaghain laughs off the idea sending Wena in a bitter rage.

Celia puts forth a motion to send an envoy to Monton sharing with them what Foxon knows and offering to aid the town should they be in any danger or encountering anything out of the ordinary. Wena doesn’t let Celia finish, she calls them all fools. The doors of the chamber magically lock, and Wena transforms into a towering Oni, an ogre mage. The alders recoil in panic rushing to the door. The party is caught up in the scrum.

 

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With her walking stick now a glaive, Wena lops off the heads of Melvawen next to her. Roben and Asher jump to action to attack Wena, but are hit with Cone of Cold spell freezing them solid.

(Roben and Asher’s players couldn’t make it this night, so this was how I wrote them out of the adventure. The pair will be healed by Vada in time for the next adventure)

Dandelene stands surprised but calm moving to join Wena. He passes a hand over his face dispelling the glamor making him appear as an ordinary elf. He reveals himself to be a Drow Elite Warrior.  The party faces off against the two.

 

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After a prolonged battle, Wena is defeated. Severely weakened, Dandelene casts Darkness and somehow escapes. The blackness dissipates as Dandelene disappears leaving the party, the terrified alders, and the mercenary guards who are just now able to break in to the chamber. The death of Wena not only ended the magical lock she had on the door but revealed an antechamber. In this library, the party discovers several items:

Hat of Disguise

Pearl of Power

Staff of the Python

Spell Scroll–Fog Cloud

 

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Zaghain talks with the mercenaries and remaining alders to start to clean up the courthouse. Celia, rather numb from it all, informs the party that the estate is finished being renovated. The party can use it as a home base now.

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Zaghain instructs that Wena’s house be searched as well as the rest of the courthouse where she had access to figure out just how long she’s been tormenting Foxon.

It’s discovered Wena had always been an Oni preying on the people of Foxon. She killed and took the form of the real Wena years ago. Letters and journal entries reveal when the Hag Coven came north out of the Corse Ruins, she felt her territory was threatened so she aligned with the Drow Kolo Illrym agreeing to help Maise Pegoram. With the death of Maise, Wena took over her duties finding more pressure to recover the coin lost by Maise. Bringing in The Hundred was her attempt to squeeze the town of its resources and maybe turn them to Kolo’s side. 

Letters also reveal Kolo is looking to bring in hobgoblin soldiers under the command of a cambion general to act as his army to take control of the county. The army is amassing at the margrave’s summer palace grounds in Monton without knowledge of the mayor or most of the people. It also mentions how Kolo is fighting against the other witches in the Corse Ruins. The Hag Coven were drive out by something Kolo is trying to hide.

Now that Wena is dead, Godan makes it clear The Hundred expect to be paid up. Once paid, they’ll leave the town. Zaghain begins negotiating with Godan passionate about getting them paid and gone.

John, with the help of some other mercs, take the frozen bodies of Asher and Roben to the Everbright Sanctuary to be healed. There he will also let the priests know what has happened with Wena. Nym seeing Celia is more than a bit out of it and drained decides to go with her and give her a ‘girls night’ alongside Celia’s goblin friend Xazt. Jorg also exhausted decides to head to the bar. On his way out, Zaghain stops him to give the party a reward for helping them:

  • An iron shard stained with blood. When activated, hurling it will create three darts of magical force dealing 1d4+1 force damage, it’s range is 120 feet.

  • A jade orb when thrown up to 60 feet will explode into a burst of acid dealing 3d6 damage in a circle of 10 feet (all non-hostile targets must roll a 10 DC dex save)

  • Ten hydra arrows–these arrows are tipped with a hydra’s tooth and when they hit deal 2d6 damage. On a miss, the arrow lands in a space decided on by DM within 30 feet of target and at the start of the next round will cause skeleton to rise up out of the square attacking the nearest living creature.

Zaghain thanks him and party. He tells them that Monton needs to know what happened to the children from their town at the Hag Tree and about the strange drow threat that’s slowly revealing itself. He tells them to seek an audience with Swith Masmond, mayor of Monton, when they are ready.

With this, the party’s official time in Foxon ends.

 

— End, Part 1–

 

Map

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