the Way of the Wicked

One Day to Darkness
The Big Finale!

Sam takes a seat near the entrance to the sanctum and dedicates half an hour or so to firing crossbow bolts into the tiger until it is very dead.

“I fucking hate that tiger, and using it for dragon bait didn't work”.

Then she calmly goes back to crafting. She's not quite right. You realise she's not quite right, right?

 

Just before the dawn ritual there is a cry of “For Balentyne! My father, know that this day ye shall be avenged!” and a party of adventurers appear. These are the Sons of Balentyne. They came together amidst the charred wreckage of the Keep, each having lost a relative to the Posse's treachery, and dedicated themselves to vengeance. They've followed Tiadora's breadcrumb trail of wracked and tortured villages and smallholdings across the island all the way to Farholde, and now they act to prevent the final ritual!

With the spire nigh deserted and with the Posse no longer spending their time flicking through the “cctv” it's a lot easier for this group of do-gooders to get close and get buffed up without being detected, although it still requires considerable perception, detect magic, knowing about the existence of the stairwell from secret archives at the Convent, and use of passwall. Having got past the sadly neglected outer ring of defences they now have to negotiate a wall of undead before they can murder Fitch and thereby disrupt the ritual.

Their first act is to channel positive energy to damage the Undead Army of Death

After this their mage is swarmed by Adelea and Grumblejack, and with tedious inevitabilty goes down in a crumbled heap before he can get a spell off. (In fairness, this is really his fault for not rolling better initiative).

Trik clambers up the rubble and channels negative energy, partly healing the undead again

Sam casts Hold Person on the cleric, and the cleric is indeed held.

Fitch keeps chanting, as it would be quite annoying to have to do another 222 rituals after this one.

Creel casts prayer, and then watches as Mad Meinhard Mott takes down his froglok zombie with a couple of attacks.

The Paladin Sir Richard Thomasson Havelyn smites Grumblejack, doing considerable damage

The dwarf zombie carries out a coup de grace on the helpless and immobile Brother Carthus Donnagin, who goes down with his throat bitten out. Mad Meinhard takes an attack of opportunity as it does so, but the zombie is not phased.

Adelea steps up and slaughters Mad Meinhard Mott

Creel exchanges blows with the paladin, and comes off much the worse, but still very slightly not quite dead. Sam is irked to realise that her terrifying array of charm spells will not affect the paladin, and that she will not be able to intimidate the fanatic religious warrior either, even if she accurately points out that all of his friends have died in mere seconds. She casts haste instead. Adelea then flanks Havelyn and kills him, hastily.

The fight was incredibly brief and brutal. As the echoes of Fitch's chanting of the second last ritual fade away, a hush falls over the sanctum again. The Evil Posse of Evil have done it! They've defended the sanctum against all comers.

As they strip the bodies a strange thing happens. An incredibly bright nimbus of light springs up around Sir Richard's body, forcing the party to look away. When they look back, the body is gone.

 

“Do we still get the stuff though?”

 

Yes, Sam, you do.

The very last ritual takes place at dusk, with Sam sacrificing the heir of the Victor. Fitch is slightly disgruntled, having done all the other rituals recently, but Sam gently and politely explains that this time it is important, and Fitch acquiesces.

 

At the stroke of midnight, the seal shatters, with several of the Posse being hurt by the shards. Vetra Kali strides out, demanding his eyes. For every eye, Sam asks a favour:

“We ask your mercy. Do not harm the mortals assembled here.” Vetra Kali agrees

“We ask your greatest gift, the Tears of Achlys, so that once more every corner of the world may know your mercy”. Vetra-Kali asks if they swear to see it distributed amongst mortals. Sam affirms this, and the demon prince, cackling with glee in his bird-like, screeching voice, hands over a vial.

With the third eye, Sam asks that Vetra-Kali leave this plane of existence and never return.

VetraKali shrieks in immortal rage. “Traitors! Devil-whores! You have the smell of the failed god Asmodeus all over you! You think you’ve won? You think you’ve outsmarted me?! Taste my vengeance, impudent mortals!” And with that, Vetra-Kali swallows the third eye, vanishes from this plane, and the Horn begins to shake. Vetra-Kali has left, and he has taken the magic that supports the much damaged Horn with him.

The Evil Posse of Evil flee from the horn, hurling themselves from the balcony and floating gently to the ground thanks to feather fall (except for Adelea, who has a magic evil horse thing). Behind them there is the screech and groan of tortured stone as the entire horn collapses in on itself and into the caverns below, leaving a jumpled pile of huge stone shards and rubble. The daemons Hexor and Vexor, once bound to the Horn, return to their home plane. Somewhere within the rubble, no doubt crushed by thousands of tons of debris, is whatever remains of Artephius the somewhat psychotic alchemical golem. Just outside the circle of wreckage, in their own small individual craters, are the smashed remains of Creel's Undead Army of Death™, who did not have feather fall but gamely tried to follow their master from the balcony nonetheless.

Sam takes a seat near what was the Horn of Abbadon, the Posse's base and indeed home for months. It's the end of an era. Their evil organisation is much reduced, their cohorts have mostly betrayed them and/or are dead, and their Evil Spire Dungeon Base Lair is in ruins. But they have what they came for.

She breaks the clay tablet.

Tiadora appears, and is unusally complimentary when she realises the Posse have succeeded in the impossible task set by their evil master. She teleports off, and quickly returns with a bag holding 20,000 gold pieces' worth of emeralds – and also some instructions from Thorne.

“The master sends his regards. Your work here in Farholde is done. You must make your way to the great city of Ghastenhall. There you will meet a fellow who will know how to best use the terrible weapon you hold in your hands. This letter gives the details.”

She glances at Grumblejack and then looks back at Sam – “Your pet has changed a little, hasn't it?”

“Grumblejack not pet! Grumblejack… “

he screws up his face a little, for a second, then it clears and he says, proudly

“… King of All Ogres!”

Then he looks at Tiadora and says, quietly and firmly, as though stating a simple fact rather than any kind of threat,

“Grumblejack eat you up someday”.

Tiadora does not reply, and teleports away.

 

 

 

 

 

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Two days to Darkness
the Day of Betrayal

 

No rest for the wicked!

-really?

Nah, I just said that because it sounds cool.

- three days to go, let's do it! Annoyingly, the tiger's still alive.

 

The evening ritual of day 220 passes without incident, as does the midnight one. Creel has learned some new spells, and sets about memorising a nice high-level one. -How about disrupt weapon? Oddly I have the strong impression we might be fighting some wraiths soon.

Perhaps Creel is an oracle, or perhaps it's simply the Posse's long running, deeply-held, and indeed correct, suspicions that Ezra will eventually betray them. He was the high priest of Vetra-Kali, and he wants to bring back his master, much as the Evil Posse of Evil does. However our villains have correctly surmised that, while he does want to bring Vetra-Kali back, he would much prefer to be the one who completes the ritual and gets to ask the plague demon some favours he can't refuse.

Suddenly, before the dawn ritual, Ezra and his wraiths appear. Adelea is on watch, and politely enquires what brings him to the Sanctum.

-Good morning Ezra, how can we help you?

-There is something that we must… discusss 

Ezra does not in fact say “do you know… iffff you had any…. P… P….I” but instead heads towards Adelea with his wraithy minions in tow.

“As the lassst high priest I think it's only fair that I be the one to bring our massster back to life, and gain the reward”. And the wraiths leap to the attack.

However Adelea reacts with lightning quickness, clicking her heels to activate her Boots of Speed and making multiple damaging attacks on Ezra. “I didn't want to do this, Ezra”

Ezra doesn't quite die despite the brutal attacks, protected somewhat by his incorporeal nature. He's in serious trouble though, and the fight's barely started.

Sam uses dimension door to pop across to the other side of the room, taking Fitch with her so he can have more flanking opportunities. He uses this opportunity to flank Ezra, and his well placed knife ends Ezra Thrice-Damned's hideous mockery of unlife. He disappears in a dramatic wailing manner.

Fitch is touched by one wraith, doing a tiny amount of damage, but shrugs off the effect of its draining touch. One of the wraithspawn discovers that Fitch, being an experienced rogue, is immune to flanking and also rather hard to hit with a touch attack.

Some boggards also appear, Zikomo's prophetic visions having told him this was the best time to strike. (In fairness, there's little to indicate there was a better time to strike than this. However I'd probably be asking for a refund on the visions, if it were me).

One of the boggards comes leaping right out of the stairwell and over the line of zombies, landing right behind Fitch and bringing his morningstar down in a vicious blow.

Which misses Fitch entirely, as Fitch, casually and without looking, has somehow positioned one of his knives precisely so that the arc of the boggard's leap has ended up with the knife sticking out of his eye. He slides off the knife and slumps to the ground in a heap of dead amphibian, as Fitch smiles quietly to himself.

Creel's Undead Army of Death ™ lumbers into action and starts killing boggards, as Creel saunters into position to get a good view of the fight, asking if Adelea has any popcorn?

A wraithspawn, seeing its cohort's failure to lay a misty finger on Fitch, decides to try attacking Sam instead. Sadly, despite Sam's remarkably low touch defence, it fails to hit her. Later it does even worse, and with a conflicted expression, as though this is all rather beneath her, Sam bops it with her narwhal horn staff.

With the remaining boggards queued up on the stairs ,Sam cannot resist a juicy target. She casts hellfire, her sorcerous bloodline ability. A hellish glow shines out of the stairwell, and a hot wind blows out carrying the smell of charred frog, and the high-pitched screaming of the sole, terribly wounded, survivor.


Crazed with grief (and with shaman drugs, and also let's face it he had a pretty high craziness baseline) Zikomo bounds out of the stairwell and sails over the heads of the throng. However, Grumblejack was waiting for this and absolutely hammers him with his great big greatclub. Still alive, though hurt, Zikomo lands and attempts to use his mind powers to ransack Adelea's brain. Sam mutters unkindly that he's unlikely to find much, but it turns out Adelea has stopped up this chink in her armour, and her mind is almost as hard to hurt as her body. Zikomo dies moments later, and a hush falls over the sanctum.

Shortly after the dawn ritual, Trik Rackburn staggers in, bleeding a little from the head and with the remnants of bindings on his arms. He tells the Posse that Tregellan and his little crew have absconded, and hands over a note.

Tregellan promised to help them defend the horn in return for treasure. He's been doing that, and he doesn't want to do it any more as it's getting really very creepy and evil round here. He's done enough defending that he feels his word has been kept, so he's grabbed what he can and skeddadled. The choicest bits of dragon corpse are gone, as is the cart (Tregellan's crew have also hit the magic item shop in town on their way to the boat, and taken about 1000GP of Sam's wealth.)

“Dear Evil People.

I swore I'd defend this Horn in exchange for my life and some treasure. I've defended the horn with skill and panache, and consider my side of the deal fulfilled. Rather than have a socially awkward conversation at what must already be a busy time, with your full schedule of Evil activities, blasphemy, demon summoning &c, I have decided to take my cohorts, help ourselves to a reasonable amount of treasure, and be about my adventures. This elaborate and confusing multi-part quest with cryptic clues won't just quest itself, you know!

I wish you all the best in your endeavours, although I do hope you don't unleash a plague demon.

Yours, or rather more to the point Not Yours,

Tregellan!”

(there is an exclamation mark in the signature, because of course there is)

There is now only one day until the ritual is complete, and after around 200 repetitions Fitch has nearly worked out which time of day they take place.

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Three Days To Darkness
A dragon! Ooooh!

 

The Rather Cunning Warning Rocket Fireworks Scheme.

Fireworks are created and distributed to the Evil Organisation patrols, one per patrol. See a dragon, fire your firework. Then we know it's coming and have a brief time to prepare. Some thought is given to giving the different groups different coloured fireworks but Sam doesn't care about which direction the dragon is coming from, just that it's on the way.

“I don't care what happens to any of the minions I just need to know this thing is coming in advance so we can buff up and get ready for it. Hopefully it takes some time to work through our ablative layer of shit.”

The Posse realise that the boggards have all buggered off. “Oh, we're a bit exposed down below.”

 ??? 

“That's all right, we don't really care about the other levels now. It's all about this one room. We just have to hold out here for a few more days.”

“Should we move some of the creatures to the entrance of the caverns?” "Nah, they all have lairs. And that bastard tiger is staying here so it's the first thing that gets eaten."

 

Day 218 draws to a close and the midnight ritual of Day 219 begins

Vetra-Kali is not the only being barred from entering this world. The powerful magic of the ritual could be useful to liberate any number of others barred from our world. On midnight of the 219th day, from the corners of reality, emerge six Hounds of Tindalos. These loathsome non-Euclidean beasts are not here to save Talingarde. They are here to slay anyone involved in conjuring this transdimensional rip (i.e. anyone in the sanctum) and to instead see that the when the portal opens, it is not Vetra-Kali who emerges but a horrific entity trapped beween the black spaces between the stars, their master – a Leng spider.

Suddenly, in places where there were angles – between a wall and another wall, between a wall and a floor, between the altar and the wall of the sanctum – in the blink of an eye there are extradimensional monsters where there definitely weren't any before. The Posse finds this a tad disconcerting. The Hounds act quickly, and start looking at the Evil Posse of Evil members with their ripping gazes, or attacking with multiple claw and bite attacks. The Posse finds this a tad disconcerting too. Being vicious killers they aim for the squishier members of the party by preference, possibly aided by their supernatural senses and extradimensional nature in working out who that is. Certain members of the party don't find this particularly concerting either. Battle is joined!
Adelea hits one very hard with her sword. It's her idiom.

A Hound gazes at Sam: its ripping gaze causes severe damage

A general melee ensues. Weird magical gazes cross over with lightning breath attacks. Fitch stabs a Hound in the back, killing it. Adelea kills another Hound with a series of swift blows.

The Hounds start teleporting about the place, reappearing at angles in the architecture. Fitch takes a savage looking at, leaving him severely wounded.

The Hounds take a battering from Adelea and Grumblejack and Fitch stabs another to death before it can murder Sam. However Fitch and Sam also take heavy damage from the Hounds. A temporary Con boost and a healing potion respectively provide them with a small buffer however, and Sam manages to pass her fortitude save when the last Hound stares at her with its ripping gaze. Their ability to teleport at will around the room makes them a bit tricky to fight but the Posse and their minions eventually prevail.

 

A slightly anticlimactic dragon attacks!

Just after dawn on day 220 Argossian the silver dragon is spotted by one of the minion patrols. They set off their alarm firework as planned, and it's spotted from the Horn. The Posse start worrying, but also start buffing up per the detailed plan they have developed for this specific enemy.

Argossian enters the horn through the collapsed wall on level 3. He wanders the Horn in human form, and is detected and attacked by Ezra and his wraiths. They get something of a surprise as he turns into a dragon. Luckily for Ezra one of the lesser wraiths has gone to set off the alarm stone for this level, and the Posse are teleported in by Hexor and Vexor and immediately leap to the attack.

This does not go well for the dragon.

The fight may well have gone differently if they had not had ample warning including witnessing the attack on the Baron's house, and not had someone in their party who knew the abilities, strengths, and weaknesses of a young adult silver dragon. It would certainly have been harder had they not been hasted, buffed to the gills, and had Adelea not had stoneskin and freedom of movement cast on her just prior to joining combat.


Score one for planning. Score zero for dragons. Send a bigger, more unexpected, dragon next time.

This is… not how it went.

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Five Days To Darkness
the beginning of the end

 

After the Gorgimera attack things get very quiet at the horn for several weeks. Maybe it's all over bar the shouting, and the Posse have won?

Maybe. Let's think about this. The Evil Posse of Evil have taken over a dungeon on nebulous orders from a shadowy superior. They found a mouldy set of instructions written by a dying madman for a blasphemous ritual and have since been merrily performing that ritual calling forth an otherworldly horror that they hope to bind and coerce into their service. This is going to be fine.

Day 217

The temple is wracked by a tremendous earthquake. The earth itself seems to rebel against the blasphemy being perpetrated in the Sanctum. In the Sanctum there is a horrific ear-splitting scream and for a moment a shadowy apparition manifests over the Silver Seal. It reaches out its six clawed hands and grasps at the seal, scratching and clawing. The Seal is gouged and marred. The echo of unholy laughter is heard and the apparition fades. Vetra-Kali is close at hand, and the seal is weakening!
 

Sam, Adelea, and Creel are struck and hurt by falling masonry as the horn writhes and shakes. Various minions are also harmed by the quake, to various degrees of disinterest from the Evil Posse of Evil. The horn is much changed afterwards, with some rooms unusable due to collapse, and with a new entrance to the third floor where an exterior wall used to be.

 

With every prayer, the ritual is creating a bridge to Vetra-Kali through the astral plane allowing the daemon prince to return to the prime material. From this bridge, emanations of magic and evil ebb and flow, rippling through reality. One of those disturbances draws the attention of a dweller within the astral — a good celestial named Brastius Star-Feather. Brastius is a flier upon the astral winds, an avoral agathion. Curious, the agathion investigates. He happens upon the rift in the astral. Seizing the moment, Brastius plunges through and finds himself high above the Caer Bryr just outside the sanctum, just as Fitch is beginning the midnight ritual.

 

The avoral bursts in, determined to disrupt the ritual. He flies right up to Fitch ready to attack him. Continuing to chant prayers, Fitch wheels in place and stabs the wierdy birdy creature man. His dagger skitters off its feathers.

 

Adelea attacks, but misses!

 

The Avoral attacks Fitch but misses so badly that it's briefly flat footed and Fitch stabs it, dealing some damage despite its damage resistance. It does manage to land a single blow though for a small amount of damage.

 

Grumblejack also misses, and he and Adelea share a rueful glance.

 

The posse and their minions pile in to attack the avoral, and, before it can escape to fight again another day, Fitch and then Adelea land a series of telling blows and it dies in a welter of blood and feathers.

 

After this experience the Evil Posse of Evil decide to surround themselves in an ablative layer of minions. The tiger, One-Eye, is staked to a 20 foot chain in the entrance to the balcony – mostly because Sam is bearing a grudge and wants it killed. This leaves Fitch unable to reach and repair the cunning fire trap he had made, which was set off during the Big Quake. Area closed due to tiger.

A wall of Creel's undead minions are stationed just out of tiger range between entrance and altar. The hellhounds and Adelea's evil horse are stationed in the room as well. It is decided not to invite Tregellan as he is “a bit unpredictable”

 

Day 218 starts with the dawn ritual, uninterrupted. Just before 4pm a greater mud elemental erupts into new, and very angry, life from the boiling pool.

 

It attacks the boggards and starts to take a toll on their ranks, although their terrifying croaks do force it back into its boiling mud pool for a while.

 

Cowering in his sanctum Zikomo hears the croaks and sends an animal messenger to alert the Posse, who buff up and teleport down. Adelea waits at the edge of the pool, sword drawn, as she knows the scalding mud hurts to wade through. Then it occurs to her that Hexor and Vexor can cast fly, so she gets this cast on herself and flies on over to return the mud-man to the mud from whence he came. Ashes to ashes, and mud to mud.

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The Ritual (Part 9)
The Tiger is an open country tank

 

Week Twenty Five

 

Sir Valin Darian, cousin of the King (and thus descendant of the Victor, and isn't that handy?) has been driven half mad knowing that there is great evil growing at the Horn but being tied to his duty as commander of the Hamarhall fortress. When a group of seven old comrades visit him he can stand it no longer – he leaves his most capable lieutenant in charge, and the knights ride immediately for the Horn intent on trampling whatever foulness lurks there. It may not escape the reader that this is not the most thought through of plans – they don't have much party balance, they don't actually know what lurks there other than “evil”, and the Tiger is an open country tank err I mean if your class is optimised for mounted charging attacks then maybe picking your way through boulders and difficult ground so you can enter the confines of a cave system isn't going to have its own entry in Sun Tzu.

To reach the Spire they have to pass the hangman tree, and unlike the Banner Verdant they don't have a druid with them to prevent it from attacking them. It duly releases a cloud of mind altering spores and prepares to grab a knight or two to snack on.

Combat is joined between the knights and the tree while sir Darian, his head swimming with the spores, looks at them confusedly. The tree strangles a knight a bit, but through bull headed persistence, weight of numbers, and brute force the knights hack the tree down. They've made enough noise doing this that the Frogloks are alerted, and one of them steps on the newly installed alarm stone, starting an earsplitting racket.

The knights and Sir Valin head into the cave and start hitting frogloks, but the knights are strongly affected by their frightening croaks. Two break and run and most of the rest are shaken. The party arrive by teleport, neatly behind the invading armoured do-gooders, but seem more inclined to spectate and offer “helpful” advice as Adelea takes them on and more and more frogloks pile in.

Sir Valin is paralysed by Hold Person; his horse steps away from Adelea but she follows up and strikes.

The following round she brutally cuts Sir Valin's horse from under him, then kills one of his knightly companions

Fitch and Creel join in the fight, with varying degrees of success

With the fight going badly, one of the remaining knights pulls sir Valin's paralysed form from his dead horse onto his own still alive one, intending to save him fron the fight. His comrade interposes himself between them and the killing machine that is Adelea.

Sam casts hold person on the “getaway driver” and Hexor then casts Hold Monster on the horse, leaving “a big pile of paralysed things”.

The battle is effectively over at this point. The knights are all killed, Sir Valin is captured and held in a cell awaiting sacrifice, and one of the two fled knights is anticlimactically killed when he returns. The other flees back to town to warn the abbess how scary the horn is and give her what little information he was able to gather while fleeing in frog-induced terror.

 

Week Twenty Six

Some wytch lights, will 'o wisps from the depths of the Caer Bryr, are drawn to the horn. Unfortunately for them, they are drawn directly to the specific area of the horn that contains a pack of wraiths, and wraiths could almost have been deliberately designed to be their kryptonite. Invisibility avails them little against creatures who can sense living things as though they have blindsight, wraiths don't feel fear so they cannot draw any energy from them, and their electric attacks don't work. Unable to leave the delicious magical energy and fear aura of the Fane of the Three Eyed Prince, they are made short work of by ex-high priest Ezra and his wraithy minions.

 

Week Twenty Seven

 

The magical energies of the horn draw the gorgimera Trithraxus from the deep forests, and he swoops into the third floor, roaring and preparing to go on a rampage. Sadly for him, however, he runs into those pesky wraiths and then Vexor, guided by the magic scrying power of the Eye, precision teleports Grumblejack and Adelea right behind him.

 

Grumblejack does an excellent Captain Kargeld impression, looking aggrieved as his greatclub flies out of his hands instead of thwacking the weird magical beast, but Adelea encounters no such issues as she finishes off the like-a-chimera-but-weirder creature, already hurt and weakened by being pawed at by wraiths with their freaky deaky wraithy lifey-drainy touches.

 

The attack does leave behind a couple of new wraith statues, dragged by Adelea to either side of the hallway so they'll look nice.

 

In the quiet aftermath of the attack Adelea and Sam can be heard discussing what they should do at the climax of the ritual, and who is likely to attack them.

The boggards? Probably – Zikomo wants to dedicate the horn to Dagon. Sam could talk to him and explain the plan? Nah, he's a loon.

Hexor and Vexor? Sam taps her chest, with a clunk as the two control amulets bonk together. Nope, they're definitely onside.

Tregellan? Who knows?

Ezra and his wraiths? Adelea is 100% sure he's going to betray them, and seems to be persuading Sam. He wants to bring back Vetra-Kali and to be high priest, and the Posse's plans are… not quite so straightforward.

Reading up on the ritual they realise they've got one spare request: Giving Vetra Kali the first eye will stop him slaughtering the Posse and their allies, and the second eye will get them the Tears they've been after since the start of this whole arc. The third eye gets another request that Vetra Kali cannot refuse.

True to form, Adelea wants this to be “stand really still so I can hit you with this sword”, but Sam is leaning towards the more traditional “leave this plane and don't come back”. Who knows if a coup de grace would even work on a powerful demon lieutenant of a plague god? Even if he is vulnerable to Adelea's primary spell "hit it really hard with a sword", how long will it take Vetra Kali to reconstitute itself and return for vengeance, and is a powerful plague demon with a grudge something you want on your trail?

Also "Welcome back. Now leave forever" is a very Samra'el kind of dick move, it must be said.

There's only a few weeks left to the very last ritual, but something tells me that they might be quite eventful…

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The Ritual (part 8)
Who knew 222 repetitions of a ritual would be so repetitious?

Some persuasion is needed in order to persuade Grumblejack to be medium sized long enough to be teleported by the Erinyes, appearing safely in the foyer of the inn with the rest of the Posse (sans Fitch, who's still ritualling away thrice daily). As promised, he is immediately turned back to what he feels is the minimum acceptable size for a Grumblejack, which is large.

The party adopt the traditional “buff up and charge” approach, with Creel making sure to cast a communal “protection from cold” in a pre-emptive defence against the wintery powers of the witch. Sam takes the opportunity to cast Stoneskin, although being stingy she eschews materials in favour of taking health and str damage, gulping a potion to restore her health

Dostan Alfson, the devoted half elf, sees the party coming up the stairs, rages, and charges! He lands a solid blow on Adelea but her stoneskin reduces the damage. Grumblejack and the erinyes start smashing open doors to look for Elise, with Grumblejack bellowing “ROOM SERVICE! Hur hur hur”

Sam casts hold person, and says “Adelea, will you do the honours?”

Adelea does the honours with a swift, though messy, coup de grace.

Trik somehow manages to sleep through the cacophony of screaming, charging, fighting, spellcasting, coup-de-gracing, door smashing and bellowing of “ROOM SERVICE!”. They say that sleeping longer is good for your health but it doesn't seem likely in this instance.

Creel starts bashing a door with his mace, but stops when he hears Elise's voice from the room directly across the corridor, asking “Dostan! What's going on?”, jerking his head in that direction. His comrades pick up on the clue. Grumblejack smashes the door open, and an erinye moves in to hit Elise with a sword. (Dostan does not answer, because he's lying in a crumpled and very dead heap on the floor of the corridor).

Sam uses suggestion to convince Trak that Elise has been possessed by the demon and he must stop her casting spells at all costs.

Trik wakes up. Well done, Trik!


Adelea calmly says “you really, really, shouldn't have betrayed us” and swings her sword in a whistling arc, starting somewhere down by her feet behind her. It cleaves the treacherous witch fully in half.

Trak rolls out of bed away from Adelea but she follows up and brutally slashes him with her sword. Unaware that this is precisely what she's hoping he'll do, he grabs for his bow and she swings wildly for him again, but in her excitement she's forgotten she's inside an inn, and her sword sticks firmly in the ceiling. Trak draws back an arrow to fire point blank at her, and she lets go of her sword and punches him full in the face. He slumps to the ground, bleeding heavily.

Trik Rackburn calls out that he wants to parlay, and is able to persuade Sam that he genuinely believed Elise's story that the 9th knot had betrayed Thorn. Seeing the Erinyes, servants of Thorne, and having heard what Adelea said through the wall, he is able to put 2 and 2 together and realise Elise had lied to him. He is still loyal to Thorn's plan and offers to join the Ninth, if they will only give his brother the chance to join up too.

Creel stabilises the ranger, pausing only to shoot burning rays at Elise's familiar until he finally catches it with one, and it tumbles out of the air of the increasingly scorched room.

The Erinyes teleport them back to the Horn the following day after selling some loot. Creel “interviews” Trak Rackburn in his torture room.

“your love has fled and left you for dead, and your brother has betrayed you”

She was the love of my life! She would never leave

“she faked her death and used a potion of gaseous form to escape!”

You lie! You killed her! She loved me and you killed her!

“look at your situation, you have nowhere to turn but us!”

You want me to work for you now?

“No I want you to work for Thorn. Join us”

Fine, OK then. I'll work for you. Give me my gear and I'll patrol the forest for your enemies.

“Nah, don't believe you”. Creel stabs him in the thigh and his life trickles out.

Sam has a very difficult conversation with Trik Rackburn, and persuades him (truthfully) that the Knot had no choice but to kill Trak as he was still infatuated with Elise. They gave him a fair and honest chance to join them, which is what they promised Trik they'd do. He signs on with the Ninth.

Week Nineteen

A note from the Baron notes that the town is buzzing like a hornet's nest, with conflicting rumours that a group of adventurers found and killed the serial killer, or the serial killers smashed into an inn and killed some adventurers, or something else happened involving demons and trolls.

He also mentions that his research has confirmed that Sir Valin Darian, acting commander of the fortress of Hamarhold in the (permanent) absence of the (very dead) Duke, is a cousin of the King and therefore a descendant of the Victor. His spies are yet to find a descendant who isn't forted up in the most secure fortress in the region though…

 

Juko Five Croaks, a boggard tribesman, approaches the Evil Posse of Evil with a shopping list. He requests 3500GP for some masterwork spears and food to help the tribe as hunting hasn't been great, and they've suffered with attacks and monsters.

Sam gets Zikomo to summon the tribe, and addresses them, with Juko standing to one side. She states “This one says you need more food and more weapons, is this true?”

Zikomo mutters something to the effect that that might allow the tribe to flourish more.

A column of hellfire roars from the ceiling and incinerates Juko where he stands.
“There's some food, and there's a spare weapon. Does anyone else have anything to say? No? Good”

 

It turns out that hungry boggarts are more vicious, so that works out pretty well.

 

Week Twenty

The Evil Organisation earns its keep by intercepting a message from the Abbess, pleading from help from the capital city of Matharyn to attack the foulness growing within the Horn. No help will be forthcoming.

 

Week Twenty-One

With the Duke dead and fear everywhere a crime wave hits Farholde

 

Week Twenty-Two

A local merchant, unclear on the exact aims of the Evil Posse of Evil and their Evil Organisation but aware that they exist and are powerful, contacts them to see if they'll do some assassinations for her. It turns out that at 1000GP a pop they will cheerfully kill people for money. Grumblejack, sent along to aid in the last and most difficult assassination, just fails to achieve success, but escapes without injury. The other five are efficently processed.

 

Week Twenty-Three

The silver dragon strikes against the Baron's manor, but the Posse's spies alert them just in time to warn him and get him to safety. With the Baron off-balance and shaken, Sam is able to persuade him to drop the tariff he is taking off the top of the magic item shop sales.

Reports afterwards indicate the dragon to be a young adult, a fearsome foe indeed. Can our party, even reinforced with their assorted minions and allies, hope to stand against it?

 

Week Twenty Four

A fair comes to Farholde, increasing the prices the Posse can get for selling items. Sam takes advantage.

 

View
The Ritual (Part 7)
An attack - and a betrayal

Suddenly… nothing happens!

The trap on the second floor cycles but nobody falls through. (the ranger Vethia Dora has set it off, but has managed to avoid falling in through her sharp reflexes)

In the “receiving room” on the first floor, the orphans on guard are alerted by the trap cycling. One runs off to use the teleport throne and alert Hexor and Vexor, who bring the Party to the second floor. After considerable looking around, they decide it was probably a false alarm. (Vethia is long gone; extremely skilled in stealth, she has ghosted off before our villains have even been alerted)

 

The following day the frogloks guarding the cavern get a rude awakening, or more of an asleepening, as three of the four guards are struck by deep slumber. (Vethia has been in for a wee scout around, entirely undetected by the frogloks; unbeknownst to her, she was one room away from being caught by the CCTV sweep. The druid, Brunhild, has used Command Plant to make the hangman tree let them through unharmed, and the attack therefore comes as a complete surprise to the frog-men)

 

The fourth guard is struck by an arrow, but it just fails to kill him. Surprise is lost as he croaks the alarm and this is taken up by the other frogloks, with a deep echoing chorus of croaks resonating through the caves

 

Angus Madthorn, the dwarf barbarian, enlarged by his druid friend, charges into the cave and takes first blood. The party of adventurers moves cautiously into the cavern system, killing the occasional froglok as they go.

 

This attack is intended as a probe to see what resistance it will draw. This band of adventurers, calling themselves the Banner Verdant, expect a mid-level boss or two might appear as they probe the caverns. They believe there's a shaman in here who is in charge of the Frogloks and feel an attack might draw him out. Once they've dealt with him and killed a few more frogs they plan to retreat, using “pass without trace”, and attack another level of the Horn the following day, slowly weakening it over several days. This is not what actually happens, however.

 

Alerted by the croaking alarm call the shaman sends an animal messenger to Hexor and Vexor, who bring the Evil Posse of Evil down to the caverns. The Posse starts buffing.

 

Some frogs trickle into the cavern to keep the adventurers occupied in killing them while the Posse prepares to assault them.once they're nicely buffed up.

 

Adelea charges towards the adventurers, to be met with a Hold Person, and a bolt of lightning strikes her rigid form. Then demons and Grumblejacks start popping up all over the place and things start going south for our intrepid band of do gooders

 

Angus Madthorn does manage a solid hit on Adelea, doing more damage than any recent enemy has managed. Added to the damage from the lightning, this takes her closer to death than she's been in a long time. However her retaliatory attack wounds him savagely, and Grumblejack finishes him off. Zach heals Adelea and the danger seems past.

 

Sam casts hold person on the ranger, Vethia Dora, and she freezes, helpless and statue like. Soon she is slaughtered by Hexor and Vexor.

 

Fitch dances past a despairing spear thrust from the druid, Brunhild, and his pinpoint flank attack ends her life.

 

Adelea then moves up and kills Fineas Greenhold, leader of the Banner Verdant.

 

Fineas Greenhold's possessions include a journal which holds some rather interesting information:


What an interesting development today. We
were approached by a so-called holy man full of
talk about visions and angels and so forth. He
claimed these spirits had driven him to stop the
wickedness going on in the Horn and to rally us to
our “destiny”. Mentioned us almost by name the
angels did! I’m flattered.
He delivered us his pitch and then gave to us
an immense pile of information including maps,
names and so much more. Really he did everything but give us the keys to the front door.
Of course I don’t accept such gifts without a fair
degree of skepticism. I had Vethia trail the “Holy
Man” and our fears turned out to be justified.
She saw this angel-speaker slip into a side alley
and transform back into a dark haired and much
younger human.
My tracker followed the human through the
streets of Farholde and saw the young man rendezvous with a strange white haired woman with a
white raven on her shoulder. He called her “Z”.
They didn’t say much to each other. All he said
was “It is done. Te Ninth is finished.” I am unsure exactly what that means, but clearly we are
bing used in some sort of double-cross between
various factions of the cult that occupies the Horn.
Ah, evil-doers. They never change.
So, they want us to be their assassins, eh? Well,
its a job we don’t mind doing. We’ll be cautious
about this information obviously. But I think it’s
likely to pan out. They wouldn’t want their dupes
to fail after all, would they? Of course, when we’re
done, I think we’ll pay the “holy man” a little visit
as well. Vethia is pretty sure the woman in white
must be staying in the nearby inn — “The Auld Briarhall” in Auld’Irey.
What a piece of work is my elven tracker! She
tracked a shapechanger through almost a half mile
of city, managed to eavesdrop on a private guarded conversation and reported back without even a
ripple of trouble. Hah! Remind me to give that girl
an almost even share of the treasure!
Tomorrow we attack the Horn. I can feel it my
bones. Tis is the big one! After this, I just know
that our wee little band will never be the same
 

(There are some notes and sketch maps in the journal that suggest Elise has passed on all the information about the Horn she was able to glean. Good thing Sam has been careful not to tell her everything about the Horn's defences, and has also given her made-up information about the second floor being the “obvious weak point”.

 

Sam turns to Zach: “Right, NOW you can kill her”. She breaks the clay tablet. Soon an Erinye appears (Tiadora would seem to be otherwise occupied doing things for Thorn). The Erinye takes a message back to Thorn, and early the following morning appears with a second Erinye and a missive penned by Thorn himself:
 

“The Knot Hibernal is declared broken. In accordance with the Pact of Thorns, I release these traitors. They are no longer bound to my service or enjoy my protection. I send to you, my Nessian Knot, my furies. Make them suffer for their treachery and then return to the work at hand. Bring me the daemon’s gift!”

View
The Ritual (part 6)
MINION QUEST AGAIN! (Sort of)

RIP Jiim, killed by a nightmarish apparition.

Week 15 – sacrifice.

At dawn on the 111th day the sacrifice must be performed. Sam volunteers to cut Sister Marta's heart out and places it in the bowl. The frst heart, black and shrivelled, still beats in the frst bowl sustained by black magic.
A voice echoes throughout the Sanctum — the same
alien and malevolent voice from the first prayer. This
time it says (in Abyssal): “Tezathra Vo” — “I see”. The
three eyes of Vetra-Kali flare with
green light, and Sam feels an unholy vitality flood through her slight frame.


The Horn trembles and once more a great beacon of
green light erupts into the dawn sky. The suns rays are barely seen that day. All across this region darkness blankets the land for the entire day. Today the sun has failed.


Vetra-Kali’s return to his dominion draws nearer.
 

Week 16

A lot of people have died in the Horn and very few
of them died well. They were either dragged screaming
onto flithy altars to be disemboweled for the pleasure of
remorseless daemons or slaughtered wholesale by ruthless fanatic invaders. Either way, the dead linger here in countless profusion. Usually, this manifests as minor poltergeist activity. Things move in the Horn when perhaps they shouldn’t. Doors open and close without
cause. Distant screams echo down dark corridors. But
once in a great while, a true nightmare manifests itself.
A dozen cultists died in room 1-6 in one flash of eldritch fire. There corpses were burned to ashes, fused into a grisly horrific charred mass. No one bothered to
bury them. No one ever shed them one tear. And now
eighty years later, these restless spirits celebrate that grim
anniversary by forming into a howling nightmare and
stalking the Horn destroying every living thing they can
get their hands on. Infused with the pervasive daemonic
taint of the Horn, they have become something monstrous indeed. This is the Ashen Nightmare

The Ashen Nightmare awakens and roams floor one, slaughtering some Orphans with ease, although one of them survives long enough to loose a terrified scream. Artephius is alerted and hastens to the attack, only to find his fists passing harmlessly through its incoporeal form

 

Stop that, you're embarrassing yourself, comes the scratchy, vicious voice of the apparition

 

“beep boop, processing witty retort….

processing…

this vessel will destroy you” whispers Artephius, in his own creepy monotone whisper

The nightmare teleports away using Dimension Door and appears in the room shared by Jiim and the rogue Thomas the Penitent. Jiim awakes screaming as the horrific touch of the Ashen Nightmare does negative energy damage and inflicts a curse

The screams awaken Thomas who bolts into the hallway shouting to alert everyone.

Tregellan, of course, charges in shouting “have at you you horrible great cloudy thing!” and doing appreciable damage to the incorporeal evil psychic apparation. First blood to Tregellan!

The fight continues. Thomas flees to the throne, as he knows the command word to get to level 3 and plans to raise the alarm. Tregellan continues to swordfight with the incoporeal monster, his rapier flashing. He even manages a parry, but screws up the riposte so badly that the monster counter-attacks and hits him after all. Crippling nightmares surge through his mind, thoughts of…. other people having nicer hats than him!

The hellhounds charge into the room and breathe fire at the nightmarish apparition and although it twists and turns to avoid the worst of it, it is appreciably hurt

Tregellan once again scores some hits while shouting heroic nonsense, then spectacularly parries and ripostes the nightmare. Louise drops her sword after spectacularly messing up an attack. However she soon picks it up, weathering a vicious attack to do so, and unleashes a brutal attack of her own. Even though the incorporeal Nightmare does not take full damage from a physical attack like this, her swing is so powerful that it still brutally hurts the apparition. It dissipates, unable to retain its hold on this reality, just as Vexor teleports in with Sam and Adelea.

“that was relatively painless, just Jiim and some orphans. And now we know our defences work well without us”

- yeah but will they work against a dragon?

Week 17 – gang war

Bergill Mott, headmaster of the Vandermir Orphanage, asks the Knot's aid with a gang war that has broken out with “Thatcher's Crew”, a gang of toughs operating from Drowington and led by one Mickey Thatcher. The Knot, susprisingly, instantly decide they should do something to help, and plump for negotiation over annihilation. They send Sam to negotiate, and Thatcher's Crew soon signs on with their organisation.

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MINION QUEST!!!
The Greatest Adventure Ever Told!

You are summoned before your Dark Masters in the Lower Temple of the Horn. Arrayed before you are the Small Scary Sorceror One, with her piercing eyes and an overpowering magical aura radiating from her collection of magical artefacts; the One With The Sword, in her terrifying black armour, with an air of barely leashed violence; the Dark Priest One with his scary scary mace, which you could swear is looking at you; and the Sneaky Talky One with his knives.

You stand now before your masters. Easily the most powerful people you have met, there is only one certainty. Opposing them is folly. You must obey. And through obedience no doubt they will reward you. Or at least, you hope they will. At last one of them speaks. The Small Scary One.


“‘We have a chance for you to prove your worth to us. Within Farholde even now a street preacher, Ezekiel Hawthorn, speaks against us and urges the people to rise and raid the Horn of Abaddon. This must not happen! He must be silenced!’”


The One With The Sword speaks at this point. “‘This Mitra loving weasel is nothing! He must be slain and made an example! When he is dead then we will be troubled by his voice no longer.’”


The Sneaky Talky One: “‘No no no. If he is merely slain he will become a martyr. That will only prove the truth of his words. Instead, he must be discredited.’”


The Priest: “‘Bah! You waste time! Who cares what those worms believe? By the time they summon any courage we will be done with the ritual!’”
 

“‘Do not speak of the ritual!’”


“‘I mean…we’ll be done with … whatever we’re doing here. Which is nothing really.’”

 

They all pause from their debate and look suspiciously at you. There is a very long and nervous silence that goes on for entirely too long.


“‘So,’” says the voice of the Sneaky One finally. ““That then is your mission. Silence the street preacher in, what's it called? The town. You know. Berengard? Honorton! No, wait. What's the town? Anyway, do not kill him. Instead, discredit him so that the people will not listen to him.’”
 

“‘And do not leave him alive! Make an example of him!’ Teach the people of Farholde what it means to fear…” says the One With The Sword


“‘Secrecy is of course paramount.” Says the Sneaky One

“Yes, of course.”


The Small Scary One: “‘You have your orders! We give to you now some gold for equipment, bribes and so forth. Further, to ensure success, we have assigned our servant the ogre Grumblejack to aid you. You will find him at Lord Drownington’s Manor in Farholde. Now go! And, minions? I strongly advise you not to fail”.


 

“so… we got orders to kill im and not to kill im” says the farmer

“yes, also to do it in secret and in public” the Criminal replies

“how we gonna do that then?”

“will grumblejack lend us his fancy hat that makes people look like other people?”

“Perhaps we can kidnap him then replace him?”

The Farmer is distracted by talk of magic beans, which does suggest that it was a good idea not to let him hold the money.

Making their way to Farhole, luckily untroubled by terrifying killer trees, and to Lord Drownington's manor, the worst pub in the bad part of town, they meet Grumblejack who immediately asks if they have any money. The Criminal utterly fails to persuade him that they don't have any, but does persuade him that they only got 50 gold pieces. Grumblejack takes this “for safekeeping”, leaving them with 100 gold for their own purposes. It is clear to the minions that Grumblejack, having finally had chance to visit the pub that serves ogres, and having found an audience that enjoy his stories and will even buy him the odd drink, is not going to much use on this quest.

They sneakily charge a round to Grumblejack's tab, figuring on being out of there before he notices. Then spend a surprising amount of time working their way around to asking about the preacher they need to find, but eventually get the info they need and leave just ahead of a bar fight.

At the mission the Criminal and the Aristocrat persuade the reverend quite easily that they want to help spread the word of Mitra, and that they have two less fortunate friends who need a bed. The Farmer and the Archer soon come to know the value of hard work and not smiling. And more work.

“You may stay here for as long as you have need. However, to remain here you must obey the rules of the house. First, no drinking, gambling or immortality of any sort. Second, you will attend the daily celebration of the light. At dawn. Every day. No exceptions. And you must remain for Brother Ezekiel’s edifying sermon to follow. Yes, all of it. Third, you must work four hours a day cleaning, cooking and so forth. The volunteers will have specifics. Fourth, Brother Ezekiel’s private quarters and my private quarters are clearly marked. Please respect our privacy. Also, you seem ft enough to work, we will be trying to fnd you honest work for an honest wage using our contacts in the community. Mitra bless, brothers and sisters, and may the days ahead be brighter and more blessed than those behind you.”
 

“What we trying to do, just wash up for these people”? Asks the farmer.

“We're here to observe the preacher” “I don't understand these big words”

“we're here to keep an eye on the priesty one and see what he does”

The reverend is slightly unnerved when, on a brief visit to the kitchen, the Farmer stops washing up and stands staring intently at him until he leaves again. This will be about as informed about the mission as the Farmer ever gets.

Night falls. The Criminal persuades the Aristocrat to pretend to be a bum and watch the rear of the mission, while he will watch the front. He pats him on the shoulder and gives him a friendly wink, then immediately scarpers to spend some of the party's gold on a nice hotel for the night and a good meal (and maybe some company).

The Archer gets a bed near the hallway and keeps an eye open. He sees the reverend escorted downstairs by Sister Shera, seeming a little agitated. He follows, quite stealthily, seeing them head downstairs into the kitchen. Following them and putting his ear to the door he hears another door open and close, then silence. Then more silence.

Sneaking into the kitchen he puts his ear against each door in turn and hears nothing. Opening the alley door he is hit by a stone flying out of the darkness! He immediately closes it again.

The aristocrat sees that idiot archer poke his head out of the mission, and chucks a stone at him to make him go back inside. Satisfied, he settles down to his lonely vigil again, confident that his associate will have equally diligently watched the front.

Meanwhile the Farmer has a nice sleep.

The following evening the Archer once again sees the reverend escorted downstairs by the Sister. He lets down the rope and shushes the Farmer long enough to get him to hold it while the Criminal climbs up. He then searches the reverend's and the Sister's room. The locked strongbox in the reverend's room ends up even lockeder, but in Shera's room he uncovers a book “Being the Complete and Entire Truth about Lycanthropy”. Though written in a pseudo-scholarly tone, this book is actually a work of sensationalism with little real information. Still, it consistently adopts a stilted formal tone, all the while claiming that “At last and verily, a tome that dareth to telleth thee the truth likest it is.”


Maybe this is why he isn't wearing a silver holy symbol like all the other priests? Maybe he's a werewolf? If we can get him to transform in full view of some respectable church ladies…

In the meantime, despite knowing for a fact that the reverend and the Sister hadn't gone into the alley last night, the Archer has shinned down the rope to go and search it for any trace of them. Surprisingly there isn't any. Remembering why, he sheepishly shins back up the rope.

..

With the Criminal returning with a bundle of silver arrows, a silver dagger, and a weapon quench for the farmer's spear, our intrepid minions settle in for the sermon and watch the reverend very closely. He doesn't seem any hairier than usual though.

“maybe SHE'S the werewolf and he's wearing the gold thing because he's her lover and he doesn't want to hurt her?”

Perhaps, but looking closely at the Sister doesn't show any obvious signs of wolfishness either.

“We're sure there's a secret door in the pantry but can't find it. Let the archer hide in one of the crates and watch to see where it is?”

Despite the Criminal's urging that the plan should involve more dead prostitutes, the crate plan goes ahead. It is also far from clear why they didn't just ping a silver arrow at the Reverend during the sermon, in front of witnesses, but crates, sure, why not?

Lurking in a crate the Archer sees Ezekiel and the Sister open a trap door in the south east corner.

He lets the Criminal in and wakes his two compatriots. Eventually they locate the hidden door and discover the preacher in a heavy duty cage!

“what evil is this? Explain yourselves!”

“he is afflicted, but he is a great holy man. You must never speak of this”

Let's just clobber the sister and then

CLOBBER SISTER SHERA?” shouts the reverend (his hearing extra sensitive due to the imminent onset of his 'condition') Overcome with emotion and with the moon nearly full, he transforms into a hideous man-wolf hybrid form.

The Criminal aims a non silver arrow at the sister. The Farmer, seeing this, and having imprinted on him like a baby duck as being the one it is probably best to copy, leaps down to clobber her but misses. The arrow strikes true though and the werewolf is so enraged he bends the bars of the cage! Heavy duty iron coated with silver they may be, but nevertheless they're unlikely to last against his maddened, bestial strength.

Roll initiative!

The farmer swings a haymaker at the nun and misses.

The Criminal fires an arrow at the werewolf, doing a little damage as the silver burns him.

The sister swings at the Farmer and connects with her sword, hurting him

The Archer lands a solid shot with another silver arrow.

The Farmer lands a solid stab on the sister with his spear, hurting her but wasting his silver weapon quench.

The Criminal thrusts his remaining silver arrows at the Archer and, claiming to have a plan, sprints off into the night

The werewolf lands a vicious bite on the aristocrat

The aristocrat flees, while the werewolf savagely attacks the Farmer and leaves him bleeding out on the floor. The Archer slams the trapdoor and tries to pull crates over it, but they're rather too heavy for him. The aristocrat tries to help but finds the manual labour entirely beyond him. The werewolf slams against the trapdoor and the sole crate on it bounces but holds.

He changes tack and smashes the trapdoor to splinters, but this causes the crate to land on him, giving the remaining minions time to flee into the night as he untangles himself. The maddened werewolf sets off in pursuit!

Left alone with the dying farmer, in the knowledge that the reverend's secret is now out and her dreams of curing him are in ruins, the Sister sighs and heals the Farmer enough to stop him dying, then sits staring blankly into space.

Outside the werewolf careers after the Archer, following his scent, and cuts a bloody swathe through the crowded street the Archer deliberately leads him down. Eventually he is brought down by the watch (surprisingly, the Criminal's plan was to go and get them, rather than simply to flee) and his terrifying werewolf form turns back into brother Ezekiel.

The preacher is discredited, and dead. And the minions technically didn't do it. Despite pretty much achieving all the conflicting goals they were set, however, their masters remain far from satisfied. The reward for a job well done (well, it was done, anyway) is another job…

 

“Fools! Idiots! Morons! We give you the simplest of tasks and what do I hear back? Werewolves rampaging through the streets of Farholde even as our efforts in the Horn are at their most delicate juncture! No doubt your buffoonery will draw yet more adventurers to our doorstep. I should have you flayed for this failure!” Another dark master clears their throat. “Wait…I have a better use for these minions. Our scouts have located a potentially useful creature in the nearby Salt Brack. There is a hydra there of uniquely unpleasant temperament. The local boggards call the beast ‘Ripper’ in their tongue. This creature would make a potent guard for the Horn and would keep adventurers at bay while we complete our … well, it’s of no import to the likes of you!”


“You will go to Ripper’s cave. You will capture the creature alive. Bind it in a wagon we will provide you and bring it back here to the Horn! Do this and we may reward you! FAIL…”
 

The master’s eyes narrow to slits. You can tell that even now they ruminate upon what horrors they will inflict upon you if you disappoint them.


“…Do not fail,” says a voice as poisonous as an adder’s strike
 

 

 

 

 

 

View
The Ritual (part 5)
least surprising surprise attack ever?

Week 10

Hunting One Eye

The party sets up an ambush for One Eye near his lair. They do a great job, taking into consideration the wind direction, and setting up an illusion so they look like more grass. However they neglect to take into consideration that One Eye has been following them for more than a day. He sneaks up on them undetected, making nary a ripple in the long grass, and pounces on Sam. She is instantly down and bleeding after a vicious bite and two rakes from the dire tiger's cruel claws. It growls something that sounds surprisingly like “revenge!”. (Which is odd, and a little worrying).

One Eye had planned to take out the easiest target then circle round to ambush another party member, but he clearly underestimated just how dangerous Adelea is. She attacks twice, doing serious damage, and Grumblejack finishes him off. Both have remembered to do non-lethal damage, so the unconscious tiger is dragged back to the Spire to be pressed into guarding duty.

The villains are called to the hall where Artephius has been assigned to keep guard. “Oh god has the golem gone nuts?”

He is standing there, untroubled, next to the corpse of one of the Orphans, with blood and brains on his metal robot hands. He, spectacularly unconvincingly, insists “an intruder killed him, master”.

“Right, we'll move the guards around so that no-one is ever anywhere near him. Good job Artephius you're doing great”.

Sam heads into town without Grumblejack, who is unhappy that he doesn't get to go to the pub. He has found out from somewhere that the Drownington Manor pub serves ogres and fancies getting drunk and having a bar brawl.

Week 11

A note is received from Elise

Silver dragon seen over Farholde. Uncertain of whereabouts. Be ready. He may be on his way to the Horn.
— Z

Sorry can we just read that again??

“Yeah we're dead. Oh yeah, nice, excellent”.

-Well Artephius has strong fire attacks.

“yeah but he's psychotic, he's started killing Orphans, he's not right! Do you want him near you?”

"By the way Adelea, next time I say anything about going on a hunt – just kill me."

Week 12

Father Harkon, inquisitor of Mitra, shows up armed with information about the teleport thrones which he plans to use to investigate the spire. He discovers the teleport throne in the ruined keep has been put beyond use by stone-shaping some stone around it. His party of soldiers starts chipping away at it.

The intrepid Ahglrlrlrhrhr, (-Hrahglrrhrrr? No, you racist, I can't believe you can't tell them apart) leading a boggard patrol through the jungle, hears the sounds of hammering. He sensibly sends one boggard back to inform the villains, and two forwards to investigate. One is seen and crossbowed to death by soldiers but the other survives to report back. The two boggards report heavily armed soldiers in the forest, hammering things.

The villains realise an attack is imminent via the teleport thrones, and set up their forces on floor one after alarming the teleport thrones on the other floors, ready to teleport to the invaders and attack them.

Can't we get the tiger involved somehow?
- no, fuck that tiger! That tiger's a bastard!

If you try that, that's definitely going to get you killed.

 

Nothing happens that day, but they take it in turns to nap and stay at high alert.

“Why didn't Witchy Mcwitchfiace warn us about these guys?”

-because she's betrayed us. It's worth asking the question anyway

The inquisitor appears in the throne, setting off the alarm, and stands up. (In the ruins, a nun sits on the throne and speaks the word, and the teleporter starts to cycle)

Vexor breathes electricity on him and then Ezra does a wraithy touchy attack, which does further damage – however the inquisitor is made of stern stuff and fights off the con damage. The three wraith mooks are less successful in their attacks.

Adelea sits in the chair to teleport up but gets a sort of waitingy feeling

Hexor hurts the inquisitor very badly but doesn't quite kill him.

The inquisitor hurts a wraith with his flaming sword.

A nun appears! Vexor attacks but does little damage

Brother Vyte sits in the throne and gets a sort of holding pattern feeling.

Ezra fails to wraithify the inquisitor.

Sam enlargifies Adelea (because it might be funny.)

The wraith mooks successfully kill the inquisitor, meaning he will soon rise as a lesser wraith

With the forces of the inquisition, expecting to appear unexpectedly behind enemy lines, instead being fed piecemeal into a wraith-infested meat grinder, the fight inevitably goes the way of our villains. They gain another wraith and a lesser wraith.

Thomas the penitent is quick-thinking enough (and lacking any loyalty to Harkon) to shout “I surrender!” as soon as he sees the odds. He explains, hurriedly, that he was working for Harkon as the choice was that or imprisonment and torture by the Inquisition.

The Villains give him an even worse choice – Death, or Tregellan! Thomas chooses “the one that isn't death please”. Tregellan is given the choice of whether to recruit him or have him killed, and asks perceptive questions like “are you any good with a knife? Are you sneaky? Can you do the thing with the locks, and find traps and stuff?” Thomas says yes to these questions, and Tregellan takes him on as a member of his crew, a fitting replacement for “whatsisname, you know, the Spanish one”. The last and hardest question is asked by Sam – what's your attitude to hats? – but Thomas is quick on the uptake and says “it's exactly what he says it is”, pointing to Tregellan.

After Fitch sinisterly points out that “we have eyes all over the jungle” Thomas even changes his mind about legging it at the first opportunity and decides to genuinely work for them.

(see? he's got a hood. smart man)

Week 13

The villains hasten to Farholde to ask Elise some tough questions like “why didn't you send a messenger?” and “well we didn't GET a messenger, did you REALLY send a messenger?”, not to mention “well WHY didn't we get a messenger? Hmm?”

Sam insists that Elise send Trik from now on, and Elise says she will take this suggestion under advisement. She also suggests they try tracking the messenger, who she did send, to see what happened to him after she sent him (which she totally did) and why he did not arrive, which is surprising considering that she sent him.


They do, and following his tracks they discover the grove of a Hangman Tree by the cunning expedient of getting attacked by it. However Sam surprises everyone, including the tree, by negotiating. If you've ever seen a tree cock its head to one side in puzzlement, it looks exactly like that. She offers to feed it one humanoid creature a week if it will agree to relocate to guard the spire, and the tree agrees.

Next week – our players get to experience life from the other side of the Master/Minion relationship, in an all-new exciting episode of… MINION QUEST!

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