Episode 28: Confronting Farian

Our righteous avengers…

Froderik Penderghast – Male Human Wizard. Logical and self important wizard. Accompanied by his hawk familiar, Mordecai. Nursing a grudge against Zenga, Delilah and Briac.

Raskin Daggermaw – Male Half-Orc Rogue. Huge, muscular braggadocious letch who is especially good at stabbing folks, if not interpersonal skills. Actively despised the people of Zenga’s home village, but still felt that kids should probably have been spared.

Edella Montfort – Female Human Paladin of Vesper. Somewhat sheltered and naïve but always out to help anyone she comes across and punish evil. The moral center of the group. Determined to bring Zenga’s father to justice for murdering the children of Zenga’s village.

Shren – Male Ratman Alchemist. Deadpan maker of potions and concoctions always seeking more recipes to master. No fan of the swamp, and he seems less than keen on Zenga’s father after he killed children.

Zenga – Female Human Witch. With everything she’s ever known proven to be lies, and her long lost father returning just to wipe out the village she grew up in (kids and all), she’s a little broken at the moment. Accompanied by her scorpion familiar (and brother) Janis, who isn’t faring much better.

Beybulat Tasho aka “Bey” – Male Human Swashbuckler. A barbarian from the Plains of Galmar. Enraged at Zenga’s father and determined to kill him.

Delilah Farmeski – Female Human Cleric of Farmesk. A battle nun from the Eastern Realms who worships the God of War. Thinks the gynocentric society of Zenga’s village might have been onto something.

Briac Youngblood – Male Human Ranger. Has a massive crush on the oblivious Beybulat. Currently wants nothing more than to kill Zenga’s father.

21st of Griffon, 1159 M.R., The Brokenback Swamps

Due to the exhaustion of the fighting and all the swamp travel the day before, the group arose later than usual. Briac, Bey and Edella were eager to get moving as quickly as possible so after a quick breakfast of nourishing gruel summoned by Shren they were on their way.

The day passed uneventfully, but the ill-will garnered the day before persisted. Froderick still fumed at Zenga, Delilah and Briac, while Briac was focused only on vengeance and Zenga seemed to be operating on autopilot, engaging with nobody any more than absolutely necessary and speaking with a flat, disconnected affect. 

After a full day of slogging through the swamps with no break, they found themselves at Farian’s Grove. He was guarded by a swamp creature and two crocodiles lurked in the water nearby. “Come no closer,” he demanded. “I have heard your discussions and know you plan to murder me.”

Farian
Farian’s no fool. A vengance crazed madman, sure, but no fool.

Raskin laughed cruelly at this, but Briac angrily accused Farian of breaking the agreement he made to he and Edella and Bey to not slay the children. Farian merely responded that they were already infected by the evil doctrines of the Wives of Death and that he did it for the greater good. “I have removed a major evil from this earth,” he insisted.

“And one has just been created in its place in you,” Edella spat. “I can sense it in your heart.”

“I can now restore this areas to a lush grove instead of this fetid swamp,” Farian said.

“You said you’d give up this power once the witches were dealt with,” Edella pointed out.

“But I can do so much…” Farian started to protest, but he was cut off when Beybulat wordlessly drew his sword and just started marching towards Farian.

“Men fail us,” Delilah spat, casing a protective spell on herself.

“You have been warned,” Farian said and his minions started to advance.

Briac whipped out his bow and shot Farian’s tree-embedded body, but the man was only slightly wounded. Bebulat charged Farian and jammed his short sword into the bark, cutting into Farian’s body beneath, eliciting both a cry of pain and a oozing reddish sap that dribbed from the tree. Delilah cast a spell and advanced upon Farian, while Raskin tried to make his way through the swamp.

Farian then called upon the power of nature to cause all sorts of gross swamp plants grow up and grasp most of the party as they tried to slog through the swamp to his island. Fortunately everyone was able to avoid the grasping plants and were able to move freely. He then was able to cast a spell, and reached out and gently touched Bey’s sword. The blade immediately rusted and crumbled, leaving the Galmarian with nothing but a rusty hilt in his hand.

The crocodiles then rushed. One snapped at Shren who was able to backpedal, but the other took a sizeable bite out of Froderick’s leg. The swamp creature, meanwhile, reached out and smashed a muck like fist into Bey.

Swamp Monster
Bey’s old foe…creatures made of swamp muck and magical energy.

Edella called upon the power of Vesper to help her fight Farian, and charged at him, although the swamp monster struck Edella as she ran by, hurting her. Still, Edella powered through and managed to stab Farian through the tree. She too was rewarded with a grunt of pain and some blood like sap oozing from the wounds.

Suddenly a number of swamp animals began converging on the area. A swarm of mosquitoes flew in and swarmed Bey, stinging him mercilessly. From other areas an ooze bubbled up from the swamp water and an enormous leech swam towards the group.

Farian pled to his daughter, “I know you must do this thing with the Gods that you told me about, but after you finish you could return and I’ll turn this place into a paradise for us. We can live together, as father and daughter and make up for lost time.” Zenga just wordlessly put on the circlet that they had taken from the Purvs Māte and cast a hex at him.

“My daughter,” he said sadly, “I see the Wives of Death got to you after all.”

“You abandoned me like everyone else and you are dangerous,” Zenga spat.

Farian flew into a rage, “I’ve spent every moment since you were taken trying to find you and a way to get to you!”

Delilah, the warrior in her clearly too professional to focus on this exchange, called upon Farmesk to summon wood axe made of spiritual energy, which began to strike Farian of its own accord. This caused Farian to slump down in the tree but the party looked on in horror as new roots grew from the tree and into Farian and he seemed to shake off the damage and fatigue he’d suffered to that point. “You don’t understand nature and what it can do!” Farian bellowed.

Bey, meanwhile tried to move away from the swamp creature and pulled out his flail and struck Farian but was suddenly enveloped in the the mosquito swarm. It covered most of Bey’s body and began stinging and biting him.

Edella lashed out again with her ranseur, slashing into Farian, but the tree man cast a spell, causing Edella’s armor to start rapidly heating up while the swamp monster slammed it’s fist into Edella again, injuring the paladin further. At the same time Briac moved away from the grasping plants to shoot at Farian, but broke the string on his bow.

Meanwhile the rest of the party tried to take on Farian’s animal minions. Still in the Swamp muck, Raskin moved to dry land and pulled out his bow and tried to shoot at the crocodile attacking Froderick, but the half-orc’s shot went wide.

Shren joined in and hurled a bomb at the crocodile, injuring it. Unfortunately for the Ratman another portion of the swamp coalesced into another of the swamp creatures and slammed into Shren. Worse, the creatures muck wrapped around Shren holding him in place.

Froderick, displeased with a crocodile trying to eat him, tried to cast a spell defensively at the crocodile, but he was unable to pull off the spell, so he attempted to flee from from it instead. Fortunately for Froderick (and possibly unfortunately for everyone else) he then blinked away, again taken by the force that bound them all together.

Back at the front of the fight, Edella stabbed Farian again, the wound biting deep and causing Farian to slump down and start convulsing and cough up a gout of blood before laying still. The swamp monsters immediately reverted to swamp liquid muck and lost all cohesion, though the other animals continued to attack.

Delilah looked upon Farian and believed she saw more roots growing into the wound that Edella had made. The cleric thought she saw roots growing into his heart and lungs. “I think this thing is trying to heal him again!” she hollored in revulsion.

Meanwhile Bey, still being swarmed by mosquitos, tried frantically to wave his arms around to get rid of them as they furiously stung and bit him. Meeting with no success he tried fleeing the mosquitos, running away from Farian/the tree and past Briac. Unfortunately the mosquitos stayed on the poor Galmarian, stinging him furiously. Briac, striking on an idea, pulled a smokestick from his pack. Lighting it, he flung it at Bey’s feet, blinding the unfortunate barbarian but causing the Mosquitos to disperse.

Meanwhile the crocodiles continued their assault. One bit Raskin’s leg and yanked him to the ground, looking to make a meal out of the half-orc. The other croc, unsure where Froderick went, targeted Briac and advanced. Fortunately the ranger was able to leap out of the way and drive his battle axe into the its skull, slaying it.

Zenga, finally free as the entangling plants ceased when Farian went down, hexed the ooze near her, and then moved away from it. The slow moving creature tried to pursue, but it was so slow as to be laughable.

Delilah struck the downed Farian with her longsword, slashing into the tree and the seemingly unconscious or man within it. She shouted to the others “I don’t know if he’s dead or not. Should I keep hitting him?” Raskin, being thrown around by a crocodile with a grip on his leg, immediately replied “Fuck you, save me!” The war cleric turned and charged the croc, slashing it with her longsword. Zenga followed up with a sleep hex that put the creature to sleep. Raskin, Briac and Delilah rained attacks upon the creature to finish it off.

Shren meanwhile, could not break out of the swamp muck that bound him but managed to drink a potion of True Strike. Thanks to the potion he was able to fling a bomb, even with his limited mobility, straight into the chest of Farian. The resulting explosion seemed to have done the job, with the burst of fire destroying Farian’s heart. He immediately began convulsing and spat up a gout of blood. The tree immediately started crumbling, as if rotting in fast forward. Pieces of the tree quickly start to crack and Farian’s corpse slumped out.

Edella’s armor continued to get hotter, however, slowly turning orange with the heat and burning her severely. Shren, pretty sure he knew the spell Farian had cast upon Edella’s armor, yelled for her to get into water and the paladin leapt into the swamp and frantically began trying to take off her armor. She called for someone to assist her and Raskin eagerly leapt to her aid, charging in and using his dagger to cut the straps of her breastplate. Thanks to the water of the swamp cooling off the heated metal they were able to get it off before it caused too much more damage to Edella, though she was badly burned and forced call upon Vesper to heal herself. The breastplate had partially melted and deformed. It would need repairs before Edella could use it again.

While this was happening Delilah made her way to the remains of her father and the tree he’d been embedded in. Her eyes fell upon a white ash staff. Claiming and examining it magically allowed her to determine that it had the power to heal. Alas, even it’s magic could do nothing for the hole in her heart.

Bey, observing Zenga’s actions, asked if she thought her father used it to become a tree, but Zenga did not answer. Bey asked if she was ok, but Zenga just stared at the staff, not even acknowledging Bey’s presence.

With the danger passed Edella and Delilah doled out the healing and Zenga wordlessly claimed the staff for her herself not telling anyone that it was magical, or anything else for that matter.

With Farian dead and the dead children of Nāves Ciems avenged Shren immediately brought up the issue of trying to make the rendezvous with the Archeron. They had intended to have Mordecai fly to the ship to beg Captain Godwaith to wait a few more days, but when Froderick vanished during the fight, so too did his familiar. This left them without a means to communicate with the captain.

Edella asked Zenga if they wanted to say something or bury Farian, and the witch only replied with a monotone “No. He’s nothing to me.” Heartbroken at her response, and wishing that Vesper’s healing touch allowed her to heal emotional damage, Edealla left Zenga be.

After some discussion the group decided that, even though the sun was setting, they should march through the night. With the light of Zenga’s repeated casting of Dancing Lights, and the ability of Bey and Edella to magically relieve the fatigue of most of the party, they headed out into the night as the adrenaline from the battle faded.

22nd of Griffon, 1159 M.R., The Brokenback Swamps

The group marched cheerlessly through the night. Zenga just stared ahead as she marched, speaking only to recast her Dancing Lights spell. Everyone else, even the normally flippant Raskin, seemed deeply disturbed by the deaths of the children of Nāves Ciems and morale was low as a result.

A couple hours before sunup they ran across four lizardmen. Through gestures the group gathered that monsters did not appear to want a fight. The party, emotionally and physically exhausted, were content to let the creatures continue on their way.

A couple hours later the hot, muggy summer day turned to rain and the travelers spotted storm clouds gathering. As the storm continued the rain turned to hail making the miserable slog through the swamp even more miserable.

The group briefly stopped for an hour to rest and eat, and Delilah and Edella were able to pray during the rest a best they could through the hail. Unfortunately it was not enough time for Zenga or Shren to regain any magical abilities.

As the group continued on thunder and lightning began to strike and the hail slowly turned to snow. As the sun started to set and the weather remained miserable and far out of place for summer, the group blacked out in hip deep swampwater…

They all shared a vision and saw the familiar sight of a dark pillar with blood red runes upon it. They seemed to be on top of a tall building within the center of a city. A figure was chained to the pillar with black manicles with blood red runes etched into them. The figure was a wizened old man with a long white beard dressed in robes and wearing a pair of spectacles.

Unlike past visions, this time they could make out some of the details of the trio of attackers, though not enough to get a clear vision of them yet. The one chanting arcane magic appeared to be a female half elf dressed in dark robes. The one chanting in divine magic seemed to be an orc clad in dark armor. The one up front, wielding the enormous black greatsword with the blood red runes upon the blade was a human male dressed in full plate as black as the night. Although they could not make out details of this trio in the last dreams they somehow know that this was the same three beings.

As before when the chanting of the half elf and the orc reached a magical crescendo, the human stepped up and struck the old man chained to the pillar, followed by a bright flash of light and the sounds of an explosion.

They all saw a brief flash of the following figures:

-A tall female elf with short silvery hair and large amber eyes.

-A human hale with a narrow face, auburn hair and grey eyes dressed in a worn grey robe.

-A female halfling dressed in half plate with blonde hair and brown eyes.

-A female dwarf with curly blonde hair and dark blue eyes dressed in modest garments.

-A female gnome with a narrow face, red hair and grey eyes dressed in leather armor.

-A human female with brown hair and gray eyes dressed in a toga and wearing numerous rings.

-A thin middle aged man of average height dressed in common clothing with greying hair and green eyes.

They awoke on a small island in the swamp, definitely not where they had blacked out, with the sun high on a cloudy day. They had no idea where they were or how much time had passed.

Edella immediately had told them all that the figure being struck down was the god Yotia, also known as the Learned One, just as Edna had been warned about in the afterlife

Raskin pointed out that the vision was in Emeron, on one of the towers of the Magic University. Since no one else present had been to Emeron they trusted his assessment.

Briac lamented that Yoita must be dead, but Edella told them that she thought the spells being cast weakened him and bound him to the people they saw, just like them and the other vision. Edella further pointed out that she thought the weather was going crazy because the ones tied to Guya, who controlled weather as well as agriculture, had been killed, if Edna’s vision from beyond was to be believed.

Without any idea how long it had been or where they now were, they could only continue on, hoping to catch the Archeron and get to Emeron as quickly as possible…

DM’s Notes: Another great and charged session here. The PC’s, fueled by righteous fury (or emotional induced shock, in Zenga’s case) gave Farian no quarter. Though no slouch and with control over the enviornment and nearby animals, after the Purvs Māte fight Farian was not nearly as dangerous. 

A quick note about Zenga’s player Jennie. At first, I thought her willingness to slay Farian was just for the sake of party unity and not to write herself out of the narrative by having her character switch sides. It quickly became apparent, however, that Zenga had just snapped under the weight of all she’d just learned/survived. These psychic wounds would take some time to heal, and Jennie (as with the rest of my group) again impress me with her roleplay skills. 

Ideally, I’d have liked to have had a little more time after the battle with Farian and the next ritual that affected the PC’s, but the rituals are done on pre-determined dates in the In Game calander. As a result, the poor PC’s hare having a LOT thrown at them all at once. 

And, to my delight, the continue to complain about how much they hate the Brokenback Swamps. 

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Episode 27: The Battle with the Purvs Māte

Our cast of less than happy swamp travelers:

Froderik Penderghast – Male Human Wizard. Logical and self important wizard. Accompanied by his hawk familiar, Mordecai. Despises traveling through the swamps and is no fan of the people of Zenga’s home.

Raskin Daggermaw – Male Half-Orc Rogue. Huge, muscular braggadocious letch who is especially good at stabbing folks, if not interpersonal skills. Actively despises the people of Zenga’s home village.

Edella Montfort – Female Human Paladin of Vesper. Somewhat sheltered and naïve but always out to help anyone she comes across and punish evil. The moral center of the group. Hoping fervently she can trust the word of Zenga’s father.

Shren – Male Ratman Alchemist. Deadpan maker of potions and concoctions always seeking more recipes to master. No fan of the swamp.

Zenga – Female Human Witch. With her hexes, magic, grey morals and penchant for necromantic spells, she’s a force to be reckoned with. Accompanied by her scorpion familiar (and brother) Janis. Recently met her father and learned that that she’s been lied to her entire life. This has left her with a white hot fury at the people of her home village.

Beybulat Tasho aka “Bey” – Male Human Swashbuckler. A barbarian from the Plains of Galmar. Confused and disgusted all at once the people of Zenga’s home, and her father.

Delilah Farmeski – Female Human Cleric of Farmesk. A battle nun from the Eastern Realms who worships the God of War. Thinks the gynocentric society of Zenga’s village might be onto something.

Briac Youngblood – Male Human Ranger. Has a massive crush on the oblivious Beybulat and hopes that Zenga’s father will be true to his word.

Audura – NPC Female Half-Elf Druid. A Browncloak Druid sent by her superiors to get Zenga’s father to release the vast power he’s improperly claimed. She’s agreed to help the group now to seure their aid in convincing him.

20th of Griffon, 1159 M.R., Somewhere in the Brokenback Swamps

By late afternoon the group neared the perimeter of the village. Zenga warned them that while she’d estimated the shortest route to the cabin of the Purvs Māte that it was within the defensive perimeter of the settlement and that they’d have to fight their way through. They discussed tactics and when they were close, and Raskin and Shren went to scout the perimeter.

A short distance away they began to hear monstrous, guttural noises in their path. Raskin, confident that it was “all bullshit” just like the other line of illusions he’d seen, reassured Shren and they continued on. After a little while they found a line of horrific looking thorn walls and eight hulking, demonic looking creatures blocking their way.

Demon
Seemed scarier to Raskin the second around…

Shren was unconvinced that the creatures were not real and even Raskin seemed unsure himself, wondering if perhaps this side of the perimeter was better secured than the other side. Raskin loosed a couple of arrows at one of the creatures but he was a bit rattled and unable to strike the beast. The monsters began to advance so the duo retreated to the others. Raskin maintained that it was “probably all bullshit,” but he didn’t seem as confident as he had earlier.

Zenga told the giant mosquito (which Farian was observing them through) to start the attack, and it flew off. The group followed Rakin and Shren back to the parmiter. The creatures appeared as Shren and Raskin described, although Froderick and Zenga saw through the illusion and assured everyone that it was merely skeletons with an illusion spell upon them and that the thorn wall was not even there.

The glamored undead engaged them and the heroes were able to destroy them fairly easily, in part thanks to Delilah and Edella calling upon their gods to destroy undead (both blindly trusted Froderick’s constant urgings that the creatures were, in fact, undead.) Eventually the illusion fell once the creatures were defeated and they continued on.

After a bit more time trudging through the swamp they saw an old wooden cabin on stilts. Zenga informed the others that it was the Swamp Mother’s cabin and they were approaching from the rear. The group began making their way across the swamp when skeletons began rising from the muck to attack them.

Skeletons rising from swamp
Not exactly the welcoming committee…

The skeletons were easily dispatched but more and more kept rising from the swamp. Then, suddenly, it seemed to most of the party that the swamp took on a horrible, demonic tinge with everything taking on a terrifying visage. This rattled most of the party, though Edella seemed immune.

Froderick shrugged off the fear of the seemingly terrifying swamp and took stock of the situation. Reasoning that slowing down to fight the undead would only create a war of attrition that would only weaken them before getting to the Swamp Mother he called on the party to rally around him and charge. Unfortunately this seems to have made him a target of the Purvs Māte and a spell was cast that centered on him.

Suddenly, over a large area of the swamp, rubbery black tentacles began to rise. Centered on Froderick, the tentacles grabbed everyone but Raskin (who was barely outside the range). Shren, Delilah and Edella (with the help of a hex from Zenga) were able to escape the tentacles and run out of their range. Deciding the best way to stop the tentacles was to kill the caster they continued to fight their way through the skeletons to get to the cabin. Unfortunately the rest were held fast and being crushed by them.

Froderick, calling on an old skill as a performing mage, was able to slip from the tentacles, but he was unable to outrun the others grasping for him and was snagged yet again. Meanwhile Briac, Beybulat, Zenga and Audura were all still stuck in the tentacles struggling fruitlessly to escape and being crushed by them. Audura, sadly, succumbed to the spell. The half-elf’s bones and organs crushed by the tentacles. Amid her dying screams of agony, her last words were to beg the group to force Farian to give up the unnatural power he’d claimed over nature. Her screams were then cut short as they heard her spine snap and her limp body was dragged into the swamp water. Zenga, meanwhile, had been crushed to within an inch of her life, but was kept barely conscious by the tentacles. A spell allowed the Purvs Māte to whisper in Zenga’s mind “Witness the death of your friends, Zenga the Betrayer. You will beg for your gift of death, but it will be a long time coming…” Struggling to remain conscious Zenga spat “Yours won’t,” to her.

The others pressed on, desperate to end the spell before the tentacles crushed their friends to death as they had Audura. Unfortunately a sudden sleet storm sprang up, blinding and slowing Shren, Raskin and Delilah in their charge. Thankfully they were able to maintain their course and dive under the stilted cabin to take cover from the storm, regain their orientation and crawl through the swamp muck to the other side, where the storm didn’t reach. Shren, however, spied a trap door in the floor of the cabin. His enhanced Ratman sense of smell told him that the Purvs Māte used it in place of a chamberpot to relieve herself directly into the swamp. Reminding himself that adventuring is a messy business, he opened the trapdoor and peered in. He found himself in a small room with an animated skeleton facing away from him.

Edella, meanwhile, was charging around the other side of the cabin and was out of range of the sleet spell. Unfortunately, she quickly encountered two powerful looking zombies guarding the front door of the cabin. Deciding she did not have time to destroy them she charged right by them, fending off their blows as she ran by. Charging up the stairs Edella at last laid eyes on the Purvs Māte, and immediately decided that she was evil so called upon Vesper to guide her blows and smite her.

Purvs Mate
Can’t imgaine why Edella thought she was evil with just a glance…

As Edella charged, the skeleton came out of the privy room to engage her and the witch laid her hand on the pink orb next to her, causing a rotting, undead form to appear in front of the paladin. Bald and with a bushy moustache Edella recognized the apparition as her Uncle Winston, the man who raised her. “You are a disappointment to me and your parents Edella,” the figure croaked.

Edella was having none of it, however, and immediately saw through the illusion. Bellowing “You aren’t Winston!” She struck at the Purvs Māte with her ranseur, slashing into the witch. In response the old woman advanced, chanting a spell, and laid a hand upon Edella. The paladin felt a little warm, but that was it. Fending off the skeleton Edella delivered another slash to the witch, but then she felt the heat within her grow and she began to suffer a great deal of pain and doubled over.

Cackling the witch was preparing another spell when Shren chugged a potion and popped out of the privy with a bomb in hand. With one perfectly placed shot he hurled the bomb directly onto the Heart of the Swamp, the pink orb that was the source of the Swamp Mother’s power. The bomb struck and the orb exploded into a blast of pink energy, throwing everyone back several feet, including those outside the cabin.

The group all saw thousands of visions flash through their minds within nanoseconds, seemingly seeing everything that had ever happened, was happening now and could happen in the future all at once. This stunned all of them, but each seemed to have one vision that stood out amongst the others.

Zenga saw an image of a middle aged man with a prodigious moustache and small goatee that she did not recognize. On the man’s shoulder sat a spider with the body was a small skull and glowing red eyes.

Shren saw a regal looking older woman in a crown in a posh environment. Behind her, in the shadows, was a figure holding a dagger.

Delilah saw an Naga reaching out over a small town.

Naga
A Naga

Briac saw Sir Connel Sullivan mounted and commanding an army of undead.

Froderick saw Emeronian soldiers bursting into his parents home, arresting the women in his family and demanding to know where someone was.

Edella saw a terrifying figure in black platemail with glowing red eyes that seemed to pierce her soul

Edellas Vision
Edella’s vision

Raskin saw his mother beaten and bloody in a dungeon while a foppish looking man looked on with a cruel smile.

And last, but not least, Bey saw a soldier reporting to his eldest brother that Bey’s body wasn’t found amongst the dead of his home village, but that nobody has seen him either.

Thankfully the destruction of the orb ended the sleet and tentacle spells, and just in the nick of time as Bey and Briac had both fallen unconscious and were near death as their bodies were crushed. They, and Zenga, fell into the swamp and were about to start drowning in the muck. Thankfully Froderick, horribly injured but miraculously still conscious, ran to their aid and called for help. Raskin heard this and rushed back and the two of them were able to get their friends from the swamp water before they drowned.

Meanwhile in the cabin the heroes climbed to their feet as soon as they were able. Edella found herself among the quickest. Her ranseur had been knocked from her hands but without hesitation she drew her bastard sword and plunged it into the Purvs Māte, impaling the bony old woman to the floor and nearly killing her. At this exact moment the last phase of the evil witch’s spell went into effect and Edella’s blood literally burst into flame. The pain was so immense that everyone else in the party not only felt the pain but they took actual damage. The paladin herself nearly blacked out and fell to the ground in agony.

Delilah and Shren then entered the room. The cleric checked the Purvs Māte and determined that, while unconscious, she still clung to life. Shren remedied this by crushing her skull with his morning star (which he called his Morning Star of Justice).

While Edella suffered through the fading agony of the spell, outside the cabin Raskin and Froderick poured healing potions down the throats of Bey, Briac and Zenga to bring them to consciousness. Eventually everyone gathered outside the cabin for Delilah and Edella to administer some healing spells.

Raskin recovered the corpse of Audura, and confirmed that she was definitely dead. He looked through her belongings but there was nothing there that could help to bring her back. Froderick was unsure how the Browncloak Druids honored their dead, so they made a mental note to deal with her final arrangements later (DM’s Note: Although they eventually forgot so they ended up leaving her corpse in the swamp to rot.)

While everyone began discussing the next steps, Froderick, Raskin and Shren re-entered the cabin and the others began discussing their visions. Edella refused to believe Briac’s vision that Sir Connel was leading an army of undead. Edella and Delilah identified the spider described in Zenga’s vision as sign of Baraxus, the god of Death, Destruction and Chaos. Bey divulged the details of his. Delilah shared her vision of a naga reaching over a small town, although nobody seemed to have any idea what hers could mean.

Meanwhile, Shren, Raskin and Froderick looted the Swamp Mother and her cabin. Shren found a sizeable amount of potion making ingredients, and Raskin found a pittance in gold as well as a magical scroll. Froderick, meanwhile, took a golden circlet with blue and purple gems off the head of the dead witch. After casting a couple of spells on it he determined it would boost his already considerable intelligence even further and donned it immediately.

By this point the rest of the party joined them in the cabin, and Zenga immediately recognized the circlet and, having been taken off the head of the slain spiritual leader of her people, immediately demanded it from Froderick. The wizard, put off by Zenga’s abrupt attitude, insisted that a magic user of Zenga’s ability “would certainly know the magic word” for the situation.

Emotionally and physically spent, and in no mental place for shenanigans, Zenga merely stated, “Now,” so Froderick refused. Delilah, gathering the likely importance of the circlet to Zenga, drew her blade and demanded that Froderick hand it over. This prompted Raskin to pull his dagger and step to Froderick’s side to defend him. Briac, seemily trying to resolve the matter before anyone got hurt, moved to the wizard to try to pull the circlet off his head, but Raskin just saw an aggressive move toward his friend and tackled Briac right as the ranger laid hands on Froderick. The trio went down in a tumble of swears, while Bey and Edella called for all of them to stop.

Zenga then moved forward and pulled the circlet off of Froderick’s head before he could regain his feet. Without a word, she stowed it in a pouch. Bey and Edella were able to calm things enough to prevent any violence, but Froderick, enraged at this point, turned himself invisible and stormed out of the cabin.

Bey and Shren reminded everyone that Farian’s controlled animals were surely fighting with the witches even now, and they agreed they should head to the village with all due speed. They called for Froderick, who was outside of their view by now. He sent a message via Mordecai that he would meet them there and needed some time to himself.

The rest of the party began trudging west through the swamp to try to get to the village with all due speed. The sun had long since gone down and only Zenga’s frequent re-casting of Dancing Lights illuminated their path. During the trek they discussed the visions they had. Edella shared hers, but admitted she had no idea what it meant. Shren merely advised that his didn’t make much sense though he did not go into details. Raskin discussed the vision he’d had of his tortured and imprisoned mother, and the various unsavory acts he’d use his daggers to perform on the man holding her.

After a couple hours trudging through the swamp they reached Nāves Ciems. Several of the buildings had been destroyed and lay in rubble. Scattered around were the bodies of many witches and swamp animals and there seemed to be no life. Zenga had advised that she suspected they’d put the children in the town hall until the danger was over and so they made their way there with all due haste.

Outside the town hall they saw a dead witch, and the nearly dead Bolbjora, acting leader of the town. Her spine shattered, the witch still spat at Zenga, telling her that she knew she had betrayed them. In spite of being near death she drug herself towards Zenga with her dagger drawn, seeking to kill her. Zenga, with a chillingly flat affect merely dubbed Bolbjora “pathetic,” and cast a spell to cause one of the dead witches to animate and hold Bolbjora down. With that Zenga bid Raskin to kill Bolbjora. With a shrug, the half orc happily buried his dagger in the witch’s head.

At the town hall they saw that the doors had been barred from within, but had been battered down. Within they found the corpses of the elderly witches and the children. There was no life left within any of them.

Briac, Bey and Edella immediately vowed that Farian would die for this crime. Even Raskin, who had nothing but contempt for the Wives of Death, found this a step too far. Still, the half-orc stated that he’d leave it up to Zenga, as it was her father, her village and so her decision. Zenga, with a flat affect and a faraway stare, merely stated that her father had broken his word and his fate was not her’s to decide. Seeing this as ascent the group immediately marched into the night for Farian’s grove, although they did pause long enough for Zenga to send up a Dancing Lights spell so Froderick could find his way to them.

After a around four hours of slogging through the swamp in the night, they calmed enough to realize that Farian was still a full day’s travel away and Bey and Froderick began to argue that they were exhausted from battle and should rest for the night. Edella and Briac had to be convinced, but eventually saw the wisdom in being fully rested and prepared before facing Farian, so the party found a small island within the swamp to camp for the night.

DM’s Notes: Whew, a lot happened here. The fight with the Purvs Māte was as dangerous as I feared it would be. Though she was pysically blind, the Orb let her target the PC’s as they rushed her cabin, and she had access to many area of effect spells. I felt a little bad that some of the players, trapped in the Black Tentacles spell could only fruitlessly struggle (it was a a crit success and pure stroke of luck that allowed the couple who escaped to do so) but sometimes that’s how it goes when fighting a powerful caster. Still, the fight was dangerous and nearly killed a few of the party members (and did kill poor Audura.)

Of all the reasons I expected a potential party split to possibly occur on this adventure, I did not expect it to be over a randomly rolled bauble on the big baddie. Still, the RP made sense. Zenga was mentally broken by all the recent revelations and Froderick, a fairly arrogant character, demanded to be treated with respect and when push came to shove personal loyalty over party loyalty showed battle lines drawn. With the simmering frustrations and the near death experience of the party, it’s understandable that it nearly came to blows.

Last, but not least, is Farian’s betrayal. The RP around this was fantastic, and led to the group marching off into the night in a swamp for a several day march after a major fight fueled by nothing more than righteous rage. They didn’t even take the time to loot the town! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there’s some great roleplayers at my table. 

And what about those visions they had? I hadn’t initially expected to place any here (what with the visions they get connected to the weird phenomonmn that binds them together) but I figured that a magical artifact that showed past, present and possible future was too good an opportunity to pass up to drop some more plot bredcrumbs about the campaign.

 

Episode 26: A Revelation and a Choice

Our cast of characters…

Froderik Penderghast – Male Human Wizard. Logical and self important wizard. Accompanied by his hawk familiar, Mordecai. Despises traveling through the swamps.

Raskin Daggermaw – Male Half-Orc Rogue. Huge, muscular braggadocious letch who is especially good at stabbing folks, if not interpersonal skills. Actively despises the people of Zenga’s home village that he’s been roped into helping.

Edella Montfort – Female Human Paladin of Vesper. Somewhat sheltered and naïve but always out to help anyone she comes across and punish evil. The moral center of the group. Eager to help the people of Zenga’s village.

Shren – Male Ratman Alchemist. Deadpan maker of potions and concoctions always seeking more recipes to master. No fan of the swamp.

Zenga – Female Human Witch. With her hexes, magic, grey morals and penchant for necromantic spells, she’s a force to be reckoned with. Accompanied by her scorpion familiar (whom she seems to think is her brother) Janis. Very uncomfortable to be back home…

Beybulat Tasho aka “Bey” – Male Human Swashbuckler. A barbarian from the Plains of Galmar. Confused and disgusted all at once the people of Zenga’s home.

Delilah Farmeski – Female Human Cleric of Farmesk. A battle nun from the Eastern Realms who worships the God of War. Thinks the gynocentric society of Zenga’s village might be onto something.

Briac Youngblood – Male Human Ranger. Has a massive crush on the oblivious Beybulat and wants to help the people of Zenga’s village.

18th of Griffon, 1159 M.R., Somewhere in the Brokenback Swamps

The rain had broken during the night, but it had done nothing to alleviate the insects or miserable humidity. The group ate a cheerless breakfast, already missing Ron’s cuisine, and departed. Around midday Zenga stated that, based on the information given to her by the Purvs Māte, she believed they were close to the area that could not be scryed upon.

After only minutes more of walking everyone spotted two long, non humanoid figures swimming towards them in the swamp water. Briac immediately called out that he believed they were likely crocodiles and to be careful. In seconds Briac was proven correct as the creatures burst from the water and attacked. Acting fast Shren was able to hurl one of his ice bombs at one of them, injuring it.

Zenga, in the lead of the group trying to help guide them through the swamps, was the first target and the crocodile bit deep into her leg and pulled her down into the water. The second sprinted after Raskin, though he was able to jump back to avoid the attack and retaliate with his dagger. The half-orc drove his dagger into the croc’s skull all the way to the hilt, slaying the creature.

Meanwhile the others rushed to aid Zenga, who barely managed to free her leg from the creature (at the expense of a fair amount of flesh on her leg) and crawl away. Briac found his way blocked when a huge portion of the swamp muck rose in front of him and coalesced into a vaguely humanoid form.

Swamp Monster
Swamp Creature

Briac tried to attack the creature but could not effectively strike it. Bey tried to rush it from the flank, but the creature struck him hard on the way in, part of it’s swampy arm congeling on the Galmarian and entangling him in the muck.

Meanwhile the crocodile pursued Zenga, who was furiously trying to crawl backwards. Edella charged through the muck and slammed her ranseur into the creature, dealing it a wound that should have been fatal, but the croc continued. Slipping in the muck, Zenga went down before the furious beast and Janis, her scorpion familiar (whom Zenga maintained was somehow her brother) scurred from his hidden pocket and perched upon Zenga’s chest, hissing and ready to strike in defense of her.

At the sight of this the swamp monster grabbed the tail of the wounded crocodile, aggravating the wound Edella gave it and practically ripping it apart, and hurled the dead, broken creature into the swamp. It then gestered that it wished no further violence and beckoned for the group to follow it. Warily the group agreed and did so.

After about an hour or so of trudging through the swamp after the creature they came up on an island in the swamp with a large tree in the center. The creature went and stood by the tree and the others approached the tree, led by Zenga. After a few moments they realized the tree had moved and that there was a man embedded in the tree!

Farian

Janis immediately skittered from Zenga and up the tree man’s shoulder. The strange man gave the scorpion an affectionate pet with his finger but looked straight at Zenga and, misty eyed, uttered “I never thought I’d get to meet you…my daughter.”

In spite of everyone’s shocked cry of surprise the man continued talking to Zenga, “when I saw Janis through the swamp creature’s eyes I knew it was you!” Overwhelmed, Zenga could only numbly step backwards while shaking her head. She had always been told her fleeting memories of parents were the imaginings of a young child, not fact. 

Froderick, however, immediately stepped in and began asking questions about how he came to be here and if he needed help being extricated from the Tree. The man introduced himself as Farian, and replied that he “could not yet release the power.”

Finally Zenga, tears running down her face and her entire body trembling in barely restrained fury muttered “when I get back there I’m going to kill them all! I knew you were real.”

Farian replied that Zenga did not need to kill them all, that he would do it but that he was being blocked by some powerful magic around the village, by someone called “the Swamp Mother.”

Zenga asked about her mother, and Farian, tears in his eyes, explained that she was dead.

Bey asked “are you many?” to which Farian replied that while he was one, with the animals of the swamp that he could control he was also many.

“Are you responsible for the attacks on the village?” Edella asked, to which Farian proudly admitted he was. Immediately Raskin praised him, blurting “Great job! Keep up the good work,” which Froderick echoed.

They began peppering him with more questions about where he came from and how he became embedded in a tree. Farian asked them to be patient and he would explain all.

He told them that he was a druid from the woods in the southern region of the duchy of Rupmon. He said that Zenga’s mother, Treana, had been sent from Nāves Ciems to find a man capable of using magic and become impregnated by him, as was their custom. (This revelation made Froderick suddenly realize that when he and Zenga and Shren met that it was not by chance, but that Zenga’s village had sent her out to go with him and become impregnated. He stated he “felt like he needed a Prestidigitation spell” even though Zenga had not followed those dictates when they met.)

Farian said that they had fallen in love, and even though she was supposed to return to the village once impregnated she told him all about the witches — the Wives of Death. She said that they would never allow her to not return so they fled north into central Rupmon, settling in a small village in the heart of the duchy. They lived there for years, and were blessed with a son, Janis (who showed early signs of becoming a sorcerer), and a few years later a daughter…Zenga. Then, one day the Wives of Death came for Treana.

“We thought they’d never chase us so deep into the kingdom…we were fools!” Farian wiped the tears from his eyes and continued.

“They demanded that Treana and Zenga go with them. We refused, so they attacked. We fought…fought for our family. They killed Janis, they mortally wounded Treana and I and drug Zenga, crying and screaming for her parents, from our home.”

Choking back tears Farian took a moment to collect himself before continuing. “As we lay there dying, Treana and I merged our magic, using an ancient blood ritual she said she knew and my Druidic powers we were able to return Janis to life, but he reincarnated as a scorpion. Treana died but the villagers found us in time to bind my wounds and I was eventually able to heal myself. I tried to bring Treana back but the nature of her blood sacrifice prevented it I think. I’ve spent every day since trying to locate the Wives of Death and find the power and method of my vengeance.”

Raskin asked who they needed to kill to allow him to achieve his vengeance. Farian replied that they needed only to destroy the Heart of the Swamp, a magical orb the Swamp Mother (called the Purvs Māte by the witches) held. It’s power was allowing her to block his ability to see and hear through the creatures of the swamp, limiting his ability to wipe out the village. “If you destroy the Heart of the Swamp, I can use my creatures to wipe them out,” Farian assured the half-orc.

This sparked a massive debate. Edella, Bey and Briac objected to killing everyone in the village, arguing that there were innocent children there. Farian responded that they were already lost and would just grow up to be Wives of Death, a position that Zenga and Raskin supported voicefully. Froderick stated that he was not sanguine about the prospect of killing children by any stretch of the imagination, but he did point out that the witches would no doubt hunt Zenga has they had her mother.

“I won’t kill children,” Edella stated flatly.

“You don’t have to,” Farian retorted, “I will.” Unsurprisingly, this did not mollify the paladin however.

Things became quite heated with Briac openly stating that he’d stop Farian from harming children no matter what it took and Bey telling him that wiping out a whole village would make him like the Wilarians who destroyed his own home.

Farian explained that all children over the age of eight make pacts with an entity called the Mother of Death for their powers, arguing that this proved that the entire society was past saving and had to be wiped out. Raskin agreed to wipe out anyone over the age of eight, but this was still too much for Briac, Bey and Edella and they still refused.

Though the matter of who would be killed and not had not yet been resolved, Zenga pressed forward with a determination to do as Farian asked and, backed entirely by Raskin, worked out a plan with Farian. Zenga asked Farian to attack the western side of the village to draw their attention there while the group struck the cabin of the Purvs Māte, a two hour walk east of the village proper. Farian agreed to send a giant mosquito with them, so he would know when to begin the attack.

The group departed from Farian’s grove, but they were still not determined on following Farian’s plan and sought ways to save the children from the upcoming battle and the debate continued to rage. When pressed, Zenga admitted that she thought that in case of danger they would get the children to a safe location within the town. There was discussion of splitting the group perhaps to try to save the children from the battle, but no good plan to do so emerged.

While they were traveling a half-elf emerged from behind a nearby stunted tree and greeted the group asked if they had spoken with Farian. They admitted they did and asked her name. She introduced herself as Audura, of the Browncloak Druids of the Hemlock Tops forest.

Audura
Audura

Froderick recognized the name of the order and greeted her respectfully, asking why she was so far from home (as the Hemlock Tops forest was outside of Emeron City.) She explained that her masters in the order had detected something odd out here and sent her to investigate. She explained she tracked it to Farian and that he’d claimed an ancient power that he should not wield. Audura said that she confronted him, but that he refused to relinquish the power. It would take a long time for her to return to the Hemlock Tops to rally assistance, so she was seeking the aid of the group. Unfortunately she could not force him to relinquish the power without possibly killing him, which she did not want to do.

The group told her that he told them he would relinquish the power voluntarily if they destroyed the Heart of the Swamp for him. She said that Farian also told her about the witches, but that she could not speak with them because of fierce monsters protecting the town. The group told Audura that these were mostly illusions and that they intended to return to do the service for Farian but also prevent him from slaying the children. Adura agreed to help the group protect the lives of children and destroy the orb, in hopes that they would help her press him to relinquish the power in turn. The group agreed, but still could not agree on a plan to save the children of the village while also destroying the orb two hours away form the village at the same time.

Ultimately Bey, Edella and Briac convinced Zenga to agree to refuse to help Farian unless he promised not to slay the children. To that end the three of them went back to Farian’s grove (as they’d not traveled very far) while the others waited with Aurdura.

Farian greeted the trio, and Edella told him that they were not willing to participate in his wishes if the children were not safeguarded. Farian reiterated that they were a lost cause, but Edella, Bey and Briac were adamant, and Bey got incredibly heated at one point telling him that being so consumed by vengeance elicted pity in the Galmarian. Eventually the three warriors insisted the group would not help Farian without his promise not to harm the children of the village. Reluctantly Farian agreed, stating he would not slay anyone who had not yet started puberty.

The trio returned and met up with the others who, despite Raskin and Zenga’s preference, had waited for them. The group headed back towards the village and were joined around dusk by an enormous (6’, 150 lb) mosquito, clearly controlled by Farian.

As they made their way back to the village they discussed their plan. After some discussions of splitting the party between those who would strike at the Purvs Māte while the rest went to the town proper to secure the children, they ultimately decided that all their might would likely be needed to defeat the old witch, and that they’d have to trust Farian at his word to spare the children.

With that, they made their two day trek to the hut of the Purvs Māte, their march unimpeded by swamp creatures, as Farian kept them out of the group’s path.

DM’s Notes: This was a heavy session. The revelation of Zenga’s paranage coupled with her father’s rather morally ambiguous request threatened to split the party. The ultimate concession they received seemed to mollify the trio somewhat, but they still resolved to head to the town immediately in case he didn’t keep his word. Shannon, Edella’s player, even outright told me that SHE didn’t believe Farian in the least, but that the naive Edella believed him because he’d given his word (which was consistent with the Paladin’s personality).

That said, the man HAD given his word. Would he keep it…?

Episode 25: Swamp Amazons…Swampazons!

Our explorers…

Froderik Penderghast – Male Human Wizard. His time on the road and friendship with Raskin had him seeming to see the wisdom in morally grey options, but he’s recently vowed to be a  better man. Accompanied by his hawk familiar, Mordecai

Raskin Daggermaw – Male Half-Orc Rogue. Huge, muscular braggadocious letch who is especially good at stabbing folks, if not interpersonal skills. May carry a torch for Edella, and often seems to support options that will line his pockets.

Edella Montfort – Female Human Paladin of Vesper. Somewhat sheltered and naïve but always out to help anyone she comes across and punish evil. The moral center of the group.

Shren – Male Ratman Alchemist. Deadpan maker of potions and concoctions always seeking more recipes to master.

Zenga – Female Human Witch. With her hexes, magic, grey morals and penchant for necromantic spells, she’s a force to be reckoned with. Accompanied by her scorpion familiar (whom she seems to think is her brother) Janis. Very uncomfortable to be back home…

Beybulat Tasho of Tribe Abrek aka “Bey” – Male Human Swashbuckler. A barbarian from the Plains of Galmar, Bey’s skill in the local language is dicey but his large size, strong muscles and fast blades more than make up for it.

Delilah Farmeski – Female Human Cleric of Farmesk. A battle nun from the Eastern Realms who worships the God of War. Loves combat, dislikes men, and usually only worries about healing once the fighting is done.

Briac Youngblood – Male Human Ranger. Has a massive crush on the oblivious Beybulat and is currently rattled by his recent brush with death.

Rongul “Ron” Ruddletater – NPC Male Halfling Cook. Hired by the group as a personal cook after their time in the Halfling Shires. Terrified and wondering if he made a horrible mistake by taking this job.

12th of Griffon, 1159 M.R., Somewhere in the Brokenback Swamps

Zenga and the others returned to the Archeron, with the six mysterious women in tow and keeping a respectful distance. Zenga informed everyone of what they said was happening back in her hometown (plagues, blights and random monster/animal attacks). Some of the group immediately wished to help, though the others were more reluctant. Zenga said she didn’t think they had a choice, seeming to imply that the witches might do something awful to all of them if they refused. The group ultimately agreed, and went to talk to Captain Godwaith about waiting until they return, as Zenga said her village was over three days to the northwest.

Hagen Godswaith
Captain Hagen Godwaith

To their surprise, the captain steadfastly refused. He told them he intended to leave the swamps as soon as his ship was repaired, pointing out both how dangerous the swamp was (as dangerous monsters were known to live there) and also that this was already the worst trip in his career and he was still over 10 days of hard rowing from Emeron City. He stated he was half convinced the group was cursed and that, while he acknowledged and appreciated the group’s help, he would not wait indefinitely for them.

Froderick and Edella were able to convince him sail a half a day north of the swamps once the Archeron was repaired, and lay anchor for 13 days to wait for them to meet them on foot, in exchange for 70 gold and Ron’s continued services as a de facto ship’s cook. Captain Godswaith was reluctant, but stated that since they’d helped so much he agreed to the deal, as long as his ship and crew were not put in danger by carrying out the agreement.  

Zenga advised the witches that they would leave in the morning and they told her they’d return at first light and departed. The group spent the night on in their hammocks on the ship and some of them joined the crew keeping watch overnight to guard against monster or swamp creature attacks.

13th of Griffon, 1159 M.R., Somewhere in the Brokenback Swamps

The group awoke and, as promised, the witches returned at dawn. Ron fortified the group with a tasty breakfast and some sandwiches for lunch on the road and wished them well. The group then followed the witches into the woods. Froderick attempted to engage the women in conversation but they ignored him entirely, although Edella and Delilah did receive clipped, terse answers from the women when they asked questions. Zenga explained that these women were Sargs, or Guard Witches, and passed as a militia in Nāves Ciems, her home town. The men in the group were put out at being ignored and treated as second class individuals.

16th of Griffon, 1159 M.R., Somewhere in the Brokenback Swamps

After two and a half days of cheerless travel, the group was mostly miserable. Trudging through the swamp, contending with the insects and biting mosquitoes and being directed in a meandering path by the seemingly surly and cheerless witches to avoid dangerous terrain, made for an awful trip. The group was thrilled when the leader of the crew of witches, Zuzanna, announced they were almost there. The joy immediately died when Zuzanna produced blindfolds and ordered everyone but Zenga to wear one.

Swamps
Would wouldn’t want to trudge through this for several hot summer days? 

Raskin and Froderick immediately began to protest but were cut off by Zenga who half ordered/ half begged them to cooperate for their own good. Reluctantly everyone agreed and Zenga and the witches led the now blind group through the swamp by hand. After a bit of slogging through the swamp they began to hear growling and howling of horrible sounding monsters. Raskin, distrustful of the witches, tried to peek. Unfortunately Zuzanna was the witch leading him and he did a very poor job of covering it up.

The half orc saw horrific hell beasts surrounding the group and a narrow path through thick fierce brambles covered with the blood and flesh of those who had deviated from the path. But something wasn’t right. He had just enough time to take a closer look and see that these were illusions. All that was really there were a dozen zombies and skeletons standing at attention. Then Zuzanna confronted him, accusing him of not behaving.

Zenga immediately interceded, reminding Zuzanna that she’d promised Zenga that she would not hurt her friends.

“I said as long as they behaved we would not harm them,” Zuzanna replied. “The orc did not behave. Still…I shall keep my word.” With that the witch chanted a few words of magic and Raskin’s vision faded to nothing. “This should be simple to fix and did not hurt him,” Zuzanna stated. Zenga volunteered to finish escorting Raskin to the village and quietly told him to keep his mouth shut and obey commands or the witches would do far worse to him.

The witches led the group to their village and into a large building clearly used as a town hall and allowed them to remove their blindfolds. On the far side of the hall they saw a dozen women and girls clearly living in the town hall. Zuzanna explained that their homes had been destroyed in the recent attacks. She then left to fetch someone called “Bolbjora.” Zenga explained that Bolbjora was chief among the Sargs and the daughter of the town leader, Britta.

After some time Bolbjora arrived and explained that animals and “swamp monsters” kept attacking in a concerted that was quite unusual. At the same time the rainwater that was falling was brackish and undrinkable, the game was rotten and diseased and a plague was sweeping through the town. Froderick asked if they have enemies, but Bolbjora ignored him. Delilah asked if a Druid might be responsible and Bolbjora admitted that they believed so, but had no proof.

Bolbjora explained that the “Purvs Māte” had determined an area where they believed the source of the attacks was, but that they could not pinpoint the exact location. Her mother, Britta, had led an expedition with most of the Sargs to investigate but had not returned.

Bolbjora then then reverted to their own language and told Zenga “The Purvs Māte tells me that you have questions about your parents. She advised me to tell you that I will give you their story if you help us. She also advised me that you did not intend to return to us after getting impregnated, as you were supposed to. As you know such an act would have grave consequences. She suggested I make you this offer: Help us and we will give you what we have not granted in a hundred generations: the right to leave the Wives of Death and never return and avoid the consequences.”

She then asked if Raskin was worth using a spell on to restore his sight, and Zenga advocated for him, stating that he would need it to help the village. Reverting to the Trade Tongue Bolbjora told Raskin that this had been his warning, and next time he looked at something he was ordered not to they would gouge out his eyes. She then cast a spell and Raskin’s sight was restored. Bolbjora stated that she was leaving Surle as a guard and then departed.

The group immediately began to pepper Zenga with questions, but she avoided as many as she could, stating only that she believed they had no choice but to aid the witches. She arranged for Surle to show the group to the town’s alchemist and scroll maker so that they could try to procure supplies, and stated that she’d return in a couple of hours.

Shren, Froderick, Bey, and Delilah went with Surle and perused the limited wares the witches still had, bartering some food and potions and scrolls of their own for a few more powerful items and some ingredients to make more of their own scrolls.

Meanwhile Edella, Raskin and Briac remained in the town’s meeting hall. Edella approached the women and spoke with one of them, an old woman who introduced herself as Natālija. She told Edella that their houses had been destroyed by animal attacks. Edella said they were there to help with that and asked if there were any men in the village. Natālija responded that they did not need men, and that until today she’d never seen one actually in the village. When asked she explained that they procreated by going out and getting impregnated and then returning to have the child. She declared that men were basically worthless otherwise. Nodding politely Edella excused herself from the conversation and filled in her friends. Briac immediately wanted to know what the witches did if someone returned and delivered a boy, but they were reluctant to ask Natālija.

Meanwhile Zenga took a small boat outside of town and approached a dilapidated looking cabin in the swamp guarded by two zombies who did not interfere with her. Inside Zenga visited the Purvs Māte, the blind spiritual leader of the village who used a powerful orb called the “Heart of the Swamp” to enhance her divinations and illusions at the cost of her eyesight.

Purvs Mate
The Purvs Māte

The  Purvs Māte seemed to be expecting Zenga, and even had a plate of frogs legs and a glass of clean water out for her. The old woman tapped the orb and told Zenga that she’d seen that she didn’t plan to return, but that they’d be nearby and could help. Zenga asked if Bolbjora would honor her word to tell her about her parents, and the Purvs Māte replied that “She will tell you the truth as she believes it.”

The Purvs Māte told Zenga that her divinations for a certain area were blocked by “ancient, powerful magic” but that she could give Zenga directions to the vanicity. Zenga asked if there was anything she should know and the blind old woman responded that although she couldn’t see the area clearly, she knew answers lay there for her.

Zenga, complaining about the fact that she was joined to the others and believed it involved the gods, asked what she knew about it. The witch cackled and said she knew much. Zenga asked to be filled in and the old woman replied that it was more fun to watch them flail about in ignorance, but agreed to answer one question for Zenga if they ended the threat to the village first. Zenga thanked her and left.

By the time Zenga returned to the town hall her friends were all gathered. The group immediately began asking Zenga questions about Nāves Ciems, specifically what happened to any boys that were born. Zenga said that they performed a ritual on pregnant women, and Zenga believed that it may make the children always be a girl, but she really did not know. Delilah expressed the theory that the boys were made into familiars, since Zenga believed her scorpion familiar, Janis, was her brother. The witch replied that she didn’t know and turned the conversation to the journey north to investigate the source of the attacks.

Raskin was anxious to leave the village immediately, stating that “everyone here is sick and creepy and dangerous.” Froderick backed this sentiment wholeheartedly. Zenga countered that it was only a couple hours from dusk and that camping in the swamps was dangerous and often difficult and therefore advocated leaving at first light. Bey and Edella agreed with Zenga, arguing that she knew the area better than any of them. Ultimately they agreed to spend the night in the town, bedding down in the town hall away from the refugees. Raskin refused to sleep though, and stayed up all night with his dagger in hand, loudly stating he’d kill anyone who came into the room. Edella stayed up with him, possibly to prevent him from doing anything rash.

17th of Griffon, 1159 M.R., Village of Nāves Ciems, Brokenback Swamps

The group arose at first light and were quickly visited by Bolbjora and the Sargs who had escorted them into the village. They again demanded that the group was blindfolded and led them out (Zenga was quick to offer to be Raskin’s guide to help prevent another incident).

Once they were safely out of the area of the village the Sargs wished Zenga success and the group was on their way. As soon as the Sargs were out of earshot Raskin proposed heading straight back to the Archeron and abandoning the village to its fate. Briac refused however, stating that the people of the village needed help and Zenga stated that they didn’t really have a choice and added that she could get valuable information about the phenomenon that bound them all together if they did as they were asked. Ultimately Zenga was adamant, implying she’d do it herself if she had to, which effectively ended the debate as even the hyper reluctant Raskin wasn’t inclined to abandon Zenga.

Trudging through the mosquito infested, shin deep bogs proved to be miserable and the early summer humidity and hot rains throughout the day did nothing to alleviate everyone’s displeasure. Eventually the sun was sinking low and they managed to find some vaguely firm and raised land to make camp upon.

DM’s Notes: Most of the male PC’s viscerally hated Nāves Ciems, which was to be expected really given the way they were treated by the Wives of Death. Zenga’s reluctantce to talk about what occurred there frustrated the party In Game, but helped to keep up the creepy mystery of the village, so I wasn’t complaining. 

Jennie, Zenga’s player, seemed to be in hog heaven as her character history was hitting them full force, and even she didn’t quite know what was going to happen. The normally deadpan Zenga’s palpable fear and anxiety of being home, however, was definately noticed by the others which, again, only served to make the place seem more creepy.

Of course, not even Zenga knew what lay ahead once they found the source of the disturbance…

 

Episode 24: Sailing the Long River

Our cast of misfit travelers:

Froderik Penderghast – Male Human Wizard. His time on the road and friendship with Raskin had him seeming to see the wisdom in morally grey options, but he’s recently vowed to be a  better man. Accompanied by his hawk familiar, Mordecai

Raskin Daggermaw – Male Half-Orc Rogue. Huge, muscular braggadocious letch who is especially good at stabbing folks, if not interpersonal skills. May carry a torch for Edella, and often seems to support options that will line his pockets.

Edella Montfort – Female Human Paladin of Vesper. Somewhat sheltered and naïve but always out to help anyone she comes across and punish evil. The moral center of the group.

Shren – Male Ratman Alchemist. Deadpan maker of potions and concoctions always seeking more recipes to master.

Zenga – Female Human Witch. With her hexes, magic, grey morals and penchant for necromantic spells, she’s a force to be reckoned with. Accompanied by her scorpion familiar (whom she seems to think is her brother) Janis.

Beybulat Tasho of Tribe Abrek aka “Bey” – Male Human Swashbuckler. A barbarian from the Plains of Galmar, Bey’s skill in the local language is dicey but his large size, strong muscles and fast blades more than make up for it.

Delilah Farmeski – Female Human Cleric of Farmesk. A battle nun from the Eastern Realms who worships the God of War. Loves combat, dislikes men, and usually only worries about healing once the fighting is done.

Briac Youngblood – Male Human Ranger. Has a massive crush on the oblivious Beybulat and is currently rattled by his recent brush with death.

4th of Griffon, 1159 M.R., Rivershire

The group arose early with plans for Froderick, Shren and Zenga to visit the magic shop while everyone else fetched their horses and then to board the ship they booked passage on and head out for Emeron. After yet another delicious halfling meal, many in the group lamented that they’d soon have to resort to trail rations. That was when Froderick struck on the idea of simply hiring a halfling chef to travel with them. Flush with reward money from slaying the monster plaguing Roadshire, the group quickly agreed. The group had been staying that the Plucky Bird Inn, and loved the food, but since the chef (Dora Stoutfoot) was the owner’s mother (and an old woman) they figured she wouldn’t be the best candidate. Still, when asked Dora recommended a promising young halfling cook who had recently been her apprentice: Rongul “Ron” Ruddletater. She told them that he was currently working at the Yellow Necromancer Tavern.

While the others gathered the horses, Froderick and Zenga made for the Yellow Necromancer to speak with Rongul. Since it was located near the docks the tavern made breakfast for the fishermen, and they found the halfling easily and introduced themselves.

Ron Ruddletater
Rongul “Ron” Ruddletater

Rongul quickly realized that these were the heroes who had fought the horrible moth in town. Impressed, the halfling seemed willing to take them up on the offer. After a little haggling he agreed to join them for 5 silver a day and the group covering the food expenses. After Froderick gave Ron’s boss Lalia a platinum piece to smooth over the fact that her cook was immediately quitting, they gave the halfling some gold to purchase supplies and bid him to meet them at the docks in two hours.

From there Zenga and Froderick met up with Shren and went to visit the magic shop in town, procuring scroll and potion making supplies, before heading to the docks. Once there they found the Archeron and were greeted by the captain, Hagen Godwaith

The captain was pretty busy preparing the ship for departure, however so quickly assigned his First Mate, Millus Anwinn, to handle the matter. The group informed them that they were bringing their personal cook too, and the group all chipped in to cover the cost of Ron’s passage.

Millus Anwinn
Millus Anwinn, First Mate of the Archeron

They advised the First Mate that once Ron arrived they could leave and the crew loaded the last of the cargo and the group’s horses, into the cargo hold. As promised, after a couple hours Rongul returned, weighed down with a huge and loaded backpack. They brought him onto the ship and Edella offered him a halfling sized suit of leather armor, wooden shield and short sword that the group had in their possession from some of the halfling thugs they’d defeated. They also offered him the halfling sized magical dagger they took off Lemuel Pigeon. Thus equipped Ron was ready to start his life as an adventurer.

The group made themselves at home on hammocks in the portion of the hold that was not given over to cargo and their mounts. Bey and Delilah had paid a discounted rate to help the crew row up the Long River and Briac, eager to spend more time with Bey, also volunteered to row even though he’d paid full price.

Over the next couple of days the group met the other eight crewmembers of the Archeron besides Captain Godwaith and Millus. The crew was mixed between men and women and was mostly human with the exception of a halfling man named Brutus who pulled duty as the ship’s cook and a female gnome named Dodysandaraexx (aka Dody.)

7th of Griffon,1159 M.R., sailing on the Long River

After four days of rather uneventful sailing the ship had the misfortune to encounter a massive thunderstorm. It was among the worst that Captain Godwaith could ever remember sailing through and it tossed the Archeron around like a toy. Although three sailors (including First Mate Millus and Brutus the cook) were washed overboard, many of the crew would not have survived being hurled around against the deck were it not for Edella and Delilah constantly channeling healing to everyone in the vicinity.

Once the storm had passed the ship dropped anchor to search for the missing crew, but recovered only the bodies of Millus and Brutus. The corpse of the final crewmember, Tess, was not recovered. Though under a cloud of sadness due to the loss, the ship continued on. Meanwhile Edella and Froderick were concerned that this abnormal weather was a sign that Guya, the goddess of Nature, Agriculture and Weather, was the figure Edna Maude saw in her vision of the after life and was in trouble.

8th of Griffon, 1159 M.R., sailing on the Long River

Early the next morning the group had awoken and was eating their breakfast when alarm bells were rung above decks. Rushing up they saw that trio of ships were sailing from the eastern shore at the Archeron. On the shore, just outside of the woods, were four bowmen with torches lit next to them. Belatedly, the group realized the forest on the shore was undoubtedly the Bandit Woods, and that the attackers were almost certainly bandits.

Shren, Froderick and Zenga were first on deck. The middle of the three rowboats approaching had a halfling women at the bow, and she called to the ship that they should be prepared to stand down and hand over their valuables to avoid anyone being hurt. Captain Godwaith countered with “You will take our cargo and valuables from our corpses, bitch!” He then ordered his men to prepare to fire at the bandits and the crew began to run to chests on the deck and pull out bows.

Froderick kicked off the attack by shooting the halfling woman with a Magic Missile while Zenga put two rowers on one of the boats to sleep. Unfortunately, they thus revealed themselves as mages, prompting the halfling to order her men to target them, and both were badly shot with a volley of arrows fired from the boats. The bandits on shore, meanwhile, shot flaming arrows at the ship, causing two small fires to start.

The rest of the group rushed to the deck and Edella and Bey targeted the halfling woman with their bows, while Delilah summoned a squid under the halfling’s boat and it started trying to sink it. While Briac focused on putting out the fires, the rest of the group and the crew of the Archeron exchanged arrow fire with the bandits. The result was the bandits suffering several losses, and their halfling leader enduring several more arrow strikes. Most of the bandits decided to abandon the attack, with the halfling herself jumping overboard as all the rowers on her boat were either dead or sleeping (thanks to Zenga). Unfortunately Delilah’s squid grabbed the poor, perforated halfling and drug her down to the depths of the river to drown. One boat continued to try to attack for a few moments, with the terrified men on it saying that the “Dark Lady” would kill them horribly if they ran, but an auditory illusion in the water (courtesy of Froderick) convinced the men to face the Dark Lady rather than whatever was below the water and they too fled.

Edella, Raskin and Bey turned their fire to the bandits on shore, while Shren hurled a bomb into one of the fleeing rowboats. Captain Godwaith and the crew focused their efforts on the other fleeing rowboat. The bandits fled into the woods, dragging their injured and sleeping comrades with them. Raskin yelled after the bandits to the effect that the Dark Lady could perform unsavory acts upon his nether regions, while Froderick simply ascended the crow’s nest and mooned the fleeing bandits. Captain Godwaith thanked the group for their help, lamenting that without them the attack could easily have gone the other way.

10th of Griffon, 1159 M.R., sailing on the Long River

After a day of uneventful travel a ship was spied coming down the river. Captain Godwaith used his spyglass and identified it as another merchant ship, the Supreme. Sending a friendly hail, the ships came alongside one another and the captains, clearly old acquaintances, greeted each other warmly.

The Supreme’s captain, William Hennit, inquired about news to the south and Godwaith informed him of the recent troubles in Rivershire (granting credit for the resolution to his current passengers) and warned of the bandits they’d fought off two days ago.

Captain Hennit then shared his news: King Koris Woodbridge, sovereign of Emeron, had died. He had been ill for years, and rumors swirled claiming that he was being poisoned by his wife Queen Merey, his daughter Crown Princess Joycie or her husband Baron Geoffrey Ravennut in a scheme to seize power. Still, these were rumors only. Regardless, King Koris was very popular and there were riots in the capital that had to be put down.

This news struck everyone as quite sad. The crew of the Archeron was saddened at the death of their king, and the group was concerned that they were heading into a realm of political instability.

Captain Hennet revealed that Princess Joycie, the king’s eldest child, had ascended the throne and ordered all the dukes and direct royal vassals of Emeron to come to the capital to reaffirm their oaths of fealty to the Crown. Edella was heartened at this, as she had grown up in the castle of the famous Hero of Unity, Sir Lazrith, who was a royal knight.

The group was also concerned that Duke Arman Kapax could be there as well. They did not know if Arman had overruled their exoneration by Baroness Leena back in Wrellen but if so they could be fugitives again.

Last, but certainly not least, Captain Hennitt warned that they’d seen something large swimming in the water to the north, but could not determine what it was. The two crews then shared a few drinks and conversation before both vessels went on their way.

12th of Griffon, 1159 M.R., Sailing on the Long River

After another long and uneventful day, the Archeron continued to row upriver, now deep into the territory of the Brokenback Swamps. This prompted questions to Zenga about if she was inclined to visit home and what it was like, as she had revealed she was from the Brokenback Swamps. She pointedly ignored the all questions though, and promptly went below decks.

Froderick regaled everyone within earshot of the history of the swamps, explaining that it used to be a duchy in the Kingdom of Emeron hundreds of years ago. He explained that Emeron had been at war with the elves and that they’d used ancient and powerful magic to destroy the entire duchy, rendering the whole region the horrible bog now known as the Brokenback Swamps. The wizard said that there were rumors of crumbling towers and keeps that held ancient treasures within the foreboding bogs.

Raskin, intrigued by rumors of treasure to be found in the ancient ruins of the swamps, went downstairs to further question Zenga on the matter but she continued to ignore the half-orc.

Meanwhile, above decks, the group spied a dark shape in the water swim under the ship. Calling a warning to the crew they waited a moment for the creature to emerge on the other side of the ship. Instead it seemed to ram the ship from below, knocking nearly everyone over and cracking the hull. Then the creature surfaced in front of the ship, revealing a five headed hydra!

Hydra
A Hydra

Captain Godwaith threw the ship hard to port and yelled for his crew to man their stations. Froderick, recalling a book he read, warned that it was a hydra and that if it’s heads were severed more would grow back. He advised the only way to kill it was to cut off all the heads or damage the body so much it would die. Froderick suggested that enough fire damage to one of the heads would prevent a new head from growing back.

Bey pulled himself to his feet and pulled out one of the bows that the crew of the Archeron used in case of battle. Bey asked Froderick to light them on fire for him, and Froderick advised he did not have such spells prepared, but suggested getting a bucket that he could fill with oil to make fire arrows.

The creature meanwhile lashed out at the ship and anyone on it that it could reach. Delilah was able to avoid injury, but one of the sailors named Steinus was bit in the hip, though he survived the attack. Steinus attempted to run to the oars to keep the ship moving and suffered another nasty bite to the shoulder. Still, the stout seaman was able to yank himself free of the monster and get to his station in spite of the large amount of blood he was now losing.

Below decks Raskin ran up immediately without a look back. Zenga followed but spared a look to notice that the Hydra had put a rather large crack in the ship and the Archeron was taking on water. Advising “someone should do something about that,” she followed Raskin up the stairs. The three sailors who had been off duty and were sleeping, as well as Ron, all sprung into action to try to repair the ship.

Above decks, Delilah ordered a nearby sailor to take her spot at the oar and leapt into action. In short order she had summoned a scimitar of holy energy above the hydra and used it to strike the beast, as well as a pair of squids to harry the creature from the water.

Meanwhile Edella drew her ranseur and charged in, calling upon the magic users in the party to slay the beast while she distracted it, and began striking the beast. Froderick, nodding to the paladin, blasted the hydra with a Magic Missile. In response the beast lashed out biting Edella and Delilah (and the squids) as well as further damaging the ship.

Briac pulled himself to his feet, at Froderick’s suggestion of fire, he grabbed a bucket and ran to the wizard. Froderick poured a flask of oil into it, and advised cloth was needed to attach to the arrows to set alight and fire on the beast. Briac ripped off his shirt and began tearing it into strips while Bey ran downstairs to recover the brazier that was burning in the galley. Downstairs Bey found Ron and the remaining members of the Archeron’s crew trying to close the hole that the hydra had made. Slogging through the ankle deep water Bey retrieved the Brazier and ran back above deck.

Zenga cast a spell, commanding the creature to stay still, which worked and the creature stopped it’s attacks for a moment while Shren nailed it with one of his alchemical bombs. Froderick cast a spell upon Raskin, magically enhancing his strength. Raskin, bellowing in battle joy, advanced on the Hydra. The half-orc drew his dagger and performed an impressive display with it, unnerving the Hydra somewhat. He then grabbed one of the heads and hacked away at it with his weapon, severing the beasts head after several powerful and precise strikes.

Meanwhile Edella and the squids Delilah summoned continued to strike at the monster. By the time it was eventually able to shake off Zenga’s spell it dove below the water seeking to flee. Delilah, however, wished to end the threat upon the river that this creature represented and used her summoned scimitar to fly below the waves and pierce the things enormous body, finally slaying it.

As soon as the beast was slain Captain Godwaith ran below decks to examine the damage, followed by many of the group. The hole in the hull was large enough, that he feared they’d need to put to shore in order to repair it. Zenga cast a Mending spell, but while it helped it was not nearly enough to repair the damage completely. The Captain ordered the pumps to be broken out and the crew began trying to pump out the water they were taking on. He then declared that they would put to shore on the western bank and repair the Archeron.

The group, aware that Zenga was from somewhere in the Brokenback Swamps, again began asking her about her home but she continued to pointedly ignore such queries. Still, she seemed more and more anxious as the Archeron was steered into the marshes at an angle to try to expose the hull breach for repairs.

The group offered to help, and Captain Godwaith asked them to try to recover wood to use for patching the hole. He said he felt they’d be more capable as the Brokenback Swamps are notoriously full of monsters, and the group was likely better able to contend with such threats.

Agreeing, everyone went off to look for wood, except for Delilah and Ron who stayed behind to try to help with repairs to the Archeron. On the way Beybulat kept asking Zenga about her life living in the swamps, but Zenga answered curtly with one word answers, clearly still seeking to avoid any discussion on the matter.

Zenga
Zenga, even moodier than usual.

After nearly an hour of trekking three figures approached the group, calling out in an unknown language. Before anyone could really react Zenga answered in the same language, and the three figures stepped out and revealed themselves to be three armed women. Zenga ordered the group to return to the ship. In spite of Froderick’s and Shren’s assertion that they should do as Zenga ordered, most of the group refused to leave her alone with three unknown and armed women.

After a brief conversation in this strange language Zenga moved off with the group and explained that the women told her that a number of pestilences were afflicting their village as if nature had turned against them. The good water had gone bad and the rainfalls were now brackish, the game they had survived on is now rotten and inedible, the edible vegetation was dying and a plague was ravaging the village. Animals and sometimes plants were attacking the village alongside strange swamp monsters and have destroyed half the town. The witches who lived in the wilderness have been killed or driven into what’s left of the village.

“We should help!” Edella immediately declared.

“Are these your people?” Bey asked, and Zenga admitted that she was from Nāves Ciems, the village in question.

Zenga told the women that they would need to check in with their ship and recover another party member to assist, and the women agreed, following them. On the way back to the Archeron three more armed women emerged from the wilderness, clearly allies of the first three and lying in wait in case things had turned violent.

The rest of the group still had many questions for Zenga about these mystery women, but for now these questions would remain unanswered…

DM’s Notes: The PC’s ship has experienced many issues on the water, specifically in the form of a Hydra. I didn’t expect the Hydra to be a huge danger, for such a large creature they’re a bit underpowered and amount to little more than a big bag of HP and several attacks a round (but for comparatively little damage.) Still, it had the desired effect of giving everyone a bit of a scare and a fun fight (not to mention damaging the ship.)

Of course, this led the group to the Brokenback Swamps and touching Zenga’s character history. For me this was a no brainer. I try to include a backstory if possible in my campaigns. Sometimes it’s not possible, but when it is possible, it’s often great. A backstory adventure instantly has the attention of the player in question, and they often thoroughly enjoy themselves. The other players are often more deeply invested as well. This isn’t just some adventure to save a bunch of chumps, this is an adventure to help out your fellow party member!

Then again, Zenga’s past is a bit mysterious so we’ll have to see how this one shakes out…