Episode 40: Killing Clerics and Rescuing Rogues

Our combatants:

Froderik Penderghast – Male Human Wizard. Logical and self-important wizard. 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. Largely concerned with things that will get him paid. Currently escaping from the clutches of the cult of the Reptile God.  

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. He really wants the 200 gp he gave to the Temple of Guya for a scroll commission back.

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, she’s quite broken at the moment. Accompanied by her scorpion familiar (and brother) Janis, whose attempts to cheer her up are REALLY not working. Currently charmed to Misha, a priestess of the Snake God.

Beybulat “Bey” Tasho– Male Human Swashbuckler. A barbarian from the Plains of Galmar, he’s slowly learning the local language, though the customs are still baffling to him and his distrust of magic both divine and arcane is starting to cause tension in the party.

Delilah Farmeski – Female Human Cleric of Farmesk. A battle nun from the Eastern Realms who worships the God of War. She usually only thinks of healing after the fighting is done.

Briac Youngblood – Male Human Ranger. Has a massive crush on the oblivious Beybulat, and is desperately trying to keep his preference for men a secret. Thrilled to be reunited with his canine companion, Rolla.

Belina Katel – NPC Female Human Ranger. The lone survivor of an adventuring party, she was rescued by the group and is traveling with them for the time being.

3rd of Lion, 1159, Temple of Guya, Town of Redwyne

Thanks to the timely application of Delilah’s Sunburst spell, most of the enemies defending the Temple of Guya had been laid low. The undead were all obliterated outright, all the acolytes and the priestess, Misha Devi, were down as was all but one of the Bugbears. The only other enemy still standing was the middle aged priest, Abramo, and he had been blinded by the spell. Froderick, Mordecai and Briac promptly blinked away, causing Rolla to make a sad whine.

Abramo immediately turned himself invisible, while the bugbear tried to run for it, fleeing deeper into the temple. Delilah and Bey gave chase, with the former yelling “Halt, fiend and face your punishment!” as she ran. The bugbear turned and swung at her with his morning star, but Delilah blocked with her shield. Bey then sidled up with his shortsword and cleaved so deeply into the monster’s shoulder that he penetrated all the way into its chest, slaying it instantly. Seeing it was dead, but knowing Abramo was still around, Delilah headed back in the main room pausing only to stove in the head of one of the downed acolytes.

Edella meanwhile ran to the door to the left, intending to block it so that the invisible Abramo could not flee through it without passing her. She yelled to him, “Surrender now and take us to our friend and we will not kill you!” The cleric he did not respond. He did, however, touch her (rendering himself visible) and affected her with visions of madness, which hampered her resistance and combat ability. He then moved past her, groping his way forward into the room. Edella took a swipe at him with her ransur, stabbing him in the back as he ran by. “I told you to stand down!” she yelled to him.

“The Reptile God will eat your soul, Edella!” he hissed, grasping his holy symbol and channeling dark energy to injure the paladin.

Belina and Shren spent some time finishing off the downed Bugbears, though once Abramo started using his evil energy Belina ran into the room and drew her bow. Joined a moment later by a charging Delilah, things were not looking good for Abramo. Hissing in rage he called again upon his Reptile God and another burst of dark energy emerged, injuring the three women pursuing him. Still, Edella powered through and stabbed him in the lower back as he tried to flee, finally taking the priest down.

Edella asked Belina to bind the wounds of Abramo and tie him up as they still had to find Raskin (whose injuries they kept feeling as he battled the Ogre below, though they could not know that.) She agreed, and Edella and Delilah ran off to try to reach their erstwhile companion as quickly as they could. Shren wandered in and helped Belina to bind the wounds of Abramo and tie him up. The ratman also took the precaution of relieving Abramo of his holy symbol, which appeared to be a snake with a woman’s face.

Bey had a head start on Edella and Delilah, and had found the trap door in Misha’s room. Climbing down the ladder he lit a candle for and moved forward in the subterranean lair, trying to find Raskin (and Zenga).

Meanwhile Zenga, still surrounded by the black swirling cloud she’d created that moved with her, had found the trap door in Misha’s chambers that lead to the basement below the temple. Heading down and using Dancing Lights to see, she continued her search for Raskin. Though the basement was carved into stone, there was a finished wooden wall along her left side with a single door. Carefully, hoping that it wasn’t trapped, she went through it. Thankfully it wasn’t trapped but she didn’t see much more. She started calling for Raskin and moving forward.

Upon hearing Zenga, Raskin, still fleeing for his life from an angry Ogre, called “I’m here! Fucking help me!” Though it wasn’t clear from either party’s voice where the other was. Zenga charged down the nearest hall, finding herself in narrow hallways with spikes at random intervals. She avoided getting stabbed by them as she moved down them as quickly as she could, trying to find Raskin. She sent a Zengcode saying “In a corridor with spikes. Where are you?”

The half-orc, in the meantime, fled in the direction he thought he heard Zenga’s voice, but found himself stuck in a corridor heading to what he felt was another dead end, still with the beast behind him he was low on choices. Upon receiving the Zengcode, even though he didn’t know which of his companions sent it, began screaming as loud as he could “Here! I’m here! Come help me!”

“I’m right here!” Zenga shouted in reply, but Raskin had trouble telling where it was from but he thought he had to go back the way he came. Swearing at his ill luck, the half-orc again ducked around the ogre, fleeing further into the maze and finding himself in the intersection he’d been in twice. Thankfully, to his left he spotted a hidden door. With a cry of victory he threw it open and ran into it, closing it behind him in the hopes the Ogre wouldn’t see it. Unfortunately the Ogre knew about the door and threw it open, continuing his pursuit of Raskin.

Zenga came upon a door, nicking herself on the spikes in the process. She called out to Raskin, who replied, though his entreaties for help were getting more frantic. Fortunately he had a better sense of where Zenga was based on her voice, but unfortunately it was again past the Ogre. Ducking past the monster, Raskin was barely able to duck a blow by the Ogre as he bolted, finding a door and whipping it open. Outside he saw a swirling cloud of black mist, “What the fuck?!” Raskin swore in confusion.

“Get in here,” Zenga yelled from within the mist.

From within the door the Ogre thundered out, bleeding from various small wounds, especially the nasty bleeding hip wound Raskin had given. Hefting the javelin and ready to throw it at Raskin, who hadn’t yet ducked into the mist. Suddenly the creature’s knees buckled and the blood loss finally got the best of the beast as it slumped into unconsciousness.

Giving a triumphant cry Raskin leapt on the downed Ogre, using his makeshift spike/dagger to stab the creature over and over until its face and torso resembled yellowish hamburger. A secret healing to Raskin from Zenga’s Staff of Healing (as nobody could see her use it from within the swirling black mist) made the half-orc feel a little better.

Once Raskin was done venting his rage on the dead Ogre, he paused to catch his breath just in time to detect a horrible odor and the footsteps and voices of several creatures. A moment later eight troglodytes charged into view.

500px-Trog
A Troglodyte

Raskin, belatedly realizing he hadn’t warned Zenga that he was fleeing from more than the ogre, stood and readied his spike, but Zenga grabbed his shoulder and drug him back into the swirling mist next to her. Able to see her now, Raskin got a front row seat as she then cast a spell and vomited up a huge swarm of spiders which marched off towards the advancing creatures.

Vomit Swarm
“I know just the spellllllarrrrrgggghhh”

Hearing Bey, Edella and Delilah trying to run towards them the two pulled back to join with them as the spiders charged forward at the troglodytes, biting as they went.

The Troglodytes gave chase, running through spider swarm and suffering the bites as they went. As Raskin and Zenga rounded a corner and met up with Bey, who was well ahead of Edella and Delilah. Froderick then appeared near them, just outside of the cloud. Though he still had Invisibility and Spider Climb active on him, his tendency to mutter to himself alerted the others to his presence and they quickly brought him up to speed.

Complaining about how he always seemed to pop in during a battle Froderick climbed the wall near the cloud. Zenga assured everyone that once they explained everything to Misha, that everything could be talked out, although since everyone knew she was charmed (and Raskin quickly figured it out) they gave non-committal answers to these assertions.

Raskin, Zenga and Bey ran down the hall, reuniting with Edella and Delilah and they took up positions to prepare for the troglodytes to charge into them. Delilah and Edella healed Raskin up and everyone stood ready.

Froderick, meanwhile, flattened himself upon the ceiling and waited for the troglodytes to pass him in the hall. Barely keeping himself from gagging at the stink of the monsters as they passed under him, he bided his time and waited for them to round the corner. Once they did he descended and chanted a few words of magic while manipulating a small patch of fur and a thin glass rod. A bolt of lighting flew from his fingertips electrocuting half of the troglodytes charging down to engage his friends. The remaining four immediately turned and charged Froderick (as he’d become visible after casting the spell.) The wizard who took a moment to invite them, in their own language, to lick his testicales. He then fled deeper into the maze.

Meanwhile up in the temple Belina and Shren had spent some time removing the holy symbols from Misha and the corpses of the acolytes when suddenly Briac appeared. Rolla immediately ran towards him, barking happily. Taking stock of the situation, the ranger asked for a status, and the two explained that the others had charged off after Raskin and Zenga, but that Edella had asked them to secure the clerics. With a nod, Briac charged off to join the rest of the group. Climbing down the latter he saw the ambient light from the rest of the group and made his way there.

Zenga, who was hustling back upstairs to check on Misha now that Raskin was safe, passed the ranger. Confused, Briac called to the others in the dungeon to ask Misha was because Zenga said she had to get to her.

“She’s one of the evil clerics!” Edella called back to Briac.

The ranger swore and turned to chase Zenga, calling for her to wait. Zenga, however, had reached the ladder and ascended it back to the main floor of the temple. Briac gave chase, trying to catch up to the charmed witch.

Meanwhile, those waiting for the Troglodytes to come to them, however, quickly realized that they had turned and chased Froderick rather than continue to chase Raskin and Zenga. Upon realizing this Edella, Delilah, Bey and Raskin ran back down the hallway again, mostly avoiding the spikes, to chase the troglodytes and save Froderick from their wrath.

Edella, in the lead, tried lure the creatures away from the wizard by taunting them as she ran. Unfortunately her trash talking skills of “Hey! You ugly things! Come over here and fight” were not quite up to par and the creatures ignored her.

Edella Montfort
“Was that too mean? I feel like it was too mean…”

Froderick, also realizing that the troglodytes were coming after him, decided he needed to hold the beasts until his friends could catch up to him. He stepped just into the door that went even deeper into the maze and stood to the side, his hands in a fan pattern and a spell on his lips. As the first of the four troglodytes chasing him stepped into the room he let loose with a magical gout of flame that took down the creature. Two more charged in to attack Froderick and Mordechai. The hawk clawed up one of them, but the beasts didn’t manage to land a hit on the wizard or his familiar.

Froderick pressed the creatures, telling them in their own language “You’re only going to find your death here,” and blasting the one attacking him in the face with a ray of scorching heat, while Mordechai clawed the one in front of him, though he suffered a blow from its stone axe in response. Thankfully, however, the hawk’s new celestial powers protected it from harm. Froderick was not so lucky, though, and took a glancing blow in the torso from one of the stone axes of the beasts.

Delilah charged the troglodyte who hadn’t quite made it into the room, battering the creature down with her morning star. Raskin followed up by running into the room behind one of the troglodytes, and tried to stab it with his makeshift spike/dagger but he could not penetrate the tough scales and cut up his hand on the spike.

Meanwhile, upstairs, Zenga was nearly to the main room of the temple, with Briac hot on her heels yelling “Zenga! Stop Wait!” which alerted Belina and Shren, both of whom had seen the witch get charmed by Misha at the beginning of the battle and didn’t quite know what to expect.

Zenga ran into the room and, seeing Shren and Belina standing over the obviously wounded and tied up Misha (and Abramo too for that matter) demanded “What have you done,” and ran up to the cleric (which enveloped everyone in her black cloud.)

“She’s been corrupted by the lizard god,” Shren said, holding up Mischa’s holy symbol, which depicted a snake with a human woman’s face. “If you heal them, we’re going to have a problem,” the ratman warned. “If you want to save her we need to keep her restrained until she’s cured from the lizard god.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Zenga said and bent down to check the status of Misha, who was still alive though badly battered and burnt.

“Zenga, who are your true friends?” Shren asked, trying to get through to the witch in her charmed state, but Zenga just ignored him.

“That’s your answer?” Shren, irritated, asked “to ignore me?”

Belina, confused and concerned at the growing tension of the situation backed out of the cloud and ducked behind a nearby pillar for cover and readied her bow. She didn’t know what (if anything) was about to happen, but she knew she didn’t want to be right in the thick of it.

Briac, calling out for Zenga to stop, ran into the mist to try to prevent her from helping Misha, badly lying “Zenga, uh…come with me. Ummm….Raskin needs help?” Unsurprisingly, the witch saw through this hasty fib.

Shren hefted his morning star and smeared a bottle of some substance upon the weapon and then chugged a potion.

Zenga drew forth a Scroll of Cure Light Wounds, and Janis asked her “Are you sure? I think the ratman and big scarred guy mean well…” Unfortunately Zenga, still emotionally crippled from her recent experiences and not aware that it was Janis and not just a voice in her head, merely hissed for the scorpion to stop speaking and ignored him.

Shren, since Zenga had moved right next to him to run up to Misha, was able to see her in the cloud, and was not willing to allow Zenga to heal the cleric and so lashed out with this morning star. The weapon connected solidly with the witch, blowing her spellcasting and ruining the spell. Unfortunately the substance Shren had smeared on the morning star was a dose of the Deathblade poison he’d taken from the assassin in Golden Grain Inn.

It took no time for the position to start attacking Zenga’s organs, and she started suffering from the effects immediately. Within mere seconds she was having trouble breathing and feeling her heart start pounding wildly. Quickly Zenga sent out via the Zencode “Shren is attacking me!”

Shren followed up by flinging an ice bomb at Zenga, causing several icy shards to impale the witch. Badly wounded, she clung to consciousness and yelled to Briac and Belina “Shren’s trying to kill me!”

“She’s trying to heal the clerics, she’s lost her mind!” the ratman yelled in response.

Belina went back into the swirling cloud and was able to locate Misha and drag her out so that Zenga could not heal her. Briac blindly ran into the cloud to tackle whomever he came across. Unfortunately he was unable to see in the cloud and came out the other side. Turning, he ran back in at a different angle, tripped over Abramo and flew into Zenga, accidently throwing the witch on the ground, with the big ranger atop her.

Back downstairs Edella was able to take down the troglodyte that had been trying to kill Froderick, while Froderick took down the final one with a spell that slammed a trio of magical bolts of energy into the beast. Feeling the damage Zenga suffered and having received her Zengcode everyone but Delilah (who began to loot the troglodytes) charged up the stairs as quickly as they could, running headlong through the spiked hallways as they went.

Even though Briac was on top of her, Zenga was able to cast a slumber hex at Shren, and the ratman fell asleep. Zenga’s heart rate accelerated and her breathing became harder, however, and she’d broken out in a feverish sweat as the poison continued to course through her veins. “Are you ok?” Briac asked Zenga.

“I’m dying,” the witch replied simply. “He poisoned me.”

“I can cure you,” Briac said “but I need you to not attack Shren until we can figure this out, maybe he was charmed too or something.”

“He was trying to kill me,” the witch stated flatly. “I am dying right now.”

Calling upon the strange power he’d recently acquired, Briac healed Zenga, which not only purged her of the poison, but also cured the damage it had done as well as the injuries she suffered from Shren’s attacks.

Zenga tried to shove Briac off of him to stand, but he ranger held her down. “Zenga, wait let’s just get everyone up here and talk this out,” he said. “We can’t –”

Briac was cut off by Zenga’s sleep hex and fell asleep. Using all her strength Zenga pushed the ranger off her and stood up. Taking just a moment to pull the components, Zenga cast a spell on the ratman, putting her spirit in his body. As Zenga’s body slumped back to the floor her consciousness awoke in Shren’s ratman body. Hefting the Ratman’s morning star Zenga made his body smash itself in the face with it.

Confused, Belina headed back into the cloud and got close enough to “Shren” to see him smash himself in the face. Shocked she blurted “What are you doing?!” Zenga only giggled and merely made the Ratman brutally smash himself again and again.

Belina didn’t know what was happened, but seeing Shren bashing his own face in was certainly sub-optimal so she tried to grapple the ratman, but was unable to.

Within his body Shren’s consciousness awoke from the pain of the attacks. He could not take control of his faculties, but he could communicate with Zenga. Unfortunately he did not help his case when the only mental message he sent to the witch was “There’s a darkness in you. You need to die.”

Briac finally awoke and saw Shren smashing himself in the face. Briac (like Belina) had not seen the witch use this spell before so he didn’t know Zenga was controlling Shren but he reached the same conclusion as Belina and grabbed the ratman to prevent him from hurting himself. Zenga tried to cast a spell on Briac, but was unable to make the necessary complex hand gestures while being restrained by Briac. The big ranger shoved the ratman to the ground and pinned him.

Thankfully the others, led by Froderick came charging into the room. The wizard was unable to dispel Zenga’s magical black cloud that blanketed the area, but Raskin, Edella and Bey quickly charged in. In short order Raskin found Zenga’s body pinned it while Bey grabbed rope from Froderick and tied up “Shren.” Edella convinced Zenga to return to her own body so everything could be talked out. Still infuriated, Zenga agreed and returned her consciousness to her own body and cancelled the cloud spell.

As everyone caught their breath and got their bearings, Zenga and Shren glared at one another, both under the already exasperated eye of Edella…

DM’s Notes: It’s every Game Master’s nightmare, right? Party members turning on each other. As a GM you don’t want a PC to lose a character to such a situation, but you also have to be a fair arbiter of PC actions, even against other PC’s. There’s a number of ways DM’s can react. They can refuse to let the player’s take the action, they can fudge it so that nobody actually dies, they can just kill both characters in a frustrated rage-fit if they are especially annoyed (the worst of the possible options in my opinion). Personally, my sandbox style of GMing  extends to player choice, even against other players. I’ll allow it, but I also make sure that the players know that actions have consequences.

This isn’t the first time I’ve dealt with of inter-party conflict, it’s cropped up several times before, most memorably in a Star Wars campaign. One of the players suddenly exhibited some very Dark Side force powers in a fight against a big bad from her past and it prompted the very anti-Sith smuggler to make a snap judgement and shoot her dead on the spot (it helped that she was low on HP and the smuggler rolled a crit.) That player, however, knew that actions have consequences. The ultimate result was that the smuggler ended up going to jail (one of the other PC’s informed the authorities), much of the party turned on him and his player had to roll a new character for the rest of the campaign. Nobody really wins in an inter-party fight, IMHO, but it’s most fair as a DM to be a neutral arbiter, interpret the rules as impartially as possible, and let nature take its course.

From an out of game perspective, it’s the sort of thing that runs the risk of blowing up a gaming group altogether. Sides get taken, players take it personally and are upset at the loss of a character if they die, stuff gets said in the heat of the moment and it can kill a gaming group altogether. Thankfully my weekly group are all mature grown-ups (or fake it pretty effectively like I do) so as I get older this a whole table blowing up seems less and less likely, and thankfully was avoided on this occasion. Still, I’m never the biggest fan of PvP unless there’s a good character driven reason. I won’t shy away from it when it happens, but it’s usually not the story I’m trying to tell.

To this day I don’t really know what prompted Shren’s player to go straight to the most deadly poison in his arsenal to try to stop a charmed ally from healing the tied up cleric who’d cast the Charm. The best idea that was bandied around was that he feared attempting a less severe and potentially permanent solution, figuring that Zenga’s response would be what it was (the Marionette Possession spell) and that she would kill him no matter how minor the attempt to restrain her. This, however was posited by others in the party, Shren’s player didn’t get into his motiviations himself from what I can recall. Sometimes knowing why a player chose to play their character in such a way is not always the GM’s job I suppose, just so long as he/she referees the results fairly…

Episode 39: Raskin’s “Charmed” Life

Our “hero”

Raskin Daggermaw – Male Half-Orc Rogue. Huge, muscular braggadocious letch who is especially good at stabbing folks, if not interpersonal skills. Largely concerned with things that will get him paid. Temporarily Charmed to Misha Davi, who may be a servant of an evil cult…

After the battle at the Golden Grain Inn Raskin was still charmed Misha Davi the cleric from the Temple of Guya. Under this compulsion he fled the area with the other cleric, Abramo. “We need to go back for Misha!” he yelled to Abramo.

“We need to regroup to do so. You don’t think your friends kill her do you?” Raskin wasn’t so sure, but he figured Edella, if nothing else, would prevent it so he followed the man.

Abramo led Raskin back to the temple, and they were joined moments later by one of the acolytes who’d also fled the battle. Abramo ordered the acolyte to fetch some healing potions and the three men partook of a little liquid healing.

As they were considering the next step, the family who had fled the battle when it started returned along with the the three other surviving acolytes and Hulbar, the last surviving constable. They were carrying the wounded Misha and one of the acolytes who was also unconscious. The family explained that after the battle the group seemed to have escaped the inn through some other means and left the dead and wounded behind.

After more potions were administered Misha told Raskin that a dark force that can control the minds and hearts of people was attacking the souls of the town and those not powerful enough of mind and spirit could fall prey to it. She suggested that the rest of Raskin’s friends had fallen prey to whatever it was, but that he had been able to resist it. “I’m sure they are good people,” she said in reference to the others “so it is the only explanation why they would have tried to kill us when we came to question what happened in the Golden Grain Inn.” In Raskin’s Charm addled state this made perfect sense. After all they HAD turned a simple bar brawl into a bloodbath.

Misha went on to explain that they had to capture them to ensure they didn’t hurt anyone else while the clerics of Guya figured out the cure. This, too, sounded reasonable to Raskin so they retreated to a comfortable room of the main receiving hall in the temple. Misha ensured Raskin had a meal and wine and Raskin happily told Misha all he knew about the party so that they could stop the killing without anyone else getting hurt.

During the meal and conversation Raskin received a query via Zengcode asking if he was all right, and the Half-Orc only replied “Are you? Or are you going to keep murdering a bunch of people.” There was no response and Raskin did not follow up.

After a couple hours eating and having pleasant conversation with the beautiful (and charming!) Misha, she told Raskin she wanted to show him how they would help cure his friends. Following her into the temple they headed past a long corridor with several beautifully carved golden statues of crops displayed to honor Guya’s blessings. Then they headed to the second floor and Misha gestured to a door, explaining the solution was through it.

Always the gentleman when trying to woo a beautiful lady, Raskin opened the door for her. He was shocked to discover eight animated skeletons. Swearing in surprise Raskin reached for his dagger and suffered two sword slashes to the stomach from the lead skeletons. Falling back the charm was suddenly broken and he realized the truth of his situation. Unfortunately, a moment later he suffered a mace blow to the back of the head from Misha…

Raskin awoke sometime later, injured, bereft of all but the clothes on his back, and bound at the wrists and ankles. He was in a dank, underground room dug straight out of the dirt. There was a stout wooden wall on one side with a door built into it. Raskin could feel inquiries via Zengcode, but could not answer them.

Raskin
“I bet Misha enjoyed taking all my armor off me. Rawr!”

Since they kept him alive when they could have just cut his throat, Raskin decided they wanted him alive for something, and that he didn’t want to be around for whatever that something was. While pondering the various unsavory acts he’d commit on Misha and Abramo with his daggers, he worked the ropes that bound him. Eventually Raskin was able to slip free from his bindings.

The door to his cell didn’t look immensely stout, but after a single effort to ram it with his shoulder he realized that it was barred. Still, not to be deterred, he set to work trying to loosen one of the hinges. It took some time, and left his fingers bleeding, but he was eventually able to get the bottom hinge out. Using his brute strength he forced enough of the bottom of the door off kilter to be able to slip out (though did scratch himself up a bit.)

Raskin found himself in a narrow earthen tunnel with a mud covered floor. His movement was hampered by the foot thick mud beneath him and the area reeked horribly. A glance back at the cell he’d escaped showed what he’d suspected, a thick wooden board barred the door. Appropriating it as a makeshift greatclub, Raskin considered his options. He could move south or north (he thought those were the directions anyway, it was a little hard to tell underground.)

He thought he heard voices from the south so he trudged his way north. After a bit of a slog through the mud he spotted a four foot mushroom looking thing. Unsure of what it was, he concluded it was probably hostile and tried to sneak up on it. Unfortunately the mud was too thick and the thing detected him and let loose a massive shriek. Raskin immediately engaged it, slaying the weird, mushroom thing in 3 mighty blows from his improvised greatclub.

shrieker
It’s one weakness: Blunt force trauma.

Pausing briefly he sent a quick Zengcode to his friends: “Escaped their idiotic clutches. Running for my life now. That temple has lots of fancy shit. Might even make this bullshsit worth it. Wish me luck!”

Aware that anyone else in the cave area had to have heard fungus thing’s shrieks, Raskin hustled along. The half-orc quickly found a winding path leading upwards and eventually got to a more finished room carved from stone with wooden constructed walls within it. Unfortunately the walls were quite narrow and had strange spikes at irregular intervals.

Moving in he quickly became lost…the spikey walls were a purposely designed maze! Worse, as he went he heard the heavy footfalls of something large in the maze with him. Pausing to break a spike off the wall with this club so he could use it as a makeshift dagger, Raskin found a spot where he was fairly sure he could get the drop on anyone coming by and waiting for his enemie(s?) to appear. After a few moments an ogre lumbered into view.

Ogre
Raskin wasn’t holding out hope that this Ogre wanted artistic feedback too…

Unfortunately for our favorite half-orc it totally spotted Raskin and hefted it’s greatclub with a cruel, evil smile. Raskin leapt forward, twirling his makeshift dagger and feigning left and right to keep the Ogre off balance. It swung it’s club wildly, missing. Finally ready to strike Raskin plunged forward with his blade, but the ogre blocked, causing the spike to twist in the half-orc’s hand and slice his palm badly. To pile on the bad luck, the Ogre then slammed his club into Raskin’s head, driving him back and leaving his ears ringing.

Realizing that a straight up fight with an Ogre while injured and bereft of any equipment whatsoever was probably not going to work out, Raskin stuck and moved, dodging around the Ogre, and ran for it.

Unfortunately running with the spikey walls risked some injury and Raskin took a few slashes. Even worse, the Ogre gave chase and moved even faster than Raskin! The ogre too took a few hits from the spikes, but it didn’t seem to mind very much.

Fleeing through the maze, Raskin ducked around a corner but found himself at a dead end, with the Ogre in hot pursuit. The brute saw Raskin cornered and arrogantly marched up and swung his club. Finally, a bit of luck went Raskin’s way and as he ducked the blow, the weapon smashed into the wall and cracked in half, totally unusable. Taking immediate advantage Raskin plunged his makeshift dagger into the Ogre’s hip, inflicting a brutal, bleeding wound, and ducked around to flee again. Enraged, the Ogre took out a javelin (his only other weapon) and swung it at Raskin as he pursued, bleeding and swearing in his own language as he ran. Running through the maze, trying to avoid certain deaths from the spikes, the Ogre and whatever the heck was in deeper in the caves that had undoubtedly been alerted by the mushroom thing, Raskin cursed his ill luck and focused on trying to survive.

Then…faintly, he thought he heard a voice in the distance. Someone else was down in the dungeon with him. He sure hoped it wasn’t yet another enemy.

DM’s Notes: Raskin’s player (Sam) had to miss a session. However, since the previous session ended with him charmed to the clerics of the Reptile God and fleeing with them, I gave Sam the option to just pop out like normal when he missed a session, or roleplay out his new (temporary) alliance. He gleefully opted for the latter and assured me he told them everything he knew about his friends. When the clerics knew that the Charm spell was nearing expiration, they beat him up and captured him, deciding he’d benefit well from more permanent mind control and service to the cult. Unfortunately for them, Raskin (and the other PC’s) had other plans…

I’ve already discussed the serendipity of Raskin being charmed to motivate even the PC’s who don’t give a damn what happens to the people of Redwyne but Sam’s willingness to play along in spite of long odds and putting his character in a bad spot made, to my mind, a pretty fun and intense jailbreak session for him.

Episode 38: Battle at the Temple of Guya

Our temple crashers:

Froderik Penderghast – Male Human Wizard. Logical and self-important wizard. Accompanied by his hawk familiar, Mordecai. Currently absent.

Raskin Daggermaw – Male Half-Orc Rogue. Huge, muscular braggadocious letch who is especially good at stabbing folks, if not interpersonal skills. Largely concerned with things that will get him paid. Currently a prisoner of the Cult of the Reptile God. 

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 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, she’s quite broken at the moment. Accompanied by her scorpion familiar (and brother) Janis, whose attempts to cheer her up are not working.

Beybulat “Bey” Tasho – Male Human Swashbuckler. A barbarian from the Plains of Galmar, he’s slowly learning the local language, though the customs are still baffling to him.

Delilah Farmeski – Female Human Cleric of Farmesk. A battle nun from the Eastern Realms who worships the God of War. She usually only thinks of healing after the fighting is done. Currently absent.

Briac Youngblood – Male Human Ranger. Has a massive crush on the oblivious Beybulat, and is desperately trying to keep his preference for men a secret. Thrilled to be reunited with his canine companion, Rolla.

Belina Katel – NPC Female Human Ranger. The lone survivor of an adventuring party, she was rescued by the group and is traveling with them for the time being.

3rd of Lion, 1159. Town of Redwyne

The group, sans Delilah and Froderick who had popped out and Raskin who was still missing, reconvened at the abandoned farmhouse where they’d taken up temporary residence.

They sat down to discuss their next move. The old hermit wizard, Ramne, had confirmed there was a dangerous cult in town and that they were using the Golden Grain Inn and the Temple of Guya as bases of operation, but that their headquarters seemed to be somewhere south of Redwyne. This still left the group at something of a loss for their next step.

Most of the group had agreed that recovering Raskin was a priority, but they didn’t know where he currently was or what his status was. Shren advocated charging the temple head on to recover him, but Edella was wary about taking on a fortified location with unknown defenses, especially without the added firepower of Froderick and Delilah. Worse, they had no proof that he was still at the Temple. For all they knew he could have been taken out of town and was on his way south to the mysterious headquarters of the cult.

No sooner had they begun to ponder that conundrum when they received a message via Zengcode, presumably from Raskin. “Clerics Bad. Trapped in temple basement. Undead here. Stabbed me. Going to try to escape. Lots of baddies. Might need help.”

“Wait for us!” they signaled back, but there was no response, although they all felt a slight pain to their shoulder.

Even without Delilah, they were confident they could battle undead. Edella’s paladin powers allowed her to injure any undead near her and Briac boasted that he was an undead hunter and knew many ways to slay them. Still, they had no idea what else might be found in the temple.

Zenga advocated departing immediately to recover one of the corpses they’d created at the Golden Grain Inn, stating she could get information out of it, but the others were leery of that idea. Given the fact that Raskin seemed to be in active danger again they decided that they would have to charge in.

They headed out, approaching the temple from the south rear corner of the fortification in the hopes of finding a rear entrance. They didn’t see one, and Zenga used her witch powers to mount the white ash staff she took from her father’s corpse and fly up to look over the 20’ walls that surrounded the temple. She saw a wolf wandering around, but the beast spotted her as well and ran towards her, barking away and drawing the attention of three other wolves in the compound, who all congregated under the flying Zenga barking and howling.

Zenga cast a sleep spell, and all four of the wolves immediately fell into a deep slumber, though the gardener ran around the corner to investigate the barking and spotted this. He immediately turned to flee, but a slumber hex from the witch sent him to dreamland as well. She then decided to try out a spell she’d recently learned to make a person’s breathing need to be a conscious effort. Casting it on the sleeping gardener she watched emotionlessly as he choked to death, since he was unconscious and therefore could not consciously breathe. (Or, as the mentally struggling Zenga recorded the event in the journal, “Go to sleep. Sleep and die. JUST LIKE THE OTHERS. Raskin isn’t here to stab him. Can I make him sleep forever? Is he dead? Did it work? He’s gone.”)

Briac climbed the wall and Zenga flew some rope from Bey to him. Briac then hopped down and braced the rope while everyone else climbed over, though this took quite a while. In the meantime Zenga landed and examined the the gardener’s body intently and cast a spell to make her look like him and stated she was going in to find Raskin, then headed for the temple door while Zengcoding to him that she would look like the gardener. Raskin, however, didn’t respond.

Inside the temple, she found a full force arrayed for combat and waiting on the group to enter. The front line was eight skeletons armed with swords and shield. The second line was nine bugbears, similarly armed, awaiting. Past that was two of the acolytes and standing at opposite doors from one another stood Misha Davi (whom they’d last seen unconscious outside the Golden Grain Inn) and Abramo, the cleric who’d escaped that battle with Raskin.

hobgoblins
Kinda like this…

Zenga was suddenly aware that her plan to infiltrate the temple was not going to work, and that she could not speak with them, as her voice was distinctly not masculate and thus she would not sound like the gardener.

“Bildus,” Misha said to Zenga. “Why were the wolves barking? Was that them?” Zenga, trying to stall for her friends to catch up, started coughing and pretending to be unable to talk, while subtly Zencoding “Twenty One enemies!” to her friends.

“What’s the matter Bildus,” Misha said. “Tell us what you saw.” Zenga mimed that she needed a drink of water to speak, and Misha said, “I have a water skin on me come here.” Left with no options, Zenga passed by the enemies and made for Misha, trying to take as long as she could without being obvious about stalling.

Zenga finally reached Misha, who handed her a waterskin. To keep up appearances Zenga drank deeply from it, but then attempted to walk away instead of speaking when Misha repeated her question. This prompted Misha to look a little closer and realize that “Bildus the Gardener” was an illusion around Zenga. “It’s a glamour!’ she exclaimed and they leapt into action.

“It’s the witch!” Abramo yelled, now also seeing through the illusion.

Zenga leapt away from Misha and cast a spell that caused a huge black billowing cloud to spring up around her in a 30 foot radius that made the witch nearly impossible to see and moved with her.

Abramo ordered a trio of Bugbears and Misha into the mist to get Zenga. The thick mist prevented the Bugbears from finding her, but Misha was able to step up next to her. Once she had eyes on the witch, Misha called upon the Reptile God and managed to charm Zenga. Misha immediately told the Bugbears in the mist not to attack Zenga. “She has lost her family, we can be her new family,” Misha said, and the Bugbears withdrew.

Meanwhile, outside, the others took a few moments to cast some spells upon themselves and chug potions and then made for the front doors at top speed. They found them closed (as they had swung shut behind Zenga.) Froderick and Delilah suddenly popped in right next outside the closed door of the temple as the rest of the party charged up. Edella ran past them yelling, “Zenga’s inside, twenty one enemies. Come on!” and threw open the doors to the temple and charged in, using her Wand of Prayer to grant a blessing to her allies and a bane to her enemies.

Delilah drew her sword, cast a spell to toughen her skin and charged into the frey right behind Edella. Briac charged in right behind the two, slamming into the line of skeletons, pulverizing the skull of one of the skeletons with his magical hammer and destroying it.

Inside, with her whole new perspective (thanks to the Charm spell,) Zenga explained that it was just a misunderstanding and that they just wanted to know where Raskin was. Misha explained that Raskin had hurt himself the day before, but was downstairs recovering. Zenga insisted that if she could see him she could diffuse the whole situation and Misha, (deciding that just having Zenga out of the fight was a decent consolation prize to having her actually slay her friends) told her that she could get downstairs if she went through the room at the end of the hall. Accordingly Zenga ran down the hall and found Misha’s chambers. She quickly located a secret trap door in the floor that led downstairs.

From her shoulder Zenga heard the hissing and clicks of her Janis, but to her it somehow also sounded like the child like voice of the scorpian. It asked “Uh, sis. Are we sure these guys are ok? Aren’t they the bad guys?” Unfortunately, Zenga was not aware that it was normal for a familiar to speak with her, and after the mentally devastating events of recent weeks, she merely thought she was going further insane and so she tried to ignore the Janis.

Suddenly they all felt another Zengcode message, presumably from Raskin. “Escaped their idiotic clutches. Running for my life now. Temple has lots of fancy shit. Might even make this bullshit worth it. Wish me luck.”

“Attack them!” Abramo suddenly yelled. From the rooms near the front doors, an acolyte each emerged. One began to target a spell on Delilah, but Briac slammed him in the stomach with his hammer as he ran past, causing the man to lose the spell.

The other acolyte advanced on Edella, casting a spell and trying to touch her, but Edella sidestepped, grab his wrist and hurled him to the ground. The man’s spell was still active, though. Then two skeletons rushed the paladin, but she was able to fend off their blows.

Suddenly Hulbar, the constable who had survived the battle of the Golden Grain Inn appeared as if from nowhere right behind Delilah, and plunged his blade into her back, injuring her. Someone had clearly cast an invisibility spell on the man, allowing him to get the drop on the battle nun. She was then rushed by one of the skeletons and, distracted at a critical moment by Hulbar, barely managed to bring her sword up in time to stop the blow. Rolla, Briac’s faithful hound, then charged in and bit Hulbar’s leg, causing him to swear profusely at the dog.

Rolla
“Good girl!”

Then four skeletons swarmed Briac, slashing wildly with their longswords. The ranger was able to deflect one shot with his hammer, and the other with the mace, but the third and fourth shots got through his defences, slashing his arm and creasing the side of his head.

Froderick stepped into the temple and assessed the vast array of enemies. He then cast Spider Climb and just ran straight up the wall to be standing upon the ceiling. Unfortunately Abramo then pointed at Froderick and yelled to the Bugbears, “The wizard, Froderick, bring him down!” All of the Bugbears then drew javelins and hurled them at the ceiling bound mage. One of the javelins went wild and struck one of the skeletons, and five missed, but three of the weapons struck true, one slashing Frederick’s leg, another his side and the other slamming deeply into into his shoulder injuring him greatly. Badly hurt, Froderick immediately cast another spell and turned himself and Mordechai invisible.

Abramo then cast a spell, causing a hellhound to appear right behind Edella. The beast tried to attack Edella, but the creature was unable to pierce the power of the Protection from Evil spell that the palain had cast upon herself before the fight. Bey drew his short sword and charged the demonic beast, sinking the blade deep into its hide.

Shren then hurled an ice bomb into the frey, striking Hulbar, and dropping him. The icy blast carried over to the hellhound, causing it to be dispelled back to the plane of hell that spawned it, and then followed up with a fire bomb at the skeletons who had swarmed Briac, burning but not slaying them.

Delilah shouted for everyone to move back a as she had a plan. Briac immediately did so, deflecting the attacks of the skeletons around him as he withdrew. Edella moved back as well, though the acolyte she’d knocked to the ground managed to touch her with his spell. Fortunately she was able to shrug off the effect. She then called upon Vesper to harm the nearby undead (injuring nearly all of the skeletons in the area) as she moved back as Delilah had ordered.

Delilah was beset by a trio of skeletons as she retreated,, suffering a blow to the thigh. Worse, one of the acolytes behind the lines managed to cast a Sleep spell upon her, causing the war cleric to slump to the ground. This was assuredly not a part of her plan. Bey leapt up and shook her awake though, before retreating back as she’d ordered.

The Bugbears next all targeted Shren, all nine fruitlessly flinging javelins at the Ratman. Abramo, however, cast a spell causing an enormous burst of sound to injure Edella, Bey, Rolla and the (invisible) Froderick and Mordechai. Thankfully all shrugged off the effects for the most part, except for Froderick who was left reeling from the blow (though still invisible and sanding on the ceiling.)

Delilah was now awake though prone on the floor and surrounded by skeletons. It was impossible for her to escape the radius of her planned spell and still cast it, and with so many enemies around and as badly as the fight seemed to be going for them, she wasn’t inclined to wait…she knew what she had to do. The war cleric rolled backwards, rising to a knee and bellowed “for Farmesk” and cast the Sunburst spell she’d recently gained mysterious access to, even though it she would be in the blast radius too.

A massive, searing, blinding light filled the temple, searing the flesh of nearly all of the bugbears. As the heroes blinked away the temporarily blinding blast of light they examined the scene.

USM_160_Oroboros_CPS_028
Delilah, taking one for the team…

The undead had all been utterly obliterated. Misha, all of the acolytes, and all but one of the Bugbears had been taken down. Only Abramo and the one lone Bugbear remained standing, and Abramo was clearly blinded. Delilah was injured by her blast, but let out a victorious cry and was still in the fight, which is good because the fight was not quite over yet.

DM’s Notes: The Temple had been on high alert since the night before, after the battle at the Golden Grain Inn, and they expected that the PC’s would either move on, or come for their friend. After the PC’s fled the inn the members of the cult who were taken down but not killed were dragged to the temple and healed. The Charmed Raskin had been fully debriefed the previous day, before the Charm wore off, and (per his player) “Happily told them everything he knew.”

Since the cultists were expecting the PC’s they were ready to rally their forces when it seemed the PC’s were attacking (i.e., when all the trained wolves started barking and were suddenly silenced.)

It took a few minutes for the cultists to rally everyone in the temple, but the PC’s spent quite a bit of time climbing over the wall near the kennel and casting protective and buff spells, so the baddies had time to line themselves up and for Misha and Abramo to start casting their own buff spells. Ironically, if the PC’s had just charged through the front doors it may have gone better as the cultists wouldn’t have had the time to line up the defense!

Presumably Zenga’s player, Jennie, had not expected that the temple would be on high alert and she would have the run of the place disguised as Bildus the gardener. Alas, while it was a decent plan, it didn’t quite work out that way for her.

The real amusement as the DM here was watching the player’s freak out when they realized that Froderick’s Fireball or Delilah’s Sunburst spell would have severely evened the odds, and that both their players were absent. Both said they’d be able to Skype in, but right up until the first initiative roll both players were MIA. Thankfully (for the PC’s anyway) both did so just in the nick of time!

Episode 37: Sword and Sorcery

Episode 37: Sword and Sorcery

DM’s Note: This is another Roleplay story, this time by the players for Edella and Froderick. I cannot get enough of these…

Yesterday had been a bad day. Edella had felt like they were the bad guys, just like they had been the bad guys in Zenga’s village, and it had her very much on edge.  

They had disappeared and reappeared in increasingly strange scenarios, but she was beginning to wish she never disappeared, if only to keep an eye on whatever her companions were getting into. The heaviness she was feeling had nothing to do with all of the things she was carrying. A bone deep weariness was settling over her as she tried to keep her companions from making every poor decision they could. It was beginning to feel like herding dragons: Impossible.

Bey had tried to leave, take Briac with him, and then advocated leaving Raskin to his fate, which had been the final straw for her already fraying patience. Among the group, Bey and Briac were the two she could usually count on to at least back her up when she was outnumbered by people who were more interested in themselves than the well being of others. It had been a shock to the system to have Bey attempt to abandon them.

And then there was Froderick. He was another problem all together. He could usually also be counted on to help, even if there was sometimes a little grumbling while he did it. Instead he’d yelled at her (and everyone else) then pouted while they finished checking out the basement. She could almost see the ‘I told you so’ in his expression when they found nothing in the basement but Belina’s things. She knew she wasn’t as smart as he was, and deep down she was sure it was only because Briac had started putting stupid ideas in her head, but it had hurt her feelings.

She felt stupid. And guilty for losing her temper. And worried for Raskin. And heartsick over everything that had happened in Zenga’s village.

So as she’d waited for Froderick to finish talking to the hermit, she just took the time to pray and try and center herself.

**************************************************************

Froderick Penderghast was in a foul mood. On his way out of the hermit’s shack, he could feel the physical and mental fatigue of recent events catching up to him. His shoulders and neck were like chords of solid iron and his temples throbbed. A white hot rage had been building inside him ever since the swamps that had been simmering like a stewpot forgotten on the hearth. Yesterday it had finally boiled over. He had never been so angry. Angry at his friends for they way they were behaving, angry at their circumstances, and angry at himself. Mostly at himself. Even as he was letting loose on his friends in an explosion of righteous fury, he could already feel the anger draining away and a hollow feeling welling up to replace it. Now he just felt empty, tired, and utterly disgusted with the world.

How had everything gone so wrong so quickly? Froderick pressed his hands to his aching head and thought back over the last few days. At least he thought it had only been a few days, he hadn’t yet bothered to calculate how long he had been gone this time. It didn’t really seem to matter anyway. At the pace they were going, Froderick though morosely, they’d probably reach Emron City sometime early next year. And by then, it would be too late. He would be too late. The skinny wizard shook his mop of tangled hair and tried to banish the thought. With a heavy sigh, he forced his mind back to the present. Without meaning to, he began to catalogue his grievances with his friends in a subconscious attempt to justify his behavior.

His thoughts first turned to Zenga. He had always accepted the witch’s desire for privacy and went out of his way to make sure she knew he respected her magical skills. He thought she respected him as well, but that illusion had been violently dispelled after their battle with the Purvs Māte. His face darkened at the memory of being thrown to the ground like a common thief. He had been shocked and embarrassed and he felt himself growing hot at the memory. The witch had gotten worse since the repeated psychological traumas that followed and Froderick wasn’t sure if he could trust her anymore. He certainly wasn’t going to speak to her until she apologized.  

If Froderick was mad at Zenga, he was downright furious at Delilah and Briac. During his argument with Zenga over the enchanted headband, Delilah had drawn her blade and brandished it at the young mage. Froderick had never gotten as close with Delilah as he had with some of the others, but he had always thought they both had a professional respect and liking for one another. Froderick was beyond shocked that she seemed to have been ready to turn on him. Lately, she switched between bloodlust and greed so frequently that he wasn’t sure whether she could be counted on in a fight or if she would be too busy looting to help.

Delilah Farmeski
In fairness, it is hard to read Delilah’s face…

Briac had tackled Froderick and pinned him to the ground during the headband incident. Froderick deeply resented Briac’s getting involved in the argument. The ranger’s constant siding with either Edella or Bey was also getting on the mage’s nerves. Briac also seemed to alway ascribe the worst motives to Froderick’s actions, assuming ill intent and selfishness. Froderick snorted derisively and thought of Bey. At least I KNOW what Briac’s motives are.

Raskin had stepped up to defend him, although that didn’t get the Half-Orc off the hook so easily. Froderick was more exasperated and disappointed with Raskin than angry. Raskin was just being so…Raskinish lately. His affected nonchalant attitude was beginning to wear thin as it constantly got them all into life threatening trouble. Froderick wished his friend would smarten up and think a few minutes into the future once in a while before his impulsiveness got them all killed.

Bey, however, was straight up pissing Froderick off. He thought that after their conversation in the Bullywug castle Bey would approach magic with more of an open mind. Instead, the opposite seems to have happened. The Galmarian’s anti magic rants were coming more frequent and he had just tired to abandon them all. Every time Froderick showed a hint of real power, Bey’s first reaction was to accuse Froderick of being a slave to the magic and having lost his mind. Nothing was more insulting to a wizard who prided himself on meticulous research and control. On top of that, Bey’s continued conviction that the Emronian gods were demons was both insulting and ignorant and was fraying the already stressed party. Froderick shook his head again for what seemed like the millionth time that day. Bey needed to get it together and fast.

At least Shren was reliable. His oldest comrade, Shren was just Shren. Single minded and ever obsessed with his concoctions, the rat man was not really involved with the party strife. The corner of Froderick’s mouth pulled up in the ghost of a smile. Oh to be oblivious to all of these feelings. Froderick’s heart skipped a beat at the thought. Yes, feelings were certainly at the root of this conflict.

Feelings washed over him as a wave of white hot fear and anger as he had watched Edella fall to the floor, the soldier’s bloody sword plunging into her gut. Those same feelings prompted him to to want to utterly obliterate the man who did it. They also called the mage’s most powerful and deadly spells to mind as he fought to defend her. How could she be so good in the face of all of this? It didn’t make any sense to Froderick. Those people were trying to stop us, trying to hurt us, and yet she was concerned for them! Logic dictated that the many outweigh the few. It was obvious to Froderick that if these people wanted to stand as an obstacle to saving the entire world, then that obstacle needed to be moved as haste was all important. At least he had thought it was obvious. That’s what he had told himself after the battle. Now he wasn’t sure. If they hadn’t stabbed Edella, would he have done the same thing?  

The mage rubbed his tired eyes. He wasn’t sure about anything anymore. His conversation with the hermit mage had briefly allowed him to forget all his troubles, but the moment it was over everything was there waiting for him. He looked around as he left the hermit’s cozy shack and felt lower than he had in a long time. His thoughts were with his friends. His family needed his help and he had to somehow convince these people to work together or they’d all die. His focus should be on that alone, but at the same time, all he could think about was the way Edella looked at him with anger and sadness after the battle. The mage’s chest felt tight and he drew his hood up over his head, lost in deep thought and oblivious to the world. He barely registered that Edella was waiting for him as he stepped outside. She fell in step beside him and they walked together in silence.

*****************************************************************

It felt decidedly wrong for Froderick to be so quiet. Whether he was complaining about the swamps, or explaining magic to someone (generally her or Bey), or introducing himself (his title was becoming quite long), he usually was a fairly frequent and animated speaker. He was probably still mad at her.

They tramped along quietly for a bit, before Edella finally couldn’t take the silence anymore. “I’m not sure what to do,” she said. She could have left it there, it was a pretty fair assessment of her current mental state. But after a pause she added, “To help Raskin, I mean.”

Froderick blinked stupidly for a moment as Edella’s words penetrated the fog that hung about the mage’s brain. The relief he felt at the sound of her voice spoke to the level of anxiety he had about her reaction to his outburst. While he wasn’t sure if he’d been forgiven, he took it as a good sign that they were on speaking terms.

“Yes,” he replied thickly, “Raskin.” That having been the only part of her sentence that he picked up.

“I just hope he’s okay,” she said. And didn’t do anything reckless before they could rescue him. “It’s my fault they captured him.”

Realization dawning, Froderick silently admonished himself for forgetting about Raskin and the danger he was in.

“No Edella, the fault was mine. I let him go, told him to go to be precise.”

He was glad the shadow of his hood hid the pained expression on his face as he added, “I knew full well that he had been enthralled…”

“Oh,” Edella said, with a light frown. She had assumed that the distraction she had caused while under the effect of the cleric’s spell was why the people had managed to get away with him. “Why?”

“I’m not sure” he replied honestly. Froderick hadn’t had time to consider it with everything else swirling around in his head.

Mordecai squawked what sounded suspiciously like amused disbelief from Froderick’s shoulder. The mage silenced him with an annoyed scowl before continuing.

Celestial Mordechai
“Geez, just trying to help, bro…”

“Everything has gotten so mixed up. All I know is that I need to fix it.”

Edella considered him, trying to understand what might be going on in his head. She barely understood anything about the magic he wielded, but she could at least understand what it was like to feel overwhelmed.

“We can’t keep going like this,” she said eventually. “We’re all carrying too much around with us.” She wasn’t talking about the sacks of coins they were all lugging around and he knew it.

She understood, of course she did. It was probably obvious to everyone but him. The party was being eaten alive from the inside. Everyone’s personal demons were threatening to take them down where countless foes had failed. It was a classic story. A tragedy.

“And yet carried these burdens must be” He spread out his hand as if to say ‘what can be done?’ and looked into her eyes, wondered if he would find any answers there.

“But no one should have to carry them alone,” Edella replied.

She really wanted to talk to Zenga. She couldn’t really imagine running into your dead father and having… that… happen. It didn’t matter how unaffected she was acting, Edella was sure she was hurting. The woman had been even more closed off since it had happened, though, and Edella had been hesitant to try.

But Froderick? He was much easier to talk to. She could at least start with him.

“You must be worried,” she said. “About your dad.”

Froderick gave a weary nod in the affirmative. He was worried about his father, but it was everything else as well. The gods, his friends, his feelings toward Edella, and Raskin.

“Yes,” he replied slowly,”that and what’s happening between us-er I mean, the party that is.” he blushed slightly from beneath his hood, again thankful for its concealment. To cover his embarrassment, he forged on. “We’re falling apart Edella. Nobody trusts anyone anymore and this talk of leaving Raskin is madness. I’m going to get him.” The mage looked at his feet for long moments and then back to Edella. “Alone if I have to. He would do no less for me.”    

“You won’t have to go alone,” Edella said. Even if it was just the two of them, Edella wouldn’t leave Raskin behind. She wouldn’t leave anyone behind. “I just wish we had more information. And that we were a little more united.”  

She figured Shren would go wherever, and he seemed to like Raskin well enough. Zenga, too, would probably help them. If Delilah popped back into existence before they went, she would certainly be up for a good fight, if nothing else. That left Briac, who she would have thought would help, except that he did put a lot of weight in Bey’s opinion, and Bey had apparently decided that Raskin wasn’t worth it.

“And I’m worried that storming the temple isn’t a tactically good idea,” she said. “Especially because we’re not even sure if he’s there.”

She was right on all counts. They needed more information before they could act and while he was serious about going alone he knew they’d need all the help they could get.

“Wise council Edella, as I should be doing with more frequency, I defer to your experience in matters of war. I think I may have an idea that would satisfy some of our tactical deficiencies but I am at a loss for what to do about the others.” He couldn’t help the frustration creeping back into his voice. “We could use their help, but who can be trusted now?”

“I think…” Edella began, hesitantly. “That we need to have a talk. All of us. We need to work out some things or we’re going to break apart or get ourselves killed.”

Froderick wasn’t looking forward to more accusations of dark magic and demon gods but he knew they needed to try. He was doubtful that even the diplomatic Edella could get through to them, but if anyone had a chance it was the good hearted paladin. He knew she would keep trying no matter what happened and he admired her for that. Standing there, covered in dirt and blood from their most recent battle, looking at him with her big, hopeful eyes, he was struck by her beauty and nobility in the face of adversity. He was suddenly overcome with the urge to tell her how much he respected and cared for her, how all he could think about when she was dying at his feet was how he’d never told her these things, how he’d do anything to make sure she was safe. Instead he just nodded. “You better do the talking” he replied horsley.   

Edella gave him a small but genuine smile. They walked for a little ways before Edella said, “Have you talked to Zenga?”

“Pffft, until she apologizes I have nothing to say to her.” Feeling like this was coming off as a bit uncharitable he added, “I know she’s been through a lot, more than most people could handle. I do feel for her but after what happened between us I’m not even sure she’d talk to me. She’s always been distant, but ever since the…village, it’s like she’s not even there at all. I have been thinking about something Farian said about the witches making a pact with darkness, how at a certain point they’re too far gone to come back.” He smiled weakly and continued, “No, I’m not writing her off and I’m not so self centered and egotistical that I don’t see what she’s going through.” His smile faded as his face grew serious. “But the truth is that Zenga is slipping into darkness. An apology from her wouldn’t fix everything between us but it would at least be a sign that she’s still there. Until she reaches out, until she wants help, I feel that approaching her would do the opposite of good.”

“But,” Edella said, frowning as she considered. “If someone’s slipping, they can’t always gain their footing on their own. Someone might need to reach out a hand to them and pull them back. Her village is gone. Her father is gone. All she has left is us. Not everyone who needs or wants help is good at showing it, Froderick.”

As she spoke he realized with a pang of guilt that although couched in the rhetoric of concern and caring, his reasoning must sound incredibly petty to Edella. He had been trying to convince himself that he hadn’t reached out to Zenga for her own good, but it was really his bruised ego that had prevented him. Once again, Froderick marveled at the caring soul that stood before him and found himself learning something about his own in her reflected light. “Ah well, ahem, perhaps there is something to what you say. Do you think I should talk to her?”

“I wish you would,” Edella said. “I’ve been wanting to, but I never was as close to her as you and Shren are. I’m worried about her. She acts like nothing that happened bothers her, but people who are okay and at peace don’t throw their souls into other people’s bodies and make them kill themselves.” That could have been slipping further into darkness, sure. It also could have been practice – a way to test out how it felt without actually committing the deed.

Froderick let out a joyless chuckle. “Close with Zenga is a relative term, but I take your point. I fear that my words are not always as, ah, comforting as I mean them to be and that I may end up doing more harm than good.”

He placed a bony hand on her shoulder. “I don’t always know how to ah, express my feelings properly…” He said, his voice heavy with meaning. “I’m sorry about earlier Edella. I…It’s just that I was, and you were almost…” He let the sentence trail off with the wind, leaving the rest unsaid for now. “Anyway, I’m sorry.”  

“It’s okay,” Edella said, glad for the apology and hoping her face wasn’t taking on too much of a flush as he touched her, even if their skin wasn’t really in contact because of her armor. “I think I can be… frustrating.” She had never been able to just leave things alone, especially if there was an injustice or someone in need. “But when something’s wrong I can’t just leave people to suffer. I don’t believe that Vesper would want that, even if it was to save him.”

Froderick drew back his hand and put it behind his back in a habitual move from his apprentice days. “I’m starting to see that walking a righteous path is far more complex than any spell I can weave. When I’m stuck, there are rules to fall back on, precise measurements of reagents to check, precedents and texts to consult. Nothing ever seems to be clear cut when we’re trying to do the right thing.”

“And the right thing is almost never the convenient thing,” Edella agreed.  

“Speaking on inconvenient, what do we do about Bey and Briac? We need their help too but Raskin has done himself no favors with the Galmarian, which obviously goes the same for Briac.” Froderick said knowingly.

“Obviously?” Edella said, tilting her head in confusion. “What do you mean?”

Froderick sometimes forgot that Edella grew up surrounded by noble knights and ladies instead of a dorm full of horny magic nerds. Stifling a smile, he said “I’ll spare you the details of how I’ve come to know this, but two things are abundantly clear to me. Briac favors the, ah, male persuasion, and Bey is most certainly the object of his fancy.”

As she tended to do whenever she was excited, Edella flailed a little and smacked Froderick on the arm. “You think he likes Bey?” she asked, entirely bypassing the part about him liking men. Briac had told her himself so it wasn’t at all a surprise. Fancying Bey, however, was not something he’d admitted to.

Froderick grew a bit bashful and replied “Yes, it seems clear. Whenever Bey is in danger, Briac seems like a man possessed. He’s risked his life many times for Bey in ways I’ve not seen him do for the rest of us. Watch how he looks at Bey, how he’s always finding a reason to touch him or be near him…” Realizing that he was basically describing himself in regards to Edella he added, “Uh, Raskin thinks so too.”

“Wow,” Edella said. “I had no idea. It makes a lot of sense though, when you put it that way.” She fell quiet before saying. “I’m not sure what we can do to get Bey to help Raskin. Or stay for that matter. I know he’s worried and wants to get home, but I didn’t think he’d try to leave us before we were able to figure out this connection.”

“I think he may try, but I don’t think he could leave even if he wanted. My theory is that he’d eventually just pop back to us at some point.” His brow furrowed in thought. “But I don’t think the inevitability of our association is going to make it easier to swallow. We need to find some common ground amongst us.”

Edella nodded. She’d been trying, with Bey, but she had to admit that sometimes he frustrated her. She didn’t think he needed to believe in their gods, but she could still remember the day he’d asked her if it would be such a bad thing if they died. What did you say to that?

Plus, she didn’t always appreciate the way he treated her. Like she was just a silly little girl who believed in fairy tales.

And the crack he made in front of the entire group yesterday about Raskin being interested in some of her parts had embarrassed her greatly. She’d felt like she should somehow cover herself up, but she was already in a full suit of scale mail, so instead she’d stood there awkwardly, wishing she could melt into the ground.

“Sometimes I want to smack him and Raskin,” Edella found herself saying, before flushing red when she realized it had come out of her mouth. “Sorry. That’s a terrible thing to say.”

Froderick scowled “I know it might not be quite what Vesper would want, but perhaps sometimes people need a good smacking. The gods know it has done me some good, metaphorically speaking of course.”

He could feel his headache pounding again as they circled around the central issue. Well, both of the central issues really.

“I don’t want to be a negative person,” Edella said.

“I suppose the question is, is it more negative to allow their disrespectful behavior or to endure it?” Froderick replied.  

Edella blinked over at him, clearly having never considered the question from that angle before. He really was a very smart person. “I’m… not sure,” she admitted.

“I find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view. Bey for example. Where we see gods he sees demons. Or Zenga and her, ahem, eccentric views on death.” He gestured toward the direction of the temple. “Or those snake folk. I’m sure they don’t think we’re doing good here.” He slowed his pace as they approached the farmhouse.

“I hope that this is something we can reverse for them,” Edella said, looking at the temple as well. Those poor clerics.

“As do I, if they are there against their will. If not…” he left the rest unsaid. They both knew what they’d have to do if these people were voluntarily kidnapping and murdering people.

It would be simpler, in a way, if they were just evil people doing evil for evil’s sake. But what they had learned made it hard for Edella to believe that there wasn’t something more sinister in this town. She nodded, however. “We’ll figure it out,” she said.

He nodded in acknowledgment. They’d have to figure it out on the fly as usual. Never enough time…

They were almost at the farmhouse. Froderick was feeling mildly nauseated from his headache and from trying to sort through the group’s complicated problems. He was not looking forward to confronting his friends after he had yelled at them, nor did he much relish swallowing his pride to talk to Zenga. A thousand different thoughts, fears, and feelings hit the mage at once and swirled around in his head and threatened to overwhelm him. Never enough blasted time! Possible battle looming again! Everyone turning on each other! Father! He felt so weary and dizzy that he feared he might be about to pass out. In the swirling chaos of his mind, one thought anchored him in the maelstrom and he clung to it, focused on it until the turmoil began to subside. He breathed deeply as his head cleared a little and he realized what he had to do. At that moment, Froderick Penderghast felt like he was going to vomit.

Edella was too lost in her own thoughts to notice poor Froderick’s internal struggles. She was wondering if there was a back way into the temple, wondering if Raskin would be okay and if they had time to go south and look for the potential cause of this disturbance, wondering how she was going to get everyone to take a few minutes and just talk out their problems. Wondering about Froderick in general.

Now was the time. After almost losing her at the last battle, Froderick was painfully aware that he might not get another chance. “Edella” he said slowly as his hand on the doorknob of the farmhouse, “I need to tell you something I should have said a long time ago.” He could barely hear the others from the other side of the door above the pounding in his chest. “I want you to know that I’ll always be on your side no matter what happens.” He drew back his hood and looked into her eyes as he spoke. As Froderick spoke, Edella felt her heart starting to pick up – surely Briac wasn’t right was he? She’d thought the idea was ridiculous. Why would someone as smart as Froderick be interested in a girl who clomped around in armor slaying things? She wasn’t ladylike at all. She watched him with slightly wide eyes as he continued, waiting for him to say what exactly he was trying to say, finding the stumbling over the words to be surprisingly charming.

“You are one of the bravest and kindest people I’ve ever met,” Froderick said. “You make me want to be better…I, er that is, Ahem, I want you to know that I –”

**POOF**

Froderick vanished in a flash of light. Edella stared at the spot Froderick had been in a second before. She blinked a few times, the anticipation that had been thrumming through her slowly seeping out of her and leaving her feeling disappointed and tired.  She sighed deeply, then told herself to buck up. There were things to do, and Froderick would be back. She pushed open the door to the farmhouse and headed inside.

DM’s Notes: I’ve reached the point, as a Game Master, where the the players are self inconveniencing their narratives with the mechanics I’ve put in place! That’s got to be some sort of Gamemaster milestone, right?

 

Episode 36: Hounding the Hermit

Our investigators:

Froderik Penderghast – Male Human Wizard. Logical and self-important wizard. Accompanied by his hawk familiar, Mordecai.

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 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, 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, he’s slowly learning the local language, though the customs are still baffling to him.

Delilah Farmeski – Female Human Cleric of Farmesk. A battle nun from the Eastern Realms who worships the God of War. She usually only thinks of healing after the fighting is done. Currently absent.

Briac Youngblood – Male Human Ranger. Has a massive crush on the oblivious Beybulat, and is desperately trying to keep his preference for men a secret.  

Belina Katel – NPC Female Human Ranger. The lone survivor of an adventuring party, she was rescued by the group and is traveling with them for the time being.

3rd of Lion, 1159. Town of Redwyne

The group rose in the morning and, after a magically provided breakfast from Shren, decided to get an early start by visiting the old hermit they’d been told about. Assuming the worst in advance, they came up with a plan of attack, and Froderick and Edella agreed to go in and assess the man, with the others stationed nearby in strategic locations to run in if it turned to a fight.

When they knocked at the door they heard barking and an old man ask them to give him a minute. A few moments later the door opened to reveal a bent old man holding the collar of an excited dog. Froderick introduced himself (with his full suite of titles), and stated he was there to exchange magical knowledge. The old man introduced himself as Ramne and invited the two into his humble home.

Edella petted the dog and the old man explained it was a sweet hound that wandered into his yard, “She seemed so well behaved I presumed someone would come looking but they never did,” Ramne explained.

As they sat down Froderick broached the subject of strange goings on in the town. With deadly seriousness the man stated in hushed tones, “You’re speaking of the cult…”

Froderick confirmed that he was and, at the man’s hand reaching into a pouch, that they were were there to fight the cult not aid them. Edella explained that she had friends nearby and asked if she could invite them in. He agreed, though he quickly seemed a little ill at ease with so many people in his house.

As Briac entered the house, the dog immediately ran to him, barking and licking him. Briac, tears in his eyes, hollered “Rolla!” at the dog in joy and practically tackled him and started petting him. After the joy of the reunion wore off, they got down to business and Ramne explained what he knew.

Rolla
Rolla, Briac’s animal companion

The old wizard stated that his familiar, a weasel named Whiskers, related the battle at the Golden Grain Inn to him so he felt he could trust them. Through carefully watching events around the town he gathered that there was something taking over the town slowly and that those who succumb are in the thrall of some sort of cult.

Froderick told Ramne that there were some who believed that he was the source of the disturbance and the old man explained that he was not surprised at these rumors. “I don’t like people and tend to keep to myself. This creates fear in the sociable but stupid,” he told them.

Froderick asked if Ramne knew the source of the cult, and he admitted that he didn’t think it was in town, but that the Golden Grain Inn and the Temple were two bases within the town. “I fear the clerics no longer worship Guya at that temple…” he warned.

“But they used to worship Guya, right?” Edella asked.

“Oh, Certainly!” Ramne confirmed, “but I believe they’ve been compromised by this Reptile God.”

Ramne went on to explain that he’d seem townsfolk being taken out of town to the south, towards the swamps, but that those people would reappear in town after a week or two, seemingly in fine health. (DM’s Note: At the thought of returning to the swamps the entire party cried out in despair, which just makes me giggle.)

Edella suggested that the people were being replaced or having something done to them in the swamp, which Ramne agreed with. “I’ve not been able to follow them though, I’m not as spry as I once was…”

Since they didn’t know how far south these journeys took, Froderick deployed Mordechai to fly for an hour to see if he spotted anything suspicious.

Ramne also advised that he’d been seeing two men skulking around the town at night, and that he was suspicious of them. Believing that the old man meant Dorian and Llywillan, the group informed him that they did not believe they were involved with the cult. When asked about the strength at the temple Ramne told them that they had at least a half dozen acolytes (though the group had slain two outside the Golden Grain Inn.)

The rest of the group headed back to to the Farmhouse to plan their next move, though Froderick decided to linger and wait for Mordecai at Ramne’s cottage and exchange spells while Edella sat outside and prayed to Vesper for guidance. A couple hours later,as Forderick and Edella were leaving, Mordecai returned and advised he didn’t see anything nearby, but suggested that wherever the cultists were taking people may be farther south than he flew. Distressed, the duo decided to regroup with the rest of the group at the abandoned farmhouse.

DM’s Notes: Some good RP and important clues discovered here, as well as another ally gained. Even still, there are far too many unanswered questions for the group, the most pressing of which is: Where the heck is Raskin and is he ok?