Against the Cult of Chaos

Conclusion

It has been roughly two and a half weeks since the last game session so I thought it was time to write my impressions of this D&D Encounters season and D&D Next. Overall, I was quite impressed with the adventure material and think it played well. I did have a problem fitting all the material into the "normal" season timespan of 8 weeks/sessions. There was just so much for the players to explore that I hated to reel them in. I also enjoyed playing D&D Next. The rules reminded me of some sort of cross between the ol’ 1st edition days and 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons. (Due to the disclosure agreement, I can’t go into too much detail about the playtest rules, but I do recommend any players of Dungeons & Dragons, whether old or new, download them and give them a try.)

I invite any of the players to leave their impressions of this season in the comments…

View
The Fall of the Cult of Miska
Party
Game Notes

This session was the final session of D&D Encounters at Haven Comics, Etc. By this point, everyone but Chef had reached third level! (Attendance counts! – Ed.)

Session Summary

When the party reached the outskirts of Hommel Lane, Elmo and Otis took their leave. Their family cottages were on the road into town and the family would be relieved to see their lost member returned. The brothers thanked the group profusely for their help before leaving.

The party found quite a commotion waiting for them at Hommel Lane. A crowd had gathered around the giant statue of Haffron Hommel at the heart of the village, even Castellan Zaborr was present. The mouth on the statue's granite face had been reshaped into a smile. Everyone was excitedly talking about what it meant, with the two mayoral candidates claiming that it was a good omen for their own campaigns. Suddenly, the party heard Haffron's voice emerge from the solid stone, deep and bold: "It feels incredible to be whole again, even if I cannot move!"

Several villagers shrieked, and a couple even fainted, at hearing the statue speak. A group of brave children (led by Keveak Becker) ran up to hit the statue's feet with sticks and clubs. Haffron bellowed at them to stop before they chipped his toes. The castellan managed to calm things down, giving the party a chance to explain what had been happening (with Haffron filling in missing details).

Haffron had fought hard against the savage humanoids at the Caves of Chaos, delaying them long enough to cover the party's escape. Eventually, his ectoplasmic form was overwhelmed, but instead of reappearing at the edge of the ravine like he had for centuries, he found himself inhabiting his statue in Hommel Lane. Apparently, removing the last of the evil artifacts from the caves had released him from his personal prison (although he did seem to be a bit stuck in his current form – at least he had a new view).

Haffron also had time to ponder things as the party spent several hours travelling back to the village. The three artifacts found by the heroes: the Chaos Blade, the Death Circlet, and the Scroll of Final Words, were all linked to the demon lord Miska in his other-worldly prison. They helped maintain the link between this world and the demon. Haffron suspected that this link could be used against the demon lord. The artifacts might be able to disrupt the power of the Chaos Mote in the Temple of Chaos.

After everyone had been updated on the situation, Haffron addressed the crowd: "I see that we have two forces of power here, the Lawbringer and the Old Faith. I think I know a way to get these adventurers into the Temple of Chaos at the caves, but we need to work together."

Canoness Yeeday and Druid Ramne appeared suddenly thoughtful, as if listening to something only they could hear. They both nodded in agreement to some compact and then they gathered their respective followers. They asked their people to join them at dawn the next morning for an important ceremony. With that, the crowd dispersed to their homes.

The party returned to the Golden Grain Inn to relax and rest before the next morning. Chef prepared the group a delicious dinner. After their meal, Shiellapho cast identify on the Chaos Blade to learn its powers. He discovered that with every strike, the blade absorbed part of its foe's life force. It shared this energy with its attuned wielder. The Chaos Blade could also form itself into the type of sword most preferred by its wielder. Shiellapho shared this knowledge with the rest of the group and there was a large discussion about using evil to fight evil. However, Brother Carell had retained possession of the Chaos Blade and no matter the arguments, he knew that such an evil artifact could only taint its wielder; no good would come from using it. He shackled the Chaos Blade to his waist using his sets of iron manacles to insure it could not be easily removed from his person.

As the evening grew late, Brother Carell and Brother Edmund returned to the Temple of the Lawbringer and the others retired to their bedrooms. Normally, that would have been the end of the night, but Martiris had sought the help of Chef. The nobleman felt that the Chaos Blade could truly make a difference in their battles the next day. He convinced the halfling to help him by "retrieving" the magical weapon from Brother Carell.

In the wee hours of morning, Chef made her way to the Temple of the Lawbringer. Her skill and tools granted her entry through one of the building's locked doors. Her luck allowed her to find Brother Carell's bedroom. Unfortunately, her luck soon ran out when she tried to stealthily enter the room and find the sword. The creak of the floor boards awoke the priest. Chef raced out of the room while Brother Carell lit a candle on a nearby table. He called out to Brother Edmund to awaken as he followed his mysterious intruder into the hall. Although Chef tried to hide behind a tapestry in the hall, she was spotted by the alert priest. Knowing she was caught, the halfling tried to lie her way out of trouble, but Brother Carell did not believe her obvious fantasies. He and Brother Edmund (who had entered the hall as well by this point) demanded the truth. She finally explained that Martiris had sent her to retrieve the sword. The priests decided that it would be best to focus on the greater evil of the Temple of Chaos, but they promised a reckoning before allowing Chef to leave.

At dawn the next morning, the majority of the town gathered at the statue of Haffron Hommel. Canoness Yeeday and Druid Initiate Ramne asked their respective followers to join in prayer. Chants and songs filled the air, first competing with each other and then joining in near-perfect harmony.

When the prayers ended, both the canoness and the druid looked expectantly at the statue. For a moment, nothing happened, but then the giant stone form stepped off the pedestal. The statue stretched its huge arms and looked down at the party. Haffron's voice boomed out, saying "What are you waiting for? The people of Hommel Lane, my people, must prepare in case we fail, but we are free to take the fight to our enemies: let's go be heroes!"

The party followed in his thundering footsteps as Haffron led the way to the Caves of Chaos. As they traveled, Shiellapho gave Brother Edmund the Death Circlet. The wizard worried that having two artifacts dedicated to Miska the Wolf-Spider on his person might cause problems at the Temple of Chaos. Brother Edmund accepted the circlet, but like Brother Carell and the Chaos Blade, he did not attune himself to the weapon. He did not want to fall under its taint.

On their way to the caves, Haffron discussed their plan of attack. He would walk directly into the ravine, killing any monsters he could find. This battle should distract the evil creatures enough that the party should be able to make their way to the Temple of Chaos in the farthest cavern from the ravine opening. Once there, it will be up to them to destroy the Chaos Mote any way they can.

The plan went into effect as soon as the group reached the caves. Haffron Hommel could have been described as a good of vengeance as he stomped into the ravine, yelling his battle cry and sending bodies flying with every sweep of his huge stone sword. This commotion proved to be quite the distraction and the party managed to sneak past the fray without any problems. The heroes moved along the edges of the ravine and among the twisted trees, eventually emerging over a cave high up on a switchback trail. The group noticed the sigil of the cult of Miska (a gold-trimmed red circle) painted above the cave's entrance.

They moved into the cave, traveling up a natural passageway that turned into a corridor of worked stone. The walls were decorated with the same red and black sigils that the party had seen previously in the moat house dungeon. The corridor led the heroes to a large room that opened to their left. Red and black curtains, emblazoned with the cult symbol, covered the room's walls. A throne, suitable for a giant and made of red-veined black stone, stood against the far wall, with three altars in front of it. A huge silver sphere with a dark crack in its side floated in front of the altars; it could only be the Chaos Mote described by Haffron Hommel. An alcove to the right just before the room held a closed stone door.

Two chanting humans in cult robes flanked the Chaos Mote. Another cultist, a raven-haired woman wearing finer robes and jewelry, watched them from the high throne. Every few moments, she intoned a vile incantation that caused sparks of silver light to shower off the sphere.

The priestess happened to glance over and notice the party assessing the situation. She smiled and said, "The final sacrifices and items of power have arrived, as the Wolf-Spider foretold. Slay these intruders so that we can mete out destiny!" The battle was quickly joined.

The cultists near the sphere were the first foes defeated, but silver lightning arced from the sphere to heal them after they had fallen. The sphere also held an additional surprise: an animated skeleton would burst forth from the Chaos Mote's crack to attack various party members before leaping back into the sphere's confines. As the battle continued, the priestess called upon zombie servants that shambled into the room to fight the heroes.

Fortunately, Brother Carell, Brother Edmund, and Shiellapho all realized that the altars were the key to the Chaos Mote. Their evil auras both channeled and fed the sphere's power. The artifacts that the adventurer's held were all attuned to this power as well, and could be used to disrupt the corrupt power.

Brother Carell was the first to destroy an altar. He rushed forward, drew the Chaos Blade, and called upon the power of the Lawbringer as he drove the sword point-first into an altar. With a loud crack, the stone altar split in two.

A few moments later, Shiellapho destroyed a second by laying the open Scroll of Final Words onto an altar. He called upon the scroll's magic to grant him the knowledge to disrupt the altar's power. He intoned the words of power presented to crack the stone of the altar.

Amidst the priestess' vile spells and the attacks of her followers, both living and dead, Brother Edmund found a respite in the battle to ruin the third and final altar. He placed the Death Circlet on the center of the altar and focused his will on the magical artifact. In the name of the Lawbringer, he demanded it bend to his will and destroy the altar. His will and the will of his god proved stronger than the vile magics of the altar. The final altar split, causing the Chaos Mote to ripple and give off a shower of sparks. The skeleton animated by its foul influence fell to pieces.

Without the healing magic of the Chaos Mote to undo the damage dealt by the party, their other foes began to drop quickly. The Chaos Mote began to shrink. Since it was a conduit to Miska in its prison, the clerics and Shiellapho decided it would be better for the artifacts connected to the demon lord to be in his prison than loose in the world. They raced to throw the artifacts into the shrinking sphere before it vanished… and succeeded! The items could no longer be used to taint the world with the Wolf-Spider's presence!

Her minions defeated, the cult priestess was the last to fall. Her dying breath was filled with powerless curses at the heroes. The party was taking a moment to assess their injuries and enjoy their triumph when the ghost of Haffron Hommel appeared. He flew toward the crumbling bones of the previously-animated skeleton. "That's my skeleton," he called happily. "I have unfinished business with it." The spirit and his bones faded away, leaving his laughter echoing in the chamber. The champion of Hommel Lane had finally found his rest.

When the party left the cave, they found the ravine full of slain monsters and Haffron Hommel's inert statue in the center of it all. The surviving creatures were fighting amongst themselves as the animosities they had before Miska's influence were reasserted. The group managed to leave the area without any undue attention.

Once they reached Hommel Lane, they found the villagers fearfully awaiting word of the battle. Once told of the victory, the villagers took to the streets in celebration. Lord Burne even left his tower to join the festivities and personally thank the party for their heroism. He conferred upon each the title of Knight of Hommel Lane.

In the days following, Devi (sister no longer) was found guilty by Lord Burne in her actions against the people and town. She was sentenced to death along with the possessed bandit who could not be cured and was too dangerous to others to be allowed to live.

Brother Carell and Brother Edmund spoke with Canoness Yeeday about the attempt to steal the Chaos Blade by Chef and Martiris. She decided that the intention of the two had been for good and simply misguided. The dangers they had faced battling the cult was more punishment than any she thought appropriate for their crime. However, the two still needed to admit their wrong and apologize for their actions. Until then, they would receive no aid from the Temple of the Lawbringer in Hommel Lane. Chef immediately apologized, and in the same breath asked if the temple needed a cook. The pride of a nobleman was not a small thing; no apology was immediately forth-coming from the Honourable Martiris.

View
The Great Escape
Party
Game Notes

The players of Chef and Tawnka were unable to attend this session.

Session Summary

Just as Chef completed her work on the tripwires, Brother Edmund arrived! The priest apologized for his delay. He had followed the party as soon as he had arisen. Upon entering the ravine, he encountered the spirit of Haffron Hommel, who told the priest in which cave to find the group. Brother Edmund was not comfortable following the directions of a ghost, even the ghost of a hero, but he was no tracker and had no other way of finding the group's trail on the hard ground.

With the trap deactivated, the party was free to enter the chamber at the end of the corridor. The grotto was splattered with dried gore. Brother Edmund could discern that more than one creature had died in this room to leave such gruesome remains. A sickly red light emanated from the hilt of a blade buried in the chest of a burly human male in scale armor. He slumped lifelessly against a pile of rubble at the back of the chamber. The hilt's light pulsed with the eerie rhythm of a heartbeat.

Brother Edmund approached the slumped figure when he suddenly sat up and screamed, "Run! Doom approaches!" before flopping bonelessly back down onto the rock. His eyes remained wide open and his breathing was labored. Bloody spittle could be seen on his lips.

His cry echoed through the grotto and deeper into the cave system. It was answered by excited squeaking and yipping from the cave depths. The party then heard a war horn sound, loud enough to echo out of the cave and be heard across the ravine. The group prepared for combat as the priests moved to assist the dying man.

Using their knowledge of the arcane, Brother Edmund and Brother Carell could both discern that the blade embedded in the man was both protecting him as well as draining his life force. Apparently, he had managed to bond with the magical weapon before it could slay him. As they started a conversation with the wounded warrior, the party was attacked by a wave of kobolds and savage humanoids with greenish-gray skin, lupine ears, and large lower tusks: orcs! The kobolds were armed with slings while the orcs held brutal greataxes.

The priests learned that the man was Otis Druet and that he had impaled himself with the magical Chaos Blade to prevent it from falling into the hands of evil. He had been in this sustained state of agony for weeks. Brother Carell convinced him that the party's intentions were good and they wished to remove the blade from the caves, taking it back to Hommel Lane where they would attempt to destroy it. With Otis's permission, Brother Carell removed the sword while Brother Edmund tried to save the man's life with healing magic.

Meanwhile, the others battled for their lives. Both Martiris and Tarryn were hindered by their inability to see beyond the group's torchlight, leaving them unable to reciprocate the stones slung by the kobolds. Fortunately, the non-human party members were able to assist in their defense. The orcs were dispatched and the kobolds almost defeated when goblins (small, fanged, orange-skinned humanoids) armed with crude maces and bows joined the fray.

Brother Edmund's healing saved Otis's life, but he was left too weak from his ordeal to assist in the battle. Chef volunteered to assist him in leaving the caves while the priests moved to support the rest of the party in battle. The group managed to push the evil creatures back down the tunnel and began a retreat out of the cave when a new threat emerged. A giant humanoid brute, easily nine or ten feet tall, confronted the party's rear guard. Greasy hair ran down a sloped forehead to beady eyes that stared with hatred. It opened a mouth of rotted and broken teeth to utter a war cry before rushing forward with its tree trunk club. (The party would later determine that this foe wasn't a giant, but only an ogre, a smaller cousin.)

The party defeated the ogre in a large part due to the swordsmanship of Honourable Martiris. His skill with his bastard sword disarmed the ogre before it could land a crushing blow. Unfortunately, it was not the only evil creature left. The deeper caves were apparently filled with humanoid savages. As the party retreated into the daylight of the ravine, they were attacked by fanged, red-skinned humanoids, armed and armored with better quality weapons than previously encountered (hobgoblins!).

Acting as rear guard, Martiris defeated the hobgoblins quickly and raced away to join the others at the entrance to the ravine. The group had discussed the possibility of investigating the evil temple mentioned by the spirit of Haffron Hommel, but as they regrouped, they heard war horns echoing across the ravine. An unearthly violet energy suddenly poured into the ravine from the farthest point, leaving the characters' skins crawling. They then heard hundreds of rough voices chanting the same word over and over: "Miska!" Humanoid figures began to fill the ravine from the surrounding caves. More kobolds, orcs, goblins, and hobgoblins followed the party from the cave they had left. There was no choice but to flee.

As the party worked their way through the twisted trees at the edge of the ravine, a familiar spectral apparition appeared: the ghost of Haffron Hommel. He told the group to continue on their way to Hommel Lane; the artifacts they possessed must not return to the cult of Miska! He would guard them.

Their last sight of the spirit was the ghost standing off the first of the evil creatures. The foul humanoids obviously feared his ghostly blade, but as more and more gathered, so too could the heroes see the creatures' courage building. It would not be long before the mob attacked.

The group reached Martiris' horses and with little explanation to Kevin or Elmo, continued their flight through the woods. The party kept a steady pace with only short rests to avoid exhaustion and over-taxing the poor health of Otis (whom Martiris allowed to ride his horse). They saw no signs of pursuit, but did not allow themselves to relax until reaching the outskirts of Hommel Lane.

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The Caves of Chaos
Party
Game Notes

Since this game is part of D&D Encounters (simply running a bit long), players may come and go as they please. The player of Brother Edmund Caldworth was unable to attend this session. However, the player of Chef did make a reappearance after many weeks!

Additionally, thanks to the player's regular attendance, Tawnka reached third level!

Session Summary

After their escape from the lair of the naga, Brother Carell, Brother Edmund, Shiellapho, Tawnka, Chef, and Corbin found themselves surrounded by a dismal swamp. A rutted wagon trail led away on the soft ground through the trees. Canoness Yeeday could not be certain, but she believed the group might be in the Fathomless Fens, located roughly 15 miles to the east of Hommel Lane. After a quick prayer over the collapsed tunnel by the priests for the fallen prisoners and others given to the naga as food, the group of 13 set out on the wagon trail, hoping to eventually find their way back to the village.

Meanwhile, back at the Golden Grain Inn, Honourable Martiris had been handling quite the situation. After leaving the Temple of the Lawbringer, Martiris had found Constable Ruskal banging at the door to the inn and demanding whoever was in there to open up. He was surrounded by several townspeople whom Martiris recognized from the previous evening at the inn. Martiris quickly stepped forward and spoke with the constable. However, he was often interrupted by the others who suggested that he may have done "something" to Bertram and demanded Constable Ruskal arrest the nobleman. This rowdiness continued for roughly 20 minutes, with Constable Ruskal trying to investigate as well as keep things calm, when suddenly, the most vocal of the townsfolk became disoriented. Several even fell into a faint. (Unknown to anyone in town, this disorientation coincided with the death of the naga.)

Martiris ordered Kevin to unbar the inn door, and he and the constable assisted the disoriented townspeople inside. Once they had a seat and a drink, the poor people began to come around. They started speaking of barely remembered memories: a wet cave of darkness, a woman with serpentine eyes, others huddled in fear. As time wore on, the fog around their memories dispersed more. They began to confess to Constable Ruskal of horrible acts of betrayal and murder! They had been charmed by the naga in the swamp and forced to bring it more victims. Some had even lost family members to the vile creature! They were led in this work by Bertram and Sister Devi.

During these revelations, Honourable Martiris added his own, explaining to Constable Ruskal everything that had happened the night before and the morning. The constable sent for his deputies as well as Castellan Zaborr. They spent the next couple of hours trying to sort out the mess as even more previously charmed villagers came forward. During that time, Martiris sent Kevin to bring Tarryn and her prisoner, Sister Devi, to the inn as well as Sister Euphema. (The freed prisoners, Ranson and Scira Klought had returned to their family by this point.) Sister Devi still claimed that she had been possessed, but Castellan Zaborr did not seem inclined to believe her. The constable and his deputies were kept busy simply keeping the priestess from being assaulted by the various distressed villagers who blamed her and her "Reptile cult" for their actions.

When the other party members and the freed prisoners arrived in town after a three hour trek from the swamp, they were greeted with much celebration! Families and friends were reunited, which help to offset the sad news of the ones who did not make it back. Everyone was pleased to hear that the Reptile God would threaten Hommel Lane no longer. With so many people to discuss it, the puzzle of Bertram's ledger was resolved. The circled names indicated villagers who had been charmed, the crossed-out names were villagers and visitors to the inn who had been eaten by the naga, and the unmarked names were those who had been captured but had not yet suffered either fate.

As the afternoon wore on, Sister Devi was taken to a prison cell and Castellan Zaborr returned to the keep, promising that justice would be served. However, before the castellan left, he informed the party that they were welcome to stay at the Golden Grain Inn as custodians until relatives of Bertram Beswill could be found. Most villagers returned to their homes, but some were still so disoriented from the broken charm or ill from confinement that they sought help at the Temple of the Lawbringer or the sacred grove of the Old Faith (depending on their faith). All of the Lawbringer priests (Sister Euphema, Brother Edmund, and Brother Carell) left the inn with Canoness Yeeday to address the needs of the faithful.

During the evening, the party (minus the priests) was resting in the common room of the inn where there was a polite knock at the door. The visitor was a hulking young man, slow and halting of speech, who introduced himself as Elmo. He had heard of the group's exploits and hoped that they would be willing to investigate the disappearance of his brother, Otis. Two weeks ago, Otis had left Hommel Lane with a group to investigate rumors of unusual monster cooperation at the Caves of Chaos to the west. If the various tribes of monsters in the caves began working together instead of fighting with each other, Hommel Lane could be in great danger. None of the group had returned.

After a bit of discussion, the party decided to explore the Caves of Chaos the next day. They had not worked so hard to end the threat of bandits and cults just to have Hommel Lane fall to creatures of evil. They would determine what was occurring at the caves and try to learn of Otis' fate. Elmo agreed to act as a guide to the caves.

The next morning, Brother Carell, Chef, Honourable Martiris, Kevin, Shiellapho, Tarryn, Tawnka, and Elmo set out for the caves. Brother Edmund had spent a late night tending to Canoness Yeeday and other parishioners in need, so Brother Carell had let him continue to sleep this fine morning. Corbin told the others that he had his fill of adventures and would rather rest at the inn instead of exploring some old caves.

The party traveled for half a day before reaching the low hills that were home to the Caves of Chaos. Thick, twisted trees grew across the rough ground. Elmo stopped the party at the entrance to a ravine with walls towering a hundred feet high. He explained that he was not a warrior and would go no further. The caves could be found along the ravine walls and were said to be inhabited by evil creatures both numerous and varied. The group pressed on, leaving Elmo and Kevin to watch Honourable Martiris' horses.

As the party reached the edge of the twisted trees before the bare, bone-littered ground of the ravine, they worried what might see them enter from the surrounding caves. Shiellapho created several different minor illusions in the ravine to draw out any potential attackers. When none appeared, the group cautiously made their way into the ravine, staying near the right slope.

The party had not gone far when a ghostly specter of a man appeared at their rear. The phantom figure hefted a shield bearing the crest of a griffon in flight as he attacked Sheillapho with a curved longsword, screaming "Your tricks did not fool me! Die, servant of chaos! You shall not live to help your foul master this day!"

Fortunately for the mage, the ghost's attack missed. As the party prepared to engage the specter, the griffon crest on the shield sparked Brother Carell's memory. It was the same crest that could be seen on the shield of Haffron Hommel's statue in Hommel Lane! In fact, the specter resembled the statue in many ways. Knowing that Haffron Hommel was supposedly a good man in life, Brother Carell attempted to speak with the ghost, hoping to help the spirit find peace. He succeeded in convincing the spirit, who did claim to be the ghost of Haffron Hommel, that the party were champions of good, not chaos. The specter had recognized the Scroll of Final Words hanging from Shiellapho's belt and had assumed that the elf was an evil cultist.

The ghost explained that he had been trapped just outside the ravine since his death. He had sacrificed himself to stop the spread of a terrible power. Long ago, when still alive and patrolling this very area, he had spied hooded figures entering one of the caves at the back of the ravine. He had followed, discovering a foul temple dedicated to an evil demon-lord known as Miska the Wolf-Spider. Inside the temple, the cult had brought forth a Chaos Mote, a huge, cracked silver sphere which allowed the cultists to harness the raw power of chaos.

Haffron slew many of the evil priests, but saw that the Chaos Mote was growing. Haffron had battled evil for many years and knew what he must do to halt the growth of power; he threw himself into the orb. He saw a blinding flash before finding himself as a spirit outside the ravine. He could not enter very far into the ravine nor leave the area.

The ghost believed that his soul was trapped near the caves by three powerful artifacts; all tied to the evil essence that plagued the land, the demon-lord Miska. One such artifact was the scroll on Shiellapho's belt, which was taken, along with another evil item, a black circlet with green gems, from the caves by cultists. (When shown by Shiellapho, Haffron was quite pleased to learn that the group also had the Death Circlet.) The final artifact was the Chaos Blade. If it was removed from the area, Haffron could be free. He could feel in growing stronger with the passing of each day.

Weeks ago, the ghost encountered a group of adventurers led by a warrior from Hommel Lane named Otis. Haffron sent them to the cave where he felt the Chaos Blade. After they entered, bedlam broke out and savage humanoids attacked in droves. Haffron could only watch as wave upon wave of evil creatures rushed into the cave. None of the adventurers ever returned and the spirit felt the binding magic of the Chaos Blade strengthen soon after.

After hearing Haffron's tale, the party was even more determined to learn the final fate of Otis. They also dedicated themselves to finding the Chaos Blade and preventing it from being used for evil. With a few final farewells to the ghostly Haffron Hommel, the group set out for the cave indicated by the spirit.

As they approached the cave mouth, they were ambushed by a group of small reptilian humanoids which most of the party recognized from tales as kobolds. Although out-numbering the heroes two-to-one, the kobolds did not prove to be much of a threat and were quickly dispatched by the experienced team. The party began to enter the cave when they were halted by Chef. She had noticed a glint of metal in the dirt. Upon closer examination, she found that a fine mesh was buried under the passageway's dirt and dust. This mesh was connected to numerous bronze bells which would clatter if the mesh was disturbed, alerting anyone nearby to intruders. Chef carefully cut all the lines to the bells and disarmed the alarm without any harm.

The group continued into the cave, lighting a torch when the darkness proved to be too much for the humans. They quickly reached a fork and chose to follow the left-hand tunnel from which a faint red glow could be detected. The group was brought to a halt before entering a small natural chamber at the end of the tunnel. Martiris had noticed something odd about the ceiling, and when he examined it more closely, he determined that the tunnel ceiling was suspended by cables attached to tripwires. Chef's dexterous abilities were once again called upon and she skillfully disabled the tripwires (such talent for a simple cook! – Ed.).

View
Snakes in a Cave
Party
Game Notes

The players of Brek, Honourable Martiris of Drayke, and Tarryn were unable to attend this session.

Session Summary

As the party examined the temple cellar after the battle, they suddenly realized that they didn't see the iron door that had brought them to the temple. After a quick double-check, they decided to save the door puzzle for a moment and interrogate the captured Sister Devi.

As the interrogation was about to begin, Brother Carell arrived. He explained that although Brek was still unconscious, his fever had broken, so the priest had hurried to the temple to aid the others. He also informed the group that while he had been ministering to Brek, Kevin had heard several people try to open the inn doors. The priest worried that the villagers may soon investigate the failure of the inn to open. Honourable Martiris, being a nobleman and skilled with the blade, volunteered to return to the inn and handle any curious authority figures or possible foes. The group wished him well as he departed the temple.

The party quickly filled in Brother Carell on their activities and the interrogation of Sister Devi began. Once her gag was removed, she claimed that the essence that had possessed Sir Moonbrook had possessed her as well. She had no control over herself and could only vaguely remember her actions. She believed the shrines led to a place of darkness, but could remember no more. She offered to lead the party through the portal and confront whatever evil was found on the other side to redeem herself, but the group did not trust her. They asked Sister Devi about the iron door but she only remembered that the door was somehow related to the wooden shelves between the shrines.

Brother Edmund and Brother Carell carefully searched the shelves. Brother Edmund found two vials of holy water while Brother Carell found a hidden switch. The switch allowed the shelves and a fake stone facade to swing open, revealing the iron door to the inn tunnel.

With the iron door mystery resolved and no more information remembered by Sister Devi, the party prepared to travel through the corrupted shrines. They felt it would be unwise to leave the shocked Sister Euphema alone at the temple to watch over Sister Devi and await their return, so Tarryn was chosen to remain as a guard. Saying their good-byes to the acolyte and monk, the rest of the group spoke the inverted prayer and stepped through the flames of a shrine.

The party emerged in hot and humid darkness. Shiellapho and Tawnka could dimly see that the group was in a tunnel of damp earth. (Thank you, low-light vision! – Ed.) There was no obvious mechanism for returning to the Temple of the Lawbringer. The group could hear the sound of lapping water, over which faint moans and cries of pain and fear could be heard.

Before continuing, Brother Carell lit a torch to provide light for the human priests. They cautiously followed the tunnel and discovered a large chamber containing the black waters of an underground lake. A sturdy wooden raft and long pole rested on the rocky ledge outside the tunnel. The sounds of suffering were louder but their source could not be seen.

With little choice but to continue, the group piled unto the raft. Tawnka took control of the long pole and quickly began pushing the raft across the dark waters. Worrying that any foes might see their light approaching, Brother Carell actually extinguished his torch, leaving the priests blind.

As Tawnka maneuvered the raft around a corner of the large cavern, she and Shiellapho saw another dry rocky ledge ahead. A group of roughly a dozen bound prisoners huddled in the dark. A shadowy, enormous shape rose up from the prisoners' midst. It had a large serpent-like body topped with an almost-human female head. The brow of the creature was adorned with a black circlet set with seven dull, green gems. A mouth full of sharp teeth could be seen as the serpent-woman spoke: "Only fools come before me willingly, but even fools can serve me, either as minions or as a meal." It seemed that the party had found the Reptile God.

Tawnka quickly drove the raft onto the rocky ledge-shore and a vicious battle ensued. Brother Carell once again lit a torch to allow him and Brother Edmund to fully participate. With their sight restored, the priests recognized the serpent-woman as a naga, an immortal guardian that protected knowledge, rituals, magic items, and/or magical locations. Unfortunately, this information did not help them considerably when the naga breathed a cloud of poison at the group (killing two of the prisoners who happened to be in the area of effect). An ill-aimed lance of faith from Brother Edmund also killed one of the prisoners. With the prisoners huddled around the naga, it was better to enter into a melee with the naga. Of course, fueled by her berserker rage, Tawnka wasted no time before doing this while Brother Carell engaged the slimy evil priest, Garath, who had been trying to hide amongst the poor prisoners. Tawnka's mighty blows combined with Shiellapho's magic missiles quickly laid low the great naga, but her priest would not let her fail so easily. He managed to call upon magic to heal his god before being defeated by Brother Carell, bringing the naga back from the brink of death.

Meanwhile, a new foe entered the fray from the dark waters of the lake. An obviously dead and bloated corpse pulled itself up to the rocky shore. Brother Edmund recognized it as a dangerous wight, an intelligent undead creature with an intense hatred of the living and the ability to drain their life force. Fortunately, he was able to avoid its draining attacks until finally destroying it with radiant, life-giving energy from a cure light wounds spell.

The others were just as successful in battle, although there was a moment of doubt when the naga magically mesmerized Tawnka and commanded her to attack Shiellapho. The dwarf managed to shake off the magic of the charm just as Brother Carell removed the naga's head from her body.

In the aftermath of the battle, the priests examined the poor prisoners who had obviously suffered both mentally and physically. Many were in a dazed stupor, having repeatedly been targets of the naga's magical charm. One prisoner who was physically weak but still mentally strong was Canoness Yeeday. She helped to organize the freed prisoners and warned the party that the circlet worn by the naga was a powerful evil artifact.

Two other prisoners were of particular interest to the heroes: their missing halfling adventuring companions, Corbin and Chef. The group had wondered about their fates after finding their names in Bertram Beswill's book. The halflings were weak from captivity, but they had not been prisoners long and tried to help with the other prisoners as best they could.

Although warned by the canoness, Shiellapho could not help but be interested in the magical circlet worn by the naga. After all, what secrets might it reveal? What powers might it provide? As he removed it from the severed head, he felt the same dark, repugnant aura around it as he did from the Scroll of Final Words.

No sooner was the circlet removed than mocking laughter emerged from the artifact. The walls of the cavern began to collapse, forcing the party and the rescued prisoners to race through a nearby tunnel. The heroes led the prisoners to freedom, avoiding falling rocks, swamp gas, and fissures along the way. They had barely reached the outside world before the tunnel collapsed behind them.

View
The Root of Evil
Party
Game Notes

Both the players of Brek and Brother Carell Gaunt were unable to attend this session.

Session Summary

After exploring the tunnel, the party returned to the Golden Grain Inn. Upon entering the common room, they found Kevin sitting at the table with the unconscious Brek, Shiellapho, and Brother Edmund. He had Brek's battleaxe next to him as he enjoyed a bowl of pudding. When he saw Martiris, he explained that he had barred the inn's door after Ernesto left and had been guarding the others ever since.

With the help of Brother Carell, both Shiellapho and Brother Edmund regained consciousness. However, Brek seemed to be having a bad reaction to whatever had been added to the drinks by Derek Desleigh. He was feverish and drenched in sweat. Brother Carell moved him to his bedroom while the others explained to Shiellapho and Brother Edmund what had transpired. Shiellapho had heard tales of frog-like denizens of the swamp and was able to identify their non-human opponents as bullywugs.

As they pondered the riddle of the names in the found ledger, Shiellapho hit upon the idea of speaking with Vilma Merridie, the grandmother of their travelling companion, Carjo. Carjo had told them she had lived in the village for over a century; she might recognize the names! Leaving Brother Carell to tend to the ill Brek, the group hurried to Vilma's cottage.

Although the hour was late, once Vilma realized whom they were, she welcomed the party to her home. She answered their questions about the ledger, and although she didn’t recognize all the names, she did recognize most. The party determined that the individuals listed included both followers of the Old Faith as well as the Lawbringer. Those whose names were circled could still be found in town, but anyone whose name was crossed out or unmarked had disappeared or was thought to have moved away. The group thanked her for her time and returned to the inn.

Eventually, everyone decided they needed rest after the battles of the day. They blocked the cellar door with furniture in order to be alerted to any trouble from below and retired to their rooms. (Normally, the priests slept at the Temple of the Lawbringer, but for tonight, the clerics found a spare room for themselves and shared shifts caring for Brek.)

The party decided the next morning that they should investigate the temple and determine exactly where the iron door was located. Unfortunately, Brek was still terribly sick. Brother Carell agreed to stay and care for the dwarf. He would also perform burial rituals for the bodies in the cellar (intended to ward off undeath).

Once at the temple, the group was greeted by Sister Euphema. When they asked to speak with Sister Devi, the acolyte explained that Sister Devi was upstairs praying over Sir Moonbrook. Sister Euphema agreed to escort them to see Sister Devi.

The found the door to Sir Moonbrook's chamber standing open. Inside, the paladin lay on sheets soaked with his own blood. He was clad only in a nightshirt and vicious cuts rent the garment. Sister Euphema swooned from the horrible scene as Brother Edmund raced forward to check the poor Sir Moonbrook. Unfortunately, the paladin was beyond any aid he could give. The body was already starting to chill. Despite the terrible way he must have died, Sir Moonbrook had a serene smile, his glazed eyes staring out into the distance.

Brother Edmund noticed a message scrawled in blood on the floor next to the bed. Blood on the paladin's fingertip suggested he had left it. Unfortunately, it didn't appear complete. It read: "PRAY BACKW."

Sister Euphema was in obvious shock and didn't understand what had happened. She suggested the group find Sister Devi. The party agreed and had their own suggestion: begin the search in the lower levels of the temple. The acolyte was somewhat confused by their suggestion. She admitted that the temple had a cellar but didn't know why Sister Devi would be down there. For the past month, a group of monks had been using the shrines and prayer cells in the cellar for an extended meditation. She and the other acolytes had been forbidden from disturbing them. When pressed, the sister admitted that she had not actually seen the monks but had been told about them by Sister Devi. Since the group was so insistent, she agreed to lead them to the cellar.

As the group descended the spiral staircase into the cellar, they noted two shrines to the Lawbringer in the large stone chamber. However, instead of the normal crossed swords of the Lawbringer, the shrines were decorated with two mummified snakes. Wooden shelves between the shrines held tomes, flasks, and other religious artifacts. Kneeling before the shrines were the hooded forms of Sister Philla and Brother Abramo. A short, bulbous human (almost frog-like in appearance) decked in green armor and armed with a warhammer resembling a snake's head stood over Brother Abramo next to the far shrine.

Priestess Devi suddenly ran up from a wide corridor to the south. "Thank the Lawbringer you are here!" she proclaimed in a frightened voice. "We are being invaded by terrible swamp creatures. That fiend conjured them forth!" She pointed at the squat figure in green armor before the shrine.

Something about this scene did not add up for the group and as they prepared their weapons, it was obvious that they considered Sister Devi a potential threat as well. Once the priestess saw this, a wicked smile spread across her lips. She said, "So, you are not as idiotic as I first thought. Bravo to you." She then nodded to the human before the shrine. "You should leave, Garath. Tell the Reptile God that it shall have more sacrifices shortly." Mumbling as he went, the frog-like figure stepped into the fire of the shrine and disappeared right before the heroes' eyes! Fortunately, the sharp ears of those party members at the bottom of the stairs heard the words spoken by this Garath: "Worlds all in established be word your may, law of giver." This garbled phrase was an inversion of the common Lawbringer maxim: "Giver of Law, may your word be established in all worlds."

As battle was joined, the party couldn't help but notice that both Sister Philla and Brother Abramo looked extremely ill. Their eyes had dulled, and their skin seemed desiccated and pulled tight against their bones. They entered combat with no weapons other than their fists, but their mighty blows could be felt even through armor. Additionally, the priestesses and priest were not alone. They were quickly joined by three bullywugs from the meditation cells to the south.

The battle was hard fought and not an easy victory for the group. Sister Devi called upon several clerical spells to assist herself and her allies, and the bullywugs' natural agility and vicious nature posed a dangerous threat. However, the party's foes eventually fell before the group's combined might.

The party even managed to capture Sister Devi. During the battle, she had been severely wounded and fell to the ground unconscious, but Brother Edmund managed to stabilize her condition. The group bound and gagged her before awakening her with some of Brother Edmund's healing magic (cure minor wounds cantrip). They verified she was calm and not trying to madly strike out at anyone before exploring the rest of the cellar.

They made the disturbing discovery that the meditation cell doors had locks on the outside. In one of the cells, they found an unconscious man and woman. Once again calling upon Brother Edmund's healing skills, the group awoke the pair and learned that they were Ranson and Scira Klought, the missing leatherworker and his wife. The couple remembered being attacked and drugged after leaving dinner at the Golden Grain Inn, but had little information beyond that.

View
Celebrate Good Times
Party
Game Notes

Since this game is part of D&D Encounters, players may come and go as they please. Unfortunately, roughly half of the players did not attend this session. (The players of Brek, Brother Edmund Caldworth, and Shiellapho were not present.)

As some of you may be aware, the D&D Encounters season for Against the Cult of Chaos has ended. However, with this session, the group has only completed roughly 50% of the adventure. With so much available to explore in this sandbox adventure and everyone having fun, we have been taking our time and not rushing to meet some program deadline. For us, the season will continue until the adventure is completed.

This session marked an important milestone for the group. The majority of player characters reached second level!

Session Summary

The party returned to Hommel Lane victorious. They had defeated the evil cult led by Lareth the Beautiful and the cult's bandit allies. They had retrieved a large amount of goods stolen from their friend Wyndell. It was time to relax and enjoy a well-deserved evening of rest.

When the group arrived at the Golden Grain Inn, they discovered a proclamation posted on the inn's door which read:
By Lord Burne. A Proclamation. In honor of recent deeds of merit and service to our lands, we offer thanks to the Honourable Martiris of Drayke. The Honourable Martiris and his band risked life and limb to confront thieves of the vilest sort who preyed upon our people. By strength of arms, they prevailed and ended this threat to our land and commerce. Let all who hear this proclamation render unto the Honourable Martiris and his men the respect their deeds deserve. Given at Our Court at Hommel Lane, the Eleventh of Wealsun, Common Year Five hundred Ninety and One, in the Twelvth Year of Our Lordship.

Martiris was quite pleased to see that Castellan Zaborr had kept his promise from the day before.

The party was welcomed as heroes by Bertram as they entered the common area. He insured that they were quickly presented with food and drink. As they enjoyed their dinner, Bertram asked them about their recent exploits. In particular, he was curious to hear more about the evil cult that the group had set out to confront. (Apparently, Kevin, Honourable Martiris' squire, had been busy telling stories to Bertram while the party spent the day at the moat house.) Martiris did not want to reveal too much about what the group had discovered, so he told just enough to appease Bertram's curiosity. (And later spoke to his squire about keeping information to himself… even when presented with fresh pudding.)

The Honourable Martiris also spoke with several inn patrons and learned that there had been much talk about the barn fire since last night. Some had heard that the followers of the Lawbringer were responsible. The Lawbringers had been trying to get rid of the Old Faith in Hommel Lane for some time. The fire was just an escalation in methods. Renn Becker and his family were well-known followers of the Old Faith. Additionally, the fire burned so fiercely that it might have been magical in nature… and there was a wizard in town who was known to keep company with priests of the Lawbringer (an obvious reference to Shiellapho, Brother Carell, and Brother Edmund). The gentlemen telling this rumor suggested Martiris find better travelling companions before they left the inn.

Martiris also heard that the fire may have simply been an escalation in the animosity between Renn and his brother, Varick. Varick was a follower of the Lawbringer who was currently running for mayor. It was common knowledge that they had been committing minor acts of vandalism on each other's farms for months now. (The party had heard some of this previously from Renn's son, Keveak.)

As dinner wound down, a worried young man arrived with three young children in tow. He asked Bertram about his sister, Scira, and brother-in-law, Ranson. They had left their children in his care the night before and had been coming to the inn for the evening. They never arrived home. Bertram (and several other patrons, including a few party members) remembered them eating dinner at the inn and then leaving while the night was still young. He promised the young man, Kipp, that he would let Kipp know if they showed back up or he heard anything more. Satisfied with Bertram's answer but obviously still worried, Kipp left with the children.

Sensing the somber mood slowly settling over the common room after Kipp's visit, Bertram announced "I tell you, I can remember when every night at the Golden Grain Inn was a party to end all parties. It didn't matter if you followed the Old Faith or worshiped the Lawbringer. Everyone could throw back a pint and celebrate a hard-earned bit o' silver and an honest day's work. We need to remember those days. A round o' the Old '63 on the house!"

A cheer went up from around the room as people jumped out of their chairs and headed for the bar. Bertram continued speaking as he poured drinks for everyone. "We need a drinking contest. We need to play some darts. I want to see Wee Big Gertie arm wrestle one o' our new friends." (Followed by a nod toward the party.) "Derek, pull out your lute and play us a drinking song. Ernesto, show off that tattoo you got when those orcs captured you. Here's to a life worth living."

As Derek began a lively tune, Brother Edmund surprised everyone by joining a group at the bar for the drinking contest. What was even more surprising was that after several rounds of the Old '63, the priest was the last standing (although a bit wobbly)! As a prize, Bertram awarded him 10 gold pieces.

Wee Big Gertie was a brawny female farmhand whom the other patrons claimed could throw any other farmhand like a bale of hay. She was the reigning arm-wrestling champion and looked forward to a good opponent. Tawnka rose up to the challenge. Of course, Gertie didn't wrestle for free. She offered up an expertly crafted dagger given to her by her mother, Big Wee Shirley, as a prize to the winner. Honourable Martiris matched this offer with 25 gold pieces and the contest was on! Although Tawnka called upon hidden reserves of strength, she couldn't beat the raw power of Gertie. Wee Big Gertie won the arm-wrestling matches, retaining her title and earning Martiris' gold.

After Gertie was declared the winner, Martiris was approached by a woman who asked if he was interested in winning some of his money back. She introduced herself as Trip Karzen, the champion dart thrower of Hommel Lane. Martiris accepted her challenge and joined her in a game of darts. It was a very close game of three throws, but at the end, Martiris came out on top, winning 10 gp. Although she paid quick enough, Trip may have been somewhat of a bad loser; she threw a dart into the board while Martiris was removing his last throw. Since she did not hit him, Martiris did not press the issue.

Meanwhile, Tarryn and Tawnka attempted to entertain the crowd with feats of acrobatics. Unfortunately, they were still weary from their battle earlier in the day and their performance suffered. Tawnka attempted to cover up their mistakes as a comedy routine, but was only moderately successful.

As Tarryn and Tawnka jumped about, Brek, Brother Edmund, and Shiellapho shared a table with the musician, Derek Desleigh. He had taken a break from playing his lute to enjoy a few rounds of the Old '63 with the heroes. The drinks hit the characters harder than Derek (presumably he had built up a tolerance), leaving them gently snoring with their heads on the table.

After leaving the drinking contest as the victor, Brother Carell wandered over to the farmhand, Ernesto. He wanted to hear more about Ernesto's time with the orcs. Ernesto was more than happy to oblige. He explained how he had been captured by an orc tribe while hunting one day. Initially, he thought the tribe would eat him, which was not unheard of, but apparently, there was some turmoil about his fate. The chief wanted to simply kill him and be done with it, but the shaman felt that the signs during Ernesto's capture signified he served an important purpose. Ernesto spent a week with his fate in limbo.

The orc tribe traveled mostly at night. One night as dawn approached and the group was searching the deep woods for a likely camp site, they stumbled upon an owl bear (a huge bear-like creature with the head of an owl) and her cubs. Three of the best warriors were killed before the tribe even realized what they had encountered. Many broke and ran, including Ernesto's guards. He quickly climbed a nearby tree to escape the carnage. The orc chief threw his personal guard against the beast to wear it down, but they barely slowed the primal force of the owl bear. Eventually, the chieftain was facing the creature alone below the very tree Ernesto had climbed. Then Ernesto heard a sharp crack as the limb upon which he was laying broke. He fell 20 feet to the ground, directly atop the owl bear. Surprised by the sudden weight, the owl bear reared up, allowing the orc chief to plunge his spear deeply into the creature's breast and pierce its heart. With a howl, the owl bear died (and fed the tribe for many days). The chieftain thought Ernesto had intentionally attacked the owl bear, an act seemingly even braver since he was unarmed and the other orc warriors had fled. Ernesto was accepted by the tribe and given a tribal tattoo on his back to honor the occasion. The next day he was allowed to return home.

Brother Carell asked to see the tattoo, but Ernesto was hesitant to take his shirt off in the common area. He and the priest moved back into the kitchen for more privacy. No one seemed to be around, but as Ernesto was pulling up his shirt, Brother Carell noticed four armed men stealthily moving up behind him.

Brother Carell quickly turned, unsheathed his weapons, and called out to his companions in the common room. His cries did not awaken Brek, Brother Edmund, or Shiellapho, but Tarryn, Tawnka, and Martiris rushed to his aid. By the time they arrived, Brother Carell had already dispatched one of his attackers. Unfortunately, he had paid in blood for the victory; he had been stabbed twice by the men's daggers.

As combat raged in the kitchen, Bertram urged his patrons to exit the inn. They fled out the front as Martiris, Tawnka, and Brother Carell finished off the remaining thugs quickly and professionally. In fact, Tarryn didn't even have a chance to join the battle before it ended.

Everyone caught their breaths as Ernesto stared in bewilderment at the chaos left in the kitchen. Suddenly, a spear thudded into the wall next to Tarryn! She turned in time to see Bertram's chubby body disappearing down the stairs into the cellar. She quickly called to the others, explaining that Bertram had attacked her and fled down the stairs.

Tawnka had barely processed the words before racing past Tarryn and down into the cellar. Boxes, crates, and casks were stacked around the damp stone walls. A large pile of goods partially concealed a passage leading into a separate room. Bertram and the musician, Derek, stood next to this passage, armed and obviously ready for a fight. (Perhaps there had been more than corn-mash whiskey and potato vodka in the cups of Old '63 that Brek, Brother Edmund, and Shiellapho had drunk. – Ed.)

Martiris quickly joined Tawnka in the cellar but it was Tarryn who spear-headed an attack. She called upon her ki to speed through the air past both Tawnka and Martiris to attack the treacherous Bertram (i.e., warrior's gale ability). Her strikes shook the portly innkeeper, but did not lay him low. She managed to avoid the return strike of his spear, but was surprised by the entry of new enemies into the fray. Two large frog-like humanoids entered into the partially hidden room of the cellar. They both jumped over the large pile of goods blocking the connecting passage to attack with crude spears and their needle-sharp teeth. Tarryn felt the sting of one humanoid's attack while Martiris managed to block the blows of the other.

Distracted by the frog-man's lunge, Tarryn did not notice the poisoned long sword of Derek until too late. She fell to the man's underhanded attack. Fortunately, the battle turned at this point. The party worked together to kill both frog-men and Bertram. Brother Carell even called upon the Lawbringer to heal Tarryn.

Derek attempted to escape through the passageway revealed by the humanoids, but was not fast enough to escape the justice of Honourable Martiris. The nobleman caught up to the musician in the tunnel and killed him with a swift blow from his bastard sword.

The battle over, the group took a few moments to examine the cellar. In the second room, they found iron manacles bolted to the floor and walls. A table holding playing cards and a small ledger stood in the center of the room. The ledger was filled with names, some of which were crossed out or circled. Several were recognized by the party: Derek Desleigh (circled), Yeeday, Gertie (circled), Trip Karzen (circled), Corbin, and Chef.

As the group searched the cellar, Ernesto poked his head through the door at the head of the stairs. Although he still didn't fully understand what had happened, he thanked Brother Carell for protecting him in the kitchen. He offered the priest a special reward. Before he had left the orc tribe, the orcs had given him a gift, a potion that could heal wounds. He wanted the priest to have it for saving him. Brother Carell graciously accepted the crude animal skin containing the potion and Ernesto left the inn.

Honourable Martiris, Brother Carell, Tarryn, and Tawnka then decided to completely explore the tunnel into which Martiris had chased Derek. Cart tracks in the tunnel indicated a great deal of recent traffic. The tunnel went a long way before eventually splitting. One fork led to a well-built iron door that was barred from the other side. The other fork led to a wooden trapdoor which opened near the entrance to the Temple of the Lawbringer. Upon further thought, Tawnka believed that the iron door may connect to an underground chamber below the temple itself or possibly below the grounds behind of the temple.

View
These Are Not The Droids You Are Looking For
Party
Game Notes

A full table of players were available for this session. However, the player of Brek did not arrive until the session was over half-way over.

Session Summary

The priests, Martiris, and Tawnka only had a short wait in the ruins before the arrival of Shiellapho and Tarryn. The elf had not gotten past the keep’s gate in his quest to visit the library of Lord Rufus. Apparently, he was not well-liked by the guards and was denied entrance.

With everyone in attendance (including the frozen Brek who had been brought in one of Wyndell’s wagons), the party decided on a plan of attack for the dungeon lair. Everyone but the clerics would wear the robes of the cult and attempt to gain an audience with the cult leader, Lareth the Beautiful. Brother Carell and Brother Edmund would be loosely bound and escorted as prisoners. When the time seemed right, the group would launch a surprise attack!

The password, annihilation, caused the magic wall to slowly descend into the stone stairs with a grinding noise. The group continued down the revealed corridor. After 50 feet and a left turn, the passageway was lit with torches and decorated with sigils drawn in red and black chalk. A pair of cultist guards confronted the characters, but believed their bluff, allowing the party to continue deeper into the dungeon.

The group then entered a small prayer room in which two cultists were silently praying at a table marked with the same sigils as drawn on the walls. The table generated an aura of evil which sickened the good heroes in the party, but the characters managed to pass through without revealing their discomfort (other than the priestly “prisoners”).

Past the prayer room, the party discovered guarded double-doors opposite a barracks for the cult. One of the guards introduced himself as Timoneon, offering praise to That Which We Obey as he greeted the group. Once he heard the party’s cover story, he suggested they present their prisoners to Lareth the Beautiful. He instructed them to knock at the doors, but also warned them to wait to enter until invited if they valued their sanity.

A few seconds after the group knocked, a deep voice commanded them to enter. The walls of the chamber beyond the doors were covered in the red and black sigils mentioned previously. A bed and wardrobe stood against the far wall. The characters’ images were reflected by the wardrobe’s full-length mirror as they entered. A magical silver fire filled a font close to the door. A large carpet covered the center of the chamber’s floor.

The group was greeted by Lareth the Beautiful, a man wearing black plate armor that bore a gold-trimmed red circle (depicted on the cultists’ robes as well). He wielded a silver scepter with an ebony head, carved in the shape of a creature that looks to be a cross between a wolf and a spider. Upon hearing of the party’s prisoners, Lareth congratulated them on their success and explained that their arrival was most fortuitous. As a reward for their efforts, they would be allowed to assist him in the ritual that would allow him to speak directly to That Which We Obey. He ordered them to step onto the carpet while he prepared.

Worried about being involved in any ritual with some dark god, the party attacked! With Tawnka and Tarryn leading the charge in the small room, Lareth didn’t stand a chance. He was quickly killed with little injury to the characters. (When Lareth was killed, the magical flame in the font flared out, burning some of those nearby with freezing cold before extinguishing.)

The group worried that the other cultists may have heard the combat, but after waiting a few minutes, it was apparent that no one was alerted. (Lareth the Beautiful had magically silenced the room for the ritual and did not have time to end the effect before dying. – Ed.) The party decided to perform a quick search of the chamber’s contents. Brother Carell found numerous books, scrolls, and notes at the bottom of the wardrobe.

The documents revealed another name for That Which We Obey: Miska the Wolf-Spider. Miska was a force of incomparable evil and chaos. During a long forgotten war between law and chaos, the terrible creature was locked away in an extraplanar prison after slaying many powerful champions of law. For millennia, the Wolf-Spider had thrown himself at the walls of his prison and according to visions written down by Lareth the Beautiful, he had finally succeeded in cracking the walls. According to Lareth’s notes on an excerpt from an old journal, Miska was involved with the mysterious disappearance of everyone in Hommel Lane two centuries ago.

He also noted the Wolf-Spider’s hand in a recorded attack by human cultists, monstrous humanoids, and reptilian creatures on Hommel Lane only a century ago. The attackers were defeated at that time, with the cultists retreating to their forest moat house to the north, the humanoids fleeing west to their mountain lairs, and the reptiles slithering back to the Fathomless Fens to the east. (The Fathomless Fens was a local extension of the Rushmoors, the expansive moors that formed the northern border of Keoland.) Of their foes, the Hommel Lane defenders only managed to completely destroy the human cultists, whom they tracked to their keep in the wilderness.

Lareth felt it was very poetic that he had reformed the cult in the ruins of the old. He was also honored to lead the cult at this time, a time at which the walls of Miska’s prison were the thinnest. After a century of waiting, the Wolf-Spider was readying an attempt to break free from his prison once again!

After learning all this, the heroes knew that they could not allow any of the cult to escape. The threat of Miska was too great. The group burst forth from Lareth’s chambers, surprising the cultists and making short work of them. (All of the cultists fought to the death.) As the last of the evil men died, Brek came running down the corridor. He had awakened from his stasis and once he was filled-in by Wyndell, he hurried to help the others. Unfortunately, he was simply a bit late.

Exploring the dungeon after the defeat of the cultist, the group found even more of Wyndell‘s goods. Shiellapho cast detect magic, but found only one item of interest: a scroll worn on Lareth the Beautiful’s belt. It had a very powerful magical aura. He also noticed that it radiated a dark, repugnant aura as he picked it up (which he did not share with the rest of the group).

As Shiellapho examined the scroll, he found the words written on it shifting and running across the surface in response to his thoughts. He learned that the scroll was the Scroll of Final Words, an artifact imbued with power from Miska the Wolf-Spider. It provided knowledge about various topics to the reader’s mental requests. It would even allow Shiellapho to cast a spell from its contents once per day.

View
Arrest Warrant
Party
Game Notes

Since it was the week before Easter, several players were out-of-town and unable to attend this session. The players of Chef, Shiellapho, and Tarryn did not participate.

Session Summary

After defeating the crazed bandits, the party loaded some handcarts with Wyndell’s stolen goods (and a bound, unconscious crazy man) and began the trip back to Hommel Lane. The bandit prisoners provided menial labor for the task. It was an uneventful trip, with no sign of the bandits who had fled the previous night. The group decided to enter town in a round-about way to avoid passing the trading post before reaching the constable. Instead of entering along the north road, the party entered from the east.

They immediately stopped at the constable‘s quarters, a nondescript wooden building with heavy shutters and a sturdy door. Constable Ruskal listened to their story and agreed to lock-up their prisoners for trial. However, he wasn’t certain that he was the best person to have custody of the crazed, potentially possessed, prisoner. He suggested that the prisoner be kept at the temple with Sir Moonbrook, but the party insisted and he relented (locking the maniac in his own cell). He then went with the group to investigate the involvement of Gremag and Raynen Daval with the bandits. (Martiris noticed a wariness in the constable‘s eyes and a slight hesitation on his part to investigate the traders, but with the testimony found in the bandit’s journal, he had no choice.)

The group found Gremag and Raynen at the trading post, along with three workers. Gremag loudly proclaimed their innocence and suggested that the whole idea was some sort of frame to hurt an important business for the town. However, several crates of Wyndell‘s goods were found during a search of the trader’s warehouse. This discovery broke Raynen Daval’s silence and she admitted to working with the bandits. Once the dam was opened, her words did not stop. She confessed that Gremag and she had even visited the bandit headquarters at the old moat house. They had met the leader of a cult, Lareth the Beautiful, as well as the bandit leader, Enda Yate. Lareth had tasked the traders with obtaining more robes for his people. In fact, several robes were currently in a crate in the warehouse. When pressed by Brother Edmund, Raynen remembered over-hearing a word whispered by Lareth to bypass the magical wall as he left their meeting to return to his dungeon lair: “Annihilation.

With all the found evidence and confession from Raynen, Constable Ruskal arrested the traders and their hirelings. The party escorted the constable and his new prisoners back to his quarters, where they were locked up alongside the bandits.

At this time, Chef took her leave of the group, wishing them good fortune as she went on her way to find the Inn of the Winsome Wench. That was the place that had hired her as a cook. The party decided to allow her to discover state of the abandoned inn on her own and only voiced their goodbyes as she left.

The heroes then went to Wyndell’s home to give him the good news (and deliver his carts of goods). Wyndell was happy to see the group and even happier to see his goods. Brother Edmund explained that even more of his stolen goods had been left at the moat house and asked that Wyndell bring a couple of wagons with the group the next day to retrieve them. Wyndell readily agreed and then rewarded the characters with 20 gold pieces each for their hard work.

Honourable Martiris mentioned to Wyndell his concern that there could be problems with the bandit prisoners. (He just didn’t trust that look he had seen in the constable’s eyes – Ed.) He asked Wyndell to arrange for his oldest son to watch the constable’s quarters that night. If the halfling saw anything amiss, he should immediately report to Martiris. Wyndell agreed and told them his son, Murve, would be there.

The heroes left Wyndell with his goods and decided to visit Castellan Zaborr. (Fortunately without Shiellapho, who retired to the Golden Grain Inn to ponder the mystery of the magical wall with his guide, Tarryn.)(After his last visit, Shiellapho was not well liked by the castellan. – Ed.) Honourable Martiris wanted to inform him of what they had discovered about the bandits. With the nobleman in the lead, the party was allowed entry into the keep and after only 30 minutes, they were seen by the castellan. He was very interested in their tale and glad that they had brought justice to the thieves. At prompting from Honourable Martiris, Castellan Zaborr even promised to write a proclamation of the group’s deeds and have it posted in town.

During their conversation, the castellan also asked Honourable Martiris if he had received the message from Lord Burne. Martiris had not since the note was delivered only the day before to the Golden Grain Inn. Castellan Zaborr paraphrased the message for Martiris, explaining that the lord had sent his apologies for not meeting Matiris personally but was occupied with important local matters. A wine bottle of excellent vintage accompanied the note.

Wishing to taste this wine, Honourable Martiris ended his meeting with Castellan Zaborr and the party walked over to the Golden Grain Inn. They all enjoyed a hearty meal, and Martiris even shared a small amount of his wine. Brother Edmund soon left the festivities to inform Sister Devi of the cursed prisoner being held by the constable. She was very interested upon hearing this news and immediately left the temple to investigate.

Later in the evening, Shiellapho, Tarryn, and Tawnka entertained the crowd for their rooms as usual. All the patrons enjoyed the show, including Chef, who had eventually arrived at the Golden Grain Inn after finding the Inn of the Winsome Wench abandoned. She was a little down that she no longer had a job waiting on her. She took a room at the inn and discussed the possibility of moving on since no one in Hommel Lane seemed to have need for a cook.

Early the next morning, Martiris was awakened by a commotion outside. Seeing villagers running past his window, the nobleman hailed one and learned that a fire was burning at the Becker dairy farm. Honourable Martiris dressed and sent Kevin to fetch the priests at the temple in case there were injuries. Stepping outside his room, Martiris bumped into Tawnka and the two set off for the dairy farm. They saw no need to awaken Shiellapho or Tarryn for a fire.

When Martiris and Tawnka reached the farm, they found many townsfolk working to put out a blaze in one of the farm’s barns. Others were attempting to corral the livestock that had escaped the fire. Constable Ruskal was there organizing the effort. The pair spoke to the constable for a moment and were shocked to learn that he had left his prisoners unattended while dealing with the fire. They were even more shocked a moment later when they bumped into Murve; he had abandoned his watch post to join the bucket brigade. Honourable Martiris asked him to direct the priests to the constable’s quarters when they arrived. He and Tawnka then raced away to check on the prisoners.

They found the door ajar when they reached the constable‘s quarters and almost all of the cells were empty. The mad bandit was still tied in his cell and unfortunately, the body of Raynen Daval was hanging in her cell. Martiris found the keys to the cells in the constable’s desk and entered the madman’s cell. He hoped to learn something useful from the maniac’s rambling, but had to simply focus on not being bitten when he removed the man’s gag. He eventually gave up and left the cell.

Tawnka and Martiris were exiting the building when Brother Edmund and Brother Carell arrived. They explained the situation and Brother Edmund had an idea. As they attempted (unsuccessfully) to find the escaped prisoners’ trail, Kevin was sent to find Druid Ashstaff. Kevin soon returned with the druid in tow. After explaining about the prisoners, Brother Edmund asked Druid Ashstaff if he could track them. The druid explained that he was an old man; he could follow their trail, but only at a speed which would insure their escape. Instead, he offered to call an ally. He howled into the night and an answering howl could be heard far in the distance. He said his ally was coming, but it might take some time. Honourable Martiris and Tawnka felt that time was of the essence so instead of waiting, the two immediately headed for the moat house ruins to the north.

After roughly 30 minutes, a wolf appeared under the shadows of some nearby trees. Druid Ashstaff went to speak with the animal for a few minutes and when he returned, he explained that the wolf had agreed to track the fugitives. Brother Edmund and Brother Carell followed the wolf for several miles to the east, but returned to town when the wolf seemed to lose the trail at the river.

By that time, dawn was approaching. The priests found the constable at his quarters arranging for the burial of Raynen Daval. He had heard that the priests were following the criminals’ trail from Druid Ashstaff and was saddened to learn that the prisoners had escaped. Remembering the impression that Martiris had of the constable, the two priests were not convinced that Constable Ruskal had not been involved with the escape.

While Brother Carell went to awaken Shiellapho and Tarryn, Brother Edmund visited the keep, hoping to speak to the castellan about Constable Ruskal. Since it was so early in the day and Brother Edmund was without Honourable Martiris, he was not able to meet with Castellan Zaborr. However, he was granted an audience with the castellan’s assistant, Rhonnet Gho. Brother Edmund explained the events of the night and his suspicions of the constable to Rhonnet, but since he had no evidence, there was little Rhonnet could do. However, she did warn Brother Edmund to be careful about accusations including the constable; Grover Ruskal was a trusted associate of Lord Burne and Lord Rufus from their adventuring days. Brother Edmund should have convincing evidence of duplicity before bringing up charges again.

When Brother Edmund left the keep, he hurried to the Golden Grain Inn to meet with Brother Carell, Shiellapho, and Tarryn. It was decided that the priests would travel with Wyndell back to the ruined moat house while Shiellapho, and Tarryn would attempt to gain access to the library of Lord Rufus. Shiellapho wanted to make doubly-sure that his conclusions about the magical wall were accurate. He and Tarryn would travel to the moat house afterward.

The priests rode with Wyndell and another of his wagon drivers to the moat house. When they arrived, they found Martiris and Tawnka enjoying a tasty lunch. Martiris and Tawnka had not seen any signs of the escaped prisoners during their trek or after arriving at the ruins.

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Game Notes

A new player was able to join the game for this session and play the part of Chef.

Session Summary

As Shiellapho worked on his ritual, Honourable Martiris ordered Kevin to bring their horses into the keep and lead them to the bandits’ storage room. He and Kevin also loaded the frozen Brek onto a horse and brought him into the ruins.

Brother Carell continued reading the journal of Enda Yate and learned that Enda had seen numerous cultists wearing black robes bearing a gold-trimmed red circle pass through the magical wall blocking the stairs to the dungeon. However, she did not know how they had made the wall disappear. She thought she had heard them whisper a word or two, but could never make out exactly what was said. Enda wrote that in some ways, she was glad of this; she and her band did not truly want to know what rites went on down there. They stayed far away from the stairs and the cultists.

The goods stolen by the bandits were taken to Hommel Lane and sold to villagers friendly to the thieves. Although Enda was usually very vague about the identities of these villagers, Brother Carell did finally find an entry where their names were mentioned: Gremag and Raynen, the owners of the trading post.

Once Shiellapho completed his identify ritual, he confirmed that the magical wall would melt into the floor once the proper passphrase was spoken. Unfortunately, the spell did not reveal the phrase. It did, however, reveal the image of the magic’s creator: a handsome man in black plate armor that bore the symbol of a gold-trimmed red circle. He wielded a silver scepter with an ebony head, carved in the shape of a creature that looked to be a cross between a wolf and a spider. Based on the information from Enda Yate’s journal, this man was Lareth the Beautiful.

Tawnka suspected that the shoes she had found could be magical, so she brought them to Shiellapho to examine. As the group gathered around the shoes, both Shiellapho and Brother Carell recognized the marker’s mark on them. It belonged to Naivara Nightbreeze, an elf witch from the Valley of the Mage. With this incentive, Shiellapho cast detect magic and noted the shoes had an aura of abjuration magic. He also quickly scampered around the keep before his magic expired, hoping to discover other magical items, but found none.

Worried that the witch may have created a cursed item, Shiellapho decided to perform another identify ritual. The ritual revealed much about the shoes’ history and that they were shoes of water walking. After a short discussion, it was decided that Brother Carell would be granted their use. He quickly removed his boots and donned the shoes.

Meanwhile, a lone halfling wandered out of the forest and into the clearing around the ruined keep. She noticed the fresh remains of the giant frogs and decided to cautiously approach the moat house in case the frog’s attackers were hostile to her as well. Unfortunately, she triggered a trap while sneaking through a collapsed portion of the walls. She was quick enough to dodge the trap’s flames, but the noise alerted the party. This began a parley between the halfling, who called herself Chef, and the group of heroes. She explained that she had been travelling to Hommel Lane to begin a job as a cook when she had been set upon by a band of goblins. She managed to escape the attack, but lost her pony and her way in the process. The party did not believe she was lying to them and accepted her company for the time being.

As the afternoon wore on, the band made plans to ambush the remaining bandits when they returned. They gathered the bodies of the giant frogs (which Chef turned into a delicious meal) and hid any trace of their battle at the keep. They placed Brek near the entrance, hoping to draw the bandits in closer with curiosity. When the bandits did arrive (two dwarves and two men), they had almost walked into the lower courtyard before noticing the slightly glowing dwarf. Worried that they might not enter, Matiris went ahead and fired his bow, severely wounding one of the dwarves. Brother Edmund managed to wound another bandit with his own bow. Surprised and attacked from within their own base, the bandits beat a hasty retreat. With night approaching, the party decided not to follow the bandits into the woods but make camp in the ruins.

The night passed uneventfully for the group. Their prisoners awoke with them and so the party asked them a few questions about the sick room. The prisoners explained that three of their number had defied Lareth’s orders. In retaliation, he had cursed the men, causing them to become vicious madmen. The bandits had barred the door for their own protection.

Despite the prisoners’ warnings, Shiellapho and Tawnka decided to investigate the room. Shiellapho hoped to find a clue to the magical wall and Tawnka simply liked the idea of a good fight. Brother Edmund went along in the hopes of saving the poor doomed men. As soon as the door was opened, the group was set upon by the cursed men. The maniacs repeatedly shouted the nonsense phrase, “Killy, killy the silly, silly!”, as they fought. Tawnka’s urgrosh granted two of them the cure of death, but thanks to the intervention of Brother Edmund, one was simply knocked unconscious and tied up. The room where they had been contained was a complete mess, strewn with broken furniture and offal. The men had scratched words onto the walls, but it all seemed random and out of place. The most coherent area read:

AnNIhiLate the mEEk
ANNihilATE the liVING
AnnihiLATE THE WORLD
AnNiHIlaTiOn Is tHE KeY

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