Sunday, March 25, 2012

Musky Zombies

The party started off again from Tara, once again headed down the mine trail. Questioning, the mine foreman, they realized there may be some valuable ore usable in magical creations at the bottom of the mine, but a cave-in made it impassible. Rumors of some scaled beast down below are probably just that, rumors. Something to be explored later.

Instead, they headed into the hills along the Rideline Trail, not much more than an animal track. They found a patch of blue whinnis, a moderately powerful poison and the druid Shade harvested some. He found goblin tracks nearby and tracked them into the hills, where he discovered a young goblin dead on the ground. Stuffed in his mouth was blue whinnis, with no signs of foul play.

The party returned to the trail and came across more goblins, but these were a bit different. These were shambling yellow musk zombies, according to the druid. Six of the creatures shambled down the hill and everyone hid. They spotted the summoner's eidolon and quickly bludgeoned it to death.

The group returned to town to follow up on some leads and returned two days later to find the source of the zombies. In the hills was the the yellow musk creeper living happily in a field of hot peppers, planted, it turned out, by the ranger's father. This was the pepper patch that he was hoping to find (the ranger was busy in town following up some leads). The party attacked the creeper. One of the guardsmen was slain instantly as he rushed in to attack, tendrils ripping into his brain, but the plant creature was quickly slain thereafter, due to the guardsmen sacrifice.

The party returned to town once again, paid a reward to the family of the slain guardsmen, and successfully recruited a young female cleric of Diancecht. With a cleric with them, they decided to finish off the zombies, and sure enough, her channeling of divine power fried them without much trouble.

While in town they had interrogated a smithy who had provided the bloomery for the bandits. He spoke of a shrine to The Horned One in the hills where he was recruited. The party made their way there and discovered the shrine, along with a secret entrance to chambers below.

The area below the shrine was made of a strange, gray crystalline structure that they determined was extraplanar in origin. Besides a staircase down to the structure, they had found a sinkhole that had claimed the life of a forlarren, an evil fey.

Exploring the chambers, they found a hot springs and a pool inhabited by a nereid who attempted unsuccessfully to charm the druid. They party struggled with it for a while, but they eventually brokered a peace.

Moving on, they found a chamber with frightening beetles that were repairing the floor where someone had carved a knot design. The beetles extruded the crystalline material that made up the structure. Beyond this room was a door with a Wall of Force and a Symbol of Sealing. The materials used to create these magical wards appeared to be from a variety of sources, including druidic, elven, divine and arcane. There had been a concerted group effort to seal off this area.

They explored the other side of the complex and found a strange snail like creature sucking out the insides of a chrysalis, a creature had been completely encased in the crystalline material (later discovered to be another Forlarren).

Fighting the snail, a specialized version of a flail snail with carrion crawler like tentacles, the party found their backs to the Nereid pool, and not surprisingly, she used the opportunity to break their pace, dragging the summoner, Maedock, into the water.

Despite the cleric having been sucked into the shell of the mollusk, Shade slammed the door on the snail to focus on the neireid. She was quickly defeated, once the party concentrated their efforts and the snail was turned to next. The Eidolon tore it apart and the slime covered cleric was rescued.

Various treasure was discovered in both the hot pool and the chrysalis with the forlarren, including a couple maps. The forlarren map included instructions to report on new defenses the town may have added and to avoid certain area, notably the area near where Blackthorn the druid lives and an unknown site in the forest. The second map was more of a treasure hunters map, which included this complexes location and the site of a cairn of a famous battle wizard. That is likely the next stop for the party.

Note in infernal: Scout the valley around the town and report back on any new defenses or any more of their nasty children skulking around. There is crude map of the valley showing the town, the hill trail and areas to avoid with a red “x” and a “do not go” (the druid Blackthorn and an area in the forest).
The final room of the complex contained a number of strange chairs that grew out of the floor. Those who sat in the chairs could combine their thoughts to create a kind of "hive mind," while the lead chair could send suggestions to the lesser chairs. This was clearly extraplanar magic and the party decided they would need to come back to this later.

Unholy Symbol of Crom

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Crom Cruaich and The Eyes of Crom

Crom Cruaich
Worm demon
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Domains:  None
Worshippers: Evil Druids and cultists

Crom Cruaich, whose name literally means the bent one of slaughter, is a demon-god of destruction. Cultists sacrifice their first born for good crops, while evil druids worship him in hopes he'll return to the world and wipe out the plague of humanity that crawls on its surface like a swarm of vermin.

To worship Crom is to give your body and soul directly to the worm demon and many cultists die in the practice. It may be what has kept evil armies at bay for so long, as it's thought Crom is gathering strength from his worshipers souls before he can rise up from The Abyss.

It is said that his worshipers are strongest on The Plain of Prostration, a mythical place where an enormous temple to the god resides and where ecstatic worshipers can partake of Crom's otherworldly visions of not just The Abyss, but omnipotent visions from the god himself. These visions are always tinted with a desire to destroy and do harm, even if the recipient is unaware of it at the time. Many a cultist speaks of wanting to have "the eyes of Crom," and how the rest of the world seeks to keep them from seeing The Truth. Others are brought to the cult only after seeing through Crom's eyes.

Scholars believe The Plain of Prostration is no mythical place, but an actual location and that "The Eyes of Crom" are physical gifts given to cultists, perhaps actual eyes of children who have been sacrificed, and not a metaphor for seeing the mayhem and destruction of the evil worm god.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Squatting Wolfhound

The Dire Wolf
The party met at the town square tavern, The Squatting Wolfhound. Before long they noticed a commotion outside, and rushing out, they discovered a dire wolf sliding around the corner on the cobblestones with a dead goblin pulled on the ground behind it. The goblin was full of arrows of the kind used by the town guard.

Before engaging the wolf, the beast ripped the throat out of a farmer, on his way back from the fields. The townsfolk who weren't in the direct line of attack seemed numb to the mayhem. The ranger Tristan rushed to kill the wolf, while the old wizard Calderone summoned poisonous snakes to handle the threat. Maedock, the summoner (not the king of Tara with the same name), grabbed a bit of cloth from a merchants stall and ran up to the creature, covering it like a blanket. Meanwhile, Shade, the druid shot at it with his sling.

Soon enough the dire wolf was in retreat, confused as the lights went out around it and mortally wounded from Tristan's blows. The final blow came from a tiny asp that bit it as it was about to leave the town square.

The party discovered a couple potion bottles with druidic markings on them along with an empty pouch with some foul smelling purple stains. They would discover the meaning of this later in the day.

The Haunt
The party left town along the Mine Trail. As they walked along they noticed the temperature drop and they could see their breaths before them. It began to rain a foul blood and the wagon ruts in the road began to fill up. Before them was a man lying in the road crying out, nearly cut in half as he lay dying. Tristan the ranger panicked and ran away, but the others realized the haunt for what it was. As the ghost faded, Maedock noticed the tip of a bone sticking out of the dry road and Shade suggested digging up and burying the body. The party did so when Maedock returned and they believe the soul of the dead miner was laid to rest.

Shade noticed a hidden trail as they buried the dead miner. Heading down the trail, the party ran into a bandit party, led by the local thug Vortigern. The bandits were clearly intoxicated on a strange drug and didn't notice the parties approach. Calderone put most of them to sleep while Shade entangled them with druidic magic. Tristan knocked Vortigern unconscious and when he awoke, Calderone charmed him.

They discovered a cache of foul smelling purple buries the bandits called The Eyes of Crom. These berries increase the strength of the bandits and gave them visions of the planes, apparently seeing through the eyes of The Great Worm, Crom. Through interrogating Vortigern, they found his contact in town, learning there was a plot to enslave the townsfolk through addiction.

Returning to town, a vacant warehouse acted as a den for these addicts. Inside were almost half the trained adventurers the town had recruited and the dealer within expressed surprise that the party had shown up, as he was planning to visit them a little later.

Interrogating Vortigern and the dealer revealed that the leader of this plot was someone named Crannog, apparently a Tuatha, or ancient person, being, angel, or whatever these creatures are. A note back at the bandit camp read:
You have done well Vortigern. However, I require more iron than you have been sending me. I am also told your crude ore is not good enough, so I will have someone from the town show you how to purify it. I trust you will not displease me and will treat my agent with respect. For your efforts I shall include another bushel. Await the ship and further instructions.”
The bandit camp held a bloomery for creating crude iron ore ingots, stolen mining equipment but no more bandits. According to Vortigern, they were out freeing a stuck smuggling ship.

Smuggling Ship
The party headed to Smuggler's Cove with a charmed Vortigern and three town guards as support. On the way they found themselves hunted by Old Red Eye, a worg that had plagued the wood for years. The worg attacked from the trees, knocking a guardsmen to the ground, but before it could strike again, the party dispatched it, ending the old legend.

Approaching the cove, they found ten bandits attempting to dislodge a small pinnacle from the rocks. The small ship was crewed by three dark skinned Phoenician merchants and the ship was clearly loaded down. The bandits were busy pulling on ropes and didn't notice the party's approach.

However, as they emerged from the woods, a bandit noticed Vortigern and yelled for his companions to kill the traitor. The day before they had come across the bodies of their bandit companions but no Vortigern and the presence of their leader with the town guard cemented their suspicions.

The battle was hard fought with several guardsmen beaten into unconsciousness along with the druid Shade. Calderone put four of the bandits to sleep, turning the battle and Tristan cut down a bandit with every blow of his sword. Maedock's eidolon, a strange ice elemental with fey like looks, absorbed the blows of the bandits rapiers like a sponge. Eventually the bandits were slain and the crew of the pinnacle surrendered.

The group dislodged the ship from the rocks, took the Phoenician crew to town and reported their findings to the inquisitor, Faelin. Faelin promptly imprisoned the Phoenician merchants and confiscated the ship, which contained over two and a half tons of iron ingots. The party was offered a small reward and the opportunity to purchase the ship at a reduced rate.

Clearly there was a dire threat to the town by this Crannog, with both an attempt to enslave the people with The Eyes of Crom and some sort of plot involving the iron ore. The party was encouraged to continue their line of investigation, but to where? The Phoenicians reported that this Crannog was in the far off town of Oerach, on the other side of the island.