Saturday, January 9, 2021

DM Log: Into the Four Counties

 North of Seaward and West of Tirgalen are the Four Counties, an alliance of demi-human nations:

Riverhearth: An nation of about 20,000 Halflings (mainly Southern Halflings). Ruled by Count Perrinor and the primate is Bishop Jerriador.

Greenbough: A nation of about 15,000 Elves (mainly Forest Elves). Led by Count Finan Laclaer and with primate Bishop Erencu.

Gladdenstone: Home to about 12,000 Gnomes (legends claim some Glade Gnomes live there, but almost exclusively Dell Gnomes). Count Artenn rules with the help of his cousin, the primate Bishop Waldo.

Karag: A nation of about 11,000 Dwarves, mainly Granite Dwarves. Their ruler is Count Theorn and their primate is the legendary Archbishop Karl, called Hammer of the Orcs.

The Company of the Dark Moon sent a scouting team consisting of:

Starfalcon: (Alex) A ranger from Timberlake and one of the top fighters in the entire company. 6th level ranger.

Ursula: (Jen) A halfling thief from Riverhearth and known for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. 4th level thief.

Anwyn: (Nick) A bard and known for being in the right place at the right time. 5th level bard.

Seamus: (Jack) A druid and raconteur. 5th level druid.

        Bornthein: (henchman to Seamus) a warrior from Karag. 3rd level fighter.

Godfrey: Master of Scouts for the Company. 6th level scout.

        Alfred: Religious Brother, henchman to Godfrey. 3rd level religious brother.

        Nigel: Scout and henchman to Godfrey. 3rd level scout.

The Company had learned from various sources (read: the castle of Lord Whitehill and interrogating mercenaries and bandits) that-

  A) The evil para-elemental cults had been subverted and were in service to a demon cult.

  B) The demon cult was Baron Samedhi's primary tool used to subvert nations from within.

So they sent the info team to get info.

Notes from Jack: "Dear readers, this adventure was a perfect example of Seaward as a campaign as well as the naturalistic progression of psychotronic adventuring."

Back to the blogging.

The party went dead-simple and just took the roads to Riverhearth, figuring Ursula could leverage her family connections.  They had a letter of introduction from Archbishop Forsyth of Seaward to the various primates of the counties, so immediately the party split up-

   Ursula checked in with her family, Starfalcon struck out for the rural district around the capitol, Anwyn started playing the taverns, Seamus headed for the nearby druid's grove, and Godfrey headed to talk to the Bishop. 

  Things were obviously unsettled. Ursula's family was glad to see her, but warned her the counties were unsafe: missing people, strange people in the capitol; rumors of monsters in the woods; the count and sheriffs often distant and distracted. Starfalcon found evidence of large groups coming too and fro and there was a feeling of unease all through the area. The druids warned Seamus that they detected cult forces at play, but they avoided the city. 

  Godfrey, though, found out the worst - in his meeting with the Bishop Jerriador was able to slip them a few messages by writing on a lacquered table in tea with his finger. All the leaders of the counties were being watched and listened to, and the cults had taken hostages to force their compliance. Godfrey made small talk about wanting blessings for the Company to pass through on their way North, and left.

  With this info Anwyn was able to figure out (with bardic music, charisma, and cash) that the place to find out what was really going on was the Blind Fisherman tavern. So the party went. As the main fighter types stayed right outside the door Anywyn, Seamus, and Ursula went in.

Anwyn started playing music and trying to succeed in Fascinating the crowd.  Seamus (with detect magic running as they entered) noted that the rather aggressively grumpy bartender glittered with illusion magic. There was obviously a great deal of tension in the room so they were not surprised when all the barmaids, floor sweepers, and many patrons whipped out daggers and attacked while uttering the screeching warcry of the para-elemental cultists!

  The fighters didn't need 'the signal' to know they were needed.

As a running gag whenever a player gives 'the secret signal' they sing-song chant 'whippoorwill! Whippoorwill!' like Steve Martin in the Three Amigos.

Look Up Here 

  The fight began with 20 fanatical (read: 95% morale) 0-level cultists armed with daggers swarming the thief, bard, and druid as the rest of the party stormed in. It escalated when the illusion dropped and revealed that the bartender was really a 6 HD Ooze paraelemental. It got real with a rising trapdoor on the stage brought a high-level Cultist (Ooze cult, naturally) into the fray and the bard noticed that the cultist's hand dripped green slime.

Starfalcon had a bit of trouble with the paralemental and was tied up. Seamus used a (one shot) magic item to Cure Disease on the cultist, which 'turned off' the green slime touch. Starfalcon dealt with the paraelemental, the other warriors dropped the cultists, and the druid, thief, and bard dropped the Cultist.

  All they could learn from the captured and such was that the cultists had bout the place 3-4 month previously and had had a boat travelling from the waterfront tavern into the lake once a week ever since.

The party regrouped and talked, then Seamus took them to the lakefront in an abandoned area. Seeing a lake otter, he cast Speak With Animals and hoped for the best. I rolled high and the otter was delighted to talk to a real, live druid!. The otter was Clammaster Lakeboss, a high-ranking elder in the local otters. He explained the following:

    1) The cultists had a 'strange female human with no hair' that could talk to the otters. She paid the otters well in fish and clams to tell her what was going on in and near the lake.

  2) She lived with other humans in an air bubble under the lake.

  3) They had other humans, mainly human young, in cages inside the air bubble.

4) Every month at sunset of the night of the New Moon an 'iron barrel' floated in under the water from the river and went to the bubble, leaving again before dawn.

He said a few other things that will be mentioned later. he apologized, but the otters would keep telling her things as long as she was feeding them. he was an elder, not a warboss. He could tell them exactly where it was - a little over 1/8th of a mile offshore just past the Old Breaker.

The Old Breaker is a line of stone about three miles long and about 5 yards wide, straight as an arrow north-south, about 1/8th of a mile east of the city of Riverhearth.

The party decided they needed to learn a bit more, sleep and regain spells, then head out. Ursula was able to get them a secure place to rest (through her family), learn from the thieves' guild that all the docks were being watched and if they took a bot from the city or nearby towns the cult would know immediately, and contact her cousin, a smuggler, who agreed to get them on the lake so no one knew and then get them to the air bubble looking exactly like the many other fishing boats that fished there every day.

  With travel to lose anyone shadowing them and then getting to the hidden cove and getting past the breakers it was well after Noon that they got in position on the lake. Anwyn then donned his Ring of Swimming and slipped into the water with a Water Breathing spell from Seamus to scout. 

  The air bubble was about 40' across and about 24' high. The top was covered with a thick cured leather tarp anchored to the lakebed and the perimeter was surrounded with a spiked iron fence about 6' high witht he tark coming right to its top. Inside he could see 5 cages, each with 4-6 people in them. In one of them he recognized the 4 heirs to the counties! There were three men with bardiches in plate & mail walking around the cages, obviously guards. There was also a rather short human woman in a robe, barefoot and with a shaven head, meditating in the bubble. There was an obvious magma cultist of high level naked except for tattoos carrying an iron speak, and a man in a black robe and pointy hat, both covered in stars, comets, and sunburst, wearing a dagger and wand in his belt. 

  on the east edge of the bubble was a wooden 'portal' about 12' across and circular with a 'sally port' like a door in it. It appeared there was an outer door and inner door separated by about 10'. Just inside the bubble from this were two simple huts.

  The party was pretty sure the wooden portals were an airlock to allow people in and out with the larger wooden doors to allow the 'iron barrel' (which they assumed was an Apparatus of Kwalish) in and out. Since the airlock door was 'only' about 65' down here they concluded Anwyn could use the Ring of Swimming to ferry them down one at a time into the airlock and then could go into the bubble together.

  But they were getting worried - the Apparatus should arrive so soon that the time to get people in and out of the bubble assuming they won was very tight. They almost, and I mean almost, decided to send Team Info back and have Team A-List take over for the expected heavy fighting. But they were worried that if only 1-2 people were in the Apparatus they could take one or more hostages (probably the heirs) Heaven only knows where. So they went.

  Luckily the doors were an airlock with a 'film' across them so as you entered all the lake water was removed from your person, leaving you dry. In about 20 minutes the entire party was inside the airlock and ready to fight!

 Plans were reviewed, spells were prepped, and the door was flung open by the ranger. I rolled and not only did the monk blow it and get surprised, she blew the danger sense roll, too, so the party had a surprise segment.

  Directly in front of the portal, about 10' away, was the monk - Starfalcon closed and truck. On the hut on the left, less than 5' way, was the man in starry robes - Ursula closed and backstabbed twice (short sword of speed!), hitting once. In the hut on the right was another obviously leveled Ooze cultist, one where each finger on his hands had a different color from a different disease or poison. In the middle of the bubble were the guards and the magma cultsit (the magma cultist was taunting the prisoners)- Seamus hit them with a Chill Metal spell and prepared to fight the cultist. As the party moved forward Beornthein went to support Seamus and Godfrey and Nigel stepped through the portal to support with arrows, Alfred remained in the airlock with a jar of Keoghtom's Ointment, just in case.

  Starfalcon and the Monk got down to serious fighting, her using a three-piece-rod. Using the sword of quickness again Ursula got another backstab attempt and hit, for a total of two good hits, but the "wizard" whipped out two dagger and cut her twice, wounding her badly. he was obviously what we call a "Little Daddy" - a fighter that dresses like a mage or thief to lure in the unsuspecting.

The Little Daddy wizard was a 6th level fighter and an Expert (+2 to hit and damage, extra attack every other round) with the dagger using a magical set of +2 daggers that negate two-handed fighting penalties. Oh, and a 17 strength, for a total of 5/2 attacks, each at +6/+6. Ouch.

   Godfrey and Nigel laid down arrows on the gmagma cultist the others not yet feeling the chill. Whatever heat effect had been on the magma cultist's spear was countered by the Chill Metal. Seamus struck the big bad cultist and hurt him, but the cultist touched him for 5 points of (roll on chart) acid damage. 

  It got down to the meatgrinder at that point and Beorthein and Godfrey had to cover for Ursula as she barely managed to survive disengaging with the dagger expert. Seamus and the big bad cultist traded blows enough for Seamus to realize the other guy was regenerating, and fast. The guards were effectively neutralized as they spent three rounds shedding the weapons and armor that was suddenly trying to kill them.

  It was a tough fight, tough enough that everyone, including Starfalcon, was in single digits. Alex said Starfalcon hadn't been that low on hit points since he was first level! The dagger expert was a ton of trouble, but taken out, and the guards (unarmed and in their underclothes) surrendered.

  But the big bad cultist literally wouldn't die. He was immune to acid and fire and regenerated. Fast. They had to work at it to keep him unconscious. And the clock was ticking. Then Seamus had an idea. He floated the big bad cultist's body through the outer airlock door with only his head inside and put a Potion of Gaseous Form in his mouth. As he woke up the cultist instinctively swallowed it, beginning the transformation. The party used a Wind Fan on the head portion of the cloud as the body portion dispersed into the lake. Grim, but effective.

  In the meantime Ursula had vetted the hostages to make sure there were no ringers or fakes, got them freed with help from the henchmen, and organized them to get out to the smuggler's boat. Godfrey and Nigel looted the place for items, intelligence, and cash, and the party started ferrying everyone up to the (thankfully large) "fishing boat" the smugglers had.

  They knew they were cutting it very close, even with Anwyn taking 2 and even 3 people up at a time. As the smugglers weighed anchor the sun was vanishing over the horizon. As the boar was about to round the Old Breaker the party saw movement and looked back.

  A massive iron ship, at least 90' long, surfaced. In the front were massive crystal windows shaped like soap bubbles that resembled the eyes of a great insect. There was a 15' long iron narwhal horn pointing ahead from the prow of the ship and the top was lined with 3' tall slanted iron 'razors' obviously mean to slash through the hulls of wooden ships. As they watched an iron hatch opened on the top deck and a man climbed out, a man dressed on very ornate o-yoroi armor and armed like a samurai.

He looked around at the 10-12 fishing boats fleeing to shore, returned to the interior, and the boat submerged. The party made it home safely.

  Having left behind messages with the guild, as the fishing boat approached the city a signal was sent and by the time the party got to the Count's palace the Count, Bishop, High Sheriff, and such had wiped out the remaining cultists and sent messages to the other Counts (it turned out Archbishop Karl had already wiped out the leaders there and was trying to learn the location of the hostages). 

  The remaining cultists were wiped out or driven off in just a few days. The captured guards (mercenaries) gladly traded information (the headquarters of the demon cult is somewhere in the Demon's Tears islands, which was all they knew) for their lives.

Note from Jack: "Note the progression of the adventure. In the beginning was the mission of 'go to the feudal nations to the North to preserve them from heresy and corruption' which became 'there are hostages in an air bubble under the lake' to climax with 'we barely escaped the samurai general in a U-boat'. THAT is psychotronic gaming and THAT is Seaward."

Back to the blog.

Based on some throwaway comments made by Clammaster Lakeboss Seamus took a boat to the very remote northern coast of Timberlake and cast Speak With Animals to talk to local creatures. before too long he encountered a local selkie (from the nearby selkie village, Seeker had recruited a henchman there, so the Company is known to them). With reluctance the selkie led Seamus to what Clammaster had mentioned - three caves over 100' deep in the lake along the northern cliffs. All were blocked by boulders and hidden but Seamus was able to enter one while under Water Breathing and discovered - underwater teleportals akin to the ones found in Skull Mountain.

  As Clammaster had said, if you know the codes you can swim to the moons from these caves. This also marks the first teleportal to the silver moon they've found!

  They also investigated the Old Breaker and realized - it is part of the Old Road. The runes here are preserved, like on the Old Road in the Briars. Checking the north shore they can see the Old Road path there, too. The Old Road stretched due North from Skull Mountain as far as they has (so far) traveled. Talking to Brigid they realize part of it may cross the island if Eiru and it might stretch to the North Pole.

They divvied up the loot, made notes, and talked at length about it being easily the toughest fight since the Fall of Whitehill.

Now they have to go to the Demon's Tears!

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