The adventure continues! Last time, our heroes hunted a tiger, made a sacrifice to a pond monster they’ve never seen, negotiated with the local tanner for some furry outfits, and discovered that their favorite nervous priest had gone missing again…
Play time: 4 hours
- Drew the human Eldritch Knight (3)
- Ray the human Lore Bard (3)
- Ward the human Gloom Stalker (3)
- Rainen the dwarf Beast Master (3)
- Hugo the human Knowledge Cleric (1), Time Wizard (2)
Another long night!
Before going to bed, there was a spirited debate about just what the heck is going on around here?! Is Dama Zhadna behind everything? Do we just attack her now? And what about Brother Vanya, what’s going on with him and those vampires? Can we make an ally with the legendary cursed wolf monster that we haven’t met yet?
Nothing was decided and everyone went to sleep while Ray and Drew kept the first watch. They soon heard someone sneaking up on the cabin, so they gave chase and the strangers ran off into the woods. Sasha (Rainen’s dire wolf) refused to chase, and stayed to protect the cabin.
During Hugo’s watch, nothing bothered the cabin, except for Drew’s horrible odors. But Ray had a terrible dream in which Dama Zhadna told him the only way to escape the village was to come to her, tonight, alone, and make a deal! Ray awoke shortly before midnight (the witching hour!) and spoke to Hugo about it. Ray was sorely tempted to go off on his own to talk to the witch, but decided not to.
During Ward’s watch, he failed to climb a tree and then later heard more creatures sneaking up on the cabin. They were more of the one-eyed humanoids who keep trying to steal magic items all over the area. He gave chase and shot one in the back, but all three of them escaped into the forest. Drat and curses!
As everyone was getting up and discussing the night’s events, Rainen sensed trouble outside with Sasha. She emerged from the cabin just in time to see a large muscular woman punching the giant wolf in the face. The woman had dead white eyes, rotting black wounds, and wore two brown dresses that were much too small for her. It was Irina the Inescapable! Back from the dead!
The undead Templar charged into the cabin, knocking Rainen flat. She lunged at Ray (who dealt the killing blow in their battle with her) and started choking him as she grimly gloated about all the people she had killed, including the druids.
During the wild fight in the cabin, Sasha dragged Rainen outside to safety. Ward fired his burning arrows into the Templar’s back. Drew pulled Irina off Ray and hurled her across the cabin. Ray filled the room with illusory tears as he sang and played his Instrument of Illusion. Hugo slashed with his radiant chain-sickle and Rainen bound Irina to the floor with piercing thorns.
As Rainen hurled her axes and Drew smashed away with his Eldritch Spear, Hugo dealt the killing blow with his Temporal Blades (time-based magic missiles). Irina’s undead body rapidly decayed and her skeleton crumbled all over Drew.
Fearing that Irina might be resurrected again somehow, possibly by Dama Zhadna, Drew grabbed the Templar’s bones and the group headed east to check on the druids. Along the way, Ray told everyone about his dream-message from the Dama, and that she seemed to know a lot about him and his mission to help the oppressed bards of Vulgoth. They all discussed ways they might bargain with Dama Zhadna, but since the witch only seems to like souls and torture, they weren’t sure what they could offer her.
Near the ruined observatory, they discovered that the two remaining druids were dead. They both showed signs of being strangled and beaten, and their familiar brown dresses were gone. Rainen was heartbroken at the loss of their only true allies, and led the effort to gather wood and build a funeral pyre, hoping to place the druids beyond the Dama’s reach. Drew also placed the bones of Irina in the flames to destroy those as well. As the flames consumed the bodies and smoke spilled out of the cave, Rainen prayed.
On the way back to Frostwyck, Ward and Rainen noted the abandoned ranger lodge and discussed the idea of training new rangers to restore the Ranger Guild. They noticed that the lodge door was closed, and they remembered leaving it open, so they went to investigate, but found nothing amiss. The entire group then took a short rest inside to recover from the fight with Irina. During the rest, Drew heard a cough, but thought little of it.
Returning to town, Drew checked in on the hunter Andrei, who was very friendly with the now-saviors of his village. But he had not seen Brother Vanya since the day before yesterday. They looked around the priest’s house but saw no clues of what had happened to him. Rainen found some of Vanya’s clothes and had Sasha pick up his scent. And soon the dire wolf was on the trail, loping…back east!
Two hours later, as the sun set, everyone was back at the ranger lodge where the destroyed door was once again back in place. Sasha whined and growled. Brother Vanya was here!
What is going on in this lodge???
For the second time in one day, Drew smashed down the lodge door and found the interior exactly the same as before. They ignited their Lantern of Revealing, which revealed nothing. Nothing on the ceiling. Nothing on the roof. No trap doors or hidden cellar.
In a rage of frustration, Drew grabbed the filthy old mattress and yanked it off the bed. And there, lying under the slats, was a terrified Brother Vanya in the grasp of a very angry and familiar vampire. (Vanya is the one who coughed when the group was resting here earlier!)
The vampire burst into bat-form and tried to flee, but Ward hurled a net at him and he tumbled to the floor, reverting to humanoid form. But instead of leaping into battle, the group leapt into…conversation!
The vampire Bruno calmly explained that he served Dragoslava Torescu, the countess of the north and queen of all vampires. She lives in Castle Torescu, to the south in the mountains, which also happens to control one of only two passes through the mountains.
Dragoslava is collecting priests of Virune (alive!) for some dark purpose, but Bruno did not know the details. One of his associates kidnapped Sister Xenia just before the group arrived in town.
He was also being inconvenienced by Dama Zhadna’s curse that was trapping everyone in the area. But Bruno, as an immortal vampire, was willing to wait it out. The group was not.
In exchange for not killing the outnumbered vampire, the group demanded the return of poor Brother Vanya and a promise of help from Bruno when the group inevitably attacked Dama Zhadna. Bruno reluctantly agreed. They also spoke of willingly giving Bruno three priests (Vanya, Hugo, and Ward) and asking for an introduction to Dragoslava. And then the party headed home!
And that’s where we stopped.
This was a pretty great session. I think we’ve found a really good rhythm. We got some mystery, some creepy dreams, some personal relationships and plans, and a short-but-deadly combat that had really intense emotional and narrative stakes. It also took me virtually no time at all to prepare, so another plus!
By keeping the campaign focused on the same people and relationships, and making them evolve over time, especially beyond death, I think we’re all much more invested (and intrigued!) about what will happen next.
I have to say, none of this is unfolding as I had guess it would. AT ALL. And that’s a very good thing! I’m enjoying the crap out of this campaign. For instance, I thought Irina would have stayed alive to chase and torment the party for much longer. I thought the druids would be party allies. I did not think the vampires would be party allies. Shows what I know!
I think we’re getting close to the end of the campaign. But I’m a pretty bad oracle, so who knows?!