[9 Mirtul 1372]
The battle of Grunwald is over, and the adventurers were on the winning side. Fargrim quickly heads into the ancient tunnels underneath the village on the trail of the escaped Ironteeth, while the other adventurers are treated as heroes and given many gifts, including a map of the region, provisions, and a shield. Upon learning that the group is intending to travel to Nesme, a warrior-priest of Tyr named Sword-Captain Gyrax asks the group to look into the disappearance of several pilgrims in the area who had planned to lay wreaths at the tomb of Arden Brightheart, a legendary paladin of Tyr who helped carve out civilization in the savage North. Brightheart's tomb lies on the side of a hill several miles southeast of Nesme.
The adventurers rest for the night in the village's only inn, a drafty building that is shared with animals.
[10 Mirtul 1372]
The group decides to spend another day in Grunwald, hoping that Fargrim emerges from the tunnels before they leave. Mellia stays busy scribing a scroll, Markus helps the Thunderbeast tribesmen patrol the area, and Cain finds his way to a grove devoted to Silvanus east of the village and helps the priests of that
deity heal the injured warriors and villagers. At sunset, a victory feast is held and there is much rejoicing.
Trouble comes that evening, however. While most of the village is asleep and Mellia maintains watch, Cain's sleep is troubled by increasingly disturbing nightmares of an army of the dead led by new generals, one a witch-queen and the other a dread knight. The nightmares reach the point where, even upon waking,
Cain is unable to separate them from reality. He bolts up in the night and sees the witch-queen and the dread knight, not realizing that he is actually seeing Mellia and Markus. Mellia tries to calm him down by lighting a torch (since Cain worships Kossuth), but Cain, in his deranged state, perceives this as a threat and readies an attack. Fortunately, he snaps out of it before any harm is done, leaving the cleric tired and confused. Meanwhile, a very drunk Markus slept through most of the trouble.
[11 Mirtul 1372]
Cain and Mellia discuss the previous night's troubles. Mellia bristles when Cain says "and you were the witch-queen!", and suggests that if Cain can no longer perceive reality, he should perhaps be trussed up at night. He agrees without protesting. The trio leave word with the villagers for Fargrim, Ellywick, and Nakor that they are heading on to Longsaddle. Their day's journey south is uneventful. That night, bound to a tree, Cain again has waking delusions of the witch-queen and the dread-knight. Bound, however, he poses no threat and eventually snaps out of it.
[12 Mirtul 1372]
The journey on the Long Road continues. Cain casts a newly-learned spell in an attempt to remove the affliction of the nightmares, but it has little effect. Fortunately, that night, he seems to pass out of the worst of it.
[13 Mirtul 1372]
The group continues travelling and reaches an area with large livestock ranches. Cain is tied to a tree for safety's sake, but has no more nightmares.
[14 Mirtul 1372]
That morning, as the group rouses themselves awake, Fargrim arrives, having pushed his horse hard to catch up to the group. He relates the story of how he tracked down and destroyed Ironteeth. He is told of Cain's strange behaviour of some nights past, but Fargrim's long nights with little sleep seemed to have
helped him avoid similar nightmares.
Now a company of four, the group continues their journey to Longsaddle. A few miles north of the city, Fargrim suddenly halts his steed. Looking pensive, he says "this--this is where it happened," referencing Grim's attack on the caravan Fargrim was guarding years ago. Saying little more, he continues on.
Longsaddle turns out to be a village with a small permanent population but with several businesses to serve the large number of surrounding farms and ranches. The village is dominated by a massive, eccentrically-designed mansion laid out on a hill, apparently home to a famed family of wizards named the Harpells.
Seeking information on the Crown of Horns, Mellia travels to the Horn & Hoof tavern to ask about the Harpells. Upon hearing that a certain Ardanac Harpell occasionally stops in for a pint, she decides to leave him a message. Hoping to gather some clues about Grim, she brings a bottle of wine over to a table of adventurers and introduces herself. The three welcome her company, and their leader, a handsome fellow wearing a strange helm, introduces himself as Nphreg and says the three comprise the Red Raven Adventuring Company. He names a portly gentleman with a rapier as Neville Robideux, and a mysterious figure clothed in a hooded robe as the group's cleric, Stantusta. Nphreg tries to persuade Mellia to join the Red Ravens, as they need a mage; she leads them on some in order to get some information about their plans. It turns out they are also headed to Nesme, as the city is reportedly offering large sums of gold to
adventurers and mercenaries willing to come to the city's aid. The details are murky, but it seems that Nesme had been besieged and nearly overrun in recent months.
Mellia notices Fargrim at a nearby table quietly having a drink, and decides to launch a scheme to learn more about the Red Ravens and whether they know anything about Grim. She walks over and tells Fargrim to act very angry that the Ravens tried to lure her away and see if he can get them to talk or think
about Grim (because Mellia can read their minds through an obscure arcane incantation). Fargrim carries out his role as an intimidating and angry adventurer, but does not mention anything about Grim in his bluster. Mellia learns only that Nphreg hopes to seduce her and that Neville is frightened of
the dwarf with the gigantic battleaxe.
Meanwhile, Cain's continued prayers have led him to believe that one of the causes of his poor performance in battle has been a divine curse brought on by his deity's displeasure over Cain's constant use of a makeshift and flammable wooden holy symbol. The cleric decides to fashion a new holy symbol out of silver, and persuades the proprietor of Jasper's Ring of Bells to lease him tools for the task. Markus volunteers to pitch in and help, but the two are at odds about the proper way to cool the silver and the delicate process fails.
The group decides to find accommodation for the night. At an inn called The Gilded Horseshoe, Cain enjoys the fantastical stories of the proprietor, "Trappy" Snulgers. Later that night, the group decides to track down the Red Ravens. They track the trio to a pipe-smoke filled gambling parlor, where
ranchers and villagers play dice, cards, and watch frog fights. The group manages to squeeze themselves around a table where only a single person sits, fidgeting with dice. Strangely, the man immediately tells Cain to watch his steps in Longsaddle, as clerics of Kossuth and their pyromania will not be tolerated. Cain is surprised that the man knows who he is, and the man claims that he is a protector of the village and has information on all suspicious newcomers . After some prompting, he identifies himself as Aldarac Harpell and repeats his warning. When asked about the Evermoors, Harpell states it is a dangerous, war-torn place and that a mysterious forge there has been producing so-called "blight blades" that decay the flesh of men. Mellia asks him about the Crown of Horns, and with a cold glare he tells her not to even inquire about
such an artifact.
Aldarac soon leaves, but Mellia follows after him. Aldarac begins climbing the hill towards the family mansion, and Mellia tries to follow (invisibly), but her progress is halted by an unseen barrier. Aldarac turns and makes it clear he is aware of her presence, and tells her that only those in possession of a
particular ward-token can pass through the wall of force. Mellia prevails upon him to tell her anything he can about the Crown of Horns, pleading with him that finding it is the only means of saving her daughter. Aldarac is at first unmoved, but then sympathy shines through his eyes. He tells her that the Crown
of Horns contains the essence of Myrkul, a deity cast down and destroyed during the Time of Troubles over a decade ago. The Crown could not be destroyed, and so was buried far below the surface of Faerun in the hopes that it would never be found. He slowly shakes his head, and tells Mellia it would be best for her to abandon all efforts to locate the Crown. With that, he turns and continues walking up the hill, leaving Mellia to ponder his words.
Director's Commentary (October 25, 2013)
Another session with no combat, but also no lack of plot development. The siege of Nesme and the nightmares experienced by Cain introduce the figures of the Dread-Knight and the Witch-Queen, two villains that I assumed would serve as major adversaries for the PCs in the Evermoors. Adventure hooks from different sources tie into this (the Tyran priest telling of pilgrims disappearing on the way to the tomb of Arden Brightheart, and Aldarac telling of a mysterious forge creating "blight blades"). The idea is that Arden Brightheart has been raised from the dead and turned into the general for the rising armies of undead, while the Witch-Queen uses her alchemical knowledge to oversee the forge to arm those undead soldiers with even more dangerous weapons. Each of these locations, the tomb of Arden Brightheart (modified from Dungeon Crawl Classics # 14: Interludes) and the Forge of the Witch-Queen (modified from Dungeon Crawl Classics # 17: Legacy of the Savage Kings) were designed to serve as additional locations in the Evermoors sandbox, as either adventures prefatory to the PCs taking on Startop or as a break if that got overwhelmed with a subterranean expedition. They also gave me an excuse to incorporate some adventures I had bought but never used (and thus, justify further purchases to my self down the line!). As often happens with the schemes of mice and men, it all went awry. The PCs very briefly explored a little bit of the Tomb of Arden Brightheart before leaving, and never expressed any interest in the Forge. At the time I'm writing this (circa Session # 60), they are now way too high a level for either (which is partly my own fault, as the high RP bonus I discussed earlier has made fighting less important to levelling). Still, they did serve the purpose of giving the PCs options so they didn't feel railroaded, and they helped me flesh out what was going on in what was supposed to be the major area the campaign would focus on.
This session saw the introduction of another adventuring party, something the PCs had yet to run into in this campaign. I decided it was the perfect occasion to make use of some of my previous characters that had languished in limbo, while still keeping their personal story-continuity intact. I've talked about Neville Robideaux, Nphreg, and Stantusta elsewhere in this blog. The trio make an appearance next session, and then briefly when the PCs reach Nesme, and then once again fall into limbo. Mellia's trick with Detect Thoughts was a favourite of hers for a while, though she hasn't used it in a long time now.
The players (especially the one who runs Cain) got great joy out of frog-fighting. Can't remember if the concept came out of a sourcebook or whether I made it up, but I ran with it as much as I could!