The wind continues to howl through the night, and all of the adventurers decide to rest in the back of Tunak's large carriage. Near dawn, Tunak is awakened by what he explains is an ancestor warning him that someone has drawn near. As the others wake, they hear someone scratching against the carriage's rear double-doors. Peering through a narrow crack in the door, Cammy manages to make out a hobgoblin standing there. It moans about being "here to adventure" and wonders "why everyone left." The scratching on the door turns into heavy pounding, and lest the doors be shattered, Tunak throws them open to reveal a ghastly sight: Terreck! Although obviously quite dead with a gruesome wound to the throat, the hobgoblin manages to croak a repeated request to "rejoin the group." He holds a strange segmented white cord with a ghostly head at the end: Aloysius' spine!
The mocking spirit of Aloysius sings an obscene song until Cain has had enough. "I don't journey with undead!" he shouts, and lets loose a ray of scorching light. The reanimated corpse of Terreck is damaged by the magical assault, but responds in anger by twirling Aloysius' spine and using it like a spiked chain to attack! As the spectral head of Aloysius bites down on an adventurer, life drains away from them. Tunak begans a battle chant to bolster his allies spirits, but Cammy decides discretion is the better part of valor and tries to run. The incredibly strong winds keep knocking her down, however, over and and over again. Fargrim joins the battle and repeatedly smashes his blade deep into Terreck's corpse, while Mellia finishes the abomination off by casting Nightflower's Retribution and hurtling magical spheres of black energy. Aloysius' spine continues to writhe like a serpent until Cain crushes it and starts a fire to burn both it and Terreck's body.
The terrible winds begin to die down over the next few hours, and the adventurers emerge from Tunak's carriage to see that the inhabitants of the other carriages parked nearby are doing the same. A young man in fine noble's clothing introduces himself as Temeris Reginald Cottingswald III, the self-styled leader of, as he variously calls it, the Carnivale Intrepid, the Dungeoneer's Delve of Delight, the Adventurers' Circus of Respite, and more. Temeris introduces the other members of the troupe: Nik, Nak, and Nok, halfling acrobats and jugglers; Latisha, a caravan guard; Bettina, a heavyset, well-muscled woman with tattoos who always speaks in sailing metaphors; Ulugu, a purported conduit of the spiritworld; and Daisy, a friendly blonde with a childlike personality and a love of animals.
Temeris explains that the troupe of entertainers started as a guise to escape Zhentil Keep, which he and Daisy had travelled to in order to find her kidnapped brother, Dolf, who had been enslaved. However, it turned out that Dolf was highly sought after as a man of prodigious intellect and had been apparently sold to someone called "The Thane" somewhere deep below Startop Mountain. Temeris explains that he and his friends plan to travel there to rescue Dolf from the Thane's clutches.
With the wind remaining strong, everyone decides to stay put for the day and socialize.
One of the adventurers spots Bettina sitting on a stool, practising her act: in one bucket are dozens of padlocks of various sizes and in various states of disrepair, and Bettina quickly tries to pick each lock and dump it into a nearby empty bucket while blindfolded. When she's finished and takes off the blindfold to see Markus in the distance admiring Daisy's managerie (including a griffon!), she exclaims that the young man reminds her of "her dearly departed" husband, also a sailor, who disappeared while repelling enemy boarders while sailing off the coast of Port Llast. Bettina takes an instant shine to Markus, and after asking Mellia if his "mooring lines are already lashed to another" tries to persuade him to let her accompany him on his adventures. Bettina claims to be an expert cook with excellent balance and the ability to crack any lock ever made. Markus says he'll have to ask Fargrim, and when the dwarf witnesses Bettina's act, he's impressed enough to give her permission to come along.
Meanwhile, Cammy ventures into Ulugu "The Far-Seeing"'s carriage and is rewarded with a rather dubious and quite over-the-top performance of fortune-telling. Ulugu does seem to get a few details correct of the person Cammy is planning to meet in Silverymoon, but it's not clear whether this was mere guesswork and rephrasing or true prognostication. When Cammy moves on to see Nik, Nak, and Nok, the trio of halflings refuse to perform unless they see a trio of performances first. Cammy promises to see what zhe can do.
Fargrim talks to Temeris, and learns that the exuberant young man hails from Cormyr and ran away from his father's estate to avoid the dull and rigid upbringing of nobility. A member of the Royal Society of Explorers, Temeris claims to be quite skilled with cartography, and proves his claim by later allowing Mellia to have one of his maps of the area around the Evermoors. Temeris tells the group that he'll try to leave signs for them in Startop Mountain: three dots to represent the III in his name along with a symbol of what lies ahead. Later, in discussion with Markus, Temeris says that he's heard of a "retired" adventurer named Verdusk in the hamlet of Jalanther who knows something about dragons.
Although Cain and Tunak mostly stay at the fringes of the joint campsite, they do not escape attention entirely. Daisy plops down next to Cain, and, in a conversation about why the cleric is so quiet, somehow gets the impression that he was hatched from an egg. Temeris comes over and suggests a communal bonfire, a proposal with which Cain eagerly agrees and takes the initiative in starting. When the fire is well-underway and drinks start to flow freely, Cammy puts hir plan into operation. Zhe sings a funny song about a dwarf and a blue ribbon, persuades Tunak to sing (he's horribly out of key at first, but then gets much better), and then gets Markus to dance. As promised, Nik, Nak, and Nok return the favor in a bout of aerial acrobatics, including a death-defying leap-and-throw over the bonfire.
As the singing and dancing continues, Tunak, enjoying the moment, notices Fargrim sitting and refusing to participate. Channelling some arcane energy into his song, Tunak encourages Fargrim to dance in a manner the dwarf cannot resist. "My moment is now!" shouts Fargrim, as he jumps up and begins a traditional dwarven jig. On the other side of the bonfire, Latisha points out that Markus seems to have flecks of gold on his skin, something no one can explain.
The party goes on long into the night, and after weeks of adventuring and battle, the change is welcomed by all.
Director's Commentary (June 6, 2016)
I'm not sure where I got the inspiration to have the deceased Terreck return as an undead creature, begging to "join the group" while using Aloysius spine and skull like a spiked chain, but man I'm glad I did. The whole thing is patently absurd, utterly hilarious, and effectively creepy. I don't mind patting myself on the back for that one. With the wind howling through the desolate nightime Evermoors, it was the perfect time for the encounter.
The inspiration for the travelling circus/adventuring group came from my very first time role-playing when I was 17. The group I joined had their PCs travelling in the guise of a circus. I look back on all of that quite fondly.
I couldn't help but introduce my former PC, Temeris Reginald Cottingswald III, into the game as an NPC. I strictly adhered to the continuity of his last appearance as a PC in an enjoyable Realms campaign I played in online back in 2012. The character of Daisy was also in that campaign, and became the alternate/back-up character for the person playing Mellia.
|Alas, poor Aloysius did not Rest in Peace.|
After the opening encounter, this became a heavy RP session but was quite fun. Fargrim shouting "My moment is now!" when magically-induced to dance still cracks me up years later . . .