Cyneburga: A Plague of Lies

Before you can say "Bedrich's your uncle"
Session 5

At this point the party is divided on their next course of action. Esper wishes to investigate the meteorites and the strange creatures that attacked them on the road to Bieto. Glerothain is intent on searching for members of his clan. Malkus wants to learn more about the temple of Pelor, and T'sabo would prefer to try and talk some sense into the reclusive sanctuary elves.

 It seems Glerothain will win out when a letter arrives from Mads Lengkin. While the pyromancer does have information on the Theinburgh clan, he also has an urgent request. Residents of the slums are being murdered in grisly ways, and the only witness refuses to speak to anyone… except for the adventurers!

Intrigued by this mystery witness, the party sets aside their other plans for now and heads to Mads' place. Glerothain is given some information about an ancient dwarf fortress located underneath the city- his kin may be hiding there. Mads tells him to get in touch with Parhalan, a dwarf adventurer who has been exploring the aquaducts and caverns beneath Cyneburga's streets.

With that, it's off to the latest murder site. The men guarding the narrow alley are not members of the guard. They are all in plainclothes, though each wears an unfamiliar red pin. It appears they may be part of an unofficial militia formed by Mads.

No one can make sense of the victims' bodies, which have large gaping wounds and are missing most of their vital organs. The party is further mystified when the identity of the witness is revealed- it is Roland, the young halfling whom they assisted on the road.

Roland seems quite shaken up, and tells the adventurers privately that he is sure that the murderer is his own uncle- Bedrich, a magical researcher and an upstanding halfling by all accounts. Though Roland was supposed to stay at Bedrich's house when he reached the city, his uncle has been missing for some time now. It seems unlikely that a happy reunion is in Roland's future.

Bedrich's house is easily entered when Esper "Blinks" through the door. A research journal is uncovered that no one can make head or tail of (it mentions omni-reality, celestial pins, potential order and other terms that are beyond the mostly non-magically inclined adventurers). The only thing out of the ordinary is a huge pile of random trinkets of no particular worth sitting on the living room table.

Leaving this mystery for later, the group checks the basement. Like many cellars in Cyneburga, it contains a well for access to the aqueducts. The large painting of a battle scene is more out of the ordinary, as is the series of cages at the bottom of the well, one of which contains a limp body!

Descending into the well proves to be a simple task, but the investigators find themselves under attack when a fast moving construct bursts up from under the water. It seems to be made of the same materials as the floating tentacled thing from earlier, but it walks on two legs and attacks with a pair of razor sharp scythes. It nearly finishes off the party with a burning ray attack, but finally succumbs to the repeated attacks of the heroes.

A strange frog-like humanoid seems to have not been so lucky. Its corpse floats to one side of the aqueduct, bearing a banner with the symbol of a blank mask under a ship. No one has encountered it before. 

T'sabo administers healing to the wounded, as well as to the occupant of the cage, who seems to be poisoned in some way. Though groggy, the prisoner is able to introduce himself as Vit, Bedrich's research partner. He says that Bedrich appeared to him after an extended and mysterious absence, ranting like a madman. When Vit turned his back for a moment, he felt a sharp pain in his back that soon gave way to oblivion- he assumse Bedrich poisoned him.

Vit has been in the cage for a few days now, and says he thinks something has been done to allow Bedrich to control him. He wants to leave the house immediately, especially considering that his ex-partner usually returns to the house through the aqueducts.

 Vit is escorted out of the house and an ambush is set up in the basement. The plan is to catch Bedrich unawares as he climbs out of the well, but the plan goes awry when he suddenly appears in the centre of the basement instead. Despite his magical tricks, however, he proves to be much easier to handle than his construct guardian. Perhaps a bit too easy- After an initial volley of arrows from T'sabo and some quick attacks form Glerothain and Esper, Malkus nearly cuts him in half! It seems they will be unable to question him about the murders. Oops!

Examining the body, the party finds a tangle of small, silvery tentacles at the base of Bedrich's neck. The discovery only serves to deepen the mystery, but at least Roland, Vit, and the residents of the slums are safe for now.

It falls to T'sabo to break the news of Bedrich's death to Roland, who takes it about as well as can be expected. Luckily he didn't notice his uncle's prized rapier hanging from T'sabo's belt, or he might have been really upset.

This scene was actually pretty hilarious, despite what should have been the very sad news. T'sabo was going on about how sorry they were, and how there was no choice, and then Esper's player pipes up with "Does he realize you have his uncle's sword in your scabbard?" The sword was masterwork and thus pretty distinctive, but luckily for T'sabo, Roland rolled a 1 on his spot check, which saved the paladin from having to explain why he was looting the body of Roland's beloved uncle.

 With the murderer dealt with, Roland and Vit are left in the care of Mads, and the adventurers seek out the dwarf explorer Parhalan. Mads suggests looking in the Spine of the Dragon pub, and indeed the explorer is there (easily picked out by the tattoo of a green boot on his forearm). While Glerothain makes arrangements, the rest of the group chat with the bartender and learn of Jadranka- the monstrous lord of Cyneburga, a red dragon who weilds influence over the city from afar. The flavour of the pub's special brew comes from the dragon scales immersed in each keg, and these scales are said to come from Jadranka himself.

 With this tidbit of information, and the means to contact Parhalan when they wish to seek out the dwarven fortress, the party retires to the guard house to prepare for the next day.

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New Threats
Session Four

The exact order and details of the events in this session are a little bit sketchy, because it happened months ago. However I've tried to make the post coherent as well as including important information, even if it doesn't follow the actual events perfectly.

 

The party makes its way to Cyneburga at last, travelling by road or Nikolai's skiff (which is propelled by what appear to be living rag-dolss). The city seems to be diminished by the swelling population of refugees within its walls. Its architecture, rumoured to be uplifting and majestic, seems instead to be crumbling and oppressive. The only thing unaffected by this atomosphere of doom is the Adamantium Sentinel, said to be part sclupture, part divine guardian.

Aside from their lodgings at the guardhouse, there are a few other locations that the group begins to familiarize itself with. They pass by the warded, plague-ridden Red-Door district on their way to check up on Jaromill at the reclusive elven sanctuary, and speak to the secretive monks at the temple of Pelor- a once inspiring cathedral that has fallen to near-ruin. They also meet with Mads Lengkin, who protects the slums and promises to help find Glerothaine's family; Grethe, an alchoholic agent of Nikolai; and the highly eccentric "Masks"- merchants of magical wares that patrol the city in a hut supported by chicken legs and that is bigger on the inside than on the outside.

Nikolai sends the group on his first task- infiltrating the manor of his former rival, Lord Grey. Though Grey himself recently died under mysterious circumstances, someone seems to be carrying out the vendetta in his name by attacking Nikolai's servants.

However, before they can reach the manor, they are accosted by a group of orange-robed humanoids, who demand that the warriors stay away from the temple of Pelor. Why they thought this would work is uncertain (they don't seem very bright), and a fight breaks out when they attempt to delay the adventurers further. The Orange-Robes put up a good fight, showing  remarkable flexibility and the power to erode weapons and armour. However, they soon crumble to rust themselves at the blades and fists of the warriors.

Entering Grey Manor through the ubiquitous aqueducts, and avoiding a clockwork sentry placed by the city's rulers, the party finds that it is Grey himself orchestrating the attacks- and is revealed to be an ethereal undead creature after a futile attack from T'sabo and Esper. Seeing that they are not particularily loyal to Nikolai, he lets the warriors off with a warning, and they return to the city streets…

  ...But not alone. A floating, tentacle construct has been following the party, and attacks when it is discovered, attempting to flee with several party members in its grasp. However, it is torn apart in a brutal grappling match. Several Orange-Robes appear to be watching, but make no move to help either side of the melee.

The remains of the construct are brought to The Masks, and their examination makes it clear that the tentacled thing was created by mind flayers. The green liquid that seems to power it is a mystery, but The Masks quickly create a device that will detect its unique aura.  

 

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The Aqueduct
Sessions 2 and 3

As day dawns on Vedrana tower, Captain Chavdar seeks out the adventurers. He wants them to join a guard patrol and go back down the road to protect the remaining refugees from any further attacks. Many of the mysterious creatures have been killed, but no one knows exactly how many there were, and, given their apparent intelligence, they could be planning something.

In exchange for their help, he offers them free lodging at a guard house in Cyneburga- as housing is a luxury that will certainly be hard to find in a city swollen with refugees, the group agrees.

 The creatures from the previous attacks seem to be absent, but one group of refugees has found trouble in the form of a Grick, which has dragged several of their number into it's lair. Uggh fells the beast with a mighty swing of his greataxe, and the refugees are rescued. A crack in the cave floor leads to another chamber, this one with a ruined worked-stone wall that opens onto an aqueduct. The grick's mate is here, and its rubbery hide resists the party's blows until Glerothain grapples with the beast and plunges its head into the aqueduct, drowning it.

 Uggh takes on of the grick eggs for himself and goes to inform the refugees that the group is safe. He then hears word of some of his fellow tribesmen, and runs off in search of them.

The rest of the group investigates the aqueduct, and come accross a clandestine meeting from two shadowy figures. T'sabo detects a tremendous evil aura around one, and immediately attacks, taking the figure by surprise and putting an arrow through its eye.

The figure advances, and is revealed as one of the dread mind-flayers. It attempts to charm Malkus, but fails, just before being struck by several more precisely shot arrows and crossbow bolts. Horribly wounded, it vanishes, shifting to another plane.

 

This was a little bit ridiculous. I had meant for the characters to be incapacitated by the flayer and then taken in by the Duke so that he'd then have a way to prevent them from revealing his dealings with the flayers. This plan had to be scrapped when the party got four or five critical hits in the course of two rounds, dropping the mind-flayer from about 90 HP to exactly 0. They were level two at the time…

Anyway, I'm not unhappy with the result, as now I have a great recurring villain to throw in once the mind-flayers start moving in on the city.

 

The party manages to subdue the other figure as well- one Duke Nikolai. Although he was planning to sell Cyneburga's brightest minds to the Mind-Flayers in order to slow their invasion (and make a profit on the side), he tells the party that marching him into the city in chains is a poor plan- he's a Duke after all, and they are merely refugees. He says that if they keep quiet he can be a useful patron for them.

The party debates. Malkus is all for killing him right now and leaving him in the aqueduct, but the others refuse to kill a helpless opponent. The heated argument attracts the attention of a tribe of mutant orcs that reside in the aqueduct. They are mostly feral, covered in reptillian scales, and ambush the party by sliding down chains from the ceiling and throwing javelins from niches in the walls.

Malkus gives a mighty battle cry and charges the largest orc, but trips halfway there and falls flat on his face. The javelin throwers have horrible luck, with several falling from their perches and perishing in the aqueduct, and the others having their javelins deflected by the martial arts prowess of Glerothain.

The battle is easily won when a stranger appears, hurling bolts of fire at the orcs. It seems the patrol outside the cave grew tired of waiting and sent in back up. Nikolai manages to free himself during the fight, and proves to be a deadly threat to the orcs as well.

The stranger introduces himself as Esper Harland, a duskblade and adventurer in much the same postion as the rest of the group. They welcome him to join, as Uggh has not yet returned. 

 

 

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The Road to Refuge

I am notoriously bad at keeping track of my DM notes, or even writing them down in the first place. This first post is going to be a bit sketchy on details, but hopefully this blog will help me keep track of everything going on in the campaign.

 

The plague has ravaged the western coasts, turning every living thing into a grey ooze. As the mysterious disease travels inland, hundreds of refugees flee from it. Many head towards the small country of Bieto, hearing rumours that its learned mages have found a way to shield the country from the plague.

 One such band of refugees contains Malkus the sellsword, Glerothain, a dwarf from the city of Theinburgh, A half-orc tribesman and healer known only as Uggh, and a solemn elven paladin by the name of T'sabo. The prescense of such skilled individuals has thus far kept their group safe from brigands and other dangers of the road.

The travellers are heartened by the sight of Vedrana Tower, a mighty structure which marks the entrance to the valley of Bieto. Their destination is only a few days away! However, as they reach the first guard-post on the road, a massive explosion takes place in the distance, showering the road with scores of meteorites. 

 One lands not far from the guard-post, and the four adventurers decide to investigate. The rocky projectile has melted the snow in a large area and formed a small crater, but seems to be cooling. As it's exterior cracks open, a horrific creature emerges, resembling a warped human head with bat-wings for ears and tentacles for hair. The warriors dispatch it easily, but return to the post to find it under attack by more of the creatures. 

 The battle is won with the help of the guard Stefan, an overeager apprentice-wizard named Roland, and a young elf called Jaromill whom T'sabo has taken under his wing. Another guard named Branko turns coward and flees towards Bieto, taking on of their few horses.

It becomes apparent that the creatures can transform people into beings like themselves, though exactly how is still unknown. The adventurers are forced to kill several of the slowly transforming victims.

Stefan decides that he must warn the rest of the guards, and takes the remaining horse towards Vedrana. He returns the next day with a large force led by a man named Captain Chavdar, and the combined forces of the adventurers and the guards are enough to stave off a final large attack, despite the strange cunning of the creatures, and the appearance of a shifting, amorphous monster that follows in their wake.

 During the battle, Glerothain is stunned by the creatures' shriek, and endures a horrid kiss from one- now it is clear how they transform their victims. Fortunately the dwarf is sturdy enough to shake off the transformation, though many others are not so lucky.

 Finally the group reaches Vedrana Tower, where they are tested for the plague, but given leave to enter. They decide to stay the night, as Cyneburga is still several days away.

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