(This session was run in October of 2017. In terms of campaign time, this session took place the next day after the kobold ambush in Session 16: On the Road to Valerius. A description of the campaign world, and a list of the player characters can be found at The World Map).
Having survived a rather harrowing ambush from kobolds and with knowledge that some fell wizard had initiated the attack, the wedding caravan spent a restless night on edge. Fortunately, their rest was undisturbed. As the caravan started rolling on towards Valerius the next day, the party members kept a careful eye on their surroundings.
Late in the morning as the caravan passed isolated farmsteads, the adventurers spotted something amiss in the field off to their left. Scorch marks in a circular pattern seemed to suggest something sinister had transpired here relatively recently. In fact, the air held the taint of sulfur. And it looked like something was chained to the middle of the circle. The caravan was halted. Tanin and Velnius dismounted from their horses and moved closer to investigate.
As the party moved closer to investigate, they could now make out a charred skeleton chained in the center of the burned circle in the field. The trees and land of the isolated farmstead appeared to be dead, with little growth on either side of the road. A lonely looking barn and farm house to the south showed no signs of life.
Belladore moved beyond the rock wall separating the road from the field, getting close enough to the skeleton to cast mage hand. She lifted part of the skeleton until the slack of the chains was pulled tight and the spectral, magical hand dropped the skeleton back to the burned earth. Immediately, nearly a dozen animated skeletons bubbled from the ground. The mismatched human and animal bones that made up their construction and the green aura emanating from their eyes signified their corruption beyond mere necromancy.
The skeletons lumbered forward, death the certain fate awaiting those who get caught in their clutches. Kulo, Velnius, and Okkar unleashed bolts from their crossbows at the skeletons, while Tanin engaged the nearest skeleton with his scimitar. Within a few short moments of melee, Tanin discovered the skeletons exhibited an additional sign of corruption. On destroying the animacy that held the bones of the skeleton together, the skeleton would explode in a burst of green miasma that spread necrosis to nearby living flesh. The party tried to keep their distance, but Tanin maintained his direct engagement as a buffer for the rest of the party. Xerbo, Velnius’s mastiff, also held off the skeletons from the rest of the caravan.
Kulo noticed a figure peering at the caravan from a copse of dead trees to the northeast. But before he could react, the fight grew more intense as a dead tree right next to the wagon came to life, attacking Pabelle. Several scarecrows from the blighted farm to the south also attacked the caravan as the party’s attention was focused on the skeletons.
The party had no choice but to fight along two fronts to protect the wagon and the Makriyannis family. Kulo and Pabelle fought the tree blight and scarecrows to the south, while Tanin, Velnius, and Xerbo fought the skeletons to the north. Belladore maintained her distance between both sets of enemies, casting Faerie Fire to help aid in the skeletons destruction. Okkar continued to unleash crossbow bolts into the nearest enemies to the wagon to keep the Makriyannis family safe. Xrax stayed next to the wagon with his maul ready to defend the wedding party against any attackers.
The fight against the skeletons turned into a tough slog as Tanin and Velnius’s edged weapons cut flesh better than bones. Xerbo’s bite proved to be the better weapon against the skeletons. Kulo and Pabelle, with the aid of Okkar’s crossbow, quickly took down the blight that had come close to attacking the horses pulling the wagon. The horses had reared and snorted at the corrupt vegetation but Leandros kept the them under control. Kulo and Pabelle moved up to engage the animated scarecrows before they too could attack the wedding wagon. To aid their defense, Belladore threw a dagger at the nearest scarecrow with deadly aim.
The battle shifted once the skeletons were destroyed. The exploding necrosis spreading death as the skeletons fell took its toll on Velnius, Xerbo, and Tanin. But the tide had turned. The scarecrows would fall shortly as the party was able to focus their attacks on them.
With the battle won, Kulo investigated the copse of dead trees where he saw the figure peering at the party. Kulo did not find anyone but noticed a set of tracks that led further to the northeast. He relayed this to the party as they planned their next moves.
The party decided to investigate the farmhouse to the south first before exploring the trail leading from the field. The farmhouse appeared to be abandoned–there was no sign of life, not even farm animals. The adventurers decided on a plan. The wedding party would wait in the farmhouse with Okkar and Xrax as guards, while the rest of the party examined the trail leading from the field. Master Makriyannis agreed to the plan as his wife and daughters could use some rest after having witnessed such horrors on the road.
Kulo, Pabelle, Velnius with Xerbo, Tanin, and Belladore made their way cautiously along the footpath leading from the field. The path snaked for a few miles before opening up to the overgrown ruins of a village.
The adventurers examined the remains of a church or temple to their immediate left from the footpath. Other than an unsettled feeling at examining the decaying ruins of a people long forgotten, the building held nothing of interest.
Moving along to the next building, as Tanin crossed what remained of the threshold of the ruin he seemed to pass through a magical barrier as a flash of light pulsed as he crossed the threshold. Immediately, Tanin heard a roar that ended in a blood-curdling hoot as an emaciated owlbear charged from the back of the ruined building.
The owlbear looked as if it had been trapped in this ruin for some time. It attacked with a ferociousness driven by its hunger. Tanin defended himself and the party came to his aid, but all were reluctant to fell the beast. Nonetheless, even with blood running from numerous wounds, the owlbear was crazed to attack. The adventurers were forced to put the owlbear down.
The adventurers continued to inspect the ruins systematically moving on to the next building which was empty save a tree growing in the center of the back room. Continuing to the next building, a flash of light punctuated the stillness of the afternoon as Kulo crossed the threshold.
This time a gaunt Ettin stood up to confront the adventurers, his countenances flat of emotion like a prisoner who has had to endure the torment of a long, solitary confinement that even a second head could not assuage. He picked up a large stone from the ruins ready to smash bones, an end in violence all he could hope for.
Again, the party reluctantly attacked the trapped creature despite, in this case, its chaotic nature, the long torment of its isolation, punishment enough for its certain lifetime of cruelty. As with the owlbear, the party inflicted numerous wounds, the advantage of many against one-ish. The ettin fought to the grisly end. Death its final respite.
The building immediately behind the trapped ettin contained nothing but the ghosts of past memories from a people long forgotten. While examining this building, movement at the last, unexplored building caught the attention of Belladore.
While the rest of the party was kicking over rocks and wondering about the people who had once inhabited the space between these walls, Belladore crossed the expanse to investigate. Belladore spied a child, a young girl, skipping among the fallen stones clutching two toys, a stuffed bear and a doll. She sang a haunting song:
One, two, he’s coming for you.
Three, four, better lock the door.
Five, Six, grab your . . . (mumbled).
Seven, Eight, await your fate.
Nine, Ten, never . . . (mumbled) . . . again.
Belladore asked the girl who she was and why she was here. The girl responded with her name, Emma. She then said, cryptically, “the well” and motioned to the overgrown well near the building she was playing in.
Emma continued to skip and play among the ruins. Belladore watched as Emma played with her toys on the crumbled stones of a wall. Emma motioned with the doll to the bear, “you better be good! Daddy’s gonna be mad!” Belladore took note that the toy doll had two heads. By this point Kulo and Pabelle noticed that Belladore had wandered off and checked to see what she found. But by the time they reached the ruined building where Belladore discovered Emma, the girl had disappeared. Belladore told the rest of the party what she had seen and learned from Emma.
The adventurers examined the well, peering down into the murky depths. A shallow pool of water was visible immediately below the well, the light of the afternoon sun shining on the surface of the water.
Belladore volunteered to be lowered into the well. A rope was tied around her waist and she was given a torch to light her way. The adventurers lowered her down slowly. When she cleared the walls of the well, the space opened up to small chamber, with water immediately below the well and the rest of the cavern a sort of ghastly altar. Several burning candles flickered light from the top of the altar, illuminating the empty sockets of a number of skulls resting besides them. Other bones, clearly of human origin, littered the table. Next to the altar, eyes penetrating the gloom, stood a shriveled husk of a woman.
The old woman spoke, “I see you’ve bested my pets. You are strong enough . . . maybe. Bring the rest of your group down here and we’ll talk.”
Belladore asked, “What is it you want?”
The old woman replied, “We’ll talk when the rest are down here.”
Various bones, some human, hung from the belt of the old woman and she wore a charm of smaller bones around her wrist, but what caught Belladore’s eye was the bone she wore around her neck–a vertebra, similar to the ones found by the adventurers before. The old woman clutched the vertebra intermittently as she spoke.
Belladore described her interaction with the old woman to the rest of the party. They decided they would hear her out. The party climbed down the well to find out what the woman would bargain.
Tanin introduced himself and the rest of the group. The woman did not reveal her name. Instead, she explained that she was bound to this place by the evil magic of Lord DeLacrane. She explained further that this ruined villa was the home of Lord DeLacrane years ago. She wished for the adventurers to assault his tomb and destroy him.
Tanin asked what the benefit would be for the party. The old woman revealed that the crypt held a number of magic items, including Lord DeLacrane’s magic sword. Any plunder the group survives with would be theirs to keep. Tanin asked where the crypt was located. The old woman said that she could provide a portal that would transport them to the crypt, the only way the tomb could be accessed. Belladore interjected, asking the old woman if she knew Emma. A flash of anger mixed with sadness crossed her face before she merely shook her head, “no.”
Kulo asked the old woman if she could tell them more about Lord DeLacrane. She said the crypt was likely to hold a number of dangers–undead that would seek to spill their life’s blood. Lord DeLacrane, too, was an undead knight.
The adventurers huddled discussing their options and their impressions of the old woman. Tanin had taken note of the vertebra hanging from her neck. The group decided their was little to lose in destroying Lord DeLacrane–they would obtain magic items, if what the old woman said was correct. Then, if she intended to double-cross them, which they all suspected, they could destroy her too and take the vertebra.
In agreement, Tanin turned back to the old woman and said the party would seek and destroy Lord DeLacrane . . .
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Farm Field Map Tiles: Heroic Maps Hecse Fyre Field
Ruined Village Map Tiles: Heroic Maps Nightingdell Village
Horses Paper Miniatures: Horses by Xtea
Corrupted Skeleton Paper Miniatures: Distrigillator’s Roads of Apocalypse (4th ed.) – Set 19: Armies of Undead: Carcasses
Scarecrow Paper Miniatures: One Monk/Mayhem in Paper Scarecrows and Jack-O-Lanterns
Tree Blight Paper Miniature: Okumarts Games Darkfast Classic Fantasy Set Nine: Tree Folk
Owlbear Paper Miniature: One Monk/Mayhem in Paper Dungeon Monsters
Ettin Paper Miniature: Sanity Studios Giants
Emma Paper Miniature: Dryws Imperfect Children
Witch Paper Miniature: One Monk/Mayhem in Paper Witches and Bats
Flying Stand for Belladore: Litko Flying Figure Stands 25mm Round