Thursday, May 10, 2018

#8: The Goddess of the Hunt

5/9/2018, Session #8

Morning arrives.  Joints are stiff from the night’s endeavors, exacerbated by light, fitful sleep under the stars upon the cold earth, and not enough of it.  Nevertheless, there is work to be done.  We leave Erathmar’s camp outside of Carrock, and approach the inn to meet Drachus.  The hour is early, and we find him alone at work.  He pulls a few ales, and we sit to discuss the events of the past few days.

Despite our tale of the troll and the goblins, Drachus seems most concerned that we were not able to find the third creature that attacked Carrock.  His disappointment is evident, but we spare no comfort for him as we continue the tale, telling of Ignish’s scouting of Carrock, of the true nature of the threat that razed Shadfeld, and of its imminent approach to Carrock.

Curiously, his first question is about the boy, Selben, asking what his part is in all of this.  Aside from conjecture, we share that we have no more knowledge than he does.  His second question, understandably, is about the fate of Carrock—we share our discussion with Tussugar, of our resolve to stand with Carrock so that it does not suffer the fate that befell Shadfeld, and that we plan to stand and fight in Carrock’s defense.  He seems relieved by our admission and by our plans to stand by Carrock, so we share the beginnings of our plans for the town’s defense.

Drachus, while shaken, seems supportive of our decision, and clearly has the well-being of his citizens in mind.  He grants us use of the town’s resources to arrange its defense, and we immediately start to plan.  By the time we finish planning, the town has started to stir, and we suggest a town meeting to be held at midday.  Maglarosh and Erathmar are alerted of the plans.  Still suffering from the rigors of both combats last night, I take what rest I can until then.

Drachus shares details of the situation with the town and gives a grim speech in which he shares our plans for the town’s defense.  When given the chance to speak, I step forward, sharing the truth about the situation—that I did not seek refuge in Carrock with the intention of using the town or its folk as a shield.  Not being able to turn back time or change the situation, I intent to stand—and bleed, if needs be—with and for the town, so that Shadfeld’s fate can be avoided.

Finally, we get an opportunity to discuss the situation with Maglarosh.  His response raises more doubts than answers—he agrees that the events of the past weeks all seem related.  Damyca’s premonition, the runes in Moonglow Cave and Oldkeep, the attack of Shadfeld and threat of Carcerus—is there a common thread?  In regard to Ignish’s threat of wolves attacking Carrock, Maglarosh admits that nature has seemed out of balance the past few days.  Things are not as they should be, and while he’s concerned about it, he has no insight to offer.  Maglarosh proves to be a great disappointment.  While he clearly searches for a way to explain things and tie these events together, it seems more academic than anything else.  While clearly a potent ally for the town, and though he may prove instrumental in Carrock’s defense in the case of an attack, Zeb finds little other value in the discussion.

At Erathmar’s camp, we gather the survivors of the attack on Shadfeld, and press them for details on the attack that night.  Any small detail we may learn could help in defense of Carrock.  For the most part, the attack was a complete surprise, carried out by crazed cultists with torches setting buildings ablaze.  The conversation, at least for Zeb, proves valuable in defining the scope of the threat.  Zeb had imagined dozens of attackers, but in reality, it could have been as few as a single dozen, with the advantage of surprise and panic.

Zeb, exhausted, seeks rest at the inn of Carrock while Audric investigates the tower, making preparations for defense and ensuring access to the upper floors, in the case that retreat to the towers is necessary. 

We awaken the next morning, having passed the first restful sleep in days.  The town is intact, but in our morning rounds, we encounter a woman looking for Maglarosh—there was apparently some incident in the night at one of the outlying farms.  Aibreann, helping to comfort the woman, offers to come along as we head out to investigate.  On the way, we’re told that the older of two sons killed a chicken by biting its neck out with his teeth.

They woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of screeching animals; they found the son, who was babbling about “his mistress”, and when asked why he had done it that a woman, “the Goddess of the Hunt,” told him to.  The boy, Connor, now seems lucid, playing with his brother; we decide to talk to him, to see what he remembers of the night.

“The mistress called to me in the night.  I woke up in my bed, and she explained The Hunt to me, the importance of being a predator.”  Audric questions Connor, learning that this was the first time he encountered this “Goddess of the Hunt.”  They met outside, she compelled him to hunt, and the boy says that she was gone by the time he killed the chicken, having disappeared into the night.

He describes her as beautiful, dark hair.  I show him my fetishes, asking if she wore any similar symbols, but he shakes his head, unsure.  Audric asks if she had weapons, and he says he’s unsure, but that he doesn’t think so.  Leaving the boy with his mother and Aibreann, we investigate the coop; it has been emptied except for the dead chicken, but there does not appear to be any clues there.  We investigate the shed where Connor saw the woman—we find a barefooted print—potentially that of a woman. 

We find few other clues but convince the mother to spend the night with her sons within the safety of Carrock.  We return to Carrock, and the rest of the day passes without event.  I spend time training; I have neglected my studies in the action of the past days and nights, and it does much to center me, to prepare myself mentally for the coming fight.

The next morning, we receive yet more reports of events in the night at another outlying farm.  This time, a daughter has been kidnapped.  We recruit Rould to journey to the farm, trusting in his skills as a tracker.  The daughter Faylin, 10 years old, disappeared in the middle of the night.  The mother woke up in the night, having heard something stir in the house, and saw her daughter walking outside, thinking she was going to use the outhouse.  The next morning, they found that she had never returned.

The outhouse reveals no clues, but Rould’s keen eyes reveal footprints of a barefoot woman, the same as those found the previous night.  We resolve to consult Drachus, and to ask that all children be brought into the protection of the tower.  Rould thinks he can potentially follow the trail.  It leads north, and it seems that there are actually two sets of prints—one that of the woman, and a smaller set that may be Faylin’s, headed into the same direction in the woods.  We are left with a troubling decision; if we do not follow the tracks now, while they are fresh, we may not have another chance.  In doing so, however, we leave the town at risk.

Whoever stalks the children of Carrock at night, it makes Zeb's blood boil.  This false goddess, could it be a manifestation of the "Witch Queen" of Tussugar's past?  This "Goddess of the Hunt" certainly isn't related to Korvich or Carcerus, as her tactics are anathema to Malar's dogma.  That her appearance is coincidence seems unlikely, given the stress of the situation.  Beset by foes, wracked by unanswered questions, Zeb seems unsure how to proceed.


  1. Thanks for this, as always. As mentioned, I definitely encourage you guys to keep going back to past information and events, including the reading. As soon as you're ready to advance anything or take any actions, please post here and I'll respond accordingly.

  2. Any chance you would be willing to post a shortcut/link to Kezia's reading in the "Links" section? I refer to it all the time, would be very convenient.

    1. The post is tagged with the label "tarokka" and can be accessed via that link:

  3. Zeb turns to Audric, clearly torn on what to do. "I agree...we should not leave Carrock, at least not without more of a plan. Let us return and share this news with Drachus. This is his town, I would hear his thoughts on it."

    "We should, at the very least, gather all children and place them under the safety of the tower. This woman...she preys on the young and weak. It might be enough to force her to expose herself."

    "Part of me yearns to follow these tracks while they are fresh, but I will adhere to your counsel on the matter. Now is not the time to leave Carrock with the threat of Carcerus so near."

  4. Zeb will share his desire to lay a trap for this false 'goddess', perhaps staking out a farm near Carrock (after the other children have been brought within the sanctuary provided by the tower), perhaps with a child--Selben, perhaps, though he seems older than the prey she has sought previously--to try and draw her into the open where we might confront her.

    I think that's a good plan, but I would want to oversee the children within the tower the first night, in case she might be so bold as to actually enter Carrock seeking more prey.

  5. One more thought, sorry--with Selben on the cusp of manhood, I can't be sure if he's safe. I don't think Drachus will allow him within the tower, so at the very least, I would want him at my side during the night.

    Drachus might not like that, but it's either that, or I spend the night outside of town at Erathmar's camp, where I can be close to the teenager.

  6. I think the plan of arranging to gather children in the tower for the night was agreed upon when we closed the session, so we can consider that to be in motion. Now, it's still early afternoon. There's time to make additional preparations, or potentially to begin following the trail, if you see fit.

    Selben has not set foot in the village proper since his exile, several days ago. Drachus, given the circumstances, consents to his return alongside Zeb on the condition of constant and intense scrutiny. Drachus doesn't want Selben to enter the inn or the tower, or to be anywhere within sight of Aibreann, his wife.

  7. Terms to which Zeb would agree, with relief evident on his face.

    As for the tracks...I want to follow them, at least for a while, if Rould will consent to guiding him. Not sure if Audric will be on board...but I would want to return to Carrock by dusk at the latest.

    Even if that only gives us a little time, there might be clues that will wouldn't otherwise find. Both of our foes, it seems, tend to strike under cover of night, so Zeb is reasonably confident this is a good compromise between safety and being proactive.

  8. When you locate Rould to ask for his help, he admits that he was already preparing to follow the trail himself, having enlisted Arkhen as accompaniment. Forlornly, he imparts that, after losing nearly everything dear to him in the destruction of Shadfeld, Rould is unwilling to stand idle as even a single family of Carrock is forced to concede its child. As such, he's willing to lay down his life in a rescue attempt. Tears that well in the forester's eyes betray his composure as he speaks.

  9. Audric will reluctantly agree to join Zeb, Rould, and Arkhen though the idea of leaving the town does not sit well with him.

    "Rould, neither Zeb nor I want to see anyone else in this town harmed either. I cannot imagine what you are feeling now, but we must make certain we do not throw our lives away in vain. Alive you can continue to do good, and protect those who need it."

    "I agree with protecting the children by bringing them to the center of town." He steeples his fingers and closes his eyes. After a deep breath he continues, "I cannot condone using a child as bait to find this false goddess. I cannot ask a parent to allow us to use their child as bait in the hopes we can catch this woman. If something horrible happened, I would not be able to live with myself knowing I could have prevented it."

    He holds up a hand to forestall any objections by Zeb. "I do think we need to keep a watch around where the children are each night so we can be alerted if anything else happens. It should be done in the middle of town though as our first priority in this needs to be the safety of all of those in town."

  10. Feel free to let me know of any additional preparations or tactics for following the trail, and I can move things along from there.

  11. Zeb agrees with Audric, as he's the more steady and conservative of the pair. The sense of Audric's words is not lost on Zeb.

    Once convened with Audric, Arkhen and Rould, he will let the hunters take the lead so as not to spoil the trail. He'll draw one of his knives, keeping it at the ready, and will follow as quietly as possible, keeping an eye to the forest around the hunters while they concentrate on the trail before them.

  12. Just as a point of order, before we go can we please make sure that Drachus and/or Tussugar know where we are going and what we are planning. I don't want the 4 of us to have disappeared without anyone in town knowing anything about it.

    1. Don't worry mom, we promise to be home by dark. Audric is definitely the mother hen of the group.

  13. Audric nods to Rould and Arkhen indicating that he is ready to start the search.

    Once the two trackers have moved into the woods and are underway, he dons the ring. As he puts his gloves back on he shakes his head and thinks, "I must know what this does." He then follows Zeb and the trackers doing his best to move quietly.

    1. Whether or not he knows about it, Zeb fully supports this decision.

  14. The trail isn't particularly easy to follow, often resulting in guesswork and backtracking that makes the overall venture extremely slow-going. On the other hand, the effort would likely be entirely futile given another day, particularly in the event of rain, which looks imminent, even if several hours away.

    After half an afternoon of toil, at a point when turning back for Carrock in order to return by nightfall is all but necessary, Arkhen motions for the party to halt as the hunter's eyes go wide. Not more than thirty yards ahead, through foliage and scattered trees, lay a young girl, asleep and breathing deeply. At her left and right are a pair of gray wolves, lying on the ground but awake and alert. Their ears and eyes perk as you try to remain silent, ere they rise and begin to pace.

    (The wolves are clearly keen to the party's presence, though they've not yet made an obvious move to attack.)

  15. OOC: Do the wolves appear fully-grown, or younger animals akin to this I saw in the woods a few night's past?

    Assuming that Arkhen and Rould will draw their bows, Zeb will step forward slowly, gesturing to both of them that they should continue to do so, but that they should hold their volley. He'll gesture for the others--including Audric--to stay back, and Zeb will hold out his arms and slowly crouch on the ground, taking a few slow, cautious steps towards the pair of wolves to see what reaction it elicits, half in a crawl, hoping that by crouching it diminishes any perceived threat.

    1. Fully grown adults. Will wait to advance anything until after we hear from Audric.

  16. Audric will get his bow and nock an arrow. He will indicate for Arkhen to train his arrow on the wolf on the right, while he and Rould train their arrows on the wolf on the left.

    He will wait for Zeb to continue, as his connection with nature is much stronger.

  17. Seeing the others waiting, Zeb whispers to Audric and the others. "Who has rations, dried meat? I've nothing but nuts and herbs." He'll hold out a hand behind him, never breaking eye contact with the wolves, hoping that one of the others has something and that they place it in his hand. "No sudden movements!" he whispers, knowing the danger of the situation.

    How Zeb proceeds next will largely be influenced by whether or not anyone actually has dried meat handy, and how the wolves react to his initial, innocuous approach.

    If things go badly, he'll be ready to drop into a defensive ball, careful to protect his throat.

    1. Audric will slowly lower his bow and go into his pack to grab some dry rations. He will slowly take out some dried meat and hand it to Zeb.

      Assuming all goes well he will set back and raise his bow again. If things go sideways, Audric is going to draw his sword and attack whichever wolf comes after Zeb.

  18. As Audric reaches into his pack, the wolves suddenly bound for the party, bearing teeth and snarling with fetid breath. Rould and Arkhen loose arrows on instinct, though both missiles sail awry. Audric scrambles to retrain his weapon. Zeb curls himself fetal, shielding his head and neck. Though successfully deflecting one animal, the other sinks its steaming maw into Zeb's back (despite Audric's magical protection) eliciting a muffled scream. Too close to fire more arrows, Rould and Arkhen each draw blades.

    (Four points of damage to Zeb. This is a full-on melee at this point, and Zeb is still on the ground. Whether the wolves will continue to attack Zeb or others is unclear. Audric didn't manage a shot before distance was closed.)

  19. Zeb rolls over violently, hoping to break free of the wolf's grasp so that he can confront the beast. His back muscles revolt in pain, and Zeb draws a second knife as he rolls away, seeking to get to his feet, growling in anger at the audacity of the attack.

    If attacked again, he'll defend himself, keeping his knives in between himself and the wolf, hoping to impale its underside. Otherwise, if it seems like there is room for an offense, he'll rush the nearest creature, hoping to stab it with down-thrust knives and overbear it, hopefully exposing it to the attacks of others.

  20. Audric, will draw his sword and attack the same wolf that Zeb is attacking in the hope that the two of them can overpower it quickly. He will take a sweeping swing at the creature, hoping to cut a large would and get it to back away from Zeb.

  21. A swath of attacks occurs simultaneously. Zeb begins to rise and upthrusts his knife into the wolf's belly as it fails to bite him a second time. Rould and Arkhen can be heard battling alongside, ere Audric slashes in, cutting another wound into the first wolf's hide.

    Suddenly, rays of brilliant-colored light, encompassing the full spectrum of the rainbow, shoot forth from Audric's sword hand in a myriad of directions.

    The violet ray strikes the injured wolf before him, and it vanishes from sight.

    A flash of deep indigo engulfs Zeb, blinding him completely. For many moments, an unseen torment wracks Zeb's mind, but thanks to the priest's remarkable strength of will, it passes.

    A crimson beam sears a hole through the second wolf's hide and flesh. It falls to the ground, lifeless.

    A ray as blue as the summer sky impales Arkhen, after which only a stone statue of the hunter remains, frozen in its battle pose with longsword raised.

    Audric, Rould, and the young girl are seemingly unaffected.

    (I'll allow for a post here, to present any immediate actions following these events. The threat from the wolves is eliminated, the forest once again silent. Zeb cannot see.)

  22. One of Zeb's hands immediately goes to his eyes, almost as if searching for some kind of veil or obstruction that might be causing the blindness. Of course, it was nothing of the sort, but in the moments of confusion after the searing light erupted from Audric, never mind the mental torment that suddenly welled from somewhere within Zeb's psyche, he is obviously more than a little disoriented.

    He holds his other hand in front of him, knife blade pointed out, jumping at every noise, spinning almost wildly as if expecting another wolf to leap upon him.

    Blinded, disoriented, still reeling from the unknown psychic attack, Zeb is completely feral.

    1. Audric watches the rays with wonder. He briefly feels relief when the first ray hits the wolf and makes it disappear. That feeling is gone quickly when the second ray hit Zeb. He watches in horror as the other wolf is killed, and Arkhen is turned to stone.

      He screams, "NO!!!" His sword drops from his hand to the ground. Audric falls to his knees, and falls over, as tears steam down his face making tiny trails in the dust and grime that has collected on his face.

      Audric does the only thing he can think of, he prays. He prays to Mystra with every prayer that is taught to acolytes at the temple. He begs her to undo this. He offers up his life as payment. He screams and cries. He begs, pleads, and curses Her. It eventually subsides into quiet sobbing as he lays on the ground, his sword forgotten at his feet.

  23. After a few minutes, Zeb's sight returns.

  24. It's really nice to have someone besides Zeb do something stupid, for a change.

  25. After a few moments, it becomes evident to Zeb that the immediate threat of wolves has passed...but Audric's cry is alarming, and it is several long minutes before Zeb's vision returns and he can see for himself what occurred.

    Zeb's vision returns slowly, and initially the details are hard to make out, but he finds the wolf with a hole seared through it, edges cauterized as if made by some intense heat. He did not think Audric capable of such intense offensive magic.

    The other wolf is nowhere to be seen, though the girl yet lies on the forest floor ahead. Zeb steps forward, only then noticing Arkhen standing rigidly, with Audric on his knees supplicating with his goddess. Turned to stone! Zeb approaches, reaching out to touch Arkhen--now a lifeless statue--and pulls back his hand, finding it cold to the touch. "What..." he starts, struggling to find words, "what happened, Audric?" Then he looks down, noticing the ring on Audric's finger. "By the gods, no..." he lets his statement trail off, not sure how to react to the dire consequences of the encounter.

    "Rould, with me. Let us see to this girl. Be on the lookout for other wolves." Though he doesn't believe there will be any more wolves, Zeb feels comfortable having the hunter at his back, and it will give Rould something to focus on besides Audric's weeping and Arkhen's lifeless form. Zeb, as well, needs the distraction, his mind reeling yet from the psychic assault.

    Zeb steps forward carefully to investigate the girl, hoping that she matches the description of the missing daughter...and hoping that she yet lives, to justify Arkhen's sacrifice, if for no other reason.

  26. The girl remains on the ground, arms covering her head, and partially obscured by foliage. She's clearly alive, but possibly in a state of shock. She appears to be uninjured.

    (Whether this is definitively the child from Carrock is unclear, but there's no obvious reason to believe that it isn't.)

  27. Zeb looks to Rould. Zeb would like to spend more time investigating, but considers finding this girl a victory--albeit a small one, given the circumstances--and feels the need to get back to town before dusk. "Do you think that you can find this place once again, should we return?" Zeb hopes so, since leaving Arkhen seems the only reasonable course of action. "Can you carry her?"

    Moving over to Audric, Zeb's not quite sure how to console the follower of Mystra...then finally decides that consolation must wait. "Audric, snap out of it! There are other lives at stake right now, and we must hasten back to Carrock. Whatever happened, you will have time to ruminate upon it on the return trip. We can do nothing for Arkhen right now...we must leave him. We need you with us." Hopeful that his words will sink in, Zeb turns to the wolf.

    He slips a length of rope from his pack, using it to bind the front legs of the animal, then the hind legs, with rope in between. It forms a crude harness, to allow Zeb to sling the animal over a shoulder and distribute its burden. "Light fails, we must hurry. Rould, Audric...let's go."

  28. Audric's weeping slowly subsides as Zeb's words sink in. He sits up, and wipes his face on his sleeve. He looks around again, and his emotions are almost able to overtake him again. As he recovers, he makes a solemn promise to himself. He removes his holy symbol from his cloak, and casually tosses it into his bag. He rummages around, and finds a long forgotten plain iron pin, and uses that to pin his cloak back on.

    Audric takes a deep breath and does something that he has never done before. He closes his eyes, and says a few words are harmlessly casts the remainder of his spells in a direction that is away from his allies. Audric no longer feels that he is fit to wield Her gifts. No longer will he pray to Mystra for any spells until he has the opportunity to speak with Her or one of Her agents about what just happened. After all, he reasons, if She can so callously allow him to unwittingly maim his companions that way, She can take a few minutes to give him an explanation. Goddess or not, She owes him that much.

    He stands, and picks up his sword. He sheathes it, and follows Zeb and Rould ploddingly. His eyes are distant, and his jaw is set with determination.

  29. Of note, 4 out of the 12 hp of protection bestowed unto Zeb by Audric's armor spell have been sustained. Eight points remain.