Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Demise (#11)

7/3/2018, Session #11

We decide again to stay at Erathmar’s camp in order to minimize the risks of Selben encountering, by chance or design, Aibreann—the young man’s inability to control himself, whatever the reason, is a liability.  Fortunately, the men and women of Erathmar’s camp have taken to Selben, and seem willing to assist in sharing our watches.  The air is chill, result of yesterday’s rain, which suits our mood—still at a crux, we are unsure exactly how to proceed or how to confront our various obstacles and foes.

The night passes uneventfully, dawn breaks.  We make our usual rounds of Carrock, hoping to investigate the tower as well as the inn, and to see if any news comes in from nearby farms that may not have heeded our call.  We see a small gathering of people at the north edge of the village beyond the inn.  Bonie is among those gathered, as well as a few villagers.  She is calming a wet, muddy pony.  Bonie sees us, apparently recognizing us, and appears happy.  It’s apparently returned to her after bolting during the wolf attack.  It doesn’t appear injured—lucky indeed!

The pony, however, seems unwilling to be coaxed into Carrock.  It plants its feet, stubborn, and refuses to be led.  When Bonie tries again, it actually bucks a little and backs up a few steps.  Bonie tells us that the behavior is uncharacteristic of Elseba, her mount, and after a while it even turns to leave, almost as if trying to lead her somewhere.  Audric gives voice to that suspicion, and we make to follow.  Before we can, Rould joins the group, reporting that there was no ill news the last night, and we recruit him to accompany us to see if the pony is indeed trying to tell us something.

Elseba takes us on walk of a fair distance, almost a mile from Carrock, north into the woods.  It seems to know where it’s going, and suddenly we recognize that the sounds of the forest have stilled, as if something is amiss.  At the edge of our sight, we see a heap upon the ground.  Rould and I split from the group to investigate—there are no immediate signs of danger, but it does appear as if it’s a body, bloodied and covered in coarse gray hair.  

We recognize it as Maglarosh, and he appears dead, having suffered many wounds from claws and bites.  His eyes are closed, strangely peaceful amid his various wounds.  Maglarosh is dead, having been ravaged by wolves.  Rould confirms this, spotting many tracks, both of wolves and hoof.

Bonie is not averse to Elseba carrying the druid back to Carrock.  In examining his wounds, we see many tattoos upon his skin—scenes from nature and glyphs that seem to point to him being a follower of Silvanus.  In Maglarosh’s hand is a medallion made of crudely carved oak wood, freshly hewn, and upon it is etched the silhouette of a maned lion’s head.  I recognize it as the symbol of Nobanion, an exarch of Silvanus, also known as Lord Firemane, a god of good beasts—a deity strictly opposed to Malar.  I take the medallion, unsure what to make of it for the moment.  Audric also notices a second medallion, worn by Maglarosh, a large ruby upon a tarnished silver chain.  Audric takes it—as Maglarosh is not the sort to wear it for cosmetic reasons, it may serve some greater purpose.

With the ground being damp from the rain, the tracks are clear.  He identifies the hoof prints as Elseba’s, but also confirms that there were multiple wolves, likely a sizable pack that seems to have dispersed in several directions, mostly north, deeper into the forest.  Maglarosh had several small items on his person: a small wooden bowl and spoon, a waterskin, as well as several pouches of nuts & herbs.  I take these, seeing no reason that they should go to waste.

With Rould’s assistance, we find our way back to Carrock, and are met by Tussugar and Drachus as we transport our grim burden.  Drachus is stricken by the loss, having regarded Maglarosh as a mentor of some sorts, and for Tussugar’s part, he seems to examine the situation more logically—Drachus makes arrangements for the body, and I suggest that we convene at the inn to discuss how our situation may have changed.

Once around a table, I share my general confusion and lack of direction regarding the matter—the threat of Korvich, Carcerus and the wolves; the “goddess of the hunt”; the loss of Maglarosh.  Is our continued presence in Carrock helpful in deterring a direct attack, or do the attacks continue precisely because we are still there?  Do we return to Mirabar, as discussed the other night?  Tussugar, always one to speak plainly, replies “Perhaps it’s time to stand and hunt your enemy.”

Much discussion follows, both privately with Audric and with those gathered.  As for Audric, it seems that three paths are apparent—continue with preparations to leave Carrock, as we had discussed the previous night; stay in Carrock, executing our continued defense of the town to the best of our ability, as we are the best equipped to do so; or to indeed take our fight to the enemy, and test the strength of our arms against Korvich & Carcerus’ conviction to hunt me.  At the end, we decide turn the tables on our hunters, on those who would prey upon the villagers of Carrock, and to take the fight to them.

Tussugar looks at us all grimly, asking if we are indeed committed to this course of action, sparing a glance to Audric.  We all speak assent, at which point Tussugar pulls out the ring, slams it on the table, announcing that if we are to go, “let’s go prepared.”  He leaves the ring, turning to walk away.  Audric quietly takes it, secreting it away.

Final preparations are made.  I let Selben know that he’s not to enter Carrock except under the supervision of Erathmar, but otherwise Zeb is ready to go.  Audric spares some time to meditate in the tower, hopefully coming to terms with Mystra over the ring.  Tussugar, Rould and Bonie meet us north of the town; based on indications from the hunters, it would seem that a northwesterly direction seems the most reasonable place for a small force to take refuge in the wood, as the northeastern forest is more heavily scouted.  It’s a question we had not thought to ask before and having thought of it may have changed the course of the last couple days.

Rould leads, and I split the difference between the hunter and the rest of the group.  Tussugar is in full armor, and Bonie is arrayed as a warrior.  We travel without speaking, and after some time we encounter wolf tracks, though it’s unclear if they were headed to or from Carrock; perhaps neither.  We note their presence, but continue on to the northwest, hoping for more recent or more meaningful discoveries.

After another hour or so, we discover a stream that leads from northeast to southwest.  We take some time to examine the stream bed in both directions, hopeful that if there were scouts or foes nearby, that they would also have to cross and might leave some sign.  We hear something in the brush.  Rould, Bonie and Audric draw their bows and cover me as I approach to investigate.  I hear the rustling again, and then immediately hear footsteps receding.  I rush to the top of the nearby ridge on the other side of the river, and catch a quick glimpse of a bipedal creature disappear into the woods.  I’m sure I can’t catch the figure, so I wave the others across.  We investigate, and quickly ascertain boot prints—perhaps a sentry?

Still fortunate for the recent rain, we follow the tracks for some time, perhaps another hour, into a dense copse of trees.  There are many shadows, and we see the figure of a lithe female ahead.  The shadows seem to cling unnaturally, stifling the afternoon sun, which seems to be struggling to win against the dark.  Tussugar and I march forward, with Rould, Bonie and Audric moving to flank the group.

The woman wears a plain, dark dress or shawl.  Her hair is dark, almost black, and as we draw near she speaks, her voice tantalizing.  “Welcome, I’ve been waiting for you.”  Her description matches the “goddess of the hunt.”  I step forward, and announce that she has my attention.
Some curse, however, seems to affect me, and for a moment everything slows, becomes sluggish.  My mind, however, is unaffected.  I smile, mutter “Tricks…” and summon forth my own power to counter the woman’s spell, breaking her enchantment.  “I’m here to dispel your delusion.  You are no god, and you are certainly not the Beastlord.”

Audric is assaulted by magic as well, and fires his bow at whoever cast it, arrow sailing into the wood.  She laughs… “No, I am not the Beastlord.  But I am the Beast, and you are my prey.”  Her flesh begins to spasm, and she rushes forward, beginning to change.  The woman’s hands and feet turn into claws, her mouth opens in a great maw of fangs, and from behind her pulls a hook-bladed axe, turning into the bestial form of Carcerus!  Tussugar steps forward to thwart the charge, blocking Carcerus’ path, but his axe misses, shaving a patch of hair from the beast.

Meanwhile, Rould spots more foes—not an unexpected ambush—and fires into the forest, drawing blood from his enemy.  It appears to be a cultist, swinging a flail wildly at Rould, devastating the archer.  Bonie fires and misses her target, but Audric connects on yet another foe.  We are beset by enemies.  Audric’s target is revealed as Korvich who, despite his wound from Audric’s arrow, commands me to bow as he did before.  This time, I am unable to resist the compulsion, but I am not without my own form of revenge—a command of my own takes hold of Carcerus, forcing the creature to its knees before Tussugar.  Tussugar raises his axe high and brings it down heavily onto Carcurus’ back, tearing a large gash into the foe.

The dwarf rips it from Carcerus and brings his axe down again, chopping into the creature again who squeals in pain, blood flowing everywhere.  Carcerus claws to his feet, swinging awkwardly at Tussugar and missing, but not before three wolves attack Tussugar from the flanks.  Concentrating on Korvich, I bring the magic bestowed upon me by Malar to bear again, using the cult leader’s own tactics against him.  He is compelled to stillness, forced to watch helplessly as events unfold around him.  I snarl, eager to put an end to Korvich’s false vorishnaad and his reckless aclupar.

Tussugar’s wounds are beginning to add up, and both Bonie and Rould are both bitten by wolves as well.  Tussugar misses Carcerus, Bonie misses her own foe, but Rould manages to fell the cultist Tesk, skewering him on his scimitar.  Our foes remain numerous, and Tussugar nearly buried beneath a wall of attacking fur, teeth and claws.

Desperate, I throw one of the magical beads at Carcerus, striking the beast.  There is an explosion of magical force that expels from the point of impact; Carcerus is torn asunder by the magical force of the bead, her wolves are flung from the melee, Tussugar is thrown back from the wave of force—injured, but alive.  The dwarf steps forward, standing over the dead form of Carcerus, and with a single sweep of his axe, severs the beast’s head.

With Carcerus slain, the wolves disperse and the cultists either scatter or lay dead before our strength of arms.  The melee wanes, and I stalk towards Korvich, still paralyzed by the power granted me by Malar.  “You are not the only priest of the Beastlord that has asked for vorishnaad, Korvich.  I have petitioned for my own, and it has been granted.  Your aclupar is over.”  With that, I reach into his mouth, cut out his tongue, and push him to the ground so that he drowns in his own blood; with his death, my own aclupar is fulfilled.  I tear Korvich’s symbol of Malar from his neck and add it to my belt.  For a few moments, all is silent...but within, my soul howls with triumph.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic summary to one of the most enjoyable adventures I've ever run. My recap post is up now as well, let's use that thread for any follow-up discussions.