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Aye, I'm packing alright... For the greatest hunt of my life! he laughs excitedly. It's perfect, if the packlord is dead they'll all be vying for position. That means they'll all cone together at Highthrone to pick a new leader, I can sneak in and get a pelt of every tribe before they even know what's happening. Then they can have the wood and the damned lodge for all I care haha!
I don't know the Princes Wolves territory but I know where the Stairs of the Moon are, they call it Highthrone. Why don't you come too? It's going to be fantastic!
Look, he had me write those notes and search your rooms. He was desperate to know if you were from the Order, the Way or the Wolves. He's paranoid about everything. He has some means of controlling one of their spirits and the wolves won't attack us whilst he has it. I've no idea where he could be. Belik says.
Jon slams the card down on the table before looking at it but when he does so his stomach churns as it might on an ocean voyage.
The card is faded and grey and depicts a wizened creature in robe and cowl, a curved scythe above it's head and the moon, full and yearning in the sky. He does not need a Seer to tell him that this card is...
Death. her voice like the tolling of a funeral bell. So say ze Fates.
To say you do not believe in ze Fates is like saying you do not believe in Death, Jon Moulton. Votever started you all on zis journey, not all of you vill finish.
She scoops up the cards in a swift flurry. In one motion they are together once more and tucked away in one of the folds of her skirt.
Regardless of vhether Estovian has sought the wolves or not, zey are ze only vons who can tell you vhy Vrood was so desperate to meet vith zem. He arranged a meeting here vith Malthus Mordrinacht, Alpha of ze Silverhides. He promised Mordrinacht the he could "feast on ze heart." But zat is all I heard of ze conversation.
Thank you, Mr Moulton. Zis has been a most amusing distraction for me.
She stands then and moves back toward the rear of the room. She doesn't turn back despite Jon's confused protests and is soon lost in the smoke.
Ah but who is it zat vill do ze killing. Jon Moulton.... or ze Other? she asks wickedly.
The Winged Serpent. Both beautiful and deadly, familiar and yet altogezer different. But vhich will she be ven you cross her path? Zat is a qvestion that the Fates tell me could shape ze destiny of ze Vorld!
So say ze Fates.
Estovian is a vorm. But he has some means of protecting ze Lodge from ze wolves. Somehow he controls a spirit of zeir ancestor, von of ze first wolves in the Shudderwood. Vhilst he has ze means to control it, zey dare not attack here and he has a powerful chip with vhich to make bargain.
Indulge me. she smiles. Choose a final card. Jon's head is swimming. The smoke, the reading - whatever magic is in play here it is old. And powerful.
Roll 1d8, ignoring 7 or 8
Hush now. Let ze man make his own choice. she says, sending a chill down Jon's spine.
He pulls a card at random from the fan. He holds it before him and sees that it depicts an elderly lady, a crown balanced precariously on her head.
Ze Queen Mother. Ivanja says, though Jon did not reveal the card. She hovers at ze brink of death, all thoughts of duty and honour but distant memories. Zere is von who vill betray you. Ven ze moon is fat and ze sky alive vith ze calls of brethren.
So say ze Fates.
She speaks distantly, as if disinterestedly, simply passing on a fact.
Vot vill you do vith Vrood ven you find him? Vot vill you do vith Estovian? she asks, curiously. Please, choose anozer.
Roll 1d8, ignoring 7
I meet many men. Alzough I think I know ze von of which you speak. A dour fellow, zough undeniably powerful. Auren Vrood. she draws the name out as one might draw a dagger.
Her dark eyes meet Jon's as the smoke drifts between them.
I know who you are Mr Moulton. I know who all of you are. It could be his imagination, or the smoke perhaps, but the tiniest flicker of flame dances across her iris. It vas only a matter of time before ze Order decided to test zeir metal against ze Way, zough I am surprised in ze Agents zey sent.
She fans the cards out before Jon in a swift motion, each an exact distance apart from one another in a semi-circle before the oracle.
Zis place is doomed. It vill be aflame before ze veek is out and zose vithin food for ze wolves. If Estovian is gone zen so is his means of protecting zis pace. But let us be honest vis eachozer Mr Moulton, you vould burn zis place yourself if it meant getting your hands on ze man you seek. I can read you as vell as I can read these cards. a dazzling grin crosses her dangerous, beautiful face. Tell me I am a liar!
Take a seat. And pick a card. she says, fingers steepled beneath her chin, a small smile never leaving the corner of her mouth.
Madame Ivanja takes a seat at a small round table that stands in the centre of the room, there is a seat opposite her. She takes a deck of cards from somewhere within the folds of her skirt and begins to shuffle them expertly, making the deck fly between both hands, fanning them across the table before scooping them up and shuffling once more.
Vy do you think I vould know vere he was? Or even care? The Lodge prowides me with a place to vork and some moderate comforts. Who are you to ask me to risk zat?
As Jon enters the tower he is immediately assailed by the smell of sweet incense.
A short flight of steps leads up to a beaded curtain and as he pulls it back the room beyond is a haze of coloured smoke that catches in his throat.
As his eyes adjust, he begins to make out four men, all heavily muscled and armed with wickedly curved blades at their sides. Each of them watch him passively with dark eyes set in dusky faces. They bare the same look as Sebastian but are taller and broader of shoulder than the monk.
Don't mind zem. an accented voice says, sounding like a hand running over silk, Zey vork for me. Protect me. Do I need protecting from you?
A lady steps into view, though still behind her guards. She wears her long dark hair tied back with a red scarf and her skin is the colour of golden sugar. Her eyes are darkly made up and her lips painted a seductive crimson. The lady wears a corset of leather above a skirt of velvet and is without doubt the most alluring woman Jon has ever seen.
Markus makes a mental note to pray for penance later, but for now the only thing on his mind is the answers they seek.
He takes the journal and begins reading. Much of it concerns his pro-aristocracy, anti-Palatinate political stance. However, there are several passages that practically leap off the page.
Everyone may read this journal so I don't have to post the url again
Looking to follow his lead and finally get some answers, Markus heads to Estovian's office to search for the tome mentioned in the note.
The library is well ordered but still an impressive collected and it takes him a few minutes to firstly locate the right section and then run his finger across the books until he comes to one old dusty leather-bound volume entitled The Halo of Dreams
He takes a seat at the desk and begins flipping through the pages, scanning several so that he might get a sense of the content before turning to page 322 as mentioned in the note.
Markus was already aware that this was a time about the spread of the Desnan faith but interestingly the book contains, among other things, references to a sacred Desnan relic.
Upon turning to page 322, Markus comes across a Highlighted Passage
Also, as he stands to leave, he notices that in the excitement of the spider attack, Estovian has forgotten to lock the drawer in his desk. Within, the Priest can see a heavy diary.
Everyone may read this extract so I don't have to post the url again
What are you not understanding here? Ever since you arrived you have been disrespectful, destructive and now people are starting to get hurt. Whatever is going on it is your fault! Whatever your plans, you have one more day.
I need some air. Please leave me alone.
He walks away from Markus, shaking his head and cursing under his breath.
Knowledge Local check Davos:
Davos, you study the volumes throughout the morning and find the following info:
I have already given you a lot of informaiton on the werewolves from Duristan, see previous posts. You get all that and in addition:
The werewolf tribes are each ruled by a single Alpha;
Broken Ones - The druid Cybrisa Dorzhanev
You also learn that the Prince's Wolves have strong ties to the Sczarni rime family and were created as part of Prince Andriadus Virholt's efforts to rid his lands of the agents of the Whispering Way centuries ago and are historically their enemy.
Finally, each of the packs is ruled over by a single packlord - Kvlaca Sain of the Primals. A new packlord must consume the heart of her predecessor in order to claim the title. All of the tribes meet at an ancient ruin in the Shudderwood called the Stairs of the Moon although you cannot determine where it is.
Estovian looks positively shocked.
None of this was happening before you came! And now you call into question my hospitality? Oh, the Order shall hear about this! Belik, kindly lock Paucy in his maintenance shed until we can decide what to do with him and get that mess in there cleaned up!
He stalks out of the room with a face like thunder.
1d20 + 7 - 4 ⇒ (13) + 7 - 4 = 16
Sense Motive DC 16:
Estovian's eyes are dark rimmed as if he hasn't got much sleep and his hair is unkempt. He casts furtive glances all around him and his interactions with you are growing all the more short tempered. He seems greatly concerned about something.
NO! MY floor. You break my things, you break MY things! Paucy cries.
Oh my god. Quiene says. None of us knew he was this ill. We all thought he was harmless, and he has been all these years. What are we going to do now?
Meanwhile, Sebastian and Markus head to their rooms. They pass through the sitting room and find Corvin asleep on one of the comfy chairs, a half empty bottle of absinthe on the table beside him. Apparently he was unconscious throughout the whole affair. Cilas is pouring himself a glass of brandy with shaking hands and Belik quickly rushes over to take the bottle and pour it for the nobleman.
You find that just like Jon's, your rooms are in disarray. After searching through your possessions for several minutes however it does not appear that anything is missing.
Cos I gets the rats when they get in the steps and the flowers and make nests in the hedge. And the hedge don't grow back in the holes in the nests! he shouts, brown frowning and head tilted at an awkward angle, hands like claws that he taps against the side of his head.
And you breaks the floor and and the floor no grow back at all! he points to the broken patio where Morbar slammed his earthbreaker into the ground, a line of spittle hanging from his front teeth.
Because rats dig under the steps. Rats. Rats. Paucy says, wiping snot from his nose with the back of his hand and leaving a great smudge of blood across his face.
He leaves the shed willingly enough though not without first wrapping his latest dissection up in oil cloth and putting it back into a basket that appears to contain more dead rats.
Further blood leads to Delgros' cabin and although that is locked tight the heavy padlock on the external cellar doors has been smashed off.down below a number of cages hold various animals, both common and more exotic such as a particularly mean looking dire boar. All seem in good health and kept in good condition.
The tank that held the giant spider is obvious enough given the propensity of webs and the trail of blood ends there. Again, the doors have been forced open.
Delgros is nowhere to be seen but his dogs are also missing and Quiene can confirm he took his horse several hours ago to head into the woods on a hunt.
Sebastian opens the shed door and is greeted by the stench of blood and decay.
Dimly lit by just a single candle, you see the figure of Paucy Taubes, the gardener, hunched over the workbench at the back. And though there are tools cluttering the walls and all manner of pots and bags and implements on the floor, your eyes are drawn to the grisly decorations toward the rear of the building. About a dozen rats, in varying states of decay though all skinned and stuffed, are pinned to the wall.
Paucy turns his head and looks at you with his vacant, moon like face. His hands are drenched with blood up to the elbow and he appears to be working on his latest rodent decoration.
Estovians mouth falls agape as Jons wings unfurl and he takes to the air.
Jon can see nothing in the maze to cause concern but even from a short height the blood trail is difficult to follow.
Sebastian and the others however are able to follow it through the maze toward the collection of out buildings to the northwest and thr maintenance shed in particular.
As you reach the door to your room you notice that it is slightly ajar. You push it open and find that it has been racksacked. Your backpack has been upturned onto the bed and your possessions lie scattered about the room. Upon checking your companion's rooms, the situation is the same.
As Sebastian heads out the door, he notices a tiny trail of blood running from the door and into the maze.
Davos fort save: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (15) + 5 = 20
Davos is unconscious
That was one of Delgros' creatures. Cilas gasps. He keeps them for the guests to hunt.
The Markiza actually appears uninjured. It looks like you got there in time to prevent the spider attacking her – she just fainted from fright.
My lady! Ostovach cries, dropping his shovel and racing to her side. Is she alright? he asks Jon anxiously.
Cilas looks on grimly from the corner of the room. Sweat breaks out on his forehead and he is visibly shaken, perhaps the thought of his friend being killed by a spider-creature is also on his mind.
A minute or so later, others begin to arrive such as Estovian, Quiene and even the chef.
Wha..? Oh my god! Quiene says, horrified.
Davos arrives on the scene to see Morbar debilitated and both Markus and Sebastian gravely wounded whilst the monstrous spider, half dead and burnt, stomps around in the sitting room.
He raises his hands and begins to cast a spell he hopes will finish the beast but in his haste he fails to consider just how big the monster is and as it sense the change in vibrations through the ground where he stands it launches itself at him.
Attack of opportunity, Davos, bite, cover: 1d20 + 16 - 4 ⇒ (16) + 16 - 4 = 28
Davos, make a DC 22 Fortitude save or take 1d6 ⇒ 4 strength damage
As it recoils back into the room a great shudder runs through it and after a screeching, insectoid-like cry of pain, it slumps to the ground, legs convulsing and curling up beneath it.
Markus, over the next four rounds you need to make a DC 22 Fort save every round or take 1d6 ⇒ 5 1d6 ⇒ 2 1d6 ⇒ 2 1d6 ⇒ 5 strength damage. The poison is only cured after two consecutive saves
Sebastian, over the next four rounds you need to make a DC 22 Fort save every round or take 1d6 ⇒ 1 1d6 ⇒ 2 1d6 ⇒ 4 1d6 ⇒ 3 strength damage. The poison is only cured after two consecutive saves
Morbar, over the next five rounds you need to make a DC 22 Fort save every round or take 1d6 ⇒ 6 1d6 ⇒ 5 1d6 ⇒ 3 1d6 ⇒ 2 1d6 ⇒ 4 strength damage. The poison is only cured after two consecutive saves
Davos, over the next five rounds you need to make a DC 22 Fort save every round or take 1d6 ⇒ 3 1d6 ⇒ 1 1d6 ⇒ 1 1d6 ⇒ 3 1d6 ⇒ 2 strength damage. The poison is only cured after two consecutive saves
Remember, if you reach 0 strength you are knocked unconscious, not killed.
Round 2 - Enemy
As Sebastian begins summoning his ki, the monster rounds on him and with it's spear-like teeth punches two great holes in his chest that immediately fill with blood and gelatinous poison.
Jon meanwhile takes advantage of the momentary distraction by once more calling on his unearthly powers. He can hear the screams of hundreds of thousands of souls in his mind but those of his family ring out loudest as the fire burns within him as brightly as it does upon the spider.
1d3 ⇒ 1 Morbar
Morbar, nauseated, Bite: 1d20 + 16 ⇒ (17) + 16 = 33 Hit
Morbar, make a DC 22 Fortitude save or also take 1d6 ⇒ 1 strength damage
Sebastian, make a DC 22 Fortitude save or take a further 1d6 ⇒ 1 damage for a total of 4 if you fail the first save
Markus, make a DC 22 Fortitude save or take a further 1d6 ⇒ 3 damage for a total of 5
Round 3 - Heroes
Sebastian, remember that spell-like abilities such as your scorching ray provoke an attack of opportunity if you do not cast them defensively when you are within reach. The DC to do that 15 + double the level of the spell you are trying to cast. If the spider hits you now, however, you will need to make a concentration check of 10 + the damage you receive the level of the spell
Attack of opportunity, Sebastian, bite: 1d20 + 16 ⇒ (5) + 16 = 21 Hit
That means you need to make a concentration check of DC 49 which is of course impossible so unfortunately your last spell failed.
You also need to make a DC 22 Fortitude save or take 1d6 ⇒ 3 strength damage from poison
Jon, you will reach there next round with a standard action to take.
Davos and Cara continue to run down the stairs, getting closer to the sounds of combat.
Round 1 - Enemy
The roaring dragons of flame engulf the massive spider, creating a cloud of acrid smoke and a foul stench. It screams once more and rounds on the heroes.
Round 1 - Enemy
1d4 ⇒ 4 Markus
Bite, Markus, FF: 1d20 + 16 ⇒ (16) + 16 = 32
Markus, make a Fortitude save of DC 22 or take 1d6 ⇒ 2 strength damage
Round 2 - Heroes
Morbars mighty hammer blow smashes into the huge spiders leg, causing it to Skreeee in pain.
As the strike rains down, a hail of long, thick spines are shaken loose and lance into Morbars exposed arm.
1d6 ⇒ 1
The thick spines drip with a viscous green liquid that plasters the wound and instantly turns Morbars stomach as it spreads up his arm. He begins to cough and gag at the foul smelling stuff.
Nauseated for: 1d4 ⇒ 4 rounds
Sebastian spins away from Estovian and with a blistering turn of speed, is out of the room and halfway down the stairs before the Warden knows what is happening.
Similarly, upon hearing the scream, Markus' first reaction is to help whomever may be in trouble and he closes his eyes and imagines the sitting room the floor below. Calling on the power of his faith he visualises himself there and so it is done.
1d8 ⇒ 6
Markus appears in the sitting room to a scene of bizarre horror.
An enormous spider squats in the centre of the room, furniture spilled over and in disarray. The creature's spiny legs almost fill his vision and it is only with a great force of will that he turns his head from the terror to see the Markiza lying unconscious on the floor beside him and Cilas Greydon scrabbling to retreat into the far corner.
Sebastian, barely out of breath, arrives in the doorway only a second or two later.
Jon casts his spell and makes his way toward the Lodge. Although not armed, Ostovach hefts the shovel he was using and makes after the Oracle.
Morbar: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (13) + 2 = 15
Average = 16
???: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (8) + 1 = 9
Average = 9
Round 1 - heroes
Morbar = 1 round away, Jon = 2 rounds away, Cara = 2 rounds away, Davos = 2 rounds away.
I need to double-check where everyone is;
If anyone is in a different location, please let me know because it will be relevant.
The sweat of your workout drips from your forehead as you set down your helmet and begin the laborious task of unbuckling your plate armor. You sense more than hear movement behind you and as you look up, to your horror, you see the biggest spider you have ever seen, at least with a leg span of 25 feet, crawling hideously over the thicket of the hedge maze and toward the back deck and the doors of the Lodge!
It's movement is startlingly fast for a creature it's size and despite it's massive girth it makes almost no sound. The hairs on your neck and arms stand up and your skin crawls at the sheer unexpected and disturbing nature of what you have just witnessed.
Within seconds, the scremas from within ensue...
Suddenly, you hear and ear-piercing scream shatter the stillness of the day. It came from within the Lodge, somewhere on the ground floor.
I can’t update the map until later but it will take you the following amount of time to get to the source of the scream from where you are:
Morbar = 2 rounds
Can’t say I have. he says, shaking his head. Doesn’t sound like any of the guests or staff here and the Markiza and I spend most of the year at the Lodge. It’s not so bad working for her, although in truth I am more of a plaything than anything else. Still, it’s an easy life and once I make enough to retire I’m done with it. She knows that anyway and is probably already lining up a replacement. In fairness she’s just biding her time until her husband pop his clogs in any case.[/b]
Although you have never read it, you know that Halo Of Dreams is a text about the Desnan faith and it’s spread across Avistan from Varisia.
Nothing troubles me save the constant mountain of work the running of this Lodge causes me and the additional headache of your presence. I mean no offence at that, sir, merely that the best help you could provide me is to leave me alone.
You still don't feel he is being entirely open with you but he doesn't seem willing to discuss the matter.
I wasn't always the pampered pooch of a Markiza, time was that I used to work for a living.
You're probably talking about those three gentlemen dressed in black. Strange, quiet people. I didn't speak to them, just heard them as they were going into Ivanjas tower. The only reason I paid any attention was because I was hoping to secure the services one of her girls that evening. Turns out she was already occupied with those three.
The wound on Jon's leg itches like the devil and he can see thin, black lines of infection crawling along his thigh already.
Cursing loudly, he dresses and heads downstairs. Jon finds that he cannot stomach a heavy breakfast after his disturbed sleep. So after dry toast and tea, he sets out to find the Markiza's man-servant, Ostovach.
The Lodge is large, but even so he doesn't expect it to take so long to find his man. Jon wanders around the Lodge which is mostly empty as the guests must be occupied elsewhere. After about an hour he catches sight of the tall warrior at the stables.
Quiene is mucking out the guest horses and, somewhat to Jon's surprise, Ostovach is helping, wielding his own shovel.
Markus spends another painstaking morning pouring over ancient volumes and other texts, trying to get some hint as to the Whispering Way's purpose.
Although the first hour passes slowly, he stumbles across several old texts on the history of the movement and he feels his interest and excitement grow.
The Whispering Way is a sinister organization of necromancers that has been active in the Inner Sea region for thousands of years.
Agents of the Whispering Way often seek alliances with undead creatures, or are themselves undead. The Whispering Way’s most notorious member was Tar-Baphon, the Whispering Tyrant, although the society itself has existed much longer than even that mighty necromancer. None can doubt the impact of the Whispering Way’s most terrifying adherent, the Whispering Tyrant, upon the very philosophy he rose to power pursuing. During the Age of Enthronement, the wizard-king Tar-Baphon learned of the Whispering Way and wished to use their secrets for his own. Seeking these mysteries, he eventually converted to the Way, becoming one of the most visible and well-known adherents in the history of the group. After his defeat by his greatest enemy, the living god Aroden, Tar- Baphon eventually returned to the world as a powerful lich, gaining the moniker the Whispering Tyrant.
The Whispering Way itself is a series of philosophies that can only be transferred via whispers—the philosophies are never written or spoken of loudly, making the exact goals and nature of the secretive philosophy difficult for outsiders to learn much about.
Exact details on the society are difficult to discern, but chief among the Whispering Way’s goals are discovering formulae for creating liches and engineering the release of the Whispering Tyrant. Agents often travel to remote sites or areas plagued by notorious haunts or undead menaces to perform field research or even to capture unique monsters. Their symbol is a gagged skull, and those who learn too many of the Way’s secrets are often murdered, and their mouths mutilated to prevent
There is even an apparent quote from a member of the Way, a very rare thing indeed;
"Right now, I stand on the bridge between two worlds. I am on the cusp of life and unlife, my soul still in resplendent fervor, while my body tries clinging to its animating spirit. Without my soul, my body will fall into decay, but this is temporary, as it will continue to see rebirth. In my future state, I shall draw my soul close to my breast and keep it even from Pharasma’s judgment. From this secret place, I shall live forever, devoid of bodily needs, able to further my will and continue my work upon the face of this world without the wastes of breath, emotion, or rest. Should my physical form prove unworthy, I will move as a free and intelligent spirit, choosing any vessel I desire when I require the luxury of a physical touch.”
Embracing the very antithesis of life, the Whispering Way calls the ambitious and unscrupulous to embrace a simple, fatalistic philosophy: life holds no value, and its extinction is the gateway to a golden age of order and immortality. Far more than nihilists, adherents of the Whispering Way view the passage into undeath not as a curse or a punishment, but rather the greatest transcendence a living creature can
Some seek lichdom strictly for the power of immortality, while for others it is simply a way to beat time, a way to complete their tasks before falling to the cruel judgment of unexpected death. The philosophy of the Whispering Way attracts cold, calculated, and relatively emotionless people. The path to immortality the Whispering Way offers also attracts megalomaniacal and power-hungry adherents. But either way, given the soul-deep dedication to the philosophy, there are no passive followers. The ties binding members of the Whispering Way are the secrets to an enlightened path to undeath.
He begins to compare notes with Davos who himself is continuing to research the Werewolves of the Shudderwood. Davos is scanning through the traveller's journals that Estovian mentioned when Markus suddenly points out a scrap of paper that seems to be bookmarking a page. Davos, roll a knowledge local or history check with a +4 to continue research the wolves and Highthrone
The journal Davos is currently reading appears to be that of an unnamed traveller, an apparent worshipper of Desna who has recorded several entries describing his pilgrimmage to an ancient, abandoned temple of Desna and observatory in the Shudderwood known as the Stairs of the Moon. The journal includes a description of the temple but is vague about it's location.
These pages are bookmarked with a folded piece of paper, scribbled with a faded note reading, See 'Halo of Dreams' on page 322. Filed under Religion upstairs.