OK, so we have Marcus, Jak, and Zeke digging. Lyrica and Aerik are therefore 'guarding'.
After ten minutes of digging, and making about a 4' deep pit, you strike something hard. You cautiously dig around it until a muddy sphere about 2' across is revealed. Wiping away the mud, you see a perfect sphere made of something like crystal. Beneath the surface, the roiling grey core of the sphere constantly flows and is shot through with yellow and green veins of you-know-not-what. The sphere practically hums with power.
If you want to do something here, let me know, otherwise I'll push on.
Lyrica looks back and forth between the demon, the diggers and the discovery. She gauges the outsider's reaction when the trinket is found. Although she contemplates driving her scimitar into the demon, she stays her hand.
With a good deal of effort, our heroes manage to roll the orb onto the tarp. As promised, it is far heavier than imagined, weighing several hundred pounds. With some effort, the tarp is pulled from the pit and dumped at the Demon's feet. He pats the orb and smiles, well satisfied.
I'll need a Will Save vs DC:25 from all of you... It's dangerous to be in proximity to an AOE demonic artifact.
"Much as I enjoy putting the screws to my debtors...", he glances at Tull and Trannyth, "Let's conclude our business here. I have other clients to visit and this matter has taken far too much of my time." He pulls out - from where you can't say - a rolled skin parchment, secured by six red wax seals... four of which are broken. His claws rub against the two remaining seals.
Will DC 25: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (12) + 4 = 16; +2 if this is a fear effect... not that it looks like it'll matter much.
Jak looks curiously at the orb, then tries to get a peek at the scroll and candles. knowledge: arcana/planes on orb: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (17) + 6 = 23
Perception (to get good look at scroll): 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (10) + 5 = 15
Knowledge: arcana/planes on the scroll/wax seals: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (3) + 6 = 9
It takes some time to register the orb's effect. It is a subtle thing. You feel a small tidal pull in your blood, as if the orb is the moon and your blood the ocean. It seeps through your skin into your bones and organs, burrowing in and lodging there. A metaphorical seed has been planted. Into what will it bloom?
Regarding Jak's rolls... Artifacts are extremely difficult to analyze and learn about (see here).
Jak has never heard of an orb like this or anything similar to it. Aside from a gut level feeling, it is incredibly powerful, he can't penetrate its secrets without more time, resources, or magic.
It seems unlikely any of you would willingly come within reach of this large demon - so assume you are 10'+ away.
The scoundrel eyes the scroll from a distance. It appears to be made of an old skin of some sort and the circular red seals, which seem wax-like, bear an ornate stamp and words in a language none here can recognize. Some of the words vary on each of the seals. The two intact seals, one on the far end and one toward the middle, keep the scroll closed.
Jak steps back from the orb, unconsciously dry-wiping his hands on his clothes. Part of him is almost curious enough to try to learn more about it... the rest of him wants nothing to do with its filthy presence.
"There. Property returned." Jak steels himself, "anything else we should be aware of while we finish with all this?"
Black shakes his head. "No, you've kept your side of the agreement and I shall keep mine.... This town will have nothing to fear after I'm gone."
Black looks at the dealmakers who shiver under his eyeless, faceless, glance. "Time to go." He breaks the two remaining seals with a clean snap... The earth yawns wide like two gaping maws beneath the old woman and the mayor. The black holes seem to inhale, sucking them toward oblivion. Thankfully, the Drearians' mortal eyes aren't allowed to perceive the worlds inside the cracks in reality. The pits open like a wound piercing through all of the 666 layers of Abyss, stacked like a hellish rock strata.
One layer is a steaming canyon boiling with tormented souls. Another is a gnashing cleft more akin to a hungry mouth than sane terrain. A third is a glass-lined pit smeared with blood and shot through with the promise of pain. Yes, it is a good thing our heroes can't see into the unholy rift, for to gaze within it is to invite mental ruin. This is where hope goes to die and reality is consumed. There are no rules... nor laws, nor order, nor hope. The Abyss is a perversion of freedom, a nightmare realm of unmitigated horror where desire and suffering are birthed in horrid demonic form... or worse.
But the Deal-makers' eyes receive no such protection. The Abyss, a sentient being itself, delights in displaying what awaits them. They screech and claw at the fertile soil trying to scratch their way out of the gaping doorway to the now-whispering and now-raving insanity of the Abyss. Clawed hands lash from the Black Pit and grab the old woman by arm, hair, and throat. With a final scream she is yanked into the void. The maw snaps shut.
The mayor struggles against the clawed hands that tear at his flesh, kicking wildly to free himself, His eyes plead and he screams as his sanity melts in the wake of what he has seen, "Please, help me! HELP!" It almost seems as if his struggles are paying off, he pulls himself halfway out of the sucking maw. Then Black kicks the orb at him. The wrecking ball crushes one hand and slams into his face with a tooth-breaking crunch. Trannyth's grip fails. The orb carries him backwards and the clawed hands do the rest, hauling him into the moaning hole between the planes, followed by the orb which tumbles into the darkness. Thankfully, the maw snaps shut.
The rolled skin, now bearing six broken seals, vanishes. The Abyss has claimed its due.
Black dramatically dusts his clawed hands, "Another contract successfully completed." He smiles, "Well, it's a been a pleasure working with you, but I have to go. If you still have that silly poem, you know how to reach me in future - just in case you need help solving that pesky prophecy or something else." He steps backwards away from your group and into a void that suddenly appears behind him. The void and demon vanish in the blink of an eye.
You are left standing in the silent field.
Congratulations! You faced a demon and kept your lives and souls...
You are now 3rd level. Also, your anointed Masterwork items increase to +1.
Marcus can't shake the feeling of dread after witnessing the hellish sight.
The creature that sent the mist...Mr. Black's just a child next to him. What chance do we have against something like that?.
He turns, shoulders slumped, towards the church, trying to find some resolve and coming up empty.
[b]C'mon--let's go tell Galt that the town is safe, at least.
"My dear Sarenrae, protect me! What a horrible sight!" Lyrica sits down on the ground and drops her head as she tries to resolve in her mind the horrific scene she just witnessed. After a moment she speaks. "We have so much to do to bring healing back to this world! I would never have imagined that such evil even existed. So badly did I want to smite that creature down, but it all felt so impossible and hopeless. Was there anything we could have done for those poor souls dragged away to the abyss? I hate to even contemplate what their existence will be like from now on."
Hit Points for Level 3: 1d5 + 5 ⇒ (4) + 5 = 9
Aerik stares in stunned silence as the remaining deal makers are dragged to the Abyss.
I almost tried to make a deal with him.... To help us free those in the stones...
The druid snaps out of his contemplation when Jak runs, and he takes off after him.
"The creature! We have to make sure it's gone!"
Jak and Aerik race back into town, fearing betrayal... They arrive as the townsfolk are coming down the church steps, lead by Galt. "The Demon just stepped out of nothing in front of the church! He touched the Scarecrow and they both just vanished... I've never seen anything like it. Is it over?"
It seems Black is as good as his word, Albridge is safe.
Jak slows to a halt, hands on knees, gulping air. "I think so." He looks around, still not fully believing that Black upheld his end of the bargain. "Unless Bl--" he stops himself, still feeling a bit paranoid. "... uh... the demon lied to us, this whole deal should be behind all of us."
He looks at the gathered, frightened townsfolk, then over to Mordecai and Father Galt. "I think it's smart to find somewhere private and tell you all about it."
Lyrica wipes a few tears away, stands up and follows the others into town. She is filled with mixed emotions, feeling that she wished she could have done more, but also grateful to be alive and to have saved the town from some worse fate. Lyrica joins the townsfolk and celebrates the the fact that the demon has fled and promised not to come back. She just hopes it ever remains so.
Speaking with those who remain, Lyrica remarks, "That demon will never bother you again, so long as nobody ever goes looking for trouble from it. Let's thank the Dawnflower that we are alive and have each other."
Jak nods, then turns to Marcus. ”You guys are welcome to join us when the others arrive.” Then he follows Galt.
Mordecai is in here, too, right? If not, Jak would have gone out of his way to include the man in this conversation. And obviously, everyone (from the Drear) should join this convo whenever they like.
Jak closes the door behind himself, a calm finally beginning to settle over him after all the terror. ”I can’t say that wasn’t terrifying and horrible, but at least we think it’s done.” He quickly recounts all of the events that happened while the townsfolk were hidden in the church, being delicate about the more horrific or terrible details where possible. ”Then he said the contract was complete and disappeared. I’m assuming that’s when he appeared in front of the church and took his … toy with him.” Jak presses on his temples with his fingertips, as if the pressure could remove some of the memories from his mind’s eye. ”So everyone here should hopefully be in the clear… though I have no clue what is in store for you folks moving forward. I don’t know what kind of troubles you were having with your crops that forced the elders to make the deal in the first place, so I have no way of knowing if hard times will return. I’d obviously suggest avoiding deals with demons to make things better.” He gives a laugh, but it’s weak and tinged with the echoes of horror.
There is a brief halt before he continues, ”I also can’t account for the other problems you folks have been having. The walking dead and the crazy animals… we’ve had a fair bit of that up our way over the last month or so, and I don’t know if it’s going to stop. I’d consider that as you make your plans for the future. It could get tough to protect everyone, but you're good folk. You’ve survived this long; I have faith you can tough this out, too.”
There is another pause, but this time he looks between Father Galt and Mordecai, his face thoughtful. ”There is one other option, though… something I thought of when I was futilely trying to come up with a way to deal with … this last nasty business. I wanted to mention this earlier to you guys, but I wasn’t willing to deal with that demon to come chat with you in private…” he pauses, having to collect his thoughts from that particular tangent.
”Anyway, as we’ve mentioned before, we’re from a smallish town to the west of here… over the ridges. Dies Drear. It’s not much to look at, i suppose, but there’s good folk there. Whatever troubles you’ve seen with the walking dead and mists, we had, too… only I think we might have been closer to the source. We got hit hard. Lost a lot of good folk” There’s a haunted look in his eyes as he remembers his decimated hometown, the faces of friends and family he’d never seen again. ”But we’re survivors. And tough. We’ve had hard times before, and we’ll roll up our sleeves and rebuild. I say all this because you should know you’ve got friends if you need them. I don’t know if your lands will go back to normal or not. Or if your folk will be able to put all this behind them. But if you need help. Or if for some reason you can’t stay in Albridge… whether that’s just a few of you or if it’s everyone… you have a place you can come.”
Jak settles back, looking tired but resolute. ”I can’t guarantee the trip will be easy. And I surely can’t guarantee that it’ll be easier times when you get up there. But we’re good folk. We work hard and take care of each other. I can vouch for any of your townsfolk who want to take me up on the offer. But the town is short-handed, with a lot of work to rebuild,” his voice drops, ”… and we’ve far too many empty beds, now.” HIs voice picks back up at he comes to his finish. ”Anyone who wants to get away from here, and is willing to risk the trip and pull their weight in the Drear… well, they’d be welcome.”
Mordecai and a couple other townsfolk are there along with Galt.
Galt says, "We appreciate all that you folks have done for us. That's a debt we can't repay. I can't speak for anyone specifically, but there may be some people who want a fresh start after all this. I'll let any of those folks know that we have friends over the mountains and there is good work to be done there."
If you guys want to chat more with townies, let me know. Or if you'd prefer a bit of a fast-forward to head back to Muuscarta (to pick up Jak's dad) and head back to Drear, speak up.
”Anyone who wants to get away from here, and is willing to risk the trip and pull their weight in the Drear… well, they’d be welcome.”
"I can vouch for what Jak is saying. The Drear was a wonderful place to grow up and I think you would find it to be a nice place to resettle."
Lyrica, overhearing Jak's offer speaks to him in private at the next opportune moment. "Jak, I'm really impressed with that offer. I mean, that was really thoughtful. I'm impressed that you are thinking of others. I'm sure these folk would do well in the Drear."
Jak turns to Lyrica, his tone playfully hurt. "What to you mean? I'm always thinking of others." His smile turns mischievous, and he winks at her, "Hells, I'm thinking of Allegra right now."
Jak doens't have much more for any particular Albridians (Albridgites?) ... pushing forward to the trip out or meeting up with Jak's da would be great with me.
Though, actually, now that I think on it, did Jak's da give Jak anything to look for while in Albridge? Any goods that would be particularly useful? On that same note, he'd definitely ask around in Albridge if there is anything they want to be selling... any goods, food, or items they want him to trade for them.
Jak spends a few hours drifting around town. His demeanor is encouraging and upbeat. He jokes with those up for it, and consoles and encourages those who need it. But to a person, he talks of home, hope, and opportunity... asking nearly anyone who's interested if there's anything they'd like to send with Jak to trade. Or if there's anything this town needs that the Drear may be able to provide... lumber, raw materials, or otherwise.
Their latest cache of crops haven't been harvested yet so the Albridgians have nothing they need to sell for the moment, though they appreciate the offer.
Jak's Da wasn't planning to conduct business further than Muuscarta (unless things have changed) Jak doesn't need to be on the lookout for anything in particular.
Fast Forward: 1
Hang in Albridge: 0
The Drearians pack up, receive more thanks from the locals, and eventually get on the road to Muuscarta. Six weary days later, the footsore travelers arrive in Muuscarta and the strange tent encampment on the far side of the road. Jak checks around town and finds out that his father completed his business and left for Drear with a wagon-load of supplies two days ago.
Pausing briefly in case anyone has something to do in Muuscarta.
Hand of Fate: 1d100 - 5 ⇒ (34) - 5 = 29 | Danger Level: 1d5 ⇒ 2
Muuscarta to Dies Drear
Hand of Fate: 1d100 + 5 ⇒ (95) + 5 = 100 | Danger Level: 1d5 ⇒ 4
Hour: 1d24 ⇒ 16
Watch L - HR 06-07
Watch A - HR 04-05
Watch M - HR 02-03
Watch E - HR 24-01
Watch J - HR 22-23
ALL UP - HR 08-21
Drear to Teeth
Hand of Fate: 1d100 ⇒ 96 | Danger Level: 1d5 ⇒ 2
Hour: 1d24 ⇒ 13
Watch L - HR 06-07
Watch A - HR 04-05
Watch M - HR 02-03
Watch E - HR 24-01
Watch J - HR 22-23
ALL UP - HR 08-21
Given the dangers of the road, our heroes press on to catch up with Mattin Howell. It is a day later when they hear the clack clack of his wagon-wheels on the cobbled road. His time in Muuscarta was far less eventful than yours in Albridge but he is returning with a wagon-load of goods.
Assume that you have told him of of your adventures. If you want to discuss some aspect in character, feel free.
Your combined group begins the long journey back to the Drear. You follow the road as long as possible and then skirt aside into the low mossy woods that lead to the bogs where the Wishika pours into the lowlands. You travel for another two days winding your way to the gorge that leads up the mountain. In that time, the only thing you see that appears vaguely threatening, are the fleeting forms of wolves. Unfortunately, you see them every day. On the third day, as you begin to climb the mountains, hemmed in by the protecting gorge, it becomes clear that the wolves are pacing you. They hover in the distances, sometimes on the gorge walls above you and other times behind you.
"Greetings, Mr. Howell. I just want to say that your son, Jak, has proved himself to be a very able warrior and has shown a great deal of courage against some of the greatest evil I have ever seen. You should be very proud of him."
Do I know some way to try to throw them off our trail? Barring that, I`d like to try to build some snares and set up some alarm systems, like ropes with metal hanging on them at the perimeter of our camp when we hunker down for the night. Here`s some skill rolls to be used as needed.
Survival: 1d20 + 10 ⇒ (10) + 10 = 20
Knowledge Nature: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (6) + 8 = 14
Disable Device: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (14) + 9 = 23
Aerik, can you speak to them, make them leave us be? Marcus asks, gesturing to the wolves.
Jak covers his own genuine surprise at Lyrica’s words, ”She’s being nice… the whole thing was a disaster.” He grins, ”But I guess I’m a bit conditioned to squeak by in cases of disaster, huh? And you can keep the sovereign; buy me a few rounds when we get home, instead.”
He look up at Marcus’s words, trying to follow the big man’s eyes into the distance. ”Hells, but I didn’t even see them.” He looks between Marcus and Aerik, his voice light, ”What are the chances they’re also just on their way home?”
The day and the trail winds on... As the sun nears the horizon, the Drearians enter a less claustrophobic portion of the gorge. They aren't alone. On the ridge ahead, several patchy-furred wolves wait and watch. Their eyes glow in the half-light of evening. Beside them - and to one side - a two-headed wolf of massive build and proportions, watches as well. Behind your group, the trap swings shut. A trio of wolves, lean and hungry, cautiously stalk forward, their throats filled with growls, their ears laid back flat against their skulls. Their eyes glow unnaturally.
The two-headed beast stalks from its perch and moves among its smaller brethren on its way to the trail leading down to the river and the wagon.
INIT: WWK, Lyrica, Jak, Aerik, Wolves, Ez, Marcus, Wagon
A's HPs: 24|24
E's HPs: 18|18
J's HPs: 27|27
L's HPs: 38|38
M's HPs: 32|32
E's Init: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (5) + 3 = 8
J's Init: 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (12) + 3 = 15
L's Init: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (18) + 1 = 19
M's Init: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (2) + 2 = 4
WW's Init: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (9) + 2 = 11
WWK's Init: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (20) + 7 = 27
Lyrica immediately draws her scimitar and tightens her grip on her shield.
"Let's all stick together my friends. We must watch each other's back. Don't let them flank us. Have courage! Here they come!
The paladin readies an action to strike at any wolf or beast who comes within range of her drawn blade.
By your almighty fire, Sarenrae, give me the strength to strike down these vile beasts!
Jak's head swivels north and south, and he curses under his breath as he tries to identify these beasts. Would Knowledge: Arcana/dungeon/local/planes ID these particular wolves or their abilities?
Knowledge: all those listed: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (8) + 6 = 14
"Lyrica and Marcus, why don't you two keep an eye on that ... um ... two-headed wolf?" He draws out his whip, uncoiling it with a smooth thwip, and it slithers after him as he moves to a rear-defending position. "Aerik. Zeke. One of you wanna help me watch our tail?"
He looks up at his father, "Da. The Drear needs those supplies. Can you keep the team hitched and under control? If things go badly, we gotta make sure those supplies get home."
Move to AF.12, drawing whip on the move. Then ready an action to begin Inspire Courage when the wolves attack.
Mattin watches the wolves and nods, "I'll do what I can." He tightens his hold on the reins.
Best Save: Reflex
Attacks: Bite and bump
Defenses: Undead traits
Special: great move base
Weird Wolf King
Best Save: Will
Attacks: Bites + Trips
Defenses: Immune to cold; Undead traits; DR: 5/Bludgeoning
Special: excellent move base
Howl of Despair (sickening effect)
Lyrica prepares for battle as Jak quickly moves to the rear of the wagon and readies his whip.
Aerik is UP.
Jak wracks his brain, trying to shout out the most important bits of what he remembers from stories. "They're mist-twisted wolves. Fast and dangerous. Bludgeon the big one (DR/Bludgeoning). Don't let 'em trip you and cover your ears if the big one tries to howl!"
Hope that's not too much for a free action (on a round where he's already shouted stuff out, anyway).
I swear I prepared my spell list before looking at the thread where Jak told us to use bludgeoning. Stone Call is just too cool not to use. ;)
"Accursed mist! I'll lay you to rest, brothers."
Aerik grasps the wooden symbol around his neck and points at the lead wolf and his minions. A rain of stone and dirt cascades upon them.
Aerik casts Stone Call centered at N-11, hitting all 4 foes, no save.
Stone Call Damage: 2d6 ⇒ (4, 5) = 9
Difficult terrain in 40-ft radius: 3 rounds
"There, that should slow them down a bit."
He backs up Zeke, moving to AG 15, his now magic shield out in front of him.
""Lyrica and Marcus, why don't you two keep an eye on that ... um ... two-headed wolf?"
"I will do what I can, Jak, but are you sure that my wooden club is going to do more against that beast than my scimitar?"
Slowed substantially by the rocky terrain, the wolves on the escarpment are still able to pick their way down onto the open plain, closing in on Marcus and Lyrica. Up close, the beasts can't be mistaken for natural wolves. Their skins hang loose on their flesh and motley chunks of fur are missing from their coats. And no animal's eyes glow with a yellow light like corpse candles.
The three wolves behind the group lope forward, amid growls, with alarming speed. One sprints from the far side of the river, fords the Wahika expertly, and climbs onto the near shore near Jak - wet and stinking. The other two head for the wagon until they are intercepted by the druid. They leap onto Aerik, teeth flashing. Aerik bashes one wolf aside but opens his defense to the other beast. It rushes in and tears a chunk of flesh near his knee.
The yellow area indicates difficult terrain.
INIT: WWK, Lyrica, Jak, Aerik, Wolves, Ez, Marcus
A's HPs: 27|35
E's HPs: 18|18
J's HPs: 27|27
L's HPs: 38|38
M's HPs: 32|32
Bite HIT: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (3) + 4 = 7
DAM: 1d6 + 2 ⇒ (1) + 2 = 3
Weird Wolf (20/2x) vs AC:18
Bite HIT: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (20) + 4 = 24 Crit?
Confirm: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (7) + 4 = 11 No
DAM: 6 + 2 = 8
The yellow area indicates difficult terrain.
AC19 FF16 T13 CMD20
1st Level Infusions 3+1/day:
Extracts: Cure Light Wounds, 3 open
Horror Points: 1
Hero Points: 2
Zeke steps forward and strikes out with his staff against the wolf next to Aerik. "Down!"
Attack: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (2) + 5 = 7
Damage: 1d6 + 4 ⇒ (1) + 4 = 5