The Seven Cities of the Gervasti

Session 31 - Mekketh Strikes

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Session 30 - The Rising Tide

Back in the real world, Tatiana holds a small memorial service for Pandarus, and buries him in the Orlovsky family plot. She also writes a letter to his brother, explaining Pandarus’ innocence in the death of his niece.

Next, they travel to Novo Ostia. Tatiana meets with Geneveive and explains what’s happened. They give the Sage all of Mairin’s notes on the lich ritual, and she agrees to study them to see if there’s anything she can do for Tatiana.

Then they go shopping. Udett sets some considerable money aside to commission a statue of Harconus, patron of Novo Ostia, to be revealed after the defeat of Mekketh.

Later the next day, a commotion erupts along the docks, and quickly spreads throughout the stressed capital. The rushes to the docks, and sees dead fish wash up on the shore in vast numbers, a tide of death. As the people begin to panic, several bodies and parts of ship hulls also roll in.

The party hurries to the city hall, and the mayor and governor issue a joint order giving them command of a galley to go investigate. They head out past the breakers into the sea, and find the epicenter of the death. The captain tells them that this spot is called the Blessing – sailors try to sail through this specific spot as it is said to grant them good luck and safe journeys. The site has obviously been corrupted, however; the feeling of desecration and violation is palpable. As they watch, a sizable chunk of a warships’s prow is spotted, topped with the wicked ram of the Hell-Borne Howl, the Buzzard’s falgship. Soon after, the party spots a body floating in the wreckage dressed in finery. They fish the corpse out and confirm that Demetrius the Buzzard is dead.

Udett summons an orca to investigate, and the creature reports (via Carbonel) a rocky formation on the sea floor. With the help of a cleric, they descend into the water with water breathing and find a coral formation shaped like a cupped hand. Carved into the ‘palm’ of the hand like an angry, infected cut is a symbol – the personal sigil of Cassibellaunus the Traitor. Udett puts the pieces together: someone, likely Mekketh, has desecrated a Spring holy site and sacrificed the sea life and the sailors to empower the summoning of his ally, the fallen Spring knight.

Returning to shore, the party sees that panic has gripped the city. While Tatiana sneaks off to the Eyrie to visit her imprisoned family, the others help to restore law and order. The Eyrie is staffed with only a (non-literal) skeleton crew, and Aiden helps Tatiana get to the cell where her aunt and uncle are being held. She explains everything that’s happened; the destruction of the manor, the death of the servants, but also the truth behind what happened to her husband and child. Her uncle, who always believed she was innocent, is relieved to hear that she’s uncovered the truth. He asks Tatiana to help exonerate them, but explains that Gustaf has been trying to get them to blame Tatiana for the chamber beneath the manor. He says that they will not lie for their own sake and give him Tatiana, and he asks her to explain things to Gustaf and free them only when it’s safe for her to do so.

Over the next few days, the party consults with wizards and Spring cults on the possibility of summoning Cassibellaunus’ sister Hrothbeorta Ragetorrent to help counter Mekketh’s new ally. Hrothbeorta hates Mekketh with a bottomless depth, but the rituals to summon her to the plane are vastly expensive and complex, and the party cannot come to a satisfactory deal. However, after three days of fruitless negotiation, Udett receives an invitation from Lord Harconus.

In one of the many sitting rooms of Stately Harconus Manor, Harconus makes Udett an offer in simple terms: he knows what she’s been trying to accomplish over the past few days, and in exchange for every copy of the stolen ledger and Mayor Edmund, Harconus will pay for the summoning. The party will gain a powerful ally in their fight against Mekketh, but Harconus’ position will be come more powerful and stable than ever, and they’ll lose all of their evidence of his evil deeds. After some discussion with the rest of the party, Udett decides to take Harconus’ deal.

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Session 29 - The Fate of Souls

Backtracking, the party finds that the negative energy plane wall was dispelled when the furnace was stopped. They follow the bridge into the darkness, and come upon a huge platform that contains a shadowy reflection of the Temple of Elemental Evil. It’s not the current, real world Temple, which lies in ruins – it’s the Temple as it was twenty years ago, at the height of it’s power.

The Temple is staffed by dead-eyed shadowy guards. When Udett tells them that Tatiana is expected by Mairin, they allow the party to enter without resistance. All eyes follow Tatiana as they walk into the thriving Temple.

In the heart of the Temple, they reach the stairs that descend to the basement. At the bottom, the huge brozne doors are standing but ajar, and the room beyond hasn’t been collapsed in yet. Inside, Mairin waits, accompanied by an Enigma and a ghostly shade of Lareth the Beautiful, before the Knights of Kalmor wounded him. This is the room where Lareth and the cultists of the Eye tried to summon their fungal monstrosity twenty years ago. Next to a deep pit in the center of the room, Pandarus lies curled up in a ball. He watched himself kill his niece in Mairin’s recordings, and his will is broken.

Mairin again offers Tatiana a chance to join her for the sake of her soul; she says that Tatiana asked her to perform the ritual, so that Tatiana could become more powerful herself – she willingly sacrificed her family. Tatiana can’t remember any of this, but she can’t tell if the necromancer is lying. She plays her card, and demands that Mairin tell her the truth of what really happened to her. Compelled by the Edda, Mairin divulges the truth: Tatiana did not volunteer for the ritual, and did not kill her family. Mairin tried to compel her, with and without magic, to kill them, but Tatiana refused, so Mairin killed them herself. She altered the recordings once she knew that Tatiana and Pandarus would enter her tower and see them; the fake versions were designed to break their spirits.

Mairin is outraged that she was forced to tell the truth, and once Pandarus hears this, he snaps out of his despair. From the pit, the shade of the beast the Eye tried to summon decades ago emerges; Zuggtmoy, the fungal queen. The beast lashes out from the pit, picking up Annar and squeezing him tightly while emitting a cloud of mind-numbing spores. Mairin retreats behind a wall of blindness and starts slinging spells, while the Engima charges Ingmar and Pandarus and drags them upstairs into the main temple.

At the start of the fight, Mairin seems unstoppable, tossing massive spells at the party while Zuggtmoy’s long reach and the shade of her former lover Lareth keeps the necromancer safe. Tatiana, though, will not stand for it; emboldened by the truth, she charges past the beast and through the wall of blindness, shrugging off spells and curses. Mairin’s ancient body is propped up by powerful necromancy, but Tatiana fights like she’s never fought before. Mairin goes from gloating over Tatiana’s inevitable defeat, to asking her to reconsider, to begging Tatiana to spare her life. In the end, Mairin wails that if Tatiana kills her, Tatiana will never get her soul back. Tatiana replies that justice is more important, and mortally wounds Mairin. After the necromancer falls, Tatiana breaks down Zuggtmoy’s guard, allowing Tomas to perforate the beast.

With the fight over, Mairin begs for her life one last time. Instead, Tatiana uses her death touch to send her to the next life, as painfully as possible.

Pandarus returns from the top floor, carrying a wounded Ingmar with him. The darkness of the tower and the despair that briefly swallowed him have taken their toll, and his soul is quickly fading. He’s become too powerful, and too dangerous, to return to the real world. Instead, he explains to Tatiana how to open a portal back home, thanks her for believing in him, says farewell, and jumps into the pit.

With Mairin dead, her tower begins to crumble, dissolving back into the Shadow. Quickly the party grabs her staff, her enchanted belt, and her spell books, before fleeing back to the real world.

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Session 28 - Into Mairin's Tower

After two days without word from the party, Pandarus begins to panic. He charges into the chamber of eyes, and with Tomas on his heels, he rips a portal to the Plane of Shadows open with his bare hands and enters. It closes before Tomas can follow, but the spirits of the land that he communes with are familiar with the area, and teach him how to open the portal for himself.

Tomas follows Pandarus, but loses him as Pandarus begins to get stronger and faster, charging right towards the tower. Tomas passes right by Nori’s shack where the rest of the party are finishing up a night’s rest. Together they follow Pandarus to the tower.

Mairin’s tower is indeed build on the plot of land that belongs to Flynn. The cold iron doors are locked, but they open for Tatiana. Inside, the tower is vastly larger than it appears on the outside. Rather than rooms, it contains islands of stone linked by bridges that float in the midst of endless blackness. In the first chamber, the party are stopped by Mairin’s guards; a shadow giant and a group of corpse rooks, huge three-headed ravens. An illusion of Mairin appears, offering Tatiana the opportunity to come to her peacefully. She promises to reverse the damage to Tatiana’s soul if Mairin is allowed to study her and learn the final steps to becoming a lich. Tatiana rejects the offer, and a fight begins. One of the rooks knocks Annar off the platform, and together they fall into the darkness. The giant is brutally strong, and drains life energy with each hit, but eventually he falls. The remaining rooks try to back Tomas and Udett into a corner, forcing the archer to draw his sword for the first time. After the rooks are put down, Ingmar cuts the giant’s solid gold breastplate off of the body and starts dragging it around with him as they go deeper into the tower.

The next bridge contains a T intersection, and the party goes right, following Tatiana’s intuition. They find a chamber contained Mairin’s accumulated notes on her experiments, as well as illusory playbacks of each instance. They learn that Mairin has done this to 13 people, Pandarus and Tatiana being the two most recent. Nine of the first 11 are dead, while the other two are undead spirits. They watch the recording of Tatiana’s session, and see Tatiana strangle her husband and child with a silken scarf. Once they’re dead, Mairin slits Tatiana’s throat and soaks up the blood with the scarf in a ritual. Pandarus’ recording is very similar – they watch as he stabs his niece in the neck with his leather awl, then as Mairin does the same to him. Tatiana is devastated, but Udett chooses to watch the recording twice for, uh, some reason I don’t remember, but it was hilariously cruel.

They gather the notes and move on. They reach a wall made of the negative energy plane itself, and decide to turn back rather than press through. Down the other path, they find a giant furnace, with a positive energy elemental trapped inside. Pipes falling off the platform’s sides seem to pour the ambient negative energy into the furnace, torturing the positive elemental and generating arcane power for Mairin’s use. The furnace is tended by a pair of Engimas, a Tenebrous Worm, and a clutch of negative energy elementals. The party cuts down the enemies, killing the worm before it’s dangerous acid can harm anyone. They free the positive elemental during the fight, but rather than flee it stays to heal the party, and is destroyed before they can save it. As the fight ends, Annar slams into the ground, having wrestled with the corpse rook through space and time.

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Session 27 - The Plane of Shadows

The party rests, then follows the wizard into the Plane of Shadows. Pandarus stays behind to stay safely out of Mairin’s grasp, and Tomas hunts down a few of Bleda’s orcs who had escaped and now threaten the town.

In the Plane of Shadows, the party spots the wizard waiting for them in the smoldering reflection of the Orlovsky manor. They attack, and in turn are attacked by the shadows of the dead servants, who blame Tatiana for their deaths. They’re led by Enterro, the family majordomo, who always believed that Tatiana was guilty. The shadows kill the surprised wizard, then turn on the party, but they’re dispatched.

Having taken from negative energy damage and drain from the shadows, they retreat from the manor to Nori’s shack to rest up. From there, they can see the outline of a massive tower that reaches into the clouds. It looks like it’s built on the site of Flynn’s plot of land in the real world. While they rest, Udett’s former Patron approaches the hut in the form of a night hag that resembles Udett. She’s come to punish the witch for turning her back on the Shadow. Dozens of gigantic scorpions emerge from the shadows and storm the hut, ripping the walls apart to get to Udett and the party, and especially Carbonel. Annar and Ingmar break through the scorpions, however, and rush the Patron, who falls to their blades. As her avatar dies, the Patron admits that she’s pleased with Udett’s strength, despite her betrayal.

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Session 26 - Mairin, Bleda, and the Fire

-After looting the magic items from the bandits and the gold they paid to the orcs, the party briefly tries to question the bound witchwyrd. He claims to know nothing about Mekketh or the banner, that he only came to the Fort to steal valuables. They don’t quite believe him, so they knock him out and prepare to question him again tomorrow, but at some point he manages to escape, dimension dooring away with a racial ability. He doesn’t take any of their loot, he simply leaves. On the way out, they take the large sapphire and place it in the bag of holding.

-As they’ve been questing against Mekketh, Udett’s religious stance has changed. It began in earnest when she replaced CeeCee with Carbonel, but now she’s decided to turn away from Oda and has now chosen Adelais as her patron. Carbonel approves.

-One of Carbonel’s abilities allows him to commune with higher up members of the Spring Court. Udett and the party create a list of questions which Carbonel seeks the answers to.

1. Is the creature trapped in the gem within our possession evil? Yes.
2. Would it be wise to try and fine a way to free the soul trapped in the gem? No.
3. Is the plan to attack the Three Cities with the Hill People army Mekketh’s primary plan? Probably not.
4. Given our abilities and relics, is it within our ability to defeat Mekketh at this moment? Not without cost.
5. Is Lord Harconus a member of the cult of the Elder Elemental Eye? No.
6. Is Lord Harconus working with elements of the EEE? Not that he’s aware of.

-The party asks the Spring cults in town if they know what to do with the gem. They agree that freeing whatever is trapped inside is a bad idea, but they also suggest not returning it to the Inquisition. When they ask Ladon about giving the gem to the Inquisition, he agrees with the cults. During the occupation, the Inquisition frequently targeted Gervasti cults as potential fiendish cults. The party decides to keep the gem in the bag of holding for now.

-The party heads towards Graftena, deciding to stop in Kastoria on the way there. The find the villagers in a panic, however – a group of orcs have stormed Orlovsky Manor and taken the servants captive. They’re demanding to see Tatiana and Pandarus. Nori says that Drake led some men to try and drive them out, but all of his soldiers were beaten back by a single orc warrior.

-The party approaches the manor. Since they want Pandarus, they convince him to stay behind while Udett disguises herself as Pandarus. Tomas stays behind to protect Pandarus and make sure no one else escapes or approaches, and the others move towards the front doors, which are waiting open for them. Carbonel scouts ahead, and finds that the captives are bunched together in the dining hall in the northwestern corner of the mansion.

-The leader of the Orcs, Bleda, says that Mairin has hired him and his band to bring Tatiana and Pandarus to her. In exchange, Mairin will teach them how to teach them how to destroy their immortal souls and escape the cursed cycle of rebirth. He also threatens to kill the servants and the rest of the party if Tatiana and Pandarus don’t come quietly.

-The don’t come quietly. Bleda’s wizard kills the servants with an icy blast, then sets the manor on fire with a wall of fire. During the fight, Bleda reveals that he is the Bride of Knives’ father, and he gave the ribbon that Annar now wears to his daughter on her wedding night in case she ever needed to kill Umus.

-Bleda and his orcs are killed, but the wizard escapes in the chaos. The party tracks him to the chamber of eyes beneath the manor, when they see him escape into a shadowy portal. They retrieve a charm from Bleda’s corpse that allows them to follow the escaping wizard.

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Session 25 - Fort Invictus

-After healing the damage from the behir, the party enters the fort. In the central stairwell leading to the top floor, a group of orcs ambush the party, raining arrows down as the party ascend the stairs. Orcs with longspears lunge at the party as they climb, but Tatiana slips past them easily to engage the archers. Once she does, however, an orc monk rushes out from hiding and savagely beats her unconscious. Naming himself Megisthus, he threatens to kill Tatiana if the party doesn’t surrender. Instead, Udett casts unadulterated loathing on Megisthus, forcing the orc to flee from Tatiana. He jumps down the stairwell into the basement below, then escapes while the party finishes off the other orcs.

-Descending into the basement, the party finds Megisthus’ blood trail, and they follow it. They pass through a trophy room which had already been sacked of everything except a large sapphire resting in a fine golden cage. Ingmar spots a powerful magical aura on it, and Udett determines that it might contain a trapped creature, but they leave it for the time being and continue on.

-The party enters the final chamber of the basement, and finds the remaining orcish bandits readying a stand against them. Megisthus and the harpy are both here, as is a grey-skinned, four armed man. Udett remembers reading about his kind before – he is a witchwyrd (no relation), a people who live in the jungles far to the east of Lavinia.

-Both sides attack. The witchwyrd casts a spell that causes the air around the party to ring distractingly. Tomas kills the harpy before she can react, then Udett drops a stinking cloud onto the orcs, breaking them up and forcing the witchwyrd back. Tatiana stays back from the fighting, preventing Megisthus from joining. After the orcs go down, the witchwyrd appears behind the party and traps Ingmar in a resilient sphere. He tries to dispel Udett’s unadulterated loathing, then tries to kill Tatiana, anything to get Megistus back into the fight, but the party knocks him out before he can succeed. Megisthus, unable to engage or retreat, takes his own life to spare his honor.

-Once the bandits are all taken care of, the party retrieves several magical items from the leaders that they had taken from the trophy room. Next, Annar approaches the sealed vault door the witchwyrd was trying to break through, and the imperial seal dispels the protective wards and opens the vault doors. Inside, the party finds the Banner of St. Sebastian, a white banner bearing a golden griffon with the power to prevent dimensional travel in a significant area.

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Session 24 - The Treaty

-After being told by the archsage to drop their investigation into the builder of the marrow stone golem, Ingmar writes several letters requesting the bardic colleges and the Knights of Kalmor do some research on the renegade sage from Vaasa from 70 years ago.

-Tomas asks around at the Tower if someone could use Mekketh’s blood to make Slaying arrows – a sage named Kirby could make them, but the price he quotes Tomas is too steep for the ranger at the moment. Tomas gifts Kirby the blood, who is more than happy to receive it.

-Since Genevieve has said that Tatiana’s condition isn’t improving, she starts to practice her death touch more, using rats from the docks. She does notice that she no longer feels the cold of the winter winds.

-Heading into Zeta’s kindgom, the party passes through a Lavinian village. Similar in size to Kastoria, the village of Ixos is a fortified garrison town, like every Lavinian community in the frontiers. The locals have a significant amount of Gervasti heritage, but they speak and identify as Lavinian. Most of the legionaries stationed in the village wield Gervasti made arms and armor.

-At the local inn (the Shrew and Cat), they ask the locals more about Lavinia, Zeta, and the Hill Person Crankus. The Empire has been in a near constant state of civil war since the Imperator disappeared 60 years ago. Currently, three different claimants to the throne are vying for power.

-Prior to declaring herself Legate, Zeta was a sub-commander in the legion. When the previous Legate died, she named herself Legate with the support of the soldiers and the other officers rather than let one of the rival factions in the remnants of the Empire appoint a Legate who wouldn’t have the local’s best interests at heart. The local citizens and legionaries are firmly in support of Zeta – either they think that she rightfully deserves the title of Legate, or she’s the best bet they have for stability and prosperity, or she provides a steady paycheck for the soldiers.

-They don’t learn much about Crankus in the first village, but a few days later down the highway they meet a legionary who has served in Zeta’s compound. When Ingmar provides him with free drinks, he starts talking – Crankus is a hulking brute of a man, with a short temper and a violent attitude when angry. These are the normal prejudices most Lavinians have about all Gervasti, but the legionary says that they’re all doubly true for Crankus. The Hill Person came east in search of fortune, and when he found Zeta he joined her. He suggests that he’s subordinate to her in public and in bed as well.

-In addition to the rumors about Zeta and Crankus, they hear about Decimus – the renegade Wordspeaker was executed by Commander Numa soon after he was brought back to Numa’s camp.

-After a week and a half on the road, the party reaches Zeta’s capital of Samnia. Samnia is Ixos writ large – a fully fortified city, it’s stone walls manned by legionaries. As with the other settlements, the gate guards ask them why they’re here – Tatiana says that they’re here to look into investing in the salt trade. The guards don’t bat an eye at this. Weapons in Samnia are limited – non-citizens can either surrender them, or pay a bond. All of hte party pay the bond to keep their weapons, except Tatiana, who has nothing to declare.

-Before approaching the central fort that is Zeta’s administrative center, the party stops in a tavern. Ingmar asks around for some retired legionaries who could be hired as mercenaries, teachers, and engineers to help defend Kastoria. Several Lavinians volunteer, and with Annar’s soldierly eye Ingmar identifies several who actually have the skills and experience they claim to. Ingmar keeps them in mind, but doesn’t hire anyone yet.

-The party approaches the central fort and asks for an audience with Zeta. Surprisingly, she grants them an audience in short order. The party is led into an office with a portico that overlooks the salt pan bays that make Samnia so rich. Zeta is here, along with a handful of guards, a Wordspeaker, and a giant of a Gervasti man – Crankus.

-Zeta starts by saying that she’s heard of the party from Numa, and thanks them for their help in bringing the murderer to justice. They give her the letter of introduction from Governor Ladon. Before they proceed any further, Zeta has her Wordspeaker cast a zone of truth. Somehow Annar is the only one who manages to translate the spell – he forgoes his save, but everyone else resists successfully.

-Ingmar starts by showing Zeta a copy of the ledger, and saying that they suspect Harconus of being involved in illegal deals. Zeta confirms that the salt for weapons trades listed in the ledger are accurate, but they are legal, and she denies any knowledge of any illegal activity. She also states that she’d like Demetrius’s head on a spike, and puts a 1500 gp price on his head, as he’s interfering with her trade as well, but he’s not a high enough priority to deal with right now. Zeta takes this opportunity to read through the entire ledger, not just the parts concerning her, but no one stops her.

-Annar says that they know that Harconus is getting a very good deal on Zeta’s salt, and that they suspect he’s taking advantage of her. She admits that he has set the price and it isn’t favorable for her, but when Ingmar asks why she allows it, she declines to answer.

-Next the party brings up the eruption at the well of souls under Watcher’s Mount. Zeta says that Numa’s report on the situation was detailed, and while the party says the threat is greater than Numa suspects, Zeta trusts that her commander can withstand the Fallen should they enter her kingdom.

-The party comes to Lothar and his army of Hill People. They describe his forces, and Zeta questions why they believe he’s a threat. The party answers that they believe Mekketh and his ability to create ghouls are the true threat.

-At this point, Zeta explains her position. Harconus is able to set such a favorable price for Zeta’s salt because she needs his arms and armor to equip her legion and secure her eastern border. The major powers in the civil war would like to take Samnia and it’s rich salt pans, but Zeta won’t go without a fight. At this point, she proposes a treaty: in exchange for formal recognition of her legitimacy from Novo Ostia and a pact of mutual defense from any of her Lavinian rivals, Zeta will give the party the location of an Inquisitorial temple in her lands. The Inquisitors specialized in combating demons and devils, and any relics they might have left there when they abandoned the place would be fully effective against Mekketh. The party can’t make this agreement on their own, but they agree to return to Novo Ostia and try and convince the leaders to accept.

-The party waits for a brief time while the treaty is written up – a very brief time, as it seems that Zeta already had most of the language sorted out well in advance of today’s meeting. In addition, she sends Numa along with the party and gives him the authority to negotiate on her behalf. The party race back to Novo Ostia. At each settlement they pass through, they find fresh horses waiting for them, supplied by Zeta. On the way there, they read through the treaty: it would establish a firm but fair border between Novo Ostia and Samnia, and Samnia would commit troops in defense of Novo Ostia if attacked and vice versa, although Novo Ostia would commit a larger number of troops to make up for the fact that the legionaries are better trained soldiers.

-Returning to Novo Ostia, the party brings the treaty to the mayor and the governor. As they read through it, they discover something the party had missed in the legalese – as written, the treaty would require Novo Ostia to recognize Governor Ladon’s imperial authority, which would not make him the sole ruler, but it would greatly enhance his position. The party rejects this clause, and Numa is willing to change it so that Ladon is recognized as the official representative for all dealings with Samnia – still a prestige bump and a slight power shift in his direction, but not nearly as big as the original language. In exchange, however, Numa argues for 7 years of tariff-free trade for Zeta’s merchants. This will hurt the Novo Ostian merchants, but it will also hurt Harconus, so they accept and the treaty is signed. While the treaty is in effect immediately, Ladon begins plans to travel east for a formal and public signing in the future.

-The the treaty signed, Numa gives the party a map and an imperial seal of authority, a roaring lion. The map gives directions to Fort Invictus, an abandoned Inquisitorial temple just outside the boundaries of Zeta’s kingdom to the south. When the party arrives there, they find the abandoned fort has been invested by someone or something. Tracks of a group of humanoids march towards the front gates, but there’s also a big hole in the side of the wall on the lower floor, with reptilian tracks moving towards it.

-The party chooses to explore the hole first. As they approach, a harpy oracle spots them and attacks. Annar rushes forwards towards the hole, then steps back when he sees the massive behir within. The behir grapples Annar repeatedly, wounding the dwarf badly before it can be killed. Ingmar casts silence on an arrow, then Tomas shoots it into the harpy to prevent singing or spellcasting. With the behir dead, the harpy retreats.

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Session 23 - Mekketh the Whisperer

Udett detects disease on the town well, and finds that the water is tainted with Blinding Sickness, but no Ghoul Fever. Annar ties a rope around his waist, and Ingmar lowers him in. Bobbing a few feet beneath the surface of the water, Annar finds a severed hand, clutching a wooden box and weighted down with a rock chained to the wrist. Annar easily fishes both and hand box out of the water, and Ingmar hauls him up.

The hand is human, Udett thinks it’s about a week since it was removed from the previous owner. The box is small and nondescript, but the lid is sealed to the rest of the box with wax, presumably making it watertight. Suspecting a trap, the party decides to head a quarter mile out of town before they break the wax seal and open in.

Inside the box, Annar finds a slip of paper, pasted to the bottom of the box and the lid, so that opening the box tore it in half. Spying the arcane marks on the paper, Udett determines that it’s similar to the alarm spell.

“I wasn’t sure if you’d get back in time to save any of your family and friends,” a reedy but sharp voice calls out from behind the party. They turn to see a short man, a hood covering his face down to his yellowed teeth, draped in a simple traveler’s cloak that splits down his torso to reveal the hilt of a blade at his waist.

“You did this? Who are you?” Ingmar asks.

“Someone who you’ve wronged a great deal,” the figure replies. The party starts to ask him other questions, but he cuts them off. “We can stay out here and chat if you’d like, but you probably want to rush back home and prevent my new friend from killing everyone.” The party looks at one another while the figure simply smiles, then they start running back to town.

As they’re running back to town, the players start to list off everyone that they’ve wronged throughout the campaign, trying to figure out who this person could be. They guess at least 10 names, include some people they’ve already killed, but they don’t guess correctly, yet.

Long before they get back, they can see pillars of smoke rising from the village center. Tatiana and flying Udett make it there first, and see their friends and family running about in a panic. Several of the villagers are being chased by grotesque humanoid lumps of flesh and fat – Udett remembers reading something about these creatures once, and realizes that they’re the Lavinian monsters known as demons. These ones are dretches, the lowest of the abyssal hierarchy. Something from around the corner of a building makes an unearthly roar – the sound definitely didn’t come from a dretch.

Charging into the frey, Tatiana lays into one of the dretches whose trying to kill a peasant. She lands several solid blows, causing the demon to cry and wail, but it doesn’t drop – these beasts have an unnatural resistance to damage she can’t bypass. Udett takes to the air and orders Carbonel to start stabilizing the wounded.

There’s a scream of pain where the howl came from earlier, and then a lumbering hulk walks towards the party. The thing looks like a massive animal from the eastern Lavinian jungles called a gorilla, but it’s head is that of a bear, and it has a pair of curved goat horns protruding from it’s brow. Udett knows it’s a demon, but it’s too powerful for her to identify properly.

As the rest of the party arrives, they realize that they’re too late to save everyone – the gorilla demon fells anyone within it’s reach, and Hjalmar, the stock boy that took over the general store when Brynjolf and Flynn disappeared, is torn apart by a lucky blow from a dretch. Most of the villagers have escaped, but Ulrich and emerged from the tavern to fight, and the blacksmith Cenwahl comes out from his smithy swinging a heavy hammer.

Tatiana presses on to stop another dretch from finishing off an unconscious peasant, when she hears a voice from right behind her. “Do you really thing you can save your soul? Do you think that I can’t?” It’s the mysterious figure from earlier. Leaving the wounded peasant to Carbonel and the dretch to Ulrich, Tatiana turns and attacks the figure with a flurry of blows. With astonishing speed, the unassuming figure draws a scimitar and parries and dodges all of Tatiana’s attacks. He then grins, backs up, and casts a spell – Udett recognizes the sobering tones of a greater teleport. He blinks away, but not far, only a block or two down the street, behind the gorilla demon but still in full view of the fight. “I already have one of you; how long before the rest of you realize you’re wasting your talents and join me?” he laughs. Someone finally figures out who this is.

Party, meet Mekketh the Whisperer. Don’t worry, party; Flynn’s already made all your introductions on your behalf.

Ingmar moves to handle the gorilla demon, while Annar, tired of this shit, charges straight at Mekketh. He tries to duck past the gorilla demon, but the beast’s huge hand lashes out and picks him up effortlessly. Udett starts hexing the demon while Ingmar lays into it with his holy sword – unlike the relics they got from the monastery, which only work on evil Gervasti outsiders, his warpriest enchantment cuts through demons just fine.

From the southern road, Mekketh calls out to the demon, identifying him as “Apaiel”. The demon looks at Mekketh, then snarls, but nods, and tries to cast a greater teleport of his own, but flubs the spell while trying to cast defensively. While the party continues to wail on him, Apaiel instead drops Annar and bellows into the sky, unleashing a thunderclap that injures the party and kills two of the wounded peasants.

Mekketh telepathically told Apaiel to stop wasting time with the party and get back to killing the defenseless villagers, starting with the blind mayor who hadn’t fled the scene yet, but the dice had other plans.

Frustrated by the demon’s failure, Mekketh teleports north of the fight and continues to taunt the party. “Did you find all of the children I visited while you were sticking your noses into places they didn’t belong? Are you sure?”

Bellowing a war cry, Annar charges towards Mekketh as Apaiel finally falls to the party’s combination of hexes and holy power attacks. Swinging his axe, Annar strikes true, and Mekketh howls in pain and rage as Annar deals him a blow that would have killed any mortal man. Mekketh simply snarls as thick black blood seeps from the wound in his side. He stumbles backwards as Udett summons a mountain lion to harass him, and snarls again as Annar steps up to keep him in range, but Mekketh casts a greater teleport – or at least, he tries to, but he flubs it just like Apaiel did

Two nat 1s for concentration checks. The dice wanted outsider death.

Annar strikes Mekketh once more before the Whisperer casts his spell successfully and vanishes. This time, he doesn’t reappear within taunting distance. He does give the party a parting farewell as he leaves, crying out, “Lord Harconus sends his regards!”

The party regathers and heals in case Mekketh returns, but the spirit is gone for now. They turn to the villagers, and heal who they can – still, four people, including poor Hjalmar, are dead, and three homes are gutted by fire. They start to discuss the things Mekketh said during the fight. They decide that they can’t risk that he was lying about the children, and ask the mayor to make sure every child in the village is brought to them to see if anyone else if infected with ghoul fever, or worse. Luckily for them, all the villages children are safe and accounted for.

While they wait for news to come in from the surrounding farm families, they also discuss Mekketh’s mention of Harconus. The party is split on whether Mekketh was telling the truth, and that Harconus is affiliated with the Elder Elemental Eye, or whether he was lying, for whatever reasons he had.

As they wait, Ingmar severs Apaiel’s head, and stuffs the noxious thing in the bag of holding. In addition, Tomas collects some of Mekketh’s blood from Annar’s axe, just in case.

-They spend a week in Kastoria to heal the illness and cure the blindness.

-They send letters to the surrounding communities, telling them to beware of strange illnesses.

-Tatiana checks on her manor; Nori is safe, and providing meal for the refugees from the north, but Enterro bars her entry to the manor – now that her aunt and uncle are imprisoned, the majordomo rules the household, and wants nothing to do with her.

-After the villagers are healed and safe, the party heads to Novo Ostia. Along the way, they stop at Edmund’s Run; their neighbors haven’t seen any invaders or plagues.

-On the road to the capital, the first of the season’s thundersnows arrive – the party takes shelter in one of the Horizon’s March way stations that Ingmar fixed up earlier in the year.

-Speak with the Spring cults, let them know a demon is/was involved. Asks them and the Tower to research possible means of preventing teleportation.

-Tatiana and Pandarus meet with Genevieve. She divines them both, and is sorry to tell Tatiana that her condition isn’t improving or slowing. She likely has six months left to live, and Pandarus less.

-Tatiana also stops by Stately Harconus Manor to speak with Redd. The summoner again suggests that she could replace her soul with something from the Far Realm, but Tatiana still isn’t buying it. Redd insists that she’s too hung up on the concept of “her” soul, and says that she should let go of her ego. On the way out, Harconus stops Tatiana and speaks with her. He thanks her for her service to Novo Ostia, and is pseudo modest about funding the rescue mission to the two villages. I’m pretty sure I’m missing something here, but I took pretty lousy notes that night.

-The party meets with the mayor. Ingmar asks her to have scouts watch Lothar’s movements during the winter; she assures him that scouts are in place, and the party will be notified if Lothar takes any unusual action. She also says she’s spoken with the Altenish and Grafteni ambassadors, but the response hasn’t been hopeful. Altenau does believe the threat is real, and they will field troops, but they probably won’t work together with Novo Ostia. Graftena is unlikely to commit to anything while tensions with Dahler rise. The party tells the mayor about the demon, and says that they’ve decided to head east to Zeta’s kingdom. They ask her for an official letter of introduction, but she suggests that they talk to the governor for that. Udett asks the mayor to send some soldiers to protect Kastoria during the winter – she says Lt. Drake and his 30 men will be sent immediately.

-The party meets with the governor, and he agrees to write them a letter. They also ask him more about Zeta’s position. He says that Zeta has maintained good relations with Novo Ostia to create a stable border to her west while she expands into the Empire to the east and south, and he doesn’t view her as a threat to Novo Ostia. She likely commands some 6,000 legionaries, but the majority of them are in the east.

-Udett speaks with Olaf. He’s looked into the merchants in town; Erwann, the biggest salt merchant, has stopped buying from his suppliers in Graftena and has started buying from Harconus, and has cut his prices to expand his market and push out the competition. One of the local herb and reagent merchants, Publius, sells many of the ingredients listed in the ledger, and he hasn’t changed his prices or started selling less volume recently. He’s also owned by Harconus.

-The party leaves a note for the Cowl saying that they think Harconus is linked to the EEE – they provide details of what they found at Darsen’s Grove.

-The party returns to the tower to speak with anyone who might know more about marrow stone. Genevieve is familiar with substance and what it can do, but she’s never heard of a golem made out of it before. She refers them to the local sage who knows the most about golems, an older, eccentric wizard named Hildegarde. In the upper floors of the tower, the party speaks with Hildegarde briefly. She knows (in a round about way) who created the marrow stone golem – a former sage from Vaasa that her master’s master knew. He abandoned the Tower for the EEE, and speaking of him is verboten, but Hildegarde is too old (and odd) to worry about politics.

-Before leaving the Tower, the party speaks with Archsage Taggart about the renegade sage. In very firm terms, he tells them that Hildegarde is mistaken, this individual never existed, and the party would be wise to abandon this line of questioning. They leave, but suspect Taggart knows something about this sage in particular.

-Ingmar finally gets speak with dead to work on Conlan, they ask three questions:
1: What do you know about Lothar and Mekketh’s future plans? – “The sun will set on you city for all time.”
2: What would be the best method to penetrate Lothar’s defenses? – “Surrender might save you.”
3: How can we win over some of Lothar’s allies to our side? – “Strength fears and respects strength.”

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