Call to Arms

Crossroads, part 1
Promises and Regrets

Standing over the chest of 1000 silver pieces, Nessa quips, “I suppose that’s how much Ayia’s life was worth.”

The PCs gather the treasure from the stronghold into one chest and strap it to Dorn’s back, then they all set out for Greendale (Nessa’s village) 12 miles to the south.

A few miles north of Greendale they find the party of Dunsarro captives they liberated. They were clearly overtaken by orcs, tortured and crucified on the trees lining the road. The PCs gather and burn the bodies, and Anselmo recalls the vision he had as he watched Ennis’ face wrapped in flames.

Arriving at Greendale they are confronted by a young farmer names Rius, who speak to Nessa. He feels she betrayed the village by joining the cult along with Tobin; she is not welcome here.

Nessa and Ruis had been in love, but Tobin slipped her a philter of love and Tobin took her with him when he joined the cult. The potion came from the cult, of course, and some of the other Olivetti girls had similar stories.

Anselmo promises he will send these villages some protection once they reach the Purge camp; Rius promises to die defending his home.

Two days later they arrive at the Purge camp. Otter finds a fence and buy gems with most of their gold and silver coins.

Waiting outside the Captain’s tent Anselmo and Anders overhear Kendal Bloodwick push Sunath to resurrect someone, but the cleric claims he can’t help anyone who has already been dead for weeks. Kendal delivers a letter to Anselmo: the Vanguard wants him to ask Loremaster Rafael Lonzo about the cult of the Bloody Hand.

Anders and Anselmo make their report, including their failure to protect the Dunsaro prisoners, which earns Holbrook’s ire. Anders deeply regrets his decision to send them off on their own.

Meanwhile, Dorn finds a place to rest alone a short distance outside the camp, leaving Otter to guard the Olivetti girls.

The Bloody Hand, part 5
Shield of Valor

Following the battle with the bugbear, Anselmo is hit with a powerful vision.

You are a young boy again, watching your hero, the Champion of Caetar, work at a familiar altar. The alter is light gray stone, triangular, with tall pylons at the corners. He seems to be forging something on the alter, shaping it with a large, simple hammer.

He notices you and nods. “Go on.”

You try to lift another hammer lying against the alter. “It’s heavy!”

He smiles and replies, “you are strong enough. Try again.”

And so you join him in shaping the metal on the forge. You wonder what it will become.

“This is the Shield of Valor,” he explains.

Wiping the sweat pouring from your brow you ask, “when will it be finished?”

Still hammering, he answers, “you will spend your whole life forging it. You must carry the hammer till you take your last breath. Do not despair. I would not have called you if you were not able. And who knows better than you the terrible cost if the Shield of Valor fails?”

His hammer strikes a shower of sparks and suddenly you are in your village, where raging flames mingle with cries of terror. A girl from your village lies dying at your feet. You look closer, and realize she is the Dunsaro girl, Ennis

He breaks from his vision to hear Sophie screaming. The PC’s rush to save the Olivetti girls and slay the 6 orcs attacking them, but one of the girls is killed.

After they bury her and have a short rest, they insist Nessa and the remaining 6 girls follow them back into the stronghold. Seeing no safer alternative, Nessa concedes.

The group quick finishes exploring the stronghold. They find the lair of the orcs and bugbear, but no monsters remain. They load up the treasure they found and prepare to return to Purge base camp.

The Bloody Hand, part 4
Shadow of a Lie

Dorn keeps watch while the others sleep. Some of the Dunsaro captives plot to take revenge on Nessa, an Olivetti girl who collaborated with the cultists. On one occasion the cult had Nessa choose who would be sacrificed (Ennis) and on another occasion Nessa’s actions led to an old Dunsaro man being whipped.

With Dorn faithfully at his post they don’t try anything, but when the other PCs wake up and head to another room to discuss their plans, the Dunsaro seize the opportunity and try to drag Nessa to the upper level, intent on throwing her in the pit. During his watch Dorn coated the stone stairs with oil, so the conspirators slip on the stairs and the PCs intervene in time to save Nessa.

It’s clear the Dunsaro and Olivetti, even though they all have been brutalized by the cult, can’t be trusted to travel together. Anselmo sends the Dunsarro ahead now, keeping the Olivetti girls at the stronghold for now.

One of the girls (Clara) is so traumatized she will only follow direct orders from the PCs. She acts like she is still a prisoner and will not speak.

They plan on escorting the girls back to the Purge base camp once they end the orc threat. After giving the Dunsaro a good head start, the PCs find a nearby dell where the Olivetti girls can hide while the PCs finish exploring the stronghold. Nessa comments, “at least we’ll die in the sunshine.”

Back inside, the party explores the upper level, which is now mostly abandoned. They find another entrance to the stronghold, guarded by 2 gargoyles, which they destroy.

They also find a corridor with strange grooves on the ceiling and a very different looking door at the end. It is much older, possibly original to the stronghold, carved with grape vines and nymphs. When Otter tries to open the door it triggers a trap in the ceiling, and a huge beam of stone swings down like a pendulum, sweeping the corridor. Anselmo can’t get out of the way and is badly injured. Worse, the steel pipes on which the stone beam swings are rusty and make an awful racket that can be heard all over the stronghold.

Not long after, the party hears wolves howling outside the back entrance. They set an ambush just inside the entryway. A bugbear and 3 death dogs enter and give battle. When the PCs put up a decent fight, the bugbear tries to retreat but they cut him down.

The Bloody Hand, part 3
Eye of the Basilisk

Ennis, the Dunsaro girl who was nearly sacrificed in the pit, leads the PCs to the cells where the other prisoners are kept. They free 21 more Dunsaro captives, mostly old men and young women. On the way they kill 3 orcs, the first orcs they have seen inside the stronghold. The captives were all kidnapped in orc raids within about 30 miles of the stronghold.

The captives go upstairs to scrounge up food and water for the journey home, while the PCs finish exploring the lower level. They find the area beneath the privy is cleaned by an ochre jelly and decide to leave it alone. In the room beneath the pit trap they find a basilisk, which they destroy without anyone else being turned to stone.

Dorn claims the eye of the basilisk for his quest, but in a hidden room they find a more surprising treasure: a Fellhammer! The vault also holds a suit of mithril chainmail and a +1 dagger.

The PCs go back upstairs and get everyone organized for a long rest, intending to send them home during daylight.

The Bloody Hand, part 2
The shape of evil

After a short rest, the PCs go looking for trouble. They hear rhythmic chanting coming from the level above.

In a nearby bedroom they find Sophie, the missing girl from Glenmorrow. She’s a pretty Olivetti teenager currently very pregnant and in the early throws of labor. Anselmo is suspicious because the villagers never said she was pregnant and she’d only been missing a couple of weeks. He suspects the pregnancy is unnatural and connected to the chanting.

While the PCs argue over whether to attack the cultists or flee with the girl, an old cultist arrives with fresh water to ten the pregnant Sophie. He is unshakably fanatic, fearless, and sure of the cult’s ultimate victory. He does not resist when the PCs kill him.

While Anders stays to help Sophie the rest set off to interrupt whatever blasphemous rite is taking place upstairs.

They go up a spiral staircase that opens into the temple room on the upper level. The cult leader and 8 cultists are mid-ceremony, about to throw a Dunsaro girl named Ennis into a sacrificial well. The PCs are battered but slay all of the cultists and rescue the Ennis. (Eh-neess) Dorn takes the leader’s holy symbol, purse and keys.

Meanwhile, Sophie births a Quasit, which Anders kills and conceals. He tells Sophie that magic helped create the baby and sometimes that doesn’t work out. “Was it a girl?” She asks. “Yes.”

Reunited, Anselmo casts prayer of healing on everyone, including the girls. This probably saves Sophie’s life, as she was still bleeding.

The girls describe two groups of captives: beautiful young Olivetti girls are held upstairs and used for sex while everyone else is locked up on the lower level and used for labor and sacrifice. The PCs split up to rescue both groups. Dorn and Anselmo reunite Sophie with her friends while Dorn and Anders start exploring downstairs.

Anselmo tells Sophie and her friends to stay put while they go to rescue Ennis’ people.

Anders and Otter stumble onto a nest of 6 giant centipedes. Dorn and Anselmo find them and help finish off the bugs. They have Ennis with them.

The Bloody Hand, part 1
Why did it have to be snakes?

The PCs return to base camp and receive a new mission from Captain Holbrook: investigate orc attacks and a cave spotted by another team which might be a lair.

Dorn finds the orcs’ tracks and leads them to the cave. It clear someone carved a stronghold out of this hillside centuries ago which has been occupied again very recently. Orc and human tracks cross the area, and a set of wagon tracks leads up to the entrance. A bloody handprint at the entrance suggests the new occupants are the same cult the PC’s faced a few days ago.

Dorn suspects the builders were human, but the design and engineering are dwarven.

The entry hall has a murder hole in the ceiling, crossed with iron bars. A crazy old man above calls through it, “give the word and I’ll open the door, get it wrong I’ll give ye what for!” When Ander announces they are from the Purge, the old man empties a sack of poisonous snakes onto his head. Torches and oil help dispatch the snakes, but not before everyone is poisoned and badly weakened.

With no other way to open the locked door, Dorn uses a crowbar and his immense strength to rip it down. While the cult raises the alarm the PCs explore quickly, looking for a defensible position.

Otter nearly falls into a covered pit trap. There is another murder hole above it and stains on the pit’s cover indicate victims were dropped from the level above into this pit.

The PCs decide to make a stand in the large room off the entry hall and battle 8 cultists, killing 6 and driving 2 away. Battered, they agree to take a short rest in a smaller, empty room with a door they can close. The voices outside suggest the cult thinks the PCs have fled and is searching the hills for them.

Into the Wilds, part 4
Skin deep

After the PCs leave the lair of the harpy Druenna, Loolaa returns and suggests the group has made an immortal enemy, though it may be centuries before Druenna returns from the fey. Loolah offers to help Dorn, seeing that at least part of his curse is fey. Dorn tells them all his story. He has dedicated his life to lifting the curse on his clanhome and asks for their aid.

Loolaa takes a hair of Dorn’s sparse beard to show the Fairy Queen. If a Fey was involved in such an epic curse the Queen should know of it. Otter is moved by the tale, for he is also cut off from his homeland, albeit by a more personal curse.

The team moves on, returning to the Purge’s base camp. In the evening they reach the village of Glenmorrow, where they find the villagers in a panic. Yesterday strangers arrived preaching hate against the Dunsaro and recruited 3 young men. Others objected and a few hours ago a scuffle ensued where 2 villagers were killed. Then they discovered 3 young women were missing.

Anselmo gets the villagers organized and the PCs head off to find the girls with Bowman the barkeep and 5 other villagers.

Bowman leads them to a ruined temple of Caetar. Otter and Ander scout the temple, which is full of cultists. The sign of the bloody handprint marks the trail to the temple and the doorway.

The PCs lay ambush at the top of a low hill. Otter sees the cultists are close to sacrificing one of the girls so he interrupts the ceremony with a sling-stone and when the cultists react he leads them back into the ambush. Ten cultists are slain.

The PCs charge the temple and confront the cult leader, who has just finished a summoning ritual. Just as Anselmo deals the fanatic a killing blow, the summoned spined devil claws its way out of the sacrificial girl. The pitched battle ends when Anselmo’s guiding bolt obliterates the abomination.

Dorn and Ander search for a trail leading to the other missing girls but find none. Anselmo purges the defiled temple. Otter searches the ruin and finds a coffer loaded with treasure. He picks the lock and secretly swipes some gold and a potion before sharing with the party.

With the villagers they burn the dead and mourn their losses.

Into the Wilds, part 3
They burned Summer

The team awakes in the village of Cornwell, where the people still avoid them and there is clearly something very wrong. During breakfast Erynn, a 7-year-old Dunsaro girl runs into the pub crying, “It happened! The curse happened!” She found Bowen, a local day laborer, dead in a field, clawed to death with his hair turned white.

The bartender and locals ask the party to watch Erynn while they run off to get the constable. Erynn has none of that and takes the party to view Bowen’s body. She explains that yesterday the villagers burned her friend Summer at the stake. As Summer burned she called on Kruss to curse the village.

After some investigation it seems Summer was the only Yan in the village. Moreover she had no family here after her husband died years ago, and her neighbor Tolin had been after her land for some time. Accusations of witchcraft led to Summer’s grisly end.

Ander and Otter wanted to leave the village to it’s fate, but Dorn and Anselmo prevail. They make a show of leaving the village to satisfy the constable (who thinks this is none of their business and having strangers around just now makes things worse) but circle back and hide in Summer’s house until nightfall.

As the moon rises Otter sees a human shape moving toward Tolin’s house. He rouses his companions and they confront Summer’s scarecrow, animated by the curse. In the ensuing battle Tolin proves a coward and flees out his window, but the blacksmith helps them fight. It ends with Anders and Dorn hurling the scarecrow into Tolin’s hearth where it is destroyed in fire.

Thanks to Anselmo, the blacksmith takes to worshiping Caetar. They leave with fresh rations and the thanks of the village.

Two days later the team scouts a ruined tower and defeats a harpy. Ander is charmed into jumping out of the tower window and falls about 20 feet but is not too badly hurt. In the harpy’s nest they find a bejeweled gold cup.

Into the Wilds, part 2
Seeming and Being

At the farmhouse the group meets a Dunsaro woman named Arna and her son, Scoot. (The father, Clovis, is a merchant away on business for month at a time.)

Dorn stays outside and keeps an eye on the farm while the others have dinner. After dark he spies a small figure on the roof of the house and shoots it with his longbow, then sounds the alarm. They find he has killed a naked goblin, but it’s body dissolves into a black mist as they watch.

They search the property and find the boy’s lost dog, half-eaten and stashed in the woodshed. The goblin’s tracks suggest it might have been hiding in the barn.

Setting a strong watch, they bed down in the farmhouse. Scoot tosses and turns all night. A few hours before dawn, everyone (except Dorn) awakens to the whinny of the family’s draft horse. Anselmo and Ander search the barn for another goblin and find one hiding in the hay. Also naked and black-skinned, it’s has only the leather apron and hatchet it snatched in the barn. Combat ensues, with ten normal rats fighting on the goblin’s side. The rats swarm Anders and bloody him, but he knocks the goblin senseless. They disperse the rats.

Summoning Dorn, they revive the goblin and ask questions in it’s own language. It doesn’t seem to understand any speech. The goblin struggles to escape and they kill it. A few moments later it dissolves into black mist. Dorn confirms the goblin tracks begin in a corner of the barn as if it just appeared there.

Convinced this must be a magical conjuring, they search the property unsuccessfully for any kind of idol or object that might be summoning goblins. They do find a stash of strong whiskey in the barn. Clovis likes to drink.

Finally they get Scoot to admit that corner of the barn is “a bad place” where “he hurt mommy”. It seems like the boy’s terror is summoning or creating the goblins. Anselmo purifies and blesses the barn, and they do what they can to calm the boy’s fears. The next night passes peacefully.

In the morning the group sets off to check on a ruined tower about two days away that Arna though might harbor monsters. After just a few hours travel, the pixie Loolaa reveals herself and excitedly thanks them for helping the boy. She led them there, hoping they would prove themselves heroes. She’s glad to think she was right.

Loolaa is bursting with curiosity over Dorn’s curse, and greatly amused by Anders.

Every fey knows the difference between seeming and being. Humans are so good at seeming they don’t even recognize it. But you, poor dwarf, yours is a curse of being.

And she confirms the goblin was spawned by fear.

That’s what you’re best at: turning dreams and fears into reality. It’s what humans do.

Loolaa asks, if they are truly here to fight evil, could they check on the nearby village of Cornwell? She can feel something terrible happened there last evening.

The party reaches the village in late afternoon, but everyone is locked inside and avoids them. They question the barkeep at the only pub, who is cool but polite, and the blacksmith, who is openly hostile. Finally they visit the constable who assures them all is well, but the villagers are justly afraid of armed strangers. The constable lets them spend the night in his father’s old abandoned house.

Into the Wilds, part 1
Getting the party together.

Captian Holbrook conscripts a few hundred toughs, thieves, mercenaries and ne’er-do-wells to sweep the borders of Felleg’Avin and thin the ranks of monsters lurking there.

Those he deems trustworthy are put in teams of 3 to 5 and sent to recon around and ahead of the main column. The PCs can return to camp as needed for magical healing from Sunath.

Dorn, Ander, Anselmo and Otter are one such team, and on their first day out from the main column they track and kill a pair of orcs that were skulking through the sparsely populated borderlands.

The party continues on, trying to guess the orcs’ destination. A set of three torch-lights in the distance parallels their course. When Otter sets off to confront them, they flee, but he’s pretty sure noone was carrying the lights, they moved by themselves.

The lights lead the team to a remote farmhouse where they ask to stay for the night.


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