Session 4: Gathering Corruption

The dark moon, Shik’s moon, is full. The pale red surface reflects little light on the moss covered, granite standing stones of the guardian’s circle. There is no sound but the rustle of cloth and your own breathing. In the center of the stone ring is a gnarled and twisted tree that stands at eye level. It sparse limbs extend from a scarred truck whose bark has been cut and ripped away.

Three dark figures stand at the edge of the ring of stones while two larger shapes stalk the perimeter. A strangely accented, creaking voice calls out from the darkness.

“If you know we’re here, there is little use in hiding.”

Cast of Characters

Players

  • Darius Jorah played by James
  • Morina Stormsbane played by Jolene
  • Alzaren played by Dave
  • Baeren Torunn played by Brad
  • Salvine played by Cody

NPCs

  • [Name Unknown] The apparent leader of a doomsday cult camping out in the Southern Grove
  • [Name Unknown] & [Name Unknown] Members of a doomsday cult camping in the Southern Grove
  • Yxeri the Speaker Author of a tolgish tome on summoning and controlling creatures from Tendri.

A Little Palavor

The party had a terse conversation with the cultists who were loitering around the Guardian’s Circle. [Name Unknown] told the party that he and his friends were holding up their part of a deal with the entity that was responsible for corrupting the grove, but was tight lipped as to their identity. Laying on the charm, Alzaren plied for more details concerning the hideous tauxith that accompanied the cultists and learned that they were allies of the cultists who followed their orders.

Morina created a illusionary duplicate of herself and used the cover of darkness to slip away from the group and sneak up on the cultists. Frustrated by the lack of information and obstinance of the cult leader, Baeren began to cut down the corrupted tree that stood at the center of the stone circle. Morina’s plan to charm the cult leader failed when he was able to resist her spell and Alzaren seized on that moment to unleash a crash of magical sound that killed two of the cultists where they stood.

The remaining cultist cloaked himself in darkness and charged at Baeren while the two tauxith patrolled the perimeter of the stone circle ,searching for victims. Darius hurled a dagger that went wild at one of the tauxith. The tauxith charged Darius and engaged him in combat but a humorous word from Alzaren had the creature in stitches. Darius tried to swing at the writhing tauxith, but had a hard time getting past the creature’s poisonous quills. He left Alzaren to handle the beast.

Meanwhile the remaining cultist and Baeren joined in battle under the cover of darkness. Salvine attacked the other tauxith, drawing it into the ring. Morina harried both tauxith with magic. Darius joined the three as one of the tauxith sunk its teeth into Salvine’s should causing him to turn invisible and cower in fear. Alzaren, satisfied the laughing tauxith was little threat, turned his attention to the other beast and taunted it. The creature was wounded by his words and fled his sheer force of personality.

Salvine shook with fear and rage, and began to transform. His vulpine body twisted and his fur split and from within the skittish Kitsune a fearsome demon emerged. Morbidy entered the battle and assaulted the tauxith that had wounded Salvine with his savage claws. Morina continued her assault on the two tauxith using her spectral warhammer and ominous bell. Darius joined Baeren in trying to defeat the cloaked cult leader, while Alzaren decisively finished off the tauxith who had stopped laughing and begin to prowl again.

Mordiby savagely ripped the head off of the remaining tauxith. The demon’s task here was done and so it released Salvine’s body, letting the kitsune fall to the ground, unconscious.

The tide of battle had shifted in favor of the adventurers and with their spirits high, they turned to face the cult leader. Morina sent a bolt of divine light streaking through the darkness revealing the position of the cult leader and Alzaren seized on that moment to strike. With cutting words he sapped the will to live from the cult leader.

Aftercare

The cultists carried little with them. Baeren recovered two rune covered stones from the cult leader. The cultists also carried seven books written in Tolg, a language from a far away land known to Salvine. Darius recovered a scimitar, three roughly carved wooden figurines (bear, wolf, and boar), ink, and several pens. Alzaren assisted Darius and Baeren in retrieving 238 Tauxith quills and several teeth from the fallen beasts. Baeren and Darius bound the quills together using spare rope into a bundle 2 foot in diameter that weighs 178 pounds.

The battle took a lot out of the party, so they decided to rest. While they relaxed, Salvine, Darius, and Alzaren examined the books recovered from the cultists. There were three copies of The Lost One which appeared to be a religious or philosophic text about the return of an entity called The Lost One. There were also three copies of The Outer Planes which appeared to be a companion text to The Lost One and details important locations in the outer planes. The final volume was an untitled work penned by Yxeri the Speaker. The handwritten volume was an instruction manual for summoning and controlling extra-dimensional creatures like the Tauxith and provides limited details about the creature’s biology. Alzaren was particularly interested in the entry on the tauxith and urged Salvine to read the details aloud. The party learned that tauxith are ordinarily pack hunters that roam the dry plains of Tendri. They can be coaxed away from their pack with a specific, and dark, ritual that involves the sacrifice of a mostly willing mortal or wrangled into submission with other types of magic.

After resting, the party discussed their next plan of attack. Darius sent his hawk to scout the area and search for Teak of the Bear, while Baeren search the fallen guardians and their settlement for signs of who attacked them. Based on the wounds the guardians and other fey suffered, Baeren was able to deduce that spears and clubs were used to do the grisly deed, but was not able to rule out magic.

Satisfied in his assessment, Baeren followed the tracks of the people he suspected of destroying the settlement west to the edge of the clearing.

Collector’s Edition

The party discussed their options for tracking down and recovering the remaining four shards. Alzaren was able to deduce the magical nature of the stones of the guardian’s circle by observing Salvine’s practice with his magic and figured out that the Guardian’s Circle was where the ritual to cross between the planes needed to be conducted. Morina believed that the party should look for the shards on the material plane, and Darius believed that they shouldn’t travel through the portals at all. Baeren insisted that the party should split up and two of them should travel through the portal, while three remained behind.

Baeren set about gathering herbs and dead plant matter for the rituals needed to move between the planes. Darius was recalcitrant when the party decided to start by travelling to Hrutak, the plane of growth instead of Quilloa, the plane of decay. He threw away the plant material gathered by Baeren for the ritual to cross to Quilloa before beginning the ritual to cross to Hrutak.

The ritual of Hrutak required one pound of four different types of flowers, which were provided by Salvine and one pound of Lavender, Oleander, Rosemary, and Sage which were gathered by Baeren. Darius took the materials and combined them in a cooking pot to boil for several hours. Once the flowers and herbs had rendered into a paste, Darius spoke the ceremonial words, a prayer in ancient common asking Vurk for entrance into his domain, which caused the paste to blend itself together into a uniform gray-brown color. The party divided the paste among themselves and applied a small amount to all but one of the fourteen menhir that surround the guardian’s circle.

They discussed briefly who would go and it was decided that it would be Baeren and Alzaren. Baeren moved to the center of the circle, next to where the sapling had been planted, while Alzaren positioned himself next to the unmarked stone. At Baeren’s signal Alzaren applied the paste to the remaining menhir and the pair shifted to Hrutak. Three small, monstrous creatures carrying large sickles and wearing bright red hats were waiting. They charged down the edges of the bowl, trying to stop Baeren from delicately plucking the blight shard from the loose soil. After seeing his comrade collect the shard, Alzaren wiped the paste from the stone he was standing near and returned them both to the material plane.

After the success of the trip to Hrutak, the party felt emboldened and began working on the ritual to Quilloa. Baeren confronted Darius about throwing away the ingredients for the second ritual, who was unapologetic and refused to retrieve them or tell Baeren where he had thrown the bag they were in. Morina grew impatient with the pair and travelled into the surrounding woods to gather new, dead plants.

The ritual of Quilloa required a freshly dead small creature, or five pounds of a larger one, which Darius collected from the dead cultists, and three pounds of long dead plant matter which were gathered by Morina. Darius again boiled the materials together for several hours and spoke the ceremonial words, this time a prayer in ancient common beseeching Sonah for entrance into her domain, to combine the paste. The party again divided the paste and applied it to all but one of the fourteen stones. Alzaren repositioned himself next to the last stone and Baeren returned to the center.

The pair shifted over to see a vast emptiness with fourteen tauxith waiting. When the shift was complete a robed figure with tentacles for hair ordered the tauxith to attack. They poured down the edge of the bowl and descended upon the two adventurers. Baeren was struck by one, but managed to dodge the other three. Alzaren ducked just as two tauxith leapt at him, causing the creatures to collide with one another and roll down the hill towards Baeren. Baeren quickly snatched up the blight shard and Alzaren cleaned the paste off the menhir with fervent exuberance. When they caught their breath, the party decided to continue their search and find the remaining shards on the material plane.

Darius’ hawk was unsuccessful at locating Teak of the Bear, who Baeren had hoped would guide them to the remaining shards so they set out for the southern shard without her. Salvine, Morina, and Alzaren were able to work together and determine where the blight was spreading from. They lead Darius and Baeren deeper into the Southern Grove.

Eventually the party came upon a creature and hide to avoid its notice. Baeren sprinted ahead of the group to place himself between the party and whatever lay ahead before ducking behind a tree. Alzaren took shelter behind a decaying tree and when he leaned on it, the small birch toppled over causing a crash and drawing the attention of the beast. A corrupted guardian came crashing through the trees to investigate and the party sprung into action. Alzaren caused the creature to laugh maniacally with a joke, Salvine and Morina assaulted the monstrosity with spells, while Darius and Baeren moved in with their weapons. The battle was short and brutal.

After the corrupted guardian was defeated, Baeren ran ahead to find the shard it was guarding. With a little work, he cut it from the heart of the blackened hickory tree and placed it with the other two shards in his pack.

The party caught their breath and gathered their thoughts in preparation for trying to retrieve the final shard.