Aereth 2010

Session 3 recap: When Birds Cry "Die!"

The lineup of heroes is as follows:
Mike: Tarthon, minotaur barbarian
Steve: Grumhorn, a.k.a. “Grue,” dwarf invoker
Felix: Manael, tiefling bard
Willie: Kheiron, githzerai seeker
Me: Graaver Stormcry, longtooth shifter druid-fighter

Unfortunately, neither Willie nor Mike could attend this session. Nevertheless, we wrestled with Tarthon’s character sheet (MANY cool abilities) and co-ran him for the entire session. (Kheiron’s sheet wasn’t available, so DM ruling was that he went out for smokes.) And did I mention that we’ve all reached 4th level now? Huzzah! On we go…

After the disturbing encounter with the two beholders, we reach the small town of Southwatch just as the dark clouds finally release a torrent of rain upon us. Wet, hungry, and a bit freaked out, we make our way to an inn — the Low Lantern — where the few patrons are a little disturbed by our sudden appearance. (Yeah, when a dwarf is the closest thing to “normal” in your D&D party, you’re going to get stares!) The proprietor tells us that there are no rooms available, but he suggests we see “Mother Myere” a couple of blocks away. She’s taken pity on traveling adventurers before, and she might be able to put us up for the night, even though it may mean crowding into one room. We’re not picky!

Stormcry asks the proprietor whether he has seen any unusual goblin activity in the area lately. (We do want to know why two FREAKIN’ BEHOLDERS wiped out a goblin camp.) He answers that last night was the second night of the full moon, which is often a bad omen, and that “lots of eyes are on the goblins” lately because of the increase in goblin movement. (Hmm, could the goblins have been fleeing or forced out of an area?) We assure the proprietor that we’re not here to cause trouble for anyone — we just want a place to crash. The proprietor is welcoming, but he says that where adventurers go, trouble follows.

Left alone with food and drink for a few minutes, we quickly discuss what the frak happened today. We share knowledge of beholders and review the items that we gathered in the cave complex: the ledger (written in code), the metallic triangle, the necklace, and the written reference “I must go back to the Star.” We decide that we’ll head at dawn toward the larger city of Rockport, where we should be able to pay a wizard or sage to help us figure out whether any of this will steer us toward Captain Longshanks’ treasure. ARRRRR!

We trudge back across the muddy streets to Mother Myere’s place. She indeed agrees to let us stay, and is pleasantly surprised to get money in advance. (She hasn’t had the best luck getting money from other adventurers she’s met.) She leads us to one large room on the third and topmost floor. The only other guest is on a floor at the end of our hallway. Mother says his name is Taraghan — which sounds familiar to both Stormcry and Grue, though we can’t place it. We agree not to disturb the unknown quantity in the building. Yeaahhhhh… about that…

Several hours later, we hear a thud. Then silence. It sounds like it came from the room at the end of the hallway. Stormcry and Tarthon are out first. Taraghan doesn’t respond to our pounding on the door. When Stormcry hears a shuffling of papers, we break the door open to see the body of a man, presumably Taraghan, slumped across a desk — and a window thrown wide open in the driving rain! Below is a small, dark-cloaked figure running across the slick rooftop of the adjacent building! The invoker Grue unleashes a Sun Strike, hitting yet not stopping the figure! Stormcry shifts into wolf form and leaps down, followed a second later by the minotaur Tarthon. Manael checks the body and discovers that he’s dead, Jim.

The rooftop chase is on! It’s a wild sequence, requiring many Acrobatics checks to keep one’s balance and avoid sliding off the slick surface. Tarthon falls! Fortunately, it’s not a big drop, and Tarthon can still tell what’s going on above, but it leaves Stormcry in solo pursuit. On the next rooftop, he catches up with the assassin — who has a beak! And is covered in blue and black feathers! No, it’s not Lady Gaga — it’s a kenku! Stormcry reassumes humanoid form and grapples the bird-like creature. Gotcha! But spikes pop out of its belt, stabbing Stormcry — with a dose of poison, to boot! Stormcry uses the newly retrained utility Ferocious Transformation to instantly shift back to wolf form and get some distance, followed by Call Forth the Spirit Pack. Spectral lions knock the kenku down. “You’re not leaving this alive,” growls Stormcry. Meanwhile, Manael jumps down from Taraghan’s window to join the pursuit, while Grue looks down, says “Yeah, right,” and proceeds to search the room for clues.

The kenku hops up and does some crazy wing attack that blinds the druid-fighter. Unable to see, Stormcry nevertheless tries to pounce on where he thinks the kenku is … and hits! And here’s the fun part: The kenku was about to clamber down a storm pipe at that moment, so both bird-man and pissed-off wolf go off the edge! They land in the alleyway — in front of Tarthon, who had been following their movements. The kenku is cat food, right? Nope! Over the next few rounds, the kenku proves itself a match for Stormcry and Tarthon combined! After much fluttering, multiple uses of belt spikes, a natural 20 on Tarthon, and the barbarian’s retaliatory (and VERY damaging) Howling Strike, all three combatants are in rough shape. And in the middle of this, Stormcry is overwhelmed by the sensation that they’re being observed and that someone is rummaging through his thoughts! Holy Charles Xavier, Batman! Fortunately, the length of the battle has allowed Manael to reach the scene! [Good persistence, Felix.] The tiefling bard begins to sing the Canon of Avoidance, which bolsters Tarthon’s defenses against the attack of the killer kenku.

The fight continues! The kenku’s belt spikes poison Stormcry for a third time and then he’s stabbed for good measure (ouch!), but he’s able to land a solid punch and grab from Grappling Strike. Tarthon gets in a solid Howling Strike [Steve represented Tarthon quite well during this combat, Mike!], although the kenku stabs the minotaur with another natural 20 (double ouch!). Finally, Manael the bard speaks… The Killing Joke! A few seconds of Vicious Mockery sets the kenku up for the tiefling’s sword stroke, FINALLY slaying the assassin. Phew!

Being good adventurers, we promptly search the body. We find a pouch, which — bearing in mind the lessons of Macarthur Park — we chose not to open in the rain. After hiding the body in an alley, we head back to Mother Myere’s and give her the bad news: Taraghan won’t be paying rent anymore. Upon hearing of the longtime resident’s death, she’s suspicious of us. I don’t understand! Why should she be suspicious of a tiefling, minotaur, and longtooth shifter who announce that her only other guest is dead within hours of their … oh, I see now.

We now rejoin our show, “Grue the Armor-Clad Searching Invoker,” already in progress. Grue has found a tome or journal, yet the writing is as indecipherable as an episode of the new Hawaii Five-O. With the four of us reunited – and wondering how long until the villagers grab the torches and pitchforks – we conduct another examination. Stormcry finds a small strip of metal (bookmark sized) with a crystal “keyhole” at one end. Manael peers through the crystal at the writing in the tome. Success! It’s a history of the region, with sections on “Old History” and “Past Civilizations.” (And no, the crystal keyhole doesn’t help a bit with the ledger we found in the caves.) From what we can tell, the crystal lens came in a package with the note, “Hammet welcomes you. Come by the Old Gate.” More stuff to ponder at a later time since – yep, it’s the angry mob of villagers!

At this point, Manael the tiefling bard takes over the talking. OK, yes, the Diplomat in Devil Horns may not seem like an ideal option, but it’s the best we have! After Manael buys us a teeny bit of time to prove our goodness (or at least our non-evilness!), we escort the mob concerned townspeople through the rain-soaked streets to the alley with the kenku assassin’s corpse. [And with, oh, the LONNNNGEST of pauses, Rick made us think that the body was gone. Bastard! (That’s a compliment when you’re talking about the DM.)]

Mollified, the villagers lead us back to the local Knights of Columbus hall, where we discuss Taraghan’s murder with the village elders. We promise to provide news of the assassin’s boss, and perhaps his head. The elders are cool with this; Taraghan was well liked. We open the pouch that was found on the kenku. It contains 4 garnets and a note: “Taraghan — Long Street. Usual errand. Payment will arrive at the lighthouse.” The note ends with the symbol of a dagger and a black flower (a lotus?).

Stormcry and Grue suddenly realize why Taraghan’s name sounded so familiar. Translation: We’re reminded of a rumor that DM Rick had posted on our campaign’s page on Obsidian Portal:

A sage in Tarrasine was found murdered and his apartment ransacked, the second such murder this year. An unusual black feather was found at the scene, but little else in the way of clues. Other sages have taken to hiring protection or purchasing guard dogs. It is said Taraghan of Southwatch and Elbarr of Rockport are actively seeking bodyguards and neither has left their residence recently.

Well, it sure looks like Elbarr of Rockport had better up his life insurance. The “Lighthouse” in question must be the dilapidated one just outside of town. After getting to our bed(s) and getting some sleep, we go there. It’s a sunny morning, although obviously the ground is still muddy. As we approach, we see that the lighthouse is in pretty bad shape, and there’s an old boathouse right next to it. Expecting trouble, Stormcry and Tarthon burst open the boathouse’s door just as Grue releases an Astral Wind into the building … dramatically rocking the boats that are on the floor or hanging on frayed ropes. Hmm, that was anticlimactic. Grue and Stormcry move in. We see a glistening shape on the floor near the back. Just then, an orc-sized spider drops behind Tarthon and Manael at the entrance, as the glistening sac split open to reveal a horde of tiny and very hungry red spiders! Ay yi yi!

With a disgusted grunt, Stormcry grabs one of the adjacent boats and overturns it on top of the red spiders — and gets all of them! [There were 16 baby spiders. After Stormcry’s Strength check to flip the boat, Rick rolled 2d8 to see how many would be trapped. He rolled two 8’s! Huzzah!] Grue turns and uses Astral Wind to push Mama Spider out of the boathouse and away from Tarthon and Manael. The tiefling misses with War Song Strike, but Tarthon gives the spider a savage whack with Pressing Strike.

The flipped-over boat starts to rock with the agitated movement of the red spiders. Stormcry readies his axe for some spider-squishing duty while Grue manages to get his Astral Wind partially under the boat and slay some of the little buggers. The Grue-Stormcry combo of ranged blast and melee squish ends up being very effective over the next several rounds. A few spiders crawl out at a time, Grue blasts some, Stormcry whacks the stragglers. Rinse, repeat. [Rick said flipping the boat made a huge difference. Each spider bite does 2 poison and gives you 5 vulnerability to poison. So if one spider bites you, you’ll take more damage from the next spider! Yikes.]

Meanwhile, Tarthon and Manael takes turns on Mama Spider, who isn’t having much luck hurting either the barbarian or the bard. After Manael bloodies it with War Song Strike, Tarthon slams it with Goring Charge. The badly injured spider hops away and flees from the scene. Watch for her on Oprah’s network next week: “Adventurers Killed My Children.”

The four of us make our way to the lighthouse, well aware that if anyone inside didn’t know of our presence before, they certainly do now. We can see that the weather-ravaged exterior of the lighthouse is pockmarked with holes. The first floor is rectangular and juts out a bit from the main circular structure. A peek through the grimy windows shows the remains of an office or work area. Stormcry says, “This reeks of trap.” He decides not to go through the front door and, with Manael’s help, climbs onto the roof of the first floor and heads for the outside of the lighthouse proper.

As his friends watch, he climbs toward a gap on what should be the second floor. He peers through the opening — and sees a kenku pointing a crossbow right at Stormcry’s face.

And that’s where we ended it. [Nice lighthouse-by-the-cliffhanger, Rick!] Next session is scheduled for this Sunday. Hopefully, the recap of that session will be done in less time.

—Ken

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RickM

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