Sunday, March 11, 2012

Carrion Crown: Broken Moon pt. 3

(In this chapter the heroes left Ascanor Lodge, but failed to reveal the entire mystery. I therefore try to reveal a bit and yet keep some of the important stuff secret still

There is one HUGE DISCLAIMER, though: The attentive reader has noticed that Corvin is often mentioned as a 'bard' even though he IS in fact a rogue. The reason for this misunderstanding is simply that we referred to him as a bard early in the adventure, and the term somewhat stuck. Also, my players quickly came to this conclusion when they saw his poems on the floor. So, yeah, just go with the joke, I suppose : P )
The heroes arrived quickly at the scene but had to spend a few seconds taking in the carnage. Someone, or something, had gone absolutely berserk on the dear friend, Cilas Graydon, and left him splattered and mangled across the tiny room. Getting to their senses was further complicated by the maid’s loud shrieks and her panicking steps where she stood, which eventually had Edgar the cleric lead her away from the room and down to the bar. Mutt the barbarian immediately ran to call the guards while the rest of the party stood watch. The clock was still five in the morning, so very few people had awakened yet, meaning that the panic could likely be contained for yet some hours.
When the guards arrived they immediately sealed off the room and told the heroes to leave. They did so, but were called to gathering in just half an hour, by which warden Estovion had an announcement to make. Struck with grief he told the residents of the lodge about the tragic news, and assured them that whoever did this would stand responsible for his crimes. Until then, he wouldn’t hold a grudge towards anyone with a desire to leave Ascanor, but still urged everyone to remain strong and vigilant. As he assured them, the murderer WOULD be caught!
In the middle of his speech, the young bard Corvin got up and made his appeal to the warden. “Surely, Mr. Estovion, you must see a connection between the newly arrived…adventurers… and these bestial happenings. Wouldn’t it be prudent to at least consider them as the root of the problem and send them on their way?”
Edgar the cleric responded quickly to this, pointing out that if Corvin had a problem with them he’d better address them directly. The bard hastily withdrew his statement with a smile, pointing out that he was merely ‘suggesting options…’ Estovion didn’t twitch a muscle in his face but instead dismissed everyone and returned to his chambers.
On his way, he was stopped by the heroes who asked his permission to participate in the investigations of the murder. Estovion allowed them to do so. (This might seem like out of character, but when you think about it, there was a lot of bad air between the heroes and Corvin the bard, and Estovion noticed. As they were already smelling blood, he decided to let the heroes go along with their business and find the culprit.)
Back in Cilas’ chambers the heroes started their investigation. Searching the room didn’t reveal much except for a pew possessions and some gold. Cilas had been attacked by something vicious with great claws and sharp teeth, and Aldarion the diviner concluded that these were the marks of a wolf. No trail, however, led in or out of the room. Also, something big seemed to have broken up the door (The adventure is not specific on this, but circumstances taken into consideration, it seemed logical). Taking a small sample of blood, the heroes decided to leave and head for their own room. On their way they were suddenly surprised by Duristan who sprang up around from a corner and poked them with a silver fork. He realized that none of them showed no effect from the wound and disappointingly told them that he was convinced of werewolves inside the lodge, and the only way to reveal it was through direct means. He had been making a list and was now out poking anyone in the lodge. (We did in fact start talking about this; would a Pathfinder werewolf really react to this, in its human form? I decided not.)
They agreed with Duristan that they would keep a watchful eye out for werewolves and left the eager hunter and headed to their room. There they cast Blood Biography on Cilas’ blood.
The results were:
Who are you?: Cilas Graydon
What are you?: Human male, guest at Ascanor Lodge,  former military advisor
How was your blood shed?: I slept in my room and woke up when a dark shape burst through my door. It leapt at me and I recognized Corvin Tergsvor’s feral face stare frenziedly at me. He tore me apart.
When was your blood shed?: At 4 A.M. this night.
This was more than enough for the heroes. Now was the time to act upon the murderer.

Mission Imbardible
It was eight in the morning when they all snug down to Corvin’s room and realized it was locked. Everything behind the door was silent, so Vincent the sorcerer cast Knock on it and they entered. The floor was littered with empty bottles and crumbled up pieces of parchment. The bed was empty, witnessing the bard was likely deep in his drinks in the bar downstairs. They slowly locked the door and began searching, revealing plenty of emo-poems on the floor and a secret stash of even more bottles of absinthe.
Their darkest discovery was the torn and flayed clothes in the bottom of his closet. They were covered in fresh blood. Their evidence was firm, so now they needed to decide what to do with it. A short huddle later, they went to Estovion and woke up the warden once more. They told him of their suspicion of Corvin, that they strongly assumed him to be the killer and the werewolf. Estovion eyed them, as if lost in deep thought and then asked whether the heroes thought there would be a threat to the guards? They confirmed this, and so the warden offered them a 1000 gold if they would ‘dispose of him in a silent and swift way’. The heroes agreed to this, although with some reluctance. They decided to execute the following plan.
Galfur the inquisitor and Edgar the cleric both went to the bar and played cards, closely watching the ever down spiraling Corvin empty one glass of absinthe after the other. Eventually, around nine in the morning, he went out cold and the bartender dragged him to his room. The signal was then given to Vincent, Aldarion and Mutt to move in, stealthily, tie up the bard, put him in a sack, cast Fly and Invisibility on Mutt and then sending him out the window to the other side of the palisade. The barbarian did so, landed and ran around a kilometer into the forest, shortly after followed by his companions.
When they were all present in the clearing they tried waking up Corvin, who was deep in booze and sleep. Through divine magic they managed to sober him up (I usually allow restoration-spells to do this stunt, it’s quite harmless after all).  Corvin went into shock, shouting and screaming at the heroes to let him go, accusing them of kidnapping him and showing their true evil face, finally! They confronted him about the bloodied clothes and he hesitated a bit before evading the question. When pressed he revealed they were indeed his, but otherwise kept the information close. Not wanting to waste anymore time, Vincent cast a Charm Person on him, and suddenly the young man was much more happy to share information. Smilingly he acknowledged that he woke up this morning splattered in blood and didn’t know what to do. So he hid them and immediately went drinking to forget. He didn’t know much about the lodge, Estovion or any other thing, but when asked about the Whispering Way, he told the heroes that he saw them inside the main building of the lodge, just three weeks ago (In the original adventure, Corvin doesn’t remember anything, but if you’re looking for a way to tie the cult to the inside of the lodge, this is a good way.)
Deciding he didn’t know anything, the heroes went back to the lodge, gathered his belongings, headed out into the forest and dismissed the charm spell. Screaming, Corvin recognized what had happened to him and ran from the heroes. He was stopped shortly after by a well-placed Web spell that blocked his escape. Having a long talk with him, the heroes convinced the young man that he would be in grave danger, should he stay within the lodge. Someone, they were sure, was out to get him and would eventually kill him if he didn’t run off. Corvin considered this (good diplomacy-rolls) and decided it was the time to get the hell out of there. He didn’t have any money, sadly, so the heroes provided him with a 100 gold on his way. He hastily ran towards the old forest trail, and headed towards Lepidstadt.
And from thereon, the heroes were left to themselves. They decided what to tell Estovion, and chose to sleep a bit on it. Literally, as they also agreed that it was soon time to head for the Stairs of the Moon to see what was going on between the werewolf-tribes. But before they did so, they decided to rest up for the night and leave on the early morning the next day.
Things that go bonk in the night
The heroes returned to the lodge and cashed in early. Not yet knowing exactly what they should tell Estovion, they thought someone would come up with something tomorrow, alternatively they would simply leave Ascanor behind and head directly out for Stairs of the Moon.
On their way to the rooms, however, they met with Duristan who meekly told his inquiries had failed to reveal any presence of werewolves. Instead he politely asked about the heroes’ next course of action. As they told him about their journey towards the Stairs, the eyes of the young hunter lit up with an inner passion. He wanted to accompany them, if they would allow so, and gather up a small troupe of new hunters for the expedition. Telling them how thrilled he would be to accompany mighty heroes such as them, he finally convinced the heroes to take him along, and eagerly ran to begin preparations.
Hitting their beds, the heroes decided to remain cautious and stationed Mutt the barbarian on guard duty, so they would be able to head out the following morning. They blew out the candle and shut their eyes on the pillow.
Around 2 a.m. they woke up by the thundering smash of the bashed in door. The dark silhouette greeting them was feral with long pointy ears and sharp nails. It growled and in bloodlust hurled itself at Mutt.
Everyone woke up and partook in the fight, only to realize that the savage shape was in fact a drastically altered Delgros. Traces of the hunt master were vaguely evident beneath the fur and crooked posture, but it was evident something sinister had twisted the once good man.
The heroes methodically inflicted non-lethal damage to the creature, and even though it tore some large wounds in Mutt, they downed it. Upon defeat, a strange beastly spirit with a green hue rose from the body and hurled itself towards the barbarian with a growl.  In the next second, he developed identical savage features and started chopping up his party members.
With two well-aimed power attacks, he downed Vincent the sorcerer and worked his way onwards. Galfur the inquisitor managed to block his path, while Edgar continuously spammed Protection from Evil. They tore down the possessed barbarian and managed to resist the third enthrallment attempt from the spirit that now dispersed in a dying howl. (I’ll admit the spirit is not that well explained, and I’ve heard some conflicting stories from other GM’s who handled it. Deep down inside it’s described as a Magic Jar-spell, and I suppose at its core what it does is to appear, possess someone, and when they die it is driven back to its point of origin and destroyed. Some argue that the spirit leaves the host and becomes a hostile target that needs to be dealt with on its own, during which it can of course attempt to posses more targets. I went with the second option, for a longer and more challenging fight. It’s up to you, really, how quickly you want it over with. I used Corvin’s possessed stat-line for Delgros, even though they might not be entirely representative. It made for a great fight, nonetheless.)
Getting the fallen to their feet, Delgros confessed he couldn’t remember a single thing except going to bed. Then he woke up here. The party agreed that something foul was indeed afoot in the lodge, and persuaded Delgros to head into the forest to an old hunting cabin and stay there for a while. The huntmaster, who was obviously fed up by the recent events at Ascanor, acquiesced.
Onwards to the Stairs!
The heroes woke up the next morning and were met with some confusion in the hallway. Apparently, warden Estovion had gone missing. A lot of guards were assembled outside his office, and were nervously discussing what to do next. Most of them thought that instating Belik the porter would be the best move for now, till they found out what happened to the warden.
The party decided not to get involved and instead headed for the dining hall, in which most people were talking about the grand expedition young Duristan was setting up for the Stairs of the Moon and how glorious it would be. Most were rather exited to hear his tales once he returned.
Outside they met with the young hunter who had hired a few thugs and now stood ready for departure. Deciding not to waste any more time, they set off and left the safety of Ascanor behind.
The journey took a couple of hours. As they approached the east the forest grew dim and gloomy, imploring them to turn back at every turn of the path. Not exactly knowing what to look for once they arrived, the heroes yet maintained a good spirit and made sure their preparations were in order. Silver weapons were at hand, and they eagerly kept their ears to every little bit of surrounding.
Suddenly they heard a snarling voice from the growth.
“Turn back,” it growled. “This is your very last chance! Turn back, of be devoured!”
They called out to the voice that they were not enemies but hunting the Whispering Way. There was no reply, but Galfur could smell the foul presence of werewolves, and signaled for the group to prepare.
Out from the bushed leapt seven furious werewolves and unleashed hell upon the travelers. One wolf for each party-member, including two coming up from the flanks. The trail was narrow and thick vegetation spread on every side, making it hard to see whether reinforcements were to arrive soon.

Vincent was almost torn to shreds during the first rounds of combat, leaving the bleeding sorcerer on 3 hit points before he turned invisible and fled. Aldarion the diviner made good use of conjured pits to send some of the beasts falling, and standing back to back, Galfur and Mutt tore the beasts up as they approached. (As an upcoming GM to this part of the adventure, you should know that there are several encounters waiting, a good handful of them not particularly challenging for the PC’s. It’s up to you to either push through with them or reskin them for more challenge. I did in this one, in which six werewolves jumped the party, which can be a great challenge for a party of seasoned players. There is a LOT of damage going around in this way, and it can be potentially lethal. But it would seem most prudent of the werewolves to guard their stairs more fiercely. The remaining werewolf’s purpose wasn’t to tear up PC’s, on the other hand…)
As the battle drew towards it end, the heroes barely standing thanks to the holy infusions by Edgars channeling of positive energy, the seventh werewolf leapt upon Duristan with a howl. Screaming, he was dragged along the ground and into the undergrowth. The heroes couldn’t do much but fight the  remaining resistance and listen to his screams fading. As the sound of battle subsided, they realized they had only one path and it was onwards towards the Stairs of the Moon.
They reached the clearing a couple of hours later, and took in the grand sight of the tall tower of once glory and might. It was dimly white but now defeated by the tolls of ages, revealing an old set of stairs leading upwards along its side, as well as small entrances likely providing access to some of its inner chambers.
As they moved closer to it, the heroes found the torn-up remains of a long dead cultist bearing the Whispering Way’s symbol, a gagged skull. She also carried a small purse, in which they found black gems, onyxes, worth 1000 gold along with a detailed map of Ustalav. It had four locations marked.
The town of Ravengro. The city of Lepidstadt. A location near Ascanor Lodge and finally a small village by the name Feldgrau.
Looking at each other the heroes pondered, and then got their bearings together. As they set in motion towards the first set of stairs, they couldn’t help but wonder; what could this all mean?
Perhaps the answer is waiting this Wednesday.

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