Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Tears of Vummor Session 56: The Arrival of the Bloodface

-The session began with Shepard next to an unconscious Peter on the ground of the Inner Bailey and the rest of the party on the wall south of the main gate. The sounds of battle dwindled as the surviving Night Roaches and Wraithblood slipped back into the night. Shepard carried Peter to the guard tower and also sent for guards to help Roderick, who was still on the wall. The rest of the party began scouring the walls for anything resembling the cluster of crystals Dorcas saw a Night Roach attach to the wall above the main gate. They met up with Frank the guard (also Shepard's first employee in her burgeoning goatmilk empire), who was distraught at the loss of his close friend, another guard named Sauney Willets (who I totally didn't kill because I forgot who he was, I swear). Frank was briefed that the Night Roaches were planting magical bombs on the walls (if the prophecy of Ingrid's screaming mouth hand was to be believed), so he began spreading word amongst the other guards.

-Meanwhile, a commotion arose outside of the keep fortress. Terrified guards ran screaming into the courtyard, crying that a goblin and something else was inside the fortress. Shepard questioned a guard with his wits about him, who revealed that while in pursuit by the guards, the goblin spun around and threw a gem in their midst. Within a minute, several of the guards transformed into undead creatures with worms spilling from their eyes and mouths. These undead turned on the other guards, and the survivors were overwhelmed by fear and fled.

-At this point, the party entered the inner bailey in response to the guards' cries. Together, they entered the fortress. Inside they encountered guards who told them the goblin was carrying a large stone vessel topped with a wax seal. Recalling the prophecy revealed by Ingrid's hand mouth, they guessed the goblin was headed for the cistern to poison the Keep's water supply. The guards also revealed that an old woman had forced her way through the terrified guards; they let her through because she was "one of yours", (a guard said while pointing to Ingrid,) "a follower of Astarael." 

"Butt worm" carriers, according to the party.
-Below the fortress, the party encountered an old, scarred woman wearing a flowing robe over platemail. Surrounding her were six Spawn of Kyuss; Ingrid noticed immediately that their fear aura was absent. In fact, the Spawn were standing still around the old woman, who was beating out a rhythm on a small drum slung around her neck. Crystals were strewn at her feet. Ingrid was amazed; since the priestesses of Astarael are rare and solitary wanderers, she had never actually encountered another of her faith, let alone seen one deal with their order's foes in such a way.

-The old priestess continued beating her drum, so the party got to work. They found that attacking the Spawn brought them out of their daze, so while some members fought the awakened undead other members began dousing the stunned ones with oil and lighting them on fire, recalling their regenerative abilities. 

-In the process of defending herself from a Spawn, several Kyuss worms landed on her arm. All but one were quickly brushed off; that one managed to slip below her armor and began burrowing its way into her arm.

-Noting this, the old woman stopped beating her drum and cast a spell on the halfling, which killed the worm in her arm. The worm fell out of the wound, looking like an old cat turd.

-The old priestess, wielding a two-handed hammer bearing the bell iconography of Astarael, then helped the party finish off the remaining Spawn of Kyuss.

-After the Spawn were defeated and their remains set ablaze, Ingrid immediately began asking the woman questions. The woman, clearly not accustomed to much conversation, revealed herself as Oso (played by our visiting friend, Kate!), and insisted that before she answered questions she needed to pick up her crystals. The party offered to help and she scolded them, for none but her should touch them or it would ruin their delicate energy.

-At this point the party remembered the cistern-bound goblin and decided they should probably chase him down instead of asking an old woman questions in a hallway heavy with wormy corpse smoke.

-Inside the cistern, the goblin had already descended half of the spiral stairway that led to the water 80' below. He was clearly slowed by the vessel he dragged; this is perhaps all that prevented him from getting to the water before the party could dispatch the Spawn of Kyuss.

-Dorcas fired a swift arrow at the goblin, critting and pinning his foot to the stone masonry. He stumbled and the jar began rolling down the stairs.

-Shepard grabbed Nimy and jumped, activating her boots of levitation just in time to stop level with the goblin. She threw Nimy across, but Nimy slipped and fell into the water below.

-The goblin, his eyes never leaving the stone vessel, ripped the arrow from his foot and limped away. Shepard tried to reach him while levitating, but he easily dodged her attack and grabbed the vessel. He jumped the rest of the way to the water below. Ingrid jumped all the way from above managing a graceful landing in the water; she tried to swim toward the goblin, who was struggling with the wax seal.

-Dorcas took a deep breath and fired off another shaft. Her aim was true. The arrow tore through the back of the goblin's head and came out of his mouth, passed straight through his right hand and actually punctured the wax seal. Nimy quickly pulled the goblin's twitching corpse out of the water and cut the shaft in two, removing it from the goblin but keeping the seal intact.

-They carried the jar above, where they met up with a bloody and haggard Lord Barenor, who thanked them for thwarting the Night Roach's mission to poison the cistern. He sent the vessel off to be examined by his elven advisor, Tatharon Sunleaf.

-Their work was not done, however. The party immediately spent the next few hours searching the walls for more bombs. The hand's prophecy claimed the Night Roaches would plant five bombs, and five they found. They threw them over the walls when they found them.

-Exhausted, the party headed back to their apartment to rest. They invited Oso, who begrudgingly accepted. 

-At the apartment, Ingrid asked if Oso would pray with her in the morning. Oso agreed, but then began asking questions of her own. She was very curious about Shepard, pointing out the many characteristics she shared with undead creatures. They tried explaining Shepard's curse, but when Ingrid revealed she had actually resurrected Shepard in the Tanglewood, fearing it would trigger an accelerated fruition of the fighter's curse, Oso was enraged, citing she had betrayed Astarael's most sacred covenant. When Ingrid revealed that Astarael appeared to her, and that she destroyed the rod of resurrection on an altar sacred to the god after destroying hundreds of the Deep Hive to atone for her sin, Oso became incredulous, suggesting that Astarael doesn't actually appear to her followers and that the younger priestess had probably been fooled by one of the god's many enemies. She informed Ingrid that she would not pray with her in the morning. The party then tried to rest.

-At dawn, the party woke to a great commotion outside. The guards revealed that the remainder of the army was not far behind the Night Roaches and Wraithblood. At about a mile away the army were assembled, forming a ring on all sides of the Keep. When the party ascended the wall, drums rose up from the army outside.
[Drums: I just played the first 14 minutes of this on repeat.]

-On the wall they found Lord Barenor, clearly exhausted but surveying the invading forces beyond his walls. He told them that they lost almost thirty guards in the surprise attack, but thanks to the party both the Keep's walls and water supply were intact. Messengers had been sent at first sign the Bloodface were coming, so Barenor expected reinforcements from Thargione, Enond, Wywood, Wayheath and possibly even from the Jewel Throne itself. There were enough supplies to last the Keep months if need be, and between the remaining guards and militia they had raised Barenor seemed confident they could withstand the coming siege until those reinforcements arrived.

-Below, the party surveyed the army. It was hard to tell at such a distance, but there were hundreds of human sized opponents below, many goblins, some creatures the size of ogres, and even a few giants. To the north the army was already felling the trees of the Morktweald. What looked like a command post was erected to the south, as well.

-After some time, the drumming abruptly stopped. A lone figure climbed the narrow road that led to the Keep. Lord Barenor told his archers to hold their fire; he knew enough of Gurzzuzar Bloodface to know he operated by a code of sorts, and typically gave opponents the opportunity to surrender. When the figure came near enough they saw a female half-orc, clad in chainmail and bearing the banners of both the Bloodface (a red flag emblazoned with a bloody orc skull) and Kyuss (a black flag bearing a worm-ridden skull). 

-The half-orc stopped just below the gate and planted both flags in the ground next to her. She withdrew a scroll from her belt, introduced herself as Gurzzuzar's half-sister and lieutenant, Sharablog Bloodface, and read her leader's terms: Barenor must surrender the Tears of Vummor and meet Gurzzuzar Bloodface alone on the road below the Keep, where they will engage in single combat. If Barenor can defeat Gurzzuzar (she scoffed at this), the Bloodface will take the Tears and leave the Keep. If Gurzzuzar wins, they will proceed in taking the Tears, razing the Keep, and killing or enslaving any survivors. Barenor has until midnight, when he must meet Gurzzuzar. 

-Sharablog put away the scrolls, picked up both banners, and made her way back to the army. The drums began anew. Barenor asked the party to meet him in his chambers to discuss what comes next.