Set generations after the fantasy-adventures of our 5e campaigns, Briarthorn concerns the tale of six friends as they move to Briarthorn Parish to create a new life for themselves. But will their desire for a fresh start outlast the intrigue, danger, and terrifying monsters waiting for them? Briarthorn uses the Monster of the Week system, with some edits to make it set in the 1920s era technology of the setting.
|Ep #||Episode Title||Characters Attending||Keeper||Session Date|
|1||Identity: Part 1||Frazeon, Gryphon, Ironhome, Mac, Moira||Encartrus||September 8, 2018|
Five friends meet at a tavern on the docks of Fort Jess in central Kernaugh, each looking to book passage to the mysterious city of Briarthorn Parish.
First is Frazeon, an average looking human who is secretly part of an organization of monster hunters known as Kernaugh’s Hand. With him is Mac, a man haunted by his ability to see the spirits of the Astral Plane. They are joined by Father Ironhome, a venerable old monk who has seen a terrible prophecy involving his companion, a young priest named Brother Gryphon. A young woman with the ability to see the patterns of order and chaos in the world, Moira, is already waiting for them at the table when they each arrive. As they begin eating their meal, each tells of how they ended up at the tavern.
Frazeon receives a message from his organization in the form of a mugger in a warehouse at Fort Jess. Disarming the man, he finds a secret message hidden on his club that tells him “Ensure the Inquisition delivers their package to Briarthorn Parish” along with a ship berthing and date. For this reason he has arrived in the city only to find several companions he had fought alongside with, or previously hunted, arriving at the same tavern.
Father Ironhome is escorting Brother Gryphon to Briarthorn Parish to ensure he can meet a prophecy, one that bodes ill for the entire world should it not be fulfilled. Along the way, he ends up setting right a disputes by the common folk and learns the secret spices of many chicken restaurants.
Brother Gryphon is dead. Murdered by his brother, Harold and buried somewhere in the swamps. Harold has made a deal with the Archdemon Masque to steal his brother’s face and identity, allowing him to escape his criminal past. But this enchantment comes with a deadline, and a price will be collected in the near future. His infiltration into his brother’s life goes well, however, with Father Ironhome, church clergy, and even an old bakery woman not recognizing him.
One person who does recognize him is his niece, Moira. Her ability to sense patterns in the world around her causes her pain and frustration as much as insight and power. She sensed the nature of Gryphon’s true identity and, given her past as one of his accomplices on a major heist, she chooses to say nothing for now. She is too preoccupied with finding a man she met in the marketplace, one Mr. Doe, whose very being warped probabilities and made her skin crawl. She tracked him to this very dock, where she awaited for her companions to arrive- knowing full well that they would in time.
Last to arrive was Mac, a poor Clontish farmer cursed by his ability to see the spirits of the astral plane. After the a daring heist wiped out the fortunes of Lord Metairie, his landlord, the impoverished lord burned his own villages and put his people to the sword seeking the criminals responsible. Seeing his home and family killed, Mac returned the favor by summoning his spiritual powers to drive Lord Metairie’s wife insane and drove her to attempt to kill her husband. With the town in shambles and his livelihood gone, Mac fled from his village seeking a new life. Along the way he saved the life of a longshoreman named Lazlo, who gifted him with a ticket on a luxury steamboat, which awaited just outside the tavern.
As they compared notes on their pasts, the upper floor of the tavern was thrown open to reveal Special Inquisitor Fulton, one of the highest-ranking guardsmen in Kernaugh. With him were two of his guards dragging along a man whose head was masked by a sack-cloth. Gryphon and Mac were able to identify the man as wearing a bronze masked shaped like a skull over his head as he was drug outside and onto the awaiting steamship: The River Prince.
The party soon followed, boarding the ship and setting sail up-river towards the distant Briarthorn Parish, hidden deep in the swamplands.
|2||Identity: Part 2||Frazeon, Gryphon, Ironhome, Mac, Moira||Encartrus||September 26, 2018|
Boarding the River Prince steamship, the party encounters their first terrifying challenge: a face-stealing doppelganger.
Boarding the ship, the party met a number of strange characters taking the steamship to Briarthorn Parish, including:
As the ship steamed deeper into the interior of the swamp, Mr. Doe fell from the ship, seemingly drowning in the murky waters. Mac leapt after him, facing off against a terrifying Swamp Dragon and pulled the man to the ship, only to find him constantly trying to return to the water to drown himself. During the battle, Mac’s wounds from the jaws of the swamp dragon bled openly in the water, and Ms. Collier warned him about the deadly algae that was common in the river system. After healing by Frazeon and Ironhome, he felt he had nothing to worry about.
After the party locked him in the brig along with the mysterious prisoner, they began to inquire about how he fell overboard only to be interrupted by Lady Martha Tate falling off the ship. Before she can be rescued, she is crushed to death by the ship’s paddlewheel.
Sensing a murderer on board, the party and passengers are confined to quarters as Crewman Lazlo brings them their meals. As he does, the crewman attempts to grab Frazeon’s face, beginning the process of swapping their identities and revealing himself to be a doppelganger. A fight in the corridor outside their rooms begins, with Ironhome locked in his chamber by the fuss. During the fight, the doppelganger attempts to swap identities with Gryphon, only to slowly transform into Harold before finally being driven off the ship by a burst of holy energy by Ironhome as he emerges from his chambers.
With their identities in tact, the party discovers that the doppelganger arrived on the ship as Mr. Doe, then swapped forms with Lady Martha Tate. With her transformed, he placed a geas to force her to kill herself, then took her place on the ship until he swapped forms with Lazlo, causing Lazlo (now appearing as Lady Tate) to also attempt to kill himself, this time successfully.
With the doppelganger defeated, they find the transformed Mr. Doe to slowly revert back to her true identity of Lady Martha Tate, a process which is accelerated by Ironhome. As they heal her, Mac uses his powers to discover startling secrets about the masked prisoner, including that his aim is to cause harm to some sort of holy being in Briarthorn Parish and that he fears three individuals hidden under the island of the old city. His spiritual connection with the strange, masked man was interrupted as the party pulled him away. From their perspective he was having a terrible seizure and began bleeding at the eyes and nose.
Special Inquisitor Fulton develops a grudging respect for Frazeon, despite each of the inquisitor’s orders being disobeyed by the professional. As the ship arrives in Briarthorn Parish, Lady Martha Tate refuses to leave Mac’s side, seeing him as her savior after he pulled her from the water.
Monster Lore: Doppelgangers
While the party has much to learn about doppelgangers, they now know they can swap identities with a target by touching the face of their victims and can then compel those they switch faces with to do a single command for up to an hour.
|3||Housewarming||Alexander, Frazeon, Mac, Moira||Encartrus||October 6, 2018|
Looking for a place to spend their first night in Briarthorn, the party stays at Alexander’s newest investment property that is definitely not haunted.
Arriving in Briarthorn Parish, Brother Gryphon and Father Ironhome are met at the docks by a luxurious car owned by the church and a young novice named Sister Patience. Swept away on church business, they promised to catch up with the rest of the party when they could.
Special Inquisitor Fulton escorted the Mysterious Prisoner onto a ship bound for Briarthorn’s Old City. As the prisoner was escorted away, Mac heard a psychic message from the being “This is only the beginning.”
As soon as Fulton had left, one of the party’s old friends appeared. Alexander, a blessed vampire and real estate mogul in the Lamp District and Harbor district, had run afoul of Special Inquisitor Fulton in the past, back when the church had attempted to kill him. Having bought them off during the market crash several years before, he was now mostly safe, but Fulton was always a difficult man and Alexander didn’t take chances.
As Lady Tate left, she thanked Mac once again and gave him the address of her family’s building in Newharbor. Alexander, knowing the city better than the others, revealed her to be the scion of a major telecommunications and power company, and that Tate Industries powers and keeps the city moving. She left a note for Mac to visit her in one week’s time.
The reporter, Nathanda Hart, interviewed each of them (despite their attempts to stop her) and got photos of each of them, including Frazeon (a fact which would put his ability to operate as a member of Kernaugh’s Hand in jeopardy). Through Mac’s quick thinking and hexing abilities, they caused the film to be lost from her possession, having it fall out during her ride on a city trolly to be lost and destroyed in the damp city streets.
As he caught up with his own friends, Moira was approached by Norman Ross, who handed back her Chaos Theory textbook and thanked her for letting him borrow it, something she never did. She could not calculate when or how the man had taken her book, but with a smile and a wave he walked away, leaving her very worried. As the party discussed their plans, Moira noticed that Ross was watching them through the rain from down the street. Mac opened his senses and saw that the spirits around Norman glowed with a faint pink light, something he had never seen before. Seeing that they noticed him, Norman waved and left. In order to protect herself, Moira used her sensory powers to create a personal alarm to alert her if the patterns indicated Norman Ross was within 100 feet of her location at any time.
Alexander guided the party to a place they could stay for the night, an abandoned manor house he bought for next to nothing in the hills over the Lamp District. Arriving there, they found that the lock his servant placed on the house several nights before had rusted shut. After walking through the shrubs around the perimeter, Alexander used his vampiric strength to leap over the wall and help the party into the house.
Inside they found a number of signs the house was cheap for a specific reason: ghosts. They identified a female servant ghost who kept the fires burning, plates filled, and wine poured and a male ghost of a former owner who took several swipes at the party, and seriously injured Alexander during one such jump scare. Despite the violent setbacks, Alexander was quite pleased with his purchase as a house with infinite food and wine, with self-tending fires, would sell for a fortune.
Moira entered a study to discover it had been enchanted, along with the 100% identical room upstairs, to become some kind of recursive loop. Whenever someone walked up the stairs, they re-entered the same chamber over and over again. With her powers, she discovered the purpose of the enchantment was to protect a simple wooden box, but she was unable to open it without harming Mac by the release of spiritual power. Each time she opened the box in the loop, it remained empty.
Mac saw the spirits of a woman in a servant’s outfit and the former owner stuck in a loop of violence with each other. Both appeared to have crimson lines covering them like cracks in decaying stonework, cracks that glowed with the same faint pink light he had seen earlier in the night. The party discovered a telescope on the roof, pointed towards the distant town of Mudwick. Moira calculated the precise house it would be pointed at. Alexander discovered a very fancy and valuable suit of armor which would be worth a fortune, which he congratulated himself on purchasing along with the house. He then discovered evidence of ground subsidence in the bathroom, which set him into a foul mood.
While at the house, a cake was delivered to the font door by an anonymous source. Frazeon discovered it contained a message for him from his order to seek out a glove shop in the old city.
Moira discovered a journal, which along with a series of nightmares by the party revealed the maid specter to be Kate Arkenwary, a beautiful young woman and eldest of three siblings from the poor town of Mudwick. She became the maid of the abusive and violent master of the household, who eventually began to hit her and lock her in a hole that collapsed under the bathroom. Over time, she stole money and hid it in a chest in the study, planning for her escape to return home with enough to set up her sisters and parents for life, but before she could she was confronted by the master with his shotgun in the hole under the bathroom and, during their fight over the gun, both were killed when the shotgun went off.
The spirit of Kate Arkenwary spoke directly to Frazeon, revealing that she once met another in his order who was kind to her. She asks him to bring her treasure to her family as her last, unfinished business. He agreed to do this task for her, and when he awoke he was being shielded from flames by a crimson glowing symbol of his order.
As they discovered this, they awoke to to the house being on fire and riddled with crimson lines of power. The ghost of the master appeared, ready to kill Frazeon, but Alexander drew upon his blood magic and, using his own life force as fuel, shouted “Fuck Off, Ghost!” and sealed the master away. Each time the spirit attempted to reform after, the echo of Alexander’s seal reappeared, causing the evil spirit to be banished once more.
The party followed the crimson lines of power and avoided the flames through the house, Moira, Mac and Frazeon figuring out how to unseal Kate Arkenwary’s Treasure in the process. As they fled, they discovered the hole beneath the bathroom and found the corpses of both the master and Kate. Their bodies had been impaled by some kind of crimson crystal which grew out of the ground and seemed to be drawn by their blood. Mac noticed the spirits in the area were drawn to it like a magnet, and while spiritual energy was near it, the crystal remained powerful and glowing. The party pulled the corpses of both Kate and the Master form the stones, causing a sigh of relief to be heard and causing both the crystal, and the lines of power flowing through the house, to collapse into dust. As they escaped, Alexander grabbed the suit of armor, vowing not to lose everything from the house.
Moments later, with large cracks along the walls and foundation turned to dust, the house collapsed. The party fled as the authorities arrived. As they did so, an older man with grey hair passing by on the far side of the street paused and watched them, his eyes lingering on Moira. He lit a cigarette, watched the authorities investigate the collapsed building for a moment, and then set off after the party at a leisurely walk.
Monster Lore: Ghosts
The party was taught about ghosts by both Mac and Frazeon, each having some training. While one might destroy a ghost’s appration with weapons or magic, it will always return again in time unless either their mortal remains are destroyed (giving the spirit no corporeal capabilities and trapping it on the plane unseen and unable to interact for eternity. The only way to truly free a ghost is by seeing through its’ grudge or strong emotional purpose. Only then will the spirit move on and free a place of its influence.
|4||Mudwick Malady, p1||Alexander, Ironhome, Gryphon, Mac, Moira||Encartrus||October 23, 2018|
The party settles in to their homes in Briarthorn Parish before setting off to Mudwick to fulfil their promise to the ghost of Kate Arkenwary.
We return to the previous day, when the party split up on the docks. Sister Patience has escorted both Brother Gryphon and Father Ironhome into her very fancy, and expensive, car and they took off through the city, leaving their companions behind. During a very tense ride, Sister Patience interrogated Father Ironhome and Brother Gryphon about their sudden arrival in the city, relaying that the Grand Inquisitor had anticipated their arrival but was… displeased by it. She informed both that the church has been worried as of late, the various cults have grown bold and Briarthorn has become a den of sin and villainy. She delivered them both to a temple in the poor, urban area of Foulwater and informed them to keep to their home and minister to their flock. During this conversation, Gryphon used his charm and wit on Sister Patience who begins to blush when she looks at him, but otherwise remains cold.
Not bothering to hide her disdain for the poor, she parts ways with them saying “Do mind yourselves in the city, Gentlemen. Briarthorn can be… a difficult place for the unrighteous.”
Upon investigating the area, Father Ironhome discovered that the locals had a fine fried chicken establishment across the street from his temple and began making friends and inviting all to services at his temple.
Brother Gryphon soon excused himself to find his car, left for him in working order by Alexander. After driving around town for a while, taking time to get drunk at a local bar, he then made his way back to his boat, the Brother’s Keeper, tied up at a cheap dock on the edge of the city. There he made sure all was well on his craft, and home, before falling asleep. That night he had a dream of days and nights passing by quickly, ending with him watching a figure with his own face reach out of the moon to strangle him, while another man stared on smiling and saying “the bargain is struck.” He awoke the following day covered in sweat and coughing.
Ironhome also had a dream, but in his he was visited by a woman who glowed with holy power. She gave him delicious fried chicken and was amused by his offer to share, before giving him a warning, and repeating a set of words to him that altered the mythos of his order:
Our crimes a beacon in the dark and rain,
When he awoke, the words were still fresh in his mind as the dawn of a new day shone through the stained glass windows of his temple.
Elsewhere in the city, as the sun rose over the low buildings surrounding the Lamp District docks, a narrow blade of sun pierced through the window and into Alexander, Moira, Mac, and Frazeon’s bloodshot eyes as they finished their breakfast. The ordeal from the previous night was still fresh in their minds, as was the last request of Kate Arkenwary to deliver her treasure to her family in Mudwick. The party agreed to address their own concerns and then meet up at 4:00pm that evening to set out to Mudwick at a location they agreed to with Ironhome and Gryphon when they landed at Briarthorn.
Alexander dodged requests from Hardt & Trust Insurance about what happened at his new property, but went to one of his other homes and changed clothes. Soon after, he took his new-found suit of armor from the old manor house and had it appraised. It was of ancient make, and was worth a small fortune. He elected to keep it rather than sell it to recover his lost income, and noted the rose-shaped indentation on the breast of the armor.
Mac sought out a small, run down hotel to get some sleep at within his price range. Inside the hotel, he examined his Swamp Dragon wound from when he saved Lady Tate on the River Prince. He noticed that his flesh was becoming mossy, and found a doctor leaving on of the neighboring hotel rooms after a tryst with a prostitute. He diagnosed it as the Swamp Algae and told him that there was no cure and that the only way to treat it and keep it from spreading was to get a steady stream of holy healing from a priest on a daily basis. If he went too long without holy healing, it would spread and eventually kill him. As he pondered this doom in his hotel room, he spent some time updating his firearms and watching the ghost of Kate Arkenwary gesture towards her treasure and the distant village of Mudwick.
Moira took the local trolly system to her apartment near Briarthorn University. As she walked along the familiar shops, bookstores, and cafes on her block, she noticed that she was being followed by a hooded figure, mostly hidden in the fog and rain in the park across the street. Eventually she stared down the figure, causing it to startle and retreat deeper into the park surrounding the University. Soon after she arrived at her building to see a familiar, and unwelcome, face leaving her building. It was Norman Hart, and he left her building, without noticing her, before also crossing the street to head toward the university. Upon returning to her apartment, Moira found it to be ransacked by someone looking for something. Nothing appeared to be missing, but many of her paintings had been ruined.
The party returned to their gathering to find a letter from Frazeon saying he would catch up later. They agreed to take Gryphon’s fishing boat to Mudwick to return the Arkenwary treasure to Kate’s family, and set out near sunset. As they did, an older man smoking a cigarette watched their boat steam away from one of the quays before turning and walking deeper into the city.
Arriving in Mudwick, the party soon learns that most of the town has been stricken with the Algae plage, and over 150 poor souls have already been lost to it. The visit the Mudwick Inn and meet the local innkeeper, an unsettling and oddly prepared woman introduced by her companions as Miss Gloaming. With her is Beth Abernathy, a local greenkin brewer who has made her calling card her famous “Algae Ale,” a beverage that glows green and eventually causes Father Ironhome to glow green and Brother Gryphon to get very ill. Also in town is the surly Old Jacob, who says the plague is caused by Leery Larana, a strange old woman who lives alone in the swamp and has done so for a very long time, as a punishment for corrupting the environment.
Moira, sensing something odd about how Miss Gloaming seems to know what people will need before they need it, uses her powers on her and discovers that she is somehow disconnected from the world. Like a pieces of an elaborate tapestry that has been cut from the rest of a pattern.
As they leave the inn, they encounter Inquisitor Clive, a very young inquisitor sent to “solve” the problems of Mudwick by Special Inquisitor Fulton and is woefully inexperienced and unsure of his duties. The party chooses to follow him up to the manor house
The party visits Squire Maximilian, the local landlord for most of the village, and finds him very nervous of Inquisition presence in the village. He blames the old woman in the woods, Leery Larana, of being the cause and sends the inquisitor out to bring her to justice and retrieve her “heart,” as local legend states that she keeps it on a pedestal outside her home. The boy runs off the do so, but Alexander attempts to stop him but is unable to reach him before he disappears into the woods.
Brother Gryphon and Father Ironhome meet Sister Sanderson, a priestess of their order who has come without church support to try and cure the plague. As they meet her, they see her pouring a failed attempt of a cure out of her cauldron and into a drain. She explains that she has been working for weeks to try and cure the village’s malady, but the only cure that works requires a huge sum of gold dust, hard apple cider, pure water untouched by the algae, and a power focus. But her focus, it seems, is about to be out of energy.
She shows a ruby crystal to the party, made from the same glowing stone the party saw in Alexander’s new property, but already in the stages of decay to smoky limestone. She told them that local legends say that the old woman in the swamp, Larana, was said to have a power crystal, but without it her potions will lack potency. Gryphon observed that she was reading from an ancient manuscript and using a magical cauldron to make her potions.
The party then acquired the needed hard apple cider from Beth abernathy and dropped it off at Sister Sanderson’s lab before visiting the Arkenwary family. Attempts to teleport it to the appropriate location by Father Ironhome (attempting to experiment with his new holy power) led to both Ironhome and Gryphon falling in the lake and becoming infected with the Algae, leading both of them plus Mac desperate in need for the cure. Eventually they head outside of town to find the Arkenwary household.Along the way, on the edge of town, they encountered a crying figure which turned out to be one of the dead villagers reanimated as a zombie. After a short fight, they slew the creature and discovered it had a vial of one of Sister Sanderson’s potions on its person.
There they discovered that Taylor Arkenwary, Kate’s youngest sister, was dying from the plague. The middle sister and father had left for the city to seek a cure, leaving only Mrs. Arkenwary to look over her dying child. The party shared with her Kate’s treasure and Kate’s journals, explaining the fate of her eldest daughter as the ghost sat on Taylor’s bed watching her dying sister.
Mrs. Arkenwary shared that Sister Sanderson had done little and asked for much over the past few weeks. Only a few people claimed she cured them, and most of her cures had done nothing… at great expense to the village as the potions required copious quantities of gold. As the party comforted Mrs. Arkenwary and considered their moves, the moon rose high above the swamp. As she watched the moon, Moira had a premonition of explosive conflict soon to come. In the swamp, at a waterfall, and in the town itself.
Monster Lore: Zombies
|5||Mudwick Malady, p2||Alexander, Ironhome, Frazeon, Gryphon, Moira||Encartrus||November 3, 2018|
Facing the terrors of the Algae Plague rapidly consuming the village of Mudwick, the party seeks a cure for both the Arkenwary family and themselves.
We pick up seeing Frazeon leave the cafe the morning before the party went to Mudwick. As he was cashing out his check, he saw on the receipt the mysterious runes his order uses to contact with instructions and receives word to “come immediately,” presumably to the location he had been told of the night before via the delivered cake. Taking the ferry to the old city, Frazeon soon stands before an old, slightly out of fashion, high-end gloves and apparel shop: “Mano’s Fine Gloves.” Upon entering, the elderly and stuffy proprietor tries to shoo him off, thinking him too low class to shop at the store. Eventually he gives him a pair of worn woolen gloves and tells him to “leave out the back” as he is scaring off the high-end clientele in the store.
The staircase at the back of the store leads to an old elevator, which only goes down to an ancient vault deep under the city. Here there is a library, numerous weapon racks, glass cases with ancient treasures inside, and bookshelves that form a maze making the true size of the place unknown. As Frazeon touched one of the books, he was interrupted by Agent Elvis, a suspected long-dead hero of his order who has turned to taking care of this storehouse in his old age after losing his leg in a battle versus a monster. Elvis gives Frazeon a dossier about cultist activity in Mudwick and gives him travel information to get there quickly. As Frazeon gets ready to leave, he asks Elvis for aid in his battle. Elvis provides him with a large, heavy wrench telling him that he has to crawl before he can run, gesturing at the magical artifacts around them for effect. Frazeon takes the hint and travels to Mudwick, arriving in town just as the party gathered at the Arkenwary estate.
Mac decides to stay with the Arkenwary family to help translate Kate’s thoughts and will to her mother. And Gryphon excuses himself, feeling quite ill from Abernathy’s Algae Ale. Leaves these two behind, the party resolves to head into the swamp to look for Clive, wherever he ended up, and to see if they can find the power focus they will need for the healing potion. Along the way they cross the Mudwick Bridge and see a nearby waterfall from an inland spring, a source of fresh water. As they do, they also see a zombie wandering the banks of the stream. When Moira catches its attention by shouting for Frazeon, she is able to distract it through doing the Macarena and compelling it to do the same. This allows the party to quickly dispatch it. Fearing more zombies may be in the area, Alexander turns into a bat and surveys the falls, seeing at least three more nearby. The party decided this was an essential problem to solve, and set about purging the zombies. This turned out to be highly damaging, and the party took a short break to heal.
Meanwhile, Gryphon began to feel less sick and made his way back to Sister Sanderson’s house to follow up, as he was getting suspicious after finding her potion on the zombie outside of the Arkenwary estate. Upon entering, he finds her examining two new potions and tiredly looks up, only to be surprised to see him. He expresses his concerns over the potion with Sister Sanderson, who then asks for his help in looking at what went wrong with her cure. As he tries to help her find the source, he uncorks a bottle at her request which releases a fume that knocks him out.
As he comes to, he overhears Sanderson and Squire Maximillian discussing how Gryphon is ruining their plans. Gryphon uses his charm to cause Squire Maximillian to begin discussion how someone as perfect as him doesn’t deserve to be trapped in a shitty place like Mudwick and, with Sister Sanderson’s help, he is clearing the land of owners so he can sell the entire shire and move to the city. Gryphon attempts to escape a few times before succeeding, grabbing his tommy gun from his bag and attacks Squire Maximillan, who retreats wounded. He rushes into Sister Sandersin’s lab to find her, and her journal, gone. He unload his gun into all of her supplies (except for the hard apple cider) before leaving to catch up with the rest of the party at Mudwick Bridge.
The party debated for a few minutes what to do, learning that the cure Sister Sanderson was developing was probably worthless, if not actually harmful. As they debated this, Alexander found the helmet of Inquisitor Clive and turned into a bat once again to seek him out. The party gave chase. They soon arrived at an old farmstead with some very unnatural stone formations surrounding it that seemed to shield it from view from all directions. There they found the unconscious body of Inquisitor Clive laying on stone steps before an altar, covered in mud. The altar had a strange ruby light shining from a stone at the top of it. As Alexander attempted to land beside him, his leg sunk into the grass and earth surrounding the altar like it was quicksand, and he pulled himself to safety before being drained of energy and passing out beside the boy soldier. The party discovered that the area surrounding the house and altar was disguised quicksand, and made their way carefully to the house to knock on the door.
After knocking on the door, the party heard mechanical sounds, followed by several locks opening and the creaking of hatches, until finally a narrow window opened an an elderly voice inside told them to go away. After Moira and Gryphon explained that they were seeking a way to cure the illness, and the extent that the algae had spread, the door eventually opened and the party met Leery Larana, not an old woman at all but instead and ageless woman with golden eyes and silver hair. She distrusted both Gryphon and Ironhome, calling their faith “part of the problem” and waved aside Frazeon calling him “not handy enough for her.” She focused on Moira as she asked questions about the plague. After hearing of the plight of the villagers, she shared a cure for “Seekt’s Malady” which was for a pinch of gold dust, and equal parts hard apple cider and pure water, all boiled together for thirty minutes. She told them to have the infected both drink and bathe in the liquid and it should cure all but the very worst of cases. She then told them to leave and tell no one about her involvement.
Soon after this, she drew Moira aside and demanded her bag. She upturned it and pulled out her Chaos Theory book, demanding to know where she got it. When Moira said someone had taken it from her, she asked if it was an old man with a long beard. When Moira instead described Norman Ross, she told her to be more careful. She then used the crimson crystal above the altar to purify some kind of spell from her Chaos Theory book and also used it to clean up Alexander and Clive before explaining that the crystals are raw magical energy and “part of the problem.” She told them not to use them, and sent the party on their way. The party observed that the stone wasn’t sitting on the altar, but appeared to be growing out of a seam of the red crystal coming out of the stone under the altar.
The party returned to the waterfall to fill a barrel with pure water for the cure, and as they rolled the barrel back towards the bridge a vial of liquid was thrown into their midst from the forest. It exploded and created some kind of purple-glowing lure that attracted the zombies of the swamp. Gryphon and Frazeon began to fight them as Moira and Ironhome attempted to bind and dispel the magical lure. As they did, Gryphon’s tommy gun laid waste to some, but he was eventually tackled. Frazeon pulled out his mysterious case, and removed a Yentz Doorknocker, using the rocket propelled explosive to take out several before being forced to use the weapon as a bludgeoning weapon against the zombie attacking Gryphon. Eventually, Frazeon pulled out the wrench he had been given by Elvis and began bashing the zombies with remarkable success. Moira and Ironhome dispelled the lure with a magnificent display of holy-infused telekinesis, and the party fled with their water back to Mudwick.
There the party split up, with most of the party going to the Mudwick Inn to begin the process of brewing the cure, while Ironhome and Frazeon returned to the manor house to recover the hard cider from Sanderson’s lab. There they found the door open and Maximillian dead on the floor, a dagger in his chest. The house looked like it had been packed up for a move, but they found the potion and returned to the foyer to find Maximillian’s body gone. Moments later it attacked them, and they watched it rapidly, more rapidly that they thought possible, get covered and consumed by the algae. Ironhome and Frazer managed to get the barrel outside, and cut the squire in half, leaving its still zombified and active top half clawing at the door inside the house.
Outside, Moira and Gryphon caught up with the party as Sister Sanderson emerged from a moving wagon, glowing with power from a second power focus crystal. Together, the four managed to defeat the witch and drive her to her knees, with her wounds oozing ruby light, before Moira drew her garrote and strangled her to death. Moments later the party dispatched the final zombies in the area.
Over the next few days, the party worked with Abernathy to create the cure, testing it on Mac, Ironhome, and Gryphon before going forth to cure Taylor Arkenwary, and the others in the area. With no more potions being dumped into the water, the algae began to clear on its own, and life began to return to normal.
Gryphon and Frazeon searched Sister Sanderson’s possessions and found her cookbook, a rose-covered thing with a translated page called “Seekt’s Malady” translated from an ancient illuminated manuscript of a language Gryphon had never seen. They also found several letters to a cult saying “he has returned” and that “the time is soon.” Gryphon let Frazeon copy the letters, but refused to give them away as part of his own investigation.
After a few days, the party set out to return to Briarthorn Parish. Many thanked the party, including Abernathy (who wants to give away the cure for free as an advertisement for her Algae Ale), Clive (who swears he will make sure all the inquisitors know how awesome they are), and Taylor Arkenwary, who swears to find them and thank them one day for healing her. Mac watches the ghost of Kate wave to them, and they set off in Gryphon’s boat back towards the city.
As they do, Moira meets eyes with Miss Gloaming, the unsettling innkeeper, before she blows out a candle and darkens her window.
As they travel, the scene changes.Three figures sit at a comfortable bar, nursing drinks. No one sits near them, and the bartender quietly refreshes their drinks without signal or money changing hands. There is a taller man, bearded, with a brimmed hat sitting on the bar before him. Another man is there, clean shaven, with rings around his eyes. Between them is a woman, shorter than both. They sip their drinks in quiet. After a moment, the clean shaven man tosses a newspaper down on the table.
“Yes, it’s all very exciting.” The woman says, rolling her eyes. “The dashing hero cowering with the passengers.”
The scene returns to Gryphon’s boat, which approaches the city to see a plume of smoke rising from Newharbor.
Monster Lore: Witches
|6||Pumpkin to Talk About||Alexander, Ironhome, Frazeon, Mac, Moira||Encartrus||November 8, 2018|
Taking a quick breather from saving the world, the gang gets invited to a Harvest Festival run by the reclusive Cult of the Great Pumpkin for a night of tricks and treats.
Having returned to Briarthorn Parish after their adventures in Mudwick, the party begins to go about their task of getting their lives in order around the city. Mac looks for work and more permanent lodgings in the city while Frazeon works with his newfound mentor Agent Elvis to settle in to his role as an agent of Kernaugh’s Hand in Briarthorn. Moira returns to her burgled apartment to clean up as best as she can, while Alexander dodges questions from his insurance company and finds the perfect place to house his new suit of armor in his living room. Gryphon alone took his leave, and set sail on his fishing boat to the surrounding suburbs for some peace and quiet.
As they settled in, each of the party received a letter inviting them to a Harvest Festival, reading:
My good adventurer,
You are cordially invited to attend the annual Harvest Festival at Lamplighter Monastery. Only a handful of the most interesting and deserving individuals are chosen for this honor, so please understand that this invitation is not made lightly. Arrive promptly this Thursday night at sundown.
For the consideration of your hosts and fellow party guests, please leave your weapons, politics, and agendas at the foot of the hill. Bring with you only what you would wish to face in the dark. Food and drink will be provided by the Mudwick Brewery and the local Harvest Council.
We look forward to your arrival with great anticipation.
Drawn by the mystery surrounding the invitation, the party met up at the foot of Lamplighter Hill and began the long climb up to the Lamplighter Monastery, hidden deep in the towering forest above the city. The monastery was lit by numerous jack’o’lanterns and visitors were enjoying seasonal feasts among the old stone temples and shrines. While there, the party ran into their friend, Beth Abernathy, who was catering the event and Father Ironhome resumed his courtship with her. Ms. Collier, the engineer of the River Prince, was also there enjoying herself, as was Nathanda Hart, who attempted to get information from the party for her newspaper, the Beacon. She specifically wanted to know where they were staying in the city and what they had been up to, questions the party ignored save for Father Ironhome to revealed he had been assigned to a temple in Foulwater.
The party was welcomed by Jacqueline Lamp, the pumpkin-masked High Priestess of the cult. She welcomed the party in song, and encouraged them to enjoy the ground and, when they were ready, to partake of the festival’s main attraction: a haunted house. The priests converted their main building into a Haunted House each year to scare and amuse visitors, and she encouraged them all to try their luck.
As the party wandered the grounds, they discovered a set of six tombs, ancient in construction, with the names and faces of their men and women enshrined long since lost. A single altar rested between them with an inscription that read:
I see descriptions of exiled wights,
Near these tombs the party met a man wearing a cowboy hat and smoking a cigar. Devin Forester greeted the party warmly and seemed content with watching the events. Moira detected that this man had some sort of connection with Frazier, and they exchanged pleasantries about bar fights and fisticuffs.
As the party headed toward the haunted house, they encountered their young friend, Clive. The Junior Inquisitor was also invited and, while he wasn’t sure why he should be there, he was thankful for the invitation. He was too scared to go into the haunted house and wished the party well.
Entering the haunted house, the party found that the house was amusing more than scary, with rope-powered jump scares, mechanical singing pumpkins, spooky sheet ghosts that fell from the ceiling, and actors pretending to be monsters and villains. As they exited, they found themselves in a gift shop which sold festival goodies before exiting, feeling somewhat disappointed.
The party was continuing out in the square, with a number of new faces appearing. Two of which were Lady Martha Tate and Lord Metairie, talking with Nathanda Hart. Lady Tate brought Mac over to gush about how thankful she was for his saving of her life, with Nathanda asking very imposing questions about how close they were. Lord Metairie recognised Mac immediately, and, with how cold they were from their past, exchanged veiled threats against each other.
While this occurred, Special Inquisitor Fulton and Sister Patience also appeared, chastising Clive for attending this sinful event and tried to get everyone to leave or be arrested for heresy. When the party intervened, Fulton deputized many of the party goers who, oddly, immediately obeyed his orders and tried to arrest the party. Between Mac and Lord Metairie, things got very tense and Mac and Alexander convinced Clive to arrest Lord Metairie, which he gladly did, and began taking him down the long stairs through the forest, only to return shortly after to announce that a fog prevented anyone from leaving. At the same time, everyone realized that Jaqueline Lamp was nowhere to be found.
As the party began to argue, and then fight, with the inquisitors and their deputies, everyone began to get more and more angry and started acting out of character, leading Moira to use her psychic powers in a new way, stopping time as she examined the threads of fate around her. Everyone was paused mid-motion save for her and, in the distance, Devin as he smoked and watched the events. Moira realized that everyone was being manipulated by something, and all of them were somehow trapped inside a vast sphere of energy. She tried something new: touching the fraying thread of Frazeon to calm it, and him, and he was suddenly with her in this timeless space, seeing the threads so long as she kept touching his arm. Together they theorized that they were somehow trapped, with Frazeon suggesting that they were, perhaps, still trapped in the Haunted House. Releasing the rest of the party, they made a break for the front door of the haunted house as the inquisitors chased after them with weapons drawn. As they shut the door to the haunted house, the door itself vanished behind them.
Their second pass through the haunted house was much more terrifying, with each room having some sort of terrible vision. One had the vision of a treasure chest in a vault room, with the severed head man who looked very much, but not exactly, like Brother Gryphon talk to Maira saying “Its more treasure than we ever dreamed of, my niece!” before falling limp and bleeding over the gold. Another room had a woman moaning beside a window, who tore out her own eyes and demanded Mac “MAKE THE VISIONS STOP” before attacking them. Mac revealed this to be Lady Metairie, but did not say how he knew her. Seeing the danger, Father Ironhome cast out evil on the vision, causing the entire room to vanish and sent the party plummeting past a vast, floorless library before landing in a hospital room. Here the Masked Man from the River Prince was surgically removing organs from a corpse which could not die. As the party examined the corpse, it seemed to shift forms, male, female, young, old, in a cycle of dozens of people as the figure continued to disfigure it. Only one face was familiar to them, the white hair and golden eyes of Leery Larana from the swamps outside Mudwick. The Masked Man thanked Mac for bringing more bodies for him to tear apart, and the party fled to another room. The next room was an office in a large city, but from an earlier era. The party watched a woman named Waverly Boarhardt thank Alexander for bringing her the charred corpse of a woman named Sadine. She stabbed the corpse and watched a figure nearly emerge from a nearby mirror before she sighed and said she needed living blood to succeed. She promised Alexander a vast amount of Gold if he tracked down one of “Chadwick’s brats” for her.
The party once again found themselves in the gift shop, only the contents had substantially changed. Weapons and tools now lined the walls. The party acquired a chainsaw sword, liquid explosives, and worse as they once again entered the party outside.
Now, still more guests were at the party, including The Masked Man, Lady Metairie, Norman Ross, and the Ghost of the Master, all of which confused or attacked the party as they spoke with them. Fulton and Clive were being explained by Sister Paitence how they could be shipped in a romance novel, while these villains and threats shared dinner and drinks as if they were all old friends with the party. The only person acting remotely the same was Devin Forester, who continued to watch the party while Norman Ross chattered beside him.
Things turned violent when the Master attacked Alexander in revenge, and the party slayed the creature. When it died, it splattered into pieces of pumpkin. Soon after, Nathanda Ross cornered the party and was revealed to be the Doppelganer Cello, smiling with an impossibly wide grin and attacked the party in vengeance. The party also soon destroyed Cello, splattering pumpkin once again, before fleeing back into the haunted house once more.
This time the haunted house showed the party strange visions, not necessarily scary but perplexing. One room had Agent Elvis bleeding out on the floor, beseeching Frazeon to hurry as “they have taken the key, we’re out of time…” before dying. The next room was a vast floorless and ceilingless library, with a woman clad in simple gray robes and a jacket standing before them. They stood upon books conjured from the walls and shelves, all written in a language only Frazeon could read- the language used by his order to send secret messages. The woman told them that the library was a “remanant of a lost world” and “the last words of a dying people.” She told them that she could not provide answers to their world, but perhaps of another. Frazeon picked up a book from the floor and they all fell into the abyss, landing inside a hospital were explosions were loudly heard outside and the beds were filled with the dead and dying from burns. An older, more assertive Clive appeared wheeling in a dying Inquisitor Fulton who he claimed “protected me, even after all we did to him.” With the explosions getting nearer, he rallied the party to help him defend the hospital and they followed after him into the next room, which vanished and was replaced with a vast, underground chamber lit by red crystals. Moira found herself trapped inside the crystal on an altar and struggled to get free. As she did, she realized she could see every pattern, all patterns, for thousands of miles! As the party tried to free her, Norman Ross emerged and told the party to stop, as they needed more time to finish the ritual. The party killed Ross, causing him to explode across the room through Alexander’s blood magic. As they freed Moira, Mac noticed that the pieces of Norman were slowly inching back towards where his body was.
The party fled through the next door, to find themselves in the gift shop once again, this time with it being empty. The party outside was also empty, save for Devin Forester who waved at the party. In talking with him, they found out they were, in fact, still in the Haunted House and that it was quite the doozy this year. Devin revealed that he was one of the few to go in and get out, making him able to see the folks who were still trying to get through. He revealed that he got through in 2 passes, but refused to give them a hint beyond “you have to go inside” as “that would ruin the fun.”
The party next tried to climb in the giant pumpkin at the shrine, which also reset the haunted house, this time everyone, including themselves, were Pumpkinheads who could only say “Pumpkin” when they talked.
Eventually the party attempted to enter the Gift Shop first, instead of the main door to the house, and entered the gift shop to find Jacqueline there applauding their success in figuring it out. Everything had been an illusion, made to make them appreciate their blessings and remember their pasts. What they brought with them is what they faced in the dark, as was their potential destinies. Nothing was written in stone, but perhaps a treat was hidden in the tricks… One thing was for sure, their fancy equipment vanished as they left the house.
Disillusioned, terrified, and disturbed by the events inside the house, they emerged to see the same party goers as when they arrived, with Fulton, Lady Tate, and all the other newcomers never having arrived. Nathanda Hart attempted once more to get their photo and learn about their events, but the party ignored her and (with the exception of Father Ironhome) all immediately left the mountain to find a stiff drink and try to forget about the haunted house. Father Ironhome cozied up to Beth Abernathy and offered to take her to his shrine for a nightcap, which she agreed to. But his spell went sideways and they instead appeared at the Mudwick Inn, on the couch, with two glasses of ale in front of them and a cozy fire waiting for them. On the coffee table was a note from Miss Gloaming which read “Have fun you two, I’ve stepped out for the night.” They smiled at each other before the camera faded to black.
Meanwhile, watching the party flee through the forest down to the parking lot at the base of Lamplighter Hill, Nathanda Hart looked down at her camera and smiled. A smile which grew far too wide, spreading from ear to ear with a grin impossible for a normal human…
Monster Lore: Pumpkinheads