CotH – Chapter Five: Music in the Mists

As the Mercenaries liberate Highchurch, the Orphans continued their travels towards Witchwood. Three nights passed since their escape from Port Heartlands, granting them all a chance to rest and recover from the events of their escape. Coachman Mills had been generous with his supplies, and each of the orphans recovered their strength.

The good Coachman has not stopped at the villages as they passed by, instead he took the back roads and farmer trails around the settlements to keep the wagon going. Unlike the rest of the party, he slept little during your travels. The few occasions he did sleep he asked one of the orphans to take the reins. He refused to sleep in the wagon, instead sleeping sitting on the driver’s bench. On these few occasions the orphans were able to see his many scars a bit closer, and observed they they seem quite old indeed.

Their ride from Port Heartlands had been swift, and rather quiet. Coachman Mills talked little and seemed more and more concerned the farther from town the party got. He frequently would look over his shoulder, back at the road behind, seeking any pursuit. Yet there was none. Perhaps the party had left the mystery army behind. Perhaps. Twice a day he let the horses rest, and the siblings took time to stretch and walk about the side of the highway as he curried and fed the horses. His limp seemed to get more pronounced as time wore on, and the orphans wondered why he was pushing as hard as he had been.

For his part, Coachman Mills had asked no questions of the siblings, though he has been willing enough to offer idle chat about the places they were traveling through and the lands ahead. He spoke of rounding the northeastern coast of Lake Charm, a land of great cliffs beside the broad and deep lake that stretches on farther than you could see. He promised that Witchwood was only a few more days away. With luck, they should be there soon and onward to whatever adventure is next. And he… well he never quite finished that statement when it came up. Instead he looked out over the road and frowned.

As they began the first day, the Book of Domesday activated, revealing the following messages:

Master Page: You fools. You little ungrateful fools. Here I am, one of the only people in this world who doesn’t want you dead, and what do you do? You kill my men. I will not soon forget this.

Jalen: You have a funny way of showing your kindness, with knockout gas and men in black suits coming to kidnap us.

Master Page: I take precautions, you fools. Who knows who you could be traveling with now. Who knows what tricks our enemies might have. Do you think you flee to safety? I’m not the only one who is reading these pages now! They know you are going to Witchwood. The Lords Council most certainly will get there before you. And what manner of fool did you fall in with? The Coachmen are all in the pocket of some lord or other. He is likely taking you directly into the ambush!

After consulting with the other orphans, Jalen inscrived the following image in the Book of Domesday:

……………………/´¯/)
………………..,/¯../
………………./…./
…………./´¯/’…’/´¯¯`·¸
………./’/…/…./……./¨¯\
……..(‘(…´…´…. ¯~/’…’)
………\……………..’…../
……….”…\………. _.·´
…………\…………..(
…………..\………….\…
After a moment of nothing but angry scribbles, the Master Page continued writing:
Master Page: Believe you me. Were I not otherwise occupied you would have the full host of my wrath for this betrayal. Remember, little whelps. I offered you lowborn filth an olive branch and you slapped it away. My agents will find you, before the end. If you survive that long. They will find you, and they will bring you to me to kneel where you belong. Like all of you whelps. I will find out which of you all is the last heir, and mark my words if it is one of you five I will relish in letting your lowborn siblings watch as you grovel at my feet.
The party decided not to respond, but were somewhat surprised and concerned at the mention of ‘all of you whelps,’ with Kaitsja wondering who else they could mean. Wondering about the future, Kaitsja decided that Coachman Mills was trustworthy enough to show the book. Surprisingly, he recognized it.
Coachman Mills: Good lord! Is that…. Huh. A book of domesday. I don’t think you should respond to anything in that. There is no way to tell who is watching. And no way as to who is reading. Much less who is writing on the other side… Constant paranoia is always a good idea.
Kaitsja: Who would know more about the books?
Coachman Mills: If anyone would have answers, the coven at Witchwood would know. I’ve known them to be quite friendly and helpful. Just don’t…. fiddle with anything when we get there.
Conversation wound down as the party approached the headlands around the Lake Charm Highway.

 

Upon arriving from the east, the part came across a patrol of Lord’s Council Soldiers, the mysterious soldiers that had been chasing them in the past, harassing a young Lapine girl along the highway. Taking the initiative, the party chased after the patrol, interrupting their harassment and saving the Lapine girl, though not before several injuries and life-saving dives into the bushes. Pliskin chased down the leader to a nearby bridge crossing a narrow stream, when another Lapine, a powerful looking woman with a large sword, appeared and joined the fray, assisting the party in saving what turned out to be her child. They were introduced as the silent warrior Harley and her daughter, the precocious and vocal Quinn. Coachman Mills allowed them to ride on the wagon with them as they advanced over the bridge.

As arrangements were made, Jalen noticed a fisherman on the shore. Using illusion magic, he managed to persuade the fisherman that “the sky people” were attacking and that only giving Jalen his fish would keep them at bay. As the somewhat insane fisherman rowed away, Jalen found himself satisfied by having 6 large lake salmon for future dinner opportunities.

As the wagon made it’s way around the bend towards the tunnel, a deep fog rolled in and, with a loud snap, one of the wagon wheels broke sending the party tumbling to the ground. With the damage being pretty intense, Coachman Mills, Quinn, and Harley decided to stay with the wagon as the party adventured forth seeking help.

Along the way they encountered a field of very bright red mushrooms. Pliskin managed to pick the very best one and, in a true sign of wisdom, ate it whole. As the party watched in horror, nothing happened but a bit of indigestion.

Following a trail down to the Lake Shore, the party encountered crab-minds (normal crabs, but hidden under the sand until stepped upon). This led to some fierce battles that lasted precisely one round each time. They also found a group of sailors whose ship had been taken by a Giant, who was using it as a seat as he fished the lake. The sailors offered very little in exchange for fighting what was certainly a lethal threat, and the party said: Nope. And promptly left.

Climbing up to the cliffs above the highway, the party encountered a Water Elemental woman singing a song as she danced in the pool at the base of a large waterfall:

Water Elemental: Amongst the torrent, I can hear us calling:
Bring me the scales I taste so fondly
Bring me a song of a child’s deep longing,
Bring me something of titanic power,
Bring me the hem of Peryton’s prowler.
By blessing for those who serve me well,
Is the power of the river’s swell,
It is for yours to ever keep,
Wisdom strong and healing deep.

With the elemental making it clear she would not allow them to fill their waterskins at the pool, Jalen begrudgingly gave away one of his salmon to complete one of her tasks. They set out seeking a way to find the other items for the elemental, tempted by her promise of wisdom and healing.

Crossing a rickety rope bridge, they came across a small house in the wilderness with a number of musicians (sort of) outside it. Their music was markedly terrible, and it was revealed that this was Ebenezar’s Music School for the hearing impaired, now run by a former adventurer named Howard, who had married Ebenezar’s granddaughter. Howard’s own daughter, Suzy, was a young girl of tremendous musical talent, but was unsatisfied as she wasn’t allowed to join the music lessons as she wasn’t a paying customer. Angrily she ran off into the cliffs to the northeast.

After speaking with Howard, the party agreed to go find Suzy and bring her home for dinner. Before they did so, they first crashed a fine party of a small group of werefolk having a picnic. Suesenn managed to convince one of them to allow her several shots of fine Gladbaegol Reserve and promptly became drunk. Pliskin sampled it, and found his indigestion from the mushrooms had increased, now causing him to burp out rainbow-colored butterflies. Worried, he said little and continued on his travels.

The party came upon Suzy in a sheltered glade where she was playing her music. However, before they could bring her home the party attracted a group of wargs. Wait, not wargs, rabid dire-hares. Yes. Dire hares. Those work. Hold on.

~Some technical support was needed from the GM~

The Dire Hares appeared friendly to Suesenn who tried to make one her best friend. The rest of the party ended up fighting them, correctly understanding that they were hostile and rabid. Jalen conjured a powerful gust of wind to blow them off the cliffs, and the rest of the party assisted in blowing the rabbits away.  During the fight, a strong blow to the stomach caused Pliskin to burp out another butterfly which, upon being eaten by a Dire Hare, caused it to grow so large that it exploded. Pliskin become more worried.

Returning to the school, the party got some tasty dinner and met Ebenezar himself, a truly ancient Clont bard, and found his back was gravely thrown out, making sitting up and working nearly impossible for him. They decided the Water Elemental’s healing might help him, and in exchange they asked if he would use his woodworking tools to help them fix the wagon. He greatly accepted, and the party went looking for ways to meet the other items the elemental wanted. They asked Suzy to play her violin for the water elemental, which was happily received.

At the school they also found a newspaper, which revealed the following:

HEADLINE: The HIghchurch Heroes!

Chief Editor: Marlowe

At long last, the heir to the Baptiste family, fair lady Lisandra, has returned to Highchruch at the hands of five heroes. With her return, her agents have set right to the great evil haunting the grand Faith’s Fortress, bringing hope and joy back to the center of faith of Ovid. Parties have continued in the streets for three days, and the names of the heroes are being sung by both Lady Baptiste and the people in the highest of praises:

Good John Clonter, a dapper Gentleman with a soft heart but a powerful fist.

The Mysterious Azmaranthe, a fae beauty whose magic can create or destroy at will. With perhaps a bit of luck.

Brave Ukko the Thunderous, perhaps the most compelling argument that it’s Clonts way or the Highway!

Brave Arius Goltanna, a noble and radiant knight that envokes the tales of the knights of ancient times. Watch out ladies, this knight is single!

and Fair Kareese, the bardic beauty who has captured our hearts with her songs and music.

The Lords Council has put out a statement that they are pleased that Highchruch has been restored and thank these heroes for their service. The Lords Council would like to remind all citizens that while occasions such as these are to be praised, for civilians to take political and military matters in their hands is a dangerous business and should be left to the Lords Council Army.

Lady Waverley Boarhardt has expressed her utmost pleasure that her Boarhardt Guildsmen were amongst those who saved the Baptiste line. “Ukko, Kareese, and John Clonter are all valued members of the guild and we are not surprised at their heroism, only at their timing. We hope they enjoy their well earned honors and look forward to them reporting back to the Guildhall in Kingsbridge for their next service to the nation.”

In other news, sleepy Port Heartlands awoke for a brief moment this week when a small conflight broke out in the streets. While reports are vague, apparently some form of bandit conflict began outside the local Boarhardt Guild, with two or three different bands of thugs fighting over some minor squabble. Thankfully, the Lords Council Army was in the area and managed to set matters right. Several bandits managed to escape, and bounties will be placed at the northern Guilds for those seeking to do a public service to their nation.

Upon exploring the eastern reaches of the Highway, they came across a hunter called Oliver, who was hunting a Peryton (a winged elk) and getting frustrated that it kept  running and flying away. Being quite genre-savvy, Samiya noted that they should just steal his clothes for the Water Elemental as it wanted “the hem of Peryton’s prowler” and the party pretty quickly rejected the idea of hunting what appeared to be the local forest guardian. They managed to steal his cloak, and he let them keep it in exchange for a small amount of gold.

Meinwhile, Pliskin found that his burps had increased in frequency, and was now growing by inches, and then feet, with each one. Slowly he became giant size and decided now was the time to confront the fishing Giant. Upon reaching the colossal being, it greeted him as a friend and asked for help in fishing up a Lake Dragon for dinner. Pliskin agreed, and soon the entire party was fighting a massive water dragon for survival. Pliskin decided the best way to have fun would be to throw the party at the dragon with his now gigantic hands, and several party members were TKO’d in the process. In the end, the day was won and the party got a fang of the sea dragon. Pliskin also let out a might burp, and returned to his normal size.

Returning to the Water Elemental with the cloak and fang, the party was rewarded with a jug of magic water. One sip was used to cure Ebenezar’s back, which he promptly broke dancing. A second was used to bring Ebenezar back upright and he fixed up the wagon. With no more barriers to moving forward, the party moved on with Oliver (revealed to be Harley’s husband and Quinn’s father) joined the party as they made their way through the tunnel along the highway.

Upon reaching the far side, the party stood and strectched for a moment before being hailed from the cliffs above them. A soldier, a man called Captain Taric, cheerfully called for their surrended before using a ballista to destroy the wagon, using a great chain between the bolt and the ballista to ancor the wreckage to the road. To their south, the Horn Helmed Knight appeared with several soldiers. On the cliffs above them, still more soldiers appeared and Mousey, the werefolk that saved the party in their escape from Port Heartlands, was also with them. She had been chained to the wall of a ruined tower, and Coachman Mills was furious.

Initiative was rolled, and a desperate battle began. Pliskin and Suesenn climbed the vines and chain to the upper reaches of the battlefield, while Kaitsja and Samiya stuck with the wagon, picking off those they could. Jalen, for his part, threw his remaining salmon to a great MEGACRAB along the shoreline, begging it to attack on his behalf. It agreed, and laid waste to precisely one soldier. Harley, Quinn, Oliver, and Coachman Mills also joined the fray. Mousey was freed and joined the party in their fight. But no matter how many times they struck down the Horn Helmed Knight he kept getting up.

Kaitsja took his helm from him to reveal that inside his face was nothing but a blank, rounded, featureless mirror. As she stared at her own reflection, the face reformed and appeared as her, screaming with Kaitsja’s voice as she stabbed the horn of the helm into her mirror image. The helm, armor, and bode of the knight collapsed into a quicksilver-like pool, before reforming and attacking her. It grabber her arms, and slowly the quicksilver poured over her skin, reaching up towards her face.

Just as all seemed lost, a group of witches appeared, led by Lotte the Lucky, and began bombarding the battlefield. Lotte landed beside Kaitsja, and with a dismissive wave of her hand parted the girl from the quicksilver and drove off the Horn Helmed Knight, shouting:

Lotte: You! I should have known. I claim these children as my own, they are under my protection and will remain so. Begone! I will not suffer you to remain!

Pliskin and Suesenn managed to get the rest of the soldiers to surrender, and the battle seemed over. Pliskin decided he was going to drink all of their healing water to restore his strength, and in doing so realized that the wisdom gift might have been literal, gaining +2 to his Wisdom score along with a small bonus to his health as he chugged the whole jug of water.

Captain Taric managed to escape using a small personal dirigible hidden in the castle tower, but the party figured they would see him again in time.

Lotte was glad to see the children safe and revealed that she had been looking for them since Kinley’s death. She said she would have been less worried if she had known they had been traveling with Arden this entire time, and the party was unsure what she meant.

Coachman Mills (Arden Gearston-Mills): Lotte….

Lotte: What, was it supposed to be a secret, dear? You are traveling with your old companions Harley, Mousey, and Oliver. If Marlowe could be here the whole gang would be back together.

After some revelations and accusations, Arden promised to explain to the children what was going on once they made it to Witchwood. As his wagon was broken, Lotte offered to get them there faster with her teleportation magic. As she counted to three, Arden protested loudly saying:

Arden Gearston-Mills: Lotte, you have never been able to get this to work. Please, for the love of compassion don’t use the teleportation spe-

But it was too late. They were gone!

Continue to Chapter 6: Revelations!