DGA6.10: Evils of Haranshire 10 – Helena and Helena

The characters for this session

Seck, lvl 6 rogue;
Vir, lvl 6 ranger;
Cat, lvl 6 warlock

Assisted on a random basis by Phoenix, lvl 6 barbarian

The Long Roaders are 57xp from level 7. The past two sessions have been xp-light so we’re all hoping for more movement!

We interrogate the wretch Heydrus

Feeling much better from the life that Maelsauga siphoned off his prey, Seck retraces his path, from the bank of Hog Brook back to the fiercely-burning keep and around the supplejack, then following a clear trail across the brush to a muddy pond south-west of the fire. The sun is behind the canopy completely: the whole area is obscured now. So as he reaches them Seck is surprised to see his comrades have acquired a spare bandit!

Cat, Vir, Phoenix and Helena are chilled from the sudden change in temperature: they have emerged from what’s essentially a giant tandoori into normal summer evening warmth. Helena is hunkered down, has her cloak wrapped round her. But then she pushes back the hood and turns her amazing blue eyes on the others.

“So… Lafayer will need an escort here, now,” Helena begins, with a wave of her hand to catch their attention. She seems calm, her face a little washed-out looking as a long and heated battle will do. She elaborates:

“Part of our guild contract with Lafayer – remember, he is putting his reputation on the line for us to relocate the goblins – is for him to be able to uh, consecrate the evil shrine below. Maybe deal with the stone stele? But he will need an escort here and back, and it can’t be level-ones.”

Having said her piece Helena lets the others get on with questioning their prisoner, the put-upon Heydrus. They collected him from below where Seck had kicked him off the wall, and he is only too willing to inform on his evil master and dead comrades, asking only that they let him leave safely.

Seck has taken the chance to refill his canteen, and the first order of business is for he and Cat to jog off to Hog Brook with some half dozen canteens, for throats are dry.

That being done the questioning commences. From Heydrus they learn:

  • Morchefus previously had a deal to supply ‘priests’ (Heydrus is confused over this term, stipulating the term firmly but seeming to include Helena) to the black dragon cult in the Shrieken Mire. The black scale wristlet is swamp adder skin. It identifies the wearer to the black dragon cult. Morchefus had maps to the mire.
  • Then about two tendays ago, after green dragon cultists came through, Morchefus announced a new deal and had Helena moved south to the mesa. He told the gang to deny seeing Helena.
  • Then maybe a tenday or so ago [ie not long before the Long Roaders invaded for the first time] Morchefus expected important guests down below. He complained that someone stole his best eyepatch when he delivered Helena.
  • Morchefus definitely kept some information back… some other deal perhaps. He may have been playing three sides? There are other tunnels.

As Heydrus and Cat conclude negotiations to allow Heydrus to go free, Vir recognizes that Helena is preparing a spell. And she seems to be looking at Heydrus. He gently pats down on her wrists, and as he leans toward her can hear that she is having a conversation with someone. [Vir makes Persuasion 22!] Helena just mutters that she’s not having him sleeping anywhere near her.

The keep has been fiercely burning all this time, and as the north-west wing flares up Heydrus allows that was the lumber store. It gave onto one of the stairs down, so that’s probably a no-go.

And with that Seck escorts Heydrus to Hog Brook and tells him to head downstream. Seck returns to the pond, and discussion turns to how long the keep may burn for and what to do next.

XP: lvl7-54, I have bundled a number of xp wins into this, including getting good information from Heydrus and moving Helena’s arc forward a little.

Intelligence: Nature checks for the three PCs present, all of whom have enough in their background to speculate intelligently. Guesses range from a few more hours to all night long. So if all they are doing is waiting (and that’s what they decide) there’s definitely time for a

Long Rest

Inspiration all round for ending the bandit menace

A ritual-assisted bit of pillaging, with added penis humor

The only thing of any note that happens during the night is that Vir, deeply asleep, has the feeling that his mother is trying to tell him something, and that he is bathed in a pleasant white light. He feels no exhaustion effects on waking.

While Vir calls a bird messenger, Helena asks Seck’s help with rigging a largish lens over the fancy lantern. He does a poor job [disadvantage since these are thieves tools not tinkerer tools] and the lens sits in a very crude cradle when he is done. (Helena will need her spare hand to keep it more or less in the right place. Later, Seck fixes it with a second attempt.) She heads off to a piece of bare ground, and Seck guards her back as she focuses on the ritual.

Cat inspects the keep from a safe distance. It’s still going to be useful for Helena to shift earth about. He returns, looking over at where tendrils of magical energy are seeping off the ritual circle into the lantern. The lens briefly flashes. Helena holds the lantern up: Seck’s magical gear glows.

With the aid of the Detect Magic it’s easy to pick which shriveled black log is Morchefus’ body and drag it out on a blanket. His war-flail is also picked out of the ashes. Then pillage!

Naturally the great hall that Morchefus had made his base comes in for a good look – but it is destroyed from the wooden furniture up. Aside from picking over corpses for their coin purses, that leaves the under-keep.

The underground level is deserted. Some tracking determines that the bandits cleaned the level (or more specifically toted all the bodies up to be repurposed) and crated up the stele, dragging it on sledge-style rails through the rooms and out down the shallow steps. It sits hard by a newly-built crude stoneblock wall blocking the tunnel near where it would fork.

However! A Glyph of Warding is splashed on a corner next to the acolytes’ rooms and another is marked in the passage just on the near side of the crate-sledge.

No-one has a bright idea to dispell these so it’s time for a stupid idea. “Stand back!” Phoenix growls. He walks up to the wall glyph, hauls his John Thomas out and begins piddling on the runes…

WHOOMMM!

Ice freezes both the stream of urine and Phoenix’ willy. The men of the party wince as he dances in pain, trying to double over and breath warm air onto the affected area! Laughingly, they draw daggers and chip him free. “Well you can check out the area now,” Phoenix concludes. The wall is a hollow panel.

With a very schmaverage Investigation check Seck misses the keyhole and cracks the panel the hard way. It takes some time.

Meanwhile after weighing pros and cons Vir triggers the other glyph by hitting it with Ulruf. WHOOMMM! He too takes ice damage.

Sure enough it is the stele inside the crate. That will need either a while hitting it with Ulruf, or a short time with three or four people hitting it with picks and mauls. They leave it for the Lafayer leg of the mission.

They return to find that Seck has opened the panel, finding a coffer inside. Its keyhole matches one or other of two smaller keys found on Morchefus. Cat realizes he can operate on the coffer from a distance, once the prison wing is checked and cleared.

He does so, then operates Mage Hand. WHOOMMM! Ice damage licks out but everyone is clear of its effect.

The coffer has plenty of coin and gems, a spell book, scrolls, and a large ornate iron key with a porcelain insert.

Chuckling about keys to the porcelain kingdom they fend Helena off from grabbing the spellbook, warning her about trapped runes, and head back up for looting burned corpses of their coin.

XP: lvl7-52, good precautions taken

Loot:
12lb of copper coin, 31lb of silver coin, 1130 gold coin, and 285 platinum pieces.
30 gems of average (50 gold) value.
One large (500 gold) diamond.
Spellbook: traveling size. An Inquisitor’s cachet is slipped inside. The name Hellebore written in scholarly Teulon suggests the owner. The spells include three at third-level.
Scrolls: Wizardly 1-shot scrolls of Dispel Magic, Hold Person and Acid Arrow.
Large iron key with porcelain insert: unclear runes in a script no-one recognizes.
Parchment in the map case, fire-baked, which will require a forger or scribe to re-work, to allow it to be opened out without breaking.
War-flail+2 (martial weapon d6+2 piercing, chance to trip, situational chance to disarm).
Chainmail shirt+2 (medium armor with base AC13, +2 magical, max DEX +2).
Cyric’s amulet of undeath and proof against location and detection (req. att. also, it is evil).
Brooch of Shielding (req.att.): resist force dmg, immun Magic Missile, reaction: +5AC 3/day, rechge d3/night.
Boots of Jungle Travel (req.att.): MV30′ unless higher, spd not reduced in jungle/deep forest.

Cat tries to get somewhere with Helena

“So, Helena,” Cat begins innocently and gesturing to the spellbook, “looks like you’re coming away with some treasure.”

“But gold’s always welcome,” Helena parries cheerfully, and continues, “make money wherever you can, whenever you can.

“Is that the Mooregate guild slogan?”

“It’s one of them. That, and ‘know when to cut and run,‘ oh, and also ‘don’t be caught by Mari after-hours.‘”

Cat’s next chance to speak privately to Helena comes after Vir hears back from Oleanne. She’s expecting them at Hog Brook. They decide to take a Short Rest before carrying the treasure and their own gear. Rations are shared out and nibbled unenthusiastically.

So Cat eases down beside the bewitching beauty. Her attention, pretty obviously, is divided between something else and him. He waits, she turns her brilliant blue eyes on him and once again, he feels uncomfortable.

Cat’s objective is to persuade her to stay with Tauster, perhaps giving the Long Roaders time to find out how culpable president Karl is, or just to keep her sober. They chat about the guild, the bookwork, Elke, and Karl. Thinking of this potential enemy, Helena puts Cat off with a glib assurance that she’ll probably stay with Tauster. Finally they agree that the priority is Milborne’s pending guild contracts, then the job of escorting Lafayer, then Thurmaster and Tauster.

Then Cat works around to his second objective: getting Helena to reveal something about whatever has been in her head since she got sober for the first time. She laughs it off by saying humorously, “did you ever have an invisible childhood friend? – I did.”

This was a tough one for Cat, since Helena has a fairly set opinion of him by this time. A nat 20 may have revealed more but probably not.

GM

Oleanne gives the go-ahead for them to escort Lafayer, so that’s all arranged. (In fact Oleanne knows of him, at second hand through her old mentor.) They had not been sure of his welcome by any means! She congratulates Vir and tells him she will owe him a great favor once the evil shrine is purged. Vir blushes modestly, bids her farewell, and forgets that Seck wanted to have Oleanne monitor the New Mire.

XP: lvl7-50, I’m trying to reward correct use of allies

A sober stopover then east to the smoke

The trek back downstream along Hog Brook is uneventful. It seems that even Heydrus survived, ahead of them! They wave across at Kuiper’s farm, attracting the attention of the late-morning hands.

As they wait for the little boat to be readied to fetch them, Vir’s gaze drifts to the east. On the horizon, a pall of dirty brown smoke is visible. Based on its color and direction, it’s not hard to guess that the smoke is rising from Thurmaster!

“What cheer, fellers!” the farmhand hollers. “We got that captive ye sent up, fetched him to the barn fer now.” Then, as they board, “Master’ll be pleased to see you all when ‘e comes in. Been off huntin’ monster or somepin fer a few days.”

Phoenix does the honors with the return leg, and they are across in time for a delicious early lunch of fresh bread, creamy farm cheese, and pickles.

There is wine to be had at the farm. Phoenix and Helena brighten up…

Test 1: Vir gets a Persuasion check, using his Inspiration. He gets to 18. Phoenix agrees he is still on mission, drinks ale in normal quantities.

Test 2: Based on Phoenix agreeing they are still on a mission and booze is not to be guzzled, Cat gets a similar Persuasion check on Helena. He reaches 17. Helena manages a half-smirk and merely qualifies her water with the wine.

During and after the meal Phoenix entertains the farmhands with tales of their latest escapade, and Helena (not for the first time) listens and encourages Phoenix to blab more than he ought to. Phoenix fails a WIS SV against this. It leaves the others free to not tell Helena her mentor’s hamlet is probably afire, and make other plans.

GM

With the news of Kuiper being away east, and taking the fire in that direction into account, the Long Roaders decide to leave a note for Lafayer to cover the detail that Animal Messenger can’t, and leave a note for Kuiper in case they miss him. Then they tactfully [decent to good Persuasion] explain to the other two that the Milborne guild contracts will have to wait, because of something urgent at Thurmaster.

Stripping down to not much more than their vital gear and fresh food and water the five make a forced march through the cool of the summer night, to Thurmaster. The +2 chain shirt is left with the farmhands with the commission to give it a river-sand scrubbing. (Vir calls dibs.)

XP: lvl7-49

Helena

Very much as they feared, ground zero of the disaster at Thurmaster is Tauster’s tower. Its top has been shorn off and both it and Tauster’s little cottage have burned through. The villagers seem numb, helpless. Moving among them with purpose are Kuiper and a few guards in Parlfray livery. Kuiper welcomes them with open arms then sees Helena – but before he can block her she ducks under his arm and dashes for Tauster’s cottage!

Seck uses his Cunning Action to keep pace and Phoenix his barbaric turn of speed. Helena falls to her knees as she realizes that behind the front wall of Tauster’s cottage is nothing but a burned-out shell. And she screams.

Seck and Phoenix take 2 Radiant damage each. Helena is glowing, almost as if she is on fire inside. The glow seems to come from her eyes and mouth, in particular. She screams on.

Seck and Phoenix take 2 Radiant damage each. As he hastily backs away muttering “I’m fond of her but not so much I will let her cook me to death” Seck notices that the torso of a huge headless humanoid is leaning from outside the hamlet wall, over the rubble of the tower. Its head seems to have been blown clean off and the torso burned through.

“Oh bollocks” Phoenix exclaims and kicks Helena in the back of the head. Her head snaps forward but she does not lose consciousness.

Phoenix takes 2 Radiant damage. Helena’s face is charring. She staggers to her feet and starts trying to enter the tower.

“Ahhhrrrrr!” Phoenix roars, “this is gonna hurt me more than it’s gonna hurt you!” – delivering a [nat 20] rabbit-punch. Phoenix takes a final 2 Radiant damage as Helena is knocked forward into the tower wall and bounces back, out cold.

Vir hurries forward to check her vitals and Cat throws Spare the Dying on her. Helena’s face shows serious charring, almost ash around the lips.

They use her cloak to tote her into the Hound and Tails, securing a private bedchamber. Cat elects himself on bedside duty.

XP: lvl7-48, would have been higher if it had not been simple random d6s deciding what Phoenix did

We learn what Kuiper knows and farewell Tauster

Meanwhile, Seck, Vir and Phoenix get to speak with Kuiper and learn as much as they can about what happened and how they can help.

  • A huge giant led a night attack of ogre-like creatures (a few hairy types, some half-ogre types)
  • The wizard’s tower bore the brunt of the assault, it blew up, killing the mighty giant
  • With their leader dead the other monsters lost heart and retreated, having killed and burned but not utterly laid waste to Thurmaster
  • Kuiper then arrived: he had been on his way to scout the Shrieken-verge camp, since the Long Roaders had not done it
  • Kuiper pursued, killing stragglers until the last several monsters fled so far east he called off his pursuit
  • He checked the camp briefly, finding it deserted, then came back here
  • The villagers are all in a state of shock, not even able to fight fires. He and the Count’s guards have been working non-stop, any help is welcome

The Long Roaders do what they are good at. Seck and Vir go out foraging and Phoenix, bragging that he will cook for the whole village, sets to work with a cauldron.

Later, they search the ruin for that coffer they left with Tauster. [Best check is a 13 from Vir.] It seems to have sort of blown up. As for the occupant, enough bits of a thoroughly crushed and burned Tauster are located to be sure he did really die.

Kuiper and Vir hold a brief, unsentimental funeral service over Tauster’s grave. “I believe he was fond of fireworks” serves as the wizard’s epitaph.

XP: lvl7-47

And Helena and Titania

It is the next night, in the wee small hours. Cat sits beside Helena’s bed, working quietly at parchment-softening detail. A voice comes from the bed where Helena has begun to glow. A voice as Helena, but a lower register.

“Mortal. You’re hearing me now.”

“Yes.”

“My efforts to guide this one have nearly slain her.”

“Well… for her own good, what do you want to do?”

“It is my cause to cleanse evil wherever we find it.”

“But you can’t destroy her… she’s been with you a long time.”

“I’m hearing the hands of evil reach out to her wherever she goes. They sense me. Or smell me.”

“Are they coming to get you, and will destroy her to do it?”

“My power would tip the balance.”

“Why do they want to destroy her if they sense you or aim to destroy her?”

“She would be sacrificed as is the way of you people.”

“No… not all of us agree on people being sacrificed.”

“But it’s all right if it’s a thing?”

Here the debate becomes a case of casuistry versus category error and the voice announces:

“I must rest. You won’t hear from me,” and the glowing light surrounding Helena dims. She seems to rest more naturally and the charring is gone by morning.

Later Doctor Vir pronounces her merely suffering from a concussion, simple bed-rest is prescribed.

But before that happens…

Ponk! Cat suddenly feels as though he had nodded off and nodded his head into the wall. It’s an abrupt shock and he leaps up, startled and beholds:

His mistress Titania in her summer glory. Dressed in green with accents of yellow. Her form voluptuous as new-ripe fruit. A sense of vertigo as the gaze is drawn to her swelling breasts. Her eyes deep and mystical, snaring men’s hearts.

Cat kneels reverently.

Titania looks at Helena as though something is quite funny.

“Titania, I have been ridding the forest of evil… seeking your way for people to live…”

“And yet,” she says sharply, tapping her exorbitantly gorgeous foot, “I don’t remember the last time you gave me a libation.”

She picks up the watered wine and drops it again.

“May I get you a drink?” Cat ventures.

“There’s many a slip twixt cup and lip,” she quotes. “Now: If you’re looking for somewhere to hide this one, you’ll have to deal with the underground as well as the Black. And then… we have a bargain! I’ll tuck her away, where my lord can’t see her.”

Cat tries not to think of undiplomatic things to interject.

“Meanwhile,” she continues with a sigh, “tuck her with the Warcrown. Even he wouldn’t touch her. Ooh – I know!”

Titania rubs her hands almost like a gleeful child and holds them over Helena’s collar-bones then runs them down between Helena’s boobs. “Excellent!” she exclaims and disappears.

XP: lvl7-46

We stash the weirdo and cleanse the ruin

Cat has a good deal to update the others on matters and how the Shrieken Mire will be next on the list. Right after they deal with the matter of Lafayer. And the other matter of convincing Warcrown to not hold a grudge and to shelter Helena.

They think through telling Lafayer about Helena but, recollecting the normal way the Inquisition and its approved clerics deal with erring wizards, choose not to. So they move Helena on to Count Warcrown Parlfray. She uses the Long Rest to write a report that presents their course of action as the only possible one.

Persuasion: using Inspiration, Cat reaches above 20

Warcrown graciously welcomes Helena to his bachelor pad like a cat that’s about to get all the cream.

Why no, I don’t currently have a mistress

Before too many days elapse the Long Roaders, bearing Ulruf, pick, maul and a watchful eye, escort Lafayer into the Thornwood up Hog Brook. He reconsecrates the evil shrine, they smash Cyric’s stele. Oleanne is as good as her word, and the return north to Kuiper’s farm is without incident.

Regretting his time with them has been all too brief, and mentioning that there are some likely youngsters waiting on their guild tags in Milborne, Lafayer bids them farewell.

XP: lvl7-42, the 4xp as promised last session

Shrieken Mire plans

Morchefus’ parchment map of the Mire features a lot of margin notes. Not only specific location details but notes about Black Dragon Colrath’s brutality and treachery, and the strengths of his lizardfolk champion Kelirth. The other cultists resent this and so do the other lizardfolk. And from Heydrus the Long Roaders also know that wearing swamp adder wristlets may let them be taken as cult associates.

And as the Long Roaders choose what of the gear stored at Kuiper’s farm to load (perhaps on the river-boat) and wonder if Kuiper – who told Vir he could say much of the mire – is still at Thurmaster, the session ends.

DM Note

Next week we hope to have one last game before the Christmas break and if so, we will be stepping out of the Evils of Haranshire and into DG14, Foul Waters, as transplanted into Haranshire. Stay tuned!

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