DGA7.08: Kidnap the Archpriest, part eight – finale – the conspiracy unmasked

The characters for this session

Cat, level 7 warlock and his familiar Dis;
Phoenix, level 7 barbarian and his legendary greataxe Mocair (but in totem pact) and sidekick Piego;
Seck, level 7 rogue and his “pet” Maelsauga and shortsword Red Whisper;
Vir, level 7 ranger and his legendary weapon Ulruf and trusty longbow, and in pact with Erzlie

The Long Roaders are 50xp from level 8; the Endoguard countdown pool is down to 1d6, and the Slippery Eel’s hull integrity is repaired back to full at 6d6

The story to date

Their trusted mentor Jahia begs them to steal Archpriest Tomas from his stronghold in corrupt Odill, and bear him secretly to Davenport! Accordingly the Long Roaders devise a definitely-more-than-half-assed plan and carry him off, stowing him as breathing luggage in their barge the Slippery Eel! A series of pursuits and unexpected cultists ensues, but at length they leave the foul sprawl of Argerport and head out to the Coastal Sea, north to Davenport. They seem to have shaken off the pursuing Black Endoguard… for now.

Practicalities and the best meal for a long time

“…And none of us will be wearing armor,” Seck concludes, reminding everyone that falling overboard is a thing that can happen at sea. Vir turns a hand to fastening the spare third rope as a series of loops around the gunwales, and using more of the second rope to make sure Tomas is attached to the boat.. The talk turns to ocean-going. And possible ways and means to get a kidnapped Archpriest to Adelina the Evangelist without needing to fight their way up through Davenport.

I certainly don’t want to knock the players for the several schemes they begin to cook up at this point. It’s great to at least start planning. But to step out from behind the screen for a moment, the difficulty they will face in Davenport depends entirely on whether I can wrap this up tonight or if it must extend to one further session. Naturally, I don’t share this.

DM

Piego concludes his oceanic advice by explaining something about winds that Seck doesn’t quite follow but it definitely means laying up on coastal beaches overnight and heading out each dawn. As the Slippery Eel has been making its way away from the great estuary all afternoon, it’s time to look for such a beach.

Pretty schmaverage Pereception rolls all round

When he’s just about on top of it, Phoenix heaves the steerboard and narrowly grazes past a net. It seems to be being hauled up towards a bright, coarse-shell beach topped by low cliffs, dazzling in the evening sun.

On closer inspection those black bobbing round things along the net are actually the heads of the fishermen, drawing their catch up! The Slippery Eel crunches up into the shell, Piego and Phoenix leap athletically out and haul it well up. No need for the others to risk the surf.

The fishermen are locals – later some are seen to carry the catch up the low cliffs – and one tries Phoenix in his own Coaster language. The Long Roaders are welcomed to share a good fire and fresh-caught seafood. Not since Mooregate have they enjoyed such a meal – fit for kings!

“You haven’t seen any unusual craft lately, have you?” – is one of the very first things Seck asks after the first round of introductions.

“Why yes, just before the blow, early on, a big low barge heading north…”

It does sound a lot like a barge of Black Endoguard!

“At least we seem to be down to only one,” Seck comforts himself, though others are quick to point out that one swallow does not make a spring.

There are enough fishermen left around the fire overnight to allow Piego and Phoenix a good long rest. The others take shifts watching Tomas.

XP: lvl8-48

To arms! To arms!

It is well through the next day when keen, one may even say paranoid, gazes pick up the bow-wave of a large barge, sweeps at battle-speed, heading back south and right at them!

“Dodge a bit” is the instruction to Piego who dives for the steerboard as Phoenix abandons it to pick up Mocair!

Piego gets a nat 20 for the athletics check, but a poor roll for the actual nudging the steerboard.

Vir’s gentle and deft touch is put into action right away: he eases a good dollop of pitch into the jar of light oil, soaks and tamps the dirty canvas rag into it, and is ready to light. As he picks up his bow while rapidly exchanging possible strategies for accurate oil-bombing, we move to…

Inits: Cat, Seck/Phoenix, Vir, Endoguard

Opening distance: two combined rounds apart

Round 1: Using Spell Sniper Cat already has range and slams Repelling Blast into steersman and master. Both are hurled back but not over the stern. Seck readies action for the range to close to 90′, and Phoenix readies action to repel boarders. Vir looses twice in quick succession, but between the armor and higher gunwale of the larger craft, his best arrow strikes but bounces off. As the two craft rapidly close, the Slippery Eel swings awkwardly broadside – and lucky it is the Steersman is just regaining control of the board – and Seck whips Maelsauga across and through a chink in an Endoguard’s armor! He pulls it back with his bonus action.

Round 2: Cat has a better angle to see armored figures now and drops Banishment on one. The black-armored figure abruptly vanishes. Seck hurls Maelsauga again, missing. Phoenix remains balancing and ready in the bows. Vir thinks hard about using Gust of Wind on the enemy and abandons that thought, instead lifting his bomb. He readies action for Misty Step! A short flurry of crossbow bolts smack into the Eel’s hull or whip overhead, and the enemy barge swings alongside the Slippery Eel! Phoenix bats an enemy grappling hook away. Vir appears roughly amidships… “they’ve come aboard!” is the cry.

Round 3: Cat loosens his concentration and the Banished figure reappears. There’s a despairing cry and grab at the Slippery Eel’s prow then a splash, quickly lost under the hull. Cat uses Repelling Blast on master and steersman again, and the latter rises no more. Phoenix makes a good Acrobatics check to roll through to the Eel’s stern and once again swings – but misses – as another heavy grapnel lodges. Seck readies action to strike anyone hauling. Vir breaks the jar. He Misty Steps back, and Seck does not target him! Instead he flings Maelsauga at an outflung arm, again striking home. Alarmed cries come from the enemy barge. Vir stumbles along foreward, losing his further movement as he comes up against Tomas. More crossbow bolts slam down, Seck and Vir wear one each.

Round 4: With the grapnel lodged the two craft are locked at rope range. Cat looks back and across for a target, fails to see a good one, and uses his rod Osuz to restore a spell slot. Phoenix severs the grapnel rope and Seck gets a difficult target, missing. In reply two crossbow bolts fly wide. Seck lowers himself semi-prone! Vir finishes his path to the bow, sweeps it up and steps carefully back atop Tomas to get enough height. He strikes the very same target Seck had wounded previously and the Endoguard is annoyed! But now two more grapnel lines snake over and Phoenix bats the more accurate one away!

Round 5: The Slippery Eel’s sail is beginning to wear the two away. No more than a dozen feet separate the two, but the side visible to the Long Roaders is working its oars furiously. Cat throws another Banish and once again an Endoguard vanishes. Seck readies action for a grappler. Suddenly wind catches the Eel’s sail and it yaws to the starboard. Phoenix rushes to trim. Vir keeps his balance and readies. As grapnels arc over he and Seck target the hurlers. Both grapnels land, and the Eel is once again caught fast! The distance is about two dozen feet.

Round 6: Cat can spy more Endoguard, and hammers one angling to the opposite gunwale: it works! The armored figure falls onto the opposite oars and hangs on grimly. Cat repeats the exercise and it works again! Cat dives for cover. Phoenix leaves the sail, sweeps up Mocair, rages, and hammers at the grapnel cables. The first is severed immediately and the second nearly parts. Seck hurls Maelsauga at the two remaining visible Endoguard but misses and drops flat. Orders from the enemy suggest the oil and pitch has finally caught. Vir acrobatically rolls through to the stern, using an Inspiration, and bonus actions Searing Smite then chops Ulruf down! The cable parts. Vir takes two bolts for his trouble. He ducks back. The Eel’s sail is still pushing the two apart, and the two craft are about 30′ apart now.

Round 7: Spurts of fire are visible. Cat throws Shatter, catching most of the oarsmen. Most fail their SV and are out of action! The oars cease the job of circling the Endoguard barge back on the Eel’s stern. The two Endoguard hanging onto oars are no longer a worry. Phoenix hastens back to the sail and trims it down, then leans down to grab a sweep and run it out. Seck has a target, a crewman trying to put out the fire, and hurls Maelsauga but the thin hummingbird-blade careens off a stray rope. Vir has a clear shot from the stern, makes a fine Perception check and picks out a wounded Endoguard. The man bellows in pain. Chaos and confusion reign among the Endoguard.

Round 8: Cat drops his other Banish but given the drift of positions, he lands on Phoenix’s sweep. Cat’s attention is elsewhere, and he hammers Repelling Blast into two enemy. One falls, though not outward. Phoenix realizes the sweep has an Endoguard attached to it. He lifts his end and gravity drops his attachment below the waves. Seck once again targets the same wounded Endoguard, who is now enraged. And Seck once again drops prone. Vir targets an exposed crossbow-wielding Endoguard and the same wounded one, hitting the latter, who is now wobbly on his feet. The enemy make more effort to quench the fire.

Round 9: Piego curses Phoenix loud and long as the wallowing, sea-anchored Eel refuses to respond to his hand at the steerboard. Their craft yaws and pitches, but Cat picks a high point and smashes a crewman into the fire. Phoenix continues to slowly drown his cling-on. Seck can see a single armored fist at sea-level on the sweep, and wounds it with Maelsauga. However because of all this, Cat is now aware of the situation. Vir has been considering rooting out a stowed oil flask, but continues his archery. He knocks down another crewman. The two Endoguard with crossbows do fire, Vir once again takes one, Cat the other.

Round 10: Cat uses Repelling Blast to knock the Endoguard off Phoenix’ sweep, then swings about to Repel the angry bloodied Endoguard, catching him perfectly and pitching him off and into the ocean. Phoenix returns to maneuvering the Eel and it settles, swinging around to take a view of the more burning side of the enemy craft. As far as he can see the sweeps on that side are completely unattended. The two craft remain about 30′ apart. Seck targets a black-armored head, successfully. Vir moves his Hunter’s Mark and strikes the same Endoguard.

Rounds 11-15: The enemy are wrapped up, either completely occupied with oil-fires as Vir flings an oil-skin across into the fire, or knocked back into the ocean as they attempt to leap over. All crew are killed.

XP: lvl-44 for the fight and another 2 for “dead men tell no tales.”

No rest for the weary: the Sea-Hag strikes!

Aside from the gleam of flames on the water the light is near-gone, but a ripple of phosphorescence to shoreward alerts Phoenix. Like a sweep of sea-wrack a curving pool seems to be coming out from the coast at great speed!

At first instinct they man sweeps, but Vir catches a crab and the Eel makes no way. All they have achieved is more separation from the burning barge, which may not be a good thing! The disturbance comes on apace in the gloom. Dis sounds an alarm as the “smell” in her senses tells her the Shadowfell is active. Cat’s Ring of Valor begins its service by helping him gulp the Fey egg, and regain another spell slot.

Appearing from the coastal gloom into the light around the blaze is a great seaweed-tangled net, drawn by four mighty swimming humanoids. At the apogee a foul bloated crone rides, howling on her forces! The sea-hawk that has been tracking them all this while, drops out of the sky to her and disappears. “That was a familiar,” Dis supplies superfluously. “Sea-hag!” Cat pronounces. “I thought there was only three?!” Phoenix complains.

Inits: Seck, Phoenix, Cat, Vir, Sea-hag and forces

As the action begins the Slippery Eel has its steerboard lashed and the sail trimmed down. Light is adequate, though range can be confusing. The ocean tends to buffer armor for swimmers. The attackers begin at two rounds’ movement away

Round 1: Vir and Cat open up at range, slowing that side of the net slightly. The hag is slightly distracted, needing to correct her minions. Both plan on spell-throwing.

Round 2: Seck hurls Maelsauga and even at range wounds the humanoid Vir has. Maelsauga conveys the sense that this is a similar creature to one battled recently. Vir throws Gust of Wind, disrupting the opposite flank to the one previous. Cat Counterspells the hag, who howls with ferocious effect. Both Cat and Seck are Frightened! One of the inner swimmers rushes the Eel.

Round 3: Phoenix rages and hacks the thing as it claws at the gunwale. His blade gouges deep. Vir keeps sweeping with his Gust, and looses his bow at the intruder, striking twice. It sinks with a horrid gurgle! Phoenix taunts the hag. In response she Curses him but he shrugs it off.

Round 4: Seck ducks up and hurls Maelsauga, managing a hit. Phoenix dives off the boat and swims to attack the left-flank humanoid, which proves to be a huge sea-troll or scrag! Mocair strikes deep, but only once. The scrag finishes healing damage and drives a great claw through Phoenix’ gut!

Meanwhile Cat raises a hand above the gunwale and Repelling Blasts the hag, and the two that are watching see her jerked back against her own net.

The two Gust-slowed swimmers attempt to swim to the attack. Vir keeps the effect up – one swims low and avoids it – but targets the hag. She is bloodied, and screams in pain and rage! From now she wants to get close enough to use her best effects.

Round 5: Seck becomes aware of a huge clawed hand groping over the gunwale and down towards Tomas. He stabs Maelsauga into it, and a strident bellow rewards him. “Incoming!” he yells.

Meanwhile Phoenix keeps a-chopping, again only landing one cut. While badly gashed, the scrag is rapidly healing from his first cut. It slams another claw back, but still can’t fasten both rending claws on him.

Cat repeats his last shots and the hag is struck once. She is already weakening. Vir makes the call to keep targeting her, flips a Hunter’s Mark onto her and slams two arrows home: she is down! He keeps his Gust playing on the remaining swimmer which loses interest and swims away.

The hull attacker decides to claw the hull apart. Claws punch through the timber next to Seck.

Round 6: With his Fear abating Seck rises to his knees and thrusts Red Whisper down, but it slides off the thick hide of the attacking scrag. He urgently sounds the warning about a potential hull breach. Cat reaches over and pushes a Shocking Grasp into it, critting. Seck uses Opportunistic Strike and once again misses. Vir drops the bow, drops the Gust too, and moves to support Seck and Cat. He shifts Hunter’s Mark and hammers Ulruf down twice. The scrag on the outside of the Eel is bloodied! Sentinel allows another attack – missing – as the scrag punches weakly at the hull.

Meanwhile Phoenix exchanges cuts with the other scrag, getting the worst of it this round. His Shield brooch saves him from being rended though!

Round 7: Seck thrusts Red Whisper savagely home. Cat leaves Vir to the melee work and instead Repels the scrag fighting Phoenix. Vir again chops down twice successfully and the scrag at the hull sinks below the surface and – repairing its hurts – swims away below.

Meanwhile Phoenix cuts once more, and despite still having the upper hand swims back to the Slippery Eel and with a Dash action lifts himself in. Vir and Cat manage to not be overbalanced. The scrag begins chasing but thinks better of it and swims down and away.

The Long Roaders have won! And miraculously the Slippery Eel’s hull is intact.

In the dark, with his only light the burning barge, Phoenix swims out to the sinking net and gropes through the clammy remains of the sea hag. He brings back a girdle with three things: an eye, a rod that is vaguely similar to the ivy-wrapped rod, and a decoratively mounted pair of fangs, that could be used as punch-spikes.

XP: lvl8-38

Davenport and another far-wanderer

It is the evening of day six out of Argerport, the wind is light, two of the Long Roaders are on the sweeps. In the sinking sun’s ray Davenport’s upper tiers seem golden and magical to Cat. He asks Vir if he sees the same, and it seems not.

A prosaic maritime defenders barge sweeps up, and it’s time for stories to be sorted out. The plan is, we play it cool.

As challenges are given and business asked, and Cat is directed to the harbor captain, Vir notices one of the militia with slender features, bearing a bow. The two exchange nods. Thinking back through the years Vir recalls that this is a third cousin, who goes by the name of Kelvin.

Davenport harbor is enclosed by great walls and defended by towers. A jostle of ships great and small, and all manner of boats, rest along wharves and jetties below the usual service and trade offerings. Above that level though, the city recedes back rising level on level on a steep rock, with a great citadel atop all. Flags of the empire flap bravely on its towers but in the growing dark no particular features are visible.

Once berthed in the place assigned by harbor officers, the company discusses the final shape of their plan. Seeing Kelvin has provided an extra boon, for as Vir says, if they just delay a while, he will be in harbor and able to add useful intelligence.

Sure enough the deepening night sees the militia disembarking. Kelvin and Vir meet in a decent grogshop, with Cat to listen in, and two pretty bar-girls to help them listen; and the others guarding Tomas.

From what he has already seen and from Kelvin’s explanation of how the city works, Cat decides to walk the Lawful line whole-heartedly from this point. This greatly facilitates the business at hand.

XP: lvl8-35

Adelina and a conspiracy unmasked

Before too long Harbor Captain Thavron sends a runner-clerk up with Cat, while Vir and Kelvin relax in the grogshop. Vir thoughtfully sends some hot toddy out to his comrades too, so their night is better than expected.

From the lower levels of the citadel Cat is eventually ushered up to meet Adelina, a mature bluegrey-eyed blonde of strong handsome features, and thoroughly clad in plate armor. He hands over Jahia’s letter by way of tactfully explaining the mission. Again this is by far the easiest and smartest course of action.

It takes little time for Adelina to agree to walk down to the Slippery Eel and question Tomas herself. Wrapped in a voluminous and anonymous cloak she accompanies Cat.

From that point some time elapses, but eventually Tomas fails to resist her Zone and tells her enough of the truth. Sure enough he is a hagspawn, a foul double-agent within the One True Faith.

Indeed, the entire church is white-anted with hagspawn, obeying the real agents of power and masters of the Teulon destiny – the hags!

XP: lvl8-30

Cloverford, Ironwood Gorge and Aid for Jahia

Two days have elapsed during which the Long Roaders have rested, magic items found have been probed, and supplies replenished. The four comrades face Adelina in private confab.

“What do you know, or what have you heard, of the Hobgoblin Warlord?”

“He is a hobgoblin, and he is a warlord,” Cat professes confidently.

“I mislike the tidings of Giants and Giant-kin,” Adelina goes on. “Jahia will need your help, I fear. The Feywild – aye we few inquisitor Marshals know of it – blends with the Shadowfell in places, so loremasters say. What uncouth monsters such as the dragons once forbade from the world may writhe out of there. They may be urging the Hobgoblin tribes, or they may not, but in any case, return to this middle land of Trussia, where you must aid Jahia: then on to Ironwood Gorge.”

“What of aid can you give us? We have been going at full stretch for a long time now.”

“Yes, an easy and swift way to travel… go upriver to Cloverford, where our loremaster will aid you.”

“We have a boat…”

“Yes, that would, most like, bring you there as swiftly as horses, assuming you could ride,” she adds with a note of skepticism.

And so with thanks, several costly gems, a free resurrection pass, and a lore token, the Long Roaders once more board the Slippery Eel and are passed through Davenport’s inner harbor, up the great river Matian, north-east towards Cloverford.

XP: lvl8-25

The Identified hag treasures (all items except the rods require attunement)

  • Howling skull of the blood princess: An adorable child-princess of pure blood was sacrificed and her skull filled with her own blood, then stoppered with gold. By sacrificing more victims over it, or accepting the soul-oath of a bargainer on it, the skull’s powers are kept renewed. When activated the skull howls, allying the wielder to chaotic evil monsters in the vicinity that are not naturally aligned to their control.
  • Ill-omened knife: Steeped in the blood of thousands of innocents, this knife acts as a Rod of Life Drain.
  • Rod of Vine’s Roots: This rod, with faint runes and gnarled ivy vine wrapped thick around it, will open a portal from: Shadowfell to Feywild; or Feywild to Underdark; or Underdark to Shadowfell. The Underdark area must still have growing vegetation. A Wild Magic roll is required with each movement.
  • Rod of Kelp’s Roots: As Vine, but its affinity is specifically to the deep waters of the Underdark.
  • Deino’s Eye: Throws Antipathy at either 60′ and 200′ cube, or 120′ and 30′ cone. Only the Antipathy side takes effect. Preparation time is still one hour and still requires ritual preparations. The preparation “charge” elapses after 10 days.
  • Sea-dragon fangs: The owner gains both Underwater Breathing and Swimming powers (as the rings) and Vortex summoning (once a day). The fangs are poison, DC15 CON SV vs 3 levels of exhaustion or one if SV is successful. Martial weapon proficiency or Assassin sub-class or Criminal: enforcer or Criminal: hired killer or Spy background are required to wield them as a weapon.

Fame

The Long Roaders add the following to their fame:

Marked man; Enemy of the sea hags; Secret ally of the Inquisitor Marshals.

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