Project Dolphin

S6: Claustrophobia

The party arrives in Landerwood to find the city in a state of disrepair. Since the [[S5: Through the Mountain Pass | mountain pass has been closed]], trade has come to a halt. The party was instructed by Father Young to investigate both the disappearance of a Judge and his unusual replacement. The first judge just didn’t show up to work one day and was never found again, all of his possessions remaining within the city. The second judge (Scalpisius) ran upon a platform of workers rights and swore to increase the communal level of living, but once elected became niggardly with the mine’s profits and decided to donate excess metals to the Ruby Order instead of selling them to private merchants. Almost everyone in town reviles the Judge. In addition, word around town is that the plague has cropped up again to the south east of Saint’s Rest. While many are uneasy about it, Landerwood is far removed.

Kazuo decided to investigate the Judge. He broke into his house and searched it for clues. The house was strangely dirty, as if nobody was living there. Moreover, the last signed document on the writing desk was from months earlier. The only evidence of life inside was a few footprints downstairs and a slightly damp rocking chair. Kazuo then decided to follow the judge home from work to see where he actually goes. Surely enough, the Judge did return to the house. He entered, sat in the rocking chair, and read a book until he fell asleep. Armed only with the knowledge that he is a boring old man, Kazuo returned to Waldo.

Waldo, meanwhile, had begun asking around town to see what the Judge was up to. Miners indicated that the Sheriff – Theogrim- hates Scalpisius, but Waldo did not pursue the lead. Instead, he came across a strange miner in a local bar. The miner was well-read and introduced himself as a descendant of one of the sailors from the Great Ships. He is an Olidammaran named Samwell who has been working the mines since its inception. Samwell once lived in Rogue’s Point with his parents, but left when Rogue’s Point was sacked by savages and joined the mining operation. Samwell, like all the other miners, holds no affection for Scalpisius and agrees to escort Waldo into the mine to look around as he sees fit.

Scalpisius has Vindicators posted at the entrance to the mithril mine, where he visits often to count and appraise the yields. Samwell tells the party, however, that there is always another way to get where you want to go. He sends them through an abandoned tunnel. They encounter two bodies floating in a knee-deep pool of fetid water at the bottom of a 40 ft mineshaft. One body is bloated, decaying, and mysterious. The other looks exactly like Judge Scalpisius! They leave the bodies behind and continue to investigate the mithril mine. They travel through winding tunnels until Kazuo notices that a wall is illusory. The secret passage leads down a tight hallway onto a platform overlooking another abandoned mineshaft. The landing contains a black stone altar with a carving of a left hand holding a crystal ball. There is also a leather bound tome,Chief Vindicator Mumford’s journal. The journal is written in a secret language, but it is also filled with crude drawings – maps, herbs, and monsters – and even tidbits in Rokugani. The crystal ball, sensing their presence, activated. A voice whispered, “The God of Secrets demands that you speak truly…” It depicted a city by the coast with massive gothic buildings and towers. Waldo told the ball who he was and the ball exploded.

The secret passageway began to drip blood that fell into the mineshaft. A deep rumble was heard from beneath the earth and a terrible monster made of bone and muscle emerged from the darkness. It was 40 ft tall and tried to use its long skeletal arms to grab the party. They ran back into the mithril mine, but it had been transformed into a nightmare. The ceiling dripped blood and the doorways were transformed into gnashing teeth. They ran back towards the first mineshaft but were intercepted by a red-skinned demon. As they began to fight it, a voice in Kazuo’s head called to him. He discovered that his brother’s recovered katana had transformed into a massive demonslaying sword. Now armed with a powerful weapon, Kazuo and Waldo defeated the demon and approached the shaft. Again, the earth rumbled and the 40ft abomination emerged. Kazuo leaped onto his head and began to attack the monster from above while Waldo blasted it with holy energy. Shortly, the monster was quelled and sunk into the fetid pool. The party grabbed the bodies and left the mine covered in blood and ichor. Shortly after exiting the secret tunnel, they were arrested by the Jasidian guards and brought before Theogrim the Sheriff.

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S5: Through the Mountain Pass

The party emerged from the forest with two Barbed Devil corpses and a massive obsidian greataxe. They gave the evidence to Special Vindicator Sandor, who was bound for the Ruby Coast to report on the findings. The party continued on towards Landerwood, hoping to cross through a mountain pass that connects the central lands around Saint’s Rest to Landerwood.

The party discovers, however, that the gate is closed. A massive wooden fortification operated by Cuthbertine Knights guards the mountain pass. They allow the party to enter in order to speak with their leader, Commander Brandlin. Brandlin is young for a commander and appeared nervous. He informed that the party that the roadway is closed due to raids by savages. Moreover, his father – the original Lord Commander of the Gateway, went missing on an expedition into the savage lands. Brandlin let the party pass through the mountains at their own risk on the premise that they report any findings about his father.

The roadway was littered with corpses of both Cuthbertine knights and savages. A few peculiar bodies, however, raised alarm. They secreted a greenish-yellow puss. After traveling for a few days, the party is ambushed by savages and taken captive. The warband was lead by a massive man who spoke perfect Common. He introduced himself as Tyollar Bookbinder, the son of the Judge in Saint’s Rest. He fell in love with a savage huntress and joined their cause. He was subsequently branded an oathbreaker by his Cuthbertine relatives.

Tyollar took the party up to the Earth’s Fold, a well fortified outcropping of rock and dirt where the savages have set up camp. Tyollar brings the party to the savage elder, Elder Ka. She is an old, ragged human woman who speaks in a foreign tongue – a language later revealed to be Elven. She is caring for the missing Lord Commander, who is infected by the same corruption as the corpses discovered earlier. Ka, through a translator, tells the party that they can save the Lord Commander if they go into the savage stronghold and retrieve a vial of water from a sacred fountain. Many of the savages object to strangers in the stronghold, but Ka calms them. Ka also warns the party that the stronghold has been infested with undead and other abominations of nature. She has reason to believe that her adopted daughter, Morgana, is the root of the evil.Morgana was abandoned in the woods by travelers and taken into Ka’s care. Morgana was raised as a savage but grew apart from her mother and friends – withdrawing into the forest. Years later, she returned to claim the stronghold for herself and was beaten back. Ka thinks that since the corruption targeted the stronghold so directly, Morgana might be behind it.

The party entered the stronghold with Tyollar and his wife. It is an ancient Elven citadel on top of a tall mountain. As the party ascends, they encounter a variety of evils – slimes, corrupted wolves, undead ect. At the top of the citadel, they realize that they are in a caldera. At the center is an altar. The entire caldera is highly magical and it enhances all magical effects cast within it. A beautiful woman sits upon the alter and introduces herself as Morgana. She believes that the party was sent to kill her so she summons mud and air elementals to dispatch the party. Before she departs, she leaves a cryptic message: she claims to be the first Keeper of the Leyline. Wisdom reveals that this caldera must be a node on such a leyline.

The party recovers the water and heals the Lord Commander. Tyollar escorts the weak Lord Commander to the Cuthbertines and brokers a peace agreement between them.

The party continues on to Landerwood.

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S4: New Revelations

The party ended session 3 in the back of Father Young‘s wagon along with former Sheriff Bartl’by and the captured cabalist. Afraid to return to his house, Father Young took the adventurers to an isolated temple on the beach a few miles outside of Hondar. The party interrogated the their captive for information.

Transcription:
The Cabalist appears to be in his mid-twenties, tall, hairless, and has tribal tattoos all over his body. Interestingly, he also appears to have the brand of the Wardens upon his shoulder. He was a Warden, while working for the Cult. The Cult had him keep an eye on/protect Mumford during the expeditions. When the Mumford Massacre occured, he escaped.

The Cabalist claims that he has no fear of death, which is a good thing for him because he’s dead either way. His masters can track his every move, and they will hunt him down and kill him now that he was taken prisoner. He jokes that they’re probably on their way now.

He doesn’t give specifics, but he mentions that things are worse than we could ever fathom.

Why were you in the morgue? Cleaning up someone else’s mess. People up the chain of command forget the basics of sublety; they’re out of practice.

Who? I don’t know. Some mage, most likely. I’ve never seen a rogue cut down a block of ice that thick.

What did you want with the body? Again, someone else’s mess. I was to take the body out of the freezer and to dispose of it.

And the dragonscale? I was told that if I am ever caught, I am as good as dead. The dragonscale was the honorable and easy death. Now I get to look forward to having my insides eaten by ravens. If I’m lucky.

What kind of cult is it? You know, death, magic, money, power. Cult stuff? Aren’t all cults the same? (smile)

How’d you join the cult? I was approached by the cult when I was mortally wounded in the middle of reaver territory. They told me that they could save me, but that all of my allies would have to die. It was really an easy choice.

What do they have you do? Thuggish work, really. I’m not adept enough to be kept in the loop on what’s really going on. I clean up messes; I am the fall guy. As you can plainly see. But don’t get me wrong, I’m a bad man who has made some bad choices. I’ve had my share of murder, rape, kidnapping. The whole 9 yards. I’m looking forward to death – to some rest.

Look, what I can tell you is that these mages do not rely solely on the magic that we know. They draw power from the darkest recesses of your psyche, your nightmares and fantasties, as well as from the leylines. If you want to confront them, prepare to confront yourself.

Not much more was revealed before the captive began maniacally laughing. He could feel the presence of his dark masters and, sure enough, they arrived. Kazuo was the first party member to feel an evil psionic presence, but within moments the entire landscape transformed for everyone. The sand became white, powdery bone; the water became thick and blood red; the columns of the temple transformed into twitching pillars of flesh and teeth; and the comet on the horizon erupted with flames. The sands gave way beneath them and turned into a vortex. From the sands, a vile abomination of body parts emerged – twisting and convulsing as it climbed its way out of the ground. Although Byrne put a few arrows into its heap of flesh, it did not appear hurt. Within moments, the mound of body parts began to form familiar, yet perverted shapes. Three figures came out of the vortex: 1) a slender, naked Rokugani female with hair down to her ankles. She had sharp teeth and a projectile tongue. 2) a hulking warrior in full-plate armor with blonde hair and a bushy beard. He wielded a massive great maul. 3) a barrel-chested old man with sagging features and dead eyes. He wielded a smith’s hammer. Each of the monsters attacked the party but were quelled, but not before killing the captive.

After some time to gather their wits, the adventurers hatched a plan. Father Young and Sheriff Bartl’by left together for a secret Union of Light base of operations. Father Young needed to report the findings to his superiors. He encouraged the party to continue investigating and to avoid suspicion of Bartl’by’s escape. He suggested heading to the outpost city of Landerwood because the judge has recently been killed and replaced there. He suspected that if the cult had anything to do with the sheriff of Hondar, they might be vying for power in other political positions in Aerna. Father Young promised to get in touch with the party when he knew more.

The party returned to Hondar and slept in the inn. They were awoken the next morning by Ulfang, who had been convening with a legal commission. They decided that there could be some correlation between the events in the bloody ravine (the three-clawed victims) and the rogue wizard [[S2: Investigation in Maple | Martin Laudet]] (his alchemical silver knife). There were reports of a werewolf siting in a town called Aegyern, to the west of Saint’s Rest. The commission dispatched an elite team of Vindicators to investigate.

The party decided to leave Hondar and to head towards Aegyern before hitting Landerwood. Aegyern was a small, fortified town at the bottom of a small valley. (Think Refuge Point of Arathi Highlands.) Therein they met the Vindicators, a specialized group of Occult Slayers named the Ghosthunters, and the town leaders. One magister in particular seemed very uncomfortable around the leader of the Ghosthunters. Once the party was alone with the Magister, he confided in them that he knows Fyssis the Astronomer and that he is in desperate need of their help. The werewolf sightings are accurate, but a werewolf was not the cause of the slaughtered peasants; the Magister himself is the wereworlf, who went out to investigate the disappearances and was discovered by the Night Watch. Now they think he did it and want the werewolf’s head mounted on a pike. He implored the party to go into the woods and find the real culprit.

The party was accompanied by the Ghosthunters to a fork in the road. One direction led to the sight of the most recent slaughter, where evidence could be gathered. Another direction led to a nearby cave complex where the werewolf was rumored to reside. The party chose to investigate the caves and came upon a ravine in a thick woods. At the center of the ravine was mighty tree, half-felled by a gargantuan obsidian great-axe with glowing orange runes. The tree was guarded by a corrupted dryad, presumably corrupted from the evil of the weapon. She was also accompanied by brachiating Reavers and two horned devils. Combat was intense, but the party ultimately won and retrieved the axe and the devil corpses. The party is now en route back to Aegyern.

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S3: Due Process

The party left Maple and began their journey towards Hondar. Ulfang was under orders to report on their findings, both regarding the Blood Gulch incident and the wizard, Martin Laudet. On their approach to Hondar, the party encountered a man named Waldo Ergstrom, whose wagon has lost a wheel. Byrne quickly fixed his wheel and a friendship began. They traveled together into the town. Hondar was on alert when they arrived and many citizens had gathered in the town square. A trial was nearing the end of its proceedings; the judge pronounced the defendant guilty on the charges of murder, conspiracy, and trafficking. Upon investigation, the party discovered that the defendant was the former Sheriff, a halfling named Bartl’by.

Individual party members handled some side business before further investigation. Kazuo spoke to his mentor, who appeared concerned about something but did not disclose the nature of his worrying. Waldo dropped off his wagon at the big temple of Yondalla, contents still unknown, and discussed the trial with some guards. The guards believe that the Sheriff was dealing drugs. One family in particular owed the Sheriff some cash, which they could not pay. So, according to popular belief, he murdered the family. During the Sheriff’s escape, however, he was confronted by the Lord Commander Farnell‘s men. He attempted to run, killing two Cuthbertine guards in the process, but getting seriously wounded in the process. Tired and weak, he succumbed to blood loss in an alleyway, wherein the guards seized him and brought him to court. Drugs were found in the family’s house and in Bartl’by’s.

Unsatisfied with the story as told, the party asked Bartl’by himself, who was placed in stocks in the town center, awaiting his death at sunrise. Bartl’by denies the drug and murder allegations, but does not know what happened that night. He claims that he was investigating strange lights coming from the Hondar Hospital morgue before everything becomes foggy. He remembered waking up in the alleyway, covered in water and blood. He implored the party to seek evidence of his innocence while there was still time. He instructed the party to retrieve a hospital key from a stump in his backyard and to search the morgue. The stump was guarded and Byrne was nearly caught in the process but the party successfully found the key and headed to the morgue.

The morgue was sealed with iron doors and was sufficiently creepy. The morgue was filled with alchemical objects, books (including a tome in Rokugani), and two huge freezers. Each freezer contained 20+ blocks of ice, each containing frozen bodies. These bodies were the subject of experimentation during the plague-years. Interestingly, the party discovers one body unlike the others – an elf body trapped in the ice. In the second freezer, the party encounters a black cloaked figure. He appeared to be carrying a corpse before combat began. The party disabled and captured the man. Inside that freezer, one block of ice had been melted completely and its remnants turned into an icy pile. It appears that he was taking the body, but it is unlikely that he melted the block recently. Someone had to come in previously to melt the block, giving it time to refreeze, and left the body behind for some reason.

The human is about 6 feet, hairless, and covered in tribal tattoos on his neck. He was chewing on a black dragonscale, which the party noticed and ripped out from his teeth. Its purposes are unknown.

During the battle, a fire alarm was heard. Concerned that guards were coming to seize them, the party sent out Kazuo as a scout. The guards were not heading to the morgue and there was, in fact, a literal fire: Kazuo’s foster home was an inferno. Kazuo entered the building to save his master, only to find him slashed to death by swords in his bed. In Kazuo’s room, his mentor had placed a decoy – the body of an animal – in his bed, which was also slashed, although it is unknown whether the assassins took the bait. Outside of the house, Kazuo’s brother’s katana was stuck in the ground – with a long braid of his brother’s hair attached to the hilt. Naturally concerned, Kazuo took the sword and returned to Bartl’by. Kazuo explained what they found, and asked if Bartl’by had anyone that he could trust. Kazuo was led to Father Young, a pelorian priest who lives in a cottage outside of Hondar. Father Young and Kazuo returned to the hospital, retrieved the party and the presumed necromancer, and headed to towns square. They asked Bartl’by if he would like to be free, giving him the chance to prove his innocence. At first he was skeptical, but in light of the possibly of a cult, he agreed.

The party, Father Young, Bartl’by, and the Cabalist headed to a secret location in the dead of night.

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S2: Investigation in Maple

After delivering baby Aladdin in Thorn, the party sets off for a small village known as Maple, which Lord Benegard indicated might be the epicenter of a series of unusual disappearances. Upon the party’s arrival in Maple, they notice a Cuthbertine soldier speaking to the Nightwatch and the party overhears that he is bearing news for Ulfang AEthelwulf. The party sneaks by the guards and enters the local tavern. Ulfang immediately begins investigating the disappearances by asking Mister Samson, the head of the local Nightwatch and the deputy of the Sheriff of Hondar. Samson indicates that the women disappeared without a struggle, as if they walked out of town on their own volition. All of the women were young, single, and beautiful. While discussing the investigation with Samson, the party is approached by a halfling member of the Nightwatch named Gared Lightwalker. He suggests that the party speaks to Catherine, a poor woman on the edge of town, whose daughter is of marrying-age. In addition, Gared hands Ulfang a note from his brother indicating that he should head to Hondar to report on his findings in the Ravine. The party thanks the halfling and departs for Catherine’s house.

Catherine indicates that her daughter, Felicia, is infatuated with a local scribe named Martin Laudet, who lives in a cottage not far from the village. The party speaks with Felicia and decides to investigate his cottage. They ride up to his cottage and notice immediately that a wizard’s raven familiar is masquerading among a murder of crows. Tipped off by the unusual sight, the party sneaks up to the house. Ulfang takes the lead while Kazuo and Byrne hide in the forest nearby. Ulfang is invited inside by Martin, who appears kindly and smart. They converse about a variety of topics before Martin goes outside to fetch some herbs for his tea. While alone in the house, Ulfang opens a locked door and discovers a gruesome scene. Once the door was opened, Martin and his familiar are alerted to the intrusion and they prepare to attack. Martin returns to the house and pretends to be ignorant of the intrusion while he casts Summon Monster II. Once his earth element attacks Bryne in the woods, the ruse is over and the fighting begins. Martin is killed in combat with the party.

The party searches his house for evidence. In the locked room, they discover women who are bound and gagged, kept in bird cages. One has had her arm severed off, presumably upon a stone altar at the center of the room. Upon their search, the party inadvertently opens a drawer in the altar containing 4 animated severed left hands and 1 inanimate left hand. The hands attack, clawing the party, before being defeated. Under the final hand is a small alchemical silver dagger.

The party leaves the scene and returns the women to town. Samson suggests that the party reports their findings to a committee in Hondar and Gared Lightwalker reveals that he is a worshiper of Pelor. Gared indicates that if they need any help, he’d be glad to be of service to a good cause. They escort Mary back to Thorn before making their way back through Maple and into Hondar.

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The Adventure Begins

Our intrepid adventurers first gathered at the final resting place of Chief Vindicator Mumford, following his famed Grand Funeral Tour ‘42. Ulfang AEthelwulf, a Warden of the Woods, Byrne Maerncas, an oathbreaker, and Kazuo Ushigome, a devilishly handsome foreigner, had all come for their own reasons, but were soon united by trouble on the road. Spotting a pair of wounded travelers being interrogated by Order members, the trio opted to investigate. While Byrne’s brand went thankfully unspotted, Ulfang’s personality was more than sufficient to put the men into a bad mood. After a healthy dose of petty squabbling, it was determined that the Order had no intention to infringe on the Wardens’ jurisdiction in the first place, and Ulfang headed for the woods with his new companions in tow.

In the woods, Ulfang followed the tracks left by the caravan’s attackers and soon, a large wolf. Upon arriving at the scene, however, it was discovered to be a massacre. The raider’s bodies were stacked like kindling, and the only survivor was a mysterious pregnant woman, covered in blood. The party made haste to exit the area, whilst Kazuo, the only one smart enough not to dismiss his horse, lent it to the hysterical woman. Soon, it became clear they were being stalked. The enormous wolf whose track’s Ulfang had spotted emerged from the brush, surprisingly nonthreatening in the way only giant wolves can be. Before the meeting went any further, however, a negro pygmy Kazuo had discovered up a tree leapt down, beheaded the creature, and fled. Slightly confused, the party departed the forest with a bit of wolfmeat, and found their horses grazing at the forest’s edge.

Continuing on to Maplethorp Thorn, the trio headed directly for the local tavern, relying upon the bartender’s unique exposure to help identify the woman. He soon declared her to be Sara, a gyspy woman that had passed through town a scant few months ago. After both the bartender and Fyszus, the Celestine scholar Ulfang befriended at the funeral, allayed the party’s fears of nefarious parentage, the woman soon went into labor. Ulfang assisted in the birth, Kazuo stood awkwardly by with a bucket of water, and Byrne went gloveshopping before having a drink. Though the child was well, the mother perished, and the party left the town to follow Ulfang’s heathen traditions and bury her near the woods. A short while into the burial, they were attacked by a trio of reavers. Though they were quickly dispatched, reinforcements were not far behind. Ulfang and Kazuo fought bravely, and Byrne shot Kazuo in the hand. It totally wasn’t cool.

DM Addition: While at CV Mumford’s Estate, the part was alerted by Lord Benegard that women have been disappearing in the area. He suggested to Byrne that he should investigate a town called Maple. While in the small hamlet of Thorn, a bartender alerted the party to a strange nobleman who arrived a few weeks ago. He claimed to be on a quest to find his princess. He cited omens that she would be the most beautiful women in the small village. He befriended a girl named Mary, convinced her to marry him, and they left never to be seen again. Thorn is NOT the town originally suggested by Lord Benegard; perhaps the same nobleman is behind the disappearances there too.

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