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Dolmenwood: Salvation at Castle Barckenwald (Session 06)

Gamelog for my Dolmenwood Campaign written by Maydrid the Rogue.  Rogue’s Gallery:

  • Marj Smith the Fighter.
  • Maydrid the Rogue.
  • Madrid the Rogue (twin sisters).
  • Jackie-of-Many-Colors (Elven Magician).
  • Spruce-Upon-Gallows (Elven Enchanter).
  • Hogrid Weavilman (Cleric).
  • Boone the Hunter (Hunter).
  • Tassain (Minstrel).

“Here you are,” Lady Harrowmore says as she scribbles her signature at the bottom of a parchment. “I can’t guarantee the Archbishop will see you, as he’s quite arrogant, but good luck.”

.: :.

Castle Brackenwold sits atop a high hill at the center of the largest, and only, city in Dolmanwood. A great cathedral calls this city its home, and this is the seat of the Church’s power, with the Archbishop at its head.

The journey to Castle Brackenwold is largely uneventful – the landscape of Dolmenwood outside of Prigwort is wild and unfamiliar to Maydrid. They stick to well-traveled paths most of the time, and one sunny morning, they are approached by a party of twelve women dressed in crisp, clean clothes.

“Hail! We are the Bakers’ Dozen – care to purchase any fresh, baked goods?”

Sprue and Jackie glance at each other, slightly confused. Marje narrows her eyes suspiciously.

“We’re good, thanks.”

“But you look weary and hungry! Please, they are reasonably priced!”

“I said we’re good,” Marje grits out, crossing her arms. A few of the women frown, but the speaker shrugs nonchalantly.

“If you are ever craving our baked goods, visit our Mother’s Bakery in Brackenwold!”

The second strange encounter is when they pass under an archway of trees, the sun filtering through the leaves as they rustle with the breeze. Eerily, Boone notices that there are names and faces carved into the trunks of many of the trees. Suddenly, the faces speak out in a chorus, “Thanks for passing through! Make sure you write your name on my trunk!”

Madrid tilts her head in thought, and Maydrid shoots her a stern look. “Don’t.”

Sprue, Hogrid and Jackie step forward curiously as the trees continue to chant. They each write their names, and after doing so, nothing happens. The trees simply smile and bid them farewell, saying as they leave, “Goodbye, Hogrid! Oh and goodbye, Sprue!”

.: :.

The guards at the cathedral read the letter from Lady Harrowmore, scrutinising it closely, before reluctantly handing it back and ushering them inside. When Jackie steps forward, the guards hold out their spears to obstruct her path. “Strictly no elves. They aren’t known to be… the biggest supporters of religious groups.”

The cathedral boasts soaring ceilings and intricate stonework – the windows are stained with colors from the rainbow and the altar standing at the far end of the room is carved from shiny marble. The guards lead them to the Archbishop who is praying near the altar. The Archbishop stands, and upon seeing them, he raises a questioning eyebrow.

“These travelers have a letter of recommendation from Lady Harrowmore…”

The bishop nods and waves his hand, and the guard walks away. He focuses his gaze on Hogrid.

“What say you, brother? What do you seek from the bishop?”

Hogrid lifts the sleeve up his arm and shows the Archbishop the disease that has spread across his skin. “This is black rot, and I have another week or so left to live. I was told you could cure me, your excellency .”

The bishop laughs a haughty laugh. “I don’t cure every man, woman and child they find on the street! If I did that I would be swarmed everytime I leave the cathedral.” He gestures to Hogrid’s arm. “But I assume you are smart enough to know that, so, what do you bring me in exchange?” He narrows his eyes. “Why should I heal you, brother?”

“I received this wound whilst battling a Gloam that many before me had fallen to. This Gloam was nested in the old abbey that fell hundreds of years ago, and I banished him. I believe I can restore the abbey, as long as I cleanse the evil within the abbey. If you heal me, that is.”

A look of almost admiration flits across the Archbishop’s face, before it disappears just as quickly. “Slaying a Gloam is no easy task. I will save your life, on the condition that you accede to a holy quest.”

Hogrid consents, and over the course of several hours, the bishop is able to cast the spell that causes the death rot to evaporate from Hogrid’s skin. At the end of the ritual, Hogrid suddenly feels queasy as he is overcome by a wave of nausea, and he vomits black sludge onto the floor.

.: :.

On the journey back to Prigwort, Sprue and Jackie regale them with tales of their separation from the rest of the party in Brackenwold; they ran into a strange, bearded merchant, and they saw an advertisement of a thousand gold for the slayer of a black dragon that plagues a Breggle town.

Not long after they arrive at Prigwort again, Mostlemyre summons them for a new task. “My network tells me that a star is due to fall near Drigboltolm soon, and usually when a star falls it leaves behind skymetal residue. I will pay six times the weight of the metal you bring back in gold. But,” he pauses to stroke his long, wispy beard in thought, “I warn you that there are many people who covet skymetal, so when the star does fall, I would urge you to make haste.”

“Six times? Gee, we accept of course, and make sure to contact as when that star does fall, cause we’ll be hurrying over,” Madrid responds gleefully, the thought of gold lifting her spirits.

“Very good! I shall let you know.”

“In the meantime,” Hogrid interrupts. “Let’s go back to the abbey – I have to fulfill my promises.”

.: :.

Since they wish to remain undetected, they explore the well of the abbey. “I can go down,” Sprue volunteers, beginning to tie one end of a rope to himself.

Marje and Boone lower him into the well, dropping him little by little. Sprue remains calm as the damp smell of moss and mold fill his nostrils. Soon enough, he spots the bottom of the well and the pool that sits there; there seems to be a small passageway that connects to the well just below the surface of the water.

More importantly, he notices a massive shadow hovering just below the surface of the murky water. He tugs on the rope and he stops, swinging midair, and ponders for a few minutes. Suddenly, his mind is invaded by images of a catfish being mutated by a black, sharp-edged energy that he recognises as chaos. The chaos warps the catfish until it’s over fifty times its original size.

He is then bombarded by another vision, one of an underground chamber beneath Brackenwold Castle. Here, the Duke is sacrificing his daughters atop an altar to what feels like an evil presence. A voice weaves its way into the vision, and it coaxes, “I am so lonely and bored. So very bored. Please bring me a souvenir from that chamber.”

Sprue shakes his head and stares back down at the water, and now the shadow has revealed itself to be the giant catfish, staring at him with its black, beady eyes.

He yells, “Pull me up!” and once he is reunited with the party he explains what he saw. “It doesn’t seem aggressive. In fact, it seems to be isolated.”

“I’m going down,” Madrid says confidently, grabbing the rope.

She, too, experiences a vision: this is one of a figure poisoning a vast lake, and as a result, a water dragon falls asleep on the lake’s bed. The dragon begins to dream and they manifest into a strange, twisted worm creature, whose screams drive mortals insane.

“Please, bring me back a souvenir from the lake. I’m so bored.”

When Hogrid is let down into the well, his vision is one of a sacred gathering place of the Drune. They are performing secret rites in an unknown place. He sees other Drune join their companions by painting a sigil in blood on a cliff face, which reveals an invisible door. He, too, is compelled to bring a souvenir back to the fish from that gathering place.

“Please return with my souvenirs. I am oh so very lonely.”

When Hogrid re-emerges from the well, he blinks a few times to reorient himself. “What a strange creature, but a poor one at that, trapped in this well.” He gestures down, and continues, “There is a passage there, however, and hopefully that will lead us to the rooms under the abbey.”

One by one they jump into the well. The catfish watches them silently, not speaking another word in their minds. They follow the passageway for a few minutes, and it winds to the left and to the right continuously, before opening up into a series of eight rooms, each room holding a sarcophagus each.

“Strange,” Marje murmurs, running her fingers along one of the sarcophagus.

“It’s not like anything I’ve seen before,” Jackie comments. She lifts the lid of one of the sarcophagi, and Scryke appears, a little shaken.

“Oh dear… Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!” he exclaims, throwing his hands in the air. “Someone is here that is not supposed to be here.” He looks up to Jackie with frantic eyes. “You must fix Saint Clewd by giving him this thing.” Then, without another word, he disappears.

The next sarcophagus is empty, but Sprue discovers a secret set of stairs under the third sarcophagus. He leans down and hears an echoing voice repeating, “Cheese, cheese, cheese, cookie, cheese…” He stares up at Maydrid, confused, before shrugging and responding with, “Cheese.”

Magically, a fresh slice of cheese appears in his hand, and then the echoing stops.

The fourth sarcophagus is filled with nothing but a few raggedy clothes and ashes.

The rest of the sarcophagi hold zombified monks, or what look like they used to be monks, that rise from their graves and attack. It doesn’t take much to vanquish them, and Madrid takes their valuable worldly possessions that still remain: a few coins, a ring, a large gemstone.

“Well, that’s everything,” she says, dusting her hands. “Down the stairs we go!”

They do just that, following that passage for a while. Eventually, they end up stopping at the back of an old tapestry covering what they can assume is the exit into another room. Marje holds a finger to her lips and pushes the tapestry back slightly, peeking into the room.

It looks like a small library; there are a few shelves filled to the brim with tomes and scrolls. There are four elderly monks sunken into chairs too large for their fragile frames. They are each painstakingly bent over a book, and from what Jackie can see, the books seem to be arcane, not religious.

Marje signals that the coast is clear and enters the room. The monks hear the rustling and look up, but their eyes are glazed over, as if their vision isn’t as clear as it used to be. “Who goes there?”

“We’re monks, just like you,” Marje responds calmly. One of the monks tilts his head to the side, suspicious.

“There are no nuns in the brotherhood. Who are you?”

“We’re here on abbot’s orders,” Jackie interrupts hurriedly. They all turn to look in her direction, but none of them stare her straight in the eyes. “We’re here to mend the rift. That’s all.”

“Ah,” one of the monks says, resting back in his chair, his aging back almost creaking.

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons, OSE, The Ninth World

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