Session XI, part 1

Through the magic of narrative, the party arrived in Southlake without further incident (other than Stark stubbing a toe). Lucinda led them to her father Melmoth’s house in “Nicetown.” A keen observer might have noticed the difference between his sumptuous digs and his brother Louie’s somewhat more furtive situation back in Deadlake.

Unfortunately, according to his wizened servant Bill, Melmoth himself was “away on business” for a few days, but had made arrangements for the party to rent a suite of rooms at the Ass & Frog (an inn “popular among adventuring types such as yourselves”) for the very affordable price of 50gp per month. Further, if they mentioned the codeword “otters” in any of the shops proximous to the Ass & Frog, it was highly likely that they would be able to negotiate a better-than-average deal.

Lucinda informed her traveling partners that she had to return to her duties and studies at the Red Temple, and Aline indicated that she would be accompanying her. Stark inquired (prompting a lusty guffaw from Eiluned) if Lucinda (and Aline, he hastily amended) would be interested in accompanying them on any further adventures. She said that she would consider it but needed to think of her obligations to the Temple first.

The party returned to their new digs, which were simple but featured a) individual rooms and b) locks on the doors and set about getting used to their new city. This mostly involved selling and buying stuff, while developing many exciting otter-based puns. Stark and Koringa visited a pompous fruiter, who informed them that the fruit they had brought with them from the witch’s hut was a rare poison with unhealthy effects. Eiluned determined that some of their items were in fact magical, but brought them to an outside consultant to determine their exact nature. It was revealed that her wooden ring was a Ring of Heat Metal, though it took some days for the consultant to determine the power word (“ampua”). Spiderssen’s magic staff, which had thus far only been useful for standing on its own, was revealed to be a Staff of Standing – notable for being able to stand on its own. Upon discovering this, Spiderssen took it upon himself to perform in the public square, in an attempt to raise a little coin. He announced loudly that he would ascend to the second floor of the Ass & Frog, leap off, and land on his nose upon the standing staff. The skeptical public was not disappointed to see that (despite his surreptitious casting of, first, Enlarge [upon himself] and, second, Featherfall) he did not entirely succeed.

After some time, Melmoth returned and paid them each 100 gp for aiding in the safe return of his daughter. In the course of conversation they asked him if knew anything of the Freestrings. He described them as “noble men with a sad past.” Asking what he meant, the party was treated to a lengthy historical discourse regarding the Eldritch War.

Until about 100 years ago (Melmoth said, consulting a hefty tome) the four regions of Quendor were all part of the same Kingdom, which had been ruled by House Azerad for hundreds of years.  But 100 years ago, Galen IV came to employ a mysterious wizard known as Narthex. Nobody could say for certain where Narthex came from, nor by what means he was able to replace Wymon, who had long been Galen’s friend as well as his wizard, but shortly after making his presence known at court, Narthex did indeed take his place at Galen’s side. Wymon’s subsequent whereabouts were never known.

Over the next several years it was noted – quietly – by some that while Galen had, like all the Azerads anyone could remember, always been athletic and graceful, lately he had been seeming older, and more decrepit. Curiously, Narthex – who was already approaching his middle years – never seemed to age. In addition, the King’s manner hardened. As the physical grace his family was known for (Azerad means “swan” in the Old Tongue) diminished, so did the equally-storied kindness. His manner hardened. He became withdrawn, reclusive, and nervous, and the kingdom followed his example.

Twenty years into Azerad’s reign, in the midst of plunging decay and dismay, the land was overrun by evil. This evil came in the form of monsters — the living dead. Zombies, wights, and the like now stalked the realm and ravaged its land. Frightened, the populace looked to King Galen Azerad for direction – for salvation. And Galen rallied. He took up the mantle of hero easily, issuing decrees and mobilizing his own personal guard – the King’s Men – in the fight against the horror.

Oddly, despite many decrees and much pomp, Galen and his King’s Men could not seem to make much progress. Though they fought bravely against the undead hordes, those hordes never seemed to diminish. Indeed, it seemed that for every zombie that fell, another would arise. And so eventually the King’s regents – that is, the leaders of the Northeast, Southeast, and Western regions – formed an alliance among themselves. Their goal was twofold: first, to save the land; and second, to unseat the king.

War intensified, and Galen found himself fighting two battles: against the hordes, and against his own regents. These were bloody years. The first battle culminated in a massive battle at the very center of the kingdom, in which the warriors and magicians of the Regents’ forces joined with the clerics and paladins of the Church to destroy the unholy creatures. This battle lasted nearly a year, and was nearly lost when it was revealed that Narthex himself was behind the crisis. The three chief wizards united with the head cleric and by combining their magics were able to defeat Narthex. This took place in Freshlake, where the wizard had retreated. Somehow this power must have been connected to the lake, for the process of stopping Narthex destroyed the lake and its ecology, as well as the economy. Hence: Deadlake.

While this was going on (or immediately thereafter) the Regents’ Army had managed to break into the King’s stronghold, and executed Azerad, his family, and his Royal Guard. The leaders of the Army decided not to install one of their own as king, but to dissolve the monarchy and grant each region its autonomy. The Regent of each region was given a seat on the Regents’ Council, along with a representative of the Church.

However, it is said that some former King’s Men escaped and still hid in exile. These men had taken up the lives of bards and it was somewhat of an open secret in the South that they called themselves the Freestrings.

The party wasn’t much interested in this history lesson, but they were interested in employment. Melmoth told them that if they were interested in employment, Lucinda had recommended them to Nika, the female head of the Red Temple, who had a job that needed doing. Off to the Red Temple!

At the temple they were shown into the large sanctuary, decorated in red and gold, with lots of comfortable-looking furniture and a trace of musky incense in the air. Ushered into an obscure office, they met Nika, the female head of the Red Temple. She was about 50 years old, slender, with long straight silvery-blonde hair; quite striking to those who were inclined to find that kind of thing striking. She said that Lucinda had spoken quite highly of most of them, and explained that several hours outside of the city there lay an ancient ruined temple from an obsolete religion which the Red Temple wished to rebuild and sanctify as a retreat for its own followers. The only problem was that several trusted sources swore that they had seen lizardfolk in the area – despite the fact that no lizardfolk had been documented as actually existing for the better part of a century. If the party would be so kind as to visit the ruins, and cleanse it of any actual lizardfolk they might find, the Red Temple would reward them handsomely: they would be allowed to keep any treasure they found, and there would be additional recompense, depending on the magnitude of the chore.

After clarifying that by “cleanse” Nika meant “murder,” the party asked if she had any more information about the site. They received their second history lesson of the day, as Nika told them of the monks of St. Cyrus.

The monks of St. Cyrus were dedicated to the service of a Lawful deity who undertook devotions and good works in equal measure, winning them the esteem and affection of the folk throughout the land. Dedicated to the preservation of knowledge and the battle against Chaos, the monks established a monastery above a series of subterranean caves where foul monsters and other aberrations dwelled. The monks hoped that their presence would serve to contain these abominable horrors and so they did – for a time. While the monastery stood strong, it was a beacon of light in a world of darkness. Pilgrims flocked to it in order both to learn from the wise monks and to gain spiritual edification from their teachings. Novices regularly entered the monastery and its numbers grew large enough that the monks were able to delve deeper into the caves beneath the monastery and drive back the creatures they found there. So successful were the monks that one abbot decided to establish a crypt within the caves themselves, as a testament to the progress of Law even within the very domain of Chaos and as a reminder that this progress came at great cost. In doing so, the monks also amassed items of mysterious origins and magical potency, along with other treasures, all of which they either put to good use or stored away, lest they fall into the wrong hands.

Alas, the taint of Chaos touches all things, even a bastion of Law such as the monastery of Saint Cyrus. After several centuries and a succession of weak abbots, the monks grew lax and, bit by bit, the monsters beneath the monastery reclaimed the caves. Rather than fight them, as had their monastic predecessors, the entrance to the caves was barred and the monks settled into comfortable laxity. No longer exemplars of Law, the wealth of the monks attracted the envy of local lords, one of whom assembled a raiding party to take the monastery by force and seize its treasures. This he did, razing the monastery to the ground and looting its contents after killing the remaining monks.

The party agreed to undertake this task the next morning, and repaired to the Ass & Frog for a night of preparation. This included sussing out what they could from the locals about the ruined temple. Stark, already having proven quite popular in the common room, and Bunny, who had fallen in with a small group of local thieves, unearthed the following rumors:

1. That the last abbot of the temple was an evil cleric who dabbled in demonology;

2. That the last abbot of the temple died while in possession of a great treasure;

3. That shadowy individuals had been seen entering and leaving the ruins under cover of darkness; and

4. That the ghosts of the murdered monks haunt the ruins of the monastery.

[Note: The description of the ruined temple of St. Cyrus and the accompanying rumors are lifted virtually verbatim from “The Ruined Monastery” by James Maliszewski, found in Fight On! #1.]

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~ by erranttiger on October 15, 2011.

One Response to “Session XI, part 1”

  1. ah, the good old acid frog, trippiest inn in southlake!

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