Played 6/27/20 IRL, 1/19/2122 IG.
- Thoreson Grimeater (Anders) Berserker, Chef, Healer.
- Ivo Flynt (Imre) Support, Gunsmith, Engineer. (Apprentice, Tella)
- Vanmil Glowhide (Kriss) Vanguard, Adept, Jeweler. (Fleshpacter, Fishel)
- Cagroot Hopstrider (KC) Skirmisher, Brewer, Delver.
Projects on the Side
Thoreson and Ivo had access to chitin, workshops, experts, and materials in Roachseat. They collaborated on crafting a prosthetic leg for Baron Rennet; Ivo spent 1 Ledger to secure all the needed elements to get the leg built.
Vanmil redoubled her efforts to gain the rank of Master as an adept, studying the intriguing possibilities of animating corpses without brittlestone. She also took steps (arguably reckless leaps) to develop a form of melding driven by adept energy, expanding her consciousness and creating conduits to link souls.
Meanwhile, in the shallows, Cagroot had some terrifying dreams about Baroness Elenor Rennet drifting apart in his psyche so he would not be able to release her and would be reminded for the rest of his life of his broken promise, a promise he could no longer keep. Anxious, he sent word to Thoreson to ask him to return to the surface long enough to take the baroness’s ashes to the Gilded Tower.
Vanmil heard about the situation in conversation with Ivo, and was enthusiastic about the possibility of studying a haunted dwarf first-hand in a situation with no brittlestone involved in the haunting. Even though the surface was rumored to be awful (she had never seen the sky) she decided to accompany the Fellowship on this errand to expand her experience and resume for her studies.
To the Shallows
As the Various Gardens Expedition Council assigned missions to teams to secure Kalara Heights, Ivo left Tella behind to remind the others of the Fellowship’s contributions. The Fellowship headed for the shallows, about seven days of travel from these deep territories.
They met with Cagroot at a crossroads where he waited for them. He seemed exhausted and haunted, and Vanmil tasted the death rolling from him in waves. They caught up on some basics, and traveled together to the surface. Ivo gave Cagroot a slingshot to use with his explosive beetles.
Vanmil’s first exposure to snow was deeply unpleasant. Winter in high mountains was unforgiving, and she immediately caught a head cold (and several snowballs from playful companions.) The Fellowship traveled their secret roads and entered human lands, closing in on Rennet Hall.
A Hall of Shadows
Casic the butler was pleased to see them and offered them hospitality. For supper they met with Baron Rennet, who had become haggard. Vanmil sensed his energy, and discovered that some humans bond so fiercely that their souls can bleed into each other; he was tortured by his undying wife’s suffering.
While Rennet was initially cool to the prosthetic leg the dwarves offered, he warmed to it; the fit wasn’t quite right as his body was still adjusting to the loss (and he lost a lot of weight) but they could fix it up overnight for him.
After supper the dwarves had some time to themselves. Vanmil was ready to dive into Cagroot’s mind to meet this ghost she had heard so much about.
Vanmil was very successful in her meld, and Cagroot was helpful. They entered a shaped memory space like a Sithic common hall. Vanmil sensed a predator outside, and also the ghost in another room; she ushered the ghost in, and encouraged Elenor to take on a fleshy form. Elenor’s memory was damaged by the predator that slew her.
She shared the terrible memories; the worm twisting in and killing her, slurping out her guts, snuggling in the gore of all the corpses and drawing their spirits to its multi-dimensional furnace to be consumed.
Then the dwarves arrived, penetrating its far-flung psychic field. As it hammered into them with the echo fever she slipped into Cagroot and out of the worm’s grasp; Vanmil briefly relived the worm striving to dig her out, and Cagroot sheltering her in his life force.
Elenor also shared that her family had experience with ghosts, and had a number of mediums, and her best chance to escape lie in the Gilded Tower. They agreed to carry her there.
Before they left, Vanmil escorted Cagroot as he wandered through his mind, brushing off dust and sediment, finding glorious memories stretching back over a century of encounters with alchemists and their studies. Able to see the entire history all at once, he swelled with pride and knowledge as his experience fused and became a new secondary skill.
The Worm Within
Returning to the real world, Vanmil sensed the energy of the predator nearby–in the same room. She locked eyes with Thoreson and saw something wicked within him.
The Fellowship had a terse discussion. When Thoreson pursued the worm into the pit by Lebrim Manor, he was supposed to slay it. Now it seemed he had not, and he was infected with a sliver of its consciousness. He didn’t give them permission to try and free him of it; it was none of their business if he had some alien and hostile parasite riding along.
Thoreson also showed them the crystal he tore from the heart of the spiderstalker. It had been corrupted to red when he ripped it loose, and that was because the worm within had given him the strength to finish it off; now the crystal amplified its consciousness, its hold, and its power.
The Fellowship didn’t press the issue, but they rested uneasy.
To the Painted Valley
The next morning before dawn they loaded their gear onto a coach, and discovered that Sir Marl was visiting to drive them to the Painted Valley and assure they did not run into trouble (as dwarves were not always popular.) He was especially taken by the first female dwarf he had ever seen.
Baron Rennet entrusted Cagroot with the urn of Eleanor’s ashes, and bid them farewell.
They traveled through human lands until mid-afternoon, when the trail up to the Painted Valley was seen as overgrown and too obstructed for the coach. Marl waited, setting up camp, and the Fellowship continued on foot.
As they found an old run-down cabin, an equally old and run-down caretaker greeted them from the woods. He was distracted, but affable–until he told them to leave.
Vanmil immediately detected the purplish energies swarming through him and the surroundings, and the Fellowship challenged the consciousness that told them to get out. Ignoring the befuddled caretaker, the Fellowship pressed on.
The energies of the valley shied away from sunlight, but handled the shadowy woods just fine. Many mounds of fungus concentrated the energy; Cagroot examined the fungus and determined it was specialized in handling the transition from life to death to life and so on, and collected some.
The energy swelled through a fungal mound, activating some violent necrotic specimens; the Fellowship cut and shot them down, picking up their pace along the overgrown path.
The Gilded Tower
Finally the Fellowship spotted the rickety tower. They cautiously approached, and as Ivo examined the front door Vanmil rounded the tower looking for alternate entrances. Two fungal masses swelled up, mighty and dangerous. Vanmil hacked at them then retreated as Ivo blasted them with a well-placed grenade and Cagroot rushed in to blow fire across them and finish the creatures off. Thoreson kicked the door in, and the Fellowship rushed inside.
The tower was festooned with black vines and long thorns. They wasted no time prodding the dusty corners, and instead they mounted the stairs. They passed the floor with memories and paintings, and Thoreson cut through the thorn masses to gain access to the top floor.
A statue of a mourning woman was embedded in the cloud of thorns, and it animated, gleeful in its intent to murder; the masses of thorns seemed to spill out of one shattered stone casket in particular.
Vanmil was astonished by the scene, taking in the “thin place” between life and death that the tower had been erected to contain here above the ground. She took the spiderstalker crystal from Thoreson, thinking to use it to seal this leak between life and death. Taking a desperate risk, she pulled Cagroot into a meld even as they were swathed in hungry black thorns.
Not only did she pull in Cagroot, but the frantic joining tugged in the worm from Thoreson and the crystal, as well as the Mortis Node bloom in the coffin that connected to their blood through the thorns jabbing into their flesh. And, of course, the baroness’s ghost.
Tossed on a rolling sea of thorns, the desperate mortals and ghost seemed to be doomed. But the gateway out of this life hung in the sky like an expressionless moon. Vanmil focused all her energy and tried to free the ghost, tearing her from the thorns but unable to push her to freedom–until Cagroot lent his stubborn will and concentration.
Elenor was free.
As Vanmil protected herself in a jewel of energy, keeping the various threats out of her life force, Cagroot foundered in the thorns. He managed to use his skirmisher agility to win clear and land on the leathern hide of the worm as it thrashed on the thorns, but still, his fate was sealed just as Vanmil concentrated on focusing her will through the jewel to seal the portal of death.
As a parting gift, Elenor sent a beam of light from the portal that drove Cagroot out of the meld and back into the desperate struggle in the tower room.
Alone with the worm and the node, Vanmil hurled the gem through the closing portal. The shock of the portal closing shuddered through the worm, and it twisted in the thorns as the node screamed; cut off, it would starve without the filtering ethereal energies from beyond.
Vanmil managed to escape as the meld disintegrated. Thoreson dropped, the feedback from the shocked worm coursing through him.
The thorns seemed brittle and lackluster in the winter chill without the mortis node flowing energy through them. The Fellowship cut their way out of the tower, now more like gardening than fighting, and moved out into the bleak winter sunlight.
(Returning was not complicated. They earned 5 Ledger.)