015 - The Growing Mystery in Penustad
The party wakes up in the forest temple after defeating the evil dryad. The sounds of the forest can be heard and the morning sun strikes the ground. Gregory feeling the pains of hunger, sits next to Tegan asking for that 'food that tastes like soup. Tegan splits a ration with Gregory but Tegan stubbornly refuses to enhance its taste magically. Elgin struggles to sit upright with his hands still bound by the magic shackles. Wazo and Aaron discuss going to Penustad to help Elgin be free from his shackles. Elgin is concerned about his reputation coming back to Penustad in manacles. The party suggests visiting Elbara, who has helped them in the realm of curse breaking and magic before.
The adventurers leave, wandering for a bit then rediscovering a familiar path. As they make their way, a dragon flies overhead with a blast of wind disturbing the peace of the forest. The dragon briefly darkens the sky with its large wingspan, green scales, and enormous body. Wazo, feeling rage, flies up to watch after it passes. She sees the green dragon heading east towards a certain mountain range. She shrieks in fury and frustration. She then lands and asks Elgin directly, "Do you know how to kill a dragon?" He explains that it "takes special tools and planning. Dragons are cunning, magical creatures." Elgin is surprised this dragon is this far west. Wazo asks him about Avongad Lake and he says it's far west of here.
The party and friends continue backtracking to Elbara's cabin. Tegan knocks on the door and Elbara answers after a short time. She is surprised they're back so soon. She invites everyone in.
The cabin looks basically the same from when they left. The bed in the corner is still unmade but with one half undisturbed. The cauldron in the middle of room is bubbling in a square pattern giving off the scents of pumpkin, tree bark, and iron. The main difference that the party notices about this room is above the workbench. The shelves that once contained all the memories is empty now.
Looking at Elgin, Elbara says, "I haven't seen you in a long time."
"Yes, it's me under all these wrinkles"
"It's nice to see you again", Elgin says in a sweet, longing voice.
"Tegan, how come you're back so quickly?"
Tegan explains about her sister, Tessa and the scene that they witnessed in the abandoned temple, leaving out the connection to Aaron. He also explains about their near death experience with the forest dryad, and asks her if she knows anything. Elbara doesn't know about the dryad either.
Elbara then makes Elgin an offer, one of his memories for her help opening the shackles. Elgin thinks for a moment, then reluctantly agrees. She then wastes no time. Taking out a 1 foot elm wand, she mumbles an incantation. The wand floats up and attaches to the shackles, and absorbs the blue magic of the shackles, until they are ordinary brass and clatter to the ground.
As she takes the memories in payment, the party sees scenes of them playing together under a tree as children, picking apples, skipping rocks, etc. It is clear that they had a history together. Elbara places the silver memory in a sizeable mason jar and puts it on her shelf.
After Elbara completes the ritual, Wazo notices that she wears a golden pendant around her neck: a black raven head with an open beak, on a thin gold chain. Wazo recognizes the symbol as that of the Raven Queen, a deity.
Tegan comments on the missing memories on the shelf, and Elbara explains that they are offerings to and for her patron. She takes painful memories to help people heal in a sacrifice to her goddess.
Tegan asks if Elgin needs to get back to Penustad. Elgin thanks the "nice lady" who he now doesn't recognize and heads outside in thought.
Gregory is taking everything in, fascinated while these events transpire. He is especially fascinated with the boiling potion, and Wazo boosts him up for a better look at its square bubbles.
The party asks Elgin to wait for them, and they talk over their options: going to Avongad lake, or going to Penustad with Elgin and Gregory. After talking with Elbara for a moment, Wazo thinks they should trust Elgin.
Elgin tells the party that there have been rumors of a defunct cult regrowing in Penustad. He doesn't have a name yet, but the rumors he has heard match the party's description. He explains that he is throwing a ball in Penustad in just a few days, and inviting a bunch of people who are suspected of being involved. He invites the party along, as he sees them as potential allies.
He offers to teleport the group to just outside the outer bounds of the city. Elgin performs a quick ritual, and the world appears to warp and blur around the party as they slip through space at impossible speed. After touching to the ground, they find themselves standing on a road outside Penustad.
As they walk closer to the city, the terrain gets rockier and less grassy. In the distance they see glimpses of red-roofed buildings. Elgin, upon seeing his homeland, begins to spout off historical facts:
Penustad was built around a mithral mine long ago. It began to grow more prosperous between the years of 569 to 589 (20 years). The residents at the time found uses for the red stone byproducts of the mining, including their signature roofs. The city is believed to have been built on a sacred gnoll ritual site.
Upon reaching the front gates, the party notices that the guards are uneasy. Tegan sees that the south wall of the city is broken and crumbled. There is still fresh blood splattered around. The guards are suspicious, but when they see Elgin, they are welcoming and respectful.
Gregory is super excited to get back to his wife to explain his journey with his new friends and how he met a real life witch! Elgin, having business to attend to, reminds the group that they're invited to the ball which is in two days. Wazo asks if he can recommend lodging.
He says there are two inns most people use, The Dandelion Inn in the cotton sprawl district (formerly Mithralton), and the Rubore Inn, in the gnollcrest region.
The group realizes that they are in the cotton sprawl district which is rundown and poor while the gnollcrest district is more upscale.
There is a quick discussion over which inn to stay at but they decide on the less conspicuous one.
As the discussion is happening a young human girl reaches say out her hand extending a small blue flower, "Please?" Wazo, feeling compassion for her, gives her a gold piece. She gives Wazo the blue flower and skips away happily. Wazo "buys" other stuff from beggar children but when the adults get pushy, the group decides to head closer to the inn. As they walk along the Tryell river the can see fishing boats and piers.
Walking through the cotton sprawl district, it is apparent that this is a less prosperous part of the city. The buildings are stained an ashy color and there is many shuttered businesses and mithral processing plants. After a ten or fifteen minute walk, the party sees a dilapidated sign for The Dandelion Inn hanging on one hinge engraved with a dandelion slowly giving off its seeds in the wind.
Wazo leads the way and enters the inn. They are gruffly greeted by a human male with shaggy dark hair, sorta like Jack Black. Wazo asks for ale, bread, meat, and a room. The inside of this inn and tavern is run down. There is a carving of KS+LO scratched on the table that the party chose to sit at. The windows are glazed over and cloudy.
Hyek, as the group finds out, is a gruff man and doesn't care who they are. The party eats and drinks but just as they were about to finish, Wazo notices a poor couple that can barely afford a full meal. Being moved with compassion, Wazo orders a bunch of food for the beggars.
Up in the room, Tegan has a little rant about how the group is better than this, that they don't have to stay in the cheapest room. Wazo points out that this is an excellent way to avoid his mom's attention and Tegan begins to realize her rationale.
Wazo has a dream that she is in a field of tall, black grass. She hears a voice in her mind saying, "Come to me child". Soon she notices a raven-like aarakocra standing facing away. She wears a dark blue cloak embroidered on the back with the symbol of the raven queen.
Wazo flies closer, but gets a sense that it would be disrespectful. She lands and walks the last little bit.
A female voice says, "I read your memory. The one you gave Elbara. I see you have a lot of rage and hurt. Follow me and I can give you powers that can heal the world."
Wazo replies, "What if I don't want to heal it, but destroy it?"
"Then I have misread your memories. I see that the pain of your past and the potential of your future are at odds with each other".
"How much future do I even have left?"
"More, if you follow me."
"If I follow you, will I also get revenge?"
"My domain and scope is not... outside of that."
"Ok what do I gotta do? What do I have to give?"
"You have already given the memory through Elbara. At the right time, I will bestow some of the powers I give, upon you."
Then the mysterious figure moves and then becomes a murder of crows, which fly away.
Wazo awakens with a jolt, along with everyone else.
It is morning and Wazo begins to ask questions about the Raven Queen. She suggests that if the group can find a temple to her here in the city, they may also be able to learn about the Emerald Enlightenment. Some investigation leads them towards the gnollcrest region across the river. As the party crosses the river, they see a large statue in the middle of a large green, commemorating the opening and closing of the Penustad mithral mine. They walk past an open air market and Wazo finds a small temple to the Raven Queen. It is a simple and small building.
Tegan knocks to no answer. So he listens at the door but there's silence inside. Aaron, getting impatient, pushes the unlocked door open. At the back wall of the small room is a small stone basin, a shrine. Above it is a symbol of the Raven Queen. Seated next to the basin is a female Aarakocra, meditating or sleeping in a chair. There are a couple benches on the left and right sides of the room.
The aarakocra's eyes open and a yellowish green glow fades from her eyes. "How can I help you?"
Tegan says, "We are looking for info on the Emerald Enlightenment."
"They are gaining followers in Penustad, evil acts have been growing."
Tegan begins to question her further but she simply says, "Sometimes knowing less is better," shutting down the conversation.
Thanking her, Tegan, Wazo, and Aaron decide to go to the library and archives to see if they can uncover new information. Walking outside, they cross the open air market to the Infinity Library.
Suddenly, the sky darkens with ash and they hear townspeople yelling, "They're attacking again!" Women and children scatter and various townspeople run in different directions or taking cover. An arrow strikes a vendors cart next to Aaron, and another arrow shatters a clay pot.
Four gnolls run up the street towards the party who was just in front of the main market. Initiative!
- Wazo rages. She flies over to gnoll 3, who was closest, and hacks at him with her greataxe. She hits twice, leaving him badly wounded.
- Gnoll leader runs up next to Wazo and chops at her. Then he roars, and inspires the injured gnoll to attack Wazo again. He misses.
- Tegan uses Hypnotic Pattern. Two gnolls near the leader are charmed. He also uses Spiritual Weapon, but it misses the leader.
- The injured gnoll misses Wazo.
- A new gnoll appears, climbs to a rooftop and hits Tegan with an arrow. He keeps his concentration with the help of Favored by the Gods.
- Wazo finishes killing the injured gnoll, then turns her blade on the leader. She grazes him with her blade, barely drawing blood.
- The gnoll leader gets a double attack on Wazo, but in her rage it does little damage. He calls in another gnoll.
- Tegan misses with Spiritual Weapon again, then twins Mage Armor for himself and Aaron. He moves to the corner of a building to break line of sight with the archer.
- Aaron yells to Tegan in dwarvish, "Move back", then casts Hunger of Hadar, centered on the two newest gnolls.
- Wazo frenzies, focusing her rage on the commander. She hits him with three attacks, leaving him injured.
- The leader is seething with rage. He stabs twice at Wazo with his spear, but misses.
- Tegan slices the leader in the back with Spiritual Weapon, then uses Minor Illusion to make the sound of himself yelling in dwarvish from inside the darkness of Hunger of Hadar.
- The rooftop gnoll believes the sound and heads further into the spell area. the other one runs out and towards Tegan.
- Aaron advances to closer cover and explodes the leader into chunks with a double Eldritch Blast.
- Wazo, still frenzying, hacks at one of the gnolls that was incapacitated. With three vicious chops of her axe, she bisects him.
- Tegan misses a swing at the last charmed gnoll with Spiritual Weapon, then focuses on dodging.
- The gnoll stuck in Hunger of Hadar tries to get out, but can't make it to the edge.
- The last healthy gnoll changes course, deciding to flee the fight.
- Aaron drops concentration on Hunger of Hadar... then casts it again, over the escaping gnoll.
- Wazo carves into the last incapacitated gnoll, giving him a rude awakening with her greataxe. He dies, decapitated. She moves near the edge of the magical darkness.
- The gnoll on the roof succumbs to the damage from Hunger of Hadar. The fleeing gnoll gets out of the spell effect, when suddenly--
Aaron notices a figure in a heavy black cloak reaching out their hand. A lightning bolt reaches out and strikes the gnoll, killing it. He sees the figure quickly leave.
Wazo also sees the cloaked figure fleeing the fight. She flies along, trying to get the figure's attention. The figure turns and sees Wazo, who realizes it's Kynthia!
They have a quick conversation. "Oh, Wazo! What are you doing here?"
"Just passing through. Why are you running away after you helped kill the gnolls?"
"Oh, well I don't want to make my presence here known. Are you here with my son Tegan?"
"Ok, well I'll just be going."
Wazo gets back to Aaron and Tegan and lies saying, "I didn't catch them."
There is some anguished screaming from inside the building coming from a middle aged woman where the Hunger of Hadar was centered.
Tegan runs inside and tries to heal the girl with Healing Word, but it seems like she's dead. He uses Prayer of Healing to heal himself and whoever else was hurt. Wazo leaves her blue flower with the girl as a sign of mourning and respect, then Wazo and Tegan leave. They agree not to tell Aaron.
After a long rest, the party will be level 6!