This weekend was the conclusion of a plot lie that’s been brewing for awhile, with rumours on mission and in the monthly IC gossip rag, the Newcroft Chronicle.
It features an old story with more than a grain of truth, a foul monster, a curse on a family and undead walking – so pretty much the usual stuff an adventurer could expect to come across.
This final event was spread over two days, with an IC party on Friday leading to a night site on Saturday.
A number of adventurers were invited by his Grace, Duke William DeVilleret, Duke of Berwickshire, to a party at his residence near Bamburgh, a city north of Newcroft. Here we dined, played a game of chance and listened to tales provided by the Duke’s fool in an evening hosted by his Grace’s seneschal.
But, after dinner was done, the seneschal brought to bear the business we had been brought to attend to, reports of a vicious monster rampaging through villages and hamlets, killing folk whilst they slept (or didn’t), singling out young women with ferocity and there were no tracks to be found. In some of the Templar records, a mention of this beast had been found 200 years previously, and a note was made that a number of brave souls had sought it out, never to return.
Can you see where we’re going so far?
The fool then told us a tale of what had transpired 200 years before, how a beautiful young lord had been promised to another noble woman but had married beneath his station to a young common lass with the family name of Cullen (it was meant to be Cully, so there is no connection with the Twilight franchise here). Sitting down one night with his young bride, the young lord drank from his cup only to change into a hideous beast and killed his bride before hunting down others of her family. For his mother had concocted some necromantic alchemical substance and turned her son against his newly extended family in punishment for what he had done.
And so, as this thing hunted through the lands, five brave adventurers sought it out, never to be heard from again: a mage, a physician, a warrior, a short warrior and a priest.
And as the evening continued on, there appeared in our midst a ghost of a Crowan priest, bewailing his fate, unable to leave as his fellows were trapped between life and death and as a Crowan he had to be the last to leave (it’s a Crowan thing). He went on and on about giving the dwarf what he wanted, the demonologist knowing something, the warrior being a fool and the physician still lives and as he spoke, he cried aloud to Kharach and collapsed, death’s icy fingers clawing at his soul.
And a door opened down to the basement.
The ghost floated amongst us, icy cold, repeating his message over and over again and a dwarf appeared, chatting amiably to whoever was close by and attempting to eat from the food on the table, his ghostly hand passing through the table much to his annoyance. And a number of our fellows went down the stairs to find out what was going on.
Because it was a party, lots of things go on that not everyone gets to be involved in, so whilst I was listening to the Crowan and the Dwarf, several members of the group encountered a demon sat in a ritual circle demanding to be sent home and a number of bodies laid out in the dust – one of which appeared to be only asleep.
Through much toing and froing, passing messages up and down stairs for poisons and identification of alchemy, reports on the bodies and the general alarm of a demon downstairs, the demon was sent home, a number of vials recovered from what appeared to be the dwarf and the physician was hauled upstairs to be placed in a chair for the three doctors of Newcroft to puzzle over. Supposedly a warrior’s ghost appeared, but Captain-General gave him his marching orders and off he went.
The dwarf was after some alchemical compound of the blood of the creature terrorising local towns and I think he left after someone found and handed over (?) a vial of blood the stupid sod had managed to collect before being slashed in half. The demonologist (mage) appears to have also been partway through making a deal with the demon in the circle and someone our own demonologist managed to get his hands on a small gem containing that man’s soul. Needless to say the soul will be released after being questioned thoroughly by the relevant parties.
The Physician took a bit of thinking and consultation of a number of vials we found emptied on her person, cross checking with my handy book of knowledge I had remembered to pack – hooray for IC books of knowledge. She appeared to be in a form of cursed deathsleep, probably brought on by the incorrect mixing of a physician’s deathsleep potion or other circumstances. We ended up purging her several times and waking her up, to then try and explain what had happened. Understandably, after waking up 200 years later, she needed some time to comes to terms with it and she went outside, after we found out she was of the Cullen bloodline.
BUT – soon there came a scream from outside the back door and the roar of Captain Jameson dealing with something nasty. We rushed to his aid where I clamped my hands over the wounds of the Cullen physician and asked my Guild Mistress what I should do (to which I had a rather terse reply) and began to try to patch her up. But, after slumbering for 200 years, there was very little blood left in her body and she died of her wounds before I could do anything.
Nathan Jameson was also wounded, but another physician saw to his wounds, after the creature we were to hunt the next day leapt high into the air and was away over the wall. Our Scout Ned/Neville went after it, tracking for as long as he could before the tracks vanished as we had been told they did.
Inside, Mercy Blackstaff was coming to terms with the loss of life of the young lady, and other matters were afoot, as as we freed the Crowan Priest from his duty and the mages got down to business in investigating some other item they had on their person, another evil crept into the basement.
At this point, Mercy Blackstaff retired for the evening whilst I collapsed on a sofa after inhaling incense fumes and I was “not around” for what happened next, but lets just say our Demonologist summoned a demon which played havoc with the inter-character relationships of the team and that was pretty much the remainder of what occurred at the party.
But, when we all went home OOC, IC we stayed the night, to hunt the beast the next evening at our Duke’s behest.
The party that was chosen for the night’s mission bore similar resemblance to the party from the legend: the Mage (Arthur Lightfoot, Demonologist), the Physician (Doctor Mercy Blackstaff), the Warrior (Captain-General Brack-on-Hill, Berwickshire Medium Infantry, Lady Mayoress of Norham and owner of the Bigg Juggs Tavern), the Other Warrior (Ned, Scout) and the Crowan (Captain Nathan Jameson, King’s Own Heavy Skirmishers of Foot).
We were sent out from his Grace’s residence with specific instructions – kill the beast, don’t give the mage the necromantic scroll of laying to rest and the promise of pay to be discussed on our return. If we returned.
We had, at some point the previous evening, learnt of a surviving member of the Cullen family in Warrenford, a village near Bamburgh. Refugees had been travelling from that area all day and if we were to meet any of them on the road, we were to direct them to towards the Ducal seat where they could be protected or sent on to another fortified town.
After some discussion of the scroll in our possession, prepared by the retired adventurer Ambrose Glass (the Vleyborian Necromancer), it was decided that Mercy would carry it until required. We then set out, only to encounter a guard on the bridge asking for a toll. Nathan and the Captain-General bullied him into submission to allow us to pass (much to Ned’s annoyance as he’d won a get-out-of-toll-free pass from his Grace in the previous evening’s games).
Travelling on, we let a group of terrified foul spawn pass, and although one tried to get the warriors of the party to attack it, we let them go. Further on we encountered a group of travellers hurrying away from some monster they’d seen (a description which sort of described what we were looking for) and then we came upon the creature attacking a band of villagers . Rushing to their aide, the creature evaded our fighters and the rest of us patched up the fallen and woke them to try and find out where they had come from. Some corpses could be seen further along and Ned and Nathan went off to investigate.
The folk were from Warrenford, the town we were heading to and they spoke of the monster appearing and dissappearing, as well as an old woman who was still there – perhaps she was the one we were looking for?
At a junction by the river, we found a number of corpses, recently dead, with several torn apart. The Captain-General and I gathered what information we could from the corpses, then gathered the pieces together for a priest of Kharach to attend to, as there was little else we could do.
And on we went.
In the dark we met the ghost of the priest from the night before, who came with a message “that which protects the lady will harm the beast” as well as gifts from the Lady Crowa. Magical armour descended on the party (which Nathan’s magical shield deflected) as well as enchantments falling upon our weapons. Bolstered and filled with hope, we travelled on.
Entering a clearing we were accosted by a number of dead bearing the insignia of the noble family from the tale, something we had found on a letter discovered on the deceased mage’s corpse. Taken by surprise by a number bursting from the ground under out feet, we battled hard but I was struck on the arm and then nibbled by a Ghast before Nathan chased it off and put it to the sword. The magic stick was rendered useless as the enchantment wore off and as the party were attended to by those with bandages, our mage prepared a spell and enchanted another sword.
Concerned, we ventured on, to be stopped by a skeletal knight (which posed little problem) and more foul spawn that spoke of a killing field up ahead which had destroyed their clan. Anxious to flee, they spoke of monsters and more undead and hurried away before we could get much more out of them. Approaching a bridge we found a troll bashing away at two zombies, all members of the battle regenerating as they went, so we left the troll to it and skirted along a path the foul spawn had spoken of, keeping the river between us and the field.
More villagers, including one sporting a recently stitched arm, told us that Warrenford was around the next bend and that Old Ma Cullen (the woman we were seeking) was still there.
Entering the village some of our number spoke with the guard whilst Arthur and myself went to see the village wise woman. Sitting in her house with her grandaughter, Old Ma Cullen told us of an family heirloom that protected the eldest daughters of the family, a gift presented to them on their 21st birthday. The younger woman was currently in posession of the item and when we tried to explain that the amulet might kill the beast hunting her family, the old lady was adamant that it must not leave the family – at which point Nathan offered to marry the lass. There might be wedding bells heard in Newcroft soon!
We convinced the young lady to come with us in case we needed the necklace, with the Captain-General offering advice to the old woman to find shelter in a cellar if possible. And so, Alfreda Cullen joined the party, with Nathan swearing to defend her with his life’s blood. Ah, young love.
We were attacked in the dark by swift creatures with sharp claws that pounced on myself and Alfreda, but the party beat it back and we were up on our feet in no time. A strange ghost, who we think to be the alchemist involved in brewing the concoction for the young lord centuries before, caused us to pause as we listened to his ranting and raving, though he did not appear to see us. Arthur inspected the lady’s necklace but could not see any magical properties, but just in case cast a magical armour about her and prepared a second one just in case. Hurrying past the ranting alchemist, we were best by a number of undead, including a ghoul that haunted our steps for a time, as well as an invisible thing that cried aloud our doom and tapped us on the shoulder and generally tried to scare us witless.
Another ghost came across our path, though I did not hear what she said for Nathan Jameson warned off the ghoul but it did not go far and I was left to watch our back, jumping at shadows as the high winds made the trees creak and moan. We were attacked by more undead and we hurried on as soon as we knew the path we were to take. Just before entering the gorge that held the creature’s lair, Arthur informed us about his second spell and we fended off another wave of undead.
And then we entered the tunnel.
Ned went first, triggering some clicking screeching beast that did not attack but tried to scare us off. We warily passed it by, first the Captain-General, then Nathan, then Alreda, then I with Arthur at the rear. He managed to find his alchemical light after reports came down the line of a body lying in the tunnel, and as we walked by it suddenly came to life, reaching for Mercy’s throat.
Luckily Nathan was prepared of it and struck it down before it could do any harm, but Mercy screamed loudly and we all hurried out before anything else tried to entangle itself in her skirts.
(Seriously, I screamed very loudly!)
Out we came into a high sided gorge, with mud underfoot and the horrible sensation that we were being watched. Nathan was challenged to a duel with another skeletal knight, but he battered it to pieces before he even got a scratch – but he admitted to drinking a number of alchemical concoctions before accepting the duel.
And then, it came.
Leaping down from the wall, hissing and screeching, it landed amongst us and pounced. The Captain-General and Nathan fought it back and forth as Arthur and I moved Alfreda out of the way, Ned lurking around to harass the creature. When it got too close, I clobbered it with my staff, knocking it back onto the Captain-General’s sword. Hissing, it pounced on Nathan, dropping him to the ground before Ned and the Captain-General floored it where writhed, hissing and scratching at them.
It was then the Captain-General called for the amulet.
I was torn – Arthur having gotten the necklace and handing it to me. I had to get the necklace around the creature’s neck before it rose again but Nathan was bleeding out. So I ordered Arthur to hold him together whilst I waded through the mud to place the necklace on the creature. It went still whilst the Captain-General called for the third enchanted blade and ordered whoever had the scroll to do the ritual. I pulled the scroll from my satchel, got the light from Arthur, dropped my staff and began to run.
I knew the basics as I forged my way around the General’s shield and the creature, clambering through a bramble bush (gaining scratches on my legs) and bowed upon each circuit, calling on the powers. The General had to lay herself across the creature to hold it down and upon the third circuit, I lifted the scroll, checked I had done what was needed, knelt, stood and began to read.
I already knew what the scroll read, having puzzled out the words earlier in the evening, but I read it carefully in a loud voice, calling on the powers of vitality to lay the soul to rest and send it to Kharach’s halls. And as I tore the scroll asunder, the creature melted away to form a beautiful young man who crumbled under the weight of time until there was nothing left but ash. The General gave a pained sigh as Kharach tugged on her soul, but she did not leave us (thank goodness!). As she stepped back, we noticed a skull lay within the circle I had trodden around her shield, which we assumed to be the mother – therefore our mission was done, the creature was gone and there was little chance of future mischief.
In high spirits we returned Nathan and Alfreda to Warrenford and returned to the ducal seat to make our report, collect our money and return to Newcroft.
And for once, Mercy Blackstaff actually had a hand in saving the day!