Berwickshire has been touched by a plague – a sickness that kills swiftly and can adapt to its circumstances, which cannot be healed the same way twice and seems to change the cure at random. This sickness has the taint of the Mother of Monsters about it, and with the help of Doctor Kyle and others, Rowan Tait-of-Amblevale intends to put a stop to it once and for all. The time has come to put an end to the rogue physician. The time has come for Rowan to blood her sword.
Robert Price, an ex-Physician of Newcroft, invited adventurers to an auction at his villa on the outskirts of the city. When they arrived it became clear that he was moving away, offering them a chest of gold for them to complete a matter that Doctor Kyle was aware of. After some probing by the Forester, it became clear that Robert Price was the adoptive father of Randall Porter, who had visited him some days ago to inform him that the time had come to complete his prophecy – a goal that the rogue had been seeking for some time. He told his father that he should be proud, for he was going to undertake the tests to prove his worth and take up the mantle of Primate of Krygan.
This Rowan would not allow, and so she informed the party of their task – to kill Randall Porter and stop him becoming a leader of the dark church of the Mother of Monsters. Her decision seemed to shock the party – there would be no trial, there would be no quarter, there would be an end to the monster who had brought strife to Berwickshire and Rowan Tait-of-Amblevale would finish what she started a year ago when she let the blue coated Kryganite escape into the darkness. After informing them that she would not let them take the gold until the task was complete, she offered them the option to not risk themselves by going into Willow’s Deep – a place of monsters and darkness that tests the mind and the metal of any foolhardy adventurer who skirt’s its edge. But they were going far into that territory … and in all honesty they may not return.
Those adventurers who agreed to walk the dangers with her were:
- Freesword Gregor Fallon;
- Forester Rowan Tait-of-Amblevale;
- Mardknockiln of Clan Stanroc of the Alchemists Guild;
- Mortimer Lowe of the Mages Guild;
- Doctor Leofrick Llew Kyle of the Physicians Guild;
- Defender Finwe of Longstor; High Father Lord Benedict DePiercy of Crowa; Brother Crag McFist of Vleybor;
They entered the Deep near Deepwatch, the Griffin Keep in the hands of Sir Stewart DePiercy, another adventurer, and began the slow descent into the gloom. They fought off foul spawn who tried to dissuade them from their path (likely minions of the undead dragon Koh’bara, but the adventurers didn’t look too closely nor question the matter). In a tunnel through the undergrowth they were startled by a sickening shaman and its body guard, which fell to the adventurers after they attacked them. Beyond, the twilight closing in around them, they came upon a pair of Dark Elves in the bushes who – through the translations of the Vleyborian Brother McFist – demanded the adventurers leave. But Rowan was having none of it and warned the creatures that they were travelling through and that they’d better keep out of their way. They managed to travel a little further before they were attacked and the party began the slow crawl of defending all flanks whilst pressing on.
Then, from the shadows, a voice spoke to them in Ithronian. Warning them away, the speaker spoke of a duty the Dark Elves had in keeping back the Elderkin and coldly informed the adventurers that they had no place there. Rowan managed to convince the speaker to give more information and told him that if they would show them a path around their territory, they would leave – but that they were going to stop the Elderkin from getting stronger by stopping one who would be the leader of their goddess. This seemed to be agreeable to the dark elves, who then made a counter offer – prove their worth to them by removing a nest of Kryganites, and they would aid them. But the party had to kill the heretics in the fashion of the dark elves – quietly, from the back. After checking these terms were agreeable with the more honour bound members of the party, Rowan agreed and sought out scouting information.
They were trailed by a scattering of dark elves, who attacked the unwary, but essentially left the party alone. Rowan and Finwe scouted ahead, Rowan stalking up to Kryganite on watch and tricking him to turn his back before she killed him. She convinced the party to cross the bridge so as not to string them out, then crept up to attempt to ambush another patrolling kryganite. This didn’t go so well as he managed to call out to his fellows before Rowan silenced him and they pressed on. The next man saw the adventurers as they crossed a path and bolted before Rowan could surprise him, so she urged the party on to try and stop any preparations being made. But it took time to climb the slope and they startled a watcher before a crack in a cliff, who ran off before Rowan and Benedict could silence him. At this Rowan urged the rest of the party to be wary and to expect a fight – which they got as they stormed the camp.
Rowan got cursed with a sickness as she startled one of the heretics, but fought through the nausea to kill him, then warned the party off as she tried to deal with it herself. She then endured a lecture from Mardknockiln about leaving the party strung out and about poor leadership, which angered her to the point of near recklessness, but she managed to calm down before being informed that the man lying in the corner (that Rowan had attempted to slit his throat) had had his skin removed. Unsure of the significance, Rowan ordered the party back towards the river, where they fought off a couple more Kryganites who jumped Rowan from the shadows and she bludgeoned to death before kicking the corpse in the river.
The dark elves, who had been observing, were reasonably satisfied with the handling of the matter and agreed to show the adventurers to a different path with a choice between elderkin country, or a rocky pass infested with foulspawn. After canvassing the party’s opinions, Rowan chose the foulspawn route – intending on preserving weapons and armour for the fight against Porter. This did not sit well with Defender Finwe, who later left the party to clear a return route through the Elderkin and serve his God by removing their taint from the land.
The adventurers fought off trolls, ogres and goblins before coming to a Naiad’s pool. As they spoke with the nature spirit, Randall Porter approached and warned the adventurers away. Rowan, as leader, told him in no uncertain terms what they intended to do to stop him and that she was going to kick his teeth in. He merely laughed at them and placed a jar on the ground. It was a jar of Echidna, and was about to wreak havoc through the party. He muttered some words at Benedict and Rowan, and instructed them to uncap the jar amongst their fellows by the pool – the long expected fall out from a previous mission in Derwentshire – and Benedict picked up the jar and did as they were bid, releasing the disease amongst their companions. Luckily Leo and Mardknockiln were immune to the effects of disease and were able to heal the party through physician’s drugs and alchemy, saving their lives and the life of the nature spirit caught up in it all. The Kryganites watched for a time to give their master chance to get ahead, then turned and left. One solitary Elderkin caused bother for the adventurers for a time – though Rowan discovered she was unaffected by the instruction to freeze – and once the party were all back on their feet, they pressed on.
Their dark elf guide led them down to the bridge, surprised they had made their way that far, and warned them of creations that guarded the bridge. The younger elves liked to taunt the creatures, but had not been able to pass beyond them and this was as far as he would lead them. So the party prepared for traps and automata, killed a few more Kryganites and came to the bridge where two stone statues walked a worn path in the stones.
Benedict solved the puzzle, to walk in time with the creations, walk a quietly as they could and avoid their ensorcelled weapons, and slowly the adventurers made their way across the first challenge. Rowan brought up the rear and was forced to dash the last few feet when she stopped in the middle of the automata’s path when they stopped to turn the corner, misjudging her steps but getting out of harms way before they could bring their weapons to bear on her.
The land beyond was green and reasonably pleasant – which was disturbing amongst the horrors of the Deep and the adventurers made their way hesitantly on. They met a young woman who claimed to live there with her family, and she led them to meet her family – a strange collection of individuals who claimed to live in the Deepest Watch – with the “head” of the family the Griffin Knight with the singular sword and tabard, and the others claimed as his sons and siblings. They managed to tease out information of a place they didn’t go that was scary that a bearded man had gone into not long before, and they pressed on after bidding the group farewell. It seems that once the Griffin Order had had a Keep in the Deep – the Deepest Watch – that had fallen.
Expecting the final fight against Porter, Rowan and Benedict took time to prepare for battle – Benedict casting the blessing of Troll Strength on Rowan after she Dragon Armoured her armour using her draconic powers, as well as necking a potion, and coating her borrowed blessed longsword in silver in an attempt to do as much damage as she could. Prepared, and the rest of the party ready for a fight, they descended the rough steps into the gorge, expecting to discover Porter and his cronies.
But alas, with a grinding sound, it seems they had just missed Porter as his minion snarled at them, swearing they would never be able to solve the puzzle and that all was lost, before he began to cough and succumbed to the sickness coursing through him. The body was burned and the adventurers began to try and solve the puzzle that clearly led the way on. It took some time, with Mortimer Lowe, Benedict, Mardknockiln and Leo puzzling over the stones, and a quiet prayer from Benedict to Crowa for guidance, before they managed to open the stone door onto the next path – another challenge complete and one more to face.
They crossed the river at the stepping stones, pushing on hot on the heels of the heretics and their leader, only to face him before a dark tunnel. Bored of waiting, Randall’s minion teleported him to the other side of the tunnel before he followed, leaving behind two of his followers to delay the party. Benedict swiftly cut them down and the group turned their attention to the tunnel. A tunnel that was clearly trapped with a strange glowing cube in the darkness. Rowan and the others suddenly got a bad feeling about what was about to happen.
After Benedict threw Mortimer Lowe clear of the trap, the mage attempted to dismantle the trap though succeeded in triggering some of the defences. He then was wounded by another trap and Crag McFirst was thrown across to save him before he too fell to some wound. Leo joined them, though soon all the adventurers were trying to protect those on the other side whilst Rowan watched the skies worriedly, her sense of time telling her they may soon be too late. The last to vault the trap full of poisoned spikes (narrowly!), she began to crawl on her belly as Gregor was pinned to the wall by some force holding his armour. At that point someone managed to destroy the magic working the traps and everyone could pass through unharmed, having mastered the final challenge.
Then all that was left was to face Porter and whatever foulness lurked in the heart of Krygan’s lair.
The gorge rose up to high cliffs where, in the shadows surrounding the eerie setting stood a series of monstrous figures. But Rowan’s attention was drawn to Porter, standing before an ugly spear and donning a skin coat with the aid of his minion. Leo warned them of this monstrous creation – deathslept skin that became like stone armour. He urged them on and Rowan, quickly casting Fortitude on herself as she saw the coating on the spear, and Benedict began to run just as Porter lifted the enchanted venomed spear and declared himself Primate of Krygan.
And all hell broke loose.
The creatures around them lurched into action, attacking those around them and focusing on Porter, who fought them off before going toe to toe with Rowan and Benedict. Rowan, prepared for this battle, fought through the wounds he tried to inflict on her and the venom tip to the spear, fought him off, driving him back and away. They fought back and forth, Benedict at her side, then falling back to defend others or to be healed as Rowan faced both Porter and his minion. She brought Porter to his knees, though his wounds kept healing and was feared back from his body. After cowering, listening to her friends still engaged in combat, she necked a potion of protection of magic, cast another of her gifts upon herself and charged back into the fight as Porter came round, spotted her and her sword and ran back into the frenzy.
Rowan gaze chase, calling for Benedict as she clashed yet again with the man, and brought him yet again to his knees. As she rammed the sword home through his heart, she chucked away the spear and tried to end Porter for good – though it became clear that his wounds were still healing even after she purged his coat as instructed by Leo. Panicked, she called for Leo’s aid and the good doctor came to deal with his nemesis once and for all.
Mixing combinations of drugs and force feeding them to the rogue physician purged him of his lycanthropy and the weapons Rowan and Mardknockiln were using to keep him down began to leave lasting marks until the final blow was struck and Porter was gone. Confused, Rowan gazed about them as Benedict moved the spear away, and spotted the shade of Porter in his distinctive blue frock coat standing guard over the spear of Krygan. Their battle was over. Randall Porter had been destroyed and Berwickshire was safe for a little while longer.
Benedict tried to cleanse the spear of the corruption of Krygan, getting the party knocked off their feet in the process and Rowan watched him leave lest he be tempted to take the spear up as his own – defending the party from the beasts and from themselves. They began to long march out of the Deep though Rowan was not afraid of another fool attempting to remove the spear. That place, though tainted by the Mother of Monsters, could protect itself. They had done what they had set out to do, and they would do it again if another should rise to take Porter’s place.
And the Spirit-Keeper lived to fight another day, in service of Berwickshire.
This was the end of plot mission for the whole rogue physician plot that spans all the way back to last April when the Surgeon General earned her cloak at the Council of Swords. It has included missions such as Leo’s discovery of the skinned men and the sickness Echidna, the demise of the Nixon family, the stirring of trouble for the Llaminusians, and the recent afflictions of mineworkers to name but a few, along with downtime investigating the reason for the skinned men and how to cure them.
It was a fantastic evening with emotions being played as well as the epic final battle, which had a significant feeling of desperation. Interesting challenges that pushed all involved to the limit and the feeling of being true heroes as we concluded this long running plot by one of the Newcastle refs. Thank you for all who have been involved throughout and especially for the writer and ref who ran this. You’re a star!