Thieves & Kings

Episode 20 - Howling Winds

“Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.”

https://youtu.be/RBUtBrk7yzo

Synopsis : A tale in which the adventurers are attacked at their own steading by a small army of fey beasts led by an unknown green hag. They later attend the mid-month moot and coronation of the newest ruler of Thornkeep, Baroness Neria Blackshield, and stop an attempt to bring ruin to the ceremony by the unveiling of one of Blackmaw’s servants, a young green hag disguised as a local child.

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7th of Echos, TR 1049, Early morning, Green Dagger Farm : The adventurers, fresh in their return from Thorn River Crossing, had snuggled into their various quarters.

In the Tower Vault Ruins, Dame Kahli, “Sweet”, and Yeoman “Shiv” were snug and safely sleeping in their beds. Kahli, however, slept as fitfully as usual, and felt a certain… presence, a watchful eye in the dark… that woke her up. She had the distinct feeling of being scryed upon by… something… and swiftly woke Sweet, who distinctly felt the same. The pair gathered their equipment, and waking Shiv, they asked him to watch the vaults and keep the group’s treasures and Anilda safe, while they made their way up the stairwell poking out into the dark, snow-blown teeth of a full night’s storm. They began trudging through the growing snow drifts to the Mothalla.

In the Mothalla, the rest of the adventurers were sleeping soundly, when “Sprout” felt the same scrying presence, which woke him from his own regular nightmares. He wakes both “Scales” and “Ricochet”, and set about rousing the rest of the hall. Vesina, Sulli Hurler and her mother bundled together and settled into the far corner near the books. Mikmek and his two minions hid themselves behind the blankets, but armed themselves and readied their weapons. Mourde Carter gathered his own equipment, and stood calm and ready.

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The pair from the Vaults quickly made their way through the storm, hearing… something… over the howling northern winds, and joined the rest. After a brief discussion, they agreed that waking the huntsmen who lived behind the smithy would be useful, so Ricochet and Sweet headed back out, while Kahli dressed herself in the Armor of the Wyrm with Sprout’s help. Ric and Sweet made their way out into the storm, and went around to the back shack where the huntsmen slept, waking them. Ricochet barely perceived a figure moving slowly through the snows from the southern cliff edge, and decided to try and get closer to identify it. He soon realized who it was; Tiressia, wounded and struggling to make her way through the deep white drifts. He ran to her, and caught her in his arms as she swooned. He quickly “rallied” her with soothing words.

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The group gathered once more in the Mothalla, while Kahli took watch outside the doors. RIcochet dropped the wounded Tiressia on his bedrolls, as she whispered one word; “…Bloodfeathers…”. Sprout began looking at her wounds. The group heard it again,… a distant howl on the winds from the north. There was a sudden crunching sound against the back wall, and then the hard splinter of claws digging into the walls as whatever it was climbed onto the roof. Scrabbling across the ice-slick, slate roof, the beast made its way to the front, where Kahli saw it; the largest, meanest-looking owlbear only imagination could summon. Blood red feathers crowned its mane, and the beast gave a sharp, echoing cry that rose above the howling, cold winds. Kahli slipped back into the Mothalla, and quietly pulled the doors closed, but did not lock or bar them. The beast dropped onto the spot she had previously occupied, and gave off an odd “hooting” sound. It tested the doors and with a tentative shove pushed them open. From the darkness of the night, beyond the light of the great hearth spilling through the open door, a small army of writhing, thorny vines approached.

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Scales wove a tale of heroism, encouraging those around him, while Kahli gave off a divine Bless. Sweet and Mourde stepped forward, swinging several solid blows, while the beast howled and hooted striking back. Ricochet and the huntsmen began peppering arrows on the beast, with the former using his Thorn Arrows. Sprout seemed to be ineffectual on helping Tiressia, and slipped out to take a stance and fire a Ghostly Touch on the beast, but missed. Everyone noticed that the beast was wearing studded barding of some sort, and bore various packs and other goods across its back. They also noticed, for the first time several small “bundles of twigs” had slipped into the hall from the rear.

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Scales dropped a flaming chromatic orb on the massive owlbear, and Mourde landed a critically vital blow on the hissing owlbear, though he took a series of rending strikes that would have fallen a lesser man.

The real surprise, however, was when Tiressia appeared from behind the blankets of Ricochet’s living area, sprouting black iron-like talons, and then proceeded to rend Scales with a critically damaging couple of blows. Sprout missed in his sudden panic, and Kahli responded with a solid green-flaming blow from Scorbane on the faux-Tressia. The kobolds began firing on the swarming little twigs that began appearing in pairs from the corner back wall, taking one out.

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Scales dropped a Shatter on the clustered foes gathered outside, and retreated, taking a glancing blow from the faux-Tiressia. The owlbear then struck down Mourde with its strong arms and bite, who fell prone. Kahli fired two Eldritch Blasts into the faux-Tiressia, who responded by shredding Sprout with her claws, though he too responded by twice striking her with his daggers. Ricochet took a position over the fallen Mourde, assisted by Sweet. The twigs began swarming Sprout, and took several sharp hits from the kobolds. The thorny vines outside began burrowing under the walls, and two of them slipped into the Mothalla.

Feeling the situation to be dire, Kahli unleashed her celestial heritage, sprouting ghostly skeletal wings as her eyes became pools of utter darkness. A wave of terror spread out causing the enemies closest to her to tremble in fear. Unfortunately Sprout and Callum were also caught in the Frightening blast and, overwhelmed, they too shook with horror.

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Scales touched Mourde to Cure Wounds, while the owlbear proceeded to inflict some grievous wounds with its claws on RIcochet, who struck back with Sweet’s assistance. One of the twigs managed to rend Sprout with its thorny claws, as did the faux-Tiressia hissing angrily at him to die. As Ricochet called for the fake Tiressia to be destroyed, Kahli closed with her, taking down the dividing privacy curtains that separated Ric’s sleeping area with the common area as she came. One of the vines grappled Scales, pinning him, and clubbing him with its woody vines, while the other grappled Sweet. Mourde scrambled for safety away from the entrance, and two more of the vines crawled under the walls.

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Scales struggled against the vines holding him, and Ricochet took another savage couple blows from the owlbear, before striking back with a savage DIE MONSTER! DIE!”. Sweet struggled free of the vines, and Scales protected himself from a savage blow from the vines. The twigs swarmed the kobolds, one dropping Mikmek with a savage claw strike.

Kahli dropped a Hex on the faux-Tiressia, and followed up with empowering Scorbane with both her Green-Flame and Smite in a savage critical strike that literally cut the creature in two. (76 Damage!). The kobolds retreated with Mikmek in tow to a safer place in the corner. A revitalized Mourde stood and critically struck the nearest vine, as did the one huntsman who was confronted by a vine. His companion slew the most wounded vine.

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Scales dropped another Shatter, this time among the swarming horde of twigs, slaying many. The owlbear began hooting and howling, looking distracted, but once more clawed and bit Ricochet, nearly felling him, and forcing him to retreat. Sprout healed Scales. Kahli fired an Eldritch Blast into the owlbear, Ricochet is then grappled by one of the vines. The vines managed_ several solid blows, one of which felled Mourde once more. Another knocked one of the huntsmen unconscious as well.

The owlbear’s interest in the fight seemed to wane and it stepped back provoking an attack of opportunity from Sweet who stabbed the owlbear, toppling the wounded beast. Giving a final mournful cry, it collapsed on its back and drew a heaving final breath in the drifting snow.

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The vines and twigs seemed to suddenly lose interest in the fight. Ricochet revived himself with a Healing Potion before joining the fight once more, and Sweet used a Healing Potion on Mourde. Scales was entangled and knocked unconscious by a vine. The twigs began to dwindle in interest, and ceased swarming in from the back wall, and the last of the vines were destroyed. The corpse of the faux-Tiressia proved to be a hideous green hag.

Slumping wearily, _Kahli_’s celestial display dissipated and she moved among the fallen helping to revive Scales, Mikmek and the fallen huntsman, the group then proceeded to close and seal the front entrance against intrusion. Making the place as secure as possible, the group settled in around the central hearth, and tried to get back to engaging in a long rest.

When morning dawned, the group spent the remaining hours of the morning ensuring everyone was in good health. The huntsmen spent some time butchering the owlbear, and recovered its strange studded leather barding, that had a collection of supplies of questionable quality, and a sack of several hundred gold coins. The adventurers determined they might be able to fix the armor to operate as standard barding for a normal mount, if they brought it to a leather worker for alteration.

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The group decided to spend the next couple days close to the farmstead, in case there should be another assault on the Mothalla. Until the moot on the 15th, each would spend some time on their own personal activities.

Kahli began learning Sylvan from Anilda, offering to donate her sight for an hour each night.

Sprout began study of the text “Perfection and the Craft of Lasting Magic” from the Green Dagger Archives, mastering it after several days of study. He also learned many techniques and recipes for the construction of “common” dwarven constructs, including a Homonculus, and a Flying Sword.

Scales tried to master the text “Mastering the Unseen”, but after several days, failed in his first attempt to do so.

Sweet spent her time reading the book named the “Order of the Thistle”, finding many of the arcane rituals and traditions of that fallen order, sufficient that she could recognize them if she ever encountered them in her travels.

Ricochet learned many of the recipes in “The Book of Beer”, finding many of them oddly unusual, but enough that he could compile them should he ever want to start his own brewery.

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15th of Echos : Morning of the moot arrived, and the adventurers, well-rested and ready for a change after nearly a ten-day of being cooped up in the Mothalla, headed out to Thornkeep later in the day. The roads were heavily drifted with several days of blowing snows, making the trip hard; there were virtually impassable forest trails off the main road. The stretch from the iron mines had been somewhat cleared and were easier to travel, but still the two hour trip was nearly four hours long.

As usual, they left their horses in the Green Forest Inn stables, and after a quick meal, they headed up to the castle. Caer Dragonscorn proved to be well-lit and almost festive. Making their way through the castle yard, they entered the Great Hall, finding the place filled with all the community’s most notable folk, and many of the farmers and otherwise “wealthy” individuals. Hob-nobbing ensued.

While Ricochet and the rest moved about the hall, tasting the sweet meats and wine poured for the guests, Kahli noticed the young Adelinda, daughter of Master Miles Firestone, sitting alone near her kin providing the music, and being her usual despondent self. Feeling something of a kindred spirit with the young girl, Kahli moved over and engaged in casual conversations with the quiet, introspective girl.

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Soon the musicians changed their tune and engaging in a royal processional tune, heralded the entrance of Lady Ivis Blackshield and her daughter Lady Neria Blackshield. Lady Neria was resplendent in a full, flowing gown and dripping jewels. As all eyes turned to her, the group on the dais grew silent, and Lady Blackshield began a speech about the powers of nobility and the promises and pacts that the baron made with the and and its people. She then had an iron box brought forth, revealing its contents to be the Crown of the Wolf Baron. She then crowned her daughter, and everyone in the hall kneeled in honor, and broke into applause, with a cry of “Long live the Baron!”.

While everyone else was distracted, Kahli noticed the young girl, Adelinda was bent over, shaking as though she were in a great deal of pain. She noticed, as well, that the girl’s skin on her arms and hands seemed to be rippling, with an odd, green cast to her skin. She recognized it as some sort of possession or other action, and immediately cast a Protection from Evil and Good on the girl, who promptly collapsed. Her transformation seemed to stop, and she looked once more, like the girl everyone knew her as.

Kahli summoned one of her musician cousins, to seek out and bring Sprout to her side., while she kneeled by the girl and kept an eye on her. As time passed, several members of the group were gathered, and informed of the situation. Sprout determined that the girl was indeed not entirely human anymore, and when Sword Brother Eldrast and Mistress Idara were informed, Sword Borther Eldrast confirmed what he knew of hags, saying that one of their traditions was to kidnap children when very young, and replace them with their own spawn to be raised by the human family. He felt, indeed, that Adelinda was a “hag baby”. A discussion ensued as to what to do with her.

The parents were informed, and while the rest of the community seemed blissfully ignorant of the goings-on, and slowly made their ways through a line to acknowledge their fealty to the new baron, Brother Eldrast approached Lady Ivis and quietly informed her of the situation. Lady Ivis seemed to lose her enthusiasm for the situation, giving her signet ring to the priest, and a quick word, before once more turning her attention to the crowds pledging their fealty. He returned, and said that they were to bring the hag to the castle prison, where she would be gagged and manacled, and her fate would be determined later.

The adventurers then left the great hall, making their way across the garth to the old bailey, which once served as the main hall, but was now the primary barracks and armory for the baron’s guards. Entering the old fortress, they passed through a commons area, past several doors and then down a narrow flight of stairs, twisting around to the left, and then down another long hall, turning abruptly left down another flight of narrow stairs. From here, they entered a T-intersection, turning right and came to an iron door along the corridor, and entered the castle prison.

The room was roughly 25′×25′, with a narrow bunk to the left of the door, with a small hearth on the wall and a round table with three chairs in the far corner. Along the right were five (5) 10’-long cells, each holding a barred door sealed by a padlock, the floors covered in old straw and bedrolls. The three closest to the entry wall held several prisoners, the group identified as the cultists captured months ago back at Thornkeep Manor.

Brother Eldrast explained to the single guard present the orders of Lady Ivis, presenting her signet ring as proof, and the guard presented an iron gag and iron manacles, which were used to bind and secure the hag. She was tossed into the farthest cell, with the reminder that he was not to remove her binds or gag without the express order of the Baroness or Lady Ivis, no matter what the girl might seem or try. Kahli offered to remain and keep watch over the girl until the morning, and Eldrast told the guard to allow Dame Kahli to stay until the morning. The adventurers then returned out of the Old Bailey, and Brother Eldrast returned to the Great Hall to return the signet ring, and inform Lady Ivis of the situation. The adventurers chose to take their leave, and sipped back down to the town, and spent the night in the inn, talking about matters late until the evening.

And the wind howled and the snow continued.

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