September 29th, 2012
8:30PM – 3:00AM
Godsday, 25th of Goodmonth, 3201ec
The group heads their separate ways to further their training. They arrive safely at their destinations courtesy of Mayor Thulan and begin training at once. Autumn turns to winter which turns to spring. Hearthfest comes and goes and they barely take notice. All the while the strange pale blue light of the Empty Star begins it’s slow ascent in the heavens.
Traumatic memories of the events of last year occasionally surface, especially at night when the day’s work is done. Sleep offers little respite as they are often troubled with terrible nightmares.
Every night the dreams start innocently enough. However, without fail, an evil darkness begins to worm it’s way in and take control. They feel a sinister, other worldly presence burning into their very souls as visions of deep and dark horrors flash within their minds. Gaping, fanged maws, dripping ichor flash before their eyes and slimy, barbed tentacles slither and slice through their minds. They inevitably awaken, gasping for breath in the night air.
The only escape is to work harder and distract the mind from it’s wandering.
After almost a year of grueling study, training and torment, the group arrives in Dimsdale as changed men. By 25th of Goodmonth, 3201ec, everyone has managed to return to town.
They are eager to reunite with their compatriots and head for the town hall to meet up. Every 5’ they are stopped by well wishers patting them on the back and looking them up and down with respect and awe. As they make their way to the town hall they see a new sign post in the ground:
Let it be known, on 28th of Goodmonth, 3200ec these brave souls rose in defense of Dimsdale and her people:
Perished assaulting Morlan’s Keep
Talister Niles – Indentured Servent
Berman Grolsh & His Shepherd’s Dog
Dakkon Mar – An unsuccessful gambler
Scalen Weiss – Rope Maker
Jezzan – Astrologer
Phendris – Rutabaga Farmer
Lerg Deepember – Dwarven Apothecarist
Reak – Gongfarmer
Shamus – A former slave
Gulgus – An Orphan
Blindorf – Dwarven Stone Mason
Drevous Shimmerslint – Navigator
Eddy Felltree – Woodcutter
Habrick – Dwarven Blacksmith
Belven Chorster – Scribe
Arnith Thym – Elven Barrister
Carmine Teseract – Elven Sage
Narom sees his name has been left off the list and wonders if it’s more than a mere oversight.
As they enter the hall they receive a hero’s welcome from the volunteers setting up. They are relieved to see Vella moving about with energy as she leads the final festival preparations.
One of her handmaidens, a plump rosy cheeked woman explains:
“Vella never made a full recovery, she is distant, always staring far away and rarely speaking. This past week she’s shown a spark of life for the festival even if her taste leaves a little to be… desired, She discreetly motions at the ugly purple flowers hanging about and the crooked banners welcoming them home. we’re just happy she’s improving.”
As they take their seats they notice an unfamiliar dwarf at the end of the bar. He is dressed in fine dwarven workman’s leathers.
Orlan Talloak, The Blacksmith, greets them with customary good cheer and hearty hugs and back slaps. The conversation turns to the status of Maristis. He explains that Maristis’ face never healed and he has been gone for some time gathering components in preperations to exact his revenge. Orlan also mentions he has taken to making less plows and more swords and armor ever since the troubles last year. They are stocking the town and making plans to train a militia so that they are never defenseless again. He invites them to stop by his shop sometime to see his work.
The strange dwarf is introduced as Gorin Deepember, cousin of Lerg Deepember. He is a young dwarf with a long dual braided beard tucked into his belt and dark brown hair. He expresses his displeasure at inheriting his “flower pickin” cousin’s apothecary shop after Lerg’s unfortunate fall into the well at Morlan’s Keep. He passes on two vials he found in Lerg’s shop as a gift.
The priest, Halden Brant, discusses some of the events that have happened since their departure. Travelers from the North have mentioned that activity has been seen near the desolate Godless Pit, rumors of strange gray men led by a robed one handed sorcerer. They are commanding tentacled horrors and have begun raiding nearby farming settlements. The godless pit is just outside of the wilds about a days travel South West of Wildsgate. Since Wildgate’s ruler, Baron Kaldal, has fallen ill, his reagent has been reluctant to send troops, he has enough trouble as it is.
Sometime later renowned Halfling brewer, Pint Bingleton, makes an appearance. He strides into the town hall with his walking stick, black curly hair matted about his head and a sly grin on his face. His eyes are bright and blue as he addresses the group.
“So there’s those sailors we’ve heard so much about! I was on a walkabout during the troubles and sadly missed my chance to assist you or at least die trying.”
He reaches into his knapsack and produces two brown bottles and begins to pour the brew into glasses. He raises his glass in a toast.
“In your honor I have brewed an exclusive HarvestMoon ale for you, Sailors of the Starless Sea!” The bustling activity in the hall comes to a pause as the townsfolk cheer and applaud their unwitting heroes.
The Festival Ends Before It Begins
The festival begins around 5:30 on 25th of Goodmonth, 3201ec. As the guests of honor, the group takes their seats at the raised dais. Huge platters of meat and roasted vegetables are brought out along with tankards of ale. It is the best meal any of them have had in at least a year.
The feast continues as the band plays and townsfolk dance. Several toasts are made before Mayor Thulen rises with glass in hand to offer his toast.
“To those we lost and to these heroes – "
Vella stands up abruptly.
“My lady, take your seat while I finish the toast” says Thulen nervously as if speaking with a child.
Vella surveys everyone and an evil twisted smile plays across her face.
“I’ve spent the last year gathering my strength, master’s punishment was severe” she shrieks harshly, “Tonight I shall finish what I started, you should have never inteferred with Master’s plans. You cretins will pay for slaying Morlan!”
As she finishes, the heavy purple blossoms hanging from the rafters explode with a spore cloud that engulfs the entire hall.
The town hall erupts in panic, glasses break and tables are overturned as people double over gasping for breath. Some of the heroes manage to resist the deadly spores while others are incapacitated by painful bouts of coughing. The smell of decay and rotting flesh begins to fill the town hall.
In an effort to clear the room, the shutters are opened to the outside air. Opening them reveals bodies animated with vines thrashing their thorny limbs.
Moments later, the door to the cellar bursts open as shambling mounds of decrepit flesh lurch into the hall with hungry, biting mouths bringing with them a wave of stench and decay. These flesh horrors consist of stitched together parts of both human and animals lurching forward on four or more various limbs repurposed as legs. Features such as eyes, hands and mouths with sharp teeth are spread out between tufts of fur and tumorous growths. The flesh of the beasts is grey and decayed, covered in sores and dripping with maggots.
Struggling against the effects of the spore cloud, the ensuing melee puts the recently reunited adventurers new skills to the test. “Time to harvest the crops” quips Buck the wheat farmer as he scores successful strikes with his trusty pitchfork. Belvin performs mighty deeds of arms to sever the limbs of one of the creature and drives his axe deep into the skull of another. The wizard Eddie enlarges Arnyth while Carmine sacrifices his own stamina to cast a spell of burning hands.
Meanwhile at the dais, Renus succumbs to the spore cloud and suffocates. Drevous hits his mark and buries an arrow into a tumorous growth of one of the fleshy constructs. Habrick’s war hammer swings in a crushing arc, destroying flesh and bone beneath. Finally the elf Arnyth cleaves the final beast with an overhand strike from his mythril longsword.
The One Handed Man
The hall is still full of spores as the enlarged Arnyth and Carmine break down the barred double doors. Outside, they are confronted by the animated vine horrors, swinging and flailing their thorny limbs. Behind the vines stands a robed, hooded man. He raises his arms in the air revealing a missing left hand as he speaks in incantations. The hooded figure lifts his head revealing the corrupted face of Maristis, writhing with grey, wormy tentacles.
“Narom, I believe you have something of mine” says Maristis.
The hand Narom found in Morlan’s keep and has since kept animates and wraps it’s undead fingers around his neck. Narom casts paralysis on the hand and succeeds, thereby ensuring the hand’s grip around his neck. Eddie casts color spray against the vines and Maristis. Maristis lets out a quiet chuckle as the array of colors fail to distract him. Maristis levels his gaze at Eddie and curses him for dealing Morlan the killing blow, however, he fails to invoke the spell.
The vine horrors flail ineffectively and one of them falls on it’s face. Habrick crushes the vine as it explodes in a shower of viscera and black seeds. Belvin scores a critical hit cleaving a vine in two.
Seeing his minions fall, Maristis plans his escape but not before invoking a curse. His eyes turn a sinister golden color as black smoke swirls and wreathes his body.
“Master Izmaledt, Lord of Many Forms, for as long as I occupy this plane may your great obscenity touch these creatures.”
A portal opens revealing a circle of robed gray men in a vast cavern. Behind them black, shiny columns move and sway. Small tentacles ring the portal and reach up to pull Maristis in. A glowing, swirling rune is left behind as Maristis vanishes.