Who Do You Want To Be Today?
They all heard it at the same time, “Wake up!”
The tiefling thought that the voice sounded familiar and opened his eyes looking around for the voice realizing as he did so that he had heard the voice in his mind and might not be able to place a face to the voice. In the room with him were an elf, a human, a frogkin beastman, and a Halfling all in states of wakefulness. There was also a dragonborn in the room, but he appeared to still be sleeping. Whether he had heard the voice or not was unclear to the tiefling. Each of them were looking around trying to get their bearings as they rose from their slumber. Each examined himself, apparently looking for possessions, and finding only ill-fitting clothing but no injuries.
The elf spoke first, “I…” he paused at a loss for words then continued there was something about the situation that felt familiar, “I am Dúlinnor. Do any of you know what is going on or how I got here?”
The tiefling answered, “My friends call me Tavious.” It looked as if he was going to say more, then he too paused before he continued, “I am actually at a bit of a loss as to our current situation, perhaps one of the others. Though I recognize Ruak and…,” he furrowed his brow then his face brightened, “Quinth.”
The beastman hopped onto the head of his bed and started croaking, within the croaking the word Ruak was clearly heard, but other words were horribly garbled. The Halfling moved over to the frogman and laid a comforting hand upon him and spoke, “I too know Ruak. Be calm my friend, I understand your distress. We will find out what has happened and get to the bottom of this. If anything has been taken from us, we can always take it back. This is the way of things.” Looking at the others he continued, “I am Toombs and something has been taken from me and I will get it back; this I know. Someone has taken my memories. From what Ruak has said, I believe that his have been stolen as well. Is that the case for us all?”
The human replied, “Yes, I can tell you that I am Quinth, but more than that is a blur. As you have said, I recognize Tavious and Dúlinnor, but not you others.”
Ruak croaked, “Ribunny Clothibit?”
Toombs nodded, “Yes, why these clothes that do not fit well? I feel like I am missing something do you not all feel the same?”
Quinth suggested, “Could we have been robbed?”
Tavious answered, “Perhaps, but that seems unlikely as we all seem uninjured.”
Toombs new that injuries could be healed and words came unbidden into his mind as he realized that he could heal with his touch, “Perhaps…but injuries can be healed, can they not?”
Tavious looked confused, “Can they? Without scarring? I’m not sure I would know even if I could recall anything with any detail.”
While the group was continuing to ponder their situation, Ruak went to the door, the smells of animals and unwashed bodies faintly underlies the more welcome smells of food that snake from under the door that leads from the room. As he opens the door the smells penetrate the room and everyone’s bellies growl with hunger as they realize that they must not have eaten in the recent past. Moving out into the hallway, they hear sound of people eating, drinking, and partying in the distance. They discover that they were at an inn and cautiously approaching the common room, they decided to send in the “normals” first before letting the frogman and tiefling enter the common room.
The tavern common room was filled mostly with humans, though there was a lone dwarf present. As the human, elf, and Halfling entered, the conversations paused briefly as people looked up to see who the newcomers were. Seeing that there was little disturbance the tiefling and beastman entered as well. They too caused little more disturbance, though the dwarf said some sort of warding curse and spit to the ground when they entered. The group overheard one of the tavern patrons whispering, “They don’t look any fiercer up and moving about as they did sleeping on the cots do they?”
After a moment the tavern owner approaches the group, “Ah, you are up are you? Good day to you then. Welcome to the Red Oak Tavern. I’m called William Dare and am the owner of this fine establishment. I am led to believe that you may be feeling a bit confused or disoriented. Dr. Mirabalus said as much before he left on his business. You are welcome guests here, the good doctor paid for your stay here for a fortnight until his expected return. You must be hungry and thirsty. Please seat yourselves and one of the wenches will bring you victuals.”
Quinth asked, “Do you know why we’re confused and don’t seem to have our memories?”
Dare shrugged, “I don’t know anything other than what Dr. Mirabalus said. He dropped you off two day ago and you’ve been sleeping the sleep of the near dead since. He didn’t say what had happened to you or nothing. Just that you may be feeling strange or confused when you woke up and that I should make you comfortable and get you what you need. My guess, perhaps you were accosted by brigands and he found you or you had too much to drink at a party or maybe some Fey played foul with you?”
While Dare went back to the bar and the tavern wenches brought the group food and drink the group overheard some of the nearby patrons discussing various topics ranging from crops to hunting to weather to child raising and who is dating who. One conversation revolves around witchbreed and how they can or can’t be trusted. Another about how witchbreed have magical powers, one person claims that they are all shapechangers another decries this, a third points out that they all have magic powers but they are all different, a fourth says that only some have magic powers at all. Finally, this group of four screws up enough courage to come over to table of the group enjoying their meal.
“My friends and I are having a debate and we were thinking you might be able to settle it for us,” says one.
One cringes in the background but nods.
Another adds, “Do all of you have magic powers or just some of you?”
The one who was cringing adds, “And please don’t answer us by turning us into news.”
One of the others kicks him in the shins and adds, “Ignore him, we’re not trying to be rude, we’re just curious. We don’t get many of your kind here.”
Tavious starts speaking directly into the minds of all of the four, “We all have great power and turning you into newts is the least the things you should be worried about.”
Dúlinnor asks, “How is it that you come to call us witchbreed?”
The four look at each other as if they had been asked how they know that they are human. Then one answered, “You have an…I guess you would call it an aura? I mean sometimes witchbreed are obvious, there is some sign that marks one as witchbreed and everyone sees it plain as day. But, for some of you it isn’t a physical mark, but it is still obvious if you look for it. Though I hear tell that it can be disguised, at least that is what the witch hunters say. You all clearly aren’t disguising the fact that you are witchbreed so we thought we’d ask.”
Dúlinnor continued, “So I have this aura and you don’t. And that makes me a witchbreed?”
The one who was speaking looked confused. But this time the proprietor had come over. Dare added, “The way I understand it, one is or isn’t a witchbreed. Just as one is or isn’t an elf, or dwarf, or human. But witchbreed are in every race far as I hear. And yes, as these folk said, there is something that identifies witchbreed—sometimes it is physical, sometimes it is more subtle but it is there if you look for it. There’s stories of witchbreed having power. Some stories say they have power from demons some from Heven. As a tavern owner, I need to keep an open mind, but more than that, my daughter, Ginny, took ill as a babe and witchbreed saved her life and so I recognize that not all of your kind are evil in their motivations. Power is what it is, it is the people behind it that is good or evil.”
The group went back to their table to finish their meal. As the evening wore on Ruak joined a game of darts and managed to swallow one of the darts during the game much to the amusement of his opponents. Dúlinnor engaged in a friendly game of cards with some of the locals and came away with a small winning after stacking the deck in his favor. Toombs had been watching Dúlinnor and realized that he had seen him playing cards before somewhere and knew what to watch for when Dúlinnor altered the deck to his favor. Toombs smiled at the memory, it was a good one. Tavious found himself getting lost in the swirling pattern on Ruak’s chest. At first glance it appeared to just be an intricate tattoo. But as Tavious watched he noticed that the position of the dots moved slightly. The more he watched the more it seemed to him that this pattern was of vast importance to him. This was why he knew Ruak! But what was the pattern and why and how was it moving?
Quinth slapped Tavious on the shoulder and asked, “Tavious, what are you looking at? You gaze as if you’ve seen a ghost.”
Tavious shook himself free of the hypnotic pattern on the frogman’s chest, “It is nothing, just trying to recall something I had seen before.”
Quinth could tell that Tavious was hiding something and he knew that this wasn’t the first time that the tiefling was being evasive with him, but he let it pass as he felt that this man was a person to be trusted at the end of the day.
The night was starting to set and suddenly a man runs in waving a spear, he is followed by a group of villagers; he is shouting, “They’ve taken them! I knew they were up to no good!”
Pandemonium ensues for a short while as people are yelling and shouting to try to understand what the commotion is about. Weapons are drawn, a few people duck under tables. Eventually, William calms everyone down enough to get the man to speak his mind more calmly.
He begins again, “The witchbreed that you have here, they’ve taken my daughter and almost a dozen other people from the town this afternoon. They are gone, taken right from under our roofs and out from our fields. I don’t know what foul purpose they had for them, but they will pay as all their kind should pay. You were warned that keeping witchbreed would lead to no good and here is the proof.”
William answers, “Morgan, I understand that you are worried about the missing people, especially your daughter and we need to do everything we can to find her and the others. You need to not leap to an unjust accusation because of your fear however. These guests have been here the entire day and so can’t have been part of any abductions as you claim.”
Morgan continues, “Liam, how can you be sure? Did you see them every moment? Did they not leave the room ever to ‘go to their camber or the water closet’ or some other excuse? Or who knows what foul magics they might have that let them perhaps look as if they are here when really they are somewhere else. I may be quick to accuse, but you seem quick to defend. Do they have you enchanted?”
Again the room starts to erupt into a babble of voices which Williams eventually calms down. Eventually everyone agrees that it is unlikely that the group are the villains here but they cannot be entirely sure of that and that more investigation is in order.
Quinth offers, “I believe that I speak for the rest of the group when I say, Morgan, we give you our word that not only did we not have anything to do with your daughter’s abduction, but we will make it our duty to see to her safe return or die trying.” The others nod in agreement.
All agree that even though it is late, the sooner they track the kidnappers the better the chances of recovering the missing townsfolk. They go to Morgan’s house first to see if they can find any clues as to his daughter’s disappearance. One the way, they stop by the general store to gather a few supplies that they determine might be useful in the investigation putting them on Dr. Mirabalus’ tab.
At the house they first noticed that the lock to the door had been picked rather than smashed in. Surrounding the building were many footprints, but Ruak noticed in one of the footprints a bit of swamp moss which was strange as none of the villagers would be likely to have gone into the swamp recently. The girl had been taken from her bed with no resistance and so there had not been a fight or other disturbance.
Turning their attention to the first area in the fields where villagers where taken they again found many footprints and Toombs thought that if he needed to me might be able to track them, though it would be difficult. While he was gauging the difficulty he came across a small dart that was discolored and giving it to Ruak, the beastman identified it as being poisoned with a sleeping agent.
In the second area where field workers were taken more tracks were found and Toombs consulted with a local hunter to confirm that they led to the swamp area. They also asked if there was anyone in town that knew anything about poisons and were directed to a witchbreed orc shaman who lived in the nearby forest not too far from the swamp.
The group reported their findings to the villagers and set out to ask the shaman about the poison before heading into the swamp. A few hours later they arrived at a hut of sorts. It was constructed of branches and tree limbs and other detritus, but seemed solid enough. They had the frog peer in through the window-like opening while Tavious went to the front door. The frogman saw the orc woman sitting on her chamber pot in a flimsy night shift. She screamed. He screamed and ran off.
Tavious knocked, “Madam, are you all right? Do you need anything?”
The orc shaman, Jaky, answered, “No! There’s peepers at my window! And strangers at my door at midnight. I need to be left in peace.”
“I apologize for disturbing you at this late hour, but it seem fortuitous as I seem to have scared off whatever strange creature was looking in your window,” continued Tavious through the door.
Jaky made some grunting noises and then the sound of running water.
“Madam?” continued Tavious.
Jaky had put on a robe and opened the door, “Enough of your malarkey. I knowed that were your familiar that was peeping on me. Get in here and state your business. An orc’s got to get her beauty sleep.”
They showed her the dart and asked her about the poison. Jaky explains to the party that she did sell the poison to a group of elves, enough for about two dozen doses or so. It is a poison that causes an individual to sleep for approximately an hour if not woken before that. Toombs asks her if she knows of any poisons that can cause memory loss and she indicates that she can’t make any such poison, but that she has heard of something called Essence of the Pale Vale that might cause memory loss. She bargains with them for some antidote and they get two doses in exchange for Tavious helping her get to sleep while the others wait outside. As Tavious is leaving Jaky adds, “The elf, Path, that bought the poison had about half a dozen others with him but they talked as if there were more back at their camp. Be careful. He was a cold one.”
The party headed into the swamp and were fairly easily able to pick up the trail that the elves had left. By evening of the next day they reached an area of the swamp where there were stone outcroppings and Toombs held up his hand and pointed. Nestled in the trees ahead and behinds some rocks were a small group of elves who were suddenly firing arrows upon the group.
Tavious blasted one with his eldritch blast while Dúlinnor and Toombs circled around to the elves behind the rocks. Quinth rushed the elves in the trees while Ruak attempted to circle behind them. Neither the elves nor the party fared well against each other in the initial volley with the exception of Tavious’ mystic blasts.
Tavious followed up with an incantation, “By the whispering winds of Watoomb; I now pronounce your doom. By the Dark Lord whose name is not said; Hear now the voices of the dead.” The elf who Tavious had targeted with his incantation screamed and then ran off disappearing into the trees. Toombs and Dúlinnor quickly finished off the other elf who had been hiding behind the rocks.
Quinth traded blows with one of the elves hiding in the trees, neither gaining much ground against each other. However, an eldritch blast from Tavious gave Quinth the opening he was looking for and he was able to get in a killing blow. The last of the elves was ambushed by the beastman as the man-frog snuck up on him within the forest and quickly stuck a dagger between his ribs.
They quickly followed after the elf that had fled and discovered that he had teleported away, however, they were able to follow the tracks that the elves had used to arrive at their watch point back to a small cavern complex.
Quietly entering the cave they were attacked by elven guards. The fight went quickly and they silenced the guards, but during the fight Quinth was badly injured and so Toombs called up on the healing power of his god to repair the injury that Quinth suffered. After a quick discussion of discretion vs. valor the group decided to press on and entered the cavern with Quinth leading the way.
As they rounded a corner that lead deeper into the caverns Quinth fell through a false floor into a pit. As he did so the group was rushed by another group of elves. Tavious easily leapt over the pit as did Toombs and Dúlinnor climbed around the edge. Ruak hung back and began to sling the enemy providing cover fire for his companions.
At first the battle seemed evenly matched with the elves and heroes evenly trading blows neither gaining much ground, a slight cut here, a glancing blow there. But then the battle turned as the elven leader, Path, tossed a vial at Tavious surrounding him in a cloud of darkness preventing the warlock from targeting his enemies and simultaneously the elf snagged him with one of their poison darts and the tiefling slumped to the floor unconscious.
The heroes had managed to wear away at one of the elves during this time and so were faced with two elven guards, one of whom was a hulking brute. Quinth left himself open in a desperate gambit to draw the large elf in and set him off balance so that his companions would be able to take him out. The move was successful, but at a dear price knocking him unconscious and perhaps killing him were it not for the quick ministrations of Toombs.
While Toombs saw to Quinth, Dúlinnor killed the remaining guard leaving only the elven leader who was relatively uninjured and advancing menacingly upon the sorely injured party. Ruak took careful aim, however, and planted a sling stone squarely in the forehead of the elf killing him with a single blow.
After stabilizing Quinth, Toombs rushed over to Tavious who, while injured, was but sleeping soundly from the poison and applying the antitoxin they were able to revive him.
After treating other minor injuries, they searched the rest of the cavern and found no more enemies, but they did discover what had happened to the missing villagers. In a large chamber they the living chambers for the elves and determined that they were likely home to twice as many elves as they had already encountered. They also found a locked chest that contained some magical potions. They also discovered a series of arcane glyphs scrawled on the ground and the remnants of scrolls, mostly illegible now that they had been used. They recovered a tiny scrap that they were able to still make out some word on:
…Age Thine Poet
Wake not elves
Heist say thief
As Tavious heard the verse The Voice whispered in his head, “Yog-Sssothhothhh…the Opener of the Gates, from him is great power. A dangerous gift; ware the destination.”
Mixed within the glyphs were signs of human blood. And further in, in another pit-like chamber they found the remains of the villagers—sacrificed for some horrific ritual. Most had been mutilated beyond easy recognition, but it was clear that one was a young girl, Morgan’s daughter.
The heroes discussed various plans for retrieving the bodies, burying, getting the villagers, etc. and eventually decided that they would at least bring back the girl’s body so that Morgan would have some closure and then they would be able to lead back the rest of the villagers to retrieve their loved ones.
– 01/30/2015 –
Cast: Tavious, Quinth, Dúlinnor, Ruak, Toombs