[Vacaria Brotherhood] - D&D Expeditions: Tales Trees Tell
Khan (dwarf cleric), Sasha (human ranger), Lanza (half-elf bard), Septimus (tiefling warlock)
Previously: Many have been the expeditions around the city of Phlan that reveal the Cult of the Dragon’s inexorable rise in power in the region. Among many discoveries, Vacaria Brotherhood has compiled news about the imminent arrival of a black dragon.
Missing in the Forest
Lieutenant Aelid asks our help regarding some reports of people gone missing in the forest, and some hysteria pointing towards children stories about Jenny Greenteeth, a hag.
When we arrive in Cabal’s Hill, a Halfling named Grina tells us about a guy named Halvin that went into the Quivering Forest, apparently with intentions of reaching the elven town of Green Hall. The problem is that a long lasting pact between Phlan and the Quivering Forest forbids anyone from entering the forest. Several days after Halvin went missing, an expedition of eight townsfolk was sent in order to find him. None have returned.
While we speak with Grina, screams echo in the night. Outside, a guy is nailed to a pole, with his eyes removed, his tongue sliced, and a stake driven into his chest. He is in excruciating pain. Sasha draws a dagger in order to cut his throat and put him out of his misery, but fortunately Lanza is able to stop her. I use my divine magic to ask Marthammor Duin for guidance, and heal the poor fellow, which collapses, but survives!
Where his eyes had once been, two stones with Jenny Greenteeth’s runes now stand. In the stake, there are eight papers that the townsfolk took with them, saying they don’t want to disrespect the pact, and they’re just looking for a missing companion.
When the guy regains conscience, Lanza casts Detect Thoughts and tries to communicate with him. He sees the hellish vision of a hag. I pay the ferryman five gold pieces to take the suffering man immediately to Phlan, where he can be properly treated.
Not another imp!
Some of you may recall that one of my “adventuring companions” is a disgusting tiefling with an imp, which doesn’t go marvelously well with “righteous neutral good Harper dwarven cleric”. So you can imagine my enthusiasm when we discover ANOTHER imp, killing cows in the town.
The bloody creature’s name is Pipyap, and he “belongs” to Halvin, which we find out that is a member of the Cult of the Dragon, and also a servant of Asmodeus.
Oh, great… So, I look around and how many Harpers do I see? NONE! And how many FUCKING-HELLISH-DAMNED-BASTARD-DEMON-WORSHIPERS? Countless ones, everywhere. This is going to be a lonely ride…
After reading Halvin’s diary we also discover that he has been commanded by the Cult of the Dragon to break the pact between Phlan and the Quivering Forest. I choose this moment to announce to my comrades that Halvin stopped being a goal for me. I will do every effort to rescue the remaining villagers, but will not move a finger to help a servant of Asmodeus that works for the Cult of the Dragon.
Serelis, the ranger
With no other option but to enter the forest, we do so. May Marthammor Duin bless our steps.
We reach the hut of Serelis, a ranger that has good relations with Cabal’s Hill. He tells us the townsfolk passed through him some days ago, and that he provided the help he could. But he suspects they are all dead by now, either at Jenny’s hands, or the elves’. None too soon, we are attacked by a pack of needle blights and scarecrows. Apparently, Jenny wishes to make her presence felt.
Elves and panthers (no, nothing Drizzt-related)
Following our trek along the forest we are greeted by the elves. And by “greeted” I mean hailed with dozens of arrows. Lanza, in his quite peculiar manner, tries to act like some sort of boisterous buffoon, and a volley of elven arrows lodge in his chest. I recall a very similar situation not so long ago. This could easily end our lives. I open my hands to show I’m not hostile, and repeat, time and again, what is our purpose. The harassment from the elves stops. At least for now.
Alternatively, the harassment from the pixies begins! Lanza is chosen as a target for their pranks. After some “awkward intercultural moments” one decides to lead us towards “one of our friends”. We discover one of the villagers, already dead. Killed by displacer beasts… which decide that we are the main course of today.
We fight against two of those panthers with tentacles, and barely escape with our lives (and only do so thanks to Sasha’s wolf, by the way…).
The little welcoming hut in the forest
Deciding not to disturb the elves, we head towards the place where we expect to find Jenny.
Once upon a time, in a warm clearing in the forest, there was a friendly little hut, with a yummy-smelling cauldron, and a nice warm-hearted hospitable old lady… with two guys hanging in a cage.
Hmmm… this must be the weirdest child story I’ve ever heard. The nice old lady invites my comrades to sit and enjoy her stew… and they do so! I am baffled. Ignoring this masquerade, I head to the cage and try to free the captives. The nice old lady casts Hold Person on me. I pass the save, but am alerted to her power. My friends are all cheer and laughter with the old crone, while she accuses me of being rude and not being willing to benefit from her kindness. She speaks of the old pact between Phlan and the Quivering Forest, and how we (the people of Phlan) have chosen to disrespect it, while they have countless times dealt with foreign threats that may have reached the city. But – in her immense epic generosity – she is magnanimously willing to establish a new pact. Lanza is beyond excited, already envisioning a treaty with his name stamped on it. Before discussing the new terms, my companions ask about the villagers. Friendly Jenny confirms that some have been killed by the elves, one has been killed by the displacer beasts, two are hanging in the cage, one she sent to Cabal’s Hill with a stake through the chest, and the others… she looks to the cauldron, at the exact same time that Pipyap, the imp, spits a ring from his mouth.
Negotiations are over for me. I cast Hold Person on the bitch, she fails the save, and I run to her drawing a pair of manacles from my pack. My move was so unexpected that even the DM wanted to look into my character sheet to confirm I had the manacles with me. But dice are dice, and when I try to restrain the hag I roll a 1.
Nevertheless, my intentions are now quite obvious. I am not going to bargain any kind of pact with a hag that just confirmed being the person behind the gruesome attack on the guy tied to the pole, and that just served “soup-made-of-villagers” to my comrades-at-arms.
The other players are mad at me for breaking the negotiations, but that is the burden of being the only Good-aligned character in the group. Lanza and Septimus are refusing to act against the hag, and when Sasha drags her by the hair with the intention of throwing her into the cauldron, Septimus blocks the path.
The divisions among the groups allow the hag to escape, transforming into a bulk of worms and vanishing in the earth. The winds howl our names, with Jenny’s promise of vengeance upon us, and vengeance upon Phlan.
One does not reason with Evil
We return to Cabal’s Hill with the two remaining villagers, which reveal that Jenny had also proposed them to form a new pact. Much discussion brews amid our group. Tension is palpable, and positions become extremed. I stand resolute in defending my actions. One does not reason with Evil. We do not look the other way when innocent blood is spilled. Righteousness may have a cost, but that is a price I am willing to pay.
Septimus does not cease to hassle me about what happened, and insists that I am responsible for anything that goes wrong in the future. Well, his prophecy doesn’t take much time to be fulfilled. The ranger, Serelis, comes to town, wounded, saying that the elves have declared war on Phlan, and an alliance with Jenny and the Cult of the Dragon. Already caravans have been assaulted.
Septimus displays a mocking smile, and starts clapping while he looks at me.
“Well done, Khan... WELL DONE!”
My hand tightens around my warhammer, while my burning eyes lock into the tiefling’s. I call, silently, upon my god’s guidance to temper my blood, in order to avoid doing something I may regret…
Report to Wise Owl Gabriel Emmeritus
You have always been a wise tutor, and a trustworthy ally. Like me, you are among the few people in this region that understands our role as beacons of unflinching hope against all forms of Evil.
As I have confided to you previously, grave times are approaching Phlan and the surrounding region. The Cult’s grasp spreads with inexorable power. Beyond the “black problem” I mentioned about the marshes, something Evil runs with the winds of the Quivering Forest. An alliance between savage elves, a powerful hag, and the Cult is on the rise. Innocent blood has been spilled, and I fear much worse if we don’t take action swiftly. In order to mount a preemptive defense, I urge you to mobilize the necessary goods to establish a forward post with enough men to protect the surrounding region. I believe Lepanto and Lewyn are able and battle-tested fighters, capable of assuming the necessary responsibilities. I am willing to offer part of the coin I have in order to fund the wages of the recruits.
Regarding the adventuring companions that Marthammor Duin has chosen to accompany my travels, it is my firm belief that Septimus is beyond all hope of salvation. He seems pleased with the considerable power his devil master provides him, and I doubt he’ll ever willingly turn from it.
Don’t trust any word you hear from Lanza. He is a delusional, erratic, egocentric maniac. He has allegiance to none but himself, and lies with the same swiftness that I brand my hammer against the undead.
Sasha remains a wildcard. I have absolutely no idea what is her agenda. Some of her actions are questionable, but while her bow is aimed at our enemies, I can have a good night’s sleep.
The Righteous Hammer