Friday, November 17, 2023

Dungeon ADVENTURE!: Forest of Fear, Part Two

Lokerimon says goodbye to the party, but not before telling them that they can visit in the future to study sorcery and history with them, if they wish. He also informs Talia that he possesses a gate to the Great Maze.

On their way to the Ancients’ house of healing, the party detours to explore the settlement they saw from the ruined Soldarian tower. On the way, they are ambushed by a group of beast men, all of whom bear the features of boars. Things are tense, but Aries calms the beast men with his natural charm and by mentioning that the party is friends with the Mistress of the Pines.

Hello from Clan Calc

The beast men are relieved that the party is friendly. They say that they were worried that the party’s presence marked the end of “the treaty” between themselves, the logging camp, and the vihrea clans. They invite the party to visit their settlement for dinner. This turns out to be the very place the party was trying to get to anyway, so it works out.

At the settlement, the party is told to, “use privy, then eat.” This causes some consternation, especially from Ulfast, but other assume that this is the beast men’s way of saying, “wash up before dinner.” At dinner, they are seated with Yokk, the older, female chieftain, and are told that the settlement is the steading of Clan Calc.

Yokk explains that the treaty was originally created by the Mistress of the Pines to prevent conflict and bloodshed in the woods. This works fine for Clan Calc, as they only want to live in peace. The party asks if Yokk has heard about the strange red smoke that devours people, or if she has been visited by the unpleasant throuple the party met earlier in the day.

Yokk replies that the only outsiders that she has met recently are a group of people from “Uvers City,” who wanted her permission to study some old ruins north of Lake Tross. Yokk also mentions that these people liked studying, “old things, but not mother, who is oldest thing I know.” She claims that there
were six or so people in the group, but the party realizes that her counting skills are tenuous, at best.

During dinner, some of Yokk’s banner pigs report that a group of people are passing quite close to the settlement on the river. The party is invited up to one of the watchtowers to observe these people. In the waning daylight, the party sees three people trying (and mostly failing) to navigate a rowboat down the Orish River. Ulfast recognizes the trio as Rehappa, Anosto, and Torgain. The rowboat soon passes by the settlement and down the river.

After the feast, the party watches as Clan Calc dance vigorously to a frenetic drumbeat. Talia joins the dancing, has a good time, and somehow comes away unscathed. The night ends with the members of Clan Calc singing a long, low lament about a group of people who must travel the lands, looking for a sense of purpose. Each refrain focuses on the people arriving at another place, only to be told that their purpose isn’t there. The song doesn’t so much end as stop abruptly.

As it is now dark, the party is invited to stay the night, sharing space in a slightly too small hut. Though the party sets watches, just in case, the night passes mostly uneventfully. Talia, who takes the last watch, notes only that she saw what looked like Marion standing over Thavick. It soon turns out that he was just getting up to go outside and use the privy.

30th Quatre, 504 A.S., Summer

The party departs the settlement. They are gifted with a jar filled with leftover soup from the previous night’s feast. They travel to the east, into the hills north of Lake Tross, and soon find an encampment. 

The Archaeologists' Camp

The encampment consists of several tents that ring a weatherworn statue of a woman dressed in a headdress shaped like a cat’s head. One hand, which is outstretched and pointing to the east, holds a pair of intertwining coils that reach upward to the sky. This seems to be a representation of magical power, but its purpose or meaning is unclear.

The camp is neat and tidy, apart from, worryingly, several piles of discarded clothing laying upon the ground. It is also being picked over by a group of virhea from Clan Centipede. Realizing that they are robbing the camp, Tegwin saunters up to demand answers. He finds the vihrea to be both friendly and forthright. Their leader, Kiuga, says that they knew the people camped here, and that they were archaeologists from the University of Silverton.

Kiuga says that her people survive by hunting and gathering, and that she told the archaeologists that the vihrea would happily take anything left behind, rather than let it go to rust and ruin. She says that the vihrea have been watching the camp for a few days and, as the archaeologists have seemingly departed, they have come to help themselves.

Kiuga of Clan Centipede

Phinneas, concerned, does a sweep of the camp and finds at least four piles of clothes that remind him of the scene back at the tree. He also realizes that one of the vihrea has scavenged a journal, which he plans to use as, “good quality lavatory paper.” Phinneas trades his bow for the book, which the vihrea thinks is a very good deal. While the vihrea goes off to practice his target shooting, and while the others continue to question Kiuga about the archaeologists, Phinneas begins to read.

The journal was kept by someone named Finna, a student under a Professor Dinfirth. It describes the archaeology team’s arrival and study of the site. It includes the following:

  • The team’s encounter with a very sick deer, who died. The deer was taken outside the camp and buried with great care, out of fear that it was infected.
  • Professor Dinfirth becomes demanding, obsessive, and paranoid. She does not want the Artificers’ Guild to learn about the site.
  • To find the site, one must simply go in the direction the statue points.
  • The team spends a great deal of time pulling out the door to the entrance of the ruins, where they find blue tablets with unknown writing. They then break into the adjacent chamber, where they encounter many strange machines.
  • There is mention that the Professor returns from the ruins with a curious metal rod with a glass tip.

Kiuga and her vihrea say that they never saw any red smoke and never heard of anyone disappearing and leaving their clothes behind. They do say that they encountered a bear experiencing similar symptoms to the deer described in the journal. They say that they burned the corpse when it died, which is met with some skepticism from Phinneas. Kiuga says that she and her clan stay well away from the ruin, and don’t know what’s inside of it.

The party and the vihrea part ways, and the party travels eastward toward the ruin.

The Ancients' House of Healing (Accessible Rooms Only)

The party finds the ruins much as described. They pass through the first chamber with the blue tablets into the second chamber that contains the machinery. The centerpiece of the room seems to be a console of some sort, which stands before a housing containing four hollow tubes of perfect crystal, each about 2 meters in height.

Behind the console is the bloodied, bloated corpse of a woman, a notebook laying near her hand.

The party looks through the notebook and learn that the dead woman is none other than Professor Dinfirth. Thavick voices his low opinion of the professor, stating that she was foolish for not alerting the Artificers’ Guild about the ruins. When the others raise eyebrows at his seeming callousness, he goes on to say that the Ancients’ artifacts are dangerous and powerful, and that people who handle them without proper training or caution often meet fates not dissimilar to the professor’s.

The players learn the following from the notebook: The Professor believes that this machinery would have allowed the Ancients to heal people, regenerate limbs, or even create fully functioning bodies. This required some sort of “base matter,” which could be collected, she thinks, using a glass-tipped rod which attaches to the console at the front of the machine.

The party experiments with the collection rod and realizes that it will fit perfectly in a slot on the console. This raises several questions, the most pressing of which are how did the rod travel all the way from here to the woods near the logging camp and, could the machinery in this room be used to resurrect the professor?

Thavick, with little urging, decides to touch the crystalline tip of the rod to the professor’s body. This causes reddish smoke to issue forth from the rod, which envelopes the corpse and instigates a strange, super-rapid decay. Before the party’s eyes, the professor’s body rots away and vanishes, leaving only her clothing behind. Thavick notices that the amount of reddish liquid in the rod’s reservoir has increased significantly. In fact, the rod looks almost full.

Curious about what might happen, Thavick decides to plug it into the console...

The Ancients’ machinery rumbles to life. Marion experiences a powerful head rush during this experience. The nearest crystal tube begins to fill with a whitish goo that slowly congeals into a human woman with antler nubs and skin of a distinctly grunish texture and hue. The party looks on in awe as the crystal tube opens. Phinneas approaches the woman and asks if she can understand him. It turns out that she can. 

Professor Dinfirth, I Presume?

The woman introduces herself as Professor Alyc Dinfirth. The party hands her the clothes on the floor, only to discover that they do not quite fit her new body. The professor’s memory of recent events is somewhat patchy, and the party tries to fill her in on what happened to her and her students. She does not take this particularly well and begins screaming and crying. Tegwin tries to reassure her, which doesn’t work. Thavick slaps her across the face, which does. Several party members note that the professor has a brief flash of intense rage, where it looks like she’s going to attack Thavick. She doesn’t, though.

Talia probes the professor’s mind and finds it to be a violent, storm-like maelstrom. Talia has never encountered anything like this before, and doesn’t know what it means.

The party escorts Professor Dinfirth to the archaeology camp. They notice that Dinfirth seems not to know the way and has a lot of trouble walking. Once they return to the camp, they have an early dinner. Dinfirth eats and drinks quite a lot, and compliments Phinneas on his cooking. She says everything is delicious.

After dinner, Dinfirth excuses herself to get some sleep. Before she does, Talia informs the professor that she will be entering her dreams to get more information about her news state. The professor agrees to this. Phinneas stands guard outside the tent. He is concerned to note that the professor goes to sleep on a cot occupied by the clothing that were likely left behind when their owner disappeared.

While all this is happening, Tegwin asks Ulfast if he can take Daegal, her tiger, out hunting. Ulfast agrees and man and tiger depart.

Talia ventures into the professor’s dreams. She encounters a very distorted vision of Dinfirth being congratulated by her colleagues. The dream starts to peel away in one corner, and Talia looks beyond it, only to once again be confronted by the swirling maelstrom. She is forcibly ejected from the professor’s head.

While Professor Dinfirth sleeps, the rest of the party compares notes. They are very concerned about the professor and her new “state,” and what exactly it means. Among other things, they posit that the professor’s new body could be temporary, and that it could fall apart at any time, that the personalities of all the people taken by the rod are fighting for dominance in the professor’s mind, that the professor is part animal (bear, deer) and that this may explain some of her idiosyncrasies.

Anosto, a Human, the Charming and Boisterous One

This discussion is interrupted when Tegwin and Daegal return. They are accompanied by three other people: Anosto, Torgain, and Rehappa. The two men bear Rehappa into the camp on a makeshift stretcher. It turns out Rehappa was bitten by a snake. Anosto, seeing Tegwin through the trees, ran to him to get help, only to almost get shot/mauled by a tiger for his pains.

Aries, who would rather not be a party to this, hides in the woods.  

Tensions in the trio are still high, but Rehappa seems very pleased that she’s found some people who can save her life from the likely deadly venom of the snake. Ulfast tries and fails to draw out the venom using her magic, leaving Tegwin to use the tried and true, “suck on the wound,” method. This seems to work, and Rehappa begins making goo-goo eyes at Tegwin as a result.

The sudden arrival of the trio awakens the professor. Talia tells the professor about the dream that she experienced. Dinfirth is, unsurprisingly, concerned. She suggests that she, the party, and the trio all return in a group to civilization. The trio happily agree, admitting that they are only going to get themselves killed wandering around in the forest.

Dinfirth says that she will contact the University of Silverton about next steps. When Tegwin inquires about a possible reward for the party’s aid, she promises to include a note for the Bursar about compensation. Realizing that the professor is writing letters, Thavick asks if she’s going to write one to the Artificers’ Guild to notify them about the ruin. The professor, chastened by the disastrous results of her expedition, agrees.

Torgain, a Dwernun, the Taciturn and Sullen One

The party—less Marion (who doesn’t want to) and Thavick (who "tweaked his back")—and Anosto and Torgain spend some time hiding the entrance to the ruin behind a screen of fallen trees and rocks. The party note that Torgain and Anosto are much friendlier with one another when Rehappa isn’t around, and suspect that she’s a dryad or some other Wild being that’s controlling them.

Once this heavy lifting is done, the party returns to Weir. Marion makes plans to write a play about his experiences.

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