Posted by : David Guyll May 18, 2014

Cast
  • Augustine (4th-level human paladin)
  • Jaya (4th-level human bard)
  • Kamon (3rd-level human wizard)
  • Mouse (level 4 gnome thief)

Wolf-Mouse loped outside, and was strangely pleased that he was immediately confronted by a wolf that was much larger than himself, almost the size of a horse, with arrows jutting from its flanks.

It was a safe bet that it was the Baron's wolf-form.

The old Mouse would have darted back inside, hopped out a window, circled back around, and waited until the Baron was occupied, preferably by Augustine's hammer, before striking. Wolf-Mouse? He was still gripped by the wolf's spirit, and it was was eager to prove itself, to kill the Baron and taste his blood: it urged him forward in a heedless charge, and he found himself not even trying to resist.

Mouse was already fast, and the wolf spirit made him faster still. Unfortunately the Baron was not only much larger, stronger, and tougher, he also had more experience as a wolf. Mouse darted in, and though his teeth found their mark he was not able to leap away in time to avoid the Baron's own bite. He yelped in agony as the Baron bit down and flung him dismissively aside. Mouse's entire body throbbed with pain, and as he picked himself up saw that the Baron was stalking towards him to finish the job.

He wanted to flee, and was thankful that the wolf-spirit seemed to agree, but did not think he would be able to outrun the Baron for long. Thankfully Augustine appeared at the door, halberd in hand. He saw Mouse, bloody and struggling to stand, and strode towards the Baron menacingly, mocking him about picking on someone his own size. The Baron snarled and charged, and Augustine set himself to receive it. He intended to use the Baron's own momentum against him, but he shifted aside at the last moment, narrowly avoiding the halberd's blade and crashing into Augustine.

The impact bowled Augustine over, and as the Baron lunged for his throat he was barely able to intercept his jaws with the haft of his halberd. Augustine tried to kick the Baron off, but he was far too heavy, and after a brief struggle the Baron managed to wrench his halberd away and toss it far into the woods. Augustine looked about and considered his options: Mouse had fled, which was not surprising, and he was lying on his hammer, giving him nothing with which to defend himself with.

The Baron slowly craned his head back towards Augustine and held him in a long stare, allowing the severity, the finality of the moment to sink in.

Then he struck.

Jaya was hot on Augustine's heels as he went outside in pursuit of Mouse, but stopped as she heard Fiona gasp from behind the curtain that they had used to conceal themselves from the Baron's men. She called out to Fiona, asking if she was alright, and when she heard no response drew her rapier and cautiously walked towards the curtain. She paused in front of the it, asked again, and when she still heard nothing drew it aside with her rapier's tip.

Fiona sat there, eyes wide with terror. At first Jaya did not notice him, but as she scanned the darkness of the alcove saw the barest reflection of light on a pair of eyes. A voice whispered for her to back away, lest he be forced to slit Fiona's throat, and Jaya did. He then ordered both Jaya and Jarl to drop their weapons, which they also did. He then pushed Fiona forward, and as they both slowly emerged from the alcove Jaya was able to pick out a few more details.

He was more or less elfin in appearance, his skin was black, and he was clad in all black. Jaya demanded to know who he was, though given what Mouse had said earlier about a shadowy-assassin serving the Baron she had a good idea. He introduced himself as the Shadowyn, and explained that he had come for Jarl's antlers, the source of his power and immortality. If they handed them over he would let her live, and if not, well, they got the picture.

Jaya tried to stall him, hoping that if she could keep him talking long enough that an opening would present itself, or maybe she would learn something that she could use against him, but when it was clear he was not going to wait she asked if there was something that she could do, or give him to get him to leave.

In the blink of an eye he was standing before her. He told her to come with him to whatever shadowy realm he had come from. She inquired as to why he would abandon his task just for her, and he replied that she was far more interesting than Fiona, Jarl, or even the Baron's machinations. Jaya considered the proposition, but when she asked if she would be able to leave he seemed confused as to why anyone would ever want to.

Jaya was not sure what to say: accepting a fey's bargain and reneging on it could have...painful consequences, but if she said no he might kill her and Fiona, abduct her anyway, or some combination thereof. She tried to think of something else she could offer, but her thoughts were broken by the painful whimper of a large animal, which was followed by a howl of triumph. When she turned back to the Shadowyn, he flatly stated that her time was up and vanished.

She was not sure what he meant and feared that the Baron had managed to kill both Augustine and Mouse, but was relieved when Augustine returned: apparently Mouse had retrieved Augustine's halberd, but when he saw that he was pinned dropped it and went in for a killing blow while the Baron was occupied.

Augustine had a few scratches and his armor was covered in blood, but he assured her that most of it was the Baron's and he was fine. Mouse on the other hand was not: much of the blood covering him was his own, and he seemed to teeter of the verge of consciousness. Jaya sang a brief tune that knitted some of his wounds closed, and once she was certain he would not bleed out told them that the Shadowyn had been there, that he could teleport about, and that he was after the Jarl's antlers.

Mouse did his best to look nonchalant as he scanned every shadowed corner of the Jarl's house, but his eyes invariably settled on the corpses of the Baron's men. As he idly wondered if they had thought to bring coin with them realized that he had forgotten something very, very important: the Baron was rich. Who knew what he had been carrying with him?

He slipped outside and sure enough, the Baron had reverted to his human form. He rifled through his belt pouches, but only found a small pouch stitched from a black fabric. Even though he had no idea what was inside, he was more than a bit disappointed at its lightness. Well, maybe it would be a really light gem of some sort. He opened it and saw only darkness, and when he reached in he felt nothing. He frowned, and wondered who would want an empty bag.

"Me," said the Shadowyn.

Though Mouse was skilled at getting into places that he was not strictly permitted to be in, he was by no means perfect: he had gotten caught before, and would get caught again. As a result over the years his reflexes had been honed by experience, practice, and necessity, and as soon as he heard the voice speak he acted with great swiftness and precision.

He bolted for the house, but unfortunately the Shadowyn was far older and more experienced, and in all likelihood anticipated this response. Mouse was not sure what happened next. He did not feel a blade cut his flesh, or any kind of presence invade his mind. No, it just felt like an icy sliver had pierced his heart. He made it into Jarl's home and rushed towards the fire place, where it was warm, bright, and hopefully safe.

Jaya asked what had happened as he frantically tore his clothes off, demanding to know if they could see...something on his back: a cut, a puncture wound, a patch of blackened skin, dark veins, anything that signified an obvious and/or unusual wound. When she assured him that she could see nothing, he told them that he had gone outside to investigate the Baron's corpse, found a pouch of shadows, and that the Shadowyn had done something to him when he fled with it.

Jaya had no idea what the pouch was, so Mouse turned to Jarl for answers, and when he explained that it was the Shadowyn's heart it made sense why he was so keen to have it. Mouse suggested shining a light into it just to see what would happen, and to his surprise Jaya agreed, but as soon as she took the bag a dagger shot across the room. It nicked her hand, causing her to drop the bag, and as it fell to the ground it vanished in a puff of smoke.

A voice whispered its thanks from behind Fiona, where the Shadowyn again stood with a dagger to her throat. Before anyone could speak Mouse angrily hurled his throwing blade in arc so it that it seemed to miss the Shadowun, but struck his hand as it returned, cutting a deep gash that caused him to drop his dagger and recoil in pain, giving Fiona time to escape. He tried picking it up with his good hand, but Augustine, hammer reverberating with Jaya's song, crushed him with a single mighty blow.

His form slowly dissipated, leaving just the dagger and bag. Mouse picked up the dagger: it was light and exceptionally balanced. He gave it to Augustine, who was clearly in need of something better suited to close encounters. They then hauled the bodies out and spent the night in Jarl's home.

The next day they left for Pine's Draw. Thanks to Jarl's presence nothing in the Great Forest hindered them, which made the return trip much quicker and safer. The day before they would arrive Jarl broke off his antlers, giving all of them save for a single piece to Fiona. He then told her to return to the Baron's keep, and he would meet her there with their daughter as soon as he was able. Over the course of the day he hollowed out the piece he had kept into a flute and gave it to Jaya, instructing her that if she played it while someone was dying it would draw their soul from the Black Gate.

They stopped in Pine's Draw only to restock their food, traveled to the Trollmaze, avoided a few sleeping trolls, and found an opening that lead directly to Madra's lair. They tied off a rope and climbed down. Jaya and Augustine remained near the rope in case something went wrong, while Mouse darted off into the shadows, also in case something went wrong. Jarl approached Madra and the two spoke about a variety of topics like how had he been, where his horns had gone, and whether he would be joining the Autumn Courts in some fey war.

It was not until near the end of their conversation, when she mentioned his daughter being an omen that would bring rise to disaster in the western lands that Mouse, who had been trying to formulate a plan to rob Madra blind, started paying attention. He recalled the rakshasa mentioning something bad about to go down...maybe there was something to it, after all? He did not want to let her know that he was there, what with her appetite for fey blood and all, so decided to remain quiet.

Their conversation concluded Madra returned the Jarl's daughter, and as she went to claim Mardral's Hammer from Augustine Jaya suggested something else: the Shadowyn's heart. After all he was dead, or so it seemed, and it was probably better it in her hands than theirs. She examined the bag and then readily accepted the offer, which probably meant that they had just done something bad.

Eh, hindsight and all that.

Behind the Scenes
Melissa went with a multiclass move and picked up an owl companion. I did not really mention it because she was noodling on something to take while we were leaving the Great Forest, and did not make a decision until we were already in Pine's Draw. When Dan asked her how she found the owl, she figured it would make the most sense if it came to her after she got the flute, but before they actually left the forest.

Mouse also got some more stuff...too bad it is stuff that I not only cannot sell, but it likely going to screw me over at some point: a point of a kind of hold that Dan called "call of the wild", as well as a "shard of fear in his heart". Oh well, I like taking risks and it allowed us to keep the hammer for Augustine.

Dan asked me to write up a compendium class around the belt, which I will post once I have something better fleshed out: I have been super busy with a pair of contract jobs that I started, the revamp of If These Stones Could Scream, reviewing someone else's adventure, and finalizing the Setting and Location chapters for A Sundered World.

Dan also gave me the okay to wrap up the content for this campaign as a pdf, so that is something else to add to the roster. While you wait, here is a simple magic item:

Jarl's Hornflute 0 weight
When you play a sorrowful dirge using this flute within a few minutes of someone failing their last breath, they can roll again.

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