The Heart of Hemskil: Season Finale

  • Gardia (3rd-level human fighter)
  • Lydell (3rd-level dwarf wizard)
  • Sinzed (3rd-level human fighter/wizard)

Heavily wounded, the party spent what they assumed were only a few days resting near the former illustrious palace of the faerie king Cattiva, whom they'd personally slain. In their defense he'd been an insufferable host, even if you ignored the fact that he'd tried to kill them twice.

Once they'd recovered, they set about trying to locate the ruby, which if Cattiva was to be believed was "in a tree somewhere in the forest". On a hunch, Lydell attuned his sight to magical auras, and noticed what he could only describe as a pulse of green energy rippling through the ground towards them.

He theorized that it was emanating from a single source, and investigating it sounded more fruitful than checking the trees one by one, or trying to hunt down a faerie and wrangle some useful information out of it. They hiked towards the source, occasionally having Lydell use his arcane sight to reorient them in the right direction when the forest invariably steered them off course, and after several days they arrived at a colossal tree.

It was easily hundreds of feet in diameter, and reached high above the forest canopy. Gardia was surprised that she hadn't noticed it all the times she had climbed up other trees to get their bearings before, but she found herself unable to ponder the mystery due to the more pressing concern of all the owl pellets strewn about. Many were human-sized or larger, and on close inspection they saw wolf and bear skulls peeking forth from the bulky clumps.

They shuddered to think how large an owl must be to swallow a bear whole, and shuddered again when Lydell confirmed that the pulse was coming somewhere high above: they would have to climb who knew how high, into the lair of an owl that was who knew how large. Steeling their resolve, and again reminding themselves that there was 25,000 gold pieces on the line, they began the long, treacherous ascent. It took them several hours to break through the canopy, just in time to see the sun sinking beneath the horizon.

They stopped to rest on a wide piece of bracket fungus, when a vast, silent shadow briefly blotted out the setting sun. The fading light provided them with but a glimpse before it vanished into the forest below: as they feared it was an owl, of a size perfectly suited for the tree, much less so for them. Suspecting that the ruby was in its lair, they continued the climb with new found urgency, in the hopes that they would secure it and flee before the owl returned, and after a few more hours came across an enormous knothole.

They hadn't seen the owl, so Sinzed and Lydell had Gardia remain on watch while they explored the interior. Luckily it was a straight shot to the source of the pulse: as expected it was a brilliant ruby, roughly the shape and size of a human heart, clutched in gnarled roots that seemed to grow out of the floor. Lydell deduced that the roots were drawing magical energy from the ruby and dispersing it throughout the forest, but he wasn't sure why.

Not wanting to waste any time, Sinzed hacked the roots away and pocketed the ruby, but as they began making their way back to the entrance heard Gardia scream. The owl had returned, and was currently clutching Gardia in its talons, demanding to know why she had climbed all the way up its tree. There was no place for them to hide, but the owl seemed to be distracted: if they could catch it off guard, they might have a chance. They slowly crept forward...

...and were spotted almost immediately.

The owl cast Gardia over the edge and dashed towards Sinzed. Words seemed to rumble forth from his body, and the pellets began to stir as the skeletal remains within tore themselves free. The "pelletons" stumbled towards Lydell and Sinzed, clawing savagely at them. They tried to fend them off, but amidst the confusion the owl snapped up Sinzed in his beak and swallowed him whole.

Fortunately Gardia had managed to catch herself before falling too far. She climbed back into the knothole, and as the owl menacingly loomed over Lydell drew her flaming sword, shouted a battle cry, and charged into the fray. Unfortunately the pelletons intervened, keeping her at bay while the owl scooped up Lydell in his talons.

In an almost bored tone the owl stated that he really was curious what had possessed them to climb all the way up into his home. Between pained gasps, Lydell promised that they would explain themselves if the owl would first "release" Sinzed. To Lydell's astonishment the owl agreed. He vomited forth Sinzed, and while he did not release Lydell his grip slackened a bit. The owl then bid him speak, and upon hearing his story would decide whether to kill them.

Lydell got as far as telling the owl that they had come in search of a ruby before he was cut off: the owl said that the ruby was here, but he had been bound by Cattiva to protect it. Lydell revealed, somewhat hesitantly, that they had killed Cattiva, and that his ashes were in his pack. The owl tore it open, and to Lydell's relief he rumbled with laughter as the ashes tumbled to the floor: with Cattiva dead, he was now freed from his task.

As thanks the owl permitted them to leave, with the ruby even, warning them that should they cross paths again he would not hesitate to devour them. The party gradually climbed back down the tree, made their way out of the forest, and returned to Tjelos. Once they arrived at the castle and presented the ruby, they were quickly given an audience with the king, who tearfully thanked them for locating and returning it.

The king explained that his son had been born without a heart, and that the faeries living in the city had crafted him one from a solid ruby fragment. After it was stolen the faeries placed him in stasis, but they could only keep him alive for a limited period of time, hence the public announcement and considerable reward. Fortunately, the party had managed to return quickly enough to revive him.

Behind the Scenes
That wraps it up for our first longish-term campaign with Dungeons & Delvers. I learned a lot, but still ended up only really made some minor tweaks to the dice and numbers. The next phase is to add in some more classes; we only have four right now, as we wanted to make sure the core game worked before going all out. Once we're done doing art for A Sundered World, this and Melissa's Heart of Hemskil adventure will be next on the list.

Maria's been working on a Dungeons & Delvers hack that uses content from Bravely Default. (and another one that is based around Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor, which she is calling Delver Survivor). Assuming she's prepared we'll be playing that tomorrow (as of this blog post's posting date). Otherwise we'll either keep this campaign going (Melissa has a bunch of adventure hooks in this adventure), or try out some more of our d20 Dungeons & Dragons hack.

We're currently holding the first Trick-or-Treat sale of the month: until the 7th you can pick up The Oni at 31% off!

The Monk is now available. It's a very flexible class, crammed with nearly thirty advanced moves (plus all the other extra content that we're known for), so we made another tweak to our character sheet layout in order to make it easier to remember what stance is active, and what it does.

Grave Goods is the latest magic item compilation in our 10+ Treasures line. If you want nearly 30 undead-themed magic items, some monsters, and advice on how to make your own, pick it up!

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World, now's your chance! Finally, we've updated If These Stones Could Scream.

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