DARKNESS GATHERING: PART FIVE

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“Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name

But what’s puzzling you is the nature of my game.”

– Sympathy for the Devil, The Rolling Stones

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Things have been getting worse for our brave heroes. They started their journey from Threshold to Falstaff in a simple way: a small wagon caravan to deliver a box to a warehouse. And now, they’ve been ambushed by Dark Elves, menaced by a Black Dragon, went toe to toe with Enoch and his cult, and now … they still haven’t delivered the box. And in reality, they don’t know if they even want to … at this point.

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First, they traveled to the Guard House. Rippin had been there before, and knew the way. The Guard House was a small, cramped structure comprising the captain’s office, guard headquarters, town prison, and armory. It was obvious from the beginning that the place got assaulted in a quick and deadly strike. The guards were taken by surprise as most of them didn’t even look like they had time to defend themselves. The killing blows were expert gashes to the neck or poison darts to vital organs. Death was sudden, and fast for those poor souls.

Further investigation of the Guard House turned up a long wooden box with a soft, molded interior in the shape of a left hand and forearm to the elbow. Rippin felt something was not right with this discovery (knowing that the Captain of the Guard had lost his left arm in combat long ago) and decided to take this to Xe. The party looked through the armory and restocked their weapons, and then headed outside where Waldemar pointed out a set of tracks leading from the back door of the Guard House and into the edge of the nearby forest … where they just stopped … as if the ten or so people just disappeared. It was all very confusing.

The Long Box
The Long Box

That’s when Rippin suggested that they go to the Captain’s house. He knew Lucian personally, and wanted to check to see if he had survived the attack at the Guard House. Going there, Chakaristentrovey led the way, keeping an eye out for ambushes or traps. Arriving there, they found that the door to Lucian’s house was open slightly and no lights were on within the building.

Our heroes decided to err on the side of caution. Rippin stood to the side of the door, pushing it open slowly with his axe. Chak slipped in, melting into the darkness. After a few moments, the group was surprised to find that the house was a wreck inside. The floor had been torn up with furnishings and floorboards tossed all to one side. Instead of a floor, they stared at a open pit that dropped about ten feet down to a area where a second shaft had been cut into the ground, creating a deep pit that dropped tens of feet into some kind of natural cavern.

Finding this, they decided to return to the Inn and rest for the night. Going inside, they found that Handsome John was not there but had left a note that he would return in the morning after running an important errand. The group retired for the evening, and tried to get some rest despite the strange goings on of the day.

Xe used this time to meditate, call his Owl back to the Prime, and start researching the spellbook from Enoch’s Tower. He found that it was written in a language he could no decipher, but he sensed it held great power. He prepared a ritual, casting Identify to find out more about the book itself.

The spell revealed that the book was not from the Prime Plane, and had been brought here by a Yochlol demon naming itself Shuluth. The demon gave the book to Enoch in exchange for his mortal soul, and the opportunity to be named The Prophet of the Change. Additionally, the spellbook requires its current owner to shed his or her blood on the pages to reveal the writings within the book.

Later that morning, the heroes woke to find that the morning was dark and gloomy. It looked as if it was still night. In the skies, the clouds seemed to block out the sun. They started to realize that maybe Enoch knew what he was talking about when he spoke of a coming Age of Darkness where the sun would be blotted out. They gathered in the Inn to find that it was still as empty as last evening, and Handsome John’s note was still there untouched. They ate what they could find, and discussed there discoveries from the last evening. Xe made it clear that he was not happy about the news of the long box in the Captain’s office.

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They also found that Greybeard’s bed was made, and all of his belongings were gone. The Cleric had left during the night without saying a word. Had be abandoned them, or been captured? It was hard to tell at this point.

Xe had the idea to return to Enoch’s Tower to siphon blood from his body to use on the spellbook. Returning to the Tower, they found it mostly as they left it save for one glaring change … Enoch’s body was gone!

Following the egress of Enoch was not hard thanks to the huge gash inflicted by Rippin. The swath of blood led from the corner of the room where Enoch had died, and through the alcove into the lab. There, the trail of blood made it clear that he had triggered a secret door under the table and crawled inside of it. Xe discerned that the secret door was seamless, and would have been nearly impossible to find without help. The secret door was marked with a magical rune that would allow it to be opened. Xe spoke the word softly, and the slab slide away to reveal a small crawlspace.

Rippin was going to crawl into the passageway, and then he thought better of it. If he had to fight, he would not be able to swing his axe in such a confined place. However, Waldemar pointed out that a Halfling could easily slide through such a small space.

Chak was more than happy to crawl down the small passage, following the blood trail. Xe sent in his Owl, as well. He found that it dipped into another shaft that was curved like a slide. He carefully made his way down the curved section to see that this one ended in a chute that led into a room half-filled with coal. From here, he could see that there was a small grate that was choked with coal that would lead into what seemed to be a limestone cavern.

Chak stayed put, watching as Xe’s Owl entered the coal room. It flapped around, and then returned. Xe explained that what was left of Enoch was in the coal room, pressed out of sight from the Lightfoot Halfling in the corner to the left. As Chak watched, he could see the room beginning to fill with black smoke. The Owl swooped back in, allowing Xe to confirm that the smoke was billowing out of Enoch’s mouth. Xe knew that this was a clear sign of possession, and that whatever demon controlled Enoch was now taking form in the coal room. In fact, this could be Shuluth taking form!

Xe called for Chakaristentrovey to get out of there, and then pulled a few objects from his spell pouch. Before Xe could start casting his spell, however, Rippin held out a silver ring that he had taken from Enoch’s finger yesterday. Xe eagerly took the ring, and slid it on to his middle finger. He pointed his hand down the pit, aiming towards the coal room that was nearly filled with black smoke. Xe spoke the words needed to release Ball Lightning from the Ring of Shooting Stars, hoping that it would work.

[ DM NOTE: And at this point, I’d like to note that the player rolled a natural “20” to shoot the ball lightning into the room. In fact, I have to note that nearly every time a player got to get off an attack roll against the non-playing character named “Enoch” they managed to roll a natural “20” for the attack roll. It was odd, amazing, and fun.]

As if guided by the hand of the gods, the blast of lightning flew out and struck with amazing accuracy, blasting the coal room and everything in it. The explosion shook the Tower, and set the coal ablaze. The heroes reeled with the blast, stumbling to keep their feet. Within seconds, they recovered from the shock and immediately because to assess the situation. It only took a few moments to decide it was time to leave the Tower.

Downstairs, they approached the door to find it closed and repaired from the damage done before by Rippin’s battleaxe. And that’s when they could hear screaming from outside. Trying the door, they found it locked. Peering outside, they saw that the town was under attack by spiders of all sizes, swarming everywhere. The biggest however were huge, larger than horses. They watched as the remaining village people tried to escape the creatures, putting up a futile fight against the monsters.

Then, they all became aware of a presence behind them. They heard a melodic, beautiful voice say, “Hello.”  Turning around, they saw a handsome man dressed in expensive clothing, heavy with red and black hues. His hair was black, tinged with silver on the sides and he had a shortly cropped goatee. Looking at him, they were all struck with some kind of awe that made them stop dead in their tracks for a few moments. Finally, Chak spoke up saying, “Who Are You?!”

The man laughed slightly. “I have many names …. but for now you may call me … SAVIOR.”

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