This week in Carrion Crown, a Dan (Auberon Crane), Geoff (Andris Kreitov), Joey (Thadeamus Straw), Toby (Solis Lightwarden and his eidolon Gea) and Tyler (Alexandros Callimachi) and GM Hunter plumbed the final depths of a truly wretched hive of skum and villainous mi-go.
The cavern still reeks of whatever ichor the inside-out Gea-thing seeped from its exposed organs before finally fading away to . . . where? Where does an eidolon filtered through the Dark Tapestry go once it’s had the ectoplasm beaten out of it?
“You have other friends, right? Celestial friends with giant feet?”
— Callimachi gauges Solis’ current tactical use
The only person in any position to answer that question lies deep in the cozy embrace of a crossbow whipping-induced nap. His compatriots stand over the crumpled elf, debating earnestly whether it’s better to leave him there and what if the Gea-thing comes back? In due time, Solis is revived with a bit of healing magic. His first concern is for Gea, but some inept fast talking distracts him — which only goes to show just how addled the elf truly is.
Meanwhile, Andris scouts beyond another purple membrane portal, finding a room filled with mi-go machinery and a great glass dome looking up on the bottom of the lake. He almost regrets his decision, as he espies still more mi-go and, strapped to an operating and seemingly lacking the finer benefits of anesthetic, a man stripped to his black trousers undergoing the monstrosities’ surgical terrors.
This news provides a kick in the seat of the armor to everyone, for whom the breather was turning into a lengthy chat about how Solis can be made “safe,” given his current state of mind. Thadeamus’ suggestion of dominating the elf is taken dimly. Instead, Straw leads off the offensive with a tastefully placed fireball, after which everyone rushes in and starts a-swingin’.
“I cast dominate person on Andris.”
“‘No time to read minds! Make a Will save.'”
— Joey and Hunter
The battle is over shockingly quickly. Solis brings on a cavalcade of rhinos and slows the mi-go’s inhumanly fast reflexes. Auberon and Kreitov get in close and personal with the fungi creatures. Callimachi unleashes a hail of crossbow bolts. The wizard Straw forgoes indulging in his desire to whip out his rapier. While running a mi-go through, Andris catches sight of its victim, finding him thrashing in his restraints as star slugs burrow under his skin. The hunter grimaces, remembering his own encounter with the slugs’ life cycle at the Undiomede manor.
It’s in the clean-up that the true dimensions of the situation become clear. Andris glances up and his jaw drops, sword likewise dipping to the ground as his mighty thews go slack. One by one, the others in the chamber notice the direction of Andris’ gaze and follow suit. And one by one, they are completely staggered by what they see.
Emerging from a gaping portal in the water overhead is a writhing mass of tentacles, mouths, talons, horns and hooves that can only be the one, the only, Shub-Niggurath. Not enough to suborn the Dagon-worshiping skum, the mi-go have, for unfathomable reasons, elected to bring this great old one into the world from beyond time and space. It is, all things considered, a highly questionable plan.
To make things even better, as Shub-Niggurath crawls out the rent in reality, the man in black explodes. The star slugs inside have done their business, rending his frame to shreds as a tree-like beast of tentacles bursts forth. With two menaces before them, the adventurers focus of the — slightly — more immediate threat of the thing that erupted from the dark rider. Happily, the death of the abomination resonates with the emerging great old one above. The portal contracts and Shub-Niggurath retreats beyond the Dark Tapestry.
The force of the portal’s abrupt closure, however, rocks the skum dome, fatally fracturing it beneath the crushing pressure of an entire massive lake. Solis snaps alert at the impending threat. With a speed no one could have expected of him at this point, the elf grabs Callimachi and Kreitov to teleport them all up to Kroon’s boat on the surface. The ranger notices a small casket on the floor by the operating table, however, and twists away to grab it. Thadeamus provides egress for himself, Crane and Kreitov, joining moments later the others on the surface as the skum lair gives away beneath the pressure and collapses into a waterlogged ruin.
Callimachi leans over the bow railing of the boat to watch the waves as it makes for the shore. Investigation of the casket reveals not only the sea sage effigy, stolen all that time ago from Lepidstadt University, but personal effects and correspondence confirming that man was the dark rider from Feldgrau, which pretty much made his evisceration by the mi-go okay. The letter also provides a lead: the rider was to meet his correspondent in the capital of Ustalav, Caliphas, at a particular inn.
Caliphas can wait for another day, though. The heroes have to tend their wounded, decide whether to claim doctorates or money from Crowl for the return of the sea sage effigy, and make use of some of the treasures liberated on the Illmarsh expedition. Crafting commissions are placed in the street of cunning artificers and, on Crane’s suggestion, they all repair to the Stairs of the Moon in the Shudderwood for a period of time. Surely the relaxing natural scenery will do Solis a world of good, once they put those werewolves in their place again.
 I forget how it came up, but as we launched the ambush, Hunter made a joke about the PCs making all these John Woo battle moves — Callimachi sliding across the floor, launching bolt after bolt, that sort of thing — while . . . Straw ran away because he lost his invisibility? I think that’s it. Joey will be along shortly, I bet.
 You realized it was the damned dark rider we chased across Ustalav, didn’t you?
 Vowing to kill every miserable soul in Illmarsh, no doubt.
 So long ago I didn’t recognize the name of the fellow who promised us all honorary doctorates, Montaign Crowl, at all.
 Hint: no one took a doctorate.
 Because who set up the current chief of the werewolves in their place? That’s right: we did.
 And thus we dinged 11th level. The rest of the evening was spent pawing through equipment listings to optimize the expenditure of a shocking amount of loot for returning that effigy. Plus Solis got himself a mi-go mist projector that surely will never, ever prove problematic in the middle of a fight. Oh heavens, no.
That was an “important decision moment“ for me as a player. No longer could I put off deciding whether Straw’s 11th character level was going to be fighter 1, or evoker 11. Should I charge with my rapier? Alas, the prospect of casting chain lightning won out.
Does that mean you’ve chosen your eleventh level?
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