[Carrion Crown] Mother of a Thousand Young

Wake of the Watcher cover.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.[1] 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.[3] Investigation of the casket reveals not only the sea sage effigy, stolen all that time ago from Lepidstadt University,[4] 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,[5] 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.[6][7]

[1] 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.

[2] You realized it was the damned dark rider we chased across Ustalav, didn’t you?

[3] Vowing to kill every miserable soul in Illmarsh, no doubt.

[4] So long ago I didn’t recognize the name of the fellow who promised us all honorary doctorates, Montaign Crowl, at all.

[5] Hint: no one took a doctorate.

[6] Because who set up the current chief of the werewolves in their place? That’s right: we did.

[7] 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.

[Carrion Crown] Depredations of the Mi-Go

Wake of the Watcher cover.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 delved ever deeper into the lake bottom lair of the skum and what seem to be their new fungoid overlords.

Once the mi-go are dealt with, Solis, looking more wan than ever before by the light of glowing cave moss, insists he needs to rest. Kreitov and Crane don’t disagree too strenuously. A plan is crafted whereby Thadeamus casts rope trick and the rope itself camouflaged among the glowing moss throughout the cavern complex. Everyone scampers into the extradimensional space for some fitful rest, sleeping with one eye open and trained on the “window” looking down into the cave.

“Could we put these in the handy haversack?”
“Did you bring one?”
— Thadeamus and Alexandros

Eight hours later, they emerge refreshed in resources, if not emotionally. Solis weakly tries to dissuade the others from investigating the chambers from which the mi-go emerged, but they are undeterred. Most of the chambers are empty, as though they’ve been cleaned out. One contains a few stray parts made of a greasy black metal. Thadeamus pieces two together and abruptly disappears with a snap, reappearing seconds later and talking backwards at impossible speed. He blinks in and out of existence repeatedly while Callimachi and Crane look on in disbelief and growing concern. Just as suddenly, Thadeamus snaps back to reality with a crackle, somewhat perturbed at the holy warriors leveling blade and bolt at him, demanding to know who he is.[1] At Callimachi’s great reluctance, the array of mi-go technology scraps are packed away for another day.

Further down from the mi-go’s chambers, they find a dead end chamber with that abbatoir stench. The rent remains of human and skum alike litter the ground. It’s as still as the grave — until the stone of the floor distorts and shoots upward into sharp-edged spikes and a ravening multi-armed beast with a vertically-oriented jaw snapping ferociously. The spikes divide the group in half, but Gea easily glides over them to join in the melee, which sorts the gug, as Thadeamus dubs it, in short order. The spikes persist after its death, so it takes a dimension door to get everyone out of the chamber without navigating its razor sharp bounds.

The central dome continues to beckon, leading the investigators down the southerly hallway. Kreitov and Callimachi sneak up on a trio of skum, two “modified” with exposed brains and inexplicable bits poking out, one corpulent and otherwise whole — that seem to be in the middle of stripping a shrine to Dagon, pulling gold and shell artwork from the walls. With barely a shared glance,[2] the pair launch a volley of missiles, getting the drop on the chumps for very little payoff. In the course of the ensuing fray, it seems the unmodified skum is a priest of some ilk, calling down flame strike and wielding searing light. Inspection afterward reveals the skum worshiped Shub-Niggurath, not Dagon as one might presume. The implication there are factions forming among the skum, perhaps at the prompting of fungal overseers, is not lost on the group.

Beyond the shrine, the way forks again. To the east is something completely unexpected: a shaped, rectangular chamber, lined with columns and pedestals. In the natural cave system the skum inhabit, this crafted hall with 90 degree angles sticks out like a sore thumb. It must be a new addition by the mi-go. Certainly, it’s filled with their handiwork. The pedestals lining the hall each bear a glass cylinder filled with a bubbling, blue fluid in which are suspended whole brains. The sickening truth connecting the chamber of eviscerated human and skum remains and this room of brain cases sinks in with everyone. Solis slumps to the floor, murmuring to himself quietly. Kreitov and Gea guide him toward the hall. Thadeamus detects thoughts within the room, most of which are the screaming insanity of poor souls trapped in a sightless, soundless black void. Straw zeroes in the one whole mind in the room that isn’t one of his associates: that of Mayor Greedle, pleading for someone to help him.[3] Fiddling with controls in the pedestal, the magician elicits first nothing but an arrhythmic clicking that puts everyone’s teeth on edge, then slowly brings forth the voice of the mayor, still pleading for help.

“They must have ordered it late one night off the electric radish.”
— Geoff on Mr. Chunder

The only help they can provide, though, is the peace of the grave. Grimly stone-faced, Crane and Callimachi go about removing the brains from the sustaining fluid as Thadeamus works out how to release the catches sealing their containers. As they perform last rites for the victims of the mi-go, Kreitov scouts down the other passage. What he finds is very nearly as unsettling: a dimensional shambler throwing skum corpses into the gaping, swirling bladed maw of yet another mi-go device of greasy black metal.[4]

Doubling back, Kreitov updates the group. No longer completely swept away by the prospect of having the element of surprise on their side, as in the Dagon shrine, they take this opportunity to do a little preparation. Callimachi beseeches Iomedae’s favor for the group. Straw disappears in a pop, weighing the relative merits of fire and electricity against vegetable matter. Solis, in a heap on the floor and mumbling vaguely under his breath this whole time, nods decisively as Gea evaporates without warning, which is not her usual style of exit at all.[5]

“It’s going to be better now,” the elf announces. No one is certain what to take away from that, so they opt to table questioning his meaning for now.

Thadeamus peeks around the corner to lob his fireball, which goes down a treat with shamblers and mi-go alike. Andris bolts forward and wrestles with a shambler, intending to hurl it into the mi-go chunderizer, but finding the shambler rather opposed to that plan of action. Crane and Callimachi join the fray at close and medium ranges, respectively, just as the air sizzles and something slithers into existence. It’s serpentine and vaguely Gea-like, but massively bigger with bony wings. In fact, there are bones all over, as though the serpent had been pulled inside out.[6] Solis, around the corner and by himself, giggles deliriously, apologizing to no one in particular for stealing the book Straw found, On Abstruse Geometries, but he had to do something to give them an edge against these monstrosities, so why not fight Dark Tapestry with Dark Tapestry?

Crane’s skin crawls at this clearly evil monster from beyond, but it turns toward the shambler and mi-go, so that’s acceptable for the moment. Once they’re dealt with, however, the Gea-thing lingers on. Then this distortion of an eidolon, filtered through the Dark Tapestry, becomes the problem. Auberon and Andris engage the beast, discovering that as they deal blow after devastating blow and normally internal fluids spatter everywhere, it seems unflagged, almost as though something were feeding it vitality, as summoners are wont to do for their eidolons. Callimachi bolts back around the corner. Raising the butt of his crossbow, he savagely cracks Solis across the temple. The elf, worn, weary and perhaps forcibly drained of life by the Gea-thing, falls unconsciously to the ground, but there is no expected corresponding pop. The eidolon is stronger than anyone expected. The Gea-thing continues clinging to the material plane until Andris and Auberon finish it off completely. It vanishes with that same skin-crawling sizzle, leaving the four humans breathing heavily in the now-still cavern.

[1] Hunter brought up “evil doppelganger passwords,” where when a group splits up, they assign each other a line of poetry to recite on reconvening, just in case someone gets replaced by an impostor. It’s a pretty good idea.

[2] Callimachi remembering the last time he insisted Andris hold back for a moment. It didn’t go well for the hunter.

[3] Thus explaining Thadeamus’ extreme reaction to scrying for the mayor when he first disappeared.

[4] Dubbed “Mr. Chunder,” which the mi-go must have drunkenly ordered late one night off the electric radish.

The electric radish being the riddling mushroom that so vexed us in the previous session.

[5] And really, that was our out-of-game warning something was up. Solis never voluntarily dismisses Gea without extreme coaxing.

[6] Looking something like a venomthrope, as Hunter explained.

[Carrion Crown] The Story So Far

When last we left the junior justice defenders of Lepidstadt (ret.), they stood poised to ambush a gang of trolls in the gatehouse of Schloss Caromarc. A lot has happened since then. Briefly:

Trial of the Beast

Trial of the Beast cover

  • They forced their way through building after crumbling building of Caromarc’s cliffside estate. Where decrepit architecture didn’t threaten their lives, the count’s experiments or “gifts” left by the Whispering Way did. At the pinnacle of a perilously slanty tower, they found the Beast itself joined in battle with another monstrosity of a golem while an electrical storm raged over head.
  • After dispatching the golem they cared for less,[1] the adventurers find Count Caromarc himself stashed away in a cupboard. Crane takes the tactic of blaming Caromarc for everything that’s gone wrong, as there would have been little to threaten anyone if not for his innumerable experiments in alchemy and fleshcrafting.
  • Perhaps feeling a little guilty about the whole affair, Caromarc offers gold and a lead in the further doings of the Whispering Way: an exclusive hunting lodge deep in the Shudderwood. Continue reading