The Culling

Mission 1 and conclusion

Upon arriving at the port via airship you set out to find Gaird, your guild contact within the city. You had chosen to hide your identities by dressing in merchant’s garb, a clever disguise provided you didn’t draw attention to yourselves in other ways. When you reached the city streets you realized that you had plenty of time before the 1230 hour, the hour at which you were to meet Gaird in the Grand Library, and so decided to wander the town incognito. You stopped in a merchant’s stall and after some sweet talking managed to make a friend in the city. The relationship soon turned south, however, as Riley perceived that the merchant was charging high prices for his ware and subsequently threatened and attempted to intimidate him. Unfortunately Riley had a piece of food stuck to his face from breakfast and the merchant was not intimidated in the slightest. You were then kicked out of the stall and told never to come back. On the way back toward the library you also stopped in at a blacksmith’s stall and purchased some items. You, again, perceived that the prices were high but decided against haggling given your previous success rate.

You arrived at the library at the appointed time and were directed to the third mezzanine by a surly halfling librarian, and after exploring that floor could not find any trace of your mysterious contact. After wandering around aimlessly for some time you had a sudden epiphany, 1230 was not the ‘time’ but the location of the meeting. You found book number 1230 and Riley pulled the book which opened a trap door under his feet. He attempted to leap to safety but instead plummeted headlong into the hole. Daniel followed more cautiously. You followed a winding passageway which led down and out of the library and into Gaird’s study within the guildhouse, where he was waiting for you.

Gaird explained that the mission to you: The Belmonts are a wealthy and influential family in Thayne, the current head of the family is one Baron Rickard Belmont. Baron Belmont holds a high seat in the parliamentary counsel of Thayne and is well respected by his peers. His son, however, Ser Podrick Belmont is another matter entirely. Podrick is a lazy and impetuous youth who had got it into his head that he would be a great paladin. Upon convincing one of the local temples to grant him a powerful relic that he could use as his holy symbol Pod publically announced that he would be travelling beyond the Darking Wall and slaying the evil that festered within the Old Quarter. Rickard knew that this was his son’s most foolhardy publicity stunt yet and did what he could to convince Pod to give up the escapade. But by this time the whole town was buzzing with excitement. Local bards were already composing sonnets of Podrick’s mighty deeds, though deeds mighty or no had yet been accomplished. There was no effacing the will of the people and so Rickard had Podrick clothed in the finest plate armor he had and purchased for him a renowned destrier. So amongst much pomp and fanfare Podrick set out to rid the old quarter of evil. The Black Gate was opened and Pod rode his horse through and into legend. Or so the dregs believed. After the gate was shut and sealed behind him no one heard so much as a whisper from the other side of the wall for four days. The evening of the fourth day Podrick was seen scrabbling over the wall, he was nude and covered in filth. Rickard immediately detained him and had him locked away in the family estate. According to agents placed within Lord Rickard’s staff, Podrick is completely mute and has lost his mind his behavior animalistic in nature. The Baron has sent for the finest healers but no treatment has been successful. In the meantime temple clergy have been coming around the estate demanding that Rickard return the holy relic to them. Unfortunately for the Belmont family Podrick did not return with the relic, it has become apparent that he left it somewhere in the old quarter.

The mission was simple, really, retrieve the missing relic as quietly as possible as the rival Pathfinder’s guild had a strong presence in the town. The return of the relic would allow Baron Rickard to save face with the temple and would go a long way in swaying his vote in favor of the Trader’s Guild during the next parliamentary counsel.

The first obstacle in retrieving the relic was the wall itself. There was only one gate through the Darking Wall and it had two guards stationed at it at all times and a nearby guardhouse that housed 8 to 10 guards as well. Daniel and Riley waited until after midnight, dressed in their class gear and stole out across the quiet streets. With only one mishap they managed to stealth across the city to the gate. The guards at the gate were engaged in irrelevant conversation and did not take notice of the agents, however, they were armed to the teeth and both had a horn to call for aid. The agents decided against attacking the guards as that would surely arouse the town and pathfinders against them. So Daniel decided that he would enter a local tavern to try and cause a distraction. Daniel paid a local lass to do this but misunderstanding Daniel’s meaning she took the guards into an ally one at a time in order to “distract” them. This left the pair one guard to deal with. Daniel attempted to engage the guard in a conversation while Riley crept up behind the him for a nonlethal coup de gras but missed. After a brief scuffle the agents managed to scale the wall with their grappling hooks with both guards below yelling and shaking their fists. Daniel and Riley then spit at the guards and leapt over into the old quarter.

The agents found themselves in what used to be a town square with a crumbling fountain in the center and several old boarded up shops lining the perimeter. There were several paths that wound out from the square but Riley managed to find the destrier’s prints in the hard packed earth. The pair tracked Podrick down a street and across another. The prints passed an old building, the first they had come to that was not boarded up. One side of the building was open to the street within were several tables and chairs as well as a bar area. This appeared to have been a soup kitchen or café. Though it was apparent by the prints Riley was tracking that Pod did not stop here you decided to investigate the soup kitchen. You found several pots and pans, too dilapidated for use, but upon closer inspection found a trap door behind the bar. Daniel summoned light and you both journeyed into the cellar. Huge casks lined the walls and it became apparent that the cellar extended beyond the line of sight afforded by Daniel’s light. Moving forward you noticed that the floor and casks were covered in a darkish mold, Riley recalled from his travels that this was Brown Mold, a living organism that ejects freezing spores when approached. Riley managed to get across the mold after falling into it and having to be dragged out by Daniel. You found a chest with gold and a broken bastard sword. You took the loot and made camp in the basement as it was getting dark.

The following day you set out, Riley quickly located the prints and began tracking the hapless Pod once again. The prints eventually led to an abandoned tavern, the prints indicated that pod had dismounted and gone on foot into the tavern. The horse on the other hand appeared to have fled down a nearby alley at a gallop. After a brief discussion you decided to first follow the horse. You managed to track the horse to a small square surrounded on all sides by tall houses. The horse was dead and covered in a thin layer of hoarfrost, an oddity given the temperate climate. There was no sign of struggle but Riley was able to find a small pair of childlike footprints in the dirt near the horse’s carcass. Daniel performed a brief autopsy on the horse and could find no physical reason for it’s death, other than it was sudden. You left the horse where it had fallen and walked back to the tavern. On entering you found that the place had been thrashed, broken furniture lay strewn across the floor. Finding nothing of interest but a few animal bones in the fireplace you stepped behind the bar and entered the kitchen. Riley strode fourth into the kitchen and failed to notice that the floorboards were rotten, he once again plummeted headlong into a hole. Daniel followed more cautiously, with a torch. You were in a manmade tunnel about 6 feet in diameter that stretched off into the darkness. You followed the tunnel to a heavy door that opened into a small, yet tidy subterranean office. There was a desk and bookshelves along the wall. You found some century old newspaper clippings regarding missing children and the proprietress of the shady glen orphanage, creepy stuff. You also found an expensive looking washbowl full of what you believe to be water. Riley grabbed the bowl and the “water” leaped out and fastened around his face, suffocating him. After a brief tussle you managed to slay the giant amoeba and noticed a ladder going up to a trapdoor in the ceiling about 20 feet above you. Riley clambered up and perceived that the trapdoor swung inward and that, were a heavy object to be on the other side of it, bad stuff may happen. So you tied a rope to the door and pulled it from the safety of the corridor. Avoiding getting smashed by a falling pulpit. Climbing back up the ladder you found yourselves in a large cathedral. You explored the bottom floor and found the front doors to be jammed by a heavy object on the other side. You then explored the mezzanine where you found a large crude sort of nest in which was human fecal matter.

About that time you noticed the sound of eerie laughing and singing of nursery rhymes. The voices were undoubtedly children but there was something wrong about them. The noises were coming from outside the cathedral. You managed to force the jammed door open but as soon as you did the voices stopped. You explored the area and found another pair of small footprints in the dirt outside of the cathedral. You decided that you must find the source of this disturbance as this is likely where Pod went as well. So you travelled north toward where the clippings indicated the orphanage had stood. The sun was falling fast and in the distance you began to hear a blood chilling unnatural scream. The noise was approaching from near where you had entered the old quarter and was getting closer. You then hurriedly decided that the best course of action was to hide. You managed to pry the boards off one of the tiny hovels that lined the streets, get inside, and fix the boards to the inside of the door. The noise stopped and so feeling secure enough to catch some sleep you decided not to place a watch. Not long after you drifted off you were awakened by a cracking and splintering of wood, you jumped up to gaze into the glazed eyes of Podrick’s dead horse. The creature had managed to punch its head inside the hovel. Its mouth opened and a swarm of bloated corpse flies and writhing maggots cascaded into the room. Forced out of the hovel you took your torches, as it was still dark, and stepped out into the street. You had a vicious battle with the reanimated horse, which walked unnaturally on its hind legs, dragging its viscera behind it from a weeping wound in its belly.

After killing the horse again you opted to sleep in so that you could get a full day’s rest. You then started off about midday to find the orphanage. Mid afternoon you came across a barracks surrounded by a palisade wall you entered the barracks and found a journal recording the evacuation of the old quarter and a missing persons report, also several entries on the orphanage proprietress. You also found a small smooth stone that was weighing down several papers. Riley picked the stone up and it began emitting a loud wail. At the same time the mud in the barracks courtyard began to congeal and form small bodies. The creatures swarmed into the barracks and attacked you. One turned its arms into the shape of an anvil and smashed Riley a good one but overall it was no contest as you managed to cut through them quite handily. You once again spent the evening, this time sleeping in the barracks on real beds.

The next day you managed to find the orphanage, a dark ominous building surrounded by a rusted iron gate and set on a cliff overlooking the sea 400 feet below. The orphanage grounds were overrun with waist high grass. You spent some time at the small cemetery on the grounds but then decided to tackle the orphanage itself. Each of the doors and windows was boarded shut and were inscribed with powerful warding runes that you could not get past. You then circled the orphanage to try and find a way in, which you did. Someone, probably Pod, had pried the boards loose from a cellar door. Upon entering the cellar you found that it was large with a door at the far end, one side had trunks stacked up upon each other which were full of old children’s clothes. The other was bare but there were strange runes etched into the wall there. The runes gave you an uneasy feeling. So you went over to investigate. You found several shallow graves full of small human bones underneath the runes. You then tried the door at the far end which was unlocked. The next room was full of huge spider webs and huge spiders. Daniel attempted to fry the spiders up with a flame spell and managed to cook the webbing and several of the spiders in the process. Regardless some got out and attacked, leaving Riley poisoned and lethargic. In spite of multiple spider bites you decided to ascend the stairs that led up out of the spider room. You next found yourselves in the halls of the first floor of the orphanage. You found the proprietress’ quarters and found them to be dark and disconcerting, twisted weapons lined the walls and in a glass case you found the shriveled hand of an elf which you discovered could be used to cast mage hand. You also managed to find a small box under some loose floorboards which contained a journal written in an ancient language, Daniel deciphered the words and found it the first pages to be a list of names. All the subsequent pages were filled with the word ‘cull’ in various languages and dialects of languages. Riley also found a small stone which glowed softly. He picked it up and placed it in his pocket not realizing that it was a cursed load stone that weighed over 100 lbs. Riley was upset. The load stone could not be removed by conventional means and so you continued on. You were then beset by a dark poltergeist that came ripping down the hall toward you flinging knives and ripping pictures off the walls. Given the creature was incorporeal you decided to flee. It chased you up the stairs and down the second story hall all the way to the attic door where it stopped. Not wanting to brave the poltergeist you headed up the attic stairs and became acutely aware of the sound of children’s voices singing and laughing in a terrifying fashion. Upon entering the attic you encountered the Attic Whisperer, a terrifying undead creature with the visage of a small child that drains its victims heat, voice, and life force, and causes all but the most stalwart of heroes to wet themselves in fear. The creature quickly drained Daniels voice and used it to command Riley to “come and play” Riley resisted this command through sheer force of will and attempted to remove its head from its shoulders but the creature was too fast and dodged his blade again and again. Daniel was able to knock it back by channeling positive energy through his holy symbol but the whisperer was relentless and was wearing the heroes down, fraying the edges of their sanity and draining their lives. Daniel had a sudden idea as he spied a door at the far end of the room. Though he couldn’t convey his idea verbally he gestured at the door. Riley dodged the creature and threw the door open. There crouched in the fetal position, and covered in hoarfrost was the corpse of the late Podrick Belmont. His eyes were open and white, a terrified scream etched across his dead face. In his hand he had clutched the holy relic, too bad he had never learned to use it. Riley quickly activated the magic in the shriveled elf hand and telekinetically retrieved the relic and flung it toward Daniel who had been taking some serious punishment. Daniel managed to catch the relic and used it to channel positive energy. The Attic Whisper was blown back against the far wall and imploded in bits of flame and bone.

Mission 1 was a success, but left some unanswered questions. If Podrick died in the orphanage who or what had climbed back over the wall and was now in living in the Belmont estate? Who was the proprietress and what was she doing with the children? What was the meaning behind her mysterious journal? Where the heck is my dinner? Hopefully some of these questions will be answered in the coming months…

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Deadmime

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