Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Chapter Twenty-Two: Strange Times At Avernus Ridge...

Avernus Ridge

Fleeing the earthquake zone, Cobblethwaite's Companions and Tristriam's family headed towards the village of Bowes.

This took a couple of days and they arrived to find the small community in the grip of a terrifying "chattering disease", which eventually - after several days of uncontrollable teeth chattering and spouting nonsense - caused its victims' heads to explode.

The village priest, Martin, unable to leave his flock, told Kirchin and the others about a wise woman called Halal, who lived a day or so outside the village, just over the Avernus Ridge. Martin believed she was in possession of a magical periapt that could cure all diseases.

He pleaded with the adventurers to petition the wise woman for the use of her magical talisman to drive away the illness.

However, once the party reached the ridge, they realised something "wasn't quite right".

A row of crucifixes lined the brow of the ridge, decorated with old human remains, and as the party camped that night, at the foot of the ridge, their sleep was troubled by inhuman wailing from beyond.

Time was also acting strangely, moving too fast, up near the ridge, but thanks to Harry singing them to sleep, they all managed to get a decent night's rest anyway.

Unfortunately, by this stage, it was clear that Kirchin was showing the first signs of the chattering disease.

Cresting the ridge the next day, the heroes were met with the hellish sight of small, globular creatures (which Holly identified as "lemures" - souls being processed for their transit to Hell) throwing body parts into a lake, under the supervision of a huge, barbed devil (again, Holly identified him for what he was).

The devil - whose name they later learned was Yuzaru - called them forth, knowing them by name, and staring down Davian who was, at least at first, itching for a fight.

Halal emerged from a nearby cottage, but wasn't the wise woman they were expecting, instead Holly recognised her a kind of " demonic night hag".

The crone told the adventurers she would loan them her periapt for a day if they would get Martin to resurrect a moneylender - Sebastian Crow - who had died in the village a week before the disease began, and then bring Crow back to her (unharmed).

She gave them a scroll, the necessary spell tattooed on a roll of fresh human skin.

Returning to Bowes, Martin was reluctant at first to agree to raise Crow from the dead, and couldn't believe that this revolting scroll - or the wicked demand - was from the Halal he knew (she certainly didn't match the description he would later share with Holly).

But he realised that time was of the essence and cast the spell over Crow's grave.

The zombie moneylender clawed his way out of the ground and started to head to the village, shaking off the restraints of Marigold's magical web, but was eventually hog-tied by Davian and the aching Kirchin.

Sebastian Crow
Crow was returned to Halal, who kept her end of the bargain and loaned the periapt to The Companions.

They first used it to cure Kirchin, before racing back to the village, curing the sick and hurrying the amulet back to Halal.

Kirchin, riding his noble steed, Gryphon, returned the periapt to Hala, but couldn't resist trading insults with Yuzaru, who - thankfully - seemed unable, or unwilling at this time - to cross the line of crucifixes.

But the devil indicated that he "knew Kirchin's name" and there would be a reckoning.

That evening the villagers of Bowes threw their saviours an almighty celebration. Unfortunately, in the early hours of the morning this was interrupted by another violent earthquake.

Come morning, a new mountain range was visible to the west, and when The Companions went to investigate not only did they spy plumes of yellow gas bursting from fissures in the ground (the scent of which reminded Marigold of the brief time she had spent being dead), but Davian realised that some of these new "peaks" looked more like buildings with strange-shaped windows and portals in them.

As they drew closer, they realised their way was barred by an enormous canyon, stretching as far as the eye could see north and south, that had swallowed up the land where the Welcome Back Inn had once stood.


Holly once again demonstrated her depth of knowledge by realising that the strange mountains resembled old images she had seen in rare religious tomes, depicting the demi-plane of Purgatory known as Croatoa... the home of The Yellow King!

Peculiar shadows and unidentifiable flying creatures were noted in this new mountain range, and the adventurers decided it was probably a good time to head back towards civilization.

Marigold was quite vocal about this and strongly suggested that they needed to call upon Peter Entwhistle's old compadres in the Wizards' Conclave for assistance.

By the time they returned to Bowes, the villagers had decided they wanted to leave, and so our heroes organised them into a rag-tag caravan to head east with them to Bendwyn.

[It's worth pointing out that the party correctly deduced that Halal (or whoever the creature really was) had released the chattering disease on the village herself, to blackmail the villagers into returning Sebastian Crow to her... for her own twisted ends]

  • Davian (Kevin)
  • Harry (Simon)
  • Holly (Erica)
  • Kirchin (Pete)
  • Marigold/Dirkin (Clare)

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Epilogue To Chapter Twenty-One...

With Holly recovering from the wounds she picked up during the siege, the Companions decided to stay a bit longer at the Welcome Back Inn before continuing on down the road towards Bendwyn.

As Kirchin was changing the dressing on her wounds the next morning, Holly suggested they leave some of the gold they had recently acquired with Tristram and his wife, Annabelle, as compensation for all their troubles.

Kirchin could see the wisdom in this and shared the idea with the rest of the group who were taking breakfast downstairs in the main room of the inn.

Dirkin and Harry, who'd been figuring out how long it would take them to get to Bowes - the next village on their journey - without the cart to ferry their loot, nodded their agreement as they spooned down the tasty warm soup Annabelle had served them.

Davian growled his half-hearted objection, muttering into his beard about "swearing them to secrecy" (he didn't want it getting out that he had given gold away) and "suppose they did help with the birthin'", as he trudged off to scowl into his flagon of breakfast beer.

Meanwhile, Marigold - considerably weakened by her experience and emotionally undone - was taking care of Sasha, the daughter of the innkeeper (whose mind had been broken by the arrival of The Yellow King), in a back bedroom.

A dark mood had settled on the young enchantress, she was furious at the way she had been used by the Witch Of The Forest and The Yellow King, and while she had no great desire to return to Bendwyn (there was nothing for her there, now her mentor was dead), she wanted to enlist Peter Entwhistle's fellow sorcerers from the Wizards Conclave to take the fight to The Yellow King.

It was about this time that the Earth shook. The building creaked and groaned, cracks opened up in its walls.

"Earthquake!" shouted Davian, the only person present with experience of such events. As the timbers of the Welcome Back Inn moaned and complained, the dwarf hurried everyone outside.

On the horizon, to the west, the adventurers saw gigantic pillars of earth thrusting themselves violently towards the sky, the sky which had taken on an unnatural, and indescribable, hue - shot through with strands of yellow smoke.

The Badlands, which only days before they had been travelling across, was reshaping itself before their eyes. This was clearly not a natural occurrence, but a frightening demonstration of the mightiest of magics.

"That's it," declared Kirchin, as terrifying fissures opened across the ground like spiders' webs between the inn and the horizon, and the ground continued to shake. "None of us are staying here. Tristram, you, Annabelle and Sasha are coming with us to Bowes."

The landlord didn't need to be asked twice. In no time at all, everyone had bagged up what supplies they could - spending as little time as required within the crumbling walls of the inn - and began their journey east.

They were only a few minutes down the road when the sound of the Welcome Back Inn finally succumbing to the tremors made them stop and look back. Annabelle wept.
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