Friday, April 14, 2017

The Watcher in Darkness Opens His Eyes

Campaign: Krevborna (open table G+ game, 5e D&D)

  • Verdagan Wils, kenku rogue
  • Thane Ganymede, darakhul wizard
  • Tobias Rune, human warlock

Objective: Find a Father Nicholaz, a missing priest.

  • The party was hired by Father Eskil to find his friend, the missing Father Nicholaz. Nicholaz had a history of strange events befalling him: during his adolescence his personality changed suddenly, making him irritable and violent-tempered or fearful and paranoid; he acquired the ability to speak in tongues (or at least in a language his fellow faithful could not understand); he began to spend much of his time in the Church's archives, searching for something he would not name.
  • Months after these alterations in his personality, he was expelled from the Church for violating a tenet of the faith. After his, he disappeared for four years. When he returned, Nicholaz begged to be readmitted to the Church's grace and, after a private meeting with Father Claudio, was invested into the priesthood. After eight months of service to the Church, Eskil noticed that Nicholaz looking haggard; Nicholaz confessed that he was haunted by dreams of a great bleeding eye that gazed at him unflinchingly from the darkness of the night sky. 
  • Four days ago, Nicholaz disappeared--and now it is up to the party to find him. Eskil didn't say that he suspects foul play, but Father Claudio's reaction to Nicholaz's disappearance struck him as strange. Also, Lucia, who had been rescued from the Easterly House in the last game, was researching a connection between Nicholaz's dreams of a baleful eye and an unearthly entity known as the Watcher in Darkness or the Elder Scholar. The party has some vague ideas about the Elder Scholar--it is an entity that some warlocks formed pacts with in the past, but such bargains have been unknown in recent memory.
  • After Tobias's imp scouted Nicholaz's home, the group used the key given to them by Eskil to gain entrance. The young priest lived in a very small, bare house with very few furnishings. Verdagan unlocked a desk drawer and discovered Nicholaz's journal; from the journal, the party learned that Nicholaz's dreams involved "great eyes that descended from the cosmos to bleed upon a blighted earth," that he remembered nothing of the years he was missing from Piskaro, that the dreams had recently started again, and that Father Claudio told him to simply forget the past and move on.
  • The trapdoor in Nicholaz's main room led down to a library chamber. The shelves of the library were obviously new, and the room held an impressive array of books on theology, the lives of the saints, collections of sermons, and the like. There was a noticeable gap among the packed shelves; clearly, about three or four volumes usually shelved there were missing.
  • The group decided that their next stop should be the Church of St. Nephemias by the Docks, the church that Nicholaz, Eskil, and Claudio were attached to. The party arrived just in time to take seats in the pews and hear a sermon from Father Claudio, an old man with long white hair and a large, bushy white beard. The congregation was comprised of sailors, fishers, and their families, and the sermon dealt with the rest and succor that St. Nephemias provides for those lost at sea.
  • After the sermon, the group posed as a group of hungry immigrants, which caught the attention of one of the church's younger priests; she took pity on the "newcomers," and led them to one of the church's kitchens, where she provided them with a meal of bread, butter, cheese, and rum. While eating, they plied her for information and eventually made it clear that they had an interest in the whereabouts of Father Nicholaz. Sister Vittoria claimed that Father Claudio blamed Nicholaz's disappearance on his weakness for strong drink. She also arranged for the group to talk to Claudio himself.
  • The party was led to Claudio's office, where he sat in a leather chair, writing steadily, barely looking up as the group put questions to him. Claudio described Nicholaz as a good priest, but also as someone prone to making poor decisions. Claudio would not divulge the reason why Nicholaz was initially expelled from the Church; since he was Nicholaz's confessor, that would be a breach of ethics. He let slip that Nicholaz's re-entry into the fold was enabled by Nicholaz presenting Claudio was some very rare books, which Claudio claimed were texts of a religious nature. Claudio declined to let the party see the books; he said that there were still in the process of being cataloged for the Church's archives.
  • After their audience, the party decided to return to the Black Albatross, a tavern where they could send word to Eskil. On the way, a shot rang out in the deserted, rain-swept street; someone had shot at Verdagan! The group quickly realized that two ruffians with cutlasses were approaching from the front, and a further ruffian and a woman with a rifle were closing in behind them. A fierce battle ensued in the midst of the storm, but the party was triumphant. Thane's fiery bolts immolated the riflewoman, and his sleep spell knocked another thug out of the fight. Verdagan managed to render another thug unconscious, giving the party a total of two captives to work with.
  • Once roused, the sleeping captive revealed that his group of mercenaries were hired by a man with white hair and a big, white beard to eliminate the party before they got too close to Nicholaz's whereabouts. Recognizing that the mercenaries' employer was likely Claudio, the party realized that Claudio had been keeping his eye on Eskil and knew that they had been hired to delve into this mystery. Their would-be killer bartered for his freedom by offering to show the group the secret lair of his employer.
  • The building the mercenary led them to was an old brick building in a row of abandoned warehouses. Verdagan picked the lock easily, allowing them access into a small room lined with large casks of wine. One of the wine barrels was hollow; further investigation revealed that the barrel was a false front for a tunnel leading down into the subterranean depths.
  • The first room explored in the depths was a chamber in which the walls and ceiling had been painted black. The ceiling was further decorated to resemble a starlit sky. An altar, decorated with golden candelabras, incense burners, and a glass disk resembling a human eye, stood against the back wall. The center of the room was dominated by a strange sculpture formed from porous black rock; the sculpture was essentially a roughly-formed pillar that had handholds, as if it were meant to be climbed. Verdagan decided to see what would happen if the pillar were surmounted; once at the top, the stars painted onto the ceiling began to twinkle, the skyscape began to move, and the stars blossomed into eyes that stared down at the assembled adventurers. A disembodied voice then asked Verdagan if he desired to make a pact, and then it told him to bring a suitable sacrifice to seal his devotion. When Verdagan climbed back down the pillar, the ceiling returned to its normal state.
  • Another chamber contained a small desk. Upon the desk were four books: The Book of the Unkindled Scholar, Rebirth of the Old Ones, Spawn of the Stars, and The Cult of the Icarus Heart.
  • The party also discovered what appeared to be a treasury; there were four chests in this chamber, and two skeletons sat upon a pair of them. The skeletons appeared to be normal human skeletons, except the eye holes of their skulls had merged into one vacant, cyclopean socket. The party initially left this room alone, but returned because Thane detected magic within the chests. He also detected that the skeletons were magical, so it was no surprise when the skeletons animated and attempted to keep them away from the contents of the chests. A hard-fought battle spilled out of the chamber and into the hallway. Verdagan's life was endangered by a fierce blow from one of the skeletons, but Thane managed to revive him by pouring a potion of healing down his throat. In the end, the party was harried but victorious; fleeing and sniping with magic and bow carried the day.
  • The last chamber explored was the largest yet; it featured six pillars of black porous rock that resembled columns of unblinking eyes, a central altar to which was chained a beaten and bloody man who matched the description of Father Nicholaz, and two figures who had their backs turned to the characters: one who was clearly Father Claudio, the other was a younger acolyte in a black robes. Verdagan attempted to sneak up on the pair, but they were ready and waiting for the party's approach. Claudio attempted a dire black magic spell against Tobias, but Tobias's fiendish pact warded off the "clergyman's" spell; in return, Tobias made quick work of Claudio--his eldritch blast hurled the old man against the altar, breaking his back in the process. The acolyte drew a knife and charged at the party, but a sleep spell from Thane subdued her easily.
  • The group released Nicholaz, who wanted to beat a hasty retreat from the place of his imprisonment, and the group reunited him with Eskil back at the Black Albatross. Nicholaz explained that he truly had no memory of the events that transpired during the years he was missing from Piskaro, but that he had discovered that when he was abroad he collected rare books--seemingly under direction to give tomes about elder beings to Father Claudio. Claudio believed that Nicholaz knew more than he let on, and that the young priest was keeping back important secrets relevant to Claudio's secret occult aims, and so had abducted the priest and had begun to torture the information out of him. 
Loose Ends: 
  • What is this Watcher in the Darkness, this Elder Scholar, and what danger might it still represent in Krevborna?
  • The party discovered a note on Claudio's body that reads: “Our preparations are almost complete. We will arrive in Piskaro on schedule. Make sure that all is ready for us. The Brethren are counting on you – Neria”
  • The party took the young cultist captive; what are you doing with her and what questions do you put to her?
  • XP - 408 each.
  • Treasure - Tobias and Thane receive 513 gp each in assorted coin, Verdagan takes four onyx gems (worth 60 gp each) and 273 gp.
  • Magic Items - a potion of healing, the shield of Sir Malafort (as a sentinel shield in the DMG).
  • Other - Father Eskil owes you a favor to be redeemed at a later date.