Tuesday, June 29, 2021

The Price of Beauty

I've been running the adventures in Candlekeep Mysteries lightly reskinned for my Krevborna setting. The characters are all employed as members of Creedhall University Library's "Special Collections" department, aka adventurers. This is a recap of what happened in "The Price of Beauty." Fair warning: spoilers lurk below.

The Characters

Rufus Clarke, human barbarian played by Steve

Doctor Tobias Wolfe, human sorcerer, played by Dennis

Elsabeth, human paladin, played by Anne


Rusfus, Tobias, and Elsabeth were charged by Lorris Niss with locating a missing fellow librarian, a dwarf named Falthrax. Lorris reported that Falthrax had been depressed of late, particularly lamenting the wasted years of his life, but had found some measure of solace in a book called The Price of Beauty. The tome's green leather cover had a mirror embedded in it. When Elsabeth looked at herself in the mirror, an elven face appeared in the glass. The elven woman asked Elsabeth questions about her self-image, opined that she might try a new haircut or style of dress, and then launched into a sales pitch for The Restful Lily, complete with tinkling jingle. A portal then opened in the room. Tobias examined the portal and determined that it led to an idyllic woods containing a bathhouse, a tower, and a shrine. Once it had been determined that the book could be used to open a portal back to the library, the trio stepped through in search of the missing dwarf librarian.

Inside the bathhouse, they were greeted by a dark-haired man named Saeth who explained the various treatments and pamperings available at The Restful Lily. He offered to let them look around the establishment and sample its luxuries. Hoping to gain access to everything, they readily paid the admission price, locked away their adventuring gear, and changed into the robes provided for them. 

Tempted into the bathhouse proper, Elsabeth stepped into the pool, dunked her head beneath the water, and felt someone running their fingers through her hair and massaging her scalp. Tobias and Rufus both saw a woman with blue-green skin and hair arise from the water behind Elsabeth. When questioned, this woman told them that she was a nature spirit bound to pool, that the hot spring had existed prior to the construction of The Restful Lily, and that an elf woman named Sylvarie was formerly the proprietor of the bathhouse, but she had vanished without saying goodbye before being replaced by the three sisters who currently operated it. The spirit did not like the three current owners, though she couldn't say what they were up. She did miss Sylvarie terribly, and asked that the group perhaps find where she had gone to or what had happened to her, since they were looking for Falthrax anyway.

In the lounge they encountered two silent, creepily smiling employees and a black haired elven woman named Morganna who was one of the three owners of The Restful Lily. Although Morganna attempted to seduce them into enjoying their stay at the Lily, her altogether too forward demeanor put the trio on edge. When questioned about Falthrax, she claimed to not remember a guest by that name and her strangeness was too off-putting to be read for deception.

While in the lounge, the group had the opportunity to eat delicacies prepared by Greensong, another elven co-owner of The Restful Lily. Greensong wore a strip of linen tied over her eyes, denoting possible blindness, but she navigated the lounge with ease. She also claimed that her kitchen could produce anything the group might desire. When asked if she had occasion to prepare any dwarven food lately, she said no, but then too quickly produced a dwarven feast of slow-roasted meats.

Further exploration brought the group to the garden, where they found the third elven "sister" who ran The Restful Lily. Instead of being welcoming like the other two, this one immediately started berating them as "worms"! This sister was operating a gymnasium in the garden; she challenged the group to attempt her workout regime. Tobias kept pace with her demands for ever faster, lower, and higher squats, Rufus channeled his beastly rage and handily beat her in a tug of war match, and Elsabeth managed to keep up with frantic double dutch rhythms as the elven woman and an enchanted tree limb spun chains as jump ropes. 

The woman was impressed with the group's ability to succeed at her challenge. She rewarded them with a potion of giant strength and conspiratorially asked them if they were really into building their strength and if they might be interested in a shortcut to bodily improvement. Elsabeth played along. All Elsabeth would need to do is agree to pose for a portrait. Elsabeth agreed, the woman produced a canvas, easel, and a set of oil paints. The woman was painting at a furious rate, but the painting she produced of Elsabeth was a stunningly good likeness. Elsabeth felt her muscles bulging; she had indeed gotten stronger! The woman left them to their own devices as she scurried away toward the tower with the painting.

The group's next move was to explore the nearby shrine looking for more answers. Rufus discovered that the shrine's stone doors were sealed shut with some kind of hard resin. However, he spotted a hole in the roof that would allow him to drop down. Once inside, he managed to force the doors open to let Tobias and Elsabeth inside. In the basement of the ruined shrine, they found Sylvarie hiding in the shadows. She told them that it would be dangerous for them to look upon her; Elsabeth correctly intuited that Sylvarie was now a medusa. She explained that she had been cursed by the three women who had stolen The Restful Lily from her. Tobias also correctly guessed that the three women were actually hags. Handing over a hooded robe, the group brought Sylvarie back to the bathhouse to be reunited with the spirit of the hot springs.

Saeth noticed that the group had brought back a hooded figure with them. They found Morganna, the athletic sister, and Saeth waiting for them. Tobias cast dispel magic on Morganna, revealing her true form: a pale thing with bits of bone and teeth tied in her hair, her mouth ringed with bleeding sores. Elsabeth channeled the power of the divine, which sent Morganna and her athletic compatriot fleeing. Saeth revealed his true form as well, that of a red-skinned fiend, and his fiery claws raked over Elsabeth. A psychic spell from Tobias also caused Saeth to attempt to flee, but Elsabeth plunged her sword into his back, killing him.

Before seeking the two hags who had fled, the party went to check on Sylvarie, but during the melee she had left the pool and attacked Greensong, the third hag, in the kitchen. She had turned the hag to stone. In the kitchen, the group also found an unnaturally aged Falthrax working as a slave preparing food for the Lily's "guests."

With Sylvarie in tow, the group now pursued the remaining hags to the tower. Inside, they found the enchanted paintings that the hags were using against their victims: there were paintings of Falthrax, Sylvarie, Elsabeth, and an unknown tiefling man. The paintings of the unknown man, Sylvarie, and Falthrax were destroyed in a stove; the destruction of each caused the destroyer psychic wounds, but the immolation of Sylvarie's painting caused her to change from a medusa to her original elven form. 

At the tower's final floor, the group found the two hags and engaged them once more. Elsabeth fell victim to an Otto's irresistible dance spell that caused her to prance and pirouette as she fought the hags. Morganna attempted to mentally dominate Tobias, but the master of the mental arts proved too powerful to be overcome. Sylvarie managed to shank a hag with a trio of quick dagger strikes. Rufus unveiled his claws and tore out a hag's windpipe. 

After the hags were dealt with, the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. Rifling through the hag's possessions led the group to conclude that the paintings gave them power over their subjects, and that they were created on canvases made of humanoid skin and painted in hues that contained demonic ichor. It was also discovered that the hags had been taught the art of magical painting by none other than the notorious artist Sangino.

More backstory was revealed. In a moment of self-doubt, Sylvarie had bargained with the hags for enhanced beauty, but after a year their "blessing" reversed itself, turning her into a medusa. The hags locked her away in the shrine, then took over The Restful Lily, where they enticed others into fell bargains that brought ruination in their wake. This is what had befallen Falthrax, but he was now returned to normal by the destruction of his painting. The unencountered tiefling man proved to have been enslaved as a masseuse, but the destruction of his painting had set him free as well. The group left Sylvarie and her pool maiden friend to reassess what could be salvaged from The Restful Lily. The group took Falthrax and the tiefling with them back through the portal; another mission completed by the Special Collections Department.

Previous adventures in this campaign

The Joy of Extradimensional Spaces (part 1)

The Joy of Extradimensional Spaces (part 2)

Mazworth's Mighty Digressions

Book of the Raven

A Deep and Creeping Darkness (part 1)

A Deep and Creeping Darkness (part 2)

Shemshime's Bedtime Rhyme