Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Written in Blood

I've begun to run the adventures in Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel as part of an open table campaign on my Discord. Without further ado, here's how "Written in Blood," the second adventure, went for my group.

Dramatis Personae

Captain Horatio Gurthus, human barbarian

Brother Albany Palmer, human monk

A Dream of Hands, Eyes of Blood, Unlikely Companions

Horatio and Brother Albany again dreamed of the angel, but after the previous adventure the angel only bore twelve scrolls. When the angel broke the seal of the second scroll, both characters had visions of farm-folk being pulled back into a lake by a multitude of hands that emerged from the water. Both awoke knowing that a series of murders were occurring in and around a farming community in Godsbreath called New Promise. 

The duo were soon on the road, headed to New Promise. They arrived in the morning and found that the town was in the midst of a celebration. The farming folk were joined in singing a song that told of the town's founding and its history; however, the song was interrupted by a scream when four farmers emerged from the crowd, their eyes turned red and blood flowing down their cheeks. These strange farmers raised their farming implements and began to attack their fellow townsfolk. As the townsfolk fled this sudden burst of violence, Horatio and Brother Albany entered the fray. One woman tried to reason with the rampaging farmers while Albany and Horatio cut them down.

The final farmer was knocked unconscious and restrained. Searching the bodies of the other farmers uncovered a crumpled piece of parchment with a charcoal drawing of a child swimming in dark water while hands from below tried to pull him under. The woman who had tried to reason with the murderous farmers identified the drawing as the work of her goddaughter Kianna. She explained that Kianna had a farmstead outside of New Promise, in an area called the Rattle. Since she was clearly concerned with Kianna's welfare, and the drawing roughly matched the contents of their shared dream, Brother Albany and Horatio decided they needed to pay her a visit.

As they prepared to leave, they were approached by a flamboyant trader calling herself Lady Dre. Lady Dre feigned concern as well, and offered to drive the duo to the Rattle in a wagon, sparing them a long walk. They quickly discerned that Lady Dre's motives weren't wholly altruistic; she had made a business deal with the farmers of the Rattle and wanted to check on her investment amid all these strange goings-on. The group was also joined by Proclaimer Ward, an androgynous cleric devoted to Saint Solna, the patron of learning and knowledge seekers. Proclaimer Ward felt that the rampaging farmers and the blight afflicting the red grain grown by the farmers of New Promise were connected to a supernatural occurrence they were duty-bound to investigate.

A Series of Calamities

The newly formed group set off toward the Rattle, but a series of perils stood between them and their destination. They encountered a giant coyote chasing a old farmer named Uncle Polder; after rescuing him, he confirmed that he had seen Kianna a few weeks ago and that she was looking forward to the arrival of her friend Culley. Proclaimer Ward recognized the name and explained that Culley was one of her childhood friends, but that he had drowned in Cradlelace Lake. Polder insisted that Kianna spoke of Culley in the present tense and seemed to be excited to see him again.

Further along the path, the group felt the shock of a tremor underneath them. Ten minutes later, another tremor opened up a sinkhole beneath their wagon, sending it crashing into a pit. Brother Albany and Proclaimer Ward managed to throw themselves clear, but Horatio and Lady Dre plummeted into the pit. Lady Dre broke her arm in the bargain. 

As Lady Dre was hoisted from the pit with a rope, Horatio noticed a number of holes being bored in the sides of the pit; four disembodied hands emerged from the holes and attacked Horatio! Horatio fought back, aided by Brother Albany throwing darts down at the claws from the rim of the pit. Horatio survived the encounter, but everyone was shaken by the attack. Lady Dre decided to return to Uncle Polder's house rather than press on, leaving Albany, Horatio, and Ward to continue on to Kianna's farmhouse.

The Horror at the Farmhouse

The group briefly explored the first few farmhouses they found in the cluster, but each was a house of horrors. Someone had painted a red X on the front doors in mud, but each hinted at other unheralded terrors: one had a painting of a tangle of arms on a wall, another's interior was carpeted with human bones that had been gnawed upon, and another showed evidence of the occupants fleeing by throwing themselves out of the windows--cutting themselves on the jagged glass.

Kianna's farmhouse turned out to be a larger building, unmarked by an X on the door. Proclaimer Ward went behind the house to examine the blighted crops while Brother Albany and Horatio explored the interior. They discovered more disturbing drawings of hands, lakes, and staring eyes, a hidden cache of rings in multiple sizes, and two more blood-eyed farmers. The farmers did not react to their presence in the house; instead, they stood stock still, only locking eyes with each other. Also uncovered was a trap door leading down into the root cellar. The smell of decay was strong from below, and they could hear a woman singing down in the depths. 

Down in the root cellar, one wall had collapsed, forming a tunnel. As they traversed the tunnel, both the rotting stench and sound of a woman singing increased until the tunnel opened into a cavern. In the center of the chamber stood Kianna, clutching a knife and singing. She was surrounded by a pile of putrefying corpses, each of which was missing at least one hand. Attempts to reason with Kianna proved fruitless; she alternated between telling the pair that they should leave for their own safety and entreating them to stay to meet her friend Culley. Brother Albany knocked her unconscious with his quarterstaff and they began to drag her back down the tunnel. However, something began to stir from beneath the pile of corpses, causing them to make haste to get out of the basement. Something was following them as they fled!

Final Confrontations

The blood-eyed farmers attacked Horatio and Brother Albany as they emerged back into the farmhouse's kitchen, but they were quickly dispatched. Horatio attempted to stand on the trapdoor to prevent their pursuer from gaining entry into the farmhouse, but he was thrown aside as the creature emerged; it proved to be a tangle of limbs, bound together by dark magic. The duo bravely strived against it, but it managed to gather Horatio into it's crushing embrace, which knocked him unconscious with a surge of necrotic energy. 

Brother Albany called for help from Proclaimer Ward and could hear them quickly approaching. He leapt behind the kitchen's table for cover. Proclaimer Ward ran into the kitchen, but they too were swept up by the creature; Ward's broken form fell from its grasp. Brother Albany leapt from the table, smashed the creature with his staff, and followed that strike with a fierce knee that sent it crashing into the kitchen's window--where it promptly exploded into seven disembodied hands that fled through the broken casement. Horatio was revived, and the duo took the still-unconscious Kianna to one of the other farmhouses, where they barricaded themselves in to rest until morning.

Come morning, they took Kianna to Uncle Polder's house. While explaining what had transpired at the farmhouse to Polder and Lady Dre, they heard a scratching sound coming from inside Polder's home. The seven clawed hands burst from the unlit fireplace and attacked! Each of the claws was dealt with, but Lady Dre was killed in the chaotic melee. After the destruction of the final hand, Kianna awoke and proclaimed that "Culley has gone." She had no memory of her own actions, but Horatio and Albany were convinced that whatever had taken hold of her had now departed.

Feeling that their actions in this strange saga could be misconstrued as a murder spree, the pair left Polder with instructions to take Kianna to New Promise, explain their version of what had happened, and inform the town of the deaths of Proclaimer Ward and Lady Dre. While Polder set out for New Promise, they left in the opposite direction.