Sunday, April 21, 2024

Beyond the Mirror

This is the second part of the write up of the adventure that started here. In this section of the adventure, the group finds themselves battling against family members in the shadow of a Baba Yaga-style hut and one of their number chooses to walk the path of darkness.

The Characters

Catarina, unconventional prioress

Pendleton, rogue anatomist

Raoul, necromancer

Geradd, swashbuckling nobleman

Daytona, dhampir gunslinger

Panthalassa, feral child

Asudem, undead antiquarian


When we last left our heroes, they had found a magical portal in the Hall of Mirrors at the Skarnesti Circus and had traveled beyond the mirror in search of a missing child.

After crossing through the mirror, the group found themselves in a strange dining room. The walls of the room indicated that the building they were in was fairly primitive, such as a hut or hovel. However, the dining room table was well crafted and was set with fine china and sparkling silverware. Panthalassa recognized the china as being her grandmother's pattern. There was a place set for each member of the party, plus one extra. 

While exploring the building, the characters found a kitchen with a meat grinder bolted to the counter. Mysterious meat spilled from the grinder, but they could not determine the meat's provenance--though they suspected that it to be human flesh. They also discovered that the oven was hot and currently in use: inside were a number of meat pies, their number again matching the number of members of the group plus one. One of the pies with marked with a P that had been cut from pastry.

In another chamber, the group uncovered a room with child-sized cages hanging from the ceiling on chains. One of the cages held a young boy wearing only one shoe--they had found the missing Bastien! Geradd tore the bars from the cage, freeing the boy and arming himself and Panthalassa with makeshift iron bludgeons in the process. The Widow and Serafina were sent back through the mirror to return the child to his mother, but the rest of the party went looking for the person, persons, or entities responsible for his abduction. 

Exploring further, the group encountered a slim man with a pencil-thin mustache lounging in an overstuffed chair in the parlor. Catarina instantly recognized him as Wallace Redmoor, her brother-in-law. Wallace arrogantly mentioned that he had contrived this meeting because he believed that Catarina was responsible for her brother's death. (He's correct, actually.) In a nod to her companions, Wallace noted that Catarina had "made many friends" since they had last spoke, but that the group had also made "several enemies." He offered to introduce the party to another of their enemies and made for the front door. The party followed him outside.

Turning back to see the exterior of the building they had been in, the group saw that it was a large hut perched on massive chicken legs. The field surrounding the hut was littered with ominous scarecrows. Catarina wanted Wallace taken alive so she could determine how much he knew about her role in her husband's death, but things were not to go easily for the party. Wallace flicked his cane, turning it into a segmented whip, the scarecrows dismounted from their stakes and brandished knives, and Panthalassa's grandmother, Melantha Dinmere, warped by evil and her skin was slicked with blood, appeared in the doorway behind them.

Melantha's appearance caused several members of the group, including her granddaughter, to run in fear or stand helplessly stunned. Melantha also cast a spell that entangled many of the remaining party members in blood-red vines that erupted from the earth. Wallace whipped at them with his cane, and the scarecrows moved in to gut the group. 

The group quickly rallied. Melantha was put down by pistol shot, which freed them from the vines. Daytona's recently acquired flaming sword proved to be highly effective against the scarecrows, but several characters took grievous wounds from their knives. When Panthalassa attempted to grapple Wallace, he turned the tables on her by wrapping the threaded cane around her throat and using her as a human shield. Panthalassa found it impossible to escape Wallace's clutches, and being his captive allowed him to stab her in the side with a dagger over and over. Geradd ended the stalemate by staving Wallace's head in with the iron bar he wrenched from the cage earlier.

Catarina promptly lost her senses and bludgeoned Wallace's corpse in a frenzy of frustration. Panthalassa also attempted to make sure that her grandmother was truly dead, but the hag sat up and exclaimed "We gave you a name!" The old woman was then sent to her grave for the second time that night. 

Searching the rest of the hut, they found a shrine to Panthalassa's father, which included his skull and bones (all of which had been gnawed upon by sea creatures) surrounded by candles. The bones were pulverized.

Crossing through the mirror once more, the party saw that Bastien had been reunited with his mother. Zoskia Skarnesti thanked the group for dealing with the issue and thus saving the circus's reputation; she gave them free passes for the circus and also entrusted them with the Mantle of Iron Tears, which she claimed to have won in a card game against a witch. However, she cautioned them that sorrow often visited those who used the Mantle.

The group spent the rest of the evening relaxing and enjoying the rest of their time at the circus. Wanting to know more about the nature of the Mantle of Iron Tears, the group turned north to Hemlock Hollow, where they hoped that the Graymalks could tell them about its powers and the dangers that attended it. Unfortunately, they found their path north blocked by a large black carriage bearing Count Magnus Draghul's coat of arms.

As they pulled up to the Count's carriage, the vampire lord exited and approached them. He asked if they had chosen one of their number to join him as a vampiric replacement for Countess Vlodeska, whom they had slain in a previous adventure. They attempted to stall for time, but Magnus was not having it--they would need to choose tonight or he would make the choice for them. They briefly considered trying to fight their way out of this situation, but ultimately Catarina stepped forward as the sacrifice.

The last the group saw of her was when Magnus led her by the hand to his waiting carriage and thundered off into the night.

Things will be very different when we next look in on our heroes.