The cast: Asriel, Palaxia, and Maledictus.
2,933 experience each.
Sinderbos: This pitch-black +1 flaming warhammer is bereft of any ornamentation beyond an engraving on its face of a bull’s head with an open flame, the unholy symbol of the archdevil Moloch. Whenever the wielder of Sinderbos successfully strikes a creature with the hammer, he can create a cloud of ash around the target as an immediate action. This ash shares the target’s space and persists for 1 round before dissipating. The ash does not obscure sight, but the target and any creatures that enter the cloud must succeed at a DC 14 Fortitude save or take a –2 penalty on attack rolls for 1 round as they cough and choke on the fiery ash. Holding one’s breath provides no benefit, but creatures that don’t breathe or that have any kind of fire immunity or resistance are immune to the cloud’s effects.
If Moloch is the wielder’s patron, the wielder can forge masterwork armor and weapons with Sinderbos, which reduces the DC of the Craft check for items’ masterwork components to 10 (the Craft DC for the items’ standard components are unchanged). Items crafted in this way have a faint evil aura for the purposes of detect evil or similar effects.
Part 1: The Supply Shipment
You spend Friday night and the whole of Saturday resting up after the hazards of the Blooming Caverns. On Sunday morning, Razelago appears to check in with your progress and let you know that Fex’s information network has word that a supply shipment is expected in town on Monday evening.
The Reclamation has engaged in trade negotations with the various mining operations in the Menador Mountains to help secure their hold on Kantaria. While none of the groups have yet offered full support to the Glorious Reclamation’s rule, they have contributed small amounts of resources and supplies that, altogether, forms a sizeable shipment for the town. Razelago asks you to waylay the shipment however you can.
To ambush the shipment well outside of town, Palaxia, Maledictus, and Asriel leave that day. Asriel and Maledictus together find the perfect spot for an ambush – a bridge where the road crosses over one of the wide curves of the Sedna River. However, before you can plan your attack, your mission is nearly ended when you are attacked by a quartet of hungry giant dragonflies.
The dragonflies engage in vicious flyby attacks, taking hefty bites out of their targets. Palaxia immediately goes invisible while the whole party laments leaving behind Regina, the vermin-specialized hunter who may be able to calm the beasts. Asriel takes several hits and is knocked unconscious while Palaxia goes to Maledictus’ aid, turning her invisible as well. A dragonfly scoops up Asriel’s body in its many legs and, weighed down by his 300-pound bulk, begins a clumsy flight south.
However, Asriel has tricks up his sleeve. Brought back to consciousness by his fast healing ability, he bided his time riding in the dragonfly’s legs. When the dragonflies reached a forested area and gained elevation to avoid having to fly through the close-set trees, he rolled out of the dragonfly’s grasp and broke the clay snapleaf he wore on his robe – turning himself invisible and gaining slowfall. He drifted slowly down to the ground in the forest while the dragonflies darted over the tree canopy, looking for their mysteriously-disappearing prey! He met an astonished Palaxia and Maledictus – both of whom had given him up for dead – back at the bridge.
You form a plan: Palaxia would turn invisible and cross the bridge to meet the wagon. When it was within distance, she would pop the cork on the discord bottle. Meanwhile, Asriel had used his crowbar and wiresaw to sabotage the bridge’s support – unfortunately, in his zeal and lack of engineering knowledge, he’d left the bridge sagging slightly, but you hope the havoc caused by the discord bottle would distract the driver from the unsafe crossing.
The plan goes off without a hitch. The wagon, pulled by two heavy horses, trundles up the path the following morning. A Reclamation Sergeant sits at the front next to the human militia volunteer driving the horses. In the back of the wagon amid a cloth-covered mound, two halflings hold sling staffs. At the wagon’s side walk another halfing and two more militia volunteers. Once they enter the radius of the discord bottle’s gas, both horses, the human driver, and all three halflings fall victim to the mind-altering gas. The driver whips out his guisarme and stabs one of the horses in the hindquarters while the two halflings riding in the wagon swing their staffs, hitting the Reclamation sergeant in the back of the head with stones. The horses take off at a run as they try to bite each other and escape the harness. As the wagon crosses the bridge, the heavy load collapses the unsteady supports, dumping the entirety of the shipment as well as the driver, one of the halflings, and the sergeant into the river.
The two other milita volunteers then face off on the north bank with the affected halflings while you look on, hoping they would thin their own numbers before revealing yourself. Meanwhile, the horses, who’d broken free of the wagon and leaped to the south bank, run off, nipping at each other’s necks and lashing out with their hooves. The remaining humans kill the halflings, and are in turn killed by Asriel’s arrows and Bob’s blows.
Asriel follows the river for some way to make sure there are no survivors. He finds no evidence of the Halfling and the driver leaving the river, but he does find the sergeant, wet and tired, trudging back to the bridge on the south side of the river. She hails him from afar with a weary wave; Asriel responds by shooting her with an arrow. They exchange arrows as they approach each other, but Asriel gets the better of the water-logged sergeant. Asriel loots her Reclamation tabard and wooden Iomedaean holy symbol and as a final insult, carves the symbol of Narikopolus into it and sets up a scarecrow as a warning.
You return triumphant in the evening. Feeling amorous, Asriel seduces a very willing Loredana, and Palaxia visits Faydreth at the Narikopolus Manor. Pleased to finally find himself alone with her, he invites her in and gives her a tour of the house, proudly pointing out the house’s defenses and traps.
Part 2: A Friend in Need
Tuesday was spent reconnoitering Hardship’s Hearth, but finding the defenses of the prison too intimidating, you return to town and look around the dock with the thought that destroying Kantaria’s ability to enforce docking fees on all passing ships would hurt the Reclamation economically. Palaxia finds several weak points in the dock’s construction that she believes could cause them to collapse with a minute’s work. Unfortunately, none of you have the dexterous skills necessary to take advantage of this.
You wake up to a message on Wednesday – Linton Demeer, proprietor of Healthy Heart Alchemicals has requested a private meeting with you that day. You postpone your plans to sabotage the docks and instead visit the alchemist. A sign reading “Closed due to illness” hangs on his door, but when you knock, he answers the door looking completely healthy, although he seems hurried. The more discerning among you realize that he does not seem like he’s going to harm you, but more like he is wary.
Once inside, Demeer explains his invitation. He has a friend who was one of House Narikopolus’s retainers before the Glorious Reclamation. While most of them had been killed or imprisoned during the conquest, a handful escaped and proceeded to harry the town, calling themselves “Narikopolus loyalists”, although the Glorious Reclamation named them rebels. His friend – a man called Gregor Ardain – was one of these.
He tells you that Gregor kept in contact with him about the loyalists’ location and movements, but it has been over a week since he last heard from Gregor. Linton is worried about the fate of his friend and tells you that Gregor’s last missive indicated a stop at the Blooming Caverns. Maledictus immediately blurts out that you have been to the Blooming Caverns and that you tried to get the myceloids living there to come back and attack the town. There is a stunned silence as everyone gapes at her massive gaffe
Asriel quickly attempts to bluff him by saying that Maledictus has a particularly macabre sense of humor. Gregor is not fooled, but says that he would pretend he hadn’t heard what she’d said in the interest of figuring out what happened to Gregor. He offers you 3,000gp for discovering Gregor’s fate, and to sweeten the deal, tells you that Gregor was in possession of a magical warhammer called Sinderbos – the very warhammer that used to belong to Tychus Groat before it was taken by Gregor after Oppian Nevilindor defeated Groat in combat.
Part 3: Return to the Blooming Caves
You agree to go to the Blooming Caves that day. You easily retrace your steps through the cave, and this time come as a group to the cavern where the fully-grown myceloids sit rocking gently in their chairs. They seem unperturbed about the deaths of their “children” and go on at length about how they came to the caves.
“Well, it all started with this family of four humans we killed, oh, I’d say a couple of weeks ago, ain’t that right, Pap?” Pap nods his large mushroom cap head. “Anyway, Pap here was pulling out the male’s intestines while I was clawing out the female’s eyes, and their children were just hollerin’, ‘Mam! Pap! No!’” The myceloid embellishes the tale with movements of her stunted limbs.
“I turned to Pap right there and then and said, ‘We’re getting too old to keep wandering around like this, we need to settle down and start a family.’ Of course, he wasn’t called Pap then, we just heard the children yelling for their parents and thought ‘isn’t that precious?’ If it worked for that human family, it will work a trick for ours!”
“We discovered these humans hiding out in these caves, and it was just the perfect place to settle down in! Oh, bless their hearts, they were so starved, we slipped right past ‘em and infect the whole group.” She says with pride. “Look at this beautiful glowing fungus – just the kind of place I always dreamed of raising a child.”
They also mention one of their children they call “the Wrong One.” “Whatever human spawned the Wrong One wasn’t, he just looked like one. So now we have our special little guy who just needs some extra love.”
Pop says something in gruff Undercommon and Mom swats at him gently and shakes her bulbous head. “Pop thinks the Wrong One’s a bad egg, but I ain’t never heard of a child what a little love and family can’t fix! After all, hands can build a house, but it takes hearts to build a home.”
You find the Wrong One down a cavern tunnel that you had not noticed the first time you visited the caves. A pile of corpses sits in a corner of this cavern. Each gaunt cadaver has been split open down the center, exposing hundreds of purple mushrooms growing out of the rotting flesh inside. In the middle stands the Wrong One, who is currently being tormented by two of his “siblings”, who are jabbing at it with sticks. The young myceloids squeak and hide near the pile of corpses when they see you, but they shout something to the Wrong One and fall into a fit of giggles as the horror attacks you.
The Wrong One is more aberration than fungus, resembling a writhing mass of living rubbery flesh in the shape of a vaguely humanoid mushroom. Dozens of crude humanoid faces, each contorted in agony, adorn the mushroom’s cap, and its long arms drag on the floor as it charges.
Asriel edges around the cavern while Maledictus and Bob engage the Wrong One. The Wrong One lashes out with claws that leave bleeding wounds when he hits, and the faces on his mushroom cap contort into the faces of his attackers, Bob and Maledictus, the sight of which fills them with horror but they continue fighting. Maledictus tries to get the two myceloids to intervene, but they just smile and wave and say they’re happy someone is playing with the Wrong One.
Meanwhile, Asriel retrieves Sinderbos from the pile of corpses as well as a half-written note addressed to Linton Demeer. The note describes how the starving loyalists found the cave and were infected by the myceloids, as well as the progression of the illness. Gregor admits that he too has contracted it, and wonders what it will do to him in particular – a statement you find odd.
Everyone but Palaxia begins to flee the cavern once the treasure and the proof is recovered. Palaxia’s summoned spiritual scythe lands a devastating blow on the Wrong One, leaving him barely standing, and Bob finishes him off. “Told you we could kill it,” she says haughtily.
You pass out of the caves with your prize and return to town again late Wednesday night. Thursday morning, you visit Linton again and show him the note and the warhammer. He shakes his head sadly as he ponders his friend’s final words to him. He seems to think deeply about something before proposing a meeting outside of town at midnight with you to discuss something he doesn’t name. Asriel questions him closely, and Linton says carefully that he has eyes all around the town and that he can put two-and-two together. He believes that your agendas could serve each other, but he doesn’t want to say more here.
Asriel then goes by Tychus Groat’s forge and surprises the ukobach Brextur with the return of his master’s warhammer. You realize that teariness is a habit of Brextur as his lip wobbles and his eyes grow wet. He thanks you sincerely for the return of the hammer and tells you more about its magical properties. He also mentions that maybe one of you wouldn’t make a bad master, either.