Dark Tides of Salinmoor

Chapter 4: Moloch

The possessed paladin begins to retreat from the House of Hymns, holding the heroes at bay with the threat of physical harm to the paladin whose skin he rides. A few moments of debate between the companions settles the conundrum: it is better to risk harm to the paladin than allow the evil entity within to escape and do further harm.

Tobias charges at the escaping creature. The rest of the group follows suit. Davin draws his crossbow and takes cover in a corner of the debris-strewn chapel, behind the pews. Thorondir launches a volley of arrows, made from magical force energy, from his bow and joins Davin in a safer position.

Lashing out with his broadsword, which pulses with purple-black, necrotic energy, the demon fights off Tobias, Greighar, and Forge in melee combat. He also hurls a bolt of unholy power at Davin from across the chapel, which instantly causes the rogue’s eyes to turn into inky, black pools and attack Thorondir. Similar energies leap from the entity’s blade, attaching themselves to Forge and attempting to possess him as they batter away at his mind.

The cloaked stranger, not seeming to be concerned for the well-being of the demon’s host, rushes forward with a flask of flaming holy oil. The flask is knocked aside and the stranger is hurled across the room like a rag doll by the paladin’s unholy strength.

Amidst the chaos, Cyrus channels the radiant power of his god, Solare, into beams of pure white, positive energy. Though the first few radiant rays miss their mark, the halfling is finally successful and the demonic being screeches in agony. Greighar and Tobias keep the possessed paladin occupied and protect Cyrus while the halfling continues to blast away — his deity’s power seeming to harm the demon, but not Sorril Venir’s physical body.

Continued

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Session 3: Hidden Enemies
In which the true face of evil is revealed.

Following the road westward along the Azure Coast, the party passes through a small fishing village called Angler: a fishing settlement that also serves as the primary fiefdom to the local noble house of Lorchester. The companions debate investigating the rumors of Lorchester’s treasonous activities—strange ships seen docking at their island stronghold in the night, bizarre visitors coming and going from Angler—they decide that time is short and to catch up with Sorril as quickly as possible.

The opportunity presents itself to investigate the inn room of one of the murdered nobles that the paladin is tracking, however, and the group does so. They find signs of a break in at the window and scorch marks on the walls and floor that appear supernatural in nature, as if ignited via magic.

Escaping town as quickly as possible the next morning, due to the local constable’s search for Forge, who caused a great deal of damage in a barroom brawl in the night, the party continues on toward Saltmarsh.

Assailed by a terrible rainstorm for the rest of their two-day journey, the companions pass a decrepit, abandoned manor perched on a precipice over the sea, just four miles east of their destination. They take room and board at an inn called the Widow’s Walk at the very edge of Saltmarsh, where the tight-lipped proprietor, Gretta, lets slip that a paladin did indeed pass through last night and was looking into the murder at the House of Hymns church. She directs the group to the Merry Mermaid if they are seeking to involve themselves in local troubles.

The party braves the rain once more and heads to the House of Hymns, which suffered a terrible fire one week ago. Much of the roof has burned and collapsed, and the bell tower is a husk of burnt timbers. A search turns up a strange, homeless man in the wine cellar, with dreadlocked beard and tattered brown cloak. He is armed and prepares to defend himself if needed, but calm heads prevail and he departs the church—followed by Forge, who trips the man up and exposes a pair of manacles hanging from the stranger’s belt.

Reporting this information, it becomes clear that the stranger may be involved in the trail of killings. The group gives chase to the vagrant, who has several minutes’ lead and moves very quickly, and loses his trail when he escapes into the forested hills northwest of Saltmarsh. They party agrees that they need to find Sorril at the Merry Mermaid and tell him what they’ve discovered.

Along the empty dockside streets, a pair of dockworkers and a young shepherd boy confronts the group. Their eyes turn to inky pools of black and they attack, the youngest uttering that “He” predicted the heroes’ arrival and set the trio upon them.

Blows from steel weapons barely seem to affect the creatures, despite horrible wounds imposed upon their bodies. When Cyrus calls forth blasts of radiant, holy energy, however, the beings roar in pain and quickly fall. As each is defeated, cloying black smoke seems to bleed from the men’s mouths and wounds and evaporate upon the ground, and the bodies of their hosts return to normal. The last of the three attackers, a dockworker with incredible, unearthly strength, is subdued and dragged back to the House of Hymns while Tobias rushes to find Sorril Venir at the Merry Mermaid. As the monk leads the paladin back to the ruined church, he quickly takes note that the stranger from earlier is pursuing them.

At the House of Hymns, Cyrus and Greighar work together and pool their religious teachings and resources to exorcise the evil presence from the dockworker’s body. The oily, dark vapor is once again expelled, roiling out of orifices and wounds and evaporating as it pools along the scorched floorboards. Sorril and Tobias arrive at the church as this task is completed—followed moments later by the stranger, who draws his sword and levels it at Sorril.

The stranger calls Sorril “demon” while the paladin appeals to his friends’ common sense. Greighar settles the argument by closing his eyes for a moment and focusing, the divine bond with the god Valarian guiding his instincts. The paladin senses that Sorril is, in fact, possessed by an evil, fiendish presence. Greighar draws his father’s sword, Harbinger, and turns to strike the demonic being, which wails in rage and pain, then smiles.

“Strike me again, fool,” it utters, raising its blade to strike. “And kill this paladin whose flesh I wear.”

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Session 2: And All the Count's Men
In which the wizened sage and proud hunt master reveal their true colors.

Given several leads during their initial audience with Lord Dunraven and his advisor, Darby, the group decides to seek out a paladin of Solare named Sorril Venir at an inn called the Silver Sunrise in northern Flotsam. They learn from Sorril that he is following a trail of murdered nobles that has led from the city of Lirhaven to the borderlands of Salinmoor. The most recent murder occurred in the village of Saltmarsh, just a few days’ ride west of Flotsam.

The party offers to accompany the paladin, and he accepts. The group will depart for Saltmarsh in the morning.

When several party members including Davin, Forge, and Thorondir return to Dunraven’s manor to retire for the evening, the others choosing to sleep at the Silver Sunrise, they find the place in a state of chaos. Darby the sage has been murdered in his study and guards are scouring the manor.

Davin and Thorondir investigate the sage’s office and corpse while Forge chases down Avery Lorchester, who is lurking in the manor halls very suspiciously. The former find that the sage was studying scrolls pertaining to a cursed mask that Davin has asked him to unearth information about, and that in doing so his eyes were burned from their sockets and his blood was poisoned with inky blood ichor. Forge corners Avery Lorchester, who admits to being present as Darby seemed to go insane in mere minutes while reading the scrolls.

Thorondir tucks the blood soaked, nearly illegible scroll into his cloak to be examined later.

Hunt Master Creed, who has previously offered to allow the party to join him on a hunt, is prepared to depart for the Dreadwood in the morning, despite the previous evening’s events. Most of the group declines and prepares to depart with Sorril, but Thorondir’s duties compel him to join the hunt master and meet his companions at a later time.

It is only during discussion with Sorril Venir that the group realizes that the scroll Thorondir carries may be a great danger to the elf and to all of Salinmoor. They part ways with the paladin and agree to meet him in Saltmarsh, catching up with the hunting party at day’s end at the borders of the Dreadwood.

Night falls. From the forest come the terrified shrieks of a pair of Creed’s hunters, both collecting firewood, fills the night. The company scrambles to arm themselves and delve into the woods, where they find a mortally wounded hunter amidst the trees. Snarls and screeches echo around the party, and they realize they’ve walked into a goblin ambush. Short, wiry goblin snufflers and hulking, savage goblin brutes attack the heroes, who fight alongside Creed and his hunters until the goblins are defeated.

Creed hangs goblin corpses from tree branches by their feet, cutting their throats to bleed them dry as if they were wild game. His companion, a hunter named Micah, is safe thanks to Cyrus’ divine healing magic—but the second hunter, Daneen, is still missing, dragged deeper into the Dreadwood. The heroes convince Creed to pursue his lost ally, following a trail of blood and discarded belongings until it becomes clear that the second hunter has been killed by the goblins.

Long, low howls are heard, miles away but drawing closer. Folk tales and forest lore are filled with stories of the worgen: vicious, lupine beast men that mercilessly ravage intruders into the Dreadwood. The company retreats to their camp, where they sleep fitfully to the sound of distant howls.

At morning’s first light, Creed and his men are mounted upon their steeds and ready for the hunt. A half-day trek brings the party to a long, deep gully with a wide stream meandering through it. Riding upstream, the group arrives at a waterfall and the hunt master points out their quarry: a pair of unicorns.

Creed draws his bow and prepares to chase down the creatures. His command to his horse startles the unicorns, which run. Before the hunter can pursue, Thorondir has drawn his bow and aimed it at Creed. The elf refuses to allow the unicorns to be hunted.

Heated words are exchanged, during which Creed threatens to hang Thorondir from the trees much like his goblin enemies the evening previous. It is only the calming, level-headed reasoning of Greighar that prevents the two men from engaging in a battle that one of them would not emerge from alive. With the unicorns long gone, the company rides from the forest and breaks camp, returning to Flotsam.

Creed warns Thorondir that he never wishes to see the elf’s face during one of his hunts again, a menacing tone in his voice. The sentiment is returned, and the heroes part ways with Creed and his hunters—heading westward toward Flotsam.

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Session 1: Preludes
In which we meet the cast of heroes, and possibly several antagonists.

In the first installment of this campaign, we learn the backgrounds and quests of our heroes as each begins his adventuring career. All roads lead to the small port town of Flotsam, in Gaeland’s coastal Viscounty of Salinmoor.

Tobias Grigg was summoned by his master, Ophion, and accused of being disloyal to the Scarlet Society. His dedication was tested as he was told to murder his twin sister Tanith, who was bound to a torture rack. When Tobias attempted to rescue his sister by cutting her free and turning on his master, Tanith betrayed him and slipped a dagger into his ribs. “You were always weaker than me,” she whispered in his ear as she and Ophion departed to attend the chiming bells of worship hour and left the monk for dead. Tobias was rescued by a Namuan slave, Antal, who carried him from the temple and hid him in the hold of a departing cargo ship.

Forge, a Northman warrior that had been exiled from his tribe, was troubled by terrible dreams of a terrible, destructive beast. His mentor, an old seer named Yngvar, cast the bones and told Forge that he must travel to the southlands and seek out a silver owl. The owl would guide him to his destiny, where the warrior would face a terrible, serpentine creature of legend called the Leviathan. The Northman departed for the southlands at daybreak, and met a childhood friend named Raegar in a valley along the way. Raegar was been sent to hunt Forge by his own father, but allowed his former friend to escape without a fight.

Cyrus Solwick languished in a dungeon, beneath the fortress-like manor of a noble-blooded brother and sister known as the Malgrave Twins. Cyrus had temporarily disabled a destructive mechanical device that he’d unwittingly built for the Malgraves and was being held until he agreed to reactivate it. The halfling was hoping to escape and seek out his old engineering mentor, a half-elven charlatan called Gilleon, whose knowledge of mechanical devices might save the city of King’s Crossing. Cyrus managed to convince a halfling servant girl named Daffne to help him escape, slipping off into the sewers and fleeing through the city while pursued by the Malgraves’ personal guards.

Greighar Luxford had aspired his whole life to follow in his father’s footsteps as a Knight of the Watch and redeem his family name. Before his knighting ceremony, Greighar was gifted a sword called Harbinger, a heirloom once wielded by his father, by a knight named Zachariah Falcross. Zachariah was sponsor, uncle, and friend to the young paladin and had raised him since his father’s death many years prior. At the conclusion of his knighting ceremony, Greighar was swarmed by nobles – many of whom had spoken ill of his family and his name throughout the years and attempted to foil his knighting. Each sought favors and service from the newly-knighted paladin, which he declined. It was Zachariah and a Watch Commander by the name of Sinnead Feabrook that offered Greighar a truly worthy opportunity: travel to the borderlands of Gaeland in the southern coastal wilds and seek out Viscount Lorcan Dunraven in the city of Flotsam. Rumors of swelling monster numbers, disappearing fishermen, and murdered noblemen had reached the capital of Baile Anlar, and the Knights of the Watch saw fit to send Greighar as an emissary to appraise the need for their presence in the borderlands.

Before his departure, Greighar was introduced to Thorondir, an agent of the elven court that was to assist the inexperienced knight in courtly etiquette. The elf had his own business in Flotsam as well, and even a temporary partnership would be beneficial to both men as they visited hostile, untamed borderlands.

At a crossroads in northern Gaeland, Cyrus met with ill luck as hit cart hit a rut in the road and a wagon wheel broke from its axle. While the halfling repaired the damage his donkey companion, Jake, brayed in alarm. A small group of goblin snufflers – small, murderous creatures with a thirst for bloodshed – advanced upon the pair. The outnumbered halfling prepared to defend himself when a rider, Forge the Northman, charged onto the scene and rode two of the goblins down, allowing Cyrus to blast a third with radiant, holy magic. The Northman and halfling agreed to travel together to the city of Baile Anlar, acting as protector and guide, respectively.

Davin Timberway had only been in the port town of Flotsam for a few days, but it seemed that his reputation preceded him. He’d caught the attention of a shady local named Skeeves, a member of the Wharf Rats gang.

This post in progress.

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Prologue

The Kingdom of Gaeland’s history is not without its share of conflict, but over the centuries its people have persevered and grown stronger by overcoming each trial laid before them. With the crowning of a new king and peace with the elves on its horizon, the future looks bright for Gaeland—but trouble brews in the darkest corner of the kingdom, along the coastal borderlands of Salinmoor.

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