The Fallen Lands: The Ruins of Numinis

5.6: Endings

The party went to rescue Mortimer. Entered some caves. Fought some monsters, then fought more monsters right away.

Rocks didn’t fall, but everyone died anyway. TPK. Nothing more to write. No one left to write it.

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5.5
Dogs in the Courtyard

While they discussed what to do next, Malidar, Rhio, Rangrim, and Ginni all smelled a nasty scent of burning blood. The bodies of the dead prostitutes began to writhe and bubble with some arcane presence. One of the bodies burst open and large dog-like paws began reaching out.

The party gathered the remaining girls from Madame Smoothbottom’s and hustled them out of the building. Then they returned and Rhio, Malidar, and Rangrim slew the hounds as they were being born. Far in the distance, they heard a hellish howling on the wind. Ginni shuddered.

When that messy work was done, the party took the girls to a nearby hospital. The hospital was crowded with refugees, so Ginni tucked Rangrim’s cloak under her dress and faked that she was going into labor. They bypassed the refugees, slipping several gold into the hospitaller’s hands when they handed over the real patients— the six Smoothbottom girls. The party also left the girls with enough gold to get by for a week or so, and a contact among the less seedy of the underworld who might take care of them.

As they left the hospital and were working their way through the streets, the party heard howling hounds. Suddenly, a familiar (and very dead) tiefling, two hounds, and two soldiers arrived, tracking them down. Spotting the party, the tiefling nodded with satisfaction and the hounds howled, disorienting Malidar and Rangrim. The fight was on!

Need it be said that, after a very close fight, with Rangrim actually succumbing to his wounds for a brief moment, the party was victorious? Very well: they won the fight.

In the morning, they left town quickly and on horseback, taking the supplies Rangrim identified as necessary to surviving a mountain journey in winter. The plan is to head first to Hesperus to check on Mortimer, then onward to either the dwarven mountsins, or possibly a shortcut through the Shadowfell.

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5.4
All the Single Ladies

The party beat cheeks out of Farmington, breezing through Az and resting for the night at the Mangy Gnoll. They compared notes about the activities in Farmington, with Ginni telling them only that she’d been unsuccessful in stopping the ritual to raise Gruumsh.

In the morning, they brought Eliza Jax with them as they headed onward to Duran. The town was overrun with refugees from all walks of life, teeming around the gates and walls, pressed together, sometimes bickering, but many… just broken.

Eventually paying the 100 gp “visa fee” (plus a tip!) to get into the city, they parted ways for now with Eliza and met up with Jovan and Willow.

After much discussion, they decided to go see how Madame Smoothbottom was doing, and try to convince her to leave the city. Rhio and Rangrim met up with a connection Rhio knew from Duran’s underworld, who gave them directions and swapped important information. Ginni and Malidar joined them a few minutes later just before they headed into the crowded city.

What they found was not good. The madame had, after being disgraced and abandoned by Rangrim, fallen onto very hard times and even harder company. Her girls had been murdered, raped, and expelled. She herself had become a bitter husk of her former self, cold and heartless towards Rangrim and the others, until she summoned her girls to attack.

What was startling in the fierce fight was not how effective the prostitutes were, but how twisted and degenerate they had become. As if the very magic they had found warping Farmington had also warped the girls. After a fierce fight, they defeated four of the girls, with a fifth— who revealed herself to be Sethus, though oddly changed as well— fleeing with Madame Smoothbottom.

Rangrim led the party upstairs, where they ran into some of the less fortunate creatures who had once been Madame Smoothbottom’s doxies. She gave them information about the Brotherhood— they’re in league with the tieflings and will certainly open the gates when the army comes— and begged them to kill her and spare her from the life she’s living.

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5.3
Fire and Brimstone

The party spent some time observing the activities in the Well of Blood and the adjacent warehouse. After much discussion, they determined that they could no longer wait to act. Despite their exhaustion and wounds, they needed to do something to disrupt the ritual around Gruumsh’s body.

They spent some time discussing their options, and in the end, decided on a course of action that had a slight chance of making a difference, though it was fraught with peril.

Malidar, Rangrim, and Rhio would sneak into the more flammable parts of the city and light it on fire, setting as much of the city aflame surrounding the Well as they could. The distraction and destruction would, hopefully, disrupt the army’s future plans. They faced dangers of being caught by stray patrols of monsters, or becoming trapped by the very flames they had set.

Ginni, meanwhile, would sneak into the warehouse and interrupt the ritual. She risked not just failure, but the high possibility of being caught or identified by Asteroth, the lead tiefling arcanist. If he spotted her, if he knew who she was, there would be no chance of escape, and death was a near certainty.

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5.2
Motherly Love

The party, including Armeo the Seeker, moved through the sewers into another cross-tunnel. Ginni and Armeo felt the presence of magic, and Ginni could tell it was residual energy from the blood rage. Ahead, Blinky alerted them to a larger monstroid, carrying a fullblade, to the left, and they moved in. Before they could close, however, a pair of smaller creatures and one much bigger monster appeared from the right. The party fought all four— the fullblade-weilding creature flanked by Rhio and Malidar had a way of manipulating that blood rage energy, and he clouded Malidar’s mind and his aim. Unseeing, the warlord struck Ginni, who wisely moved back.

Meanwhile the larger beast and its much smaller friends— all degenerate forms of humans— fought Armeo and Rangrim fiercely, nearly slaying Rangrim in the fight. Malidar called out to his friend, however, and he rallied.

Ultimately, panting and bleeding, the party finished the fight and reconvened to, once again, share their healing reserves and bolster each other.

As they approached the area near the vault, Ginni once again felt the keen energy of the blood rage— and more, the party recognized the stonework in the sewers as matching that near the courtyard now called “the Well of Blood.” Blinky moved ahead, this time identifying some smaller creatures that were fussing over the corpses in the muck and mire down below.

The party moved up and opened fire on the corpse-babies, belatedly realizing that the babies had a mother lurking in the shadows behind them. The Death-Mother stepped out from the shadows, the gaping maw of her womb spitting forth a corpse that rose up to attack.

The fight was brutal and long. Ginni summoned a whirlwind of power and focused her efforts on pushing both enemy and ally around the battlefield for best position. Every time the Death-Mother moved or found advantageous ground, Ginni shoved her somewhere less helpful, or pushed a friend up to strike. When she had a little space to cast, the Death-Mother summoned a burst of power that left the party’s ears ringing and their minds dazed and fogged— and knocked Blinky out entirely. Unlucky Armeo, brave and forceful, had closed to fight her, but instead was struck, grappled by her unnatural umbilicus, and forced to fight his own allies on her behalf.

Finally, Malidar gave a rousing shout to him, and he shook off the Death-Mother’s effects. Enraged, he fought harder yet. When the Death-Mother finally fell, wherever her blood rained down, corpses began to rise. These, though, were quickly dispatched by the party.

As Ginni started patting down everyone, and Malidar started healing, Armeo pointed towards a tunnel to the left and said “the vault’s that way— but what’s that?” A ladder up ahead led upwards, and he climbed it. Blinky appeared over his shoulder, peering out as well, and the two of them saw a glass, smoke-filled coffin and a horde of enormous, overgrown monsters moving through the Well of Blood and into a nearby warehouse. With a shiver, the Seeker climbed back down and the party all decided that rest was the first order of business.

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5.1
A Night on the Town

The party met up with Willow (a Sentinel of Order) and were introduced to his friend Armeo, a member of the Seekers. After some discussion, they decided to infiltrate the sewers below Farmenton and help some of the citizens get out while finding ways to undermine the Sons of the Beast above. They had one last night in Az before heading out in the morning. Armeo would join them in their mission.

Crawling through the sewers, the party found a small band of degenerating humans, feasting on the flesh of dead humans and humanoids. They were led by “Pappy,” a shit-slinging evil man. None of them could be considered really human anymore, and Pappy demoralized and immobilized while his cannibalistic followers crept forward, biting and slashing at what they thought might be “meat.”

Captured, Pappy warned them the “beware the worm” before Rhio slit his throat.

Further down in the tunnels, there was indeed a “worm,” a giant carrion crawler with lashing tentacles that struck and pulled its victims towards it. Ginni tried pushing and pulling it around, but mobility, with its great reach, was in short supply. Eventually, the party surrounded the vile beast and thrashed it until Rhio struck a fatal blow. In its death throes, it sprayed them all with a sickly orange-yellow ichor. Ginni quickly patted them all down with her cleanliness spell, then spent a few minutes with each of her companions, bolstering Malidar’s flagging energies.

And then, it was time to move on.

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4.7
And Knowing is Half the Battle

Four days outside Tower Rock, the party realized they were going to reach the leaders of the Sons of the Beast the next day. Rangrim lobbied to strike now, before they reach the leaders, but Malidar pointed out that they still hadn’t achieved their mission of gaining any useful information.

That night, as Ginni sat idly on watch, Rusalka the tiefling approached her. Claiming not to be able to sleep, he mentioned that she’d caught his attention with the way she’d participated so whole-heartedly in the blood ritual a few days before, and that he could sense that the she’d been “touched by the darkness.” Ginni confirmed that she has some arcane skills, and asked about advancement opportunities. Rusalka revealed that there was, in fact, an arcane ritual coming up to raise Gruumsh, whose body was found under a goblin king’s grave, using bottles of smoke. The tiefling arcanist in charge of that ritual is Astoreth. And the blood rage ritual is something the tieflings did not bring, but which the orcish races are able to feed with their primitiveness. Ginni nodded and continued some small talk about the plans before being relieved of her duties.

She woke Malidar stealthily and gave him a quick run-down. Then Rhio and Rangrim were woken up and Rangrim told the guard on watch to go check out something he heard “over there.” Ginni sent Blinky out to cast Ghost Sound, and the hobgoblin went to check it.

When he reached Blinky, he yelled “what the hell is that?!?” waking up more orcs. Rusalka approached to talk to Rangrim, they argued, and Blinky popped up behind the hobgoblin, in flank position. Rhio moved up silently behind Rusalka.

Taking their moment of surprise, the party attacked without hesitation or remorse. As orcs and hobgoblins fell beneath Rangrim and Rhio’s weapons, their blood sprayed out in a fine mist, covering them all. When Rusalka died under Malidar’s tratnyr, his body burned off into ash, and a twisted black thing with two burning eyes glared balefully at them, memorizing them before darting off towards the hells it calls home.

The fight over, the party moved off a ways and set up their private campsite. Ginni cast the ritual to transform them back into their natural forms, and they resolved to return to Az and make their report to Jovan.

Malidar made a stirring speech and the party performed a ceremonial ritual to become blood brothers.

They headed to Tower Rock in the morning, meeting a group that included the wardens on the way. They discussed events, told the wardens about the leaders, and bought horses in Tower Rock to make it back to Az more quickly.

The party rode hard for 8 or 9 days, past the ruin of Farmenton, and reached Az. They met Eliza and Jovan there and told Jovan everything.

Meta: They leveled up.

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4.6
Bad Blood

After the blood ritual slaying the Wardens, the tiefling brought the camp together, gave a rousing speech, and exhorted them all to drink the bottled blood of their victims. Ginni worked illusion spells to help her companions bluff their way through the ritual, but only Malidar escaped tainting his soul with it. Rangrim, Ginni, and Rhio all drank, and Rangrim had to save Ginni from inadvertently becoming the camp whore.

A few days later, they arrived at Tower Rock, where the Wardens had obviously warned the town. Fired on by arrows, the orcs retreated and decided to make their way around. Rangrim was promoted to squad leader, and the party pressed on towards their assigned role as honor guard for the Sons of the Beast leaders.

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4.5
Frenemies

After discussing Ginni’s visions with the party, Malidar, Rangrim, Rhio, and Ginni returned to what would soon be named the “Well of Blood,” the market square in Farmington. The Sons were mustering again, this time to find volunteers to either go out to Tower Rock and find more conscripts, head out to more distant cities, or go out into the desert to retrieve the leaders who were waiting there. Malidar volunteered the party for this third task, and they joined some two dozen other troops, including the contingent heading towards Tower Rock. They met briefly with Daniel Solis to relay their knowledge and asked him to forewarn any innocents on the way. They also sent word to the Keeper temple to warn Mortimer about the potential fallout, and to beware of enemies within as well as without.

A week out, scouts alerted the tiefling leader to a large squad of Road Wardens heading their way. The force was divided, with Malidar’s team and four other Sons cutting off the vanguard, and the rear guard demolishing the rest of the train.

After some discussion, the party determined to try not to kill the Wardens, but maintaining their cover was more important than sparing all the Wardens’ lives. During the battle, Rhio lashed out angrily at one of the Wardens, both Malidar and Rangrim pulled their punches, and Ginni restricted herself to trying to inform the Wardens about their unknown allies and tricking the goblin blackblade into back-stabbing his kobold friend. The two squabbled and, eventually, both were cut down.

With all four of the Sons defeated and the remaining Sons army rushing up, Malidar quickly loaded the only unconscious Warden onto their leaders’ saddle and gave her a message. “Beware the orcs— all the monstrous humanoids are not to be trusted. They’re raising an army. Now— GO!” Confused, she fled with her companions.

The Sons arrived, hauling the remaining Wardens, bound, and the tiefling demanded to know why the party hadn’t slaughtered the vanguard. The former hobgoblin leader was blamed and his body ravaged by furious orcs. The Sons then participated in another blood rage ritual, destroying the captured Wardens. Shielding herself from the ritual, Ginni stepped back into a bush, the roars of rage and mayhem drowning out the sound of her being rather abruptly sick. Rangrim noted her absence and quietly took up a position, shielding her from the view of the other soldiers.

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4.4
A Dark Night

Fresh from their confrontation with Sethus, the adventurers mustered with the rest of the Sons of the Beast, where they were ordered to oust the Bloodied Hand gang members from the nearby tenement buildings, capture them, and bring them to the town square.

They assaulted one level of a building, capturing and killing several of the gang members. Upstairs, they took down several more of the gang members, capturing the leader of that crew and bringing her and several of her allies to the town square. The leader spilled some interesting information about the Sons and their tiefling masters, all of which Malidar noted for later.

As they headed back to the town square, Ginni shared with Malidar a concern— “not to put too fine a point on it, but… there are fates worse than death. Should we…” she gestured fatalistically towards the prisoners, who, either way, were not going to survive the night. He shook his head. Whatever the gang members’ fate, it wasn’t their hands doing the bloodletting, here.

When they arrived, the rest of the Sons were being rallied for blood. The drumbeats, the chants and cries of bloodshed filled the heroes’ ears, stirring their emotions, bringing them to a blood fury themselves. Ginni felt it deep in her bones— a ritual of blood magic, and powerful, too. She gathered her companions together, using her audible cantrip to whisper sweet lies and half-truths about warm homes and quiet wintery nights, soft comforts, smiling women…. a counterpoint to the rage and blood and anger that had nearly swept them up. Each of them dealt with the ritual’s effects in his own way, rallying with thoughts of heroism over weakness, or even a simple remembrance “I am a dwarf and the son of a long line of dwarves who are better than these.”

As they shielded their hearts and minds from the ritual, one of the Sons’ leaders called out and, slitting the throat of the leader of the Bloodied Hand, captured his lifesblood in a twisted bottle not unlike the one Rangrim carried. This one, however, was empty of smoke. The Sons then slaughtered their captives, tearing them to pieces with fist and claw and fang, reveling in the bloodshed, drinking their enemies’ lives, destroying them utterly so that the gutters overflowed with blood and raw, torn flesh.

Finally, exhausted, the companions slipped away into the night, finding sanctuary on a rooftop, where they deployed their campsite. Unable to sleep, they sat up for long hours, recounting their own visceral reactions to the ritual, the feelings the night had recalled to them, the times in their pasts when they had encountered their own rages before. Eventually, they set a watch order and took to their bedrolls and their rest.

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