Ptolus: Blood in the Streets

Session 18: The Mandressa

In the morning, the adventurers visited the Matriarch and shared their misgivings about Baffin’s and Snow’s visions and the two bodies the party discovered. The Matriarch’s son was present, and the conversation so upset him that the audience was cut short. Baffin was certainly glad that the party had not shared Ophelia’s vision with the Matriarch.

Back at the Inn for lunch, Baffin finally had enough of Snow’s high-handed morality and hypocrisy. The shifter made a superficial judgment about him beginning with that first adventure in the Necropolis, believing him to be nothing but a common thief. Then she broke her own morals to steal from Baffin, but still held the bard’s actions against him. Perhaps her morals were broken by that promise to serve Phaetos in direct conflict with her oath to the Raven Queen. Baffin at least claimed no high morality. His motto: live and let live, but protect the innocent and weak from evil.

“Snow, I don’t appreciate being accused of stealing from the party. I have NEVER stolen from anyone in the party,” began Baffin.

“What were you doing with my pack that one time?” Snow retorted.

“I was merely trying to help. I saw a loose opening and thought something might fall out,” bluffed the bard.

“I don’t think so. What about when you tried to take Moog’s gold at the bar?” accused Snow.

“He was drinking himself to ruin and wasting all his gold. I was trying to save him from going broke! He was giving away his sword for more booze! What would have happened when he needed to fight?!”

“You were trying to steal something from my pack!”

“No. I. Was. Not! I do not steal from the party! Yes, I am naturally curious, but I was trying to help you!”

“Well, I don’t want your help!”

“Fine! I won’t ever help you again!”

“Fine!”

Baffin was enraged by Snow rendering her verdict that he stole from the party, all based on a single incident of examining her pack. That was a serious accusation! If she didn’t want his help, Baffin would be happy to oblige. In fact, the angry bard decided he would not help Snow until she apologized to him for calling him a thief within the party.

The acrimonious argument led Ophelia and Vennman to obtain two keys to room “L” so that Baffin and Snow could work out their … differences … in private that evening. “Room L, at the end of the hall,” Vennman clearly enunciated several times. Baffin, not taking any chances, snatched both keys for himself.

The bard felt injured by the shifter’s suspicion toward him. What about all the mending and care he provided? The healing potions he gave to her, at his expense no less? In return, harsh judgment and mocking insults under her breath about his weight. Yes, he liked the gastronomic delights and a pocket full of gold, but only his friends had any right, if any, to tease him about his vices. She should judge Baffin based on ALL his actions and treat him like a complete person, not obsess about a single incident that she chose to interpret as malicious. And she should get a sense of humor aside from simply insulting him.

Why was she so judgmental and aloof from Baffin? Moog shared Baffin’s love of desserts – treats from Tavoh’s bakery could not happen soon enough – and he protected Baffin in a fight by keeping foes off the bard’s back. Vennman, barely able to survive the hazard of the lava lake, still tried his best to help Baffin make it to the other side. Nameless, like Baffin, relished gold and the finest meats — though perhaps a bit on the rare side for the bard — and of course, Nameless had basically sacrificed himself to protect Baffin a few nights ago.

Speaking of Nameless, the gnoll was still occupied in the back room with a bloody and tasty (to him) carcass, but the rest of the party had finished lunch and were ready to leave to follow Ophelia’s vision. Baffin gave the innkeep a few gold to make sure the gnoll, probably still recuperating from his recent death and resurrection, had a steady supply of fresh meat for the day.

Ophelia’s vision focused on a tower, common in the southern part of Suthegeard, so the party was taking a guided tour of that part of the city. They had the same guide as yesterday, and he informed the party that the towers were actually Suthegeard’s temples. He was, however, reluctant to speak more about the temples and the religious practices of the marsh elves. The guide also recommended they eat dinner at the Slimy Eel, known for its marsh specialties.

After identifying two likely towers within a set of five towers, Baffin and Ophelia decided to investigate further while everyone else went to check out the Slimy Eel. Mimicking those entering the temples, Baffin and Ophelia found one tower had a fountain in the center with a statue of a female marsh elf standing in the fountain and holding a spear in each hand. Males and females prayed silently in separate sections of the temple. Wracking his brain, Baffin was unable to decipher any indication of the temple’s religious domain.

Opposite the entrance and on the other side of the temple, the two adventurers spied a dark doorway. Upon leaving, the real worshippers dropped a few coins into pots set on the floor along the walls. Aghast at his ill luck, Baffin grudgingly dropped 1 GP into a pot on his way out.

At the other tower, Baffin and Ophelia entered and … had to disrobe completely to follow the customs of the temple. The bard was none too shy and quickly undressed. But he hesitated when he saw the naked worshippers holding coins in each of their hands, probably for the pots scattered around the perimeter of the temple. Silently cursing, he retrieved two gold coins from his belongings.

The worshippers stared upward at nude statues of two marsh elves, one male and one female, near the back of the temple. Baffin later learned from Ophelia that behind the statues was a door and stairway, but at the time, the bard was trying not to stare at a particularly attractive female supplicant. Unable to learn more about the marsh elf religion or the temple, the two adventurers departed. Twice cursed by his ill luck, Baffin dutifully dropped 1 GP from each hand into different pots on his way out.

Later at the Slimy Eel, the party enjoyed a stupendous feast of live marsh eels in spicy yellow sauce, whole blackened frogs on skewers, and buttery crab biscuits … all on the house on the occasion of their first visit to the establishment. Baffin was in heaven! Excellent food, free food! After dinner, the bard joined another musician to play a duet, and some of the patrons tossed a few coppers and silvers his way. Suddenly, the attractive woman from the temple appeared in the crowd and gave Baffin a smile, and the delighted bard winked back.

Finally, seeing the signal from Ophelia to head out, Baffin finished the song, thanked his fellow lute player, and ordered a round of drinks for the house. While handing the bartender some gold, the bard heaved a sigh of contentment. After the brutal battles with the Ragesians and subsequent harrowing flight into the fire forest, Suthegeard was rapidly growing on him.

Once outside the restaurant, the party quickly made their way back to the two towers investigated by Ophelia and Baffin. Immediatlely, Ophelia recognized that the second tower, with the nude statues, was the one in her dream. Upon nearing the tower, however, she realized her vision was leading her past its location and across a small waterway. There, the party found a small ruined building with the word “WAIT” recently burned into the front door. After a brief check of the area, everyone hid themselves behind some old crates and boxes, except for Snow, who climbed the house to hide on the roof.

After almost three hours, a male figure cautiously approached the house, and he held the hands of a young girl walking by his side. She was blind-folded, and her hands were tied together. As the man came closer, the party recognized him as the Matriarch’s son! A dagger hung from his belt.

It was too much for Baffin. The bard attacked and demanded the man surrender, but the surprised marsh elf pushed his captive into the water and then ran away. Moog immediately jumped into the water to save the girl, while the rest of the party chased the fleeing elf.

After the Matriarch’s son dove into the water and swam for the south gate, the pursuit led outside the city. Snow and Ophelia boarded a small raft to close on him, while Baffin and Vennman ran along a short dock just outside the city wall. The party caught up with the elf just as he surfaced from the marsh and turned toward them. Shockingly, the young man’s features began to melt and transform to reveal a disgusting marsh hag! It was actually a water witch!

The witch blasted the party with a thunderous wave of water, capsizing the raft, flinging Snow and Ophelia into the water, and dazing Snow, Ophelia, and Baffin. For most of the fight, Baffin remained dazed, and Ophelia struggled to swim to the safety of the dock. Vennman battled the witch successfully on his own, before Snow was able to recover and join the fray. Moog, after saving the girl and taking her all the way back to the temple, burst onto the scene by crashing onto the witch with a running broad jump. The evil hag quickly regained the upper hand, and soon Moog and Vennman were unconscious and dying. Snow and Baffin sporadically lashed the witch with ranged attacks, and finally, Ophelia – with some rope and magical inspiration from Baffin – climbed onto the dock and blasted the witch with arcane energy.

Just as the party was gaining the upper hand, the Matriarch and her escorts showed up. “Don’t kill my son!” pleaded the Matriarch. “Please, I beg you! It’s not his fault! He’s possessed!”

“Your son has nearly killed two of my friends!” roared Baffin.

“It’s not his fault! It’s the Mandressa! Please, don’t kill him!” implored the Matriarch.

Deeply troubled, Baffin struck the witch a final time, knocking her unconscious, rather than killing her. Her prone body floated to the water’s surface and transformed back into the form of the young man, the Matriarch’s son. Quickly, Baffin stripped off his armor and equipment, and shouting for Ophelia to hold the end of the rope, he jumped into the water to recover and resuscitate Moog. Meanwhile, Snow brought Vennman back to the safety of the dock to revive him.

“Thank you for saving my son,” spoke the Matriarch softly. “I know I have a lot to explain, and tomorrow if you will meet with me, I will explain then. But right now, I want to get my son back home.”

“You might be able to explain the matter to us,” responded Baffin, “But you have some explaining to do to your citizens. They trust you as their ruler. Instead, you’ve deceived them to protect your son, rather than protecting them.”

“I know. I will make it right with them. Please, meet with me tomorrow, and we can discuss this matter further.”

Disconcerted, wounded, and tired, the party agreed. The Matriarch and her escorts took her son into their care, and everyone rode ferries back into the heart of the city. The five adventurers returned to the Inn.

Feeling unsatisfied by being put off by the Matriarch and her failure to protect her citizens from her son, Baffin glumly let himself into Room L. He fleetingly thought of the young woman from the temple and the Eel, but he knew he would be poor company that night. Softly, the bard tuned his lute and played Bergond of the Seven Seas, a slow mournful tune. (Behr’-gond)

Bergond was young and strong, a hero of the day.
So he sought those to slay, for he would be champion of the age.

And so Bergond sailed the seven seas …

Entered the dark forest, with his mighty bow,
Bergond slew the ogre, and aye, he was praised.
Bergond was young and strong, a hero of the day.

And so Bergond sailed the seven seas …

Stormed the stone castle, with his crushing axe,
Bergond slew the witch king, and aye, he was praised.
Bergond was young and strong, a hero of the day.

And so Bergond sailed the seven seas …

Climbed the high mountain, with his piercing sword,
Bergond slew the dragon, and aye, he was praised.
Bergond was young and strong, a hero of the day.

And so Bergond sailed the seven seas …

Bergond was young and strong, a hero of the day.
But he found none to slay, for he was the champion of the age.

And so Bergond sailed the seven seas …

And so Bergond sailed the seven seas …

And so Bergond sailed the seven seas …

Sailed the seven seas, with his trusty ship,
Bergond found none to slay, and aye, he was missed.
Bergond was young and strong, a hero of the day.

And so Bergond sailed the seven seas …

Sailed the seven seas, with his trusty ship,
Bergond grew stiff with age, and aye, he was mourned.
Bergond was old and weak, hero of yesterday.

And so Bergond sailed the seven seas …

And so Bergond sailed the seven seas …

And so Bergond sailed the seven seas …

Then heroes young and strong, the heroes of the day,
They sought Bergond to slay, pressing for the start of a new age.

Bergond was old and weak, hero of yesterday.
Yet he held them at bay, for he was still champion of the age.

The heroes young and strong, the heroes of the day,
They fought him night and day, crying for history’s newest page.

Bergond though old and weak, hero of yesterday,
He killed those of the day, for he was still champion of the age.

And lo, Bergond was despised and loathed …

And lo, Bergond was despised and loathed …

And lo, Bergond was despised and loathed …

What did his life now mean? And, aye, he grieved.
What did his life now mean? Aye, he grieved.

Bergond now old and weak, no hero of the day.
No longer is he praised, for he is unwanted in this age.

And so Bergond sails the seven seas …

And so Bergond sails the seven seas …

And so Bergond sails the seven seas …

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