Before Moog, Baffin, and Snow left the beach, they spotted a dismal sign, a pair of boots washed ashore … Vennman’s boots. Crushed, Baffin passed out again, and the dejected group headed into the city. At the Inn of the Dirty Griffon, Snow headed straight for the bar, while Moog carried Baffin upstairs to their rooms. After depositing the sleeping bard onto a bed, the goliath joined Snow in drinking away their sorrows. Nameless, already in the same room as Baffin, attempted to converse with him, but the exhausted and grief-stricken bard pretended he was fully asleep. Mildly hurt at being ignored, the gnoll went downstairs to join Moog and Snow.
Soon a loud knock interrupted Baffin’s rest, followed by more knocking and an insistent voice asking to speak with Baffin, who was trying to ignore the visitor. After the person identified himself as Buron, a cleric and leader within the Gate Pass Resistance, the groggy Baffin reluctantly allowed him inside.
“What do you want?” snapped Baffin, who was over-tired, short-tempered, and overwhelmed by the loss of Vennman. The irritated bard slumped back onto his bed.
“I came to speak privately with you … did you find the item at the Lyceum?” eagerly inquired Buron.
Confused, the bard struggled to prop himself on his elbows and clear his mind. He muttered, “The item?”
“Yes, the item that you were supposed to find that could aid the Resistance …” offered the puzzled cleric. “Don’t you remember?”
It seemed like ancient history, but with a rush of memories, Baffin suddenly remembered. “It wasn’t there. The Lyceum was attacked and the item was stolen. It’s in the hands of Leska’s forces. She could already have it by now,” Baffin replied in a dull monotone before lying down again and rolling over.
Aghast, Buron quickly calmed himself. “What about the other item, the one you already possessed? Do you still have it?”
“Oh, we still have it. Yes, it’s safe. Don’t worry.”
“Well then … I request that you give it to me to help support the Resistance against Leska. We will need it more than ever, if she has obtained more pieces of the evil bracelet.”
“What good is one piece without the other pieces? It’s useless!” barked Baffin.
“No, it’s a start! It can help us!” countered Buron. “Please, give it to me.”
“One piece will not help you,” repeated Baffin.
“Do you have it? Who has it?” Buron asked with building frustration.
With a bit of contempt, Baffin answered, “It’s safe … and I’d rather not say who has it.” A hard edge crept into the bard’s voice as he finished speaking.
“The people of Gate Pass are suffering, and the Resistance needs …” Buron began again, but Baffin exploded, “We have suffered, too, in this search! On the journey to the Lyceum … the journey here … and it cost the life of one our companions!”
Buron paused and then spoke firmly and with compassion, “Yes, I had heard the wizard was lost. You all have my condolences.” Sensing an end to the conversation, the cleric continued, “Very well. I will ask your companions for the aid I seek, and I hope they will be more reasonable than you.” Unsatisfied, Buron exited and left the bard to rest.
The Resistance cleric, however, had no better success with Nameless, Moog, and Snow. Pressured by the necessity to leave Barabis within minutes, Buron gave up pleading his case to the party. Instead, he returned upstairs and surreptiously tried to open the door to Baffin’s room. Unsuccessful, the cleric turned to depart, but he ran into Nameless, who had wisely followed Buron and observed him trying the door. The gnoll blocked the cleric and gave a quick signal to Moog and Snow, who immediately joined them. While the goliath and shifter kept an eye on Buron, Nameless entered the room … and found Baffin was gone!
The alarmed gnoll returned, deftly grabbed Buron, and dragged him into the room, as Moog and Snow followed and watched to see if anyone noticed the scuffle. The cleric vehemently protested, but Nameless ignored him and shoved him into Moog’s vise-like arms. The gnoll started tracking Baffin’s scent … not difficult given the unwashed and fragrant state of the notoriously sloppy bard. Soon, the gnoll ended up in the stables and found Baffin, asleep and snoring by a pile of hay. Overjoyed, Nameless hesitated between returning to his friends with the good news or staying to watch over Baffin.
Meanwhile, Moog and Snow interrogated Buron, and the increasingly angry cleric finally had enough and seared Moog with divine energy to break the goliath’s grasp. Buron warned Moog and Snow against touching him again, and frustrated and simmering, the cleric left to join his men and depart Barabis. Just as the goliath and shifter went after Buron, Nameless returned and shared that he had found Baffin, who still had the evil relic. So the three adventurers decided to let Buron go.
Snow made sure Buron and his men indeed left, before she returned to her station at the bar. Moog joined her, and the two veteran drinkers resumed their training. Nameless went back to the stables to keep watch over Baffin. Earlier, the bard had confirmed to Nameless that the piece of Lolth’s Bracelet was still in his possession and that he had crawled out of the room so he could avoid Buron and rest without being bothered.
Unfortunately for the physically and emotionally exhausted Baffin, his plan to sleep the day away was ruined by the appearance of Snow, Moog, and a desperate farmer whose three children had gone missing. Clearly grumpy, the bard inquired of the farmer, “Do you have any spares?” before he grudgingly agreed to join his comrades in searching for the lost children. Baffin only joined the search because everyone else was willing to help; inside, he felt empty and adrift one moment, then sullen and resentful the next.
The farmer led the party to an abandoned house, which used to be an orphanage and now had the reputation of being haunted. People generally avoided the place. His children, however, had gone to explore it, as children do, and they had not yet returned home. Perhaps they were emboldened by the fact that a family had recently bought the house and were moving in today. Sure enough, a wagon sat outside the dilapidated structure, but no one was around. The wagon contained furniture, plates, utensils, jugs of wine, etc., and it obviously belonged to a family moving to a new place. Without breaking stride, a silent and gloomy Baffin walked up to the wagon, took a jug of wine, and hefted it to his greedy mouth, before rummaging inside the wagon for food. Coming away with a loaf of bread and the wine, the bard brought up the rear as the party entered the house.
In a harrowing search of the house, the party confronted a possessed woman, the mother of the family, and an enraged zombie, the woman’s unlucky husband. Before realizing the woman’s altered state of mind, Baffin grew impatient with her and the mission in general. In the kitchen, he frantically searched an empty cupboard, where she said her son had supposedly hidden, and then in a frenzy, he searched the oven, which held the aroma of fresh baked bread but was also empty. Baffin eventually began threatening the woman unintentionally as he rushed about madly, occasionally clutching and yelling at her, especially after she brought them to the dining room and tricked them into eating a rotten and moldy feast.
Soon more ghosts and visions hampered and aided their investigation, which led them to the basement, where rocks had been piled over the door to the cellar. Despite the scrawled warnings “Don’t move the rocks!” and the burnt and shattered remains of a past group of adventurers strewn around the basement floor, the party pushed aside the rocks and descended a ladder down into the cellar. At the bottom, they found themselves in a natural cavern with walls lined by wooden shelves holding piles of bones, the small skeletons of children.
One adult skeleton lay on the cavern floor, and four children wimpered and hid in the cavern corners. Suddenly, Moog and Baffin began conversing with each other, but speaking as if possessed by ghosts. Within Moog, the spirit of a little girl argued with the spirit of an old woman possessing Baffin, and the cellar door fell closed. Realizing the little girl had tricked her and trapped her in the cellar, the old woman lashed out and attacked the party through Baffin’s body. The hidden children grew silent and attacked the party, too.
The little girl’s spirit did nothing further to hinder or help the party, and although Baffin managed to purge the old woman’s spirit from his body, the deranged ghost took possession of other members of the party and continued to force friend to fight against friend. Snow burned the adult skeleton with the divine power of the Raven Queen, and the old woman’s ghost screamed in agony. Everyone quickly worked to destroy the woman’s bones, while also defending themselves from her and the possessed children.
At the destruction of her bones, the ghost wailed with despair and faded from existence, and the cellar door flew open. “Quickly!” shouted the spirit of the little girl, though only Moog could hear her. “Finish it! End the curse and banish her evil spirit forever! Or else she will return! You have one chance!”
Moog, shaken by the visions and being possessed, nervously attempted to exile the old woman’s ghost, and the goliath put forth his best effort. Exorcism, however, was neither part of his training nor his natural strength. “You have failed,” the girl mournfully intoned. “Leave now and do not let any return. Leave us to our doom.”
Needing no additional encouragement, the party grabbed the four real children and scrambled up the ladder. In the basement, they immediately slammed the cellar door shut, piled rocks over it, and ran out of the house. Outside, the three children were re-united with their father, the farmer, and the other child was re-united with his mother, who was no longer possessed. Moog suggested burning the house to the ground, and everyone readily agreed. With the haunted house ablaze in flames, the party thoughtfully walked back to the inn.
Epilogue (by Leland)
When you arrive back at the inn from your adventure at the orphanage, you find that Malachi and the royals there waiting for you with news—Torrent left to catch up to Buron, leaving the party. You look around for the girl, wondering if Torrent took her also. Just then, a little voice peeps up beside Nameless as a small hand slips into his hairy paw, “I am part of your pack now?”
To be continued next session …