Chaos Rains, Chapter 5: The Tall Man

Session 5: The Tall Man

The party woke, and set off back to Kamun Host. The necromancer thanked them for their service in eliminating the porcs, and then admitted he had realised he didn’t have much in the way of supplies to give them in return, but that if they ever needed a friend on the Isle of Thorn, they could call on him; he owed them one.

The intrepid travellers made their way back to Sheoville, and reconvened with Harry Lyndon; he paid them for the bounty, and then they spoke of how they could take steps to rescue Trout Rockefeller, the kidnapped dwarf, from Cragmaw Castle. After this, he told them of a spot of trouble he had to deal with last night; a very small man got very, very drunk, and then started ranting about strange political theories in the centre of town, eventually passing out in the town square; Harry gave him board in the cells downstairs, along with Blinky. Harry believed him to be an adventuring type, so said they could go and speak to him if they liked. He claimed his name was Ligotti Behrn.

And so they were introduced to their new adventuring partner, the halfling rogue, Ligotti. The small man was well-dressed but disheveled, and still appeared to be slightly drunk.

“Wake up, little one,” said Samp. “You have no need to fear us. Are you an adventurer?”

“What was your question?” said Ligotti.

“I said, are you an adventurer? Wipe your bleary eyes.”

“Oh. Yeah, kind of.”

Ligotti spoke in strange riddles from time to time, showing an impossible knowledge of their meeting with Kamun Host. He spoke about the complexities of the Thornish accent, and accused the party of being possible practitioners of the dark arts.

“So, what is your name?” said Samp.

“Ligotti, but call me Lego.”

Ligotti seemed cautious of Makoto, and asked Finch what the automaton beside him was, gesturing to Samp.

“He is a person, he’s just a freak,” said Finch. “Have you ever seen a man so tall?”

“I am… a paladin,” said Samp. “I am flesh and blood.”

This continued in this fashion for some time, until they eventually got tired with Ligotti’s fabrications of his lineage (he claimed to be half-porc). They allowed him to go with, and said that he could receive an equal share of the profits for any job they may complete, despite his erratic behaviour.

Before going to speak again to Harry, Finch tried to coerce Blinky, who was staying in the adjacent cell, into doing another backflip.

“I’m not doing a backflip.”

“You haven’t done one in ages. Do it!”

“I don’t want to.”

“Do your fucking backflip, or you’re dead.”

Blinky, with no other choice, did a backflip. He again hurt his coccyx.

“Ow! Why do you keep making me do a backflip?”

“Because it brightens my day. Anyway, you’re coming with us to the castle when we go.”

“I’d prefer that to this.”

The party split; Finch went to speak to Harry, and the others went to see Sister Hitomi.

Harry told Finch something he had forgotten: that another adventurer had recently entered town, a rough-looking fellow by the name of Brendan Brazier, who may have been a tracker, or a ranger of some descript. Finch said he’d track him down at the Sleeping Giant.

Harry offered to come with, but also said he may be better staying here, particularly to keep an eye on Halia. Finch agreed, saying that he’d spoken to Darran Eldermath about her. Harry said that there would be an election before long, and that they would have to keep an eye on her until then, what with her planning on running for the townmaster position. Finch asked if there had been any news about Happyslap, but Harry had heard nothing yet; he had, however, asked LARP members to keep an eye and ear out for the rogue wizard, as well as having called for LARP soldiers to come and garrison the town so that something like this would not happen again. Finch told him not to worry if he heard rumours about zombies near Old Owl Well, that it was “just a necromancer.” Harry seemed concerned, but seemed to take Finch’s word on it. They adjourned, and Harry wished him luck with any further developments regarding Trout.

Meanwhile, in the temple, Samp, Makoto and Ligotti spoke to Sister Hitomi. Samp noticed that she didn’t seem to engage Makoto in conversation. He told her of their success summoning the banshee, and he told her what they discovered, despite it not being the most firm lead: that Agatha the banshee had sold the Spellbook of Bojarack some hundred years ago to a necromancer in Joi See city. He also told her that a nearby necromancer wasn’t connected to this situation. Hitomi was surprised to hear about a necromancer in the area.

Finch walked in at this point, and Ligotti spoke about how much he loved Joi See. Hitomi explained to the party who she represented: a group known as the Sparrows, a group of wood elves from Lunare who travel across the world, finding and eliminating evil, and doing good. Finch asked if Makoto was a part of this group too, but he said nothing other than he’d speak to Finch about it later. Hitomi said that if they ever need to contact the Sparrows, there are groups of them in most major areas in the world. Finch told Hitomi the location of the necromancer, which she thanked him for, and said she’d send people there soon. Finch then realised telling her the location might not have been the best decision. Samp seemed not altogether satisfied with her and her associates’ trustworthiness. Hitomi gave them the supplies she promised, and they left.

They headed over towards the Sleeping Giant, to speak to the alleged ranger, Brendan Brazier. As they walked, Finch and Makoto spotted something, someone: across the street, near Barthen’s, stood a tall, thin, incredibly pale man, wearing a black coat and bowler hat; he was staring directly at them. The sight of him chilled them, tugged at some part of them unknowable; even Finch and his legendary resolve (an old war buddy once joked that he could “stare down a hellhound”) were shaken somehow by this stare. Makoto and Finch looked at each other, and then back at the man. He was still there. They started walking after him, and he started walking away, down one of the town’s streets, at a fast pace. Finch and Makoto started running after him, but as they turned the corner, the man was gone.

“I don’t know what that was, Makoto, but I didn’t like it,” said Finch.

“Me neither. He appeared almost inhuman,” said Makoto.

“Who do you speak of?” said Samp.

“It was a man — he was tall, slender,” said Finch. “He didn’t feel right, Samp.”

“I’ve lived in Joi See all my life and I’ve never seen no bowler hats,” said Ligotti, again bizarrely visionary in his knowledge. “So don’t worry, guys.”

They continued on to the Sleeping Giant. Inside, it was fairly dark, somewhat damp. A gruff dwarven barmaid cleaned mugs, and in one corner, sitting along, smoking a pipe, was a man with mud on his face, his leather armour, and in his hair. One side of his face was scarred with what looked like poison burns. On the table in front of him him sat a falcon.

“What a fuckin’ dump,” said Ligotti, drawing a stare from the barmaid.

The man in the corner waved them over.

“You must be the adventurers. I’m Brendan,” he said, in a thick Joi See accent.

“Harry told me about you,” said Finch. “Why don’t you wash your face? There’s mud all over it.”

“No need; I am one with nature.”

They spoke about Cragmaw Castle. Brendan said he could get them there. Samp wanted to know what he wanted in return, but Brendan assured him that he simply liked the adventure, and that travelling types such as themselves could always find use of a master tracker such as him. Samp showed mistrust of the fellow.

Finch got the pints in. The team discussed the plan of attack for Cragmaw Castle, Brendan laying out its location. Samp still showed little trust in the ranger, finding it strange that he wanted no reward from assisting them. Brendan said that he wouldn’t be averse to accepting a reward, just that he didn’t spend enough time in civilisation to find much use for gold. Samp resolved to keep an eye on him. They decided to set off.

Just as they were setting off, a commoner walked past Finch and muttered in his ear: “Halia wants to talk to you. By the FARM building.”

Finch quietly and quickly broke from the group; Makoto noticed, but said nothing. Ligotti played his flute. Samp believed Finch had gone back to Harry’s, so they headed there.

Finch met Halia by a field near the FARM building.

“Greetings, Finch,” she said. “Thank you for coming. I have some… dark news that I thought necessary to bring to your attention.”

“Go on,” he said.

“I’ve been in this town for a while. I saw the corruption that it fell to recently, what with Herzog and the Black Emperors, and it all happened when the LARP came into town. The Lord’s Alliance — so high and mighty, and yet everywhere they go… dark things happen. I know who you are, Andrew Finch. I know of what happened to your hometown, Mornthar, and it may interest you to know that it was Spyro Herzog himself who oversaw that region of the Feverish Woods when the attack happened. Somehow he ends up here six years later, and forms the Black Emperors — and now, Harry Lyndon arrives. I know a lot of people in this town, and many of them have told me that both Harry Lyndon and Darran Eldermath — both LARP associates — have a hand in dealing with the Black Mask. That’s all I know, other than that they have both been speaking about me. Sullying my name. I wanted to ask you — if you find out any more information regarding these matters, please let me know.”

Finch mulled it over.

“We’ll see,” he said.

He left, and journeyed over to Harry’s.

In the meantime, Ligotti played his flute as him and the other two waited for the missing Finch. Blinky danced along to the strange, somewhat prodigious music played by the halfling.

Finch entered. Samp stood up.

“Where did you go?” he said.

“You’ll find out eventually,” said Finch.

“Fine. I won’t pry.”

Finch went and spoke to Harry, the others following.

“I’ve just heard something about a group I don’t know a lot about — the Black Mask. What do you know about them?”

“Well, I don’t know many details, but they seem to have quite great numbers, considering their secrecy — and they are incredibly dangerous.”

“Do you know where they’re from?”

“I don’t know where they started, but they seem to have been making a concerted effort to spread their influence across this continent.”

“The ‘Black Mask,’ eh? Is this something we should be worried about?” said Samp.

“Certainly,” said Harry. “In fact, as Darran may have told you, there are suspicions that Halia Thornton may be the local representative of the Black Mask. Not to mention this Harrier Jet — he may be connected to them too, for all we know.”

“We’ll keep an eye out,” said Samp. “Anyway, let’s get going. Lead the way… Brendan.”

They set off. Ligotti whistled odd, circular tunes through his flute as they walked. They kept their horses with Barthen, and left Sheoville with Blinky in tow. Brendan lead them through the woods, his falcon, Filbert, flying above them. After a day’s trek, they made camp in a location near to Cragmaw; in the waning light, they could see the outline of the castle in a clearing ahead.

They woke up and smashed a fine breakfast of cooked and salted meats, freshly hunted by Brendan, and then scouted out the ruined castle — Cragmaw had indeed fallen far into disrepair, unloved by the seasons. They decided to go around to the back entrance, and aimed to approach without being spotted. Miraculously, they made it to the rear entrance with no issues, and listened at the keyhole: Finch could discern the shouting of poglins. They decided to send Ligotti in first, to scout. He lockpicked the door with expert ease, and entered. Ligotti crept through the first, darkened chamber, and checked out the door to his left: through the ajar door, he could see a ruined dining room-cum-kitchen, eight poglins in there, seven preparing food whilst the eighth one, who had a cast iron saucepan upon his head, bossed the others around.

The halfling rogue ushered the others over, who approached with their weapons drawn. Ligotti unleashed his ultimate plan: a sneak attack, a cruel arrow to the head poglin’s heart. He drew an arrow, notched it in his shortbow and let loose. He missed. Thus began the battle of Cragmaw Castle.

Samp lobbed a javelin, catching the boss in the gut. The poglins, clutching not traditional weapons but grotesque pieces of cutlery, scampered towards the invading heroes. Makoto slew one of the poglins, its head nigh exploding from the impact of the potion salesman’s morningstar, an onion falling from its hand; Makoto then parried blows from a further two of the culinary runts. Blinky looked at his friends. He wanted to prove himself, show his allegiance to those who saved him. With a look and a nod to Finch, he did what he knew he had to: a backflip. The poglin sailed through the air and landed what should have been a killing blow, but alas, his target, a poglin of his own kin, a long-lost cousin, survived the almost-lethal slash — and then, in shock, swung his scimitar at Blinky. The heroic poglin’s fragile brainpan was split in twain; his skullcap fell to floor, and so did he.

Our heroes pushed on, further into the room, avenging the death of their runt-friend, Brendan eviscerating a poglin with his shortswords as they went. The boss poglin, Yegg, engaged the halfling Ligotti in size-appropriate combat, dealing a blow to the small hero; but he had underestimated his foe, for Ligotti brought his daggers forward and skewered Yegg like the pig he was. The saucepan fell from his head, clattering to the floor. The poglins, seeing their leader dead, each suffered a nervous break, and in unison they dashed for the door, past the avenging heroes. Blinky’s death was paid in kind, with plenty of interest: but one pog made it out of that room alive, and it kept running and never looked back.

Three more poglins entered the room, firing with rudimentary shortbows. The party struck back with their ranged weapons, javelins and arrows flying across the large room. Both sides advanced, Finch striking down one of the newcomers with ease, Ligotti stabbing yet another one to the ground. The final poglin fell, and the party advanced into the rest of the castle.

Whilst investigating an upstairs bunk room, an arrow clattered from behind them; another arrow struck Samp in the back. Two more poglin archers stood nervously down the stairs. Brendan and Samp rushed down the stairs and dealt with the first one, Samp’s sword removing its head swiftly; the other one was felled equally swiftly by Makoto, who threw his spiked mace with grace, collapsing the nervous porcine archer’s face in on itself.

The party headed back the way they came, and, confronted with a dead end, Finch discovered a hidden curtain, blended into the rock. Behind this, the party discovered a lightless central chamber that looked to have once been a chapel. As they headed towards another room that lay behind velvet curtains, two monstrosities fell from the ceiling; creatures known as gricks: bizarre, beaked and snakelike, their face-tentacles unfolded and they pounced at the heroes. Although quick and powerful, the gricks were outnumbered, and our legendary heroes tore the hissing, clutching beasts to shreds.

Tired, the party took a chance on a short rest, resolving to have the rest of the castle cleared by lunch, and return the dwarf, Trout Rockefeller, to civilisation.

 

Chaos Rains, Chapter 1: A Grand Day Out

CHAOS RAINS, PART I: ECHOES UNDERGROUND

Chapter 1: A Grand Day Out

As all stories do, it started in a tavern. This tavern, the Lime House, located in the Wandering Woods of the northwestern county of Joi See, was not known for its sense of intrigue or unusualness, but that day was different: three strangers had entered, separately, each of them unique in their own way, and altogether unlike the rest of the simple folk who frequented the roadside locale.

Although strangers, the three of them got to talking, sharing their stories.

There was the young mercenary fighter: he was garbed in sturdy chainmail, with dark red hair, pale skin and bright blue eyes. Name of Andrew Finch, he had been recently discharged from five years of hired service with the Aspark military, fighting in the Aspark—Candlemass civil war; he had travelled up from Aspark weeks earlier, and was making his way up to the capital city of Joi See County — Joi See City — to find further employment. A fine bastard sword was strapped to his back, marked with the symbol of his old clan.

Then, there was the amnesiac paladin: standing at a great height and also clad in chainmail, his hair and eyes were dark, his skin lightly dusky, perhaps showing Skellein County lineage. He knew himself only to be Sir Samp Sampington IX, and nothing more. His memory had slipped so acutely that he knew not how he had found himself in the woods, or even the tavern. His shield bore his family crest — a rising sun — and his dress indicated him to be of high nobility.

Finally, the unstable greatsword-wielding barbarian: known distinctly as Barb, the bald, bearded warrior made an imposing sight, and had a penchant for raw meat. He had spent many years away from society, this being his first human contact in some time.

This meeting of minds was interrupted quite suddenly by another break of the status quo: a man crashed through the door, speaking loudly, incoherently. Barb quietened him with a swift slap, and then helped him into a seat and provided him with a beer. The man told the trio that he was Roy, the baker, and that small hooded figures had kidnapped his son, Tim, by the roadside not far away.

The three newly-met heroes knew exactly what to do: deliberate. After a great deal of this, they agreed to go and search for the missing boy, upon payment of twelve loaves of bread between them and five silver pieces each, with the loaves being given to them then as a down payment.

At that moment, something struck Samp: this man could be an impostor; a fiend or other-like wicked being intending on tricking them. He used his holy divine sense, to seek the grim truth: it transpired that, in fact, Samp had been wrong, and no evil lurked in the walls of the establishment. With his holy duty complete, Samp and the others set off.

Not far away, they found the spot where the boy had been captured, and discerned a trail through the woods. This they followed, until the saw the trees break into a clearing: a distance further, and a stone entrance could be seen built into a small hillside. Three figures stood outside, squat and black-hooded. The heroes attacked from range with their javelins, scoring a few hits, but one of the figures made their way into the dark passageway beyond, whilst the other two rushed forward to engage our plucky protagonists.

Not long after, the hooded figures were slain; one of them was lifted into the air by the brutal Barb, his eyes pulverised by the barbarian’s strong hands. The heroes unmasked the figures, and found exactly what they had expected: poglins. These nasty, chaotic porcine creatures were a blight upon common people all across the continent of Ambion.

They looked through the entrance: the walls were red brick, much like the architecture of Joi See City itself, but past that, it trailed down into darkness. Not a sound echoed beyond the shadows.

So the gang of three lit some torches and entered the poglin hideout, Barb tripping down the first set of downward-leading stairs for no reason. They heard noises, and called out for whoever was down there to surrender.

“Go away! Leave us alone!” came a shrill, frightened voice.

The heroes continued on regardless. As they entered a small room, lit up by torches and with a large bowl of disgusting-smelling (and looking) broth in the middle, three poglins ambushed the party; although these crafty creatures had the advantage, their scimitars just weren’t enough to stop the wave of destruction wrought by our fledgling adventurers; one poglin was cut apart from shoulder to shoulder by Barb, becoming almost like a bust, a statue of death. Nonetheless, the battle took a toll on the party; in particular an incident involving Samp falling and striking his head on the soup bowl after a mistimed strike with his longsword.

They inspected the room: the walls were adorned with bas-reliefs of an ancient hero, one who slayed porcs and poglins with his bare hands. It seemed that these poglins had found an ironic use for what could have been that great man’s tomb. Nobody tasted the soup.

They went on, further into the structure. Barb’s impatience led to him struck by a bolt from a trapped crossbow, but he swiftly tore it from his flesh and ran on, greatsword in hand. They came to the next room: a decorated shrine to the porcicidal champion depicted in the other small chamber.

At the altar, there stood three more poglins, one dressed in strange, seemingly ceremonial robes. In the corner was a cage, a scared young boy contained within. The poglins, readied for the attack, unleashed all they had; but yet the hardied heroes prevailed, with the leader struck to the floor, an enraged Barb crushing his head into chunks with his bare feet, and whatever bizarre ritual had been planned was put on indefinite hiatus. So the boy was saved, but the brave heroes felt something amiss with the room; upon the walls were these words emblazoned: “WHAT IS PINK AND RED AND DEAD ALL OVER?”

They looked around them, at the dispatched poglins. Then, Finch looked back at the words, and said:

“A dead pig.”

With those true words spoken, a secret passageway was revealed. They followed it through, and found four sarcophagi in a small room, and a small plinth at the back with a box upon it. Finch made his way over to the box swiftly and opened it.

The sarcophagi opened. From inside crawled four creatures, each one as sickening and aberrant as the last: they were of humanoid shape, but constructed entirely of tongues. These foul monsters lunged for Finch.

The child, Tim, fled at the sight. Samp, concerned for the boy’s safety, immediately followed, leaving Barb and Finch to fend for themselves. Outnumbered and almost overpowered, the two warriors fought back with the fervour of ones faced with almost certain death. Barb fell, knocked unconscious, but only after he used his greatsword to carve one of the tongueflesh’s form to pieces with his expertise in raw meat preparation.

Finch seemed doomed, but he fought on. Just as it seemed hopeless, Samp returned, carving a path with his longsword. Victory was pulled from the jaws, or tongues, of defeat, and the last monstrosity was slain. They helped the injured Barb to his feet.

Finch went back to the box to claim his treasure, and found an ancient tome, dusty but well-preserved. Finding no interest in such matters, he passed it to Samp. It was an elven text titled Eternal Mirth. Samp seemed happy with this result, and they left, but not before the hungry barbarian Barb collected a number of the tongues — which he correctly identified as pigs’ tongues — to consume later. They wandered out to meet Tim. Samp offered young Tim some bread to cheer him up, but Tim replied that he “ate enough of it at home.” Thus, the victorious heroes returned to the Lime House, and collected their bounty: five silver pieces each.

So this new band of adventurers struck out, heading north, towards Joi See City. Three heroes, never to be parted: Finch, Samp, Barb.

Dungeon Master’s Postscript

This was the first session of Dungeons & Dragons I ran, back in September, 2017. It was directly influenced by good old Matt Colville and his Running the Game series on YouTube. Of course, like many, I was also inspired to DM from watching Matt Mercer on Critical Role, as well as my own DM, who I thank for introducing me to the fantastical world of D&D. But this first session is all Colville.

Unlike session 3 onwards, I don’t have an audio recording of this one, so it has been constructed from my memory and notes taken at the time. The session was run in September 2017, so there are a few moments of necessary mythologisation, to fill in the gaps. Also, I wasn’t really sure what I was going for yet, so the tone is kind of all over the place (including one questionable cultural reference), but those issues soon sorted themselves out in future sessions.

Much of the following section, Echoes Underground, is directly based on the official 5e starter adventure, The Lost Mine of Phandelver, but some names and situations were changed to suit my own purposes. From the second section onwards, it’s almost entirely homebrew.

For general reference, we play 5e, and from the second section of the campaign onwards, started using maps and miniatures, so this first section of the campaign was all theatre of the imagination (which I think has its own benefits, at the occasional loss of a sense of coherence).

Due to the time-consuming process of transcribing the audio of these sessions (I seem to frequently run sessions of up to nine hours in length), this will be a project I work on slowly. Furthermore, due to the length of certain sessions, I will have to separate them into individual chapters. With all of this said, I hope you enjoy future installments of this campaign diary, as our plucky heroes slowly delve further and further into the mouth of madness and horror.

[This is the first installment in a campaign diary series, Chaos Rains, transcribed from the Dungeons and Dragons sessions that I run for my friends. Further information will occasionally be found at the end as a Dungeon Master’s Postscript, but otherwise, I hope for the story to tell itself.]