Castles & Crusades Diary: Barrowmaze, Session 73

Summary:
The Army of the Light ascends several thousand feet into the Moon Peaks, battles three Stuhać (demonic Slavic creatures), a Likhoradka (a female Slavic spirit that spreads disease), and discovers her secret hidden cottage filled with exotic and poisonous plants.

PC’s:
Arthur, Human Oathsworn 6 of Celestian
Balthazar, Elf (Mongrelman) Wizard 6 of Arcanus
Gimli
 “Rot Face”, Dwarf Berserker 6 of Odin
Gnoosh, Gnome Rogue 6/Illusionist 5 of Baravar Cloakshadow
Martin, Human Rogue 6 of Bacchus
Rosaline, Half-Elf (Elf lineage) Druid 6 of The Daghda
Zen, Human Monk 5 of St. Agathos
Kiaria, Human Seeker 5 of Bast
Belden, Gnome Bard 6 of Aengus

NPC:
Conwrick Pimkin, Hobbit Ranger of Brandobaris Fleetfoot

Game Diary:
When half the players couldn’t play last week we did a small side adventure with different characters they had (The Army of the Light has 38 characters in it, so there are always characters for my players to use!). This week we had 5 of our regular 6 players and we continued where we left off on a…cliffhanger…two weeks ago at the edge of a cliff with a 600 foot drop and another 600 foot vertical ascent.

The Rosaline (the druid) had spend several days carefully casting plant growth to build up strong roots of the plants that hung in places within the rock, she then transformed into her spider totem shape and joined those that ascended the cliff. Belden acquired the ability to turn into an owl after gaining favor with the god Cernunnos during a trip to the Otherworld. Gnoosh, Martin, and Conwrick had slippers of spider climbing. And Balthazar cast multiple levitate spells on those that didn’t have spider climbing abilities or capabilities to shape change. There were a few checks for the climbers, and except for one failed check by Gnoosh as he reached the top (his luck stone saved him from falling to his death!), everyone got up fine.

Looking at what lie in front of them at the top, they saw 30 feet of thorns and brambles that reached as high as 5 feet in height. Beyond that there was a cottage covered with natural vegetation that camouflaged it almost completely. And beyond that there was a serious of gardens with many exotic plants and a cliff where exotic plants called cliff plives and fire flowers grew (they had come for the cliff plives, which, if used by the right person could harden leather armor garments into nearly steel-like strength.

But there was movement in the brambles. Three very well hidden humanoids dwelled within. Gnoosh’s hat of telepathy revealed to him their surface thoughts – defend their witch mistress and avenge the death of their air-dragon-elemental that had been killed by the group in the first part of this adventure. Belden pulled out his piccolo and began to fascinate them, which at his skill level functioned as a charm person. They emerged from the brambles and were frightening with their beef-jerky-like skin complexion, sharp claws, and demonic features. He persuasively convinced them that the group did not kill the elemental creature and that they were invited to see the witch. The Stuhać cleared a path through the brambles and led the way to their witch mistress.

The likhoradka witch – named Beoria – was not fooled by the bard’s performance. She was 7 feet tall, slender, and wore clothes that allowed her to blend into the surroundings. Unbeknownst to them, she was lying in wait. As a likhoradka, Beoria had the ability to transform into a spirit dive into a victim’s body (Wisdom save to resist) and possess them. She had been observing them and saw her perfect victim – Gnoosh! Gnoosh had the lowest wisdom in the group, and she knew that if she could take him over, she could wreak havoc on them (Gnoosh was also a rogue 6/illusionist 5 with a lot of magic, making him ideal for that reason as well, she was a very old woman who had learned a great deal in how to assess a person’s strengths and weaknesses).

The frightening appearance of the Likhoradka

Her careful observations and plan had to be altered on the spot, however, when one of the spellcasters said they were going to cast sanctuary on the Gnoosh. She had to act fast and before she wanted! She lept out from behind an arched trellis covered in vines (her spindly arms and straggly hair looked a lot like the plant material surrounding her). She did a vicious claw attack which made its mark. It was time for initiative and unfortunately for me, enough players rolled higher. The characters swarmed in and killed the spirit in three blows (although the disease that emanated from her did afflict five characters lowering their Strength and Constitution by 1 each, which took several days for the healers to remove). The players were relieved, but now the Stuhać saw the truth and the enchantment on them ended as they attacked the group. This took a few rounds to complete, for they also had vicious claw attacks, which, like the likhoradka, could’ve dropped some characters with one blow if I would’ve rolled well on damage. But fortune shined on them and the demonic creatures were slain.

Stuhać art by YoshiWoo at Deviantart

The group now had time to explore this isolated and hidden witch grove and cottage. They found exotic cliff plives, fire flowers (which offer fire resistance to dwarves that work their forges for hours on end) and ipple (which makes a tasty dessert and baked good, but can also extend life when used by the properly skilled herbalist and alchemist) [By the way, these items can be found in Harold the Halflings Herbology Handbook published by Deep Dungeon Games]. They also found materials like lamassu feathers, a unicorn horn, sea monster oil, etc, which could make a variety of potions and healing concoctions, as well as black lotus flowers which could make dust of death! Whether healers or assassins, everyone found something they could make use of!

Rosaline realized that this isolated place – once purged of its evil presence, for they discovered from Beoria’s diaries and notebooks that she had been living up here for over a century – could make a good druid grove. Additionally, Kiaria – who had acquired a Griffon egg many adventures back – thought this would be ideal to raise her griffon when it hatched and raise it to be her companion. So this adventure not only provided a large amount of materials for potions and elixirs, it would also serve as the safe and secure location of a druid and seeker as they get ever closer to reaching the level to establish their own druid grove and hidden outpost.

This was a fun adventure which has laid the groundwork for future character development, and for the players, it will only be when they read this game diary that they will discover how close they got to having Gnoosh possessed by the Slavic spirit and doing…well, now we’ll never know what havoc she could’ve done! Next week they return to the Barrowmaze and seek out the burial of a once great barbarian name Thar, whose burial predates the creation of the Barrowmaze. What ancient elements and magic will they discover?