“Horror in Darkmoon Vale,” a Pathfinder Game — Session 3 Recap

When we last left our heroes, they had cornered two malingering werewolves that turned out stronger than expected. In this session they fought for their lives through dusty Falcon’s Hollow, manging to save a few villagers from the burning Temple of Iomedae along the way.

Regrouping

After a sore defeat by two death-dealing werewolves inside the town’s general store, the party had reatreated from that building to the Low Market outside. This was a circle of trinket- and food-bearing wagons parked around a well.

Now they waited outside the door for the werewolves to follow, trying to think how they might gain the upper hand, when the door shut behind them and something heavy fell down behind it, barring reentry.

Starbuck, who had run farther away from the building than the others after sustaining a grievous injury, noticed someone hiding behind one of the wagons. The man flagged Starbuck over and introduced himself as Kall, one of Sheriff Baleson’s deputies. He explained that he and another deputy had followed the monsters here, into the store, whereupon his partner met death at the claws of the werewolves. Kall had fallen back to the wagon.

The rest of the party joined Starbuck and Kall to hide and take stock. They considered leaving what appeared to be certain death at the store, but were swayed to think more deeply about it when Kall explained that he had stayed because the shop owner, a kindly gnome everyone called “Brick,” short for Brickasnurd, was holed up inside with his wife and child, in a secret cellar that Kall feared would not stay secret for long, given the werewolves’ powerful noses.

Meanwhile, back at the inn they had stayed at that night (the Sitting Duck), Andor was patching up Sheriff Baleson when a man with greasy hair wobbled into the scene. He introduced himself as Osrad, also known as the Whiskey Priest, whose breath and trembling manner explained the title. He was carrying bandoliers of healing potions, one of which he administered to the fallen Baleson. After the sheriff woke up and took his bearings, he cried that they must reach the Temple of Iomedae! The werewolves had locked women and children inside the temple, barred the doors from the outside and set fire to the roof.

The Tender Bride

The path to the temple led through the Low Market, so the sheriff, Andor and Osrad met the rest of the party and were soon huddled behind the aforementioned wagon.

Everyone received a healing potion from Osrad while Kall reported to the sheriff.

The party was debating what to do about the werewolves in the shop, with no one having a strong desire to enter, when a female voice cried out. Zhukmihr peaked his head around the wagon to find that a woman had crawled out of the upper story window of the general store and was standing on the roof, screaming.

Zhukmihr — not one to wait around unheroically — lept into action, jumping on his mount and riding to the woman’s rescue. He pulled up below her and urged her to jump down onto his dire wolf. She tried, but missed the mark, and instead fell into the dirt, muddying her clothes. Zhumkihr pulled her up onto his wolf with a strong grab and rode back to the wagon.

As he rode back, a couple of facts struck him. First, the woman was wearing a wedding dress, which seemed an odd choice given the circumstance. Second, she was a human, not a gnome, and he recalled having just heard Kall explain that the building was inhabited by gnomes.

As he wheeled around the wagon to where his friends were waiting, Zhukmihr found that several of them also noticed the same incongruities. The sheriff cried out in alarm, whereupon Zhukmihr caught the woman as she attempted to dismount. He began to grapple her, trying to hold her onto the wolf’s back. In that moment her skin grew a thick layer of fur and her face transformed into a grotesque snout and woeful teeth — a werewolf!

A dirty fight

The party jumped into action. Janus drew his sword and stepped in for an attack, while Starbuck and Daeron both moved back and aimed their crossbow and longbow, respectively.

Zhukmihr successfully wrestled the Tender Bride onto the ground, where they struggled together, each trying to get the upper hand. Zhukmihr maintained control, pinning the Bride’s arm behind her back.

Swords slashed and morningstars swung into the fray, most missing, except for a mighty hack by Janus that took the werewolf down a notch — near helpless as she was, in the dirt with an attacker pinning her. Daeron and Starbuck let arrows fly, but in their haste to avoid hitting an ally their aim faltered.

The Tender Bride broke Zhukmihr’s hold momentarily and bit at him, snapping only air — a careful dodge by Zhukmihr. Spittle flew into his face, and he recoiled at the fear of contagious lycanthropy.

The man — well, the dwarf — who finally settled this ordeal was Andor. Slididng in to get clowser to the melee, he let loose a pummeling array of strikes with his fists, around which he wore silver “knuckles,” as the party had all managed to find some silver-edged weapons in the cargo they were carrying for the town. These crushing blows brought the Tender Bride to her final rest.

The search for the Mournful Groom

As the werewolf died at their feet, she transformed back into the shape of a thirty-ish-year-old woman, now reposing in the dirt. A mournful howl flew out from the general store — presumably the other werewolf the party had encountered.

Sheriff Baleson considered this ragtag company in a new light. These were no ordinary adventurers, but perhaps genuine heroes. Since they seemed capable of holding their own, he suggested that he take his deputies onward to the burning temple while they dealt with the remaining werewolf.

They agreed, and Baleson departed.

The party decided that Zhukmihr should ride around and scope out the store, so he hopped back on his dire wolf and inched around the wagon. As soon as he left cover, he heard a “ku-chunk!” from the upper story window of the store and a crossbow bolt lodged itself in his armor. Ouch! He scrambled back under cover and the party took stock again.

They could split up and see if there was a back door, Andor suggested. Or perhaps a frontal assault, countered Starbuck — there was only one guy in there, and he couldn’t take them all out as they sprinted, could he?

A frontal assault then. And Starbuck would lead. Everyone readied themselves and the group ran full-speed toward the entrance to the store. Another “ka-chunk!” from the window let loose a bolt that glanced off Starbuck’s armor, wounding him a little.

Having arrived safely at the front door to the store, they proceeded to break the window — the door being blocked — and enter. A search found the hidden trap door leading to Brick the gnome’s cellar. A narrow staircase led up to the second story, where they could hear the werewolf creaking around.

After some forlorn deliberation and worrying, they decided to have Janus cast “ghost sound” to create the auditory illusion of the party ascending the staircase, while Starbuck tried to climb out a window and up to the second floor.

Oops — Starbuck slipped and fell into the mud, and as the ghostly sounds approached the top of the stairs, everyone heard the upper story window scrape open. Someone caught sight of the Mournful Groom as he jumped down into the Low Market, changed into wolf form, and ran away.

Zhukmihr lept onto his trusty mount and gave chase, but the Groom escaped in a burst of speed, heading toward the temple.

Meanwhile, Janus told the hiding Brickasnurd and family through their trap door that the werewolves were gone.

Rescue at the temple

They made their way together up the dirt road through the gloom of night until they reached the Temple of Iomedae, a big stone building with a wooden roof, whose double front door was blocked by three wagons, all set ablaze. A man stood in front of the wagons, beating at the flames with his jacket ineffectively, tears streaming down his face.

Our crew approached, and the man begged them to save his daughter, who was trapped inside with other women and children.

The roof of the building was engulfed in flames. Smoke rose up into the night sky. The building seemed to emit creaks and groans as the fire raged.

Scoping out the scene, they found only the one entrance and a handful of tall glass windows a man’s height off the ground. Andor figured he could scramble up and through a window once they had broken the glass, but the others weren’t sure they could. And how would they get the women and children out?

So, the wagons — time was running out — could the party move them? Probably with the risk of catching fire or injuring themselves, they figured, working together they might move the wagons enough to get one of the doors open.

Disregarding the windows, they set about trying to move the first wagon, taking burn injuries to their hands and arms as they did so.

Screaming — probably — in agony at the pain, they managed to move one wagon out of the way when Zhukmihr’s clothes caught fire, and the pain dragged him unconscious. Momentarily confused about what to do, the party deliberated while Zhukmihr lay burning on the dirt, until the farmer came up and beat the flames out. Then Janus ducked down and poured a potion into Zhukmihr’s mouth while Andor, Starbuck and the farmer all pulled at the second wagon, shoving it out of the way with renewed vigor.

Daeron guarded the door while the others creeped inside on hands and knees to avoid debilitating black smoke. They crawled around in the darkness, listening to the sound of screaming voices from the unseen crowd of villagers. Finally someone latched onto the location — a door that they found was bound shut from the outside.

Before they could reach it, however, the ceiling collapsed partially, sending burning debree raining down around them. A crash came from beyond the door up ahead, and sounds of painful death followed.

Everyone rushed to get the door open — it had been crudely blocked with chains and rope — and burst through to find ten people hacking and coughing on the ground. Two bodies lay crushed under the fallen rubble.

Zhukmihr had the brilliant idea to take out his rope and use it to lead several people at once out of the building, while everone else took the hand of a villager and ushered them out.

After a couple of rounds of fighting through the heat and smoke to get more people out, they had rescued nearly everyone — when someone looked back and noticed that Andor was still inside the building despite a horrible groan that escaped from the roof!

Inside, Andor had fallen to one knee, a young child unconscious in his arms, while above him the roof began to collapse. He fought through the effects of the smoke to make a somersault through the open door, just as the entire building fell down in a fiery ruin behind him.

Early risers

Not long afterward, the sheriff and his deputies arrived back at the temple, having chased off a werewolf. Together they all stood guard over the rescued villagers through the night and into the next morning, defending against countless wolves and attackers.

When light finally came and the attack was deemed over, Sheriff Baleson said he had to retire and get some rest. He thanked the companions for their service and asked them to call on him around noon.

The party stood shakily and wandered through town, looking for something to eat. The town’s inns were still closed after the carnage of the past night, but back in the Low Market they found a wagon trader had set up a makeshift breakfast stall and was selling overpriced eggs. After some haggling by Zhukmihr, everyone delighted in that fine food, the best they had ever tasted.

They even found the time to help old Brickasnurd, the gnome whose store they had ransacked while trying to oust the Mournful Groom. They mended his front door and helped repair the window they had broken (though mum’s the word on how exactly either of those happened). Brick recognized their voices as the ones who had called down to him that his family was safe, and in exchange offered a 100 gold piece line of credit at his store.

As daylight brightened, a mean-looking half-orc rode up on horseback. The team got a good look at him as his mare paced the Low Market — an obviously nasty but powerful warrior who wore a black patch over his left eye. Someone muttered that this was “Payday,” which they knew was the nickname of Thuldrin Kreed’s right-hand-man.

“Everyone,” he announced. “Kreed’s got some words to say about this attack. He isn’t about to let us stand by and let this keep happening. Be here at noon!”

We left the newly-minted town heroes as they were busy repairing the top hinge on Brickasnurd’s front door, with another full day lying ahead.


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