For our second game I wanted to run something where the kids could learn a bit more about exploration, mapping, and time management. Maybe also some terrible consequences? Death Frost Doom it is.
I wrapped it up in my own flesh plague rainstorm thing, printed highlighted and only slightly tweaked the adventure, then threw them at it.
Three sessions and several platters of brie and smoked salmon croissants later it was done. Luckily for them I ran it as a one-shot because otherwise things would be pretty bleak right now.
Things That I Learnt and Brief Notes From the Giant Play Report That Follows:
- As much as I love Death Frost Doom we all work better when things aren’t as oppressing. Our first game was full of horrific things, but somehow they were also immediately hilarious, whereas in Death Frost Doom most every awful thing left everyone pounded by despair. Actual despair right there at the table. Seeing as that’s what Death Frost Doom is built to do that’s a huge credit to it, but we just work better when things are a bit more B-grade.
- Apparently I’m accidentally effortlessly good at making people sad. I think every time I portrayed someone dying I broke someone’s heart.
- I don’t like players mapping in exactly measured squares on graph paper. It takes too long and they start to pay too much attention to that thing, from now on it’s blank-sheet notebooks and roughly drawn joining areas or nothing. Besides, if I was delving underground I wouldn’t be measuring the walls before drawing them, I’d be scribbling a quick reference so I didn’t get fucking lost and only noting the important things.
- After one of the sessions, when we still hadn’t gotten into the underground shrine, Rose told me she’d like it if something happened where they didn’t have any control over the situation, like in the stable in the first game. I nodded and told her that was definitely something to consider, thinking the whole time about all the shrine zombies waiting for them.
- Over the course of the game Michael suffered a steady mental decline, finally dropping his Intelligence to 3 in the underground shrine. He also murdered Zeke in cold blood, but his Intelligence was already low enough at that point for it to be believable that he felt threatened by him.
- Ellen just kept reading things.
- This game also featured our first PC-on-PC murder, entirely justified in-character. Real-life sister-on-brother no less. Amazing.
Now here’s what happened. It’s even longer than the first play report, I doubt anyone will make it all the way through.
Rose: Sister Pleasant (Fighter Lvl 3) – Warrior nun of the Edict of Purity. Sheltered most of her life, she greets the world with stern morals and a club which she calls her ‘Purity Stick’.
Michael: Boy Sue (Specialist Lvl 3) – Virtual idiot savant (Int 5) Jack-of-all-trades, he seems to have survived thus far on blind luck.
Roy: Three Beard (Magic-User Lvl 3) – The same Three Beard as the first game, he’s gotten his shit together but old habits and mental problems may not lie too deep beneath the surface.
Ellen: Lumpy Space Princess, Cleric of the Edict of Purity (Cleric Lvl 3) – Not the same Lumpy Space Princess as the first game but just as overweight and for some reason wielding the same mace as her weapon/holy symbol.
CHAPTER I: THE EDICT OF PURITY
Sanctum Pura, a solid grey mausoleum-like church sits on a hill in the town of Oakenash, so-called because the original settlers burnt out a large portion of the surrounding oak forest to make way for the town.
Rust-tinted rain has been falling for the past few weeks, causing animals and populace alike to grow and deform. It is being controlled for now but rumours from outer settlements whisper of men turning feral.
Deformity is a sign of sin to the Edict of Purity and the First Edict has been sending Fellowmen to all corners of the country to put down outbreaks and search for a way to stop it.
He summons Sister Pleasant and Lumpy Space Princess to speak to Fellowman Arish, a convert from the cult of Enfolding Flesh who remembers tales of an artefact contained within Breathfall Mountain which held the power to stop these “Tears of the Flesh Mother”. It was said to bear the image of a crow at the crossroads of the four winds.
The First Edict tells them to travel to Thornmouth, a port trading city from where they will be able to find Breathfall Mountain, and gives them a few hundred silver pieces to hire mercenaries for the journey. He bids them to take Jorham, a 14 year old orphan boy that has lived with the church most of his life, with them as a lantern-bearer and servant. The boy stands beside him clutching a pole bearing a lantern with an eye worked into each of its six faces, knowing that this journey will be the test which decides if he is worthy to become a Fellowman. He informs them that Wyndam Braeh, one of the churches stable-hands and porters is already packing their horses and they should leave immediately.
When he leaves Sister Pleasant and Lumpy Space Princess press Fellowman Arish further about the artefact. Fellowman Arish sits in a crude wheelchair between them, having cut off his deformed legs in an act of devotion when he converted to the Edict of Purity.
He is intimidated by Sister Pleasant as he’s heard nothing of her but the brutality she shows in the training room, but warms to the curvy charm of Lumpy Space Princess. He explains that he has never seen the artefact but that the higher members of the cult of Enfolding Flesh often mentioned it when they were drunk, and that it was said to be contained below a shrine on the mountain. The shrine itself was originally built by a death cult, but in later years was used in secret by the flesh cult. Like the artefact, he has never seen it himself.
They leave Jorham at the church and walk down to The Hallowed Stump, a tavern built around an enormous waist-high hollow oak stump which serves as the bar.
Sister Pleasant orders a glass of pure water from the barkeep and enquires after his finest mercenaries.
He explains that the mercenaries aren’t his, but from his experience watching folks what come in, the grizzled guy with the tri-tufted beard and young man speaking together across the room would be his best bet.
The Edicts introduce themselves and explain their mission. “Ah the rains what took me fourth beard!” says Three Beard and agrees to help for a paltry 25sp. Boy Sue negotiates his services for a slightly less paltry 50sp and looks pretty pleased with himself.
Two brothers, Rufus and Barnabas, overhear and offer their services for a price. They are capable warriors and planned to leave Oakenash, but their mother has been affected badly by the rains and they need money.
Sister Pleasant smiles at them and says, “The best thing you can do for your mother is allow her to pass on in Purity.”
With a huge Charisma roll they shed a tear, thank her for her wisdom, and offer the nun their services free of charge, leaving their grandfather to care for their mother in her final days.
When they return to the church Wyndam Braeh, a stout gnarled man who doesn’t say much, has already packed 7 horses.
CHAPTER II: SHENANIGANS ON THE ROAD TOWARDS DOOM
Not long out of town it begins to rain, Sister Pleasant directs everybody under nearby trees and makes them strip bark to help protect them from the rain, and Boy Sue runs into the woods and jumps into the hollow of a large oak, eating wood louse until the rain stops. Wyndam Braeh has been exposed to too much rain, presumably because he was helping everyone else, but for now nothing happens.
Some time later they come upon two men standing beside a carriage on the roadside. The men hail the party, introduce themselves as Jesus and Horatio, and explain that their horses were caught in the rain and went mad, forcing them to slaughter and bury them. The party can see two fresh mounds of earth off the side of the road and agree to accompany them as far as Thornmouth, which happens to be where the men were headed to trade their wares.
Lumpy Space Princess and Rufus secure their horses to the carriage and ride with the merchants, LSP inquires about their trade but drops the conversation with a red face when she’s told they sell fine ladies undergarments. Rufus however seems very interested in this.
When it grows dark they make camp at a hillock surrounded by thicket, Sister Pleasant directs the help to string up shelters between the trees while Three Beard and Jorham collect firewood, LSP goes rabbit hunting, and Boy Sue looks for mushrooms.
Sister Pleasant tries to teach Jorham how to start a fire but since she has also spent most of her life in the church is unable to do so, but Three Beard walks by and plucks some smouldering beard hairs and throws them into the kindling, immediately starting a fire.
LSP and Boy Sue are both gone for an hour.
LSP chases down a rabbit that seems to be mocking her, finally slapping it with such fury that it explodes into pieces.
Boy Sue wanders almost aimlessly until he stumbles upon a big patch of plump mushrooms.
Sister Pleasant cooks a mushroom and rabbit stew while Barnabas breaks out his lute.
Rufus has been taking a sneaky closer look at the ladies undergarments in the carriage back towards the road, and comes back to ask Sister Pleasant for a private word.
He pulls a pair of silk drawers out of his pants to show Sister Pleasant the darkened blood stain, and when pressed for more information says there are more stained items in the carriage, and that the items he saw seemed hastily shoved into their containers, not carefully packed as he would have expected from merchants. Sister Pleasant takes them and tells Rufus to go back to the campfire and act normally, so he grabs a bowl of stew and sings between mouthfuls.
Sister Pleasant excuses herself for the night, but walks past the shelter and circles back around to the far side of the carriage, stepping on a squirrel as she goes.
When she gets to the carriage Jesus is already there, surprised to see her as she said she was going to bed. Sister Pleasant explains that she heard a noise and wanted to check the camp’s perimeter, Jesus says he was just doing the same thing.
Sister Pleasant quietly confides that she’s been told he sells silk ladies undergarments, and a life in the church has deprived her of such luxuries, and she would greatly appreciate being shown some of his wares a bit closer to the fire.
When he turns to reach into the carriage she tries to strike him in the back of the head with her purity stick, but in the dark it clangs off the side of the carriage.
Jesus rolls away, drawing two daggers from beneath his arms and screaming “HORATIOOOO!”
Back at the fire Horatio immediately pulls two daggers, and drives one straight through Barnabas’ throat, lodging it between vertebrae, and evades the attacks of Boy Sue and Three Beard, dodging and slapping their weapons away as Barnabas falls backwards over his log seat, his hand still tunelessly plucking at his lute.
Sister Pleasant tries to stomp Jesus into the ground but trips and falls over him, while Jesus’ attempts to stab her prove just as clumsy, leaving them both sprawled in the dark behind the carriage.
Rufus draws his sword and charges screaming at Horatio, but in his grief trips over the fire.
LSP pulls her mace from beneath her robes and in one fluid motion embeds it into the side of Horatio’s face, dragging him into the fire with the force of her swing.
Three Beard grabs a lantern and he and Boy Sue run to the carriage.
Sister Pleasant twists in the dirt and grabs Jesus’ arms from behind, rolling so that he is held on top of her, Boy Sue steps forward and plunges both his daggers into Jesus’ chest, blood expels from his mouth as the daggers pierce both his lungs.
They go back to the fire to find Rufus holding a still twitching and gurgling Barnabas, Rufus is utterly silent as tears stream down both his cheeks. Sister Pleasant kneels beside him and holds his face into her bosom as she twists the dagger in Barnabas’ throat, ending his misery. Rufus wails with grief in the silence that follows.
While this is happening Boy Sue and Three Beard move behind one of the log seats to find Wyndam Braeh writhing on the ground holding his left arm, he grunts and there’s a cracking sound as a bulge appears along the side of his upper arm, like the bone has grown and curved outwards, and two small fingers push out and begin to twitch.
He relaxes when it stops growing, and simply looks at the party and says he needs the arm to do his job, but would appreciate if they could remove the extra part. Boy Sue kneels beside him with a drawn dagger, and Wyndam Braeh simply puts a nearby stick into his mouth, bites down, and stares into the middle distance. He doesn’t make a sound in the 10 minutes it takes Boy Sue to hack away the newly grown muscle sinew and bone.
When he’s done LSP holds healing hands over him, flesh and skin knit back together until the only evidence of the mutation is two smalls bumps the circumference of a finger bone. Wyndam picks up the still-twitching lump of flesh and casts it into the fire.
During Three Beard’s watch later in the night it begins to rain, after which, fearing that the rain might have affected the bodies of Horatio, Jesus and Barnabas, which have all been left in open air, he checks them for signs of life. They are still very much dead, but small tendrils of flesh now grow out of their open wounds. Three Beard digs a hole amid the trees and throws Horatio and Jesus into it, dousing them in lamp oil and setting them alight.
They are still burning when he wakes Jorham to take final watch. The young boy stares wide-eyed at the flame as Three Beard tells him to stay away from the bodies and holler if anything happens. Three Beard hands him a sling and goes to bed.
The party is woken at 5am by the sounds of woodland creatures greeting the dawn, Jorham is sitting on the carriage, still gripping the sling with death-white knuckles.
They fill in the grave that Three Beard dug and ask Rufus what he would like done for his brother after showing him the affects of the rain. He tells them he doesn’t want his brother to grow in the ground, he wants to burn him so that he can pass on in purity. They build a pyre and Sister Pleasant offers a silent prayer as the flames consume him.
After another hour or so of travel they see a burnt out farmstead with a man standing in front of it covered in ash, holding a guttered torch and a ragdoll.
LSP asks what happened but he just stares at her with wet lines running through the ash on his cheeks.
Rufus jumps from the cart and embraces the man, weeping and telling him he knows this loss.
The man begins to weep too and keeps repeating “They were caught in the rain, I had to burn them, what else could I do? What else could I do?”
Lumpy Space Princess asks if there is anywhere he can go, he replies that he burnt the only family he had.
Lumpy Space Princess offers to take him to Thornmouth, he asks why he would care for Thornmouth.
Sister Pleasant strides over to him and says, “If you don’t have anything left to live for, come with me and I will give you something to die for.”, then turns away.
The man straightens up and says “My name is Ignacious Poe, lead me to vengeance and I will lay down my life.” Sister Pleasant nods her agreement and he retrieves a two-handed wood axe from the smoking wreckage of his wood shed.
He climbs into the carriage and sits in silence.
While travelling it again begins to rain, there are less trees here so they stop at the nearest one, lash the horses to the carriage, and then squeeze in together hoping the rain will pass soon. After an hour it is still raining and the horse previously ridden by Barnabas whinnies as its hind leg stretches and grows another joint. Three Beard casts Shield around himself, successfully warding off the rain while he throws tent canvases over the remaining horses, steam rises from his beard and curls around the raindrops that seems to splash just above his head. He unties Barnabas’ horse, slaps its flank, and sends it loping out into the wilderness. LSP’s horse has been exposed to too much rain but nothing happens yet.
Once the rain stops, and after another couple of hours travel, during which it has been getting steadily colder and the land looks far less blighted, they begin to pass fields on their left, until a farmstead can be seen and a man sits behind a rudimentary fence close to the road milking a cow. He hails the party with a friendly wave, and when asked advises them that Thornmouth should be another 3 hours travel in fair conditions.
He recognises Sister Pleasant and Lumpy Space Princess as being of the Edict of Purity and introduces himself as Arthus Caw, he identifies himself as an adherent and offers them a place to rest a moment and something to eat.
The offer is readily accepted and the carriage and horses are lead to a barn behind the house. Wyndam Braeh and Jorham stay with the horses while the rest go into the house with the man.
He calls out “Rowena! We have guests!” and after a moment a pleasant woman enters with a tray bearing a tall pitcher of milk, a loaf of crusty bread and what looks to be a small wheel of homemade cheese.
Sister Pleasant asks if there might be somewhere that Ignacious can clean himself, and is told that he’ll find barrels of pure water back out in the barn, Ignacious accepts a pail and a bar of soap and heads back to the barn.
Refreshments are offered to all, Boy Sue immediately gulps down a glass of milk and a slice of bread with a huge wedge of cheese on it, LSP requests only a slice of bread, and Three Beard takes a wedge of cheese.
Sister Pleasant requests a glass of pure water but is told there isn’t any in the house, and as Ignacious is currently bathing by the barrels Rowena doesn’t feel it would be proper to fetch it herself. Sister Pleasant doesn’t leave yet but asks if they have any children, she is told they had a daughter but that she was taken from them.
Sister Pleasant offers condolences and continues to interrogate them about Purity, they say they’ve never been a part of the church, being as isolated as they are, but that they do their best.
Sister Pleasant continues to press the issue with more and more provoking statements until Rowena narrows her eyes and says cryptically “you will learn the ways of flesh”.
Boy Sue and Three Beard both shriek, a hand bursts out of Boy Sue’s thigh and a mound like a chin pushes out of Three Beard’s forearm, a beard of fleshy tendrils flowing out of it and caressing against him.
Boy Sue cries and lashes out at Rowena with his daggers. As she sinks to the floor with a dagger in her chest she gurgles “flesh will grow”.
Arthus picks a kitchen knife off the bench he was leaning against and screams “BERNICE!”, but Sister Pleasant picks her already loaded crossbow from the floor beside her and fires it into Arthus’ shoulder, pulling him across the bench and pinning him to the wall.
She demands to know who he is and asks about the flesh plague, but all he says is “If you want to know about the flesh go down the hall and speak to my daughter, she will tell you of flesh.”
Sister Pleasant reloads her crossbow and Boy Sue retrieves his daggers, they go down the hall until they come to a locked door.
Sister Pleasant kicks it in without warning and is faced with Bernice. She sits atop a straw mattress and breasts sprout from random locations on her heaving pulsing bulk, Bernice shrieks a gurgling sound as milk expels from one of her many breasts and hits the wall next to the doorframe. Sister Pleasant makes a Called Shot to pin her through the thigh, which is successful, but the arrow catches her thigh bone and pulls it straight through her flesh, pinning it to the wall as the rest of her thigh collapses away from her body in a wet mess.
Boy Sue charges into the room and slashes both daggers under Bernice’s chin in a crossed motion. Bernice’s head flops back and hangs from the small amount of unsevered flseh remaining as Boy Sue dodges the arcing spray of blood and her body goes limp, congealed milk oozing out of the breasts, over her flesh, and dripping to the floor.
They go back to the kitchen to tell Arthus that his daughter is dead. He stares at them and says “My daughter was chosen as an Envy of Flesh and you killed her, what right have you? What right?”.
They ask again about the plague but he simply stares at them and says “Flesh will grow.”. They ask if he has any final words and he repeats, “Flesh will grow” as they cut his throat.
Boy Sue searches the house for 20 minutes and finds a rolled up pile of soiled men’s trousers beneath Bernice’s bed, within it is 300sp, a short sword, and a ruby encrusted suit of ceremonial chainmail.
They go out to the barn to check on Ignacious and Wyndam but everything seems fine, they hadn’t heard any of the commotion and Ignacious is actually quite handsome and buff when he isn’t covered in ash.
Boy Sue and Three Beard brace themselves as their extra parts are cut out of their flesh, the wounds are cauterised, and LSP prays to Purity for their healing.
CHAPTER III: FISHING ADVENTURES
They continue on, the landscape turning white, and Thornmouth comes into view. The coastline around it consists of jagged black rock lining the snow covered shore, and a 10′ wall of thorned poles lashed together surrounds the city.
They halt before two guards with crossed spears at the gates and request entry.
One of the guards informs them they are under orders that no strangers from the East are to be allowed entry while the plague persists.
They ask who is in charge and the guard confusedly responds that Artmenis Finch, Lord of Thornmouth runs Thornmouth.
Sister Pleasant tries to bluff that Artemis Finch is an adherent to the Edict of Purity and that they have been asked to come help him with the plague in his city.
The guard politely informs her that there has been no plague within sight of Thornmouth, the only reason they know of it are the rumours coming from the East. However, now that he recognises who Sister Pleasant and LSP are, he wants to help if he’s able. He asks why they desire entry to Thornmouth and is told they need to get to Breathfall Mountain.
He explains that Breathfall Mountain lies to the North, and if they go back up the road they will find that it branches off and follows the shoreline, which will bring them to Breathfall Mountain.
Sister Pleasant thanks him and bids hope that plague never reaches Thornmouth, insinuating that the way they have fenced themselves in will mean doom for them all.
The guard gazes back at her without expression and simply says “Thank you, lady.”
They travel up the Shoreline and make came beside the road, still within view of Thornmouth.
LSP’s horse, who is pulling the carriage, slumps to the ground as the lower half of its rear leg collapses, then stands up again as the leg builds itself back up in a bulging mound of flesh. The horse doesn’t seem mentally affected by it so they decided to keep it, at least for now.
While the rest of the party make camp by lashing the horses to the carriage and stringing canvases off it, LSP and Boy Sue try to catch some fish to make a meal of.
LSP climbs over the rocky shore and stands chest-deep in the water, calming herself and waiting for an hour while fish begins to swim near again. Boy Sue waits back on the rocks, tying a line to an arrow. LSP spies a flash of silver and lunges for it but misses, and an overexcited Boy Sue manages to shoot her through the hand rather than the fish. LSP calmly decides to wash her hand off in the salt water which attracts the attention of a shark. LSP sees the fin and tries to splash back to shore but the shark is much faster and tears off her right leg in a single bite, the shock and blood loss causing her to immediately pass out.
The arrow is still sticking through her hand so Boy Sue tries to pull her back to shore while the shark continues to circle around, but he isn’t strong enough to get her to the rocks until Ignacious arrives to help, drawn by Boy Sue’s cries.
Ignacious tears off his shirt and staunches the bleeding, lifts her up with Boy Sue’s help and runs back to Thornmouth with Sister Pleasant and Three Beard.
The guard they spoke to earlier is still on duty and when he sees what has happened hits the other guard with his spear, sending him running into the city. He’s devastated by what has happened but still can’t allow them entry to the city. A short while later the other guard returns with a robed Wiseman. The Wiseman bows his head to Sister Pleasant and says that while he is not of the same faith, has nothing but respect for the Edict of Purity. In baffling response Sister Pleasant grabs him and holds her crossbow to the base of his neck, demanding that the guard allow them entry.
The guard stands firm and says, “None from the East may enter Thornmouth while the plague persists.”
After being denied again by the calm guard and Wiseman, Sister Pleasant collapses to the ground in apparent hysteria-driven unconsciousness.
The Wiseman dusts off his robes and addresses himself to Three Beard, telling him that his faith is of the earth and the bramble, and that he understands the doctrine that Lumpy Space Princess must follow. Therefore he seeks Three Beard’s blessing to heal her and grant her something with which to remain mobile, promising that it will not violate her faith.
Three Beard consents and the Wiseman kneels beside LSP, placing one hand on her bloodied stump and pushing the other into the earth below the soft snow. The bleeding stops and LSP’s skin stretches over the wound until it disappears, and a thick bramble vine emerges from the earth, snaking around the Wiseman’s arm and onto LSP’s leg. The vine secures itself into her flesh above the knee, leaving her with a thorned peg-leg.
Exhausted, the Wiseman simply nods to Three Beard and re-enters the city.
They pick up the still-unconscious LSP and carry her back to the camp, leaving Sister Pleasant to get up on her own.
The next morning, after LSP has come to grips with her new leg, they continue up the coast towards Breathfall Mountain.
CHAPTER IV: MOUNTAINS OF SADNESS
After an hour Breathfall Mountain suddenly becomes visible out of the seaside fog, dark woods cover its sides, but the upper peaks are almost bare, black stone shining out of the snowfall.
The party follows the path away from the shore and up the mountain, but haven’t been travelling long when Wyndam’s horse rears back and shrieks, throwing him to the snow and charging away through the thicket. Wyndam looks to LSP but she shakes her head, telling him to leave it and climb into the carriage. Soon after, an owl, its eyes nothing but scar tissue, swoops down at Three Beard from a nearby tree. Three Beard tries to cut it out of the air but catches his sword in the carriage’s canopy. The owl screeches and is about to land on Three Beard’s face with outstretched claws when an arrow shot by Boy Sue from horseback plucks it from the sky.
They trudge onwards up the mountain without stopping.
After a couple of hours of pushing on through the cold, Lumpy Space Princess begins to hear whispers on the wind, calling her name, begging her to come see, calling calling. LSP tries to ignore them but their lure proves too strong and she throws herself from the carriage, plunging into the trees to the left of the path. The rest of the party stops and Boy Sue follows after her.
LSP crashes through the trees until she comes to a clearing, she sees herself lying on a patch of black earth in the centre of the circle of snow, her throat distends beyond her chin, her flesh bulges and pulsates and body parts grow where they should not be, she chokes and gurgles and claws at the air, a liquid like fat mixed with blood and melted flesh drools out of her mouth and ears, she looks up at herself with blood-veined eyes and shrieks into the wind.
LSP stands at the edge of the snow shaking with cold and revulsion and Commands herself to leave, but all she does is choke and claw at the air. Feeling powerless and unsure of what else to do LSP walks forward with eyes fixed on herself, raises her mace, and brings it crashing down, hoping to end this blasphemy. But instead of embedding in flesh the mace thuds into the dirt beside her head. Still gripping her mace LSP momentarily glances over as Boy Sue enters the clearing and when she looks back the thing is gone and she is on her knees, her hands black from digging in the earth. Within a hole before her is a skeletal left hand wearing an iron ring on its marital finger, the ring bears an almost growth-like mound of metal.
LSP calls Boy Sue over to her and asks him to carry the ring back to the rest of the party. Boy Sue agrees and before he realises what he’s doing has taken the ring out of the hole and slipped it straight onto his own finger.
In a single moment Boy Sue catches a glimpse of the inner workings of flesh, he knows in a way that always was that he has powers over the flesh of others that can be imposed as often as he desires.
Boy Sue is now able to cast Abandonment of Flesh and Your Vessel Runneth Over.
Still shaken from all she’s seen, LSP watches Boy Sue but when he continues to act normally walks back with him to the carriage.
LSP doesn’t discuss what happened and Boy Sue happily mounts his horse to continue up the mountain.
A few hours more and they can see that not much further up the trees disappear almost completely. Off to the side of the path is a more open area, some kind of shelter made of stakes and lashed skins sits amidst lines of gut strung between trees that hold drying pelts and meat, dried blood is everywhere and some of the skins have names on them inked in blood, including one that says ‘Marybelle Walker’ that is hung over a headstone-shaped block of wood that somebody seems to be carving the same name into.
The party is about to carry on without another glance when they see a man jogging up through the snow with a pile of firewood in his arms.
He wears filthy animal skins that have been sewn together with dried gut, his scalp is spotted and dry and his grey stringy hair hangs long and ragged from his head and beard. Rotten teeth flash out as he drops the firewood and walks towards the party with a smile and an outstretched hand, “My apologies for not being home to properly greet guests!”
Sister Pleasant is oddly charmed by the polite woodsman, and after introductions are made she and Three Beard begin to question him about the shrine they’ve been told sits atop the mountain.
Zeke tells them about the death cult, how they were dealt with by the older folk, and that he’s devoted his life to leaving markers for the cult’s victims since he was young.
Sister Pleasant is moved by his sacrifice, and while she rethinks her initial urge to leave Jorham here as an apprentice, promises that after her mission is complete she will make sure that somebody is sent back to see that his work is carried on.
Zeke is overcome with gratitude for her generosity, but when the party bids him farewell so that they can carry on up the mountain, he begins to quite seriously tell them what a bad place it is and that they should stay away for the good of all.
They tell him he is very brave for going up there to collect his names, and ask if he could help them get there, they tell him they need to go there to stop the flesh plague.
Zeke refuses, tells them he knows nothing of a plague, only of death, and again tells them it should be left alone, repeating over and over that it’s a bad place.
The party is tired of trying to talk to him and begins to leave, whereupon Zeke starts yelling at their backs, demanding that they stop.
Boy Sue, sick of being yelled at by an old man, turns and threatens to kill him if he doesn’t be silent.
Zeke narrows his eyes at Boy Sue and says, “I know what becomes of the souls of men who slay men. Do you?”
Boy Sue throws himself from his horse, draws his daggers, and charges through the snow at Zeke. Both Lumpy Space Princess and Sister Pleasant try to intercept but fail to catch him in time. Three Beard loads his sling, hoping to knock Boy Sue unconscious, and Sister Pleasant takes aim with her crossbow.
As Boy Sue draws close with his daggers raised, roaring into the air, the unmoving Zeke stares back at him and says “I know what becomes of you.”
The daggers plunge into Zeke’s chest and Boy Sue lands on top of him in the snow. Zeke looks straight into his eyes, and whispers through bloodied lungs without emotion, “I know what becomes of you.”
Sister Pleasant’s arrow, meant for Boy Sue, lodges itself in Zeke’s eyesocket, and moments later the rock from Three Beard’s sling dashes Zeke’s brain into the snow.
Boy Sue stands up and plants his foot in Zeke’s chest to dislodge his daggers, then turns and thanks the others for their help.
CHAPTER V: HOW TO NEARLY DERAIL YOUR OWN GAME BY BEING EXCITED THAT THE PLAYERS NOTICED THAT TREE
The others hang their heads in bewilderment, Three Beard is anxious to be done with this mountain and declares that he’s pushing on with the carriage.
He only waits when Sister Pleasant, while not knowing what to do about Boy Sue, begins to cover Zeke’s body with pelts and snow, not wanting to leave him in the open for animals to devour.
During this time Boy Sue raids Zeke’s cabin and samples some dried entrails he finds in a jar beside Zeke’s pelt bed.
After offering a silent prayer over Zeke’s body and eyeing Boy Sue as they again mount their horses, they continue up the mountain.
The trees immediately thin out and disappear except for a few dead withered things after leaving Zeke’s cabin, but before they disappear completely the party watches a crow perched on a thick branch overhanging the trail. The crow stares at them intently until its feathers ruffle as if blown by the wind, but from no discernable direction, then flies away. The party hunches closer into their winter furs and push on.
The wind and sleet continues to build over the next few hours, the sound piercing their ears at a painful pitch to the point that it can’t be blocked by wrapping their heads.
As they clear a crest in the trail the all-invading sound suddenly ceases. They stop in the still cool air and stare at the hundreds of tombstones and mausoleums that stretch before them under a bright clear night sky.
After dismounting from their horses, and keeping a wary distance from the huge withered petrified tree to their right, the party discusses the best course of action to traverse the graveyard and reach the cabin they can see beyond it.
They organise to split into two groups to spread out around the borders of the graveyard until they meet at the cabin, but plans are abandoned when Sister Pleasant becomes frustrated by Three Beard’s grasps at authority. The warrior nun stands firm and orders Three Beard and Boy Sue to take Ignacious directly though the centre trail to the cabin and wait for her and Lumpy Space Princess to follow.
Three Beard spits and declares that he isn’t being paid enough to take these orders from a sheltered nun, but goes ahead with it apparently to his own ends.
As they leave Sister Pleasant and Wyndam help Lumpy Space Princess onto a horse, feeling it will be easier for her to travel given her thorny peg leg.
As soon as they enter the tombstones, Three Beard, Boy Sue, and Ignacious begin to hear whispers of an ethereal tune around them, almost feeling it reverberate in their skin. They spread across the path and into the tombstones and continue forward, keeping an ear out for the source of this sound.
Soon Three Beard diverges to the right, walking through tombstones as the sound and reverberations grow, finally stopping in a patch of snow where he can feel it in his boots. Three Beard looks around for the source and Boy Sue starts digging at a seemingly random grave with his shovel, but while they’re doing this Ignacious walks straight past them with his head cocked, then drops to his knees and scoops a pile of snow away with his arm, revealing an iron grate in the ground.
Boy Sue, with more than a little assistance from Ignacious, pries open the grate with a crowbar, then Three Beard lowers a lantern into the shaft.
10ft down the shaft he can see thick spiked vines which soon choke the space completely, and it is at this point that they hear a guttural scream from the direction of the carriage.
After helping Lumpy Space Princess mount her horse and tethering the remaining four horses to each side of the carriage, Sister Pleasant began searching for something to secure the wheels. As Lumpy Space Princess objected to removing headstones for the purpose, Sister Pleasant retrieved a mallet from the carriage and stalked towards the looming tree, watching an ancient piece of severed rope sway from an overhanging branch.
Taking hold of a lower branch, Sister Pleasant began striking it with her mallet, intending to break away the ancient wood. At first her strikes simply thudded away, but upon the third strike there was a crack and a thick dark red liquid seeped around the branch where it met the trunk.
Overwhelmed, Sister Pleasant backed away and fell to the ground, screaming with primal fear.
By the time Three Beard, Boy Sue, and Ignacious arrive and Lumpy Space Princess has gotten down from her horse, Sister Pleasant pushes Rufus away from her and starts yelling, “No! It’s fine! It’s fine! It’s just sap see?”. She strides back over to the tree, dabs a finger in the liquid, and places it on her tongue.
As the coppery taste floods over her tongue and she realises she has just consumed blood, Sister Pleasant loses consciousness and falls to the snow.
Rufus holds her as she tosses and turns, for the ten minutes she is asleep Sister Pleasant is consumed by nightmare visions of death dismemberment hanging flaying screaming and pain and exaltation, the mountain’s history of suffering condensed into a moment.
Rufus retrieves a waterskin and empties it on Sister Pleasant’s face, who immediately vomits on herself upon gaining consciousness. She shoves away anyone who tries to help her and drags herself back to the carriage, slumping against the wheel.
Lumpy Space Princess feels she needs to either destroy the tree or save it, and as Three Beard refuses to let her set it on fire she walks to it and places her hand next to the seeping wound of a tree brought to life and filled with the blood of a thousand death sacrifices, Blessing it in the name of the Edict of Purity.
She hears the whisper of a scream in the back of her mind and the blood begins to boil.
Three Beard is done with this and leaves with Ignacious and Boy Sue, who calls out “Good luck with your fucking tree” before turning away.
Lumpy Space Princess makes sure that Sister Pleasant is comfortable against the carriage, leaving her with Rufus and Wyndam before struggling back on to her horse and turning to leave with Jorham running beside her. But within a few feet of the tombstones the horse digs its hooves in and refuses to go any further, ignoring Lumpy Space Princess’s thorny kicks.
Lumpy Space Princess ties the horse to the nearest headstone in bitter retaliation and drags Jorham along the trail as it struggles to pull itself free.
By the time she reaches the cabin Three Beard has cast Read Magic hoping to learn something from the calligraphic script covering its walls, and he explains that it’s nothing but exaltations of death. Boy Sue responds by saying “Alright let’s go in!” and walks straight up the path and shoves the front door open. The door falls straight out of the frame and into the cabin with a resounding thud, leaving him staring into the darkened room. (Michael’s increasingly mentally impaired portrayal of his 5 Intelligence Specialist had him standing in the doorway announcing the things he could see. “FLOOOR, WAALLS..”)
Upon entering the sound of a harpsichord fill the air.
CHAPTER VI: DRUGS & TRAPDOORS
Three Beard stops Boy Sue from prying open the trapdoor in the corner with his crowbar then decides to burn one of the spooky chairs that were facing him in the empty fireplace. Boy Sue checks behind a mirror then smiles at his own reflection after seeing nothing but wall and Lumpy Space Princess makes herself dizzy by holding it in front of her while she walks backwards around the room, hoping to see the unseeable.
Three Beard checks the decayed deer head above the fireplace but decides it’s gross not evil and puts it back.
Boy Sue finds a recently occupied room and immediately starts rifling through the footlocker, taking a sheathed sword and coinpurse. He then looks through a pack sitting in the corner and takes a small pickaxe, then inspects the battered wardrobe. He finds several pairs of leggings and a thick winter coat.
Three Beard, Lumpy Space Princess, and Ignacious stand outside the other rooms in the hall and watch as Boy Sue exits the room wearing a satisfied smile and a different coat than he entered with, then walks back into the main room to admire his fine new coat in the mirror.
While Boy Sue poses, Three Beard opens another door and stares at a now-silent harpsichord. Stepping into the room he turns to the left wall to see an impressively framed six foot long painting.
Three Beard stands before the painting in horror, for it shows an alter loomed over by an enormous skeleton, and standing around the alter in classical poses are himself, Lumpy Space Princess, Ignacious, Jorham, and Boy Sue, wearing his brand new winter coat and sipping from a goblet as light shines on his face from above.
Lumpy Space Princess is horrified but Boy Sue is impressed by the detail paid to his new coat. He also continues his trend of checking behind things on the wall and manages to knock the painting from its hook, causing the frame to crack when it hits the floor.
Three Beard cuts away the back of the frame to check for anything unnatural, but if anything this goes further to show how mundane and apparently old this painting is. Once Three Beard has turned away in frustration Boy Sue pulls the painting out of the frame and tries to shove it into his backpack. He struggles to fit it in amongst his other pilfered goods until Three Beard turns and snatches it away, shoving it into his own pack.
In the final room Three Beard immediately recognises the pouch of Purple Lotus Powder sitting on the nightstand. He holds it for a while then tries to stash it in his pack, but his old habits get the better of him and he yanks the pouch open to snort its contents.
The others watch as he begins to stumble about the room slurring, “WhAArrthsps… WAASPSsths!!”
Three Beard now believes the air is filled with wasps.
Once he stops stumbling and is actually coherent Lumpy Space Princess casts Remove Fear on him. He still believes the air is filled with wasps, but he just waves them aside as he walks around.
Back at the carriage Sister Pleasant regains a measure of courage and gets to her feet but Rufus has to talk her down from attacking the bleeding tree. This whole session nearly became about that goddamn tree. Since Lumpy Space Princess isn’t around to object anymore she removes some of the headstones to chock up the carriage’s wheels and they leave Wyndam with the horses.
After following some footprints that lead from the back door Lumpy Space Princess and Three Beard find a man in a nightshirt frozen to death in the snow with a look of terror on his face. They can’t find any suspicious marks on him and just kick some snow over his body and return to the cabin. On the way back they stop at the well and raise a bucket of water, then dump it into the snow and watch it, waiting for something suspicious to happen.
Sister Pleasant finds Boy Sue still posing in front of the mirror and fails to get an intelligent answer to where the others have gone, so immediately starts hammering at the lock on the trapdoor.
Lumpy Space Princess and Three Beard run back in just as she gets it open, but not before Three Beard plays a stirring piece on the harpsichord and Lumpy Space Princess smashes it to pieces.
Sister Pleasant has Rufus and Ignacious brace a table against the outside of the front door and tie a rope around it to lower LSP down the shaft after her.
CHAPTER VII: LET’S JUST TOUCH EVERYTHING
Rufus stands guard above as the rest enter a hallway covered floor to roof in faces, in the flickering lantern light they almost seem to move and at the end of the hall are bronze doors with a face set into the centre. Its mouth is open and its teeth are too sharp and too many.
Boy Sue slips and knocks over Jorham as he falls, and instantly the faces they touch start screaming and will not stop.
Sister Pleasant sees that there is a key in the mouth on the doors, but when she tries to make Jorham turn it as part of his testing Three Beard grabs hold of him, “Don’t you touch that there key boy.” Lumpy Space Princess and Three Beard’s ensuing argument escalates into arcane threats while Boy Sue stabs at the faces and their screams reverberate around the hall.
Lumpy Space Princess and Three Beard are on the point of attacking each other when Sister Pleasant reaches into the mouth and turns the key.
Everyone besides the screaming faces is silenced as they watch the doors push open from the centre, leaving the key in Sister Pleasant’s hand.
In the room beyond they find ten tables, each with a skeletal left hand on it, and double bronze doors with the Dead Sign carved into them. Swallowing their nausea they push through the doors into the chapel beyond.
As they move past marble pews Jorham’s lantern shows murals on the walls depicting demon worship, mass hangings and impalements. The sound from the graveyard can be heard more distinctly, as well as the rattling of chains, and when they reach the main hall they see that hundreds of jawless, toothless skulls hang from the ceiling.
At the other end they find an alter set into the wall within a huge gaping mouth like that on the door. Boy Sue spies something shiny on the alter and immediately leaps over the too sharp too many teeth and snatches a jewelled dagger and ruby necklace from the alter. He looks up at the face for a moment then jumps back over its teeth.
Ignoring the bone organ to the left of the alter, Sister Pleasant inspects the basins filled with black water on the right and orders Jorham to see what they contain. Thanks to a huge morale check Jorham immediately shoves his hand into the basin and pulls out a fistful of teeth to show Sister Pleasant, his arm shaking oily black drops of water onto the floor.
Sister Pleasant thanks him and tells him to place the teeth on the floor, then check the other basin. As an afterthought Lumpy Space Princess casts Protection From Evil on him and he again plunges his hand into the inky water.
This time his fistful of teeth also contains a silver locket. Sister Pleasant again thanks him, tells him to place the teeth on the floor, and the locket in his pocket.
Three Beard, Ignacious and Boy Sue try to pry open the bronze door between the alter and the basins but after several failed attempts decide to explore the door they saw on the other side of the hall.
While exploring these rooms they find lots of decayed and destroyed objects, Boy Sue nearly falls down a toilet pit, and Three Beard searches a blood stained torture room to find an unused-looking set of thumbscrews.
Sister Pleasant tires of checking these rooms and orders everyone back into the hall, and after some deliberation announces that they need to make a three-fold offering to the basins. She tells them they will need at least 2 teeth, which are volunteered by Three Beard, a blood sacrifice which she will take from Jorham, and an offering of jewellery.
Three Beard gets to his knees so that Lumpy Space Princess can remove a couple of his teeth, who decides to kick him with her bramble leg and knocks out the whole top row.
While Three Beard splutters and slurs on the ground Sister Pleasant directs Boy Sue and Jorham to take the ruby necklace and locket in their hands and scoop up Three Beard’s teeth and blood.
They hold their hands above the basins and drop their offerings simultaneously, and Three Beard looks up with bleary eyes as the bronze door grinds open.
Jorham lights their way through with his lantern and they come to an intersection in the passage. Another bronze door is set into the wall and they immediately open it using the wheels set beside it, then carry on down the hall until they walk into a huge honeycombed crypt. They split up, Boy Sue breaks open some crypts for fun and realises there’s coins inside along with strangely withered corpses and sometimes the coins are in their kinda damp mouths and you have to dig them out, Jorham falls into a crypt and freaks out while running around a lower level, and eventually they meet back up, thoroughly sick of crypts.
Going back to the passageway Three Beard finds a room with a tome describing how to make a flesh golem, which Sister Pleasant stashes to deal with later, and Lumpy Space Princess finds another room with an eyepiece that allows her to read the few snatched words remaining in the decayed books surrounding it.
They open another bronze door, but after realising it contains more crypts they return to the hall and wheel the door shut.
The only remaining way to go is the wheeled bronze door at the very end of the hall, and the ethereal whistling sound grows louder the further the door is opened. Through it the hall carries on to the left, but directly in front of them is another bronze door set into the wall and a basin within an alcove.
A huge moist eyeball peers out of the wall above it, and hundreds of smaller eyes within its pupils watch Three Beard as he walks forward. Holding up his lantern, he can see the glint of copper coins within the water, and before he realises it Boy Sue is standing next to him throwing a handful of silver coins into the basin with a smile on his face.
Boy Sue gains a point in Constitution, feeling healthier than he ever has before. He then loses a point of Strength, a point of Wisdom, 2 points of Dexterity, and 2 points of Intelligence. Meaning he now has an Intelligence of 3.
Three Beard looks at Boy Sue as drool begins to run out of the corner of his mouth and he reaches forward to stroke the eyeball, “puuurty..”
Boy Sue’s fingers drag through the thin layer of slime and reveal the stone beneath, and his expression immediately changes as he pulls out his crowbar and stabs it into the giant pupil, chipping out one of the small eyes. He picks it out of the black water and stares at it for a moment before throwing it over his shoulder.
Three Beard drags him away from the basin and up the hall, and when the others have turned away Lumpy Space Princess picks the eye off the floor and stashes it in the folds of her robe.
Sister Pleasant leads the way past two more openings until they find that the end of the hall is choked with thick spiky vines, which she immediately squats down and tries to lift. A vine snaps out over her head, narrowly missing her face, and Boy Sue charges with a roar, falling over Sister Pleasant’s back and chipping one of his daggers on the stone floor.
After picking himself up and tumbling behind the rest of the party, Boy Sue holds out his hand and tries to cast Abandonment of Flesh upon the spiky vines. The plant is unaffected, but the ring seems to melt slightly into his finger and Boy Sue feels something grow out below his chest and lightly caress his stomach.
Sister Pleasant begins to hack at the vines, warding off the spikes that fling out at her, and Three Beard tries to peer beyond her into the room. While most of the way is choked he can see a huge looming skeleton carved into the wall and immediately recognises it from the painting. “It’s here!” he yells, “The alter!”
Sister Pleasant grabs Jorham’s lantern pole and screams as she swings it towards the vines. Jorham’s grip on the pole is so tight that he is thrown against the wall as his intricate lantern shatters amongst the vines and throws flaming oil about the room. Gusts of air from the pit below the plant fan the flames and it soon crackles alight.
While Sister Pleasant watches the warbling death throes of the plant Three Beard and Lumpy Space Princess walk back down the hall, inspecting a bronze door to the north with crude copper coins painted on it. Sneering at the basins set into the short hall, Three Beard has Lumpy Space Princess assist him in opening the door.
Within they finds crypts much smaller than those they had previously seen, and when Lumpy Space Princess kicks in the side of one they discover the withered corpse of a child with coins on its eyes and tongue.
Three Beard leaves Lumpy Space Princess and goes to the other unexplored passage, where he finds numerous small tablets inscribed with calligraphic script, and a larger bronze tablet with a pot of ink and needles beside it.
Sister Pleasant kicks her way through the charred remains of the now-silent plant and into the darkened alter room.
Three Beard calls Lumpy Space Princess to inspect the tablets with the eyepiece and she tells him the small tablets contain prayers to death, and that the bronze tablet reads “Oh brave ones, mark your defiance against the ones who oppress!”
As soon as he hears this Three Beard pushes her out of the way, opens the pot of ink, and begins tattooing the Dead Sign into his face. Panicking and with her spells used up for the day, Lumpy Space Princess attempts a Risky Spellcasting roll to Command Three Beard to stop. She successfully stops him, but immediately falls to her knees as nightmare visions of the history of Duvan’Ku flash inside her mind. After 6 seconds Three Beard returns to furiously tattooing his own face. Once the symbol is finished he winces with pain and turns to find Lumpy Space Princess writhing on the floor.
As he helps her to her feet they hear the scraping and falling of brickwork.
They stumble back through the hall to the coin door and see bricks and plaster being pushed to the floor from inside the crypts. A child slides out of the crypt LSP kicked in as they furiously turn the wheels and the bronze door drops closed.
They run back and close the bronze door at the entrance to this section then meet Sister Pleasant in the alter room, whose questions about tattoos are silenced when she is told that the dead are rising.
Upon the alter are 2 goblets, a heavy book, and a blood-stained weathervane bearing a perched crow. Three Beard immediately stashes the weathervane in his pack and talks to Lumpy Space Princess about the alter and the painting, then realises that Sister Pleasant has not seen it and passes it to her. Sister Pleasant stares down at a painting of the room they are in with Rufus standing in front of the alter, sipping from a goblet as light shines on his face from above.
While Sister Pleasant is studying the painting Lumpy Space Princess looks over the gold-inlayed script around the alter. She stands up and looks thoughtfully at the goblets, then removes the stone eye from her robe and places it on the alter in and reads, “We hail the Lords of Death and Give Offerings to the Masters of Chaos.”
Boy Sue throws everything off of the alter and lies down with his throat exposed, and Sister Pleasant rushes forward with her purity stick as he screams, “SACRIFICE ME! SACRIFICE MEEE!”
The dead begin to bang against the bronze doors and Ignacious struggles to hold Sister Pleasant back as Three Beard and Lumpy Space Princess pull the screaming Boy Sue down from the alter. Thinking of the black space in the wall of the painting, they try to re-enact it by forcing a goblet into his hand and stare at the wall waiting for something to happen.
Ignacious manages to lock his arms around the spitting Sister Pleasant and Three Beard runs to the wall, desperately searching for an opening, as soon as he pushes against it a door swings open and Lumpy Space Princess lunges through with Boy Sue in her arms, who immediately stops screaming about being sacrificed.
Sister Pleasant throws Ignacious off her then turns on him with a look of murder as the slow grind of the opening bronze doors echoes down the hall. Ignacious avoids her swing and throws her over his shoulder, charging through the open door and throwing her to the floor.
Three Beard and Lumpy Space Princess push the door closed and hammer iron spikes around it then fall silent as they hear shuffling feet move into the alter room and the soft slap of bodies pressing around the walls.
They move quietly past an opening in the wall and follow the hallway until they come to a dead end with a softly glowing pit in the floor.
Lumpy Space Princess deciphers the writing above it as “Jump, My Child, and Experience the Infinite Forever”, and decides not to read it out loud, instead telling everyone to go back the way they came.
Bringing up the rear of the party with Jorham, Sister Pleasant hears a soft patter emerge from the pit after they’ve turned away. In a moment she turns around as a giant spider pounces down the hall, throws Jorham against the wall, and brings her purity stick to bear across the spider’s face as it lands before her, obliterating half its eyes.
The spider stumbles and screeches as the rest of the party spins around in confusion and charges at it, falling over each other and dropping their weapons. Ignacious falls against it but manages to avoid its drooling fangs before severing one of its forelegs with his axe. Boy Sue charges down the hall with daggers drawn and drops to his knees, announcing a Called Shot (11-20) to slide beneath the spider and sever the rest of its legs. Boy Sue fails his Called Shot and cuts away the spider’s other foreleg before coming to a stop beneath its abdomen as its thorax slumps to the stone floor, leaving him trapped between the spider and the pit.
Lumpy Space Princess retrieves her mace and brings it crashing down on the spider’s head as it looks up from the floor. Beneath the spider Boy Sue looks up in horror as the spider’s body spasms and its abdomen splits apart, screaming as 6 baby spiders fall out of their mother and on to his face.
Boy Sue flails about trying to get the spiders off and manages to dance out of the way as the rest of the party pushes the shuddering arachnid back into the pit from whence it came.
When they reach the other opening in the wall the dead are pounding against the iron-spiked door.
They rush through the opening and up the hallway it leads to, bypassing morbidly decorated and barred doors, many of which have scraping and moaning noises echoing from behind them.
Eventually they come to an unbarred door with a likeness of the sun carved into it, but after some deliberation Lumpy Space Princess urges them to see what lays further down the hall before trying the door, thoroughly convinced that the door is trying to fool them into thinking it is a way out.
Further down the hall they come to an entirely blood-stained dead end with script on the wall that reads, “Thank you, my dear ally, for sacrificing your life force for my own.”.
Lumpy Space Princess tells the party to go back to the sun door.
CHAPTER VIII: ZOMBIE CHARIOT
The room beyond the sun door is filled with a strange mist, and a large stone crypt sits in the centre. The whole party enters and Three Beard and Boy Sue push the stone lid to the floor, revealing a dirt-filled wooden box within.
Behind them, Sister Pleasant and Lumpy Space Princess watch as a patch of black mist moves around the walls and roof, leaving stains in its wake, until it moves across the roof above them and materialises as a gaunt ashen naked man with too many too sharp teeth between them and the door.
“Hello, hello haha”, he gibbers with a smile.
Not fancying their chances, Three Beard introduces himself.
Throughout a gibbering cackling half-whispered conversation its revealed that he does not remember who he is or why he is here, but that he would very much like to leave please and he needs someone to willingly assist him to leave this place.
When they learn that he is able to control the dead which have risen from the crypts in order to allow them to leave Three Beard and Boy Sue agree without question.
The man is delighted and claps his hands, “Yes yes! Now you must take the oath then we go the oath haha.”
Three Beard and Boy Sue again agree without question, and to Sister Pleasant’s astonishment so does Lumpy Space Princess.
Sister Pleasant stands firm and informs him she will not take his oath, to which he responds it does not matter and leads the rest back down the hallway to the first barred door.
The moment it is unbarred a creature with long wicked claws leaps out of the blackness with a shriek. The man catches it by the throat, crushes it with a squeeze, and drops it to the floor. “Come come, the oath!” he smiles.
Everyone but Sister Pleasant repeats the oath the man reads from beneath the crypt lid within the room, then follow him back to the sun room to retrieve his coffin.
Torn with a murderous rage towards this creature, Sister Pleasant stands back while the others lift the coffin out of the crypt, finally running at him with a flask of holy water, only to stop before him and dump it over her head, laughing in his face.
The man presses a sizzling finger to her forehead and shoves her to the floor, turning back to the rest as they hoist the coffin between Three Beard and Ignacious.
The man leads them back down the hallway, and the dead which had just broken their way into the hall turn on their heels and push each other back, many of them falling into the gaping pit before the alter.
Past the alter the dead stand against the walls to allow passage, paying no attention to anyone until they come to Sister Pleasant, who had chosen to stay at the rear.
She avoids the decayed arms which lurch out at her, slaps one back, and jumps on top of the coffin. The unexpected weight causes Three Beard and Ignacious to drop it and it nearly shatters on the stone floor. In a moment the man materialises before her and lifts her by the throat. “The oath” he says, “say the oath or I crush you here, it does not matter.”
Sister Pleasant spits in his unmoved face, kisses him, and nods her agreement.
The dead shamble on before them as they move to the exit, where it seems like every face around the hallway is now screaming in an endless chorus.
They tie the coffin to an additional rope secured to the one they used to enter, and hoist it up into the cabin with Lumpy Space Princess riding on top.
Sister Pleasant searches the cabin for Rufus and finds nothing but blood, gristle, torn clothing, and a broken sword. While she falls to her knees and sheds silent tears the rest carry the coffin out into the snow at the man’s urging. (I forgot that the deer head was meant to laugh hysterically at them now that the dead had risen, fuck, that would have been a mood-killer for Sister Pleasant)
Out in the snow the dead are tearing at each other while still more pull themselves out of the frozen ground.
The man can’t control the dead that were buried on the surface as they were tainted by the Flesh Cult so they rush through the bedlam until they reach their carriage, but the horses have all been gutted and devoured, and inside they find Wyndam dead on the back seat, missing his legs.
Three Beard and Lumpy Space Princess begin to gather things from the carriage to make a trip down the mountain, until Boy Sue looks at the man and points at the dead, “Can they pull our cart?”
It turns out they can and 6 of them are lashed to the front of the carriage.
Its nearly dawn and the man gets into his coffin before it is hoisted to the roof and tied in place, where Boy Sue lies beside it.
While they travel back down the path and past Zeke’s cabin they can see straggling zombies wandering down the mountain between the trees. They urge their lashed dead on and seem to have left the rest behind by the time they reach the foot of the mountain.
The man requests to be taken to the nearest town, but halfway between the mountain and Thornmouth a green mist swirls out of nothing above the carriage and Boy Sue stares with wide eyes as huge fungal arms reach out of it and take hold of the coffin, snapping the ropes as they drag the coffin back through the closing mist and the man’s laughter/screaming echoes out of hearing.
In the absence of the man’s influence the dead stop dragging the carriage and look around in confusion, tearing at their harness when they look back and see Three Beard holding the reins.
The snarling of the dead snaps Boy Sue out of his bewilderment and he dives over Three Beard’s head, making a Called Shot (11-20) to stab the first 2 zombies through the head with his daggers. He fails and lands sprawled amidst the feet of the dead.
Three Beard sweeps their heads from their shoulders and drops in a defensive stance over Boy Sue while Sister Pleasant, who had been walking beside the carriage, drops another with a crossbow bolt. One of the zombies takes a chunk out of Three Beard’s shoulder and he and Sister Pleasant continue stabbing and clubbing the zombies as they tear themselves free and lurch forward until the only one left standing has a gaping neck wound.
Ignacious jumps out of the rear of the carriage, strides towards the zombie, throws his axe to the ground, grabs hold of it and tears its head from its shoulders.
He throws the head with its still-flopping spinal cord to the snow and begins pulling necessities out of the carriage.
CHAPTER IX: THEY’LL FIGURE IT OUT
They finally reach Thornmouth drenched in sweat and dried blood and request entry from the same stunned guard as the last two times, who again refuses them entry. When asked about the mountain they reply that they had a lovely camping trip and everything is fine. Three Beard explains that the wound on his shoulder is from a curious bear but everything is fine, but the guard tells him that he’s seen a human bite more than once living in a port town, and that that is a human bite. Three Beard tells him everything is fine.
When the talk turns to purchasing horses the other guard on duty perks up and explains that his cousin runs a stable, finest horses in Thornmouth.
Sister Pleasant tells him they need 5 horses and immediately offers 100sp per horse plus a 90sp finders fee for the guard.
The guard looks over the weary, bloodied lot before him, and explains that these are exceptionally fine horses and his cousin will take some convincing to bring them to the city gates for a bunch of strangers, and therefore he’ll require another 60 silver for his fee.
Lumpy Space Princess and Sister Pleasant launch straight into a “Don’t you know who we are?!” tirade but the guard calmly cuts them off.
“You’re a group of strangers covered in filth begging for horses at the gates of Thornmouth, the greatest port city there is, and my fee is 150sp.”
Three Beard hands him his coinpurse and the guard disappears into the city.
Sometime later the awkward silence is broken when the guard and his cousin return with 5 very fine looking horses. Sister Pleasant throws her coinpurse, which contains far more than 500sp, at the feet of the guard and leaves in silence and disgust.
The party travel until Thornmouth is out of sight and make camp, not having slept in over a day. During his watch Three Beard notices something moving beneath Boy Sue’s shirt but says “That’s weird.” and continues his perimeter check.
The next morning their cheerful breakfast is interrupted by a line of carriages and horses travelling from the direction of Thornmouth. Most of the travellers sit in silence with downcast eyes and some weep openly, until finally one of them explains to the party that the dead descended on Thornmouth in the night, the city is lost.
“…that’s too bad…” they say and hastily pack their horses in order to get ahead of the refugees.
CHAPTER X: FRATRICIDE
As the snow begins to thin out the party is hit by a rusty rainfall, in which chunks of sloshy hail the colour of flesh pound the earth around them. They take shelter under some nearby trees but one of the horses succumbs to the corruption, its head splitting down the centre and shrieking into the rain. Three Beard quickly cuts it loose and slaps its flanks, sending it charging through the downpour.
Further along the road feral corrupted blasphemies of men charge down a hill, but are impaled and trampled as the party continues to ride their horses as fast as they will go.
As they continue to ride the sky darkens and squelching sounds seem to circle them until when they look back at the road ahead a tall figure in a dark ashen robe stands in their path bidding them to stop with an outstretched deformed hand.
Three Beard pulls his horse to a halt and demands to know the figure’s purpose.
The figure introduces himself as GroohmVal, Flesh Speaker of the Mother, who has a proposition for them. Destroy the crow, and a place by her side will be theirs.
Lumpy Space Princess charges her horse forward while a bolt from Sister Pleasant’s crossbow whistles past her, and Boy Sue moves beside Three Beard, eyeing the pack which contains the crow.
The Speaker ducks LSP’s mace as she charges past while Ignacious throws himself from his horse and charges screaming with his axe, hacking the Speaker’s right arm away in one sweep. The Speaker’s hood falls back and a stream of filth discharges from his gullet, it plasters Ignacious’ arm and he roars in pain as bones break and reform until his arm is nothing but a thick tower of twisted flesh.
Lumpy Space Princess turns around for another charge and Boy Sue has a change of heart, reaching out his hand towards the Speaker and casting Abandonment of Flesh. One side of the Speaker’s face pulls out in a bubbled glob and falls to the ground, squelching off into the trees. He turns hate-filled eyes on Boy Sue and screams, “You?! You are not worthy to be Betrothed!” before Ignacious slams him to the road with his horrific arm pinned to the Speaker’s chest.
The Speaker twists his head and sprays more filth towards Ignacious, whose leg explodes into a mess of fleshy tendrils. His continued screams of “YOU ARE NOT WORTHY” are cut short when Boy Sue causes most of his throat to flee with Abandonment of Flesh. The ring again melts into his finger and Boy Sue feels part of his belly swell out and gurgle. Before jumping from her horse and breaking the Speaker’s neck with her bramble leg Lumpy Space Princess sees Boy Sue sitting on his horse lifting his shirt up to his armpits and staring down at his stomach, where two baby arms dangle over a pulsing mound covered in boils.
Sister Pleasant holds Ignacious in her arms as he weeps, “Did I have vengeance? Have I avenged them?” Tears fall from the nun’s eyes and she tells him yes.
Ignacious weeps and chokes, “I won’t grow in the ground, send me to them, send me on to purity. Send me on to Purity.”
Sister Pleasant holds his face to her chest as she slides a dagger beneath his ribs and into his heart, only letting go when he has stopped twitching.
They drag Ignacious and GroomVal to a nearby tree and set them aflame, then stand in a circle around Boy Sue, telling the frightened boy to come down from his horse.
Lumpy Space Princess quietly asks him how the deformity started and he dumbly points to the ring on his hand.
LSP nods, holds his hand gently against her bramble leg, and takes a blade from Sister Pleasant. She tells Boy Sue they are going to help him and hacks down with the blade.
Boy Sue screams and holds up a hand that now only has a thumb and little finger while blood squirts onto his face.
Sister Pleasant and Lumpy Space Princess watch him with stern faces, and his deformities remain. He runs to Three Beard and throws his arms around his shoulders, sobbing and crying for help as Sister Pleasant aims her crossbow.
Three Beard, with the Dead Sign tattooed on his face, covered in blood and with half his teeth missing gives a speech straight from his heart, “Now hang on, he’s just a simple boy and he ain’t hurt no one, he’s helped you a lot on this journey, his body’s gone wrong but there’s nothing wrong with his head, he ain’t dangerous. Now you let us help finish this mission of yours and then we’ll be gone, you’ll never see us again, we’ll just go.”
Rose looks at me with a d20 still held in her fist, and says, “..I shoot Three Beard.”
The crossbow bolt flies through Three Beard’s eye and punches through the back of his skull, sprawling him face-down on the ground. Boy Sue falls to his knees and tries to open Three Beard’s pack, looking for the crow, but before he can get his hands on it Lumpy Space Princess walks behind him and buries her mace in the base of his neck, crushing vertebrae and snapping his face onto his chest as he falls on top of Three Beard.
Michael and Roy look at each other across the table as Sister Pleasant and Lumpy Space Princess retrieve the crow weathervane and ride away, leaving their bodies in the road.
CHAPTER XI: A MURDER OF CROWS
They are soon met by a carriage driven by two Fellowmen of the Edict of Purity. Fellowman Brunhold (Michael) and Fellowman Argyl (Roy) explain that they were sent by the First Edict, things have become much worse at Oakenash, with more storms and more blasphemies appearing every day.
They continue on until dark and make camp under the cover of the outskirts of a forest. They tie the remaining two horses to a tree and Fellowman Brunhold takes first watch while the rest sleep inside the carriage.
After a few hours Fellowman Brunhold hears the screams of flesh blasphemies coming nearer around them through the forest and immediately takes hold of the reins and charges the carriage back onto the road, behind them the horses tied to the tree whinny and cry as the mutants find them and begin tearing into their flesh.
After daylight has broken Fellowman Argyl climbs to the roof of the carriage with a canvas wrapped around himself to keep an eye on the roadside with his crossbow, while Fellowman Brunhold continues to drive them back towards Oakenash.
A dark cloud seems to pass over the sun, and Fellowman Argyl looks about him in wonder as crows plummet from the sky, choking with mutation as they hit the ground.
He holds the canvas higher as they begin to hammer against the roof and the carriage suddenly swerves when a crow splatters against Fellowman Brunhold’s head and knocks him out cold. Fellowman Argyl throws himself down beside his friend from the roof and covers him with the canvas, taking hold of the reins and urging the horses on until they clear the downpour of dying crows.
Fellowman Brunhold slowly regains consciousness, and when Fellowman Argyl explains what happened Brunhold smiles back at him with blood trickling from his forehead, “Ah, old friend, that’s another one I owe you.”
Later they spy another flock of crows but this time they are circling and swooping 3 flesh blasphemies in the centre of the road.
Not wanting to risk the horses or carriage by charging through them or trying to ride off the road, Sister Pleasant, Fellowman Brunhold, and Fellowman Argyl all take aim with crossbow and bow. They all roll at once, hit, and all roll max damage.
The blasphemies drop dead on the road ahead with holes punched through their heads and a number of crows fly to the carriage and perch on its roof, staring and cawing at the three of them.
Not being afraid of the crows but not really knowing what to do with them either, they carry on to Oakenash.
They find the city in flames. Piles of corpses lie by the side of roads growing together in fleshy hills, the land itself looks and moves wrong, barricades lie in shattered ruins, and The Hallowed Stump is boarded up with a caved-in roof and smoke billowing out of it.
Several mutants scream from behind a burnt-out house and jump onto the horses as they continue to run, Sister Pleasant and Fellowman Argyl immediately take pot shots with their crossbows, but as Fellowman Brunhold is drawing his bow he notices the crows hopping and nudging next to him. He cocks an eyebrow and asks the crows to attack, who immediately take flight and shred the throats of the blasphemies.
Fellowman Argyl laughs and reaches back to crumble some bread onto the roof for the returned birds as the carriage clatters on up the street towards Sanctum Pura.
The Sanctum comes into view over a rise in the road, but the party’s hearts fall when they see the crowd of shrieking gurgling blasphemies amassed before its doors.
Sister Pleasant screams and sends her crows forward, loosing a crossbow bolt into the crowd. Fellowman Brunhold and Argyl’s crows soon follow and swarm over the heads of the mutants, clawing eyes and shredding arteries but taking heavy losses as they’re clawed from the sky.
Lumpy Space Princess leaves Jorham and the artefact in the back of the carriage, dousing the head of her mace in lantern oil and setting it alight. Sister Pleasant tears a strip from her cloak and wraps it around the head of her whip, lighting it from LSP’s mace while Fellowman Argyl lobs a flask of oil into the crowd and Fellowman Brunhold pushes an arrow into a flask and mounts it on his bow.
Lumpy Space Princess bellows and charges through the crowd swinging her mace with righteous bloodlust. Several of the abominations fall with ruined bodies and the rest fall back before her momentum until she hits the church doors and begins screaming out for help. Sister Pleasant follows through the path cleared by Lumpy Space Princess, whirling her flaming whip to keep the abominations at bay, but her whip wraps around the throat of one as it pulls away and she she falls in the pool of oil thrown by Fellowman Argyl.
Fellowman Brunhold looses his arrow at the flesh blasphemy still clawing at the flaming whip around his neck, the arrow punches through his throat and the shattered flask sprays flaming oil over the surrounding mutants.
Something scrapes and thumps inside the church and the door is swung open by Fellowman Arish, wielding a battle axe in one hand and a wheel of his chair in the other. He pulls Lumpy Space Princess inside and screams, “THEY ARE COME! WITH ME MEN!”. Fellowman Arish wheels himself into the fray and cuts the legs from beneath a screaming monstrosity with his axe as three other Fellowmen rush out with spears in their hands.
Sister Pleasant pulls herself up, dripping in lantern oil and mud, surrounded by abominations of flesh, and screams out, “JORHAAAM!” Jorham’s wild eyes appear out of the carriage’s window and she yells, “JORHAM, THE DOOR IS OPEN! RIDE THE CARRIAGE THROUGH NOW JORHAAAM!”
Jorham scrambles across the roof of the carriage, jumps down between Fellowman Argyl and Fellowman Brunhold with delirious panic in his eyes, and before they can react cracks the reins.
Fellowman Arish wheels his chair behind Sister Pleasant and pulls her into his lap, while the spearmen impale two abominations to clear a path for them as the carriage thunders past, one of the horses crashing into the closed door and breaking its knee as the other rears over Lumpy Space Princess at the open door.
Fellowman Argyl climbs back over the roof and into the back of the carriage, calling his remaining two crows to him. He collects the artefact and draws his sword as the crows settle on his shoulders.
Fellowman Brunhold picks Jorham up in one arm and runs across the back of the rearing horse, diving past Lumpy Space Princess and into the church.
LSP unlocks the closed door and grabs the injured horse by the bit, dragging them inside.
Sister Pleasant attempts to roll back out of Fellowman Arish’s lap so that she can wheel him away from danger, but fails her Dexterity check and hits her head against the moving carriage. When she looks up two of the spearmen have been torn apart and Fellowman Arish is being dragged from his chair. He looks at her and screams, “YOU MUST TAKE IT TO THE ROOF!” before having his stomach torn open and innards ripped out amongst the abominations.
Sister Pleasant grabs onto the carriage as it rolls past and into the church, Fellowman Brunhold reaches the door as a blasphemy is about to charge inside and punches straight through its face and into its skull with his chainmailed fist. He kicks it off his hand as Lumpy Space Princess reaches the other door and as they push them closed the final spearman turns to them and yells, “TO THE ROOF YOU FOOLS!” before the rioting mass tears him apart.
The First Edict greets them, Jorham vomits all over the floor, Fellowman Argyl shoves his way past the First Edict and runs up the winding stairs at the rear of the church.
The others follow him and they reach the bell tower, from which they can see swarms of flesh blasphemies coming out of the woods on all sides, already amassing around the walls of Sanctum Pura.
The First Edict reaches the tower and they start demanding to know what to do, the First Edict is flabbergasted and tells them he has no idea what to do with the artefact, and if they’re looking for a place for it the bell tower has never held such a thing. Fellowman Argyl yells about Fellowman Arish telling them to bring it to the roof and the First Edict yells about not knowing anything about the artefact and Sister Pleasant grabs the artefact out of Fellowman Argyl’s hands and throws herself out of the tower arch and up its roof, she reaches the peak and begins stabbing the weathervane’s spiked base into the roof over and over until it breaks through the brickwork, chunks of plaster rain on the heads of those below and ring off the bell.
Sister Pleasant pants as the air suddenly goes still and directly above her the clouds darken and swirl into a vortex. A black bolt of lighting shoots out of the centre and strikes the weathervane, throwing Sister Pleasant from the bell tower roof. She hits the roof of the church and calls to her crows for help as the shingles slip away beneath her hands, nine crows take hold of her cloak but it isn’t enough to stop her slipping from the gutter and landing amongst the amassed flesh blasphemies.
From the vortex above, streams of black crows flood into the air, swirling down and around Sanctum Pura, filling the air like a plague of locusts. Sister Pleasant’s ears are filled with the sound of tearing flesh and she is covered in wet spray and falling meat, it seems to last forever (those above would reckon it about 20 minutes) until there is a sound like a clap of caws and the crows suddenly fly outward from Sanctum Pura in every direction, occasionally swooping down until they fade out in the horizon.
Nothing remains of the blasphemies but bone and cartilage, many of the trees have been stripped bare and the ground has been torn apart, Oakenash still burns and the First Edict takes hold of the bell’s rope and rings it for joy. Jorham staggers to the top of the stairs, his shirt stained with bile, falls to his knees, and weeps.