The Sword Coast Guard, Episode 7 – A Witch Moot

Session Date: July 2, 2017

19 Flamerule, 1367 DR

This session’s cast: Elodin, Rusty, and Nigel. Belgarath’s player couldn’t make it.

As the howling in the distance gets louder and closer, the heroes ready themselves. They take up defensive positions in the network of small islands connected by fallen logs that surrounds them in Burp Swamp.

The heroes take defensive positions in the swamp as the howling approaches.

A loud, keening howl sounds from a nearby island, causing terror to shake Nigel and Rusty to their core. The heroes can hear movement and see floating logs depress in the water and creatures jump onto them, quickly approaching, but they can see nothing.

A large mastiff wreathed in shadows appears next to Nigel, clamps its teeth into the bard, yanks him from his feet, and then dissipates away into shadows. A similar beast appears next to Rusty, attacks, and disappears. Elodin, from his position up a tree, hears a mastiff climbing the tree, and he, too, is subjected to an attack from a shadowy hound.

Nigel turns invisible and moves about stealthily, but the mastiff has no trouble locating him. Rusty finds himself surrounded by two biting mastiffs, and the one in the tree with Elodin continues to harass him.

These creatures are pretty sweet. They can turn invisible as a bonus action. So, I was having them move, attack, and then turn invisible. So, the shadow mastiffs had advantage on their attack rolls, and the heroes had disadvantage on theirs. Cool stuff… From the DM’s point of view at least… I was intentionally not having them change positions while invisible. That way the players wouldn’t have to play the “guess which square they’re in” game. The mastiffs are very stealthy, so I think they could have easily beat the heroes passive perception checks. The battle would have been doubly nasty if I had done this. I was going for challenge, not TPK.

Frustration setting in, Elodin drops a hypnotic pattern on the area where he believes three of the hounds are located, though Rusty unfortunately gets hit by it, too. Rusty and two of the mastiffs are affected, but the third bites Rusty, shaking him out of the hypnotism.

As Rusty and Elodin begin to clean up the mastiffs on them, Nigel engages in hit-and-run tactics, slamming the hound harrying him a couple times with dissonant whispers until it drops.

With the mastiffs dispatched, the heroes travel a couple hours to the northwest where the ground rises slightly and is less swampy. Small toads begin to exit the swamp, trailing after them and even nipping at their boots and ankles. After the Nigel and Elodin spend some time eldritch blasting and fire bolting the toads, the creatures give them a respectful berth. Hundreds of toads do continue to follow them, though.

They come up on a vine-covered entrance to a cave complex. They’re not sure this is their destination – they figured the witches would be in a cottage – but they decide to check it out. First, however, a long rest is in order.

20 Flamerule, 1367 DR

After resting, they make their way into the cave. They find that the corridor is covered, floor, walls, and ceiling by thick roots that makes progress slow. Furthermore, long vines hang from the ceiling. The vines seem to move slightly on their own, gently caressing them as they pass.

At this the heroes spend some time hacking the roots and vines and inspecting them. The vegetation oozes a black, diseased liquid. Rusty and Elodin determine that the roots and vines are decidedly not natural, much like the rest of the swamp. Some supernatural force is corrupting the area.

In the first chamber of the cave complex, they find dozens of clay pots hanging from the ceiling. Nigel climbs onto Rusty’s shoulders to pull one down, and upon opening it, they find hundreds of dead centipedes. They appear to have either suffocated or starved to death.

As the heroes move to one of the two tunnels leading out of the chamber, small sylvan creatures reveal themselves in the vines hanging from the ceiling. They squeal something in Elvish, and cause four of the pots to fall to the ground and shatter. As the sylvan creatures flee down a tunnel, swinging by the vines, hundreds of small centipedes swarm over Nigel and Rusty – Elodin is luckily farther away.

The clay pots shatter on the floor, releasing swarms of centipedes on the heroes.

The centipedes crawl under the fighter and bard’s armor and clothing, biting at their skin. Rusty takes hundreds of poisonous bites, and Nigel likewise begins to have a very bad day.

I rolled a critical hit on Rusty. It turned out to be 8d4 damage, and many of the dice came up as 3s and 4s.

Rusty and Nigel begin to kill the insects swarming over them, but Elodin has seen enough. He drops a fireball on his friends and the swarms of centipedes. The wizard uses his penchant for luck to help Nigel avoid the brunt of the blast, and Rusty’s ring of fire resistance protects him.

Most of the centipedes are blackened husks and piles of ash after the flames of the fireball clear away. Those few that remain are quickly destroyed by the heroes.

The heroes move off down the tunnel the small sylvan creatures fled down, and come upon a large chamber filled with bed rolls, a cabinet, a chest, and a table. Elodin holds back as Rusty and Nigel enter the room to investigate.

Immediately globes of darkness fall over the three heroes. Rusty and Nigel both suffer stabbing attacks by creatures they cannot see, though they suspect it to be the small sylvan creatures. Elodin is not spared, either, as a small blade stabs him in the side.

Nigel rushes out of the darkness to the center of the chamber. There he sees several of the small creatures on the floor – the heroes later identify them as darklings – and two larger ones – darkling elders – hanging from the vines with hand crossbows at the ready. Surrounding and having an “oh shit” moment, Nigel casts greater invisibility.

Nigel finds himself surrounded by darklings.

Rusty swings away in the darkness, killing one of the darklings on him. Elodin backs out of the darkness, firing fire bolt at the darkling attacking him.

Several darklings surround Nigel, stabbing at him, and the two elders on the ceiling begin shooting bolts at the bard. The creatures appear to have no problem seeing Nigel despite his being invisible. In response, the bard skitters out of the fray and casts hypnotic pattern – his greater invisibility is lost, but it wasn’t doing him much good anyway.

Most of the darklings are caught in the effect and freeze, swaying gently back and forth as the spell takes effect. The globes of darkness also wink out as the darkling elders are no longer able to concentrate on them while incapacitated.

Hypnotic pattern to the rescue again. Definitely a great spell. I thought Nigel was in trouble for a moment. Hypno saved his butt. Well done, Nigel. On another note, blindsight is awesome, too.

Once Rusty and Elodin take out the darklings harassing them, the fighter moves up to the hypnotized creatures and has a go at them. Rusty moves from one to the next, hacking them apart before they can respond. Occasionally when one isn’t killed by the fighter, Elodin and Nigel finish them off with fire bolt and eldritch blast.

The heroes investigate the room and find a good amount of loot – copper, silver, and gold coins – in the chest, along with a statue of an elven female. A tapestry on the wall depicts a dark-skinned female queen before nobles and supplicants.

Elodin and Nigel examine all this evidence and what they know about the darklings – their exploded into brilliant light when they were killed, leaving behind only piles of ash – and determine the tapestry depicts the Summer Queen, the ruler of the Seelie fey in the Feywild.

In response to two good arcana rolls by Nigel and Elodin, I pulled out the DMG and Volo’s Guide to Monsters and read a lot of the lore about the Feywild and Darklings to the players. It’s all really interesting stuff. I was concerned it might be boring to just read blocks of text from the books, but right afterwards I asked the players about it, and they all said they liked it. Cool.

In another chamber, the heroes come upon leather hides – mostly from humans and a few orcs – covering the floor. On top of the hides are bones, some with scraps of flesh still clinging to them. They examine the bones and determine them to be from humans and a few orcs.

One wall of the chamber glows softly with light, and Nigel approaches to investigate. Through the hazy light, he sees a perfect reflection of the chamber he’s now standing in. Soft music from a flute floats from the hazy portal.

The heroes determine that this is a place where the prime material plane has come into contact with the Feywild, causing a gateway between the two planes to form. They are torn about going in or not. Just as Nigel is about to walk away, a beautiful elven female appears in the Feywild chamber and beckons Nigel to enter.

The heroes discover a gateway to the Feywild, and Nigel is sorely tempted to enter.

Nigel enters the Feywild for a few moments, and then walks back into the material plane. Elodin and Rusty tell him that Nigel stood in the Feywild chamber for fifteen minutes doing nothing before returning.

As the heroes debate what to do, the elven female returns on the fey side, and beckons again to Nigel. Suddenly Nigel remembers her as a summertime love he had back when he was studying at bard college in Silverymoon. The easily tempted bard has to summon all of his willpower not to dive back through the portal.

This scene played out for a while and was super fun. The player plays Nigel as this “ladies man” who is can never turn down an attractive female. So, I was intentionally tempting him to enter. I think the players had mostly determined that their true mission didn’t lie through the portal, but there was some lingering doubt. That is, why would the DM put the portal there if the heroes weren’t supposed to go through it? So, I kept temping Nigel. Finally, though, the heroes leave the room, though. I still hold out “hope” that they’ll go back later…

The heroes come upon another chamber, this one very large with half of it on a ledge fifteen feet high. Iron cages dangle from the vines hanging from the ceiling, and odds and ends are scattered about the floor. Hundreds of small toads hop all about.

Up on the ledge is a large black cauldron. Next to the cauldron is a wrinkled, wart-covered, old lady sitting on the back of a large sow. Something seems familiar about the woman, and the heroes believe she is the Granny Tichwillow’s sister that they retrieved from the White Knights – only that woman, Agnes, was dead when they retrieved her from Gauntlet Hall.

Agnes greets the heroes, and invites them to join her on the ledge for a witch moot. Reluctantly, the heroes move up on to the ledge and begin to converse with her.

Rusty, Elodin, and Nigel speak with Dread Agnes Gristlegums at the witch moot.

Agnes tells them that the giant toads and mastiffs in the swamp were a test of their abilities, as were the darklings. She then invites them to join her and her sisters in their efforts. Those efforts turn out to be a scheme to bring darkness and chaos upon the entire area.

She proudly confessing to being the one to distribute the candy to the children in Rassalantar – the candy that Nigel has been popping constantly – and even shows them the cauldron, full of liquid candy brewing, and a counter with candy wrappers and candy molds on it. She warns them if they don’t join her, she’ll subject them to cruel experiments instead. Agnes even transforms into a beautiful half-elven female in a revealing blue dress to temp Nigel.

I think it was close to working, too… Poor Nigel. His DM knows exactly what his true motivations are...

The heroes are not inclined to join Agnes and her witch sisters, however. Nigel moves off the ledge, and Rusty rushes forward to attack.

And that is where we ended the session. Probably not a bad cliffhanger, as it turns out. It will also allow Belgarath to participate in this “witch confrontation.”

 

The Sword Coast Guard

the adventurers formerly known as the Heroes of Gold, Glory, and Girls

Rusty - Human Fighter

Nigel Dyreus - Half-elven Bard

Elodin - Human Wizard

[sorry, still need a picture]

Belgarath - Half-elven Rogue Warlock

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