Mysteria

Our Heroes Lay - Part 2

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After the damaged pages Crastin observed the change of hand and metre in the second section, the old alliterative verse replaced by a more modern iambic verse. It was certainly a different scribe but was this the same composer? Was this some subtle clue as to the composers identity? After all some two hundred years separated both verse forms but subtle syntactic patterning’s in both indicated they were the work of the same author. Two hundred years… Could this have been written by… Crastin dared not think it… The High Master himself?

By river-boat we sailed for two hot days,
and hence we went on foot to Lecova –
a damned and dreary place of scare-crow wards
against old forest spirits and the night.
We laughed at these while children gathered round.

The villagers then spoke of curses, swore
and made their gestures to old gods. The will
of the forest, the Old Margreve was turned
against the people. Wolves came first, the pack
attacking from all directions, we fought
them off but two had died, all manner of
animal came against us. Once we beat
away the beasts the villagers a feast
was held honouring our hard victory.

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Fire, I'll take you to burn...

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The ENIGMATICS’ third night in Lecova will have local songs sung about it for many years to come. With an understandably nervous Chrobak as bait, the minstrels would lure the HOLLOW MAN in front of the burning kiln and push him inside using a burning wagon. It was a magnificent plan, and the mighty wood golem became the burning victim of their ingenuity as they pushed him fifteen feet into the inferno of the kiln. Much burning was done but the HOLLOW MAN had his scythe, Harvester, that could teleport him to his victim, so with all branches ablaze, he appeared in front of Chrobak sweeping wildly with his scythe. Even then, any of the minstrels could have died, but they kept their cool and, with the aid of the burning, and their violent attacks from all angles, the HOLLOW MAN was destroyed and Chrobak sighed a great sigh of relief!

Now they set upon investigating the root of the problem, following the difficult forest path, and with Arca Domina luckily managing to survive the poison of a deadly giant centipede that attacked from above, they eventually found a clearing wherein stood an old gnarled tree, with four human heads hanging from its branches all singing in a maddening song. The song could have driven some of them to ultimate madness but they resisted the magic and Lord Flasheart charged in to attack with brave Yander providing flanking from the rear. Arcael used his force magic from a distance to start attacking the singing heads, while Arca Domina tried to fire deadly arrows but was still too badly affected by the poison of the centipede to excel in her usual manner. However, Anastrianna loosed off a good arrow before charging in with her huge bastard sword to start hacking.

Within seconds the tree was begging for its life, offering secrets of the forest in return for its freedom. What those secrets might have been, our group will never know, but with the invoking of the spirit of Mavros through the magical nodachi blade, Sir Renly of St Rosinade, the ENIGMATICS not only discovered the ancient secret of the cursed maiden turned into a tree by a witch and trying to gain the status of evil treant by the gathering of human heads, but also became aware of the treasure hidden underneath her very roots.

With the villagers safe, the words and meaning of the HOLLOW MAN song saved and put to music, a great deal of MYSTERIA gathered and Truman Click’s possession of the Bloodwood Flute of Elric Stradivarius, the group returned to Zobeck and reported to Sir Henry de la Zouche, securing a TYPE IV BAG OF HOLDING and the promised sponsorship of one of the city’s most prominent sponsors of the arts, lord-aaron-von-schmidt.

The group will henceforth now be known as “SCHMIDT HAPPENS!”

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Cummon, let's work...

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Day three was the start of some vociferous planning instigated and facilitated by the bards of Zobeck as they prepared their battle against the Widower of the Woods. Information from Old Mother Molvor from Dead Nettle Cottage just north of the village showed the route the HOLLOW MAN was taking but the forest was too unyielding to find a way quickly enough, especially with all the other plans they had to make, each taking massive amounts of time and manpower from all that could be spared, minstrels and villagers alike.

They decided that their best weapon against the creature of wood would be powerful fires and started setting about two places that might be able to provide such intense heat. The old witch pit would be emptied of water and fuelled with wood from Karl’s charcoal business. This would take an estimated three days. At the same time, the old lime kiln would be restored and filled with wood, taking an estimated two days. But first, the hundred wood wards around the village would be collected and stored in Anna’s barn until the two burning areas were ready, where they could be added to the fuel to be burned, thus preventing animation. It was estimated that this could be done in a day.

Baca’s wife returning to the village with the tale of the HOLLOW MAN appearing on their fleeing wagon many miles from town confirmed a suspicion that the wood creature could travel anywhere to get hold of its intended victim, so that first night, the entire party would stay with Torb, son of Koren, while the rest of the town remained in Anna’s barn.

True to form, the HOLLOW MAN appeared around midnight, this time with an animated wood ward from outside of Dead Nettle Cottage. As the two creatures entered town, the ENIGMATICS attacked with burning arrows, but the HOLLOW MAN went to the half full witch pit and quenched the flames (acknowledgement to Peter Jackson for that illuminating Isengard scene), returning with his wooden henchman to knock three times!

The whole party hacked and chopped for all they were worth, and although they destroyed the last wood ward, they could not stop the HOLLOW MAN from taking Torb’s head and entering the wood.

Next time they would fight wood with fire!

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Big Hollow Man...

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THE ENIGMATICS were abruptly disturbed on their first night around midnight by the sound of a woman’s screams. Goody Kostya told how she heard three knocks on the door before it broke asunder and a strange woody creature entered, lopping off Old Man Kostya’s head with a scythe before making its way into the forest. Anastrianna, the ranger, checked but could find no trail. One of the young lovers told how he had seen the beast go to the centre of the village, point at certain huts, make a nick in the shaft of his weapon and then enter the door of the first hut he had pointed to.

The youth had told how the creature had also pointed to the houses of Baca, Koren, Chrobak and Elric (where the minstrels were staying). Baca and his family immediately started loading their wagon to leave town, even though the ENIGMATICS advised him to stay and be under their protection.

During that day, the group heard more of the song they had started to learn from the Children.
Knock, knock, knock;
The Hollow Man calls.
Swing, swing, swing!
His greedy scythe falls!

Chop, chop, chop;
He takes another head,
Burn, burn, burn!
The Hollow Man is dead!

Not knowing quite how the Hollow Man would strike, the group divided themselves into three groups of two. Lord Flasheart and Yander would stay with Torb, the next male villager in line, Truman Click and Anastrianna would watch the centre of the village and Arca Domina and Arcael would guard the villagers in Anna’s barn. True to expectation, at around midnight, the HOLLOW MAN showed up, bringing with him a friend – one of the horrific wood wards now brought eerily to life. Straight to Baca’s door he went, and with the wood ward guarding his back, three times he knocked before breaking the door asunder and going inside.

The brave minstrels gathered themselves together and waited on the outside of the hut with the creature surrounded. When the HOLLOW MAN exited, it was with a new head in his hand. The group attacked but the wood ward fought them as the HOLLOW MAN made for the forest edge. They killed the ward but could not stop the scythe-wielding entity as it entered the forest and disappeared with Baca’s head.

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Village of the damned....

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From the moment THE ENIGMATICS entered the Village of Lecova, they could feel that something was not quite right. From the fierce-looking wood wards to the erratic animal behaviour and the whispered superstition of the inhabitants, the small settlement on the outskirts of The Old Margreve looked certain to reveal dark secrets as the ministers of MYSTERIA delved into recent events.

Rumours had it that the death of blessed ELRIC STRADIVARIUS may have set a curse in motion. Certainly, it looked that way, with animals going mad, a villager killed by his beloved bull and a night attack by savage wolves. The merry minstrels did well to organise the village against the wolf attack. Arca Domina was almost killed but Arcael was quick to help, and Lord Flasheart and Anastrianna did what they could to prevent the death of many by their own hand as terrified villagers fired crossbows into the darkness at anything that moved, friend or foe!

On the second day, the group resolved to find a missing girl and her beloved pig and ran into some serious danger when they tried to recover the girl’s body from the swarm of savage bees that had killed them. Truman Click and Yander almost died as they each took turns at distracting the bees until they could all get far enough away to remain safe. Two more villager bodies were found but the group could not trace the wolves through the thick forest and were forced to return.

However, the villagers had warmed to the party, thanks to their heroic actions, and threw a great feast for them, with the tastiest goose they could barbeque. They had already determined that the flute for which they had the title deed was in the possession of the senile old priest of YARILA and POREVIT, held at the chapel. They had also heard some of the children singing a song and had started to learn the words.

They slept well that night……….until midnight!

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A hard day's night...

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Two months after their first impromptu gig, the group play their first scheduled performance at the Wheatsheaf Tavern. Lord Flasheart’s groupies are there but overindulgence affects his performance and he doesn’t quite jimmipage them. However, Arcael gets them going with his cool delivery and takes the hit on thrown panties. The night is a success and the rent is paid for another month, with an important scout by the name of Sir Henry de la Zouche inviting them to his office for a chat. Turns out he’s ONLY the agent for Lord Aaron Von Schmidt and there might be a bit of sponsorship on offer, depending on some OLD MARGREVE folklore collecting.

Grigori turns up at last with an offer of a title deed to a magical flute and The Enigmatics make plans for a journey to the village of LECOVA in search of a song and armed with the title deed to the fabled instrument of Elric Stradivarius. The boat ride down the Argent is uneventful but when the minstrels stop off in the marsh, they are surprised by a PUTRID HAUNT that rises up from the swamp and attacks with belching leeches and slamming fist. Twice they have to down the beast before the HEAD CHOP AND BURN technique is employed.

On the first night spheres of light expose the presence of two feral WITCHLIGHTS that blind and burn them until even brave Yander has to bury his face in the sand. Anastrianna the ranger and Arca Domina with her new composite bow loose powerful arrows into the night air, but it is the FORCE magic of Arcael and the HEALING magic of Truman Click that are the true victors as one of the small flying constructs is smashed, leaving the other to flee into the forest at high speed.

On arrival, the village of LECOVA seems an unsettling place, with its weird, angry scarecrows, its over-friendly children, its senile priest of Yarela and Porevit and its vicious goose that snaps at Lord Flasheart and receives a terminal slap with the flat of his blade. He doesn’t know his own strength, that paladin! “Well, at least DINNER is sorted,” laughs the grim ranger. The evening creeps in and the howls of wolves are heard from the nearby forest.

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Blood on the rooftops....

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Embroiled in a plot woven by cruel fate outside of their control, the ENIGMATICS will risk anything to clear their names and save their lives. With pressure mounting from the Spyglass Guild and in deadly danger from the Cloven Nine, the merry minstrels work with the troubled Ilyana Greymark on a plan hatched by Cartways ghoul Radu Underhill to bring both groups together at HOMMNAL’s BOTANNICAL ROOFTOP on offer of LADY MARACK’s Book of Dark Confessions.

Hiding in a shop left open for them, Yander and Arca Domina see a group of the SPYGLASS overcome by ghouls at the entrance to HOMMNAL’s establishment and follow four survivors up the stairs through the tenements to the rooftop. Brave Yander moves in to deal swift justice but is countered and marched at point of HEAVY CROSSBOW into the garden. Lord Flasheart does not hesitate to intervene and only the healing powers of Truman Click keep Yander and Flasheart on their feet. Arca Domina swiftly avoids the paralysing cane of the Guild sorcerer and flanks the biggest thug, while Anastrianna fires arrows and Arcael delivers wicked force spells.

Two guild members attempting to flee down the stairs are cursed by their gods and crack their heads on the hard brick and it seems like the danger is over until a tea sipping tiefling backed by four HEAVIES introduces the CLOVEN NINE contingent and accepts the Book of Dark Confessions from Arcael, flying off into the night but releasing the group from their CONTRACT and offering a unique opportunity for Lord Flasheart to sip tea and other stronger beverages with the HEAVIES while the others make their way past some hesitant ghouls and return to their hiding place at The Dented Shield Hotel.

Ilyana has gone but she has left a note of thanks and in the next few days Arca Domina learns from her trusty contact, Tovrin Darnel that the SPYGLASS GUILD are no longer concerned with them and that their leader, LADY MARACK, has been kidnapped by the ghouls.

Someone pays their month’s rent and leaves the minstrels with enough time to practice for their next paying gig – a night at the Wheatsheaf. Let’s hope Truman Click can improve on those bum notes he played last time.

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They came in through the bathroom window...

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Majestic statues stand twixt regal columns in marble halls under the open sun. Complex rhythms permeate the air punctuated by the dull echoing sound of occasional splashing water, for this must be the OLD STROSS PUBLIC BATHS, where enigmatic adventurers enter, adorned only by towels of modest veiling.

There sits a tiefling female all alone. Lord Flasheart, followed by frivolous fans, breaks away to talk to her, using secret code. Yander spies a well-known ghoul in steaming pool, while Arcael flirts with aritstocracy. The tiefling turns and hearkens to the plan, regretting all that’s happened and wanting to make amends.

But towel-flicking terror approaches as greedy citizens, spurred on by promise of reward and accompanied by intricate ragtime notes converge on our heroes. Yander bravely runs and Ilyana Greymark follows. But Truman Click and Anastrianna are held by sweaty hand as Arca Domina and Arcael take up rear guard to escourt favoured tiefling from the building. Bully boy bashing beats Flasheart to the ground but cries of “RAPE!” from enterprising ranger bring unwanted attention of armed guards and witnesses disappear into steamy rooms.

Bruised and battered paladin is healed by Rava ’s magic and our heroes all repair to the-dented-shield-hotel to formulate their plan.

Expert sneaking and well planned action takes out two guards in The Silk Scabbard and handsome payment buys favour, so that Iskra brings to them The Book of Dark Confessions, and The Enigmatics leave unnoticed through the secret CARTWAYS exit after some marvels of martial mayhem by Arca Domina. Messages are sent via the Masters of Small Matters to both The Spyglass Guild and The Cloven Nine: “Meet at HOMMNAL’s BOTANNICAL ROOF TOP at Night, if you want to see THE BOOK!”

Midnight approaches, as day turns into expectant night!

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Radu has a barrow in the market place...

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When a group of representatives from The Cloven Nine suggest you should go home and enjoy the evening, it is always something to think about, and when Captain Hendryk calls you over for a chat, it is not something that the sensible minstrel would normally refuse.

As it turns out, Hendryk seems pretty helpful, filling The Enigmatics in on some of the subtleties of Grigori’s recent work and even suggesting a place to find a clue to the whereabouts of Greymark’s tiefling daughter, Ilyana. Trouble is, that clue lies in The Cartways. Now some good citizens of Zobeck might tell you The Cartways doesn’t exist, but those that’re in the know will tell of a dark, depraved place run by DARAKHUL and Slave Traders, in dark dungeons under the city. Hendryk is one of the latter, and even gives the players a map.

Outside the gates to the place, Lord Flasheart stands up for a victimized kobold, unfortunate enough to bump into a group of angry DUERGAR. The Deep Dwarves turn on the noble paladin, who knocks his assailant out flat. The Ranger, Anastrianna is less subtle, carving flesh like a butcher, while the Cartways guards look on bemused. With three dwarves felled, two others disappear and after forcing the merry minstrels to “mop up”, the guards even let the them into the gate unhindered. Yander moves first in “sneak mode”, followed by the paladin, the ranger, Arcael, Arca Domina and Truman Click.

Arcael finds out where to find their contact, Radu Underhill, a rather good looking ghoul with a plan. He tells the group where they can find Ilyana and offers them a way to escape the deadly intentions of both The Spyglass Guild and The Cloven Nine: Get the Book of Dark Confessions from the tiefling and arrange a meeting with both groups at Hommnal’s Botannical Roof Garden tomorrow night at midnight. Radu gets to “speak with” Lady Marack of The Blue House, and the adventurers get away with their lives….or so the plan goes! And to sweeten the deal, a strong healing potion each, personally delivered by the clawed hand of the DARAKHUL.

But what is this commotion on leaving THE CARTWAYS? Only a wild BARGHEST with eyes for our raving minstrels alone. Down goes Flasheart. Down goes Arca. “Bang” goes Yander’s plan to jump on top of the creature. Hard to see and hard to hit, the creature weaves in and out of the players, chomping and clawing. It tries to take Anastrianna alone but she resists the magic, and with a little help from some enthusiastic kobold crossbowmen and some serious FORCE magic tossed in by Arcael, the party finally defeat the beast and head back to their apartment, resting well, and ready to meet with Ilyana the very next day at the luxurious OLD STROSS PUBLIC BATHHOUSE.

Towels only, chaps and chappesses! No weapons allowed in the baths!

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Summertime.....and the living aint easy!

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Another month’s rent is paid at 10 Wheatsheaf Lane and The Enigmatics saunter into the summer looking for entertainment … or work. Entertainment seems easier to find, with a gig at their very own Wheatsheaf Tavern Saturday night. But alas, the entertainment doesn’t pitch and so our enterprising bards take up their instruments to save the evening. Truman Click’s flute solo is out of tune but altogether the crowd is happy and the Lord Flasheart groupies are born.

But Arcael is worried about his friend that didn’t show. It’s not like that irrepressible half-gnome to miss out on a spot of adulation. Anastrianna and Arca Domina cat burgle their way into M’thanth the Mocking’s apartment to find a cut throat being the ultimate excuse for non attendance.

Perhaps M’thanth cut too close to the bone in his dealings with The Cloven Nine. But employment rears its hopeful head in the form of Grigori, a friend of Simon Taylor’s. He’s looking for Lord Graymark’s daughter, Ilyana. She’s got herself into some trouble with The Spyglass Guild and he needs to find her before they do. But The Cloven Nine are looking for her too!

An uncalled for meeting with several members of The Spyglass Guild turns into a skirmish, but Click’s quick thinking saves the day and the fight ends before any fatalities, with the “Guild” warning the party that it would be better for them to co-operate and turn Ilayana over to them when they find her.

The search of Ilyana begins in The Silk Scabbard where The Enigmatics make contact with Ilyana’s “lady friends”, Iskra and Filipa. They don’t know where she is, saying Ilyana was too scared of The Cloven Nine to tell them where she would hide. The adventurers begin to leave, but as they approach the exit to the bar, they are blocked by some rather unsavoury armed thugs…..

Who are these men? What do they want? What will happen next?

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