Friends In High Places

Torchbearer – Cursed Lands
Episode 22

April 7, 2019

*Thump*

Making there way back to the branch-catwalk, they see a big gaping hole in the web underneath where through which they can see the ground below and the shattered remains of the cart.

The group frees Billy from a web cacoon struggling on the wall. A group of roving bandits abducted him to be sole into a travelling circus since they thought he was a child. This group set out and were an attack by another group, and he managed to escape. He lacked food and water for a few days and woke up in complete darkness.

After freeing Billy, they cut open another sack since they could hear a muffled voice – and not just random bark screams form a forests-kith. They met Aldormo the ranger, an elf. They are tall, dark-skinned and pale-haired, their raiment is a knitted vest with a bumblebee, and they are from the north Ash Lands. They are an Ash Lands elf. They grew up there and ranged all over and joined the forest rangers in the South years ago before the elves of the First Forest sealed the gates of their citadel. Now they search for a bow of the leader of the Rangers. They live amongst the trees. After pleading the group his service because they freed them, they all set off downwards.

After looking around a little bit, they made the party made their way down the sloping vines as the spider climbed after them. A little less wary now, as the large man who through it off the tree was no longer present. Rushing the group found itself at the base fo the spiral walkway and ran down the stairs.

They reach the suspended catwalk again, hustling along with it they jumped onto the first platform, and it tilted overthrowing Aldormo and Billy off. Samson helped Billy out, and they pulled Aldormo free since with their 10′ pole.

The spider follows as they descend the rest of the way. They see it coming and lite the now blocked way outside with a torch.

Billy’s break down at the site of his friend’s still body amongst the remains of the shattered cart. Inconsolable, he slumps down and cries into his hands.

Aldormo looks back and challenges the spider waiting in its dark hole to a fight to the death in the name of friendship. All while, Samson carries all the bodies to the edge of the woods straining his back he lies down and tries to meditate it away but such injuries take a toll on the body, and Aldormo summons ethereal ghost bees and challenges the spider to come and get him, all while the spider simply watches from inside the tree hollow.

Korban runs out and collects dark shield with a red star on it. Korben spends little time inside the grisly totem fey ring.

Billy filled with grief, starts to scratch the topsoil off and digs into the soft earth with his hands. He is planning to bury his friend himself. The hole slowly fills with tar that burns Billy’s hands like acid, clouding Billy’s mind with only pain.

Aldormo is observing this, “This looks like it hurts.” Billy frantically scraps the acid off on the mud, Aldromo leans in and says, “We should take your friend and have a proper burial. Preferably without injury. You should stop,” over the screams and whimpers of Billy whose hands have begun to bleed from the acid.

Aldormo begins to drag Billy away from the hole, and once a distance away, Billy pleads through tears, “What do we do now?” While Korben turns and runs off with the shield into the forest. He ran off with Samson yelling after him to come back. His footfalls were the only thing that can be heard cracking in the dark.

Camp starts fine with Billy cooking some Rabbit and Aldormo wandering off and picking wildflowers. Samson dug the grave and buried the bodies of Rasotto the dwarven adventurer and Ludolf and Sledgey, the porters. He marked their graves with the nearest large rocks he could find.

Aldormo took off their holy symbol and left it on the graves as well as flowers that they picked, keeping one and wearing it in their hair. In a haunting voice they begin to sing:

My eyes are dim
I cannot see
I have no specks with me
I have no specks to see.

The sound of the song’s haunting melody captivates Billy, and both Billy and Aldormo’s anger disappears with the last note.

Night falls with Samson’s prayer of a fair journey and for the Breath of the Burning Lord to visit them in their time of need.

Dwarf a la Carte

Torchbearer – Cursed Lands
Episode 21

March 31, 2019

The heroes find themselves amidst the tallest branches. Surrounded by webs, barely able to make out a cart hanging a short distance below the lowest limb. This tree is over 400 feet tall, and its lowest branch is still 200 ft above the ground. The view obscured by the shell of spider webs and various web sacs. These sacs hold small birds and other things most not moving, a few squirming at a jerky rhythm, not stopping nor-tiring.
The branches form catwalks with whatever thing that took you from one level to another, long destroyed.

The group spot a nearby web sac. They hear grunting coming from it. As they approach, they see it is a tree person. Its limbs were sticking out through the web bag as it flails around wildly. They identify it as a forest-kith, although its bark is stained black and is rotting. He takes a swing at Rasotto, much to the surprise of everyone. Rasotto frees an arm making a little more difficult to cut them loose as they continue to flail wildly.
*Rarwggliglr* the voice of bubbled gurgling mixed with crackling of stick. There are four such creatures around also stuck in silk sacs.

After a short argument breaks out about the nature of the creatures, Rasotto is urged to free the beast by his companions but hesitates. Jack sees this as an opportunity to give a scan of the area and sees a giant spider’s leg disappear from view as the spider that was following them crawls beneath the catwalk-like tree branch the party is on. It crawls towards them unseen heedless of gravity, upside down. Seeing the giant arachnid disappear set them on edge.

A after some debate, Rasotto cuts open the cocoon holding the rotting forest-kith. He starts screaming at the party. He runs toward the party flailing. After getting the giant axe destroyed the creature, its bark skin starts to knit together with a black ooze. Jack pushes the defeated sunbleached tar bleeding forest-kith with the handle of his axe and shoves him off the side of the ledge. He falls into the webs below.

The spiders pounce on the now slowly flailing tree child. Seeing this, the party uses this opportunity to try to climb higher, but the spider finished fast and started climbing up after them.

The party with no way forward decided to fight together rather than risk falling and separated. And so an epic climb-fight broke out. Punctuated by the dwarf falling, dagger extended overhead onto the back of the spider and trying to pierce the beast, climbing to better positions and Jack tossing one-handed the spider off the surface below.

Dwarf and spider fall into the web below. The spider climbs inside hoping to surprise the group as they climb down on the inside. Rasotto, the hardy dwarf, tries to free a shield and the porters who had fallen just before the fight. In the effort, Rasotto dislocates his arm. The dwarf crawls over to the cart and tries breaking open the chest.

The pounding causes the web to suspend the cart to break.

Two hundred feet fall.

Dead.

Spider-Dwarf

Torchbearer
Cursed Lands Session 20

March 17, 2019

Goblins come to camp drawn in by the smells of the ruined rabbit. The party hid in an attempt to see what they did. While the green-skins poked about the campsite, they saw the party trying to hide. Want to fight and prove their might, they attempted to drive the party off so they can loot the camp in peace. The party decided that driving off the goblins was prudent and with the mighty axe swing, Mad Jack was able to drive away from the hunting party. Frightening them with his prowess.

On the way to, they managed to make it some way there standing in front of the first tree of the world. They had managed to fill up their waterskins with runoff. Here they took to camp, while the drainage was drying up. Mad Jack attempted to sew the rip in Samson’s bag but ran out of thread to complete the job. Rasotto dug deep, and his body managed to get rest and healed sickness by itself without difficulties. Entering the tree by boost and standing in the center, they realized that the chute down into the tunnels below was filled with web, their rope intertwined with it. So up to the spiral staircase, they travelled, warry of railing-less edge. Up they went until they reach a catwalk that jutted into the center of the hollow tree. There at the end, another catwalk sat suspended in web at an awkward angle. Rasotto inspected the sticky silk stands and vines and decided the jump could be made. After the harrowing jump, they continued the staircase until it was no more. All that was left was to climb upwards on the now thick vines, around some 100 ft high. Catwalks, promenades and tree branches greeted them after a heroic effort to climb the branches.

At the top, there were several body-sized shapes wrapped in web, along with the inner walls. They cut one open and found the desiccated remains of an elf. They had a circlet and a hammer. The warhammer had dwarven runes etched along with the head. Grabbing the contents and noting that they should search the rest when they had time, they continued outside. The branches are long and flat, some as big as trees themselves, the lowest of which is 200 feet in the air. They suspect the dark shape in the web to be the cart that was seen from below. Again noting that they will need to come back to try and cut it down, they continued unto the branches, which are covered in a thick web. The audience sees a spider giant and quite sneaks up behind the adventurers. We will have to come back next time to see what happens.

I am Up in the Woods

Torchbearer
Cursed Lands

March 10, 2019

Rasotto and Billy are lead up, into the home of the an essentially a forest god by a creepy forest bush person. They call themselves Forest-kith. They are spirits which inhabit the woods and can possess the trees themselves. His face in the woods appears old and cracked in the bark. He occasionally drools black tar and coughs out smoke periodically throughout the conversation. He wants them to go on a journey to the first tree and find a dark effigy that is the source of this mysterious power. He suspects that is located somewhere in the depths of the tree. He believes it was put there by a man who turned his heart cruel in search of power.

The great forest spirit is the eldest spirit in the forest. All the others are young and not as powerful. He put his roots in and took a more permanent position as a tree to fight and contain the rot in the magic circle. He is waging a war with the cult and it seems now the castle too, all while maintaining the corruption from creeping and decaying the ole forest. He asked the party to travel to the first tree while he fights a forest fire set by the slavers at Liar’s Castle.

The other members of the party were already there and were present for the conversation. They agreed to travel the first tree and set off toward it, this is when they realized Billy the halfling wasn’t present and they lacked the map. Without a charted part, they were forced set off to make their way to the cursed grove, trying to follow the paths. They heard drumming approaching drum, drum, drum. Mad Jack set off to see what was causing the noise. There, hiding in the trees, sat Korben. He saw Mad Jack and yelled run! Barreling through the woods after him and chasing the party was a massive, twisted troll with beady eyes, coarse wiry hair and a huge puss filled nose. They ran and managed to escape and afterward were left breathing heavy, afraid, but alive. They set off once more and this time only made it partway and needed to reorient themselves in order to continue. They made it to the lost on, top of a hill and were unsure where to go next. Samson went to go look for a trail and fell down a ravine. His boots sliding and he landed unharmed but at the bottom of a steep 15-foot cliff, with only up as the way out. Mad Jack retrieved some dead wood and hurled it down the ravine. He told Samson to position it so he can boost himself up like 5 feet or more, with Samson’s reach around 7 to 8 feet and the boost of about 5, they were able to easily reach down and pull Samson up. Growing tired they rested. Mad Jack tried to sow together Samson’s pack but was out of rope, he’ll have to remember to restock when he goes back to market. The group rested and tried to steel themselves for the trials ahead.

Samson started saying how he can’t manage alone, and that he feels hopeless, and was comforted by his companions’ reassurances, but was unable to rest due to Korben’s insistence that if something were to happen that he’d take his friends bones. The dwarf Rasotto’s tough façade was lifted and he had a good messy cry as only dwarves know-how, which settled his anger, for now. Mad Jack sought refuge alone walking through the woods. But before the dwarf cried he had tried to make a meal out of a young rabbit he caught. His mouth-watering, but he lit it aflame in his haste, ruining it. Rasotto remembered he had water to share with everyone. But the subtle wafts of cooking meat would attract predators… next time.

The Abyss

Torchbearer
Cursed Lands Session 18

March 3, 2019

Running through the woods, Rasotto and Billy separated from the rest of the group. They were lost and as midday approached light from the suns rays directly above shone through and managed to dimly light the forest a bit.

They were in a small groove, with the trees vaulting overhead. In the middle of the groove standing batter and worn arch about the size of a doorway. The arch stood on a platform made out of concentric steps leading to the top. As Rasotto neared it, the hair on his arms and beard felt static in the air and as he passed through an audible pop. A small shock and that was all. Intrigued, he put his eyes real close and also listened to the stone. His mastery of stonework allowed him to ascertain that this was a magic portal and that to use it the secret phase and ritual must be performed and the magic will hurl you through space to a different location. Curious they cleared off the moss and felt the runes. They decided to bring the cleric back hear, once they found him to translate. So set off, looking for any trail leading from the portal. They found a long seldom used, slightly overgrown stone path heading back in the direction of the Cathedral. They followed it away and found a secret wagon trail, South would lead to the Cathedral and North, to the edge of the forest. Not wanting to have anything do with the wood and hoping their members of the group would assemble at the gates of Crowthorne they set off. Exhausted and run ragged they hunkered down to camp on the edge of the woods just South of Crowthorne, when small animals and other creatures starting moving real fast. A raging wildfire started in this section of the forest. They had to break camp immediately, this was going to be a long night. Wary they set off to the west, travelling for some time before entering the forest following their map circumnavigating the fire.

The sought the Forest-kith. And they found them, walking the ground started to give way, and Rasotto manages to throw himself aside, but Billy wasn’t so lucky. He was at the bottom of a near 20-foot pit. Rasotto was going quickly search for a branch or vine to extricate the halfling from the hole, but Rasotto instinctively scouted the area for danger, to which he saw the waiting eyes of the Forest-kith. They tree-like nature and leaf-like voice creepy and alien, started to accuse them of starting the fire. After a heated argument, both sides agreed that the blaze was the work of the beastmen, for Liar’s Castle and that they were searching the forest for the party and so they were responsible for mediating the punishment to the beastmen. Agreeing that the beastmen should die for the crimes, they helped Billy out of the pit and relayed a message that their leader wanted to speak with them.

 

Shallow Grave and Past’s Ghosts

Torchbearer
Cursed Lands Session 17

February 24, 2019

Billy and “Mad” Jack found the party.

Billy had woken up before dawn and wandered off. He found a waterfall and took a swim. By the time he got back, the rest of the party had left.

When “Mad” Jack awoke, he found himself alone with the body on the once sleeping man. He trudged after Rasotto the scout but tired and took rest.

Finally, back together, they decided to travel back to the Dark Cathedral. Billy successfully navigated back to the Cathedral with Rasotto and Samson’s help, with “Mad” Jack bringing up the rear carrying the body. When the group was discussing how to proceed to get past the guards, “Mad” Jack’s grip on the body faltered, and he dropped it with a thud.

As the guard called for reinforcements and started to search, Rasotto put on his robe that he stole early from the cathedral. He proceeded to attempt to convince them to get in, pontificating on the various positive aspects of being apart of the Dark Church of St. Viscous. Rasotto sacrificed himself, allowing himself to be captured but not before making a scene to allow time for the party to dig a grave. After a few moments of grave digging while Rasotto tried flipping pews and kicking candle down, he was restrained and chained to the wall. In the proceeding rescue, Billy snuck in and freed him from the chains while Samson and “Mad” Jack ran interference. Struggling to flee they managed a short-lived victory, as the adventurers once again found themselves lost in the woods.

 

A Viscous Sermon

Torchbearer
Cursed Lands
Session 16

February 10, 2019

Rasotto and Samson found themselves alone, scouting out the trail to the Cathedral. After a brief discussion about whether they should turn back or scout out the Cathedral, they travelled there. They spotted a thin shirtless muscled man with tattoos running down both of his arms. He sat on the steps tending a small brazier for warmth while sharpening a dagger with a rock to a razor point. The two decided the best course of action was to sneak and check out the back.

The Cathedral of St. Vicious was a tall, imposing structure. White marble wall that was painted black with ash and tar, its stain glass windows glazed over with some red viscous liquid. They made their way to the side where there was a door barred on the ground level. A horizontal sliding latch adored the door.

The Initiate Samson recalled his days as a street urchin and decided to push the latch open peer inside and lower a fishing hook and release the bar from the inside. After stealthy freeing the latch from the catch, the way was free. They made their way into the red-tinted main chamber.

After spotting robes and quickly changing they made their way into the pews onlooking an altar, that was ringed with skulls and had a large red tapestry with a foreboding symbol on it. Behind the alter a mezzanine with a large organ with tentacle-like pipes softly played. The whimpers of a man in the corner could be heard, he was chained to the wall. They sat there and attended a black sermon.

A wizened old man called for the deaths of the adventurers that were disrupting their work in Liar’s Castle, and the importance of their work to attain a place in the Halls of Chaos and join the tables of the Lords of Shadow. After the sermon, the people who filtered in went to their own devices. Some gambling, others selling wares, while some disrobed and went behind tapestries. While others still went to torment the man chained to the wall. In amidst the chaos unfurling, Samson tried overhearing peoples’ conversations, but the most crucial thing he heard was, “Samson is that you?” To which he turned and walked back to the way he came in. While he was doing that Rasotto went over and talked up this man. After distracting the man until Samson left, Rasotto too left. They hurried away, exhausted and scared. They made camp, and while setting up, they realized they had some luck, a small stream nearby allowed them to fill their water skins.

 

No Heroes Here

Torchbearer
Cursed Lands Session 15

February 3, 2019

The grove was dimly lit by starlight. Making their way through the thinning tree line, they spotted in the middle lying down, a sleeping man. Rasotto and Billy stood on one end of the grove with the porters Ludolf and Sledgey, while Mad Jack and Bruick the other.

The party stomped over hoping the man would awake.

The guide Bruick heard rustling in the bushes and was scared. He said that he thought they had dealt with the forest creatures and that they wanted him dead for cutting down a tree. Rasotto told the forester that they liked making sacrifices to the forest creatures and so he would be next. Mad Jack in through confusing released the man from service and he ran as the soft rustle of laughing trees made there way after him.

They poked, kicked, punched and kicked the sleeping man again to no avail. Splashing water on his face to no avail. They made camp, Rasotto making a map with the help of Billy and Billy preparing the Rabbit as jerky for later, and Rasotto teaching Billy how to fight.

Rasotto decided to plug his nose and cover the man’s mouth. He slowly turned blue, then purple. Upon release, he was no longer breathing. They lamented not having a cleric there to help this man. They decided to leave this man now slowly losing colour in his cheeks, but not before checking his pockets. They found copper. Counting their luck, they set off to find the Cathedral. While simultaneously blazing a trail, Billy also searched the forest for signs of deer. He got turned around, but Mad Jack managed to find a rabbit to eat.

Rasotto ever the vigilant scout, was up ahead a bit and so was the first to hear muffled music floating through the trees. There was a man eating food, fat and sloppy, and another man, more creature than man, his goat legs tapping a beat and this slighting goat head was blowing into a set of pipes, whose music beaconed them to eat. Shrugging off the music Billy talked with the beast, and so struck a deal after talking about the nature of meaning and reality. The agreement was they could take the man out of here and the Sleeping man too, back to the lands of men, and to make sure that they never return to the forest. So, they set off after the man puked behind the bushes for quite some time. He came back a little lighter. They travelled again in the direction of the Cathedral, Billy leading still but this time not hunting, and paying close attention to the direction of travel.

Billy’s Pilgrimage

Torchbearer
Cursed Lands Session 14

January 27, 2019

Billy and Rasotto discussed the next course of action a bit. They decided to go back to town, drop off the porters and get new ones to allow these ones some time for self-care while taking the goods back to get rewarded. But first, they decided to go to the first tree and get Rasotto’s bottle and iron spikes.  Since it was on the map, it was just an easy few days journey into the words.

Afterwards, they went to Crowthorne and gave the large sack full of goods to the merchant from Crossroads Keep. Of note, in Crowthorne, the stables had burned down. The merchant gave them a preserved ration which is accepted as trade-in Crowthorne. Billy used the gold to bribe the butchers’ guild for a job. They wanted a stag, and they will be waiting to cure the meat at the gates of Crowthorne. Rasotto used the preserved rations as trade to hire the porters Ludolf, a third-generation immigrant and Sledgy, an old farm hand with a coarse voice. Billy emotionally unloaded on Rasotto about not knowing his real parents, and one of the only clues is that St. Vicious might know more.

The next course of action was then to travel to St. Vicious’s Cathedral deep in the woods and see if anyone there knew anything. They set out and went to My Son Rock. As soon as the party sent out, Rasotto went out to start scouting and immediately ran into some beast-men on the prowl. The beast-men recognized Rasotto as the slave who was apart of the slave escape up near Liar’s Castle and so tried to capture them. A scuffle ensued, and it resulted in a buckle on Rasotto’s leather armour being torn, and the beast-men at weapons’ point. They realized these were the beast-men who the Forest-kith bargained the heads for. They broke their ankles and were planning on dragging then back to the Forest Place when the wind spoke with the voice of the children. They were to drag their bodies onto the rock and decapitate them. The beast-men were eyed wide as Billy and Rasotto callously discussed how they need to decapitate the body on the inside first since they don’t have a large blade. They pummelled the neck with a large wooden mallet. It was hammer time…

They quickly collected the porters, since they didn’t make it far in the dark wood, and they took off in the direction of the cathedral. After hours of travel, they came across a strange clearing in the leaves thinned, allowing rays of light through the canopy. The leafy pattern of light through the canopy danced wildly across the mossy ground. In the clearing lying face down in the moss, sleeping, was a man.

The Bandit Slide

Torchbearer
Cursed Lands Session 13

January 20, 2019

The party went into the cave to check it out. It was a small animal cave with a chute at the back where dripping noises were coming from. Rasotto recalled some lore about animals and was able to determine that this cave was a hibernation cave of some larger animal used only in the Winter.

After looking around, they jumped into the chute, and with some quick pushing, Rasotto managed to get everyone down the shoot without incident. Deep in the cavern fog obscured a sizeable round figure. Their footfalls made a slight wet noise, the slippery watery covered floor. It spoke in a rich piping noise as if playing its vocal cords like a bagpipe. Its spindly arms ended in webbed hands, and the frog face stared back with coal-black eyes. Samson listened and determined that the language that the frog-man was speaking was old and not often heard by man and that he was a river spirit from the northeast near Alderport.

The runes that encircled it mention danger and eating people was the reason why he was imprisoned. Here and there woven into the story was the lock that the runes themselves were powering. The frog creature gesticulated and silently pointed at the rune lock. Unable to read and perhaps bored with the pantomiming of this weird, dangerous frogman Rasotto smashed the runes with a heavy pointed rock and freed the giant.

The frog spirit belched up gold and did a ritual and poured something on himself and turned himself into water vanishing. A little relieved but sure that they released something evil into the world, they started when they heard “Mad” Jack’s voice. He had tracked them to the cave, and with his help, they managed to easily extract them from the chute and out of the cave.

“Mad” Jack managed to find the trail of the bandit back to their camp where they saw the two brother porters standing on buckets with nooses around their necks. Mad Jack thought this smelled fishy and so circled the site but altered the bandit.

The bandit was ready and fired at the buckets beneath the porter’s feet, making them topple over. This let the party with the choice to free the brothers or immediately try and capture the bandit. They saved the brothers, and after picking up the trial, they pursued the bandit into the night. After a great chase, the bandit had managed to evade the group, disappearing into the darkness. The party was able to see the lights from Crossroads Keep far in the distance, in the direction the bandit was heading.

The party went back and camped near the Town gates and was spotted by a guardsman collecting weeds, thistles and grass for use in a tea to help sleep. During the camp phase, Billy added the route to the old tree to the map.