I will leave it to the players to provide highlights, but the main gist of the story so far is this:
11 April 56 (Third Age)
The PCs arrived at The Wilderland Inn, a familiar and usually-friendly stop run by Nasturtia Birdwhistle, an elderly halfling hostess, and her trusty dwarf security guard, Dorin Nolty. This trip, however, things weren't a comfy as they were used to. It seems the Inn had been cursed by a witch after Dorin had focibly evicted (and bruised up) her son for staying a week, running up a huge tab, and then trying to get off without paying. The curse involved making all of the ale taste like garlic and vinegar and making the milk curdle even as it was drawn from the teat. Business was bad for the venerable establishment, and the outlook dire. The PCs' hearts went out to the proprietress and they decided to try and track down the witch to get the curse reversed. Of course, the offer of "free ale for life" didn't hurt, either.
They hired the only other two customers at the Inn--a swordsman named Almaric and his sneaky friend Wine (aptly named)--mounted up, and rode to the southern swamps to find the witch.
12 April 56
Mostly-uneventful day of riding down the old swamp path. During the first watch of the night, the party had its first encounter with a pestilence zombie. The creature--once a young woman--was killed quickly, but not before she sank her scabby, infected hands into Filibert.
13 April 56
Another day of riding. At dusk, the party was spotted by a group of young girls (14-20 years of age) dressed in gray cloaks and ragged clothing but carrying bows and daggers. The girls--who had strange, vacant expressions and spoke in monotone--attacked but were soon outmatched. One escaped into the swamp, two were killed, and two captured. The captives acted wild and incoherent, so they were tied up. After being fed (they looked starved), they immediately passed into a deep sleep.
In the night, thunderous, sloshing footsteps were heard. Moments later, a somewhat-worse-for-the-wear hydra shambled into the clearing. The party lept from their hiding places and attacked. The monster--who had three heads and two stumps where heads had once been--was killed with no casualties to the characters. The captive girls slept through the whole thing. After the beast was slain, the PCs noticed that it had a thick, rusted chain around its necks and a kind of hitching ring.
14 April 56
The captives awoke with the rest of the party and they were confused. The last thing they remembered was being in the fortress town of Middenwold in the summer time and seeing an old lady come into their bedrooms. They had no memories of ever coming to the swamps, fighting, etc. Because they were young, starved, and frightened, Almaric (the fighter hireling) was elected to escort them back to the Inn.
The party followed the hydra's deep, rutting tracks into the swamp, where they spotted two things: a giant, twisted tree with a number of archers (grey-cloaked girls) posted on a platform in its center, and a storybook cottage on a wooden platform--which in turn was being pushed around the swamp by an army of slaves holding it up from underneath.
Using Indis's polymorph self potion and the captured bow and dagger, Filibert turned himself into a young girl in a gray cloak and took Wine into the camp as a "prisoner". They were allowed to pass into the cottage that way. Meanwhile, Ambiorix and Indis sneaked through the underbrush and waited as close to the cottage as they could without being seen.
Inside, the cabin was richly appointed and somehow bigger internally than externally. A beautiful, black-and-gray-haired woman was inside. She asked the "slave girl" (really Filibert) to explain herself and the prisoner but quickly because suspicious. Filibert and Wine figured the gig was up and attacked. As soon as they heard the commotion, Ambiorix and Indis rushed in amidst a hail of arrows from the tree-platform archers. (Not hits, fortunately.)
Once they got inside, Ambiorix and Indis found Wine sprawled on the floor behind a table (fumbled dive-attack at the witch) and that Filibert was now a cute, pink piglet rooting through the kitchen. The witch (Myrinne) had apparently turned invisible in the commotion and disappeared out a window.
A search of the cabin turned up a few remarkable items:
- A milky-white crystal ball inside the cellar (???) of the house-on-legs that allowed the user to see through special pendants that the witch had given to slaves, friends, and/or spies. Several scenes across the land were viewed.
- An iron chest marked in strange symbols and smelling of the sea which had, ironically enough, been stolen by goblins from a caravan that Wine and Almaric had escorted to the Kingdom of Zhann a week before.
- A wand of dispelling whose one charge was used to return Filibert to his proper form.
- A sack of gold.
- Two scrolls of Animate Dead and one of Rock to Mud.
At this point, we had to cue up the "To Be Continued" title as my wife and I had to leave to go visit my Dad in the hospital. (He had a heart attack last Thursday and is now recovering from open-heart surgery. We've been living in the ICU for days and weren't even sure that today's gaming would happen, but he is doing much better and we decided that a couple of hours of "escape from reality" time would probably be good for keeping our own spirits up. Needless to say, it worked.)
A number of questions remain to be answered in the next session, though:
- Where did the witch escape to? Will she come back? How will the PCs get her to lift the Inn's curse?
- Will Filibert's infection take hold and turn him into a pestilence zombie?
- What will be done with all of the witch's slaves?
Stay tuned for more from me and from the players themselves!