The Adventures of Annalax: Volume XIII
So… Ember the Demon Thing. Not nice. Not nice at all. Annalax asked Alan the Wizard if he knew anyone who could possibly deal with this mess. Alan said a certain unhinged female acquaintance near the Mountains of Madness might have the sufficiently dodgy knowledge to pull it off. From Alan’s description, Annalax concluded that the woman was Drow. If they ever meet, I suspect Annalax is going to be disappointed.
It got worse, of course.
While sheltering from the eternal mountain blizzard, the party suffered another attack from Shadow Cultists. Not Shadows themselves, thankfully, but the Cultists were bad enough. Attacking with Psychic Damage (against Charisma Saving Throws) meant that they were dishing out some significant damage. Ember – still looking like a Demon – remained unconscious throughout.
[Edit. Forgot to mention one hilariously bizarre moment:
- DUNGEON MASTER: “You see dark figures in the snow, closing in all about you.”
- RANGER’S PLAYER: “It’s David Bain!”
Which created the image of Shadow Cultists in woollen jerseys. Google “David Bain Jersey” for an illustration.
But enough of this digression…]
Annalax normally has decent initiative (he’s +5 to Dexterity, after all). But this time round, the enemy attacked him first… and while he has decent Charisma, the dice were against him. He got knocked from full health down to 3 HP before he even got a turn. And that was with Uncanny Dodge. Suffice to say, he spent his turn Hiding and chugging his stockpiled Healing Potions. Then he got to work with Dancing Lights, which allowed everyone else the chance to at least hit back. By the end, he was shooting off the crossbow bolts as per normal.
But there was another problem. The Ranger took even more damage and stress… and since he picked up the Abusive trait for passing his stress limit, no-one was wanting to revive him, because he’d only make the situation worse. So we left him unconscious… and he died. Poor bastard. On the other hand, his player was going to retire him soon anyway, so there wasn’t much out of game sorrow.
Shen the Gith Sorcerer died too. Ouch. Hopefully he has to deal with the trauma of an afterlife.
That meant the only survivors of the battle were the NPCs, the familiars, Annalax, and the Dreamland Cat Sorcerer. Ember slept through it.
Eventually, the Shadow Cultists were all killed, but when Annalax realised what had happened, he had a full-scale panic attack, and collapsed. In roleplaying terms, he had just lived through the deaths of three colleagues, one of whom he even actually sort-of-liked, with a fourth possessed by a Demon Lord. In mechanical terms, his stress was 92, with a stress limit of 35. More than two and a half times his stress limit, it was the first such case in the entire campaign so far.
Annalax woke up with the Wight standing over him, feeling rather frazzled. Understandable. After consuming some more Healing Potions to get himself back to semi-normality, he saw that the party had a new member.
It was a Drow Cultist/Necromancer Rogue, unrelated to the Shadow ones. Elknel had been in the mountains looking for Magni (he’s played by Magni’s player). Annalax was delighted to see one of his people in these circumstances, so he started talking to the new arrival in Drow Language. Which this fellow didn’t understand, being from the Dreamland. Elknel did not even know Lolth, but rather followed a crazy and monstrous divinity. So not in the least bit like Her Ladyship.
After switching to Undercommon, Annalax – whose mind was still a bit blown – finally concluded that Elknel the Cultist could be reasoned with. He was even willing to pay for using Annalax’s stockpiled goggles. And given the circumstances, what with half the party wiped out, his help was needed.
Ember was back up too. His personality had returned, but he was stuck with Demonic Appearance.
Up the mountain, we discovered a series of eldritch and entangling metal pipes. Which excited Alan no end… but no-one else. Seriously, everything about this place was foreboding. The biggest worry was that we’d end up like the mutant mountaineers from earlier.
But we weren’t in a position to split the party (even if we wanted to…), and Annalax couldn’t do a runner without getting stuck in the Dreamland. So we followed the pipes down to the living quarters of some monstrous flying creature.
There were images on the walls like twisted sculptures, and then a room behind a closed door. And the all-permeating odour of ozone. Worse, something was screwing with Annalax’s dark vision (and Ember’s, and Elknel’s), which he couldn’t quite figure out.
Annalax and Elknel hid (both have +11 to Stealth), and even Ember was backing away from the door. But Alan was fine with blundering on… and in the event, the room was harmless.
Better yet, there were two Silver Keys, plus some gems and parchments. The party had a merry old time, albeit were cautious enough to not handle things directly (Mage Hand is a wonderful thing for paranoid parties). Alan was fascinated by a cosmic beacon. But there was still no sign of the Isaacs’ father.
Then we came across a skeleton in a dark passageway. Rather than get close, we Mage Handed in the ever-burning lantern to get a better view. It turned out to be an adult male skeleton, clutching something like a crystal egg. And it had a pickaxe injury (in throat, not skull. So no Leon Trotsky references). In short, the Isaacs’ father.
And something was behind the skeleton. Something nasty.
Ember – always one for the movie reference – threw a burning torch at it, and we turned and ran.
Annalax had a head-start there, and being a Rogue is great for running away, what with bonus-action Dash being a thing. Mage Handing the crystal egg was even better.
The thing we were running from? A CR 21 Eldritch Horror. And we didn’t even have a Dunedin-made steamboat to take it out. For you barbarians out there, that’s a 1926 Call of Cthulhu reference.
As per the Dungeon Master’s description, we ran madly back out through the passages – subjected to all sorts of screams – and thence out onto the mountainside.
We found shelter in another cave… only to stumble across a teleportation device that took us to the bottom of the mountain. Hooray for an Ianua ex Machina to finally end the story arc!
There was no fighting in the next session, but it was still highly fun and eventful. At the start, everyone moved up to Level 6. Annalax took the opportunity to switch out the Home-brewed Spiders Kiss spell (which he has only used once, unsuccessfully) with Sleep.
First things first, it was back to the city of Ingenook, to get the cash reward. Very nice. This also meant the departure of the NPCs. The Isaacs were now home – having learned of the fate of their father. The Wight and the Leng Rogue left too. Annalax tried to convince Alan the Wizard to continue with us to the Mountains of Madness (his argument being that we need Alan to deal with the Ember Demon), but Alan was… finished with adventuring. Poor guy. But at least he didn’t realise he was a kidnapping victim.
We offloaded some items collected along the way, including a Leng Spider corpse at the taxidermist. Annalax tried selling the pick-axes and goggles taken from dead Cultists and Mutants, only to be told by the General Store owner that these were his goods to start with (the store owner did pay for their return though, which was nice). It also turned out that the crystal egg and the dinosaur javelins really needed a market elsewhere, namely someone near the Mountains of Madness.
Then poor old Alan came back. Someone had burgled his house while he was out adventuring. Or so he thought. As you might recall, that was us (well, now only Annalax and Ember… and the latter disapproved). Ember’s solution? He would pay Annalax 100 gold pieces to use his Rogue Contacts to “hunt down the missing items”. In short, to give them back. Which Annlax grudgingly did. So Alan got his books, notes, wizard practicing certificate, and weird machine back. Annalax kept the silverware, moon-rock, telescope, and carpet(!).
Elknel helped repair Alan’s busted house, while the party treated him to drink and a trip to the brothel. As one does. And thus concludes the Adventures of Alan the Wizard.
The next question: how to get to the Mountains of Madness? The party had three options – pay for passage (expensive), buy a ship (even more expensive), or steal a ship. The latter was possible because Elknel has proficiency with Navigation and Carpentry Tools.
Notwithstanding that we were all flush with cash, we decided to steal a ship. So let’s add piracy to Annalax’s list of sins. But Lolth would certainly have approved, and it is nice to see a distinct lack of moral dithering among the other party members. They really are all turning Rogue at this point.
It was a simple enough night-time operation. Annalax and Elknel crept on board, using their excellent Stealth. It was night, so only four watchmen were left on the ship. Annalax used Sleep to knock out three, and the fourth was knocked unconscious via the shock of having a crossbow bolt in the back. We then tied up and gagged the watchmen, leaving them on the pier as we sailed off. Annalax actually wanted to take one of the watchmen along, but Ember was very adamantly against press-ganging. Spoil sport.
(As a bonus, Annalax used Minor Illusion to create the image of a floating Moonbeast head as we departed. The watchmen’s story to their superiors? The ship was stolen by aliens).
In terms of cargo, there was plenty of mining ore, plus forty muskets and ammunition. Annalax got himself a very nice sailor’s jacket from the captain’s quarters, and called dibs on the bed. Definitely a nice way to travel… to the point where the party (jokingly) considered just turning Pirate for the rest of the campaign.
When we arrived at the destination, we took care to change the ship’s appearance as much as possible (hooray for Elknel and his carpentry). Then we sold it off again at a staggering profit.
Yes, there will be repercussions, I am sure. This really is messing with the Dungeon Master. But our bunch of bandits were having a great time.
Annalax headed directly to the tavern, while the remainder of the party stumbled across two NPCs (a Fir Bolg and a scarred woman in plate armour) arguing about two dangerous monsters they had captured. The monsters? The replacement characters for the Gith and the Ranger. So the party is back at full quota again.
The replacements are a Ghoul Monk, who obtains skills from eating corpses (he picked up knowledge of shoe-making from eating a dead cobbler), and a mad Lizardfolk Druid. The latter has hitherto spent his entire life in a swamp, and has an affinity (or rather an obsession) with mushrooms, toads, and snakes. He also smells like he has spent his entire life in a swamp too, and no amount of Prestidigitation can change that. He actually changes the odour back if you try.
The NPCs and the (full) party wound up at the tavern later. Annalax made sure to nab an expensive bottle of wine (hooray for Expertise with Sleight of Hand) via creating an illusory sound distraction. The Ghoul properly introduced himself, along with his unique eating habits. Since he can read, the evil book of necromancy we’ve been carting around for a few sessions actually becomes useful. Potentially.
Annalax and Elknel also independently decided to pop into the local potions shop before nightfall. Elknel got there first, and bought a fair few healing potions and poisons. It is so nice to have another Drow around. Annalax opted to Disguise Self before entering… and he chose the disguise of one of the poor watchmen from earlier. They must have been on his mind.
Elknel recognised the watchman, but did not realise it was a disguise. Which understandably freaked him out. So he fled back to the tavern. The rest of the party concluded that it was probably a coincidence, since there were no authorities scouring the waterfront. Annalax meanwhile purchased some healing potions… and some mind-altering mushroom powders for putting in food and drink. What could possibly go wrong?
First thing the following morning, Annalax went down to the town’s Planning Commission. He had an idea, though it was less about mushroom powder and more about religion.
You see, Annalax has concluded that his continued survival – and the last few financial windfalls – have been signs of Lolth’s divine favour. After all, would Her Ladyship not smile at running off with a ship, and then on-selling it for a massive sum? Never mind that she does not actually have any power in the Dreamland… yet. Annalax does not know that.
So Annalax thinks he needs to keep Lolth smiling.
He accordingly bought himself some land and a shack (at a mere 150 Platinum), with the intent of establishing a Temple there. Once he had sorted that out, he found a random homeless person, and tasked him with looking after the Temple. He gave the person 1 Platinum (enough to feed the fellow for months), on condition that he act as groundskeeper until our Drow returns. Annalax gave him a further 1 Platinum to spread the Good Word of the Spider Goddess, and told him that more money would be coming when he returns.
Annalax hasn’t the foggiest idea if he’s ever returning. But he’s got Lolth a temple and a cult of followers in the Dreamland. And that might have an effect on her ability to act…
Back to the Annalax Index: https://phuulishfellow.wordpress.com/2021/01/07/the-adventures-of-annalax-a-compendium/