Chapter IV: The Gate of Madness


Onatar's Gate
Onatar's Gate

The Sleepless Hamlet


     The party arrives at Onatar's Gate after two days. Two long nights of dragging Tharyn's statue up and over the stony hills of Kalrosh. On the third sunset, the heroes come upon the small village of Onatar's Gate, population: 200. As the party walks through town, looking for a place to stay, they notice that everyone they come across has the look of utter defeat and unending fatigue upon their faces.
     "Excuse me, sir?" says Warsch, who startles a person awake. "We would like to find an inn so that we could spend the night. Do you have any recommended places?"
     The villager, who is half asleep, hears what Warsch is saying but makes no acknowledgment of another person in front of him. Warsch touches the man's shoulder, and the guy looks at him and screams "Leave! While you can! The nightmares..." The man falls back to sleep, shifting, twitching, and groaning in his sleep.
     The party eventually finds an Inn called Night Gate's Inn. Inside, they meet a wood elf named Tharmn, but despite his elven nature not requiring sleep, he looks tired and fatigued, but not as affected as the rest of the town. Tharyn approaches the elf, asking what is wrong with everyone in town. "Everyone is having nightmares. You will find out tonight. Several people have tried to sleep during the day, but to no effect. *Yawn* Stay the night, 1 silver each."
     The party pays the silver, and head off to bed. Tharyn plants herself in a chair in Warsch's room and turns to stone, waiting for the sun to free her from her stone prison.

Nightmares - Warsch


     Each party member is trapped in a cruel nightmare. Warsch dreams of the duergar killing his mother, who turn on him and begin thrashing him. It is a three against one fight, Warsch in common clothes and a pickaxe. He swings at the nearest Duergar, but his body does not cooperate, his attacks travelling in slow motion, causing him to miss the dark dwarf. The three foes, smashing their hammers and shields together in unison, begin to double in size, becoming larger than Warsch. As he backs himself into a corner, the Duergar close in quickly and begin smashing him with their hammers.

Nightmares - Crow Lord


     Crow Lord stands in a courtroom, witnessing the man his father was. The elegance stature, the kindness in his eyes, and the strength of his spirit. Crow Lord can’t help but feel happy, seeing his father’s face once again. Then, a thin blade stabs through his father’s chest, his regal gray and blue tunic turning crimson with his father’s blood. As he falls to the floor, A sinister man stands behind his father, blobs of blood spattering his face: Cao Cao. Crow Lord remembers this man as the one who haunts his dreams everynight. Tonight, he will not escape. Crow Lord tries to transform into a large crow, but his magic is not with him, just as it had then. Cao Cao pulls from his back a long thin greatsword, with a sapphire hilt and a blade forged of blue-steel, and points it at Crow Lord.
     "Come, Daimon. Die like your father, the Mad Crow. Your cursed blood will be spilt on this floor."
     Crow Lord looks down at his attire; he is dressed in the same armor and weapons he had that day, many years ago; leather padding underneath torn and weather-ruined clothes, and the rapier of a duelist. The two approach one another, Crow Lord keeping the rapier pointed at Cao Cao. In a flash, Crow Lord stabs forward in rage, but Cao Cao’s movements with his sapphire blade are much faster. Before he realizes what happened, Cao Cao brings his greatsword to a halt against Crow Lord’s throat, then pulls the blade across and opens up Crow Lord’s neck.
     He laughs, saying "Just like your father. Choking on your own blood." Unlike those years ago, Crow Lord's wound does not close from Druidic Magic. Crow Lord rasps out, clawing & crawling his way towards his father. With only seconds to live, Crow Lord falls onto his belly. He reaches out towards his father, but spurts out the last of his blood and collapses onto the ground.

Nightmares - Spider


     Spider has no idea where she is at. A Dream? It can’t be, because she has never dreamed before. However, she remembers this dark, blood stained and rotting chamber all too well. It was where she met Arachnida, the queen of all spiders, from whom she drank and received her powers. At her feet lies the corpse of her ally, the only friend she had ever known in this cruel reality.
     "I offer you a choice: Drink and die, or lose yourself to my will. I will make you a Drider. You will not remember your family, slipping into my madness and turning on them when the time comes."
     “I’ll drink of your child. I’ve survived her poison once; it will not kill me.”
     However, this is a nightmare, and expectations do not exist in this realm.
     First, a hole burns it way out of her stomach. Blood, bile, and bits of her liver come rolling out. As the hole enlarges, her intenstines pour out, making a sickening slurping sound as they unwind on the floor. They detach due to the corrosive poison, and Spider loses feeling in her legs. She looks down, but has nothing but a large green and yellow puddle to look at."ah... No! my legs! Where are my legs!" As more and more of her torso is dissolved, Spider tries with increasing desperation to crawl away from Lolth and Arachnida, however a large black web envelopes her.
     She feels herself be picked up, unable to see through the web, but then two large fangs pierce through, one stabbing her directly in the eye, the other planting itself right in her heart. The venom burns, and Spider can feel everything inside of her turning to mush as they melt away, quickly.
     Then, more fangs pierce her, sucking out her goopy insides. Spider cannot die for whatever reason, feeling the jaws of a mighty spider begin crushing her softened skull. As she is torn into tiny ribbons of flesh and goop, spider feels herself be collected in a pit of stomach acid, where she finally is put to rest.

Nightmares - Stormdrake


     Stormdrake dreams of his first fight against the Prag'tar bandits. However, this was before the transformation, and bandits hold him down, and pull at his arms. One of the bandits pulls backwards, and Snap! Stormdrake’s arm is broken backwards from the elbow. Stormdrake screams in pain, unable to hear the laughter. Then, they begin kicking him, snapping several of his ribs into his left lung. His whole body screams in agony, he tries to breath but the pain is too much.
     Finally, the bandits kick him into the Swordspear’s crater. He begins crawling towards the golden relic, using it to pull himself up. With great anxiety and anger, he places his foot against the stone to pull the swordspear out, however nothing happens. The swordspear will not budge. Prag'tar, the ogre chieftan, enters the scene, standing over the crater. Barely able to stand at this point, with tears coursing down his face, Stormdrake tries to climb up the hole to rush Prag'tar, but his weak body slips and he falls back down. Prag’tar leaps down, landing a few feet from Stormdrake. He grabs Stormdrake, his large hands neatly folding around the broken body of the kobold.
     "Good... weep! Poor little thing, would you like for me to kill you? Your brothers are all dead, perhaps it is time for you to join them?”
     With great might and speed, Stormdrake is thrown across the yard, landing near a massive pile of torn up bodies. Some are missing heads, arms, parts of their torso, and finally Stormdrake sees the father of the chapel, head planted firmly on a spike.
     "His meat made for a fine roast." Prag'tar states. Stormdrake turns to look at Prag'tar, who is holding the Swordspear in his hands.
     "The spear is mine, just as the Oracle said it was meant to be. Why would a weakling like you be able to wield it, hmm?" Stormdrake is picked up by his head.
     "Now, I grant you death. Sort of." Prag'tar bites off Stormdrake's legs, crunching slowly on them as Stormdrake screams in pain.
     Then he bites off more, tearing off his lower torso, pulling out some of his vital organs. Finishing him off, Prag'tar grabs his torso and bites down upon Stormdrake's head, crushing it in his massive jaws.

Free From Night... Kinda


     The party all awaken after four hours of nightmares. They still have many hours before the sun rises and Tharyn is free.
     The inn keeper looks at them as they walk out from their rooms, a sorry look in his eyes.
     "I'm sorry this is happening. We don't know what is causing it, let alone how to stop it."
     Warsch tries to calm the keeper. "It's not your fault, but we are the Hammers of Dal'Krosh. We will find a way to free everyone, I promise. We were on a witch hunt, and received a vision of this place. When did this all start?"
     The Inn keeper has a very tired look on his face and shakes his head, perhaps hearing those words before.
     "About two weeks ago. Since that time, there had been several murders. Friends turning on friends, family members killing each other. It is terrible. No matter what magics are used, no one can get sleep. Not even protection circles help us."
     Servilus scratches his chin. "Is there anywhere we can go to do research? A library, perhaps?"
     "Yes, we have a town wizard named Arceus, a Tiefling. He specializes in fire and cleansing rituals with his wife Ying. They got married quite recently, just a few weeks before these nightmares began."
     Stormdrake performs a Prayer of Healing on the group and the bartender, but sadly their conditions are not restored.
     “Perhaps this is not a remedy that magic can restore. A curse, perhaps, or some form of possession?” inquires Servilu.
     “When Tharyn awakens, I will take her with me to the library. You should all make yourselves known to the town. Talk to people and identify where the problem first began.”
     Warsch, Crow Lord, Spider, and Stormdrake decide to leave and investigate the town. The party stumbles towards the center of town, where they find all sorts of tired folk, wandering into town after their recent nightmares. Many of them are trying to sleep on the benches outside thier homes. Others are going off to drink some water from a well, talking about the same recurring dream from the night before.
     "It's like... I hear this voice in my dreams. Before I awoke, it told me something... about you."
     "What did it say?"
     "It said I might have to kill you... Before you kill me. Nonsense, right?"
     “Yeah, I've been things too yeah, just about Martha... And you!"
     The man punches the other in the face, causing the two men to begin choking each other and throwing fists around the town center. The guards, who are just as tired, seperate the two men and escort them to the town's jail.
     Several others are trying to stay productive, running shops, buying things, working to earn a wage, etc. Crow Lord enters the alchemist's shop, run by a male gnome, who is snoring until the door is opened and a chime wakes him up. The light of the shop had been on, meaning open business.

The Fritzwald of Alchemy


     *ding dong dong ding*
     "AHHH! Fritzwald! Potions and… liquid stuffs, how can I help you... bird?"
     Crow Lord approaches the man, sensing another segregated encounter for his appearance. He pulls out a piece of paper, writing a few questions in the common language.
     "Hm... questions *yawn*. I see that you are a Hammer from Dal'Krosh, so I will answer." Fritwald clears his throat, hacking up black phlegm and spits it into a jar.
     "That's odd... But I've seen that stuff before. To answer your first question, these nightmares began about two weeks ago, shortly after the cattle started acting weird. And when I say weird, I mean easily organized. They would go where the farmers told em to, and they would even walk right into the butcher's shop. No resisting or any kind of resistance."
     Crow Lord begins writing down everything the man says. Years of being unable to speak have refined his handwriting, however, he writes in short words and sentences.
     "As for any signs of people acting weird, our town had its first set of murders, you see. At first, we assumed a serial killer or a local beast was preying on innocent people, but then the bodies began to pile up and many murderers were discovered. But, the odd thing is this: the killers die about 24 hours later. See, some people get cut up or suffocated or bashed heads. That's how we identify who the victims are. Then, we find bodies who have very pale skin, sunken eyes, and the veins under their skin are pulled near the surface. Like the blood in their bodies is being pushed out. Anyways, being the town herbalist and alchemist, the Judge assigned me the task of identifying causes of death. And that brings us to this"
     Fritzwald holds up the jar of the black goop he just spat out. "I've found this goop inside of the veins of the killers, and some of them have this stuff draining from their eyes. For their victims, the goop was found inside their eyes, spreading to the rest of the deceased body. Oddly, the stuff doesn't corrode the body, however once it touches the air..." He tilts the jar of black goop onto a piece of iron. The goop falls out, and the iron begins dissolving.
     "And that is the mystery today! What is this stuff, and how did it get inside me?"

The Enchantress


     Spider, Warsch, and Stormdrake head into the Enchanter, having no interest in the Alchemist. What they are interested in is finding a blessing or magical assistance, as the town does not have a chapel to any gods.
     As they head in, they find a female Lizard drawing a sigil on the floor, furniture scattered about. Warsch recognizes the sigil as a Magic Circle, a ritual which protects those inside from magic coming from the outside.
     "Based on those runes and ingredients, it looks like you are trying to protect yourself from the fey." Warsch inspects, getting the woman's attention. She turns around and speaks, her lizard accent preventing her from making 'th' sounds, and her 's' slithers like a snake.
     "yessss... I have performed tisss ritual ssseveral timesss over the passt few weeksss. Against everyting but fey. Noting elsse hass worked, blesssingsss, remove curssse, even forcing sssleep does not prevent te nightmaresss. I am at my ropesss end, ready to give up and leave town like a few oters. My name iss Qu'nli. I'm not originally from here, and have family back in the Gray Marshes of Vle'Anos."
     Warsch looks at the circle, hoping it works for her. "Hey! That makes two of us. The Gray Marshes are quite treacherous, but I suppose fighting for your life everday is easier than sleepless nights."
     "Indeed. My family belongs to a tribe of spirit walkers. As a child, I learned how to enchant using their techniques. I left, seeking a safer life, but this land is a desolate wasteland! Everywhere I go, chaos and death follow."
     "Tell me about it! The boat I took here was intercepted by a dragon-turtle, my dragon-friend over there had his whole monastary destroyed by bandits, and the first town we all met up in was raided by goblins. After that, it's been witches and hags everywhere we go. Which brought us here: We believe this area is the targeted location of another coven. Is there any services you can offer us?"
     "I hasss nothing against hags and witches. But fire and durability I can do. One day, at te cosst of 500 gold each."
     Warsch checks his gold pouch, seeing that he has enough for one enchantment, but passes on the offer.
     "I'm afraid I do not have the resources for that, however I do have a few questions"
     Warsch places several silver coins on the clerk's counter. She takes notice, debating on taking the coin, and then stands up and walks over to the counter to collect. Warsch nods and begins asking away.
     "I've been told that the town is having nightmares. We spent the night, and experienced the same thing. Do you have any theories as to what is going on?"
     The woman's tongue snakes it way out of her mouth, then slurps back in. She spends some time in thought, and walks over to a book shelf and procures a few scrolls on Night Hags. "I believe this is our problem. I spoke with Arceus, the town's mage. He said it's not possible for three hags to do this much damage, but I can't find any other type of creature besides that blasted gate that can be doing this."
     Warsch's brow lowers. "What about the gate? If you mean that large stone structure, that's all it is."
     Qu'nli shakes her head. "The gate has some lore to it. Back in the Primordial Years of Kalrosh, the gate was used as a pathway into the Abyss. The type of carnage a single devil can inflict is quite catastrophic. I've communed with the spirits, who say that the gate has no connection to the Abyss. But Arceus is right: Hags cannot be responsible for this much carnage."
     Warsch's facial expression does not change. "I'll be on the lookout for any demonic presences. But so far, my abilities haven't detected anything that dark. Anyways, we'd best be off. Thank you for our talk."
     The party leaves, but they hear a scream from the guard barracks, along with the sound of fighting.

Signs of Trouble: Who Likes Pudding?


     When they get inside, they see that one of the guard had his head cut off by one of the men from the courtyard, now with black goop pouring from his eyes, who is plunging a sword into the chest of another guard. The murdered corpse of the other village lies along the floor, his head snapped around.
     The barracks have several weapons, javelins, and spears laid out against the wall, along with several pieces of armor, such as chainmail and breastplates. There are three tables scattered about, and the headless guard is sitting at one table closest to the jail cells. The goopy-man is standing closer to the cells, and the body of the stabbed guard falls away from the man. The black-gooped man makes his way towards the Spider, Warsch, and Stormdrake. Pulling out his sword, the man swings at Warsch, swinging his sword down at the last second before it hits Warsch's shield, carving the blade into Warsch's shin, slicing down to the bone.
     Stormdrake runs to the side of the guard, and slashes at him with his Swordspear, two handing it and bringing it down into his shoulder. Black goop begins to seep out from the wound, onto Stormdrake’s spear, but the magic enchantment on the spear protects it from the goop. As globs of black fall to the floor, the wood begins to corrode and the smell of tar fills the room. The man begins gurgling, the sound of liquid bubbling in his throat.
     Spider runs behind Warch as Stormdrake distracts the guy, and then runs out from behind Warsch and punches the guard in the face. Her punch hits him right in the face, but instead of bones breaking, the man’s face dents inwards with a sickening slurping sound.
     Crow Lord walks in, with the town alchemist Fritzwald right behind him. By the looks of it, Fritzwald is hold his left hand in a bloody clothe.
     “Flame on, Crow! Just like in our accident!”
     Crow Lord pulls out his druidic focus and produces a great flame in his left hand. “Kaw!” He says, trying to get the attention of the group to clear him a path. Everyone steps out of the way, and Crow Lord sets the man ablaze with his flames.
     The man lets out a wheezy sound, perhaps air escaping from his lungs. As he dies, the flames die out but his body begins turning into a black sludge, which completely decomposes the guard's body in seconds. The sludge begins to take form, forming into a Black Pudding. As it slurps forward slowly towards Warsch, the alchemist shouts “Get away from it!”
     Warsch channels divinity, coating his weapon in holy light. He calls upon his Animated Shield to protect him from the sludge, which transforms into a pseudopod and swipes at him. The sludge arcs around his shield and hits Warsch, corroding through his shoulder armor and burning the flesh underneath. Warsch is greatly wounded, the muscles exposed and corroded in his left shoulder.
     Crow Lord sees what catastrophic acid the being is made of, and the great flame in his hand transforms into a huge Flame Blade. Crow Lord swipes at the ooze, hitting it with the Flame Blade, which sinks into the ooze, burning it, but the ooze splashes Crow Lord, most of it hitting him in the arm. The black tar grazes his arm, but even a little is enough to melt through his tunic and causes his skin to bubble.
     The sludge targets Warsch again, but its attack is stopped by his Animated Shield.
     Stormdrake moves back two feet, giving himself distance between him and the sludge. He two hands the swordspear, and using it like a spear stabs at the sludge, making a weird flooping sound as the spear sticks into its side.
     Spider, not wanting to punch the goop, begins throwing things at it, hoping to restrain its attacks and movement. She picks up the nearest chair, tossing it at the sludge. The chair wams into the side of the sludge, and then begins corrode, quickly sinking into its mass of black pudding.
     Warsch tries to fight through the pain, casing holy flames on whatever weapons he can get his hands on from the barracks. He grabs a hammer, similar to his own, and throws it into the animated pudding. As the creature envelopes the holy hammer, a great light can be seen from inside of it, similar to a lantern.
     Crow Lord repositions, and swings at the sludge again. His flame blade carves through the center of the mass, causing a small flame to ignite upon the creature.
     Fritzwald’s face is that of a young child’s: amazement, wonder, and curiosity brim from ear to ear. He shouts out. “Perfect work, Bird! Keep setting it on fire! That must be it’s weakness!”
     The sludge does not think and keeps attacking Warsch, the first target it saw. However, when it raises up an arm of toxic sludge towards him, the animated shield prepares and blocks the attack.
     Spider notices a knife on the belt of the guard who got stabbed in the chest, pulls it off, and throws it at the sludge. The knife sticks into the sludge, and the melting of iron and its wooden handle can be smelled clearly in the air.
     Stormdrake stabs again at the mass of sludge, sticking the swordspear back into the creature. All of a sudden, the flame on the sludge begins to exponentially increase in size. At first, the flame is barely the size of a torch, but then it gets bigger and bigger, until nothing is left but a smudge on the floor from where the sludge used to be.
     Warsch’s natural Aasimar healing abilities kick in, mending and reattaching the muscle cords in his arm, and the skin pulls over. However, Warsch's armor is still damaged, and is currently not as effective.
     Several of the guard, half awake, enter the barracks, where they see two dead bodies, and the smell of sorcery. Pulling out their weapons, they begin questioning the party.
     "You there! Outsiders! What have you done!?"
     Fritzwald holds his hands up, trying to appear innocent. Fritzwald begins to ramble.
     “Me and Big Bird over there were in my shop, you see! I coughed up this peculiar nasty black goop, which began to eat away at a dagger that I had produced to show him. As the dagger corroded, the goop grew and attacked! Took my finger right off it did! So, I did what anyone would: I screamed in terror! But this bird, over yonder, has instinct! He produced a flame, and charred my hand! Saved me from the doom that plagues you all! Speaking of doom, I’m heading out!!!”
     Warsch looks confused as the man leaves. He turns towards the guards.
     "We entered here after hearing a loud scream. Believe it or not, there was a fourth person here, who we saw remove that man's head and then proceeded to kill those other two."
     The guards, with some disbelief, lower their guard.
     "But then, what happened to the man? Explain that smell, is this sorcery?"
     "Sorcery it might be, however I know nothing of how it works. You see, the man charged at us, and we dealt with him. After we thought the man incapacitated, he began to melt down into this gooey black pudding, which we all fought. However, the blasted thing was made of some kind of acid, and corroded the armor on my shoulder. The guard had the same black sludge oozing from his eyes before he was disposed of."
     The guard nod their tired heads. "We've known this to happen. Over the past week, people would die from murders and such. Then, random dead people with similar ooze turned up. Is it possible that this ooze is making everyone insane? What of these nightmares?"
     "We are here to find out. First, let us grab some food at the local tavern, and we will begin our full investigation."
     The party heads back to the tavern, where they discover Tharyn's stony prison letting loose, and her flesh returns to its normal golden tint. She stretches, with a yawn, unknowing of the events that took place. She stretches and yawns, needing sleep. She sits down at a table, and the rest of the part sits with her.
     "Why does Warsch look like he got hit by lava?"
     Warsch motions over to his chain, rubbing the area. "We were defending the people from a plague of a Black Puddings, and I lost a good chunk of my armor in the process."
     Tharyn tilts her head. "What is black pudding doing here? I thought people were just having nightmares?"
     Crow Lord pulls out and passes his notes to Stormdrake, setting them down lazily with fatigue. Stormdrake looks at the pages and says what Crow Lord has found.
     "It appears that the black pudding is inside everyone who is having nightmares. Some say the cattle are acting weird, so I will be leaving to check them out. Eh, ahem, Crow Lord... you can speak to animals?"
     Crow Lord nods, tipping his awesome hat.
     "But you cannot talk to us?"
     Crow Lord shakes his head, running a finger over his throat.
     “Secondly, there is a difference between the people who get killed and the ones who do the killings. The murderers die eventually, but it looks like something gets pulled out of them, which must be the black pudding we saw at the prison."
     Tharyn blurts out "We should split! I'm going to the library with Servilus. I’m going to read up on Ooze, and then I’ll find some way to stay in contact. Crow Lord checks out the cattle, Warsch and Stormdrake should continue investigating the people of the town, while Spider checks out the corpse of a murderer. Dig that sucker up if necessary."
     Warsch observes Tharyn’s face, which looks fresh compared to everyone's fatigued expressions. “You don’t require sleep?”
     Tharyn, laughs at him. "As a Moon Elf, meditation and study are the only daily requirement! I am doing my work, which is reading books. If you could even read, you would know that!"
     "I can! It's just that books don't get read in my line of work very often."
     Spider shakes her head. "Tharyn... I had a dream a last night. As a Drow, I shouldn't have. But something in this town is causing people, even elves, to have nightmares."
     Tharyn's mouth drops open. "That's... important. So we have assumptions of Hags, Oozes that live like parasites inside of people, and nightmares that affect everything. Crow Lord, do me a favor and check the animals. See if they are having nightmares as well."
     Servilus leans forward in his seat. "Tharyn, what are you on about?"
     A single corner on Tharyn's mouth raises. "I believe we have a demon on our hands!"
     Warsch shakes his head. "Impossible. I would've felt it's presence. It's very unlikely that-"
     Tharyn: "That your Paladin/Aasimar abilies are being blocked? I wonder how that could happen."
     Warsch lets out a low sigh. "It is possible, yes. My abilities only work on the lesser evils. If we are in the presence of a Prince or a Lord..."
     Stormdrake bellows. "Then we will be in for the fight of our lives. Right"
     Servilus stands from his seat, throwing on his longcoat over his gear. "If we are fighting something like that, I saw we run."

Tharyn & Servilus: Research


     The party splits up. Tharyn and Servilus head to the Tower or Arceus, the town mage.
     As she enters, the scent of charcoal hangs in the air. As she opens the door further on her way in, she hears a man's voice "One second, please! I must finish this incantation! Wait for me downstairs!"
     Servilus stays near the door, but Tharyn darts upstairs. Servilus tries to stop her, but is unable to stop her. She continues up, leaping up the stairs, where she finds two tieflings - a man and a woman, on a bed. They are obviously married, as Tharyn can tell. The woman grabs a nearby plate, throwing it at Tharyn while shouting
     "What part of wait downstairs do you not understand!"
     Tharyn ducks out, waiting downstairs. As the couple finishes enacting upon their marriage, Tharyn observes the books, finding several tomes on Oozes, pyromancy, demon princes, devils, gods, devas, and other creatures in the land. She finds a rare book on Hags, well hidden from sight in a pile kept on a shelf, very disorderly. As she pulls the book off the shelf, the woman shouts at her again
     "Manners! Poking her little elf nose where it doesn't belong, and now she digs through our library! What manners!?"
     Her husband walks down the steps behind her, placing his hand on her waist, speaking soothingly throughout the room.
     "Be calm, Ying. She seeks our knowledge and I am happy to find someone in town interested in great lore. Tell me, sir and madam, how can I help you?"
     “I am Servilus, the Iron Sorcerer of-“
     "We came along with several others to learn about oozes, but I stumbled upon this *she holds up the dusty tome on hags* and was wondering if you have more books like this?" He smiles, amused and curious, while his wife has absolute horror and anger on her face.
     "That book is the greatest lore on hags that I possess, however I do have others relating to each type of hag, such as their magics, rituals, and items they wield. I must ask you, however, what business do you have against the hags?"
     Tharyn's nose perks up at the question, and her gut picks up on an interior motive. She does not trust the man one bit.
     Servilus tries to speak. “We are on a-“
     "I was cursed by a hag a while back, and seek a cure. I came here on rumors of nightmares, and I believe that hags are responsible, and can help me."
     His wife, pretty flustered at this, angrily speaks. "I think you are misguided to seek hags for help. The only thing you should be seeking is the door. Husband, please see to it that this woman leaves!"
     Arceus is surprised at his wife's hostility towards Tharyn. "Honey, we are a public service and should not turn down any that require our knowledge." He turns to Tharyn. "You are both welcome to this library, free to learn as you see fit. Just don't damage any of the books."
     Tharyn immerses herself in the hag lore, learning how they breed and are created, what type of creatures they are, how their magic works, and even learns about the several types. An odd desire falls upon her: the need for sleep. Servilus, who is devouring several of the books on Oozes and Hags, feels the same sensation. He looks down at his book, and his head falls into a book. Tharyn begins feeling tired, her eyes sealing shut, head falls into the book and she begins dreaming.

The Call of Blood


     Tharyn stands in a field of green, the sun annoyingly beating down upon her. She sees an old friend from her old witch coven, a pink tiefling, with black hair with a trickle of red coursing through it like a flame. Tharyn rushes up to the tiefling, her pink skin and black horns glistening against the sun.
     "It is nice to see you, sister." The witch exclaims, a smile on her face.
     "It would be, except for this blasted sun!" Tharyn retorts. As she says this, the sun blacks out, and the moon rises.
     "There, better. It is as you always want, Tharyn." Tharyn feels an odd chill sweep up from behind her. The way the moon strikes upon the tiefling is… unsettling.
     "I know this is a dream, and that you are not real."
     "Well, I wouldn't call this a dream. This is a message from our lord, Kilkreath. You've been cursed, awoken to the prospect that the only cure you will find is true love. How... perfect! Tharyn, when you drink him or her dry, and you savor the warmth of your victim's last drop, you become just like me!"
     The tiefling smiles once more, her teeth turning into sharp needles and her fingers begin growing claws. Her demonic eyes flare up with blood; her iris turn red and tears of blood begin running down her face.
     "You will drink blood, break the curse, and be damned for all of eternity! Just like me!"
     Tharyn turns to run, but more of the coven surrounds her. They begin moving in on her, surrounding her, and knock her to the ground. Tharyn fires Scorching Rays at each witch, trying to keep them back, but the blasts deal very little to the witches. Slowly, the flames in her palms begin to snuff out, and with it, any hope Tharyn had for living. They keep moving, smiling unpleasantly, and tear open Tharyn's left arm. As each one decends their fangs upon Tharyn, they open her flesh down to the veins. Tharyn's blood gushes from her, and she feels herself left with nothing but only her consciousness.
     "You are drained, Tharyn. You must be so parched."
     The tiefling that Tharyn spoke to at first tears open her wrist, and places it against Tharyn's mouth.
     "Taste that good blood, my sister! Savor the taste! And when you kill that poor fool who falls in love with you, you come find us!"
     Tharyn tries to turn away, but she has no strength left in her. The wrist is forced into her throat, and Tharyn's lungs are filled with blood, choking her. Then, the blood pours into her stomach. Filled like a tick, Tharyn is freed from the wretch's grasp. Just as the nightmare comes to a close, Tharyn is thrown into a hole, and dirt is piled on top of her.
     "Castle Kilkreath, Tharyn! *scoops up dirt* You can't miss it! South of Eldergleam! *throws dirt onto Tharyn's face*"

Abrubtly Awaken


     Tharyn wakes up startled, Arceus's wife is sitting next to Tharyn. As she wakes up, she sees Spider and the gnome alchemist talking to Arceus, getting ready to leave. Tharyn turns to the woman aside her, angrily speaking.
     "You're sitting really close to me. Mind backing up?" Tharyn sits up and places her hand in the wife's face.
     "You were shaking in your sleep. I was just trying to comfort you." The wife slaps away Tharyn's hand.
     "That's odd. Before, you were trying to kick my ass to the curb. Now, all of a sudden, you have a bed side manner. How sweet."
     Ying inches closer to Tharyn, whispering in her ear.
     "I'd watch your words, little elf. Someday, I will not be restrained by my husband's good will and business. Night will come, and little witches like you won't last!"
     "And what makes you think I am a witch? I am a priest of the-"
     "No you are not. Not with that broom."
     "Oh, this old thing? My uncle left it to me. It's actually very good for sweeping." Tharyn looks around at the corners of the room.
     "Something you aren't."
     Arceus walks into the room and immediately senses the hostility between the two.
     "Alright, ladies. Ying, would you be kind enough to make us cups of tea?"
     Ying gets up and goes to a kitchen underneath and beyond the stairs.
     "So, what have you discovered?"
     "Well, it says here that Night Hags are perfectly capable of tapping into the Ethereal Plane, where our dreams can easily be affected. However, the whole town is being affected, which means that there are at least a hundred hags in the area."
     "Nightmares can be caused by any type of creature. It is very unlikely that a hundred hags are in the area, if you read here."
     Tharyn reads the page that Arceus opens up to.
     "Hags typically do not join up with other hags, being territorial and disrespectful of other hag's domain. However, hags will form covens from time to time, consisting of three hags. Any disagreement between two of them is resolved by the third."
     Arceus smiles. "So basically, there cannot be many hags in one area."
     Servilus shakes his head. "But what other creatures do you know of that can affect dreams like this? I wake up feeling afflicted, like some disease is eating away at my brain."
     Arceus turns towards Servilus. "Perhaps, my young friend, that is what it is: a disease."
     Tharyn turns some more pages. "If it was a disease, it would be curable."
     "We have no priests in this area who can cure it, and Fritzwald's healing can only do so much."
     "Our friend are curers, and they could not cure it."
     "Then I do not have any answers. I require sleep. Take your notes and go back to your priest friends. I've got... studying to do."
     Tharyn packs up her things, leaving in a hury away from the odd couple.

Cow Lord


     Crow Lord travels out to the field, where he sees some cows. Normally, such creatures do not allow men to just walk into their territory without keeping an eye. For some druids, animals typically shout or say things. But these creatures are so dicile it makes a druid nervous. There is something wrong about these cows. They barely eat the grass, which has grown to proportions not possible for being in an area of herbivores. Crow Lord walks up to a cow, trying to make conversation with it.
     "How are you, cattle?" The cow barely acknowledges Crow Lord.
     "We wait. We feed them. They will be fed. We must feed them. Do as they want. Be as they want."
     Crow Lord is very confused. Normally, beasts speak slowly and act dopey. This cow is acting like a mad cultist.
     “What do you mean, wait? Feed?”
     “The elder mothers told us to. They fed us darkness, and so we became their children. To feed their other children.”
     "Why do you want to feed them so bad? What about your desire to breed, eat grass, lay in the sun?" Crow Lord speaks to the cow in its language, his rasps forming into moos. Several villagers walk by, too sleep deprived to stop the man from talking to a cow. They just shake their heads and keep walking.
     "No. We must be their food. Feed them. Get inside them. Make them weak."
     "Why do you want to make them weak?"
     "We are commanded to."
     "Who is commanding you? The elder mothers? What are they?"
     "The women from the shiny trees. She is inside us. Tastes good, make cow strong. Cow loyal. Cow Feed."
     "Where did the goop come from?"
     At this point, the cow looks at Crow Lord. It's eyeballs look swollen, bulging and filled with black goop. It looks at him for some time, then turns to the corn field.
     "It came from beyond that fence." Crow Lord looks over at the fence, over it seeing the corn field. His eyes focus like a hawk, seeing something black and suspicious.
     Crow Lord stands up, and walks over to the corn field. As he approaches, his shoe steps in a pile of poop. As he tries to shake it off, he notices that the poop is unnaturally black, and its consistency is similar to that of the black pudding from earlier. He wipes it off as quickly as possible, before his boot melts away. Crow Lord looks at the crops, which look perfectly normal to him. He walks the perimeter around the corn field, trying to see where the goop actually came from. As he approaches the north side, Crow Lord finds a sleek black trail of goop coming from the stone forrest. He follows it to its edge, and stops.
     "I must get the others." He thinks, kawing out loud accidentally as he places his hands together behind his back. Crow Lord returns to town, finding Warsch and Stormdrake at a well.

Someone's Poisoned The Water Hole!


     "I'm telling you, there is black sludge in the water!" Stormdrake and Warsch are currently in heated battle with one another, with Warsch pulling water from the well and pouring a little bit onto the ground.
     "First off, I see nothing but a large, pale blue man wasting the town's water supply!"
     "The town is better off without this water, see there! Black flakes!" Stormdrake takes a peek into the bucket, noticing a large black flake floating around. He pulls it out, but the black flake is just a large stone.
     "I'm telling you, that this is just a rock. Wells are made of rocks, so therefore it cannot be an ooze!" Crow Lord kaws at the two, causing them to turn around and notice him. Crow Lord walks up to the arguing duo, and touches the barrel, producing a growth of twigs that spell out "Found trail. We must go."
     Warsch tosses the bucket down the well, which falls for quite some time before it hits water. They follow Crow Lord, who is on his way to Arceus's tower.

Spider's Misdirection


     Spider meets with the town alchemist, who is coughing up more black sludge than before, and quite often. The small man tells her that the last body was from 3 days ago, and he knows not if Arceus has already performed the purification rite on it, as this town follows Arceus's cleansing through fire ceremonies.
     As they exit his shop, they come across Warsch, Stormdrake, and Crow Lord.
     They travel to the library, finding Tharyn and Servilus inside. Tharyn is busy sleeping, and a woman sits very close to her. Arceus notices them entering, and speaks softly to them, trying not to wake up the scholars.
     "Hello, Fritzwald. How can I help you today? Need information on a certain mushroom again?" Fritzwald gets startled with anxiety at the mention of mushrooms. This causes Tharyn to wake up and take notice of the woman sitting too close. Arceus turns, shaking his head, and steps closer to Spider.
     "No! But, need more soon. Getting very close, I am! But I am sidetracked! I need the body, from several days ago! Murdered!"
     "I am sorry to say this, but I have already burned it."
     "Curses! Then we must wait for the next murder!"
     Spider shakes her head. "We are not waiting for another to die. We must act soon to save the town and all who are left."
     "Try we can! But, I need to head back. Mushroom research. Very important! You, on your own. Go!"
     Spider walks out of the library, hearing Tharyn getting into a fight with Ying, Arceus' wife. As Spider exits, the rest of the group meets her outside.
     "Kaw kaw!!" Crow Lord is flapping his arms and pointing towards the forrest. Using a charade, his hand is moving in a slithering motion, trying to communicate the word 'slime' with Spider. She looks at him in bewilderment, which is hardly noticeable with her mask. Stormdrake speaks up for the poor bird man. "He believes he has located a trail of slime important to our investigation. We need to band together, and then head out.
     "Well, Tharyn seems occupied with the wizard's wife, and not in a good way. I believe she just woke from a nightmare, and is picking a fight. Seems she's winning, I'd say!" As Spider says this, Tharyn bursts out, a large pile of notes in her hands. She is surprised by the party and speaks quickly.
     "Based on my research, I do believe that Hags are responsible, however, it is very difficult to prove. You see, Nightmare Hags, who I place the town's affliction on, can only affect one target at a time. It's likely that there could be three hags in the area; a coven, who are preying on certain individuals. That's our hag problem. Next up, the oozes. Oozes are minions of a demon prince named Juiblex, and many oozes are cabable of shifting to look like people, or worming their way inside a host and devouring them from the inside. If the hags are somehow involved with Juiblex, then it is possible for the entire town to be affected all at once. What sources are contaminated?"
     Stormdrake shakes his arms at Warsch. "Don't you dare say the"
     Warsch's words leap out of his mouth. "The water well has been tampered with! Black flakes swirl about!"
     Crow Lord pulls out the notes he took from the cow and hands it to Spider, who reads it aloud. When she finishes, she speaks.
     "So the town's meat and water is contaminated, along with the corn you found near the animals."
     Stormdrake sighs. "So that means that our next target is the Sunstone Forest. If the trail can be followed, then we should find those responsible."
     Warsch speaks with emrassment. "We should check with the town blacksmith, alchemist, and enchanter before we head out. I need new armor."

The Arms of War(sch)


     The party heads off to the Blacksmith, a half orc female who is sleeping at a table, where she was pounding nails into leather to make padding for armor. Warsch walks up to the woman, and very gently tries to wake her up. The woman stands up in a hurry, knocking her chair over and swings out with her hammer at the nearest person, hitting Warsch in the shoulder. Immediate bruising can be noticed.
     "Ah! Wake up and take less charge, woman!" Warsch says angrily at the half-orc, whose half closed eyes open fully.
     "I am sorry! Nightmares, telling me to do horrendous things... How can I help you? My name is Therelpa, blacksmith."
     Warsch shows her his torn chainmail. "We are following a trail of black puddings, which had previously corroded my chain mail. Can you replace my gear?”
     The woman, quite tired, offers Warsch a piece of Splint Mail. "I'll give it to you for 150 gold, and if you can kill what is doing this, then I’ll refund ya gold back."
     The woman helps him into the new armor, with the torn tunic of the Hammer fitting over neatly. The party gives thanks, and head out to the Enchanters. She is packing her things, preparing to leave before the sun sets. The party enters, and she looks up, her tongue slithers out and slides back into her mouth.
     "I am leaving. I will not abide by tessse dreamsss any furter!" Warsch speaks for the party.
     "Before you leave, could you by any chance enchant our gear? We are currently going to battle against hags, and odds are we will come across more acidic sludges who eat armor. Any aid you give us will be rewarded once the threat is taken care of." She looks up, her eyes widen with hope and believe the words that Warsch says.
     "I'll help, if you mean what you sssay.” She pulls out several scrolls, written with odd symbols. She walks over to each member, scribbling the runes in chalk onto their equipment.
     "Te enchantmentsss only lassst for a day. Ssstrike ssswiftly!"
     The party leaves the enchanter, and head next door to the alchemist. As they enter, they smell the odor of burnt mushrooms, and a plastered gnome slouched over a counter. They try to awaken him, but nothing is working. Crow Lord checks for a pulse, pulling off a glove and revealing a pale hand, placing it under his jaw. A pulse is found, and Crow Lord nods. As they leave, spider grabs several potions of healing, sending the vials into her enchanted sack.
     Fritzwald, all of a sudden, bursts upwards from his desk. "Please... Kill me! I am... contaminated! The ooze.. inside me! KILL!"
     The party all look at eachother, unsure what to do. Crow Lord steps forward, two large flames brewing in his hands. Fritzwald smiles, trying to say thank you, but ooze begins to spill between his lips. Within the split of the moment, a torrent of flame bursts from Crow Lord, incinerating the poor alchemist. As the flames continue to eat away at his remains, black blobs can be seen bursting out from the gnome, however the flames from our druid vaporize them. The fire spreads out of control, beyond Crow Lord's ability to control them. Tharyn, countering fire with ice, fires off several Rays of Frost, extinguishing the hungry flames.
     As they leave the shop, several of the villagers watch them with fear in their tired eyes. Several of the guard step out from the mass, fixing bolts into their crossbows and firing at Fritzwald's mercy-killers. Before Warsch can attempt to appease the angry villagers, Crow Lord and Spider dart between two buildings towards the forest. Tharyn and Servilus follows them, leaving Warsch and Stormdrake behind, who slowly charge away in their heavy armor, trying to avoid arrows and rocks being thrown at them.
     Crow Lord takes the lead and follows the trail of slime into the woods. The woods are not actually organic matter, but magic stones that take in the light, absorbing it and transferring the energy into nearby flora and life. The trail is easy to follow, as the black sludge stands out quite easily, and the party arrives at a cave a few hours before the sun sets.

The Corrupted Shrine


     As they enter, The party walks into the caverns, where they see in front of them a large stone bridge suspended over a black lake. As they begin crossing it, the sound of haggard and vile breathing can be heard, and across from them in the shadows are two piercing blue orbs. In front of them stands a Night hag, who is guarding a large stone door. In a raspy and disgusting voice, the hag speaks.
     "You are too late! The eradication of the town has already begun, you fools!"
     As the hag finishes her senteance, Spider charges herself with Ki, shrouding her feet in a mixture of red and blue, and darts forward and launches a single strong punch on the hag. Her fist slamm into the hag’s jaw, making a nasty cracking sound. Spider uppercuts the hag, but only a barely audible thud can be heard from the blow.
     As Spider punches, the hag swipes out with her claws, slicing her claws against Spider's arms. Spider's flesh is scraped open, but hardly any bleeding is produced.
     Tharyn moves up several feet across the bridge, and casts Flaming Sphere on the hag, but the hag leaps sidways and manages to avoid most of the heat coming from the sphere.
     Crow Lord moves up near Tharyn, and casts Thorn Whip on the hag, which wraps itself around her waist and pulls her closer to him as the thorns dig and cut into her sides.
     Warsch moves up in front of Tharyn and throws a javelin into the hag, stabbing right through her leg. She screeches out with bloodlust at Warsch, whose animated shield activates.
     Stormdrake runs up next to Warsch, and casts Gust of Wind towards the hag. The Hag looks at the source of wind, points at it, and the mighty gusts stop, the weakening winds dispersing around her. Stormdrake looks at his hand, confused as to why his spell stopped working.
     "Countered!" The hag says, laughing.
     Spider places her hands together, conjuring more Ki and receives a noxious intake of energy from the dead lake beneath her. With newfound energy, she runs up to the hag, and delivers four blows. Her first punch misses, probably from the left over gusts of wind of Stormdrake’s spell. However, the next three punches connect: one in the ribs, a kick to the chest, and finally a punch to the side of the Hag's filthy head.
     The hag, not realizing the flaming sphere is behind her, steps back after Spider's kick right into it. The hag’s hair is engulfed in flames, causing the skin to fall away from the hag’s scalp.
     She turns around, cancels the Flaming Sphere, and casts Ray of Sickness at Warsch, but the shot fires wide, hitting the wall of the cave.
     Servilus opens up his robes, revealing his fine set of knives. “This is why they call me the Iron Sorcerer!” With a quick purple glimmer in his eyes, the knives fly out from his robes and begin slashing at the hag, tearing open her flesh like a grinder.
     Tharyn, angered by the loss of her flaming sphere, casts Scorching Ray. The first ray hits the hag in the leg, knocking her to one knee, and then the second ray blasts the hag in the face. The hag looks nearly dead by this point, with most of her flesh seared off. Her bones are twisted and malformed, and one of her eyes are missing thanks to Tharyn’s spell.
     Crow Lord walks over and kicks the hag closer to the edge of the bridge. He then casts Flame Blade, holding the blade across her fetid throat, and lops off her head, charring it clean through the throat.
     As the hag dies, she falls off the bridge and into the black sludge beneath the Bridge. As she is boiled and dissolved, a sickening slurping sound can be heard from behind the players as two Black Puddings slide up the bridge, making their way toward the heroes.
     They retreat back towards the door. Warsch casts Holy Weapon on his hammer, wreathing it in a holy light. Stormdrake breathes a line of lightning, hitting one of the oozes. The ooze is hardly damaged, but the lightning splits it in half. Now there is one large blob, and two medium sized blobs. Tharyn slaps Stormdrake in the back of the head, causing his head to tilt forward slightly.
     Spider casts Pass Without Trace, and the party becomes one with the darkness while they try to open the door. The Black Puddings stop trying to detect any presence of organic material. They sense nothing, and begin sliding off the bridge.
     As the distance between them and the oozes increase, Warsch kicks the wooden door, but to no avail. Tharyn launches a bolt of fire at the door, blasting it open and startling the hag inside.
     Everyone rushes in, Warsch first and then Stormdrake, followed by Spider, Servilus, and Crow Lord.
     Warsch runs in and throws his hammer, hitting the hag square in the face and a sick cracking sound can be heard, likely from the hag's nose breaking. Stormdrake casts Sacred Flame, but the hag falls backwards from the blow by Warsch's hammer, out of harm's way. Spider moves with great speed into the room, and throws a dart, which passes by the hag and misses.
     Crow Lord darts in, and closes his fist around the flame blade. He then fires off a lob of fire at the hag, blasting her in the shoulder.
     The Hag is well alerted now, what with her broken nose. She screams out "Fools! The town has already begun to burn! You will not stop us!"
     Spider darts around the hag, with speed that surprises everyone, and punches the Hag twice. Spider swings her left fist into the Hag's shoulder blade, causing a large amount of bruising. Then, she takes a deep breath, and hooks her right fist into the same area. A loud snapping sound emanates throughout the room, and the Hag screams out in pain, her shoulder blade shifted into her right lung.
     Tharyn moves in front of the altar, and casts Soultrap on the hag. Tharyn connects a tether to the hags soul, which tears through the hag’s flesh like a knife stuck in a tree.
     Crow Lord throws another blob of fire at the hag, this time blasting off one of the hag’s hands.
     Warsch runs forward, picking up his hammer along the way swings upwards, missing the hag’s chin by several inches. The hag looks at Warsch, and begins chanting in a primal language, which puts him to sleep, causing him to fall forward onto the ground. The Hag begins laughing, stating that "His dreams will be even worse than the night before!"
     Stormdrake moves besides Spider and the sleeping Warsch, and stabs at the hag with his spear. As he stabs, he shouts "Thunder!" causing the spear to spurt lightning bolts as it strikes the hag. As its blade pierces the hag, both she and Stormdrake are hit by lightning. As the lightning begins flowing, Stormdrake says a short prayer to his god, Talos, to strengthen the lightning.
     The lightning turns into a silver light, and strikes both him and the hag with ferocity.
     As the hag is flung backwards into the far wall behind her, she pulls out a small red glowing rock from her pocket, and vanishes from sight. Warsch begins screaming in his sleep, and the party can do nothing for him. Stormdrake offers a prayer of healing, however no one can help Warsch in his dreams.
     Warsch stands in a green field, a great darkness coming from the south. In front of him stands a figure, similar to him, but covered in a great shadow. The shadow shares the same wounds as he does, same weapons and armor. This is Warsch's darkness.
     "Well, that's a neat trick! First I'm fighting a stubborn old hag, and now I get to fight me. How quaint!"
     "You think this is a trick? I’m you, Warsch. I’m the darkness that you harbor deep within your vile soul. Half-angel, sure, but human? That’s where your weaknesses lie. Weaknesses that will end you!”
     "Really? This is my dream. You will stand in my light, and be cleansed by it!" Warsch bursts in flame, his eyes and mouth pouring hot fire. As he steps near the shadow version of him, the figure is burned. Warsch's hammer, still wreathed as a Holy Weapon, is swung from his shoulder, right into the face of the shadow.
     The shadow falls back, revealing the hag's face underneath the shadow.
     The shadow stands back up, a black shield floating in the air, similar to Warsch's Animated Shield. It rushes forward with two large fists, trying to touch him, but is stopped by his shield. The shadow begins to laugh maniacally, as the black smoke from its hands corrode the shield, shattering it into small pieces.
     Warsch swings out with his hammer again, but misses. The shadow pulls out a similar hammer, swinging at Warsch, who blocks the attack easily with his Animated Shield. The two are locked into deadly combat, having much difficulty trying to hit each other. The shade’s hammer connects with Warsch, smashing into his shoulder with a sickening *crack*. Warsch channels his divine power into the next strike of his hammer, causing a burst of silver flames from it. As he swings the hammer into the skull of his opponent, a large burst of divine light blasts away the smoke. The hag flies away from Warsch, his blow smacking off a large chunk of its jaw.
     The hag tries to crawl away, but the radiant flames from Warsch begin searing its flesh. As Warsch walks closer, more of the hag is set ablaze. Warsch kicks the hag over onto her back, and grabs her by the head. His hands burn through her flesh, touching bone, which shatter at his touch.
     "As I said, this is my dream. In my dreams, the only thing left is light!”
     Warsch begins squeezing with all his might on the hag's skull. The Hag screams, struggling against Warsh and clawing his arms open. Even in a dream, Warsch can still bleed. The hag digs her claws deeper into Warsch's arms with desperation, feeling her skull beginning to fracture. After several seconds of trying to break free, Warsch caves in her skull with his bare hands, crushing her face inwards, completely distorting her face. The radiance of Warsch's birthright sets the hag ablaze, melting away her flesh and muscles from the bone. As the darkness fades from his dream, Warsch finds himself feeling faint, and blacks out.
     Warsch feels the pain from the dream beginning to subside, and awakens to find everyone else standing away from him.
     "What happened?" He asks.
     Spider speaks. "Well, we were trying to keep you comforted during your nightmare, and then you just burst into flames, similar to before."
     "Oh. Sorry about that. Good news: I killed the hag in my dream!" As he states that, a small portal opens up near Warsch, and the burnt remains of the hag fall next to him. The group looks at the smoldering remains in awe, as almost nothing is left. The skull is shatterd, and the rest of the body is grotesque and malformed, with bones sticking out where they shouldn't.
     Servilus speaks, trying not to puke. "What did you do to it!?" Warsch smiles unsettingly.
     "Well, She was trapped in my dreams. I bathed her in the purest lightimaginable: mine. Those flames you found me in… really good for burning witches.”
     Tharyn scolds Warsch. "Next time, try not to use that ability! You nearly burnt all of us to a crisp! Crow Lord's mask was severly damaged, and I don't think the poor guy will ever make use of it again!"
     Warsch looks at Crow Lord, who is holding his damaged mask in his hands. Crow Lord only looks at the clay shards, and with great sorrow places the shards into his satchel.
     "Kaw..." he states as he pockets them.
     Tharyn picks up a bag from the corner of the room, and begins sensing numerous souls trapped inside of it. She pulls out a soul stone in secrecy, and begins pulling the souls from the bag into her stone, collecting about five souls before the rest burst out and fly away.
     The party finds a chest below the altar, and open the thing up, revealing 5 statues made of solid silver. They also find a few odd items, such as two obsidian plates with a pair of chicken wings sewn on, which is etched with runes. The party also finds Bracers of Defense, and the Ring of the Ram.
     The party places the chicken wings on Crow Lords back, who begins kawing like a chicken. As he says "Kaw Kaw!" the magic of the wings take effect, and two large black bird wings sprout from his back, knocking over Warsch and Tharyn. He begins flapping them indoors, hitting his head on the ceiling, and falling down onto his back. Warsch grabs the second wings, putting on his back and kawing like Crow Lord. Two white wings, similar to Crow Lord's sprout from his back.
     "Crow Lord is now the Chicken Lord!" Stormdrake says to Crow Lord, who laughs in a rasp as he gets up.
     Spider throws on the Bracers of Defense, and a wave of blue energy floats over her, vanishing like a wisp in the air around her.
     Tharyn lets Stormdrake equip the Ring of the Ram. As he equips it, he points his fist at the altar, and a large blast of force erupts from his hand and shatters the altar.
     Warsch says to the party, "Didn't the hag say something about the town's people being under attack?"
     The party of adventurers run out of the cave as fast as they can. Tharyn, Crow Lord, and Warsch fly as fast as they can, while spider clings to Crow Lord. Servilus and Stormdrake are not gifted with flight. Stormdrake is too heavy to carry, but thanks to his heroic dragonborn body, sprinting long distances is no trouble. As he falls behind, due to the speed his allies now have, Stormdrake thinks to himself
     "Oh, sure! They can carry Spider-Girl, but they can't team up and carry the dragon. Someday, mark my words, I will fly!"

Love Will Find A Warsch, Pt.1


     The party, minus Stormdrake and Servilus, fly to the field that Crow Lord interrogated cattle, seeing the town burning. Almost no one is left alive, as buildings are being blasted by Arceus, who is beside his wife, Ying. A few of the town's tired children try to run from building to building. He raises his cruel hand towards the children, ready to launch a fireball from his scorched fingertips, but Tharyn fires off a Ray of Frost near him, distracting his focus from the children.
     Tharyn has never reacted so quickly in her entire life, nor has she ever really saved anyone. Seeing the children dart into the shadows, flames hiding their escape, Tharyn feels an odd warmth within her bosom. Maybe it's the heat of the town burning before her, or maybe the time she has spent with Warsch and the others has brought out some good in her. These thoughts dismiss from her mind, as Arceus turns towards her, a cruel smile spreading across his face. His eyes, which would have been covered by the shadow cast from the flames, glow a sick red.
     "Well, well, well! If it isn't the Hammers of Dal'Krosh. My wife and I are quite angered at the destruction of that altar. But we can always make another one. However, my step sisters will not. You will all pay dearly for your interference in our plans."
     Tharyn speaks to Arceus, trying to reason him. "Arceus, stop this nonsense. You are being influenced by a Night Hag. Remember what we read? They can influence people through their dreams! As matter of fact, that thing isn't even your real wife! She's been killed and replaced! Look upon her true form! *Tharyn waves her hand, dismissing any illusions cast by the Night Hag* See there! A Night Hag!"
     Arceus looks over to his wife. "I know whom I have married. A Night Hag, but what defines love, anyways? Is it dependence, stability..." Arceus checks his wife out, looking at her waist. "Lust?" She expresses a large smile, very warmly.
     Warsch practically pukes out whatever healing potions were dumped into his throat during his dream-battle back at the cave.
     "Now hold up one minute! First off, his wife is a Hag?"
     Tharyn facepalms herself. "Yes, Warsch. A Wizard fucking a Hag."
     Warsch spreads his arms open. "Okay... a Hag. Do Hags even have reproductive organs?"
     Arceus facepalms himself. "Ofcourse they do, paladin! All things-well, most things, do! See, a hag's reproduction works like this: First, the hag must steal and consume a newly-born. Commonly, human babies are taken, as they provide the least amount of complications. Other races... well yeah. Complications. Hag's do no produce offspring, so sex isn't-" At the mention of sex, Stormdrake and Servilus join the group. Stormdrake's face contorts into massive confusion.
     "The town burns, and we are talking about sex? Why?"
     Spider facepalms herself. "Arceus is fucking a hag"
     Arceus: "Hey! I am making love-"
     Warsch pukes all over the ground, speaking when he stops. "By the gods, you are an atrocity!"
     Ying closes her arms across her chest. "Excuse me! Who are you to define love! Your parent screwed an Angel!"
     Warsch makes an excuse. "My mother was a priestess and my father an Angel. Things like this happen out of holy-"
     Arceus yells at Warsch. "Oh, so it is okay when the "GOOD GUYS" do it, but god forbid that us creatins live our lives!" Warsch looks astonished, as a hole in his logic has been formed. Arceus sees this, confidence returning to his stature."
     "I love her, paladin, and you will not stand there and judge us!"
     Warsch is taken back by this, with supreme regret showing on his face. "I'm... sorry. I never really thought of it that way. Please, tell me about how you two met."
     Tharyn, Crow Lord, and Spider all groan. Tharyn says in a loud voice, shouting towards the heavens "Are you kidding me right now!?" Arceus dismisses this, his full attention on the paladin.
     "It was the night of a full moon, and I stumbled upon this beautiful creature wounded in the woods. I took mercy upon her, and she offered me her loyalty. Together, we broke my service to Juiblex, who I was a Warlock in service towards. She corrupted his altar and together we began creating the black puddings you saw in town."
     "Oh, so that is what that altar was back in the cave."
     "Yes. We twisted it using a combination of hag magic and eldritch power." Somewhat tired from their long run, Stormdrake catches up and speaks. “Why did you burn the entire village? Surely the slimes were going to kill everyone."
     "Originally, that was the plan. Clear the village, flatten the earth, and The villagers, engourged with slime, would boil down and melt into Black Pudding to rebuild the Great Gate, but the altar that my power was linked to was destroyed. Which you destroyed!"
     Warsch shakes his head. "But why choose this evil path in the first place? You could have taken your... wife... and lived in the wilds. In peace and harmony."
     "We were doing that for several months, believe it or not. The town was none the wiser; Yingvel disguised herself as a blue tiefling, we showed the town our love, and we had a wedding."
     "What happened to the peaceful honey moon?"
     "A very powerful hag summoned us. The night hags, which included Ying and her twin sisters, were tasked with creating a Heartstone and filling a bag of souls with one Soul of Evil. The process took about an entire month, but it was completed well before you arrived. After that, all we had to do was prepare the town ."
     Tharyn tilts her head."Prepare the town for what?"
     Arceus waves his hand towards Onatar's Gate."For the coming of Bleurhelga's Lord."
     "Wait, so if the altar was a perversion of Juiblex to control the oozes, then who do you all serve?"
     "Priest, I do not know everything that goes on in this world. I simply wish to protect the one thing I have and live my life."
     Warsch looks upon Arceus, a sad look upon his face.
     "Well, you chose the wrong way to do it. There is a right and a wrong in this world, and you chose wrong. Marrying a hag, maybe that's not evil. But burning a village and tormenting their dreams for weeks on end? What does that even make you?"
     "It makes me kill you."
     "Ah. Well, congrats on the marriage. Till death do you two part."
     Everyone prepares for the fight, splitting into two groups. Tharyn, Servilus and Warsch take on Arceus, while Crow Lord, Spider, and Stormdrake take on Yingvel.
     Arceus starts the fight by casting Darkness on both him and Ying. Crow Lord transforms into a large Crow, and flies forward at Ying's last known location, but flies through the darkness. Warsch channels his divinity, causing his hammer to glow bright silver. He activates his Animated Shield in the process, and readies himself for Arceus's next move. Tharyn casts mage armor, granting herself additional defense.
     Ying rushes out of the darkness at Crow Lord, casting Ray of Enfeeblement. The blast hits Crow Lord square in the bird chest, weakening his muscles and causing him to drop to the ground.
     Stormdrake sees Yingvel step out from the shadows to blast Crow Lord, and uses his new ring to shoot a blast of force at the hag, but the blast misses her.
     Spider runs over behind Yingvel, and begins to unleash a flurry of blows. Only two of her strikes connect with the hag's back, and Spider aims low, punching her right above the tail bone. Her punches each find a different kidney, and a sickening popping sound can be heard and her punches connect.
     Arceus walks out from the darkness, his form covered by a veil of shadows. In his right hand, he wields a scimitar made of black pudding. In his left hand, he wields a normal scimitar. He walks up to Warsch, attacking with his weapons three times. He slashes with the right weapon, which is blocked by Warsch's shield. However, the shield begins to dissolved under the effects of the black blade, which eats through and breaks the shield in half. He swings sideways with his left weapon, connecting with Warsch's Animated Shield. He swings again with his black weapon, aiming high for Warsch's neck, but Warsch ducks the attack.
     Crow Lord flies foward at the hag, and tries to sink his talons into her flesh, but the hag dodges the incoming talons, which barely miss Spider as the hag ducks. Crow Lord lands down with a loud thud, and as he does he brings his beak into Ying's shoulder, but her previous spell weakens his attack, and she suffers a minor scratch with some bruising. Crow Lord, realising what the spell has done to him, kaws loudly like a majestic eagle, summoning the power of nature to cure his effects.
     Servilus pulls out a long thin rope made of small, intricately woven chains. With a flick of his wand, the rope flies forward and wraps itself around Arceus’s torso, binding his torso down to the elbow.
     Warsch channels magic for a Divine Smite upon Arceus, but the warlock dances backwards, causing his attack to thud into the ground with a powerful landing. Before he can react, Arceus kicks upwards with his left foot into Warsch's face, knocking him several feet backwards. Warsch's shield falls out of his grip and shatters upon the ground, it's steel bonds broken from Arceus's black sword.
     Tharyn conjures up a large Soul Spear from her wand, which flies through Arceus, and unknowingly to Tharyn, flies through the darkness into Ying in the process. They both fail to get out of the way, and a large tether springs through each of them from Tharyn’s wand.
     Yingvel was not expecting to be soul blasted right away, but her natural Night Hag magic resilience reduces the damage of the blast. She looks at Crow Lord, and blasts him with a lightning bolt. Crow Lord sees the lightning being charged, and flies upwards to avoid the blast. Some of the lightning still connects with him, blasting a chunk out of his right wing. Gore and feathers plaster the area behind Crow Lord, who kaws out in great pain.
     Stormdrake carves his way through the darkness, coming upon Crow Lord and Spider beating up the hag. He casts Shatter, striking the hag with a blast of magic. A loud shattering blast hits the hag in the back, sending her forward and falling before Crow Lord’s feet.
     Spider launches another flurry of blows against the hag. Her first punch knocks the hag in the back of the skull, cracking the base of the skull. The next two hits connect with the backs of her shoulders, dealing minimal damage. Finally, as she throws a fourth punch, the hag turns just enough to get out of the way.
     Arceus, brings his black blade across his torso, which sears through the chain but does not affect him. Realizing the futility of attacking Warsch, Arceus takes a step towards Tharyn, but is tackled to the ground by Warsch. Arceus flips Warsch off of him with ease. Despite his strengths in magic, Arceus is incredibly strong, mostly likely as a result of some kind of hag ritual or blessing perhaps. As the two struggle against each other in the dirt, bashing eachother with the butt-ends of their weapons, Tharyn and Servilus cannot get good shots on Arceus.
     The two eventually stand up, but Arceus's movement is too unpredictable. Warsch, locked in combat against the powerful foe, feels a surge of flame from deep within him. As the blackened blade formed out of oozes approaches Warsch's chest, Warsch channels the gift of his father's blood. A Boiling wrath surges from deep within him, setting the sword ablaze and disintegrating against his chest. Arceus's eyes open wide, and before he realizes what happens, Warsch's hammer smashes through Arceus's Mage Armor into his skull. Blood cannot ooze from the wound, as Arceus begins to burn away. Despite the injury to his head, Arceus is still conscious. He begins screaming, falling to the ground and clawing away, but the flesh melts from his hands.
     Crow Lord screeches out in bloody vengeance and sinks his talons into the hag's torso, and pulls down to reveal her twisted and rotten flesh underneath her skin. He brings down his beak once more into her shoulder, this time pulling out some of her muscular cords and tendons. Her breathing becomes even more haggard than normal, and she begins to look weary.
     Yingvel enters a panic state, and tries to sprint past everyone to get to Arceus, whose screaming stopped. The veil of darkness shrouds her line of sight to him, but as she tries to run, Stormdrake, Crow Lord, and Spider stop her. Stormdrake uses the pole of his swordspear to trip her, causing her to fall forward as Crow Lord’s beak plants her into the earth. Spider leaps around Crow Lord to get a good sight on Ying, and throws two darts into the hag’s ribs.
     Yingvel begins casting Magic Missile at Crow Lord, trying to get the large bird's beak out of her. Crow Lord is blasted in the face, sending him flying backwards with force ten feet away. His form reverts as he is blasted, and he is left in his human form, barely injured but with the breath knocked out of him.
     Stormdrake walks over to the hag, grabbing her by the collar of her robes and drags her over to Arceus' body. She begins crying very intensely, and begins talking.
     "I knew I made a mistake taking you with me to Bleurhelga. We should've run! We could've been so happy, me, you, and the children. I never got to tell you; I'm expectin-"
     Stormdrake brings down his swordspear through the hag's throat, tearing her head from her torso. He pulls it off, and places it in a sack around her waist, which he unties and secures to his belt. The blood seeps through, dyeing his robes red.
     Stormdrake turns towards the party. "Now that the grotesque romance of Joleo and Romet is over, can we try to round up survivors?"
     The party follows Stormdrake's command, but no one in the village was left alive. Not even the animals, the babies, or any of the people too weak to defend themselves. Many were killed, not by fire or magic, but from their common man; some were stabbed to death, others were choked. Mothers killed their children, and children drowned their siblings.
     Stormdrake looks onwards with a saddened face. "This town did not deserve what injustice it was dealt. We should continue burning it down to the ground."
     Crow Lord shakes his head at Stormdrake, and writes in the dirt. "That's what the hags would want." Crow Lord kneels down upon the dirt, and begins kawing in a manner similar to the hymns of a monk. As his kaws continue and the sun starts to sink into the ocean, a large stormcloud appears above the town. The party scatters into an unburned building, the old tavern that they first entered when they arrived. The corpse of the innkeeper lies over his counter, stabbed multiple times and his chest ripped open, his heart missing. The team wraps his body up in bedsheets.
     Tharyn speaks up, her voice cracking at first.. "I w-would like to collect several books from Arceus's Library, if the maniac didn't set his own house on fire."
     They travel on to the Enchanter's, finding a burnt corpse in a charred building.
     The party loots and burns the bodies of the Night Hag and Arceus, finding another Iron Tooth. A piercing screech fills Servilus’s head as he places the third tooth into a pouch.
     "So, you seek my head eh? I can't wait to finally meet you, dear Servilus. Perhaps you remember me, eh? Your mother strung up and your dear father with his limbs pulled one by one! Reeehee! T'was a shame the clergy broke my hold over you, for you would have made an excellent meal. Go ahead and try to find me! I can't wait to end our little game! You have five days before the Forks of Skoraeus are activated! And once they are... well, you'll be the first to know, my good child!"
     The tooth's connection to the hag is cut off, and the tooth crumples to dust.
     Arceus's robes were expensive, but nothing magical or spectacular. Or maybe they were, but Warsch's wrath reduced them to little beyond cinders. The black blade that he wielded is nowhere to be found, except maybe for a streak of black goop near his corpse.Tharyn pockets his spell book as she heads up to his house, but unfortunately, night sets as Tharyn approaches the stairs and is turned to stone.
     The party enters Arceus's hut, where they find all sorts of books available. On the table, they find a book wrapped in paper with a note on top of it.

     "Dear Tharyn,
     
     If this letter reaches your eyes, then I am saddened that you won our fight. I was hoping to carry the grief with me and relieve you of your burden. However, I hope you find purpose with your friends and learn to smile more. Life, despite the cruelties I have demonstrated, is beautiful. Someday you will know it. Anyways, I am giving you this book on hags as a gift. Maybe I seek revenge on the hag who bent Yingvel against her will. Despite the physical harm you dealt us, it was the hag Bleurhelga who killed us. Read everything inside.
     
     Finally at peace,
     Arceus"


     The party checks out the upstairs area, finding a small chest containing some loot: several pieces of crystalline figures, and boots of levitation.
     "I will be taking those boots! You guys can fly, but now it is my chance!"
     Stormdrake grabs the boots, and immediately equips them. He taps into their innate power, and begins floating, laughing like a madman.
     "haha haha haha! I am now a master of storms! Soaring in the air, and crashing down upon my foes!"
     Spider laughs at him, and casts web on him.
     "Master of storms, and getting stuck against a wall! Ha!"
     "That is most not funny! Free me from my confines, monk!"
     Crow Lord casts produce flame, trying to burn Stormdrake out of the web. The party leaves the building, carrying Tharyn over to the inn. Hag or no hag, the nightmares that haunted them on this journey will be ones to stay with them for a long while.

Mourning Comes


     When morning comes, and Tharyn is freed from her confines of stone, the party gathers the deceased bodies of the villagers.
     "We should send them to their gods. I know of a proper ritual, a cleansing through holy flame. The bodies will burn, leaving nothing behind but holy dust. An important compound for several of my spells." says Warsch.
     Crow Lord tries to communicate as best as he can, writing in the ground. "Natures gives us life, and it is to Nature that our bodies belong to after death. They should be buried, not burned!"
     Stormdrake laughs at both of them. "In the Chapels of Talos, we neither burn nor bury. Our dead are cast out to sea, to join with the storms of Talos and to feed the oceans he commands.
     Tharyn can't help but laugh to an even greater extent. "As respectful as that all is, their bones can be salvaged for my REAL magics. I've nearly enough bones to begin chanelling the darker aspects of my necromancy."
     Servilus gags on his own spit. "Wait, Necromancy? I thought you were a Wizard?"
     Warsch shakes his head. "It's a ruse we all use to get her past guards and into towns. and NO! We will not prey upon their corpses like vultures, Tharyn!"
     Tharyn gets feisty with Warsch. "Preying and making good on death are two different things, Warsch!"
     Crow Lord writes into the dirt. "Uh... Not really." Tharyn kicks dirt over his words. As the arguing continues, the children that Tharyn saved earlier approach them. "Excuse us, sirs and madams, but we would like to buy our dead. They are our people, and that is how the dead are respected here. Many of us lost our folks, and- and this is all we have left: Rubble and Respect. Please, let us pay our dues."
     Everyone in the party looks at the dirt beneath their feet. Guilt and sadness fill their heavy hearts. Crow Lord takes off his mask, smiling at one of the children. He pulls out his druidic focus, and places one knee upon the dirt. With both hands clasped around his focus, the symbol of a hawk, his melodic kaws begin once more. After about a minute of chanelling, several pits open up into the earth, each a proper size to bury the dead. Crow Lord stands back up, the children each hugging him and sulking off to collect their dead. The party helps the kids, but the heaviest of the bodies to carry are the smallest ones.
     With nowhere to go, Servilus offers to take the children to Skoraeus's Throne. There, with the pleas to the court of King Thalumend, the children will be placed into decent homes until a decision can be made. Before they all begin walking back, Servilus pulls the heroes aside.
     "I managed to tap into the three iron tokens of the hags. The hag, Bleurhelga, is going to activate the Forks of Skoraeus in five days."
     Tharyn tilts her head. "I am new to these lands. What does that mean?"
     Servilus takes a deep breath in. "Long ago, in the Primordial Times, the forks were created by Skoraeus to defeat, weaken, and trap angels of demons. To the extent that the scrolls told me, The forks work, but haven't in several thousand years."
     Warsch speaks. "I don't understand how that is a terrible thing. What could they be planning?"
     Servilus shakes his head slightly. "I have no idea. If it works as predicted, then I fear that they have something planned. The only angel I know of is you, Warsch. This trap, if it is meant for you, will trap you for all eternity on those forks."
     Warsch blinks several times. "Trap me? How?"
     "The scrolls tell of ancient chains, similar to a soul trap, that shoot out and pull down angels. Now, I'm not sure what could happen, but I think you should sit this one out. It could kill you instantly."
     Everyone looks at Warsch. "If I die, then I lived a good life in service. I'm going. Five days to live? Fine by me."
     Servilus laughs with pride at his new friend. "I welcome your enthusiam. Foolishness, but bravery"
     Surrounding the childen and on great guard, the heroes walk for a day and half towards the capital of Kalrosh; The Throne of Skoraeus, where King Thalumend of the Stone Giants lingers.

Proceed to Chapter 5: The Prophecy Ends