They stayed in the inn for that night, resting. Aya (the elf wizardess) did not look at La Ruina in the same way. The others were maimed and cursed but she shied away from the handsome elf just as much.
In the morning a Gur woman, with a tattered, brightly coloured shawl and big gold ear rings, staggered into the Inn. Her eyes had no pupils, just white and featureless. Her flesh had been torn by claws and thorns.
“The mist is here. It will take us away to the place where it lives… My father knew it. He’s gone to seek help from the most powerful witch in the area but it’s too late. Jenny Greenteeth can’t stop this now. He’s in the Quivering Forest, a few miles south of the Elkhorn treetop town of the elves. We tried to stop the mists, gather powerful defences, allies and bring them here to the Crossing Inn”
The frightened boy ran to her “Mother!” and she collapsed unconscious, her frantic husband catching her. Through tears, he told them “She is never wrong – it makes it hell to live with her, but she is never wrong. My father-in-law, Ozzcar the old sod, he probably thinks he can charm Jenny Greenteeth, sweet talk her into helping but she’s a hag”.
Our “heroes” set out to find the old man – once again the mists carried them swiftly within an hour, to the Quivering Forest 2 days normal travel away. The mists were thicker here, half-glimpsed shadowy figures moved just out of sight.
The road was blocked by four bedraggled elves. At first they asked La Ruina and Maklum for help, but then saw the faces of Revan and Mandingo and they tried to keep them from passing along the road. They said that they were lost and hadn’t been able to find their town – even though it should only be a couple of miles further on. They had been lost for days.
Revan stalked towards them and they broke and ran.
A little way further on they came upon an old woman with a rotten smile, stirring a small pot above a camp fire. She cackled and invited them to join her for a warm drink. The elf stayed hidden while the other approached.
When she saw Revan and Mandingo, she became quite excited “You two look like pretty fellows – you’ve been there haven’t you? And come back – interesting!” She had an old Gur (the grandfather) on a leash. She looked frail but when she yanked the leash it cut into his neck and he seemed to have been badly beaten.
She cast a detection spell and looked at Maklum with interest too – “There’s sommat funny about you too, I reckons – ha ha”.
Revan started bargaining with her, asking if she could give him his eyes back. She said she couldn’t just make eyes, he would have to bring her some (from a living donor) then she might be able to bond them to him. Revan joked about taking them from the boy at the Inn, and when the old man tried to rise in protest, the hag yanked him back down.
“You could take one from this old fool” she said and then reached out with a long clawed thumbnail. “Tell me what you found in the other world and I’ll give you one of his eyes!.
Revan agreed and they described their trip to Barovia. The hag ripped a bloody eye from the old man and enchanted it to bond with one of Revan’s empty sockets.
For the old man’s second eye, they told how they had returned – how they met Von Strahd and were sent back as his heralds. She ripped the other eye from old Ozzcar and left him to bleed to death on the ground. Revan just put the second eye into his pocket as a spare – he liked the power to intimidate people too much.
Next they bargained for a face for Mandingo. This was trickier magic but she agreed to do it if they brought her the heart and tongue of a Golden Elk who lived in the forest. La Ruina came out of hiding and said he was an expert hunter and would do it. She insisted that Mandingo remain with her until his brother returned [DM: Player was absent – too busy playing Fifa to come to D&D!]
After an hour or two, La Ruina crept out of the dense forest to where the Giant Elk, a magnificent golden furred, magical fey creature, was stooping to drink from a pool.
The archer shot, wounding the startled beast which fled away to the north. Mists swirled, blocking the way and a ghoul ran from the mists clawing at the elk, turning it back towards the hunters. [DM: another player turned up so I let him play the part of the ghoul – this turned out to be a much more significant role than I expected!]
Revan and Maklum ran to cut off its escape and La Ruina shot it again, this time with a magical spell that cause his arrow to sprout thorns and vines and hold the terrified creature. The ghoul and the hunters closed on it. All was not lost for the mighty elk, as they realised it was regenerating (not a lot, but enough to make a fight of it). It was clear this creature was no ordinary elk, but some patron spirit of the forest, perhaps the legendary beast – patron saint of Elkhorn town.
It shrugged off the bindings and leapt away. In the battle that followed they got split up. Maklum and the ghoul fought on a small hilltop. The ghoul was slowly regenerating too and needed radiant damage to prevent the regeneration, but kept dodging Maklum’s sacred flame. When it first recovered after having been clearly killed, Maklum failed a fear check, then was easier for the ghoul to paralyse.
Meanwhile Revan and La Ruina pursued the elk back and forth, almost killing it, then eventually knocking it down, but it regenerated and leapt back up, charged La Ruina and took him down.[DM: It needed a silver weapon to prevent its regeneration – La Ruina had attacked it a couple of times but only hit with his normal sword and the creature pulled away so he had gone back to using arrows].
Revan, the barbarian was raging [DM: the player was chanting “Die Bambi Die” at one point] and he failed to stop his friend from bleeding out. La Ruina died the final death – his spirit pulled into the Mists.
Then the ghoul got lucky, paralysing Maklum and managing to rip him apart. While Revan was busy hacking at the elk, Maklum too died the final death. The elk broke away but Revan was then attacked by the ghoul. The elk stood by and watched and regenerated then charged back in with horns and trampling hooves. Revan fled into the water to get out of reach of the enraged animal but the ghoul caught up with him, dragged him below the water, paralysed and helpless and then the forest glade was peaceful once again.
When his brother failed to return, Mandingo’s life was forfeit too and his last few terrifying days will be spent as the plaything of a hideous hag.
I’ve never had a TPK before – never in 33 years of DMing. But never has a party of “heroes” so deserved killing. Despite the horror of it, it was a strangely fun session. I don’t like evil characters so, for once I didn’t feel any remorse for the pc deaths.
Next time we’re going to return to the Tyranny of Dragons storyline, and pick up where we left off after the Hoard of the Dragon Queen, playing the Rise of Tiamat. In this story, the PCs are heroes of the realm who are entrusted with saving the Forgotten Realms from the return from hell of the goddess of evil dragons – Tiamat. [The Realms are F***ed!]