28 Olarune 998 YK
The trip across the bay proves to be mildly uncomfortable due to the rickety nature of the Antelope, but other than a bit of seasickness, the expedition arrives on shore safely. Several hours of hacking through the lighter jungle growth from the beach leads the group to their first campsite. Throughout the latter part of the day, Lilly is becoming increasingly ill, with runny nose, sneezing and general congestion due to apparent allergies. Aricon suggests that he could try to mix some sort of remedy, but has limited success finding ingredients initially, being scolded multiple times by Varis and the triplets for falling behind the group during their travel.
Through the evening, Fulton and Lester carefully examine the gifts from Lady Garrett, hoping to alleviate any suspicion that the items may be booby-trapped. In the process, Fulton discovers (incorrectly) that his lute is much more than it initially appeared, believing it to be a powerful ancient artifact. Lester reinforces this misconception, and even passes along the information to Stab, who gushes over the device and tells complex tales of its history and involvement in ancient legend.
[GM note: Fulton rolled a 1 on his Arcana check to examine his own item, and the player ran with the ridiculous assumption. Don’t know if this is going to go anywhere, but it was very funny in-session]
1 Therendor 998 YK
In the morning, Kaeron holds a sunrise service, attended by Olive and Stab. The expedition breaks camp slowly, much to Varis’ annoyance, but is eventually underway.
By mid-day, the expedition reaches the town of Last Chance, thankful that they are well prepared and not needing to purchase supplies at the highly inflated prices. Despite this, Fulton decides to buy a number of healing potions just in case.
The remainder of the day’s trek is mostly unremarkable, although Varis and the triplets are becoming increasingly annoyed with Stab’s singing and loud storytelling, frequently telling the goblin to shut up, often in much ruder terms that Fulton’s similar attempts over the past month. Lilly’s allergic reactions have continued to worsen, making the gnome woman miserable and cranky. Ysabel has become increasingly jumpy and anxious, while Olive appears increasingly distracted and inattentive.
That night, most of the group experiences bad dreams that slightly disrupt their sleep:
During the night, you dream about chasing Lilly through the streets of Sharn. There is a vague feeling of anger and fear during the chase, and no matter how hard you run, you never seem to be able to quite catch the little gnome before she turns a corner. As she disappears, she glances back, her expression a mixture of hatred and pity. Each time you round the corner, Lilly is again dozens of steps ahead of you as if the chase were starting all over. At some corners, you catch a glimpse of a small measure of pale green-pink cloth clutched in her hand, but details elude you.
During the night, you dream about attending the Tain Gala with your parents, your friend Barden ir’Tain, Ysabel, and your uncle Ruken (Prime Minister). You begin to feel anxious as you notice that everyone at the ball is giggling and pointing at you. A few of the courtiers make stage whispered comments about you wearing last year’s fashions and when you glance down, you realize with horror that it is the outfit that you wore to the Gala last month.
During the night, you dream about sparring with other acolytes of Saadak, your Astral Arms glowing more brightly than usual. You have a growing sense of anxiety as you feel ask if you are moving through water and unable to keep up with the crisp and clear movements of your opponents. Each swing you make passes harmlessly by your opponent as they shift effortlessly to the side, while you are unable to dodge even their most obvious attacks.
2 Therendor 998 YK
The trek continues with Lilly’s allergies, Aricon’s distractibility, and Stab’s annoying stories becoming slightly worse throughout the day. Nothing of significance happens until the evening, when Lester notices Aricon sneaking away from the camp. While the alchemist appears to be just going to the bathroom, the half-orc notices him place an item into the bushes nearby and when he investigates later, discovers a small crystal obelisk shaped much like the Riedran embassy that had been bombed in Sharn.
Waking the rest of his companions, the team decides that Aricon must be leaving the devices behind as a means of leading another group to their location, and decide to confront him. The alchemist is convincingly unaware of the item, and the team’s assumption that he is carrying multiple copies to leave behind proves unfounded. Lester spends some time carefully examining the object, learning that it is both a vessel for some sort of entity (which he luckily avoids being possessed by) and a device for manipulating dreams.
After careful consideration, the team decides to destroy the object, which will likely free the entity, and they set up for the battle before doing so. When the object is destroyed, a nightmare creature of dark tendrils and psychic energy emerges and attacks. The entity weathers the barrage of attacks and manages to possess Embers, forcing the rest of the team to knock her unconscious in order to release the creature’s hold. Once driven from the barbarian’s body, the dream creature is quickly dispatched and explodes, flooding each person’s mind with a faint, but distinct trace of the dreams that were to come.
[GM note: I spend hours crafting the dreams to be slowly revealed as the sleep deprivation began to take a toll, but f&$#ing Lester couldn’t roll anything less than 25+ through the entire sequence… Probably shouldn’t have involved the dice so early in the process… sigh…]
The chase dream remains the same, although the sense of anger and fear is much more intense than before. Lilly’s expressions show more hatred and less pity, almost snarling as she rounds each corner. The colour of her hair and eyes shifts from scene to scene, changing after each alteration in her direction. The scrap of cloth in her hand appears to be half-orc flesh-toned, spotted with bits of blood and other surface features that are difficult to make out.
The desperation in your pursuit of the gnome has grown in intensity, and Lilly appears distorted and twisted as if she was slowly metamorphosing into another larger creature. Bits of her soft skin slough away at each corner as clumps of hair fall out to drift into your path as you continue to fail in your attempts to catch her. You finally get a good look at the scrap of cloth and realize it is the skin, eyes and other features of a face – your face.
The early parts of the chase continue to be frustrating and disturbing, with Lilly’s changes growing more obvious and disturbing with each corner. The face-like scrap in her hands is screaming in fear and appears to be trying to say something to you that you can’t understand. You reach up and touch your own face, only to find smooth skin across the entire surface. As you round a final corner, you see the last of Lilly’s transformation – she lifts your stolen face and places it on her own and you are staring at yourself in her place even as you feel your life strength drain from your body and you wake screaming.
The sense of anxiety is more intense during the dream, as you find yourself the center of unwanted attention at the Gala. Your parents and uncle look on disapprovingly as Barden whispers that you should have checked the mirror before leaving. Ysabel looks at you with pity and disdain while the entirety of the Sharn upper crust begin laughing and pointing as you stand in the middle of the dance floor wearing nothing more than your underwear.
The disapproving looks and discomfort are almost unbearable this time around. You impotently clutch at tissues and napkins taken from nearby servers, trying in vain to cover up your naked body. Your father and uncle glare fiercely before turning away, while your mother looks horrified and faints dead away. Ysabel looks shocked, but then begins pointing at your genitals and laughing viciously while Barden arrives with the City Guard to take you away.
The Gala guests are again laughing and pointing as family members and friends turn on you as before. As Barden arrives with the City Guard, you are no longer naked, but dressed in filthy and torn remnants of your original attire. The nobility dab their noses with perfumed cloths to cover the stench emanating from your person. Ysabel recoils in horror at your appearance, and Barden guides the young woman away. Your father and mother scream for the Guard to remove the beggar from their sight, as you plead with them that you are Fulton. They stare at you blankly and deny having a son by that name as you wake yourself with your screams.
The frustration of your sparring intensifies as you feel that you are unable to even control the Astral Appendages properly. Strikes fly off target or don’t even happen, while your opponents are able to bypass your ineffective defenses and pummel you with impunity. At times, even your real limbs feel as if they are made of rubber and refuse to comply with your commands.
Your ability to control the Astral Self is even worse in this dream, the Arms often striking your own body or moving you into the path of your opponents’ attacks. Chyrassk (mind flayer leader of Saadak) looms nearby, exuding an aura of disapproval and disappointment. As the sense of moving your body through water intensifies, you find yourself also struggling to breathe, as the very air seems to thicken in your lungs.
The desperate frustration at your inability to move properly or control your body reaches a fever pitch as you gasp for air and feel yourself losing control of other bodily functions. Chyrassk’s disapproval adds to the thickness of the air and you feel yourself being suffocated by its disappointment. Your body refuses to respond to your attempts to pull away as the mind flayer approaches, and as the creature’s tentacles reach out to your face, you wake screaming in terror.
6 Therendor 998 YK
Days of slogging through the jungle are taking a small toll on the group as tempers flare occasionally, but little else of note has happened. Aricon has successfully created a compound that Lilly can smear under her nose to reduce the allergic reaction, although the smell of the ointment is a bit unpleasant. Varis grows a bit bolder in her “flirtation” with Lester, occasionally offering a bum pat at opportune moments.
Lester manages to avoid blundering into a patch of itchweed, recognizing the plant before the expedition hacked their way through the growth. Embers doesn’t notice the hazard in time, but her composition proves immune to the effects and the expedition successfully bypasses the hazard.
[GM note: Another example of Lester’s ridiculous die-rolling that night. Also a hazard of having only single events happen between long rests so all of a characters resources can safely be sunk into single rolls…]
10 Therendor 998 YK
Lester’s end-of-day bathroom trip is interrupted by additional attention from Varis, who corners the artificer against a tree, asking why he is wasting his time with the half-pint when he could have a “real woman”. Lester spots a small figure hiding nearby and launches into a loud narrative of Lilly’s virtues. Realizing that the ranger is about to go in for a kiss, Lester is able to dodge the affection, using his magical tinkering ability to cause a foul odour to emanate from himself as he claims that he “needs to go again” and rushes off.
14 Therendor 998 YK
During the days’ trek, one of the triplets alerts Varis and the expedition leaders to alarming tracks nearby. The ranger reports that the tracks belong to “night stalkers”, large cat-like predators that stalk, toy with, and ambush prey with far greater cunning than typical animals. Varis announces additional security measures for the travel and camping at night, and the team sets up additional defenses, including alarm rituals and additional bonfires. Most of the expedition sleep poorly, and Ysabel in particular is far more anxious and jumpy over the next several days.
16 Therendor 998 YK
After two more days and a night of tension and anxiety, the beasts make their move in the middle of the third night. Aricon luckily spots one of the displacer beasts prowling closer to the camp and raises the alarm, with the alarm rituals doing their job to wake everyone quickly. Lester herds the non-combatants into a rope trick shelter, although Ysabel forgets the plan in her panic and is badly mauled by one of the beasts hiding in a nearby shrub. Fulton is able to help the young woman scramble to the magical safety as the team kills several of the creatures and drives off the rest. Two of the triplets are injured, and poor Rations dies in the early stages of the battle, leaving Stab wailing in dismay at the loss of his long-time companion, even as the goblin begins butchering the meat for later.