- Hendrik (MU5)
- Francesco (F5)
- Niemir (F2)
- Sarah & Beath (heavy footwomen)
- Leon (porter)
In the week leading up to the next expedition, Hendrik’s wife Ronja is seen in The Tap, speaking to shady characters. In addition, Amaranth has a dream in which she crosses the lake tower’s bridge and enters a great hall. Here, crusader knights are discussing their search for the Grayl of Good and Bad Destiny. The conference is presided over by Médard Malévol the Mighty.
The company rehires the same women-at-arms and porter from last time. They don’t do much of anything else while in town, and as usual make the two-day trek to Castle Xyntillan. When they arrive at they first decide to go around the perimeter and plant more of those jumping beans, because the one they planted earlier has grown to massive proportions, and has cracked open the castle wall.
After planting the beans they go into the castle through the grand entrance and head down into the wine cellar. From there, they go up north through the root cellar all the way up to the grotto with the lake shore and the bell on a pole with the sign saying “three coins for passage”.
They ring the bell. Soon enough, a skiff, with a boatsman emerges from the fog, and they patiently wait for it to arrive. When it does, the boatsman reaches out with a skeletal hand and demands three coins for each passenger headed “to the shores of death”. After a brief debate they pay him, and go into the boat (their retainers do require a bit of convincing).
The boatsman turns this skiff around and starts beaming back into the fog. As they get further away from the shore, they feel the life gradually drain from their bodies. The light in the grotto slowly dims as well. They start to get a little worried and the boatsman appears very pleased about bringing such a large number of souls to the shores of death. They realize that there might not be a return from where they are headed.
Francesco panicks and tries to body-check the boatsman and push him into the lake. He fails and the boatsman makes to grab his scythe. Niemir comes to Francesco’s aid and together they manage to tip the reaper into the lake. Meanwhile, Hendrik was preparing to fire off some magic missiles, but when he sees the boatsman disappear into the drink he changes his mind and cast shield on himself instead.
The boatsman isn’t defeated yet, however. He starts to climb back into the boat. Francesco has grabbed the beam and is turning the boat around. Niemir, meanwhile, raises his zweihander and chops at the reaper. He fails to prevent the thing from climbing back into the skiff. At this point Hendrik fires off his magic missiles and harms but doesn’t kill the creature.
Francesco drops the beam and takes his halberd to swipe at the reaper’s legs. He succeeds at knocking the reaper over and pushies him back into the lake, hurting it in the process, bone chips flying everywhere. A second volley of magic missile finishes the reaper off. Hendrik says “keep the change”.
It is quiet again in the lake grotto. They have this skiff and are of course very relieved to have defeated death, once again, because they did encounter several reapers before during a previous expedition in the library.
They decide to make use of the boat to explore the cave further. They continue to head west and after some time they pass through a narrow passage into a larger grotto. Here there is steam coming from the west, and they decided to hug the side of the cave and head south. Soon enough, they arrive at a shore littered with debris. They drag the boat ashore and spot an entrance to a worked stone hallway. They enter it, ignore a fork south, and go up some stairs heading west. They come across a door in the south wall, check it, and discover a somewhat puzzling small 10 by 10 room. So they continue on and after some time they arrive at a spiral staircase leading up, as well as a hallway heading north.
They decide to go up the stairway and emerge into an area of the castle which they recognize from from previous expeditions. They head down a hallway to the east and note a bricked-up doorway. The next door leads to an extremely tidy room with two more doors decorated with an infernal mural and the text “the doors of good and bad fortune”. As they explore the room reality suddenly lurches sideways and they are up to their knees in fungus and filth. A nauseating smell permeates the room. Quickly and carefully they head back out.
They backtrack, take a door to the south, and inspect a room from which they hear soft humming emerge. It turns out to be full of clean white linen hanging from lines. A strikingly hairy woman of large proportions and with intense eyes asks them what their business is. They head back out again.
Having had their fill of the castle, they exit through the rose garden and gatehouse and make their way back safely to Tours-en-Savoy.
No loot, no casualties, and a shorter session than usual, but still a lot of fun was had. The encounter with the reaper was very cinematic. I adore my players for going “fuck it” and simply ringing that bell. I was a bit worried when they got into the boat that I hadn’t been clear enough about what they were getting themselves into. But as I built up the tension through description the realization sank in and we had a neat fight on the boat.
In general, in these kinds of situations, that’s a good strategy to follow: stretch things out. Use kind of a “three strikes” approach before dropping the hammer.
The rest of the session was simple exploration. I did not roll a single encounter when I think I did perform nearly a dozen checks. Regardless, it was cool for them to discover an entirely different route, and pass through a completely new section of the castle. Even after all these sessions the module has plenty of surprises and novelty left in store.
I wonder if they will choose to explore this part of the castle further, or if they will go for something else entirely. We will see.