A week has passed since our young heroes made their quiet way home from the keep, and each has been keeping to their own counsel.
Sasha has spent the week in her lean-to camp, up the mountain from the Gibbs’ Hut. Darryl hasn’t pressed her, though he knows something must be wrong- in her absence, he has returned to checking the snare line as she usually does. Marten seeks advice from Karen- about what justifies killing people. They have a discussion about the importance of knowing what one wants- and what lengths one must be willing to go to in order to reach one’s goals. Aelita hasn’t said a word to her mother, but has written Niel to fill him in on the fate of the Brotherhood. She spends the week walking the narrow corridors of the catacombs beneath Berem, considering the changes taking place in her friends- this is hand-waved off as her being dramatic about death and darkness. Richard, unable to get Quidd to come out of his house, checks in on the rest of his friends, then breaks into Quidd’s house anyway before being chased out. A response of “I’m fine” to his “Are you okay” is more than enough to leave with, apparently.
As the week draws to a close, Sasha emerges from her self-imposed hermitage- they party needs to have a talk about what happened up there. Marten’s thoughts are along the same lines, and she meets him on the road, on the way to find her and Richard, who, of course, has been following one or another of them the whole time. Between them, they are able to find someone who saw Aelita go into the Catacombs this morning, and, descending, they wander until they are able to find her- at least two levels down, in a large, vaulted chamber. Narrow drawer-form crypts line the walls here like some long-forgotten morgue, but for where shallow alcoves contain benches for the bereaved.
Sasha gets right down to it- “We need to talk about Quidd. Something’s not right with him, since he got back.”
Richard: “No, Quidd is fine- I asked him, and he said so. Quidd wouldn’t lie to me. Again.”
Marten: “That’s pretty far from what I’d call a satisfying answer”
So began an animated discussion between the three of them- Aelita held her tongue as they argued over whether some kind of intervention was necessary, and eventually retreated from the imposed noise of the conversation to examine a far corner of the room- She had heard a noise in the dark, like a clatter of dice, or the rattle of loose teeth on the thinnest padding. Marten watched her back as she went.
There seemed to be nothing of interest, initially, but as Aelita turned away, movement caught her eye as something small, dark, and preternaturally quick darted from the shadows, sinking its teeth into her leg. She cried out, struck back at it, and battle was joined. Three vaguely humanoid clusters of teeth, bits of bone, and tufts of fur and ash- Tomb Motes- were quickly dispatched by the party, or forced to flee. They decided then that dangerous, abandoned tomb beneath the streets were NOT the best place for a noisy conversation.
With that minor scuffle behind them, Sasha, Marten, Aelita, and Richard exited into the streets of Berem. They paused at the Sea Witch Tavern to snag a bit of food, then Sasha led them up the long, meandering path to her bushcraft camp. Richard reveals that he has brought the Scrolls and little Crystal Skull that Quidd took from the Keep- perhaps one of them can magically Identify these Items?
In the meantime, there is a brief split- Richard and Marten remain at camp to begin a stew, to feed the party for lunch. Distracted, they begin drinking instead- and begin discussing their worries about Quidd’s sudden change in behaviour. They note, as well, that while holding the Skull, they are aware of a soft, tingling whisper at the edge of their consciousness- as if the skull is talking to them from a great distance.
Sasha and Aelita go to hunt for some wild game to supplement lunch- they likewise discuss their concerns for Quidd, and the party’s responsibility for what happened up at the keep.
(Both these conversations happened in parallel at the table, and I wasn’t able to fully record either sufficiently to do them justice. Some help in recounting the details of those conversations would be appreciated.)
They return with a few fat game hens to a moderately tipsy Marten and a fairly drunk Richard, looking over a magical Scroll and trying to sound out the phrases which will trigger it- a sure path to disaster. Crowding around, the are faced with the realization that none of them but Marten- a non-spellcaster- has any idea how to activate such items. Aelita and Richard DO, however, have a decently grounded knowledge of how magic works. Together, the party is able to sufficiently aid Marten in using a Scroll of Identify that it DOESN’T blow up in his face, and they are able to discern the properties of the little Crystal Skull.
The Skull, when bound to the hand of a weapon, causes the weapon to behave as if magically augmented- in addition, the affected weapon becomes more potent when wielded against undead creatures. The party’s mind is immediately drawn to the Beastwraiths which have so threatened them in the past, and Sasha, being the only person in the party who has no means whatsoever to fight them, lays claim to the Skull until they are able to find a better use for it, or a safer place to hide it from the Brotherhood. When she brings the little Skull close to the pommel of the Axe she took from Leo, it sticks fast, as if by a powerful magnet. Quite suddenly, she is able to pick out words from the sussurant whispering; mostly nonsense phrases, as it sounds like many voices are trying to speak over one another in a bare whisper- six or so, at least. A few delightfully creepy snippets come through, but nothing useful. “I facilitate the passing of souls to the grave”, and “She thrusts her fists against the posts but still insists she sees the ghosts”.
They cook their meal, concluding between them that something must be done- more than anything, they’re worried about the drastic change in their friend. They’ll have to have a talk with Quidd- and Soon.