The Tanius Campaign Journal – Chapter 21: Till Death Do Us Part

The Tanius Campaign Journal
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Renlia paused for a moment. It was clear that reliving this particular portion of her tale was going to be especially draining. I told her to take all of the time she needed to collect her thoughts. She thanked me for my consideration, stood up, and walked over to refresh her drink.

While she was away I asked Josh if he knew where the party had run off to. He insisted that we focus on the task at hand, but told me he would point me in their direction as soon as our business with Renlia was complete. Before I could respond Renlia was already on her way back to the table with a full tankard of ale.

Trusting that the watchman would stay true to his word, I held my line of inquiry and picked up my pen and parchment.

The Undertaker’s Racket

Campaign Log Day 7 – Part 8
20th day of Kythorn – Night’s Heart
Year of The Rebuked Storm – 1574 Dale Reckoning
Endgar Outskirts – Blackheart Manor

While our heroes decision to push forward into an unexplored and obviously haunted crypt was questionable at best, their on-the-fly decision making proved to be much stronger. As the embalmed remains of the Blackheart family’s priors pushed their way out of their stone sarcophagi, our heroes wasted no time and immediately went on the offensive.

Roll Initiative

Party: Bellamy(Sor-4), Kiddo(Ftr-1/Wlk-3), Kroul(Clr-4), Lilyth(Drd-4), Ungoldor(Rog-4), Rkard(Bbn-4), Renlia(Brd-4)
Enemies: 1x Wight, 12x Zombie
Base Difficulty Rating: Deadly
Modified Difficulty Rating: Hard – Narrow Engagement Zone Limits Incoming Damage, and the party has a Ghost ally
Expected Outcome: Major HP Loss with potential KOs
Actual Outcome: Moderate HP Loss
Loot: None

Tactical Considerations: The party standing in the center of the hallway leaves them effectively surrounded by zombies. However, it will take a couple of rounds for them to stand up and descend upon the party. This could be a potentially deadly situation, but fortunately they have an NPC ghost and NPC bard on their side for the encounter. Furthermore they still have several AOE options that could prove to be very effective.

How It Went Down: Zombies started to pour in from all directions while the Wight used its long bow to take pot shots at the party. The bulk of the party stayed in a pack in the center of the hallway, but Bellamy, Sturgis, and Ungoldor repositioned themselves back towards the entrance. Rkard was able to use his great weapon mastery feat to land punishing blows on the zombies that resulted in them making very difficult undead fortitude savings throws. Meanwhile Lilyth dropped a flaming sphere in a nearby room that roasted another group of zombies over several turns. Ungoldor’s sharpshooter skill plus the scoped crossbow allowed him to target the wight from the back of the room with ease. After a couple of rounds with some additional help from Kiddo the wight is taken down. Afterwards it was just a matter of slowly working down the remaining zombies.

Behind The Screen: Given that this was the last possible encounter I decided to kick things up a notch. I expected the party to realize the obvious trap and keep the zombies in front of them, but that isn’t how things turned out. This was actually slated as a deadly encounter, but the additional Bard and Ghost NPCs kept the difficulty down to a manageable level. Had Lilyth used moonbeam, this encounter would have been trivialized. However, her decision to use flame sphere was still a strong choice that freed up her actions to focus on targets.

Rkard staying true to his nature started swinging through zombies with reckless abandon. Forgoing any pretense of defense he was able to land decisive blow after decisive blow and pulverize several of the shambling husks.

Ungoldor and Kiddo focused on the withered bowman towards the back of the room. After a hail of crossbow bolts and eldritch blasts Kiddo was finally able to hit home and blast a hole clean through the undead interloper’s chest.

Meanwhile Lilyth realized she had a captive audience in a nearby room decided to introduce them to one her favorite tricks, the flaming sphere. While the smoldering ball ripped through the former blackheart nobles she drew her rapier and started carving her way through any zombie that shambled nearby.

Bellamy and Sturgis focused on clearing out the zombies near the entrance, and the short-lived Blackheart patriarch took the idea of family in-fighting to another level. His necrotic grasp quickly broke down several of the lumbering dead before they could lay a decrepit finger on any of the living.

When the last of the dead was finally at rest, our heroes collected themselves and prepared for whatever foul or fortune lie ahead.

My Precious

Lilyth felt another twinge. She remembered that the note she read near where she found her magic detecting wand mentioned something about there being treasure in the crypt. This time she decided to give in to her urges and activated the wand.

She immediately noticed a cornucopia of magical auras emanating from room up ahead. Once the party turned the corner she discovered that the marvelous treasures were located in the sarcophagus of House Blackheart’s original patriarch, Balor Blackheart. She considered going right for the treasures inside, however the room suddenly fell silent as Renlia approached the final resting place of her beloved.

Renlia placed her hand on Sturgis’ sarcophagus and looked over at his ghost floating to her right. She asked him how it was possible that his spirit was not able to stay at rest. She told him she knew that ghosts only took form when they had unfinished business to attend to.

The ghost of her husband stayed silent. After what felt like an eternity he revealed that the reason he could not leave was because he needed to pass one last message on to his wife. He needed to tell her that it’s not her fault.

What Happened

It turns out that although Renlia’s grain business was a great success, she aspired to expand into more lucrative markets. Years ago she worked side-by-side with her husband importing all manner of exotic flora. Renlia was very careful in ensuring that Sturgis did not work on any plants she deemed to be dangerous, but to er is human and one day she made a grave mistake.

About 6 months into this new operation she sent Sturgis over to check on one of the bulbous plants they were growing. The flowers emitted an exquisite and inviting aroma, but as Renlia eventually discovered this alluring scent served a sinister purpose.

You see Sturgis was very late for dinner that night. Wondering what happened to him, Renlia searched all of the fields she had told him to work on earlier that day. When she reached the field of the bulbous plant in question, she noticed that there was a tremendous amount of growth taking place in a seemingly random spot in the field.

As she approached the overgrowth she immediately felt herself get light-headed. She dropped to one knee, but quickly regained her focus when she accidentally cut her knee on a barbed vine lying on the ground. She looked up and noticed that there were several vines nearby converging towards a location in the brush ahead. Renlia quickly stood up and rushed to the focal point.

As she pushed forward the smell become more pungent, and air was thick with spores. Her eyes grew heavier with each moment, but when she finally saw what the vines were leading to she sprang back to life and pushed forward.

Sturgis was laying in a pool of blood, constricted by vines. Renlia quickly unsheathed her sickle, and did her best to slash the vines off of her husband. She was eventually able to cut him free. Her memory of what happened next is a bit hazy, but ultimately she was able to drag him out of the fields to safety.

Renlia ripped shreds of cloth from anything she had on-hand in an attempt to staunch Sturgis’ wounds. During triage she saw Sturgis’ eyes open. Renlia was overcome with tears, begging for her husband to hold on. She continued ripping pieces of cloth from her bag, satchel, and clothes in an attempt to stop the flow of blood. However, she was rendered motionless when suddenly Sturgis’ hand clenched her’s.

DM Note: Renlia’s Guilt

At this point the party was actually already privy to how Sturgis died. After they finished dealing with the Flock Renlia informed the party that her experiments growing rare and exotic herbs resulted in her husband accidentally becoming poisoned.

So while the information currently being shared in the narrative might be a bit of surprise to those of you reading this journal, I just wanted to clarify that (parts of) this information were already shared with the party well before going into this dungeon.

The world stood still as Renlia looked down at the dying man before her. Sturgis using what remained of his strength looked into her eyes and uttered his final words.

“Sweetheart… Please… It’s……”

It’s Going To Be Okay

Renlia fell silent. Tears began to roll down her cheeks as she struggled to find her next words. In her silence Sturgis tried to explain that he never blamed her for what happened that day. He knew in his final moments what his passing would do to her, and when the hands of the gods tried to carry him away he declined their offer.

However, before he was able to roam the earth again his body was already laid to rest in his family’s crypt. He hoped that one day she would return and he could pass on his message, but for years he waited and she never came.

DM Note: The Fate of The Blackheart Family

The Blackheart family suffered the losses of both their patriarch Balor, and his eldest son Sturgis in very short order. As a result they ended up turning to all manner of dark magic in an attempt to bring their family back together. This dabbling with the dark arts is what eventually attracted the Night Hag in the first place, which eventually resulted in the death of the entire Blackheart family lineage.

Renlia looked into Sturgis’ ghostly eyes and told him that they didn’t need to be apart anymore. The tone of her voice turned to excitement as she told him that she was able to find a way to bring him back from the dead. However, Sturgis was not ready to see the last of his family driven to ruin in an attempt to bring him back, and told her he simply wanted to be at peace.

Not If I Have Something To Say About It

While Renlia was frozen in place trying to process what was happening, Bellamy stepped forward and cleared his throat. He fumbled a bit with his words at first, but he was able to eventually find his voice. He told Sturgis that good people were in short supply these days. More importantly, that he thought that he could do more good back in Renlia’s life then he could in the cradle of the grave.

To be honest I’m not sure if it was much of anything Bellamy actually said that got through to Sturgis. However, it was hard to deny the half-elf had a way of delivering his words that could melt through the exterior of even the coldest of audiences.

Roll Persuasion: Bellamy Does It Again

Honestly I wasn’t terribly impressed with Bellamy’s Role Play here. If my memory serves me right he said something along the lines of “You seem pretty swell and she is swell, and we need more swell people in the world”. However, what I was impressed by was his final persuasion check. He flubbed his first roll, but used his inspiration token to roll again and hit a natural 18, which combined with Renlia’s bardic inspiration roll of 5 brought it up to a total of 23. I was looking for a score of 20 or higher to pass the check, and with a score of 23 Bellamy was able to change the course of the campaign.

Once Bellamy was done speaking Sturgis looked back at Renlia. His ghostly visage suddenly showed a hint of a smile. Renlia promised her husband that no more suffering would befall his family while attempting bring him back. Sturgis nodded his head in response, and told Renlia that if she believed she got things right, then he looked forward to holding her hand once again.

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