4 February 2016
Averaigne campaign - session 07
[The story so far]
Session 07 - Alathea defiled!
The party, now better armed, armoured, and feeling ready for anything, headed back towards the temple of Alathea to leave Dumnorix to his devotions before an evening of drinking and telling tall tales at the Wounded Gryphon.
As they headed back along the section of the South Road that runs through Corcelle they realised that the crowds were agitated and the gossip flying back and forth was of something terrible at the temple. Spurred on by Dumnorix, the party pushed their way through the throng to find out what had happened.
They arrived to find a cordon of novices was keeping the plaza around the temple clear of crowds, but priests and clerics could be seen hurrying about behind them. Dumnorix gained them entry, the visible sunrise of Alathea across his maille acting as a passport. Inside they found novices scrubbing away at columns, while a huddle of more senior priests and clerics were similarly hard at work around the central brazier that held Alathea's sacred flame. All were visibly unsettled, several were openly weeping, and an elderly priest was howling in distress, slumped on the floor in the middle of the temple.
The temple had been defiled. Large seven-legged spiders had been painted on the columns and over the sunrise symbols that surrounded the central flame! At the honest urging of Dumnorix, and the more cynical plans for future benefit of Mort Isgrat, all six adventurers got down on their hands and knees and scrubbed away the offending imagery. Some of them were worried that they might even be partly to blame as it was the same symbol as had been tattooed on the necks of the bandits who had attacked Berignon and they could have been followed.
As they scrubbed, Alaric (high priest of Alathea in Corcelle) summoned them over to where he was overseeing matters and told them that he really did have a task for them that might make good use of the skills they had shown in assisting Berignon reach Corcelle. He sent them off with an older monk with ink-stained fingers called Anselm who would let them know what they had found.
Anselm told the party that the graffiti had been found after the priests and brothers had returned from their midday almsgiving and that he and other scribes had been set to work trying to find out what the significance of the seven-legged spider might be. What he'd found had been terrifying. Hidden away in the Apocrypha of Dunstan of Blethwick, always considered a most unreliable and fanciful source by serious historians, were tales of Alathea's early involvement in human civilisation and the helpmate she'd had and eventually been forced to destroy; Aractheon.
[This was my best moment DMing so far - the response of the players to this bit of exposition was really satisfying. Lots of exclamation, some of it rather crude, but full engagement with the story. They were hyped, and so was I :) ]
After committing themselves to help, the party stocked up on supplies and got a good night's sleep. Early next morning they gathered back at the temple, as did several other groups, to find out where they were being sent. Their party was sent west, but all points of the compass were covered. Before they left they were given items to help them from Anselm: a scroll with the spell Alathea's Blaze, a vial of holy water, some gold, a pair of boots donated by a notorious but repentant cat-burglar, a clear gem with a silver mount at one end and gold at the other which was supposed to enhance spell-casting, and a pouch of enchanted stones that could absorb energy and then release it when struck.
["This is basically the Father Christmas bit from Narnia, isn't it?" asked one player. I hadn't thought of that when prepping, but it was hard to disagree.]
Thus equipped, the party rode off, ready to do great deeds, win wealth and glory, and play their part in preventing the total destruction or enslavement of all sentient creatures in the world if Aractheon were to arise once more...