The Nightmare Plague

a letter to the dwarven high ones
dear da

dear da,

well, more is made known since i’ve left…..and it’s not good

it’s with heavy heart that i tell ya this, since it may make me outcast among our people.

while it may still be Moradin’s will and His quest i am on, it is not something the dwarven people accept or view with wisdom….in fact, it may very well mean i am mad….........

it may though, explain much in what’s been happening in outlying lands…..while dragons, giants and illithids are not new to our people, i’ve come across nightmare creatures in my travels that only mum could have conjured in bedtime stories. and creatures these humans believe from their stories seem to be coming out…..and here’s the horrible truth

it is dreams that bring this about….yes, i may be mad, and you may trash this missive and disown me, but hear me out, as it may have bearing on our people, even if we never deal with the elves or humans ever again.

a sage of the human queen’s has advised us that i, and the folk i travel with (more on them later, da) are dreamfarer’s…...those who dream and may pass into a dream-land and bring things, and even creatures into this world…..this is a very dangerous thing….

it will be some time before i return (if ever, even if permitted by the yerself and the high-ones), because i must train to control this, and keep things from the dreamscape where they belong….there’s a handful of us that are brought together to do just that, but there may be more, undiscovered folk who have been ‘chosen’ or afflicted, i suppose its how you see it….needless to say innocent folk may be bringing in horrors, and worse, those who KNOW, and WANT to bring in these horrors are a grave threat. which is why, honorable father, i write you, the high priest of Moradin, to tell the high-ones and use your wisdom to find a way to prepare, and maybe help.

mad or not, meself and me companions are a motley lot….we have a human lad from a temple of Curthbert (know you of this deity?) whom i think may be ‘touched’ by his god, much like our own ‘fists of Moradin’, but he may not know this….if you have not yet disowned me as mad, mayhap do you think i can help him in is journey? the lad has a good sword arm. there is also a gnome, an irritating chap in some ways, amusing and smart, tho…......but he seems to have scrolls and items, and a good working knowledge of them, so the old magics are still used in these manners….a bit shifty, so keepin’ me eye on ‘im, but the chap has a brain on ‘im, and brings a chuckle. there is also a lass, good with a crossbow, but a bit touched….she hangs on to her hat like it gives her comfort, or perhaps hides a deformity…a human lad, seems rather stealthy, which would probably be very helpful if we come across more of these nightmare creatures, or need stealth to enter a place….there is also and elf lad…yes, i said elf….they’re still out, and this one actually mixin’ with humans, albeit he seems a bit unhappy with that prospect….snooty, as typical of his people, and as typical, bow-handy

so at least i have company in my quest. we’ve already been taught how to send things from the dream realm in this world back, which is partly key to solving these ills. i fear there are either dreamfarers bringing creatures and things here without knowing it, or worse, one or more that ARE aware, and doing so purposefully…...this bodes ill to the world, and the ‘dream’ creatures will wreak havoc if not quelled. i have fought them myself and bear a scar upon my armour as proof

so da, i hope i have your blessings, and not your exile, and please warn the high-ones…and if Moradin wishes, shall return to the temple and my people. i take this as a burden i must bear, given by Moradin, as not all his quests bear good outcomes, but since He knows more than my humble self, and knows what i can bear, it is my faith that will bear me thru….that and t he fine dwarven ale you had given me as a parting gift….i tell ya, rationing has been difficult….perhaps a care package? he he he

your son, and servant of Moradin,

Stumble

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Exposition & Dreamfaring
More of the Story unfolds...

The night passed mostly uneventfully as our adventurers took turns keeping watch. Lucian fell suddenly, and unexpectedly asleep first. Gillian was soon after lulled into sleep. Rabbit and Esmir followed shortly after. Stumble and Sable decided to set up watches for the night. Sable would take first watch. Stumble said his prayers for an hour and then told Sable to wake him in 2.5 hrs for the next turn of the watch.
Sable, left to his own vices perused the bookshelves of the room. Glancing over trashy romance novels, such as the Bodice and the Beast… he then found some less risqué books to settle down and read. As the night went on, the watch candle burned down past the next watch mark. Sable did not wake Stumble, choosing to allow his party members to sleep. Stumble was less than happy when he finally woke at finding out the boy did not wake him in time.
By morning the house seemed much less scary and the party decided to be on their way, when they were reminded that the lighthouse light was not lit. Sable decided that he must go up to see if any survivors were hiding up there. After much discussion and an urging from Hasingstoke not to separate the party, they ventured to the top of the lighthouse. There were no signs of survivors.
With the assurance that they were not leaving some poor hapless soul trapped to be eaten by large blue monsters or chair moving ghosts, they decided it was high time they headed off through the mud-path of a town to the library. They were lead to a church of Paylor where upon entering they were greeted by a wiry older gentleman who introduced himself as Sir Norville Smedley, the Queen’s advisor. Norville made a big commotion about the party being so small and questioned Hasingstoke about ‘the others’. Hasingstoke remarked that these were all that have made it this far. Smedley glanced around at the emerald rings of each of the individuals before him (those he could see of course) and he questioned about one more gentleman. Evidence soon came out that Rabbit had been hiding the emerald ring of the dead individual found in the warehouse. Smedley took the ring and began a long story detailing more information about the dreams they have been having.
Smedley told them that each of them are dreamfarers. That the Lady Miranda is also a dreamfarer. He told them that things can be transported in and out of the dream world by each of them. Inanimate objects may be transported under no special circumstances. Organic objects, however, must be placed in a vessel of some sort in order to be transported from the dreamscape into the waking world. Likewise, they must be put in a vessel to be transported back into the dreamscape, but that transference requires the use of the dreamfarer’s scepter. Vessels can be anything… a barrel (which the party now realizes is what happened with the large barrels full of blue mist monsters), a box… all sorts of things. Smedley is especially interested in the concept of fire transportation, he will investigate that further at a later date. Another kind of vessel is the dead body of an insane dreamfarer. You see, the more that dreamfarers open portals between the dreamscape and the waking world to transfer these objects, the more insane the dreamfarer becomes. The cost of dreamfaring is sanity. Things are starting to make much more sense to the party as they listen and ask questions of Smedley. He apparently knows everything about anything, or has a book for it.
Over the next few days, the party tries using their new found ability. Stumble transfers the dead body of their dreamfarer friend from the warehouse to the dreamscape to stop it from bringing any more deadly creatures. Rabbit decides that was way cool and moves a barrel into the dreamscape himself. Gilli, by the other barrel decides to will herself to sleep and try the other barrel, which she finds was much easier than she thought and she tells herself so. Sable accidently gets hit with the sleep spell Rabbit was using on Stumble and is asleep for a while. After the two barrels and the remains of the dead dreamfarer are disposed of, the party then has some time to hone their skills and studies. Rabbit becomes very interested in a locked bookcase in Smedley’s collection. He and Lucian devise a carefully crafted plan to break into the case. They are so close to success, when as soon as they do, Smedley is alerted of the situation and catches them in the act. A spell is cast at Smedley which doesn’t even bounce off of him before it vanishes into the air. Suddenly Lucian and Rabbit have a much greater understanding and respect for Smedley’s magical powers.
Sable is barely seen in this time. Stumble and Esmir busy themselves with everyday undertakings and practice their skills. Gillian is on a quest to learn how to use her new weapons. She is trimming up to be quite a good swordsman… for a girl.
The next part of the adventure, Smedley reminds them, is to find the dead remains of yet another insane dreamfarer. Those remains may have been snatched from the grave and are being used to bring monsters of all varieties into the real world. It is up to our adventurers to find these remains and put them to rest in the dreamscape before any more chaos enters the land. But, will their minds survive the rigorous attacks that dreamfaring will place on them? We will soon find out…

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The Mystery Deepens
The Exploration of Harper's Pier

Once Esmir subdued Gillian and wrestled away her torch, the adventures spent some time examining their surroundings and examining the bodies of the dead villagers. Stumble tried to figure out how long they’d been dead but couldn’t say for certain. However, their searches were interrupted when blue smoke started to pour out of the fire-damaged barrel, and arms were quickly taken up in a panic. Esmir hopped up on a crate and fired a shot at the mist, but the arrow simply passed through. A few seconds later, the mist coalesced into another huge, blue, hulking two-legged beetle-like thing with pinchers and claws, the last of which took a swipe at Esmir. Rabbit reached over and touched Stumble, who suddenly shimmered and wasn’t quite where you thought he was. Sable fired a shot that briefly got the creature’s attention, but when Stumble charged into battle and missed (somewhat embarrassingly) with a swing of his warhammer, the creature turned and cut a gash in Stumble’s arm. Another arrow from Gillian went wild while Lucien’s arrow glanced off its exoskeleton. Sable charged in and flanked the creature. Lord Hasingstoke, after a moment of indecision, charged in and heroically dispatched the creature for our heroes.

Rabbit returned his attention to the slain villagers. Finding an emerald ring like their own, he absent-mindedly placed it in his pouch, telling no one of his discovery. Stumble joined him and tried to conduct an appropriate blessing on the human fallen, finding a longsword and a coinpurse in the process. The sword was given to Gillian with the party’s blessing while the coins stayed with Stumble.

After seeing that the creatures had, indeed, come from the barrels, our adventurers set about concocting a plan to “safely” tip over the barrel with Stumble and Sable catching, while Esmir and Gillian pushed from the top. Lucien kept his crossbow trained on the barrel in case of mishaps. They heaved and hoed to no avail. Some discussion was made of simply leaving, but most of the party, including a now nearly panicked Gillian, were unwilling to leave the barrels in the warehouse. Meanwhile, Rabbit and his unseen servant went off to explore the stairs, which Rabbit determined to be 70 feet long (based on the time the Servant spent walking), at the end of which was a door. No attention was drawn by this action and there were clearly no lights lit in the adjoining room. Rabbit returned to find the rest of the party unsuccessfully trying to tip over the barrel and made a quick survey of the warehouse. He then summoned a chalkboard from thin air and laid out a nearly fool-proof plan for tipping the barrel over safely. Once it was on it’s side, the brawny members of the group rolled it onto the dock and plopped it into the water, where it tossed in the waves as it floated downstream.

The adventurers gruelingly made their way through the entire house. Stumble determined from the blood in the kitchen that an attack happened there three days ago. We suspect but are unable to confirm that the first creature that attacked us was, alone, responsible for the death of everyone in the house. Lucien meanwhile went about testing doors for traps and looking for survivors. Rabbit had a brief scare where he thought that a chair moved on its own, but his unseen servant moved it about with no effects. The rest of the party was a little freaked out (particularly Sable, who now thinks Rabbit’s off his rocker) but determined there was nothing in the room. The group rested for a bit in the kitchen where several party members had dinner and refilled their rations from the pantry there. It was then decided to press on through the house, through the richly-appointed conservatory and up the stairs.

In a hallway on the second floor, Esmir and Sable saw a door slam shut—something quickly denied by those members of the party next to the door in question. Some discussion followed to ascertain the source of this hallucination. The gnome tried reasoning that if they “saw” something that wasn’t there, and he also “saw” something scary that wasn’t there, then clearly nobody “saw” something that wasn’t there. Gillian supported this theory, but offered Esmir and Sable some food she had gathered from the pantry in case it was hunger that was causing the illusions. Stumble advanced the theory that maybe they were just tired and needed some sleep. Esmir, however, was convinced the house was haunted.

Their progress took them finally to the top floor and the master bedroom, where Lucien discovered a gold-plated, stringless harp. Gillian searched the room for the strings to the instrument, but found nothing. Everyone took a stab at figuring out how the harp worked, then Rabbit confirmed that it was indeed magic by casting a Detect Magic spell. Thinking, “I’m three feet tall. No one pays attention to me,” he made no effort to conceal his spellcasting. Between Rabbit’s “tricks” and Stumble’s “prayers”, the party is beginning to realize that there are spell users among them. There is even some suspicion about Gillian. With everything else they’ve seen, however, spellcasting seems to be the least of their worries.

The party (now much more experienced and more in tune with their extraordinary abilities) began to discuss whether or not to stay the night in the house. Esmir believed the house was haunted and wanted to press on to the village. Rabbit and Stumble thought that the house was creepy but safe, or at least safer than heading out into the storm and the unknown. Lucien didn’t seem to have strong feelings either way, but thought pressing on to the village would result in nicer accommodations. And Sable was convinced that the house was haunted but seemed willing to set up sentries and get some sleep. While the boys were discussing their intentions for the night, Gillian gently snuggled herself around a pillow at the head of the bed and was beginning to fall asleep after a long day’s struggle.

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Harper's Pier

Captain Swails insisted that the “not entirely un-like a Stirge” corpse was thrown overboard. The Paladin, Sable, awakened and was brought up to date on events thus far. Gillian, the “herbalist”, fell asleep and woke in a panic clutching a piece of cloth that was not there before she went to sleep. Lucian also seemed to have a nightmare, after which he calmly washed his hands.

The skies darkened and the sea swelled as a storm rolled in. Hasingstoke informed the group that the Celedon must land at Harper’s Pier and will only remain tied up long enough for the party to disembark. The gnome, Rabbit, was first down the gangplank, promptly loosing his footing and falling into the water. Unable to swim, he began to drown. Esmir leapt in to rescue the gnome, but could not handle the rough waves and became endangered himself. Lucien, the elf, fairly danced down the gangplank to the pier and threw a rope to Esmir, pulling him to safety. Gillian tied a rope to the ship’s rail and to herself before leaping in to attempt to rescue the gnome. Sable ran the rope to the pier and wrapped it around a piling while Gilli successfully grabbed the gnome. Stumble, the dwarf, seeing the taught rope between ship and dock, wrapped his belt around it and used it as a zip line to ride safely to the pier. Gilli was pulled onto the dock, with Rabbit clinging to her back. After Hasingstoke ran down the gangplank to see if everyone was alright, a crewman aboard the Celedon cut the rope and the ship moved out to sea, leaving the adventurers alone in the dark, pouring rain.

The group moved into the darkened warehouse-like cargo station. They discovered a table with a letter like their own, except instructing the bearer to travel to Ashenport, not Southport as they were commanded to. As they explored the apparently abandoned space, they discovered 15 huge packing crates and three large barrels, one of which had been broken open. Sable was set upon by a large creature with shiny black pincers and mandibles which dropped at him from the high ceiling. After a concerted effort, the creature was slain. Gilli discovered the cargo manifest, dated three days ago, of the ship “Phantom”. It listed the crates, but not the barrels… and one passenger. The group examined the remaining barrels, listening to both and poking a hole in one to look inside. The barrels, despite an obvious prank declaration from Lucian to the contrary, were empty. Even so, Gilli was siezed by panic and tried to burn the barrels, but was thwarted by her companions.

Meanwhile, Rabbit continued to look around, finding a curtained off room. As the heavy drape was pulled aside, the flickering torchlight spilled into the room to reveal a disturbing sight. The bodies, or body parts, of several people have been carelessly thrown into a pile. Without looking too closely, it is obvious that the ripped apart remains include men, at least one woman, and several children. With revulsion, Rabbit gave voice to his realization, “These are villagers…”

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Off to sea!
Our first session summary

After weeks of increasingly horrid nightmares, six extraordinary individuals have been contacted by Queen Catherine through her Dreamfarer, The Lady Miranda, and summoned to board the ship Celedon, as it has become clear that their troubles and those of the kingdom are linked. All six individuals have been given a letter of mark and a valuable token of the kingdom: a magic emerald ring that heals wounds when called upon to do so. These objects were handed to each person in a common dream they shared. When they each awoke, they were amazed to discover that the objects had become real and solid.

A clumsy but strong dwarven cleric in full plate attended by his squire arrived first and got the beer drinking started, followed in short order by a human sorceress, a “gallant” roguish swordsman on a horse, a gnome with nothing but a backpack who seemed slightly clueless, and a rough-looking woodsman. They were all met at the docks by Lord Markham Hasingstoke, who pledged their safety and provided them with their quarters and got them settled in. Hasingstoke was short on information but put them at ease nonetheless. Later that night, an unconscious human paladin was carried onto the ship, ill or enchanted we don’t know.

As we settled down to rest, our sleep was interrupted by Stumble’s arm catching fire after an extremely vivid dream in which he was in his clan’s forge. After an absurd amount of effort, the entire party managed to snuff out the flame. From that point on, much of the party tried to remain awake.

Our repose was once again interrupted by cries of horror and fear from the deck, and we quickly realized that the ship was under attack.

Many of the party rushed to the sailors’ aid with makeshift weapons (although the gnome seemed to just hide in the cabin with a blanket over his head) while two party members rushed toward the cabin in which their weapons were stored. Bat- or stirge-like creatures were flying in from sea, and one had already attached to a crewmember. The creatures did not appear to be very difficult to destroy, however, and a few crossbow bolts, flying daggers, and sword slashes dispatched them with only minor injuries suffered by the crew and party.

Rather than risk further attack without their weapons at hand, the party collected their items and moved back to their quarters. The bodies of all of the monsters except one were thrown overboard; one was kept for future identification or dissection.

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Aerathia Today
Where we begin

Peace and prosperity envelop the realm. House Albion has ruled the land for over twelve generations. The current matriarch, Queen Catherine, enjoys a quiet and successful reign. Agriculture, industry, and trade all flourish under her wise and popular leadership. Of course there are the occasional border disagreements and commerce disputes. These are usually satisfied with a hearing in the House of Lords, a governing body comprised of the leaders of the seven Noble Houses. Among these houses, the Earls, Dukes, Barons, and Counts of Houses Albion, Hasingstoke, Trent, Zarovich, and McCairn hold the most sway. The Elvish and Dwarven societies have no representation in the House of Lords, preferring to govern themselves while primarily keeping to their traditional homelands in the deep forests and solid mountains, respectively. Halflings, generally unambitious, do not concern themselves with matters of State. The Aerathian military, though powerful and well funded, is generally engaged in protecting the borders against far away enemies that have yet to appear. The churches thrive as religious tolerance abounds and citizens are free to worship as they wish.

Spellcasting is almost entirely a thing of the past. Certainly, the various clerics of the realm practice the Divine Arts, but these spells have become cloaked in ceremony and ritual, and are rarely performed outside the sanctuary of the church. Arcane magic may still be toyed with behind closed doors, but rarely openly or in public. A thousand years ago, the Mage Wars were responsible for great destruction throughout the lands and this may be the reason for the shunning of the mystical arts today. Numerous magical devices and artifacts from that era have been discovered and some are even in common use, but spellcasting itself is frowned upon. It is rumored that modern day spellcasters continue to create magical items in secret, only to “discover” them so that they may be sold to the populace.

Where once the humanoid races freely marauded, now small tribes of Orcs, Goblins, Ogres, Trolls, Kobolds and the like struggle to maintain a feeble existence. Only rarely, in the aftermath of some natural disaster when food and resources have been depleted for example, will a humanoid tribe encroach upon the civilized lands. The Giant races peacefully reside atop the mountains that the Dwarves live beneath. Dragons, once nearly all-powerful masters of the skies, exist today as solitary creatures passing, some say, inevitably into legend.

And yet, amid the tranquility that is life in Aerathia, there arises a trace of dread. Traders to distant lands bring stories that speak of impossible creatures and vile horrors. The people are restless. Strange dreams invade their slumber and a creeping fear stirs. A chill shudder slithers through the realm like a silent predator. Something in the world has changed. In whispers, it is wondered: What could be the sinister cause of this ominous foreboding?

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