Dinner and a OHMYGODWHATISTHAT
(Spoilers for “Mark of Prophecy” from the Eberron Campaign Guide ahead.)
Session two of the Eberron Pathfinder campaign began with incorporating Squant the ratfolk summoner into the story, which was quite easy, actually. Hired by Magister Thyrane of the Esoteric Order of Aureon, a self-appointed “arcane watchdog” over Sharn, Squant was given an “extraplanar compass” and tasked with tracking down mysterious and worrisome summoning energies that had been detected in the city. With a cry of “This sounds like fun!” he was off.
The trail led him to the Ambassador Towers district, where Yamashi, Nienna, and Cirano were all attending a ceremony of remembrance as guests of Lord-Major Bren ir’Gadden. It had been four years exactly since the Day of Mourning, and ir’Gadden hadn’t forgotten the mercenaries who rescued him on that day. Other ceremony attendees included other survivors who had been in or near Cyre that day and escaped the tragedy (including the Cyran solider whom Nienna had shot in the leg as he tried to escape the tower four years ago), or displaced Cyran nobles now at the Cyran embassy in Sharn. Doing their best not to commit too many gaffes in such a highbrow crowd (well, except for Cirano), they’d been mingling and eating hors d’oeuvres for a bit by the time Squant arrived. Squant had just managed to get a guard to go fetch “someone in authority” to let him into the ceremony, when a clock chime indicated that it was the exact moment that the Mourning had occurred. Lord-Major ir’Gadden started to make a speech, but then a door slammed open and swirling gray fog came spilling out, as if the Mourning itself had come to Sharn.
Panic, naturally, ensued.
The mist turned out to be an aura effect around a demonic creature known as a “mourning haunt,” which could not be seen from outside the mist, but was visible once you were in it. Looking something like an enormous four-horned demon ape, the mourning haunt began attacking ceremony attendees. The PCs engaged it, as did Lord-Major ir’Gadden, the Sharn guardsmen on hand, and shot-in-the-leg guy. (Shot-in-the-leg-guy, later revealed to be named Talsar, was suffering from a case of bad dice rolls and having a hard time fighting effectively, leading naturally to several jokes about one’s adventuring career being over once you take an arrow to the knee.) Unfortunately, the mourning haunt had a very annoying habit: every time it was hit with a melee attack, it would teleport away, usually to the far side of the map, where it would attack bystanders again. The first several rounds were a Benny Hill-esque chase back and forth from one end of the map to the other, until the PCs figured out the pattern and decided to hold their ground in strategic locations, letting the Sharn soldiers do the chasing and attacking the mourning haunt when it teleported back to being near them.
This chewed up the mourning haunt fairly quickly, causing it to change its tactics. Although killing bystanders was fun and part of its overall agenda, its real mission turned out to be assassinating Lord-Major ir’Gadden, Yamashi, Cirano, Nienna, and Talsar, for reasons unknown, and it began targeting them specifically. By that point, however, the PCs had figured out its gimmick and worked around it, dispatching the thing quickly. As it died, its body dissolved in a flash of arcane energies that briefly formed the dragonmark from the tower of prophecy– “Five at the brink of destruction stand as one against the tempest’s roar.”
Once the immediate crisis was under control and introductions were made, Squant explained that he’d been tracking the mourning haunt, and that the extraplanar compass suggested that the ritual that had brought it to Sharn was still going on. Lord-Major ir’Gadden tasked the PCs with finding the ritual and shutting it down; Talsar insisted on joining them. Like the PCs, he’d had recurring nightmares since the Day of Mourning that contained voices whispering that damn prophecy. “I don’t know how or why, but I’m part of this.” ir’Gadden basically replied “Fine with me,” and off they all went.
This led to a skill challenge sequence in which the PCs questioned shopkeepers, followed the extraplanar compass readings, and searched for traces of the wispy fog or other clues of the haunt’s passing as it traveled from its summoning point to the attack at the ceremony. Two failed rolls led to a pair of complications: the first came when, tracking the gray mists down a drainage pipe, they got battered (and in the case of Talsar, washed away as the dice failed him again) by a flash flood that dumped them into a cold, dark cistern. The second came when, climbing out of the manhole access to the cistern, they disturbed a murder of Sharn crows, a particularly aggressive breed that swarmed all over Cirano. The swarm was quickly dispersed by one of Yamashi’s bombs and some well-place arrows, and the group went on their way.
Eventually they reached their destination: a normally-unremarkable townhouse at the base of one of the towers in the Center Bridge district. (“Normally” unremarkable because at this particular moment, it was anything but: from inside came noises suggestive of a storm, a roaring sound punctuated by peals of thunder.) They decided, as PCs tend to do, to go in the side door, but in this particular instance it didn’t matter: the bottom floor was devoid of any light or activity, everything was happening up above. On the lower floor they did find some personal effects, including a holy text of the Blood of Vol (Divinity of Blood Revealed, sort of the Pocket Bible of the blood cult) which had the name “Blacktree” written inside the back cover.
The upper two floors of the house had been gutted and converted into an eldritch machine that opened a gate to the Mournland. The machine was attended by a dolgaunt and a pair of shifter mercenaries, who seemed to be frantically trying (without much success) to keep it under control. The machine was the source of the roaring thunder, and the sound and lightning cascades from it were growing more intense by the moment– if allowed to keep going, the machine would open an interplanar rift that would cause an explosion that could take out most of the Menthis Plateau. The PCs quickly dispatched the machine’s attendants, then disassembled the device, getting only partially battered and singed by the lightning strikes in the process. As the last piece was smashed, the gate to the Mournland popped like a soap bubble and an unnerving quiet fell over the building.
At this point, Talsar said, “You realize what just happened, right? Five at the brink of destruction stood as one against the tempest’s roar.” Yamashi replied, “Don’t you just love being in the middle of a prophecy?”
The session wrapped up there for the night, with the characters heading back to report to Lord-Major ir’Gadden what they found and did about it. They have also been promised a reward from a Cyran ambassador who survived the attack at the ceremony of remembrance, but they have precious few clues to the scope of the plot at hand and what it all means. Written instructions they found on the slain shifter mercenaries indicated that they were to shut the machine down after two more mourning haunts had come through the gate– it appeared to be mostly luck that hadn’t happened yet. And other than the implication that Aric Blacktree and a man described by a witness in the skill challenge as having “a peculiar curved posture” are involved somehow, they’ve got little to go on.
Perhaps more will become clear next time…
PS: This scenario was written as 1st level for 4e, but it’s been fairly simple to convert to 3rd level for Pathfinder. I will provide stats for the mourning haunt tomorrow as a “Monday Monster” entry. The skill challenge I ran pretty much straight as written, although I altered the complications for things I thought were a little more interesting than just “random fight with thugs.” Finally, the shifters were changelings in the original scenario, which is more cosmetic than anything else. I was surprised that the group didn’t try to intimidate or otherwise get the shifters to flee, that’s a tactic this group often uses and the shifters were already looking for an excuse.