Pathfinder Off the Beaten Path

Ashes to Ashes..

(Season 1, Episode 6) A fire spirit attacks, and a dark secret revealed.

Cthugga.jpg

Sa’hetna’s Journal -

It was with a heavy heart that I turned away from my village and began the slow trip back to our home in Brinewall. I suspect the others were ready to leave, but I still wanted to stay. My goal was still incomplete however, for while they had been defeated, they would return in time. It seems strange to think of it now, but the village of Brinewall has become our home. For as long as I can remember I have never thought of someplace else as being home except my village, but Brinewall has changed to become something more. It is a muddy, smelly place that stinks of fish, salt and dung, but even that is slowly changing. The wagon was loaded down with the spoils from the battle of Ancestor Hill, and while Threndil was excited, all I saw when I glance into the back of the wagon was a huge load of gears, plates and junk.

He has said, “It can be melted down into things which will be useful.” so I chose to simply defer to his advice on the junk-pile and focus my effort on tending the ancestor tree.

On the road back into town, we first met an old Tinkerer who had broken down on his travels across the countryside. His wagon was damaged and so we paused in our journey to help him fix his wagon and speak with him briefly before moving on. He was a wandering Tinkerer who moved from tiny village to village to provide whatever services they lacked. The Tinker was not a skilled Artisan, but he could provide the bare necessities to a hamlet that had little to offer besides room and board.

Two days later, we had returned to the road and were attacked by a rogue Ankheg. This scourge would normally avoid larger caravans, but unfortunately it saw our small party as a potential meal, especially our horses. The beast burrowed under and exploded from the surface to rush our group in a direct assault. I had dismounted and was about to move around my horse when it focused its attack on Teh’tuon, my brave mount! Its first bite cut deeply into its neck and my horse would have been killed had we not been able to overcome the beast. Zuristoi, Threndil and Olli all attacked the beast with our weapons and powers until it was finally overcome and it fell in a twitching heap of oozing chitin and bug innards. Zuristoi had used his powers to heal Teh’tuon and save my horses life, an act for which I will always be grateful. Threndil, never wanting to see anything go to waste quickly set upon the carcass to remove the chitinous plates and save them for later use. When he sets upon a fallen foe, I cannot help but think of our women, and how they would tear into the carcass of a fallen Elk to clean and remove anything and everything of use. His single minded devotion to picking the dead clean is a slightly morbid marvel to behold, and a I suspect that he could teach the women of my tribe a thing or two in finding use in that which has fallen on the battlefield.

Several days after the encounter with the Ankheg, we met a traveler on the side of the road, this was an old pilgrim of Desna who had been wandering the road for some time and was exhausted from her journey. It was strange, because she had no food, pack or water, but none of us realized that at the time. Perhaps we had assumed that she used her favor with Desna as a means to support herself, in looking back I admonish myself for not being more cautious in my consideration of such things. I can see now, that too much of my healthy suspicion has eased since we have settled into Brinewall. We could see that she was exhausted, and so we accepted her into our group and continued back towards Brinewall. Some time later, as we had settled into camp for a peaceful evening, The Pilgrim and Olli had stepped away from the Campfire to observe the stars, when she drew out a spear and stabbed Olli. At first we could not understand what was happening, but she continued to attack, muttering something about how she had to “save the world”

Ahoot and I had lept into action as Olli drew back clutching a wound and his hand was covered in his own blood. Fire started to sparkle in her eyes and her voice became thick with anger as she moved to attack Olli again. By this time, our fellowship had sprung into action and we attacked the pilgrim with intent to put her down. She was either possessed or insane, but whatever the cause for her unprovoked attack on Olli, when my fellow hunter was safe, it would be answered with blood if need be. I clubbed at the witch, while Ahoot swept in for the attack. The others used their powers to attack, and soon the pilgrim and whatever force possessed her was on the defensive. After A’hoot tore at her neck, she screamed out and scalding blood shot from her wound as she died. The woman appeared to be bursting into flames as Olli shouted for us to get away from the dying woman. I knew that if her body was going to explode, there was no way we could get away in time, so I tried to move in close, so that my brother A’hoot and I could meet the spirits of our ancestors side by side. Fortunately for us however, she did not explode, but simply burst into flames and the body was quickly consumed by intense heat. A strange, malicious fire beast burst forth from the body and ran all over camp before we were able to bring it down. tainted spark elementals burst into life after the thing had called to its strange god “Cthugga.” This name did not sound familiar, and as we saw the tainted fire which was called up by invoking its power, I suspect our ignorance was probably for the best.

The Fire beast of Cthugga ravaged our camp, injured several of our hunting party and sent one of the horses fleeing into the night before we were able to put it down. It did not focus its attacks on the ancestor sapling, but instead seemed focused on killing Olli. After the fight, when we asked him about it, he said that a similar situation had happened with his previous group. A fire creature had possessed a hobgoblin and after the course of a battle, seemed as if it was about to explode. Instead of hanging about wondering what was going to happen, Olli had fled before he could see the results. At that point I began to suspect perhaps this was the same fire creature, after all, if it could possess a hobgoblin, why not a pilgrim of Desna?

We buried her corpse, because if she had been possessed then it was unfortunate circumstance that placed her at the wrong place at the wrong time. Our hunting party returned to the road, much disturbed by the events from the previous evening. I set out ahead of the group to try and track her path and came upon the campsite where the pilgrim had slept previously. The blackened remains of a pack mule were all that remained, as the fire spirit had obviously attacked and killed her mule before taking her body and possessing it. Such a horrid violation still shakes me deeply, what sort of foul spirit could do such a thing as possess a host while still burning with such unnatural heat. Is the victim still alive?.. do they feel the fire inside them?.. all of these questions and more shook my spirit, and despite our victory back at the village, the remaining ride into Brinewall was absent of conversation.

When we finally returned to Brinewall, I wasted no time in returning the tree to the Grove and started the ritual to place it within the holy ground prepared for it. It was at this time we noticed something strange. The accidents had returned and become even worse. All work on the walls and buildings was being brought to a standstill by accidents that would happen throughout the day. It was as if the entire village was under the affect of some curse. Threndil was beside himself, as he was preparing to make use of the green dragon hide for a magical bag that would help Olli.. when an accident in his workshop almost ruined it completely.

We had decided that enough was enough, because this curse was obviously not natural and had to be stopped. Eventually everything we were trying to do would come to a halt and we would be defenseless against the hobgoblin’s attack. In addition, people were being injured and in some cases nearly killed, so we had to find the source of these accidents. A’hoot and I began to search as the hunting party returned to some of the places we had searched before for some clue as to what was happening. I already had a terrible suspicion that the foul luck bewitching brinewall was the result of a visitor from the first world. There were many different kinds of fey creature which could be causing this, but it had to be something that could either turn invisible, or was very small and could hide. We searched the old lighthouse, and detected old tracks that led back into Brinewall. after a time, we started finding tiny three toed tracks that crisscrossed the town. We followed the tracks until we arrived at the cathedral of Desna currently under construction. There, A’hoot and I heard what the mysterious curse of Brinewall was.. Gremlins.

We attacked, and while the Gremlins tried to disappear into the shadows and flee, we had their scent now and our hunting party was relentless in pursuit. Olli, Zuristoi, Threndil and I attacked and were finally able to corner and squash two of the creatures before it was able to disappear back into the town and escape.

We followed the tracks of the gremlins back towards the keep and suddenly we remembered the old record of its retaking. Apparently there was a terrible fight that had happened with a strange demon creature in a cavern deep below Brinewall Keep. The beast was defeated, but the existence of such caverns below the keep could mean a great many things. So, we informed the commandant that we were going into the lower levels, and reopen the way to investigate. As we reached the sub cellar, we discovered more gremlin tracks led from below and easily squeezed between the bars installed to keep out intruders from below. We had to investigate, so we removed one of the bars so we could squeeze through and get into the cavern below the keep.

We were on our way into the cavern, when we were attacked by an entire flock of Gremlins from the shadowlands. There were Gremlins of the kind we had fought before, but there were also others. Dark hooded gremlins with long pointed ears and sharp claws hopped about and slashed at anyone and everyone close enough to attack. It was a vicious fight, for the gremlins did not want to give up their new home, and they fought to the last. After a bitter combat, their bodies were strewn about and we continued down into the cavern to make a truly unsettling discovery.

Something had tunneled up from the shadowlands and had bored their way into the old cavern below the keep. The entire place smelled faintly of troglodyte, which meant the beasts had been digging for some time up from below. The caverns would have to be sealed and gaurded, or else more gremlins and worse would bubble up from the caverns below. There could be an entire tribe of troglodytes down there, and we had been completely ignorant of it. The town of Brinewall had been plauged with curses until then, but such foul luck ultimately gave way to good luck as we were now aware of a new threat from below. If the Troglodytes had chosen to attack before this entrance had been discovered, then they might have taken the keep unawares and Brinewall could have relived a second massacre in its dark and bloody history. Such a realization chilled me to the marrow.

The commandant had sent to his order for more troops, and workers have been ordered to seal the entrance with multiple layers of brick and mortar. The threats we were facing were starting to mount and we did not have the resources to prepare defenses against them all. After our hunting party gathered to speak on what to do next, we decided to hurry to Riddleport and find a mage who could repair the Clockwork soldier and then a buyer would could trade us the money we needed for it. I despise this need for money, but if it will help me complete the grove along with Trendil’s forge and Zuristoi’s caravan.. then at least it can be used for something useful.

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