Lack Of Initiative

Act 1: A Witch in the Willow

The party examines the door to the left, finding that a large pit takes up most of the room. Upon further inspection, they discover the pit is filled with bones and a root spans the entire pit, from the close ledge where they stand to a smaller ledge on the far side. They can see a golden key hanging on the wall at the far side of the room.

In an attempt to explain their options to her friends, Aribi becomes overexcited and falls into the room with the two suits of armor. There, she notices that each suit of armor wears a golden key around its neck and stands upon a pedestal that says “FALSE.” She also sees that there is an inscription on the pedestal at the back of this room, which reads: “Only one question may you say / And we shall answer yay or nay.”

After much whispered discussion, the party decides to attempt to retrieve the key from the left room. Unruhk shoots an arrow into the pit, and a skeleton animates as soon as the arrow touches the ground. The party quickly kills the skeleton. Pamplemousse attempts what might have been a very impressive trick shot with her fishing pole, hoping to hook the key and reel it back across the pit. Unfortunately, her aim is not on point and she simply casts into the pit itself, hooking a skull. A new skeleton animates and attempts to pull Pamplemousse into the pit, but she is able to stand her ground. The party kills the second skeleton.

Unruhk successfully makes a vaulting leap across the pit and retrieves the key. When he removes the key from the wall, the bottom half of the key disintegrates in his hand. Unruhk’s return vault is less successful, as he lands with his legs dangling into the pit below and clutching at the ledge. With an unbelievable show of strength, Topiary is able to pull Unruhk back up to solid ground. After giving Topiary the half-key, Unruhk decides to finish off a third skeleton that has animated, while the rest of the party return to the room with the suits of armor.

Topiary makes a very thorough investigation of the room and finds a recessed hole on the back of the pedestal that has the riddle engraved on it. In the hole is another golden key, the top half of which dissolves in Topiary’s hands as she grabs it. Intrigued by the remaining golden keys that hang from the two statutes’ necks, Pamplemousse and Aribi decide to climb the statutes and remove the keys. Unruhk arrives at the doorway in time to stop them from doing so.

In the fray, Topiary decides to slam the two pieces of the key together, and they merge to form a single key. Much more debate ensues about how to proceed and whether a question should be asked of the suits of armor. Finally, Aribi blurts out, “Is the key that Unruhk has the key that opens the door?” to which the statutes answer, “Yes.” Unruhk, however, is not in possession of a key at the time this question is asked. The party decides to put the key Topiary holds in the lock on the double doors.

Topiary unlocks the double doors and peers inside. She sees a large room with ivy walls, several bookcases, and tables piled high with potion bottles, ingredients, and notes. At the center of the room is a desk, and an elderly woman sits behind it with a worg at her feet. To one side of where she sits is a small basket, covered with a blanket. A crow perches upon the basket’s edge.

The woman tells Topiary that she is so proud of all of them, and quickly demonstrates that she knows each of their names and has been watching the party for some time. When Unruhk questions her about the baby, the woman explains that Byx has never had a child and eventually pulls back the blanket to reveal a doll underneath. The crow on the basket opens its beak and makes a noise that sounds like a baby’s cry.

The woman tells them her name is Dia, and that she has lived here for a long time but has only recently decided to protect and help the people of the village now known as Underwillow. She explains that she does favors for people in town and they occasionally bring her things that she needs.

Dia further explains that she is worried the village will be attacked by her sister, Sporks. Due to some sort of “twin magic,” Dia is awake only during the summer and autumn, and Sporks awakens at the first snowfall. Dia says she fears Sporks will take vengeance on the village because Dia has given them her favor. She says she has already seen evidence of Sporks’ retribution, and claims that the strange storms as well as the influx of rats and centipedes are Sporks’ doing.

Saying that she is too elderly to travel, Dia explains that she has been testing the party and believes that she needs their help. While Sporks sleeps, her home is guarded by a strong magical barrier. Dia wants to cast a spell that will take that barrier down so that she can deal with Sporks before her sister awakens and attacks the town. Dia needs three ingredients for the spell: 3 scales from a mermaid’s tale, a hag’s finger bone, and a handful of moondust.

The party has many questions for Dia, all of which she answers. She explains that Byx and the rest of the village were in on her plans and, using her scrying orb, shows them Byx and Amhatan happily celebrating back at the inn. Unruhk in particular is distrustful of the witch, and especially her use of necromancy (in raising the skeletons they found in the pit). Seeing that the adventurers will not be persuaded to help her simply out of concern for Underwillow itself, Dia promises greater rewards. She mentions gold and spells, but specifically says that she can help them interpret the meanings of their dreams, become famous, relive a single day in their lives, and communicate with their gods.

Though they are still quite skeptical of Dia’s proposal, the party agrees to return to town and confirm her story with the villagers there. Dia tells them to take her scrying orb and that she will be in touch. She says she will advance them gold to buy the ingredients she needs, and that they should start their search in Neverwinter. If the ingredients are not available in the city, Dia says, the party may at least get an idea of where to go next.

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