Rose and Thorn: Session 23

Sometimes you have to break your party down a little bit in order to make their eventual triumph that much greater. If they don’t lose anything, their gains mean less. If they never fail, their successes become a matter of course, and victory should never be boring. A story with insufficient obstacles will not be a satisfying one. If you couldn’t tell, I’m trying to bring more lessons from my noveling background into my game writing. A story is a story, after all, no matter the format.


The Party:

Mordora, tiefling warlock

Alkar, elf mystic

Max, halfling bard

Zavin, human paladin

Samzon, half-elf rogue-cleric


The Setting:

The City of Silverrun, in the Wayride Mountains

The Road to Pearlmouth, a City on the Coast


The Story So Far:

Seeing the griffons approaching from above as the group approached the next shrine on their map, they all took a quick pause to assess their course of action. Everyone was reluctant to kill such majestic beasts, so they took their chances on negotiating with them instead. They sheathed their weapons for the moment, to show clearly that they intended no harm. When the family of griffons landed – two adults and two young – Mordora pulled out some trail rations to feed to the creatures.

One of the small griffons started to approach tentatively, but his parent pulled him back. They tried to speak to the griffons – in Common, in Celestial, in Sylvan, and every other language that the group knew. They received no response, however, and Samzon hazarded a guess that the griffons were not capable of speech or understanding in the way that they had wanted. Instead, the returned to communicating with them as they would with other animals – tempting treats and encouraging vocal tones.

Finally, Samzon decided to focus a beam of magical Light on the ground, moving and twirling it to attract their attention. The baby griffons started to chase it, fascinated by the light, and even the adults seemed interested. With everyone looking at the light, he switched to Dancing Lights, keeping multiple beams moving at the same time, keeping the entire family of griffons enthralled. While the griffins were distracted, the rest of the group approached the altar at the center of the forested clearing.

The altar bore the inscription “Blessings be to all those who follow the path of Honesty.” Zavin put on the rings from the previous shrines and read the passage of the scriptures that had illuminated more information at the previous shrines. The altar glowed briefly, but nothing further happened. He tried several other passages that he had studied while posing as an acolyte, but nothing worked. Knowing they needed to work quickly, before the griffons lost interest, Max sent Dogstein digging under the shrine, where previous relics and artifacts had been found.

There was a spot where something should have been, but wasn’t. The site had clearly been recently excavated. They had thoroughly checked the bodies of the guards they’d killed; they knew no holy relics were hidden among them. They figured that perhaps this was why the shrine was not functioning as all the others had. Without a relic here, it simply did not have the power that the others shrines they’d encountered had. They didn’t like what this meant, and they considered what to do next.

They decided to send a message to their boss, Elsa Firehelm, using the Sending spell. Most unusually, they received no response. They knew how the spell worked – it would have reached her underground, or on another plane of existence. They had to assume the worst. Still, they decided to head to the last shrine they’d intended to visit on this trip before returning to the city. This last one was only two more days’ travel away, and they didn’t want to miss something important. And so they voyaged onwards, beginning to delve into the woods that now belonged wholly to the elven kingdom.

They found the shrine easily, in a man-made clearing that was beginning to give way to natural forest once more. The altar itself clearly had not been visited in some time, having been smashed to rubble some time ago. As the party drew closer, they were greeted by a pair of elven scouts. The two groups discussed things for some time – or more accurately, Alkar discussed it with the other elves, pleased to speak his native tongue once more, and translated for the others. They found that the elven kingdom had destroyed the shrine during the war, having heard that there was a powerful relic buried underneath, but that they had been unable to find such a thing.

Operating on a hunch, Zavin began to dig around that spot, working tirelessly for some time before he found something. It seemed that the elves simply had not dug deep enough, as he soon began to feel a powerful magical aura, well before he reached the relic itself. When he reached it, he pulled out of the ground a chalice, golden and gleaming, as though it hadn’t been buried in dirt for the last century. It carried potent healing magic, which the party was already planning on turning into a potent profit.

With the relic safely packed away in the wagon, the group returned to Silverrun, where they soon heard what had transpired in their absence. The Montclair Mercenaries, having taken over the city guard, conducted simultaneous raids against the Thorn and the other thieves organizations in the city. Scores of people were killed or arrested, many went into hiding or left the city entirely. In the raid, their boss Elsa Firehelm had been killed, they learned when their previous boss, Nico Maren, reached out to them.

He also explained that many of the ranking members of the Thorn – those who still lived, that is – were making their way to Pearlmouth for the time being, where they would lie low until they could foment a possible rebellion against the Mercenaries. Seeing the futility in staying, the group began to make their own preparations to leave.

Alkar closed up shop, disguising the speakeasy in the basement as a more family-friendly environment. Mordora left her brothel in the care of the most popular girl there, who promised to look after the others. Max “sold” his dog training businesses, while ensuring that the new “owners” understood that they still reported to him. Zavin and Samzon packed up their belongings into the wagon and chariot, buying provisions for a long trip south. Making their way sooner rather than later, they said farewell to Silverrun, not knowing when it would be safe to return.

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