Castle Mystery, Part I: Gods, Goofs, Gear, and Gross Stuff
The village of Galehaven has been plagued by mysterious disappearances for the last few months. It started first with smaller creatures and the occasional livestock, but now it has progressed to villagers. Desperate to track down the source of these disappearances the village heads have put forward a reward to anyone who can track down whatever or whoever is responsible, put an end to it, and hopefully return the ones who had gone missing.
Aldon, the self-proclaimed aasimar deity folk legend, heard the plight of the townsfolk and generously volunteered to investigate further. Loopy Larry, the young half-elf bard and ex-clown cult member, was adamant that he wanted to join the search, in hopes to track down his elven mother who was among those who went missing. Xinas, a young human swordsman with humble local farming roots but a mysterious otherworldly visage and personality, was incentivized by the sizeable reward. Both Tarn Prowler (a strange tabaxi druid who was captivated by the mystery more-so than the reward) and Marret (the aarakocra bard excited at the prospect of adventures and FRIENDS) overheard plans of an investigation party and insisted to join. Apprentice Pistachio Frostybottom the artificer pixie and master of their own metal automaton, of course, had to come along. Determined to bolster their chances through numbers, the band of companions set forth together to investigate.
The village head, informed the party that the last mercenary that had left the village over a week ago was said to be investigating rumors of shadows in the battlements of a long abandoned castle not more than a half a day’s hike from the village and was perched precariously on the cliffs overlooking the sea. No one has heard from them since.
The party woke abruptly, drenched and coughing on a cold stone floor of some location none of them could remember arriving at. They appeared to be in a dark, damp, and windowless room dimly lit with a faint bluish glow emanating from strange organic, fleshy masses stretching from floor to ceiling. They noted that their equipment was missing and they had no memory of parting with it. Their memories were foggy, and felt much like they had been asleep for quite some time.
Before them stood their apparent savior: a young gangly girl who looked vaguely familiar, dressed in baggy clothing and holding a sword much too big for her. The party soon recognized her as young Dahlia Forester, a child from Galehaven and younger sister of one of the people who had gone missing - her brother Glenn. She informed the party that they had been gone for nearly a week, and that after they didn’t return she mustered the courage to follow after them. It was her who managed to haphazardly cut the party free from the apparent stasis pods after sneaking through a narrow window in one of the forward castle stairwells. Only Xinas was unable to be cut free, but the party decided to wander out and attempt to reclaim their missing gear. Loopy insisted the young, frightened Dahlia come along with them and tried to lighten her spirits with jokes and feats of magic, with Marret as his unsuspecting assistant.
The party left the room, which seemed to be just one room in the line of dungeon cells. As they explored the other rooms they discovered more stasis pods, most of them empty with petal-like extensions out on the floor waiting for a body to get close enough to snatch them up. However, they also came across one that contained the body of an elven woman. Loopy attempted a delightful performance, bradishing Dahlia’s great sword in artful cuts to free the woman but unfortunately was unsuccessful. In a further attempt to make Dahlia smile, he opted for a dramatic slapstick crash to the ground after his failed attempt. Tarn, in an impressive display of almost-surgical care, managed to slice the stasis pod open with just his claws and the lithe form of elven scout mercenary Cithrel Ermoira tumbled to the ground.
After returning to her senses, Cithrel informed the party what she remembered of the castle, that it continued on across the chasm and that it reeked of decay. She advised them to be careful, but she had no interest in continuing onward as it was turning out to be more than she bargained for. She agreed to return young Dahlia back to the village, and took up Dahlia’s sword.
The party pushed on, going up the stairwell to the next floor. Pistachio flitted out of the narrow windows briefly and discovered that they were indeed in one of the forward stairwells of the castle, the sea roaring behind the expanding castle before them. Eager to find their belongings, they crept down the hall and found a door to a storeroom ajar, with piles of weapons and gear spilling from a large oaken table onto the floor. Following the sounds of rummaging and the clink of metal, Pistachio poked their head in the door and exclaimed loudly when they saw very strange fish humanoid creature.
A fight ensued, where insults, spells, god-like flashes of radiant energy, and weak-ass punches were thrown. Pistachio managed to turn the fish creature purple with pixie magic before disappearing into and then reanimating a metal automaton. Tarn and Marret attempted to talk the timid creature down, learning that it was just a servant and a member of the proud Locathah people - and it feared for the safety of its family if they failed to stop the party. However, the party was unable to convince the creature and the fighting resumed. The fight came to a cinematic finish after Aldon reeled back, fist glowing with radiant energy, and landed a solid punch to the creature who was slammed back into one of the store kegs, after which it moved no more.
Reunited with their gear, the party was in high spirits. While Marret and Loopy swapped musical tunes, Tarn and Pistachio identified a magical glaive found at the bottom of the weapon pile. Alarmed at the volume of the party’s interactions, Cithrel and Dahlia come back up to the room. After a scolding and re-equiping her own gear, Cithrel informs the team that the fish creature they killed was not the master of this castle and that they should be wary. Before leaving, Loopy bestowed a much-to-large helmet to Dahlia, who seemed pleased to receive it.
The party pressed on, moving onto the great hall of the castle. A line of extravagant yet notably worn rugs lead into the chamber, bookshelves filled with books for entertaining visitors, and a grand table lined with chairs filled this room. As Aldon stepped forward into the room, he attempted to cross over one of the corners of the carpets. As he did this, he felt he was losing his footing and nimbly leapt out of the way just in time as the rug tumbled down a large pit. Pistachio, curious, flew down to the bottom of the pit to investigate where it led and discovered that it actually opened up into one of the dungeon cells below - the organic mass waiting with its petals open. It seems like these rugs were placed here to catch unsuspecting intruders off-guard and trapping them in the stasis pods below.
Tarn opened up the large double doors leading farther into the castle and was buffeted by a gust of sea wind as they emerged on a wooden bridge over a steep chasm. They noticed the smell of decay that Cithrel had mentioned to them, and smears of blood along the bridge leading over the sides. Peering over the bridge they discovered a pile of corpses cast below. A curious Pistachio investigated further and found the bodies were mostly made up of animals and unfamiliar humanoids, but there were a few that looked… off. Extra appendages or body parts grew in weird places.
Pushing forward, the party stepped over the smears of blood and opened the doors leading farther into the castle. The trail of blood continued on to the other side and lead further into the structure with the origin being beyond their line of sight. A dining room could be found to the party’s left, and another hallway to on their right. Straight ahead the faintest glimpse of greenery could be detected, in what appeared to be a courtyard.