Ep. 6 – The Cult in Thundertree

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With Varden as their guide, the adventurers make it to Thundertree after a two-day march. They find the ruined town nestled into a wide round basin. The buildings at its western end are little more than rubble overrun with vines while the eastern end appears to have been cleaned up and repurposed. From their vantage point Atticus spots a procession of five cultists working their way towards a granary and adjoined cottage at the centre of the village. All five wear dark blue robes and between them they carry a large crate.

After dealing with a nesting pair of giant spiders and moving closer to the town square they decide to send Chad in to investigate. The rest of the party takes up ambush positions and waits for the usual signal, Chad’s thunderwave.
The bard takes a seat on the base of a weather-worn statue in the middle of the town square and begins to play. After a few moments the door to one of the intact buildings opens and a trio of cultists step out. Leaving the others in the doorway, one of them approaches Chad and asks what business he has in Thundertree. Chad ceases playing and spins a quick tale about how we wants to join the cult. Pulling his hood back to reveal a balding head and broken grin the cultists introduces himself as Jim and tells Chad that he’s come to the right place if he wants to praise the master.

Watching from their hiding spots the others see the cultist point off towards the granary and then head down the hill with Chad in tow. As the other cultists head back inside, the party follows their bard at a distance. A new ambush position is set up around the granary and cottage when Chad and Jim disappear inside.
The cottage is occupied by the procession of cultists, and the contents of their crate are laid out on a makeshift altar in the middle of the small room. Jim gestures to the offerings, a scattering of coins of various metals and a dwarven axe, and asks Chad to add his offering of song. He warns that they had found the master in Thundertree after much searching and that he was not easily pleased. Apparently a number of the cultists had been killed when the master had first been found. As he spoke he gestured to a door at the back of the room, the door leading into the granary.

When Chad’s song was finished he asked if he could see the master and the somewhat senile Jim, still enraptured by the music, agreed that perhaps the master would be appeased by the latest batch of offerings. Chad moved cautiously towards the back door and swung it open. Curled up on a pile of broken stone lies a creature that appears to be made from crystal. Light plays across its black and fragmented skin as it raises its head to watch Chad approach. Getting to its feet the bard sees that it is like a wolf in shape but much larger than any natural wolf he’s ever seen.

Standing in the doorway with Chad, Jim shuts his eyes tight before turning and crying out, “Deceiver!” at the same time, the cultists draw their swords. With his lute still in hand and enemies all around him, Chad hits first with a thunderwave that sends the cultists flying across the room. The creature before him takes the blast much better however. The air around the creature darkens as pinpoints of light appear within its crystalline body. These lights quickly grow in brightness and begin to focus towards its head.

Having heard the thunderwave Granite, Fargrim and Tomi waste no time in racing down the hill and into the cottage while Valere makes for the granary, climbing up the side to where a section of the roof has collapsed. Behind them, Atticus finds a perch among the tree braches and nocks an arrow to his longbow. His eyes turn eastward to the makeshift barracks and watch for cultist reinforcements.

Valere makes it to the granary roof just in time to see the crystalline creature’s head split itself. The crystal cracks and twists as a mouth-like cavity appears. Bursting forth from its mouth comes three balls of energy that fly towards Chad, Granite, and Valere. The adventurers manage to dodge the oncoming blasts but they explode nearby, sending waves of heat crashing into them. In the chaos, Granite, Fargrim and Tomi finish off the stunned cultists in the cottage while Chad takes a headbutt from Jim who doesn’t seem to have any weapons. As Granite charges past him in order to engage the creature Jim hikes up his robes and sticks one leg out to trip the barbarian. But he is far too obvious about it and Granite simply leaps over.

Outside, an arrow whistles through the air and buries itself in one of four cultists who have left the barracks to investigate. The remaining three quickly look around and after spotting Atticus’ perch they advance, two with drawn swords and another with a shortbow.

Leaping down from the rooftop, Valere joins the fight against the crystal creature, hacking at its tail. “No blood,” see calls out to the others when her vicious strike causes the tail to snap off. Looking at the new stump she sees that the crystal is not just an armoured shell, but comprises the creatures entire body.
It’s Fargrim’s turn to easily leap over Jim’s feeble attempt at tripping. Calling on his god, Moradin, the cleric reaches out and presses a hand against the creatures body causing large cracks to ripple outwards from his touch. The thing responds with a sound like grinding steel that echos in the adventurer’s heads before leaping back from the contact.

With two cultists climbing his tree and another harassing him with arrows Atticus decides it is time to follow Chad’s lead and let out a thunderwave of his own. The climbers are caught directly in the blast and thrown from the tree to land beneath it while one of the archer’s arrows is rebuffed midflight. A few well-placed arrows and a second thunderwave allow Atticus to finish the cultists off before they can reach his branch, but it is close.

A third failed trip attempt from Jim lets Tomi join the big fight and against combined attacks from the halfling, Granite, Fargrim, Valere, and Chad, the creature is broken down into motionless shards. The party can’t bring themselves to kill the crazy old cultist himself and opt to knock him out and tie him up for questioning.

Varden makes his way into the granary to study the creature while the others search around. Against the back wall they find a newly built lean-to covering a deep, dark hole. A rope ladder leads down into the depths. Fargrim volunteers to gather up the coin and axe that had been laid out as tribute and finds that the axe is carved with dwarven runes spelling the word ‘Hew’. The flat of the blade also bears a relief depicting a dryad being cut in half. The dwarf divides the coin up evenly between the party and keeps the axe for himself.

While half the gang set up camp in the cottage for the night and answer Varden’s questions about the nature of the creature, Fargrim, Valere and Tomi search the western part of town. The buildings are mostly rubble, wreathed in vines, and out of this brush leaps a trio of wig blights. These wooden creatures prove easy fodder for Fargrim’s new axe, which slices through them with ease. Clearing the twig blights out of the rest of the ruins takes little more than an hour and the team find more lean-to’s and dig sites set up around the village. Soon enough the whole group is settling in for the night in the relative safety of the cottage.

The creature is dubbed a Starspawn by Varden who believes that it arrived here during the Starfall, since the basin that Thundertree lies in was created by one of the many meteors. Backing up this theory is the fact that Jim was more than happy to rant on about how they had dug up their master after hearing voices that led them all to Thundertree. Tomi also remarks that perhaps the meteors were the creatures. While Atticus is taunting Jim about the death of his master, the cultist also tells them that this is only a part of a greater whole. Just like the shards this Starspawn has been reduced to were once a creature, so too were the creatures once part of a nameless god.

In the morning the adventurers descend the rope ladder. Beneath the earth they find themselves in a large and roughly dug chamber. Against one of the walls stands a wooden scaffold and next to it a round cavity in the rock. Most intriguing to the heroes are the large pieces of stone lying in the centre of the room. These shards are jagged on one side, with clumps of tiny crystals lining the surface like the inside of a geode. The other side is gently curved and smooth. The party works out that all the pieces, when put together, could form a sphere and Valere comments that it must be the Starspawn’s egg. Varden makes room in his pack for one of the lighter pieces, intending to take it back to town for study.

They break camp soon after and the heroes begin their trek towards the Throm Stronghold, sending cultist Jim wandering in the opposite direction.

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