DCC RPG with the Old School Meetup

Wintering Over in Hawthorne

The band has emerged from Faerie 97 years before they entered.  With no way back to their present and with snows coming on, they winter over in Hawthorne.  The town is more connected to the empire that spawned it than the PCs remember it.  There's word of a civil war sparked by the death of an emperor, Brodred, to the East.  Three potential heirs, the princesses Pearl, Peahen, and Petal, are fighting to take the throne.

Minnerette develops an uneasy relationship with his old master, now a boy apprentice, Innestra, and Innestra's master, the brooding, gouty Oclugadium.  Minnerette disarms some of Oclugadium's suspicion with a startling gift – a grimoire of spells – and Oclugadium tells him about his theory of time as a branching tree, and about a place he might find answers to his questions – the Cave of Secrets that lies in the highlands to the east of Xom-Yeric.

Aptos the dwarf and his associates, Fang, M'bata, and Arnor, serve Minnerette and Vincent during the winter, fetching exotic materials for the wizard and serving as a retinue for the knight.

Vincent spends time as a guest in the households of Elderwoman Sunngifu's knights.  He offends the noble Reichenbach family with some breach of etiquette and it grows into a rivalry between him and them.

Nellis falls in love with Penelope Reichenbach.  When her father, Gosbert Reichenbach, tries to provoke a duel, the big barbarian declines the duel to spare Penelope the loss of her father.  Hawthorne's aristocratic community sees Nellis as something of an overbuilt coward as a result.

Fisk engages in some criminal mischief and crosses Conrad's gang.  When Conrad tries to move against Fisk, Fisk burns Conrad's farm as a warning.

When the snows begin to melt, a messenger arrives at Sunngifu's estate to tell her that Princess Pearl has called up the levy from Waterstone, and Count Ufgeat of Waterstone is calling on Hawthorne.  Sunngifu offers land south of Hawthorne to Vincent if he'll swear his sword to her.  He accepts, and brings his retinue to war.  They march with Sunngifu's son, the timid Sir Ricbert, and at Waterstone they join Count Ufgeat and Sir Bagmund.  Sir Bagmund and his men wear the livery of Princess Pearl, a purple six-pointed star on a yellow field.

The band rides with the army of Waterstone northeast along the Shining River to Xom-Cahar.  There Vincent uses his noble privilege to take his retinue further northeast to Xom-Yeric, promising to meet up with Sir Bagmund or his messenger at Xom-Iforn after he's allowed Minnerette to investigate the Cave of Secrets.

Investigations at Xom-Yeric run long, and the band departs late after wringing what they need from a devilbeetle junkie living in the catacombs.  On their second evening in the highlands they are followed by a pack of hungry wolves joined by three feral war dogs.  By accident, the band leads the wolves to some pilgrims camped at Ruprecht's Towers near the Cave of Secrets.  The wolves seize a man who had walked out of the camp to make water and the band arrives as the pilgrims' attempts to rescue him are getting them in more trouble.  The party kills one of the war dogs and drives off the wolves, but Vincent is bitten in the jaw and loses seven teeth.

The session concludes with the wolves dragging a pilgrim corpse off into the heather and the PCs joining the shaken pilgrims at the feet of the ruined towers.

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Betrayal at the Cave of Secrets

The party joins the pilgrims at the feet of Ruprecht's ruined towers.  The pilgrims are grateful, shaken, and upset by the sudden death of one of their number.  One pilgrim takes the lead in speaking to the group, Oswyn the healer.  Oswyn serves a lady Yda in a village, Nag-ford, near Xom Velyn, and says Yda and her family has fallen ill with a sickness he can't cure that causes them to fly into violent rages.  Minnerette the wizard befriends Oswyn, exchanging some gold for a pair of rare recipes to ease pain and swelling.  The pilgrims say that the cave of secrets is in a gully a short distance from Ruprecht's towers, and that there is a squadron of horsemen camped there under Princess Petal's banner.

The band resolves to attack and capture the horsemen's standard.  By night they ambush the horsemen, who are camped near a little stream in the gully, and with the aid of summoned animals they rout the horsemen and kill most of them.  The knight Sir Lulling escapes with a handful of men, but the band has captured his banner, many mail shirts and horses, and one of his fighting men.  The man showed bravery during the battle, tackling Lord Vincent to allow his mate to escape.  He reveals that Sir Lulling was waiting for their commander, Sir Baryl, to return from the Cave of Secrets where he has been for several days.  Sir Baryl took a coffer of treasure into the cave, which he had brought from the imperial palace at Yal Garok, and Sir Lulling was worried for him.  Lord Vincent releases the man, who promises not to take up arms again.

Venturing into the cave, the band meets the madman custodian, Whately.  They ask about Sir Baryl, and Whately tells them he received his answer and departed.  Minnerette ventures to the end of the cave, spotting a railing with an abyss beyond, but returns without looking down.  He gives a princely offering and Whately accepts it, and Minnerette lies down and inhales the vapor of the pale bulbs they burn in the cave, drifting into a vision-filled sleep.  The party heads outside, and waits a day and a night.

When Minnerette doesn't return, they are beginning to worry that Sir Lulling may return with a force to recapture the cave and seek Sir Baryl.  They go into the cave and confront Whately, who says that Minnerette received his answer and departed.  They argue, and Whately strikes Nellis with his staff.  Nellis slaps him, and Whately curses the band and touches an obsidian pillar, vanishing in a black mist that is sucked into the pillar.

The band discovers a dwarf with no eyes comatose in a second chamber.  They investigate the pit and find it very deep and filled with bones and corpses.  Among the corpses is Minnerette!  They strip the horsemen's tents of rope and climb down to the wizard, finding him clinging to life after a long fall.  He's been robbed and thrown into the pit.  Fisk spots a boulder that looks to conceal another passage, but they climb back up.  While the party rests outside the cave, Fisk and the pilgrim Sotor investigate a passage that climbs a short flight of stairs to a sturdy iron gate.  Fisk picks the lock and they find a massive stone door beyond, topped with a carving of a demonic face with three eyes set with emeralds.  Fisk climbs on Sotor's shoulders to pry loose an emerald, but falls victim to a powerful curse that causes his eyes to migrate from his comatose body and slide across the floor!

Sotor is set upon by a monstrous spider, but Vincent is returning with the rest of the party and he slays it before it can inject Sotor with venom.  The session ends with Fisk cursed to a roaming existence of observation only.

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Cave of Secrets Part 2

The party is still exploring the dungeon beyond the Cave of Secrets.  Fisk's consciousness is located in his eyes, which have slid out of his comatose body.  He learns that his roaming eyes can move about, sliding through other materials like floors and walls.

The party forces its way through the door that Fisk and Sotor were working on, chipping a hole through it and lifting the bar.  They discover a hallway finished with worked stone blocks and are startled as the ceiling magically illuminates.  Searching one end of the hallway they find a secret passage leading to a steep descending staircase.

At the bottom of the staircase there's a natural passage, and as they follow it they are attacked by small robed men of childlike stature.  The robed figures attack from invisibility with poisoned knives and darts, but the party quickly overwhelms them.  When they pull back the figures' hoods they find them misshapen, fetal, with features squashed down into the bottom of their faces and their big domed heads studded with many sets of mismatched eyes that flee onto the floor like Fisk's eyes do and slide away into shadows and cracks and up the walls and ceiling.

The passage leads to the bottom of the bone pit where they found Minnerette.  They take another look at the bones and find many of the skulls have no eye sockets, and big earthworms are crawling in the decaying corpses.

Returning to the passage and exploring the other end of it, the party finds a steep ascent.  At the top of the passage is a set of iron rungs in the wall.  The party climbs up to a small room with a carpet thrown back over a trap door.  The walls are finished with cut stone blocks and as the party enters the ceiling flares into illumination as the hallway they discovered before did.

There's a hallway leading out of the room, and as the party goes down it they meet a pair of eyes sliding through the floor.  They almost smash the eyes, but Kalanderion (?) the dwarf steps forward and studies them.  They are dwarven eyes – the eyes of the dwarf lying comatose in the Cave of Secrets!  They let the dwarf eyes root in Aptos' shield.

At the end of the hallway there's a large room filled with all the gear and clothing stolen from the victims of the cave over some unknown length of time.  The party delightedly begins trying things on, spending many minutes in the room hefting new weapons and bagging up new gear.  Before they can regain their momentum, though, they are discovered by a roving band of weird cyclopean bird-women!  In the mayhem that follows, several of the henchmen are slain… but so is Minnerette himself, a founding member of the party and its only wizard!

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