Chapter 1, Part IV: Strong Boys Wanted

The party traveled back to Gilding and gave Ernie over to the authorities. Chief Paws was suspicious of their intentions, and so Corky gave Stefano over to the authorities to spy on the inner workings, telling them that the puppet belonged to Ernie. He heard that the guards ran Ernie through booking and put Stefano in the evidence locker. Because Corky had ripped off Stefano's limbs due to the Wand of Pigeon Summoning incident in the cave, he could not kill himself to get out, so he had to antagonize the cops into hitting him and killing him.

After sending Ernie off with the authorities, the party swung by the Sprightly Spirits wagon to drop off Kit to his mother. Kit was very excited and began telling her a detailed account of his, frankly, harrowing adventure, which she looked like she immediately regretted letting him go on. Before leaving, Artem gave Kit's mother a Letter of Introduction to Flerb Clergson at Strixhaven, telling her that Kit had magical abilities and had great potential to use them. She thanked him and said she would talk to her son to see if that was something he wanted to do.

The party then went to Brawlmart to speak to CJ Brawlton about the situation in the cave with the bandits and the stolen merchandise. Upon hearing what the boys had done, CJ was incredibly thankful and gave them an Amulet of Warning, which prevents the wearer from being 'surprised' an attacker by alerting them to the threatening presence. It also gives advantage on initiative rolls. Description: It is amulet with a braided leather cord. The base is a deep green stone with a crystal prism on the face of it. There is sigil on the front of the prism in gold: a rune that means 'foresight.

"Now, you gentlemen did a right fine thing by dispatching those bandits. You put your life on the line for the merchants in this town, including myself, and I certainly won't soon forget. Now I know the adventuring type, I was one myself in my youth, so I know that, certainly, you're not doing these noble things for a reward, but I would be out of my nest if I thought y'all wouldn't appreciate one. Now, I think I've got just the thing for you boys. Something from my personal collection. This here is an Amulet of Warning. If you wear it on your person, it will alert you if there's any sort of unscrupulous fella trying to sneak up or creepy crawly trying to get the drop on ya. I'd like for you boys to have this as a thank you for helping myself and these hardworking folks out. If you don't like, or want, you can sell it for a pretty penny, but I know how important peace of mind can be." | CJ Brawlton

With their new loot and money, the boys traveled to the Adventurer's Guild in order to check off a few quests. They noticed that there was a quest on the board to protect a delivery to the Inkling Bookstore, the store that was circled on the bandits' list but did not have any merchandise in the cave, leading the party to believe that they were likely not yet robbed by the troupe. Seeing as that shipment wasn't until the following day, the party took a quest to meet Ismelda at the Cranberry Café.

Poor old widow needs assistance from strong and strapping young things to help move furniture.

With more than half the party neither young nor strapping, they believed this was a perfect quest for them! Ismelda was an old, frail looking woman with long white hair and a birch-tree cane. She was excited to be assisted with moving her sofa into her home, and led the boys out of Gilding and into the woods about a mile outside of it. Her house was a small, stone cottage set at the base of a cliff face, with a green sectional couch set in front of it. As the six of them approached the couch, there was a poof of purple smoke that surrounded it. When it disappeared, three nearly identical couches sat before them. Ismelda bemoaned that the couch was cursed by her sister, who was angry with her, and that she had done something like this before. If the wrong couch was touched or moved, it would release a poison, whereas touching the correct couch would remove the curse.

She handed the party the Mikea box that the couch had come in so they could use it to determine which couch was the right one. The right one would be identical to the picture, whereas the false couches would have a detail or two different. Each round got progressively more difficult, with the couches appearing in various different positions, or in a mirror, but the boys were not to be fooled! They selected the right couch each time, and dispelled the curse after three rounds. They brought it into the house with no problem after that, setting it up on the far wall of the cottage.

Ismelda invited the boys to stay for something to eat, which gave some of them pause. As they debated whether or not to stay, some of the boys began to notice that somethings were off in the room around them.

As you look around the room, you start to notice there are more and more things that just don't seem quite right. There are stains on the floor and on the wooden table that are deep red, and the large knife and saw sitting beside it is coated in a liquid of the same color. The air of the room smells oddly metallic and rotten, and when you turn, you see that the front door of the cottage is gone, and behind where the door had been held open to allow you entrance with the large sofa, you see an index finger, severed and pressed up against the stone of the wall.
"This isn't exactly the haul that I was hoping for, but it will do," Ismelda says in a voice that has less quake in its timber.
And she holds her wrinkled hands out, fingers splayed, and they are engulfed in a purple light that floats up above and around her. From the next room you can hear the sound of another woman cackling. And then a third. And as the wind outside rattles the walls of the hut, you realize, there would have been a lot more room to fight in here if you had left the damn sofa outside. Roll for initiative.

Three witches began their assault on the party. Ismelda, the purple witch, cast a spell that created a spectral long-nailed hand over her normal hand and inflicted slashing damage with each attack. The blue and green witch were able to disappear from sight and move around the room. The blue witch had a pulse attack that pushed her opponents back and caused damage from the blast. The green witch was able to use the spectral claw attack.

Throughout the fight, the witches attempted to cast a spell that would land an orb of their respective colors on a designated spot on a trap door located in the floor of the main room. Both the purple witch and the blue witch were able to light up the trapdoor with their colored orb early in the fight. The blue witch also placed something into the cauldron that caused poisonous gas to leak out into the room, requiring a CON Saving Throw at the beginning of each turn. Chief Paws dealt the finishing blow to the blue witch who, as the weakest of the sisters, did not last long. The green witch spent a large amount of her time concealed, and would only become visible when she attempted to attack.

Corky used his mage hand to remove the poison-spewing object from the soup and tossed it out the back window, which removed the poison threat from the room after the blue witch had been killed. All of the party members were able to land hits on the purple witch, making it easy for Artem's summoned bear to finish her off. Although the purple and blue witch had been removed from the fight (and this mortal coil), their orbs remained alight on the trapdoor.

The green witch attempted to cast her orb onto the trapdoor, but due to the party's positioning around the door, she was blocked from getting close enough. She was killed by Artem's bear before she was able to do so, leaving the purple and blue orbs remaining on the door.

With the witches disposed of, the boys began to search through the house. On the witches, they found some gold (totaling about 20 GPs), a necklace that seemed to be made with real sapphire that was likely valuable to the correct seller, and a pouch that seemed to contain an inactive version of whatever the blue witch had dumped into the soup to create a cloud of poison.

The party attempted to open the trapdoor, noticing that there seemed to be a strange noise coming from the other side. Chief Paws attempted to speak with it, but the creature did not or could not return a response. With some advanced investigative skills, they determined that the door needed the green orb in order to open.

Corky examined the soup, finding carrots, onions, an eyeball or two from a humanoid being, a few nail-less toes, and a generous sprinkling of dill. He then went into the back of the hut in order to find where the poison-spewing object went, and found a storage chest in the back against the house. Inside, he found about 120 GP scattered across the bottom. On top of the gold was a humanoid skull, a pouch of teeth, and a box with 6 vials filled with blood set snuggly inside.

After some debate over what to do with the items in the container, Artem picked up the skull, which immediately began to yell out in surprise. After asking a few questions, the team learned that the skull's name is Goddard, and he was a dwarf who was siphoned of his youth by the witches who then turned his flesh into a delicious stew. He explained that he thought he was the first being to be part of such a ritual for the women, and they kept his teeth, blood, and skull as a souvenir of their first successful ritual. Goddard explained that the trapdoor in the house was locked by magic that was specific to each of the witches, and that all three of them were required to open it. He said he remembered the original ritual being cast and it required blood from all of the women to create the bond. He explained that the witches kept a Bone Devil behind the door, a creature that, although not very wide, was still rather long and imposing. He saw them go down there for multiple different reasons, but he didn't always see the Bone Devil.

Following his explanation, Goddard asked the party to do him a solid and put him out of his misery. Chief Paws wanted to honor his wish, but Gyome and Artem thought it might be nice to give Goddard a body instead. Using Artem's spores, the blood in the chest, and some magic, they caused mushroom-like growth to spring from the bottom of his skull like legs, raising him up to about 2 feet in height. Although he maintains he would have been happier dead, he was willing to give his new form some time and began to cruise around the cottage on his new legs.

The party decided, after waging their long battle against the witches, that they should use the cottage to take a nice, long rest, and get themselves back on track before attempting to bother a Bone Devil. Taking an hour or so to read or train, the team raised up their potential points in each of their targeted skills.

When they woke up in the morning, they noticed that the orbs that had been cast on the trap door were no longer there.

Completed: March 2022