[Author’s note: What are these “AoA” tags? Check out this post to know why I’m writing these and why they don’t have anything to do with superheroes. After writing only the occasional cut-scene, I decided to do a quick narrative before every Pathfinder session instead of a recap. We already had someone in the group writing recaps, so mine felt redundant, and there were too many opportunities for fiction writing that I was letting pass me by. Below are a collection of intros from our sessions. I don’t love using present tense, but it’s what fits best into these tabletop roleplaying sessions.]
Session 61: Into the Quarry
When dawn breaks on the twenty-fourth of Pharast, Jethro Vermillion is praying. His campsite is small, modest, set out in the gently swaying grass of the Ravounel countryside, in the shadows of Summershade Mountain. The air is crisp and pleasant. Scattered around him, sleeping on the hard earth, are his four companions.
It is a Sunday, an auspicious day for a follower of the goddess Sarenrae. As the dawn’s light first touches his white-gloved hands, Jethro thanks the Dawnflower for the power of healing the wounded.
May Sarenrae’s light bring peace to the desperate souls a mile away, trapped beneath iron grates. May the dawn’s light banish the shadows, Jethro prays.
Suddenly, Jethro is struck by the image of another dawn nearly three months ago. There, in the Mwangi Expanse, it was the first day of this new year, and he was similarly praying for the strength to find light in the darkness ahead. It was a much different group: Mr. Fletcher was of course there, but so was the faithful Jacques du Tank, the mysterious Owl, and the imposing Nemora the Shepherd. That dawn, half a world away, Jethro prepared to storm the Temple of Sorrow, last stronghold of the Cinderclaw cult. He felt his devout purpose course through him then, ready to face the worshippers of Dahak.
This morning has a similar feel. He and his new companions–the bard Coxsackie, the crusader Robin Sterling, and the druid Pit–prepare to face the Scarlet Triad, the organization who funded the Cinderclaws. This place, Jethro has concluded, is the Triad’s last stronghold in Ravounel. They will storm the Summershade Granite Quarry as they did the Temple of Sorrow.
May the dawn’s light protect my allies on this day, may it provide aid to the innocents trapped and alone, and may it offer redemption to all who will take the Goddess’ hand.
And yet… Jethro pauses in his prayers. His foreboding dreams have left him, and with them the trail to Dahak. The Scarlet Triad are in some ways a more insidious threat than the Cinderclaw cult, but in other ways more mundane. In the verdant jungle of the Mwangi, Jethro was battling beneath the bones of an ancient, evil dragon. Here he is ready to unlock the shackles of Kintargo residents forced into slavery. A noble purpose, to be sure. But somehow lesser.
The image of the dawn’s light in Jethro’s mind is replaced by a roaring, cleansing fire. Ever since defeating the Cinderclaws, another god has been with him. Jethro’s focus on the Dawnflower fades, replaced by prayers to Apsu, the Waybringer. The early morning light grants him an almost fever warmth. Jethro can feel a sharper, more savage purpose flow through him.
Evil must be destroyed in all its forms, and there can be no doubt that the Scarlet Triad is an evil force in this world.
May the great dragon’s claws crush their spirits, may he burn their very existence away with cleansing fire. May he leave only ashes behind. Ashes and light and Good.
And, earnestly, Jethro prays, within the Scarlet Triad’s ashes may he find the path back to Dahak.
Session 63: Where the Stone Giants Dwell
[Note: Session 62 intro was a cut-scene written by one of the players]
Robin Sterling’s enormous body slumps to the stone floor, his armor dented and misshapen. His bastard sword clatters, discarded.
Coxsackie looks at the stone giant who felled the warrior. She grips her wicked club, a weapon that is simply a smoothed column of wood with jagged rocks pounded into its head. The giant turns her murderous, white eyes to him and snarls something in her tongue.
The other stone giant answers angrily, and Coxsackie’s head spins to track his movement. His club is even less subtle than his companion’s–apparently the brute merely uprooted a tree, shook out the dirt, and started swinging it.
Their weapons and primitive fur attire do not give the impression that this lot is particularly smart. And, Coxsackie wonders, do they even speak Common? In hindsight, his opening gambit was doomed. It’s too bad, too. That opening was going to be fun. Yet all this lot seems to understand is strength and violence, throwing heavy rocks and swinging heavy clubs.
A bloody grin splits the Last of the Scuttlestouts’ mouth. Alright then. Time to show these big brutes that goblins speak violence just fine.
At that moment, a deep, chest-shaking growl echoes within the cave. The male giant says something to the other, and both of their faces–painted to look like skulls–grin back at Coxsackie.
The goblin glances over to the impressive barrier stretching between him and his remaining team. Swordblades spin and dance magically in the air in a dizzying display. Robin’s abandoned sunrod shines off the metal crazily, making frantic spots of light everywhere. Coxsackie briefly glimpses Pit’s wide-eyed face through the riot of blades and light.
The growl echoes again, closer. Coxsackie can hear heavy, shambling footsteps. Whatever is coming, it will be here in moments.
Session 64: Jethro’s Demise
To Robin Sterling, the cave is suddenly and completely dark. He’d seen a giant skeleton in robes raise its bony hand and release a black, shadowy globe. A numbing chill had spread throughout the cave. And then the light was simply… gone.
Robin can still hear the spinning blades of Jethro’s wall. He still hears the snuffing, wet grunts of the undead cave bears.
The skeletal giant speaks in its language, followed by a thud near him where he’d last seen Jethro. Pit speaks a druidic incantation, casting some spell that Robin cannot see.
Amidst these many sounds, Robin’s keen ears pick up the distinct voice of a stone giant. In broken Common he hears the giant’s shout echo outside and across the quarry walls…
“THEY ARE HERE! THEY ARE HERE!”
Session 65: Too Much Death
Coxsackie is the first to see it: some sort of light source around the corner of the tunnel, back the way they’d come and getting closer. He gapes as suddenly a translucent, golden dragon flies into view. It is utterly silent and majestic, its spread wings disappearing into the cavern walls on either side. Neither the undead cave bear nor the stone giant seem to notice as it passes through them.
Robin Sterling blinks in astonishment as the dragon glides over Coxsackie’s head, straight towards him. The warrior can’t help but flinch at first as it passes into him, but the dragon leaves Robin with nothing but a slight, soothing warmth. Its tail lashes silently to one side as it flies onward, and the dragon continues down the stone tunnel.
Pit, injured and eyes wide, can hear the growling of what Barushak had called a guardian devil, a hamatula, in the next chamber. They can still see in their mind’s eye the blue, barbed creature. Thoughts spinning and plans forming, the mushroom leshy is astonished when the ghost-like dragon emerges from Robin’s back and continues down the corridors and over their capped head without a sound.
Obedience Fletcher is around a darkened corner when he sees the light approaching. He crouches down, hiding in the diminishing shadows as he’s practiced endlessly, when the gold dragon flies into the room. It silently flaps it wings, banks, and heads off down the corridor. The dragon’s translucent form disappears around the corner and the light steadily fades. In mere moments, the room is once again dark.
None of the companions speak at the sight. But each knows the same inexorable, undeniable fact as they see that spirit dragon, glowing like a new dawn…
Jethro Vermillion is dead.