[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 46: Cypress Point Continues
The second drake, a blur of ashen red, gray, and yellow, roars as it arcs overhead. Suddenly a blast of fire, the second in as many heartbeats, rocks the town street. Scarlet Triad corpses burn and scatter. Helgi, the dwarven thug, screams briefly before falling backwards into the dirt, body smoking next to that of her beloved boar Beauty.
As the chaos clears, you see that Jethro Vermillion lies dying, his robes blackened by fire.
And from atop the town’s smokehouse, booming laughter echoes across the empty streets.
“Ha! You are formidable, I admit, even if you are not man enough to face me in hand-to-hand combat! But no match for my pets, eh? Ha!
“With your healer down this fight is over. Surrender! Better life as a slave then no life at all. So you stand down, yes?”
Session 47: Genie’s Smile
Vavienne angrily closed one nostril with her thumb and blew snot upon the wooden planks of the dock.
“Purple skinned, cocky fuckwad,” she muttered. “Not your fucking handmaiden you fuck.”
Vavienne paused and looked back the towering, dark sides of their ship, the Genie’s Smile. Its gunwales were too high to see anything up on deck, which was part of its design.
It also meant that Bullbutcher couldn’t see her. She raised her middle finger where she imagined he was sitting and then hocked up something juicy to spit.
A voice echoed in her head and made her jump. She swallowed the ball of phlegm.
“Do hurry,” Bullbutcher growled. “Tell One-Eye we’ve overstayed our welcome and to finish his fun. We should shove off.”
“Shove off, you piece of in’uman fucking garbage,” Vavienne said, but with her voice lowered, just in case. “I’ll tell One-Eye, a’ight. I’ll tell him you’re a sadistic fuck what gets completely out of control when he’s not around. Makin’ the rest of our bloody lives miserable.”
She rubbed one hand up the side of her shaved head, where the demon had cuffed her. It was still bruised, tender.
One of the blood boars approached her on the dock, snorting.
“Piss off, piggy. Ugly fucking animal. Stay here. I gotta go get ‘e boss.”
Still muttering, she stomped with a purpose down the wooden planks, towards the makeshift barricade they’d assembled after getting most of the cargo onboard. Crates, an overturned fishing boat, and lobster cages stacked at the end of the dock. Vavienne made for the only place she could squeeze through. She was determined to find One-Eye, to get back to Kintargo, and to put this whole fucking voyage behind her.
Session 48: The Boathouse
Jethro Vermillion is lying on a stone bed beneath an enormous, marble willow tree. Stars wink and glint overhead, like diamonds on black cloth. A slight wind stirs, fluttering his hair. He is both relaxed and uneasy, a paradox that does not bother him on this night and yet bothers him greatly.
As he shifts his focus dreamily from the night to the tree, he sees that what he first thought were leaves are actually pale butterflies, their wings stirring slightly in the breeze.
A butterfly detaches from a limb and begins dancing in the air, down, down towards his face. Jethro can see the pattern of small stars on its wings, lovely and terrifying. More butterflies detach, and then more, and in moments Jethro’s vision is filled with a cloud of butterflies descending upon him.
The butterflies coalesce into a young, robed elf maiden, beautiful and filled with innocence. She looks at you kindly and rests a hand upon your chest.
“You are fortunate your gods are with you, young priest, otherwise you might have succumbed to the cursed stone. Beware the dreamstone with the star, which has been corrupted by hags. Carry with you the dreamstone with the butterfly and I will always watch over your sleep. Be well, now. Rest.”
A great, metallic dragon soars overhead, and as it passes the night sky turns into the brilliant light of dawn.
Jethro awakes, feeling refreshed.
Session 49: The Road to Kintargo
“May your gods watch over you, Heroes of Cypress Point,” Xerelilah trumpets, her voice clear and strong in the morning air. Villagers all around her cheer. Two young women awkwardly jostle each other, both crying and attempting to catch Robin’s eye with their frantic waves. Children laugh and run alongside the wagon, waving and calling after Coxsackie and Pit.
At the front of the wagon on the buckboard, largely oblivious to the surrounding commotion, Jethro and Obedience sit next to one another in silence. The cleric looks more refreshed than normal, the shadowed circles beneath his eyes faded. Those eyes fix on the horizon over the ocean, deep in thought.
Obe’s red eyes, meanwhile, stare straight ahead. He clicks his tongue reflexively and snaps the reigns, guiding the two mares and wagon down the ramshackle road.
The two companions have known one another half a year and shared a lifetime of adventure in that span. Yet right now, at this moment, on the road to Kintargo, they seem almost strangers.
At the back of the wagon, essentially a simple wooden box open to the sky, Coxsackie cackles and flexes to the fading crowd, standing with one foot resting on the wagon’s side. Robin smiles and tells the out-of-breath, scrabbling children to return to their parents and to be well.
And Pit, the mushroom leshy, sits calmly, eyes trained on the newest member of the group, Halleka Shadeborn. The man has piercing, unnaturally green eyes and slightly pointed ears, suggesting some distant ancestry other than human. He clutches both hands tightly in his lap, staring stiff-backed at the road ahead, seemingly willing the horses to hurry.
As the wagon turns a corner, Cypress Point disappears from view. The six of you are on a coastal road in Ravounel, clouds scattered across a clear blue sky. For a moment, the only sounds are the ocean breeze, the clop-clop-clop of horses’ hooves, and the rhythmic creak of wagon wheels beneath you.
Session 51: Kite Hill
For a moment, he was ignored and left alone. Hundy Vosht looked down at his hands, resting limply in his lap. They were caked in blood and grime, his fingernails almost black. What skin he could see was raw, his knuckles swollen like knobs on a willow branch. All in all, he could not deny that his hands looked like the hands of a tortured prisoner.
And yet, they were again hands. The human cleric–had he learned their names? The last couple of days were shadowed ghosts in his mind. Hundy shook his head, focused again on his hands. The human cleric had quickly and masterfully healed him.
He flexed his swollen fingers, all ten at once experimentally. It hurt, but they responded. Earlier that morning–or had it been at night? How would he know? Hundy squeezed his eyes shut. Earlier, he had glanced over at his manacled wrists and not recognized the misshapen lumps of flesh as anything belonging to a body. He shuddered at the memory of those melted wads of wax where his hands should have been. Soon afterwards he’d broken, telling the demon and the human brute everything he knew about the Bellflower Network.
The Bellflower Network! The name made Hundy’s head snap up and eyes open. The cleric was healing his companions, working with murmured words and practiced, confident movements. His nameless saviors were a strange bunch — two humans, two goblins, and a walking, talking fungus the likes of which Hundy had never seen. And yet formidable. The corpses of his torturers and chunks of inanimate stone all around him attested to their skill.
Could this group undo his misdeeds? Might they save the Bellflower Network where Hundy had doomed them? For a moment hope fluttered deeply within his chest like a butterfly.
The halfling’s eyes roamed the cavernous warehouse, with its broken containers. Bolts of brightly-colored silk lay across bloodstains.
Within the silence of the warehouse, the hope in Hundy’s chest died. No. Capable or not, these newfound heroes were too late. Hundy’s doom could not be undone. He choked down a sob, his eyes falling back to the blood caked onto his aching hands.
Session 52: Long Roads Coffeehouse
The two figures rise from the bloodstained coffeehouse floor.
Both are identical–the upper torso of a middle-aged human man, partly encased in ornate, ceremonial armor and partly in ragged and torn vestments. Each carries an elaborate mace, burning with spectral fire and dropping ghostly embers from the weapon’s length. Below the waist, each figure’s form dissolves into shadowy scraps, the fabric waving slowly as if underwater.
Several members recognize the ashen, angry face of the twin ghosts as belonging to Barzillai Thrune, the recent, tyrannical, and quite dead ruler of Ravounel.
As those identical pairs of cruel eyes scan Jethro and his companions, the spirits sneer in unison.
“Who dares disturb Barzilai Thrune unannounced?” they say in Common as one, each voice echoing as if in a much smaller room than the coffeehouse. The spirits blink and look momentarily confused. Their language then switches to Draconic. “And lo, what are these metallic dragons doing within Ravounel where they clearly do not belong? Begone, infidels! You are not welcome in Cheliax.”
Session 53: Lady Docur’s School for Girls
The human woman who climbs down the broken, bloodstained ladder does not look like a member of the Scarlet Triad. Indeed, she is unremarkable in most ways. Tall, but not overly so, with a thin, pinched face, pale skin, and short orange hair. She wears a simple robe of dark blue cloth. Her green eyes widen as she turns to face a grim-faced Robin Sterling and Obedience Fletcher. She glances at their drawn swords, and then to the serious eyes of Jethro Vermillion, standing behind Obe. No one speaks.
The human man who follows her down the ladder is even more unremarkable. Considerably shorter than his companion, his white robe strains against his prodigious belly. A red scarf entwines his neck, more haphazard than fashionable, revealing a somewhat flat, smashed face and balding pate.
Before he is even off the ladder, the woman pulls at the man’s robe. He too glances at Robin, Obe, and Jethro, his eyes then noting Pit through the open door. He sighs loudly even as Cocksackie, disguised as a City Watchman, cackles from the top of the ladder.
“Vikmanther, it appears the jig is up,” the woman says matter-of-factly in quite a different voice and accent than she had used before.
“Indeed it does, Zimora,” the man agrees, his voice and accent also changed.
He tugs his robe once to straighten it as he fully steps from the ladder. “So,” he asks to the crowd of adventurers, “If you don’t mind me asking, what gave us away, then?”
Session 54: To Tanessen Tower’s Top
Arlethi Soumaila arranges the slices of blueberry bread carefully in a fan-like pattern across the plate. Blueberries are out of season in Ravounel, of course, but Lady Docur insisted the school always keep a store on ice. “No one can be unpleasant with the smell of fresh-baked blueberry bread in their nose,” the headmistress often said. A breakfast tea sits steaming in its decanter on a small table, adding to the welcoming aroma in the room.
Two entry bells ring, one after the other. Arlethi winces at the discord of the two sounds together, out of sync. The Visitors bell has been tugged once with assurance. That would be the cleric, Arlethi presumes, the apparent leader of the odd band of adventurers Lady Docur is backing. She remembers him as a young human man, one whose eyes hold the conviction of purpose and confidence. She could immediately see why the others followed him.
The other bell, the Pupils bell, is still ringing, the cord outside tugged like a six-year-old child playing with a new toy. That would be the infuriating, uncouth goblin with the offensive name. Arlethi suppresses a growl deep in her throat and composes her face. Last night Lady Docur had been quite clear on the matter of the goblin: Treat him as an honored guest. Do not let his uncivility rankle.
Arlethi tucks a strand of hair behind one pointed ear and scans the waiting room. She nods, straightens, and walks, gracefully and soundlessly, to the front doors. She opens the Visitors door, and blessedly the Pupils bell ceases ringing.
She greets the five of them in turn as they enter.
“Good morning, cleric of Sarenrae. May this morning’s Dawn greet you with glory.”
“Good morning, honored leshy. I have set aside special refreshments for you on the small side table. Please do let me know if you would prefer something else.”
To the less-onerous goblin, “Good morning, sir. May I take your hat or coat? I see. Well, you’re looking quite handsome today.”
Arlethi fights down the heat that rises to her cheeks as the half-elf warrior enters. “Good morning, sir. Please make yourself comfortable in the waiting room. And let me know if you need anything. Anything at all.”
And finally, “Good morning, honored goblin. May I ask why the Pupils bell this morning?”
“We’re here to LEARN some information. Is the lady here? We’d like to LEARN about a nefarious plot to steal little people and enslave them. We hope the lady can pupilize us.”
Without a hint of sarcasm, Arlethi nods. “Quite clever. Exactly right. Please enjoy the refreshments. Lady Docur will be joining in a moment.”
And with that Arlethi leaves you in the waiting room.