Dear Ladies and/or Gentlemen,
Hail and well met! If you’re receiving this, that means that you’ve been newly commissioned as an official Agent of the Order (congratulations) and that you’ve been assigned to the newly-formed “Team Pigeon”…overseen by none other than yours truly, Felkur. (Although in the Tantras circuits, I was known as the great “Felkur the Flummoxer,” stage magician and illusionist extraordinaire!)
I’ve gone over your individual files, and each of you shows particular promise. We’ll arrange our first group meeting soon for formal introductions, but I felt now was good time to talk about your first upcoming mission together.
The Order got word of an “anomaly” (basically anything they don’t quite understand) out in pasture-land, past New Moranay. Basically some sheep went missing, or got killed–I don’t have all the specifics yet. It’s right on the border between Rillanon (us) and Mistren, so neither city-state feels particularly responsible for looking into it. Also, common folk don’t have a lot of “pull” with authorities.
The shepherd in question, however, is Yentl, an old member of the Order herself. (She was with us before your time…had retired out east for a life of quiet, or so she had hoped.) We’re investigating as a personal favor. It might be nothing more than a roving pack of wolves, but it would be a big weight off the lady’s mind.
Anyway, make sure you take your Note to the Commissary and gear yourself up before we meet! I’ll see you all together soon.–Felkur the Flummoxer, DR 1491.08.21
Session Date: August 27th, 2019
Effective Character Level: 4
DR 1491.08.26 (Monday)
I gathered the members of First Squad, Team Pigeon for personal introductions and a quick briefing. Present were:
Eminarius “Mytho” Mythocletian III, a tiefling warlock. He explained how he hailed from a disgraced nobility, and that the Order had helped him during a particularly low point of his life.
Thelonius, a wood elf monk. Originally a street urchin, he had been taken in and trained in a non-religious monastery, departing only after the abbot had died.
Nagore Urruticoechea, a human cleric. Serving the concept of death directly, she showed interest in upholding the natural cycle of life and death.
Rock-in-Water, a tabaxi druid. She had been struck with wanderlust when young and had learned her trade from a druid outsider.
Finally, [Sean], a gnome eldritch knight.
I gave them two Sending Stones to keep in direct touch. They could use these to:
- Report their daily findings.
- Ask for detailed research on specific topics. (The results would be transmitted back the next day.)
- Request immediate combat support. (This option would, in most cases, require an end to their mission.)
I reiterated the basic points of the mission (find out what was causing the mysterious deaths on Yentl’s sheep farm) and pointed out that uncovering the truth and reporting back was their primary objective. They could choose to act beyond this mission, on their own initiatives, as long as they remembered they continued to reflect on the Order and its interests.
DR 1491.08.29 (Wednesday)
The agents took an Order coach to their destination, completing the final mile-and-a-half on foot. Yentl was encouraged to see them; and she allowed them to investigate her farm, the livestock, and the three sheep that had perished thus far.
Working together, [Sean] and Rock-in-Water studied the bodies. Each of the corpses had been ripped open, as if by great force. What puzzled them were the complete lack of bite, claw, or blade marks, and that all internal organs were still present. On top of this, all three heads were completely missing, leaving not a horn or tooth behind.
The most recent death had been four days prior, and the drizzling rain had washed out any clues that might have survived since then. Mytho spoke to the sheep directly, learning they had seen nothing when their kin had died, though they’d all heard a terrifying noise that had sent them into a panic.
Drawing on what she knew of the arcane, Nagore could remember no specific ritual that would result in bodies such as these. The party decided to send a quick mission report via Sending Stone, then perform a stake-out of the area at night.
By midnight, the drizzle had cleared, and a full moon helped illuminate the countryside. The party (and a few summoned animals) held positions around the stone-walled pen where the sheep were kept for the night.
Sometime shortly after midnight, a rhythmic chanting began north of them, up a slope and somewhere within a grove of fruit trees. As they strained their ears to catch the words, a sudden bang erupted from where a sheep had once stood. A sudden unearthly screech rent the air, fraying the nerves of several of the party members.
Theo’s sharp eyes caught a bizarre silhouette, flying quickly north from the pen. The party gave chase, but as soon as the first few arrows and eldritch blasts hit the creature, it turned skyward, quickly passing out of sight.
The party decided to press on north, towards the continued chanting. Passing into a grove of fruit trees, they came upon a circle of eight local arborists, performing some form of amateur ritual around a central tree that housed a dryad. After a few unsuccessful charms from both sides, an elf stepped up as a spokesman for the druids and explained their situation.
Seven years ago, a fungal blight had threatened the livelihood of the grove tenders. Using what magic they knew, they were able to supplicate the Feywild directly, whose denizens gifted them a dryad sapling. Every full moon since then, the arborists had performed a ritual to strengthen their dryad and her tree with ambient magic–magic that was, in turn, funneled into making the fruit trees healthier.
What hadn’t helped the druids’ efforts were a sudden invasion of metallic wood-boring beetles that had taken hold two summers ago. Though their pollination helped the farmers south of Yentl’s stead, the larvae burrowed in their trees. And the more the dryad bolstered the health of the trees, the richer the feast for the beetles. Additionally, the ambient magic had been steadily decreasing as of late, and their rituals were now taking longer and longer.
The arborists seemed honest enough, and their answers didn’t contradict Nagore’s arcane training nor Rock-in-Water’s druidic knowledge. The two groups parted for the night on tense but amicable terms.
The agents (minus Nagore, who had remained behind to study the newest sheep body), returned to the grove after breakfast. Noting the parallels between the magic-feasting beetles and the flying creature from last night, they asked the elf druid and dryad to show them the nearest infestation.
The group was attacked by three swarms of metallic wood-boring beetles, who were immediately attracted to their magical equipment. Where they landed on the agents, magical items had their effects suppressed, as the beetles’ antennae hungrily lapped up the energies. Physical weapons had difficulty hitting the tiny, swirling insects; and spells like eldritch blast were simply swallowed. (The dryad attempted aid, but she could do little more than try to feed the beetles into a stupor with her magic.)
Working together, the party was able to disperse two swarms of the insects and trap a third via webbing from Rock-in-Water’s spider form. Again, Mytho spoke to the beasts directly; and again he came up short, as the beetles expressed only interest in plants or magically-imbued items.
The first real break-through in the case came, in fact, from Nagore’s inspections of the freshest corpse. As before, there were no claw, tooth, or blade marks, and no sign of a struggle. The body seemed ruptured from the inside, and Rock-in-Water had reported hearing the organs themselves sizzling when they’d hit the grass.
The head was missing as well, but it was the neck wound that intrigued Nagore the most. The break was clean, but the wound wasn’t straight and flat, as one would expect from a weapon. Instead, Nagore had a sudden recollection of a lizard she had tried to catch when she was small; when she had seized the tail, the lizard had pinched it off via muscular action alone. That wound had looked almost identical to the one here.
With a sudden sinking feeling, Nagore checked for magical traces. The freshest body still had a touch of residue, but the strongest auras came from the still-living sheep surrounding her–auras that were strongest around their heads.
Nagore ran to alert the others, and they hastily penned word of their most recent discoveries to Felkur. His chilling reply came within the hour: