Luna here with another story from the Broken Compass Campaign. The comments had a few questions about the Evergreen family and the events that lead to our party earning our vials of alchemist fire that were used on the green dragon. So I figured this would be the best way to explain it all by telling the story of one of our early campaign plot hooks. I apologize this is a long one as it covers months of our campaign. I'll try and keep it brief but entertaining. I feel I should also mention this story is rated T for Teen including mentions of fantasy violence, drugs, and alcohol.
As many astute watchers and readers figured out, we were playing a highly modified version of The Lost Mines of Phandelver. No need to worry about spoilers since all of the following is not in the manual.
Now then to get started, I feel like I should explain Moss Evergreen. While he was introduced to us as a human, he's actually, a Half-Fae Druid who was kidnapped by a cult at a young age and then had a demon more or less embedded into his body. It's about as pleasant as it sounds. He was rescued by his mother and a group of adventurers but they could not undo the ritual, so he lived in pretty constant pain. This resulted in a decent amount of very poor life choices and a long party boy adventurer phase due to his 'well I'm going to die anyway' mentality. Something happened that snapped him into shape for the more part and for the last couple hundred years he started to focus on having a family, seemingly from a desire for normality in his life. However, because of his very strong fae ancestry and because he was at least a level 17 druid his life span greatly outlasted any spouse he married. Thus his current batch of 5 children from 4 different mothers. By the time our party met Moss the pain from the demon was near unbearable and he spent most of his time sleeping or on strong pain medications. He was no longer able to go out on adventures but that didn't stop him from keeping an eye on the newest batch of Hooligans to waltz into Phandalin. That is Moss Evergreen.
Shortly after one of our party members caused a major ecological disaster by absolutely destroying a lake, we were introduced to the first portion of Moss's children. The two that were still loyal to him, Willow the half-elf and Bark the half-orc. The trio of druids fixed the lake aside from the now very dead population of fish, gave our party a good slap on the wrist, then went on their way.
The two children stayed in town to look after their dying father. At this point, the guy had maybe 5 years left at best. For high-level druids who live 10 times their race's normal life expectancy, this felt more like a few weeks.
After the lake incident, the party started spending a bit more time with the Evergreen family. Most notably, our resident Male Half-Elvish Nature Cleric, Falkon, quickly became curious about the Half-Elvish daughter. For Falkon's backstory, he was the Half-Elf born from wedlock and raised in a city of High Elf puritans. In the end, he was raised by his father which was a bit of a double whammy for him growing up. He didn't really know any other half-elves. Even after being kicked out for a crime, he didn't commit.
That curiosity only increased after Falkon, Willow and our party's Warlock Midha went out hunting together. The DM let it slip that Willow was a Malarite, just like Falkon. Yep. This Nature Cleric served the Chaotic Evil Monkey God of hunting and bloodlust himself. Malar. (Honestly, I could write a whole blog post about that but I will refrain)
About two week's worth of in-game adventuring passed and it was a pretty typical cycle. Beat something up. get healed by Moss and crew, relax for a day, repeat. On one of these relaxation days, the party woke up and went down to the first level of the inn. As they were about to leave, the Innkeeper stopped them.
"Whoa, where do you think you lot are going?" they asked and quickly closed the door. "sorry but I don't recommend that. No one goes out on a foggy day. The people who do, go missing. We owe you guys at least that much to warn you not to go out there."
While Falkon took this warning to heart the others were not as put off.
"What?! Well what about the chicks and big mama" Fig, our female goblin warlock replied. We had recently taken ownership of some rather cute chicks and what we were told was an odd amalgamation of a dog and a chicken. I try not to think about it. but we named it big mama.
"They'll be fine." Falkon tried to reason but Midha, our Female Human warlock joined Fig's concern.
"If there is something out there kidnapping people we should really look into this…" Midha pointed out in return.
"We will help no one if we waltz out there without a plan and get kidnapped instead." The cleric countered which did not sit well with either warlock.
"Well if you're not going to help, then I'll just go ask Bark to take us to check on the chicks" Fig replied with a huff before turning to leave and Midha followed. Sure enough, Falkon goes with as well.
Moss's home was connected via magical doorway to a room he rented from the inn. so When that door was opened while the connection was active it would take you to Moss's house. [It had similar properties to the magic door in Howl's moving castle] As the 3 adventurers entered Moss's home, the two warlocks went to Bark's room while Falkon detoured to Willow's room and knocked on the door.
"You can come in Falkon" the voice replied which just caused the cleric to wince. Was he that predictable? All the same he entered the room and closed the door behind him. "Good morning." She greeted.
"Morning… Look. I was wondering about before. when you mentioned that you've been praying to Malar for a solution for your Father's illness. You're a…" The Cleric fumbled over his words.
"I am a Malarite, yes." She confirms as she takes a symbol from her bag. a dried bear claw.
"Cool…Cool um" He was having trouble processing this. Finding another half-elf was one thing but finding a half-elf that was also a Malarite when he'd never met another Malarite seemed like a one in a million chance. the two talked about this for a few minutes before she nodded
"Well, I'm head out." Willow saidwith a smile while staring down Falkon.
"…I'm not going to be able to talk you out of going outside. Am I?" He replies since he was currently standing in front of the door.
"Not a chance." She replied with a laugh which only causes the cleric to grumble but he steps out of the way of the door.
"FINE. But, when this all goes south I will be saying I told you so…" He says as they both leave, strangely at the exact same time that Bark, Fig and Midha left the other room to head to the door as well.
"I know you will…" She says quietly which caught the cleric's attention.
"Oh so now you're going with" Fig says with a frown.
"Because Willow is going" Midha points out annoyed, the cleric opens his mouth to protest but both warlocks cut him off from arguing otherwise. We meet up with Max, our male half-giant barbarian, and the 6 of us went into the dense fog that blocked out the sun.
As the group walked through the fog they eventually heard the sounds of a crying child. The party saw the figure of the child in the distance soon after as they ran towards the group, only for it to start screaming as it was swooped up by another and tossed around before being dropped. Willow was the first to rush over to protect the child only to be snatched instead. the rest of the group followed after and surrounded the child to protect them, then started seeing shadows in the distance.
"YOU GIVE HER BACK" Fig shouted and ran off as well
"Fig no! Dang it all." Falkon called but it was too late ".. I told you this was a bad idea…" he muttered as a thought dawned on him but he brushed it aside to focus. "Everyone, take a defensive position! We need to get back to the inn," The cleric shouted as the 4 remaining adventurers moved to a more defensive stance while doing what they could to protect the child.
While Fig did manage to land a hit against the figure she had started chasing, she was snatched up and knocked out. Before anything else could happen a thin statuesque man laughed to get their attention. Sure enough, as the remaining party looked up, they saw Fig being held by her ankle and dangling over the roof of the Inn. this distraction was all they fog bound hunters needed as the party was in turn surrounded and grappled.
"Let this be a warning to you." the figure said and dropped Fig off the roof and into a pile of wooden barrels. The lackies grappling the party laughed. The one grappling Falkon ran their fangs along his neck. Oh great, Vampires.
"Are we sure we can't take the rest of them. I want to keep this one as a pet." They taunted with another short laugh.
"you heard the boss. Just the girl" One of the others replied which was met with a scoff before all of the vampires left and Willow was likewise nowhere to be seen. The group collected Fig's body and re-entered the Inn now with the crying child in tow that Falkon was left to carry. Falkon was pissed off, to put it mildly as he started to put a few dots together. Willow knew he was at her door without looking, she knew what he was going to say as a result of their trip into the fog, she had proven many times in the past that she knew a lot of things well before she should have…. she knew she was going to get kidnapped and yet she went out into the fog anyways. The party went to Moss and after healing the child and Fig, the Druid looked to the group and asked where his daughter was. To which they had to explain that she had been taken by vampires.
"That no-good son of a" the druid cut himself off as he forced himself out of his chair. Despite his youthful appearance, he acted more like a withered old man "I'm going to go get her I can't believe he'd resort to this to steal her" The druid started but stopped as he entered a coughing fit.
"You're in no position to fight vampires, you can barely leave your house without being in pain." Falkon points out to which the elder druid responded with a resigned and frustrated sigh. "We will go and bring her back, it's the least we can do for the help you've given us," The cleric says to which Midha, Max and the now awake and recovering Fig agree.
Moss thinks on this before nodding " Very well… If you're going to fight vampires then you're going to need help." This was a complete and utter understatement. We needed a miracle. "The best bet for fighting a vampire is to bring along some werewolves. So, who will go with me to recruit some help" and the party is silent but eventually Falkon's player had the cleric step forward.
"I'll go," Falkon agrees to which Moss laughs a bit and walks to the door, twisting the lock causing the air around them to shift to a more humid and earthy scent.
"Great, just remember when you're staring down a wolf, don't run." He adds and opens the door for the two only to find they were exiting a doorway cut from a tree. moss closes the door behind the two and the two walk forward through the trees.
A few good rolls and a bit of luck later, they returned with one werewolf named Lykos, who was willing to help aid in the rescue of Moss's daughter. From there, Moss made his batch of infamous alchemist fire and the party had the local blacksmith dip their weapons in melted silver coins. Thanks to some really good luck from an earlier event involving a notorious deck of ivory cards, Falkon had a decent amount of money which was put into making a few vials of holy water for each player putting our inventory at 5 vials of alchemist fire and 3 vials of holy water each. All of this took about 3 days and gave fig time to recover. With their very hasty preparations made, the group of 5 hitched up two of the three horses to the caravan and left first thing in the morning. After another 24 hours of trekking up towards Neverwinter and a rather pesky Strige attack. The party was now level 3.
After looking around and gathering information the party found that the vampire den was connected to a rather Seedy business that was basically a smoking bar of questionable legality. The vampires would get the patrons high, and then drink their blood without anyone finding out. for the more part.
"So what do we do now?" Fig asks as the group just stood in front of the building.
"I don't know…" Midha added and that was most of the party's response. none of us were really sure how to deal with this. at best the 5 of us were going against a large group of CR 5 enemies (Vampire Spawns) and at worst there were a crap ton of CR13 enemies in there(Genuine Vampires). No one was thrilled about either option.
"We have the supplies but, we don't really have a plan…" Falkon admits.
"Hm. Welp no time like the present," Fig said with a shrug, before using Mask of many faces to disguise herself as a wealthy-looking elf "We'll go in get some information walk out and make a better plan" she said then walked right into the building and the others followed after.
The 5 walked up to the main counter and after some sputtering and thankfully high rolls, we didn't tip off the vampires right away that we were there for a fight. Instead, the party was set up in one of the private rooms and rather consistently monitored as a hostess tried to pressure Max into smoking.
"It's easy here I'll help you." they offered to Max with a smile. Without missing a beat Max's player had the half-giant retort.
"Tempting but, I wouldn't want to make my Husband jealous" and put their arm over Falkon's shoulder. the party started cracking up as the long-running joke of our group, where Max would refer to Falkon as his husband, actually came in use.
the DM rolled insight versus the half giant's deception and the ruse stayed as the hostess left clearly frustrated.
Things kind of got out of hand after this. Fig and Lykos went off to try and look for clues. The three that stayed behind, waited in silence then all of a sudden they saw Lykos run by the room in wolf form as smoke poured in and patrons were running to the exit screaming about a dog setting the building on fire. The plan escalated from we're going to get clues to, we're setting this building on fire to smoke them out.
Falkon, Midha and Max regrouped with Fig who was now in Goblin form as she found a stone door that led to the basement of the building. As we walked down the stairs we wound up corned as a vampire walked down the stairs behind us. We proceeded to take turns blasting this poor vampire up the stairs only for them to tumble down and get blasted again. Even then they still did considerable damage to the team and we were down some very critical spell slots. In the end, Lykos rejoined the group getting the killing blow before Falkon put a wooden crossbow bolt through their heart and poured holy water on them for good measure.
"Are you done?" a voice asked from the bottom of the stairs as another vampire seemed to be watching. while we did manage to take down one. we already knew we couldn't handle a second. "Follow me, you're expected." the party was silent as usual, thinking over what to do.
"I guess we're following then." Falkon's player says and the others quietly agree.
the party was led into a large room with a dining table that could seat 30 people easily.
At the head of the table was a well dressed highly groomed male vampire with willow sitting to his right wearing some Gaudy black dress and her wrists cuffed to the table. The female druid looked to the party with a remorseful expression.
"Well I see you've all managed to successfully make a mess of my home," the vampire says before taking a bite from his plate of food. "Though, I suppose I do owe you some thanks since you saved me the trouble of killing the dredge you left as a heap in my stairwell. Send my apologies to the child he attacked and their parents. Honestly, it's so hard to find good help these days"
The party remained silent so per usual Falkon spoke up. "You'll let her go or you'll meet the same fate." While well-intended, we didn't realize at the time what we fought in the stairwell was only a vampire spawn, the CR 5 option, so, we kinda figured, maybe we could handle this even if it would really hurt? Turns out, the guy at the table and the one that led us to him were both pureblood vampires, the CR13 option. Now that we know this we bless our stars we were not instantly killed.
"Ooooh playing the tough guy. They do like it when their hero is brave don't they" the vampire rolled their eyes "Luckily for you I have no interest in adding more blood to my carpet and my debtor wanted you all alive." he adds with a scoff before unlocking willow's shackles. This exposed some red irritation around the druid's wrist from being in contact with metal since she was allergic to it.
"Willow my love, do be a dear and stop by more often, I do miss your visits. Seems like your pesky father won't let me see you at all anymore" the vampire requests and she quickly stood up in response and walked over to join the group. The vampire chuckles at this. "You're all free to leave." He waves them off "the back entrance shouldn't be on fire. but before you go tell me this." The vampire requests as his smile turned dark. "Who is watching over Phandalin while you're gone?"
All at once, it clicked that this whole plot was merely someone else plan to get us away from the town we were protecting. Collectively we all scrambled to leave the building with Willow in tow. Once we made it outside it was explained we could see huge pillars of smoke on the horizon in the direction of Phandalin. There was no way we could make it in time.
"How are we going to do this…" Was repeatedly ask by all the players.
"Can we ride through the night?" one asked
"Yes, but it will cost you and the horses a point of exhaustion and you won't get your spell slots back" the DM replied.
" Ok, I'm going to take the Riding horseback to Phandalin I can take one more person with me. Everyone else, take Willow in the Caravan and get a night of rest then join us a few hours later." Falkon's player stated as a plan and had Falkon get on his riding horse. "Any objections and who is going with me?"
No objections. "I'll go with, I recover spell slots based on short rests and since I would not be controlling the horse I should be able to recover my spell slots." Midha's player offered.
"Ok, let's go then" Falkon's player agreed, and with that, they were off to the burning town. Sure enough, even with the boost of riding through the night, they were too late and the more of the town had been burned down. they Mayor was killed and many were severely injured as the inn was being used as a hospital, and tables were now beds. Falkon and Midha split up, Midha joined the town guard to watch the borders and prepare for further attacks while Falkon got to work tending to the injured, giving Moss a chance to rest. The party rejoined a few hours later and saw the same devastation each one going off to help how they could. Willow had a very touching reunion with her family who all cried happily, as they were grateful for her safe return.
Falkon continued to work on the patients for several more hours before willow snuck back out of the Evergreen home. "Falkon, it's good to see you again."
he gives a tired smile in greeting "It's good to see you as well, How are you doing?"
"Better, still a bit sore from the ride back but. better… Thank you, and sorry for the trouble… you probably have some questions…" Willow says quietly.
"A few yes." He admits "but before I forget…I told you so." The cleric says with a small smirk in an attempt to A) play down that she'd caused him any trouble, and B) hint that he's already figured a few things out.
Willow seemed surprised at first before breaking into laughter "Oh gosh, that. yes again I am so sorry. That really is well-deserved isn't it" she replies while trying to compose herself.
"Maybe next time, just tell me what is going on?" The cleric requests in return.
"Oh no. um. I couldn't tell you I'm sorry" she replied and offered the cleric a hug as consolation which he accepted, figuring she probably needed one after everything she just went through.
"You couldn't tell me because you didn't know… or you couldn't tell me because it would change the outcome," Falkon asks initially but after a moment of silence adds in "you don't have to answer that."
"It changes the outcome…And most of the time it becomes the worst of them all." She admits and clung to the cleric a bit tighter. at this point, more dots started to connect and it only made the cleric feel more guilty for asking since he knew she blamed herself for the death of her older brother and now it made sense why.
"I suppose if I'm going to stick around Phandalin… I'm going to need to start accepting that you are probably always going to be right" Falkon suggests with a weak smile.
"Please don't feel guilty, my brother, he lived a full life…" Willow said as she let the cleric go at this point.
"Is that written on my face or, were you able to read my mind as well?" Falkon asks and decides to test this by thinking that [he's glad she's back safe and sound and that despite everything she still looks as radiant as ever.] If it turned out she was reading his mind that would hopefully get some sort of reaction and if not then no harm no foul.
Her eyes went wide as she covers her mouth “oh no I’m so sorry, sometimes I forget I’m doing that, I shouldn’t have done that” she said looking away for a moment.
It was Falkon's turn to laugh "I see, well good to know." He admits as he moves to return to check on the nearest patient "I'll forgive your unintended visits into my mind if you'll forgive the mess." He offered in return as he worked, he wasn't completely sure if she'd heard his last thought but added "for what it's worth if you did hear that, I was being genuine." the cleric offered as he focused more on the patient, though his face felt a bit warm.
the two half-elves share a kiss and the DM smiles "I think that's where we'll end it for today."
And that is how our party fought vampires alongside werewolves, saved the day, and found love along the way. For those worried about Falkon's 'Husband' Max, he also finds his own love connection in Damien the homunculus, shortly after our dragon encounter and right before the civil war. but that's another story for another time.