Party arrives in Eclipse late afternoon. Bard strikes a deal with Bar Wench Joy at the Mule & Pickle (the one in Eclipse, not Haribo; it’s a chain) that if she plays well their drinks will get comp’d. She starts to rock out to the joy and curiosity of the younger folks and the general disgust of the older crowd who promptly move back or leave. A buxom ginger (that’s Druid) happens to be there and she and Bard connect on a deeply spiritual level thanks to the power of melodic (acoustic) death metal. Druid demands the best bottle in the inn from Bar Wench Joy, who apparently ignores her.
Monk strikes up a conversation with a town elder and is referred to Nipmak, the town cobbler. Monk exits the inn on the pretense of visiting said cobbler but is really tailing the town witch (who is also a dude! Witches are equal opportunity employers; go figure). Luckily they happen to be on the same road. Nipmak informs Monk that a lot of his shipments out to the smaller towns are getting taken out by animal ambushes and gives Monk a gathering quest for fur pelts (thank god it’s not teeth). When Monk leaves he sees Nipmak close up shop and motion Buckmaw (the witch) over. They speak briefly and part ways.
Monk goes back to the inn and is approached by the beautiful buxom ginger (Druid) – but doesn’t hit on her (!!) – instead talking to her like she’s an intern. He lets her know that joining the party is very dangerous — just yesterday he saved Barbarian’s life from a vicious bear! Monk then turns and convinces a drunken Barbarian to give him the pelts he collected earlier but does not say why. Bard takes a break from rocking out to join the party in getting the town gossip from Bar Wench Joy. Bar Wench Joy comments on not liking “your kind” when referring to the Druid’s class. Bard exclaims this to be racist. Bar Wench Joy then elaborates that about a week back or so some Druids came into town, rambling about the treatment of animals, and started a bar fight. Bard exclaims that was very rude of them. Bar Wench Joy asks Bard how old she is (she begins counting on fingers, mouthing the words silently as she counts).
Bard and Druid, after just barely having made introductions, go to visit the witch. Buckmaw inquires how Monk (who conveniently appears in a puff of smoke since we forgot how he got there) got his scar. As he answers Bard cuts him off to say “A bear!”
“Big and brown? Answers to Hank?”
“….Were we supposed to talk to him first? Do bears normally answer to names? Did we miss that in a brochure or something?”
Apparently there is a totem animal bear in and around the area which the party may have killed. No one mentions what the consequences doing so might be, and no one asks. Buckmaw notes that the attacks have been radiating from the Old Fortress to the West (OFttW). Buckmaw also notes that Bard and Druid are abnormally friendly and is a little weirded out by this. Monk decides party will go out at the crack of dawn to investigate OFttW, despite Bard’s ineffectual pouting. Jokes on him ‘cause she’s got a free room. Which apparently includes a bed-warming Barbarian.
Druid gets up at dawn and demands the best cheese danishes from the local baker. I’m starting to notice a pattern. Druid meets Monk, Barbarian, and Bard back at the inn. Bard destroys the danish with glee. A serving boy sees this and says “that was SO metal”. Bard gives him devil horns both figuratively and literally in response and party heads out.
The further west they go they notice fewer and fewer birds (that’s foreshadowing to something unnatural). Party arrives at OFttW and are confronted with an unnaturally thick fog. Druid explains that the fog is a sign that magic maligned with nature is being/has been performed. Bard gets the Druid to help her toss flaming moss into the fog to try and dissipate it and get an idea of what’s ahead — which works somewhat. They are greeted with a deep growling deep within the mist. After Druid and Monk utterly fail to perceive the source, Bard asks “Hank??” The first growling stops. “Sorry about that! Are you OK?” Growling from a second source starts. Monk tries to sneak forward and triggers initiative rolls.
Wuffs! Rats! Giant Bear!
Bard swings her axe ‘round and gives the Monk some motivation, even though he doesn’t consider what she does as music. She moves to the edge of the vestibule and readies herself to thwack Wuff 1 as it runs pass. Hank rears up and roars so loudly it shakes the foundation. Druid notes that it’s unnatural, and suggests they leave him the eff alone. Monk shrugs, and nonchalantly skewers Rat 1’s skull with his staff.
Wuff 1 charges and Bard swings, wiffing horribly. Wuff 1 tries to take out her achilles tendon but Bard squeals and nimbly hops out of range. Rat 2 jumps up Bard’s skirt to bite her leg. She takes one point of damage. Barbarian is enraged by this affront and charges forward, knocking the Monk out of the way to pummel the rat. However, Barbarian slips on the previously flaming moss and falls flat on his face. Druid rushes forward and casts Animal Friendship, convincing Wuff 2 to sit this one out. Successful, Druid approaches Hank, waving her arms and entreating him that the party comes in peace (despite the Monk, Bard, and Barbarian attempting to kill them).
Bard, totally freaked out that there’s a rat in her skirt swats at it, flinging it against a column and breaking its spine (doing 2 whole points of damage!). “I will visit upon thee twice over any damage you do unto me!!” bellows the Bard, displaying that she can do simple maths.
Hank lumbers over to Druid, sniffing inquisitively. Monk wacks Wuff 1 with his staff and then bops him on the nose. He misses, throat punching Wuff 1 and killing him instead. Barbarian finally gets up and rushes over to fuss about Bard.
Druid sees the bear has a red streak from snout to tail and is completely clueless as to its significance. “Hank?” Bear stares Druid down then begins a very low growl. Druid wisely backs the fudge up. Bard strikes a pose and exclaims “I know what will soothe the savage beast!” and begins to play a surprisingly soothing guitar riff. Hank raises up on his hind legs, lifting his arm and struggles to throw up devil horns before landing down. He roars and fog starts to fill in from a spiral staircase leading down in the far back of the room.
Bard recalls a story in which Necromancers breathe a fog which, when touching animals that have recently been harmed/killed by humans, either enrages them or brings them back from the dead. She points out that they should maybe remove the dead rats and dead wuff before the fog reaches them. Druid casts Speak with Animal so Hank can tell them to GTFO (Wuff 2 asks to play). Druid says run, Bard starts running, but Monk and Druid stay behind to parlay with Hank. Hank communicates as best he can that he can’t leave and is under the influence of the Necromancer and encourages them maybe to start running? Druid, Monk, and Wuff 2 leave, with Hank’s earth rumbling roar behind them.
Monk insists they wait and see if the fog dissipates. It doesn’t. Bard suggests since the flaming moss worked moderately well that they just burn the place down. Bard and Druid get bored and decide to go back to town to get flammable things and discuss recent events with Buckmaw. When they arrive in town a militia man stops them, alarmed that a red-marked beast is with them. Bard tries to explain that “everything’s totes cool! He’s with us!” Barbarian behind her flexes and grunts which utterly convinces the militia man that, in fact, things are indeed “totes cool.” Bard assumes there must be a leash law in town and runs off to market to get one, the Barbarian trailing behind her.
Druid and Monk bring Pete (the renamed Wuff 2) to Buckmaw who initially freaks the hell out that they brought a freak beast into his shop. The markings on Pete are fading and Buckmaw points out that the magic that bound him is dissipating fast. Pete will revert back to being a wolf within hours. Druid mentions they ran into Hank and Buckmaw recalls that a few months back Hank, who usually was very wary of humans, began to encroach on campsites. Druid and Monk mention they suspect a Necromancer is operating out of the OFttW. Buckmaw points out this is ridiculous because you have to be gravely injured or dead for a necromancer to gain power over you. Druid looks down to Pete and a sudden silence descends. She takes Pete out back.
The markings have become matted and dried-blood looking (because it’s actually dried blood). As the magic fades Pete begins to act less tame. Druid leads him further away from town, trying to encourage him to run off. The new moon phase rises and Pete falls dead. Druid weeps briefly and then stands up, brushes off her pants and says “welp, better lop off his head.” She brings it back to Buckmaw. Monk, completely unimpressed, inquires about where he might obtain some transportable fire.
It’s right about now that the Bard bursts in, Barbarian in tow, saying “GUYS! ISN’T IT GREAT?!” and holding up an intricately floral collar. “Pete’s going to LOVE it!” Druid bursts into tears, Bard asks where Pete is, and Monk jerks a thumb in his head’s direction. Bard starts wailing and walks out.
Monk drags party back to the Mule & Pickle, sitting the weeping Bard and Druid down at the bar. Monk asks for the highest alcohol content in the house. Bar Wench Joy sets down the blue bottle Druid had asked for the night before. Bard, in a deep depression asks for a drink. Bar Wench Joy nudges the blue bottle towards her and a slap fight ensues between Bard and Monk (Monk wins). Monk asks for empty bottles; Bar Wench Joy obliges. Monk asks for rags and she gives him a weird look. “Don’t worry; it’s for a friend!”