Morning arrived and with it, the High Priestess of the Triune Goddess at the linked portal in the Post Office. As the Priestess was surrounded by an honor guard of constables and paladins, the party opted to move forward ahead of her arrival to hopefully intervene on any threats being prepared, only Hardluck stopping briefly to lament his failure to anticipate and prepare authentic High Priestess souvenirs to hawk to the crowd. All was well until Iron Horse spotted his clanspeople, led by the drug peddler Sun Lizard, preparing what he insisted was a non-violent protest: they’d been told to show up, cause a scene, and throw some pig’s blood around. Having received orders from the Priestess to allow the protest to proceed, Iron Horse let them pass. The protest did prove to be non-violent, and the Priestess met them with a smile and a promise that their valid complaints had not be heard and as a sign of her goodwill…the Totem of the Ash would be returned to the Coyote Clan. As the Totem of the Ash had been stolen from the Priestess’s vault several days prior by our heroes and now stood proudly in the clan-chief’s dwelling, the protesters were somewhat taken aback.
Once again, the procession processed until Hardluck spied the ne’er-do-wells Grimna had told him about. He approached, gave the call-sign, ‘Orange Sky’, and ordered them to disperse, which almost all of them did at once. As the Priestess approached this location, clouds covered the sky, turning it a sickly orange, and portals to dimensions unknown to man opened, emitting first what looked to be stirge-like creatures, who scattered to the four winds-all except one who landed on one of the thugs who had apparently hidden himself in the crowd to watch what would happen next, drained him of his blood in a matter of seconds, and then turned to face the heroes, looking rather more substantial. Also coming through the portals were an amorphous shapeshifting creature, a large corrupted ogre or oni, a robed figure on a large floating disc who Zharra recognized as one of the Starcaller siblings, and several cat-sized mosquitoes with humanoid heads bearing Zharra’s (or more likely Zora’s) features, shrieking the word “DESPAIR!” in a shrill voice.
It was approximately then that the blood rain began to fall.
We will slide over the details of combat; suffice to say that the constables and paladins did as ordered and protected the civilians, the heroes prevailed against the monsters, the Priestess somehow erased the shapeshifter and Heinrich Starcaller from existence without so much as arching an eyebrow, and Hardluck’s new fuschia cloak was badly stained a dark russet.
The party herded the Priestess first to the civilian safe houses to have her assure the populace that all was under control, and then to the Merchant Prince’s mansion before setting off to determine what had just happened. Rains of blood, several of the party knew, were a trademark effect of witchcraft, which could produce powerful and widespread ritual effects so long as a catch was built in which would deactivate it. The ritual site also needed to have line of sight to the place affected, so Lear scaled the top of the Temple and attempted to use the tainted clouds to find a candidate. After an hour or so, and feeling more than a little ill, she located a circle in the mountains of the Coyote Clan. Hardluck located an old contact of his, a witch named Wither, and hired him as a ‘consultant’ for the low low cost of getting him out from under the lynch mob about to do terrible things to him. Wither was a veritable font of useful informatIon:
- Witchcraft uses pain to power the spells. Blood works well, children’s blood works best.
- The party’s three primary choices for figuring out the catch that would break the spell were a journey into the spirit world, or finding someone who was there when it was cast, or letting Wither cast a spell of his own, presumably using the blood of children.
- Destroying the ritual site won’t help. Killing the witch won’t help and will probably just get the witch to release their death curse on you. Only satisfying the built-in condition will end the effect.
Armed with this information and unwilling to stimulate the blood-of-children market, the party opted to head towards the Coyote Clan’s tribal grounds in the hopes of finding someone who could tell them how to break the spell, with a batch of peyote in their back pocket as a plan B.
It didn’t take long along the ride to the tribal grounds before our heroes were menaced by a group of riders on horseback. Iron Horse proved he was stronger than a regular horse by knocking it over onto one of the riders, Gable quickly determined that they were acting under some sort of mind control, and Hardluck found a medicine bag in one of their pockets which appeared to be a focus for the effect. Lear noticed that one of the riders, a shaman, was not under the effect and attempted to sway her to her side, an effort that proved completely unnecessary as she quickly called for the heroes to aid HER in freeing the others from mind control. The riders fell under a combined assault, Hardluck removed the mind-controlling bags from each of them, and our heroes could finally learn what had happened: the new champion and Iron Horse’s former lover, Twisted Rattle, had ascended to the chieftainship of the Coyote Clan after the sudden death of Standing Elk, the prior clan chief. She had taken an advisor, who looked suspiciously like Zharra, and the shaman, Songbird, saw this advisor place the medicine bags on each of the clanspeople. Songbird herself was immune, whether because she was magically adept or because she was not a native of the Coyote Clan she was unsure, but she said that the rain of blood and the mind control would last as long as Twisted Rattle remained clan chief. Iron Horse, grim with determination, led his friends to his homeland, where the eerily silent members of his tribe met him, parted ways to allow the heroes to the clan-chief’s dwelling, where Twisted Rattle sat, apparently waiting for him to receive his challenge for chieftainship of the Coyote Clan.