As Ives Sévère leaves the castle courtyard, he is struck by a strange feeling. As he walks with the rest of the party, he gets this incredible feeling of isolation. For the past few days, he’s been having nightmares; dreams he cannot quite remember. But now, in the empty streets of Bonifant, the visions return. The cityscape morphs into a desolate snowscape stretching as far as the eye can see. The unending sheets of white are broken only by a few gnarled trees. As he trudges through the trackless snow, he cannot shake the feeling that something is tracking him. There is no sound, no visual cue to betray this creature’s presence, only perhaps a strange, unearthly, sickly sweet smell. The power of the untamed wilderness presses in around him. Although Ives’ adversary is still distant, the distance is a small comfort. For in this desolation, there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. It is slowly but surely drawing closer, biding its time, waiting for exhaustion to set in…
Ives blinks and suddenly he is back in Bonifant. The crisp chill of the arboreal forest is replaced by the warm air of Vitalio in the springtime. The feeling of being tracked though, does not dissipate.
Ives says nothing about this disturbing vision, and continues on with his companions. Soon, they arrive at the warehouse that Amoril described. As they approach, they run into a mysterious man wielding a giant greatsword. He introduces himself as Claude Couturier, and after a few tense moments, they decide that they should be friends and enter the warehouse together.
Upon entering the warehouse, our heroes are greeted by a disturbing sight. Amoril is hanging from the center beam of the warehouse, a note pinned to his chest. MARKEDFORDEATH, it reads. Amoril was obviously tortured before he died. After a few brief reflections on the fact that crime doesn’t pay, our heroes begin to investigate the warehouse.
Their investigations are interrupted, however, by flaming arrows shot though the windows! Claude scrambles up onto a barrel, and returns fire. Ives tries to balance on some pegs in the wall to do the same, but instead slips, catching himself on some ropes hanging from the hooks.
In a moment of unfortunate timing, several men burst through the back door and head straight for the unfortunate rogue. Several spear wounds later, Ives is bleeding out on the ground. Gabriel and Sinoqui prove to be no match for the deadly assassins coming through the front door. They both fall unconscious as well.
As Ives slips closer to death, his consciousness begins to wander again. He finds himself back in that endless arboreal forest. He sees something different in the distance: the aberrant fortress. Its fleshy walls glisten in the sun. As Ives gets closer, you see a man, dressed in rags, outside the walls. He squats in the snow, gnawing on some meat. He smiles at Ives. The man’s mouth seems unnaturally wide, and there are too many teeth in his mouth. “We’ve been expecting you. Come and join me.” With growing horror, Ives realizes the man is eating human flesh. The entrance to the fortress looms behind him, like a gateway into nothingness. Ives smells that sickly sweet smell again, but instead of being borne on the wind, it seems to emanate, stronger than ever, from the door of the fortress. The man smiles at Ives again, and his features begin to shift. His mouth grows wider still, his fingers lengthen into claws. His feet begin to contort into a strange, massed shape. He opens his mouth as if to speak… and Ives finds himself in the warehouse again. Maximilian stands over him, a concerned look on his face. Ives lashes out wildly with his rapier, striking the unfortunate Jarl, who happened to be standing nearby.
Jarl, Maximilian, Jace, Claude, and Meldy manage to defeat the remain members of Ravenous. One of the assassins reverts to a changeling when he dies. Meldy casts a paralysis spell on the last bandit, and the PCs tie him up and interrogate him. Maximilian uses his gem of true seeing to ensure the bandit is not a changeling. He is reluctant to talk, but after Claude smashes a couple barrels, he reveals the locations of three more Ravenous safehouses. One of them is the former Delacroix manor.
Meanwhile, the PCs investigate the back room of the warehouse. They find a few barrels full of poison and a stone circle. Meldy explains that the stone circle is likely a portal, perhaps to somewhere in the Feywild. Sinoqui notes that the barrels appear to be made in the Feywild. The PCs decide to destroy the circle. Maximilian softly throws a rock at the tied-up bandit.
The PCs decide what to do next. Maximilian suggests that they inform Meldy about what has just happened, forgetting that the girl is standing right in front of him. Although acting on the new intelligence they’ve gathered is important, it won’t don’t much good to attack Ravenous with four half-dead party members. They decide to rest in a nearby warehouse. As they settle in to do so, they hear hoofbeats approaching. Jarl goes out to greet them.
They are two of the castle guards. They are looking for the PCs. They tell them to go to the Fountain of Victory; something has happened.
At the Fountain of Victory, the PCs are greeted by a disturbing sight: dozens of dead bodies, some of them still hanging from the trees and statues surrounding the fountain. One of the guards handling cleanup approaches. “We counted forty-six bodies.” “Two for every hostage we rescued,” notes Meldy quietly. “Don’t tell me that, Meldy,” says Jarl. “There also was a note,” continues the guard. “I think you should take a look at it.” The note reads: “Embrace your parents. Hold your children close. They have been marked for death. Their blood is on your hands.” Following this chilling statement is a list of names, including the PCs and their family members. Maximilian is glad that he’s kept his identity secret, and Jace is glad that he has no family in Bonifant.
Despite this disturbing news, our heroes decide their best bet is to stick with their current plan. They head to a nearby abandoned store to rest before striking again. As they approach the store, a lone figure blocks their path. It’s Hivan the Peredhil. He scolds Jarl for joining with the humans, who obviously cannot take care of themselves. Hivan says that he protected the sick peredhil at the peredhil embassy from a Ravenous revenge strike while Jarl led the able-bodied peredhil away. Jarl remains resolute in his dedication to the rule of Vitalian lore. Hivan confesses he has doubts after Saffron turned out to be a succubus. He admits that if Saffron were to reappear before him, he might welcome her back. Jarl is understanding. Hivan departs, and the party heads to rest.
Our heroes wait for nightfall, then slip over the wall. They are careful to be sure they are not being followed. They make their way to the Temple of Torm. Their knock on the door is answered by a high elf, Sinoqui Amakiir. She verifies their identity and lets them in. Jace makes a mental note that she seems to be much younger than him, and is probably still a child by elven standards. (Elves are considered adults until they are about 100 years old, even though they reach physical maturity at the same age as humans.)
Jarl goes and gets Father Anders. The priest is tending to sick children, but tells Jarl that things are looking up. Meldy has brought a Decanter of Endless Water, and his healing magic has cured most of the children. After a short conversation, the party realizes that they need to talk to Meldy as well. She is woken up and brought outside.
After some discussion, Maximilien Delacroix asks about the contact that Meldy had said was going to meet them. Meldy agrees to take the party to meet this contact. She leads them to a Team Zalthannus safehouse. Maximilien is surprised by this development, since Meldy is not a member, and therefore she should not know about the safehouse. Nevertheless, he approaches the door at Meldy’s request, holding up his symbol of membership in the adventuring guild.
The door opens, and Maximilien is greeted by his fellow Zalthannian, Perra Talstar. She recognizes him, but manages to call him Manfred, thus preserving his secret identity. Perra introduces a man by name of Pierre. Pierre is also not a member of Team Zalthannus, and should not be at the guild safehouse. Maximilien does not have the moral high ground, however, because he is bringing about ten other non-Zalthannians to the safehouse. Perra scolds him for this, but the ranger changes the subject to defeating Ravenous.
Perra has a plan for that. She and Pierre have acquired a large amount of dragon’s fire, a dangerous and illegal explosive. They plan to use it to destroy the barricades that Ravenous has set up around the castle. Do they have a plan for saving the hostages there? “Hope that they’re not too close to the explosions?” Perra suggests. The party is not OK with this plan, and instead Jarl leads the party to the peredhil embassy, hoping to recruit more soldiers to the party’s cause. The able-bodied peredhil agree to join. During the course of this conversation, one of the peredhil mentions that Foulques Delacroix, Maximilian’s father is dying from the poison. The ranger privately asks Lucas to cure his father. Lucas agrees. Meanwhile, Amethyst and “”/characters/blade" class=“wiki-content-link”>Jerry" the peredhil have an awkward, formal conversation in draconic. Those who eavesdrop on the conversation get the idea that they are both dragons. The two “dragons” take a tour of the embassy, ignoring the lesser creatures around them.
At Meldy’s suggestion, the party decides to simultaneously assault all six Ravenous barricades. Ularalu is dispatched to coordinate the assault with Maria Pontmercy and the forces inside the castle. Maximilien convinces Perra and Pierre to join up as well. The plan is as follows: Amethyst will handle one barricade, “Jerry” will handle another, the peredhil will take the 3rd barricade, Meldy, Sinoqui, Perra, and Pierre will handle the 4th, the forces inside the castle will take the 5th, and the party will handle the 6th and final barricade.
Our heroes strike and their barricade. Noveena attacks the bandit on watch, but is unable to bring him down. He proceeds to slit the throats of two of the hostages. Jarl interposes a barrier of psychic energy to protect the hostages from further harm. Jace explodes a fireball on top of the barrier, incinerating half of the bandits in one fell swoop. The rest are quickly mopped up, and Lucas is able to heal the dying hostages before they expire.
The victorious heroes meet their allies at the castle gate. There are surprisingly few dead hostages. Only “Jerry” and the peredhil were unable to save all of the hostages at their barricade. With the barricades around the palace crushed, our heroes plan their next move.
After an additional two hours of traveling upriver, our heroes find a spot with clean water. They drink their fill, and Lucas washes out the barrels in the river. Then he fills them with clean water. Unfortunately, the filled barrels are far two much for Jocq’s poor pony, Bob to haul. Futhermore, Ravenous will certainly not allow them to walk right back into the city with barrels full of clean water, right? And what to do about Amoril, who continues to insist that Ravenous will kill him on sight. After a long discussion, the PCs decide to leave two barrels behind, empty the 3rd barrel, and have Bob pull the single barrel on the cart. When this tiny caravan reaches the city, Amoril will hop inside the empty barrel, and just like that, everyone’s problem will be solved. Just in case something happens to the bandit, Gabriel harshly demands to know exactly where Amoril was planning to take the empty barrels after dumping the poison in the river. Amoril gives up the location of the warehouse without a fight. Lucas and Jace threaten to kill the hapless bandit.
The party arrives at the city, Amoril is bound, gagged, and stuffed into the barrel, and everyone heads into Bonifant. Unfortunately, this time, our heroes are not allowed to pass unhindered. A somewhat familiar face confronts them just inside the gate. “Thought you could just leave me in the guardhouse to die?” he asks. Several other thugs surround the party, and battle is joined! As our heroes draw their weapons, the city gate closes behind them!
The door to the nearby gatehouse swings open, and a man wearing long, flowing robes comes out. He immediately brings his hands together to begin the dreaded incantations for Cone of Cold! This devastating blast of frigid air tears through friend and foe alike, turning several thugs and poor Bob the Pony into frozen statues. Even the survivors are severely weakened by this blast.
Jace tries to respond with a spell his own, but the mage raises a hand and the elf’s spell fizzles out. “Cursed Counterspell!” the wizard exclaims in frustration. He soon has more things to complain about, as several thugs single him out as an easy target. Gabriel Andre Beaumont tries to charge the enemy mage, but another tough steps in his way. Already weakened by the Cone of Cold, Gabriel soon collapses to the ground, his blood staining the city street.
The mage laughs as he summons an Ice Storm on friend and foe alike. More bandits fall beneath this barrage. Enraged by this callous disregard for the mage’s erstwhile allies and the meaningless death of his innocent pony, Jocq D’Gemseer steps forward to confront the mage. “You killed my pony!” he shouts repeatedly. The mage turns toward Jocq with a look of disdain. “No one cares about your dumb, stupid…” he is cut off as an overcharged Guiding Bolt from the kindly dwarf strikes him square in the chest. Blood sputters from the man’s mouth as he struggles to comprehend what has just happened. Panicked, he casts Invisibility on himself and tries to flee, but his form is still outlined by the holy light from Jocq’s spell. Lucas easily intercepts the fleeing man and cuts him down.
The battle has been won, but at what cost? Jocq mourns his frozen friend. Gabriel struggles to his feat, barely conscious, but still with the presence of mind to check on Amoril. The bandit lies shivering miserably among the shattered remains of his barrel. Lucas notices several suspicious men lurking at a safe distance, obviously tailing his ragtag group. Everyone needs to rest now, so they move to the closest building available, the gatehouse. Here, they hope, they will find sanctuary for a short time. Unfortunately, it is not to be.
Peering through a window, Lucas notices six rough-looking men approaching. This sets off panic among the adventurers. Jocq declares that he will stay behind and hold off the attackers, but Jace drags him away through the city gate. Lucas closes the gate behind them, then flies over the wall on his broom. The newcomers fire parting shots at the cleric, nearly knocking the weakened man from his perch.
Weakened and bleeding, our heroes run for the nearby forest, hoping to lose any pursuers. From the relative safety of the trees, they see the gate reopen, and several men come out. They don’t wait to see anything else, and head deeper into the woods. This stand of trees, however, is not a large one, and before long they emerge on the other side to find the rolling farmlands surrounding Bonifant.
The haggard adventurers approach a nearby farmhouse, and ask for shelter for the night. “I’ll probably end up regretting this, but I suppose you can stay here,” says the farmer. The farmer, a man by the name of Kikelel, annoys our heroes with his constant predictions of doom, but the night passes eventfully enough. In the morning, Gabriel asks Kikelel for extra waterskins. Lucas reimburses the man from the common fund, and Gabriel pockets the containers.
After some discussion, our heroes decide that the best way back into the city is to fly over the wall on Lucas’ broom at night. A quick observation shows that Ravenous is not patrolling the city wall, so our heroes wait for the cover of darkness to execute their plan. Meanwhile, at Jace’s urging, our heroes head to visit some other farms.
They meet a kindly farmer named Behalil Goudon, who invites them to stay for lunch. Over food, the man tells them of the bandits who raided his farm, and his plans for revenge. He hints that he will be able to take revenge soon. “How exactly are you going to do this?” asks Jace. “Let me show you,” replies Behalil. He leads several interested party members to his basement, where he unearths a strange looking statue. “It talks to me,” the farmer explains. “It gives me… power.” He snaps his fingers several times, finally getting a small, sulfuric flame to briefly appear. “It’s taking some practice, but soon those who wronged me will suffer for their crimes.” Jace concernedly notes that this is a statue of a barbed devil, and is undoubtedly a bad thing for this simple farmer to have. Using his telepathy, the wizard pretends to be the statue, and commands Behalil to give his visitor the statue. He is reluctant to do so, but shock at hearing the statue talk, and Jace’s persuasive tone convinces him, and he hands the statue over.
Devil statue in tow, our heroes head toward the Bonifant city wall.
After receiving Maria Pontmercy’s reply, the PCs decide their first task is to find some fresh water, since their own supplies are almost depleted. The easiest way to do this is to follow the Silgo River east, away from Bonifant.
But first, Gabriel Andre Beaumont needs to check on his “network.” He heads to the Priest and Knight Inn, but it’s been burned down. Looking for his friend Selkar, he heads to a known safehouse. He finds Selkar, along with Avery, Marcel the Magnificent, and other disreputable characters. Selkar tells Gabriel that Ravenous is selling the antidote for one thousand gold pieces. Everyone in the house seems to be suffering from the poison’s effect. Gabriel leaves them a large sum of money.
After some debate, the group leaves Bonifant by way of the city gate, and sleeps outside. In the morning, they begin following the Silgo River upsteam. After about two hours, they come across some men guiding a horse-drawn cart down to the river. The barrels are marked poison!
Our heroes attack. Fortunately, their enemies are on the other side of the river, and Jace, Maximilian, and Lucas quickly cut them down. None of the enemies have even closed to melee range when Ives summons the aberrant fortress in the middle of the river, crushing several bad guys. The water turns purple as it foams around the alien building. The would be poisoners turn tail and run, except for one bandit who just stands there. From the fortress window, Ives shoots the panicked horse, preventing it from capsizing the cart full of poison. Before he dismisses the fortress, it spawns a strange tadpole which swims downstream.
Gabriel shoots his crossbow at the motionless bandit. “Are you mad?” yells Jocq D’Gemseer. " Havilar’s possessing him!" Gabriel apologizes. Once the bandit is tied up, Havilar releases him, and the questioning begins. To encourage the bandit to talk, he is beaten with a riding crop. Gabriel pours poisoned water down the bandit’s throat. The poison seems to have no effect. The bandit explains that he got the antidote from Ravenous. He introduces himself as Amoril, and claims to know very little about Ravenous’ operations. He met up with that cart outside of the city, and escorts the cart back to a warehouse. He offers to divulge the location of the warehouse in exchange for his freedom. He doesn’t want to go back into the city, since Ravenous will kill him if they suspect that he has betrayed them. Lucas and Jace entertain killing Amoril right then and there, but decide against it.
Lucas and Gabriel try drinking the river water, but find that it is still poisoned. Lucas casts Lesser Restoration to remove the poison’s effects. After some discussion, Lucas uses his dust of dryness to absorb the poison from the barrels. Then, Jocq hitches his pony, Bob to the cart, and our heroes continue upriver.
Meldy debriefs the party. She is unhappy that the party waited until the last minute to contact her.
Lucas flies everyone back up the cliff. The party returns to Aix en Provence. The mayor greets them, and tells them that something strange is going on in his basement. He asks the PCs to investigate.
Upon heading down to the basement, the PCs discover a strange sight. Keryassa’s coffin is lying where they left, but the simple wooden box has been adorned with elaborate markings that appear to have been burned into the wood. The marks form a twisting pattern of flowers, flames, and small woodland creatures like birds, lizards, and squirrels. Above the coffin is a flame hovering in mid-air. As it flickers and dances, it takes on the shape of a flower. Individual petals of fire slowly fall from the main bloom, winking out before they hit the floor. A sense of grief and loss pervades the room.
Gabriel Andre Beaumont enters the room and is entranced by the beautiful sight. He stands motionless. Lucas follows, and is not so easily swayed. He speaks, and the spell is broken. The flower winks out, but the decorated coffin remains. Ularalu greets the party unhappily. The party discusses funeral arrangements, but the pixie is determined to bring Keryassa back to life. Moved by Ularalu’s love for her friend, Alexandre Anders offers to resurrect the dragonborn. To do so, he will need a flawless diamond. With this in mind, the party loads Keryassa’ body onto a cart and heads back towards Bonifant.
During the three day journey back, Jocq D’Gemseer becomes more and more unhinged. He begins to talk to himself more and more. He insists that he can see Havilar Prexijandilin and that she is responding to him.
When the party arrives in Bonifant, something is not right. The city guards at the gate have been replaced by a group of ruffians. The watch the PCs as they head through the gate, but make no moves. The PCs move a short distance inside, then discuss the strange scene.
Jocq claims that the men are working for someone called McGregor. When asked how he knows this, he claims that Havilar spied on the men then told him. Gabriel relates the tales he has heard of this dangerous and ruthless man.
The party heads to the guardhouse. They find one man barring the entrance. He claims to be working for McGregor, and warns the PCs that if they disobey him, there will be dire consequences. They attack him anyway, he quickly surrenders, and the PCs go inside.
The inside of the guardhouse is stained with blood, and the city guard is still nowhere to be found. The PCs drag their prisoner to the dungeon and begin questioning him. When he refuses to say anything besides more threats, Jocq kneecaps the man. He continues to shout threats between the screams of pain, and Jace webs the man’s mouth shut.
The next stop on the return to Bonifant tour is Uncle Paco’s. The crepe shop is boarded up.
Jocq wants to visit his dad’s gem shop. Although the store has been looted, Jocq still finds his father inside. He berates his father privately for failing to hire proper guards, and reminds him of his previous moral failures. When this does not produce the desired result, Jocq asks Havilar to scare his father straight. Sure enough, a terrifying dragonborn ghost appears, causing Jocq’s father to scream in terror. Jocq asks his dad if he has any expensive diamonds hidden away. He does, but not any perfect enough to raise Keryassa. Jocq does take some lesser diamonds to use as components for revivify. He reimburses his father with more gold than they are worth, and tells him to hire some actual guards.
Jocq then goes to visit his sister. She is working at The Flying Snake, the finest inn in town. She says that McGregor’s gang, Ravenous has visited a few times, but she is still ok. She explains that Ravenous has poisoned the city’s water supply, and this is how they overpowered the city guard. She also mentions that Ravenous is selling an antidote to the poison. Jocq warns her to be careful.
The party goes to check on Father Anders and his orphanage. They drop off Keryassa’s body for safekeeping. Many of the orphans are very sick. The PCs mention that they have fought some of McGregor’s men. Father Anders asks if they’ve been followed. The PCs do not know. Father Anders is unhappy with this news. To ensure that the PCs do not bring retribution upon the orphanage, they pretend that Father Anders is angrily kicking them out. Ularalu takes this ruse a step further by setting the orphanage gate on fire. Jace wants to stay and help put the fire out, but that would ruin the deception, so he is dragged away.
The party goes to the royal palace, but finds a barricade in the way. Ravenous has several hostages at the barrier, and a man threatens to kill the hostages if the PCs don’t leave. They obey.
Ularalu turns invisible and flies into the palace. She sees King Wil Aldridge working on an antidote. She sees the royal guard, although some of them seem to be ill. She comes back, and Jocq has her deliver a letter to Maria Pontmercy, asking how they can help.
The hallway the PCs find themselves in is pitch black. Their sources of light are absorbed by the walls. Jocq forges bravely ahead. Everyone else follows cautiously through the winding passage.
Maximilien uses his Gem of True Seeing to get a better look at the walls. They are covered in living shadows. He also inadvertently catches a glimpse of Saffron through the gem. It seems she is not what she appears to be. In her true form, she has horns, wings, and a tail. Although Maximilien cannot exactly remember what a creature like this is called, he begins covertly warning the other party members, starting with Lucas and Idelle. When he tries to warn Jace, Saffron interrupts him. She suggests that Maximilien should avoid starting rumors.
Meanwhile, the party proceeds through a series of disturbing rooms and corridors. Jarl finds a table with a map of Vitalio on it. Five locations are marked. They are Aix en Provence, Bonifant, Parth, Donovan’s Crossing, and a location in the northern countryside.
Eventually, the party finds themselves at the bottom of a dark staircase. They climb to the top and rest for a while. Maximilien Delacroix contacts Meldy with the sending stone, asking her to come help. “It will take me about a day to arrive,” she replies. Once they are done resting, the party opens the door.
They are greeted by Lord Absolon! He is sitting on a throne, with a bound peredhil next to him. The unfortunate peredhil is hanging upside down, slowly bleeding into the vampire’s goblet. Absolon brags about his power, and the two sides trade stinging barbs. They are interrupted when Hivan climbs through the window with another peredhil. Hivan and Saffron run into each others arms, and embrace and kiss.
This tender moment is interrupted by Father Anders crashing through another door. He exchanges words with Lord Absolon and Maglor. Maglor reveals that he was Father Anders’ pupil. Father Anders expresses regret over what Maglor has become. Lord Absolon taunts Father Anders over the loss of Maglor and his other pupil, Saint.
Saffron puts a stop to this conversation. “Let’s get on with it, shall we?” She casts a spell. A stream of blood leaps from a nearby peredhil to Saffron’s dagger, from the dagger to the hanging peredhil, and from that peredhil to Absolon. “What have you done?” asks Absolon incredulously. “You will obey!” says Saffron, struggling to maintain her concentration. Hivan looks at her in shock.
Maglor attacks Father Anders, while the party attacks Saffron and Absolon. Hivan tries to defend her, but he can’t stop everyone. Saffron is wounded several times, and seems to weaken. She turns to the party. “I’ll remember this, and I’ll have my revenge.” With that, she transforms into her true form, that of a fiend, and flies out the window.
Freed from Saffron’s control, Absolon continues to fight, but is badly outnumbered. Anders reluctantly slays his former pupil, and joins the fight against the vampire lord. The surviving vampire twin arrives, too late to save his lord, and quickly joins him. With their enemies defeated, our heroes enjoy the spoils of Absolon’s treasury.
They head down to the basement to meet with Amethyst. The passageway has been blocked. She is glad to hear that Absolon is dead. She gives Jace some magic scrolls to make good on her promise. The party asks her if she wants to stay here, and she agrees.
The party heads out of the cave. They meet Meldy outside. She is working on an intricate drawing in the sand, which Jarl runs across. She reminds the party that they are supposed to be keeping an eye on Amethyst, so they go back into the cave and retrieve her. The dragon reluctantly agrees to come along.
Lucas opens the third door. It has a gauntlet inside, which is quickly identified as being a holy symbol of Torm. Party members speculate that it belongs to Father Anders.
The party settles down to rest, but Jocq is feeling antsy. He tries to open the next door, but upon finding it locked, he tries to bash it down. He fails miserably. Gabriel gets up to show him how it’s done, but Jocq charges the door at the same time. The door gives way to Gabriel’s kick, Jocq barrels into Gabriel’s behind, and the two tumble into the next room.
Everyone else is annoyed to have their rest disturbed, and even more annoyed when they are attacked by shades and shadows from the next room. In the end, however, the monsters are easily dealt with, and everyone gets to finish their rest.
Moving on, the party finds the ghost of a paladin. It turns out that the holy symbol is his. With it, he is able to temporarily disable the barricade to the next floor. Over Jace’s cowardly objections, everyone heads up the stairs.
They are greeted by a human butler. “Welcome to the floor of majesty,” he says. “A meal has been prepared for you. Please leave your weapons with the attendants; you will have no need of them inside.” One by one, the PCs reluctantly agree to surrender their weapons. Heskan, Lucas, and Noveena keep at least some of their weapons.
Everyone is ushered into an awkward dinner party with some vampires. The very same twin vampires, in fact, that collapsed the ceiling on our heroes when they first entered the caves. The vampires wish to display their wealth, power, and skill at genteel conversation, most of the PCs simply wish to get on with things.
Maximilien makes some snide remarks about the quality of the food. “I am sorry to hear that,” replies the vampire. “The help will be dealt with later.” Everyone else in the party shoots the ranger dirty looks. The human servants don’t seem very happy about this development. Everyone sits around awkwardly, except for Gabriel, who helps the servants clear the table. One of the serving girls slips him four blue potions. Gabriel discovers that these potions provide the equivalent of a good night’s sleep.
With the dinner over, six more vampires enter the room. “These fledglings need a test to truly join our brotherhood,” explains the vampiric hosts. “You will do nicely.” The PCs weapons are returned to them, and battle ensues. The two elder vampires watch the battle from their high table. The PCs dispatch the junior vampires easily. As the last one falls, Noveena shoots one of the vampire lords. “You will regret that,” he says, and joins the fight.
A desperate battle begins. The vampire charms Jarl and turns him against the rest of the party. Despite this, with the aid of some of Gabriel’s potions, the vampire is defeated. The surviving vampire says, “My brother was weak. Unless you wish to test my strength, you will exit through the side door at once.” The PCs do so.
With the staircase apparently blocked by the dread statues, our heroes begin to explore the rest of this floor.
Gabriel leads the way, and finds a door at the end of a hallway. He picks the lock and finds a room lined with shelves full of bottles of blood. Saffron and Lucas both take a few bottles.
Meanwhile, Jocq explores another hallway. Turning a corner, he stumbles upon a horrific sight. A dozen corpses hang from the ceiling. Each corpse is completely drained of blood. Some of the bodies are recognizable as some of the peredhil and dragonborn that accompanied our heroes into this accursed cave. The site is too much for the kind-hearted dwarf, and he collapses unconscious.
Idelle, Heskan, and Havilar rush to the dwarf’s side. The two dragonborn recoil in shock at seeing the bodies of their friends hanging from the ceiling. Motionless, they stare at the sight in horror. Idelle tries to rouse them, to no avail. “Get over here and help!” she yells at the others. Lucas arrives on the scene. Together, the Delacroix cousins wake Havilar, but Heskan and Jocq remain unresponsive.
Saffron and Gabriel remain in the “blood closet.” Gabriel refuses to leave until Saffron does. “What exactly are you expecting me to do?” she asks. “I don’t know what you’ll do, that’s why I’m not leaving you alone in here,” he replies. Saffron smiles playfully, then floats through the wall. Gabriel proceeds to methodically smash all of the remaining bottles of blood.
After a few minutes, Heskan wakes up, but Jocq remains unconscious. Saffron materializes next to the rest of the party, and Gabriel arrives after his bottle smashing escapades. The party anxiously awaits for Jocq to wake up.
All of the party that is, except for Gabriel. The opportunist walks away to explore the rest of the castle. “Where are you going?” asks Heskan angrily. “Jocq is lying unconscious on the ground, and you’re just going to leave him?” “What am I going to do?” replies Gabriel. “I can’t do anything to help.” “You can be there when he wakes up. You can make sure nothing attacks him while he’s lying helpless in this horrible place,” says Heskan. “I’m not going far,” argues Gabriel. “And besides, you’re all there with him aren’t you?” The fighter pauses before continuing. “Do you want me to stay?” he asks condescendingly. “I won’t go anywhere if you want me to stay here.” Heskan glares at Gabriel for a few moments before growling “Do what you want.”
Gabriel waits by Jocq’s side. After a few more minutes, Jocq wakes up. He yells “Those monsters will pay for this!” and charges toward the staircase. Again and again he throws himself at the barrier, while Maglor cackles at him from above. “Good, good, you’re finally embracing the madness,” Maglor taunts. “I’ll show you madness when I get up there,” fumes Jocq. Gabriel and Lucas try to hold the dwarf back, but he still manages to hurl an axe at Maglor. The blade catches Maglor in the chest, where it leaves a small wound. “That’s the spirit!” says Maglor. “Embrace your rage; embrace your anger.” Turning to Gabriel, he says, “It’s not safe; he’s gone crazy. You’d better stab him before he gets you.” “I’ve got another axe laddie, and I’m not afraid to use it,” yells Jocq. Maglor only laughs in response. Jocq finally calms down, and the party leaves the mad elf to his own devices.
Jocq and Lucas enter the hanging corpse room. There is a door at the far end, a passage to the left, and a portcullis to the right. Behind the portcullis is a ragged man. “Please help me!” screams the man. “I’ve been trapped here for so long! Please, let me out, please have mercy.” Gabriel looks at the man skeptically. “What is your name? How long have you been here?” he asks. “I’ve lost track of time,” replies the man. “Please let me out. I’ve waited for so long for someone to come.” Lucas walks closer, looking carefully and closely at the prisoner. As he does so, he realizes that the man is an illusion. Behind him wait a pack of hungry gnolls. They don’t appear to be aware of the party. “Don’t open that gate,” commands Lucas.
Lucas and Jace eagerly discuss how to take potshots at the unsuspecting gnolls. “Why don’t we just ignore them and conserve our resources?” suggests Havilar. “Look what happened when we did that with the wolves,” argues Jace. With that, Lucas walks up to the door and summons a sacred flame on one of the gnolls. It screams in pain, and in unison, the gnolls’ heads snap towards their new foes.
One of the gnolls chants a spell, the gate dissolves, and a ferocious combat ensues. The gnolls’ fury is great, but their martial prowess is not near those of their enemies. One by one, the gnolls fall, cut down by swords or burned alive by magical flames. Despite their heavy losses, the surviving gnolls’ bloodlust is unabated.
Only three gnolls remain. Two are locked in battle with Jocq at the entrance of their liar, and one lurks near the back, firing arrows into the crowded melee. Havilar sees an opening, steps forward and runs a gnoll through. The beast collapses to the ground. She exhales momentarily, but as she does so, the gnoll at the back of the room sees an opportunity. He charges over the body of his fallen ally, and skewers the unsuspecting dragonborn on the end of his spear.
With a triumphant roar, the gnoll falls upon Jocq, but the dwarf easily parries the blow. Gabriel steps forward and dispatches the gnoll from behind. Jace fells the other one with a well-placed fire bolt. With their enemies vanquished, the party turns towards Havilar. The clerics rush to her side, but it is too late, she is dead. Idelle and Heskan bow their heads in silence.
“I’m sorry, there’s nothing more I can do,” says Jocq. “You gave her a second chance at life, friend,” says Heskan. “It wasn’t enough!” says Jocq. Heskan busies himself arranging his clanmates’ corpse. Gabriel rests his hand on Havilar’s shoulder in a silent farewell. The others cut down the hanging bodies. The corpses are arranged in dignified fashion, Jocq says a few words, and then the corpses are lit on fire. The party watches silently as the remains of their friends go up in smoke.
With a heavy heart, the party presses on. Jocq opens the door to the next room and walks in. Old, decaying tapestries line the walls of this room. These cloth hangings celebrate the despicable acts of the castle’s vampiric inhabitants. Panel after panel shows vampires killing, torturing, and drinking from the innocent. Jocq is overcome and collapses unconscious again.
This time, the party calmly waits for Jocq to wake back up. Lucas enters the rooms and examines the tapestries, while Jace stands in the doorway. With a look of disgust, Lucas rips a tapestry in two. Unfortunately, this releases a cloud of spores, and both Lucas and Jace begin to cough and choke. Lucas quickly recovers, but Jace continues to gasp for air. Lucas looks on with concern as Jace turns paler and paler shades of blue. With shaking hands, the hapless wizard reaches for a glass vial in his bag. He undoes the stopper and pours the vial’s contents down his throat. Jace gasps for air and slumps to the ground. Once he catches his breath, and snaps at Lucas, “A little warning next time?”
“Sorry,” says Lucas, shrugging. He busies himself burning the rest of the tapestries from a safe distance. Jace stays even further back.
Once Jocq wakes up, the party moves on. They find a room full of dismembered body parts. Gabriel can’t handle the gore, and retreats into his own mind. The others engage several flesh golems and zombies that arise from the carnage. Lucas blocks the entryway with his snake, and one by one, the enemy combatants are picked off.
The next room has three doors along the far wall. Lucas opens the first one, and feels a rush of fear. He is able to compose himself, and stares into the darkness behind this first door. He opens the second door, and is hit by an invisible rush of wind. Squinting through his gem of seeing, Maximillian sees the outline of an elemental. This invisible creature pummels Lucas again and again, while our heroes’ own strikes miss the elemental. Lucas retreats on his broom, but the creature pursues. Idelle casts Faerie Fire, and the invisible stalker is no longer invisible. With its main advantage negated, our heroes make short work of the stalker.
With Cyprien Galehot defeated, Jocq ventures down the hallway the vampire was guarding. The hallway leads to a room with a large table and several white wolves. The wolves do not attack, so Jocq tells the rest of the party what he sees.
The rest of the party moves up and sees the wolves. They decide that a long range attack is the best plan of action. After more deliberation, they decide that Jace is the man to do it. Then, it’s time to decide which spell to use. As the conversation drags on, the wolves decide not to make themselves sitting targets and slink off.
With the wolves out of sight, our heroes decide to leave that room alone, and open a side door. This door reveals another hallway, leading to a staircase guarded by three vampires. The vampires give the usual pronouncement of death and doom, then battle is joined.
Jocq casts protection from evil, which severely weakens the vampires. However, the previously ignored wolves attack from behind, and two more vampires attack from another direction. Maglor expresses surprise when the wolves actually attack him. Saffron is attacked by a vampire and turns ethereal before retreating behind Heskan. Jace collapses after being hit by a blast of cold breath from one of the wolves. Fortunately, the next blast of freezing air passes over his head.
Maximilian runs up and revives Jace, then drops a wolf and a vampire with two well timed shots. Jocq tries to tumble between two vampires and falls flat on his face. From his stomach, he raises his holy symbol. Two of the vampires are unable to stand before this divine power, and they flee back toward the staircase.
Our heroes finish off the remaining combatents, then pursue the fleeing vampires. They find one and easily dispatch it, but the second one is taking shelter with a flesh golem. Jocq suddenly finds himself face to face with an angry golem. After a crushing blow to the head Jocq falls unconscious.
The golem crushes one of the dragonborn before moving on to Idelle. After taking a vicious hit from the golem, she vanishes in a cloud of mist. Heskan attacks the golem, then gasps in astonishment when his weapons do no damage. Idelle reappears and fires two bolts of magic at the golem.
As Jocq slips closer to death, he hears Saffron’s voice in his head. “You’re dying.” “I know,” replies the dwarf. “I could save you if you’re willing to make a deal.” “Thanks for the offer sweetie, but if it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go.”
Maximilian catches up to the fight and dispatches the golem, then heals Jocq. Jocq pulls a diamond out of his bag and crushes it over the recently deceased dragonborn. She revives. Idelle and Heskan thank the dwarf effusively. “I don’t do it for the praise,” says the dwarf.
After a grueling fight, it’s time to rest. Jace tells a story from his past. The elf shares about a previous quest for knowledge, and its deadly cost. Some time ago, Jace read a magic scroll aloud, without knowing what it did. His friend was sucked into a magical vortex and vanished forever. The other members of Jace’s adventuring party drove him away, and Jace was left to reflect on the consequences of his actions.
Jocq and Heskan express sympathy for Jace and his had tale. Saffron wants to know what spell he actually learned. Jocq chides the blood mage for her insensitivity. Gabriel asks the other dragonborn what her name is. “My name is Havilar,” she replies.
With their rest complete, the party heads up the stairs to come face to face with two terrifying statues. They flank the staircase to the next floor. They are like great figures seated upon thrones. Each has three joined bodies, and three heads facing outward, and inward, and across the staircase. The heads have vulture-faces, and on their great knees lay clawlike hands. They seem to be carved out of huge blocks of stone, immovable, and yet they are aware: some dreadful spirit of evil vigilance abides in them.
No one dares to approach the statues. No one except Maglor. The elf walks right past them, then turns around and asks why no one is following him. Both Jocq and Heskan try to pass the statues, but they are unable to, as if an invisible wall was in the way. The party decides to explore the rest of the floor. Maglor says, “I’ll be here waiting.”
The PCs say farewell to Amethyst and head for the 2nd floor. As they leave, Amethyst offers to teach Jace how to use mind control if he clears the vampires out of the castle. Jace agrees. When they get there, they are greeted by the twin vampires. They welcome the heroes to the floor of strength. They disappear and the PCs are left to face two bone devils. After a terrific struggle, the devils are defeated.
The struggles in the cavern and the castle have taken their toll. After some discussion, the PCs decide to rest. They head back down to the basement, figuring that Amethyst will provide some safety. Amethyst questions the heroes’ courage, and Jarl blames the others for wanting to stop. Jocq and Amethyst converse a little bit.
After a good night’s sleep, our heroes set back out for the upper floors. Upon arriving at the site of their last battle, they find the room completely empty. No sign of the infernal corpses remains.
The party finds three exits from the room. The first is a door encased in ice. Saffron warns against opening it, but Noveena tries to dispel the ice magic anyway. It doesn’t work. The second door is locked. Gabriel picks the lock and finds an empty room with a suit of armor inside. Jocq inspects the armor and finds a poisoned needle hidden in the neck. After disarming it, he notices the armor is magical. After a quick prayer to his god that goes unanswered, he puts the armor on.
The third exit from the room leads to a large, open room with balconies on either side. Over a dozen vampires stand on the balconies, silently watching our heroes pass. The PCs turn a corner and come upon a lone vampire standing in the middle of a large room. " My name is Cyprien Galehot. If you wish to pass, one of you must face me in single combat." Jarl steps forward.
The two warriors exchange pleasantries, then begin a brutal, close-quarters fight. Lucas and Jocq discuss covertly helping Jarl, but the peredhil waves them off. In the end, Jarl stands victorious, although he is grievously wounded, and much of his psionic energy has been expended. During the fight, the vampires on the balcony vanish without a sound. And with that, our heroes forge ahead into the darkness.