The unnamed man’s lifeblood slowly seeps into the sand and stones. Saffron smiles to herself as she begins drawing arcane sigils on the cliff face. There a crack and a smell of sulfur on the air. Now, the cliff looks different. Where there was once blank stone, now stands an ornate facade. Foreboding vampiric statues glare down from their recessed alcoves. The large, intricately carved, wooden doors slowly swing inward. A faint odor of rot and decay lingers in the air.
Ularalu speaks up. “I’m not going into that horrible place.” She shivers. “I’ve had a bad feeling on this trip the whole time and now I know why. There’s nothing good in there, I know it! Nothing but darkness and death. It’s a terrible, horrible place and I don’t know why anyone would want to go in there and Keryassa’s dead and you just keep moving ahead and you just left her up there and it’s like you don’t even care!” With that Ularalu will flies away. Ives yells after her, “There might be things to burn inside!” Even that promise is not enough to stop her, and no one else tries.
Idelle’s pet lizard jumps out of her arms and begins swimming back to the boat. “Really?” says Idelle. “How typical.” “Looks like you can’t even handle a lizard,” Jace snidely remarks. “I suppose you’re right,” says Idelle demurely.
“If everyone’s done defecting, shall we go inside?” asks Saffron. Everyone heads inside. The peredhil, dragonborn, and Maximilian light torches. The doors swing shut, trapping everyone inside. Ives runs up and pushes on the doors. They don’t budge.
The torchlight reveals a large atrium with a balcony at the far end. Four rows of columns run the length of the room. There isn’t much time to take this in, because the sounds of growls and snarls come from beyond the entryway. A horde of ghouls charges into the room. Jace obliterates a half-dozen with a fireball. The others fall almost as quickly. With the exception of one unfortunate dragonborn, all of the “good guys” survive. The strange elf now has a pet ghoul. The dragonborn prevent the ghoul from feeding on their fallen friend.
Two identical vampires step onto the balcony. One raises his arm and begins to speak. "Lord Absolon welcomes you to his home. You have done well to defeat the doorkeepers, but know this: no one has ever left this place alive; powers stronger than you have tried and failed. You have dared to challenge a vampire lord in his sanctum, and now you shall suffer the consequences. Those who die quickly shall be counted fortunate by those who remain.” “We accept your challenge,” replies Jarl. The vampires smiles and snaps his fingers.
Suddenly, multiple runes light up on every pillar. Several people recognize these sigils as Glyphs of Warding. These runes remain invisible until triggered, at which point they explode. The runes do in fact explode, bringing the ceiling down on the unfortunate adventurers.
Maximilian, Jace, Jarl, Ives, and a peredhil find themselves separated from the rest of the group. Due to skill and/or fortune, only Maximilian is singed by the flames, and no one is pinned down by the falling rocks. From the cries beyond the rubble, our heroes surmise that some of their friends were not so fortunate.
As if it was planned, another group of ghouls rushes into the room, hoping to feast on some unfortunate souls pinned beneath the cave in. Judging from the screams and shrieks, some of the ghouls find easy prey. However, the ghouls attacking our group of five does not find anything easy. With a wave of his hands, Maximilian conjures a tangle of thorny vines in the path of the charging ghouls. They struggle through the thicket, the thorns tearing at their flesh. By the time they reach our heroes, they are dispatched with ease.
Now that the fighting dies down, Maximilian, Jace, Jarl, and Ives turn toward the new peredhil. She is outfitted for combat, as most peredhil are, and also seems to possess a singularly inquisitive nature. She peppers all of her new friends with questions, and writes down their answers in a book.
Jace grows impatient and suggests they move on. Jarl offers a compromise of moving and talking. Our heroes make their way out the atrium, through a narrow passageway, and into a large cavern. With their limited torchlight, they cannot see any walls or ceiling. Only the peredhil, Noveena, with her magically enhanced vision, can see the ceiling.
At Jarl’s urging, Maximilian fires a flaming arrow into the air. It briefly illuminates the cave and scares a few bats. It also attracts the attention of more unsavory creatures. Several strange apparitions begin flying toward the party. Jace and Maximilian recognize them as specters, but only Jarl identifies one as a deadly wraith.
The specters encircle the party and combat begins. Thankfully, most of the party carries magical weapons that can effect the specters’ incorporeal bodies. The wraith charges Ives and drains the rogue’s lifeforce. He withers before our heros’ horrified eyes, and can barely stand. He reaches into his bag with trembling hands, and pulls out a fleshy cube. The cube expands into a fortress, crushing the wraith beneath it. However, the wraith phases through the walls, and avoids being completely destroyed. Jarl charges the hateful appirition, and deals it a grievous blow.
Jace, tired of the specters’ sucking, retreats into the castle. Ives charges the wraith and stabs it in the back. His magical rapier disrupts the wraith’s form, and with an unnatural scream, it disintegrates. “Vengeance!” cries the rogue.
One by one, the specters are picked off. Ives bravely charges and stabs another one. Once the last specter fades into nothingness, Ives shrinks the fortress back down into a cube. “You must destroy that abomination!” demands Noveena. “I agree” says Ives, as he puts the cube back into his bag. The two adventurers continue to argue about the fate of the strange device. Jarl sides with Ives, prompting a “They were right about you” barb from Noveena. In the end, Ives refuses to destroy the aberrant fortress, and the party continues on.
After a short walk, the party comes across the strange elf, Maglor, and his pet ghoul. Both are covered in blood. Maximilian chooses to believe it’s ghoul blood, shuddering at the alternative. Noveena is eager to find out all she can about this strange elf, and peppers him with questions, much to Jace’s annoyance. Maglor expounds on his admiration of Lord Absolon and his desire to meet the vampire lord. He claims that the cavern they are in is infinite, and that they will be lost forever, until they cannibalize each other. “Hopefully it won’t come to that,” says Jarl. Finally, at Jace’s insistence, the party moves on.
Perturbed at the notion of an infinite cavern, Maximilian suggests that the party retrace its steps and find the original wall. They do so, and after some walking, they find a wall. “Now,” explains that ranger, “we simply follow the wall, and we’re sure to find another exit.”
Jarl arrives in Aix en Provence. He finds his friends emerging from Calvinus Castle. They exchange pleasantries. While they are doing so, Maximilian stumbles out of the forest. He has clearly been sampling the local “herbs.” None of companions comment on this.
Feeling emboldened by their reinforcements, our heroes decide to return to the basement of Calvinus Castle. Keryassa somehow manages to force open the stone coffins beneath the keep. One vampire remains asleep when his coffin is opened, and Keryassa drives a stake through his heart. The other one wakes up, and puts up a brief fight. Lucas urges his friends to keep the vampire alive so he can be questioned, but Keryassa kills the him anyway.
Our heroes search the rest of the castle. Jarl finds a journal written by the late Pierre Calvinus. It describes his slow descent into madness upon the arrival of an advisor Absolon. Unfortunately, it offers no clues on where to find this Absolon now. With all of their leads seemingly exhausted, our heroes decide to camp in the castle, in hopes of another lead magically showing up. Afternoon turns to evening, and as the full moon rises above the trees, Keryassa begins to undergo a shocking transformation.
Her teeth and claws lengthen, and hair begins to protrude from her scales. Unleashing a bestial howl, she transforms into a werewolf. Through her rage and fury, she manages to focus on the person in the room she hates the most, Amethyst the dragon. She claws and bites at Amethyst, who manages to dodge most, but not all of Keryassa’s attacks.
Everyone else begins attacking Keryassa with impunity, presumably hoping to knock her out. Before they can, not one, but two onis suddenly materialize in the room. As our heroes turn to face this new threat, their eyes are somehow drawn back to Amethyst. She appears to grow larger, the windows of the room fly open, and an immense pressure seems to emanate from the dragon. The wind outside sounds like the growl of an immense beast. Almost everyone, friend and foe alike, are terrified by this display of power. Their hands tremble in fear, and they are unable to even approach Amethyst. Even Keryassa rage is not enough to overcome this fear, and she turns her attention to one of the onis. Unfortunately, the oni proves to be more than a match for her, and she falls to the ground, bleeding from several spear wounds.
One by one, the combatants overcome their fear of the shapeshifted dragon, and begin focusing on the onis. One oni falls, and our heroes swarm the other one. The devious monster, seeing his opportunity, unleashes a Cone of Cold upon his huddled enemies. Keryassa’s unconscious form is also caught in the blast, and her life is snuffed out.
Reeling from shock and cold, our heroes prepare for a desperate final assault. Before they can, something snaps in Amethyst, and she steps forward. She begins to grow and shift, discarding her human form, for a draconic one. She easily tears the oni to shreds, and reverts to her human form.
Ignoring the dragon in the room, our heroes eagerly loot the dead bodies. Keryassa’s magic items and coin are doled out. Then, the party decides what to do next. Jarl insists that Keryassa body be brought back to Bonifant and given to her next of kin. No one else has any ideas, so after a good night’s sleep, everyone sets out for Bonifant.
As our heroes pass through the village of Aix en Provence, the villagers gather to stare and gawk. “That’s it, you’re just going to leave?” shouts one villager. “You’ve just made them angrier!” “Made who angrier?” asks Jarl. “The oni.” “We just killed them” says Lucas. The villagers ask for proof, so the adventurers bring back the oni’s dead bodies. Lucas kicks one, and emboldened by this, the villagers join in until Jace once again conjures up a foul smell.
Finally willing to talk, the villagers point Jarl and the others in the direction of the nearby cliffs. That is where Father Anders was headed, they say. The party dutifully heads in that direction, after leaving Keryassa’s body with the villagers.
On the edge of the cliff, the party encounters a strange elf with a wispy beard, wearing dented armor. Jarl engages him in conversation. The elf explains that he is trying to get down the cliff. He also says that he knows Father Anders, although he does not say how.
Lucas ferries everyone down on his broom. Once down, the elf begins poking at the cliff face. “There must be a way to get in!” he says. With further questioning, the party discovers that this is the hidden liar of Lord Absolon. The elf says that he has to see the vampire. Jarl mistakenly claims to have Lord Absolon’s journal. The elf snatches it up eagerly, then quickly drops it when he finds out it does not belong to the vampire lord.
A ship that Maximilian recognizes as being worthy of the Tour de Vitalio anchors offshore. A boat brings eleven people to shore. It’s Idelle and ten dragonborn. Idelle explains that the dragonborn are her bodyguards. The captain of the dragonborn introduces himself as Hirash.
The boat returns with eleven more passengers. It’s a group of peredhil, with Hivan and Saffron among them. Idelle and Hivan explain that they are working together to gain entrance to Lord Absolon’s lair. Jarl asks if they can join this expedition. After conferring for a bit, Idelle and Hivan agree. Jarl asks if their goal is to kill the vampire lord. At the same time, Hivan says “No,” and Idelle says “Yes.”
Hivan explains that he hopes to control Lord Absolon, and use his power to bring about a peredhil empire. He will not say how exactly he plans to do this. The PCs and the peredhil have a conference apart from Idelle and the dragonborn. They agree to have each other’s back in case of a quarrel.
With that settled, the next task is to gain access to the fortress. The boat returns again with a bound human sitting in the bottom. As the peredhil drag him toward the door, their intent becomes clear. They will open the door using human sacrifice. Jarl protests. Hivan claims the man is a member of The Iron Circle, and deserves his fate. Jarl argues that the man deserves his day in court, but Hivan will not listen. Lucas puts his hand on Jarl’s shoulder and says “Let it happen.” Jace mutters “We’re outgunned.” The other peredhil block Jarl’s path to the prisoner. The unfortunate man is dragged in front of the door, where Saffron slits his throat. Then, she dips her hand in the man’s blood and draws several arcane symbols on the cliff face. With a flash and a smell of sulfer, the cliff face transforms, revealing the entrance to Lord Absolon’s fortress.
Jace arrives in Aix en Provence around the same time that Lucas, Gabriel, Amethyst, and Ularalu are getting up after spending the night in the oni’s shack. The villagers regard Jace with mistrust.
After some discussion, the party heads to the ruins of Calvinus Castle. The courtyard is empty and bare, and there’s dried blood crusted on the walls. The only building that’s still standing is the keep. Ularalu is convinced to fly up and take a look at the roof of the keep, which she promptly sets on fire. Then the PCs get her to burn down the doors to the keep. Gabriel and Jace are caught in the explosion and suffer minor burns.
Gabriel storms through the door and falls through a pit trap. Everyone else flies over it, with the exception of Amethyst, who jumps. Lucas helps Gabriel out, then the party proceeds into the keep. They find a vampire waiting for them. "You have meddled in things you do not understand. For this, you must die. Your blood shall slake my eternal thirst.” proclaims the vampire. He is joined by several zombies. After a brief battle, the undead are vanquished. Gabriel is the only one ever in any danger, as his companions fly for most of the battle.
As our heroes collect themselves after the battle, the room suddenly grows unnaturally quiet. Rising from the floor is a terrifying specter. Only Lucas is able to remain calm. The ghost, an emaciated young boy, demands his family’s silver chalice, which has been stolen by harpies. Lucas agrees to retrieve it. The boy points them in the direction of a stand of trees on the far side of the castle.
But first, our heroes head back to the village to rest. The villagers are as (un)welcoming as always. Jace causes some of the most unfriendly ones to smell a foul odor, befitting their foul attitudes toward strangers. For some reason, the party decides the oni’s old shack is the best place to rest.
Of course, the oni shows up the greet them. Lucas quickly realizes that his side is at a disadvantage fighting in an enclosed space, and shudders as he remembers the oni’s icy spell. He points at the oni and speaks in a commanding voice, “FLEE!” The oni attempts to resist, but he cannot. With anger on his face, he flees the cabin. Once outside, everyone spreads out to avoid being caught together. Everyone takes turns hitting the oni. Before they can kill it though, it turns invisible and escapes.
Lucas wracks his memory for a foolproof way to kill this creature. Unfortunately, he cannot recall any silver bullet. It appears that the oni simply must be struck down before it has a chance to flee and heal.
As revenge for disturbing their rest, the adventurers burn down the oni’s shack. Then, they head into the woods to complete their rest. Amethyst, who was missing during the oni fight shows up. Gabriel demands to know where she’s been. “Getting some food,” replies the dragon. Amethyst explains that the villagers had no qualms about helping her. Gabriel suspects mind magic.
After a brief siesta, the party heads to recover the silver chalice. The harpies’ nest is located on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean. As our heroes approach the cliff, the harpies begin to sing.
To most, the harpies’ song sounds like the most horrific screeches imaginable. But to Gabriel, they sounds like the music of heaven itself. Tears spring to his eyes, and he runs toward the sound of the music, and toward the perilous cliffs as well.
The others spring into action to save him. Ularalu conjures up a huge wall of flame, burning the harpies, and putting an obstacle in between Gabriel and the cliff. Unfortunately, neither the heat from the flames, nor the pain of being burned is enough to snap Gabriel out of his trance. Lucas and Jace shoot fireballs at the harpies that are far enough away from Gabriel.
Gabriel finally wakes up. The other harpies gang up on him, but once their spell has been broken, they are not very effective combatants.
Once the harpies are dead, the PCs loot their nest. They find the chalice, as well as a good amount of other treasure, all hidden under a disgusting mess of feathers and excrement.
The PCs take the chalice back to the ghost. They place it on his grave, and it sinks into the earth. Lucas asks the ghost if he’s seen Alexandre Anders. The ghost says he has. Gabriel asks when. The ghost replies cryptically, “a long time ago and a short time ago.” He explains that he has trouble keeping track of time. He also says that a long time ago, the paladin and vampires were both there, and everyone in the village died, except for one young elf, and the people locked in the castle basement.
The PCs head down to the basement. They find two coffins, which they leave alone, and they head back to town.
Special thanks to Tommy (who probably will never read this), for doing an excellent job playing Ularalu!
Maximilian, Lucas, and Ives head back to the Temple of Torm to speak with Meldy. Amethyst and Ularalu tag along. They arrive to a scene. Foulques Delacroix, Idelle Delacroix’s father, is attempting to take the horses that the PCs left at the temple after rescuing him. He argues that they were originally his property before Idelle gave them to the PCs without his consent. The orphans at the temple are reluctant to let their new pets go.
The three adventurers confront the nobleman. Ives appeals to Foulques’ magnanimity and suggests that donating the horses to the orphans would impress his noble peers. Foulques is unconvinced and demands that Lucas continue looking for his estranged daughter. Maximilian suggests that if the orphans and Foulques cannot come to an agreement that the horses be cut in half, and one half be given to each party.
After some debate, the PCs decide that their long-forgotten horses would be useful in tracking down Father Alexandre Anders. They mount up and ride off, after promising the orphans that they’ll return with their caregiver, and promising Foulques that they’ll look for Idelle along the way. Neither the old man nor the orphaned children can really stop the PCs, and they watch our adventurers ride off.
After a few minutes of riding, Lucas remembers the original purpose of his visit to the Temple of Torm, to speak with Meldy. So, our heroes return to the temple, ignore the awkward glances between the children and begin looking for Meldy. Ives and Maximilian spot her, but Lucas is fooled by her orphan disguise. So, he begins shouting her name. “Subtlety is the purpose of wearing a disguise,” states Meldy unhappily.
Meldy and the PCs withdraw to the ruined chapel to talk privately. The PCs learn that Father Anders was seen heading south, and that the priest has a history with Abolson the Vampire, the very same Nosferatu that the our heroes have already encountered several times. Meldy does not know the exact nature of this history, only that it led to Father Anders retirement to the orphanage. She guesses that Father Anders is heading to Aix en Provence, a small town to the south where Absolon once dwelt.
Armed with this new knowledge, our heroes head to the guardhouse to ask for more supplies. They repeatedly mention the great threat they are going to face, and convince Ashoulla to give them her personal healing potions. Satisfied with the results of their shakedown, our heroes swing by to pick up Gabriel Andre Beaumont, then head south.
As night falls, our heroes find themselves in the middle of the swamps to the south of Bonfiant. Maximilian and Lucas argue over where to camp. The rest of the party somehow senses that Lucas has selected the better spot, and Maximilian reluctantly follows.
Ularalu lights a large fire, and everyone settles in for the night. Despite Ives’ magical Rapier of Warning, Maximilian insists on keeping watch. He relents when he sees that Amethyst is staying up as well.
Several hours later, everyone jolts awake as the bullywug which have surrounded the camp spring into attack position. Our heroes strike down several of the frogmen before any of the startled creatures can throw their spears. Gabriel attempts to reason with the bullywug, but is only met with proclamations of their grandeur. The battle goes well until Gabriel loses his footing, and strikes his head against a bullywug’s shield. Sensing an opportunity, the frogmen swarm the fighter and knock him unconscious. Their spears and jaws are somehow able to inflict grevious wounds despite Gabriel’s adamantine armor. Unfortunately for the bullywug, Master Beaumont’s friends are not so easy to subdue. The bullywug attempt to drag Gabriel away, but are cut down before they can get far.
After catching their breath, Maximilian and Lucas notice Ularalu has set large portions of the swamp on fire, and several bullywug have prostrated themselves before Amethyst. Maximilian taunts the bullywug, who respond with impotent threats and bluster. Amethyst claims that it would be “hard to explain” why the bullywug have decided to revere her. Maximilian cuts a leg off of a dead bullywug, roasts it, and holds it to his mouth. Once he gets a reaction from the surviving frogmen, he tosses it aside.
In the morning, our heroes continue south. The bullywug attempt to follow their new leader, but cannot keep up with the horses. Our heroes ride the day away, and arrive in Aix en Provence in the evening. The townspeople are quite unwelcoming. Gabriel attempts to reserve a room at the town’s only inn, but balks at the 10gp per night price, and the 50gp security deposit. Maximilian bribes an old man to get him to talk. The two men trade insults about each other’s way of life. Maximilian does learn that few venture to Calvinus Castle on the outskirts of town, and even fewer return.
As our heroes leave the tavern, they notice that everyone has locked their doors, and few lights shine in the windows. They make camp near the town square, but are chased off by a town watchman. As they leave town, they are approached by a kindly old man. He offers them lodging in his own home. Our heroes are quite suspicious, and grill their new friend about his history and occupation. The man explains that he has lived in Aix en Provence and hunts for a living.
Satisfied with his answers, our heroes head to their temporary abode, a ramshackle hut on the edge of town. They go to bed, but set watches. During Gabriel’s watch, he notices the old man begins to stir. He slowly reaches underneath his bed, and pulls out a long, cloth-wrapped pole. He looks up and sees Gabriel watching him. “What do you have there,” asks the opportunist. The old man smiles and replies, “a spit.” With that, his features begin to contort and twist. His body grows larger, and his fingernails lengthen into dark claws. Awakened again by Ives’ sword, our heroes spring to their feet and battle is joined.
The foul creature unleashes a blast of cold air at Lucas, Gabriel, and Amethyst. Lucas takes the brunt of the attack, and is nearly knocked out by this single blow. The others inflict small wounds on this monster, but as our heroes watch, the monster’s flesh begins to knit back together. Lucas runs outside, chanting healing spells as he runs for the door. Amethyst casually gestures and a spectral hand reaches out for the monster. Her first attempt dissipates harmlessly, but her second attempt clings to the creature, preventing his wounds from closing.
With his regeneration disabled, Maximilian and Gabriel inflict several devastating blows upon the monster. Seeing its end approaching, the creature turns into a cloud, squeezes through a hole in the cabin and flies away. Gabriel and Maximilian chase it, but cannot bring it down. They return to find Amethyst tearing up the floorboards to take the gemstones hidden underneath. Our heroes find several precious stones, as well as three magic items. Amethyst explains that this creature is known as an oni or ogre mage. She guesses that it will hide at least until its wounds have healed, a process which will take several minutes. She also thinks that it has probably cannot cast many more spells for some time. She denies knowing what the old man was before he attacked.
Despite the threat of the oni’s return, our heroes decide to spend the rest of the night in the oni’s cabin. Time will tell whether this was a prudent decision…
Our heroes debate many different ideas for storming the tower. They eventually decide to send Ularalu to scout the tower after the pixie casually mentions that she can turn invisible at will with the power of pixie dust. Gabriel Andre Beaumont asks if the pixie dust will work on him. Ularalu thinks that Gabriel only need believe in himself, and he too can wield the power of pixie dust. The opportunist can almost feel the dust taking effect, but nothing happens. Ularalu concludes that Gabriel must not be pure of heart.
With that, Ularalu heads off to scout the tower. After a few minutes, there is a loud explosion, and smokes begins pouring from the tower. Gabriel sprints toward the sound, and the others follow behind. A group of bandits waits behind a barricade. Unfortunately for them, the barricade offers no protection from Keryassa Flameheart‘s and Jace’s fireballs. Before long, only one remains standing, the well-muscled and good looking Hercule. He goes toe to toe with Jarl, knocking the peredhil to the ground and bringing him close to death. Unfortunately, for Hercule, Jarl’s friends come to his rescue. Before the strongman meets his end, he yells toward the tower, “Beaumont is here!”
Our heroes catch their breath from storming the barricade. Gabriel starts toward the tower, but he is met by a group of bandits walking toward him. Gabriel’s father, Nicholas, is with them, and one of the bandits, a peredhil, holds a knife to his throat. The peredhil introduces himself as Hivan and attempts to convince Jarl to join him. Keryassa and Jarl argue back. Hivan feels that the peredhil are being taken advantage of by the Vitalians, and is seeking to gain power for the peredhil. Keryassa questions the wisdom of joining with the remnants of the Iron Circle to accomplish this. Hivan appears to consider Keryassa’s words, but one of the other bandits, a female peredhil named Saffron, argues that is it too late to turn back now. No one will take Hivan seriously if he simply gives back his hostage. More discussion ensues. Hivan agains seems unsure of himself, so Saffron takes matters into her own hands, and plunges a dagger into Nicholas’ chest. Battle is joined. Hivan transfixes Gabriel in place with some sort of mental illusion, while Jarl heroically drags Nicholas away from his enemies. Lucas is able to revive the old man. Hivan and Saffron teleport away, leaving the rest of the bandits to their death.
Hivan’s tower is filled with treasure, including thousands of coins, a magic broom, bow, and rapier. Our heroes take one of the bandits’ ships, and sail back to Bonifant. Nicholas confronts Gabriel about endangering him with his reckless adventuring, and about using the Beaumont family shipping business as a front for crime. Gabriel has nothing to say. When they arrive in Bonifant, our heroes abandon their boat at the docks. Gabriel evicts the squatter from his father’s house, and begins cleaning it out. Everyone else, heads to the guardhouse. Imara Adelin acknowledges their report, and the PCs ask if there is anything else they can do. Imara doesn’t have anything, but Ashoulla needs help. She tells the PCs that Alexandre Anders is missing. This priest is the caretaker of the orphanage where Ashoulla and Saint were raised.
The PCs head to the Torm Orphanage and interview the children there. They learn that Father Anders was seen talking to a man wearing a dark cloak. This man seems to fit the description of a vampire. A child asks Keryassa to burn all of the beds, and the dragonborn obliges. In the chapel, where this rendezvous took place, the PCs find a large hole in the ceiling, apparently caused by an intense beam of light. Lucas uncovers a secret chamber underneath the altar. It appears that the chamber used to contain weapons and armor, as well as several smaller items. They’ve been recently removed. Jarl recalls a rumor, told to him by Ashoulla, that Father Anders was once an extremely powerful paladin.
The PCs go to convince Gabriel to join them. He asks for another day. He does hand over the sending stone, so Keryassa can contact Meldy about Father Anders. She tells Keryassa to meet her at the orphanage.
Gabriel Andre Beaumont, Jace, Amethyst, and the mysterious ranger are trapped on Noirmoutier Island. They’ve taken cover in some sand dunes from the archers in the tower. Here, they are temporarily hidden from their foes.
Meanwhile, back in Bonifant, Jarl, Keryassa Flameheart, Ularalu, and Jocq D’Gemseer are met by a dwarven member of the city guard. He introduces himself as Kildrak Rockseeker, and informs the party that their friends are in danger. Jocq, perhaps offput by Kildark having a similar accent to his own, is quite suspicious of the dwarf’s motives.
The two dwarves, dragonborn, peredhil, and pixie board Kildrak’s ship. Jocq is still quite suspicious of Kildrak’s motives, and continues to grill the dwarf on why exactly he is helping them. Jocq briefly considers pushing his fellow dwarf overboard, but he is eventually satisfied of Kildrak’s good intentions.
Meanwhile, back on the island, a group of soldiers approaches the dunes and begins searching for the invaders. Outnumbered almost four to one, Gabriel and the others prepare for a desperate final fight. Jace begins edging toward the shore, hoping to delay the inevitable. A soldier comes around the dune that our intrepid rescuers are hiding behind, and battle is joined.
As the villainous kidnappers call out to each other and close in on our heroes, Kildrak’s ship approaches the shore. Jarl, Keryassa, Jocq, and Ularalu disembark and join the fray.
Jace and Maximilian retreat toward their friends, leaving Gabriel and Amethyst to face the brunt of the brigands’ onslaught. Gabriel collapses after being wounded many times, but Amethyst fights on, despite being stuck enough times to kill a normal human many times over.
The kidnappers move to encircle their foes, both old and new. Keryassa, Jace, and Jocq climb atop the sand dunes and fire on their attackers from above. Jocq manages to revive Gabriel from a distance. Ularalu ignites several bandits, before being knocked unconscious. Jocq revives her as well. Amethyst begins to waver, but the others kill the flanking bandits and come to her aid. And so, as quickly as it began, the battle is over.
Jocq stands atop a sand dune, and looks toward the tower. Nicholas Beaumont’s kidnappers appear to be taking up defensive positions. The party begins to debate how to breech this fortress. Keryassa suggests creating a fortress of their own, with the strange cube she has been carrying around in her pocket. Ularalu suggests lighting the tower on fire, before Jarl reminds everyone that Gabriel’s innocent father is probably inside. Gabriel tires of the conversation and begins to stride off to the tower on his own, before he is confronted with the incredible stupidity of that course of action.
Jarl and Keryassa attempt to collect enough money to pay the kidnappers demanded ransom. Unfortunately, Gabriel has already spent all of his money, and Jocq and Amethyst are unwilling to part with theirs. Jocq notices that Amethyst has two large gemstones in her pack. She explains that they have sentimental value to her. Jocq asks to handle them and is rebuffed.
The party licks their wounds and continues to discuss what they should do next. Maximilian spills the beans about Amethyst’s secret. Jocq is smitten by this beautiful, shape-shifting, mind-reading dragon. He converses with her and teaches her about normal behavior among humans. The dragon seems to appreciate the attention. Jarl suggests attempting to deceive the bandits into accepting less money then they’ve asked for, and rescuing Gabriel’s father when he is brought out. The others, for the moment, can not think of a better plan.
Night falls over Bonifant. Jace heads to the Elven Embassy for the night. He discusses his adventurers with Ambassador Sophianya Woodsoul. There’s a fair amount of elven snootiness toward the other races.
Gabriel goes to his father’s old home. It’s been looted and there are some vagrants living there. He pays a vagrant some money to keep an eye out for anything suspicious.
Lucas, Gabriel Andre Beaumont, Amethyst, and Maximilian head to the peredhil embassy to once again impose on the kindly race. Foulques Delacrox intercepts Lucas and Maximilian. He complains that he is still unable to locate Idelle, and wants to know where Jarl is with the promised help.
In the morning, Lucas, Gabriel, Maximilian, and Amethyst meet at Uncle Paco’s Crepe Stand. Amethyst chats with Uncle Paco while the others eat. Gabriel asks Paco if he’s seen Augustin Eugene, the man who handed Gabriel the ransom note, so to speak. Paco has seen him, but isn’t able to provide much other useful information. He promises to keep an eye out for Eugene.
The PCs get ready to head out. They agree to look for Hercule, Pierre DuPont‘s old foreman. Pierre’s old spice warehouse seems to be a good place to start. Gabriel pulls Amethyst away from her cooking discussions with Uncle Paco, despite some nudging from Jace to leave her alone.
Hercule has left his old job, and no one knows where he is. Gabriel has several terse conversations at the warehouse, then everyone leaves for the guardhouse.
Maria Pontmercy is not there. Instead, Imara Adelin is in charge. She sends Gabriel along to the records department. The guards are puzzled by Gabriel’s requests for “known associates,” “last known address,” and things of that nature. They are able to tell him the whereabouts of Osark, one of the other men that Selkar suspects. He owns a fancy clothing boutique in the merchant district.
Osark is more interested in selling clothes to the newest heroes of Bonifant than talking about Gabriel’s father. Jace buys a fancy new hat. It’s blue with sparkling stars. Maximilian ducks out of the shop when Osark tries to sell him something. Amethyst persuades Osark to sell her some fine clothes for a heavily discounted price. After some more fruitless questioning, Gabriel gives up and goes to stake out the back of Osark’s shop. Amethyst quickly gets bored and suggests that she can easily find out if Osark is involved in Nicholas’ kidnapping. She enters the store, and a few minutes later comes back out and says that Osark is not involved.
Amethyst notes that in the underdark, when one is looking for a criminal, one usually goes to a place where criminals congregate. With that in mind, the party heads for The Priest and Knight Inn. Gabriel asks Selkar if he’s found anything. Selkar hands him a note, which says that his father is being held on Noirmoutier Island. The note is signed “Archer.” Gabriel gives Selkar the rest of his gold.
Gabriel heads to the guardhouse and asks Imara for a boat. Imara explains that the island is offlimits, and that she will organize a large force to oust whomever is there once she confirms Gabriel’s information. She cannot guarantee that Nicholas will remain safe during the attack. Gabriel repeats his request for a boat. When Imara asks what he plans to do, Gabriel will not say, and Imara tells him to get out.
Down at the docks, Gabriel finds an old man who is willing to rent out his rowboat. Unfortunately, Gabriel does not have any money to pay him. Fortunately, after a few kind words from Amethyst, the old man agrees to give up his boat for free. As the party rows away from the docks, the old man comes to his senses, and begins yelling angrily, but to no avail.
After almost an hour of vigorous rowing by Gabriel, the party arrives at Noirmoutier Island. It is dominated by a central tower, but the party cannot make much else out. They decide to circle around the island, and take in a good view of the island’s beaches and rocky outcroppings. As they complete their circuit, the party is hailed by a larger boat. The dwarf standing in the new boat’s prow explains that he is scouting out the island, and warns our adventurers that Noirmoutier Island is off-limits, and likely inhabited by dangerous outlaws. Gabriel replies that he is not on the island, and so is not breaking any laws. The dwarf continues on his way.
As our adventurers observe the island from a distance, they are startled by a large splash nearby. They soon realize that they are being shot at from the tower. Gabriel begins to row towards the island. Despite his best evasive maneuvers, the rowboat is hit and begins to sink. Our heavily armored friends cling to the wreckage of the boat to avoid sinking. They begin paddling toward shore while Jace flies above. Another ballista bolt lands uncomfortably close.
Suddenly, the PCs are enveloped in darkness. Amethyst’s spell keeps the ballista at bay, for now. Jace flies closer to the island, then retreats from a flurry of arrows. He takes cover in Amethyst’s cloud of darkness. After several nerve-wracking minutes, the PCs feel sand underneath their feet.
However, their relief is short-lived. A voice calls from beyond the darkness, “We have you surrounded! Lay down your weapons and come out!” Jace pokes his head out, only to have a crossbow bolt whizz by it. The PCs prepare for battle, give the signal for Amethyst to dismiss the darkness, and come out firing.
The battle is fierce and over in a few seconds. Seven outlaws lie dead on the beach, and three more stare blankly into space, their minds hypnotized by Amethyst’s spells. Jace is grievously wounded, and only Lucas’ assistance keeps him from joining the ranks of the fallen.
Amethyst interrogates the surviving outlaws. By reading their minds, she learns that there are about forty more outlaws on the island. Some are patrolling, and some are in the tower. After executing the survivors, Jace, Gabriel, Maxamilian, Lucas, and Amethyst make a break for some nearby brush, hoping to hide from their enemies.
The PCs find themselves in the secret headquarters of Crim Sorciere. They are greeted by Adriana Prevot. Several other members of the guild are present, including Meldy and a pixie named Ularalu. Prevot explains the purpose of the guild, and is asked quite a few clarifying questions by the party. Crim Sorciere exists to prevent the spread of evil magic. After a discussion about what exactly evil means, and whether certain types of magic are inherently evil or not, the PCs are ready to join. However, Prevot is unwilling to let the mysterious ranger join without know who he is. The mysterious ranger agrees to reveal his identity to Prevot in private.
Adrianna Prevot begins reciting the oath that all members of Crim Sorciere must take. She is interrupted several times with more clarifying questions. Gabriel is especially curious if the oath is magically binding. The new inductees then sign their names to a document which contains the pledge. Keryassa asks if the document is magically binding. It is not.
The pledge is as follows: “I hereby swear that I shall defeat all evil in the world. I will protect the innocent and the ignorant from the horrors which lurk in the shadows. I will not succumb to the siren call of evil, and I will prevent others from taking that path. I will not reveal the existence of Crim Sorciere to any outside the guild, nor will I divulge the identity of any of its members. The way must remain shut.”
The new members of Crim Sorciere are given a task. They are to escort the dragon Amethyst to Bonifant. Amethyst could prove to be a valuable ally, but Prevot is also concerned that Amethyst could be lying about her falling out with her mother. The PCs reluctantly accept the mission.
But first, the PCs explore the Crim Sorciere base. Jace and Gabriel head to the library. Keryassa rounds up silver weapons, then dumps them over a cliff. Maximilian gets the resident gnome to make him a silvered rapier and some silvered arrows. Gabriel looks for a sparring partner but can’t find one. Keryassa meets Ularalu and bonds with her over their shared love of fire. Keryassa convinces Ularalu to burn down the library, but Jace and Gabriel stall her long enough to Meldy to arrive. Ularalu listens to Meldy. Keryassa asks Ularalu to join them on their journey to Bonifant, and the pixie agrees.
In the morning, the party sets out for Bonifant via teleportation circle. As they are sent off, Meldy gives them a sending stone. It will enable the PCs to communicate with Meldy once per day. With a flash of light, the PCs find themselves inside an old barn, face to face with an angry wizard and his band of mercenaries.
The wizard introduces himself as Marcel the Magnificent. When the PCs refuse to give up any information about the teleportation circle and where it leads, battle is joined. The PCs are peppered with arrows, and Keryassa is attacked by a monstrous flesh golem. Marcel unleashes a devastating Cone of Cold, knocking out Keryassa, Jace, Maximilian, and Lucas. Jarl closes with him and brings him to his knees. Before he can finish him off, one of the archers in the rafters intercedes on his behalf.
The archer apologizes for Marcel’s actions, but Marcel continues to rant and rave about how he must have revenge on the little girl who foiled his plans. Eventually, the archer physically restrains Marcel from talking. The PCs use the sending stone to contact Meldy, and she appears through the portal. Eventually the PCs agree to let Marcel go, and the archer agrees to supply the PCs with information about the Bonifant underworld. Before she leaves, she introduces herself as Avery. Since the location of the teleportation circle has been compromised, Keryassa, Jace, and Ularalu burn down the surrounding barn. Meldy takes her leave.
The PCs head into Bonifant. They head to Uncle Paco’s Crepe Stand. While there, Gabriel is approached by an old coworker. He announces that his compatriots have kidnapped Gabirel’s father. Gabriel is to bring 700 gp to his father’s old dock in one week. Gabriel heads to The Priest and Knight Inn to gather information. Everyone else heads to the guardhouse to ask Maria Pontmercy for help.
Gabriel speaks to his contact, Selker Falwythe. It’s a testy conversation. Selker has a few ideas about who could be behind this. Gabriel pays him 25 gold to hunt for more information.
Everyone else finds Pontmercy in her office with Imara Adelin. Pontmercy explains that she is now engaged to Wil Aldridge. As Queen of Vitalio she can no longer command the Bonifant city guard. Imara will take her place. Jarl asks her for 700 gold. Pontmercy asks the PCs to find another way to rescue Gabriel’s father, but leaves the door open to lend the PCs the money, with the expectation that the PCs will pull a double cross on the kidnappers and retrieve the money once Gabriel’s father is rescued.
The party rests for the night at the shifter camp. Jarl meditates outside. He hears something suspicious, wakes up Gabriel, and goes to investigate. He finds one of the shifter watchmen dead, with several purple-eyed drow standing nearby. Gabriel wakes up everyone else, and the party follows, with Amethyst and the shifter chieftain, Fang in tow.
When the drow see Amethyst, their leader speaks. “Lady Amethyst, please return with us.” “No way!” retorts the young woman. Battle is joined. Keryassa kills most of the drow and their pet spider with a well-placed fireball. One of the surviving drow focuses on Amethyst, while Jarl engages the other one. Amethyst mocks the drow for trying to poison her, and the drow responds by throwing a iron ball at her. The ball turns into several iron bands, but Amethyst is able to avoid being entangled. The bands revert into a ball, and Gabriel runs over and picks it up.
The statue of Kitten animates and joins the battle. After the drow are dispatched, Amethyst begins talking to no one in particular. “No, I’m not going to do anything bad.” “I’ll be gone before he gets here anyway.” “No, I’m not evil.” When questioned by the PCs, she admits that she was talking to the statue of Kitten. This prompts another wave of questions from Keryassa and Gabriel. Amethyst admits that she is running away from her mother, a powerful mage, who has sent mind-controlled drow to track her down.
A few minutes later, Meldy shows up. She tells the PCs that their earlier encounter with the maid and the dragon was a morality test, which they passed by going after the baby, and not taking the dragon’s treasure. She asks about Amethyst, and Gabriel relates everything he knows, to Amethyst’s annoyance. Meldy puts two and two together, and identifies Amethyst as the daughter of the powerful purple dragon that rules half the underdark. She tells Amethyst that her organization would be interested in an alliance. Amethyst agrees to discuss such things further. She also asks Keryassa if she’s going to hunt her now that she knows the truth. Keryassa says no, and Meldy confirms that dragonborn hunting dragons is an underdark myth.
Meldy tells the PCs to prepare for their next test. She also get Lucas to admit that he can cure Jarl’s lycanthrophy. She guarantees the PCs safety during the next test. The PCs finish resting, then follow Meldy away from the shifter camp. Once they are a fair distance away, she draws a teleportation circle in the ground, and transports the PCs into a maze. The maze is a giant square, with each quadrant being made of one of the four elements. There are several different runes etched into the floor. When stepped on, they summon small, imp-like elementals. The PCs split up so they can all step on identical runes at the same time. The imps appear, and the PCs must fight them individually or in pairs.
Jarl dispatches his opponents first, and heads for the center of the maze. There he finds two large elementals, one made of air and one made of earth. They attack him. Things look grim, until the rest of the PCs arrive. The air elemental flings the PCs around like rag dolls. Maximilian is knocked out. Meldy teleports into the maze and drags him to safety, before Lucas revives him. With some difficulty, the elementals are put down. Meldy congratulates the PCs on passing the final test, and welcomes them to Crim Sorciere, an organization dedicated to preventing the spread of dark magic. She teleports them to a large, circular room, where several people are waiting. A woman with long, purple hair steps forward, and says “Welcome to Crim Sorciere.”
The sun inches towards the horizon in Parth. Jace, Ives, and Gabriel discuss whether they should leave for the Paladin Peaks now or wait until the next morning. The mysterious ranger lurks mysteriously.
An enterprising merchant overhears their conversation and tries to sell Gabriel a guide to the mountains. He asks for 20 gold. Gabriel tries to bargain him down to 15 gold, but only succeeds in getting him down to 18. Jace wants to put the man to sleep and steal his book, but Gabriel decides against it, perhaps because of the large number of potential witnesses nearby.
Gabriel goes shopping for a more reasonably priced guide. He disregards the shopkeepers suggestion of a guide that incorporates an account of the first human settlers to reach Vitalio from the east, and instead purchases a copy of Vasark’s Guide to the Montains. Flipping through the book, he reads that storms in the mountains often comes in the evening. With this information in mind, our heroes decide to spend the night in Parth and set out for the mountains in the morning.
Gabriel finds a reasonably priced room at an inn called The Flying Turtle, and settles in with his new book. He is soon disturbed by a knock on the door. Jace wants to have a slumber party. Gabriel tells him to find his own room. After all, Gabriel is an only child, so he couldn’t have had slumber parties with his… siblings? “Slumber parties are stupid,” says the opportunist in his characteristically blunt manner. Ives notices that, sadly, the innkeeper takes his strongbox into his personal room at night.
Ives borrows Gabriel’s book, and takes it to his own slumber party with Jace. Both read the book, although Ives seems to get more out of it. Since all slumber parties need pranks, Jace unleashes some cantrips on Gabriel. The fighter’s room is filled with a faint but unpleasant odor, and the faint strains of the trololo song play in the fighter’s ears.
In the morning, a rather grouchy Gabriel heads downstairs for breakfast. Upon finding oatmeal, he demands some crepes. When the staff of The Flying Turtle rebuffs him, he reluctantly tries the oatmeal and finds it to be quite good. With a good meal in his stomach, he sets about gathering his companions.
Our heroes leave Parth and Vitalio behind and head into the Paladin Peaks. After several hours of traveling, they come to a stone bridge that spans a deep chasm. The bridge is quite old, and is missing stones in several places. After some debate, Gabriel, then Jace, then Keryassa venture across the bridge. As Keryassa crosses, six rough-looking men emerge from the shadows on either side of the bridge. They demand money from the travelers and are rebuffed. The bandits attempt to intimidate their quarry by having one of their number turn into a werewolf. Our heroes are impressed, but still refuse to surrender their possessions.
The remaining five humans simultaneously begin to grow bigger and hairier. Soon, it is clear that our heroes are facing a pack of werewolves. Ives and Maximilian find that their metal weapons are completely ineffective against the beasts. A hooded figure steps from the shadows and joins forces against the werewolves, using magic to cause the beasts to attack each other. Jace, Lucas, and Keryassa put the newfound mastery of the fireball spell to good use. Maximilian causes a large amount of brambles to sprout from the ground, hindering the movement of Gabriel and several werewolves. During the fray, both Jarl and Keryassa are bitten. Even so, the werewolves are dispatched without much difficulty.
Once the dust settles, the hooded figure introduces herself. She is a traveler from Inaulia name Amethyst. She is looking for the birthplace of The Shining Terror, a mythic figure that terrorized her homeland before she was born. She happily accepts Jarl’s invitation to journey with the group. Lukas leads the way as our heroes search for the werewolves’ lair. Amethyst helps by sniffing the air, which leads Keryassa to suspect she is a dragon, an accusation which Amethyst denies.
The lair is a disgusting place, and our heroes are disappointed to find no magic items, and only several thousand coins and a few gemstones. They present Amethyst with all of the copper and silver, which she happily accepts. With the lair plundered, our heroes continue deeper into the Paladin Peaks.
The party is accosted by a woman wearing a maid outfit. “Help! Help! My baby’s been taken!” she screams. “It had a tail… and teeth… and claws… it was horrible! Please save my baby!” She points the party in the general direction, and they set off to find the missing child.
As the party runs to rescue the maid’s hapless offspring, they stumble into a clearing full of ogres. The ogres are happy to see some tasty morsels walk right up to them, but their happiness soon turns to anger as their food fights back a bit more than they would like. The ogres prove to be especially bad judges of weapon trajectories as they taunt both Gabriel and Maximilian for missing before being struck by their weapons.
Once the ogres are dead and looted, Lucas leads the party to the mouth of a cave. “My baby’s inside!” screams the woman. Amethyst tries to sneak off. When confronted she explains, “There could be something dangerous inside the cave, like a dragon… or something.” This prompts another round of questions about why Amethyst hates dragons. She hates them because they’re mean, but then why doesn’t she hate humans? They can be mean too. Finally, the distraught mother can wait no longer, and rushes into the cave. Jarl runs after her, and the rest of the party follows.
Gabriel catches up to the woman and tries to tackle her, but misses. The party rounds the corner and finds a dragon lying on a bed of coins and gems. A baby basket lies in between its forelegs. “My baby!” screams the woman. The dragon picks up the basket in its mouth and leaves through a back entrance.
The woman climbs over the pile of coins and runs after her baby. The PCs are torn between heroism and greed. Lucas grabs a gemstone from the pile as he pursues the dragon. Jace and Keryassa linger the longest, but decide to do the noble thing and leave the treasure behind.
Jarl is first to reach the end of the tunnel. He climbs into the sunlight, and sees the dragon flying off into the distance. At his feet is the baby basket, with a doll inside. “My baby!” says the maid happily, clutching the doll to her chest. Our heroes are understandably upset at this development, and go back to claim their treasure. When they do so, however, they find the way is blocked by a large bolder. Their best efforts are not enough to move it. Enraged, Keryassa fires off several bolts of magic at the woman. She screams and runs. Keryassa’s eldritch blast hits the woman in the back, causing her to drop her “baby.” The porcelain doll shatters on the ground. The woman shrieks and rises into the air, before vanishing.
Our heroes head to the original entrance to the cave. This passage has also been blocked by a boulder. They find Amethyst resting in the shade. She didn’t see anything, although she did hear the stone falling into place. The party heads toward a nearby column of smoke.
The smoke belongs to a camp of shifters, a race of nomadic creatures with lycanthropic bloodlines. Their leader introduces himself as Fang of the Longtooth clan. He invites the newcomers to share their fire and food. His offer is accepted. On the edge of the camp is a large wooden statue of a shifter wearing plate armor. The more knowledgeable PCs quickly deduce that this a memorial to Kitten the Paladin, legendary hero.
Jarl asks Fang if there is a cure for werewolf lycanthropy. Fang says that the members of another shifter tribe, the razorclaws, have a healer that should be able to help. He offers to send one of his people with Jarl to help him find this healer. Fang cautions that on the night of the full moon, Jarl’s bestial urges will become uncontrollable, and he will transform into the horrific monster that is the werewolf. At Keryassa’s prompting, Fang admits that it is possible to accept the monster within instead of fighting the urges. Such people can transform between man and beast at will. However, warns Fang, those who do so inevitably succumb to their darker urges. Keryassa scoffs at his warning.
Amethyst asks the shifters if they have any orphans or other children she can adopt. When she is rebuffed, she asks the PCs for help in kidnapping one. She explains that The Shining Terror was a shifter, and that she wants her own shifter to train into a similar warrior. Even though she promises to treat the child well, the PCs refuse to help, and are horrified by her plans to use mental magic to brainwash the child. Jarl points out that he and his friends are mighty warriors, and asks Amethyst to travel with them instead of kidnapping a shifter. Amethyst agrees. With that, our heroes enjoy some roasted meat from the shifter’s fire, and look forward to some well-earned rest.