Our heroes are invited to appear before Queen Titania to explain why they have come to The Summer Court. But first, they have some time to kill, so they go shopping. Ularalu buys a pixie-sized necklace and a small diamond so she can cast Chromatic Orb. Jace peruses various books.
It’s time for the audience with Titania! Inquisitive courtiers gather around as Maximilien Delacroix tells Titania that he and his friends have come because they’ve heard so many good things about the craftsmanship in this realm. Titania asks if there’s anything in particular they’re interested in, but no one wants to reveal any more in public. Jace asks for a private audience, the mysterious ranger apologizes for the wizard’s forwardness, and Titania politely declines. The courtiers snicker at the newcomers’ awkwardness.
After the audience is over, our heroes are approached by an elf and a pixie, both clad entirely in black. They introduce themselves as Fafnir and Belladonna, emissaries of the Gloaming Court. They offer to help, claiming that unlike the courtiers of The Summer Court, they will be straightforward. Our heroes decline their offer, and Fafnir makes a few ominous remarks before leaving. Ularalu and Jace ask Sinoqui Amakiir to show them the Nahre Lotus pools. The mysterious ranger remains behind.
The Nahre Lotuses are as beautiful as advertised. The broad leaves of the Nahre Lotus stretch approximately 3 feet long and 2 feet across at their widest point, and its blossoms frequently reach the size of a man’s head. The leaves are emerald green and refract light much like gently moving water. The petals on the Nahre blossom, which has no stalk but rather rests directly on the leaves, are a brilliant pink and gold, like clouds during a tropical sunset. An elderly faun approaches Jace, and begins to speak to him about the lotus plants, his life’s work. Jace listens eagerly for several hours.
Meanwhile, the mysterious ranger seeks out other residents of the prime material plane. He finds a human, who is initially quite friendly, but when the ranger refuses to give his name, his new friend’s disposition quickly turns cold. The ranger looks around for someone else to talk to. Shenal Liadon approaches. The elf is concerned that the ranger and his friends will damage the wilderness when they go exploring. Shenal offers to provide guidance, and invites the ranger to his learning center. Maximilien declines the offer, and says he does not intend to leave town.
Yet another character approaches our mysterious ranger. This one introduces himself as Prince Isolin, and offers to help with our heroes quest. The ranger politely declines the offer, with the excuse that he needs to consult with his friends first.
Meanwhile, Ularalu has grown tired of hearing Jace and the faun talk about plants. She lies down to sleep. Suddenly, she is awakened by a tap on the shoulder. It’s her old pixie friends, Mustard and Peaseblossom! They ask her how she’s doing and if she’s still lighting things on fire. The conversation turns judgemental very quickly. “Fire hurts people. It’s not the pixie way.” say Ularalu’s well-meaning friends.
The mysterious ranger hears a mysterious voice in his head. “Follow me to find out more,” it says. The ranger goes and gathers his friends. Ularalu is happy for an excuse to leave, but Jace says he will take a different path, and continues talking to his new friend about horticulture.
The pixie and the ranger are led to a secluded area of the Summer Court. “When you need me, I will be there,” says the voice.
Our heroes are in a hard spot. No villainous figure has jumped out from behind a bush, chortling and clutching a bottle of poison. There are no trustworthy NPCs to get orders from, except for Sinoqui, and she isn’t being very helpful. There isn’t even an Uncle Paco’s to go to. Perhaps sensing their dilemma, Prince Isolin stops by again. He lets it slip that he is the son of Titania and Oberon. This earns him a small bit of credibility, and our heroes listen to him instead of find excuses to ignore him. They even tell him that they are looking for whomever poisoned their city. He says that only a member of the Gloaming Court could have done such a dastardly deed. Perhaps if they went to the nearest Gloaming Court outpost and asked around, they could find out more. But before they venture into the wilderness, they should visit Shenal’s learning center. They might learn something.
Shenal kindly teaches the heroes how to dig a latrine and construct a lean-to. They decline further lessons. Shenal assigns a fellow member of his order, an elf by the name of Lucian, to go with the party, and help them navigate the wilderness in a caring way.
Our heroes set out toward the outpost. They meet a young, elven boy playing the flute in the middle of the woods. The boy introduces himself as Rathal and offers to be a guide through the forest.
The forest gradually turns into swampland. As the party wades through the marsh, they come across three beautiful singing women. They invite the party to join them, but Lucian and Rathal are not fooled. They know that these women are sirens, and lure unwary travelers to their doom. Our heroes try to pass by, but the sirens will not let them. In the fierce battle, Ularalu and the mysterious ranger are both trapped by flower nets and stabbed repeatedly. They collapse from their injuries, but the others rescue them before they bleed out. With the sirens dead, our heroes find a place to rest and regroup.
Sinoqui Amakiir tells the PCs that she has a lead on how Ravenous obtained their poison. She believes they had assistance from someone in The Summer Court, which is located deep in the Feywild. “You can come along if you want,” she says.
She goes on to explain that the quickest way to get to the Feywild is to travel to the Paladin Peaks, climb Mount Agamand, and wait as the mountain shifts into the Feywild as the moon comes up. “The mountains are inhospitable. Make sure you’re prepared,” she warns.
Our heroes begin making the necessary preparations. Ularalu has something else to do. She’s spent the past two weeks working at the Temple of Torm orphanage, atoning for setting their gate on fire. She also donates a large sum of money to repair the gate, as well as the beds that Keryassa Flameheart destroyed. Now that she feels that she’s made up for her previous actions, she asks Father Alexandre Anders to resurrect Keryassa. She provides him with a yellow diamond she got from Lucas.
Father Anders warns Ularalu that there is a earth elemental trapped inside this diamond. He cannot predict what effect this will have on the spell. Ularalu tells him to press ahead. Father Anders nods and proceeds. “I beseech you, Torm, please return this woman to this mortal plane.” He holds the diamond out over Keryassa’s body. With a flash of light, the diamond is consumed, and Keryassa’s eyes blink open. Ularalu is overjoyed to see her. Keryassa is momentarily disoriented, but soon gains her bearings. She says she will need to stay at the orphanage and rest for a while. Dying is quite the ordeal, after all.
The next morning, our heroes set out for the Paladin Peaks. After a three day journey, they reach the foot of Mount Agamand. In the morning, our heroes begin their ascent. Despite a few hairy moments, they reach the summit with hours to spare. They enjoy a afternoon of watching the rain clouds below them.
As the moon rises, the world appears to shift. The wind picks up and kicks up clouds of snow. As it dies down, our heroes find themselves in a different landscape. What was already a breathtaking view is now a dizzying vista. The moon and stars shines down with a dazzling brilliance, illuminating the area with razor sharp shadows. The air feels crisper, the snow feels colder. Everything seems sharper and more alive. Our heroes have arrived in the Feywild.
Having passed through the veil between the material plane and the plane of Faerie, our heroes begin their descent down Mount Agamand. As they pass below the treeline, the roads, paths, and trails begin to twist and turn back on themselves. Small avalanches of snow intermittently fall, blocking paths. Even our mysterious ranger begins to be uncertain of the way. He does not lose his head, however, and leads his companions out of the frozen woods into a clearing.
This clearing is littered with frozen corpses. As our heroes approach, they rise from the ground and attack! Although they pose little danger for our battle-hardened heroes, the same cannot be said of the group of elves on the far side of the clearing. Our heroes rush to protect the weak. They manage to save all but one of the elves.
The elves have obviously been lost in this frozen wasteland for some time, and have been driven mad by hunger. Some begin carving chunks of flesh off of their fallen companion. Two others advance on their rescuers, swords drawn. “Give us your food,” they demand. Our heroes comply. Their questions are rebuffed by demands for more food. The elves eat until the point of vomiting.
With a sudden realization, Jace declares that this must be the work of a bheur hag. These cruel creatures delight in the desparate, wicked actions mortals take when faced with extreme cold. Almost on cue, a raging blizzard kicks up, and canine howl rend the air.
The party is set upon by two enormous white wolves. The storm and the low visibility that comes with it proves problematic. In the midst of this chaos, a wizened figure emerges from the snowstorm. Her skin is blue-white, like that of a person who has frozen to death. Her hair is pale white, and she is emaciated, as if she were a person who had survived winter by eating bark and leather. Her eyes are pale and surrounded by dark, bruise-colored flesh. She carries a twisted grey wooden staff. Cackling evilly, she calls down an ice storm on our heroes. They manage to avoid the brunt of the assault, but the unfortunate elves are crushed beneath chunks of ice. Our heroes do not mourn the loss of their cannibalistic “friends.”
Lucas’ snake wraps itself around the hag, slowly crushing it. The hag pushes it away with a wall of ice, but by this time her wolf allies are slain, so she turns to flee. Mounting her greystaff, she rises into the air. Lucas gives pursuit on his broom. The witch’s delight at making her escape turns to dread as she sees the cleric in hot pursuit. A combination of Lucas’ fireball and Sinoqui’s bow bring the hag crashing to the ground, dead.
Unfortunately, the hag’s staff proves unusable by a non-hag. Our heroes burn the corpses and continue onwards. In a few days, they reach the Summer Court. Figuring his ship must be ready by now, Lucas says farewell, and takes a portal back to Bonifant.
Shapeshifters! The Far Realm! An Ancient Prophecy and More!
Outside the ruins of a manor, the “forces of good” plan their next move. Marcel the Magnificent notices Lucas’ mantle. He explains that the mantle used to belong to a Yamabushi sage, who reluctantly joined the Yamabushi army that attacked Vitaliio. He tried to arrange a peace treaty, but both sides rejected him. Before his death, he prophesied that the next bearer of this mantle would bring lasting peace between the Yamabushi Islands and Vitalio. This person would be able to pass the wards guarding the treasure the sage had hidden halfway between the two nations’ capitals. But first, the chosen one would bring peace to Bonifant, where the war had raged the fiercest. “Obviously,” says Marcel, “Someone like you could not possibly be the chosen one. The prophecy must be about a person of exceptional intelligence. Obviously, this person must be me. Give me that mantle.” “No,” says Lucas. “The prophecy’s probably bunk anyway.” Marcel gasps in astonishment, then sulks off in a huff.
In the midst of this discussion, Gabriel Andre Beaumont rejoins the party! He explains that he was ensuring that his father was safe after Ravenous threatened his life. The others accept this explanation, and continue their strategy meeting. After further discussion, our heroes decide to seek out Maria Pontmercy to see if she has discovered anything. Selkar, Meldy and Sinoqui Amakiir accompany our heroes, while Revy takes her forces to probe the Bonifant underworld for clues.
On the way to the palace, Jarl grows more and more suspicious of Gabriel. Gabriel’s answers to the peredhil’s questions do nothing to quiet those suspicions. Finally, Maximilien Delacroix confirms the mystic’s accusations. Gabriel is a changeling.
The changeling, or Fake-riel, as our heroes call him, offers to trade information for his freedom. He does not trust the party to honor such an agreement, however, and will only talk to Pontmercy. Eventually, our heroes find Pontmercy at the Bonifant sea gate.
Fake-riel tells Pontmercy that McGregor is hiding out at a coffin shop. He gives details on the defenses, exits, and entrances of the store. Pontmercy sends him back to the castle under armed guard. “If you information proves to be correct, you will be free,” she says. Pontmercy hurries to rally the city guard. She tells the PCs not to wait for her. They don’t.
Upon arriving at the coffin shop, our heroes come across a man pushing a wheelbarrow across the front yard. Upon seeing them, he says, “There’s no longer need for disguises,” and reveals himself to be a changeling. “I’ll handle this one,” says Meldy. The PCs leave her to it, and charge the coffin shop.
After a few arrows are exchanged, Jarl teleports inside the store. He finds himself face to face with an imposing dragonborn clad in jet black plate armor. The two warriors trade blows, but Jarl is victorious. The others mop up, and the lower floor of the store is secure. Jace and Selkar raid the cabinets in the kitchen for trail mix and herbs. Suddenly, the party hears the crash of breaking glass on the upper floor!
Selkar charges up the stairs, only to be met by two changeling assassins. Within seconds, he lies unconscious, his lifeblood seeping into the floor. Lucas revives him, but quickly finds himself cornered by an assassin, and near death himself. Jarl teleports through the broken window, and finds McGregor locked in combat with Perra Talstar and Pierre. “He’s ours,” they say. Jarl leaves them to it, and takes on an assassin with Ularalu’s help.
Sinoqui and Lucas battle one assassin, bickering while they do so. Selkar staggers to his feet, lurches towards the assassin, and strikes him with a curse. The assassin is unable to move, and is brought down from a distance.
Meanwhile, Jarl is having trouble. “I need help,” he cries. Sinoqui and Maximilian fire arrows into the assassin before retreating into the other room. This proves to be just enough help. Once his opponent is dead, Jarl turns back towards McGregor. The crime lord appears to be besting his two opponents. “All this effort to track me down for nothing!” he taunts. “You have no hope of defeating me!” “For Lillium!” shouts Pierre, slamming his hand down on the floor. A dark portal opens beneath McGregor’s feet. Milky white tentacles erupt out of it, and begin dragging McGregor into The Far Realm. Jarl tries to intervene, but McGregor rebuffs his help, and is dragged screaming through the portal.
Jarl scolds Pierre about his use of aberrant magic, but Pierre is unrepentant. “There is no lasting satisfaction in revenge,” says the peredhil. “If that’s true, then I am lost,” says Pierre.
After a few minutes, Pontmercy arrives. The actual Gabriel is discovered in a tunnel underneath the shop. He heads to the castle to question his changeling impersonator about his father. “He’s dead,” smirks the changeling. Gabriel charges and is retrained by the castle guards. The changeling walks off, a free man.
With Ravenous defeated, our heroes set to work rebuilding the city. Lucas has in fact brought peace to Bonifant. With this in mind, he decides to see if the prophecy is in fact true. He prepares to leave his companions, and set sail to the west.
An old friend says farewell; a new friend is disintrigrated
After resting, the party prepares to storm the old Delacroix manor where Ravenous is hiding out. Gabriel Andre Beaumont is missing. After some debate, the party decides to go on without him. They need to strike before Ravenous discovers they’ve been compromised, and Gabriel knows the plan and can join back up whenever he wants.
Maximilien Delacroix uses his primal magic to mask the party’s footsteps, and they approach the manor unseen. Ularalu turns invisible and scouts ahead. She finds various gang members throughout the house, but most importantly, she finds five hostages guarded by two bandits in the front entrance.
Lucas leads the party to a side entrance to the manor. They walk through several hallways and staircases, and attack the bandits from the rear. They are totally surprised, and the fight seems to be going well for our heroes, with one exception. As Ives runs in to attack, he drops to his knees and begins weeping uncontrollably. The others ignore him and focus on the enemies in front of them.
Ives reaches into his pocket and pulls out the instant fortress. With a trembling hand, almost against his will, he begins to set it down. The ranger grabs Ives’ hand, and tries to prevent him from placing it on the ground. The rogue overpowers the ranger, however, and once more, the dark fortress springs from the cube, crashing through the ceiling, looming over friend and foe alike.
Emerging from the fortress is a creature from Ives’ nightmares; a man in ragged clothes with a mouth that is too wide for his head and too many teeth to be human. “Ithaqua shall destroy all!” he says, before unleashing a devastating fireball upon the party. Ularalu is instantly knocked out by the blast, several hostages and bandits are incinerated, and everyone else is grievously injured.
To make matters worse, another creature emerges from the fortress. A mountainous form, this hideous creature is humanoid in general shape, but its hateful face is a writhing mass of tentacles. It shrouds itself in mist and teleports into the middle of the party. It unleashes a deadly beam of energy at Claude Couturier. Before he can even cry out, the paladin is gone. Nothing but a pile of dust remains of the brave man.
The monster charges towards Maximilian, and rakes him with its claws. The ranger barely manages to remain standing. “Banish it; that’s our only chance!” cries Lucas. The cleric appears ready to follow his own advice, but before he can, Meldy steps forward. Chanting in some strange tongue, she holds a small purple crystal towards the monster. A swirling portal opens beneath the creature, and with a hideous shriek, it is gone. Meldy continues chanting. “Don’t let anything break her concentration!” commands Lucas.
The remaining monster tries to charge Meldy, but the others surround it and slice it into pieces. Ives, who has regained his senses by now, says, “We must destroy it now.” The fortress falls under the party’s combined assault. Several gold masks fall from its ruins. No one dares to pick them up.
Our heroes stand around in stunned silence. Ives manages a few halting explanations of what happened. He reaches down and returns the fortress to its miniature form. Suddenly, there is a knock at the door. It’s Evariste Fulbert, Ives’ old “friend” from Abellard! Evariste is the head of the Abellard thieves’ guild, and has come to Bonifant to leverage an opportunity. There’s a great need for clean water in Bonifant, and Evariste has a Decanter of Endless Water. This is a great chance to give back to the citizens of Bonifant, and a great chance for Evariste to make a small profit. Synergy! The only problem is that he’s not too familiar with Bonifant. This is where Ives has a chance to get in on the ground floor! Help Evariste supply the poor people of Bonifant with water, and he’ll share the profits 50/50! Synergy!
For some reason, Ives is reluctant to agree to this deal. Maximilian nocks an arrow on his bow and tells the entrepreneur that it’s time to leave. Evariste sighs and says, “In these troubled times, every prudent businessman knows the value of insurance. I happen to have some back in the carriage. I’d really like not to have to use it, but I am prepared to leverage every competitive advantage at my disposal.”
Ives looks outside. Sitting in the carriage, surrounded by six of Evariste’s men, is his sickly, younger brother, Ace. Ives grows pale, and turns to Evariste. “Can we have a few moments to discuss this in private?” “Of course. Take all the time you need,” says Evariste. The party withdraws to the other side of the room and begins to discuss what to do. “Don’t be fooled by his gaudy clothes and catchwords,” says Ives. “He’s a very dangerous man.” Several plans are floated to rescue Ace. The party agrees on one, and approaches Evariste.
“I am prepared to assist you. We’ll even offer you some of these gold masks.” says Ives. “May I just speak with my brother though?” “Of course,” says Evariste. He picks up a mask. “What exquisite craftsmanship! Very avante guarde!” Ives and Meldy approach the carriage. “And who is this little lady?” asks Evariste. “This is Meldy,” explains Ives. “She’s quite the young entrepreneur herself.” “Always wonderful to meet a child with an interest in business,” says Evariste, patting Meldy’s head patronizingly. Meldy looks unhappy, but responds politely.
At the carriage, Ives begins discussing the various important landmarks in Bonifant, enthralling Evariste with tales of all the money they will make. Meanwhile, Meldy whispers a few words to Ace, and suddenly the two teenagers vanish!
“What? Where did they go?” asks a bewildered Evariste. “I think it’s time for you to leave,” says Maximilian firmly, with an arrow at the ready. “I’m… I’m… taking these masks with me!” says Evariste. He gets into his carriage and drives off. Maximilian delivers a few parting shots at the man’s ostentatious outfit.
Ives goes to check on Ace. He finds Ace and Meldy sitting awkwardly next to each other in an abandoned farmhouse. After confirming they are safe, and promising Ace he will return soon, he heads back to the party.
Meanwhile, everyone else explores the house. They are met by an angry guardsman, who is disappointed to not find fellow survivors fighting Ravenous. He repeatedly accuses the adventurers of being looters and criminals, and rails against Pontmercy’s practice of including reformed criminals in the city guard. Even Lucas’ claim to be part of the family that owns the house won’t shut him up. A web to the face does shut him up. Jace finishes the job by webbing the man’s feet to the floor. The PCs explore the rest of the house, and determine that Ravenous has cleared out during the fight.
Ives returns and announces that he must look after his brother now. After all, he has enough money to pay for Ace’s medicine for a long time. First, however, he must deal with this fortress of pure evil and madness. It must be destroyed. He summons it again, draws his rapier, and plunges it into the fleshy walls. The fortress shudders. The others join in, and the fortress falls under a hail of blades, missiles, and magic. With this final task accomplished, Ives heads back to meet Ace. The others head to the 2nd location supplied by the prisoner from the warehouse.
Ace and Meldy have discovered that they both like music. Meldy gives Ace a sending stone so they can keep in touch. And with that, Ives Sévère, devoted brother, champion of Bonifant, shooter of horses, walks towards the sunrise, and bids us adieu.
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.
Our heroes watch Heskan and his charges as they walk out into the darkness. The light of their torches slowly fades as they disappear from view. Weary from their infighting, our heroes prepare to rest before pressing further into the castle.
Their rest is cut short by the sound of howls and screams. Heskan and the villagers desperately run for the safety of the castle, pursued by a pack of ravenous wolves. One of the villagers trips, and the wolves are instantly upon him. His horrific cries are quickly cut short as he is torn to shreds.
The survivors run inside; Malcer nips inside as well. With a twist of her hand, Saffron slams the door shut. Outside, the wolves feast on their prey, as their mournful howls pierce the night. Several of the villagers cry softly. “There is no escape! Wherever you turn, death is waiting!” screams Malcer. Idelle speaks softly to herself in elvish. Jace’s ears perk up, but he is unable to make out what she is saying.
Maximilian picks up weapons from the bodies of the fallen peredhil and hands them out to the villagers. They look at them unenthusiastically. Jocq tries to inspire the villagers to no avail. Everyone settles down to rest and calm down for a while. Jocq takes the opportunity to talk about his dreams of all races putting aside their differences and fighting together as one. As the dwarf speaks from his heart, everyone begins to listen to his words. Even Maglor is silent. With a renewed sense of purpose, our heroes set out to explore the dark corridors before them.
Jocq takes the lead and carefully proceeds down the hallways. He discovers and avoids several traps, and also finds a secret door. He cannot open it though. After a good deal of exploring, the party comes across a locked door. After Gabriel picks the lock, he is attacked by two vampires. Thanks in large part to some crack shooting from Maximilian, the vampires are easily dispatched, with only Gabriel being hurt.
Once the vampires are dead, the party explores the room. There’s a door on the right-hand wall. Jocq notices a tripwire across the door, and asks Gabriel to cut it. As the opportunist goes to cut the wire, he accidentally activates the trap instead. The ceiling collapses, pummeling everyone with rocks of various sizes. Jocq excitidely notes that some of them should be heavy enough to set off some of the other traps from a distance. He speculates that activating the traps may open the secret door he’s found.
A beefy looking villager offers to hurl the boulder onto a trap’s trigger switch and promptly drops it on his foot. Gabriel takes the boulder and successfully throws on the switch. Unfortunately, he is not standing back far enough, and is blasted by flames. Jocq tries to shield him from the worst of it.
Gabriel refuses to throw the boulder on the next trap switch, so Jocq does it instead. He banks the boulder off of a wall, and successfully avoids the ensuing flames. Unfortunately, this does not open the hidden door. However, it does open a door on the other side of the floor. While the others investigate this, Jocq finally realizes that the secret door can be opened by simply pushing on it. It leads to a downward staircase. The other door reveals a staircase going upwards.
Now that the party has two ways to go, they argue about which path to take. Due to some scary noises from the staircase to the second floor, they decide to go to the basement. Idelle and Heskan agree to stay behind to watch the other staircase.
Jocq rolls his boulder down the stairs. When nothing happens, everyone heads down. They meet a vampire with a pickaxe. The vampire behaves very strangely, as it does not attack them, and instead invites them to come with him. He does not retaliate even when Jocq attacks him. Jace realizes that the vampire is being mind-controlled.
Eventually, everyone follows the vampire. He leads them to a large chamber. In the middle of the chamber, resting on a bed of coins, is Amethyst. She explains that she is mind controlling the vampires to fill in a hole. She doesn’t want her mother to use the hole.
Jocq puts the villagers to work helping Amethyst. Jace asks Amethyst if he can learn how to mind-control vampires. Amethyst seems non-committal. When asked what she will do about the vampires upstairs, Amethyst says it would be nice if the PCs could clear them out. Jocq eagerly agrees to do so.
Saffron, Jace, and the others finish their discussion on blood magic. Maximilian comes down firmly against it, while Gabriel seems more concerned with Saffron character. Noveena argues that since Saffron’s had blood magic since birth, it’s a gift meant to help her fight aberrations. However, when it comes down to a vote, only Noveena gives a halfhearted “yes?” to using blood magic to enslave the vampire lord Absolon. Saffron offers to teach Jace the ways of blood magic at a later date, when there are more available “materials.” Gabriel expresses righteous indignation at the notion.
Their argument is interrupted by Father Alexandre Anders arriving on the scene. As he looks up at the castle, a dozen horrific monsters leap from the castle roof. These unholy combinations of man and bat screech challenges at the priest below. Father Anders chants "Tremble before the lawful fury of Torm. Fear his wrath.” With that, he pulls up the hood on his cloak, obscuring his face. A pair of glowing wings sprout from underneath his cloak, he draws two glowing blades, and launches himself upwards toward the demons above. A palpable aura of menace emanates from him.
Gabriel fires at the bat demons, but misses. Noveena is more accurate, and two of the creatures swoop down towards the party. As they approach, they emit awful shrieks. Maximilian is stunned by their cries, and is easy prey for the monster’s claws. However, the barrage of spells and arrows from our heroes is too much for the man-bat, and Maximilian recovers in time to deliver the final blow. The fight between Father Anders and the other demons moves over the castle and out of sight.
“He is here! It’s happening; it’s finally happening!” laughs Maglor manically. “And stay dead!” yells Maximilian as he repeatedly stabs the corpse of his vanquished foe. Maglor happily watches the bloody ranger mutilate the demonic corpse. Saffron speaks up. “I’m not entirely comfortable bringing that one along,” she says, nodding towards Maglor. “You’ll turn on me first, and soon, you will turn on each other” replies the elf. Jarl notes that Maglor has not committed any crimes, since being creepy and weird is not a crime. Jace suggests that Saffron use her blood magic to enslave Maglor. Saffron is willing to go along with this, but the other party members shoot down this idea. Noveena wonders why the others are so concerned about the evils of blood magic and vampirism, but are willing to use the aberrant items in their possession. Maximilian condescendingly mocks her idealism, and argues that they have other more urgent things to worry about.
In the end, the more impatient party members, Jace and Gabriel, start walking around the castle, looking for an entrance. They find a gate. It is closed, but a vampire opens a small door in the gate and invites them inside.
Jarl takes the vampire up on his offer, walks forward… and plunges into a pit. There is a gelatinous cube in the bottom, which proves to be only a minor inconvenience. When the party looks up after finishing off the cube, the hospitable vampire is gone. Most of the party ventures inside, but Gabriel, Jace, and Maximilian remain outside.
Upon entering, the party sees two cages in the center of the room. They are filled with old acquaintances. Peredhil, dragonborn, and humans from Aix en Provence are all represented. The cages are barred, not locked, so Jarl and Heskan quickly free the captives. As they look up from this task, they are greeted by two identical, familiar looking vampires. They say, “Welcome to the Floor of Illusions. Welcome to the Room of Rage.” As they speak, a feeling of overwhelming anger comes over everyone in the area. Jace, Maximilian, and Noveena are able to overcome it, but everyone else lashes out at those nearby.
The villagers fall quickly, being no match for the trained warriors they are fighting. Jace attempts to halt the carnage by conjuring an enormous spider web in the middle of the combatants. As the fighters become entangled in the web, the carnage slows, but does not stop. Jarl gains control of himself, but is surrounded by an enraged Gabriel and several furious peredhil. Once Maglor cuts down several peredhil and villagers near him, he moves to join this other melee. Noveena takes down a villager, apparently in self-defense, then begins attacking Maglor.
Gabriel and Maglor regain control at about the same time. Despite this, Gabriel is not ready to stop fighting. Pretending to still be enraged, but fooling no one, he kills another angry peredhil, and then attacks Maglor. Horrified, Maximilian runs into the room, and clocks Gabriel on the back of the head, knocking him out.
Maglor heals himself, laughing all the while. “I didn’t need your help,” he tells Maximilian. “I could have handled him just fine.” “That’s what I was afraid of,” retorts the ranger. “It’s finally happening!” Maglor repeats. “Just like thirty years ago! Except this time I’m underground, instead of up there in Aix en Provence. Will I be the only survivor again? Is it my destiny?”
The others discuss what to do about Gabriel. They send Maglor outside. As he leaves, he repeats his predictions of doom. “We’ll all turn on each other. It’s begun!” “He’s actually starting to make sense,” admits Noveena. After taking his weapons, Maximilian heals Gabriel, causing the fighter to regain consciousness. Gabriel argues that he killed the peredhil in self defense, and that he only wanted to teach Maglor a lesson. Others point out that both Noveena and Jarl attacked other people after they regained control. They defend themselves, and accusations fly. What was truly self-defense? Did Noveena really need to defend herself against a stick-wielding villager? Why couldn’t Gabriel have used non-lethal force? Is it ok to only use non-lethal force for the final knockout blow? Instead of pointing fingers, we need to kill the vampire that’s responsible for this, argues Noveena. All of these points are vehemently argued as the party licks their wounds.