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.
We begin again with the explosion in the entrance to Lord Absolon’s cave. Lucas and Jocq are trapped under the rubble with Saffron, Hivan’s assistant. Lucas and Jocq try to find a way out, to no avail. Saffron offers to teleport them to safety, which she does.
The three of them find themselves in a chamber beside a stone table. The table has chains on it, and troughs beneath the table run toward five stone thrones. The three adventurers discuss the disturbing truth, that this room is probably used for human sacrifice. As they turn to leave, a suit of armor by the door comes to life and attacks! The armor is quickly knocked to pieces, but not before Lucas and Jocq are both wounded.
The two clerics and the sorceress leave the sacrificial chamber and head down a flight of stairs. Lucas notices a suspicious pressure plate at the bottom of the stairs. He retrieves a piece of the vanquished armor, wedges it under the plate, and the adventurers are able to proceed.
After some more waking, they find themselves at the top of a large cliff. A switchback trail heads down the cliff. As they descend, they see a point of light below. It is the other party members. After a brief reunion, and some note comparing, the reunited party proceeds onwards.
They encounter some vampires. The vampires rudely ignore the party, and instead converse among themselves. They identify the PCs as “flunkies for the lightning witch.” Maximilian guesses that they are talking about Meldy, and fingers the stone in his pocket. Once the two sides get around to fighting, the vampires’ bravado is quickly destroyed by a devastating fireball from Jace and a casting of turn undead from Lucas. Two of the vampires run for their lives, and only one of them escapes.
Among the ashes of one vampire, the party finds a cold, white gem. Upon looking through it, they realize that it bestows the power of truesight. Maximilian takes possession of the gem. The party rests and Noveena explains her hatred of all things aberrant. This leads to a spirited discussion about whether the party should destroy the aberrant items in their possession. They decide that the middle of a vampire lair is not the best place to try and destroy strange items with mysterious powers. Gabriel does stop using his aberrant dagger.
As the party continues on, they realize they are being stalked by a displacer beast. They turn around and kill it. After the fighting, Maximilian realizes he feels uneasy. He senses some sort of malignant presence lurking in the center of the cavern. Lucas and Jocq throw glowing rocks in the direction indicated. They reveal a large castle, stretching almost to the cavern ceiling.
Gabriel clenches his fists as the twin vampires proclaim doom and destruction upon the expedition. When the runes go off, he’s caught in the fiery blast. As the dust settles, he notices two things: a nearby dragonborn trapped under the rubble, and a ghast rushing towards him.
Gabriel makes quick work of the monster, then frees the dragonborn from the rubble. The dragonborn introduces himself as Hirash Heskan. Heskan explains that he’s already been briefed on Gabriel and his companions. “You’re an excellent fighter, you’re rude and uncouth, and you have a penchant for thievery.” “All true,” replies Gabriel.
This new duo climbs up the rubble, onto the balcony where the vampires once stood. It’s slow going, since Heskan’s been injured by falling rocks. Gabriel looks back for his friends, but sees nothing but dust and rocks. Moving forward, they pass though a chamber supported by pillars carved to resemble anguished humans. “Unsurprising,” remarks Gabriel. “They seem to delight in suffering, especially when it’s humans.” Heskan remains silent.
At the end of the chamber is a small passageway. It leads to a hole in the wall of a large cavern. Gabriel wedges his grappling hook in between two rocks, then climbs down. With some assistance, Heskan climbs down as well. They begin exploring this new cave, keeping the wall on their right. Before long, they see torchlight approaching from the other direction.
Maximilian is carrying the torch. Jace, Ives, Jarl, and Noveena, an elf, and a ghoul are with him. The two groups exchange stories. Maximilian insults the dragonborn empire. Gabriel expresses concern over Ives’ condition. Ives and Jace want to rest, but Maximilian wants to keep looking for survivors. They compromise an a brief rest. Gabriel tells a story of the first time he handled a scimitar. He bested his instructor on the first try. His teacher was impressed, but his father was not. After an hour, everyone continues walking along the wall, in the direction that Maximilian’s group was headed in.
After several hours, the wall begins to bend towards the right. As the adventurers round the bend, several hundred bats swirl overhead. Some of them are unnaturally large. Suddenly, with a flurry of wings, the bats swoop down and attack! The large ones make easy targets from Ives’ and Maximilian’s arrows. The small ones are more difficult to eliminate, since there are so many of them. The elf cackles and laughs, even when the bats’ claws draw blood. His pet ghoul snatches at the swarms with his claws, then eats the ones he snags.
After his earlier encounter with the wraith, Ives is barely hanging onto life. The ranger attempts to keep himself between Ives and the bats, but it’s hard to shield someone from flying creatures. With his lifeforce almost gone, a single pass from a swarm could be enough to kill the rogue. Unwilling to die here, Ives summons the aberrant fortress. Scores of bats are crushed beneath it.
The strange elf’s mouth drops open. He stares at the fortress in amazement. Almost in a daze, he walks over and touches it. The wall yields slightly to his touch. Horrific facsimiles of the crushed bats appear on the castle, and tendrils snake out to consume nearby bats. “Never seen anything like this before, weird elf?” asks Maximilian. “My name is Maglor,” replies the elf. Jace fries dozens of bats with blasts of fire. Heskan draws two swords and waits for the bats to swoop down on him, before cutting them down.
Perhaps slightly disturbed by the fortress’ behavior, Ives picks it back up. Maglor looks disappointed. The last few remaining bats are cut down. Maximilian turns to examine the bend in the cave wall. It’s a gradual bend, but eventually the wall makes a 90 degree turn. “Well, it looks like this is as far as this side of the cave goes. We should head back to see if anyone else has found a passageway out of the original room.” Everyone begins the several hour trip back to the original passageways. Gabriel notices a dark statue with dull, red eyes looking down at him from above. He shoots at it, and it vanishes into thin air. No one else notices the statue.
After a few more hours of walking, Jace begins to grow restless. “We’ve almost arrived at the passageway Gabriel came out of,” announces the ranger. “We’ll walk fifteen minutes past the passageway we came from and then rest for the night.” “What happened to looking for survivors?” demands Jace. “Now you’re OK with leaving them to die.” “It makes sense to wait by these entrances to see if anyone else comes this way,” says Maximilian. “Then why did we walk for hours in one direction?” asks the wizard incredulously. “We needed to see if there was anyone in that direction, and now we need to see if there’s anything in the other direction. Besides, Ives is hurt and he needs to rest.” “Oh, so now you care about Ives.” “I kept him safe during the battle with the bats. We just need to scout a little more and then rest.” “Rest and let all those people die?” asks Jace sarcastically. “The infighting has already begun!” exclaims Maglor. “Jace, what do you suggest we do?” asks Gabriel. The argument gets rather heated, but in the end Maximilian refuses to back down, Gabriel and Heskan back him, and Jace sullenly tags along. “She’s my sister, damn it!” exclaims the ranger to himself.
Another half hour of walking reveals nothing except the two entrances that the various party members came out of. Maglor continues to preach his message of doom and despair. Finally, Maximilian spots some light in the distance. It turns out to be Idelle and two dragonborn. All three are wounded; one dragonborn is resting on a makeshift stretcher. Maximilian casts some primal healing magic on the bedridden dragonborn, who begins to stir.
Idelle explains that her party climbed into the enormous cavern from a hole in the cavern floor some distance away from the wall. They carried their wounded friend to the wall, and have been resting and waiting for someone to find them since. Heskan and Idelle speculate that most of their companions are probably dead. “All of us were dead the moment we stepped through those doors,” says Maglor. “The ones who died first were the lucky ones. They won’t have to witness the infighting and cannibalism.” “If you don’t have anything constructive to say, be quiet,” snaps Gabriel. “No one can say anything constructive in here. It’s all pointless; all of it!” With this, Gabriel rushes the elf and sticks a gag in his mouth. This only momentarily silences Maglor, as he kicks Gabriel backwards and draws his sword. “The fighting’s going to begin sooner that I thought,” he says. “I don’t have a quarrel with you,” says Gabriel. “But I want to quarrel,” says Maglor. Heskan steps between the two combatants. Maglor looks eagerly at Gabriel, but when the opportunist refuses to draw his weapons, the elf disappointedly puts his weapons away.
Maximilian asks if he can speak to Idelle in private. Once they are alone, he cautions her to contain her surprise, and then tells her his true identity, Maximilian Delacroix, Idelle’s older brother. The siblings share an embrace, although Idelle is more enthusiastic about the hug. Maximilian explains that he kept his identity a secret to keep his family safe, but he couldn’t anymore, not with death so near. Idelle explains that her alliance with Hivan is only a means to an end, and that she’s aware of his evil deeds. She also tells Max that she can take care of herself. The two agree to keep their relationship a secret from the rest of the group, and agree to tell the others that they were merely discussing the road ahead.
Meanwhile, Gabriel has a heart-to-heart with Heskan. The two warriors share stories about meeting different races and cultures, and the differences and similarities between humans and dragonborn. Heskan talks about the importance of clan, and his desire to bring glory to his clan. They talk about the one dragonborn Gabriel has known, Keryassa Flameheart. Gabriel mentions his desire to be there for his family, his voice tinged with pain as he remembers the rift between them.
While his two human friends engage in conversation, Jace slips into a meditative trance. It’s disturbed by a strange voice in his head. “Why that’s a mighty nice hat you’ve got there, mister,” says a strange jellyfish creature. “My name’s Mr. Flumph, what’s yours?” “Jace,” replies the wizard. “Where did you come from?” he asks. “I’ve been wandering around these caves, ever since I got separated from my friends.” “Can I touch your hat?” “Sure.” “It’s so soft and smooth; it feels so nice.” With that, Mr. Flumph merges into Jace’s hat. The wizard is disturbed by this, but quickly realizes that he’s gained some mental abilities while Mr. Flumph is merged with his hat. “Will you stay with us after we leave this cave?” he asks. “I don’t know; we’ll see how fun you are,” replies Mr. Flumph.
The rest of the party prepares to rest for the night. Maglor turns towards his pet ghoul. “I’m sorry Petrov,” says the elf before cutting the ghoul in half. “Why did you do that?” asks Gabriel. “Ghouls can only deny their natural urges for so long,” says Maglor. “Despite their outward veneer of civilized behavior, in the end they cannot resist their primal urges to eat and kill.” He pauses and grins creepily. “In that way, they’re not so different from you and I.”
After a brief discussion about who will take what watch, the party rests for the night. Once his meditation is over, Jace spends his time copying a new spell into his spellbook while his companions sleep peacefully, within the depths of the vampire lord’s lair.
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.
Jarl, Keryassa, Gabriel, Ives, Lucas, and the mysterious ranger stand over the corpses of the chuuls. Bruised and battered after the fight, the party decides to rest. After an hour or so, they begin following the chuuls’ tracks.
The tracks lead to a hill. Over the hill’s summit is a strange, shimmering light. Coming down toward our adventurers are two strange, toad-like creatures. The party hears the words, “I have seen the dark universe yawning, where the black planets roll without aim, where they roll in their horror unheeded, without knowledge or lustre, or name” chanted in their heads over and over again. Suddenly the telepathic chanting cuts off, as the creatures move in to attack!
The monsters let loose a flurry of teeth and claws. Jarl and Maximilian heroically withstand the brunt of their assault. Unfortunately, the ranger is not as well equipped to handle the onslaught as our hardy mystic, and he falls beneath the creature’s claws. The vile aberration then turns to Keryassa. As the battle rages, strange things begin happening. Different party members find their inner reserves being renewed, and both a friendly air elemental, and some smaller aberrations appear out of thin air and join the fight. Lucas revives Maximilian, while the other party members finish off the horrific creatures.
Once the fighting subsides, Jarl explains that these creatures are known as slaadi, and that they reproduce by injecting eggs through their claws into the people they injure. He estimates that those affected have about three months before the eggs hatch, and the tadpoles claw their way out of their hosts. Lucas thinks that the Lesser Restoration spell will kill the parasite, and since our heroes have three months to fix this problem, they postpone finding someone to cast it. The shimmering above the hilltop dissipates. Lying beneath the closed portal are a cube, a dagger, and a ring. All seem to be made of some strange, fleshy material. Keryassa takes the cube, Jace takes the ring, and Gabriel takes the dagger.
Lucas and Maximilian look for a place to camp. The decide the ruins of Wimbli will provide more shelter. The party finds Meldy meditating underneath a statue. She explains that she is replenishing her arcane reserves. She is able to do so more quickly in Wimbli because it is her birthplace. Meldy is fourteen, and the town was destroyed about five years ago in what Meldy calls “an arcane accident.” Meldy also says that the area around Wimbli is infused with aberrant and temporal magics, and that the temporal disturbances were probably caused by her magic interacting with the residual magic in Wimbli and… something else. Meldy does not know what that something else is.
Meldy goes to ensure the portal is closed. Ives and Gabriel go with her. Once Meldy ensures the portal is closed, Gabriel asks her to examine his dagger. Meldy tells him that it has the ability to create its own poison. Meanwhile, back in camp, Keryassa finds that her cube turns into a fortress, and Jace finds out that his ring allows him to easily move over obstacles. As Meldy, Ives, and Gabriel return to camp, Ives spots and kills many slaadi tadpoles. Gabriel is jealous, and Meldy tells him to stop acting like a child.
Keryassa summons her aberrant fortress. Meldy warns her that such things have strange side effects, although she does not know what. She offers to introduce the party to an aberrant expert if they are accepted into Crim Sorciere, the secret society she is a member of. She has recommended them for admittance, but first they must past tests that measure their skills and moral fiber.
After some debate, the PCs decide to stay and help Meldy hunt down any remaining aberrations. Meldy hunts to the north of Wimbli, and the PCs hunt in the south. The PCs find several aberrations and kill them all. Then they meet up with Meldy and continue east to Parth.
Meldy will not enter Parth because “it is full of impostors who pretend they know everything about magic but they don’t.” She hopes to see the PCs once they have passed their trials. She recommends that they purchase climbing equipment and cold weather gear in Parth.
The PCs buy the recommended supplies. Some merchants try to sell them silver weapons to counter the werewolves that supposedly prowl the Paladin Peaks, but the PCs decline. Lucas tries to sell his wererat potions, but is told that it’s impossible to brew a potion that combats wererat lycanthropy. Keryassa is a much better salesperson, and manages to sell one before she is interrupted by an anti-dragonborn conspiracy theorist. Gabriel tries to intimidate him, but he continues to declare that the dragonborn are secretly controlling Vitalio, and that King Wil is actually a dragonborn. Despite this disturbance, Keryassa is able to sell another potion. With the business in Parth done, the party heads toward the Paladin Peaks.
The PCs head out from Bonifant for the Paladin Peaks. It is a three day journey to the town of Parth, at the foothills of the Peaks.
The first day and a half are uneventful. Around noon on the second day, the PCs arrive on the outskirts of Wimbli, a town that was destroyed about five years ago. Most people avoid it on their travels now because strange creatures haunt the ruins.
The PCs are preparing to avoid the town when they are attacked by a pack of mutated wolves while Lucas is relieving himself. Jace has a close call, but the PCs manage to defeat the wolves.
As the PCs dust themselves off after the battle, suddenly they find themselves in the exact same positions they were a few minutes before. They are surrounded by the exact same wolves. The PCs defeat them again, and with their previous experience, they make quick work of the aberrant wolves.
The party figures out that this is some sort of temporal anomaly. To escape it, they must move closer to the source of the temporal disturbance. As they do so, the sky gets darker, and the vegetation gets sparser and thornier. As the PCs move closer to Wimbli, they begin to hear what sounds like thousands of voices crying, screaming, and gibbering.
The party is confronted by three gibbering mouthers. They steel themselves and face the horrific monsters. Jarl occupies one by himself, while the others finish off the other two. The PCs are frequently overwhelmed by the horror of the voices, and everyone spends at least a few seconds staring at the monsters with their mouths agape. Fortunately, the mouthers themselves are easy to dodge, and they are finished off without too much difficulty.
The PCs spot a graveyard nearby. They go to investigate. There’s a large black stone in the center of the graveyard. A strange vine with glowing, electric blue flowers is growing on the stone. The stone itself seems to be a huge piece of black granite. Jace determines that the vine is magical, but no one can figure out anything else about it.
While the party is puzzling over this strange plant, they are attacked by two large lobster-like creatures. This creatures easily snatch up humanoids in their powerful claws, clamping down with all their might. Then, they paralyze their pray with venom from their tentacles. It is a difficult fight, but eventually the PCs prevail.
Having narrowly defeated a combination of demons and cultists, the party debates whether they should rest or press on. They are preparing to rest when Meldy comes down the stairs. She can barely walk, and leans on her trident for support. She urges the PCs to press on, so that Barthelemy will not have a chance to summon more demons. At Jarl’s urging, they decide to do so.
Before long, the PCs find Barthelemy surrounded by his minions, both demonic and human. They refuse his offer to join sides, and battle is joined. A demon transforms to look like Gabriel’s mother. The fighter is terrified by this, then the demon tries something similar on Meldy. It is unsuccessful. After a few minutes of fierce fighting, all of Barthelemy’s allies lie dead, slain by Ahoulla, Imara, or Meldy. Barthelemy’s final pleas for mercy are ignored, and soon he also lies among the slain. The PCs find some treasures in a back room, while Meldy prepares a spell to reinforce the barrier between planes. She asks Lucas to cast a spell to activate the barrier, which he does.
The PCs exit the dungeon through the pit where they entered. They find the ice wizard Jacqueline at the top. She is surrounded by frozen demon corpses. Gabriel makes awkward conversation with her. It turns out she made a deal with Dryug for her freedom. Part of it involves killing demons, and part of it involves not killing other people, like the PCs for instance.
A peredhil comes out of a nearby building. He greets Jarl enthusiastically. Jarl introduces him to the rest of the group as Joe. Despite their suspicions, the others play along. He explains that he is watching Jacqueline, or Jack as he calls her.
Meldy thanks the PCs for their help, and tells them that if they wish to learn more about the secret society she is a part of, to head to the Paladin Peaks. The PCs depart for some much needed rest. Imara and Ashoulla remain behind to wait for Pontmercy.
The next morning, Foulques Delacroix asks Jarl for help finding his wife, Clarisse, and daughter, Idelle. His only lead is one of his former servants, Armand, who has been frequenting The Priest and Knight Inn with money to spare.
Jarl convinces the other PCs to join him on his quest. The party finds Armand and buys him drinks. He tells them that Idelle’s old steward, Aloys Mathieu, probably knows where she is. He is staying at The Flying Snake, a ritzy inn in a wealthy area of Bonifant. Jarl gets Armand to sign his expense report.
The PCs head to The Flying Snake. Jarl bribes the guards to let them inside. He rents proper dining attire for the party. Gabriel and Jace wear matching blue outfits. The party enjoys lobster dinners, while Gabriel insists on mackerel. He thinks about his mother as he eats. Meanwhile, Jarl and the others try and find Aloys. After some investigation, they find he is staying under a pseudonym, Eudon Denis. Jarl approaches Aloys, and buys him some top shelf liquor. He will not reveal Idelle’s location, but he does agree to meet with Foulques. Jarl makes sure to properly document all of the expenses he is incurring.
The party heads back to the Peredhil Embassy. Foulques is shocked by Jarl’s expense report. He says he will not reimburse Jarl until he finds his family. He agrees to meet with his old steward.
The party heads to the guard house to talk to Pontmercy. She thanks them for their help. She explains that the guard was able to close the demonic portal near the docks, and that King Wil was able to close a portal in the merchant district, with some help. She gives the PCs a reward, and invites them to a celebration that will take place in a few days.
The party prepares to head toward the Paladin Peaks to find out more about Meldy’s secret society.
Lucas and Ives arrive at the guard command post. Ashoulla enthusiastically introduces herself to the party. Our heroes head back toward the Archambault mansion, with Ashoulla and Imara in tow. They arrive without incident.
Everyone descends into the smoking pit and begins to explore. Almost everyone falls at least part of the way. Fortunately, no one is seriously injured. Jarl opens a door and finds several demons and a human standing around a large pentagram that’s been drawn on the floor. Despite some internal debate about fleeing, our heroes decide to stand and fight. The demons are quickly dispatched, despite one additional quasit being summoned. Ashoulla’s fighting style is very similar to Saint’s. She uses her spear-butt to great effect.
The party fans out to continue exploring. Several rooms contain bloody corpses, looted containers, and torture devices. Disappointingly, they already seem to have been looted. Disturbingly, several of the corpses look like they’ve been drained of blood. Jarl comes across a magical barrier at the end of a hall. Several demons are pawing at the barrier. When they see easier targets, they attack the PCs, and are quickly dispatched. The party approaches the barrier and sees Revy, Meldy, Lord Absolon the vampire, and a large demon fighting each other inside.
Jarl decides this is a good spot for a rest, and sits down to watch the combat unfold. It is a spectacular show. Gabriel wanders off and finds some wine barrels. The wine is of excellent quality, and Gabriel replaces the water in his canteen with wine. Everyone else joins Jarl in watching the high level fight. Nothing lasts forever though, and as the minutes tick by, the combatants begin to slow. Suddenly, Meldy’s trident releases a blinding flash of light. When it dies down, the demon is dead from a gaping wound in its chest, the barrier is gone, and the fighting between Meldy and Revy and the vampire temporarily stops. They eye each other warily.
Meldy repeats her warning for the PCs to run, since it is not safe. “Where would we run to? Nowhere is safe.” retorts Keryassa. “I do not wish to discuss semantics,” replies Meldy. Abruptly, Lord Absolon begins walking out of the room. “I think that is quite enough fighting for one day, don’t you?” No one dares to stand in the vampire’s way. He walks to the entrance of Barthelemy’s underground complex, turns into a bat, and flies away.
The PCs make plans for continuing deeper into the dungeon after a short rest. Meldy warns against it. “There is a sixty percent chance that you will die if you proceed,” she says. The PCs ask for Meldy to come with them. She declines, and explains that she is expended nearly all of her magical energy in the last battle. She says that she will attempt to track the vampire once she has caught her breath. Jace is particularly unhappy with this decision.
The PCs find some Iron Circle corpses, as well as some healing potions in a side room. They attempt to keep the potions from Imara and Ashoulla until Imara confronts them about it.
The PCs head down to a lower level of the Iron Circle base. Several demons are waiting for them at the bottom of the stairs. One of them is a monstrous shadow demon. It continually darts in and out of the shadows, striking with its spectral claws. Lucas notices this, and fills the room with light. This cripples the shadow demon, although it fights on. The mundane weapons and cantrips of the PCs seem to cause it little harm. Only Keryassa’s eldritch blasts and Lucas’ radiant blasts seem to cause it significant harm. Fortunately, the demon seems to be able to do little to harm the PCs, now that it is bathed in light.
Gabriel grows bored with the fight, and heads off down the hallway to explore, torch in hand. He uses his mirror to peer around a corner and see four Iron Circle soldiers standing guard. They see the light from his torch and move to attack. Two are dark clerics and two are fearsome swordsmen. One cleric paralyzes Gabriel, then the other inflicts wounds on his motionless body. Gabriel collapses to the ground. The swordsman advance down the hallways towards the rest of the PCs.
Ashoulla engages one swordsman, but a cleric paralyzes her, and she is cut down. Jarl is next in line to be paralyzed, but Lucas paralyzes the swordsman that moves in to attack. The clerics return the favor, and paralyze Lucas. Imara finishes off the shadow demon with magic missile, then engages the other swordsman, and tries to keep him at bay.
Keryassa conjures a spectral hand that fishes a potion out of Gabriel’s pack, and pours the lifesaving liquid down the dying man’s throat. He attacks Imara’s swordsman from behind. Unfortunately, Imara has been fighting a losing battle, and once she is down, the Iron Circle captain turns on Gabriel.
Jarl and Lucas finally recover from being paralyzed. Jace, Jarl, Lucas, and Keryassa focus their attacks, and bring down one of the swordsmen. Gabriel manages to parry the other swordsman’s furious onslaught, and then finishes him off. Keryassa revives Ashoulla, who then dispatches the remaining cleric. Imara is also revived before she expires. The PCs take a moment to catch their breath.