WxCougar's Carrion Crown Campaign Journal *Spoilers!*

Carrion Crown

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Inspired by other campaign journals, I decided to share my group's quest through Carrion Crown and beyond. I hope it will inspire others (and/or amuse them) in their own planning of this AP. Many additional ideas I used came from the message boards on pazio.com. Too many people to thank individually, but THANK YOU for your great ideas! Other ideas came from the organic development of the AP itself, and the crazy antics of my players.

I first decided to do Carrion Crown when I was intrigued by the subjects of each book. I'm not usually a fan of the horror genre, so it struck me as funny that I was drawn to this particular AP. I also had never played in a published adventure before (only home brew games and only since 2008), and I had never GM'ed before. I decided to take it on when everyone in my group encouraged me and thought the AP sounded fun. The only thing that really worried me was Book 4. I wasn't sure what to make of it, but as I read it more, the more interesting it became. And while it is "lovingly" called the "Book That Never Happened" by the players, everyone did enjoy it.

As a note, there will be spoilers for Carrion Crown (obviously), but also for Carrion Hill and The Harrowing. I inserted both of these modules into the story (one during the AP and the other just after it). As for a real world timeline, we started the AP in September of 2012 and we are still going currently in what I call "Post AP".

I will first post general back-stories for the different characters and then start in on the story itself. To keep it from being a giant post, I will spoiler tag each posting - and it will be split by sessions. This will take a bit of time as I go back and rewrite the old reviews of our sessions into a narrative. So keep checking back, I hope to post the entire thing.

The Party:

Originally there were only going to be three people in the party. But work life necessitated the need to bring in another character while one of my players moved for a time. So while our bard was absent during books 2-4, I used my own Harrower character to help out. She was originally scripted to only show up here and there to provide Harrow Readings, but ended up being welcomed into the party. Since our bard was going to be returning to us in book 5, I worked with the player in building a story for her alongside what the others were doing. This will be inserted into the narrative right before the story line brings the party to Caliphas at the start of book 5.

Alaric Zemaitis: Undead Bloodline Dhampir Sorcerer:
(This is the shortened version of the backstory of Alaric I received.)

Alaric is the son of the Count Heitan Zemaitis and his wife Amalia. (In my campaign I had two sets of nobility known as Counts. You had the Landed Counts which are the ones that rule the different counties, and then Counts which was a title for noble families). As the boy grew older, he was deemed sickly due to his pale skin and aversion to sunlight. He also had an unnatural taste for rarer meat than what was deemed proper. This led to a rather sheltered life with private tutoring. At first, Alaric liked to draw what he could see from his window until it was boarded up to help protect him. When he lit the curtains on fire after trying to remove the boards from his window, magic lessons were added to his tutoring schedule.

Amalia, his mother, had a fascination with travel and scholarly pursuits, and upon learning that Professer Lorrimor was visiting Caliphas, she invited him over for dinner. During the conversations, Alaric's illness was brought up and she asked him if he couldn't take a look to see if he could find something the doctors could not. From this examination, it was discovered that there was nothing wrong with Alaric. He was a rather healthy Dhampir. This did not set well with his father, considering he was obviously not the birth father. After attempting to kill the "creature" Heitan set guards on Alaric and locked him away until he could figure out what to do about the one heir he thought he had.

After a few days, Alaric was visited by the Professor who told him that Heitan was staging his "son's funeral" and that they needed to leave. The man had promised Alaric's mother that he would teach the Dhampir sorcerer how to survive on his own. So the pair traveled out of Caliphas with the Professor teaching Alaric what being a Dhampir meant. He also suggested that the boy not set out on his own. That he should find a group that would take him on - like a group of mercenaries.

Alaric soon found himself in the city of Ardis and eventually joined a group of mercenaries called The Blades of Fog. Here he continued to learn more about his magic, and the bloodline powers his undead heritage gave him. This continued for several years until he was around 22 years old. A letter came to him from Kendra Lorrimor letting him know that the Professor had died and that he was invited to a funeral in Ravengro on Rova 17th, 4711.

Menasius of Restov: Aasimar Undead Scourge/Warrior of the Holy Light Paladin of Sarenrae and Cleric:
Menasius was thought to be born in Taldor as this was where his adopted parents found him. In fact, Narsius and Pasara rescued the baby from a burning building. Thought to be a sign from the goddess Sarenrae, the clerics raised Menasius in the faith and as if he was their own child. Unbeknownst to the young child, he was not exactly fully human, a fact that he didn't learn until much later (in fact it wasn't until Book 5 that he learned he wasn't human). He also never realized that his "uncle" Vors was really his birth father. The old paladin played a large role in Menasius' life and in his teachings to become a paladin of Sarenrae as well. But being a follower of Sarenrae in Taldor was very dangerous business. That and Vors had spent quite a large amount of time arrested for various religious spouting.

Fleeing north, the family traveled with a caravan of Varisians intent to go to Brevoy and spread Sarenrae's faith. They set up a shrine in the town of Restov. It started out small but soon grew in size. Menasius helped keep watch as he seemed to have the ability to be in the right place at the right time. Gentle whispers in dreams allowed him to know when bad things were about to happen. One such case came about when a visiting Professor Lorrimor found himself on the wrong end of a fight. Menasius happened to be there to save the Professor and in thanks, the Professor donated some money to the church as well as stuck around a few more days before traveling on.

It was a surprise to Menasius when a letter came inviting him to the Professor's funeral. Apparently he had made a bigger impression than he thought - or perhaps Sarenrae had other plans for him. With little money to his name, the 18-year old set out on a long trip to Ravengro, Ustalav to pay his respects to a man he barely knew.

Kamira Almasi: Half-Elf Daredevil Bard, Rogue and Duelist:
Kamira was born to a human mother in a small community in Taldor. She never met her father, who she later learned was an elf trader that passed through and had a brief fling with her mother. The young half-elf always had an ear for music and when she was old enough, she traveled to Oppara and was accepted into the Rhapsodic College. Here she excelled in her training and was always in the top percentile of her class.

One of her greatest memories during college was getting the chance to work with a traveling Professor by the name of Petros Lorrimor. The two researched various topics and Kamira helped find obscure tales, legends and songs that would help him.

But her college days were not all rosy. The bard had a rough falling out with her girlfriend who suddenly turned on her and spread viscious rumors. Managing to clear her name enough to graduate, Kamira fled not only Oppara but Taldor as well. She found herself in Absalom hoping to start a new life as a reputable bard. It was here that she received the sad news about the Professor's death. The 20-year old boarded the next ship she could find and began to travel to Ravengro for the funeral.

Zalura Evant: Changeling Hedge Witch Harrower:
(This is her entire backstory from her point of view.)

I had a bit of an unconventional birth compared to most people. My father was tricked into sleeping with a hag, but I'm not fully sure he particularly cared. You see, he is of Varisian descent, and a nomad by nature. He and the caravan travel constantly, never staying in one place for too long. I suppose he is the same with women too. It's the same with most of the men in the caravan really, save for one or two that are actually married. Perhaps he thought it an interesting boast, up until the basket waited for him. That's where I come in.

I was blessed to have such a wonderful father. Andrei took me in without another thought, even when the others were suspicious. I looked human enough, but was always thin and pale. At least compared to the more tanned skin of a Varisian. What unnerved some of the other travelers was my eyes. They remained a deep forest green in my left eye and a deep ocean blue in my right. As I grew, my eyes never changed, but my nearly black hair when I was an infant lightened somewhat to a dark brown. My father often reminded me when I was older that as a child, I knew no stranger. I welcomed everyone in and did what I could for them. My fascination with the stars led one traveling Harrower to pull my father aside. The woman told him that I seemed to be star-touched, and that she would like to do a Reading for me. I was ten years old when I was introduced to Harrowing. I still remember the elven woman with black hair and brilliant silver eyes like twin stars. Her clothing was made up of the colors purple, silver and black and the butterfly featured throughout the ensemble. She had a pendant with a butterfly containing stars and moons within its wings. I wish I could remember her name, but I don't. I just remember asking so many questions throughout the reading, that I am amazed I didn't frustrate her. But she answered them all with patience. I learned a lot about the art of Harrowing just from that one meeting, but not enough to be any good at it. No, that took many years of practice later. She told me that I would feel a pull that I must not heed for there were other paths for my future - ones that would influence the lives of others.

When we finished, she smiled at me and put a hand on my left shoulder, saying "Zalura, I want you to take what you learned here and be a guiding star for others. Do not let anything dissuade you from that path. Look to the stars for strength should you need it." And then she moved off. I think she must have spoken to my father again at some point before leaving the caravan despite being asked to stay for the night. I overheard some whispering that it must have been the avatar of Desna. Most didn't truly believe it, but now that I look back at it, I almost wonder if it was her.

The calls came three years later. As we traveled our trade route up and down the eastern half of Ustalav, I could feel an intense desire to head toward Carrion Hill. At first I didn't understand it, and often looked in that direction each time I felt it. It wasn't until I was shaken out of whatever trance I was in by one of our travel-mates, a young man two years my senior by the name of Nickolae. I was almost a mile from the caravan heading in the direction of Carrion Hill. He had luckily seen me leave and followed after me. I finally admitted to him that which I'd kept from everyone. That I had this urge to go to the southwest, toward Carrion Hill. He'd asked me if it felt like the stars were guiding me, and that made me think back to what the woman had said. I shook my head, a bit fearful and followed him back to the caravan where he took me to our elder. The woman, Tatiana assured me that I would be all right. I just needed to fight it She explained to me what happens when a Changeling woman nears her coming of age - that she would hear her mothers call in order to become a hag herself.

For my 14th birthday, Desnus 21st, my father gave me a harrow deck and a brilliant green scarf with small blades sewn into it. He told me that both were for my protection, to guard against the ills in life. And the scarf was also to chase off the boys if I recall right. I'm fairly sure he was referring to Nickolae with that one. Not that he was the only boy my age in the caravan. There were a good 50 people traveling with us at that time. For a rake himself, he certainly was determined to keep me away from people like him. I remember laughing and telling him he was not that bad, certainly there were worse men to be feared.

The urges to go to my mother got stronger when I turned 15, but between the harrow deck and learning to use the scarf, I was able to push through it. By then, our caravan considered me one of their own. Actually I'd say they adopted me in much earlier than that considering how often I overheard them mentioning my childhood antics. As I passed into the age of 16, things became a bit stranger. I didn't loose my urges, but they did grow fainter. The other teens in the caravan and I had taken to climbing up trees to see who could get the highest without falling. I wasn't particularly the most skilled of climbers, but I wasn't going to be left out. I had finally managed to get myself at a fairly descent height one afternoon in one of the taller trees. My lighter weight made it easier to keep the branches from breaking, but I wasn't exactly strong enough to easily pull myself up like the other teens. I misjudged my limit and when trying to pull myself up a bit higher, I slipped and fell from the tree. I could hear the gasps of the others, but that turned to surprise when I didn't fall all that fast. I landed gently to the ground, just as shocked as the others. They came rushing down to see if I was alright and to ask what I did. I couldn't really answer them. Some of the teens were locals, and they regarded me with more fear than those I had grown up with. Nickolae later told me that they thought I was some kind of witch and that was why they refused to go anywhere near me after that point. Another of the caravan boys, a year younger than I by the name of Amos had laughed at the idea. He didn't think I was a witch. He'd said that witches were ugly, and I was certainly not, therefore I was no witch. I had no idea whether to be flattered by that or amused.

While most people weren't too keen on the idea of a witch, I was more interested in what they were. Certainly they couldn't all be ugly baby-eating monsters? It wasn't more than a few days after that that I heard mewing in a tree. I spent a few hours trying to coax the stuck feline that was surely scared and trapped on a high branch, but the cat refused to come down no matter how long I called. Alma - one of the few girls near my age that would have anything to do with me - stayed with me as we took turns calling to it. Neither of us wanted to actually climb, me because I didn't want a repeat of last time, and Alma because she was afraid of heights. When it got dark, Alma told me that we should leave it, it'll come down when it wants to as it clearly didn't care enough to come to us. I refused and stayed by the tree. I could hear the fire and the dancing in our camp, the music drifting on the wind. But I kept calling to the cat until I finally determined that I should climb up and get it. Maybe it was hurt. Maybe that's what kept it from coming down. So up the tree I went. It was slow going, but at last I came face to face with a silver tabby cat. Her green eyes peered back at me, shining a bit in the small shaft of moonlight that snuck between the ever-present clouds of Ustalav. I don't know what it was at the time, but I felt a deep bond form right then. The feline squinted at me and purred deeply. She crawled over to me and jumped lightly onto my shoulder and settled there as if she was meant to be there. I smiled lightly at her, resting in the nook of a branch.

It was Nickolae who told me that Eyla -as I had named her- was my familiar. I'm not sure how he knew, but he was right. With Eyla around, I could see things a little more clearly, and could drift in the shadows a bit better. She also taught me how to use the power that lay waiting inside me. I was, as those local boys had called me; a witch. My father didn't seem at all worried about it, and encouraged me to learn what I could. No one else in the caravan knew anything about being a witch, and many of them didn't approve of a witch in the caravan. I think my only saving grace was that I had been with them for 16 years now and that I was getting to be a fairly good fortune teller. Some had even considered me Desna-touched, which may have waylaid a few fears. It was not for this reason that I got the butterfly tattoo on my left shoulder blade. I did this more to remember the woman who spoke to me, and to serve as a reminder for what she tasked me to do.

The unease in the caravan grew the more I grew into my powers, and it began to translate to others outside our family. My father's trading was suffering, I could see that without him telling me -not that he ever would admit as much to me. At 17, I told him I wanted to go my own way, to see the world. He worried, as all fathers do when their girls wish to leave, but I assured him that I had my scarf, Eyla and Desna to guide me. I think the latter was the only reason he let me go. I said my goodbyes to Nickolae, Alma and Amos, and left two days later on my own path. Each had given me a little coin or food to help me on my way, to which I had thanked them for their generosity. I headed west as I had not spent much time west of the county of Ardeal, so I spent a year traveling and learning the lands of the Palatinates.

Then, one night, I felt the urge to go east again. But this time it was not the urge to find my mother, no this one was different -though I still occasionally felt the draw to Carrion Hill every so often. This one felt gentle, and in one of my dreams that night, I received a vision of three people that I was to meet and give a message too. Lives I was to change as Desna had charged of me. I was to do a Reading for each of them before they reached Ravengro. They were destined to do a task - a task that would change all of Ustalav, if not the whole of Avistan.

The Letters and Pre-Campaign:

I emailed the letters to each of the players after I received their backstories and their tie in to Petros Lorrimor. Following that, I had each of them meet up with Zalura prior to the start of our formal gaming session. At that point I did a Reading and a Choosing for each of the PCs just before they arrived in Ravengro. Since the Choosing was how I was going to give each person their bonuses for the first book, I handled the Choosing differently than how it was written in the rules for the Harrow Deck. That way I could utilize all the cards and not just one suit. I also did not pre-choose the cards, I shuffled and laid them out at the time of the Choosing and Reading. It was a lot of fun using the cards to tie the players into the story (and in some cases it fit very well with their backstories). It was interesting also to see Alaric's card from the Choosing show up in Menasius' Reading, and Menasius' card show up in Kamira's Reading.

Menasius' Letter:
Letter addressed: Rova 2nd, 4711

Menasius of Restov,

Greetings. I hope this letter finds you well. I wish I could be writing about a better subject, but unfortunately that is not the case. My dear father had requested that I write to you should something happen to him. He often spoke of you after he returned from his trip through Brevoy, telling of his gratitude to you for saving his life. And it is for this reason that I am writing you today. Petros Lorrimor has passed on and I, and he, would like you to come to his funeral Rova 17th at the Ravengro Cemetery just after the sun is at its peak. You have also been named in his Will, and I invite you to the reading of it at my home that evening. Do not worry about accommodations once in Ravengro, those will be taken care of. Meet me at the cemetery entrance the afternoon of the 17th; it is located on the north end of Ravengro near the church of Pharasma.

I wish you safe travels, and hope to meet you soon,

Kendra Lorrimor

Menasius' Reading:
Menasius came across a young woman fighting off a wolf along one of the paths on his way toward Chastel and eventually Ravengro. He helped her fight it and offered to tend to the bite wound she received. The woman introduced herself as Zalura. Finding out they were headed the same way, the two decided to travel together. Eyla, Zalura's familiar begged cheese off Menasius despite the witch's efforts to tell the cat no begging.

Conversation centered mainly around where each was from and where Menasius was headed. He told her that he found it strange that he was invited to a funeral of someone he met once, and Zalura said that he must have made a big impression - saving people often did that.

On the last night before reaching Chastel, Zalura offered to give Menasius a Harrow Reading, one he accepted after finding out what it was. With the Choosing, Menasius received the Brass Dwarf. Zalura told him that "A dark path lies ahead, but you will shine through as the brass dwarf is unmoveable against the dangers that lurk in the shadows."

For the Reading, she asked him if he had any particular question in mind, and after some thought, he asked if he would see her again. This wasn't something the woman expected, but then went forward with the Reading. In the left column, the past as she told him, the cards from top to bottom were the Snakebite, The Lost and The Cricket. "This top card, The Snakebite is misaligned, which in this case is good. Instead of death, you found life. You saved someone from death, perhaps a new friend."

In the next column, she described as the present. From top to bottom the cards included The Mute Hag, The Juggler and The Crows. "You just recently suffered a loss, one that wasn't natural. I see secrets and dark things to come down the road in your near term, your god has put you on this path."

In the last column she described the future. From top to bottom the cards included The Trumpet, The Keep and the Foreign Trader. "While dark things lurk soon, the strength you have been granted will hold firm and things will be in your favor."

Kamira's Letter:
Letter addressed: Rova 2nd, 4711

Kamira Almasi,

Greetings. I hope this letter finds you well. I do wish I could be writing about a better subject, but that is sadly not the case. My dear father had requested that I write to you should something unfortunate happen to him. He spoke of you often when he returned from his trip to Taldor. He shared many of the songs you two had discussed and discovered in the libraries of the Bardic College with me. This is why I am writing you today. Petros Lorrimor has passed on in an unfortunate accident, and I, as he would have, would like you to come to his funeral Rova 17th at the Ravengro Cemetery just after the sun is at its peak. You have also been named in his Will, and I invite you to the reading of it at my home that evening. Do not worry about accommodations once in Ravengro, those will be taken care of. Meet me at the cemetery entrance the afternoon of the 17th; it is located on the north end of Ravengro, near the church of Pharasma.

I wish you safe travels, and hope to meet you soon,

Kendra Lorrimor

Kamira's Reading:
Kamira was able to get off the boat in Chastel and had a few hours before her next boat left up the Vistear River to Ravengro. Curious on checking out the downtown scene, the bard explored the market and soon came upon a young woman giving Harrow Readings. Always interested in learning new things, Kamira approached the woman to see what she was offering. When asked if she wanted a Harrow Reading, the bard hesitated due to what she figured may be the cost of such a thing. Zalura, as she introduced herself as, told her not to worry about it and would take her aside for a free Reading.

For her Choosing, Kamira received The Paladin. "It is a strong card, something it seems you will be needing in the future as you face great adversity. Follow the code of doing right, and you will do well."

For the Reading, Kamira's question was if she would be able to outlive the falsehoods that were now tied to her. Zalura then shuffled the cards and laid out a grid. For the first column, she revealed from top to bottom The Peacock, The Tangled Briar and The Beating. "This column represents your past. These falsehoods were started by a person, someone you cared for. These attacks came from all sides, surrounding you and forcing you to leave."

Then she moved to the middle column, revealing from top to bottom The Demon's Lantern, The Courtesan, and The Big Sky. "This column represents the present. You have put on a mask to shield yourself, to keep going. The Big Sky, being misaligned means that while the slaves are freed by that which they escaped from, something will grip even harder. But also misaligned is the Demon's Lantern, a light of hope to come."

In the last column, from top to bottom was The Brass Dwarf, The Publican and The Avalanche. "This represents your future. You won't be able to outrun that which enslaves you, but you will find fellowship soon. That will be a place of refuge for you. With their insight and your strong determination, you can overcome it."

Alaric's Letter:
Letter addressed: Rova 2nd, 4711


Greetings. You were not an easy person to locate, and I do hope this finds your hands. I hope you are well. I also wish I could write to you during better times as I have heard a lot about you from my dear father. He quite enjoyed traveling with you, and lending an ear to his interests. This is the reason that I am writing today as he would have liked me to inform you of Petros Lorrimor's unfortunate accident. I would like for you to come to his funeral Rova 17th in Ravengro Cenemtery just after the sun is at its peak. You have also been named in his Will, and I invite you to the reading of it at m y home that evening. Do not worry about accommodations once in Ravengro, those will be taken care of. Meet me at the cemetery entrance the afternoon of the 17th; it is located on the north end of Ravengro, near the church of Pharasma.

I wish you safe travels, and hope to meet you soon,

Kendra Lorrimor

Alaric's Reading:
Camped just outside of Chastel on his way to Ravengro, Alaric soon was visited by another traveler who asked if he would mind sharing his fire. Reluctantly he allowed the young woman to stay. They exchanged names and then fell silent for a moment. Soon conversation began, particularly as they began to find out they had something in common - both were half human with one likely evil parent.

Eventually, Zalura offered to do a Reading and a Choosing for him. For his Choosing, Alaric received The Mute Hag. "A silent cloud has shadowed you, but through it you have learned to observe others. With their trust they gain unshakeable loyalty from you. Remember this in the future as there are those who will need your alliance."

For his Reading, Alaric mentioned that he was not one to want to know his future, but did give her a question. He asked if he would eventually face the man who sired him. Zalura set out her grid and flipped over the past column. From top to bottom the cards were The Winged Serpent, The Cricket and The Crows. "The Winged Serpent is a true match, it indicates that someone in your past helped you bridge the gap between knowledge and prudence, gaining more understanding of yourself, perhaps. But it seems that there is a loss, indicated by The Crows. Someone you knew has died recently, someone who had helped you."

The next column was The Twin, The Survivor and The Empty Throne. The witch didn't seem to thrilled to see The Twin show up considering its tendency to throw wrenches into Readings. "You are facing, or will soon face a difficult decision, judging by The Twin. The Survivor could indicate that something you lost will be found... but I am wary as The Twin could mean that there is also some hidden meaning that I cannot determine. It might mean that while there is no significance to The Empty Throne as I see it here, perhaps it may yet hold significance. That lessons taught by one you have lost are far more valuable to you, but only if you use them."

For the last column, the cards were The Lost, The Rabbit Prince and The Desert. "this shows that your father holds a high standing, as indicated by The Rabbit Prince. Looking at the other two cards, they describe a negative answer to your question. The only way for it to be true is with another's aid and a long journey. But I must caution you, The Twin card could turn this into a positive answer."

GM Set Up Prior to Gaming:

I'd like to say most of my planning happened before I started running the campaign. But it grew as I went. I set up a google site to keep track of everything from loot, NPCs, character knowledge, and an overview of what happened. I also populated it with maps of the area, and historical tidbits from Ustalav and sites of interest as the party discovered them. I also included a historical timeline for Ustalav as well as the timeline for the Campaign as the party traveled.

And speaking of timelines, I also had to craft an internal timeline so that my own continuity wouldn't get messed up. So here is my quick and dirty timeline for things relevant to my campaign.

Timeline pre-Campaign:

4670 AR: Caromarc forced to step down. He had originally tolerated the Order of the Palatine Eye as he knew many of its members. Always had been fine people – such as Daramid. But she was the one to give the order, a fact she was reluctant to do, but for the better of the people went through it as the Order decided.

4686 AR: Kendra is born, her mother dying in child birth.

4689 AR: Auren Vrood was 8 years old, and watched his family slaughtered by the raids of Count Nesk.

4691 AR: Adivion Addrissant, a bright 15 year old in Caliphas hears and is intrigued by Petros’ discourse on Osiriani ruins at a lecture in Caliphas and follows the professor to Lepidstadt to become a student.

4694 AR: Sara Borsch is born to Count Lucinean Galdana and Natalia Borsch. (I will cover this tidbit later)

4696 AR: Petros leaves for Ravengro with 10 year old Kendra. Petros, a professor at the Lepidstadt University is good friends with Caromarc, and with Daramid as well as other professors at the University. When he decided to retire in 4696, he learned from Caromarc what really happened when he stepped down. Daramid approached Petros to join the Order, having been courting him subtly for not only the Order but in love. Petros declines both due to not agreeing with what happened with the Palatinates, but he kept in good standing with them all as he still believed that the Order was not innately bad. Just made poor choices. Daramid gave him the book hoping to change his mind.

4696 AR: Adivion “joins” the Whispering Way after secretly following their philosophies while studying under Petros. He believed that the Tyrant was someone to look up to in the regards of pure intelligence, pure drive. Something unseen and fascinating.

4699 AR: Adivion joins the Order of the Palatine Eye with the blessing of Petros and Daramid. Despite Petros’ own decline of the offer, he encouraged Adivion to do so. He learned that Galdana is the heir to the Tyrant, and did this to get closer to him.

4705 AR: Petros came to Caliphas.

4706 AR: The Beast is created by Alpon Caromarc.

4706-4707 AR: Petros went to Oppara, Taldor

4706 AR: Adivion finds out that Galdana has a daughter. His plans are starting to come together in discovering all of the components they need for the Carrion Crown.

4708 AR: Petros was in Restov, Brevoy.

4711 AR, Rova 17th: The funeral of Petros Lorrimor.

Book 1: Haunting of Harrowstone

And so the campaign begins. I will also make a note that at the beginning all four of us met in person, but by the end we had Kamira's player remote in using Skype and a web camera. Worked relatively well despite some hiccups with electricity and computer issues. I can't tell you how many sessions were played on a stormy day. Rather appropriate :).

I also took heed of many warnings to introduce Adivion early, so I did. I stated him up as a level 17 human bladebound magus just in case my party got feisty, but it ended up being a non-issue at this stage. They didn't really talk to him at all.

Session 1:

Our heroes arrived in the small farming town of Ravengro. It’s prominent feature being the large ruin to the south, later learned to be called the Harrowstone Prison. The funeral for the professor was just after noon, where our heroes at least meet Kendra Lorrimor, the departed professor’s daughter. The funeral party was small, attended by Kamira, Alaric and Menasius, as well as Adivion, Councilman Vashian, Councilman Gharen, tavernkeeper Zokar and his 13-year old Pevrin and Jominda, the owner of the apothecary. The party traveled with the coffin along the path in the Restlands until they were stopped by a mob of a dozen farmers, led by the old man Gibs Hephenus. Words were exchanged between Gibs and Kendra, Gibs saying that folks don’t want a necromancer buried in their family graveyard, while Kendra said they had every right to bury him there -and calling him ignorant for referring to her father as a necromancer. Between Menasius and Alaric using diplomacy to defend the professor, the mob gradually quieted down, and sullenly dispersed.

The remainder of the funeral went well, with moving words by Kamira and Adivion, both former students of the professor. Kendra invited the party to her house for something to drink while they waited on Councilman Vashian Hearthmount to arrive with the Will. During the hour wait, there was some light chatter as Kendra inquired of their various trips to Ravengro. Soon, Vashian arrived, looking none-too-pleased about strangers being present, but he kept it to himself. The Will mentioned leaving everything to his daughter Kendra with the exception of a collection of books locked in a chest. The key of which was inside the Will. The Professor also inquired of the party to keep watch over Kendra during the next month, to be sure she is safely settled in Ravengro. He also asked them to return the books in the chest to the University at Lepidstadt. Awaiting them would be a gift of 100 platinum each for doing these favors. This caught the attention of the party, all of whom could use some money.

(GM Note: This was one of the funnier GM moments when I watched the surprised expressions on the player's faces when they heard 100 platinum each.)

After Vashian had departed, Kendra retrieved the box and had Kamira open it. Inside were some Tomes about various dark subjects. One of which was to be given to a Montagnie Crowl. The book was locked, but the symbol on it was determined to be from the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye. In addition to the books needing to be returned, the Professor had a journal talking about a group called The Whispering Way. He believed they were interested in Harrowstone for a reason or another. The last journal entry was on the day before he was found dead. The party had heard that it was an accident, an old gargoyle had fallen on his head, but with this tidbit, the whole thing began to smell fishy.

The party settled into Kendra’s home, as she offered it up to them for free room and board during their stay. During the next few days, they split their time between helping Kendra out, as well as doing some research in town. This proved to be a bit difficult, as all but Kendra’s library was not open to them. Doing some work for the townsfolk, and bardic performances at the Inn, helped to warm the citizens of Ravengro to the party. Menasius helped the temple of Pharasma with the sick and injured as well as helped a few farmers build a barn. Alaric helped Kendra, as well as helped identify a few items for the Silk Purse. He also the one to find a lost kitty belonging to a little girl. He took the kitty to Kamira telling her that she should return it to the girl, but he was essentially left holding the kitten with the understanding that he was the one that found it, and is the one to return it. Being around other people unsettled him, but he took the kitty back and was hugged by a very happy child.

(GM Note: Having a highly diplomatic party, the whole Trust Mechanic was a breeze for them. They were all eager to help people, and loved interacting with the various NPCs.)

On the first night of Kamira’s performance at The Outward Inn, a pair of stirges attacked, breaking two of the Inn’s windows. They were quickly dispatched, but Kamira was able to discern that their wings were beating to the rhythm of the song she had just started playing. Neither stirge was interested in her either. Sarianna, the owner of the Inn was also greatly pleased with the help from the party. They not only rid the place of the stirges, but fixed her windows. This episode led to a timid attempt at playing music later when Kamira was walking with Menasius, but it was evidently a one-time thing. Both Sarianna, and Zokar had never heard of such a thing happening when inquired.

The strangeness in town continued when the blood of a rat was used to paint a letter “V” on the Harrowstone Fire Memorial just outside of town the first night the party was in town. The rest of the blood was splattered across the statue. People were all the more unsettled when it happened again days later with a letter “E” in cat’s blood. The party cleaned the blood off the statue, and Menasius and Alaric set up a watch during the night at the statue.

(GM Note: The party checked to make sure it was not the same cat that Alaric rescued earlier. It was not.)

On another evening after a day of research, Kendra answered the door, only to find that her “father” had returned home. The party soon dispatched the zombie, though they noticed that his lower jaw was missing. Alaric and Menasius took the body back to the cemetery and Menasius informed the church that they may want to bless the cemetery to keep the bodies at rest. Kamira remained at the house in order to comfort a rather distraught Kendra.

Through the days, the party picked up information about the Whispering Way, Harrowstone Prison, and a few of the prisoners that were kept there. On the Whispering Way, they learned that it is a sinister organization of necromancers that have been active in the Inner Sea region for thousands of years. The agents of the Whispering Way often sought alliances with undead creatures, or were themselves, undead. The Whispering Way’s most notorious member was Tar-Baphon, the Whispering Tyrant, although the society itself existed long before the mighty necromancer. The Whispering Way itself is a series of philosophies that can only be transferred via whispers – the philosophies are never written or spoken of loudly, making the exact goals and nature of the secretive philosophy difficult for outsiders to learn much about. While these details are difficult to discern, the chief goal of the Whispering Way is discovering formulae for creating liches and engineering the release of the Whispering Tyrant. Agents often travel to remote sites or areas plagued by notorious haunts or undead menaces to perform field research or even to capture unique monsters. Their symbol is a gagged skull, and those who learn too many of the Way’s secrets are often murdered, their mouths mutilated to prevent their bodies from divulging secrets via speak with undead.

About Harrowstone, the party learned that it was partially destroyed by a fire in 4661. The building has stood vacant ever since. The locals suspect that its haunted and don’t enjoy talking about its presence. Harrowstone was built in 4594. Ravengro was founded at the same time as a place where guards and their families could live and that would produce food and other supplies used by the prison. The fire that killed all of the prisoners and most of the guards destroyed a large portion of the prison’s underground eastern wing, but left most of the stone structure above relatively intact. The prison’s warden, Lyvar Hawkran, perished in the fire, along with his wife, Vesronnia, although no one knows why she was in the prison when the fire occurred. A statue commemorating the warden and the guards who lost their lives was built in the months after the tragedy. Most of the hardened criminals sent to Harrowstone spent only a few months imprisoned, for it was here that most of Ustalav’s executions during the era were carried out. The fire that caused the tragedy was in fact, a blessing in disguise, for the prisoners had rioted and gained control of the prison’s dungeons immediately prior to the conflagration. It was only through the self-sacrifice of Warden Hawkran and 23 of his guards that the prisoners were prevented from escaping – the guards gave their lives to save the town of Ravengro. At the time of the fire, five particularly notorious criminals had recently arrived at the prison. While the commonly held belief is that the tragic fire began accidentally after the riot began, in fact the prisoners had already seized control of the dungeon and had been in command of the lower level for several hours before the fire. Wardon Hawkran triggered a deadfall to seal the rioting prisoners in the lower level. The prisoners were in the process of escaping when the panicked guards accidently started the fire in a desperate attempt to end the riot.

Originally, Harrowstone only housed local criminals, but as the prison’s fame spread, other counties and distant lands began paying to have more dangerous criminals housed within this prison’s walls. At the time of the fire, the number of particularly violent or dangerous criminals imprisoned with the dungeons below was at an all-time high. The five most notorious prisoners in Harrowstone during the time of the fire were Father Charlatan, the Lopper, the Mosswater marauder, the Piper of Illmarsh, and the Splatter Man. While the party has the names of those imprisoned at the time of the fire, they have matched two of the names with descriptions. Sefick Corvin, also known as Father Charlatan, was the only one of the five not technically a murderer. His crimes were so blasphemous however, that several churches demanded he be punished to the full extent of Ustalavic law. Although he claimed to be an ordained priest of any number of faiths, Father Corvin was in fact a traveling con artist who used faith as a mask and a means to bilk the faithful out of money in payment for false miracles or cures. He became known as Father Charlatan after his scheme was exposed and his Sczarni accomplices murdered a half-dozen city guards in an attempt to make good the group’s escape. The second is Vance Saetressle, also known as the Lopper. When the Lopper stalked prey, he would hide in the most unlikely of places, sometimes for days upon end with only a few supplies to keep him going while he waited for the exact right moment to strike. Once his target was alone, the Lopper would emerge to savagely behead his victim with a handaxe.

In addition to this, Menasius and later the whole party heard the little Varisian girls singing a song that they figured out related to the five notorious prisoners. Other than creepy songs, the party has been plagued with various events themselves. Alaric saw himself trapped in Harrowstone one night with no hope of escaping. Slowly his name was spelled out in blood on the wall. Before the ‘c’ was complete, he woke up in his own bed. This led to a bit of insomnia and insistent “I’m fines” until he finally divulged what he saw to the rest of the party. Kamira witnessed a deck of Harrowcards catch on fire in the tavern, but after being blinded and hearing screams from below, there was nothing indicating such a fire occurred. The top card on the deck, unburned, was The Uprising.

Deciding that the answers lay inside Harrowstone itself, the party decided to visit the cache in the Restlands mentioned in the Professor’s journal. On their way past the headstones, Alaric noticed one mentioned Menasius name and the date of the fire, but when he looked again it was gone. After two centipedes, the group managed to collect a sizeable amount of ghost fighting equipment including some arrows, haunt siphons and a spirit planchette. With these in hand, the group set out the next day to Harrowstone.

At the wall, the group investigated where the professor’s body was and the location of the gargoyle. Climbing up on the wall, it was discovered that there was no way that the gargoyle had fallen naturally. This confirmed that the whole matter was staged, and the professor had been killed. Suspicion pointed toward the Whispering Way. Entering inside the lands, Menasius (who was in the lead) felt a rush of claustrophobia and felt as if his skin was on fire, but it lasted but a brief moment. The party investigated the Hawkran home, and then continued to look at the Harrowstone prison itself. It was noticed that there were runes all around the foundation. They were written in Varisian and repeat Lyvar Hawkren’s name over and over. It was determined that these runes were part of a larger ritual that involved both abjuration and necromantic magic. However, no one could tell what sort of ritual it was.

Continuing inside, the party ran into their first haunt. This haunt slammed shut all the doors, trapping them inside a small room. Thinking quickly, Menasius sprinkled holy water on the doors, setting the haunt to rest permanently.

(GM Note: This was known as pure luck on the party's part. Apparently our paladin thinks holy water fixes things, which in this case, it did! For the haunts, I used the knock system after the haunt was neutralized and the party communicated with it that way rather than using the planchette. If they had used the latter, they would have been able to ask a bit more detailed questions than yes or no, but they were fine with the knocks.)

Day one inside Harrowstone was spent looking through paperwork in the various offices and learning more of the prison and people. Walking into Hawkran’s office, the party could feel a sense of peace, the only room like that in the prison so far. Inside was also a locked safe that they planned to return to later. On the next day, they went the opposite way and discovered a locked room, and then another haunt. This cold spot they neutralized and moved on. The far room opened out into the lake, as this portion of the prison had sunk due to the damaging fire below. The lift was located in this room as well, and they could look down into the depths of below. However, they were visited by flaming skulls, which were dispatched of soon. Moving further, the furnace room contained another haunt. Alaric used the haunt siphon on this one, and now the party has a splash weapon of negative energy. The plaque above the furnace showed the name Ember Maw. During their research they had learned that while the prisoners were threatened to be burned, only one was actually burned inside Ember Maw. Alaric crawled in and communed with the bones. Through a yes or no knocking questionnaire, they were able to learn how to put the haunt to rest permanently. With this knowledge, they returned to the Cold Spot to do the same thing. They picked up that they needed to take the metal handcuffs and bury them in hallowed ground. This was where we left our adventurers, with a plan to visit the last room beyond the Ember Maw before going to town to bury the handcuffs.

(GM Note: They had a harder time with the Cold Spot due to the detailed destruction instructions. They were really close with this one, but it ended up not mattering in the end.)

GM Note: Our group meets once a week for fairly long sessions of around 6-8 hours. We rotate between two campaigns so Carrion Crown met essentially 2 times a month. Every so often we would do a two-day marathon in which we got a lot done, but those were rare.

Session 2:

Our heroes checked out the room next to the Old Ember Maw and were greeted by a Poltergeist. The creature made quick use of nearby medical equipment to fling at the party, but soon was neutralized. This unnerved Alaric due to his aversion to needles. With his "illness", he had been poked and prodded often by doctors.

As they left Harrowstone, Menasius received his own vision of tracks leading to the prison. Only when he mentioned them did they disappear. Returning back to town, and to bury the handcuffs, the party heard barking from near the Gazebo. Rushing in, they discovered that the children were trapped in the gazebo surrounded by four skeletons. Luckily Old River and Kendra were able to hold them off long enough for the group to come in and rescue them. This prompted a visit to Father Grimburrow and his acolytes are now scouring the countryside and blessing every gravesite they come across.

(GM Note: A very quick end to the undead random encounters.)

The party was also given permission to bury the handcuffs in the Restlands. Getting a better look at the graveyard, the group discovered the Ancestor's Walk, where some of the more famous people are buried, as well as another small memorial to those who died in Harrowstone, but could not be given a proper burial. They found a space next to one of the sheds far from the Ancestral graveyard and buried the handcuffs. Menasius marked the grave with some rocks in case they needed to come back for them.

The next day Kamira and Menasius split up to do some selling in town, while Alaric did some research. The party eventually returned to Harrowstone once Menasius received his wooden holy symbol back. The return trip to Harrowstone was much easier due to the floor plans that Alaric was able to find in the Town Hall. Between research in Harrowstone and in the town hall, the party was able to learn about the remaining Big Five. While in town, Kamira and Menasius met the lady of the forge, Jorfa. A dwarven woman with two apprentices. She is the first dwarf they have met in town. From the shield Menasius had tailored, her work is among the best in Ustalav if not finer. The two also happened by the sheriff nearby Jomina's Apothecary and overheard a rumor that the woman was delving in dangerous poisons and drugs on the side. It "explained" the reason for the sheriff being nearby so often. Kamira stated it was because he liked the woman.

(GM Note: The bard who worshiped Shelyn was sure to think that. Though too she was totally right.)

Information on the 5: It was learned that only five years before his hometown of Mosswater was destined to be overrun and ruined by monsters from the nearby river, Ispin Onyxcudgel was a well-liked artisan and a doting husband. When he discovered his wife's infidelity, he flew into a rage and struck her dead with his hammer, shattering her skull and his sanity. Wracked with shame and guilt, the dwarf became convinced that if he could rebuild his wife's skull she would come back to life - unfortunately, he could not find the last blade-shaped fragment from the murder site. So instead, Ispin became the Mosswater Maurader, murdering nearly 20 people over the course of several weeks. All the while, he searched for the missing skull fragment. He was captured just before murdering the daughter of a visiting nobleman from Varno, and was carted off to Harrowstone that same night.

Information on the 5: The Piper of Illmarsh is an unknown man who would taunt his targets with a mournful dirge on his flute. He preferred to paralyze lone victims by dosing their meals with lich dust and then allowing his pet stirges to drink the victims dry of blood.

Information on the 5: At long last, the party was able to discover the Splatter Man's true name. Professor Hean Feramin was a celebrated scholar of Anthroponomastics (study of personal names and origins) at the Quartrefaux Archives in Caliphas. Yet an accidental association with a succubus twisted and warped his study, turning it into an obsession. Feramin became obsessed witht he power of a name and how he could use it to terrify and control. Soon enough, his reputation was ruined, he'd lost his tenure, and he'd developed an uncontrollable obsession with an imaginary link between a person's name and what happens to that name when the person dies. Every few days, he would secretly arrange for his victim to find a letter from their name written in blood, perhaps smeared on a wall, or spelled out with carefully arranged entrails. Once he had spelled his victim's name, he would at least come for her, killing her in a gory mess using a complex trap or series of rigged events meant to look like an accident.

With that knowledge under their belt, the party first attacked the locked door they encountered earlier. Unfortunately, even with her new set of tools, Kamira was unable to unlock the door. Between Alaric throwing acid on the lock, and Menasius beating on the door, they were eventually able to knock it down. Inside, they discovered more treasure, and a secret room. Behind that door was a group of five items, tagged with the name of each of the five infamous prisoners. A bloodied handaxe from the Lopper, a collection of 12 holy symbols stuck together from Father Charlatan, a tarnished flute from The Piper, a hammer from the Mosswater Maurader, and a moldy spellbook from the Splatter Man. Deciding that something didn't set well with the items, they left them there to finish exploring the rest of the prison.

They soon came across a spider-filled chapel, the branding room complete with attacking branding irons and the laundry room. The straight jacket managed to grapple Menasius, but between the three, they were able to beat it off of him. But perhaps the most interesting room was the Workroom. This room too was locked, though looked like it could be easily beaten down. Menasius suggested that Kamira should practice her lock picking on this door. Kamira was able to unlock the door in a few flicks, but as it clicked open, the door fell off its hinges.

(GM Note: The haunts were fairly easy for the party to deal with. I personally enjoyed having the door fall off its hinges after the bard picked the lock. I believe she told everyone to "shut up" before they commented about this).

This room contained a creature that did not attack the party. A beautiful woman, now a ghost, rose out of a pile of clothes and regarded them. Alaric assumed correctly that this was Vesorianna. She asked if they were the new guards, and they informed her that they were there to help. Something she was quite pleased to hear. The ghost then told them of the strange men clothed in dark robes and spoke in whispers and the ritual that they cast. All she knew was that it involved her husband somehow in that she could no longer feel him after the ritual was complete. She was quite insistent that they stole him from her. And because of his departure, the spirits within Harrowstone grew stronger and began to leak out toward the town. She has done the best she could to keep them trapped, and so far as done a decent job of it. But she is growing weaker. They mentioned the Splatter Man spelling her name on the memorial, and she nodded, knowing that if he spelled her entire name, she would fall, and the spirits would be free. Vesorianna also told them of the ill fate of the Professor, in that he was killed by some foul magic. She described the leader of the cloaked individuals as a thin, gray-skinned human man who wore a bone breastplate and carried a black staff capped with a skull gagged by a black cloth. This confirmed the party's idea that the Professor had been murdered and his "accident" staged.

Vesorianna also told them of that fateful night in 4661, the night of the fire, and how she came to be trapped there. How she came to see why her husband had been late for dinner and found the prison unlocked. She came across the few guards in the training room by the lift and learned that a riot was in place downstairs. Desiring to free her husband, she dropped the lift and killed those underneath it. She blames herself for her husband Lyvar's death, determined that he was crushed below the lift. She told the party that they must defeat the five main spirits of Harrowstone before they destroyed her. She told them if they could bring the badge of Lyvar Hawkran's office as Warden in addition to defeating the five, she would be able to put all the haunts at rest. Her power would be restored, and she too would finally find rest. Vesorianna mentioned the five weapons, telling them that they would be vital against the five, but admitted that there would be some danger involved as they would still have some of their owner's touch in them. But she couldn't say exactly what.

The party returned to pick up these items, and Menasius used his scimitar to slide the items into his bag to be carried back to Kendra's.

(GM Note: Nobody wanted to touch them for some reason. I should also mention that every night, Kamira stayed with Kendra and the boys stayed at the Memorial.)

That night, Alaric caught sight of a man moving stealthily toward the monument, a wineskin in one hand and a bloodied razor in the other. It was Gibs Hephenus, the old man from the graveyard. He moved like no old man should, and soon was drawing an "S" on the monument. Only when the man saw the two did he yell out in a loud, deep, powerful voice "You shall not prevent our escape! The woman will die again!" It was at this point that the two men decided that he needed to be dealt with without killing for he was certainly possessed. It took longer than either of them anticipated, but they soon knocked the man down, with Menasius dealing one more blow for good measure. The blood in the wineskin seemed to be dog's blood. Apparently Gibs had been upgrading, and now poor Old River was gone.

(GM Note: This was a bonding moment for the paladin and sorcerer. After Gibs was down, Menasius hit him one more time. Alaric looked at him bewildered and Menasius replied "I wanted to make sure he stayed down." Thus began the friendship between the boys.)

The two brought the man to Benjan Caeller, the sheriff. Benjan questioned them as to why they had the old man with them, but he soon learned what had happened at the Memorial. The two had also brought the wine skin and the war razor. Frowning, the sheriff put the old man in a cell and thanked Alaric and Menasius. He also assured them that he would be putting up a watch on the memorial since they believed that it was likely not the end of the defacing. The pair came back to Kendra's in order to get some sleep in a real bed.

Later that afternoon, the party found themselves in the tavern, listening to Kamira play and just overall relaxing. Becoming fixtures in the town themselves, they were able to pick out a new face in the tavern quite easily. It was Zalura, the Fortune Teller each had run into on their respective journeys. All were surprised to see her there, and she explained she was heading back this way and decided to stop in town. A thing everyone pointed out was likely the worst timing on her part.

(GM Note: Zalura was reintroduced early due to finding out Kamira's player had to leave for awhile. Knowing ahead of time, this was a good time to bring her in and get properly acquainted with everyone.)

The next day, the group had the five items identified by Alaric, though he felt better about asking Alendru to double check his work as he did find the positives and negatives Vesorianna told them of. With this, they determined who should hold onto what item, as some were more detrimental to one than the others. They also recruited Zalura to watch Kendra during the day while they explored Harrowstone, fearing for the woman's life. The witch agreed to the deal, particularly since free food was involved, and she and Kendra hit it off fairly well.

In the meanwhile, Vashian Hearthmount, the head councilman stopped by and informed everyone that there was to be a townhall meeting to address the increasing fear. He asked the party to help them fix this - or to at the very least, be a visual solution in order to ease the fears of the townsfolk. He was quite a bit impressed to find that they were already doing so. Any unease he had of them embarking to Harrowstone was overshadowed by the fact these strangers took it upon themselves to help his town. They agreed to be at the townhall meeting and to be a solution to the town's issues with the hauntings.

The current day brought the heroes back into Harrowstone. Equipped with some new items, they worked their way up the stairs and began exploration. A group of stirges met them in the cafeteria, and a dead gnome tangled in a deathly plant greeted them outside on one of the balconies. But their biggest challenge came in one of the cell blocks. As they were heading to the other balcony, they were stopped by skeletons, four of which emerged from their cells. A haunting melody on a flute filled the room, and Kamira knew what she needed to do. She picked up The Piper's flute and began to play, only, she was not in control any more. Her music matched the Piper's perfectly, and her fingers and eyes began to bleed. Anytime a skeleton got near her, it became staggered, and it seemed her music was damaging the other flutist. Between the three, the skeletons and the Piper were no more, the spirit held by Vesorianna now. Only, Kamira didn't stop playing. Menasius had to strike the flute from the bard's hands as she desperately tried to tell them that she couldn't stop. This earned him a hug and several thank yous. She left the flute where it had fallen, never intending on picking it up again. While Kamira composed herself, Menasius used his scimitar to scoop the flute back into the bag.

(GM Note: Kamira plays lute and violin as well as sings. I doubt she will ever touch a flute ever again after this.)

Session 3:

Heading out to the balcony, the party discovered one last stirge, a fact that seemed to irritate Kamira more than anything. Once it was killed, she released pent up nerves, fear and anger with a scream at the far end of the balcony before returning back to the party as if nothing had happened. They all headed back inside once they found nothing else of interest outside and walked down the hallway to finish off the rest of the upstairs. Everything seemed fine until they walked into a rather large cell and discovered that it was Father Charlatan's cell. The man was bound in chains with the holy symbols of the faiths he had blasphemed. After a moment, spectral hands appeared and tried to attack Menasius. Failing that, they went after Kamira who upon struck, dropped to the ground. Kamira "woke" up in a coffin at a temple with a priestess of Shelyn standing over her. She informed her that she had died and was only able to be recently resurrected. Her companions had left three weeks ago. As she stepped out of the coffin, she felt pain. Her confusion grew as the priestess then started to back away from her, something was fighting inside her, but it appeared to be winning as the priestess left. Meanwhile, Menasius and Alaric were able to finish off the spectral hands and went to Kamira to find that she had been wrapped in ghostly chains and at first had been thrashing. Menasius channeled positive energy into her, hoping to remove the haunt from her as Alaric discovered that it was Father Charlatan standing over her. Soon she was awake, and Father Charlatan had been defeated.

(GM Note: Poor Kamira, getting hit by two of the Big 5 right after the other. I hadn't intended this, but it worked out pretty well.)

Hoping to ease her mind with repeatitive work, Kamira went to work on the safe in Hawkran's office while Alaric kept watch. After a few hours, she was at last successful, and the two were able to retrieve some coin and supplies from the safe. Menasius returned to town to get cleaned up for the town hall meeting later that night. He then went and talked with Kendra, chatting a bit about Harrowstone itself. The matter of a ritual of the Whispering Way was brought up, and Kendra volunteered to look into it. Though the reason that he had wanted to talk to her was about offering his old wooden shield to her as a memory of her father (as it was the one that had saved his life). She thanked him for it.

Kendra and Zalura went with the party to the townhall meeting and they took a seat (or stood) toward the back. They could overhear various townfolk discussing the strangeness that was going on. Evidently between the sightings of skeletons and the news of the zombie there have been strange noises, a general feel of fear, and nightmares. Soon the council entered the room and assured the crowd of 40 or so villagers that it was going to be fine. They invited the party up onto the stage, indicating that they would be helping fix the problem. Some villagers wanted to know why they should trust strangers, but they were hushed quickly by those that had come to know the party. They were evidently in much higher standing than when they first came to town. Another villager asked what they were going to do about Harrowstone, and the party began assuring them on their plan and what they had been doing so far. However, the large gathering of people seemed to be too enticing for the prisoners of Harrowstone as the five lanterns in the town hall burst into flames and started a fire. The villagers jumped up and began trying to run for the door, but there was too much chaos for most to get out easily. Vashian tried to get people to listen to him, but with the help of Menasius, the crowd seemed to get more organized and moved faster out of the building. The sheriff rescued one of the men who was caught in the blast and helped him out as the council members as well as Zalura, Kendra and Kamira went for the banners to help fan out the flames. Unfortuantely that was not all as three flaming skulls burst through the windows and added to the chaos. Luckily, when all was said and done, the fire was put out by a bucket brigade from the outside, and by those inside with banners and magic. When the party came outside, one of the council offered them 500 gold each if they solved this problem as soon as possible. The party did not wish to take the money, and told her it was not necessary.

(GM Note: I used pink marshmallows for the fire and let the party eat what they put out. It was quite fun.)

Menasius went to the monument while the rest of the party remained at Kendra's for the night. It was not a peaceful night as the party plus Kendra and Zalura were gripped by a nightmare; witnessing the fire of Harrowstone Prison through a guard's eyes. They saw guards below killed as prisoners escaped, they saw Vesorianna come in and release the lift. They saw her be dragged and locked into a room, thinking she killed her husband. Then they saw prisoners try to climb the chains while the guards poured oil on them. They also saw what must have been the Splatter Man striking fear into all the guards as he brandished magic far more effectively than they thought possible. And they all felt the heat of the explosion as the torch lit the oil. It also seemed that Gibs had been possessed again that night, but was unable to escape - carrying on for at least an hour before falling asleep again.

(GM Note: I increased the frequency of the Splatter Man possessions since the party was making good time. I knew they would beat him and I was going to let them. But that wasn't going to mean I was going to slow down that creepiness. For the dream, I grabbed one of this board's detailed scene of what happened. It was a long narration that I read out loud but the players enjoyed it.)

With this unsettling news, the party struck out for Harrowstone's basement. Standing around the open hole that had been their last visual in their dream, they took the plunge and climbed down the rope into a shallow pool of water inside what had been the cell block known as Hell's Basement. Their presence was greeted by a pair of disturbing humanoid shapes made out of ectoplasm. Then, they were attacked by flaming skeletons as they reached the deadfall. Clearly the pain and suffering down here was far greater than above; as expected. Menasius noticed that the others were injured and he called up a healing spell that healed all but Alaric. In fact, it injured him. Recognizing the effects, he realized that their companion was a Dhamphir. Feeling guilty by this, he apologized as Alaric healed himself with an inflict wounds spell. Alaric seemed shocked that a paladin would have no issue with having a half-vampire companion. Menasius mentioned that as he knew Alaric was helping these townsfolk (as well as seeing him offer aide before) he had no qualms with him at all as followers of Sarenrae see the good in people. Kamira also was a bit surprised when she picked up what was going on, but also didn't see issue with Alaric either. Continuing on, they looked at the names of the different areas; they saw the Nevermore and knew from their dream that this was where the Splatter Man resided. They tried to raise the portcullis in this area, but it was stuck fast. Menasius tried to coax him out of hiding by challenging him, but they received no answer; even when he ripped one page out of the spellcaster's book.

Continuing on, they went to the Oubliette, the place they knew contained the Lopper. Before they went into his cell area, they encountered a headless flaming skeleton in the guard room; a person likely to be Gurtis Vortch, the main guard on this level. Due to his decapitated state, it would seem that the Lopper had been the one to kill him. After dispatching him, the group went into the cell block and encountered the murderer. The Lopper proved to be quick, but not quick enough as Alaric discovered by accident that the wraith feared fire above all else. This slowed the Lopper considerably, and with the aide of his own axe, and some arrows, the Lopper was soon defeated.

(GM Note: Another lucky guess on the party of the party. I had looked forward to this very mobile fighter. But it was not meant to be.)

Heading deeper into the dungeon they came across a room that contained the body of a dwarf with three skulls on a work table. Apparently he had tried to pick up where he left off before being taken to the prison. He was trying to rebuild his wife's skull. This haunt brought to action the dwarf and flying skull as well as three disembodied heads. While disturbing, the dwarf did seem affected by the hammer at Alaric's side and the destruction of the heads. It didn't take too long before he too was put to rest.

Figuring that this was enough for the day, the party headed back upstairs and out into the blessed air. That night, all of the party stayed at Kendra's house. This was a lucky move on all their parts as Alaric just barely woke to movement within the room.

(GM Note: So, with Gibs out of the picture, Splatter Man needed a new target. I considered my options and decided that I would have Zalura be his next target. She promptly failed her will save - a continuing theme throughout the entire AP. I keep rolling really low for her.)

He saw Zalura moving toward the exit, though was still looking back behind her, as if trying to coax something. He confronted her, and discovered soon by the male voice, that she had been taken by the Splatter Man. He kicked Menasius and moved in front of the woman to stop her. The movement soon woke everyone up as Zalura slashed at Alaric with her bladed scarf. Menasius grabbed a hold of her, using the axe (still stuck in his hand) as an extra support to hold on to her. She was able to break this hold, as well as a few hold person spells, the Splatter Man threatening them all the way, laughing at their attempts to stop the woman without hurting her. Alaric then grabbed ahold of her, and Menasius helped him take her down to the ground. Kamira brought rope and tied her up so that Menasius could get her upstairs to the room Kendra suggested. The woman was put into a closet and an arcane lock set on the door by Alaric thanks to a scroll Kendra brought up. Menasius sat himself in front of the door, and they all could hear her kick at the door (as she had a sock shoved her mouth to quiet the Splatter Man, or keep from casting) for another half hour before she fell entirely silent.

The next morning they let out a rather baffled Zalura, who seemed confused that she was in a closet. She apologized profusely (despite still not understanding what was going on) to Alaric for hitting him with her blades. They all decided to keep this incident quiet so that she could be let out during the day, but she would have to stay in the closet each night to keep her in place until Splatter Man was put to rest. The group set out, determined to find and defeat the Splatter Man. They investigated another cell block and discovered the torture room. Here, they at last found Lyvar Hawkran, the Warden. He had been tortured to death rather grimly. They were attacked by a pair of hands (likely the warden's) but they were dispatched quickly. Kamira picked up the Badge of Office and his keys to take back to Vesorianna. At least they could tell the woman that she was not the one responsible for his death. They all agreed to leave out the rest of the details.

They soon found a secret passage that took them into the Nevermore. It was silent as they entered the cell area, but soon the two boys saw the start of their names being written in blood on the wall. Clearly, the old wizard was nearby. Kamira soon discovered why the boys were attacking the wall. As a letter was written, they were ceased by the thought that their soul was being taken, and the way to get it back was to attack the wall. They kept at this for a time before Alaric and Menasius began searching the room for the Splatter Man. Alaric soon discovered him down in the 30 ft pit in the center of the room, bringing the ghost roaring up and into battle. The wizard was difficult to fight as he kept moving and firing magic missiles and summoning creatures. Soon, Kamira destroyed the wall haunt, and it sent rocks flying into the party, and one of the rats. Alaric and Menasius targeted the Splatter Man after Kamira fired her last ghost touch arrow into him, damaging the old wizard. Menasius made certain to show the Splatter Man the book he was ripping from, eventually driving the wizard to attack him directly even though he did try to hold back some to avoid damaging his book. Soon, the Splatter Man was defeated, his ghost form ripping apart, sending the room into silence once again.

(GM Note: This ended up being a very cool fight. I also did quite a number with those magic missiles of his.)

Glad to be done with him, the party regrouped and headed back upstairs to report to Vesorianna that they were done. The woman was pleased to hear this, smiling, albeit a bit sadly when she saw her husband's badge and keys. She thanked them, and told them that now, all would be laid to rest. Alaric told her that she was not the one to kill her husband, a fact that she was at least gladdened to know that it was not her doing. The badge began to glow, and she bid them good luck as she then disappeared along with every haunt in Harrowstone. The place was returned to normal. Realizing it was late, they hurried back to Kendra's to inform them that all was well, and that Zalura didn't need to sleep in the closet ( a fact she was glad to hear about).

(GM Note: The Badge itself was never taken by the party. Mainly because I forgot that it was an item the party was meant to keep. I did mention it stayed behind, but no one thought to look at it further. If I did this over again, I would have Vesorianna mention that it would be helpful to them.)

The next day, the townsfolk were in better spirits, having felt the change in the air. The group reported back to the council members, who were very pleased with their work. They offered not only the reward promised, but extra money that was given by the townsfolk. There was quite a bit of going back and forth as Alaric and Menasius wished that they would use the money toward other things, but they insisted. The party caved and allowed them to give the gift. Heading outside, they were a bit surprised to see a "ghost" which was a kid in a sheet running down the street followed by a group of kids with sticks. Evidently, the party had reached hero status amongst the kids as well.

The remaining two weeks in Ravengro was spent in a much more relaxed state as they were able to clear the deadfall with help from the townsfolks and tend to their own shopping needs. Kendra brought up that she decided to sell her property and head to Caliphas, not able to go back to Lepidstadt as the memories there were too much for her. A family friend, Adivion Adrissant had invited her to come to Caliphas and help her resettle there. Kamira offered to go with her as she had some business she needed to take care of in Taldor, as well as to make sure the woman would be safe. Zalura mentioned she was heading to Lepidstadt as well, and asked if Menasius and Alaric minded company. This conversation brought up Alaric's unease of going and becoming a problem, to which Zalura told him that it wasn't going to be that big of a deal. All the better that two "problems" go together. This brought up a bit of a question from Kamira and Menasius, as neither of them had known that the witch was a Changeling. They managed to get a "I'll think about it" from Alaric.

(GM Note: I should mention that earlier in the campaign, Alaric told Menasius that he snored when they stayed at the Memorial. At one point, he shoved a clean sock in his mouth to quiet him. I forget at this point exactly when it happened, but it became the catalyst to a prank war...)

As the end of their month in Ravengro was wrapping up, Menasius paid Alaric back for the sock in his mouth by putting a little bit of holy water in his bath. This elicited an enraged shriek to a satisfied Menasius who had taken refuge with the girls downstairs. None of them however expected the Dhamphir to run down to berate the paladin, completely and utterly naked. It didn't take long for him to realize the oversight and head back upstairs. The girls chuckled about this, but no one but Alaric and Kendra seemed embarrassed by the situation. Menasius did feel a bit guilty by it and apologized for it, but it seemed to have incited a bit of a prank war between the two. The trip to Lepidstadt to return the books will be an interesting one.

Book 2: Trial of the Beast

Session 4:

With Kendra and Kamira heading to Caliphas, and Alaric saying he needed to check back in at Ardis, Menasius and Zalura began their travel to Lepidstadt using the Old West Road. While camped that night, the two had a quiet dinner that was soon interrupted by a well placed rock striking Menasius upside the head. Apparently in a last ditch effort to get Alaric to come with them, the paladin had dropped the Flesh Golem Manual into the Dhampir's bag. Needless to say, it worked, and Alaric relented to accompanying the two to Lepidstadt.

They passed by the city Tamrivena as neither Zalura nor Alaric wanted much to do with the zealous guards in the town. That night, they came across a traveling caravan of gypsies known as the Crooked Kin. They were made up of individuals with features that placed them squarely into a "freak show". And this is what they advertised. There was the Wolf Child, the bearded lady, and so on. The party heard wailing and human-like howling from the caravan and came to investigate. Inside the circled wagons were two women with tiny heads crying, with a young hairy boy howling at their feet. A large bearded woman and a woman with four arms were trying to console them, while a couple men with three arms, one with three legs, and one with no limbs at all were arguing. Hearing Menasius, Kaleb, the albino ringleader of the group, came out and thanked the party for stopping. He was quite happy to hear that they would help the group find Aleece, the missing sister of Lettie and Poppy.

Into the swamp Zalura, Menasius and Alaric went. It took some time before the tracks led them to a clearing. Everyone heard the human-like cries, but only Alaric and Menasius recognized them as in-human. Soon they discovered that it belonged to a phase spider. Eventually they killed the spider, waiting for when it was in the material plane to strike. Menasius searched the spider's stomach for remains while Zalura and Alaric checked the clearing. They sadly found the broken body of Aleece. With a sad heart, they informed Kaleb who still gifted the party with a dagger for at least trying their best. A funeral pyre was built and a celebration of life was given in memory of Aleece. It was here that the party got a chance to talk with the other members of the caravan. They also learned that they too were heading to Lepidstadt, only they were there to make money. Something that Zalura had seemed keen on as well. There was a large gathering of people for the trial of a horrible creature they call the Beast of Lepidstadt. It was apparently caught wreaking havoc in the University where an artifact was stolen. The party was invited to travel with the caravan, and Kaleb lent them the use of one of the wagons.

Travel picked up pace and the group arrived in Lepidstadt after another full day of travel. It was morning, and the weather held up nice as the party helped the Kin set up their wagons in the town square. They said their goodbyes, and Kaleb said that if they needed anything, let them know. The group headed over to Judge Daramid's house which was on the way to the University. The woman was grateful for the return of her book, but was still saddened by the fate of the Professor (someone she apparently cared quite a bit about). As they had yet to finish their task, she asked them for one more favor in exchange for an additional 100 platinum each. She was to be one of three judges for the trial starting tomorrow, and she feared that the people of Lepidstadt's hearts were set on the death of the beast. While she couldn't say if the creature was truly guilty or not, she did know she wanted to see justice done, and wanted the group to look into matters on the behalf of the defense. Perhaps outside eyes would do better than anyone else could. There had been stories of the kindness of the beast, but no one had stepped forward with that.

The University was further south, and the three encountered a good number of students along the way. Entering the building for History and Antiquities, they found Dr. Montagnie inside a room that looked like a windstorm kicked up. He apologized for the mess and thanked the party greatly for the books. He was most pleased to find his Flesh Golem book, to which he was confused as to why it ended up in Ravengro. The party, also confused, said that they just didn't ask how it happened. He rewarded them for this and thanked them once again. The group asked what happened, and he elaborated on the fact the beast broke in through the back door, came in and tore up the place. The only thing missing was the Seasage Effigy, a green statue of a tentacled figure of little actual value. He welcomed them to look around. The party discovered that one of the three windows was opened, and that the pedestal that the figure had been on was covered with fragile trinkets, all undamaged. The rest of the workshop however was ripped apart. The party found that odd. They then headed into the lecture hall, where the smell of beeswax was prevalent. This turned out to be the polish that the maintenance crew had used on the wood. Alaric found scratch marks and a depression of something heavy hitting the ground. Likely where the beast had come through. In the back, the back door looked to be crudely repaired, but they saw the components for the alarm spell that was likely set off by the beast breaking in. The guards had been likely alerted by that and then the beast was caught. Since the beast was not found with the missing object, the party figured there had to be someone else at work.

(GM Note: The Seasage Effigy became the Sausage Effigy fairly quickly as I kept saying it wrong. I probably could have avoided this by calling it the sea-sage but live and learn.)

They returned to Embreth Daramid and she gave them the bequest. She also told them that she did not wish to know what they found, nor would she admit to anything should people ask if she talked with them. The party was content with those rules. She told them to meet with Gustav, the barrister at the court house for more information.

Gustav, was quite pleased to have help with the trial, and told the group that if they found evidence, that it was best they present it. He gave them the rules of the court, and also allowed them to meet with the beast. Gustav told them that the court will cover three different crimes attributed to the beast. The murder of 10 people in Morast, the murder of 6 kids in Hergstag, and the fire and death of the doctor, and patients in the Sanctuary. The Morast portion would be covered the next morning, and he suggested that they look into it as soon as possible. To help speed things along, Zalura volunteered to get horses while the boys went to talk with the Beast, to learn his side of the story. Or at least, as much as they could they figured. A flesh golem wasn't exactly known to talk. But talk he did. Though it took them time to get words out of the poor creature. He did not look like he understood entirely what was going on. He could not remember the University, other than waking up there. He did not know of anything about Morast, and only went on about that he "didn't do it" several times until they were able to calm him down.

With little to go on, the two came up and with Zalura, headed out on horseback to Morast. They found a little village of sorts in the swamp. Fishing looking to be their main profession. Finding a bar, they asked around for who they could talk to. They were directed to Lazne, who happened to be the star witness and Village Elder. Lazne was a grumpy old man, sitting on the porch in his rocking chair, chewing weed with his crossbow and faithful dog at his side. At first he didn't want anything to do with them, but when he found out all three of them were not 'city folk' but country folk he was more willing to tell them the story. For the last year, people were disappearing. Folks who were out walking around. Then people were starting to be taken from their houses. About 9 months ago, they set up a trap and caught sight of the horrible 7 foot tall beast and chased him to the swamp. Here the creature was attacked by a blood caiman and thought dead by the villagers. Lazne said he heard the beast swear up and down when it got bit. Being eaten by a caiman seemed a fair punishment to the townsfolk. They only just learned the beast survived when Lazne was asked to speak at the trial. He told the party where the beast was attacked, and told them they could get there by boat.

With guides, the trio headed to the graveyard island. Upon landing, everyone noticed the manticore nest nearby. It didn't take too long for 'momma' to come by. The battle was painful, but they soon took care of the pregnant female once Zalura dropped it with a sleeping hex. Menasius came up to Alaric who had been injured in the fight. The Dhamphir winced but was surprised to be healed by the negative energy from the paladin (and now cleric). Alaric made sure to burn the creature just in case the babies were far along. Menasius found a dwarf corpse up in the nest along with several other items to sell. Heading back over to the spot where the beast was attacked, they found a small boat with some curious items and blood. Inside a bag was an artisan's outfit and a face. That was likely the last thing anyone expected to find. Alaric used a preservation spell on it and Menasius pulled up from the water a large bag big enough to fit a person in it. Inside was a shovel some rope and a gag. Nearby, the group found an old abandoned camp with a vial of darkvision nearby. Also found hidden on the island was a kit of what appeared to be doctor's tools. At the center, there were 6 graves that had been disturbed. In fact, there had been bodies stolen from them.

Heading back to Lazne, the group asked about the face (after telling the old man to get some whiskey and sit down a moment). He told them that there was a poacher by the name Nan Klebem that used to come around these parts every month or so. He hadn't seen him for about a year. (Saying along the lines of "Huh, that's why we haven't seen em" when he saw the face). Thanking him for his time, the group returned to their horses and continued the discussion they had at the island. The darkvision vial was interesting, and likely not for the Beast as Flesh Golem's have darkvision naturally, but they weren't sure it had anything to do with this case. Same with the tools and other items found. Something fishy was going on there. The other piece of information they had was that there were witnesses that the Beast was attacked by the blood caiman. That should have left scars. They planned to go check in on the Beast when they returned to see if he in fact had scars. Then they determined that they should figure out where the fancy tools came from, the ones with the raven stamp. This was a task that Zalura would take up while the boys dealt with the trials. She figured she was better in that area and not so much with dealing with the evidence. They returned the horses and then went to go speak with the beast and give the evidence to Gustav.

While Zalura took off to try and get some information on the tools, the others took the evidence up to Gustav. The barrister was quite happy to receive them, as well as keep them safe in the Defense Chamber. He also agreed the darkvision and the claim about the scars would make good evidence in the court in the morning.

Menasius spoke with the guard and the Beast to make sure it was okay to enter the cell. Both seemed fine with this (though the guard said it would be his funeral). The Beast let him look at his shoulders, and he found no scars. They also began asking the beast if he had a name. They didn't get a straight answer other than "friend", so that was what they began calling him. The Beast seemed to think the party was his friends and was more open to talking now than before. He told them that he lived near a small lake in the swamp. That he had a small friend, named Ellsa. At this he began to cry, though his face showed as if he was 'laughing'. Friend told them that Ellsa was killed by a ghost who walks by night.

After promising the Beast that they would visit him again, the group eventually rejoined at an inn called the Sleepy Mug. Apparently the inn was the only one left in town with available rooms. There were however, only two available. Realizing that they never told Zalura where they were going to meet up, Alaric went out to go find her and bring her to the inn. The witch let them know that she found that there was a group of about 20 artisans who could have made the tools over in the area called Surgeons' Flats. She planned to go there first thing in the morning which meant she would turn in early for the night. Alaric, claiming Menasius' snoring will keep him up, asked Zalura to share a room with him. She said fine, and left the two down in the tavern, drinking.

This led to a banter between the boys of who the college girls in the tavern were looking at. Alaric said Menasius, and Menasius said Alaric. Turned out that it was Alaric despite how hard he said otherwise.

(GM Note: Two high charisma boys made for some fun conversations in and out of character)

Needless to say, Alaric went to the bar and told a girl that his friend wanted to buy her a drink. She told him that was rather sweet of him to do so. She was clearly more interested in flirting with him first, but she did come over and sit down next to Menasius. They managed a decent enough conversation, where he learned her name is Sara Borsch, and that she was a history major from Caliphas. In turn, she learned that Menasius walked all the way from Brevoy, and that he and his friends cleared out the ghosts in Harrowstone. He put in that Alaric was a very good spellcaster in an attempt to turn her attentions back toward the sorcerer. Eventually she went her own way, but not without asking if she'd see Menasius around again. This returned the banter between the two boys of "she likes you" , "no she likes you". Soon they went to bed, though Alaric walked around for a few moments, before deciding it was a good idea to stay inside. People were still celebrating the trial in the streets.

The next morning was the first day of the trial, and the two boys headed over early. Zalura was gone by before six to try and find information throughout the day. Menasius was called to the stand first and he delivered the information about the bite wound. When Alaric was called up, he delivered information about the darkvision extract. When done, the both watched the rest of the proceedings. The crowd kept an eye on them, and were very vocal throughout that they disliked anything that helped the Beast. Once that was finished they met up with Zalura.

(GM Note: Diplomacy checks were a breeze considering that both of them had good diplomacy checks. The role play of the trial itself was fun. I had them give their piece and then did a few question and answers and then generalized the rest of the trial. The players loved the whole concept).

Zalura was able to trace the raven symbol as a maker's mark to Zbraslav Hora and Sons. They have a little workshop over in the Anatomist's Alley. Zbraslav told Zalura that a Vladka Kostel had purchased the tools in question from him. He described her as a red-headed Varisian woman who wore a green silk scarf depicting a swan. He knew she worked for an auction house, but that was as much information as he could give her. Zalura spent most of the rest of the afternoon trying to track down the house. She had a good lead that she hoped to investigate the next morning.

The group decided that buying two horses was a good idea as each location was no closer than the next, and they set out to Hergstag. Arriving in the deserted town prompted the idea that perhaps they should have looked into more information about this place first. They tied the horses off near the trees and walked into town. Menasius nearly stepped on a bear trap, but Zalura saw it in time. Soon they found a thief caught in one of the bear traps, but he apparently had perished there. They were able to pick up a few items as well as a set of thieves' tools for Zalura. The first house they came too looked abandoned entirely, though a small female child wraith spawn was inside. They managed to destroy it after some time, but discovered the entire house was emptied. The three went to each of the other houses, and faced off a small child wraith spawn in each. Near one of the houses Menasius again nearly stepped on a bear trap, only this time it misfired before it was spotted. Alaric said something about luck, to which Menasius returned that it wasn't luck, it was Sarenrae. Amusingly enough, the building they were standing near was a shrine to Desna. Inside, everything of value was gone, but the place looked like nature was claiming it. Even the holy water was turning green up front. The party decided to leave it as they had plenty of holy water on them.

The fifth house, both Alaric and Menasius again detected something inside (likely a wraith as usual). This time, Menasius asked Alaric to stand back and began blasting the place with positive energy. Then they went in and took care of the wraith spawn. The sixth house was the only unique place. This one had the door barred shut. Zalura was not able to get in, but with some effort Menasius kicked the door in. They encountered another wraith and killed it just before dusk fell. At least they would not have to worry about those spawn roaming about outside. Inside they found that the one window was very secure, and that it was nearly impossible to climb up to the window due to the make of the house. (which they thought about doing instead of breaking down the door). It was here that we left our party members, getting ready to head outside once again now that it was dark.

Session 5:

The party left the house of what appeared to be the home of a little girl named Karin (having found a few drawings with her name on it in the bedroom with the window). The three headed back over to the graveyard to read the tombstones. Of the six children, Karin and Ellsa were buried at the cemetery. The children Maarten, Rachel, Gaard, and Allen were not buried there, indicating that their bodies were never found. The dates indicated that it was about 7 months ago when the deaths took place.

Heading back out to look through the last of the city in hopes of something to prove Friend's innocence, the group came across a burnt down hut next to a small lake. Inside, they found a few spent torches and a charred book. Picking it up carefully, the group could see that it was a Taldan Poetry book. Inside the cover was written 'To My Son', but there were no other marks to indicate who it belonged to.
Leaving the hut, the group moved through a corn field to get to a scarecrow on a low hill. Just as they discovered a hole covered by straw, Alaric and Menasius heard a noise in the corn. It turned out to be a hideous wraith, a tempest of shadow given form. The monster was made up of glowing red eyes and the sound of ghostly hornets buzzing within his form. Soon the party was able to put the monster to rest and end its reign of terror. Turning back to the hole, Menasius jumped down and discovered the bodies of the four missing children. They took the time to bring each body up and attempt to put them to rest in the graveyard. Tired, the party returned back to Lepidstadt for the night. Menasius took a drink in the tavern first before heading to bed, while the other two just went straight to bed - Zalura in the bed and Alaric on the floor.

Getting up early, all three set about finding information. Zalura continued her research on the surgeon's tools, while Menasius and Alaric drummed up information about Hergstag. They learned that the place was abandoned shortly after the deaths as the inhabitants couldn't stand the sight of their children as 'ghosts'. They discovered that three sisters, Garrow, Starle and Flicht who used to live in Hergstag, now live near a small windmill on the outskirts of Lepidstadt and are witnesses at the trial.

The sisters told their story, saying that the village's children vanished one by one, only to return as ghosts. Then, one day, the culprit was found - the Beast of Lepidstadt. He so boldly walked into the village with one of the dead children, a girl named Ellsa. All three women remember seeing the Beast laughing as it carried the girl's broken body. As soon as the locals saw it, they chased him, but he escaped into the swamp. When asked about the burned hut, they said it was the Beast's lair and they burned it to discourage it from coming back. Pressing further, the women mentioned that one girl, Karin, died in her own bed 2 days after the Beast was driven from Hergstag. Her father heard her screams, but by the time he arrived upstairs, she was already dead, without a mark on her and no signs of entry. The party recalled to themselves that there had indeed been no sign of entry and it would have been very difficult for the Beast to have climbed up the side of the house.

Heading back to the courthouse, they managed to get in to speak to Friend before the trial started. They asked him what happened in Hergstag, and though crying again, the Beast told of seeing his friend Ellsa follow after a ghost to the scarecrow where a creature attacked her. He tried to save her but he couldn't touch the wraith. She died and he took her body to try to give her back to her father, but was chased off by the villagers. When he described the wraith, he mentioned that it was like mist over waters. They presented his book to him, and he became very happy again to see it. He was even more excited that Alaric told him he would fix it. Then they asked him if he would be willing to speak in the trial without getting upset, and he said he would do his best. Alaric and Menasius went over who would present what and checked in with the Clerks right before 10 am. As they waited, Alaric worked on repairing the burned book.

Alaric was called first to the stand, and he noticed up in the public area that there was a large group of university girls there, including Sara. He also noticed that Zalura was there (apparently having finished up her work). He smiled to her, not really thinking that it could be taken by any one of the girls up there as being toward them. Alaric told the court about their experience and what they saw, as well as having the Beast tell his story. Otto, the Prosecutor tried to stop them from having a witness speak to a witness, but Gustov had cleared it with the judges prior and they were allowed to continue. When the Beast started to cry (appearing to everyone as if he was laughing), Alaric asked him how he felt, demonstrating that the Beast, while he looked like he was laughing, was actually crying. Menasius followed up with proving that there was no way the Beast could have turned the children into wraith spawn, and he asked the Holy Sister of Pharasma to check his reasoning (to which she agreed). During his turn at the witness stand, Menasius mentioned that they tried to bury the children, hoping that they got them in the right graves.

(GM Note: I had no idea what to say to that as prosecutor. "We think we got them in the right graves". It was endearing despite the context and there was a good diplomacy roll involved so I just had the prosecutor go sit down with nothing further to ask. We also found the pattern of the paladin always wanting to bury everyone kind of funny and it continued throughout the entire AP.)

While both Alaric and Menasius were allowed to sit in for the closing day's arguments, they could feel a sense of unease and bottled anger ready to boil over from the crowd. A fact that seemed to completely escape Zalura despite sitting amongst them.

Deciding it would be best to ask around town about the Sanctuary before going, the group headed out to find out information. They found that Karl, the now blind assistant to the Doctor lives on the east part of town near the river. As they traveled to his home, Zalura shared her information; having at last tracked down the owner of the tools. She finally found Vladka Kostel who remembered that the buyer of the tools wore an unusual high hat and green-tinted reading glasses. It took some bluffing on Zalura's part to get the auction house master, an Ollo Klud, to tell her that the tools were bought by a shopkeeper in the Surgeons' Flats named Radniche. Heading over to Radniche's shop, Zalura discovered a crammed shop piled with skeletons, pickled things in jars and alchemical components. The man was tight lipped, but with some bribing, flirting and threatening, Zalura was able to get the man to talk. "A rather striking fellow, very dapper in black from head to toe" was how the man described a Master Vorkstag, the man who owned the Vorkstag and Grine's Chymic Works there in Lepidstadt. While there was no reason to think they had anything to do with the case, it was rather curious why a man who owned a chymic works had surgeons' tools at a graveyard in Morast.

Arriving at Karl's house, they were greeted by a man in his late 30s and carrying a cane. He seemed pleased to have guests and invited them inside for a small meal and some wine. The group told him that they were there trying to learn more about the case. Karl was more than happy to retell what he could about what happened 4 months ago. He also asked them if they knew anything about Dr Brada's work with the Sanctuary, to which the group said no. Karb Isle Sanctuary was started by Doctor Brada in order to help cure those with afflictions of either madness or physical deformities. His motives were born of his own horror at the fate of his uncle who was burned by a mob because of his monstrous features. Karl then described that he was working with the medicines in another room while the Doctor was elsewhere. A fire then lit up and just before he lost his eyesight trying to save his master, the man saw a 7 foot tall shambling beast escaping the burning hospital. He believed that it was the Beast of Lepidstadt. They thanked him for his time and before they left, Karl told them to be careful of Ghasts as they were known to occupy the region of the swamp around Karb Isle.

The group took the trip 3 miles north of Lepidstadt along the Lesser Moutray river. They came across the sad remains of a broken building on a spur of land jutting into the river. The burnt timbers of a large house sagged into the undergrowth. Nearby were 12 gravesites. Surprisingly, Menasius was the only one to notice that there was something strange about the graves.

(GM Note: Surprising in that Menasius has the lowest perception score of the group. We attributed this high roll to the paladin's obsession with burying people.)

Menasius and Alaric dug up one of the graves and discovered that the coffin was empty. All three of them set about digging up all of the graves and discovered that all of them were empty. Reburying the coffins, the group then went to search through the burned ruin, contemplating what was up with the missing bodies. In the ruin, Alaric was able to find a metal strongbox with its lock fused shut by the fire. Deciding to worry about it later, he put it in his bag for the time being as they found a hole. Menasius cast light on a stone and dropped it down into the hole, revealing a trashed work area. It seemed to have escaped the fire. Menasius jumped down, less gracefully than the other two and alerted the four ghasts inside to their presence. Soon the creatures were dispatched and the group was able to look at their surroundings. Several heads lined the walls like trophies. One of these heads was the Doctor, known by the fact it was the only one without deformities. Other than a few items, the group discovered a mostly empty vial of bleach labeled Vorkstag and Grine, Chymickal Bleach. Finding it odd to see the name twice now - but not suspecting much due to the fact bleach in a hospital made sense, the party opened the strong box. Or rather, Menaisus gave it one good whack. Inside, the papers were in rough shape, nearly burned to the point of being unreadable. Alaric was able to find the name Vorkstag and Grine several times throughout the document, but other than looking to be business transactions, it was hard to say in what context.

The group headed back into town and grabbed some dinner to share with Karl, who was floored to see such kindness. Clearly the man didn't get many guests at all. He told them that he knew that Vorkstag came to the hospital on occasion, but he didn't know much beyond that. He did mention that they used bleach, which was often stored in the closet upstairs. The party found it odd that the bleach was downstairs in the workroom, but they didn't say anything of the sort.

The party headed back to the courthouse, intending to sleep there that night as they had gotten the feeling from the mob that nothing would happen until evening. The Acting Sergeant Dun didn't seem too concerned at all about it, saying that they were overreacting. But he didn't mind that they stayed there. As they had suspected, around 9 o'clock, they heard noises upstairs. Gustov came running down to the prison where they were with the Beast and told them that a mob of 55 people stood outside. He seemed to have been the only one to believe the party as the guards were acting nervous when the group came up. Menasius asked Acting Sergeant Dun what had happened so far and what the guards were doing about it, and he informed him that the mob just stood there chanting for the Beast. His men had attempted to dissuade them to no avail. The six off duty guards were woken up and set at various entry points to help guard. Gustov, who had been asked to stay with the Beast stayed down below.

(GM Note: The party had actually told Gustov that he should get in the cage with The Beast, but he didn't really like that idea. The party figured he would be safer closer to the Beast, especially since they had told Friend that Gustov was also a friend.)

The three came outside, and Menasius told the guards to go inside. One of them asked him if he was sure, a bit uncertain to leave the three alone, but they soon went inside as the party came forward to talk with the mob. There were pitchforks and torches, "thrilling" both Zalura and Alaric. While most were ill-equipped for a fight, there did seem to be a handful of rapier fighters from the duelist school toward the back. However, they did see some ladders and battering rams amongst the crowd. Both Alaric and Menasius did a good job of speaking to the mob, asking them what it would be like if they were in the Beast's place, and so forth. One of the ringleaders took a warning shot at Alaric - missing on purpose to prove their own point, but no one was injured during the talk-down. Soon, the mob dispersed, leaving into the night. The Acting Sergeant begrudgingly thanked them and they went back to their business. Feeling that things were going to be fine, the group turned in for the night back at the Sleepy Mug. However, before they left, they heard word that the Judges felt it necessary to postpone the court session one day to hopefully quell the mob and not start another for the final day.

The party was quite pleased to have a day off in order to rest up and do some shopping and sight seeing before their adventure into the Chymic Works that night. They visited the Brazen Skull, the famous tavern for the dueling school which held a bronzed stone giant skull that was said to shed a tear any time a member of the brotherhood died (to which Alaric wondered if they should stab someone to see if the rumor was true). They visited the Ventriloquist's Pulpit, the seat of administration for Vieland's former counts. It is now a chamber for the council and a museum. It was said under the dome one's echo would either come back demonic or angelic depending on where one stood. And they visited the Spiral Cromlech just outside of town. The Spiral is a group of standing stones with carvings of naked Kellids and demonic figures dancing and doing many other things. These seemed to unsettle Menasius to a degree.

(GM Note: There was some good-natured teasing out of character about the 'innocence' of the paladin and that he needed a girl.)

While they went around, the party asked about Vorkstag and Grine, and overheard a few rumors. They learned that Vorkstag and Grine are well-respected merchants. Grine, they said was a peculiar fellow, though gnomes are that way. It was also said that Vorkstag has a great many friends in high places, and whenever any minor trouble comes his way, someone is always ready to speak up on his behalf. They also learned that the smokestacks at the factory are always going, but no workers are seen going on shift. In addition, they overheard people discussing suspicious behavior of a sort not related to their current search. Someone mentioned that an Aldus Aldon Canter was a dangerous fellow. He apparently had been a count in Ustalav 700 years ago, but no one knew what happened to him. They overheard that followers of his writing, the Order of the Palatine Eye, have their hand in everything from local politics, to the Vielands, to the Palantinates and even all of Ustalav.

Soon the party ended back at the Sleepy Mug for an early dinner and some drinks. Lots of drinks. This may or may not have been because they noticed the group of university girls at the bar, including Sara. Zalura volunteered to talk to them as the two boys tried to talk her out of it. With a bit of a smile she encouraged the girls to go sit at the table while she stayed at the bar. Sara took a seat near Menasius while Alaric ended up with two girls - Tiffany and Mariana. It didn't take too long for Alaric to get tipsy, and for Mariana to get drunk. She spent part of her time leaning over and perhaps drooling on Alaric's coat.

There were several glares in Zalura's direction from Alaric before she finally came back and took a seat at the table, asking them how they were fairing. While she had one drink over at the bar, Menasius gave her a second one which she got tipsy off of. She said something about not wanting anymore, but they gave her a third (which she drank without really thinking about it and got drunk). Soon Alaric and even Menasius followed suit (though he took quite a few more to get drunk, to the tune of 10 drinks). Mariana was soon removed by a roommate who would take her home, and Arianna took her seat - "thrilling" Alaric. Some rather interesting conversations took place, including while talking about politics in Caliphas (as Sara was from a not-so noble family) it was discovered that Alaric was nobility. A count to be exact as he later slipped. Both Menasius and Alaric kept playing each other up for the girls, a fact that was quite amusing to Zalura, and perhaps the girls that weren't totally drunk. This was also where the nicknames came about with Menasius pointing out that Alaric was like a pasty prince and Alaric pointed out he was a paladick.

(GM Note: This whole scene was a lot of fun and a good role play break. The nicknames stayed throughout the entire adventure.)

Alaric soon excused himself to go back to the room. When Tiffany offered to go with him, he declined. Zalura offered to sleep somewhere else so that he could have the room, but Alaric said no - he was a gentleman afterall and wouldn't kick her out of her room. She then responded that this was quite all right, she could sleep with Menasius if Alaric needed the room. When she realized what she had said could be taken a different way, she clarified herself, saying not "with" Menasius, just in his room. And then back peddled again, saying that she did not mean that as a diss toward Menasius either.

Alaric went up to his room as the other two girls left, leaving Zalura with Menasius and Sara. The latter two had been conversing with each other on and off throughout the entire evening. It didn't take long for Alaric to come back downstairs to ask Zalura for the key to their room, having forgotten about it. There was some more good-natured teasing between Menasius and Alaric which led to Alaric deciding perhaps Zalura should find someone to go to bed with (something about Menasius commenting on the two sharing a room). When Menasius didn't look like he was going to ask Sara upstairs, Alaric kicked him in the knee. The girl next to him seemed willing to go with him, but she hadn't out right said anything yet. Menasius then said that he had Alchemist's Kindness up in his room if she would like to come. Alaric gave him (and Zalura) a 'is he serious? that's not a pick up line' look. As Menasius left with Sara, Zalura responed that "But it worked."

Alaric and Zalura remained at the table a few more minutes contemplating things such as where the staircase was and the meaning of the word 'bed'. Zalura offered the bed to Alaric, which he again turned down saying he wasn't going to kick her out of it. At this, she pointed out saying nothing about being kicked out of the bed, to which he replied "point taken". The two managed to get upstairs with Alaric (still having a higher perception than Zalura, even with them both drunk) leading.

It was later than anyone had planned to, but the three managed to roll out of bed and get some Alchemist's Kindness into them at about 4 am. Sara had left around this point saying she needed to check in with her roommates, as well as to make sure they were doing okay. The group headed out to the Chymic Works on the southeast side of town and came across a stone wall topped with broken glass. The gate was bared from the inside, and all that they could get to was a door bell. They could smell the scent of bleach and acid production - a fact that Menasius pointed out. Zalura offered to levitate up and have Alaric push her over the wall with his mage hand, and then feather fall down the other side. They told her to be careful, to which she replied "It's only a courtyard". Alaric told her that in Ustalav, its never "just" anything as she headed up and over. Once she landed, everyone heard a growling sound and Zalura whispered with concern, "big flesh golem dog...." She got the gate open and moved out of the way for both Menasius and Alaric to come in before the hound attacked. Alaric emphasized to her "its never just a courtyard".

The battle was long as it was a difficult critter to damage, but after Alaric pointed out that he was doing better than the Paladin, Menasius whaled on it. This included scoring a critical hit, carving his initial in its side. Alaric told him that he was just showing off now. Soon, after some grappling by the Paladin, the hound was dead. Alaric said that Menasius and the hound would have made a cute couple. This set off a few comments back and forth with Alaric asking if Menasius carved his initials in Sara as well; and Menasius asked Zalura if she had an 'A' on her. She returned that she could show him if he wanted.

(GM Note: We use the Critical Hit and Fumble Deck and this was the first of many times Menasius got the 'carve initials' card. Always on canines too.)

Session 6:

The party headed through the door to the east into what looked like a storage room. Inside were three creatures that looked like a mix of several different creatures put together, only they looked to be natural rather than a construct. Menasius attacked the closest one as he sensed that if he didn't, the three creatures would come after them. After killing one with a very well placed duo of scorching rays, and one being dazed, the third one hid in the corner, cowering. Menasius told it that they wouldn't harm the creature, and they learned that the mongrelman could speak common. They learned that they were there to work and guard the place for their master. It also told them that their master had killed their leader. Between Alaric and Menasius, they convinced the creature that they would be left alone if the party was allowed to search the place. The two creatures (when the other was no longer dazed), agreed, and then warned them that there were more of them in the next room. Alaric asked if they had a token that they could show the others, and the one mongrelman went to the back room and brought a wooden medallion, and three cloths. It told them that the other room had fumes that would harm them if they didn't wear the 'mask'. It also said it wasn't sure if the token would be heeded, but they could try. The mongrelmen allowed them to search the store room and the stable. While they found no evidence, they did find a few goodies to take with them.

Zalura opened the locked door to what appeared to be the vat room. Several large iron vats with bleach and acid were being produced. There was a low hum of the furnaces down below and the bubbling of the liquid. The group crept inside to see three mongrelmen working the vats at the lip level, and 5 more down on the lower floor. A third level could be seen above. Menasius went down to the floor and three of the mongrelmen drew their clubs and came after him. Two of them missed him with their clubs. He showed them the token and told them what the others had said, saying that they would take care of their masters to ensure their freedom. The three said they didn't see anything and went back to their task. However, Vorkstag heard some noise and expected to find the workers fighting again but stopped short when he say Alaric (who waved to him). The man was not like how they had been told. He appeared to be like a skinless humanoid but was still wearing a suit. He threw a bomb and hit Alaric with Zalura taking some of the splash damage from the acid. Menasius had been too far under for him to see, but was able to back up and fire a few of his firebolts at Vorkstag. Seeing that there were three intruders, and that his mongrelmen were not going to attack, he called for Grine. The party had told the mongrelmen that it was their chance to fight for freedom, to which Vorkstag reminded them who their real leader was. They chose to ignore them entirely and just stay out of their way.

Grine showed up, looking like a very strange red-haired gnome. He called on darkness and disappeared from sight. The party focused on Vorkstag, who worked his way down to the vat level, continuing to fire bombs at Alaric. But he soon fell, falling to the floor below. Grine on the other hand, was harder to find. He managed to cast a command on Zalura who walked into a vat of bleach. Eyla, sensing something amiss leapt off her shoulder just before Zalura fell into the vat. Meanwhile, Menasius worked his way up to the top of the vats and tried to pin point where Grine was using his detect evil. Alaric told him to take care of Grine as he ran to get Zalura out of the vat. He managed to get her out, but she had been blinded by the bleach. While Alaric stood in front of her, Menasius came over to help her with her eyesight. He slipped, but caught himself on the beam and then helped wash the bleach out of her eyes. Alaric and Grine exchanged blows and Grine jumped down to the vat level to throw axes with Alaric throwing spells. Grine tried to use negative energy on the party, but Alaric shouted his thanks for the healing, making the creature growl. When Zalura was better, she got up onto her feet and came around the vat to help out again, and Menasius came in and hit the creature hard, knocking him unconscious onto the floor. Menasius let Alaric question Grine, while he crawled the rest of the way to go investigate the upper floor. Zalura asked Alaric if he needed help, and when he said he had it, she followed after Menasius.

When Grine awoke, Alaric used his Dhampir power to put fear into him. Coupling this with some rather intimidating threats, the creature finally admitted that he and Vorkstag were sellers of corpses and body parts. That it was them that had killed for fresh parts, and that they had dealings with various people who bought the parts. He named a few people such as Auren Vrood, Doctor Brada, Dr. Ella Corvin, Terrance Bresk, Quine Tarvel, and Laurel Warden. He also told Alaric that he was a Dark Creeper, and that Vorkstag was a Skin Stealer. Alaric made it clear to Grine that he would be making his confession in court or else, to which the Dark Creeper agreed to on fear of pain or worse.

In the meanwhile, Menasius and Zalura checked out a room that contained a lift. Apparently this was the area where deliveries were crane-lifted onto this floor and stored. They found a fair number of alchemical supplies. As they headed out of the room, they heard from Alaric that he was done. Zalura volunteered to watch Grine while the boys finished up searching the rooms. Menasius came across Grine's room which was filled with jars of liquid and random body parts. One of the jars was filled with acid and contained a key. Menasius dumped out the acid and got ahold of the key. This opened a lockbox under the bed which contained some gold, diamonds and antitoxin. He then found a ladder which headed upstairs where two humunculi were perched. Menasius dispatched them and found a few items including a very heavy mammoth's tusk that served as a scroll. Going up further, he encountered one more humunculi which he soon dispatched. The room only contained one object, but it appeared to be trapped. Menasius only discovered this when he grabbed the copper lightning rod which let out a very loud sonic boom.

Alaric managed to find Vorkstag's room which contained many books on anatomy and surgery. There was also several more alchemical items and some jars with a preserved head and shoulder. In the back was a locked room, which Alaric used a spell to open. Inside was a single cabinet. Opening it, Alaric discovered a dozen or so skins, fully preserved within this closet. Apparently these were disguises of the Skin Stealer. Digging through them (after setting his gloves and coat aside) he discovered a 7-foot tall skin of a mongrelman made up of flesh, fur and scales and covered with fungal boils and hideous puss-filled eruptions. This had to be this 'shambling' creature that Karl had described and what the villagers at Morast had seen. Slinging this over his shoulder, he dug further and found a false back on the cabinet. Inside was a ledger detailing the same customers that Grine had spoken of as well as some coins and other objects. At this point, Alaric heard a loud explosion and he went to go find where Menasius had gone to.

They met up in Grine's room where Alaric asked him what he did, and Menasius replied with "What?". Alaric mentioned that he had been digging through skins and Menasius told him he found Alaric a present. He handed the tusk over to Alaric not realizing just how heavy it was. Alaric threw the skin at Menasius, telling him he could hang onto it. They then heard Zalura asking them if "she should be worried", but Alaric just replied back "only for the safety of the paladin". The two then came down and investigated the body of Vorkstag. Here they discovered the blood caiman bite on its shoulder, and a few more items on the body (including keys). They now had a good case for later that day. Shoving the body in Menasius' bag along with the skin and the tusk, the two went to investigate the rooms on the bottom level.

Inside the next room was another place with body parts in jars, including a drow head, picked hill giant eyes, a half-changed head and spine of a wererat and a trio of chuul tentacles. There were two skeletons of owlbears on the floor and a body of a slain traveler inside the coffin. Further down, they discovered a passageway into the sewers, and going the other direction, they found a pool of cadavers. Inside were two very quick and smart zombies, but they were no match for electricity and some fire.

(GM Note: Those zombies didn't have a chance to do much but move. I rolled low on their initiative and they got pounded on.)

When everything of interest was gathered, the two men came back to Zalura (who had put the Dark Creeper to sleep in the meantime). They took their prisoner and the evidence to Gustov, who was quite surprised at the revelation. He squared everything away to input the evidence for Sanctuary as well as the newly found evidence that points squarely to the real murderers at Sanctuary and Morast. The group had just enough time to head back to the Sleepy Mug to make themselves presentable for court.

Both Menasius and Alaric presented the tools, the skins, and how the evidence fell into place. They explained who the real killers were and how they tracked them down. And to put a lid on the case, they had Grine make his confession last (with another reminder from Alaric). Alaric and Menasius were then brought back out to sit in the court room to hear the closing statements. Gustov did a rather good job with his portion, having great evidence to go off of. Otto, the prosecutor, did the best he could, but he knew when he had been proven wrong. Still, he used what he had presented during the last several days to the best of his ability. The justices took their leave to deliberate, taking an hour before they returned.

The three returned grim-faced and the Chief Justice Khard stood and announced the verdict: "We have heard the evidence presented before us, and thank Pharasma that we did so, for without this trial there would have been a most terrible miscarriage of justice. There are many cruelties in the world, but to lie and blame another for one's crimes is the most terrible of sins. We have asked ourselves a question- who is the monster here? Is it this creature before us, with its broken body and terrible form, or is it we, the people of Lepidstadt, with our bigotry and lies? The Beast is innocent!" The crowd above booed and hissed, but nothing else came of it as guards made sure they were led out of the court room. The Beast was let free of his bonds and he came over to the party with a huge smile on his face. He thanked his "bestest best friends ever" and told them that while his father didn't usually like visitors, that he would love for them to come and meet his father and to come see him at his home. The party volunteered to help the guards escort the Beast to the forest. Before they left, Judge Daramid asked them to come see her at her home in the morning.

The group had no trouble escorting Friend to the forest. There were some rather sour looks in their direction, but they also saw the Crooked Kin smiling at them, and giving them their silent approval of their actions. Menasius pointed out the group to Friend, asking him that if he wanted to, he could join the traveling circus. Friend contemplated this and said that he would have to ask his father if it would be all right to do so. Once the Beast was on his way into the forest, the party took their leave of the guards. They now had the rest of the day to themselves which included selling and buying of items. That evening, the group decided to go to the Brazen Skull for drinks, but they stopped by the Sleepy Mug to pick up Sara. The four sat at the table and had a few drinks (Menasius bought the entire tavern 2 drinks). Zalura evidently showing she was still a light weight, got tipsy after two, but refused to have more.

Unfortunately she tripped over her tongue by indicated that she didn't want to do what she did last night. She meant the drunk part, but it came across that she meant the whole night. Even though she felt rather guilty about this, she kept silent since they were not alone. While Sara and Menasius had a wonderful walk along the lake, Zalura and Alaric each took separate walks on their own.

When morning came, Zalura noticed that she was in the bed, having chosen the floor to allow Alaric to have the bed when he got back. He was still asleep when she woke up, so she waited to thank him before the two came down for breakfast. Menasius joined them a bit later as he wanted to walk Sara back to her dorm. Both Zalura and Alaric had commented before Menasius had returned that it was rather cute to see the paladin with a girlfriend.

Heading to the Judge's house, they were given their payment with her thank you. She was quite impressed with their work, and asked them for another favor. She wanted them to go to Schloss Caromarc to check in with the Beast's "Father" and to make sure that future incidents be avoided. She also wanted them to know that there was a mob trying to form up to go after the Beast. The party told her that they were planning to visit the Beast anyway and they would deliver the message and find out a bit about the Beast's history as well. The three mounted their horses (with the paladin having a palomino, a "girly" horse as Alaric said) and headed the 24 miles northeast to Schloss Caromarc.

Before leaving, the group asked around about Schloss Caromarc and its inhabitant as well as trying to find information about the mob (and talk them out of it). They learned that Count Alpon Caromarc was the former ruler of Vieland who abdicated his position when the Palatinates threw out the aristocracy and became a council. He had built his dwelling known as the Hanging House to both attract and detract visitors. The buildings lie northeast of Dippelmere Swamp and are built in the cliffs above several waterfalls. While the lower parts of the house are luxurious, the further one goes, the more dangerous and inhospitable the buildings become. They also heard a few whispered rumors that Alpon was paranoid that his experiments and discoveries would be stolen, so he created numerous guardian creatures to serve and protect him, as well as trapping various parts of the house.

Upon arriving, they discovered that there was quite the deep gorge the buildings were built amongst. The first building they came across was a Gatehouse with four towers. The door was shut and two trollhounds guarded the building. The group dismounted and left their horses (or put them away in Menasius' case) and approached. Menasius went first and shouted a hello, thinking that the hounds were part of the normal guard. However, they found that a troll (or a pair of trolls as they later learned) had taken over the guard house. Menasius was tripped by one of the dogs, which he later paid back by tripping it as well in payback. Zalura moved up to help him with the hounds while Alaric went after the troll who vainly tried to throw rocks at them. Menasius soon took off the jaw of one of the hounds, killing it, just as Zalura nailed the other with her scarf, sending it flying into the wall of the Gatehouse. Menasius moved in and killed it by carving his initials into it. Alaric said that this is starting to get disturbing with the carving initials into canines. A second, larger troll with a crossbow (or a ballista as was pointed out) began shooting at Menasius while Alaric fired his spells at him. Zalura tried to help Menasius get up the wall, but he was unable to make the climb. She dropped the potion of spider climb for him to catch and ran for the gate to see if it would open, but Alaric managed to finish it off before Menasius drank the potion.

GM Note:

I have included the letter that was found by the players, and the journal that they found. I created the journal using tidbits from the message boards and my own timeline.

Session 7:

The party overheard movement inside the gatehouse, and discovered that the door was barred shut. Alaric used a grappling hook and went up the side of the wall and searched the troll that was lying there. Then he went down the spiral staircase to discover two more trolls roasting some sort of meat over the fire while three goblin slaves did work for the trolls. Going invisible, Alaric went to the door and found that all he had to do was open the bar and pray that it didn't squeak. With a shot at the trolls as the doors opened, the party engaged the trolls. The goblins on the other hand either didn't know what they were doing (getting distracted easily) and alternating throwing stones at the trolls and the party (harming no one).

Once the trolls were dispatched and burned, the party turned toward the goblins which stayed away from the group until one decided to come up to Menasius and say that he would not hurt them. He made mention of a "big dog" guarding the bridge, which was why the trolls holed up here until they could figure out a way to break into the main building. As they were running off (after being told to get lost), one of the goblins tossed an amulet to Menasius before leaving. Picking it up, it was discovered to be an amulet of the Whispering Way. Clearly the cult had been this way.

It took some time to clear the barricade of cots and boxes, but the group cleared the door and talked about how they would defeat the golem dog. Menasius had scouted up in one of the turrets to see that there was only one dog and that the bridge was high above the river and waterfall. The dog was standing in front of the door to the Manse, and remained there even when the party came out onto the foot of the bridge. Zalura sent Eyla up onto the bridge to scout. The dog began barking when she reached halfway across the bridge. Only if she moved forward past that did it seem the dog would run after them. The party devised a plan of tying Menasius to the building and sending him forward to meet the dog. He would toss a grease potion onto the ground and push the dog off the bridge when it came to meet him. Their plans succeeded when the dog hit the slippery patch at full bore, not being able to take a swipe at Menasius as he side-stepped the dog and shoved him off the bridge into the water and over the waterfall.

(GM Note: This was a rather clever solution on their part I thought.)

With one success underway, the party came over to the front door. Zalura was able to spot a bell pull, but she didn't see anything else about the door until Alaric pointed out that she'd missed a crucial key in noticing that the door was trapped. With the two boys standing on the solid ground between the Manse and the cliff edge, Zalura worked on disabling the trap. She barely succeeded, managing to keep the summon from going off and the group entered into the entry hall.

(GM Note: I beat the DC by one. The Air Elemental would have been an interesting encounter judging by the obituary on this board.)

A large fireplace stood before them, and above it was a fine portrait of Alpon Caromarc himself surrounded by objects in his museum. They were able to notice that through the painted window in the artwork, the bridge between two buildings was in tact (which they latter discovered was no longer the case as the bridge was destroyed by an explosion in the Alchemy wing). In a mirror, there was a figure of a four-armed white ape with visible stitching. While they were studying this picture with growing unease, a strange metal and flesh object with scythes for arms came shambling out from under the stairs. The creature turned out to be quite difficult to damage until Zalura was able to put a curse on it and reduce its hardness enough to be damaged.

With the fear of traps and creatures, the group was extra careful, checking every door for traps and keeping a wary eye out. However, they found no further creatures nor traps in the main house itself. They did find it to be a well stocked home with lots of food, books, and wine. The sleeping areas appeared to be upstairs while the kitchen, library, storerooms and smoking room were downstairs. While going through the smoking room, a letter was sitting on one of the tables. It appeared to be dated at the beginning of the month and was from an Adivion Addrisant to the Count. He mentioned associates coming with a curious tome that he wished for the man's opinion on.

(GM Note: I have the letter listed her. Also gained by the message board here. I also would like to say that for the most part, the party refused to take items here since the Count was supposedly still alive. In order to compensate, I had Zalura pilfer a few things here and there. Though Alaric did grab an item or two - claiming a tax against all the deadly traps)

Upstairs in what appeared to be the master bedroom, the group found the Count's journal, talking about how he was forced to step down from his rule by an "Order", and that he lost his wife in child birth. He created the Beast to try and fill the hole that was left in his life, and perhaps find a way to eventually bring his wife to life again as the clerics of Pharasma couldn't (or didn't) resurrect her. He also made mention of the letter from Adivion, but there was no further entries after that.

As the group searched the place for any signs of human life, or Friend, they did come across a fair number of fancy baubles and coin. While Menasius purposely did not watch what the other two were doing, both Alaric and Zalura pocketed a few things; a tax on a wealthy noble to those who needed resources. Clearly he wasn't using them. The group also came across an engineers quarters where there was extensive maps and drawings of the grounds. An explosion in the Alchemy wing destroyed a part of the building and the bridge across to the Museum.

Deciding that they needed to rest before continuing, as well as to gain more spells for what could be awaiting them in the rest of the complex, the three settled down for the night. Menasius offered the master bedroom to Zalura and Alaric, something they both turned down, favoring having all three of them stay in the three cots in the quarters that contained the engineers notes.

That night, each of the three were visited by a diety, Menasius by Sarenrae, Zalura by Desna, and Alaric by Pharasma. Each imparted on the group that they must hurry, that there were two souls at stake. Zalura woke to find that Alaric had already left the room, and she merely set about working on her meditation and reading through the cards. Menasius went through his praying once he woke. Zalura asked him if he had a dream as well, to which Menasius replied that he had, and that they should hurry. She responded the same and said they should go find Alaric and be on their way. They found him in one of the guest bedrooms out on the balcony, doing some deep thinking. Zalura asked if he too had a dream, and he replied yes. Menasius asked if it was by a deity and when this was confirmed he asked which one. Alaric made comment that it was likely that someone was trying to make him a Pharasmin, and that someone was possibly Pharasma herself.

(GM Note: Alaric had a Pharasmin background with his family paying heed and attending services. While Alaric had no issue with Pharasma, he wasn't so sure she liked him considering what he was as well as not liking any of her followers. Some more rabid than others.)

The group headed outside and up another bridge, this one narrower until they entered the Alchemy wing. One of the walls looked to be exploded out, and now covered with scaffolding. The rest of the place looked scorched, but that wasn't what caught Alaric's attention. That was the movement of three strange bugs that Zalura identified as Rust Monsters. The battle was over soon and no one seemed to suffer any lasting effects unlike much of the metal in that building. It seemed that what survived the blast of Alchemical fire had been eaten away by rust. While looking around, Zalura found a rod that she identified as a rod of Flame Extinguishing. There was some comment that while she should hang onto it, it wasn't as if she needed it (being fairly good at extinguishing 'flames' on her own). Looking outside to the next building, the group decided that crossing the rope bridge was not going to be pleasant.

However, the group came up with a great idea of using some metal rings that they fastened rope to and then tied themselves to. That way, if anyone fell, the rope would catch them. Menasius went first followed by Zalura and Alaric. It was slow going, but they made it halfway. Just as Menasius unclipped his ring and reclipped it on the other side of the first rope intersection, a beautiful armored woman with black wings as dark as night appeared in the air to their right. She smiled darkly at them and took several shots at Menasius with her flame longbow. Alaric cast protection from evil centered on Zalura, while Menasius continued forward, hoping to draw the Erinyes' ire to him and get to solid ground. Zalura tried to put the creature to sleep but was unable. She heard Menasius yell for them to come to the otherside as he threw open the door. Hoping for the best and that they had enough rope, she and Alaric started for the other side. Once Zalura got to the otherside, the Erinyes smiled at Menasius and told him that he could not protect all of them as she shot at Alaric who was still working his way across the bridge. As soon as everyone was across, Menasius untied them and told them to run inside. Zalura made it inside just as the Erinyes said "Auren Vrood, my duty is finished" and disappeared. Alaric recalled that name before and managed to remember it from the list of buyers on the list they found in Vorkstag and Grine's Chymic Works.

(GM Note: I liked one of the message board ideas of having the Erinyes leave instead of pursue the group. After all, she was charged with keeping people from crossing. If they were already across, then that was that. It was a good way to name drop Auren Vrood again since they didn't know that this was the name of the person they were chasing.)

Shutting the door behind them, the group ventured into each of the rooms of the Museum. There was a section that was labeled "Things of the Sea" which included a skeletal sea cow and various creatures in jars. Then there was "things of the Land" that included a stuffed bulette and a part of a bugbear. In the room labeled "Beasts of Dark Reputation", Menasius discovered a mimic in the shape of a sarcaphagus, and Alaric found a moving mummy. While the mummy was short lived, the mimic was more of an annoyance to Menasius. But soon, it squealed and fell off of him. Deciding to head upstairs before going down, the group went up to the room labeled "Things of the Air" where they found a part of a griffon and a preserved wing of a roc amongst other things.

Further up they found a store room. Menasius discovered something evil in one of the chests, and despite Zalura wanting to just leave the room, he opened the chest to find two medusa heads. It didn't take long for Menasius to dispatch these creatures, and find absolutely nothing in the chest. "At least, nothing anymore" as Zalura said. Going further up, the only thing that they discovered was that Zalura couldn't see the trap that tried to gas them out.

(GM Note: I had Zalura take two levels of rogue after we found out the party rogue/bard was leaving so that they had someone who could disable magical traps. Turns out you kind of need perception to find them. The party eventually figured this out and Alaric did the looking).

The group headed back down and to the trap door leading downward. This was a hanging spiral staircase with a great view of the falls across the way. Leading into the next room, they opened the door to see a large blind flesh golem with six humunculi flitting about its head. However, what they also noticed was another flesh golem, a rather familiar one laying in the corner unmoving. It was Friend. Zalura and Menasius went after the blind golem, while Alaric went to go look to see if Friend was all right. He found that Friend appeared to be dead, and joined the others in taking out the humunculi (which seemed to damage the flesh golem). Soon the creature was dead and they returned to Friend's side. He didn't look to be alive, but it was hard to tell with flesh golems. They decided to try and have Alaric send electricity into him (after removing the other flesh golem) while Zalura and Menasius headed upstairs to heal. While it seemed to do something, it wasn't enough to get him up and moving. Zalura said that they should press on, that something was telling her that they couldn't do anything for Friend right now, but that something else might help him.

(GM Note: Another idea from the boards that I ran with. This explained how Friend got to the final fight so quickly and gave more of an urgency to the party to find out what happened).

The group headed outside and climbed up the hill to the Menagerie. Zalura was checking out the door while Menasius had headed back down to make sure that Alaric was fine as he was having a difficult time climbing up the steep slope. When the boys joined up with her, Zalura mentioned that the door seemed stuck and not trapped or locked. Menasius kicked the door open after two tries, sending a wave of water over the three of them. Clearly it was stuck because of the water pressure on the other side. With some commentary about Menasius and baths, the trio headed into the flooded hallway, standing in three feet of water. Ahead of them was a blocked stairwell with the hallway going to the left and to the right. Catwalks 30 feet above them seemed to connect the four circular chambers, with a catwalk heading out across the river to the next building.

Zalura missed seeing the underwater trap that caused the ground underneath Menasius to give way to deeper water. He managed to keep his head above the water and swim to solid ground before two dead guards swam up and tried to pull them under. Clearly this place too was trapped. Who in their right mind had this many traps? Clearly the rumors in town of the Count being paranoid were rather true. That or the Whispering Way could have had a hand in it. It was difficult to tell.

Letter to Caromarc from Adivion:

Dated Lamashan 1, 4711

My Dear Count,

I have enjoyed our most recent discourse on the nature
of the spontaneous creation of certain types of undead.
In my many years of study on the subject, I have also
attempted to discern the secrets from my own study of
Osirian remains, those hulking mummies so prevalent
in that desert environ. Perhaps when I travel back to the
north country I will regale you with stories of my exploits
in that dusty land. It has been a long time since I have
enjoyed your company in person. Although I have grown
greatly from the student I once was, the time I shared with
you and Petros in study and event disagreement is one I
shall always cherish.

However, I digress from the purpose of this current
missive. Some retainers of mine have business in
Lepidstadt in the coming weeks, and I was hoping to
impose upon your intellect and unique point of view. They
will be carrying a rather curious Tome, and I would love to
have your learned opinion of it. If it is not too much of an
imposition, please expect visitors toward the end of the


Adivion Adrissant

The Seal attached had two letter "A's" interlocked - also gained from the message boards. If you flip it upside down, it was two "W's" indicating the Whispering Way. My players discovered this when they began to suspect Adivion.

Caromarc Journal:

Sarenith 1, 4670

There is unrest in the county, as there is in some of the other nearby counties. I fear my rule will be contended, but I will not let them win! I will keep control of this county so help me Pharasma.

Sarenith 4, 4670

The Order has gone too far; too far. They approached me with an ultimatum. Step down and ensure my safety and the safety of my family, or see my good name be ruined in a hostile takeover. I cannot, I should say, I refuse to let them get away with this. But I fear for my lovely Ceryse.

Sarenith 8, 4670

For the safety of my wife, I chose to step down publicly, renouncing my leadership over the county of Vieland. It is now in the hands of a new council. One that "graciously" allowed me to keep my title and my land. The Order better keep their word as I kept mine.

Calistril 27, 4676

I am to be a father! We are at last blessed by the divine power of Pharasma. An heir at last, though I cannot give the seat of Vieland to my unborn child, I can still give the child a comfortable life.

Rova 6, 4676

Oh Pharasma! Why has this been done to me! While trying to give birth, my lovely Ceryse lost her life. The unborn child dying as well within her. I could not find anyone to help us, to help me raise my beloved. It must be the Order, they must be the ones that silenced the good folks of this town against me! It certainly could not be that I did not have the funds; I would have sold everything just to have her back... I did what they asked! I stepped down, but yet, they lied. They did not protect my family! There will be justice!

Desnan 11, 4706

At last, my trials and experiments are at full fruition. A moving, thinking flesh golem; the son that I never had. My rage at the injustice of it all slowly melted away as I beheld the creature - a creature who in his childlike faith idolized me. I thought he would be the answer to everything. The one to take away the pain that the Order has caused me. I fear having him around has only deepened my sorrow. A living reminder of what I should have but have lost.

Lamashan 5, 4711

I received a letter from an old acquaintance today. I didn’t expect to hear from Adivion again as it has been some time since the young student has paid a visit. He has certainly peaked my interest in this tome of his, and I look forward to a healthy historical discussion once
the letters start flowing. Perhaps it will do me good to leave this place and visit him in Caliphas so we may discuss histories in person.

End of Book 2 and the start of Book 3: Broken Moon

Session 8:

Walking to the containment area, Alaric spotted the label for the creature that was more than likely still inside – Transparent Basilisk. Not looking forward to this, Zalura checked the door and found it unlocked and not trapped. Menasius however discovered that the floor drops lower in this area and had to use his shield to keep afloat from the sudden dip. He continued along the edge after setting up a light spell to light the area. Zalura remained on the ledge while Alaric finally moved into the water and began swimming after Menasius. It didn’t take long before the sorcerer saw movement in the water. Soon a head popped up nearby Menasius, but he didn’t see it until he opened the door and found a snake-like creature whipping forward to bite him. Alaric figured out what the creature was exactly right before becoming petrified. Zalura entered the water to help, but she too succumbed to the creature’s gaze. However, before she was petrified, she was able to tell Menasius not to look at it and that they would need its blood. She couldn't elaborate any further to the paladin's distress.

It took some time, but Menasius was eventually able to kill the creature. He dragged its bleeding corpse off the bottom of the container and onto the platform between containment fields. Now that it was safe, he removed his armor so that he could jump back into the water to retrieve his companions. He first grabbed Zalura and placed her on the floor next to the basilisk. Next he went after Alaric, but his strength was ebbing and it became difficult for him to swim and carry the sorcerer. Eventually he got Alaric to the platform. With no room to set him down, he put Alaric ontop of the Basilisk so that he could think about what to do next. Luckily this was a good idea and Alaric woke to laying in Basilisk corpse (something he didn't quite appreciate). Seeing that it worked, Menasius moved a confused Alaric and put Zalura on top of the Basilisk. The witch seemed to handle being covered in basilisk guts a bit better than the sorcerer.

(GM Note: As we did this fight and two of the party dropped, I had to start thinking about what I would do if the paladin went down too. Luckily he didn't, but poor Menasius was rather unsure of how to help his friends after killing the basilisk.)

When they had rested and Menasius put his armor back on, they determined that they did not want to go into any more containment areas. The catwalk seemed to be destroyed inside the container, but it was clearly still connected between the containers and to the tower across the gorge. Zalura cast fly on Alaric, and the two of them flew up to open the door. They then attached the rope of climbing to the door to allow Menasius to climb up. The group then walked to the edge of the iron platform. Out in front of them was yet another narrow stone bridge. Something everyone (particularly the paladin) was getting tired of.

(GM Note: The party remembered they had this rope from Harrowstone.)

As they walked across the bridge, they got a good look at the very tall tower. Sitting on top of it was a large iron steeple with a huge lightning conductor at the pinnacle. The door was locked at the other side, but Zalura was able to pick the arcane lock. Alaric noticed the mess of papers everywhere and the broken cage in one corner, while Menasius and Zalura only noticed the large girallon flesh golem looking back at them. Soon, the guardian was killed and the group searched the room. Menasius discovered that the trap door at the top of the spiral staircase was made of pure adamantine. Alaric found notes pinned to the back of the door, but couldn’t fully make out the messy writing. It didn’t help matters that the guardian had soiled and ripped the pages as well.

Carefully going through the trap door, the party entered an empty room choked with webs. Unnerved, they searched the room for any creatures – but luckily didn’t find any. There was a chalk drawing on one of the walls that had been hastily wiped away, but Alaric was able to make some of it out. It seemed to be a crude diagram of the tower, particularly the top. Two strange apparatuses sat at the top of the iron spire with the words “The Storm Caller must be activated to energize the Bondslave Thrall” next to it. A large arrow pointed to the larger of the two apparatus. While they were working on this, a small homunculus appeared with his hands in the air. It watched them carefully, as if trying to determine whether they would attack him. The group determined that the creature meant no harm, and indicated back that they would not hurt him. The homunculus came over and began to pantomime information. Something about creatures, and people trapped, and the importance of the diagram and the Bondslave Thrall. After several minutes of not quite capturing everything the creature was saying, it finally wrote down that its master was trapped upstairs where a large creature was waiting. They needed to activate the Storm Caller and then the Bondslave Thrall to summon the Beast to their aid. When the creature was satisfied that they would help, he disappeared, letting them continue on their way.

Zalura made mention that they would need to be quiet to avoid detection, but unfortunately the trap door slipped out of Menasius’ hand and slammed against the floor.

(GM Note: Something about asking the paladin to sneak was entertaining, all the more so when he rolled really low).

This drew the attention of a very large creature which roared in anger. A quick decision was made – Alaric would head for the top while Zalura and Menasius would distract the monster. From what Alaric had seen of Flesh Golems, this particular one was very strong, and they would likely not be able to take it on themselves. As he took off through the thick webbing, the Promethean dropped down and gave off a terrible moan. This frightened Zalura and she took off back down the stairs, leaving Menasius to take several rounds of beating. Feeling quite embarrassed, Zalura returned to give the creature another target, and to fly up to heal the rather battered Paladin, now trapped in a paralytic tentacle. Soon enough, the creature grabbed ahold of Zalura too.

(GM Note: I believe at some point the paladin mentioned that he had this when Zalura asked if he was all right.)

Meanwhile, Alaric climbed 60 feet up through webs to reach the roof. Hasting everyone prior to leaving helped considerably. He flew up the tower and activated the Storm Caller, hoping that he was doing so correctly. Lightning began arcing as sparks flew- the machine now humming deeply. Then he turned and put on the Bondslave Thrall – suddenly being thrust into the now awakened mind of the Beast.

(GM Note: I then gave the player of Alaric the Beast's stat sheet to play with.)

With the activation of the Thrall, the Promethean’s attention was drawn upward and it dropped both Zalura and Menasius. Not wanting it to get to Alaric, Menasius sent a fire bolt at it, sending the creature back to the ground. The Promethean headed back up again after a swing at the annoyances and made it a ways up before Menasius than caught it on fire with some Alchemist Fire. Ignoring this, it started upward, burning itself and catching the webs around it on fire. Zalura and Menasius then began their assent up the ladder (or flying in Zalura’s case).

Up above, the Beast climbed the outside of the tower and flung himself onto the roof as lightning crackled all around. A few times Alaric, who was still in the machine had to dodge lightning bolts. The Promethean slammed through the shutters in the roof only to be pounded on by the Beast. The two creatures battled, grappling and breaking the grapple as Zalura came up onto the roof. She ran over and cast a helpful spell on the Beast, but was hit by the Promethean in the process. Menasius just came up over the edge of the trapdoor to see the Promethean trying to get up onto its feet (after a rather badly placed slam) and the Beast bull rushing it over the edge of the tower and into the water below.

Alaric apologized to Friend for taking over his mind, but the golem seemed only happy to see his friends alive. This was shared by the party too, happy to see Friend alive as well. Then Menasius and Zalura recalled that there was a fire going on down below and that the homunculus (Waxwood as the Beast called him) said that someone was trapped in that room. With some quick water casting by the paladin, and using the rod of flame extinguishing by the witch, they were able to get the fire under control. As well as making it easier to move around now that the webbing was mostly gone.

They saw a large bell jar containing the alchemically preserved body of a woman (her stomach mutilated), and a misery idol (looking like a fat doll engraved with sewn lips and a representation of a man being crushed to death). The idol was made of pure adamantine and proved tough to open, even for Menasius. They asked the Beast to help pull open the casket, and Alaric caught the man who seemed to be in poor condition.

(GM Note: I added that the Whispering Way took the unborn child as well as part of the Carrion Crown. It made it more personal I thought and it fit into the poem too. I also got the idea from the message board.)

The man was able to breathe out a thank you as they helped him to a place to sit. Menasius shared food and water with him. The man was introduced as the Count Alpon Caromarc himself, and he thanked his rescuers thoroughly. Asking about what happened, the Count told them that he had received a note indicating that someone was likely trying to blackmail him. Not to be fooled, he sent the Beast in his place rather than himself to the meeting area – only to be overrun by the Whispering Way Cultists at his castle. They shoved him in the idol, and made him watch as they tore out his wife’s womb –their unborn child still inside. Between him and Waxwood, they were able to determine that the leader of the group was a man by the name of Auren Vrood, and he was the one to figure out the Bondslave Thrall. They had initially planned to use the Count himself to make the Beast do as they said, but the Thrall was even better. Using the Beast, they were able to steal the statue and take off once it was received. The group asked if the Count knew what the statue was, but he couldn’t give many details other than he remembered when the University had obtained it. He had been good friends with several of the professors.

Count Alpon was also able to tell them that the Cultists were heading for the Shudderwood, and that it was likely they were heading toward Ascanor Lodge. It was explained to Menasius, that Ascanor was a place for nobles to go on hunting retreats – a place where Alaric’s father had gone to from time to time. The Count was able to tell them a shortcut, a path known as the Silent Path that would take them to the Lodge.

The group made their way back to the main house, where the magical servants fed everyone. Everyone slept very well that night. The next morning, Menasius and Zalura tended to the man’s wounds, and did the best they could to heal him back to normal as the man had not wanted to be taken back to town. He was quite grateful that they helped him and that they honored that wish. He told them that his bank would release money in thanks for their help to their accounts. The party asked if there was anything they could do to help him, but the man said he would take care of rebuilding. Menasius had apologized about the destruction of his creations, but the man had replied that of all the creatures he had, he was glad that they were able to save ‘Friend’.

Friend accompanied them back to the gatehouse and sobbed as they left despite their efforts to comfort him. He said that he would miss his bestest best friends. Gathering up the horses, the group made their way back to Lepidstadt to report back to Embreth Daramid.

The woman was in her house as they arrived during the middle of the day. She inquired what happened, and was quite surprised at the mess that Schloss Caromarc was in. The group was very careful with their information, only revealing later that it was believed to be the Whispering Way behind all of it. Judge Daramid also admitted a bit of a secret herself, revealing that she was a member of the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye – a group who wished to preserve Ustalav and stop groups such as the Whispering Way. She implored that they follow after the cult and do what they could to find out what they were up to and to stop them if they could. When they told her the name Auren Vrood, she unfortunately had nothing on him, but told them that she would connect with her counterparts in Caliphas to see if they could find out any information on this man. It seemed to affect her that this was the man who had killed Petros, but she again asked them to do what they could, and gave them coin to help with their quest.

When it was told that they needed to go to Ascanor Lodge, she gave the three blank invitations – something she could do with her position in the Order. (Which at that point everyone finally connected that “The Order” in Caromarc’s journal was this same Order the Judge was in). She also pulled in some favors to get a speed order on magical equipment for the group so that they would not have to wait more than four days in town.

Alaric picked up his own room at the Inn as there were now other free rooms now that the trial was over, and Menasius was able to catch up with Sara. He surprised her by going to the University and inquired where the rapier class was being held (her last class of the day). While he watched the students work, a spectator seemed impressed by the scimitar he had on him – saying that he hadn’t seen too many of those in Ustalav. Soon class was dismissed, and Sara didn’t see her boyfriend there until after she had sat down to clean the finger prints and dust off her blade. Actually, he had to sit down next to her and clean his scimitar for her to notice. She was quite ecstatic to see him, and the only reason she didn’t hug him on the spot was due to the blades. The pair hung out the rest of the day, though came to do some drinking. It was at this time that Alaric pulled Sara aside when Menasius was not paying attention to ask her permission for something.

The next day when the group was drinking at the Brazen Skull, a group of two women came over and began fawning over Menasius. Another group of four also came over to get in on the action. The paladin tried to tell them nicely that he was taken (which the four seemed to catch the hint), but the other two were determined to get in his lap. Alaric tried to kick the chair, but was unable to get it out further. The girls did try to pull the chair out as well, but were also unsuccessful. They took to petting his hair instead. Deciding he wasn’t getting anywhere with this, he asked Sara (who was doing a rather good job of not revealing much in the way of emotions) if she’d like to go back to his room. The girls wanted to come too and even followed the pair outside. Deciding that there was no way to shake the girls off by words or hints, Menasius swept Sara off her feet and told her to hold on. He called Sunfire (his palomino) underneath them and rode out of town as fast as he could. The girls tried to run after him until the spell wore off. Alaric and Zalura had followed after to watch this whole production, with the first nearly rolling with laughter. Menaisus and Sara took their time coming back, and only by a very different road.

During the down time, everyone went shopping and generally prepared themselves to leave. Alaric asked Zalura if she would be coming or heading off, and she replied that she would be coming. She told him that this was a rather lucrative profession and she made far more than she ever did doing readings. That and she wanted to find out what was going on with the cult before there wasn’t an Ustalav. (The connection between the Whispering Way and Tar-Baphon was always unsettling). Alaric played that this decision was of no matter to him – though it was difficult to say whether or not this was believed by other parties.

The three set off after 4 days to the entrance of the Silent Path. As they entered the dark woods, Alaric began to glow blue. It took a moment of confusion before he started telling Zalura that this was not funny and asking if this was supposed to be a reference to some book. She told him that she didn’t read that book, and that it was dark. Eyla seemed keen on keeping it until the spell went out, but the witch won out that conversation and she dismissed the spell with a hint of a smirk.

(GM Note: After everyone found out Zalura had faerie fire, the topic of Twilight came up. We decided that this world had a similar work called "Dusk" with glowing vampires. So that prank was in ode to that reference).

After a day, the group rode their called or summoned mounts (deciding feeding real horses wasn’t worth it) along the path until they noticed four creatures in trees around the path. Deciding to go around, they noticed that two of the ettercaps climbed down and two left. A cry of a woman was heard in the distance. Menasius turned and detected evil on them, a bit uncertain whether or not that this was another phase spider scenario. It turned out he was quite right. But they began to fight, being drawn forward by the ettercaps. A soft gentle music could be heard in the distance, something that didn’t really seem to catch Alaric or Menasius’ attention. Zalura managed to put one of the creatures to sleep before she began moving forward. Menasius tried to tell Zalura to stay together, but realized that she couldn’t hear him. The boys sighed. Apparently she had become fascinated by the music. Reacting first to keep Zalura from going into a trap, Menasius tackled her to the ground after Alaric finished off another ettercap. Zalura put up a struggle, trying to get away and it was decided that Menasius would have an easier time holding her down while Alaric went ahead to see if he couldn’t stop the music.

It took some time for Alaric to come up to a large broken down tower in the forest. The music seemed to be coming from inside (and the one ettercap that ran away had gone in this direction but was nowhere to be found). Alaric moved forward carefully, trying to see inside. He could see cocoons hanging from threads inside, and a hole in one corner. The music seemed to be coming from below ground. He moved forward into the tower and the music stopped at last. But nothing else happened. He looked up, but nothing was there. He climbed a cocoon to see down into the hole, but the angle was wrong. Without any other choice, he climbed back down and made his way to the hole. This was about the time that a huge weaverworm decided to strike. It took a bite out of him before he struck back with vampiric touch. This caused the lamia-type creature to retreat in fear.

Meanwhile, after the music stopped, Zalura struggled for a few more seconds before she suddenly stopped. “What the hell is going on?”she asked. Then she seemed to decide that she probably didn’t want to know. Blanking out and finding people on top of her, or pulled aside by someone with no memory of what happened was not uncommon to the Changeling. Menasius let her up, seeming a bit awkward about the whole ordeal. Then Zalura seemed to notice that Alaric was not there, and asked where he was. Menasius told her he hadn’t seen him in a bit of time, but the ettercap that was asleep chose that moment to wake up. He told her to go find Alaric and he’d hold off the last ettercap. Zalura took off at a full run hoping to get there in time – and not sure what she was going to find.

Menasius killed the ettercap and summoned Sunfire to ride after Zalura. He caught up to her and grabbed her as he ran by to help speed their arrival at the tower. The girl shrieked in surprise, startling Alaric. He didn’t have too long to worry as he saw Menasius setting her down off the horse. Zalura ran in to ask what was going on, and Alaric told her what was down below. Menasius joined them, though had a more difficult time jumping down the burrow. The weaverworm finally recovered and began attacking the elemental Alaric summoned. Zalura cast a spell that caused a swarm of spiders to pour out of her mouth and overrun the weaverworm, sending it to its death.

(GM Note: There were a lot of comments about kissing her after that spell. Or rather the lack of any interest in doing so.)

The group climbed back out of the hole and searched the area, finding a few useful items. In one of the cocoons, they found a more recently dead individual with a bloody envelop. It seemed to be an invitation to Ascanor Lodge, but they were unable to determine who it was written too, or who was the poor soul dead in the cocoon.

Session 9:

Before leaving the tower of the Weaverworm, Alaric cut off the patch of the dead man’s house off his bag. All he could ascertain was that it was from house Dravin. The following day, the adventurer’s came across a curious sight. A corpse of a man hanging from a tree, bound to the trunk by rough cords. Purple flowers were stuffed into his mouth and his wrists and ankles were swollen from the bindings. A silver hunting knife was embedded into his chest. Moving closer to investigate, Menasius set off a trap of crossbow bolts – indicating that this was some sort of trap. Grabbing one of the bolts out from his skin, Menasius was able to determine that they once had silversheen on them. Clearly someone was expecting a werewolf to fall for the trap. The dead man had either been, or had been thought to be a werewolf as the flowers turned out to be wolfsbane. The group was able to gain 3 doses of wolfsbane from the trap.

The following day, the group arrived at Ascanor Lodge, a very fine looking property surrounded by a 10 foot wall. Speaking to the guards, they claimed that no one else had reservations and that they would call for the Porter to look over their invitations. A finely dressed Halfling came and took a look at the invitations – but told them that without reservations, he could not allow them on site. He apologized and tried to send the group on their way. It was also during this time that the group presented the bloodied invitation, saying that someone should be informed about this unfortunate discovery – and that next of kin would need to be told as the man had died. At this point, a crowd of people had gathered on not only the balcony, but on the grounds as well. Two men followed by several others with horses were heading their way. A rough looking woodsman spoke back to the young well-dressed noble that he would take him to a location, but he refused to use his dogs. The woodsman addressed the noble as Duristan. Duristan saw the party and ordered them to come with him as they needed more swordsmen. When the group looked at him oddly, he suddenly realized that he was in the presence of real adventurers (despite the fact that both Zalura and Menasius changed prior to arrival into nicer clothes. Mannerisms and gear seemed to speak louder than anything). Duristan then begged for forgiveness and asked that if they come with him, he would pay for their entire stay – and promised a hunt they would never forget. When the group agreed, Menasius asked if he could change into better hunting clothing, and Duristan led him inside to do just that.

The group headed off with the Ranger, a man named Delgros, and Duristan along with all his hirelings. Belik watched their departure and spoke to the Warden while the group had taken their leave. It took several hours of riding before the group arrived at the specified location. Apparently Delgros had led a hunt after a golden stag, and the group found it mutilated in this particular spot. Duristan was sure it had to be werewolves – as he was a self-proclaimed werewolf hunter. Arriving at the location, Delgros declared the carcass missing, and the group fanned out to try and track down where it was drug off to. They soon found it being dined upon by three dire boars. The group soon dispatched the beasts and the group investigated the body. Despite the obvious boar marks, the stag had been taken down by something else that used tooth and claw. Duristan announced that there was indeed a werewolf about and that it must be found. Delgros called it a fool’s errand and left. The party, while thinking the noble nuts, decided to stay with him to keep him from getting himself killed. Happy that they were staying, Duristan had his hirelings set up a perimeter with traps and set up camp.

During the late afternoon and evening, the group chatted with each other – Duristan inquiring where everyone was from and so forth. He was happy to explain that he had killed three werewolves in his ventures and showed off his scarward. No one took him up on the offer to get one with Zalura wondering what sort of hex this was supposed to be. It was also during this time that Menasius had Duristan describe what sort of traps he uses. The man was happy to elaborate until he realized that Menasius had been the target of one of these traps. His eagerness to share turned into a flood of apologies. Apparently the young noble lacked wisdom in some cases.

As the sun set, and Alaric moved off to do some hunting, a strange sound alerted them to a presence nearby. Alaric returned as Menasius moved off, trying to determine if something evil had come by. Soon he sensed something, and the group came upon the dead body of one hireling, with a second being torn apart by a female werewolf. She was a rather large werewolf, apparently dire wolf rather than plain wolf. She demanded that they explain themselves, and when Duristan tried to say that they were interfering with an organized hunt, she cut him off saying that he was a liar. Then she told them to stay out of wolf affairs and to go back and tell whoever sent them that his dealings with Mathus Mordrinacht and the Silverhide pack did not sit well with the other tribes. She threatened that there would be bloodshed if a Silverhide packlord sat upon Highthrone. She then warned if they continued to support Mathus that they would feel the wrath of the wolf packs.

Judging by Duristan’s expression, the group figured that he at least had more of an idea of what she meant. Menasius tried the werewolf’s patience by taking claim to the dead bodies – not leaving until they were gathered for a decent burial. She finally let him grab them if they would leave immediately afterward. Duristan later told them that there were various werewolf packs in the woods and that the one they just saw was a Vollensag werewolf, or a Primal. Apparently one werewolf leader is chosen when that wolf kills and eats the heart of the current packlord. Something clearly was up, but he didn’t know what the connection was to Mathus and whoever she thought they were working for.

The group stayed the rest of the night in closer to the lodge before being allowed back inside once morning came. The Porter came to them with an apology, and after they had changed, took them up the stairs and through the tower to see Estovion, the Warden of the Lodge. He gave them his sincerest apologies, and told them that he was at fault for forgetting to remind his Porter that those with invitations from the Order did not need reservations. He told them that the libraries were at their disposal, and that they could use his library whenever he is present. At the dismissal, the group was led back downstairs and shown to their rooms. There were two rooms available, one with two beds, and one with one bed. Zalura spoke first when Menasius asked if she and Alaric wanted the room with the double beds, saying that she could take the single room.

(GM Note: The witch was much like her father, fairly loose and free-willed. She had turned down any idea of a relationship earlier which led to a rather uneasy feeling between them.)

Throughout the day, each person familiarized themselves with the layout of the lodge. As Menasius didn’t need to eat, he found the sitting room by the fireplace a good spot to work on his alchemy. Zalura and Alaric noticed one other guest in the dining area during lunch – a rather young sullen noble who didn’t seem interested in conversing with either of them. It wasn’t until later that afternoon into the early evening before the group began to meet the other guests.

An older man nearing his fifties entered the sitting room. He apparently seemed intrigued by the young man working on alchemy. It turned out that this was Cilas Graydon, a military commander who served under Count Neska during the civil war between Barstoi and Ardeal. When he found out that Menasius had just arrived the other day, he asked if he happened to pass by a man by the name Echtmoor Dravin. Menasius mentioned to him that they did find a traveler who had perished with an invitation, and that he should check with the Porter to see if that was indeed his friend. Cilas parted ways from him to find out the news – fearing the worst.

Meanwhile, Alaric had gone upstairs during the afternoon to do some reading in the main library off of the hallway from their bedrooms. It ended up being mostly novels and other light reading. He headed to his room briefly before making his way down the stairs. Here he passed by a woman in her forties and a man in his twenties. She introduced herself as Markiza Welgory, and he was Ostovach, her companion. She smiled warmly at Alaric and made very brief chitchat before he was able to escape for downstairs.

Zalura managed to get herself cornered by the sullen noble of earlier, discovering that his name was Corvin Tergsvor. Over the course of their stay, she found herself cornered by him often – also learning that he was a poet when he wasn’t indulging in absinthe. She managed to use Menasius as an excuse to escape at one point after Alaric mentioned to him that Zalura likely needed watching in case Corvin tried something.

At a later point, Menasius got to talk to Cilas, hearing that it was indeed his friend. The older gentleman thanked him for the –albeit sad – news, and told him that if he needed anything to let him know. He also inquired if the younger was successful with his potion. Menasius had managed to take one dose of the wolfsbane and turned it into a liquid potion during the day. Menasius also got a chance to chat further with Duristan about how to hunt werewolves.

During their mingling (or hiding in some cases), the group learned that there was a brothel of sorts being held in the watchtower. They also learned that the groundskeeper was a bit on the creepy side. Another rumor they heard was that Markiza’s companion was often called her “hound”, and that fox hunting was not the only thing they did when they went out.

The following day, the group decided that they needed to find out information about not only what the Vollensag werewolf had said, but also what happened with the Whispering Way. At one point they talked with the Porter and asked if any strange visitors had come by. He did mention a group of three speaking to Ivanja at the watchtower, but he couldn’t really describe them all that much other than saying they wore black robes. He did mention one had a strange imp-like pet. Upon further description, everyone agreed it was likely a homunculi.

Considering it was early in the morning, the group decided to wait until later to drop in on the Madame. In the meanwhile, they decided to check out the circle library. Zalura found nothing of interest, nor did Menasius (or at least nothing pertaining to their current investigation as he found interesting books on religion). Alaric managed to find a traveler’s journal written by an unknown Desnan follower. It described a temple known as the Stairs of the Moon. A folded note bookmarked one of the pages and it had written on it “See ‘Halo of Dreams’ on page 322 filed under Religion upstairs”. Curious as to what that was (as even Zalura didn’t know what it meant), the group had in mind to check out the library upstairs, but first, they had a courtesan to talk to.

The three headed over to the back side of the watch tower. Alaric had gone out the night before hunting and had seen that the entrance was on the back side. He had also noticed that the groundskeeper hunted, killed and skinned rats – but that was an entirely different matter all together. The group was greeted by Ivanja, a Varisian fortuneteller and Madame. They had met her the other night when they sat at her table (and Duristan gave a rather long and not-so-accurate account of their encounter with the dire boars and werewolves). She had them come inside and asked what she could do for them. They asked her about the guests, and she told them that Niama had met with them, and she could arrange for them to speak with her: for a fee of course. They bargained with her until she dropped the price only a little but threw in a Harrow Reading for them. Once agreed, Ivanja took them down two floors to Niama’s room – bidding them a pleasurable time.

The Vudrani woman was on her bed, wearing only light sheer clothing, but was willing to tell the group what she knew. She said that three nobles from Courtaud waited in her room for quite a time. One of them had an evil-looking imp pet. She also pointed out that she doubted they were from Courtaud as they had southern accents – much like Alaric did. She figured they were more likely from Caliphas. After some time, a silver-haired woodsman with a full beard and who smelled like a beast came in as well. They asked her to leave the room, which she did so. They were gone after an hour. On her way out, she did hear them say something about “Stairs of the Moon” and “the packlord’s heart”, but that was all she knew. The symbol of the gagged skull on one of them confirmed to the party that this was indeed the Whispering Way. They thanked her for her time and headed upstairs for their Reading.

All three received a Choosing, and then the group was given a Harrow Reading of their future. The woman mentioned that they must face a powerful force yet unseen that is manipulating the current situation, both in the Shudderwood and beyond. She said that the force was steadily growing in both power and malevolence, and has the potential to threaten Ustalav and indeed, the whole of Golarion. With that sobering thought, Menasius and Alaric took their leave. Zalura had asked to stay behind to talk with her fellow Varisian about something that was on her mind.

The boys headed back to the Lodge and decided to check out the Warden’s library. There was also a brief conversation that included Menasius giving Alaric tips on getting on the good side of Eyla to impress Zalura. It involved feeding the feline cheese. Soon they headed up the stairs and were given permission to look around. The Halo of Dreams was nowhere to be found, and when they questioned Estovion, he plainly told them that he did not have such a book. Speaking further about it, the party realized that he was lying, but he flat out refused to acknowledge such a thing. A few veiled threats were given, but that was the end of that. They were asked to leave, so the two boys headed out of the library to prepare for the evening.

It had been announced that there would be a ball of sorts that evening. Menasius told Alaric that he was going to go get a map from either Duristan or Delgros about the location of the Stairs of the Moon as Duristan had made mention of it before and equating it to Highthrone. By reading and talking with the huntsman and werewolf hunter, the group learned a bit more about the five tribes of werewolves in the Shudderwood. The Vollensags were led by Kvalca Sain, the packlord; the Mordrinachts were led by Mathus Mordrinacht; the Dorzhanevs were led by Cybrisa Dorzhanev; the Jezeldans were led by Adimarus Ionacu and that there was a group called The Prince’s Wolves who were formed by Prince Andriadus Virholt in an effort to rid the lands of the Whispering Tyrant’s agents centuries ago.

When Zalura returned to the lodge, Alaric was playing the piano (and subsequently being fawned over by Markiza), and Menasius listened to Delgros tell ghost stories after getting the start of a map from Duristan. Once the ball formally started, Menasius asked if Delgros would help him with the map and the woodsman was all too eager to take his time to help him out – neither wanting to go anywhere near the dancing. Zalura was corned yet again by Corvin while Alaric was staked out by Markiza. Not too long into the dance, a loud crash resounded through the vast halls as a giant tarantula broke through the door and into the Lodge. This drew various reactions throughout the lodge. Menasius and Delgros split ways to go after the spider, while Cilas and Duristan also drew their blades. Markiza gripped Alaric who did his best to try and fight while Zalura moved in to help –leaving Corvin to hide in a corner. With a well placed critical hit by Menasius, the spider was left jawless and could do little against the onslaught.

(GM Note: A really well placed crit. The spider got one attack off before it lost its only attack. It was just as well considering not one of the fighters in that group had armor on.)

Afterward, the group helped cut up the spider and drag it outside. Delgros went immediately to the pens to see what happened. Rats’ blood was discovered to be leading from the pens to the front door. Speaking with Delgros, the group learned that the spider didn’t break out – someone let it out. Returning back to the lodge, Estovion wanted to hear what happened. With the evidence (minus the mention that they thought Paucy did it since it was rat blood), Estovion announced that he would be speaking to not only Delgros, but Paucy. Apparently he had learned that the groundskeeper had an unnatural fascination with Ruessa and was probably trying to get her away by causing a distraction. While he was away, the party decided to take their chance at looking into his office. Zalura and Alaric went up while Menasius stood guard. It took some time but Zalura found the Book in question in Estovion’s desk, while Alaric found a rather interesting tale in the man’s journal. The group met back up in Menasius and Alaric’s room to discuss what they found. Apparently Estovion was involved with the Whispering Way not only currently but in the past. Something about a wolf spirit. He had arranged a meeting between the Whispering Way and Mathus. Then he mentioned that a few days ago, the packlord Kvalca Sain was killed, and Estovion believed that it was Auren Vrood, his agents of the Whispering Way and Mathus who did it. Estovion also voiced his concern about the safety of the lodge. This spurred the desire for the group to head to the Stairs of the Moon the next morning.

Later that evening, due to the realization that there was a chance of not ever returning to Lepidstadt due to the dangers, Menasius wrote a letter to Sara and took it Ivanja. He figured that she was the most likely to get the letter safely to the University and to Sara - particularly when coin was involved. Returning back to the lodge, he went to the sitting area where he normally hung out and spoke momentarily with Zalura before she headed off to bed. This unfortunately allowed Markiza a chance to slip in and try to flirt with Menasius. Finding no other way to get rid of her - and needing something to 'thank Alaric' for the Lepidstadt tavern incident - he made mention that Alaric was downtrodden about something. This led to him getting her a key to their room to which she seemed quite pleased to 'help out by cheering Alaric up'. The woman passed by Zalura who had returned back downstairs due to Corvin still being up and about in the sleeping area. The two got to talking about not only what Markiza was up to, but Zalura's own feelings. This led to Menasius telling her she should probably go rescue Alaric - not that they expected anything to actually happen, but he figured it would help her out with Alaric.

Alaric meanwhile had gotten ready for bed and was reading when he was inundated by the "malicious cougar", who was bent on helping him out. Managing not to dive off the balcony, Alaric did his best to politely tell her to go away. When a knock at his door gave him the great opportunity to redirect her elsewhere due to business, he was able to get her out the door and Zalura inside. The two eventually managed to talk about things and iron out the awkwardness that had grown between them the last several days.

The next morning everyone was alerted to Cilas’ room by Ruessa screaming. She had found the mutilated corpse of the commander with blood everywhere. Everyone was escorted downstairs into the dining room while Delgros and Estovion looked into the matters. Duristan announced that it must be a werewolf hiding amongst them and proceeded to stab people with a silver fork – starting with himself. He received various remarks, including threats if he stuck them with the fork. The group decided to leave the grounds for a while, but elected to stay as a group. Duristan volunteered to watch them carefully during that time. The party stayed on site, wondering what could have happened. No one heard a thing. They spoke with Delgros and were allowed to look into the room. The wounds were certainly consistent with what a wolf might make. Concerned, they asked what Delgros planned to do about this. He mentioned that they would bury him later that afternoon and set up a guard that night to keep it from happening again. Even though the party had hoped to leave for the Stairs of the Moon that day, they elected to help Delgros with not only the ceremony but guarding that night. They checked in with Paucy and his house-arrest guards, but no one saw anything go up the balcony that the party shared with Cilas. Both Alaric and Zalura got some extra sleep that afternoon prior to the burial in preparation to stay up that night.

That night, Alaric helped Delgros guard upstairs, while Menasius took watch on one side of the building, and Zalura at the other. It was late before Alaric heard a noise from Corvin’s room. Not chancing anything, he opened the door and found a changed Corvin. The noble looked to be more beast-like and looked like he was going to kill Alaric if he didn’t do something. With a message sent to Menasius, the battle with the possessed Corvin began. Menasius used a dagger to help climb up the side of the building and up onto the balcony – yelling for Zalura. The three men fought against Corvin, making sure not to kill the man. As Zalura managed to come in, Delgros changed to a silver arrow and caused a werewolf spirit to come out of Corvin. They identified it as a vilkacis, but knew little about it other than it was once a werewolf. Soon they were able to defeat the creature and save Corvin. (Though Alaric didn’t seem to mind too much that the noble wasn’t totally unscathed by the ordeal.)

Estovian's Journal:

Just over two weeks ago:

It appears that my past has come back to haunt me, in the form of unexpected visitors who arrived last night. Ostensibly nobles from Courtaud, they bore invitations from Adivion Adrissant in Caliphas, and Belik admitted them to see me. Their leader, a disturbing man named Auren Vrood who carried a sinister-looking, twisted homunculus on his shoulder, confided to me that they were agents of the Whispering Way, come to finally collect the debt I owe them for helping me with the spirit I discovered at the Stairs so long ago. Vrood “requested” that I arrange a meeting between him and one of the werewolves of the wood. Though I would prefer to have nothing more to do with them (for my youthful indiscretions were just that), I saw no choice but to acquiesce to their demands, lest they reveal my secrets to the Palatine Council. As Mathus is my sole ally among the packs, I will speak to him and arrange a meeting, and hopefully I can wash my hands of this whole sordid affair.

Two weeks prior to PC’s arrival

Vrood and his fellows have returned. Though I made my office available to them, they declined and requested a meeting with Madame Ivanja instead. Mathus arrived shortly after and went straight to Ivanja’s tower as well. I was somewhat surprised by their choice of location, but I suppose even nectromancers and werewolves have their needs. I spoke briefly with Mathus after the meeting, but he was unusually withdrawn and gave no hint of what was said at the meeting.

Two days prior:

A grave threat has befallen the Shudderwood, and I fear its origins lie at Ascanor. Unknown forces, almost certainly agents of Vrood and the Whispering Way, have attacked the Stairs, butchered Kvalca Sain and stolen her heart for some dark purpose. Although their motives remain a mystery, this single act has thrown the entire hierarchy of the Shudderwood’s packs into disarray and violence. I know that it is customary when a packlord dies for her successor to consume the fallen packlord’s heart. With Sain’s heart gone, the position of packlord shall fall to whoever can claim the title, either by recovering the lost heart, or more likely through force, by slaying the leaders of the four rival tribes and adopting the surviving wolves into his own pack.

Mathus has spoken with me before of his desire to become packlord, and I now wonder if his secret meeting with Vrood was the impetus behind these events. Without Sain’s heart, however, I doubt the other tribes will accept Mathus as their leader. He might find allies with the Sczarni or the Broken Ones, but the Vollensag and Jezeldans will never bow to his rule.

Mathus’s concerns doubtlessly lie with his pack, not with me, however, and I worry my alliance with the Mordrinacht shall soon be forfeit. I fear greatly for the safety of the lodge, for if Mathus moves to take Highthrone without Sain’s heart, or if it becomes known that his ascendance is due to the Whispering Way’s interference, Civil War will soon erupt among the packs of the wood, with Ascanor caught in the middle.

Session 10:

After the battle was over, Duristan came running out of his room, tugging on his armor and wanting to know what happened and whether it was a werewolf. The party informed him that it was a werewolf spirit and was no longer a threat. He seemed a bit disappointed about missing out on the fun, but otherwise headed back to his room to sleep. Delgros informed them that he was going to let Estovion know what was going on, while a rather tired Corvin came over to thank the pary for helping him (and not killing him). He offered them a gift, a clear spindle Ioun stone. The party had no choice in the offering, and the item went to Alaric (as Menasius already didn’t need to eat, and Zalura’s cat would have a hayday with a floating object to bat). With the threat over, the group decided to get some rest overnight before setting out the next day. Menasius asked Zalura if she wanted to switch rooms, and she agreed.

The next morning, the party headed to the novel library in order to discuss how to travel to the Stairs of the Moon. As they walked past the room they could only guess was Estovion’s, they noticed that the door was slightly ajar. Alaric went invisible and checked out the room as the other two headed to the library to wait for him. Alaric discovered the room was hastily left, with clothing gone and the bed unmade. Apparently Estovion was in a hurry to leave. Heading back, he kicked Menasius’ chair along the way. Menasius kept telling Zalura to stop bumping his chair – seeming to know what was up – but Zalura had no idea what was going on. Soon the three were discussing their options and with a path in mind, the trio headed downstairs – only to be stopped by Duristan who wanted to know where they were going.

Menasius mentioned that they were heading out, and Alaric pulled him and Zalura aside – asking for a moment to speak. They discussed the fact that no one wanted Duristan to get hurt, but acknowledged that he was a good swordsman. It was decided that because they wanted to try diplomacy first (and Duristan likely wanted to kill the werewolves first), they were going to leave Duristan behind. Since they figured he wouldn’t take no for an answer, they would arcane lock him into his room. With no balcony, it shouldn’t be that difficult. Zalura cast sleep on him, and Menasius carried him into his room with Alaric locking the door. The group let Delgros know what they did (which he found amusing) and that they may have to break the door down if the group doesn’t return in a day or so.

It took most of the day to arrive at the Stairs of the Moon, but just as they reached the edge of the clearing around the tower, they were attacked by two Vollensag werewolves. They tried everything they could to tell them that they were after the humans responsible, but the wolves wanted nothing to do with them – telling them that the humans were gone and that they should leave. After dispatching the wolves (Alaric managing to make one of them glow red due to a strange critical hit), the group rode toward the tower. A group of red werewolves fired arrows at them as they got closer to the temple, but the group rode all the way to the archway. They didn’t see the archers, and the arrows stopped as soon as they were inside. It was at this point that they discovered that Zalura had been bit aside from the arrows she took. She insisted that she was fine and the group began to explore the temple.

The first room that they came into was completely trashed with animal carcasses and harsh writing both on the walls and on the bodies. All the group could tell was that it was some kind of religious ritual which Zalura pointedly said was not Desnan. They came across the vilkacis again, which manifested toward the dais in the back as Menasius made his way in that direction. It tried to possess Menasius and then Zalura and failed on both accounts. The group soon dispatched it again, and hoped it would stay gone for at least as long as it took to find out how to put it to rest.

The group went inside the lower level of the tower and found two doors. Heading to the left, the group came across a horrible smell. It seemed that someone had crawled into the room and died in the corner. Inspecting the body, it appeared to be a Whispering Way cultist, still clutching a sack in her hands. Inside were onyxes which Alaric identified as components for the raise dead spell. On her back was a map case that Zalura studied. She pointed out that the coordinates marked led to Ravengro, Lepidstadt, what must be The Stairs of the Moon, and then Feldgrau over in The Furrows. With that in mind, the group headed over to the other door, which Zalura failed to see the trap. Wracked with pain, she was the only one affected by the symbol of pain that had been placed there. Menasius took her outside while Alaric investigated the room. Alaric discovered a hidden room in the back, and with a little effort, he was able to open it and enter into a secret laboratory. All kinds of ancient chemicals in jars lined the walls. What caught Alaric’s eye was the movement behind the table as Estovion stood up and summoned a dire wolf at him. Alaric called out, and began retaliating before the wolf tripped him.

Outside, Zalura barely heard something, and told Menasius that he should look into it as it may have been Alaric. She, however, followed after him despite the pain. They came in just as Alaric was picking himself up off the floor – Estovion dead. It appeared the warden had been torn up by the werewolves himself, with a nasty bite wound. On his body, they found a strange stone that Alaric and Zalura seemed to pick up on that it was tied to the werewolf spirit. Menasius smashed it, putting the vilkacis to rest. Searching the room, they found some useful items as well as a lockbox. After a few good hits against the wall, the box opened to reveal three scroll cases. Each was decorated with a butterfly. Inside was a scroll of cure disease, a journal, and the Dusk Moth ritual. The journal talked about what happened at the temple a long time ago, back when the Whispering Tyrant was taking control of the land. The priest’s son was bit and infected with a particularly virulent strain of lycanthropy and he spent a great deal of his life looking into a cure. The congregation was infected in order to have more test subjects as well. The temple fell to the Tyrant’s army, and in a blaze of white light, the son was transformed into the spirit wolf – the vilkacis.

The group headed back outside and around the building to take the stairs up to the next level of the temple. Confronting the Dorzhanev’s the group was again told the humans were gone and that they needed to leave – there was nothing but werewolf affairs left here. Zalura mentioned to the group that she felt that this place needed to be cleansed and restored to Desna. Taking her word, the party attacked the werewolves and then proceeded to climb the spiral stairs to the tower top. As Menasius stepped through the doorway into the inner part of the tower, three Silverhides attacked him. One of them tripped him as they tore into him. Menasius was able to grab one of them and fling it over the edge. Zalura flew in the other way as Alaric moved up to fire magic at any of them he could see. In the end, the paladin had been bitten numerous times. He also assured them that he was fine, and the group climbed the ladder to the top.

At the peak of the Stairs of the Moon – the werewolf Highthrone – the party saw Mathus, the leader of the Silverhides, and Cybrissa, the leader of the Broken Ones talking. They faced the group and told them that they should leave, just as the others had warned them. The group told them that they were after the humans, and that they knew Mathus had dealings with them. This seemed to surprise Cybrissa, who did not know Mathus had allied with the Whispering Way. She confronted him, accusing him of bringing her here to kill her for her pack, at which point Mathus doused his blade with silversheen. This started a fight between the two and the party helped Cybrissa kill him. Menasius abandoned his silver war razor for smiting with his scimitar (he evidently didn’t want to be teased about fighting with such a small blade). When the wolf had fallen, she asked to come and eat his heart. Zalura refused to move away from the fallen body until she agreed to leave the Stairs. Deciding that she was no match for the party, Cybrissa agreed. She ate the heart and then howled – signaling her new station as leader of not only the Dorzhanev’s but the Mordrinacht’s as well. She then left the party who then proceeded to clean up the tower the rest of that evening and again most of the morning. Zalura wanted to activate the Dusk Moth, so the group rested that afternoon. In the meanwhile, the group threatened to use the scroll of cure disease on Menasius who at the last minute downed the potion of wolfsbane to cure himself. That left Zalura who finally allowed them to use the scroll on her.

(GM Note: We couldn't decide if paladins were immune or not, but did come up with that they were. But considering the character didn't necessarily know, Menasius took the potion anyway - just in case.)

That next evening, the three went to the observatory at the top of the tower, and Zalura performed the ritual. As she finished, the three fell into a deep trance and their vision was filled with stars in a black sky. Then a beautiful elven woman with blue and silver butterfly wings and dressed in Varisian clothing came to them and smiled. She thanked them for cleansing her temple and ridding it of the evil that had defiled it for so long. In thanks, she showed them a vision which surrounded each of them. They saw themselves facing off with a black robed necromancer with a bone breastplate, then they saw themselves fighting a terrifying tenticaled monster under the sea, then they saw themselves fighting a beautiful female vampire spellcaster, and lastly they saw themselves fighting against a powerful lich blazing with arcane energy atop a tower swirling with dark evil clouds. The vision faded, and she warned them that they needed to be careful as not everyone had been cured – she cast a brief glance toward Alaric. She thanked them one last time, and faded off as the stars turned to butterflies and swirled around them. A gift was granted to them and they soon woke up on top of the observatory. The moon was out now, and prompted the change in Alaric. In a frenzy, and unaware of his actions, the werewolf made a leap at Zalura but missed her. Calling on Desna, Zalura channeled her goddess’ power and cured Alaric – removing the curse. Shaken by what happened and what he almost did, Alaric managed an apology before moving to stand by himself. Menasius let Zalura go talk with him – to make sure he was alright, and to assure him that she was fine as well.

The next morning, the group headed out of the temple and as soon as they hit the forest, they ran into two more werewolves. These they also dispatched and continued on their way back to Ascanor to free Duristan. Unfortunately, they discovered along the way that Duristan must have escaped as they came across the slaughtered remains of his hirelings. Duristan’s body was nowhere to be found. Knowing that they didn’t have to go back to Ascanor now, they tried to find tracks. As they did this, a group of five Varisian travelers approached them cautiously. The male in the lead called to them, saying that they were friendly. He introduced himself as Rhakis Szadro, the leader of the Prince’s Wolves. Remembering what they read about this tribe, the PCs felt a bit better as the man asked them what their purpose was. Learning that they had a common enemy in the Whispering Way, Rhakis told them that the Jezeldan’s, or the Demon Wolves as others know them as, went after the Whispering Way to claim Kvalca’s heart. He sent some of his own tribe after them to Feldgrau, but he feared that they would not be enough to stop not only the Demon Wolves from obtaining the heart, but stop whatever the Whispering Way was up to. (Though they were content to let the Demon Wolves and Cultists kill each other and weaken both parties, they knew one or the other would win out.) Rhakis gave the PCs a token to signify their alliance and wished them well. The party asked if they could help find out if Duristan was taken, and Rhakis sent two of his trackers to find any information. They didn’t see any tracks, but they could smell someone that was not Jezeldan that headed east from there. The party thanked him and parted ways.

(GM Note: I rolled a percentile to find out if Duristan climbed out the window or not. The party had only arcane locked the door. An oversight they acknowledged and said would not happen again.)

It was a four day ride to get to The Furrows. Just outside of the area, they came across a strange tree next to an abandoned shack. Menasius saw black werewolves hanging from it, while Alaric and Zalura only saw skeletons. One thing they did agree on was to avoid the tree. They traveled into the barren lands of The Furrows – scarred by the war between Ardeal and Barstoi. Another abandoned farmhouse came up and they investigated it, wanting to sleep before going into the ghost town during the day. Inside was a crude shrine dedicated to Jezelda, a demon goddess of wolves. On top of the altar was a sacrificed cultist. They took the body out and Menasius made sure to bury it. He also destroyed the shrine.

The next morning, the group began their investigation of the town, starting with one of the first buildings they came across. As they looked around inside, Alaric heard something outside and went to investigate. He walked around the corner and said “found it” as he saw three festrogs on patrol. Alaric sent a spray of adamantine-like spikes and struck not only the creatures, but the old building as well. This caused the side to cave in. While Menasius was able to roll out of the way, Zalura took the brunt of the fall – though she yelled her assurance that she was fine to a rather horrified sorcerer. The group eventually killed off the festrogs, though Menasius discovered that his slashing weapon caused the pus pockets on the creatures to rupture. It was going to be a ‘fun’ investigation, they could already tell.

(GM Note: There was no shortage of wizard of oz jokes when Alaric dropped the building on the party witch.)

Stairs of the Moon Journal:

(GM Note: I added this journal to give the party some backstory on what happened at the Temple. I was also lazy in not putting in any dates.)

Journal Entry:

The war continues against the one known as the Whispering Tyrant, and my beloved only son has decided to join the ranks of soldiers to free the people of Ustalav. At least he is continuing to spread the faith of Desna to those in dire circumstances rather than being a fighter himself. I pray nightly to the Song of Spheres for his safety.

Journal Entry:

My dear son has returned to us, alive at least, but unfortunately not well. Somewhere along the way he contracted lycanthropy – one stronger than anything myself and the other priests have ever seen before. We must find a way to cure him – there must be something. With a sad heart, I have locked him up in a secret chamber beneath the temple in order to uncover everything I can about his condition.

Journal Entry:

All my experiments have gone unsuccessful – even the ones that I had at first feared to try. Dark though they may seem, I may yet save him. I have managed to develop a serum from his blood and infected my congregation in order to have more subjects to test my experiments on. Perhaps one of them may reveal what I desperately need to cure my beloved son!

Journal Entry:

I write today with a heavy heart. I hear the soldiers coming now, the horrible sounds of the Tyrant’s army are upon our doorstep. I may never know how to cure my son - I will never live to see his freedom. I hear the crackling of the fires now. Oh Desna, please forgive me!

Last Entry:

Pillars of white fire have ripped through the temple and I saw the ghostly remains of my son rise again – a spirit wolf. I can still hear them coming, killing those that remain…I am next I fear. They are at the door…

Session 11:

Glancing at the rubble, Alaric and Menasius noticed runes - the same sort that they found at Harrowstone - indicating spirit trapping. With that in mind, the party continued their investigation of town by entering the Blacksmith's forge. Inside, they ran into a familiar figure - Duristan. He had just come from the back room, peaking around to see who it was. He seemed quite relieved that it was the party, though there seemed to be a bit of party annoyance that it was Duristan - they were at least glad he seemed alright. They asked if he was bit, and he said he was fine, and that the scarward had protected him. The noble mentioned he had hired some more people in Chastel, and that they were holed up in the center of town. The PCs didn't want to head that way quite yet, wanting to check the perimeter. Duristan agreed that he'd stick with them for now. The PCs asked him if he saw anything useful - which at first he said no, that the place looked ransacked. When Alaric mentioned going downstairs to check, Duristan then mentioned "I suppose there are two dead bodies...". Alaric went downstairs to confirm that the place was empty except two dead cultists - both without their items - and both torn up.

(GM Note: My party pretty much viewed Duristan as an over-excitable and not the brightest bulb in the box individual. He was a memorable character because of that. Everyone didn't want him to get hurt but they would have loved to strangle him.)

The group continued on into the Chandler's shop where they activated a haunt. Only Menasius didn't hear the sound of approaching soldiers. All of them saw a ghost woman working at making candles and then hiding as the noise grew closer. Ghost soldier's burst in and grabbed her from her hiding place, choking her. They then dragged her and shoved her face into the hot container of wax - her screams fading into the sounds of real choking. Both Menasius and Alaric saw Duristan and Zalura grabbing at their throats, as if they were really choking. Before they were able to drag themselves inside too far, Menasius tackled Duristan and dragged him outside - followed by Alaric dragging Zalura out. The two stopped choking and managed to get a good breath of air again. Duristan seemed far more shaken about it than Zalura, and she asked if that was what the two guys had gone through in Harrowstone, having heard of the haunts. They replied yes.

Patrols dogged the steps of the party, and they had to take on a few Whispering Way Curates and their companions. This mostly slowed the group down, but they managed to survive. They found groups of these patrols also inside the butcher shop and the tavern as well. At one point, Duristan missed with an arrow and struck Zalura instead. He apologized, but got the full tirade of Alaric to his confusion. That was until he realized that the man was 'attached' to Zalura when he kissed her within Duristan's sight. Tired from a day of fighting, the group decided to head back to the first building to rest. Duristan went to go check up on his group and came back. The party then told him he could bring his hirelings with him to stay the night. So Duristan left again and returned with two others who helped keep watch during the night.

The next morning, Zalura woke up not feeling particularly good - apparently having caught a disease from one of the festrogs. Between her own skills and Menasius' they were able to cure her so that she would at least not get worse. While they were doing this, Duristan and his companions stood by the door. As they began to mention that the party was a liability, the three turned into hybrid werewolves. Duristan remarked with a snear that he had lied to them. Menasius had confirmed that Duristan's alignment now matched the other two demon wolves and the group began to fight. Zalura was able to put one of the wolves into a deep sleep while they fought Duristan and the other wolf. When he realized he was out matched, Duristan began to leave the building. The group dispatched the two wolves and chased after Duristan. One of the wounds Menasius gave him was to break his jaw, which kept him from cursing out loud against them. Menasius took the potion of wolsfbane and shoved it into the werewolf's mouth, forcing him to drink to stop the pain. The curse was then shaken, and after he was healed, Duristan yelled at them for 'taking away the beast'. Apparently, he was also mentally affected by the change.

He kept yelling at them as Zalura volunteered to watch him while Menasius and Alaric went outside to discuss what they were going to do with him. They couldn't kill the poor man, but they needed to keep him from getting himself killed. They agreed that Alaric would go in and knock him out so they could secure him further and arcane lock him into the shed.

(GM Note: They made sure to lock all the entrances this time.)

After that was taken care of, the group headed out to look further into the buildings. They ran across a patrol of werewolves whom they fought for some time. They were clearly harder than not only the cultists but the other tribes as well. Their demon taint caused them to be much stronger. The three finally entered what appeared to be an inn and discovered yet another haunt. But this one was an old man busily tying a noose. He ignored them until they spoke directly to him - at which point he stopped. They asked what they could do for him, wanting to help and he told them they could help. He told them of the betrayal of Count Neska's troops and his own greed leading to his life spared while everyone else was killed. So Ulcris hung himself and was now a ghost, forced to relive this last moment of his life. He asked them to help lay rest the town, so that they may be spared the evil that was Auren Vrood. He told them that while he didn't know Vrood's reasons, if the group brought him his head, Ulcris would rip the memories from his skull to show them what he was up to. The group agreed to help out and the ghost offered his inn to them to stay in if they needed.

The next building over was the old Mill, which was guarded by two demon wolves. The battle was hard, but won. Zalura took far too many bites in their encounters so far with the wolves than anyone cared for. She told them that she would hold out fine after some healing, and that they could give her the wolfsbane later after they were done with the wolves. They headed upstairs and discovered that this was the headquarters of the demon wolves. Adimarus smiled at them and he and his two companions fought against the group. The antipaladin went after the paladin while the other two swarmed them on the other sides. The battle was long, but not overly difficult with Adimarus and the other two wolves going down at last.

(GM Note: Adimarus wasn't too much more of a threat than the other wolves. This likely had to do with our paladin going right in after him. It was still a good battle)

The party finished looking over the building and headed over to the Dyer's shop and discovered it barred. Worried about what they may find inside, the group broke through the wood baring the door and discovered 6 werewolves huddled behind crossbows. Each of these wolves were either brown or gray and they showed no desire to actively hunt them. They warned them to leave, surrender or die, but Menasius tossed the token given to them by Rhakis toward the wolves. Once the wolves were convinced that they were friends, they relaxed and explained what they knew so far. They knew that the demon wolves were fighting against the cultists. It was great news to them that Adimarus was now dead, and they agreed to help clear the rest of the wolves if the group focused on the Whispering Way. They told them that the headquarters seemed to be at the tower. The party told them that another member of their group had been turned and was 'not himself'. The Prince's Wolves told them to bring him in so that they could keep safety in numbers that night. While the group was quiet, they were at least doing their best to keep in higher spirits, and were quite willing to incorporate the party into their little gathering and storytelling that night.

The next morning, the group split ways, wishing their allies good luck as they wished them good hunting. Heading to the center of town, they saw a group of 12 skeletons and two curates. Alaric took care of the brunt of the group and soon the curates were dead as well. Looking toward the tower, there was a squat building next door which appeared to be an armory. The group headed inside, and Alaric warned everyone of movement up ahead. Unfortunately he didn't see the attack that lashed into him from behind. Acretia and her wights fought hard, but they were no match for the group, and soon they too were defeated.

(GM Note: This battle lasted longer than Adimarus, but my group hits hard and hits smart.)

End of Book 3, and an Interlude

Session 12:

The party found that the vase inside the armory contained a partial heart - likely the heart that everyone was fighting over. In addition, they found a pot of marvelous pigments - otherwise the place was pretty well picked over. Mentally preparing themselves, the group moved over to the tower, only to feel the whiz of arrows. A group of skeletal archers shot from over the lip of what was the second story of a three story tower. The top third seemed to be entirely missing. While Alaric picked off the ones he could see, Menasius went inside, looking for a staircase while Zalura flew up to meet them head on. When Menasius reached the top of the stairs, he noticed that the floor was quite rickety, and most of the center was missing. Alaric had to come inside to see the rest of the archers, and between the three, they finished them off.

(GM Note: I did some changes to the Auren Vrood fight. First off, I made him invisible right away. My party would have likely murdered him quickly. As another note, I realized I had been giving out way more xp than I should have, leading the party to be a higher level than they should have been at this point. I accidentally for the first book gave everyone full xp rather than dividing it amongst the PCs. To compensate, I just gave Auren Vrood another level so that he would be a worthy mini boss. This allowed him the Circle of Death, but the HD of my players meant it didn't work. So I decided to set the rule that of those that fail the save, the closest person would be the only one affected. I also got rid of the hands and gave him fast zombies to play with. I thought it fit better.)

Zalura and Menasius came down the stairs to join Alaric in the center when they heard a voice saying that they must be the ones destroying the army outside. When the voice had demanded that they explain what they would do now, no one responded to him. Therefore the glove was thrown and zombies came up from the ground to surround them. In the meantime, the disembodied voice all but vanished as they set about destroying the zombies. Zalura caught sight of the necromancer as he tried to vampiric touch Alaric and warned him. She also pointed Menasius in his direction as she then cast pink faerie fire on the irate spellcaster. The battle was fierce, and the paladin and necromancer took to the sky (after Menasius tanglefoot bagged the flying spellcaster). The two guys packed on the hurt, and knowing he was going to die, Auren Vrood cast circle of death, instantly killing Zalura. As the witch dropped, Alaric struck the final blow before going to her side. Menasius drifted down as the fly spell vanished at Zalura's death. Rattled, the paladin set about cutting off the necromancer's head and attempted to look around - letting Alaric have his moment of grieving as he too grieved the death of their friend. Eventually Alaric helped look around, and Menasius showed him the note he found on the dead necromancer's body. Clearly someone else wanted the man dead - and congratulated them as such. The note writer also warned that they should stop now or more deaths could follow. Alaric crumpled and burned the note. The group found a case with a scroll containing a rather disturbing poem, and some coded letters - but they set back to preserving Zalura's body. Menasius used liquid ice, and then transferred his items to the other two haversacks in order to put her body in the bag of holding. Alaric picked up a rather distraught Eyla, and put her on his shoulder.

(GM Note: My first death ends up being my own character. Alaric failed his save also but he happened to be further away than Zalura. I had actually saw the potential of this coming and had a plan in place in case she or anyone died. All in all it was a pretty powerful mid point for the party.)

As they prepared to head outside, the party heard the howl of a wolf outside. Alaric mentioned that this must be Rhakis coming to claim the heart. The two headed outside to take Auren's head to the ghost. Ulcris managed to pull several memories out of the young man's head, showing them glimpses of his life as a child, a beginning necromancer, and his most recent tasks. The items were given to two riders on pale mounts. One rider took the Seasage Effigy to go trade, and the other was given the rest of the items. Both were informed to ride to Thrushmore. With this knowledge, the ghost gave them a location of some items in thanks for the work they were about to do. Alaric remained back to identify items while Menasius met up with Rhakis and his clan. He told them what was needed to be done to purify the town and the wolves split out to help. The leader of the group that had been stationed at Feldgrau assured him that they took care of the rest of the cultists - just as Menasius told them that they took care of Auren Vrood.

(GM Note: I expanded greatly the visions so that the party could get the full backstory of Auren Vrood. Since they like that sort of thing, I thought they would like to hear it. I would also like to say Rhakis was a great deal of fun to play and the party really liked the Prince's Wolves.)

Alaric soon joined in and the group laid the town to rest at long last. One of the wolves asked what happened to their other member, which he learned that she had passed on. He gave his sympathies, and Rhakis made mention that there was a caravan headed this way on their way likely to Carrion Hill. It was possible that they may be of assistance. With nothing else to go on, the entire group made their way to the now settled caravan. They were stopped by an older guard by the name of Josif, and asked what their business was. When asked if they had a healer, he told them that Lavinia may be able to help, but he would need to speak with Andrei first. The name made Alaric pause as he recalled that Zalura's father was a caravan leader - by the name Andrei. This apparently was her home caravan. Feeling rather uneasy and not wanting to make a scene, they said nothing about Zalura - wanting to tell only Lavinia. A man behind them - who was not there before- assured them that he would speak to Andrei, allowing for Josif to take the two men to the healer. Josif then took Menasius and Alaric with him to Lavinia's wagon, while Rhakis and his group stayed behind with the younger guard. All the while, Duristan was knocked out and carried by one of the clan members in order to keep from making a scene.

(GM Note: Duristan essentially had been baby-sat by the Prince's Wolves this entire time.)

Lavinia welcomed them into her wagon and asked what she could do for them. They first asked about an atonement spell for a friend of theirs that was bitten by a Jezeldan. Then they moved onto the more difficult topic, finishing with Menasius producing Zalura's body. The older woman looked concerned when she recognized the dead woman as Zalura. When they confirmed to her it was in fact Zalura, Lavinia told them she would do what she could to bring her back. Alaric asked to stay, and the healer allowed for it. Menasius took his leave to give them room.

Menasius went to speak with Rhakis and then with Andrei. He felt that the man needed to know what happened to his daughter. Andrei greeted him warmly, but became more serious when he learned that the man wished to speak with him in private. Ensuring that they were alone, Andrei asked what Menasius wished to tell him. He was greatly saddened to hear that his daughter had died in the previous fight, but was at least somewhat happier to hear that Lavinia was able to help her. He thanked Menasius for bringing his daughter's body home, and that if there was anything he could do for them, that he would do it. He offered them a wagon, as well as meals and drink while they were with them. He also told him that it would be wise not to mention anything of it to Nickolae.

Soon, Alaric was asked to leave the wagon as the healer needed more room, and he took station outside the wagon. Menasius didn't see him leave, but Andrei made note of the man leaving the wagon. Menasius thanked Andrei, and took Duristan with him to sit by the dhampir. They exchanged information, Alaric saying that the healer was still at work, and Menasius told him about Andrei's words. When he mentioned Nickolae, Alaric said that it made sense considering that the two were best friends, and that there had been some benefits between the two. Eyla had taken a seat in Alaric's lap during the meantime, but she made no sounds, nor did she move. Menasius made mention that he knew what happened when a spellcaster lost a familiar, but he had never seen it the other way around.

When the door opened, the two got to their feet. Alaric was going to put the cat onto his shoulder, but Eyla seemed more interested in the wagon, jumping off him and running inside - past Lavinia. The healer then helped a tired looking - but very much alive - Zalura out of the wagon. After a moment of shock, Alaric came to her and hugged her tightly. She thanked him, and Menasius for helping her - and commented how strange it was to wake up in Lavinia's wagon. Again. Though she also clarified that it was the first time she'd died - the other times were mere injuries. When his voice returned to him, Alaric made sure she went to her father - to let him know she was alive. Seeing that as a good idea, she headed over to a rather ecstatic Andrei who gripped his daughter tightly.

In the meantime, Menasius went to sit with Rhakis, who was telling stories to a few of his clan mates and two females from the caravan. The paladin soon began telling tales of their own adventures, and the crowd grew in size to listen. While he had removed pieces of his armor to become more comfortable - Rhakis made a joking comment about a strip show with the story telling.

Alaric went out of the camp to regain his composure and get away from the drinking, music and merriment. At one point he heard someone approach and soon met the young guard - Nickolae. The two spoke more or less cordially about disliking the noise and enjoying the quiet away from things. Neither mentioned Zalura, and nothing else was talked about. But then, Nickolae had not overheard anyone mentioning that she was back - nor that she was even there. Soon Alaric came back and overheard the strip comment from Rhakis. He told him not to encourage him, and Menasius soon realized how much of a crowd he'd drawn with his story telling. Soon Andrei and Zalura made their way over as well, and Menasius showed Zalura the poem. She frowned as she returned it, not liking the meaning of the last part - that the Whispering Way was going to bring back the Whispering Tyrant.

The party-ers continued late into the night, and soon they all faded off to bed. Alaric bid Zalura a good night and went elsewhere to sleep, while she took up a spot nearby the wagon they had been given - electing the stars to sleep under. Menasius took the wagon for his two hours of sleep. Come morning the three discussed where they needed to go. They mentioned that Thrushmore was the destination of the riders, and that the Caravan was headed that way on their way to Caliphas. However, they did plan to stop in Carrion Hill for a day or so to do some selling. Alaric and Zalura took the coded plans to Nickolae as neither of them could decipher it. Zalura had mentioned that he might be able to, and she was correct. They were orders, confirming the riders' destination. Nickolae asked them what this was about, and they told him that they were chasing after the Whispering Way to put a stop to their attempt to bring back the Whispering Tyrant. They thanked him for his help and went back to Menasius who was pouring over the Carrion Crown Poem. He showed them that there were mentions of each of the previous items - that 'first spirit torn from Grave-Lady's grasp' must be the Warden, 'Packlord's heart' was Kvalca's, 'Stillborn cocoon' was Caromarc's wife's womb, and the 'skull of splintered graves' was the skull that was constructed from the dead of Feldgrau. The group agreed that traveling with the Caravan to at least Carrion Hill was the safer idea - and perhaps all the way to Thrushmore. Andrei was thrilled to have them and the group agreed to help guard the caravan as they traveled.

Menasius took lead with Josif, while Zalura stuck toward the middle, where she could strike up a bit of conversation with some old friends as they traveled. Alaric was further toward the back of the caravan, but still within sight of Zalura, while the invisible Nickolae took rear guard. Their travel was uneventful until later that morning when a growl alerted everyone to a presence. Nickolae shouted that there was a dragon and everyone sprung into action. Nickolae became invisible to draw the feral green dragon's attention away from the caravan, while Alaric, Zalura and Menasius moved toward it. Everyone else set about keeping the animals from spooking and preparing to get out of the way if need be. Nickolae moved in to flank with Alaric - standing next to Zalura. Thanks to false life, Alaric managed to take the brunt of the dragon's rage. Soon, Menasius was close enough to get a few firebolts off, the last killing the dragon at last. Zalura went to Alaric to ask if he was alright, knowing he took far more of the hits than either herself or Nickolae did. While she healed him, Menasius healed Nickolae and then Alaric before going to help calm the horses.

(GM Note: A bit of a side adventure that I designed prior to going into the module Carrion Hill.)

Letter on Auren Vrood:

(GM Note: I liked the idea of Adivion leaving notes, so here is his first one.)

My friends,

Since you are reading this, the necromancer Auren Vrood is dead. I applaud you for your tenacity in tracking him down and seeing a great man’s death avenged. I congratulate you for righting the wrong done to Professor Lorimor. And I thank you for a job well done.

Now, I have some advice for you – one friend to another. Go home. End your chase with the killer’s death, or there may be more regrettable deaths in the future.

Your friend,


Auren Vrood's Memories:

(GM Note: I used Auren Vrood's backstory as well as the adventure's suggestion to write this up.)

Through the eyes of an eight year old, you see troops ripping through the land, slaughtering men, women and children alike, salting fields, and setting fire to haystacks. Your only cover, the corpse that you buried yourself under.

Then you see yourself wandering the barren lands, trying to scrape up enough food from the rats to keep yourself going - living in a ransacked building. Gradually the madness of sorrow and isolation build until you are setting traps for passersby, slitting their throats and taking their possessions. If food was scarce, you would eat the victims.

The whispers of the dead as your only companion in the otherwise silent fields, you see a rider approach one day. She was gray-skinned and withered like a corpse. In a dry and throaty whisper, she commands you to come with her and face her judgement. "Auren Vrood," the rider said. "The spirits of this place have told me about you. Worry not, for you have a greater role to play."

Next you see yourself learning the arts of necromancy from the same woman.

Then you see the prison at Harrowstone, and the professor making his way slowly toward you. You catch sight of him and turn to cast a spell. It strikes the man straight on, and he screams in pain and horror before dieing on the spot.

Next you see Count Caromarc begging for not his life, but for you to spare his precious wife as he watches your companions cut out the womb of his dead wife from the confines of an iron doll.

Then you see a battle with a large dire-werewolf. The she-wolf falls from a combined strike from Mathus and your necromancy and you cut out her heart. As promised, you give a small portion of it to the Silverhide leader and go on your way.

Next, you are sitting at a table in a tent, writing on a piece of parchment - "My Master, I shall stay in Feldgrau and build an army of corpses for our risen lord..." The sentence fades, and after a brief flash, hands place the letter in an envelope and strike it with a seal.

(GM Note: I had them roll a religion check to recognize the seal as Whispering Way)

Next you see cultists scurrying around the town square, exhuming bodies and raising an army from the corpses of Feldgrau's dead.

Then you see Vrood's hands place three strange items into a chest - an iron-and-glass vial containing a swirling gray mist, a bloody central piece of a heart in a glass bottle, and a fragile skull composed of hundreds of bone fragments. Into a second chest, he places a strange statuette of murky green stone depicting a grotesque, tentacled creature.

Next you see the chests go with two separate riders in dark cloaks on pale horses. "Ride to Thrushmoor," you hear Vrood say. "Our agent will exhange the Effigy for the relic we need..." And then the visions fade.

Module Interlude: Carrion Hill

GM Note: I changed the introduction to this module to help flow into this side quest from where the party was now. We also briefly had a party of four as Nickolae joined the party (Knife Master/Scout Rogue).

Session 13:

(GM Note: I did Carrion Hill as a way to help ease into Book 4. I also switched the party to a slow track for xp to help make up for my woops earlier and to account for the added module. I didn't feel right taking away the xp. With all the extra role play, I thought it was deserved. I just kept in mind the party's level and the intended toughness of the fights until they were back on track.)

During one of the breaks as the caravan traveled, Alaric finally spoke with both Andrei and with Nickolae about his relationship with Zalura. Both were, as Zalura said, fine with this - though Andrei wasn't sure at first that Alaric was meaning that both parties were serious in the relationship.

(GM Note: It was a fairly well known fact that Zalura wasn't the type to settle, at least initially).

The caravan settled for the evening on the banks of the Kingfisher River across from Carrion Hill. After doing some trading with the caravan, the group got a chance to relax by the fire and share in the drink and food. They also got to share in the dancing as Zalura pulled Alaric into dancing with her, while Alma (a childhood friend of Zalura's) asked Menasius to dance with her since her own husband did not like to dance. Eventually, people faded off to various locations over the course of the night, with Alma thanking Menasius and Zalura and Alaric disappearing for the night into one of the wagons.

During the early morning hours when Menasius was still asleep, Alaric woke to Zalura getting up, but she told him that she was only going to get something. He rolled back over and went to sleep again. When he woke, she was gone. Thinking perhaps she got up earlier than he did (having returned from whatever it was she was doing earlier in the night), he got up and went outside to look around. Only, no one had seen her. He went and spoke to Menasius who was praying at the east side of the caravan. The paladin hadn't seen her either, and therefore Alaric went to find Nickolae. After Nickolae told him he hadn't seen Zalura, he seemed to recall something - cursing under his breath. Nickolae told them that he would go look for her tracks as she often tended to disappear near Carrion Hill. Alaric verified with him that he was referring to the Call of her mother. Explaining this to Menasius, the two joined up with Nickolae to go track her down. Before they left, they made sure to let Andrei know where they were going so that he didn't grow concerned about the sudden disappearance of several charges.

As they started out from the caravan, Nickolae mentioned to them that there was a means of tracking her down that he never revealed to Zalura. At this, he shifted into a gray wolf. Apparently Nickolae was a member of the Prince's Wolves. The trio moved forward with Nickolae picking up the witch's scent, and the other two helping look for tracks. They arrived at the river and soon crossed into Carrion Hill. As they approached the city, Nickolae shifted and they entered onto the streets. It was mid morning, but there was not a soul on the streets as it began to gently rain. It was eerily quiet. As they moved through the narrow streets, they saw a figure up ahead. Approaching cautiously, they discovered it was Zalura. She at first didn't seem to hear them until Alaric and Nickolae came up behind her. When she turned, her expression showed how confused she was - unsure of why she was standing in the middle of the streets. Other than shaken, she seemed to be fine.

Soon after, a voice came up from down the street. Menasius stepped in front of Zalura, just in case it was a threat, but it turned out to be a town crier asking for heroes to go to the Crown Manor. The woman was glad to find the group and told them that there had been attacks earlier that morning and that the Mayor needed help. Menasius told her that she needed an escort since it was dangerous, and asked her to take them to the mayor. Alaric made sure Zalura was fine enough for this, and she nodded indicating that she should be able to help. Nickolae followed along with the group as they climbed the hill toward the top of the city.

The Mayor seemed quite pleased to at least see some people with backbone (as he put it). He told them that the creature seemed to be attacking from down below and had initially attacked in Slipper Market earlier that morning. Since then there had been two other attacks that morning. In each case, the people had a difficult time seeing the creature - thinking it invisible. They also said it was huge considering it destroyed the building and killed nearly everyone. He offered them coin for their information about the creature and sent a Crow (one of his guards who dress in black leather) to escort them to Slipper Market.

The streets were wet with the constant rain as they were let into the "crime scene area". Menasius investigated the bodies that were left behind while the other three went to go look at the building. Menasius found them to have died a terrible death, one being crushed by a blow to the chest, one having his bones shattered, and the third twisted around the middle. He spoke with the man who had alerted the guards and learned that the screaming started early that morning as the building rocked. It had stopped by the time the guards arrived, but started again not too long after the guards entered the building.

The other three entered a rather rank room, coming in through the exploded-out wall. Across the alleyway was a spiral symbol - one of the Old Cults associated with magic portals. The entire room was covered in a sickening black sludge that got to Nickolae more than the others. Menasius soon joined them and told them that the spiral was one of the symbols of Yog-Sothoth. Following the sludge trail, the party made their way to the back of the house and down the stairs. The further they descended the stairs, the less rank it became. The sludge was dried here and continued through the Taldan shrine to Aroden. The group followed the slime trail down a very long passageway that opened out into a vast cavern with strangely glowing fungi and three trees grown from necromatic energies. Sitting atop the altar was a ghoul eating what appeared to be an arm and reading a book. It asked them what they were doing there, and was fine to let them go about their business so long as it left its book and it alone. However, as the group moved around to look, the ghoul snuck up on Nickolae. Alaric warned him, but the battle had begun. Soon the ghoul was finished and the group was able to look at the book as well as the two bodies that were found inside. Neither body had any blood left in them. They gathered up the notes and the book known as the Pnakotic Manuscripts and took them back upstairs with them.

(GM Note: There was some discussion about what happens when a paladin pees on a necrotic tree. This experiment however was not performed so we will never know.)

On their way out, the party checked out a blocked passageway and discovered three Dark Creepers hiding. Through pantomime and a scroll of Comprehend Languages, they learned that the Dark Creepers were hired by five men who they feared were dead from the large creature that came forth. They mentioned that the five men were doing 'bad magics'. As the group left, one of them tried to stab at Nickolae. The battle consisted of the party trying to scare the Dark Creepers off, and ended with Alaric arcane locking the door.

(GM Note: Nickolae was always in the back so he was the one that got the bad end of the stick.)

Returning upstairs they saw the streets in panic as people were trying to flee. Menasius helped calm some of the people nearby to the relief of the Crows, and they were able to return to the Mayor. For their information, the Mayor gave them the gold and offered some more items to help them defeat the creature. He also offered to get his adviser to translate the texts for the group. After an hour, the adviser came back to inform the group that the five men had tried to contact a spawn, and that the only way to banish it would be for someone to kill the five summoners. However, each summoner the spawn kills itself - it will grow in power. Therefore, they had to get to the other Keepers before the spawn did. The Mayor was able to help them identify each of the men, and to inform them that Keeper Marshan (whose home was destroyed initially) and Keeper Baskerwhel were already dead.

With knowledge of the remaining three Keepers, the party headed for the Filth to go confront Keeper Myre. The Middenstone Vathouse was locked when they arrived, and neither Zalura nor Nickolae could pick the lock (though they gave each other hell about it). Menasius kicked in the door instead and the group entered into a misty vathouse. The walkways were slick with the fumes, and everyone covered their faces to keep from becoming sick with the smell. At one point, Menasius told the two -refering to Nickolae and Zalura - to knock it off as they were steaming up the place. Nickolae shot back that Alaric must have some talent considering he was standing on the opposite side of the building as Zalura was.

After taking care of a group of zombies, the group managed to make it across the way before a man raving in Infernal attacked them. The battle was long, and included a large blast of holy fire that burned up the curtain and showed Alaric what was going on at the observing platform. Soon Keeper Myre was dead, and they searched his room. Finding a journal, the PCs read a few entries. "The Numerians were keen to be away after ransacking the Hill, as the scale of the tunnels below daunted them. They kept finding more and more parts of the old libraries behind false doors and secret rooms. Eventually they decided simply to flood the tunnels, but this failed them too, for the ancients were keen intellects, and their tunnels do not flood easily. It is possible that whole series of chambers such as the Sunless Grove lie waiting to be uncovered." The last entry stated: "Tomorrow the Old Gods shall speak once more, and we Keepers shall be in attendance to learn from them."

Heading next to the church, the group worked their way through the rain slicked streets and into the old church of Aroden. Finding nothing of interest upstairs, the group discovered a trap door, leading down into a cavern. It was here that they found a man with a gag filled with runes over his mouth. He fired a few shots at them and took off running for a hole in the ground. Even though he jumped down, Alaric managed to kill him with his magic before the man hit the bottom. Following after, the group each jumped onto the sluice and rode it down into the waters below. Thinking them crazy, Nickolae climbed down the chute.

The group discovered an underwater lake filled with fungi and strange plants. After searching the body, they began to search the area, looking for anything of importance. Unfortunately what they found was four Violet Fungi looking to make a meal of them. One to each person. Zalura and Nickolae fared the worst, feeling their skin rotting away and sapping not only their strength, but their life force. Alaric, closer to Nickolae who had dropped to the ground, ran to him while Menasius came to Zalura's aid. Both men dragged the wounded out of reach of the plant and did what they could to bring them to their feet again. Alaric managed to catch sight of a sword which he picked up after telling Nickolae to run for the entrance - the spell of increased endurance would not last long. Both healed their constitution as much as they could before making their way up the sluice. Zalura flew to the top while Menasius climbed. Knowing he had little in the way of strength, Nickolae shifted his forms, and had to hope that Zalura would understand the sudden appearance of the lycanthrope, but Alaric ended up taking him, and Menasius through the dimensions to arrive at the top. Nickolae shifted back which prompted Alaric to tell him that he had to tell Zalura at some point. Nickolae said he knew, but now was not the time for it.

(GM Note: Those plants are deadly. I nearly killed both Nickolae and Zalura and was doing a number on the other two boys. The group essentially ran from this encounter, but considering they survived, they got full xp.)

The group limped back to the Mayor to rest and heal. All Mayor Heggry had to do was look at Alaric carrying Zalura, and Nickolae barely standing to go get some potions to help aid them in their rest. Once rested up, and replenished of spells and healing, the group headed out to confront Keeper Crove in his Madhouse of Whispers. The door was slightly ajar when they arrived, and entering they saw three people in straight jackets chained to the floor. The poor souls started screeching and carrying on, bringing about two thugs in orderly outfits. Menasius and Alaric stood between the orderlies and the lunatics and defeated them. Everyone was unnerved about this set up, what was going on in this asylum?

Session 14:

The group began searching through the Asylum, occasionally seeing patients tied up in the stair wells and orderlies walking around trying to stop them. In one room, the group saw a patient standing at a podium talking gibberish to four others who were listening raptly to them. When they noticed the intrusion, they shrieked and made as if to attack. Menasius hearing the suggestion of locking the group in the room, grabbed Zalura and pulled her out of the room. Alaric arcane locked the door leaving the patients to shriek for a moment and then seemingly forget what they were doing and fall silent. In another room, one patient was under the table reading a book on torture, in another, there were two playing imaginary cards over the dead body of their fellow inmate. Having determined that they were evil, the group turned to killing them to stop them. It seemed the most humane thing for them.

Heading downstairs using a stairwell that didn't have a patient tied to it, the group made their way north into what appeared to be a study. Here resided a man who looked at them and said that they must be here to kill him. He didn't say who he was after Menasius asked for his name, but they quickly deduced that this was Keeper Crove. He seemed intent on luring the Spawn to him and the party was in his way of doing just that. He wished to learn more from it, not be killed or to kill it. Menasius and Nickolae cornered the man in the secret passageway. He summoned some elementals and then disappeared on them. Alaric tried to find him, but discovered that he did not use invisibility to escape. The group headed down the hallway and just before Nickolae headed upstairs, they heard a commotion from a hallway to their left.

Soon they were faced with a strange creature who had a non-static shape. Being struck by the creature led to the potential for the victim to lose their shape. Nickolae was the first to fall victim to this, turning into a pile of shapeless mass. Unsettled, the others did their best to fight against it as Nickolae managed to will himself into shape to help. Crove rejoined the fight momentarily but was killed by Alaric. This led to a loud roar as something large rumbled above them. The Spawn had arrived.

Zalura fell victim next to the chaos beast and she too was able to gain form long enough to help finish the creature off. But as soon as they finished that, the Spawn of Yog-Sothoth made its way down the stairs and went after the only target it saw - Alaric. The creature hit hard, and was fast. It grabbed Menasius first and dropped Nickolae. Zalura was able to help heal, but Nickolae remained invisible and out of the fight.

(GM Note: The poor werewolf was not really useful in this fight being of lower level than the party. If I recall right, he was two levels lower. We believe we scarred the guy for life.)

Zalura was caught next, as Alaric managed to corner the creature and then free Menasius. At long last the creature roared and then slopped away into a foul-smelling mess - leaving behind a noxious, crusty stain of white powder on the ground. Its death was marked by a sickening sigh that seemed to shudder up from the very earth itself, as if something even deeper under Carrion Hill were mourning its death.

The group did some healing and then looked up as they heard a cry of help from the hallway they had fought the Chaos beast in.

End of Carrion Hill and the Beginnings of Book 4: Wake of the Watcher

Session 15:

The party picked themselves up after the battle with the Spawn and heard the cries for help down the hallway. Menasius went to investigate with the other three behind him. Inside one of the cells was a human man wearing something similar to what they saw on the orderlies. He introduced himself as Ploog and told them that Crove had been lobotomizing his workers so that they were more agreeable. His own lobotomy didn't take and when he had escaped to try and inform the Crows about what was going on, he was taken back as if an escaped patient. He was then locked up in the cell. He mentioned that there was another guy down the way that had been successfully lobotomized and that he had been an adventurer once.

With Ploog freed, they went to the other cell to find a large man staring blankly at them, slightly drooling. Using one of the restoration charges off a wand, they were able to restore the man's intelligence. He thanked them, and told them that he and his adventuring party had been exploring the caves below the city and had come across the Sunless Grove. His party was killed by dark creepers and he came back up to tell his story when Marshan overheard him. The five Keepers asked Oleg to take them down to the area and he did so, only to find out that they were up to no good. Unfortunately they locked him up and lobotomized him to keep him silent.

Now with two men in tow, the party left the asylum - no one looking forward to remaining there any longer. As soon as they walked outside, they heard a ruckus of crows. Psychopomps, carriers of spirits to the afterlife. Evidently a large spirit had passed and they could not carry it away. People were calming in the streets, eager to hear news that it was gone - that the danger was past. The party delivered this news to the mayor who was grateful for what they had done and rewarded them more than he promised. Oleg and Ploog remained behind to speak with the Mayor about further events at the asylum and thanked the party one last time.

Walking outside again, the group noticed that shops were opening again, and decided now would be a good time to unload things that they had gathered along the way. Nickolae offered to return to the caravan to at least let them know that they were all right, and Alaric told Zalura that she should go with him to see her father. She agreed with this and left with Nickolae to reassure the caravan and tell them what was going on while the boys sold items. Everyone tended to some shopping, and Zalura did some Harrow Readings for people in Carrion Hill to help repay Lavinia for her help.

The next day, the group bid farewell to the caravan and made their way to Thrushmoor, hoping to catch word of the riders that were at least two days ahead of them now. One morning, Alaric found a scroll on his bed from Menasius who had benefited from one of his scrolls in the battle against the Spawn.

(GM Note: This party had a tendency to gift each other things. Apparently they really liked their party members.)

Arriving in Thrushmoor, the group took note of the old Fort and the mercenaries watching them enter. They looked around and found a suitable inn to stay in called The Fisherman's Warf, and did some shopping as well as some information gathering. Between that day and the next morning, the group learned that two riders came in and exchanged horses at the Livery stables. One left for Illmarsh, but no one could speak for the other. In the morning, Alaric and Zalura went to the stables while Menasius chatted with one of the mercenaries at the Fort. He didn't really learn too much from the conversation other than they were likely hired to watch the fort and nothing else. Amazingly enough, Menasius heard a noise coming from the stables...

Meanwhile, Zalura and Alaric came across a man struggling to put a wheel on the wagon inside the stable. Alaric cast magic to help strengthen himself and offered his help to him. The man seemed thankful for it, and when Alaric grabbed the wagon to lift, he ended up with a dagger in his side. This led to Alaric recalling to Zalura a conversation they had about trusting people and look what happens when you do. The two fought against the assassin and his ghoul thugs, verbally going back and forth until Zalura was paralyzed. This was about the time Menasius came in to help out, trying out his new armor for the first time. Alaric mentioned something along the lines of timing to Menasius before he dropped from a bleeding wound the assassin gave him. Menasius maneuvered around the ghouls after striking one to heal Alaric as one of the other ghouls took Zalura down. The boys dispatched the other ghouls and Menasius came to Zalura to heal her as well.

Menasius stood guard while the two searched the stables for information. Alaric found the ledger mentioning the riders coming in and gaining two piebald horses with the winged loop brand. He also discovered a page ripped out of the back. Zalura on the other hand was looking at a ceramic egg the stable master had. She found a hairline seam, and after a few moments had cracked it open. Inside was the symbol of a gagged skull - the Whispering Way. She informed the others of this discovery after she assured Menasius that she wasn't that stupid to drink the vials of poison the man had on him (as he had commented on her poking around at things). With this in mind, the trio stayed one more day to finish business in town and then departed for Illmarsh the next morning.

As they traveled, the Bay remained to their right and the woods began to develop to their left. The road was difficult and slowed even their magical horses down. On the second day, not too far from town, they rested near a single quay, reaching out into the sea. The skies were darkening and the waves looked dangerous off shore. Alaric and Zalura noticed a lone ship tossing in the waves and they got up to look. Menasius, curious, stood as well and followed after them - finally seeing the ship. It appeared to be in duress, but they waited until it got close enough to see that only one man was aboard - frantically trying to man both the sails and the tiller. Alaric dimension doored them aboard, and the man looked shocked a moment before he yelled for help.

Menasius and Zalura took to the sail, while Alaric helped the man at the tiller. With their help, they were able to slow the ship down enough to not destruct upon impact with the shore. The squall roared inland with whipping winds and torrential rain and then was gone a few minutes later. A rainbow graced the sky following the storm. Menasius seemed confused by the suddenness of it, but Horace as he introduced himself as, assured him that this was quite normal for this time of year. Difficult things to predict. He thanked them for their help, saying he had been out doing experiments with some hired fishermen tending the boat, but that they jumped ship as the squall came in.

No one really pushed as to what those experiments were, though someone made mention of the cargo which the man called a subaqueous exploration and research vessel. He then accepted more help getting his boat seaworthy and back into the water. Then he muttered something about a horse and wandered off. Finding him a bit odd, but harmless, the group then continued on their way into Illmarsh.

The musty smell of the swamp nearby permeated everything - and gave a real meaning as to why the people of Thrushmoor called them musties. Eventually the group got used to the smell after a while being in town. Though as they came in late that evening, they came to the only inn in town called the Bountiful Catch. Unfortunately it was expensive, but they were able to talk him down to 2 gold a night.

The next morning the group discussed their plan of 'attack' as they explored the town. The people reminded them of Ravengro, and they realized that the only way to keep from being looked at with a suspicious eye would be to become useful and friendly to the townsfolk. While they were out by the docks, all three of them saw a serpentine thing drop down into the water and then nothing more. No one was sure what it was that they saw.

Continuing on, the group decided to split up in order to get as much information as possible. Zalura volunteered to go talk to the temple of Gozreh, while Menasius would go to the apothecary. Alaric chose the general store. Each of them learned that the fishing had been difficult for the town of late, and that the "neighbors" had gone missing. One person thought it might be the influx of foreigners that chased them off. Either way, it seemed to be bad news. Especially when the Watcher had been seen more often in the bay. Alaric learned from Tam that the only other recent new person was Lucas, but he kept to himself. Alaric helped fix the man's roof and offered to write scrolls, while Menasius talked alchemy with Jaleen and showed her how to make wolfsbane into a potion.

After their information gathering, the group met back up at the inn and discussed what they learned. Which wasn't much other than finding out who Lucas was, and something about the "neighbors" being gone was distressing for everyone.

Session 16:

While Alaric and Zalura remained at the inn to speak with the innkeeper, Menasius went to find Horace Croon at his home. The inventor wasn't there, so he sat on the man's porch to wait for him. (As well as fixing the man's roof at one point while he was waiting). In the meanwhile, Alaric volunteered to help Rube, the innkeep with anything around the inn. Which included fixing the man's roof. Apparently Illmarsh weather was difficult on roofs. Despite being suspicious as to what Alaric was up to, the man told him that the foreigner Lucas had a room in the inn, but he kept out of his business, just as the stranger kept out of the town's. Clearly the man was not thrilled by this questioning.

Heading outside, the two saw Menasius sitting on the porch and then noticed the sheriff heading his direction. Alaric made mention that the paladin was going to get arrested. Zalura asked if he wanted to bet on that. The sheriff seemed to want to know what Menasius was up to and asked him to follow him. Menasius told him he was waiting for Horace, and would get up to come with him - offering no resistance. The sheriff then came for Alaric and Zalura (after asking Menasius where his friends would be). The whole group was escorted to the Town Hall as the Mayor wished to speak with them.

The man was friendly enough, inviting them inside and asking if they needed anything. He then allowed them to ask him questions on anything they liked, and would answer them to one degree or another. The group felt that he wasn't telling everything and that something was on his mind. He was a bit surprised they knew about the fostering, or at least heard mention of something of the sort, and told them that it was an old tradition that Illmarsh second and third daughters were given for fostering to the Neighbors where they then grow to marry strong men in their culture. He, however, had never met the Neighbors himself, and couldn't really answer their questioning of these "Neighbor's" existence at all. On Horace, the inventor, he mentioned that the man was a bit of a crackpot, and lover of conspiracies. But he was a good sort even if he was prone to forgetting things.

Soon the man finally confessed that he was worried about disappearances of people. Just over a dozen adults had gone missing, and the sheriff couldn't find anything about it. He believed that the Order is behind it. He said that while he was the appointed Mayor of the town, the Vizier at the church was the true ruler of the town. He asked them to check into the matter, and deputized the three so that they could do so. He said that if they were to find anything ill about the church, they would be doing a great favor for the town. While he seemed quite sincere about this, there was still something more to it. The party figured that the man was worried about his own status in town. The man also admitted to knowing a bit more about this Dark Rider, but that he would tell them if they took care of this problem for him, as well as pay them for their trouble. Apparently Illmarsh pulls in other things aside from fish from the sea.

The group headed back out and discussed their course of action. Since it was late, they figured they would look into the matter of the church in the morning in order to help solidify an alibi for Alaric who would accompany Zalura and Menasius invisibly to the church.

Menasius also left a note on Horace's door asking to meet him at the inn since he had something to discuss with him. While the group was at the inn, they heard a cry from the wharf. Rushing out, they saw a large octopus attacking people at the docks. The creature dropped the man it had in its tentacles and eventually grabbed Menasius and tried to eat him - failing due to his armor. Soon the creature died, and dropped Menasius into the water. He shook himself of the water, causing Alaric to comment to Zalura about 'and to think, you were attracted to that'. The comment seemed to catch Menasius a bit off guard, but nothing was said about it.

The group headed back into town, and passed by Horace's. The man was at last at home and he seemed a bit surprised to see the group - though didn't seem to remember who they were right away. He also seemed suspicious of the note and thus had taken it for a prank - which he apologized for. The topic of the Rider came up and Horace said he had seen him, prompting Alaric to comment that finally someone knew something. He mentioned that the rider passed him by the Lonely Quay headed for Illmarsh, but he knew nothing beyond that. Menasius also brought up the end of the Watcher, to which Horace told him that the octopus was not the Watcher. Those came to shore at times to eat, but this Watcher was never seen that close to shore.

Eventually the group returned to the inn to rest for the evening. It was also discovered that Zalura could hold her drinks here a lot better than anywhere else.

The next morning, after making sure that Alaric retiring back to his room because of being ill was overheard, Zalura and Menasius (with an invisible Alaric) headed to the church. Inside, they were met by one of the four worshipers inside and told that they needed to leave. Menasius said that he thought this was a public temple, and they returned with for townsfolk only. The worshiper told them to come back later, so the two headed back out to the main entrance and stuck around. Alaric noticed the man stayed back to keep an eye on the two. Zalura mentioned to Menasius that she only spoke with them in the first portion of the building before and hadn't gone inside the bethel (sanctuary).

Alaric crept inside and looked around. Since he couldn't exactly open any doors, he decided to see what the four worshipers were up to. As he approached he saw that they were holding a symbol in their hands that was not Gozreh, but the unholy symbol of the demon lord of the sea, Dagon. The statue in the center was similar to the one outside, but it was more fishlike with tentacles for hair. He went to the back of the church and discovered that the back wall was a secret door. He went outside and whispered to Zalura and Menasius that he was heading back. At that point, Zalura who had been standing by the statue, eventually went to sit next to Menasius. The two waited another half hour and they then left for the inn.

Alaric filled them in with what he saw, and Menasius was able to confirm that the statue was a covert altar to Dagon. Apparently the town was filled with Dagon worshipers, not Gozreh worshipers. This did not set well with anyone, and they decided to check with the Mayor to make sure that it would be all right that if it came to a fight, that they were cleared to do what was necessary. The Mayor was fine by this, and apparently had known about the Dagon worship. He just wasn't a religious man himself. Knowing that the worship of Gozreh was by day, and that Dagon was by night, the group decided to go at the temple that night.

Returning, the group found the four men at the altar again, and they didn't seem pleased that the four had returned. Not pleased, Menasius said that they were there for the Dagon services since they were not allowed there for the Gozreh services. This initiated the fight, between the clerics and the party which was soon over. The group then began investigating each of the rooms. Inside one of the first rooms toward the entrance, they found a small chapel with a small green stone altar and a mosaic on the wall depicting what was identified as a skum. In the chapel on the other side of the hall, there was a ship's bell mounted on a ship's wheel atop a green stone altar. The bell was engraved with the word Conqueror, which Alaric recalled was the ship of Cassius Undiomede. A mosiac of the man on the deck of a ship amidst a raging storm was mounted above. There were some Dagon clerics inside and they attacked as soon as the door opened. Once they were dispatched, the group continued to the next room, which turned out to be the quarters for the Vicar's.

One such Vicar was inside dressed in elaborate green robes with a unique tiara on his head. The fight was going well and as the vicar fell, a strange creature appeared outside the door. Apparently the guardian had been awakened and attacked through the doorway. Eventually the creature was defeated, allowing the party a chance to look through the room. Finding a barely used holy book of Gozreh, Menasius began muttering again. This room too seemed to have a secret wall at the back. Wanting to look at the other room before activating the secret doors, the three entered what appeared to be the Vizier's quarters.

Inside, there was a chest that was pulled out, with broken glass and some kind of liquid was on the floor. It was identified as the remains of cure light potions. The group also found that this room smelled oddly fishy, unlike the other rooms. This room too had a secret passage and they entered through it. Inside was a dark pool of water, and a bench. But what caught the eye were the seven bodies laid on the floor. Menasius went to them and looked over at them as Zalura looked around the room and Alaric checked out the one that was better dressed than the others. Alaric held up a familiar egg device. Zalura was able to open it, revealing the gagged skull symbol of the Whispering Way. They also found a note mentioning that a rider was on the way with the effigy. Likely won't be meeting him now considering he had no head.
Then, suddenly Menasius took out his war razor and began cutting open a body. Zalura came over to investigate while Alaric asked to be warned next time. Apparently whatever killed these people had been inside them and exploded out the neck. But nothing remained in the body. This explosion apparently didn't happen in this room as there wasn't enough gore.

Vaguely disturbed, the group moved to the next room which appeared to be the real worship space - very clearly Dagon. As they made their way to the other door, Alaric noticed some slugs nearby that didn't look right. He warned the others as the slugs began to jump to attack. Alaric and Menasius were able to maneuver out of their way but Zalura failed to move fast enough. Both slugs attached to her and tried to burrow into her. Recognizing them now that they were up close an personal, she started to yell out to hit her with cold - and hit her fast. They were moits, or seeds of the outer god Shub-Niggurath in their larval stage. She held still while Alaric hit her with a cone of cold, doing what he could not to kill her, but kill the moits. Once the threat was over, she shakingly suggested that those were likely what came out of those bodies.

Moving on, Menasius opened the door and saw a couple seated inside a room that looked a lot like the other room. The pair looked scared so the group entered in carefully and talked with them. They found out that the couple had brought their baby girl in for fostering, but since the neighbors were not answering, Father Voltiaro took the baby to the Old House to figure out what was going on. They were waiting word. When they were told that they were in danger, they seemed confused and that the people at the temple had been nothing but helpful. This didn't seem to sit well with the paladin who gave them the holy book of Gozreh and told them to read it, that this was the real Gozreh, not what these people had been teaching. The couple followed the party out and to the mayor, unnerved by the whole ordeal, but they seemed to trust the party. They told the group that the vicar was Caleb Voltiaro.

(GM Note: It was amusing to see the paladin all riled up about false relgion. Or rather a bait and switch in this case. We were waiting for him to go and tell everyone in town who Gozreh really was.)

The Mayor was filled in on what they had found, and he suggested that the party check out the Undiomede House as that was where Father Voltiaro had gone. He also saw to the Tulby's for the group. Everyone headed back to their respected sleeping places, and the party headed out in the morning to go to the Undiomede House.

As the group walked through the woods known as the Soddentimbers, tracks were seen in the mud a mile or so out of town. They were difficult to discern, but one of the tracks was a bit bigger than the others - identified as a marsh giant. Zalura also saw old horse tracks heading that way as well - at least a few days old. None of the tracks returned. As they began to see a clearing ahead, Alaric noticed what appeared to be a graveyard nearby (the only graveyard they have seen in the area. Apparently the folks of Illmarsh believed in burial at sea). Heading over to check it out, the party found it to be the Undiomede family cemetery. The oldest tombstone was Cassius at 195 years old. The newest stone was Claudius Undiomede who died 70 years ago at the age of 47. Cassius' grave looked sunken, but the group left it be.

They headed over to the old house which appeared to be around two centuries old. It was in sad shape in some portions, but was holding better than one would expect for being abandoned. The tracks of the horse went to the carriage house, while the other tracks went to the front door. The group decided to enter in through the south entrance. This seemed to lead to an old living room with the rotten remains of a settee in the corner. The roof above was damaged, and had likely led to the soaking of the room. Unfortunately, it was also inhabited by a swarm of ticks that attacked as soon as they smelt blood. Everyone was swarmed over, and both Alaric and Zalura grew weaker as they began to drain their blood, but eventually the ticks were defeated. Zalura was healed back into consciousness and they were able to at least gain some of their energy back. The group decided sleeping out at the graveyard before tackling the rest of the house was a good idea. This also led to Alaric and Zalura waking up with the plague, but Zalura made sure to memorize a few remove disease spells to help with that.

(GM note: That is what the party gets for entering in the side door and not the front entrance. I was impressed that I nearly killed the party with ticks, but then, swarms are tough little buggers.)

Searching through the house, the next area of interest the group came across was the central hall which seemed to have a ring of druidic stones as its focal point. Standing inside was the marsh giant, though she looked different than what a marsh giant should look. While she hit hard, she was soon over taken by the party. Observing the stones, Alaric determined that the circle was dedicated to the outer god Shub-Niggurath with the stone at the center considered the altar. Underneath it, he discovered a hidden compartment that contained a strange ovoid object of hard brown material with a rough texture and dozens of tiny pours. Zalura was only able to identify it as a seedpod of some kind.

Continuing around, the party overheard a cry of what sounded like an infant and a shushing noise. Walking inside, they saw two men, one being a vicar with a baby in a crib off to the side. They attacked, careful of the baby and soon killed the cultists. Zalura tended to the crying baby as the other two checked the bodies for anything useful. They discussed their next plan of action, as Zalura was not willing to take the child with them through the remainder of the building. However, she did suggest Eyla stay back and watch the baby so they could at least finish off the rest of the floor. Zalura would know if something was up since she could see through her familiar's eyes.

The next place of interest for the group was in the stores next to the carriage house. There was evidence of a struggle in the room, but it was difficult to tell how many. A saddlebag was discovered inside with the crate everyone recalled seeing from Auren Vrood's memories. The effigy, however, was gone. They did find a note at the bottom that read: "Ask Lucas about Raven's Head". Inside the carriage house, they discovered a starving mare, which Menasius was able to calm down and heal. Zalura went back to get the baby girl, and the group headed back to Illmarsh. Both Menasius and Alaric at one time or another made a comment that Zalura was rather good at tending to the baby.

When they arrived in Illmarsh, Menasius took the mare to the sheriff, to at least make some kind of amends. The sheriff thought he was up to something, but considering Menasius had enough food for the horse for a while, the man grudgingly accepted the gift. Meanwhile, Alaric and Zalura returned the baby to the Tulby's. Imelbe was home and when she saw the baby, she was so worried that they would break tradition that she wanted to take the girl back to the Order. Alaric informed them that this was likely not a good idea, and that something wrong was going on. That likely the babies were being killed. This caused Imelbe to cry and she said that they would leave town as soon as Rufus returned home from fishing. She thanked them for returning their baby to them again and the two took their leave.

The party returned to finish looking over the Undiomede House as they had yet to find Father Voltiaro. The group ascended the stairs and opened the door into a lounge. Inside the room was Father Voltiaro, who attacked the party. You could see that the son looked a lot like the father, though the musty smell of Illmarsh was on him more so than the others. The battle raged on until just before the man fell unconscious, his head bulged and then exploded, sending blood and gore all over Menasius, Zalura and the room around them. A huge mass of tentacles emerged from the base of the neck and went after Zalura, trying to drain charisma from her. Eventually, the spawning canker, stage two as Zalura put it, was destroyed and it split into more of those moits. Alaric was able to blast them with cold to kill them. Unnerved by this (though Alaric seemed far more unsettled by this than the others), the party continued their investigation of upstairs. In the next hallway, pictures of the Undiomede household heads lined the walls, starting with Cassius Undiomede, Pactforger, and ending with Claudius Undiomede and son, Manus.

The next room held two spectres that gave Menasius a bit of trouble. Switching positions with the dhampir, the party was able to kill them without further damage to the group. The next room was an empty nursery with seashells for a mobile above a crib. The shells were from rare sea creatures from the depths of Lake Encarthan. A molded desk greeted the party in the drawing room with nothing else of interest.

The last room they entered on the top floor was what appeared to be a master bedroom. Stepping inside brought about two hounds of Tindalos, strange creatures that could gaze at a person and shread their mind. One of them went after Alaric and the other tried to bite Menasius. Between the three, they were able to at last kill the creatures, though Alaric used an areal spell on all of them in order to kill the invisible creature. After assuring the unsettled sorcerer that everyone and everything was fine, the party looked around the room. The bed had a very old red stain that appeared to be blood. On the headboard was a crudely scrawled message saying "The Pact ends here, Father".

A set of stairs went up to the top of the cupola above. In a small attic space on the side of the stairs, the group found an old book wrapped up - protected from the weather. No one could read the Azlanti text, but they knew it was worth a lot to someone. Stepping up onto the Widow's Walk, the group saw a mangled corpse on the ground. It appeared to have features similar to Caleb and Albor and they figured he had been another son. His death was from a very far drop, but no one could see anything above them. As they searched, they found a summoning ring partially hidden by the body - Alaric identifying it as a summon to the Dark Tapestry. Then everyone saw a shadow pass by and then a loud shriek. A very large wyvern-like creature called a Shantak swooped down and snatched Zalura. Alaric cast fly on Menasius and the battle ensued. The shantak was quite the aerial flyer as it was able to flip 180 degrees very quickly to attack Menasius as he came up. But soon it was killed and released Zalura who was able to fly back down after Menasius to rejoin Alaric. The sorcerer seemed rather out of it since the battle with the Vizier which seemed to concern the others.

As they walked back down, Alaric noticed a slime trail on the ground floor heading toward one of the stones in the Grand Hall. It was here that they discovered a magical door - a phase door. Alaric then saw an impression that matched the fishgold medallion they found on Albor. He stuck it in the impression and it opened the phase door to them. Deciding now was not the best time, the party left the House to go get some rest at the Inn. Wherever that phase door led, would have to wait until the next day.

(GM Note: I told the party about the sanity rules as I had them calculate their own sanity points. I never told them how much they were losing, only that they lost or gained points in each case.)

Session 17:

The party returned to the Undiomede House after a night's rest. Though it was safe to say, not everyone slept all that well overnight. Alaric again placed the fishgold medallion into the depression and the three walked through the Phase Door and into a stairwell that led them down into a cavern. It appeared to be a location under the house. As they walked into the first room, they discovered the component for an alarm spell - which seemed to be set off by walking through the door. But nothing sounded like it was headed their way. Both Alaric and Zalura could hear faint occupation in the tunnel south of them, and the smell of compost and garbage came from the tunnel to their west. But the sight of a large glass tube with a corpse was the sight that caught everyone's attention. Inside was the perfectly preserved body of Cassius Undiomede. Next to him was a small lectern with a sharkskin bound journal describing how Undiomede founded Baytown, and the details behind the pact with the Neighbors - underwater benefactors. He had said that "I can only ensure the health and prosperity of Baytown and my own line by giving the Neighbors what they require, even if that means giving up my own daughters, and those of my heirs and my people. Regardless of my personal feelings, it is a small price to pay for such security."

Deciding to see what lay to their south, the group walked down the tunnel to find a large skum sitting to one side and more smaller skum off to the other. Two dead skum lay against the floor, blood staining the wall near what must be the chief. He rose and roared as the battle began. Alaric helped divide the battle by causing a wall of force to appear in front of the charging skum. Once the chief was defeated, the skum soon followed.

Continuing westward, they came across a three-way intersection. To the west, there was a faint glow, and going back was that smell of compost. Zalura complained of feeling really strange. They could faintly hear the sounds of a woman humming a lullaby. Deciding to back track first, the party went into the tunnel to their east and encountered a rubbish pile. Digging through the items, Alaric found a Taldan helmet from the Shining Crusade, and just as he reached for an amulet, a creature rose and attacked.

After killing it, they were able to determine that the amulet was that of the gagged skull. Someone of the Whispering Way had been through here. Possibly their Dark Rider that they were chasing. The group then turned and headed deeper west into the caverns. The next room opened up to a large high ceilinged cavern, with two ledges on either side of the room, and a pit before them. Another tunnel led further west. Alaric and Menasius looked over at the pit while Zalura investigated the ledges. Everywhere they looked, there were dressmaker's dolls, at least until Alaric realized that they were the dried desiccated remains of human woman and children - some as young as 4 months old. Down in the pit was a woman with white skin that was faintly glowing. Her eyes were dull as was her hair. She was cradling one of the dead babies and singing to it. They couldn't get much out of her other than the pretty colors down the hall would make everything better. Zalura came to them to say that one of the ledges had cribs, and other beds, while the other seemed to be a kitchen.

Deciding to come back to her after seeing what the color was, the group traveled for 250 feet before they came across more desiccated corpses - this time skum in the tunnel. As they came around the corner they saw the strangest thing - an incorporeal ooze-like radiance. Alaric pointed out the force leash that was keeping the creature inside the room. The group fought it from a distance, knowing that it could not reach them, and soon it was gone. The group made their way back out and tried to follow one of the other tunnels, but each of the branches led to a submerged section, several miles out.

They returned back to the woman, and Menasius climbed down to try and see what was wrong with her. She kept an eye on him as he found that her mental capacity had been entirely drained, and whatever that creature was in the other room had affected her - hence the glow. When he healed her mental attributes, the color went away and life came back to her eyes and hair, but she still seemed confused. Eventually she set the 'baby' down and was eventually convinced to climb out of the hole. Likely the poor woman had never been outside the tunnels judging by the color of her skin. They were able to lead her through the cavern, and to the House. It took a long time and a lot of effort, but they were able to coax her outside. She seemed fearful of not only the light, but the openness. Alaric helped with a cantrip to protect her eyes from the dimmed sunlight. Studying her out in the natural light, they could see that she looked a little like Horace Croon, though they couldn't tell how old the woman was.

The group planned to take her to Jaleen, as she was the only one that they trusted. Jaleen was more than happy to help them, feeling sorry for the poor girl. They didn't completely tell her all the details, but implied that she was one of those that had been fostered. As Jaleen didn't have anything for her, and the healing the woman needed was beyond both Menasius and Zalura, they decided to send for a cleric from Thrushmoor. Alaric volunteered to talk with someone at townhall for a messenger, while Menasius went to let Horace know that a relative of his was found.

Menasius learned from Horace Croon that he had a baby sister who had been fostered, and he was overjoyed to hear that they found her. He was saddened that she needed healing, but was glad for what the party was doing. He inquired a bit about what was going on, and without going into detail of the fostering, Menasius mentioned something about tunnels under the Tern Rocks. Horace volunteered his subaqueous exploration device so that they could get to the bottom of all this. Menasius told him to meet them at the inn the next morning so that they could all discuss what needed to be done.

That next morning the group gathered together and discussed heading out to the Lonely Quay, back to the Isinglass. The party decided to go talk to the mayor first, to let him know what was going on before meeting again with Horace. Unfortunately, when the party found the mayor's home, it was empty with a sign of struggle. The sheriff didn't know anything about it and said he would look into it.

Arriving at the Lonely Quay, the party saw an iron fish-shaped submersible hanging from a boom. Horace drove the group out to the Tern Rocks with no issue on the water. Once they arrived there, they saw a man hanging by manacles and his lower body under water. Only when the water moved did they realize that half of him was missing with tiny crabs feeding on his corpse. Inquiring about it, Horace told them that criminals were often brought out here to die. This particular man had committed murder.

Once they were in position, Horace went over the details of the sub and how it worked. He told them the trip down would take 10 minutes, but a full hour to rise was needed to stop and pump air into the sub. Alaric did not seem pleased, having mentioned to the others at one point that he didn't know how to swim. But between all of their items, and an air bubble wand Alaric bought, they were covered in at least some of their underwater exploration should they have to leave the sub.

Both Menasius and Zalura were watching outside the sub while Alaric chose not to look. They pointed out to him a strange looking dome that was of a construction that made the fish sub look like a rusty toy. A technology far more advanced than was usually seen anywhere else in Ustalav. About half way down, both Menasius and Zalura saw sharks starting to surround the sub. Deciding to be bait to help distract them from hitting the sub, Menasius dropped into the water. With an air bubble spell, Zalura followed after him. They soon discovered that a devilfish had summoned the sharks. She called them traitors, and seemed to be upset at them for turning their back on Dagon. Likely she was confusing them for someone else, but they had no issue with going after her. Deciding to bring all the threats out into the open, the sorceress cast a spell in the sub that didn't allow Alaric to see out, forcing him out of the sub. The battle continued for a time before at long last, she was killed.

(GM Note: This was a neat battle actually. It boggled minds that a devilfish could be a sorcerer, so it made it even more fun.)

The party returned back into the sub, dripping wet, but alive. Another five minutes went by and they arrived at the bottom of the Bay. The tunnel opening was about 100 yards away, and the group had to get back out of the sub and walk along the bottom to the tunnel opening. A force bubble seemed to keep the water out, and the tunnels beyond were dry. Stepping through, the party entered into the tunnel system and discovered skum guards. Only these skum had the top of their skulls removed, leaving their brains exposed. After defeating the skum, the party began to look around the room. This didn't last long before they were attacked by two strange creatures known as dimensional shamblers. It took some time, but they too were defeated.

Continuing down the tunnel, they came across a series of chambers - many of them containing more brain-exposed skum. But what was more disturbing was what they found in each of these 'nests'. The carvings on the walls depicted skum in the midst of various graphic and disturbing mating acts with what were obviously human women. The beds contained cradles, and Zalura picked up a hand knitted baby blanket that had scales inside it. She was forced to drop it and wouldn't go into the other chambers for very long, only long enough to help fight.

They continued on down the hallway and into what appeared to be a shrine of Dagon. And ran into its priest and two guards. The fight took time, but they finally came out on top - including Menasius hitting one of the guards into the statue of Dagon, killing the skum and breaking the statue. Over in one corner a mace stood on a pedestal. It had four raven's heads at its head, and Zalura and Alaric recognized it as the Raven's Head mace, a minor artifact from the battles against the Whispering Tyrant and a holy weapon to Pharasma. They discussed what they should do with it since the Whispering Way was after it. Even discussing destroying it, but both Zalura and Menasius were very against it. Alaric wasn't thrilled by the idea, but it had to be considered. They finally decided the next safest place would be with them.

Entering the next room down, they were met with a very disturbing sight. Two winged insect-looking creatures that Zalura identified as intelligent plants, and one dimensional shambler. All of them were standing around what looked like a giant shredder with a pile of four bodies next to it, three men and one woman. Zalura moved into the room to get a closer hit on the dimensional shambler, the only creature in the room that was affected by her mind-affecting spells. Alaric hesitated to cast a spell to get rid of the things, his mind not quite right by the sight of them. Zalura told him to cast it anyway, that she'd dodge it just as she had with the others. She wouldn't let him argue with her. So what he cast led to hands reaching out of the floor, startling Zalura, and likely the creatures as well as they all failed their saves to get away. Menasius, and Alaric, saw her wince, and the paladin ran up to her to heal her. The battle continued and was soon over. Alaric remained where he was in the hallway, and while Menasius began to search the room, Zalura went over to him. He told her he didn't want to speak with her right now, so she stayed silent and nearby.

(GM Note: Zalura expected one of his other area effect spells, not Grasp of the Dead, which he used very rarely.)

Menasius discovered that the body of the woman was that of a fosterling, and the other three were men from the village. One of which was the mayor. Apparently not all the disappearances were from the slug spawn they had seen. What was strange about them was that each and every one of them had the top of their heads removed, and with surgical precision, their brains were gone. He then went to go look at the exit that contained another of those strange force shields. Peaking through, he could see that it connected to that dome, and inside was a lot of equipment, some of it medical, some of it not easy to determine. Heading back into the room, he decided to look at that strange device one of the Mi-Go had.

Alaric soon kissed Zalura on the forehead, and told her he couldn't do this anymore and told her they were done. He left her standing there in shock to go over to Menasius who was still trying to figure out the device. Alaric managed to figure out that it was a sort of cone of cold device, that projected cold mist out in a large area. Luckily the paladin had not accidentally shot himself in the process of investigating it. Zalura elected to guard the side nearest the shrine while Menasius and Alaric beat the corpse shredder to a pulp. Menasius figured the sorcerer needed to hit something for awhile.

Eventually, when it was destroyed, the group decided it was best to get some sleep, to recover before going into the dome. Menasius shared what he saw with the other two. They then retreated back into the shrine to get some sleep. During the early morning, Zalura talked with Menasius about what happened between her and Alaric, and he gave her some advice. He invited her to pray with him, and she took him up on the offer, at least for a time. Afterward, she left him to pray on his own and went to start meditating herself. When she noticed Alaric awake, she went over and talked with him - a talk they both clearly needed.

Meanwhile, after the paladin finished praying, he took up watch until the two were done. Looking at the carvings at the temple, he noticed that there were two layers. An old and a new. The bottom layer had carvings dedicated to Dagon, the top carvings were dedicated to the Outer god Shub-Niggurath.

Undiomede Journal:

(GM Note: Instead of writing out exact entries, I did a general write up of what the journal said and gave it as a handout.)

Many entries include tales of the man's exploits as a smuggler on Avalon Bay. About 200 years ago, the Count of Versex gave Undiomede lordship and the stretch of coastline from the Detstach River to the
northern edge of the Soddentimbers. This made his cargo legitimate - and was taxable by the county. His smugglers camp became the settlement of Baytown where the Count placed a customs office in the center of it.

The journal mentions that Undiomede built the town up to be a fishing and trading community and built the Undiomede House beyond the edge of town on the site of an old ring of stone menhirs. The town grew prosperous, the tax revenue from Baytown to Versex's coffers was great, and the fishing fleets always came up with the most bountiful catches. Trinkets of the past made their way into their nets as well, making Undiomede and Baytown very rich. He mentioned that the Count and his councilors believed the good fortune of the town was due to Undiomede's continued smuggling but the customs officers nor secretly hired investigators ever uncovered any trace of wrong doing.

Later in the journal, Undiomede reveals the true secret of his success. In the early days of smuggling off the Tern Rocks, Undiomede encountered and made common cause with a tribe of strange people dwelling in underwater tunnels below the lake. To avoid discovery and escape capture at the hands of the Count's customs agents, Undiomede struck a devil's bargain with these peoples - he provided them with kidnapped young women in exchange for their secret aid and intervention. After gaining his lordship, Undiomede continued his arrangement with his aquatic benefactors, who ensured that the nets of the Baytowners were ever full of fish and that any interesting trinkets unearthed on the lake bottom by the Neighbors made their way into Undiomede's hands as well as the safety of the town from the many
predatory dangers of the Ustalavic Coast. In return, Undiomede instituted the Fostering Pact, offering the Neighbors the second and third three-month old daughters of the new settlement he was forming. "I can only ensure the health and prosperity of Baytown and my own line by giving the Neighbors what they require, even if that means giving up my own daughters, and those of my heirs and my people. Regardless of my personal feelings, it is a small price to pay for such security." In addition, the town also gave a small tithe to the Neighbors, and would tie up criminals to the Tern Rocks as their sentence.

The journal then stated that the next son in line upon reaching the age of majority - who would be fit to assume the mantle of lordship upon the death of their father - would be informed of the Pact so that
Baytown would continue to be prosperous.

End of Book 4, Catching up with Kamira, and starting Book 5: Ashes at Dawn.

Session 18:

That morning, the group decided to investigate the side tunnel between the shrine and the place with the now destroyed corpse shredder. The tunnel led into a large room that contained 23 strange copper and glass canisters. Fourteen of these containers had brains within them. Some were labeled Skum, others were labeled Human. It took a moment for the party to realize that the brains were alive still, and it was a disturbing thought to think that you could actually communicate with them using the devices. The group picked a human brain which just so happened to be Mayor Greedle. The man seemed to remember everything that happened to him, and told them that he was taken from his home by skum and brought here. The Mi-Go, the aliens from the Dark Tapestry, were experimenting on the skum and the Illmarshers because of their unique relationship. Apparently they found it fascinating. The Mayor did not know where the Mi-Go came about, but he did know that the Mi-Go were also trying to summon their god, Shub-Niggurath by accelerating the maturation of one of the moits to create a Dark Young. They asked him what they could do for him and he said to please put a stop to it, that he would be fine where he is.

Unsettled by that piece of information, the party headed right for the dome. Inside, there were four Mi-Go, two were attending to their own tasks along the back part of the dome - a place covered in all kinds of equipment. The other two were attending to a naked human man who was strapped to one of the tables. Numerous needles and clamps attached to hoses and leads extended from his body to a bank of cylinders, levers and dials on one wall. The party recognized the man as one of the dark riders from Auren Vrood's memories.

When the party was noticed, the two Mi-Go attending the man stayed put while the other two attacked. As the fight began, the rider's head exploded much as Voltiaro's had, but he was strapped to the table. The other two joined the fight against the party but soon they were defeated. When the last Mi-Go fell, the body of the rider swelled and turned purple before bursting like an overripe tomato. In its place stood a very large creature, hoofed and tree-like with writhing tentacles and gaping mouths. As the party fought the monster, they saw outside more manifestations of what apparently was not the Watcher, but the god Shub-Niggurath herself. She seemed to be tied to the creature before them as she became more visible, but still not fully there as the Dark Young matured.

The battle was long, but soon the creature was defeated. Everyone caught sight of Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young in all of her horrifying glory - a roiling tangle of flesh and hair and colossal tentacles, interspersed with mouths, fins, hooves and other appendages, and thousands of dark, staring eyes that seem to open on vistas of unimaginable star-studded darkness pierced their very souls. Then she was expelled from this reality, the backlash of energy causing the equipment in the dome to spark and flash. The dome began to crack, telling the party it was time to go. Zalura grabbed the dark rider's clothes which were laying nearby, grabbed a rather stunned Alaric and pulled him out of the room. Menasius told her he'd meet them at the entrance and moved to investigate the trunk nearby. He grabbed the items and ran after the pair.

Zalura said that she would teleport herself and Alaric back to town while Menasius would go back up via the sub in order to not cause Horace to panic about not hearing from them. As Menasius rode the sub up, he saw the dome collapse as the weight of the sea crushed it. Horace was happy to see him, but was a bit worried about the other two being missing until Menasius explained. It was on their return trip that Horace would instead of paying the Party for their help, that he would use the money to pay the cleric to cure his sister.

At the inn, Zalura stayed with Alaric until dragging him downstairs for dinner. She spoke with Menasius about what she had found, and he in turn told her what he saw. Zalura had uncovered a note that instructed the rider to exchange the Seasage Effigy for the legendary mace and then to go to Caliphas. It was signed by AA. All this information was repeated to Alaric when he came out of his stunned state that next morning.

(GM Note: Alaric had 1 sanity point left after all was said and done. Zalura lost sanity twice, and the paladin came through just fine. Other than a dislike of Dagon cultists.)

It was decided that they wanted to "get out of Dodge" and head for Thrushmoor. With Zalura able to teleport now, they took that route and holed up for a few days in Thrushmoor to shop and to get the smell of Illmarsh off of them and their belongings. Zalura then teleported the group to the location she was most familiar with near Caliphas. It was about an hour walk from the gate, near a bridge over a quick-moving creek.

(GM Note: The session continued but at this point, I will now break away to Kamira who will be rejoining the party. Throughout, Zalura wrote letters to Kamira, except for when they were in Illmarsh.)

Kamira and Kendra:

(GM Note: I decided to use this opportunity to build Adivion more. I used email to roleplay out this section and included a module to run Kamira through. I will not go into detail on the module so there will be no spoilers for The Darkest Vengeance.)

Kamira and Kendra spent many days traveling across Ustalav on their way to Caliphas. During their trip, Kendra told Kamira a great deal of Ustalav history. Everything from the War Without Rivals, to information about Caliphas' history. Soon, they approached the gate and gave their name and business for being in Caliphas. Kendra, because she was moving there, and Kamira as a travel companion.

The pair talked about the largest cites they had ever been to as they walked the streets, looking for the Adrissant manor. When asked by the butler why they were there, Kendra replied, "I was given an invitation by the lord of this home, an Adivion Adrissant."

"Ah, Kendra, Count Adivion had told me to expect you. Please, come on in. And you as well ma'am," this he said to Kamira. The butler would stand aside to allow the two women to enter. He would take them to a small sitting room just off to one side and offer them a seat as well as asking if there was anything he could get for them as far as drinks would go. Kendra would only ask for water.

"Thank you," Kamira smiled as she followed Kendra inside the house and then to the sitting room. "Would you happen to have a light wine?" she asked, taking off her riding gloves and adjusting her rapier. They had been traveling the roads, and an adventurer's mind doesn't just simply ease into peace just because it seemed safe. But she sat regardless and waited for the wine and to meet the Count that Kendra had gotten her invitation from.

"Of course, ma'am," the man would say and disappear from the room.

It wasn't too long before a middle-aged woman brought a tray of light finger foods for the two of them as well as water for Kendra and wine for Kamira. It was of excellent vintage. Kendra would thank her before she went on her way - only giving nods and a smile for any thanks she received.

It took about ten minutes before a man in his mid thirties walked in. Kamira would recognize him as the man who spoke at Petros' funeral - aside from her. He was well dressed in a nice black suit. He gave a smile and a bow to both the women as he came into the room. "Forgive me for making you both wait, but I had a few matters to settle before hand. I am glad to see that you have made it safely to Caliphas, my dear Kendra." He smiled. "I'm sure I have in part to thank you for that?" he looked to Kamira. "Forgive me if I do not recall your name? I don't believe we met at the funeral."

When the Count came in, she gave a smile, remaining seated as Kendra had. She used the woman as a gauge for what was considered polite and proper here in Caliphas. "Kamira Almasi, a pleasure Count Adrissant. And indeed, there wasn't much time for pleasantries and such a sad event, mainly with the upset villagers. However, I do believe that when Kendra and I left Ravengro, that the villagers had a higher opinion of the Professor than when we all arrived."

"A pleasure, Kamira," Adivion smiled warmly. "And it is good to hear, the professor was a great man, and a good teacher." He would take a seat in the chair opposite of the both of them.

"Indeed, a good man who didn't need such a slander on his name after his death. At least, for the most part, it has been cleared up." She sipped some of her wine and stayed silent, so that Kendra and the Count may continue the conversation.

The man then turned to Kendra, "As I mentioned in my letter, I offer you my home here until you can get a footing in Caliphas if you so wish."

"Thank you, Adivion. I appreciate the offer and wish to accept. Caliphas is so much bigger than I had imagined."

Adivion smiled warmly, "It is, and you will get used to it the longer you experience it. There are plenty of opportunities here that I know you would enjoy, such as the Quartrefaux Library."

Kendra smiled, "I have heard of them." It was a bit unnerving to think of starting over in another new place, but at least she had someone she knew; two for as long as Kamira stayed.

"And you, Kamira, do you have a place to stay while here in Caliphas?" Adivion looked to her.

Kamira had been listening quietly as she sipped her wine. When Adivion spoke to her, she shook her head. "At this time no, Your Grace, I do not. I was intending on going around, to find an inn that had room for perhaps a live-in bard for a while, before I may move on, though when that will be..." she shrugged. Bards are always elusive and secretive, are they not?"

"You are welcome here until you can find another arrangement," Adivion offered. "If you would like, Dalek, the man you met at the door could give you a list of inns that would appreciate talent if you so wish." He showed no inclination to pry into what she was doing aside from escorting Kendra.

"Thank you," Kamira smiled at him. "That would be most appreciated Your Grace. I would like to keep up my skills as a bard, as well as continue to expand my collection of performance pieces from all the various countries that I visit."

"Most excellent," he smiled. "I am sure both of you would want to rest after your journey. I can have Siree show you to your rooms."

"Thank you," Kendra replied for the both of them.

"You are quite welcome," Adivion said. "If you have need of me, just let one of the servants know, and they will come get me. I'm afraid I have a few other things to attend to, but I will be here to join you both for dinner."

"Thank you very much Your Grace," Kamira smiled, and took the last sip of her wine before standing.

"A fine blade you have, mi'lady," Adivion would comment as he too got up. If she might recall from the funeral, the man had a different sort of blade at his own side - but it was not present here.

"Thank you, I got it at the end of dealing with some troubles in Ravengro, though thankfully have not had to use it since leaving. Part of me does hope I don't have to use it for some time yet though." Kamira replied. She felt unsure if it had been appropriate to wear the blade into the man's home, but she had gotten so use to it being at her side that she had forgotten.

"Yes, I hope that no trouble should force you to use it," he said and then gave a bow to both of them before taking his leave.

"His Grace is a bit of a swordsman himself," Siree told Kamira, as if she perhaps felt that bit of uncertainty in the woman. "Please, follow me and I can show you to the guest rooms.

Once upstairs, the women were allowed to relax, take a bath and partake in the reading material left for guests to peruse. When it was time for dinner, Siree came to fetch them.

The dinning hall was downstairs and contained a large table at its center. There was also a smaller, less formal table that would comfortably sit four people. It was here that the pair was directed to take a seat. Adivion was already inside and he stood when the women approached. He would take his seat again once both Kendra and Kamira were seated.

"I hope your rest was pleasant?" He would ask once they were settled. Glasses of water as well as a wine glass each were in front of them.

"I found it pleasant, a nice hot bath and some good books to read. Those guides to Caliphas are quite interesting, I fear I may have to wander a bit to look into some of the places that they talk about," she smiled at Adivion and Kendra.

"It can be a fascinating city in its own right," Adivion said. "Though there are its less desirable qualities."

"Dangerous parts as well?" Kendra asked, thinking of places where thieves would thrive a bit more. There were spots in Lepidstadt like that, but not in Ravengro.

"I was thinking more near the Castle and the political chambers," Adivion smirked, "but there are places that I do not advice going alone in."

"May I ask where those are in the city, so that if I am to wander around I do not accidentally get caught in them." Not that Kamira felt as if she couldn't hold her own against a city's run-of-the-mill thugs.

Adivion filled the bard in on the city - where she should go, and where she should avoid. He turned out to be quite the conversationalist and was very knowledgeable about the city of Caliphas. After some time, the conversation turned toward his guests as Adivion asked Kamira more about Absalom. Soon Kendra joined in. Kamira was more than happy to answer questions and talk about the city itself.

Eventually the plates were cleared and the time would be observed. "It truly seems to be a marvelous city, Kamira," Adivion would say. "Perhaps one day I will see it for myself - though your skill with words has painted a picture within my mind as if I have already been there," he smiled to her.

"You can thank the Rhapsodic College of Oppara for teaching me how to do that," Kamira smiled, quite satisfied with the dinner, and glad to have quality food once again, instead of trail rations. "Though I doubt my words could ever compare to the beauty of Absalom that one sees when they visit."

"You did mention you had bardic training," Adivion said. "Then I shall trust your word on that and still visit it one day."

"It would be lovely to see," Kendra replied. "Though it would be wonderful to see all of Golarion, really."

The conversation continued as everyone expressed an interest in Osirion and then to Petros Lorrimor. "I do remember him mentioning his expeditions during class and wishing I had been there myself," Adivion said.

"It's where I met him, when I was still in Oppara at the College," Kamira replied. "He fascinated me with stories about the places he had visited and the places he had seen. It's why I'd love to go and see them one day."

"Perhaps some day we should take a trip down to Osirion, to see for ourselves the wonders of the south in honor of an inspirational man," Adivion replied. "Though for now, it seems to be late, and if we are not ready to turn in for the night, perhaps we should find a better more comfortable place to spend the evening talking?"

"I agree, Your Grace," she smiled and stood up to leave, to allow Adivion to lead the way.

Adivion led the two ladies to a different part of the manor, this one further back from the dinning room. It would be the sun room, though at this point it was lightly lit by magical lights. Outside, the sky was visible in a rare non-cloudy moment - allowing the starlight to faintly illuminate the gardens outside. "This was always a fine place to ponder on the mysteries of life and beyond," Adivion would say as he allowed them to choose a place within to sit. He would only sit when the women would sit down. The chairs were comfortable and scattered here and there.

Kamira opted for a place near the windows so she could see the gardens and the stars. She didn't have many chances in Ustalav to actually see the stars because of the weather. "This is lovely Your Grace," she smiled.

"It is," Kendra agreed, taking a seat nearby.

Adivion smiled at the both of them and took a seat. "Thank you. It is often my favorite room if not the library. It occasionally reminds me of my family home."

"Ardis, wasn't it?" Kendra asked.

He gave a nod. "It's been some time since I've been to Ardis, though I have heard that parts of it have fallen from its glory days as the capitol."

"We didn't get to see Ardis on our way here, too far out of the way. I also didn't get to see it when I first went to Ravengro, but I was close, I think it would have only been a few more days and I would have been there." Kamira replied.

"You may have been in Chastel?" Kendra asked, thinking on this. "It is about a partial day's ride down the Senir River from Ardis."

"It is still worth seeing for its history," Adivion did say. "The more upscale parts of it have faded as the majority of the nobility have moved here to follow the Prince. But that was over 35 years ago when they moved the capital."

"I switched boats in Chastel. It's actually where I met Zalura, while waiting for my next boa," she nodded to Kendra about her trip to Ravengro. "If I have the opportunity, I will definitely go and see the city."

"Zalura?" Adivion asked, the name not sounding familiar to him.

"A friend of ours that we met up in Ravengro. Hopefully she'll be sending me some letters to tell me about what is going on with her, Menasius and Alaric." She looked to Adivion. "They were finishing the last requests of the Professor up in Lepidstat."

"My father had some books that needed to be returned to the University," Kendra explained.

"Ah, I see. That is good of them to do that for him," Adivion replied.

"You'll have to let me know how they are doing if you hear from her and you are still in town," Kendra replied.

"Of course," Kamira smiled a bit at that. "If not, I'll send you a copy of the letter in turn."

Kendra smiled at this. "Thank you."

Light conversation would drift here and there as they took in the view. Eventually Kendra would stifle a yawn and bring up that she would love to stay, but she needed to get some rest.

"I agree, having a good night's sleep is most welcome," Kamira smiled and stood up in order to go back to her room.

Kendra would stand as well, and smiled to Adivion who also rose when the ladies did. "Thank you for a wonderful evening."

"The pleasure is certainly mine, you both make lovely company. Feel free to ask for whatever you need of the servants."

"Thank you Your Grace. I look forward to seeing you in the morning. Good night," she offered to Adivion with a smile.

"Please, call me Adivion," he would say to her. He would then bid them both goodnight.

Kendra would walk back with Kamira to their rooms upstairs. A bit of a smile was on her face as they walked. It had been a wonderful evening.

Kamira noticed the smile on Kendra's face, "Glad to be here and settling in?"

She gave a bit of a nod, "I was a bit nervous about it, but I think I'll like it here. It has been awhile since I've been able to talk with Adivion."

"He is rather nice, a very good host. I hope you don't mind that tomorrow I'm going to check out some of these inns so I can do some work."

"He is," she smiled again. "And no, I don't mind at all. I think I'll stay here and rest a bit more - get some reading done. I wish you luck if I don't see you in the morning for breakfast."

"I'll be around for breakfast, it'll be lunch you might not see me," she smiled a bit. "But you rest Kendra, and sleep well."

"And you as well," Kendra would then part ways once they reached their rooms. It would be wonderful to sleep in a bed again.

The next morning, Kamira only saw Kendra as Adivion was off on business. Dalek, as promised, gave her a list of inns to visit. Thus the bard spent a good portion of her day inquiring of a few inns before she found one to take her in. The proprietor of the Golden Ogre was eager to have a new bard in town to regale his customers. After this, Kamira walked around the city to become more familiar with her surroundings and to hear the talk on the street. One such rumor was the anticipation of the next party held by the Countess Carmilla Caliphvaso. She also learned that it would be soon that the Landed Counts of Ustalav would be coming to Caliphas for their meeting with the Prince.

Returning to the Adrissant Manor, Kendra inquired on if Kamira secured a job.

"Yes, I got in with the Golden Ogre, a very nice establishment. I was going to pack up my things and ask Adivion's people if they can take it over there tomorrow. I'll just keep out the bit I need tonight. How has it been going here?" she asked with a smile, sitting down though to relax.

Kendra smiled, "That's wonderful news. And I'm sure they will be quite happy to help you out. I believe the servants are downstairs still. And everything has been good, just been doing some reading. Feels nice to not be rushing about like we've been the last month."

"I agree, some nice and quiet is definitely called for after everything in Ravengro and on the way here." She stretched a bit while in the chair. "Though I was hearing about the Counts coming to the city for meetings with the Prince."

"I suppose it would be that time of the year," Kendra mused. "I don't usually pay much attention to it - I was too young in Lepidstadt to hear of the council, and in Ravengro, its rarely discussed. That will mean you'll have plenty of people to entertain as they come into town."

"Indeed, including one that appears to be a playboy, a Count Galdana from Amaans. But it sounds like it will be a very active time for entertainment."

Kendra smirked. "That I have not heard. Though Amaans is not far from here, just to the west."

"Seems to refuse to marry and have a proper wife, goes out drinking, carousing and all sorts of things. He may be fun to sing for, but I'd have to find him, but I'm at the Golden Ogre most of the night."

"I suppose that would depend on what taverns he may frequent. A man like that may travel around."

The pair continued to talk up until it was time for dinner. Adivion would be there this time, greeting both women with a pleasant smile and a bow. "I hope you ladies had a good day?" He would ask once they were all seated.

"Good evening Adivion," Kamira smiled softly. "I did. I got hired on by the Golden Ogre, I start there tomorrow."

"That is excellent news," he replied to her. "Despite the idea that we will lose such a wonderful companion during the evenings."

"Nothing is stopping you from coming there to spend time, and I'm sure I can slip away for dinners every now and then," she smiled.

"I may do so, so that I may hear you perform." He smiled to her.

That would be fun," Kendra replied. "Certainly want you to keep in touch, as I mentioned before."

"Of course," she smiled at Kendra, wanting to keep in touch with the woman. "And as for me performing, all you really have to do is ask, Adivion."

"Only if you would wish to perform for us here, would I ask it, milady." Adivion would reply. He did not wish to inconvenience his guest after all. She was 'off duty' so to speak. But if she really wished to perform, he would have no qualms if she would like to. "But certainly not until after you have eaten."

"Indeed, after we have eaten, but I will have to ask, violin or would you like me to sing something? I have a lute as well."

"You are quite talented," Adivion replied with a smile, and then continued with. "Whatever the mood strikes you. I would enjoy any form of performance. Unless you have a preference, milady," this was directed toward Kendra.

The woman shook her head, "Anything would be lovely."

"Then I shall contemplate what while we have dinner." She looked between them to see if she could judge what sort of music they'd enjoy, but for now didn't necessarily worry about it.

After dinner, the group met up in the sunroom for the performance. Two chairs were set up for the audience and a table with a cloth was set aside for Kamira to place her instruments on. After warming up, the bard began to play, starting off with a soft song and moving onto more upbeat pieces.

Adivion and Kendra made a good audience to her, listening and commenting on how much they enjoyed the songs and performance. When all was finished, Adivion thanked her again for a wonderful performance and wished her luck with her new job. It was quite possible that she would be headed out to the Golden Ogre before he would return from his work that next day.

Kamira thanked them for being a wonderful audience, and invited both of them to come see her before one night. "Though I do ask, if I may come and visit Kendra from time to time?" she asked.

“You are welcome to come by, Dalek will recognize you and let you in." Adivion replied. Kendra smiled at this.

"Thank you very much Adivion," she smiled and gave him a kiss on the cheek, a friendly gesture before packing up her instruments to go back to her room.

"You are quite welcome," he replied. He would bid both women a good night and would depart from the room, leaving the two women to their own devices.

Kamira smiled at Kendra, a knowing smile on her face. "So, now that you've settled, what do you plan on doing while you're here staying with Adivion?"

"Adivion has a few ties at the Quarterfaux Archives, I may try to see if they could use an assistant there." Kendra didn't seem to catch her smile, at least yet. "If not, I may poke around other places to see if I can't find something to do. I certainly don't wish to overstay my welcome and not contribute somehow."

"I have a feeling that you won't overstay your welcome here, at least not by the looks I was spying while I was playing."

"Certainly it means nothing," Kendra replied glancing away a moment as if to hide the faint blush.

"Perhaps, but I don't know," Kamira said. "He kept glancing over, perhaps to see your reaction to my music, but perhaps something else..."

"Perhaps," was Kendra's reply to that, a faint smile on her face. Surely the bard was being overly romantic?

"Only a bit of time will tell, and perhaps an open mind. He is quite cute."

She did chuckle a bit, but would admit, "Yes, he is. And he's always been charming."

"I did notice he isn't married... who knows..." Kamira smirked a bit. "But then, it may be nothing." Not that she believed the latter. Ever the romantic, Kamira was sure there was something developing.

"He's not as far as I know," Kendra replied. "But if you're right, then I guess we'll see." She then gave a bit of a sly smile, "I'll let you know."

"Oh good," she smiled. "And I just politely ask I have a chance to play at your wedding, if there is one in the future for you."

"Now isn't that getting a little ahead of things?" Kendra chuckled. "But should that ever be the case, then I would be honored to have you perform."

Kamira chuckled a bit and nodded, "Yes, putting the cart before the horse, shouldn't get ahead of ourselves."

Over the course of the next several days, Kamira set up her room at the Golden Ogre and began performing. The proprietor was quite pleased with her work and she found herself the permanent bard at the Golden Ogre. Soon, Kamira began receiving letters from Zalura about their adventures. All of these were shared with Kendra. The bard was able to see Kendra not only at her new home, but she and Adivion would occasionally stop by the Ogre to see Kamira perform.

As time passed, Kendra met up with a pair of Pathfinder Society agents out on a mission. Looking for some adventure, Kamira invited Kendra along and the four set out to find some missing information. This helped quell the bard's wanderlust and she was glad to return to her duties at the Golden Ogre. But now it had been some time since she'd heard from the others. She wondered what they were up to.

Session 18 part 2:

Standing on the bridge just outside of Caliphas was a rider mounted on a dark looking horse with fire for its mane and tail. It hailed them, and asked them where they were going. Menasius remarked sarcastically that they were headed for where the path led, ie Caliphas. The rider demanded that they abandon their path and to lay down the mace, referring to Alaric by name. This sparked the fight and the dullahan called upon the aid of his dire ghoul wolves. The battle was long, the wolves being very difficult to take down. Menasius and Alaric focused their fire on the nightmare as the Dullahan used ride-by-attacks against them. Soon the nightmare was banished, leaving the Dullahan without a steed. He continued the battle on foot, and called Menasius by name during their confrontation.

Soon, everything was taken care of, and Zalura woke from her paralysis by one of the wolves. While Alaric and Menasius went to bury the heads, they learned that the Dullahan had been the other dark rider. Zalura searched the man's body and showed the others an amulet of an engraved skull with two grayish stones for eyes. There seemed to be runes around the outside and the inner plate was moveable. Alaric took hold of it as it appeared to be uncomfortable for Zalura to hold onto.

The group then headed on to the gate at Caliphas. While standing in line, they discussed their plan of action. Such as where to stay, or who to look into. They didn't have anything other than the dark rider came to Caliphas with the items. All except the mace that is, and clearly they would be looking for it.

Knowing that Kamira had escorted Kendra to Caliphas, they talked about finding both of them. Zalura asked them what the name of the man was that she was staying with. When it was answered as Adivion Adrissant, the lightbulbs clicked on. Was this the AA that had been leaving notes and commanding Auren Vrood? They had to find out.

After everyone gave their real names, and stated they were there to visit an old friend, the trio set out to find an inn. Alaric knew of several of the area inns, and the group decided on The Golden Ogre. As they walked into the inn, a familiar figure spotted them from a table - papers scattered around her. Kamira ran up and hugged the boys (a lot stronger than everyone remembered her being). She was glad to see them and would have them sit down after their rooms were figured out. It was learned that Kendra was doing quite well and was currently working at the Quarterfaux Archives. She was also currently betrothed to her father's long time student, Adivion. This caused everyone to tense up, and they asked if they could speak to Kamira in private. It was here that the group filled the bard in on what was going on and their suspicion.

(GM Note: I can't tell you how much fun it was to lead Kamira astray with a rather charming Adivion only to have her find out that he was the mastermind behind everything.)

They left the inn and went to the Archives, hoping to talk to Kendra. She was delighted to see the group of them, and she too confirmed that nothing of the letters from Zalura aside from the groups' names were told to Adivion. They also asked her for a letter that Adivion had wrote so that they could see it. They told her it was important that Adivion didn't know, and that they would like to meet her at the inn. She agreed to this, unnerved, but she trusted her friends.

The group went back to the inn for some well needed drinking, waiting to have more than one until after Kendra returned. The handwriting seemed to match very well as far as everyone could tell. It wasn't good news for Kendra, but they told her to be very careful. It seemed so odd to her, and perhaps Kamira that there could be more to the polite and courteous count.

After drinking ensued, Kamira and Menasius escorted Kendra home for the night, telling her again to be careful and to say nothing of what they had shared with her. She promised them, worried that something could happen if Adivion did find out.

The next morning, when the party was downstairs, they overheard that another murder had happened that morning. Kamira told them that its been happening every so often the last week or so. They learned that it occurred over by the Ivory Hawk, so they went out to investigate. A team of constables and a Captain were looking into it. They had a body on the ground in the shadow of the building and two human-shaped ash piles on the roof. They asked the Captain what was going on and they told them that they found this body on the ground, and the usual ash piles on the roof. They overheard one of the constables telling the Captain that another stake was found. They also learned that this body was drained of all of its bodily fluids. Then the sun hit it and the body disappeared into a pile of ash. The Captain sighed and said there was nothing to see here but a prank. The party asked him if it might be a vampire, but he scoffed saying vampires had not been seen in Caliphas for centuries. He told them to not worry about it and went on his way.

Flying up to the roof, Alaric took hold of one of the stakes gingerly and brought it back down. Zalura wasn't able to tell what sort of wood it was made out of, but she said it was worked-over prior to being a stake. Curious about this, the group decided to look into finding the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye. They were the ones to possibly have more information about the Whispering Way since Daramid had mentioned that they knew a few things about the organization and had sent word to Caliphas to find out more about Auren Vrood. It took time, but the group was able to find that the organization met at the Haraday Theater off of Constance Street. A man by the name of Edjureus Modd was the master of this chapter.

The group went to check out the theater and found a few men standing by. They asked to speak with members of the Order, and made mention of Daramid by name. They were able to convince Lem that they were genuine, and he told them that the Order met every Oathday during the evening. The party would be allowed to join the social after the organization held their meeting. They thanked him and would head back into Caliphas proper to kill time before the meeting that evening.

One of these stops included the Maiden's Choir Cathedral. Alaric had a few things he wished to look into, and the group wanted to ask the clergy about the recent murders. After everyone paid their respects to Pharasma, they were able to talk to one of the priestesses. She couldn't help them much in the way of the murders, but she wasn't so keen to believe that they were faked either. The woman told them that she would give them any information she happened to come across, and thanked them for looking into it. Alaric inquired after a countess Zemaitis and whether or not she still attended services. The woman smiled and told him that the woman did and was still living in the manor near the north wall. Alaric gave her something to give to the woman, not saying that she was his mother, which the woman agreed to.

As evening fell, the group headed back to the Haraday Theater, a place now far more active as carriages were parked nearby and people moved around near the doors and within its halls.

GM Note: I changed one of the NPC characters in this book from male to female. This was mainly due to the potential for love interests for the party (who for the most part, like females). I made this decision before most of the party took interest in the party witch. I left Quinley as Quin just because I had already planned for the change. It ended up working out pretty well with the change.

Session 19:

The party entered the Haraday Theater thanks to Lem and were told to wait either in the trophy room or the lounge (or surrounding rooms) until the meeting was done. Passing through the trophy room, everyone caught sight of a few men walking down the stairs dressed in full regalia. The style being quite old, likely indicating that the Esoteric Order is a fairly old one. Entering into the lounge, which looked like a rather fancy tavern, the group noticed two women cleaning in the corner. A mother and daughter from the looks of it, as far as Kamira was concerned. Everyone else recognized the girl as Sara. Clearly she was home from the university and was helping out her mother. She dropped her broom when she noticed that Menasius had come in. The paladin went over to talk with her, as well as pick up the broom for her. She introduced him to her mother, Natalia, and said that they would only be there for another half hour before the meeting was over. They agreed to meet up later afterward at the inn. Meanwhile, Alaric and Zalura filled Kamira in that this was the paladin's girlfriend.

As the meeting ended, several members moved into the various rooms. The group idly chatted with people, getting a feel for everything and just mingling. They were eventually able to garner that the Landed Count Lucinean Galdana was there at the meeting. While Kamira sidled up to the Count to see if he could help them using her feminine wiles (a fact that made Alaric confused - explaining to Zalura that Kamira didn't like men), Menasius went into the next room and was accosted by an older gentleman. The man introduced himself as Abraun Chalest, the curator of the Quarterfaux Archives. He was quite interested in hearing that there were people from outside the city visiting and he wanted to hear stories.

Between the two, Galdana and Abraun escorted Menasius and Kamira to the next room over to speak to Edjureus. Neither of them had the information they needed, but they knew that the Order had a vast array of information on the Whispering Way that could help. They just needed to get access to the vault and they could only do so through Edjureus. The man was talking to a few other people as well as a man that Kamira pointed out to Menasius as Adivion Adrissant.

The man noticed those waiting on the long winded Edjureus and excused himself. He gave a polite nod to Kamira and left the room. If he noticed any one else in the party, he didn't give any indication as he went to mingle on the other side of the room.

Eventually Galdana went to interupt the man and pulled him over. Menasius and Kamira apologized for the intrusion and asked if they could find out more information about the Whispering Way, either by seeing the items themselves, or having someone else do the research if they couldn't do it themselves. Edjureus was reluctant, but at last relented so long as Abraun went with them. He told them to come back in the morning, which they said was fine. Galdana then invited Kamira, Menasius, and their two friends to have some drinks and the group ended up spending the evening talking with Galdana and Abraun in the lounge well into the evening.

The next day, Menasius and Sara departed early to see a few places in the city before rejoining everyone at the breakfast table. Though only Zalura and Kamira ate. A comment that Kamira made while the Harrowing was being performed. Soon the group met up with Abraun and he led them down the stairs and into the basement. The amount of books and items was staggering. They were everywhere. All of the fragile items were very carefully packaged and stacked here and there. Abraun did his best to direct them to where they would find what sort of information and the four split their tasks: Menasius to learn more about the cult, Alaric to learn about the key, Kamira the poem and Zalura the mace.

Eventually, the boys found a piece of interesting information about the key - that it acted as a device for unlocking various things important to the Whispering Way. One such was a gargoyle which Abraun identified as being there in the Vault. It had come from an old building that had donated it to them once it was renovated. Calling the girls over, the five went to the gargoyle and Alaric dialed the runes to match the pattern on the gargoyle's chest. This revealed a map of old Caliphas. Then the images of four liches, one on each cardinal point appeared and asked in harsh whispers: "What is the Fifth Catechism". Luckily having researched the Way for the last few months, the group knew that the answer was "Undying form, undying opportunity". This kept the trap from going off, and the liches disappeared as a building was highlighted in green on the map. It was the Quarterfaux Archive. Apparently the hideout for the Whispering Way was under the university all this time. This seemed to shake Abraun a great deal and he told them that he would be able to get them there without a problem.

The party agreed that it would be best to go in the morning before most people were at the library and Abraun agreed to meet them at the same time the following day. Kamira and Zalura continued their research on the Carrion Crown Poem. It seemed that it was as they suspected, the last component the Way needed was the mace. They learned that the elixir was used in the creation of a lich and that the formula was tied to one person, but they couldn't tell who.

With most of the afternoon free, Menasius, Kamira and Sara decided to go sight seeing, as well as to go check out the temple district outside of Caliphas proper, while Zalura and Alaric went to go visit his mother.

The next day, the group met Abraun waiting for them. He had already looked to see where they needed to go considering he couldn't sleep that night. He led them to a section dedicated to the history of the former county of Grodlych. An ancient fresco in one of the displays depicted the first count of Grodlych, an excommunicated priest of Pharasma named Laudmeir Vandolmayne. The heretic was clutching a book with eerily familiar, stylized symobls matching those on the moribund key. Alaric set the runes and the fresco moved to reveal a secret passage down into the dark. The paladin lit his shield and despite knowing it was bright, the dhampir still looked at it, blinding himself momentarily.

The group headed down and discovered that the place was empty. There was broken alchemical equipment and some scraps of paper indicating that they had been there recently, but had left in a hurry. Menasius couldn't tell exactly what they were working on, but they had been working on some sort of alchemical item before leaving. The group was worried as to what made the cult leave so quickly, wondering if by chance Adivion had something to do with it having seen them the other night. As they were talking, a figure moved in the shadows, her hands in front of her. She announced that she was not going to hurt them. She said that she had been seeking her mother's killer and ran across the hideout of the Whispering Way. She wasn't sure if they had anything to do with it, but it couldn't be ruled out. She offered to help them if they could help her.

The only murders everyone seemed to recall were vampiric ones, which meant that the woman in front of them was either a vampire herself or a dhampir. It was determined that she was the latter. She introduced herself as Quin Basdel and said that since the vampires were no lovers of the Whispering Way, that they could possibly help them. She offered to take them down to meet with the vampires if they would like, so long as they helped bring her mother's killer to justice.

The party huddled to discuss this, and the consensus was to help and ask the vampires for aid. Menasius had reservations about the idea considering what he had been taught about undead, and Alaric became defensive. Respecting Alaric, Menasius said he would not act first, but he said that if they came after him first he would not hesitate to defend himself. Something that everyone seemed to agree upon - be civil but if attacked, they will defend themselves. They then told Quin that she had a deal. Zalura and Menasius said that they wanted to pick up a device to help in case the vampires became a problem, as Quin did say there would be guardians to go through first, but that the vampire elder Luvick would see that they were safe in his court.

(GM Note: This item would be restoration and the like. I also had a small side role play where Menasius and Zalura discovered that the shop keeper they visited was a Prince's Wolf. This was to show that Rhakis had agents in several places.)

Once the party reconvened, Quin took them to Restoration Park in the shadow of Prince Ordranti's Castle Stryithe. She led them past reflecting pools with columns depicting soldiers of Ustalavic soldiers facing off with Kellid barbarians, werewolves, Belkzen orcs, and the undead knights of the Whispering Tyrant. They continued on past the statue of Soividia Ustav, the founder of Ustalav, and then on to the Glass House. It was here that Quin said was the entrance to the vampiric underground.

Session 20:

Quin took them down one of the paths inside the greenhouse and stopped to point out the huge venus flytrap. She said that Merrick named the plant Dragon, and that all she had to do was feed it and it would let them pass through. Unfortunately for Quin, it seemed Dragon had new plans and attacked her instead. Despite three out of the four party members getting grabbed, Dragon was soon defeated.

Heading down below, the group dropped into a dimly lit tunnel. Quin led them forward and into the sewer system. She passed through a section and then into another set of tunnels. As they entered into the room, both dhampirs saw the spawn before they attacked. Seeing that they were not going to hesitate to kill them, Alaric took out half of them. A druid entered into the fray, having heard Quin's pleas of understanding and told her that it was nothing personal. The guardian, despite doing her best to damage the party, was soon sent to mist and to her coffin to regenerate. Mainly due to the dhampir, ironically enough.

Quin led them further into the tunnels for at least a half hour. At one point, the paladin announced that the hallways were rather well lit, a comment that seemed to confuse everyone else. Quin gave him a strange look, and Zalura and Alaric seemed to just chalk it up to him being a paladin of a sun goddess. When they were halfway to the Vampire Underground, the group ran into a gang of eight vampire spawn, out prowling the tunnel. They sidled up to Quin, asking her to share with them. The party informed them that they were there to speak to Luvick, and nothing else. The lead of the gang stepped aside and allowed them passage with an unnerving smile.

The female dhampir led them past a few guards and into a more open area which could only be the Underground itself. She then led them to a large building that past the grand promenade opened into a wide audience hall decorated with elaborate tapestries and art befitting a royal of Ustalav's ancient bloodlines. An immense throne dominated the other side of the room. At the front of the room was an opposing vampire, dressed in fine ancient Ustalav noble finery. Two other nobles were in attendance with the vampire, Luvick Siervage, as Quin told them quietly while they waited at the back.

Soon, the Elder waved them forward and inquired of their purpose, seeming to be intrigued that mortals would walk amongst those who would consider them prey. They mentioned the deal that they made with Quin that they would help solve the vampire murders and that they were looking for the Whispering Way. Luvick indicated he would rather see the Whispering Tyrant remain in Gallowspire where he had been for the last fourscore decades. He would allow them to conduct their investigations in exchange for information on where Luvick thought they may be heading. Questions were asked about what the vampires knew at this point and Luvick shared with them that they had one suspect, a Ramoska Arkminos. He also said his retainer Radvir had evidence they could look at. He listed off Evgenya and Desmond as people that they could question as well who may know more about the murders.

At one point, Menasius asked to speak privately with the Elder, and when granted that conversation, removed his weapons and armor and gave them to Zalura to hold. The paladin wished to learn more about vampires, to see if they were nothing more than the monsters of the stories he had been told. Luvick answered the young man's questions truthfully, and from that conversation, Menasius learned that vampires had a society, unlike most if not all undead. Some did not feel it right to eat from sentient creatures, and others chose not to partake in the domination of mortals. Luvick said that he did not allow for hunting outside of Restoration Park, and that those that had to kill, must do so swiftly. Menasius also inquired once learning that the vampire had fought in the Shining Crusade what it was like to work with followers of Iomadae, a thought that made the Elder laugh. He told him they were a difficult group, but they were able to accomplish what was necessary to put a stop to the advancing armies of the Whispering Tyrant.

(GM Note: This made it easy for the paladin to work with the vampires. I also thought it worked that some vampires choose to feed on mortals while others hunted animals - even if the latter was not as good. Menasius was quite polite about the whole ordeal which impressed the Elder. I figured Luvick was a reasonable individual - otherwise he would never have made it as long as he had.)

Upon returning, Menasius apologized to Alaric for being quick to judge, learning that, like many others, vampires could be redeemable in the eyes of Sarenrae. This seemed to gain a great deal of respect from the sorcerer, and in truth, from the vampire Elder. It was asked how they could be assured safety amongst the Underground, and Luvick presented the group with his signet ring, telling them that showing anyone this ring would indicate that they were under his protection. He did warn them that vampires are a fracticious lot, and that some may choose to ignore it, but then they would have to face his wraith.

The group decided visiting the one suspect in custody would be a good place to start - to learn the creature's story. The ring was shown to the guards, and they allowed them inside to see a rather bored nosferatu, rambling about that the party was there to do more poking fun at the prisoner. When he seemed to realize they were not vampires nor spawn, he grew interested in hearing what they were there for. When he learned they were investigating the murders, he seemed fine to answer them truthfully. He told them he was suspected because he had a powerful master (the Count of Varno) and that Luvick was threatened by him. And the whole working for the Whispering Way didn't help either. This seemed to catch everyone's attention. He explained that he was not a student, but merely a curious alchemist with a desire to learn more. The very notion of a chance to study such a powerful elixir was too much to turn down and he agreed to look into it for the Whispering Way. He confirmed to them and to the party that it was a special elixir to help in the creation of a lich, and not just anyone, one important person. He shared that his theory is that it is for Prince Aduard Odranti, ruler of Ustalav. He also said that he was willing to help them learn more about the elixir that he still had a sample of if they clear his name and allow for him to go free. He also wouldn't mind exacting revenge against the Whispering Way for not paying him. The party left him be, uncertain what to make of this nosferatu.

Next they went to speak to Luvick's retainer, Radvir Giovanni. The man seemed to be a tailor, and was working on a suit that was at least 300 years old. The man inquired of their reason for being there, and spoke with them upon seeing the ring. He told them that they had evidence that nobles in Caliphas had been targeting vampire elders in order to deprive them of their leadership. The papers showed vampire elder's names and their lairs, with many of those vampires now dead. Each missive was tied to a specific Caliphas low noble. Radvir mentioned that the papers were found on Ramoska, who was likely the tool in these murders. Studying the papers, the group concluded that they were fake. Radvir was surprised by this, and flustered that he would have missed it. He said he should tell Luvick at once, as it would mean they needed new leads.

The group went to the church of what seemed to be the devil, Zaebos. Desmond, the inquisitor, was able to show them the stakes that he had collected from the crime scenes in his own investigations. He showed them that they were once furniture legs from the same store. Unfortunately, due to the sun, he had been unable to get far in that regard. The party offered to search for him, and he gave them the stakes. He brought up that the freed spawn of the dead vampires have been acting strangely of late, but he couldn't put a finger on what it was exactly.

Continuing on, the group entered the quarters of Lady Evgenya, running into four rather friendly vampires. Only after they showed the signet ring did they get the feeling that they were no longer targets for a domination spell. They asked a few questions, and talked amongst themselves before they allowed the party to enter into what appeared to be a large party. Some were vampires, some were not - but all would be considered to be beautiful. Lady Evgenya came up to them and wouldn't speak with them until Alaric danced with her. She told him that she feared she was next, that all the other elders were those with a lot of spawn under them, and she had a sizeable group herself. She also brought up the strange behaviors of the now freed spawn. She said that it was like they were under a new master. Evgenya shared, as Luvick did to Menasius, that the vampires hunted in Restoration Park, and that this is where the killings were happening, even if that was not where the bodies were being found. With the entire group, she told them that she would be willing to help with a set up. She would offer one of her spawn, or perhaps disguise one of the party as herself and the others could lay in wait to see who the killer was. The group agreed this was a good idea, and they would do so the following night.

Before leaving, the group went back to speak with Ramoska once more to ask if it was possible the elixir could be used to free the Tyrant himself. The alchemist considered this, but didn't have an answer for them at this time. The party also checked out an old building across the small river and discovered a group of drugged vampire spawn and two vampires who seemed to be the dealers. Alaric played up the distraction by telling them that he was looking to learn more about the society, while Kamira, invisible, stole a vial of some liquid they saw. Once they had the vial, they left as soon as one of the vampire's realized the vial was missing. They heard a loud explosion behind them as they worked their way to speak to Luvick about what they found and to return the ring. He did not seem to know anything about the matter, and agreed to allow Menasius the chance to look into what the vial may be. He also told Alaric to keep the signet ring.

That night, while Menasius set up shop to look at the vial, Alaric brought him up something to drink, and to ask him something about the whole 'dim light' thing from earlier. Menasius had just thought it was nice of them to have magical lights, but in truth, he could see in the dark - a fact he had no idea he could do. This lead to him realizing with Alaric's lead that he was not human after all. Apparently the paladin was an Aasimar. Alaric also shared with him his suspicions on being given a signet ring. That this was not normal, at least not for a complete stranger. It was a sign of showing who one's son would be. And Luvick must be Alaric's father.

(GM's Note: Having it take 5 books for the paladin to realize he was an Aasimar was really funny. It was even funnier to see Alaric's reaction to this. "You have been casting light all this time when you can actually SEE?!" In reality, I and the player decided to make him an Aasimar after the campaign had already started. A few adjustments were made to change him over mechanically, but it was a really easy change. And a funny story addition. As for Alaric, it took me awhile to think of who his father might be. It came to me about Book 3 to make Luvick his father. Essentially, the Elder had wooed his mother who was lamenting on how little time her husband spent time with her.)

The next day, Menasius went to the shrine to Sarenrae to talk to the priest there as well as to pick up an order he had made. When Zalura made mention that she could volunteer to look into the stakes, Alaric volunteered Kamira to do the task so that he could take Zalura somewhere to propose to her. Later that afternoon, Kamira found Menasius, Sara, Alaric and Zalura to inform them what she had learned. The owner of the furniture store said that Radvir of the Nobleman's Stitch across the street had been the one buying that style of furniture legs. This would put Radvir as either the killer or a helper in the matter. Menasius shared that the elixir was a drug, a very addictive one to the undead which gave benefits so long as the drug was being taken. The party went back to the Underground, but not without asking Sara to look into the Nobleman's Stitch.

Luvick informed them that they found a few things left of the drug dealers, and he would take a look at Menasius' notes. The paladin also mentioned that he could not identify the type of blood used in the drug. He was asked if Radvir spoke to him about the forgeries and he replied with 'no'. This seemed to put another notch under Radvir's name, a fact Luvick was not pleased with. He informed the group that he was likely at his shop as he was not there in the Underground. The party decided to continue with the plan just to make certain that it was Radvir, and to see if he had other accomplices. They still had a few hours until nightfall, so Zalura and Menasius went to check in with Sara, leaving Kamira and Alaric in the Underground. Alaric used the time to speak with his father, while Kamira got a chance to talk with Quin and get to know her.

Sara was able to tell Menasius and Zalura that the tailor himself was 'not there' according to the people she spoke with. She said there were three people that she saw who seemed to work there, and that there was a staircase leading down. But that was all she could give. They thanked her for her help, and soon parted ways with her to meet with the others to do the stake out. Evgenya disguised Kamira and instructed her how she would hunt in the park while Menasius and Alaric both invisible hid nearby with Zalura hiding as well. Soon the group saw a drunkard that "Evgenya" slinked up to. As they suspected, this was the trap and four other vampires came out of the mists. They were not prepared for strikes from the sorcerer nor the paladin. The drunk turned out to be Radvir in disguise and after lashing out with a bladed scarf, he disappeared into mist. The others fought against the four vampires, three turning to mist, the last, Zalura staked after Menasius pinned it. They took the body down to Luvick, pleasing the vampire Elder to have someone to 'interrogate'. He asked the party to go after Radvir, that he likely escaped to his shop.

Session 21:

The party headed out that night to the Nobleman's Stitch, a rather large tailor business in the northern part of the dock district. As the party approached the front door, they could see large display windows on either side with a total of three mannequins dressed in the latest Caliphas style. There was some joking between Menasius and Alaric about killing the mannequins as the girls worked to open the door. Turns out they were right to be suspicious as people began feeling magic in their minds as if someone was trying to dominate them. Three vampires soon attacked and while they were ultimately unsuccessful, Zalura was dominated and told to go wait in the other room. Alaric followed after her and used a break enchantment on her. Two of the three vampires were reduced to mist, but one of them got away.

(GM Note: For some reason, the party felt the need to have a Break Enchantment spell on hand...)

Before heading downstairs, the party began to search the upstairs, to make sure that there was only one staircase down, or perhaps they may come across some more information about what could be going on. This led to finding a magically dark room that, upon walking in with daylight on Menasius' shield, revealed several ghouls. And then the three demons that created the ghouls. But these creatures all eventually found they couldn't hold off the party and were sent back to where they came from. But not without some negative levels which were fixed with the restoration wand. The party discussed the possibility of resting, but determined it wasn't a good idea and pushed forward.

Heading upstairs, Kamira noticed a great deal of shoes just before noticing some guards on the balcony.

(GM Note: The girl had priorities after all.)

Before anything happened she ran back and told the others what was going on. Alaric was able to determine that the guards were dominated humans, and everyone quickly hatched a plan of attack. They would find a room, draw the guards in and then arcane lock the door (and window if necessary) so that they could continue without hurting anyone. With that in mind, Alaric started across to check out the room. Kamira moved to help divide the crossbow fire, while Menasius and Zalura moved over to the door off to their left, and the only way the guards could get to them. Menasius made sure to shut the door where they could see them and held it shut, telling Zalura to go to the room that Alaric signaled would work.
While the other three ran inside the room, Menasius held against a barrage of hits against the door. When he felt as if all the guards were pushing on the door now, he moved back, causing the first several guards to fall through the door and onto the floor. Menasius then withdrew to the room, leaving his sword that had been helping keep the door shut. This caused the group of them to run into the room after him and into the trap. Kamira was the first to be able to leave the room, but the others had a more difficult time due to the guards blocking their escape. Alaric went invisible, helping to draw more guards back further into the room, while Zalura started putting guards to sleep. When it appeared that this wasn't going to work, Menasius mentioned locking the door now and getting Zalura out, figuring on using his own magical shoes to get out. Alaric came closer to the door, locked it and then dimension door'd both Zalura and Menasius out into the shoe room where Kamira was waiting.

Finishing up searching the floor, Zalura pointed out that some of the shoes were magical, and they took a hold of these (as well as bolts of cloth from downstairs - a tax for their efforts as the paladin called it).

The party was at last ready to descend the stairs down into the basement. They were immediately set upon by four vampire soldiers, but Alaric helped divide and conquer. Kamira was dominated twice, but broke her first enchantment quickly due to being asked to attack a friend. Her second command with the next domination had her going to stand by the double doors. The other three were able to finally finish up the vampires, and while Alaric went to help Kamira, Menasius and Zalura went to look at the room off to the side. Inside were coffins, and they began killing vampires to keep them from attacking again. Alaric provoked Kamira and was able to break her enchantment that way, and they joined the other two in finishing off the vampires and burning the coffins.

The massive stone tomb at the head of the room ended up containing a lever to two secret doors. Deciding to come back later, the group headed out to check out the rest of the basement. The first place was the double doors to the south, which at first seemed quiet until Alaric warned there was movement by the doors. Faster than those hiding in wait, Alaric used a powerful spell to kill the spawn and render Radvir unmobile. Zalura moved in and staked him, ending the battle before it was started.

(GM Note: Fastest battle ever. I was rather disappointed because I wanted to use that bladed scarf of his. But it was not meant to be. Grasp of the Dead can be rather nasty when you fail your save.)

The smell of blood and chemical was very strong in the room as the group entered fully to see a place where vampires were brought after being staked and prepared for shipment. Three bodies were along the back wall. Menasius went to look at the alchemical process that was going on and determined it was for preserving the bodies. Alaric found a journal and was starting to read it when they all heard a scream from Kamira who had gone to check out one of the rooms, mentioning that there were coffins inside. It turned out that they were mimics. They had her down on the ground as the group came in to help her. Menasius was able to stabilize her, and between the three, they were able to kill the coffin mimics.

Once it was determined that the rooms were safe, Alaric shared what he found in the journal. It turned out that Adivion had come to Radvir for help in removing the elder vampires from the equation as they had been a threat to Tar-Baphon before. The younger generations would be built into an army to support the Tyrant, and Radvir was promised a position in the undead court. Adivion gave him the bloodbrew elixir made by two witches to help in this endeavor. Adivion also gave him three nabasu demons to help as guardians at his shop. It was also mentioned in the journal that Radvir had been in contact with an Aisa and Hetna Dublesse at the Abbey of Sante- Lymirin. The witches had requested the bodies of the vampires staked so that they could use their fluids for their project. Radvir surmised that they were working on an undead transformation project for the Whispering Way. This was the party's first major clue about the Whispering Way since Illmarsh.

The group went back to the coffin room and pulled the lever, discovering Radvir's coffin, which Alaric was left to destroy on his own, while the others searched the other rooms and found a way back to the Vampire Underground. Once finished, the party headed out to report to Luvick their success.

The Elder was pleased with their success and the delivery of the body (which Menasius tossed out of the bag and onto the floor), and the vial of ash that had been the vampire's coffin from Alaric. He asked them if they found anything else, and Alaric presented the journal. Luvick asked the party to look into the Abbey, and told them that it was a few miles north of Caliphas along the coast. The party had no issue with this as it could very well lead to more direct information about what the Whispering Way had done, and where they had gone to. Luvick again thanked them, and when asked about Ramoska, he said that they could see him as he will be released now that his name is cleared. The Elder had guards come forward and wrapped Radvir in magical chains - ones that would not allow the vampire to shift into any other form and would depart with the prisoner in tow.

The party went to see Ramoska who was grateful for the news of his freedom. He promised that he would give the party any further information he could find on the lich creation elixir - be it by note or in person. They agreed to this and let him know that they were staying at the Golden Ogre.

(GM Note: Earlier in a side chat, Menasius learned that Sara was actually the child of Count Galdana. One that was never formally claimed as an heir, but that he still had some sort of ties with her mother. She never really cared for him considering she thought him to be nothing but trouble, but her mother did seem to like him still. I decided to do this since - with all the women that man slept with - there had to be at least one child. And it played a large role in the story as you will soon find out.)

Tired, the party returned to the inn to find that Sara had waited for them - clearly worried, but grateful that they returned. As Zalura and Alaric made it to their room, they saw a note slide under their door. It was another note from A.A. Concerned not only for the party, but for those that associated with them, the two went to find Menasius and Sara who were just getting ready for bed. Deciding it was not safe for Sara there at the inn nor at home, Menasius suggested that she and her mother should go stay with her father. He prefered Amaans, but considering the Count was still in town, The Majesty would at least be heavier guarded. She reluctantly agreed, and Menasius escorted her to the high-class hotel. They were unhindered and Menasius only returned once he was sure Sara was being escorted to her father's room.

Meanwhile, Zalura and Alaric went to tell Kamira and were met by a disheveled bard who apparently had a companion. Alaric noticed it was Quin with some amusement, but he shared the note with her as well. All were concerned about Kendra, and Alaric suggested that he and Zalura would be fine to go get Kendra themselves and leave Kamira with Quin. The bard didn't seem to mind that and closed the door again.

Kendra was easily accessed thanks to a sending, and the woman appeared outside the Adrissant home, bag over her shoulder. She had packed - just in case. She was saddened that the rumor about Adivion was true, but she trusted the party and went with them back to the inn. The three discussed where Kendra could be safe while they walked, and the two ideas were at the Maiden's Choir, or with the vampires since Quin would also need to be protected.

They found Menasius waiting at the inn, and Kendra and Zalura stayed with him while Alaric went to see if Kamira and Quin were ready to come down. Zalura mentioned to the questioning look from Menasius that Quin was there too - leading to a 'interesting' comment from the paladin. Soon the entire party and their companions (save for Sara who was now safe) headed out to the Vampire Underground. They didn't get too far down the tunnel before they came across Luvick and his four guards coming back from piking Radvir atop a building. Luvick asked what they needed, and Alaric respectfully asked if he would grant sanctuary to Kendra due to a threat they had received and that they were worried for the professor's daughter's safety. He granted this, as well as a continued sanctuary for Quin. He was amused by the paladins comment that she was not his, but Kamira slipped a hand around the female dhampir's waist. With parting words, the party then headed back to the inn to get some needed sleep, as Luvick had told them to do.

To keep an eye on each other, the group piled mattresses into Zalura and Alaric's room. This brought up the memory of the last time the group all slept in one area together. Namely the night Zalura was possessed and slashed Alaric. A memory Zalura still wasn't fond of getting brought up. But the party would rest well, and nothing happened within their room as they slept/rested/prayed and prepared for the new day.

Radvir's Journal:

Dated Mid Neth.

I was invited to the estate of Adivion Adrissant, and we discussed a glorious vision of the future. One in which we no longer have to scurry about in the depths of the sewers, one in which we are feared as we should. A world where the undead rule again - all under the powerful rule of Tar-Baphon. He offered me a position in that undead court, a direct servant of the lich-king himself should I help him in his plans to secure the return of the Whispering Tyrant.

I had been a slave to Luvick for longer than I can remember, one of his enthralled, always having him in my mind. But Adivion offered me an elixir, 'bloodbrew' he called it, and it gave me the first taste of freedom that I have had in so long. I was free to do as I wanted, not what my master wanted. With this wonderful concoction, I and all those enslaved could be our own.

We knew that the elders would not be pleased, that they had once turned their backs on the great Tyrant, but I assured Adivion that I could see to that. With this elixir he had gained from the witches of Barstoi, an Aisa and Hetna Dublesse, I could build an army of the younger generations of vampires who would have no trouble shoving off their outdated masters.

As Elders fell, I kept in good graces with Luvick and soon rose to become his retainer in place of the now missing Elders. With each one, I was able to ensure they would not stand in Adivion's way, or ultimately, Tar-Baphon's. They betrayed him once, they would likely do so again. With each freed vampire, our army grows thanks to the bloodbrew which gives us strength more than we have seen before. And soon, we can finally replace the Clan Elder with one who sees a better future for our kind.

I have kept in contact with Aisa and Hetna as they supply me with bloodbrew, and I help them in their own project in return. For each vampire we take down, we ship the paralyzed bodies for them to drain them of the fluids. My guess is that they are working on an undead transformation project for the Whispering Way based on the supplies they have needed. It is thanks to them that I knew Ramoksa was in town - the perfect person to lay blame for the murders so that we may continue our work.

(GM Note: They also found information on where Aisa and Hetna asked Radvir to send the bodies.)

Second Note from AA:

(GM Note: I had originally intended to have a note in Thrusmoor for the party but completely forgot. So the second letter ended up in Caliphas instead of having a third letter.)

Your tenacity would normally be applauded, but I fear you shall run out of the luck you run on. I have warned you once, and I will warn you only once more: End your pursuit or more regrettable deaths shall occur.


Session 22:

The party got some rest and then headed out to the Abbey of Sante-Lymirin. They discovered an old Abbey with some freshly harvested vineyards nearby. Alaric knew the place had been abandoned for awhile, and Kamira had in her time in Caliphas overheard that someone had bought it recently. Wondering what they would find, the group approached the first out-building they came to. It turned out to be a warehouse for the winery. At first, it appeared to only contain the remnants of harvest, with one barrel still full of wine, but when Alaric noticed something odd in the corner, three witchfires appeared out of the wine casks.

As they fought, the witchfires seemed to be alluding to something, and finally, after one of the witchfires took off - they all figured out that they may well have similar goals. The three witchfires used to be hags who were killed by their rival Oothi. They mentioned that the two witches were looking to complete her skeleton and needed the skull in order to bring the annis hag back to life. They wanted none of that, and wouldn't mind seeing an end to Oothi's proteges. Though, the trade of letting the party live was not enough for the group, and the battle resumed. Soon the other two witchfires and the two will-o-wisps were destroyed, but not without dropping everyone in the party throughout the battle.

(GM Note: Everyone fell unconscious at one point or another. Menasius had determination by this point so I don't know if he technically counts. Needless to say, everyone but Alaric grabbed Determination.)

Once the room was cleared, Alaric looked back in the corner to discover a trap door that led down into a tunnel below the winery. Deciding to check it out, the party began climbing down. Alaric was last and caught sight of the spider swarm just as it crawled onto him, causing him to drop (slowly thanks to feather fall) to the ground below. The spiders were quickly dispatched, but everyone noticed that they seemed far more intelligent than any other spider swarm they had seen before. A quick look down the dimly lit hallway revealed that this place was a lot more expansive. It seemed to connect to the catacombs of the Abbey. Having expended more resources against the witchfires, and knowing that two witches were somewhere on the premises, the party headed back up to the surface and back to Caliphas.

Using some time left in the day, the party learned that Countess Caliphvaso had purchased the Abbey and turned it into a winery. It was supposed to be fairly quiet this time of year considering harvest was over. Prior to that, it was abandoned by the monks of Iomedae when they had founded Lastwall after the Shining Crusade. Another piece of information the group had recalled was that Lymirin was an honored saint of Iomadae, and was the saint of first blood. Lastly, the group learned that there would be a ball hosted by the Countess Caliphvaso in two nights.

(GM Note: I had planned on running the group through a big fancy ball with all kinds of rumors and political fun. And then all kinds of things ate up the party's time and they never got to attend.)

Rested and ready to go, the party headed back to the Abbey and headed for the trap door to see if it was a safer way into the Abbey itself.

(GM Note: Little did they know they were going to take this entire dungeon backwards. I did not tell them this until after they were done.)

The hallway split and then ended abruptly in both directions, but Kamira and Menasius found secret passages in both locations. Choosing one of the offshoots, the party entered into a large chamber, the ossuary of the Abbey. A great deal of bones were scattered across the floor, and toward the back of the room, the party saw an armored man. The party noticed a similar expression on this man's face as they saw on the charmed guards. The holy symbol of Iomedae was marked prominently on the man's armor. Alaric cast a spell to remove the hold on him, and the man sheathed his longsword and asked to come closer. He introduced himself as Halloran Idriss, and upon closer inspection, the party realized that the ex-paladin was a vampire. The man offered his aid if the party would be able to help him redeem himself in the eyes of his goddess so that he could then honorably put himself down by walking into the light of the rising sun. The party agreed to help him, and said that he didn't need to go so far, that there were other ways. Halloran didn't seem entirely convinced, but he appreciated the help.

(GM Note: The party was very adamant that he didn't need to kill himself. Both Alaric and Menasius came up with various different arguements.)

Halloran told the party about the witches and that they had him looking for their mentor's skull. He had not actually found it, and hid anything that may have looked like it could be it. He said that Oothi was still around, hidden in the body of spider swarms throughout the Abbey. Then he mentioned that Aisa, the younger sister, had transformed herself into a vampire and was down further in the catacombs. He also warned them of a blood knight that acted as a guard, as well as four wood golems. He mentioned that Hetna was likely up above in the Abbey and that she had no interest in becoming a vampire as her sister had.

Inviting Halloran with them, the party continued onward, checking out the other passageway and discovering the location of a coffin. After the determined it was not Halloran's, Alaric destroyed it. Then the group headed back out into the hallway and approached a room with a tall statue of Lymirin. In front of the statue was the undead abomination - Konas Esprillian, the blood knight. The battle was difficult between the slippery surfaces thanks to the constant bleeding of the knight, but also rather messy due to the spray attacks. Two of the five in the party had to fight to control themselves, but everyone managed to finish off the blood knight.

(GM Note: I gave Alaric and Halloran will saves to keep their composure with all that blood flying around.)

Alaric noticed a familiar scent to this blood. But before anyone could determine why, they noticed a fog bank form at the ceiling and female laughter as two large elementals appeared. The party had their hands full between the two elementals and the vampire witch. Even the two cat familiars got in on the fight.

(GM Note: I did this for amusement and the group thought it was great.)

But soon, the witch was reduced to mist, and the party knew she would die without her coffin to return to.

Returning to the items they found, Menasius was able to determine that the blood of the blood knight was the secret ingredient in the bloodbrew. The party also set about cleaning up the blood symbols on the floor before looking in the other rooms. It seemed that there had been bloodbrew stored in the now empty bottles in the storage rooms. Continuing their search of downstairs, the party opened another door to a room that smelled heavily of garlic. Inside were vampire bodies with hoses attached to drain their fluids. Four wood golems stood guard - with one hand filed down to a stake. Halloran could not enter the room and stayed back as the party went forward to destroy the golems and free the vampires that were staked. Each turned into mist and fled for their coffins back in the vampire underground.

The party also found an entrance into a well, and discovered a skull under the water below. Alaric handed Zalura his coat and dived in, coming up with a skull that Zalura identified as a hag's skull. Placing it in a bag, the party figured they could use it for leverage - in addition to "accidentally" smashing it.

Another room revealed a bayside cavern that contained three spirit nagas who attacked with fireballs the instant they saw the party. Zalura, having been not asking about healing people and been healing the paladin, had to switch to healing Alaric. The sorcerer started to protest, but she didn't listen to him. The group managed to finally put the nagas to rest and had to remind the witch and sorcerer that they needed to get a room as Alaric thanked Zalura by kissing her.

Now that the catacombs were cleared, the party took a staircase back up to the main floor of the Abbey. Six guards were noticed sitting at tables. It appeared that these were charmed as well - and apparently believed that they were in love with the witches. Alaric noticed a door across the way and went to check it out while invisible. Everyone knew the drill - draw the guards in the room and get the door or doors arcane locked. Only when Alaric called out that the witch loved him, just five guards ran for him. The sixth one took off to a different door. Kamira went after him invisibly while Zalura, Menasius and Halloran remained in the stairwell just in case. Kamira mentioned that it was a store room that the man ran to, and Menasius told her to let him go so that she didn't find herself alone.

Alaric had arcane locked the door into the pantry from the kitchen and had just locked the door to the kitchen when he, Kamira and Zalura saw the treachery demon appear. Both paladins couldn't see what was going on until they came around the corner to see it. This prompted the demon to change the gravity on them, and the battle ensued. The sixth guard tried to help, but was subdued by Halloran while the others took on the demon. Zalura thought she was helping when she put the guard to sleep, until she realized that the vampire was fighting his dual nature in biting the now helpless guard. As the demon was sent back to its native plane, Zalura talked him into letting go of the guard. This guard was tossed into the room with the others, and the party then continued their search of the main floor.

Finding nothing else, the group went onto the stairwell of the tower to reach the second floor. Another set of stairs continued up the bell tower and it was there that the party discovered another spider swarm. Due to the light, Halloran said he would guard the stairs, but could not go further with them. Thanking him for keeping watch, the party chased the swarm up the stairs. It seemed to be leading them higher and higher until it ran across a floor that gave out from underneath the party. As Menasius was given the ability to fly by Alaric, who also cast it on himself, Kamira latched onto him so that she wouldn't fall. The party flew to the next staircase and then ran up to the top floor where Alaric was able to kill the swarm before it reached the rope hole for the bell. Seeing as the swarm had led them on, the party headed back down the stairs to the second floor of the Abbey.

Moving across the hallway to the next door, Menasius noticed four guards inside what looked to be barracks. He shut the door and told Alaric to lock it. Having noticed the other door, they moved around to lock it as well. And then Alaric was wracked with mental tortures by some unseen force followed by an air elemental. While the girls tended to the elemental, Menasius used his abilities to try and find the evil in the room and soon pinpointed it near Alaric. By then, the sorcerer had dropped to the ground, so the paladin charged over the top of him once the witch appeared after her attack. Menasius managed not to step on Alaric during the fight. Zalura managed to get to Alaric to heal him and the battle continued for not much longer after that. With the witch defeated, the guards began realizing that they were trapped in the room and called for help. While Menasius began searching the room, Alaric let the guards out - who mumbled some sort of embarrassed apology and left.

Menasius brought objects over to Alaric so he didn't have to go around to them and he began identifying once he was able to, while Menasius read the alchemical notes. One of the boxes that was brought over was trapped, but Kamira was able to disable it fine. Inside resided some lich dust labeled 'Youth Tonic.' One of the other items they found was a vial of Sun Orchid Elixir, well known to be from an extremely rare plant from Thuvia. It granted the drinker extra years to their life. It appeared to be nearly gone, with only a few drops remaining. Based on the notes that Menasius found, the Elixir was likely from the noble patron - ie, Countess Caliphvaso, and that she had hired the witches to find her a new means of extending her life. Other notes, in a different handwriting with the initials R.A. also had been hired prior to the witches, but his work had never been finished. It was deemed that those notes were Ramoska's, and that he had tried to find an alchemical mean to extend one's life. The witches on the other hand had taken the research further by trying to use blood magic in addition to alchemical means. One of which was using vampire humors to try and concoct an elixir of life. In addition, there were notes about how to create the bloodbrew elixir (which was not mentioned in Ramoska's notes). Further reading connected bloodbrew with the vampire humors and other alchemical and magical means to in a way, create a vampire - likely what Aisa did. Further investigations upstairs revealed a headless skeleton in one of the rooms. This too was smashed in hopes that Oothi could not be recreated.

Now that it was getting on to evening, the party returned to where Halloran was waiting (as well as releasing the other trapped guards). They waited until the sun was down and then traveled to Dawngrace Memorial in Caliphas. It was here that the paladin received atonement. Outside the shrine, the man planned to wait for sunrise - something the entire party wished to stay with him if that was his choice. They did not want him to face it alone. He was grateful for this, and had continued to listen to their words of why he could find another way to do this, but he seemed set on the idea. That was until a young boy ran up to the party and delivered a letter.

(GM Note: They grew attached to the ex-paladin, enough so that I couldn't just let him go through with the suicide. So I decided to have Ramoska's letter arrive right then.)

The letter was from Ramoska telling them that he had found out something worth alerting the party about. The Carrion Crown Elixir was not meant for the Prince, but for the direct decedent of the Tyrant. And that was none other than Count Lucinean Galdana, as clearly, the man did not know of the unknown heir. He warned the party that the Whispering Way was not trying to just turn Galdana into a lich, but to turn him into the vessel for an even greater threat - Tar-Baphon himself. With this in mind, the group grew concerned for both Lucinean and Sara's safety, but they did not want to go back on their word to Halloran. He urged them that it was far more important to go than to stay here, and after a few more convincing words, he finally relented and told them that they all had to hurry.

Arriving at The Majesty signaled that they were already too late. Guards were everywhere, and Galdana was seen amidst the chaos. Menasius went over to him to find out what had happened, and he confirmed that there had been a struggle and Sara was now gone. Assuring him that they would find his daughter, the party considered that Galdana himself may still be in danger. They asked Halloran to guard the man, knowing that the ex-paladin would likely do better than the guards that had been there. The man agreed to this. On the side, Alaric gave Halloran a vial of blood that he often kept on himself in case his hunger got to him.

(GM Note: I chose Sara instead of Galdana so that the party had a more personal stake. I didn't doubt they would have hurried to rescue Galdana but I liked this better.)

Now the party knew that they had to do a lot of preparation as the Whispering Way was headed to their fortress of Renchurch in the heart of Virlych. They knew they also had to be quick if they had already moved to take the intended recipient of the Carrion Crown. But they had one thing that the Way needed - the mace. Caution would be very prudent, but worry was creeping in as there had been no other attempts other than the Dullahan to take the mace from the party. What could that mean?

Wrap up of Book 5 and then Book 6: Shadows of Gallowspire

Session 23:

In order to prepare for the journey to Virlych, the party set about buying equipment and enchanting items. This lead to them having three days in Caliphas before heading out. Alaric went to visit his father at one point and promised to return in order to get to know him better. Menasius also visited the vampire lord in order to get a gift for Alaric. The group then decided that they needed to know more about Adivion. Even though Kamira spent time with the man, she didn't know much about him aside from that he had always been a gentleman. Kamira asked around town and learned that Adivion was an only child of the Adrissant from Ardis. He was a delight for his teachers at the Quarterfaux Academy even as they struggled to keep up with the boy as he quested for knowledge. The Professor came through for a lecture series and captivated Adivion, who then kept in touch with Petros from then on. At age 20, Adivion left Caliphas to travel and just after returning back, he joined the Palatine Order of the Esoteric Eye as was expected of a noble of his rank.

With this knowledge, the group decided to investigate the manor, which was trapped in various locations. The group found an Ancient Osiriani egg that happened to be a trap, but Kamira was able to disable it. They took it as collateral and figured it could be worth something to the right person. Eventually the group made their way upstairs and to the bedroom. After fighting off a few creatures, they entered the study and found books from all over the Inner Sea. They also found a lineage chart of Tar-Baphon. Each name was listed as deceased until the bottom name of Lucinean Galdana. Next to his name was written in Adivion's handwriting "Ustalav" and "disappointment". Below his name, in the same handwriting was the name "Sara". Her name and Lucinean's name were both circled. It seemed that Adivion had been doing some research for who would receive this Carrion Crown potion.

Soon, the party headed out into the county of Caliphas, making their way toward the Carabosse River. The roads were well traveled for the first part of their day, and then thinned out as they continued further from the neighboring farmlands. That evening, while looking to make camp, the group ran across two crying children. Fearing the worst, the paladin checked to see if they were evil just as the sorcerer checked to see if they were undead.

(GM Note: This was my second attempt at creating my own random encounter. Turns out I made my party paranoid that they panicked about crying children. Only proved them right of course.)

Their paranoia paid off as a voice called out for them to feed. Several cannibal children attacked as a cultist of the Whispering Way stepped out for battle. This was his mistake as he and his creatures were soon destroyed. The night otherwise went uneventfully, and Alaric found a gift from the paladin on his bedroll. The vial of blood was from a willing donor (not the paladin as was later clarified).

(GM Note: Considering the paladin was an aasimar with holy water for blood. That would not have gone over well if it was his blood).

The next day went uneventfully as the party then set up camp next to the Carabosse River. They could see colored lights illuminating jagged mountains in a land that looked to be twisted and dead. Menasius passed out Starcandle Fireworks to everyone so that they could use them as flares in case they got separated. It was also pointed out they could use them to celebrate if need be as much as they could be used in a fight.

Crossing the river, the party ventured into the dead lands of Virlych. About mid day, lightning from above heralded the arrival of three lightning elementals who decided they were trespassing on their territory. The fight was an interesting one as the elementals were fast, but they were soon put to rest. The party continued on along the river, with the Hungry Mountains to their distant right. That night, they set up camp and set watches. On the last watch, while Menasius and Kamira were awake, a reddish mist descended upon them. It began trying to suck the fluids from them, and succeeded with Zalura as she woke to the pain with a scream. This woke Alaric as well, but no one could see anything beyond five feet. Alaric managed to get to her as Menasius moved to the edge of the river, calling for everyone to follow his voice and get in the water. Kamira was able to reach his side as Zalura stood up and worked her way slowly to the river's edge. Alaric hoped she'd forgive him as he pushed her into the water, following after her himself. Menasius grabbed Kamira and jumped into the water. The party could see the mist above the river, but it did not seem to go into the water. Swimming ahead, the group was able to surface outside of the mist. It was determined that it was not a creature, but just a part of the weather. Zalura remarked "Welcome to Virlych."

After finishing their rest, the party set out the next day along the river again. The dead trees at the foot of the mountains became closer and closer as the river bent toward the mountains (the water flowing from its snow peaks). The water was progressively becoming more gray and foul smelling - smelling more and more like rot. It was determined that swimming was not going to be a good idea. Soon, the group came across a clearing with a large bone arch surrounded by six trees. Kamira saw them as oaks, while the rest of the party saw them as Hangman Trees. At first nothing happened but then the trees began to move. Moving trees unsettled the party, and they contemplated escaping until Zalura called out that they were vulnerable to electricity spells. Kamira soon realized that the trees were not normal when one tried to hit Menasius. The sorcerer was able to damage the trees enough that the party was able to kill them soon afterward.

Looking to the gate, the party moved closer. Alaric recalled reading something of Witchgates, which this was one. They were essentially a teleportation trap. Anyone trying to teleport into Virlych would be shunted to one of these gates and then taken care of by their guardians. Smaller jumps would be unaffected, but the longer jumps would send the unfortunate soul somewhere else if they fail their save against its force. Moving on, the party found a place to camp, and each watch got to see the colored lights amongst the mountains.

The next day, their path moved into the mountains. At one point, an ichor filled trench came from near the river and toward what looked like a cave. As they approached slowly, the cave mouth looked like a Witchgate. This was followed by the roar of the lizard creature Alaric identified the track of. The lizard turned out to be a linnorm who seemed to have been in a fight. His back legs were no longer working, but that didn't seem to stop him from coming out and breathing a line of fire at the party. Alaric had already placed a wall between them and it, though placed it at a height just enough that they could fire things under it. The linnorm went to bite at them and slammed his head into the wall. Before it could take off, the party finished him off, putting Hagmouth out of his "misery" from the loss of his hind legs. The party carefully walked under the bone arch to take a look at the cave, seeing something piled off to one side. They found a minor horde of the linnorm, and then made their way down the canyon to find a place to rest.

Just as the party was making camp, a green cloud began moving their way. The winds began to howl and green shapes zipped here and there, forming faces and panicking both girls'. Menasius grabbed Kamira, while Zalura clung to Alaric as the boys went to find a good place to get out of the necromatic storm. An hour later, the storm passed, and the party decided their current shelter was fine enough for the night.

That next morning, after about an hour of riding, the party saw a camp fire and four knights. They were able to identify them as Knights of Iomedae, in specific, the Knights of Ozem. The head of their party told the group to put their weapons down. Menasius put his horse away and, weapon sheathed, stepped closer to speak with the man. Alaric went with him as well. Sir Garvis demanded to know why they were there, but seemed to understand the answer given. A paladin on a holy crusade was something they could relate to. He told Menasius and Alaric that they had come across a Varisian caravan with a caged woman who they believed to be possessed. This woman was chained nearby and was exhibiting signs of possession between the animalistic growling, the throwing up of eggshells and the sulfuric fumes from her yellow eyes. The Knights asked if Menasius could help them, and he as well as Alaric went up to the woman to look closer. Menasius cut his hand and put it against the woman, but she only hissed. Wrapping his hand, Menasius told them he didn't have the means to exorcise the daemon, and that heading to Vigil for the church as they planned was likely their best choice. Meanwhile, Zalura and Kamira slowly approached as well, though the witch didn't look at any of them considering they were referring to the daemon possessed woman as a "Varisian witch".

(GM Note: Needless to say, a Changeling Witch wasn't so keen on drawing attention to herself.)

As the group talked with the Knights, the daemon decided to attack. Even though it summoned another friend, the two daemon's were no match for the combined forces of the party and the Knights. Zalura had moved Lacramoria away from the fight and healed her as well as clothed her. The old woman was desperate to get back to Witherleaf Barrow where her caravan was. She had taken the possession to protect them from a greater threat. This the Knights had mentioned as the family protested her arrest had argued. It seemed dragons were the "greater evil" or more accurately, a ravener was.

Menasius asked if he could take their prisoner with them, and they agreed to it, turning her care over to him. They also told him that they had been looking into an evil witch coven when they had found Lacramoria. Likely enough, this wasn't the only thing that she has done that the church frowned upon. They wished the party good luck, and Menasius wished them luck as well. The Knights finished packing up and headed downriver, as the party headed north along the river toward Witherleaf.

Lacramoria was introduced to the group as a fortuneteller, as well as a wise woman to her caravan. They were a group of Szcarni using Virlych to travel across the countryside toward Caliphas. After about a half day, the river parted ways with the party as they reached an old town. Witherleaf Barrow no longer contained buildings but the remnants of them. Unfortunately, it also had the remnants of two dozen wagons. From Lacramoria's sorrow, they could tell it was her caravan. As they moved forward, a green light flickered in the distance - an approaching poltergeist storm. Movement also caught their attention from the burnt remains of the wagons. from what they could tell, a large skeletal creature had attacked a group of humans considering the scorch marks and occasional large tracks were filled with the remains of eldrich energy. Several beat-up looking Varisians could be seen, but a quick check of their intent led the party to prepare for a fight as what stood before them were not living creatures.

Session 24:

As the poltergeist storm approached, the party made quick work out of the "Varisian" zombies. As the last zombie fell, Alaric felt something trying to put him to sleep as a Night Hag appeared off to their right. This was followed by green bolts of fire from two women wreathed in green flame. It seemed the group had walked into a coven at Winterleaf made up of the Night Hag Druinnaz and two witchfires. The battle was long as the party knew that the storm would heal the witchfires if it got close. Meanwhile, Lacramoria ran for cover nearby.

(GM Note: Since the party recalled with dread the witchfire fight of before, I brought two in for this fight to see how they would do again. This time they did much better.)

When the last witchfire fell, the storm disappeared, apparently having been made by the coven. Lacramoria emerged once Menasius told her it was safe, and returned to the wagons of her fallen companions. She made mention that she would be able to find a few things to help in her continued journey toward the Caliphas border. The group, concerned for her safety, had volunteered to help her, but she told them she was going the opposite direction they were. She said Desna willing she would be fine. For their help, she offered them a gauntlet found in the rubble. Menasius gave her one of the grenades he had so that she at least had something in case of emergency. She thanked them again and parted ways.

(GM Note: The party was not keen on looting the area, so I had Lacramoria gift the gauntlet instead.)

The next day, Kamira woke feeling awful from the disease gained from the Night Hag. However, after a quick look by Zalura, she felt better while the witch took on the negatives. But Menasius was able to take care of the side effect so that she would be healed for their journey. By midday, the group reached the imposing sight of an old monastery. At the center rose a large bladed cathedral which they figured was Renchurch. The group entered the grounds and decided to look into the ruins of the buildings surrounding the cathedral first. That way they could have a safer place to fall back to once they entered the cathedral. The first building they went to was to the right and turned out to be some kind of bloodletting house, to Alaric's dismay.

(GM Note: He still doesn't like needles any more than at the beginning of the campaign. Best of all, today was his birthday.)

While nothing of main interest was found in the first room, the back room held a single gurney. It was from this that Zalura got to experience her first haunt. And Alaric got to relieve not only childhood memories, but ones from Illmarsh as well. Between the exploding monk and the leeches, Alaric made comment that he wished he hadn't reached his 22nd year that day. Knowing the drill, Menasius began using positive energy while Kamira went to the gurney to try and figure it out. Zalura asked what to do, and they gave suggestions of it potentially being the gurney she needed to hit with positive energy. Once the haunt was neutralized, the knocking began. Menasius determined that he needed to destroy the gurney, so he went out to get Alaric to burn the thing.

Leaving the Bloodletting house, the group headed clockwise around the grounds, heading toward the bog. It was here that several mummies rose from the muck and attacked. Once they were destroyed, Menasius searched the bog for anything of use while Zalura fell ill. She was able to remove the curse/disease, and move on with the group to the only intact tower at the wall. Zalura mentioned she had a bad feeling about the place as they looked in through the bars. No one could see anything but an empty cage within, but Menasius could sense evil in the place. Not wanting to go to the effort of breaking in to check it out further, they decided to leave it for later and head toward the remains of a building.

(GM Note: For some reason they didn't want to play with the banshee...)

This place looked to have been burned and as they stepped into the ashes near some charred and blackened bones, several monks framed in unholy flames appeared and fire erupted. This filled the area with choking smoke. Menasius moved forward to find the end or the haunt itself while Alaric backed up. He turned and looked to see nine figures approaching, dressed in the robes of the Whispering Way. He mentioned that he found people and that they should come now to help. Though after taking out most of them with one lightning spell, he said "nevermind". Both Kamira and Zalura came to help, and Menaisus managed to come around as the last of the cultists fell. Turning their attention to the haunt, Menasius poured positive energy into it until the smoke cleared.

With some divine help, the party was able to learn that they needed to take 10 handfuls of the monks ashes and toss them in a cool mountain lake. Alaric picked up the amount and placed it into a pouch. He assured the spirits that he would see to it as soon as they found a lake.

(GM Note: The group remembered that they never had sold that spirit planchette, nor had they ever used it. Since knocking was going no where, they used it.)

Spent, and not wishing to stay on the grounds, the party went outside of Renchurch, and Zalura eventuallly found them a cave about an hour's walk from Renchurch (though it took her two hours to find).

The next day, the party returned to Renchurch and walked past the bloodletting house for what looked to be the stables. Two arrows landed in the ground in front of Menasius while one bounced off his shield. It seemed that something up in the belfry of the cathedral was firing at them. Using a wall of force to block the arrow slits, the party went unhindered to the stables. Outside, they found a cart with the dead bodies of six naked human men. Each were maggot-ridden, had their throats slit and their bodies mutilated. Judging by their build, they figured they were likely Knights of Ozem that got too close. Going to the stables, the group heard or saw movement inside. Moving closer, six skeletal nightmares were seen, followed by a Cauchemar. The battle was long, but not even the seven steeds (living and non) could take down the party.

(GM Note: Since we don't have a lot of horse miniatures, we have taken to using cardboard doors from another game as horses. Worked pretty well to have the Cauchemar being a "unicorn" and the others being doors for me to keep them straight. Visually it was probably rather amusing.)

Session 25:

After dealing with the horses, the party headed up to the cemetery to make sure everything was going to stay buried. When they entered the grounds, the earth gave way into a large fissure which everyone was able to avoid. Despite most of the graves being empty, what few spirits that were left were clearly unhappy.

Returning to the cathedral front entrance (as there appeared to be no other entrances), the group saw the same two large oaks, but this time they seemed a bit more menacing. Shortly after, an athach came out and the battle at the front of the cathedral began. The oaks tried to grab and pull people in while the the gate keeper threw rocks at the party.

Soon, the party overcame the encounter and Menasius went to the door, only to discover that the bladed door was trapped. Kamira asked him to back up and soon disabled the pressure plate he stood on. She opened the door and the group entered into the narthex. The overwhelming sense of death and evil filled the air. The dead silence was soon filled with whispers in many languages and soon Alaric was used as a battering ram while the party looked at the destroyed belfry to their right and the door to their left which led to an intact bell tower. Ahead of them lay the sanctuary. Telling the girls to go out of the room (after Alaric collided with Kamira and then missed Zalura) Menasius braced himself in case Alaric was flung at him.

After the girls entered the sanctuary, Menasius grabbed Alaric and pulled him out of the narthex, escaping the haunt. Silence greeted the party in the wide and empty sanctuary. As they slowly moved forward, they could hear the sound of movement in one of the side rooms. Menasius lit up his sword and it stopped the sounds. They discovered a group of ghouls feasting on a dead man. But these ghouls were not like the ones they had seen before, these were large and well fed. They also proved to be rather hardy and strong as the party battled with them. With the area at the front of the church going black, Alaric decided to separate their issues by placing a wall of force to keep the creature or creatures at bay in the darkness.

Once the ghouls were destroyed (causing damage when they exploded upon death), the party prepared themselves to face what lay in the dark. Alaric dropped the force wall and was immediately blasted by a dehydrating spell. More ghouls leaped forward to engage the party. Soon, Menasius cast daylight and a meladaemon was revealed. During the battle, each except the Paladin were hit by wracking hunger, and both Zalura and Kamira were sickened and fatigued as well as eventually paralyzed.

The battle was long, but soon it was over, the party overcoming the creatures. With wounds healed, the party began searching the area. The dead man was a Varisian from what Alaric could tell in the one room, while Menasius kicked over the baptismal font full of unholy water. Heading toward the choir, the group saw the bishop's throne over looking a table full of the remains of what must have been humanoids. As Zalura approached the Bishop's throne, she suddenly turned directions and walked over to the table and began to eat the scraps of flesh. Alaric rushed to pull her away from the table, and incidentally moved toward the bishop's throne. Zalura was able to control herself in time to grab Alaric from doing the same thing as she just did. Kamira took hold of Alaric while Menasius took hold of Zalura and the group moved over to the hallway.

The hallway was filled with decapitated heads that seemed to then set off a haunt, causing Menasius, Zalura and Alaric to begin suffocating. Zalura tried to move forward while Menasius went back to get out of the area, but neither of them could stop it. Alaric came over to Zalura and the two dropped to the ground unconscious as Menasius got a breath of air. Kamira attacked the heads while Menasius kicked open the door to the room next to them. Inside he was greeted by a well dressed noble spectre who welcomed him. He demanded that the haunt be shut off, and the spectre told him he could not do that. He then told him to fight the heads. Heading back out in the hallway, Menasius helped Kamira destroy the heads and keep Zalura and Alaric alive. Menaisus healed Alaric while Kamira healed Zalura.

Menaisus told Kamira to watch her back as she was standing in the doorway, and she turned to see the spectre watching her. Soon the group entered the room to talk with him, and he seemed keen to be rid of the group. When asked where Adivion was, he would not tell other than to say he was not there. When threatened, the spectre merely smiled and the battle began. The chamberlain was joined by three other spectres, and kept the party pressed against the back wall. After a few moments, fire magic was fired at one of the spectres after the chamberlain was destroyed. The first strikes were misses, but they struck true the second time. With the unseen help, the party soon destroyed the rest of the spectres.

(GM Note: Considering the party's connection to the vampire underground, I decided to go with the idea of Natisha being an ally for the PCs during their exploration.)

Their mysterious helper turned out to be Natisha, a vampire from Luvick's court. She told them that she was there because Luvick wished to know what was going on. She went under the guise of helping the Whispering Way, and decided to help the party considering she knew who they were. When asked if they could help her, she said no, but that she could help them as the room they were currently in was in good repair and would serve as a safe house that she would help keep. Glad for the respite, the party agreed. It was learned that Natisha was the only one from Caliphas there, but she also mentioned that the Whispering Way kept referring to a 'vessel' and that it was kept below. The party assumed that this had to be Sara, and after they rested, they planned to continue their way to hopefully reach the girl before it was too late.

Session 26:

After resting during the night, Kamira and Zalura woke up with a disease they picked up from the ghouls. Between the two healers, both girls were patched up and ready for the day. Which started promptly after Menasius stepped out of the room and was struck by a devil that tried to hit him with some arrows. Apparently the archer from the bell tower had come to them. And he brought a friend. The barbed devils came in and grappled the two boys, leading to some piercing damage, but they lived through the ordeal. Alaric managed to push away the summoned devil, and with three party members wailing on the first one, it soon returned to its home plane.

Coming up to the next room, the party could hear screams and laughter from inside. Unnerved by the idea of a person being tortured the party prepared to rescue them. Inside, they found a cultist controlling some kind of negative energy machine. They were using this on a naked man strapped to a chair. Menasius soon learned exactly what that device was doing as it drained the 'victim' when one of the cultists turned the machine on him. The fight was over quickly with all the cultists defeated. Zalura was able to free the man and Menasius helped heal him. Meanwhile, Alaric found a bag lying off to the side while Kamira worked to disable the machine. Signaling to Zalura, Alaric showed her an ebony fly figurine with the symbol of Urgathoa on it. Uneasy about the idea that this bag was likely Cleves' (as he told Menasius when asked his name), Zalura came over to help Kamira and keep an eye on the man while indicating to Menasius that Alaric wanted to talk to him.

After giving the man back his clothes, he remained rather docile even when he was tossed the symbol of Urgathoa. He basically said there were lots of people that nodded to her, and didn't seem all that phased by it. He also made mention of a "vessel" and that the cultists were talking about "preparing her for rebirth". This confirmed to the party that they didn't have much time, and that Sara was likely there and downstairs. Menaisus, for the second time trying to detect evil on the man, was overwhelmed by the evil of the church and couldn't get any readings. Making mention of going outside for air, the man seemed keen to leave the area. So the paladin walked the man out of the room and outside while Alaric stayed nearby to keep watch.

They triggered the haunt in the narthex but both Menasius and Cleves were fine. As soon as Cleves was outside, he took off without another word. Menasius then rejoined everyone else and they continued on into the next room.

This room contained a large array of items dating back to the Shining Crusade. In fact, most of it was likely from the Whispering Tyrant's own court. Most everyone was uneasy about it, but Kamira noticed just how much this would be worth to the right collector or museum and gathered some items that were not too fragile.

(GM Note: The entire party warned her about this, but she gathered them anyway. Not that it made a huge difference. She was failing saves on her own without the minuses given by these artifacts.)

Moving on, they arrived in a room that had a table with a dessicated arm on a chopping block, a tea kettle and a pile of dust. Alaric recognized it as mummy tea, a delicacy with the nobility of Caliphas. Then two sarcophagi lids fell to the floor revealing moaning mummies. The mummies wreathed themselves in a blue wispy flame that seemed to help protect against fire and damage those hitting them. As the party fought, more mummies, two at a time were released from their sarcophagi. At one point, Kamira felt something hit her, and realized that there was something other than the mummies there. Alaric helped her line it with glitterdust and the battle continued. Zalura was able to find the other one by running into it. This allowed her to line it with faerie fire. Soon the mummies and the invisible stalkers were put down.

After taking a few moments, the party then took to the staircase. Unfortunately, this also brought up the sound of whispers in various languages. Then Kamira attacked Menasius with what appeared to be claws. He grabbed a hold of her and Zalura put a sleep hex on Kamira so they could bring her down the stairs. They moved quickly as they could feel something trying to taint their minds as they headed downstairs.

Coming out into what was the catacombs, Menasius set Kamira down (not too rough, but enough to wake her) as he saw four mohrgs turn to look at them. Luckily, Kamira was better and the whispering had stopped. Quickly they learned that there were a great deal of cultists in the room as well as they came out of the sleeping alcoves. As they began the fight, a wave of exhaustion hit the entire party. Noticing that they needed to clear the place fast, Alaric whispered to Zalura that they needed to communicate without others hearing. Zalura then gave everyone the ability to telepathically communicate and they worked to move themselves out of the room (made more difficult by the fact Kamira became paralyzed). After the party was cleared, Alaric hit the enemy with a colorful blast of chaotic magic and cleared out most of the group. Zalura soon fell victim to paralysis followed by Alaric. This left Menasius to beat the remaining two mohrgs to death, followed by the destruction of the statues. Clearly he was not thrilled by all of this, made all the more amusing by the fact everyone could hear everyone else's inner conversations.

(GM Note: The wave of exhaustion came from Lucimar who I had fun with stalking the party. It made them quite paranoid - more than they already were.)

Heading deeper into the catacombs, the group came across a big and very elaborate alchemy lab. Menasius noticed that it was quite volatile, though the two alchemical golems in the corner were the more immediate threat. This was followed by a lich stepping out and telling them that they were too late, that "the master will rise again". With a warning to the party to be careful of the lab, the fight began with the lich vanishing after drinking an elixir. Alaric was able to find him and Kamira used glitterdust. Some bombs were thrown at the sorcerer before he was defeated - returning to his phylactery. The golems took quite a bit more effort, with Alaric and Zalura on one, and Menasius on the other. Learning that bludgeoning was helpful, Alaric used the mace, and Kamira switched to her sling. Something then hit Kamira with fire from behind, but no one was able to see what it was.

At last the golems were defeated when Alaric used his grasp of the dead, and managed not to destroy part of the lab. With a sigh of relief, the party headed out the door and into a room that was filled with putrid water and slimy islands. It didn't take long for things to get interesting as jars flew and tentacle air creatures emerged. Kamira didn't want to enter the "icky" room, and that prompted Menasius to comment about her coming in to see the ooze-like demon rise from the goo to throw sludge at the paladin. Zalura and Alaric flew into the room and Kamira finally came to help as well. After two tentacle creatures were killed, Alaric and Zalura moved to join the others. However, Alaric was grabbed by the demon and pulled across the room. Maneuvering in the room was difficult, and even flying was hard as Zalura was hit by an acid cloud by the demon as it finally began suffocating Alaric by filling his nose and mouth. Menasius pulled Zalura out of the cloud and she was able to get to the demon first.

Once Menasius hit the creature, it dropped Alaric and went after the paladin, managing to grab him but not engulf him. Alaric was dropped into the acid but was entangled before he could get out. Soon, the battle was over and everyone crawled onto somewhat less slick land to do a great deal of healing and calming down. There were two other doors leading to who only knew where, and they were low on spells. But one thing everyone knew - they had little time left if that lich was right.

Session 27:

(GM Note: So, between sessions I thought to myself - I have used Lucimar in every fight so far, but not the Omox demon fight. What should I do? Should I do delay blast fireball and hope I don't kill anyone, or should I be really mean and use Unnatural Lust on the witch. I went with the latter. I even rolled the dice to see who she was healing at the time.)

After the fight with the Omox demon, Zalura helped heal both Alaric and Menasius. Kamira was able to take care of herself in the meanwhile. No one, however, expected the event that took place next. After Zalura finished healing Menasius, she paused a moment and then passionately kissed him. Before saying anything, Alaric checked for a spell, and lo and behold, she apparently was under an Unnatural Lust spell. Menasius reacted in a bit of a panic by pushing her away from him. Zalura shortly afterward snapped out of it, and an awkward silence fell on the group. And then it was decided it was time to rest before pressing on. No one was in the right mind to keep going.

With a silent night, the morning brought about an apology, and then returning downstairs. Taking the double-doors, the party entered into a dank cold tunnel full of alcoves. After a few moments, it dropped down into what appeared to be a few inches of murky water. Kamira took the lead and looked for traps. After a time, and a dead end, the group was stopped when Kamira saw something that indicated the water got deeper in one of the intersections. She stuck her rapier into the water and discovered it was quite deep. Then everyone but Menasius heard dripping water followed by a rush of gray water full of bones. Kamira managed to shake off the fear of drowning, but both Zalura and Alaric collapsed - their lives given to fear.

(GM Note: Turns out Alaric is still afraid of water, even after Book 4.)

Zalura, thanks to her ability added to her corset was able to revive, but the same could not be said for Alaric. Menasius took hold of him and the group moved back upstairs so Zalura could cast the Raise Dead scroll that Kamira had brought along. Unnerved by everything going on, and then the death of his good friend, Menasius told the group that they didn't need to be there, that they didn't have to keep going on his behalf. No one in the group wished to leave him behind, and Alaric spoke for the group in indicating that they would not leave Menasius alone to face what lay ahead.

Deciding to leave the haunt alone, not knowing when it would respawn, the group headed for the other door. This one led into a hallway to a room with a strange smelling haze. Inside were cultists sniffing haunt siphons like a drug. Even high, the cultists were able to put in a bit of a fight before they were taken care of. Pleased for some unused haunt siphons, the party took a hold of these as well as a few used haunt siphons for Alaric.

Continuing on, the party came across what appeared to be some kind of strange classroom. Two vats of ectoplasm sat off on one side. Soon, two necromancer ghosts appeared with a malicious smile on their faces. One disappeared, and was soon found to have possessed Zalura as she attacked with spells she never had before (let alone attacked the party). Menasius went after the one ghost, leaving Alaric and Kamira to try and take care of the spirit in Zalura. Alaric tried to help her gain control of her body with a protection spell, but she was struggling still. Kamira meanwhile went to get holy water from Menasius when she saw that the paladin soon was possessed. This was short lived considering the spirit did not appreciate the abundance of positive energy and soon abandoned him for Kamira. Zalura was able to get ahold of herself briefly enough to sleep hex herself with a quick apology to Alaric.

(GM Note: I have no idea if one can hex themselves, but I figured it worked.)

The ghost was removed from Kamira and due to its inability to move from a strong hit by the paladin, was soon killed. The other ghost removed itself from Zalura and was attacking Alaric. While Kamira began destroying the vats, Alaric finished off the other ghost.

Continuing on, a tunnel divided into a room and then a passage south. Inside the room, the party found four containers with what appeared to be the preserved bodies of old individuals. Old in the case that their clothing indicated very old Ustalavan nobility. Menasius broke one of the containers which spilled preservatives onto the floor. And then the group was hit by a cone of cold from a mysterious source behind Alaric and Zalura. After claiming it was not him, Alaric turned and at last found the hunter. He appeared to be some sort of undead warg lycanthrope. The powerful spellcaster made mention of them being too late, and something about 'he' not taking all of the credit. Apparently this caster was no fan of Adivion, but had no trouble trying to kill the party. However, he was not successful, and at last he was killed.

Moving on, the party found a side room which was locked. They learned quickly why it was locked as six bodaks attacked, trying to kill. It took some effort, but the party was at last able to kill them off.

Further down, the party came across a room full of skulls. A group of skulls were missing their jaws, which were piled on a shelf below. The skulls and jaws had runes on them, and the party found a riddle to solve. Solving the riddle gave the party the opportunity to question the skulls. From them, they learned Sara was there, and that she was taking part in a cleansing process. Then she was to be given the Carrion Crown to bring about the rise of Tar Baphon. They did not know how far the process was, nor did they know where Adivion was. But the party knew they were likely running out of time. Asking the skulls what would bring them rest, they replied that only the return of the "master" would do so. And then the haunt shut down.

(GM Note: Needless to say, no one was keen to permanently end this haunt.)

Session 28:

The party continued on through the tunnels and noticed a fog of flies and stench up ahead. The air was so thick, that it made it difficult to breath. Bodies were piled 10 feet high with tunnels eaten away. As the part stepped into the area, a large spider-like creature crawled out and attacked. Even though the spider could fly, it was no match for the group as the witch gave the paladin flight and the sorcerer was able to reach it from the corner. Kamira took several hits and fell diseased by the spider, while Zalura began choking and had to be carried out of the room.

The next direction the party took was determined by the faint sound of chanting in the room to the north. With some quick healing, they burst into the room. Three cenobites were standing around a large iron fly that appeared to be some kind of furnace. Inside, a woman screamed in pain. Before the party could get too far into the room, a dozen or so burning skeletons crawled out of the fire from under the statue and the battle began. Unable to get straight to the furnace, Alaric dimension doored inside and brought the singed, naked Varisian woman out to safety. Kamira helped to heal her before everyone threw their efforts into destroying the skeletons and the celobites. Unfortunately, a few moments after the rescue, the statue came to life and began to attack. Alaric slowed it down as Menasius threw one of the cenobites into the furnace. Eventually the other two cenobites were destroyed as were the skeletons. The last one was dropped into the pit below, and the iron golem at last destroyed. It served as the cenobite's jail-cell door as it fell down and sealed the fire pit closed.

Alika, the Varisian, was given a thunderstone for protection and told to remain there. The party told her that they hoped to return soon and escort her at least out of Renchurch. She agreed to stay put (having been given clothing by Kamira). And the party opened the iron doors behind the fire pit. These led to a flight of stairs down further into the depths of Renchurch.

Soon, the tunnel opened into a circular room. Ichor dripped from the holes in the ceiling above - coming from the room with all the dead bodies. At the center of this room, a large roiling mass of grubs and maggots could be seen. A figure rose from the maggots and warned the intruders that they would go no further. It summoned a succubus, which Menasius ignored as he flew forward (still being able to fly). He cursed when he learned that the image was only that - an image. The others began looking and Alaric was able to point out to Menasius with magic where the actual creature was. At one point, Menasius was pushed into the grubs, where one of them managed to jump onto him. Reminiscent of the moits, it burrowed into him, but Menasius pushed forward to attack the Worm that Walked. They were able to eventually defeat the Worm that Walked after trading blows and spells. The succubus had a hold of Alaric but it was desummoned once Urca was destroyed. Menasius then promptly pulled out his war razor and cut into himself to remove the grub before it could do further damage.

Running low on spells the party turned to using wands and potions to continue forward, chanting being heard in the room ahead. Kamira only had a moment to check for traps before Menasius kicked down the door. The room in front of them was large. It seemed to serve as some sort of ceremonial chamber with an altar at the head. Sixteen robed figures sat in pews watching a cleric before them. This man was dressed in black and was clearly undead. He welcomed them amongst the struggles of a bound figure in a ceremonial robe suspended over a necrotic well.

The Gray Friar was however surprised that Menasius was able to break through his spell and come up on him in a rage. A quick check and he knew that he was dealing with an outsider, not a human as he had been informed. While Menasus kept the Gray Friar busy, the others soon realized that all of the robed figures looked exactly like Sara. They thought it was for the best that Menasius had not seen this. The figures all got up and dispersed through the room, leaving the party to try and pinpoint which was the real Sara. Trying to detect dead did not work for Alaric as an overwhelming sense of death took him, but he was able to shake it off. A faint laughter echoed in his mind. Zalura took to the air until Alaric pointed out his suspicion, and she confirmed it. At this stage, the juju zombie look-alikes all swarmed. Zalura was able to grab Sara and fly upward out of the battle while Kamira and Alaric fought the zombies. It was also at this point that Menasius got a good look at the Sara look-a-likes. Alaric assured him from the back of the room that they had the real Sara. This seemed to increase the struggle, but they were no match for the party.

Alaric went to check out the well (which had healed him earlier) while Zalura brought Sara back down to the ground. She gently handed her over to Menasius, telling him what she knew was wrong. Zalura had not been able to heal her, but Menasius was. Kamira went to gather items from the body of the Gray Friar, while Alaric grabbed what must have been Sara's things. He had not been able to determine how to shut down the well - it being too powerful for any of them to deal with.

With a healed Sara in his arms, Menasius led the way back upstairs so that everyone could finally rest. Zalura ended up having to be carried as well as she could not handle the room with the dead bodies. Natisha was awaiting word and was pleased to see that they were successful in defeating the Gray Friar. She also volunteered to keep watch for the night so that everyone could get a well-deserved good night's rest. Natisha also volunteered to escort Alika somewhere safe as the party needed to press on to Gallowspire. Sara wished to continue with them, to give her aid in thanks for saving her.

The next morning, the party headed back downstairs to finish clearing out Renchurch. There were still places they had not been. And with Sara safe, they still had a bit more time before going after Adivion. Sara had told them what happened, how she was stolen away by Adivion using teleport. He brought her there to Renchurch to be prepared as he took the finished Carrion Crown to Gallowspire to await her arrival. While the Raven's Head Mace could have been used as a component, it was not necessary. The real reason they wanted the mace itself was because it had been used against the Tyrant before and needed to be destroyed.

(GM Note: I liked this explanation and grabbed it from the boards. I had a psychopomp be used instead.)

The first stop for the party was sending the Paladin into the water soaked catacombs with a haunt siphon. It took a few rounds before he was finally able to neutralize it. Handing the two siphons to Alaric for healing, the party pressed onward. It took several minutes of wandering the maze before they reached a room. This room seemed to be a shrine to a fallen soldier. The symbols and images reminded everyone that this was a man who had sacrificed himself during the Shining Crusade in order for his group to escape the onslaught of the Whispering Tyrant's army. The foul magic of this place twisted the soul of the man into a haunt that they were able to neutralize. Using the spirit planchette, they were able to find that the spirit needed to be killed with the large blade hanging above the tomb. Wishing to lay it to rest, the party waited for the haunt to return and Menasius used the blade to lay it to rest. He then stuck the blade into the tomb as the final act of respect.

Continuing onward, the party walked into a room that contained four cenobites working on what appeared to be a rejuvenating lich. The cenobites reacted immediately by placing a thick barrier of zombies between them and the party. Alaric was able to wipe the field and the battle began. Toward the end of the battle, one of the cenobites was able to break through Zalura's defenses and send her running. With a sigh, Alaric chased after her. He stopped near what appeared to be a covered object in one of the hallways as he tried to see which way the witch went. As she came into sight, a sheepish look on her face, something ripped the cloth off what appeared to be a mirror. Alaric told Zalura to stay put, and tried to see what kind of mirror it was. Finding it to be a mirror of life trapping, he couldn't get off a warning before he was sucked into the mirror - all his gear and clothes left behind. Zalura moved forward quickly to see what it was and what happened. The whispering came just as something forced her scarf upward to hit her. Then she fell victim to the mirror as well, leaving her clothes and a very confused Eyla behind.

(GM Note: Nothing like unintentionally splitting the party.)

The others were able to kill off the rest of the cenobites and came into the hallway to find the pile of clothes. Menasius warned the others as he heard the whispering and he described the mirror after feeling it try to grab him. He ended up on his back with a sigh, but finished describing the wood framed mirror. Both bards told him it was a mirror of life trapping and that to free the captured, they needed to destroy it. Getting to his feet, Menasius slammed his blade into it twice before it shattered. A rather naked Alaric and Zalura were freed, but so were three demons. Thus commenced a rather strange and awkward battle. The three demons were more content to attack rather than heed Menasius' warning to go home. As they fought, the Tyrant Whispers continued and began tripping people during the battle. Menasius spent part of the fight on his back attacking the demons, which in one case ended up on the ground with him. Kamira spent some time on the ground, but was doing her part to use the good aligned magic that Sara granted her weapon. Sara also got in a rather nasty hit on one of the demons, impressing Menasius. On the other side of the battle, Zalura failed another save and was commanded to attack Alaric. She lashed out with the scarf she picked up and then switched tactics to hit him with a rather strong spell. She was stunned as the demon who was controlling her was finally killed - not quite sure what to make of what just happened. One of the other demons was killed shortly afterward, leaving one left. It decided to high tail it, but Menasius got in one last strike to kill it before it left.

The rest of the party averted their eyes to allow for Zalura and Alaric to dress, and Zalura tended to Alaric's wounds - as she did cause them herself.

Session 29:

Moving onward, the party moved forward into a large chamber with 6 statues - three to Urgathoa, and three to monks. While Menasius made sure the statues would not come to life, Alaric discovered a hidden panel behind one of the statues. Coming closer, they found a journal of a nun back when Renchurch was still to Pharasma. It gave some accounts of the fall of Renchurch to the Whispering Tyrant's armies. Bringing the journal back to the room, the party heard the sounds of whispering and then Kamira felt something strange. She took off out of the room, with a confused Sorcerer right behind. Zalura too felt something and decided leaving was a great idea, especially when her cloak disintegrated off her back. It appeared that Kamira also lost her cloak.

(GM Note: I decided to not only give some history on Renchurch, but also introduce a character that would become important for the story after the formal AP was finished. As for the disintegrating items, I had everyone give me a list of their items. I chose relatively equal cost items for them to lose. The cloak of resistance for both girls seemed fair targets for the Tyrant considering the had a tendency to fail saves.)

Continuing on, the group found a room with 8 dead cultists, all kneeling in pools of their own blood. None of them had shadows, which prompted a worry that the shadows were elsewhere. This was warranted, and with a bit of daylight, the shadows were eventually dealt with (after quite a bit of strength damage to the sorcerer and Kamira).

The next room led to a food storage, one that had a turkey leg and some other unidentifiable meat on a table. These rose and began to battle on the table as the party watched in stunned silence for a moment.

(GM Note: I found a food haunt somewhere and this amused me so much that I decided to put it in. It seemed harmless, at first...)

Menasius bet on the turkey leg to win as they began to feel something try to grab a hold of their minds. Alaric grabbed Zalura since no one figured she'd pass any of her saves. The others began to channel positive energy into the food after Zalura identified it as the source. There was a few jokes about not interfering with the turkey leg, but soon, Eyla, delivering touch spells, took the final blow and ended the haunt. It was here that the party learned that Zalura had run out of food earlier that day as they found some rations that would help out those in the party that still needed to eat.

The other direction seemed to connect back to the room with the flies and stench, and so the party back-tracked to check out the last few rooms. Unfortunately, that meant going back through the room that Kamira and Zalura lost their cloaks. And the two of them then lost their clothes. Luckily Kamira had extra sets, but Zalura had given her spare to Lacramoria. Alaric gave her his own spare set and used a bit of mending to adjust them to her shorter frame.

Continuing on, one of the rooms appeared to be some sort of surgery, or likely torture chamber. Movement was seen, but it turned out to be a group of scared Varisians. Or so they seemed. Menasius saw something odd about them and waited til they left the room (after assuring the group that they would escort them out after finishing clearing a safe path). Alaric went back to check and was attacked as they realized what was going on. It took a moment for the party to hear him call and they rushed to help. After dispatching the totenmaskes, the party entered the last room with a group of corpses. Menasius went up and identified the body as Aisa, the witch vampire from Caliphas. Alaric recognized Vorkstag from Lepidstadt. There was also Albor (without his head), a female werewolf that they thought may have been the one to give them a warning, and Mathus as well as Estovion. Then the creatures rose as revenants and the battle began again. At least this time, the fight was shorter than with the living versions. And at last, Renchurch was cleared.

The party returned upstairs to report the news to Natisha who was glad to hear of their success. She helped keep watch one more night, though poor Sara had a terrible night as dreams haunted her mind. Renchurch had one final farewell with the haunt at the front door catching Sara and Kamira. Menasius grabbed Sara and Kamira ran outside. Eyla was pulled out of Zalura's cloak, but Alaric managed to catch her. The party then headed on to Adorak the next morning while Natisha headed back to Caliphas. Both Alaric and Menasius had tried to convince their other halves to go back to Caliphas, but both wished to continue - not wanting to leave them.

Storms raged outside the night they stayed out in Virlych, but the party remained safe in a cave. Partway in the morning, they came to the edges of Adorak, the tall black tower of Gallowspire rising at the center. Terrible storms raged around its perimeter about 50 feet off the ground and all the way to its top. As they were looking at the tower, wisps of dark dreams came pouring out of the old buildings and attacked. Faces of loved ones dying, tortured those who looked too close. While they were difficult, the party soon proved the stronger. But they knew they needed to rest up as they could see movement around the spire. Alaric thought he saw what could be a dragon on the spire before it disappeared. With lowered spells and not wishing to remain in Adorak longer than they needed to, they retreated back and rested.

The next day, the party entered Adorak, the buildings in poor and abandoned shape. After a while of walking, the cobbled stone road turned out to be bones. And soon skulls. Menasius stopped but Kamira took a step forward and was bitten. Testing a theory, Menasius took the Ravens Head mace and smashed the skulls. It seemed to make them stop biting, but Kamira could see it went on for at least 100 yards. Figuring that perhaps there was another way, Alaric went one way, and Kamira went the other to see that the skulls only lined that one road. Then the building near Sara and Zalura collapsed as a huge ravener landed with a thud and a roar - throwing its weight into the weakened building. It threw out fire at the group, which both girls dodged entirely and Alaric mostly missed. It then took off out of sight. The party quickly began buffing, and preparing for the battle that seemed to be not coming quite yet.

(GM Note: I had the ravener come in and do a few things and then she took off toward the tower. The party thought she'd come back and she never did. It was kind of funny.)

Menasius flew up to see the ravener headed for Gallowspire, and then Kamira joined him, confirming that the dragon landed on a building and was not coming their way. Figuring that they were ready, they would draw the ravener to them, one way or another. She was likely going to be a threat, and they would rather meet her out in the city than at the foot of the tower.

Nun's Journal in Renchurch:

Erastus 3, 3202 AR

Another usual day at the monastery. We nuns do our own thing while the monks do theirs. Each day the same. Though today we had a new arrival. A new nun from far south. I should speak with her to find out more about her. But she's been fairly sullen and kept to herself thus far.

Erastus 5, 3202 AR

I managed to speak with the young girl. She seems a nice enough sort, but clearly does not want to be here. She arrived with a group of traveling monks coming from Garund. It seems she is from Thuvia and was sent here by her father to learn a more humble life. It is certainly the place to do so, though I do not find it as terrible as she seems to let on. But she is new, it'll take time for her to adjust.

Erastus 6, 3202 AR

Lessons are going well. I sent a letter back home to my family to let them know I was doing well. They'd sent me a scarf for the upcoming winter. Seems my younger sister is doing well for herself - helping to make stock for the store back home. Sometimes I miss Ardis, but I much prefer the beauty of the Hungry Mountains.

Erastus 10, 3202 AR

Been quite busy of late, though really nothing new has happened. Nuetetia, the new girl, continues to keep to herself. At least, in regards to the other nuns. I think she's trying to get the attention of the younger monks, but has failed at it. No one here wants to break the rules. She'll learn them soon enough.

Rova 17, 3202 AR

We had a visitor today, a traveling Pharasman monk. He plans to stay for a time with us as winter begins to set. I don't blame him. Traveling the mountains in the winter is very dangerous.

Kuthona 24, 3202 AR

I got wonderful news today. My sister is being wed to one of the young men in Ardis. Blessed Pharasma. I wish I may be able to go to the wedding. It will be held in the spring.

Abadius 2, 3203 AR

Nuetetia is sneaking around again. Not that this is anything new. She does that frequently. I still have only talked with her every so often - but I think I've done so more than the others. I have a feeling she's seeing the new monk. But I have no evidence other than a gut feeling.

Pharast 3, 3203 AR

Something feels off, and I don't know why. Everything's been relatively quiet lately. I have not said anything to our teachers about Nuetetia. She finally seems to be doing fine here.

Pharast 4, 3203

We've received news of an army forming. An army of orcs. They are not far from here. I pray to Pharasma we will be safe.

Pharast 6, 3203

Attacks have started. We think Adorak has been hit hard. The monks and nuns here have started preparing for defenses.

Pharast 7, 3203

Undead have arrived nearby. They wait in the dark, ready to pounce on us. Whispers of Tar-Baphon's return. A lich now, and ready to wipe out the living in Ustalav to claim it for his own. I fear for us, and pray every minute that we will make it through.

Pharast 8, 3203

Nuetetia is missing. So is the monk. There are rumors now.

Pharast 9, 3203

I have holed up as I have no means of helping defend. I and some of the others. I can hear the screams of those being eaten alive. They came in as if they knew the place. I am sorry. I should have warned the others that they were up to something. I thought it merely her slipping off for the night. But I fear we have been spied on. Please, Pharasma, forgive me.

Session 30:

With the Ravener closer to the tower, the party began moving forward to get its attention. As Kamira drew closer, the entire party saw the dragon turn and breath on a cage near by her. Dying screams told the party that she had just killed a fair number of people. Soon, with a disintegrate spell from Alaric, the party had the Ravener's attention and she engaged the party. This was also when they learned there was no way to chase her down with how fast she could fly. But her maneuvering was not as good. The party was able to catch up to her and begin their attack, though she dished out just as much pain. With several good strikes from Menasius and the Raven's Head, the Ravener hissed and said that how dare he bring a vile weapon to this place, and that her master would not be pleased. This rang history bells for some of the party members as they recalled that the Whispering Tyrant once had a red dragon ravener mount named Marrowgarth. This apparently was her. Eventually, the party triumphed and the dragon fell. Ironically enough, she had fought them above her own hoard. The boys went to investigate while the girls remained on watch above.

Next, the party went to the closest cage and found 20 Varisians inside. They were those captured from Lacramoria's caravan. Aside from rather hungry and thirsty, the group was doing all right. They were concerned for the others in their caravan. The party had little to offer aside from water, and aide, but the Varisians were grateful for their lives. Menasius and Sara remained with the group while the others went to go to another of the cages. The three managed to avoid a sink hole before arriving at another cage with 20 Varisians. The third cage had 15 Varisians. The entire group reconvened with Menasius and Sara and the group led them out of Adorak. Unfortunately, they were attacked by several animate dreams. Fortunately, none of the Varisians were hurt, though Zalura did activate her Determination ability. At one point, Menasius showed that he was capable of a more powerful spell as he cast a beam of daylight through a group of dreams, blinding several. Once the dreams were put down, the party was able to bring the group outside of Adorak. They thanked the party for their help and said that they could take it from there. They knew the way out of Virlych from there.

(GM Note: I rolled percentiles to determine where the sink holes would be, just as I rolled for when the various encounters would occur.)

With parting farewells and good-lucks, the party turned back into Adorak and approached Gallowspire. A howling storm ripped above them as they arrived within 50 feet of the spire. Luckily the creatures within the storm did not come near them, staying about 50 feet above their heads. As they reached Gallowspire, they saw two large armored creatures. Upon closer inspection, the armor was a sort of corrupted Knight of Ozem style. The corrupted knights were now devourers. Alaric slipped a bead to Menasius who approached the doormen and attacked. One of them attacked back, and the other cast an unseen spell. Blows were exchanged before Menasius tossed the bead and retreated back after one of the knights fell. The fireball went off and caught the last knight even as he moved up on Alaric. Between a beam of daylight, heal and other spells, the last doorman was put to rest. Four souls were then freed - two of the captured, and the two corrupted. Now the party was faced with massive stone doors with skeletal arms. This was the doorway that would lead through the outer shell of Gallowspire and toward the inner spire.

(GM Note: Navigating the streets of Adorak took some time with the various traps as well as coordinating the rescue of the Varisians. Between all that and the two large battles, the group had run out of time for the session.)

Session 31:

Facing the gate, Kamira learned that not only were the doors made of Adamantine, but so were the skeletal arms. It appeared that the arms were there to help open the door rather than bar it closed. When the bard was unable to open the doors, Alaric studied them a moment and learned that they were arcane locked. It also seemed that negative energy would solve their problem. Hitting it with an inflict spell, the skeletal arms dragged the big heavy doors open, allowing entry into the outer portion of Gallowspire.

Entering into the bottom floor, the party saw two celestial beings impaled on spikes against the black inner tower. Blood dripped to the floor beneath them. Broken weapons lay at their feet and debris littered the floor. Upon closer inspection, Menasius learned that the deaths were fresh (as in days rather than years), and that the angels likely died by the impalement - but that there were also claw marks on them. The party then heard laughter as the lights went out. After casting sunlight, Menasius noticed that four shadows had emerged from where the angels were. These shadows attacked, draining the strength of those they could touch. The mysterious caster remained out of sight, hitting the party with spells as they fought the shadows. Alaric took several hits before being left barely able to stand. Menasius came over to help him, in which the sorcerer asked if he could nap on his shoulder. An interesting sight considering the sorcerer was also incorporeal.

Meanwhile, Zalura and Sara were fighting one shadow, while Kamira was taking on another. The bard soon dropped, losing all her strength. Menasius went next to her to allow her a chance to continue in the battle. At one point, the disembodied voice revealed itself to be a demonic looking figure. Alaric and Sara both identified him as Sey'lok, a nightwalker general of Tar-Baphon's army from the Shining Crusade. He continued to engage the party from the dark while the party finished off the rest of the shadows. Granted flight, Menasius lifted upward and illuminated the general. Others took flight as well, leaving Sara alone in the dark. The paladin struck the general hard while the general returned the favor by not only going after the paladin's blade, but him as well. At one point the bard came in, but was hit hard by the general. The paladin struck again but the general knocked him momentarily unconscious before his determination spell on his shield kicked in.

(GM Note: That nightwalker was quite the fight, especially after the shadows. I was quite close to breaking Menasius' blade let alone causing the paladin's determination to kick in.)

The party soon came out ahead and defeated the general after a time. At the general's death, the entire tower shook for a few seconds. It reminded the party that the general's warning about their impending death was still viable as a rather powerful being resided nearby, and likely knew what they were doing. Dropping back to the floor, Sara was able to rejoin the others, and healing began. All the healers were running low on spells and were hesitant to continue. Figuring it was the best location to rest, the party first searched the room before setting up camp by the doorway. While most of the items in the room were broken, the party was able to find one flaming greatsword from one of the angels that was not broken.

The next day, the party investigated the stairs further before starting their climb. It appeared to be an undead mindless creature in its own right. It was hovering in the air, building a stair of yellowed bones spiraling around the inner tower. It was however not touching either side of the tower. With the knowledge that something could affect the stairs, the party began to climb 60 feet to the next floor.

At first, the room appeared empty, but then everyone but Sara was able to shake off the mirage and see the room as it truly was - covered in spider webs. A bladed piece of web swung at the party hitting all but Alaric who was still in the stair well. Figuring that since it was like a pendulum and would be back, Alaric moved forward and built a wall to stop the trap in its place. Then, looking the other way, a purple spider moved along the wall and threw a web at Kamira, covering her in a sticky substance. It was soon learned that this was a Leng Spider, and that it could air walk just as the general did. The party exchanged blows with the spider, and soon, it too was destroyed.

A quick check of the room revealed nothing of interest other than some holes in the outer wall from what must have been siege weapons. Purple lightning flashed outside as the storms continued to rage. Menasius burned away the web at the foot of the stairs and the party continued up 90 feet to the next floor. This floor opened out onto a balcony. One that must have been where Tar-Baphon himself stood to address his army below. At each corner stood a large brazier of blue fire. This fire had been twisted by live sacrifices, turning them into unholy elder fire elementals. None of the party members could hit the elementals with weapons as they could not get through the damage reduction, but Zalura used an icicle dagger, while Sara used the frost capabilities of her rapier to help damage the creatures. Alaric used cone of cold against the creatures and then gave Kamira a wand to help her fight against them. Menaisus helped heal those who were being damaged by the fire from the creatures. There was a fair amount of commentary about wand sharing, that continued between the Paladin and Sorcerer after the elementals were defeated and they began their ascent of 170 feet in the open around the inner tower. Zalura and Sara decided that perhaps they should let the boys walk next to each other if they cared about the other that much.

At around 50 feet or so off the balcony, Kamira and Alaric heard the sound of screams - as if people were falling off the tower. Alaric said to brace themselves as the haunt hit the party. A swarm of keening ectoplasmic spirits swirled around the stairs, keening so mournfully that it filled the living with sorrow and angst. Luckily the party was able to brace themselves mentally as well as physically and survived the haunt with only a few points of damage to those that grabbed spikes from the tower. Menasius had grabbed Sara, just in case the stairs had given way.

Continuing upward, Kamira began noticing strange features in the stairs at the 100 foot mark. It was as if the stairs were becoming malicious. The party avoided the strange spot easily, just as they avoided the next spot further up. Wary, the party continued upward until they noticed skeletons chained to the wall. They were here and there, but two in particular seemed different. They were at about the 150 foot mark and one of them twitched, causing Kamira to alert the others. Alaric flew a few feet from the tower, but kept his distance from the swirling angry storm that was raging just out from the tower. It seemed to snarl and snap at him as he came close, making him wary. Kamira let Menasius go around her to take on the skeletal creatures and found out that they hit hard. One of them could even reach Alaric with his chains. Soon these skeletons were defeated, adding their bones to the staircase. At the moment of their destruction, a lightning bolt shot out and zapped Alaric - reminding them that the storms were still there and still dangerous.

The end of the AP

Session 32:

There were a few points that Kamira spotted on the stairs that the party needed to avoid, but as they neared the top, the stairs lit up below the party instead of ahead of it. Everyone managed to move out of the way, except for Zalura - who was caught by Alaric.

Rain water fell onto the platform from the storms raging above. The party made sure it was just rain before climbing out onto the platform. The outer walls cupped around them and the inner tower continued up another 80 feet or so. As the party walked carefully to the other staircase to continue their climb, movement was seen in the shadows. Alaric soon caught sight of a large bat-like creature crawling around the side of the tower before it pounced.

The party found the nightwing to be difficult, but not impossible to overcome. Once the creature was lying dead on the ground, the group healed and pressed onward. As they neared the stairs, Sara stopped and looked up - feeling a presence. Everyone saw a figure peer over the edge above them and then disappear.

(GM Note: I used a lot of ideas from the various Adivion boards. I liked the blade-bound magus idea as I had played one in another game before. Making the blade the corrupted Corpse Light was intriguing to me and therefore played a role in my version. I also used the speech given in one of the boards as well, slightly modified. I will include it here as well).

The last staircase took the party onto the very top of Gallowspire. Spines jetted upward around the perimeter of the roof. At the center was a large arcane seal - and at the center stood Adivion. Adivion was dressed in black robes and holding a chalice between his hands. He addressed the party, wondering why they had come - what reason they had to be there. It was learned that he had done all this because of respect for knowledge. A desire to meet one of the greatest persons in Golarion history. The party told him that they would have to act if he did not stop. Adivion told them that he did not wish to harm them, that since the professor respected them - he did as well. It was shot back that it was he who had killed the professor - a fact that Adivion pointed out was not his doing but that of Auren Vrood. The feeling that something was off first started when Adivion worded an answer strangely. When asked to drop the chalice, he said that he could not.

The feeling something was off continued when the blade began to glow lightly in its sheath. Adivion began to look nervous and started to struggle with some unseen force. He told it that he would not do it. As this was going on, Menasius moved forward as Alaric identified the blade as a black blade. Menasius came against a wall of force as Adivion began to lift the chalice to his mouth. The boys decided it was time to remove the blade from the wielder. Alaric removed the barrier while Menasius shot at the chalice to remove it from Adivion's hands. He struck true and the chalice flew back and hit the ground before rolling off the side of the tower. Unfortunately, it was a hair too late as some of the liquid splashed into the man's mouth. Alaric then disintegrated the belt the sword was on and Menasius kicked it away. Adivion sputtered and then dropped to his knee, panic in his eyes. He pleaded for them to help him. Menaisus came forward and tried to heal him, but the man was dying too fast for them to help him.

(GM Note: I was quite impressed with what the party was trying to do. But some things just can't be healed in the usual ways.)

Adivion dropped to the ground dead as the storms began to turn an awful color. The party knew something was about to happen - likely a lich transformation. But something didn't seem quite right. The body suddenly flew back as the skin began to shed and crack, the eye lids burning off as red pinpoints of light seared through his eyes. A shadowy soul began swirling about him, ripping at his flesh which healed as fast as it was damaged. His eyes fell on the blade and called it to his hand. Sara and Alaric recognized the blade as Corpselight, an old Ustalavic blade that fell and was twisted by the Whispering Tyrant himself. It was now a black longsword with angry red runes. Adivion then said that there was only one real vessel for the Tyrant, and that this was him. He raised the sword and lightning flashed across the sky. The illusion of being transported far from the tower fell over the party but only Kamira and Zalura were affected by it.

Kamira moved forward to be closer, waiting for Menasius to engage before she would as well. As they engaged Adivion, two nightwings rose to join the battle.

(GM Note: I knew the party would slaughter Adivion by himself, even with an additional level added on to him.)

Blows and spells were exchanged before Adivion dimension doored to engage the sorcerer upclose. The transformation to a full lich occurred as the group fought, but the shadowy soul began taking on a shape similar to that of Tar Baphon as the power in Adivion rose to its peak. The bard engaged the magus returning blows before having to back away from the onslaught of attacks by the magus. The paladin encouraged the bard, impressed by her initiative in going right for the threat as he moved forward to engage as well. Alaric managed to push through the spell resistance and trade high level spells to the forsaken lich.

As the fight drew on, 8 ghosts of soldiers appeared around the perimeter, signifying a haunt. Sara was wounded heavily and had to withdraw from the nightwing. She learned that she could get healing for herself and everyone by asking the ghosts. This helped not only her, but Zalura and the others from falling.

(GM Note: I actually read the friendly haunt wrong in that they only gave the bonuses to those in a certain range. Some of the party was out of range, but got the bonuses anyway. It ended up not being a bad thing overall considering the amount of damage the party was taking.)

At long last, the forsaken lich was destroyed, leaving a large shadowy figure of Tar Baphon. Menasius, after finishing off a nightwing, tried to kill the shadow, but it escaped over the side of the tower and into the storms. Zalura at long last took care of her nightwing with a heal spell, ending the battle atop Gallowspire.

Looking to the ash and remains of Adivion, the party saw two spirits, one a small child, the other was Hawkren, the Warden of Harrowstone. He thanked them, and Alaric spoke Pharasmin rights as the two spirits moved on. Looking to the blade, Alaric and Menasius worked to get it into Menasius' bag of holding without touching it despite its hissing at them. Not liking the look of the storm, the party began their descent down the tower. Despite stopping Adivion, the mood was low. Each wondered what the black shadow was, and where it had went.

The party was able to exit the tower without further incident and make their way through Adorak. It was decided to head to Ravengro as it was not far before teleporting to Caliphas. But as they exited the city, night began to fall and another storm began to spread out in their direction. The party found a cave to weather the storm and get some well-deserved rest. On Zalura's watch, she saw a group of skeletons which she alerted Alaric. He set off a fire ball, waking everyone, but killing the undead. This allowed everyone to resume sleeping.

Mid day the next day, Alaric felt the witchgate influence disappear, allowing them the freedom to teleport if they desired. Looking to the others, Zalura then teleported them outside of Caliphas once it was decided that they should just go there instead. Arriving near Caliphas, the party saw two caravans parked outside the wall. One was Andrei's, the other was the Crooked Kin. The party was greeted by Trollblood and Nicolae, both quite happy to see them. They were invited back to the caravans to get something to eat and to see everyone - though Kaleb and Andrei were currently both in town. The Wolf Child mobbed Menasius while Lidia, the Bearded Lady, welcomed them by hugging Alaric and forcing them to eat. Kamira asked who each of them were and she was introduced as she had not been with them when they met either caravan. She even tried to flirt back at Nicolae, earning a strange look from the sorcerer and Menasius warning Nicolae. The werewolf winked at Menasius and kept at it anyway just for fun. Zalura mentioned that this was nothing unusual.

They were told they had to come back that night for dinner, fun and stories - to which the party agreed. But first, they had many things to attend to. Menasius took Sara back to the Majesty where Galdana came down and hugged her - thanking Menasius for bringing her back. Halloran was there as well and Menasius filled both of them in on what occurred.

Meanwhile, Kamira and Alaric went to retrieve Kendra and report to Luvick. Kendra was pleased to see them, just as Quin was. Kamira and Quin took Kendra back to Adivion's manor to see what would happen to it - learning that Adivion had left it to her after all. Alaric remained behind to talk some with his father with the promise to come back later to get the whole story as Luvick was in the midst of a meeting.

Afterward, Alaric went to check in on his mother while Menasius and Sara went to see Natalia Borsch (Sara's mother). By that evening, the entire party returned to the caravan to begin the celebration. At long last the party could relax and truly celebrate their success. Fireworks were lit off, and Alaric conspired with Nicolae to get the paladin drunk. A feat that took time, but was at last successful. Kamira performed for a willing audience, and Quin slipped a drink instead of water to try and get the bard drinking.

After a long and fun night, in which Nicolae returned clothing to various people, the party realized that they had no where they really had to be for the first time in a long time. They could see the storms yet over Gallowspire, but they appeared to be fading. With the sword still in their possession, it was decided that perhaps they should drop by Lastwall and see what should be done about it.

They left on the first day of the new year and arrived in Vigil in good time thanks to a quick teleport and some riding. Vigil was a decent sized town, but no where the size of Caliphas. It was surrounded by two sets of walls, with gardens in between for food for its citizens. The party found the guard house where they were able to recognize Sir Garvis. They asked to speak privately with him and filled him in on what happened. The man was surprised to hear they had Corpselight, and went to speak with his superiors. He returned with several high level Kinghts of Iomadae who then took the blade to begin its 'reprogramming' in hopes to purify it back to its original form. They were thanked for their service and told that if they needed anything to come find them. (They were all quite surprised the party survived their walk to Gallowspire, let alone survived a battle there.)

The party returned to Caliphas and began thinking about what was next for them. They all knew they would miss traveling with the others, and hoped to see each other again.

Little did they know that they would come together two years later....

(GM Note: And so ends the official AP for the party. It was quite the ride and everyone enjoyed the story. I let them level up and gave them a feat for writing what their characters did during the two years of downtime.)

Adivion Scene/Speech:

(GM Note: This was my outline that I used. I adjusted it to work with the party as they spoke and interacted with Adivion.)

Lightning cracks across the churning, corpse-gray sky above as you climb the last steps of the Bone Stair. The vast sky all around enhances the feel of dizzying heights that is Gallowspire. Overhead, a massive crown of blades rises upward, casting a dark shadow across the roof below. A wide, round seal of shining silver metal caps the roof, inscribed with arcane symbols and powerful magic wards. In the center of the seal stands Adivion. He wears fine black robes embroidered in silver and gold. A circlet of bone adorns his brow. A shining chalice is gripped in both hands, and there is a distinct madness in his pale eyes. The souls of the dead and the damned rage around you, their dance of destruction wrapping around the blades of stone that seem to threaten to close in around you. The air is thick in anticipation.

“Why?” He asks as you step into view. “Why couldn’t you just leave us alone? I have searched for so long for that one spark, that one beautiful ray of light that would make this world worth living in. And then you… You had to meddle where you were not wanted. There is nothing for you here. So why?!”

“Look at what you’ve done,” Adivion says, with a defeated sigh. “Do you know why I chose her? Before Tar-Baphon took his title, he sired an heir. And long generations hence, he still has an heir. They Tyrant’s blood flows through Galdana’s veins. In her veins. But not in their minds… His brilliant intelligence is locked away…” Adivion looked into the depths of the chalice. The damned fly around, just above him, forming a spectral ring. You get the sense that something seems to have gone wrong.

“Please, don’t make me do this…” he barely whispers. “Maybe they… no… no I can’t…” His face falls in defeat against some unheard command. “All right… I’ll do it.” He gave a nervous swallow and then threw back the chalice, drinking deeply of its contents.

**If hit** The chalice flies, blood red liquid fans out and hisses where it touches the silver seal. You hear the chalice as it bounces over the edge of the tower and falls out of ear range.

Adivion falls to his knees, gasping. His eyes look up to you in fear. “Please…. Help… me.”

His eyes roll back and he collapses, dead.

For a moment all is quiet. And then, it ends abruptly as Adivion is thrown backwards, blood flying from his mouth. His eyelids tear open as his eyes burn out of their sockets. It appears as though his entire body is burning, searing from the inside-out by a terrible force. The howling storm embraces him, ripping at his skin and his clothing with far too many claws. Or maybe it’s just a trick of the eye, evil shadows cast by the dark blades in places they should not be.

Adivion hauls himself upright, dead and Forsaken. What remains of his soul tears at his skin, leaving black furrows that gape before sealing themselves. He looks at his hands and begins to laugh, the mad cackle of the insane. He then levels his undead gaze on you.

“You did this to me,” Adivion accuses. “You stole Sara from me. LOOK! Look at what you have done!” His voice changes as the blue fire in his eye sockets smolder to black. “Blood means nothing.” He said, more calmly. “I am the only worthy vessel for the Tyrant. In life I was his servant. Now…”

He draws his sword and lifts it skyward, a wicked black blade covered in angry red runes. The storm above strikes down on the sword, setting it aflame and the world changes. You and Adivion stand in a blasted wasteland. Gallowspire looms in the distance.

“Now I am the Tyrant REBORN!”

Here are the received information for each character, including Sara. This is the overview of what happened during the two years after the fight atop Gallowspire.


During the first month or so of our 2 year 'vacation' he intends to go back home to Brevoy for a time. He intends to bring Sara with him to meet his foster family. During this time, Menasius proposes to Sara and she accepts.

The pair return to Ustalav where Sara is named the official heir to Amaans. They remain in Ustalav so that Menasius can learn the politics as well as get to know his new inlaws. The ceremony will be in Ustalav but will be conducted by Menasius's foster parents (traditional Sarenrae wedding ceremony). After the ceremony the two will then travel to Osirion for a honeymoon. They will most likely stay in Osirion exploring the old tombs and helping archeologists do their job. Menasius and Sara will most likely do some work with the Pathfinder society over there as well.

Rough timeline / list of events:

Stay in Ustalav until after Alaric & Zalura's wedding (Kamira, Zalura, and Alaric will get private invites to Menasius' potential wedding with the assumption Sara will say yes. Unless otherwise told, the wedding will be Calistril 3 4712).
Travel to Restov, Brevoy with Sara.
Stay in Restov for 4 weeks during which time Sara and Menasius will be engaged.
Sara and Menasius married on Calistril 3.
Stay in Ustalav for 4 months.
Travel to Osirion and stay there until post AP starts.


I had always wanted to travel - it was part of the reason I went to school for archaeology. A chance to leave Ustalav for a time and go see the world. Learn of its wonders - especially Osirion. Though I also rather enjoyed Brevoy. It's a beautiful country. It was here with the snow as a backdrop that I was proposed to. I'm not entirely sure who was more excited, myself or his parents. From the engagement celebration, I can see why Menasius gets along with the Varisian caravans in Ustalav.

It was also about the same time I realized that fate handed us a little gift. We were riding to go sight seeing (and get away from everyone for a little while) when I told Menasius that I thought I might be pregnant. He was about as surprised as I was, but we both looked forward to it.

Our wedding was held in my father's estate of Willowmourn. Once I would have hesitated at the idea. But, after what happened in Gallowspire, and I saw that he actually did care, I relaxed my stance on him somewhat. More so as we stayed long enough to get familiar with the politics of Amaans. Before we left for Brevoy, my father did formally announce me as his heir - something that was both welcomed and unwanted depending on who you talked to. You could say father doesn't exactly have a good relationship with the local church. And really, I can't blame him. They are of a particular type that gives Pharasmans a bad name.

Eventually we made our way to Osirion where we found ourselves a nice little home in Sothis. We built contacts not only with the Sarenrae temple there, but also with the local Pathfinders. My schooling on ancient Osiriani was put to good use as we joined expeditions into nearby tombs and pyramids. My excursions were put on hold at the birth of our son, Daerehn. I started up again once I was comfortable taking him with me - and only on the day excursions. I had planned to work my way back into the longer ones as he grew older, but those plans have to wait.

What happened to me at Renchurch, and what happened in Gallowspire did haunt my dreams - more so just after we got back to Caliphas and left the others. Over time they faded to my relief. Unfortunately, now they have resurfaced. Only this time I could hear the call. I saw the breaking of three seals not unlike the one we saw at the top of the Tower. We inquired with the high priestess at the temple, but she said that the seals seemed to still be in tact. But I worry, as does Menasius that it was a vision of what could be coming...

(GM Note: The ominous sign that was to start the next part of the story.)


Kamira would stay around for Alaric and Zalura's wedding, thrilled for the two of them. Afterward, she'd start on her way to Absalom on her trip south. She'd have a detour to come back up north for the wedding between Menasius and Sara. Heading south again, she reached the city of Katapesh. There, she met up with another half-elf, but one that peaked her interest in a way she never thought. His name was Cole, a bladesman from Hermea. The two started to work together, and eventually, despite all of Kamira's lack of interest in men, she fell in love with him. They eventually moved northward to Orision for a couple months, and then on to Absalom where they stayed for a year.

The bard became antsy again and decided to go on the move, selecting the next destination to be Kyonin, the elven homeland, to see if they could one day get past the port city and see more of the country. It is there, in Greengold that they are staying at the start of the Post-AP

Year 4712
Abadius 7 - Alaric and Zalura's Wedding
Abadius 9 - Travel to Absalom
Calistril 1 - Return to Ustalav for Menasius and Sara's Wedding
Calistril 5 - Return to Absalom
Pharast 1 - Arrive in Katapesh
Pharast 10 - Meet Cole in Katapesh
Sarenith 17 - Decide to travel to Absalom
Sarenith 25 - Land in Sothis
Arodus 15 - Leave for Absalom
Arodus 20 - Arrive in Absalom, staying with Cole's family

Year 4713
Erastus 3 - Make plans to go to Kyonin
Erastus 10 - Leave for Kyonin
Erastus 20 - Arrive at Greengold

Year 4714
Pharast 16 - Kamira has nightmares
Pharast 19 - Kamira realizes the dreams are a call to Ardis
Pharast 20 - Kamira and Cole leave for Ustalav
Pharast 23 - Kamira and Cole arrive in Ardis


Alaric and Zalura were married four days after the end of the campaign. It was a relatively small affair, with family and friends, under the night sky. After that point, the two traveled through Varisia for a few weeks, before turning southward towards Taldor. They opted to go by sea – a decision Alaric regretted upon realizing that his lack of bearings around water translated into seasickness. Upon reaching Taldor, they stayed at the manor of Alaric’s cousin, Nathis. It was at this point that they discovered that they were going to be parents.

After their time in Taldor, they skirted back up to Ustalav for Menasius’s wedding, before traveling to Andoran. By that time, Zalura’s due date was beginning to get close enough that they moved back to Ustalav to settle down. Alaric became connected with the Esoteric Order (largely through Judge Daramid) and they bought a manor in a nice part of Lepidstadt.

Alaric made an uneasy amends with Heitan Zemaitis, his human “father” not too long after that. Alaric’s title was reinstated and he and Zalura became Count and Countess Zemaitis (much to Alaric’s amusement as his wife gets used to the title.) Since then, Alaric has been regaining allies and contacts, and becoming more and more deeply involved in the courts and politics of both Lepidstadt and Caliphas (largely thanks to the wonders of teleportation.) He does not believe in basing his position on lies, however, and while he doesn’t advertise his heritage, he doesn’t bother to deny it, either.

Their daughter, Selene, was born on the 30th of Lamashan. The both of them have been trying to keep up with her, and Alaric has given priority to being there for his wife and child. He has also taken a renewed effort in forging new relationships with his family. Not only his mother and stepfather (who still won’t look him in the eye) but with Luvick, as well. The two have taken time every fortnight or so to spend time together, getting to know one another, and have become quite close. He acts as Luvick’s eyes and ears within the living courts whenever he can, and tends to go to his father first should an issue arise.

A few days prior to the start of our new adventure, Zalura received a suspicious omen in her morning Harrowing. After some investigation, they decided that it would be best to head to Ardis, to see what they could find out. Alaric alerted Luvick, placed more wards on the manor than would be healthy for the average thief, and they took the two-day ride with their daughter in tow. Here, they wait, trying to see if or when their companions will get some wind of the ill omens of the Tyrant, and arrive in the city of Ardis.


When you follow the ways of the winds, anything can happen. If you asked me where I would be back in the caravan days, I would never have seen where I am today. Never would have guessed it. I may have even laughed at you. Oh, perhaps married was one thing I could guess at. But the whole part about living in a city? Being a ... Countess? No, none of that would have crossed my mind. And yet, I regret nothing. And blessed to still be alive.

We'd discussed going to Thuvia. I have the small vial of Sun Orchid Elixir still. I have it safely placed in my bag. No, I haven't taken it. I suppose I figure it best to take it later than now. To allow myself more time when I know I will still be around I suppose. I knew we weren't done with matters. The cards always hinted at that... let alone the escaping soul piece from atop Gallowspire. We didn't exactly allow Tar-Baphon to forget about us.

I believe Thuvia was in the plans after Varisia, and after going to Taldor. But not when we learned that I was with child. I couldn't risk something like that. Not when my life was not the only one at risk. You don't exactly just waltz into Thuvia for a chance at the Elixir. Not unless you have a great deal of money and its only a few vials every year. So instead we spent some time in Andoran after we went back to Ustalav to see Sara and Menasius wed. Then it was to Lepidstadt. The place we had settled on. A place I could at least see myself living in. I had liked it there when we were there. Aside from the whole skin stealer thing, and the mess the Whispering Way left at Schloss Caromarc, it wasn't that bad a place.

Aside from the surprise at having a child a bit sooner than we planned, I was surprised by another change. One of those constants that I have always had since I was a young child. My familiar had been hiding a few things from me. Waiting for me to grow before she revealed what she was. It wasn't until we were settling in Lepidstadt that she fully revealed herself. A Silvanshee, her silver fur turned to onyx with silvery stripes. Her once green eyes turned violet. And she started talking out loud. That and she started flying, but I suppose a witch with a flying cat isn't really that unheard of. She said it was time I knew what she was, and that she can continue to help aid me in life. Which, at that time was getting used to the idea of being a Countess, and having a daughter. I still can't get over hearing either one of them actually. The first is still unnerving though, which I think amuses Alaric.

But it's getting better. It's not as bad as I had thought it would be. I still get to do my readings, and I can help with the healers if they need it. I am stationary, yes, but not really stationary. I can still help others in my own way. Doing readings has become interesting, at least, my morning ones. I've been able to divine further with the right words, to seek answers beyond what the cards themselves give me. Another blessing from Desna. But as any blessings are, they are always there for a reason. A reason that showed itself two years after the events at Gallowspire. We find ourselves in Ardis, the faint whispers of a power Ustalav does not need to see again echoing in my mind - in my dreams. I know I am not the only one to hear it. I just hope we can stop it before someone else takes up Adivion's mantle and carries it even further...

Meetings and The Harrowing

(GM Note: I liked the module the Harrowing and thought it would be a good fit for the group to go through. I also needed a reason for it, so I hatched a plot. The party was going to have another party to deal with, one I pulled from the Rival Guide - The Night Harrows. I made one change however, removing the Invisible Man and putting in Yolanda. This addition was based off Kamira's backstory and fit in quite nicely. As for The Harrowing itself, I used it as a means to not only get the group used to traveling again, but the Night Harrows used it to try and get rid of a threat. Scaling The Harrowing for a level 16 party was quite challenging for a new GM, but things worked out pretty well.)

Session 33:

The party was reunited in Ardis of all places. Each having seen visions or dreams of a shadow moving about the old Capital. Menasius had parted ways with Sara and their son, Daerehn at Willowmourn and arrived alone in town. Zalura, Alaric and their daughter Selene were staying at an inn in Ardis, having arrived the day before. With a brief amount of catching up, Alaric sent a message to see if Kamira was on her way - which she was. In the meantime, Menasius mentioned that he wanted to look into the old abandoned palace as a probable place for the shadow. Both Zalura and Alaric told him that it was known to be haunted, but had been empty since the capital was moved to Caliphas. The current Countess was living elsewhere. Considering the Countess of Adreal was a very paranoid sort, the group dropped by to give word that they were in town and not going to be causing any harm to her lands. The Countess Solismina Venacdahlia was said to be ill, but the guard outside said he would take their greetings to the Countess and deliver their message.

From there, the three went to speak with Mikhail, the mercenary captain that Alaric had once worked for. He was quite surprised at their entrance but was willing to help them how he could. Though the only thing he had heard about was strange sightings on the east part of town. He told them he would keep an ear out for anything further for them.

Kamira arrived the next day with a friend in toy. A man named Cole. This seemed to confuse everyone considering the last time they all knew, Kamira was into girls. With Kamira's arrival, she mentioned that she too had dreams, but that hers dealt with a circus. The one that she saw stationed just outside of town. This was the Carnivale Cosmopolis - a caravan circus that parked itself outside of Ardis after the capital moved and became stationary. Realizing the carnival was just outside the east gate, the party decided that this was the first place they should begin searching.

The circus wasn't busy, but not empty when they arrived. A particular tent, one of a dark blue color with stars and moons reminded Kamira of the one in her dream. She led the others to it, and read the sign positioned outside. It read All-Seeing Hajeck. Entering inside, a beautiful Varisian woman beckoned them forward. A Harrowdeck and a crystal ball sat before the fortune teller. She asked them what she could do for them, and Kamira asked her a question about the shadow. Alaric noticed that the Harrowdeck was magical, as was the woman - though no different than anyone wearing magic items. Only this Harrowdeck, as it was cast, opened up some sort of portal. With a flash, all the party except Cole vanished - as did the fortune teller, leaving the blind man all alone.

(GM Note: Cole was left behind as he was not really stated out. And it was kind of amusing, though ultimately helpful, to have someone stay behind.)

When their vision cleared, the party found themselves standing outside a circus - not too unlike the one they were just in. The major difference was that this one appeared abandoned and run down. Zalura began picking up the Harrow cards that were spread all around them, and soon the others helped gather them as well. It was likely what brought them there, and she figured leaving them on the ground was not a good idea. Nor a good omen. She recognized the place as the Harrowed Realm - a place that was created by a Varisian bard named Sonnarae. She was famous for collecting stories and creating a realm where these stories could live.

Hearing a noise, the party moved forward and saw a frail man being attacked by a group of tengu clowns. They moved in to help, with Alaric remaining back with Selene. At first the party tried a nonlethal approach, until Menasius pointed out they were evil, then the party turned up the damage output. Biyo Venna, the man who had been attacked thanked the party thoroughly for their help. He told them he had escaped from the palace of Zassrion. Apparently he had taken in a mortal who was trapped and Biyo wanted to find someone to help them. Biyo explained to the party that he and the others there are called Storykin. They were made by Sonnorae. He also said that Sonnorae had been killed by what were called The Conspirators. He figured that if the party could find the tokens that were torn from her kapenia, that the completed kapenia might be able to help them escape the realm now that the deck was with them. He mentioned that the circus' ringmaster, Bernaditi was one such Conspirator.

With that knowledge, and the desire to help whoever this other mortal trapped with them was, the party entered into the center tent. Inside, they found a bored audience watching a juggler and some bears on unicycles. Their appearance made things exciting, and the crowd wanted to see a fight. The party however decided to give them a different show, and Kamira sang the song of their adventure. With backup from the party, the crowd cheered them on - thoroughly enjoying the change in events. Disheartened, the juggler and bears slunk off and out of the tent. Though one bear had a terrible time staying on his unicycle as he left in shame. From the back, the party saw someone seated on a bench inside a cage. Dressed properly, they figured that this must be Bernaditi. As they drew closer they saw that he was a rakshasa who looked eerily like the one on the Harrow card.

When asked about the gem, he challenged the group to a battle of wits in which they had to catch him in a lie by asking questions. They had to provide proof of this as well. Using the fact he mentioned he almost always lies, they were able to catch him in a lie and earn his token, a garnet on a pendant he kept in his tea cup. This was said to be The Songmaker's Kiss.

(GM Note: I went with the method of having the party ask questions in order to catch Bernaditi in a lie. There were no other rules. It took them I think 4 maybe 5 questions before they caught him.)

With the first token in hand, the party now had to figure out where to go next to find the next one. Bernaditi seemed quite pleasant about the whole ordeal, and never indicated that he would turn violent toward them. He even bid them good luck as they left the tent.

Session 34:

The party left the tent and considered which way they needed to go. Zalura levitated up to see if she couldn't see what was in the area. When she came down she drew a rough map of the area on the dirt. She saw what looked like a factory, a large building, a volcano, a swamp and a ringed forest. In between looked to be a vast field of briar. The party had noticed a path when they first entered and they decided that it was the best way to get somewhere.

The path turned out to be a bit of a maze and the party wandered through it for some time before they came to a clearing with some trees and a house that appeared to be moving.

(GM Note: I found one of those maze maps and instead of drawing out the map, I gave the party directions very similar to the game Sidibaba. Only when they started marking their path did I start actually drawing anything. I thought it worked out pretty well.)

A voice was heard coming from the tree, telling the house to stop following him. As the party came closer, a rabbit creature appeared on the ground. He was dressed well and wore a crown. The Rabbit Prince. He asked the party what they were doing, and when he was asked if he had a token, Brambleson said that why in fact he did and that he would challenge them to a duel in order to win his token. Kamira stepped forward and accepted. Menasius asked if Brambleson needed a weapon, but the Rabbit assured him his sword was quite fine, if a bit broken. The pair moved off to the center of the clearing to begin. The duel went up into a tree where the two cast spells back and forth before Kamira climbed the tree to knock him out of it. The duel went to the ground and soon Brambleson yielded, dropping his sword. Kamira gave it back to the Rabbit Prince and thanked him. Brambleson bowed to her, graciously took his sword and handed her a tiny jade shoe, The Dancing Heel.

(GM Note: This duel was made all the more entertaining as we had a thunderstorm going on and the internet was all kinds of fussy. We ended up putting Kamira's player on speaker phone to finish out the roleplay. The internet came back up after the duel - go figure.)

The party inquired of Brambleson where the other Conspirators may be, and he was able to tell them that there was the Maker in the Manmolds, a token in the Prophet's Garden, a token at the Caldera, a token at the Playhouse and a token in the Demon's Fen with a creature named Radiant Sunrise. He pointed them in the direction of the Demon's Fen, and the party thanked him and continued on. It took a bit more time to wind their way through the rest of the maze when they came out into a swamp land. The undergrowth was thick, but the path would at least keep them from sinking to their knees in muck.

Looking skyward, the party realized that the sun and moon were controlled by large mechanical arms, and that the sky was painted an off shade of blue. As they worked their way along the path, Alaric heard something coming behind them. It would stop when they stopped and kept a distance of 50 or 60 feet behind them. No one could see anything through the undergrowth. Soon the party came to an opening with a large lake before them. Dead fish lined the shore indicating nothing likely lived in it anymore. In the distance there was an island, and what looked like a bridge off to one side that led to the island. Then Alaric sensed something right behind him. He turned and saw an avoral trying to steal his shadow and replace it with a blanket. He said 'excuse me but that is mine', alerting the rest of the party who turned to see the owl back away apologizing. He said that he rather liked shadows, and that he had wanted Alaric's. He then tried to trade any of their shadows for his favorite needle and thread. Eventually, Alaric told him that they were keeping their shadows, and the avoral wandered off. Paranoid, Kamira had to check to make sure her shadow was still intact -and it was.

Turning back to the island, the party began to walk along the lakeside toward the bridge when they heard beautiful singing - part lullaby, part dirge. And then it broke into sobs. The singer appeared to be a white couatl who was matted and in tears sitting on the edge of the bridge. When asked about Radiant Sunrise, she said that she was no more and began to sob. They were able to get out of the Coautl that she was Mourning Choir and that she wished that they would stay with her. She tried to coerce Kamira, and the party told her that was unnecessary. Menasius was unsettled by the fact that coautl were often good aligned creatures and this one was evil. Mourning Choir asked if anyone sang and Menasius said no just as Kamira said yes. The prior wanting to hold back that information to try and get her off the bridge, and the other figured that singing may help.

Between the song and some more words, the party was able to learn that Mourning Choir was Radiant Sunrise, and that she had swallowed the bard's compassion. Wracked with guilt, the coautl came here and threw up the token which was taken by the Barrow King who now only cares for the dead. She said that he would only allow mourners to his island without attacking. She let the party go past her on the bridge and Alaric changed the appearance of his robe to look like mourner's clothing. The others stayed on the bridge, Zalura taking Selene.

The wight king remained against a sarcophagus between two candles. The party recognized them as neutralizers for a haunt. Alaric came in and did his respects off to one side of the sarcophagus before addressing the wight. The wight did not seem interesting in attacking, and appreciated the respect given to the dead. He did stand to better speak with Alaric. When asked about the token, the wight said that if the party could help him put the restless undead to rest, he would give them the token. He seemed to have said this by looking at Menasius, figuring that it was possible with a paladin/cleric in the group. He said that the haunt was being neutralized by the candles, and that the sarcophagus was the target. Zalura cast fly on Menasius so that he could stay above any attacks from the ground as the group figured it was much like Alaric's ability of the undead grasping from the ground. Alaric took flight to avoid the positive energy just as the wight moved back as well as soon as he extinguished the candles. Hands erupted from the ground and tried to claw at Menasius as he burst positive energy into it. Soon it was neutralized and a knock was heard. The wight said that he needed to consecrate the sarcaphogus, but the paladin did not have the spell memorized. As the wight was about to attack Kamira with the words "oh, that's too bad", Menasius said that he could see if Sarenrae would bless him with the spell. The wight gave him that chance, and with some praying, the spell was granted to the paladin and he was able to put the haunt to rest. The wight was pleased by this and thanked the party. He said to open the sarcophagus and inside lay a ruby, The Bard's Heart.

(GM Note: Considering all their good diplomacy roles and ideas, I granted the spell.)

The party left the island and returned to the mainland. Mourning Choir was sill there, but night had fallen. The lighting didn't really change much, but the sky was now an off-black and the moon was moving across the sky. The coautl was able to show the party where they needed to go when they said they would head toward the volcano. They figured they could camp near it instead of in the swamp as the bard was growing tired.

(GM Note: Kamira was the only one in the party that didn't have a ring of sustenance.)

As they worked their way through the briar, they came across a paladin. This one appeared to be a paladin of Iomadae, but Menasius felt something off about him. This one appeared to have evil intent. The paladin, when asked, said his name was Algon and that he would require the tokens. When Alaric refused saying that it was their ticket home, the paladin said that this would be a short visit and drew his sword. Menaisus drew his as well, and Alaric came forward to try and talk the other paladin down. It worked with some effort, but the paladin relented that their quest was more worthy than his and let them pass. Menasius had the others go forward and he followed after to make sure that the paladin did not try anything against his friends. Only when they put 50 feet between them did Menasius relax enough to sheath the sword.

After camping the night, the party approached a rather abrupt volcano. Above them, they saw six azers who gathered at the side to start hurling insults at them and kick at the mountain. Noticing that this was the start of an avalanche, Alaric cast fly and went up to keep Selene safe. The azers threw hammers, one of them connecting with Menasius. Not entirely happy with all this, the paladin "diplomatically" told them exactly where those hammers would be going if they didn't stop. Stunned by the words the paladin said, the azers backed down and returned to work. The party was able to climb unhindered up the stairs and up onto the caldera.

(GM Note: The azers weren't the only ones stunned by the paladin's choice of words. He unintentionally returned the insult, not knowing that this was the correct way of going about it. The party was about to stop him when they were stunned that it worked.)

There appeared to be a workshop at the top of the volcano, with pipes every which way and the azers appeared to be working on fittings. When no one stopped the party from looking around, they eventually entered inside. The first area appeared to be a tavern with six drunken azers off to one side. A Cyclops was running the bar and told them flat out that the area was Giants only. Menasius looked at the azers and said that they were awfully small giants. The Cyclops admitted that you could become honorary giants for a day for a price of 1,000 gp. Menasius tried to talk him out of it, and the Cyclops lowered the price. Alaric also talked to him about needing to come inside and the Cyclops, after assessing the party's strength decided it wasn't worth the gold and gave them the keys.

Entering to the next room, they were greeted by the sight of a giant's head in the corner. It appeared to be made of stone. Next to it was a raving fire giant who seemed to believe that all small mortals had a beef against giants and that it was an outrage. The party managed to get the fire giant to talk about what happened and he said that Smith here was minding his own business when the TickTock Man had the nerve to get a spell cast on the giant and turn him to stone. Alaric determined it was a sort of petrification wish spell and was able to dispel it. Pleased, the fire giant became rather friendly, and Smith decided he had enough of this and dropped down below to leave. When asked about the TickTock Man, the fire giant almost started a tirade but remembered himself and said that the guy owned this place now and it was the place that regulated the Realm's temperature and controlled the sun and stars. He gestured off to the other door that the TickTock man was likely over that direction.

Session 35:

The party entered into an area of the Caldera full of machinery and gears. No one seemed to be in the room until Kamira snuck in to see a medium sized humanoid with a sword drawn and looking nervous. She motioned to Menasius who then moved into the room. A voice called out that he knew that "she" had sent them. Having no idea what the man was talking about, the party began to speak with him. They learned that the "she" he was referring to was Marzalee, The Maker. When asked about a token, he said he had one, and that he would trade it for six grubs from the Manmolds.

Taking him up on the offer, the party headed off to the Manmolds, but stopped at the Sanguine Playhouse first, knowing there was another token inside. They met up with a cricket fey creature and a tiny fiddle playing merrily in the corner. Learning the fiddle was owned by Mr. Softshoe's, Menasius went to grab the thing to get it to stop. But no one could get a hold of the bow to stop it.

(GM Note: It was pretty funny watching the two boys trying to stop the fiddle.)

First Eyla, then Kamira fell to the charm of the fiddle. They began to dance.

(GM Note: A dancing cat was quite amusing to most of the party. There were out of character bets being placed to see how long Zalura held out.)

Zalura tried to dispel the magic on Kamira but failed, but soon failed to the fiddle herself. Alaric managed to help Kamira who began to play on her own. Menasius tried to give the fiddle to the cricket but had to hang onto it because the cricket couldn't. He threatened to break it if it would not stop. Between the threat and being outplayed, the fiddle drooped, shamed, and the bow dropped to the ground. The cricket thanked them, took his fiddle and moved on.

Entering inside the theater itself, the party saw two men on stage. Or rather, a puppeteer arguing with his puppet. They seemed to be trying to figure out how to replace the new lead opposite their star. A pile of bodies was noticed off to the side at the front of the theater and below the stage. The rest of the place looked abandoned. Coming further, the two managers looked out and grew excited at the guests - and the solution to their problem.

(GM Note: So the module suggests they choose the lowest Charisma party member. In such a high Charisma party, that lowest score was a 16. That would be the witch. I had considered changing the requirement, but ultimately decided to go with it as written.)

They announced that Zalura would be their next co-lead. Stunned, the witch blinked but didn't say anything until after she found out that if she performed, they would get the token. Menasius bargained with the two, and Zalura agreed to it. Alaric took a seat in one of the rows with the baby while Zalura was brought up to learn her lines. Menasius and Kamira went to the pile of bodies and learned they were killed by a scimitar. Soon, the group was introduced also to the diva - a Varisian woman named Eliara. The managers, Balio and Balimar worked with Zalura further, at least up until something attacked her. Four Thassilonian Show Cockatrice appeared and bit her.

(GM Note: She miraculously made all her saves.)

Kamira had snuck into the back room and came up behind Eliara only to be stabbed by her roses - or rather, a scimitar. The battle had begun in earnest. The summoner helped his Eidolon as well as cast spells, while Eliara, who proved to be a lamia matriarch, held off the bard. Trying to take out the summoner, Alaric found that the doll had placed a spell turning spell on itself, and he killed himself with his own spell.

(GM Note: I believe it was finger of death. He couldn't make his own high DC.)

Alaric managed to not harm his daughter when he fell, and the others pressed the fight on. It grew hairier when a young cloud giant was summoned, but soon, the lamia, then the eidolon and lastly the summoner were defeated. Kamira looked for the token while Zalura and Menasius went to find what happened to Alaric - hoping he was only unconscious. Unfortunately that was not the case, but fortunately, Alaric and Zalura had bought a fail-safe for him and she was able to raise him. This brought a remark about "beauty and the beast" and Menasius joked that was no way to talk to one's wife. This caused Zalura to laugh amongst her tears as she had been about to make the same comment. Thankful to have their sorcerer back, the party left the Theater with their token and moved on to the Manmolds.

Entering into the Manmolds, the party saw a group of wax statues of ancient philosophers from pre-Varisia and Azlanti culture. A plaque on the wall read that "visitors would be scalded". It took Zalura a moment to read it as it was proto-Varisian, but the party wondered precisely what that meant. Unless it was hot wax. Careful, the party began looking in rooms and discovered more statues - and secret doors. Some of the ends had a steam trap - hence the scalding. But no one took damage. Kamira went through and fixed all of them in all the dead ends. In one area, the group came across a room that had blood stained sheets. Menasius identified it with birthing fluids.

Later, while watching the paladin and bard investigate for traps or danger, Alaric saw one of the statues move. He motioned to Zalura who didn't see anything. Alaric swore it moved and they continued on.

(GM Note: I totally did this to mess with the party. I gave them a perception check every so often to determine if they saw movement or not.)

Eventually, Kamira came scooting out of a hallway and said that a statue blinked at her. Alaric commented that he was not the only one. Neither Zalura nor Menasius saw movement as they continued through the maze of hallways. After awhile, they found a set of double doors that led into a wax vat room. Inside was a large ant queen with a woman next to her. They were taking grubs and dipping them into the wax vat.

The group entered and the queen hissed at them. With fast talking, they were able to calm her down enough to speak with her. The party learned that the grubs were rebirthed storykin that she would then form out of the wax. She was asked about her token and she said that she would give it to them if they did her a favor. Kill either the Ticktock Man, or the Nightpeddler for their part in stealing her kids and selling them into slavery. Faced with a dilemma, the party asked to borrow one grub to help them help her. She eventually relented and the party began heading back to the Caldera.

(GM Note: I liked how they visited the Ticktock Man first instead of the Waxworks. Made this an interesting challenge for the party.)

The dilemma grew when the party found out that the Ticktock Man was selling the grubs he stole from Marzalee to fund repairs of the Forge. He was the only one who knew how to fix the place and keep the sun and moon moving as well as keeping the temperature regulated. Hearing the part about money, Menasius offered the money they found in the Realm. The Ticktock Man asked for some more and the deal was set when the rest of the Realm's items were given to him. Thankful, the Ticktock Man gave them The Clouded Lens. When asked where the Nightpeddler was, the party was told that he was a merchant in the desert.

Heading out into the desert revealed an area devoid of anything. It was like the creator of the Realm ran out of ideas, or just didn't build out past the briar. The party traveled for a long time before they saw a sign of life. This came in the form of a centaur hauling butt across the desert with three drunken elementals hot on his tail. Alaric solved this when Menasius mentioned the wall of force. The elementals crashed into it and began seeking a way around, which they were soon thwarted by more walls of force. The centaur paused when he saw he was not being chased and moved to thank the party. He introduced himself as a merchant by the name of Everyready Jocob. He had sold a bottle of brandy to the elementals who then tried to dance with him - something rather dangerous to his health.

The centaur was able to take the party to the Nightpeddler who was camped out in the desert. It was evening when they arrived to see people in chains moving about, and several guards dressed in desert clothing around the camp. When Alaric approached, the Nightpeddler welcomed them and asked them what they wanted and if they desired a place to sleep. A trade was proposed, under the guise that they were agents of the Ticktock Man. During the exchange, one slave moved to Menasius and asked for help. Menasius told her to take a step back as he noticed that the exchange was not going well and Alaric then fired off some electricity through most of the guards and the Nightpeddler. This sparked a battle that was eventually ended by the death of the guards and the Nightpeddler. The slaves thanked the party and they were able to make camp there, as well as to gain the All-Blossom. That night, Alaric remained away from everyone, having not brought enough blood store with him. Wanting to help, and unable to offer his own blood, Menaisus provided a vial to which Kamira donated some blood into and gave to the dhampir.

The next morning, Zalura was reading her cards when they heard thunder and an unearthly screech of metal on metal. The sun halted and the moon began to move to the sun and bathed the lands in an eerily red light. This caused undead to rise and attack. When seeing the moon crumble a bit, it was decided that to stop the undead, they had to destroy the moon. With several hits, it finally crumbled to dust and the light returned to normal - the undead gone.

The party returned to Marzalee in the Manmolds and Menasius presented the Nightpeddler's head. The queen was pleased, and happy also to retrieve her grub. She gave them The Busy Hands token.

With one more token left, the party headed into the Prophet's Garden. Entering, the party saw what must have been a beautiful garden, now lain to waste. Moving in further a beautiful pear tree grew to one side and near it was a goblin and a unicorn arguing over a pear. The goblin said it was his as he picked it, and the unicorn believed an evil creature should not get such a thing. The party tried to talk to them, but to not much avail. Alaric took the pear and the two came to him to argue. He wouldn't give it back until they answered where the token was - something they didn't know about. The unicorn said they should try further on the path. The pear was then split in half and each part was given to the two. The goblin said it was broken. Kamira came to them and gave them each two pears from the tree she climbed. The unicorn left in a huff, but the goblin thanked them and gave them six pears that he said were 'spoiled'. It had words on them. They turned out to be fruit to give courage when one was afraid.

Moving on, the party came to a stone structure with a writing desk. It turned out to still contain a book full of stories written in proto-Varisian. Then the mute hag attacked. Turns out the bard was killed here, where she had written her stories and turned into a vengeful creature in her 'afterlife'. The party soon put Sonnorae to rest and retrieved the last token, the Black Nib. As soon as all the tokens were in Kamira's possession, they began to tug at her. She told the party to follow her and they followed where the tokens led them.

Soon they saw a large castle floating just above the ground and moving slowly. It was the Striding Fortress. In stories it was said to travel here and there, and that it could not be found without special means. Or if the master (or mistress) of the castle wished it to be found.

The End of The Harrowing

Session 36:

The party entered the castle and encountered a courtyard full of ogres, and a gnome that road them like horses. Short work was made of the ogres (one of which was plane shifted), with the gnome soon dropping as well. The next room the party entered contained an Efreeti and a Marid who appeared to be arguing over something right before hand. The Marid turned and broke a water pipe just as the battle started. The Efreeti flew up and turned invisible - making his wife irate. The party made quick work of her, but took some time to bring the fire genie down.

Not wishing to go upstairs yet, the party went to the other side of the courtyard and found a fake altar to a lot of various evil gods. Finding nothing of value here, the party then went through the double doors at the end of the courtyard. Inside was a pool that appeared to be electrified, and lots of pillows. Six beautiful women were chained to the floor and all pleaded to be released. They were apparently being held there by Zassrion and used as pleasure slaves. The party was leery about them, but couldn't find a hole in their story. They even told the party that the dragon was upstairs - and that he was in fact, a blue dragon. When the girls were released, they started to leave, but then turned on the party. The girls turned out to be Succubi. The first round of kisses were bestowed on the party, but only Alaric failed his save to their suggestion. Seeing this, Menasius moved around, declaring him as his and killed the succubi that held him. The next round, Zalura was not so lucky and she was pulled toward the pillows. Eventually, the whole group of succubi were killed and the ordeal was over. Alaric came to his wife to kiss her, and both decided that what just happened had not happened.

In the room beyond was what appeared to be the bridge - the area where one could control the fortress. Left to its own, the fortress seemed to drift wherever it chose. The party then turned back to check out the upper floors out by the courtyard. The dragon they would leave to last. The first room they came across was a barracks area for the ogres. The next seemed to be a room and altar to Asmodeus. There was a dead body slumped over the altar - and he seemed to have been dead for centuries.
The next area the party entered was the kitchen. Inside were three shadow demon's, investigating something or another. The three inquisitors were challenging, laying on the hits quite rapidly, but the party prevailed in the end. Moving on to the circle tower above the Tannery, the party found the bedchambers of the married genies. Above that appeared to be a holding cell for the tortured victims. One cell was occupied by a human - a mortal just like them. The man was shocked to see someone from the mortal realm and introduced himself as Meloigne Garracy, a Taldan Scholar from Oppara. He offered to pay the party for his freedom, even if his family was actually bankrupt. He was able to tell them a bit more of what Zassrion was doing - in that he was stealing mortals to test and find a way to become mortal himself and travel to the Material Plane.

(GM Note: I decided to keep Meloigne in even though the party didn't have a direct tie to him as they do in the full module. It also gave them a common contact in Taldor aside from their individual contacts.)

The party rested upstairs after shoving some tables down the staircase to block it. Once rested, the party advanced toward where the dragon was. Zassrion was standing before the telescope when he turned to see the party. He accused them of standing in his way, which the party retorted that he was doing the same. The dragon then looked to attack and the battle began. Prepared for electricity, the party was able to withstand the storm breath that Zassrion used through a mirage double since Menasius cut a wound in its throat. Kamira bravely rolled into flank with the paladin and did her part to fight the dragon. Both were wounded throughout the fight, but Zalura, who stayed in the staircase, helped to heal from a distance. Alaric stood his ground and fired several spells at the dragon. Soon, the bleeding dragon fell and the reign of the tyrant was over - for a while anyway.

Alaric went to retrieve the scholar and the party discovered the dragon's hoard - a mixture of storykin and mortal items. The latter of which the party grabbed and then went to the tapestry. Kamira touched the tapestry with a gem and it wove itself into the cloth. Each gem brought the ragged tapestry into better shape. At last, the Kapenia, a beautiful Varisian scarf, was whole again. With some investigation, Alaric discovered that using the telescope, the scarf and a teleport spell would bring them all home again. Looking through the telescope, he could see the Harrower's tent. There sat Cole on top of a dead ogre. Alaric remarked "so that's where the ogre went" and Kamira demanded to see to make sure Cole was all right. Which the fighter was just fine.

Casting the spell the group returned to the Material Plane and Kamira attacked Cole. Meanwhile, Zalura showed that the Harrowed Deck was still intact. The rest of the party determined whether or not they should destroy it, but the final decision was to see what Desna had to say. Zalura said she would see that evening. Looking about the room, the party found red marks on a locked cabinet. Alaric opened it and a dead body fell out - a woman dressed as a Varisian Fortuneteller. Likely enough, this was the real Hajeck. Pinned to her clothes was a unique Harrow Card. The group identified it as the mark of a group known as the Night Harrows - a group associated with the Whispering Way. Cole mentioned that the carnival people had seen a woman, a dark man and a wolf leave the area - but that they had not seemed suspicious at the time. As to the card, the other side was The Vision. Zalura said that it likely meant that the Night Harrows had been watching them, and likely were responsible for the visions they had - to draw them into the trap. As to Sara's visions, Zalura could only guess that they were real, and likely what the Night Harrows were now after.

Information on the Seals and the Vampire War

GM Note: Wanting to not just focus on one Whispering Way or Tyrant ally, I not only brought in the Night Harrows going after the Three Leser Seals, but the potential for Malyas to build an army once again. this gave the party a choice on which they wanted to attend to first. Using the newly acquired book Castles of Golarion, I was able to use pieces of it for the party's investigation of Kronquist to aide their vampire friends.

Session 37:

Before leaving Ardis, the party did some shopping as well as spoke to Mikhail on if he heard any news. The man had not, nor did he know of the Night Harrows. Next, the group went to Willowmourne to check up on Sara and to meet Daehrin, Menasius' son. Sara had not been seeing any more visions, and she didn't have a clear enough picture of the area around the seals to help the party know where they were. This meant, the group would have to go to Vigil. Something no one wanted to do.

Deciding that the best place for the kids would be to stay with Sara, the party came up with the idea (and funds) to make Alaric's demiplane permanent. It was the safest location for them, and they could visit each night. Sara agreed with this, and she took a handmaiden with her - one supplied by her father. While Alaric worked on this, both Menasius and Kamira overheard servants talking about movement in Odranto. Stopping them, they asked for more detail. The servants said that there was rumor of an army forming in north Odranto. Thinking back in history, they knew that one of the generals of the Tyrant's army was there, supposedly dead since no one has seen him in just under 1000 years. Concerned, and knowing that it may impact the vampires as the general was a vampire himself, they mentioned it to Alaric who grew pale. His father had made mention of something like this. This meant the party would now be making a visit to Caliphas to speak with Luvick.

Zalura and Sara both stayed in the demiplane as the party made a visit underground. Menasius mentioned that the halls were still well lit. Inside they came across Halloran who was pleasantly surprised to see Kamira and Menasius again. He had been seeing Alaric time to time when he was there on business. The ex-paladin agreed to meeting with them for a drink later on and let them go have audience with the vampire lord. Luvick too was intrigued to see the party as a whole. Often times it seemed to herald something going on. There was a few jokes back and forth before information was exchanged. Luvick knew of the Night Harrows and that the group included a ghoul priestess named Nuetetia. This happened to be the same girl who was mentioned in the journal the party found in Renchurch. The party asked him to describe her so that Alaric could draw a picture of her. They figured they could use it to scry on her.

Luvick could not answer the question of where the seals were and told them that the Knights of Ozem would not have told him if he had asked. He wished them luck for that encounter. He did however, take the news of the movement up north seriously. The general was named Malyas, and was an old rival of his. The vampire had wanted to become lord and Luvick stood in his way. They also did not see eye to eye, considering that Luvick and his vampires betrayed the Whispering Tyrant and helped the Shining Crusade. Luvick said that it was likely that Malyas would march on Caliphas. He and others had been transporting coffins north to Ardagh to secure a place in case they needed to do battle.

The desire to meet them at their gates was indicated, and Luvick would be able to secure 200 vampires for the cause should the party join them. The party was keen to put a stop to the threat and kill another of the Whispering Tyrant's still "living" generals. It would take two nights before the vampires would be ready so that gave the party a chance to hang out with Halloran. This led to a drinking party and Alaric being drunk enough to bring Halloran to the demiplane by accident. He didn't seem to mind much. Menasius also brought some good ale with him back to the demiplane in case they needed it after dealing with the Iomadaens.

The next day the party headed for Vigil. They asked for Garvis at the guardhouse but learned he was on duty until noon. Asking about a good tavern, the party went to the Lady's Shield Hand, a tavern closest to the southern gate. Nothing really seemed to be of excitement there in town save for some werewolf trouble to the south. When it was noon, the party went to the guardhouse and met with Garvis.

Taking them to talk privately the party mentioned the trouble brewing up north, but then mentioned the part about the seals. This concerned the old knight, and he said that they had not seen much in the way of trouble at the gates but the idea that the Night Harrows had plans disturbed him. He mentioned that the leader was a Harrower named Mierela. He also realized that with watching Gallowspire, the knights would spread too thin if they looked into everything. He excused himself to speak with his superiors on the matter, leaving the party with nothing to do for an hour.

When the man returned he said that he could give the location of the gate to them. Alaric mentioned that he should write it down, one per envelop and seal them so that they knew only one at a time. Garvis said that he would prefer to do it orally and tell them one at a time. That way he could hear from them what they had found for each location. The first one he mentioned was near Brunderston, Brevoy in a Dwarven mine named the Zolurket Mine. Menasius recognized the name as Restov was not too far to the south from that city.

(GM Note: I grabbed one of the dungeons in the Dungeon's of Golarion book and relocated it from Katapesh to Brevoy as a site of the first seal. I chose my locations based on the locations of interest to the party.)

Leaving Vigil, the party returned to Caliphas to prepare for a mass transport. The following day, Menasius, Halloran and Kamira joined the first wave to the forest Keldenwood. While Zalura and Alaric teleported vampires to the location, the ones already there began looking for a good place to set camp.

On the second day, near evening, Menasius and Kamira saw a group of three Varisians approaching their area. Coming closer, Menasius called out Rhakis' name, causing the lead male to pause. Moving into view, the man smiled, taking a moment to recall Menasius' name. It was in fact Rhakis. Menasius introduced him to Kamira and told the werewolf what was going on. Rhakis said they had heard about movement in the area and were concerned considering Malyas was a general of the Whispering Tyrant's army. He offered his 50 Prince's Wolves to the cause. Later on, after speaking with the others, he was able to secure 200 more wolves as he was now Packlord in the Shudderwood.

(GM Note: I wanted to bring them in again to give a bit of follow up to the packlord dispute. That and the party liked Rhakis.)

The day came when everyone was ready. Kamira and a few of the wolves went to see what was going on behind the gates of the castle. They saw lots of movement and leaders barking orders. They didn't seem to be preparing defenses, but rather preparing to move out soon. That night, the group decided to send Alaric dressed as Luvick in order to draw the others out - knowing that he was who they were looking for. Luvick taught him how to hold a sword properly and two vampires along with Halloran and the rest of the party would go with him as guard. Menasius put his holy symbol under his armor and his shield in his bag to keep from being spotted as a paladin.

The group went out and were greeted by a mounted Graveknight. She taunted them as Alaric spoke to try and draw Malyas out. Instead, he got the two Lieutenant Graveknights and a hoarde of undead. They came out first in a smaller wave and that triggered the rest of the battle. The other undead poured out and the werewolves came from the west with the vampires of Luvick's court came from the east. The battle wavered side to side until the good guys were pulling ahead. The party fought the Graveknights and soon dispatched both of them. Once the main core was gone, the party split after Zalura made sure Halloran, Menasius, Kamira, and Alaric could all communicate Telepathically. Alaric, Halloran and Zalura went to the vampires while Kamira and Menasius went to the werewolves.

(GM Note: I simplified the whole mass battle rules in that I had each person roll a d20. I rolled one two. The person with the highest number "won". I did this throughout the entire battle to see who would be the ultimate winners. I had planned to use modifiers based on the number of allies the party gathered, but they rolled higher more consistently than I did and ultimately won the roll off anyway).

After a time, Kamira and Alaric saw Malyas and two guards saunter out of the gate to join the fray. Kamira moved forward as Alaric flew in and attacked the trio. The antipaladin dodged the fireball easily and grinned as he flew up to meet the son of his rival in the sky. The reason for his smirk came clear as Zalura stepped back and set off a stormbolt spell no one knew she had. Unfortunately it was not against the evil vampires. Menasius flew in a charge and slammed into Malyas, starting the fight between the palain and the anti-paladin. Alaric moved back and broke the enchantment on Zalura, both times. Kamira meanwhile took out the vampires on the ground and helped Menasius with her bardic. Soon the vampires fell, and a strike from a disgruntled witch sent Malyas to the castle as mist.

(GM Note: I upped Malyas' abilities and gave him a ring of evasion so he could handle the higher level party.)

Turning back on the battle, it was soon over and healing was passed around. Looking to the castle, the party knew they had a short time before Malyas would rejenerate. Asking if Luvick wanted to be the one to take out the coffin, he said that he would prefer to stay out with his people and finish the clean up. Of the 450 people, 30 vampires were turned to mist with only 3 not making it back to coffins. 20 werewolves were killed, with 5 being Princes' wolves.

(GM Note: I rolled for the causalities based on the number of successes I had.)


Session 38:

Turning to the castle itself, the party moved forward toward the fang gate. Looking beyond the open gate, there was no light. Seems there was a deeper darkness spell on the place. In fact, after checking, they learn the whole castle is under an unhallowed spell. Before they could step inside, two gargoyles unfroze from their places and the large statue on one of the towers moved. Turns out the latter was a unique iron golem. The two gargoyles were dispatched quickly, one by being slammed back into its alcove and the other by magic. The iron golem soon fell, and the party considered taking it to Alpon Caromarc in Lepidstadt.

(GM Note: They were rather fascinated by it. But ultimately they didn't take it with them. As to the castle, no one had daylight, having used it before in the battle. My folks with Darkvision I allowed to see 5 feet, while Kamira couldn't see anything with her low-light.)

Entering inside the castle, Kamira was told to not follow Zalura and follow Alaric. She indicated her presence by pinching his rear. The others could at least see dimly five feet ahead of them. The group moved through a corridor and into the main building, where it became a slow search of all the rooms. Coffins were found and disposed of (occupants were staked prior). Various rooms were either holding cells, or experiment chambers, but the party had little chance to fully investigate as they continued forward. After coming out of one of the towers, the party was attacked by arrows in the dark. Soon it was discovered that they were being hunted by three baykoks. Once discovered, the baykoks soon fell to the blade and magic.

The next room of excitement brought about a place full of bones. Two skeletons at a time animated and pressed their attack. One followed after Menasius and another after Alaric as they went to search rooms while the girls stayed back to fight the oncoming horde. A few coffins were found between Menasius and Alaric, and the group communicated their location by a childhood call-and-response game that was very effective. They were also able to communicate through the telepathic bond set up earlier by Zalura - but voice helped people find each other's location. The paladin's default response out loud was "Polo", even if the question was not "Marco".

(GM Note: Yes, the party played Marco Polo. It was rather funny, but effective. All the better considering the paladin has such a low perception score that he would always respond with polo even if they were asking him if he saw something.)

The boys returned to find the girls amidst a large pile of skeletons, both non-the-worse for wear.

(GM Note: This made for a very impressive picture - two girls amidst a pile of 25 or so skeletons in one room.)

Pressing on to the other side of the castle, the party found a set of double doors into a large tower. In this room, it appeared to replay past torments that Malyas' army caused during the Shining Crusade and prior. Ghosts flitted here and there, but none of it was real. Words in necril scrawled across the walls saying "he will live again," "I will serve him" and "he is the true ruler". At the head of the room was a throne which a haunt was triggered when it was approached. Everyone except Menasius heard the voices urging each to kill, and Alaric immediately pushed Zalura out of the room. She consented to plugging her ears and having him carry her up the stairs - someone didn't want to risk her track record of possession continuing.

(GM Note: I went with creating haunts and traps that helped give an idea how nasty Malyas had historically been. I had also built the entire castle not knowing if the party would go inside first or stay outside and fight in the war. I made sure it worked for either case.)

The group climbed the stairs without further incident until Menasius triggered a trap in the next room. This one summoned six vrocks. Unfortunately, Kamira had failed her save and stabbed Alaric in the back after he set Zalura down in front of him. The boys focused on the demons while Zalura worked on hexing Kamira (which worked after the second try). The rest of the group worked on the vrocks, trying to stop them from dancing (which set off an electrical impulse across the room). Soon it was just the one that cast mirror image and then it too fell. Turning to Kamira, the group took hold of her and Zalura had her scarf around the bard's neck. Alaric cast break enchantment and the group woke her. When she turned out to be fine, the group let her go and they began to search the room.

Alaric found a point where a switch signified a secret door, but a splatter of blood caught his attention. It felt, smelled and even tasted real. He identified it as Zalura's, and turned to see if she was alright. A confused witch said she didn't see anything - nor did the paladin or bard. Alaric tried to show them, and Zalura didn't see it, and Menasius (knowing his eye sight was terrible) "tasted" it and said there was nothing. Double checking, Alaric asked Zalura for her wrist in which he bit her to find out if it was the same as the blood he saw on the wall, and he swore that it was. The two then moved away from the wall to get Alaric's attention straight again while Kamira worked the switch and opened the door. This led to a staircase upward.

The next floor opened into a decadent eating area and another throne room. Here, vampires sat at a table feasting while Malyas sat upon the throne. All looked to them, and Malyas rose to 'welcome' them. Deciding what to do, the party moved forward and tried to hear the whispers at the table. This showed them that this was nothing more than a programmed image. With a sigh of relief, the group moved forward toward the elaborate coffin at the back of the room. Alaric stepped on a pressure plate that set off two large blades. He managed to avoid them, and worked his way back to the coffin. Menasius climbed over the throne and Kamira found a way around. Opening the coffin, Malyas reached out and hit the paladin with negative energy. The next strike dropped the vampire unconscious again. He was staked, and with Menasius' silver scimitar, Alaric beheaded him. Menasius anointed the head with holy water, destroying the body.

The group took the head back outside. They found Rhakis and Luvick speaking outside the gate and they looked to the party as they approached. Luvick was pleased to see the head and the end to that problem. The vampires planned to take care of the rest of the castle while it was still night, and the werewolves planned on a fire (Rhakis added this with a smile). Alaric spent time with his father, while Kamira sang tales at the fire. Menasius brought Daehrin and Sara out while Zalura had Selene so that Rhakis could meet the kids.

Journey to the 1st Seal - Zolurket Mines

Session 39:

The party headed over to Lepidstadt so that Alaric could clear a few things with the council - in that he will need to be gone for awhile. The council gave permission considering what he and the others were doing would be in the best interest of Vieland let alone Ustalav. The others meanwhile sold items they had earned from Kronquist and the group did some shopping and some enchanting. This would take them three days. In addition, Zalura did some divinations each day to try and learn more about what they were up against.

The first divination let the party know that while the Night Harrows knew where the seals were, they didn't know exactly where they were. It also revealed to them that there were four Night Harrows and three seals.

(GM Note: Divination 1: "Act soon for the Harrows move as Ancient Seals hold their key. The group of four spread to three specific areas. Each seek the exact location of a seal. Dreams have told of what is to come when the Tyrant rises again.")

The second divination let the group know that the leader was a magic user of some type. Considering she was a Harrower, it made sense. They also gathered that she was from Varisia but lives in Ustalav. The next one was an interesting one as the party considered what the man was. It was possible he was some kind of undead - a vampire, or something else, and that he was either a ranger or a druid based on being a "man of the woods" and having a hound by his side. The next one baffled the group as they tried to think if they had any enemies that were still alive. The last they gathered had to be Neutetia.

(GM Note: Divination 2: "A group of four led by one; magic runs in her veins. Her homeland is far to the west, but she calls the lands ruled by Tar-Baphon home. Another bound to serve both thirst and leash. A man of the woods, a hound by his side. A third, a past rival, eager to settle a score, and the fourth wishes to see her master home.)

The next divination gave one party member a start as they found out the names of all four members of the Night Harrows.

(GM Note: Divination 3: Mierela Tsilda, Yolanda Praelin, Nuetetia Irsinoe, and Vesnic Demicci.)

It seemed that the rival was not of the party, but of Kamira's. She told the party that Yolanda was a past lover of hers. With that in mind, the group teleported straight to the town of Restov in Brevoy. Alaric seemed to think that the homeland was just as shiny as the paladin as the weather was actually decent for a change. Menasius took the group to his parents' shrine to Sarenrae inside the town. Here they were reintroduced to Menasius family, and Pasara, his mother, got the chance to play with the kids. They asked Vors if he had ever been to the Zolurket Mines near Brunderton. He said he could take them there. It was also mentioned that the mines had been abandoned in 4121 when they were said to be depleted.

(GM Note: The background of this being that the Seal was placed there prior to the events that led to the mine being abandoned. The dwarves there had no idea about this Seal even being there.)

After a good night of drinking with everyone (Pasara watching the kids), the party got some rest and headed out on horseback toward the mountains. It took about 2 days on horseback to reach Brunderton and another partial day to reach the mine. Along the way, Zalura did another divination and found that they were after one of the females of the Night Harrows. One who talked with the undead down below but she had apparently not found the seal yet.

(GM Note: Divination 4: "In the depths, many stir. She converses with the dead, seeking her own answers. Near, but not yet found, the seal remains.")

The group arrived at midnight, but decided to sleep before parting ways with Vors. They thanked him, and he told Menasius and the group to be careful - and to ask if they needed anything further. Turning to the mines, the group saw a lot of tracks coming in and out of the fortress entrance, but there were too many and too much scuffling to determine how many or what creature type they were. Entering inside, the party walked into what appeared to be a long ornate hall that was completely stripped of all valuables. Further in lay a small city, buildings all in tact. At the center was a tribe of Yeti at a fire. When one rose to tell them to go, Alaric conversed and convinced it that they were not trespassing and only wanted through the area. It relented and the party began their exploration.

(GM Note: I kind of realized later that Yeti don't really care for fires, but I just rolled with it. The original dungeon had gnolls at a fire. Since I relocated the dungeon, gnolls didn't make sense.)

Choosing the upper path, the party came across an old armory. Inside were three wererats digging through the weapon piece piles. They turned to attack while some weapons were flying about (later deemed to be poltergeists). With the wererats defeated, the party left, and the poltergeists left them alone. Continuing down, the party came to a room that must have been a treasury. A few skeletal remains lay on the floor with one corpse (a week or so old) laying in front of the doors. Kamira learned that the doors were trapped with a nasty spell (which had been the cause of death for those on the floor). Inside one cell was coin, and in another was a Horn of Valhalla.

Going down the next set of stairs took the party deeper into the mountain. Zalura could tell how deep as she had placed a spell to determine where they were in relation to the first room they had come to. Rounding a corner they saw pick axes laying on the ground as if they were dropped. Moving further, the group came across four dark callers standing around a prison. Dispatching these, Menasius then looked into the cells. One of them had blood splatter and something on the floor. Kamira unlocked the door and found the item to be a black rose. Picking it up a note fell down simply stating "To my love". She ripped both the note and the flower and stormed out of the room. Perplexed Menasius asked what she found and she simply stated "Nothing" with clenched teeth. Zalura asked if it was something they should know about, but got a vague response. Kamira moved out away from the cells where Alaric helped to calm her down. Zalura offered to open the unlocked door so that Menasius could check the blood stain as well as to give Kamira some time. The blood stain was fresh, a day old. Whoever the donor was could still be alive considering it was not enough blood to have killed someone.

Kamira calmed down enough to tell the party what had happened in Oppara at the Bard College. Yolanda had started a viscous rumor that Kamira had slept her way through to graduation. While she was able to graduate still, she had a ruined reputation. Kamira never found out why Yolanda did it. When asked, the other bard merely smiled and walked away from her. The party offered their sympathy in the form of hugs and agreed that Kamira would have the last strike on the woman when they caught up to her.

Session 40:

Once ready, the party continued onward and into a large area that seemed to have multiple tiers. Zalura could confirm that they were gradually going deeper based on her Guiding Star spell. Walking down one of the streets, the party noticed what looked to be gang symbols on the walls of the mostly intact buildings. The area seemed better maintained than the higher floors - likely due to less bandit raids. This was due likely to the increased presence of incorporeal beings as the party soon discovered. A group of three allips, three wraiths, three greater shadows and a banshee tried to jump the party, but they had the initiative. The creatures kept going in and out of the area builidings which made things difficult, but some added daylight kept the wraiths and banshee from doing more damage. Alaric chased after the Banshee into one of the buildings and discovered another incorporeal creature there. He coned the creatures and it reached out to hit other creatures outside the building as he was incorporeal at the time.

Once the party finished the clean up, the group headed onward a ways before coming into a group of dwarven ghosts ready to fight. Considering they had seemed surprised by the party's presence, diplomacy was the way to go. The dwarves had heard the fight and were on their way to fight off the incorporeal gang when they ran into the party. The head dwarf introduced himself as Tib. Over the course of talking with him, the party learned that the dwarves had discovered not just platinum down here, but Lazurite. A necromatically infused marrowstone. With a cave in, the miners that were trapped were attacked by undead creatures and soon became undead themselves with the nearness of the Lazurite. However, they could only roam as ghosts in these mines as the Lazurite stone kept them bound. The dwarf agreed to be a guide when the party offered the chance to free them. He also asked to let the outside world know that they should not seek to reopen the mine.

Continuing on to the area he called the Fivetold Crossing, the party continued their trek. The dwarf had mentioned this was the last place he had seen other humans, but he was unsure of where they may be now. Just after halfway through the area, the party reached their third deadfall when the sound of a deadfall could be heard to their left and some heard movement to the right. Figuring an ambush, the party prepared. Zalura discovered that one of the mercenaries had triggered a deadfall but he did not fall in. He jumped the pit and engaged Zalura and Kamira. On the other side, Alaric discovered another mercenary. Menasius couldn't enter the hallway easily and left that one to Alaric while he looked for another. He was right in that there was another, but he didn't see her until she hit his armor with her greatsword. While she did miss that time, she did eventually get one hit in. Meanwhile, Alaric disintegrated his target, while Zalura and Kamira knocked theirs out. Zalura remained to stabilize the man while Kamira went to see how the boys were doing. Soon the party had two captives.

After tying them up, Menasius healed the woman to question first. She was tight lipped at first but eventually began to talk. She was a hire from a mercenary company out of New Stetven and that she didn't know the others. She told them that they had been underground for 4 days, and that they were there to keep presumably the party from continuing further. The woman didn't know where Yolanda was, nor what they were doing exactly. Alaric told her that she could find work if she went to Ardis, Ustalav and she finally gave her name. The group gave her a small weapon and sent her on her way.

The next man, later learned to be Lesath, gave a similar story only after he was shown the ashes of the one Alaric disintegrated. From him, the party learned that there was a man and a woman with Yolanda but neither of them were undead. Giving him a weapon, they told him the same thing they told the other mercenary and told him that he could catch up to her if he hurried.

Moving on, the party worked their way to a very open cavern with no buildings. Tib warned them that most undead avoided this place but he didn't know why. A roar informed them of what it was - a Cairn Linnorm. The creature quickly came up to them and made a point of trying to hit Alaric with its breath weapon. Apparently they liked to eat corporeal undead. He and Kamira managed to avoid the acid, but Zalura and Menasius took it straight on, draining them of vitality. The bard and paladin moved to flank the creature, taking hits as they too struck the creature. Zalura inched forward to help while Alaric cast spells from a distance.

Once the fight was over, the party was exhausted. Kamira dropped to the ground feeling terrible as her constitution weakened from the poison. Zalura got to her and was able to neutralize it before it injured her further. Though even she didn't seem well as she had taken a second hit by the breath weapon. It was unanimous that the party wanted to rest before going further, and they told Tib they would be back soon. The group decided on Caliphas as the clerics there would certainly be able to help them. They offered the money from the items they had pulled from the mercenaries and it more than covered the cost the clerics of Pharasma had asked. The two nobles offered and/or paid a bit extra into the coffers and the clerics gave them a potion of Restoration after healing the drain of three of the party.

(GM Note: Yes there is no such thing, but I have been told I am a kind and generous GM).

After resting in the demiplane, the party returned to Tib and the dwarf took them down to the forge. Here they saw three living dwaves. Tib explained that some survived the onslaught and were caught by ghouls. Breed to work the forges, these dwarves were essentially offspring of the survivors and now slaves. If they were injured, it was best to just kill them to put them out of their misery. Also within the room were three ghosts who did not take kindly to being walked in on by mortals. When they moved to attack, so did four statues that animated. Kamira and Alaric went after the ghosts while Menasius and Zalura took on the statues. One of the ghosts fled into a forge and tried to find a new target to possess but couldn't and was soon destroyed as well. After collecting some items that were left behind, as well as a few items in the room, the party was ready to head down to the vaults.

GM Note: This was a shorter session than normal, but no less powerful as the party finally faced one of the Night Harrows.

Session 41:

After gathering the items from the forge, the party followed Tib for another hour before they entered a narrower cavern. The dwarf stopped at the mouth and said he could not go further and that this was where the magic was felt. Seeing nothing but darkness, Menasius moved forward into the room with the party following near to just behind him. Kamira saw something in one corner and came up to whisper to him that there was someone there. Alaric gave the bard invisibility and she moved forward to see an elf watching them. He did not appear ready to attack, but he was certainly waiting for something. She came back and Zalura cast telepathic bond on the group so they could communicate silently. Alaric went invisible as well and Zalura followed behind Menasius as the group moved forward. Alaric spotted an archer flying near the ceiling but she was not ready to attack just yet.

Once Menasius reached the middle of the room, a red haired woman sauntered out - not trying to hide. She traded words with Menasius, giving Kamira time to sneak around and backstab her. The woman had after all called Menasius' companions cowards for not showing themselves. The two mercenaries went first and the battle began. Zalura, Menasius and Alaric focused on the mercenaries, leaving Kamira to work against her former love, Yolanda.

At one point, Yolanda vanished into the shadows, but soon returned behind Zalura and took a strike at her. Kamira moved to engage, telling her to leave the others alone - this fight was just between them. And Kamira got the last word as she skewered the other bard on her rapier - telling her that this is for all the pain she had caused her.

(GM Note: A perfectly timed critical hit on Kamira's part.)

The woman fell and Kamira gave her respects and then moved to the side of the cavern to get out a good cry. Eyla came to her as Menasius and Zalura took to tying up and securing their prisoners. Alaric noticed a magical symbol on the wall and made mention of it once Kamira seemed to be doing better. After tying up the prisoners, Menasius placed Gentle Repose on Yolanda's body.

When able, the party moved forward to the symbol of Iomadae and Menasius put his hand on it to open the secret door. This led into a hallway that opened out into a small room. This room contained a large Guardian Reliquery and what must be the seal. Mist then filled the party's vision and each found themselves standing before Iomedae - alone.

(GM Note: For this part, I pulled each person individually into the other room. Kamira's player was actually there with us so it was quite handy. I had been contemplating giving the party mythic levels and this was their ascension.)

Kamira was surprised at first, having not been with the others when they met Desna. The Inheritor thanked them for their work and warned them of things to come. The seal here is now safe, but there was still yet the other seals. As a gift, the divines granted more power to the party and wished them luck. Iomadae offered her condolences to Kamira, and for Alaric, she warned him that they may yet have to return to Gallowspire.

For Menasius, it was not Iomedae, but Sarenrae that granted him his gift as the Inheritor said it was not her place to do so. As Sarenrae stepped forward to give her blessing, she wished her son good luck. For Zalura, she saw both Iomedae and Desna, with Desna granting Zalura her blessing. The patron was after all already granting her powers as it was.

When the party noticed that the vision was over, Menasius was stunned to silence. Kamira stammered, asking if that was actually Iomedae, to which Zalura replied that it was. She mentioned that she had seen not only Iomedae but Desna, and Menasius mentioned that he had seen his real mother. This stunned the party, but in some ways, it made sense for the paladin to be a son of the sun goddess.

(GM Note: Menasius' parentage was a matter of thought for quite a while. It was at last decided that his mother was to be Sarenrae when an ability was chosen for his mythic that mentioned god heritage. I also happen to know who the father is - this will likely not play a role in the grand story.)

With the seal in tact, the party returned to the other room. They tried to get information out of the two mercenaries, but gained nothing new. Apparently Yolanda did not tell them much at all. It was agreed that the party would teleport the two to the outskirts of Brunderton with nothing but underclothes and 5 gp each. From there, the party went to Taldor, northeast of the Verduran Forest to bury Yolanda with proper rites given by Menasius.

Then the party took their earned items and spent that day and the next buying, selling, and settling down from what just happened. (They do say therapy shopping does wonders, or so the bard believed so.) The group then headed back to Zolurket in order to help the dwarves.

End of Zolurket, and the Journey to Seal 2: Kamaria

Session 42:

Returning the next morning to Zolurket, the party found a large group of dwarves gathered in the Fivefold Crossing area. They had found enough silver dust to help with the consecration ritual. This was performed by Menasius with the rest of the party standing nearby to wish the dwarves a safe passage to the afterlife. Once completed, the group noticed movement at the other end of the street. It seemed they had drawn the attention of several trolls and ghouls. After an unsuccessful attempt to convince the trolls that the party was not interested in being food, the trolls began to move forward. Placing a wall of force up just slightly off the ground, Alaric was able to slow the group down. Only one ghoul knocked himself off his feet, while all the trolls essentially stopped at the wall and pounded on it. Menasius summoned a fire elemental with his new sword, Kamira took care of anything that came through and the casters used spells to eventually put a stop to the attackers.

With Zolurket taken care of, the group then teleported straight to Vigil to report back to Sir Garvis who was pleased to hear that the seal was in tact. He then informed them that their next destination was the Pyramid of Kamaria in An, Osirion. No one had been to the city, so Menasius told Alaric about the Pathfinder Lodge that he and Sara worked at in Sothis.

It was dusk when the entire group arrived (Sara and children included), to which the dhampir was happy. The group went inside the Lodge where introductions were made and a boat to An was secured. The party left that evening on Gozran the 10th and arrived in An the morning of Gozran 14th. During the trip, the group entertained themselves in various different ways. Menasius enjoyed using an immovable rod to slide across the deck, while Zalura spent time divining their trip. Alaric spent a great deal of time dealing with motion sickness. Menasius offered the rod to help pull his attention elsewhere, to which Alaric refused up until toward the end of the trip when he at last tried out the immovable rod trick.

From the divinations, the group learned that the seal in An was still in tact, but that the Night Harrows knew where it was. The last question they asked was the dangers that they would face. The result was that where they were going was a place that worshiped an evil god and that they would run across several different cults. It also mentioned that there was a particular danger that both they and the Night Harrows had to get through to reach the seal. This likely explained why they had not gotten there yet. They also determined that it was likely difficult for the Night Harrows to reach if only a Lawful Good person could get through like they saw at Zolurket.

As the group disembarked the boat, they heard a screech in the sky as a large black bird came toward them. Chaos errupted on the pier as several people ran to get away from the creature. It cast a few fire spells, one of which immediately surrounded the party and began to burn up the ship (causing sailors to jump into the water). The bird soon engaged with the party, and Alaric realized the creature was a corrupted form of phoenix, one that they would have to destroy by means of death dealing spells. These were cast once the creature lay smoldering on the ground, and it soon was reduced to ash which fluttered on the wind.

Worried for their companions, the party sought the sailors and offered to pay for a new ship since their old one was essentially destroyed. While Menasius went to take care of buying a new ship for the sailors, the others set out to find some information about the Pyramid of Kamaria. Learning that the pyramid was the burial site of the only Pharaoh who openly worshiped Rovagug, the party realized that they may need some Speak With Dead scrolls. Zalura volunteered for this and set about learning the spell while they learned more about the Pyramid. Apparently it was now considered a tourist trap as a group known as Rovagug's Minions held tours within. A fact that everyone (not just Menasius) found to be rather tacky.

(GM Note: I actually didn't consider the fact we had a paladin of Sarenrae in the party when I chose Kamaria. I just thought it looked cool.)

Once everyone was set and the sailors had sailed off in their new ship back to Sothis, the party walked over to the pyramid. They climbed the steps and through the opening. Inside a few tourists were looking over wares while black robed people looked on. Kamira immediately went to the nearest vendor, and pulled Zalura to come look at the nick-knacks that included fake trinkets to ward off the undead. Meanwhile, Alaric remained by Menasius to keep a watch on what the paladin (or the "cultists") might do. One of the Minions came up to them with a smile, causing the paladin to tense. They seemed to recognize each others' symbols, but the Minion didn't really address this as he invited the group on the tour. When asked about 'downstairs' the guy said he didn't really allow people down there due to the dangers a tomb had. It would be bad for business of course.

Zalura followed Kamira over to the back wall which both had noticed was newer than the rest of the pyramid. It seemed that it was created to help funnel people around. The man introduced himself as Bahram Melesu, the leader of the operation and when inquired about the tour, he said they had been operating for about 30 years. He said the tour cost 10 gp a person to go on. Kamira managed to sweet talk him down in price and purchased tickets for all four of them. With a glance toward the boys, it seemed that they were playing a couple, so Kamira ran with it indicating she was with Zalura.

Heading back over to the boys to tell them that they had tickets, the man they were talking to (who introduced himself as Heru) was pleased by this and told them that they could go at any time. After a kiss between the guys to solidify their part (in which the paladin whispered to the sorcerer that he was going to kill him), the group headed for the door with Kamira in the lead.

And that was when the screaming started. At first, no one seemed phased, as if this was natural. But when it didn't stop, that was when the Minions became nervous. The party was allowed inside as people were running out. Menasius did a walk-by healing to the one who looked damaged.

(GM Note: I was asked if he could take an "attack of opportunity" to do lay on hands. I allowed it because it was amusing.)

The group soon found two Minions, one dressed as a mummy, fighting very real looking mummies. They appeared to be trying to protect their charges, but in doing so took a great deal amount of damage. Zalura helped to heal one of them as the group fought off the mummies. After realizing that one of the Minions and one of the tourists were diseased and cursed, Alaric took the tourist to the local temple and came back for the Minion (whom he also dropped off to the temple of Sarenrae, wishing him good luck and hoping he had a good reputation with the temple).

Returning back the group began to work through the new maze. The artwork was distasteful, but relatively accurate as far as historical context. Though one side was quite vulgar, enough so that Menasius made sure to destroy them. After discovering a way into the pyramid proper, the party began to search for a way down. However, their first staircase was upward. Not wishing to be crept up on, the party headed up to find themselves in a very real sacrificial room. An altar to Rovagug was set up (and then promptly destroyed) and the group found three homeless people in cages awaiting sacrifice. Alaric took these folks to the temple as well.

After finding the stairs downward, the party descended to the next level, where the bard began to be suspicious of traps, particularly the one that led to what appeared to be a vault. Alaric saw the arcane symbol and winced when he saw that it was essentially a very strong fireball. Continuing on the party searched rooms, finding a few ancient Osirion artwork, but little else. In one room, a pool of water erupted in snakes, which were then promptly dealt with.

(GM Note: Indiana Jones jokes commenced.)

Sarcophagi-lined rooms indicated that they were resting places of lesser relatives, and further back, a few guards were discovered. One of these locked rooms contained a fancy khopesh which the party took hold of.

Continuing on, the party came across a room full of columns, which seemed to be the home of several mummies. The battle was a bit more involved than the last set of mummies as these seemed to be smarter, but the party came out on top.

Session 43:

Taking a look at the symmetry of the room, the party came across a secret door opposite the other walkway. This area led downward. Deciding to finish out the rest of the floor, the group moved forward with Kamira scouting. She unfortunately went a step too far and triggered an electrical trap. Everyone was able to dodge out of the way. This meant the group followed the bard a bit further back as they came into what appeared to be the burial chamber of someone important. Much of the treasure was taken, even the gems on the floor. Kamira was able to find one emerald that was left behind. As she came forward, she saw a inscription on the sarcophagus (as well as a discharged trap). She asked for Menasius to come forward who was a bit leery to approach considering the last trap, but moved forward to read over her shoulder that it was the sarcophagus of Kamaria. Kamira saw that the lid was already opened and so Menasius pushed the lid off to reveal that the sarcophagus was in fact empty. Everyone figured that the woman was likely walking around considering the other mummies they had come across.

Heading back, Kamira stopped to try and pry the gem off the ground, but it was rather stubborn. Menasius paused to help and they both got it up. Continuing back to the stairs, the group descended down into a hallway that led to a lit room with a sphinx sitting inside. The sphinx was bronze-skinned with dark brown fur. Her feathers were black and silver. She regarded the group and spoke with a tone that indicated both that she cared little and that she was sizing them up. As they spoke to her, they learned others had passed through a day or so ago, which she only gave them after they solved her riddle. When asked if they could go through, she considered this and moved aside. Only she was preparing to strike - a fact they found out when Menasius walked by and was nearly swatted. Alaric saw it coming and struck the sphinx with magic. This led to the usual banter between the boys as the group reluctantly fought the magnificent creature. She turned out to be a special sort - much faster than normal, but she soon dropped. A sort of black material sloughed off of her - a corruption seemed to have overtaken her. It reminded the group of the phoenix they had fought earlier that day.

Continuing on, the tunnels eventually looped around to an area where several cultists were gathered. Menasius saw their unholy symbol of Rovagug as they saw his holy one to Sarenrae. This led to a rather brief but successful fight for the party. The cultist had revealed a secret door which the party took. The hallway ended in a way up and a way down. Making sure they knew where the upward staircase went, the party choose that direction first. This led to a door with a mural of a man on it. History revealed that this was Sethmose, a male concubine of Kamria's. When they entered inside, they found a sarcophagus. In front of it, a form appeared, solidifying into a humanoid figure with spirits wrapping around it. In one hand it held an ivory shabti in the shape of a hawk-headed human. It called them trespassers but didn't exactly attack first. The party took the cue and spoke to him, saying they were looking for a seal. The man told them that he did not know of any seal, but that he required a task of them. He had his true lover taken from him by Kamaria and he desired to be laid to rest near her. The party told them they would help, but they had a pressing matter to deal with first. Sethmose, the concubine wasn't so sure he could trust them and asked that they agree to a geas spell. Alaric agreed first to keep the others from an agreement that would be detrimental to their health or their vows.

(GM Note: I had him stated as a Nemhain, but they never did fight him)

With the agreement in place, the party turned back down the stairs and headed down a long path into what led to a labyrinth. It was massive, and filled with a variety of undead around some of the bends. The party fought off the creatures and worked their way through the vast maze.

(GM Note: This maze was more elaborate than my other one, and very large. I picked several places and rolled a d6 to determine what the party would face. I had various skeletons, grave lynxes and mummies on my list as well as nothing at all.)

After several hours, they managed to reach what must be the center of the pyramid. In the room was a large black space. Alaric could see the magical 'floor' and the magic darkness beyond. It turned out to be a wall of force keeping them from continuing on. Alaric destroyed it and dispelled the darkness, revealing a small spiral staircase down to further floors. Sixty feet down, the party found the next floor. It led to a series of rooms filled with a variety of traps. Each room was elaborately decorated in the style of the ancient Osiriani burial means. Each room provided the deceased with plenty of gifts and food for their passage to the next life. Clearly no burglar had gotten this far.

The last room in the series was larger than the rest and richly decorated. A large sarcophagus was sitting upon a dais with what appeared to be a human man dressed in traditional Osiriani robes standing before it. As the party entered the room, he turned to look at them.

The end of Kamaria

Session 44:

The Osirioni man called the party trespassers and proceeded to attack them after answering that he would not discuss anything other than the fact they did not belong. He struck hard and quick, but as soon as he was damaged, the skin fell away to reveal an ecorche. Clearly this was a guardian of the sarcophagus behind him. Eventually he dropped after mauling Zalura with a rend (but did not remove her skin).

(GM Note: mythic ecorche's are nasty by the way.)

The sarcophagus took some hefty fire damage from several time stop delayed blast fireballs, and the group was able to open the rest of the layers to find it empty. Clearly something had been there before, but it was now gone. The party searched the area and couldn't find anything that would lead them to the seal. Deciding to rest before they continue further, the party returned to the demiplane, where Alaric reminded Zalura with their daughter that she needed to be more careful. This amused the party.

(GM Note: Zalura moved up on the ecorche and was the first to damage him, so she ended up getting the full round attack on her the next round. Generally I roll dice to see which party member is attacked - modified by who did the most damage and how smart the creature is.)

The next day, Alaric felt the affects of the geas and felt a bit weaker than he had the day before. Pressing on, the party went to the next level where they came to a set of rooms and hallways. There was a pile of bodies to the sides of various cults - some to Rovagug, some to Mazmezz, some to Yhidothrus, Nurgal and Shub Niggurath. A few abandoned Rovagug symbols were found as well (and dealt with by the Paladin).

Everyone then heard something beyond the room they entered, and Kamira scouted ahead to see a cultist rummaging through a body - or that was what it appeared. As soon as Menasius came up, the robed figure bolted into one of the rooms, leaving the body. Kamira followed to discover a room of 6 male cultists. Menasius moved up to the body to find that he was a human cultist of Nurgal and that he was still alive. He stabilized the man while Zalura and Alaric moved in to help. Zalura came to Menasius while Alaric moved to check on Kamira. While there was fighting going on in the one room with the male cultists, the next room door opened to reveal some female cultists. They came out to see what was going on but kept their distance (they were to Mazmezz and Shub Niggurath, while the males were Yhidothrus and Nurgal). It turned out these cultists were all juju zombies and had been there a long time.

(GM Note: I made them juju zombies in honor of my sorcerer who died a fiery death in the gardens of Basterdhall and was brought back as a juju zombie. To be fair, it was her own fire spell that started the maze on fire. But she wasn't exactly the type to think consequences through... That said, juju zombies are rather neat.)

Once the males were dealt with, a cultist of Shub Niggurath thanked the party for dealing with their rivals. When she said how long all of them had been there, Menasius mentioned that it seemed a long time for a human to be around (indicating the body on the floor). The female commented that there were ways, ones that were beyond the capacity of one of his faith to understand. It was gleaned that everyone had once been Rovagug cultists but had changed faiths along the way. When asked about what should be done with the Nurgal human cultist, the females said they could care less what happened to him.

(GM Note: When they were determined to be juju zombies, Alaric did more of the diplomacy, though Menasius still asked questions as well. He apparently deemed ridding themselves of Rovagug was a step in the right direction despite their other choice in gods.)

After determining that the seal was not in this area, the group then turned and went back to the staircase. The cultists made sure to move out of their way.

The next floor opened up into what appeared to be an underground city. After a few hours, the party was stopped by a Rovagug cultist and friends. Zalura used dimension door to bring the paladin in closer so that he could at least hit one of the cultists. When they were all dead, unholy symbols were smashed and each cultists was beheaded by the paladin.

Continuing on, the party went to the next floor only to discover a very large cave. Eyes in the back of the room turned out to belong to an ancient female void dragon who was intent on stopping those who were against Rovagug. There were some words exchanged between her, the paladin and the sorcerer. Darkness was cast by the dragon followed by light from the paladin. The sorcerer hissed at the paladin about threatening during negotiations but both the paladin and the dragon insisted that there was still verbal negotiations going on. However, it didn't take long before the dragon made her move and breathed on the party. While everyone except Zalura dodged the cold, Kamira began to suffocate. Alaric moved her out of the room while the battle begun. Alaric rejoined the party and the three eventually defeated her. This led to the room becoming bright, but this was quickly forgotten as the group went to help Kamira. Her powers kept her alive through the suffocation and Menasius and Zalura began to heal her.

(GM Note: Mythic ancient void dragons are also rather nasty when you can combine their breath weapons.)

The next floor opened up into a narrow cavern. Kamira noticed the large reddish ghouls before the group saw two more ghouls and a woman at the end of the room. At her feet was a body. Zalura stayed back to keep an eye on the back ghouls, while the party stepped forward. The party tried to negotiate with Nuetitia, saying that she had no reason to believe Tar Baphon would let her live, and she said it was more likely she'd live then than now. The battle began when she cast Overwhelming Presence, and caused Zalura to drop to a knee. Alaric backed up to protect Zalura from the ghouls as she did not rise from her feet through the battle. Kamira and Menasius moved forward to engage the two ghouls and Nuetitia.

(GM Note: I made Nuetitia a ghoul cleric 20 with one mythic tier in hierophant. The ghouls with her were cinder ghouls.)

The battle turned quickly as the ghouls dropped, causing Nuetitia to bring in a summon. As she took greater hits, she bashed her flail against her shield and an antimagic field moved in an area around her. Thinking fast, Alaric brought Menasius the Raven's Head and he used it to defeat the Night Harrow member.

(GM Note: I did warn everyone ahead of time that I would pull an antimagic field on them so that they could have their stats figured out more or less ahead of time. I just didn't tell them when it would happen.)

Moving quick, Menasius moved forward to find that the body was that of a paladin of Sarenrae who was still alive. They healed him and found that his name was Haji. The group found the switch and Menasius opened the door. To test Haji as he was going to accompany them, Menasius closed the door and Haji opened it. This was likely what Nuetitia had planned to do with the paladin who had no idea where he was or what happened.

Heading down the hallway, the group met up with a large guardian gold dragon who thanked them for their work. He assured them that the seal was still in tact and granted them more power as they had one more seal left to go after. The group took Haji back to town and sworn him to secrecy. He did so and said he would keep watch on the pyramid.

GM Note: And now we are caught up to the current. The party will likely head back to Vigil for their next assignment after taking care of Sethmose's request.

Side Quest and Seal 3: Candlestone Cavern

Session 45:

The party returned to An to do some quick selling of gear and shopping while others researched where they needed to go for this cave. Directions were vague, but caves were not common just west of An, so the party figured heading straight west 5 miles as Sethmose had said would help them find the destination.

After riding a few hours, the group saw a pile of rocks that looked to be a cave. As they approached, two large marble feline statues could be seen at the entrance. Unsure, the party dismissed their mounts and approached. A voice called out to them, asking who they were. Menasius answered, giving their names. Each of the group also noticed that the two cat statues shifted slightly. When asked why they were there, the group knew they were in the right place as the name "Sethmose" caused the statues to rise to attack. Knowing that being swallowed by a Taotieh was a bad idea, Alaric made sure the two melee fighters were even harder to hit, and stayed back with Zalura to cast spells. It did not take too long before both statues dropped to the ground, Kamira showing an impressive display with her rapier.

[GM Note: I chose all of the creatures for this side adventure based on going through the Bestiary 3 Pawns. I was in another campaign that had one Taotieh and we were low enough level that it was a memorable fight. So I decided to see how a high level group did against two of them. Pretty well considering everyone could get through Adamantine one way or another.]

Entering inside, the cave opened into a larger, rather empty space. Empty except for the six jackal-headed clay statues who immediately animated and attacked. These were easier to deal with than the cats, though took just as long due to their numbers to defeat. Continuing on into the last room, the party saw a simple coffin with a feral looking blue-skinned woman passing in front of it. Two others flanked on either side of the room. This was the one to speak with them outside, and the Tataka chose to speak first before she attacked. Considering their goals were not aligned, a fight was inevitable.

While the last Tataka took time to take down due to her healing herself, she too was destroyed and the party was at last able to put Sethmose to rest with his lover. The party knew it was completed when Alaric looked relieved - the geas gone.

[GM Note: Six Graven Guardians and Three Tataka were no match for the party. I didn't expect it to be all that tough. I doubt that Kamaria expected such a high level group to carry out Sethmose's wish anyway.]

After resting, the party headed to Vigil to report that the second seal was fine and to receive the location of the last seal. Alaric did not really wish to go to Vigil, but went anyway. It was then Menasius turn to indicate he did not wish to go to the last seal as it was in Taldor. The last seal was located in the Verduran Forest, northwest of the city of Cassomir. One thing however was agreed upon by both paladin and bard - at least it was not Oppara.

The party teleported to Cassomir, the home of a cousin of Alaric's. Wanting to get things enchanted and bought, the party decided that they needed time in the city. To make sure that they did have time, they asked Zalura to do a divination. They were given the response that they did have a bit of time, but no more than what was necessary.

[GM Note: I rolled a percentile dice to see if the party would have enough time. The dice were in their favor.]

To use their time wisely, the party learned as much as they could about the Verduran Forest. Unfortunately, the Candlestone Cavern, where the seal was located, was only known by name, not by location.

After a few days, the party set out on horseback up the Sellen River and into the forest. Their trip was fairly uneventful until they came across a pair of Atomie swordfighting in the woods. The group introduced themselves, and found out that the fey knew where Candlestone was. Eager to go on an adventure, the fey led the party across the forest. After a brief conversation with an Erlking, one of the local guardians, the party was given permission to continue on.

[GM Note: Instead of going the whole super dungeon route with this one, I decided to change it up and have roleplay encounters. They were brief, but went over well. I just used the bestiary stats for the Atomie and the Erlking just in case.]

Traveling deeper into the woods, the party heard the loud noise of battle up ahead. This turned out to be two Tunche fighting a man and a wolf. Alaric used arcane eye to view this before taking everyone's hand to teleport them right in the midst of the fight. Suspicious, Menasius detected evil on the ranger and his animal companion and elected to focus on keeping his party members up while watching the pair. This he shared with Alaric who then only attacked after the girls (oblivious to the conversation) had gone to help the ranger. When the first Tunche fell, Menasius made sure to position himself between the man and Zalura. The ranger didn't seem to react to this as he and his wolf went to the other target.

Once the battle with the Tunche were done, the group continued to keep a close watch on the ranger. Zalura, noticing something was up, cast telepathic bond so that the party could discuss matters. It was soon learned that the ranger was a vampire, as was his companion. Thinking back on the Night Harrows, the party suspected that he was likely one. The man introduced himself as Vesnic Demicci and he said that he was out hunting. He said he was going to go back to town when asked where he was heading next, a lie according to Zalura. Alaric asked to walk with him, to which the man relented on the condition that Winter, the vampiric wolf, would remain back with the others.

Agreeing to this, Alaric discovered that Vesnic was under some sort of spell - a domination. He removed this and learned that the man was a nomadic Kellid who came down into the Shutterwood in Ustalav before the Shining Crusade and was turned. He had no play in the war and did not care who won. He also told Alaric that he knew where Mierela was. It was not until they returned back to the others (and found that the paladin was petting the wolf after offering it some meat, which it refused to eat due to being dead). After calling his wolf back to his side, Vesnic told the group he would take them to Mierela, but could not guarantee exactly where she was. He last left her at the entrance to Candlestone before being attacked by the Tunche. At this point, he also mentioned that a shadowy creature had joined them the other day. The party immediately figured that this was that spirit that had been alluding them since Gallowspire.

[GM Note: I had planned for the potential of one of the Night Harrows being used as an ally. The party may or may not let him help them in the battle against Mierela. I will post my stats for the 4 upgraded Night Harrows after the next battle.]

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