Campaign Review: Stormguard Sessions 17-?

It’s been nearly a year since my last post and my last report on the Stormguard Campaign (though that name is going to have to change since they left Stormguard the first chance they got, seeking Benquil’s long-lost father). The party is

  • Hilbrent Firebrand: Human Magic-user
    • Don “Juan” Ashe, Human Fighter henchman
  • Benquil Barrison Del’Armgo: Half-Drow Thief
    • Mickey Heron, Human Padfoot henchman
  • Lamila Umdril: Half-Orc, Half-Elf Berserker
  • Matchitihew: Half-Lizardfolk, Half-Ospryte Cleric

My last post left them sleeping  in tents provided by the Wrath Heart orc tribe, so we’ll pick up there and I’ll try to be brief.

Leaving the Wrath Heart Orcs

They set no watch that night, only Benquil’s light trap set to inform them of intrusion. They are indeed visited in the night by a band of warriors led by the Wrath Heart priest. Suspicious, he had prayed and been informed by Craith that Lamila was not indeed a high priestess in good faith. The battle is short, with Hilbrent setting all the ground aflame and only the priest escaping.

Doubting the continuing hospitality of their hosts, the party flees into the Waistmarsh to the South on their way to the Anaithwaite colony of Vardor. Before they have gone far they see a bird become a familiar orc ahead of them. The priest casts a spell and as he flies away heavy rains begin. The priest continues to harry them through the swamp and Lamila in her heavy armor finds the torrential rains to be a great, but not insurmountable, challenge. They reach solid ground, the priest giving up the chase at the edge of the swamp and the edge of Anaithwaite territory.

Life of a Globetrotter

At the fortress marking the border of Anaithwaite they are held up for a couple days while the commander awaits word on whether or not to let them in, since they seem a strange bunch, despite their compelling story. Eventually they are let in on the promise that they are destined for Vindillia and from their a ship to the mainland, where better diligence will be done.

Upon reaching Vindillia, they do some business, including attempting to sell their knowledge of Craith’s Pools of Earth to military leaders (on parting betrayal on Lamila’s part). They can’t get the price they want for the information and withhold it in spite. In the meantime, Don and Mickey have found them a ship headed to Requiem, the largest port of Vardor. They pay a heavy price for their tickets, since there is a high tariff on travelers back to the mainland from the colony. Just off the coast of Stormguard on their second day, they fend off a pirate ship seemingly using Sarpin crystals. They reach Requiem without further interruption.

Their feet on the docks of Requiem, they are directed to the immigration office. While Don, Mickey, and Hilbrent have citizenship papers in Vardor, the others are examined closely, since they are not only non-citizens, but clearly not human, or even minotaur (the other significant demographic in Vardor). They are able to convince the immigration office that they are just passing through and receive travel papers good for 2 weeks, matching the 12 days needed to travel to the inner frontier.

Before leaving Requiem, they spend the rest of the day making purchases in the first city they’ve visited with a very robust magical community. Lamila buys a dark-vision ring and Hilbrent commissions a very special enchant to be made for him over the next few weeks, among other things.

The Good Baron Uknyer

A week into their journey eastward, they approach a village clustered around a sea-side castle. Seeing them on the road, a farmer approaches them, imploring them to stop a beast that has been killing villagers. Intrigued, they go up to the castle to speak to the Baron over the area. Aldric Uknyer greets them enthusiastically and invites them to stay at the castle while they work out the beast problem.

They agree to stay at the castle, but Lamila, Benquil, and Hilbrent go out the first night to visit sites of the attacks. Lamila using her new tracking skills to follow the bestial footprints back through the fields to where they become boot prints before returning to the trafficked main road. A different trail suggests the beast came out the sea to attack.

Meanwhile, Match creeps into the graveyard, calling undead and getting the ghost of a pirate from the castle. Not trusting of Uknyer, he sends the ghost to harass and attack him as he sleeps. After their investigations, they return to the castle for an eventful night, awakened repeatedly by Aldric and his butler, Darrin Reeves, fighting the ghost as it comes and goes, eventually defeating it.

In the morning, they bring their discovery that the beast is able to take human form to Darrin, looking for any information about beasts like that in the area. He mentions Aldric’s mother who went mad and disappeared into the sea. The party latches onto the idea that she might be able to enter the dungeons through a hidden door at the castle docks.

That night they prepare an ambush at the castle docks. Lamila waits inside the dungeon, Hilbrent inside the store room on the opposite side. Benquil, wearing the tunic of invisibility (at least dusk to dawn) waits on the docks with an encharged stun blast bolt ready. Match perches high above, ready to dive down if needed. While they stand at ready, a lupine creature bursts through the secret door Lamila had been inside.

Benquil takes the shot, knocking the creature out. Match descends while Hilbrent and Benquil cross to the other side. They stuff the creature into a sack of holding and go through the secret door looking for Lamila. She’s gone. While Match rushes upstairs looking for her, Benquil and Hilbrent throw the creature into one of the dungeon cells, reviving it with healing magic. They try to interrogate it, but it only thrashes against the bars. The bars haven’t been maintained in decades and Hilbrent casts a perpetual repair spell on them before they break. With no indication the beast will give them any useful information, Hilbrent casts an ongoing healing spell on it eventually causing it to pass out.

While they wait for the creature to turn back, Match returns with Baron Uknyer, who he had found sleeping in his chair, sword at his side. The Baron congratulates them on capturing the creature and sends Darrin to go help look for Lamila.

Eventually the creature reverts to humanoid form in the shape of heavily armored Lamila herself. Everyone is astounded, including the Baron, who is aghast that she would come and attack his people. Despite the protests of the others that she couldn’t have been attacking people (her travel papers indicate she didn’t enter Vardor until after the attacks had begun) the Baron insists on imprisoning her until a better culprit is found. Lamila says she was attacked and bitten and the others are determined to find out who it was.

Benquil mixes a large batch of truth serum and they set about administering it to the castle staff, then the entire town. With no culprit found, they turn their suspicions on the last two people they can find, Darrin Reeves and Baron Aldric Uknyer. Asked to take the serum, the Baron refuses and is about to attack when Benquil produces his crossbow, dropping him with a single bolt previously encharged by Hilbrent.

With the real culprit now in hand, they again gather the townsfolk and reveal to them that their Baron is a werewolf. They are surprised, but when the issue is put to a vote, they vote by a large majority to keep him as their Baron. Disgusted, the party spends one more night at the inn before continuing their journey.

To the Border and Beyond

Upon leaving Uknyer they quickly find themselves on less maintained roads where it is slower going and the woods press close in around them. They are still in the kingdom of Vardor, but towns are no more and they no longer find themselves in an inn each night as the villages become sparse. On one stretch of lonely road, they meet an old man who tells them about bandits at the bridge ahead who turned him away when he couldn’t pay. Incensed, they offer to escort the old man and defeat the bandits.

The old man accepts and camps outside their magic-made stone hut, but in the morning he’s gone. The tracks indicate that he left the camp alone going up the road. They set out after him and soon reach the bridge. They find no bandits there, but tracks up river indicate they left the bridge recently. While Lamila tracks them up river, Match follows the river from the air and soon sees signs of an encampment in the woods not far from the river. He relays this information via Sensory Extension to Benquil and though the river has caused Lamila to lose the bandit’s trail, they are able to follow his directions to the small bandit fort.

They approach the fort and convince the bandit leader to come out and talk. They sense he isn’t abjectly evil and he points out that they maintain the bridge and are justified in their toll. Only half convinced, the players admonish him to be more productive than their banditry has proven, encouraging the band to move their camp to the bridge and build an inn there rather than rely on tolls for their living.

From there they proceed to New Crest, the easternmost outpost of Vardor. The outpost is mostly a fort, built to bring the area’s people into the kingdom and defend the border. In the rough tavern there, explorers and adventurers gather to prepare for and recover from forays into the wild lands.

One such adventurer, Emil Gollant, approaches the party. A talented ranger, Emil had discovered an ancient but well preserved tower to the South and East. He is seeking investors to fund settlement near the tower including clearing a road there from New Crest, bringing in seed, carting in food until a crop can be harvested, and paying off-season workers to help build the castle. The return on the investment is expected to come when Emil is granted a title and authority over the vast area of land he would be adding to the Kingdom of Vardor. He offers the party a special deal based on their reputation and they buy a number of shares in his endeavor with both services and money.

Emil quickly gathers the necessary supplies, getting the remainder of his investments using the party’s reputation. The road is cleared quickly with the help of magic (reducing the cost) and they reach the settlement site in a week. While Hilbrent’s facsimiles help clearing land, Emil suggests they investigate the mighty tower looming over the site. Match makes a flying pass around it, finding a massive crystal dome at the top and no apparent entrances.

With no other recourse, they approach the doors in the cliff side below where Emil had been driven off by creatures who lived there. The creatures are trolls and the fight is quick, but bloody. They prudently burn the bodies on Hilbrent’s recommendation. Inside the broken doors under the symbol of Brimahil, they find a dilapidated library and clues on the walls indicating a hidden door at the back that opens when touched by Benquil’s ring of Brimahil.

The Temple of Brimahil

The hidden door leads them into a series of challenges:

  1. A maze individual to each person solvable only though a table at its center that party members could use to move eachother to different parts of the maze (except that Lamila’s Will is powerful enough for her to see, and even sometimes pass, through the insubstantial walls of the maze.
  2. An ancient facsimile trained to teach and play a game which Hilbrent beats it at after Lamila’s failed attempts drive her to a different task.
  3. A puzzle game clearly intended to teach cooperation that they easily defeat.

With the way clear, they ascend the tower, finding a hidden door again unlocked with the ring out to the clifftop, and find themselves in the massive crystal dome at the top. As they approach the dais at the center, an elven woman of ancient and godly visage appears appears floating above it. She introduces herself as Brimahil and welcomes them as new initiates to her long forgotten temple and observatory. As new initiates, she invites them to stand upon the dais and look out from her observatory, assuring that their wisdom and knowledge will allow them to see in the world the things that matter most to them.

They each take a turn and have many visions that will later guide their steps, the most emotional of which being Benquil’s vision of his father sadly playing music and singing among the elves to the South East. Their visions over, they each receive a gift from Brimahil before leaving her tower. They spend a little time helping with the settlement, but when the main body of settlers arrive with seed, Benquil is too restless to stay any longer and they set out toward the elves (though Hilbrent flies back to Requiem to begin a labor he has been planning).

Seeking the Elves

Driven by Benquil’s fervor to find his father, the party (minus Hilbrent) began the long trek through the wilds. Though uncivilized, the lands are not as empty as they had been made to understand and they find themselves having to make a circuitous route to skirt the territories of minotaur tribes hostile to Vardor and other outsiders.

As they avoid the tribes, they find themselves funneled into a canyon where they meet with a minotaur tribe displaced by the other tribe. They are trapped, unwilling to cross the canyon known to them as the Madman’s Vale. They learn that the canyon floor is populated with giant enchanted crystals that fire powerful spells at intruders within their range, all surrounding a hut at the center.

Hilbrent returns (teleporting to them with the project he had been working on) and they manage to infiltrate the tunnels under the Madman’s Vale and confront the leprous appearing Madman himself who runs babbling into the woods. Unable to deactivate the crystals and having killed the Madman with healing magic (he was undead), they create a portal to the other side of the vale and usher the minotaur tribe through.

They continue their journey, crossing a canyon of Rocs with the help of Hilbrent’s magics. On one night, Lamila is camping alone while the other take a respite back in Vardor and when they return they cannot find her, though there are signs she succumbed to werewolf form. It takes a couple days to find her as she tries to track herself back to camp and the others use detection magic. Regrouped, they continue on and in a few days find themselves on a hill overlooking a valley where massive tents have been pitched and music can be heard. Large crowds mill near the tents and it seems some sort of celebration is in process. As they look on, an elf riding a giant goose approaches and invites them to the Festival of the Migrant, an auspicious time for arrivals.

Among the Elves

The Festival of the Migrant celebrates a number of migratory creatures including the giant geese, caribou, and monarch butterflies. In the spirit of the season, the players participate in activities including Pluck or be Plucked (pulling numbered tail feathers from giant geese in 2 man teams) and All Aflutter (catching number butterflies). They play the games vigorously until they’ve obtained enough tickets to earn all of the festival’s enchanted prizes, most of which they find of little use, planning to sell them when they get an opportunity.

During the 3 days they spend at the festival, Benquil gambles with and confronts Loremaster Sycamore, a Brimahilian elf he recognizes from his vision. Match also has a number of encounters with Arkhia Skullgrim, a dragon worshiping Kobold who invites him into her bed, seeing such a large and winged lizard person as surely a representative of the dragons. When she participates in the Caribou race, Match’s prayers to Promathus spur her to a narrow victory over the competition.

When the festival ends, they accompany Loremaster Sycamore, who has offered to help an apparent Drow and his companions, to enter elven lands and travel to the Shimmering Haven where Benquil’s father is living. They arrive there without event and are brought to the massive library and monastary, Brimahil’s Jewel, where Benquil’s father has been happily living and working, despite requirements that he be discreet, being a Drow. He has been watching Benquil using Brimahil’s power and is delighted to meet his traveling companions. He takes them out to dinner to discuss their adventures and their future.

With most of the unpleasantness of the less than amicable reunion out of the way, they retire to his father’s quarters where he has a proposal for them. He has read of a necromancer, Gregor the Plague, who had his redoubt on the Scar, a gash in the land to the North. The first King of Vardor was said to have pursued him there and there slain him, but departed too quickly to have searched the place. No one has dared approach it since and he thinks they might be able to find something of value there.

Match relates that he saw a lich in the area Benquil’s father describes in his vision and his father tries to discourage them going, but they decide to scout it out and see what they’re up against.

Gregor the Plague’s Last Redoubt

The party leaves a teleport token (a sigil created by Hilbrent as a focus for his long range teleport system) with Benquil’s father and heads North. A few miles east of the redoubt they settle in to make a plan. First, Benquil approaches on foot to scout the area. His approach sets off an alarm and undead swarm toward him, including the lich coming out to pursue him (unsuccessfully due to his invisibility). Despite being unseen, he takes some punishment from area coverage spells the lich puts down on him.

Upon his return, Match feels extreme measures are required and draws a circle to summon a large devil to attack the redoubt. He summons an Abaddon and sends it against the lich, but on a low roll, the devil turns free immediately upon leaving the circle, attacking them. They defeat it, but Lamila is injured and in rage attacks Match, chasing him as he flies away until she collapses from exhaustion and her wounds.

They let Lamila rest, then set out planning an all out attack on the redoubt. The assault is swift, with Match coming in from the air and the others climbing through a window. While the others are bogged down fighting through the low way, Match uses Turn Evil to drive some skeletons off of scaffolding to their destruction and proceeds directly to the lich where he is able to put up a fight with Turn Evil but ultimately falls to a powerful spell. Benquil sees by Sensory Extension his fall and godes the others on in the attack. They burst into the ground floor of the Gregor’s tower and begin to fight their way up the stairs as fast as they can. The fight goes well, but in their rush a creeping undead manages to get behind them, stabbing Lamila through the chest and breaking off the blade inside. They heal Match back to consciousness and begin to search the area.

Hilbrent, who had left a touch sensory extension in an envelope with his trade operation in Requiem, felt a prick during the battle. With things calmed down he teleports to his token in Requiem, leaving another token behind. Upon arriving he sees devils in the warehouse where his operation is housed. He teleports back immediately, bringing a desk with him that crashes to the ground a floor below.

While he decides what to do about his discovery, Benquil discovers a powerful magical artifact enshrined in the redoubt’s basement, hidden in a secret room and trapped. He hides the staff in his bag and doesn’t tell anyone. The redoubt also has a bucket apparently meant to be lowered into the scar. Lamila descends in the bucket, followed by Match flying and Benquil using the soft fall leather he got at the Festival of the Migrant to fall down to the ledge.

Cloaked in invisibility, Benquil goes down the tunnel until he reaches a rank and foggy cave where his infrared vision cannot see. A voice calls from him within the cave and they negotiate a while, Benquil ascertaining that the creature is guarding something for the lich and to get it they will need to bring it food.

Leviathan in Requiem

It is now that Hilbrent informs the others of the operation he has started in Requiem, using a large portion of their troll treasure as an investment he assures them will pay dividends. It involves permanent portals connecting Requiem to Stormguard, the capital, and one more trade port in Vardor. He guesses the devils are after his portals and while they’ve been dealing with the creature beneath the redoubt he’s reconfigured one of his teleport spells to remove the enchant maintaining the portals.

He entreats the others to help him protect their unwitting investment by dealing with the devil problem. They teleport to Fort Gollant, the nearest token they have to Requiem, and while Hilbrent flies with a token to Requiem, Lamila and Benquil hunt and capture two live deer for the creature beneath the redoubt. Hilbrent arrives in Requiem and they teleport to him, leaving their bound deer in the care of a pig farmer while they go to deal with the devil problem.

They reach the warehouse with the local constables and find the warehouse workers and attendants butchered and apparently posed at their stations after having been moved away from them. As they search, they pick up some traces of the devils, but they seem to have moved on. Through magic, though, they become pretty sure the devils are still there. Though the constables have checked the upper floor, they insist on going there to search the devils out. It is there they discover the devilish hive.

The battle is going well despite being surrounded until Hilbrent opens the main door, hoping to get a powerful area spell off on the whole group. Inside the door are the two leaders of the devils. A balor emerges, driving Hilbrent back with powerful blows while a voice within orders him to get rid of the nuisance. Taking a hit, Hilbrent plays dead long enough to use a teleport token to get out and go get Mickey and Don.

Lamila handles the Balor and goes into the front suite of the building after the other voice, leaving Benquil, Hilbrent, Don, and Mickey pressed into a corner by the other devils. There she meets Leviathan, a massive feminine devil with eight tentacles in place of legs and a multi-thonged whip of eels. She charges in and finds herself entangled by the tentacles as her strength is drained away. With her strength completely sapped, she is lying helpless when Benquil and the others vanquish their foes and Benquil’s poisoned bolt strikes Leviathan. With the pain of the poison tormenting her, she takes dragon form and escapes through the wall.

Descending to the warehouse, they find Match strengthless as Lamila had been and evidence that the devils responsible had escaped into the sewers through the toilet. Their pursuit, aided by a thieves guild leader, is cut short as the tide washes in and threatens to drown them, but they believe the devils have made their way into the mansions on the east side of the city. They know the devils include many that can take human forms who had impersonated workers and constables to hinder the investigation.

While they search, they seem to have hit a dead end and take a small detour to bring the deer to the creature under the redoubt, obtaining Gregor’s phylactery (which they destroy) and leaving a teleport token in its keeping.

Meanwhile, back in Requiem, Match is attacked in the air by succubi and defeats them. He also becomes aware of dragon worshiper marches in the fisher’s quarter. He is also drawn to an explosion in the magic sector where it seems Hilbrent (or someone who looks like him) entered the Firebrand House of mages and blew it up using chemicals from the laboratory. The others return to Requiem in a hurry to help heal victims of the attack where, while they are working, constables arrive to arrest Benquil, accused in the rape and murder of a merchant’s daughter.

They are able to convince the constables that Benquil was framed, but they still think it best to keep him out of the public eye until things are sorted out. They escort him back to the party headquarters in the room where they first fought Leviathan, Lamila going along. It is there they receive a note from a student of devil summoning they had interrogated before telling them to look for him at a particular manor if he didn’t contact them soon. With the time already passed, Lamila goes to the manor and Match meets her there.

A couple of constables see them and go in with them. They knock and a servant answers, who Lamila kills, causing him to turn back into the incubus he really was. They rush to explore the building, the constables taking the group floor while Lamila and Match climb the stairs. They kill a gatekeeper in the hall and start opening doors, finding the Lord and Lady of the manor as well as their servants naked and bound. In another door they find their summoner informant and he helps them kill two succubi he had been engaged with. He warns them he has summoned a spell casting devil for them and advises against opening the door at the end of the hall.

Lamila and Match disagree and go to the end of the hall, opening the door to see Leviathan waiting for them. Not interested in that fight, they flee the building, throwing the captives out windows before jumping themselves. They flee into the yard, carrying all of the captives (some dead from the fall) to safety and expecting to be attacked at any moment.

Suddenly the building explodes as Leviathan transforms into a massive dragon, expanding across the city to the sea, crushing buildings in either direction. The dragon has dozens of powerful tentacles that begin to tear the city apart. In the fight that ensues as Hilbrent and Benquil teleport in, Match is almost squeezed to death by a tentacle that caught him on the fly. Powerful encharged bolts and mighty magical grenades from Benquil and Hilbrent, as well as vicious cuts from Lamila, eventually wound the dragon enough to kill Leviathan within, causing her to transform back into her devilish form. Not trusting this condition, Lamila runs to her body and beheads it.

Amid the aftermath, they pursue the remaining devils down into the sewers, cornering them against a grate and killing them. With things calmed down, quickly heal as many of the people killed and wounded in the chaos as they can (which is almost all of them). They also work a few weeks rebuilding the damaged portions of the city with magic and facsimiles while waiting for enchants to be created, notable among them a magically warded summoning carpet for Match and book copying boxes for Benquil and Hilbrent in an effort to show their devotion to Brimahil. As part of the effort, Mickey volunteers to become the librarian at Fort Gollant where he will organize the books and receive the books they copy along the way.

To the Southern Lands

With the rebuilding well underway and their rest well enjoyed, the party casts about for where to go next. They consider seeking the werewolf community that Lamila saw from Brimahil’s observatory, but after doing to the research to ascertain it’s location, Lamila prays to Margon (the werewolf king, now god, of the region) and determines she wants nothing to do with the evil bloodthirst he represents.

Instead, they decide to pursue a figure in one of Match’s vision. He had seen a king, perhaps half-drow, but shorter than Benquil and bearded, sucking the blood of one of his subjects to the south. Their only connection to the southern lands is the ambassador to Vardor from Palta, who they interrogated during their search for the devils. He is grateful to them for rebuilding his house and saving his family and answers all their questions about the south (though they don’t ask many) and ultimately offers them passage to Palta on the courier ship he uses to keep in touch with his homeland.

They sail down the coast of Vardor, eluding a ship flying unrecognized colors, and pass through the Strait of Arem where customs gives them only a little trouble, sensing all the magical items they have on them. They arrive in Palta where despite language barriers, they are introduced to the massive library in the capital. The head librarian there is a secret worshiper of Brimahil (despite general hostility toward gods in the area) and readily agrees to keep one of their book copiers in the library in order to deliver new books to Fort Gollant.

They also meet with the king, who requests their help in sensitive state matters where his own spies have thus far failed regarding the nation to the North. Their king is said to have lived nearly 1000 years and mysterious warriors meet his spies and scouting parties whenever they cross the border, slaying them and driving them off. The party decides to accept the mission, hoping to be well paid for their efforts and sure the ancient king is the blood drinker they seek.

The Vampire King of Arem

They fly to the border of Arem, and not wanting to seem hostile, they travel 3 miles across it and make camp, Benquil preparing light traps around the camp to warn them of approaching warriors. During Hilbrent’s watch, a figure appears within their secure perimeter. He speaks a language they don’t understand but as the others awake, he sees Benquil through the pavilion flap and switches to Drow. He asks why they’ve come and, seeming torn about sharing more with them, he says he needs time to think and that he will meet them at the border the next. He then activates his enchanted mask, which emits an aura of fear. It is powerful enough to send Benquil, Hilbrent, and Don fleeing into the woods to bright flashes of light from the perimeter, though Match and Lamila resist with their high will. In the chaos, the figure vanishes.

They return to the border and wait for him. When he returns, he expresses interest in meeting them and invites them to his palace, instructing them to go North to the main road and follow it all the way to his capital. It is slow going, but they do so and are soon eating dinner with him.

In this close proximity, they are able to learn that he is slightly good and somewhat lawful from their alignment sensing abilities and equipment. They also learn that he was a Drow experiment about 1000 year ago (in fact, in just a few days he celebrates his millennium of rule). He escaped the Drow with the vampiric powers they gave him and came here, usurping the king by accident and since building the kingdom to such safety and prosperity that the people adore him, despite never seeing his half-drow/half-dwarf face. Though they have misgivings about trusting him (Match still wants to kill him) they agree to stay until his celebration and are given rooms in his tall and open tower (most of the castle windows have been cemented shut. Lamila refuses to sleep in the tall tower, choosing a closed in room in one of the seaside towers.

During the night, Lamila awakes to the wall beside her bed crumbling away, through the hole streams moonlight more intense than she has ever experienced accompanied by Margon’s voice. She begins to transform and knows no more.

The others awake and descend for food. They meet Lamila at the table and after eating obtain permission to visit the palace library (though Match chooses to visit the market. In the library, they discover from some physical discrepancies that Lamila is an illusion cast by the queen, at which time she confesses that Lamila has vanished and they wanted to return her before the others became aware of it to prevent suspicion. They have already found her and about this time she shakes off the werewolf form and checks in using sensory extensions, confirming the queen’s story.

Meanwhile in the market, Match spots a suspicious cloaked figure moving from crowd to crowd. He confronts her, but she cannot speak his language and flees into the crowd. No one else seems to have thought much of her and he pursues, following her to a tavern where she is meeting two other cloaked figures. He buys himself a pitcher of water and settles in to observe them. Eventually they leave, but the one he followed approaches, reciting in Vardor a greeting to the king’s guest. They still can’t communicate and she signals for him to follow, leading him through secret tunnels to a meeting place where many of these vampire spies are gathered. There she gets a translator who explains to Match that the spies are charged with keeping order through the gathering of information and the discouraging of rebellion and other unrest. Satisfied, he returns to the castle.

They stay for the celebration while Benquil copies the oldest tomes he can find the library (over 1000 years old). He finds one they cannot copy, because it is cut into bark and various other materials. Hilbrent attempts a spell copy more sophisticated than the enchant, but Brimahil indicates it is still unreadable. When asked, the King agrees to let them keep the ancient bundle of writings. They enjoy the celebration of King Gamlis’ 1000 years and return to the Paltan capital to share what they’ve learned and get their reward before teleporting to Fort Gollant. From there it is their intent to go to the werewolf settlement and destroy Margon, the Lord of Blood, himself as a practice run for their intended assault on Lolith, goddess of the Drow.

On to Margon’s Vale

At Fort Gollant they find the crops are growing nicely toward the harvest and the castle’s foundation has been laid. Mickey is doing well with the library and they visit the observatory to bring Brimahil the bundle of writings. She is able to read them, but says it will be slow going and she will need a scribe, for which Mickey volunteers. Emil Gollant informs them a duke from the capital will be coming to inspect their progress and survey their added territory in the next couple of weeks and so they leave with Mickey sensory extensions usable to call them back. In no hurry, they begin the long hike to Margon’s Vale.

Within a week they find themselves on a hill overlooking the river valley where the long abandoned city stands in ruins. They can see from the hill that the only people living in the city live within a second, newer wall around what appears to be a temple. Thinking it best to approach with a werewolf, they send Lamila in, and despite some strangeness at the ruined outer wall, she makes her way across the bridge and to the temple area. She is greeted in Minotaur, which she doesn’t speak. Hilbrent can hear, but he doesn’t speak minotaur either and attempts to relay the words to Benquil and then responses back through the sensory extension prove futile. The minotaurs, however, are able to provide a translator to Vardor, which Lamila doesn’t speak, but which Hilbrent can translate for her. The werewolves of the Vale are astonished to hear of a werewolf who has not been inducted into the pack of Margon and begin to plan an induction ceremony for her. They also learn that Margon himself is said to appear to people at the top of a tower of the palace.

Benquil, meanwhile, is on his way down and decides to approach the palace at the center of the ruined city. Lamila, hearing this, leaves the small compound and goes to join him at the palace. Hilbrent, Don, and Match also come down.

Match is the first to enter the finely made but rickety building, entering on the third floor by a balcony. Inside he is greeted with many ghostly undead, mostly minotaur women with a few human women in the mix. He calls undead and is able to bind all 12 of them, however, as he is doing so another 18 from an adjacent room answer his call. He pits them against each other only to find that they attack with screeching wails that hurt his ears and test his will, doing little to each other. He retreats, joining the others at the front gate as they fight several wolves who confront them in the great hall. They dispatch the wolves with few wounds before pausing to consider the structure they are about to invade.

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