Review from last episode: There is a brief interlude where the events in the Keep with Duke Ebonhawke, the Mardaws , and the Duke’s entourage are revisited in more detail. As the Duke and his minions question the party, the party members notice some things.
There is a shadowy female figure just behind the Duke’s seat of power. She occasionally whispers something to the Duke.
Many of the entourage appear to have a tattoo below their ear. It looks like Ch
The Mardaw Boys and Butch Mardaw lack the mark of The Chosen
The Shadowy female figure appears to hold some sway over the Duke, perhaps influencing his decision making on some level; he may be ensorcelled
The party starts in the town, on the run from the Duke and the Mardaw boys who are in pursuit.
The Vampire’s presence has cast a pall over the entire region. Clouds and haze are ever-present. There is a foul odor on the air. Bats and spiders seem to have increased lately. His allies include ghouls, wights, ghosts, werewolves, constructs, and other undead. He also has living allies, The Chosen, who crave undeath. They aspire to be turned to sentient Vampires. They are identifiable by the small red Ch tattooed below the ear. The Mardaw boys noticeably lack this mark.
The Dwarf, Walice Dargarkin, finds the party and leads them to a magical portal he has created. The party members will be transported to a place of safety. If they choose any other means of escape they will be found. The Mardaws hunt by scent, and there’s no way for the party members to escape except by magic. To use the portal, each party member must reveal a secret loss or failure from their past.
- Arduin can’t read, but he loves romantic poetry; the romanticker, the better
- LeShanna was once betrothed to 3 men simultaneously
- Thom lied…he did inhale
- Lupina can’t really swim
- Bishop revealed that an innocent man died because of his actions
- Baltric said “as pretty as I am, I want to be known for my brains”
- (Silver and Leorin weren’t there)
They arrive in the Topaz Flail, a small tavern just outside of the town. In the tavern are several locals, as well as three notables from town: The Dwarf, Walice Dargarkin, Magistrate Wilster Arroway, and Mayor Helia Chancey.
Magistrate Arroway recognizes the group as ne’er-do-wells who were brought to town in irons for the misdeeds of their forebears. The Dwarf appreciates their kindness in the Cap & Candle Inn when they sought him out for assistance with the information about the Horn. The Mayor does not know them and does not assume that they are ready for the trials ahead.
This is a role playing event (not a Skill Challenge) that requires the party members to recall significant events of their lives. Events that could convince the two city leaders that they are the very adventurers to go after the Count, save the Duchess, and release the Duke from the Count’s diabolical control.
As they arrive, Magistrate Arroway scolds the Dwarf for bringing this group to the Inn. The Mayor looks at the adventurers with skepticism.
Magistrate Arroway: “We have reservations about your ability to meet the challenges ahead. You have no idea what has become of our town since you left on your ill-conceived adventure to capture the Horn.”
The party convince the three, through story telling, that they are indeed heroic and righteousness enough to face the darkness ahead.
Then they head out on the Drakespool Passage toward the Bleakmoor Hills. They must pass through a swamp and then arrive at the Castle.
The path to the castle passes through the Bleakmoor Hills which include a small swampland.
Rotten Ethel, who is secretly a Bog Hag and allied to the Count is disguised initially as Nelladrie: Female Elf Slave. Nelladrie has curly auburn hair and amber eyes. She wears modest garments and a wooden holy symbol. Abandoned in the forest. She says she was on the way to Shadowmourne but got lost. She craves to become one of the Chosen and hopes to follow the group to the “Master”. The adventurers let on that they are on the way to Shadowmourne Castle to kill the Count and rescue the Duchess. She realizes that they are not Chosen and attacks. After a pitched battle with the hag, the party finally dispatches her and continues to Shadowmourne Castle
Animal Messenger (Sparrow) from Leorin: “Heading to Great Library of Capitar to research Horn. Evaded Mardaw Boys. Sheriff suspects you found Horn. They search outskirts Thunderstone toward Karak with witch helper.”
As the party leaves the swamp, they overlook a valley shrouded in mist. On a bluff at the far end of the valley is Shadowmourne Castle. Although a distance away, even from this distance, the castle emits a powerful aura of dread.
A short way on the road, Thom and Vinnemar elect to scout forwards to the side of the road to see what’s ahead. They are ambushed by a group of the Mardaw boys who kill (it appears) Vinnemar. Thom barely escaped with his life, running away to the taunts and laughter of the Mardaw boys. He rejoins the party and shares the sad news of Vinnemar’s passing.
As the party heads along the road toward the castle, a figure steps in front of their wagon, blocking the way. “Fools, even I can tell you are not Chosen and the guards will certainly know this. Turn back e’er you become fodder for the undead in that foul place.” Ralphye Barne is a Halfling Ranger. He is from a village to the east, a village that was essentially consumed by the Count and his minions. He and some allies attempted to sneak into the castle. His friends were captured near the outer walls and he waits in hope that they will find a way to escape. He has been here two weeks. As he fled for his life, he dropped a “Sun’s Sliver”, a wondrous item bequeathed to the village by a mysterious stranger. This item is one of the few things that can kill the Master of Shadowmourne Castle.
The party heeds the halfling’s warning and takes a side route to Shadowmourne Castle (constructed of dark stone and situated at the top of a lonely hillside). The terrain outside is mostly plain ground with areas of Necrotic ground and Healing ground. As the party gets closer to the Count’s apartments, there is less and less Healing ground.
The party battles and destroys a group of zombies in a graveyard just outside the Castle walls. They discover an entrance to the caverns below the Castle. They battle Wights, Ghosts , and Specters here. A group of friendly ghosts, victims of the Count (or perhaps some other evil) offers them the opportunity to convince them that they are the party who has the skill and strength to conquer the master of the castle. Lupina’s and Arduin’s show of strength and the rest of the party’s collective diplomacy convinces the ghosts to reveal their secrets. They reveal a map to the castle, long hidden beneath an obelisk nearby. They also reveal that the Count seized the Sun Sliver and hid it in a small room behind an enchanted door. He hid the magical keys to the door in four rooms on the main floor of Shadowmourne Castle. With the map in hand and the locations of the keys and the Sun Sliver, the party heads out of the caverns and up into the castles Basement.
In the basement, they battle many ghouls, ghasts, zombies. It is here that they discover a small prison where many are being held captive. Most are weak and near death. One, however, sits quietly seething with anger. Captured by a large group of werewolves, Silver, a Paladin of the Silver Flame, never gave up hope that he would be released so that he could deliver his retribution upon the foul masses of undead in this place. So it was that Silver joined the party in their efforts upon the Castle. The party bade Ralphye farewell as he escorted the group of prisoners back out of the Castle. Though many of the newly formed party lost their weapons to the grasping arms of ghouls trapped above in Gibbets, they were finally able to clear the basement of the creatures there. And an evil gnome created all sorts of problems for them. Once discovered, the cowardly gnome became invisible and fled though he did not escape the party totally unscathed, leaving a trail of blood marking his passage out of the room.
On the Main level, the party, the party overheard an intense argument between Butch Mardaw and the evil gnome, who they learned was called Zlava Smegula. A petulant creature, he needed to convince the Sheriff to work harder even though he knew the Count planned on killing him and the rest of the Mardaw boys as soon as their usefulness ran its course. Butch had grown increasingly unnerved by his tasks. He had been assigned a simple security deal, and it had grown into kidnapping. He had then learned that the kidnapped were being used as food for the mysterious Count. Their argument was short, but revealed to the group where the Sheriff’s allegiances truly lay. After the argument, they followed the Butch into his offices and confronted him. They quickly convinced him that they could get him out of a bad deal by killing his “benefactor”. Always looking for the upside of a bad deal, Butch escorted them past the Count’s guards and minions to find the four keys. The party used them to seize the key, and parted ways with Butch. His last words to the party were that some of his “boys” may still be around and may not know that the deal with the Count has ended. To gain their loyalties, or at least their passive acceptance, a party member should yell, “Mardaw Boys, Huh!!”
On the Second floor of the Castle, the party plowed their way through wave after wave of Vampire minions. Despite their efforts, the party easily cleared the 2nd floor and headed for the Count’s apartments. It was with great trepidation that they ascended those stairs, because they were weary with battle and had few resources left to them. The shadowy dread of the Castle had taken its toll, and the party despaired. At that moment, they perceived a shadowy, cloaked figure at the top of the stairs. The figure glowed with powerful energy, clearly a formidable foe to be reckoned with. Fearful that it could be one of the Count’s evil guards, the party members readied themselves for battle. They heard a dark, ethereal voice that said, “I come to you now, at the turn of the tide.” Though the words sounded oddly familiar, the voice was still unknown to them. As they got closer, the creature’s visage became more clear. Just then, Leorin stepped out of the shadow and exclaimed, “Dudes, its me, Leorin. I’ve brought some help!” With that, four angelic figures appeared in the hallway and began moving among the party members. They began to feel some of their weariness abate, and they felt newfound vigor. As the angels departed, Leorin collapsed in front of them. Ioun’s powers had left him near death. Before he slipped into unconsciousness, he whispered, “Beware the Count for he is far more powerful than you expect. The Sun Sliver you carry can only be used to kill him if he is in his corporeal form. You must use it before he slips into his insubstantial Mist form. Aaaarrrggghhhh….”
Bolstered with their renewed vigor and understanding of the Count’s powers, and his weakness, they moved toward the great doors to the Count’s stronghold. Peering in through the doors, they perceived numerous villains, including a foursome of vampires conducting a foul ritual over an orb that floated above the Horn of Blasting. A ribbon of dark energy passed from the orb to the far end of the room where the Countess lay unconscious. The Count sat upon his throne flanked by werewolves and Fatale, the witch from the town. They sensed the Gnome’s presence as well. Most fearsome and despairing was a twisted, foul version of their former friend Vinnemar. Though not dead, neither was he alive, but trapped in what remained of his body, driven mad by pain and the Count’s evil intent. He was now Vinnemard, foulest of the Count’s creations.
As the party enters the room, the Count laughs mockingly at them, utters some words of disdain, and orders his minions to attack. As the battle begins, Arduin, who wields the Sun Sliver, ignores all threat and reacts purely on instinct. With a mighty roar and a swiftness that even the Count cannot comprehend, Arduin falls like an avalanche upon the Count and buries the Sun Sliver into the Count’s black, necrotic heart. With a scream of disbelief and horror, the Count explodes in a cloud of black dust. The silence in the room is palpable until the Necromancer leading the ritual screams in protest and casts a foul spell upon Arudin, chaining him to her will. The rest in the room charge into action, compelled to avenge their master’s death and complete the ritual so that his wife might return to carry on his will. Battle though they might, the evil minions of the Count could not overcome the power of the party’s desire for triumph.
As the cries of battle began to wane, the Count’s advisor, Fatale, recognized the direction of things to come, including her own fate. All that she needed was the orb, nearly halfway across the large room. She dared not enter the fray, so she directed the Count’s loyal servant, Zlava, to toss her the orb. Thinking she would use the orb to free him as well as her, he revealed himself and tossed the orb. Zlava realized his error as he watched Fatale leap for the large window and launch herself from it toward freedom. As the adventurers surrounded him, Zlava tried his only remaining trick, to disappear completely. Sadly, he was frozen in place by a spell from Baltric. Though he was invisible, they could hear his teeth chattering with the cold. Though he begged, they offered no quarter and ended his miserable existence.
With heavy sighs across the room, the party members were finally able to relax a bit. Gazing across the room at the carnage, and then at the distorted, twisted visage of their former comrade Vinnemar, they had little to celebrate. Their task was accomplished and save their own low murmurs of congratulation, the only sound in the room was the Duke and Duchess’s joy at their reunion. Each had suffered greatly at the hand of the Count, and their expressions of gratitude to the party were effusive. The Duke assured his rescuers that they would be paid in more, and that the riches of the Count were theirs, if they so chose.
Just then, the party remembered their other newly returned comrade in the hallway outside the room. Leorin walked slowly and unsteadily into the room. He smiled at them and said, “She comes.” With a low rumble, Leorin was bathed in divine light. His eyes turned solid black and his voice was no longer his own:
“I am Ioun. You have proven yourselves against formidable odds. The assistance you were given from my angels and from my Invoker, Leorin, was not only at my behest. The pantheon of gods is greatly concerned with recent events on your plane. This darkness you have seen: the Shadow in the forest and the rise of this Vampire, are only the most recent and localized occurrences of this Darkness. We do not understand its purpose or its origin. If it is not dealt with, it may spread across your world and then across the Astral Plane. I charge you and with seeking out this darkness, learning its secrets, and dealing with it. We shall support you as we can, but we are prevented from intervening directly. To that end, I bestow upon you each a divine boon, a spark of our energy that may assist you in your efforts. We will be watching.”
With that, Ioun departed and Leorin again collapsed on the floor. With a little support, he was soon back to himself. The party remembered the words of the ghosts, that there was a secret horde of treasure nearby. After a bit of searching, they discovered a passageway to a small room below the Count’s stronghold. They were stunned at the sheer immensity of the Count’s holdings. Gold and treasure, gems and potions, and vast collections of weapons, armor, and other magical items. The Count had been collecting these things from his victims for years. Unfortunately, much of it was cursed as the essence of former owners or bearers was infused into the times, but enough of it was usable to make the party members quite wealthy, much more so than they had planned.
They arrived in town a day later, conquering heroes. The pall of darkness had begun to fade at the death of the Count and was now completely gone. Though many had become victims of the Count’s and his minions’ appetite for blood, those who had been Chosen had returned to their senses at his death. The party spent the next couple of weeks basking in their glory, recovering from their wounds, and spending their money.