Our heroes, sans Aurora and Marshmallow, who decided to remain above, landed in a bloody pool in the center of a great chamber. To one wall, a massive statue of Orcus stood looming, and at another, what looked like a corpse awaited upon a dais. Opposite him, a man in a horned helm stood in prayer, chanting as dark energies poured forth from his rod, capped with a ram’s skull. The final wall was almost entirely made of a great arch, beyond which a powerful darkness was trying to claw its way through the remaining barriers. Scattered throughout the room, vampires began hissing at the intruders.
Sunny immediately leapt near the altar and stabbed Kalarel with her shortsword. Kalarel vanished upon contact, and reappeared on a rune before the portal. Dak shot a vamp, only to have it risen by the corpse, which turned out to be a wight. Thorir charged down Kalarel, while Gorstag and Dak focused on the wight. While within reach, Thorir took some swipes from whatever was trying to get through the portal, and its whispers lured him towards it. In the meantime, Sunny disposed of the vampires outside of the wights reach.
Within moments, the wight fell to the concentrated firepower, and soon thereafter the vampires turned to dust. Dak had his shards whirling around the room, and Thorir continued to charge at Kalarel, although mostly to little success. He did manage to physically drag Kalaral off the rune, though. During the fight, Thorir lent some of his vitality to counteract the dark magic, and Dak and Gorstag used their arcane and religious knowledge to further undo it. However, their efforts proved futile, and the portal remained a threat.
Even with all of his allies dead, Kalarel remained arrogant, and mocked the party as they slew him. Thorir landed the final blow, sending his spearhead through Kalarel’s chest. The dark energies of the portal broke and the seal returned. Disaster had been avoided. Bodies were looted and the Keep was abandoned. After some well-deserved rest, the party decided to return to Winterhaven to report their success. Aurora was known in the area, and had a nasty (and undeserved) reputation, so she and Marshmallow stayed behind. Splug also remained behind, wary as he was since the well incident.
Our heroes returned to the city triumphant…and found empty streets and a plume of black smoke rising from the direction of the Lord’s Manor. Rond Kelfem, Captain of the Regulars, noted their approach and met them. He informed them that the elf, Ninaran had worked with some “smuggler” and his large companion to sneak vampires into the manor, and had taken Lord Padraig hostage. They killed four of the Regulars in the process.
Sunny took to the walls and sneaked around the back of the manor. She saw one vampire on the second floor, and five hostages, none of them Padraig, in a bedroom. She could not get through the heavy glass windows, so she continued to climb to the third floor. She saw a single vampire foe, and slowly approached for the attack…and missed. Fortunately, she took the poor fool by surprise, and managed to land a second blow before it could cry out. Sunny found a library and the Lord’s chamber, but did not steal anything. How noble.
In the meantime, Dak tried to negotiate with Ninaran. He quickly deduced that the smuggler was Kelson, and tried to use their son, Connor, as leverage. However, Carian had apparently kidnapped Connor, and she had to take Winterhaven to get him back. She would start killing hostages until the city was ceded to them. Negotiations went south just as Kelson’s bodyguard shouted from above. Sunny had descended to the second floor and engaged him.
Thorir ran to the door and tackled it, to no avail. He managed to dodge two fireballs shot from arrow slits on the way, though. Dak and Gorstag provided ranged support, and even sometimes managed to hit the targets through the arrow slits. Dak ran forward with Thorir, and shot through the arrow slit at point blank range. Gorstag remained behind, but was shooting spells exceptionally well.
Sunny knocked the oaf unconscious, and dusted another vampire. After crossing the servants’ quarters and descending to the kitchen, she brought low another vamp guarding Lord Padraig. Padraig thanked her and took a shortsword to defend his servants. Sunny continued into the hall and finished off the vampires just as Thorir and Dak burst through the door. Dak went head to head with the flaming skeletons and Thorir charged right at Ninaran. Kelson deftly swapped positions with her and took Thorir’s attention as Ninaran fled to a corner for some bow action. Sunny soon cornered her and dropped her, unconscious. Dak and Gorstag, who was aflame, finished off the skeletons and soon thereafter Kelson fell unconscious as well.
Padraig came down to thank and congratulate his rescuers. The criminals were chained in irons and escorted to the dungeons. Before they could be interrogated, however, a villager ran in claiming that the dead had risen in the ancestral graveyard. Exhausted but undaunted, our heroes left to finish this threat once and for all. The foes there were no match for their strength, and fell in droves. At one point Thorir, who was immobilized, ripped a head from a fallen foe and threw it at the remaining enemies. It was a slaughter.
After laying their ancestors to rest, our heroes returned to the people of Winterhaven, this time truly as victors. They saw that gallows were being prepared already, and worried that they might not be able to get any more leads on Carian. The heroes briefly delivered the map to Valthrun, who payed them, and then made haste towards the manor. Lord Padraig had been awaiting them, and questioned them about any previous involvement with Kelson. To make matters worse, a familiar face joined them. He introduced himself as Rolsten’s older brother. Rolsten had died infiltrating the Sons of Nerath.
After a brief but uncomfortable conversation, they were permitted to interrogate the prisoners before their execution. However, they found them in a locked cell, dead, with puncture marks in their necks. Somehow a vampire had made its way unnoticed through the manor and into a locked cell and killed Ninaran, Kelson, and his bodyguard. The spawn which they had encountered in the Keep must have come from somewhere, and that somewhere apparently was nearby.
Without any further leads, the party was helpless to find this creature. Rolsten’s brother took them aside and informed them of his purpose. He required their help in stopping the Sons of Nerath. They had been starting riots and arming themselves. Somebody was financing them, and the Lord Warden wanted our heroes to find and stem the flow of coin. He also requested that a certain herald, Rush of Limb Borough, be discredited. Rolsten’s brother instructed them to make sure it did not look like a murder. Complete discretion is of utmost importance. Lord Padraig invited them to stay for some wining and dining to raise moral after the catastrophe, but after that, Fallcrest awaits.
How will our heroes fare against the Sons of Nerath? Who is this vampire lord working for the Brotherhood? What will happen to Connor, the son of Ninaran and Kelson? Find out next time!