The Ghosts of Callaway Camp
“I suppose so. Hey, are you proud o’ her? Kat I mean, for following in yer footsteps. More or less, anyway.”
Kris waits intently for your answer, and then nods. “Well, alright then. Good night Korram.”
Left to your own devices, you then climb into the treehouse. After setting a loop of fire around the doorway to deter any unwelcome guests, you locate the bed and fall fast asleep. Your dreams are virtually nonexistent, but towards the end of the night they suddenly assail you with a vengeance.
The last dream is especially vivid, Callaway burning to the ground all around you as the Baron’s men, dancing fire elementals, kicking open doorways and drag villagers screaming out into the street before burning them to ash. You can practically feel the heat of the flames on your skin. Kris is there, shaking his head at you. Slowly, he morphs into Katrina as he approaches you.
“You’ve failed us Dad. You’ve failed us all.”
The black shadows of wings then falls over you, blocking out the light from the fires. You turn, only to see not Seraph perching on the burning wreck of your home, but Calcifer in full elemental glory.
“Wake up, Korram!” He crackles. “WAKE UP!”
“WAKE UP! DAMN YOU!”
Suddenly, the dream is real. You are lying in the treehouse’s bed, but you can smell the smoke and hear the crackling of flames. Even more alarmingly, you hear the clash of steel and the dying screams of the wounded.
You are just leaping out of bed when you hear a crash at the doorway and a grunt of pain. You duck through the bedroom curtain into the common room just in time to see Kris somersault through the hoop of flames, cursing as he swats at the flicks of flame now dancing along one sleeve.
“Korram! Korram, we have to – oh there you are.”
For the first time you have seen him, Kris appears genuinely frightened. His mouth is drawn into a worried frown, and his eyes are haunted. You are just starting to wonder if Infernas has returned when Kris delivers far worse news.
“The Baron’s men have found us. I don’t know how, but they have, and we have *got* to get out of here! Right now!”
Outside, you suddenly hear a high-pitched hum, followed by a loud crack and then an explosion. Fragments of wood rattle against the side of your treehouse, presumably the remains of the treehouse next door. Kris winces and then gestures hurriedly at the circle of fire still around the doorway.
“Come on! We’ve got GHASTs, and that little ring of fire isn’t going to stop them! We need to get out of here and run away as fast as we can, right now!”
The Purifier’s Camp
The young boy is shocked to be chosen for such an honor, but nonetheless eagerly accepts your offered hand and clambers up onto the back of the griffon behind you. The knight is at first confused, and then simply too outraged to speak as you lecture him. He simply glares at you as you ascend into the air and set out for Karth’s camp.
The trip is long, and hard on both the boy and the young griffon, as both of them are clearly unused to spending so many hours of the day traveling. Still, the trip passes by fairly quickly and uneventfully as you fly steadily closer to the Purifier’s camp. The boy asks a few questions, but seems too awed by your presence to hold a deep conversation for long. Nonetheless, you learn that he was a young farmhand in one of the rural promises, drawn to Karth’s banner by the knight you had met with promises of glory and saving the Church.
Eventually towards evening on the second day, you see the large plumes of concentrated camp fires ahead at the edge of the forest ahead of you. Just as you are starting to try and guide the griffon to land, a crossbow bolt whizzes past your ear. Looking behind you, you see two mounted griffons rising up towards you from the camp’s vicinity.
“Give us the password or land your griffon immediately and surrender! You are trespassing here!” One of the two riders shouts up at you.
“I don’t know the password! Only the knight knew it!” The boy says with an audible gulp.
“You have until the count of five to comply or we will kill you!”
(You can assume that the two griffon riders follow you down should you choose to land. Obviously they will be somewhat hostile and suspicious towards you, but dropping your name might convince them not to take you as a prisoner of war.
The Surrounding Forest
“Oh, I see.” Jacob says after hearing your explanation of the burn mark.
“Well, that food ought to last you a few days. No, I don’t think anyone will be coming around here. Maybe someone from the village on a hunting trip. Are you planning on staying long?”
As he speaks, Jacob continues to edge backwards. After you answer his last question, he forces a smile and nods.
“Well, I guess that’s everything then. Be seeing you.”
Still watching you, Jacob backs up a bit more, and then turns and sets off at a looping gait through the woods. He looks back every now and then, until eventually he passes behind a tree and remains out of your line of sight.
You are alone again. But this time with food, which is a thought that makes your stomach quite happy.
(After you finished breakfast, what is Mar doing next? Is she staying at the barn or setting out for parts unknown?)
The City of Amaranth
The City Gates
“Delora Cryst.” The girl says in answer to your question of her name. A minute later, she seems to pull herself together again, wiping away her tears.
“Thank you for all you have done. And as I said before, I have nowhere else to go. I will follow you wherever you go, regardless of the danger.”
There is no response to your initial call out to the guards, and your danger sense begins to tingle even more. Ducking into a nearby alleyway, you and Delora peer out at the gatehouse built into the wall next to the gate. You do not see any guards standing in front of the gate nor up on the wall above. There is also no sound from within the gatehouse, but the door is open, a shadowy maw leading into the small building.
“Yes, the guards should be out here. The gates are always closed and guarded at night, even within the city. And fire is a concern for everyone – they will often come out to help fight a fire, even within our poor district.”
As you watch, the gate suddenly starts into motion, retracting up into the gateway.
“Someone must be in there – the controls for the gate are within the gatehouse. Usually the guards out front will call out if someone needs to be let through on some sort of important business at night. I really don’t like this.” Delora explains.
WhiteKnight777 & MrEdwardNigma
Umber’s brisk search of Mellita provides nothing more – it would appear that the silver dagger is her sole weapon. With the cultists are dead, Ross quickly moves down the hill, turning back only halfway down to see if everyone else was following. Mellita verbally protests being dragged along by Umber, but otherwise does not resist.
“I . . . I’m not sure I can betray him, Lord Umber. I shouldn’t . . . the blood bond between us is strong. Maybe if you convinced me you were just going to talk to him, lie. Anyway, I’m not sure that you aren’t too late . . .”
Looking out over the graveyard from the slope of the hill, the group watches as one by one the rest of the glowing ritual circles fade out in rapid succession. A moment later, the earth shudders and groans violently, threatening to pitch everyone down the hillside. Near the center of the graveyard, a new hill begins to form, the ground raising up of it’s own accord into a peak. Then a black point pierces up through the top of the new hill, and the earth crumbles away to reveal a black stone pyramid. A massive black stone pyramid that continues to ascend out of the earth, until at last it is floating high overhead. From the large hole left behind, a great cacophonous moan arises as countless humanoid shapes clumsily pull themselves out onto the ground.
“So Hans . . . that answer your question about why Kartul is bad?” Ross asks with a note of shock in his voice, staring up at the pyramid. Bran pales considerably, and looks as if he is about to throw up before he summons a shimmering shield of life magic around himself. Even Mellita appears surprised at the pyramid’s appearance. Umber, however, recognizes it, at least from the stories he had heard whispered over the millennia about his former comrades – the Necropolis of Kartul.
You quickly absorb Heath’s remaining wards and other protective magicks before they fade with his death. Although not much, it is still enough for you to recover a modicum of your strength. Seymour’s plan was a good one, assuming you could absorb magic from the necromancers as well.
Will do. But do you really think a guy like this is going to keep incriminating notes all over the place? “Dear Diary, today I sold out my entire city to a bunch of necromancers. It was great fun!” Then again, considering this is a mage we’re talking about, he probably has them over for tea every day.
Levitating Heath’s corpse, you riffle through his pockets. You find a number of items of note tucked into his overcoat. Several are potions, their magic still glowing faintly – healing potions. There are also several more vials containing a variety of substances, although most appear to be holding water. One of those large vials is empty.
Probably holy water. I’ll take those if you don’t mind. That way I can peg the necromancers’ pets while you’re busy dealing with the necromancers.
You also find a small symbol of Miriam, a wooden stake, several small cloves of garlic, and a small silver mirror.
Looks like he was planning on running into vampires. Well, guess now we know what we can probably expect when we go meet the necromancers.
You also find a small scrap of paper, written on in black ink with an elegant script.
Usual meeting spot, usual time. Bring the specifications of the other Council members’ estate defenses with you. Come alone.
And finally, tucked into an inner pocket on the jacket, you find several pieces of folded parchment covered in script. They seem to detail the other Council members’ estates and the defenses in place at each location.
Well I’ll be damned, guess he does have incriminating stuff. Although really a random note and a list of defenses isn’t enough to prove he’s in bed with the necromancers. Still probably enough to get him in deep trouble, were it not for the fact that he was already dead. Hah!
We should depart from this place soon. The necromancers will be expecting us in a few hours, and we need that time to examine the meeting point for places where Roger and myself can hide.
The Surrounding Mountains
Once finished with getting dressed, you briefly debate whether or not to flee from the camp. Deciding to see this out for now, you exit the borrowed tent and head to the meeting point. There you find Lucure and eight other elves, all heavily armed, waiting for you. Lucure nods at you upon seeing you approach, and motions for the other elves to follow. The lot of you immediately begin moving out of the camp, Lucure speaking quietly with you on the way.
“It is good to see you have agreed to help us, Telest. I assume you are aware that the Tur has asked you to be our guide. Hopefully you can lead us back to the fortress undetected, and from there we can find a weak point in its defenses. Any humans we encounter are to be avoided or killed immediately – we cannot take the risk of prisoners slowing us down or alerting other humans. Lead on.”
Slipping silently through the forest, you lead the small group of elves back to Ironheart. Unmounted, the journey takes you several hours, and the sun has set by the time you arrive. Ahead, the tall outer iron walls of Ironheart gleam in the moonlight. Numerous torches lit the top of the fortress wall, and you can see figures moving about or standing guard up there. Still, the guards and their torches are spread out, likely far more than they have ever been in Ironheart’s time as a prison.
Between the walls and the treeline you are currently hiding in, there is a significant distance of empty field, covered in snow. Scattered here and there are bodies still, and the ground is covered in foot prints and drag marks from other bodies being carried off. This means that if you can cross the field undetected, the prints you and the others leave behind likely won’t be noticed amongst the others.
Even if you do manage to cross the field, however, there is still the matter of Ironheart’s walls to be scaled. Made out of solid black iron, the walls of Ironheart are considerably smooth – you will need a ladder or rope to climb up. The elves have brought rope with them, and likely a grappling hook, but there is still the chance a passing guard will notice your rope as you climb up. The sound of your ascent will also likely echo off the iron, carrying the additional risk of guards hearing you and coming to investigate the noise. You are glad that you did not have these concerns before, as you used the stolen wyvern to fly over.
Here and there along the wall, you also notice battle damage – large dents or scorch marks left in the metal, likely the result of the demon attack. It is possible that somewhere else along the massive fortress’s outer wall, perhaps on the other side, the damage is even more severe – enough that you could climb up with your bare hands or even a hole in the wall you could squeeze through. Such an entrance would be very useful information for the Tur, you are sure, even if it is sure to be guarded.
“So . . . this is the humans’ fortress. Impressive – I wonder who was audacious enough to attack them – other humans? Do you have any ideas on where to go from here, Telest? If we could get up on that wall, we might be able to look down on most of the inner complex.”
The elf flinches as you roar in his face, but otherwise continues staring at you silently throughout your rant. Vickers continues to translate your words into the elf language, and then finally falls silent. He nods at you.
The elf continues to stare at the two of you silently as Vickers translates your questions, until finally the elf speaks once more. Even though you do not understand the words, you can sense the disdain in every one. Vickers pales as he mentally translates the message, and then turns to you to relay it.
“He says that whatever you are, you will die with the rest of the human filth. He is only one of many, led by Tur Villid – that’s the elven equivalent of a general, sir – and that they have come for vengeance. Although he may not live to see it, we and every man, woman, and child living beyond these mountains will die. They will burn our fields, tear down our buildings, and wipe out every trace that we have ever existed. Those that survive will be sacrificed to the spirits of the land, the true gods of this world.”
Wulfric chuckles. “Well, we’ll just see about that, won’t we? I say we send this fanatic idiot back to his so-called gods and go find more of them. Forget looking for this noble brat, if she was out in the woods the elves or the cold got her.”
“Garthax does not know their tongue mistress! Sorry!” Came the raspy voice next to your ear, as the little imp’s talons dug deeper in an attempt to hold him steady on your shoulder.
A few minutes later, the elf leader’s eyes slowly opened. Wordlessly, he stared up at you, then around at his bound comrades and the bloody remains of his executed one. Through it all he says nothing, and simply stares at you as you question him. Out of the corner of your eye you see Karl tense as the elf refuses to reply, and so you repeat your demands, more vehemently this time.
This in turn causes some hair to fall in front of your face, which you reflexively tuck behind your slightly elongated ears before realizing that doing so allowed the elf a view of your mixed heritage. The elf’s eyes narrow then, indicating plainly that he had seen the evidence. A few moments later, he spits in your face before breaking into an energetic stream of broken human.
“You mother is a whore! But you is worse – traitor! I am one of many! Tur Villid comes to burn all you!”
The elf violently thrusts his head forward towards Karl and the Countess.
“Him and her, they die in agony! But you will not. Elf do not shed elf blood, even tainted with human! You will live, as slave. Let me go, I kill them quick, and see you get fed. Otherwise . . .”
The elf shrugs as best he can, letting the threat hang in the air. With a muttered curse, Klaus suddenly surges forward, kicking the elf onto his back and shoving his crossbow into the elf’s face. Dispassionately, the elf stares into Klaus’s eyes as his finger caresses the trigger.
“You arrogant little prick!” Klaus growls, not delivering the fatal shot, but wavering on the edge. Finally, Klaus lowers the weapon with a curse, turning away and lifting a hand up to rub his face. He shoots you a look of concern.
“This bastard has no reason to lie. Never heard of this Villid fellow, but I know Tur is a military rank, like a general. Which means he’s got an army with him, and soon enough after these four don’t report back more of them will swarm out like ants. Forest might already be crawling with patrols just like this one. Damnit!”
“Right, good idea. We’re not in competition here, might as well help each other out.” Vash looks over the records once last time, likely committing their details to memory, before closing the book and putting it back into place.
“Alright then, let’s do this.”
Leading the way, Vash opens the door to find the young lieutenant and the other guards waiting for him.
“It is safe to come in now, gentlemen! I have cleansed the demonic taint from this room! Many more rooms to go though, so if you will excuse me, I will be off. I will also be taking this old boy will me, as he proved most helpful during the ceremony, and I have been looking for a good helper for some time.”
“Well, alright then. May I ask where you are headed next?” The lieutenant asks with benign interest as he and the other men file past you back into the room.
“Er . . . yes. Why not. We shall be descending into the depths of this place, to put to rest the damned souls of Ironheart’s prisoners.”
Immediately the lieutenant became somewhat alarmed.
“J-just the two of you!? The lower levels have been sealed off for now, as despite our sweeps and best efforts, some demons still remain and we simply don’t have the manpower to deal with them. I don’t think – “
“Lad, have you ever seen what happens when a demonic link to the underworld goes ignored for too long?”
“Well, neither have I! And I have no desire to, so I need to get down there and cleanse those cells! Or, who knows what could happen!”
“Alright, fine. But we’re going with you.”
“I don’t think –“
“No less than parties of five individuals are allowed into the cell levels now, and you will need clearance. Clearance which I can get for you being an officer. Now let’s go.”
“Well, alright!” Vash replies, shooting you a knowing look.
True to his word, the lieutenant and his men lead you down into the basement of Ironheart, where you encounter a large makeshift barricade set up across the hallway. No less than two dozen guards are set up on your side of the barricade, all armed with crossbows. Without preamble, the lieutenant speaks with the officer in charge of the barricade group.
“We require light sources and passage to the cell levels. A few more men if you can spare any would also be helpful.”
“Alright, I can give you three.” The officer replies, as three guards step out of formation and start lighting lanterns and torches. One of them hands you a hooded lantern, whose shutters could be controlled to focus the light into a narrow, and presumably farther reaching, beam.
“What cell level are you going down to?” The barricade officer asks, prompting the lieutenant to gaze back at Vash.
“Er . . . the third one.”
The barricade officer gives a soft chuckle and shakes his head. “My men are staying behind then. Your funeral.”
After handing off their torches and another lantern, the three guards step back into their places and resume watch. Meanwhile, another pair of guards strain themselves to push one section of the scrap metal barricade out of the way to allow you to pass through.
With one last, hesitant look back at Vash, the lieutenant sighs and leads his men forward through the opening, you and Vash following closely behind.
“I hope you know where on the third level we’re going. I don’t think we should dawdle once down there.” The lieutenant whispers back to you and Vash. Vash nods confidently, although you sense his resolve is a bit shaken.
“Yup, I know right where we’re going.” Then he leans in to whisper over to you, “So . . . when are we going to tell them we want to go down to the Maximum Security Level, where all the “special” prisoners were kept?
The Screaming Dark Estate
By the time you have hopped up on the dresser and readied yourself for this next step of your mad plan, Vlyethar was already addressing the other side of the room. At the sound of your voice he whirls, blinking in surprise as you reveal yourself. Vylethar and the three ladies watch you silently as you introduce yourself. As you hop down from the dresser, Black still shies back a bit, while Brown marches forward.
Her hands are balled into fists, and you are sure she’s about to take a swing at you this time. Fortunately, Lord Vylethar is there, extending an arm to block her path.
“Not now dear. Maybe later.” He whispers into her ear as he runs his other hand through her hair. Brown immediately relaxes, laying her head on Vylethar’s shoulder as he puts an arm around her and turns back to face you. The remains of the hag’s soup do another leap in your stomach towards your throat and freedom.
Lord Vylethar listens with interest as you explain the reason for your presence here, and seems to grow increasingly angry. Nonetheless, you continue on, forcing yourself to project a serene confidence that you didn’t feel. As you come to a conclusion, Lord Vylethar jabs a shaking finger at you.
“I don’t recall ever adding you to the payroll. So Crx thinks he can just add new lackeys whenever he feels like it now? You and I are going to go have a little chat with him *right now* about this!”
Just then Lord Vylethar’s attention is diverted when with a soft moan Adamè twists and slowly sits up in bed. Her eyes flutter open a moment later, and she looks around in confusion. Her eyes settle on you momentarily, and then sweep over to Vylethar. A slow smile spreads across her lips.
“Well hello there.” She says quietly a moment later. “Tare, who is your friend?”