The Harness Bulls

Puff the Adolescent Vampire
The group meets with Etheldread and a vampire attacts

After Mercucio accused Niair of being a liar, she confessed to the group that she was looking for her sister Fisora. Apparently, Fisora had been kidnapped may years ago by Captain Albono. Mercucio, surprised at this accusation and unwilling to believe Niair’s account, grabbed the elfin wizard and vanished in an apparent attempt to resolve this issue on his own terms.

Defeated and confused, the remaining members of the group decided to continue to Carebeary Hobbs and consult with Etheldread.

On the way, Xanther was asked to explain the white owl that has been following him around; the same owl who seemed responsible for protecting Niair from Mercucio’s initial assault. Xanther explained that his owl represents the ‘light’ powers he once had … is only connection to who he once was before he was murdered by Bloodmourn. Beyond that, the owl’s presents and purpose are a mystery.

Upon reaching Carebeary Hobbs, the group met with Etheldread to discuss current progress and leads related to Feck murder, the location of the War Manual and the Dragon Spear and Skelthcart’s possible connection.

After learning that the bullet found in the Northbank Church alter may have come from Feck’s own firearm, the group adjourns for the evening with the anticipation of meeting up with Skelthcart in the morning.

During the night, a vampire flied (or shall I say stumbled) through Nolthenous’ window exclaiming ‘I’ve heard of you!’ Despite all the vampires efforts to the contrary, he’s vampire youth gave him a less than imposing persona. ‘You are under my power!’; again, a less than successful attempt to control Nolthenious’ actions.

All this commotion wakes Xanther and Lambert who attempt to enter the room.

‘You shall be destroyed!’ Finally the young vampire takes control of Nolthenious. ‘Obey me!’ Rallied, the whole group bursts into the room only to be shot at by the Marshal.

Bombs are thrown, attempts to control undead made with bursts of positive energy intermingled in and the vampire retreats out the window in gaseous form. Nolthenious, Anzo and Xanther jump out the window in hot pursuit, west out of town. Lambert stayed behind to extinguish the bomb fires and retires feeling less than human waste.

Meanwhile, Anzo gave the vampire another shot of positive energy causing the vampire, still in gaseous form, to fly straight up. In response, Xanther summoned an eagle to continue the attack and Anzo ingested a flight potion. Finally, as the vampire floated out of reach, it becomes apparent that the vampire had been defeated and was attempting to return to the safety of his coffin north over the river. But what was that on the ground? The vampire had dropped a cloak clamp in the shape of … wait for it … the Limashtu and Orcus symbol.

The next morning, Skelthcart could be seen riding a bull as he approached Carebeary Hobbs. Raging Bull Orc Tribe scars could be clearly seen across his face. Note: The Raging Bull tribes are mortal enemies of the Evil Bird tribe, so any connections Skelthcart may have with recent Evil Bird money laundering and zombies are remote.

After a bit of discussion, the group decides that it was most likely Feck’s gun that produced the bullet left in the church alter. The group also confirmed that the Evil Bird tribe has been spreading out and moving undead south from the Plateau under the cover of night.

The discussion then shifted to Palin and the confrontation with Samus and his crew of Bloodmourn pirates. Unfortunately, with Samus dead, Etheldread had lost his lead to Bloodmourn and the Black Isles. Etheldread suspects Bloodmourn had something to do with Fecks demise. Now the groups only hope of reaching the Black Isles lies with Oldaro the navigator at Rodrick’s Cove.

Also, Bruuz, Schelthcarts young nephew has agreed to infiltrate the Evil Bird tribe and report back on their activities.

Etheldread gave the group four potions of water breathing, a potion of spider climb, a potion of resist acid and a potion of reduce person. A master work spiked gauntlet was also gifted to the group.

So the group set out for Rodrick’s Cove, a four days ride.

Just past the Coocharlie River, a griffin named Justine joined the group. Uneasy with this newly acquired ally, the group camped for the evening to re-evaluate their next actions and feasted on an oxen the Justine supplied just moments before.

The Heart of a Pirate
The party gains and loses a lead

Our heroes continued their skirmish with pirates in plains city of Palin, which has recently become a hub of villainy, thanks to the hunt for Feck’s War Manual. The fight was a hard one, but eventually the party prevailed, thanks in no small part to Naeier’s timely summoning of an Eldritch horror whose smooth black tentacles would haunt Seamus the pirate for the rest of his days. The party captured Seamus using a combination of this fear and an immovable rod. They handed him over to the sheriff, but not before relieving him of a potion of flight and his weapons. All told, the party looted 216 gp per member, as well as two more potions (magic fang and sanctuary) from Seamus’ associate Frank, a cleric of Gorem (a.k.a. “The Lord in Iron,” with dominion over battle).

Later at the Sheriff’s office, the party was debating with the Sheriff what do to next when Inspector Tasris walked in! He claimed jurisdiction over the pirate and was displeased that the party had withheld evidence from him, in the form of Selftcark’s bullet. They learned from him that Selftcark’s guilt was not a closed issue; the orc lieutenant is the quartermaster for firearms at Caerbury Hobbs, which means anyone with access to the armory (and the skills to use a firearm) could have killed Feck.

Our heroes decided to accompany Tasris, at least as far as Ravenmoor. They retired to the Golddust (scene of the last fight) to discuss things. The conversation went poorly, however, probably because Anzo insulted Tasris’ handling of the investigation. Nolthenius wasn’t able to convince him to talk further, either through diplomacy or intimidation.

Nolthenius spent the evening guarding the prisoner, but despite his efforts, the prisoner died gruesomely in the night; after some loud sounds and the smell of brimstone, Nolthenius found only the prisoner’s heart, pierced with four nails, by the time he reached the room. Anzo cleaned up the mess and consecrated the area (pocketing the nails). Both the party and Inspector Tasris were at a loss for how to proceed.

The party decided to leave for Caerbury Hobbs, to check on the lead about Selftcark. Travel was easy and uneventful until they got to the vicinity of the estate, where they found Captain Albano’s gypsy caravan on the road.

Dumasse, the inept guard, proved very obliging, so the part had little trouble getting inside. They found the room changed, with a desk, a fireplace, and a coffin, plus a door in the back. Mercutio popped out through the door, annoyed to see the party. Dumasse got everyone chairs. How kind.

Mercutio was agitated for most of the conversation. He fixated on Naeier in particular, and seems much grieved by Captain Albano’s passing. Eventually, Nolthenius had had enough, exclaiming. “But you know what they say about assumptions: You’re a vampire, aren’t you.”

Mercutio, working himself up further, lunged for Naeier after this, but the elf was protected by a holy force projecting from Xanther’s owl. What could this mean!?

Blood Mourn Rising
The party battles some Blood Mourn pirates in Palin

22nd of Pharast

On the road to Carebeary Hobbs, we came upon a cairn on the side of the road. A single clawed shaped and bloody hand had pushed its way past the rock pile in a failed attempt at freedom. Upon further investigation of the cairn contents (and 4 hours of back breaking stone removal … ugg!), three Kaijitsu family bodies wear found; presumably, the same Kaijitsu that were looking for the War Manual at the Crossing in Palin. Each body had their lungs pulled out through their backs in a fashion to resemble wings.

Xanther immediately filled with rage ‘The Blood Eagle! This is the work of Blood Mourn pirates. These evil bastards shall pay the ultimate price as I plunge my rapier deep into each of their hearts.’

And so we headed to Palin, the most likely location of the Blood Mourn pirates responsible for the murders.

On the way into Palin, a well know bard named Papa Renault talked with us. Like many bard in the area, Papa Renault had hopes of earning coin in the local establishments, entertaining the many would be adventures searching for the War Manual. As it turns out, Renault knows Etheldread and had a leather bag in his possession for him. The bag contained 2 potions and a scroll.

Once in Palin, we headed to the sheriff’s office to give notice of the Kaijitsu killings and the link to Blood Mourn pirates. The sheriff seemed overwhelmed with his new found duties as a result of the increased population (and subsequent crime) in Palin, so the group left for the Golddust Hotel and Casino in hopes of finding the pirates themselves.

Sure enough, three Blood Mourn pirates were at the bar while a single pirate was gambling at a near by table.

Xanther wasted no time and confronted them. Harsh words were spoken, threats made and eventually, we were headed full steam into a fight. At the request of the barkeep, Xanther, Lambert and the three pirates relocated outside. The solitary Blood Mourn pirate kept a watchful eye on the group but did not interfere. In turn, Nolthenius and Naiaer kept an eye on the gambler. Anzo remained in the Golddust doorway to provide assistance as required.

In anticipation of the impending brawl, Lambert ingested his mutagen potions and began his transformation into Robusto. The solitary pirate still in the bar objected to this and decided to interject with a large crossbow bolt into Robusto’s back. Unphased, Robusto swiftly poisoned his battle axe and swung at one of the pirates knocking him unconscious. Nolthenius shot at the bar pirate, but missed. Xanther attempted an acrobatic flip to reposition himself, but stumbled and paid for the missed attempt with a mighty strike from one of the pirates. Nolthenius became the next target of the bar pirate with a crossbow bolt to the leg. Reeling from the shot, Nolthenius suffers another miss with his pistol. (We are missing a lot at this point) Finally, Naiaer lands a blow on the bar pirate by splintering the wooden chair next to the bar pirate … ouch! Xanther continued to exchange blows with the pirates, but has taken quite a bit of damage. Recognizing that his companion was in need; Anzo repositioned himself and healed Xanther.

Ah shit … FIREBALL. The bar pirate sends a firery attack right in the middle of the group outside. No one is spared, both groups take damage (… what a bastard). Xanther critically strikes on of the pirates, ending his life while another pirate heals the burns he suffered as a result of his comrade’s wanton fireball attack. Anzo advances on this pirate (after all, no good heal shall go unpunished.) The pirate rendered unconscious by Robusto’s poison begins to stir.

End of Session … to be continued

Among the Faithful
The party sorts out some religious trouble in the town of Relyna

The party spent the night in the unwelcoming town of Relyna, an older settlement built by the faithful of Munachar. Those of Anzo’s order were clearly not welcome here, which troubled the cleric greatly.

In the morning, the party discovered another member of Anzo’s order, Trevis, sitting downstairs in the inn. He’d been on the plains for a couple years already, and in a shocking confession, revealed that he had begun to worship Munachar’s dark double, Manachar!

Anzo was greatly distressed by this news, but Trevis told him that he would understand if he went to visit Mae, a “visionary” leader, staying at the Mayor’s house.

Naeier and Lambert warned Anzo about the possibility of mind control, but in righteous fury he paid no heed. At the mayor’s, the party met Mae, glutting herself on a chicken in the middle of the lean months. Mae wore a patterned coat similar to that of Anzo’s order, but it appeared to be a knockoff. She was also armed with a Mantanya pistol, who was the half-elf nephew of the elf that crafted Nothenius’ gun and taught him to shoot.

It was soon revealed that Mae had claimed stewardship of this town in the name of Manachar, and that she’d been making trouble on the plains for a while. (She was the one who got Anzo run out of St. Olive’s Cross, prior to the start of the adventure.) Unable to sit by and let heresy fester in the town, Anzo challenged her for stewardship.

In the Writ of Munachar, Book Three, the Rite of Stewardship is described as a kind of collective augury, where the will of Munachar is divined from the outcome of a challenging task; the Great Kestral guides his chosen to glory, no matter the task. As the incumbent, Mae got to choose the task, and so sent the party on a suicide mission to free the town’s horses and cows from a cyclops who lived in the foothills. (The Shoanti ranchers who tended the animals had left early, which allowed the cyclops to steal them.) These plains once belonged to a civilization of Cyclopes, so the party was not surprised to hear one had been troubling Relyna

The party fought boldly against the cyclops, who could kill in a single blow. Naeier tried to distract the monster with an illusory cake made of meat, but he fixed his singular gaze on fresher faire. Anzo, filled with religious fervor and the notion that Munachar would make him invincible, tried to simply command the Cyclops to obey, but Munachar rewards those who back up their words with steel. Anzo was pummeled, and quickly changed tactics. As Nolthenius and Xanther fired away, it was Lambert (as Robusto) who carried the day, trading axe blows with the cyclops until the monster finally yielded.

In the cave, the party found and freed the horses and cattle. More importantly, they also found a old map on the cave wall! The map was dotted with settlements of the faithful, including one labeled “Driasrin; here lies Burskel.” One of the first members of Anzo’s order to come to civilize the frontier was Burskel, who is hailed as a legendary hero within the order. Burskel supposedly died defending Driasrin, a lost settlement. Of particular note was the fact that Burkel had a sword named Uhin, a relic of great power. The party contemplated seeking it out for use in the coming conflict with the forces of Skeltur.

The party also found equipment belonging to a former brother of the order, including masterwork chain mail, a masterwork long spear, and a Munachite coat of great beauty. Other items included: 760 gp in mundane goods (traded for coin in town), a divine scroll of Speak with Dead, and two potions: Bless weapon and Erase.

The party returned to Relyna and threw the cyclops’ head at Mae’s feet. Munachar’s will was manifest; Anzo was the Steward of Relyna. The new steward banished Mae and Trevis from the plains, and instructed them to carry the message of their defeat to Hester, leader of the Riddleport Munachite community, who is now in Roderick’s Cove. They were then to get on a boat and return to Korvosa to seek forgiveness from the Elders of the Faith. Mae retorted bitterly that Anzo didn’t understand the “Revolution of the true understanding of the gospel of Manachar.” She claimed that Munachar did not bless this land anymore, and that there was a new order here. Manachar’s stewardship of this land was over, she explained, and that’s why she lost the challenge. She handed over her gun and left with Trevis.

Anzo gave a short speech to the town, announcing himself as steward and indicating the party wouldn’t be staying to make problems; the Mayor would be in charge, as he should have been from the beginning. He warned of the dangers of worshiping Manachar, though his rhetoric wasn’t the most persuasive. There will likely remain a minority of Manachar-followers for some time. As the sun set over the plains, the party began to discuss their next step.

The Catacombs

Upon approaching the catacombs, the party found a stone door leading in. Xanther (rashly) grabbed the door handle, and was immediately stricken with paralysis, along with a stench that sickened the rest of the party. Velekh recognized this as a Ghoul Touch trap.

After recovering, the party ventured into a series of low, narrow, unlit tunnels lined with stacks of human bones. They shortly came upon a man-sized purple mushroom, known to possess a devastating poison. Once they had burned it to a cinder, Xanther (rashly) grabbed it with his bare hand to keep a piece, and his hand rapidly rotted to the bone. He subsequently required some restoration, as Old Nick and Dong had predicted. The party then passed through the room, putting up with the hideous sounds of the shrieker mushrooms in the walls.

In the next room the party fought some sort of shambling corpse, and killed it easily. Naiaer discovered a secret door leading down to a lower level of the catacombs. There they found a wooden door and magically detected a crowd of undead behind it. After burning and splintering the door, the party made reasonably quick work of 8 zombies. Close observation revealed them to be odd combinations of zombie parts, like Frankenstein’s monster, rather than ordinary resurrected dead.

The next room held another mobile rotting corpse, which the party rolled over in seconds.

Then the party advanced along a lengthy corridor which led across the heart of the mound over to the other side, where more undead could be detected. Xanther ran ahead (rashly; surprise), and ran directly into the clutches of another shambling undead corpse. This one was much more powerful than the others had been, and had nearly killed Xanther before the rest of the party arrived. Our heroes eventually triumphed, but with two broken crossbows and nearly all of their spells depleted, they decided that it would be wise to leave the catacombs and rest up and repair before tackling any more undead creatures.

Demon in an Elf Shell

It was late in the morning of the 17th of Pharast when everyone woke and began to make their way downstairs for some food and coffee. Velekh had beaten everyone downstairs to continue his discussions with Clive, the Horseshoe Inn barkeep.

Velekh had much to tell the group, as Clive had shared quite a few rumors and goings-on in town.

First, the War Manual was rumored to be seen at the Crossing Inn. Also, Feck’s father was killed at the Crossing, 70 years past.

Another bit of town news centered around a recent zombie attack at Old Nick’s Gun Emporium. In a strange turn of events, the zombies made a coordinated attack on the shot tower. Strange behavior for zombies indeed.

Finally, a strange looking gentleman checked into the inn mere hours before our arrival. Pale in complexion with a hunched back and long fingernails, this guest made several strange demands before retiring to his room upstairs. The description fits Mercutio perfectly. But what is he doing here?

Oh ya, and one last thing … don’t drink the water in Palon!

Clive indicated that Mercutio had entered the Beer Garden patio area to meet yet another strange visitor, described as a fat, reeling weirdo. The group decided to investigate. Naiaer wove a disguise spell that transformed her into the likeness of one of the Horseshoe busboys and attempted to eavesdrop on their conversation. Xanther hoisted himself onto the roof to observe from above while the rest of the party waited outside in the alley. Xanther had a close call as he failed to enter Mercutio’s room from the rooftop and fell down into the alley. Alerted by the commotion, Mercutio walked into the alley, barely missing Xanther as he scrabbled around the corner out of sight.

Unfortunately, Naiaer’s attempt at spying proved unsuccessful since both Mercutio and his elven companion were speaking in a strange and disgusting sounding language. The repulsive burps, ticks and grunts each were making while they conspired were further amplified by the deformed physique of the elf. His bloated body bulged in odd places and caused him to move in such an unnatural manner that he was hard to watch without feeling uncomfortable.

Naiaer’s failed attempt to interact with the couple prompted the group to confront the two; but Velekh had already separated from the group and approached Mercutio and the deformed elfon his own. Mercutio introduced his companion as Banradril. He made no response to attempts at conversation in Elvish. The at times heated conversation ended abruptly when Nolthenius insinuated that Banradril stunk. A few last works between Mercutio and Banradril, and Mercutio vanished in thin air, calling the party “mortals, servitors, and starvelings.” Banradril drew a long sword. Combat!

Banradril revealed himself as a large demonic worm with a five hinged jaw, but got confused by Nolthenius’s seemingly random chant and started biting himself in the tail. Still confused, Anzo fatally sliced the demon into two, ending the confrontation. A quick search of the remains revealed the the elf was from Mierani. Items included a long sword, leather armor and an empty quiver. No bow was found.

Meanwhile, upstairs, Naiaer disguised herself as a maid and gained access to Mercutio’s room with a the use of a well placed unlock spell, only to find his room empty and unused.

After a brief discussion, the party decided to go to the Crossing Inn and investigate the rumored appearance of the War Manual. Upon entering the seating area of the inn, it was clear that every mercenary in town had gathered here with hopes of getting their hands on the manual.
In the center of the crowded inn, Kail could be seen making a spectacle of himself with extravagant spending and food. Kail went even further by staging a failed beggar pickpocket attempt which exposed a (fake) War Manual. When no one made a move for the fake, Kyle decided to return to his room in the Gold Dust hotel and casino. The party followed, with questions.

Upon further conversations with Kail, it was revealed that he believed that demon lords were conspiring to build an army to enslave the mortal races and that the War Manual was sought by these evil forces to aid in their diabolic plans. The party reasoned that Mercutio was one of these agents, but Kail revealed that there was another in the immediate area of Palon, responsible for the zombie attacks. He also mentioned the name of Skeltur.

Nolthenius was professionally contemptuous of Kail’s juvenile-seeming ruse of using a fake War Manual to attract attention, since it had so far proven itself to draw out vast crowds of “nobodies,” and hadn’t provided any leads to the real killer, or the location of the real War Manual. The party decided to pursue other leads.

So what of these zombie attacks? The party headed out to investigate the most recent attack on the shot tower at Old Nick’s Gun Emporium. Old Nick revealed the source of the zombie infestation to be a maze of catacombs buried under a nearby hill, so the party spent the afternoon preparing for their assault by crafting some stable firebombs infused with a holy essence.

Demonic tidings
A dream, and the journey to Palon

The party (still without Lambert) rested overnight at Caerberry Hobs, and experienced a shared dream. In the dream, their view panned over the nearby scrubland. An owl flew by, and suddenly the scene changed to include two figures, one male and one female, moving toward one another across the desolate landscape. The figures were ephemeral, with shifting demonic features, and they were surrounded by the stench of death. As they drew near to one another, the dreamers saw that each figure bore a sigil on their chests. The pair laughed maniacally as they met in the middle of the scrubland, now a battlefield, full of suffering. They embraced, but the dream ended abruptly, before anything truly horrifying took place between them. The last image of the dream was a lingering view of the two sigils, superimposed to create Skeltur’s seal.

The party immediately recognized the woman’s sigil as the mark of Lamashtu, the Mother of Monsters, who was renowned for forming alliances with other gods and demons by taking them as lovers.

The next morning, they told Etheldred about their vision, and he suggested they visit Trimmin the librarian for help identifying the demon-man’s sigil.

Trimmin, a 90-year-old hunchback with impossibly thick glasses, was indeed able to assist with this, although it took the better half of a day. (Velekh used this time to research some new spells). The sigil, he told them, was that of Orcus, Demon Lord of the Undead.

Tracking down Skeltur and keeping Feck’s War Manual out of his clutches was more pressing than ever; the party rallied together and resolved to head to Palon immediately. Etheldred provided the party with official papers to ease their passage as well as 120 gold each from Feck’s stores. He also promised that if the party ever needed a ship, he would coerce Mercutio on their behalf, due to back taxes owed by Captain Albano’s estate.

On the road to Palon, a dead orc flew out of the woods, followed by Robusto (Lambert‘s alter ego)! Several Evil Bird orcs were in pursuit, but the party had little trouble defeating them. After the battle, however, Robusto was still enraged! Anzo tried in vain to calm him, and Velekh almost died from some vicious injuries, but a quick Entangle from Naiaer, plus some patience, drained Robusto’s rage. The party welcomed Lambert back into their ranks, albeit somewhat warily.

The dead orc that Robusto had thrown across the path soon provided new clues. He was attached to a pole, meant to keep him at arm’s length from the other orcs. Also, while he was now dead, he had until recently been *un*dead. Skeltur’s seal was branded onto his neck.

The party reached a thawing stream just as the sun started to set. A young man of about 17 was sitting on the bank fishing, and he was about to get ambushed, it seemed, by three men in Deverin livery, who waited behind some rocks. Xanther fired a warning shot at the three men, having intuited they were up to no good. A brief fight ensued (sparked by Velekh), and Anzo crept off the talk to the boy.

The boy was named Kail and was very difficult to talk to. He had dark skin, black, braided hair, and was armed with two extremely magical short swords. He revealed that he is seeking a man with a chest wound that will never heal, in order to prevent a “great evil,” but he was unimpressed with Anzo or his friends. He left on his horse and accidentally dropped a note, which read, “Ok, I’ll be there – Mukane.”

Meanwhile, the Deverin men surrendered and explained that the boy was rumored to have Feck’s War Manual. The party sent them on their way and rushed to catch up with Kail. Kail explained that Mukane was a friend of his, but the party learned little else about him before he spurred his horse and rode on ahead to Palon.

The party rode through the night and arrived in Palon at first light, arguing all the way about how best to deal with standoffs. Palon was a dusty, western-style town, and at this hour only the bakery was open. The party arrived at an inn called the Horseshoe, where Clive the innkeeper had just awoken, to secure rooms. While the party slept, Velekh chatted with Clive, and learned:

- The book was last seen at the Crossing, another inn in town. This inn used to belong to Clive’s father, before it burned down and was rebuilt by new management.

- Feck’s death by treachery reminded Clive of the death of Feck’s father, who died in Palon when Feck was still just a child. Feck’s father was the local law enforcement, but he was “outdone by treachery,” stabbed in the back by 5 bandits at the Crossing. At the time he was traveling with a 14-year-old boy, with whom he’d go out to kill goblins. The boy was present for the murder, and just after the deed was done, he exacted revenge: The lights went out in the bar, and when Clive’s father had relit the lantern half a minute later, all 5 bandits were dead, and the boy was carrying Feck Sr.’s body over his shoulder.

- A funny-looking gentleman checked in about midnight. He was pale, hunchbacked, had long fingernails, and made strange demands before retiring to his room.

- Clive didn’t know anything about the whereabouts of the spear—no one does. Everyone’s been focused on the War Manual.

- Old Nick’s, the smithy/ammo shop, is down the street. Old Nick has a shot tower, but zombies had recently set it on fire. More generally, there were lots of undead around recently.

Clues in Ravenmoor
...and a reunion with old allies

The party awoke to find that Lambert had left in the night. Unfazed, the party left Sheepshead and traveled through the forest toward Ravenmoor to see the majordomo, interim leader of the Curchain Hills after Feck’s death, at Feck’s old estate Caerberry Hobs. Beyond the forest, the land dropped and the scenery was replaced with scrub brush and melting frost.

The frost ran into the Lampblack River, and the party crossed it 7 or 8 miles south of Ravenmoor. Shortly after passing the burnt-out shell of Fizzbet’s Crimson Keep, they were attacked by an ogre! Anzo took a brutal blow and Naiaer almost died, but the glory of Munachar protected them and they won the day.

Further down the road, the party spotted two more ogres in combat with 6 Valdemar retainers, led by the minor but pompous Gordon of Valdemar. Together, the party and the retainers bested the ogres, and Gordon promptly left with his troops, headed for Palon (where Feck’s War Manual was last spotted).

The party arrived at Ravenmoor around dark, but managed to avoid any vampiric encounters. Thanks to some quick talking and badge waving by Xanther, a red-faced butler named Beach let the party into Caerberry Hobs and presented them to the majordomo, who was none other than Etheldred the Bard! Master Perekop was also present.

From the halflings, the party learned that Feck’s son and rightful heir, Captain Macalmo, wouldn’t make it back to Ravenmoor for several weeks; he was out at sea, fighting pirates. Etheldred was holding down the fort until then.

They also learned that Philomena, Feck’s daughter and eldest child, has been missing for some time. She left Ravenmoor 5 years ago, after ‘losing’ her inheritance. (Inheritance is settled by community vote in the Hills, and Macalmo, though younger, was judged to be less unpredictable.)

Perekop also informed the party that Xanther’s old foe Avelina had recently tried to kill him! Are the Heroes of the Plateau Affair being targeted?

Finally, Nothenius and Velekh collected information about their mission and the murders at Sheepshead. They learned:

- Bassanio‘s emblem is connected to Skeltur. An emblem similar to the one on Bassanio’s tomb was found on a letter belonging to a local villain who was working with orcs. He gave up Skeltur’s name, but the next day all that was left of him was his heart with four nails in it, sitting on the jail cot. The heart and nails also formed Skeltur’s logo.

- Svakstaar and Sven were cousins of Feck, and admirals in the Goblin War. Svakstaar led three ships in the Battle(s) of Magnamar while Sven stayed home in Korvosa to manage things. In the first battle, Svakstaar was a hero. In the second, he was defeated and sunk, possibly by Lord Bloodmourne (who was allied with the goblins at the time). Svakstaar was deployed as reinforcements by Feck, over Sven’s protests. Sven has since been obsessed with his brother’s death. He blames Feck and himself, although Feck claims Svakstaar took the wrong path (counter to his orders) and doesn’t accept the blame.

- Velekh, who’d found a bullet at the crime scene, was told that the only place to buy bullets in town was Old Nick’s shop.

- Xanther learned that it’s said the The Black Islands move around. Harbor pilots say there’s a channel you follow to get to them, but it’s a difficult course and you can’t pilot it unless you’ve gone there before with someone else. Etheldred suggested that Oldario, Lord Bludmourne‘s former navigator, was recently seen in Roderick’s Cove.

Arson at Sheepshead

The party learned from Mercutio that Former General Feck, Margrave of the Curchain Hills, was dead. The dark magician, explained that Feck and the representatives of 7 noble Varisian houses died in a fire at a church in Sheepshead, on the north bank of the Chavali river. Feck had two powerful artifacts with him, his War Manual and a Dragon Spear, both of which ensure success in battle. (They were also symbols of Feck’s authority, which is why he brought them to this meeting at the church.)

The party quickly released Captain Albano from undeath and set out for Sheepshead. Along the way, they discovered the tracks of an Orc raiding party that Lambert was leif to follow, but when the trail ran cold the party continued on toward the church.

A hard ride later, an arrow narrowly missed Nolthenius, fired from a shortbow wielded by Millie, the daughter of a backwoods tracker named Merle. When Millie realized Anzo was a cleric of her faith, she dropped her tough act and asked for help. Merle, she said, had been injured by a boar attack, and needed help badly. The party followed her into the woods, where they were attacked by the very same boar! It turned out that the boar was the companion of Dido, a druid who called the woods home. She was soundly defeated by our heroes (and her boar executed by Nothenius at close range), and fled rather than face further retribution.

Anzo healed Merle in the trapper’s cabin, and the party feasted on ground boar (minus the elven marshals, who ate veggies). Merle also presented Anzo with a set of three immovable rods, heirlooms of Munachar he’d kept in a tabernacle.

The next morning at Sheepshead, Inspector Tasris (a bowler-wearing catfolk) lead the party around the crime scene. The fire that engulfed the church of Desna seemed to have been started by an incendiary device that Lambert thought he probably made while in captivity (although he only told this to Anzo).

The inside of the church was hollowed out from the blaze, but there were a few clues:

The name Svakstaar was scratched into the stone next to the altar. Svakstaar was a naval admiral from Korvosa who died 25 years ago when his fleet sank off Magnamar during the Goblin War. It’s been suggested he was corrupt. Only something extremely sharp, like the Dragon Spear, could have scratched the stone wall so easily, and the lack of soot suggests it happened immediately after the worst of the blaze.

There was a small scrap of fabric with an emblem matching the one on Bassanio’s sarcophagus. It had an evil aura.

Velekh found something like a bullet hole. (This might be secret?)

Naiaer found something too, but only shared it with Nolthenius. The party had trust issues.

After the inspection, Tasris didn’t want to let the party interrogate the witnesses, but Xanther pulled rank, revealing himself as the hero of the Plateau Affair (quietly). They interviewed the priest who locked Feck and the 7 envoys in the church for negotiations and learned that he had indeed only let 8 people in, dashing the early “9th participant” hypothesis. They also learned that Feck did have the war manual and spear with him, meaning they truly are missing.

Returning the Collarbone

The party joined forces to vanquish the living armor suits and skeletons in the abandoned wing and throughout the tower. Together, they scaled the tower and found Bassanio’s sarcophagus, emblazoned with an unfamiliar—but undoubtedly evil—symbol on its cover. Lambert ingested a mutagen to grow in strength and size and easily popped the cover off the tomb to reveal a decayed body missing its hands. Before the party could ponder the meaning of this, the hands appeared and leapt out, hungry for murder!

As Lambert, Nolthenius, and Xanther fought the hands, Anzo chopped the head off Bassanio’s body… to no effect. Lambert grabbed the head (since it was wearing the helmet he wanted) and tussled over it breifly with Velekh. Meanwhile, Naiaer grabbed the left collarbone and started to flee! The party vanquished the hands and then restained Naiaer, entering into an uneasy truce to take the collarbone back together.

The party left Villa Liborio under the retreating cover of night and rested in the woods. By midday they had returned to Xanther‘s tavern and set off again for Captain Albano’s caravan.

Inside, the party bargained for information before handing over the collarbone. They learned that Skeltur, the fugitive that the elven marshals are hunting, is also ultimately responsible for what happened to Naiaer’s sister; at one point, Bassanio and Captain Albano had both answered to him.

Xanther used the opportunity to ask after Lord Bludmourne, who killed him on his wedding day in his prevous life. Captain Albano wearily said he was last seen on The Black Islands, north of Alban in the Varisian Gulf, where he had once made a pact with demon lords.

The party handed over the collarbone, and while negotiating some further details, (like whether they could have any of Albano’s wealth, now that he was planning to die), Mercutio burst in and announced that Former General Feck, Steward of the Curchain Hills, was dead.


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