A Series of Unfortunate Rolls

ACT II, EPISODE 6 - HARBINGER

Our heroes awoke at the Cat’s Cradle at dawn. After a brief meeting they decided their next destination was the Forgotten Keep, the third location that had been suggested to them by Trevor Belmont when they had first arrived and the home of the prisoners they had freed back in the Mountains of Yule. After a quick goodbye with a less-grateful-than-he-should-be Vincent Dorrin, the party hit the road. After traveling for a while they ran into four soldiers who offered to escort them to the Keep, and when they arrived the soldiers demanded the group’s weapons for security reasons. This created a bit of unease among the adventurers but they eventually complied and were led into the castle.

Inside they were greeted by a very large man with a very large beard who introduced himself as Richter Bartley. Richter thanked the party for rescuing his Kingsguard men from the mountains and asked what he could do for them. They told him about their search for the children and he replied that he and his men had also been looking into the matter but had been unable to come up with anything. The Kingsguard knew about the missing children because some of them still had families in Almamoon from their previous occupation of the Keep. Richter gave the group a brief history of their organization: the king that had ruled there had started to go crazy and believed that Richter and his wife Elizabeth were conspiring against him, so he preemptively killed Elizabeth and in retaliation Richter killed the king. After the king’s death the men abandoned the castle but many of them still stayed loyal to Richter, and now they had returned to protect the land once again.

Richter mentioned that in their searches they had come across several strange pages that seemed to have been ripped out of a book, and by now the party knew that these were more missing clues from Leon’s journal. They asked to see them but Richter was tired of talking about business with his visitors and instead challenged them to a series of games for the rights to the pages. They entered an arena at the center of the castle and participated in a number of skills challenges: Ye’Kan won at archery, Linny lost to Richter at arm wrestling but beat him at the long jump, and Osborne won a foot race (all while Gaius snacked and judged everyone). The last round was a friendly spar with the objective being to knock the opponent into a designated circle at the edge of the arena, and the adventurers came out on top when Linny leaped off Gaius’ summoned spectral horse Francine and catapulted into Richter.

Satisfied with the group’s participation in his games, Richter gave them one of Leon’s pages and said there were two more being stored down in the castle’s tombs. A lot of bad things had started happening upon the discovery of the pages, so he and his men were superstitious and did not want them around. He also said he would not join them in the tombs because his wife was buried there, and he asked that they be careful not to disturb her resting place. He agreed to send Ike and Lucius, two of the men the group had rescued in the mountains, as guides and also agreed to return their weapons, and off they went. The first few rooms were lined with sarcophagi, and deeper inside they discovered a room with jail cells and skeletons still inside them. Ike and Lucius explained that this whole area used to be the Keep’s jail, but when they had left the land many years ago they had left the prisoners behind to die. At the end of this room was a large locked door and Linny spied the key hanging inside one of the cells, but as soon as she entered the bars slammed close and the corpses came to life. The adventurers attacked and vanquished the undead foes but were unable to get any kind of explanation from Ike and Lucius, who were frightened themselves and had no idea what had happened.

Using the key to unlock the door and proceed, they came to a large room with a single well-decorated coffin sitting on a pedestal in the center. Upon investigating they found it was Elizabeth Bartley’s coffin, so they respected Richter’s wishes and moved away from it. This room led off down hallways in opposite directions, and choosing the first path they came to a dead-end that displayed a riddle about choosing an innocent man out of eight accused criminals. Ike and Lucius said it was another one of Richter’s games, and the party was able to solve it after a few minutes of deliberation. When they returned to the central room, however, they discovered that Elizabeth’s coffin was now open. The looked inside and found no remnants of a body, only another journal page and a strange gauntlet that Osborne claimed. Just then they heard whispers and murmurs coming from the second path, and Ike and Lucius refused to go with them to investigate. They listened at the door to hear more of the frightening sounds, and Ye’Kan moved to the back of the marching order so he wouldn’t have to face any more creepy encounters. Unfortunately for him, Gaius and Osborne grabbed him by the arms and threw him through the doors first.

Inside the room was the ghost of a woman standing in front of an altar against one wall and a small shelf with three bowls on the opposite wall. She looked up when Ye’Kan was pushed in but did not move yet. The supernatural-averse bard tried to address her and she revealed that she was Elizabeth Bartley. She had the third and final journal page, but grew angry when the group asked for it because they were trying to take what did not belong to them. Linny tried to reason with her but Elizabeth said the only way for them to get it was to put her soul to rest. Osborne took this as a sign to attack, but when he got close the ghost drained some of his life force and pushed him back. The rest of the group rushed in at this point and the battle was on. Any hit they landed on Elizabeth caused some ectoplasmic goo to fly off her body, but the attacks did not seem to slow her down. Sensing she was protected by some kind of supernatural force, Linny ran to the altar and found a large vial full of blood while Gaius scooped up some of the goo and placed it in the bowls. When the blood and goo were combined in all three bowls, the matter disappeared completely and Elizabeth screamed.

The angry ghost suddenly rushed at Ye’Kan and jumped inside his body, possessing the bard and taking control of his movements. The rest of the group now had to dodge his attacks, as he hit them all with a Thunderwave spell and successfully used Heat Metal on Linny to make her remove her armor. He was still able to speak and kept yelling out that he wasn’t doing anything on purpose, but Osborne still rushed up to attack him. Ye’Kan was able to shake free of Elizabeth’s possession after a few moments, and the ghost tried to take control of Osborne next but was denied. Gaius finally landed the killing blow on the now vulnerable specter, though the splash damage of his maul knocked Ye’Kan unconscious. Elizabeth dropped the final journal page and Linny healed everyone, though Ye’Kan stayed down for a few moments, shaken by the whole ordeal of being possessed and hurting his friends.

Having retrieved all the pages, the group re-entered the coffin room to fetch Ike and Lucius and return to Richter, but were stopped when the grimlocks Deetry and Dumock teleported in. Gaius used his Abjure Enemy ability to frighten them and freeze them in place, but the danger was not over; Ike and Lucius started to convulse and contort until their heads exploded and two intellect devourers emerged from their bodies. The walking brain monsters rendered Osborne and Ye’Kan useless with their mind attacks, but they were returned to normal when Gaius and Linny were able to squish the foes. Gaius approached the frozen grimlocks to interrogate them, but as he got close they created a portal beneath their feet to teleport away. Just as they were falling in, Gaius immediately reacted and jumped in after them, making it into the portal just before it closed. The rest of the group could only look on in shock as the two grimlocks and their paladin friend were now completely gone and they had no idea where they went.

The remaining three adventurers returned to Richter and told him that Ike and Lucius had been killed and that Gaius and the grimlocks had teleported away. Upon hearing about the magical grimlocks, Richter told them a story: back in the time of the king, there had been a wizard that lived in the ivory tower outside of Almamoon. The wizard helped the king protect the land, but one day the wizard simply disappeared and that’s when the king started to lose his mind. Now many years later, the ivory tower was suddenly active again and behaving in ways Richter had never seen before. He guessed that these magic grimlocks might have something to do with it and suggested that the group go there to look for their missing friend. They told him they had been there before on their first night in town but couldn’t find a way in, to which Richter responded that they just had to speak the password “open” to gain access. The party was annoyed at this simple solution, to which Richter just laughed and said the old wizard had been very powerful but still liked jokes.

The remaining three of the group also told him that they had found Elizabeth’s coffin empty, which surprised him greatly. They said they were able to put her soul to rest (though they left out the part about the violence) and he was somber but grateful, so he awarded them a pair of scimitars that when combined formed the shape of a heart in their cutaways. With night falling outside the Keep the party asked Richter if they could stay the night in his castle, and the large man agreed. Late that night as they lay in their beds, Linny used all of the collected journal pages to finally crack the cypher of the book’s coded messages. Down a friend but now armed with the decoded messages and warnings of Leon Belmont’s book, the group prepared to set out for the ivory tower at dawn, unsure of the dangers that awaited them there.

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