Max arrives in Fredhawk.
Fergus arrives in Fredhawk. Gilbert is sent off to gauge the business climate.
Graena arrives in Fredhawk.
Orc Invasion of Fredhawk.
Lord Sennatus washes up in Twixtbridge.
Party infiltrates Highcourt Castle from sewers, sees City Fathers wagoned out.
Party rides through Gerwood. Graena hunts a pheasant.
Party rides to Gnollwood, watches orc wagon train enter forest toward Gnollmount.
Party is captured by Viktor's clan. Wagon train leaves, Party brought into Caverns to "Viktoria"
Party sleeps during the day, journeys to King Dominick's chambers in the evening.
Drow Martin Tropain confronts the party.
Fergus drops his axe
Party travels out of Gnollwood, meets & joins with Raesa and Dorfinn.
Party sleeps in Cambridge, Golden Lion Inn. Raesa has nightmares.
Party rides to Fredhawk, meets with Sennatus with the Drow's body. Given letter for Steward Coburn.
Party sleeps in Coleshill House, Middlecourt.
Party rides to Coursey, sleeps in the White Swan Inn.
Party arrives at Cam Rock, meets Steward Coburn & Staff, & Lacewillow. Receives spear-heads.
Arrives at Gnollwood, frees the City Fathers.
Liberace+Freedlords arrive at Southvale Crossing.
Lunch and meetings with Freedlords.
Canon Bernard from Benedictine Abbey arrives in Sutfen talking about dark magic & needing help.
Party enters Sutfen and meets Chico Solo & the Ghosts.
Party arrives in Cambridge, prices at Golden Lion Inn are much higher.
Party returns to Fredhawk, rides to Gatehouse, speaks with Sir Gordon Newton, force commander. Sleeps in a back wing of Gatehouse. Lt. Walter Hazelton.
IBDO, Italican mercenaries, offers their services to the Party. Party speaks to Lt. Appleton at Pembrooke Hotel, ventures forth beyond Cornwall Square and into the manors of Garden Blvd. Fear Bell is beyond their scouting, Dysko listens to the Bell to attempt alchemical counters in his wagon near the Pembrooke.
Graena speaks with 3 dispossessed young aristocrats of Westmill in the Spotted Hound Tavern (Dale, Andy, Tommy). Dorfinn & Raesa wander off at sundown. IBDO finds an empty Grand House (144'x144') in which they & Max take up residence. Fergus smiths and administers near the Pembrooke, particularly to an older veteran who has volunteered, Sam Wells. Fergus & Stephen sleep in the blacksmith's home.
When the orc army wakes up after sundown, sounds of drums and fifes can be heard behind the enemy lines; this upsets some of the party. Graena spends the evening in Gatehouse with Lt. Walter Hazelton. IBDO shows Max a fabulous gold drop, made by Elves but meant for the "Sovereign of Gesh"
Dorfinn seems shaken by what Raesa has shown him in the night.
The party stealths back into Cornwall. Graena, Dorfinn & Luigi sneak off on their own. Dysko, in spirit, finds warehouses full of human hostages in squalid conditions south of the Westmill Canal.
Graena sneaks off a second time, to the cathedral end of Garden Blvd. At noon, the orcs' 'night shift' rings the Fear Bell, shaking her confidence somewhat… then she hears a whisper which identifies itself as Zidaine and professes to help the party when they enter the Cornwall Cathedral.
Max begins spending his spare time bartending at the Spotted Hound, having found out that Ballinger had taken 100 silver from the 3 aristocrats that morning to go to Jax Brewery.
Fergus bribes (Ted Gooch) the Gatehouse Quartermaster 13 Driscoll Gold (12 due after the city is freed) to get them 200 barrels of pitch.
Graena, Spirit-of-Dysko, and Dorfinn return to (JESS & JESS LEATHER GOODS) the site where Graena heard Zidaine, but there is no answer.
Fergus hammers and powders 950 copper coins to feed the reaction of the barrels of pitch.
Copper shavings are distributed to the piles of pitch barrels
Luck Ceremony — Wine rites + Fergus rites
Four Italicans are with Fergus near Cornwall Square. At the appointed time (10 bells), Raesa ignites the barrels. From a distance, the effect seems disappointing.
Graena, Dorfinn, Max and four Italicans go to Cornwall Cathedral, climbing up the outside, to the bell tower. They find two orcs, dispatch them (Dorfinn had fumbled!), and take the clapper of the bell, then chop the ropes holding it up, sending it down to the floor of the cathedral, through the wooden stairs.
As Raesa attempts to tell them not to do so, Dysko ignites the second pitch pile to great local effect.
The Cathedral Group sees siesta-ing orcs outside of the outbuilding which has soft sounds of suffering inside; sleeping despite the commotion on the other side of town. Rather than investigate, they hurry back to Cornwall Square as the orcs at the Cathedral are roused.
The party convenes, shows the Gatehouse commanders the clapper of the bell, then works to completely disenchant it.
Max, Fergus & Dysko visit the military hospital north of the Pembrooke Hotel. Max especially produces great effects: nearly every wounded man is out of bed by the time he leaves.
A plan is hatched: Dysko and Raesa will set up on the city wall to drop spells, and the rest of the party will press an attack near the wall-flank.
Dysko decides to accompany the melee group. Raesa decides to do so as well. There is some tension regarding this decision.
There is an intense melee in a wide alley between the wall and Cornwall Gardens. Raesa produces sparking hot meteors from her Staff. Dysko had held many of the attackers with a Hypnotic Pattern, then produced a great Chromatic Orb, which produced light, heat, flame, blinding light, an acidic cloud, and magnetism. The attack is blunted, and the city defender's begin their counterattack.
Graena returns to Gatehouse to check on her chest at Lt. Walter Hazelton's quarters. Fergus meditates on the day in the blacksmith's house.
Hazelton, returning from a war council meeting, encounters Graena, who shows him the map of the Orc tribes. Hazelton immediately attempts to reconvene the meeting, to give Sir Phillip, leader of a team of 50 Knights, requisite intelligence on the disposition of the enemy clans.
Max has a visitation from his God Eleutherios, and the Shimmerhost on the night of the Autumnal Equinox.
Defender's morale is way, way up: Orcs barely stirred outside in the night, sang sad songs, but posted guards on major intersections. The downpour has intensified, mists and lightning all through Cornwall.
In the morning, Graena alerts the party, minus Max, to the meeting. Sir Phillip, Fergus and Dysko sketch out a plan to assault the first mansion property in Cornwall Gardens, at noon.
Stephen reports the three aristocrats brewing strange potions in the Spotted Hound Tavern.
Graena and Dorfinn scout the location of the Diamond Flag: Hargrave's Linen plant and surrounding buildings, spying several ogres and many large orcs.
Max awakens nearly 3 hours late, covered in Pixie Dust. The surrounding blocks of Max's house are covered in vines, flowers, saplings, mosses, grasses, including the interiors.
The Battle of Cornwall Gardens begins… Fergus has moved into the ground floor of the half-burned mansion along with a troop of spearmen, who hold off all comers. Graena, Dorfinn charge the middle invisibly, and create choke points. Raesa tosses meteors and fireballs. Dysko hypnotizes any resistance from the second estate, with Max and the Italicans in reserve with 20 Footmen and 25 Archers. All seems well, but Fergus hears a shaking: the Unholy Symbol of a large Orc Shaman, with a stylized trident insignia. The Shaman runs, Fergus gathers his spearmen to pursue and clear the ground floor, then reunites with Graena, Dorfinn & Raesa, and they all clear the upper floors.
Dysko renders the party and the Italicans invisible, and they make their way to Cornwall Cathedral, rappelling down a rope from the smashed belfry and surprising several Shaman, ogres and orcs. During the melee, Graena pilfers the large clear crystal from the orcs' altar. She climbs the rope back to the roof; the amulet she took from the Drow vibrates as she crests the roof: Zidaine is there. His behavior makes Max realize he is a Drow, but by then it is too late: he has taken the crystal off Graena and departed.
The party refreshes their invisibility and assaults the outbuilding where 90 weakened human prisoners are under guard by a few orcs and a hardy ogre. Eventually the party triumphs, after the loss of two hostages, and takes the 88 survivors back through North Corners and to safety.
Fergus turns in, to repair his armor. The rest of the party moves along, noting the dark smoke from the Spotted Dog Tavern. They find the three Westmill Aristocrats passed out on a hallucinogen of their own making.
Strategies for the next day are discussed briefly, then everyone returns to their quarters.
Fergus hears his door opened very slowly, contrary to Stephen's booming habit. He is assaulted by a pair of black-hooded kobolds! Dispatching his attackers, he withdraws tactically, but when no more noise is forthcoming, he rushes outside to see Stephen being carried tied to a pole by two more kobolds! He gives chase! The little kobolds carry Stephen as fast as they can, but Fergus, in his night shirt, eventually catches up. After a fierce melee, Stephen is freed and carries Fergus into a nearby house, barricading themselves in.
Max's Italican mercenaries find three kobolds restrained in the vines of the house they inhabit.
The rest of the party arrives at Fergus' shoppe and discovers the mess and a dead kobold. They scour the neighborhoods, guided by Raesa's Finding spell, and reunite with Fergus & Stephen.
The party hears of a convoy of barges with foodstuffs from Tilldon which was ambushed and run aground on the river south of Cambridge. They ride north, finding two barges with a team of Smoke Raiders (“Bugbears”) laying in wait. They dispatch the Bugbears, but one of the barges is lost to fire.
The party rigs up their horses to the surviving barge and tows it to Fredhawk, delivering the foodstuffs to Commander Newton. They sleep in Gatehouse Castle.
The party shares an ominous dream, of gathered allies assembling in Gnollwood. Icky seems to have some difficulty reconciling her memories of the past fortnight. The party is invited to Lord Sennatus’ home in Middlecourt. The Italican mercenaries strike, attempting to assassinate Sennatus, who is defended by his just-arrived houseguests, itinerant Paladins-Squire of Tarim (“the Ducklings”) and their guide, Lans Hundritter and his wolfhound Dash.
Before he can be restrained, Giorgio Condotti, the Italican Captain, pulls out a small bag, threatening to unleash the great power within it. Dysko throws Flame Arrow dust just as Giorgio rips open the bag, unleashing actual Faerie dust collected after Max’s dream, and there is a powerful magical feedback effect. Everyone in Sennatus’ office is transformed into a small animal; the office itself is transformed into a kind of grotto.
Somehow, Max has been puttering around the front lawn while all this occurs. Bored and alone, he goes back into the mansion, finding a few corpses with slit throats, but no living beings on the first or second floor. Approaching Sennatus’ office on the third floor, he is set upon by baboons (the Italicans) who grab him and swing their way down & out, then outside into the neighborhood. The squirrel (Icky) manages to leave the office and give pursuit. The rest of the party, Sennatus, Lans, Dash & the Ducklings clamber around the office-grotto, finding a very odd, person-sized lump under the vines.
Max fortifies wine, and the greedy baboons overindulge. As they pass out, a very forceful squirrel enters the abandoned home and begins addressing Max. The squirrel convinces Max to leave the baboons and return to the mansion.
The party in the mansion, still in animal forms, unearths the lump and finds a nude old man, who deduces that he’s not been revived by normal animals. He gathers some of the exotic plants in the grotto, chants for a while, and restores everyone in the room to their normal forms. Icky is restored by the time she & Max return. Sennatus recognizes the man as Braeton Krykough, Raesa’s father. Braeton, however, maintains that he is not the man himself, but rather a portion of the man’s soul which has been bound into Raesa’s spade cloak clasp, and that some powerful magical reaction has apparently given him a body.
Sennatus explains that thousands of orc leaders have been making their way to Highcourt Castle in the center of the city, and that he thinks there is a meeting that very night. He has knowledge of the secret paths into and under Highcourt, and engages the party to escort him until he cannot continue, then proceed to observe the meeting.
The group enters the underwalls of Highcourt Castle through the sewers, making their way through to the ancient foundations of the Colosseum. They find a secret door to the burial catacombs of the city’s founders, which end in muddy tunnels. They find their way up into the Colosseum proper, where thousands of orc chiefs & shaman are gathering.
There are three contingents, differentiated by flags of black, red and green. Black flags signify that Niebla Muerte, et al, are a minor distraction, and that resources need not be devoted to finding and destroying them. Red flags support more frequent ceremonies in the churches, to summon supernatural assistance. The shaman speaking for the Green flag position explains the history of the area: a great dragon called Fangorey once lived on the very hill they now occupy. The humans drove Fangorey & the orcs far south, thousands of years ago. But the shaman has found Fangorey’s ancient treasure, and will bring him baubles to stir him from his sleep, to rouse him to return to the city and to eliminate the “Heroes”.
As the voting on the plan begins, the party strikes. Dysko achieves his most powerful chromatic orb yet, turning orcs to ash; Raesa floats across the Colosseum firing meteor bursts and collapsing the main exit. The party makes a fighting retreat back the way they came through the chaos.
However, the entire castle above is on alert, searching for the party. Kobolds drop through plumbing above into the thigh-deep water of the sewers. The party fights their way out, but three Ducklings perish down in the muck.
The party hears that there is a force of orcs marching north toward Seagate Bridge. Dysko goes there to support, while the rest of the party marches on Highgarden Cathedral. They find hostages in an outbuilding, and a large group of orcs chanting over a crystal with hundreds more humans in the pews. The party distracts the orcs from the outbuilding, and Icky leads these hostages out.
WAXING HALF MOON
The rest of the party meanwhile approaches the Cathedral, spotting many shaman and guards chanting over some two hundred human captives. Graena and Dorfinn scale the exterior to the bell tower. Raesa casts a wall of fire across the front of the cathedral. Graena cuts the bell free, which crashes to the floor of the cathedral. Raesa seems to be acting out of her own control, casting more walls of fire, surrounding the entire cathedral and engulfing it, ultimately losing consciousness.
From this blaze, a being of fire, the Efreet Attuma Shazar, erupts. He brags that he has recreated himself from utter destruction, and vows to find the one responsible: Dvrak. The Efreet levitates, renders visible and interrogates Zidaine, the Drow assassin who had been shadowing the party, and ultimately annihilates him in a white hot flame. The Efreet disappears into the night.
The party runs west through the occupied streets of Highgarden, escorting around forty hostages through leering kobolds who throw axes, knives and debris, but the group makes it through to the city militia’s lines and on to Gatehouse. Dysko sleeps in his wagon near the stables. Max rides to his vine-covered great house. Dorfinn brings Raesa to some nurses upstairs and retires in the barracks, as do the rest of the party.
Max enters the Spotted Hound Tavern and sees the Westmill aristocrats filthy, starving and completely under the influence of some foul brew. He douses their fire and they chase him from the bar. He returns to the grand house and begins drinking, religiously.
Before dawn, a ruckus on the top floor of Gatehouse is raised: the Paladin-Squires have seized Raesa for the burning of Highgarden Cathedral! The party members in the castle wake Dr Dysko, and they give chase. Dysko stuns the Ducklings with a Hypnotic Pattern, and the party carries Raesa to Sennatus’ mansion.
Dorfinn turns Raesa over to the care of her “father” Braeton Krykough, still convalescing in Sennatus’ transformed offices. The Ducklings arrive at the mansion, and there is a heated discussion. It is agreed that Raesa will remain in Sennatus’ care for the time being.
The party returns to Twixtbridge, and does a little scouting toward the bell housed in the Southgate towers. They seek out Dysko’s merchant sponsor, Barack Hussein Obama, who hosts them for dinner. BHO’s family and most of his staff have travelled north to the port of Leeds, and he has only four men with him. The party agrees to escort these men to his warehouse on a delta island in Soggy Bottom district, from which the Harbour Master had said none of his scout craft had returned, for 10 percent of the goods (by value, mostly saffron).
Late in the evening Bert Irons, a rider in Sennatus’ employ, arrives at the house of BHO with a letter stating that Braeton cannot rouse Raesa from her coma, and that the Paladins-Squire intend to try Raesa for 200 counts of murder, etc., this
Meanwhile, Max has produced a bumper crop of Gnolliper berries, and during meditation encounters his deity, Eleutherios, who is still conducting a feast for the Shimmerhost. His diety asks Max to inquire in the mortal realm for the whereabouts of “Narina DuPont,” friend to the Faerie Princess Bersina the Lookout.
Max breaks his meditation to the sound of Chevette in distress; kobold assassins are rushing the grand house! Max makes his way to the stables to find seven agile kobolds tormenting her. He risks everything to toss seven berries of Eleutherios at them, succeeding and riding off into the night.
The party and BHO’s men row through the channels to the island in Soggy Bottom with the warehouse. No animals, birds or insects stir. They begin unloading useful and valuable supplies, but two of BHO’s men disappear with barely a sound, other than a quick splash when each of them disappear under the black water. Hundreds of utterly silent zombies begin to surround the warehouse from all sides, but the party is able to dash for the boat and Fergus prays for a Ring of Peace and they make it away, only losing one oar.
The party returns to Sennatus' mansion and Dysko retrieves his wagon laboratory to prepare Ester of Palmitate, to Braeton's instruction. The preparation reveals a course of treatment, and by the combined efforts of Max, Fergus and Dysko, Raesa is brought from her coma.
Raesa is much recovered, and surmises the Efreet had been occupying her body and mind, directing her to initiate great fires in order to bring itself out of her body and into the world. She recalls details of "another life, another path": the Drow at the head of the Orc invasion, forging a sword from the souls of great wizards, and teaching the Orcs how to drain souls to empower their armies. She also relates a dark vision of Fergus' heirloom axe.
Graena & Dorfinn accompany Max to his grand house and find it moderately defaced, with kobold weapons caught in the vines. Afterward, they enter the Spotted Hound Tavern, which has had a remarkable makeover, inside and out. There are dozens of staff working there now; their manner of dress resembles that around the deserts of Al'Sadat. The members of the staff are all mute, save for the raspy-voiced lady of the tavern. The gigantic guards in the foyer prevented Max from entering, but Graena and Dorfinn had beer and a delectable chicken dinner.
At dawn, Fergus meets with Huey, leader of the Paladins-Squire, and the two agree to find the truth of the matter of the burning of Highgarden Cathedral. Raesa agrees to enter Fergus' Ring of Truth; Huey presents his Sword of Truth; and Raesa is cleared of the malicious charges. Huey requests to accompany the Party, in order to assist in finding this Efreet.
The Party, including Raesa and the Ducklings, travels to Twixtbridge to assault the Fear Bell housed in the Southgate. This assault alerts the surrounding orcs and kobolds, but via invisibility, Silent Circle, and Phantasm the group is able to distract their pursuers until they reach the river.
Stinking clouds of roiling mist surround the bridge; Dysko reveals himself in order to burn off some of the cloud, and is surrounded by plank-throwing kobolds. Fergus leads the paladins backward to escort Dysko to the bridge, where the latter is struck by a bolt of lighting called by a ranked orc shaman, but the party escapes over the river to Twixtbridge.
The Party withdraws to the military quarters in Middlecourt, where Fergus and Max break the enchantments on the clapper from the Fear Bell. Afterward, they dine and sleep at Sennatus' mansion.
The Party calls a meeting with Commander Gordon Newton and his Captains, detailing a strategy to assault Highcourt Castle. It is explained that the bulk of the forces in the Eastfell were directed to Palnu when word of an Orc Army approaching was raised; the hurricane fell on the night the first counterattack had been planned; and scouts are just now returning with updates from the region upriver.
The plan is set: in the morning, the Party will enter the Castle while the remaining Knights of the City Guard utilize ten wagons which Dr. Dysko has prepared with loud, bright fireworks to distract the orcs attention. Fergus, Icky & Raesa assist Dysko with chemical preparation of the fireworks and wagons.
Massive lightning storms envelop Twixtbridge.
Scout riders from the encampment in Middlecourt arrive at Gatehouse, alerting of the direct assault of Twixtbridge. Icky bolts to her home, co-opting Lans & Dash.
Graena & Dorfinn follow and see a stream of hideously wounded soldiers. They are told that Orc Shaman are appearing from the mists and giving soldiers "the Evil Eye."
In the morning, after Max's Wine of Enervation, Graena & Dorfinn return to Middlecourt and scale the wall of Highcourt Castle, then scale the outside of the Cathedral, spotting human hostages in the pews. They cower on the roof with sickening fear as the Bell is rung at 10am, but then sneak into the belfry and steal the clapper.
The remainder of the Party, gathered in Northgate, climb to the roof of a high building, clamber aboard Raesa's Floating Disk and begin the slow ascent over the castle wall, setting down on an upper level of the Colosseum.
The Colosseum is unguarded, and empty except for the ashen corpses and burned shadows of the Orcs killed by the "Dysko Ball".
The Party descends into the catacombs under the Colosseum, through the secret passageways leading to the ancient tombs of the city fathers, through to the muddy pits they now know as the former home of the dragon Fangorey. Fergus sniffs his way through the passageways, finding a chamber he identifies as the treasure room.
The Party sifts through the muck and finds ancient gold coins, in two distinct styles. They gather as many as possible, then begin digging a deeper pit in the center of the room to affect as much of the gold as possible with Dysko's transformative alchemy.
The Battle of Highgarden begins. Graena & Dorfinn are unable to scale the wall out of Highcourt due to the orcs watching the fighting from the ramparts. They make their way to the Colosseum instead, noting hundreds of crude tents and camps in the open areas of Highcourt.
The dragon's hoardroom is tainted.
The Party leaves via Floating Disk from the Colosseum, returning to the building in Northgate where they left Max.
They cross Northgate Bridge in the early afternoon, and provide some assistance to the Knights of the City Guard as they complete a charge all the way to the rubble of Highgarden Cathedral.
The Ducklings declare a Mass that evening, and invite any and all to assist them in clearing the rubble on the Cathedral grounds.
Fergus and Stephen set up in the stone garden shed of a great house, as the inside has been trashed by orks.
The rest travel to the Spotted Hound, livelier than last time. Much of them trust neither the food nor drink, though Dorfinn eats heartily. Dysko detects no toxins in the food.
Graena speaks with Andy, by the fire with the man in the fancy hat, about dealings: saffron and whatnot…
Max, excluded from the tavern again, bothers Dysko on his way to the outhouse for Invisibility dust, and sneaks his way in the back after horseplay with the backdoor bouncer. He joins the party’s table, and there is agreement about the suspiciously plentiful nature of the tavern. Graena leads Max into the kitchens.
Graena talks with Tom cooking at a cauldron in the busy kitchen. Max sanctifies wine, then pours it into the foul concoction, turning visible.
THE SNARL appears over the Highcourt Cathedral.
Stephen is awoken by the chatter of soldiers in the street, and rouses Fergus and the Ducklings, who gird for battle.
Graena sweeps Tom to the ground, splattering the concoction everywhere. Max runs out the back door, as the kitchen erupts into chaos, with Graena behind.
The Party spots THE SNARL while fleeing the Spotted Hound, grabs their horses from the Gatehouse, and rendezvous with Fergus & Stephen.
They assemble on a high building just north of the Cathedral, and ride Raesa’s Floating Disk over the wall to the top of the Cathedral.
While descending through the roof hatch, they observe a queue of hundreds of weakened human hostages being led through the nave to the altar, where they are shoved into domes of Darkness from within horrid gnashing and tearing sounds are heard, prior to the dead being tossed aside out of the Darkness; there are many dozens of these discarded corpses. Out of the top of the domes, ten feet from the ground, the tips of giant black feathered wings occasionally emerge.
Fergus takes the Ducklings around the back side of the altar to act as a distraction for the less-hardy members of the party.
The first demon Vgok, “Aka Vonoxom”, appears as the darkness fades! It calls “Hold!” and those before it are paralyzed. Dysko and Raesa fireball it as Dorfinn eliminates a shaman near a great brazier.
Vonoxom howls and charges on wing into Dorfinn, spilling the brazier. Dysko’s Wind Blade & Raesa’s lightning help Dorfinn knock back the thing from another world. Vonoxom casts its hands forth, materializing the next Vgock, “Aka Vibidox”, as it expires.
Fergus charges Vibidox, and the invisible Knights-Paladin crash into the Orcs on the left of the altar. A 3-foot black tentacle grows out of Dorfinn’s forearm and attacks him.
The Vgok is no match for the Blessing of Merica, and Fergus has the advantage, while Graena deals with the tentacle and Max the resulting wound.
Vibidox promises much, but vaguely, and Fergus does not deal with the fiend. Graena dispatches it just as it offers something slightly more concrete.
Fergus & the Ducklings surround the altar and the last dome of darkness. Their ritual eliminates the dome and the evil within. The Snarl remains, though half the size it was.
Fergus, Raesa & the Ducklings barricade the doors while Max, Graena, Dysko & Dorfinn look for another way out. Max finds a secret button which slides a statue down to a hidden library under the cathedral. Documents are procured. Max finds an indication that Narina DuPont was an associate of Duke John Cord, thousands of years ago at the founding of Fredhawk.
The Party finds a connection to the passages under the castle walls, and thence back out to Middlecourt, at dawn. Lans Hundritter is with Stephen, bringing the news that Icky has been in Twixtbridge for the whole day and night.
Travelling back to Sennatus’ they spot Braeton Krykough on the roof; Raesa describes “Radix”, the wizard horoscope which determines the best rituals for spellcasting each day. Krykough says the rain, the Snarl and even the stars themselves are somehow “wrong”, but with Sennatus’ crude telescope he cannot speculate on the nature of the malady. The house of Phillip Glazier is where Krykough recommends procuring the quality of lens he requests.
Graena meets a scout for Sennatus and shares tea and scones. He says the Duke of Newcastle is coming with his army down from the siege at Palnu, as well as that there is talk of a “Golden Quarter” where a golden dwarf holds court, denouncing the Druid hospitality in the neighboring Hard Stretch area. Sennatus asks the Liberace to accompany him to the dinner the Duke is surely to host tonight.
After resting, Fergus, Max & Graena head to the Gatehouse, where four heralds of Newcastle arrive, laying claim to the whole Gatehouse for their headquarters later in the day. Graena quickly infiltrates Hazelton’s quarters to retrieve her chest.
When Dysko & Raesa awake, they ride with Dorfinn to the Gatehouse, and they all travel to Highgarden, just liberated, to Glazier House: gardens and a hedge maze on a wide property hide a great fountain ringed with life-sized glass sculptures of exquisite beauty. There are signs of orcs & kobolds having passed through here. Inside the great glass-domed building they find the Crystal Bestiary, capped by a 21-foot high Chimera. So clear is the glass and so accurate are the likenesses that the slightest reflection dances through the entire Bestiary, giving the illusion of life and movement in the beasts. Scattered throughout the gallery are 10 three-foot high piles of unidentified rocky substance.
There is a foot-thick crystal rod running from the gallery to the west wing, through a locked metal door with two dead orcs in front of it. Dysko casts a Hypnotic Pattern down the tip of the rod; the party is hypnotized while the recent past plays out: two men, surmised to be Glazier and his partner, the mage Christopher Tallow, run from assailants, and lock the door behind them. Orcs follow, but are defeated by a cloud of glass particles from the door. None of the attempts by the party to communicate beyond the door are successful.
The Party finds an assortment of large lenses in the grinding room. Graena obscures her chest in one of the workshop cabinets.
The Party brings Krykough the lenses and accompanies Sennatus to Morton Hall in Highgarden to dine with Newcastle and his entourage. Howard Plant is his young wizard in tow; he knows Raesa from College, and calls her out for jilting “Connor” at school. Newcastle, around 45, says that other than taking the orcs out of the North & South Cathedrals, Palnu is secured. He plans to take back the city in short order with his 15 regiments. He also says that he sees no call to follow the Pope’s ban on “foreign magicks” while there is open war.
At the end of dinner, through the rain fireworks over the harbor can be seen. Graena investigates and finds three great Junks of Chin anchored out in the harbor. They land boats and have a procession, with drumming and cymbals. Graena finds they are a drama troupe, invited by Phillip Glazier to play the Colosseum, and she tells one of their sailors, Hyu, about the invasion.
The Party rises for a long day’s ride to Coursey.
Bronn “the Bird” Swanson encounters quick-to-violence Nick Sturgeon in the wilderness on his way from scouting around Palnu; Sturgeon brags that he is headed to Palnu for “wet work,” and sends Bronn to the Twelve Tankards Tavern in Coursey.
The Party notes relatively fewer refugees along the road. They lunch with an encampment of cloth dyers headed by Mrs. Amber White, who state the logistical difficulty of an attempted migration for her entire group up to the Golden Quarter. Sir Nathan Sterling and three other knights, Heralds of the Duke of Newcastle, ride up during lunch, stating their intention to investigate the Druid Circles and this “Golden Quarter.” They join the Party on the ride to Coursey.
Bronn reports to the Twelve Tankards and talks with his old associate Zack Greenwich, who extends an invitation to ride out the rest of the Winter, and the war, up at Gilpin estate, dubbed “The Golden Quarter,” where he claims “a con” is occurring under a fellow named “Swindle”.
At sundown, the Party arrives in Coursey with the Heralds of Newcastle. Great crowds gather to see the Liberace, the Liberators of the City Fathers. Fergus and Max respond to the calls of the afflicted in the crowd; the crowd presses in to receive any blessings offered, but the press of the crowd rattles Sir Adam of Newcastle, and his horse rears and strikes a few refugees with its hooves, panicking the assembly!
Graena’s horse falls within the crowd; she rights herself and reaches a nearby roof, on the heads and shoulders of the scattering crowd. The chaos of the riot subsides, and the Party camps on the north side of the town. Zack seems concerned with the Liberace heading north, and orders Bronn to keep an eye on them, reporting anything to him when he can get near Gilpin.
Bronn is hired by the Heralds of Newcastle to escort them over the back trails to Gilpin.
The Party, including Bronn and the Heralds, rides back trails toward Gilpin.
They spot the Druid Circles: thousands of circular encampments with colorful fires in the center, scattered along the beaches and roads heading north toward Danforth. They camp a few hours from Gilpin.
Bronn and the Heralds are spotted by a mounted scouting party; the rest of the Party was rendered invisible by Dr Dysko shortly before they met. The scouts, rough men, insist the Heralds go the long way around to the front gates of the estate, but Sir Nathan declines to obey.
The rear approach to Gilpin opens on an isolated clearing with a large horse exercise barn. This has been converted mostly to storage, with many tents draped off the main barn and the outbuildings. A trail down the hill leads to Gilpin Castle, the main house, which has tenting off the buildings but also many more tents housing refugees throughout the grounds.
Bronn defuses a standoff between the Heralds and the rough men and women guarding the barn “warehouse.” He speaks with Randall, a stringy-haired man who Bronn had heard of from the Fredhawk Underworld, and secures lodging for himself and the Heralds down at the main estate.
At the main estate, the knights are shown to their quarters: a large converted outbuilding with white-frocked ladies of the “Hospitality committee” welcoming the new arrivals. Bronn enters the main castle to find Zack or another contact.
The Party becomes visible as a group in the courtyard of Gilpin Castle! Graena, however, elects to remain invisible for the moment. The guards Bronn has just slipped past raise a cry for more assistance, as Stephen leads Fergus and the rest inside.
Six more guards, with polearms, hurriedly dressing in armor, bar the Party from the main hall but allow them to rest in a side chamber.
Bronn is received by Mark Swindle, the leader of the Golden Quarter, with the two chiefs of his scouting “guild”. Swindle has a superior attitude and a strongbox full of large rough rubies.
“Cara” leads six young ladies into the foyer to start the fireplaces, and invites the party upstairs for baths from the back entrance to the foyer. Raesa flourishes her rejection via spell-casting, but Max strongly desires cleanliness and, with Dysko, accompanies Cara and “Nicole” upstairs. Cara has a gold necklace of large, crudely polished rubies.
Fergus, Lans & Stephen investigate the Armory behind the castle, finding it emptied and the forge in poor condition. Fergus claims some coal from the forge.
Graena, exploring the grounds invisibly, makes her way back into the castle and finds the Lord’s Chamber/Swindle’s office, where she stealthily pilfers six uncut rubies.
Max spots a portcullis in the ceiling of the hallway he & Dysko are lead down, and panics, sprinting back downstairs to the foyer. Dysko turns invisible, and Cara and Nicole give chase. Dysko runs into an invisible person in the halls, but the guards which Cara raises don’t make any overtly hostile moves.
Bronn attempts to convince his old flame, Sarena Hunt, to quit “the con”, “The Golden Quarter”, before the “Heroes of Fredhawk” make the decision for everyone, and invites her to leave with him. Eventually, she says she will, if the Church Service doesn’t go in her favor. Bronn gathers supplies and horses for two.
At sundown, a typical Tarimite church service is held, with scripture and song, in the great room of the upper floor of the castle. The celebrant, however, is a dwarf, Gilbert Gottfriedson. He seems frequently distracted, and does not indicate that he recognizes his kinfolk in the second row. Stephen recognizes the Rector, and names him as Garrick Hunt, ex-pro Campbell player from the Eastfell league, a huge shaven-headed man with two crosses tattooed near his left eye.
Gilbert delivers a sermon on distrusting the Druids down on the beaches, and produces a feast, with several boars and all the trimmings. Then he calls a grim prayer, but leaps from the stage! A stone missile bursts through the chairs on the stage, whizzes past Gilbert and strikes Fergus in the chest, knocking him over! The room erupts in confusion.
Gilbert is relieved to find Fergus unharmed. Mark Swindle manages to calm everyone down, and a meeting in his office is agreed to.
Bronn tells Sarena that their plans have been stupid and evil, and that he stands with the “Heroes of Fredhawk;” she curses him, as he invites himself to the meeting.
Bronn reaches the door to Swindle’s office, with Graena, Max and Dysko invisible in tow; eight thugs with crossbows burst in from behind, level their arms, and are bedazzled by Dysko’s Hypnotic Pattern. The party enters the office.
Mark Swindle is an unpleasant man who attempts to get Gilbert to stay, but Fergus is persistent, and it is agreed that Gilbert will leave with the party.
Swindle asks Dysko about a rumor he’s heard regarding someone rich and powerful around the Southern Sea searching for “healers on the run.”
The Party marches out of the back of Gilpin Castle with their heads held high. They depart via the back trail on which they had arrived.
Headed down from Gilpin after a brief rest, by sunrise the Party circles a property with a medium-sized stone house covered in leafy vines. A dozen hooded riders approach the house from the opposite side, cross the small stone bridge and ride to the barn to shelter their mounts.
Bronn & Graena scout, returning to report that the riders are searching the house, probably for people. They all have overstuffed bags of silver, coins and jewelry which they have dumped out onto a table in the parlor.
Just as the riders’ lantern appears through the upstairs west window, the east window opens, and a short, slim figure slips out of the house and sneaks around to the barn. As Bronn & Graena make their way back, five of the riders emerge from the front of the house, looking for someone. Raesa produces an illusion of their quarry running away from the house, and they spread out to follow and surround what they suppose is their target.
As Bronn & Graena reach the barn, the young rider bursts out on one of the riders’ mounts, passing between the invisible scouts. Two of the cloaked men appear behind the house and fire crossbows into the back of the fleeing horse, which crashes to the ground near the front corner of the house, spilling the young rider.
Fergus spurs his invisible mount to the young rider, and leaps to shield her from the crossbow bolts fired at long range by the men searching for her at the front of the house. Dorfinn rides toward these five men, splitting them and hacking at a few; Raesa and Dysko finish them off with blasts of fire.
Bronn & Graena melee with the two crossbowmen near the barn; one of them surrenders, stating that they were looking for the valuables they’d previously buried on the property which had come up missing. They dispatch the man, then sneak into the back door, splitting up and looking for surviving hostiles.
Bronn spots a cloaked figure in the parlor drawing back the curtain, and shoots his crossbow, knocking him down; but two other hidden figures return the volley, and a third appears in the doorway, shooting Bronn in the back.
Just then, Dorfinn and Fergus burst in, taking control of the situation, but the farthest bandit bolts past Bronn, to the back door, and makes his escape on horseback.
The small rider is an 11-year-old girl, Sydney Brooklyn, daughter of Sir Darren, lord of Brooklyn Terrace. She says her father has ridden to the coast, to recruit help against the bandits who’ve plagued the region lately. Fergus declares that she must accompany the Party to Coursey, where she says that her father was friends with the Seneschal of the Gate to Cam Rock.
The party reaches the outskirts of Coursey around noon. Gilbert mentions that he knows of a highly-esteemed gem cutter in the town. Graena slips into town and discovers that the rubies she lifted from Mark Swindle’s desk were mined far to the north in Iest.
The party leaves Sydney with the Seneschal of the Gate to Cam Rock, then travels back to Fredhawk.
The party learns that an outspoken officer in the City Guard, Major Tibbs, has been gruesomely murdered, along with his aides. The encampment in question is adjacent to the property through which the party has used secret passages to enter Highcourt.
The party has breakfast with Lord Sennatus at his mansion. Sennatus mentions that kobold runners have been attempting to bring pouches of swamp roots to Highcourt Castle. He also says that the Council is attempting to hold temporary meetings in Morton Hall, Highgarden. Braeton Krykough tells them some nonsense about collapsing realities and pocket dimensions, then offers to accompany them if they ever seek out Dvrak.
Fergus, Gilbert, Stephen & Lans pass up the Spotted Hound Tavern to improve the small smithy near the Pembrooke Hotel.
Bronn enters the Spotted Hound, past the two gigantic bouncers. Max has slipped in right behind. The visible members of the party are denied entry; the guards now carry short halberds. There are nine horsemen of Newcastle inside, drinking with another nine patrons. The man in the fancy hat is seated near the fire with Dale and Andy.
Graena and Dysko seperately, casually invisibly reconnoiter the tavern.
Max spots the “cook”, Tom, passed out near the cauldron in the kitchen. Max leaves out the back door to meet with the rest of the party.
Bronn has a standing dislike for Dale, Andy & Tom, from their grandstanding and superiority in previous encounters in the Spotted Hound. Bronn invites himself to the circle, and brashly greets the man in the fancy hat. When Andy scowls, Bronn flings his tankard into Andy’s face, breaking his nose.
Bronn does not defer, and nearly loses his left hand to a guard’s halberd. He is brought to the fireplace, and his neck exposed.
The rest of the party hears the women inside the tavern scream, then a second time. They rush in, and see Bronn’s headless body slumping from the fireplace to the floor.
Dysko had nodded off, standing in the rain behind the tavern, but he is awoken by horses being mounted in front of the tavern: Max, Graena, Raesa & Dorfinn are riding away, south toward the smithy where the rest of the party is.
Raesa arrives at the smithy first, her pupils fully dilated, her face flushed, telling Fergus that there is a problem in the tavern. Graena, Dorfinn and Max are similarly flushed. They tell the dwarves that Bronn has been killed, and agree to gather and investigate.
The party encounters a team of knights dismounting to enter the tavern. They are led by Walter Hazelton, who informs them that he has been promoted to Captain and is here to deliver a message to someone inside the tavern.
The dwarves enter the tavern.
Graena and Dysko sneak around the back and invisibly enter the kitchen of the tavern.
Captain Hazelton has told Dale that his uncle and father have been found dead, and that he is now the Earl of Westmill, and is required to attend the Council meeting at Morton Hall,
Dysko renders some of the kitchen staff invisible, but there is no disruption in their work. He and Graena weave their way through the kitchen, where Tom Kinley stirs a bubbling cauldron.
Dale, the new Earl of Westmill, confronts Fergus with his friendship with the Elf, and declares that the Party will be arrested on sight if they enter his County. Fergus counters that they will be happy to steer clear, no matter the conditions of the enemy forces in the County. They leave without incident.
The Party invites themselves to dinner at Sennatus’, where he begrudgingly accepts their interruption of his dinner with a guest, Elizabeth Dean. They lay out their intention to expose the operation at the Spotted Hound Tavern, but Sennatus convinces them this revelation should be saved for the correct time, saying that he will give them a message when the new Earl should be confronted.
The Party decides that they want the feather in their cap of removing The Snarl from Highcourt Cathedral before interacting with the Council, and enlist the seven remaining Ducklings to accompany them. The ground-level secret passage is trapped with thread, rope and spears. They decide to go over the wall via Raesa’s Floating Disk instead.
On the grounds around the Cathedral, the Accursed Thicket: a hundred high poles with naked humans strapped to wheels, with impaled orcs ringing them. Shaman and warriors attend to those in the thicket, feeding them some foul paste.
Raesa conjures the illusion of the Party, loud, bright and boisterous. When orc troops assemble to surround them, Doctor Dysko unleashes his Chromatic Orb, cleansing the “Thicket” with its deadly pulsing.
Fergus, Gilbert, Graena, Dorfinn and the Ducklings meanwhile have entered the cathedral, where they discover a large number of skittering Kobolds in the chapel, and four Shaman chanting over a dome of Shadow at the altar.
Fergus and Dorfinn each lead a flank attack with a group of Ducklings, cutting down the Shaman, who barely stopped their ritual to defend themselves.
Dysko retrieves his Chromatic Orb after torching about half of the Accursed Thicket. He gets Raesa to conjure an illusion of him falling, in order to draw in the first ranks of orc troops. The pair fireball the orcs as they encircle the struggling illusion, then they approach the cathedral to rejoin the others, just as a large black arrow with a white ribbon is deflected by Raesa’s Shield spell.
The last shaman falls to Fergus’ axe. The Shadow Dome flickers and disappears, revealing an enormous, four-armed horned beast, which bellows out “GAZEBO: TERRACORE” as it stands to its full 16-foot height. Terracore’s telepathic intrusion is substantially more powerful than that of the Vgoks.
Terracore disappears! As the Party regroups, two spheres of shadow materialize in midair above the altar. Fergus shines his Arclight, revealing that each shadow contains a hovering Vgok! The Arclight also reveals shadows from something huge yet invisible behind the altar walls.
Max befriends some bugs at the front of the cathedral, within his (permanent!) Sacred Circle. They say that the war has hurt their lifestyles as well.
Graena looses an arrow into the nearest Vgok, “Aka Virtiprox”, which charges her, riding her into the floor of the cathedral and then casting a dome of Shadow over their melee.
Graena, Dorfinn and Fergus finish Virtiprox, but Graena has a black tentacle grow from her abdomen, and removing it proves quite painful. As the Party deals with this, the other Vgok flees, flying around the back of the altar.
The Party determines that the demons have fled down the stairs under the angel statue which leads down to the hidden library and the secret passageways. Max establishes a (permanent) Sacred Circle to keep them down there until they can be confronted.
The Party discovers ten runes on the walls of the cathedral, centered around the altar. They remove the enchantments, and the Snarl is visibly diminished.
Max, Fergus and the Ducklings stay in the Church and offer cleansing prayers.
The rest of the Party drops in on Captain Hazelton’s camp, just on the other side of the north wall, via Floating Disc. Lans informs him of the plan to breach the wall, and requests reinforcements to begin securing the courtyard.
Raesa conjures a powerful Ice Storm, freezing a section of the wall. Dysko shatters the frozen stone with a Flame Arrow. The section of wall crumbles.
Orcs under the inner keep sing sad songs. A small contingent of infantry, archers and knights arrive through the breach.
As the soldiers take up positions, two of the archers are struck by large black arrows fired from long range: the Party suspects Bugbears. One of the knights’ horses is similarly hobbled with a bow shot.
The Party and the troops seek cover in the courtyard of the cathedral’s southern outbuildings. A high-pitched whine from the orcs at the inner keep sends a giant ball of fire toward their shelter, burning and singing all the humans outside! The Party rushes over, but the orcs retreat within the corridors of the governmental seat.
Another party, led by Howard Plant, the Traveling Wizard to the Court of Newcastle, arrives through the breach in the wall. Howard claims he is investigating the murder of the Earl of Scarford, and he leaves his man with the Party: a flashy swordsman named Decado Strega.
The Party decides to leave the orcs and return to the Cathedral to eliminate the demons. Max’s new arthropodal friends agree to lead the Party, with the Ducklings and Decado Strega, down to the secret library to where the demons are. After searching the corridors and library, the Party finds the Vgok, and eliminates it under Fergus’ Arclight.
Turning around, the Party finds that the Library has been drastically altered! A field of darkness around an unholy, 12-pointed star on the floor; 12 black candles lit inside; 12 volumes of “Bishops of Eastfell, Unexpurgated” on tables. The Gazebo Terracore’s voice echoes in their heads: “I will profane the geometry of this place; only the 12 Names of the Damned will breach my defenses!”
Max and the Ducklings stay in the Church and begin researching the books for “damned bishops.”
The rest of the Party travels to Morton Hall and the Council meeting, already underway. Stephen, who has been tending the horses all day, mentions that a party of humans (“one fancy and five tough”) were inspecting the Party’s horses, especially Chevette, but he chased them off.
The Party makes their way through the assembled soldiery emblazoned with dozens of various banners of their liege-lords. Inside the hall, an honor guard in the foyer is led by Captain Hazelton, who allows a few of the party upstairs to the gallery in order to observe the proceedings.
The Party is told by some guild leaders that they missed two items: the investiture of the new Earl of Westmill, Dale Jr.; and the empowerment of an investigatory subcommittee with the goal of determining a schedule for full re-opening of the docks. As the Party, mostly Fergus, settles in upstairs, a third item is being debated: authorizing the Council release funds to offer a bounty on orcs; this proposal is rejected.
Dale Jr., Earl of Westmill introduces the last business of the afternoon: the issuing of a Bill of Writ for reimbursement for repair of the north Highcourt wall which was breached that very morning by the group known as the Liberace. Fergus makes himself heard, posturing that if his assistance is not required in Fredhawk, he and his companions would gladly leave the region.
Dale Jr’s “patron”, the Man in the Fancy Hat, sidles up and whispers in Dale’s ear. Dale immediately moves to have the gallery cleared to cease interruption of the debate.
After the Party and other observers are moved downstairs, Fergus encounters one of the Freedlords, David of Twixtbridge, who invites Fergus to attend him within the council deliberations. After some negotiation, and Fergus’ acquiescence, the Bill of Writ is enacted.
As the Council Meeting is ended and the crowd within begins to disperse, a commotion down in the street is heard. An exquisite black carriage with eight black horses has pulled into Morton Hall. Finely appointed with Tarimite crosses and regalia, the carriage has brought Cardinal William Word to the Council meeting directly from the port.
Graena, invisible this entire time, begins to climb around the gallery ledge in order to overhear Dale Jr. and the Man in the Fancy Hat, who she cannot find. As she climbs down, the double ankh taken from the Drow in the gnoll caves vibrates, indicating the proximity of another of these symbols, somewhere in the crowd!
Fergus speaks with the Cardinal after the slim, grey-haired man announces that he has been sent by the Pope to represent the Church in the Council deliberations. Cardinal Word seems bright and competent; he travels with 8 Trappist Monks who have sworn a vow of silence. “Prayer is the only sound which escapes their lips,” says the Cardinal.
The Party escorts the Cardinal back around to the north of Highcourt and up the breach in the wall to the Cathedral and the Snarl. They show him the corpse of the Vgok, and take him back toward the stairs to the Secret Library, while the troops from Hazelton’s camp secure the area as well as is practical.
Max tells Graena that there have been many crows beginning to roost in the high broken windows of the cathedral, and that his insect friends think the crows are evil. Graena investigates, finding half a dozen crows, which do not flee from her presence. She grabs one; as she turns and inspects the bird, a large black arrow pierces it through and grazes her cheek! The poisoned arrow burns her face, and the crow virtually melts from the inside. Graena slinks to the floor to find Max as her eye begins to swell shut, but she is surprised by the Drow symbol vibrating yet again!
After she is treated by Max, she confides in Raesa and Decado that she has been carrying this symbol and it activates when another is near. They are stunned at this, and take Graena to a Cathedral outbuilding, where Raesa casts Detect Magic on the symbol, discovering that it is a focus for Divination, presumably for Dvrak. They decide that it needs to be brought to Braeton to be neutralized or destroyed. Braeton agrees to take the symbol.
The Monks break Max’s Sacred Circle before going down to the Secret Library. The Cardinal admits that Demonology is not his strong suit, and says he will write to the Church in Davonia forthwith for experts to be sent.
The party returns to the Spotted Hound for surveillance. Graena invisibly sneaks in through an upper floor window, through what appears to be a harlot’s room. Dysko enters his Cat’s Eye and explores the kitchen in Spirit: the tavern staff maneuvers around him as if he were there bodily. After some commotion, Graena manages to pilfer a small sample of the foul brew before they leave.
The Party stays the night at Lord Sennatus’ mansion. Sennatus is busy hosting dinner for some of the Council Lords. Dysko begins analyzing the tar-like substance, determining that it is a powerful kind of narcotic.
At breakfast with Lord Sennatus, the Party recounts their observations of the Council Meeting. Sennatus states that he saw no one in the chamber whispering to Dale when he had the floor.
Sennatus assures Fergus that the Bill of Writ for the repair of the wall will have a price tag that appears exorbitant, but that this will ultimately serve Fergus with profit, through local front construction contracts Sennatus will help establish. Fergus gives Sennatus a letter for his Clan, with details of the business proposal.
The Party travels to Fergus’ smithy, in Cornwall across from the Pembrooke Hotel. The Spotted Hound is overflowing with revelers; the surrounding houses & buildings are host to smaller gatherings. Graena and Dysko hatch a plan, enlisting Dorfinn.
Max and Chevette ride to the overgrown grand house, discovering ‘dragon piles’ and other debris. Max begins salvaging his distillate apparatus.
Fergus and the rest of the party tidy up the smithy. Fergus is shocked to discover hundreds of inch-long arms with clawed fingers, petrified, appear to have burst from the edges of the opened ‘dragon pile.’
Dorfinn joins a group of revelers in a house close to the Spotted Hound, acting as lookout for Graena, invisible, and Dysko, in Spirit, who begin infiltrating the tavern from the roof.
Dysko observes a crowd of young female hangers-on around Dale, Andy and the Man in the Fancy Hat. They utilize a hookah to burn some of the black tar substance being cooked in the kitchen, offering some to their admirers.
Graena slips into the room of a foreign courtesan after a soldier has left her room. The courtesan, black-skinned and -eyed, does not speak, but drums a count of five to indicate her fee. Graena sets five silver down, and sits on the bed for a chat. Her irises have flecks of copper in the pitch black. Her skin is feverishly hot. She indicates she is a slave, but recoils in horror at the suggestion that Graena could free her.
Graena, Dysko and Dorfinn return to the smithy. Dysko assists Fergus in further dissecting the ‘dragon pile’. Each of the tiny arms is attached to a tiny skull with rows of sharp teeth. The Party determines that these piles are in fact cocoons holding Kobold eggs!
The Party returns to tell Sennatus and Captain Hazelton about the cocoons. On the way, Graena spots a silhouette in a high tower at the crossroads, illuminated by lightning flashes. Investigating, she observes a man writing down two copies of all the comings and goings in this high-end neighborhood. She confronts him, Jack Bowlen, who says he is a free agent scout working for Major Wells, Major Tibbs’ replacement.
The Party spots the Ducklings standing just out of the rain under the Highcourt Cathedral entry. They say that the Cardinal has put them on guard outside while he and his monks clear out the grounds. They say that hundreds of corpses were found stacked in an outbuilding; corpses which did not rot…
The Cardinal’s monks (vow of silence) have cleared the Vgok corpse from the Cathedral and are cleaning and straightening the area, but the Party cannot find the Cardinal, even after searching the Secret Library, but he finds them when they are on their way out.
The Party returns to Morton Hall, where the displaced Freedlord, Donald, Earl of Highcourt, is in residence. Donald is the parliamentary head of the Council of Fredhawk, and he makes an offer of friendship, but cautions that he will not play favorites in his public duties. He, like Sennatus, did not witness the Man in the Fancy Hat during the Council Meeting.
The Party gathers in an abandoned house near the Spotted Hound Tavern near sundown, within and around which hundreds and hundreds of revelers have gathered. Max, however, has wandered off, and finds himself befriending a tangled, writhing mass of alligators under the tavern, whose leader Claude explains that this is the hottest spot on the river.
Raesa casts an illusion of Disguise over Graena, causing her to appear as a man-at-arms, so she can enter the tavern innocuously. Dysko accompanies her, in Spirit, while the rest of the Party monitors from the abandoned house.
Dysko peers down from the ceiling and sees the Westmill Aristocrats, and the Man in the Fancy Hat, near the fireplace with their young, glass-eyed hangers-on in the midst of a packed and lively tavern. The house band is playing uptempo music, but the crowd is too thick for proper dancing, so drinking and swaying rule the room.
Graena, disguised, makes her way through the main room of the tavern. She thinks of the poison dagger she took from the Drow in the Gnoll caves, slides into position behind the Aristocrats, and stabs the Man in the Fancy Hat several times in the neck!
At this violence, the room erupts in panic! Graena attempts to join the crowds pressing for the front door, but it becomes clear that the large guardsmen are hacking the crowd back with their halberds, causing mass violence to break out! As the guards in the back move toward the middle, Graena takes the opportunity to slip up the stairs…
As the commotion raises over Max, he strikes an agreement with Claude and his friends: “Go inside for me and eat your fill of dark meat.” The alligators, hungry from their orgy, file out from the mud under the tavern toward the kitchen door…
Graena opens the door to the middle upstairs room, closes it quietly, turns around to sneak out the window, and is stunned to see the Man in the Fancy Hat standing, unharmed, between her and the window!
The Man in the Fancy Hat gestures, and Graena’s illusion is dispelled and her possessions and clothing are flung against the walls and held in place! She is levitated in place as the Man in the Fancy Hat gazes over her and asks why she is sowing discord in this place.
Dysko peeks his face through the door, seeing Graena’s plight. Graena’s answers and questions eventually lead the Man in the Fancy Hat to claim her as his “guest”: she feels an invisible collar on her neck which she cannot touch; she is dressed in a lady’s version of the fancy clothes the Man wears, with bare midriff and beautiful patterned silks. The room, dim and poorly furnished moments before, is luxuriously appointed with braziers, a large soft bed, a solid brass vanity with a large polished mirror, and dark polished wood cabinets and chairs.
Graena is alone in the room now, but her chest (left at Glazier House a few days ago) is on the bed, twice or more as large as before; her clothes and belongings are neatly folded on top of her treasures in the chest. She leaves the room, wandering as if in a daze, and talks dreamily with Dysko, who decides to withdraw his Spirit to his Body, outside in the abandoned house with the others.
Graena goes downstairs and dreamily makes her way through the chaotic crowd; the dark-skinned staff defer to her as if she is nobility to them. The local tavern-goers are held at bay from the exits still by the large, muscular foreign guards. Dale Jr. is frantically looking for the Man in the Fancy Hat.
A horrible commotion rises from the kitchen! Some of the guards bolt through the kitchen door while from within horrid hissing and thumping emerges…
The crowd is given more space when the guards nearest the kitchen withdraw; jostling and pressing renew before a new equilibrium is reached. Graena jumps up to a beam in the ceiling to keep out of the press.
The Man in the Fancy Hat appears next to Graena. They have a brief discussion…
The remainder of the crowd inside the Spotted Hound finally bursts out the front door! The rest of the Party navigates through the crowd to enter the tavern. The interior of the tavern is no longer made ready in the red-patterned style of the Man in the Fancy Hat. There are no candles, fancy plates and mugs, or the dark-skinned staff inside, at all. Just inside the foyer, a copious amount of spilled blood is smeared across the floor. There is a large amount of muddy, clawed tracks leading toward the back door. The Westmill Aristocrats and a few floozies have climbed up the columns in the room to escape something on the floor… The Party sees Max across the room at the back door, apparently talking to a large alligator.
In short order, Sir Warren of Wicsome and a troop of guards enter the tavern, and gather up the Westmill Aristocrats on charges of Wanton Murder. Sir Warren, Deputy Constable to the Duke of Newcastle, thanks the Party for clearing out the foreign influence from the area.
There are a few dead alligators in the kitchen, killed by cutting weapons. Plans for butchering are hatched.
Graena, sporting a new, large ruby ring, inspects the remaining brewing equipment, finding some of Max’s wine from weeks before.
The rain has nearly stopped, and breaks in the clouds appear as the storm moves north.
While leaving the tavern to sleep at Morton Hall (under Donald Highcourt’s standing invitation), the Party hears some boatmen gossiping about a strange sight earlier in the day: a one-horse wagon traveling out of Fredhawk toward Gerwood Forest at top speed, driven by a pack of monkeys.
The Party spends the evening bathing and repairing their gear.
Graena has a very particular dream…
Captain Hazelton asks nicely for the Party not to disrupt the Council Meeting, again, as they are allowed up to the Gallery once more.
Earl Benjamin of Oakwich delivers the assessment of the Ports Committee Mission: 90% of the docks are in need of minor or no repair, and the recommendation is to open Oakwich and Soggy Bottom immediately to approved laborers. The measure is passed. Mr. Gregson has the litany of the areas in need of the most repair.
The Council deliberates on the succession of the County of Westmill, as Dale Jr. was the last living heir. Gossip in the gallery indicates that the top tier of the Council, the Dukes and Earls, are jealous of their status.
The succession of Westmill is to be tabled, it is determined. However, since the state of emergency from the orc invasion is still a reality, the Council votes to assign the rule and rebuild of Westmill to a Stewardship, to be held by the Party Known to All as the Liberace!
It is noted that Cardinal Word was not in attendance at the Council Meeting. As he told the Party that was his primary mission in Fredhawk, this raises suspicion, and they travel up the crack in the wall to Highcourt Cathedral where they last saw him.
The Ducklings are still on guard duty in the front of the Cathedral, but they tell the Party that they have been ordered by the Cardinal to keep everyone out, including the Liberace.
After looking through a few outbuildings, the Party invisibly enters a back door of the Cathedral and descends the stairs, to the Secret Library.
As they descend, the telepathic presence of the Gazebo Terracore pressures the Party’s minds.
As they enter the Secret Library, protected within Feargus’ Arclight, they are shocked to discover the 8 attendant Monks to the Cardinal, dead, with their throats slit and only their feet sticking out of the Unholy Circle.
While discussing plans, Max imbues wine with a Most Holy Presence of Eleutherios, throwing it onto the Unholy Circle thrice; first, steam. Next, steam. Finally, the room rumbles, and the Unholy Circle disappears in a cloud of mist which fills the center of the Library.
The Party hears several sets of metal-clad feet tromping down the stairs from where they have just come…
The footsteps halt about 30 feet up: the voice of Huey, leader of the Paladins-Squire, calls down to “Sir Lans” ominously. He states that they were charged with keeping all trespassers out of the cathedral, and that they must eliminate any evidence that they failed their duty. He pleads with Lans to break with the rest of the Party and accompany them up the stairs.
Lans and Dash bolt up the spiral stairs, and are let behind the Duckling’s position. After some talking, the Party hears Lans yell, and Dash whimpering! They rush up, measuredly, as a fighting group, around the spiral, finding that Lans & Dash & the Ducklings are decidedly not there: the entire passage is filled with the giant face of Terracore and his monstrous claws!
Fergus takes point with Dorfinn aside and Gilbert & Stephen behind. Graena appears to faint at the sight of the unimaginable Gazebo, and falls back into Dr Dysko’s arms before he and Raesa determine she is not injured and then begin casting spells to assist.
The powerful, chitinous claw-arms snap and swing down toward the Party in the narrow stairs. Fergus and Dorfinn hack and maneuver as well as they can. Dr Dysko throws a substantial dose of paralysis powder into the demon’s maw, silencing its guttural gnashing (although it continues telepathically).
Minor wounds to Terracore immediately regenerate; the fighters are punched and pushed by the brutal claws.
Fergus is grappled, squeezed and lifted off the ground! The Party focuses on one of the claws, which lets go, leaving Fergus dangling upside down until the other dwarves rush in to help.
After a coordinated assault, Terracore…disappears!
Lans and Dash come running down the stairs through the space previously occupied by the Gazebo: he hurriedly explains that he felt drugged, and found himself in the dark in an identical staircase, but eventually realized he had simply been teleported.
The Party returns to the foyer outside the Secret Library to treat their wounds. Max has revived Graena, to no ill effect.
The Party ascends the stairs. In the open chamber underneath the Cathedral, they encounter a trio of Vgoks! Although Dysko’s Arrow of Flame bursts too close, and Max has a frightening moment, the Party dispatches the demons swiftly.
Finally having climbed back to the Cathedral, the Party notes the Ducklings are standing guard at the front.
The three lead Paladins-Squire are confused that the Party had flatly defied their guardianship of the Cathedral, but they align with the Party’s view once they’re told the Monks had been killed. These three enter Fergus’ Arclight and accept Blessings.
Max returns to the permanent Sacred Circle in the alcove toward the front, to the amusement of three Ducklings on that flank.
Four Ducklings from the opposite flank approach Fergus, and accept Blessings.
The Snarl above the Cathedral is now of miniscule size.
Some of the blessed Ducklings wander over to Max’s circle: Max is shocked to recognize them as duplicates of the first three! He reasons that they had to have been illusions of Terracore! He communes with the natural space, and is told that the demon “appears and disappears at will, in any form.”
The Party and the Ducklings descend the stairs to return to the Secret Library, where they discover the shelves and tables have been returned to their original positions, and the evil star and the dead monks are no longer on the floor.
From the middle of the library, the Party sees the giant form of Terracore moving in the dark of the foyer by the stairs…but they see the Gazebo twice, both ahead and behind them…
Terracore weakens the Party with blasphemous whispers; only Max and Fergus can remain standing under the onslaught. With the Party decimated, Terracore reveals itself, crashing onto Fergus from the ceiling!
Max throws his most Holy Wine onto Terracore; the Sacraments of Eleutherios overwhelm the demon’s defense, and Fergus is able to right himself and begin hacking into it. The rest of the Party regains strength as Terracore is cut down, and they regain their feet and help Fergus finish the dread Gazebo.
WANING HALF MOON