The party visits Magnificent Trevor’s shop in town.
The envoy got a tour of the opulent palace, where the party met a few members of the Duchy’s court and learned that the Duke had died nearly a month ago.
That evening, the envoy attended a banquet, during which one of the guests attempted to assassinate the Duchess
One of her entourage, a bearded man to her left, caught the assassin’s crossbow bolt in mid-air
Her right-hand man, Miriam (yes, he’s a man), brushed it off to the rest of those in attendance with an apology as the would-be assassin was forcibly removed.
The party learned during the banquet that assassination attempts withing the Gold Duchies are not unheard of, and that the Duchess is currently dodging these attempts from neighboring Dukes, as well as Lords within Wuunder.
They also learned the Duke had been assassinated
After the banquette, the envoy met with the Duchess in private, including the party’s presentation of Kelvin’s body
The party chose to keep the presented body’s identity a secret from the rest of the envoy and others in attendance, opting to provide a note and a key to the casket.
The Duchess read the letter, burned it, and dismissed them. The party returned to their rooms (Jenny in her own room).
The party retired to a balcony and began to discuss their next actions:
Bee wanted to go to Valcoria to find his attempted assassin
Thomas wanted to go to the Freelands to return the body of Thomas (the original)
As the group tried to convince the Dwarf that his chances of finding the assassin were slim, they were interrupted by a surprise 5th member of the conversation
They turned and were surprised to discover Miriam standing behind them (he was not heard, seen, or smelled approaching).
He asked them to join him at a private meeting with the Duchess.
They agreed and accompanied him (sans Jenny) to the catacombs. They noted that Miriam moved with amazing grace and silence
In the catacombs, they encountered the Duchess and her quick-handed manservant in a private alcove, where Kelvin’s casket lay open
The Duchess asked about their experiences with Kelvin. Thomas and Newton answered entirely honestly, only omitting details they forgot.
The Duchess asked about Kelvin’s behavior near the end, and as many details about the other realm as they could remember.
Thomas and Newton got the impression, from her behavior, that she was reading their minds through all of this.
After their story, the Duchess requested a favor of them: in exchange for their help, she would open her talks with the diplomats from Peloria to achieve an alliance.
She explained that her husband, the Duke, was assassinated by Morrick Oxylut, a fearsome killer and object of a cult’s worship.
She requested that the party find and return a signet ring that Morrick stole during the assassination.
The party agreed to get the ring, and Miriam gave them some cult members’ names as leads, and informed them that this cannot be tied to the Duchess, as it could cause trouble.
Afterward, the Dwarf got drunk and the party got some sleep.
The next day, the party found some information on the cult and one of its members:
Thomas and Bert investigated Yuri Corbin’s blacksmith shop, then met with him to see what they could learn
After some friend-making, they got Yuri to provide an introduction to his master (the following evening). He gave Thomas a human finger bone.
Bee got Thomas to wear a rare and pungent flower to the location so he and Newton could follow from a distance (track)
The next evening, Yuri blindfolded the two and took them on a long ride on a carriage. Thomas inferred they were heading North to the Shaded Valley.
Newton and the Dwarf followed on horseback and foot respectively, catching up with them as they were making some strange chant in front of a cliff face. Bert understood most of the words, which seemed to be just some gibberish about darkness, bones, death, and the summoning of Morrick Oxylut.
After some time, a thin, black archway appeared in the cliff face, and out stepped a bearded man.
The man asked for the new men’s names (they lied) and asked their purpose (to meet and worship him)
He allowed them to enter his realm to see if they are worthy of his attention, then disappeared into the black archway.
Yuri removed the blindfolds and told them to enter
At the opening of the archway, Bert and Thomas heard maddening whispers meant to scare them away. They withstood the fear, and entered.
Inside, the whispers turned to deafening screams and shouts. The darkness here couldn’t even be pierced by Thomas’s darkvision.
They stumbled through, enduring the fearsome babblings, falling into a square room beyond the short hallway.
In the meantime, Bee and Newton attacked the cultists, scattering most, but killing or disabling a few. The disabled ones were bound outside the archway
Thomas and Bert strike a torch in this new square room, just as the doorway behind them seals.
They find several paintings, each one depicting a shadowy scene:
The way they came looked like a shadowed Wuunder
To their right, a black, sinister temple
To their left, a mighty city within a massive cavern
In front, a bearded man holding a blob of darkness in his right hand and a dagger in his left.
Above the final picture is an inscription that Bert read saying “Darkness will Reveal the Being of Darkness"
The Dwarf and Newton then set to following the others through the black doorway
Newton cast “daylight” on his flaming longsword, and the Dwarf entered a rage to overcome his fear of the doorway.
They barreled in (the daylight having zero effect in the magical darkness), and ran into the closed door at the end of the hall
Bert and Thomas decided to extinguish the torch to reveal the darkness. This time, Thomas was able to see the paintings with his darkvision. Furthermore, they were moving!
They heard loud pounding on the door behind them, created (as they later discovered) by the Dwarf smashing the powerful door.
The man in the forward picture eventually revealed that the blob of darkness in his hand was a lock to a door.
Thomas attempted to pick it, failing the first time.
As Dwarf succumbed to the screams and wails, Newton attempted to shatter the door, but couldn’t concentrate. It looked bad for them, as they were doomed to madness
Thomas tried again, this time successfully, opening both the door in front, as well as the original one behind.
Newton and the Dwarf fell through. Newton’s daylight spell was still suppressed.
Thomas and Bert continued into the next room. Thomas froze in fear, faced by something only he could see in the darkness.
As Bert attempted to snap him out of it, Newton’s daylight spell returned, revealing the object of Thomas’s terror: a writhing, pulsing mass of putrecent body parts moving with a will of its own.
The monstrosity surged at the group as Bert did what he could to inspire courage in his comrades.
Thomas and Newton backed to the wall in terror as the Dwarf valiantly, yet ineffectually attacked it. It was immune to physical damage!
The creature rolled over the dwarf, but continued past to the cowering members, and the flaming/daylight sword that Newton dropped in his terror.
The party fled further into the creatures cavern, as it became clear it was absorbed in attacking the sword above all else.
The Dwarf managed to deal damage with a faerie fire spell in his magic ring
The creature destroyed the sword, and turned to all the party members still within the light of the faerie fire.
Newton’s turning attempted proved fruitless, though he was certain it was undead.
The party fought deeper into the cavern until entirely obscured in the darkness. Only then did the horrid conglomeration end its ruthless attacks.
Thomas unlocks the door at the other end of the cavern, as the rest of the party considers the consequences of this monster still lurking nearby in the darkness…
Chalmers and John argue for a short time, but the conversation is hard to hear
It’s clear that Chalmers and the other company of rangers were ordered to “deal” with the Dwarf
Captain John formulates a plan to get Bee to safety during the raid on the orcs, when the others are distracted.
John is convinced that Commander Locke is trying to kill the Dwarf for his own reasons, rather than the Dwarf’s crimes
The party travels across the river they found before, now with the other rangers (though Corporal Marcus Terennis returns to Fericault City to acquire the bodies of the old heroes, under John’s orders)
Two more giant boars are encountered, killing one of the rangers.
The entire raiding group finds the orc encampment
The decision is to light it on fire and let the orcs come out.
Most of the rangers take up station at the main entrance, and the party covers the smaller rear entrance
The party leads Chalmers to believe they would meet up at the end of the fight. It’s clear now the other rangers intend to kill the Dwarf before returning to the Commander
The fight ensues!
Most of the combatant orcs leave via the main entrance, though some stream out the rear
The party kills a few as they try to escape
They realize most of these orcs are non-combatants (including children)
Several warriors are either killed or wounded (along with a few non-combatants)
One orc tries to save a fallen baby and is struck down
The orc sharpshooters and the leader (a one-eyed orc with a double-axe) escape after blinding and nearly killing Captain John
The orc holding the baby says to the party (understood only by Bert) “Go fucking make youse-selves useful!” and then throws a small, white arrow at them before collapsing.
Thomas grabs the arrow and joins the group as they flee the scene
John sends the remaining ranger (Sergeant Doug Palmer) back to Fericault City
John leads the party through the woods to a small cottage
The tenants take care of the group until the morning
The next day, Sergeant Palmer arrives with a horse and cart to take the party to Roche
While riding along, Bee notices the smell of flowers once again
He identifies the small, white arrow as the source
The group speculates on the meaning of this, but draw no conclusions
Bertrum places the arrow in his handy haversack
Captain John gets off in a small town near Fericault City, saying he needs to investigate some things further before joining them.
He instructs the party to find Major Tanya Moreau as she’ll keep them safe until he and his loyal friends can help them
The party arrives in Roche without incident and find the Major in the the main temple
She reads the note from John and invites the party to her mansion
She’s introduced as Lady Moreau by her butler (Jenkins) and the group fills her in on many of the details (though not the detail about the Dwarf turning into a bear)
Jenkins reveals to Thomas that the potion he helped make to break illithid enchantments (the Tallwater-Waynerite Anti-Enchantment Brew he helpd Gordon Tallwater create) has been nominated by the International Alchemists Guild for a major award
Lady Moreau makes a rather transparent pass at Bert, but he tells her he’s married.
The party stays at her mansion for the night, after sending a note to Brigadier General Strongheart setting up a meeting for the following day
The next day, the party (except for the Dwarf) go out on the town to visit the magic shop and other such activities