Ferros and Cafaror set off for the Master’s house with Elysia, Zanurax and Relic in their wake. At the house, they knocked on the door whilst Zanurax was flown up to the roof by Relic where a loose skylight looked like an easier way of getting in.
Having a six-inch high thief in the party is proving to be a great advantage - especially as they've now hit on the idea of having him fly on the back of a pseudo-dragon. Admittedly, he can't do things like open doors (unless he makes a Climb Walls roll) but if there's an open drain or a cat flap about...
Ferros and Cafaror were shown in and conducted into a dining room with three place settings. As they sat down, a tall and handsome man in black entered and sat down at the head of the table. Dinner was served but he ate nothing. Ferros and Cafaror however tucked in with great gusto.
Their host began by asking them why they were so interested in his doings. After all, they had come to his house the previous day and had asked him for an appointment. They responded by accusing him of spying on the tavern and behaving in a furtive way. He confessed that he had indeed been watching the tavern but it was rather presumptuous of them to assume that his interest was in them specifically. The tavern was a known haunt of adventurers and he was looking for brave individuals to carry out a mission he had.
That piqued their interest and they indicated that they were very interested in missions – what did he have in mind? Before long, he had got out of them the number of people in the party and their classes. All he yielded in return was his name – The Third.
I was not wholly surprised that the players had volunteered so much information so easily - they're still young and haven't learned that paranoia can keep you alive longer. Perhaps a few sessions of Call of Cthulhu might drive that lesson home?
Meanwhile, Zanurax had gained entry through the skylight to an attic where various packing boxes were stored and, more significantly, four mirrors stacked against a wall. They were in frames, and had holes drilled in each corner, as if they might have been mounted on walls. Being able to go no further (the door handle was far too high for him to reach) Zanurax climbed up the packing cases and was hauled up out of the attic by Relic’s tail.
The two investigators joined Elysia in the courtyard, where they conferred. Elysia had been suspicious since first encountering the shadowy figure and her suspicions were further strengthened by the fact that the Master had set the appointment for the hours of darkness. Now, for her, the final pieces of the puzzle fell into place.
After an hour or so, Ferros and Cafaror emerged from the house to announce that they had arranged a meeting for the entire party the evening after the auction, which was set for the next day. As they made their way back to the tavern, Elysia revealed that they were dealing with no ordinary opponent; they were up against a vampire.
Rather than turn in, the party headed for the town archives, where Elysia used her connections to gain entry and go through the scrolls and librams, trying to find information on vampires. There was much to be found, but most of it was listed under folklore and legend, since encounters with the fanged undead were rare indeed.
Having armed themselves with that knowledge, the team headed back to the tavern and bed.
The next morning, the day of the auction, the party headed for the hotel where the sale was to take place. Meanwhile, at the town guard house, Alurax and Galzor were still in the cells. A member of the Town Council of Elders had turned up, owing to their connection with that august body and had announced that, for a fine of 250 gold pieces, they could be released. Amazingly enough, both refused to pay and were sent back to the cells again.
This came as a surprise to me, especially as I'd arranged it as a Get out of Jail (Relatively) Free card for them. Perhaps they thought they'd be safer behind bars. As it turned out, that might have been a wise assumption. But I'm getting ahead of myself...
As the party neared the hotel, they could hear something odd and unexpected – the sound of fighting. Arriving at the building, they found that a battle royale was going on outside – about twenty men engaged in a brawl, using fists, feet and what appeared to be nunchuks. Olaf the dwarf (yes, he has a name now) pitched in to try and help, without really being aware of what side he should be helping, whilst the rest of the party heard screams and calls for help coming from at least two windows, one upstairs and one on the ground floor. Olaf recognised the voice from upstairs as that of a dwarf and broke off from his involvement in the street fighting to race inside.
Two of the attacking party had managed to make it into the foyer but Elysia slept them both, then tied them up and locked them in a cupboard. Once that was done, the party split (yes, again!) with Elysia, Ferros and Cafaror heading towards the screams on the ground floor and Olaf heading upstairs to find out what was going on.
At the end of a corridor, Elysia’s band burst into a suite of rooms to find several people cowering in a corner as three large snakes slithered towards them.
Two people lay on the floor, apparently dead from bites. Magic missiles fired at the serpents and they broke off to attack the newcomers instead. Elysia cast Stinking Cloud on two of the snakes and was bitten by the third, collapsing into a poisoned coma. Ferros and Cafaror waited for the cloud to dissipate and then hacked the incapacitated snakes to death before they could recover.
Meanwhile, Olaf had followed the noise of fighting and burst in to an upstairs room to find a man with a sword and an axe-wielding dwarf (is there another kind?) grappling with two constricting snakes. As he leapt in to help, another snake came in through the window and started to attack him. There were several desperate moments, but eventually Olaf managed to kill his snake (a d30 roll came in handy at this point) and joined with his fellow dwarf to hack the other two. The swordsman was not so lucky and was barely alive when they managed to rescue him.
At this point, Galzor and Alurax turned up, having been persuaded of their error by Elador, who had arrived at the prison in high dudgeon with stern words and a persuasive manner (and some frosty looks from Mummy Grognard). They found the town guard all over the hotel, having put the attackers in the street to flight. Elysia was healed by Ferros and Galzor gave Olaf some healing magic.
The two men locked in a cupboard had tried to kick their way out but Elysia was on hand with her dagger and kept them under control until the town guard grabbed them and dragged them off. She had asked them who they were and what they were doing but all they told her was that they were trying to bring the tyrant to justice and punish him for oppressing the people.
The party staggered into the bar and ordered drinks. Olaf’s fellow dwarf turned out to be called Thorgrim and he worked for the man with the sword. He bought Olaf a huge tankard of dwarf ale and got into conversation with him.
Elysia, Ferros and Cafaror were not privy to the conversation as they had been called away to receive the gratitude of the man they had saved through the killing of the snakes – a man who they now learned was a Prince.
Prince Assaris of Kharizal, a land far to the south-east, definitely somewhere warm and exotic by his raiment and colouration, thanked the three adventurers profusely and assured them that if they were ever to visit his country, they would be accorded the status of honoured guests. It was his bodyguards who were involved in the fighting in the street outside, defending him against what he called “dogs and vermin”. The party had already marked this down as ‘political’ and didn’t really want to pursue it any further. However, they did mention vampires to the Prince, who laughed and dismissed the subject as ‘fairy tales’. They also asked about powerful magicians, remembering that they needed one to restore Adthar to flesh so that his curse could be removed, but the Prince merely told them that such sorcerers were rare in his kingdom, secretive and not keen on strangers.
Olaf, in the meantime, had been asked by Thorgrim if he was looking for work that involved the wilderness, danger and killing animals. Olaf said he was and Thorgrim said he had such work and that Olaf should contact him.
Being aware of the fact that vampires tend to rest during the daylight hours, the party decided that their next port of call should be the Third’s house and the next morning, they headed there. Alurax and Olaf climbed the outside wall and made it to the skylight, where they soon gained entry. Beyond the attic door was a landing down which the two slowly made their way. It was only as they arrived at the ground floor that they heard a door opening and the sound of footsteps. Olaf waited until another door opened and closed, then scurried up to it and opened it, whilst Alurax headed for the front door to unlock it and let the rest of the party in.
Olaf was confronted by a dining room and a man in black heading for him with a carving knife. A brief scuffle ended with the man dead on the floor with an axe wound. Another man appeared at the far end of the hallway and was shot dead by Alurax and Galzor. As the party flooded into the house, a third man was seen darting through a doorway and Olaf and Ferros followed him down into a cellar. There, in the middle of the floor was a large metal-bound chest, easily the size of a man. It had several brass fittings but behind it stood the third servant, brandishing a sword. He was swiftly killed and the search of the house could begin.
Nothing of consequence was found elsewhere and the party gathered in the cellar to examine the chest. It bore the emblem of a triangle and had what appeared to be four heavy brass lock and bolt fittings which were clearly keeping it shut. Below the locks was a small dial which, as the party examined it, could be heard to be ticking slowly. It was counting down and it was pretty obvious what it was counting down toward.
The party searched the bodies of the three men that they had killed and around each neck was a single key on a chain. It was clear that the keys fitted three of the four locks but even as the party was wondering where the fourth key was, the door to the cellar slammed shut. There was the sound of a lock being turned and bolts being thrown. The party was trapped in the cellar with the coffin of a vampire – and a countdown to his emergence.
Another cracking session (the 20th, in fact) with me running with the plot as it emerged from the choices that the players made. Nobody had the faintest idea where we were going when the session started. In fact, as I remarked later, this whole plot thread resulted from the choice that Cafaror made at the Moat House to skin the giant lizard that Alurax had killed. I had very little pre-planned before the auction storyline started - only that it would take place and the bidders who had turned up to try and get their hands on the skin. Everything else that happened last session and this was improvised and flowed naturally with local colour and detail supplied when it was needed. The plot hooks that have been seeded in this session may bear fruit - or they may not. Depending on which way the party choose, we could be in for some interesting times in the weeks to come. That assumes they get out of the cellar, of course.