It is the 16th of the Month of Fire, typically one of the hottest days of the year, although today is unnaturally cold.
A Fog Flows Through Griffton
At the bottom of the hole in the center of town, Mirr unties Sentinel and sees four tunnels leading off. They appear to be analogous in direction to ground level paths that lead in cardinal directions. There are graves dug out in all tunnels. Fog rises out and Aven lights the hole for a better view, while Mirr & Sentinel make their way up. “There was another like you,” remarks Mirr referring to Sentinel. “Wearing wizard robes, it teleported, made rusty sounds, with scraps of metal skin falling off.”
While chatting, Durri and four town Guardsmen carrying stretchers pass by. Bork & Fraas notice one of the supposedly dead guardsmen making a fist. Quickly, Bork runs and tackles one gurney. The corpses have become Wights! Sentinel pummels, Fraas disrupts, Durri hammers, a Wight drops two of the guards. Fraas attempts to Halt undead, while Shah makes a harrowing leap onto the giant statue, flinging arrows Wight-ward. Bork slays one, Aven and Shah each cap another. Mirr casts burning hands, immolating the corpses of the remaining undead guards, killing one and leaving one badly hurt, to whom Durri hammers the final death.
More fog creeps in, however unlike a normal fog bank, this contains a suspicious and inconsistent stream of fog moving into tavern. Bork runs into tavern to warn Archibald, Aven right behind. A strange low lying, amorphous magical fog disc heads toward the storeroom. Sentinel charges at it. No effect. It passes right through Bork, chilly, moving into storeroom. A pair of horse-sized direwolves resolve from the mysterious fog. Mirr slashes at one, nicking it with dragon claws as they leap through the portal, the scratched wound quickly healing. Bork snatches Zinn’s longsword and leaps into the portal. Inside he sees the wolves moving away steadily and fast. Aven, Zinn & Sentinel follow. Eventually, as the beasts’ pace is too much for the trio and only Aven continues on to track the direction of the wolves.
Fraas sits down to the bar and orders a strong drink. Bork returns from the storeroom, props up on a stool and joins Fraas. Sigmund, Ned and Joffrey (the remaining city guardsmen) take leave to go guard the wall even though Ned has a bad “flu,” and has been spending his time recuperating in Quinnla’s temple. Sentinel returns and makes rounds in town, warning villagers to stay indoors. Durri is visibly overwhelmed. Shah leaves to visit city hall in order to go “comfort” the magistrate.
That night, the group take watches in the town square. During second watch, irregular knocking is heard from the infirmary. Everyone else is woken, except Fraas who necessarily needs to recover his spell casting strength. Bork barrels into the temple and immediately encounters a zombie. Shah shoots an arrow at it and zombie bursts into a noxious cloud of gas. Bork barely manages to hold his breath and his stomach contents. Inside, the temple is a wreck. Smeared in blood on the floor “W O L ~~”. Quinnla’s holy symbol is still there, but the donation jars are smashed. The group looks carefully around, finding a single set of armored footprints and claw marks focused on Rand’s cot. Wearily, they return outside to finish their watches and rest up. It appears that the undead they are facing are not following “the rules.”
The Prodigal Ironborn
The next morning the group makes haste to explore the hole in the center of town. As they begin to descend, they hear rusty creaking, and a figure much like Sentinel emerges and requests private congress with Sentinel. Cautiously, Sentinel crawls down, with an invisible Mirr floating nearby for backup and an extra pair of ears. After a short while, Sentinel and Mirr return to ground level. Sentinel begins recanting the history of the iron-born.
They were mage-built as slaves with a hard-coded pleasure-response for pleasing their masters. After a great war, they were repurposed as tools of industry in the State of Aine. It was then that Sentinel was rented out as a scout to a ship with some of his brethren. One day aboard that ship, he had a strange feeling that his Maker was gone. Five of the other iron born and Sentinel were caught in shock, the others jumping into the water in apparent suicide. In truth, they had returned home to war, as the master was calling them, Sentinel apparently not getting the message. Now they want Sentinel’s head. The rustworn (and apparently undead) ironborn already had three heads. Mirr interjects, revealing that the speck within Sentinel’s head also has undead properties. “Rust” has claimed he will return for Sentinel’s head. The group is abuzz with discussion of Lichs’ phylacteries and the strange markings of Sentinel’s “factory stamp.”
The group makes their way down into the pit first in the direction toward the tavern. They find a mausoleum containing a wand of enlargement, some coins and gems and luckily no direct connection to the tavern. Next they take the path toward the temple, where they find a human size figure sitting cross-legged on the floor, meditating. An invisible Mirr scouts ahead along the ceiling and reports back, “an elf in monk’s robes.” Sentinel approaches and finds the elf to be his long-lost master, Varian, in a state of beatitude: “Sentinel! You found me!” The elf glows undead, but also very good and is pleased to see us all together.
“The Heart of this place is troubled.” “A whisper of a voice in nature said I would meet Sentinel here. I did.” “The fog is a symptom of the mote itself, like a dog trying to shake off a flea. A sick animal trying to heal itself.” He tells the gang of his dream of a rusty ironborn. Of Druids possessed by madness, like cold, undead rising of their own accord. Inquiringly, Fraas tries to hand him a map of the tunnels, but it passes right through his hand, causing great confusion in the elf’s face. Sentinel tries to touch him and cannot. It is then that he sees a recent corpse in the corner, meditative, its head splattered on the wall. Zinn recovers a note from the corpse’s magical bowl, which is handed to Sentinel. Sentinel is displeased, as the note is seemingly a taunt from Rust, describing the weakness of Varian’s flesh as he slew “it,” and how “its” bones snapped like brittle twigs beneath his boot.
The elven monk disappears into field of sparkling light.
Following down the third unlit passageway the group only finds flakes of rust. However, down the final pathway they come upon a glowing door. Inside, carved into a circular room are benchseats, each with rotten rope-corded cushions and across the room, another shimmering door. Runes are carved into archways above the doors, the one they entered reading “Tomb of the Protectors”, the other “Crossroads.”
There are images carved into the wall, a speared dragon, griffons, and in the center of the room a bright metal basin, filled with glowing warm magical liquid possessing a scrying and healing effect. Scrying within the fluid the group cannot find Jack, but can peer Archibald at the bar. When they attempt to scry Rand, all they see is dense darkness, two figures standing in front, a faintly moving red light and Rand occasionally looking down. A figure who seems to be Tahgen walks up, and the group realizes the other two figures are the other griffon riders. The pool’s warmth begins fading, so the group quickly attempts to scry Quinnla and all they see is her looking up at a pair of armored legs.
Guessing correctly that the Crossroads refers to the same underground crossroads from Archibald’s storeroom, they head off quickly toward the lodge, resolved to find Tahgen. When they reach the lodge, they only find sprays of blood, bits of furs, the chess set toppled, and back door left wide open. Two sets of wolf tracks lead in, three lead out and no griffons can be seen. Outside, they find two disturbed graves, two shovels and many footprints, with tracks leading south. From overhead they suddenly hear a Griffon calling out, with Gfed translating, “BIG! DEAD! HIDE!” Everyone quickly runs inside to hide and from afar they see a giant skulled figure above the tree line, carrying a large morningstar and moving northward. After the coast is clear, Gfed begins inquiries to the Griffon. “Became wolves. Carried away. Many flaps into old grave mountain. We fly. You fly.” The Griffon makes a series of squawks and horde of Griffon approach making gestures that they are willingly providing their backs for flight. One Griffon takes a look at Sentinel, “You heavy,” squawks loudly, and another bigger Griffon alights.
A Change For The Thirst
The party flies on Griffonback for nearly thirty miles. From high up, no front to the blight can be seen as it has apparently encroached the entire mote. All foggy, all dead.
They finally land at the base of a mountain. Seeing fresh wolf tracks, a griffon bends down and sniffs, “dead bad rotten. Not eat.” They reach a set of large stone doors with the inscription, “Here lies the great founder of Scimitar Rock.” What lay before the group is the path to Thellan’s Cairn.
The doors are marred with scraping marks and signs of being recently opened. As they enter, they see a winding, narrow path with a sharp, abyssal drop off. At the end they can barely see two figures standing guard of Thellan’s sarcophagus. Heedful of this, Zinn and Sentinel are cast with enlargement. Immediately, a large direbat swoops in front of the group and transforms into Rand! “Friends, there is no need for this.” A quick scan shows that Rand is now undead and not good and perhaps the obvious would imply that he is now a vampire.
When asked about the lodge, he says that Tahgen is here, and that Quinnla had seen the blood in him and torn open his throat, Rand himself similarly seeing the blood in Quinnla prior. Thellan, a long-decayed skeletal champion with red eyes blazing, can be seen pacing behind his sarcophagus. Rand calls him forward and he moves like an armored berzerker, blade-arms swinging wildly, but skillfully, and he halts at Rand’s prompt command. He then calls both Quinnla and Tahgen, at which point two other large direbats swoop down and take their humanoid forms. Tahgen looks thirsty. Bork attempts to return Quinnla’s holy symbol, but it burns her fiercely and she tosses it into the pit. The group is aghast at what is before them, although Rand does not show any fear or discourtesy as he interlaces their conversation with vague threats against Jackmerius. This is first time Rand has been conscious since the group became aware of his parentage, and they take the opportunity to reveal his sire as Zidane, at which Rand’s interest is piqued. Though, having about as much as they can take, the group carefully takes their leave and returns to the Griffons waiting outside.
After the shock settles, they make a panicked flight to Jack’s tower. After landing and quickly killing a few milling undead, they hurry into Jack’s and up the rope into his secret chambers. Upon meeting Mirr, Jack is easily distracted, showing him some tricks, firetongue, Drowspeak… The group asks Jack why he could not be scried, to which Jackmerius nonchalantly replied, “Oh, that doesn’t work on me.” Regaining focus, the group catches him up on the wights, Thellan and the vampires, informing him of Rand’s vague threats. Jack immediately and frantically starts packing, enshrouds himself with a wreath of garlic (tossing the group a bulb or two in the process). Hastily shouting, “Zinn, I bequeath my tower to you. Best of luck. See you!” And with a toss of the tower’s keyring, he is gone.
Rattled, the group fly on the griffons back into town. During the flight the griffons are asked if they will help protect the town, “No. We hide.” From above they see that Lord Garland’s emissary is perched on the town wall with two guards. The party lands in town and approaches Galarion, who states that the same thing is happening in Belheim. With him, the group are introduced to Daeron and Elir, who are wearing stone necklaces with green admatite emblems of dragons and claim to handle undead very well. The adventurers make a point not to tell him about their recent vampire encounters. The group is given the promised scrolls for regeneration, raising the dead and restoration, although with Quinnla turned, their trusted clerical resources are few.
Durri comes to find the group and he is filled in on the situation with the vampires, “and Rand now commands Thellan.”