A few weeks after chasing away the vampire Ebahi, and well-rested in St. Orlan, they woke one morning to loud rapping on the door of their inn room. A youth in the robe of an apprentice scholar explained belligerently that they ought to come down to the common area promptly to meet the great sage Para, expert in demonology. The old man rose slowly from a stuffed armchair as they arrived, introducing himself and his student, Cahu (KAY-hoo). He explained his mission to assist them in the investigation of Tosasth at Lah’s request.
The party reluctantly took direction from the graybeard. Against him they counted his obnoxious companion and the dictatorial tone of Lah’s insistence that they finish off the vampire before visiting the city they understood to be overrun with demons. The youth Cahu hardly spend an hour without offering unbidden observations delivered in indignant tones. Yet, the old sage seemed nearly as kind and forgiving as Lah himself. And he offered some instruction and advice on the destruction of the vampire. Never can a vampire spend a day away from the earth of his initial burial lest he turn to dust himself. They agreed to return to the crypt to find his coffin.
Returning to the Crypt
By horse they rode the few miles to the ruined estate and graveyard next to the swamp. They knew of only two untried doors. Azrak detected a strong smell at the first, and on his rattling of the locked handle a voice beyond called out to them in greeting. Ferris unlocked the door. By incantation, Ghevont protected himself from evil and entered the room. Sitting in an elaborate coffin was an animate corpse in sailor garb. A crumpled, shriveled corpse in priestly vestments draped over a mahogany chest. A stronger wave of nausea pushed out of the room that all endured with no significant effect.
“Wait!” pleaded the corpse, “I am cursed! I am temporarily transformed into a vampire by the evil chief of this crypt! I can be cured!” Ghevont held his holy symbol before him and contemplated as the creature cowered. “A fellow man of the sea,” the creature attempted to bond with Aderian who still wore a shark-tooth necklace from his career as a pirate onboard the Crimson Disgrace. The ghast extended his lie, claiming Ebahi had somehow transformed him into a phony vampire which might be reversed by a priest.
Hearing this conversation from the entrance room, Para pushed past the party to declare the creature a foul ghast speaking lies. “Destroy it!” he commanded in a crackling voice. Aderian made toward the horror which errupted in violence, clawing him and freezing him in place. Before long, though, the ghast was cut down.
Tossing the other corpse aside, Azrak opened the chest to find sacks, a belt, a necklace and a suit of plate mail. He greedily grabbed the belt and necklace. He pulled the armor out to find it was of human size. Defying logic, he attempted to wear the suit over his existing suit of armor to escalating protests from his comrades. Eventually, they returned the armor to the chest.
Searching for the Coffin
Next, they examined all coffins previously seen which remained empty. Beyond the last unexplored door they found stairs down and a fine bedroom containing a bed, a wardrobe, a desk and shelves. Ghevont snatched a small jar left on the shelves containing unknown herbs. On the desk a letter addressed to “whom it may concern”, acknowledged the readers were likely to be the raiders. It revealed the location of the vampire’s coffin and offered a deed to a farm near St. Orlan. The letter was signed by Jonamor.
Indeed, they found the secret panel where the vampire kept his coffin, but the chamber was empty. Clearly the vampire removed it in the preceding weeks. With nothing more to do, they returned to the horses to go on towards Tosasth.
The Warnings at the Sod Cabin
Before long, the path through the hills joined with a more substantial road, one that must have served well in years past but now overgrown. Ferris trotted his horse down to examine wooden signs facing south. Crude writing warned “danjur”, “go back” and “bewayr uv dragon”. To the north of the road, a path led up a hill circled with high brush. The roof of a cabin poked above the brushline.
Carefully exploring the path, they found a narrow passage between the brush framed in wood and decorated with dwarven runes. Azrak recognized them as holy symbols. He walked through the gate and called out. “That’s far enough!” came a voice from inside. “I’m a dwarf, too,” declared Azrak. Out came a dwarf wearing a short, wiry beard. His one green eye studied Azrak keenly, the other being covered in a patch.
He invited the party to take shelter with him for the night and offered his personal history plus a warning of a white dragon living high in the mountains nearby.
Dacha came to the area with a company of dwarves half a century before. They dug a mine in a nearby mountain, a mile down the road to Tosasth. Not long after operating the mine it was overrun by demons and undead. All of his companions were killed. He retreated to this sod cabin where he protects himself with traps in the brush and the dwarven holy symbols on the gate they he remembered from childhood.
They stated their intent to rid the area of demons and undead, to which Dacha confessed he’d welcome if only they could accomplish such a feat. He told how more undead had come through lately, and at times the white dragon descended to cause trouble. An underground area allowed him to retreat when the dragon appeared.
The next day, they set off again on the road to Tosasth.
Danger at a Ruined Estate
Presently, they came to the cutoff to Dacha’s mine. The entrance they found sealed with timbers engraved with dwarven runes. Reasoning that no evil had escaped the mine recently, they conclude it was best to leave it alone. To the road they returned and continued the journey.
Next, they came to a walled estate similar to the one they found previously. As before, a 15 foot wall encircled a yard, a barn and a small manor. Suddenly, a zombie shuffled around the corner of the wall, but it was quickly cut down.
Ghevont peered through the gate and spied six more zombies on their hands and knees digging in a garden of a low-growing vine bearing purple fruit. They concocted a easy plan of disposal: start a fire at the gate and attract the zombies. Mindless zombies walk unheeded through any obstacle. These zombie farmers behaved as expected, stumbling through the raging fire, quickly consumed with little trouble.
Stepping through the gate, Ghevont examined the fruit. When crushed, it spewed blood-like goo filled with white seeds. Para examined the fruit and recognized it as confirming a theory of how zombies infested this area: fruit that turned humans into zombies. He warned them away from contact with the evil fruit.
The Barn and the Manor
Next, they examined the stone barn. Inside was a pile of seed and pile of rotting hay. A small bone protruded from the pile of hay. Azrak cautiously knocked the bone loose with his hammer. That revealed more of a skeleton. Ferris warned Azrak away from the rotting hay, but he continued to spread the hay and bones around. The rest of them backed away. Unseen by Azrak, a rot grub leapt to his arm and burrowed under his flesh.
Turning to the manor, Azrak ended any debate by kicking open the front door, interrupting six wraiths in the midst of an argument. They swiftly flew at the party. Their icy touches drained the very life from Aderian, Azrak, Ferris and even Ghevont. The incorporeal spirits treats the walls of the manor as no barrier as they surged at the party. Despite the heavy weight of despair, the party fought on, desperate to survive. Although, notably, Azrak momentarily panicked, backing away rather than fighting.
Beneath the blades of Ferris and Aderian, the Wraiths began to fall. Magic missiles flew from Tienarth’s fingers, and then he maneuvered to arrange the path of a lightning bolt. Azrak moved aside and arcane electricity ripped across the yard, dissipating the one wraith, then striking another which fell. The lightning angled to the right and travelled along the wall to hit a third wraith, a lucky turn of fate. A final blow of a sword sent the last wraith to oblivion.
Immediately, Azrak cried out, clutching his chest. Again, Ferris offered his theory of rot grub infection and as a precaution, Ghevont brought forth his staff of healing to rid Azrak of disease. The pain in his chest subsided. Ferris scolded Azrak for rooting around in rotting hay.
Meanwhile, Ghevont’s temper unleashed itself upon the old man, Para. His mighty warrior’s hand struck the frail sage, sprawling him in the dirt and knocking him out old. Cahu gasped.
Before turning around, perhaps having to return to Slateholm to remove the weight of the wraith touches, Ghevont opened all doors in the manor finding a kitchen, a study, a bedroom and a privy. Most of the books in the study were water-damaged. Tienarth produced his wand of treasure-finding which lit up a particular book that escaped water damage. It was a wizard’s spellbook, a discovery of particular delight.
- Loot found in a mahogany chest:
- sack of 4,200cp, sack of 1,700cp,
- a leather belt with a silver buckle shaped like a fish worth 700gp,
- a silver necklace with diamonds worth 900gp,
- suit of human-sized plate mail including solid breastplate engraved with lion’s head.
- Previous loot examined: three small coffers (3,000cp, 1,900sp, 1,400ep), Scroll of Protection from Lycanthropes, Scroll of Protection from Elementals, three unidentified potions.
- Also found in the crypt: a deed to a farm near St. Orlan.
- Loot found in the ruined manor: a spellbook titled Draiocht Phainu.
- Characters present: Tienart/Tre, Ghevont/Jeff, Aderian/Jason, Ferris/Henry, Azrak/Nick, Para/NPC, Cahu/NPC, Dacha/NPC.
- Virtues: none
- Vices: greed on the part of Azrak for grabbing treasure, lack of patience by Azrak in kicking open the door, wrath on the part of Ghevont regarding the sage