(recap written by Erin, the player of Janeva, with much and many thanks from her GM)
Since there’s nothing like a good interrogation to get the blood pumping, that’s how Red Team started off the evening. As soon as the captive was questioned, however, he bit down on a poison capsule and the the race was on to gain information in classic skill challenge fashion. The interrogation commenced and the party was able to learn that nobody in the group of henchmen had actually seen Treymane. They were originally 12 men, all from the Greenbelt north of Redwall. They had been paid through a masked intermediary to wear an armband with Treymane’s symbol (a golden seated lion with one paw holding a shield embroidered on a red background) and wreak havoc on the area, all the while screaming Treymane’s name. They were to split into two groups of six, perform their task, and disappear, never to meet up again. This was the last piece of information garnered before the captive bowman succumbed to the poison. Kalak and Orranis attempted to pry into his mind to try to get additional information but he was shielded by strong magical wards to prevent just such an intrusion. Whoever was behind all this had indeed covered their tracks well.
Kalak was able to determine that the poison used was called Blackbark. In small, unrefined quantities, it served as an analgesic; in larger doses, a hallucinogenic drug. The amount of money and resources required to refine the blackbark into a strong enough potency to kill as a neurotoxin was immense. There are only two assassin guilds with enough money for such an undertaking, one of which is the Red Scales, the guild from which Merrick escaped. From the bodies the party looted two black velvet bags, each containing 100 gold in trader rolls fresh from the mint.
As the party set forth for Duponde, ominous rain clouds began to roll in, starting with intermittent gentle showers and transitioning into a non-stop torrential downpour. The weather persisted with mostly heavy rain for the next 3 days as the party made their way to the town at the only river crossing for days in either direction.
“We’ll be sick by the time we get there!” ~ Janeva
“Nah, I have a +10 to Chicken Soup.” ~ Wattain
Upon arrival, wet, miserable, cold, and muddy, the group was ushered quickly into the town and pointed toward the inn, the Old Owl, by a guard who was fighting a hacking cough. Duponde was full of dilapidated houses surrounded by a 12 foot stone wall that was crumbling in multiple locations. General disrepair seemed to be the status quo. The city was busier than usual and the party soon found out the reason; the bridge leading east across the river, the direction they needed to go, had been washed out from the flooding river. They found the inn, run by innkeeper Tilda Greenfield, and were finally able to get warm, clean, and have a hot meal to fill their aching bellies.
As dinner was concluded the hour had grown late and the only patrons of the inn were themselves, Tilda, the grey-bearded barkeep, a trio of dwarves, a dwarven guard in a brown cloak, and a young scholar in dark robes with his servant. The rain continued to pound on the roof and the wind howled eerily through the rafters.
“Tonight is a night of ghosts,” Tilda almost whispered as the sound of the wind chilled her to her core.
“Is it the ghost of Evard?” the young scholar asked.
Kalak’s ears perked up at the mention of Evard. He told the group what he knew of the old wizard. Evard was a famous wizard of shadow magic who lived and died decades ago. He had a powerful enemy, a wizard named Mordenkainen, who, in some circles, was rumored to have killed him. Evard was known to most scholars of the arcane for his most powerful spell, aptly named, Evard’s Black Tentacles. Supposedly, Evard was buried in Duponde as that is where his tomb lies. Wanting to know if the scholar has more information, as he was immediately interested in the idea of the wizard’s ghost, Kalak moves to speak with the scholar. Upon approach, Kalak noticed that the scholar was very taken aback by his appearance. Clearly the youth had not met a dragonborn before. The only new information Kalak was able to learn was that Evard was last seen in Dupont 50 years ago.
Wattain ordered another stack of warm, buttery pancakes for dessert and commenced gorging himself.
Orranis went to talk to the barkeep to learn what he could of the local lore. Evard was the student of the renowned wizard Vontarin. When he began to dabble in shadow magic, Vontarin turned his back on his pupil and became his enemy. The two wizards eventually met for a duel at the monastery and when the dust had settled, it seemed Evard was left for dead and Vontarin was missing. The townsfolk looked for Vontarin in his home in the town, but he was never seen or heard from again.
Wrath talked with the guard and learned that the town was generally in good spirits, no shady characters wandering around, everything was quiet, and he had heard no news of anyone named Treymane. Fargrim bought a round of ale for the table of dwarves and approached them speaking in Dwarven and was invited to sit and share their company. Their names were Katha, Krystid, and Kildrak. He inquired as to their business in the area and found they were on their way back from a masonry job when the bridge washed out and they were commissioned to rebuild it.
Janeva asked Tilda to point her towards the nearest pleasure house, hoping she could overhear gossip there about local activity and any travelers who were passing through, but Tilda was a motherly type who had no knowledge of such establishments, and was mildly put off that someone would ask.
Having gathered as much information as possible, the party retired for the night to their rooms. In the middle of the night, a sudden jolt awoke everyone and they saw that their furniture was out of place and felt a general aura of unease. A scream from downstairs brought all the party members out of their rooms to investigate. Kalak recognized that everyone had somehow been transported into a shadowy realm, a dimension of evil from which the world is usually protected. Something had merged this realm with the normal world. Upon reaching the bottom of the stairwell, they were assaulted by gargoyles with curling horns, large stone wings, and glowing red eyes. They were soon joined by ethereal ghosts which seemed to leap from the shadows and latch onto the party, melding with their shadows and becoming almost invincible. Realizing that radiant damage would destroy them the most quickly, Wattain was set forth in all his radiant glory to dispatch the ghosts.
When the fight was over, Tilda was worse for wear and the barkeep was dead. The masonry dwarves ventured downstairs to try to find help for Katha, who had been wounded in their own fight against the shadow fiends. When the scholar and servant had not joined everyone many minutes later, Tilda, Fargrin, and Kalak went to check on them. The door was locked so Tilda produced a key to unlock it. The room was empty, but not uninhabited. It was almost as if the scholar and servant had known of this impending doom and had fled before it could occur, or perhaps they had caused it…. Back downstairs, the party discussed how to go about locating the scholar and it was agreed that the monastery was the first place that would need to be searched. Suddenly the guard who had been drinking that evening rushed into the inn.
“There’s something wrong with the entire town! Will you help me?!”
The party shared a quick glance amongst themselves and the choice was clear. Yes, they would help.