With the vampires vanquished and the hole in the Burnt Saffron’s side repaired, the Crimson Blades begin searching the ship. Arlynn digs through the cabins on the lower decks, coming across some strange mushrooms. She tries them and becomes affected by their hallucinogenic properties.
Ashla, meanwhile, finds a hidden message at halfling-height suggesting Nox is traveling below Castle Korvosa. The party then goes through the documents scavenged from Amprei’s ship, but they are unable to decipher the notes scrawled in the margins.
They return to the city and but dockhand Big Gerta in charge of the goblins before rushing to the castle.
They arrive to find Neolandis being harangued by Lady Forscythe, who accuses him of protecting someone. When Flint intervenes, she rounds on him, demanding he tell her where her son is. Flint is flummoxed. She says that she saw her son conspiring with him and then next day the lad had packed his things and left. She’s sure that Flint has sent him off on some damnfool mission that she has been trying to keep him out of. Flint suspects that this might have to do with the Fiend card he drew from the Harrow Deck of Many Things.
When the two duplicates lock eyes, Remmy reaches for her sword and places herself in front of Neolandis, while the other Flint nocks an arrow. Cressida forces them all to stand down.
The other Flint insists that Flint is an impostor. He has the dwarfstone, which should only attune to the lord of the house. The party tries catch the other Flint in a lie, but sense no deception from him. Valeria tosses the dwarfstone to Flint, who attunes to it as well. Flint finally appeals to his sister, who turns against the other Flint. That’s good enough for Cressida, who locks the other Flint away until the crown business is sorted out. Neolandis has them dye the other Flint’s hair to tell them apart.
The Hollow Crown
Neolandis then asks if they’ve found Nox and the crown. The party nods. “Where is he?” the seneschal asks. They all point down at the floor. “Fuck,” Neolandis says. He urges them to retrieve Nox quickly, as events are moving rapidly. The Five Great Houses voted to strip Ileosa from the throne today, and Vimanda is pushing to begin voting on a new monarch the following day. The two candidates appear to be Toff Ornelos and Vimanda. the winner requires a consensus of all five houses. Neolandis thinks they have only a few days to find Nox, their best alternative candidate—assuming he hasn’t gone mad.
Neolandis informs them that Ileosa wants to speak with them, urgently. Remmy and Arlynn go to see her. Ileosa warns them that the crown is here, in the castle. She can sense its presence and is fearful that it might pray on her mind again. She is surprised to learn that they already know this and sends them on their way. Arlynn can tell that Ileosa is holding back something, but she isn’t willing to share it just yet.
If It Bleeds, It Leads
The party heads down to the castle dungeon, where they arrive at the pillar room. Ashla can tell that Nox and perhaps ten other humans passed this way recently. They all gathered around the pillar and there the tracks end.
Arlynn and Kyra look over Amprei’s documents again, while Earth-Egan scouts below. The druid finds that the pillar goes down hundreds of feet before reaching a vault made of the same strange substance. The paladin and the halfling, meanwhile, decipher some notes suggesting that the pillar is similar to the teleport circles elsewhere in the city.
Remmy finds that the fake medallion she and Kyra procured lights up when it draws near the pillar. Ashla suggests that they all hold hands and then have Remmy touch the pillar. Doing this, they get flashes of the pillar’s construction in a blood magic ritual and then witness people kneeling before it and placing their hands against it to teleport. Ashla suggests they kneel and they get the sense that the pillar is expecting something. Remmy grumbles and cuts her hand before pressing it to the pillar.
This activates the teleport, which shunts them down into the vault below. They emerge in a large chamber with high vaulted ceilings, illuminated by two slowly circling orbs of light. In opposite corners are two teleport circles. In front of the teleport circles are two twelve foot tall glass statues of beautiful women with blades for hands. The blades on one of the statues are crusted with dried blood.
The statues immediately move to slash both Arlynn and Irabeth, leaving deep bleeding cuts in both paladins. Flint puts several arrows through the statue confronting Irabeth, sending fracture lines running up and down its frame. The half-orc is then able to finish it off with one solid blow from her harrowed holy avenger. The creature explodes in a shower of glass that wounds Irabeth further.
The rest of the party gangs up on the other statue, which glitters with dazzling light as one of the glowing orbs passes by, disabling Arlynn’s Formian follower Ant 2. The paladin is also thrown off enough that she severely wounds the Formian while trying to strike the statue. When the creature finally explodes, the flying glass slays the insectoid.
Having destroyed the immediate threat, Egan ascertains that the statues will reassemble in a few hours. Flint lodges some of the statue fragments to the ceiling with tanglefoot bags, while Ashla searches the room. She finds tracks leading to both teleport circles, but Nox’s tracks go to the blue one.
They decide that the first group should consist of Arlynn, Flint, and Kyra, with Remmy taking them through using the medallion. The Gray Maiden is starting to get a little woozy from blood loss. On her return, she asks Laori to make the offering. The elf cheerily agrees, after sharing a blood orange. however, nothing they try causes the blue circle to activate again.
Resignedly, they go to the second circle and take it through.
Both teleport circle lead to open alcoves connecting to a grand network of hallways. While the teleport chambers themselves are normal sized, the halls are 30 feet wide and 50 feet tall. The chambers are lit by more of the glowing orbs, though the one in the green circle chamber flickers now and then.
After waiting for the rest of the party to join them, Group One (Arlynn, Flint, and Kyra) decides to start exploring the dungeon, leaving a chalk trail for the others to follow. Group Two (Remmy, Ashla, Egan, Irabeth, and Laori), picks up the trail of five humans and starts following them. Remmy discovers that her medallion will occasionally send out pulses of green light giving her a rough sense of the layout and contents of surrounding rooms.
Using that, she spies a body lying in a side room not too far away.
Group Two cautiously approaches the chamber. As they walk, a chill runs down their spine. Egan and Irabeth can sense an evil clinging to the vault, saturating the very air. It is cool down there, cooler than it should be, and the air is dry but not stale.
As they approach the chamber, they start to pick up the faint coppery smell of blood. Inside they find the body of an unfamiliar human man dressed in black and red leather armor. He has suffered multiple bite wounds and appears almost completely drained of blood. Remmy breaks a piece of wood off of the seemingly useless door to stake through his heart when the amulet alerts her that a group of strange creatures are approaching.
The creatures turn out to be a group of constructs. Two automatons bearing heavy shields clatter across the enormous hallways while a pack of dog-sized constructs skitter around them. The creatures appear to be heading straight for the chamber with the body.
Remmy ambushes them as they try to enter, killing one of the small ones. Group Two proceeds to cut through the rest of them, but one of the shield constructs manages to sound off an alarm klaxon. The amulet gives Remmy only the barest glimpse of an enormous snake-like creature heading towards the noise. Group Two flees, trying to lose the creature in the vaults.
They scramble through the passages, past a chamber with glowing mushroom, across a dark chasm in the floor and finally through a narrow passage ringed by sculpted figures that grope at them as they slink past. The way is too narrow for the creature, which stops short before slithering off while cursing in a sibilant language. All that the adventurers can glimpse of it are its coppery scales.
Group One, meanwhile, continues to march through the vault. They notice the decor melds the disturbing with the erotic. Visages of the same darkly beautiful woman keep turning up in the murals, archways, and bas reliefs.0
They find several side chambers, all of which are as empty as the cyclopean halls outside. As they continue winding their way through the vault, the hall suddenly opens out onto a large, high-vaulted chamber. At its center, a ring of tall wooden spikes juts into the air, impaling eight human shapes through the heart. Entwined around the base of the shaft is half of an enormous snake skin.
Recognizing the figures as similar to the vampire attackers on Amprei’s ship, Arlynn and Flint decide to put them down for good. flint and Kyra shimmy up the spikes to sever the corpses’ heads and toss them down to Arlynn, who anoints them with holy water.
Before they are more than halfway done, however, a pack of truly monstrous vampire creatures lope out of the darkness, swiftly surrounding and striking the paladin with their life-leeching claws. They drain substantial energy from Arlynn, but Group One quickly fights back. Flint puts arrows into several of the creatures, while Arlynn wards them off with her holy symbol and then attacks an injured one. Working together, Group One defeats the savage vampires.
Arlynn and Flint debate tracking the creatures’ gaseous forms back to their lairs and ending them once and for all. However, they decide to finish dispensing with the impaled vampires and then return to searching for their companions.
A Shadow from the Past
The paladin insists on interrogating one of the vampires first. After cutting off the monster’s arms first, Flint removes it from the spike. The vampire attempts to speak with them, but it shares no languages in common by Arlynn, Flint, or Kyra. Finally, the vampire dominates Flint’s mind to use him as an unwilling translator.
The vampire reveals himself to be one of the lords of Thassilon. He claims that the return of the Runelord Sorshen is inevitable now that mortals have breached the seals and walk in her hunting grounds. He tells Arlynn that the eye of Sorshen would most likely be taken to the gallery, where there is a door “if you can find it.”
Of course, first one would have to avoid the notice of the Matron of the hunting grounds, who slays all who look upon her. She plays games with the vampires in the hunting grounds, which was how their captive ended up impaled on the spike in the first place.
Arlynn then uses her holy symbol to break the creature’s hold on Gareth. When the paladin raises her blade to strike creature, the vampire eggs her on and loses his head with a smile on his lips.