Random scrawled hastily into the Black Tome while standing in the Aundarrian Embassy garden.
Honestly, R'lyeh, sometimes I wonder what you want from me, Random wrote, the letters shaky and jagged. The airship journey to Trollanport revealed less than we expected. Grilsha Stellos claimed, apparently sincerely, not to know her brother Lycan's plans and not to want to be a part of them. After Jackle was falsely accused of murder, the rest of the journey passed uneventfully. Korranberg proved ... gnomish. Fire elementals run amok, embassy parties to crash--routine stuff, really.
Our leads seemed to be leading nowhere. Even questioning the ambassador herself under Suggestion revealed less than we might have hoped.
But just now, the masquerade seems to have turned. An owl-masked cretin showed up and just summoned forth an enchanted Black Blade. Guess who, and guess what.
Random heard screams from the ballroom. The scribbled notes became more fervent and rapid. R'lyeh, whatever plans you might have for me as your servant, I hope it involves surviving the night. Because I'm going back in that ballroom, where there's probably a vampire lord wielding a magic sword, and I'm armed with a book, all right? I'm armed with a book, and there are vampires, and none of this makes any sense. But right now I'm going to try to help my friends. So either you'll help me or stay out of the way.
Random slammed the cover of the book shut and stashed it away. Clutching his rod and wand, he rushed toward the doors of the embassy.
After a false murder accusation for Jackie, some talks with Grilsha, and me getting caught breaking into Grilsha's room and nearly ruining our progress, we finally get some information and arrive in Trollansport. There we spend some time drinking away the memories of the past two days, and leave the next morning. At last we arrive in Korranberg!
Things are great until we head for the embassy, and hear screaming along the way. I join my group in running towards the screams rather than away, and immediately regret it. A big fire elemental envelopes me in it's flaming sphere, and I am horribly burned. I scream in pain, and luckily escape before it can kill me. The others destroy it, and I stand shaking and in tears of pain and anger. This is not the way I want to be welcomed to a new city!
Some lady came running after it begging us not to kill it, but too little too late. I look at her standing there with bandages all over her, a disappointed look on her face. She apologizes for it attacking us.
"Maybe don't keep fire elementals as pets?!" I snap at her. "I'm horribly burnt!"
Willow and Hered come to my aid, giving me some healing, as the lady apologizes profusely.
"Let me give you something for your troubles- do you like scrolls?!"
"Sure." I say, huffing and taking the bundle of scrolls from her. I open one as she speaks to the others. "These scrolls are bulls***! They're completely illegible!"
"That's because you can't read them," Kaliban smirks, taking them from me.
After talking to the pyromaniac, we continue toward the embassy. When we arrive to the very obvious building, we find a lot of commotion. People are carrying tables and chairs, flower arrangements and other things inside. A man stands with a clipboard muttering to himself and directing the workers as he writes. Random approaches, trying to work his charms, but when he doesn't seem to be getting the results we want quick enough, Willow charms him.
So, we get invited to come to a masquerade ball tonight at the embassy, where the ambassador we are looking for, Neya ir'Krell is going to be.
I'm beyond excited for this masquerade ball, and I think Jackie is too. I brought her along for dress shopping, and she is hyperactively going outfit to outfit, asking my advice. Luckily shopping for me is easy, and I help her pick out something pretty that she can still fight in if need be.
We get ready in the hotel room, helping eachother with hair and makeup, and then don our masks to join the crew. I take one last look in the mirror, and wonder if I'm showing a bit too much. The red dress plunges almost to my waist, is open in the back, and has slits on either side. Nah, it's not too much- I am in the market for husband number four, afterall.
"Lady Vanna, you look beautiful!" Sweet Morkris says, adjusting his mask of a human face.
"Thank you, dear. That suit looks fantastic on you!"
Morkris does a spin, looking very happy to be all dressed up. We all head to the embassy, and procure the invitations that Willow secured for us. The gnome guards are checking them as we wait in the line to enter the garden, and soon we get in without issue. I think some of our group hid weapons on themselves, but I didn't need to. Nobody has to know I can summon deadly blades in my hands just by thinking of it.
We all get drinks and then mill about the garden. It's dimly lit by lanterns and magic lighting, and absolutely beautiful in here. I guess the party is for a grand opening, as this place is either new or remodeled. Eventually I drift away from the others, escaping Jackie who keeps talking my ear off. I'm here on business other than finding this Ambassador that our quarry might meet with, and I intend to leave here tonight with at least one potential suitor. I've never failed in all my years of practice.
The Ambassador makes a dedication speech, and bids us enjoy the gardens, the ballroom and the orchestra before going off on her own. I can see Random, in disguise, go off in her direction. I finish my third drink, and make my way to the edge of the dancefloor. Eyes have been on me all night, probably because of my scandalous outfit, but I feel it takes a while for anyone to approach. Even Morkris has a dance partner, and is expertly twirling the pretty half-elf across the floor.
"Good evening, my lady," a baritone voice catches my attention. "Care to dance?"
I turn to see a well... very well built human male, dressed in fine formal wear. Even with the domino mask I can tell he is extremely handsome, with hazel eyes and dark hair, probably very rich judging by his finery. I knew I would score tonight!
"I would love to," I smile, taking his hand.
We begin dancing, and soon realize we make quite a good pair. We step it up, soon taking center floor with Morkris and his partner. With how much my skirt is flying out when we spin I'm sure people are watching us for more than just our dance moves. He spins me so fast once that I fall into his chest, giggling, and my hand feels his rock-solid pecs.
"What's your name?" I ask him.
"Brick Hardcheese. What's yours?"
"Vanna. I'm pleased to make your acquaintance."
"Likewise," he dips me backward, hand on my waist, and then lifts me effortlessly off the ground before setting me down. "You're a fantastic dancer, Vanna."
"As are you, Brick."
As we dance I start feeling very, very relaxed and comfortable. I feel... amazing! I haven't been this happy and carefree in a long time... vampires? Meh, who cares about vampires. I'd like to see Gary get between me and the dashing Brick!
"That dress looks incredible on you," says Brick. "You know where it would look even better?"
"Your floor?" I suggest.
"Exactly my thoughts," he says, as the music changes to a slower tempo.
I hear Random's voice in my head saying to meet him outside in the garden as he has information.
'Can't!' I think back to him. I'm with a really hot guy!'
'Understood.' I hear back.
"Where are you from, Vanna?" Brick asks.
"Breland. A small farm town just outside of Wroat. I've been on the road a while now, though."
"Oh really? What do you do?"
"I meet rich men and take everything from them." I say, raising an eyebrow at him.
He laughs, pulling me in closer.
"Beautiful and funny," he purrs in my ear. "What brings you to Korranberg?"
"My companions and I are hunting a person with a stolen object. A sword, formerly possessed by a vampire."
"Vampires? That's an incredibly dangerous thing to mess with."
"I know. Have you ever been slapped by a vampire? I have. Sometimes I enjoy a good slap, but that nearly reset my jaw."
"Oh," he smirks, turning me into him so quickly I nearly lose my breath. "So you like it rough."
"Yes," I smile, and he spins me outward. As I look up, over his shoulder, I see people running and screaming. "Huh... I think that's the blade we are after."
I spin Brick around, and he instinctively grabs me protectively putting me behind him. I watch as a male figure in an owl mask brandishes the black bladed sword, and the fight breaks out.
Kaliban takes up a spot in the corner of the carriage as the elemental ring deploys, and attends to his armor at long last. It feels like an age since he's worn it, though of course it's only been half a day. He keeps his back to the others, and does his best to ignore any reactions they might have to what parts of him they can see. The armor's pieces and latches soothe him; the familiar mechanical movements of placing them on himself serve to let him work through his frustrations with the previous night. Particularly his own actions. He was indecisive, drawn to one course of action after another as the situation rapidly slipped out of any control. His last act, at least, he could be proud of, although it bothered him that he'd overlooked poor Willow's fallen form on the far side of the fountain. Going forward, he would need to decide on a plan and stick to it. One can only follow so many sets of obligation.
He turns to the others quietly when the work is done. "I've a spell prepared that can detect the immaterial - including the undead," he intones, ignoring pointedly any questions that might be put to him about what was seen. "I can at least attempt to confirm whether Lucan is aboard. Supposing he isn't, however - how best to press Edvin Garm for information? He's with the Emerald Claw - the chances of him not being an ally of Gary are slimmer than me having a dry night of Ante."
Brick let's out a decidedly unmanly scream, and tries pulling me toward the exit. I tear my arm free of his grasp.
"Some man you are!" I snap, turning towards the action.
The man with the sword is close, and I find a perfect line of sight on him. Two blades appear in my hands, and I throw them both at him. They strike true. Morkris comes to my aid, but I'm determined to take this man down. I dash in, attacking.
"Everyone put your weapons down!" Shouts a guard. "Surrender!"
I hear crossbow bolts whizzing past me as the throng of gals attendees starting running by screaming. The man in the Eagle masks wounds heal before my eyes as he grips the black sword in two hands. Huh... looks like he might be a vampire? He slashes me across the shoulder, severing one of the straps of my already very skimpy dress. It's a deep wound, and blood spurts out of it. Good thing I'm wearing red.
My attacker breaks away, running toward the exit as the guards continue to shoot me. I pursue the man as others, my friends and some of the masked individuals, attack him. Morkris stands on a table, attacking guards as I run up behind the man with the sword.
"You a**hole, I was going to get lucky tonight and you ruined everything!" I scream, jumping on him.
I may not be big, but with Ishiko holding the guy's sword now and distracting him, I get my arms around him and pin his arms down.
"That's Lucan Stellos!" Yells Jackie, running in.
"He's a vampire!" I shriek as he thrashes.
I'm struck from behind by someone in a white wolf mask, slashed by a rapier and then stabbed by a dagger in the side. I nearly lose my grapple, but I'm not giving up that easily! The woman in the owl mask hits Hered and Random with a lightning bolt, the energy striking all of us in the area, but still I hold on. Jackie trips Lucan, and I topple to the ground with him.
"You're interfering with government business!" Growls one of the domino masked men who was with the Ambassador.
I'm getting my ass handed to me, but I'm not letting Lucan get away. Ishiko seems to have the sword under control, so I'm sure we have this! As I lay spinning Lucan, a strange keening sound issues from behind his mask.
"The f*** are you doing?!" I ask. He doesn't answer.
"Boys- take them all! I think they're all spies!" Shouts the woman in the blue dragon mask.
I feel a fist collide with the back of my head, and everything goes black.
"Vanna, wake up!" Jackie's face swims into view, and I can taste a healing potion on my lips. "Grilsha is here, and fighting against us! Everything has gone to s***!"
I look over and see Lucan still laying next to me as Jackie dashes away, but before I can regain my feet he is up and running.
"Sister! I can't fly!" He calls, exasperated.
"Sorry," gasps the woman in the owl mask. "Took a gut shot... lost concentration!"
That lying, two timing b*#^#! He runs off, and I'm left facing the domino masked guys and white wolf mask with Morkris. Guards are trying to shoot Morkris, afraid of the tail that has sprouted from nowhere.
I look across the room and see the Ambassador, Neya, still watching everything go down. Maybe she can give me the information that she gave to Lucan Stellos? I run from the masked men, earning another nice gash from a blade, but I get away.
"Ambassador, we need to talk!" I call, stopping close by her. "What did you give to him?!"
She looks nervous at my approach, and I hold up my hands to show I'm not armed. My dress nearly falls down on one side, and I hurriedly hold it up.
"What the hell do you want?"
"Tell me what you gave to Lucan Stellos! I have a lot of questions!"
"Oh, that's okay. You can get those answered when the authorities arrive. I think I hear them out front now."
"I'm not going to jail!"
She laughs, stepping back a step.
"Oh, this is Zilargo. You don't go to jail."
"Just... tell me everything you know about Lucan Stellos! We are trying to stop him!"
"You know what, I don't know who you are." She scowls.
"I'm Vanna Whiteclaw. In working for Lady Elaydren of House Cannith."
"I don't know who that is."
She snaps her fingers, and a crossbow appears in her hands.
"Well- read a phonebook!" I snap.
There is a twanging sound, and a crossbow bolt hits me square in the chest. The pain fades away to cold, and I think this might be the end.
"You killed my Vanna!!!"
Oh, Morkris, I don't deserve you.
I wake up, and am a little surprised that I do. Morkris hovers in front of me, talking to someone I can't see.
"Vanna, you're alive!"
"Am I?" I sit up, everything hurting. I'm laying on a couch in what looks like an office. "We're not in jail."
"No, the Ambassador was nice enough to spare us all. There was confusion on whose side everyone was on. Lucan and Grilsha got away."
"With the sword?"
The ambassador walks in the room, standing by the gnome holding a medical kit.
"Good, you're awake. Sorry about shooting you, but you kind of freaked me out. How are you feeling?"
"Like I got my a** handed to me by a vampire and then shot by an ambassador. Is everyone else alright?"
We rejoin the group and are all patched up by some gnomish priests. Lucan got away, and the ball was attacked by hundreds of bats. We are told that Lucan was seen last heading toward the lightning rail station.
Looks like we are on the move again, chasing Lucan down to yet another place. We almost had him. Almost.
Kaliban's mind races as the party pursues the strange sounds. They've fled the train. On top of that, they killed the engineer. That can only mean that whatever they intend will happen here - and they do not plan to leave that way. Or perhaps not at all. Who knows what these Emerald Claw dastards want?
... speaking of which, where has that Garm fellow gotten to?
His eyes roam the ruins as they continue. The only way that train's going to move again is with a trueborn scion of House Lyrandar at the engine - thus, House Lyrandar needs to be notified so that they can send someone to ferry the passengers to the relative safety of... wherever they were going after Vathirond. (Kaliban remains mildly bitter that there wasn't time to nurse an ale and keep an eye out for familiar faces.) But... nothing. No House Sivis station, nowhere that the settlement's sending stones might have been housed...
Well. Maybe someone onboard knows sending. Maybe Grilsha can be "persuaded" to cast it. If she knows it. For now, the passengers will likely shelter in their cabins on account of the giant homicidal bat raising a ruckus and flying off into the night. And do so until after they can deal with whatever Garrow wants with a sapient magical sword in a ruined House Oriens settlement. Hopefully culminating in dealing with Garrow.
Our train ride is uneventful for the morning, and we arrive in Zolanberg in the afternoon. I hit the tavern with Jackie and Morkris, pondering over the woman I met on board who greatly resembled Neya I’krell. She was extremely nice but had no relation to her whatsoever... so why does she look like her twin?
We head back to the train with some t-shirts we picked up in a gift shop. As we approach, I see someone boarding with a large crate. Gary! I fall back and whisper to my friends that I see him, and I’m going to tail him. I get through the ticket taker, and pursue Garrow from a distance being stealthy as possible. Looks like he’s staying in first class. So, I upgrade to a first class room. I meet up with the crew and notify them that he is there, and I will be staking his room out tonight.
The train pulls out, and I head to my room. Using all my best makeup skills and the sluttiest and darkest clothes I own, I make myself look like a vampiress. I admire myself in the mirror before going out to prowl the corridor. After an hour passes, finally I see Garrow come out of his room.
I lean against the wall, posing as salaciously as possible as Gary walks by. He pays me no mind, but then turns after he passes, his neck craning back unnaturally as he looks me over.
“Evening.” He says.
“Good evening!” I toss my now hair over my shoulder, leaning forward a bit so the goods are more noticeable.
“I didn’t say it was good,” he says more gruffly. “I said evening.”
He proceeds back to his room, leaving me confused. I slip into the shadows and resume my surveillance, hoping I am completely hidden. I’m starting to get tired and itchy from the amount of makeup I’m wearing, and about to give up when Gary’s door opens again. He looks around, then satisfied nobody is nearby slips out of his room. He goes to the middle compartment, my next door neighbor, and shoves a sheet of paper under the door. He then returns to his room.
I could be smart and leave this well alone, but I am not. I emerge from my hiding place, and head for the door. I raise my hand and knock.
“Who is it?” A female voice asks.
The door cracks open a bit, and I see the woman who I talked to earlier. The one that could easily be Neya’s twin.
“Sorry, I didn’t order any room service .”
“Actually, I’m with the train staff. There’s been a leak in these compartments and I need to do a thorough inspection.”
“A leak? Like water?”
“No, gas. It’s invisible, very dangerous.” Oh gods, I am grasping at straws!
“This is run by an elemental,” she says, clearly suspicious. “I think you should go.”
S***, I’m out of options! I push the door forward, meaning to force my way in.
“Let her in.” Comes a male voice from within.
My momentum carries me forward into the room as the lady steps back, and I find myself standing before the vampire himself, Lucan Stellos.
“Hello.” He says with a smirk, holding the piece of paper I saw Lord Garrow slip under the door.
“Hi,” I wink.
“Aren’t you a pretty little thing,” He leers. “What made you wish to enter this room?”
“Well, I saw some guy put something under the door, and I knew that there was another lady staying in this room. Girls have to look out for each other, you know- that could have been anything! I wanted to make sure she was okay, and...”
I trail off as he stands and comes over to me, and gently grabs my chin with his hand. Those eyes stare into mine, and I feel myself relax. Lucan Stellos is my friend. I will do anything for Lucan.
“Why don’t you go back to your friends. Have some wine, relax.”
“Yes. I will.”
He walks me to the door, and nudges me out into the corridor.
“Goodnight, my dear!” He laughs, and closes the door.
The next day Jackie is asleep when I join my party for breakfast. Guess she stayed up all night to watch for Gary to no avail. We meet a really nice half-elf looking sailor from Cyr who Kaliban hits it off with right away. As we sit chatting with him, Ishiko is desperate to find someone to arm wrestle with. I volunteer, knowing she will have an easy victory. And yet, somehow I win!
That evening after stopping in Starilisker I come back to myself while eating dinner. I did not realize until now how foggy my mind was until I felt Lucan’s influence slip away.
“Um... so, I got charmed by a vampire,” I announce in a hushed tone to them. “I’ve only just come back to myself... it was Lucan Stellos! He’s on board!”
“What?!” Jackie looks mortified. “I was on watch all night and I saw nothing!”
“Well, that’s because they’re my neighbors. It’s me, Gary and Lucan and the lady that looks like Neya.”
We determine that Neya’s look alike is very likely Grilsha, Lucan’s sister. We know she can disguise herself very well, and that she lied to us on the airship. I decide to hide out in the dark spot again tonight to see what I can find out. Just after sundown I see Lucan and Garrow leave the leave their rooms and enter one of the first class lounges. I take the opportunity to break into Gary’s room.
The lock is picked easily enough, and I go in and start searching. There is nothing here! Just normal junk you would find in anyone’s room, but nothing to show for what they are up to. I leave in disappointment, and head to Lucan’s room. I can hear Garrow and Lucan arguing loudly, so I hope I have enough time to break into Lucan’s room. I knock to know answer, so I open it. Of course, Neya/Grilsha is in there. This is the second time I’ve done this to her, she should know better!
I run to the next compartment and close the door behind me, but I know she saw me. I’m not even in disguise, I’m just Vanna again! I hear a spell fast, and the door slams open in my face. I’m alright but I stumble, and find myself faced with Lucan and Garrow. S***!
“This isn’t the kitchen!” I say dumbly.
Both of them stare, shaking their heads.
Lucan catches my gaze, and once more I remember that I like him. Lucan is my friend, Lucan is a good guy, I will do whatever Lucan tells me to do.
“Lady Vanna, are you going to eat all of those?”
I turn around and find Morkris staring at my plate of desserts. The cheesecake is to die for.
“Yes,” I say, grabbing my bottle of wine and heading for the door.
“Wait, Did you see anything on watch?” He asks.
“Nope. Goodnight, Morkris.”
I go back to my room and enjoy my wine and snacks, knowing that all is well on this train.
In the morning I rejoin the group, and we have another uneventful day. Evening comes, and I head to the first class lounge with a bottle of wine and watch the countryside go by. As I’m sitting enjoying myself, a tad bit tipsy, I suddenly hear raised voices and the sound of something hitting wood really hard. Running out to the hallway, I got through the door to the next section and see two hobgoblins going into Lucan/Maybe-Grilsha’s room.
“What’s going on?” I ask.
“Go back to your room,” one growls at me. “This is official... train business.”
“Sir, this is a boat.”
I get a strange look from him as he enters the room. I punch him, stopping him in his tracks, but my fist barely grazes his armor.
Right.” he snarls, and sends his fist at my face. I dodge out of the way.
The other hobgoblin comes back out of the room as I start fighting my guy with my psychic blades. My hobgoblin tries to slash me with his sword but I’m just too squirrelly. The other draws his bow and I see an arrow aimed for my head just as I drop the first guy. He looks a bit panicked and drops his bow, fiddling with his shield. I take him down fairly quickly. The Neya lookalike/maybe-Grilsha appears in the doorway.
“I was invisible!” She pants. “These hobgoblins tried to kill me! Thank you for your assistance!”
“I’m glad I was here!” I smile at her.
“It’s very strange they attacked me,” she says. “Anyway... let me buy you dinner tonight! It’s the least I can do to thank you.”
“Dinner would be nice, I look forward to it. I’m going back to the lounge to drink if you want to join me?”
“I’m going to go speak with the authorities. I guess it’s not safe for nobles to travel these days,” she muses. “Don’t eat too much cheesecake- save room for dinner!”
We head in opposite directions, and I go sit back down with my wine. Not a minute later I hear a scream, and I knock the wine bottle over as I run for the door. Not again! I get back to where the bodies are, and there is a man with a dagger standing there
“Who are you?” He glares at me for interrupting.
“Vanna Whiteclaw. What are you doing here?”
Someone brushes past me, but I see nobody. It’s my friend, invisible again.
“Be careful!” She whispers as she goes.
The man casts a spell, and I’m hit by a ray of flames. It hurts bad enough that I shriek, hoping my cry of alarm is heard elsewhere in the train. I hit him with one of my daggers, and then book it back to the lounge. I get inside, and close the door.
“Wait- what?” I hear muffled on the other side.
The door opens, and then closes seemingly on its own.
“Sorry! I didn’t know you were there. He hurt me bad!”
I start reaching into my bag for a healing potion, but the door slams open. The dagger stabs into me, and I feel my life slipping away.
I wake up feeling sick, to Kaliban bandaging my wounds. Morkris comes running in, shortly followed by the others, and I tell my side of what happened. They tell me that Grilsha made an impressive stand against the assassin, but nearly died a couple times before they killed him. She apparently stabilized me from dying before she ran for her life. I think I have a true friend in her now.
We meet with the authorities, and not-Grilsha tells them we should be commended. Kaliban’s buddy Rawrog serves as our character witness, and I basically get away with murdering two hobgoblins.
I get ready for dinner and then join Morkris in the corridor where he stands watch over our new friend’s room. Some lady comes running by saying there is a zombie attack, and Ishiko and crew run off to help while Morkris and I stay standing guard. Soon the train comes to a dead stop, and I nearly fall over, caught by Morkris. Outside we can hear a loud, rhythmic clanging sound. As we stand there wondering what’s going on now, suddenly a massive bat flies out of Grilsha’s room and out through the lounge. Glass shatters, and I run into her room. It’s empty. Morkris reports that the bat flew through the window, and toward a warehouse looking building.
We rush to find the rest of the group, and end up at the front of the train. The conductor lies dead with his throat slashed, in a pool of blood. Kaliban tells us the train cannot run without a person bearing the dragon mark, so we are dead in the water. Suddenly I feel as though a cloud has been lifted, and memories come flooding back.
“Dammit! It happened again!”
“Lucan did his freaky vampire mind control! I’ve been honey potted!”
We leave the train, heading for the noise to see what might be happening. I sneak ahead into the darkness, just in time to see a massive skeletal Minotaur charge the party. And I thought shmoozing with vampires was the height of my problems. That Lucan, though.
I finally get a taste of the Wand Of Light’s power in dealing with the skeletal Minotaur. It’s a frightening creature, but no match for us! After killing it we check out the platform, finding some kind of teleportation circle covered by a grate and a crate filled with nasty mold that makes us all sick and dizzy. We decide to head to the tower rather than checking this place further. I’m worried about Lucan and Grilsha, and confused as to who the real enemy is.
The tower is guarded by two gnolls, and we spring on them. I get a bit bloodied up, but we take out the gnolls and the extra ones that came as backup. I open the door to the tower and see a group of Emerald Claw soldiers looking at another door on the inside. They immediately attack me, and my heroin Ishiko comes to the rescue. I’m once again taken into uncomfortable injury territory, but manage to get out of the fray and throwing psychic daggers at the enemies. Ishiko once again takes out several men. Damn she’s impressive!
We explore the next room, ending in destroying a creepy insectile creature, and then cannot get in the next room. I sneak ahead up the stairs maintaining a telepathic link with Ishiko. The next level is empty, just filled with bedrolls. So I check the next level, and see a horrendously trippy rainbow room filled with zombies! Calling in for backup, we enter. This fight is a bit more brutal, but we are victorious once more. I start searching and find the most holy object known to man- a hookah! There are things to put in it too but Ishiko refuses to let me use it now.
Repeating our same method, I scout up to the next level. It’s the rooftop, and there four zombies and an undead looking guy in a shiny breastplate holding an axe made of shadows. How exciting, and what a view!
There’s gonna be a fight,’I think to Ishiko. ’And maybe a potential husband, this guy looks like he could croak any day!’
It was, Kaliban conceded, perhaps not the most well-executed plan. Truthfully? He was mentally kicking himself for urging Jackal to attempt the crossing instead of taking a chance to rest. She'd had a solid plan, even. But he and Ishiko had insisted they could see her safely across.
Then the quippers swarmed her. He'd weathered his own assault, as planned, but when he looked up, she had vanished.
He'd nearly fallen himself in his attempt to extricate her - he had fallen, in fact, until Ishiko plunged in alongside him. And now they'd still have to risk the crossing once again even if they did rest. At least it would only be Ishiko and himself braving the damnable creatures;
His eyes drifted across to the far shore. Hered lay dead over there, he knew. Ishiko had managed to pull him from the water, but Kaliban had burned through the very last of his spells disabling the life-stealer on the roof, and Hered was too badly injured to last until Ishiko was able to tend to him.
He'd seen death, of course. You didn't spend a year in Vathirond with the express duty of putting down anything that wandered out of Cyre without losing companions. But failure remained a bitter pill. He sighed as Ishiko forced a potion on Jackal, and bowed his head. Casting his mind back to the Rekkenmark, the stolen moments between or after classes in the quiet, scented rooms, the half-murmured, half-felt words of the old kalashtar priest, and solemnly spoke the old prayer, beseeching il-Yanah to safeguard Hered's soul on his own Path.
The tower fight goes as well as expected. I’m not one of the crazy ones that ends up jumping off, but I did get my ass handed to me a bit by the big guy with the shadow axe. Turns out his boots let him climb vertically, and sending him over the edge the first time wasn’t helpful. At one point I got my hands on the axe, only for it to disappear. Disappointing.
The fight finally finished, I run down all three stories to get outside and burn the corpse. We’re not entirely sure what it is, but we don’t want to risk him coming back. After the deed is done, we head inside and explore the mold room at Ishiko’s request.
It’s very moldy, but none of us get sick. After minutes of failed searching, someone finds a trapdoor, and we go in. I scout ahead and find a cavern filled with a lake, and let the others know about it. We start crossing, and everything is great until I get attacked by fish. They’re bony and bitey and I really don’t like them.
I get some shots in on them with wand and mind daggers, but decide I’m not a fan of my flesh being shredded so I cross to the other side. I expect the others to join me, but only Ishiko, who is very injured, does. The others get shredded up, and I’ve had enough of watching it.
“I’m going to scout ahead and see if it’s even worth crossing. I’ll be back!”
Ishiko takes a shot over my head as I set my bad down, and then I’m off. I go down the same tunnel for a long time, and eventually reach a rough stone tunnel. Pressing onward, maintaining my sneak, I come to a cavern with two nasty looking creatures in it. Carrion Crawlers! These are not something I can take on by myself, so I reluctantly head back, maintaining my mental link with Ishiko.
“We’re getting our asses kicked here!” She says.
“There’s potions in the bag!” I respond. “Carrion crawlers up here. I’m heading back!”
I return to a gruesome scene. Hered is dead, flesh torn apart by the evil fish. Everyone else looks horrible, and they’re all on the other side. If we don’t get ourselves together, we are going to lose our quarry. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m worried about Lucan. He may be a vampire, but I know he was like us once. He could have killed me multiple times, and we clearly have the same enemies. I owe it to him to save his ass if he’s in trouble, as his sister did for me.
Rested and joined by a new member, a gnome named Yermy Yermy, we realize that there is another way across the water that does not involve getting eaten by the piranhas. Ishiko makes it look easy crossing by climbing along the wall, and the others do fine as well. Poor Jackie slips and falls in, getting torn up a bit by the fish, but she manages to get out. We proceed onward to the cave a I found before to kill the carrion crawlers.
After twisting down the narrow passages, we arrive to what I think is the cavern I found before, but I have no idea where the crawlers are.
“I swear they were here!” I say in Ishiko’s head.
“You can’t see the big insect RIGHT there?”
Everyone starts moving in, fighting, and I eventually make my way in. Oh, there’s one! How did I miss that? I manage to get in behind one of them as it tears into Morkris and the others, and it’s buddy joins the fight. After several blows from all of us, finally my psi dagger destroys one! We make quick work of the other one, and I come out of the fight completely unharmed!
“You all stay here, I’ll scout ahead! Ishiko- if I say pickle in your mind or you get an image of a pickle, then I’m in trouble and it’s time to come after me!”
“Those things kind of reminded me of one and now it’s all I can think about. On second thought, maybe it’s best I just call for help if need be.”
I take off, sneaking ahead. Soon I come to another cavern, and step inside. I thought I was being sneaky, but the blonde man inside turns and sees me immediately. He shakes his head.
“Vanna, Vanna, Vanna. We have to stop meeting like this.”
“Hello, Lucan. Fancy seeing you here.”
“You followed me. I did not expect that.”
He comes closer, and puts his hands on my shoulders, smiling. I look into his eyes. Those beautiful, mesmerizing eyes... dammit, why is he so handsome?
“Go back. Tell your friends it’s just an empty cavern. Nothing to see here.”
“Right. Empty cavern. You got it.”
“Good girl,” he turns me around and nudges me forward. “Have a good life.”
I walk back to the group, and am met with an annoyed looking Ishiko.
“Hey guys,” I greet them. “It’s just an empty cavern. We should go.”
“You didn’t see the giant insects in this one, I don’t believe you at all. We are going.”
She starts moving forward, and I try to stop her.
“No, really- it’s a complete waste of time! Just... an empty cavern full of s***!”
“All the more reason to check it out!”
I reluctantly head back to Lucan’s hideout, hoping he had enough time to get away. We get in there, and he is still there.
“Vanna, you idiot! He charmed you, didn’t he?!” Ishiko sighs.
Lucan dashes forward, striking Morkris with the vampire blade. Poor Morkris looks stunned, and I feel it’s my fault... but then again, my Lucan wouldn’t attack unless he was threatened! Lucan is good, Lucan is perfect! Lucan looks at me, disappointed.
“Oh, Vanna. You should have kept them away.”
“I tried! They didn’t believe a word I said!”
He attacks Morkris again, but misses, and then walks away.
“I suggest you just leave.” He says.
I follow after him.
“Lucan, darling- we are on the same side! Your enemies are our enemies. We want to help you! The Emerald Claw has been a huge pain in the ass to us as well.”
“I don’t need your help.”
“Maybe you don’t, but I’m worried about Grilsha.”
“Grilsha can handle herself,” he growls. “And I have plans.”
“What about Garrow?” Jackie pipes up.
“Garrow can bite me.” Lucan laughs. “He’s not even a vampire. He’s a changeling that wants to be a vampire.“
I burst out laughing.
“F***ing Gary! What a loser!”
“He practically threw his neck at me wanting me to change him, but I refused.”
“That’s pretty slutty.”
“You would know,” Lucan smirks. “I don’t care about him or the Emerald Claw. I’m going to kill all the vampires, now that I have this blade. Starting with Calderus.”
“But you are one!”
“I’m different than them. Now please, Vanna, leave. All of you.”
Yermy Yermy then tries to sell Lucan cart insurance, confusing him and buying us time for questions. Lucan steps back, and the light around him dims as the blade seems to dim everything.
“I know with this blade I can kill all the vampires. I find them distasteful. I don’t want the people of Sharn, my people, to be swayed by Calderus. When he is through, I will leave Sharn and start an empire of my own. Thank you for helping Grilsha, by the way. I was in her handbag all along, I heard everything.”
“She still owes me dinner, Lucan!”
“I’ll let you settle up with her. She should be here in the hour. I suggest you be gone by then, she won’t be as merciful as I am.”
“Wait, where will you go next?” Ishiko asks.
“I am keeping that to myself, lest you all fall into the hands of the Emerald Claw. Farewell.”
“Goodbye, Lucan- I love you!” I call.
“I know.” His eyes meet mine one last time, and then we part ways.
We head back to the train. I hole up in my room with Morkris for protection, and then keep watch for Gary. He never shows up, and I find nothing in “Rawrog”‘s room. Guess he is gone, too. I wake up in the early afternoon and the train is still dead in the water. We chat up one of the train workers and he says it could be another day until someone gets here to drive it out. We decide to go back to the tower to check things out, mainly the room we couldn’t get into, but we are also worried that the train might leave us behind. Then I have an idea.
“How would you feel about having a psychic connection, Roberto?” I ask him.
“With you?” He grins, blushing. “That sounds nice. I noticed you when you first got on the train. Is dinner involved?”
“It could be,” I lean against the train wall seductively. “All you have to do is warn us if the train’s going to leave. This won’t hurt one bit.”
I establish the connection, but the rest of the party bleeds through. Poor Roberto can hear all of us, and he is a little freaked out.
“Oh god, I can hear all your thoughts! What’s a Morkris?!” He holds his head.
“Relax. We will only broadcast our thoughts if necessary. It’s easy to shut them out, just stop thinking about us, okay? I’ll be back for dinner.”
“Ok, Vanna. I can’t wait!”
“I’m sure you can’t! See you later.”
Poor guy is a bit young for me and not Lucan, but I will follow through with dinner for this simple service he is providing. We set off for the tower, with a little more piece of mind that we won’t be left behind.
The room we couldn’t get in prior is wide open, and there is nothing in it at all. A wasted trip! We head back to the train, and I have a lovely dinner with Roberto. There is no sign of Garrow at all, and upon arrival of some Orion guards and a replacement engineer, it’s clear that Rawrog, Grilsha and Hered are missing passengers. Poor Hered, he didn’t deserve to die like that!
We make it back to Sharn eventually and report to Lady Elaydren. She is displeased that we have not confiscated the Vampire Blade, but the information we do supply her is much appreciated. We get paid our dues, and go spend some down time in Sharn. I can’t help but to wonder when Lucan is going to return here and make his attack on Calderus. I wish he would have let us help, and truthfully I kind of miss him. Our fortunes lie elsewhere, and we still have Garrow to take down.
Kaliban spends the journey home to Sharn alternating between silent isolation and stints standing watch on deck. This adventure's denouement still doesn't sit well with him. They may have discovered Garrow's secret, but the man himself has slipped away. And while he found Lucan's words trustworthy, he finds that he's disappointed in himself for not offering his blade to assist in Calderus' destruction. And while it ultimately proved moot, he's frustrated that he forgot their mission was also to determine whether Garrow had begun distributing copies of the second schema.
He throws himself into studies of the Path when he returns, sparing only a week to seek out some new protective gear. (It costs him, all told, everything Elaydrin paid them, but no matter.) He failed in more than one way during their excursion into the ruined town. Clearly, his spells must make up the difference for his mind's failings.
Sharn is a great time. Jackie’s criminal contacts gift me with some Dragon’s Breath and Dreamlily, both of which I’ve heard mixed things about. I plan on saving them for a special occasion, but am not sure what that is. Jackie, Morkris, Yermy, one of Yermy’s retainers and I are hanging out in Jackie’s apartment when I remember I have something from the tower I almost forgot about.
“Who wants to try that hookah?” I ask. Surprisingly they all agree to.
We light it up and smoke. Yermy keels over, it was clearly too powerful for the poor little guy.
“Woah! Vanna, I can see myself!” Morkris stares at me wide eyed. “I’M SEEING THROUGH YOUR EYES!”
I just feel a little high, but not seeing anything crazy. Jackie says she can see the ceiling, and realizes she is seeing through Yermy’s friend’s eyes. Speaking of Yermy...
“Oh gods!” I gasp, checking him. “He’s dead!”
We all panic, and Morkris helps me put Yermy in a closet, with a little difficulty seeing as everything he does is through my eyes. We then throw Yermy’s friend in with him, and go sit in the living room freaking out. I keep an eye out the window for the guards, but they never come.
Luckily, Yermy and the other are not dead, and come back some time later. I think we learned our lesson on taking Beholder Dust. After a month in Sharn we are sitting in a bar when a gargoyle walks in, and hands me a letter. It’s from Lady Elaydren, asking us to come see her tonight. So, we finish another round of drinks, stop by the bodega to get sandwiches from a Kenku Jackie was raving about, and then go to Lady E’s townhouse.
Things are not good when we arrive. We run in upon seeing broken windows, and find Lady E hiding behind a couch with a dagger while undead things harass her. We jump into a fight, and soon they all are dispatched. Lady E is happy to see us, and tells us what happened. Seems like our old friend Gary came by in one of his disguises, and they took the schemas!
She gives us a bunch of money to gear up for the new quest she is sending us on. We get some goods, and way too many healing potions, and then come back to her. We are going to be getting transport out of here by someone that we are to meet at the docks. We are heading... somewhere. To hopefully stop Gary once and for all and retrieve the schemas before the Emerald Claw can use them.
So we head to the docks and find a gnome who is going to be transporting us. He brings us into a warehouse after we interrupt his craps game, and I see a hatch sticking up out of the water.
“Here is your ride!” He announces.
“Where’s the rest of it?” I ask, looking around for an invisible airship.
“In the water. It’s a submergible!”
“No no, you see- Lady Elaydren said she would get us a ride... not... this!”
Turns out it very much is our method of transportation, and it’s very tight quarters, and very much underwater. We go down in and get settled in, and I panic before we even take off. Morkris has to keep me grappled while take-off preparations are made. I absolutely am not okay with this!
“We’re going to die!” I sob as we journey under the water. “All it takes is one hole! One!”
“Can someone shut her up?” The captain asks my party. “Maybe sedatives?”
Even our sleeping quarters are tiny. I finally fall asleep as Morkris puts me in a sleeper hold, and wake up the next day not having drowned. I’m pleasantly surprised, but still terrified. At least I know where the potions of water breathing are stored, and I make a mental note of the fastest way to get to them.
The captain calls us to the dining hall/meeting room where the viewing screen is for everything outside. I watch, trembling, as we sail through some pillars of stone or something under the water. We are going through the dangerous sauhaugin ruled area we were warned about. Just as we are watching, a giant shark swims directly for us, and slams into the ship. I go flying, slamming into a bulkhead. There are shouts of alarm and swears from all over as I hear water starting to drip.
I’m running before anyone can stop me. I get to the potions and grab one, then turn and grab one of the underwater crossbows. I’m getting the hells out of this death trap! Just as I’m deciding whether to abandon ship, the rest of my party shows up with a bunch of the crew.
“Ah, blondie- ready to go fight a shark?” One of the crewmen asks.
“Yes! That is exactly what I was... am doing!”
So we all take potions and head up the hatch with tethers around our waists. A fight ensues, and I realize this crossbow is awesome. I’m absolutely wrecking the shark! Looking up beyond it, however, I see a humanoid shape. It looks like whoever it is is controlling the shark!
Thankfully Morkris holds off the shark, and I shoot it as it gets away. Jackie gets a lucky shot and kills it! The person I saw is gone, so we go back in. Captain speaks to us and says they’re going to have to surface to make repairs, of which I am extremely grateful. And so we go up, and as we are outside the ship getting ready to help, we see two figures standing on a shore. Yermy makes a boat appear via magic, and we pile in it to go meet with the fish men who apparently want an offering. I’ve never been with anything like them, but I’m willing to take one for the team if need be. As we row towards them, they attack!