Carrion Crown - by Nicolai Grunnet

Ashes at Dawn pt.2

(Attending this session was Mutt the human barbarian, Edgar the human cleric of Gond, Galfur the dwarven inquisitor, Kia the human sorcerer and Colin the halfling paladin of Lathander. The average party level was 11)

The heroes gathered their belongings and decided to push onwards down into the underground. They had the feeling they were about to stick their hands into one, huge, ugly hornet’s nest, but since Quinley hadn’t shown up yet it seemed like the only option.

Behind the door was a long hallway bathed in a red hue, showing strange tapestries of predatory beings decorating the walls. It was obvious that someone called this place home and the sweet smell of blood was thick in the air. On their way, the heroes discussed their most prudent course of action, which ended up being diplomatic and talkative. After all, there would be no reason to run in, guns blazing, into a city swarming with the undead. (Seemed reasonable enough. The adventure actually makes it a possibility to simply storm the place and gather the clues by hand, although this really seems to be the boring approach in an RP-aspect…)

So they reached a door and heard muffled voices on the other side. Slowly opening it, Galfur and Mutt looked inside and were greeted by four vampiric guards, getting to their feet. They drew swords and one of the sneered “Who are you?”

Galfur immediately stepped onwards, grunting “I’M YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE!!”
(So much for the talkative approach, I see…)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9T2S8GHzxqc

Luckily, his team mates stopped him from going Sir Lancelot on the vampires and told them they wished to parley with their leader and that they were sent by Quinley. Quinley was well known to the guards and they took an instant fascination of Kia (formerly known as Vincent until Wild Magic got the better of him) assuming her to be the headperson of the group, with her highest charisma score. They let her and her cattle onwards down the halls for almost an hour, asking them about their errand and informing them that Sir Luvick Siervage would likely wish to see them if they were hunting the vampire-killer. Things had been on edge of late in the community.

In the end they entered a huge underground complex consisting of several houses, settlements and various homes. The streets were bustling with minions, enthralled beings and spawns all eyeing the possibility of fresh meat. An unholy cathedral was placed to the far north and a salon richly decorated in red shiny lights rested to the west. An old pumphouse was to the east and to the south a grand hall towered up against the ceiling. This was where they were going.

Inside they were met with a court of elderly looking and yet savage vampires, sitting at their thrones in the far end of the room. On the biggest throne, a charismatic gentlemen eyed the party with an almost calculating gaze. He nodded lazily with his head as they entered and the guards provided Kia, the mistress, with a chair. Her slaves, the rest of the party, was ordered to stay, behave and only speak when spoke at.

Luvick was at his good behavior, greeting the heroes and bidding them welcome to his domain. He also wished to know why he should ever let them leave? Kia told him about the group’s quest and their wish to track down the Whispering Way. Something they understood he would be easily able to help them with. To this, Luvick nodded with a sly smile, although he certainly didn’t understand what anyone would wish with such a group of deranged necromancers. When explained about the heroes hypothesis that the cult might be dangerously close to bringing back the Whispering Tyrant into this world, Luvick considered it for a second and then offered to settle for an agreement. If the heroes could bring the murderer to him, he would gladly tell them everything he knew about the whereabouts of the cult. They were not to slay the killer, merely bring him to justice at the hands of the nocturnal. In return the heroes would have safe passage in the vampiric community.

They agreed to this and were told that the vampires held one suspect in custody in the old pumphouse. A nosferatu who apparently had carried evidence when caught, that some of the minor noble houses of Caliphas had in fact hired him to carry out three of the murders of important vampire nobles. However, as the killings were still proceeding, they assumed there were more out there waiting to be found. Luvick suggested the heroes spoke to the nosferatu and also Desmond Kote, the vampire inquisitor, and Lady Evgenya, owner of the salon.

(There are a few pointers that seem unclear in the original adventure, such as whether the killings have stopped after they captured the nosferatu and exactly how many killings there have been. If you have very inquisitive players, like me, better prepare some more detail than ‘vampires have died!!’)

Thus the heroes bid him goodbye, promising with news.

(GM’S: REMEMBER; The heroes get XP in this adventure whenever they successfully interact with the vampires, as if they had killed them in combat. I tend to forget this all the time, so might spare some of you the headache!)

Going Magnum vamPIre (fuck it, they can’t all be winners…)

They immediately headed to the old pumphouse in which they were greeted by a brooding nosferatu sitting in the middle of the room, surrounded by vermin and insects crawling on the floor. As he noticed them enter, he smiled and got up. “Ah, more of Luvick’s servants, yes? Have you come to gloat some more? No? Oh, no, now I see. You’re not slaves. Yet. You are here with a purpose. Would it be to set me free? I assure you, I would be most grateful!”

This was Ramoska Arkimnos, skilled alchemist and practitioner of the arcane. When asked about his involvement with the murders he shrugged, denying any kind of involvement. He was well aware of their happenings but assured the heroes he had nothing to do with them. The vampire community claimed to have proof of him being hired by nobles to carry out the deeds, and if they wanted to see for themselves, he was sure that Radvir the tailor, and second hand of Luvick, would gladly present to them any ‘evidence’ they would have. Ramoska had no idea who could be behind such an act and neither didn’t really care. The heroes spoke to him a bit about the motivation of such; perhaps wishing to split up the vampire community before an invasion? The nosferatu merely nodded and mumbled ‘Yes, yes, very interesting!’ along the way.

Edgar asked about his involvement with the Whispering Way and to this the vampire smiled. He’d indeed had a clash with them some small time ago in which they contacted him to test out a very potent potion, apparently able to cause Lichdom. Although he was no supporter of the Way’s goals, this was too tempting an opportunity to let go and with a very small sample, he had indeed been able to verify its potency. Also the fact that it was more like a poison than a potion. It was supposed to be administered to someone. Who? That was beyond his imagination.

Alas, the Whispering Way had neglected to pay him his fee, which would ordinarily be of no big concern. However, in the principles of things, Ramoska didn’t approve of being scammed and therefore wished nothing more than to get out of here and get back at the cult. He therefore promised the heroes to divulge any information he had, could they prove him innocent.

Without any further questions they left him and decided to head for the Mr. Radvir, the tailor, who apparently held the hard evidence for the nosferatu’s crimes.
*
*A tailor to a jailor

The tailoring shop was small but well stocked. The dresses and handiwork in here was nothing short of amazing. Dating back thousands of years there was an immense amount of time put into each and everyone of them, reflecting a man dedicated to his work. Greeting them with a huge smile, Radvir Giovanni shook his long blonde hair and bowed deeply for Kia as she entered, asking whether she’d prefer a lovely dress this day?

Considering it for a second, Kia decided to go against her urge and instead asking about the murderers. Radvir frowned and agreed this was indeed a tragic chain of events, and even though they’ve managed to lock up the nosferatu things certainly hadn’t improved much. He was, however, certain of the nosferatu being the mastermind behind the scenes and whoever was out there likely was a minor concern that would quickly be brought to justice by the vampire authorities.

Kia told him that they too were on the case and wished to bring whoever responsible for trial. Radvir nodded and presented her with papers found on the nosferatu as they seized him. That vampire had been playing a strange game for some time and they’d kept their eyes on him for some time. And for good reason, it seemed. The papers confirmed three noble families of Caliphas hiring him to perform three of the murders on some of the most esteemed members of the community, which was pretty solid, Radvir thought. Kia agreed on this and asked whether Radvir had any other suspects to go on, which he admitted wasn’t the case. Perhaps it was a mortal or enthralled minions of some kind?

As they left the store, they spoke about these papers. Mutt and Edgar, however, realized that the three mentioned noble families had left Caliphas months ago?…
The mystery grew thick.

(Again, for some really strange reason there are no names given of nobles in the adventure. You might do yourself a favor and come up with some of your own.)

Drinks and Devils

The heroes went to investigate the vampire community for a bit. They began by visiting the cathedral of Zaebo, the infernal duke of arrogance, nobility and perversion. Both Galfur and Colin refused to enter this unholy place, leaving Kia, Edgar and Mutt to themselves.

Inside they met up with Desmond Kote, the inquisitor, along with two of his priests. Kote didn’t care much for their presence and initially was quite dismissive. As they spoke more about the killings he couldn’t tell them much they didn’t already know, except for his agreement when they presented to him the stake they found earlier. Kote had been gathering stakes from previous victims as well, noticing the all too similar patterns on them, as if they came from the same carpenter. He had been unable to track this person down, however. He suggested the heroes spoke to Lady Evgenya if they wished to know more about patterns in regards to the victims.

(There is a skill challenge involved here, but I frankly hate them, so I skipped it)

A group of very curious nobles met the heroes as they entered Lady Evgenya’s Salon, bidding them welcome in a very sly way. One of them who seemed to be the main man at the door asked them thoroughly for their purpose of being here, and Kia expressed the urgency of meeting the Lady and that they were working for Luvick.

The heroes were ordered to wait for a while in which they inspected the room. Several thralls were resting in the room, drinking, smoking and eyeing them eagerly. It was obvious that Lady Evgenya was a vampire with plenty of people at her side. At one time, a small undead girl came to the group, insisting to dance with some of them. Kia immediately sent Edgar to do it. After all he was the slave now. This was done with some reluctance and fierce gazes from the cleric.
Also, an elderly vampire with an appetite for small people insisted on burrowing Colin for a dance on the floor. While considered for some time, Kia agreed, sending the halfling dancing, well knowing that any kind of turmoil would likely result in their deaths.

(I strongly considered having ‘Confusion Pump’ playing in here. Just saying)

Lady Evgenya arrived in a burst, slamming open the door and with a sob hurled her arms around Kia, crying. She knew Luvick would never abandon her; how fortunate he’d sent capable minions to protect her in these times of danger!

(I played the vampires quite a bit more eccentrically than they were likely intended. Lady Evgenya was histrionic drama queen on the verge of borderline. Period.)

Kia gently calmed her down and agreed dancing with her. While they did so the vampire kept sobbing and telling how much she feared for her life. She was absolutely sure that the murderer would come for her next, just as he had already taken the lives of three of her very best friends. She’d noticed a very strange pattern in the killings; for example that many of the murders had happened around Restoration Park. Another interesting fact was that the murderer seemed to only go for vampires with large amounts of thralls and spawns below them, which only gave a stronger indication of her being next, as she was the one currently holding the most thralls in the community. In addition, there had been a strange tendency among the spawns left behind from their dead master. They had started acting weird, almost as if they had become…secretive and covert.
She was so afraid to go out that she had fortified herself inside her salon, refusing to leave before the murderer had been brought to rest.

She insisted that Kia and her slaves would stay with her for all eternity. Kia managed to talk her way out of this, stressing that there was no need for any drastic measures. They needed to get out soon so they could bring down the murderer and avenge her friends, after all. But she did promise to come back and be her plaything very soon!

The heroes left the salon quickly and got their bearings together.

(Edgar’s player, Silverglass, made this lovely piece of art from the scene. I think she nailed it quite well!)

Bloody right!

Acting on rumors the heroes decided to seek out some spawns and stick an ear to the unholy ground. Apparently, according to the few spawns that wanted to talk to them, there was a gatheringplace in the community not far away known as the Blood Cellar, in which many of them came to ‘get their thrill’. When asked, they described it as a feeling of ecstasy, like utter freedom they had never encountered since they were embraced into the vampiric society. It reminded them of mortality.

The heroes, curious to find out more, headed to the Blood Cellar to find out more.

(Again this adventure is horribly vague on this part. All it says is that the spawns and thralls are ‘acting weird’ which is then left for you to interpret. I decided to run them like junkies, finally tasting what it was like to live a free and mortal life without the heavy mantle of undead hanging on their shoulder. I suppose it’s entirely up to you how you wish to run it).

At the cellar, several spawns were gathered and the party sent in Mutt, pretending to be another junkie in need for his extract. Two kind vampires in the cellar provided him with a vial of red substance for almost no money, and he staggered back out quickly. As none of the heroes had any knowledge of alchemy, they decided to get out of town for now, and find someone who’d know about this substance.

You have been waylaid by enemies and must defend yourself!

Suddenly on their way out, the party was ambushed by spell casting coming from up the tunnel. Two fireballs roared towards them and brought them half to their knees. The invisible vampires won initiative and boomed them repeatedly, slaying Galfur and being damn close having serious impacts on the remaining party (Galfur had three negative levels at this time, so it wasn’t really his day…)

The heroes quickly rallied, healed and got off a True Seeing spell on Colin, who localized the two vampires from the Blood Cellar. Kia moved into position and cast a Glitterdust (YES! WE FRIGGIN GOT OUR SPARKLY VAMPIRES!!). They cried out “You should never have interfered with this!” and hurled scorching rays at Kia, bringing her to -3 hit points (One ray missed on a natural 1. It made all the difference.)
Edgar brought her back up and Colin began pin cushioning the vampires, who in exchanged hurled scorching rays back at him. Mutt broke the tie by charging in, tearing the first vampire apart. The party then focused fire on the second one who tried dominating Mutt into finishing off Kia. (That natural 20 sure came in handy on that save!)

With the vampires slain, the heroes set out from the tunnels quickly and returned to the surface. With their dead companion needing a raise they had important business to see to first. And then decide how to best track down this mysterious killer.

To be continued next week.

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