(This session included Edgar the human cleric, Galfur the dwarven inquisitor, Mutt the human barbarian and Colin the halfling paladin. The average party level was 11.)
So the heroes had finally made their way through the nocturnal murderer’s basement and finally stood face to face with the culprit. Much to their surprise, after bashing down his basement-door, they realized it was none other than Radvir Giovanni greeting them; the otherwise respected and well-known vampire-tailor. His spawns stared hatefully at the newly arrived heroes and their master, well aware of the alarm the heroes sprung earlier, had prepared his defenses well in advance.
”You should never have interfered with this!” he hissed ”It doesn’t concern you!”
And thus he charged.
Nothing like beginning a session with a good fight!
Colin got the upper hand of initiative and unleashed a hail of arrows at the advancing vampire. He noticed how he moved gracefully through the air, avoiding slashes and arrows alike almost as if he was displaced from his apparent location (remember, Radvir drinks his potion of Cat’s Grace and Displacement before the battle, if he’s aware of the heroes approaching). A few of them connected and burned into his skin and thus the rogue leapt a long way to the flank with his bladed scarf (I’d never heard of this beforehand, my players had a hard time taking this guy seriously, I have to admit), and just as he was to slice through the air, a spawn which had readied its action charged in and provided the vampire with a flank. Not only did Colin take a neat beating with 7D6+8, he also suffered two negative levels due to the slam.
The rest of the party joined in, but without their sorceress there was very little offensive ability left, besides from Mutt who fiercely tried taking down Radvir with a full attack. Due to the vampire’s now buffed AC of 32 and displacement-spell, it wasn’t easily done. In fact, he danced for some time even when the inquisitor joined in and instead decided it would be easier beating up the spawns. The remaining two remained stationary in the back, prepared to aid their master for his fleeting tactical advantage.
Colin had a really good round on the following turn, bypassing the displacement and scoring three hits with smite evil on the vampire, bringing him notoriously down in hit points, even with his previous fast healing. He went into a blood-rage and five-foot stepped into full attack position of the paladin, immediately having another spawn flank up to his side, and unleashed his barrage of blades on him, hitting with two out of three. After 14D6+16 damage the spawn also got lucky, resulting in three additional negative levels in one burst, instantly slaying the halflfing paladin.
(Thus, session was off to an even greater start!) Radvir, however, was getting dangerously low on health and prepared to escape the following round through gaseous form and let his minions be mobbed up. Chance never came, however, as Mutt and Galfur with a flank-attack got through his displacement and thus slew the foul being where he stood, only to deal swift justice on the remaining spawns.
(Radvir was a surprisingly lethal fight, but he works largely on his spawns in my book. And of course, being the hallmark of the higher levels in D&D, who wins the initiative. Him being so dependent on his sneak attacks for being dangerous makes it even more important to get the first strike and move out on the flanks, so remember that Cat’s Grace potion. It ups Radvir’s initiative to 21/24 in one turn.. If you feel he still needs buffering, give him some poisonous attacks, or even read up on Ice Titan’s ”Heroic Mode Radvir” as I like to call him: http://paizo.com/forums/dmtz3me4?Ashes-at-Dawn#28 This version replaces Radvir with a very lethal monk-build which is very unforgiving, especially for ranged casters and grouped up people.)
”Dear evil diary; I totally foiled the heroes’ plans toda— wait, there is someone at the door?”
Being the megalomaniac villain that he is, Radvir of course keeps a journal of his exploits. As the heroes searched the small basement room, they found it lying conveniently on the desk, next to some staked vampires who were apparently paralyzed and unable to move for now. They decided not to take any chances, and instead return everything to Siervage and letting him decide what to do with them. They also decided not to execute Radvir by themselves, but instead pacify him and hand him over to his betrayed community.
In his journal, Radvir mentioned some very interesting things. (Sadly, this is one of those things I would have loved for the adventure to include as a hand-out, but sadly it is only summed up. I therefore have made up my own excerpt from Radvir’s journal, explaining of recent events and his involvement with them. Feel free to use at your own leisure!)
A lot of things started making sense for the heroes as their eyes went through this. Not surprisingly, Radvir had been a close ally of the Whispering Way all along, wishing nothing but throwing the vampire-society into turmoil and thus unable to stand against the Whispering Tyrant, should the cult be successful in creating the Carrion Crown. Apparently, for this very purpose, the mentioned sisters in the old abbey seemed responsible for the odd concoction; the Blood Brew, which somehow warranted closer investigation. Another thing that quickly caught their attention was the mention of their friend Adivion Adrissant, the scholar, merchant and aristocrat they met during Countess Caliphvaso’s ball. He’d been very friendly to them back then, very interested in establishing some trade-connections and listened dearly to their stories and heroic moments. But for now, it seemed like his interest ran much deeper than that. Him bearing the title of Lord in connections with The Whispering Way was certainly an ill omen.
The heroes decided to do a quick sweep of the remaining basement, including the adjacent room which contained nothing but silence and four coffins; likely the resting place for the now former owners. Eager to inspect, Mutt went to the first one which immediately sprang to life and grappled him.
It’s a mimic!!!
The coffin mimics all animated in the narrow room, effectively sending Edgar and Galfur running screamingly away, while the third dragged off with Mutt to munch on him in the corner. Edgar cast Freedom of Movement on Galfur and ran to the far side of the room, while the inquisitor kept shooting arrows at the things. The only thing Mutt could rely on at this time, was his own brute force and whatever daggers he could produce and punch it up with..
(This was one of those Benny Hill fights, really… It took for god damn ages, with two thirds of the players being terrible damage-dealers. In the end they would have won, but I actually ended up lowering the mimic’s hit points to something which could be completed in one night. They don’t hit really hard and by the time the barbarian had smashed the first up, he made good progress on the second one as well.)
And thus the heroes made their way quickly through the rest of the basement, wrestling with a few mechanics and challenge before finding the secret door into Radvir’s personal chambers, in which they found another letter.
From his knowledge, Mutt had heard about this old Abbey that once was dedicated to a saint of Tyr but later converted to vinery. As far as he knew, it had been abandoned through time, so it was likely these supposed witches were there in the utmost secrecy.
As the dark times fell…
The party handed over the evidence to Luvick Siervage who was most pleased with the results and yet quite unnerved to realize the evil forces mobilizing against him. He promptly instructed the heroes to journey to the north along the cliffs, where they would find the old abbey. They were to put a significant end to this threat once and for all, making the witches pay for their blasphemous mockery of his society. As for Radvir, the traitor was bound to the tallest spire of the city with enchanted links, unable to escape his impending doom in a few hours. The heroes, who had of course made sure to loot him of all vital possessions first, were invited to stand by as spectators.
As dawn cast its golden hue on the city, even down on the streets they could vainly hear the frenzied tailor wail and cry in anger when his flesh began searing and shortly after caught fire. It was with a roar Radvir became engulfed in flames and after some minutes was reduced to tiny pieces of ash drifting off into the wind. It would have been a grand moment indeed, had it not been for the fact that a strange gathering of grey clouds had started in sky. It looked like an unusual large amount of rain was on its way.
The heroes went to recuperate and after 10 hours raised Colin from the dead. Being briefly updated, they immediately went to the city gates to set out in pursuit of the Abbey. As they moved out they noticed how the heavy rain had started and how the clouds nearly grew darker and darker for every hour. The faint sound of thunder in the distance roared, almost as if some gigantic beast was making its way to their location. Colin had an inner sense of an unholy presence starting to settle all throughout the land. Definitely, this was a dark omen of things to come.
They spent a significant amount of time reading up on the names they’d been given, to learn that these witches had once been part of a coven led by a vicious Hag known as Oothi. Oothi was destroyed a long time ago by an inquisition and burned to the stake, however, it is believed she managed to escape in one form or the other, meaning the church scattered her bones all throughout the world. It was said, however, that her remaining sisters were now eagerly searching for her remains as through foul necromantic rituals, it would indeed be possible to make her walk this earth once more.
During their research, the heroes encountered yet another dire event. Apparently, their old friend and ally, Count Lucinean Galdana, who was also introduced to them along with Adivion Adrissant, had gone missing this very night, which had now put the town in an uproar. Being a very respected member of society, searches were going on at all gates and the heroes were questioned about their knowledge of his last location. They only knew that he had invited them to see him after the ball, and that Adivion had expressed an interest to join. While the Watch assured them they would go and investigate, the heroes knew all too well that Adivion was no longer in town. They’d checked.
In the name of the demonic rose
As the heroes neared the abbey they shielded themselves from the rain the best they could. It was pouring down, sometimes making paths and trails dangerous or unstable. What they couldn’t help but notice was the occasional red lightning striking at random places out in the distance. Whenever it happened, it almost seemed as if something red and glowing was hiding in the nearby clouds. Not exactly sure why, they just knew that this somehow signalized that time was about to run out. Evil forces had been set in motion and if they didn’t act swiftly it might spell a very bad future for Ustalav.
They arrived around noon at the old abbey and noticed its surprisingly fine condition. It was located close to a small bay with plenty of water at the foot of the tall cliffs and the abbey itself was in two floors, the upper one housing a prosperous balcony with green vegetation. Besides from his they noticed a small, closed, stable, an old tool shed, a well and the vineyards themselves. Further down the path they would return to the grasslands.
From where they stood, they couldn’t spot any sign of life, but a faint sound of someone working and humming lowly emanated from the stables. Colin, not wanting to take any chances by now, detected a strong evil presence coming from within, which in adventurer-language roughly translates to:
Back on plot, however, Mutt decided to add a twist to it and politely knocked, a short moment later being greeted by a young stable boy. Mutt told him he carried an important message and smiling the young boy asked who it was for?
Not really that far into the plan, Mutt decided it was more trouble than it was worth and pounded the boy with his halberd, only to see him laugh with a twisted unearthly laughter and warp into a towering, drooling demon. Before them stood a glabrezu.
It immediately cast a mirror image which was torn apart by Galfur and Mutt. It also saved the demon from some nasty shots from the zealous paladin. On its next turn, the demon cast Power Word: Stun on the paladin, well aware he was too far away from the cleric, and retreated to gather up the party as much as he could. Taking a bit of beating, he managed into next round and created a field of reverse gravity sending Edgar and Colin flying up in the air, more or less defenseless as the cleric had no luck getting spells through in his current state and failed his one dispel magic attempt. He attempted to confuse Mutt who luckily made his save. Both the barbarian and the inquisitor got to hang on to the door, but had to rely on their one-handed weapons to harm the demon, who now turned to fiercely tearing them apart with his close combat attacks.
In the end, Galfur hurled himself at it and got out of the gravity-zone, thus finally able to finish off the foe with a well-aimed lethal blow.
As the demon gurgled and fell to its dead knees, the party took a deep breath and looked at each other. Certainly, this was not going to be easy…
To be continued this night!