Pathfinder 1E Way of the Wicked Playthrough - Updated 2023/03/28


Part 2: Call Forth Darkness
Act 2: Taking the Horn
Session 16: Meeting and Beating the Neighbors

Looking at the creatures, Donovan quickly responded in Abyssal, “I take it you are a guardian of Vetra Kali Eats the Eyes?” The large creature appeared to stare at Donovan with curiosity before it responded. “Why are you here?”
“I am here to break the seal binding Vetra Kali.”, Donovan realized he was dealing with a Dread Wraith.
The creature paused the advance of its minions at that point, while continuing to advance on Donovan. The creature switched to Infernal, then continued speaking, “Who sent you?”
“I have been tasked to this quest by the High Priest of Asmodeus.”, Donovan responded, also switching to Infernal.
“Who are you?”
“My name is Donovan Thorn.”
“Who are these people who are accompanying you?”
“They are my family.” Donovan felt his breathing increased as the creature continued to approach. He cursed himself silently for not having already prepared some Ghost Salt.
“I assume these minions of yours are necessary to complete your task?”, the Wraith was now speaking in Celestial.
“Indeed, they are my family.”, Donovan repeated, this time in Celestial.
The Wraith seemed to be amused with Donovan, pulling itself away and appearing to smile. “And what does someone like you know of the ritual to free Vetra Kali?”, it asked, this time in Sylvan.
“Not nearly enough, unfortunately.”, Donovan replied in Sylvan. “I had hoped to find the Elf Aiden Kael, to see what insight he had gleaned.”
A dark chuckle came from the Dread Wraith. “Aiden Kael may have escaped from me, but he did not escape from the other guardians of this place.”
Donovan sighed, “Disappointing. This means we will have to find the answers within the walls of the Horn.”
The Wraith drifted about the room considering what had been said thus far. “What do you know of the residents of the Horn?”, it spoke once more, this time in Boggard.
Tamsen heard the familiar grunts, and prepared to activate her magics once more, when Donovan raised his hand slightly to her. Slowly, he croaked out a set of words that amounted to his admission that he had only begun learning the Boggard language.
The Wraith seemed amused at this, “In fairness, it was my most recent language as well.”, it responded in Common.
“So, how do you wish for us to address you, Guardian?”, Donovan asked the Dread Wraith.
“My name is Ezra. As you surmised, I am also attempting to see Vetra Kali restored to this world.”
Continuing to look around the room, Donovan noticed a small stand that held an emerald very much like the one that Halthus had delivered to the group. Fumbling through his coin purse, Donovan pulled out the emerald and said, “I suspect the ritual is connected to these two stones.”
Ezra saw the emerald in Donovan’s hand and rushed forward to where Donovan was standing. “Where did you find this stone?” Donovan could feel a chill setting in to him from the proximity of this creature.
“When we restored Halthus to his form, he revealed to us that he had grabbed the emerald before being turned to stone.”, Donovan replied while trying to hold back a shudder.
Ezra fixed his gaze on the flayer. “Halthus, yes, of course. Your assessment is correct, Donovan. The emeralds represent the eyes of Vetra Kali, and are a part of the path needed to seize control of the Horn.”
“So, is another emerald still within the Horn?”
“When I was observing the tribe of Boggards, I sensed a familiar emanation radiating from down there. Perhaps you should investigate further.”, Ezra appeared to smile, as he floated away from Donovan.
“In for a copper…”, Donovan thought to himself. “Lord Ezra, you mentioned that other guardians had caught Aiden Kael. Who are these guardians you speak of?”
“Ah, Hexor and Vexor. What a wonderful pair of Cuestodaemons!”
Recognition flashed in Donovan’s mind, “The creatures from the mural, the ones bound with the collars, correct?”
Ezra appeared to nod, “Yes indeed.” Ezra floated over to a pair of iron plates, “These plates allow someone to control those two, when used in conjunction with their collars.”
“Will you allow me to have those plates, Lord Ezra?”
“Yes, Donovan. But I expect for you to not use them unless necessary. If you have any skill at communication, you should be able to get these two to aid you in your task.”
Donovan nodded, and pulled the plates from the pile of treasures. Looking back at his family, Bebop was practically licking his lips at the sheer wealth that was to be had. “Thank you for your guidance, Lord Ezra. We will return once I have recovered the other emerald.”

The group left the hidden chamber, returning to the room that had contained the altar of Vetra Kali. From there, the group explored the rest of this floor of the Horn, while carefully checking for additional secret doors. While hidden places were discovered, including the teleporter on the third floor there was still something missing from the map.

Ezra reappeared from the dimensionally disconnected room and looked at the group as they continued to tap on the walls nearby, “What are you all doing?”, Ezra intoned.
“Where’s the secret door?”, Bebop blurted out.
“According to my estimates, Lord Ezra, there should be a staircase near here. For some reason, we have not yet found the seam that would open up the passageway to us.”, Donovan elaborated.
“You’ve heard the expression that you have to take one step back in order to take two steps forward?”, Ezra mused. “Now you have another reason to go visit the Boggards.” With that, Ezra returned to the hidden room.
“Back to the first floor?”, Tamsen asked the group.
General assent came from the group, and the party used the third-floor teleporter to return to the first floor. From there, they traversed back down the steps to enter the cave beneath the Horn.
Returning to the cave, the group reinvestigated some of the areas that they had previously visited. While down there, Donovan made a crude attempt to give a greeting to a group of Boggards that were watching them from a distance. He wasn’t sure if they returned the greeting, or if they were threatening to eat him. Donovan shook his head, determined to get more practice in on this language.
Spreading out around the caves, the group continued to search for secret doorways. Bebop’s eyes caught sight of a darkened area on one of the cave walls, something he had missed before. “I found something!”, he called out across the caves.
As the group caught up to his position, Bebop pried the rock wall away from the staircase that was hidden beneath it.
“Yes, this matches up with the rest of the floors.”, Donovan checked his maps. “We should be able to take this all the way up to the third floor.”
Lucinda unsheathed her weapon at her master’s command, and began proceeding up the steps slowly.

Arriving at the third floor, the group stumbled out into a room with a large dome above it. A partial wall separated this room from another, and two fur covered creatures could be seen standing against the wall. Seeing the family, the creatures approached, one of them speaking in Abyssal.
“I’m sorry sir, but I’m afraid I need to disembowel you now.”
Hatred filled Donovan’s eyes, as he spoke back in Abyssal, “Hexor and Vexor, have you so quickly abandoned your charge to Vetra Kali? Is it not your duty to see to it that he returns to this plane?”
“What does one such as you know of Vetra Kali Eats the Eyes?”
Flashing the emerald before them, Donovan replied. “I know a little.”
The creatures exchanged glances with each other, then looked back at Donovan, “We are charged to protect the Sanctum, to ensure that only those who are loyal to Vetra Kali are granted access. We failed this charge once, when the soldiers came and slew everyone.”
Donovan pressed on, “Have you seen an Elf recently?”
“He was so weak, such easy prey.”, the Cuestodaemons laughed at their accomplishment.
“He was here to break the seal and restore Vetra Kali to this world!”, Donovan responded in an accusing tone.
Hexor and Vexor seemed momentarily taken back by this information, but their nature still reveled in the act, “Prey trying to escape is such a rare delicacy, sir.”
Moving the rest of the way into the room, the group noticed the additional staircase. “This is the staircase to the Sanctum you are guarding?”, Donovan asked the Daemons.
Hexor and Vexor nodded, “We are unable to travel up there.”
Donovan realized that he had still been speaking Abyssal the entire time. When was the last time he had ever spoken Abyssal for this length of time? “Do you two speak any other languages besides Abyssal?”
“We also can speak in Infernal.”, they said, in Infernal.
Hexor focused his gaze on Donovan, “We also can communicate via telepathy.”, the voice rang out in Donovan’s head.
“That could indeed prove useful.”, Donovan replied to the telepathic communication taking place.
“Indeed sir, and we are able to communicate this way anywhere within the Horn!”, Hexor was very excited with sharing this information.
Vexor suddenly teleported himself directly behind Halthus, “And move anywhere we wish within the Horn.” Vexor moved close to Halthus, sniffing the air near him, before whispering “Failure.”
Donovan nodded. “I guess the only way we are going to discover the truth of the Sanctum is to go up there.”
As the group began walking up the stairs, Hexor also sniffed Halthus and whispered, “Failure.”

The group began the long and arduous climb up the circular stairway to the Sanctum. First fifty feet, then one hundred, then two hundred.
“By the gods!”, Donovan exclaimed, “How high do these stairs go?”
Bebop laughed, “Poor Donovan, you should never skip a leg day!” For his part, Bebop was carrying Tamsen up the stairs as he walked.
Donovan shook his head in confusion. “Is this what a leg day is supposed to feel like?”
As they arrived at the top of the stairs, the smell of ozone was strong in the air.
Carefully peeking out from the top of the stairs, Lucinda reported seeing some sort of moving electrical ball.
Donovan handed an elixir to both Bebop and Lucinda. “This should protect you against the electrical part of that creature’s attacks.”
They consumed the Elixir, and then headed out into the area. Bebop had already consumed a Mutagen on the way up the stairs. The two of them set out into the main Sanctum area, as Lucius, Tamsen, and Donovan remained in the stairwell.

The Lightning Elemental floated along the ceiling, but responded when the two of them entered the main Sanctum area. The creature continued to fly in circles around the ceiling of the Sanctum, diving down from time to time in order to strike the intruders. The Elemental lacked any tactics or cunning, choosing instead to lash out to whatever creature was closest to it.
Lucius caused an Evolution Surge in Lucinda, and wings spouted from her back. She took to the sky to face the Lightning Elemental head on. Bebop consumed an elixir to cause him to Enlarge Person, and then also attempted to fly up to where the Lightning Elemental was located.
Lucinda and Bebop continued to take advantage of opportunities to attack the creature as it continued to circle about without any thought for self-preservation. Lucius applied Haste to the combatants, and Donovan whispered words of hatred into his crossbow, causing it to take on the familiar sickly purple glow that his rapier had shown in the past.
Just as the Lightning Elemental caught sight of the remainder of the party hiding within the stairwell, Bebop caught the creature once more off guard, and the final damage caused the Elemental to discorporate, the remnants of its form landing on the ground with a wet thud.
Donovan applied healing to both Lucinda and Bebop, although the damage inflicted to both of them was minimal.
Bebop grabbed a vial from Donovan’s satchel, then moved over to the remnants of the Elemental. He proceeded to collect a sample of the fluid that remained after the creature was no longer animated, then handed the vial back to Donovan.
Donovan accepted the vial and shrugged, “I hope this is the ‘blood’ that was being referenced in the schematics. I imagine the energy that has coalesced around this area altered the Elemental in some way.”

The group took a closer look at the altar and seal in the room. While nothing stood out about the objects, it was obvious that the altar had been used for sacrificial pursuits. The group also came across a huge disc like object on the floor. “The Silver Seal.”, Donovan said what the group was clearly thinking.
Having finished this task, the group went back down the stairs, first moving to the third floor, then taking the other staircase all the way down to the cave.
“We should go back over all of the areas down here, perhaps we missed something the first time around.”, Donovan suggested.
“You know, we should look around for growing areas. I can imagine there’s a lot of places where we could start growing some exceptional drugs around here.”, Bebop responded with excitement.
Donovan looked back over the cave area. “Drugs? Here? In this darkness?”
“Of course! We even have a group of individuals to work the fields.”, Bebop pointed at some of the Boggards.
Donovan rubbed his forehead. “Ignoring the fact that the lighting here is terrible for almost all illicit drugs, I’m not sure we really want growing production to be controlled by someone who already has a drug addiction.”
Bebop snorted, “On the contrary, this keeps us from having to pay them!”
Lucius chimed in, “I’m going to go search the huts.”, then left with Lucinda.
Donovan continued, “If you want to produce addictive substances, your alchemical skills will produce far more results than you could simply by growing something and hoping for the best.”
Bebop thought about what was said, then him and Tamsen followed behind Lucius.
When the group arrived in the hut area, Tamsen detected magics coming from two of the different huts. It was about this time that Zikomo showed up.
Lucius queried the Shaman, “What is in these huts?”
Zikomo pointed at one of the huts, “This hut belongs to you, great warriors who defeated Kumanda!”
With that, Bebop entered the hut and searched for everything in there. He recovered several magic items of interest, but chose to hold onto them until Donovan could analyze them.
Lucius continued, “What about this hut?”, pointing at the other one that Tamsen had sensed magic within.
Zikomo began speaking in Boggard to the member of his tribe that was living in the hut that Lucius had pointed at. Some sort of argument took place, and then the Boggard fetched a sack containing some miscellaneous items which Lucius took.

“Walk with me, Tribe Leader Zikomo.”, Donovan walked up on the group, then led Zikomo away.
As the two of them walked, Donovan suggested to Zikomo that he move the tribe up into the first floor. Zikomo seemed concerned about why Donovan would make such a suggestion.
“There’s no mud up there, Zikomo likes the mud!”
“We can add mud there, if that’s what you want.”
“Why would you want us to live up there?”
“This is our home now, you should be able to stay up with us, so we can all protect each other.”
It was clear that Zikomo was nervous at Donovan’s proposal. Donovan was unsure of why the Boggards would be afraid of them, but perhaps the truth of it was that him and his family just represented creatures that would normally be hunting them. Trust would not be easily given, so it would seem.
About this time, the rest of the group showed up at the temple area where Zikomo and Donovan were speaking.
“Tell us how to make your Vision Juice, Zikomo.”, Bebop insisted.
Zikomo began to go through the ingredients in the compound. Donovan quickly realized that such a compound would quickly have detrimental effects on a creature. He imagined that Zikomo was probably completely addicted to this formulation by now, despite the harm it was doing.
Indeed, even as Zikomo was attempting to show the concoction to Bebop, he began applying it to himself, and ingesting the contents. Zikomo’s eyes rolled back in his head, and he fell backward onto the ground, apparently passing out.
Donovan grumbled, “Well, so much for any more conversations today.”
Suddenly, Zikomo sat up, his eyes white. “The cave of the blue slime conceals your future. Discover the truth or fail at your master’s charge.”
Zikomo began dancing around the temple, screaming at chanting, laughing with glee. He reached his arm up, as if reaching for the heavens, and then stopped moving. A moment later, Zikomo looked around at the group, apparently confused at what was going on.
“Are you alright, Zikomo?’, Tamsen asked with apparent concern.
“What’s going on?”, Zikomo looked around.
“You said something about the cave of the blue slime? Where is this place you are referring to?”
“Oh, yes yes! I know of this cave you speak of.” Having said that, Zikomo led the group to another section of the cave area.

Moving south back to a section of the cave that had previously been visited, the group came across the “blue slime” that Zikomo had spoken of in his vision. Paying close attention to this area again, the group discovered what they had once thought was a simple crack in the wall. Tamsen pressed one of her Dancing Lights into the crack, and it then became obvious that the crack continued on further into the darkness.
“Pooky, go check it out.”, Tamsen pushed her bunny into the crack, where it pushed its way slowly into the extremely small space. After a while, there was a small squeaking coming from the hole where Pooky had entered.
Tamsen was excited, “Donovan, Pooky found a skeleton holding a pouch and a book! I think it’s what you are looking for!”
“Can Pooky bring it back to us?”
Tamsen gave some instructions, and Pooky grabbed one of the objects. Lucius followed up by summoning several other creatures that were able to work their way into the hole in the cave and recover the remaining objects. Once Pooky appeared at the entrance to the small section with the book, Tamsen grabbed both excitedly, hugged Pooky close, and then handed the book to Donovan.
Donovan was thrilled when he first received the book, kissing Tamsen and thanking her. His eyes rapidly flipped through the pages the tome titled “The Dirges of Apollyon”. He knew this was priceless in its own right, and then to find the handwritten section at the end of it was even more exciting for him. However, as he read the details written into the sides of the pages, the excitement drained from his face.
“Seven months.”, Donovan finally said. “The Ritual takes seven months to complete.”
Silence fell over the group. No one expected the ritual to be easy, but how would they hold this dilapidated temple for the duration of the ritual?
Lucius’ creatures were able to obtain a pouch from the skeleton, in which was contained another one of the gems. “Alright, Donovan, let’s go show this to Ezra.”
Donovan nodded, and the group returned to the hidden room where Ezra was residing.

Upon arrival, the Dread Wraith looked over the party, “What did you discover in your search?”
Donovan held up the two gems, saying nothing.
Ezra appeared to be quite pleased, then looked around the treasure room. “All of this is yours.”
Bebop was thrilled beyond words. He stripped off his shirt, then kicked a large sack of coins across the floor. He threw himself onto the pile of treasure, rolling around in excitement. A moment later, he dashed back over to Tamsen, and the two of them began to make out with each other as he started to pull her clothes off.
Stopping as the two of them were mostly naked, Bebop looked over at Donovan, folding his hands together, “Please, Donovan?”
Donovan looked incredulously at Bebop, “Seriously, Bebop? Right now?”
Bebop nodded excitedly, and Tamsen pulled herself against Bebop.
Donovan shrugged, “Sure, whatever.”
Bebop picked up Tamsen, then threw the two of them into the nearest pile of loot.
Donovan rubbed his temples, then looked over at Lucius, “Let’s see if we can find any items of a magical nature. We’re not going be able to carry everything obviously; but we can bring the most valuable items back with us.
Lucius and Donovan began to work their way through the piles of treasure that has been stored in this room. Donovan calculated that there were hundreds and hundreds of pounds worth of gold and silver. Lucius located several different items that were radiating magic and brought them over to Donovan.
Donovan began the process of identifying the interesting items, while trying to block the sound of squealing coming from Bebop out of his head.

Once the group had completed the tasks they had set out to finish, the family instructed Halthus to wait behind, and left the emeralds with Ezra. From there, the family returned to Farholde with the goal of preparing for a very long stay within the Horn.

Session 16 Ends.

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Part 2: Call Forth Darkness
Act 3: Thirty-one Weeks
Session 17: Hurry Up and Wait to Die

“I’m going to go meet with the Baron. The rest of you should go with Bebop and see what you can discover.”, Donovan said with a sense of purpose, after taking the Haversack from Bebop and handing a stack of gold to Lucius.
“I’ll go with you, love.”, Tamsen replied.
“I wish you could. But the Baron made it clear that the rest of you were not welcome back to his home.”, Donovan was irked at this, but resolved.
Tamsen’s face was clearly pouting, but Donovan simply shrugged. Tamsen pulled herself against Donovan, then kissed him passionately. “You be safe”, Tamsen insisted.
Donovan smiled as their kiss ended, and nodded to Tamsen, “You too, my love.”

Heading off, Donovan headed back out to the home of Baron Vandermir. Following the instructions that had been given to him from the previous encounter, Donovan waited in the established meeting spot, and had notice sent to the Baron.
The Baron met Donovan after a period of time, and looked over Donovan with curiosity, “I take it you have found what you were looking for?”
Donovan nodded enthusiastically, “Indeed, sir! This is the reason my family and I have returned to town. According to the information we have discovered, the ritual will take around seven months. So, we’re going to have to set up some sort of shipping between us and Farholde in order to move goods between the two areas. As part of this, I’m in need of some… specialized items to complete the process.”
The Baron’s eyebrow pulled down as Donovan paused on the word ‘specialized’. “What exactly are you in need of?”
“A Portable Hole.”, Donovan said that with little fanfare, but also understood the complexity of his request.
The Baron was momentarily shaken by the request, and eyed Donovan closely. How much wealth could these younglings have possibly acquired in the span of less than a week? This Half-Elf and his companions were turning out to be more than advertised. The Baron pondered his choices momentarily, then he pulled an unusual golden key out of his pocket and showed it to Donovan.
Not waiting for a response or query, the Baron continued, “This is important, Donovan. There’s no room for your mind games or clever quips. If you damage my relationship with this individual, you will feel the might of my reprisal.”
Donovan nodded, unsure what was about to happen. A secret room in the Baron’s home, a connection to another world? Donovan’s thoughts were answered, however, when the Baron simply snapped the key in twain.
Moments later, a creature with blue skin arrived, accompanied by two insect looking humanoids. The man with the blue skin regarded Baron Arkov Vandermir. “This is not our agreed upon meeting time, Arkov. You had best have a good reason for calling me to you under these circumstances.”
Donovan stared at the creatures before him wordlessly. He recognized the subordinates quickly enough as Thri-Kreen. But who was the man in blue? An Ifrit? A Djinn? No, too many eyes and not enough fingers.
“Anagaz. I thank you for your time.”, the Baron began, “If it pleases you, I have brought an individual who is in need of rare and specialized magics that would not be available to any but the most discerning collectors. He is a bright young individual who I believe can continue to provide you with many trading opportunities.”
Anagaz scoffed, “Is he now? I’ll be the judge of that.” Facing Donovan, the blue creature continued, “And who exactly might you be?”
The revelation hit Donovan just then, that he was dealing with a Mercane. Donovan smiled his best merchant smile, “My name is Donovan Thorn, and the Baron is most assuredly correct, I am looking for an individual who will allow me to trade my magic wares for something even more exotic.”
“What do you consider exotic, Donovan Thorn?”, Anagaz asked.
“A Portable Hole.”
“I have two of them, but what do you have to trade?”
Donovan opened the Haversack, laying his recently gained goods on the table for Anagaz’ inspection. While Donovan wouldn’t say as much, he knew going in that he was in the weaker bargaining position. Going against a layperson, he could easily have negotiated for better terms and gotten out in the superior deal. But a Mercane was effectively a Merchant that had traveled many worlds and made lifetimes of negotiations. Donovan knew the Mercane could ask even more, and he would have to relent.
But, perhaps Anagaz realized that as well, and considered Donovan more of an investment than a resource. After picking up and looking over the items for a while, he handed back the Manacles of Cooperation, saying “These have been out of style for decades.” Anagaz then outstretched his hand over the rest of the pile and said, “This will do.” From another space, Anagaz drew out a large ornate chest, setting it on the floor. The Mercane drew a Portable Hole from this chest and handed it to Donovan. He then had his assistants take everything that had been agreed upon, and place it into the chest.
Once the transaction was complete, Anagaz addressed the Baron again. “It seems that this wasn’t a complete waste of my time.” With that, he handed the Baron another key that looked like the one the Baron had originally produced. Anagaz then turned his focus back to Donovan and pulled out a key, “Perhaps you and I will enter into a business relationship as well. If you are able to acquire more unique items such as the ones you have shown me here, you may call upon me.”
Aragaz began to hand over the item, but then as Donovan reached out for it, Aragaz pulled back, “To be clear, you will not call me in cases where you not in a relaxed and comfortable environment. I’m not interested in being involved in your conflicts. Impress me, Donovan Thorn, and you and I can continue having profitable dealings.”
Donovan bowed his head, “I thank you for your time, Merchant Aragaz. You’ve honored me today.”
Aragaz smiled, “Yes, I do think you understand.”
With that, the Mercane and his entourage teleported out of the building, with no trace of themselves left behind.
Donovan and Arkov regarded each other momentarily without words.
“Thank you again, Baron. I am truly grateful for what you have shown me today.”, Donovan finally spoke.
“Indeed, I hope you notify the Cardinal of what I have done on his behalf. Now, is there anything else you are in need of from me?”
Donovan smiled, “Well, now we should talk about the items that I will need to sell off from the Horn.”
The Baron waved his hand dismissively, “We’ve already agreed on this Donovan. You will deliver the goods to me, and I will acquire them, or resell them as I decide to.”
Donovan persisted, “Yes Baron, we have spoken on this. But, in the interest of full transparency, I need to clarify that I have come into possession of over three thousand stones worth of gold and silver items.”
The Baron’s eyes widened, “Uh, ok, you should probably have that delivered to one of my warehouse areas. I have an individual there who can reimburse you for the items, and then I’ll ship it out as needed.”
Donovan nodded, “Excellent plan. I will make those arrangements and have the goods delivered. Thank you again, and good evening.”

Bebop, Lucius, and Tamsen entered the Drownington area, with Bebop especially excited about the prospects.
“This place is perfect, guys! No real law enforcement, lots of areas to produce supply. It’s everything we could want.”, Bebop was salivating at the prospect of producing narcotics in this area.
Looking around the area for some familiar faces, Bebop found one of the individuals that they had been speaking with previously, “Hey! I remember you!”
The man, clearly indigent and not having the best of luck in his life, looked up to see Bebop. A look of concern came over his face, “Hello again, sir. I see you have returned already.”
Bebop continued, “So, when is the big fighting game? I’m ready to go!”
The man tilted his head, somewhat confused. “It’s still happening on Sunday.”
Bebop realized that only three days had passed since they were last in the town. “Damnit!”
Lucius sighed, clearly annoyed at the whole of this event. For Tamsen’s part, she appeared to be distracted, as if she was having a conversation in her own head that didn’t involve the rest of the group.
Bebop shrugged, figuring on different ways he could spend his time. “Oh, right. Well, thanks for your time, buddy!” With that, Bebop pressed some coin into the man’s hand.
The man looked around in almost a panic, “What are you doing?” His voice changed to almost a whisper, “Are you trying to get me killed?” With that, the man headed off to Drownington Manor.
The group followed the man into Drownington Manor, with Bebop looking around at the different females there who could accompany them. “I’ve had one of those, and one of those, and one of those.”
Lucius noticed the man who they had followed into the manor. He was apparently talking with a muscular man, whom Lucius assumed to be one of the hired hands. The man gave the help all of the coin he had received from Bebop, and they appeared to have some sort of conversation. “We all have our debts to pay.”, Lucius mused to himself.
A redheaded woman with Elvish features walked by the group, and Bebop stopped her as she was passing by, “Are you an Elf?”, Bebop asked.
The woman smiled and pushed her hair back over her right ear. “Sure baby, I am.”
Excited, Bebop took the woman’s hand, and headed off into a room for the two of them, leaving Lucius and Tamsen sitting at the table.
Lucius continued to be annoyed, “Why exactly are we here?”
Tamsen teased, “Maybe you need some closeness with a creature from this plane of existence?”
Lucius countered, “I think we’ve just been sent here as nannies.”
Just then, one of the patrons propositioned Tamsen, “Well, if you aren’t the most beautiful creature here! How much are you charging for your time?” The three other individuals who were with this individual were almost licking their lips in anticipation.
Tamsen giggled, “Thanks for the offer, cutie. But, I’m here with my boyfriend.” With that, Tamsen leaned over and started snuggling against Lucius.
The group of men seemed to be unphased. “Don’t be coy, pretty lady. No woman that dresses like you could just be a customer of the bar.” The lead man pushed up against Tamsen, his hands rubbing against her exposed thighs. “My mates and I will take good care of you.”
Lucius gritted his teeth in frustration, “Well damnit all, if we aren’t here now! Lucinda!” Lucius snapped his fingers, and the form of Lucinda appeared in the bar, wielding her weapon. Her form and demeanor were threatening to be certain, and the men who had previously found such confidence began to shrink away in the moment.
Tamsen locked her gaze with the man who had dared to set his hands on her body. “You are inches away from the worst decision in your pitiful life. Now, you can either take your hands off me and walk away, or you can find out exactly what it means to try raping a succubus.” All humor and mirth faded from Tamsen’s tone.
The group of men considered their options, then considered the less risky situation. They moved away from Lucius and Tamsen, and out of the manor. One of the “guards” within the manor briefly stopped by to make sure that Lucius and Tamsen weren’t trying to cause issues, but left the two of them alone after understanding what happened. It didn’t hurt that Lucius knew when to be generous with coin.
“Wasn’t that interesting?”, Tamsen giggled.
“No!”, Lucius replied, the irritation clearly growing in his tone. “That was an unnecessary risk! We could have avoided all of that if you would simply stop dressing like an open invitation.”
Tamsen’s gaze grew fierce as she leaned close to Lucius, “No! I won’t be told how to dress or how to live anymore! I spent my whole life being the slave of men who made all the choices for me. Men who decided how I would look, and dress, and who could touch me. I hated every moment of my existence, every choice I was denied. And then, I found the most wonderful man in the world who doesn’t tell me how to dress, or how to live, or who I can touch.”
Lucius tried to speak up, “I’m not saying you should not be able to express yourself…”
Tamsen interrupted him, “I can assure you, Donovan never goes to bed lonely or unsure of where he stands with me. So, I’m not changing for these men anymore. These men can change for me.” Tamsen continued to stare at Lucius, her frustrations clearly visible.
“I hear you, Tamsen. I shouldn’t have made you feel your choices aren’t valid. We’re just trying to navigate a very delicate situation where we are escaped criminals who are continuing to do harm to the kingdom. A little subtlety wouldn’t hurt us.”, Lucius attempted to defuse the matter, something he had become very good at over time.
As if the Fates themselves were intervening, Bebop walked up at this moment. “What’s going on? We should try and get a meeting with Rubal Thram.”
Lucius laughed in frustration, “Sure, let’s do that. Go ask one of the people who work here about having that meeting.”
Bebop walked over to one of the waitresses, who look confused, but said she would go fetch someone that could help him. Shortly afterwards, a man walked up to the group, and introduced himself as the manager of the bar. “How can I help you fine adventurers?”
Bebop didn’t hesitate to respond, “How do we get a meeting with Rubal?”
The manager smirked, “You don’t get a meeting with Mister Thram. If Mister Thram wants to meet with you, you will be meeting with him. It’s as simple as that.”
Bebop seemed quite cocksure in his response, “But Mister Thram will want to meet with us, we are going to help him become even more successful.”
The manager’s gaze seemed skeptical, but he continued, “And why is that?”
“Because we are going to help him succeed in the drug market.”
Lucius put his face in his hands, wishing that he was anywhere but where he currently was.
The manager snorted, “Ah, I see. Well, I’ll be sure to pass along your names to Mister Thram. What did you say your names were again?”
Bebop pointed at the members of his party, “I’m Bebop, this is Tamsen, and over there is Lucius. Donovan isn’t here now, but he’s with us as well.”
The manager nodded, “Understood. I’m certain Mister Thram will deal with this as soon as his schedule allows. Can I offer all of you something to drink before you leave?”
Bebop started to say, “Yeah, I’ll have a….”, before Lucius cut him off.
“No thank you, sir. We appreciate your time. Thank you for taking a meeting with us.” With that, Lucius set coin on the table for the drinks they had purchased, then began escorting the group out of the manor.

As the group began to walk away from the manor, Bebop confronted Lucius, “What was that about? The manager could have helped us get a meeting with Rubal.”
Lucius shouted in exasperation, “No, he could not!” Lucius’ immediately attempted to calm himself. “There was no meeting to be had, there was nothing we could offer him yet. Now I get why Donovan sent us on this little escapade. He didn’t want to deal with your nonsense, and wanted to make sure you didn’t get into trouble while you were there.”
Bebop dismissed Lucius’ cynicism, “Don’t be ridiculous. Donovan is all about making a profit.”
“If there is profit to be made! You don’t have a product, you don’t have customers, you don’t have distribution, you don’t have anything yet! If you want this narcotic plan of yours to take off, you will have to show him that there’s something that people will buy.”, Lucius looked intently at Bebop.
“I get that, ok. I know we have to put it all together, but I figured we weren’t going to be in town again for a while, so we should have our man on the inside before we get started.”
“Cart before the horse, sweetie.”, Tamsen patted Bebop’s face and smiled a knowing smile.
Bebop sighed, frustrated. From an alchemical creation standpoint, he was a genius of production. Unfortunately, he lacked the other pieces that he needed to put it all together. He had truly hoped that this was going to be an opportunity to get someone who could aid in some of the other points, but he began to realize that he would need a proof of concept to get the group to see his vision.
An excited smile came over Tamsen’s face. “Donovan is headed back, he wants us to go rent out rooms, and then we’re going to purchase items for the trip back.”
“Thank the gods!”, Lucius responded. With that, he and the rest of the group made their way back to the town proper.

Tamsen sat naked on the bed in her room. She was all too eager to see Donovan again, with this being their first opportunity to spend time alone together for some time. She looked out from the open window onto the town streets. From time to time, she would walk closer to the open window, looking out onto the street to see if he was close. More than one individual caught her in this state of undress, which she giggled about, thinking of the thoughts that would swirl through those person’s mind as they traveled home from having seen her. Heading back to the bed, Tamsen did not notice the dark spot in the sky that was flying directly towards her room. Tamsen closed her eyes, letting the words of her mind drift to Donovan’s head. “Hurry and come to bed, my love. I’ve been aching to feel you inside me.” Donovan was clearly in agreement, telling her how much he had been craving her.
Moments before Donovan opened the door to the room, a large creature came crashing into via the open window. At first, the creature looked like a massive bird with electricity crackling around it. Instinctively, Tamsen jumped up, startled at the appearance of this creature. She gasped at the creature, and its mouth opened wide, grabbing Pooky and crunching into its tiny body. A piteous shriek came from the rabbit, as Tamsen screamed in horror, “Pooky!”
Donovan opened the door, as a swirling mass began to spin around in the corner of the room. He moved over to where Tamsen had pressed herself against one of the walls, interposing himself between the mass and Tamsen. “By the gods, what is this?”
Where once was wings and beaks, arms and faces began to manifest themselves. The creature was changing, becoming smaller and more humanoid. The swirling slowed, and what was left behind was the form of a naked humanoid. The form appeared to be female, with wings along her back, long claws for fingernails, and talons for feet. By many standards, this creature was beautiful, but would not be mistaken for human. Seeing Tamsen, the creature moves over to the part of the room where she and Donovan are standing, and gets on her knees before Tamsen.
“My Mistress, my name is Camille. I have been sent by your mother in order to protect you and provide you guidance to assist you in finding out more about her.”, the creature was prostrate before Tamsen, her head bowed low.
“You… you killed my Pooky.”, Tamsen’s voice shuddered in disbelief.
“Forgive me Mistress, it was the only way I could pass on the abilities that you and the rabbit maintained, and allow you to speak them through me.”, Camille seemed unphased at her actions.
Tamsen stepped in front of Donovan, then pulled Camille up from her kneeling position, “You know my mother?’
Camille nodded with certainty, “Yes Mistress, your Mother wishes very much for you to be safe and protected when you travel. You are my charge for as long as you remain on this plane.” Camille’s eyes shifted to Donovan every so briefly when she said the word “Safe”. Donovan imagined he had earned himself more retribution for his failure in Balentyne.
Tamsen gently touched Camille’s face, then she said some words that Donovan couldn’t recognize, but he had heard before. This was the way her and Pooky had spoken in the past. Camille responded in the same “language” that Tamsen was speaking in, and Tamsen’s face brightened immediately, “It’s true. You really do know what Pooky knew!”
Tamsen hugged Camille excitedly, and Camille responded by hugging her back.
“I have so many questions for you Cami!”
“Of course Mistress, I’ll answer anything I can. I can even help you ask questions directly of your Mother, if you so desire.”
Tamsen looked over to Donovan, “Would you mind if I stayed in here and talked to her for a while? I can’t believe this is happening to me.”
Donovan smiled, “Of course, my love. This is a wonderful moment for you. I’m so glad you are able to have this.” With that, Donovan left the room and closed the door behind him.
Donovan went downstairs and found Lucius and Bebop, “So, ready to do some shopping? We’re going to need to find some crops that will survive those caves and the limited light.”
Lucius looked at Donovan, somewhat confused, and then agreed to his request. The group headed out through the city and began making purchases. Word soon got out in town about the unusual individuals who paid for stuff with exotic coins and opened up a huge hole in the middle of the room to load the goods into.

Several hours later, the group returned back to the inn for the evening. Tamsen and Camille were downstairs with GrumbleJack, talking and passing the time. Sitting next to them were the members of the Seventh Knot. Elise’s gaze caught Donovan and the others as they walked in, and she waved them over to the table.
“Tamsen tells me you have made a breakthrough with regards to the Ritual.”
“This is true Elise, and is the reason we have returned to the town. We’re going to need to prepare for the extended period of time that we will be at the Horn.”, Donovan responded.
“What do you mean by extended?”
“Seven months. The ritual will take seven months to complete.”
“If you aren’t going to be serious about this operation, then the Cardinal will hear of your betrayal.”
Donovan’s eyes narrowed, “You think I’m kidding?” Donovan pulled out the Dirges of Apollyon. “You want to see it for yourself?”
“Yes.”, Elise responded without hesitation.
Donovan handed her the book, which she stared at momentarily. Elise cast a spell on the pages to allow her to read them, which caused Donovan to chuckle ever so briefly. After casting an angry glare at Donovan, Elise continued to parse through the dark tome she had been given. Upon arriving at the ritual penned in at the end, she studied the words carefully. The group could see her confidence drain away as the text confirmed what Donovan had told her previously.
Elise handed back the tome to Donovan, clearly perturbed, “I know you are trying to make us fail, but we are simply following the orders that were given to us.”
“You misread my intentions, Elise. I have done nothing but make suggestions to increase the likelihood of our success, and you seem determined to ignore them.”
“And what exactly would those suggestions be, Donovan?”
“As I said before, I believe a member of your team should make a mental link with Tamsen, so that our groups can continue to make plans together, without having to worry about whether or not you can get a messenger out safely to us.”
Elise steepled her fingers together. While she wasn’t particularly fond of Donovan, his family, or his tactics, it would be hard to argue the success rate. “How would this work, precisely?”
Donovan smiled. “Simple, one member of your team would hold hands with Tamsen for a bit.”
Elise looked over her team, then settled on Trik. “You do it.”
Trik seemed nervous at first, but Tamsen’s disarming smile seemed to set him at ease. He began holding hands with Tamsen as she stared into his eyes.
Trak, Trik’s brother, decided to tease him lightly, “Look at you, finally holding hands with a girl.” Trik blushed at the situation, but found himself more and more drawn into Tamsen’s eyes. She was beautiful, even more beautiful than Elise. He started thinking about what it would be like to have a girl like this in his life. “I wonder what Tamsen thinks about me.”, Trik thought to himself. “I think you are a very handsome young man.”, a voice responded in his head, sounding exactly like Tamsen. “Can you hear my thoughts, Tamsen?”, Trik looked around the room as he continued to think to her. “I can when you want me to hear you.”, the voice responded again.
Tamsen and Trik released each other’s hands.
“Did it work?”, Elise asked curiously.
Trik nodded, “Yes, it worked.”
Elise sneered, “Good enough. We’ll set up a schedule for you two to communicate at set times, and relay any information each of us gets to the other.”
Donovan smiled and made a toast, “Here’s to our mutual success!”

Retiring to their room for the evening, Donovan was all too eager to make up for the missed opportunity that had passed them by when Camille first arrived. However, it would appear that Camille was not going to allow Donovan to get that close to Tamsen. Each time Donovan would try to touch Tamsen, Camille would lash out at him, her claws slicing open his skin. She would then stare at him with an odd look that one could describe as hunger.
“Gah! Why is she doing this Tamsen?”, Donovan exclaimed in frustration.
“She’s just settling in, she doesn’t know who to trust here.”, Tamsen tried to reassure Donovan, as she petted Camille gently.
“I feel like she does know, and she’s doing this intentionally.”
“Be patient, Donovan.”, Tamsen’s hand touched Donovan ‘s face. “She’ll get used to this, and I’ll always be yours.”
Donovan sighed, “Of course you are right. I just really want to be with you soon.”
Tamsen nodded eagerly, “Soon!”
With that, a resigned Donovan attempted to go to sleep. However, each time he woke up, he saw Camille staring at him. Her actions were so disconcerting that he eventually just decided to sleep on the floor.

The next morning, Donovan pulled himself off the floor and walked past the bed where Tamsen and Camille were cuddled up together. Donovan pictured this going on in the Horn for the next seven months, and a long sigh came out of him. “Alright, let’s get this show on the road.”
Donovan and the others availed themselves of the bathing room, not knowing when such a luxury would be available to them again.
Bebop was in his usual good spirits, as he interrogated Donovan, “What was it like having two girls in bed at the same time, huh?”
Donovan looked at Bebop with an irksome expression, “Restless.”
Bebop nodded with excitement, “Oh yeah, I’m gonna get me some of that soon.”
Donovan chuckled to himself, thinking about how well him and Camille would get along.
Finishing their baths, the group had their breakfast in plans for the long trek back to the Horn.
“Well Donovan, do we have everything?”, Lucius asked.
Just then, a voice from behind them spoke up, “Donovan… Westermeyer?”
All of the group looked at each other in concern. No one in this town should be using that last name. He never introduced himself to anyone as that name. Which meant, this was someone who knew him from before.
Donovan turned around in his seat, looked at the individual, and asked, “Instructor Diggle?”
“Hah!”, the female Halfling laughed, “I knew it was you!” Taking a drag from her pipe, she blew out smoke before proceeding, “How exactly did you get free from Branderscar?”
Donovan rushed towards her, kneeling down and trying to make sure no one was listening at that point, “Instructor, please. I’m happy to explain this to you, but I’m not going to do it out here in the open. Let’s go back to my room, and I can elaborate further.”
With that, Donovan and the group returned to his room.

“You really turned this into a catastrophe, didn’t you Donovan?”, Idrees Diggle spoke as she struck him over the head with her pipe. Idrees was looking at a copy of the Contract that Donovan and the others had signed with Thorn, after he explained what had happened to the group.
Donovan winced in pain as the metallic pipe rapped over his head in the all too familiar way. “I didn’t have a choice, Instructor. They were threatening my family!”
Idrees pointed at the others in the room, “Oh yes, your family. Another group of poor unfortunate kids you have dragged along into your harebrained schemes.” Idrees struck Donovan over the head again.
“It’s not like that! I didn’t know that things were going to turn out this way!”, Donovan protested again, red bumps appearing on his forehead.
“You mean, the woman Tiadora, whom you initially suspected was a Devil, but you had no idea what sort of agreement that her employer might put you under? That’s what you didn’t know.”, Idrees continued to accost him, but this time was chewing on her pipe rather than striking Donovan with it.
Donovan was immediately embarrassed at how easily his Instructor had seen something that he walked blindly into. “I… I had a plan.”
“Ah yes, the Donovan plan, is it? Another one of your insane concepts that destroys everyone around you, while you manage to avoid the worst of it.” Idrees considered striking Donovan again, but instead pointed the pipe at the rest of the group, “Any of you kids know why Donovan was expelled from the Academy?”
Lucius chimed up, “He told us that his dad didn’t want to have to keep paying for him when school wasn’t teaching him anything.”
Idrees snorted, “That’s true, but only in the sense that Donovan wasn’t learning anything from school.” Idrees pressed her pipe against Donovan’s forehead, “This prodigy here had already spent so much time studying books that he was done with anything the school was offering. But his dad didn’t want him around the house, for obvious reasons.”
A glare came across Donovan’s face, but Idrees continued, “So Donovan gets it in his head that he's going to figure out all of the questions that were going to be on the exam tests.”
“I never cheated!”, Donovan exclaimed, before Idrees struck him on the head again with her pipe.
“Now, Donovan isn’t going to try to steal answers, because he already knows the answers. Instead, he started studying the teachers, learning their body language and how they acted when they talked about subject material. From there, he gets a list of the questions that they seemed to emphasize, and the correct answers, and sells that to the other students.”, Idrees puffed on her pipe again, angrily relaying the story.
Tamsen chuckled, “That does seem like something Donovan would do, Instructor Diggle.”
Idrees smiled at Tamsen, “Call me Idrees, dearie. You seem like such a wonderful young woman.”
“Can you please stop telling them this story, Idrees?”, Donovan pleaded.
Idrees struck Donovan on the head yet again, “That’s Instructor Diggle, you shortsighted dunce!” Puffing on her pipe a few more times, Idrees continued. “Of course, for Donovan, none of this was about money, so he didn’t even spend the money, he just kept it to prove that he was successful. When I finally figured out what he was doing and confronted him about it, he freely admitted it to me, and then gave me all the money he had earned. Of course, that just made the Academy board assume I had helped him somehow, since why on the planes would a student charge money for something when he didn’t want money. I ended up losing my tenure, and now I can’t get a position in academia, thanks to this one.” Idrees pushed her pipe against Donovan’s face in a accusatory manner.
Lucius shook his head, “Yeah, that all sounds about right. That seems exactly like something he would do.”
Donovan rubbed his head in pain, “Instructor, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I put you in this position. What do you want from me? Money? Revenge? Take whatever you want out of me, but please leave my family out of this. These are my actions, and they shouldn’t have to pay for them.”
“Oh no, Mister Westermeyer, you don’t get off that easily. If I take money from you, you’ll just make more. If I try and get you thrown back in jail, you’ll just dupe another group of unfortunates into your plan and get back out.”
Donovan pulled out his rapier and pushed it against Idrees’ hands, “So, blood is it? Fine.”
Idrees looked at the rapier, and rapped Donovan upside the head again. “You’re not listening, Donovan. I’m very well aware that anything you set your mind to, you are going to accomplish. It’s my intention to follow you through this situation you have got yourself in, and make sure these other kids don’t have to suffer because of your brashness. In the meantime, you are going to pay me to help get your gear in better working order, since you won’t get far on what you’ve got currently.”
Donovan snorted, “Why would I need you to help with gear? I’m fully capable of doing that myself.”
Idrees chuckled, “And just when are you planning to do this, Donovan? While you are maintaining the ritual, and training the Boggards, and renovating the Horn, and growing the crops? When exactly are you going to be able to spend hours out of the day to work on gear?”
Donovan looked down at the floor. His Instructor was far too keen on his situation.
Donovan began, “I’ll just…”, before Idrees cut him off. “You’re a good kid, Donovan. You have the ability to see ideas and concepts most don’t. But you’re also impulsive and rash, and make decisions in moments without thinking of the consequences. You need someone to rein you in. Agree to my terms, Donovan. You have a lot left to learn from your instructor.”
Donovan looked at the rest of his family, and then back to Idrees, then nodded to her, “Yes, Instructor.”
Idrees nodded and chuckled, “Perfect.” She then pointed at GrumbleJack. “You, big fellow. Carry me.”
GrumbleJack nodded, “Yes ma’am.”, and picked up Idrees.

The group piled into a carriage summoned by Lucius. While they had the luxury of not needing to carry all the supplies due to the Portable Hole, they were still forced to move on the land due to the number of people they had traveling, and the size of GrumbleJack. Bebop excelled at moving through the undeveloped lands without drawing the attention of the local wildlife. His senses told him there were many other predators around that they would potentially need to deal with at some point in the future. But, for now, they were blessed with safe travels and no need to defend themselves.

Arriving back at the Horn, the group began to prepare for the ritual that was to be enacted. Tamsen went to speak to Halthus, while showing him the nature of the ritual. Halthus, seeing the specific sacrifice that would be required, wanted to write a document to discuss his hopes and dreams for what would become of the “new brotherhood” that Halthus wanted to see. Knowing that he would not live to see it because of his sacrifice, Halthus took final comfort in the belief that his actions would be a moment that would be remembered by those who came after him. Studying the set of instructions provided to him, Bebop created a strong sedative that would keep Halthus asleep throughout the initial ritual.

After Halthus consumed the sedative, Bebop brought him to the altar at the top of the Horn. Donovan instructed GrumbleJack to bring up the water from the fountain to the bowl in the Sanctum. However, when GrumbleJack arrived at the top of the Horn, he began to suffer from dizziness, and sat down at the top of the stairs.
“I’m so thirsty, boss”, GrumbleJack complained to Donovan, then grabbed one of the two tubs that he had brought to the top of the stairs.
“Sure buddy, you carried those heavy tubs all the way to the top of the stairs. Get yourself something to drink.”, Donovan responded, while taking the other tub and moving it over to the bowl at the altar.
Donovan poured the water into the bowl, and watched the transformation of the water take place. The water took on a quality that suggested it had been tainted by Abyssal magic.
For his part, GrumbleJack actually consumed all the water in the first tub he had been drinking from. Even though his stomach appeared distended from the consumption of water, GrumbleJack continued to ask for more water, “I’m still thirsty, boss.”
The rest of the group suggested that GrumbleJack should be brought downstairs, but Donovan thought perhaps something else was going on. “I can patch him up if something goes wrong.”
Pulling a cup of the water from the altar out, he brought the water to GrumbleJack, “Here you go, buddy.”
GrumbleJack smiled weakly, “Thanks boss.” GrumbleJack drank the glass, and then fell over and started groaning in pain.
The rest of the group looked at Donovan accusingly. Donovan fumbled through his bandolier to find one of his curative elixirs. As Donovan approached GrumbleJack, he saw that GrumbleJack was transforming. GrumbleJack’s body mass increased, and wings appeared on his back. GrumbleJack’s horns became far more pronounced than they were previously, and it was apparent that GrumbleJack’s fiendish heritage was manifesting along his body.
GrumbleJack stood up, flexing the muscles of his body. “I feel strong, boss! Stronger than I’ve ever felt in my life.” GrumbleJack pushed off the ground, and found himself floating in the air, powered by the strength of his wings.
The group celebrated GrumbleJack’s newfound strength and power, but Donovan reminded all of them that they were acting within a limited window of time. Stepping up to the sleeping form of Halthus, Donovan recited the words of the ritual that he had repeated to himself many times before. Donovan plunged the blade into Halthus, cutting out the heart and setting it into one of the designated bowels that were next to the altar. A voice rang out through the altar in Abyssal, speaking the words “I hear.”
Immediately following that, a flame burned across the outside of the Horn, burning away all of the vegetation that had creeped up the mountain, and hurling itself into the sky. A sickly green glow extended outward from the entire Horn, certainly alerting everyone in the area that something had occurred at this place.
Donovan took Tamsen’s hand as the group stared out from the balcony of the Horn and looked out into what they had caused, as they looked at each other.

“I guess we’ve woke up the neighbors.”, Donovan said, trying to be humorous.

Session 17 Ends.
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Part 2: Call Forth Darkness
Act 3: Thirty-one Weeks
Session 18: Kiss Some Girls and Make Others Cry

Donovan pointed at the body of Halthus, “Bebop, grab that and let’s head down to the Alchemical Lab. We have work to do.” Bebop nodded in assent, and then grabbed the body as the group began to move down the stairs. Donovan and Bebop arrived in the Lab, the body of Halthus being carried almost effortlessly by Bebop. Pointing to a table next to the Golem, Donovan instructed Bebop to lay the body down. As Bebop was arranging the body into position, Donovan grabbed a set of surgical tools, then got into position at the top of Halthus’ corpse.
“You sure you can handle this, Donovan?”, Bebop teased.
Donovan merely raised an eyebrow, “I’ve studied this procedure many times over, I’m sure I’ve got it down now.”
Donovan began to cut into the skull of the corpse, working his way around, while being careful to not cut in too deep. Having already removed the cap from the Golem where the brain was to be placed, Donovan gingerly moved the now exposed brain into the area of the Golem where it is to be stored. Once that task was complete, Donovan and Bebop went over all the connections on the Golem to ensure that everything was in place and connected. Finally, Donovan reached up behind the heart pump and flipped the switch that activated the Alchemical Golem.

The Alchemical Golem’s fluids began moving through the piping that it contained, as movement began in the extremities of the device. All at once, the Golem lurched to its feet, and moved right next to Donovan, “What is thy bidding, my master?” A smile crossed Donovan’s face, as his efforts had been validated. “What is your designation, Golem?”
“This vassal has been named Artephius.”
Donovan noted that the device appeared to refer to itself in the third person, “And what do you remember prior to being activated?”
The Golem hesitated briefly, then responded. “Your servant has always been activated since you activated it.”
Donovan considered the truth of the creature’s words. Whatever existence it had known before was most likely lost with the previous brain that had been installed. Still, another capable hand at this point was more than welcome. As Donovan and Bebop finished up making sure the last of the connections were in place, the rest of the family showed up to see how the progress was going. Idrees climbed up the back of Artephius, and inspected the back of the Golem. “Hmm…”, Idrees said very little about the efforts, but she wasn’t showing disappointment.
“Artephius, accompany Instructor Idees to the forge, and assist her in whatever way she asks of you.”, Donovan began snapping out orders to the group. “GrumbleJack, escort Tamsen to the end of this barrier, where she can make contact with the Seventh Knot. Bebop, help me start getting the rooms emptied out, and we’ll start building up the Alchemical Concrete over the upstairs entrances.”
Lucius looked at the group, “I’m going to go check out the situation in the Tavern and Kitchen, to see if I can get anything going. Lucinda and I will get some food ready for all of us once we have some working equipment.” There was a general cheer from the group at the thought, and then everyone went off to their own separate tasks.

Tamsen was being carried by GrumbleJack, as Camille was sitting in Tamsen’s arms using her bird form. The group watched as they passed through the glowing barrier that had extended outward from the Horn. From there, GrumbleJack flew down and landed on the ground. After patting GrumbleJack on the cheek and smiling, Tamsen reached out from her mind to Trik.
“Are you there, Trik? It’s me, Tamsen.”
Trik’s voice came flooding back, almost as though he was shouting, “What happened over there? We saw a huge bright light coming from where you said you were headed.”
“Yes, it appears the first part of the ritual was successful.”
“And all of you are alright?”, Trik queried to Tamsen.
Tamsen smirked to herself, “We’re all fine. But thank you for worrying about me sweetie. I appreciate knowing I can count on you.”
Trik was trying to hold his thoughts back, but his mind was focused on the allure of Tamsen. His brother Trak loved Elise, and Trik was happy that his brother was happy, but a part of him resented Trak for having a relationship that he could not experience. But Tamsen was beautiful, and made him feel important when they were speaking together.
“Could you do something for me, Trik?”
“Yes, of course.”, Trak regained his thoughts, “What do you need, I’ll speak with the group about it.”
“One of the requirements of this ritual is something called the ‘heir of the Victor’. I was hoping that you could learn more about that from within Farholde.”, Tamsen’s thoughts in Trik’s mind were soothing, like she was holding his hand.
“The Victor, you say? I’m sure I can find something out. Anyway… be safe.”
“Thank you so much for everything. I’m looking forward to speaking with you again.”, Tamsen’s voice echoed in Trik’s mind, and then went still.
Tamsen looked over at GrumbleJack, “I think we’re finished here for now, big guy. That was a productive conversation.”
GrumbleJack grunted in assent, and took Tamsen in his arms, heading back into the sky.

Back in the Sanctum, Donovan and Bebop were performing the proper mixing to create the Alchemical Cement to cover the entrance from the Balcony. As usual, Bebop was proceeding far more rapidly at mixing the ingredients than Donovan, which prompted Bebop to continue with his teasing nature.
“You need me to take care of this for you, Donovan? I’m sure you would struggle to even lift all this material.”
Donovan sighed, “And then, once you finish making the cement, how exactly do you plan to frame and cure it?”
“Cure it? What, is it sick?”, Bebop looked confused at Donovan’s words.
“Exactly, Bebop. There’s more to cement than just the speed with which you handle your stick.”, Donovan scoffed.
Once Bebop began completing the mixture of the cement, he followed Donovan’s instructions to set up the cement against the hole in the Balcony, using a wooden frame to brace it while it began to dry.
“So, is there a way we can make it look like the rest of the mountain?”, Bebop asked, noting the color of the cement.
Donovan shook his head, “Not really. But trust me, once cement this thick finishes curing, anyone wanting to come through here would have an easier time just smashing through the mountain side.”

Lucius entered the darkened area that was once a Tavern. Tossing a Light cantrip onto one of the torch sconces, he took stock of the state of the room. The tables and chairs were in disarray, almost all of the plates and cups were damaged, and the cooking stove seemed to be out of alignment. Summoning up a pair of Fire Elementals, Lucius instructed them to go through the pipes exiting the stove and confirm that nothing was blocking access. The Elementals efficiently performed their task, burning away stray shrubbery and some small animals from within the piping. After that was completed, Lucius summoned up Lucinda, and the two of them got to work in straightening up the Tavern. Lucius took notes of the extra things that he would be needing in order to make this a more viable kitchen area. Lucius was annoyed at the design of the Horn putting the pantry away from the Kitchen in this manner, but it was a relatively small complaint. Some of the furniture would also require repair if not outright replacement. Lucius noted that Donovan had purchased a fairly large amount of lumber, which suggested that he was planning to rebuild the furniture himself. Lucius opened up the Portable Hole in the Tavern, and had Lucinda drag all of the broken items into in in order to carry it outside and throw them away. Finishing that, Lucinda and Lucius reconnected the piping in the oven, started up a fire, and got to work making dinner for the family.

A short time later, the group gathered in the Tavern, and Lucius and Lucinda proffered the food and drinks for everyone. There was a sense of excitement in the air.
Donovan stood up, “I want to thank you all for being here. This could not happen without the help of all of you. I know we have a lot of struggles ahead of ourselves, but I know we’ll get through this together.”
Raising his glass, Donovan exclaimed, “To family!”
The group raised their glasses and returned the cheer, “To family!”
Blindly optimistic, Donovan would soon discover the scope of the struggles that laid ahead of them.

Week 1:
Tamsen laid naked in her new bed next to an equally naked Camille. To say the bed was massive would be an understatement, it was the most oversized and luxurious thing she had ever slept in, even surpassing the beds in the Westermeyer Manor. The two of them often found free time together, and Tamsen found a connection with Camille that she could not have possibly know with Pooky. Camille climbed on top of Tamsen as she laid on her back, looking up at her retainer.
“My Mistress, I think it is time for you to begin learning the path to get closer to your mother.”
Tamsen expression became excited. From the beginning, Camille had stated that she was specifically sent her by her true mother, and that her mother wanted very much to get closer to her. “What do I need to do, Cami?”
Camille leaned down to Tamsen’s face, with them so close together as they had been many times before, “You’ll need something like this.” With that, Camille slid off the bed, walked over to the nearby stand, and opened one of the drawers. She pulled out a mushroom and smiled at Tamsen.
“Those are the mushrooms you told me to have Donovan buy.”, Tamsen said with curiosity in her voice.
Camille nodded, “Yes Mistress. And now it’s time for you to understand what they can do.” Returning to the bed, Camille gingerly placed a piece of the mushroom in Tamsen’s mouth, and Tamsen swallowed it.
Camille and Tamsen began to touch and explore each other’s bodies as they had several times before. Camille was every bit as forward as Tamsen in matters of sexuality, so their connection was a very easy process. As Tamsen began to relax under Camille’s touch, the effects of the mushroom became pronounced upon her. Tamsen felt her mind slowly drifting and sliding. “Cami, this feels so good.”
“I am so happy to hear you say that, my Mistress. Now, for the second part of what is needed.”, Camille was gentle and quiet, whispering her instructions into Tamsen’s ears.
Tamsen touched Camille’s cheek, “What else do we need, Cami?”
“Blood.”, Camille responded, the smile never leaving her face.
“Blood?”, Tamsen asked. “Blood from me?”
“It could be from you, my Mistress. But I think someone else would make a better donor. You like that boy Bebop, don’t you? The way he makes you feel when he’s inside you?”
Tamsen’s eyes closed, as she smiled and nodded, the moments of them together flashing in her memories.
“Then call him, Mistress. Call him here right now, and enjoy yourself with him.”, Camille continued to guide Tamsen in her semi lucid state.
It was easy for Tamsen to call Bebop to her bedroom. The simple suggestion of being in her bed was all the encouragement he needed. Opening the door to her bedroom, he found the two of them naked in the bed waiting for him. He rushed to the bed, almost throwing himself into it and Tamsen’s arms. The two of them shared a passionate embrace, before Tamsen rolled herself on top of Bebop.
“You love me, don’t you Bebop?”, Tamsen asked in a tiny voice.
“You know I do, always.”, Bebop responded with urgency and enthusiasm.
“And you trust me, right baby?”, Tamsen’s finger slid down Bebop’s exposed chest, as Camille moved up closer to him.
Bebop nodded, with absolute certainty in his eyes.
“Thank you. I want you to share Cami with me.”
Bebop was more than excited. To have not one but two beautiful women in his bed, it was a dream come true. Camille’s lips pressed against Bebop’s, as a mischievous smile appeared on her face. Her lips moved off of Bebop’s lips, and down his neck. A moment later, her fangs sank into Bebop’s skin, and the sweet redness was released. An audible moan escaped Camille’s mouth, as she indulged herself.
Bebop felt a momentary tinge of pain, but became so caught up in Tamsen’s desire, he soon ignored what else was taking place. Camille’s face came up to Tamsen’s, her lips red with Bebop’s blood. The two of them kissed passionately, as Tamsen felt a surge of desire and power wash over her. Camille then bent down to kiss Bebop once more, as he tasted his own blood in her mouth. It was a dizzying sensation to be in the arms of these two, and Bebop soon realized that he was fully at their whims.

“Donovan!” An angry voice rang out from the Alchemical Lab. Donovan heard the voice of his teacher, and immediately started headed towards where the sound was coming from. He ran into Idrees just outside of the lab. Her clothes and hair was singed from what had apparently been a fire attack that she had endured.
“What happened, Instructor?”
“Leave it to you to create a Golem that attacks the people it’s working for!”, Idrees spat out, clearly livid.
Donovan was in shock, and rushed inside the Lab where Artephius was standing there as though nothing was going on. Donovan, with a confused look on his face, confronted Artephius about the accusations made by his instructor.
“Artephius, what happened in here?”
“This vessel is performing the tasks you have assigned to it.”, Artephius responded flatly.
“And what happened to Instructor Idrees?”
“They were attacked by unknown assailants.”, Artephius stared at Donovan blankly.
Idrees scoffed, “Unknown assailants, my bony ass! You attacked me!” She pushed her pipe against the Golem’s torso.
Artephius pointed at Idress, continuing to look at Donovan, “They were attacked by unknown assailants.”
Donovan put his head in his hands in frustration, as Idrees snarled at him. “I should have known that anything you put together would blow up in everyone’s face but yours! Just like all of your other plans.”
“Artephius, you are to accompany me in all of my daily activities, and not leave my sight unless otherwise instructed by me.”, Donovan said, a look of exasperation on his face.
“Yes, my Master.”
“My apologies, Instructor. I’ll have GrumbleJack continue to assist you with anything you need.”
Idrees nodded, “GrumbleJack, he’s a nice young man. Why couldn’t you be more like him?”
Knowing there was no correct answer to that question, Donovan simply shrugged and walked away, Artephius diligently following him as he moved around the Horn.

At the bottom of the Horn, Lucius was still attempting to make headway with the Boggards and their dietary requirements. He had already purchased a collection of vegetables that could survive under the limited light within the cave, and now it was just a question of finding out what these creatures could eat. Donovan believed that the only way to guarantee this tribe’s long term survival was to provide them more food choices than simply meat. Applying the Tounges spell to himself, he went to meet with chief Zikomo, several food options prepared and ready to go.
“Zikomo, so glad we could meet today. Are you ready to try out some of these food dishes I have prepared for you?”, Lucius said, trying to be hopeful.
Zikomo looked at his skeptically, “Why Boggards need new food? People so delicious!”
Lucius sighed. “I understand, but sometimes you don’t succeed in hunting, and you need food you can farm and prepare here.” Lucius pulled out his first dish. By human standards, it looked and smelled delicious. But Zikomo remained unconvinced.
Sniffing the plate, Zikomo protested, “Where is meat? I smell no meat here.”
Lucius pressed on, “This is a delicious mushroom and barley soup. It’s very warm and filling, and something we can make with very few ingredients.” Putting a spoonful of it up to Zikomo’s lips, Lucius smiled warmly, “Try it, you’ll like it, I’m sure.”
Zikomo seemed unconvinced, but guessed he should play along with the people who were attempting to free his god. Zikomo tasted the soup. To him, it seemed mostly like water, although it wasn’t an unpleasant taste. Certainly, the mushrooms in this dish were far superior to the ones they had been growing. “Not as good as meat.”, Zikomo grumbled out.
Undeterred, Lucius pulled out his second offering. Zikomo’s lips visibly curled at the sight of all the white in the bowl, but his nose gave him more hope. “Is that fish?”
Lucius smiled confidently, “Yes, this is a nice fish risotto. We can grow the rice down here, and use the cave fish to help add some needed protein to the dish. Once more, Lucius produced a spoonful of the product to Zikomo, who took it with a bit more eagerness than he did on the last dish.
“This not terrible.”, Zikomo grudgingly admitted.
“Ok, now we have something to work with. If we’re going to make dishes like this, we’ll need to take some of that empty space at the front of the cave, and turn it into rice fields. This place is plenty wet for the area, and I think we can get enough sun if we plant at the opening.”, Lucius was very knowledgeable in his suggestions, and Zikomo listened to him, although he remained confused by the idea of planting more crops.
Lucius left the bowls with Zikomo so he could continue trying them out, wrote down some notes about the space in the cave opening, and headed back upstairs.

Tamsen, Camille, and Bebop laid across the bed in different places, the three of them sated from their recent escapades. Bebop, for his part, felt like he had just exerted himself at a level rarely before experienced. His whole body was tired. Tamsen and Camille, however, were giggling with delight. Camille sat up on the bed in front of Tamsen, her arms outstretched to where Tamsen was laying. “So, my Mistress, are you ready to speak with your mother now?”
Tamsen perked up, elated at the prospect. She sat up on top of the bed as well, grasping her arms with Camille.
“Your mother can use me as a channel in order to Commune with you. Now, keep in mind that I probably won’t hear her specific words, but I can tell if she’s saying yes or no about something. Please try to keep your questions in the form of yes or no, so she can respond.”
Tamsen was so eager to know more about this, so she did not hesitate at all to agree to what Camille asked of her.
For Bebop’s part, he simply enjoyed watching two naked women sitting on top of the bed holding hands with one another.
“Alright Mistress, I’m ready now. Close your eyes, and ask your questions.”, Camille spoke softly, her voice fading away.
“Mother, do you hear me? It’s Tamsen. Are you there?”
Camille’s voice was gone now, replaced by another woman’s voice. “Yes, my sweet child. I hear you.”
Tamsen’s eyes welled up with tears, excitement filling her voice.
“Mother, my family and I, we’re in a dangerous place right now. Is anyone coming to harm us in the next couple of days?”
“No.” The voice was terse, but confident.
“We’re in an old temple of some kind, with Donovan and the others sealing up all the entrances so we can be safe. Is there any other way into this temple beyond the entrances in the wall and the staircase?”
“Yes there is, my daughter.”
Tamsen’s eyes shot open, as Bebop and her exchanged worried looks. “Mother, is there another teleporter to this temple, beyond the three we have discovered.”
A sinking feeling fell over Tamsen, a threat to her family. “Is this teleporter within the boundaries of the Horn?”
“I’m afraid it is not.” The voice began to confirm her fears.
Bebop spoke up, “Ask her if there is a teleporter outside of the barrier protecting the Horn.”
“Mother, is there another working teleporter beyond the range of the protective barrier that gives access to this place?”
“Yes, my child.”
Camille drew back her breath, and fell over onto the bed.
“Wait, mother, don’t go! I have so many more questions!”, Tamsen was concerned for Camille, and worried she had lost her connection to her mother.
Camille opened her eyes, and pushed herself up. “Do not fear, Mistress. I will be able to repeat this for you again. Just give me a few days to recover my strength. It takes quite a bit from me to hold that connection with her from so far away.”
Tamsen squeezed Camille tightly, “Thank you Cami, thank you so much!”
“Anything for you, Mistress.”

Week 2:
The group was now beginning to settle into the routine of everything. Donovan delivered one of the gems to Hexor and Vexor, so that they would be able to notify him if any divine activity took place within the confines of the Horn. Thanks to Idrees, Donovan was able to complete his plans to build a working shower with hot and cold water in the nearby room. The girls immediately loved it, and started using it with regularity.

Tamsen and GrumbleJack continued their regular excursion outside of the barrier in order to allow her to communicate with Trik. It was during one of these meetings where Trik notified Tamsen that a group of adventurers were going to be headed to the Horn. Trik listed off the names of the individuals, which included Hallack Amon, Bianca DeVallya, James O’Toole, Yorgun the Smith, and Sister Marta Dian. Trik told Tamsen that they were a poorly equipped group of individuals, and that they had mentioned going through the caves to get to the Horn. Tamsen thanked Trik profusely for his efforts, as she continued to spin her web around him, bit by bit. Tamsen was thrilled to have actual news to deliver to Donovan. “We’re going to have visitors soon, my love.”
“Oh, is that so? Well, we should be gracious hosts then. Let’s learn more about our guests so we can properly engage with them. With any luck, perhaps we’ll end up with additional hands.”, Donovan seemed happy to hear her news, but Tamsen sensed something was wrong with him.
“Are you ok?”, Tamsen cooed, running her hands along his shoulders.
“Just a lot of work left to do.”, Donovan attempted to reassure her.
Tamsen started to lean in to kiss Donovan, but Camille grabbed her wrist and pulled her away, “Come, my Mistress. Your Mother could help us gather more information on these interlopers and the undiscovered teleporter that threatens this place.”
It had become obvious to Tamsen that Camille held some sort of animosity towards Donovan. Of course, any time Tamsen asked he about it, Camille denied it. “I don’t hate Donovan. What would you have me do with him, Mistress, should I sleep with him?” Tamsen chuckled at the thought of a boy like Donovan trying to have sex with something like Camille. But, she was hoping the two of them would come to some resolution, and soon. She missed touching Donovan and being near him.

“Lucius, when you head into town next time, could you check on these people for me?”, Donovan approached Lucius, with a list of names in his hand.
Lucius studied the list of names, “Who are these people?”
“Well, if the Seventh Knot is correct, these are a group of people who will be coming to visit us in a couple of days. I was hoping you could dig up some information on them, so maybe we knew their motivation and could entice them into employment.”, Donovan smiled that familiar smile of his.
“Sure, I’ll check it out.”, Lucius pocketed the note without fanfare.

On Lucius’ next trip into Farholde, he swung by some of the more well-traveled taverns in town, hoping to gain some more insight on these individuals who would go to such trouble to travel to an unknown shrine of a dead god. Unlike Donovan, Lucius wasn’t nearly as optimistic about the prospects of people trekking all the way to the Horn merely to accept an invitation of employment. But, Donovan was a naive individual who had lived a life where people did walk into his place of work to look for employment, so of course he would think the world worked that way. But, perhaps he could deal with these individuals before they even arrived at the Horn, and in doing so, prevent Donovan from having to face the situation as it actually was.
Lucius began to interrogate people who knew about the names on the list, being sure to keep everything lubricated with frequent glasses of ale being served as often as required. At first, it would have appeared that the leader of the group, Hallack Amon, was a simple army recruiter who had quit his position before the war came knocking. However, the truth would end up being that Amon was simply a former military individual who had paid off his dead father’s debt, and was looking for a slightly less dangerous option with which to make some money. As for his friends, many of them had known each other for years, and were all attempting to make some small name for themselves by encountering the “mysterious evil” that had awakened in the Caer Bryr. He also learned that Hallak and Bianca had affections for one another, which could potentially be exploited to extract compliance from one or the other of them; and that the Sister was a member of a military religious order within the city.
“Yes Donovan, I’m sure she’ll be thrilled to take you up on your offer of resurrecting the plague god to return to this world.”, Lucius chuckled to himself.
A very real part of Lucius wanted to summon Lucinda, find these adventurers, and slaughter them to the last. That would prevent them from doing any harm to the family. Lucius knew there was no way they would ever agree to Donovan’s terms. But then, a whisper echoed inside of Lucius head. Was he sure that Donovan couldn’t convince these people to do what he asked? It would seem laughable by almost any stretch of imagination, but then, Lucius never doubted that Donovan could summon miracles from time to time. Lucius laughed, shook his head, and purchased the rest of his supplies before heading back to the Horn, with the information he gathered about this group in hand.

Back in Tamsen’s bedroom, the three lovers lay around each other, with Camille and Tamsen interlocking fingers and looking into each other’s eyes. “Are you ready, Mistress?”, Camille smiled and waited for Tamsen to open up her mind, as she reached beyond the current Plane and to the other. Tamsen picked up her questions where she left off, first confirming which day that the visitors would be arriving, then beginning to attempt to divine the specific location of the other teleporter. Once again, Camille regains her own voice as Mother leaves her. Bebop and Tamsen study the map from the information relayed to them via Camille.
“It might be near the river.”, Bebop offers a suggestion.
“Donovan should see what we’ve found thus far.”, Tamsen responds.

Donovan walks into the area on the third floor, next to the stairs leading to the Sanctum. “Hexor, Vexor, we’re going to be having company soon. I want you to keep them from leaving, but not kill them.”
The Cuestodaemons regarded Donovan with a sense of confusion and disgust, “Excuse me sir, I think we must have misunderstood you. Did you request of us to not kill those who would intrude on this place?”
Donovan nodded, “I know this seems unusual, but I believe we can add new recruits to our growing group.” The daemons shrugged in disappointment. Per Ezra’s request, Donovan had continued to refrain from showing the amulets of control to the brothers, but he wondered how much longer he could maintain compliance from such destructive creatures without feeding into their more base desires. Donovan provided Hexor and Vexor with a different one of the Eyes, this one allowing them to review any area within the Horn. He provided instructions to them to notify him when the visitors arrived.

Time passed, and the appointed day arrived. Donovan was continuing to perform upgrades to the Horn with the assistance of Idrees when the voice of the brothers rang in his head, “Our guests are here.” Donovan replied to their thoughts, “Excellent work. Position yourself at the entrance of the caves, to make sure they can’t flee. I’ll be down there shortly.” Donovan immediately reached out to Tamsen in her thoughts. “Love, I am in need of your aid, please gather everyone together on the first floor throne room.”
Once all the family arrived in the throne room, Donovan explained what they would be doing. “Lucius, you’ll take Bebop down to the bottom floor. Tamsen and I will meet you there.” With that, Donovan extended his hand to Tamsen, “I’m all yours, my love.”
Tamsen smiled and grabbed Donovan’s hand, willing the two of them to be on the lower floor of the caves, where Lucius and Bebop appeared next to them. The group had slid through the Dimension Door to the area where the Boggards lived in their huts. The Boggards were already falling back as the adventurers approached their homes, not realizing they had already walked into a trap of their own making.
Yorgun approached the group first, and was immediately greeted by Donovan, “Hello to you, good sir.” The dwarf was caught off guard, and he fell back to the rest of his company. A tad later, the rest of the group showed up where Donovan and the rest of the family were waiting. The five individuals were exactly as relayed by Lucius. Even without introductions, Donovan knew their names based on the information that had been relayed to him. Donovan welcomed the group to the Horn, and greeted them all.
And then things began to go exactly as Lucius had predicted. Sister Marta Dian was immediately hostile to Donovan, going on about how he and the rest of his group were clearly evil, and the actions they were taking were evil. Donovan attempted to counter her arguments, suggesting that perhaps the people who were invading the homes of the Boggards that were doing nothing more than farming and fishing, might be more indicative of evil. Seeing that they were unfazed by that suggestion, Donovan pivoted to suggest that the actions he was taking within the Horn were essential for the good of the kingdom. Unfortunately, anything that Donovan would be said was pushed away by the words of the Sister. The group told Donovan that they wanted to leave, as they didn’t know what they were encountering. This immediately was a problem for Donovan, as he could imagine what would happen if the Sister was allowed to return to the rest of her people. Telepathically, Donovan instructed Hexor and Vexor to move up behind the group of adventurers. Once the two brothers appeared behind the adventurers, the Sister began screaming vitriol towards Donovan.
Frustrated, Donovan finally came to his solution. “As you are my guests here, let me provide you with a set of options that you can select from. First, you can return to your homes, but you are never allowed to speak of what you discovered here. And to be sure, I will know, as I have ears within Farholde. Second, you can accept my offer of temporary employment, and I will gladly pay you the amount of money that we have agreed upon for your stay. Finally, you can test your skills against my menagerie, and see how that turns out for you.” Hexor, Vexor, and Bebop showed a vicious grin on their faces, salivating at the opportunity to test their mettle against these meager opponents. For her part, Bianca broke out in tears, almost falling to the floor as the hopelessness set in. The adventurers looked at each other, realizing how bad their situation had just become.
Hallack Amon spoke up, “May I have a moment to discuss this matter with my compatriots?”
Donovan smiled, “Of course, feel free.”
Seeing the adventurers huddle together, it was transparent to tell that the Sister wanted to combat the evil that was taking place. The rest of the group was clearly more sane, not wanting to simply throw their lives away in an impossible fight. However, none of them were interested in the offers that Donovan has made thus far.
Hallack spoke up once more, “We’d like to make a counteroffer?”
Donovan chuckled, “Certainly, I’m a man of profit.”
Hallack stammered, “We’d like to offer you the… uh, profit of not revealing your secret in exchange for safe passage to another city.”
Donovan nodded, “Agreed. You will all stay as our guests in the Horn until I can secure safe passage for you on a vessel, at which point we will escort you to the ship, and we may part ways.”
The adventurers looked at each other. Even knowing that they would be trapped here for a few days was an obviously superior choice to dying in a muddy Boggard cave.
Looking at the Sister, Donovan addressed Hallack, “Please disarm Sister Marta Dian until we get up to the first floor. We wouldn’t want to have any accidents that would cause people to fall and hurt themselves.”
Sister Dian growled at Donovan, but James O’Toole moved up behind her, sliding the sword out of its sheathe before she could respond.
With that concern out of the way, the group made their way up to the first floor. Once inside, Donovan gave the group a small tour, where he pointed out the Tavern and Kitchen, and pointed out several rooms for them to stay in. “These are your choices of living quarters.”
James spoke up, “Are we not going to be put in a cell?”
Donovan looked at him, confused. “You are my guests; we have agreed to terms. I have no reason to detain you forcefully.” Looking back to the larger group, Donovan continued, “If any of you are in need of anything, please let me know and I’ll get it taken care of for you.”
Having said that, Donovan walked away from the group. Hexor and Vexor continued to make intimidating glances at the group, which was very apparently terrifying Bianca.
Tamsen snapped at the brothers in Abyssal, “Don’t be rude, you two.”

Later that evening, Donovan took out some writing tools, and composed a letter to the Baron. The letter was a request for space on a ship to take five people to another city out of the Farholde area. Donovan intended to have Lucius drop off this letter during his standard supply run. As he was finishing the effort, Ezra approached him.
“What’s this I hear about you granting hospitality to our enemies?”, Ezra hissed at him.
Donovan maintained his composure, despite the unexpected appearance of the Dread Wraith. “Lord Ezra, how kind of you to check in on me. I’m attempting to recruit these guests into becoming additional help for securing this place.”
Ezra scoffed, “Why should we bother with them when I can simply turn them into loyal pawns for our service?”
Donovan faced Ezra, smiling, “Because, we need actual hands and feet to attend to tasks around here. Despite your incredible abilities, I still need to rebuild furniture and secure entrances.”
“And I also understand you are teaching the Boggards how to farm now. How incredibly mundane you have made the protectors in the cave area.”, Ezra was attempting to assert his knowledge of all that Donovan was doing.
“Of course, Lord Ezra. If we are to grow the Bane-Wog tribe, we will need for them to have a reliable source of food. Hunting is unreliable at best, and continuing to spread out the tribe to go further looking for prey only weakens our guardians.”, Donovan was brimming with his usual confidence.
“Your arrogance is matched only by your weakness, Donovan. I have half a mind to just kill you now, and see if the next group that your master Thorn sends proves to be more worthwhile than you.”
Unexpectedly, Donovan laughed at Ezra. “Oh Lord Ezra, if you killed me, then you would have the undeniable pleasure of meeting the Seventh Knot. I’m sure you would truly enjoy spending time with the quality individual that is Elise Zadaria. But, be aware Lord Ezra, she doesn’t even have the capacity to speak Abyssal, much less an understanding of the nature of the ritual that is required to return Vetra Kali to this world.”
Ezra stared at Donovan with momentary contempt, realizing that Donovan had already accounted for the possibility of a double cross. “Hmph.”, Ezra said, then floated away.
Lucius did all that was asked of him by Donovan, and the Baron provided information on a ship that would provide safe passage for each member of Hallack’s crew.
Stubbornly, Donovan returned to Hallack and the rest in the hopes that he could somehow convince them of his well-meaning intentions. He realized that there was no ground to be had with the Sister, but surely the others could see the opportunity he was extending them. Donovan even found himself having a pleasant conversation with Hallack and Bianca on the last night, where it seemed like he was perhaps getting through to them. Unfortunately, it was at this time that Bebop, Tamsen, and Camille came strolling through the Tavern, naked as the day they were born, and acting without shame or hesitation. Bianca burst into tears and ran back into her room, Hallack shrugged and apologized as he soon followed up behind her. Donovan set his head down on the table, realizing he had utterly failed to impress any of them, despite all of his clever words.

Week 3:
The day had arrived when the ship that would carry Hallack’s crew would arrive. Donovan and the others saw off the group, and they watched as each of them stepped into Lucius’ summoned carriage. As James was about to get into the carriage, he looked at Donovan, “So, would you still grant me safe passage after I completed your contract.”
Donovan smiled, “Of course. The offer is still open.”
James looked back at his friends, “I’ve decided to work for him for a while.” They began to protest, but he raised his hand to silence them, “I’ve made my decision, and I wish you all well.” The rest of the group rode away, with the Sister yelling at James and Donovan the whole way off.

As Donovan headed back to the caves, Zikomo approached him and told him that his warriors had found something similar to a building not far from the Horn. Donovan had previously asked Zikomo to begin looking for some sort of man made structure based on the information that Tamsen had received from her mother, so he was happy to see that there was some payoff to this whole matter.
“Bebop, take GrumbleJack and Idrees, and go investigate this structure. If you find another teleporter there, and the place cannot be secured, I want you to destroy it. Otherwise, make sure it won’t fall into the hands of the enemy. GrumbleJack carried Idrees on a special harness she had designed to ride on his back, and both him and Bebop flew out to the site discussed by the Boggards. Upon arriving, they discovered what appeared to be some sort of abandoned Keep. It was hard to tell the specific function of the building, as so much of the structure had been reclaimed by nature. Bebop, however, was able to locate the teleportation circle, with the help of Idrees.
“Very good, Bebop. You have a sharp eye there.”, Idrees praised Bebop for his keen awareness and clever insight.
Bebop smiled, as he also found the keyword for the teleporter. “Ah hah!” Stepping onto the teleporter, Bebop quickly issues the word for the First Floor throne. He arrives suddenly, and immediately goes to find Donovan. “I found it!”, Bebop declares with pride.
“Excellent work! Can it be secured?”, Donovan looks at him in anticipation.
Bebop is unsure what to say, “Let me work on that.” Heading to the teleporter, Bebop says the trigger word to return to the Keep.
Upon returning, Bebop looks at Idrees. “Donovan wants to know if we can secure this.” The three of them look around the ruined Keep.
“GrumbleJack smash teleporter?”, GrumbleJack asks inquisitively.
“Wait, wait!”, Bebop interjects. “There has to be something we can do. Maybe we can cut the teleporter away from the rest of the Keep, and then bring it back?”
Idrees chuckles, “Did Donovan suggest for you to do this?”
Bebop shakes his head, “No, this is my idea! Think how impressed he’ll be when we bring the whole teleporter back to him.”
Idrees laughs a bit, then shoos Bebop away from the teleporter. “Step back boys, this Is going to be something.” Magic extends from her, causing the floor where the teleporter is located to pull itself up and away from the ground. When all is said and done, a massive 11-foot diameter circle was pulled away from the rest of the Keep.
“You’re amazing, Idrees! I can’t believe you did that.”, Bebop exclaimed with excitement.
Idrees tipped her pipe downward with flourish, and winked. “Now you have to figure out how to get that thing all the way back.”
“No problem! GrumbleJack and I will just carry it.”, Bebop’s enthusiasm at what was going to be accomplished was on full display.
GrumbleJack grunted with concern, sizing up the massive disc. However, the two of them successfully began to move the circle back towards the Horn. It was a slow and laborious process, but those two were certainly not lacking for strength. About halfway back to the Horn, the group noticed that the sounds of insects had gotten quiet around them. Paying keen attention to his surroundings, Bebop noticed the silhouette of a large jungle cat. Immediately, he started growling and roaring in the direction of the shadow. “Come on GrumbleJack. You have to show that you are bigger than that thing.”
GrumbleJack let out a mighty roar, one that would certainly be heard by a large part of the forest.
The shadow remained very still, as though it was attempting not to be seen. After waiting for what seemed like half an hour, the party decided to continue heading back. The shadow made no further attempt to follow them.
However, their problems were not yet over. As the sight of the Horn came fully into view, a thunderous crash could be heard behind them. The shape of a huge tree began approaching, and the group started running as fast as they could, while continuing to move the massive stone disk. The group crossed over the protective barrier, and Bebop called out to Tamsen’s mind. “Help, that Treant is coming after us!” Tamsen immediately contacted Donovan who was somewhere else within the Horn. “Donovan, Bebop and GrumbleJack are in trouble. Jurak is coming after them.”
“Damnit all!”, Donovan shouted to himself. Donovan had truly been wanting to talk with Jurak, but he didn’t think he was going to have a way to explain the actions he had taken recently. Donovan found himself left with little choice. “Hexor, Vexor, fly out and hold back that Treant! We have to give Bebop and GrumbleJack time to safely return.”
The brothers followed their instructions perfectly, annoying the Treant who was unable to attack them at the range they flew at, and disgusted at the sight of seeing daemons flying out from the Horn, “What evils have been wrought upon this place? I will stop you all! It is my sworn charge!”
Looking out from the first floor entrance, Donovan sighed. He knew that Jurak was a true protector of the forest, and he hated to see something so rare suffer as it was, but he couldn’t avoid the conflict indefinitely. As he watched, Bebop and GrumbleJack moved in a massive stone disk into the caves area. Just then Donovan saw Lucius flying back on his mount, with someone unconscious lying behind him. Lucius flew in to the first level, as Donovan stepped back.

“What happened, Lucius?”, Donovan asked as he saw Lucius flip the unconscious form of Sister Dian off the mount and onto the ground.
“I’ll tell you what happened, Donovan.”, Lucius pointed at the Sister. “This one decided to be clever, waited until the boat started pulling away from the dock, and dove into the water to attempt to escape. I should have just had my dolphins pull her down to her death, but you have another sacrifice at the halfway mark of this ritual.”
Donovan looked down at the Sister and frowned, “Sheesh, you can’t trust anyone these days, can you?”
Bebop arrived upstairs, having outrun Jurak’s wrath. “What did I miss?”
“Take the Sister and lock her in the third floor cells. I’ll figure out what to do with her later.”, Donovan instructed Bebop, a pained expression on his face.
“Ooh, the Sister has been naughty, maybe I’ll have my way with her.”, Bebop teased.
“No you will not!”, Donovan roared in anger. “We are better than these people, we are the saviors of this Kingdom. They are monsters who hide behind their religious dogmas. I will never allow them to think that they have any moral high ground over me and my family, and neither will you!” Donovan stormed away.
Lucius looked at Bebop suspiciously.
“It was a joke. I was just saying that if she was being uncooperative, I wasn’t going to actually do anything.”, Bebop chuckled nervously, then picked up the body of the Sister, and took her upstairs.

The next day came, and Tamsen’s communication with Trik had gleaned another piece of useful information. Apparently, the Sisters of Saint Cynthia Celeste had posted a 500 gold piece reward for information about their missing Sister. Donovan took this information to James O’Toole.
“Hey James, are you interested in making some extra money?”
“Possibly, what do you have in mind.”
“Apparently, Sister Dian’s convent is looking for her, and has posted a reward for information regarding her whereabouts. If you wanted to go and deliver the information that she got on a boat headed out of Farholde, that might be a useful way to placate them for the time being.”, Donovan made the suggestion to James.
James pondered the offer for a bit, “I’d like to, but I know that group. I’m not particularly good at lying, and those individuals have ways of getting the truth out of you.”
Perturbed, Donovan continued, “So, can you think of any way we could throw that group off the scent? I’m frankly not very interested in having to explain my actions to every religious zealot who comes calling.”
“To be frank, I think your best solution would be to give them something that made them think someone else had come after her. That way, you don’t have to make enemies, you just stay out of everyone’s way.”, James offered an intriguing solution.
Donovan pondered that idea for a moment, “That’s very clever, James. That really would solve a lot of problems for me. Thank you for your insight.”

Later that evening, Lucius found Donovan sitting outside of the first floor entrance, staring at the area just past the barrier, watching Jurak the Elder as he continued to pace and storm around. “What are you doing, Donovan?”
Donovan continued to stare out into the evening, “Am I really a bad person, Lucius? I keep trying to find solutions to save as many people as I can, while trying to fix a system that is broken and hurts people. Yet everywhere I go, I seem to only make more enemies.”
Lucius placed his hands on Donovan’s shoulders, “Donovan, I think of you very much as my family now. I would do anything to help you. But you need to come to terms with the fact that you can not hope to change everything and at the same time save everyone. Either you want what’s best for your family, or you want to keep the status quo in place.”
Donovan turned his head to face Lucius, “So, I am the bad guy then?”
Lucius chuckled, “You know, you could just ask me to do this and stop wasting our time.”
“Would you do this for me, please Lucius?”, Donovan asked.
“Yes Donovan, I will go kill Jurak for you. I told you I would do anything to help you.”
Donovan hugged Lucius. It was hard for Donovan to realize that he could rely on his family in the same way that he wanted them to rely on him. “Thank you, Lucius. I appreciate you.”
Lucius smiled, “Now go eat your dinner.”

Session 18 Ends
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Part 2: Call Forth Darkness
Act 3: Thirty-one Weeks
Session 19: Burning the Mysteries

Week 4:
Jurak the Elder stretched his arms out, allowing the local wildlife to approach him and rest in his branches. The birds and local animals came close to him, to whisper their daily activities to him. Jurak enjoyed these moments of serenity within the forest. Unbeknownst to Jurak, Lucius had been flying around the Horn for a few hours now and had been looking for an opportunity to catch the Treant unaware. “Too bad for you that Donovan finally realized what a liability you are.”, Lucius whispered to himself, as he glided invisibly over Jurak’s relaxed form.

A moment later, a huge tiger, swathed in fire, landed on the ground behind Jurak. The tiger didn’t hesitate, and immediately rushed in to attack the Treant. Jurak didn’t realize the threat he was in until the teeth of the tiger began to cut and burn his form. Jurak recoiled in pain, shocked at the unexpected attack. “Why?”, Jurak cried out to no one in particular, or perhaps the creature that was attacking it. The tiger continued the assault, unfazed and unmoved by the fear that Jurak was quickly experiencing. Jurak’s huge arms reached out, striking the tiger, which seemed to do nothing to dissuade it. Claw and bite continued to fall, as the flames continued to burn across Jurak’s trunk and branches. Jurak raised his arms to the sky, as though he was reaching up for some divine aid. For a moment, Lucius thought perhaps Jurak had discovered where he was hidden in the sky, but the Jurak fell flat onto the ground, as the fires continued to burn his form. After Jurak was laid silent, the tiger began to lash out at the animals that were watching the events unfold. The remaining animals flew off, as Lucius landed on the ground. Lucius patted the tiger a few times as its head nodded to accept the attention, then snapped his fingers, dismissing the creature. Lucius then called up a Hound Archon, having it tear off the part of Jurak that appeared to be the face. The Archon found the piece and handed it to Lucius, at which point Lucius put it into the Portable Hole with a letter and the Holy Symbol formerly carried by Sister Marta Dian. Donovan had a plan that involved the former guests of the Horn.

Lucius reseated himself upon the mount, before instructing the Archon to continue tearing apart the remnants of the Treant. He then took off for Farholde, with purpose in his intent.

Donovan had completed the letter that was to be delivered covertly by Lucius to the convent that Sister Dian attended. Given Hallack Amon’s history, Donovan assumed that Hallack would be responsible for sending the next of kin notifications in the event of a death in the ranks. Extrapolating on that, Donovan assumed that Hallack would continue performing that action even after he left his commission. As such, Donovan believed that a letter sent to the convent on behalf of Sister Dian that was written by Hallack Amon would be accepted at face value. He gave the letter, along with the Holy Symbol and a part of the Sister’s clothing. The Sister was unsurprisingly reticent to let go of those things, but her options had been removed once she had decided to go back on her word. From there, Donovan believed that the other members of the convent would either consider the matter resolved, or would lash out at the other guardians of the forest. Either choice would be beneficial from Donovan’s perspective. After Donovan handed the objects over to Lucius, he felt another wave of fatigue wash over him. Donovan had been skipping on sleeping for the last couple of weeks. Between the work on improving the various rooms, the farming efforts with the Boggards, the time on the rituals, the time spent feeding Sister Dian, and going over the engineering designs with the Instructor, there simply was not enough time left in the day for sleep. Besides, even when he tried to sleep near Tamsen, her retainer would stare relentlessly at him, forcing him to sleep on the floor. It was just easier to skip the effort and help with some of the other things needed around the Horn. Still, even using alchemical compounds to help push off the need to sleep, Donovan felt the exhaustion setting in each day, and wondered how much longer he could reasonably maintain his current pace.

Lucius returned successfully, and no other messages were sent between Trik and Tamsen with regards to the convent. Perhaps they felt the matter had been resolved, at least from the standpoint of them not needing to research it further. A couple of days later, there was a terrible wail that came from the forest. Even with Donovan’s instruction to Zikomo to have the tribe recover the wood from Jurak’s form, he was certain that one of Jurak’s friends had discovered some part of the Treant, and was undoubtedly upset at the discovery. The group discussed the possibility of investigating the origin of the sound, but Donovan reminded them that it was almost certainly the Elves and the creature that appeared to be a Lamia. Considering the possibility of a fight with a group of Elves, the family elected to remain within the Horn instead of setting out to investigate the sound.

Tamsen continued her daily communication with Trik. Trik had mentioned that there was another potential group of adventurers, called the "Brendam's Breakers" that may be coming up, but he was looking into it. Later that week, Trik bragged to Tamsen about he and the others had dealt with them, boasting on how he had "broken the Breakers". Tamsen played fully into her role, excitedly praising Trik for his bravery and martial capability. Trik and Tamsen's time continued to grow and stretch, as he would find more and more things to talk to her about. Tamsen gave Trik all of his fantasies in words, luring him ever closer in to her grasp.

Week 5:
A few days later, Donovan found himself working on some furniture for one of the living areas. Wrapping up, Donovan grabbed a shower in order to clean the sweat of the day off of him, and then got ready to continue on to his next effort. Suddenly, he was struck with a desire to see Tamsen. How long had it been since he had been able to be close to her, and to feel her skin against his? It seemed like it had been an eternity. He approached the doorway to her bedroom, and then he heard the moans coming from it. He could see Tamsen’s bed in the reflection of her dresser mirror, and watched as Bebop and Tamsen continued to passionately connect to each other. Donovan watched Tamsen’s face, the look that she had for Bebop, the way that she truly desired him inside of her. Her arms reached out to grab him, to pull him tighter. Bebop lifted up one of her legs higher in order to feel himself enter her more fully. Donovan didn’t move, he simply stared at the reflection in the dresser, trying to wrap his mind around what he was seeing. It wasn’t until Camille appeared from behind the partially opened door to confront Donovan that his gaze was drawn away. Stumbling for words, he could only muster a simple, “I… was just…”, before Camille sneered and closed the door the rest of the way. Donovan bowed his head in shame, then walked to the teleporter on the second floor, and issued the command word to return to the first floor.

Donovan continued to curse himself as he entered the rooms on the first floor, “So stupid! Of course she’s with the other people here! Did you think she was going to sit around waiting for you?” Donovan’s path led him into the entrance hall, as his head was looking to the floor, trying to find his words. Donovan failed to notice the white furred creatures who had just turned the corner at the entrance, and were now moving towards him. He opened the door to the Alchemical lab, “Artephius, please assist me in my efforts.” “This servant obeys your orders, master.”, Artephius responded, as its lumbering metal frame came stomping out of the lab area it had previously been waiting in. Seeing the metal goliath, the Moon Dogs, reconsidered their attack on him, hoping for a more opportune target.

Fully spent from their encounter, Bebop, Camille, and Tamsen laid in Tamsen’s massive bed, slowly catching their breath. For his part, Bebop was almost feeling lightheaded, both at the efforts him and Tamsen had made, plus the vampiric behavior he had grown accustomed to from Camille. Kissing the two ladies softly, Bebop sat up in the bed, “I’ve got to get something in my system, I feel drained from you two.” Tamsen giggled, “Oh, I’m pretty sure I know which of us got your different fluids.” Bebop chuckled, then pulled himself up out of bed, “Do you want anything?”, pointing at the two girls. Tamsen replied, “Whatever you get, bring a plate. You’re not getting crumbs on my bed again.” Bebop nodded, then walked naked out into the hallway.

Approaching the fountain, Bebop issued the command for “Chill” in Infernal. A slight blue light emitted from the metal plate that was attached to the center of the fountain, and suddenly ice began to form around the plate. Bebop took up a handful of the water and swallowed it. It was a remarkable design that Idrees had put together, able to create both hot and cold water with just a verbal command. Bebop remarked that it was perhaps the most luxurious thing he had experienced, at least in matters of home plumbing. A few moments later, the blue light faded, and the chilling effect ended, allowing the water a chance to return to room temperature.

Bebop started the trek down to the throne room. This was the only aspect of the Horn he didn’t like, the long distance between the living quarters on the second floor, and the tavern on the first floor. Bebop told himself he needed to ask Donovan to install a staircase in the room next to Tamsen’s. That way, he could go downstairs and have some food, then come back upstairs and have some Tamsen. “It’s a perfect idea, Bebop!”, he told himself with much confidence. He arrived at the throne room, and mumbled the command word to take him to the first floor. Bebop felt slightly woozy as he completed the transport between the two floors, “I’ve got to tell Camille to take it easy on me. That girl always pretends to be so hungry, but I just think she likes the taste of me.” Bebop then laughed to himself, “Heh, so does Tamsen.”

The first floor always sounded busier than the other floors, primarily because Donovan was always working on room improvements in this area. He could hear the sound of metal slamming against wood or stone, and imagined Artephius performing some other engineering tasks per Donovan’s instructions. Still, to look at the place, it would seem there was much more left to do. The rooms were still undone, even the entrance had not yet been installed, despite the equipment being moved into place. Fortunately, the other floors had been sealed up. Bebop finally reached the tavern at the other end of the first floor. Lucius had already completed making dinner for the evening, but he left some food out, since Bebop and GrumbleJack were often known to try and get late night snacks for themselves, and Lucius would prefer they ate the cooked food, instead of the food to be prepared into dishes.

Bebop went to the bar area, and took several of the meat slices laying out, eating a few before he grabbed a handful of others. He then saw a fruit that caught his eye, “Maybe Tamsen would like something.” He turned around to leave, then remembered something, “Oh, don’t forget a plate!” As he walked towards the plates, he realized some… things were on the ground, staring up at them. They had white fur, but their front hands were not paws. They looked at him, and began to growl. “Oh, sh-it!”, Bebop said, as he dropped the food and dashed for the door, with the creatures close on his heels. Quickly communicating a thought to Tamsen, Bebop warned her of the attack, “There are some kind of dogs in here! I’m headed for the throne on the first floor!”

Alerts began to go out throughout the Horn, as individuals used their telepathic connections to inform others of the issues at hand.
“Donovan, we have intruders! Bebop is under attack on the way to the first floor throne!”, Tamsen connected herself to Donovan’s mind.
“Damnit all! How did Hexor and Vexor miss this?”, Donovan thought to himself, as he headed for the door. “Hexor! Vexor! We have intruders near the first floor throne room. I need you there at once!” Looking over to Artephius, Donovan summoned him into action as well, “Artephius, we must defend the Horn!”
“Yes, my master!”, the response from Artephius.
“Lucius, Bebop is at the first floor throne, he is being attacked!”, Tamsen continued to call out to others.
“Come to me, my servant of fire and fur.”, Lucius commanded, and a tiger appeared at his side.

For all of Bebop’s efforts, he could not outrun these creatures. He made it to the throne room entrance, before the creatures pinned him down and started attacking him on the ground. Naked and lacking armor, Bebop was in a poor position to defend himself from these attacks. A moment later, the Brothers Hexor and Vexor appeared in the throne room, able to take stock of what they are seeing. In Abyssal, one of the brothers says, “It would appear we have Moon Dogs to welcome as our new guests.” The brothers seemed mostly amused at the naked man attempting to hold off these angry creatures. Bebop forced his horns into one of the dogs and tried to run away, but the Moon Dogs were already well and truly engaged with him, unwilling to allow his escape.

Tamsen continued to broadcast out warnings to the group, making her last announcement to GrumbleJack before she had Camille grab Bebop’s bandolier and return to her side. Both her and Lucius used their Dimension Door in order to appear at the throne room a moment later. Donovan continued to move as quickly as he could, not having the benefit of motion that so many of the others possessed. The Moon Dogs continued to capitalize of Bebop’s precarious situation, biting and attacking him at each opportunity.

Tamsen ordered Camille to deliver the Elixirs to Bebop, while Lucius released his tiger against the Moon Dogs. GrumbleJack came flying in, swinging his massive weapon, and the Demons got themselves in an opportune position to place one of the dogs into a vulnerable position on the battlefield. Finally, Donovan arrived on the scene, and ordered Artephius to close distance and attack. The battle was fully joined. The Moon Dogs showed themselves to be powerful combatants, able to withstand punishment that would have bested much mightier creatures. The family’s allies did their best to make themselves useful, with varying levels of success. Once Bebop was able to use his Mutagen, he became a more powerful combatant, but found himself worn out from the constant barrage of attacks that had occurred before the group had arrived to assist him. For his efforts, GrumbleJack was also knocked into unconsciousness, but not before helping to aid several others to receive healing. Camille, while not having the strength of others, knew how to bypass the Moon Dog’s incredible resistances, allowing her attacks to be more deadly than might have been expected from her, as she transformed into a dinosaur on Tamsen’s behalf. With time and patience, the battle was brought to heel, and the enemies were all slain without hesitation or discussion.

Donovan moved through the group, providing healing to everyone before Idrees floated in on her disk, angrier than she had been in some time.
“Donovan Westermeyer, what in the nine hells was that back there?”, Idrees exclaimed in furious tones.
“Moon Dogs, Instructor Diggle. Bebop was caught by surprise when….”, Donovan attempted to answer her question, before Idrees struck Donovan with her pipe hard enough to put a cut across his eyebrow.
“I’m aware of what they are, I’m not an idiot. My question is what was that joke that you made as an excuse for battlefield tactics?”, Idrees pointed around the room.
“Instructor… they had just arrived here and were not sure where to position themselves.”, Donovan struggled to keep the blood from spilling out.
Idrees sneered, pushing her pipe under Donovan’s neck, “They are children, you are a product of the Academy. How could you sit there and watch that fight without sending instructions to them?”
Donovan’s face was confused, “How did you see….”
Idrees held up one of the Eyes, “You risked all of their lives tonight with your incompetence, Mister Westermeyer!”
Donovan cursed silently to himself as his gaze momentarily shifted over to the Demon brothers, “No wonder they didn’t give me advance warning.”
“Forgive me, Instructor. I have been attending to the improvements of this facility.”, Donovan’s head was bowed, even as his hand was holding back the blood from the cut.
“Yes, your improvements. You’ve continued to build bedrooms, while you should have been putting the doors up on the first level.”, Idrees was making her displeasure known now.
Donovan could retort with nothing. He knew she was right. He had become so fixated on everything else, that he had forgotten basic security.
“And if you’d spend less time leering at Tamsen and her lovers while they are together in bed, you might have time to get the work done around here that needs to be done!”, Idrees struck him again, but Donovan didn’t even flinch. What she had just said was so humiliating that he simply had no responses to give, no arguments to make. Donovan simply looked to the ground, hoping that this conversation could end so he could escape all the eyes now staring at him.
“Yes ma’am.”, Donovan’s voice was barely audible.
Idrees, seeing that Donovan was out of the discussion, floated away on her disk, “Come on GrumbleJack, I guess we’ll have to get to work on things around here.”
GrumbleJack nodded, and followed along.
Hexor and Vexor, having killed all that could be killed, teleported back to another area of the Horn.
“Well, I guess I’m going to go get another plate of food, since I dropped the first one.”, Bebop muttered, and walked away.
“And I guess I should go clean up the mess I’m sure you made dropping that plate.”, Lucius laughed, and followed Bebop.
There was an awkward silence in the throne room between Donovan and Tamsen, the first such one that the two had ever known. Donovan turned, and started walking out of the room.
“Donovan, is what she said true?”, Tamsen reached out for Donovan’s hand.
There was no answer he could have given, so Donovan assumed he should just pick the one that would hopefully end the conversation quickest. “Yes, I did.”, Donovan said curtly. Donovan attempted to walk away, but Tamsen blocked his path.
Tamsen pushed Donovan’s hand away from the cut on his face, and applied healing magic. “Donovan, when it comes to what I do in my bedroom….”
Donovan gritted his teeth and thought to himself, “Go on, say it. Tell me to mind my business. Tell me to leave you be. Tell me to go back to my work.”
“… you are always invited.”, Tamsen smiled as she completed the sentence. “If there is something you want or desire from me, tell me.” Tamsen kissed Donovan sweetly, then took Donovan’s hand. “In fact, let me show you.”
In an instant, Tamsen cast Dimension Door, and the two of them found each other in her bed, kissing as though nothing had even needed to be said.

Session 19 Ends.
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Part 2: Call Forth Darkness
Act 3: Thirty-one Weeks
Session 20: A Woman’s Place is on Her Throne

Tamsen was lying in her bed next to Donovan. Last night, they had finally been able to spend time together after so many weeks. She enjoyed finally being able to be close to him, it was something that they seemed to have less and less opportunity to do so. By the time the two of them were finished, she could see the exhaustion had taken its toll on Donovan. He tried to get up and leave her bed the night before, but she insisted he stay. It was so easy for her to whisper the words he wanted to hear.

Dawn had already approached, and the Golem came looking for Donovan, “My Master, it is time for the ritual, your servant has come to awaken you.” Tamsen raised her hand to Artephius. “Enough. Return to your post until time for Donovan’s next instruction.” The Golem complied, retreating back to whatever location Donovan has assigned to it when it wasn’t actively working with him. Tamsen kissed Donovan softly on the cheek so as to not wake him, “I’ll be right back, my love.” With those words, Tamsen teleported herself via Dimension Door into the Sanctum, and performed the ritual. It was easy for her now, the words came from her as second nature, almost as though she were speaking in her native tongue. Having finished the ritual for now, she decided to go and pick up some fruit for her, Donovan, and Camille to share. These early morning moments were nice, as it was still quiet inside the Horn. The light coming through the first floor was beautiful, and the promise of the day stretched out before her.

As she returned to her room, she saw Camille’s form moving up on Donovan, to attempt to feed from him. “Stop that, Cami!”, she hissed at her cohort, but quietly as to not wake Donovan from his rest. “I’m hungry, mistress.”, Camille replied with pleading eyes. Tamsen moved closer to her, “Then go play with Bebop. I’ve told you before how I feel about you taking from Donovan.” Camille made a pouting face, then relented to her Mistress. With Cami having left the room, Tamsen set the food down to the side of the bed, and climbed back in to be next to Donovan. Donovan’s eyes fluttered and opened, then he looked over at Tamsen, “Good morning, my love.” Tamsen smiled, “Good morning, my love.” Suddenly, realization set in for Donovan. “What time is it? I’ve got to go perform the ritual. Tamsen sat up, pushing Donovan gently back onto the bed, “I already took care of it. I could see how tired you were, and I wanted to let you rest a while longer.” Donovan, who had already begun to start worrying, relaxed as he was pushed down onto the bed, his eyes gazing up at Tamsen.
“Thank you so much, Tamsen. I don’t know why I overslept through that.”
“It’s because you don’t get enough sleep, baby. You can’t keep taking potions to avoid it indefinitely.”, Tamsen was now sitting on top of Donovan, her hair draping down on his face.
Tamsen looked into Donovan’s eyes, she always found herself pulled by his gaze, the way he made her feel loved and accepted.
“Marry me, Tamsen.”, Donovan blurted out, completely unexpected.
Tamsen stared at Donovan in disbelief, “What are you talking about?”
Donovan rolled himself over onto Tamsen, holding her close in his grasp, “I know this sounds impulsive, my love. But when I think about every truly happy moment in my life, you are there. I can’t imagine a world that I want to be in, where you are not present. I truly love you, Tamsen. I’ve never loved any person the way I love you. You are everything to me. So please, Tamsen, marry me. I’ll do all I can to bring you the happiness you have always brought me.”
Tamsen touched Donovan’s face, looking into his eyes. Even if he had never said this to her, she already knew that this was the way he had felt about her for a while. Tamsen understood that Donovan came from a different world, a different family, and this was his genuine way to show his devotion to her. Tamsen shook her head somberly, “No, Donovan. I don’t want that.”
“Oh.”, Donovan replied, struck numb with her response. Tamsen could see it in Donovan’s face, he was hurt and didn’t understand. Donovan tried to play it off with a nervous laugh, “Yeah, I guess that was a lot to approach you with, especially before we had breakfast." Tamsen watched as Donovan rolled off her, laying back down on the bed and trying to prevent himself from showing the emotions he was experiencing currently. Tamsen got out of bed, walked over to a dresser, and pulled something out. As she turned around, she could see that Donovan was starting to slink out of the bed, the sadness clearly showing in his eyes. “When I first met you, and you took me to your parents’ house, you told me that you wouldn’t reveal my secret to your family, and that I would be safe with you.”, Tamsen returned to the bed, something small in her hand. “I didn’t know what secret you were talking about, but you said that you knew I was a succubus, and that you wanted to sign a contract with me in exchange for staying with you. Tamsen took one of Donovan’s hands, and set what appeared to be a crumpled and folded up piece of paper into it. “I didn’t know what you meant at the time Donovan. I thought you were just some weird rich boy who was trying to find a way to get me to sleep with him.” She began to delicately open the piece of paper that was in Donovan’s hand, taking care not to damage it any more that it had already been. “But, after our first time together, I realized that you meant every word you said in the contract, that you would do anything to keep me by your side. You never once saw me as less than you, never once asked of me what you were unwilling to do yourself. And I found myself falling in love with you, Donovan, as each day turned to the next.” The paper was open in Donovan’s hand now. His eyes looked at the contract that he had scribbled out so long ago for her, and he smiled, “You kept it, even after all this time.” Tamsen kissed Donovan on the lips, “This is the most precious gift I have ever received in my life, Donovan. Of course I kept it.” Tamsen slowly pulled the paper away from Donovan’s hand, returning the paper by each fold that it had been in only a few moments earlier. “This is our bond, Donovan my love, and the only thing I need to know where my heart belongs. And no priest, no king, no church, no god will ever tell me who I can be with; or grant me permission to love whom I choose.” Tamsen climbed back on top of Donovan, pushing him back down onto the bed. “You and I, Donovan, we are the only ones who define our rules.” Donovan seemed disappointed, “Is it so bad to imagine a life where you and I are together, my love? A life with children and a home of our own?” Tamsen couldn’t help but giggle, “Oh my sweet Donovan. All of that is in our grasp, and anything else you desire.” Tamsen kissed Donovan, feeling his urgency and need as he kissed back at her. She could tell their passions were rising in the moment.
“Do you love me, Donovan Westermeyer?”, Tamsen asked Donovan with all sincerity.
“Yes, Tamsen my sweet. I have loved you since I met you, and it has only grown with time.”, Donovan’s eyes revealed the truth of his words.
“You are mine, Donovan Westermeyer. Body and soul, heart and mind, now and forever.”, Tamsen began kissing Donovan as the words came out, their hands exploring each other.
For his part, Donovan nodded and whispered, “Yes, I am yours.”
Tamsen pulled her lips next to Donovan’s ears and whispered, “And I am yours.”, as the two of them fell into each other’s embrace once more.

After the two of them spent a while longer in their intimate embrace, Donovan finally mustered the strength to pull away from Tamsen.
“Don’t leave, baby. I’m not finished playing with you.”, Tamsen cooed seductively.
“Somehow I feel like you would never be finished playing with me.”, Donovan chuckled.
“Is that so bad, love? Do you hate my attentions?”, Tamsen replied in a mock pout.
“Not at all, but the work here in the horn must continue. I’m sure you’ll find something to occupy your time.”, Donovan teased back.
Tamsen sat up on the bed, wrapping her arms around Donovan’s waist, “But it’s you I want to occupy my time.”
Donovan simply smiled, kissed Tamsen once more, and said, “Thank you, my love, for this moment.” Then, he left the room.
Tamsen laid back in bed, content and enamored in her feelings. A moment later, Camille pounced on the bed next to her, “Mistress, why won’t you let me have him? He’s clearly given himself to you now.”
Tamsen’s eyes were still closed, “Donovan is delicate, Cami. He needs a gentle touch.”
Camille insisted, “I can be gentle, Mistress.”
Tamsen smirked as she opened one of her eyes to look at Camille, “I’ve seen you with Bebop. Gentle isn’t the word I’d call what you do.”
Camille tried to protest, but Tamsen put her finger to Camille’s face, “Show me what you can do with Bebop, and I’ll consider it.”

Tamsen and Camille met up with the rest of the group at the front door. Tamsen watched as Idrees’ magic created a double portcullis system in front of the entrance on the first floor. It appeared that shadowy minions were taking the materials that Donovan had set out and assembled them into a desired form. The work went surprisingly fast, taking up only a few minutes of Idrees’ time. When the work was completed, Donovan complimented Idrees for her efforts. “Amazing work, Instructor! This is a huge help!”
“Of course it’s amazing Mister Westermeyer. It’s not one of your schemes.”, Idrees cackled, puffing on her pipe.
“Now, I need to go meet with Zikomo to have him provide us some staff to monitor the gates. In the meantime, Instructor, I want you to shrink down that cube that was taken from the remote transporter site. Once that’s done, Bebop will take the shrunken teleporter all the way up to the Sanctum, and set it in a position where we can take advantage of it there.”, Donovan gave his instructions to the group.

Tamsen watched Donovan and smiled. It was good to see his confidence returned to him, the sharpness of his mind back in place. Tamsen also found herself annoyed with Idrees. Why would Idrees punish Donovan for not doing something over the course of hours that she could do herself in minutes? Tamsen found herself getting a clearer picture of the woman Idrees actually was. Tamsen slid up on Bebop, putting her hand around his waist, “Are we headed downstairs now?” Bebop nodded, “Putting the cube on the top floor, that’s helpful.” Tamsen watched as Donovan walked over and started talking with Zikomo. It surprised her to realize that less than two months ago, Donovan didn’t even speak Boggard. Now he could fall into and out of that language as easily as he was able to do for a dozen others. The chief didn’t seem to like what he was saying, and Tamsen couldn’t help but activate one of her Hexes in order to listen in on what was being said. Apparently, Donovan was asking Zikomo to provide a couple of sentries to monitor the first floor entrances, and provide his consorts to act as waitresses in order to raise morale for the individuals who were assigned to that post. Zikomo was complaining that he was already struggling with having enough troops for hunting, but Donovan reminded him that they were supposed to be supplementing their hunting efforts via the crops and fish they had been provided. Tamsen considered walking over there to assist Donovan with his negotiations, but he soon had the matter under control, receiving not only the desired sentries, but additional troops to train in basic healing principles. Meanwhile, Idrees had completed her magics upon the cube, shrinking the portal to what amounted to a large cube shape, one that Bebop was easily able to pick up and carry around. The group returned to the first floor of the Horn, and Donovan instructed the Boggard sentries on what their tasks would be during the time they were here.

Shortly after, the group met inside the tavern of the first floor, and Donovan spoke up, “Now that Instructor Diggle has begun work on the upgrades to our gear, we need to discuss the next security plans for this place.”
Bebop spoke up excitedly, “We need to get Shere Khan!”
Donovan had a confused look on his face, “I don’t know what a Shere Khan is, who or what is that?”
Bebop continued, “One of the tigers of the forest. We could get some catnip, and get ourselves a pet that would live with us!”
Donovan frowned, “While I’m not opposed to saving a creature that might otherwise be an issue for us, keep in mind that even if we capture the beast, and have the Instructor craft something so we can communicate with it, and successfully negotiate with the creature, we would still be dealing with a creature that is inferior to what Lucius can summon any time he desires.”
As if to make a point, Lucius called forth one of his flaming Dire Tigers, that roared and purred briefly before Lucius unsummoned it.
Bebop nodded, “Oh, right.”
Donovan continued, “Lucius, I need you to place an Alarm spell on each floor of the hidden staircase. As we’ll need to have you repeat this spell every day, we probably should have the Instructor craft some Pearls of Power.”
Lucius nodded, “What should we use for the password, then?”
Bebop blurted out, “My dick!”, and laughed.
Donovan sneered at Bebop, “We’ll use the Infernal word for Secret. That should secure it to just us.” After hesitating for a moment, Donovan continued, “Also, we need to apply Magic Mouth to the outside entrance of the first floor. This will give us another verbal warning if someone is approaching.”
Bebop pressed on, “Ooh yeah, Gonna get me some of that Magic Mouth.”
Donovan stared at Bebop with incredulity and sighed, “I’m going to go get back to work, the ritual is going to start soon. Lucius, you got your game plan?”
Lucius nodded, “Got it, boss.”
Donovan kissed Tamsen on the lips, before heading off, “Love you.”
After Donovan walked away, Tamsen stood up and reached out to Bebop. “Come on, you. I can tell you have some pent-up energy to work off.” Tamsen led Bebop back to her room, with Camille following closely behind. As the two of them got to her doorway, Bebop shoved Tamsen roughly against the wall, and started kissing her, “I’ve missed you.”
Tamsen grinned wickedly, “Then stop missing me and start doing something about it.”
Bebop’s desire surged through him, and he lifted Tamsen off her feet, before walking her over to the bed and tossing her down.

As Bebop, Camille, and Tamsen laid naked in her bed, Tamsen climbed onto of Bebop’s spent form, “Why do you do that?”
Bebop looked at her and grinned sheepishly, “I thought you liked when I did that.”
Tamsen slid her right leg between Bebop’s legs, pressing down into his manhood, “Ha ha!”, she mocked. “Why do you play the fool in front of Donovan?”
Bebop’s face turned serious, “Do you know what it’s like to have someone already plan out everything you are interested in accomplishing? How it feels to be around someone who speaks fluently in almost every language without the use of magic, and already has calculated everything you are going to say or do, with the measured response to it? How is a guy supposed to stand out in a world like that?”
Tamsen raised her eyebrow, “Are you jealous, lover?”
Bebop sighed, “It’s hard not to be a little jealous when the most desirable woman I’ve ever known is on top of me, and just out of reach.”
Tamsen kissed Bebop’s chest, “There’s a very small piece of me that only he has; but if it brings you any comfort, I’ve heard him whisper of his jealousy about you.”
Bebop snorted, “Jealous of me? I want to be like him. You know, the version of him that doesn’t have to work all the time of fixing up this place.”
Tamsen smiled, her fingers running through Bebop’s hair, “You’re not going anywhere, lover. I need you in my life. And despite what you think, I know he loves you like family.”
Bebop smiled, “I hope you are right.”
Tamsen, “Of course I’m right. So, relax and trust in your family.”

Week 6:
One of the Boggards approaches Donovan as he was working in one of the first floor living areas, “Oh great master, there is an unusual group of plants that have sprouted up inside our cave, and Zikomo seeks your wisdom in deciding how to deal with it.” Donovan nodded to the Boggard, telling them he will send someone to research it.
Donovan reached out to Tamsen’s mind, “My love, would you ask Bebop to go speak with Zikomo? Apparently, there is an unusual plant growth.
Tamsen smiled, as she received Donovan’s voice in her mind. Having been several days since her talk with Bebop, she was excited that Donovan was giving Bebop an opportunity to prove his cleverness in resolving problems. Looking over to her side, Tamsen tapped on Bebop’s shoulder, as he and Camille were intertwined. “Donovan is calling for you, lover. You and Cami will have to pause for the time being.” Camille sat up, licking the blood off her lips. Bebop also tried to sit up, but the blood loss caused him to feel woozy, “How long have I been under her?”, Bebop asked Tamsen. “About fifteen minutes, baby. You’ve been making her very happy.”, Tamsen giggled, as Camille nodded with enthusiasm, “I love you, Bebop. Hurry back where you belong.”
Bebop smiled at the two naked ladies, then stumbled out of the room.
Bebop worked his way down to the cave area where the Boggards reside, asking around for Zikomo. Upon finding Zikomo, the elder Boggard asked Bebop, “Where is Donovan?” Bebop sighed to himself. Even the Boggards had already turned to Donovan as the person to interact with among the group. “Well, Donovan sent me to take care of the matter.”, Bebop said defensively. “I see, I guess my foolish tribemate did not properly convey our need to the great master.” After the initial irritation, Bebop was finally able to discover the issue that the Boggards were experiencing. Bebop recognized these as Assassin Vines that were not yet mature enough to attack anyone just yet. However, Bebop estimated that these vines would be dangerous in less than a week, and should be moved soon in order to protect the Boggards. About this time, James O’Toole came over, having had yet another frustrating session trying to train the Boggards to do anything besides attack everything that wasn’t a Boggard in their cave. On more than one occasion, he ended up getting into an “unintentional training session” where him and a few of the more riled up Boggards would fight. Fortunately, James was a competent fighter, and the Boggards were soon settled down; but James found himself needing to be patched up by Donovan on more than one occasion. After speaking with Bebop, James suggested that perhaps the plants could be moved to another location that was away from the residents.
Bebop nodded, “We could install them on the second and third floors, in case people try to break in.” James agreed, “We also would have food for them. As Boggards join the ranks, some refuse, and are killed by Zikomo’s warriors.” Bebop seemed enthused by this news, and relayed his discovery back to Tamsen, “Tamsen, please let Donovan know what I’ve discovered, and see what he says.” Tamsen left her room to seek out Donovan. Finding him on the first floor, she went into the room where he and Artephius was working, then explained Bebop’s discovery and proposed solution. Donovan nodded and smiled, “Very clever, I’ll install some tubing down near the floor on this side that runs through the cave wall, so we can feed them animal blood when they don’t have sentient blood to work with. Please tell him to move forward.”, Donovan kissed Tamsen and smiled. Tamsen relayed Donovan’s approval to Bebop, who began the process of moving the plants.

Donovan pushed Tamsen up against the wall of the living area he had been working in, “While I’ve got you here…”, Donovan looked at Tamsen excitedly.
Tamsen wrapped her arms around Donovan’s neck, “Yes, love?”
Donovan grabbed Tamsen’s wrist, “Follow me, I want you to see what we’ve made for you.” Donovan led Tamsen into the Alchemist Lab, where Idrees had been working, “Instructor, have you been able to finish work on the pieces for Tamsen?”
Idrees nodded, “Of course, her are your bracers, lovely lady.” Idrees handed Tamsen the Bracers of Armor that she had completed.
Tamsen looked at the bracers, “Thank you Idrees, they are lovely.”
Donovan nodded, “Now you won’t have to use that silken armor anymore. And there’s something else.” Donovan looked over to Idrees, who made a disapproving face.
“Of course you would try to get her naked, Donovan. Some times, you can be quite disgusting.”, Idrees chastised Donovan again.
Donovan shook his head, “It’s not like that, Instructor. Tamsen is a beautiful woman, and should have access to any outfit she can imagine.”
Tamsen sounded excited, “Any outfit? Please show me, my love.”
Donovan smiled, “Here you go. These are Sleeves of Many Garments. You wear them around the part of your arm near your wrist, and they can change into whatever you picture.”
Tamsen excitedly put on the Sleeves, then removed all of her other clothing. She pictured an outfit that she thought would be desirable to Donovan. She felt the cloth slide up her arms, and across her body, covering up and exposing just what she wanted to. Her eyes watched as Donovan drew a breath in looking at her. “Oh, Tamsen.”, was all the words he could muster.
“I love this, Idrees. Thank you so much.”, Tamsen was happy with the new magic item, but was also annoyed with Idrees, and determined that she would have a talk with her soon.
“It’s my pleasure, Tamsen. You’re such a good girl, even with Donovan trying to make you inappropriate.”, Idrees nodded, and went back to work.

Donovan and Tamsen left the room. Just as they got outside of the room, Tamsen stood in front of him, “So, see anything you like?”
“Literally everything.”, Donovan responded excitedly.
Tamsen licked her lips, “What are you going to do about it?”
Donovan moved close to Tamsen, the thoughts on his mind apparent. Just then, Lucius approached Donovan, “I just got back from Farholde. It appears that Baron Vandermir is holding a celebration for his birthday. The Baron is expecting you to attend in order to visit with some of the contacts you have been attempting to make.”
Donovan nodded and sighed, “Thank you Lucius, I appreciate the information.”
Right after Lucius explained his newfound knowledge, Bebop returned, looking quite proud of himself after delivering the Assassin Vines to their new location.
Donovan nodded, “I should probably start getting to work on that tubing then, so those plants don’t decide to run off.” Looking back at Tamsen in her stunning outfit, he appeared to have a moment of hesitation, and then returned to his work.
Bebop looked at Tamsen, and suddenly realized that her clothing was different, “Wow, your boobs look amazing in that outfit!”
Tamsen smirked, “Nothing gets by you, huh?”

Days passed, and the new routines began to settle in. Lucius performed his patrolling duty, now adding the Alarms to the three floors of the hidden staircase. Idrees and GrumbleJack continued to craft new gear and improve existing gear to make the team more durable in conflict, Donovan continued to make improvements to the various areas of the Horn, while checking in on Sister Marta and seeing to her wellbeing, and Bebop continued to make himself available for Camille and Tamsen’s attentions. For her part, Tamsen enjoyed the relative quiet of the Horn. Once more, she thought back to Donovan’s excitement when they first arrived. It was hard to imagine a dead place such as the one they had found being worth anything, but the family had slowly turned it into a place that wasn’t so bad to be in. It still lacked in personality, but she saw the work that was being done, and the work was good.
Tamsen moved around the Horn during the midnight ritual, one of the few times that Donovan was able to sleep. It gave her a chance to check in on everyone, to make sure they were all sleeping as well. Tamsen found Lucius’ door open, and she peeked in on him. He was sitting in his room, looking despondent and subdued, “Hey sweetie, are you ok? What are you doing up at this time of night?”
Lucius waved to her, “Hey Tamsen, I’m fine. Just not able to sleep right now.”
Tamsen slid into Lucius’ room, closing the door behind her, “You want to talk about it?”
Lucius shook his head, “Naw, I’m good. Thanks for checking on me though.”
Tamsen could very clearly see that something wasn’t fine with Lucius, “Maybe I could just sit next to you, and we could pass some time together?” Tamsen sat down on the bed next to Lucius.
Lucius looked at Tamsen, her gentle smile and warm eyes shining. He clearly wanted to say something, she could see it on his lips, but he was held back.
Tamsen gently placed her fingers against Lucius’ cheek,
“I feel so alone, Tamsen.”, Lucius began to open up. “I didn’t notice it before when other people were around, but now that we’re so far from everyone, I feel so isolated here. I don’t feel like I belong.”
“Lucius, you know we all love you. You’re a part of our world, a part of our family. It’s not an accident you are here.”, Tamsen attempted to comfort Lucius, speaking in soothing tones.
“It’s just, when I hear you and Bebop together, or see Donovan smile as he’s sitting next to you, I feel like such an outcast in this group, like I’m just an employee here.”, Lucius described his pain to Tamsen. “Do you even need me anymore?”
“Lucius, I’m so sorry we’ve made you feel that way. But, here’s what you should know.” Tamsen leaned over to Lucius, and kissed him ever so softly on the lips. “You are a part of the family, and I don’t want you to think otherwise. Donovan loves you, and so do I. If we’ve seemed distant with all that’s been going on, it’s not because we are closing you out.”
Lucius smiled weakly, “Thank you for saying this to me, Tamsen. I really needed to hear it.” Lucius stared into Tamsen’s eyes for a moment, then he leaned over and kissed her. Reconsidering his actions, Lucius quickly attempted to make amends, “I’m sorry about that Tamsen, I don’t know what came over me.”
Tamsen smiled, “Never apologize for your desires with me. I know how to make my own decisions.” With that, Tamsen stood up, “I guess I’m going to head back to my room now, unless you can think of something else I should be doing.”
Tamsen’s hand touched the doorknob of Lucius’ bedroom door before Lucius finally spoke up, “Tamsen, I…”

Week 7:
The night of the party arrived, and Donovan was getting ready to attend to the festivities as was expected of him. Donovan still knew all the appropriate protocols for interacting with the well-connected of the city. As he was finishing getting ready, Tamsen walked into his room. She was dressed in a full body red slip dress that was slit all the way up the right leg, and allowing her cleavage to be displayed.
“What do you think, my love?”, Tamsen said to Donovan.
“You are perfection, Tamsen. But why are you dressed up like this?”, Donovan responded, overwhelmed with her beauty.
“To go to the gala, of course.”, Tamsen sounded quite eager.
A look of disappointment crossed Donovan’s face, “Oh, ok. Yes, yes, you should go my love! Go and take Lucius with you. You two will be the hit of the show.”
“Don’t be silly, Donovan. I want to go with you.”, Tamsen insisted.
“But, we can’t both go, Tamsen. One of us has to stay here and do the ritual. I’ll stay, you should go.”, Donovan clearly wanted to make Tamsen happy.
Tamsen thought about what Donovan had just said. He was right, unfortunately. Both of them could not go and get back in time to perform the ritual. One of them would have to stay behind, and Tamsen knew it had to be her. Donovan had already made the connections; Donovan already knew the merchants. Donovan was the right choice, and Tamsen hated that she couldn’t be with him. “Donovan, I wanted them all to see me like this, I wanted every person to know that this was what you had, and they couldn’t have it. I wanted to make every person there jealous just for you tonight.”
Tamsen watched as Donovan blushed at what she was saying. She knew he was thrilled to be receiving such attention.
“But, since I can’t make all those people jealous of you tonight, then I just want you to remember what is waiting for you when you get home. So, hurry back to me, because you know I’m not a woman that likes to be made to wait.”, Tamsen finished her thought.
Donovan nodded, “Gods, yes! I can’t wait to be back home and in your arms again.”
Tamsen kissed Donovan quickly, “Good, now go.”
And with that, Donovan and Lucius left for the gala.

With Donovan gone, Tamsen decided to take care of one last thing that had been on her mind for a while now. Her and Camille grabbed up the dinner plates that Lucius had made in advance, and headed over to the Alchemy Lab. “Dinnertime, everyone!” Tamsen and Camille handed plates and drinks to GrumbleJack and Idrees, who were grateful to have their food delivered.
“How is it going for our two hardest workers?”, Tamsen said, a sweet smile across her face.
GrumbleJack grunted a happy nod, as he began indulging himself on the food.
Idrees was equally pleased, “You’re such a wonderful young woman, Tamsen. Truly we’re all so lucky to have you here. If only Donovan was even remotely at your level.”
Tamsen’s teeth gritted together, “GrumbleJack, would you be a dear and let us girls have some private time together? We so rarely get to talk to each other nowadays.”
GrumbleJack shrugged, nodded, and picked up his plate as he began walking out of the room.
Tamsen continued, “Idrees, can I just tell you how amazing it was that you were able to seal up that front door so quickly?”
Idrees chuckled, “I’ve learned a few things about how to make a place secure, yessiree!”
Tamsen looked at her, “But, you still punished Donovan for not doing that work, even though you could have taken care of it any time you wanted?”
Idrees smirked, “It’s his fault for not asking me for help in the first place!”
Tamsen stared angrily at Idrees, “Cami!” With a single word from Tamsen, Camille acted, slashing Idrees across the face.
Idrees fell back, “Oh gods! What’s happening?”
Tamsen rushed up to Idrees, shushing her and holding her face, “There, there, Idrees. I’ve got you. Let me help you make that all better.” Tamsen applied infernal healing magic to Idrees’ injuries, causing the wounds to slowly close up. “That night, Idrees, as I watched you sit there and strike my Donovan, making him feel guilty for wanting to look at me, I realized the kind of woman you actually are, and I knew I had to deal with you.”
Idrees pulled away, “You don’t understand Tamsen, Donovan deserves this, he made me lose my job!”
Tamsen put her hand up, “No, he didn’t. There’s no possible way a school would let you go for returning all the money that had been made from a student selling answers. I suspect that what really happened is that you have abused other children during your tenure, and the school realized this was as good of a chance as any to be done with you.”
Idrees made a nasty face at Tamsen, and Tamsen immediately knew she was right, “But Donovan is too loyal to take it out on you, and he simply allows you to abuse him in order to resolve the guilt he feels for your failure.”
Idrees tried to move away, but GrumbleJack was already blocking the door out of the Alchemical Lab, having been instructed by Tamsen telepathically to do so.
Tamsen continued to threaten Idrees, “Donovan needs you, Idrees, and all of us like you here, but I’m not going to watch you hurt him anymore because of your anger at something he didn’t actually do. So, what you are going to do is guide him, teach him to reach his potential, help him grow into the man I know he is meant to be; and you are going to do this without humiliating him or beating him senseless with your pipe.”
Idrees looked at Tamsen, “And if I say no?”
Tamsen smiled, “If you hurt Donovan that way again, then the next time you sleep with be the last time.”
Idrees looked over at Camille, seeing her bared fangs and claws, and realizing she had no real choice in the matter. Idrees nodded to Tamsen, and Tamsen smiled, “See, I knew all of us girls were going to get along together!”

Session 20 Ends.


Part 2: Call Forth Darkness
Act 3: Thirty-one Weeks
Session 21: Swelling Members

Week 8:
“You have such skillful hands, Idrees.”, Bebop said flirtatiously to the instructor. “You really know your way around these tables.” Idrees looked up from where she was working on the crafting table, then chuckled, “What do you want, Bebop? I’m working as quickly as I can on your amulet. It isn’t going to go any quicker from your flattery.”
“No, no.”, Bebop attempted to reassure her. “I’m here to spend time with you.” Bebop’s face made overt gestures to Idrees to indicate his interest.
Idrees chuckled, “Is that so, Bebop?”, as she puffed on her pipe in amusement.

The family was expecting an arrival over the next couple of days, having received information from Tamsen’s mother, as well as information from the Seventh Knot. According to the information received, a party of adventurers, led by a woman named Traya DeMarco, would be coming to the horn in the first part of the week. Trik, in his continued efforts to impress Tamsen, was dutiful in reporting the details. He listed off the four people who were involved in the upcoming incursion, and gave some information regarding their attempted method of access. Of course, since they were attempting to access the “Center Eye”, Tamsen smirked to herself, knowing that Donovan had already sealed off the top three entrances via a combination of Alchemy and Magic. Still, she had no reason to enlighten Trik on this matter. Donovan had continued to warn that Elise’s jealousy would cause her to attempt to derail the group’s plans in some form or fashion. Still, Tamsen believed that Trik was pliable, at least enough so that she would be able to extract his hidden desires.

Things had fallen into a comfortable routine around the Horn, with each member of the family knowing their activities. With the addition of the teleporter to the top floor, Donovan found himself with more time and energy on his hands, of which Tamsen was all too willing to provide a noteworthy outlet. Still, even with the additional freedom, Donovan had many tasks to attend to, leaving Tamsen with empty time on her hands. Bebop had been spending the last few days having his gear outfitted with magical enhancements, but that usually meant he had to spend his time in the Alchemical Lab in order to assist Idrees in her enchantments. Following her last talk with Idrees, Tamsen had given the instructor distance, since there had been quite a falling out between them. The effort had seemed to pay off, as Idrees had not struck Donovan again since their last communication. Donovan actually seemed to be doing better with her as well, feeling more confident in approaching Idrees with questions and concerns. About that time, GrumbleJack was walking by the area where Tamsen was. A smile crossed Tamsen’s face, and she got an idea for how she would be spending her time.
“Hey, cutie.”, Tamsen cooed as her fingers ran down GrumbleJack’s armor. “What are you doing up here today?”
GrumbleJack nodded, “Donovan sent me to clean out the empty room back there.” GrumbleJack pointed towards the unused rooms next to her room.
“How fun. Maybe you’d like to spend some time with me and Camille?”, Tamsen said flirtatiously.
GrumbleJack seemed eager enough. His hands ran across Tamsen’s naked form, as her eyes gained an intensity. Tamsen’s form was fluid, able to change both her body and her clothes in order to appear as the type of person that the focus of her attention would be attracted to. It would be easy enough for her to get GrumbleJack to take her now, but she was determined to resolve something else first. Her hands took hold of his, and she started to lead him into the shower areas.
As the group approached the shower area, GrumbleJack pulled his hand away, “I don’t like showers.”
Tamsen was insistent, “I don’t like men who smell like hairy dogs. You will do this for me, right?” Tamsen’s face made a small pout, as her words sunk into him.
GrumbleJack sighed, as he allowed the two women to pull him into the shower area.
“Let’s make this process a little easier.”, Tamsen said, as she cast Reduce Person on GrumbleJack. GrumbleJack’s form, including his gear, shrunk down to a more manageable size. While it would only last a few minutes, it made the act of moving him around the room simpler. Seeing GrumbleJack’s size reduced, Tamsen realized that he actually was a reasonably attractive man. His affable personality contrasted against his powerful frame, and she could imagine that he would do well for himself leading a group of people. As Camille helped pull GrumbleJack’s armor away, Tamsen pulled the chain holding back the spray of water, and allowed it to wash over the three of them.

Time passed, and the day came when the visitors to the Horn arrived. Hexor and Vexor, using the Eyes, quickly noticed the group of four adventurers as they were outside the dual portcullis that protected the first floor. Reporting their findings to Donovan, he instructed them to go and “greet our guests”. Hexor and Vexor took that as an opportunity to teleport directly outside on the first floor area, and begin attacking the group of adventurers. To say that the attack was unexpected would be an understatement, as the adventurers had no real room to move around or get into a more ideal position. For her part, Traya attempted to muster her fire magic, but quickly discovered that the brothers had a healthy amount of fire resistance. The Ceustodaemons also were resistant to the blades of the warriors of the group, and they reveled in the fear that their endurance was causing this poorly equipped party. Meanwhile, Donovan and Artephius came up to the entrance of the first floor from the inside. The rest of Donovan’s family quickly assembled around him.
“Hexor, Vexor, return to me!”, Donovan called out.
The brothers returned, positioning themselves near Donovan.
“Greetings to you, visitors.”, Donovan spoke to the area in front of the horn, where the adventurers were attempting to hide themselves behind the mountain wall. “My apologies, we anticipated your arrival, but I was expecting you to arrive someplace differently. I hope you are unharmed, as I was looking forward to speaking with all of you.”
A feminine voice came from the area outside the Horn, “We did not know that this place was already in use by someone. We were led to believe that this place had been abandoned so many decades ago.”
Donovan responded, “I assume you are the one named Traya? Indeed, you are not the first person to think this place so emptied out. I know it was not a fight you came here for, but an opportunity to profit. What were you hoping to find in this place, if I may be so bold?”
“Emeralds.”, Traya responded flatly, “According to information I discovered in a journal, there were three emeralds that had been left around this place after the knights assaulted it.”
Donovan nodded his head, “I’m impressed at your level of knowledge of this place good lady. But, you and your accomplices should know the truth of these emeralds. If you would all care to join me for a drink, I’d be happy to elaborate.”
Donovan quickly shifted his words to Boggard, “Open the gates up!” The Boggards hiding in each of the guard rooms next to the first floor entrance pulled their respective levers, and the gates opened to Traya and her group. Returning to Common, Donovan coaxed Traya inside, “Please, join me. I’m sure we have much to discuss.”
Donovan heard that Traya and the Ifrit Hassan were speaking together in a language he wasn’t yet familiar with, but expected was Ignan. His tone suggested concern, but Traya seemed to say something reassuring back. The group ended up following Donovan and his family to the tavern, where they sat down and were brought drinks by one of the female Boggards who had been trained to serve as a bar wench. Once everyone was settled, Donovan began a longer conversation.
“I understand that you are interested in the emeralds. While the emeralds do exist, they are no what you think they are. The emeralds are actually the eyes of a powerful demon from another plane, and anyone who would try to take them from this place would face the wrath of the guardians.”, Donovan looked over at the daemons on that last part, which appeared to distress Traya greatly.
“So why are you here?”, Traya looked fiercely at Donovan, almost accusingly.
“For some time now, the magics that held the demon who controlled those emeralds has been… leaking. It is my belief that nothing would have prevented it from breaking free. So instead, I am choosing to perform a ritual that will release that creature into our world, so the matter can be resolved once and for all.”, Donovan considered his words carefully, given the different individuals who were standing around.
“You’re planning to unleash a demon on this world?”, Traya cut to the heart of the matter.
“I’m planning to see this demon returned to where it belongs.”, Donovan looked carefully at Traya. While Donovan was quite skilled at lying, he was loath to do it unless there was no other option. Donovan could see the eyes of Hexor and Vexor paying attention to the conversation as he was speaking. Each word he said held the potential to alienate some part of the creatures surrounding him, so the words he selected were designed to leave as much ambiguity as possible.
Traya and her group looked nervously at each other.
Donovan pressed forward, “Of course, I still believe there is opportunity for your group to profit, even though you won’t be able to take the emeralds. I am in need of a group of sell swords who can assist me in defending the Horn until the ritual is complete.”
Traya attempted to be courteous, but dismissive. “While your offer sounds appealing, Donovan, my group and I value our freedom greatly. I don’t know if this is something that we can do with you.”
Donovan took a moment to look at Traya. She was clearly a beautiful and confident woman. Were Tamsen not in his world, Donovan could picture himself being swept up in Traya’s masterful words. Unfortunately for Traya, an attractive face would have little impact on Donovan’s determination.
“I can respect your situation, Lady Traya. So allow me to put all the options on the table. Option one, you can each come work for me. I will pay you three hundred gold each, plus another twelve hundred once our work is done. Option two, you can stay here as my guests, but you will be unable to leave the Horn until the ritual is complete. Option three, you can discover if the skill of my retinue is superior to the skill of you and your accomplices.” There was no mistaking what Donovan meant by the last choice. “May I have a moment to discuss this with my group?”, Traya asked Donovan, to which Donovan nodded and smiled.
There was clearly a lot of concern being expressed among Traya’s allies. It was apparent that there was a combination of fear and interest, depending upon the individuals in question. After some discussion within the group, the Dwarf approached Donovan.
“What god do you serve?”, Posca asked tentatively.
“I don’t consider myself a religious person, Posca.”, Donovan responded tactfully. Looking at the religious symbol that Posca was carrying, Donovan continued. “And you are clearly a follower of Abadar.” Donovan smiled at that knowledge. He believed that Posca’s belief was something that could be utilized.
Posca’s face soured, “I’m sorry, but I can’t follow the plans of an evil god.”
Donovan rubbed his face, “I understand. However, I think I can make you a different offer from the rest of your compatriots, since you and I are both interested in the value of profit.”
Posca took on a confused look, “What are you referring to?”
“I assume you are planning on opening a store here in Farholde?”, Donovan queried.
“Actually, I was going to open a temple. A temple that is also a store.”, Tosca corrected Donovan.
Donovan nodded, “Good enough. So, here’s the offer I’m willing to make for you. I’ll forward you five thousand gold, which you will use to open up your temple here in Farholde. Once you get going, you will split the profits of your store with me fifty-fifty, until you have repaid your debt. Afterwards, you’ll pay me fifteen percent of your profits going forward, and I’ll operate as your silent partner.” A smile crossed Donovan’s face as he completed his explanation.
Posca contemplated the offer presented to him momentarily, then returned to his companions. Traya emerged from the group and addressed Donovan, “It would appear that my group has come to a decision, not that you actually left us with one.”
Donovan smiled, “I am a man of my word, but I will do what it takes to make sure my family survives.”
With that, Donovan led Traya and her allies around the Horn, and showed them the possible rooms for them to stay in while they were here, after handing each of them the agreed upon retainers.

A few days later, Donovan sought out Lucius who was patrolling around the Horn.
“Lucius, I want you to assemble a team and recover the Dire Tiger that the Boggards have been warning us about. I have been concerned about your safety in the event that you are temporarily rendered unconscious. Having a permanent ally could prove useful to you. With that in mind, I asked Idrees to make this.”
Donovan pulled out a very large iron collar, which shimmered with a magic that had been implanted into it. ‘This will allow us to speak with our animal friend once you acquire it.”
Lucius nodded, and went off to speak with others inside the Horn.

Lucius, sitting at a table with Bebop, Traya, Hassan, and GrumbleJack, began explaining the expectations to the rest of the group. “Donovan has tasked us to capture the Dire Tiger that had been attacking the Boggards and other creatures. We’re going to travel out to the area shown to us from the Boggards, and then we’ll knock the tiger unconscious. Does anyone have any questions about what’s expected from everyone?”
Traya responded, “We’re not exactly animal hunters.”
Lucius smiled, “You’re obviously skilled enough for Donovan to put you to work, so you must have some value.”
Traya and Hassan looked at each other wordlessly.
“Alright then, let’s get to work. We have a tiger to bring in!”, Lucius said with excitement.

Lucius gathered together the group, and headed down into the Maw. Finding Zikomo, Lucius told him that he needed a couple of his warriors who were familiar with the location of the powerful beast that hunted them. Donovan came down to see how things were progressing, and he nodded at Lucius’ selections. Seeing the members of the Boggard tribe that had been selected, Donovan taught the pair of Boggards how to say “Enemy Near” in Common when they came upon signs of the tiger. The Boggards were clearly scared, but Donovan assured them that Lucius and his team would return them all safe and unharmed.
The group set out across the area, following the instructions given to them via the Boggards. The group came upon a large rocky structure near the water, which would seem like an ideal place for the tiger to make its home. However, there was no tiger to be found. Bebop went into the cave, attempting to see what else could be discovered. There was some evidence that something had lived here, as pelts and bones were stacked fairly neatly along one side of the cave. Still, the beast was nowhere to be found. Lucius, Bebop, and GrumbleJack took the air around the cave, attempting to locate the tiger. As the three of them took to the sky, they noticed the tiger who was attempting to hunker down and hide from the group. Lucius called out to the creature, “We have found you, noble hunter. Your hiding will not avail you. You have been attacking the Boggards of our tribe, and we wish to discuss this matter with you. Will you speak with us?” The tiger did not respond, of course. In fact, it did not even move. Perhaps it still held firm to the belief that it was out of the sight of Lucius and the others. Lucius sighed at the tiger, then looked over at GumbleJack and Bebop. “Put it down, but do not kill it.” With one mighty swoop, GrumbleJack ascended high into the air, before coming down onto the tiger with his Butchering Axe.

As the unconscious form of the tiger was dragged into the room next to Tamsen’s, which had a chain loop against the wall. Donovan had already had this room cleared out, and had placed furniture for Lucius to use as his room. Lucius hooked the collar that Donovan had provided to him around the tiger’s neck, and connected a chain between the collar and the wall. Posca came into the room to take a closer look at the tiger. Inspecting his injuries, Posca noticed that the tiger’s left eye had become overgrown with scar tissue.
“It looks like this tiger has something pushed into its eye socket. It might have to be removed before the injury can be healed.”, Posca mused to Lucius.
Lucius nodded, “I’ll have Donovan check that out, once this animal and I have a talk.”
Posca offered to heal up the other injuries of the tiger, but Lucius was concerned that the animal might wake up in an unpleasant mood for obvious reasons.
Donovan came into the room that Lucius had been studying the tiger in. “So, how is our guest?”
“He was easy enough to catch, but we should remove the other injuries from the tiger before we begin.”, Lucius nodded in agreement.
Moving close to the sleeping form, Donovan noted that the tiger had a large variety of injuries, both recent and old. “We’re going to need to patch our new friend up.”
“Just be careful, Donovan. He moves fast. We found that out over the course of the hunt.”
Breaking out his healing kit, Donovan began the process of applying salves across the tiger’s body. Donovan was so focused on his work, he didn’t even realize that the tiger had already opened one eye. Fortunately, Lucius noticed what was happening immediately, and pulled Donovan back behind the line before the tiger sprang to its haunches. Still heavily injured, the tiger began to stretch and move, as it sized up its current situation.
“Welcome back.”, Donovan spoke to the tiger, speaking in Infernal. “Around your neck is a collar that allows you to understand me, and for you to speak. So now, we’ll be able to speak with you.”
The tiger growled with primal fury, but limited its response to a single word, “Why?”
Donovan smirked, “You are far too intelligent to be a simple beast of the land. That means, you must want something. I’m attempting to find out what it is you want.”
“I want to kill you.”, the tiger responded with controlled rage.
“You don’t know me, so why would you want to kill me now?”, Donovan leaned forward, but not close enough to cross the line in the room that Lucius had marked as the length of the restraining chain.
“You killed the one who traveled with me.”, the tiger showed sincerity in its answer.
“Me?”, Donovan asked incredulously.
The tiger nodded.
Pointing at Lucius, Donovan asked again, “Did he also kill the one that traveled with you?”
The tiger looked over at Lucius, and said “Yes” once more. But then, a realization came to the tiger. He noticed that Donovan and Lucius’ ears were different. “More like him than you.”, the tiger admitted.
And there it was, the tiger was able to rationalize. He wasn’t simply speaking, he had intellect greater than a true animal. Donovan suspected he was most likely the companion of a Druid or a Ranger.
“You want revenge.”, Donavan said to the tiger, awareness on his face. “Revenge for your other who was murdered.”
“Yes. I will kill and eat all of them.”, the tiger spoke in agreement.
“And that’s something we can help you achieve. Up to this point, you’ve been hunting for little more than survival. But, you and I want the same thing.”, Donovan smiled.
The tiger looked at him oddly, “To eat those who killed my other?”
“To punish those who have brought harm to people like your other. You should join us in pursuit of this goal.”, Donovan replied.
The tiger looked around in his current situation, “You speak of this while you have me chained up.”
Lucius spoke up, “Trust is something that is earned. But it should be something that we also have to earn from you. My name is Lucius, his name is Donovan, what is your name?”
The tiger responded with a word in Iraen. “Fierce.”, Donovan spoke up. “Your name means fierce.”
Fierce smiled at that notion, that his name represented a type of confidence and courage.
Lucius continued, “Donovan would like to treat your additional injuries, Fierce. Would that be alright?”
Fierce looked around his body and saw that Donovan had been successful with the limited time he had. “Yes, he may.”
With that, Donovan smiled and continued applying his healing efforts. Fierce saw a notable improvement in his form as Donovan worked. How long had it been since his injuries had been so well tended to? It was a reminder of a different time, a time when Fierce didn’t see all humanoids as the enemy.
Completing his task, Donovan moved back out of the area, “Well, I’m sure the two of you have a lot to discuss Fierce. But I do hope you decide to stay with us. It’s nice to know you’re not alone in this world.” With that Donovan left Lucius and Fierce alone in the room.

Lucius looked over at Fierce, “So, would you like to tell me about what happened with your eye?”

Session 21 Ends.


Part 2: Call Forth Darkness
Act 3: Thirty-one Weeks
Session 22: The Zealous and The Jealous

Donovan relished the hours just past midnight. Throughout the day, there was work to be done, plans to be laid, and efforts to be made. But the night was a time of rest. And there was no better time in the night that those moments just after Tamsen returned from her midnight ritual to Vetra Kali. She would return to their bedroom, and he could sense her arrival. The touch of her flesh, the scent of her form. The lights were already out, so his vision was imperfect, but he knew her hands and lips so well. It was in these brief moments that he felt his strongest connection to her, when he didn’t feel as though he was competing against every other beautiful and powerful creature in this sanctuary. For those few hours, they were truly alone with only each other. “Are you awake, my love?”, Tamsen would say those familiar words to him, an invitation to desire. In a few hours, everything would begin again; there would be more work to do, more plans to lay, more efforts to make. But right now, in these few precious hours between midnight and the dawn, Tamsen was his and his alone.

Week 9:
Tamsen entered Idrees’ lab, where her, GrumbleJack, and Bebop were working. Idrees regarded Tamsen with suspicion, given their last encounter. Tamsen gave instructions to Idrees through their telepathic connection. There was a special modification that Donovan wanted Idrees to make to Bebop’s amulet, and it was important that no one in the Horn speak out loud about this change. Idrees paid attention to what Tamsen was requesting and understood the implication. It had become clear that Donovan was now making plans for the Dread Wraith that was residing within the treasure room, and those plans were unwavering. Idrees grinned wickedly, it was these moments that reminded her that Donovan was always plotting something, even in those times where he appeared to be completely distracted with other efforts.

Week 10:
Lucius continued to struggle with Fierce. Although he was making a genuine effort to connect to the large beast, Fierce continued to complain about the lack of freedom and mobility. At some level, the call of the wild had reclaimed Fierce. For all of the beast’s talk about revenge and hatred, it had become fond of a simple time where it could merely hunt and eat. Lucius still believed that he could reach the heart of the beast, and convince the creature that him and his family meant Fierce no harm, and were attempting form a kinship with it. Per Lucius request, Donovan and Idrees began to modify the area on the first floor near the throne room into an “animal sanctuary” of sorts. Perhaps the larger moving area would prove to be a comfort to the creature.

“Hello, beautiful.”, Bebop approached Traya who was sharing a drink with Hassan in the tavern. “How are you doing today?”
Traya raised her eyebrows and looked skeptically at Bebop, “Is Donovan in need of our services currently?”
“No, I was just wanting to spend time with you.”, Bebop chuckled in an awkward manner.
Traya and Hassan exchanged curious glances with one another. “Thank you, Bebop, I appreciate your interest. I’m good right now, just enjoying some peace and quiet with my friend here.”
“I was just thinking that you and I should spend some time together…”, Bebop began.
“Bebop!”, Donovan hissed, “What are you doing?”
A smile came across Traya’s face as she watched Bebop being questioned by Donovan.
“I’m not doing anything, Donovan. Just making small talk.”, Bebop smiled disarmingly.
Donovan regarded Bebop, then looked over at Traya. “Please don’t do anything inappropriate with the help, Bebop. I can’t be awake twenty-four hours a day.”
Bebop grinned impishly, “I’m just talking! Besides, don’t you have work to do for Fierce’s area?”
Donovan grumbled, and returned to his efforts. “It always seems like I’m doing work, and you’re enjoying free time.”
“Now, where was I?”, Bebop considered to himself, and looked back into the tavern. Traya and Hassan had already left, so Bebop considered how else he could enjoy his time.

Week 11:
Tamsen rushed to the room where Donovan and Artephius were working, “I have news from Mother, my love.” The concern was apparent on Tamsen’s face.
Donovan wiped the sweat from his brow and set down his tools, “What’s going on?” He stood up, and began walking towards her.
“A silver dragon is coming!”, Tamsen continued. “It’s currently in Farholde.”
Donovan tried to comfort her, “A silver dragon? Very interesting. We’ll have to make new plans. Fortunately for us, we’ve already got the right people in place. I’ll need to have a conversation with Traya later on. We can handle this.” Donovan smiled reassuringly.
Just then, Bebop came in to the room where Donovan and Tamsen were speaking, wrapping his arms around Tamsen from behind, “What are you two talking about?”
Tamsen’s hands slid across Bebop’s arms, “Mother told me we’re going to be dealing with a Silver Dragon at some point.”
Bebop turned Tamsen around, “Don’t worry Tamsen, I’ll protect you from the dragon. You know I won’t let anything hurt my Luxury.” With that, Bebop picked Tamsen up as she giggled.
“I need to speak with Lucius about making up some Energy Resistance formulae for cold, not to mention we’ll need something to reduce the damage from its claws and fangs.”, Donovan appeared to be lost in thought.
“You do that, Donovan.”, Bebop said as he carried Tamsen out of the room.
As the two of them left, Donovan gritted his teeth, suppressing the scream of frustration he wanted to let out. “Why couldn’t I do that? Why couldn’t I be the comfort and strength that she needed right then? Why is it always one of them?”, Donovan whispered to himself.
“Because you are weak and ugly, and they are strong and beautiful.”, Donovan heard the voice of Artephius respond to him as his hands covered his face.
Donovan looked up angrily at Artephius, who was still diligently holding the piece of furniture Donovan had asked him to several minutes ago, “What did you say to me, Artephius?”
Artephius looked at him, “This servant has not spoken for the last half hour.”
Donovan blinked in confusion. Was he hearing things from spending so much time alone? Fatigue and stress were taking their toll on him, apparently. Donovan slapped his face, “Right, let’s get back to it.”

Near the end of the week, Tiadora appeared to the family outside of the Horn. As Tiadora approached, Donovan and the others gathered on the other side of the portcullis’ walls.
“Lady Tiadora, what a delight to see you.”, Donovan greeted Tiadora, then quickly switched to Boggard, “Open it up!” The gates rose, as Tiadora slinked into the Horn, smiling broadly.
“Hello darling, I’m so glad to see you. I bring the will of the Cardinal. Let us go somewhere and speak.”, Tiadora engaged Donovan in her usual manner.
Donovan walked with Tiadora back to the Tavern, as many individuals stopped to take stock of the commotion going on. Bebop was, as usual, naked within the confines of the Horn; and took delight in reminding Tiadora of his confidence in his masculinity. Tiadora made it clear she was irked at Bebop’s lack of improvement; but it was clear that he was the right tool at the right time. Arriving at the tavern, Donovan and Tiadora took a seat, while Bebop stood uncomfortably close to Tiadora.
“Be decent or be gone!”, Tiadora chastised Bebop.
Donovan smirked, then continued, “It’s such a delight to have you here, Lady Tiadora. I am so thrilled you could join us this evening, and share your stories and adventures with us.”
“I’m not here for that, Donovan.”, Tiadora rebuffed Donovan.
Donovan sighed lightly, “No, good Lady. You are here to deliver my Father’s will, and I am here to carry it out. What is the message you have come to send?”
Tiadora smiled, and began to tell the story of an Asmodean Anti-Paladin, who was formerly from an area near Chelliax. According to her, Cardinal Thorn believed that this individual would be an important addition to the Ninth Knot, given their current initiative.
Donovan’s eyes narrowed, “Are you certain that we are the best destination for this individual? It sounds as though they could be an extremely powerful boon to the First Knot or the Seventh Knot.” Internally, Donovan suspected that Adrastus Thorn was beginning to make his own contingencies. It was not an entirely unreasonable assessment. After all, Donovan and his family had shown themselves quite adaptable at changing outcomes in unanticipated directions.
Tiadora smiled, “The Master feels like your Knot is the place where he belongs, unless there’s some sort of issue…” Tiadora’s statement felt more like a threat, to see if Donovan would give her cause to suspect their disloyalty.
“Not at all, Tiadora. If Father believes he would be of use here, then we are honored to be gifted such a talent.”, Donovan smiled broadly. Conversations with Tiadora always reminded Donovan of the days when he would accompany his father to negotiate vendor contracts. Every turn of the word mattered so much in those conversations, and the slightest weakness would be exploited. Insinuation and nuance were at a premium.
A wry smile crossed Tiadora’s lips, “Very good, Donovan. I will be returning with this individual tomorrow.”
Completing their pleasantries as each of them subtly threatened the other, Tiadora departed the meeting with Donovan, and left the Horn.
After Tiadora was gone, Donovan spoke with Tamsen, “I guess this proves your theory. Obviously, Father cannot spy on us via these devices inside the Horn.”, Donovan gently tapped the headgear that had been gifted to them.
Tamsen nodded, looking concerned at Donovan, “So what are we going to do about it?”
“The same as I always do, my love. Create a new contingency.”, Donovan smiled and kissed Tamsen softly on the lips.

The next day, as if on clockwork, Tamsen arrived with an Ifrit bound in bold metal armor. After Bebop opened the doors to allow the pair to enter, only the Anti Paladin actually stepped foot into the Horn. Tiadora smirked, and left the place quickly. Bebop reached out to Tamsen, and soon the whole family was present to greet this new individual.
Donovan regarded this individual. He was handsome of course, as would be expected of many of his race. His form was stoic and controlled, as he addressed each person while maintaining his own composure. It was also clear that under all the steel was a powerful man with broad shoulders and muscular arms. He lacked the raw strength of Bebop, but much of Bebop’s strength had been granted to him via his Alchemical understanding. He looked over at Tamsen, and saw that she also appreciated his many desirable traits also, and gritted his teeth once again, “Hello good Sir. Welcome to our home. My name is Donovan Thorn, and this is my family: Tamsen, Bebop, Lucius.” Donovan’s hand swept outwards to the other people standing around. “All of these people have joined us with a like minded purpose, to help accomplish something that would have at one time been considered impossible. I’m so glad you have considered joining us in this quest. May I ask your name?”
“Kirim Titho.”, the Ifrit responded.
Donovan began to question the Anti Paladin on his history and the things that led to his arrival at this place. As the conversation progressed, Donovan found his heart beginning to soften to this individual. He had clearly suffered much in order to arrive at this place. Judged for both his race and religious beliefs, Kirim found few allies in Talingarde. If not for the actions of Cardinal Thorn, Donovan could easily picture a world where Kirim would have been summarily destroyed.
The family continued to listen in as Donovan interrogated this new arrival. His story rang true to the sufferings many of them had endured.
Camille began to approach Kirim, “He looks so delicious, Mistress.”
Tamsen pulled her back, “Not yet, Cami. We must be patient.”, as a soft giggle left her lips.
“I’d like to see your capabilities, Kirim.”, Donovan’s gaze focused on the Ifrit. “Mister O’Toole, I am in need of your services.”
James “The Man” O’Toole stepped forward, “What do you need me to do, boss?”
Donovan smiled, “Nothing serious, just a simple sparring match between you and our newest guest. I need to get a feel for what I’m working with.” Looking back at Kirim, Donovan continued, “If that’s alright with you, Kirim?”
Kirim drew his Great Sword, “If that is your wish, Donovan.”
O’Toole stretched out, while grinning widely at the Anti-Paladin, “I’ll go easy on you.”
“Of course you will.”, Kirim responded with nonchalance.
“Remember gentlemen, this is to yield. I expect both of you to stop when the other cannot continue.”, Donovan’s gaze confirmed his sincerity, then excitement shone in his eyes, “Begin!”
O’Toole was slightly out of practice, having spent the last several weeks fighting with creatures much smaller and weaker than he was. As such, he was not ready for the barrage the Anti Paladin would bring. The first strike threw him off guard, as O’Toole found himself suddenly afraid of this force attacking him. The next strike came through a split second later, as the blade landed once more, and O’Toole found himself suddenly wracked with a sickening feeling.
O’Toole put his hands up in surrender, and Donovan moved up to him, patching up the multiple injuries that O’Toole had sustained, “Take the rest of the day off, James. That was great work you did there.”
“Uh, sure thing boss.”, O’Toole was both terrified and humiliated at what he had seen.
After O’Toole was helped back to his room, Donovan considered Kirim once more. “Apparently, we’ll need something more challenging for someone of your caliber. Lucius!”
Lucius grinned, and called up a monster from another plane of existence, “Let’s see how well you handle a Hound Archon.” The powerful creature came into form, and brandished its weapons.
“Don’t hold back, Kirim.”, Donovan encouraged the Ifrit. “This creature certainly won’t hold back on you.”
The Anti Paladin swung at the creature, but found himself held back by the Magic Circle that it possessed. Even as a summoned creature, the Hound Archon loathed Kirim, “Evil.” The weapons the Archon possessed swung and found a mark against Kirim.
“Your piety betrays you!”, Kirim retorted, and a surge of power entered his blade. The Anti Paladin’s massive weapon pierced the magics holding him at bay, and carved into the flesh of the creature. The Hound Archon howled in pain. The fight ended moments after that.
As Donovan applied his talents to heal Kirim, he looked at him with an obviously impressed face, “Tiadora said you were quite a talent, and you certainly do not disappoint her high praise!”, Donovan smiled as his work was completed. “I would be honored if you would join our group Kirim.”
Kirim smiled a contained smile, one of the first Donovan had noted from him since he arrived, “I’m looking forward to it.” Kirim returned the handshake offered by Donovan.
Donovan began to walk away, and then turned back around, “Before we show you to a room, I’m going to need you to hold Tamsen’s hand.”
Kirim took on a curious face, “What will happen when I do that?”
Donovan smiled as Tamsen seductively approached Kirim, “You see, Tamsen is a succubus. By allowing her to connect with you in an intimate way, she can reach out and touch your mind. This will allow her and you to communicate with each other, regardless of distance, in the event on of you has information the rest of the group needs to know.”
Kirim removed the gauntlets covering his right hand. Donovan noted a brand that had been placed on his forearm, and considered what Kirim’s life must have been like when he received such a mark. “Alright Tamsen, I’m ready.”, Kirim answered flatly.
Tamsen’s hand delicately moved over Kirim’s face first, as her naked body pressed up against his armored form. “Relax your mind, Kirim. Let your thoughts travel freely.”
Donovan watched with curiosity and surprise as Kirim responded to her. Amazingly, Kirim seemed unfazed by her advances. Donovan hated himself for being happy about that fact.
Kirim and Tamsen’s hands met, as they each gazed deeply into the other’s eye for about a minute. Tamsen tilted her head and Kirim and smiled calmly, “Thank you for sharing that with me, Kirim.”, as she pulled away from him.
“Let’s get you into a room.”, Donovan spoke up, as the group headed up to the second floor of the Horn.

Week 12:
Tamsen’s information gathering was as spotless as ever, and the family soon knew about the arrival of several individuals of the Mitran faith that would soon be arriving at the Horn. Trik had mentioned to Tamsen that these individuals had entered the Abbey and had learned four important “Infernal Words” that they were planning to use upon arrival. It didn’t take long to realize that the words in question were the activation words for the four teleporters used in the Horn. Donovan and the others recognized that, had it not been for the actions of Tamsen’s mother, the group would have been caught completely unprepared as these zealots entered the Horn with impunity.
“Your mother may very well have saved our lives in this matter, Tamsen.”, Donovan smiled.
Tamsen kissed Donovan on the lips, “I hope you remember that when you are picking out a gift for her.”
Donovan chuckled, “You’re right. I really should think of a way to thank her properly for sending me the most wonderful woman in the world.”
Tamsen climbed into Donovan’s lap, “Sheesh, lover. You already have me. You don’t have to spend all your time seducing me.”
Donovan and Tamsen spent some time kissing each other, before Donovan started to pull away, “I guess I should get back to work.”
Tamsen interlocked her fingers with Donovan, “You spend so much time not doing the one thing you really want to be doing here, my love. Why do you do that?”
Donovan’s eyes connected with Tamsen’s. She was saying the truth, and he knew it. For all the distractions and efforts he was making for himself, the thing he really wanted to do was just lay next to her, and enjoy her company in every way, “I didn’t want to take up your time. I know you have...”, Donovan hesitated from saying the word he wanted to, “…obligations you must attend to.”
Tamsen’s lips reconnected to Donovan’s. He was falling again, she was carrying him to another place, a place of desire and ecstasy, “Stop doing this, you dumb boy. I’ve made everything clear to you.”, Tamsen’s lips pulled away as she confronted him.
“But…”, Donovan was going to protest, and Tamsen immediately cut him off.
“There’s no ‘but’, my love. Come to my bed when you are ready, it’s always there for you. I’m always there for you.”, there was no callousness in her words, only warmth and acceptance.
Hearing her words, Donovan was swept up in passion. He kissed her madly and with the need and hunger that had been building up in him for days, and she responded back in kind. A few moments later, he begged, “I’m so ready, my sweet love. Please…”
Tamsen nodded, and the two of them teleported back to her bedroom.

Hexor and Vexor knew what to be expecting, and generally when the incursion would take place. Donovan had given them the gem to watch the Horn for the arrival of the newest interlopers, and their excitement grew when those individuals arrived. They moved themselves immediately into battle, only momentarily stopping to notify Donovan of their actions.
Shortly after they began, they returned to the bedroom, “Our deepest apologies Master, but this group has protections that make attacking them impossible.”
Donovan nodded his understanding, “A Magic Circle against Evil, you say? Well, I guess we will see if our newest member can handle this sort of challenge.”
Bebop had already been camping out at the front hallway of the Horn, but it wasn’t until the bell that he had installed onto the gates started ringing that he recognized the assault that was taking place. Excitement took over, as Bebop allowed his body to be flooded with Alchemical compounds and his body morphed in response.
Before Bebop could act, Lucius and Fierce teleported onto the scene. Fierce’s massive form rushed into the fray, a blur of claws, fangs, and hatred. The rest of the group came together, as Bebop and Kirim began their assault on the zealots.
Donovan watched these people throw away their lives with fascination. He couldn’t help but be amazed at the confidence and conviction with which they acted. There was never a moment in which they had control of the battlefield, never a point in which they had inflicted any real harm onto the group. And yet, their faith never wavered. They never doubted they would succeed. Even as their ranks dwindled, they never attempted to change tactics, never requested any mercy or compromise. One of their number did break and flee for his own safety, but Donovan ordered Hexor and Vexor to kill that one once he cleared the divine protections. The demons fulfilled that order with mirthful glee and malice. And as the last of these pious warriors stood before the Anti Paladin, the individual never questioned if their actions were wise or correct, they simply assumed that they must be right, whether in this life or the next one.

As the battle winded to its end, Fierce ran to the front exit of the Horn. Looking back upon the group once more, he fled back into the jungle. Donovan could have ordered the Cuestodaemons to stop the beast, but what good would such things have brought? In that moment, Donovan began to realize that all these creatures, both the zealots and the tiger, had one thing in common: they were bound by the limits of how they could grasp the world. Lucius of course wanted to go back after the animal, to bring it back home. And, Donovan understood that desire, the need to help others who had also suffered at the hands of an unjust system. But Donovan now realized he was never going to be able to save so many of these people, simply because these people couldn’t grasp a life outside the one that they had known for so long.

Donovan and Bebop began collecting all the gear from the fallen inquisitors.
“We’re back in business, Donovan!”, Bebop grinned, looking over the valuable items the fallen enemies had been wearing.
Donovan looked over at Bebop, and then back to Kirim, “Indeed, it would appear as though Asmodeus has provided a solution for us after all.”

Session 22 Ends.


Part 2: Call Forth Darkness
Act 3: Thirty-one Weeks
Session 23: Facing Our Fears

Week 13:
Lucius, undeterred by the departure of Fierce, set out to find his newfound companion. Over the course of several days, Lucius discovered the beast, and spent some time talking with it. The creature was distrusting, but not obviously hostile. As the conversation between the two continued, Lucius realized that Fierce had left not because he felt mistreated or abused at the hands of Lucius, but rather Fierce no longer desired the easy comforts and security of family. Perhaps, in its own way, Fierce felt guilt for the loss of their former companion. Realizing that there was nothing more that could be done to change the state of their relationship, Lucius said goodbye to his new friend one last time, and wished him well.

The family was notified to the existence of a Hangman’s Tree northwest of the Horn. Donovan had suspected this creature for some time, given that the Boggards said there was a different dangerous tree like creature, and they had learned to avoid that area for hunting grounds. Donovan wondered to himself if perhaps something could be done with such a creature, but knew he already had far too many mouths to feed to continue attempting to add on new obligations.

Kirin was beginning to become more confident within his new found family, and began to understand the dynamic that the members shared. He found it amusing to watch as Bebop would irritate and frustrate Donovan to the point where Donovan would begin yelling at him, only to run away to the comfort and safety of Tamsen’s arms. Kirin was reminded of a simpler time when he was younger, before he was harassed by the Talireans because of his appearance and beliefs. In many ways, this was a reminder of a simpler and happier time, and he found himself comforted by it.

Week 14:
“Hello, my love. I just got finished speaking with Trik. We need to talk.”, Tamsen’s mind reached out across the Horn to her Donovan, lighting against his thoughts.
Donovan responded, “Of course, what did you learn?”
“Come to my bedroom, and I’ll tell you more.”, Tamsen teased and toyed with Donovan.
Moments later, Donovan approached Tamsen’s bedroom. Just being near it sent shivers through Donovan. The room was kept very dim, with only enough light for silhouettes. There was a floral scent that Tamsen kept in the room, always so inviting. And the bed was so large, it seemed it could hold a host of people. Tamsen sat on the bed, wearing almost nothing, as she usually preferred to.
“Come in.”, Tamsen beckoned Donovan with her soft voice, but the words hit like they were charged with power.
Donovan moved swiftly up to where Tamsen was sitting. Trying to focus his thoughts, he spoke, “You said you had something to share with me… from Trik.”
In a flash, Tamsen grabbed Donovan’s wrist, pulling him down on top of her, and wrapping her legs around his waist. Tamsen giggled with glee. “Mmm… all mine.”
She was so close now, Donovan could smell her skin next to him. His mind was racing, his heart pounding in his chest. “You always know I’m yours, my love.”
Tamsen and Donovan’s lips connected, as Tamsen softly moaned.
“Tamsen, my love. This is wonderful, but you said you had something to tell me.”, Donovan felt his breath ragged, as he looked across her body.
Tamsen sighed, “Fine.” She released her legs from Donovan’s waist. “There is a preacher in Farholde by the name of Ezekiel Hawthorne. According to the people they have been talking to, this individual is beginning to stir up trouble for us, by convincing the masses they need to march on the Horn.”
Donovan leaned back, still on top of Tamsen, “That could be a problem for us. If people start acting up, the local military will have no choice but to come investigate. And we don’t want that.”
Tamsen nodded with agreement. “What do you want to do about it?”
Donovan considered his options. He could ask Bergill Mott to send out the orphans to dispatch this individual, but would that make the man a martyr? Perhaps he’s secretly corrupt, and simply attempting to fleece the scared and angry. Or, maybe he’s one of the truly righteous. Whatever the truth of the matter was, Donovan knew the exact method to deal with him. “It’s you, my love. You have to go out there and deal with him. He needs to be corrupted, not killed. And there’s no one better at showing people for who they actually are than you.”
Tamsen giggled, “You always send me to seduce your problems, Donovan. Maybe I just want to seduce you.”
Donovan smiled, “Oh Tamsen, you and I both know that you already have seduced me. I have no resistance to your charms.”
Tamsen slid out from Donovan’s grasp, “I’ll take care of this, my love. But know that you will have to pay me back in cuddles.”
Donovan nodded, “All that you will let me give you.”

Leaving with Lucius, Tamsen returned to Farholde to meet this individual directly. Tamsen explained the expectations of Donovan’s request to Lucius, and he understood what was being asked. The two of them agreed to play the part of the doting couple, in order to facilitate interacting with Hawthorne. Lucius watched as Tamsen’s clothing shifted from something provocative to something more elegant.
“Does this please you, lover?”, Tamsen stared at Lucius briefly, before giggling.
“I’m sure it will be fine.” Lucius attempted to be nonchalant as he looked at the clothing draped across Tamsen’s body, but he found himself subconsciously responding to her, and blushed.
Stepping out into the city streets, it wasn’t long before Lucius and Tamsen located the individual in question. His unkempt form, body dirty with no consideration of hygiene, and wild eyes that spoke of an internal madness, Ezekiel Hawthorne was not at all what the two of them were expecting. The two pulled close to the preacher in the middle of the street, as his fiery ramblings continued.
“I say unto you that I have seen the growing darkness that is coming from the Horn of Abaddon, and Mitra himself has come to me in a vision that all of Farholde will be consumed in darkness and disease should we allow that evil to go unchecked! We must rise up, take arms and destroy the foul wickedness that spawns from that place, burning all of the evil away once and for all.”
Despite the fact that Hawthorne appeared to be quite mad, it was apparent to the two of them that the people were moved by the passion of his speeches.
Lucius approached the man, “Good sir, I am very concerned of this evil you have spoken to me of. I would like to contribute to your funds in order that you may be able to recruit an army for your efforts.”
Ezekiel responded, “Thank you for your kindness. But it is not money I need. Nay, I need only those with the strength to carry arms against that wretched place. Besides, money is the trappings of fools, and no man of faith would want for such things.”
Lucius thought to himself, “Oh yeah, you and Donovan would get along famously.” Looking over to Tamsen, he watched as she began to bend the people watching to her will. Several men were looking at her with lustful eyes, even a few who had brought their wives with them. And that’s when Lucius felt those pangs of jealousy. Why was he jealous? Tamsen belonged to Donovan, not him. Yet, he could not deny that a very real part of him wanted to pull her away from them, to claim her as his own. Lucius pushed those thoughts aside, and continued speaking with the preacher.
“But surely, this money will help you employ the type of soldiers who could help you overtake this evil. How can you ask humble commoners of the city to be as well trained as men at arms?”
Ezekiel was unmoved, “It is only faith you need to be successful! Mitra seeks those who are true believers, not those motivated by the value of coin.”
Lucius was becoming annoyed, and a part of him wanted to lead this man wand whatever witless fools that would follow him out to Fierce’s cave. They could all learn the worth of their so-called faith.
However, it was not meant to be. Tamsen approached the preacher, and silently mumbled some words to the man, causing him to be overcome with Unnatural Lust. Ezekiel threw himself at Tamsen in front of all of the people watching in the street, as Tamsen cried out in mock fear.
“Help me, please! He’s trying to force himself on me! Please help me, Lucius.”, Tamsen’s arm reached out to Lucius.
Lucius was overcome in the moment. Him and several other individuals pulled Ezekiel Hawthorne off of Tamsen, even as she sobbed and pretended to be grief struck. Lucius felt himself struck with grief and anger, holding Tamsen tightly, “Are you alright?”
Tamsen pretended to recover from her shock, as the city guards hauled Ezekiel Hawthorne away, “I am better thanks to you.” Her hand slid across Lucius’ face.
“Good… good.”, Lucius responded, as he attempted to regain his composure. Why was he so overcome in that moment? He knew it was staged. He knew she has used a spell to change the preacher’s behavior. And yet, when she reached out to him, he was convinced for a moment that she needed him.
As the two of them left Farholde and returned to the Horn, Lucius resolved himself to discover the answer to a question that was brewing in his mind.

Week 15:
The time for the halfway Ritual point had arrived. Donovan knew there would be no more delays. Sister Marta would be tasked to face her outcome, by the choices she had made. The Sister’s body was gaunt and thin, from repeatedly refusing food and her causing self-harm to foil their attempts to proceed with the Ritual.
Donovan came into the prison area, a somber look on his face. “It’s time, Sister.”
Marta spat her hatred into Donovan’s face, “You will all suffer for eternity for your crimes against Mitra and Talingarde.”
Donovan had no more anger left for her. Now, all that was left was sadness. “Sister, I have one last offering for you.” Donovan produced a vial that he had Bebop produce earlier. “If you drink this, you will fall asleep, and there will be no more suffering for you. You will not feel the pain of the ritual blade. Please allow me to do this last mercy for you.”
Marta would not be moved from her hatred, “A mercy from you? I intend to lash out at you until the last moment. I want you to know what a monster you truly are.”
Donovan nodded, “I know, Sister Marta. I know.” Returning the vial to its case, he motioned for Marta to be taken to the Sanctuary, and placed onto the ritual table.
All of the family was waiting there when he arrived. Even Kirin had specifically requested to be present for the performance of the sacrifice. Donovan was comforted in their attendance, as he took no joy from slaughtering a helpless woman. But, in the choice between his family and another individual, there was no choice to be made.
Donovan intoned the words of the Ritual, words that he had repeated over a hundred times before. Words that would be ingrained into him for the rest of his life. For her part, Marta continued to scream and howl at Donovan, even through the gag they had placed on her mouth. Donovan’s hand shook as he readied the dagger strike, and then in a moment, the deed was done. Skillfully, Donovan cut the heart away from Marta’s chest, placing in next to the other, still beating heart.
A resonating voice echoed from the chamber, “Tezathra Vo!”
“I see.”, Donovan repeated the Abyssal words back into Common for the group.
The gems in the altar radiated brightly, and suddenly Donovan was struck by a beam of light extending from them. Donovan was pushed back momentarily, and the beam faded.
Tamsen rushed up to Donovan, “Are you alright, love?” The tension rose in her voice.
Donovan looked at her and nodded, “I’m fine.”
The energy from the beam shot into the sky, blackening out the sun, as the Horn shook in response.

Whatever was happening, had just moved one step closer to fruition.

Week 16:
“Oh, Tamsen, it feels so amazing!”, Donovan was connected to Tamsen, intimately knowing all of her. In the darkness of her room, the two of them were so tender and delicate to one another.
Tamsen nodded, gripping and pulling Donovan, trying to somehow pull all of him into her.
“I want you forever, my love.”, Donovan moaned, feeling himself being lost in the moment utterly.
“I’m yours forever.”, Tamsen whispered back. In these moments, as they made love, Tamsen allowed herself to say the words she knew he most wanted to hear.
Voices began to cry out in Tamsen’s head. There was something happening on the lower floors. The family was under attack. Tamsen knew that Donovan needed to be there, and as much as she hated it, she had to take him immediately. “Please forgive me, my love.”
As Donovan looked into her eyes in confusion, Tamsen created a Dimension door, moving the two of them into the area of the first floor near the bathroom. Donovan rolled off onto the floor, as he saw that several people had been injured, and there was some sort of entity that was attacking the group.
The entity seemed to be an amalgamation of several people, bodies and arms and legs fused together in great fire and suffering. This place had always been one of suffering, and it was not hard to imagine that when the Horn was attacked, some of the people that died here perished in the most gruesome of ways. It seemed that there was some connection to fire in all of this, as Tasker Twelve Knives had also been burned across a large portion of his body.
GrumbleJack had also been attacked, but his fiendish origins provided him some measure of defense against fire. GrumbleJack took the unconscious form of Tasker, and set him down in front of Donovan. Donovan began to apply his healing touch across Tasker’s burnt body.
Kirin arrived in the room a moment later, walking in through the door closest to the Tavern. He spoke some words, and a dark force began to emanate from his body.
“Kirin, come closer.”, Donovan waved over to Kirin as he entered the room.
Kirin had an odd look on his face. The group was clearly in combat, and Donovan appeared to be naked. Was the man fearless?
More of the residents of the Horn began to appear around the area. Bebop came rushing in, and attacked relentlessly as soon as the opportunity allowed.
The smaller creatures that were accompanying the larger entity appeared to made of fire and ash. “Combusted!”, Donovan spoke up, “Get these things into the fountain!”
Vexor and GrumbleJack slashed viciously at the undead creatures, driving them back into the fountain.
Donovan worked his way over to Kirin, grabbing the blade of the Anti-Paladin, and focusing his thoughts. The blade took on a light blue glow, as its energies tuned to the extraplanar. “Take out that Ashen Nighmare!”
Kirin looked at Donovan and said flatly, “You are naked.”, before charging off to fight the entity.
Donovan felt his embarrassment continue to grow in this group of people. Donovan was surrounded by all these powerful and beautiful creatures, and here he was, weak and plain. Naked and seen to the world. It was so easy for Tamsen to stroll out without clothing, she was a goddess. Donovan did not see himself anywhere near that. But he had to focus, his family needed him. GrumbleJack passed out asleep next to where Donovan was standing. The Ashen Nightmare was manipulating sleep abilities.
Lucius arrived, and brought forth Lucinda to aid in the combat. Bebop, Kirin, and Lucinda attempted to surround the creature, but it had something more sinister planned. The creature called forth a Phantasmal Killer, which focused in on Bebop. Bebop was lost in the vision in his own mind, drawn back to the time before family, back to the time before Donovan and Tamsen found him. He was that helpless orphan again, scrawny and weak, frail and ugly. He was the child spit upon and viewed with disgust by the elders of Talingarde, those who could have reached out to help, but instead slapped his hand away. He had lost them all, the people he loved and cared for more. Never to be supported by Donovan, never to feel the loving embrace of Tamsen, he was alone, truly truly alone. And that moment brought him unimaginable fear. Bebop ran from the room, screaming in utter panic and despair.
Kirin, because of his connection with the Divine, found it much easier to shake off such meager attacks, and continued his relentless assault upon the Ashen Nightmare. Donovan continued to aid those who were injured, ignoring his own personal shame at being naked in front of them. Once the Corrupted had been driven into the fountain, Vexor left, “Master, this creature returns every year. It’s hardly worth the trouble.”
As Tamsen handed Donovan his tunic, and he put in on, trying awkwardly to pull it down for some modesty, Tamsen looked concerned, “I need to go check on Bebop. I’m sure he needs our help.”
Donovan nodded weakly, as Tamsen left the room, then went about the business of attempting to heal up the other injuries that had been sustained during the fight. After tending to everyone’s injuries, Donovan made sure that there was no other entities that were going to attack, Once that was done, Donovan returned upstairs to Tamsen’s room, only to find the door closed, and the sounds of Bebop and Tamsen enjoying each other behind the door. Sighing, Donovan sat down outside of her room.

Lucius came walking by, “What are you doing out here Donovan? And why are you still naked?”
Donovan chuckled, “I left my clothes behind when Tamsen teleported me to the battle. And now…” The sound of Bebop and Tamsen’s moans could still be heard.
Lucius shook his head, “How do you do it, Donovan?”
Donovan looked down at his tunic, “Mostly just unbuttoning the top of the tunic so I can stretch it down lower.”
Lucius scoffed, “No, how do you put up with that? How do you let that go on when you’re the head of this family?” Lucius pointed at Tamsen’s door.
Donovan smirked, “Let it go on? Tamsen spends her time with whomever she chooses to spend her time with. I have nothing to do with that.”
Lucius replied, “If she was my woman, I’d never let her do that. She would be mine, and I would be the one taking care of her needs.”
Donovan flashed Lucius a stern gaze, his mirth gone. “When I found Tamsen, she had spent years of her life with people deciding who would get to be with her. She never got a choice in the matter, she was just expected to go along with it. I didn’t need a lover, Lucius. I needed a friend. And that’s all I ever asked her to be to me, a friend. She gave me all that I ever asked of her, and so much more than I could have possibly expected. She is my world now, and I would desperately love to be the person in the room with her this very moment; but I’m happy just knowing that she’s happy. Without her, I would have never found any of you.”
Lucius let the words fall from his lips, “What if I told you I was going to be with her? Would you try to stop me?”
Donovan chuckled, “You didn’t listen to me, Lucius. That’s not my decision to make, or to prevent. Tamsen chooses her partners. If Tamsen chooses you, I’m not going to interfere in that.”
Lucius sighed, surprised at the response coming from Donovan, “And you are telling me you are never jealous? You never want her all to yourself?”
Donovan put his hands on his temples, “Listen to me, my friend. Never play the game of jealousy. You can never win; you can only lose more and more of yourself as you keep playing. Trust me.”
Lucius could hear the strained tones Donovan made when he said the words, “Trust me.” A part of Lucius wanted to leave the hallway right then and there, to not add more burden onto his friend. But another very real part of him also wanted to be the person in the room with her, and Lucius realized he was slipping the same way the rest of the family had.

Week 17:
Bergill Mott had been a friend of the family since they initially arrived in Farholde. Bergill was introduced to Donovan via Baron Vandermir, and had continued to prove themselves a loyal ally. So, when Bergill had delivered a message to the horn saying that they needed assistance, Donovan was happy to help.

According to Bergill, a new gang had appeared in town, going under the name of “Thatcher’s Crew”. They were apparently interfering in the areas that Bergill’s group were normally invested, so this was bad for the group, and bad for the bottom line. Donovan was clearly displeased, and dispatched Bebop and Kirin to resolve the matter, “Make it clear to them that the only option is to agree to our terms. If they fail to see the wisdom of your words, show them the strength of your force.” Bebop and Kirin seemed especially eager in that second option. Heading out to Farholde, the duo quickly found the location of this rival gang, and made their way to the leader of the group with all haste. They discovered the leader of the group, a Mickey Thatcher.
Bebop began the talk, “We have been sent here on behalf of Donovan Thorn. You will work with the gang controlled by Bergill Mott, and not act independently.”
Mickey sneered at the two of them, “And why should we do that?”
Kirin unsheathed his massive blade, “Because otherwise, you will die.”
Mickey laughed at Kirin, “Aw, cute. Is that supposed to be a substitute for your tiny dick?”
Without hesitation, Kirin chopped Mickey’s head off. As his body slumped to the floor and the head rolled to the side, Kirin called out, “Anyone else have questions?”

The silence in the room was a sufficient answer for Bebop and Kirin.

Session 23 Ends.


Part 2: Call Forth Darkness
Act 3: Thirty-one Weeks
Session 24: From Above As Below

Week 18:
Donovan stared at his notes over and over again, meticulously working through the details that had been discovered over the course of the previous week. He knew for certain that a group of adventurers would be approaching the Horn over this week, he knew for certain that they would gain access via the lower section of the Horn, and he knew for certain that his group was to be betrayed. All of this was what had been revealed by Tamsen’s mother and Patron. Still, Donovan could not shake the feeling that he had missed something, that there had been some detail that he had overlooked.

Not knowing the specific day that the attack would take place, Donovan had Kirin take up a guard position near the maw of the cave at the entrance to the hidden staircase. Bebop continued to guard the first floor. And work proceeded as it generally would, with the different residents attending to their typical tasks. James O’Toole was still attempting to harness this fighting force into something worthwhile, despite the fact that they were effectively worthless. James often suspected that Donovan was simply keeping him around in order to not have to kill him, which wasn’t exactly great for James’ ego. Still, the food and wine had continued to flow without hesitation, and he was never once tasked with doing something that he would have considered callous. It was on this night when James saw what appeared to be some sort of mud or earth creature rising up from the ground. Confused, he looked at the creature, wondering of this was another one of the Summoner’s creations. Then, what appeared to be a small Gnome was released from the side of the earhen creature. The Gnome gestured to Zikomo, and Zikomo hurled himself at James. Tossing Zikomo off momentarily, James looked around and saw that all of the Boggards were sizing him up for attack. James readied himself for the fight, knowing there was little he could do to stop all of them.

Kirin heard a small commotion on the other end of the Maw. He was unsure what to make of the sound, but was hesitant to abandon his post. Reaching out with his mind to Tamsen, he notified her that something was possibly going on, and he was going to check on it. Tamsen relayed this information to Donovan, who immediately sprung to defense. Contacting the Daemon brothers, he told them to secure the entrance of the Maw, and to assist in taking out whatever threat was down there. Donovan then began to move down to the lower floors himself, assuming that the attack was soon to take place. When Hexor approached Kirin, the two of them headed over to the section of the Maw where the sounds had been coming from. Arriving there, Hexor and Kirin found that the Boggards had ripped apart James O’Toole, and were feasting on his innards. Hexor relayed this information to Donovan. Donovan pondered the news, “Could this have been the betrayal we were to expect this week? An attack from the Boggards?” Donovan told Hexor to grab Zikomo and bring the elder to where he was. Donovan needed more information.

Meanwhile, even as Donovan was attempting to understand this issue with the betrayal of the Boggards, there were other betrayals taking place within the Horn. Back in the Forge, GrumbleJack also saw the Gnomish man, and then realized that he needed to attack Idrees. While Idrees was able to activate her invisibility power and escape his onslaught, she still had been severely wounded in the fracas. Even within Traya’s group, infighting had begun to take place. Donovan quickly realized that there was Charm magicks being used to sway the minds of the weaker individuals, but still didn’t know how these people were able to move around the complex without triggering any of the alarms.

It wasn’t until Hexor brought forth Zikomo and angrily wrung the confession out of him that Donovan understood the scope of what was happening. These individuals were using some sort of earth gliding ability that allowed them to pass through the floors and walls of the Horn unimpeded! While it would bring no comfort for the fallen retainer, it still meant that Zikomo and the Boggards had not as of yet betrayed the group, as they were taken off guard just as easily as everyone else had been. But this brought a greater concern for Donovan and the others: How were they to stop the invasion of an enemy who could pass undetected through the floors and walls? “How are they able to survive indefinitely within the walls themselves?”, Donovan pondered the nature of the attack. For her part, Tamsen spent the large majority of the day up in the Sanctum, scanning through the individual rooms, trying to discover where the interlopers were hiding. The Horn was a large place, however, and her scans did not end up revealing where they were hidden. Meanwhile, Donovan went from area to area, helping to end the commotion that was taking place, and patching up those who had been injured through the day.

Even with the Cuestodaemons watching the exit of the Horn, the individuals were never caught. After hours of the residents being on guard, Donovan finally decided that they must have somehow already fled. Taking stock of all that had been assaulted, Donovan realized that they had failed to actually remove anything of value from the premises. Still, he knew that these individuals were searching for treasure, they had even gone to the trouble of searching through Tamsen’s “toy chest” in their search for items of value. That meant that they must believe there was something here worth stealing. This would be the chink in the armor that Donovan and his family could exploit, “Lucius, GrumbleJack, begin a flyover of the area. I don’t expect that they are stupid, but I imagine that our guests have set up camp nearby. We’ll take this fight to their doorstep.” Lucius and GrumbleJack nodded, then took the sky via their varying means. Donovan sat down next to one of the spots he suspected that the intruders had entered the Horn from. He was tired from running around the whole of the day, and frustrated from his inability to have stopped the invaders, or to save the people who were depending on him. Donovan’s hand lightly traced against the wall. Just then, Tamsen entered the room where he was sitting. She could innately sense the state of mind Donovan was in. Sitting down next to Donovan on the floor, she pulled Donovan’s head onto her lap, and brushed her fingers through his hair gently. Tamsen could feel the built up tension releasing from Donovan, as his breaths became fuller and slower. “Three-dimensional fighting. They are very clever, my love.”, Donovan finally spoke up. “I’m sure you’ll think of a way of deal with this issue, Donovan. You always do.”, Tamsen’s voice was almost a whisper now.

“My love, Lucius is saying he may have found something, and is on his way back.”, Tamsen touched Donovan’s face gently, as he startled awake. He realized he had fallen asleep on her lap, and she had simply sat there and watched over him. “Oh, good, when he gets back here, we’ll send out a group of individuals to deal with these people.”, Donovan kissed Tamsen gently on the lips, enjoying a precious moment of alone time with her. Once Lucius returned, Donovan pulled Kirin, Bebop, and Lucius into the main chamber area, to discuss with Lucius what he had seen. “I want the three of you and Lucinda to find this renegade group of interlopers, and put them down! They cost me in blood this time, and I intend to repay the favor fourscore!”, Donovan looked in each of their eyes to confirm their understanding of the task. Donovan could read the eagerness and anticipation in some of them, and the cold dutiful acceptance in the others, but all of them were more than willing to extract vengeance. “Find them and take care of this matter. No mistakes.”, Donovan stared directly into Lucius’ eyes. Looking back at the rest of the group, the instructions were simple: “Get it done, and return safely.” The group nodded, and began to walk out of the room. “Lucius.”, Donovan called out. Returning to Donovan, Lucius smiled, “Is there something else?”
“Do you know the Feather Fall spell?”, Donovan queried.
“Of course, I’ve known that one for a while now.”, Lucius replied confidently.
A wide grin came across Donovan’s face. “Perfect. Now let me tell you what you’re going to do when you encounter their campsite. They aren’t the only ones who can engage in three-dimensional combat.” Donovan explained the battle tactics, and soon Lucius shared Donovan’s grin.

As the group began flying out based upon Lucius’ previous observations, they each began to pay careful attention to the ground several hundred feet beneath them. While it would be unlikely that the group would be on guard from an aerial attack, the presence of flying horses could still easily catch the eyes of anyone. Fortune proved to be on the family’s side, and they were able to get within range of the campsite without being detected. Lucinda spotted them first, four individuals whose descriptions matched some of the aspects of the information that had been received from the people who had encountered them within the Horn. From there, the group began to circle around, getting in position to allow Lucius to place the Feather Fall spell on all of them. As the four of them allowed themselves to fall off their respective flying mounts, Lucius applied the spell to the group. The sensation of the sudden fall turning into a gentle drop was disorienting at first, but the group took advantage of the opportunity, allowing themselves to apply spells and abilities to bolster their effectiveness. Meanwhile, Lucius, getting a closer look at the layout of the campsite, took advantage of their relatively close proximity to one another, and applied Black Tentacles to where they were sitting and standing around.

Panic set in on the group of adventurers, as some of them were being crushed by the tentacles, while others managed to extricate themselves before the tentacles began to take hold. As the group of attackers gently set down onto the ground, the two individuals who were not being held by the tentacles rushed up into the fight with Bebop, Kirin, and Lucinda. A Dwarven Barbarian was the first individual to attack into the group. Unfortunately for him, he encountered the full rage of Bebop as the enlarged monster exploded onto him. Between his onslaught of attacks and lack of protection from the casters, the Barbarian found himself falling to the fury of fangs and claws. The Anti-Paladin rushed up onto what appeared to be the Druid of the group, and let his blade tear into her flesh. As her fear began to take hold of her, he pressed the attack further still. The blade tore into her once more, knocking her unconscious to the ground.
“Pathetic!”, Kirin scoffed at his fallen prey.
Lucinda assisted the work of the Black Tentacles by causing the Gnome to be knocked to the ground, making their efforts to grab him that much easier. It was clear he wanted to cast a spell, but the Tentacles bound his wrists in a way that made spells impossible for him to cast. Lucinda continued to strike the Gnome from just outside the radius of the tentacles to continue attacking.
The Elven Ranger appeared to break free of the Tentacles, but remained inside of their influence to allow herself an opportunity to attack. She drew back her bow, and released a powerful attack onto Bebop, who seemed unfazed by her efforts. Pushing up closer to the Tentacles, Bebop finished off the Gnome who was still struggling to cast a spell.
With bloodlust in his veins, Kirin marched through the Tentacles to attack the Ranger.
“Donovan is going to want one of them for interrogation.”, Bebop shouted across the campsite, a moment before Kirin struck the Ranger down with a brutal slash of his sword.
“If Donovan wants survivors, then he’s going to have to give me opponents that are worth my effort.”, Kirin said with a haughty tone in his voice, as he sheathed his sword.
Irritated, Lucius set out the Portable Hole. “Toss all of them in here. Donovan can make sense of all of this when we get back.” The bodies were soon tossed in with careless disregard, and then the group returned to the Horn. Summoning up a new group of flying creatures, Lucius and the others headed back, their prize in tow.

“Excellent work!”, Donovan congratulated the group when they arrived. “Let’s see what we can discover about our ill-fated intruders.” Donovan began to dig through the objects on their possession with Bebop close at hand, pointing out the ones that he wanted to have saved. Coming across what appeared to be a corked bottle, Donovan’s interest grew, “Well, what do we have here? A Bottle of Air!” Donovan inhaled the contents to confirm his suspicions. “Now I understand how they were able to stay hidden within the walls for so long. Very clever, indeed!” Handing over the bottle to Lucius, Donovan’s eyes caught the sight of a journal that was being carried on the Gnome’s corpse. “And what do we have here?” Donovan began flipping through the journal, reading the last section out loud in front of the rest of the family.

What an interesting development today. We were approached by a so-called holy man full of talk about visions and angels and so forth. He claimed these spirits had driven him to stop the wickedness going on in the Horn and to rally us to our “destiny”. Mentioned us almost by name the angels did! I’m flattered.
He delivered us his pitch and then gave to us an immense pile of information including maps, names and so much more. Really, he did everything but give us the keys to the front door.
Of course I don’t accept such gifts without a fair degree of skepticism. I had Vethia trail the “Holy Man” and our fears turned out to be justified. She saw this angel-speaker slip into a side alley and transform back into a dark haired and much younger human.
My tracker followed the human through the streets of Farholde and saw the young man rendezvous with a strange white-haired woman with a white raven on her shoulder. He called her “Z”.
They didn’t say much to each other. All he said was “It is done. The Ninth is finished.” I am unsure exactly what that means, but clearly, we are being used in some sort of double-cross between various factions of the cult that occupies the Horn. Ah, evil doers. They never change.
So, they want us to be their assassins, eh? Well, it’s a job we don’t mind doing. We’ll be cautious about this information obviously. But I think it’s likely to pan out. They wouldn’t want their dupes to fail after all, would they? Of course, when we’re done, I think we’ll pay the “holy man” a little visit as well. Vethia is pretty sure the woman in white must be staying in the nearby inn -- “The Auld Briarhall” in Auld’Irey.
What a piece of work is my elven tracker! She tracked a shapechanger through almost a half mile of city, managed to eavesdrop on a private guarded conversation and reported back without even a ripple of trouble. Hah! Remind me to give that girl an almost even share of the treasure!
Tomorrow we attack the Horn. I can feel it my bones. This is the big one! After this, I just know that our wee little band will never be the same.

As Donovan closed the journal, he looked down upon the corpse of the Gnome, “Well, on that last part, I certainly agree with you.”
“We were betrayed by the Seventh!”, Tamsen hissed disapprovingly.
“Of course we were betrayed, my love. That was always going to be the outcome. I knew it the second I showed her the ritual book. She was never going to accept us performing this task.”, Donovan nodded.
“They need to be punished!”, Bebop spoke up, his anger rising.
Donovan raised his hands in a calming gesture, “Of course they are going to be punished. But this needs to be an object lesson for Father. I warned him of this some time ago.”
“What do you want to do?”, Lucius looked curiously at Donovan.
Donovan smirked, “First, we act like nothing has changed here. We continue on as though we never encountered these individuals. Second, you are going to scout them out to see when they are at the Auld Briarhall.”
“And then?”, Kirin smiled expectantly.
“And then, we show them exactly what happens to those who betray the family.”, a cruel smile crossed Donovan’s face, as his next plans began to work themselves out in his mind.

Session 24 Ends.


Part 2: Call Forth Darkness
Act 3: Thirty-one Weeks
Session 25: An Eye for I

Donovan walked into Tamsen’s bedroom, where her and Bebop were enjoying each other. “Bebop, get a team together and head into Farholde. You need to learn Elise’s patterns, and bring her in. She’s going to answer for her betrayal to Father.” Looking up from where he was on top of Tamsen’s naked form, he immediately knew Donovan was in no mood for discussion, “What of the rest of her knot?”
“I don’t believe they are all aware of her machinations. We’ll give them an opportunity to explain themselves and be forgiven. But she will face consequences for her impertinence.”, Donovan responded as he walked back out of the room.
Tamsen giggled, looking up at Bebop, “It appears you have been given an assignment.”
Bebop nodded, kissing Tamsen once before he got off her, “I guess I better go to town. Did you want me to pick up anything for you while I’m down there?”
“No lover, the only thing I want is you back here as soon as possible.”, Tamsen sat up, kissing Bebop on his chest and face.
Bebop closed his eyes, taking in the sensations of Tamsen’s lips against his flesh, then pushed the two of them back down on the bed, “I think we have a few more minutes before I have to go…”

Later that day, Bebop brought Kirin, Lucius and Lucinda together; and the group headed off to Farholde in order to learn the patterns of Elise and the rest of the Seventh Knot. Lucius was clearly concerned about the nature of this expedition.
“Elise and her team have had months to get everything in place. Whatever we do, she will be several steps ahead of us. We need to be careful.”, Lucius cautioned.
“She’s not that tough, we can beat her.”, Bebop confidently replied.
Lucius rolled his eyes, unmoved by Bebop’s self-assuredness. Summoning Lucinda, he instructed her to go and lurk around the Auld Briarhall, which was supposed to be the place where Elise and the other members of the Seventh Knot maintained a headquarters of some kind.
As the rest of the group lacked any real talent for stealth, they decided to spend their time in Drownington, attempting to find the opportunities they could.

For his part, Donovan was also determined to take advantage of the opportunity provided by the absence of the rest of the family. Donovan strolled into Tamsen’s bedroom, and pushed himself up next to her, “Hello there, beautiful. I’ve been thinking about you.”
Tamsen’s gaze changed in an instant, as she instinctively responded to his advances. Her arms wrapped around Donovan’s shoulders, “Really now? And what have you been thinking, my love?”
“I’ve been thinking how very much I want to be with you.”, Donovan responded eagerly.
Tamsen quickly moved into her bed, drawing Donovan in with her. As Donovan slid into the bed, Tamsen rolled him underneath her, the lust and excitement in her eyes.
“Is this what you were hoping to find?”, Tamsen’s smile grew across her face.
“I’ve been craving our time together. You’ve become somehow even more appealing as of late.”, Donovan’s excitement was palpable.
The two of them tugged and pulled to remove Donovan’s clothes. Once he was naked underneath her, Tamsen licked her lips, “It’s time for you to learn to play with Cami.”
Donovan got a concerned look on his face, “I only have eyes for you, my love.”
Tamsen smiled broadly, then called Camille over to her. Camille slid into the bed with the two of them, her naked form already visible. Tamsen offered her hand to Camille, “Feed from me, Cami.”
Camille gently took Tamsen’s hand, and then bit into her wrist. Tamsen shuddered from the sensation, then leaned down and began kissing Donovan. Donovan kissed back, his hands tracing across Tamsen’s back, as he lightly traced around her wings.
The two of them carried on with this for a brief moment, and Tamsen could clearly tell that Donovan was wanting more. She pulled her hand away from Cami, then looked with confidence at Donovan. “Give Cami your wrist.”
Camille’s enthusiasm grew at the prospect, as Donovan offered his hand to her with trepidation.
“Gently, Cami. Gently.” Tamsen’s voice was calm, but insistent. Camille nodded as she took Donovan’s hand. Looking up at Tamsen one last time, Camille smiled and began to feed from Donovan.
Donovan felt the sensation of Cami’s fangs piercing his skin. There was a momentary flash of pain, and then Donovan felt himself relaxing under Camille’s touch. Meanwhile, Tamsen moved herself top of Donovan, positioning her body to join completely with him. “I need you, Tamsen.”
“I need you always.” Tamsen responded as the two of them became lost in their world together.

Lucinda met back up with the rest of the group, telling Lucius what she had discovered over her time spent around the Inn. According to Lucius, Lucinda knew the general times that Elise was going to sleep for the night, and which rooms the group was staying in. Bebop was thrilled at hearing this news. “We’ll go in tonight and put her down, then head back to the Horn.”
Kirin nodded in support, “It will be nice to have a real challenge for a change.”
After waiting the appropriate amount of time, the group returned to the Inn, hoping to catch Elise and the others off guard. Lucinda returned to the Inn ahead of time in order to confirm when Elise was actually returning to her room. Once she communicated what she was seeing at the Inn to Lucius, the group entered the Inn, and began carefully looking around. The group noticed the many eyes on them, but didn’t give it too much consideration. Bebop consumed one of his Mutagens, and kicked in the door of the Inn where Elise was supposed to be staying. Despite the fact that Lucinda confirmed the Elise had entered that room, there was no sign of her there. Bebop looked annoyed down onto the street, as he noticed the open window headed out of the room. Perhaps they had already fled. Quickly, Bebop and the others rushed to the other room where Trik and Trak were staying, but their room had also been abandoned. Could Lucinda have been discovered? Perhaps her lack of ability to truly transform into a different looking entity tipped their hands. Whatever the reason was, Bebop was confident that the moment for capturing Elise and the others had passed.
“Well, I guess we’re going to head back. There’s nothing else for us to do here.”, Bebop said dejectedly.
“What are we going to tell Donovan when we return?”, Lucius queried.
Bebop shrugged, “We’ll tell him that they managed to get away, and so we returned.”
Kirin snorted in clear disappointment.
Lucius shook his head, “Alright, if you say so.” With that, he prepared the travel arrangements for the group, and they began the return to their home.

Lying naked and spent next to Tamsen and Camille, Donovan sighed happily as he slid his fingers across Tamsen’s legs. They had spent the previous day and today together, with only small breaks so that they could fetch food. “It’s so nice having these moments with you, my love.”
“I am always yours to have, Donovan. You’re the one who is busy all the time.” Tamsen giggled as her fingers stroked through Donovan’s hair.
“It’s just hard, you are very much… in demand around here.”, Donovan smiled as his hand touched Tamsen’s face. “I feel like I’m always competing for your time, especially with…”
“I’m home!”, Bebop called out as he barged through Tamsen’s bedroom door. “Did you miss me?”
Donovan quickly threw himself under the sheets, while Tamsen smiled at Bebop, “Welcome home lover.”
Looking around and seeing no one accompanying Bebop, Donovan interrogated Bebop about the events, “Where is Elise?”
“Oh yeah, they got away. I guess they knew we were coming. Sorry about that.”, Bebop responded with a sense of nonchalance.
Donovan quickly became irritated, “Oh no, this is my fault Bebop. I gave you too much free space with which to perform this task. Why would I expect any other outcome besides this one?” Looking over at Tamsen, Donovan continued, “My love, I need you to take the group and go back to Farholde. Capture or kill the entire Seventh Knot, and bring their possessions to me. Will you do this for me?”
Tamsen’s face turned quickly mischievous, “I will do anything for you, you know this, Donovan.”
With that, Donovan left Tamsen’s bedroom, half dressed and annoyed.

A few hours later, Tamsen met with Bebop, Kirin, and Lucius. “So, it appears I’ll be joining you as we head back to Farholde in order to get Elise and the rest of her team.”
Bebop whined, “But we already went up there, and they fled the Inn! There’s nothing less for us to work with.”
Tamsen’s eyes narrowed, “Did you interrogate every individual at the bar, to see if they knew about her? What about the Innkeeper? What about the orphans that visit her for her network.?”
Bebop looked down to the ground, realizing he had failed to capitalize on other information gathering opportunities.
“I thought as much.”, Tamsen retorted, an unusual haughtiness in her voice. “We’re going to get this information, and then we’re going to bring in Elise for Donovan, like you agreed to initially.” Smiling to Lucius, Tamsen continued, “Good sir, will you please take us again to Farholde?”
Lucius smiled and nodded, and the group headed back to the city.

Arriving back into the city, Tamsen went to work, wooing her way over several different patrons of the Inn, attempting to discern the type of influences that Elise held over the different patrons. As the family began working their way around the city, they discovered that the Abbey had been attacked.
“Such a pity, a religious fortress of Mitra being sieged in this manner.”, Kirin said, a sarcastic tone in his voice.
Bebop looked around the area at the injuries, “Elves. It would appear that Donovan’s letter found its way into the correct hands.” Bebop thought back to the memory of Jurak, and how they had all expected a reckoning to come from his demise. It would seem that now, the Sisters of the Abbey had become the target for that reckoning.
The group did not tarry around that area, there was still much to be discovered. After a while, the group found information out that suggested one of Elise’s contacts would be available in an establishment in Drownington. Having no other immediate leads to follow up on, the group headed to this bar, in the hopes of getting closer to the prize they sought.

Arriving at the bar, Tamsen opened her eyes to the Magic around her, and discovered an individual sitting at a table in the back positioned so as to carefully watch people entering the building. Moving towards the individual, it became clear to her that this was actually one of the Seventh Knot, using the circlet provided by Cardinal Thorn to hide their appearance. Once the individual realized who they were, it appeared they were going to flee. Before they were given a chance, Tamsen applied her Charm Hex onto them. “Stay please, I’d love to talk with you some more.”
“Of course I’ll stay for you. I want to talk to you.” The individual seemed overwhelmed by the force of Tamsen’s personality.
Tamsen began asking questions, attempting to discern more about where Elise was at. It had become clear that the individual sitting there was acting as a go between to Elise. Tamsen was adamant that they be told where Elise was hiding, and Trak was refusing to provide that information, even after Tamsen discovered which of them was acting as the go between.
Kirin sat next to Trak, his blade drawn and placed between them. “I suggest you cooperate with the lady, because I’m sure you don’t want to deal with me.”
Trak was obviously entranced by Tamsen and terrified by Kirin; but he still did not want to reveal the information he was holding onto. However, with patience and determination, Tamsen was able to get the information out of Trak,
The group headed out to the location where Trak told them to go, while Kirin waited around the bar to make sure that Trak was being honest about the information provided. Once the others were found, Kirin got up from the booth and watched as Trak slinked away, running quickly from the place after he was out of the front door.
Bebop discovered the individuals first, all three of them looked identical. Elise was banking on the fact that the family would not knew who to attack with all three of them looking the same. But Bebop had also learned the true nature of Elise, and realized that she had no loyalty to her group. Bebop consumed an Elixir to increase his size, which also made him faster as he moved through the city. One of the three of them turned around, deciding to attack instead of waiting until Bebop fell upon the group. As soon as the attack landed, Bebop laughed, “Dostan, you’re already beaten.” In a single moment, Bebop unleashed his natural attacks into a rapid succession where his speed was matched only by his brutality. In seconds, Dostan was knocked unconscious to the ground.
Still, Dostan’s sacrifice was not in vain, as it had give Elise and Trik time to continue escaping. But Bebop’s rage would not be denied. Consuming another elixir, Bebop increased his movement speed even further, as he sprinted even quicker to catch up to the two remaining members of the Seventh Knot. Bebop’s speed was unparalleled now, and even with the head start that the other two had, Bebop was back on top of them in a few moments.
After stabilizing Dostan’s injuries, Lucius opened up a Portable Hole, and had Lucinda toss Dostan’s unconscious form into the hole before pulling it back up. Lucius had already placed the Bottled Air inside the Portable Hole to allow individuals to continue breathing.
Bebop caught up with the two individuals, still appearing to be identical, even as he closed in on them, Bebop reached out and struck at one of them, injuring them. While some would think Bebop was planning to put another one down in the same manner that he stopped Dostan, he was much more interested in what the other individual did in that moment that gave Bebop the information he was looking for. The other individual continued running, unconcerned with the fate of the injured individual.
“There you are, you treacherous bitch!”, Bebop focused his attention on the individual who continued running, ignoring the other individual, which he now assumed to be Trik. Trik prepared to fight back, until Tamsen arrived on the scene and cast a Slumber Hex onto him.
Meanwhile, Bebop consumed another Elixir, causing Elise to erupt into flames. From this point, Elise knew she was forced into conflict.
Elise attempted to user her magic power to slow down Bebop, but his attacks were far too vicious and fierce. Unlike Dostan, Elise received no mercy from Bebop’s savagery. Elise was pulled limb from limb as she found herself the focus of Bebop’s seething rage.

Elise’s corpse, along with the unconscious bodies of Dostan and Trik, were placed into the Portable Hole, followed after by Bebop, who was there to make sure that they were able to breathe while in there. Lucius provided transportation for the rest of the group. Upon returning to the Horn, the group met back with Donovan, who was clearly pleased with the success of the group under Tamsen’s hand.
“Strip them of their gear and lock them in the third-floor prison.” Donovan barked out orders to the rest of the group, even as he wrapped his arms around Tamsen in happiness.
Following the instructions, Bebop and Kirin took the individuals up to the prison. Some time later, Donovan came up, and beginning assisting the members of the Seventh Knot with their injuries during the recent conflict.
“I’m sorry that it had to come to this. I was truly hoping that we could all work towards Father’s goals. However, now I am left with one simple question: Why?”, Donovan queried, staring at the two of them.
“She told us that she was following orders, that all of you had failed Cardinal Thorn’s orders in securing the Horn.”, Trik responded after a moment.
Donovan stared at Trik incredulously, “Let me make sure I understand this correctly. You believe that my family was failing Cardinal Thorn, and the way he decided to respond to our failure was to have you assemble a group of adventurers in the hopes that they would cause us some sort of difficulty, as opposed to having his personal handmaiden come down and punish us for our transgressions directly? Am I understanding the way Elise explained it to all of you accurately?”
Trik blanched, “Well, when you say it that way, it sounds ridiculous; but it made more sense coming from Elise.”
Donovan sneered, “That’s because it is, and you know it.”
Dortan spoke up, “Where is Elise?”
Donovan responded coldly, “Elise is dead.”
Dortan began to writhe and flail against the chains that were holding him restrained. “I will kill you for taking her away!”
Trik sat there, realization setting into him, “That witch… tricked me?”
Donovan looked with annoyance at Trik, “Do you think you can get Trak to listen?”
Trik nodded at Donovan, “He has to listen to me, he has to!”

With that, Donovan had a note delivered to the location of the safe house where the Seventh Knot were planning to meet. The note told Trak that the rest of his group would be waiting for him. Unsurprisingly, Trak came as per the instructions, and was soon captured and thrown into the cell with the other two, where Trak discovered the true fate of Elise.
Meanwhile, Donovan broke open the seal, summoning Tiadora to the Horn.
“Donovan, I presume you have good reason for contacting me and the Cardinal ahead of the scheduled time that was listed.” Tiadora chastised Donovan.
“Indeed. We have been betrayed by the Seventh Knot. They sent a group of adventurers in order to attack us here, in the hopes that the adventurers would be able to stop us from completing the ritual.” Donovan replied without any of the usual antagonism present in his conversations with Tidora. He produced the diary from Fineas Greenhold and handed it to her. “I have the remaining members locked up in my prison. Once Father sees this journal, I’m sure he will make a final decision regarding the fate of the remainder of the Seventh Knot.”
Tiadora eyed the journal, then stopped to look at Donovan upon reading the last page. “I see. I will deliver this to the Master.” With that, she disappeared.
Returning to the prison, Donovan addressed the three individuals of the Seventh Knot. “You know that if Father hears about your betrayal, he will punish all of you far worse than what happened to Elise. However, if you agree to work with me, I will advocate on your behalf Don’t allow Elise’s arrogance to take you down with her!”
Dostan and Trak raged at Donovan’s suggestion, but Trik seemed to have been impacted by his words.
When Tiadora showed up, she came bearing a chest. “The Master applauds your initiative.” Tiadora also provided a replacement seal for the one that Donovan utilized. Looking at the three men locked up in the cell, Tiadora spat out her words, “The three of you have violated the Oath that you each signed, and are no longer under his protection.’
Donovan looked at the group of doomed individuals, “Last chance, gentlemen. Swear your loyalty to me, and your commitment to the Father’s work, and I will speak on your behalf.”
Trik spoke up then, “Yes, I will follow you, Donovan.”
Donovan looked over at Tiadora, “Tell Father this this one will follow me, and become a member of my group. He will serve Father’s will under my leadership.”
Tiadora nodded, “As you wish, Lord Donovan.”
With that, Tiadora grabbed Trak and Dortan, and teleported away from the Horn.

Donovan looked at Trik, who was still chained up. “Welcome to the family, Trik.”

Session 25 Ends


Part 2: Call Forth Darkness
Act 3: Thirty-one Weeks
Session 26: Clearing the Ledgers

Week 19:
Time had passed since the betrayal of Elise and the other members of the Seventh Knot. For his part, Trik had begun his integration into the group fairly well. It was obvious that he missed his twin brother, but he wasn’t ready to make the ultimate sacrifice simply because Trak thought he was in love. He wondered if the others suffered long at the hands of Tiadora.
Most of the work of cleaning up the Horn of Abaddon was now complete, and the family began to settle into a more relaxed environment. Bebop had offered to take over on behalf of James O’Toole to continue the Boggards training. It was during this time that one of the Boggards approached Bebop, and spoke to him in Common, “I need to speak with the leader of your group about matters for my tribe.”
Bebop’s interest grew at this, “Wait, you speak Common? Who are you?”
The Boggard responded, “I am Juko Five-Croaks, and my people are in need of supplies.” Having said that, Juko handed Bebop a written document that spoke on the items that were needed. According to the list, the tribe was in need of food and more spears.
Bebop looked at the list, he could see that they had prices for goods and weapons that totaled around 3000 gold. “Oh, Donovan is going to need to see this.” Bebop walked with Juko up to the main part of the Horn, and located Donovan.
Donovan looked at Bebop and Juko, “What do we have here?”
Bebop handed Donovan the list received from the Boggard, “Apparently they need supplies.”
Juko spoke up as Donovan looked over the list, “The recent attacks have made things difficult for my people.”
Donovan’s eyes widened as a smile grew over his face, “You learned Common, Juko! Very impressive!” Immediately, Donovan switched to speaking Boggard, “Where did you get this list from?”
Juko, seemingly relieved at no longer having to speak Common, responded quickly in his native tongue, “Zikomo asked me to give this list to you.”
Annoyance flashed on Donovan’s face briefly, “Of course he did.” Switching back to Common, he spoke to Bebop. “Go and fetch Zikomo and bring him up here. Make sure he understands this is not a request.”
Bebop and Kirin went down into the Maw in order to fetch Zikomo. It was clear that Zikomo was not fully aware of his surroundings, having once again indulged in his Vision Juice.

Arriving upstairs, Zikomo looked around at the group of people who were flanking Donovan.
Donovan pointed at Juko, and spoke to Zikomo, “Do you know who this is?”
Zikomo nodded, “Yes, he’s a new member of the tribe.”
Donovan opened up the list, showing the contents to Zikomo, “Do you know what this list is?”
Zikomo nodded once more, “Yes, it is important that my people are given supplies.”
Donovan growled, “This list references 10 Masterwork Spears. I have told you multiple times that Instructor Idrees can provide these materials to your tribe as needed. Why would you be asking me for money for something you can have freely at any time you want.”
Zikomo shrugged, “I guess I forgot.”
Donovan’s teeth gritted, as he moved closer to Zikomo, “You fail to follow my requests, you are unable to keep your people in line, you murdered O’Toole because your mind was weak, and you continue to use the Vision Juice that I have warned you repeatedly puts you in a state where you cannot lead the tribe. Then, you have the audacity to send a member of your tribe to me for something you should have asked for yourself!”
Zikomo began fading out of consciousness, still under the influence of the drug.
Donovan had reached his limit. Switching to Infernal, he spoke, “Kirin, kill this waste of flesh!”
Kirin didn’t hesitate, his blade rammed through Zikomo’s form, impaling him on the massive weapon. Kirin lifted Zikomo up in the air, as his torso slid down the blade, the blood coating his weapon.
Donovan took Juko, and walked back down to the Maw. Speaking loudly in Boggard, he proclaimed to all the tribesman, “Zikomo is dead, Juko is your new leader and liaison to me and the other members of my family.”
Punctuating the matter, Kirin flicked his sword to the ground, causing the body of Zikomo to tumble off the blade and roll lifelessly.
Looking back to Juko, Donovan smiled and continued to speak in Boggard, “I’m expecting great things from you, Juko. Don’t disappoint me. And don’t worry, we’ll get supplies for your people.”
Nervously shaking, Juko nodded his head, “Yes, master. I will not fail you.”
A taut smile crossed Donovan’s face, and he walked back up the stairs and into the Horn.

Week 20:
Lucius returned from one of his many trips to Farholde, bearing unfortunate news. For some time, the head Sister of the Abbey had been concerned about dark forces closing in on the city. This was all reinforced by the recent attacks that had occurred to the Abbey. The Sister was going to be sending work out in order to receive reinforcements.
“You’ll have to intercept that letter.”, Donovan stated to Lucius. “Bring it back here, and we can learn more about what they know, and make a plan from there.”
Lucius and Lucinda immediately set about going to work. Interacting with the connections the family had grown in the city, Lucius knew who would be receiving the message. Apparently, it would be taken to one of the ships sailing out. After Lucinda dispatched the actual messenger, Lucius assumed the form of the individual, and awaited the arrival of the courier.
The courier arrived at the designated location and handed over the envelope. “May Mitra’s light shine upon you.”
“And upon you as well.”, Lucius responded, a sly smile on his disguised face.
Returning to the Horn, Lucius delivered the letter to Donovan, “I think we should send them a reply, and give them an arrival date for reinforcements that will be too late for them to do anything about.”
Donovan smiled, “Very clever, Lucius. Very clever, indeed.”

After delivering the note, the family discovered that things once again appeared to be running smoothly. Donovan made some modifications to Artephius, as he had now become more confident in developing the Golem past the original blueprints. Overall though, it seemed as though everything was beginning to settle into a calm pace. Another week passed without any matters of importance occurring within the Horn.

Week 22:
Lucius received word of an individual who very much wanted to meet with Donovan. She offered a location within the city, and relayed that she had a proposal that could be very lucrative for the family if they were to agree to it.
Donovan considered Lucius’ information before responding. “Take the family with you, including Tamsen. I know you will be able to speak on my behalf. I’ll be outside the Horn, so Tamsen can reach me if you have any questions.”
The group returned to Farholde, and took the meeting as offered. One of the local heads of the Guilds arrived, Shalyn Marsten. She looked at the family a bit, before realizing that Donovan was not among the members.
“I’m disappointed that Donovan is not with you, but I guess it is to be expected.”, Shalyn opened.
Lucius bowed slightly and smiled, “Donovan very much wanted to attend, but had previous obligations. However, I am authorized to conduct business on our behalf in his stead.”
Shalyn nodded, “Very good. From what I know about your group, you are a transient and powerful group of individuals who have arrived in a time of much chaos. I’m willing to bet that individuals such as yourselves would not have an issue with using this chaos to make some profit.”
The group looked at one another, smiling. Then Lucius continued, “Perhaps. What sort of work are you interested in having us perform for you, in order for us to share in this profit?”
Shalyn smiled, “I am one of several heads of the local Guild Merchants. I was hoping to use the chaos that is occurring within the city in order to remove the main competition to my business. There are six other Merchant Heads within the city. I’d be willing to pay you 1000 Gold for each one of them you removed from the equation.”
Tamsen quickly relayed this information to Donovan via the telepathic link they had established. Receiving his response, Tamsen telepathically communicated Donovan’s desires to Lucius for him to provide a counteroffer.
Lucius smiled upon hearing the words in his head. “Shalyn, Donovan isn’t interested in the gold. He would prefer to enter a silent partnership with you, since you are about to become the sole Merchant family in the city. Donovan proposes fifteen percent.”
Shalyn gulped hard at the idea, then pushed back, “You don’t understand how business is done around here. I have to pay for acquiring all the markets once the other families collapse. There are expenses in my line of work, and that’s just too steep of a request for me.”
Lucius waited a moment while the communication was passed between Tamsen, Donovan, and himself. On Donovan’s next response, Lucius chuckled, “Donovan proposes that if you are not interested in making this offer with our family, perhaps we should go and speak to the other family heads, to see if any of them would like to become the sole owners of business in this area, instead of you?”
Shalyn realized the implication of that statement, nervousness setting in as she recognized she was in no position to fight off these mercenaries should they be inclined to attack her, “No, I wasn’t saying I’m not interested in his offer. I’m just saying the percentage is high. Donovan understands how business is done. Perhaps a lower percentage rate?”
Lucius smiled, “I’m sure we can come to an arrangement. Since you have given us six targets, how about 12 percent? That works out to two percent per individual. Surely a whole business line is worth two percent?”
Realizing she had little say in the matter, Shalyn nodded, “That sounds reasonable. When can this be done?”
Lucius looked over at Bebop and Kirin. “I’m sure we can have that taken care of for you in no time at all.”
Within the course of the next few days, Shalyn Marsten became the sole family Merchant line in the whole of Farholde.

Week 23:
“Donovan, the Dragon! Mother has said it’s going to attack the Baron!”, Tamsen rushed into the workshop where Donovan was working.
“Damnit all! The fool!” Donovan began thinking up what his next movement will be. “We can’t let the man be destroyed for his own arrogance.”
Tamsen seemed concerned, “What do you want to do?”
“My love, take Bebop, Lucius, Kirin, and Trik with you, and bring the Baron back here. We can’t protect him from that location, and Father will be displeased if we allow him to be killed pointlessly.” Donovan seemed confident in his response.
Tamsen nodded, kissed Donovan on the lips, and left to head out with the group.

Arriving back at Farholde, Lucius dropped off the first group and began to head back for Traya and the others, as Donovan was convinced that the dragon would attempt a direct siege on the manor. The rest of the group headed to Baron Vandermir’s estate, determined to stop the foretold destruction of the Baron.
When they arrived at the manor, and presented themselves to the guards, they made it clear that it was an urgent matter of life or death. One of the guards attempted to disarm the group as before, until Tamsen stopped them in their tracks with her charming ways. Upon entering the manor it was clear that the Baron was displeased at their return, “This was not the arrangement we had agreed to. I was only to be meeting with Donovan.”
Tamsen replied sweetly, “Please forgive us Baron, we have recently discovered that the Silver Dragon that has been in the midst of Farholde for the last few months is now planning to attack you directly. Donovan was adamant that you were to be escorted to a safe location from this place.”
Arkov was incensed, “Your impertinence has led us to this situation. I knew I should never have gotten involved with the lot of you.”
Bebop pushed up to the Baron and growled fiercely, “Shut up! We’re here to protect you at Donovan’s request. He could have just as easily let you die.”
Arkov sighed, irritated. “Fine, I don’t need you. I have a summer home, I will simply depart for that place.”
Tamsen responded, “I’m sorry, Baron Vandermir. You’re going to have to wait until the other group of individuals arrive, so that we can defeat the Silver Dragon.”
Arkov snorted, “So, Donovan plans to use me as bait now. How typical.”
Finished with the conversation, Bebop picked up the Baron and tossed him in one of the closets. “Stay there until you are told to leave.”

The Dragon didn’t arrive for several hours. In the meantime, Bebop helped himself to the food and drink located through the manor. There was a journal being written by the Baron, which Bebop quickly snatched up. The guards considered assisting their employer, but a cross look from Kirin made them quicky think better of it. The Dragon arrived just as Lucius was returning with Traya and her team. It landed directly at the front of the manor, knocking out the front doors with the force of its landing.
“Where is Baron Arkov Vandermir?”, the Silver Dragon intoned forcefully.
Tamsen giggled, “He’s not here right now, can I take a message for him?”
The Dragon could sense the evil emanating from the individuals in the room. This was not the fight it had anticipated. “And who are you?”
“We’re employees of the Baron.”, Bebop responded confidently, even as the effects of the Mutagen began to take hold of his form.
“I have miscalculated. I should go.” The Silver Dragon was no fool. It realized the situation was already difficult, and this wasn’t going to make things easier.
“No, please stay. I’m sure we would all enjoy your company.” Kirin spoke up, as the darkness began to flow around him.
The Silver Dragon pulled back from the manor. Just as it began to take off, Traya’s hand made motions towards the dragon, and a Fireball was released. The Dragon snapped away, taken off course by the force of the explosion. It wanted to go back, but it could see that the fight would be lost. With a final roar, it ascended into the skies above, and out of reach of the family.

Arriving back at the Horn, the Baron was quick to make his displeasure known. “I knew when I met you that you were going to ruin my lives! I spent years slowly rebuilding and amassing my family fortune from the losses we sustained in the War. And now, in less than three months, the lot of you have cost me everything.”
Donovan sized up Baron Arkov Vandermir before speaking. “How many times did you ignore me in your arrogance, Baron? When I warned you that Elise and her group’s actions were going to draw attention to the city? When I told you there was a Silver Dragon searching for information in the town? You were so convinced that your hold over everything was inviolate, that you did nothing even as these threats began to grow.”
Arkov sneered, “Yes, it’s apparent that my relationship with all of you led me to great troubles. After all the suffering my family went through during the War, I was patient and carefully regrew my holdings. When the purges came, I carefully positioned myself not to take losses. And now, when the Cardinal returned to enact his plan, I risked much for your group. Too much, clearly.”
Donovan scoffed, “You’ve risked nothing! You never knew risk! You spent your time catering to whatever religious belief allowed you to survive, you exploited the poorest part of your city to increase your holdings, and you continue to play the part of the abused victim. I’m trying to save a country, you’re trying to save your hide. And yet, even still, I came to protect you, because you were kind to my family when we needed you.”
The Baron thought a moment, and then reconsidered his words, “Donovan, I am not ungrateful for your efforts. But, I have lost much today, am I not allowed to be upset at what has been taken from me?”
Donovan exhaled, “Of course, I understand. What do you need from me?”
Arkov continued, “I have a home far from this place, where I can have time to rebuild my fortune in another location. If you could provide me with one thousand gold, I could go there and lay low for the time being.”
Bebop handed Donovan the Baron’s journal, pointing out a section to him, “Yes Baron, I will do that on your behalf. Also, no I am not trying to raise the Sons of the Horseman. I have a task that requires me to take the steps I am doing, there is nothing more to it than that. Believe me, my motivations for this are based in family, not religion.”
Arkov nodded, “I understand. Well then, I thank you for saving my life.”
Donovan smiled, “Lucius can give you transportation soon. In the meantime, consider yourself our guest here at the Horn. We’ll see to getting you a room.”

Week 24:
The Baron left without much ado. Donovan had considered sending someone to imitate the Baron, and run the place in his stead, but the amount of time and energy such tasks would take could easily make it more time consuming than it was worth. He thought about the words that the Baron had said, how in such a short time, he and his family had brought so much harm to this city. Was there any possible way that the actions they were doing now could end well for Talingarde? Would he realize if he was doing more harm than good. Donovan pushed these thoughts out of his mind. What good would it even do now, with so much hanging on the line in a mere matter of weeks?

Tamsen entered the workshop where Donovan was busily working on Artephius, smiling excitedly.
Donovan returned her smile and kissed her. “You look like someone who has had a good day, my love.”
“He’s coming next week!” Tamsen almost squealed as she said the words.
“Who is coming?” Donovan looked at her with anticipation.
Tamsen moved up next to Donovan, whispering into his ear. “The Victor.”
Donovan chuckled, “Things just keep getting better and better, my love.”

Session 26 Ends.


Part 2: Call Forth Darkness
Act 3: Thirty-one Weeks
Session 27: The Knight’s Gambit

Week 25:
Sir Valin Darian had heard about the activities that were taking place at the Horn of Abaddon. For months, rumors had grown that there was a growing force of evil that was taking place there, with disappearances of several individuals who had gone to investigate. Sir Valin desperately wanted to go and personally stop this growing evil, but could not leave due to the demands that the War was taking. Still, even Sir Valin’s obligations could not hold back his desire to act against what he saw as a force to be repelled from the land. Sir Valin took a group of his loyal knights to discover the truth for himself.

“They’re coming!”, Bebop called out to the rest of the residents of the Horn.
The group worked their way towards the first-floor entrance, to watch as the group of knights began the trek up the mountain towards the entrance. Donovan contemplated the strength of the defenses at the Horn, and wondered if they would be sufficient in order to repel these intruders. Donovan realized he needed the Sir Valin Darian, descendant of the original “Victor”, in order for the ritual to proceed.

After some time had passed, the group of knights arrived at the entrance to the first floor, their way in to the Horn blocked by a set or portcullis gates that were manned in the rooms on the other sides of the entering hallway. The group was standing to the side of the entrance, allowing some of the residents of the Horn to see them through the kill holes that were placed up front, but preventing the larger group in the Horn from overseeing the plans or whatever was being discussed amongst the knights. One of the knights stumbled towards the outer portcullis, striking it with his heavy weapon, “Open the gates!”
“No.”, Donovan calmly responded, as he continued to stare out at the entrance to the Horn.
The knight shrugged, then walked away.
For his part, Donovan considered how the group would attack the Horn. Perhaps they would use magic to blow down the gates and make their way inside. Perhaps they would attempt to fight using ranged weapons through the spaces between the bars. Maybe the knights would use their physical strength in order to force the gates open. However, Donovan could not have anticipated what the knights actually ended up doing.
“Love, I think they have left.”, Tamsen spoke through her mental connection, after watching through one of the kill holes. “The group appears to have travelled back down the mountain.
“What?”, Donovan exclaimed. “Open the gates!”
As the individuals assigned to each of the separate portcullis pulled their respective levers, the gates began to raise. Donovan rushed out to the entrance of the Horn, only to discover that the group had already travelled down the mountain, well out of sight.
Donovan cursed at the discovery, “Gods damnit all!”
“What do you want to do about it?”, Lucius queried.
“I want you, Bebop, Kirin, and GrumbleJack to go down there, find them, and bring me back the Victor!”, Donovan growled in frustration.
Bebop rubbed his hands together, “Time to get messy!”

After Lucius and the others moved to the entrance, Lucius summoned several flying mounts, in order to intercept the group of knights who were now falling back. GrumbleJack unfurled his wings, and followed the others. It did not take long before the group had found the errant knights.
“There!”, Lucius pointed down at the group of soldiers. At the same time, the knights began to rearrange their positions, responding to the arrival of the family from the sky. As the group closed in, Lucius summoned several Lightning Elementals, positioning them at the ends of the line of horses, and behind the center of the line. Bebop quickly dived down, jumping off the mount as quickly as possible, and began to transform into his more dangerous self. Kirin and GrumbleJack also descended and began to head towards the mounted knights.

The knights prepared for their charge, but several of them found themselves entangled with the Lightning Elementals. Still, several of them, including Sir Valin, threw themselves at Kirin, while others attempted to attack Bebop and GrumbleJack. Kirin pushed back against them, but found himself assailed on multiple fronts by several of the knights. Bebop put down one of the knights, then rushed over to where the knights were amassing around Kirin, and activated Blistering Invective. Several of the knights burst into flames as their fears took hold.

Kirin and GrumbleJack continued to push in on the knights, the strength of their armor being tested by the force of the lances being struck into them. Kirin’s blade savaged its way through Sir Valin, knocking the Victor to the ground, unconscious. Unfortunately for Kirin, one of the other knights took advantage of Kirin’s focus on Sir Valin, viciously wounding him, and causing Kirin to pass out from the strike. The Lightning Elementals were also summarily destroyed by the knights.

Lucius flew down, summoning up a Dire Tiger to attack some of the straggling knights, while GrumbleJack continued to hold his own against several knights who attempted to overrun him. Bebop worked through the stragglers on his side, continuing to thin out the remaining ranks of the knights. Lucius called up Lucinda temporarily in order to buy himself time to apply healing to Kirin. To any who would have been watching this fight from the outside, it had become apparent that they tides had fully turned, and the knights were to be roundly defeated. There was no quarter asked or given, and none of the knights attempted to flee to save themselves. Even to the very end, each of those warriors gave themselves fully to the cause.

Once the fight was complete and the group’s injuries were partially removed, Bebop grabbed all the corpses and tossed them into the Portable Hole, along with the items that they had brought with them to the fight. Sir Valin Darian had survived Kirin’s attack, just barely, and was taken back to the Horn, the last piece of the Ritual now in place.

Lucius contemplated the actions that had taken place with the group that evening, as he and Tamsen laid naked in his bed together. “It seemed too easy, you know. All of those soldiers on their mounts, and we rushed in and dispatched them almost without incident.”
For her part, Tamsen smiled. “Perhaps you are more of a tactician than you have been giving yourself credit for.”
Lucius thought about the words said to him. “Perhaps.”

Session 27 Ends.


Part 2: Call Forth Darkness
Act 3: Thirty-one Weeks
Session 28: The Weakening Hold

Week 26:
Donovan had found himself working on the third floor of the Horn for a while. Between the repair and upgrade of the rooms on that floor, and checking in on the health and well being of the Victor, Donovan spent most of his days between performing the rituals and working with Artephius on the Horn.

It was on one of these nights that Donovan began to see flickering lights going on near the four altars on the third floor. Donovan looked into the room briefly, seeing the glowing and floating nights in the room, and then immediately moved away. “Absolutely not.”, Donovan thought to himself, on considering the possibility of investigating the matter further. He had already discerned what the creatures were and had no further interest in researching the matter. Mentally, he called out to Hexor and Vexor. Appearing next to him and Artephius, the Demons queried Donovan on what task he had for them. Pointing into the area with the shrines, he responded in an almost uninterested way, “Will of the Wisps. Go in there and destroy them utterly. They have no capacity to harm either of you.” Shrugging, the two demons walked into the Shrine and began attacking the creatures. The invisibility that the Wisps possessed proved useless against the demons, and they were soon wiped out. Not even waiting to see how the fight ended, Donovan returned to his previous efforts.

Later in the week,, Anagaz returned to the Horn, seeking out Donovan yet again. “Time has passed Donovan. I assume you have something of interest for me?”
Donovan regarded Anagaz. “I’m not sure if there’s something in particular that you would desire. Our enemies have brought little more than sticks to battle us with.”
Anagaz seemed disappointed. “Are you telling me there’s nothing of value that you have to trade anymore?”
Donovan noted that Anagaz’s eyes flicked across the collars being worn by Hexor and Vexor. Donovan smiled as he considered the offer being made, “Perhaps there is a trade I can offer you that would be beneficial to us both.” Donovan described a set of linked objects that he would be interested in, and then handed the Iron Amulets controlling Hexor and Vexor to Anagaz.
“Oh, you don’t want to wait until your objects have been found?” Anagaz questioned Donovan’s actions.
“If there is one thing in this world I am certain of, it is that you will return to me, because you are an individual who knows the value of a fellow merchant.” Donovan grinned as he replied.

Anagaz nodded as he took control of the Iron Amulets. Hexor and Vexor looked angrily at Donovan, but there was nothing that could be done. They would never see the return of Vetra-Kali, nor would they be able to free themselves from the shackles that bound them to service. The Mercane nodded once more to the family, and then teleported away in a moment, taking both his retinue and the Demons with him.

Bebop looked at Donovan with confusion, “Why would you get rid of those two? They would do anything you said!”
“We’re finally settling up all of our accounts.” Donovan replied, leaving Bebop to wonder if Donovan was even talking to him.

Week 27:
Bebop had been assigned to feed the Assassin Vines that had been planted outside the wall that was formerly the third-floor entrance. Donovan had installed a pair of sluices that allowed Bebop to pour blood from inside the Horn to where the Vines had been placed. Bebop was never a huge fan of the work, but it was one of the few actual tasks he had been assigned, and Tamsen made it clear that he would receive none of her attention unless he completed the tasks that Donovan had given to him. Thus, Bebop attended to the daily care and feeding of these dangerous creatures.

As Bebop began to pour the buckets of blood that had been obtained through various sources, an enormous crash landed against the Alchemical Concrete that had been placed in front of this entrance. Startled momentarily, Bebop fell back from the wall, as a roar was heard on the other side. From another part of the third floor, Donovan came rushing over to where Bebop was located. “What in the hells was that?”
“I think something is trying to get in.” Bebop replied as sections of the wall began to buckle and crack from the blows landing against it.
Donovan let his mind reach out to Tamsen, “My love, we are under attack on the third floor. Let everyone know to arrive here right away.”
Tamsen affirmed Donovan’s request, and began reaching out to the different members of the family. Moments later, the group began to ready themselves as the wall opened partially. A three headed creature screeched as the sections of wall fell through, and it was able to see the party.
“A Gorgimera!”, Donovan shouted out to the party. “Watch out for its breath!”
Almost as though on que, the creature stuck one of its heads, the one shaped as a metallic bull through the opening, and breathed onto certain members of the party. Kirin was struck with a majority of the blast, as he stared at the creature with hate filled eyes. It became apparent almost immediately that Kirin would not be affected by the Gorgon’s breath. Switching tactics, the Gorgimera pulled back the Gorgon head and instead breathed onto the group with its Dragon’s breath. The sickening and pungent smell of acid flooded the chamber.

However, this decision would prove to be a fatal one for the creature. Bebop, now in his enlarged form, grabbed the creature by its extended Dragon’s neck, and tossed it into the center of the room, breaking free the already loosened concrete. Before the creature had a chance to ascend within the room, it was beset upon by Kirin, Bebop, Lucinda, and GrumbleJack. Punishing blows lashed its body from all directions, as each of those brutal warriors inflicted grievous injuries onto the Gorgimera. Within moments, the creature found itself unable to move, and soon after, no longer living. It uttered a last word in Draconic, “Inconceivable.”, before falling to the ground unmoving. Donovan took a moment to consider if the creature could have somehow been reasoned with. Still, Donovan knew nothing about this entity, or the motivation that could have driven it to attack the Horn in the first place. It certainly wasn’t a guardian of the forest, so these mysteries would forever be lost with the Gorgimera’s life force.
“I wonder if we can take the scales off this creature.”, Bebop said hopefully, until he watched as the creature’s body broke open, the internal fluids causing a chemical reaction with its body, causing it to rust and melt into nothingness.
Donovan chuckled, “You were saying?”

A few hours later, Tamsen left her bedroom looking for Donovan. He was usually in bed with her during these hours, but tonight, had not appeared. She found him on the third floor, staring at the hole created by the Gorgimera. “Lover, what are you doing here? Are you coming to bed?”
Donovan looked away from the opening of the wall, and smiled weakly at her. “I’m not sure we can repair this in time before we are attacked again. That creature really weakened the structure of the walls in this area.”
Tamsen nodded with understanding as she reached out to touch Donovan’s hand. “I’m sure you’ll figure out something. You always have a plan.”
Donovan shook his head, seeming less than convinced. “I think we should move everyone into the Sanctuary for the time being. There are so many threats that could be deadly if one of the family got separated.”
Tamsen could see the stress setting into Donovan’s face. Every day he spent organizing and planning, and the attacks just continued to come. “That’s fine. We’ll start making plans for that tomorrow.” Tamsen took on a naughty smile as she pressed her form against Donovan. “But for now, come to bed my love. I need our special time together.”
Donovan’s hand slid across Tamsen’s face as he stared into her eyes. “I’d like that, very much.” Looking over to Artephius, Donovan issued an order, “Guard this entrance.” Then, Donovan and Tamsen walked to the bedroom, their hands intertwined.

Session 28 Ends


Part 2: Call Forth Darkness
Act 3: Thirty-one Weeks
Session 29: Wrath of the Wraith

Week 28:
“Traya, a moment of your time?” Donovan called out to Traya, who was sitting next to Hassan within the tavern area.
Traya was not expecting to be hearing from Donovan. As of late, it seemed he had been singularly focused on work throughout the Horn. As the weeks had progressed, it had become more and more apparent to her that Donovan didn’t actually have any need for her or the rest of her group, and was merely pacifying them. Could this be the betrayal that she had been expecting for a while now. “Yes, Donovan, how can I be of assistance to you?”
Donovan sat down on the other end of the table, facing her and Hassan. “You probably already noticed, but I have been moving people around inside the Horn. I’m attempting to consolidate our assets in order to minimize the risk that we might face going forward.”
Traya nodded. “That makes sense, of course. You have to take care of the things that matter to you.” Traya realized that she and her team hadn’t been asked to do anything as of late. She looked around the room, wondering if an invisible force was watching her and the others.
“As such, I’d like to go ahead and complete our business now.” Donovan smiled as he continued. “I know that I had asked you to stay for a few more weeks, but I feel like it would be safer if we parted ways before anyone dangerous arrived.”
It was not lost on Traya that Donovan didn’t consider her or her group “dangerous”. Had he been placating her all this time. “Are you asking for a discount for our work?”
Donovan shook his head. “Not at all, Lady Traya. I intend to pay you and all of your members the agreed upon amount. “
Secretly, Traya breathed a sigh of relief. Not only would she be done with this dangerous group of individuals, she would no longer have to find herself hit upon by Bebop. Still, a part of her could not help but desire more. “And what of the emeralds? Are they still up for negotiation?”
Donovan chuckled. “You are quite a confident woman, Traya. If somehow the Emeralds survive what is coming up, you and I can talk further about a split of those profits.”
Pulling out his coin purse, Donovan counted out the agreed upon amount, and set it in four piles in front of Traya.
Traya took the money, and began the process of rounding up her group to leave. She looked at Donovan momentarily before walking out of the Horn, “You are not at all what we expected to find here.”
“That’s probably a good thing, Traya.” A smirk crossed Donovan’s face, as the Raiders departed for their return to Farholde.

Week 29:
Bebop spent a good amount of his time in the Maw, working with the Boggards. Since the passing of James O’Toole, Bebop was tasked to continue the training of these creatures, in order to guide them on the path of maintaining a healthy food supply that could be maintained indefinitely. This included raising small animals, and growing crops that would survive in the limited light provided in that area. The work was challenging, not because of the physical labor, but rather because of the stubbornness of the Boggards. The creatures would frequently kill and eat the animals that were intended for breeding, and didn’t allow them an opportunity to grow the herd size. Bebop imagined that this is what it would feel like to raise small children, had his life gone in such a different direction, and he was thankful that he had never settled down into such a lifestyle.

Today, however, Bebop’s assignment was different. Donovan had instructed to him that the Boggards needed to leave their homes, as he believed the upcoming challenges would be fatal for them. Bebop looked around the living area, looking for the leader that had been installed. “Juko, there you are!”
Juko responded to Bebop, “Yes, I am here.”
Bebop smiled with the awkward grin he often employed when he wanted something from another individual, “I think it’s time that we deal with the remaining tribes that have not yet joined us.”
Juko tilted his head, “What did you wish for us to do?”
“Donovan believes you should take the tribe and set out for the encampments of the other Boggards. Between the training and weapons we have provided you, you should be able to defeat them easily.” Bebop sounded confident in his suggestion.
“You want me to take everyone in the tribe? Who will guard our children?” Juko expressed concern at the suggestion being put forward to him.
Bebop smiled and puffed up his chest, “I’ll take care of them.”
Juko was clearly concerned, “You?”
“Would you rather I tell Donovan you refused?” Bebop implicated a clear threat to the Boggard leader, who was immediately taken aback.
“No! Of course not! I just wanted to make sure our children would be protected. I’ll gather the members of the tribe.”
Bebop smirked, “Of course you will.”
Bebop grabbed one of the chickens that was still alive, and took it with him back into the upper levels of the Horn.

Week 31:
Donovan moved around the levels of the Horn, the silence pushed away by the booming stride of Artephius. Donovan felt a tinge of regret seeing how quiet the place had become, but it wasn’t long before his mind was drawn back into the moment.
“Donovan! What are you doing?” A hollow and angry voice rang out from behind Donovan. Donovan stopped walking, but didn’t even turn around to address the individual. “Lord Ezra, a delight to hear from you as always. I’m checking all the rooms in order to make sure nothing has gained access into the Horn.”
Ezra snarled without hesitation, “Don’t be daft, boy! I’m talking about the Boggards and the mercenaries you employed. Where are they?”
A smile twisted slightly onto Donovan’s face, “I sent them away, Lord Ezra. They were of no use to us, and they would most likely die in the upcoming conflicts.”
“What of Hexor and Vexor?” Ezra Thrice-Damned moved in front of Donovan, forcing his gaze. “Where are the Cuestodaemons that guarded this place?”
“Why, I sold them, of course. I could not guarantee what actions they might take, and they have a habit of destroying things at an inconvenient time.” Donovan’s eyes stared directly at Ezra, and Ezra knew that Donovan was making larger plans.
“They were not yours to sell!” Ezra hissed at Donovan.
Donovan remained unfazed. “You made it clear to me that all that was in the treasure room was mine to deal with as I chose. The Amulets that bound those two were included in that list. Had you not wished me to do so, you should have told me what I could and could not sell.”
“You think yourself so clever, Donovan.” Ezra moved closer to Donovan in a menacing fashion. “Perhaps I should kill you and show you how weak you actually are.”
Donovan scoffed, “We’re far too deep into this ritual for you to make such a bluff, Lord Ezra. You and I both know that you cannot complete the ritual currently, nor can you find replacements for the individuals lost should the ritual need to be started anew.”
Ezra felt his rage grow against this boy, who had maneuvered to stifle his own betrayal. “For now, Donovan. But this will not always be the case. You should consider carefully what enemies you choose to make.”
“Sage advice, Lord Ezra. Perhaps you should heed it yourself.” Donovan’s smile was obvious, and Ezra left in rage.
Once Ezra was out of sight, Donovan allowed himself to catch his breath, shaking at what he had endured. Gritting his teeth, Donovan grabbed a few chemicals from the Lab on the first floor. “I suspect our relationship isn’t going to get better from this point.”

Week 31:
The family moved into the Sanctuary on the top floor of the Horn, with Donovan giving clear instructions that they were not to leave this room. Bebop quickly began to grumble about the situation, as all the pleasantries of the redesigned Horn were not available here in the top floor. Still, from a security standpoint, it was hard to find a more secure location. Not only were the access points limited thanks to the changes that had been made to the walls, the group also had access to the Eyes of Vetra-Kali, which allowed them to scan the entire area of the Horn.
Unfortunately, boredom soon became a different sort of challenge, as the limited movement area and no access to anything beyond the room meant that the family was going to spend more time in an very enclosed space.

What the family did not realize, however, was how busy things were about to become over the next several days.

Day 217:
Donovan completed the Dusk Ritual, the tension on his body continuing to increase. He had spent much of the last few days attempting to consider all the vulnerabilities that the group would be going through, as he constructed plans and countermeasures to deal with those weaknesses. What he could not have foreseen was the entire Horn being struck with an earthquake that shook the structure to its very core.

The Horn began to shake violently, even as Donovan cried out to the family to rouse them from whatever activities they were engaging in. The wall that had separated the Sanctum collapsed, with several members of the family narrowing avoiding the worst of it. The shaking and moaning of the structure went on for what seemed like an eternity. When it finally ended, GrumbleJack and Bebop lifted off the collapsed wall from some of the family. All of them had endured some level of injuries, and Lucius and Tamsen worked together to make sure everyone was healed up.
Meanwhile, Donovan used the Eyes to study the other floors of the Horn. “Damnit, some of the outer walls collapsed. Bebop, we’re going to have to go out there and patch up what we can, to prevent any additional areas from breaking free.”
Donovan, Bebop, GrumbleJack, and Lucius began working on repairing the different holes that had appeared on the floors. The tavern was simply gone, having broken off and dropped to the bottom of the mountain. Similarly, a section of the wall on the third floor had also collapsed. The group began working as rapidly as they could in order to prevent more damage from taking place. Surveying that area, Donovan realized that the Horn had sustained an enormous amount of damage. It became apparent that the number of repairs that were going to be required would take longer than the group had before the end of the ritual. Moreover, the family knew that there was an inherent risk to performing work in such an unprotected fashion.
One by one, the members of the family returned to the Sanctuary. But Donovan stayed behind, determined to fix as much as possible. After a while, Tamsen came down to bring Donovan back with the others.
“Come back upstairs, lover. There’s nothing else you can accomplish tonight.” Tamsen regarded Donovan, and she could tell he was worn out. His hands were bloodied from picking up fragments, and his face was covered in sweat and grime.
Donovan looked up at Tamsen, the fatigue and frustration showing on his face, “You should take the boys and head back to Farholde.”
“What are you talking about Donovan?” Tamsen looked at Donovan with confusion on her face.
“It’s not safe for any of you here. Just go wait in Farholde, and I’ll take care of the rest of this myself.” Donovan sat on the ground, his head facing the floor.
“Don’t be ridiculous, love. We’re not leaving you up here to deal with this alone. I’m not leaving you, period.” Tamsen sat on the ground next to Donovan, taking his worn and bruised hands, as she activated her healing magics.
“Do you remember when we were in the garden outside of my parents’ estate? I would put my head in your lap and read you poetry, as you would stroke my hair.” Donovan mused to Tamsen, sadness in his voice.
Tamsen smiled warmly, “Of course I remember. I loved those moments.”
Tears welled in Donovan’s eyes. “I should have never suggested this insane plan. We were happy together, and I ruined it with my need to prove I was better than my father.”
Tamsen’s fingers stroked through Donovan’s hair, “It was for more than that, and you know it. You wanted to help all of us. Me, Bebop, Lucius. You believed we could have a world where we wouldn’t be treated differently for what we were. And we believe in you.”
Donvan pulled away from Tamsen, “But I can’t be sure you will all be safe now! I’m not willing to risk your lives on my plans. I want you all to go.” Donovan seemed insistent,
“You’re just tired, my love.” Tamsen attempted to calm Donovan’s frayed nerves. She could see that he was becoming more adamant. “Once you get some sleep, all of this will seem small by comparison.”
“No.” Donovan insisted. “I want you all gone.” Donovan’s eyes were focused.
“Please calm down, Donovan.” Tamsen attempted to soothe Donovan with her words. She could see what the fatigue was doing to his state of mind. “If you would just….Sleep… it will all get better.” Tamsen attempted to invoke her magics against Donovan.
For a moment, Donovan felt a wave of tiredness wash over his body. Then, his blood called out to him, and he realized what had happened. His anger quickly grew, “Despite what you might think of me, Lady Tamsen, I am still my mother’s child.”
Tamsen realized what had just occurred. Donovan’s Elvish heritage protected him against that type of magic, and he knew she had attempted to invoke it against him. “I’m sorry, love. I just wanted you to get some rest…”
“Artephius, take Tamsen to the outside of the Horn. She’ll be departing for Farholde.” Donovan stood up, his determination focused.
Tamsen looked up to see that Artephius was headed towards her. She knew her powers would do nothing against that creature. If there was just some way she could express her feelings to Donovan, some way she could remind him of how much they meant to each other. “Donovan, come home with me.” Tamsen spoke the words, and suddenly the space around where Tamsen and Donovan stood transformed. What was once a cold and barren floor suddenly became a lush garden with warmth and light coming from inside it.
Donovan looked around at the ground below him, and back to her. “Tamsen, what did you do?”
“I took us back to the garden, or perhaps I brought a piece of the garden here. Some place where you and I could be together, and remember all of those happy moments.” Tamsen was breathing heavy, her power exerted in creating something she had never made before.
Donovan looked around the garden, taking in the scents and touch of the flowers. The moments from their past came flooding back to him in waves, and he felt himself relaxing as he continued to stay there. As he looked back at Tamsen, he found himself overwhelmed with her beauty and sexuality. Donovan moved closer to Tamsen, his hands against her shoulders. “I’m sorry I got upset with you, my love. Can you forgive me?”
A smile returned to Tamsen’s face. “Perhaps, if you show me how sincere your apology is.” Tamsen bit her lip slightly in anticipation.
Donovan pushed Tamsen against the soft earth of the place she had made for them. “I want inside you, Tamsen.”
Tamsen nodded approvingly, as the two of them connected in a place both real, and made from their memories.

Day 218:
Donovan awoke to Tamsen’s kiss. “Lover, it’s time for the Dawn Ritual. Let’s get back up there.”
As the garden began to dissipate, Donovan felt something different about himself. “Last night was amazing, my love. That reminded me of the first time we sealed our Contract together.”
“You know you are still forever mine, don’t you Donovan?” Tamsen looked at Donovan with happiness in her eyes.
Donovan nodded, “Of course.”
“Good.”, Tamsen replied as she touched Donovan’s face. “Because I have invested more of my magics into you. You will come to me every night my love, and renew our vows.”
Donovan could see that Tamsen had an odd intensity to her look. He also noted that he felt different somehow, in a way he couldn’t put his finger on. Perhaps it was just from getting good rest, or good sex, or both. Whatever it was, Donovan was not going to complain about it, and instead proceeded back upstairs with Tamsen to complete the next ritual.

Later that evening, as Tamsen was performing the next ritual, the group would find themselves under assault again. An Avoral, a powerful bird-man like creature, would discover the Horn, and decide that a terrible thing was taking place that had to be stopped. The creature penetrated the barrier that was protecting the Horn from the outside, and then teleported directly into the Sanctum. Unfortunately, as the family was already gathered together in this location, it took very little effort for them to come together and overwhelm the Avoral. Donovan found himself mostly annoyed by the arrogance that the so-called defenders of the area would simply act without asking questions.

The bad news would continue to arrive for the family, as Bebop discovered that a Mud Elemental had spawned out of a pit in the Maw, and was attempting to work its way up. While it would not be able to access the Sanctum due to the entrance being walled off, it effectively meant that the family would not be able to leave again until the ritual was complete.

Day 219:
As Tamsen performed the Midnight Ritual, Bebop watched with hungry eyes. Bebop had been craving more of Tamsen’s attention, ever since she had developed her new power. The room was fairly quiet, with little more than Tamsen’s voice speaking the Abyssal words.
Just as the ritual was completed, there was an unusual shift in the environment. Someone, or rather something, had managed to enter the Sanctum despite the protections of the Silver Seal.

A group of monstrous hound like creatures began appearing within the Sanctum. Having roused the individuals that were sleeping, the family began their attack on these unwanted intruders. The creatures bayed and howled in horrific ways, their sounds altering reality. The movement of these creatures appeared to be very similar to teleportation, which further disoriented the party as they faced the beasts. Still, at the end of the fight, the family had their victory, with little more to show for it than a few bites and scratches. Donovan tried not to think about the further damage that the Mud Elemental was continuing to do to the lower levels of the Horn.

Day 220:
For some time now, the family realized that they were being followed by a Silver Dragon. Indeed, Donovan had warned them that the creature had a power breath attack, and had even ensured that the group had magical defenses to resist cold damage. So, when Bebop reported to Donovan that he saw the Dragon entering the third floor via one of the damaged entrances, the group knew what the expectations were. As the Dragon entered humanoid form and began smashing its way through the third floor, the family began to apply various magics to themselves to deal well with the fight.
By the time that the Dragon made its way through the winding and blocked staircase into the Sanctum, the family had situated themselves around the only entrance, and took advantage of the creature making itself available to strike. The icy breath that the Dragon used had no impact against the magics that were absorbing that element, and the creature was not able to return to its natural attacks until it was already heavily injured by the party.
Donovan shouted out to the creature, “Yield, dragon. Do not force me to have my family destroy you.” The Dragon, haughty and arrogant, would not hear Donovan’s imploring, and would instead be struck down a few moments later.

For all of the creature’s bravado, it was little more than a nuisance to the family. Donovan wondered if the fight had become easier due to Tamsen’s mother, or if the creature had never planned to seize victory in the first place.

Day 221:
Ezra Thrice-Damned could feel it. He sensed the weakness of the barrier. With only one day left to enact his plan, Ezra knew that if there was ever an opportunity to seal the power of the Eyes for himself, it would be on this day. With that in mind, Ezra instructed his spawn, former members of the Fifth Knot, a plan on how to take control of the Sanctum for himself. Donovan also came to the same conclusion as Ezra, and knew that the attack would have to come now. So, when he saw Ezra and his minions first rise up and enter the Sanctum, he had already laid the instructions of what the family should do. Trik loaded up the “special ammunition” that Donovan had prepared over the past couple of weeks, and Bebop had already had his Amulet modified to deal with this eventuality. At first, Ezra’s plan was simple. He was going to kill their strongest warriors and then take the others in later attacks. But then, Ezra watched as Donovan imbued one of the warrior’s weapons with the ability to strike him and his minions. Frustrated, Ezra and his spawn retreated, planning to return and destroy Donovan first. The family was prepared, as they changed their forms to all appear to be Donovan. Trik’s arrows were laced with an alchemical compound that would also harm the Wraiths. Over and over again, Ezra tried different tactics in order to take advantage of some weakness he could exploit in the party’s defenses; and over and over again, Donovan devised new tactics to throw Ezra’s plans awry. Ezra watched as one minion after another was struck down, while all of Donovan’s family persisted. Finally, with only Ezra left, he made a desperate ploy to attack Donovan directly, only too late to realize that he was actually attacking Bebop. Bebop, who already had a way of dealing damage to Ezra, viciously tore apart the incorporeal form of Ezra, until almost nothing was left. As Ezra faded into oblivion, he cursed Donovan. “You think yourself so witty, boy. But Vetra-Kali will see through your pitiful little games, and will punish you for your arrogance!”

Donovan stared at the space where Ezra Thrice-Damned’s form once existed, and contemplated the words said to him. Was Ezra right? Would Vetra-Kali anticipate the betrayal he had been planning all along? Whatever the outcome would be, it was far too late to change the plan now.

“We will see.” Donovan finally replied to the nothing that was still there. “We will see.”

Session 29 Ends.


Part 2: Call Forth Darkness
Act 3: Thirty-one Weeks
Session 30: A Demon’s Bargain

Day 222:
“They’re here!” Bebop ran around the Sanctum, waking the family, and spreading the news. “They have finally arrived!”
The individuals in question that Bebop was referring to were soldiers who were foretold to be arriving by Tamsen’s mother. But these were not simply men for hire or soldiers bent to righteous vengeance. These were the children of some of the more influential individuals who were killed during the attack on Balentyne. Undoubtedly, they came seeking revenge for the family and friends that were lost during that attack. But, these individuals were not the only ones who sought vengeance for what took place on those fateful days.
As Donovan approached the Eyes to look out upon these warriors, a familiar face was found among them. “Tacitus.”, Donovan growled as the anger was drawn across his face.
The other members of the family looked towards Donovan. All of them shared a desire to take back what had been stolen from them. But for Donovan, Tactitus was a walking reminder of his failures. Tamsen sensed Donovan’s rising fury, and moved next to him, touching him softly on the shoulder. Looking away from the Eye for a moment, Donovan smiled warmly at Tamsen, and placed his forehead against hers.
Tamsen looked through the Eyes, seeing the source of Donovan’s distress; but someone else caught her attention. “Is that Havelyn?”
Donovan scoffed at the notion, “Havelyn? That’s not possible. We were responsible for his death.” Taking the Eye from Tamsen and looking through it again, he paid greater attention to the individual Tamsen was referring to. It wasn’t the Commander from Balentyne, but the resemblance was uncanny. Suddenly, the realization set in for Donovan.
“Richard Havelyn, son of Thomas, and the nephew of…”, Donovan’s words trailed off as he considered the ramifications of the young Paladin’s arrival.
Lucius called forth Lucinda, and began applying magics to the group. Lucius had mastered several protective spells by this point, including Stoneskin and Protection From Energy. Bebop had already consumed the Mutagen, allowing his form to be altered by the powerful Alchemical forces. Kirim prayed to Asmodeus, seeking the blessings of the dark god, which were soon manifested around him.
“What do you want to do, Donovan?” Lucius questioned how the attack would proceed.
“Take Bebop, Kirim, and Lucinda; and teleport them behind Tacitus. Give him no quarter. For all he did to our family, we will repay him tenfold over.” Donovan was stoic in his response.
“I assume we will be killing all of them.” Kirim stated confidently.
Donovan looked to Kirim. “No. Richard Havelyn is to be stopped, but not killed. I want him for the Cardinal.”
Kirim looked irritated at the thought of allowing a Paladin to survive.
“I assume we’re taking all of their stuff?” Bebop’s answer was predictable, if nothing else.
Donovan waved his hand dismissively. “Fine, I don’t care. All that matters now is Tacitus. Now go, Lucius, and seize our revenge!”
Lucius nodded, and used Dimension Door to move the four of them to where Tacitus and the others were preparing for the attack.

Richard Havelyn was a bold individual, anxious to strike back at what he saw as the evil that attacked Balentyne and killed his father those many months ago. When he came upon Tacitus, he was relayed the myriad of stories regarding how this group of devil worshipping individuals had so quickly turned matters to ruin within the watch tower. And Havelyn would have been more than willing to lay down his lie life as his father did in the service of Balentyne. But Tacitus was not so headstrong or desperate for revenge. Tacitus rightfully assumed that the individuals who were responsible for the fall of the tower were now plotting some nefarious tasks here at the Horn of Abaddon. The group had been careful, of course. They spoke with no one about their plans, and gave no information that would allow the evildoers any advantage. Sadly, they could not have predicted that Tamsen’s mother would be so forthcoming with her information. As the warriors of Balentyne began to prepare themselves with protective magics, they suddenly found themselves surrounded and separated from one another. First, four individuals arrived, blades and claws swinging directly against Tactius. Then, another group suddenly teleported in, attacking the other members of Tacitus’ party. Bebop’s claws rent into Tactitus’ face, as he squealed in anger. There was no time for these protectors of Balentyne to take stock of their situation, to create battle opportunities on the field. Tacitus knew he had to make a terrible decision, to save himself and the legacy of the Commander. Grabbing Richard Havelyn by the shoulder, Tacitus teleported the two of them away from the battle, leaving the others to their fate.

“We have to go back!”, Richard Havelyn cried out, as soon as he made sense of the change of surroundings.
Tactius, who was bloodied and lying on the floor, coughed out his response. “We can’t go back. They are already dead.”
Havelyn began to call upon his divine abilities to aid Tacitus recovery. He was annoyed at having to flee from the fight in that manner; but he also recognized the wisdom of what Tacitus had said. The group was woefully unprepared for such a brutal surprise attack. The stories that Tacitus had told him about this family had proven to be true. They were vicious and terrifying warriors who would act without hesitation or mercy. If he was to go against them again, he would have to develop better tactics.

Back at the Horn, Donovan was frustrated. “No!”, he cried out as he watched the two prizes he cared most about slip through his fingers.
Moments later, the family slew the other individuals who had arrived. Without the support of the Wizard or Paladin, the fight became almost trivial.
With the fight at an end, Bebop set about stripping the gear from the fallen soldiers. While he was irritated at not having completed the task, he was happy that at least something he killed produced a reward he could hold in his hands.
“How did he teleport past the barrier?” Donovan stared into the distance, thinking about what he had seen.

The rest of the day passed wordlessly, as each of them sat around contemplating what was to take place in a few hours. Would they have to fight? What would Vetra-Kali say after all that had taken place here? And of course, all of them looked to Donovan, wondering what his plan was. Donovan never gave them any sort of battle instructions. Either he didn’t believe it would be necessary, or didn’t think it would help. Midnight arrived, and Donovan performed the final ritual himself, as all of them stood around watching. As before, he offered the Victor a tonic that would allow him to sleep undisturbed through the course of the ritual, but was rebuffed.
“You’re all monsters, and you will be punished for your evil acts.”
Donovan nodded to the man, “Perhaps you are right. But some things are worth being punished for.”
As the blood of the Victor was spilled, and the last incantation was recited, a rumbling could be felt throughout the Sanctum. With an enormous crash, the Silver Seal shattered into fragments throughout the room, cutting and tearing into the members of the family. But there was no time to heal from the injuries sustained, as a portal began to open where the seal once resided. Crawling out of the swirling mass, a malevolent creature appeared in the room before them. A familiar voice intoned “I am” in Abyssal.
“Vetra-Kali Eats the Eyes, we welcome you.” Donovan greeted the creature in Abyssal. “A Luekodaemon.”, Donovan quickly informed the group in Infernal.
“Where are my eyes? I must have them!” The creature called out, touching its face with desperation.
“I have your Eyes, Vetra-Kali.” Donovan replied in calm tones.
“Give them to me!”, the Demon insisted forcefully.
“For the first eye, I require that you neither harm nor cause to be harm me or any that follow me. Do we have a compact?” Donovan held out one of the massive emeralds.
“Yes, yes.” Vetra-Kali replied, and Donovan tossed the Eye to it. The creature consumed the Eye, which then manifested in its eye socket. It could see them now, if only slightly.
Donovan continued, “For the second eye, I require that you give unto me the Tears of Achlys within a container that I may transport it. Do we have a compact?”
Vetra-Kali chuckled. “The Tears of Achlys! You wish to have it? Will you make sure that it is spread to the four corners of this world?”
Donovan’s answer was intentionally evasive, “I will see it dispatched as appropriate for such a thing.”
Vetra-Kali paused, but had little choice in the matter. It produced a vial, handing it towards Donovan. Donovan quickly grabbed a Bag of Holding that he had previously emptied out in anticipation of this, and grabbed the Vial using the bag itself instead of his hand.
Vetra-Kali chuckled. “Now my Third Eye.”
A wicked smile crossed Donovan’s face, “Indeed. For the third eye, you will agree to return to the place from whence you came, and never look upon or return to this plane of existence again. Do we have a compact?”
The rest of the family looked at Donovan in surprise. This was his plan all along. To double cross Vetra-Kali at the first opportunity. For its part, Vetra-Kali growled at Donovan in agreement.
After receiving the eye, Vetra-Kali howled with anger and ferocity at Donovan. “Traitors! Devil-whores! All of you, and especially you…” Vetra-Kali briefly fixated his gaze upon Kirim, before turning back to Donovan to continue. “…have the stench of Asmodeus upon you! You think you have won? You think you have beaten me? Taste my vengeance!” With the last words, Vetra-Kali slammed his fist into the floor of the Sanctum, then disappeared back into the portal from where he entered.
A moment later, the Horn began to shudder and groan everywhere. The family began looking around nervously.
“Donovan, I think we need to get out of here.”, Bebop spoke up.
Donovan gritted his teeth, as he began to realize what was happening. “Tamsen, Lucius, Dimension Door us out of here!”
Lucius and Tamsen moved the group down to the Maw, from which everyone quickly walked out, looking back at the Horn as it began to collapse. The structure caved in on itself, with the floors buckling and falling down onto the lower levels. By the time it was finished, there was nothing left that could be salvaged.

Donovan broke the seal open to contact Tiadora. Arriving at the scene, she wasted no time with pleasantries. “Do you have it?”
Donovan opened the bag and leaned towards Kirim. “Kirim, please take out the vial and hand it to Lady Tiadora.”
Kirim complied silently, fishing out the vial, and then giving it to Tiadora. Once Tiadora had the vial in her hand, she teleported away. Donovan was slightly confused by this, as he assumed they would want to have it delivered to the destination. Donovan’s confusion was relieved once Tiadora came back. “Excellent work, my Lords. Catch.” Tiadora tossed the vial towards Donovan, but Kirim quickly snatched it out of the air, and placed it gingerly back into the Bag of Holding.
“The Master is pleased with your work, and sends his regards.” Tiadora produced a large bag of emeralds, which Donovan found fitting given that the Eyes of Vetra-Kali had been rumored to be emeralds. “You are to leave this place and head to Ghastenhall. This letter will explain your mission.”
Placing the letter in Donovan’s hands, Tiadora teleported away.
With Tiadora gone, Donovan turned back to what remained of the Horn of Abaddon. “All that work, our home is gone.” Donovan was crestfallen.
Tamsen moved over to Donovan, kissing him on the cheek. “Home is what we make, my love. I know you’ll make the perfect place for all of us.”
As Lucius summoned carriages to take the family back to Farholde and on from there, Donovan considered the words of Tamsen. What would their home look like, and would they all be able to find it together?
“I hope so.” Donovan replied to Tamsen a while later.

Session 30 Ends.


Part 3: Tears of the Blessed
Act 1: Ghastenhall
Session 31: Red in the Ledgers

The group arrived rapidly in Ghastenhall, thanks to the Teleportation abilities of Lucius and Idrees. After all the months spent in the relative isolation of the Horn of Abaddon, the rush of people all around was a welcome sight. Bebop was especially excited at all the activity and awakening of his senses. He was almost bouncing with excitement. Donovan looked over at him, counted out several hundred gold into a smaller sack, and handed it over to Bebop.
“Go have fun, you’ve certainly earned it. Try to learn something useful about the area.”, Donovan spoke, unsure if Bebop even heard the last part of his sentence.
Lucius chuckled, “Ah, to be young.” After pausing a moment, he continued, “I assume you are going to go meet with Barnabus Thrane now?”
Donovan shook his head, “Not just yet. I need to know a lot more about the Tears of Achlys before I take any action.”
Donovan handed money to Lucius, “Take Kirim and go find us an area where our whole group can remain for the time being. We’ll present ourselves to Father’s agent once I know more about what we are working with. Try and gather whatever information you can find.”
Lucius, Kirim, and most of the others left to find out what they could discover of this city, leaving Donovan, Tamsen, and Artephius behind.
Sliding up next to Donovan, Tamsen smiled, “Does this mean you are taking me out on a date now?”
“I would gladly take you anywhere, my love.”, Donovan replied, placing his forehead against hers. “However, we should take some of the time we have to ourselves to understand more about this area we’ve been sent to.”
With that, they began exploring the streets of the bustling merchant city. After selling off the trinkets that they had received, they struck up conversations with the various shop owners in order to discover more about this town. The two of them heard about the festival of “Princess Iris of Ghastenhall”. Donovan looked at Tamsen upon hearing that name.
“Iris, that name sounds so familiar, something we’ve heard from our recent past.”, Donovan opened his thoughts to Tamsen, letting his thoughts drift silently to her.
“Yes, lover. Iris is the name of the individual we found on the wall with a group of other names within the Horn of Abaddon.”, Tamsen’s fingers slid through Donovan’s hair, as she responded to his thoughts with her own.
Realization struck Donovan, as he quickly fumbled through one of his purses for a small ring. Engraved into the ring were the initials “IoG”. “Of course, now I remember!”, Donovan’s thoughts were eager and excited, even as they continued to listen to one of the shop keepers describe how the upcoming festival included a legend that any individual who could prove the fate of the Princess would be granted a boon by the Duke. Donovan and Tamsen’s eyes locked together, as they smirked silently at each other.
“That’s a very interesting story.”, Tamsen replied to the shopkeeper.

As Lucius, Lucinda, and Kirim took the rest of the family around town to find a place to stay, they came across an individual who was being assaulted in the alleyway. Kirim pushed himself up to the individuals who were accosting the victim, his eyes brimming with a soulless gaze.
“Perhaps you’d like to fight someone more capable?”
Looking at his intimidating and burning form, the hooligans decided to reconsider their actions, and fled quickly into the night. Upon their departure, Lucius provided magical healing to the individual.
“You are good folk,”, the man wheezed out as his injuries began to close up.
“Why were you the target of those thugs? Did you have something they wanted?”, Lucius responded with a caring smile, as Kirim stared stoically down the alleyway.
“No, it is the way of the Evil One. He sends people to accost the weaker of us.”
“The Evil One?”, Lucius queried. “Who might that be?”
“I dare not speak his name, as he will surely send the vampire lord to take me away!”, the old man seemed agitated, as Kirim scoffed.
“A vampire lord, how very intriguing.”, Lucius because curious at the information.
Looking nervously around the area, the man forced himself weakly to his feet. “I have to get out of here, before they come for me!” With that, the man fled into the night.
Kirim looked unimpressed. “Fables and legends. Everyone wants to blame some creature for their own weakness and cowardice.
Lucius looked at Kirim and pondered, “Perhaps. But if I know Donovan, he’ll want to investigate this matter further. Even the stories of legend come from a word of truth.”

Bebop was all too excited to be in this town. The freedom and opportunity that he felt was extended to him was enthralling. He asked the right, or possibly wrong, questions and found his way to a place called the Golden Palace. Upon arriving there, Bebop enjoyed his first taste of the local “blood rum”. While there was no blood actually contained in the rum, the beet roots used in place of sugar also colored the drink their unique shade. Bebop interacted with many individuals throughout the evening. As different options and enticements became aware to Bebop, he overheard discussions of a “fighting pit”. Bebop felt his excitement and eagerness rise, anxious to discover more.
“Where can I learn more about this fighting challenge?”, Bebop asked the wait staff that was attending to him.
“You’ll need to speak with Master Vex to hear more about the activities, and see if you can receive an invitation.”, the attractive member of the staff informed Bebop.
Bebop looked at the money he still had from the evening’s adventures. While he was not yet broke, he doubted he had enough money in order to gain an invitation to an exclusive fighting club, especially not if he wanted to actually participate.
“Maybe I should go meet back up with Donovan and tell him about this place.”, Bebop mumbled to himself.
Looking around, Bebop was approached by a lovely creature who seemed interested in sharing her time with him, for the right price.
“No reason for me to rush though, I’m sure he’s doing something boring anyway.”, Bebop laughed, before accompanying the woman into one of the rooms purpose made for the activity in question.

Later that evening, the family convened at a location on the outskirts of the city that Lucius had found for them. Stories were shared between them, as Donovan continued to stare intently at the vial containing the Tears of Achlys. After a while, Lucius spoke up, “I assume you are taking that to Barnabus Thrane, as per our instruction.”
“Not yet, Lucius. I need to know more about what we are dealing with.”, Donovan responded with an absentminded tone.
“You all have to come with me to the Golden Corral! There’s a fighting pit there, and that’s a real chance for us to make money.”, Bebop spoke excitedly about his recent trips.
Without looking, Donovan pulled out several stacks of coins, and set them next to where he was sitting. “Lucius will go with you. See what possibilities are there for us.”
“And what are you going to do?”, Lucius asked.
“I need to head back to the Library of Ghastenhall, to learn more about this vampire you spoke of.”, Donovan responded.
“Gods, you are boring!”, Bebop mocked Donovan, which caused Tamsen to giggle.
“No, he’s not.”, Tamsen retorted, kissing Donovan sweetly.

The next day, the groups headed off their separate ways. Tamsen accompanied Donovan to the Library.
“You know you didn’t have to follow me around, my love. I’m certain this isn’t a fun thing for you to be doing in this wide city.” Donovan spoke with Tamsen as they walked.
“I know I don’t have to be with you. I choose to be.”, Tamsen reaffirmed her intentions.
Going into the Library, the two of them obscured their identity to prevent Thrane from noticing them when they would later return.
“Alright my love, see if you can find any information related to vampire rumors and legends within the books here. There has to be some reference to this gossip.”, Donovan spoke mentally to Tamsen.
Tamsen looked around with trepidation before responding wordlessly, “There are so many books here.”
“You’ll be fine. I’m sure you can find someone to assist you.”, Donovan chuckled as he walked away.
Donovan began walking across the different aisles where the books were kept. It was an impressive sight, even more impressive than the library of his mother. Working through the different rows of tomes and manuals, Donovan found a reference to the “Tears of Achlys”. According to his research, the Tears were no ordinary affliction, but were instead the manifestation of a Spirit of Disease. Drawings and descriptions of people who were afflicted by this ailment were displayed in the work, and the whole of it turned Donovan’s stomach as he considered what would become of the population of Talingarde should such a plague be released upon them. What would become of his family, both new and old? Donovan felt a growing resolve to attempt to prevent this calamity from befalling his country, as he stood over the pages describing the disease.
Just then, Tamsen set another book on top of the one Donovan was studying. “Look what I found!”
Donovan’s eyes began scanning the pages. Gaius Vestromo was a member of the well known Vestromo family. The legends told of how his family fell from grace hundreds of years ago, and Gaius was afflicted with the curse of vampirism. Donovan continued studying about this individual, as Tamsen looked at him with curiosity.
“Are you thinking about growing the family, Donovan? I don’t think he’s going to be interested in our plans.”, Tamsen whispered softly, and giggled.
Donovan suddenly looked up, an intensity in his eyes. “My love, I’m going to ask you to do something terrible. Can you trust me?”
A smile crossed Tamsen’s face. “Of course, I trust you with all my heart. But now you have my curiosity. What did you have in mind?”
Wordlessly, Donovan elaborated to Tamsen about his plans, and Tamsen listened to his voice in her mind. She felt a sense of trepidation wash over her, even as she agreed to all Donovan proposed.

Bebop returned to the Golden Palace, with Lucius and Kirim in tow. Lucius was for more effervescent than Bebop, and it didn’t take long before Lucius found way for him and the others to learn about the entry to the fighting pits, and to meet with Mister Martigan Vex sooner than Bebop himself would have been able to do. Upon arriving in the arena like area, Lucius began speaking directly with Master Vex.
“Master Vex, it is an honor to finally meet you. This whole establishment is amazing, especially this arena.”
“Why thank you, Lucius. The people of this town need something to look forward to, especially during these troubling times.”, Vex replied with a wide smile.
“My friend here would be very interested in participating in these matches, if such a thing could be arranged.”, Lucius queried optimistically.
“Certainly, there’s a small entry fee; but that’s nothing compared to the prizes that are available to those who can handle the challenges within. Of course, you’ll have to wait to see if these other two can beat them first.”, Vex pointed at the two men waiting just outside the arena.
Lucius smiled and handed Vex the fee. “I’m excited to see what you have brought to entertain the crowds with.” Having said that, him and the others took seats outside the arena.
A short while later, Vex approached the center of the arena, making his opening announcements. He spent several minutes raising the excitement of the crowd, until the cheers and roars reached a fever pitch as the first contestants were pitted together. The first beast that entered the match was a two headed snake that appeared to be at least twice as long as the man battling it.
Lucius and the others watched as the man in the arena attempted to battle this exotic creature. Perhaps the size of the creature intimidated the man to the point he was not able to fight properly. Perhaps he was ill equipped to deal with two coordinated attacks coming from the same side. Whatever the reason was, the man found himself being struck again and again by the snakes quick bites and deadly poison. Although he was able to land a few blows on the snake heads, he was soon overwhelmed by the creature.
Bebop rubbed his hands together in excitement. “Alright, I get to take a crack at this fighting game!”
Lucius looked pensively at Kirim. “Did you also wish to join him in this sport?”
Kirim snorted in disgust, “I don’t kill for sport.”
Lucius nodded, “Then what do you kill for?”
“I kill for Asmodeus, and for my people.” Kirim stared at Lucius with his soulless black eyes. Lucius chuckled slightly to cover his shudder, then looked away.
“Donovan was right about this one.”, Lucius thought to himself. “He is a true believer.”
Down at the entrance way into the arena, Bebop consumed his Mutagen, and felt his body change and shift as the energies took a hold of him. The other individual who had been waiting to go before him reconsidered after seeing the last fight, so Bebop was called into action next.
Once more, Master Vex made the introductions, and it was now Bebop’s call to enter the pit. Bebop watched as the two headed snake once more slid into the arena as he had seen it do previously, but Bebop was ready. His muscles were coiled, having spent the last several weeks always being ready to explode into combat in a moment’s notice. And then, Bebop exploded into his action. In a matter of moments, Bebop had dashed over to the other side of the pit where the snake was approaching, and unleashed a torrent of claws, fangs, and hooves. It happened so fast, the audience could barely react to what had taken place. They watched as a creature that had selectively overwhelmed the previous combatant fell limp onto the arena floor. Lucius slapped his forehead in annoyance. He had been trying to set up a long set of wagers in order to get people to start betting on Bebop, but a fight with that quick of an ending wasn’t going to elicit a lot of enthusiasm from the fight coordinator.
There was a delay as everyone finally realized what had just taken place. Quickly, Vex dashed back into the arena, regaining the enthusiasm of the crowd, and celebrating Bebop’s overwhelming victory.
Bebop smugly returned to the group, as Lucius stared at him in disbelief.
“Which part of holding back did you not understand, Bebop?” Lucius chided Bebop for his impatience.
“I was holding back!”, Bebop insisted as Lucius rolled his eyes.
Almost as if on cue, Vex arrived with a sack of coins in his hand. “Here you go, your winnings for tonight’s showing.”
Lucius stepped forward, “We’re not accepting that money, Master Vex. We’d prefer to donate it to your staff for their efforts in taking care of these fine animals.”
Bebop interjected, “I’m sorry about that. I didn’t mean to win the fight so fast.”
Vex produced his signature smile, “Well, sometimes the audience does like to see a powerful victory like that. It gives them something to get excited about. But you are right, it’s an expensive proposition to put in all that work on finding exotic animals like these only for them to be destroyed in an instant.”
Lucius stepped closer, “About that. It occurred to us that perhaps I could provide you a source of exotic creatures that are easier to come by, and would not require the same level of care and feeding you are currently putting into them.”
Vex raised an eyebrow, “What did you have in mind?”
Lucius smiled, and began to describe his plans in detail to Martigan Vex.

Later that evening, the gathered back together outside of the Barcan Cemetery.
“Why are we here, Donovan?”, Bebop asked with a sense of concern in his voice.
Donovan responded dryly, “We’re here to meet a vampire, hopefully.”
“Damnit! Of course, that’s what we are doing! I can’t believe you made me leave the Golden Palace for this!” Bebop seemed more annoyed than afraid.
“Can I ask why we are meeting with a vampire?”, Lucius chimed up.
“Not yet, I’m sorry.” Donovan looked at Lucius with eyes full of regret and determination.
With that, Donovan began walking in to the cemetery, with Tamsen and GrumbleJack directly behind him. After getting further inside the cemetery area, Donovan spoke up once more.
“GrumbleJack, you have the ability to Detect Undead, correct?”
“Yes, boss.”, GrumbleJack nodded.
“Now would be the time to start.”, Donovan spoke quietly to GrumbleJack, then spoke out much louder than everyone expected. “My name is Donovan Thorn. I seek an audience with Prince Gaius Vestromo.”
A short while later, GrumbleJack grunted to Donovan, “That way.” He pointed in a direction, and Donovan began walking towards it. The group arrived at the entrance into a mausoleum. Two humanoid creatures were standing outside the doorway, their hands pointed to the entrance.
“I guess we’ve been given an audience.”, Donovan murmured to the group in Infernal.
The entrance was too large for GrumbleJack to enter, so him and Artephius were instructed to wait outside as the others made their way into the ruined edifice. As the last of the group began making their way down a long set of stairs, one of the creatures placed a slab against the entrance, smothering what small remnants of light still remained. Nervously, Lucius activated a Light cantrip, as he was the only one in the group without any sort of sense that would allow him to see with such poor lighting. The group continued down into the mausoleum, now expanding into something else. Donovan realized that they had connected to a set of tunnels that ran under the city. Against one of the walls of these tunnels, a crude throne like object had been erected, and a gaunt humanoid creature dressed surprisingly well sat there. The creature stood up and approached the family.
“You smell delicious.”, the creature said with a dignified accent. “But, you don’t smell Mitran. Perhaps you could explain what you are doing here before my family feeds on you?”
Donovan stepped forward, “Prince Gaius Vestromo, my family and I come to you tonight with a matter of grave urgency. As a long time ruler of this land, I know you seek to ensure the well-being of Ghastenhall. I seek your aid on matters of both this town, and the country of Talingarde.”
Vestromo seemed curious. Who were these individuals who were so confident even in the face of such peril? And who was the man who was speaking with the Prince with such confidence and conviction?
“Alright, you have my curiosity. I’m willing to hear more.” Vestromo wanted to know what this person would do next.
“My family and I are wearing objects that allow my conversation to be monitored.”, Donovan responded.
The Prince tilted his head, “Then what do you propose?”
Donovan’s eyes traveled to Tamsen. “If you would allow her to connect directly to your mind, I can elaborate further.
Vestromo looked over the frame of Tamsen. In life, he imagined that such a creature could easily have seduced him. Even now, her eyes betrayed something underneath her gorgeous surface. Still, he sensed no deception from the person speaking to him, so he clasped hands with Tamsen.
The Prince watched as Tamsen stared into his eyes. He found himself being drawn into her gaze. Was she using hypnotism? No, it was something else, something more intimate. He took in her scent, her form, her smile. Moments later, he could hear her voice inside her head. “Can you hear me, Your Majesty?”
Vestromo spoke back using his thoughts, “I can hear you, my childe.”
Tamsen smiled, then looked over at Donovan and nodded.
Tamsen continued speaking with Vestromo telepathically. “Alright, Prince Vestromo. Donovan is going to say things to me, and I’m going to repeat them back to you. I will relay any questions you ask, but understand only my mind is connected to yours.”
Vestromo nodded, then listened to the words being relayed by Tamsen.
“My name is Donovan Westermeyer. My family and I were arrested several months ago, and were sentenced to death. We were saved by an individual named Cardinal Adrastus Thorn. As part of the conditions of his salvation, we were forced into a contract with him in order to overthrow the ruling body of Talingarde. My family and I recently performed a ritual inside the Horn of Abaddon. As part of that ritual, we summoned a luekodaemon that provided us with a disease called the Tears of Achlys. Cardinal Thorn intends to release this disease on the population of Talingarde, in order to ensure that the bugbears will succeed in their military victory to overthrow the ruling government. Because of the contract that we are in, we cannot prevent this action from occurring. However, I know that we are to deliver the vial containing this disease to an individual named Barnabus Thrain who is a scholar at the Library of Ghastenhall.”
The family sat around nervously looking at one another, as no words were being spoken within this area. Meanwhile, a thoughtful look crossed the Prince’s face.
“This is very interesting. I take it you all want me to send my minions to kill this man once you have delivered the vial to him?”
Tamsen continued Donovan’s responses. “I am not suggesting you kill him, Your Majesty. I leave the outcome of that individual to your wisdom.”
“And the vial, this Tears of Achlys? Are you wishing it for yourself?”, Vestromo shot back via his thoughts.
“No, Your Majesty. Such a thing should not be in the hands of anyone who would allow it to bring harm to Talingarde.”, Tamsen proxied Donovan’s response again.
“And what will I gain for performing this task for you, Donovan?”
“You will ask a service of me and my family, and we will attend to it on your behalf.”
Vestromo paused for a minute. He could see that this group was both desperate and resourceful. He knew such things to be a dangerous but effective combination.
“So, what happens now?”, Prince Gaius Vestromo asked Tamsen through thought.
“Now, we negotiate for the part I want the Cardinal to see.”, Donvan’s response came through.
A pause, and then Vestromo spoke aloud. “What is you seek from me and my family?”
Without a hesitation, Donovan continued. “Your Majesty, my family and I seek to bring down the Vale of Valtaerna. You command a powerful group of creatures that could be instrumental in such a task.”
Vestromo was surprised, as much as a creature that had seen as much of life as he had could be. “The Vale of Vestromo? You seek to bring its destruction?”
Donovan nodded, “Indeed.”
Thoughts came together in the Vampire Prince’s mind. Perhaps this family could be of use to him, after all. “Since you have been so forward with me, perhaps I can grant a small bit of that to you as well.” There was a notable pause, and then Vestromo continued, “The curse that sustains me through immortality has been weakened. The cursed Mitrans have stolen an important family relic from me, the Chalice of Aurelius. If I were to have such a thing and consume blood from it, my strength and the ability of me to create stronger childer, would be renewed.”
Donovan nodded, “I understand your request, and my family will see to it being completed.”
Vestromo offered further, “Additionally, if you are able to somehow acquire the blood of an angel, I would even be willing to grant a member of your family a true portion of my renewed power. Not as these pathetic creatures…”, Vestromo gestured to the spawn standing defensively around him. “But as another of my kind, capable of shaping the world in your own immortal vision.”
Donovan pondered the Prince’s request, “We will see what opportunity provides us, Your Majesty.”
Vestromo felt it, something exciting inside of him. Was this hope? Hope that these people could finally allow him to be something more than he had been for centuries? “In exchange for your efforts, I will provide you with ten of my loyal children. While they lack my strength, they are still more than capable creatures who will never fail to do exactly as I command them. They have no fear for self-preservation or personal agendas. They will provide great aid to you, if you use them wisely.”
Donovan bowed his head, “You are most gracious, Your Majesty. We will contact you when we are ready to make our move against the Vale.”
Vestromo nodded and smiled, “I’m looking forward to the end of the accursed Mitrans.” Quickly, he sent off a thought to Tamsen, “And what of this Barnabus Thrain?”
Tamsen’s thoughts returned to Vestromo, “Donovan says he will arrange the meeting with Thrane to be after dark, and will notify you of the location where the meeting will occur.”
Vestromo extended his arms, and granted the family safe passage back to the surface, providing them with guides to lead them to the original entrance.

The family returned to the quarters they had purchased. It was very late now, with dawn only a few hours away.
“My research is concluded. It’s time for us to meet with Barnabus Thrain.”, Donovan said to the group.
As the lights were darkened, and the group went to their respective beds, Donovan whispered his thoughts into Tamsen’s mind. “I hope you can forgive me for what I’ve done tonight. I wish I could have left you out of this.”
Tamsen responded, as her body pressed into his, “Don’t apologize, my love. I know what you are trying to do. It’s the same as you’ve done all the way here. You want to make the world better for us, for the family you and I will bring into this world.

The next day, the family passed their time in trivial activities, waiting for the afternoon when they would head to the great Library. As Donovan had already seen Thrain from his previous visit, he was prepared to present the right face for him and Tamsen. Approaching the man, Donovan struck up conversation, and then quickly moved into the all important code phrase of “Whom do you serve?”
Barnabus Thrian replied as expected, “Only knowledge. If you also seek knowledge, perhaps you can join me this evening for a symposium in the lecture hall.”
Donovan nodded in affirmation, then exited the building, glancing over at Tamsen with a knowing look.
Later that evening, the majority of the family gathered for the symposium at the established location, where only Thrain and some of his retainers were waiting. Donovan and the others made their way up to the front of the lecture hall, taking seats within the first couple of rows.
“We are not to be disturbed.” Thrain spoke to his retainers, who left the room, closing the doors behind them. Once they were gone, Barnabus addressed the group bluntly. “I am the Fifth. Who are you?”
Bebop spoke up quickly, “We are the Ninth Knot.”
Thrain nodded in understanding, “I am Brother Barnabus Thrain, and your arrival has been anticipated. Word has spread of the many deeds you have accomplished on behalf of Cardinal Thorn. I understand that you have brought something for me?”
“Indeed we do, Brother Thrain.”, Donovan replied, and then made a motion to Kirim, who moved to the stage with a bag in his hand. After Kirim removed the vial containing the Tears of Achlys from the bag, Donovan held up his hand, pausing Kirim in his actions. “And what is to happen to this vial once it is in your possession?”
“Agents are to take this and spread its contents far and wide across the land of Talingarde.”, Thrain said confidently.
“You mean, after it has been tested, of course.”, Donovan stared intently at Barnabus.
Barnabus Thrain nodded, “I’m certain if that is the will of the Master, then it will be done.”
Donovan scowled momentarily, then looked over at Tamsen. “I understand.” With that, Kirim proceeded to give the vial to Brother Barnabus Thrain.
Barnabus’ hands shook as he held the vial in his hands and studied it. “I am filled with dread at this errand. I will do what is asked of me.”

Donovan spent a little bit of time asking questions of Barnabus Thrain, understanding the relationship between him and Cardinal Thorn. Donovan found himself impressed at how many people followed Thorn despite knowing his history and the things that had befallen him. Thorn clearly presented a level of charisma that would not have been expected. Thrain spoke of the housing that had been made available to the group, and presented them with gems that enhanced the function of the Iron Circlets they had previously been gifted. Once completed, Barnabus told them all that he would be at the Library for the remainder of the month, should they need any additional information from him.
Pleasantries were exchanged, and Brother Thrain departed the lecture hall, but not before Tamsen contacted Prince Gaius Vestromo telepathically to inform him that the individual in question was departing the building.

The group traveled to the location given to them by Thrain. It was a nice enough location, easily able to provide for them over the coming weeks.
“We’ll need to purchase some supplies. We have a lot to accomplish, and not a lot of time to get everything done.”, Donovan spoke to the group.

Silently, Tamsen notified Donovan that the plan they had enacted had been set in motion.
“The die is cast, my love. Let us see what our fates will hold.”, Donovan replied silently to Tamsen, as their fingers interlocked.

Session 31 Ends.


Part 3: Tears of the Blessed
Act 2: An Army of the Damned
Session 32: Hiring Opportunities During War

The next day, Tiadora returned to the Crowley Estate, looking at Donovan with scornful eyes. “The Master will see you upstairs.” Tiadora said nothing else, only immediately teleporting away. Donovan furrowed his brow, thinking to himself. Was it possible that his plans had already been unfurled? When Donovan arrived, he saw that the rest of the family was already there, and Cardinal Thorn was standing on the other side of the room, staring directly at Donovan.
“You think you can defy me? You are mine! Your souls are mine! You will do my bidding.”, Thorn stared at Donovan with enraged, unblinking eyes.
“Have I failed you in some way, Father? Have I not met every task you have assigned to me?”, Donovan replied coyly, testing to see what Thorn actually knew.
Thorn raised a finger at Donovan, to silence him. “Thorn was slain last night.”
Donovan feigned ignorance, “I had no idea that had happened to him.”
“Of course you didn’t, Donovan. I’m sure the fact that he was assaulted and killed just outside the Library was simply a matter of inconvenient timing.” Thorn’s face still showed the anger and disappointment he was experiencing. “Perhaps I have been too kind to you Donovan. I have given you a great amount of slack on your leash. I think it is clear I need to tighten your leash accordingly.”
Donovan’s arrogance was boundless, “If you think I had something to do with the matter, Father, then all you need to do is ask. You know I won’t lie to you.”
A grimace turned on Thorn’s face, and he made a gesture with his hands. Suddenly a group of females appeared next to and around each of the members of the family. Donovan looked at the women briefly, their black wings and scarred yet beautiful faces. “Erinyes.”, he thought to himself.
“Barnabus Thrane was a useful tool that has been taken from me. This pains me greatly, and I do not wish to suffer alone.”, Thorn intoned to Donovan, even as the Furies began to move in on the rest of the family.
For the first time in the entire conversation, Donovan was afraid, because he knew that Thorn understood exactly how to hurt him most. His hand twitched towards the rapier at his side, but his mind told him to reconsider his actions. Thorn saw Donovan’s response, and cackled heartily, before him and his entire retinue teleported away from the estate, leaving all the members of the party behind.

Everyone was silent for a moment, before Lucius looked over at Donovan in confusion, “What exactly was all that about?”
Donovan looked wordlessly at Tamsen, then back to Lucius, “It would appear that even the best laid plans can come undone.”
“What exactly does Thorn think we did?”, Lucius pressed.
“He doesn’t think You did anything, Lucius; and he’s right. You’ve done everything that has been asked of you thus far.” Donovan looked at the rest of the group, and continued. “All of you have done all that could be expected and more. Some of us just need to do a better job at the thing we’re supposed to be doing.” Donovan paused momentarily while considering those words, then left the room without saying anything else.
Lucius looked towards Tamsen, “Do you know what all this about?”
Tamsen giggled, “Since when does anyone understand what’s going on in Donovan’s head?” The lie was easy for her to tell, and Lucius was willing to believe it.
“Well, if that’s done, I’m going back to get breakfast.” Bebop shrugged before walking out of the room.

Donovan arrived at the makeshift crafting area that him and Idrees had set up within the estate. Idrees took out her pipe and looked at Donovan.
“You look like the students who just completed their first year summary test.” Idrees chuckled as she tapped her pipe the back of her palm.
Donovan looked back at her, a distinct lack of humor on his face. “I don’t know what to do. It’s like every action I take, he anticipates the outcome.”
Idrees smirked, “And how exactly does he know the actions you are going to take?”
Donovan tapped the circlet on his head, “This makes it easier for him to watch us.”
“Surprise, surprise. The creature who contracted you for your soul isn’t trustworthy. I’m sure that must come as a shock to you and everyone else.” Idrees chuckled briefly.
Donovan was clearly irritated. “Do you have any useful advice, Instructor? Or do you simply wish to revel in my suffering?”
“And who says it can’t be both?” Idrees cackled with malicious glee, even as Donovan furrowed his brow. Idrees climbed off her table and walked towards Donovan. “You were always a precise Chess player, Donovan. But that was your fundamental flaw.”
“How is precision a flaw, Instructor?” Donovan contemplated her response.
“You were playing by rote memory, Donovan. You memorized every opening and gambit, so that you could repeat the plays that led to wins.” Idrees tapped her pipe to her temple, as though she was instilling something of wisdom.
“And that’s bad, because?” Donovan still failed to grasp what Idrees was telling him.
In frustration, Idrees popped Donovan’s forehead with her pipe. “Because, you aren’t creating your own solution, you are just playing to a set of fixed answers.” Idrees could see that Donovan was beginning to grasp what Idrees was saying. “By your own words, Thorn is always going to have more information than you about what you are doing. So you have to allow your actions to be impulsive and fluid. Don’t give him time to contemplate his next decision, make one move after the next, and work under the planning that any given action you take will be anticipated by him.”
Donovan nodded thoughtfully about what he had been told. “I see what you are saying, Instructor. I appreciate your insight.”
Idrees laughed once, then relit her pipe. “Good, now let’s get to work. If we’re going to defeat an army, we’ll need to be better equipped than we are currently.”

Some time later, Tiadora returned to Crowley Estate. Seeing Donovan, she smiled. “Ah Dearest, there you are. I trust you are ready to depart?”
Donovan smiled back at Tiadora, then nodded. “Let me call the family together, and we’ll be ready to go.”
Communicating to Tamsen, Donovan instructed her to notify the group and have them meet with their gear ready to go. Shortly after, the group all arrived in the main room with Tiadora, who produced a finely crafted wooden box and handed it to Tamsen. “Here is where we are headed.”
Tamsen opened the box and looked at the coordinates, then handed them over to Lucius.
Lucius looked at the information, then spoke to Tiadora, “Will you be traveling with us, or are you heading there on your own?”
“No, thank you.” Tiadora responded flatly.
Working together, Tamsen and Lucius used their Teleport spells to transport the group to the new location. Arriving at the scene, the group soon realized they were at the location of Castle Westkirk. The castle was a shell of its former self, with Bugbears and Goblins running about the blackened and desolated castle celebrating their recent string of victories.

For her part, Tiadora had also transformed from her former image. Where once was a beautiful humanoid creature, now stood a powerful white furred Bugbear who also used the symbology of the Fire Axe tribe. She strode confidently up to the room where Sakkarot was seated, the throne itself. The two of them exchanged what appeared to be low and guttural growls, perhaps a sign of intimacy between them. Sakkarot looked past Tiadora and saw the rest of the family standing there.
“You’ve brought friends.” Sakkarot spoke briefly, before realization set in. “Old friends! Welcome!” Looking around and speaking to the larger collection of Bugbears in the throne room, Sakkarot continued. “Behold, my warriors! These are the individuals who brought us steel and helped us defeat the forces of Balentyne! These are my honored guests, and I will consume the heart of anyone who does not treat them well.”
Wordlessly, Tamsen spoke into Donovan’s mind, “He’s got quite the thing for consuming hearts, doesn’t he?”
Donovan grinned without response, and squeezed Tamsen’s hand.
Leading the group into the war room, Sakkarot chided one of his subordinates for torturing a prisoner there. Once the individual was removed, Sakkarot offered a seat to the family, and spoke to them briefly about how things had been progressing since their last encounter together.
Tiadora was clearly uninterested in small talk, “You know why we’re here.”
“Of course I know why you’re here. You want to steal my army.” Sakkarot replied with a sense of annoyance.
“We want to use a part of your army for a special mission.” Tiadora responded to Sakkarot’s hyperbole with ambivalence. “Cardinal Thorn believes that if Valtaerna could be sacked, it would be to your advantage…”
“Yes, I’ve heard your pitch.” Sakkarot interrupted her. “With the Vale destroyed, the King’s army will be weakened and we will fare better when we encounter them in the Spring. I’ve agreed to lend them Hekkareth’s Head Takers. That’s one hundred capable warriors who will help my friends accomplish this task!”
“Cardinal Thorn also requires the services of Shagoroth’s Night Mane.” Tiadora stated without hesitation.
“What? That’s one hundred and fifty additional troops. What do you wish me to fight the King’s army with come Spring?” Sakkarot stood up, irritation in his tone.
“Your army will be tenfold stronger than that, when the reinforcements arrive.” Tiadora was soothing but firm.
“Half your promised reinforcements never arrived, Tiadora. You cannot have Shagoroth.” Sakkarot leaned in to Tiadora, determination on his face.
Donovan stood up, “General, do you remember when you first met my family?”
Sakkarot turned and faced Donovan, “Of course my friend.”
Donovan smiled and nodded, “I remember you. When we first met you, you handed me a flare and told me I had thirty days to take over the Balentyne Watchtower.” Sakkarot chuckled, and Donovan continued his discussion. “And what happened? Not only did my family bring down the Watchtower, we also cleared out the nearby town, well ahead of the thirty day requirement you asked of us.”
Sakkarot paused and nodded, remembering the events that had taken place.
“Now, imagine what my family could do if we had a group of powerful warriors trained by the mighty General Sakkarot.” Donovan stopped there, allowing Sakkarot to imagine the possibilities.
“Fine, Donovan, you have convinced me.” Sakkarot spoke after pausing to consider Donovan’s words. “I’ll do more for you than just that. My troops have made me aware of a tribe of Duergar in the mountains close to hear. We haven’t had any luck making a connection with them, but perhaps you’ll have better luck.”
Tiadora smiled, happy that the situation was resolved. “An interesting lead. Allow me to provide you with another. There is a temple not too far from here, once dedicated to the goddess of beauty, but now no more. A Medusa named Izevel resides there. Perhaps she could be called to aid you in your quest.”
Donovan looked at Tiadora curiously, “You know her name?”
“I know many things, Donovan.” Tiadora replied.
Sakkarot laughed, “She’ll more than likely decorate her home with your statues! Why would such a creature ever agree to assist them?”
Tiadora shrugged, “Perhaps the Ninth will discover the answer to that.”
Bebop’s face grimaced suspiciously.
Sakkarot roared with laughter. “I didn’t realize you were so desperate! If that’s the case, I have another offer for you. We had an Oni named Raiju who was assisting us. However, Raiju slew one of our chieftans, and is being hunted for revenge. If you can get this individual to leave with you, then I would be happy to consider the matter resolved.”
Donovan looked at Sakkarot curiously, “You don’t want revenge for the loss of one of your chieftans?”
Sakkarot snorted derisively. “If that individual was so weak that he could not protect himself or have someone to protect him, then he deserved his fate.”
Donovan nodded. “I understand General. I thank you again for all of your assistance once more. We will not disappoint you.”.
Sakkarot chuckled, then patted Donovan on the back. “Well, this reunion has been fun, but I have plans to work on. This country won’t burn itself, you know.”
Tiadora smirked and bowed slightly. “Good luck my Dearest. You’ll need it.” With that, she teleported away.

Before returning to the estate, the family decided to go to the area where Raiju the Exile was hiding out.
“Watch for invisibility.” Donovan muttered, aware of the abilities of the Ogre Mage.
Opening their sight to all things invisible, Lucius and Tamsen began to look around. It did not take long before Lucius located Raiju, and pointed him out to the rest of the group.
“Hello there. We were sent by Sakkarot to come find you. We were hoping that you would be willing to talk to us about your situation. Sakkarot has asked us to take you from this place and travel with us.” Lucius spoke in the direction of Raiju, who was standing perfectly still in the rafters of the building.
“Sakkarot Fire Axe sent you?” Raiju the Exile seemed genuinely concerned about what Sakkarot had to say.
Lucius nodded as Raiju approached. “Indeed, he told us of your tale, and how you are being unfairly targeted by the other chieftans.”
Raiju made himself visible to the others, as him and Lucius began sharing the story of how Raiju ended up in this unfortunate situation. Apparently, Raiju had been asked to assassinate another individual, but the individual he was targeting would be known by their attire. Unfortunately, a different person was wearing the attire of the intended victim, and so ended up on the wrong side of Raiju’s blade.
Donovan listened carefully to Raiju’s stories, and began to discern that not everything being said was true. Perhaps Raiju was given to exaggerating the tales, or maybe it was simply a case of misplaced details. Whatever the situation, Donovan had heard lifetimes worth of stories designed to sell something, so was used to bargaining on those terms.
“You’re obviously skilled with the blade, Raiju. Are you interested in following us to the task that we have been assigned to by Sakkarot?” Donovan moved right to the negotiations.
Raiju wanted to discuss his worth in coin, what percentage of the profit he should be given. A mischievous grin came across Donovan’s face. “You want to be hired as a sell sword? Good enough Raiju. Show me what I’m getting for my coin.”
Raiju unsheathed his massive blade. “I will attempt to go easy on your servants.”
Donovan chuckled. “Oh, please do.” With that, Donovan’s eyes caught to Kirim’s and he gestured to the battlefield.
Kirim pulled out his weapon as he gritted his teeth. The massive Ogre Mage steadied himself for the first blow as their blades clashed. Raiju was powerful, to be certain, but Kirim was nothing short of monstrous.
“Pathetic!” Kirim called out as the blade began to slide across the Gaseous Form that Raiju jad become. Kirim sheathed his weapon, seemingly irritated that he had not found a worthy challenge yet.
“Thank you for letting me watch that fight, Raiju. It was informative to me.” Donovan smiled and opened his palms to the Ogre Mage. “I will give you the tools to make you a better warrior, and in exchange you will follow me and my family to victory over Valtaerna Vale.”
Raiju agreed, and left with the group as they returned to Crowley Estate.

Once the group returned to the estate, Donovan began working with Bebop on the creation of Elixirs that would help reduce the risk of being petrified by the Medusa. Bebop, never one liking to do work without having a delicious snack on hand, left to go grab some food, and that was when he saw a creature appear in front of his in a puff of sulfurous smoke. “Greetings, oh great and powerful master of darkness.”
Bebop looked blankly at the Devil that was standing in front of him, and shook his head. “This sounds like some Donovan naughty word.” With that, Bebop contacted Tamsen via telepathy to tell her what he had encountered, and to bring the rest of the family down.
After the rest of the family around, the creature bowed to the group, and began speaking again. “I am your humble servant Dessiter of the Phistophilus. I am here on behalf of the Lord of the Ninth Circle in order to congratulate you on your many impressive accomplishments.”
Bebop interjected, “The Lord of the Ninth Circle? So you were sent by Cardinal Thorn and Tiadora?”
Dessiter tittered slightly. “No, although you should tell my sister I send her greetings. I was sent by the Lord over all, not simply your personal master.”
Donovan crooked his head slightly. “So, you represent Asmodeus? Why would the Lord of Hell care about our efforts?”
Dessitus locked his gaze with Donovan and smiled. “You fight for Him, did you not think he would provide you aid?”
Tamsen grinned and spoke up, “So why are you here, Dessiter? I’m sure you aren’t just trying to cheer us on for our amazing deeds.”
Dessitus nodded and smiled widely. “You are correct. I am here to provide counsel to you, and perhaps even more.”
Bebop snorted, “More? What’s the catch?”
Dessitus continued. “The Lord knows of your efforts to storm the Vale of Valtaerna. While your ambitions are noble, you must know that it is more than simply men that protect that place. Celestials of all kind defend that sanctuary, and while that place does have a mortal that is considered the leader, the true power there is the Angel known as Ara Mathra. Until that creature is defeated, no victory can possibly be claimed there.”
“Barnabus Thrane also told us of the angelic creatures that we would have to defeat in order to secure the Vale once and for all. While this information is useful, Dessiter, it is largely redundant to what we already know. Surely you must have something else that will aid us in seizing Valtaerna?” Donovan looked to see what Dessiter was actually offering.
“Sadly, little is known of the inside of Valtaerna. Still, we are aware of the three fires that are connected to that holy place. They must all be extinguished in order to end Mithra’s hold over this area once and for all.” Dessiter answered the question, if only somewhat.
Donovan seemed nonplussed, but didn’t express it in his words. “I thank you for this information, Dessiter. We will seek out these three flames once we begin our siege of Valtaerna. If this is the only news you needed to deliver unto me, then perhaps our evening has concluded?”
Dessiter held up his hand. “I did tell you there was possibly more, Donovan. I could provide you with Hounds to assist you in your efforts to defeat the forces at the Vale?”
“Hounds?” Donovan cocked his eyebrow?
With a snap, Dessiter called forth a trio of flaming hounds at his side. “These powerful creatures could prove quite useful to someone with your creativity.”
“Ah, hah.” Donovan said, knowing the direction of the conversation. “And what perchance would be the price of these powerful creatures?”
Dessiter grinned broadly as a parchment appeared before him. “Just a simple contract.”
Donovan chuckled slightly. “Of course, isn’t that always the way.” Donovan looked over at Lucius and nodded ever so slightly. Lucius gestured with his hands, and brought up a group of Hell Hounds from beyond.
“For now, it would appear that I am well covered in that category Dessiter. And I’m not quite ready to put my family in yet another contract.” Donovan crossed his arms and smiled.
Dessiter, realizing there would be no discussion as of yet, caused the scroll to disappear. “I have no doubt we will meet again, once other victories are accomplished.” With that, Dessiter bowed once more, and vanished back into a puff of smoke.
“Of that, I am certain.”, Donovan thought to himself.

The family stood around in a circle not too far from the temple where the Medusa was said to reside. Donovan was clearly nervous, even as he described the plan to them. Kirim, Bebop, Artephius, and Tamsen were going to go in, while the rest of the party remained outside. Donovan was concerned that the Medusa’s gaze would be deadly, and didn’t want to leave too many weaknesses in his plan.
Handing out flasks containing Bear’s Endurance, Donovan went back over the instructions again. “So, the three of you will attempt to stop whatever attacks that Izevel produces, while Tamsen goes in to negotiate with her. Correct?”
“Sure, sure. Punch everything, leave the talking to Tamsen. Got it.” Bebop seemed confident, despite the potential risks in play.
Tamsen giggled. “It will be fine, my love. You need to have some faith.”
“Easy for you to say, we don’t fully know what we are dealing with.” Donovan scowled in disapproval.
“Enough talk, let us be done with this creature, and this matter.” Kirim’s stoicism was on display, and he was clearly not lacking in his faith.
The group proceeded into the ruined temple. “Izevel? Lady Izevel? We wish to have a moment of your time.” Tamsen’s voice echoed softly through the otherwise deathly silent chamber. The statues seemed amazingly lifelike, trapped forever in their respective states of fear of anger.
Suddenly, a creature appeared in their midst. The creature appeared as a beautiful humanoid, wearing a red dress that showed off her amazing figure, with bracelets and a mask made of gold. The creature pulled down the mask and hissed violently at the group. Kirim and Bebop attempted to look away, while Tamsen’s eyes shown as silvery pools.
Tamsen giggled, “Now, now, be nice Izevel. We only want to talk with you.”
Dark miasma radiated from Kirim as Bebop consumed his Mutagen, his form becoming more monstrous.
The Medusa stretched out her wings, and flew up to a higher level. “You are like all the rest, why won’t you leave me alone!” At the same time, some of the stone creatures the family thought were statues came to life and began attacking.
Kirim growled as he struck into one of the creatures. “These creatures are not living, so they do not understand fear.”
Tamsen fell back behind the metallic wall of Artephius, calling out to Bebop. “Don’t let her escape!”
“On it!” Bebop called out as his own wings began to manifest, and he struck uselessly at the stone forms assailing them.
Artephius and Kirim continued to assault the stone creatures on the lower area, while Bebop worked his way towards the sound of a woman sobbing. He was joined shortly by Tamsen, who had used Fly to catch up to both of them. Bebop was waiting on Tamsen, hesitant to go further in and continue to expose himself to the creature’s deadly gaze.
“Izevel, I understand how you feel. I have spent most of my life being judged because I didn’t look like the normal citizens of this kingdom.” Tamsen attempted to be reassuring.
Izevel attempted to use her gaze once again, but it was becoming clear that Tamsen was currently immune to it. Izevel pushed Tamsen away and attempted to flee from the area. Bebop tackled Izevel and grappled her to the floor. Bebop punched, kicked, and bit on Izevel, even as he kept his eyes closed. He could feel the biting that was occurring, but thanks to the resistances he had to poison, he was not overwhelmed by the attacks.

Eventually, the Medusa was knocked unconscious, and a bag was placed over her head. After Tamsen, Bebop, and Kirim tied her up, Tamsen applied healing to Izevel, and waited for her to regain consciousness.
“Go ahead, kill me. I cannot defeat you.” Izevel spoke with an obvious sense of resignation.
“Like I told you before Izevel, we aren’t here to kill you. We believe that all of us share a greater purpose.”, Tamsen implored Izevel.
“What would you wish of me?” Izevel queried Tamsen, confusion in her voice.
Tamsen smiled, removing the bag from Izevel’s face. “Travel with us. Become part of our family; and share our experiences.”
Izevel considered Tamsen’s words briefly, then answered with conviction. “I will follow you all my days, as long as you will have me.”
“Have her, she said.”, Bebop chuckled mischievously.

The next morning, Donovan returned to the Library of Ghastenhall. Specifically, he was on the lookout for books pertaining to the Dwarven strongholds. Some searching finally revealed more information on the Zhaanze-Kryr, which Donovan noted with the hopes of being able to discover the Thane and the Duergar that resided there.
Later that evening, the family began the trek to the mountain where the stronghold was believed to be held. Summoning a creature, Lucius was able to use it to get some tracks that matched what was expected, and the family moved closer to the entrance of the Duergar. There was a patrol out scouting the area, which the family quickly captured and extracted the information of where specifically to go to enter the stronghold.
Guards were poised to attack, as the family carried the captured Duergar up to the entrance. “Stop. Who are you?”
Donovan replied, “We are here to see your Thane. You will grant us entrance.” The inflection in his tone was confident, yet threatening.
Looking over the group, the guards made their demands. “You will release the prisoners, and leave your weapons behind.”
Donovan smiled, “The prisoners are easy.” Snapping his fingers, Bebop and GrumbleJack set down their respective captives. “As to the weapons, I’m afraid you’ll have to ask him to give his weapon up.” Donovan pointed at Kirim.
Kirim’s face took on a malevolent grin, “Please, please try to take my weapon.”
One of the guards visibly gulped. “Keep your weapons. Follow us.”
The group was led into the underground areas where the Duergar resided. Darkness was everywhere, punctuated only by the light of molten metal. Eyes stared menacingly at the group, at words spoken in Undercommon were shouted at the family.
“What are they saying, Donovan?” Bebop asked inquisitively.
“Nothing you want to hear.” Donovan replied flatly.

After what seemed like quite a bit of walking in the dark underworld, they arrived at what appeared to be some sort of throne room. A muscular and haggard looking individual sat on the throne, while starting skeptically. “Tell me why I shouldn’t just have you killed where you all stand.”
Donovan replied in Undercommon, “Great and mighty Thane of Zhaanzen Kryr, my name is Donovan Thorn. My family and I have been pledged with the task of breaking the Vale Valtaerna.”
The Thane seemed curious. “I am Zashur Arzen, Thane of the Duergar. If what you say is true, you are either bold or reckless, or perhaps both. How do you think a handful of rowdy surface dwellers are going to defeat the Vale?”
Donovan smiled, “My family has accomplished a great many things over a relatively short period. We were responsible for the original defeat of the Watch Tower in Balentyne. We set upon the Horn of Abaddon, performing the extended ritual that allowed us to bring Vetra Kali Eats the Eyes to this world, and then seized the Tears of Achlys. We have aligned ourselves with the powerful General Sakkarot Fire Axe, gaining troops that will aid in our task. We have confided with the noble Prince Gaius Vestromo, who has mustered the powers of his blood to provide us soldiers for the upcoming battles. We have befriended the powerful Medusa Izevel, who will undoubtedly prove invaluable in the upcoming conflict.”
Zashur Arzen and the other Duergar standing in the room seemed impressed at the stories told by Donovan. “You have accomplished much to bring notoriety to yourselves.”
“And now, mighty Thane, we call upon you to aid us in tearing down the place of worship for the followers of Mithra.” Donovan closed out the conversation, hoping that his sales pitch was enough to swing the hearts and minds of these reclusive people.
Zashur Arzen stroked his beard, pondering the words of Donovan. “You know how to weave a good tale, Donovan Thorn. Alright, I am willing to aid you. But, it is under the condition that whatever dwarves survive belong to us. Additionally, I will be sending my son to lead our troops.”
Donovan nodded. “Understood, great Thane. Then, we will see you as winter comes upon this land.” With that, Donovan and the others returned to the Crowley Estate, to begin laying plans for the upcoming siege.

Session 32 Ends.


Part 3: Tears of the Blessed
Act 3: The Battle of Saintsbridge
Session 33: Who Watches the Watchtowers?

The journey to the Vale of Valtaerna took three days from the Crowley Estate. The armies were contacted, and were given a place to meet that was approximately eight hours beyond the Watchtower. After the group set up several camp sites with which to temporarily house the family and troops, they went about making their preparations. Donovan instructed Raiju to use his invisibility to move around silently through the compound. Heading the advice of Barnabus Thrane, Donovan gave Raiju an Undetectable Alignment elixir, so that whatever force was detecting evil would fail to do so. Donovan believed that there must be some weakness that could be exploited.

Meanwhile, other members of the family busied themselves in their own preferred manner. Bebop approached the tent that Izevel was staying in. Announcing his entry, Izevel quickly reset her mask. “Hello Izevel, I was wondering if you would care to spend some time together?”
Izevel took on a curious tone. “Spend some time together? And what would we be doing with all this time?”
Bebop, continuing to make sure he was averting his gaze, answered her question. “I’ve never been with a Medusa before.”
Izevel chuckled slightly. “Take off your shirt, Bebop.”
Bebop complied wordlessly. Izevel stood up as his shirt fell to the floor. Placing her hand over his eyes, Izevel traced her finger across Bebop’s well defined chest.
“Not bad, if I do say so myself. But how exactly is this supposed to work, Bebop? You’re going to avoid looking at me the whole time.” Izevel’s voice was haughty and amused.
Bebop reached into his back pocket, and pulled out the sack that he had covered her face with back at the temple. “I was thinking this might work.”
Izevel smirked momentarily. “This will do nicely.” Snatching the bag from Bebop’s hand, she quickly covered up his head and tied the drawstring. Once that was complete, she guided Bebop into her cot. Thanks to the Sleeves of Many Garments that Donovan had provided, it was easy for Izevel to change or remove her clothes on a whim.
“It’s been a while for me, Bebop. You have a lot of work ahead of you.” Izevel whispered, giggling slightly.

Tamsen bit her lips slightly. She was just finishing up the tattoo work on her arm, and she always enjoyed the slight stinging sensation the needle provided. Ever since leaving Thorn’s manor, she had been working to improve the skill, but now she was beginning to see her work pay off. Her magics were being applied to the tattoos she was creating. The dyes were expensive, to be sure, but the beauty and artistry of the work was unparalleled. Idrees walked into Tamsen’s tent, which caused Camille to growl at her.
“Easy you two! I come in peace!” Idrees chuckled slightly and raised her hands.
“Be nice, Cami!” Tamsen chided Camille. “I’m sure Idrees has a good reason for being here.”
Idrees nodded and moved quickly towards her, “Indeed, Tamsen. I come bearing gifts. Donovan wanted you to have this ring.” With that, Idrees handed Tamsen an ornate and clearly magical ring.
“Thank you, Idrees. It’s lovely, but what’s it for?” Tamsen stared curiously at the ring.
“This is a Ring of Blinking, good lady. Donovan has plans for you on the front line, and he wants to make sure you are safe.” Idrees smiled proudly at her work.
“Donovan putting me on the front line? Are we truly that desperate?” Tamsen replied with a small degree of concern.
“Not at all. He has a plan, but the plan has risks. Tell me, how are you and Izevel getting along?” Idrees began to chuckle slightly.

“We should go and take them now! Those soldiers cannot match the strength of our conviction!” Kirim slammed his blade into the dummy target he was practicing on, cleaving it in half.
“I’m not sure all of us have your level of conviction.” Lucius responded, watching Kirim practice as he began to master the art of holding multiple summons out at the same time.
Kirim sneered, “My faith in Asmodeus is my sword and shield. I do not waver to those cowardly threats over there.” Kirim looked out to the horizon, where the massive watch tower was standing.
“Be patient, Kirim. Doesn’t Asmodeus reward your steadfast nature? Besides, I’m sure Donovan is working on a plan.” Lucius continued to concentrate, attempting to let his mind open.
“That’s the other problem! Donovan is a coward who isn’t ready to deal with real war. I’m sure his parents spoiled him and taught him to buy his way out of problems.” Kirim grabbed his blade, an annoyed look on his face.
“Wars aren’t won by might alone, Kirim. You may be powerful, but there will always be something more powerful, or something that power alone can’t defeat.” Lucius shrugged, then walked away.

Later that evening, the family met inside of Tamsen’s tent. Donovan had placed out an elixir for each of them. “I need each of you to drink this elixir, and then we are going to talk about seizing the watch tower tomorrow. The most important things to remember is that no one can be allowed to escape, and no one can be allowed to ring the gong that hangs at the highest level.:
For some time, Donovan explained the details of the plan to them. Once the explanation was complete, the group left for their respective tents, knowing a pivotal battle was ahead of them.

The group traveled the rest of the way up to the watch tower, with Idrees and Trik waiting behind to mobilize the troops once the signal had been given. The night set upon the tower just before the group was at the front of the castle. There appeared to be no unusual reaction from the people in the tower as the family approached, so Donovan felt confident that the Undetectable Alignment effect was still holding up. The family was approached by one of the guards, who asked them why they had come.
“For our Pilgrimage.” Donovan responded to the guard, and then followed up in Celestial. “Until all is light.”
Just as the guard had the outside door opened, Donovan spoke telepathically to Tamsen. “Now, my love.”
In a moment, Tamsen took Izevel’s hand, and teleported the two of them to the roof. Izevel removed her mask, gazing ruefully at the creatures who were stationed there. Raiju had seen them during his scouting mission, and Donovan referred to them as Lammasu. The one on the right pedestal caught Izevel’s gaze, and was immediately turned to stone. The other guardian looked briefly at his lost compatriot, then called out, “Fiend! You will pay for your crimes against Mithra!” The creature spread its powerful wings and began to ascend to the sky. But Izevel would not be denied her prize. Unfurling her own wings, she followed the skyward Lammasu, catching it in her gaze as well. The stone form of the creature hurtled to the ground, smashing into pieces.

Meanwhile, Bebop, Kirim, and Lucius were moving through the hallway into the main area when the alarm trumpets began to sound.
“Damnit, we’ve been discovered!” Lucius called back to Donovan. “There’s no way up from here.”
“Dimension Door to the other side of the wall, and start working your way up!” Donovan called back out to the group.
Lucius complied, taking himself and the other two to the other side of the wall, where a group of soldiers were readying crossbows to attack through the kill holes.
“Now we’re talking!” Kirim said enthusiastically, as he charged towards one of the unprepared soldiers.
On the opposite side of the long hallway, Raiju had invisibly gained access into the next room, and was killing the soldiers on that side. The screams of the dying could be heard throughout the floor. After only a few moments, all of the guards outside the main corridor were dead, and the secondary gate was opened. Bebop, Kirim, Lucius, and Raiju took off in their respective directions to continue pushing the soldiers up to the roof of the watch tower.

Donovan, GrumbleJack, and Artephius entered the main hallway. It appeared to be quiet, but there was a sudden rumbling as the two large statues became animated and started moving towards them. “Gods dammit all! Golems!”, Donovan said with an exasperated sigh. GrumbleJack and Artephius lined themselves up against the two Golems, the four large creatures occupying the bulk of the hallway. This was not a fight that Donovan was looking forward to dealing with.
“GrumbleJack, Arephius, take out these monsters! We have to get through this hallway!” Donovan roared out his command.
“Sure thing, Boss/Yes, Master.”, the reply came from the two powerful warriors at Donovan’s side.

Tamsen was sitting on the ground at the roof of the watch tower, her back against Izevel’s legs. Izevel was facing the two staircases leading up onto the roof. From time to time, an unfortunate soul would attempt to access the gong at the roof of the tower, only to be turned to stone by Izevel’s vicious gaze. For the occasional soldier who had the presence of mind to cover their eyes, Izevel made short work of them with her crossbow, arrows puncturing them like a pincushion. There was surprisingly little risk to either of them. They had been staged in such a way that their mere presence was more than enough threat. Perhaps that was what got Izevel to begin having a conversation with Tamsen.
“So, this boy Bebop. Do you care for him?” Izevel asked curiously.
“Of course I do. I love him. He’s special to me.” Tamsen replied sweetly.
“Do you now? I take it you don’t care if I have my way with his body.” Izevel seemed quite calm, but still remained very haughty in her demeanor.
“No, he’s free to enjoy whomever he pleases.” Tamsen smiled as she answered, even though no one could see it.
“What about Donovan? Would you care if I had my way with him?” Izevel began probing into Tamsen’s mindset.
“I would not be ok with that Izevel. Donovan belongs to me.” There was a fierceness to Tamsen’s answer.
“Oh, ho.” Izevel was amused. “So all of your play things are not created equally.”
“Donovan is different, and I don’t think he’s ready to deal with someone like you.” Tamsen attempted to collect herself, knowing she had revealed more than intended.
“Were you his first, Tamsen?” Izevel asked, already knowing the answer.
Tamsen said nothing, and Izevel laughed slightly. “Fine Tamsen, because you are my friend, I will respect your wishes.”

Kirim, Lucius, and Bebop continued to work through the rooms and corridors, striking down any they came across.
“Is there no challenge to be had? Nothing worthy of my efforts?” Kirim cried out in frustration at his pitiful foes.
Bebop continued to slaughter anything that got in his way. Blood and flesh splayed in every direction as claws, fangs, hooves, and horns encountered the ill prepared forces of the watch tower. Death was being presented without hesitation. There was no way for them to know how well they were doing, only that no one was getting around them.

The golems and warriors clashed viciously, even as Donovan began to realize what was happening. The golems were very resistant to GrumbleJack’s attacks. Additionally, Artephius was being overwhelmed by the strength and power of the statuesque creatures that were powered by some holy force. Donovan rushed over to GrumbleJack, attempting to heal his wounds, when he discovered that his normal healing methods were having no affect. The injuries had the magic that sustained the golems in them, meaning they were resisting any efforts to be healed. GrumbleJack valiantly fought on, while Artephius continued to sustain blow after blow from these unstoppable automations. Finally, GrumbleJack’s blade came down one last time, and both of the Golems were destroyed. Donovan rushed over to GrumbleJack, who was now bleeding profusely from his injuries, and produced a wand of Cure Light Wounds. Calling forth the magic of the wand repeatedly, he slowly caused GrumbleJack’s wounds to recover, expelling the cursed fragments that were preventing his body from healing. The process was slow and painstaking, eventually causing the wand to collapse from use; but it was successful.
“Thanks Boss.” GrumbleJack smiled at Donovan as the last of the injuries were removed.
Donovan sighed with relief. “I’m just glad you are ok.”
Meanwhile, Artephius, following Donovan’s orders, continued to attack the soldiers that were attempting to flee on the ground floor. Bolt after bolt of alchemical energy emitted from Artephius, washing his enemies in arcane destruction.

Lucius walked into the area where the barracks were, and started laughing. “I’ve got this room!” With but a thought, he summoned forth a massive Ankylosaurus, wreathed in flames. The remaining men in the room screamed and wailed as they found themselves trapped in a room with no possible escape. The soldiers that had not yet been found were soon attacked by Bebop, Kirin, and Raiju. Finishing off the last remnants of guards, Bebop notified Tamsen that they were all headed to the roof.

“They’re coming.” Tamsen said to Izevel.
Hearing that, Izevel replaced her mask and pulled the hood of her cloak back up. The bodies and statues laid silent around the roof, but none of them had even gotten close to the gong, much less performed the needed task to use it. In under ten minutes, the family had defeated a military structure that had stood for decades, without leaving any survivors.
Tamsen reached out to Donovan, who was still tending to GrumbleJack. “It’s over, love. What do you want to do now?”
“Contact Idrees and Trik, tell them to move the armies forward to the watch tower.” Donovan responded quickly.

Walking out the back gate, Donovan looked out onto the field that led to the Vale. “Tomorrow, we go to war.”

Session 33 Ends.


Part 3: Tears of the Blessed
Act 3: The Battle of Saintsbridge
Session 34, 35, 36, 37: Make War, Not Love

The next evening had arrived, and with it, the beginning of the campaign to decimate the opposition that stood between the family and Sanctum. It would be here that the group would be tested to their limits. Raiju had scouted out ahead into the valley in order to discern the type and number of enemies that were in the path of their goal.

Once Raiju had returned, Donovan called a meeting with his family. Gathering together in a battle planning room within the compound, Donovan mapped out the distance towards the town. After listening to the explanation of the challenges ahead, almost all of the members of the family volunteered to go and eliminate the enemies in their own matter.

“I will take our strongest warriors and strike fear into our enemies. They will know the strength of Asmodeus before they die.”, Kirim stood confidently.
Lucius snickered, “You may show them fear, Kirim, but I can show them flames. I will summon armies of creatures to burn down this whole valley. There will be no one left to oppose us.”
Izevel slinked up to Donovan, her hand caressing his face. “Give them over to me. I will create a menagerie of stone and despair these people could not possibly comprehend.”
Donovan raised his hand, then began to circle the room, “I appreciate all of you, and your willingness to annihilate our enemies. But we cannot assume any one method would be the correct solution. We must work together to bring down this group of foes.”
Looking over at Idrees, Donovan continued. “Instructor, you and Trik will lead our main forces, while the rest of us scout ahead and soften up our foes.”
Idrees nodded, while puffing on her pipe.
Donovan looked back to the rest of the family. “Let us make our final preparations. We leave on the hour.”

Soon after, the group began their trek out to the first group of foes. It didn’t take long before they found a group of mounted soldiers carrying lances and standing watch over their area. Upon seeing the family, the group of fifteen knights began their charge forward, the massive “V” of their line pushing towards the group. The melee elements of the family quickly dismounted in order to work their way around the line of knights. Meanwhile, Lucius summoned forth a massive dinosaur to interpose itself between the front of the line and the rest of the party. The lances pierced into the side of the beast, wreathed in fire, before it slammed its massive tail down onto one of the knghts, crushing both the knght and the horse they were riding. Bebop, GrumbleJack, and Kirim began working their way through the waves of mounted soldiers. From time to time, they would get caught by a stray blade or lance, but it was nothing that the group couldn’t handle. Still, Donovan insisted the warriors of the family were to hold back until they had an opportunity to have their wounds treated.

Izevel took this as her opportunity to act on her own interests. Grabbing Tamsen’s hand, she pointed towards the groups of archers far in the distance and smiled. “You can get us over there, right?” Tamsen nodded, a wicked grin crossing her face. Before Donovan could even get out the words, “Wait, we need to plan…”, the two of them were already well into the camp, with a group of archers close nearby. With a hearty laugh, Izevel through back her hood and began cackling with glee. “Hello, boys!” One of them managed to scream out, “Medusa!” But it was already too late for this group of soldiers. A short time later, a group of arrows came from another nearby group. One of those arrows caught Tamsen in the shoulder, and she winced in pain. Izevel helped Tamsen into a hiding place. “Wait here a moment, and then head back. I’ll deal with these peons.” Tamsen nodded in agreement, and Izevel dashed off towards one of the encampments of the soldiers. As Tamsen began to return to the rest of the family, the screams of more soldiers could be heard in the distance, as Izevel continued with her grisly work. Minutes passed, and by the time that Tamsen had walked back to the rest of the party and had her injuries treated, Izevel appeared near the group, her hood drawn back up over her face. She handed what appeared to be a pair of opaque goggles to Donovan, “They are trying to defend themselves from my powers.” Donovan held the goggles momentarily, then smiled at Izevel, “I take it that it made no difference?” While it was hidden behind her mask, Donovan could still make out Izevel’s smile.

As word spread through the forces, the Bugbear became more confident, wanting to have their opportunity to wreak carnage. They pushed their way across the first bridge, then smashed any of the statues that were once part of the infantry. Abruptly, the Bugbears found themselves stopped by a battalion of powerful fighters. “Dwarves!” A call went out across the battlefield. Donovan looked around, finding two of his family on the battlefield. “Bebop, Kirim, GrumbleJack; go and break that line. We need to push through!” Zargun Arzen spoke up with excitement. “Forth, my Duergar! Let us murder all the accursed Dwarves.” Donovan was about to speak up to hold the Duergar, but suddenly found himself caught in the path of a Fireball. Donovan realized the blast was coming at the very last moment, throwing himself to the ground before the flames lapped around him. Opening his eyes a moment later, he found Tamsen sitting over him, applying healing to his injuries.
Donovan quickly scanned the immediate area, “Where is the Thane’s son?”
Tamsen responded, “I think he went to go fight the Dwarves.”
“Gods damnit all!”, Donovan was clearly irritated. Looking up at Artephius, Donovan barked out his orders. “Artephius, go and recover Zargun Arzen. Destroy any who attempt to stop you in your task. Return him to me.”
Artephius replied without emotion, “Yes, my master.” Then it began to march away.
Donovan snapped his fingers loudly, “Artephius, return Zargun Arzen to me… alive.”
A sound emanated from Artephius that could best be interpreted as disappointment. “Yes, my master.”, Artephius repeated his response and walked towards the battle.
Meanwhile, the Dwarves had begun to build up their lines in order to defend the head of the tribe and to destroy the members of the family. There were twenty or more of the Dwarves, being led by a powerful man with a gleaming axe. Even as Kirim, GrumbleJack, and Bebop attempted to slow down the Dwarves, they found themselves being assaulted from all sides. The Duergar also pushed into the group of Dwarves, and losses added up on both sides. Kirim finally was able to push through, challenging the Dwarven Thane, while Bebop focused his attention on the priest.
A blast of energy crashed into the battlefield, as Artephius arrived at the scene of the conflict. Both Dwarf and Duergar were caught in the Golem’s uncaring radius, as it approached Arzen, and picked him up.
“What are you doing, you stupid hunk of metal?”, Arzen screamed at Artephius.
“The master has demanded your return.”, Artephius responded emotionlessly, then began walking away from the conflict.
Kirim pressed further with the attack against the Dwarven Thane. The Dwarf attempted to intimidate the AntiPaladin, “You cannot hope to defeat me, follower of Asmodeus. I am Durhan One-Stroke!”
The AntiPaladin sneered with disgust, “Let me show you what one stroke looks like.” As Kirin spoke those words, a dark energy rippled over the blade, the hatred and fury manifested into it. Kirin slashed into the Thane in a wave of violence and animosity. The Dwarf was sundered in twain, with the blood coating Kirin’s weapon. A cry of terror came forth from the Dwarves, who watched their leader felled so brutally. At that same point, Bebop exploded into claws and fangs against the Dwarven priest, bringing down any hope for the Dwarves to survive the assault. The Duergar pressed the advantage that had been granted to them, and while many of the Duergar were still killed in the conflict, all of the Dwarven resistance was ended, while one of their number grabbed the Thane’s axe and retreated.

As Arzen was dropped in front of Donovan by Artephius, he continued to protest, “You have denied me my glory!”
Donovan shook his head, “My priority is making sure you get home to your father. I have use for you still that is more than just you dying for your family name.”

A cheer went up from the battlefield, as the fall of the Dwarves allowed the Bugbears to move ever closer to last bridge before Sanctum. There was a momentary pause in the forward momentum when the army of Bugbears encountered a group of Monks who were working their way through the battlefield, but Lucius quickly summoned several devils to fight against the monks. The monsters’ acidic skin burned the fists of the monks as they attacked, which caused the monks to ultimately be unable to defend themselves from the onslaught.

It had become apparent that the forces that would protect this valley were collapsing utterly, as the few pockets of resistance that remained were retreating to last bridge. However, the Bugbears stopped upon approaching the bridge. When the family arrived at the bridge, they discovered what was holding the group at bay: a trio of Shield Archons were standing firm at the opposite end of the bridge.
Donovan stepped out ahead of the group, and walked a short distance down the bridge. “There’s no reason for more violence. I will allow all of you to flee back to your homes.”, Donovan spoke to the Archons and the infantry that were behind them.
The Archons said nothing, and instead stared with silent determination at Donovan.
“Tch.”, Donovan groaned, then turned back to his group, motioning to different members of his family. GrumbleJack, Kirim, and Artephius rushed forward into the front part of the battle line, while Lucius teleported himself and Bebop behind the Archons. Izevel stepped forward, preparing to remove her mask, before Donovan touched her hand and shook his head. His hand then went down to Izevel’s bow, and he whispered words of hatred that made Izevel’s bow glow with a purple hue.
The group began their assault against the massive Archons, attempting to pierce the huge metallic armored shells. The Archons were massive and resolute in their desire to protect the people of Sanctum; but in the end, they were slowly whittled down by the force of the blows the family applied to them. When the fight came to an end, the three Archons were felled, while the family remained steadfast in their goals.

But even as the group began to mend the wounds from the assault, they were beset upon yet again by the another group of soldiers who represented the Kingdom. This time, a group of knights riding on griffons began the assault. The advantage provided by the griffons from the air presented an unexpected challenge to the family. GrumbleJack and Bebop used their wings to fly up to the opponents, while Lucius began creating animals who had the capacity to fly in order to harangue the knights back to the ground.
“Get down here, you pathetic cowards!”, Kirim cursed at the knights as they soared by.
Raiju used the strength of Invisibility in order to get close to one of the knights as they flew by unaware, then decapitated the knight as it flew by. The sky was filled with flying creatures, with the griffons, the flying animals, and the members of the family who were able to become airborne. Izevel’s arrows whizzed across the sky, as GrumbleJack and Bebop began to murder to griffons, which caused the knights to tumble to the ground with little protection from the Bugbears. The knights did cause some injuries; but in the end, they found themselves as overwhelmed and outmaneuvered as all those who had come before them. The bugbears fell upon the last of them, tearing and rending them apart.

The Bugbear army, led by the Family, marched up the last hill to the collection of soldiers that were still remaining from this once mighty army. The group was a collection of warriors and priests, combined with the remnants of previously defeated groups who had fallen back to this last foothold. Donovan sighed, taking an Elixir off of his bandolier and offering it to Izevel, before motioning for her to follow him. The two of them walked towards the collection of soldiers that remained, the last defense of Sanctum. The remaining soldiers put themselves in readied positions, before Donovan began to speak.
“Your army has fallen utterly, your comrades’ corpses strewn across the length of this battlefield. My family has decimated any challenge you sought to bring to us, and my Bugbear armies remain at full strength. There is no possible way the last of you can hope to stop us now. So, I offer you this singular opportunity now to return to the town and spend these last hours with the people you love. This is the only solace I will provide to you. Thus, I ask you this question one last time: Do You Yield?”, Donovan stood before the remaining troops, already knowing what the answer would be; but hoping beyond hope that he was somehow wrong.
“We will never stop fighting evil, until all is light.”, one of the warriors responded with feigned confidence.
“Until all is light.”, the rest of the group repeated.
Donovan shrugged, then looked to the profile of Izevel before returning to the rest of his family, “Izzy, kill them all.”
Izevel pulled her mask off, as a wicked smile crossed her face. “My pleasure, Donovan.”
Donovan didn’t look back to see what was happening, but the screams of the soldiers in agony as their bodies began to petrify made it all too clear what was taking place.
The rest of the fight was over in a few moments. From there, it was a brief march to the town of Sanctum, and to the challenges that lay ahead for them all.

Sessions 34, 35, 36, 37 End.
(Author’s Note: Yes, these were a lot of combat only sessions, each of them taking several hours to complete.)

Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition Starter Box

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