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


Part 1: Knot of Thorns
Act 4: Burning Balentyne!
Session 10: Heartfelt Bloodshed

Tamsen stirred as the rays of morning light cut across the window of the Inn they had been staying in. She began to unravel herself from the bed sheets, reaching out with her eyes still closed over to Donovan’s side of the bed. However, as her arms continued to reach out across the mattress, there was no one else in the bed with her.
“Donovan?”, she muttered somewhat confused.
Opening her eyes, she began to take stock of everything in the room, even with the limited light. Tamsen saw Donovan sitting at the provided desk, surrounded in papers and books while muttering to himself.
“What are you doing, lover?”, Tamsen called out to Donovan, hoping to coax him back into the bed and her waiting arms.
Donovan continued to stare into the papers on the desk, absently responding. “Good morning, Tamsen.”
Tamsen’s face soured at his words. Donovan rarely called her by her name, especially when they were alone together, as he had an affinity for using pet names of affection towards her. Tamsen exited the bed, her naked form moving slowly towards Donovan. As she approached him, she could see the piles of notes and charts that he had been poring over. How long had he been awake? All night, perhaps.
“Everything ok, my love?”, Tamsen spoke softly, as her hands rested against his shoulders.
She could feel the tension and focus running across his muscles.
“We’re falling behind on scheduling and funds. I’m going to have to make more aggressive decisions.”, Donovan responded flatly.
And with those words, Donovan confirmed her suspicions. The “planner” was now working.

When Tamsen first began living with Donovan in the Westermeyer manor, she noticed the sort of family that he had. Donovan’s mother was a sweet woman, always warm and kind to her whenever they would speak. But Donovan’s father Alcott was an entirely different creature altogether. After he attempted to “make a move” on Tamsen and was immediately yelled at by Donovan, Alcott focused all of his anger and disappointment into Donovan. Anytime books were out of balance at one of his shops, or there was a discrepancy of how to deal with staffing issues, Alcott would drop everything on Donovan without a hint of warning. Any complaints or questions from Donovan would be met with by a vicious tirade from his father. And, on the rare occasion where Donovan’s mother attempted to intervene, Alcott would howl about how much he had spent on Donovan’s failed education, and how he could have hired a slew of bookkeepers for the wasted coin they spent on him. Tamsen watched as Donovan would focus himself, attempting to prove his worth to his father over and over again, only for Alcott to snort and tell Donovan that he arrived at the obvious and simple answer. During those times, Tamsen remembered how cold and distant Donovan was, desperate to prove his worth, desperate to please a man who would never be happy with his actions. And somewhere in all of that cruelty and beratement, the “planner” was born. It was still Donovan, but with a focused sense of purpose that prioritized results over elegance. Donovan was never cruel to her in those moments, but Tamsen saw the loneliness and rage in Donovan’s eyes, and she hated Alcott all the more for what he had done to the man she cared for so deeply.

Not wanting to interrupt Donovan’s studies, Tamsen dressed herself and went downstairs. Bebop and Lucius were already downstairs, enjoying their morning and celebrating the victories they had seen achieved.
“Heh, looks like the dwarves are off for their expedition now.”, Bebop snorted happily, as he stuffed his face with food. “Now no one will be coming to repair the worn-down watch wall.”
“Now we need to see what we can do about Mott. Maybe he’d be willing to pay for information on where his wife and Eddarly slipped off to.”, Lucius spoke up, thinking about the potential opportunities. “I suspect for a man as career driven as himself, Mott’s going to be none too happy about this public embarrassment.”
Tamsen said nothing, just ate her food and smiled weakly at the two boys sitting with her. If she knew anything about Donovan, she knew he wouldn’t prioritize any decision that continued to delay progress or incurred additional expenses. No, the “planner” would want the most efficient resolution possible, which probably meant he would kill his way through the whole fortress to get back onto his perceived timeline and budget, if that was the most efficient route. Lucius looked down at the uneaten plate of breakfast,
“Where is Donovan?”, Lucius laughed. “Did you wear him out again last night?”
The two boys laughed at the implication.
“He’s still upstairs looking over some things. I’ll just take his breakfast to him. Thanks, Lucius.” Tamsen kissed Lucius and Bebop gently on the cheek, then grabbed the plate and returned upstairs.

If Donovan had even moved once since she went down to eat breakfast, it was impossible to tell. He was continuing to mutter numbers and statistics to himself.
“I brought your breakfast up, my love.”, Tamsen said sweetly to Donovan.
“Sure, thanks.”, Donovan’s hand waved across the desk. “Just set it down somewhere, and I’ll get it in a bit. Thank you again.”
Tamsen knew Donovan all too well not to accept that answer. If she didn’t pull him away from the work, he would literally go without food or sleep until he was finished. Tamsen sat herself down on Donovan’s leg, interposing herself between him and his work.
She cut a bite of the food away, and pushed it into his mouth, “Say ahh.”
Donovan was caught unaware in that moment, as the food was forced into his mouth before he could respond.
He chewed it briefly and smiled at Tamsen, “Thank you, my love.”
“There you are, baby. I thought the desk was going to eat you whole.”, Tamsen giggled as she touched Donovan’s face.
Her unease began to dissipate, thinking she could pull Donovan back from his obsessive ways.

“Hey Pretty Lady”, the voice of Kiliketz rang out in her head, “Boss told me to contact you when the man who lived at the house showed up. He’s here now.”
When had Donovan given these instructions to Kiliketz? Tamsen realized that Donovan had already been planning his actions since last night.
“Damnit.”, Tamsen mumbled weakly.
“What’s wrong?”, Donovan responded, touching her arm gently.
“Kiliketz contacted me and…”, Tamsen could see the almost immediate shift in Donovan’s face.
“It’s time, let’s get the guys and head over.” Donovan stood up, pulling Tamsen up with him.
Tamsen knew there would be no romantic breakfast, or much romance of any kind for the time being.

Tamsen reached out to Bebop and Lucius through her mind’s connection. “Kiliketz says Mott is back home. Donovan wants you to get dressed and be ready to go in five minutes.”
Donovan was already planning the battle strategy in his head. Clearly, there would be no discussions with this man before he died.

The family made their way over to the Mott residence, taking care to make themselves appear as members of the Castle Guard. Arriving at the doorstep, Donovan finally spoke up, “He’s going to be tired from having to take a longer shift, then being confused at the disappearance of some of Kaitlyn’s belongings. With any luck, he’ll have already removed his armor.”
Donovan’s eyes flashed to Lucius, “Lucinda will enter the home under cover of invisibility, then lay the initial strike.”
Handing Bebop a pair of flasks, Bebop performed the all too familiar ritual of consuming one, then holding the other in his mouth before spitting it back into the container, after becoming invisible. “Once she attacks, Bebop will follow up with the killing blows.”
Lucius applied Invisibility to Lucinda, and then she unlocked the front door and let herself and Bebop in.

To say the attack was a slaughter would be an understatement. Without preparation or armor, Mott was in no position to employ his usual tactics, and the sheer brutality of their sudden and unexpected attacks would have killed far stronger combatants. Bebop took a brief moment during the onslaught to mock the Captain for being a cuckold, before finishing him off. Donovan, Tamsen, and Lucius walked into the room a moment later, only to see the slaughter that had been wreaked on Captain Mott. Emotionless, Donovan asked Tamsen to scan the room for items of magic, while he took the love letters and the “Dear John” letter penned by Kaitlyn, and covered them in Mott’s blood. After completing that, he scattered the letters about the room. From there, Bebop took out the sword that belonged to Mott, and stabbed the corpse through the back. For the remainder of the items, Donovan had Bebop take the set of armor and the Halberd that Mott used, following Tamsen’s notice that the weapon displayed magic. Finishing up their actions, the group resumed their disguises, and left the property.

Donovan looked to the rest of the group, “I need to do some research in town. I’ll catch up with the rest of you later."
The group looked back at Donovan somewhat confused, and then headed back to the Inn.
Once Donovan got out of earshot, Lucius spoke up, “That was weird, right? For Donovan to spend all of that time worrying about everyone, only to immediately turn around and order everyone dead, that’s not normal.”
Bebop nodded, “Yeah, he’s kind of psychotic now, I guess.”
Tamsen’s displeasure was obvious, “You two did this! This is your fault! You both make him feel like he’s unwanted in his own family, and now he feels pressure to make you happy.”
Lucius protested, “How exactly did I make him feel like he’s unwanted?”
Tamsen pushed up closer to Lucius, the rage written plainly on her face. “You made him feel guilty because he was born privileged. He’s always looked out for both of you, but you make him feel like he’s the same as the others.”
Bebop growled, “Then maybe he shouldn’t support all of these scum!”
Tamsen’s face turned to Bebop, her eyes burning with barely contained anger. Bebop looked away, knowing that he had reached Tamsen’s limit.
Lucius raised his hands and smiled, attempting to defuse the situation, “Ok Tamsen, we understand. How can we make things better?”

Donovan moved through the streets, walking into and out of stores, his eyes darting over the different products, searching for something, or perhaps several different somethings. Most of the different store owners recognized Donovan, and greeted him enthusiastically. Donovan, however, seemed to appear distracted or disinterested. He made passing attempts to engage the shopkeepers, but his mind was clearly pulled into other places. When he asked questions, it was about weights and measurements of odd products, such as chocolate and salt. Most of the store owners were confused by Donovan’s actions, but still attempted unsuccessfully to aid him in his search.

Time passed, and as the bar of the Inn filled back up for the evening’s activities, the discussions about what had occurred at Captain Mott’s home were beginning to escalate. People were speaking about what could have happened, if Captain Eddarly was really involved with Mott’s wife and worse still, if he had something to do with Mott’s passing. The discussions were worrying to be certain, but Bebop had other matters that were on his mind.
Bebop kept looking over at Tamsen, and he could see that her annoyance at him had not abated through the evening. “Talk to me Tamsen, please.”
Tamsen’s eyes met Bebop’s and he knew that she was still unhappy. “And what would you have me say?”
“I’m sorry, ok? I didn’t know how much this meant to you.”, Bebop was genuinely upset, and Tamsen could see it in his eyes.
Tamsen pushed up closer to Bebop, her features softening, “HE matters to me, Bebop.”
Bebop nodded, “I know, and I understand. You and I, we’ve had to see the worst of things. We’ve had to experience all the prejudice and hate this place has to offer. I don’t want to forgive them, Tamsen.”
Tamsen’s hand slid across Bebop’s face, and she nodded briefly before kissing him.
After they released, she spoke, “I need him, Bebop. Please.”
“I’ll do whatever it takes, for both of you.”, Bebop’s forehead touched against Tamsen, and they were both quiet in the moment.

Donovan walked into the bar, seeming annoyed even as several of the people there cheered his arrival.
He walked up to the table where everyone was seated and spoke briefly. “We’ve got a lot of riding ahead of us tomorrow, so you all should probably rest up.”
Without any further discussion, he walked up into his room, and closed the door. The three of them sat there a while longer, not knowing what to say to each other.
Finally, Lucius spoke up. “Well, I guess we have our marching orders. Good night, kids.” With that, Lucius retired to his room as well.
Bebop wrapped his arms around Tamsen’s waist. “Do you want to come to my room tonight?”
“I don’t think I should right now.”, Tamsen sighed.
Bebop grunted, displeasure in his tone. “Ok. But I’m here if you need me to be.”
Tamsen kissed Bebop softly once more, and the two of them returned to their respective rooms.

The next morning came, and Tamsen discovered Donovan already awake again, studying and restudying the map he had received from the Dwarves. It was clear to her that Donovan was already beginning to piece together the different locations and what they represented to the Keep, even without having someone on the inside to give him a room for room breakdown. Schedules and guard shift rotations were now also in place, even though Donovan could not know what those schedules were.
As soon as Donovan heard Tamsen waking up, he set down the paperwork on the desk. “Another busy couple of days ahead of us Tamsen, we’re going to be in the woods for a couple of days.”
Tamsen groaned and flopped back on the bed. She had just woken up, and everything was already terrible. Without waiting for her response, Donovan left the room.

Donovan walked downstairs, stopping only briefly at the table where Lucius and Bebop were sitting. “I’m going to go rent us some horses. Be ready for an overnight stay. It’ll take us a couple of days to get there and back.”
Without waiting for questions of comments, Donovan walked out of the bar and into the street. Tamsen came downstairs shortly after Donovan departed, and she sat down next to Bebop and Lucius.
Lucius looked at Tamsen, once again less than pleased, and chimed up, “So, are things… better now?”
“Are you asking me if we had sex Lucius? Because no, we did not. Donovan stayed up all night studying.”, Tamsen replied curtly.
Lucius shrugged, “I don’t know what to say. It seems like he’s worried about how long everything is taking right now. But, I guess I better go pack some stuff for us to eat overnight.”

Having acquired a group of horses for the group to ride out on, Donovan returned to the Inn and asked anxiously, “Are we all ready to go?” The group looked over at each other, then back at Donovan. They then proceeded to leave the Inn, putting their gear and then themselves onto the horses. As the group proceeded, Donovan engaged with Kiliketz from time to time and suggested to him places where he should be scouting ahead. In between those conversations, Donovan and Lucius spoke about different creature types, and which ones are most effective in this type of setting.
“I’m guessing we’re not having a conversation with these individuals either?”, Bebop asked of Donovan.
“No Bebop, we’re killing them in their sleep. Any questions?”, Donovan replied in a very matter of fact tone.
Bebop simply looked over at Tamsen, who looked back at him wordlessly. When the group finally arrived a reasonable distance from where Kiliketz told them the soldiers were camping, they dismounted from their horses, and began walking to the campsite. Pausing just out of sight range, Lucius summoned Lucinda, then applied invisibility to her. She moved as silently as she could behind the one standing guard. Donovan then instructed Tamsen to apply Slumber to the one soldier who was on guard. She complied, appearing directly in front of the soldier before using her magics to put him to sleep. With that, Donovan pulled out his rapier, speaking softly to the blade as it took on a sickly purple hue.

Donovan and Bebop moved up on the group of soldiers who were now all sleeping. With the assistance of Lucinda, the three of them positioned themselves over three different individuals, one of whom they believed to be Captain Varning. Timing their attacks together, the three of them slaughtered three of the guards. However, Bebop could not contain his excitement, and his squeals of delight woke up the remaining guards.
“Blistering Invective, Bebop.”, Donovan spoke to Bebop, unfazed by the change in the situation.
Donovan had explained how this particular Elixir worked, and Bebop was all too excited to try it out. The liquid ran down his throat, and a guttural angry sound escaped his lips, hateful words being spewed out at these unfortunate guards. Of those guards who were still alive and able to wake up, two of them burst into flame, while the other two seemed disturbed by what they were seeing and hearing. Tamsen reached out with her Hexes again, applying Slumber once more to one of the guards not currently on fire. All the soldiers still conscious were cut down as so much wheat, with the other sleeping soldier to be murdered in his sleep a moment later.

Lucius called forth an Earth Elemental to dig a communal grave for the soldiers, as Bebop and Donovan went to work stripping the corpses of their gear. Most of the mundane equipment was left with the bodies, but a few items of worth were discovered on Varning. Once the bodies were finished being buried, the group set up their own camp, almost directly on top of where Varning and his soldiers were slain.
“You all did great work tonight.”, Donovan said, a smile traced weakly on his face.
That night, as Donovan laid asleep next to Tamsen, Tamsen could feel the wetness on his face, and she silently cursed Alcott again.

As the next day arrived, the group headed back to Aldencross, unsure of what the next task would be. Donovan described the Rookery to the group, and told them how long the play would be running.
Donovan described the specific actions that the team would need to follow, and what rooms they would expect to pass through. “This is our only window of opportunity. We take out this, we’ve stranded Balantyne once and for all.”
This was heartening news for all the group to hear. Not only did it mean they were in a good position to take over the Keep, but perhaps this would mean the end of Donovan being so reckless. Tamsen and Bebop seemed to be in an especially good mood with the shift in Donovan’s demeanor.
“This sucks Donovan, I’m not getting any treasure or pleasure!”, Bebop complained, although mostly in jest.
Tamsen looked suggestively at Bebop, “Let’s get you in a bath, Bebop, and I’ll help you take care of that last part myself.”
A laugh came over the group, one that they hadn’t shared in some time together. The group arrived back at the Lord’s Dalliance late into the evening, with all of them feeling somewhat tired from the day’s travel. Still, Bebop and Tamsen were able to find time to enjoy each other, in the way that made each of them feel connected to the other.

Donovan allowed himself to sleep in the morning that Ye Merrie Men were slated to perform in the Keep. All of his efforts had seemed to come together, and he only needed to wait until later in the evening to act out his envisioned plan. Indeed, he even allowed himself the luxury of some intimate time with Tamsen, which he had completely denied himself these last several days. However, fate was to decide a different course for the group, as rumors began to swirl up at the Inn that Commander Havelyn had denied entry to the performing troupe, citing a threat to the Keep that was in place. Donovan was deflated at the sound of this news, and began to second guess all of his efforts thus far. What did he not tie up? What aspect of the plan had been overlooked? Did Eddarly somehow get a message through to Havelyn? Donovan’s frustration grew at all of these unanswered questions, but he was resolved to see this matter through.

The group got together to discuss their options.
“We can’t delay on this, if they get a message out now, all our efforts thus far will have been for nothing! We have to go in!”, Donovan exclaimed.
Lucius queried, “What’s the plan then?”
Donovan had considered using the tunnels again, but having to wait on an opportunity during the day was risky for the four of them, and waiting all night left too much uncertainty.
“We’re going to disguise ourselves as guards, and claim that we are transfers from another Watch Tower. Given the recent issues, it’s not out of reason for them to have put in for such a transfer. Once we get in, we’ll make our way to the Rookery and take that piece off the table.” “And if they don’t let us in?”, Bebop asked worriedly.
“Then we’ll improvise.”, Donovan gritted his teeth in that answer, and the group knew what that meant.

Heading down to the Watch Tower, things had changed quite a bit from a mere three days ago. The entrance into the compound now had multiple guards, and their appeared to be additional troops that had been brought in. Worse still, everyone entering or leaving was being actively stopped and questioned. Donovan again raged at himself, allowing something to slip through his notice. Tamsen, sensing Donovan’s growing frustration, took Donovan’s hand momentarily. He heard her voice in his head.
“Please focus, my love. We all need you right now.”, Tamsen was almost pleading in her request.
Donovan felt his heart racing, and he knew she was right. He walked up to the individual manning the guard station and introduced himself. “I’m Grant, me and my guys got orders from our Commander to come down here. Apparently, there’s been some trouble.”
The man in the station looked at Donovan through his disguise, “What group are you with?”
“We were told to report to Captain Varning, sir.”, Donovan responded, attempting to sound nonplussed.
“And where did you come from?”, the guard continued to press.
“East Tower.”, Donovan mumbled.
He was unsure which Keep would be able to send resources. The guard stared at Donovan, seemingly unimpressed.
In his mind, Donovan called out to Tamsen, “I think we’re going to have to kill them all.”
“Wait, love. Just wait.”, Tamsen shot back.
The guard shrugged, then went into the Keep. In Donovan’s mind, all he could see was his failures. He was convinced that somehow, someone had gotten a message through to them, despite all his efforts. Donovan could barely hold his breathing in check now, so certain he was that a fight was about to commence. Finally, a grizzled soldier came out of the Keep. Donovan could tell this individual had been in the military for some time, and had authority here.
“You boys say you were to be transferred to Varning’s team, is that right?”, the man spoke. He had authority, but not cruelty.
Donovan responded, “That was our understanding, sir.”
Captain Barhold shook his head, “No one around here knows how to do paperwork properly. I’m guessing you four don’t have the paperwork for your transfers, do you?”
Donovan, feigning dejection, replied, “Sorry sir, I just follow orders and keep my head down.”
Barhold smiled at that response, “Well, we can at least get you boys a meal and a good night’s sleep before we send you back.”
With that, Barhold led the group into the Barracks, pointed at some cots for them, and then returned to his work.

The group looked around the barracks, with people coming and going, while others were attempting to sleep. Donovan estimated there were around forty people in the room.
Donovan spoke quietly in Infernal, “We can kill them all.”
Donovan began analyzing the room dimensions, thinking about the group’s powers and what could be accomplished in the relatively small space they had to work with.
“We’re with you, Donovan.”, Lucius responded, the fear resonating slightly in his voice.
In that moment, Donovan realized what he was doing, and what he was risking. His impulsiveness would cost him the only family he had ever had or loved, and all to maintain some personal absolute that he had created for himself. Donovan began to slow his breath, letting himself calm down and enter the moment. He walked up to one of the soldiers that was standing around the barracks. “I heard that food was still available?”

Having been given the directions to the different doorways and some of the rooms beyond them, the group left the barracks and began the trek up to the rookery. They momentarily stopped on the second floor so as to not catch the guards’ attention. Donovan handed an Alchemist’s Fire to Lucius and told him to throw it out past the guards, so as to draw their attention away from the staircase. Completing that, the group went up to the top floor, finding a heavy door with the sounds of birds cawing behind it.
“Time for Lucinda”, Donovan looked at Lucius.
Once Lucinda and Bebop had arranged themselves into the position where Donovan had suggested, Donovan went up and banged on the door. “Master Martin, the Commander seeks your counsel, right away.”
After a short while, a feeble old man opened the door, looking confused at the “soldier” standing in front of him. “What’s that? What does Havelyn want?”
Donovan insisted, “Apologies Master Martin, the Commander seeks your counsel regarding some messages to be delivered.”
The old man seemed appropriately annoyed, “Why can’t he come up here? Fine, fine!”
The bird handler then went through talking to several of his birds, assigning them tasks they were to complete while he was away. Donovan thought it was cute, albeit somewhat sad.
Finally, the man was ready to leave. “Alright, son, lead on.”
“Yes sir.”, Donovan replied.
As Martin and the others began walking towards the steps leading down, Lucius carefully moved in and closed the only open window within the bird filled rookery, effectively sealing the creatures in. From there, Lucinda snuck up behind Martin, decapitating him in a single blow. Martin fell, his lifeless form crumpled in a moment. Bebop picked up his body and tossed him into the fireplace within the rookery. Shortly after, Lucius summoned a Fire Elemental, instructing it to kill all of the ravens inside the room, as the group began the trek downstairs.

Upon returning to the third floor, Donovan uncorked another bottle of Alchemist’s Fire, and poured the content over the collection of arrows that they had discovered there on the way to the Rookery. Finishing that task, the group proceeded down to the second floor where the guards that they had previously encountered were still standing around the area that had momentarily burst into flame.
“Fire in the Rookery!”, Donovan cried out to the guards! “We need water now! Fire in the Rookery!”
The guards, panicked at hearing the news, ran off in order to find buckets and water. With that, the group finished their journey by passing through the Armory, and returning to the Lord’s Dalliance Inn via the tunnels.

Later that night, as a very satisfied Donovan laid naked next to the woman who had made him feel that way, he stared wistfully up at the ceiling of the Inn, reflecting on what had occurred over the last few days. Whoever this Commander Havelyn individual was, Donovan realized that the man was no fool; and all of his plans thus far had just been the easy part of tearing apart Balantyne. If Donovan planned to continue assaulting the compound, he would have to create some new strategies to deal with this man.

“I hope you’re ready Commander, I have plans for you and yours.”, Donovan mused to himself.

Session 10 Ends.
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Part 1: Knot of Thorns
Act 4: Burning Balentyne!
Session 11: Do Wizards Dream of Electric Cheetahs?

“We need to have this discussion.”, Donovan said flatly to the group, as they sat around the largest of the rooms they had reserved at the Lord’s Dalliance Inn.
“I can make a plan either way, but the actions will be influenced by the survivability you want to see.” Donovan looked at the rest of his family: Bebop and Lucius, who were each sitting in chairs, and Tamsen who was in the bed with him, her arms wrapped around him from behind as he was sitting up.
Donovan continued, “Put simply, do you want to attempt to save the rank-and-file soldiers of Balantyne, or do you not care about their outcome?” Donovan wrapped his hands together, then put them against his chin, waiting for their response.
Bebop was first to respond, “Whatever outcome brings the least amount of risk to us is all I care about. Those soldiers can live or die for all I care.” Donovan nodded to Bebop, then looked over to Lucius.
Lucius pondered his answer for a minute, then began, “You know I’ll follow you anywhere Donovan. I just don’t understand why you were so adamant about saving everyone originally, and then going on a killing spree immediately following that.”
Donovan touched his fingers to his lips, “I let Havelyn dictate my timeframe and actions. But I’m not doing that anymore. He wants to fight me like a warrior, I’ll fight back like a merchant.” Donovan smirked at the end of his answer.
Tamsen didn’t say anything, and instead merely continued to stroke Donovan’s shoulders and hair. Of course, no one expected her to say anything, as they were all keenly aware that Tamsen would save or kill whomever Donovan asked of her, with no moral compulsion on the matter.
Pausing a moment, Donovan went forward with his discussion. “Alright, so it sounds like we’re going to kill all of them.” Donovan clapped his hands together and nodded, as if affirming his thoughts. “We’re going to be very busy tonight, let me go over the plans with all of you.”
The discussions between the four of them went on for several hours, and day moved into night.

As night approached, the group split into two parts. Donovan and Lucius moved over to the north side of the compound, taking care to stay out of distance. Meanwhile, Tamsen and Bebop worked their way back under the tunnels between the Inn and the Keep. The two groups communicated with each other via the link that Tamsen held with all of them. Once all of them were in the assigned positions, the operation was underway. Lucius began by summoning a group of Earth Elementals. Donovan gave the Elementals specific instructions for them to follow with regards to the Keep. They were to move underground for a specific distance, then come up into the Keep proper. The rooms they were to surface in corresponded to the Pantry, the Kitchen, and the Storeroom. From there, they were told to destroy all objects they saw in the room. Donovan’s hope in all of this was that the Elementals would cause damage to the remaining food supply that was nearby the Kitchen. The Elementals began their cruel task.

Meanwhile, Bebop and Tamsen went to work on the food stores that were being kept under the Armory. Per Donovan’s instructions, Bebop moved a group of crates and barrels to the other side of the secret door where the tunnel began. Tamsen summoned her dark magicks, and caused the food stocks to be Putrefied. Given the sheer volume of food that was stored here, the process would take some time. Crates filled with foot became rotted and spoiled, and the smell in the vault began to get worse. Once the two of them were finished, they retreated back into the passageway, and pulled the door closed.

As the first wave of the Elementals completed their task, Lucius summoned up another group of Elementals. These Elementals were instructed to push directly through the closest walls. This would lead the Elementals directly into the Barracks, which from there they were instructed to attack and kill any individual they discovered in the room. Once the Elementals molded through the Barrack’s wall, Donovan and Lucius began their own retreat from the Keep. While they were unable to hear what was happening beyond the wall, Lucius could imagine that the summoned creatures were shedding a great deal of blood, given the time of evening and the number of soldiers who would be clustered together in that room.

Once the group had completed their onslaught against the Keep, they returned via their different methods back to the Inn. The family sat down at a table, and Lucius went into the kitchen area to begin cooking the fish that had been purchased from the docks earlier that day. During a previous discussion, Lucius had put forward the notion of getting poison glands from some exotic fish, and using that poison to take out some of the more influential individuals in the Keep. Now that the plan had switched to a “siege” mentality, they had no reason to purchase the poison sacs on these fish, but Donovan still intended to pay the fishermen for their efforts, since he had already agreed to the commitment that had been made previously. Donovan was congratulating the family on their individual efforts, and they were regaling one another with the tales that had taken place during their individual actions.

After the discussion, Donovan spelled out the next part of his plans to the group.
“Tamsen my love, I’ve already assigned Kiliketz to night watch duty, and told him to contact you if he sees anyone attempting to leave the Keep. You will stay in Lucius’ room at night, and wake him up if anything occurs so that we can intercept them right away.” Tamsen nodded with understanding at Donovan’s instructions.
“Meanwhile, we’ll work together as a group within the area during the day to make sure no one comes out. If we see someone, we’ll stop them before they have a chance to resupply.” Donovan looked at each of them to make sure they understood what was being asked of them.
Lucius queried Donovan, “Don’t we want to question some of these people to see what all we have accomplished in there?”
Donovan shook his head, “Not until we see someone worth questioning. Otherwise, we have to continue applying pressure to the group. An army is only as good as the food they eat.”
“Depending on how well things go, I’ll shop around the town and begin creating a buying frenzy on food supplies.”, Donovan continued, to no one in particular.

The food and company were both delicious, especially so as they considered that the people inside the Keep were by now realizing that they had no food available to eat. How long would that group be able to go without having food available? Donovan calculated that the situation inside the Keep would become fairly dire after three days. After another week, there would certainly be casualties. And, all of this would have a devastating impact on morale.
“Your move, Havelyn.”, Donovan thought to himself.

The night passed, and the family retired to their respective rooms. Lucius was beginning to feel his connection to his summoned monsters continue to grow. He could picture them in different ways, seeing creatures as more than just the habitats they would traditionally dwell in. As Lucius laid in his bed, he imagined what it would be like if his creatures could swim or fly instead of simply run. A certain glee occurred to him as he began to ponder the possibilities. Unceremoniously, Tamsen entered his room.
“Hello Lucius.”, Tamsen said, a sly smile on her face. Tamsen dropped the silk clothing she was wearing, revealing her naked form underneath, and climbed into the bed with Lucius.
“Do you not have any other clothes?”, Lucius asked, somewhat surprised at the boldness of Tamsen. Lucius understood very clearly the function that Tamsen served in the family. On the most obvious level, Donovan was clearly smitten by Tamsen, and she could do no wrong in his eyes. Tamsen also had Bebop under her thumb, and he was a powerful warrior available to Donovan in large part due to Tamsen’s manipulations. For those reasons, Lucius was always guarded when dealing with Tamsen. He could easily imagine getting lost in that woman’s embrace, and become another one of her toys.
Tamsen smirked at him, “I would be naked all the time if Donovan would allow me to. Why, are you not comfortable being around a naked woman?”
“I’ve been around plenty of naked women, but usually we’re doing more than just sleeping.”, Lucius responded teasingly, and then immediately regretted that choice of words.
Tamsen rolled herself on top of Lucius, her legs straddling his waist. “Oh, are you saying you want to do more?” Tamsen ran her finger across Lucius’ chest.
“No thanks, Tamsen. You and Donovan have a complicated relationship.”, Lucius replied, although he felt his body responding to her caress.
“It’s not complicated at all.”, Tamsen insisted. “I love Donovan, I enjoy whomever else I please.” Tamsen leaned forward, her eyes locked with his. “You only like to play with your dolly?”
“Eidolon.”, Lucius answered
Tamsen giggled, enjoying getting underneath Lucius’ skin. She whispered, “Do you want to have a threesome with her? Have you ever wanted to see her with a woman?”
Lucius eyes narrowed, “Very funny, Tamsen.” Lucius began feeling his pulse speed up, and was unsure how he was going to disentangle himself from her if she refused to stop.
Tamsen shrugged and sighed. She kissed Lucius on the cheek, then rolled back off him. “Good night, Lucius.”
Lucius wiped his face with his hands and spoke quietly to himself, “The things I do for this family.”

The next morning came, and Lucius awoke to find Tamsen wrapped around him.
“Mmm, Donovan.”, she mumbled quietly in her sleep.
Lucius was already irritated, “Is this how it’s going to be every morning?” Lucius pulled away from Tamsen’s grip, simultaneously attempting to wake her up. “Get up, Tamsen! I need to go fix breakfast for everyone.”
Tamsen whined as she reached out across the bed, “Cuddles…”
Lucius became more insistent, “Get up woman! Go cuddle with Donovan.”
Tamsen looked up from where she had been sleeping, annoyed at having already been awoken. She stood up and grabbed her silken clothing, not even bothering to put it on. Opening the door, Tamsen walked across the hallway of the Inn, and back into Donovan’s room. Everyone who had arrived early at the Inn for breakfast was suddenly shocked to have seen a naked woman simply strolling across the hallway.
For his part, Donovan was already awake, planning out possible moves and actions by the soldiers in the Keep and how he could counter their actions. Upon seeing Tamsen, he smiled and greeted her. “Good morning my love, I hope you slept well. Did anything of…”
Tamsen cut Donovan off, throwing herself onto Donovan, and wrapping her arms, legs, and tail around him. “Cuddle me, Donovan.”, she said, already falling back asleep.
Donovan smiled, and kissed Tamsen softly on the forehead, “Obviously, that went well.”

The family settled into their usual routine as the morning continued on. The group got wind of a rumor that a Talingarde soldier was visiting with the Mayor of the town. Donovan told the group they would need to go and respond to this, the soldier could not be allowed to gather reinforcements for the Keep.

The group headed out to the center of town, where there was a large gathering of civilians around the Mayor’s office. Apparently, there was quite a lot of buzz about the handsome soldier who had come from the North. The soldier left the Mayor’s office and got on his horse without fanfare, then immediately took off to ride to the next destination.
“Stop him!”, Donovan instructed Lucius.
Lucius summoned forth a Cheetah, allowing the Cheetah to take on aspects of the Plane of the Air. The Cheetah literally flew out towards the horseman, electricity crackling in its wake. The Cheetah struck the soldier from its midair position, biting and clawing the soldier, knocking them off the horse. As the crowd was struck numb in shock from seeing a cheetah flying down onto the horseman, it began to devour the flesh of the soldier.
Donovan looked over at Lucius, surprise on his face. “That’s new.”
Lucius smiled, “It’s been something I have contemplated for a while now.”

The group headed back into town, and then further on towards the Keep. On the way, they began hearing the sound of a group headed towards them. Hoping to gain the advantage of an ambush, the family retreated into the trees, and watched the individuals who passed by. A group of eight soldiers were on the way into town, undoubtedly to collect food for the Keep.
“Surround them with creatures, and end them.”, Donovan communicated intention to Lucius via Tamsen.
Once more, Lucius called forth the power of his summoned monsters. This time, he called forth a collection of Hell Hounds, surrounding the group at the cardinal points.
“Incinerate!”, Lucius commanded the Hell Hounds. All in one action, the Hounds simultaneously erupted fire from their mouths, catching the soldiers inside of a massive gout of flame coming from all directions. The soldiers, unprepared for the attack, were scorched utterly. Burnt flesh and warped metal was all that was to be found from the group.

Feeling bolder now, the four began to push closer to the Watch Tower, in order to get a better understanding of what sort of damage had taken place. With Donovan’s keen perception, he was able to notice a figure on the walls of the Keep. An unarmored figure, to be precise.
“Lucius, the Mage is on the wall! Let’s take advantage of this opportunity!”, Donovan spoke excitedly.
Lucius called forth yet another one of the Cheetahs tied to Air, launching it with its amazing mobility at the Wizard who was hundreds of feet away.

Tacitus was no fool. He had heard of the recent attacks that had been coming from summoned monsters, and had an idea of what to expect. More impressively, he had agreed to continue to provide aid, even as Father Donnagin had continued to bemoan the wickedness and danger of Arcane magic. But nothing in his life could have prepared him from what he saw coming at him from the ground. It was a Cheetah, but not running across the landscape as one might expect. No, this Cheetah was literally hurling itself at him through the air. Thinking quickly, Tacitus fired off a collection of Magic Missiles, then followed that up with a large Fireball. Wasting no time, Tacitus immediately applied Fly to himself, and readied himself to take to the air.

Lucius sensed the demise of the previous monster, which prompted him to immediately spawn another one. This one hurtled out again towards the Mage, who began flying away from it as fast as possible, getting out of the creature’s initial attack range. Once airborne, Tacitus continued to zoom around the air, all the while being quickly followed up by the flying Cheetah. Finally, Tacitus flew into one of the larger structures of the Keep, closing the windows behind him.
“Godsdamnit!”, Donovan cursed. “He got away. Have Lucinda get into the main courtyard area. We need to get some kind of confirmation of how much damage has been done.”

Lucius called up Lucinda, who would be able to provide far more information than his typical summoned monsters. Lucius applied wings to Lucinda, and had her fly up to the area where the Wizard had been walking around. As Lucinda moved through, it became clear that the soldiers had been pulled away from the Keep walls, a clear response from the attacks that had been taking place over the last 24 hours. Lucinda continued to relay information back to her master, notifying Lucius of the things she was discovering.

As Lucinda attempted to move into the section where the soldiers were typically quartered, she encountered a large contingency of soldiers. For Donovan, this was confirmation that the soldiers were continuing to hold up inside of a small section of the Watch Tower. Lucinda began fighting her way through the soldiers, killing several of them in the process. It was then that Captain Barhold appeared, Great Sword in hand. Knowing that Lucinda would not be able to single handedly hold back Barhold and a half dozen guards by herself, Lucius decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and had her recalled to her home Plane.

With that, Donovan and the others decided that this would be as far as they would be able to press into the Keep for tonight. It was clear that Haverlyn was continuing to coalesce his forces into a limited area, unwilling to continue taking losses by being spread out throughout the Watch Tower. As they left, the group felt a searing heat, and flames lapped at their flesh. Looking up, it was clear that Tacitus had taken the opportunity of their withdrawal as a chance to hurl down a Fireball into their midst. Donovan patched up the group, and they began to return to the Inn.
Suddenly, Lucius had an idea, “What if we take all those bodies that are up the road just a bit, and spread them out around here?”
Donovan laughed aloud at the suggestion, “How clever, Lucius! Let Haverlyn find a group of his men clearly burned to cinders from a Fireball attack, and we’ll see how he responds!”

Bebop and Lucinda collected the bodies of the soldiers that had been attacked further up the road, then placed their burnt corpses at the center of the Fireball explosion. While Donovan didn’t know if anything would come of it, he was delighted at the thought of the “Detective” Donnagin discovering these bodies and coming to the “obvious” conclusion of what had happened to them.

“Oh, that wicked Arcane magic!”, Donovan laughed.

Session 11 Ends.
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As we enter the holiday season of 2021, and near the completion of the first Book, I thought this would be a good time to go over my thoughts on the characters, and the decisions I made towards putting them together. As I am the most familiar with putting together character builds for Pathfinder, I took up the task of assembling the four characters that would be used for the game.

Our DM (David) didn't give me a lot of information about the game, only that we would be playing characters that had to have an Evil Alignment, and that we would be starting the game in a Prison setting (which I interpreted to mean no gear of any type).

Player: Robert
Character: Donovan
Class: Investigator (Empiricist)/Occultist

Donovan was simultaneously the easiest and most complicated character that I put together of the group. From the beginning, I pictured a support class similar to that of a Bard, but I wanted to avoid a heavy Charisma character, since I knew we would have a "face" character. I had initially considered a Class like Wizard, but I felt like that was something I had already been involved with previously. Picturing this character, I was thinking about a "Hannibal from A-Team" concept.

What I Like: Investigator is a fun class to play if you want to be the "Knowledge Guru" of the game (assuming Knowledges get used in your game). Between the Feats Skill Focus (Language) and Orator, the Traits Clever Wordplay and Precise Treatment, and the benefits of the Empiricist Archetype, so many Skills are running through Intelligence that it allows you to become proficient with just about everything your Party could possibly need. It certainly doesn't hurt that you are awarded 6+ Intelligence Skill Points per level. I also really like the Inspiration ability, which gives you an extra D6 on all of your rolls. One of the things I discovered in Way of the Wicked was that the DC challenges in the very first act were insanely high, with tests coming in at up to 30+, with no gear at that point of the game. Tests at that difficulty for Level 1 characters isn't exactly easy, so any ability that can help provide additional bonuses is a welcome asset. If you are playing a game where Knowledge tests are a thing, this is certainly one of the better Classes to accomplish that.

What I Dislike: This character is not good at combat, at least not currently. This character is also not good for buffing until you get the right Elixirs, and get the Infusion Discovery. It's a Talent Tax for this group, plain and simple, but something that other support classes don't have to deal with. I decided to multiclass into Occultist in order to resolve some of the Challenges with combat. By Using the Transformation School of Occultist, I was able to pick up Physical Enhancement (which I used for Dexterity) and Legacy Weapon. The great thing about Legacy Weapon is that it allows me to apply the Bane Enhancement to my Rapier, and since I know the type of creature I'm fighting (thanks to all the aforementioned Knowledge Skills), the character can constantly set the Bane correctly. It's not ideal, but it's at least a partial solution.

Where I'm Headed: Since the background of the character is in the Merchant Profession, I've been considering making more investments into Crafting Skills. This would allow me to get permanent "buffs" onto the Party at a faster pace with this character than I might be able to with my character otherwise, since the cost would be much lower than "retail".


Continuing on with the previous post, this is another character recap for the efforts that our Party has made with our characters thus far, and my thoughts about the characters from the experiences we have seen.

Player: Debi
Character: Tamsen
Class: Witch (Seducer)

My wife Debi plays two sorts of characters: The Librarian with the Heart of Gold, or The Vamp. Since we were going into an evil campaign, I felt like the choice in this case was pretty apparent. But, with Tamsen, I wanted to do more of a specific challenge. Since my goal from the beginning was to have Debi play a vamp character in an evil campaign, how could I get as close as possible to the stereotypical "succubus" character, without actually having a succubus? Oh, the contortions I went through for this one. I kept looking for characters that embraced similar powers and themes as the succubus, and finally landed on what I considered a pretty close compromise, a Tiefling Seducer Witch. However, the Tiefling in of itself wouldn't be close enough, so I had to beg my DM (David) to allow Debi to use the Variant creation rules for a Tiefling, and to substitute the native Evil Telepathy that a Tiefling could acquire for a watered down version of Profane Gift.

What I Like: Wow, Hexes are amazing! Throughout the first part of Way of the Wicked, Debi could simply end fights with the Slumber Hex. Why fight anyone when her character's Hex allows our Party to go for a quick Coup de Grace? Also, Protective Luck is not discussed a lot in most guides, but is far and away one of the best Hexes a Witch can use. Forcing a reroll on any character that makes an Attack Roll on a Hexed character with no Saving Throw to prevent the effect? Yes Please! Witches also appear to have one of the most interesting Spell lists, improved further by the choice of Patron.

What I Dislike: Skills are a bad area for Seducer Witches. Between their limited Skill Points (2+ Intelligence Modifier), and the fact that most Charisma skills are not Class Skills for them, it is hard to find a way to shine with Skills. Additionally, Seducer Witches are saddled with the Charm Hex as their first Hex, meaning you will be spending your first Feat to buy Extra Hex. Because she has to use Cackle every round, it's hard for her to do much else beyond apply one buff or debuff per turn. She also has the worst AC, Saving Throws, and HP currently.

Where She's Headed: The next steps for Tamsen will be to continue evolving her towards her "succubus" destiny, while also resolving some of the weaknesses that are currently present in her build. Additionally, we've discussed having her become our resident "tattoo expert", since we can combine tattoos with Equipment (given the available funds).


Moving on with my next willing participant, this is my interpretation of the "hitter" for the Party.

Player: Brian
Character: Bebop
Class: Alchemist (Beastmorph/Vivisectionist)

Brian is a friend of mine I've known for some time, and when it comes to character designs, he generally prefers characters that can be explained in a sentence or two, and mechanics that aren't too complex. Sure, the Character can be all sorts of "broken", as long as he can quickly wrap his head around how he can maximize the damage output. As the DM explained this campaign to me as starting out in a prison, I wanted to put together a hard hitting character that didn't need any weapons in order to pull their combination. As such, the SkinWalker race seemed like a really natural fit, especially with the Extra Feature feat.

What I Like: There are so many synergies that play together well with this character. Feral Mutagen quickly adds on more attacks, and Strength. Sneak Attack can quickly be applied to all of the attacks, effectively multiplying the damage output. As I'm also pushing this build into an Intimidate Demoralize build, it's nice that the Mutagen provides a buff to Intimidate. The ability to use Blistering Invective also combines well with a Demoralize build, and Alchemists have a ton of great self buffs and Discoveries that go well with melee combat. It's easy to see how quickly Brian's character can tear through ranks of enemies, which we were made aware of when the DM started maximizing the NPC's hit points. That's generally a good clue you're probably on the right path for a direct damage character.

What I Dislike: The Demoralize Build takes a Lot of Feats, starting with Weapon Focus and Dazzling Display, and then working up to the next tier of required Feats. This is preventing me from selecting other Feats that I might use for durability. The build also requires a lot of different Stats, from Strength and Constitution for combat, Dexterity and Wisdom for Saving Throws, and Intelligence for Elixirs and Skills. It's not easy to bring all of those different Stats together. Survivability is also a concern that we have to work with, as this character isn't exactly the hardest to hit.

Where He's Headed: The next steps for Bebop are to continue to advance the Demoralize game, and continue to increase the survivability of the character. Additionally, the character will continue to function as the "comic relief" in my writeups, as Brian is generally given to being humorous during games.


The final Recap in this group was one of the most challenging ones for me to nail down, not because of the difficulty of building the character, but because of the parameters required in putting it together.

Player: Chris
Character: Lucius (& Lucinda)
Class: Summoner

When thinking about the last character for our group, I knew we were going to have to have someone who had the "rogue" skills. The thing is, I hate rogues. So, I knew that I was going to have to find another way to get those sweet rogue skills (Disable Device/Stealth) in another form. Then Chris told me that his wife might want to play as well, but he didn't know what sort of schedule she would be able to play. With that in mind, I started thinking about ways that he could have his wife's character around when she wasn't there, and allow her to "run" the character when she appeared. This train of thought led me into the Summoner build, and the Skilled Evolution placed onto all of those key rogue skills that we needed to represent.

What I Like: Simply put, (Chained) Summoners are close to one of the best character classes I have ever seen. Not only can you design builds around the Eidolon side of your setup, you can also instead focus in on the quality of Summoned Monsters that are an aspect of their builds. Finally, Summoners have a great spell list, meaning they can serve in so many functions for the team. If you are considering playing Way of the Wicked, you are going to quickly need a way to deal with Flying and/or Aquatic creatures; and your party will suffer if you don't have a good solution for that. Summoners not only can fill all of those roles, they can also put additional pressure on the NPC's by having summoned monsters that will outlast almost everything on the field. They have low Feat requirements, and can really serve in a lot of functions, especially due to their required stats (Charisma and Intelligence).

What I Dislike: I can't really think of any specific complaint that I have about this class, other than the fact you do need to choose between focusing in on an amazing Eidolon, or having armies of Summoned Monsters. But that's not a bad issue to have to deal with.

Where He's Headed: As I'm trying to work the Eidolon into a Trip based build, more of the Eidolon's Feats will continue to go into those pieces. Outside of that, I'm very happy with the current direction of this character, and excited to see what it can do next. Maybe I'll request the Leadership Feat for this character. I mean, it's already pretty overpowered anyway, right?


Part 1: Knot of Thorns
Act 4: Burning Balentyne!
Session 12: Shards of the Broken Wall

“They’re coming out!”, Lucius excitedly relayed to the rest of the group, “I think we’re about to have our conflict!”
Donovan was confused by this. While the situation in the Watch Wall could not be going well for the soldiers, it was only three days since the food supplies had been cut. There was no way Commander Havelyn could already be desperate. “What is Lucinda seeing exactly?”, Donovan pressed Lucius for more information.
Lucius elaborated further. According to the information he was receiving from the Eidolon, two groups of soldiers had come out in front of Balentyne, each of them in a Chevron formation. Additionally, archers were standing on the top of the primary Keep wall leading back into Aldencross. While Lucinda could hear shouting coming from the groups of soldiers, she couldn’t make out the specifics of what was being said.
Bebop spoke up excitedly, “They are going to attack the city for food supplies. I know how this military is, as soon as things start going bad, they’ll take what they want from the civilians.”
Donovan pondered Bebop’s statement and smiled briefly. Oh, if only that were true! It would be a way for his family to show Talingarde for all its shortcomings. But Donovan remained skeptical. “I would suspect they are performing drills, trying to see if there’s any response.”
Bebop nodded, “It’s a trap.”
Donovan looked at Bebop momentarily, then started moving towards the Wall. “Lucius, summon up some Aerial horses, we’re riding for Balentyne now!”
Lucius began his chanting and motions, and soon there was a group of horses who could ride the air almost as well as the land.
The horses stormed towards the groups, and behind those soldiers, the prize that they sought. Donovan explained to them that he believed they could cut off the soldiers from the Keep by closing the doors behind them, then sealing up the mechanics that made the doors unpassable. This would allow them to have free reign of the building in order to cause as much damage as possible.
As the horses and riders approached the Watch Wall, the archers who had fallen into formation with the rest of the group began loading up their weapons. “The invaders are coming!”, shouting was heard by the soldiers as they readied themselves to fire. The rest of the soldiers fell into line, bracing themselves for a calvary based attack. Arrows began to fly in, with most of them missing, but a few of them connecting with members of the family.
Just as the group was about to strike the line made by the soldiers, Donovan gave the order to fly up and towards the top of the wall. Most of the soldiers stared in stunned silence as a group of horses literally flew over them, while others cursed the group for their cowardice in battle. The horses were coming to the other side of the wall when Donovan saw him: the man in gleaming Full Plate. Donovan knew exactly who that man was, and what his position here meant for his original plan.
“Gods damn it all!”, Donovan cursed. Quickly looking around, Donovan pointed at the highest structure in the Keep. “Head for the roof!”, Donovan called out to the rest of them. The man in Full Plate armor stared at the group as they flew out of range.
Once the team was all on the roof, everyone went to work. Donovan barked out orders that the others efficiently completed. “Lucius, unsummon and call back Lucinda.” “Bebop, imbibe your Mutagen and wait on the next floor down. Make sure no one gets past the staircase.” “Tamsen, get into position behind Bebop and be ready to summon Grasping Tentacles.” With that, Donovan took a breath, and began working on dismantling the machinery that was located on the roof.
Bebop and Tamsen went downstairs through the trap door in the roof. Bebop consumed a flask that he had prepared earlier this morning, and his body one more begin to shift and change. Tamsen whispered soft words of a Protective Ward on him, then drew a breath, “We’re going to fight every single person left in the Keep right here?”
Bebop gritted his teeth, “Donovan usually has a plan for everything.”
A few seconds after Donovan finished dismantling the weapon, Lucius had resummoned Lucinda. “Great work! Now we need to use her and Bebop in order to pin down everyone coming up the stairs.”, Donovan considered the shape of the room, and the choke point that the stairway provided.
The rest of the team joined Tamsen and Bebop downstairs, and Lucius and Bebop organized their positioning to take advantage of the area they had to work with. Meanwhile, Donovan began to investigate the separate rooms near the staircase, with Tamsen following, her curiosity piqued.
In one of the rooms, Donovan found a chest. His face grimacing, Donovan pulled out a pair of thieves’ tools, and began picking the lock. “This is not my forte.”, Donovan said exasperated. This statement turned out to be quite timely, as Donovan missed the trap switches in the back of the chest, causing him and Tamsen to receive a small electrical shock, and setting off a loud and annoying alarm.
Breaking out his Healer’s Kit, Donovan pulled out a soothing balm and began to apply it to his fingertips where the electricity made contact. He then offered some to Tamsen, who was also singed, but had some natural resistance. “Sorry, love.” Tamsen merely smiled and kissed Donovan on the lips, “Tsk, tsk, Donovan. You’re distracted right now.”
Donovan pressed on into the other room, which he surmised to be the Commander’s bedroom. His eyes were drawn to the portrait of a beautiful woman. “His former wife.”, Donovan spoke in passing. “Former?”, Tamsen queried Donovan. Donovan’s hand stretched out over the candles surrounding the portrait, “Remembrance candles. I would never let you go like that, my love.” Donovan’s eyes faced Tamsen with grim focus, and she looked back at him, “Obviously not, Donovan. You’ll never find another like me.” Tamsen giggled, clearly trying to lighten the mood.
Looking around further, Donovan found a holy book of Mitra, well worn and taken great care of. As Donovan idly flipped through the pages, he found a family tree for Commander Havelyn, which also showed the man had a son. More interesting, however, was the part of the book that had been altered, as if a name was being removed.
Voices could be heard approaching the stairs now, and Donovan instructed Tamsen to help aid the group in keeping the soldiers from climbing the stairs. Donovan was about to join her, but something about that book drew him back. He focused on the page longer, attempting to read the maligned text. “Samuel Havelyn, Cardinal of Mitra.”, Donovan spoke to himself.
Something about those words continued to ring in his head. Why would the Commander attempt to cover up his brother, a priest of Mitra? “Not a priest, a Cardinal.” Recognition began to flash through Donovan’s mind. He remembered the conversation he had with Sakkarot. “That man seeks to call himself a Cardinal but is only a Cardinal of the Mitran faith.” Donovan looked up again at the picture of the Lady Bronwyn, and the candles surrounding her. All of the pieces fell together into Donovan’s mind.
Donavan put his face in his hands, and began to laugh, ignoring the sounds of the battle taking place just outside the door.
Bebop reveled in destruction when he chose to, and this moment was pure mitigated destruction. Between the quick and powerful moves of Lucinda, the effortless mental attacks of Tamsen, and his own enhanced abilities, the soldiers were little more than nuisances waiting to be swatted away. And oh, how Bebop could swat! His powerful attacks could easily rend through these soldiers before they could even realize they were dead. “Come on, I thought you were Talingarde’s finest? Is this all you have for us?”
Lucinda, being an Eidolon, was not one given to braggadocio. She was content in that her master was pleased with her, and that her efforts were proving effective. The stairs indeed proved to be a terrible choke point for the soldiers, being unable to fully protect themselves while moving up the staircase. Those few halberdiers who planned to move into Bebop were struck low by Lucinda’s own long weapon.
Eventually, dozens of soldiers lay dead on the staircase or at the bottom. As Bebop looked down the stairs for the next person he would be able to slaughter, he saw two men standing there. One of them was the man in Full Plate that Donovan seemed to want to avoid. The other was clearly a religious man of some sort. “Uh, Donovan, there’s someone else here.”, Bebop called into the bedroom.
Donovan strolled out, tapped Bebop on the shoulder and said “Enlarge Person.”, before looking at the two soldiers and smiling weakly. The two men reached the top of the stairs unimpeded by the group. Donovan sighed, “Commander Havelyn, it’s an honor to finally meet you. I don’t suppose there’s any way I could convince you to take the rest of you men, and help get the citizens of Aldencross to safety, is there?”
Havelyn stared at Donovan with a surly look, “Lay down your arms lest your endanger your lives and your very souls with this villainy.”
“Right, I thought as much.”, Donovan continued, not expecting much different. Looking over at the religious man, Donovan continued, “How about you, Father Donnagin? There’s a lot of good you and your Acolytes could do for this town. After the bugbears move past, having a group of devoted healers could really give the people hope.” Donovan looked Donnagin in the eyes, hoping to find some sense of empathy or common ground they could unite behind; but Donovan only found the eyes of a zealot staring back at him. “The forces of Mitra will never fall to the likes of you scum!”
Donovan shrugged his shoulders. Going in, he knew that this was the most likely statistical outcome; but he truly wanted to turn things around before it was all lost. “Kill them.”, Donovan stated without enthusiasm.
The family had already coordinated the plan of attack before the battle was even engaged. Tamsen brought up a set of Grasping Tentacles at the officers’ feet. Unwilling to remain in such an obvious sacrilege, Havelyn stepped out between Bebop and Lucinda. This spelled the beginning of the end for the officers, as Lucinda immediately took advantage of Havelyn’s position in order to trip him to the ground. Once fallen, Bebop exploited the opportunity to fully unleash his rage. It was all Donnagin could do just to heal up Havelyn to prevent him from passing to the great beyond. Havelyn would right himself, but the advantage of range that Bebop and Lucinda possessed put Havelyn in an impossible situation.
For just a moment, they all thought it was far too easy.
It was in that moment that Tacitus appeared leaning in from the trap door above them. Apparently, Tacitus had used the onslaught to fly over to the roof, and attack from a different prong. Donovan had not calculated for this. Donovan, Tamsen, and Bebop reeled from the force of the Fireball that was launched in such close proximity.
Donovan consumed a flask, granting him Expeditious Retreat. Quickly, he sped up to the top of the trap door, only to find that Captain Barhold was waiting to attack. A quick slice cut into Donovan’s flesh, as he almost fell back down the trap door, and scrambled to the bedroom doorway in order to gain a moment of cover.
Lucinda and Bebop continued to press their advantage, even as the flames licked across Bebop’s flesh. Donovan rushed back to the group, attempting to use Cure Light Wounds in order to grant the team some respite. “Finish him already, we have to get to the roof!”
Another blast came down from Tactitus, continuing to wither away the health of the family. In frustration, Donovan grabbed his blade, already full of the hatred he had for these people, and stabbed it into Havelyn’s fallen form.
It was in that moment that the next blast crashed through the room. Tacitus was no longer even attempting to distinguish friend from foe. Donovan saw the tentacles fade away, as Tamsen’s body hit the floor.
Bebop screamed and cursed as he saw Tamsen fell. He grabbed her form, quickly moving her into the room furthest away from the trap door. He set down her broken form, and administered healing to her.
Lucius and Lucinda followed behind Bebop, only waiting just long enough for Donovan to enter the room before bracing the door behind them.
Donovan threw open his Healer’s Kit, as vials and ingredients skittered across the floor. For the next few moments, Donovan sat over all of them, administering healing in every form and way he knew, leaving nothing behind. The group looked markedly better, although their injuries were still somewhat present.
“Now what?”, an exasperated Lucius asked.
“Bebop, hold the door. Lucius, unsummon Lucinda and summon Earth Elementals. We’re going to force him to use up every spell he still has left.”, Donovan’s voice was shaking now, continuing to look back at Tamsen who was laying on the ground.
Lucius and Bebop complied, and soon a group of Earth Elementals was engaging whatever was on the other side of the door. A force attempted to push through the door, but it was no match for Bebop’s enhanced strength.
Seconds continued to pass, Donovan was sitting next to Tamsen, looking down on her, watching her breathe. Lucius called out, “Are we going now?” Donovan did not respond, continuing to observe Tamsen, his hands shaking. Frustrated, Lucius walked over next to where Donovan was sitting, and slapped him hard in the face. Donovan’s gaze snapped to Lucius, fire in his stare.
“Are we going now?”, Lucius repeated the question forcefully.
Donovan listened to the sounds outside the door, “It sounds like the combat has died down. At the very least, I don’t hear the distinctive sounds of a Fireball eating up all the air in the room.” Donovan then turned his gaze to Bebop, “The next person that tries to come through, let them. We’ll start killing our way out.”
The door was pushed again, but this time Bebop let the door fall open, and immediately closed it behind the individual. Donovan ran the person through, realizing only too late that it was merely another unfortunate soldier who had gotten in over his head. Donovan felt his remorse at killing such a hapless fool, but considered if the soldier would have shown him any mercy were the situations reversed.
After stopping only briefly to allow Bebop to annihilate Captain Barhold, the group took stock of the remains within this room. Bodies were once again stacked on top of each other, as the debris of rock was strewn across the floor. There was far too much to carry inside of the backpack, so Donovan threw the bedding from Commander Havelyn’s bed onto the floor, tossed all the items of interest onto the sheet, then tied the whole thing up with a rope and instructed Lucius to have Lucinda carry it down the stairs.
On the next floor down, the group discovered what was surely the workshop for Tacitus. Wherever the mage had decided to go, he had not made any effort to reclaim his possessions. Taking advantage of their good fortune, they found a few items of note, including some Wolfsbane and a Cauldron of Brewing. But, the true find for the party was to discover the spell book of Tacitus. Bebop grinned wickedly, “Aw, no more spells for that bastard!” For spite, Donovan had Bebop toss one of the holy symbols of Asmodeus into the box that once held the spell book. Donovan pondered who might be the first person to discover that amulet, and what their reaction might be.
As the group entered the lowest level of the Keep, and then exited out into the courtyard, the remaining soldiers and acolytes began to take up defensive positions where they stood. It was obvious from a glance that the remaining soldiers were in no position to keep fighting. With the loss of their leadership and having witnessed the brutality in which some of their numbers were killed, they hoped only to bring some semblance of honor to their passing.
“Alright gentlemen, it’s time for you to pack up and leave this place.”, Donovan stepped forward, opening his hands and approaching the group. “It’s not safe for you to stay here. The bugbears will arrive soon, and you will not survive their numbers.” The remaining soldiers, confused now, relaxed their military stances. “You don’t mean to fight us?”, one of the soldiers meekly asked? “Fight you?”, Donovan replied with a sound of shock in his voice, “My goal was always to get you out of here, so that you could help evacuate as much of Aldencross as possible in the time remaining.” The soldiers were now all clearly befuddled at the impossibility of what this man in front of them. “Sadly,”, Donovan continued, “your leadership would not heed my warnings, and now they are no longer among us.”
The soldiers congregated amongst themselves. Could it really be as easy as being described by this young man and the individuals accompanying him? Would they actually let them go if they so chose to leave? Some of the soldiers were unconvinced, and instead went into the nearby church, while saying, “Mitra will protect us in there!” Others, however, were more pragmatic and hopeful. One of them approached Donovan, “Sir, we’d like to leave.” Donovan nodded at the young man. “Below the Armory, in the section where the foodstuffs are held, there is a doorway against the western wall, made to look like the rest of the wall. There is a discolored stone towards the bottom of the wall. Push that stone, and you will have access to a passageway that leads back to the Lord’s Dalliance Inn. My family and I have taken several of the barrels of food and water that were being stored, and moved them over into that passageway. Take your men, get as many people as you can, and take refuge in there for the next few days. Once the bugbears have moved on, you and the other soldiers can help provide aid to the many townspeople who will need it.” The soldier stared at Donovan aghast, “Why are you doing this? You’re my enemy!” Donovan shook his head, “In the end, we are all citizens of Talingarde.”
With that, the family departed and headed back towards Barhold’s quarters. A simple man, there was little of worth in his room, but they did find a Commendation Medallion that he had earned in his service to the kingdom. “We should give this to his brother.”, Donovan said solemnly. Bebop was clearly unimpressed, especially at the thought of losing gold, but he had long since knew that Donovan would do exactly what his mind was set to.
The conversation with Bellam did not go well. Bebop was holding Bellam back as Donovan tried to explain what had happened to his brother, and how the only thing that could be done now was to attempt to save as much of the city as possible. Bellam said he would speak with the Mayor of the town about what was coming, and the plans that could be made. Donovan and the rest of the family even met with the Mayor in order to discuss what should be done. “Every available ship must be used to get the people out of this area and into the safety of the lake.”, Donovan insisted. “If you try to flee this town on foot, you will be caught and killed by them.” The citizens had all the expected emotions: denial, rage, grief. But none of these would change the outcome of what would take place in a few days.
As the last few days counted down before the bugbears were in place, the family went through to make sure all the gates were open and disabled, and all the tools that would be used to repel invaders were deactivated. While they continued to work, Donovan would find and attempt to dissuade any remaining soldiers from continuing to stay there.
Finally, on the 14th day, Donovan made one last attempt to save the people in the church. Knocking calmly, he called out to the soldiers. “Please, I urge you to leave this place. There is no time left, and you will be killed if you remain here. Don’t you want to go home and see your families?” The remaining soldiers rebuffed Donovan once more, “We have nothing to fear! Mitra will protect us from you monsters!” Donovan sighed, knowing their fates were sealed. With that, the flare gun was handed to Lucius. “Have her go to the highest point in the Keep and fire the pistol.” Lucius nodded, then gave wings to Lucinda as she flew up to the tower. From there, she pulled the trigger, as the red light ascended to the heavens.
Time passed, and the bugbears would soon arrive. However, there was no war for them to fight, no battles to be won. For Balantyne, the building was almost deserted, with everything of value picked clean. A few “fortunate” bugbears ended up discovering the church where the remaining soldiers had holed up. Apparently, there was a group of Lantern Archons located within, enough even for them to be able to merge their forms together. While a few bugbears were slain by the Archon, the impact to the army was almost negligible. Balentyne was ended in a whimper, with little to entertain the troops. Even moving out into Aldencross proved generally uninteresting, as the Mayor had successfully coordinated with all the shipping vessels to pull just far enough out into the lake to be an unappealing group of targets. And, while the city would burn, the individuals who had taken refuge in the tunnels were safe, and would be able to provide assistance to the town once the bugbears had taken their leave.
Sakkarot Fire-Axe took notice of all these things, then looked at Donovan. “You are quite effective at eliminating our enemies.” Donovan looked back at him, his face unchanged, “It would appear that way.” Soon after, Grumblejack arrived next to the group. The family smiled and Tamsen hugged him. Sakkarot spoke up once more, “Your friend here is a powerful warrior. He would be welcome among my ranks.” Donovan smiled at Sakkarot, “That’s not my decision, that’s his.” Grumblejack nodded, then pointed to Donovan, “I’m staying with you, boss.”
With that, Sakkarot opened the clay tablet that was given to him, and whispered into the center, “It is done.” A brief flicker of light came from the center of the tablet, and then it faded. Donovan also broke open his clay tablet, but nothing appeared to happen at first.
Shortly though, Tiadora appeared, with a chest in her hand. Bebop moved up and held the chest in his arms, so Donovan could take a better look at it. “Platinum. Five Thousand Gold worth, unless I miss my guess.” The chest included a note from Adrastus Thorn, which immediately brought thoughts back to his mind. Yes, he would need to speak with Adrastus about the meaning of the book, why critical information was left out of the mission.
Tiadora led them along the bank to a waiting ship, far from the docks. As she walked, Tiadora continued to elaborate about the events taking place throughout the area. She clearly was bragging about the efforts she had made to set certain events up, but doing it in her “Tiadora” way. Donovan played along, smiling and doting on the events along the way, feigning excitement about her efforts. “Come, my Lords. Your ship awaits.”, she said as she motioned to the entrance of the ship.
“Ah, back on a boat again. It seems like we were just here.”, Donovan laughed. “That’s fine, I have a lot of work ahead of me anyway.” As before, there were no sleeping quarters, as even the limited Captain’s Quarters had been taken over by Tiadora. Talking to the sailors was useless, since she had already done to them what she did to all the servants in Thorn’s manor.
“We sail for Farholde.”, Tiadora spoke up, before returning to her quarters. Donovan would estimate that Farholde was almost two weeks away, assuming a ship was to anchor for the night. However, when the ship did anchor, it appeared that it was always near a coastal town, during which Tiadora would apparently teleport herself away. Each night, after she left, Bebop would begin harassing Donovan, “Come on Donovan, you have to help me get some alone time with Tiadora.” How many times had Donovan told Bebop that Tiadora was not humanoid, and certainly didn’t have any of the “parts” that would make the experience worth the trouble. But Bebop would press on, wanting to prove something to himself.
After the third night, Donovan’s patience had reached its end. “No problem, Bebop, I’ll take care of it for you.” Bebop’s eyes lit up at the prospects. Tiadora had just returned from one of her coastal visits, and when Donovan approached, she assumed he was there for information. “I imagine you have questions, Donovan.”, Tiadora stared intently at Donovan. “Actually, good lady, I was hoping you would do me a favor. My friend Bebop is clearly an idiot, but he won’t stop pestering me on this matter. So, if you would please, I’d like you to spend some… intimate time with Bebop, in order that he might better focus on the task at hand.” Tiadora’s eyes narrowed as she gained understanding of what Donovan was asking for, “My evenings are busy Donovan, I don’t have time for…” Donovan interrupted her, “Please don’t mistake my request, I’m not asking for you to make him happy. I’m asking for him to make you happy.” A sly grin came over Donovan’s face. “I think he needs insight on the sort of… woman that you are. And, I think you would enjoy the opportunity to indulge yourself with him as you please.” Those words reached Tiadora’s ears, “Do you mean what I think you mean, Donovan?” Donovan pointed at Tiadora, “Don’t do anything to him I can’t fix by the time we reach Farholde. But beyond that…” Donovan shrugged, and stepped back smiling.
A wicked, almost inhuman grin appeared on Tiadora’s face. She picked up Bebop, and walked into the Captain’s Quarters with him. Bebop was enthused about the opportunity, and Tiadora went to great pains to show him what he was actually asking for. Bebop watched as Tiadora’s legs became a mass of tentacles, wrapping around him and pushing him onto the bed. Amazingly, almost impossibly, Bebop still managed to get out of his pants, his erection fully visible to Tiadora. Disgust filled her eyes as she grappled him against the frame of the bed, almost crushing it in the process.
“You are a pathetic creature, and deserve to suffer as few have known. If it were not for your commander asking that no irreparable harm was to come to you before Farholde, I would tear that member of yours off. Perhaps then, you could be of better service to my master and your leader.” With that, Tiadora’s tentacles crushed and tossed him around the quarters. After becoming bored with the activity, Tiadora threw him out onto the deck of the ship, still naked and now bruised and sore. Bebop rose to his feet, showing everyone on the deck the state of his manhood, then passed out.
Donovan began applying healing salves to Bebop’s body, snickering to himself at what transpired. “You’re the only guy I know who would pass on a Succubus to have a shot at a Handmaiden.”

Session 12 ends
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Part 2: Call Forth Darkness
Act 1: Farholde
Session 13: Lies of the Land

Donovan was dragged, shackled and in rags, towards a makeshift bench by Tiadora. For his part, Donovan was attempting to resist her, pulling as hard as his muscles would allow. However, it was to no avail, Tiadora was far too powerful for Donovan to resist her. As Tiadora laughed and continued to drag, Donovan could see that Adrastus Thorn was sitting behind the bar, staring at Donovan with contempt and disappointment.
“You have broken the Pact of Thorns and failed me, Donovan Westermeyer. What do you have to say for yourself?”, Thorn’s voice boomed down, where Tiadora had lashed Donovan’s shackles to a set of posts.
“That’s nonsense!”, Donovan snarled at Thorn. “I have never failed the tenets of the Pact!”
Thorn wagged his finger at Donovan, almost as if he was chiding an infant, “You forget the Third Loyalty, Donovan. By your hand was a member of the Ninth Knot slain, and now you will share in their fate.”
Donovan stopped fighting against his restraints when he heard that statement. “No…”, Donovan spoke meekly, “… that can’t be true. I would never hurt my family! They mean everything to me.”
“See the truth of your betrayal, Donovan.”, Thorn pointed out in the distance, and an area previously out of Donovan’s sight became clear.
Donovan’s family stood around a casket, looking down onto the form of a person laid within. His eyes could not make out who the person was, but he could see Bebop, Lucius, Lucinda, and GrumbleJack. He didn’t see Tamsen in the group standing around, and panic beset Donovan, “Nonononono! This can’t be! What has happened? Please, no! Someone tell me what’s going on!” Donovan was screaming at the top of his lungs, but the people near the coffin didn’t hear him or wouldn’t respond.”
Tiadora laughed wickedly at Donovan, as Thorn continued. “Face your executioner, Donovan.” A form began to float towards Donovan, and he quickly made out the features of the man.
“I will kill you Tacitus! Please, all of you, don’t let this man get away with hurting her! You have to kill him!”, Donovan howled and cursed, pulling with all of his might against the shackles that held him, even as they begin to cut deeply into his wrists.
Tacitus grinned at Donovan’s plight, as the fire magic he was conjuring built up larger and larger.
As the last of Donovan’s strength was spent, he looked over once more at the coffin surrounded by his family. “I’m so sorry, Tamsen.” The fireball roared towards Donovan, and Donovan closed his eyes for what was about to occur.

Donovan’s eyes snapped open, and he looked around quickly. The dawn was just beginning to break over the waters as they continued to sail to Farholde. Looking around, he could see that all his family was there, not yet awakened for another day on the waters. Donovan looked down and saw that Tamsen was peacefully sleeping in his lap.
It was the dream again, as it had been almost every day since they left Balentyne. As a sense of relief washed over him, Donovan’s eyes welled up and tears fell down onto Tamsen’s cheeks. Tamsen was awakened by this, and she looked up at Donovan’s face. Seeing his watery eyes, Tamsen reached up and touched Donovan’s face.
“Are you ok?”, Tamsen said softly and sweetly.
Donovan nodded, “The cold air across the water gets to me in the morning. Are you ok, my love?”
Tamsen sat up, then leaned on Donovan. A mischievous grin crossed her face, and she whispered into his ear, “I can’t wait to get you into a bed and show you how much I’ve missed you.”
Donovan kissed Tamsen softly on the lips. He hesitated briefly, then spoke, “I’m sorry for what happened in Balentyne. I hope you can find some way to forgive me.”
Tamsen tilted her head and smiled, “Silly boy, there’s nothing to forgive. Now cuddle me Donovan.” With that, Tamsen pressed herself against Donovan, and became still again.

The routine on the boat had become very familiar to the group. They each knew their assigned roles from the time they spent aboard the Frosthamar and were comfortable with the situation, even if only because they knew this trip was less than two weeks. Compared to their last voyage, this was a simple task. As the last full day approached, Cardinal Thorn made an appearance aboard the “Halstyn’s Folly”. He briefly spoke with Tiadora from within the Captain’s Quarters, before he instructed her to fetch the Ninth Knot.
Without ado, Thorn began his discussion, “You have served me faithfully, my ninth knot, and I have rewarded you both in treasure and vengeance. Thanks to your efforts, the Fire-Axe has been unleashed.”
Thorn would go on to discuss the victories of Sakkarot and his armies, then he began to discuss the Caer Bryr and the Horn of Abaddon. Thorn discussed with the group about a powerful demon that had been sealed within the Horn called “Vetra Kali Eats the Eyes”. Thorn believed that this plague demon had a particularly formidable disease referred to as the “Tears of Achlys”.
Thorn revealed that he had originally entrusted this task to a different group of individuals, specifically the Fourth Knot. The Fourth Knot was comprised of an Elven tracker by the name of Aiden Kael and some Iraen Barbarians. According to Thorn, Kael stopped communicating with him almost a month ago.
Thorn’s new plan was to send the Ninth Knot along with Elise Zadaria and her team. His intention was to have Elise’s team function as logistics and information from within Farholde, while Donovan and his family would actually travel to the Horn of Abaddon in order to determine the process needed to break the seal that was holding the demon, and convince it to provide the plague to them.
Thorn then mentioned that there was a follower of Asmodeus who could possibly be of aid. He was called Baron Arkov Vandermir, and apparently well connected within the city of Farholde. Thorn encouraged the group to gather whatever aid they could from the Baron, but to assume treachery from him if the opportunity was provided.
For Donovan’s part, he hated everything about this assignment. But, before he would be dragged into this long running quest, he was determined to prove out the theory he had put together regarding the last undertaking that had just been completed.
“I imagine you have questions.”, Thorn intoned to the group.
Donovan began digging through the Haversack that Bebop was carrying, “Certainly, Father. But first, I’d like to speak with you about this.” Donovan set the book retrieved from Commander Haverlyn’s office in front of Thorn.
“And what is this supposed to be? Why are you showing me a Mitran religious book?”, Thorn seemed annoyed.
Donovan pressed, “This is a record of the family tree for the Haverlyn bloodline. I thought you would want it, since it was kept by your brother.”
Thorn’s eyes narrowed at Donovan, “What are you suggesting, Donovan?”
Donovan smiled, “Obviously Father, I’m suggesting you were formerly Cardinal Samuel Haverlyn, a High Priest of the Mitran faith, before you were burned at the stake and returned as Adrastus Thorn.” Donovan could feel Tiadora’s gaze hardening at him. But that’s not the reaction he was interested in.
Thorn tapped his lips, “Let’s say I go along with your theory, Donovan. What of it?”
“Perhaps you would be inclined in the future to tell us that we would be encountering a member of your family, so that we could alter our tactics for dealing with them?”, Donovan queried. “There’s still the matter of your nephew to deal with, after all.”
Thorn raised his hand to halt Donovan, “I see no member of my family here. Now, is there anything else you wish to ask me about?”
Donovan sighed, “The Tears of Achlys. Do we know how it’s spread, or how it is treated?”
Thorn seemed to have been caught off step to that question, which actually made Donovan even more concerned, “I… have people who can study and understand the workings of this disease, so that we might use it more effectively.”
Donovan continued flatly, “I assume you want us to kill Aiden Kael should we encounter him?”
Thorn’s response was confused, “No, why would you think that? I don’t believe he survived.”
“Fine, Father. Now with regards to the Seventh Knot, which of our teams will be taking lead in coordination regarding the efforts?” Donovan was generally interested to see whom Thorn favored more.
“Neither.”, Thorn replied. “Each of your groups have different assignments, and those assignments are independent of one another.”
Donovan frowned, “I don’t like being dependent on someone who isn’t invested in the cause.”
Thorn looked coldly at Donovan, “Do you have an issue with Elise? You all seemed to get along fine back at the manor.”
Donovan shook his head, “She’s not committed to anyone but herself. I don’t like being dependent on someone like that.”
Thorn smirked, “You’re no different, you know.”
Donovan interjected, “Merchants live by a code of honor. Our words are our bond!”
Thorn waved his hand dismissively, “Enough Donovan! Follow the instructions I have given you. Bring me the Tears of Achlys!”
Donovan gritted his teeth, “Yes Father.”
With that, Thorn teleported away from the ship, leaving the group to ponder their thoughts.

Lucius approached Donovan, clearly annoyed, “Could you please not try so hard to get us killed?” Seeing that Donovan was about to say something, Lucius cut him off, “Yes, I know Donovan. You want to prove to everyone that you’re right. But you being right won’t keep us safe from his ire. You need to be practical and not always one up everyone.”
Donovan let out a long sigh, “You’re right.”

Not too much later, the boat arrived at the docks of Farholde. Tiadora stepped off the ship first, followed by the family. Looking at the group, she smirked and said “I have arranged for us to meet with the Baron tomorrow. You should find something presentable to wear.” From there, Tiadora teleported away, leaving the group to find their own curiosities.

Donovan fished out several of the platinum ingots from the chest and handed them to Lucius. “Take GrumbleJack and buy him a new set of Full Plate armor. Also, see if you can find any information on Aiden Kael, and locate an Inn that has seven available rooms.” Donovan quickly amended, “With baths!” Lucius nodded and smiled, then he and GrumbleJack walked away.

Donovan then handed two hundred gold worth of coinage to Bebop. “Find out what you can about Baron Vandermir. Might as well have some knowledge about the man before we go in to meet him, who knows what difference it could make.”
Donovan paused a moment as he set the coins into Bebop’s eager hands. “Please don’t die. There’s nothing we need more than you coming back.”
Bebop grabbed the money excitedly, then took off down the street with purpose.
Donovan consumed a Flask, lifted up the sack of goods that he had to trade off, and took Tamsen’s hand, “Ready to go shopping?”
Tamsen nodded and smiled, as the two of them begin to work their way into the city.

Lucius first stop in Farholde was a pleasant armorer who apparently offered steins with the armors he made. Requesting armor of the size and quality that Donovan wanted for GrumbleJack was no easy task, but the merchant was quite accommodating, and said he would be able to complete the task. While Lucius was a very charming individual, he lacked the intimate knowledge of the armory business that might have given him an additional edge in negotiating prices. Still, he was able to secure a five percent discount, and a fine collection of steins to use whenever he was at a tavern.

Lucius then began to work his way around the city, asking around about different inns within town. Farholde had several inns to choose from, varying in both price and quality. It occurred to him that Aiden probably had been frequenting an inn as well, and certain locals might remember such an individual. While his first choice was little more than a flop house, the second choice was actually an inn that would meet the needs for his family to stay at. He purchased the rooms and additional spa option, then continued on looking for another inn that could be an option.
His search led him to a place called the Wandering Friar Inn. After spending a small amount of time talking to a man that insisted that angels were going to protect Farholde from the bugbears, he was actually able to meet with the owner of the bar. Lucius was very persuasive, and was able to convince the tavern owner to allow him to pay the outstanding room fee (a mere 25 gold), in exchange for unfettered access to the room contents. Once inside the room, Lucinda was able to discover several items of interest, including a map that showed several failed attempts and one successful attempt to discover the Horn of Abaddon; and a sack of coins. Holding one of the coins between his fingers, Lucius smiled to himself, “You’re not the only one who can make a profit Donovan.” Taking the items of note, Lucius continued around the city to hear more tales from the people. Lucius found it interesting the lies that people would tell to themselves in their time of fear. Maybe the lies gave them comfort or hope, maybe they gave the people some sense of control in a world that seemed so out of control. Lucius was far too practical to bother with such things. “Reality doesn’t change simply because you don’t like it.” Lucius made his was back to the inn to meet with the rest of the family, and to discuss his findings.

Bebop’s searching took him to exactly the place he wanted to be, the worst possible place in the city. Bebop loved the feel of places like this, the sound of places like this, and even the smell of places like this. He’d never want to have to live in a place like this again, certainly not. But seeing the harder side of the city reminded him of his roots, and gave him a sense of self confidence he never found in the high society places that Donovan and his family would frequent. Bebop didn’t have to be nice or polite here, he could say and do whatever he wanted.
Bebop asked around about Baron Vandermir, but the truth was that the Baron’s reach here wasn’t as influential as it probably was in other parts of the city. No, in this part of town, a different person was in charge, and he was curious about who this person was. Rubal Thraam was apparently the person in charge here, and Bebop wanted to know more about this person.

Bebop went to a building called Drowington Manor. The building appeared to be protected by a stone slab that kept it high enough off the ground that it didn’t flood like so many other residences around this place. The building itself had everything Bebop could want: drinking, gambling, fighting, prostitution. Bebop began looking around the wares, but nothing stood out to him. Bebop sighed, annoyed at the prospects. There was nothing new, nothing different; and he always found himself craving more time with Tamsen. Tamsen was the best and worst that had ever happened to him. Her touch could thrill him on levels he had never known, but there was always a line between the two of them that could not be crossed. But having her made so many other women trivial and uninteresting to him. So, he kept searching for something different, something unique that could sate that desire.

Bebop tried to get a meeting with Rubal Thraam, but all he got for his troubles is some guy trying to give him a hand job for a free drink. Bebop nearly tore the man’s head off, but then thought better of it, and left. Still, Bebop knew that he had to come back to this place with the rest of them, as they could open doors that he might not be able to break through.

For Donovan and Tamsen, the two of them moved almost effortlessly through town. Between his insight into the workings of commerce, and her overwhelming force of personality, there was little impediments that could come between them and their goals. Donovan traded off most of the goods that he had acquired at Balentyne, with the notable exception of Haverlyn’s armor. After the Commander had been slain, the armor reformed itself into an obviously unholy machination. Donovan was unsure why this had taken place, but attempted to weave it into a story about how his family defeated the “monster that caused the fall of Balentyne”. Still, he could not find any buyers for the gear. Tamsen used her familiarity with the boys’ bodies to give shirt and pant sizes to the local tailors, acquiring the necessary outfits for everyone. Once they had completed their task, Donovan and Tamsen returned to the inn that Lucius had reserved for them. Arriving there, the two of them were able to spend a leisurely bath together, and then to their bedroom for the rest of the night.

The next morning, the family gathered together in the tavern and enjoyed breakfast, while discussing the information that each of them had gathered while moving through the city. Donovan listened carefully to the information, and was impressed with what had been discovered. “Great work, everyone. This will be very helpful when we start our first attempt to the horn.” As the day pressed on, the group went into Tamsen’s bedroom, where everyone was fitted to be sure the sizes were correct.
“My handsome boys!”, Tamsen beamed at them as she fussed over different parts of their outfits.

The arranged time soon arrived, and the Ninth Knot found Tiadora waiting outside the inn dressed beautifully in white. The group greeted her, but a frown quickly came over her face.
Pointing at GrumbleJack, she stated coldly, “He’s waiting here.”
Donovan sighed, then handed GrumbleJack some money, “Go get some dinner buddy, we’ll be back for you later.”
Tiadora then looked over at Bebop, “Do you need to wait here also?”
Donovan interposed himself between Tiadora and Bebop, “He’ll be fine Lady Tiadora. Shall we be off?’

Tiadora led the group to an area of Farholde called Calliver Green. It was clearly the nicest area of the city, with walled gates surrounding massive homes. It was truly a testament to opulence. And, within this area, Tiadora walked to what appeared to be the nicest home in the group. Guards were standing in front of the gateway to the huge manor that was the residence of Baron Vandermir. Tiadora told the guards that she and her group were expected, and the guards complied. However, the guards refused to allow any weapons to be brought in, so Donovan surrendered his rapier, and Lucinda waited behind.

As Donovan looked at the uniforms of the guards, he noticed what they were wearing was a variation on the House Barca emblem. Communicating in his mind to Tamsen, he said “House Barca, how interesting!” Tamsen wasn’t sure what to make of such things, but she imagined this was something Donovan was excited about and responded, “Yes indeed.”

The group was led into a lavish building, clearly almost a century old. The group was fed delicious appetizers and drinks. Bebop was getting ready to grab a huge handful of food to stuff in his mouth, but Tamsen interrupted him.
“Behave, sweetness, and I’ll give you a treat later.”, Tamsen whispered in Bebop’s ear.
Bebop caught himself, and delicately took single appetizers as the plates were brought by.

Donovan found himself walking through the library of the manor, finding a large selection of books. Perhaps the most interesting discovery Donovan made from that was the absence of any religious material. Walking further down a hallway, Donovan noticed a Mitran holy book set onto a pulpit, with a bookmark laid across the current page. Donovan chuckled to himself, “Yes, I see what’s going on here.”

The Baron, an extremely handsome man, joined the family as the dinner event commenced. Minor pleasantries were exchanged, but nothing of interest was discussed during the dinner. However, once the dinner was complete and the servants were dismissed, the Baron was ready to come to the truth of things.
“You come to me as beggars, the last remnants of a forbidden faith. You will promise me much, of that I have no doubt. But all that I am likely to earn from helping you is the inquisitor’s pyre. Tell me, why should I help the likes of you?”
Donovan felt himself dumbstruck. Why would the Baron deny his own faith? Why would he refer to the family as the “likes of you”?
“Are you talking about points, sir? We can do points.”, Donovan offered up percentages in an attempt to feel out the conversation. “Were you thinking five, or perhaps seven? We also could do right of first refusal, in case you are worried about the option of missing goods.”
“Ah, the merchant’s son. So, you want to talk about points, eh? Tell me about points.”, Vandermir smirked.
“Damnit, Thorn.”, Donovan cursed silently to himself, “You played my card ahead of time.” Donovan sized up the Baron, and realization began to set in. “Oh, now I understand what you are asking for Baron.”
The Baron smiled, “I agreed to meet with you, I never agreed to anything else.”
“Do you mind if I stand while I talk, Baron? It helps me think.”, Donovan smiled broadly.
The Baron simply stretched his hand outward.

Donovan walked over to Tiadora, leaned close to her, and then spoke in Celestial, “Lady Tiadora, you always brighten my day. I am especially glad you are here now.”
Tiadora sighed, knowing what was about to happen.
Donovan began, “So, the first thing we have to talk about is the fact that Tiadora is here. And why is Tiadora here?” Donovan looked over to the rest of his family. “The reason that Tiadora is here is because the Baron knows Cardinal Thorn.” Donovan continued to walk around the dining room. “But the Baron knew the Cardinal back when he was Samuel Havelyn. Indeed, the Baron was aware that Samuel Havelyn was destroyed on the inquisitor’s pyre, before becoming Adrastus Thorn.”
As Donovan continued to move around the room, Bebop carefully was eating his food, making sure that Tamsen noticed how neat he was being. For her part, Tamsen was watching Bebop, amused at the effort he was making to impress her. Lucius was attempting to keep up with what Donovan was saying but was oddly mystified at the sight of Bebop behaving the way he was.
Donovan pressed on., “Of course, none of this gets to the heart of why you are interested in the struggles of Cardinal Thorn. In truth, all of that can be traced back to the loss of your father, who passed away during the war between the House Barca and House Darius, which ended up being fought to the man, leaving only Markadian the Victor behind. While the Victor was a peaceful man, he required that all individuals who did not share his Mitran faith were to stop their public worship of other gods. Thus, you lost not only your father, Baron, but also your religious freedom.”
At this point, Tiadora was rolling her eyes at Donovan. Still, the Baron made no attempt to stop him, so she wasn’t going to interfere.
Donovan pressed on, “And all of this worked out very well for you Baron, from a financial standpoint. You became well connected in the city, and loved by the people. You even had time to set up an orphanage.” Donovan looked directly at Tamsen when he said the word orphanage, but didn’t elaborate on that further.
“But then came Markadian the Zealous, and with him the Asmodean purges. Whatever personal expressions you once had now had to be completely removed from your home, and replaced with all Mitran iconography, such as you have now. Of course, by that point, you really didn’t care too much, as you were not heavily invested into your faith. Still, the recent fall of the Balentyne Watch Wall has given your pause, since you don’t want the bugbears stomping all over your home when you actually do share their beliefs. Put simply, Baron Vandermir, you follow the winds of change.”, Donovan paused on that thought, amused at the implication.
Quickly, Donovan continued, “And that, sir, is the question you are really asking me tonight. You don’t want me to offer you something, because the only thing you need is to have an opportunity to have vengeance on those that brought your house and family down; but you aren’t sure if the people involved can pull it off. So, for part one of your question, I would tell you that the Cardinal shares your concern, and the very reason he has sent us into Farholde is to seek out the Horn of Abaddon, where he believes a tool that can push the war in his favor exists. And for part two of your question, the Cardinal gave me two weeks to take down the Watch Wall. Not only did my family do it in eleven days, they also had time to clear out the residents of Aldencross so they wouldn’t be caught up in the fighting and they helped me set up a shipping trade lane to see if we could take a little extra profit with our free time.”
Donovan returned to his seat, “And that, sir, is the answer to the question you actually wanted to ask me tonight.”

The Baron stared at Donovan and the group of people who accompanied him. For their part, they seemed largely disinterested in what Donovan had been saying, as if this was just simply the kind of thing he did on a regular basis. Then there was Donovan, the man who had in a single setting, managed to list the Baron’s history and motivation for nearly a century.
“I will not be meeting with the rest of you again. If needed, I will meet with you again Donovan. There are several things a man of my talent can offer you, including access to merchants, relative immunity to the local law enforcement, and my skills as an Enchanter. However, I will not be travelling to the Horn with you.”
“Nor would we want you to, Baron.”, Donovan reassured the Baron. “Your place is here, where you can apply assistance to us.”

Once the details had been discussed and set in place, the group left the Baron’s home. After getting to the outside of Culliver Green, Tiadora addressed the family, “Don’t forget that you need to meet the Seventh Knot at the dock. You should work with them to find out how to see the Master’s will done. Or don’t, not my problem. Goodbye, dearests!” Tiadora teleported away, with the same mannerisms she showed each time proceeding.

The family met the Seventh Knot at the dock as requested. Unsurprisingly, Elise quickly revealed her general annoyance with the situation, both in her travels, and on being in the city.
Lucius attempted to console Elise, “We have baths and rooms waiting for you, and food if you would care to join us.”
While the Seventh Knot did use the amenities provided, only Elise chose to meet with Donovan and the others.
“My group is tired, so they are just going to head to bed.”, Elise explained.
“I understand. I’m interested to hear what your plans are for our efforts going forward.”, Donovan asked intently.
“It is my intention to set up a spy network at every inn, tavern, and other places explorers would congregate, and intercept any information regarding people attempting to travel to the Horn of Abaddon. If there are any individuals we cannot deal with directly, I will send a messenger to you with details.”, Elise replied flatly.
“That’s a good plan Elise. But, I think the messengers are a potential weak spot. We need something that isn’t so vulnerable to attack or discovery.”, Donovan countered.
“What did you have in mind?”, Elise asked suspiciously.
“You can establish a connection with Tamsen. This will allow the two of you to use telepathy when you need to communicate with one another. That way, there will be no issues with our messenger failing us.”, Donovan smiled.
Elise narrowed her eyes. “I don’t think I’d like to have Tamsen in my head. No offense, dear.”
Donovan chuckled, “I see. Well, how about we agree to meet at a location in between the two spots at a fixed time each day? That would allow us to communicate quickly, and we wouldn’t have any loose ends.”
Elise yawned, “I’m going to bed now. I’m not interested in talking about this further.”
Donovan nodded, “Of course, Elise, your team has had a long trip. I hope you all have a wonderful evening.”

Shortly after Elise returned to her room, Bebop went upstairs and knocked on her door. One of the twins answered the door, and shooed Bebop away. Bebop grumbled, and walked into his own room. On the bed sat Tamsen, in a gorgeous piece of almost translucent clothing. “I believe I promised someone a treat.”, Tamsen giggled to Bebop. Bebop rushed towards the bed in excitement, almost pouncing on Tamsen in his enthusiasm.

Donovan laid in his bed, pondering the events over the last several days. “Lies and more lies.”, Donovan said to himself. “Thorn lies about his human life, in order to prevent me from having any sort of leverage on him. Vandermir lies about his connection to Asmodeus in order to protect his reputation. Zadaria lies about her frustration with this mission in order to find an opportunity to make me look bad.” Donovan hesitated momentarily, and then continued, “And I lie to Tamsen in order to hide my shame.” Donovan turned onto his side, tracing the outline of where Tamsen would be. “I can’t even be honest with her about the dreams I was having. Why can’t I be more like her?” Frustrated, Donovan blew out the candle in his room, and laid back in the bed.

Tamsen could feel the heat from the Fireballs that had been repeatedly dropped into the room. She could hear the yelling as Donovan was trying to coordinate with the rest of the team, “Put him down now, we have to get up to the roof!” The pain was searing across her whole body, as she watched Donovan rush by, stabbing the form of Haverlyn to prevent him from being healed. Another blast of fire roared across the room, and everything went black for Tamsen. There was nothing: no pain, no sound, just blackness. In that blackness, she could make out a beautiful woman that she didn’t know but seemed somehow familiar. The woman looked at her and said, “There you are, my daughter.”
Tamsen’s eyes opened up. She was in Bebop’s bedroom, both of them naked and wrapped around one another. In a soft voice, Tamsen uttered, “Where are you, mother?”

Session 13 Ends.
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Part 2: Call Forth Darkness
Act 2: Taking the Horn
Session 14: How to Build Friends and Murder Enemies

“Oh Tamsen,” Donovan murmured, his breath quickening. Donovan had awoke from his night’s sleep to find Tamsen’s form on top of his, kissing her way down his body. “I thought you were still in Bebop’s room.”
Tamsen smiled, as her eyes looked up to his. “Would you prefer I was there instead of here?”, Tamsen teased.
Donovan shook his head, his hand running over her face, “I’ve missed these moments with you.”
Tamsen smiled mischievously, then moved up to Donovan’s lips, kissing him. “You want me, don’t you baby?”
Donovan nodded eagerly, “Gods, yes!”
Tamsen slid her body on top of Donovan’s, “I want you too, lover.” With that, Tamsen reached her hands between Donovan’s legs, staring at him in anticipation.

Just then, the door to the room where Donovan was staying was thrown open, banging against the side wall. “We’re going to Drowington!”, Bebop said excitedly. “We are going to do the fighting thing, and the gambling thing, and the prostitutes’ things. “ Bebop chuckled to himself at the end of his sentence, having used “things” in such a creative way.
Donovan put his hands to his face in frustration, having missed his moment with Tamsen. “What are you talking about, Bebop?”
Meanwhile, Lucius followed in behind Bebop, “We should make a run to some of the markets in town. I’ve been using up more of our spices than I planned.”
GrumbleJack pushed his massive frame through the doorway to Donovan and Tamsen’s room, “GrumbleJack hungry!”
Donovan began to rub his temples with his eyes closed, “Ok, it sounds like we have a lot to take care of today. I should get dressed.” Having said that, Donovan reached out from the bed to where his undergarments were lying on the floor, grabbing them and putting them on while still under the bed sheets.
“Sorry love.”, Tamsen cooed as she touched Donovan’s face. “I wasn’t trying to tease you.”
Donovan smiled and shrugged, “I know that my love. I don’t believe you would deny me on purpose.”
Tamsen moved up close and whispered sweetly in Donovan’s ear, “I don’t care if they are here, I would still have you if you let me.”
Donovan scoffed, “Yes, Tamsen, I’m sure if I was as gorgeous as you, I would also be comfortable showing everyone my naked body.” With that, Donovan grabbed his remaining clothing from where it had been set on the back of a chair, and finished getting dressed.
Tamsen pouted momentarily before getting up out of the bed, and putting on the piece of silk that she called her clothing.
Donovan looked at the group and smiled, “Alright then, shall we be off?”

Sitting around a table outside of a local bar, the group continued their previous conversation.
“Alright Bebop, now what are you talking about with regards to Drownington?”, Donovan asked, looking curiously at Bebop.
“I told you, when I went out to Drowington yesterday, I found out all about what’s going on in that area. We need to get you in touch with Rubal Thraam, you’ll be able to set up connections throughout the city!”, Bebop spoke excitedly about the area.
“And I’m guessing you want to spend more quality time with the ladies of the land, right Bebop?”, Lucius teased, saying what everyone was assuming.
Bebop shrugged nonchalantly, “Eh, maybe, but I have Tamsen for that. I’m only interested in finding something I haven’t been with before.”
Donovan and Tamsen’s eyes met, the annoyance painted clearly on his face.
Bebop continued, “But the important thing is the fighting games. Donovan can bet on me, and we’ll make a ton of money!”
Donovan chuckled, “And you’re certain that you’ll just win every match, and nothing will be a challenge for you?”
Bebop puffed his chest up, “No one can beat me!”
The table laughed uproariously at this comment, especially GrumbleJack. “GrumbleJack like brave pig man!”, GrumbleJack said as he slapped Bebop on the back.
“That’s all fine and well Bebop, but if Thraam is as important as you say he is, then he’s undoubtedly already being influenced by the Baron. “, Donovan replied, clearly unconvinced on the value of this individual.
“Sure, but you can convince him. Besides, you want extra eyes in the city, since you don’t trust Elise.”, Bebop pressed Donovan, then continued. “Speaking of which, why exactly don’t you trust her? She seems nice.”
“How do I know?”, Donovan said incredulously, “Let me show you how I know.” With that, Donovan pulled out a deck of cards, briefly shuffled them, and dealt one card face up in front of himself, and one card face down in front of Bebop. “Look at the card.”, Donovan instructed.
Bebop looked at the card, then set it back face down.
Donovan smiled, and locked his gaze with Bebop, “Is your card higher or lower than mine?”
Bebop responded “Lower.”, before his gaze shifted away.
Donovan snorted, “So higher, and this is exactly how I know. I spent years in my dad’s stores, listening to people come in and lie about the value of their goods, and how they obtained them. Always another story of how people just needed to be trusted.”
Tamsen turned Donovan’s face towards herself. “Want to try that trick with me?”, she said with a giggle.
“It would be a coin flip with you, my love. You are quite skilled at saying whatever you want.”, Donovan sighed in his response.
“Then what’s the plan, Donovan?”, Lucius queried.
“We need to head off to the Horn now, in order to determine what we’ll need for staying there long term.”, Donovan looked over the group , resolved in his decision.
“Boring!”, Bebop jeered. “Why do you always have to be so efficient, Donovan? Don’t you have any sense of fun?”
Donovan continued, unfazed by Bebop’s response, “GrumbleJack, take these funds and keep our rooms rented for the next couple of days. We’ll go out there briefly and then head back once we know what we are dealing with.”
After GrumbleJack departed, the group walked to the end of the town, and Lucius summoned a pair of mounts. Lucius and Bebop took hold of one mount, with Donovan and Tamsen using the other. A few minutes into their ride, Lucius issued a command word to the mounts, and they began to fly towards the Horn of Abaddon.

Looking out over the forest canopy, Bebop began shouting over to Donovan, “You think we can find some Pixies or Dryads out here?”
Donovan shook his head in frustration, “Focus on finding the horn, Bebop.”
After several hours of travelling across the sky, Lucius alerted the group that the magic was coming to an end. The group located an open area, bringing their mounts to the ground. As they began to land, they could see in the skyline the Horn of Abbadon that they had been seeking.
After they landed, Bebop looked around the area where they arrived, noticing some tracks. “Looks like some sort of frog prints. I wonder if these are the same creatures that attacked us when we left Branderscar.”
Donovan studied the tracks carefully, “No, these are humanoid shaped. Notice the pairs of prints moving around?”
Bebop replied, “Oh, so froglings?”
Donovan gave Bebop an odd look, “Froglings? No, there’s no such thing. But there is a humanoid creature that has froglike attributes. What is that creature called?” Donovan became lost in thought, trying to remember the name of the creature as they continued to move towards the Horn.
About twenty minutes later, Donovan cried out in exclamation, “It’s Boggards! That’s the name of the creature! Finally!”
The rest of the group stared at Donovan, and he realized he had been overly loud in his realization. Another realization took hold, “Oh no, I don’t speak Boggard.”
Bebop laughed, “Yet another language you don’t speak Donovan! How are you going to speak for us if you don’t have any language skills?”
Donovan looked at Bebop with irritation, “Another? Would you be referring to the time we encountered a Vampiric Mist, and I didn’t speak Aklo?”
Bebop nodded and laughed, holding up two fingers.
Donovan growled, “You know, there’s not a lot of customers who come through the shops needing to speak Aklo or Boggard. Why in the planes would I learn a language that would never come up in my work or personal life?”
Bebop shrugged, “Just saying.”
Tamsen grabbed Donovan’s hand and smiled, “It will be fine, love. Stop overthinking everything!”
Donovan looked at Tamsen, “How is it going to be fine? I don’t have any way of communicating with them.”
Tamsen ran her fingers across Donovan’s lips, “You aren’t the only one with a talented tongue.”, she replied, winking at him.

In the distance, a loud crash could be heard. Looking out towards the sound, it initially appeared that a tree had fallen over. That thought was quickly dismissed as the tree began to move towards them. The tree had what appeared to be facial features on one side of it, as it continued to stride towards the family. There was no doubt what was approaching them. “Treant.”, Donovan spoke with confidence.
As the creature approached, Donovan stepped forward, shifting his words to Sylvan as he began his greeting, “Hail to you mighty Treant. May the winds blow cool, and the sun beat warm through all your travels.”
For its part, the Treant seemed pleased to receive such a greeting. “Hello, little one. It is so rare to see one of your kind who speaks with such words. My name is Jurak the Eldest, and I am charged to guard this land from the corruption of the Horn of Abaddon. You should take leave of this place for your own safety.”
“You honor me and my family, Jurak the Eldest, by giving us this warning. My name is Donovan, and this is my family. How long have you maintained the harmony of these lands?”, Donovan spoke, slipping into his all too familiar role.
The conversation proceeded, with the Treant telling the group about the man named Victor who came to this place about eighty years ago, defeating the residents of the Horn over a matter of a few days.
As the two continued to speak with one another, Donovan told the Treant about the group’s search for the Elf named Aiden Kael. While Jurak knew nothing of the individual, he warned Donovan of the Boggards that resided in the caves below the horn, and said it was likely that the Elf had died in the accursed Horn.
Their conversation complete, Donovan thanked Jurak the Eldest for his time and wisdom; and each of them went their separate ways.
“What was that?”, Bebop asked Donovan about the conversation that had taken place.
“I’m not sure.’, Donovan pondered his response, “Perhaps an ally, perhaps a complication. I’m hoping the former.”
Having met with the guardian of the Horn, the group continued on to the caves beneath the Horn.

Dusk came, and it was clear that there would be little to no light inside the cave. Donovan pulled a flask off his bandolier and handed it to Lucius. “Drink this.”, the all too familiar instruction came from Donovan.
Lucius looked suspiciously at the flask, but grabbed it from Donovan and swallowed it quickly. The fluid was thick, like he was drinking something that was barely liquid. Once Lucius finished drinking the contents, he noticed that his eyes gained the ability to see beyond the normal spectrum of light.
As the party began to move through the unlit cave, the forms of the Boggards could be seen darting away and moving into hiding positions.
“What are we doing, Donovan?”, Bebop questioned, as he consumed his mutagen.
“We’re not going to provoke them. This is their home, let’s make it easy for them to move around us.”, Donovan replied, somewhat nervously.
It did not take long before the largest Boggard approached the party, brandishing a greatsword that seemed clearly oversized in its hands. The lead Boggard had a coterie of followers that accompanied it up to the group.
It was then that Tamsen addressed the group of Boggards in their native tongue, “Hello there. I am Tamsen, and these are my servants.”, Tamsen motioned to the group as she spoke. “We have come here in search of access to the Horn.”
Donovan stared at Tamsen in disbelief. When did she learn to speak such an obscure language? Even more oddly, she appeared to have no delay in translating between languages, as he had while he moved between different tongues.
Another Boggard approached the taller one, and began to have a conversation with it. This Boggard appeared to be a shaman in some ways, carrying a staff with fish heads They appeared to have some sort of disagreement, with the taller one ending up pushing the shaman appearing Boggard to the ground. “All who trespass in the home of the Bane-Wogs will perish.”
Tamsen attempted to reign in the conversation, being confident but firm. “We are sorry to have invaded your home, and are willing to pay a toll to pass through. But make no mistake, if you threaten us, we will end your life here and now.” At the same time, Tamsen communicated into the minds of Bebop and Lucius, “Be ready, we’re about to fight.”
Hearing Tamsen’s threat, the warrior Boggard gripped his blade with both hands, then released a primal scream. Before the angry creature could even take a single step towards the group, Tamsen muttered some words, and the Boggard fell asleep where it had stood. A moment later, Lucinda and Bebop each surrounded the fallen creature. The other Boggards considered making a move to stop the group, but the shaman seemed to ward them off. In a single vicious blow, Bebop struck the Boggard warrior dead, then grabbed its greatsword in his bloodied hand and held it aloft.
The Boggard shaman said some other words that referred to its belief. Donovan could make out the word “Dagon”, and understood that to be a deity of the Boggard people. Tamsen filled in the other details about what the shaman was saying, The creature referred to itself as “Zikomo Hears the Father”, and spoke of a vision that he had regarding the arrival of the family. Zikomo spoke of the hard times that were to befall the Boggards in order to receive the blessings of Dagon, and how the strongest of them would survive to see their Father’s reward.
Zikomo continued his story, but Tamsen apologized midway through the Boggard’s discussion, “I’m sorry, Zikomo, I can no longer speak in your language today.” Tamsen’s words had returned to Common.
“Magic.”, Donovan realized to himself, as he began to pay more attention to the Boggards.
Zikomo replied, “You have spoken in my language, now I will speak in yours.”. Zikomo continued his conversation with the group in Common, as he showed them around the cave area. He took great pride in the efforts that his people had made to build a home out of this relatively hostile environment. Donovan began to take over the conversation from Tamsen, pointing it in the direction of the size of the Boggard group, and the advancements they had made in making this area hospitable for them.
Zikomo was almost gleeful in showing off to the new guests. There were several points of interest. Donovan noted the mushrooms that were growing throughout the cave, to which Zikomo replied that they were only used if no other option was available. Donovan also noted that the cave held a collection of fish that were being caught by some of the Boggards. While Zikomo continued to lead the group around, Lucinda quickly grabbed one of the fish and handed it over to Lucius. As they continued to walk, Lucius began preparing a section of the fish for consumption. When he was finished seasoning and preparing the uncooked fish, he pushed it over to Donovan. “Eat.”, Lucius said without fanfare.
Donovan was confused, but took a bite of the fish, and nodded in approval, “Excellent as always, Lucius.” Donovan handed over a section of the fish to Tamsen, who intentionally put her mouth around both a part of the fish and Donovan’s fingers, while staring seductively into his eyes.
Donovan shuddered slightly, as Tamsen tittered to herself while chewing the food in her mouth. “It is tasty, Donovan.”
Donovan put the rest of the meal into Bebop’s hands, then continued to follow Zikomo. Zikomo pointed out an unusual section of the cave. The liquid that was pooling up in one area had been heavily affected by the stalactites that were dripping into it, and now the pool was effectively a very concentrated acid.
“Ooh, we should take some of this.”, Bebop said excitedly.
“Why would we want to carry around acid?”, Donovan asked, clearly concerned.
“It could be valuable.”, Bebop insisted.
Donovan looked at the acid. Perhaps a vial could be worth around 5 gold per vial, but that was hardly worth the potential risk in Donovan’s mind. “There’s no reason we will ever need this.”
Bebop was undeterred. He pulled out several vials from one of the kits, then filled them with acid, shaking around the fluid as he finished filling them.
Zikomo continued showing different areas to the group, The group passed by the spawning pool of the Boggards, which Donovan explained to Bebop. “See, Bebop. This is how they breed, in the same way as frogs, with eggs placed in the water that are externally fertilized.”
Bebop nodded, “Ah, I get it. That makes sense.”
As Zikomo continued to lead Donovan, Tamsen, and Lucius around the cave, Bebop stayed behind, staring at the pool.
Finally, Bebop pulled down his pants, “Well, when in the stranger’s land…”

After receiving a tour of the cave, Donovan told Zikomo that he would back to discuss more with him later. The group was shown the stairway that led up to the first floor of the Horn, bypassing the cave altogether. Upon entering the first floor of the Horn, the damage was apparent throughout the hallways and rooms. It was apparent to see that the struggle between Victor’s forces and the Sons of the Pale Horseman was a brutal affair, with blood splatters and weapon damage throughout.
Several rooms in, the group encountered what appeared to be some sort of metal construct. Donovan’s eyes widened, “An Alchemical Golem! Do you know how much building one of these would cost?” Donovan’s hands moved over the different sections of the golem, looking to understand the level of damage that the device had sustained. “If only I had the schematics for this construct.”
Almost on cue, Lucius handed a piece of vellum to Donovan, “Look what I found!”
Donovan’s face brightened with excitement, “Yes! This is exactly what I need!” Donovan opened the schematics, studying the material components required compared to the current state of the construct.”
Pointing at the four reservoirs that were in the arms and the legs of the Golem, Donovan reviewed the schematics, “Ok, so we need Alchemist’s Fire, Liquid Ice, the blood of a Lightning Elemental, and…”, Donovan paused as he saw the next component, “… and Acid.”
Bebop laughed, mocking Donovan, “What’s that you said in the last one?” Bebop rolled one of the vials of acid he had gathered from the Boggard cave.
Donovan sighed, “Yes, you were right Bebop. Apparently, I should have accounted for the appearance of a Alchemical Golem lying around for the last eighty years.”
Bebop pushed the vials of acid to Donovan, smiling wickedly the entire time.
“We’ll also need a glass lens for the eye, mithral for the heart cog, and the brain of a recently deceased humanoid.”, Donovan said, continuing to stare at the schematics. “I guess I better get to work on prepping up the items I can do myself.”
Bebop interjected, “Don’t bother Donovan. I bet you we’ll find all of these things lying around somewhere in this castle.”
Donovan looked at Bebop, “We’re going to find Alchemist Fire, Liquid Ice, and a Mithral heart cog just lying around?”
Bebop nodded his head, “Exactly. Have some faith.”

As much as Donovan wanted to stay behind, the group convinced him that they needed to explore the rest of the area. The rooms continued to show destruction and disuse. Donovan remarked that it was going to be somewhat expensive to properly renovate this place for long term use. In one of the rooms, a collection of wall plaques was to be found. While the people weren’t familiar to Donovan, he was immediately taken by the way the plaques were written.
“Do you hear that?”, Donovan addressed the group, “The iambic pentameter of these words. There’s a pattern here. Notice the numbers and the letters within the phrases. Could it be a cipher?”
The last plaque, bearing the name “Ergun Nigma”, caught Bebop’s attention. Pushing around the plate, it fell off to reveal a safe behind it. “Take a look, Donovan.” Bebop stepped away, as Donovan rushed over to where the safe was located.
“Yes, the numbers! I knew there had to be a code in all of these plaques.” However, once Donovan looked at the safe, confusion set across his face. The safe had no numbers, just four lines marking the cardinal positions. “Wait, no, that doesn’t make any sense. What about all of these numbers?”
As Donovan continued to run around the different plaques, staring fervently at each one, Bebop approached Tamsen, “Hey Luxury, I want you tonight.”
Tamsen’s face grew annoyed as she caught Bebop’s gaze, “Are you serious? Especially after that stunt you pulled this morning?”
Bebop put his hands up, smiling, “How was I to know you two hadn’t already had quality time?” Bebop slid his arm around Tamsen’s waist, “But, I can tell you are very ready to enjoy yourself.”
Tamsen remained cold, “Yes, with Donovan. Not with you.”
Bebop chuckled, “Come on, look at him. He’s so caught up in all of the things going on right now, you could be standing naked next to him and he wouldn’t acknowledge it.”
Tamsen’s eyes flicked over to Donovan. She could see how fixated he had become on the safe and the codes in the room, mumbling to himself. This was always his way, since she first started living with him. Tamsen returned her gaze to Bebop, sighing.
“Hah! I’ve got it! It’s three to the left, two to the right, and one to the left!”, Donovan spoke up as he opened the safe up. While the limited amount of gold and a ruby was hardly interesting, the presence of a pair of Manacles of Cooperation was more appealing, as well as a ring hidden inside another plaque.
Donovan handed the objects to Bebop, who stored them in the Haversack. “Well, I guess we need to find a room to secure ourselves for the night. We’ll finish up here tomorrow.

The family found a room that was inside another room, limiting the number of creatures that might be drawn to investigate any disturbances. Donovan instructed the group that they would not be able to leave the room until the morning. With that, he painted the frame of the door with Shrieker Paste. Once the room was sealed up, Donovan pulled out a Candlerod, and began to review the schematics.
Bebop crept over to where Tamsen was lying on her bedroll. “Ready to show me that talented tongue of yours?”
Tamsen looked over at Donovan again, who was fervently studying the schematics and taking notes. She then pushed Bebop down on the floor, as her lips traced their way down Bebop’s chest and stomach.
Bebop closed his eyes, lost fully in the sensations, “Oh, Tamsen.”

Session 14 Ends.


Part 2: Call Forth Darkness
Act 2: Taking the Horn
Session 15: A Beginner’s Guide to Flipping Dungeons

Donovan rubbed his eyes and looked around the darkened room, illuminated only by his Candlerod. How much time had he spent on studying the Golem schematics? The group had been asleep for hours, and a stillness was in the air. Donovan looked over at Tamsen and Bebop, their bodies curled up together, and sighed wistfully. Donovan grabbed a flask from his bandolier, consuming the liquid contents held within. This would be yet another sleepless night for him.

Pulling out some blackfire clay, Donovan got to work on setting up a small, heated area in the center of the room. Once that was complete, Donovan took out some basic dishes for making breakfast, then set them next to the heated area. Donovan began brewing coffee for his family. There was a comforting peace for Donovan in any sort of brewing, whether it was beverages or alchemical items. Something about the consistency and repetition set his mind at ease. Soon after, the group began to awake from the smell of the heated liquid. As the group began to awaken, Donovan tossed in spices specific to their individual tastes, and then handed them a cup. “Good morning.”, Donovan smiled as he greeted each of them. The three of them smiled and took the coffee. Once Tamsen had finished her first cup, she came over to where Donovan was reorganizing his gear and kissed him deeply.
“Did you sleep, my love?”, Tamsen asked Donovan, smiling and looking into his eyes.
“I studied.“, Donovan responded curtly.
A frown came across Tamsen’s face. “You know I don’t like it when you stay up all night.” A moment later, a playful grin crossed Tamsen’s face as she leaned in closer. “Next time you have trouble falling asleep, let me know. I’m sure I can think of a way to wear you out.” Tamsen’s tongue slid across her lips as she said the words, though there could be no doubt of her intention.
Donovan chuckled, as he kissed her again, “I lost track of time. I would have gladly spent it with you otherwise.”

By now, Lucius had already pulled out some provisions for making breakfast, and Bebop opened the door in order to find a place to relieve himself. Unfortunately, Bebop had forgotten that Donovan had coated the door in Shrieking Paste, so the group was subjected to a jarring screech as the spores painted on the doorway were suddenly jostled apart. Bebop ran on, unconcerned with the sound, but Lucius was none too pleased. “Gods, Donovan, turn them off!”
“Sorry, Lucius. This is why I said for no one to open the door.”, Donovan replied, as he attempted to cover his ears.

After the group finished breakfast and packed their gear up, they resumed searching the rooms throughout the current level of the Horn. Bebop and Lucius led the group by entering each room first, with Tamsen and Lucius following behind while attempting to sense anything of magical origin. Finally, Donovan entered the rooms, with pen and paper in hand, as he took notes for each of the rooms.
Bebop looked at Donovan curiously, “What are you doing?”
Donovan replied, “Getting an estimate of what it will take to fix up this place as a permanent residence for us.” He was clearly excited about this discovery.
Bebop’s face curled in confusion, “Why would we want to live here?”
“This place easily rivals the Westermeyer estate. Think what we could do with a place of our own!”, Donovan’s enthusiasm was palpable.
“Leave it to you to try and turn an abandoned cult temple into a vacation destination.”, Bebop shook his head, and continued exploring the area.

Most of the rooms in the Caer Bryr were living quarters used by groups of individuals. Given the number and size of rooms that were discovered, it was possible to imagine that this place would have been able to quarter several hundred people. There was also several security areas that would give this location some defense against a siege from the outside. Also of note was a fountain that appeared to provide an unlimited amount of fresh water, and a room that held the preserved form of a slain Minotaur. The room had a magic in it that prevented the decay of organic materials. It would be very easy to imagine that this room would make a perfect place for long term food storage. Beyond that, there was what appeared to be the remnants of a tavern in one corner of the lower floor, with a stove and chimney that was worked through the mountain wall. The sheer inventiveness and creativity of all this effort impressed Donovan, who was quick to point out all the potential benefits a location like this would allow for a long-term residence. The rest of the group seemed generally uninterested in what he had to say on the matter. One of the rooms also held a journal which had somehow survived the assault all those years ago. Lucius handed the volume to Donovan, who gingerly snapped it up and lovingly opened the ancient text.
“A personal journal. Maybe they wrote about… no, there’s nothing here about the assault. I’ll have to study it more later.” With that, Donovan placed the book away, and continued researching the floor.

Beyond the debris and destruction that filled most of the rooms, two other rooms also caught the group’s attention. The first one was a large throne room. Tamsen noticed magic on the throne itself, and investigated further. Abyssal script caught her eye, and she read the word that was made of it. “Yah.”
“Yah? What’s a Yah?”, Bebop asked, as he continued to search the room.
“Yah isn’t a word, at least not a word that I have ever seen mentioned before.”, Tamsen looked inquisitively over to Donovan, who nodded in agreement at her answer.
“A cipher perhaps? Part of a longer word that we haven’t yet found?”, Donovan queried the group rhetorically.
Bebop tapped on one of the columns, “Donovan, check it out. This is hollow!”
Donovan walked over to the column that Bebop had discovered, placing his ear against it and tapping different sections of the column. “Indeed it is. I wonder if it could be a staircase running through the length of it.”
Despite their best efforts, they were unable to find any access point that would let them get into the column. Donovan considered having Bebop smash his way through the column, but realized the damage could make whatever was inside the column unusable.
The other room that appeared to contain magic was what looked like a blackened out room, something that had been the target of a powerful spell, such as a Fireball. Despite all the time that had passed between the assault and the day that the group came, Tamsen and Lucius still saw evidence of embers glowing ever so briefly, as if the spell was still burning to the very day. Unsure of what to do about this, the family decided to leave the room for the time being, and Donovan would continue to research the matter more.

The last room of interest on the lower floor was what appeared to be a torture room of some kind. While Donovan was not particularly interested in this room, Tamsen’s eyes lit up with excitement, as Bebop looked over at her with fear.
“Now this could be fun.”, Tamsen giggled.

Having spent some time mapping the area out, Donovan stared at the map, somewhat confused. “I can’t believe we haven’t found a single set of stairs. There should be some way for people to get between the floors.”
“I’ll take care of it.”, Bebop exclaimed as he trudged back towards the section of the floor where the broken cell door and bars were discovered. From there, Bebop consumed his Mutagen. His flesh warped and morphed in strange ways, and wings began to tear and jut from his form. Using his newly gained wings, Bebop clumsily flew and climbed his way up the chute towards the higher floor.
Bebop arrived at the higher section, with a mere plank of wood blocking his path, which he effortlessly pushed aside. “I got it!”, Bebop called down to the rest of the group.
Once he had properly positioned himself on the next floor, Bebop lowered a rope back down to the family. Donovan took the rope and tied small circles in it, to be used as handholds and footholds, allowing Bebop to simply pull the members of the team up without worrying about them safely climbing the distance.

The group began to work their way through the long-abandoned rooms. As before, they continued to examine and peruse everything that caught their eyes, and Donovan continued his running cost analysis for repairs and improvements. In one of the first rooms they discovered, Lucinda again noticed a small scrap of paper with faded writing on it, which she handed to Lucius. The writing was unintelligible to Lucius, so he handed it over to Donovan, who stared at it briefly. “Abyssal again, huh?”
Staring at it a moment longer, Donovan was able to make out part of the note. “Evacuate now …the throne… stairs a deathtrap… only way out… Yah.”
“The throne is a summoning point?”, Bebop queried.
“Or an escape route.”, Donovan responded, still pondering what he read.

Pressing on, the group discovered more living quarters and holding cells. They also came across a room that was filled with statues. Curiously, the group discovered that there were more stone heads in this room than bodies to match them up to. Next, they came upon what appeared to be nice sized living area. What was remarkable about it was the impressive four-poster bed that was still sitting here, undamaged.
“I want this.”, Tamsen said insistently.
Donovan’s fingers slid across the top of the varnished wood, letting his eyes run across the remarkable craftsmanship required to make such a piece of work. “This would be worth around 2500 gold if we sold it.”
Bebop’s eyes lit up, “Yes! This gets us closer to a Portable Hole!”
Tamsen scratched the back of Bebop’s neck, “I thought I was your portable hole.”
Bebop pulled Tamsen close to him, “You know you are.”
Bebop and Tamsen, followed quickly by Lucius and Lucinda, proceeded on to the next room. For his part, Donovan continued to write notes about the room.
The group entered a room where several huge manacles were found. These could easily have been used to hold massive beasts. They also noticed a mural showing some unusual images.
“What is this, Lucius?”, Bebop pointed at the images in the mural.
Lucius stared at the images. He recognized that they were most likely creatures from the Lower Planes, but wasn’t able to be more specific than that. “Demons.”, he responded to Bebop.
“Donovan, get in here!”, Bebop roared out into the temple.
Shortly after, Donovan came rushing in, still furiously scribbling notes onto his paper. “I’m here, what’s going on?”
Pointing at the mural on the wall, Bebop asked, “What are those things?”
Donovan’s eyes flicked up from the notes he was taking, as he scanned the mural briefly. “Ceustodaemons.” Pausing briefly, Donovan walked towards the mural, focused on a particular aspect. “Oh, and look at this! These demons are being bound to service. Do you see the bands around their necks? These are control amulets.”
“Fine, whatever. Let’s keep going.”, Bebop was already bored of the discussion.
Donovan pulled out a magnifying lens and stared carefully at the amulets. “Damn, they didn’t actually write the names on the collars. It would have been nice to have these creatures’ true names.”
Bebop sighed, flipping Donovan off as he walked into the next room. Arriving there, Bebop discovered a skeleton impaled to the wall, with writing above it. The writing ominously warned that this was the fate of all those who abandoned Mitra and did not return to the light.
“Quite the hard sell.”, Lucius mused, chuckling.

Bebop, Tamsen, Lucius, and Lucinda continued their progress forward, opening the door into the next room. This room had apparently been damaged, as both the sunlight and vegetation from the side of the Horn had now begun to enter this room. Lucius moved towards the sunlight, and suddenly found himself grabbed by the vegetation that had become so heavy in this room. Seeing the plants attack her master in this way, Lucinda pulled out her weapon and sliced through the vegetation. Donovan, seeing into the far end of the room, rushed into the room and screamed, “Get out!”
A mist began to fill the room, causing both Lucius and Bebop to fall asleep. Donovan felt himself also beginning to be affected, but he concentrated on working through math problems in order to keep himself awake long enough to drag Bebop out of the room. Lucinda picked up Lucius and left the room with him, while Tamsen slammed the door shut.
“Move away from the door, Tamsen!”, Donovan ordered in panic.
Tamsen complied, and the group waited outside the room to see if anything would cross the doorway. Fortunately, nothing came out from that room.
After a few minutes, Donovan began to unpack the Alchemist Laboratory that he carried around. “Verdorous Oozes. What a terrible blight to fall on this place.”
Tamsen asked, “So, you are saying we should just throw some fire in there and burn them out?”
Donovan shook his head, “No, they are unaffected by fire, as well as many other things. We’ll need a very specific tactic to deal with these problems.”
Bebop shook his head, recovering from the poison that had been released. “What happened?”
Donovan looked down where Bebop was laying on the ground. “Good, you are awake.” Donovan scribbled out a recipe to Bebop and tossed it to him. “Make several of these.” As Bebop studied the note, Donovan began his meticulous formulation process, focusing in on the precision of the ingredients and time.
Bebop stretched and yawned, then looked carelessly at the recipe. “Oh, I got it.” Bebop crumpled up the recipe and let it fall to the floor, then grabbed up some larger vials and the different ingredients that Donovan had listed in the note.
Donovan watched with exasperated frustration as Bebop snapped through his work in a fraction of the time it took Donovan to complete one concoction. Donovan hated that Bebop was so much better, so much more naturally gifted than he would ever become. Bebop didn’t even need precision, he had raw talent.
“You finished yet, Donovan?”, Bebop said teasingly.
“Take off your clothes. The creature uses acid in its attacks, and anything you wear is going to be damaged heavily.”, Donovan replied, trying to hide the resentment in his words. With that, Donovan made one final test of his sprayer.
Bebop did as asked, without even giving it much thought. If he was ever an individual given to shyness, that had long since been removed around this group. “I’m ready.”
“Yes you are.”, Tamsen said coyly.
“Alright, I’m going to head in there and spray the oozes with this compound.”, Donovan explained the plans to the group. “Once that’s done, Bebop will get in there and hit the creatures as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, Tamsen and Lucinda will throw the flasks Bebop made at the ooze he is attacking.” Donovan took a breath, “Everyone ready?”
The group nodded in agreement.
Donovan rushed in, dodging through the grasping vines. Once he was close enough, he released the Congealer Spray onto the oozes. A hard, leathery shell formed over both oozes. “Now!”, Donovan called out.
Bebop rushed in, assuming his Giant Form. Lucinda and Tamsen followed up behind him, flasks at the ready.
Bebop exploded into a flurry of kicks, bites, hooves, and claws. Sprays of acid went everywhere, burning into Bebop’s exposed flesh. The girls tossed the vials onto the first ooze that Bebop attacked, and the ooze withered and became still.
Bebop repeated this assault upon the second ooze, with the girls once more repeating their efforts to coat the ooze in Alkali Flasks. A moment later, and the fight was at and end.
Bebop rushed out, his flesh sizzling from the acid as his melted into his flesh. “Ow, ow ow! Donovan, do something!”
Donovan snapped out his healing kit, applying a neutralizing salve across the parts of his skin that had been burned from the acid. First his hands and forearms, which had taken significant damage, then working onto his chest, neck, and thighs. The healing nature of Donovan’s ointments took effect immediately, repairing most of the damage.
“Don’t forget Mister Winky.”, Bebop said, pointing at his genitals.
Clearly irritated, Donovan completed the application of the salve onto the rest of Bebop’s injuries. “Get dressed. You’ll be fine.”
Tamsen slid up to Bebop, looking at him alluringly. “Aw baby, do you need me to kiss all your spots to make them better?”
Bebop nodded, “Yes please, I’m so very sensitive from all that abuse.”
Donovan picked up his pen and paper, “We’ll need Alchemical Cement to patch that up.”

Passing by the fountain, Donovan became excited again. “You see this? With this, I could run plumbing down to the lower levels! We could set up baths!”
Unfazed by Donovan’s excitement, the group kept walking to the next room.
Donovan became quiet, “Oh, ok.”
More quarters were passed through, none of them holding anything of importance. Beyond that, the group discovered an altar.
Tamsen studied the writing on the wall, “An old holy tongue. Who would have expected to find that here? It says… Mitra shines on all, Mitra rules all.”
Donovan scanned the writing and nodded, “I imagine this was built by the knights who conquered this place.” He then paused a moment, “I guess we should keep it here, it might make it easier to sell this place to someone else.”
Tamsen took Donovan’s hand, “Why would we sell this place, love? This could be our home together.”
Donovan took Tamsen’s hand and smiled. “You think so?”
Tamsen nodded.

The group continued into the next room. A statue was found here, with a missing head. It was also apparent this status didn’t have a base like the other ones.
“Bebop.”, Donovan began.
“Yes, I’ll go get the heads.”, Bebop interrupted Donovan, realizing what he was going to say.
Experimenting with a few of the heads, the group found the one that seemed to match the breaks most correctly. Once the head was in position, Donovan applied the Stone Salve to the form. Quickly, the stone became flesh, and the flesh returned to life. The formerly frozen person began gasping and choking.
“Water.”, the former statue croaked out.
Producing a flask, Donovan pushed it into the man’s hand. “Here you go.”
Once the man consumed the flask, he began to interrogate the group. “Who are you and why are you here?”
Donovan smiled in his most disarming way, “My name is Donovan Thorn, and this is my family. We have come to this place seeking answers towards the way to summon Vetra Kali.”
It became clear that the man was lost in what was going on. “What happened to my bothers? Did we defeat the invaders?”
Donovan nodded with understanding, “I know you are very confused. But you must understand, a great deal of time has passed since the attack that occurred here.”
The man asked to know the current year, which Donovan provided. “Eighty years.”, the man said, almost in shock. “Did anyone survive?”
Donovan looked around, “We have found no other living creature here. Even if they did survive, with so much time having passed…”, Donovan trailed off, unsure on how to complete the sentence.
The man stood in quiet reflection for a while, then turned back with realization to Donovan, “But you said you were here to restart the brotherhood!”
Donovan put his hands up slightly, “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I said I was here to return Vetra Kali to this world. I cannot speak to the state of your brotherhood.”
The man waved him off, “It’s fine, things will work out. We will establish a new brotherhood here from the remnants of the old.”
“First things first,”, Donovan tempered the man’s expectations, “we need to know more about what happened, and what the process is to perform the ritual. What can you tell us about what has taken place?”
The man introduced himself as Halthus the Flayer, and said that he was a relatively low level Acolyte specifically trained in “information extraction”. Halthus attempted to give the group some details about the events that took place the day of the assault, but didn’t know much due to all the associated chaos.

The group decided to keep exploring the Horn, with the hopes that Halthus could provide additional information as they went along. The first room they entered with Halthus was a large temple area, very similar to the one on the lower floor.
“What can you tell us about the throne in this room, Halthus?”, Donovan asked the man as they continued to explore.
“All I know is that I have seen someone use the throne to teleport away.”, Halthus replied.
Donovan nodded. He was certain that he understood the mystery of the thrones now. Going over to the throne, he searched for Abyssal script, which he soon discovered. “Rah. I knew it.”
Donovan sat confidently on the throne, and shouted out, “Yah!” He was gone in an instant.
Fear gripped Tamsen, as she considered the possibility that something terrible had just happened to Donovan.
Bebop took Tamsen’s hand. “He has a plan, he always has a plan.”
A moment later, Donovan reappeared in the Throne, laughing at his discovery. “Very clever. Teleportation thrones to move between floors. This is how they could secure the place. Now all we need is the other code words.”
Tamsen rushed up to the throne and hugged Donovan.
Donovan smiled, “Come on, isn’t that interesting, my love? It explains so much about this place.”

“Are we ready to move on to the next level? I’m sure that there are more secrets waiting for us to discover!”, Donovan said eagerly.
The group followed a hallway directly outside of the temple, which was adorned with murals and writings about the history of the Sons of the Pale Horsemen. It was clear to Donovan that, inscribed within these stories, was rituals that could be used to summon and bind creatures to this place. He told himself he would return later to explore these writings further. Donovan also asked for the jewel that Halthus had recovered from the ground while his group was under siege, which Halthus agreed to quite willingly.
The stairway to the Third Floor had been completely destroyed. While Bebop was suggesting that he could fly up and hand a rope down yet again, Lucius had a better idea. Lucius summoned a group of flying horses, electricity cracking over their forms.
“This is indeed a powerful new brotherhood that has come to this place.”, Halthus spoke up.
The group flew up to the third floor, and the opening that was there. After the group dismounted, Halthus muttered the phrase “Hail Vetra Kali”, before pressing a set of buttons that were located in the eye sockets of a statue of Vetra Kali placed just outside the entrance.
“What was the purpose of that?”, Bebop questioned Halthus.
“It is to disable the trap located at the entrance of this place.”, Halthus replied without hesitation. “There is a matching statue inside that can be used to activate the trap as needed.”
“So, when you came up to this floor, where did you typically go?”, Donovan asked.
Halthus pointed to the end of the hallway, “I went to that door, where a prisoner would be waiting for me.”
“Then I guess that should be our next destination.”, Donovan nodded and smiled.

The group proceeded down the hallway and into what appeared to be a smaller temple area. On the far wall was yet another image of Vetra Kali in the center, and set off to either side an altar to one of the four horsemen. Bebop approached the statue of Vetra Kali in the center, but felt a sense of fear that forced him to leave the room. Donovan also felt that sense of fear, but his mind was hardened to such things, and he remained unafraid. Donovan also noticed that Halthus approached the statue as well, without any sense of trepidation.
“Were you not afraid?”, Donovan asked Halthus.
“I was not afraid. Why would I be?”, Halthus replied confidently.
“Why did you say those words before you approached the altar?”, Donovan asked again.
“One must always praise Vetra Kali before approaching him.”, Halthus answered.
Meanwhile, Tamsen was drawn to a wall over on the side of the room. “Something is in here, love.”
Donovan walked over to the wall where Tamsen was standing. His eyes could just make out the seam of a secret door leading into some other room. “Could there be a mechanism nearby?”
Halthus replied almost incredulously, “Perhaps the statue at the altar works the same way as the one at the entrance?”
Donovan chuckled, “Well that makes perfect sense when you say it like that.” Donovan approached the statue at the altar, ready to press in the eye sockets as he had seen Halthus do at the entrance.
Just then, a thought occurred to Donovan, “Do as the acolytes would do.” Stepping back, Donovan approached the altar and spoke in Abyssal, “Hail Vetra Kali.” Donovan pressed in the door, and a click could be heard at the secret door.

The group approached the door hesitantly. As the door was first being opened, the room appeared to be nothing more than an old storage room, filled with decayed religious objects used for this temple. A moment later, something overlaid the previous room, as though another room had been magically sealed away. The family walked into this newer room, and their eyes widened. They were beholding a treasure horde vaster than any they had ever seen. Gold and silver, jewels and coins. It was almost too good to be true.
Then Donovan’s eyes locked onto the Wraith that was in this room, and knew it was too good to be true.
“Come my pets.”, the Wraith said to the other piteous creatures it had undoubtedly killed, “Let us consume these interlopers.”

Session 15 Ends.

Voidrunner's Codex

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