Freeday, Ready’reat 14, 552 CY (50 AN)
Knowing that they’ll eventually have to return to the world at large, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Torinn, and Valna all head in various directions. Bezaldooz first summons Bonatos to return from the Abyss, then heads out by himself to see what’s happening at the former hill giant steading, now the headquarters of Remegni’s vampire coven. Torinn and his shield guardian head out ostensibly to fish, but really to speak with his axe, as it has slowly begun to… tell him things. Valna begins working with the torrians to learn of her new duties, while Bosabrieln takes the opportunity to relax.
In the early afternoon, when Peren realizes most of the party is missing, he decides to follow Bezaldooz’s tracks heading north.
Bezaldooz’s walk through the mountains is uneventful, despite taking several hours, and he reaches the former hill giant camp. The hill giants are missing, although the muddy footprints, dead campfires, and bits of refuse remain. The hill giants’ steading still stands; the only difference is that numerous stone gargoyles have been added at various points around the roof. Bezaldooz approaches the main double doors of the steading, and knocks. An acolyte opens the doors, and when Bezaldooz indicates he wishes to speak to Remegni, the acolyte explains that he’s not here at the moment, but can probably arrive shortly. He instructs Bezaldooz to wait in the vestibule.
Remegni arrives within 15 minutes or so, and Bezaldooz explains that the Shields of the Sorrowfell were successful in their mission, and so have returned to the world. Remegni notes that he received a visit from a representative of the vampires of Nadhi — he evidently did not realize this person was a rakshasa, as he indicated the man came to him as a human — and they are poised to engage with these foreign vampires. Remegni also notes that he owes Bezaldooz some items; he retrieves two scrolls, indicating one has a spell to ward against sunlight, and the other is an alchemical recipe for a salve that also protects against sunlight. He then notes that he will no doubt see Bezaldooz again soon.
As Bezaldooz heads back to Argent, Peren passes him, unseen. Peren approaches the former hill giants’ steading and goes to the side entrance. He tries the door, and is hit with an enervating wave of energy. He decides to slink back to Argent.
That evening, Bosabrieln makes plans to return to Duchy Jepson, and everyone decides to accompany. Valna will even return, so she can retrieve her horse, Penelope, and speak to Abbot Aelius. They all decide to leave on the morrow.
The next day, Starday, Ready’reat 15, the Shields of the Sorrowfell prepare to leave by way of the teleportation circle on the Grand Mall. When they arrive in Duchy Jepson, they notice that a tent city has been erected at the south side of town, beyond Jepson’s walls. Upon seeing the Shields, a murmur speeds through town as the townsfolk preparing for worship at the local temples all stop, and laud the heroes’ return. Peren slinks away from the attention, but the other four head to the Wizard’s Tower.
Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Torinn, and Valna all arrive at the Headmaster’s office on the top floor. He congratulates them on their victory, and proceeds to explain about the tent city. After checking the room for uninvited guests.
The Shields have already heard about the escaped gladiators known as the Scandshar Six, so he notes that the escaped gladiators may have come to town and stayed for a bit. A group of bounty hunters eventually came looking for them, and one of them died under mysterious circumstances. This caused several other bounty hunters to appear, in the hopes of finding the Scandshar Six and claiming the bounty. As for the Scandshar Six themselves, they’re long gone at this point. But it is notable that there is a camp of bounty hunters along the south edge of town, and that the Shields of the Sorrowfell have a notable bounty on their heads, likely posted by the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks.
Meanwhile, Peren heads down to the camp at the south end of town. The travelers — largely adventurers and their camp followers by their look — are awakening and getting breakfast as Peren enters the camp. The camp grinds to a halt as Peren enters, and several adventurers on the periphery of the camp look like they’re sizing him up and prepared to grab weapons if necessary. The reception is chilly, to say the least — although whether that’s because he’s wearing a grim mask shaped like an iron skull, or because they recognize that iron skull as the mask of Shield-Brother, remains to be seen.
Peren heads over to the mess for breakfast, and learns from the cook that this camp was erected to hunt the Scandshar Six. Apparently there was a sighting of them in town, and bounty hunters came to search the nearby fields, hills, and mountains for them. They haven’t found anything in the few weeks they’ve been here, though. But the bounty on their heads — a hundred thousand gold apiece, or a million gold for all six of them, dead or alive — has left the bounty hunters undeterred. For that matter, there’s a bounty on the heads of the Shields of the Sorrowfell, so old Shield-Brother ought to watch himself. After giving a couple of gold pieces to the cook and finishing breakfast, Peren heads back to Duchy Jepson proper.
Peren runs into the rest of the Shields of the Sorrowfell, and they share what they’ve learned about the Scandshar Six. They then head their separate ways for various purposes: Bezaldooz heads back to the Wizard’s Tower to meet up with Remegni the Stoic and see if he has anything further to note, Bosabrieln goes to find Ekaterina before engaging in preparations for a celebration for the Shields of the Sorrowfell, Peren is surveying and wandering around town, Torinn is off to do research, and Valna is going to get her horseshoes of a zephyr placed on her horse Penelope and visit with Abbot Aelius. Peren and Torinn have plans to return to the hunters’ camp for lunch, and Bezaldooz will likely join them; Peren gave Bezaldooz 500gp to give to Ekaterina as compensation for her services.
Bezaldooz doesn’t learn any additional facts regarding Remegni’s preparations, but he does notice that a human is following him. The man is roughly middle-aged, with a greying beard. He wears a capotain and duster with a breastplate underneath. He carries a battleaxe and a heavy crossbow. A hand crossbow is hooked on his belt, and enigmatically, he wears a broken sword hilt on a leather thong around his neck. When Bezaldooz realizes he’s being followed, he sends Bono to spy on the interloper. Once Bono is out of sight, the connection between Bezaldooz and Bonatos breaks, suggesting Bono was killed. Bezaldooz then immediately goes searching for his fellows.
Bosabrieln finds Ekaterina at the Addled Alchemist. They swap stories about where each has been the past few weeks — Ekaterina has largely been here, overseeing construction, although she did attend the wedding of one of the Scandshar Six while they were in town. They are interrupted by Bezaldooz, who presents Ekaterina with Peren’s gift (noting it’s a collection “from all of us”) and then notes that he’s being followed, whereupon he describes the fellow. Ekaterina asks if they wish for her to follow this man, but they note if he’s someone dangerous, it’s best for her not to get involved. Bezaldooz says he’ll find the others and let them know about it, but he wanted to make sure Bosabrieln was aware.
Torinn wants to get a book about spirits, and after some perusing of the local library and local booksellers, he finds a volume entitled, A Compendium of Immaterial Essences. Written by one Archmagus Iandak Voiddrake, Supplicant of the Quaint and Curious Spheres, Iandak was apparently a potent dragonborn wizard who lived in the vicinity a little less than a century ago. Indeed, the ancient wizard — long-reputed to be immortal — was said to have lived in the Wizard’s Tower, and the reason why it is known as “the Wizard’s Tower” and not “the Wizards’ Tower” is because it is casually assumed that, if the old wizard still lives, he will some day return to reclaim it.
Around noon, Peren and Torinn meet at the south side of town, along with Torinn’s shield guardian, and decide to head to the bounty hunters’ camp for lunch. Most of the bounty hunters are out when they arrive, leaving only the camp followers behind, but one adventuring party has stayed behind to have lunch. This party seems quite wary to see Peren, Torinn, and an overlarge shield guardian present, although the cook pays them no mind. When they ask about the price on their head, the cook notes the Shields are supposed to be worth 20,000gp apiece. Peren then purchases a cask of ale, which the shield guardian serves, and he and Torinn arm wrestle before inviting the other adventuring party over.
While initially still wary, they seem to become warmer to Peren and Torinn after ale and arm wrestling. They introduce themselves as Ukhud, an armored male dwarf, armed with pickaxes; Robern, a male human fighter; and Zesstra a female rogue or thief who looks largely human, but has dusky skin, light-colored hair, and vaguely pointed ears, possibly denoting drow ancestry. They are apparently from Sorgforge, and were the first to arrive here when they determined that Duchy Jepson was the only major settlement lacking a confirmed Scandshar Six sighting, which they considered suspicious. Their fourth was killed by a trap set in the hills north of town, and the circumstances were suspicious enough that they stayed to investigate further. Word apparently got out, and it was suddenly a rush to see who could grab the Scandshar Six. But these adventurers have been here several weeks with no luck; either the Scandshar Six were never here, or they lost the trail. They will likely return to Sorgforge sometime soon.
When Bezaldooz arrives to join the assembled party, he asks if the adventurers have seen anyone fitting his pursuer’s description. They indicate they saw a guy like that wandering around camp a couple of days ago, but they don’t specifically know him. When Bezaldooz, Peren, Torinn, and the shield guardian finally take their leave, Bezaldooz fully explains that he is being followed to them.
Bezaldooz then heads back to the Addled Alchemist to get a room and summon Bonatos back to him. Peren decides to head in a similar direction shortly thereafter, while Torinn decides to go fishing in the nearby River of Tears (and also surreptitiously study his new book).
Bezaldooz finds that Bosabrieln has left, no doubt to engage in preparations for future festivities, while Ekaterina is outside practicing some sort of calisthenics routine. Bezaldooz heads inside, goes up to his room, and begins ritual preparations.
When Peren arrives at the Addled Alchemist, he makes note of the man in the capotain hat, apparently watching the inn. Peren makes note of this to Ekaterina, and when she offers to follow him, Peren accepts. He then wanders over to confront the man, making introductions — he introduces himself as Peren, while the man introduces himself as Gerhart — and telling him to stop following his associates. The man tries to play it off as if he is merely loitering, but is hardly the best liar.
Notably, Peren also gets a better look at Gerhart’s equipment. From Bezaldooz’s description, he assumed the cruciform sword hilt around Gerhart’s neck was a holy symbol or the broken sword of someone this hunter lost. However, upon seeing it, it appears to be covered in runes and delicate engravings, including a stylized sunburst on the crossguard. Furthermore there is damage indicating a blade once rested on this hilt; Peren immediately assumes it’s probably a magical sword, perhaps some sort of sun sword. The fact that he can spot a sharpened wooden stake in the Gerhart’s pack further cements the idea that he’s a vampire hunter.
When Peren turns to leave, he realizes that Ekaterina is gone, disappeared without trace. He heads inside the Addled Alchemist.
Deciding to go to Bezaldooz’s room, he finds the door unlocked; Bezaldooz is within, burning reagents and tracing a circle upon the floor. Peren waits for him to finish; when he finishes his ritual work, Bonatos appears in a puff of smoke. Bezaldooz informs him of the hunter, and Peren fills in the details that the man is Gerhart and is clearly some sort of well-equipped vampire hunter. Bono notes the hunter instantly recognized his presence, even though he was invisible, and attacked him with a battleaxe. Peren notes that Ekaterina is following this hunter, prompting some inappropriate commentary regarding Kat from Bonatos. Bezaldooz then orders Bono to keep quiet and turn invisible.
The rest of the day is relatively quiet. Torinn eventually returns with a large quantity of fish, prompting a fish fry at the Addled Alchemist. Bezaldooz and Peren take to drinking. Bosabrieln is somewhere, engaging in preparations for a public celebration tomorrow. Valna is visiting with Abbot Aelius.
Before heading to bed, Bezaldooz wards his room with alarm, only negating the alarm if Ekaterina or Jansaadi enter the room.
That evening, around midnight, Bezaldooz is awakened by noise in his inn room. Clambering out of his box of earth, he finds Jansaadi in his bed. When he remarks on the vampire hunter watching his room, she notes that she turned to mist and came in through the cracks in the window. Realizing that this confirms that there are multiple vampires in this town, they realize they both need to leave. After getting a moment to collect her things, Bezaldooz invokes the arcane phrase to cast teleport, hoping to reach the basement of the Wizard’s Tower where Jansaadi indicates there’s a teleportation circle.
Bezaldooz and Jansaadi arrive in the basement of the Wizard’s Tower after a somewhat turbulent teleport. They rush to the Headmaster’s office, where Remegni frequently acts as night watchman — along the way, Bezaldooz senses that the alarm on his room is tripped. Arriving before Remegni and informing him of the hunter, he thinks for a moment before telling Bezaldooz to return to the Addled Alchemist to catch the hunter’s attention, then lead him north, towards the warehouses and empty shops. Remegni indicates they’ll take care of the problem. Bezaldooz leaves the Wizard’s Tower, and as he returns to the inn, he is aware that Jansaadi has quietly disappeared.
Meanwhile, Peren is resting when he hears the syllables of a spell being cast in Bezaldooz’s room. Emerging from his trance, he rushes to the room, but finds it locked. He kicks the door open to find it empty: there are no signs of struggle, but there are leftover reagents indicating magic was worked here. He creeps over to the window, noting that Gerhart is still watching the room from an alley; Ekaterina is perched on a building above the hunter, watching him. Peren quickly runs out of the inn through a back door, takes cover, and decides to watch Gerhart to see what he does. Gerhart, having noticed a change of light inside Bezaldooz’s room, starts gathering mud and other materials to camouflage himself more efficiently.
Torinn awakens to hear the cracking of a door. He dons his armor and then checks Peren’s room to find the door ajar and no one inside. The door to Bezaldooz’s room has been kicked open, and nobody is within. He then goes outside, gathers his shield guardian, and waits by the front door.
When Bezaldooz returns, he indicates that he’s out walking, although he doesn’t know anything about the broken door. He’s continuing on his walk, and Torinn offers to accompany. Bezaldooz accepts.
All is relatively quiet as Bezaldooz, Torinn, and the shield guardian walk through the silent streets of Duchy Jepson. Unbeknownst to them, Gerhart follows, dashing between buildings and trees. Unbeknownst to him, Ekaterina follows, leaping silently across rooftops. Unbeknownst to anyone else involved, Peren follows the lot of them, keeping to the shadows. Along the walk, Bezaldooz puts out a silent call to several wolves to join him; only Peren notices as a pack of fifteen wolves begin to silently slink among the buildings. As the group passes through a row of shops and head past the warehouses, something happens — Gerhart pulls his hand crossbow and fires at something no one else can see. He then drops his crossbow and shakes his head, as if confused or trying to clear his head. Peren feels the presence of something unseen pass too close to him, maybe twenty feet or so near his left flank. Suspecting that some hidden trap is about to clamp shut, he pulls the rod of security out of his pack, and approaches Gerhart, telling him to come with him if he wants to survive this. Gerhart refuses, prompting Peren to replace the rod of security and draw his weapons, just as Bezaldooz commands the wolves to strike. Wolves pour out of alleyways and begin savaging Gerhart. He manages to evade the worst of it, but the violence appears to shake him out of whatever spell had gripped his mind. Torinn steps toward the chaos and breathes lightning, killing two of the wolves, as Bezaldooz orders Bono to advance as well. As the quasit attempts to move past Torinn, however, the dragonborn reacts as something small and unseen trying to move past him and cleaves it with his axe, satisfied that he killed whatever it was.
As Torinn steps forward, Jansaadi appears behind him, telling him everything is all right, they have it handled, and not to interfere. Torinn agrees. Four other robed figures appear, chanting and gesturing as Gerhart appears to rapidly dry out and become mummified. He collapses and dies. Well aware that he’s outnumbered and that Torinn has been hit with some manner of glamour, Peren sheathes his weapons and shouts, “Run, Ekaterina!” Jansaadi then asks Bezaldooz what must be done with his companions, and he says he will handle them. The robed figures then gather Gerhart’s corpse, along with the corpses of the two dead wolves, before the four robed figures and the woman with alabaster skin leave, disappearing around the side of a building.
Bezaldooz, Peren, and Torinn all return to the Addled Alchemist. Bezaldooz resets the alarm on his room and closes the door as best he can.
Torinn is awakened in an hour or two by Valna, demanding to know what happened. When he seems strangely okay with the proceedings, and doesn’t offer a lot of further information, she knocks on Peren’s door to inquire. He initially tries to deflect, but when she presses him, he indicates there was an incident with Bezaldooz, and that he thinks Torinn might have had his mind influenced. She decides to leave this all alone for now, especially since they have business tomorrow, but it must be handled shortly.
Bosabrieln awakens early the next morning, Sunday, Ready’reat 16, in Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion. He sets about bathing and dressing, and then leaves to gather the others, as he has made plans to breakfast with the Duchess. When he arrives at the Addled Alchemist, dispatching a messenger to fetch Valna, he notes that Bezaldooz’s door is ajar, the lock broken. He calls out to no response, and then shoves the door open, ready to cast a spell, only to see Bezaldooz on the bed in a similarly ready position. (Bosabrieln’s entry also trips Bezaldooz’s alarm spell.) When asking about what happened, Bezaldooz is evasive; even after awakening the others, everyone seems shifty and strange, and Bezaldooz and Torinn are both notably sleep-deprived. He gathers that something happened in the night, a fact reinforced when the messenger returns, telling him to meet with Valna.
When he arrives at Abbot Aelius’ home, Ekaterina is outside, drinking coffee. She explains what she saw in the night until she was ordered to flee. Valna, when she finishes dressing, fills out the rest; Ekaterina says she’s going to bed, as she has apparently been awake all night. As it’s clear they’ve reached a critical juncture with Bezaldooz, Valna notes she only knows three ways to cure the condition of vampirism: killing and raising him, a wish spell or similarly powerful magical effect, or the direct intervention of a deity. It’s clearly something they’ll have to research and determine further. Noting that Torinn is still affected by some mind-influencing effect, Valna says she’ll go buy some reagents to take care of it. She’ll be about ten minutes behind Bosabrieln.
When they all meet at the palace gates to breakfast with the Duchess, they wait for Valna. She asks if she can pray with Torinn, and when he agrees, she invokes greater restoration. He quickly surmises that his reaction to events last night was unnatural, and goes to grab Bezaldooz; the gnome is too quick, and so Torinn just stops away angrily with his shield guardian. Bosabrieln chides Bezaldooz for his actions last night, and notes that they have to get through their social obligations today, but this evening, they’re all going to sit down in Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion and sort out what to do.
Apart from the inherent awkwardness among the party, and the Duchess’ disappointment that Torinn is not present, breakfast proceeds without incident, leading into the rest of the day’s festivities.