Earthday, Wealsun 27, 552 CY (50 AN)
Upon awakening the following day, the group waits until it is time for their meeting with Professor Nephret. Peren and Torinn hang out in the tavern, while Bosabrieln and Emma peruse the market. Bezaldooz eventually makes his way to the market after Torinn knocks his breakfast off the table, and the gnome is the only one who makes a purchase: a riding dog for a bargain 50 gold pieces.
As early afternoon approaches, the group reconvenes and makes their way to meet Professor Nephret. They arrive again on the campus of Morgrave University and arrive at Professor Nephret’s apartment. They are greeted by her, and introduced to two elves the Aereni tribe — Lady Dannae Ylyan and her servant Jaenus. Peren recognizes the Aereni as a tribe of elves who study death and funerary traditions.
The group sits down to tea and scones — though only Bosabrieln and Bezaldooz partake, as do Professor Nephret, Lady Dannae, and Jaenus — and discusses their findings. Bosabrieln retells the tale of their descent into Ashurta’s tomb, while Professor Nephret and Lady Dannae explain a little more about the Ashen Crown. The artifact was originally forged by the elves, but the goblins adopted it for themselves and added another component — Ashurta’s Blade. When Karruuk’s Circlet, Ashurta’s Blade, Zaarani’s Solitaire, Murkoorak’s Orb, and Lurtaan’s Cord are joined through the Rite of Arkantaash, they form the Ashen Crown, which gives power over death. The Rite of Arkantaash is taught by the Crown itself; meditating upon the components in a sacred space can convey the ritual.
When questioned, Lady Dannae explains her interest based upon its elven history and her interest in death artifacts. She asks if she may see Ashurta’s Blade, and after examining it, she offers Peren 3,000 gold pieces for it, which he declines. Shortly thereafter, Lady Dannae and Jaenus take their leave. Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Emma, Peren, and Torinn similarly take their leave shortly thereafter.
After Peren explains about the Aereni elves, the group decides that something is not right with Lady Dannae. They decide to speak with Captain Kalaes at the Citadel tomorrow to inform him about the presence of another faction seeking the Ashen Crown. They spend the rest of the afternoon seeking information. Bezaldooz finds no further information on the Ashen Crown at Morgrave University; it appears that the group is fairly well-informed. Torinn asks around and hears only good things about Captain Kalaes; though many consider the nobles somewhat decadent and corrupt, Captain Kalaes is universally respected and is considered trustworthy. Bosabrieln, Emma, and Peren ask for information regarding Lady Dannae, and determine that she is an elf noble with the Ulyan family. She is exceedingly wealthy, though she travels often as part of her research into the nature of death. She has also hired explorers and academics to aid in her research. However, as they ask around a bit more, they learn that she is not actually a member of the Ulyan noble house. She and her servant Jaenus are part of a death cult, and she is known by the magical name Demise. She is also known by the alias Dreus Matrand in some circles, indicating she is the patron who hired orc mercenaries to find the Slaying Stone in the ruins of Kiris Dahn. She has ties to the Broken Chain, though she is not actually a member of the group. After the group informs each other of these revelations, they decide that they must speak with Captain Kalaes the following day. They then spend the rest of the afternoon hanging about the Rusty Razor in preparation for their meeting tomorrow and their sojourn the following day.
The next day, they awaken and breakfast before traveling to the Citadel. Along the way, they are met by a messenger who leaves a package for them, courtesy of Professor Nephret; Bosabrieln opens it to find a key and a letter. The letter reads:
I’ve made a terrible mistake. Lady Dannae Ulyan is, I fear, not who she claims to be. She could be a threat to even those as resourceful as you. I’m afraid for my own safety, so I’ll be leaving Sorgforge tomorrow if possible.
Before I go, I want you to have copies of all my notes and tell you all I know. I’ll be spending the day preparing for my departure. Please meet me tonight, at 8 bells, at my apartment, Shava House 19. We’ll talk more then.
The attached key is to a wall panel hidden behind my bed’s headboard. I’ll keep what I mean to give you there until I meet you again. Use the key if something goes wrong. If I haven’t seen you before I leave, I’ll try to get the information to you somehow.
After discussing this turn of events, the group decides to continue to the Citadel and try to meet with Professor Nephret afterward.
The group arrives at the Citadel and states their business; within twenty minutes, they have an audience with Captain Kalaes. They explain Lady Dannae’s interest and what they have learned about her; Captain Kalaes seems troubled, and says their claims are extraordinary, but he thanks them for informing him. He tells them to be aware of any further claimants to the Ashen Crown before dismissing them.
As the clouds gather and the rain starts heavily, the group makes their way to Shava House to check on Professor Nephret and make certain she is well. Finding her door ajar, they draw weapons, assuming battle formations, and enter. As they move into the apartment, they notice that it is in a state of disarray. Lady Dannae steps from a doorway, though before she can speak, the group realizes that her form is an illusion, hiding an undead monstrosity underneath; they decide to immediately attack. As they flinch to do so, two animated corpses with leathery wings grafted to their sides swoop down from the balcony to attack; soon, the battle is joined by three more shambling corpses. With the group pinned down by the grasping, biting undead, they are unable to move forward and confront the Dannae-thing. It strikes them with fear as it reveals its horrible, rotting visage, but the group still fights. When one of the corpses is finally felled, Peren leaps through the fray to confront the Dannae-thing. This allows Emma to finally enter the apartment and call upon Pelor to scourge the undead, forcing them to flee. They do so, and as they are stunned by holy power, the party redoubles their efforts. The Dannae-thing quickly falls, followed by the remaining undead creatures.
After taking a moment to rest after the ordeal, Bosabrieln goes to Professor Nephret’s bedroom to look for the hidden wall panel. He finds it and unlocks the panel with the key from the package. The cache contains a stack of notes about the Ashen Crown, as well as a hastily-scrawled note reiterating that Lady Dannae and Jaenus are members of a death-cult known as the Skullborn; elves who practice necromancy in the pursuit of immortality. The rest of the group searches the main area, finding signs of struggle although it is obvious that the area was hastily cleaned afterward to make the struggle less obvious. Peren also finds a crumpled piece of paper reading, “Dannae is Demise. Why Broken Chain?”
Their search of the building complete, the group leaves and finds a guardsman. They inform him of their findings, and he walks through the rain in search of other guardsmen. They return and immediately secure the apartment. The group explains their business with Captain Kalaes, and that they wish to report this matter to him; they are escorted by two guardsmen who help transport the body of the Dannae-thing to the Citadel.
Upon arriving at the Citadel, they again wait for an audience with Captain Kalaes. Arriving from a meeting with other officers, they briefly explain about the body of the Dannae-thing, which he examines before taking them back to the meeting room. They explain about going to Professor Nephret’s house and finding her missing, with her apartment filled with undead waiting in ambush. He again admonishes them to be careful, and that he will see what he can do in the meantime. He further indicates that he will see them the following day before they leave.
After they are dismissed and leave the Citadel, the group decides there is nothing further to do, so they everyone spends the rest of the afternoon in preparation for tomorrow’s journey.