Eternal Midnight

First Session
The main characters are brought together

As Caiphon and Argosius rode to Pakkin’s Folly from the monastery of Pelor, they spied something wrong. A column of darkness emanated from Jakkra Castle on the western horizon. When it hit the atmosphere, it began expanding at an alarming rate.

While their goal was to help Caiphon minister to the villagers and complete his training as a minister, they knew trouble when they saw it and they spurred their horses with some urgency towards Pakkin’s Folly.

In Pakkin’s Folly a street performer named Brel had attracted a small crowd in the town square. He was unemployed, so performing small feats of illusion was the only way to create an income. Brel had been doing this on a regular basis, away from the farmer’s market and away from heavier competition. Militia leader Gareth Bonward and his men had run Brel off a number of times in the past. This time Bonward had sent Regdar, one of the militia’s ranking offers, to send Brel back to the farmer’s market again. However before Ragdar could complete his task he, along with Brel and the handful of villagers in the square, saw the column of darkness rising from Jakkra Castle.

Regdar immediately took control of the situation. He ordered the citizens home, telling them to get their familes and head to the town hall or the temple. He raced back to the militia hall. Bonward told Regdar to take a small group of men, head through the village, warn the villagers of potential danger, and direct them to the two safe havens.

At the temple, citizens had already begun to panic. Willem Talhart, the temple’s highest ranking cleric of Pelor, calmed the populace and told the rest of the brothers and sisters to help maintain the peace and accomodate villagers who sought refuge.

On the outskirts of town, the halfing ranger James Crowleaf was returning from a successful hunt when he noticed the column of darkness. Sensing danger, he sent the party to their homes and families, and encouraged them to be vigilant while getting them to safety.

The darkness spread rapidly and within three hours, the sun was completely blocked. Darkness had crept across the land.

On the highroad, Caiphon noticed an eerie stillness. There were no birds singing. No wind was blowing. He and Argosius began to worry and pressed their horses on even harder.

In Pakkin’s Folly, Regdar encountered what he thought was a transient or a crone, hunched over under a long cloak. As he got closer to aid this supposed person in need, it reared up, revealing its true face. The vampire spawn attacked, pinning him to the ground. Strong hands bound his hands and feet. He strugged to no avail and a strong blow rendered him unconscious.

In the town hall, James heard a rapping on the large doors. An old man’s voice cried out, begging for aid and assistance. James readied his bow and called for the door to be opened. Vampire spawn rushed in. James let his arrow fly. The spawn easily dodged his bolt and lunged at him. Brel leapt up and uttered a spell, issuing forth a thunder wave. His target dove past the wave and was on him in second. Like Ragdar, they were all forced to the ground, bound, and knocked unconcious.

Outside the temple, a similar situation occurred. An elderly woman banged on the doors, pleading to be let in. She cried out in terror—monsters were after her, she said. Willem’s compassion caused him to throw open the doors.

The temple was overtaken in minutes.

As Caiphon and Argosius neared Pakkin’s Folly, they spied a caravan of what appeared to be refugees. A man in front flagged them down and begged assistance. Argosius dismounted from his horse and was beset upon immediately. Caiphon tried to react, but his horse wouldn’t respond and he was dragged to the ground violently. They were no match for the vampire spawn either.

Hours later, Willem awoke in a makeshift prison cell. Strong smells indicated it used to be a stable. He heard voices. As he shook his head to clear his thoughts, he noticed five men in the room with him. One of them was sharpening a very large double bladed axe. The men taunted him and he quickly realized he wasn’t alone. Holy brothers Caiphon and Argosius were also in cells.

The humans gave the holy men a choice: join or die. Always faithful, Argosius spoke first, saying he would never join the ranks of such hellish creatures. The men promptly dragged him from his cell and beheaded him in the center of the room, right before his brothers’ eyes. As they moved to Willem’s cell, the door was kicked open. A lithe and handsome man, covered in blood, entered bearing a warhammer. He struck down one man immediately. The human holding the keys dropped them in a mad scramble to protect his comrades. Quickly, the bloodied man struck down another guard and Willem grabbed the keys and liberated himself. He opened Caiphon’s cell and both men joined the fray.

When the battle had ended, the bloodied man introduced himself as Jarek Irenka. He told the men he had been fighting the vampires and could lead them to where “the assets” - the villagers of Pakkin’s Folly - were being held to be used as food.

Jarek led them to a nearby system of caves. After evading a false floor trap, the trio snuck up on the main cave where the villagers were being held. Their timing was fortunate. Brel caused a large flash of light to distract his captors: four humans and two gray wolves.

After the battle, the six heroes calmed the villagers and planned to get them to safety. Willem suggested they venture to the nearby Monastery of Pelor in search of holy items that might aid in their defense of the villagers.

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Incident at Fainglow Monastery

After moving the villagers of Pakkin’s Folly to a series of nearby caves, the heroes set off to Fainglow Monastery on foot. Shortly after setting off, Willem confronted Jarek, accusing him of being a vampire. Jarek invited Williem to test him, and Willem promptly used Turn Undead on the stranger. Nothing happened, yet Willem remained suspicious.

The trek was difficult, and things became even more troublesome when a group of five Shifters emerged from the forest and blocked their path.

James quickly realized they were led by Garruhhgarr, chieftan of the Hugrugag tribe. Garrhhugarr accused them of being responsible for the darkness and told them to return to their village. The heroes negotiated with the shifters, and convinced them they were not to blame for the darkness and actively working to eliminate it. The shifters were so impressed by the heroes, that they revealed a hidden path to the monastery, cutting their travel time in half.

When they arrived at Fainglow, the found the grounds in ruin. The dormitories and outbuildings were wrecked, ruined and burning. Dead bodies of Paladins, Priests, and Clerics littered the area. Caiphon and Willem were distraught by the sight, but pressed on. They reached the main temple to find it was magically sealed. Nine stones and the inscription “Only the genesis of your faith will allow you to pass.” James realized the stones spelled “OF ELYSIUM” and the temple doors swung open.

Inside were more signs of slaughter. Jarek refused to enter, and then relented after a brief confrontation with Willem. As they moved through the empty halls, the men felt like they were being watched and followed. Their suspicions were confirmed once they entered the main hall and were attacked by creatures of the undead — A Deathlock Wight, Tomb Motes, and Skeletons. The battle was fierce and Willem briefly fell in combat.

After the battle, Caiphon recalled the room being bigger. After discovering another magic seal obscuring a hallway, the group encountered Endrin, the monastery’s librarian and apparent sole survivor of the massacre. He was praying inside a sacred circle of protection. He revealed to the group that when the attack started, he was hurried into the library and sealed inside to serve as protector and steward of the ancient volumes.

The heroes related their journey so far, and Endrin found them the Tome of the Vampyr, detailing how the creatures are created and defeated. He also revealed a large treasure trove, passing them off to the heroes.

They helped the librarian gather his things and returned to the caves outside of Pakkin’s Folly. The villagers were excited at the sight of Endrin, and many struggled to touch him, thinking his appearance was a sign from Pelor. After discussing it, the heroes decided their next move would be to check on Reeve Krayth Manoli and clear the undead out of the village while Endrin researched a ritual that would cancel the darkness, at least over Pakkin’s Folly.

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Exterminators

After leaving the townsfolk in the caves with Endrin and Willem Talhart, the heroes ventured into Pakkin’s Folly, looking to clear the town from threats and verify Reeve Krayth Manoli’s safety.

They snuck into the town from the north, and Caiphon scouted ahead, spotting several undead denizens lurking in the main square. As Brel attempted to join him, he was spotted and a brutal battle began. They were unable to stop the undead guards before one of them set off a bright flash of light, some sort of signal. The guards were soundly defeated. Sensing danger, Caiphon quickly picked a lock on a nearby abandoned home and ushered his comrades inside. After waiting a bit, a large vampire thrall Jarek recognized as Yannit, a particularly vicious warrior in the service of the vampire lords. Yannit was leading a two human familiars with leashed patrol drakes. They investigated the remains of the battle, and Yannit muttered the new mayor wouldn’t be too happy at the news.

Brel created a distraction, sending one familiar and drake into a nearby alley and then Regdar struck by teleporting behind Yannit. They had the element of surprise. All five men brutally attacked Yannit, taking him down quickly. The rest of his patrol fell in short order. Unfortunately, they were unable to kill Yannit, due to his vampiric heritage and the lack of sunlight. They left his body behind and headed off toward the Reeve’s estate.

When they arrived, Caiphon again picked the lock but discovered something was blocking the door. Caiphon and Jarek forced it open and discovered a charnel house. A large carrion crawler, carcass eaters and corpse rat swarms feasted on the bodies of Manoli’s honor guard, all brutally slain. The men cleared out the vermin, but not before Caiphon was infected with filth fever from the bite of a corpse rat. He was severely weakened and in terrible danger. Regdar and Jarek quickly searched the rest of the house, only to find it empty until they heard a thump in the wine and root cellar below.

They moved Caiphon to a bedchamber and left Brel to guard him, and then set off to investigate the noise. They found the door to the cellar barred. Jarek called out a few times to whomever was on the other side of the door, but to no avail. Realizing discretion was the better part of valor, the two men returned to the bed chamber where Caiphon slept, fighting his infection. They barricaded themselves in the room and took turns on watch.

In the middle of the night, Regdar heard something on the steps. He woke Brel and Jarek and the three set up an ambush, only to discover it was Captain Anthad, the head of Manoli’s honor guard.

Relieved by the sight of his rescuers, Anthad told the men how he barred himself inside the basement and further hid inside a large barrel when it was clear the battle was lost. He said vampire spawn broke into the house by first masquerading as an old crone in need of aid. When the guards opened the doors, the spawn descended on them rapidly.

Jarek asked Anthad if he knew of “The Mayor” Yannit spoke of. Anthad only knew a name—Lord Graw. Jarek knew of Graw, but by reputation only. He was someone the Vampire Lords held in high esteem but it was because he entertained them. The men returned to the bedroom, replaced the barricade and rested for a few hours. Caiphon eventually awoke, his fever broken. However, he had changed. Pelor, he felt, had abandoned him in a time of need. Perhaps, he thought, Pelor was not necessarily a merciful God, but a vengeful one, and perhaps Caiphon should be the agent of that vengeance.

Rested and recovered, the men, with Anthad’s aid, decided to set out to the town hall to confront Lord Graw.

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Town Hall Meeting

As the heroes crossed Pakkin’s Folly, a gruff voice called out to them. A hulking figure emerged from the shadows, with partially healed wounds all over his body. It was Yannit, the Vampire spawn they encountered days ago. He was clearly spoiling for a fight and ready for revenge. The battle was brutal, with Regdar falling in combat until Caiphon revived him.

Realizing Yannit would continue to regenerate until he suffered a fatal wound in direct sunlight, Brel suggested dismembering the spawn. Further, James suggested throwing Yannit’s remains into the fountain which sat on the site of the original well Dar Pakkin set when he founded Pakkin’s Folly. Together, they moved the fountain’s center column that exposed the well and tossed the parts in.

From there, they crossed the square to the town hall. As they neared the structure, they began to sense something wrong. There was a buzzing at the back of their necks. Their heads felt thick. The closer they got, the more intense the feeling became.

Then, outside the steps, James heard a voice inside his head. “Come no closer,” it said. “Inside is only death.”

As Caiphon rounded the right front corner of the building, he heard the voice inside his head as well. “Go no further, Caiphon. Pelor has forsaken you.” Caiphon began growing agitated.

And as Regdar climbed the steps, the voice rang out in his head, too. “They know you’re a freak, Regdar. They know your magic isn’t natural.” Frustrated, he kicked in the door. Swarms of crawling claws poured over every surface, surging towards him. Skeltal archers sprang up from the benches and let their arrows fly.

The battle was brutal and protracted. Caiphon fought his way into the hall. As he neared the podium at the head of the room, an unseen force threw him across the room, smashing him into the wall and further pummeling him with psychic power. Something possessed Regdar and caused him to lash out at his friends. Brel dissipated the swarms with thunder waves. Throughout the course of the battle, the voice in their heads grew increasingly louder, encouraging them to leave.

After the swarms and archers fell, Brel rushed the podium and, after using a quick flash of light discovered Lord Graw was a nothing more than a brain with powerful psychic abilities inside a jar. The former mage was no match against their combined efforts. His jar was quickly ruptured and his psychic energy dispersed.

They searched and cleared the building and then returned to the village streets, only to see an flaming arrow spark in the night sky, from the direction of the hunting caves. It was the signal James had arranged with his wife, Mira if there was danger. Harried, the group set off into the forest.

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Urban Renewal

Seeing Mira Crowleaf’s signal for danger, the group raced through the forest to the caves where the villagers were hiding. They arrived to find several of the men being savaged by wolves, while others were under attack from hobgoblins. Brel and Regdar worked to distract the wolves while James Crowleaf and Caiphon fought off the hobgoblins. When the dust settled, James knew the villagers could no longer remain in the caves.

As he voiced this concern to his comrades, several of the villagers overheard him expressed their desire to return to Pakkin’s Folly. Crowleaf told them they were only inviting trouble, that Pakkin’s Folly was still unsafe. He pointed out that Yannit still remained in the town, as they had no way to kill the spawn. The four men argued with the villagers for some time, until Crowleaf realized the nearby Hugragag Shifter tribe might provide safe haven for the villagers.

Seeking further advice, Crowleaf went looking for Mord, a friend and fellow hunter. Mord was nowhere to be found, and it was quickly revealed he had gone off into the forest on his own. Frustrated and angry, James and his companions set out into the forest in search of the human.

They quickly found him, snagged in a brush pile, and under assault from stirges and bloodrot vines. After fighting them off, Mord said he was inspired by the acts of heroism the companions had displayed, and opted to set off on his own to not only find food, but also find things in the village that would help their quest.

“Wait,” James said, hesitating. “You’ve been back to Pakkin’s Folly?”

“Yes,” Mord replied. “I even found a book in the church that might help you guys fight these things. It looked like there was a ritual inside, so I hid it in an alley.”

James further scolded Mord, telling him his behavior was bound to get him killed, and ordered him to stay with the rest of the villagers. They returned to the caves and after some discussion, resolved to head into Pakkin’s Folly to get food and supplies to present the Hugrugag Tribe with as a show of good faith for providing save haven.

Without hesitation, Hendric Tallhart and his eldest son Beorn stepped forward. Two younger men, one barely 18 years old, also volunteered. Gorm and Rhaa Fadorr gave the group directions on where to find the goods under their store. Nethid gave step-by-step instructions on how to disable the traps designed to keep thieves out of her shop.

When they arrived in town, Caiphon suggested they make a quick stop to Mord’s hiding place to retrieve the ritual. As they slipped into the alley, five figures stepped out of the shadows – two bugbears and a tiefling. They attacked the group immediately. As one of the bugbears moved to strike Caiphon he hesitated, recognizing the Avenger.

The Bloodghost Syndicate was in Pakkin’s Folly.

Caiphon flashed the syndicate’s hand signal and the Bugbear lowered his mace.

“What are you doing here,” Caiphon asked, quite shocked.

“We were sent to kill people, said they’d be in this alley. I didn’t know you were one of them. What’s your angle on this? You working for the Vampire Lords, too?”

Caiphon’s reply came in the form of a swift axe blow to the bugbear’s head. After a brief skirmish, the assassins ran off down the alleyway, but not before Brel detained one of them.

Caiphon quickly learned that when the Vampire Lords took over Jakkra City, the Bloodghost Syndicate quickly offered fealty in exchange for their lives. Their first order of business, they were told, was to wipe out a group of humans in nearby Pakkin’s Folly that had bested both Yannit and Lord Graw. With one swift blow, Caiphon beheaded the gangster.

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Thunderstorm warning

After searching the alley, Caiphon discovered the ritual Mord sent them after was indeed hidden there. They patched up Regdar, who was hurt in the melee, and set off to gather supplies. They returned to the cave with the goods, and Brel used the newly-found ritual to ward the caves from an undead assault.

Meanwhile, James and Caiphon searched for Mord amongst the townsfolk, hoping to ask him some questions about his role in the apparent ambush. Mord was nowhere to be found. James had Captain Anthad do a head count, and it was quickly determined that while Mord may be missing, the number of people in the caves had not changed. Caiphon and James worried there was magic at work or worse—some sort of shape changer was in their midst. As a result Brel did a quick spell to detect magic and found none, further intensifying the worry.

From there, the group set out, with Jarek Irenka in tow, to the Hugragag Tribe’s camp.

As they neared the camp, James noticed they were being stalked by a cautious Hugragag brave. He quietly advised the group not to make any sudden or threatening moves. Shortly thereafter, Garruhhgarr and four of his brethren appeared, blocking their passage.

James explained their intent, that they had hoped Garruhhgarr would allow the refugees of Pakkin’s Folly to stay with the Hugragag. Several of the braves with Garruhhgarr laughed and chuffed at James’ suggestion, but Garruhhgarr led the group into camp regardless.

Once inside the camp, Garruhhgarr met with the Hugragag council. He returned, telling the group that the council was divided and the only way for him to gain absolute sway with the council was through the trial of Thunderclap. Garruhhgarr said the rules of the trial allowed him to appoint a champion or champions to participate.

He indicated that in a cave nearby was a token that symbolized undisputed leadership. If the group — his champions — could return from the cave with the token, he would be able to allow the citizens of Pakkin’s Folly to stay with the tribe.

The group descended into the cave and faced several hazards within, including a spear gauntlet, a test of wits dealing with a magically infused river and overhang, and deathspores. As they made it through the field of fungi, the tunnel opened wide into a large, high ceilinged room. Inside was Thunderclap himself, a young adamantine dragon.

The group tried to negotiate with Thunderclap, but the dragon would not give up the token under any circumstances. As a result, Jarek charged the dragon and began a brutal fight. The group ultimately won the battle and recovered the token, a few other magical items, and a horde of treasure. Jarek and James also insisted on decapitating the dragon’s corpse, in order to use the head as a gift to present to the Hugragag tribe. They also found a ladder that lead up and out of Thunderclap’s lair and returned to the tribe.

Garruhhgarr received the token graciously, and the tribe celebrated. The group then returned to the hunting caves and brought the villagers back to the tribe’s encampment.

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Stop the Press
The Press Gang attacks!

After an all-night celebration with the Hugragag Tribe, the heroes took their leave and got some much-needed sleep. Their relaxation was short-lived, however, as a piercing scream awoke the entire camp a few hours later. Caiphon left his tent and walked into utter chaos, as Pakkin’s Folly refugees ran in a panic and angry shifters created a defensive wall on the edge of camp.

Caiphon made his way through the throng of people to find The Press Gang holding an eldery woman captive.

“Send your human champions out,” hissed Del Laursten, “and we won’t kill this old woman.”

Caiphon’s compatriots quickly joined him.

“Let her go and we’ll let you live,” James Crowleaf replied.

All four members of The Press Gang laughed.

Not wanting to negotiate any further, Caiphon rushed into battle, targeting Del. Lacking any emotion, Zarrag slit the old woman’s throat and charged James. In the heat of battle, Caiphon actually healed the elderly woman, but it was all for naught—she was Tolg Longshanks in disguise.

The fight was long and brutal. And before it had ended, both Twelgar and Rolf Oresplitter had left their mark, leaving Willem Talhart and Caiphon with near fatal wounds. James dropped Rolf before he could escape, and after receiving medical attention, Caiphon questioned the Dwarf, who, in between curses, revealed Tolg had infiltrated them and provided The Press Gang with the Heroes’ location.

James silently dispatched Rolf, and after another night of uneasy sleep, the group decided to head into Jakkra City via the sewers to put a stop to The Bloodghost Syndicate.

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Sewer Confluence

The Heroes of Pakkin’s Folly quickly realized getting into Jakkra City without its undead residents and rulers noticing was going to be a tall order. Caiphon was quick with a solution, though. Recalling his days as a teenaged low-level street thug, he suggested they sneak in through the sewers. They made the trek to the outskirts of Jakkra City and entered through a large sewer pipe.

Inside, they found the line littered with decay, ichor, and effluvia—the remains of the vampires’ insatiable hunger. They covered their mouths and noses and soldiered on, only to encounter an offalian, carcass eaters, forsaken shells, and a bloodroot, all feasting on the decaying remains. Their attempts to sneak by were thwarted, and they had to fight their way past.

From there, they searched for a way into Jakkra City, discovering one sewer line covered by a magical trap, which forced them to backtrack and search for another way through rather than risk trigging the trap while attempting to disable it. Eventually, they found an area where a wall had collapsed, providing entrance into the basement of a tavern.

They ventured upwards, finding the building ransacked and abandoned. Peering outside, James saw shadowy humanoid forms moving through the street, several of them appeared to have no purpose to their movements. James realized they were the undead.

The group managed to elude encountering any of Jakkra City’s undead residents and, thanks to Caiphon’s memory, located a building that was used as a front for The Bloodghost Syndicate. As they neared, however, they noticed a lack of undead presence, along with several well-lit buildings. It was clear the Syndicate had been restricted to this part of the city, free from the Vampire Lords’ reach.

Caiphon investigated and discovered the same undead ward they had in their possession was used to sequester this portion of the city.

James snuck up to one building and risked a glance through the front window. Inside, several bugbears idly played cards, almost oblivious to the fact that the rest of the city was overrun by the undead. The group stole to the back door, and after putting up the hood on his cloak, Jarek angrily banged on the door. The eyeslit rapidly shot open, and fur-rimmed eyes stared back at him, momentarily going wide when he saw a human glaring at him.

“W…what,” the voice barked.

“Miroslav sent me,” Jarek said, invoking the name of the highest-ranking Vampire Lord.

And then, he did something quickly, that the bugbear could see, but his companions couldn’t, his face concealed by his hood.

The bugbear’s eyes went even wider.

“We didn’t break the truce! I swear,” the bugbear said desperately.

“I don’t care about that. I’m looking for Jarmaag.”

“He’s not here. Is he in trouble?”

“No. I just need to talk to him.”

“You can find him three houses down. Look, if you talk to him, you tell him I was helpful. I don’t want any trouble, all right? You tell him Targ helped.”

The eyeslit slammed shut and Jarek returned to his friends.

“Who’s Miroslav,” Caiphon asked.

“He’s the Vampire Lord who masterminded this entire takeover,” Jarek said, emotionless. “His name gets results around here.”

“Apparently,” Caiphon muttered.

They quickly moved down the alley to the house Targ indicated and again banged on the back door. Again, when the eyeslit opened, Jarek did something quickly that his companions couldn’t see.

“We’re here to see Jarmaag,” he said.

The slit slammed shut and Jarek could hear muffled arguing from behind the door. The eyeslit opened again, a separate set of eyes peered out.

“We didn’t break the truce,” the voice growled.

“We just need to see Jarmaag. Miroslav sent us.”

The slit closed again. There was more arguing. Eventually, the door opened. The companions were led down a hallway, lined with heavily armed bugbears, to a reinforced door. They were hurried inside, where a Kobold, wearing ornate robes and carrying a staff, sat at a table. Behind him stood a hulking dragonborn with a jagged scar running from the back of his head on down under his chin and a very tall, very imposing and beautiful woman.

The Kobold introduced himself as Jarmaag Fireseer, the Dragonborn as his bodyguard Druel Spikefist, and the woman as his concubine, Galaria. After some brief negotiations, Jarek managed to convince Jarmaag that he and his friends were there on behalf of the Vampire Lords, and that the order to kill them was in fact a test of the Syndicate’s loyalties and abilities.

Jarek also managed to get Jarmaag send his bugbear guards out of the room. Druel and Galaria remained. From there, they got down to real business. Jarek elaborated on the fact that they knew (thanks to Caiphon) that Jarmaag wished to unseat Rathos Bloodghost as second-in-command of the Syndicate. Jarek said he and his friends wanted to help that happen.

Before he could continue, Galaria interrupted. She had been staring at Caiphon intently since the start of the meeting and finally revealed why. She recognized Caiphon from his time in the syndicate years prior. The Avenger tried to downplay the notice, but Galaria was insistent and he finally admitted that he was a former member.

Jarek explained this would have minimal risk to Jarmaag. If they were successful in their attempts Jarmaag would run the day-to-day operations of the Syndicate. If they failed, it would look like a band of humans broke in and attempted to kill the gang boss.

However, Jarmaag was still skeptical.

“What’s in it for you,” he asked. “Because every deal has two sides. I know what’s in it for me, but I want to know what you and your friends want.”

Jarek paused, and then asked his friends to step out of the room. Confused, they eventually complied. Jarek called for them to return moments later. Back inside the room, they found Jarmaag with a very smug look on his face.

“Your friend here just ensured you have my cooperation,” the kobold said. “If anything, I’m going to give you the location of Rathos’ hideout for entertainment purposes. Regardless of your success or failure, I look forward to seeing the results.”

“Wait,” Caiphon interrupted. “Are my father and my sister still alive?”

“Ahhhh,” Jarmaag sighed. “I’ll look into that and give you an answer if you’re successful in your attempt to…neutralize Rathos, Caiphon.”

And with that, Jarmaag provided the heroes with a map to Rathos’ hideout.

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Hairy Negotiations

Using the map Jarmaag Fireseer supplied them, the Heroes of Pakkin’s Folly entered Rathos’ hideout through a set of crypts. Once inside the hideout, a trapped floor panel was triggered, releasing four gricks from a nearby cage. Four bugbear warriors joined the battle – from a hidden room – a short time later.

From there, they further explored the hideout, savagely attacking a sleeping bugbear, who identified himself as Dak, the guard sergeant. They asked about Rathos’ location and he directed them through a nearby hallway to a bar. Caiphon then quickly ended Dak’s life.

Of course, the hallway was trapped, loaded with poison dart ports. After more exploration, Jarek encountered Kralldar, an Oni Night Haunter, who also served as the hideout’s torturer. After speaking with Jarek and mistaking him for an envoy from the vampire lords, Kralldar led the companions to the bar room. He summoned Rathos, who entered with two displacer beasts at his side.

Clearly, they were outmatched.

Rathos wanted to know why he shouldn’t kill the heroes then and there. Jarek offered a compelling argument, noting that they were sent by Rathos’ rival to kill him and that they’d walk away from it all peacefully. Rathos countered with a proposal of his own: they could wager their freedom on a game of chance. If they won, they could leave and Rathos would forgive their intrusion. If they failed, Rathos would kill them and feed them to his pets.

The heroes distracted Rathos with more talk, instead offering up the face that they were there to overthrow the Vampire Lords and that in order to do that, they needed the Bloodghost Syndicate to ignore them. Jarek admitted his motivation was vendetta against Lord Miroslav, the man who murdered his mother. For proof, Jarek described the location of Jarmaag’s hideout in detail.

Rathos continued pushing for the game of chance, forcing Jarek to finally admit that Jarmaag sent them to kill him, on order from Rathos’ own mother, Graala. This sent Rathos into a rage. He flung his tankard of ale across the room and it shattered on the wall. He leapt to his feet and offered a new deal: the heroes leave immediately, kill Jaarmag, and never return to the Bugbear portion of Jakkra City and Rathos would consider them “even.”

From there, Rathos moved to the door of the room, pulled an ornate key from his pocket, inserted it into the door and opened it. They were looking through the front door of Jarmaag’s house. Rathos turned to the heroes, looking for an answer.

Reluctantly they rose, and passed through the door, ready to kill Jaarmag.

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An Ending and a Beginning

Immediately after they emerged from the portal, the heroes surprised a group of bugbears, who leapt to their feet and demanded to know how they got in the room.

Thinking quickly, Jarek bared his teeth, revealing fangs, and demanded to see Jarmaag. One of the bugbears soon returned with Jarmaag, Druel, and Galaria in tow.

Jarek laid out the situation for Jarmaag, telling him plainly that Rathos sent them to kill Jarmaag, and that the Bugbear leader now knew Jarmaag was making a move against him. Jarek also noted that Rathos had a spy in Jarmaag’s group.

Unsurprised, Jarmaag made a quick hand signal and Druel ruthlessly murdered a nearby bugbear, cutting him down with one blow.

“Now that we have that problem solved, continue,” Jarmaag said.

Jarek attempted to further negotiate with Jarmaag, but the Kobold was having none of it. Still believing they were agents of the vampire lords, Jarmaag asked for asylum in Jakkra Castle. With a heavy sigh, Jarek revealed that they were not there on behalf of the vampire lords, but they were there on a different sort of business. He said his uncle Miroslav, the high vampire lord himself, killed Jarek’s mother and Jarek wanted revenge for this act.

His companions were shocked by such a revelation, but his true lineage and race still confused them.

After Jarek had finished his story, Jarmaag told the heroes that they would instead help facilitate his escape to a new, secure location, and would act as his guards and agents while this apparent civil war raged. Jarek suggested the Hugragag Shifter Tribe Camp, but James, Capihon and Regdar vehemently opposed such an idea. They did not want to put the residents of Pakkin’s Folly or the Hugrugag tribe in any danger.

They agreed to take Jarmaag and his entourage to Pakkin’s Folly, under the pretense of protecting them in the empty buildings there. In reality, both sides were planning to ambush the other and leave them for dead.

Jarmaag used his Thief’s Door key to open a portal to the town hall. He sent a lone bugbear through to scout the area and make sure it wasn’t a trap. The bugbear indicated the area was clean and called everyone through.

The moment the door closed, the battle began.

Once Jarmaag fell, Druel became further unhinged and fought to his death, while Galaria, who had revealed her true nature as a succubus, stepped out of the battle and begged for a truce between her and the heroes of Pakkin’s Folly. She offered them a deal: let her live and she’ll return to Rathos with Jarmaag’s body, where she would explain that he and Druel were killed by a group of human assassins, and she would assume his duties as second-in-command of the Bloodghost Syndicate. Galaria also admitted she was actually an agent for a cult of Asmodeus, sent to spy on the Syndicate.

As a show of good faith, she whispered a word, and a bugbear came through the portal, holding a large bundle.

“If you accept this item, you’ve accepted the deal,” she explained.

Brel and Regdar sensed arcane power emanating from the bundle. The group considered the offer and quickly accepted. Jarmaag’s body suddenly disappeared in a flash of light and Galaria simply walked through the already open thief’s door.

Regdar investigated the bundle and discovered it contained the Sunblade, a powerful sword that would be a helpful tool in the battle against the living dead. They quietly left Pakkin’s Folly, ready for a well-deserved rest.

When the heroes were close to the shifter camp, two Hugrugag braves emerged from the forest and hurried them back to the camp. The site was frentic, Shifter and humans alike were scared, and relieved to see the heroes. Mira Crowleaf waded through the crowd and found Regdar, beckoning him to follow her quickly.

At the center of camp were two human males, dirty, battered, bruised, and barely conscious. They were Castar and Hectar, two men from Regdar’s home village of Karstone.

“All this is your fault,” Hectar gasped when he saw Regdar. “You must return with us to Karstone and make it all right.” Before he could continue, Hectar slipped into unconsciousness. Caiphon performed a small healing ritual on both men, and James took them to a healing tent. The group rested for the night and Regdar bonded with the Sunblade.

In the morning, Regdar explained to his companions that Karstone is an isolated village in the mountains, and that they are very afraid of magic and outsiders. He said once he manifested his abilities as a swordmage, he fled the village and came to Pakkin’s Folly rather than face banishment or execution.

The group entered the healing tent to talk to the Karstonians, only to find both men extremely angry and afraid. Hectar claimed the vampire apocalypse was all Regdar’s fault, brought on by his consultation with the dark arts. He claimed he knew the shifters were demons that Regdar had lured into servitude and his companions and the other humans around were all his thralls.

Castar bade Regdar to return to Karstone, to free the survivors – including Regdar’s mother – from the grasp of what they insisted were Regdar’s undead servants in the city. They said that Regdar and all his companions must also return to undo the terrible fate the world had suffered.

James and Jarek both tried to argue that the eternal midnight was actually the doing of vampires, but the Karstonites would have none of it. Frustrated and insulted, Jarek cuffed Castar, who fearfully withdrew. Hectar, meanwhile, accused Caiphon and Brel of using necromancy and consulting with demons in exchange for their obvious powers.

Regdar agreed to return to Karstone with his companions in tow. A slight argument broke out between James and Hectar over who would lead the group back to Karstone. James knew a quicker, safer, easier path while Hectar wanted to take the difficult path he and Castar followed to Pakkin’s Folly out of sheer distrust for James.

Ultimately, James led the group into the mountains without incident. However, they quickly realized someone or something was watching them. James slipped into the rocky outcropping and used his ranger training to find their shadow. Sure enough, a large goliath was silently stalking them. James fired off a signal arrow to inform the group of the potential trouble, and the Goliath stole away quickly, possibly frightened.

From there, the group rounded a bend in the narrow path to discover a large boulder had been pushed down the hill, blocking the path completely.

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