July 20th: Evening
We had saved the Eladrin envoy only to find out that he had come to arrest Amalline for stealing their queen’s crown.
It seems that an organization called the Brotherhood of Shadows made a declaration of war against the Eldadrin queen right before her wedding to an Eladrin of another house. This would have ended the civil war in the Feywild.
Someone made it look as though Amalline was behind it.
Aldain, the envoy, after speaking with us for a bit, decided to withhold judgment and speak to the Duke to try to find out what was really going on. So, we went back to the palace.
On the way, I asked the false Nara why she wanted to kill Aldain. She told us that if she was given a promise of safety and some water, she’d tell us what she knew. We gave her water and promised her fair treatment.
She said that she loves war, glories in it really. Then, she said that what is happening has been set in motion and it is too late to stop it. She works for the Brotherhood of Shadows (not related to the Queen of Shadows, she says) and the Knight in Bronze.
Twenty to thirty years ago, she said, the Knight in Bronze started some trouble in the Feywild. Interesting, twenty years ago, the Lady in Silver was active here.
Back at the Palace, the Duke wanted to see Aldain. We also found out that Fish Breath escaped while we were gone. And, to make matters even worse, Wizard Kyman was still missing.
We told the Duke about the puppet master, putting the cap on his perfect day. Glyph was tasked with finding a way to detect a puppet master. He also suggested that it would be a good idea to find Robillard.
Lady Anyalka is not going to give up. Ama is not to be seen in public until her guards arrive from Maldar. There is no way to stop them from coming and taking over Amalline’s security arrangements.
Count Aldain realized that he and his men had been misled, he’s nearly certain (though not completely) that Amalline is not the evil mastermind he was led to believe she is. He also said that there are probably some creatures called changelings behind some of this. They perfectly imitated Nara and probably have someone in their council.
When the Duke went to speak to Ama alone, Glyph sent his cat in and I went along with the dogs and curled up under a chair to listen in. Glyph couldn’t hear through his cat (some kind of anti-scrying ritual), but I got to hear the whole thing, though when you’re a dog, it’s hard not to fall asleep.
So, last night, Kara escaped from the dungeon. She simply disappeared in the night. To make matters worse, Malvena Vol knows of her existence and is kind of miffed that the child of Bane was not turned over to her a long time ago. She wants her now.
Anything else that might have been said I missed, like I said, when you’re a dog, it’s so comfy curled up under a chair its hard not to fall asleep.
Glyph and I went to fetch Prester Crane while the Duke was busy yelling at Amalline for leaving the palace. He also had bad news to tell her in private.
When we arrived at Prester Crane’s quarters, he and Kyman were in the midst of an argument over something. They both seemed troubled and distracted, but we eventually got their attention and led them back to the audience chamber.
Odd that Kyman was with him, since he’d been missing all day long.
So, our discussion was interesting. Kyman thinks that the contract was fulfilled though Kara and that is why she’s disappeared. If the spirits found her, they either took her or she made an agreement with them.
We mentioned the Knight in Bronze and the Lady in Silver. No one seems to think they were connected, but Kyman reacted oddly to the mention of the lady. I must find out more about this.
He also says that the Lady is a myth and that she never existed.
Kyman knew more about puppet masters as well. He thought that they were extinct. They share a hive-mind, all working together but with only a rudimentary intelligence. The mad emperor of Maldar is said to have been controlled by an insane puppet master.
Next, we went to check on Fish Breath in the dungeon. The guards tried to stop us, but Cu got us through, though not before they assumed that Ama was a prostitute and far too experienced for the guards to handle.
Fish Breath’s cell was empty, the door still locked. We went in an looked around and Glyph noted that the stone was slightly melted and warped, probably by magical means. Below the stone was parched earth and bedrock.
We followed the amazingly acute scent trail of Fish Breath (he is so very stinky) to a barred door that leads to the forbidden area of the dungeon.
One of the prisoners told us that he heard Fish Breath talking to a woman, she sounded like Amalline, but more refined. They were haggling over something, then Fish Breath went though the barred door, but not by opening it, he just passed through with a faint ripple.
The door, when Cu checked it, was stout oak, but had a strange rippling pattern on it.
We went to rest, our day having been both long and confusing. On the way out, one of the guards told Cu that he had noticed some odd happenings and no one believed him. He has been hearing voices and seeing shadows that are not normal, along with the scent of flowers when no one is around. There are also small gaps in his memory.
He does say that he wasn’t around when the “screaming woman” disappeared. She used to be interrogated at night, but she’s gone now. We assumed he meant Kara.
Cu suddenly got a really bad feeling about the door and the area in general. He pushed Ama behind him and waited, standing guard until the feeling passed.
We went up and found out that a guard called Brian is usually on night watch. He’s surly, but overall a decent guard.
It was getting late and we needed to find a place to bed down that would not endanger anyone or be a place we usually would stay. After a long discussion we decided to go to Timeon’s quarters, since they are currently empty.
Cu went to see the Duke and I ran into my father on my way to find something to eat.
My father proposed that I go with a shipment he is sending to Maldar so I could meet Baron Terwilliger who at 120 years old is seeking a new wife and is willing to overlook my eccentricities. I pled my duties to Amalline, but agreed that if there were a change to my situation I’d reconsider. He was ready for the party and reminded me that I’d promised mother I’d be there.
So, I ran back to the room and got my dress and began to get ready. Tempest came along with me, the others electing to stay with Amalline who couldn’t go since she was already there in the form of her double.
The evening was rolling along nicely until the temperature in the room dropped and everyone just stopped moving. Tempest and I were the only ones who even seemed conscious.
As we watched, a figure in black with an obsidian skull atop its staff walked in. It wore a deep cowl and I couldn’t see a face in it, but I could see eyes, red like burning coals in there.
Tempest moved to protect Ama’s double while I foolishly stood right in the middle of the room, between it and the head table.
A voice in my head said “Child of Crowe, it is not your time yet.” It hurt a lot, but I didn’t heed the pain and as the creature began making a gesture of some sort, Tempest pulled the faux Ama down to the floor to protect her. The gesture the creature made caused an amber glow to flow from the Duke to the creature’s staff. I turned into a cat and leaped at the creature.
I hit him and disrupted his draining of the Duke’s life force, but I ended up unconscious against the wall until everyone else had awakened.
When I came to, Tempest was isolated, since she was standing over the inert Duke at the time. The black figure was gone and the Duke was somewhere between life and death. Prester Crane awakened me and I told him my version of what happened and they released Tempest.
That the place was in turmoil was an understatement. The Duke was stuck at the edge of death, neither alive nor dead, but perhaps headed toward undeath. The whole thing stunk of strong necromantic magic and was still pulling him toward the bad side of life and death.
We found out that we were on a serious time constraint too. I contacted the Council of Druids for the herb Queensglove to buy us some more time to find the source of this and stop it.
We went to rest, knowing that having our faculties about us would be necessary in the coming hours. Well, most of us slept, Glyph doesn’t sleep. Ever.
Varin (Amalline’s uncle) came in while we were sleeping to wake Cu. Of course, we all got up. Malvena Vol’s contingent of Maldaran soldiers already arrived to protect Amalline. There will be no stopping this. The courier from the Council had also been ambushed, so the Queensglove would not arrive to give us extra time. We needed to get moving immediately.
Glyph told us that Kyman had potions to renew us without sleep. They would, however, ensure that we slept a half day after they wore off.
We went, wearily, to get the potions and begin our trip into the bowels of the castle. Glyph said that he could sense the Duke’s life force and it was in that direction.
We entered the dungeons thorough Kyman’s secret entrance. The air was thick with the smell of rotted meat and bones were ankle deep on the floor. No one had bothered to tell us we were entering the lair of something that might eat us.
We managed to travel through unmolested though and started down some steep and uneven stairs. The stairs ended at a chasm, bridged by an old rope bridge or what might have been a bridge at some time, but was really an old, rotted piece of rope spanning the chasm.
While we discussed our options (taking a rope across versus climbing down and back up the other side), Tempest saw something white fly past, fast. Cu noted a cave in the chasm below, on the other side. Maybe it would be a faster or less dangerous way through.
I turned into a hawk and glided down to land in a stream (though, I must admit that landing in the water was more accident than plan). It was still terrifying, but it was easier this time. The landing is still hard though. I don’t know how birds manage it.
Meanwhile, Cu had climbed down and Glyph made it down due to some means I hadn’t noticed…he probably walked down the side or something. He really is very strange and I am becoming more convinced than ever that he is not human.
So, with three of us down, Tempest started down the rope, leaving Amalline for last.
Then, with a scrabbling sound on the rock above, Ama was gone, her pack lying on the rock above us all.
When we went back up (I managed to fly, not glide, but FLY, which was wonderful!), we found undead attacking Ama. We fought them off without any casualties, but it was not an easy fight.
Afterward, we all went down into the chasm. Amalline even came with us this time. Glyph was fascinated by the cave mouth. There was something there drawing him to it, but he didn’t want to talk about it, he just said there was power there.
Tempest looked at the tracks in the chasm and determined that Fish Breath was through here about two hours ago. We could hear ghouls downstream along the creek, moving closer.
The tunnel ended in a small, hidden temple to the Dwarven god Dumathoine. I’m not much for religion, but Amalline told us he’s a somewhat paranoid god, all traps and misdirection. Fish Breath had been there, but he was gone.
Since the temple was a dead end, we went back up and headed down the corridor on the other side of the chasm. This corridor was natural stone and was mostly straight.
Eventually, we began to hear the sound of metal on stone along with some rather colorful cursing. We tried to be stealthy, but none of us are very good at that.
The corridor opened up to a circular chamber. In the center of the room, Fish Breath stood with a crossbow readied and aimed at us. He put it down when he saw that it was us.
He told us that the man who was arrested was not him, but was rather a changeling as the woman masquerading as Nara had been. Fish Breath has been spending his time trying to get through this door.
Glyph said we needed to pass the door to get the Duke’s soul, so we decided it would be best to go together.
Fish Breath said he was after the “Necrostone”, which was the heart of the previous god of death (the one the Raven Queen killed for the job).
This necrostone had been activated, he said and it was his duty to retrieve it. Oh, and Fish Breath is a Paladin of Dumathoine and all his stink and dirt is carefully applied.
The stone is also a beacon for undead, drawing them to it.
We described our experience in the great hall and Fish Breath told us that what we saw was a Death Spirit, an angel of death. Now that it has taken the Duke’s soul, it will try to retrieve the stone.
After opening the door, now unlocked, we paused to have a small discussion with Fish Breath about traps and who should go first.
The good news was that there were no traps. Bad news: someone had been through recently.
Fish Breath also made a point of telling us that we are hopeless and worthless except for Cu. His pronouncement made me angry. I am tired of everyone telling us we’re stupid and incompetent.
Amalline asked if Fish Breath was his real name. No, he said his name was Keoh. Oh, and he decided that Amalline is OK too, but the rest of us are still worthless.
Moving on, we entered a long, narrow room with two sarcophagi and a raised platform at the opposite end from them. Two sets of double doors lead from the room, the one we’d entered from and another across the room and down a bit.
We moved in cautiously, looking around. Part of the ceiling had collapsed sometime in the past, but it didn’t look to be a current danger. Some scratching and scuttling sounds were heard, but again, they didn’t seem to be a threat.
A look around told us that entombed here were Sir Robert from Ama’s dream and Sir Edward, who we’d never heard of.
Tempest suggested that Ama ask Sir Robert about this place and find out if he could help here. Amalline called to him and he borrowed some vitality from Glyph, knocking him out for a few seconds.
He appeared next to Amalline and told her that Sir Edward was his brother, they were buried here together.
When asked who had come through here before us, he was evasive and wanted to know what was in it for him. He did suggest that it might be better if the Duke was allowed to die, but Amalline didn’t want to hear it. He also said a strange thing before he left.
He looked straight at Ama and said “You don’t know what you are?”
Great, more mysteries. Sometimes, I wish people and ghosts and all would just say what they mean, life would be much simpler then.
We began to move through the far door, with Glyph and bringing up the rear when the doors slammed, pretty much in Glyph’s face. Everyone but the two of us was on the other side of the double doors.
As we stood there, shapes stepped out of the mist that hadn’t been there a second before. The mist was cold and the shapes turned out to be small creatures that looked like children’s dolls, but made of glass and bone. Oh, and not at all friendly, in fact, they managed to be both creepy and hostile.
There were a lot of them, a group around me and one around Glyph. It didn’t look good when they knocked Glyph down right away. However, he’s not without his tricks and he turned into a cloud of glass or something and managed to fly through the crack between the double doors.
I yelled for Ama and the others to keep moving. They didn’t seem to understand that the Duke was the priority here and we were on a time constraint. Instead, they broke the door down and helped.
After the creatures (Witherlings, Keoh called them) were defeated, Cu found a tiny ampoule of blood on one of their corpses. They were a kind of automatons that were powered by the blood. Glyph said it was probably the blood of the necromancer that created them. Ick.
Sir Robert said that Edward, his brother, was the enforcer while he has always been the guide or advisor. Currently, Edward is bound by orders from another, but Robert declined to say who that might be.
The platform at the end of the room turned out to be a transportation system. It is a teleportation circle that leads to the Maldaran Imperial Palace. We decided to skip going there and moved on.
The next room turned out to be an old, moldy library. Glyph was interested in what might be down there, but we made him move forward.
Sir Robert warned Amalline that if she moved forward, she would not be attacked unless she threatened the “mistress”.
And so we came to a doorway. We could see undead through it, then a chasm in a small corridor, another pit, then a small platform where a dark figure stood.
Ama called out this “mistress” and bade her come closer to talk.
She moved forward and every last one of us was shocked. It was Lady Helena, Ama’s grandmother, her mother’s mother.
She told us that she was saving us all. She wanted the Necrostone and to get it, the Duke must die, but, she assured us, he’s of very little importance in the greater scheme of things, you see it is the women of the line that have kept the duchy functioning for centuries. Sir Robert and Sir Edward have served the women, not the men.
She made plain that although she loves Ama and would not want to see her harmed, she’d kill her if she interfered with the plan.
The plan, she continued, was to send the Necrostone to Maldar where the Maldaran Empire would then be destroyed in a tide of undead. The stone would animate all the dead in the area and turn those who died into undead.
When we questioned her on how a bunch of undead in Maldar would help us and not kill us, she seemed to be of the impression that she’d be in charge of them and that the stone would destroy them afterward.
Glyph said he had contacted the stone (not sure how he does this, but mages are weird and Glyph more than most) and it most definitely does not plan on destroying any undead, but rather destroying Bane and recreating the world as a paradise of undead.
So, to sum up…Amalline’s grandmother wants to start a Zombie Apocalypse because she’s angry at Ama’s father and hates the Maldarans.
Oh, and Glyph keeps muttering something about feeling connected to this crazy woman.
We talked to her for a bit more. She thinks the Duke is the biggest problem here, she’s still angry about her daughter’s death in childbirth.
I asked her if the Duchy or her vengeance was more important.
She chose vengeance.
You just cannot win with crazy people on a mission.
She also said that Robert and Edward were bound to serve the Duchy because they had betrayed the family. After their executions, they were interred below the castle to serve until their honor has been restored.
Anyway, Lady Helena retreated to the Necrostone on the platform at the back of the room while the rest of us began to fight the undead.
Finally, Glyph got to her and tried to magically push her off the edge of her platform into the pit. Keoh had already fallen down there, but he was hanging on to a rope along the side.
Another thing was odd. I think Cu can fly. He jumped the chasm without it even being close. We all thought he was dead, but no, he just flew over.
In any case, by the time Glyph and Cu were done with her, Lady Helena’s ritual had been disrupted and Ama moved over to tell her it was over.
Lady Helena said Ama had “thrown it all away”.
Glyph and Amalline told her what Glyph had sensed from the orb. She didn’t believe it, but then, she’s crazy.
In the end, she told us how to restore the Duke’s soul.
Keoh wants to move the stone to hide it. He can do that, but he can do it without my incompetent help. Jerk.