After destroying the orcish war band, the party completed breaking camp to set off for Radlebb keep once more. The remainder of that day passed relatively uneventfully. In the distance Radlebb Keep loomed, a welcoming site for travellers along the treacherous highway. The party approached the Keep under the hastily assembled guise of an errant merchant. They were welcomed with reluctant hospitality. After stowing their gear and stabling their horses, the party made for the mess hall. A quick dinner of gruel and bread, simply a warm meal nothing more, and the party retired to bed, wherein Alastair found a parchment laying upon his pillow, tattered and burnt. Opening the parchment revealed it to be the missive he had sent to his father, the paper in tatters and smelling of ashes. After a quick discussion with Lonovan, Alastair presented the note to the party explaining it’s significance. Clearly, someone had either captured or killed Aliena and likely the thirty men she was taking north to Threshold. Kithus grasped the parchment and delved into the mysteries, declaring in an otherworldly voice, “Of those who held this paper, I see fire, burning, ashes and black clouds, a great fireball.” With black eyes and a smoking form Kithus collapsed, breathing heavily from exertion. It was evident, Aliena had run afoul of yet another enemy that was trying to interfere with their plans and her actions could not be counted on. This also meant that Threshold might be in danger. The fact that this very note made it to Radlebb Keep left the party uneasy. Alastair would have to alert his father with another method. He spent the early part of the night scribbling upon a scrap of parchment.
A restless nights sleep and a breakfast of hardtack and trail rations, saw the party on their way to Luln. Getting closer to Luln, the surrounding hillocks and forest receded, scrub and rolling hills taking their place. Perched atop a far hill sat Luln, a town fully ensconced in stone, bristling with weapons. Rather than build outward, Luln had built up, in an effort to protect its citizens. Towers and residences peeked out from above the sturdy walls as the party reached the gates around mid-morning. Immediately questioned by the city guard, the party declared their intent. Quickly they were whisked inside, whereupon they were escorted to the Stewards building, a strong, yet nondescript building in the center of the city.
From within came two women, one of whom was the rather beautiful Yolanda herself, walking to the left of another woman. The other was young, strong and lean of build, brown haired and dressed much like a commoner with none of the trappings of station. Compared to Yolanda, she was not altogether beautiful, but she was far more comely than a many women. Alastair quickly dismounted, road weary as he was he reached for the womans hand and bowed before her, kissing her hand out of respect. He introduced himself and the rest of the party as ‘The Companions’. She named herself Sascia, Mistress of Luln and invited them inside. Passing through several layers of magical defenses, they found her war room, replete with maps and books of strategy as well as weapons and armor. Strewn across the table were letters, no doubt messages from the reaches surrounding Luln.
Immediately they got down to business, discussing the developing situation. A revealing explanation of the events transpiring to the east gave Mistress Sascia a better grasp of the situation. She launched into her own explanation and revealed a scouting party had recently discovered that they Eye of Traladara was still in Karameikos heading towards Darokin and then on to Thar in the Broken Lands. Lonovan deduced that the alliance between Karameikos and Darokin would be tested. If the orcs marched overland to the south, they would occupy the Darokinians long enough to prevent them from supporting Karameikos’ north-western flank. Together the Companions and Sascia determined that the most likely route the delivery party would have taken, would double them back towards the Duke’s Road in the east of Karameikos, then on to Selenica in Darokin. If they wanted to make time, they wouldn’t tarry in the unexplored passes between Darokin and Karameikos. The Companions quickly established a plan that would allow them to travel hard over the rolling hills north of Radlebb Woods. They would ride for Verge, then investigate the threat to Threshold and finally on to the Duke’s Road. The Companions had come full circle. Feeling as if they were chasing ghosts, Alastair suggested they ride immediately and hard through the night and camp the next morning. With all in agreeance they accepted what little support Sascia could muster and left as abruptly as they had come.
In a flurry of hooves and dust, the Companions galloped across the rolling plains, spurred by an ever burning need to secure the Eye of Traladara. Through the night they galloped, sprinting and cantering, in such a manner as to preserve the horses. Dawn broke and an exhausted party camped in the early daylight, a quick rest to regain their stamina, only to set out once more about midday. Nearing Verge and the foothills of the Black Peak Mountains the party encountered a band of hill giants. Keeping a respectful distance and not slowing their pace, the Companions circumvented the giants and made straight to Verge. Within Verge they found Lady Antonica, amid the late day clamor of rebuilding her town. Declining her invitation of hospitality, the Companions explained their haste and requested new horses in order to ride for Threshold within the hour. Alastair inquired as to whether the 30 men he had dispatched north had been through Verge. Her response was not well recieved. She mentioned that Bendriks had passed through not more than a day ago with Lord Sulescu. Upon hearing the name, Alastair cursed, hissing his disapproval and it suddenly dawned on him. Sulescu was meddling… Somehow he had defeated Aliena, Bendriks and the 30 men he had sent north. Alarmed at what was in store for Threshold, Alastair rallied the party, apologized for not accepting Lady Antonica’s hospitality and quickly departed Verge.
Several hours later, the smoke trails of Threshold were in view and Alastair was in familiar territory once more. Reaching the city guard Alastair asked one of the men if they had seen Aliena, Bendriks or the 30 men he had sent, in some strange hope that his machinations had come to pass. Another negative answer, but the guard disclosed that Patriarch Jowett had died in his sleep last night. What was more, just yesterday, Bendriks had shown up with a clergyman of the Church of Karameikos. Exasperated, Alastair charged through the gates into Threshold and directly to his father’s chambers. Marching inside Alastair practically exploded with information. He explained the plot to overthrow the Duke, the Black Eagle Barony involvement, the theft of the Eye of Traladara. Tomasz visibly faltered at the mention of the Eye. He also proclaimed that the thought that Lord Zemoris Sulescu had been in Threshold with Bendriks. His father explained that Patriarch Jowett had died last night of natural causes. Alastair was immediately suspicious agreed to send the party to see the place where he died and investigate. Alastair continued the conversation with his father concerning the next to ascend into the Church of Karameikos’ Patriarch position, a hardline Thyatian with no love for the Traladarans. Next in line would be Aliena. Alastair’s gears began turning at this notion.
Inside the Church of Karameikos, the party found Patriarch Jowett’s quarters. Kithus immediately launched into a vision after touching the bed where Jowett died. The otherworldly voice returned speaking through Kithus’ mouth. “Lord Zemoris, over Jowett, sucking his soul out of his body, evil forces at work.” Kithus collapsed, this time black viscous fluid bleeding from black eyes, his body smoking. Glancing about the room, Lonovan noticed the lack of a holy symbol and a look back into the sanctuary showed all the flowers in the church wilted. A quick questioning of the altar boy revealed an addled memory of the events leading up to Jowett’s death, but a distinct memory of removing the holy symbol from Jowett’s quarters for cleaning. Putting the pieces together, it was evident that something evil came into the church, strengthened itself, attacked a defenseless Jowett, sucking his soul out and left. Stories abound of creatures that sustain themselves on the souls and blood of the dead, using powers to glamer and confound people…Vampires. The party rushed to Alastair, who upon hearing the news, grabbed Liam’s sword and bolted from the room, runnign to the crypts, where Jowett had been interred. Reaching the crypts, the Companions found Jowett’s tomb open and empty.
Panicked, Alastair ran back to his father’s quarters to have him alert the guards. The rest of the party, relying on their collective knowledge of myths and legends devised methods of defeating the vampire. The party returned to gird themselves for war. They set forth quickly to the last place they had been, garlic and holy water among their arsenal. Inside the church the party discovered a pile of dead rats near the door of the altar boy’s quarters. While getting ready to breach the door and engage this deadly creature, the door flung wide and inside the room stood the now animated body of Oliver Jowett, former Patriarch of the Church of Karameikos. His gaze fell upon Alastair, who heard a voice in his head, “Protect me,” it whispered. Alastair felt compelled to heed it’s directive and immediately lashed out at Lonovan, taking him by surprise dealing a telling blow with his shield.
The Companions leapt to action, spilling holy water over the doorway to prevent the creature from escaping. Helteg and Si’Lex engaged the beast in melee while Lonovan and Wargaath attempted to fend off Alastair’s relentless blows. Kithus, under some sort of witchery froze in place when confronted with the dark creature, unable to bring himself to act, he stood petrified. The combined force of the Companions repelled the creature deeper into the room as Helteg and Si’lex relentlessly pursue it. Another powerful blow landed on Lonovan as his ill fated attempt to trip Alastair when terribly wrong, leaving him to escape under the pews of the church, out of reach of the stinging blade. Alastair shrugged off an attempt by Wargaath to grapple him, but succumbed to Kithus’s weakening magics. Wargaath’s second attempt was not thwarted and Alastair found himself struggling against bonds formed of Wargaath’s sinewy arms. The fight was soon ended by a devastating blow from Si’lex, his monkly powers penetrating the tough resistances of the vampire turning Jowett’s form into a fine mist. The creatures sway over Alastair ceased and he was in turn released by Wargaath. Confused by what he had just done, he collapsed in a frenzy of apologetic emotion. Helteg and Si’lex sprinted to the coffin of the defeated vampire, following the misty form it had turned into. When the mist materialized as the sleeping form of Oliver Jowett, they decapitated him, ending his life…again.
With the Companions in Threshold once more, they rest the night in order to head for the Duke’s road in the morning. All signs point to Lord Sulescu carrying out the clandestine attack on Oliver Jowett. However he did it, it was quite evident to the party now that Sulescu was some sort of Vampire and likely able to change his form at will. His intentions are unknown at this point, however, his treachery this night has delayed the Companions from their ultimate goal. Onward The Companions would travel, to find the Eye of Traladara.