We had perfect attendance this week… for about half an hour. Then something happened on Envyus’s end that I don’t have the details of. He popped back in at midnight just in time for Xiph to go to bed. Aside from that, I’d call this one of the best sessions so far. It says great things about a group when you can go two and a half hours between encounters and not have people complain. As for the writeup – I’m picking up right where I left off.
As the black knights advanced on the party, our heroes heard a sharp crack echo through the cavern behind them, followed by a whizzing sound as a bullet flew past them and embedded itself in the rock. The knights turned around to look at it just in time for a second bullet to slam into one of their helmets. They turned around to face their unseen attacker, remembered that the party was there, and began the fight.
As the battle continued, the party could hear some strange sounds coming from the cavern, getting louder, as though someone was jumping from outcropping to outcropping. Finally, their mysterious assistant got close enough to see. He took aim and fired off another shot that hit one of the knights squarely in the chest, before lifting his hood and saying,
“I ’’did’’ warn you about Lady Borafont, you know.”
Those of the party who had met him at the gala recognized him as Sigurt Meirsu, while those who hadn’t were grateful for the assistance in any case.
After the party defeated the black knights, the assailants’ armor faded away and a disembodied, primordial howl echoed through the caves. Aisling noted that the killing blows had each cut clean through the tattoos on their necks.
Sigurt apologized to the rest of the party for his deception and his inability to reach them in time to save Gerard before leading them towards the cave’s exit. The party emerged into the night from a small hole in the wall of a cliff, where they found Okerzale and Mara waiting for them. Okerzale immediately began to talk to Sigurt as Mara looked around excitedly. As the whole party exited the cave, Mara’s face began to fall. Finally, she quietly asked,
Everyone shut up. Okerzale’s eyes widened slightly as he realized what had happened. After a few moments of silence, Aisling stepped forward and said, “He’s… he’s not coming.”
Mara stood, stunned and unmoving. As Sigurt started to move towards her, a fireball formed around her fist as she punched the cave exit hard enough to crack the bare rock.
“He… he… promised he’d…” she said, holding back tears as well as she could. “I… wasn’t strong enough… still not strong enough… I could have… he’d still be…”
At that point, Aisling knelt down and hugged her to comfort her as she began to cry uncontrollably. After a few seconds, she went still and began to speak in the Phoenix’s voice.
“I FEEL IT IS BEST TO LET THE CHILD ALONE WITH HER THOUGHTS FOR THE TIME BEING,” said the Phoenix. Aisling nodded in response.
Okerzale stepped in and informed the party that they were now wanted in Tel Phonen for several counts of murder, breaking and entering, destruction of property… basically, for being PCs. Pissing off the wife of the guy who pays the guards’ salaries didn’t help matters. He also told the party that he and Sigurt were members of the Third Hand, a covert organization within the Guardians that handled the Phoenix’s dirty work.
He gave them tents for the night and told them that one of his men would be by in the morning with horses. Lady Borafont had been working with Mornbarian diplomats, so everyone reasoned that the party’s next step should be to head to Alilei, Mornbar’s capital, to investigate. With that in mind, they set off west towards the forest at dawn.
After several days of taking a somewhat long route to the border, the party found themselves in the small town of Alfreish. The place was essentially a backwater – the kind of town that an Avatar passes through once every ten years or so. Many of these rural villages have churches established, and while the Phoenix doesn’t necessarily approve of them, she doesn’t usually step in unless she finds that her message of universal kindness is being twisted.
This village’s priest, Father Uben Myst, greeted the party at the main gate. He was friendly and polite, and the party took a liking to him despite their initial apprehension. Father Myst offered them a free stay at the inn in exchange for putting in a good word for the town back in Alilei, which the party accepted. After a night of gambling and drinking, the party turned in.
The next morning, they were woken up by the innkeeper, who recommended that they go listen in on Father Myst’s sermon. The party, minus an extremely hung over Denzai, made their way to the church. Father Myst mostly talked about making those who had fallen away from the Phoenix’s light see the error of their ways, and while some of his talk was more forceful than the Phoenix generally cared for, nothing was particularly over the line.
As the sermon continued, a shifty-looking man in a cloak entered the church and approached the pulpit. Father Myst continued to talk for a moment, then turned to address the man. “Is there something I can help you with, son?”
Three more men entered the church as the man at the front looked up and snarled. “Where is he,” he growled. His face had started to elongate, and hair was beginning to grow all over his body. The three men in the back had removed their cloaks and were also beginning to change. They grew taller and leaner, and sprouted claws and fangs.
Father Myst’s eyes widened as he realized what was about to happen. “Everyone,” he said as he cast Sanctuary on the crowd, “please calmly make your way out of the church through the side exits. It seems we have a werewolf problem.”
The werewolves attacked as one, moving straight in for Father Myst without even attempting to break through the enchantment protecting the crowd. It almost seemed as though they were intentionally avoiding the civilians. Meanwhile, the party drew their own weapons and entered the fray. Father Myst pulled a sword from behind the alter and began to chant, lighting the blade up with a brilliant flame.
The battle ended quickly, as Sigurt, Shamus, and Father Myst were able to incapacitate the lead werewolf. Father Myst drove his sword through the wolf’s right arm, pinning it to the ground. The others advanced, but the leader barked a mournful-sounding order to retreat. Reluctantly, the free wolves fled.
Father Myst approached the werewolf, knelt down, and softly said, “My child… I know not why you have been tested as you have. My heart goes out to you. I have done nothing but attempt to bring the light of the Phoenix to those who need it.”
A group of guardsmen arrived to take the werewolf to something called the Center. Aisling and Shamus asked to speak with him for a while, but Myst told them that the werewolf needed to be quarantined as soon as possible. He offered to buy the group a round of drinks at the inn while he explained the situation. They accepted.
At the inn, Myst began to talk. "Most of the time, things are pretty peaceful around here. It’s a nice town, with nice people, so things run smooth. Problem is we just so happen to be near the Marshlands. Now I know most of the folk down there are fine, upstanding men and women who just want to know more about the magic and power that flows through this land, but there’s always exceptions. It might not look it, but there actually used to be a fortess near this place that they built when the Undead first started to spill out. We’ve also had to deal with a few crazed sorcerors now and again.
“I’ve been livin’ in this place my whole life, but the way things are now started when an avatar came through while I was a kid. Male one, too – not many of those around. That man changed my life.
“Time was, Noxvale’s guards’d just kill the poor creatures once they got too close – no chance to do somethin’ better. But that man – Renmic Winnet, he called himself – changed the way I thought about… well everything, really. He taught me about the phoenix, about how she helped fight against her own creators because she believed that everyone – EVERYONE – could be good. Yeah, I’d heard the story before, but this man really lived by its message.
“The incident that really stuck with me was – we’d found this vampire, see? Attackin’ the town, killin’ livestock, things like that. So one day the guards catch him, and they’re about to execute him when Winnet stops them. He says, ‘Look at this creature. Really look at ’im. Try and see what I see. I don’t see a monster – I see a man, a cursed man, a man changed by things beyond his control, tormented into takin’ leave of himself. This man doesn’t need to die – he just needs to be shown a little bit of light.’
“So Winnet took the guy under his wing. We all thought he was crazy, but a few months later they both came back, and the vampire’d become a model citizen. Even set himself up as a farmer – all the blood he’d need, legally his.
“That’s what I try to do with these poor creatures that come through my town – show them the way. That said, until they do turn out well, they’re still a danger. The Center’s an unfortunate euphemism for what it really is – a prison. But a comfortable one – it’s just to hold them while myself and my dedicated staff try to help them see that they can still do some good.”
Aside from this, the key facts were the following:
- The current batch of werewolves were considerably tougher than anything the town had dealt with for quite some time
- The werewolves were mostly poaching livestock, but there were unconfirmed reports that they’d been following a few women around.
- There is no cure for lycanthropy – the only option Father Myst sees is to capture and rehabilitate the werewolves around Alfreish.
Before Father Myst left, he had one last topic to discuss. He was able to identify the guardians in the party as what they were, but noted that Aisling’s eyes gave off a very unique, somewhat disturbing feel. He also said that he’d seen guardians turn away from what needed to be done or go too soft to carry out the Phoenix’s will, and that unlike those transformed against their will, guardians who failed their responsibilities to the Phoenix might need to be put down.