Nightrealms Carrion Crown

August 4, 2013 XP
Encounter Type XP
Vampire Enforcers (4) Combat 19,200
Free-Willed Vampires (9) Combat 58,000
Coffin Mimics (2) Combat 12,800
Total 90,000
Character XP Total Class Level (Level 13 -315,000)
Haza 230,492 Cleric 12
Torquemada 232,675 Inquisitor 12
Ramirez 231,000 Fighter 12
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The Traitor Revealed

Desnus 21st, 4711

The Inquisition

As Torquemada and Ramirez (and Quinley) were taking their leave of Lady Evgenya, they were accosted by a trio of vampire enforcers, who happened to be escorting none other than their opium-crazed companion – the priest of Sarenrae, Haza. Having finally exhausted his capacity for drug-fueled debauchery (as allowed and conforming to all tenets and creeds of the sun goddess!), he had set out to regroup with the party. After encountering the vampires in Restoration Park, Haza was recognized as being associated with the humans “hired” by Luvick to investigate the vampire murders, and was promptly escorted to the Vampire Underground.

After catching Haza up on their findings, the newly reunited trio set off to interview the last of the vampire nobles that Luvick had recommended they speak to.

Desmond Kote was found in a large room nearby. A small shrine stood in the middle of the large chamber, centered on a statue of a horned man with fangs and bat wings holding a wickedly spiked flail in one hand. Beyond the shrine sat two long tables with elaborately carved darkwood chairs. Haza and Torque recognized the shrine as the Vampire Underground’s cathedral, being dedicated to the infernal duke Zaebos, whom vampires venerate as lord of arrogance, nobility, and perversion.

Clad in breastplate and shield, and carrying a wickedly spiked morning star, Desmond Kote hailed the party, focusing his attention on Torquemada, being a fellow inquisitor. After a few minutes of bantering, in which Torque and Haza impressed the vampire noble with their knowledge of the hierarchies of Hell, they got down to business. Kote had also been investigating the murders, and has collected the wooden needles found in the ashes of the previous victims. He had discovered that all of the stakes seemed to be of similar make, carved from furniture legs made in the same pattern.

He had no leads on the murderer(s) himself, but confirmed Lady Evgenya’s suggestion that the vampire spawn of the slain vampires were acting strangely, and agreed with her opinion that she might be the next target.

Taking leave of the vampire inquisitor, the group discussed what they had uncovered, agreeing that returning to Lady Evgenya and setting up a trap for the killer was the best option.


To Catch A Killer

The party returned to the salon of Lady Evgenya, and spoke at length with her again, requesting that she be the “bait” for their trap. She agreed in spirit, and took the group to a private backroom, where another Lady Evgenya awaited the group.

The real Evgenya explained that she had used illusion magic to cloak the appearance of one of her vampire spawn, and that she would be able to see and hear everything through the eyes of her spawn. The plan was for “Lady Evgenya” to be out hunting alone in Restoration Park. The party would remain nearby in hiding, and hopefully the killer would be drawn to the lone vampire noble and set off the trap.

It was agreed that the group would meet outside Restoration Park around midnight, and the trio left to return to the surface and prepare their trap.


Desnus 22nd, 4711

At the appointed hour, the group of adventurers was safely hidden amongst the trees and bushed in Restoration Park, when off in the distance, a lone figure clad in white finery appeared, slowly wending her way through the low mist that clung to the park grounds. “Lady Evgenya” silently glided through the park, looking for her prey, while the party waited in the shadows.

Time passed.

Just as everyone was ready to ditch the plan and try again later, a drunken sailor came stumbling into the park. The temptation was too much for the “Lady” to resist, and she immediately went into hunting mode. The poor soul staggered down the path, sloshing cheap whiskey from a bottle as he lurched his way to a tree to relieve himself.

The party quickly discussed the situation. They couldn’t stand by why a helpless human was slaughtered by the vampire, yet what would be the repercussions of attacking a vampire noble’s spawn?

As the group was poised to act, suddenly four black-clad figures materialized out of the mist, moving forward to surround the suddenly still “Lady.” The party jumped into action, rushing forward to engage the figures, who turned to face the new threat. Fanged faces split into leers as the vampire assassins attacked the party, while the previously paralyzed “Lady” turned to flee into the night. Blades clashed as the vampires fought with the party, and unfortunately the drunken sailor chose this time to realize that something was going on and came over to “assist.”

Torque and Ramirez did their best to protect the drunk, as he wildly swung around with his fists. As the tide of battle was turning, he finally struck home! Unfortunately, he ended up hitting Quinley, staggering the dhampir and knocking him nearly unconscious to the ground.

But the vampires were on their last leg, and with a flourish Ramirez finished off the last of the attackers, watching as it collapsed back into the mist from which it had appeared.


The Traitor Revealed

“Well, that’s unfortunate,” said the drunk, as he lashed out once more, punching Ramirez three times in rapid succession, rocking the fighter back on his heels as blood poured from his face.

The party turned to face this new threat, but the drunk was already moving in a blur. As he passed by Ramirez, he struck out with their blades as the opportunity presented itself, but things did not go as planned. Almost faster than the eye could follow, the drunk spun on his heel, tripping Ramirez. As the burly fighter windmilled his limbs as he lost his balance, the drunk struck out again, slamming his elbow into the fighter’s abdomen. And as Ramirez struck the ground, the breath knocked out of him, a foot lashed out, pounding into his ribs as the drunk continued to move. As he passed Torquemada, the inquisitor also attempted to attack, but as with Ramirez, was tripped, punched, and kicked in a blur of motion as the sailor continued his movement, running up to Haza and punching him in the face, grabbing hold of his collar as Haza’s neck snapped back from the force of the blow.

Torque realized that this was no common drunk. Looking closer, he detected a faint shimmer of magic present, and concentrating was able to make out the features underlying the illusion.

It was the vampire tailor, Radvir Giovanni!

Noticing the inquisitor’s scrutiny and making the connection, Radvir announced, “And now you know too much. Time to die.”

Letting go of Haza, Radvir rushed forward, catching Torquemada with a wicked elbow as he locked a powerful hand around his throat and lunged forward, his fangs sinking deep into Torque’s throat and drinking deeply of the inquisitor’s blood.

Ramirez rushed forward with a powerful blow that struck home! Only, at the last second, Radvir pivoted around on his heel, thrusting Torquemada into the path of the two-hander as the blade bit home, cutting deeply into Torque’s back.

Haza lashed out with bolts of searing light, but the vampire seemingly moved like the wind, spinning and tumbling out of the way of the deadly beams.

The battle continued, and although the group was able to get a few hits in, Radvir seemed like almost untouchable. Only Haza’s judicious use of positive energy bursts seemed to really affect the undead menace.

And as suddenly as it started, the battle was over, as Radvir turned and ran off into the darkness. Moving as swiftly as a hawk on the wing, he was out of sight in seconds.

The group gathered their wits about them, helping Quinley back to his feet, and healing up their many wounds. They decided to immediately return to Luvick with the news, and headed back to the Vampire Underground.

When they arrived back at the vampire lair, they were escorted immediately into the presence of Luvick, who listened as they told their tale.

“Dawn is nigh, and Radvir likely has fled to his lair above – a tailor shop known as The Nobleman’s Stitch. Go and bring him back to me for judgment,” said the elder vampire lord.

The party left, and decided to stop by Radvir’s underground shop first, but found the building trashed and nothing of value left behind. After being directly to a nearby sewer access ladder, the group soon found themselves back in the streets of Caliphas, as the dawn light started to spread across the cityscape.

A quick discussion ensued, and the group opted to return to the safety of the Silent Hound to rest and regain spells before returning later today in the afternoon to investigate the tailory.


The Nobleman’s Stitch

One of the more affluent shops in Caliphas, the Nobleman’s Stitch was well-known for catering to the nobility and other members of the upper class to establish many of the city’s fashion trends.

Radvir Giovanni had a reputation for impeccable style and skill, and many wealthy customers sought him out for the latest fashions and outfits for special occasions.

The Nobleman’s Stitch took up an entire block in the heart of the city’s artisan district, just across the street from a furniture shop. A handful of long-burning oil lamps hung nearby from street poles spaced along the street. The tailor shop was two stories tall with signs of a basement present.

The group tried the front door, but it was securely locked. The windows next to the door were not as secure, however, as Haza smashed one and reached inside to unlock the doors.

A variety of wares are on display on numerous shelves and tables on the open shop floor inside, but there was no sign of life, or unlife.

The group quickly fell to searching the area, finding a series of steps leading below near some dressing rooms, and immediately descended into the basement.

The flight of stairs descended into the northwest corner of this basement room. The ceiling rose fifteen feet overhead, and several boxes and crates stacked along the south wall reached
nearly the same height.

The room appeared innocuous, but Torquemada soon discovered a secret door that led to a room filled with coffins and a large stone sarcophagus!

And what awaited in the coffins? Sleeping vampires perhaps?

Indeed, the coffins were indeed the hidden resting spots of a significant number of vampire enforcers. The group acted with cold deliberation, staking each one separately, before securing the body and taking it upstairs and out into the cleansing sunlight to destroy the vile undead once and for all.

Unfortunately, the stone sarcophagus was empty, only containing a lever that operated other secret doors. Behind those doors, were more coffins, but all were soon discovered to be empty.

Searching onward, the party discovered a dye room to the south. The stench of powerful chemicals overlaid by blood filled this large chamber. A large vat of pale yellow liquid sat to the north and three gaunt bodies, stripped and impaled with wooden stakes, hung from iron crossbars on the south wall.

The bodies appeared to be vampires also, and after much debate, the group decided to release the vampires by removing their stakes. As they did, the undead came violently back to life, but paused when seeing the signet ring of Luvick that the party held. Torquemada explained their situation to the undead who explained that he had been attacked by Radvir in Restoration Park and knew nothing else until he was revived by the party. He agreed to take a message back to Luvick for the party, and he set about helping them revive the other vampires.

After the captive vampires had left, the group resumed their search, finding another secret room filled with what seemed to be coffins, but turned out to be mimics instead! A pitched battle ensued, with the strange aberrations getting the better of the group initially, but the hardened adventurers tactics soon won out.

It was back in the dye room that a clue was to be found.

Radvir apparently kept an incredibly meticulous journal in a drawer in the table. The journal contained a list of not only the vampire elders he had targeted, but also the nobles of Ustalav he framed by falsifying evidence against them. The journal made it clear that Radvir was acting on behalf of Adivion Adrissant and the Whispering Way to help pave the way for the return of Tar-Baphon. The book also included several notes in individual envelopes from an Aisa and Hetna Dublesse.

These missives detailed ongoing requests for more vampire bodies to be delivered to the Abbey of Sante-Lymirin (a divine servant of Iomedae, and perhaps coincidentally, the patron saint of first blood.) in exchange for additional bloodbrew elixir. The journal included the abbey’s location and Radvir’s own musings on the witches’ intentions for the bodies. He believed the sisters were trying to create a potion for undead transformation, obviously working for the Whispering Way.

The basement searched, the party now turned their attention upward…

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July 21, 2013 XP
Encounter Type XP
“Dragon”, Advanced Giant Flytrap Combat 19,200
Merrick Sais, Vampire Druid Combat 19,200
Advanced Vampire Spawn (4) Combat 12,600
Total 51,000
Character XP Total Class Level (Level 12 – 220,000)
Haza 200,492 Cleric 11
Torquemada 202,675 Inquisitor 11
Ramirez 201,000 Fighter 11
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The Vampire Underground

Desnus 20th, 4711

On the Trail of the Whispering Way

After the devils had been dispatched back to the Nine Hells, Torquemada called upon the power of his goddess to counter the effects of the Bone Devil’s poison on the two, while Ramirez worked to tidy up the Esoteric Vault where collateral damage had occurred.

The slow climb up the spiral staircase was exceptionally taxing for the duo after the pitched battle, for even though Torquemada’s healing magic had removed much of the poison’s damage, they were still weak and exhausted from that which remained.

As they emerged from the depths of the basement, Abraun Chalest came hurried forward.

“I thought I heard a commotion. Is everything all right?” asked the historian.

“Yes. Well, there may have been a complication or four.” said the inquisitor of Iomedae, “But everything is fine Chalest.”

“Did you find what you were looking for then?”

“We did, of sorts. We activated the gargoyle statue, and an illusion appeared, showing an old map of Caliphas with a location marked. Do you have any idea what building this could have been?”

Chalest examined the rough sketch of ancient Caliphas that Torquemada had made of the programmed illusion, and soon announced that he did indeed know the location – it was part of the Quarterfaux Archives, of which he was the curator!

He explained that the building was one of the museum’s older (and least visited) structures dedicated to the history of the former county of Grodlych, and had been in the hands of the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye for over 100 years. He agreed to personally take the party to the museum tomorrow after the party had a chance to rest.

With that, the tired duo took their leave to return to the Silent Hound, and slept the remainder of the night in the dreamless rest of those who had fought the horrors of Hell itself and survived.


Desnus 21st, 4711

The morning broke with the smell of frying sausages and eggs wafting up from the common room below. After a hearty breakfast, with Haza still nowhere to be found, Ramirez and Torque made their way to the Grodlych archives, where Abraun was waiting for them. Unlocking the massive oak and brass doors, he led the adventurers inside, where four large rooms filled with rack upon rack of books, scrolls, and tablets awaited. There was no one else in the building, so Abraun left the pair to their own devices as they attempted to find some indication of the presence of the Whispering Way.

After much searching, the duo found faint magic emanating from that an ancient fresco in one of the displays depicted the first count of Grodlych, an excommunicated priest of Pharasma named Laudmeir Vandolmayne. The heretic was shown clutching a book whose cover bore eerily familiar, stylized symbols matching those on the moribund key carried by Torquemada. By setting the correct runes on the moribund key, Torque was able to release an arcane lock barring the secret stone door behind the fresco that led to a room below the structure.

However, searching the cramped, musty confines of the bolt-hole beneath the archives turned up nothing more than discarded, battered furniture, broken alchemical equipment, and a few scraps of paper hinting at the Whispering Way’s activities in gathering components for some elixir or potion, though none of these notes contained any specific information or clues as to the cult’s current whereabouts.

The pair seemed to be at a dead end, when a voice spoke from back beyond the secret entrance.

“Good evening. It seems I’m not the only one searching for the Whispering Way. But alas, it appears that they deserted this place some time ago. My name is Quinley Basdel, and I’m searching for my mother’s killer. Perhaps we might be able to assist each other?”

Introductions were made, and it was revealed that Quinley was a sometimes associate of the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye in Caliphas, that his mother was a vampire(!) and had been recently slain in the (suspected) series of vampire murders in the city, and that he suspected that the Whispering Way was behind these events.

Quinley Basdel went on to explain further.

“The vampires of Caliphas might be able to tell you where the Whispering Way went. I can introduce you to them. Someone is murdering vampires in the city, most notably my mother. I have no proof, but I suspect that another vampire is responsible. The killer has been too selective, too successful, and too secretive to be a normal living vampire hunter. I want you to help me find this serial killer, unmask him, and bring him to justice.

“Vampires are monsters, unrepentant villains, it’s true, but they have found a niche in this country. When the Whispering Tyrant fell at Gallowspire, the vampires laid down their weapons and conceded the field in exchange for peace. Since the Shining Crusade, the vampire clans of Caliphas have maintained the status quo. Now Ustalav’s rulers hold court without fear of the Tyrant’s return and the vampires are left alone. But these vampire slayings could create an entirely new war in the city and across the nation. And in a war between humans and vampires, who do you think would win? And who stands to gain the most from that war? The only group who was adversely affected by the vampires and whose presence remains a enduring symbol of their failure in the Shining Crusade.”

Upon further questioning about the vampire presence in Caliphas, Quinley revealed the following:

“My mother was a vampire. I am not, though I have her blood. I’m not affiliated with the clans of Caliphas, but I do work for them occasionally as a free agent as I do for the Esoteric Order. And I know their leader, Luvick Siervage, an elder vampire who predates even the Whispering Tyrant. He rules from the Vampire Underground.

Long ago, the streets of Caliphas were raised to install a proper sewer. The ground floors of many of the city’s buildings became basements, their basements became subbasements, and so on. The vampires claimed some of these areas for themselves. I can take you there, but we may have to get past a few guardians on the way. Once we get past their guardians, I can get you an audience with Luvick. If you tell him you can find help find whoever’s killing his people, he’ll listen to you.”

All agreed that an alliance was in everyone’s best interests, and Quinley offered to lead them to the Vampire Underground that afternoon.


The Vampire Underground

Quinley led the group to the fastidiously manicured gardens and lawns of the city’s largest park – Restoration Park – in the shadow of Castle Stryithe.

The park was officially open from dawn to dusk, though there is was no closed gate to stop nocturnal visitors. Watchmen from the city’s constabulary could be seen passing through this area but they did not seem to venture into the park itself.

Inside a number of pathways wove through the trees and grass past a number of statues and other features.

In one part of the park, a life-sized alabaster statue mounted on a block of granite depicted the austere countenance of Sesasgia Caliphvaso, the countess who refounded the city of Caliphas after the defeat of the Whispering Tyrant.

A trio of seeming innocuous standing stones stood in the park’s center, although close inspection by the group revealed recent and somewhat extensive bloodstains on the menhirs themselves.

Nearby, another massive statue dominated a clearing, depicting Soividia Ustav, the founder of Ustalav, astride a rampant destrier with an upraised blade.

In the back of the park, tall columns lined both sides of a reflecting pool, commissioned by Ilmhost Vheist, a scholar and early leader of Ustalav, in the aftermath of the Shining Crusade as a reminder to the inhabitants of Caliphas of the dangers the nation has faced over its proud history. The tall columns along the pool’s south side were carved in the likeness of Ustalavic soldiers facing a menagerie of threatening creatures carved on the pillars on the far side, including Kellid barbarians, Belkzen orcs, werewolves, and the undead knights of the Whispering Tyrant. This latter group included both a headless dullahan as well as an armored knight covered in blood.

In addition to the reflecting pool, a large natural pool filled with water sat in the northeastern part of the park.

Finally, a large greenhouse filled the southeast corner of the park.

The Glass House was a massive structure, towering 40 feet tall, easily as high as many of the park’s trees. A relatively recent addition to the park, the greenhouse showcased a variety of flowering plants imported from warmer climes, and drew many visitors each year.

Huge glass windows stretched between the greenhouse’s iron frameworks, and small rise of steps led to a wide portico. Two massive pillars of stone supported a roof overhead and flanked a pair of ornate, gold-clad doors inscribed with sun motifs.

The group headed inside, the cloying humidity and heat of an active greenhouse filling the huge atrium. Exotic flowers, creeper vines, shrubbery, and even trees grew throughout the open space. A vaulted ceiling arched forty feet overhead, supported by four thick columns, while a stone-tiled path wound past each exhibit.

Quinley led the party to the left, looking for some access to the sewers beneath the city, which he said was the main pathway to the Underground. An unusual array of exotic plants dominated this part of the greenhouse exhibit, displaying every color of the rainbow. Their hues were made more vibrant by the backdrop of an enormous mass of cactuslike vines covered with white leaves.

Ramirez moved forward to examine the vines, when they suddenly stirred and whipped around him, pulling him into a yawning mouth of leaves!

The giant flytrap plant continued it’s surprise attack, grabbing Torquemada in it’s questing jaws as Quinley peppered the intelligent plant with crossbow bolts. The plant fought tenaciously, but would prove to be no match for the party.

And underneath it’s now-motionless trunk, Quinley spotted the object of their search – an opening leading downward into the sewers.

After healing up from the plant attack, the trio dropped into the sewers below and began looking for a clear path that would enable Quinley to locate the Vampire Underground.

A number of dead ends led the party back to the opening room, but suddenly, sharp stones were stabbing upward from the floor and vines were erupting in a frenzy trying to entangle the trio. A sudden blast of furnace-hot air came blasting down from above, burning everyone as they struggled to escape from the clutches of the vines, and then they were free and fleeing up through the opening… only to be hit by blazing bolts of lightning from the skies above, shattered glass scattering over the greenhouse. The party was under attack, and finally the attacker was revealed – a half-elf woman dressed in what appeared to be vines and brambles stood perched in a nearby tree. But not just a woman, as she grinned at the party’s plight – revealing the long canine fangs of a vampire!

Ball lightning and lightning bolts rocked the party as they shot at the vampire, but it wasn’t until Ramirez was able to down a potion of Enlarge Person and tripped her from the branch that the tide of battle changed. Even so, as she fell laughing under the blades of the party, hers was to be the last laugh as she dissolved into mist and fled into the night. Ramirez’s victory was cut short by the revelation from Torquemada that she was not dead, and in fact would be back in a few hours to enact vengeance, for such was the way of the vampire in cheating death.

With no time to waste, the group returned to the sewers, seeking to put as much distance as possible between them and the likely infuriated vampire druid. After a few more twists and turns, Quinley found a main passageway that led to the sewers proper, and would lead them directly to the Vampire Underground.

It was about thirty minutes later when the vampire spawn appeared, crawling on walls and ceiling and walking on the narrow pathway above the reeking sewer water. There were eight of them, armed with long swords, and they accosted the party, demanding to know why they should let them pass.

Ramirez was less than diplomatic, and the trio soon found themselves in a pitched battle against the undead creatures. Quinley was forced to retreat, when the vampire spawm had had enough and fell back, retreating into the darkness. Torquemada had harsh words for the warrior, and admonished him for making their passage harder than necessary.


Interview with the vampires

A half-hour later, the trio walked into what appeared to be a guard room. Four well-armed and armored vampires challenged them, with Quinley stepping forward to explain that they were there to speak to the leader of the vampires – the 800-year old Luvick Siervage.

Passage was granted, and the group was escorted through the sunked subbasement passageways to the audience hall of the vampire lord.

A grand promenade opened into a wide audience hall, decorated with elaborate tapestries and art befitting a royal of Ustalav’s ancient bloodlines. An immense throne dominates the far wall, while two antechambers stood to either side of the promenade to the east and west.

Well-dressed vampire nobles glared hungrily at the party as they approached a throne at the end of the hall. Upon the throne sat the vampire lord himself. He gestured the party to move closer, and spoke:

“As in the days of old, those of mortal flesh stand before me. Yet you do not cower like most who look upon my undying face. My servants tell me you came of your own free will, even with the knowledge that many here would feast upon the blood surging in your veins. But is it bravery you possess, or foolishness?

I respect your boldness… for now. Why have you come here, mortals?”

Torquemada stepped forward and explained why they had come, as Luvick listened through his story.

" I am no friend of the Whispering Way," the vampire Lord concluded, " and I would prefer to see the Whispering Tyrant remain confined in Gallowspire, as he has been these last fourscore decades. If you find me the killer, I will tell you what I know of this cult, and where they might have gone."

When asked about his current knowledge of the murders, Luvick replied, “My people are being killed — what more do I need to know? My agents are still gathering information, but in truth, we know little. We have someone in custody, a nosferatu named Ramoska Arkminos. He claims to have nothing to do with the slayings, but that one has played a mysterious game for many years. In addition, one of my retainers has acquired evidence suggesting that Caliphas’s nobility are behind these attacks. Perhaps the two are related.”

He continued on, "I grant you permission to interview your people and see this evidence. Speak with Lady Evgenya — she knew many of the victims, and is convinced that she is next. Her apartments lie west of here. Desmond Kote, in the cathedral to the north, may have some insight, as well. If you wish to see the evidence we have gathered so far, speak to my retainer Radvir Giovanni in his store to the east. Ramoska Arkminos is being held in the old pump room, also to the east. You can question him as well, if you wish, though I doubt you’ll get any more out of him than we have.

“Take this signet—any vampire who sees it will know you are my creatures, and leave you unharmed. But take care — vampires are a fractious lot, and even my most loyal subject would not hesitate to drain your blood if provoked. Remember always that to them you are prey, and show them the respect accorded to predators.

“I demand only one thing. When you find this killer, you bring it to me. Anyone who strikes down vampire elders will face judgment from one as well.”

With that, they were dismissed and set off to question the other vampires.

First visited was the tailor Radvir Giovanni in his shop to the east. He explained that he believed that the human nobles of Caliphas were hunting down vampire elders, and revealed a number of documents purportedly taken from several minor members of Caliphas’s aristocracy. These missives identify specific vampire elders and their lairs, and commissioned their deaths in an attempt to deprive the vampires of leadership. Radvir claimed to believe that it was the nosferatu Ramoska Arkminos, who was indeed a known servant of one of Ustalav’s nobles, that was contracted to carry out the killings.

The trio thanked the vampire for his help and made their way to the cell containing Ramoska Arkminos. He looked up from where he sat as they entered the room.

“Good evening. More of Luvick’s spawn, are you, come to gloat some more? No, I can see you’re no vampires. His loyal slaves, then, fawning over ‘His Grace’ while your true minds scream silently and helplessly inside.

No? Then what business do you have with me?

Perhaps you came to free me. If so, I can assure you I would be most grateful.”

Introducing themselves, the nosferatu spoke freely.

“I am Ramoska Arkminos, a servant of the count of Varno.”

“Why are you here?” demanded the inquisitor.

“Luvick Siervage suspects I might have something to do with the murders of vampires in the city, but he is sadly mistaken.”

“Why does Luvick suspect you?”

“He is scared. And my kind and his, though similar in some ways, are actually quite different. I am an outsider who serves a powerful master, and Luvick feels threatened by this. He needs a scapegoat, and I fit the role well. I suspect my recent work with the Whispering Way might have something to do with it as well.”

And just what is your relationship with the Whispering Way?"

“I am both a student of the arcane and an alchemist by trade. The Whispering Way hired me to test the potency of a potion they’re creating, a powerful admixture providing a path to lichdom. I hasten to add that I am no supporter of their goals, but the opportunity to test my expertise on such a concoction proved too enticing to resist.”

“Why do they want such a potion?”

“Obviously, they mean to administer it to someone. Judging by the formula I studied, someone of great importance, as it was crafted for a specific person. My personal favorite for the potion’s recipient is Prince Aduard Ordranti, ruler of all Ustalav.

I do not believe the cultists created this elixir at the prince’s request. It’s meant to poison someone, to force such a transformation, even against the unwilling. You could save him, or whoever it’s meant for, if you help me.

“I am an innocent man. If you clear my name by finding the real vampire murderer, I’ll tell you all I know of the Whispering Way and their recent activity. I’m sure you already know that they’ve left Caliphas. I can tell you where they’ve gone, and perhaps study the sample of their elixir in more detail to see if I can find anything more. All I learn I’ll share with you.”

Next, the party visited the salon of Lady Evgenya Zunaida.

The celebratory strains of lutes and harpsichords filled the air in this well-appointed, if ostentatious, chamber. Several figures dressed in finery befitting nobles of Ustalav’s ancient past danced on a parquet floor.

Lady Evgenya was as haughty as her namesake suggested, but grudgingly she revealed her thoughts to the party. She was clearly upset by the vampire slayings, as many of her friends had fallen victim to the murderer. She’d noticed several things about the murders, however. One thing that the victims all had in common is that they each controlled large numbers of enslaved spawn. These spawn, now freed by their masters’ deaths, have been acting strangely — almost as if they had a new master, though she has no idea who that might be. Given the size of her own undead court, Lady Evgenya suspected the murderer will soon come for her as well. In addition, Lady Evgenya believed she has found a pattern in the slayings — namely, that many of the victims have disappeared after hunting in Restoration Park, which has led many vampires to avoid that area in fear of attracting attention to themselves.

Thanking her for her assistance, the trio left her salon and headed off to their next interview with a vampire.

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July 7, 2013 XP
Encounter Type XP
Win friendship of Abraun Chalest Story award 3,200
Win friendship of Count Lucinean Galdana Story award 6,400
Convince Edjureus Modd to be helpful Story award 12,800
Whispering Wardens trap Trap/Combat 25,600
Total 48,000
Character XP Total Class Level (Level 12 – 220,000)
Haza 183,492 Cleric 11
Torquemada 185,675 Inquisitor 11
Ramirez 184,000 Fighter 11
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An Evening at the Haraday Theatre

Desnus 14th, 4711

Barragaro Road

After the events that occurred at the Seventh Eye, the party quickly regathered their wits about them, stepping outside of their private dining room and Ramirez accosting one of the servants.

“We need to speak with Dr. Low, now.”

“I’m afraid he’s retired for the evening sir,” said the waiter.

“I think you misunderstood me. I said NOW.”

“I’m sorry, but he’s not here.”

“He doesn’t know where he is,” stated Torquemada. “Let it go and we’ll get out of here.”

With that, the group gathered themselves and exited the Seventh Eye, heading back east to their rooms at the Silent Hound. Ephraim, shaken by the night’s events also, took his leave of the party, stating that he had all the information he needed for his report. He bade the others farewell, and stated that should they ever need his assistance again, to please contact someone else! And when that person wisely refused, to call upon him instead. The parting was another bittersweet flavor added to a distasteful evening.

As they continued on, Torquemada inquired, “Haza? Are you familiar at all with Urgathoa?”

“A passing familiarity. Why?” asked the Osirian priest.

“Just a feeling, " replied the inquisitor.

Silence fell after that exchange, and lasted throughout the journey through the dimly-lit streets of Caliphas. Returning to their inn, the adventurers headed off into their individual rooms, soon falling into the deep embrace of sleep. If they dreamt of their encounter with The Lady in Red that night, none remembered those dreams the next morning.

Desnus 15th, 4711

The next few days were spent in rest and recreation, as the group had not been in the welcoming arms of a major city in a number of months. The party was directed to Barragaro Road.

While much of the city’s commerce was conducted in shops and stands throughout the varied districts, it’s said that one can find anything one wants on Barragaro road. From dusk to dawn, vendors, barrow boys, and traders of all types loudly haggle over goods, from folksy crafts and jerked fish skewers to stolen wares and mysterious curiosities. Although many of the merchants are daily fixtures, some dealers appear, sell their wares for a day, and then are never seen again. The raucous, bustling street always has a carnival atmosphere, attracting street performers and tourists, but also hucksters, con artists, and pickpockets of all types. Just off the sloping street runs Vaingrier Alley, also called Oracle’s Alley, where sham soothsayers read fortunes in dice and bones, Sczarni dancers distract easy marks, and several of the city’s dealers in magical goods—of both dubious and masterful quality—keep shop.

Non-essential treasure items were bartered away in exchange for magical goods, some sold for gold, while Torquemada chose to donate his adventuring proceeds in service of his god. Torquemada visited the local temple of Iomedae, and left much lighted in coin pouch, but clad in the knowledge that some day soon an academy for inquisitors would be built in Caliphas, with a statue of his friend, the fallen paladin Ryzsard, standing watch over their front doors.

Of Haza, there was no sign. Given his proclivities towards recreation in a more exotic vein, Haza and Torquemada were sure that some opium den nearby was gleefully accepting his hard-earned gold.


Desnus 17th, 4711

Morning Murders

This morning, fortified by a hearty breakfast of pork sausage and fresh eggs, Torque and Ramirez set out to visit Caliphas’ library to see if they could find any sign or clue as to what the Whispering Way wanted in Caliphas. They soon found themselves blocked by a gathering crowd being held back by the local constables. A crime scene!

Torquemada inquired, and at his insistence, was led to the officer in charge of the scene – one Captain Boverde Hoptler. After some convincing by Torquemda, “Grand Inquisitor of Iomedae,” the Captain explained the situation.

“Caliphas has been plagued by a series of mysterious murders of late, in which bodies turn
up on the city’s streets drained of all fluids, only to dissolve into ash by morning. According to the men who first arrived here, we discovered the newest murder this very morning.”

Captain Hoptler led the party to a nearby pile of ash.

“A headless body was discovered lying on its stomach in an alleyway between this inn and a tailor shop. Soon thereafter, the body collapsed in upon itself and turned into this fine gray-white ash. There has been no sign of the head.

From what we were able to determine, though, the body was pushed or fell off of the roof above."

As Torque continued the conversation with the Captain, Ramirez wandered off to investigate the inn in question. The common room was empty, so he made his way up above to find a hallway of locked doors and some windows looking out. Boldly, he decided to step over the nearest sill and climb to the roof, much to the amusement and consternation of the onlookers and constables below.

Clambering quickly up to the roof, Ramirez was confronted by the two constables who had been stationed there, demanding to know what he was doing. Captain Hoptler waved them off, and they brusquely pointed Ramirez to the nearby ladder (aka Haza), and told him he would have to leave the premises. He did so, but not before noticing that two other piles of ashes were nearby on the roof.

Torque, meanwhile, had asked to check out the ashes, and was allowed to proceed as long as he didn’t disturb the evidence. The ashes appeared to be dense and powdery, similar to but texturally different from wood ash. He did notice what appeared to be a long, thin needle of hard wood protruding from the ashes, and motioned over Captain Hoptler to point it out.

“Probably dropped in the alley by one of the tailors next door.”

“Does Caliphas have any recent problems with vampires?”

“There are no vampires in Caliphas,” replied the watch captain. “We’ve never been plagued by that kind of terror.”

He seemed sincere, but Torque had his doubts. He asked for permission to examine the rooftop ashes and shortly after found similar wood needles in the piles up above.

Realizing there was nothing else to see here, Torque and Ramirez took their leave, and continued to the Caliphas’ library.

What they found was disappointing. There was little mention of necromantic cults, and nothing regarding the Whispering Way specifically. Additionally, Torquemada was not able to find any indication that there was or ever had been a vampire problem in Caliphas. In fact, there was nothing to be found that even referenced vampires or vampirism. Most peculiar for a library in a city of this size to not even have a general reference to those parasitic undead.

They did find a mentions of the presence of the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye having a presence in the city, and were able to discover that the Order’s Caliphas cathedral contains a well-stocked collection of obscure lore known as the Esoteric Vaults.

It took a few hours of combing the city and talking to locals for Torquemada to discover that the Order met regularly in an older part of town at the Haraday Theatre. They quickly got directions and made their way there.

The aged, stately structure of the Haraday Theater lay nestled among several shops. The rough wooden exterior bore the signs of numerous repairs and modifications, though it seemingly had need of many more. The building itself had two entrances, one to the west and another to the south, both bracketed by large, wall-mounted oil lamps.

There was no sign of activity, so Ramirez pounded on the door. A few minutes later, the sounds of bolts being withdrawn heralded the opening of the door. A pudgy, aged gentleman, wearing a befuddled expression behind an expensive pair of silver spectacles stood there.

“We don’t have any alms, sorry,” he said as he moved to close the door.

“Wait. We’re not here for that.

Excuse me, I am Torquemada, Inquisitor of Iomedae and this is my companion the warrior Ramirez Saul. We come from Lepidstadt at the bequest of Judge Daramid."

“Oh! From Lepidstadt, you say? Yes, I know of you. Unfortunately, we are closed today. Come by tomorrow evening at 8:00. Here are some passes to get you inside. We will talk then.”

He handed two golden tickets to the pair, and closed the door. The sounds of bolts being thrown made the door hum slightly.

There was no more to be done here, so the duo returned to the Silent Hound. Of Haza, there was still no sign.


Desnus 18th, 4711

An Evening at the Haraday Theater

The next day arrived and soon turned to night. Torquemada and Ramirez found themselves back at the Haraday. Well-dressed servants stood outside the doors, welcoming arriving carriages and turning away passersby who linger next to the glass windows of what appears to be a large meeting hall.

Handing over their tickets, the two found themselves inside a foyer. Dark hardwood floors and paneled walls highlighted the entrances to the secretive social club. The exterior doors stood open to the night, while dim lamps illuminated those ahead – two doors leading further inward.

To the left sat a lounge with round tables filling the wide chamber and mahogany liquor cabinets lining the walls to the east and west. Heavy drapes hung beside three large windows and lit iron chandeliers hung from the ceiling 15 feet overhead. A number of nobles and aristocrats were milling about, drinks in hands, while servants milled about offering more drink and viands.

To the right was a gathering room. Large bookshelves and heavily draped windows lined the walls of this room. A cigar box on one of the bookshelves turned out to contain fine rolled cigars from nearby Molthune, and nearby decanters of brandy were seeing heavy use by those in attendance.

The man they had met yesterday espied them from the gathering room and came over to welcome them. He introduced himself as Abraun Chalest, Quartermaster of the Esoteric Order here in Caliphas, and suggested they go someplace more private to discuss what brought them to the city.

Once away from prying eyes and ears, Torquemada explained the circumstances that brought them to Caliphas, hot on the heels of the Whispering Way. Chalest listened intently, but had no direct knowledge of any Whispering Way activities in the city. He did mention that there might be answers in the Esoteric Vaults kept secret and safe, but that the party would have to talk to the head of the Order in Caliphas, Edjureus Modd, for permission to enter the vaults.

He went on to explain that the likelihood of that happening was low, given that Edjureus was not well-disposed towards “adventurers.”

Torque and Ramirez decided to try another route, and started mingling with the nobility and gentry. They made the acquaintance of Lady Wisterfall and Count Galdana, and while they spent an hour exchanging tales of adventure and fighting prowess with the Count, but weren’t able to find anyone else who had access to the Vaults other than Modd and Chalest.

Returning to Chalest, the duo asked for an audience with the Order’s Master, and soon were having an uncomfortable discussions with the haughty arisocrat. Disgusted at their lack of progress, they decided to approach the affable Count Galdana and ask for his assistance in dealing with Edjureus Modd.

This time, it was a rousing success! The noble Count argued eloquently on behalf of his new companions, and soon Edjureus had called over Chalest to take the party down to the Vaults. He suggested that they wait until tonight’s festivities were over, and to mingle and enjoy the Order’s hospitality until then.

The Esoteric Vaults

Early the next morning, well after all the guests had gone home, Abraun led the party through the theatre to a staircase, with bookshelves groaning beneath the weight of hundreds of tomes lining thee wooden stairs, which descended in a spiral along this chamber’s walls to the theater’s subbasement 30 feet below.

Piles of statuary, pottery, paintings, and art filled the chambers below, clustered around large wooden crates, barrels, and narrow bookshelves full of ancient, musty tomes, with only narrow, meandering pathways between them. In the final vault to the east, a large worktable lay half-buried under piles of scrolls, books, and clay tablets, illuminated by magical work lights overhead.

Abraun informed the two that he would be upstairs if needed, and left them to their work.

Within a few hours, Torquemada had uncovered a wealth of information.

  • Concerning the Raven’s Head – Holy to the faith of Pharasma and imbued with the power of all the bishops of Ustalav, this goldplated + 3 undead bane heavy mace has a head fashioned into the shape of four ravens’ heads, from which it gets its name. It was the symbol of office for the Bishop of Caliphas until Prince Adamondais Virholt lost the mace in battle against the Whispering Tyrant. A character with the ability to channel positive energy gains the Channel Smite feat while wielding Raven’s Head, if she does not already possess the feat. In the hands of a cleric of Pharasma, Raven’s Head gains the disruption quality, and the wielder can use the Channel Smite feat as if she were a cleric of 4 levels higher (+2 on the DC and +2d6 damage) and an extra three times per day.
  • Concerning the Moribund Key – Greater agents of the Whispering Way use these silver medallions as keys to their sanctuaries. Each moribund key bears an engraved skull with two gray, burned-out ioun stones for eyes. Small openings line the coin’s outer edge. By turning the skull’s head, an inner plate marked with runic symbols lines up with these openings to establish different combinations. Each setting matches symbols inscribed on objects of great importance to the cult, such as statues, paintings, and doors. The proper arrangement of these runes activates stored spell effects in such objects, including powerful wards, programmed images, or the release of arcane locks. The bearer of a moribund key can cast message at will, and spectral hand and vampiric touch 3 times per day. In addition, the skull’s eyes glow when undead approach within 60 feet. A moribund key bestows one negative level on any good creature carrying it. The negative level remains as long as the medallion is carried and cannot be overcome in any way while the medallion is in that creature’s possession.

Also discovered was a chronicle of several items the Whispering Way once kept in Caliphas, including a gargoyle statue reputed to show believers the way to the cult’s hidden stronghold in the city.

The obvious next step would be to find the location of the Whispering Way’s former stronghold, but this would prove to be a challenge. The party took their leave and returned to their inn.


Desnus 20th, 4711

The Whispering Wardens

Fruitless searches throughout the city’s libraries, records, and courts, would provide no further clue. It would take a return visit to the Haraday theatre to ask for assistance from Abraun Chalest once more.

Amazingly, once he spied the sketch that Torquemada had made of the gargoyle, he immediately recognized it. It was the same one kept in the Esoteric Vaults below!

Chalest led them back down to the Vaults below, where the gargoyle statue was quickly discovered. Half-covered by a fallen tapestry, the hideous stone gargoyle crouched upon a solid block of rough-hewn black granite. Its wings lie folded over its back, their sharp spurs reaching almost to the 10-foot-high ceiling overhead. The statue’s claws, teeth, and strangely protruding ribs all appear crafted from iron. A carved necklace with a skull-shaped medallion bearing curious runes along its outer edge hangs upon the gargoyle’s chest.

At Torquemada’s behest, Chalest retreated to the safety of upstairs, while they examined the statue. Sure enough, the carved necklace had symbols that matched those on the Moribund Key. A few simple twists of the key, and Torquemada was able to slide in into the statue’s openings with a soft click.

Suddenly, an illusion appeared in the air before the gargoyle. It depicted an aerial representation of what could only be ancient Caliphas with a single building highlighted by an unearthly green glow.

The scene was interrupted by a translucent image of four liches appeared at the cardinal points surrounding the projection of the city. A hollow voice spoke, demanding that the intruders recite the fifth catechism of the Whispering Way in harsh whispers.

Torquemada, realizing that time was of the essence, gave his best guess – the 5th line from the Carrion Crown poem.

He chose… poorly.

A suddenly burst of light and a rush of air heralded the appearance of four large devils. Merging the most horrifying features of carrion-fed insect and withered cadaver, these bony devils moved in unsettling lurches as they assailed Torque and Ramirez.

Bone devil

The bone devils attacked the duo with evil intent, their poisonous stingers rapidly diminishing the strength of the fighter and inquisitor. Finally, the first devil fell under the blades of Ramirez, and the pitched battle began to the turn the tide. By the time the final devil fell, both men were beaten, bloodied, and poisoned.

But they were still alive.

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Torquemada's Knowledge (religion) on Urgathoa

Urgathoa

The Pallid Princess
Deity of gluttony, disease, and undeath
Alignment: NE
Domains: Death, Evil, Magic, Strength, War
Favored Weapon: Scythe
Centers of Worship: Geb, Ustalav
Nationality: Varisian

Some claim that Urgathoa was a mortal once, but when she died, her thirst for life turned her into the Great Beyond’s first undead creature. She fled from Pharasma’s endless line of souls and back to Golarion, bringing with her disease to the world. She appears as a beautiful, ravenhaired woman from the waist up, but below that her form begins to rot and wither, until only blood-covered bones remain at her feet. Urgathoa is worshiped by undead as well as dark necromancers and those hoping to become undead. As such, her clerics must often keep their activities a secret. Some who are sick with the plague make offerings to the Pallid Princess in hopes of alleviating their illness, but most turn to Sarenrae. The occasional gluttonous prince might make offering to Urgathoa as well, be it for more food, women, or other carnal pleasures. She and Calistria vie for control of their overlapping interest, with the elven goddess representing lust and the undead one representing physical excess.

Ceremonial clothes in her church are a loose gray floorlength tunic with a bone-white or dark gray shoulder-cape clasped at the front. Traditionally the lower half of the tunic is either shredded or adorned with strips of cloth or tassels to give the overall appearance of increased damage as it approaches the floor, mirroring the goddess’ own decay. Because most ceremonies involve indulging in large amounts of food and wine, these garments are usually stained from spills. Her temples are built like feast-halls, with a large central table serving as an altar and numerous chairs surrounding it. Most temples are adjacent to a private graveyard or built over a crypt, often inhabited by ghouls (which embody all three of the goddess’s interests). Her sacred text is Serving Your Hunger, penned by Dason, her first knight-blackguard.

Urgathoa sometimes gifts female clerics who serve her particularly well by transforming them after death into hideous undead creatures called the daughters of Urgathoa. She has also been known to lend support to the daemon Horsemen from time to time, for many of their goals closely match her own. It is not uncommon to encounter daemon servants and guardians in her most powerful temples as a result.

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June 24, 2013 XP
Encounter Type XP
Burial Rites for Illmarsh townsfolk Story award 12,000
Barliss Rask, Dullahan Fighter Combat 9,600
Shenaleure, Nightmare Combat 2,400
Dire Ghoul Wolves (3) Combat 7,200
Conversation with Lady Despair Story award 6,000
Total 37,200
Character XP Total Class Level (Level 12 – 220,000)
Haza 167,492 Cleric 11
Torquemada 169,675 Inquisitor 11
Ramirez 168,000 Fighter 11
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Caliphas, City of Shadows

Desnus 7th, 4711

The Aftermath

Desnus 9th, 4711

Headless Horseman

Desnus 12th, 4711

Conversation with a Lady

The Mysterious Dr. Low
Dr low

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May 19th, 2013 XP
Encounter Type XP
Ogg’gggol, Cerebric Fungus Oracle Combat 9,600
Gug Savant Non-Combat 12,800
Mi-Go (2) Combat 4,800
Dimensional Shambler Combat 4,800
Mi-Go (4) Combat 12,800
Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath Combat 25,700
Total 70,500
Character XP Total Class Level (Level 12 – 220,000)
Haza 155,092 Cleric 11
Torquemada 157,275 Inquisitor 11
Ramirez 155,600 Fighter 11
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