Rise of the Forgotten Kings

Session 63
Blackest of Hearts

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After promptly defeating the succubi (with some weird-ass sexual overtones between Itto and Rayne), Team Trust discovers a magical orb which leads to a hellish portal. Itto, now stripped of many of his Paladin powers, enters the portal and is cut off from his friends, who he is able to see fighting a group of weirdos who seem to have the missing dragon eggs.

He is face to face in this hell-zone with his arch-nemesis Blackheart, who has Ellay hostage, and tells Itto he must choose between her and his teammates. Choosing the former because it’s way more dramatic, Itto engages Blackheart in battle among the lava-filled rivers and geysers.

Before long, sadly, Blackheart kills Ellay, leaving Itto with nothing…However, his flashbacks to the “Tree of Insight” with Neb Obi reveal some chinks in Blackheart’s armor, and give Itto the strength to go on fighting. He pulls the foul monster into a pool of lava, which melts off much of the armor and reveals Blackheart to be…Crestus (Itto’s adoptive Paladin brother, and Rayne’s biological brother)!!

Now stripped of all pretense, Itto charges in to what may very well be his final battle…

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Session 62
Itto Is A Dick

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Faced with an impossible choice, Itto is forced to torture his friends in order to move on in The Fist. They also discover the prisoner in the room with them is Prince Rhegan, the younger brother of King Rhegar. They release him and tie up Ellay, who is still unconscious.

Finally figuring out the puzzle, the group, worn and beaten both physically and emotionally, finally moves on into a strange “life” which brings them to the top of the tower. It comes to a screeching stop as Team Trust is attacked by a group of flying vixens, as well as Malavar, Itto’s love-spawn (and one of Dracarys’ fingers). After a heated battle in the elevator shaft, the heroes find themselves in a strange bed chamber with a note from Roken to Blackheart, which speaks of treachery against Dracarys on the part of the Fingers.

On the bed are a few sexy maidens who turn their sights on our heroes…

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Session 61
Team Trust Gets Whipped

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Standing in front of Team Trust is the vile Blackheart and his new minion, Itto’s former lover Ellay Hol — who had been turned to the Dark Side by Blackheart’s demonic powers. As Itto faces off with the “man” who has ruined his life, his people, and his love, Team Trust takes on the vicious powerful (and smoking-fucking-hot) Ellay in a vicious battle.

Unable to pierce Blackheart’s armor, Itto passes out from pain, just as he channels some energy and knocks out Ellay along with him. Slink rushes to Itto’s side, as Blackheart does some good-ol’-fashioned bad guy gloating, which sends Slink straight to Pee-Pee-Pants City. In his terror, Slink flees the scene, dropping a smoke bomb to attempt to keep the monster at bay. Wolf grabs Itto’s body, and Rayne grabs her saffron-scented girl-rival Ellay, and the group makes for the exit. They are aided by Jil’s valiant skeletons, zombies, and ghasts, who distract Blackheart long enough to help the team make their “escape”.

However, using his powers of rebuking undead, Blackheart makes quick work of the creatures, and pursues Team Trust into a torture chamber, where a magically-locked door blocks their exit. A newly-revived Itto attempts to stand up to the villain, but it’s no use: Blackheart destroyed Itto’s mighty Greatsword in a show of superiority, and simply walks away, telling Team Trust that they may as well kill the “failure” Ellay, and then mocks Itto as he exits, taunting him about some odious task he must perform…

Licking their wounds with some Cure spells, Team Trust notices a man chained up in the chamber, and 7 hideous devices…along with 7 sets of instructions on how to properly torture people. The implications of what must be done next dawn on the team, and the look to Itto with a mix of fear and pity…

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Session 60
Goo Times

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Having resurrected Yu’in in a terrifying Necromantic ritual in the West Wing of Varick’s castle, Jil returns with her dwarven friend and the Darkheart and begins resurrecting dozens of fallen Halfling zombies to begin her monstrous army of the undead. Itto turns around.

Meanwhile, Superhuman Girl turns Barovia into Candyland using her reality-warping magicks, and the people seem…confused? But also happy? It was a pretty sweet move on her part. She says goodbye to the heroes, as does Gayher, who goes around hugging everyone. However, when he hugs Jil, his body suddenly crumbles to dust. It is then revealed that where this is Death, there must always be Death: by reviving Yu’in, the scales were tipped, and someone had to die in his place. RIP, Gayher.

Quinn contacts Archie and the group confesses that they lost the dragon eggs. Archie scolds them, and tells them to recover them immediately. He believes they would either be held at The Fist (former Church of Heironious, and Blackheart’s current fortress/PoW camp) or possibly at Gelid Castle. Meanwhile, he says, he will try and delay Dracarys’ forces before they reach the Half-Orc kingdom. For their part, Team Trust contacts their allies around the world (The Black Scorpion Gang and Half-Orcs in the west, Bal’Quinn and the Elven rebels in the south, and Badger and the Red Knives in Draken’s Point) to try and find out what is going on and report back.

The group then finally sets off for The Fist (riding on the backs of Jil’s undead army) and leaves Barovia/Candyland to rebuild. They attempt to sneak up to the fortress, but it is now heavily guarded by Vrocks and Pit Fiends and several other demon-like monstrosities. Itto screams at the top of his lungs and alerts the monsters, who begin advancing, but just then, a gross little Goo-boy named Pal Adin sneaks them into a secret entrance.

Explaining that he was once a Squire of Heironious, Pal takes an immediate liking to Itto, and explains that he was turned into the demonic Lemur they see before them. However, he seems to want to help…and he leads Team Trust through the underground ruins of the former Church of Heironious, to complete the Trials (trials once required by the Paladin Order, but now defunct along with the Good Paladins themselves).

Trial 1 has the team making their way through a pool of cold iron, with seemingly no ill effect. After, they find a tablet on a pedestal, and upon touching it, Slink, Itto, and Pal are transported back in time to a vision of Pratantus and Crestus Sunwhisper, who are speaking of dark times approaching. Suddenly, the gates are opened by some traitorous members of the Order, and Blackheart himself steps through some demonic portals, along with his demon army, and storms the Church. Itto et al are thrust back to reality.

Trial 2 consists of a strange feast of foods, each of which are consumed by the members of the team, and have adverse affects on various abilities of theirs. Upon completing the task, another tablet is revealed, bringing on another vision which all the members witness: Ellay Hol and Crestus being tortured by Blackheart. It is a harrowing sight.

Trial 3 finds our heroes pulling a massive evil sword from a stone (identified from the visions as the sword Blackheart had used, or so it seems), triggering a third vision in which the Paladin Order is slaughtered, along with Pratantus, whose soul is ripped from his body and tossed into a hellish portal.

Finally escaping the Trials, Team Trust enters a prison cell block and immediately finds and releases a beaten Crestus and Lutervoc, both of whom seem extremely worn. Suddenly, Pal the Not-So-Goo Boy grabs Crestus and runs around the corner. A scream ensues, and the team races after them to find Pal sliced in half, and Blackheart standing over his lifeless gooey corpse.

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Session 59
Hearts of Darkness (HUH HUH!)

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Damn that Moodeey! Having stolen the Dayheart and corrupted its energies to turn it into the black and evil Darkheart (who saw THAT coming except anyone who’s ever seen any movie ever?), the Super-Saiyan Lich used the gem’s powers to create a self-healing corpse-dragon made from the remains of the slaughtered Halflings of Barovia which he rode atop while cackling maniacally.

Liches, amirite?

Anyway, our heroes sprung into action like never before, working as that finely-tuned harmonious machine we always knew that they would become after all their struggles (I give it a week). Trying everything from silver arrows into Moodeey’s forehead (where the Darkheart was submerged), to kill-it-with-fire-ing on the dragon, to “stop the corpses from healing the damn thing!” and all sorts of other smart solutions which didn’t work (more on those to come), the team in all their Level 13.99 Wisdom realized they needed to break through Moodeey’s “necro-shield” and get the Darkheart out the old fashioned way: with some good old elbow grease (and some actual Grease too).

Slink got really excited about his plan, and Itto shrugged and was like “Sure that works.” Slink then made Itto recite a random comic panel while everyone sat around confused, and THEN: Quinn teleported Itto, Slink, and Gayher (who was riding on Itto’s back) onto the top of the dragon as Slink gave Rayne some Holy H20 to anoint her arrows, and everyone pummeled the lich-dick with blinding positive energy until they all worked together to just TUG that mother-fucker outta there. Yu’in was sadly incapacitated since Moodeey decided to implant a rather inconvenient mind-and-body-controlling necro-cyst onto Yu’in’s neck. It was not pretty, especially when it exploded and killed the dwarf. More on that to come.

However, they managed to get the Darkheart mostly out…then realized they had to do it…2 more times. Since “The Legend of Zelda” is clearly part of Tarragonia’s historic canon, the heroes immediately understood the formula, and continued to complement each other’s move-sets to do what was necessary.

The bad news was, Yu’in was then killed by a vengeful Moodeey, and the Count (who had been allowed to be revived when a surprisingly-selfless (or maybe just intelligently-calculating) Slink let him drink his blood) was mind-controlled by Moodeey and began attacking the team. The tide of battle was at a deadlock, and then Quinn was knocked unconscious and Slink was stunned (literally). It was not looking good.

As if on cue by some Gods of Dramatic Timing, a screeching was heard from Varick’s Castle ( Crow’s Keep) as 48 (or was it 4d8? Or 9?) zombified Jilqwyns came sprinting-the-fuck out and turning the tide of battle yet again — with a very bad-ass-looking Jil leading her undead sisters to seek final vengeance on the Count for allowing them all to die.

I’d say “Man that party was real DEAD” but feel that may be in poor taste.

Anyway, a few more dramatic moments of Teamwork and Cooperation ensued, and Moodeey and his dragon were brought down (It Was Raining Corpses, Hallelujah), the Darkheart pulled from his forehead at last. Team Trust stood overhead, victorious, the Count returned to normal, and the Tser Gypsies and Sebastian’s Dark Hunters arrived on the scene, to witness the great “win”. However, there was some debate about what to do next, to say the least…

Sebastian insisted the Count be killed and life be allowed to return to Barovia, and the Tsers agreed (laaaame). This would also require destroying the Darkheart, which was giving Jil new necromantic powers, and losing the Count’s powerful undead forces in the fight against Dracarys (super lame). The Count, of course, wished to live and promised Jil his army’s undying loyalty, a real Deal with the Devil. But still, a difficult moral quandary. Kinda.

Oh and meanwhile Moodeey got away. Again. “I’ll get you next time! And Your Giant Wolf too!” sorta thing.

Slink then had the genius idea to kill the Count by hand but keep the Darkheart for themselves, thus satisfying the Dark Hunters and also Itto’s “Evil is bad derrr” Paladin crap, and since the Dark Hunters had said they’d planned to fall on their swords after enacting vengeance on the Count, they could do that, but then allow Jil to use her powers to resurrect them…thus giving Team Trust the Army of Darkness they had been hoping to find (again, except Itto). This seemed like a great idea to pretty much everyone but Sebastian and his men and the Tsers and also the Count and also kind of to Jil. Sometimes true genius is not truly recognized in its time.

It was, of course, Jil who made the final Judgment: the Darkheart must be destroyed. She crushed it with her own hand, looking into Varick’s eyes the whole time with a stony glare of a “Woman Scorned” and eventually holding his very heart, which then crumbled into dust, along with Varick himself and his forces.

After such a dark turn, light finally began to shine through the deep fog (metaphors! huh huh!) that had been surrounding them, and the Dark Hunters and Tsers all knelt before their new queen…Jilqwyn, Queen of the Damned. Pretty hot. They gave her ownership over Crow’s Keep, as well as their swords (figuratively speaking; they kept their actual swords). The heroes heard a “ching!” (as if a message were telling them “Mission Complete!..?”) and a “bing” (of XP) in their ears, as the clouds parted way to reveal that the road East to Cliff Port, Pirate’s Bay, and eventually, the Gnomish Isles came into view with various “ALL ABOARD!” type-encouragement from the townspeople.

But as fun as pirate adventures sound, Team Trust’s true path must lie in the rescuing of Lute at long last…North, at the corrupted Church of Hextor, where Quinn had rescued Archie but had told the group that Lute, among other VIPs, was being held prisoner. As if it weren’t complicated enough, Quinn also told the gang that the Everymen were holding down the Elven fort, but that some of Dracarys’ forces had moved to the Wild Elves of the Darkwild and their Temple of Arashne (former home of the Green Dragon). Meanwhile, the main part of his forces were headed BACK to the Half-Orc kingdom of Gruum, where the Blue Dragon had been. And don’t forget, Dracarys has those dragon eggs again so…this can’t be good. Anyone hear from Jon Sn—er Jimmy Powder lately?

But it seems “party loyalty” comes first, and the group turns its sights north, to their missing bard friend Lutervoc and the nefarious Blackheart, keeping court at the ominous Church of Hextor.

The life of an Adventuring Party, right gang??

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Session 58
Master of the Dayheart (Oh-Whoa-oh)

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So many Adventurers, so little Time!

Our heroes, now split into three teams, each experience a set of simultaneous events:

First, Itto and Yu’in, now at the Nightmare Spire with Sebastian‘s Dark Hunters (the group of corrupted humans bent on destroying Varick’s undead forces), attempt to convince the men that they must continue their fight after avenging their families, and take up the mantle against Dracarys. Seemingly convinced by Itto and Yu’in’s super-high Diplomacy rolls, Sebastian looks out the window to ponder the situation, as Varick himself comes flying in with an army of vampire spawn. An epic battle ensues, with the “good” guys finally gaining the upper hand. But just as Sebastian is about to deliver the finishing blow, Varick freezes him in place and steals a piece of the Dayheart from Sebastian’s cloak, only to have it turn to black ash in front of his eyes. He cries out in horror, then flies away to hunt down the Lycanthropes. Yu’in Messages his compatriots to regroup at the Nightmare Spire…

Meanwhile, Rayne leaves Jil‘s bedside (where she is still recovering from being bitten by the Count) to explore the forbidden West Wing of Varick’s castle. After some serious Scooby-Doo’ing, she makes her way through a dark passage to a crypt filled with hundreds of coffins, all of which have Jil’s likeness scrawled onto them with a message that Varick will never stop until he has been reunited with his true love, Jileena. The problem is, the only way he’ll know if it’s truly her is if he bites her three times and she survives the ordeal. She also finds a strange music box. As Rayne continues to investigate, she is confronted by a Plot Twist — I mean, Vlad…who the heroes had seen killed by Sebastian at the Black Ball. He explains that Varick revived him as a vampire, and that the Count is on his way back to “deal with” Rayne, who can never leave the castle alive now that she has seen this crypt. But Rayne doesn’t like that answer, so she promptly Impales the Vlad and tells Wolf to meet her back in Jil’s room, absconding with a key ring she had found on Vlad’s “person”…

Meanwhile again, Slink and Gayher return to Tser Camp to find everyone vacating the place like wildfire, afraid of a spell the Coven is cooking up. Slink rallies some troops, and they confront Madame Ava, the sea hag, and Super Human Girl (who is actually fighting against her sisters), as they conjure a demon. They quickly lose control of the beast, and it’s up to Slink, Gayher, and Super Human Girl to save the day! With a mix of reality-warping-honey-blood-magic and some super-clever (and totally legal) sneak attacks, the trio barely manage to best the beast before it is able to murder everyone in camp, but NOT before he eats the other two witches, much to S.H.G.’s delight (pretty fucked up, if you ask me). Varick then appears, covered in werewolf blood, and thanks them for “taking care of” his witch problem. He then demands S.H.G. give her the 3rd piece of the Dayheart, but when she hands it over, it too turns to black ash. Varick freaks out again and heads back to the castle…

…where he intercepts Wolf and breaks his leg, while Rayne charges in, blood-red werewolf eyes a-blazing. She manages to distract him long enough to allow Wolf to fly out the window, but is then herself incapacitated by the Count. Just then, the cavalry rushes in (the rest of Team Trust) to vanquish the Count now that the Dayheart seems to be gone.

But just as they are about to deal with the Vampire King once and for all, another Plot Twist shows up in the form of their hated foe, Mad Moodeey! He reveals that he had stolen the Dayheart during the scuffle at the Black Ball, and uses its corrupted black-powers to turn into Super Saiyan Moodey, knock Varick out cold with a dose of sunlight, and conjure a Corpse Dragon from the remains of all the dead Halflings in Barovia. What a dick.

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Session 57
Blue Balls!

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As the crowd finishes gasping at the dramatic death of Vlad, Team Trust springs into action by hiding under tables, running out the door, and doing a bunch of Knowledge checks. Yu’in manages to fire off a subtle little lightning spell which (once again) disintegrates Mad Moodeey, while Jil and Rayne stand behind a barrier created by Count Varick, who promptly turns into a bat and attacks the newcomers. The witches, meanwhile, go mostly into hiding as well.

Led by Sebastian, this group (known as the Dark Hunters) represents the remaining living creatures in Barovia, who feel that their lands have been overrun by the forces of the undead and have made it their mission to destroy Varick.

The fight rages on while Team Trust hangs back, until suddenly, Sebastian leaps up and puts a sword to Jil’s throat, allowing for the safe egress of his men and himself. In pursuit go Itto and Yu’in, the former of whom is slipped a map by Sebastian himself with a whisper of “We could use a Paladin like you”. The map leads to the Nightmare Spire, home base of the Dark Hunters. Slink and Gayher go to Tser Camp to discuss matters with Madame Eva and the witches, and Rayne and Jil go upstairs with the Count, where Jil inadvertently gives away the location of the Dark Hunters (and her friends). Varick goes in pursuit to destroy them.

Oh, and it should be noted that Jil, during the heat of battle, allowed Varick to bite her. She isn’t full vampire yet, but she may be beginning the transition…

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Session 56
The Black Ball (or, Vlad the Impaler'ed)

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After meeting with Valicia of the Lycanthrope Pack, Rayne and Yu’in learn that they would let Rayne join their ranks if she went on missions for them, and went through a sort of “initiation”, which was a little vague at best. While in Barovia, she would also be better suited to talk with their kind in the meantime.

Madame Eva summons her two hag sisters (a water hag and a half-hag; she herself is a normal hag), and Slink escorts them all to the Ball. One of the hags in particular seems very focused on the exact nature of how and why she was summoned and what the hell is going on…which makes sense, sort of.

Team Trust (minus Jil) arrives at the Count’s Ball, and Slink tells them all to play it cool and not start a fight. Not like they have ever done anything like that ever. They do, however, notice a strange pink light emanating from the top of Crow’s Keep (or wherever the ball is being held). Much merriment is had…until Mad Moodey shows up and attempts to instigate a fight with Rayne, who promptly stabs out his Archie-Eye. She is quickly escorted out, but Jil eventually demands that the Count let her back in (which he does).

Jil and Varick descend the steps majestically, and Varick announces that there is to be a dance-off, in the tradition of his ancestors, and the winner will be allowed to join him and Jil (his love) to the top of the tower to see the source of aforementioned pink light. After a heated dance contest, Rayne is declared the winner somehow, and the trio journeys to the top.

Once there, the Count reveals his new “weapon”/invention: The Dayheart, a heart-shaped pink crystal which will allow his vampiric kin to roam free, night or day. Its power will grow, and allow Varick to create a vampire army that will, with Jil by his side, take over all of Tarragonia. This is, it should go without saying (yet somehow needs to be said), kind of a big deal.

Just as Jil and Rayne are recovering from this new info, a fight breaks out downstairs (because of COURSE it does!) and Vlad is impaled by a strange skeletal figure, sort of a " Victorian Pirate ". Several other party-goers remove disguises to reveal that they are part of his crew.

Will Team Trust aid the Count in throwing out these party crashers and help him bring his Army of Light-and-Darkness to the four corners of Tarragonia? Or will they turn on the Count and maybe try NOT to encapsulate the world in 5,000 years of horror and doom? Hey, the Lesser of the Two Evils, right Itto?! Surely they’ll do the right thing, because they always do!

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Session 55
Three! Three Terrible Attempts at Diplomacy! Ah! Ah! Ah!

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After Itto vanishes into the Tree of Revelations or whatever, Team Trust discusses their next steps. Upon receiving some sagely advice from Old Neb Obi, they decide that none of the three factions of Barovia are truly virtuous, but all have their own selfish motives that will never allow them to work together.

Out of the mist appears Quinn, fresh from rescuing Archie and the Everyman from the clutches of Blackheart (rumored to be Rayne’s long-lost brother Crestus) at his stronghold which Quinn says is called The Fist, AKA the Church of Hextor. Also imprisoned were Lutervoc, a human woman calling for Itto (presumed to be his love Ellay), and finally: Prince Rhegan, brother to King Rhegar! However, this mission will have to wait…

Finally, Itto emerges from the Tree, his Paladin beliefs shaken to the core, and the group decides to pay a visit to each of the three Barovian groups and try to gather information and perhaps get in the inner circles of the three warring factions. Rayne and Yu’in (poorly disguised as a werewolf) travel to Valicia the werewolf’s cave; Slink and Gayher go to the Tser Camp where Madame Eva resides; Jil accepts her vampiric invitation to visit Count Varick von Strake (followed by an invisible Quinn and a super-inconspicuous Itto for backup).

Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Rayne make it to Valicia’s cave, and are greeted by the ferocious Pack, who quickly see through Yu’in’s disguise and, despite some magical suggestion on his part, refuse to let them see Valicia unless they help on a “Bat Hunt” to murder some vampires. It seems the wolves are interested mainly in roaming the lands free. Rayne refuses, recalling Jil’s warning not to hurt any of von Strake’s minions, and after a brief scuffle, the beaten Lycanthropes agree to bring Rayne to see their leader…

Meanwhile, Gayher gets Slink into the Tser Camp, a New Orleans-style orgy-fest which Slink decides is the best place ever. They make their way into the Madame Eva’s tent, where she reads Slink’s fortune and tells him that he must confront his corrupt father Scroopel in the Gnome Kingdom, who is somehow in league with the Black Dragon! Only by doing this will he be able to make peace with his lost love Myst and perhaps gain the love of Lady Loraaga. Madame Eva further says that she had been meeting with Mad Moodey to try and overthrow Varick, but that Moodeey is nothing more than a pawn in her schemes to rule Barovia for the magical power pervading the land.

Finally, Jil follows a vampiric agent of Varick’s (Kavin the Grim) to the Crow’s Keep. Quinn and Itto are discovered and are forced to slay several vampires before finding their way to the Keep. Jil enters the Keep and meets Vlad, who poses as the Count, and asks her if she would be able to put aside her own vengeance in order to serve the “greater good”. She says yes, and Vlad reveals that he is not the true Count, whereupon the true von Strake emerges. He is a handsome man, who explains to Jil that they knew each other in a former life.

5,000 years ago, the von Strake family ruled Barovia (long before the Halflings settled the land), and Varick’s older brother Roderick was set to marry Jileena (the past life of Jilqwyn). However, his younger brother (the current count) was in love with her, and strangled his brother on his wedding day, tossing him off a cliff. In her grief, Jileena jumped off the same cliff and died. Riddled with guilt, Varick sought the help of Madame Eva, who informed him that his love would return but he would be long dead. Not liking her answer, he had her killed (although she seems to be very much alive) and burned her home, the Nightmare Spire, to ashes.. He fled Barovia in grief (during which time the Halflings settled the land) and sold his soul to give him eternal life as a vampire. He then waited for 5,000 years, re-conquering his family’s former homeland and turning it into a land of undead, in preparation for the eventual return of his long-lost love.

Jil, seeing the opportunity to use Varick’s love to save the world and her friends, agrees to join with the Count if he will go along with what she wants. He appears to agree, but just as they are about to seal the pact with a super-sexy kiss, Quinn and Itto barge in like morons and start beating people up. Varick is about to Force-choke them out until Jil screams at him to stop. He obeys, and allows the two gate-crashers to enter his abode. Pretty nice guy.

Before he retires for the day, Varick tells Jil that he would like to have a ball this evening in honor of her return. When Jil asks if Moodey will be in attendance, Varick assures her that there will be no violence tolerated at the ball and that Moodey will have to be on his best behavior or will be removed immediately. Jil consents, and requests that invitations to the ball and the castle be sent to her friends, which the Count sends off with some of his minions.

Having now infiltrated and met with the leaders of the three camps, who will Team Trust decide to ally with? Will they even be able to agree amongst themselves?? And if so, how will they do away with the other two groups and restore “peace” to this war-ravaged land? And what the hell about Lute and the other prisoners of The Fist?? And most importantly, will Jil and the Count EVER get to bone in the night? Get it? Bone? Like Bone Knight?

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Session 54
It Was A Graveyard Smash!

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Awaking after their holiday revelry, Team Trust discovers a magical golden apple in a wrapped present box for each of them, courtesy of their new friends. Biting into each one, they are endowed with extra power!

Also present (pun intended) is Rayne, who had returned with Wolf after tracking him to the lair of the were-crocs. Somehow, they had all been massacred, making her job of rescuing him much easier.

After Slink contacts his Red Knives contact Badger, the group decides that the best course of action is to head East to the old Halfling region, now a veritable graveyard. Badger tells Slink that they had sent a Halfling to the realm years ago, but he had disappeared…On the way, they camp for the night and hash out some of their issues, attempting to reestablish a sense of trust and understanding in order to fight for the greater good. The next day, they stumble upon the old Goblin Cave from months back, which is now a metal mining facility of Dracarys. The group sabotages the operations by murdering a bunch of dragon shaman and Gelid City guards before moving on.

A week of traveling leads the party to Barovia, the newly-renamed kingdom of the undead, and eventually to Barrow Village, former main town of the Halflings. Upon entering, they are met with a strange fog, which clouds their senses. Only Jilqwyn seems able to stave off its effects.

Barrow Village is a sad, desolate village populated by ghouls, lycanthropes, vampires, witches, skeletons, and zombies. They seem intrigued by Team Trust entering their mists, but do not engage the group…save for a lone mindless skeleton who delivers an invitation to Jil before disintegrating. The letter, which Jil does not share right away, is from the leader of these lands: Count Varick von Strake.

Eventually, Team Trust find themselves at the only place with any “life” to it: an inn with an assortment of undead and monstrous creatures. Some fact-finding reveals that the Count lives in the nearby Crow’s Keep, while one of his underlings, the Woodwitch named Eva (and former ruler of these lands), is holed up at the Tser Camp in the swamps. Rayne goes off to talk to a group of lycanthropes, who invite her along on a “hunt” against some vampires, their hated enemies. It would appear that the Count’s vampire army is widely disliked by both the witches (who live in the Tser Camp) and the lycanthropes (led by Valicia), although neither group gets along with the other. This has created a subtle three-way “cold war” between the groups all vying for power, but not openly.

Alone in a corner of the tavern is a small figure, who eventually reveals himself to be the Red Knives Halfling spy, Gayher Thanyu. Having witnessed the demise of his people at the hands of the undead army, yet unable to escape the region or even send word to the Red Knives due to the inescapable fog, Gayher has been living a sad existence in Barrow Village, working under Eva the Woodwitch, who he confirms can see the future and locate people, and who herself has been secretly meeting with Mad Moodeey to overthrow the Count. It is then that Team Trust realizes that they must meet with her in order to garner the whereabouts of their missing party member Lutervoc. Gayher announces a plan to attempt to pit the witches and lycanthropes against one another, although the Team is reticent to get involved in the action since Jil was told “not to harm any of the creatures in the Count’s realm”.

Following Gayher to a swampy marsh that night, the team meets the last of the Paladins of Heironeous (besides Itto), named Old Neb Obi. This originally-named character has been living in isolation for years, having watched his order be betrayed by Dracarys’ Finger known as Blackheart, who he confirms was once a Paladin of Good and was seduced by the Dark Side of the F…aith. Itto and Rayne worry that this may in fact be Crestus, and Itto vows to (eventually) investigate the Church of Hextor and reveal the traitor.

Resting for the night while Itto takes a mysterious journey into a Cave (er, tree) of Insight, Team Trust must now decide who in this odd land of monsters they can trust, and how they can find Lutervoc and defeat Roken once and for all…

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