Tobin decides to search the surrounding grounds of the hut looking for more clues. Eventually she finds a piece of red cloth on the ground. Terrified, she picks it up looking for instructions from Feyis Goldenflight, but she finds only the piece of cloth, as it it would have fallen while hastily retreating from the approaching heroes.
Knowing the cloth the be associated with kidnapping from their wizard enemy, and unnerved by the gloom of this pace, Rad Longhammer decides to travel back to Longcastle to check on Chrysanthe Xene, vowing to return to this stop immediately afterwards. The rest of the group continues their plan of attack, and head towards Drethal.
Hidden from Sight, Racing with Flight
Using their phantom steeds, the group makes haste towards Drethal, but the city is still under siege by the forces of Orcus. They decide to use their stealth skills to sneak into the castle, keeping low to the ground. Tobin scouts ahead by standing up, but is unable to see the pack of ghouls that are now hungrily staring at her. The guards on the wall crenelations see something moving and prepare to attack with their bows. With their cover blown, Aishe Malinova prompts the group towards the gate, giving the guards the sign of The Raven Queen to hold their fire. Aishe knows that the guards won’t open the city gate if there are nearby ghouls, so the situation turns into a race to the gates.
Mazith summons forth his panther companion from the Shadowfox Family Armor which pounces towards the closest group of undead. Faust is desperately trying to catch up with the group with his small halfling legs. Tobin shoots a couple of well placed arrows, destroying the kneecaps of two ghouls; even though they don’t feel pain, their sprint is interrupted. The remaining ghouls gain ground on the party. Aishe Malinova sets the Evil Eye curse on another one of them preventing it from approaching, and Mazith uses a magical seed to summon a metallic warrior to battle the rest of the ghouls. Yet some undead remain and the gates do not open for the party. Faust uses his staff to call forth a storm of strong winds, while Tobin latches on to him with her legs. Through great effort Faust is able to launch both of them forward, taking flight in the cyclone’s winds. Not one to sit still in a voyage, Tobin uses her free hands to shower the ghouls with a rain of arrows. Aishe Malinova uses her magic to teleport directly to the top of the wall, leaving Mazith alone with about 15 charging ghouls. The Amazing Jumping Man once again proves his title by pouncing like a feline halfway through the wall, stepping on an arrow slit sill, and propelling himself the rest of the way up with a second jump. With all members of the Freak Squad over the wall and the gates closed, the heroes and the guards shoot down and defeat the exposed ghouls before they can escape.
An army of Shadar-Kai
Lamias and Diathilis welcome back the heroes. With news of the successful placement of the portal circle, they set out to put decoys on the walls and prepare the army for the expedition towards the material plane. Logistics and preparations should take two days, so the heroes rest and recover.
Faust decides to travel to Darjak and recruit the help of the circle of Kord shamans to aid with concealing the departure of the army. He asks for help from a priestess of Avandra, preferred deity of halflings, who is stationed in the city. She summons ghost rides for Faust to bypass the siege army. Once in Soulriver, he is transported to the Darjak territory in the material plane, and recruits the circle and a fierce female centaur called Thunderhooves. In gratitude, Faust casts the ghost rider spell on her to make her journey swift and fast.
Mazith summons up his panther, feeling guilty about using her as bait to slow down the ghouls. Remarkably, the panther has some scars, but with it being a magical conjured beast, it is supposed to regain full health while resting in its native plane. The scars look like four deep long parallel cuts made from some slashing weapon.
The dread of the Shadowfell affects Tobin and she starts to get depressed about her inability to help Lady Oscar and hopeless about this whole situation. Lamias takes notice, and keeps her mind out of the dread by teaching her some techniques he learned when using the Starlit Bow of Sagittarius.
Aishe decides to visit her parents Rosewilt and Thornus Malinova. After the initial surprise, Rosewilt gladly invites her daughter in to catch up. Thornus is not as welcoming, as he still holds a grudge against his daughter for leaving the Shadowfell covered in disgustingly colorful gypsy clothes instead of serving her duty as a servant of the Raven Queen. After some arguing, Aishe is able to convince Rosewilt that she is doing the Raven Queen’s work in her own way. Thornus does not look convinced and dismisses Aishe, telling her that he will meet her in the battlefield if what she says is true. Aishe leaves with Rosewilt’s best wishes.
With all pieces in place, the Raven Queen’s high priest, called the Death Reaper, is called in to begin summoning the winter storm. The circle of Kord shamans aids his efforts and soon a grey cloud rolls over the armies of Orcus. Snow and lighting fall down on them, likely causing some casualties but more importantly providing cover for the Shadar Kai exodus from Drethal. Fatigued, the Death Reaper leaves the upkeep to the storm to other priests and heads into the teleportation circle with two guards, Aishe, Faust, Mazith, Tobin and Thunderhooves, arriving at the Hut under the reflection pond.
The party sneaks into the hut, trying to keep away from prying eyes on the other side of the planes. The Death Ripper assesses that he is ready to try and destroy the contained necromantic energy, but his body is exhausted from the summoning of the winter storms. As Aishe and Faust pull away the containment field, the orb pulses with necromantic energy and attacks the Death Reaper. Valiantly, Mazith jumps in front of him and has much of his life essence damaged. He pulls his shield and deflects some of the energy, which hits a guard behind him and transforms him into an undead creature. Tobin is meanwhile distracted by mysterious tracks outside the hut, as is some creature floated among the fallen leaves, and investigates outside to make sure no one is preparing an ambush for them.
The next minutes Aishe and Faust desperately try to contain the necromantic energy, but are not able to synchronize their efforts. Mazith and the guard neutralize the undead one, while the Death Ripper is eventually able to contain the attacks with the help of the party’s wizard and sorcerer. When things calm down, The Shadar-Kai make a prayer to the Raven Queen and end the curse of unlife of the fallen guard. The Death Reaper desperately needs rest, and everyone decides to leave his cursed place to catch some sleep in the woods before trying again in the morning.
Tobin decides to patrol around since she can’t sleep after seeing those tracks. She spies some sort of apparition in the woods and alerts the group, who decides to let the Death Reaper asleep to have him fully healed in the morning. Faust casts invisibility on himself and quietly sneaks into the woods, surprising Feyis Goldenflight, who was also invisible. With both of them now visible, Faust signals the group about the danger. Feyis looks at the approaching heroes, but stays put and talks to Faust. She tries to convince the sorcerer to join her side, and have the secrets of Vecna at his disposal. After all, she says, Faust already trades in the currency of secrets, but Faust declines the offer.
When they arrive, Aishe Malinova speaks with Feyis, trying to convince her that when she killed Jania Goldenflight she was just doing what was necessary, but that does not phase the possessed wizard. She tells the story of how she was denied help from Rad Longhammer’s god Pelor and from The Raven Queen, when she appeared at their priest’s churches, carrying the trampled body of her sister, who had done nothing but use her assassin skills to help the same kingdom that now turned their backs on her. To add insult to injury, she saw her worthless wizard apprentice Dorito be resurrected by the same Pelor priest, with the blessings of the Raven Queen since Aishe helped fulfill Walter the Magnificent’s request to raise his intern from the dead.
Feyis Goldenflight then gives a really strange ultimatum to Aishe, to end her vengeance plan once and for all. She tells her that she can choose any of these two options
- Go to the Orcus army and betray the location of the vulnerable Shadar-Kai army, currently exposed while on the move with an undefended city, or
- Have the Freak Squad kill her, the vessel of Vecna, while sparing the Shadar-Kai army.
Aishe Malinova is shocked that Feyis knows their plans. Feyis confesses that her initial vengeance was for the Freak Squad’s members to betray Aishe’s trust, but when that did not work, she decided to steal their secrets and use them against Aishe, the preferred method of Vecna. To her delight, she learned more than she bargained for when she extracted the secrets from one of the most trusted members of the group, with access to all their conversations: Bruno the dog.
With the ultimatum option apparently clear, Mazith jumps into combat and surprisingly Feyis does not put up much resistance. Tobin however holds back, deciphering the maliciousness of Feyis’ proposals. The vessel of Vecna savors the moment as the group realizes that by killing her, all the secrets that she gained as a member of The Aforementioned and that she extracted from Bruno would be transferred to the undead god Vecna: the city defenses and vulnerabilities of Timbermoor, the involvement of the gypsies in the apocalyptic hydra event, the Freak Squad’s involvement in the Chedhurst failed diplomatic mission with Chrysanthe, and the intentions of the Shadar-Kai army against the vampires of Tremblent. Being the undead god of secrets, it is unclear what would be done with this information, though likely nothing pleasant for Aishe.
Feyis reminds Tobin of their previous conversation, and how she expected Aishe to betray her. And that would be Feyis’ vengeance. Have Aishe betray the Raven Queen, or have Aishe kill her as she killed her sister so that Feyis takes all her secrets with her, including the location of Lady Oscar’s prison. Feyis smiles wickedly at Aishe as she mockingly apologizes to the the Shadar-Kai for not being able to free Oscar if she’s dead, and tells her she has ten minutes to decide or else Feyis discloses the Shadar-Kai’s location to Orcus anyway.
Words, Wishes and Blood
Faust decides the situation is dire, and calls the Death Reaper to help eliminate the evil wizard. Feyis is furious and tells Faust he better call him off or else, since this whole situation is a personal affair. Aishe Malinova is desperately looking for options, and tries to reach out the old Feyis who was a warm-hearted person and friend. She offers Feyis to use Tobin’s remaining wish to save Jania Goldenflight somehow, maybe by changing the past. As a glimmer of hope appears in Feyis’ human eye, the spirit of Jania Goldenflight appears, emerging from the ground and floating among the fallen leaves, and demands her sister to exact vengeance for her death. The hope quickly disappears from Feyis’ face as the Eye of Vecna flares with fury. Feyis says that she doesn’t trust Aishe changing the past, lest the Freak Squad be responsible for a massacre by the Apocalyptic Hydra per the Watcher of the Oceans’ visions. Satisfied, Jania’s ghost dispapears into the ground. Maliciously, Feyis looks at the approaching Death Reaper, turns towards Aishe and Faust, and demands they kill him, or otherwise this turns from a private affair to something bigger and worse.
Tobin can not take it anymore and shoots directly at Feyis’ face. The Eye of Vecna helps deflect a mortal shot, but Feyis’ human eye is damaged regardless. Feyis teleports away from Aishe’s subsequent attack, but is not able to see the riposte as Aishe’ Andromeda Chain lashes out and serrates her undead hand down to the bone. Mazith, who had been bidding his time, singlehandedly finishes the job by bringing down his sword into the damaged joint.
The Hand of Vecna flies through the air.
In the distance Rad Longhammer can be seen finally arriving to the rendezvous point.