This time the party consisted of Tarvin Sellvek, nobleman of Lamashtu, the troubled woodsman Luka Lilithian, and Tristam--a warrior who has sworn an oath against a particular vampire. With some prompting from Tarvin, the group chose to take Emilia and her brother to a remote church suggested by the Rue sisters in hopes of removing the demonic taint that still deformed the young noblewoman.
The journey through the forests of Krevborn to reach the church passed uneventfully. (My poor random encounter table has yet to see use this campaign.) The church was discovered to be a large edifice constructed of black marble; massive statues of hooded saints with their hands clasped in prayer stood vigil at the archway leading inside. Also out front were two rough wagons--clearly, the party were not the only visitors to the church.
Luka scouted the area, but nothing seemed obviously amiss. He also used his supernatural connection to nature to determine if anything otherworldly was at work: aside from Emilia's demonic corruption, Luka sensed an aberration within the area. Leaving Emilia and Martinus in a carriage out front, the party walked through the shadowy archway and up the stairs to a door made of slightly luminescent amber blocks. Pushing the door open gave them access to the high-vaulted nave of the church. The walls were of black marble, but had been treated with an amber coating that gave off a faint illumination in the gloom. Wooden pews stood to either side of the aisle, and a forty foot statue of a robed and cowled figure stood at the apse. The large room held several doors, each made of translucent amber blocks.
As the party began to investigate the statue, hoping to find a helpful inscription or legend, a shot rang out...someone was firing at them from inside the statue. As Tarvin and Tristam took cover behind the pews, Luka maneuvered behind the statue and found a hatch that would allow him access inside. He opened the hatch and took a few shots at the would-assailant perched on a platform inside the statue's head, both of which missed. Luka shut the hatch and tried to hold it shut as the shooter attempted to batter his way out--which he did successfully as Luka reloaded his firearm.
A strange combination of melee and stare-down ensued, with Luka trying to intimidate the gunman into standing down, the gunman's ruffian compatriots rushing in with drawn sabers (who completely disregarded the fact that Luka was holding a gun under their friend's chin), and a mix of unusual fighting tactics rarely seen in D&D. Ultimately, the party won the fight by striking to subdue rather than wound, rendering the banditti ineffective with holy magic, and grappling them into submission. Not a single bandit died, but two were knocked unconscious--the remaining two simply surrendered in the face of overwhelming opposition.
Now that a proper parlay was on the table, the conscious bandits explained that they had come to this church to take advantage of its legendary healing properties because the leader of their band had suffered a strange injury in a caravan raid gone horribly wrong. They indicated that their leader had been taken up a set of stairs behind the hollow statue to a room said to possess miraculous powers. Marching their prisoners up the stairs to behold it for themselves, the party found themselves in a rounded room with a bowl-like depression in the center. In the center of the bowl was a bloodied, injured man cradled in the arms of a woman whose grimy face was streaked with tears.
The woman was Alise, partner of the injured bandit captain Rudigar. Seeing that she was out-manned by the party, she handed over her sword. She explained that they had hoped to use the healing power of the pool to cure Rudigar, but found the pool to be empty. They also could not locate the church's priest, as they planned to force him into explaining the mystery of the pool and how it could be used to save Rudigar. Tristam healed Rudigar's wounds by channeling the power of the divine, but though he was no longer on death's door he remained unconscious, groaning, and occasionally writhing.
Leaving the bandits at the side of the empty pool, the party decided to explore the rest of the church in hopes of finding the priest. (Luka kept calling out to the priest, telling him that he was safe from the bandits, but the cowardly priest remained cowering.) Things discovered in the search: a map to a mysterious and unnamed castle (copied hastily by Tarvin), the corpse of an old warrior wearing the garb of a penitant holding on to his sword even in death, and an illuminated religious text called The Passion of St. Othric. The book detailed the life and martyrdom of Othric, as well as the spiritual use his relics were put to after his demise. According to the text, placing the skull of Othric in the sacred pool and shedding sacred blood upon it would trigger the beneficence of Othric to purge the tainted of their afflictions.
Since both Emilia and Rudigar were both in need of a good purging, the search became a double one: find the priest and the skull-relic of St. Othric. A shrine was discovered: inside was the statue of a woman holding a great sword, lit candles at her feet. There were also two corpses in this room, the bandit scout the party had been on the lookout for and another armed penitent--they had stabbed each other through and fallen together in a heap on the cold black marble floor. The party felt drawn--or perhaps fascinated--by the statue but the effect proved to be only momentary. In the next room Othric's skull was discovered in a carved niche.
As the party prepared to perform the ritual outlined in the Passion of St. Othric by themselves (and a bit concerned about where they would find the required saintly blood), the timid old priest (Father Victarius) finally appeared. He had taken refuge in the lecture hall when the bandits entered the church. He was sorrowful that his compatriots (the last two Knights of St. Othric) had fallen protecting the church, but was willing to oversee the ritual to heal Rudigar and Emilia. However, before that plan could be discussed further, a blood curdling scream was heard to issue forth from the room of the sacred pool.
Thundering up the stairs, Tarvin, Luka, and Tristam found that Rudigar's body had split like an over-ripe fruit and that a large, maggot-like creature had emerged from his sundered form. The maggot-thing was feasting on Alise while the remaining bandits pressed themselves against the wall in terror. The party battled the aberrant thing (Luka had detected its presence within Rudigar when he was scouting), using pistol shot, blades, and holy magic to dispatch it--but not before it managed to sink its maw in Tarvin's leg, sending a paralytic poison coursing through his system. Luckily, Tristam's sacred healing was able to revive the fallen nobleman-adventurer.
Once the aftermath was cleared away in the sacred chamber, Emilia was brought forth and placed in the bottom of the empty pool. The skull of Othric was placed beside her. After hearing of how he was able to cure Tarvin, Victarius believed that Tristam's blood would be enough to enact the mysteries of St. Othric. Tristam let a few drops of his blood fall upon the skull of Othric...the small drops soon grew in size, pouring over the skull, filling the pool with sanguine liquid that shone with holy radiance. After a few moments, the sacred blood receded as quickly and miraculously as it had come. Although those present could not see the transformation directly because of the robes and veil that Emilia wore, she emerged from the pool returned to the form of a beautiful and clear-eyed young woman. The remaining bandits fell to their knees in prayer at the sight of this miracle.
The party stayed the night and helped the priest to bury both his and the bandits' dead. The remaining bandits pledged their service to St. Othric, intending to let their service at the church atone for their lives of sin and murder. The priest encouraged the party to take the sword of Knight Armin and the Passion of St. Othric with them, in hopes that the former would be used in the continuing fight against darkness and that the latter would spread knowledge of the now mostly-forgotten saint. Before they left, Victarius explained that Tristam's oath against the undead seemed of a path with that of Othric: Othric too had pledged himself to ridding the world of vampires and was martyred for his cause.
* * *
XP: 283 each (four bandits subdued, one Sluurgian Maggot dispatched)
- The Sword of Armin (longsword +1, but whoever wields it gains "Destruction of vampires" as an Ideal)
- The Passion of St. Othric (can be copied by a scribe, if you pay for it, or can be studied as a downtime action--which grants +2 Wisdom)
- A map to an unknown castle (but there are people you might show it to who could give you more information)
- Martinus send each party member the equivalent of 500 gp in ready coin and expensive trinkets. He encloses a hasty note telling each of you that he is eternally indebted to you for helping his sister. Emilia also encloses a much longer letter to each of you; you can tell from her letter that she is kind and far less self-centered than her brother.
Extra: For purging Emilia of the demonic corruption you each get Inspiration at the start of your next adventure.
Oh and if you were wondering where you stood in terms of your renown with the various factions so far: