It is morning and the party is getting ready to depart for the Ardent Shield when we hear panic in the streets! After everyone packs up their gear and leaves the inns the two groups rendezvous and run into Father Lothlar. Dirty, bruised, and battered he tells us that the church had been burned to the ground in the night by unknown assailants. The group decides to press on to the Ardent Shield and secure Gerard as fast as possible.
The journey to the Ardent Shield is uneventful and upon our arrival a page takes our horses and directs us to the entrance. An establishment of obvious wealth and prominence, we notice stone golems guarding the elaborate doorway. The entire inn is made of hand-cut stone, even the interior walls, making it a formidable structure. Everything appears normal for an upper class establishment so we book rooms under false names. Morian sets up a ward to warn him if anyone intrudes through the windows and Kinsman notices a shadowy figure lurking in the trees outside. The party regroups for lunch in the common room and decides to gather information. Eavesdropping on the clients, we mostly hear about the recent trouble at the church and the common affairs of business. Arlaith tries to get information from one of the pages but he is far too nervous as they are not allowed to speak to guests.
Enough is going on to rouse our suspicions so we take more aggressive action. Branix goes to keep watch on the figure in the trees, shadow-stepping out and discovering many more are lurking deeper within the trees but is unable to determine or what they are. The two Children of Methusella use their arcane senses and do a walk around the inn to see if they pick up on anything beyond minor magics. Charis has a drink with the barmaid and the owner, trying to glean out more information. At the end of the western corridor a both an arcane and evil presence is detected. A page emerges from the room and but closes the door too quickly for us to make out anyone inside. Delymeer knocks on the door but only a gruff and frightened voice replies, telling him to leave. In the meantime Charis uses Object Read on a golem and confirms that Father Gerard had in fact been smuggled into the inn late in the evening a few days prior with the help of the inn keeper. The suspicion is that Gerard is the presence felt within the room and that he might have become tainted in some way.
Session 2, part 2
Regrouped in our room (next to the room we suspect Gerard to be in) the party goes over what information was found and how to proceed when the sky darkens ominously in the middle of the day. The figures within the trees move out and Branix returns to the room. Something triggers Morian’s wards set in his room on the other side of the inn. A knock at the chamber door where everyone is gathered breaks the sudden oppressive silence and everyone readies themselves. Delymeer opens it to find a page who looks in his face suddenly taking on a demonic visage. A long serpent-like tongue strikes Delymeer and he reels as hot venom courses through him. Kinsman drops the foe with a single shot to the throat. The party drags the corpse into the room and inspects it, finding another sigil similar to those on previous enemies branded on the back of his neck.
Morian steps out into the hallway to investigate and witnesses a strange blue, crackling light flickering through the windows of the front of the building. Horrified, he watches as the end of the hall is torn apart by a dark, thunderous vortex of ghostly, howling faces. He unleashes a volley of magic missiles at the wailing corruption while Charis, Branix and Delymeer emerge into the hallway. Kinsman goes out the window and takes to the roof to provide cover fire, sighting a green robed cultist making his way to a hole that has just been blasted through the inn’s kitchen wall. The archer dispatches the sorcerer with a few seeking arrows. Enemies approach from the direction of the common room where screaming and fighting can be heard. Both Children feel a pain in their minds and intuitively know that something is wrong with their Sae-bread stallions stabled at the rear of the inn. Knowing they are now under full scale assault the party reacts quickly, their one goal: to get Gerard away and out of danger no matter what the cost. Arlaith Dimension Doors into the next room and Morian charges down the hall, heedless of the whirling horror, to meet her there. Charis finds herself fighting a powerful ghostly revenant that’s seems largely unaffected by hits even from her blade Lornreaver.
At the end of the hall, Morian kicks the priest’s door off its hinges. Inside he finds Arlaith bending over Gerard who seems to be out of his mind, rocking back and forth, scribbling gibberish on sheets of parchment. Arlaith tries talking to him but eventually is forced to knock him unconscious and drag the frail priest along. Outside the room, near where the wall is being torn away, there is a large company of orcs wearing mail armor attempting to smash in through the window. Just as Arlaith and Morian exit the room with the priest the whirling horror is dispatched but the orcs are close behind it and begin to push their way through the shattered wall. Delymeer and Branix hold the hallway, slaying several of the invading orcs. Branix in particular scores many viscious hits with Syraxill. Arliath clears a path with a lightning bolt, passes Gerard to Morian and casts web spells over the damaged walls to keep the orcs at bay or at least delay them.
With the orcs temporarily restrained Delymeer moves to the opposite end of the hall to assist Charis in fighting the revenant even as more enemies appear to join it. Among them are more orcs and another sorcerer whose vile and necrotic magics have further weakened everyone. Branix joins the fight against the revenant who has taken hit after hit and grievously wounded Delymeer befor it finally succumbs. The enemy now blocks the only way out: the entrance to the common room. Using the absorbing power of her magical shield, Charis charges in, lays out the sorcerer, and knocks several doomed orcs prone. The Children use their power to heal Delymeer while outside, Kinsman continually rains death from above upon the orcs boiling into the inn.
Within the inn chaos has broken out in the common room as the patrons are fighting for their lives. Arlaith clears the way to the kitchen with another lightning bolt and the party heads in that direction to find a way out the back. Thankfully it’s empty, as is the courtyard between the kitchen and the stables. Fearing for their horses the party moves in and sure enough it seems they are all dead and being feasted upon. In a rage, Arlaith decimates two orcs with one ferocious swing of her staff, crushing their skulls. Miraculously, Morian’s stallion, Bitchpound (Irunsan) has escaped and is pacing outside with a few cuts but nothing too serious. Hope returns with Bitchpound and Father Gerard is loaded onto the horse and the party withdraws from the inn.
To the south the darkness has covered the city of Aridell and the party decides to take Father Gerard to the Cryptorium they had visited a few days prior for sanctuary. Once there, Archivist Valirand and his acolytes attempt to restore enough of Father Gerard’s sanity to get us some proper answers. Valirand says they possess some skill in helping people like Gerard – who have lost their minds after being exposed to corrupting knowledge – return from the darkness. With the healing Valirand is able to administer Gerard becomes lucid enough to tell us that the entrance to the Banewarrens lie a day and half ride to the East near the shore of the Trimmin Lakes beneath an old tower. He tells us that the church has been falling victim to attacks since assisting the Watcher agent Beliflas in the search for Elric and his sect. The sigil we have been encountering is a mark branded onto all of Elric’s minions. From this point, our path is clear. We go East, and woe upon any who stand in our way.