This event marks a rough outline of Session 31 (not intended to be a perfect recap or to be a substitute to good player note-taking!). You may check the "Timeline" tab on the main campaign page alongside the information on the calendar page for some chronological context.
- Trevor Delin had at last relented and granted Catalina Castemont the dark blessing of vampirism, freeing her from the grip of the Ashen Blood. When she awakened, her abdomen gurgled and whined. She drew air, hissing through bared teeth, as she doubled over. Down on one knee, she groaned and casted about. Her wide, searching eyes fell upon the necks of those around her. And as her eyes locked with those of Erik Ulfarsson, she momentarily snapped out of her hunger long enough to hear Trevor’s words of comfort.
- Before long, Erik reminded Catalina that there was no time to waste. Catalina had confided only in Erik, Trevor, and Vandar what had happened to her father, Severian, down beneath the Center for Convalescence. Erik, as an old friend of the family, and Champion of Vinheim, pledged to fight alongside her. The pair, accompanied by Vandar (who seemed wary of Catalina's new "condition"), made off towards the Center for Convalescence to regroup with Gael, Freyr, and Sherman.
- Upon regrouping with the rest of the party, Catalina at last saw the still form of her late father, dressed in his characteristic holy vestments, adorned so with the symbols of a god she'd grown to resent. She spotted Severian’s hand clutched around a small amulet, and suddenly she was hit with pangs of memories from her youth; she remembered how firmly he’d grasp her small hands whenever she’d share her childish woes with him – the signet ring he always wore would press uncomfortably into her hand, but she'd never seemed to mind. Somehow, the warmth from his hands had the power to set her frayed mind at ease. But even if she were to hold his hand again, the fact is that both she and her father are dead… and neither her hands, nor his, would have any warmth left to impart.
- The party, reunited, delved deeper into the depths of this wretched place. Eventually, they came upon what appeared to be an atelier of alchemy. Surrounded by shelves of reagents, jars of viscera, and unrolled charts, a monstrous operation had taken place in this alchemical laboratory. The chirurgeon who was at work here must have left his work undone. Under the glow of cobalt spotlights, the hideous and toadlike appearance of the specimen dissected on the operating table was grossly highlighted for them all to clearly see. The whole scene was abhorrent. A survivor on a nearby operating table begged for the mercy of a quick death - a request Erik obliged.
- After some investigation, it became clear that this was the personal laboratory of Dr. William Burke, revealed to be the retainer of Lydia Blackmore. It would appear the rumors of house Blackmore's involvement with the Cult of the Blood Moon were true. Gael found a display case in Dr. Burke's laboratory housing an elaborate pistol - Dr. Burke's pride and joy, the Last Letter. Naturally, Gael smashed the case and looted the magic pistol for himself.
- Dr. Burke's notes read as follows: “Our grand biological alchemy experiment has borne wondrous fruit! Lord Strahd von Zarovich will be most pleased. After years of research and meticulous engineering of the Ashen Blood, we have succeeded in replicating the fearsome Slaad of the Outer Plane of Limbo, right here in our own Demiplane of Dread. Though these specimens born of the Ashen Blood are something else entirely, their anatomy and physiology most closely resemble the Slaad – as such, I shall name them the ‘Slaadite’. The Slaadite will be the means by which Forossa is weakened from within prior to Lord Strahd’s invasion. By the time Strahd has mobilized for war, our first generation Slaadite will have had ample time to replicate by spreading the perfected strain of the Ashen Blood. Unlike the Slaad of Limbo, Slaadite spread infection only via saliva. Some of the Slaadite in the first generation have mutated a bluish skin, as opposed to reddish skin – these blue Slaadite are physically more capable than the red, and they can also project their saliva a great distance.” The notes then continued to drone on about the physiology of the Slaadite. What's more, there was mention of a cure to the Ashen Blood, although the specifics were not detailed in his notes.
- The party pushed deeper until they came upon an incubation chamber housing several, luckily dormant, Slaadite. Thanks to Sherman's quick thinking, he administered a serum into the incubation tubes that would ensure the creatures remained dormant long enough for the party to continue deeper into the compound.
- Before long, the party found themselves in a cramped and claustrophobic room lined with many strange oval-rimmed devices. They appeared almost like mirror-stands, but upon closer inspection, revealed themselves to be nothing less than portals to some sort of alternate dimension. As Sherman drew close enough to touch the nearest portal, much to his surprise, he found himself once again face-to-face with none other than the Bagman. The hideous an inexplicable creature reached out from beyond the portal to pull the curious gnome in with him. Sherman's timely shield spell was all that prevented him from being wrenched through the portal and into the Bagman's interstitial space.
- The party scrambled to destroy the portals as otherworldly aberrations stormed in through the interdimensional gateways. In the end, the aberrations were slain and the portals destroyed, although the Bagman was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps he had returned to his hidden kingdom of lost junk, or perhaps he had wormed his way somewhere else entirely? None could truly say...
- Finally, the party came upon the innermost sanctum of this place. After successfully subduing and interrogating a "doctor," they spied beyond a large set of double-doors and heard many voices in the hall ahead. Lydia Blackmore was there, and she was holding some sort of medical conference with her associates regarding the Ashen Blood.
- The party wasted no time in crashing the conference, weapons drawn and magic primed. They slaughtered the Cult of the Blood Moon and anybody else who had taken part in these abhorrent proceedings. Though the cultists resisted to the best of their ability, the party proved too much for them. Lydia was no exception - she too, was slaughtered like the rest.
- As the party took another captive for interrogation, Freyr meandered ahead into the adjacent hallway that Lydia had attempted to reach during the fracas (before she was slain). Unfortunately for the headstrong Hammerite, he stepped on a pressure-plate triggering a cloudkill trap and was locked behind newly-barred doors. Were it not for Sherman's chime of opening, Freyr's adventure might have ended sooner rather than later.
- The party's captive instructed them (under duress) how to safely progress passed the hallway and into Lydia's personal chambers beyond. Once inside, they uncovered more notes detailing the nature of the Ashen Blood, and more importantly, its only cure. The notes read as follows: “Once the Ashen Blood infection has taken hold, there is only one way to cure it. The ‘anodyne pills’ we distribute on a regular basis to the infected populace only served over the years to mutate and engineer the infection with newer and improved alchemical methods. Each iteration closer than the last to achieve our desired result. The true cure to the Ashen Blood is synthesized from a reagent derived from cockatrice crest (the younger the specimen, the higher the yield) – this reagent is then mixed with powdered sulfur and minute amounts of saltpeter to create the remedy, which is administered via ingestion.”
- Now satisfied with what they had come for, the party then found a hidden lift that took them straight up, out of the Center for Convalescence, and into the Ghost Quarter, where they were greeted by the faint, bitter tinge of smoke from a hundred smokestacks and chimneys fouling the wintry air. The familiar yet bleak sights, sounds, and smells of Vinheim seemed impossibly refreshing after their foray into the depths of that wretched laboratory.
- Without delay, Erik made his way to the City Watch to report to Ceraxil what they had just uncovered. Ceraxil assured Erik that the Watch would clear out any remaining threats lurking in the Center for Convalescence (and he also alluded that his people had uncovered the truth of what had transpired in the Pavelock Prison - the necromancy reports, along with what he managed to coax out of Mila Ortega, painted him a clear enough picture).
- Meanwhile, Freyr headed straight for Castle Draydon to meet with princess Evelyn. The princess, shocked though she was by Severian's passing (she of course agreed to hold a service in the Ghost Quarter in his honor), was already in a desperate state as she came clean with Freyr about the truth of the Wolf King's condition - he was indeed afflicted by the Ashen Blood, and he was running out of time. Freyr revealed the nature and existence of a cure, and with Ana Vidal's help (the princess' retainer), worked out that the dreaded cockatrice could be found in the Gray Canyon, at land's end. Freyr agreed to seek the cure at the princess' request - in turn, Ana was ordered to accompany the party on their most dangerous hunt yet. As a skilled ranger, she would surely prove to be invaluable.
- Catalina and Vandar, the latter of whom had been carrying Severian's body throughout their foray, wasted no time in returning to Chapel Black, where they had hoped to finally lay Severian to rest.
- To their dismay, as they arrived at Chapel Black, they found it aflame - consumed in a raging bonfire. And amongst the dancing flames, they spotted the familiar silhouette of Celia Fortner, standing over the still body of Trevor Delin, with Celia's estoc plunged directly into his heart.
--- Click on the "Stats" tab below to see a list of minor NPC's mentioned in this session! ---