Our heroes awoke in the dead of night, having been knocked unconscious by the power the mysterious old woman gave them.
Since they had already traveled most of the way to Berez, they continued on as the forest grew increasingly into swampland. Sasha and Tsora noticed, as walking gave way to wading, that their legs picked up a number of black leeches. Tsora shapeshifted into an alligator to be rid of the leeches and move more swiftly through the swamp.
As they came upon the ruins of the ancient city, Senna stood “guard” on the periphery—primarily to spend time invoking a new ritual to summon her familiar. The rest of the group explored the ruins of the city’s old central castle. The walls were substantially deteriorated, and even sank further into the swamp as Sasha jumped from fallen wall to fallen wall.
Inside one wall, they found old bones in iron shackles, but otherwise nothing of major interest. Tsora swam to the deepest part of the lake and found yet more bones, but some of these were fresh. Who was dumping bodies in this lake, they wondered?
Their inspection was interrupted by a surprise attack on Senna as she worked her magic. A leech-like betentacled creature struck out and pulled her under. The party began to square off against it, but Senna managed to blink away and cast a fear spell that sent it slithering off into the dark water.
They set off northwards, this time preferring the hills on the outskirts of the swamp. There, they ran into a massive creature, humanoid and somewhat misshapen, of indeterminate gender (though ‘he’ pronouns ended up being used), carrying a dead body to the lake. Surprisingly forthcoming, this creature identified himself as “Clevis,” and he admitted right away that he was bringing the body to the lake to dispose of it.
Immediately on guard, the party demanded to know why this person had been killed. Clevis explained that he had been hunting vampires with his master, a gnome whose name he can’t pronounce, and this one turned out not to be a vampire.
Alston perked up immediately at the existence of another gnome, and Clevis agreed to walk the party back to his master’s tower. Along the way, he asked if they possessed any magical items that his master could experiment on. Unsurprisingly, they were a little uneasy volunteering this information.
He led them back to his master’s tower, a humble and crumbling tower that nonetheless exuded some serious “mad science” vibes, with eerie green glows from windows and odd-colored smoke rising from the chimney. The tower’s master introduced himself as Euphrastes Bluntbrass, and he immediately assumed the party was sent by his master, Dr. Von Lichtspriegl. He was very disappointed that this was not the case, as he apparently hasn’t heard from his master in some time.
However, the revelation that the party carried magical weapons was enough to rejuvenate his excitable personality. He had been working on a complicated device that uses vampire blood to transfer the magical properties of one item to another. Timidly, the party offered Sasha’s dagger and rapier, and it worked! The dagger’s poisonous enchantment was moved to the rapier.
However, Euphrastes’ delight was tempered with yet more sadness, as they only possessed enough vampire blood to do it once. The party offered several suggestions for obtaining more blood, but Euphrastes simply sighed and explained that he had already tried everything … on the vampire in the tower basement.
Shocked and intrigued, the party demanded to see it, and Euphrastes was more than willing to show off his prize. In the tower basement, they found a young woman, very pale and seemingly starving, chained to a wall. Ulrich inspected her mouth—fangs, as expected—and at this she lunged forward weakly, clearly drained of all lifeforce. Tsora proposed an experiment: staking the vampire with the strange-runed stake she carved from the memory of her dreams. Euphrastes, in the name of science, was happy to let them try it.
At first, it seemed to do nothing more than paralyze the frail vampire. But as Tsora pulled it out in disappointment, the girl’s eyes snapped open, glowing a vibrant fiery green. She began babbling in a number of different languages. As she rotated into old Elvish, some of the party could make out the words: “IN THE HEART OF THE PRISON WHERE THE DEMONS SLEEP, THE DOOR WILL SLIDE OPEN.”
The party decided to bed down at the tower, as night had fallen and Alston was eager to study Euphrastes’ research (and get to know his new gnomish best friend better.) Ulrich decided to wander out into the woods for some fresh air.
There, he heard that inescapable anthem of Ravenloft: desperate screaming. He ran off in search of the source of the sound and found that he was too late. In a clearing, a body lay broken and bloody. It was a young male, and Ulrich felt compelled to investigate. In the boy’s pocket, he found a document that identified him as a sailor aboard Carolina Crowblack’s ship, the Drunken Gale—the very same ship that Ulrich once served.
Immediately, Ulrich scooped up the lifeless body and sprinted through the woods back to the tower. As he arrived, however, it became clear that all was not as it seemed. While Ulrich saw the lifeless body, the rest of the party saw a mangled deer carcass. Undeterred by this different view of reality, Ulrich set off back towards the clearing, and the party followed.
As they arrived, however, the discrepancies didn’t end. Where Ulrich saw a clearing, the rest of the party saw dense woods. They were convinced he was hallucinating until he walked right through one of the trees. From everyone else’s perspective, the wood blackened and ran red with blood, then parted like musculature as he moved through it. From Ulrich’s perspective, of course, there was no tree at all.
Alston and Senna sent their familiars into the air to scout. With their keen eyesight, the birds could see at least four figures approaching the area—vampires.