The ancient necrosange plague is loose in the Helmstadt Valley. Alistyre and Marcelyina have contracted the deadly disease and while they have managed to cure themselves, the drain to their constitution simply won't heal. The party take time to identify the bodies of the gnome families who were slain earlier that night. They conclude that seven ghasts have escaped. Dael and Alistyre search the Houndswood for the last seven ghasts who fled into the night several hours ago. Dael manages to track the foul stench of four of the undead to a small cavern. She collapses the opening with a dragon powder grenade, trapping the monsters in there for the time being. Alistyre loses track of the rest as he flies through the night sky in the form of a giant owl, but spots a bonfire in the woods. He returns to report to the party.
They know that the ghasts will go underground during the day and decide to rest in the canopy of the Houndswood. Dawn comes and Dael leads them to the collapsed cavern. Alistyre's conjured badgers dig the rubble out of the way, leading to a dark cavern. Marcelyina shouts into the cavern in gnomish...
...The party wait in silence. Illiaph scrambles up a tree to the safety of the canopy once again. Dael turns to berate him for his cowardice when out of the dark cave rush the four ghasts, recklessly throwing themselves at Alistyre and Dael. Alistyre is instantly overwhelmed as he is still crippled from contracting the disease before. The ghasts sink their teeth and claws into him forcing the necrosange into his blood once again. Dael unleashes a volley of bullets taking down one of the charging ghasts.
Marcelyina, having taken quite a liking to her dwarven companion, pours her healing magics into Alistyre. He manages to fight off the ghasts and retreat. Shalazar sneers demolishing the cavern and remaining ghasts with a powerful fireball.
The party patch themselves up, planing their next move. If they can't find the remaining ghasts, there are only a few places where they would go, North towards the bonfire, or South towards Illden. They follow Alistyre to investigate the bonfire since it is the closer target. They march through the woods, oddly finding no tracks whatsoever. Alistye shape shifts into a tiger, to help alert them of smells in the woods. He smells burnt flesh from extinguished fire, the smell of ghast and something else... Reaching an area only moments away from the fire, they find broken branches, too small and green to be kindling for the fire. As they move closer, Dael spots a clearing. Large branches are tied up in the canopy to create a sort of camouflaged roof and smaller branches form a kind of wicker wall around the camp. A pyre smolders in the center of the camp and three headless goblin-kin lay ceremoniously on their backs. Their weapons are fire damaged and ritualistically bent.
Dael identifies this as a copper elf camp. Judging from the fire, they have been gone for a few hours, but judging by the construction, they've been here more than a week. The party investigate the camp while Alistyre circles the area as a small hawk. He doubles back to the party when he sees three copper elf headhunters, a grey elf woman in silver scale mail and a large, green dragon approaching the camp. The party have have doused the bonfire embers to discover the charred remains of two ghasts and another hanging from a wooden cage 30 feet in the air. They bring the cage down with a well placed arrow and it shatters on the ground. The ghast inside is already dead, but is missing its claws and much of its face, including the lower jaw.
Alistyre returns to warn the party of the approaching wood elves and dragon. They panic, Illiaph reignites the fire and begins hurridly brushing cage pieces into it. Dael and Shalazar flee as quickly as they can. Illiaph is barely able to cast Alter Self and Minor Image to create a new cage before the elves arrive.
The elves are surprised to find visitors this far out, but greet the party warmly. The grey elf introduces herself as Filverel Manstalker, cleric of Liadon and captain of the Order of the Bow. Her mithril scale mail makes no sound and appears as if made by thousands of silver arrowheads. This puts her in stark contrast to the more homely copper elves. The green serpent lets out a low grumble and insists they waste no more time.
Filverel informs them that this camp is one of many that have been charged with finding the following fugitives. She hands Marcelyina a copy of the Order of the Bow Contract and grimly says that there will be a reward for each head, its weight in silver. (about 55 gold per head). They thank her for the offer and ask her about the ghouls, stating that they were tracking them. Filverel informs them that they captured the undead when they wandered into their camp. A halfling mage in blue says that his party were attacked while experimenting with a cure for this affliction. He and an ash skinned dwarf with a peculiar hammer paid a great deal for some samples from the creature in the cage. She points at the illusion in the tree, who's magic was quickly running out.
The party thank the elves for their hospitality, declining the offer for food or escort, and leave briskly, meeting up with the rest of the party on their way back to new Illden. They surmise that the famous Arundel Shay may be their best chance at learning how to stop Tuck and his lich master.Upon reaching the city of Illden, Alistyre and Marceliyna take a break from the party and head to the Empyrean Church of St. Geshran, the temperate on their quest to recover from the damage of the necrosange while the rest of the party head towards the governors manor to update the council on the fate of the gnomes.
Marcy enter the darkened church with Al shapeshifted into a house cat. Unfamiliar with the rites and rituals of the Empyrean Church they notice that of the 9 alcoves dedicated to the Titans all but Parun's and Lyttans has had recent offerings. Black and red candles burn throughout the church and a handful of people sit in quiet reflection. A priest in slate-grey robes beckons them forward and as they move past the pews, they notice one of the figures in meditation is Grand Inquisitor Var'izan. Marcy pulls down her hood, concealing her face even more than the dim light does. The inquisitor orator asks her what she needs. Marcy explains that she recently contracted a disease, which left long term damage to herself and her cat. The priest explains that such a cure is beyond his ability, but not beyond the ability of the Grand Inquisitor. Marcy clumsily states that she thinks she's in the wrong church and claims to be meeting a friend somewhere. The priest nods, suspiciously and assigns an inquisitor to escort her to her destination...
Dael, Shalazar and Illiaph approach the governors manor and Illiaph begins to negotiate with a guard to grant him an audience with Arundel Shay. Dael looks around town noticing a distinct air of discomfort over the city. While doing so, she spots two slate-grey clad inquisitors dragging an unconscious grey elf through the street. It's Halafas Raeranthur. The townsfolk purposefully avert their gaze as the inquisitors approach. Dael sneaks off and is gone before Illiaph turns around.
Illiaph and Shalazar enter the governors manor. A guard informs them that they have free reign of the manor as long as they stay on the bottom floor. Recent events have forced an increase in security. They send a message up to Arundel Shay's room.
Halafas is being dragged towards the Church of St. Geshran. Dael knows that nothing good is going to come of a meeting between church officials and a member of the thieves guild. She cast Healing Word on the unconscious Halafas who immediately breaks free of the inquisitors grasp. They draw swords and he dives for the edge of a buildings shadow, vanishing the second he touches it. The inquisitors look around astonished and begin to shout for reinforcements.
Marcy and Al slowly walk towards the Temple of Morrigan, nervous about their inquisitor escort. Suddenly shouting from the next block draws their guides attention and he excuses himself. Marcy and Al watch as he leaves their sight and immediately flee towards the Governors manor. Dael catches up with them and they enter the manor to meet up with Alistyre and Shalazar.Arundel takes several minutes before emerging from his chamber. Draped in blue robes and walking with a cane, he leads them to a more private room. Illiaph stops, noticing the deep red-brown stain across the floor where Olahorn's doppeltrog was slain. He takes a seat and addresses each party member by name. Dael erupts and excuses herself of all pleasantries, recapping their adventure since receiving London's letters. Arundel Shay stares blankly at them before quickly standing to his feet and drawing a pulsing red longsword. He holds it to Illiaphs throat briefly before stabbing empty space beside him. There is a barely audible *squelch* as he removes the sword. Arundel nods in acceptance of their perspective, stating that their are forces in work beyond what they know. He informs them that he can be of little use. The Grand Inquisitor has finally outmaneuvered him. After six centuries, his crimes are finally catching up with him. As a public figure in this debate, he can not disappear without verifying their suspicions. His disappearance would put the princess in jeopardy. These inquisitors are unlike previous incarnations, not only fighting heritics but hauling off church officalls as well as lesser priests who venerate Parun. This has severely thinned the ranks of Shay's servants. He goes on to explain that since Halafas has vanished he now has no one and is alone. Dael explains that she aided Halafas's escape. This information noticeably brightens Shay's mood. He insists that Halafas goes with the party to try and stop Funiku's plans.
They get what little information the old spymaster has, that Tuck and Thozmolim recently left town, heading West in a hurry. Illiaph reminds the party of the goblin-kin "Ish'kronn Ast'ronn" or the festival of strong blood taking place in 8 days far to the West. This festival is where a new god-emperor of the goblin-kin nation will be chosen in a trial by combat and the Spark of Loyalty will be granted to anyone who can depose Chizar the Scro... the party suddenly realize the gravity of the situation, remembering the tone of a letter found on a hobgoblin shaman in the Wingar Library and the hobgoblins they met recently near the Houndswood.
Arundel gives them a note and insists that the drunkard at the Walnut Knot owes him a favor and can take them directly there. Arundel insists that they get there as soon as possible. Dael asks him for a small favor and hands him a letter addressed to her husband and child. He tells her that in this line of business, family can be a hindrance. and to make sure she has her priorities in order. The two lock eyes for a moment as Shay takes her letter. The party leave towards the Walnut Knot to get Halafas and the Drunken Wizard.