I knew that there was something wrong with this town. Ever since we arrived, there has been something nagging at the back of my brain. All of the little things… the constant shadows, ravens everywhere, garlic everywhere, missing women and children, a ruling overlord that people spoke of only in whispers. I had heard this stuff before. On the ship as I traveled across the seas from the Empire of the Oran to the Kingdom of the Seven Seas… the sailors told tales. As I traveled across the lands, everywhere I went, there were whispers, legends, nightmares. Blood sucking creatures of the night. Vampires.
It turned out that our precautions were unnecessary. The night passed and nobody came to steal our women in the night. Some of the local cats turned out to be extraordinarily friendly. Junia took pity on one and brought it in to her room. As we found out later, this turned out to be a mistake. Luckily it did not end as badly as it could have.
While we were eating breakfast, we were approached by a man in fancy clothes. We could tell immediately that something was off about him. He was extraordinarily clean, and doused in fancy perfumes… but underneath all of that, I could detect the odor of something foul and rotten. He introduced himself as Murmanus, chief of staff for Praetor Gado, the local nobility who “protected” the town. Murmanus came to deliver an invitation from Praetor Gado to join him and his wife, Helespa for dinner that night.
The trail to find Ravinia’s father led to the castle, so we accepted the invitation (with the condition that we be back to the inn before dark). We spent the day shopping for appropriate clothes for the fancy dinner. While talking with people in town, we learned that several of the town’s children had disappeared over the last several years.
Murmanus returned in mid-afternoon and escorted us to the castle. It was a relatively short walk, and on the way we passed over a guarded metal bridge that raised in the middle. This was the most metal that I have seen in one place in my entire time in the Land of the Five Spices. After we walked across, we looked back to see that the entire underside of the bridge on the village side was painted in symbols and markings. Morwenna identified the markings as belonging to various gods that oppose the forces of darkness.
We were treated to a short tour of the castle. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Praetor Gado was a bit arrogant, but not any more than you would expect from a man of his position. His wife Helespa was beautiful. Dinner was uneventful with the conversation kept casual. I found myself cornered by two human females, Aurelia and Villia, while the other members of our group also found themselves paired with a member of Gado’s staff.
After dinner is when Praetor Gado revealed his true colors. We were led in to another room, which contained a large figurine of a black cat. Ravinia immediately recognized the figurine as the one that her father came looking for. Gado admitted to Ravinia that her father had come to visit him… and even more, that her father was still there as his prisoner. He had Ravinia’s father brought in, and he was dirty, weak, beaten. When Ravinia told her father that we had found and cured her brother… and that her brother was safe, Praetor Gado laughed. And then he had her brother brought in. Apparently Gado had sent his men to the Last Chance Trading Post and captured her brother as well.
Gado admitted to us that he, and most of his people were vampires. He informed us that the figurine of the black cat was what kept the surrounding area covered in shadow, and allowed him and his men to walk about in daylight. He offered us a trade. He would return Ravinia’s father and brother to us, if we would take on a quest for him. He wanted us to retrieve water from pools at the Shrine of Siam and the Antiqui Medeis. This water would allow him to extend the range of the black cat’s shadow, and allow him and his vampires to travel freely through the entire Land of the Five Spices, including Lecia.
We told him that we needed time to think about it. He agreed to give us until tomorrow night. We returned to Mors Corvus to discuss it – although I think we were all in agreement that there is no way that we could give the vampires the power to travel across the land. As much as Ravinia loves her family, we can’t trade the lives of two for all of the people that the vampires will kill if they are given free reign.
Once back in our room at the inn, and after we had ensured that we were not being spied upon, we discussed our options. We all agreed that we could not do this quest. We decided that our best course of action was to break in to the castle and free Ravinia’s family, as well as the other people who were being held prisoner. After discussing options, we decided that the best plan would be to tell Praetor Gado that we WOULD do his quest, and then after we left town, sneak back in and catch them when they weren’t expecting us.
Morwenna told us that she had a spell that she had never used around us before. It would allow her to walk through the spirit world, unseen and able to walk through barriers. We guarded her body while she sent her spirit off to explore the castle. She discovered that there were MANY more vampires in the castle than we suspected. She counted nearly 40 vampires, plus some human guards. Down under the castle, she discovered a labrynth that contained many coffins, some ghouls… and a couple of rooms filled with their captives. She also found a place where we could sneak directly in to the underground caverns and hopefully bypass the majority of the vampires.