The apprentice distractedly scratches the Master’s old cat behind its ears, his attention on the exciting and horrible events unfolding before him. The Master, taking time to research the important folks surrounding Field Marshal Kroft in an effort to better understand her ahs taken to scrying a group of adventurers that the apprentice has read about at some length. Odric the Stout, Morkeleb the Mighty, Ferox the Inquisitor, Sandor Strongbellows, Gaius Lirsiiv, and Throgrym the Tracker with his faithful canine, Bucho. A plague was beginning in the city of Korvosa, men, women and children were dying horrible deaths in the streets, and these men had been enlisted to find the cause and fight it.
The men had just delivered Trinia from the block and were resting at Sandor’s home as was their wont.
A messenger wearing the livery of Abadar knocked and delivered a message to Ferox, ”Inquisitor Ferox, it appears that there are more cases of the terrible disease that attacked poor Brienna. Please come posthaste to the Bank. Bring your friends. The sick have begun appearing at our doorstep. While many have the pecuniary component to rid themselves of this disease, most do not. We need assistance. -Ishani Dhatri”
When the group approached the Bank, a mob had gathered. The sick were pressing in, trying to gain salvation. As the crowd pressed, the friends tried to reason, to question, to interview to no avail. The men needed to gain entry, and barely did so.
Even after they managed to navigate your way through the crowd, the temple remained a place besieged. Within its airy hall, priests and patrons eyed each other and every newcomer with suspicion, and every footfall upon the marble floor echoed through a frightened silence. The presence of an inquisitor did little to put them at ease. They had no trouble finding Ishani Dhatri, as he had reserved one of the temple’s western meeting rooms to meet with the group and awaited them there. The young priest looks grave as he greeted them, “Thank you for coming. I assume you already suspect my reasons for meeting with you in a formal sense, having seen the crowd outside—poor lot. You recognize the symptoms too, I’m sure. I had hoped that the Soldado case was isolated, but apparently we have a bigger problem on our hands than I’d feared.
I’m concerned for the city, but also for my brethren here. The morning after my visit to the Soldado home I came to the temple to hear that three of my brothers awoke with similar symptoms, although they had already been healed. I spoke to each, and aside from their usual duties in the temple, none have had any dealings with the sick. Later in the day, more of my brothers— vaultkeepers, guards, and acolytes—developed symptoms, and folk from throughout the city began arriving in search of healing. It’s been more than a little bit frightening. They’re calling the sickness ‘blood veil.’ An apt enough name, I suppose.
This affliction has spread fast, yet I’m not yet sure how. Most of the patients we’re treating have come from North Point and Old Korvosa. The disease seems to spread fastest through the lower classes. Although we here at the temple can heal some of the ill, I fear that the spread of the disease will soon outpace our resources. The only way to stem the growing infection is to involve all the city’s resources. We need to organize. We need to call upon the faiths of Sarenrae, Pharasma, and even Asmodeus to face this attack. Archbanker Tuttle and several of his assistants are out pursuing alliances with these other faiths, but even that won’t be enough. We need to involve the Korvosan Guard, at the very least. And that’s where you come in—with the number of desperate souls outside already I can only assume an epidemic coming, it’s not particularly safe for a priest to walk the streets of Korvosa during such a thing. I hear that you have a good relationship with Field Marshal Cressida Kroft—perhaps you would be willing to escort me to Citadel Volshyenek to introduce me to her?”
The apprentice smiled, knowing well of their relationship to the good Field Marshal.
A plan was hatched whereby the Inquisitor and the Wizard would remain at the Bank to research the disease, and the others would go to the Citadel. After a time, the two men produced little information of value and followed the others to the Citadel, arriving just after them.
Reaching Citadel Volshyenek posed little problem, despite Ishani’s fear to the contrary. The party was greeted warmly by the on duty guards, men whom the group recognized immediately. The echoes of forcefully spoken but still just-missed words resounded off the imposing granite and iron walls of Citadel Volshyenek’s outer curtain. Dozens of red-and-silver-armored guards stood in assembly upon the pitted stone mustering ground here, mumbling in hushed, somber tones. Before them, atop a weathered wooden platform, paced Field Marshal Kroft, her eyebrows arched sternly as she momentarily tolerated the crowd’s murmurs. Behind her upon the scaffold stood three grizzled veteran guardsmen at attention, as well as an ominous-looking group. These men wore cowled robes of oily-looking leather, supple gloves, and wide black hats. Some gripped heavy canes, others dark satchels. Each of them, though, wore a dark-goggled mask tapering to a pointed beak. Among them stood two others. The first was a middle aged gentleman in a simple black overcoat with streaks of white gracing the sides of his short dark hair. He watched the gathered guards with a soft, concerned expression, his hands tightly clasping a heavy-looking doctor’s case. The second figure was an imposing one indeed—a woman dressed in full-plate armor, a longsword and shield at her side, and her blank-faced full helm sporting a bright red plume.
The Field Marshal’s fierce tone cut through the rumble of whispers.
“You will escort Doctor Davaulus and his men in their royal duties wherever those might take them. Furthermore, you are to consider orders from any of the queen’s new order of Gray Maidens to be as binding as any superior officer in the Korvosan Guard or Sable Company. You are guardsmen of Korvosa. You will not balk. These are dire times and your city needs these healers. Your city needs you. Your patrol leaders have your assignments. Dismissed!”
Gaius patiently watched the guards, doctors and the Grey Maiden disperse. His face was a mask, a playful smirk that nothing could break.
He and Odric strolled up to Field Marshall Kroft and the rogue formally bowed, giving her due respect. He straightened up, and addressed the Field Marshall.
“Field Marshall Kroft, may we present Ishani Dhatri of The Bank of Abadar? The Bank has been seeing to the sick and requested this introduction of us.”
Gaius presented Dhatri to Field Marshall Kroft and then stepped back to stand just to the side.
The look in Kroft’s eyes was one of relief to see them. Clearly the men had become more than agents to her. Their arrival had the effect of giving her a chance to cut the Doctor’s time in the sun short. Unexpectedly, the doctor turned to Gaius.
He bowed gracefully, and not only tipped his hat, but lifted his mask allowing him to make eye-contact. "Greetings gentlemen,” his Taldane was filled with a variety of nuances, picking his point of origin was impossible. “I understand that this is a trying time, and others in my profession are equally unnerving, but I assure you I am not here for political reasons. I am here to do what I can. My name is Dr. Davaulus. I have some time now before duty calls me. If you have questions, speak and have fears lessened.”
After some verbal sparring, the group managed to get the Field Marshal alone. She unloaded on them, “"Gentlemen, at first nothing seemed out of the ordinary. There are always sick and diseased people in the city. It’s not a matter for the guard, not by a long shot. As individual churches began to lose ground against the tide, word began to spread. Now it appears we’re in trouble. I’m currently diverting guardsmen to help catalog the sick and make note of the worst neighborhoods. The queen’s doctors say they’ll handle quarantining the sick and healing those whom they can. The problem is, there are currently more sick than there are spells to cure them… This is where you come in. I can’ waste your time with the mundane. I need you to help me with any hotspots, and help find the source of this disease. Anyway, that’s where I stand. What questions do you have for me?"
Odric replied “We are happy to help. Where are the hotspots? Are there any leads on the cause of the disease?”
Odric scratched his neatly trimmed beard thoughtfully. The effect was more respected warrior than town drunk, given his stature and grooming. A shift that was somewhat striking when his recent persona was exactly that sort of sodden lout but a year ago.
“We had an early theory that the ship that was sunk in the harbor might be related, as the first cases appeared the next morning. Are there any other indications that might be the case?” Odric pressed.
“We have not explored the wreck yet, no. The disease seems to hit the poorest sections hardest, which makes sense in any epidemic. Before the Doctor arrived I had just received word that some of the crews tasked with bringing the bodies to the Gray District are getting lazy and just dumping them into alleys. Can you check out Racker’s Alley in the west of Old Korvosa after we finish here?” The Field Marshall made her way to the city map, laying a gentle hand on Gaius’s shoulder on her way by. She pointed to the alley in question.
The carriage ride to the alley was uneventful, arriving at the place they saw a poor alley, in a poverty-stricken neighborhood.
The high walls of the surrounding buildings threw this awkwardly bent alley into constant shadow. Although littered with garbage and filth, the refuse wasn’t the most stomach-turning trait of this rundown sideway. Heaped against a bent wooden wall rose a pile of more than three dozen plague victims, their faces blistered and flushed, eyes open and staring. The scent of death was overpowered by the reek of rot, suggesting that some of these corpses have lain here for days.
Inside the adjacent building, unbalanced stuffed animals, poorly equipped toy soldiers, and dolls exhibiting myriad accidental deformities stared blankly out of the filth-smeared front window of this toy store showroom. Several heavy-looking kites dangled purple and crimson tails from the ceiling above, and a dollhouse recreating Castle Korvosa’s intimidating towers dominated a table in the room’s center. Festooned with tiny bells, the shop’s entrance stood to the north, across from a counter cluttered with dusty candies and a doorway marked “Private.”
Though disgusted at the pile of dead bodies outside and the lack of respect given them. Thorgrym was much more disturbed by the strange “toy store”. The deformed dolls made this more the scene of a deranged nightmare then an adventure. The ranger couldn’t help but shudder a little as he got the willies. Yet seeing his trusty canine companion blindly following him, oddly gave Grym strength. He chastized himself for his childish superstitions. He sought to be at least half the man Bucho saw him as. Backing Odric and Sandor while Gaius was at the door, Grym pulled his sling out and loaded it ready for combat.
Ferox hung back to examine the bodies, and saw through the window a quartet of vampires hiding in ambush for the group. With a thrill of excitement, he prayed to Abadar and raced around the corner.
The apprentices heart quickened as combat began, he saw the Master shift forward in his overstuffed chair as well, his pipe smoldering forgotten beside him.
Gaius looked curiously up out of the front of the shop window and saw Ferox bolting past, jabbering something about vampires. Just then the door slammed open and without missing a beat, Gaius stepped to his right, pulled his hand crossbow, loaded and fired. The action was so smooth is looked like a single movement. “Oh, Ferox,” called Gaius, “Would you get in here? There are some people I’d like you to meet.”
Gaius’ bolt hit directly in the monster’s eye. Within the span of a heartbeat the eye shoved the bolt back out, and healed itself nearly completely.
Ferox raced into the room and took up position next to Gaius. He nocked an arrow in his bow and let it fly at the undead thing in the doorway.
The lead vampires slammed into the party’s front line, Odric and Sandor easily absorbed the impact though. A third vampire was trying to maneuver around the group to flank them. Grym slung a bullet which bounced off one’s head harmlessly.
Morkeleb, with a background in the occult called out, “Vampire spawn! Not full-blown vampires, but still very dangerous!” Morkeleb coolly pulled one of the patches from the Robe of Bones, and hurled it into the room whence the vamps attacked, hoping to give his undead slave only enemy targets!
Upon hearing the learned mage shout they are vampire spawn, and seeing the unnatural way that the arrow was shoved back out it’s eye socket confirmed the Wizards words. Upon the knowledge gained while shopping for special materials for his new axe Sandor realised that he has his wrong axe drawn.
With what looks like an errant swing he lodged the axe in the wooden counter directly behind him.
The massive dwarf produced an incredible alchemical silver Dwarven battle axe, and wedged myself between the counters. “Hey lads keep em in the chokepoint if at all possible.” He called out gruffly. His words spoken, he proceeded to push hard with the shield trying to keep the one on him off balance, and annoyed. Then just as he hoped the thing grabbed at the annoying shield wrapping its hands and claws on it trying to pull it to the side. Sandor then allowed the shield to go with the motion throwing the enemy slightly off balance and allowing him to pin both arms between the shield and the counter. Sandor swung his axe, intending to cleave the arms off at the wrists before he popped back behind its protective bastion.
Seizing upon a plan, Odric grabbed the vampire spawn directly in front of him in his brawny arms and began dragging the monster backwards towards the open door and the sunlight. The vampire struck out as it was grabbed, slashing at Odric with its claws. The big warrior gritted his teeth and resisted the unholy power of the undead, dragging the creature about five feet towards its doom.
Gaius slunk through his companions, humming the Korvosan Anthem. He pulled his whip while on the move and lashed out at the vampire in the corner of the room. Gaius ducked Sandor’s flailing and then lashed out with his whip to trip the vampire he was maneuvering on. He missed wildly, and tried to make it look like an intentional flourish.
Ferox hit with two arrows, apparently guided by Abadar towards the creatures. Only the first seemed to injure it though, and already the wound was closing. Only the injury dealt by Sandor still showed grievous damage.
The vampire dragged by Odric tried to turn the tides. He pushed into the warrior’s pull and tried to pin down his arms. Fangs meant for killing grew in a heartbeat. The big warrior made a quick attack, taking advantage of the creature’s momentary loss of balance and connected! Undaunted the monster grabbed at the warrior, but Odric tore free before a hold is made.
Directly behind, the spawn wounded by Sandor swung his fist in a backhand motion at the dwarf’s jaw and connects only with his fine dwarven helm.
The spawn in the rear struck out at the skeleton summoned by Morkeleb, and missed!
Finally, the third spawn continued his attempt to dominate, and now eyed the ranger. Grym resisted the attempt in a feat of willpower.
Bucho leaped forward to attack with a ferocious bite in his slavering jaws. The strange smell of the undead threw the canine off as he moved in and the bite snapped shut just before the creature’s face.
The ranger dropped his sling and dove into his pouch, just dove right in. Nobody is sure what he is doing or quite to make of it, but he was up in two shakes and he was holding the biggest fragging vial of holy water anyone’s ever seen.
Next vampire to move will get a face full of holy pain…
Odric again grabbed to yank the monster. And again the monster made an attack, though it was ineffectual. Still unfazed, Odric dragged the monster a full ten feet, past Morkeleb, Sandor, Bucho and Thorgrym, each of whom took advantage of the opportunity to attack it. Morkeleb missed, having little experience with melee.
Still holding the holy water for the spawn fighting Sandor, the ranger saw the chance to get a hit in on the spawn mighty Odric was steadily dragging toward the bright light of day. With his off hand he quickly drew his dagger and sliced into the spawn’s thigh, hopefully making it easier for Odric to keep dragging it. Grym’s quick offhand knife plunged into the spawn’s thigh, the ranger then twisted the blade viciously opening up a nasty wound.
Sandor was so engrossed in his battle, that his swing at the passing spawn was not fully committed and missed.
After his staff swung around and back to his two-handed grip, Morkeleb stepped away from the monster to a safe spot, and stared into the gem on his staff, chanting lightly. His eyes took on the eldritch glow of the staff—a strikingly eerie green flame surrounded his eyeballs. He then stared with authority at the creature Sandor struck. “BURN, fiend!!” the wizard roared.
The creature was nailed with Morkeleb’s heat vision. The fire quickly spread through its body and it was all he could do to stay upright. For the quick-eyed I nthe fight, they could see the flames reflected in Sandor’s silver axe, but not the source.
Gaius took out his holy symbol and smiled, appearing amused by the prospect. Neither he, nor The Lady In The Room, would usually go in for such displays. These were strange days, indeed.
He presented the Daggers of Calistria to the spawn and speaks, “By The Pleasures of life, the stings of Trickery, Lust and Vengence, that which makes blood surge, flesh yearn, and skin tingle, I defy you Un-Dead things!” The spawn recoiled from the holy light, but fought on! The one being mauled by Sandor was faring poorly indeed, it looked near defeat.
Ferox stepped to the side away from Odric and his charge. He then nocked another two arrows and let fly at the spawn harassing Sandor.
The second arrow from Ferox slammed into the spawn and it dropped down “dead” at Sandor’s feet. The wounds were beginning to close already, and it showed signs that it would get up in a moment.
The creature fighting Odric continued to try to avoid being tossed into the sunlight. He did not bite, as the door was getting awfully close, so instead tried to slam the warrior into submission to no effect.
Across the room, the vampire facing the skeleton summoned by Morkeleb smashed the creature into dust. As it charged up the center of the room, confident after its victory against the animated bones, Grym smashed the vial of holy water into the monster with a shout of triumph.
As the fiend rushed by, Sandor was shocked at the disregard the creature showed to him. For his insolence Sandor chopped at the fiend’s hip trying to remove it from the socket. The hit was solid but did little damage to the charging vampire.
Sandor shouted to Morkeleb, “Keep the one that’s down burning. When Odric’s done with his play toy, I will toss the one that’s down to the door. So it can be destroyed too.”
Odric continued dragging the unholy beast out the door towards the searing sunlight. He clenched his grip on the thing ever tighter, wincing slightly at the licking flames’ heat from the burning vampire at Sandor’s feet.
At this point, Gaius assessed the battlefield, the northernmost vampire was repeatedly being dragged towards the exit by Odric. The second northernmost had been felled and was burning to death under Morkeleb’s burning gaze. The third undead was unconscious, but healing rapidly from its wounds The Southernmost was totally fine, untouched thus far by the ferocious battle.
Gaius dropped his whip and took a step towards the door, whistling the whole while. He pulled Alchemist’s fire and leaned around the door frame with a bright smile. “Happy New Year!” he called to the southernmost vampire, catching him in the flames. Over his shoulder, Gaius called to the Inquisitor, “Ferox, our friend back there may rabbit…”
Ferox shifted to get a clearer shot on the southern-most vampire.
Ferox couldn’t help a slight quirk of his lips at Gaius’s exclamation. He recalled a New Year’s celebration he had crashed several years ago. He had fallen through the thatch roof over the residence of a cult of Kyuss worshipers. He landed smack in the middle of their dinner table, scattering the cultists and most of the feast that had been on the table, except for a large tureen of a sweet, jiggly dessert.
Shouting to the vampire, “Please don’t go!” Forox frowned, “You haven’t had any pudding!”
The Southern spawn screeched in unholy rage as he lunged forward while on fire and sporting a single deeply planted arrow. He lashed out with a slam attack at Gaius which the holy rogue dodged easily.
The northern Vampire tried to turn the tables on Odric by rushing him away from the door. He succeeded in moving a mere five feet, but gave Odric the opening he needed to attack him again. The warrior spun the spawn around, and started his inexorable push towards the door, living muscle straining against unholy power in a titanic struggle of life and death.
Behind him, Grym and Bucho continued to assault the remaining vampires to varying degrees of effect. Buch was unable to puncture the preternaturally hard skin, but Grym had success in trading blows with his opponent. Sandor whiffed an axe attack, and the vampire in Odric’s arms finally burst forth into the sunlight.
It begins smoldering and Odric threw the dying vampire to the ground and moves with alacrity to the remaining combatants while drawing his sword. As it fell, the burning vampire landed one final blow to Odric before immolation took it.
As the alchemist’s fire continued to burn, Gaius, quick as a flash, drew his rapier and tried to slide the steel into the back of the creature’s skull for sneak attack. He recognized that it would need to be a perfect strike to damage the creature, but one parting strike before he moved away was a good opportunity. Gaius then stepped away out of the creature’s reach for the moment.
Gaius burns the creature and manages to stab him just so, but the wound is minor and he’s already looking mad.
Sensing an easier target, the spawn turned towards Gaius, and took the priest on the chest. Gaius barely resisted the unholy drain of the vampire’s hit.
Grym grappled with the remaining vampire, repositioned it to match Odric’s feat of pushing it out the door. Buch, Sandor and now Odric aiding him were each jolted slightly as the vampire absorbed some additional damage from a well-placed magic missile from Morkeleb.
The spawn made an attempt to break free of the ranger’s grip and just managed to tear himself free. Backed into the doorway, he simply dropped to a fetal position. “Kill me not! I will be good. Only pigs and steer for meals!”
Odric shouted, too intent to hear Morkeleb’s plea to spare it and glean intelligence, “Die Fiend!” He swung his falchion down, shattering the creature’s defenses. The ranger paused and let the Stout land the powerful blow. As soon as the blade cleared, Grym shot in to tie up the spawn again and press him out into the sunlight.
Odric’s swing landed with tremendous force. The spawn dropped to the ground. The burning flesh not only didn’t stitch itself back together, the flame accelerated. After nearly a full minute of terror, combat was finally over.
The Apprentice and the Master each let out sighs of relief as the last vampire fell.
The party searched the toy store and found a Ring of Jumping and Pipes of Haunting, as well as a sum of money and some keys. Morkeleb held up the magical treasure and said, “This will give the wearer greater jumping ability. And this will frighten weak-minded creatures who hear its tune—if it’s played skillfully enough.”
Oric replied, “I took the last magic ring we found, and I already frighten weak-minded creatures. Whether it is my fearsome odor or my fearsome pectoral muscles that frightens them, you be the judge.”
Odric stepped forward into a low stance with one foot far forward of the other. He flexed his chest and arms to the point where a few links of his chain mail whizzed off into the corners of the room. While doing so, a horribly loud and juicy fart rumbled out from beneath his war kilt. The palpable intimidation wafts through the room slowly, lingering for far too long.
The group returned to the Field Marshal and gave Kroft a full report. She was disturbed, certainly, but also grateful for their assistance. She passed the information on to Banker Ishani. It had been a long day for everyone. She asked that they return in the morning. She suggested that until there was a solid lead for the group to follow, that they come in each morning, and she would give them the most promising lead of the day. While the guard can’t spare any additional pay, anything that comes from Abadar’s Bank would likely also come with a reward…
The Master penned, “thus endeth the 6th of Desnus.”