After the mess from the assassin is cleaned up. The group decides to split up for a time.
Meanwhile, the three wizards and Athar decide to return to Raniel Manor so that the three wizards can study spells and advance their learning.
Each of the heroes finds a plain winter traveling cloak packed in their saddle bags, a gift from someone in the village it would seem. They all prove useful and warm during the next days of travel.
Victor and Porter make good time on the roads traveling through Bogsend’s countryside and towns to finally arrive at Griffin Manor. Upon arriving they discover that Sir Preston Griffin had died only the week before. Age and infirmity had gotten the better of him, it would seem.
They meet with Rogr Rivers, who is Sir Preston’s bastard son and who was recently elevated to Bailiff by Lady Clarissa Caudraight. They are joined shortly by Griswald the Sage, who was an old friend and servant to Sir Preston.
Porter uses his Paladin detect evil ability to determine that Rogr Rivers is evil and Griswald is not.
Porter and Victor tell the two about, the death of one of Sir Preston’s sons and the capture of the other. Based on the armor, Griswald believes that it is Sir Peter Griffin, Sir Preston’s older son and heir, who may still live.
Griswald seems to have some recollection of the name “The Shadow Lord” and invites the two back two his study to review a book he has. In the book there is a reference to a creature from the shadow world whom was captured in Caudraight and interrogated some 125 years ago. According to the text the captured creature revealed itself to be a servant of “The Shadow Lord.”
Griswald is apparently packing his things and leaving Griffin Manor. He reveals to Porter and Victor that he swore an oath to Sir Preston that he would do all in his power to find his missing sons and that he and the new Bailiff were not on the best of terms. Porter suggests that he travel to Caudraight and see if any new information could be garnered from there. Griswald agrees and says he will leave word with Haelyn’s Aegis in Caudraight as to where he will be staying. Victor and Porter agree to seek out the sage again to see what he had found out.
Again they enjoy good weather and arrive a day early. The two find lodgings in Caerlon. Victor seeks out his Uncle Amarante, who he knows to be attending the wedding. He finds him being lodged at a cottage, called the Loren Estate, nearby to Sangramour Manor where the wedding is being hosted.
Count Amarante is pleased to see his nephew and the two speak at length about the “Shadow Lord.” Amarante tells Victor that he has already passed the news onto Lady Regent Eluvie Carielle and thanks him for his good work. He also tells his nephew that he would give him a manor of his own whenever he is ready to settle down, and jokes a bit about finding him a wife. He mentions Clarissa Caugdraight as being perhaps the most eligible bachelorette in Coeranys.
Amarante also mentions that Colgrevance is overdue in reporting back to the Lady Regent.
Victor returns to find Porter the next morning and the two set out to attend the ceremony. Many guests gather at Sangramour Manor from across Mistil and Coeranys. Porter notes a banner that looks all too familiar from his childhood in Mhoried.
The two heroes notice a group of acolytes and knights from Haelyn’s Aegis and greet them. They are received well by their fellow Haelyites. One young paladin in the group introduces himself as Sir Aaron Sangramour. He knows of Victor and Porter by reputation and expresses his admiration for their willingness to fight the Crusade. He himself had wanted to go but had been denied for his youth at the time. The Haelynites share that Lord Captain Marcus was looking to meet the young Crusaders after the ceremony.
After the ceremony Victor and Porter meet with the Lord Captain in the small chapel located on the grounds of Sangramour. He welcomes them on behalf of Haelyn’s Aegis. And gives them a synopsis of the church’s current mission in Coeranys. Victor and Porter fill Marcus in on the undead threat coming out of The Forest of Mist. Marcus shares that Haelyn’s Aegis has limited resources in Coeranys and that they are primarily focused on watching the Chimaera, but that he wishes for them to continue pursuing and investigating the Shadow Lord and to keep him abreast of the situation. He is prepared to shift resources around if need be.
Marcus inquires into their past and asks about their vows and when they were taken. He also asks if the two know about the fate of Michael Taele, the Crusades sponsor. It seems Gavin Taele is breathing down the back of Haeyn’s Aegis and using the failed crusade as pretext to put pressure on the church for recompense.
The three men share prayers and then depart ways.
Victor and Porter return to the party and mingle as the party becomes more and more raucous. Victor learns that Lady Clarissa Caudraight is not attending the wedding personally. He overhears a bit of gossip that Count Kay Kilamark had proposed a marriage between the two of them, but that he was rebuffed. He also overhears that Clarissa Caudraight had proposed a match between herself and the young Baron Alun Coeran, but that she had been refused by the Lady Regent, who may or may not have called her an “old maid”. If there was any truth to this rumor and what that means for tensions between the Baronet, Count, and Lady Regent was not immediately apparent.
Later in the evening, Count Kay Kilamark corners Porter and introduces Lord Shaene Mhoried to Porter. Shaene is the twin brother to the Mhor. Victor immediately notices a strong resemblance between the two men. Shaene asks for Porter to walk with him and the two men discuss some issues at length. Porter returns to the party, but no words are exchanged on the issue between Victor and Porter.
Meanwhile, back at Raniel Manor the three wizards and Athar train vigorously to level up and learn new spells. They receive two visitors during their training. The first night Raphael Raniel, Victor’s father, drops by and they fill him in on their adventures to date. He dines with them and let’s them know he is at their service should they need him.
They resume their studies until the sixth night at which they receive a knock at the door. Athar answers the door and finds himself face to face by a khinasi wizard who introduces himself as Rassan Al Haman. Rassan asks to speak with Colgrevance, whom Athar informs him is not there. Rassan then asks to speak with one of Colgrevance’s apprentices. Athar sends a servant to fetch the wizards, and he comes back with Dorious.
Rassan gives Dorious a beautiful wooden box with intricate carving. “This is for Colgrevance”, he says. “Do not open it.” Rassan then turns to leave and shuts the door with as a spell as he does so.
Dorious attempts to contact Colgrevance with a spell, but to no avail. He decides not to open the package.
It is a few minutes later before the group begins to hear shouts from the courtyard. Athar, Dorious, and Thurenz look out to see two large red haired apes attacking four guards!
Thurenz quickly charms one of the beasts. Dorious fire a scorching ray at the second creature but misses. Athar dimension doors into the shadow behind the second. The fiendish apes tear into the guards, two of the unfortunate men are killed almost instantly.
Thurenz does his best to pantomime to his charmed ape. But the creature does not seem to understand him. It speaks back to him in infernal, but only Dorious with his magic hat is able to comprehend it’s language. “Stay back, friend, lest my claws hurt you,” it says to Thurenz. Zale, alerted by the screaming of the dying guards, looks out the tower window. Seeing the carnage below he summons a celestial hippogriff to attack the apes. It dives in from out of the sky and lands a blow on one of the apes. Athar pops up from out of the shadows and drives his blades into the apes back. The ape disappears in a howl of pain and turns to ash.
Another guard dies beneath the claws of the remaining ape, but the creature is then killed in turn by a vicious attack from Zale’s hippogriff. Athar looks to the last standing guard. “The wizard went that way.” He says, pointing through the archway leading into the adjacent courtyard of the manor’s apartments.
Athar runs through the archway and strait into a strange cloud of noxious vapors. He runs back out gagging and choking on the foul stuff. It seems the wizard left a stinking cloud to hinder any pursuit.
Thurenz casts fly and moves to the top of the wall. Zale’s hippogriff flys up to window and picks up the half elf wizard before flying with him to rally with Thurenz. Dorious casts a protective spell on himself while Athar tries to recover from the stinking cloud.
Thruenz flies into the courtyard and lands on a second story landing above the cloud. Dorious bravely charges across the courtyard and manages to resist it’s effects. Zale and his hippogriff fly down to the landing and begin hammering on the door to the Lord’s apartments.
Thurenz moves over to assist Zale and Dorious, he polymorphs himself into a girallion, a four armed ape like beast and begins hammering on the door. The hippogriff’s summoning wears off and it disappears back to shadow stuff. Zale then cast gaseous form, turning himself into a smoke-like vapor and slipping under the door. Athar by now has regained his senses, he uses his second dimension door ability to avoid the stinking cloud and meet up with the others. Dorious casts haste on his allies.
Zale, once inside, turns back to his material form and opens the door from the other side.
Once inside the heroes are welcomed by a scene of carnage. Four more guards lay dead in the hall and the heroes hear something coming from the hall two the right. Two more fiendish apes round the corner. Hasted, Thruenz charges one of the beasts and tears into it with a whirlwind of teeth and claws. With the help of the others and with Athar’s blades they kill the two creatures and move down the hall.
They discover more dead guards and in Raphael’s apartment they find that Rassan Al Haman is waiting for them. Another fiendish red ape stands behind him near the fiery hearth holding Raphael Raniel captive. “It seems that you are not completely inept then, I trust you will be capable of delivering the message?” He chides the heroes.
Athar does not hesitate to charge the wizard, but he runs smack into a wall of force in the doorway. Thurenz casts another defensive spell on himself, preparing for a fight and Zale summons his earth elemental. The earth elemental steps from behind the stone hearth and attempts to deliver two hammer blows on the wizard, but both blows fail to ring home due to Rassan’s magical protections.
Rassan, with an intrigued look on his face, turns his attention to the elemental, and with a few gestures and incantations he dismisses the elemental back to whence it came. The fires of the hearth roar up and the ape steps through the flames with Sir Raphael as his prisoner. Rassan looks back at Dorious and the rest of the heroes. “Deliver the message.” He tells the group before stepping through into the flames and disappearing with his servant and his prisoner.