The Night Guard paused at the entrance to the crypt, unsure of their next steps. While Val was convinced that he needed to redeem the Penitent and lead him out of the Shadow realm, other party members vacillated on whether to prioritize destroying the Penitent’s coffin, destroying the cursed cross, or just leaving the Dread Mire as quickly as possible.
Val and Shadow’s stealthy investigation revealed little within the crypt. Alfo, meanwhile, was haunted by the whispers of the dead, and compelled to cover his ears. While the group prepared to explore the crypt, skeletal figures emerged from the dusty tombs and advanced. One skeleton tried to shut the crypt door – and Alfo, recognizing it as his long-dead family member Plesuntwile Songstream, couldn’t bring himself to attack. Instead, he darted past to help secure the doors.
The party rushed into the crypt to battle the skeletons. After a brief struggle, the undead were destroyed, and cautious investigation of the crypt resumed. Manny noticed an ornate coffin standing at the very end of the hallway. There could be no doubt – this was the resting place of the Penitent.
Side tunnels in the crypt revealed many rooms filled with coffins, including places marked for Tam, Val’s parents, and Elya. Val found Elya herself hovering over her grave, and encouraged her to come with him to seek out the Penitent. Their final confrontation could not be far off: in the next room down the crypt hallway, faint piano music could be heard.
Meanwhile, in the main crypt chamber, Manny observed an extensive mural covering the walls and ceiling. Side panels of the mural showed mysterious scenes similar to Tam’s visions of Shadow and other realms. The central image depicted the mountain over Emberhearth, with four small figures – identifiable as the Night Guard – trekking upwards. Over the mountaintop, descending from the heavens, was an enormous dragon, dark as the night sky and glittering with stars.
Shaken by this mysterious image and the events of the preceding hours, Manny quietly discussed his findings with the Night Guard and decided to consult Oghma regarding the party’s next course of action. At Val’s behest, Manny asked his god whether taking the Penitent through the Shadow gate and out of the Dread Mire would redeem the vampire. The answer was simple but devastating: No.
The party needed to find another answer – and quickly, because the familiar chords of the Penitent’s piano could still be heard from the remaining unexplored side tunnel. But before Val could call the party together to discuss a secondary plan, Redrick finally succumbed to his guilt. Rushing into the room before anyone in the party could stop him, Redrick cried out that he sought redemption, and to atone for his mistakes.
“It’s my fault! I was supposed to be the one guarding the crypt! I’m the only one that can fix this!”
Val sprinted after Redrick, catching up just in time to see the Penitent, smote down by Redrick’s sword, struggling to free himself from the ruins of the broken piano. Desperate to stop the bloodshed and redeem the Penitent if possible, Val tried to calm Redrick, but the paladin was resolute in his purpose. Near panic, Val snatched up the Penitent’s blade, and immediately its subtle song harmonized with the music of Windsinger.
The Penitent, reeling from Redrick’s attack, dissolved into mist and fled into the hallway, but was stopped by the rest of the Night Guard. Manny, adhering to Val’s original plan, magically restrained Redrick while Val prepared to stake the vampire through the heart. But when Val flung open the Penitent’s coffin, he looked through it to find a gate – the very Shadow gate the party sought – just within. Redrick broke free of the enchantment and again begged the party to let him fulfill his purpose.
“You don’t understand – if I don’t slay him, the curse won’t break!”
Tam created a rainstorm to bring the Penitent to the ground, and despite Val’s pleas, Redrick slew the vampire with one staggering blow. As the body disintegrated into ash, Redrick collapsed – at last, free of his cursed vow to serve the Penitent in life and death. Finally at peace, Redrick faded and disappeared.
Val cast his stake away, frustrated and angry, but Elya explained to him that no matter how events had transpired, it was for the better: the curse was over now. Elya, like Redrick, was finally free. Elya thanked Val, and with a parting kiss on the cheek, she too disappeared.
After gleaning what useful items and information they could, the party prepared to step through the Shadow gate, eager to depart the realm of dread and despair. One by one, they stepped through the door, and back into Mythweald. Last to leave was Val, who looked back to see his own memories through the door: a scene from his youth, spending a precious last moment with Elya before leaving for bard college. As Elya waved goodbye, Val stepped through the Shadow gate, and left the memory behind him.
With that, the Tila Estate’s connection to the Shadow was permanently closed. The party awoke, confused but surprisingly well rested, in their quarters. After discussing the situation over breakfast, they resolved to spend the day recuperating from their adventure and researching the strange phenomena they experienced in the Dread Mire.
Alfo headed to the Temple of Ulaa to seek counsel and healing. The kindly priest there cured Alfo’s temporary madness, but expressed concern about the deeper causes of his condition. Despite claims that he could handle the paranoia, Alfo could not reassure the priest.
“The longer my adventure continues, the more the dead haunt me.”
Meanwhile, Manny and Val explored the Redwyne family crypt, and found it clean and surprisingly bereft of corpses and disarray. The crypt was also empty of the items the party took while in the Shadow realm – most notably the Penitent’s sword, which Val promptly named Duskchanter. Manny noted that the mural had changed – now one of the side panels, previously a dark, empty swamp, featured an image of Redrick striking the fatal blow upon the Penitent. Curiously, the style of the mural identified it as Tam’s handiwork.
Tam, meanwhile, spent the day in the estate library. Haunted by the image of the starry dragon, he sought out books of dragonlore, but couldn’t find any reference to the creature. After falling asleep on the book, he experienced another prophetic dream: images of the Dread Mire and the slain Penitent faded away as the Shadow gate closed, and were replaced by images of a frozen woodland, Alfo’s journal, and an icy, Alfo-like figure, clad in furs and wearing Shadow the wolf’s skin as a grisly trophy.
Upon reuniting after their day of rest, the Night Guard shares their discoveries and thoughts. Manny has an epiphany and realizes the Sending Stone that the party left with Mitch Barlow in the Dread Mire might allow them to contact him! Through the clear connection, Mitch, pleased to hear from the party, explained to them that he was the new caretaker of the Dread Mire. Mitch swore to upkeep and protect that realm as the Night Guard’s new planar ally.
The Night Guard unanimously decided that, since several of their pressing goals intersected in Sindaleth, they would travel to the elven city next. Before leaving, though, they took time to stock up on supplies and put their local affairs into order. Val invested his recent tax profits into his community and the improvement of his fortress. Manny consulted with Wysafiel about the party’s activities in the Dread Mire, and spent his spare time trying to fashion a Sending Stone. Alfo, meanwhile, traded his only flawless diamond for a very rare potion – one that could transform a single creature into its Shadowfell equivalent.
Alfo calmed Shadow and explained to her what was about to happen, that it was for the best, and that she would be okay, no matter what happened. Then, without hesitation, he administered the potion. Immediately the beloved wolf melted into a pool of dark shadow. Ethereal mist rose from the pool, re-forming into a large, menacing form. Shadow of the Trees was gone. In her place stood Shadow the Final Destroyer, a monstrous wolf covered in the weeping eyes of the slain. Now capable of speaking telepathically, Shadow reassured the party that while their interactions would be different now, they still held making the Night Guard strong as their first priority.
Filled with anticipation, the Night Guard set off towards Sindaleth…
Best Line goes to Alfo, who confidently sang “I can do anything!” then immediately suffered acute insanity.
Best RP goes to Val.
? – The party enters the crypt, battles skeletons, and explores the tombs.
? – The Penitent is destroyed by Redrick.
? – The Night Guard leaves the Dread Mire.
10:00 – The party awaken back in Mythweald.
11:00 – Alfo visits the temple, Tam visits the library, and Val and Manny explore the crypt.
18:00 – The party calls Mitch.
All day – The party prepares for travel to Sindaleth. Shadow of the Trees becomes Shadow the Final Destroyer.
Filled with anticipation, the Night Guard sets off towards Sindaleth…