Upon waking, surrounded by a deathly, unfamiliar version of Val’s estate, Tam investigated the grounds and discovered Redrick – an older, more battle-worn Redrick – fighting some zombies and skeletons in the swamp. Tam lent his aid and together they quickly squashed the undead.
Meanwhile, within the mansion, Alfo and Val woke up to hear piano music echoing from downstairs. They snuck down to the common room and found a mysterious figure seated there. Alfo, forgoing subtlety, demanded identification. The figure leapt up and revealed himself to be an alternate version of Val – instead of the charming bard the Night Guard knew so well, this figure was a cold, compassionless vampire. Val cast Daylight to drive the vampire back, but he was too powerful to be contained. Despite the combined efforts of Val, Alfo, Tam and Redrick (who had rushed to the mansion at the sounds of battle), the vampire overpowered them, and one by one, threw down the heroes and drained their blood.
In shock, the Night Guard awoke – back in their own quarters, in sunny Tila Estate. Dazed and still tired, Val was greeted by Redrick, who wished to talk about the new hires and resume the previous day’s organizational work. Val reluctantly agreed and, with the rest of the still-disquieted party, decided to go confer with Val’s new information network.
Aunt Taryn, the Thieves’ guild agent, had no information that could help the Night Guard understand their strange experience. However, the Noble informant Adder Goldcrest told the party of the Tila Estate’s tragic history: long ago, a sorceress in the family transformed her husband into a vampire, who went mad and killed the whole household. The vampire was slain by none other than Dagug Goldseeker.
This tale was confirmed by the third informant, Wysafiel, an ex-Seeker spy and Val’s new conduit of magic-related news from across all of Mythweald. Wysafiel performed an augury to demonstrate to the Night Guard that they had, at some point during their recent adventures, traveled to an alternate timeline. In the Mythweald they currently occupied*, the orcish siege on Sindaleth never happened, Val’s debts were paid, and the Night Guard of this realm was very different than the party knew themselves to be. Even Mitch’s amulet had changed – it no longer contained Mitch! And strangest of all, Wysafiel claimed that she had never heard of Syl… as though he didn’t even exist.
Wysafiel identified the party’s nightmare experience as taking place in the Dread Mire, and described that realm as a “specific aspect of the Shadow; a realm manifesting someone’s worst fears.” She also pointed out that if the party could go back through their records of their Underdark adventures, they might be able to determine the exact point in their travels that they left their original timeline**.
With a final cryptic warning to avoid extended exposure to Shadow realms – “the longer you stay there, the harder it is to resist” – Wysafiel left the party to their own devices. Alfo immediately suggested a plan of psychological resistance. If the Night Guard dedicated the rest of their day to happiness, rest, calm, and celebration, he surmised, they would be much less likely to be transported to a realm of dread and despair in their dreams.
The Night Guard enthusiastically adopted this plan, and Val gathered his new staff to launch a wonderful party. Everyone in the estate attended. Val made an inspiring speech to cheer up his new household. Alfo enjoyed the drinks, shenanigans, and the company of his new friend Grud Smasher Jr. Even Tam spent some time socializing. Finally, as the successful celebration began to wind down, the exhausted Night Guard settled in to rest.
They woke to the creeping mist, overpowering stench of death, and familiar piano music that immediately made one thing clear: the Night Guard had returned to the Dread Mire…
Best Line goes doubly to Alfo:
(Attempting to deliver a devastating hex on the vampire Val:)
Alfo: Your hair.. is oily… and flaxen!
(Later, immediately before perpetrating shenanigans)
Alfo: Attention… I just want to inform everyone there will be no shenanigans.
Best RP goes to Alfo, whose efforts to prevent returning to the nightmare realm by instituting a happiness day were greatly appreciated, even if ineffective.
? – The party wakes in an unfamiliar, dreadful alternate reality.
? – The party is brutally slaughtered by a vampire version of Val.
[Long Rest… or not.]
10:00 – The party wakes up, disoriented, in their ordinary quarters.
11:30 – The party questions Val’s information network for news, and for clues about what happened to them during the night.
14:00 – Party preparations begin.
18:00 – Partying ensues. Fun, camaraderie, and plenty of good music!
21:00 – The celebration winds down, and the Night Guard go to sleep, confident in their work.
? – They wake to the creeping mist, overpowering stench of death, and familiar piano music that immediately makes one thing clear: the Night Guard has returned to the Dread Mire…
*Henceforth “Timeline B.”
**Henceforth “Timeline A.”