Finding the party had returned to the Dread Mire, Tam flew up over the swamp to survey the area. The creeping mist extended to every corner of Tila Estate, rising into an impassable white wall at the borders. Zombies, skeletons, and worse horrors roamed the grounds and graveyard. In the distance rose an unfamiliar white tower, from which emanated the faint and far-off sound of a woman singing.
Tam woke up Val and Alfo, and they discussed what to do next. Despite Redrick’s reservations about the “cursed” white tower, they decided to approach it anyway – especially since someone, possibly their missing party member Manny, was shooting firebolts from an open window in an effort to draw attention to the tower.
As they approached the tower, the group found themselves following in the footsteps of an undead horde, whose goal seemed bent on destroying the tower gates. Even worse, the mist grew denser, blocking their path. Up in the tower, Manny and his new friend Mitch Barlow –trapped in the same room – were unable to offer much help.
Val heard the faint sound of singing from the tower’s highest floors, and recognized the voice of his beloved cousin, Elya. He began to sing out to her, harmonizing with the familiar tune – and as he sang, the mists began to part before him.
The undead horde immediately turned and attacked. Val continued to advance towards the tower, never losing his voice, while at his side Alfo, Shadow and Redrick slayed the undead in their path. With a little help from Manny and Mitch, the undead horde was vanquished. And as the last notes of Val’s song faded away, the mist faded with them, leaving the way to the tower clear.
The door was trapped, but broken down enough to gain access. After dealing with a poison spine trap and warding glyph, the party headed upstairs. Mitch warned them (via speaking stone) that the next level of the tower contained the dangerous artefact that had cursed the Dread Mire’s Val, turning him into a vampire – “a crucifix of extraordinary power” that would threaten the Night Guard as well. But with no other way to reach Manny and Mitch, they continued to climb.
The stairs abruptly led to a heavy door, from behind which no sound came save a faint dripping. Inside the room hung a huge, bleeding cross – and atop it was fixed the Redwyne signet ring and a lock of pure white hair. The party skirted around this horrific artefact, narrowly avoiding descent into bloodlust and madness at the mere sight of it, and continued up to the third floor of the tower.
This door opened easily, and the Night Guard found themselves reunited at last, in the comfortable setting of Mitch Barlow’s alchemy lab. Mitch was just as surprised to see the Night Guard as they were to see him, but grateful as well. Val gave him the Amulet of Undead Servants, and – at last – Mitch was whole and well again.
Mitch provided some background on the current situation in the Dread Mire. The dark alternate version of Val, who Mitch refers to as “the Penitent,” was cursed with vampirism after stealing the crucifix the party saw in the previous room. In a fit of bloodlust, the Penitent killed his family, including Val’s brother Danial. Elya stood in his way, trying to stop him – and was slain as well. The news, though not unexpected, hurt Val deeply.
Mitch admitted that after that tragedy, he hid the cursed crucifix in his tower and raised Elya as a banshee. Her vigilance and the magical mist surrounding the tower were – until that day – enough to shield it from the Penitent’s attention. Mitch also confided that the Redrick currently with the Night Guard was different than the Redrick they knew in the waking world – this Redrick had taken a different Oath. Finally, Mitch explained that to leave the Dread Mire, the party would have to go through the door Tam had seen in his visions. The door, however, stood in the depths of the estate’s crypt, protected by a monstrous Gravehulk built out of Val’s own dead family.
Tam spent the duration of this discussion investigating the insects in the room. Manny, meanwhile, prayed to Oghma for guidance, and was swiftly answered – a book toppled from a shelf behind him, and fell open to a page with an unusual illustration. The page depicted four figures, clearly the Night Guard, and a huge dragon made out of stars.
Leaving the rest of the party to ponder this new information, Val climbed to the rooftop alone to speak with Elya. Her familiar face had been twisted into ghastly wreck by death and undeath, but her sweet voice had not changed, and she greeted Val with warmth and compassion. Val, shocked and appalled by the suffering inflicted upon his cousin, could hardly find words:
“Elya… I’m not the one who killed you. But I am the one who left you. And for that, I am sorry.”
Elya forgave Val – for what, neither of them could fully understand. She also told Val how happy she was for him: despite her piteous state, she was still overjoyed that Val achieved his dreams of being a hero and an adventurer. Elya offered to help the party leave the Dread Mire, and explained to Val that her only remaining wish was to be released from the dream – to go home, and be at peace.
Only one battle remained. Val returned to the party, fortified by his cousin’s comforting words, and together they proceeded to the family crypt. The grounds were infested with zombies and skeletons, which threatened the party at every turn. Worse yet was the Gravehulk, a shambling mass of stitched-together corpses infested by the spirits of Val’s slain family.
Faced down by this monstrosity, Val turned to his greatest strength – his words. With Tam at his side in the shape of the Redwyne’s family symbol, Val challenged his family to leave their spectral prison behind and join him in seeking the door to freedom from the nightmare that held them all. While the Gravehulk attacked Val over and over, his clear voice did not falter; he called out to his family members, forgiving them, offering apology, and inspiring them to break free. Redrick stood by Val and selflessly shielded him from the worst of the assault. Meanwhile, Alfo, Shadow and Manny raced around the battlefield, striking down the lesser undead and spirits with fire, claws, and weapons whenever they crawled back into the fight.
Despite being surrounded by fierce fighting, Val persuaded every one of his immediate family – his father, mother, brother Danial, and twin siblings Alessia and Alistair – to leave the Gravehulk. Weakened by the loss, the monstrosity* was finally thrown down and destroyed. The spirits of Val’s family converged on the crypt doors and opened them for the Night Guard, who gathered there, filled with anticipation.
They pushed the crypt doors open and prepared to walk into the darkness…
Best Line goes doubly to Val and Alfo:
(Val, astonished and shocked to hear from Mitch in the white tower)
Val: Wait. Mitch Barlow?! You’re fuckin’ dead!
(Alfo, who in a moment of madness was compelled to eat the ashes of a wraith he’d just killed, despite Redrick’s noble attempts to inspire Alfo to great deeds)
Little does he know what I’m about to do…
Best RP goes to Val, for his trust in Elya and his brave, kind words to his family.
? – The party wakes again in the Dread Mire.
? – The party quests for the white tower, in search of Manny.
? – Redrick, Alfo, and Shadow battle an undead horde, while Val sings the mists away.
? – The party climbs the tower, passing by a cursed crucifix.
? – The party is reunited with Manny and Mitch, who explains much of the current situation to them.
? – Manny prays for guidance and is answered with a cryptic image. Meanwhile, Val reconciles with his cousin Elya.
? –Elya’s aid is secured, and the party travels to the crypt.
? – The party vanquishes another undead horde and the monstrous Gravehulk. Val retrieves his family’s spirits.
? – They push the crypt doors open and prepare to walk into the darkness…
*Does not refer to the D&D taxon ‘monstrosity.’