"When dealing with the undead, best to do it quickly. You never want to leave an enemy behind you. " - Cora
Previously in our story...
After we had rested for a few moments, we continued out into the main room to check the remaining door near the entrance. This opened up into yet another guest bedroom which was in complete disarray. The furniture was in shambles, and there were piles of bat guano covering the floors. Seeing this, I immediately looked up and pointed out the two giant bats that hung sleeping form the ceiling.
I motioned for the rest of the party to remain there at the door, and I quietly picked my way through the room without disturbing the bats. I moved slowly and silently across the room where I see that there are a number of skeletons and bodies strewn around. I looked at the mess for a few moments and then used a quick spell to turn the bodies to dust, preventing any chance of them getting back up again. Still keeping a wary eye on the giant bats, I continued to search, and after another few moments, I realized that there was no way to avoid getting into the mess. I put on a pair of the heavy tapestry gloves that Shalev had crafted during our past adventures, and proceeded to dig through the piles and rubble.
My silent rummaging was not in vain, as I discovered a trio of delicate bracelets made of woven silver which looked like they were of elven craft. I delicately removed myself from the room after another search, and with a good deal of regret threw the ruined gloves away. I thoroughly cleaned the bracelets before putting them in my belt pouch, and vowed to take a bath as soon as I was able to do so. I regretted the loss of the tapestry gloves, as they served as both a protection and a reminder of all of the ingenuity that Shalev had shown with developing ways to avoid traps and dangers. I made a mental note to see if I could craft a new pair of safety gloves when we made it back to town, and then I rejoined the party at the door.
We continued our explorations down the hall to another three bedrooms which were all undisturbed and heavy with dust. A quick check of these rooms revealed nothing except windows that had been heavily coated in soot. More investigation lead us down the hallway and to the left over into the kitchen and larder areas. All of the food here had long since mouldered to dust and rot with age, and there was nothing salvageable among the detritus. We noticed a set of stairs over in the northeastern corner of the room, and I recommended that we complete our exploration of this floor first before descending below. There was a brief discussion on the matter, but it was agreed that they did not want to potentially leave an enemy to come up behind us, so we made our way back out to the hallway.
Within a small closet we discovered a blue robe with silver lightning bolts embroidered on it hidden in a pile of rotting clothes. KelLyn said that the robe had some sort of protection from magic spell on it, and Osman claimed it, folded it carefully and put it in his pack. The doors to the right of were we stood opened up to reveal that a great wall of rock blocked any way of moving forward. Scott tried to pull the rocks loose, but all he managed to do was cause the rock slide to tumble further into the room. We all took a hasty step back out into the hallway, and watched in dismay as the rocks shifted and slid across to block the entrance of that room entirely.
Osman was insistent on exploring behind the rock slide, however, so we made our way back around to the kitchen and over to the grand dining room to try to find another way to the room behind the rocks. We noticed, upon entering the dining room that the ogres - Ghasts, as Tobias called them - were gnawing on something that appeared rather fresh. We cautiously decided to leave them to whatever their meal was, and carefully picked our way over to the opposite doors. As we approached, however, the ghasts stopped their meal to tell us that we were not allowed to go that way.
We eyed them warily, but they only stood in our way and did not attack. I found myself holding back a shudder of revulsion at the unnatural undead things, and found myself distinctly uncomfortable with the idea of leaving them alone. I kept what Jaeger had told the party in mind, however, and was more wary, perhaps, of the disastrous effect of breaking magical agreements. Shaking my head, I was one of the first ones out of the room, and we all made our way across to the kitchen again where we had seen the stairs leading down below to a small cellar. The room was small, boasting only a simple table and chairs in the center. On the table sat a cut crystal decanter, half full of a red liquid, and two crystal glasses. I picked the decanter up, and noticed that the liquid sloshed viscously inside, thicker than wine, and I began to get an uneasy feeling about what might be lurking down here in the dark.
I put the decanter quickly back down on the table, only to see Jaeger pick it up to examine it. He looked at it a moment and then handed it over to Scott, who pulled the stopper to sniff curiously at the thick liquid inside. He blinked and said that it was blood, and I felt the sense of unease solidify like a stone in my stomach. I spoke up to the party then, and told them to remember when we had faced vampires before. I looked around the room carefully, noting to the party that there was no dust here, and that it looked like it had recently been cleaned. I pointed out two doorways that lead to additional rooms which were filled with shelves of wine.
I took a few moments to examine the wine rooms, and pointed out that a few of the bottles were worth keeping. In the northern room, I noticed small footprints on the floor which meandered through the cheaper wines before disappearing into the far wall. I followed the footprints curiously, and when I came to the wall, I found a lever hidden in the wine bottles which opened up into a small walkway. It was dark enough here that even Tobias could not see beyond. Lan spoke up then and reminded me that she could see in true darkness, as there was no light in the depths of the ocean, and she took a look inside, telling us that she saw a shadowed figure hanging in the air. I lit a torch and tossed it into the room, but it hit a wall of something that extinguished it.
Not knowing of anything else that could cause such a thing, I immediately warned the party that I suspected a gelatin cube and started to back up quickly. Osman fired an arrow towards the unseen wall, but it clattered to the floor harmlessly. I asked KelLyn to create some light, and she was able to illuminate the room. We saw no gelatinous cube lying in wait, thankfully, but we did see the body which was hanging from the ceiling by wires, suspended and dripping slowly into a pentagon shaped pool full of blood.
We cautiously made our way into the room, and Osman began to empty some of the cheap wine bottles for some reason. There was nothing else of note in the room, and Jaeger said that he could see no magic. I spoke up saying that we could not just leave whoever that was hanging there like that, and the rest of the party agreed that we should take him down. Jaeger tried to use magic to unhook the body of the man, but the spell was not strong enough, and the naked corpse fell into the pool splashing blood all over Scott. Scott cursed at the party, but pointed out the door in the southern wall as he tried to clean himself off.
Scott asked for the torch then, and shone it into the hallway where he saw a number of enormous rats seething towards us in a wave. One lunged at Scott, but he fell backward with a shout of surprise, and was able to avoid being bitten. We counted six rats, and two of them broke off and headed towards me. Lan immediately began trying to cast a spell that would tame one of the vermin attacking me, and Scott reached out to grab at two more in an attempt to smash them into the floor. KelLyn grabbed one of the rodents and attempted to cast a spell to drain it.
Not having the time to draw a weapon, I dodged the attacks of the rats around me and worked at gaining better ground so that I could defend myself properly. KelLyn drained one of the rats, snapping off one of it's teeth in the process, and the rat fell to the ground, stunned but still breathing. Osman took quick aim, shooting two of the rats, and I reminded myself to continue to work with him on archery skills once we eventually got out of this place.
Scott used his strength to bodily pick up the two rats that were attacking him, wrestling them to keep their teeth and filthy claws away from him. Jaeger muttered something and waved his hands in a gesture that caused one of the rats to be smashed into the ceiling with a gust of air. He then began trying to copy KelLyn's spell to drain one of the remaining rodents entangled with Scott. The one that KelLyn had drained earlier had crawled over to bite at my leg ineffectually, and while it was occupied, Lan hit it over the head with a stick that she had picked up.
Scott continued to brawl with the two giant rats he held, even as KelLyn and Jaeger were attempting to drain them, and he smashed the vermin into the wall to stun them long enough for KelLyn's spell to kill one of them outright. Osman continued to shoot arrows at one of the rats, and it took an additional three hits before it died. I finally was able to draw my sword, and quickly killed two of the remaining rats, even as Scott held the last one up, preparing to smash it into the wall again.
Osman shot an arrow at the rat's head, and Jaeger redoubled his efforts to drain the creature further. Lan noticed then that two vampires had emerged from hidden doors on either side of the room, and she managed to shout "Vampires!" to the rest of the party before they cast a spell to charm us all. Osman and Scott were both instantly captivated. Not noticing that the majority of the party was unaffected by their spell, the vampires calmly told the party that we shouldn't be down here, and that we should kill each other.
Osman turned to draw on KelLyn, and Jaeger reached out to touch the hilt of his sword. The two vampires were dressed like royalty, and they strode into the room calmly to observe the effects of their commands. The female vampire walked over to where I stood, and thinking me charmed, leaned in to bite me just as the male vampire approached Lan to do the same. I flicked my eyes at Lan to see her moving her hands subtly in preparation for a spell.
Scott threw the dead rat that he was holding toward Osman in a fury, thinking that Osman's shot to the rat was meant for him, and he charged at Osman with a yell. I saw KelLyn cast a spell which caused the air to crackle with electricity, and I ducked out of the way of the female vampire's bite to strike at the male vampire with my sword. The sword began to glow blue as I ran through the arcing effect of KelLyn's spell, and my strike to the male vampire hit with all of the electrified force of a lightning bolt just as the spell completed in a glorious cracke of blue lightning, striking the female vampire in the face.
Both of the vampires looked stunned, but recovered quickly, backing out of range as we felt the Protection from Evil spell that Jaeger wove complete. The dead rat that Scott had thrown at Osman missed hitting him, but the two were still fighting with one another under the influence of the charm spell. I looked over to see Jaeger drag his sword out of the sheath, and point it at the female vampire, in the middle of casting another spell. The male vampire turned toward me and glared at me, his eyes glowing red as he attempted to pull me under his influence. He told me that my sword belonged in the heart of the mage, but did not specify which mage to attack.
The female vampire changed then into a large wolf and snarled "Come at me!" to the Jaeger. KelLyn looked calmly at her and cast another spell towards her to try to turn her to stone. The wolf turned, avoiding the spell, and opened a third concealed door to flee into the room as Jaeger ran after her. Lan turned into her seal form and wiggled her way over to the male vampire in an attempt to bite him. He looked over at her, and I replied to his comment by looking at him and stating "no, I think it belongs in yours." before stabbing him. The strike hit home, but did not bring the vampire down, and he tried once again to capture my will. This time, he was successful, restating in obvious annoyance and through gritted teeth that I was to kill the mage; and I was forced to move toward KelLyn to attack her.
Scott and Osman were still fighting, and I saw Osman squirm free of Scott's grasp to fire an arrow point-blank at his head. The shot missed, and the two kept trying to wrestle each other to the ground. I stalked toward KelLyn as slowly as I could, fighting the effects of the dominate spell with every step, and KelLyn stood stone still with a look of growing fury on her face. She raised her arms then, and I heard the sound of stone cracking as the rock carved coffin from the other room smashed through the door to hit the male vampire in the head. It shattered against the opposite wall, but the distraction was enough to break the vampire's hold over me, and I dodged out of the way as KelLyn continued to cast. The male vampire looked absolutely furious at the destruction of the coffin, and even moreso when Jaeger completed his spell to fling the female vampire up through the ceiling into the room above.
We heard screaming then, from up above us, and the sounds of fighting break out, but could not break away from the fight with the male to investigate further. Osman, having finally broke free of Scott's grappling attacks, began to cast a spell just as I saw Lan began to weave her hands in a similar pattern. I realized that the two of them were working separately to summon a fairy, but had no time to ponder the ramifications of such an act as the male vampire tried once again to reassert his will over me, snarling at me to kill them all.
A much older vampire came through the door at that point, with an irritated look on his face, as he asked the younger vampire if this had still not been finished yet. The arrival of his sire caused the younger vampire to blink, and I was able to throw off his hold on me and turn towards them both. I threw a wooden stake at each one, though my shots flew just shy of the mark.
It was enough to distract them both from seeing that KelLyn had begun to power a circle, and then another, and then a third. Scott closed again with Osman, and tackled him bodily into the pentagram shaped pool of blood on the floor, just as Osman was trying to complete his spell. Apparently being tossed bodily into a pool of blood while casting a spell is bad for one's fortitude, as Osman emerged, covered in gore, only to begin vomiting violently. This was enough to make Scott recoil in revulsion, and he backed away quickly to turn and face me instead.
Lan's spell did complete, and a diminutive fae creature appeared before her beginning to rant with palpable passion about how they had had enough. Lan managed to calm the shining creature down enough to tell her that their fairy circle had a vampire problem, and the two of them began discussing quickly what to do. A moment later, the room filled with cats, just as KelLyn completed her third circle. The air sparked and cracked as KelLyn shouted out "Undo!" with a crashing ring of power, and the older vampire dissolved into an explosion of dust. The younger vampire, looking horrified at the violent destruction of his sire, fled into one of the secondary rooms with a second stone coffin and a staircase that led upwards toward the severely damaged ceiling. We could still hear screams and fighting from up above us, and Lan tried to pacify the fleeing vampire but failed. Not wanting to risk his escape, I ran over, sword drawn, to take his head off. My strike was solid, but I was not able to decapitate the vampire completely, though Jaeger used a gout of air to throw the undead thing up through the hole where the female vampire had smashed through the ceiling. There was a renewed sound of screaming and fighting but then after a moment, all was silent. Jaeger looked at the party and cast a spell that broke the vampire's charm spell over those affected.
Osman still lay on the ground violently retching up what appeared to be half formed goat fetuses, and Scott still glared at him angrily. We helped Osman to his feet, and then set about going through the secondary rooms to destroy coffins and resting places. The destruction that had been caused by Jaeger's air spells, and KelLyn's spells had destroyed anything useful that might have been in the room, so we made our way slowly back up the stairs.
When we reached the main area, we saw the two ghasts standing there among two piles of ash and the remains of the group of mercenaries that Taryn had traveled with. The ghasts looked at us in confusion before saying that they didn't need to be here anymore, and Jaeger promptly banished them. The party made our way slowly back over to the cart outside where KelLyn immediately cracked open one of her kegs of beer to get drunk. Tobias and Taryn came over to the party, Tobias with concern on his face. I gently waved his attentions away as I took a seat near the fire pit, and told him of all that had happened underneath the academy. He would not let me rest until I had assured him shortly that I was unharmed, so I turned his attention towards Scott and Osman, both of whom were still glaring at one another, telling him that he should worry more about them.
Osman was still violently ill, and while we were all exhausted, we didn't feel safe to camp here for the evening. We couldn't go anywhere with Osman so incapacitated, however, so we stayed where we were and rested. Osman's sickness lasted until sunset, and he and Scott continued to argue heatedly until I had Tobias forcefully separate them both to opposite sides of the camp until they could cool off enough to be civil to one another.
A few moments after that we noticed Jaeger, who had followed more slowly behind the rest of us, finally strolling back into camp. Jaeger and Scott said something, and Scott said shortly that there was still a ghoul out there somewhere. Not having the energy to do anything else at the moment, I used a basic spell to clear out the campsite, where we set up watches and I made a simple meal of fish and vegetables.
Admittedly, that could have gone much worse than it did, and I am thankful that we have all emerged relatively unscathed. The academy has been cleared and the undead within it removed and destroyed. This makes me feel some better on a fundamental level, although this whole area still seems dangerously out of balance.
There has been no sign whatsoever of the dragon, and I am curious about this. As with so many things in this place, nothing is quite what it seems here. There are pieces of the story that I have not yet figured out, and I am afraid that I will not be able to do so until it's too late.
We still have the two chapels and the rest of this alley way to explore before we move on, but I don't know if we will find anything of use.