In fields of dawn, where sun first kissed the dew,
Rose Ostara, the general fierce and true.
Her eyes, twin stars, reflected heavens' might,
Her blade, a comet, cleaving through the night.
A demon scourge, from skies of cosmic blight,
Descended, cloaked in shadow, endless night.
With clash of steel and thunder's choral boom,
They met in fight, beneath a shattered moon.
Wounds etched like constellations on her skin,
Ostara fell, the demon's essence in.
She vanished then, consumed by starlight's curse,
A whispered legend, lost in time's vast verse.
Five centuries of embers turned to flame,
Her crusaders' blood, consumed by twisted aim.
A cult rekindled, shadows dance and leer,
Whispering her name, sacrificing those dear.
Innocents snatched, dead brought back to their feet,
To keep her powers, through her continued sleep.
But fate's cruel hand, a twist it does command,
An Avatar, thrusts heroes to the sand.
With grit and doubt, they face the rising dawn,
Where memory and monster intertwine in one.
Can hearts unchained defy the dark's decree?
Can Ostara's legacy rise, reborn and free?
As the company, comprised of Varjo, Taela, Tron, and Svetle, bade farewell to their fellow survivors of the Gildenloewe Manor—Thunder, Guy, and Theodoric—setting off on their own mission for Wicks and the Avatar, a pair of new comrades joined their quest. Anastasia D Aster, an elderly Human Echo Knight, and Wisti Roselia, a young Treefolk Divination Wizard, were introduced into their fold.
Armed with a communication device from Wicks for both internal reporting and external correspondence, they departed for Berganberg. En route, while resting on the outskirts of the city, Taela discerned a group of humanoid figures lurking in the shadows. Anastasia, bold and unflinching, attempted to draw their attention.
Slowly, the figures closed in on the encampment, only to reveal themselves as mindless thralls—pale, irisless-eyed creatures—who launched an assault on Anastasia. The ensuing skirmish resulted in their annihilation, but tragically, Rein, the elderly wagoneer, was found lifeless on his stool, a heart attack claiming him after the fight.
Examining the bodies, Taela detected traces of necromantic magic. Varjo, under Taela's guidance, extracted tiny cylindrical objects from the thralls' brain stems. Another attempt to probe revealed the contents— Blue Resin-filled, yet unrelated to the Avatar's craft, as confirmed by Wicks.
Pressing onward into the city, they contacted Elisa Horn, the guard captain, uncovering the grim reality of escalating kidnappings over the last three months. A board adorned with missing persons' notices—28 in total, exclusively Human or Safyrian, aged 18 to 23—outlined the severity of the situation.
Despite Tron's scrying efforts in the Outer City, their search for similar cylindrical objects to the ones they found on the thralls bore no fruit. Elisa detailed Duke Conrad's pressing demand for answers regarding the recent disappearance of his son, Baldewin, last seen carousing with friends at the Vulgar Peacock in the Outer City.
The party, after a cursory investigation, sought shelter at a nearby inn run by the Safyrian proprietress Elsie. She agreed to facilitate their meeting with Udo, the adjacent Vulgar Peacock's tavern keeper, the following morning.
Udo divulged encounters with a peculiar pair of elves offering suspiciously lucrative delivery jobs to regular patrons. In the trade district, they encountered Steube, an orange-clad Salimar merchant selling refined Resin, who revealed sluggish business in Berganberg compared to Sternendorf, oddly enough for such a small town.
Anastasia's attempt to lure kidnappers to her led to a chase involving cloaked figures conversing with a beggar. Pursuing them, Anastasia and Tron located their target blocks away.
Though Varjo attempted interception, Anastasia managed to close in, only to be thwarted as the hooded figures unsheathed their swords. In a hard-won battle, the party emerged victorious, capturing two assailants, one named Orbryn, and uncovering a note linking them to Dawson, mentioning an urgent trade district rendezvous in two days.
The group extracted Dawson's address from a captive, facilitated by Varjo's healing potion. Prisoners and corpses were surrendered to Elisa, revealing Dawson's shady reputation and prompting a request to inspect outbound shipments for potential captives.
Upon suspicions of corruption within Elisa's ranks, Evert, a guard with dubious financial behavior, became a focal point for the party's inquiry. Interrogating him confirmed his complicity in facilitating shackled people's passage through the gates.
Following a night's rest, the party initiated an audacious infiltration of Dawson's opulent mansion. Anastasia, posing as Orbryn to lead the rest of the party in as new kidnap victimes, managed to enter. A demand for enchanted collars on these "kidnap victims" from Dawson led to a refusal to comply, ensuing in a violent confrontation where Dawson's bodyguard Agatha and her thugs were vanquished.
Meanwhile, Varjo, who had complied earlier and led through an enchanted door to another location, faced a hooded fey woman in an enigmatic basement, succumbing to her otherworldly assault and sustaining grave internal injuries as she tried to break out and rejoin her colleagues.
Cornering Dawson, the party extracted information on Varjo and Baldewin's location—Durin's Hall. In an act of retaliation, they set Dawson's estate ablaze, later prompting Elisa's revelation of Durin's Hall's whereabouts as she took Dawson into custody from the party.
At Durin's Hall, a calculated chaos to scatter innocent bystanders with fire enabled the rescue of Varjo and the other captives. In the ensuing turmoil, the party came face to face with the cult's local cell leader, Elias, causing further property damage and while evading his pursuit.
Returning Baldewin to Elisa earned them a reward of 300 gold sovereigns. Seeking aid for Varjo's injuries, they ventured to the Temple of Varthen, known for unorthodox treatments and possible ties to Dawson's underworld. Payment for Varjo's surgery came at a steep cost, prompting a daring heist of the head priest's vaults to reclaim their funds.
Their exploits brought them face to face again with Elias, who led a cultist group. Following a strenuous battle, they discovered crucial information in Elias' possessions—a notebook, keys to cult safe houses, and instructions from someone named Qildor concerning deliveries between Berganberg, Totenschloss, and Sternendorf, tying into Theodoric's investigation.
The aftermath of the intense battle left the party covered in dust and debris as they stood amidst the remains of the cultists' failed resistance. Elias lay unconscious, flanked by the lifeless bodies of two of his subordinates and two others who had surrendered. The party, frustrated by their inability to extract information from the captives, summoned the guards for assistance in relocating the prisoners and the deceased to the dungeons and the morgue, respectively.
A day passed as Elias lingered, unyielding to interrogation attempts. In a last-ditch effort, Varjo administered a potion of command down Elias's throat, while Anastasia invoked the magical word "Reveal." The Lagocavian warlock reluctantly divulged a rough description of Totenschloss and its location in the Schildwald. Yet, this information proved insufficient for the party's quest.
Tron and Anastasia attempted a different approach. They appealed to Elias's potential scholarly interests, seeking information about the entity the cult worshipped. Elias disclosed that the cult revered Ostara, a legendary Fey heroine who, 500 years ago, led a crusade against a monstrous demon that wreaked havoc on Servasberg. To preserve her image, Ostara's crusaders took her to Totenschloss after she was gravely wounded in the final confrontation. Elias explained that her condition worsened as she became more alien, and in a desperate attempt to preserve her, they placed her in stasis. The cult had watched over her ever since.
Elias added a crucial detail—only Fey had a 100% success rate in the ritual to take Ostara's light into themselves, while other hopefuls risked their lives. Armed with this newfound knowledge, the party delved into the cult's safehouses, finding most already emptied. However, they discovered a warehouse containing waypoint notes guiding the way to Totenschloss and an ancient bipedal war machine suspended from the ceiling.
Wisti and Tron identified the machine as likely of ancient Dwarven origin. Within it, a mutilated Dwarf was connected with hoses and cables. Tron's healing spell revived the Dwarf, and Wisti attempted to disconnect him, unintentionally causing significant harm. With the Dwarf's final grateful look, the party discovered clues about Totenschloss.
With the location in hand, the party prepared for the journey, using their wagon to reach the fortress ruins. The journey remained uneventful until they reached the eerily quiet town of Sternendorf. Fields lay untended, buildings shuttered, and a haunting silence prevailed. Anastasia, recalling Theodoric's team investigating the town, managed to contact Guy, who urgently revealed that they were in the Baron's basement under siege. He disclosed the Baron's involvement in the undead problem, driven by experiments to resurrect his wife.
The party departed from the desolate town of Sternendorf, their wagon rolling along the path towards the east. In the distance, the Baron's manor perched atop a small hill, encircled by an imposing iron fence. The journey led them to the eerie sight of freshly slain bodies strewn along the path, and a relentless horde of zombies surrounding the estate.
Anastasia, keen-eyed as ever, identified a ventilation shaft near the corner of the estate. Unlocking it, the party slipped through, finding themselves in a basement laboratory dominated by a central metal table. A glass cylinder contained a red-haired woman, suspended in a slightly viscous fluid. Tron, driven by impulse, shattered the glass, only to find the woman comatose. Svetle's examination revealed she suffered from Heartrot, an aggressively fatal disease.
Documents in the laboratory unveiled the woman as Hilda, the Baron's desperate attempt at a cure went fruitless. Baron Ruland, driven by desperation, had met a mysterious man named Qildor who supplied him with resources for his experiments in bringing the dead back to life.
The party's intrusion stirred zombies into action, attacking them in the laboratory. Swiftly dealing with the threat, they pressed forward, discovering a large chamber with metal tables and two heavily armored guards commanding a horde of zombified women and children assaulting a wooden door. A surprise attack saw the guards and zombies dispatched with minimal harm.
The door swung open, revealing Guy, Theodoric, and Thunder. Theodoric expressed gratitude for the rescue and explained their mission to sabotage the Baron's experiments with minimal casualties had gone awry.
With their group reunited, the party ascended to the manor to confront Baron Ruland. Taela and Anastasia encountered an elderly woman in the kitchen, attempting to deceive her. Failing to do so, Anastasia's demeanor shifted, prompting a physical confrontation that left the elderly woman unconscious.
Moving to the next level, Anastasia, disguised as Hilda, persuaded a patrolling guard to lead her to Baron Ruland. The party waited in anticipation outside the door. After a series of introductions and long pauses outside closed doors, Anastasia entered, greeted by the Baron's simple words, "Hello, whoever you are."
Anastasia, despite failing to fully deceive Baron Ruland, skillfully wove a tale, convincing him she delivered a shipment of bodies from Qildor, with the disguise merely a cruel prank. While the Baron's attention was occupied, Varjo stealthily navigated the second level, discovering the female cultist who had previously grievously wounded her, now waiting in a bedroom with soiled clothes.
Anastasia led the Baron's captain to their wagon outside, allowing the party to hide. She then returned to the manor, leaving the guards to continue their work. Regrouping on the second level, Anastasia, Wisti, and Varjo launched a surprise assault on the Baron, executing Theodoric's mission to eliminate him. The Baron sought refuge under his metal desk, summoning the zombies that surrounded his estate.
Below, the rest of the party and Theodoric's team faced the approaching horde. Anastasia's team overcame the Baron and his guards, seizing the amulet that commanded the zombies. Wisti used the amulet to compel the undead to stand down. In the aftermath, they found Theodoric tying up the guard captain and his subordinate. Varjo tried to reason with them, but they saw the party as terrorists, blinded by their loyalty to the fallen Baron.
In a shocking turn, Wisti coldly murdered one of the subdued guards in front of Theodoric. Using the amulet, Wisti commanded the remaining zombies to follow their convoy, leaving a pack behind to complete the gruesome task of slaughtering those left inside the manor.
Returning to Totenschloss, the party was allowed entry by the guard. Inside, they encountered a disappointed yet relatively hospitable cultist who questioned the unfulfilled cargo promise. While attempting to sneak the Baron's zombies into the compound as backup, the party also learned that Grand Magus Qildor and Linn were in the inner sanctum. However, their attempts to enter were thwarted, and they were denied permission to camp within the fortress walls.
As they departed, Varjo took a drastic measure, shooting the ropes operating the gates. One snapped, preventing the gates from closing and leaving the party in a precarious position within the mysterious fortress. The enigma of Totenschloss deepened as the party stood on the precipice of discovery, surrounded by secrets and uncertainties.
Varjo Kov : A Human Shadow Monk with a mysterious past.
Anastasia D. Aster : An elderly Human Echo Knight suffering from senility who is surprisingly strong for her advanced age.
Tron : A Coretex Moon Druid seeking to learn more about where his kind came from and leaving for the stars.
Taela : A Fey Great Old One Warlock who willingly bowed to the Avatar's will in pursuit of her academic study of their kind.
Svetle : A Dwarven Grave Cleric and gravedigger at a Leylaxian temple in Servasberg.
Wisti Roseria : A young Treefolk Divination Wizard with a pyromaniacal and murderous streak.
Wicks : Fey handler of our heroes with a business focused attitude.
Theodoric Maclaidir : Large Giantkin veteran who was once major domo to the Gildenloewe manor, now torn away from his duties to serve the Avatars' will.
Elisa Horn : Captain of the Berganberg Guard and informant to Wicks. A seemingly laid back Human woman she maintains a careful balance between order and the omnipresence of the city's criminal underbelly.
Duke Conrad : The middle aged Human ruler of Berganberg.
Baldewin: The duke's son that sparked investigation into a cult with his kidnapping. Whiny and self-important.
Dawson : The kingpin of Berganberg's criminal world who worked with elements of the cult for profit. Was captured by the heroes and imprisoned.
Baron Ruland du Sterne : Beloved ruler of Sternendorf who tried all means to cure his wife, Hilda, of the aggressive disease known as Heartrot, and began working with the cult to obtain material support in exchange for his research into bringing the dead back to life. Killed by the heroes to save Theodoric and his mission.
Baroness Hilda: A beautiful red haired woman who was dying of Heartrot and had been placed in preservation for the past 3 years to slow her condition down. Presumably died when the heroes removed her from life support and left her behind.
Ostara : Once a legendary Fey general 500 years ago who led her crusaders against a demon that mutated innocents and corrupted the land. Now a living corpse asleep on her throne watched over by descendants of her crusaders.
Grand Magus Qildor: The current leader of the Cult and a powerful Fey warlock.
Elias: The Lagocavian leader of the cult's cell in Berganberg who orchestrated the kidnappings of innocents in the name of his god.
Linn: Qildor's lieutenant and a powerful Fey warlock.
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