"When we reach Cheapington," says Aldira, stepping in a puddle nearly up to her knee, "I'm buying a new set of clothes. And burning these."
"Can you burn mud?" asks Debinvarr.
"I'll be glad to get rid of this Crown," interjects Théscine. "False or not, I don't feel safe carrying it."
"Those dwarven mercenaries didn't scare me," says Firdeth, "I'm sure we needn't worry about them."
"You do remember," replies Théscine, "that we're bringing this crown to a vampire?"
Setup: unmodified - Travel to Cheapington (intending) to find Eril and buy new horses
Characters: Neldir, the Elders of the Elven Forest, Eril the Vampire, Ranwitha the Pious Merchant, Siorighan MU12, summoned demon, Tibalt & Barnot, dwarven mercenaries, griffon
threads: find Neldir & the book
get item for Vampire
recover fallen thieves' bodies
The party set out from Castle Vyljusz towards Cheapington, both avoiding the elven forest (as it is not time for their return) and giving the Church a wide berth. The journey through the forests is uneventful; they encounter nothing but harmless wildlife. Even fording the river goes without a hitch, once they find a place to cross. On day 36 there is a driving rainstorm; they cover very few miles that day [movement halved], and spend a miserable night all huddled together in a single tent for warmth.
The rain finally abates. They make it to Cheapington by the evening. Strangely, they meet with no one on the road into the town.
[Reception in Cheapington? reaction roll 5, Unfriendly.
Q: Is this related to Eril? 50/50: 78, No.
Q: Is it realted to the Crown, then? 50/50: 82, No.
Q: OK, Mythic, what is it about then? Separate Illness - the 'plague' that the townsfolk thought Eril was causing had nothing to do with her. They ran her out of town for nothing. A fever is still rampant.
Q: Is the inn quarantined? 50/50: 72, No.
Q: Does Eril still have a thrall there? 50/50: 31, Yes.]
The PCs spend a night at the Lamb and Trefoil. There are very few guests, and no one talks to anyone outside their group for fear of contagion.
Eril's thrall meets the PCs in morning. He tells them that his Mistress has fled to Wandlebourne, a small yet prosperous mercantile city on the bay.
[Q: Does Eril have a private residence there? Likely: 00, Exceptional No.]
She once owned a townhouse there, but it has recently been burnt to the ground. She is staying at the Anchor (try the eel pies, says the thrall). The PCs don't want to risk buying diseased horses, but decide that if they travel all day [forced march] they can make Wandlebourne by nightfall.
The day is cold and overcast, but the threatening clouds do not loose the rain. For the last few miles of the journey, the plains slope downward towards the sea. At dusk, the city is finally in sight, and what a sight it presents. The glow of lamps lighting the broad cobblestone streets illuminates the city spires against the dark, still waters of the bay. Fires burn brightly in the watchtowers atop the walls, miniatures of the lighthouse beacon in the harbour.
Aldira volunteers to speak to the guards at the gate, as the elves seem unsure of human etiquette. She pays them the entrance toll, and a few extra coppers to loosen their tongues. The PCs get good directions to the inn and an admonition to hurry, or they'll arrive to late for eel pies.
"Elves!" exclaims the innkeeper as the party marches through the door. "You must be Eril's friends. I expected more of you... but your rooms are paid for. Here's the key. Eril has the adjoining suite."
Eril has paid for the most expensive rooms in the inn. The door between her rooms and the elves' has been left ajar, so she might know immediately of their arrival. They have barely begun to set down their travelling things when she bursts into the room. Her grey hair is tied back with a scrap of cloth, the sleeves of her simple tunic are rolled up past her elbows, though the front of it, like her hands, is bespattered with black ink. Her eyes glint red in the candle light. "The false Crown," she says abruptly, "you have it?"
Firdeth removes the artifact from her pack, and holds it out towards the vampire, who snatches it violently from her hand. The normally unflappable elf's eyes go wide with a sudden fear.
"You must excuse me," says Eril, "I've not eaten in three days. And now I feel the end of this nightmare is near -- so very near! Yet I feel afraid lest it be prolonged another day... but you have done as I asked, and I must uphold my side of the bargain.
"When I was in Cheapington, I met the elf, Neldir. He saw me at once for what I am, and approached me with a proposition most foul. He wished to barter for some of my blood to use in his experiments with the black arts. I refused, of course, and bade him abandon his reckless path. He scoffed, and said that my refusal meant little to him. There was report of a vampire plaguing the village of Casterby. He would acquire what he needed there.
"I understand if you wish to set out for Casterby at once. But if you can spare me just a few more days, you could help release me from this... this mockery of an existence!"
"We don't know if Neldir is still in Casterby," says Lycinia, "or that he ever even went there at all."
Miolla takes Eril's large hands in her own, trying not to flinch at the sepulchral chill. Her pixyish face peers up at the vampire towering over her, as she says in a soft voice, "what my dear Lycinia means, sweet lady, is that we are in no hurry to reach Casterby, and we wish to help you in your troubles."
Eril tries feebly to smile. Her terrible fangs and receding gums only produce the effect of rictus, and a shudder passes through the room. But Miolla fancies, just for a moment, that she can see a tear forming in the vampire's blood-hued eye.