|Photo by Valentin Petkov|
Elsabeth, human paladin, played by Anne
Rising Leaf and Raging Storm, human monk, played by Michael
Rufus Clarke, human barbarian played by Steve
The party were called into a meeting by their supervisor, Horatio Lupa. Surprisingly, Valor--the woman they had questioned in their last adventure in which books were turning into monsters--was also in attendance. Valor explained that a raven flew by while she was working on the roof of one of the library's buildings and dropped a book from its claws. The book didn't mean anything to Valor, but she found a map hidden within it. The map traced a path into the hinterlands; for reasons she didn't explain, Valor felt that she was meant to follow it to the destination marked on the map. She offered the book to the library in return for a few members of the Special Collections department coming along as back-up.
While traveling, the group made a short stop at Valor's request at a desolate village where the farmsteads were now overrun with wild pigs. Rifling through a case strapped to her horse, Valor selected a sword to give to each member of the party. The journey continued.
The destination turned out to be an abandoned chalet with a small family graveyard next to it. The group decided to take a look at the graveyard first before attempting to enter the chalet. The graveyard was surrounded by a tall iron fence; the name "Brantifax" was spelled out in the iron of the graveyard's gate. Inside, they found four graves: one belonging to Baron Brantifax, two belonging to his daughters, and one belonging to his favorite hound. Four ravens were perched on the graves.
One of the graves had clearly been disturbed. It was decided that they would excavate the grave. Buried in the grave was a human-shaped thing, laying face down, clad in clothes made of burlap. Disturbing this thing further revealed it to be an animate scarecrow, but it was dealt with swiftly after it attempted to choke the life out of Elsabeth. During the melee, the ravens took flight and landed on the roof of the chalet.
The front door of the chalet was barred from the inside, so the group entered through one of the chalet's many broken windows. While exploring the house, the group discovered the Baroness's journal, which divulged some family history. The chalet was the Baron's hunting lodge, and he would often invite other members of the aristocracy to come and hunt with him. The couple had two children. The firstborn was Sylphine, who was born with deformities. She died aged six, and the journal intimated that the Baroness may have had a hand in her daughter's demise. The second daughter was Heluthe, who died aged nine after being attacked by a wolf while hunting with her father.
The group were assaulted by Heluthe's ghost after Elsabeth dared to touch one of the girl's dolls in the nursery. The ghost bared her teeth like a wolf before charging at them in full spectral fury. After a brief scuffle, Heluthe's specter was banished. Further exploration revealed that the top of the chalet's tower had been damaged by an explosion. Amid the rubble were the remains of alchemical equipment, so the cause of the explosion seemed obvious.
As they poked around in the ruins of the tower, the group noticed that the ravens they had spotted earlier were now perched atop what was left of the top of the tower. Rising Leaf managed to acrobatically climb up what remained of the tower's stairs and make his way toward the ravens. On the way, he discovered a hidden wooden box. Inside was a potion and a collection of the kind of treasures birds might hoard: colorful ribbons, shiny bone buttons, etc. Leaf offered the contents of the box to the ravens; they removed the junk with their beaks, leaving the potion behind, then took flight. Once in the air, they dove down into another hole in the chalet's roof.
Following the birds, the party traversed the chalet's rickety roof and managed to enlarge the hole the birds had used to enter the house. Peering down into the hole revealed that the four ravens had transformed into humans who were hastily donning dark robes and scarlet sashes they had stashed in that chamber of the chalet. The four of them were, in fact, wereravens.
The party dropped down into the room and began a conversation with the wereravens. The wereravens admitted responsibility for dropping the book into Valor's lap, but they seemed mystified as to why they had lured her to this particular house. Something seemed to be exerting an influence over them. One of the wereravens was hiding an item behind her back; she was coaxed into revealing it--a strange statuette of a bloated, demonic fiend with bat wings and the head of a skeletal ram. The wereravens claimed that they had brought the statuette, which they claimed was an artifact of evil, to hide it away within the abandoned chalet.
Valor visibly paled when she saw the statuette. She explained that the figure depicted Orcus, a demon lord. She also told the group that the other knights of her order were slain by a death cult devoted to Orcus. In fact, the swords that Valor had given the party earlier all previously belonged to the knights of Valor's order. Rufus, Leaf, and Elsabeth speculated that the cultists may have used the wereravens to lure Valor to this location so they could finish their unhallowed task and kill the last remaining member of the knights who had previously escaped their clutches.
When asked about strange phenomena in and around the house, the wereravens replied that they had encountered some ghostly activity in the chalet and also that Heluthe's grave emitted a strange fog with the coming of night. Leaving the chalet to see for themselves, the party observed that an unearthly fog was pouring from the girl's grave. The party entered the fog and found themselves transported to a darker version of the landscape they had just left behind; open graves dotted the earth for as far as the eye could see, and a stone mausoleum stood where the chalet should be.
The group entered the mausoleum, noting that its roof was flanked by man-sized statues identical to the statuette. Inside, a withered and skeletal figure armed with a sword emerged from a sarcophagus; Valor recognized this figure as one of the undead cultists who had decimated her order. Battle was joined! While the cultist was backed into the crypt battle commenced inside the tomb, an ominous thud was heard; the two statues of Orcus had animated and were now entering the mausoleum, effectively trapping the party inside.
Valor was savagely mauled by one of the statues, her head bouncing off the wall of the mausoleum and leaving a bloody imprint. However, the death cult of Orcus had not counted on the presence of the Special Collections department, who carried the day and defeated the creatures. The party made their way to Heluthe's grave and traversed back to the mortal realm by literally clawing their way out of the grave. The wereravens had departed. The group gathered a few paintings from the chalet and traveled with Valor back to the library at Creedhall. Valor handed over the book to their care, content that the cult that had been after her had been dealt a serious blow.