We've returned to our ongoing Krevborna campaign! The group decided that the time to make a move and rescue Serafina from the Black Rats had come round at last. Since the Black Rats had abducted her to lure out Pendleton on behalf of the Holland family, the group felt some degree of responsibility for her ultimate fate. Of course, things didn't quite go as they planned. The group learned that the Black Rats had a safehouse in Veil, so they figured that was the likely location where Serafina was being held captive.
Pendleton Torst, rogue anatomist
Catarina Redmoor, prioress of an unusual convent
Panthalassa Laurentide, an orphan who's made a pact
Raoul Carathis, necromancer
Geradd, down-and-out swashbuckling noble
Once they arrived in Veil, the group made their way to a lowly bar to sift the underworld for information. They made the acquaintance of a down-and-out tailor who was able to put them in contact with the Seamasques, one of Veil's major gangs who were also the avowed enemies of the Black Rats, which made their next port of call Aran's Mead Hall. The mead hall was known to be Seamasque territory under the control of a gang member named Aran the Red.
Aran's Mead Hall was decorated with crossed axes, drinking horns, and battle helms. At the bar was a man with braided red hair and piercing blue eyes. He wore a hammer pendant on a leather thong, he was surrounded by sycophants and hangers-on, and it was determined that he gave off a "shirtless" vibe. Surely, this was Aran the Red. Raoul started to loudly speak ill of the Black Rats, hoping to get Aran's attention, and the ploy worked. He swaggered over to the group and introduced himself.
They explained that they had designs on eliminating the Black Rats. Aran bought them a round of mead. He told them that the Seamasques wanted to take over the Black Rats' hideout for themselves, but their seer had warned them against approaching the place. The group pressed him, hoping to glean the location, but Aran wouldn't give up the intel so easily. He made them an offer: if one of them could beat Svenbard, the mead hall's champion, in single combat in the hall's fighting pit, he would tell them what they desired.
Geradd readily volunteered to enter the fighting pit. His opponent was a towering mass of muscle; judging from his appearance, Svenbard likely had some ogre ancestry in his lineage. Svenbard was armed with a giant maul--he also had no teeth. Geradd's battle with Svenbard was tense. The crowd assembled around the fighting pit and were banging their tankards and hilts against the railing. Geradd took a nasty blow to the abdomen from the maul, but he saw an opening and charged in with his glaive, disemboweling the brute. The crowd went wild and Geradd claimed Svenbard's maul as his own.
Early the next morning the group met Aran by the river so he could ferry them across to the island when the Black Rats had holed up in an abandoned fortress. With Aran was Iska, the Seamasque's seer. She made the group a further offer: if they would see fit to burn bundles of herbs in prescribed rooms of the fortress, she would provide them with a favor. The group decided to take Iska up on her offer; what they wanted in return was the location of the Brineblade, the weapon that Captain Laurant had reportedly been searching for on the high seas.
The fortress was a series of seven towers jumbled together into one mass, but each of the towers had collapsed and been capped off with makeshift roofs of tile and wood, which lent the fortress the appearance of a mutilated seven-fingered hand. Raoul used his undead raven Annabel to scout overhead; Annabel discovered a side entrance to the fortress.
By the door, the group found one of the Black Rats grievously injured and near death. She explained that the Black Rats had been set upon from invaders from inside their fortress. Catarina finished the Black Rat off using the Vlodeska's bone knife; she immediately head the voice of the Countess in her head, saying "Yes, my daughter, you are learning well." Geradd ended up smashing the door in with his new maul.
As the group explored the fortress room-by-room, they kept finding the dead bodies of Black Rats members. The Rats had been stabbed to death, yet their corpses had strange patches of fungus growing on them. Catarina slit their throats anyway, just to be sure. The group also burned the herbs that Iska had given them to cleanse the various rooms she had specified as they found them. Additionally, throughout the fortress, the party kept noting artworks that portrayed elves as triumphant in a war against the forces of mankind.
Of particular interest in the fortress was the bedroom of Petros Vorderman, the leader of the Black Rats. Next to his camp bed was a portrait of the Black Rats' leader; the painting was signed by the artist: Donna Pietra Sangino. Upon Petros's desk were a number of contracts and correspondence. One of the letters was from a nobleman named Martinus Rosaldi, who asked the Black Rats to find his sister Ellena--who had run away with a notorious rake and dandy named Sir Francis Lowood. Another piece of correspondence was a contract authorizing the Black Rats to capture and hold a woman named Dahlia Medlozka on behalf of the Church of Holy Blood. And, of course, they found the contract wherein Cornelius Holland hired the Black Rats to capture or kill Pendleton.
Additionally, under the camp bed they found a cowering man. His name was Yanos and he claimed to be a sculptor hired by the Black Rats to restore the statues in the fortress's shrine. Since he had been employed by the Black Rats for some time, he was useful in helping the party find the things they were looking for inside the fortress. He was also able to explain why the Black Rats were never seen coming or going from the fortress: they had a ritual circle that allowed them to travel without recourse to conventional means.
The group wanted to take a look at the statues, but between them and that shrine chamber was a magical circle that they determined was binding something; breaching the circle would release whatever horror was being held. Figuring that they would have to deal with it one way or another, the entered the circle and found themselves facing a fungal mass; human skulls occasionally surfaced within the mass, opening their jaws in silent screams. Panthalassa was able to smash one of the skulls with her pickaxe, but ultimately it was Geradd's new maul that proved effective in pulverizing the creature into a defeated splash of muck.
Beyond the binding circle was the shrine chamber. Inside were a number of statues of eldritch entities. Some of the group immediately recognized statues of Scylla and the Chained Scholar. Besides them was a statue of a hybrid humanoid form with the head of a lizard and a statue of a man whose hunched body was topped with the "face" of an enormous worm. One statue was conspicuously missing, it's plinth empty.
Exploration continued. The group found, and raided, the Black Rats' treasury. They also discovered the teleportation circle in an underearth room; they disrupted the circle so that they could not be surprised by any returning Black Rats. Within an alcove meant for archers to fire upon would-be invaders, a loose brick was removed from the wall, revealing an ancient book called The Blood Horizon: The Coming of the Elvish Savior. The book seemed to detail a prophesized Aeldenfolk savior who would lead the charge to drive all humankind from Krevborna.
In another underground chamber they found the dungeon of the Black Rats. Within a cell was Serafina, who was somewhat worse for wear with a black eye, a split lip, and a broken arm. Using keys they had liberated from the treasury, they released her. Serafina was hard to read, as always, due to her lack of affect, but she seemed surprised that the group would expend such an effort to come to her rescue. The fortress now thoroughly explored, the group returned to riverside and signaled for Aran to pick them up. In return for cleansing the fortress, the seer Iska gave them a map to the location of the Brineblade.