Still reeling from the attack and escape by Thald in the streets of Nightfall, Mal knocks Angus out (who was also six sheets to the wind) for revealing a little too much in front of Sterl concerning their mission for Sanguine.

Shortly after the servants return from Miriam’s with news of the other crew members’ deaths, a low fog fills the cobblestone streets surrounding Sterl’s stone mansion. From the mist comes a regiment of skeletal warriors, cloaked in red hoods and tattered capes like a legion of reapers. The sound of something mechanical follows as catapults appear in the streets. Xax manages to send a message to the ship to have “Pretty Boy” take the ship into orbit and beyond the reach of the local lord.

An invitation arrives by courier asking for Sterl and his vampire-slaying guests to join him for dinner. Sterl asks the trust of the last born to convince them to put everything they have of value, including weapons, into his coat room. He explains that they will be searched on the way in, and anything found will likely be confiscated, so he is providing weapons for the finding. Under duress, they comply. Before leaving, a servant brings Sterl a majestic-looking long coat.

With the red-cloaked skeletal warriors lining the route, everyone is marched to Thald’s mansion deep in the heart of the district, a large enclosed building with an outer wall and inner cloister. A servant inspects the group and demands any weapons be removed and placed into a box for safe keeping before going inside; the group complies, and Xax even surrenders his holy symbol. Thald appears as the group is lead inside but isn’t looking well, holding his onto his cane like a crutch, yet he still he talks as if all is well.

Thald gives a grand tour of his mansion. Doors are locked behind them in every section with several red reapers standing guard in each. Thald shows off his menagerie of stuffed enemies and hunted creatures: a beholder, an underdark illithid, a gnome engineer, and even an elf are on display. As the crew engages in pleasant conversation (spearheaded by Xax), the crew confesses to beating neogi slavers in high space, a revelation that makes Thald frown in his effort to either impress or frighten his guests.

In the central cloister, Thald shows off his prized rose marble statuary (likely victims turned to stone by spell or creature) as well as a damaged smalljammer to which he laments not having a helm to fly it with. Sterl touches the ship’s damaged wing deliberately, prompting Zyn to do the same in spite of Xax warning her not to. She senses that the ship is somehow sentient… alive! Thald endures the group inspecting the ship inside and out, confident it is useless to them. Afterward, the group follows Thald into another wing of his compound.

After showing off a few cases including weapons and a prized circlet, Thald invites them to dine in his “hall of treasures” with him (the irony of all these magical items and weapons just beyond the reach of the heroes), taking only four skeletal warriors in with him and calling two golden servants to him as dinner attendants. Angus eats heartily as does Sterl. Zyn manages to keep both her fear and disgust in check to eat a little as well, averting glances from Xax emphasizing her need to hold it together and not provoke Thald too soon. In spite of this, Thald takes every opportunity to humiliate both his new slaves and embarrass his “guests.” Following Xax’s lead, however, the crew keeps playing it cool to see how long Thald will drag out his game, infuriating Thald.

No longer amused and growing impatient, Thald dictates that Sterl may remain on Nightfall only by turning his friends over. When refused, Thald starts suggesting how the crew might be put to better use as risen undead creatures, even suggesting using Zyn (whom he still refers to as “Kitten”) as a figurehead on one of his merchant ships. Zyn shoots back by revealing that she knows the ship despises him, a charge Thald admits to knowing, adding his intention to have the ship destroyed since it won’t obey him.

Rather than risk Mal or Zyn throwing the first punch, Xax attempts to leave. When Thald makes it clear that he won’t let anyone leave peacefully, Mal demands his pick from Sterl, who’s shoulder suddenly lurches forward. With everyone looking very confused, Sterl reaches behind his back and inexplicably draws out the Pick of Larnagish, throwing it to Mal. With Thald genuinely surprised, Mal hits with the pick as Zyn and Hanos both cast a burning hands spell at the vampire. Still not down after the assault, Sterl then draws out what appears to be a small cannon on a wooden stock and pulls a trigger mechanism.

A loud bang precedes the impact of Thald’s chest being presumably pierced with a metal ball. The vampire starts to utter (for the second time in as few hours) “Is that your best?” but only the first two words were heard as Sterl shouts the word “Butterscotch!”

The vampire’s chest suddenly explodes where the shot had hit him, and bits went everywhere. A moment after, each bloody gobbit dissolves into a mist that begins to gather and thicken. As Sterl pulls weapon after weapon from the hidden haversack in the back of his coat, everyone attacks the mist in the hopes of preventing the vampire from running again but to no avail. Once the mist leaves the room, Xax starts to track the evil mind in the hopes of locating the lair of the creature.

In addition to the hidden weapons cache, Sterl pulls out three dispel magic scrolls. One he gives to Hanos to open a cache to two lesser restoration potions that he tells Xax to drink at once. Neither realizing the inherit danger of downing two potions simultaneously, Xax obeys to discover a miraculous benefit of a permanent boost to his intelligence. The second scroll enables Zyn to open the prized circlet case. Sterl tells her to put it on her head immediately and close her eyes, that she’ll understand why after a moment. The third scroll is used by Hanos to open a case with a powerful-looking sword that he hands to Angus.

While everyone takes turns attacking the four skeletal warriors in the room, Sterl explains to the golden slaves that their master is dead and that Captain Tenth is in charge. Both go to Tenth and ask “Will you accept responsibility for me in return for my lifelong service?” Sterl tells Tenth to accept and he does, bonding the slaves to him so that they obey his commands. After dispatching the skeletal warriors, Hanos creates a improved illusion of Thald, fooling the skeletal warriors in the next room to think Thald is with them and allowing everyone to pass unchallenged back into the cloister.

Correctly assessing that Thald’s prized circlet was actually a crown of stars, Sterl commands that everyone make their way to the smalljammer, but Xax has other ideas. Knowing that Thald will certainly come after them after this, Xax detects the vampire’s lair in a virtually closed off chamber beneath the cloister. Xax asks Mal to use his pick to split the earth to reach the chamber. Mal invokes Sanguine with the pick and shatters the good point onto the ground, not realizing what has been asked. A chasm begins to open, and even as the coffin below is doused with oil and set aflame, it suddenly becomes very clear that the world itself is splitting in two! The Pick of Larnagish is a planet-breaker?!

Upon realizing his mistake and with the Pick of Larnagish destroyed, Xax risks calling for an intervention from Sanguine, who agrees to reverse the last three minutes if Xax will accept a sacrifice. Genuinely feeling responsible for the blunder, Xax agrees to the terms, turning back the clock to just before the pick was used. Xax stops Mal from using the pick and instead goes into ectoplasmic form, enters the sealed lair of Thald, and at last destroys the vampire in his coffin. Meanwhile, Zyn makes contact with the smalljammer through the circlet, enabling her to fly it once everyone boards.

Exiting the planet and rendezvousing with Sterl’s great bombard Gracie and Tenth’s galleon, Xax consults the geode to find his brothers missing and a confused Dresnik Thald by the pool at Citadel. Threats are exchanged, but Thald seems either powerless or unwilling to assert himself. Xax calls for his brothers, but he cannot sense them anywhere.

Hanos questions Sterl about what happened to Rivershire. Sterl explains that centuries ago, Rivershire stood against the rising Elven Imperium only to either be destroyed go into hiding by shifting their world into another plane of existence. Sterl hands the sky charts over to Hanos who takes them to Zyn, then attempts to convince her of his plan to find and restore Rivershire. Sterl has also marked nine good candidates onto the charts for worlds that might serve as New Kaldera.

With Captain Tenth still feeling the guilt about the loss of his crew, Xax consults with everyone to convince Tenth and Sterl to continue building an armada of ships to eventually combat the Imperium and base it on Moil Colony with anyone willing to man up. The last born ask Zyn to accompany them, making it a crew of five on board the smalljammer to continue the quest.

End of Part One. CONTINUE READING WITH “Culture Clash…”

Session XP: 4250 per player (before applicable 10% bonuses)

About Kevin A. Ranson

Content Creator, Horror Writer, Film Critic. Heeding a macabre calling listening to "Mother Ghost Nursery Rhymes" in kindergarten, Kevin started writing in grade school and filled countless notebooks with story ideas while touring the Mediterranean in the US Navy. He is the author of The Spooky Chronicles and the vampire thriller series The Matriarch, creator/critic for MovieCrypt.com and "ghost writer" for horror host Grim D. Reaper. WEBFACEBOOKTWITTER
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