Dear Mistress Carradine,
I beg your pardon for not reporting until now. Our previous rest at the keep proved almost as troubling as the Dungeon of Graves in its own way and only now have I been able to formulate a plan. We have gained much information on the enemies movements and my suspicions are crystallising as I write.
I concluded with our altercation with the ghouls just after entering the dungeon proper. The map given to us by Minetta proved invaluable as Alain was able to scout the area to the south that held the slime beast – a huge mimic like ooze he judged beyond our capabilities at present. It did not pursue us beyond its lair so we were content to turn our attentions to the wererats marked as residing to the north.
When we arrived we were confronted by a young girl beset by rats the size of dogs, tearing at her flesh. The party bravely charged to her rescue, only to realise our mistake. The girls cuts closed and she sprouted fur and whiskers, her face stretching grotesquely into a pointed snout. Three more wererats revealed themselves from atop the barricade, firing crossbows. My colour spray temporarily subdued the rats, while Alain grew to ogreish proportions and tackled the ambushers atop the barricade. The others dispatched the remaining rats and tackled the deceitful damsel in distress. She will lure no more adventurers with her tricks. After the goblin Rathashek snuffled around the wererat tunnels he returned with several pieces of treasure – though the goddess only knows how many items he secreted about his person first. His uncouth nature must be tolerated for now, for he is most skilled at trap finding and lock picking. I see something in his eyes that disturbs me, I will mark him down for ‘education’ at a more appropriate time.
The stream heading east seemed a potential thoroughfare and unwilling to leave it unexplored we followed it for some time down stream. To my chagrin it led to a much deeper cave, perhaps around level six or seven. The pack of unusually large displacer beasts that we disturbed were well beyond us though so we quickly backtracked. Mercifully the aberrant felines seemed unwilling to enter the water unnecessarily.
The first level clear – accepting the slime beast – we descended to the second level. Ignoring a door half split by an axe, Alain discovered a secret leading to a pentagram shaped room. There we were beset by a veritable horde of ghouls, several of which proved to be a more potent variety, ghasts. Both myself, Alain and Vashanesh were paralysed at least once. Lucius bravely pulling Alain back out of harms way. We almost fell, but we shook off the paralysis and eventually our efforts reduced their numbers to the point we could hold them off. A close thing, I must consider ways of better combating undead foes.
Seriously wounded and with a small amount of loot, we decided to return to Castle Falconberg. Though on the way out we were accosted by hobgoblins led by a particularly foul half orc – the brother of the castle’s captain of the guard. Not wishing to risk further death for the sake of money, we surrendered half our loot in exchange for free passage. Such resources will be missed on our next foray and we will need to think of a permanent solution to this racketeering. Strangely I saw that the gargoyles atop the mausoleum were reconstituting themselves. This could be a problem when we come to return.
Traveling south Lucius appeared to recover from whatever had sapped his spirit so grievously, walking taller with more of a bounce in his step. I must commend him for his actions against the ghouls, if Alain had been lost I don’t know how I would go on.
Returning to the castle, a feast was held – almost as if surviving was as great an achievement as defeating the evil within. How wrong these people are. Lucius kept making moon eyes at Lord Reynar’s daughter – clearly something was afoot there. We slept and upon awaking met for breakfast, Lucius drinking even at this early our. His ‘education’ may have to begin even before Rathashek’s. To my dismay the draining of his soul had begun again… where had he been… who was he with? With more rest needed we resolved to uncover this mystery. Waiting until that evening. Alain followed the young fighter to his rooms. Lucius seemed suspicious and secretive and refused to allow Alain entry… to his room. Instead we waited and sure enough the fighter snuck out, not twenty minutes later. Unfortunately Alain’s stealth failed him and an even more suspicious Lucius forced us to back away. Using my invisibility we were able to track him to Lady Kryssana’s quarters where the unmistakable sounds of coitus came from within. Could she be involved in Lucius’ strange malaise? Alain hid invisible behind the door and I knocked loudly. Confronting her, we bandied words and i revealed that I knew of Lucius’ condition, himself clearly hidden beneath the bed. A risk perhaps that she might turn out to be other than the coddled young girl she appeared to be. We left the room in search of Lord Greymantle who was not amused at being awoken. Meanwhile that gave Alain the opportunity to confront Lucius as he left to return to his quarters. When Lucius denied the events of the night despite being caught in the act as it were, Alain became suspicious and his magic revealed that Alain had been dominated at some point – clearly forbidden from talking about who or what had drained him. Eventually Rathashek and Vashanesh joined us. I woke the old wizard of the keep who agreed to give me a powerful dispel scroll – a spell beyond my ability to cast. Unfortunately even it could not break the spell. Rathashek shocked us all with tales of debauchery between Minetta and Kryssana even as we attempted to heal her other lover. Either Kryssana is far less innocent that we have been led to believe, or she is under some malign influence, or that creature is not Kryssana at all! The whole castle is at risk until we can reach the bottom of this. Before we could investigate further the captain of the guard sent us back to our rooms. Nevertheless, the next morning I resolved to act.
Along the way I was able to begin the process of recruiting a new set of eyes and ears in the castle. A serving girl was subtly brought into the fold. She seems quite taken with Lucius…
At breakfast Lord Reynar took issue with our investigations, becoming affronted when I pointed out the evil enchantment on our friend Lucius. I was banished from the keep – a suspicious act in and of itself – is Lord Reynar involved as well, or is he just too blind and arrogant to see what occurs under his own nose. I suspect he would not take the news of his granddaughter’s ways well.
Confronting Minetta with the ‘evidence’ uncovered by Rathashek – implements used in previous evenings debauchery – she confessed to her love of Krysanna. This explained why she had not traveled with the Fire hawks on their last fateful journey into Rappan Athuk. She seemed incredulous when it was suggested that Lucius had also been with Krysanna. The girl is in love – unfortunately the question remains – in love with what?
Luckily Altidea, the aged priestess of the castle was able to help us further, and after separating Lucius from his sweetheart we were able to get her to break both the domination and the draining. Confused with no memory of what had caused this Lucius agreed to be more helpful, and Altidea promised to resolve things with Lord Falconberg. Deciding to set a test for the Lady Krysanna, Lucius invited her to go for a ride alone – the perfect opportunity for her to renew her domination and the draining. Either the girl was cleverer than we thought or not the culprit as he returned unaffected. We resolved to return to RA, temporarily stymied. Lord Reynar gave what can only be described as a weak apology and he promised to increase the security for visitors to the castle – but not his own family! … yes either blind or complicit – either way dangerous.
Setting off to Rappan Athuk again, we resolved to find a safe place to stay closer to the dungeon. There may come a time when Falconberg is not safe for us. A druid said to watch the forest seemed the most likely ally. We came across a smaller band of hobgoblins, clearly part of the same band that shook us down outside the dungeon. Not wishing to bring the lot of them down on us we passed on by, but not before they warned us of bugbear bandits in the woods.
That evening we found the bugbears… I tried to slow them down with magical webs but they ambushed us from another direction. They were stronger than any bugbears I have heard of, and they appeared to be in some sort of rage, easily shaking off my magic. The fight was going ill for us, particularly as Vashanesh fell to the leader. Only the passing flight of a great red dragon interrupting the melee meant we survived as everybody including the bugbears scattered.