We finish cleaning up the battlefield, and return to our rooms in time to be met by Cardinal Laroche, who has come bearing gifts. For Jenny, he has brought Wings of Flying; for Durest, he has brought a shield that will allow him to fly once per day; for Chuck, he has brought Dark Robes of the Archmage. (This will give Chuck several advantages.) Durest using the shield can fly for five minutes, which is shorter than if he just casts the spell himself; but the shield version allows him to fly at full speed despite the weight of his armor (and also, seriously ups his armor class).
We’ve done well; Laroche is basically done with us, and settles us in to have some down time. Chuck and Durest head over to Merrowhaven to check on Chuck’s drug empire and brothel. Jafreese, who Chuck left in charge, is now up on the local billboards. We stop by the local moneylender where Chuck receives his deposit; the moneylender is a gnome. Durest is following along, bemused, as Chuck works his way through the discussion and discovers that the money-lender has been cut out of the loop and doesn’t have his money. Jafreese has bought out some lord’s former manor, and is claiming that Chuck is dead…
Yeah. Chuck assures the moneylender that he’ll be back in the loop shortly. We head off to have a chat with Jafreese.
There’s a jaguar parked out front - an actual jungle cat - and a couple of bodyguards. Chuck promptly terrifies them. They run away and immediately hide behind one of the local Solari, who Chuck immediately Dominates. Apparently Jafreese has convinced the local lord to loan him some protection, but... not enough. The house is a large manor, roughly U-shaped in footprint, with an open courtyard and a pool in the center. Jafreese is out by the pool, with most of a harem scattered around him.
Chuck: “Jafreese! My man!”
Jafreese: “Chuck! Um! Hi! I’m so glad you’re still alive.” He starts trying to sell us on how well his operation – um, Chuck’s operation – is doing.
Chuck: “Jafreese! You are my man. I just think we need to review the business plan.”
Jafreese: “I’m just… I’m going to go get your money, and then we’ll sit down and have a drink with all these lovely ladies.”
Jafreese goes into the house and comes back out with a chest full of 15,600 gp – about half what the moneylender said we were owed. Possibly much less.
Durest: “Lad, ye do realize I c’n cast Discern Lies any time I bloody well want?”
Jafreese pales: “That is my least favorite spell.”
Chuck pulls out the ledger and drops it on the table.
Jafreese just stares: “That asshole!”
Jafreese goes inside again and promptly tries to run away. Durest sighs, flies, spots him running across the lawn, and hits him with Hold Person.
Chuck: “So, here we are.”
Durest: “I feel like he’d be more reliable as a zombie.”
Chuck: “...Maybe not yet. Jafreese… we need to stiffen your upper lip. See, either you turn our operation towards making yourself a warlord, and kick out the Solari. Or, you come with us and do things the way we do.”
Jafreese: “What about if we had a Baron who was so corrupt and in our pocket that he never wanted to use his Solari?”
Chuck: “For somebody who’s so bad at math, that’s a pretty smart idea. You’re gonna make this happen?”
Jafreese: “For you, boss? Anything.” He hesitates. “I’m, um, I’m sorry that Jenny didn’t make it.”
Chuck: “Jenny just killed about twenty Solari while she was spending a week being a stone giant.”
Jafreese: “Does she still do the, um, the thing with the men?”
Chuck: “Ohhh, yes. With our new friends, she doesn’t even need to keep the men. Just a quick slice, and we reanimate it, and she can keep herself occupied.”
Jafreese gulps as that image sinks in.
We stay for an evening of partying, including a chance to chat with Madam Frumpy (the Madam of the Brothel). Then we head back.
Meanwhile, back in Flowerhedge one of the Black Knives shows up at the inn. Jenny answers the door. Jenny is none too clear on their role in all this – she was busy being a stone giant at the time – so they ask her to tell Chuck that John wants to speak with him. She decides to go talk to John instead.
The fellow leads her to the inn, where John gives his messenger a look. Then he composes himself and says, “Jenny! I was expecting Chuck.”
Jenny: “I am here.”
John: “Is Chuck going to be back soon?”
Jenny: “No idea.”
John: “Can I leave a message with you?”
Jenny: “Sure! But I cannot read.”
“Perfect!” John writes out the note as quickly as he can, and the bartender comes rushing over to give them drinks. The drinks come in collectible glass mugs, and Jenny gets to keep hers. The bartender opens his mouth to object to this prevarication, but John elbows him in the ribs and Jenny is happy with her new mug.
Miraculously, she actually gives us the note when we return. The Black Knives have been hired by someone else, and they’re leaving town. “It’s just business.” However, John suggests that we should check under the statue in the market square.
It’s a bronze statue of a guy on a horse, very heroic; there’s a crack under of the horse’s upraised hooves. The note hidden there has the seal of Count Boisson of Brightland.
“I know that you are no religious zealots of Vecna. If you will walk away from the service of Vecna, I will pay you your weight in platinum.” He’s basically offering us about 100,000 GP apiece.
Durest, standing back at the edge of the square, notices a cowled figure and promptly casts Hold Person. It’s one of the Vecna spies, the ones missing an eye. It’s been replaced with a glass eye which allows the Vecna forces to see from his perspective at any time.
Durest reaches out and rotates the eye around until it’s facing the back of his skull. We sigh and send him on his way. Then we head back to the Baroness’ safe room to discuss the offer. None of us are all that impressed. We've exchanged about four sentences to that effect when there's a knock at the door.
Cardinal Marcion has arrived.
After a bit of discussion, Marcion agrees to throw in a bit of extra for us since we were A) planning on double-crossing the Count anyway, and B) are now also doing that as a job for him. If we can bring him the two Solari dragons – alive, or at least with their souls intact – they’ll use them to create more Stat Books for us. But we now have permission to proceed, which is also kind of important.
It’s going to be interesting, because in addition to the two dragons, Brightland was where Master Fedoki the monk retreated to.
We make ready for murder and teleport into the throne room. The throne room has been cleared of anything valuable, and all the regular guards are gone; Count Boisson and Baron Bastion are there. Clearly, they've considered the possibility of violent betrayal. Which, well, is what we're here for.
Durest drops a Dimensional Anchor on the far end of the room, then tries a quickened Hold person on the Count; he’s shielded, though. Jenny, once again a stone giant, charges Master Fedoki. She is raging, and power attacks. Her giant spiked chain smashes into the old monk, and the rest of us get the distinct impression that she’s still a bit sore about how things went the last time. Chuck drops a fireball on the dais, but it doesn’t make it through whatever shield they have up.
The count stands up: “Wait! Listen! I offer more!”
Chuck: “Okay, we’re listening.”
Jenny ignores this, but she’s completely focused on Fedoki and everybody except the monk kind of ignores her in turn.
The two pretty boys at the front of the dais turn into dragons.
He offers baronies to Durst and Jenny, and cure from vampirism for Chuck. Hereditary titles, and the King’s blessing. At this point another man walks in, leading Baron Laroe from Springhollow. He looks… a little out of it, but he isn’t a vampire anymore. He’s a major PTSD case after a year’s attempts at treatment, though.
“It took us a while to figure it out, but now we know–”
Jenny keeps going after Fedoki, chasing him around the room.
Meanwhile, the man who just came in is Viggo the Whisperer, who has come on behalf of the king. He has contracts, establishing us as lords if we will but turn on the dark army. Having figured out how to cure vampirism, they can do so for Chuck.
Chuck asks whether we could perhaps hear directly from the King. No; they’re satisfied to get us off the field, though they’d prefer to have us working for them. The count suggests that we take a day to consider; then, if we return, it’s for battle, and if we accept the offer, we should send word.
Durest considers for the space of a breath. “Naw. Sounds boring.”
Burea casts Fire Shield on herself. The dragon throws a magic missile at Jenny (but she’s immune because Durest saw that one coming), but also being in the presence of dragons is terrifying. Chuck is shaken, and Jenny gets a face full of repulsion gas and is driven back from one of the dragons.
Durest drops an empowered Fire Storm, for a bunch of damage; the Baron dies, but the count is just an illusion. That’s annoying, because killing him was definitely part of the plan. Fedoki attacks Jenny, but misses; Jenny laughs in Stone Giant. The second dragon tries to hit Jenny with his electrical breath weapon, doing some damage. Jenny retreats from the older dragon, and is really annoyed.
Burea makes Chuck unafraid.
The older dragon flies over, blows a quickened True Strike, and nails Durest with a claw. Durest tries energy drain, but fails to get past the dragon's spell resistance. Fedoki charges Durest, and attacks him with a stunning fist. It does some damage, but fails to stun him. The other dragon also doesn’t want to fight Jenny; he also attacks Durest. Chuck drops Weird on the gathered enemies.
He gets through Fedoki’s spell resistance and the smaller dragon's, but Fedoki shrugs off the effect. The smaller dragon takes some damage from it. Burea tries Power Word Stun on Fedoki, taking him out of the fight for a bit. The larger dragon lays into Durest and takes him out of the battle. The smaller dragon goes after Burea, and power attacks.
Chuck takes a step, grabs Durest, and dimension doors over to Jenny. The dragons move on Burea, and almost – but not quite – take her down; the second dragon fell prey to her Charm, and does not attack her. He moves over to attack Jenny instead.
Jenny retreats to the corner with Chuck and Durest; Chuck makes Durest invisible. Burea uses Limited Wish again to cure Jenny of her repulsion right before the older dragon tears her apart. Fedoki, at least, is still stunned. The younger dragon moves in and attacks Jenny, but… misses. Jenny uses a controlled power attack, and lays into him. The younger dragon goes down.
Chuck: “Things are looking up!” Though his minion has dissolved into mist, and the older dragon is more formidable. He pours a healing potion down Durest’s throat, just before the older dragon flies over and tries to use his repulsion gas on us.
This time, we all shrug it off.
Jenny charges and power attacks, taking some damage on the way in but returning it with interest. The dragon casts a quickened mirror image on itself, then attacks Jenny. Durest attempts to implode Fedoki, but fails. Jenny keeps moving on the dragon, and nails him with her chain. The ground shakes as she steps. Unfortunately, with the mirror images she's killing images instead of damaging the dragon... mostly. She manages to connect with the real dragon twice. Chuck flings out a bunch of magic missiles, removing all but one image and damaging the dragon a bit.
The dragon steps back and casts Displacement on itself… and Durest Implodes it. BLAM.
Fedoku finally shakes off the stun. He climbs to his feet and charges Jenny. The rest of us back off as our stone giant barbarian wraps her spiked chain all the way around him and then yanks it back, spinning him around like a blood-spewing top. He goes down, and doesn't get back up.
We immediately tear through the castle until we find the count, who’s pretty much just reduced to terrified pleading. We kill him, because that was the job, and promptly rob his treasury as well as Master Fedoki's equipment – in particular taking an ioun stone from him, which Jenny will use to qualify for even more damage reduction. In scouring the castle we find a pair of dragon hoards, because even Solari dragons have standards.
Durest steals the image projector that the Count was using.
There’s a ring of invisibility and a ring of evasion in the dragon hoards, and a ring of major electricity resistance.
We head back to Flowerhedge to take dragon chunks and resurrect them in captivity, then perform the dark ritual and convert the dragons into stat books. We use the lesser one (OOC: +3) on Jenny’s Constitution, and the greater one to improve Chuck’s Charisma – which, since he’s a sorcerer, will help with both his spells and his Dominate ability.
Cardinal Marcion is very impressed, and LaRoche is pleased because we’ve made him look good. He’s made arrangements to ensure our future services. He’s prepared to reward us with new powers and abilities; they’re going to show Durest how to become a lich, and Jenny how to become a lycanthrope. They’re offering Chuck a choice: a way to master the staff, or a chance to restore his humanity. The staff has a pit fiend trapped in it; that’s Chuck’s choice. Each will involve a quest.
Durest needs to fashion a reliquary as a focus for the spells needed to become a lich; he’ll need body parts from some sort of saint or god. We’ll have to consult with Maodeus about where to find those. It’s going to be dangerous. For Jenny’s lycanthropy, the infection is easy but the skill to master that affliction will not be. So, we’ll need to get past the Duendewood druids, and then we’ll need to fashion an item that could place the affliction under her control. There’s someone in Annun who can do that, but we’ll have to do him a favor first. To tame Balaam, the demon in the staff, we’ll need to enter the staff and face our greatest fears. We’ll need the hierophant’s help for that. (Durest is deeply curious about what his greatest fears might even be.)
We decide on lycanthropy, demon staff, and chunks of god-corpse as our sequence. Marcion lays out a bit more details on the lycanthropy quest. First we have to find a warbear and manage to get him to infect Jenny; he’s in hiding, and protected by the druids. Then we need someone to fashion a magic ring, which the High Provost of Duendewood can do but we’ll need some way to repay him. Finally, we’ll need to contain Jenny until she regains control.
Note to self: figure out how to improve Jenny’s wisdom.