Once the party is healed and rested, Slade ventures up the ladder. He smells fresh earth and hears the soothing sound of circkets all around him. It is nighttime out, and the air is cool and crisp. He calls for the rest of his party to climb the ladder and join him, which they do, with David piggybacking on Alaric’s shoulders.
The party makes it out the door into the cool night air. It is clear to see that the sun has only set moments ago and it is still early in the night. Twilight is just beginning to seep in as they come upon walls that open to the sky above. There are plaques with people’s names on them adorning these crumbling stone walls.
Alaric stargazes while Silver breathes deeply and enjoys the night air. As she does so, she begins to feel an evil taint upon what should be the love and bosomy caress of Boccob.
“I’m going to say that something wicked this way comes. I feel a sense of foreboding,” Silver announces to no one in particular.
Gazing to the north, Alaric and Slade can just barely make out a treeline in the distance and dirt underneath them. Silver peeks around the corner to look south and, as she does so, the evil presence takes a spike. At that moment, five skeletons emerge and Silver screams at the top of her lungs to the others, breaking the relative silence.
“Oh sorry, I thought we were still in the dungeon,” she replies lamely, drawing attention to the party. She kneels down and prays to Boccob to bless them in their time of need. “In the name of our lord, begone!”
Rather mischievously, David whispers in Alaric’s ear that the skeletons are goblin skeletons and, as expected, the none-too-bright ranger falls for it.
In a show of incredible strength and fortitude, David’s fingers tingle and he hits the skull of the enchanted creature with a dart, felling it instantly. The skull ignites like a small grenade and explodes inside the skeleton’s head. Every one of the party members is in awe of his skill since he is so small and all.
Silver continues delivering her awe-inspiring speeches to encourage her party members: “Boccob, I’ve been asking you nicely for a round now… will you please turn these skeletons away?”
As if in answer to her prayer, a light fills her and sends the skeletons scrambling away.
“Go back where you came from!” she cries.
“Oh no you don’t!” Alaric yells, slashing down the closest one. The skeleton collapses to the ground like a bag of bones. He kills another, crushing it with his pure might and rage. Aeryn kills another. Both Aeryn and Silver ask Boccob for forgiveness.
As soon as the smog clears, the party finds themselves in a graveyard. Aeryn is immediately taken aback. She recognizes this graveyard from her childhood, when she tended to the death of her beloved grandfather. Almost everything is exactly as she remembers it. And she remembers the castle is not far from here.
As she is drawn from her reverie, a great evil grips everyone’s bones. Just ahead, they can barely make out a form lurking toward them. It is a gaunt, bent over form that shambles toward them through the gravestones. Silver senses a tremendous form of evil. It moves with an inhuman motion but it is not slow. As it approaches the party, they see it resembles a decaying, putrid version of a person.
David once again tells Alaric it’s a dead goblin.
Alaric’s response? “Goblins everywhere! I will kill you all!”
He cleaves it cleanly in two, his berserker rage compelling him to stab it in both eyes with both blades at the same time. Although the creature is gone, the evil still lurks around the party members. They proceed through the graveyard with caution.
Up ahead, they notice a fountain that hasn’t been used in some time and tombstones that have been knocked over and overgrown by moss and weeds. David tells Alaric the graveyard is a gobo graveyard. For a second, Alaric looks at Aeryn, thinking she is a filthy gobo half-blood. A second only, and then the thought is gone.
An overwhelming carrion stench fills the air as the party approaches the south door of a graveyard building and the stench gets greater. Alaric raps once, sharply, on the door.
The sound of movement can be heard behind the doors and three more heads pop up like the nones before them.
“Return!” Alaric cries, his loyal knife flying back into his waiting palm. David, of course, tells him their new foes are also goblins.
“So many gobos; this is a glorious day!” Alaric proclaims. Sheathing his dagger, he takes his khopesh and impales it in the sternum of one of the creatures, lifting it up on the blade and tossing it aside like a ragdoll.
“You messed with the wrong ranger, gobo!” Gleefully he adds, “Gobos everywhere!”
At that moment, the two human companions of the group—Alaric and Aeryn—are completely overwhelmed by the carrion stench. They both double over and vomit in sync.
Slade manages to kill the other skeleton.
The party comes to an ornate door at the south entrance with chains binding it closed. Slade removes the chain and puts it in his pack. The party enters the building and notice it appears to be a chapel. Alaric commands Bedlam forward into the darkness and the loyal dog leaves his view. He whistles for Bedlam, but the dog does not come.
Silver begins to feel both a good and evil presence here.
Recognizing this as the chapel where she held services with her family during funerals, Aeryn is overcome with emotion. Her thoughts drift continually to her dead family and she is reminded of them just being in this place. Even though it is a place of great emotion, she gets a feeling of love in her time of immense grief. She can barely take a step forward, so she merely stands in the archway, immobilized.
The pews are broken from dry rot, but the building is otherwise fine and sturdy. The carpet is rotted and torn away, though it once boasted an ornate and intricate design on it. Behind where there is usually a cross is a tomb inlaid with stone and gold filigree. Although Slade at first plans to shimmy open the casket, he changes his mind and decides to investigate first. It is large, fit for a tall, grown man. It is then he notices it bears the Dragonsbane crest.
“Get away from that casket!” Aeryn yells at Slade, summoning an imperious tone to her voice. She nudges him away and investigates it. It is not immediately recognizable to her. There is a name inscribed on it, but it is difficult to make out. A flash of lightning at an opportune time illuminates the chamber and reveals to her the identity of the man in the casket: Gareth Dragonsbane. Aeryn brusts into tears at the sight of it and hugs it. Her heart is filled with sadness and then the coldness touches her heart.
While in her weakened emotional state, Aeryn trembles with sadness and then fear. She maintains her composure, but just barely. Suddenly and without warning, she feels led to back away from the casket. She moves slowly away, looking terrified. Slade notices this and readies his weapon.
Just then, the party members hear a rattling of chains at the south door of the building. The doors burst open as a clap of thunder rattles the building’s foundations. A flash of lightning illuminates the pale lone figure at the entrance, revealing a man wearing a cloak.
“Identify yourself,” Alaric beckons him.
“I don’t need to identify myself, you meddlesome adventurers,” the harsh voice rasps. “Aren’t you just after fame and fortune? Isn’t that all you want? You don’t even belong here.”
“Not even those of us who grew up here?” Silver comments, baiting him.
This seems to pique his interest.
“No, not even you, Aeryn Dragonsbane.”
His gaze meets the young woman and it is clear she has not regained complete control of her faculties yet. She can still manage to talk, and she does—bitingly.
“How do you know me?”
“I know everything about you, Aeryn,” he says silkily, his voice a whisper that is both harsh and mesmerizing at the same time. “This is your last chance—leave now!”
David tells Alaric the man is an evil goblin and he, predictably, flies into an immediate rage.
“What have you done with this man’s ghost dog?” Silver queries him.
“Ghost dog? You mean that little toy that is at your beckon call?”
He snaps his fingers and Bedlam reappears.
“What is this trickery, gobo?” Alaric spits in disgust.
Long pale hands snake out from under the cloak to tug back the hood and the party members recognize him immediately. He is the rider of the stagecoach they met on the road long ago, Simonton. The vampire! Or so they think.
He dispels the charm from Alaric so the ranger sees him as he truly is.
“Leave now,” Simonton commands them. “It is my place. I own it now.”
“I don’t think you do,” Aeryn interrupts.
“This is the deed. I purchased it fair and square.”
He presents her with a piece of parchment that she seizes. On the page is scrawled a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo that basically confirms what he is saying.
I purchased it from the Frostmantles."
“You can’t sell something you never truly own,” David speaks up wisely.
Alaric queries him as to whether he has had dealings with Drawback Dagger, but the man denies it and doesn’t appear to even know who he is. He merely claims to be a business man. David counters by saying he doesn’t own it, but Simonton challenges them to come and take it from him.
“Time to die, vampire!” Aeryn yells.
“I’m already dead!” he declares, confirming their months-long suspicions that he is, indeed, a vampire.
“Let’s bring him outside, see him sparkle in the twilight,” Aeryn taunts as she draws her sword.
Simonton immediately dematerializes and moves through them to the front of the casket. He draws a slim, elegant rapier from his sheath and bares his pointed teeth at the adventurers.
“Take it from me!” he repeats.
“Gladly, bitch,” Aeryn responds, brandishing her sword at him.
With a flourish of the hand, Simonton sends all of the doors flying wide open. Rain lashes down against the eaves of the building and the wind pummels the walls relentlessly. Alaric and Slade try to shut all the doors but are unsuccessful with all save one—the west door. Slade puts his grubby, Hyperion, in the corner, and turns to join his companions.
Aeryn is the first to attack. Instead of engaging her in battle, Simonton locks eyes on her and stares. She feels her willpower eroding in the gaze of a vampire and feels compelled to move by his side. She does so, wanting to resist but failing miserably.
“Sorry, guys,” her mind says.
Rhaine slashes Simonton with a blade and he hisses, baring long fangs. Silver tries to lasso Aeryn and tie her up but is unable to. Slade tries to use his venom injector to paralyze Aeryn for the duration of the battle but is unsuccessful. David casts sleep on her and she falls into a deep and fitful slumber.
Between the clamor of battle and the clash of thunder from outside, Alaric hears snarls. He spies what might be a small pack of wolves enter the chapel through an open door.
Simonton laughs playfully and says, “If I can’t have Aeryn Dragonsbane, I’ll have another.”
He lifts a hand and the casket’s lid starts to open. Rahine’s flame blade makes contact with the pulpit and sets it ablaze. Meanwhile, Slade drags a sleeping Aeryn over into the corner beside Hyperion to protect her from Simonton and his cronies.
Alaric cleaves a wolf in two. Just as the wretched animal falls, three ghouls show up through the south door and two skeletons appear at the east door. Then, at that exact moment, out from the casket climbs Gareth Dragonsbane in a full set of half plate, armed with a blazing longsword encrusted with the Dragonsbane symbol and a shield and halberd.
Simonton turns his attention to Alaric. He rematerializes in front of the ranger but without his rapier this time. His nails grow out and he slashes at Alaric. The ranger feels drained by the energy. Bedlam does not return to his side but stays with his new master instead.
Silver summons power from another speech: “This is a holy place, a place of love, of light, and you shall not desecrate it with your filth, your vermin. Begone!”
She reveals her holy symbols to Simonton and he turns away, thrusting his cape over his eyes. While he is stunned and his arm is shielding his face, Alaric grabs him, lifts him up, and runs with him into the fire on the pulpit.
Simonton turns into a vaporous form and materializes elswhere in the chapel, but this time his face is burned. His hands start moving as he casts a spell. With a flourish of his hand, he chants and makes a fist pump that causes Bedlam to howl. Alaric watches in horror as the spirit of his beloved pet is being forcibly pulled into the body of a live wolf against his will. The wolf gets up with Bedlam’s ghost inside of it, but gone is the kindness of the war dog and in its place is a very sinister evil. Bedlam turns toward Alaric and begins advancing.
Gareth attacks Silver and throws her into the fire; she sustains a small amount of damage. Meanwhile, David dispatches two of the ghouls with burning hands.
“How’s your face, Simonton?” Alaric taunts him, making sure not to look him in the eyes.
In response, Simonton flourishes his hands and mutters toward Gareth, making him grow to three times his size.
Rhaine feels a mental jar; a good one. In her head she can hear the words of the kind Beastmaster: “Thornweaver, they’ve heard your call.”
As if on cue, Milky and Fluffy come charging through, bursting the doors right off their hinges. Slade understandably craps his pants and takes damage from being trampled by the two huge pandas. Rhaine solidifies her bond with them, allowing her to instruct the pandas to hit the vampire. Slade cleans the shit out of his pants and throws a fire opal into the fray. A frenzied fracas ensues.
Alaric’s knife finds purchase, piercing through the vampire’s chest. He slices through the mist and Simonton takes his man form. The fire sai slices through his face. At that moment Gareth’s body falls over and so does Bedlam’s. Silver knows about the lroe of the vampire and that she has to act fast. She retrieves a stakey-looking piece of wood and pounds it once into his heart. Simonton shrieks as he is pierced. They hear the chorus of screams of undead ghouls from the graveyard fill the air. Then, with a final clap of thunder, all is silent.
Alaric detaches the vampire’s head from its body with a fire sai.
“I’m gonna do it until it comes off!” he declares, not realizing quite how dirty that sounds.
The body of Gareth Dragonsbane immediately returns to its normal size. Alaric takes Simonton’s rapier and the rings he wore on either hand. David finally reveals t o him that there are no goblins anymore. Alaric’s patience is clearly being tested.
“What’d you do with the goblins?” he queries the little gnome.
Bedlam the wolf is unconscious but still breathes. As the animal opens its eyes and begins to stare at its master, Alaric notices his eyes are identical to the eyes Bedlam possessed when he was of flesh and blood. The excited wolf jumps up on Alaric and licks his face, happy to see him.
David rouses Aeryn. She comes to with a slight headache but is more than happy to see the gnome. The entire thing felt like a dream. She says she remembers staring down the vampire and fighting and now all she sees around her are her friends and two giant fucking pandas.
“What the fuck?!” she says out loud, unable to contain herself.
As she looks around, she notices the chapel is almost destroyed. Her friends immediately relay to her what happened. At that moment, Aeryn feels compelled to rush to her father’s body. He is wearing his ceremonial armor. She takes his full-sized heavy armor shield with the crest of the Dragonsbane family on it and the Sword of Dragonsbane.
Slade finds he has been in possession of the Shilling of Delicate Bowels. He who holds it is apt to shit his pants, which explains his earlier “looseness” at seeing the pandas come bounding in to the chapel.
Silver senses a calm surrounding the graveyard. Slade drags the rest of the vampire’s body into the fire and then frees the chained up wolf Rhaine was trying to tame. Silver prays to remove Alaric’s vampiric curse. The party, for now, is safe.