Upon passing through the portal, Y’ora informed the adventuring party that they were in a tower owned by the wizard Glynelenor, an accomplice in the Spider’s smuggling organization. Y’ora and Courtland separated from the rest of the group to ascend the tower and locate the wizard in hopes that he would shut down the portal linking back to Alaron.
The wizard’s laboratory was a dangerous labyrinth of arcing electricity climbing tall jacobs ladders, glowing in plasma cylinders, and swirling in dizzying patterns in glass disks. The bent old wizard seemed unfazed by the danger of the electricity around him as he worked at switchboards and monitored flickering lights.
Glynelenor was aggravated by the interruption, but at Y’ora’s urging, he finally relented and shuffled down the long staircase to the teleportation room to dismantle the spell.
The troupe regrouped to discuss their plans when another tower resident joined them, this time a young, female tiefling, with red skin and a fluffy black mohawk. Y’ora and the tiefling embraced warmly, and Y’ora introduced the tiefling as her lover, Rebel. Together, Y’ora and Rebel offered some suggestions to the group, Y’ora strongly advising that they stay away from the war and ruin in the empire. Rebel offered to show the group around Ravinia, where they might have found work as mercenaries, though Y’ora made it clear that she would have been happier to have them join her own organization.
Learning that Rebel was from Ravinia, Henrick asked her about the insignia that he saw on the armored figures guarding his family home. The tiefling knew that the insignia was that of the RAPTOR squadron of Ravinia’s mercenary military, but couldn’t offer any more explanation as to why they were at his estate.
After much debate, the group decided to visit the local town of Ajaccio, where they could enjoy the Shepherd’s Festival and clear their heads before making any decisions about their future.
Ajaccio was a pleasant town, built among gentle sloping hills, with streets made of colorful river stones, and small homes, decorated with flowers. At the center of town, on a cobblestone plaza, the festival was in full swing; numerous stalls with colorful canopies were set up, each of them selling sheep and mutton, cooking in rich broths, roasted with spicy seasonings, diced raw with onions and garlic, and many other ways unusual to Great Farris.
The adventurers spent some time enjoying the food, games, and dances of the festival, but their attention was drawn to a nearby pavilion where the count of Ajaccio was making a speech, thanking the shepherds for their contributions, as well as the harvest gods for continuing to bless them with bounty. Once the speech was over and the count had descended from the stage, Hania and Henrick approached him to question after the town and recent lunar events.
Count Ilario di Luna was happy to speak with the newcomers, and seemed rather interested in Henrick in particular. Separating Henrick from the rest of the group, the count asked in a hushed voice, having recognized his accent as coming from the Empire, if they were the envoy from Great Farris that the king of Nazianz had been waiting for. Henrick attempted to deny this, but the count assumed that they were to travel in secrecy to the king and could not talk about it.
The count invited the group to his home to discuss things further – an offer which they accepted – and then he left them to enjoy the rest of the festival.
When the group arrived at the count’s home, their host was busy with dinner preparations, leaving them alone and awkwardly waiting in the sitting room. They were not alone however, as Hania noticed that someone was watching them through the partially opened door.
The daeva opened the door quickly, startling the young lady on the other side. She introduced herself as Ilaria di Luna, the count’s daughter. She joined the party, sitting with them and talking about their adventures, seemingly trying to gather information about them. Sensing this, Hania simply asked the girl what it was she was after.
Ilaria confided in the group that she’d hoped to hire them to find her lover, a troubadour by the name of Manrico. She revealed Manrico to be a talented bard, but he had a tendency to get himself into trouble with petty theft and confidence tricks; his punishments were never severe, but when Ilario found out about the affair between the troubadour and his daughter, he had Manrico exiled from Ajaccio. Despite his exile, Manrico continued to sneak into the town to see Ilaria, but did not show for their last scheduled meeting.
The head of the merchant’s guild, Massimo Lazzari – a very successful man, well loved in Ajaccio for his efforts in bringing up the price of wool – had been trying for years to get Ilaria to return his affections, and had done much to create trouble for Manrico in the past – Ilaria even suspected that he had something to do with her father’s idea to exile the troubadour. With her beloved going missing, Ilaria feared that Massimo had a hand in the disappearance.
Having agreed to help Ilaria, the group told the count that they would need another day to prepare before leaving for Ostia Antica to see the king, and that night, they sneaked out of the count’s home to head for the forest, where Manrico had a hunting cabin he’d been living in.
Arriving at the cabin, they found obvious signs of struggle, flecks of blood, and a lute smashed to pieces against the wall. The back door was standing open, and there were obvious drag marks that led into the forest.
Following the trail of struggle, the troupe came upon some ruins of an old keep, where a number of poorly outfitted human guards huddled around small fires, alongside primal-garbed goblins. Hidden in the shadows of a crumbled wall stood a cage large enough to hold a human.
The group attacked from the shadows, and in no time, the guards and goblins lay dead all around them; an attempt had been made to leave one alive, but in his attempt to escape, he’d tripped from the high, crumbling wall and tumbled to his death. Worse still, the cage was empty and there was no sign of Manrico.
Searching the guards, the group managed to find a note, which explained that Massimo would be taking Manrico to ‘the witch in the woods’. With no other leads, the group moved back into the forest to search for the witch.
In time, the adventurer’s were able to follow a meandering trail of strange totems of dangling bone and leather that hung in the trees like wind chimes. This brought them finally to the witch’s hut, a ramshackle hovel sitting in the center of a field of thick, sucking mud. The witch was standing outside of her hut, shaking rattles made of bone and calling out to the sky as she danced around a roaring fire, eyes glinting in the fire light. Behind her, emerging from the hovel, was a well groomed, dark-haired man in immaculate, if ceremonial, armor and weapons; he was pushing a bound and gagged man before him, wearing tattered red velvet.
Aiko Tai Hideaki listened to the witch’s mad eulogy, in hopes of gleaning its purpose, and was shocked to realize that she was calling out to Demogorgon.
Courtland spearheaded the attack, lashing out at the witch as he leaped out of the shadows and into the strangely flickering lights of the bonfire. As his blades cut into the witch’s leathery skin, Courtland looked into her ancient, wrinkled face, and saw her staring back at him with children’s glass marbles, where eyes should have been.
The witch responded to the attack by melting into mist and flowing away from Courtland to stand beneath an immense tree. There, she worked her magic to summon a pair of immense, humanoid figures out of the mud to fight off Courtland’s companions.
Massimo threw Manrico to the ground and stepped forward to stand between Courtland and the witch. In his fury at the interruption, Massimo exclaimed that he would stop them interrupting the ritual.
In his misguided attempts to make Ilaria love him, Massimo allowed himself to be tricked by the witch into bringing her a human sacrifice, claiming that with it, she would be able to make a potion for the man that would ensure that Ilaria would be his forever. Despite the promise of eternal love driving him, Massimo was no match for Courtland, who quickly dealt a fatal blow to the merchant, and then toppled him into the bonfire.
While Hania, Henrik and Aiko fought the mud men, and Courtland dealt the killing blow to Massimo, Edmund made his way around the edge of the fight and up to the witch. The old hag was hurling spells at the others and lost sight of Edmund in the chaos, allowing the shifter to land a lethal blow with his word, which tore open the leathery flesh of her plump abdomen, allowing the straw and wriggling insects within to spill from her gut. Finally slain, the witch fell to the mud, and her body was added to the bonfire alongside Massimo’s.
Manrico was freed, though he could only thank the group before Hania began questioning him, clearly implying that he was a gold digging sneak thief, only after the count’s station and wealth. The troubadour pleaded that this was not the case, and explained that he and Ilaria planned to run away from Ajaccio to be together.
Exploring the witch’s hut revealed many grisly artifacts, in the form of jars full of insects and strange meat, animal skulls, strange runes drawn in ash. Also in the hut was a small, leather satchel, containing a mirror which the other members of the group were too afraid to look into.
Manrico left the group to return to his cabin, so that he could prepare himself to return to Ilaria, while the adventurers returned to the ruins of the keep to plan their next move.
While at the ruins, strange whistling sounds could be heard coming from the well, like rushing wind. Curious, Henrik dropped his rope down the well and climbed down inside. The well descended to an underground river, which Henrik lowered himself into, and then fell through, so that he was dangling above a vast plain, covered in gray dust and stones, his rope hanging through a watery portal in the empty sky of that black place.
Concerned by how long the warlord was absent, Henrik’s companions quickly pulled him back up and out of the well.
As the others gathered around the well, Aiko took out the mirror to examine it. He deduced the mirror to be a ‘spying mirror’, and knew that if he was to look into it, he would be able to see through its mate as though looking through a window – but where could its mate be?
(Three hero points.)