The Clutch of Verthandi

Gangs of Dragonhelm

Even a cursed city has turf wars

Once the Scarlet Crusade makes it into the pit at the edge of Dragonhelm, they are relatively safe from danger—for now. Eoleo and Rognar use their short reprieve to inspect Drohun’s journal, in which they find a map depicting the postern gate of which Julian spoke.

With nowhere to go but forward, the crusaders head through the gate and over a bridge crossing the abyss of a secondary moat. Ahead is a locked drawbridge into the city proper, and the sound of an angry voice echoes across the void. The crusaders are able to determine that the voice is speaking in Aklo, the language of creatures who dwell in darkness. The party edges forward and spies three darklings, huge, hideous creatures known for their stone axes and ability to emit a cone of silence—something that comes in handy while they steal children and eat their eyes. Joy.

The crusaders are almost immediately noticed by the owner of the angry voice, a dark naga. The aberration quickly makes use of its sorcery and attacks the crusaders with a lightning bolt that catches the crusaders by surprise. Even with damaged armor, however, Niamh quickly engages one darkling while Raleria engulfs another with her trusty fireball, and Rognar closes out all three with his handy cold iron throwing axes. After the naga tries to scorching ray Niamh, Raleria blasts the naga, and the team goes on their merry way.

Behind the Naga lay a passage heading up into what appears to be a warehouse, where the crusaders detect the rather unexpected sound of battle. Niamh, Rognar, Eoleo and Quallo peer through a window to find three dark stalkers leading a small force of a dozen dark creepers, Dark Folk who crop up near a strong source of darkness. They were engaged in a brutal struggle against several degenerate dwarves led by three Dwarven vampire spawn. Skirting the fringes of the battle were several derro, a race of insane fey/gnomes who shrivel in sunlight and conduct mad experiments on living creatures. As the battle comes to a close in the the dwarves’ favor, the derro drag away fallen soldiers for their experiments and the remaining vampire spawn and dwarves loot the bodies and limp away. Once the square clears, the crusaders manage to rustle up two silver swords that were left behind. Thus armed, the crusaders decide to throw in with the victors of the battle and track the vampires.

As they trek through the city, the crusaders see two gaseous-form vampires slip down the chimney of an upper-class villa that, surprisingly, looks to be in recent use. The team cautiously enters the villa and begins searching, whereupon a throw rug flies into the air and begins moaning. More flying carpets follow suit, and Eoleo and Raleria fall prone, nauseated, and vulnerable to attack. Rognar identifies the creatures as Shadow Cloakers and neatly slices through two them. Then he promptly disappears. As far as Rognar can tell, he is in a shadow labyrinth that only someone with Niamh’s intelligence could hope to escape. In a miraculous moment of clarity, he makes his way back to reality… where everything is still topsy turvy. The horse is the MVP of combat, the ranger gets stuck in the shadow maze but still does damage through a class ability, the homicidal maniac saves the healer’s life, and the sorcerer get experience from puking through the entire battle.

When the Crusade finally recovers from its ludicrous battle with the carpets-in-disguise, the two vampire spawn awaken with two silver swords at their newly reformed throats. They are intimidated into believing the crusade is a band of treasure hunters, and they are taken through a confusing series of twisting paths to the Vampire encampment. There they meant the leader of the vampires, Lady Agatha Thormont, who was otherwise occupied in a dwarven orgy. She dismisses the “treasure hunters” to Ordin, a spiritual advisor of sorts to Lady Thormont. He tells the crusaders that the Doom turned himself and most of Dragonhelm’s other lifeforms into vampire spawn, and the Dark Folk and derro slowly accumulated, attracted to the darkness of the Doom. Lady Thormont rules the old Gold quarter of the city, while the Dark Folk inhabit the Iron quarter. The derro, who inhabit the Silver quarter, are loosely led by three Night Hags, whom the derro worship.

Of most interest to the party, Ordin reveals that the Diamond quarter is the territory of Vahnsinndyr, the mad red dragon, and a brash, territorial umbral dragon who has clashed with Vahnsinndyr before. He (or she) could be a very powerful ally for one of the three factions.

In their continuous effort to wage war against the Darkfolk, the vampires are allied to Lijan, a rakshasa who trades Dark Powder to them, a resource that negates Dark Folk’s supernatural darkness, their most consistent weapon against vampires. In their attempt to ingratiate themselves with Lady Thormont and her spawn, the crusaders must help out their cause in some way, and going to Lijan seems like a good place to start.

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