Time goes by, Kendra and Katarzyna purchase more bodies for dissection. Katarzyna also studies Celestial and Vudran, the others research and create items on their own.
Saturday, July 26th, Lepidstadt, Ustalav
They are summoned to Judge Daramid’s house, where they learn that Dragos has managed to capture Alpon Caromac, who had been trying to revivify his dead wife and son. They found all sorts of horrible things in Schloss Caromac. Alpon Caromac told the authorities that Auren Vrood and his cohorts were going down to the Shudderwood to the Ascanor Lodge. They assume that Auren Vrood has taken the Old Hunter’s Path to Ascanor Lodge. Judge Daramid offers to give the party letters of introduction.
Sunday, July 27th, Lepidstadt, Ustalav
Katarzyna is gone all night.
Monday, July 28th, Lepidstadt, Ustalav
Kendra and Katarzyna are gone for most of the evening.
Tuesday, July 29th, Lepidstadt, Ustalav to the Margreve/Shudderwood
The group leaves for Ascanor Lodge. Judge Daramid gives them letters of introduction. They buy horses to make the journey go more swiftly. They enter the Shudderwood. It’s slow going, and they hear wolves. Grewin guides them around so that there is purchase for the horse’s hooves. The Margreve is as creepy as they remember. Katarzyna asks Grewin to teach her Sylvan and Gnomish, and they have their first lessons on the path. Grewin warns them that there might be ettercaps around, so he and Abner go scouting ahead. Abner and Grewin decide to flush out the ettercaps and drive them back toward the others. While they’re preparing to shoot at one, two others drop down and attack Grewin and Abner. Katarzyna is trapped in webs, but cuts herself out. She uses her Magic Missiles to take out an ettercap, and to wound another that is fleeing. Grewin finishes that one off, and Gregore takes a swing at the one that keeps attacking. The remaining two ettercaps instantly regret attacking them, and try to get away. Kendra shoots at one with her rifle. Grewin shoots his bow. Katarzyna shoots Magic Missiles at both of the fleeing ettercaps, and one of them manages to escape. Grewin tries to hit the fleeing ettercap, and manages to make an almost impossible shot, dropping it.
Kendra spots a ruined old tower. Katarzyna can’t see it. They decide to go check out the tower. As they approach, they hear music. Abner is enraptured by the music, and they go after him into the tower. There are six victims bound up in the sacs. There are goats, horses and two humans. All are dead. Grewin finds a sealed envelope soaked in blood with a wax seal. Kendra sees that it is a reservation for a room at Ascanor Lodge. The male human victim was Etchmoor Draven, a scion of the house of Draven. It is the most recent victim drained. They make their way down the hole, to check out the source of the music.
Katarzyna discovers that the creature under the earth is a weaverworm, a corrupted version of a lamia. The creature attacks them. It manages to paralyze Abner and Katarzyna, but Kendra manages to shrug off the paralysis. The weaverworm wounds Grewin grievously. Abner finally recovers from his paralysis, and attacks, but misses. The weaverworm also claws Abner and Katarzyna again. Grewin finally takes her down. They find 721 gold pieces worth of coins, a potion, and a ring. The ring is one long feather that curves at the end. The group decides that Katarzyna should have the ring of Feather Fall.
The group collects themselves and continues for another five miles or so. They hear the occasional howls of wolves, which is unusual during daylight hours. It starts to rain. It’s kind of more of a drizzle. When they stop, Katarzyna spots a nested doll. It’s old and broken. Katarzyna uses Mending to repair it and put it back. They set up camp. Kendra and Jean-Baptiste go to gather herbs and such. Katarzyna helps Abner with the camp while Grewin goes hunting. Grewin tells them that the animals of the forest are frightened of increased werewolf activity. One of the larger packs, the Dorzhanevs, “the Broken Ones”, settle near the edges of the woods, and pose as simple farmers and travelers. The Jezeldans, or Demon Wolves, is another group, who worship Jezelda, Mistress of the Hungry Moon, who are outcasts among other wolves. There are numerous other werewolf factions in the Margreve, and Grewin and Jean-Baptiste tell them all they know about them during the evening meal. Jean-Baptiste especially seems to know about the doings of the werewolves, and Farren had given him a lot of the information.
They hear singing in the woods, and Jean-Baptiste and Grewin go out to investigate. Katarzyna uses the Margreve cloak to make herself invisible. It turns out to be a group of hunters, and there is a bit of a tense standoff with Jean-Baptiste, but they go off without any real incident. The group has their evening meal and go to sleep. They set watches, with Gregore and Katarzyna not being on rotation so they can prepare their spells in the morning.
During Jean-Baptiste’s watch, he hears Amelia growl. He kicks Grewin awake. Katarzyna also wakes up. There is a scream. Katarzyna invokes the Margreve cloak. Grewin and Jean-Baptiste, along with Kendra, go to investigate the noise, but Katarzyna stays behind, unable to see where the others went because they traveled with such expert stealth. Jean-Baptiste, Kendra and Grewin come upon a clearing of sorts, where a group of werewolves are fighting amongst themselves. One set of the wolves have splotchy grayish fur, as though they have mange. The other group are reddish in coloration with a silver stripe. During the fighting, Grewin hears someone proclaim “I will never serve the Mordrinacht.” Grewin spots a figure with a goatee, gathered with a band, who also carries a backpack. A chorus of howls erupts from the gathering. Even Katarzyna can hear it back at the campsite. There are exchanges among the wolves as the group breaks up, then they all shift into wolf form and leave the area. One of the wolves seems to have spotted Grewin, but doesn’t approach.
Five minutes afterward, Grewin comes down to the clearing to inspect the bodies of the dead werewolves. One has had its heart ripped out of its chest. All the dead werewolves have reddish hair, and are in human form. There are no dead werewolves with any indication of mange. There is evidence that some bodies had been taken away. They guess that the Dawn Guard were the losers of this inter-clan battle. They encounter a living werewolf, he tells them to leave. Jean-Baptiste is reluctant to leave.
They get back to camp, and tell the others what they’ve seen. They go back to sleep, but some time later Kendra wakes up Jean-Baptiste silently and confers with him.
Wednesday, July 30th, Margreve/Shudderwood to Maritzka’s Inn, Ustalav
The morning dawns, and they set out for Ascanor Lodge. On the road, Grewin sees a hunter he knows. Grewin warns him about the wolves. The hunter is leaving the forest, and is trying to avoid the conflict.
In the late afternoon, they hear thundering hooves approach. the rider almost collides with them. They greet the traveler, who tells them that he’s traveling to Lepidstadt. He is the mailman they had encountered previously. He tells them that Kevalka Seyn, leader of the werewolves of the Margreve, is dead. She was murdered, but it is not known by whom. They arrive at a place called Maritzka’s. As they approach, the men on the roof call out to them in greeting. They put their horses in the corral. Jean-Baptiste overhears the sentries, who are talking about Grewin, and they’re nervous about his fey nature. One of them mentions the fey that saved Czerwonya, and Jean-Baptiste confirms it. A small boy comes out and tends to their horses. Gregore, Abner and Katarzyna go inside the inn while Jean-Baptiste, Kendra and Grewin take care of the horses.
Katarzyna talks to the lady at the inn, whose name turns out to be Maritzka. She tells Jean-Baptiste that the two guys on the roof are her grandsons. She brings them ale, wine and food. Jean-Baptiste pays for the meal, and requests a bath be drawn for himself. Kendra and Abner take the one room that is available, while the others take beds in the common room for the night. Katarzyna, Jean-Baptiste and Amelia have baths. Katarzyna chats with a woman named Tatiana, who is a witch of Hala, and Jean-Baptiste flirts with her. Grewin overhears a conversation, where inn patrons talk about a war, and choosing a side. One says they will “back the Primal” and “no one has consumed the heart of Kevalka Seyn.”
They all turn in for the night. Katarzyna and Grewin chat a bit about the Whispering Way as they’re laying in their cots drifting off to sleep.
Thursday, July 31st, Maritzka’s Inn to Margreve/Shudderwood, Ustalav
They see the priestess of Hala, Tatiana, saddling up her donkey as they come out of Maritzka’s. They continue on the road. They see the pale corpse of a naked man hanging from a yellow oak tree. His mouth is stuffed with purple flowers, and there is a large silver hunting knife buried in his chest. When Jean-Baptiste and Grewin investigate the body, they trigger a trap, and are injured by a hail of crossbow bolts. They cut down the body of the man, who is a dead werewolf, and bury him. They also find the crossbows and gather up the silver dagger and the usable crossbow bolts.
They continue on, and make camp before reaching Ascanor Lodge. The night passes uneventfully, though they do hear baying of wolves.
Friday, August 1st, Margreve/Shudderwood to Ascanor Lodge, Ustalav
In the morning, they get back on the road, and before noon they arrive at Ascanor Lodge. It is a large two-story building, log construction, surrounded by a stout wooden palisade. They enter through wrought-iron portcullis. The guards call down to them, and they tell them that they have letters of introduction. The guards run to fetch someone, who turns out to be a halfling named Belik. Jean-Baptiste talks to Belik. It doesn’t go well. Katarzyna manages to get him to let them in after a brief conversation. A man is leaving as they’re entering, hauling boxes with the heraldic sigil of Ariesir of Ardeal, which is recognized by Katarzyna and Jean-Baptiste. Grewin notices a gnomish girl among the servants of the lodge. He is instantly attracted to her.
Katarzyna talks with Duristan Silvio of House Ariesir and Delgros Kroitzcer, the hunstman guide of Ascanor Lodge. Delgros speaks with Grewin, with whom he has some acquaintance. Katarzyna chats up Duristan. He is fiercely dedicated to rooting out werewolves. They agree to accompany Duristan and Delgros on their hunt. They reach the clearing where they were expecting to find a trap that Duristan had set, but they don’t find it. Delgros and Grewin search the area for tracks and clues. They all head out in search of a dire boar.
Before long, they encounter the dire boar. Or rather, the THREE dire boars. Two attack Grewin, and another attempts to hit Jean-Baptiste. Katarzyna Dimension Doors up to a tree, but immediately stumbles and falls out of the tree. Her Feather Fall ring kicks in. The battle rages. Katarzyna and Grewin take down one of them, while Kendra, Jean-Baptiste and Duristan take down another one. Kendra then attacks the last one. It is finally killed, and they look around the area.
Grewin looks at the carcass of the stag that the boars had been trying to drag away. Grewin determines that the stag had been killed by canine creatures. Grewin tells Duristan this. Duristan and Delgros debate whether to camp and try to kill the werewolves. Duristan starts taking silvered bear traps out of the boxes.
They chat with Duristan at night, and he mentions that Corvin Tergsvor is staying at Ascanor Lodge. He also mentions Markiza Welgory of Canterwall, probably from Tamrivena. He also gives them more general information about Ascanor Lodge. They discover that Mirta Straelock is there, with a companion named Crilaum. Madame Ivanja and her girl Niama are other guests, Madame Ivanja is a Vistani. He also shows them his “scar ward”, which supposedly protects one from the curse of lycanthropy.
Eventually they all turn in for the night. They hear a short horrid snarl before they bed down. Then they hear another one on the other side of camp. Jean-Baptiste, Katarzyna and Grewin go to the sound of the first scream, and a werewolf has slain both the hirelings. He tells them “Go tell Estovion that Mathus Mordinacht shall never claim the title.” Grewin yells at the werewolf, and the standoff continues as they discover that the Vollensag werewolves do remember the group’s previous pact with them. Katarzyna is snippy with the growling Vollensag, and tells him that “if he sees Johann, tell him I say hello”.
They arrive at the lodge, and are greeted by Belik. He offers them beverages. They talk to Estovion Lozorov. Myphina Dawnhair is the gnomish maid. Katarzyna sees the interest in Grewin’s eyes and she does her best to facilitate the conversation. They then go talk with Estovion.
Estovion’s office is circular in shape. They are introduced to him one at a time. They exchange pleasantries, but before too long, Jean-Baptiste confronts him about the Vollensag’s charge regarding his involvement with the werewolves. Kendra, Katarzyna, Abner and Grewin largely stay out of the conversation. At one point Belik shows them their rooms. There are only two rooms for them to use, but they are large rooms. Katarzyna, Grewin, and Jean-Baptiste are in one room, Kendra, Gregore and Abner are in the other. Katarzyna helps Grewin get ready for his “date” with Myphina Dawnhair, and then she beds down for the night when Grewin leaves to meet Myphina. Amelia stays in the kennel, where she is pampered.
Meanwhile, in Estovion’s office, Jean-Baptiste waits for Estovion’s return, then questions him some more. He asks about “unusual guests” but Estovion doesn’t have any info. Grewin keeps his date with Myphina. They share an expensive bottle of wine. They sit on a rooftop. They have a sweet date, and hold hands. They are out until about 2 in the morning. Jean-Baptiste is awake, smoking a pipe, when Grewin returns to the room. Katarzyna wakes up, but doesn’t stir, and listens to Grewin and Jean-Baptiste’s conversation about his date. Jean-Baptiste tells Grewin that he spoke with Estovion again and didn’t get anywhere with him. Grewin and Jean-Baptiste have an extended conversation about their theories about Estovion and the werewolves. Jean-Baptiste says that someone has been skinning werewolves. Eventually their conversation winds down, and they bed down for the night.
Saturday, August 2nd, Ascanor Lodge, Shudderwood, Ustalav
In the morning, Katarzyna is the first awake, and eventually they all make it down to breakfast. Grewin’s breakfast plate has a flower on it, and Katarzyna tells him it’s probably from Myphina. They all decide to chat up the various guests at the lodge. Katarzyna chats with Duristan and Cilas Graydon. The only other people in the common room at this point are Markiza Welgory and her companion Ostovach. Kendra and Jean-Baptiste decide to focus on the research in the library.
Grewin goes to speak with Quiene Steymor, the stablemistress. He mentions Auren Vrood, and Quiene seems to be filled with disquiet.
Kataryna explores the hedge maze. Afterward she explores the lodge and sees who she can run into. She talks with Corvin Tergsvor, but he is dismissive and rude. Eventually she makes her way back up to Kendra and Jean-Baptiste, and tells Kendra about Cilas Graydon’s deceased friend, Etchmoor Draven. Jean-Baptiste and Kendra go down to speak with him and tell him about the death of his friend. When Jean-Baptiste tells him the news, he picks up that Cilas is more upset than he lets on. Kendra gives him the letter that they had found on Etchmoor Draven’s corpse. She also tells him that they have his body.
Katarzyna and Grewin talk about Auren Vrood. The timing of his stay here is too coincidental with the death of Kevalka Seyn. They are joined by Kendra and Jean-Baptiste. It is decided that Katarzyna will talk to Quiene Steymor again. Belik arrives with a slip of paper bearing their names. He tells them it’s from Markiza Welgory. It says “some secrets are best left uncovered, leave Ascanor before you too fall prey to its curse.”
Katarzyna talks to Quiene and gets some more information from her about Auren Vrood. He had come through about a week earlier, and she was instructed not to unload or unsaddle their horses, the didn’t even stay the night.
In the afternoon, Jean-Baptiste has just finished interviewing Markiza Welgory, and they reconvene at the tower library where Kendra is studying. Kendra finds a book with an interesting note that leads them to the title of another book, Halo of Dreams. The group fans out in the tower library to locate the Halo of Dreams tome. Kendra also finds lots of information on the minor werewolf clans. They determine that the two clans Grewin had seen in conflict in the woods were were the Gnaw Marrow and the Broken Ones. Kendra mentions that the books make reference to a clan called the Kuunas, but no information has been found about them. Grewin spends some time with Myphina, “helping” her with her duties.
Katarzyna and Jean-Baptiste confer briefly, then Katarzyna goes to seek out Ostovach. To Katarzyna’s surprise, Ostovach is soft-spoken and accommodating, not rude at all, and they have a pleasant conversation. Katarzyna learns that Auren Vrood and his two companions visited Niama, the Sri Raji dancer in the employ of Madame Ivanja. Markiza Welgory, Duristan, Cilas Graydon/the Margrave and Mirta Straelock arrived after Auren Vrood came and went. Corvin Tergsvor was already at the lodge. He seems friendly toward Katarzyna, but distances himself from her a bit as Markiza Welgory approaches. It’s not clear to Katarzyna whether Markiza noticed the conversation between Ostovach.
Jean-Baptiste goes in search of Madame Ivanja, but first encounters Pauncy Troab, the groundskeeper. He doesn’t seem very helpful, he isn’t surly, just somewhat taciturn and disinterested. He then proceeds toward the guard tower where Madame Ivanja is based. The door opens, and the interior smells heavily of incense. Jean-Baptiste greets Madame Ivanja in the Vistani language, and she bids him enter the premises in the same tongue. He notices the four men who serve Ivanja, who appear to be from the Amber Wastes. He talks with her for a bit, and she confirms that Auren Vrood visited Niama briefly the day they arrived at the lodge.
She also gives Jean-Baptiste a Harrow reading at his request. She tells him that he is bound to his companions, and they are all being manipulated by an unseen force, both in the wood and elsewhere. The thing, or person, has the power to subjugate all the land to its will. While the chance is small, he does have the opportunity to affect the outcome.
She presents the Owl card for Jean-Baptiste. The Owl signifies the guardian of night, the hunter who sees from above. She warns him to beware the patrols of the dead, they seek to find him. She urges him to remember the wisdom of the owl when he comes upon the dead patrol.
She then begins to draw cards for his companions. She tells him that one of his companions is created and tainted by the dark, but not of the dark. Jean-Baptiste speculates that the companion in question is Katarzyna, but possibly Kendra. The card drawn is the Mute Hag, in reversed position. Madame Ivanja tells Jean-Baptiste that his friend seeks someone, and that she should be very careful. She walks a dangerous path, and can be easily consumed by the darkness.
Madame Ivanja continues to contemplate the cards, and says that another of his companions is courageous, but hiding a terrible secret. He may not be able to determine who the companion is. The card for that companion is the Publican. Jean-Baptiste decides after the reading is completed that by process of elimination, this card must represent Grewin.
The Queen Mother card is drawn on Kendra’s behalf.
For Abner, she draws the Midwife, which signifies the barren nature, and one who has a terrible battle with a creature of both worlds.
Madame Ivanja draws the Lost card in reversed position for someone who is very self-assured and secure in his faith. He will confront that which he despises above all else. Great darkness manifests, and he will seek to destroy something from beyond the veil. He should cling to his faith as he battles this foe. Jean-Baptiste thinks that this card represents Gregore.
She also draws the Carnival card, in reversed position. It represents deception and chicanery. It indicates that they are being deceived, that a show is being put on to mislead them.
Jean-Baptiste compliments her on her authentic Harrow abilities. He gives her a handsome amount for her services, then shells out an additional 250 gp for a session with Niama, the courtesan. He has a splendid encounter with Niama, and she also tells him about her experience with Auren Vrood, and mentions the homonculus/creature that was with them. She danced for them. She also tells him that a fourth guest joined them. He was a silver-haired woodsman with a full beard, who smelled like a beast. An hour later she overheard them talking about Stairs of the Moon and the Pack Lord’s Heart. The phrases stuck out in her mind. She also noticed that one was wearing a disturbing amulet, depicting a gagged skull motif. Jean-Baptiste is very complimentary of Niama’s performance.
Myphina and Grewin return to Abner, Kendra and Gregore. Myphina’s hand lingers on Grewin’s as they serve the drinks, and he gives her a shy smile. Kendra finds more information on the Whispering Way, but nothing really new. Grewin pitches in to help, and Kendra finds even more information on werewolf clans from the lands outside Ustalav.
Grewin tells them that he found a note in the kitchens. It reads “my friends, your investigations place you in grave danger”.
That evening, they run into the Margrave/Cilas Graydon. He tells Katarzyna that the fireplaces are all connected, and that an enterprising person could overhear conversations if one is in the right place at the right time.
Grewin spends some quality time with Myphina. She prepares him gnomish food, and it is delicious. She also serves gnomish liqueur. Grewin tries to put her at ease and let her know that he is interested. They kiss. As the evening progresses, they grow closer. Suddenly Grewin hears a scream, and goes to investigate, promising to meet Myphina at the stables later.
Back in the lounge, Katarzyna runs into Mirta Straelock, and they embrace warmly and catch up on events since Katarzyna left Ravengro. Katarzyna is somewhat unnerved by Mirta’s companion Crilaum, a silent individual who radiates power and perhaps subtle menace. Katarzyna can’t determine if there is any romantic involvement between the two. During the course of the evening, Ostovach tells a ghost story. He is clearly not a bard, but he tells this story well, and has obviously told it a few times before. Suddenly the young serving girl Bisthe, the neice of the housekeeper Ruesse, screams and runs into the room. The largest spider Katarzyna has ever seen chases Bisthe into the room, and makes a move to attack her. Katarzyna runs to help Bisthe, and is grievously wounded by the spider before she can act.
Abner and Kendra, as well as Ostovach and Duristan, go to attack the spider. Cilas Graydon also attacks. They attack the creature from multiple angles, and try to keep the creature at bay. The creature shoots quills out of its back, and the spines hit Ruesse, sending her to the ground writhing in agony. At one point, Ostovach lands a solid hit on the creature, wounding it severely, severing a leg. Cilas Graydon severs another leg. Katarzyna has to take her Neutralize Poison elixir as Mirta nervously tries to aid her in her weakened state. Finally Katarzyna kills it with a Magic Missile spell.
Grewin tends to Reusse Webbe, who is nauseated by the spider’s quills. Katarzyna notices that Crilaum, Corvin and Estovion didn’t do anything during the combat. Corvin is obnoxious in the aftermath of the battle, so Katarzyna throws wine in his face. He is put out, but he doesn’t raise a hand to Katarzyna. Mirta grabs Katarzyna away, telling her that composure is the true victory. Katarzyna is unmoved by Mirta’s entreaty, and throws another vessel of wine in Corvin’s face after a second rude comment.
Grewin finds a trail of blood outside the door. He follows it a ways. It leads to the beast pens, and he runs into Delgros Kroitzcer, who tells him that the gargantuan spider was one of his creatures.
Jean-Baptiste and Niama hear commotion outside, and she goes to the window to look out. Jean-Baptiste joins her at the window, and he talks with Grewin, who is out in the courtyard. Jean-Baptiste leaves Niama and dresses quickly, determined to help Grewin look for the source of the blood. Abner calls out from the lodge, and Grewin answers. Abner goes back to the lounge to get Kendra and Katarzyna. Katarzyna’s white dress is covered in blood, but she is almost completely healed from Kendra and Gregore’s efforts. Katarzyna uses Prestidigitation to clean her dress, and while it is still ripped from the attack, it is at least no longer soaked and dirty. Ostovach joins them shortly after. He kisses Katarzyna’s hand, worried for her safety. He takes her hand and Katarzyna bats her lashes coquettishly as he escorts her outdoors toward the beast pens. Gregore remains inside the lodge, tending to Reusee, Bisthe, and the other staff who were discombobulated by the commotion.
Jean-Baptiste comes down to the beast pen, and joins Grewin, Ostovach, Katarzyna, Abner, Kendra, and Duristan. Jean-Baptiste and Grewin determine that the blood trail is a dripping trail, almost as though someone was trying to draw the spider to the lodge. Delgros also concurs. They move forward. Jean-Baptiste notices that the door was broken open. The door leads to a large area of underground holding cells. There is a grizzly bear, a dire wolverine, dire boar, a lobotmized ettercap, and an old dire wolf. They continue to investigate.
Estovion tries to blame the groundskeeper, Pauncy, for releasing the spider. Jean-Baptiste is not convinced. When he is able to talk with the group away from the others, he tells them about his Harrow reading and what Niama had told him about Auren Vrood and the beast-like woodsman. Kendra tells them she discovered that Cilas Graydon is almost universally loathed by the citizenry of Ardeal and Barstoi. His countrymen in Barstoi have even put a bounty on his head.
The group finishes up their conversation and head back into the house. They sit for dinner with Mirta Straelock and Crilaum. Mirta and Katarzyna talk at length about the events of the evening. Katarzyna introduces Jean-Baptiste to Mirta and Crilaum. At one point the chef, Ladimeur, comes out to see how they enjoyed the meal. Katarzyna and Mirta have a wonderful time catching up. Jean-Baptiste takes his leave and goes to see what else is going on in the lodge. Grewin and Myphina have a tryst in the lodge bedroom, but do not spend the entire night together.
Jean-Baptiste goes to look for Amelia at the kennel. As he walks the grounds, he hears Katarzyna on her walk with Ostovach. He goes invisible, then goes around investigating the grounds. Katarzyna and Ostovach have a romantic walk in the grounds. There is much smooching and awkwardness as Katarzyna battles conflicting desires and emotions, and Ostovach’s wandering hands. A half-hour after midnight, Katarzyna disengages from Ostovach and returns to the lodge, her virtue only slightly tarnished.
Jean-Baptiste checks out Pauncy Traub’s shack, but doesn’t discover anything that seems relevant. Abner is waiting for Jean-Baptiste to investigate the third floor of the tower library. He speaks briefly with Kendra, and they look through books relating to werewolves and the Whispering Way. Jean-Baptiste passes by Corvin Tergsvor, who is verbally abusing his long-suffering but largely apathetic manservant. Jean-Baptiste arrives at the library, and Kendra tells him that supposedly the Whispering Way had destroyed the Stairs of the Moon. Jean-Baptiste and Abner get ready to investigate the tower. Kendra tells Jean-Baptiste that she has not seen Estovion since the fracas with the giant spider. Abner easily opens the lock and he and Jean-Baptiste go into the office at the top of the tower. Abner also locates Estovion’s notes and journals. He can’t really make heads or tails of them, so Jean-Baptiste takes a look. Jean-Baptiste discovers that Estovion is decidedly anti-Palatinate, and pro-aristocracy. He thinks that the common folk wanting to elevate themselves above their station is an affront to the gods themselves. There is also a note, dated two weeks earlier, that details Auren Vrood’s arrival. The note mentions that Auren Vrood and his entourage were agents of the Whispering Way. Auren Vrood wanted Estovion to arrange a meeting with the werewolves. Mathus Mordrinacht is Estovion’s “sole ally among the packs, and because Auren Vrood had aided Estovion with some business regarding a spirit at the Stairs of the Moon at some point in the past, he contacts Mathus. There is another entry that notes that Auren Vrood returned after his first visit, which is when he visited Madame Ivanja and Niama. A third journal entry, dated two days prior to the group’s arrival, states that agents of the Whispering Way have attacked the Stairs, and that the pack lord was killed and the lord’s heart was not eaten. Without the heart of Kevalka Seyn, Mathus Mordrinacht is unlikely to gain the fealty of all the werewolf packs. Estovion is concerned that if Mathus is deposed, the uneasy peace with the Mordrinacht will be null and void.
Abner looks for the Halo of Dreams tome, but doesn’t find it. Abner and Kendra switch places, Kendra peruses the journals while Abner keeps watch downstairs. Jean-Baptiste continues to search Estovion’s office for other clues. He does find Halo of Dreams tome. Abner hears footsteps approach. He sees Belik coming down the hallway. Abner stops singing to signal Jean-Baptiste and Kendra that someone is approaching, and also drops a book. Belik greets Abner as he brushes past hurriedly and heads up the stairs. Kendra quickly hides under the desk, while Jean-Baptiste shuts and locks the door, and drinks an Invisibility infusion. Abner tries to delay Belik, but Belik brushes him off. Belik enters the office and grabs a small box, and heads out, sniffing curiously at the lingering scent of almonds, but seemingly unaware of the presence of Kendra and Jean-Baptiste.
After Belik leaves, Jean-Baptiste reads more from the Halo of Dreams, which makes reference to something called the Dusk Moth, that was disassembled to create the Stairs of the Moon. There had been frustratingly vague details in other tomes that point to the actual location of the Stairs of the Moon, and the Halo of Dreams is no help either. Jean-Baptiste finds another tome, one called Alchemy of Rokushima Tayu. Kendra says that Rokushima Tayu is an archipelago surrounded by poisonous seas. The denizens of Rokushima Tayu use pins and needles in their healing arts.
Kendra knocks on Katarzyna’s and Gregore’s doors, they all meet to discuss their situation. Katarzyna and Gregore are filled in on what the others found in Estovion’s library. They mention Adivion Adrissant, and Katarzyna wonders if this is the same person they met at Professor Lorrimor’s funeral, the barber who had acted as pallbearer. They decide to talk to Grewin an perhaps Delgros Kroitzcer to see if they can locate the Stairs of the Moon.
Sunday, August 3rd, Ascanor Lodge, Ustalav
In the morning, they hear a woman’s scream. Abner rushes out of his room and rushes to the source of the noise. He sees Ruesse staring into Cilas Graydon’s room, clearly it was she who screamed. Jean-Baptiste and Katarzyna file out of their room too. Abner sees the mangled body of a person, the arms ripped off. Katarzyna goes into the room and starts inspecting the remains. The body appears to have been ripped apart, but it’s not clear how the killer entered, where they entered from, or exactly how events transpired. Katarzyna is dismayed to learn that the body is Cilas Graydon, who had been killed in his nightclothes. Jean-Baptiste tells Katarzyna to go look for Estovion, so she goes to the library first. Kendra stays with the body. Abner investigates the room, the door to the balcony was not locked. Kendra points to Cilas’ wounds, stating that they’re definitely claws and bites. Katarzyna finds Estovion and brings him to Cilas’ room. Jean-Baptiste tells Estovion that he had warned him that something bad would happen, which causes some consternation on Estovion’s part. Estovion goes to get people out of their rooms. Grewin comes running up. Katarzyna inventories the remains, and doesn’t notice anything missing or any signs of predation. Gregore also surveys the scene. Jean-Baptiste insists on gathering everyone and questioning them, and Estovion agrees to the plan.
Katarzyna quickly dresses, Jean-Baptiste and the others do as well. Abner goes to the guardhouse to ask if anyone has left in the last few hours, they tell him that no one has entered or left during the night. Jean-Baptiste and Abner go downstairs and search the rest of the property. Katarzyna remains upstairs to prepare her spells. It takes a couple hours for everyone to gather in the dining room.
Abner and Jean-Baptiste confer with the gathered people, and Jean-Baptiste notices that Duristan has a bemused smirk. Abner and Jean-Baptiste confront Duristan, who says “his prey is close” and that someone in the room is a werewolf. He proposes a test. He picks up a silver fork and stabs himself with it. Jean-Baptiste shuts him down and notices that Crilaum is not among those present. After questioning everyone, Jean-Baptiste determines that Crilaum and Corvin Tergsvor are the only ones who don’t have adequate alibis. Jean-Baptiste is trying to read everyone in the room’s motives, and notices that Duristan is doing the exact same thing. Jean-Baptiste addresses the gathered crowd. He says that he is proposing a test. He hands them each a silver piece and they are to place it on their tongue. Not everyone complies, and Markiza Welgory is especially recalcitrant. Grewin tells Jean-Baptiste privately that his axe glows in the presence of werewolves. Markiza Welgory asks for Jean-Baptiste’s symbol of office, and Abner retrieves it from Jean-Baptiste’s room. She looks at the symbol and places the coin in her mouth. Grewin also lets Jean-Baptiste know that no one in the room makes his axe glow. Estovion takes Jean-Baptiste aside and asks to allow the cooks and servants to start cooking breakfast. Jean-Baptiste warns everyone to stay in pairs, they should never do anything alone. Jean-Baptiste takes Estovion aside, and says that the situation with the werewolves is clearly escalating. He seeks his help in understanding the situation with the werewolves, but Estovion doesn’t seem to know anything.
Jean-Baptiste, Abner, Katarzyna, Grewin, Kendra and Gregore meet and talk about their next steps. Grewin goes to find out if he can trace/track the missing Crilaum. Grewin returns after a short while and says that Crilaum is definitely not on the grounds of Ascanor Lodge. He says that Crilaum’s scent was lupine, but mixed with other things. Crilaum’s ordinary gear was still present at the inn, but his valuables and a book were not among the effects that were left at the inn.
They decide to visit the Stairs of the Moon, which Grewin says is within a couple of hours of Ascanor Lodge. Katarzyna goes to change her clothes, and Grewin goes to speak with Myphina. Kendra cleans her guns. They discuss whether to try to procure silver weapons from Estovion or Delgros Kroitzcer. A long discussion ensues, in which Jean-Baptiste and Katarzyna debate whether to focus on the werewolves or to focus on the Whispering Way. Jean-Baptiste is adamant that the Whispering Way is irrelevant to their current predicament, and Katarzyna doesn’t try to convince him otherwise, though she remains convinced that the Whispering Way is the axis around which all the events revolve. Kendra rejoins them, and they ultimately decide to head toward the Stairs of the Moon before it gets too late to travel. During the conversation, Myphina comes in briefly and talks to Grewin in hushed tones. Grewin tells the others that Estovion has left Ascanor Lodge.
Katarzyna goes to visit Mirta Straelock. They have a nice conversation, but Mirta is clearly saddened by the departure of Crilaum. Mirta is determined to leave Ascanor Lodge with as many guards as she can hire. Katarzyna urges her to wait until they can escort her back to Lepidstadt personally, but Mirta doesn’t want to tarry at Ascanor Lodge any longer.
Jean-Baptiste and Abner go to Estovion’s office. They smell the faint smell of burning in the air. They chat with Belik, who says that Estovion left without any guards. Jean-Baptiste tries to intimidate Belik into giving them more information. Belik admits that Estovion had him place the notes that they received to throw them off the scent. Belik says that Estovion told him that he would create a diversion, which turned out to be the spider attack, and that Belik was to search their rooms to discover why they had come.
Duristan approaches Jean-Baptiste and Abner to ask if he can come with them. Jean-Baptiste grudgingly allows him to come along. He also hands out silver weapons, even giving Katarzyna silver daggers, which she handles gingerly.
They gear up and head toward the Stairs of the Moon. Grewin leads the way. The Shudderwood blurs into shadowy hues as the trudge forward. They are beset on all sides by the ominous sounds of the forest. Grewin stops them and says there is something in the forest around them. Katarzyna immediately casts Mage Armor on herself. They hear something very big moving through the forest. They continue forward. They come around a bend, and massive wolf is standing in the middle of the road. He confronts them, and Katarzyna talks to him, and he seems to be somewhat willing to listen. Johann himself comes out of the forest and assumes human form. The wolves don’t seem to want to let them pass, and Johann actually attacks one of the other wolves, the first one from the path. Their fight is highly charged and they throw each other great distances across the forest, breaking stout boughs and branches and knocking down small trees.
Another wolf charges at Katarzyna, and Jean-Baptiste stands in front of her and shoots the wolf, but it plows into him anyway. The wolf misses with his bite attack, but does manage to get a claw into Jean-Baptiste. Katarzyna shoots a lightning bolt at the charging wolf, but it doesn’t seem to be cognizant of anything except attacking Jean-Baptiste. Abner also strikes it with a flank attack, and it rounds on Abner. It misses with both its attacks, and Jean-Baptiste shoots it in the back while Katarzyna shoots it with a Magic Missile. Abner manages to take it down, then Gregore takes a look at Abner and Jean-Baptiste. Gregore suggests that they both take wolfsbane, so they do. Johann and the other wolf have by now moved quite far from their current position, and are deeper in the forest. Katarzyna wants to help Johann, but Kendra reminds her that in their wolf forms, they are unlikely to be able to tell the two wolves apart, and that they should probably just try to escape the area. They hear the sounds of combat all around them in the forest. Jean-Baptiste and Abner notice that Duristan is no longer with them, Grewin goes off in search of Duristan, while the others head toward the clearing.
They enter the clearing and see the Stairs of the Moon in the waning light. There is a tense standoff as several wolf packs face off against each other. Katarzyna notices that the staircase is currently occupied by Dorzhanevs. Other wolf clans charge out of the forest at them. As a group of wolves breaks into the clearing, they see the group in the clearing, and head in their direction instead. Gregore and Grewin are hit, but the wolves that attack Abner and Kendra miss their targets. Katarzyna blinds the wolf attacking Grewin. The fight continues, and they manage to defeat the attacking wolves with a little help from another group shooting from the forest, they assume it is Duristan and his guardsmen. They decide to charge up the stairs. They fight more wolves as they trudge their way up. As they get up to the flat level of the Stairs of the Moon, they see a floor mosaic with images of the Dusk Moth and the goddess Hala. They decide to head back they way they came, and to circle around to where open archways lead to the interior of the tower complex. As they’re making their way around, they see a Kuunas werewolf, and Katarzyna is eager to talk with him, but they’re headed the opposite way, so just sort of waves to the wolf. It’s not clear whether it takes any notice of her. They make their way into the complex through the archways, and find themselves in a columned room. Bones and the remains of animals festoon the the columns and floor of the large room, and there is a raised dais and stairs that lead deeper in the ruins.
As they make their way up to the dais, a ghostly creature attacks Gregore, and goes inside his body. Gregore undergoes a transformation and seems to be beginning to take on the form of a werewolf. An intense battle takes place inside Gregore, but he manages to push the creature out. The spectral werewolf creature then tries to possess Grewin, again failing to dominate him. Gregore throws a beam of searing light at the creature, doing a great amount of damage to it. Kendra is the creature’s next target, but it fails to overcome her formindable protection from such attacks. Abner rolls up on it and does a considerable amount of damage. He quickly hits it again, doing even more damage, and they hear a small cracking sound as the creature dissipates.
Kendra tells them that it is a vilkacis, something she had heretofore thought was simply an ancient superstition of the Shudderwood. It is a cursed undead werewolf. Kendra says that it may not have been destroyed, that it’s essence may have gone into a canopic stone, which is similar to a lich’s phylactery. They aren’t able to locate the item in the vicinity. They continue down the hallway, and Abner checks the left door for traps and such. The left door leads to what was once a private quarters, now empty, with a broken portcullis just beyond the door from the hallway, a rather strange arrangement. Jean-Baptiste sees footprints in the room, as well as a corpse lying in a crumpled heap in the corner. It is wearing blackish robes. Kendra breaks out the crystal skull and opens her third eye. The skull does not detect undead creatures. The body is female, and it’s wearing an iron ring, and Jean-Baptiste removes it. It’s etched with strange symbols. They are runes of the Whispering Way. Kendra pulls a small satchel from the corpse’s other hand. There are onyx stones in the satchel. She says they’re the main material components of animating undead. She also finds a small scroll tube. It is a map of Ustalav. Katarzyna is eager to see the map. There are several sets of coordinates marked on the map. One of the coordinates is Ravengro, another is Ascanor Lodge, and a third is Lepidstadt. A fourth set of coordinates indicates a location on the other side of Ardeal, in the Furrows.
They decide to open the other door. It turned out to be trapped. Gregore and Katarzyna are wracked with pain from the trap. Katarzyna knows that it will plague them for an hour, but won’t do them any real harm (but could still be quite troublesome). Katarzyna tries to cast a simple magic detection spell, but it fails. They see a poorly-concealed secret passageway. After they remove the stones, they discover Estovion in the passageway beyond. He’s brandishing a wand, and has a nasty bite on his arm, presumably from fending off a werewolf. He admits that he summoned the spectral werewolf the previous night to attack them, but instead of killing them, killed Cilas Graydon. Estovion goes to make an arcane gesture, and Abner attacks him. Estovion steps backwards one step and vanishes. A startled and confused dire wolf appears in the corridor in his place. They attack it. Jean-Baptiste spots Estovion and warns them that he is behind them. Katarzyna whirls around and see him, as he casts a spell that causes black tentacles to erupt in the room and attack them. Katarzyna is easily grappled, and Gregore and Kendra are as well. Abner and Jean-Baptiste manage to avoid the tentacles, and Jean-Baptiste charges at Estovion and knocks him to the ground. Grewin successfully evades the area of black tentacles, and Gregore escapes the grip of the tentacles and moves toward the safe zone before he is grabbed again. Abner and Jean-Baptiste grapple Estovion. Grewin knocks Estovion in the head. Jean-Baptiste tries to completely restrain Estovion, so that he can’t move any more. Kendra manages to break free of the black tentacles. Abner and Grewin kill Estovion, and Jean-Baptiste releases the body, exhausted by the intense struggle with wily old man.
Katarzyna detects magical auras while the others search Estovion’s belongings, and she spots a magical amulet, the wand he had been brandishing, a stone with runes that they assume is the vilkacis’ canopic stone, a spellbook and spell component pouch, a scroll, and a ring. Estovion also had a non-magical longsword, keys to Ascanor Lodge, and his clothing. Kendra thinks the wand shoots acid arrows. She gives it to Katarzyna. The amulet gives a protection charm in the form of natural armor. The ring is a ring of Protection. The spell component pouch generates any needed spell components under a certain gold value. Katarzyna also peruses Estovion’s spellbook, taking special note of the Conjuration spells it contains.