The Plains of Nova Vassa

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Our heroes were revitalized after their solid victory over the powerful entity of the Necropolis. Azlain Rex was true to his word and allowed the party to leave Darkon with no issue. They set off that morning to the south following the King’s Road.

The road would take them to the boundary of Darkon, where they would have to continue south through Nova Vassa. When the mountains of the Core were due west, they would travel from Nova Vassa to Vorostokov, and through the mountain pass into Barovia. The domain was curiously open, so our heroes left the King’s Road and found themselves on the vast, rolling plains of Nova Vassa.

The prairies of Nova Vassa were desolate and sinister; a seemingly endless land of pale grasses. With no road or landmarks, the party continued to journey south, quickly losing sight of the dense forests of Darkon. They spoke little to each other, feeling an oppressive dread hovering over their quest.

After a day’s travel, they came upon a ghastly site. On their path, the party found a destroyed fort surrounded by carnage. The walls had been torn down, the horses slaughtered and the soldiers cruelly butchered. Foulest of all, every soldier in the fort had been impaled on a tall pole prior to his death.

In the ruins, the party found a living traveler named Lockhold. Lockhold, an eldrain courier, had become lost in the savannah of Nova Vassa and had come upon the fort in search of water. Barlow claimed he saw the group’s future and Lockhold was to accompany them through Nova Vassa. Eventually, the other players agreed and welcomed Lockhold to the group. Though shaken by the sight of the fort, our heroes continued to show their valor and buried all soldiers before setting camp.

Their quest continued down its dark path later that night.

Near dawn, Lucas spied a lone rider approaching the camp. The party awoke and prepared themselves for anything, but were still shocked when the rider finally reached them. Both the rider and the horse had been reanimated following violent deaths. Leery of this, but deciding the undead rider did not mean harm to them, the party began questioning the rider’s purpose. The creature would give no verbal response, instead only shaking its head to answer. It appeared to want to follow the party further south. A strange omen indeed, but our players acquiesced.

They continued south through the blazing heat. Goodman utilized a ritual to view the rider’s last vision and confirmed a brutal death in war. Perhaps the same war that had brought ruin to the fort? They continued their march in ominous silence, finally stopping to camp near dusk. The party settled down into shift watch and rested.

They did not rest for long before the rider became uneasy. In the late evening, the rider motioned to Goodman that there was trouble approaching from the east. The party prepared for battle, and, judging from the dust cloud’s approach, they were expecting the force of soldiers from the fort. But as an orange glow began emanating from the cloud, our heroes knew this was something else.

Wreathed in flames, a band of inky black horses raced towards our heroes. While most of the party had heard of the nightmare before, none had ever heard of them traveling in a herd! They were quickly beset by the evil creatures and were fighting for their lives. The undead rider joined their struggle and together they faced the vile nightmares. With wicked cunning, the beasts lashed out with whips of flame and kicked with fiery hooves. Garret and Barlow were greatly wounded, but the party stood firm against their foes and destroyed the herd.

After recovering from this battle, they continued south through the plains. By mid-afternoon they found a primitive road and followed it to a small hamlet. A town elder named Erik came to greet them and gently dismissed the rider. As the party’s undead guardian walked off, Erik explained that it was one of the doedridere - a naturally occurring undead that was created when a traveler died on horseback trying to reach home. The doedridere were lonely and friendly, and would often follow a group until they reached a settlement.

Erik welcomed our heroes into his town and provided rations and other provisions for them. He explained that this past summer had seen murdering bands of Vlad Drakov’s soldiers terrorizing the land. Recently defeated, the enemy soldiers had destroyed everything in the path of their retreat. They were likely responsible for the scene at the fort the heroes had found earlier.

Erik explained that he was once an outlander like our heroes; having been brought to the domains of dread by those wicked and mysterious Mists. He offered assistance to the party, citing that he had once been an adventurer himself. He clearly left out the part of the story that led him into Nova Vassa, but there’s not enough time to tell it tonight!

The party explained that their ultimate goal was to Vorostokov and the mountain pass to Barovia. Erik offered them two paths. The first would be the quickest and most direct route: follow the road to the capitol of Kantora and then the forests of Vorostokov beyond. This way would be filled with dangerous intrigue and they would need to hide from the harsh Church of the Lawbringer. The second would be to avoid the city entirely and continue south to the Old Svalich Woods and onto Barvoia proper. This way would take over a month and be fraught with continual danger from the monsters foaming the plains.

The party elected to utilize the first option and journey to Kantora. Erik expanded on the history of Nova Vassa, speaking of the legendary king Zaanji Hoplads who unified the nation of Nova Vassa before coming to the Mists. Since his death, the nation was ruled by a steward from one of the five ruling families of the land. In this Cycle of Stewards, each leader would rule for five years, before being replaced by another family head in a predetermined order. This process continued for centuries, until Prince Kethmar Bolski died half-way through his time as Steward. Sir Tristan Hiegaard acted as regent as Kethmar’s son Othmar was not of age. Othmar came of age a year later and Sir Tristan stepped down. It proved to be a mistake as Othmar declared he was cheated out of his tenure by his father’s death and refused to yield. He formed powerful allies and has been a tyrant ever since.

The party was unsure of what to do with this information, as well as Erik’s report of other injustices in Kantora. Should they again deviate from their path to be heroes? How much time did Miredus have?

Not knowing what sort of trouble awaited them in Kantora, the party left quickly and arrived in the capitol three days later. They arrived to find a large, opulent city with brightly colored towers stretching above the stone walls. Our heroes quickly discovered that this was lavishness was in stark contrast to the poverty and despair of the city’s poor. Kantora truly was a vile contradiction where decadent fops spit on the throngs of beggars in the streets.

The party found rooms at a local inn and prepared to leave in the morning. Though the city was clearly in need of justice, they worried about running out of time to save their homeland. They did not sleep easily that night, and in the morning decided to stay another day to investigate some strange reports.

First, the locals told of a “Beast” that had been preying on the city for over a decade. This foul rogue targeted young, beautiful women, leaving them butchered in the streets. Sir Tristan’s efforts to bring the murderer to justice all failed.

Second, Goodman continued to investigate the mysterious stranger that gave the farmer a corrupted potion. A local wizard reported that a strange man had been in Kantora six months previous and purchased a potion that could animate a scarecrow, but it would never last as long as our players reported. The wizard also stated that this handsome gentleman vanished quickly when the carnival arrived in the city. Further questioning with the locals revealed that this stranger had seduced two local ladies: one left with him and one, a girl named Jessica, was left in town with a bastard child. When Goodman sought out the remaining girl, he discovered that she had been killed three days before…by The Beast.

Seeing the paths crossing between these two, our players sought out more information. Perhaps they were going to be staying in Kantora after all.

Our heroes opted to utilize their ghoulish technique of communicating with corpses to speak to the slain girl. Unearthing her freshly dug grave, Goodman performed a ritual to see the last sight of Jessica and reanimated the body to ask it questions. This macabre investigation confirmed that the girl had been brutally strangled in a dark alley by a hideous man who wore fine clothing. This man, who our players correctly assumed was “The Beast”, taunted the poor girl and demanded to know why she was chosen by the mysterious gentleman. As the girl couldn’t respond well, the Beast taunted that he would harm the girl’s newborn child.

With this information, the party escaped from the cemetery and regrouped. An investigation the next morning told them that their time in Kantora was running out: the White Hand guards and the Lawbringer’s Inquisition was investigating the recent issues in the city and would likely find the party. They would have to work soon to save the poor girl’s child from the Beast.

The party hatched a brilliant scheme: using illusionary magic they would glamour Saima to look like the murdered girl and then spread a rumor that Jessica had been resurrected. They assumed that this information would draw the Beast to attack “Jessica” and they could catch him. Lockhold, Lucas and Barlow followed Saima through the city. Meanwhile, after safely securing the Jessica’s child and mother in another part of town, Goodman, Garret and Zephram waited at Jessica’s house for the Beast.

Lockhold saw a man acting suspiciously around Saima and followed him to a seedy side of Kantora. There, the man reported to his superiors of "Jessica"’s return, and was promptly killed for this information. The other rogues left to report to “Malken”.

Lockhold brought this information to his allies and they all rendezvoused at Jessica’s house. The party prepared for their adversaries to arrive to claim the child and grandmother.They did not have to wait long, for a throng of thungs arrived to capture the child and murder his grandmother. The party ambushed them and killed all but one. Bargaining for his life, the scoundrel agreed to take the party to Malken.

As the party left the house, they were stopped by a police squad from the Temple of the Lawbringer. These stern clerics demanded that the party to surrender, accusing them of heresy and murder. Goodman tried to reason with them, but the justicar scoffed and gave the order to attack. Apparently, their faith in the cruel Lawbringer was lacking for our players defeated them; killing them to the man.

Perhaps this was evidence as to why the Morning Lord’s shinning face has red on it?

The group continued to the western district of the city were their captor brought them to a large riverside warehouse. Using the gang’s secret signal, our party’s captive gained entry to the warehouse. Once inside, the party faced a throng of Malken’s rogues led by a bizarre cult dedicated to “secret masters”. The party tolerated none of the cults extolling of these powerful overlords and destroyed them all.

Within the warehouse, the party found a trap door that led to the watery foundations of the warehouse. In the dank shadows below, they found Malken and his bodyguards. The Beast claimed that he was the Darklord of Nova Vassa and mocked the party stating that they were ill-prepared to face him. Malken gloated that “The Dark” had led them to their deaths by manipulating them to face him. The party was unmoved by this and stood fast against the Darklord.

Underneath the crumbling warehouse, our heroes fought the Dark Lord of Nova Vassa and his retinue. It was a vicious fight, with Malken jumping in and out of magical darkness to surprise the heroes with sneak attacks. Garret was grievously injured, as were several other party members. Our heroes still found courage to fight in the darkness, supporting each other and isolating Malken with powerful divine magic. The players eliminated the bodyguard and then worked together to bring down Malken. The Darklord was defeated finally by Zephram and Goodman’s twin assault. Laughter could be heard on the wind as the Darklord died.

Strangely, once dead Malken’s corpse changed form. Where before he was a small and hideous man, in death the body changed into that of a tall, handsome gentleman of advanced age. Barlow had expected Malken and Vincent to be the same man divided by magic, and was surprised by this turn of events.

After resting in the warehouse, the party planned to escape the city by utilizing the river-way. While gathering supplies, Lockhold inquired about the man they found. Lockhold’s contacts suggested that the man Malken transformed into was none other than the noble and kind Sir Tristian.

How distressing that the chivalrous knight and the vile murderer were in fact one-in-the-same?

The party fled the city that morning, leaving Nova Vassa to its new Dark Lord.

The Plains of Nova Vassa

Lost in the Mists ignatiusvienna