Chapter 15: The Bridge of Horrors
This chapter opens with the party camped in the snow outside the village of Halfway Holme, which lies between Lakewood and Est Harbour. Clinton has summoned a Lynx as an Animal ally. In a flashback, the party had finished recuperating at Est Abbey, and agreed to help Sir Renton, Father Hubbins, and Maximillian the wizard with a secret mission. Maximillian presents the party with two items of magic. A bag of holding, which can be used to hide the Silver Spear, and a shield shaped brooch which should obfuscate it’s wearer and those nearby from magical scrying. The party is to travel to Armsby Abbey, just past Lakewood, to get further instructions from Father Jannus there.
The party marches through the snow to Lakewood, where, passing the city, they are followed by an eagle for some time. The eagle transforms into the druid Vayama, who takes Clinton aside to chastise him for adopting the life of adventuring and suggesting he may replace the druid’s assignment to the Lakewood Canton with a druid less acclimated to the city life. Before leaving, he reminds Clinton of a deby the party owes him from the capture of Sargeant Goodwin’s hunting party, whom he intended to kill. Vayama tells Clinton that trappers based in Lakewood have been capturing bears to use in their sick games of sport. He assigns Clinton with the mission of stopping this practice by any means necessary, or the druids will stop it in a way that may be less preferable.
The party continues to meet Jannus. There, Jannus tells the party about the Silver Spear, which is known to be at least 500 years old, and has been present in many key battles in history. He believes that the Silver Spear is one of 6 magical relics created by the gods to assign to their champions, including the Coral Crown, the Red Fang, the Ivory Cudgel, the Golden Shield, and the Obsidian Scythe.
Those that believe the legends believe that the spear chooses it’s owner, and manifests greater powers as the owner gets more powerful. These owners are known as “Worthies” and the powers the spear accrues are called “Graces”. The key power of the spear is to lead its user to key locations where the user’s presence can affect the greatest change for good, but this power sometimes leads to the demise of it’s owner. The last Worthy died in the last battle of the last Vermese War, 35 years ago. Jannus had Deacon Brody and Hubbins hide the spear shortly after the last war at Inish Bora. Jannus sent the party to retrieve the spear shortly after they rescued the elven diplomat Bezrin from Redriver, when Jannus suspected Pat might be a Worthy.
Jannus tells the party about the next plan. Lakewood is amassing forces from Tyn to travel downriver to attack Pallmoor Gates. Leading the battle, the party will infiltrate Pallmoor Gates with the help of a man named Bendron, who escaped the occupied city. Inside the city, the party will deliver a Gate Crystal to their contact, who will open the gate and let soldiers from Tyn teleport to Pallmoor Gates where they will liberate it.
However, the river from Lakewood to Pallmoor Gates is blocked by a fortified bridge known as the Straddlefort, which has been occupied by a clan called the Umbridge family for over 200 years. The Umbridges are fiercely independent, historically not allied with any of the Duchies or Verma. Since the last war, Lakewood has paid the Umbridges to keep commerce flowing through the river. Since the fall of Pallmoor Gates, the Umbridges have accepted coin from Verma. Now, with the tide of the war turning, the Umbridges have agreed to ally with Lakewood for a bribe of supplies and 10,000 GP.
After a sidebar to Pat’s Cider House, and a visit to Lakewood to buy out Loricone’s bear baiting operation, the party meets up with their guide Bendron on a barge loaded with supplies and money to head to the Straddlefort. Near the fort humanoids are seen moving in the woods.
At the fort, a Master of Arms, a tall man with red hair and beard wearing odd armor ornamented with brass contraptions, greets the party and instructs them to load the goods on a circular wooden elevator platform which is lowered to the docks by the movement of a water wheel nearby. The Master of Arms greets the party at the gate with soldiers armored in pewter colored full plate and wielding double sided swords.
The Master of Arms leads the party to the baths before dinner. There, Clinton spots a strange hairless ratlike creature behind a grate in the ceiling.
The party is led to a great hall which is located in the bridge overlooking the river. The hallway contains old suits of armor and paintings of the Count’s family.
At dinner, the party meets the strange family including the obese cousin Orla, the young nosepicking Little Red Roin (son of the MoA), the giggling dandy Uncle Trevor, and the Count’s elderly uncle and his pregnant 25 year old wife. The Count, a handsome man with greying temples and two silent teenage daughters arrive. His daughters are quickly excused for being shy. The pregnant girl passes Radcliffe a note with the message “HELP ME”.
The party notes that in the painting, a much younger count appears with his teenage twin daughters, who seem to be the same age.
After dinner and strange conversation, the MoA tries to split the party up but finally agrees to host the party in adjacent rooms. Bendron gets his own room. Radcliffe makes Porkins invisible so he can scout the castle, but the silent, full plate guards apparently can see him and block his path.
Shortly thereafter, Little Red Roin summons the party to the basement storage area, near the freight platform, a beaten Bendron is tied to a chair. The MoA hands Bendrons belongings (including his map) to his son to take to the Count, and threatens to kill Bendron if they do not admit their true plans, when the party is confused he draws a weapon on Bendron. A fight ensues but the party is not able to stop MoA from firing a strange weapon into Bendron’s head. The strange guards seem to bleed green blood, and the MoA draws powerful firearms against the party. When the party wins the battle, the guards are observed to contain the small fleshy bodies of fetus-like creatures.
The party ties up and questions the MoA, taking his weapons, but the MoA seems more afraid of the Count. Finally Clinton assassinates him sneakily. At this point, castle crossbowmen arrive. The party is able to fight their way through the castle beating back these guards, where a servant offers to help them escape, but the party takes the option for a passage to the Count’s tower.
The party investigates the Counts tower, encoutering his daughters, who are really golems made of wax, with an enchanted murderous doll. Destroying them, they find the Count’s room, where there is a ventilation tunnel missing a grate. The party finds a secret door to upper tower levels, where they find an observatory, and sculpting studio, and a gunsmithy.
The party finds the Count’s alchemy lab, which contains various useful alchemical items and as well as documents apparently from Verma, including an items list which appears to be an order for rare reagents of dubious origin, including Elf blood.
In the lab Bendrons backpack is spotted, but it is trapped with a bomb, which damages the party and the lab, releasing an Ochre Jelly from a vat, which the party kills.
The party finds a room with cylindars containing fetuses floating in yellow liquid, and finally a room with a rack-like device attached to copper cables in the ceiling. Clinton is able to escape the tower as a bat through a small window. Outside, he spies figures gathering below the castle and a tall figure on the tower over the party. The party rushes the roof in a lightning storm. There the party battles the Count’s flesh golem, as well as the count and his strange alchemical powers. The count reveals a conjoined tumor twin whcih detaches and flies about the party attacking. The flesh golem bashes the party and tries to throw them off the roof, but the tumor familiar is killed, stunning the count. A flaming crossbow bolt ignites vials on the count’s vest knocking him off the platform. The golem’s rage now increases as the party slowly hacks away at him. The golem finally catches fire after being hit with a flame blast, but the Count appears again, this time transformed into a grotesque ogre-like version of himself. Finally the mutated Count is knocked off the tower, as the flesh golem falls flaming to its knees.
Meanwhile, boats sailing downriver from Lakewood, along with the people huddled below, begin to attack under the castle, and large fireball is seen below near the elevator platform.