In Buche, Montaigne, the group of adventures discussed where their next destination would be. Fabian made a good case that pursuing Andrea Foscari to his estate in Soldano would not only provide him the chance to regain his family’s fortunes but also potentially provide a ship that would enable them to travel faster to the Highland Marches and to the Maw. Therefore, the group set off across La Mano de Dios “The Hand of God”, suffered the quick search by the Montaigne guards, and arrived in Barcino the next day without incident. Knowing that Andrea had many days head start, the group stayed only briefly in Barcino before heading off by carriage and horseback towards Tarago, where they expected Andrea’s ship to dock.
The group stopped over at “Techo Rojo”, a small roadside inn with an inexplicable green roof catering to the travels from Eisen to Montaigne. Señor Enrique Vasquez, the proprietor, is a bald man in his 60’s and the inn has been in his family for generations. His grandson, Juan, manned the stables and took excellent care of the party’s horses. Though a common room was available and most of the group availed themselves, Fabien rented a room for himself, leaving three empty rooms. Silvia and Kasimir took little time before introducing themselves to an Eisen couple and sharing beers. Storm, who was of mixed Vesten and Eisen heritage, and his wife, Heidi were traveling to Altamira so that Heidi would continue her history studies at the University there.
The night was winding down when a family of Castilians came in, looking panicked and road weary, asking for rooms and food. They appeared to be carrying their possessions in pillowcases and other containers, and while refugees were not an uncommon sight, Dr. Blackwell took it upon himself to investigate. He spoke with Hector, the father, and tended to his wife, Maria’s broken arm. Though the family offered what payment they could, Dr. Blackwell would not have any payment, much to the family’s gratitude. He did learn that the family were fleeing from their farm in the village of Pequeno Campo several days away. Pressing for news, the family told the doctor that an armored man came to their village several nights ago, rampaging through the buildings, destroying the small Vaticine Shrine and leaving many of the residents wounded or with burned fields. The man didn’t speak but after he dealt his damage, took off into the night towards the Eisen border.
Meanwhile in the common room, Fabien and Zhennya speak with the other two men in the tavern, Franco and Alejo, a pair of mercenaries on their way to Barcino to find more work. After conversing for a bit, Fabien learned that the men had a friend in Barcino who’s wife had been cheating on him with a doctor Francisco Esperanza. After Dr. Blackwell finished upstairs, he informed the group about the Eisen armored man, which almost immediately drew a desire from the group as a whole to investigate. Bonnie was quick to hire the two Castilians as additional help as they made plans to head east instead of south, delaying the confrontation with Andrea Foscari.
After two days of traveling, the group found their way to the village of Pequeno Campo and discovered the families in the midst of cleanup. Though the townsfolk were wary of strangers, Dr. Blackwell offered his services as a doctor, while Zhennya and Fabien assured the villagers they were here to help. The investigation matched much of what Dr. Blackwell had been told. The attacks on the town appeared to be random destruction and except for the small Vaticine Shrine, the armored man did not completely destroy any other building. However, several villagers sought to fight off the man but their weapons did no damage. Further questioning revealed that the man’s armor had insignia on the helm, a chalice, and on the greaves, a single drachen on each leg. Fabian realized that there had been a new moon near the attack, and Bonnie noticed one of the horses had its neck broken by the man. The few villagers who were still out when the man left reported he walked off in the direction of Stahlfort, Eisen. When all was said and done, the group decided to visit another village nearby, with Dr. Blackwell bringing along his payment for services rendered: 2 chickens, some beef jerky, and a dozen eggs.
At the next village, the group found much the same thing, only that the attack had occurred 3 nights ago. This time, the difference was that the villagers reported seeing an insignia on the man’s panzerhand, that of two drachen over a chalice…sounding like the panzerhand Andrea Foscari had paid Rene Bonnaire to retrieve. This village had a larger Vaticine Chapel and the priest was killed defending it from the man. In addition, Silvia identified a black liquid left behind as a type of bile, perhaps used in a perversion of the Hexenwerk Eisen is known for. After investigating a third village along the Eisen border that had been attacked the night before, the group now had a solid lead…the creature, for that is what it sounded like, was coming and returning to Stahlfort, Eisen.
Together with their Castilian mercenaries, the group split up to lie in wait at the next three villages along the border. Alejo and Franco were each sent to a village to observe with orders not to engage, while the group waited at the third village. The next night, no attacks came, and the group surmised that the attacks seemed to be every other night. After the next night, Franco reports that his village was not attacked. Fearing the worst, the group traveled to the village Alejo had been assigned to, only to discover it had been attacked. While the Vaticine Shrine had been destroyed, Alejo had saved the priest’s life before being knocked unconscious. Also, the group met a wounded member of Die Kruezritter. Trudah had been sent by her partner, Herbert, a member in Stahlfort, to investigate the rumors of a demon attacking villages. She was concerned and alerted the group that her Dracheneisen weapons were unable to pierce the armor. She reported that Alejo had come to and taken off towards Stahlfort after the creature.
Heading off immediately towards Stahlfort, the adventurers were eager to put an end to the creature’s attacks and find and rescue Alejo. Arriving in Stahlfort, the group quickly set off to find out what they could. Bonnie and Fabien headed to the poorer parts of town. Dodging a group of Iron Guard that seemed to be following them, they did discover that while Gregor Schröder had locked himself in his keep for the last few months, a Vodacce delegation was recently let in, delivering a chest and leaving with a different chest. Kasimir learned that the Lord of the Fort had lost his two sons in the War of the Cross. Silvia hears rumors that there had been some recent grave robbing and some poorer people had gone missing. Finally, Fabien overheard guards talking about a Castilian spy had been captured the night before and taken to the prison in the keep. While this was going on, Zhennya used the powers of Matushka to scout the upper floors of the keep, locating some missing poor and Alejo in the prison.
Regrouping, the party decided to get in through the sewers, making their way stealthily inside before they are caught. After breaking through the main sewer grate and picking the lock on the gate into the cistern, the group quickly dispatched two of the guards. As they made their way up to the ground floor, they bypassed the guards in the main hall and used the ballroom to get to the second floor stairs. They decided not to investigate the sounds of bubbling liquid and clanging steel in the area that used to be the smithy of the keep. Discovering two guards in front of the third floor door, they proceeded to use the Iron Guard armor they had kept to talk their way close to these guards before knocking them out. In the prison area, they discovered the remainder of the poor people gone missing, who explained that some of them had been taken already and not seen again. Alejo was also here and anxious to get rescued and defeat this creature. As the group was making their plans, they realized a flaw…no one had hidden the bodies of the knocked out guards in the basement. When the shift change came, an alarm was raised and the group was forced to split up.
Zhennya, Dr. Blackwell, Alejo, and Franco took the frightened prisoners to the basement while the others moved to engage the guards certainly seeking them out. Zhennya and Dr. Blackwell managed to get the prisoners out into the sewers where Alejo and Franco were able to lead them to safety. Dr. Blackwell used his Iron Guard armor as a ruse, drawing forth several of the Iron Guards into the ballroom, where he was able to keep them out of the fight.
Meanwhile, in the main hall, Silvia rushed to engage the Iron Guard Captain on the stairs, joined by Kasimir after he quickly engaged an entire squad of Iron Guard himself, leaving him wounded but the six men incapacitated. Fabian took the ‘high’ road as he slid down and barreled into a group of brutes. The fight was hard fought, Fabien cutting his way through many of the Iron Guard, with Bonnie backing him up with her own fighting prowess. On the steps, Kasimir took the brunt of the Captain’s attacks, with Silvia managing to find weak spots in the Captain’s armor now and again. Just as it seemed the group would win the day, several loud crashes came from the direction of the smithy, where now stood a tall man in armor, behind him Gregor Schröder gave the order to kill them all. Bonnie tried to appeal to the man’s good nature, but Zhennya had other ideas as she slammed the Eisen Lord into the wall.
As the armored creature waded into the fray, Fabien used the unguent Silvia had given him, but found the only access to the creature’s flesh underneath was through the eyeholes of the helmet. The unguent did not seem to have as great effect as Silvia expected, and attacking the creature seemed fruitless. However, that did not stop the brave adventurers from trying. Kasimir, with his last strength, convinced the Captain to surrender, while Silvia used the evidence of the creatures’s monstrous nature to cause the remaining Iron Guard to back off. In the midst of the battle, everyone was shocked to see Zhennya grow in size and turn into a bear right there in the main hall. Unable to explain, she used her great strength to pin the armored monster, but was unable to cause it much harm.
Just as it looked hopeless, Fabien noticed the unnatural tearstained on Gregor’s cheeks and his bloodshot eyes. Remembering a key fact, Bonnie began to reason with the Lord of the Keep, entreating him to call off the beast and that his sons would not want their memory tainted so. Rushing into the smithy, Silvia discovered a Heiligen, a necklace with a wolf insignia. She immediately recognized it as the symbol of Stefano Wulf, a holy Objectionist and likely the one worn by Gregor’s son. When she presented this to him, and Fabien and Dr. Blackwell added their voices to that of Bonnie, they were finally able to talk him down and the animated corpses of his sons stopped its onslaught.
Later, the group discovered that Gregor had indeed lost his sons in the war and had come to terms with it, until months ago when a Sarmatian woman visited him and returned the Heiligen, opening up the grief he had kept inside. He immediately set out to gain vengeance upon the Vaticines he saw as responsible for his sons’ deaths. He had fused their bodies together and knitted them with the armor. He had discovered a piece of the crusader armor and began looking for other pieces, trading with Andrea Foscari for the panzerhand. The Vodacce in turn received a large supply of hexenwerk unguents, including Black Broth, Funeral Porridge, and Autumn’s Sigh. Distraught at his actions, Gregor has vowed to see all those harmed repaid in some way. As the night came to a close, the group had to decide what to do with the pieces of Dracheneisen armor. On one hand, Die Kreuzritter would reward handsomely for its return, but if one could gather the remainder of the pieces, it would be a formidable tool in the fight against darkness. Now the group must head towards Soldano after Andrea Foscari and discover what the Vodacce plans…
Rewards: 1 Wealth, Local Reputation (Eisen): Brave, 1 XP (bankable), 10-pt Item Story (Crusader Dracheneisen Armor)