The Unholy Empire, Parts 1-4
We begin in the capital city of Vyer, the Unholy Empire, which is one of the most influential nations in the known world. The House of Fane has sat on Vyer’s throne for the last century. Queen Sephira rules presently, her mother ruled before her, and her grandmother before her. Each generation is rumored to be more terrifying than the last, and more intertwined in the dealings of Hell.
But despite its dark reputation, Vyer’s capital is a hub of culture and knowledge, attracting artists, academics and travelers from all walks of life. Four strangers passing through the city are about to be thrown into an adventure they are not at all prepared for. They are:
Gydeon Greyfrost, an aristocratic elf from a wealthy bloodline of draconic sorcerors. She doesn’t give a damn about interpersonal relationships, and though she’d prefer to spend all her time in her family library, the Greyfrost clan has recently forced Gydeon out into the world to make a name for herself.
Iria Clawstrike, a wandering catfolk bard who plays the hang drum, and sometimes hits people with it. She’s motivated by love, and is on a musical quest far away from home to find recognition, gold and maybe a soulmate or two along the way.
Tonreir Ceni, an aloof half-elf druid. He maintains a stoic presence, molded over the years by callusing experiences, and chooses to engage with most folk at arm’s length. His intentions often shrouded, Tonreir journeys here and there with his owl companion, working on bettering the land and ensuring its survival.
Wingthe Faldrum, a human fighter who grew up alone on hard streets, cut her teeth in a band of mercenaries and is now fulfilling her dream to see the wonders of the world. She values personal freedom, loves a good scrap, hates a war and cares about money only as far as it buys her freedom.
Gydeon, Tonreir, Iria and Wingthe are conned (and partially kidnapped) by a dwarven grifter named Risk and his partner-in-crime, a half-orc named Bagheera, into an audience with Queen Sephira. They learn the queen is looking to hire outsiders to complete a difficult job, and has been paying Risk and Bagheera a bounty to bring in fresh recruits.
The Royal Advisors
Upon being escorted into the throne room — a lavish affair of obsidian walls, silk banners and intricate flows of lava — our heroes meet the queen’s royal advisors, two demons sent from the pit: Lord Zera, a captivatingly beautiful fury with ash-colored wings, and Talgron, a nine-foot-tall monstrosity covered in ice blue spines. Lord Zera asks the new recruits to introduce themselves, and Talgron is not impressed.
Queen Sephira, sitting on a throne shrouded in darkness, unleashes her loyal hellhound Dreska on the party to test their mettle. A short battle ensues: Gydeon deals damage with her ice magic, Tonreir summons a water elemental, Iria casts chord of shards, and Wingthe tries to be intimidating despite getting dragged around by the huge, infernal hound.
The queen calls Dreska off after deciding this party isn’t completely incompetent. When the dust settles, she explains the job they’ve been drafted into.
The Three Curses
There are three great, infectious curses that plague mortals in Vyer: vampirism, lycanthropy, and the eternal hunger.
The royal alchemist, Vesper, is working to learn about these curses so that the House of Fane can better manage them. Queen Sephira orders our heroes to bring her one infectious individual afflicted with each curse, and gives the party a ring gate to send the captives back to the castle.
She grants each adventurer a token bearing a symbol of the House of Fane — a bracelet, an earring, a pendant and a coin — in case they need to prove their affiliation while carrying out the job. She also summons her familiar, a pit viper, to travel with the party and keep an eye on them. Tonreir kneels and extends a hand to the snake, who climbs up and settles into the half-elf’s hood.
Finally, the queen tells her handmaiden, a halfling woman named Danya, to help the party prepare for their mission.
The Queen’s Handmaid
Danya, who goes by Dani, leads our heroes out of the throne room and to an old supply shed. It has been mostly picked clean of adventuring supplies by previous parties, but amid the dust and broken equipment, Wingthe finds a pair of enchanted pink fuzzy slippers and a cracked, glowing longsword, Gydeon puts on a ring of protection and pockets a few potions, and Iria picks up an empty scroll holder and discovers a very cursed-looking mirror.
The party spends the night at Dani’s house, a small, cozy cottage on the castle grounds. Gydeon has a bath while Wingthe helps Dani cook and Iria plays music to the chickens outside. After dinner, Tonreir goes to sleep in a tree with his owl, Gydeon takes Dani’s bed, Iria curls up on the floor by the fireplace, and Wingthe stays up late talking with the halfling handmaid.
After a bit too much to drink, Dani reveals more of Vyer’s history to Wingthe. Since the House of Fane’s rise to power — which is rumored to have coincided perfectly with the appearance of hellmouths all over Vyer — everything that is holy has been systematically eliminated. There are no good clerics alive in Vyer, and worship of the Archdevils is encouraged. Dani confirms that the two demons in the throne room, Lord Zera and Talgron, were sent from the pit to advise the queen and speak for the interests of Hell.
In short, Vyer is the closest thing to Hell on earth, and our heroes are right in the middle of it.
The Royal Alchemist
The next morning, Gydeon, Tonreir, Iria and Wingthe say their goodbyes to Dani before heading down the pathway to Vesper’s mansion, a short distance away on the castle grounds. The red brick mansion is covered in vines and home to a lot of cats. Like, seriously, an unreasonable number of cats. Wingthe befriends a gray and white kitten, who hitches a ride on her shoulder.
The entrance to the mansion is a heavy wooden door with a face carved into it, which comes to life as the party approaches and demands they answer a riddle to pass through. After solving the riddle, they walk inside and find a haunted cupboard, an empty waiting room, and more cats. Ivy, a talking Maine Coon with a red stone hanging from her collar, drops down from a wall and leads the party upstairs to the alchemist’s laboratory, where Vesper — a living skeleton wearing black robes — is in the middle of an experiment. The cauldron Vesper is working with explodes, scattering his bones across the floor.
Tonreir helps Vesper piece himself back together and informs him that they have been sent by the queen. Vesper invites everyone to his library, where he briefs the party on the location of their first mission: the forgotten castle of Lord Oberon, a Moroi vampire who is rumored to have turned his entire court into his thralls over a hundred years ago.
Vesper has been ordered by the queen to send the party through a portal to the general area of Lord Oberon’s court, and to only bring them back after they capture a fully-formed vampire with the ring gate. To help with the mission, he gives them an inverted disguise undead scroll that makes the living appear undead, and a book of information and rumors about vampires.
Iria attempts to ask Vesper about the symbols on the mirror she found in the shed, but the alchemist is too focused on the task at hand to provide any answers. They all go downstairs and out to the mansion’s inner courtyard, which is a lush garden guarded by a huge dire lion named Amra. In the center of the courtyard, Vesper draws a circle of sigils to form the portal and sends our heroes into the great unknown.
The Forgotten Court, Parts 1-6
Our heroes emerge from the portal to find themselves surrounded by the sand dunes of a vast desert, with no castle in sight. While trying to decide what to do, the portal opens again for a brief moment, and a small orb containing bottled sunlight and some notes from Vesper fall from the sky. In the scrolls, Vesper asks the party to send him an additional cursed individual who might be interested in testing a cure he’s working on, and shares a bardic work Ivy found about Lord Oberon’s forgotten court.
As the party begins to explore, they hear mysterious whistling notes in the distance, and head towards the music. Before long, our heroes come across what looks like a pair of very large flutes sticking out of the sand. Iria and Wingthe are entranced by the music and head towards it, while Gydeon hangs back and Tonreir tries to stop them. A giant sand stalker rises from beneath the ground and attacks.
Iria is badly hurt when the spider takes a bite out of her, Gydeon (who is terrified of snakes and spiders) lets loose an ear-piercing scream that dazes the beast, Tonreir casts flames at its legs to stop the music, and Wingthe snaps out of her entrancement and fights back with her spear. The injured sand stalker, which is tethered to an iron ring sticking out of the ground, retreats to the end of its chain.
In a risky maneuver, Tonreir sets the sand stalker free and it scurries away, burrowing beneath the dunes. After healing Iria with a potion, our heroes dig around the iron ring and uncover a stained glass window at the top of a buried tower. Wingthe smashes the window with the enchanted flaming longsword she found in the shed, and sand pours into the room below, carrying half the party with it.
The Vampire Hunter
In a dark room at the top of a tower, our heroes encounter a prisoner named Nyx, a catfolk dhampir who is also hunting Lord Oberon, and who quickly befriends Iria. After some debate, they free Nyx from his shackles and they all escape the room — by solving a puzzle requiring a blood sacrifice to reveal a door — before it filled completely with sand. Nyx explains he is a vampire hunter with a personal vendetta against Lord Oberon, and he was captured by the vampire and his lackeys while searching for this castle. He agrees to join the party under the condition that Oberon must die.
Gydeon, Wingthe, Tonreir, Iria and Nyx head down the winding staircase from the top of the tower and enter a crumbling storeroom. A vampire spawn — a former servant turned into a mindless thrall by Lord Oberon — is alerted to their presence and attacks. They manage to subdue her with a stake to the heart, but not before Wingthe is energy drained by the spawn. Another debate breaks out over what to do with the captive: Wingthe and Tonreir want to kill her, Gydeon is ambivalent, Iria wants to spare her life, and Nyx tries to inform everyone of the weight of their decision.
In the end, they decide to hide her de-animated body in a wardrobe. When a Moroi vampire dies, all of his thralls become full vampires in their own right. Wingthe makes a deal with Nyx to help him kill Lord Oberon, and after the deed is done, they will return to the wardrobe and send the new vampire to Queen Sephira.
A quick search of the storeroom yields a variety of trinkets with the crest of the House of Fane, signalling the failures of previous parties sent by the queen, alongside countless articles of clothing that belonged to Oberon’s victims. Our heroes also discover a handful of RSVPs responding to an upcoming event called the Eternal Masquerade.
The party continues to explore the castle, heading further underground. They come across a dusty library, where Iria finds a century-old map of the world and notes that Vyer’s territory was a lot smaller in the past than in the present day. Gydeon also finds Oberon’s journal and reads an entry from its pages. The journal entry describes Oberon’s loneliness in undeath and his desire to find a romantic partner. It also mentions someone named Thalia as a rash mistake. This evidence of Oberon’s desperate bid for love leads Tonreir to theorize that the Eternal Masquerade is an attempt to cast a wide net for potential suitors.
The Forgotten Court, Parts 7-11
After leaving Oberon’s library, Iria opens a door that has been booby trapped with a spell to summon several aggressive dire rats. The party dispatches the rats and continues down the hallway. They enter a torchlit, circular chamber with an open casket resting in its center. A mysterious humming echoes through Wingthe and Iria’s minds, getting louder as they approach the coffin.
Iria looks inside the casket and sees the shriveled husk of a woman, with long red hair and an elaborate black opal dress. A red rose has been placed beside the wooden stake protruding from her heart. Before anyone can stop Iria, she has the sudden compulsion to remove the stake, and she pulls it out. The woman in the casket grabs and bites Iria, regaining her life force as she drains blood from the catfolk’s neck.
Fully awakened and revitalized, the woman gets to her feet and drops Iria to the floor, badly wounded. Gydeon recognizes this vampire as Thalia, the one mentioned in Oberon’s journal. Our heroes attempt to fight her, but their attacks seem to have no effect. Seeming amused, Thalia says she also intends to kill Lord Oberon — as revenge for turning her into a vampire against her will — and warns the party to stay out of her way.
Gydeon, who doesn’t trust Thalia not to turn on them, shoots a crossbow bolt into her stomach. The fight resumes in earnest, and Thalia drags Gydeon up to the ceiling and bites her while the rest of the party tries to take the vampire down. Gydeon uncorks a vial of laughing gas from the shed and Thalia drops her in a fit of uncontrollable laughter. Wingthe puts on the fuzzy pink slippers, which give her the power to climb walls, and attempts a flying leap to stake Thalia through the heart as Tonreir waits below to catch her in the ring gate.
The attempt fails, and Thalia stops laughing. She tells Gydeon, “You shouldn’t have done that,” drops to the floor, and transforms in a cloud of black smoke into the form of a giant hyena. As the party tries to battle Thalia in her hyena form, Iria breaks up the fight and makes the case that they are all on the same side.
Thalia, back in human form, explains that over a century ago, she and Oberon had courted before he grew withdrawn and secretive. He eventually came for her, asking if she would like to spend eternity with him, and did not heed her “no.” She answers a few more of our heroes’ questions before turning into a gas and floating out of the chamber.
In need of rest, our heroes spend the night in the next set of rooms they discover: Oberon’s bedroom and an adjoining bathroom and partner suite. Gydeon takes a long-awaited bath, Wingthe and Nyx burn an empty coffin hidden behind Oberon’s bed, and Tonreir tends to Iria’s wounds. The next morning, they decide to infiltrate the upcoming masquerade in order to launch a surprise attack on Lord Oberon.
Gydeon changes into a court gown and Tonreir uses magic to encase her in ice armor to make her seem cool to the touch. Then, they cast the inverted disguise undead scroll from Vesper to give Gydeon the appearance of a vampire noblewoman, so that she can act as a distraction for Oberon while the rest of the party prepares to strike.
The sound of bats swarming through the castle signal the return of Lord Oberon and his thralls from their nightly hunt, and shortly thereafter, our heroes hear the sound of waltz music drifting along the corridors.
The party sets out in search of the ballroom where the masquerade is taking place, but they encounter one final trap — a hallway with an illusory floor concealing a pit of spikes below, filled with poison gas. They start to make their way across using the pink fuzzy slippers and a long rope. Iria falls in the trap and briefly loses her memory upon breathing the gas, but Nyx jumps in and rescues her with Wingthe’s help.
Finally, our heroes reach the foyer and see a guest pass through to the attached ballroom. Gydeon grabs a mask from a table of masquerade masks by the entrance to complete her disguise. Ready to set their plan in motion, she busts through the double doors leading to the Eternal Masquerade, and to their mark, Lord Oberon.
The Forgotten Court, Parts 12-16
The ballroom is sweeping and grand, with crystal chandeliers and marble floors, and ten vampire spawn twirling and dancing in pairs. They wear masks and beautiful finery, but their expressions are completely, ominously blank. And past the thralls, on a raised platform at the far end of the room, stand Lord Oberon and four vampire guests.
Gydeon pulls one of the thralls into a skillful dance at the center of the ballroom, drawing Oberon’s attention. In a whirl of light and music, Oberon cuts in and sweeps Gydeon into a frighteningly close dance. Back in the foyer, Tonreir, Wingthe, Iria and Nyx also put on masks and sneak behind the curtain spanning the edge of the ballroom while Gydeon acts as a distraction, but in a quiet moment Iria sneaks a kiss with Nyx.
Lord Oberon is instantly taken by Gydeon, who introduces herself as Amara, her older sister’s name. Oberon uses magic to levitate Gydeon and himself as they dance through the air. One of the vampiric guests, a dark elf who had been courting Oberon, is insulted that Gydeon has stolen the show and storms off. All the while, Wingthe, Tonreir, Iria, and Nyx creep into position, ready to strike.
At the end of their dance, Oberon discovers a very out-of-breath Gydeon is not a vampire at all, but mortal when he catches her taking a deep breath. But he is so enamoured that he moves to turn her into a vampire on the spot. Wingthe bursts out from her hiding spot to attack Oberon, and all hell breaks loose.
Wingthe tries to stab Oberon but misses, and Oberon uses mind control to turn her into his bodyguard instead. Oberon flees, Gydeon in tow, with the rest of the party in pursuit. Iria and Nyx manage to break the mind control spell on Wingthe, but it’s too late. Oberon gets Gydeon alone and, confessing that he would do anything to seize happiness, bites her, rapidly draining her lifeforce and bringing her within an inch of death.
And then Oberon screams and releases Gydeon, and he’s bleeding from a huge bite in his thigh. There’s a blur of black smoke in the shape of a hyena, and Thalia appears at Gydeon’s side to tell Oberon, “You shouldn’t have done that.”
Meanwhile, back upstairs, Tonreir, Iria, Wingthe and Nyx are facing down ten thralls in the ballroom, ordered by Oberon to attack them. Iria and Nyx fend them off while Tonreir heals Gydeon, and Wingthe cannonballs herself at Oberon. Oberon retreats to the ballroom with Thalia in pursuit. As Oberon and Thalia duke it out, the remaining vampire guests take their leave.
As our heroes regroup, Oberon gains the upper hand over Thalia and then Nyx, and with their allies down the situation seems dire.
But in a burst of rage, Tonreir summons Fury of the Sun and deals a tremendous amount of damage to Oberon. The vampire lord begins to fall, but then something strange happens.
Oberon rises above the dance floor and tells the party they are fools to hunt him. If he can’t see the light of day again, well, then neither will any of them. And then he releases his control over his thralls in order to cast a spell. The lavish ballroom vanishes, and every one of the heroes is left alone in their own personal nightmare.
Gydeon dreams she is in her family library, surrounded by books, but she is unable to read. Iria dreams she is on a stage, in front of the most important people in her life, but her performance is causing them pain. Tonreir recalls the worst moment of his life, when the village and forest he was raised in caught fire. And Wingthe dreams of a time she was trapped, completely alone in a cage.
Each of the heroes is confronted with their greatest fear, and it is up to each of them to make it out alive.
Iria finds herself surrounded by catfolk – her parents, her ex-partner, and her childhood best friend – in her treetop home, and sits on the precipice of remembering the terrible event that led to her exile. But she resists the bleak memory and instead focuses on the first time she felt hope after leaving home, starting a new life in Vyer. Harnessing that bright memory, Iria escapes Oberon’s mind control and wakes up.
Wingthe struggles with the bars of a cramped, claustrophobic cage and the memory of being captured and left to rot in a prison, with the knowledge that she may never again see the sun — but she is able to summon a memory of survival and hope that came after, standing on a ship, perfectly free with the world open to her, and return to the battle and to the waking world.
Gydeon navigates a familiar library in her family home, unable to understand the books she finds so comforting and stumbling into a painful memory. Her older sister, Amara, stands with her mother Casandra and her mother’s partner Reina. Together, the three most important people in Gydeon’s life decide her fate: to leave the Greyfrost manor, forced out into the world on her own. Gydeon pushes the memory to shift into a conversation with Amara, in which her sister motivates her to wake up and “hand that gaudy vampire his ass.”
Tonreir suffers through the traumatic memory of his druidic village burning to the ground, and relives the intense grief that followed the loss of his family and his home. But a recollection of new life, the moment he found his animal companion Rul’Thuin in the ash of the fallen forest and nursed the baby owl back to health, gives Tonreir the strength to break out of Oberon’s spell and free his mind from overwhelming despair.
Back in the world of the waking, our heroes spring into action. Iria casts a bardic spell to bring Nyx out of his nightmare. Wingthe, wearing a pair of enchanted slippers, runs up the wall to the second-story walkway, where she finds one of Oberon’s coffins and lights it on fire. As Gydeon and Tonreir resume their attacks, Wingthe rallies the newly freed thralls to help destroy their former captor, appealing to the goodness within them.
As the vampire thralls climb the ballroom walls and slash away at Oberon’s remaining health, Iria uses spoken word to motivate her allies, that magic in her performance strengthened by Thalia’s eerie humming. Gydeon finds her feet on the bloodied marble floor. Barely clinging to consciousness, Gydeon faces down her attacker with the words, “You made me feel weak. You thought you could enslave me. You thought you could kill me… But I am a Greyfrost, and bigger monsters than you have tried. You are out of your league, Oberon,” and casts Snapdragon Fireworks, dealing the final blow to Oberon in a blaze of pyrotechnics.
Oberon finally dead, his spell holding back the weight of the desert is lifted, and the sand above begins to crush the underground castle. Wingthe rushes to rescue the vampire they left bound and staked upstairs, while the rest of the party works with Nyx, Thalia, and the remaining thralls to escape the collapsing ballroom through a tunnel leading to the surface.
Sunlight finds the heroes facing a moral dilemma. One of these vampires must be sent back to Sephira to complete their mission, but there’s no way to know what would befall them once turned over to the queen. Should they send Thalia, who has fought at their side against Oberon and rescued Gydeon from certain death? Or should they randomly damn a newly-freed thrall, one of Oberon’s many victims, to an uncertain fate just as they’ve had a taste of freedom? There is no good answer, so Gydeon creates one.
Gydeon steps back into the darkness, blood smeared across her hand, and prompts the small horde of vampires to show her who they really are. Two vampires attack her in a fit of bloodlust, and are dexterously swept through the ring gate and delivered to Sephira. Sufficiently intimidated, the other eight freed thralls agree to await a cure for vampirism and let the heroes go in peace.
In the calm that follows, Nyx pulls Wingthe aside to discuss the future of the remaining vampires. He suggests that if they had someone to protect them, mostly from themselves, they might be able to break the cycle of abuse that Oberon perpetuated. Nyx produces the pendant Oberon had been wearing and explains its purpose enabling one to hide, even from magical detection. He suggests that Wingthe use the pendant to escape her contract with Sephira and lead the young vampires into hiding, preventing them from doing harm to humanity while they await a cure. Wingthe agrees to this new purpose, and asserts that these are the people she wants to fight for now.
Iria catches a moment alone with Nyx, and the dhampir tiger expresses his deep affection and infatuation with her. Nyx is transparent about his polyamorous identity and promises that, though he has a husband, Iria would be treated as an equal. They share an embrace, and Iria agrees to visit him.
The young vampire the party first encountered and stored in the wardrobe upstairs, now docile and gentle, volunteers to return to Vyer and help Vesper develop a cure. Thalia joins the heroes as well, seeking purpose after Oberon’s demise.
After a heartfelt goodbye with Wingthe and Nyx, Tonreir, Gydeon, and Iria open up the portal and return with Thalia and the young vampire, Farrah, to the capital city of Vyer.
The Return to Vyer – Parts 1-5
The three heroes rematerialize in Vesper’s courtyard, accompanied by the two vampires. Thalia and Vesper knew each other, back when they were both alive, and re-acquaint themselves — agreeing that Thalia will stay with Vesper and utilize her knowledge of alchemy to assist him in his pursuits. Farrah awkwardly introduces herself and is left in Vesper’s care.
Dani greets the party enthusiastically, but finding them worn down physically and emotionally by their battle with Oberon, lets them rest before meeting with the queen. Mulling over old memories the recent battle stirred up, Tonreir asks about a keep of records, hoping to find out more about the destruction of his forest home. Dani shares that there is a keep of records open to the public in Vyer, but hints that it is important to remember written history can be changed.
Rested, the party plunges once again into the heart of Vyer’s capital to stand in the lava-lit, obsidian throne room. Queen Sephira greets them, flanked as before by her demonic advisors, and congratulates them on a job well done. Her serpentine familiar, carried by Tonreir throughout the forgotten court, merges with her once again as her tattoo — and Sephira reveals that the snake, Tasir, shares his memories with her. Now with a more intimate understanding of the heroes, and a recognition that Wingthe has slipped out of her grasp, she considers the remaining three party members carefully.
Gydeon glares at Sephira with open distaste, and thinks silently that this is not how a true leader would rule. As if reading Gydeon’s thoughts, Sephira steps for the first time down from the platform containing her advisors, her hellhound, and her throne to face Gydeon head-on. Sephira asserts that “the Greyfrosts are a lineage with delusions of grandeur, so before Gydeon thinks about how Sephira runs her kingdom, maybe she should ask herself why she doesn’t have one.”
Gydeon grows her claws, but an assassination attempt interrupts the confrontation, a poisoned dagger sinking into Queen Sephira’s stomach. The assassin is quickly neutralized by Lord Zera and the living suits of armor that line the throne room, while Gydeon moves to protect Sephira with magical armor.
Dani rushes to tend to Sephira, but the queen brushes her off and returns to business as usual, seemingly unaffected by the poison. Gydeon, reflecting on how her home has fallen under the control of the House of Fane in the last century, takes advantage of the queen’s promise to answer one question honestly: What does Sephira know of the fall of Silverscale?
The queen responds that its fall was before her time, but promises to reach out to Gydeon with the truth. The heroes are dismissed until their next mission, under the condition that they stay in Vyer’s capital, which Sephira boasts is the best place in the world.
Gydeon, unwilling to wait for Sephira’s answer, decides to seek out Vyer’s library so she can research the answer for herself. Tonreir, his heart heavy with questions about the destruction of his own home, follows along.
Dani leads them to The Great Library of Vyer, 7 floors of gorgeous architecture and extensive literary collections. Gold letters engraved on the library’s far wall read, ‘Dedicated to Queen Aurelia of the House of Fane, first of her line. Commissioned by Queen Calista of the House of Fane, Grand Patron of the Arts and Sciences, so that Vyer may partake in the knowledge and cultures of the world.’
Also portrayed in large, colorful tapestries, Tonreir and Gydeon observe the legacy of Vyer’s six most recent rulers. Sephira’s grandmother, Queen Aurelia of the House of Fane, is shown to have the longest reign of 86 years. Her children Livia, Sabina, and Cyrus all had strikingly short rules, between 6 months and two years. Then Queen Calista, who looks so much like Sephira they presume her Sephira’s mother, is shown to have ruled 31 years before Sephira’s reign which has gone on for 15 years at present. Tonreir and Gydeon exchange glances, and share the quiet suspicion that all is not as it seems in Vyer.
Gydeon attempts to navigate the enormous library on her own to little success, and eventually Tonreir catches up to her and both are steadied by the other’s presence. While searching the overwhelmingly large history section, they encounter a cambion, the child of a demon and human, who introduces themself as Zalin. This kind historian helps them track down information on their fallen homes, but what they find appears to be a sugar coated retelling of the truth — suggesting that Tonreir’s forest was always a part of Vyer and that the nation of Silverscale, following a series of successful diplomatic meetings, joined Vyer willingly.
These half-truths do not sit well with the heroes, and after a warning from Zalin that there are eyes and ears everywhere, but that a more accurate record may exist elsewhere for those close to the crown, Gydeon and Tonreir use the queen’s symbol to gain access to a hidden basement.
Meanwhile, during her first night in the capital, Iria heads to Vesper’s house to take him up on his offer to translate the symbols she found on that very cursed looking mirror in the supply shed. Grateful for all the party has done to advance his research, Vesper gets right to work and leaves Farrah and Iria to play cards with his poltergeist. Farrah turns out to be a sweet, awkward soul, grateful that the party spared her in Oberon’s castle, and Iria and Farrah become fast friends. After a spell, Vesper explains that the symbols in question are abyssal, the language of devils and demons, and translate roughly into Fool and Release.
Back in the library, Gydeon and Tonreir descend into a cavern of dusty tomes and seek out true records on the fate of their respective homes. Eventually they sit, side-by-side, with matching books open in front of them. The details in these texts ring more true — diplomatic meetings with the sovereign nation of Silverscale all failed and Tonreir’s forest was once untouched by Vyer — but the only explanation for their fall is code 463.
Tasir, the queen’s snake, finds them researching and speaks to them in Sephira’s voice. She congratulates them on getting this far on their own and reveals the meaning of the code. The reason Tonreir’s forest was burned and Gydeon’s nation was conquered, the original Silverscale collapsed into ruins, is this: they were destroyed to make way for the expansion of Vyer.
In the month that follows, the three heroes go their separate ways in Vyer’s capital. Tonreir struggles with a deep sadness in the wake of this revelation, but discovers an old friend from his village of Rul’Thuin at work in the Royal Preserve.
Tonreir is welcomed to an enormous collection of flora and fauna from every biome by archways bearing the inscription “Royal Preserve, commissioned by Queen Aurelia of the House of Fane, First of her Line, Hellbringer and Founder of the Unholy Empire, so that Vyer may appreciate the wonders of the natural world.”
It is in the temperate forest that Tonreir finds his mentor, Syllan, a druidic treesinger who greets him warmly. In the shadow of a crowned statue and innumerable trees, they discuss the destruction of their home and their forest’s future.
Syllan speculates that it was hellfire that burned their home, because the forest has not been able to recover. Tonreir asks about a relic, the Erd’ur Nethal, rumored to amplify druidic powers and help living things grow. Syllan confirms it’s existence but insists that to wield it, in the hope of restoring their home, Tonreir would have to grow far more powerful.
With this purpose as his guiding light, Tonreir throws himself into training and learns all that Syllan can teach.
Her first week in the capital finds Iria performing for a crowd in one of Vyer’s beautiful outdoor amphitheaters. Her spoken word is a lyrical reflection on the root of her nightmare in Oberon’s castle: the pain she caused her loved ones before being exiled from her home. Iria reveals to the crowd that she betrayed her best friend, her family, and her pride because she was ‘following a beau’. Her blind loyalty to her ex-girlfriend, Jasmine, cost her community its most valued possession, The Essence of Melos; a relic that imbued young catfolk with a special connection to an instrument. Iria acknowledges that her mistake has robbed future generations of a life-long gift and vows to make it right.
Following her act Iria is approached by Lord Zera, one of the two demonic advisors who counsel Queen Sephira. Zera claims to be an established patron of the arts and, moved by Iria’s performance, offers to help her in exchange for future favors. Ultimately she agrees, and under Zera’s wing Iria grows tremendously into an artist of sound skill and acclaim in Vyer’s cultured capital.
Gydeon, having sent word to her family, spends time in a quiet district on the outskirts of the capital among the muted grandeur of fallen chapels. In an oft-overlooked shop of rare and antique books, Gydeon’s older sister Amara finds her and holds her tight, deeply impressed at the contents of her journal and her little sister’s newfound strength.
The pair walk through an old battlefield, a somber background for a difficult conversation. Gydeon shares the revelation that the original city of Silverscale, their childhood home, was destroyed by Vyer before being conquered — a truth contrary to what their mother, Cassandra, insists occured. Amara deduces that their mother lied to them by saying they were assaulted by unknown assailants and joined Vyer willingly, to prevent her children from rebelling and meeting the same end as their late father. But Sebastian’s pride runs strong in both daughters’ veins, and Amara insists that Silverscale is their birthright and that this is not over. Sephira is going down.
Amara, a seasoned warrior, trains Gydeon in the art of combat and expands her understanding of their shared bloodline magic. Gydeon also takes an interest in Necromancy as a way to expand her magical range, as it has natural crossover with ice magic.
At the end of the month, Gydeon, Tonreir and Iria meet back up at Dani’s cottage ahead of their briefing with Queen Sephira. On their way to the castle, they stop by the royal armory to spend some of the hard-earned coin they received for completing the first mission. The armory is run by an orcish artificer named Sogorim, and unlike the run-down shed the party visited before, it is well-stocked with a variety of enchanted items and basic adventuring goods and gear. Tonreir befriends the artificer, but chaos ensues when Gydeon manipulates Iria into knocking over an elaborate display of swords in a bout of pettiness. Sogorim nearly kicks everyone out of his workshop, but Iria manages to get back in his good graces by complimenting his poetry.
As they leave the armory, Iria decides to swing by the shed to investigate the symbols on the mirror Vesper had translated. She goes inside with Tonreir and Dani, while Gydeon waits outside. While inspecting the mirror, Iria hears muffled banging and shouting coming from inside the glass, and she reads the symbol for Release out loud in Abyssal.
A wild-looking woman with gray skin and bright red hair tumbles out of the mirror. After some confusion, the stranger introduces herself as Rihva, and insists she got sucked into the mirror while doing a job for the Queen of Vyer. Dani holds Rihva at knifepoint, demanding to know which queen, because she has never seen her before. Rihva responds that she was hired by Queen Aurelia — and learns that Aurelia died 46 years ago and she has been trapped in that mirror for over a hundred years.
Rihva, who is a kayal, a race of people descended from humans in the Shadow Plane, tags along with the party to meet Queen Sephira in the throne room. The queen has a headache and seems visibly distracted, and she briskly tells the heroes their next mission is to hunt werewolves. Her tattoo comes to life again as Tasir, her pit viper familiar, and joins Tonreir once more to keep an eye on the party. She is about to send them off to meet with Vesper when Rihva demands to be paid for her contract with Queen Aurelia, Sephira’s grandmother.
Queen Sephira looks up Rihva’s contract, and laughs at the detail that Aurelia hired her as a mercenary after Rihva tried to sell her a clergyman’s hat, pretending it was a holy relic. Sephira then informs Rihva that technically she still owes Vyer two more months of service, since time spent napping inside a mirror does not count.
Rihva begrudgingly joins the party, but not before flipping off the queen and nearly getting killed on the spot. Later, Gydeon tips Rihva some gold coins for putting on a “good show,” while Iria and Tonreir grow more wary of their new teammate.Outside of Vesper’s mansion, the heroes run into Risk and Bagheera, the conmen who originally conscripted them into the queen’s service. Risk explains that he is destined to work for Sephira for life after he was caught stealing from the crown, and that the heroes should count themselves lucky that their job has an end date. In a characteristically petty move, Gydeon lights Risk’s jacket on fire and a brief scuffle ensues.
When the dust settles, Risk and Bagheera leave hand-in-hand and the party continues into Vesper’s manor. Dani hands them off to the skeletal alchemist himself and the heroes follow Vesper into his library to be briefed on their next mission.
They are to be teleported to a quaint little village named Sosalia on the outskirts of Sanguine Silvis, a forest in which Vesper believes an enclave of werewolves is alive and well. They will arrive two nights before the full moon, so with any luck the people of Sosalia can help them prepare for what they are to face in the forest.
Vesper stresses that all that is known for certain about lycanthropy is how infectious it is and how characteristic extreme acts of violence are. He compares lycanthropy to the mundane rabies virus, and theorizes that they are so similar the curse may have been forged from it. He warns the heroes that while becoming a vampire must be intentional, catching lycanthropy is as easy as a deep bite or a scratch, intentional or otherwise.
Vesper arms the party with a silver whistle, enchanted with necromancy, which is able to temporarily stun canines of all kinds — including werewolves. However, if used more than once every 24 hours, this valuable tool runs the risk of exploding in the user’s face. A poltergeist who makes his home in Vesper’s manor takes a shine to Gydeon, and sneaks her a useful book from the alchemist’s library to help her.
The heroes assemble in Vesper’s courtyard, standing at the center of a ring of sigils, and steady themselves for what is to come. The world vanishes from beneath their feet, and after a dizzying trip through the portal they find themselves watching the sun set over a forest flush with red oaks, the trees brilliant with autumn colors. A little smattering of buildings crouches in the shadow of the forest, the nearest of which is called The Covenant Inn.