With little time to lament the loss of their friend, the party is beset by undead pursuing an escapee from the dungeons of the keep. The large Vrechan names himself Kjern, and joins the party in their mad efforts to clear the keep. At last, on the top floor, they find Prince Obyr and his royal court. The court reveals their true nature as a battle unfolds. They are actually a coven of vampires. Disguised as the Prince’s bodyguard, Kheegan is an elder vampire lord and the one in charge; while Obyr and Acef are newly created vampires. Kheegan hacks at the party with a mighty greatsword while Obyr darts in and out of the fight, striking exposed opponents. Acef summons skeletal minions to assist the thralls that defend them. All seems lost when Kjern falls briefly under the control of the vampire lord and hews down two of the party, but Morin prevails, and with a final thrust of his sword, fells Kheegan. The party finds a strange orb, whose magic seems bound to the keep itself, as well as journals and notes in the library that reveal more of the strange chain of events since their return from Moonstair.
Prince Obyr’s Journal:
We make the long overland journey to Harrenshire by horseback. How I would love to remove my aching arse from atop this beast and soar amongst moonlit clouds, but Kheegan says we dare not expose ourselves just yet.
We have arrived at Backbreaker Keep. The locals now refer to it as “Castle Targus”. What an arrogant whelp this Arasan must be. He does not even have the sense to show the proper respect that a royal visit demands, for he is away in Thayrund! I suspect Geron may be complicit in this sleight. The castle staff has made pitiful efforts to appease me with formalities, banquets, gifts, and a tournament in my honor – as if I have use for crockery painted by peasants or find entertainment in watching farmers shoot arrows at straw dummies. I have taken command of the military forces stationed here and will throw this Targus and his mercenary band in the dungeons when they return.
Kheegan is so clever. He has questioned this castle caretaker Frandris and forced the truth from him. Targus is plotting to succeed and join Harrenshire with Thayrund! This treachery shall be punished. Thayrund shall be the first to fall before my might when the time for conquest begins! Perhaps I will make thralls of these fools and have them lead the assault!
Targus and his whelplings arrived by the teleportation circle on the wizard’s tower today – exactly as Acef had predicted. My court subdued them and they are contained in the dungeons. Geron was among them. How I would love to drain his blood and see the look on his face. Perhaps I will have him kill my father; that would be such sweet irony! There was also a wizard, an elf, the local grove-keeper, and a soldier with them. The soldier may prove a useful pawn. He has re-sworn his pledge of loyalty to me so I have released him into Kheegan’s command.
The castle staff is now completely under my control, but this place begins to bore me. I hunger for the greater challenge of battle and conquest. How long must I wait!? Kheegan advises patience. Easy for him to say when he gets to go below and mingle with majestic beings from the Abyss while I must sit here and quench my thirst on peasant blood.
It has begun! I can hear the faint rush, and feel the earth tremble beneath my feet. Soon this castle will soar above all the midlands and herald the doom of my enemies. My father is so foolish – content with eking out a poor frontier kingdom amongst the ruins of a civilization in decline. I will forge a new world. I will create an empire stronger and larger than even ancient Inuria. What good will the pikes and shields of the squabbling Cobians be against an army that cannot die? What good will the warships of Aras be when my dragon burns them like tinder? What good will the thick city walls of Gomia do them when my fortress floats above them? Nothing will be able to withstand me.
The orb is in place and Acef assures me that his magic is strong and it will function. The tremors have grown more intense. It shouldn’t be long now!
A thousand curses! The prisoners have escaped right as things are about to come to fruition. I should have bitten them all when I had the chance, despite Kheegan’s pleas for patience. Acef has scryed them retreating to the grove outside of town. Kheegan says he has dispatched some of our new allies to deal with them.
At last! The earth has collapsed, plunging this peasant village into the underdark and freeing the keep. The orb’s magic has held us aloft, but Acef needs more time to attune the orb before he can control the keep’s movement. He has shrouded us in mist to hide the keep from view for now. I grow weary of this waiting.
Letter from Kheegan to Ule
The sword Bar N’adir was in the possession of the Regent of Harrenshire, as you suspected. Likely it was gifted to him by Gargandolar’s mate. I have claimed it, though I do not have the means to touch it, much less destroy it. I am closing in on the location of the next implement. I suspect the cloak was taken as a trophy long ago by the beholder Xarschotz when you tricked Orus into confronting him alone. Xarschotz has long since passed his mortal lifespan, but has undergone transformation into a death tyrant. Rumor has it he lairs in the shadowfell. At great cost of resources I have acquired the sigil sequence to his teleportation portal there. The whereabouts of the staff and the mail yet elude me.