Nightfall in Brelindia

60 - Castle Morsevar

The slayers enter the Gryphon's Eyrie and finally look on the face of the Faceless Gryphon.

Rather than enter the town, the group decides to find a secure campsite away from any civilians. Baden finds an excellent shelter formed by two rocks in the woods, and they settle down there for the night. On Abbron’s watch, a great rustling and creaking can be heard in the treetops as of huge animals. The beasts eventually depart, but in the morning Baden finds a long black feather, like that of a griffin, that evaporates into shadowy tendrils as the light grows stronger.

They survey the town of Morsevar from a distance and decide to avoid it entirely. They prefer to avoid the chance that some of the townsfolk might be agents of the lord, or that the rest would be endangered by their passing. So then it’s a long march up the winding roads to the castle. The wind is blowing in a possible spring storm when they get their first good look at the Gryphon’s Eyrie at the top of the cliff — Castle Morsevar.

As the road rises into the higher altitudes it forks, one branch leading westward and the other around toward the castle itself. A black carriage waits at the fork, two ebon horses in harness but no driver visible. The carriage door swings open as the group approaches. Abbron notes that it would be easy for the castle’s lord to send the carriage over the cliff if they were to get inside. However, they ultimately decide to put some trust in the seeress’ claim that the lord wants them to reach the castle. Honora and Baden sit on the buckboard, while Abbron clambers on top; only Bralta actually gets into the coat. Once all are aboard, the horses respond to some unheard command and draw the carriage toward Castle Morsevar.

The castle stands on an outcrop all but severed from the main cliff, with an aging drawbridge lowered across the gap. Though most of the windows are dark, light and music spill out of the open main doors. As the group disembarks from the carriage, they discuss whether or not to follow the music. It could be a trap — but the same is true of the coach.

Stone gryphons and gargoyles look down from upper ledges in the foyer and main hall. A pair of bronze doors stands before them to the east, a wide stair leads to the north, and torches light a hallway leading to the south. The strains of organ music come from the lit hallway, as does the smell of food. The debate over the possible trap finally concludes as the four head south.

They enter a dining hall lit by a massive chandelier, where a huge table is laden with an impressive feast. A figure plays the large organ, built against one wall. As he finished his performance, he turns to face them. The man is handsome, dark-haired but with the fair skin of many Brelinds, and dressed in the clothing of a lord. He bids them welcome. “Please be seated,” he says, “and eat if you are so inclined. I pride myself on the bounty of my table. I assure you it isn’t poisoned; that is not my way.”

The group refuses his offer, though they do speak politely with him. Invar admits that they have been exceptionally troublesome to his plans. Over the course of the conversation he admits that he had designs on destroying Syrakul’s influence over the land and restoring the kingship of Brelindia. A slight anger creeps into his voice as he accuses them of defending the great shadow dragon. They respond by reminding him of the atrocities committed by his lieutenants, beginning with the murderous way in which the Candle Man went about building his soldiers.

Finally Invar states “You insist on impeding this plan, and therefore you must go.”

“We aren’t leaving,” says Honora.

“I know,” he says. “You won’t walk out of this castle. But you will depart, all the same.”

A wind blows through the feast hall, extinguishing all the chandelier’s candles and leaving them in darkness. Baden immediately speaks a word to call the light from his sacred axe, but Invar is gone. They are alone with the feast.

They return to the hall, and investigate the bronze doors. The doors open into a long hall lined with statues, likely the ancestors of the Gryvault line. The hall itself leads to a massive chapel, enough to do any temple proud. Broken stained glass windows speak of the Gryvault family’s abandoned gods. But by the dust-caked altar stands a tall mirror, flanked by the sprawling forms of robed priests.

Abbron decides not to take any chances. He throws a bolt of lightning at the mirror. But the thunderbolt spatters and sparks across the frame without doing it any harm. A face swims up from the murk within the mirror and smiles. The two “priests” draw themselves up as if someone is now pulling their strings — and long scythe blades snap out from the marionettes’ forearms as they dance to the attack.

The slayers meet the puppets’ attack solidly. They seem to have the advantage of numbers initially, but then a figure steps from the mirror — a stout man clad in armor with boar-tusks affixed to his helm. He hefts an axe in either hand, and his heraldry is all too familiar.

“I regret that it’s come to this,” says Cyr Bastaan.

“So do I,” replies Honora.

The knight of Spurwall enters the fight, tearing into Honora. He fights with unusual speed and strength, and demonstrates an even more dramatic ability to manipulate the stone underfoot. He slams his axe handles into the floor, which buckles and explodes upwards at the impact. Honora does her best to keep Bastaan occupied while her comrades deal with the unwanted complication of the murderous marionettes. She holds her ground even as Baden slices the one puppet in half, and Abbron smashes the other into the wall with a thunderbolt. Abbron knocks the mirror to the ground face-down, and then stands atop it as he fights on.

Cyr Bastaan continues to display an inhuman fury. The knight’s helm deflects an axe blow, but gives partway. He tears it from his head, and bares sharp fangs. Each of the slayers immediately recognizes the signs — Cyr Bastaan is a vampire. Bastaan attacks with redoubled violence, but the blood fervor appears to be gnawing at his judgment. His fighting skill simply isn’t equal to that of the hardened slayers.

Bastaan stumbles, and Baden lashes out for the kill. Honora tries to shove Bastaan from the path of the axe, but she isn’t fast enough. The sacred elven axe bites through his neck, and Bastaan falls to the chapel floor. His body begins to dissolve into blood as they watch, seeping between the flagstones to the earth below.

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