Dopplegangers, harpies and puppy mutilation. These are the days of our lives.
How I’ve survived this long with this party I don’t know. They’re excellent together in battle, but, as soon as we reach any sort of civilization, everything falls apart. Between the Count escaping our capture (well, not our capture, as he technically escaped the king’s prisons), the struggle with Ru’s literal inner demons and Ru’s particular penchant for decapitating puppies (Ru insists that the dog is fine, but, that’s not the word around town), well… it’s safe to say that I’m glad we’re back on the road.
We left the Count’s hunting lodge to the city of nobles (Brinfall), and with only two minor incidents (a scouting party of stinky lizard men and an exceptionally stupid ettin – who, assuredly, as NOT a cleric in disguise), we arrived. That’s where the trouble began. Well, no, the trouble began quite some time ago. This is simply where the trouble decided to trapse around for awhile and make my life miserable.
Brinfall was home to a fairly respectable temple of Fharlanghn, with the only exception that it was usually attended by an egg-fart of a man who calls himself “Forestwalker”. This was my first stop, after we turned the Count in to the city guard. Franklin joined me, as he seemed to have a lot to talk to Fharlanghn about – I let him be, for the most part, though I watched over him to make sure none of the other clergy bothered him.
The rest of the party went about with their own activities. Ru disappeared for a bit, and came back with jewelry I hadn’t seen him with before. I can only assume that he got this legitimately and not at the expense of others. Panbatter was pleased at her earnings at a local restaurant (and the locals were pleased with her. She was offered some position in the kitchen, and, from the sounds of it, she almost took it). Franklin kept to prayer, Thenar kept to the forges, Renzo, generally, kept low (and Tindel with him). Mae, in her travels, discovered a little girl in an alleyway, battered in bruised.
She, of course, brought her immediately to me. The girl’s parents had apparently been abducted by a trio of men, one of which carried a black sword. Upon hearing this news, Ru threw his sword down in the church, asking it to be locked away. I’m not entirely sure, admittedly, what was going on in Ru’s head, but, he seemed intent on keeping himself away from people. I doubted that he had anything to do with this girl’s troubles, but he wasn’t so convinced, apparently.
Ru locked himself in his room that evening, which was understandable – he clearly felt he wasn’t in contol of himself, and from what I heard transpired that evening, I don’t blame him. Apparently, with Mae standing guard at the door, Ru appeared to her out of his room – in the flesh, asking for her help, saying “I need you to come along, I don’t want to hurt anyone else.” Mae was concerned, obviously, but, mistrustful. (She later revealed that she knew what was going on with Nesterfettle, but she wasn’t sure what he was capable of – so, her mistrust in this situation was appropriate as well). When she opened the door to Ru’s room, he was still inside – and, simultaneously, he was bolting down the hallway. When Ru came about in his room, he stood up and ran out of the room as well. The chase spilled out into the street, a pair of Ru’s being chased by Mae and Franklin. Renzo slept peacefully.
A confusing bit of battle occured in a nearby alleyway, which ended with a pair of unconcious and lightly singed "Ru"s (courtesy of Franklin). When I was awoken and told of the situation, I thought it best that we move these two to the church of Pelor, as they’re more adept to situations like these. And, as “Forestwalker” (idiot) was still missing (off on some prance through the forest, no doubt), he would be no help. So, the Pelorian church it was.
We carried the "Ru"s to the church, and, upon explaining the situation, the Pelorians quickly constructed a magic circle to contain them in. When they awoke, Ru explained everything he knew about Nesterfettle – apparently, he had been troubled by a possessing spirit, which was introduced to him by Mae, when we had the encounter with the ettin (the ettin that was a cleric, not the ettin that was an idiot. Although…). Upon hearing this, the Pelorians advised that we all have a means to keep this spirit at bay. Franklin took up the task, creating four protective necklaces with the symbol of Fharlangh. For a wretched undead, he makes me proud.
The necklaces took a few days to construct. In that time, of course, the Count that we had captured, apparently, escaped (under strange circumstances, too, as he had no means to cast spells before, and then, suddenly, the means were no longer needed). The king had already awarded us for our troubles once, and we seriously contemplated, after this time in the city, letting it remain his problem. But, guilt got the best of us, and Ru was sent to consult the king (which Ru, you ask? Good question. The other “Ru” was apparently a shapeshifter of some sort – he was shipped off to the jails almost immediately). After a brief meeting with him, Ru told us the king would agree to another reward if they were to capture Von Denn once again. So, we were on the hunt again.
However – we had trouble finding any kind of lead. The Count, apparently, had a penchant for disappearing. Mae and Renzo encountered a bit of a clue, though, as they met two more shapechangers. After some mincing of words, and confusion at the jailhouse, they struck a deal with us – they let their other friend out (the one that was impersonating Ru, and, as it turns out, the little girl I mentioned earlier), and they tells us where our Count is. Thenar, being a master of diplomacy, helped to settle the matter quickly. The shifters were out, and they told us where to find him.
Apparently, this trio of dopplegangers had a treefort outside of the city, but were muscled out by harpies. Also, apparently, the Count had made it out of the city walls and made some sort of deal with the foul beasts. So, according to them, the Count was perched up in some strange birdhouse, plotting his next move. This was a lie, of course.
We explored the treehouse, and we did, indeed, find harpies. The bird-beasts were using magic devices that were ENTIRELY unsuited to fights in trees (fireballs, OTHER trees), and, after nearly burning the tree down, the avian idiots managed to destroy the tree fort. The last of the harpies, in despiration, dropped a tree token on the top-most level, nearly taking the whole thing down and us with it. We managed to uproot the tree (well, Renzo and his pure, brute strength did, for the most part) and get the hell out before the whole thing came apart.
And did we find the Count cowering within? No, of course not. Did we find the shapeshifters once we returned to the city? No. No, not at all. And, with this particular series of events, I’m happy to say we’re on our way home.