OK! Welcome back, everybody. The IC thread intro included a bit of a refresher but I will continue here.
It is now the 28th day of Ebb, the fourth month of the year 412 (4.28.412). It is 20 days (two full ten-day weeks) since Jelenneth's disappearance and 22 days since the campaign began, when the original party accepted the contract from Gordrenn in the capitol to deliver a package of spell components to the wizard Tauster.
After making your way to Parlfray Keep, it was apparent Gideon had beaten you to it. The refugees from Thurmaster who did not travel west along the river toward Kuiper's farm or beyond to Milborne came here, and some or all of them were murdered for their trouble - dozens burned alive on the path leading up the hill to the front gate. Dalvar and Jugg put their heads together and devised a plan to access the fortress from underground, creeping first through a network of caves (which it turns out were infested with monstrous centipedes) and then scaling the interior of a ventilation unit up into what they assume was intended as a maintenance room, sealed behind a secret door perhaps even since its initial construction.
This led into a hallway featuring a few jail cells and doors at opposite ends, one leading upstairs to the wine cellar and behind and the other leading down below. One of the guards assigned to Squire Marlen at his office in Thurmaster was found dead in the hallway, likely by Gideon's own hand. He had gone to retrieve something from the private chambers of the Count's son, Lyntern, a boy of perhaps eighteen or nineteen years - an enchanted lockpick. This is relevant because, of course, Lyntern, his father and Marlen had been imprisoned unjustly in their own dungeon. More pressing, of course, was the former Count's distressing new condition. At some point in the two or three days since the cultists and their new comrade Gideon arrived, ostensibly before his incarceration, fell magic was used to infect the Count with ghoul fever.
Predictably, being locked in a cell with an Undead cannibal doesn't leave an elderly man without any combat experience many options, and Squire Marlen had been partially devoured by the time the Heroes arrived to rescue him. Lyntern, locked in an adjacent cell in full view of what his father had become, gouged out his own eyes in grief and terror and was badly dehydrated and malnourished by the time of his rescue. For his part, however, the now-undead former Count was in relatively good spirits and more than cooperative with any questions and demands the party had. He offered to tell them all sorts of other things they had not thought to ask him in exchange for his freedom, particularly where Gideon went after killing the guard and what horrors lie in wait for him (and his pursuers). No dice, however, because there is no good reason to unleash an evil monster with a taste for human flesh unless left with no other recourse.
So, the only thing left to do was venture upstairs and clear the rest of the Keep, then come back and revisit their options. Wherever the other door went, it was a different section of the basement than they had seen thus far, but the Count mentioned a book in his library that might offer some further insights on the subject and which, if they managed to retrieve it, would obviate the need to negotiate further with a ghoul. Lyntern was left with some food and water, after unlocking his cell, in the secret chamber just off the hall the Heroes had previously used to infiltrate the keep. He is blind and entirely incapable of defending himself, so it would be a real shame if his dead-but-really-quite-all-right-with-the-whole-thing father managed to escape the confines of his prison cell.
Now that we're back up to date, I'll be running Jugg as an NPC until Jeff returns to the Archive full-time. Argus, Feruq, Jugg and Thunk all succeeded on Perception checks to detect a shadowy creature, and by that I mean it actually looks to be made of shadowstuff. So, I rolled initiative for them, and they can act in the surprise round. After they and the enemy have done so, we'll enter normal turn order on Round One.
The reddish lines on the map indicate shelves of wine racks. The blobs and other extraneous brown stuff represent crates, barrels and boxes of various sizes tucked in the corners here and there by kitchen staff, obviously in an effort to keep the lanes open as much as possible. From where Jugg is standing, he can pretty much see the whole room, though not clearly. The shelves do a pretty good job of obstructing vision and would allow anyone hiding just on the other side a Stealth check to conceal their presence from you. We can assume both Argus and Dalvar still have their lanterns lit. The white dots mark locations on the map where doors are plainly visible. If anyone finds a secret door, I will add it to the map as well. I'm really just experimenting with how to draw up maps of interior spaces with actual walls instead of something like a cave. I don't think the next map will look like this at all, but this worked for me today so it's what I went with.
I'm doing a little bit of upkeep in the stickied threads over the next week or so, amending lists of NPCs, plot hooks, chapter synopses, etc. I'm also working on actual names for the different months and maybe even the days of the week, but that will take a little bit more time.
All right. They can't act yet, but I need initiative checks from Dalvar and Raphael now. Raphael can also roll a Knowledge (religion) check but he can't use it until he is aware of the shadow.