The wealth and treasures of Castle Bleak lie at the party’s feet like a succulent but sinister feast. Availing themselves to a few choice items – a magical armour for one, a collection of necromantic grimoires for another, several barrels of top-quality coffee beans for a third – the Little and Large fill their pockets and sacks with the just desserts of their struggles. Many of the vampires’ thralls awaken back to cognisance, though sadly several are too far gone for help; the party can only hope to arrange they will be well looked after in the future. But for now, there is little more time to waste: collecting one final grisly trophy our heroes seek out their griffon mounts and head back to Bad Tabersheim.
Awaiting the party in her bondage, Lady Ferranifer has nevertheless managed to make her circumstances more bearable: a smitten cleric now attends her every need. But the shock of seeing Elder Ysnt’s severed head roll to the feet of her chaise longue is enough to pierce even her immortal ennui; she favours the remains of her erstwhile rival with a single languorously arched eyebrow. “Fery vell, adfenturers, you hafe exceeded my expectations. It seems that our little… compact may bear some fruit after all.”
In arched, accented tones Lady Ferranifer now betrays her paramour’s most guarded secrets. The Necrocount indeed possesses two phylacteries: one which he always keeps near his person – this may be guarded by the fearsome Dead Man, the mysterious guardian of the dynasty of necrocounts. It is undoubtedly with him Wiedersburgh where the necrocount currently directs his operations. But the other is secreted under the statue of Vecna in the grand temple of Mausolos, the capital of Necrosha, in the keeping of the vile Pope of Corruption, Vecna’s grand priest.
“Oh, und one more thing, my little ones…” Ferranifer says with a mocking smirk. The Pope of Corruption is due to hold his annual private conclave with the Mother of Ghouls, the matriarch of Necrosha’s scavenging undead, in just a few nights hence. As tradition dictates, this repulsive ceremony will include the ritual fouling of the Shroud of the Raven Queen, a holy relic of the dark goddess.
If the shock of these repugnant rites aimed against her patron divinity pierces the immortal ennui of Sir Max, her lowered faceplate conceal any such discomfiture. But couse of action is now all the more clear: the party must hurry to intercept the Mother Ghouls before she embarks on her pilgrimage. What little time can be spared is spent organising a crusading force against Necrosha. A careful marshalling of allies and promises of future rewards sees the formation of an allied army composed of several noble houses and bolstered by a band of mercenaries. The gods of light willing, this force will arrive to siege Wiedersburg just as the Necrocount experiences the searing sense of doom that comes with the destruction if his first phylactery.
Without wasting any further time the Little and the Large mount their griffons and head once more to the dark skies of that unhallowed land. Fortunately Ferranifer’s instructions hold true, and after a frantic day and night of flying the party locates the hut of the Mother of Ghouls atop a promontory to the south of necropolis. A miasma of palpable dread hangs around the blasted landscape as the party lands some distance away. Even the noble griffins that had carried our heroes so far and well cannot stand it, but spook and escape away. With their mounts now, the party realises that whatever reservations may remains the only way is forward.
Deciding that bravery is the better part of valour they towards the forbidding dwelling; the Mother of Ghouls, a monstrous, cancerous hag, soon spies the danger from her perch and emits a piercing call. From all around the heath sinuous, predatory forms arise and begin hurrying to guard their mistress!
But surprise still remains in the arsenal of the Little and the Large: Max, intoning that terribly command once again, twists the skein of reality and open a portal directly to the presence of the Mother. Bypassing her guardians with a single extra-dimensional leap Theorn charges the hag and deals her a terrifying blow! Rushing immediately after Pennyworth follows with dire magics of its own: a whispered word blasts the Mother with psychic energy and deprives her of the command of her faculties. It takes only little time to finish the terrible abomination…
Once the ghoul is dead the party takes a moment to considers its options. An audacious plan is hanged: Pennyworth summons its dark magics and weaves a veil of shadows to take on the appearance of the perished monstrosity. Max will clad herself in the stinking robe of her attendant, and Pieter and Theorn shall place chains upon themselves. Thus attired – the ghoul-mistress, the lackey and two sweet-meats for the feast – the party seeks admittance to the council of the Pope of Corruption.
Against all odds the the ruse is successful. The taciturn wights that guard the secret passages under Mausolos take little notice of the odd company, and the Little and the Large find themselves in the innermost sanctum of the great temple of Mausolos, the shadow of a giant statue of Vecna looming over them. Here they face down the retinue of the Pope of Corruption. Vecna does not allow such a impertinent challenge to go unpunished, however, and a terrifying skeletal angel descends to join the fry. But the Raven Queen’s blessings are surely with the heroes. Once again the victory is theirs; and the pope of corruption’s final demise is a fitting one too. A treacherous misdirection by magic causes his ogrish palanquin-bearer to crush the unholy potentate instead of its intended target.
Having vanquished their enemies the party unearths the hidden phylactery from under the dire statue. They have the time they came for, but all that is of little consolation should they not find a way out of the dread necropolis…