We have a short discussion about our next path. Klyce is worried that the locked door to the throne room is too obvious, and we should check the basement first. Having no better arguments, we all agree and head downstairs to an even worse dungeon than the attic. This one has clearly been used, if not for some time. There are no bodies here, and no creatures attacking us. So, we investigate and Nat finds on Iron Maiden that will not open.
Nat tries a few times, but just cannot get it open. Dalish casts Knock on it, make a very loud noise, and still doesn’t open it. It does, however, catch the attention of something. There are suddenly winds in the room, and a growing moaning noise. Just as I’m about to take control of the winds, five ghostly shapes enter the room, the moaning crescendos, and there is only blackness.
When I wake up again, Natty is leaning over me, with blackened, smoking eyes. Oh no! Oh Dawnmother! Natty what happened? What have you done?
She made a deal, she says, to get us back from the Dancer. Gerhardt limps in from the hallway then, naked, and with a deformed leg and shriveled arm. He tells Dalish that his master sucks and gave him this body. He says my body didn’t work, thank the Dawnmother, and Dalish’s hadn’t had time to regrow yet. We gather up Gerhardt’s original body, and some woman in rags they found in the Iron Maiden and head back upstairs.
Klyce and Nat decide to minimize the risk and take all two keys each, and turn them all at once. There is a click and the keys dissolve. Smoke pour out of the door and becomes a giant figure of Death. It stares down at us for a moment before shrinking down to a more human size.
He asks if we seek audience. Yes. We have proved ourselves worthy, but there is one final test. “Face me, Face Death, Or Take the Hand that Fate Deals You.”
We have lots of questions, that he mostly won’t answer. He says we have to draw a full hand, but it doesn’t matter who draws what. Remy tries to step forward, but Klyce stops him so we can decide what to do. He has to stop Nat from jumping forward, too. We decide that we’ll draw the hand, we have faced too much death already in the last day. I think we should each draw one card, but Marybeth and some of the others want to protect those of us that just came back from death.
Remy steps forward first, and says he will draw three cards. He drew the Star, Euryale, and Ruin. I didn’t seem much on the first two cards he drew, but on the last, his clothing got shabbier? Nat stepped up next and drew two cards – Talon and Gem. On the first one, her dagger disintegrated, and on the second, a huge pile of gems appeared at her feet. This deck is Crazy! Marybeth stepped forward next. She also got Ruin and her clothes got ragged, and a look of fear overtook her. Klyce stepped up next and drew Vizier. Nothing much happened to him, either, though he looked very thoughtful.
With one card per person drawn, though not by every person, Death declared our hand drawn. He bowed and the doors opened to the throne room. We head forward, and I put my arm around Marybeth. I don’t know what happened, but those cards were very strange.
Lord Tepish sits in a throne at the end of a long plush carpet. He wants to know what we’re doing. You took over Nat’s castle. He asks after Stephen. We don’t know, you were the one looking for him. He says he’s been preoccupied with Van Helsing. Who then crashes through a window, Tepish waves and he falls through a hole in the air. He says he’s sent him to the Shadow Realm, but he’ll be back. He keeps coming back, faster and faster for the last 200 years, on an oath of vengeance.
Nat presses on Stephen’s parentage. Lord Tepish says he is his father, he slept with his mother (and father) on their honeymoon in his country all those years ago. They stayed with him for three weeks. We talk about Stephen not turning until he died, and the boys go on bout the seed of evil. We talk about the curse and the meaning of evil. Klyce tries to redirect the converstion to getting us a map of the castle so we can go find Stephen for him.
Then Van Helsing reappears, and stabs Lord Tepish. This time, the fight lasts a lot longer. I’m very annoyed by Van Helsing, this is all his fault, making this last so long because he won’t let Lord Tepish finish his business and be gone. He’s put us all in danger, and some of us have Died! So, I toss some spells at him as the fight goes on. Marybeth tries distracting him, and Dalish sends spells at him, too. The rest of the group just watches and stays out of it. Part way through, Nat says Van Helsing has Dawnmother symols on him, and I slow my attacks a little, but I don’t see them, he’s jumping around so fast. Lord Tepish turns into a huge firey bat monster, and I back the rest of the way off. Dalish is still throwing spells, but at his possessions now, and Marybeth’s distractions are less effective. Eventually, Van Helsing is killed once more.
Lord Tepish says that Van Helsing will be gone for a couple years now, and we can get back to our business. He can grant us full access to the castle, and stave off some of the confusion it causes, so we can find Stephen and bring him to talk. But Remy has some questions, since we just helped him. Lord Tepish is distracted by the help we offered and doesn’t answer Remy right away. Instead, he offers Boons to the three of us who helped. Dalish asks for help on his quest, with getting the things he needs to finish his process. Marybeth asks for protection for her family from Van Helsing. Both of these things are granted. I don’t know what to ask for, I have a lot of things on my mind. He says that’s alright, he owes me a boon, and I can ask whenever I decide.
Remy starts in again. About giving more than taking and doing more good than bad. Lord Tepish says he tries to minimize the harm his curse causes, but Remy thinks he ought to do more. I tell him to knock it off, as he has absolutely no idea what Lord Tepish does with his life and his time. Lord Tepish then asks Remy what is the worth of a man. Remy says it is the hearts he fills, the hope he gives, and the lives he saves. Before I can reflect on the arrogance of that answer, Lord Tepish asks another question. What is the worth of a man who lives forever, who is cursed to live off others, to have ruin in his wake. Ruin that is outside his control? He then offers that time will likely see Remy wrong that his actions do more good than harm. I’m furious with Remy, but there’s no time, and he’s let it drop.
We head off to find Stephen, and the castle is much easier to navigate, the monsters don’t attack us, either. After a few hours, we do find Stephen in his lab, locked and staked through the heart in a chest. Remy removes the stake from him, just like we did with the servant in the entry, and he, too, wakes up. Klyce tells him that his dad wants to meet him, but Stephen misunderstands that his father has asked for him. Dalish, Nat, and Klyce explain what has been going on. I ask if he’ll just go meet the guy so he’ll leave. Nat further explains the mine fiasco and the shadowman. We really just need this all to finish so we can deal with things.
Stephen says he wants to talk to their parents first, so I send to Lord Tepish and he agrees. He head into town and find the family at the inn we left them at. Nat spars with her older brother and then we get into the room. Stephen demands an explanation, and his mother is uncomfortable with us all there, so we leave the family to their business.
After a while, they all come out, including Nat’s father, dressed and ready to go talk to Lord Tepish. We head back to the castle and lead them into the throne room with no issue. He greets them warmly, and leads the family into a side room to have another private conversation. Nat tries to listen in, but she can’t hear any of the words. Ten minutes later, they come back out.
Stephen says that the timing of his birth indicates he is certainly not Lord Tepish’s son, but they do have similar gifts, and he could learn a lot from him. He’s going to take him up on the offer to go away for a while and learn what he can. Klyce reminds him not to miss the wedding. Nat reminds him to keep in touch. He tells Dalish and Nat that he left notes downstairs that may have cracked the trouble with Grandfather Skull. Lord Tepish hands Dalish a small chest, that he turns into a large chest, with the ingredients he needs to finish his process. He tells me to contact him when I’ve decided on my boon. He will do whatever I ask, within his power. Then, Stephen and Lord Tepish leave the castle.