After some discussion over what the best path into Crownbridge Castle would be, the party followed Ukko’s lead (And Kareese’s insistence as she pointed at her sewer map repeatedly) in taking the waterways into Castle Crownbridge.
Returning to the Spillway, the party found the bloated and rotting corpses of the gentlemen they killed previously. Searching through the area, Ukko found a hidden shrine behind a false wall dedicated to Samhain, the Great Pumpkin. Leaving it unmolested, they followed Kareese’s guidance through the sewers, losing their way a few times, before eventually finding a flat wall that aligned perfectly with where an access corridor to Castle Crownbridge should be. Kareese pushed against it, opening a new pathway. The air inside was dark, and smelled stale. As the party walked down this tunnel, drips of water fell into the inch-high water pooling in the tunnel. The path suddenly plunged down, and the party had to swim a short distance underwater before reaching a stairwell leading up to the castle.
Gasping for air as they emerged from the water, nearly everyone began gagging as the air on this side of the water reeked with a foul, rotting smell of death. In the distance, the party saw a faint light at the top of the stairs. As they climbed, they found the stairs were slick with a dark substance, but there was too little light to see what it was.
As they climbed the stairs, a terrible smell grew stronger. Fetid, metallic, like death. As they reached the top of the stairs the party saw a narrow beam of light falling into a wider chamber. It was cast down from a grate, perhaps, but blocked by some object. It was difficult to see, but only tiny motes of light shine through the metal bars. Around them, some kind of material draped limply. Drops of dark water fall from the grate into an overflowing vat below it. The vat was made of stone, very old stone, and the party found carvings on it.
Conjuring some light, the horror from each of the party manifested in full. The vat, and the floor, was covered in the thick, reddish black of coagulating blood. The grate above them is choked with what appeared to be corpses. At least one hand drooped down from it, pointing towards the vat as slowly, drip by drip, lifeblood from the mass above fell into the vat and pushes it slightly overflowing once more. The vat itself was carved in ancient runes marked by flames and mouths.
A single ladder arose from the corner of the vat room to a trapdoor above. The party climbed it to enter southern tower of Crownbridge Castle.
The room they entered is brightly lit by a series of windows high above them, but the soft light they cast was in great contrast with the scene before you. Corpses choked the grate at the center of the room. Men, women, children. So many children. Some had been there so long that the decay has rotted away all of their features. Others were so fresh that their innocent faces must have been slain but hours before. Above them a balcony had a narrow metal ledge with a single corpse resting half-spilled over the railing. Some of the corpses are in uniform, those of the Lords Council. Officers, mages, assassins, rank-and-file soldiers. There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason.
Climbing up to the upper balcony, the corpse of the little girl resting on the edge of the balcony has had her throat cut with terrible brutality. It was wonder that her head remains in tact. The only solace you see in the grisly scene is that she must have died swiftly, through the terror remains in her eyes. The party was infuriated.
The walls were lined with instruments of pain and butchery, few, if any, clean or washed. They were rusty and caked with blood. From the injuries of the child and soldier upon the racks, this wasn’t much of a problem for those inflicting the wounds.
Here the party had the answer they had been seeking since that night in Barrelbog, weeks before. The children being taken by the LCA Special Division, this was their final destination. The party searched frantically for any sign of the Broham siblings, but thankfully found none. Climbing up to an office higher in the tower, the party found a small firepit lit with an strange, cold flame. Around it were objects mounted as if trophies, each with labels. They found a box of fine cigars inside the desk, a copy of the note Chadwick had received detailing out the missing children, decoded from this original no doubt. There was a fancy Orlandian hat supposedly made for someone called “Ferranto DuLambrey” with a ntoicable bloody hole in the middle. There was a cannonball labeled “the shot that brought down the Lovely Gale.” But most harrowing of all was the half-charred corpse laying upon the fire in the middle of the room.
The party had seen this seen this woman before. Her face alone remains outside the flames. Her barret lay on the ground beside the fire-pit. Her torso, chest down, has been completely consumed by the flames, leaving only ash and small pieces of bone within. It was the sniper that haunted the party in Highchurch. Clearly her failed mission was poorly received.
Sitting on a small stone pedestal was a small hand mirror. The party noticed it, but left it there. Unaware of its importance.
The party identified this room as being The Maestro’s office. And, given its connection to the horrors below, confirmed his connection to the horrors across the country as more than just in passing. He must be responsible. But why was he doing it? What was he after? Seeking answers, the party ventured deeper into the castle.
As they passed into the castle proper, from across the bridge between the towers and the castle the party could see a line of carriages making their way out of the city. Soldiers let them pass, one at a time. The line stretched all the way to the Theater District, and beyond. People are fleeing. More specifically: nobles were fleeing the city. The smoke from the bombs was still lingering overhead. As they entered the castle, inside the corridor they could hear a barrage of gunfire, screams, then silence. Somewhere far away they heard a beastly roar. The room then went silent. After a time, the party saw no sign of patrols, or soldiers.
They eventually came to a barracks chamber, inside they saw hundreds of beds. Many, most even, had men lying on the beds. Stealth was required to enter, but as Kareese attempted to coup de gras the first soldier, she was surprised to see that she had been beaten to the punch. Passing by the first bed, she saw a knife is stabbed into the neck of the man sleeping. Looking at the next one over, you see the same. And again, all the way down the nearly two hundred beds. They all slept. They all were killed. Each had a dagger with the same symbol on it. The flame with fangs.
Wandering deeper, the party came to a corridor where a crude barricade had been made. They could hear the battle before they reached it.
Officer: RELOAD YOU BASTARDS. HOLD THE LINE! HOLD THE LINE! EVANS, GET BACK HERE YOU COWARD OR ILL SHOOT YOU MYSELF!
After a moment they heard a gunshot, and then a scream.
Officer: NO ONE RUNS. WE STAY AND FIGHT TOGETHER, OR WE DIE. GOT IT?
Soldiers: YES MAAM!
Officer: HERE IT COMES AGAIN, READY!
A terrible roar filled the room, and the party rounded the corner to see LCA Soldiers fighting some sort of horrific demon made of fire and smoke. Teaming up with the soldiers, they fought a greuling battle until the demon was finally slain, dissolving into ash and blood on the floor. The Soldiers introduced themselves as members of the city watch sent to fetch Special Division to assist with bomb removal, but upon entering found that Special Division was dead, and had been for weeks. Whatever was using their uniforms was involved in the murders of hundreds, soldiers and civilians alike. After working with the soldiers, they discovered that the vat of blood had been used to summon the demon.
Suddenly Ukko remembered: Blood is the key. That was what Waverley had mentioned on her bulletin board. It was the key to everything. But why? What was the maestro doing, and what were these demons? Where did they come from? They didn’t find answers.
Letting the soldiers escape to help others leave the city, they continued their search to the remaining tower.
The next tower was a mirror of the previous one the party saw, but where blood and ichor marked the decorating theme instead… well… mirrors. Small mirrors, large mirrors. Some with warping. Some perfect. Some just silver polish on black wood, some elaborate magical reflections. At the center of the room stood a large mirror. It is ten or more feet tall and a third as wide.
Several members of the party became entranced by their reflections, hearing their names as the mirrors sought to pull them into their reflective forms. Kareese alone saved, and with quick thinking and some powerful magic, managed to help each party break from the spell they were under and, one by one, slay the phantom reflections that tried to take their places. This ended with smashing the mirrors.
Upstairs, the party found a silver, horned helmet and a broken blade. Neither appeared valuable, but both seem familiar from the battle at Barrelbog. Cast-offs from an old enemy, perhaps. A larger mirror stood in the middle of the room. The party shattered it immediately.
Returning to the castle proper, they made their way up to the command chamber to find a terrible, giant of a man looming over a strange device. It takes a small book and seemingly transcribes everything on it into a much larger book, complete with logs and accounts. Records and papers line the walls, as do two clerics in the blues of the LCA, through from their bloated faces painted red with blood, and the ill-fitting nature of the uniform, it was clear they were not what they appeared. The monstrous man turned, and wearing a giant beastial mask with aspects of a dozen animals upon it, bellowed at the party.
“Ah” it says, its voice inhumanly deep. “Our heroes have at last arrived. A pity my master was not here to destroy you in person, but he is always so busy. Give me the crown, and I will grant you a merciful death.”
The party naturally refused, and after a bitter fight for control of the chamber, killed the cleric. But not before he fell upon the giant time, setting it and himself on fire shouting: “OUR SECRETS WILL REMAIN OURS, YOUR TIME COMES SOON! BLOOD IS THE KEY, AND THE DOOR IS OPEN!“
Searching the chamber, the party found a war-table with unit movements marked upon it, along with notations of who possessed each book of Domesday. The large book and apparatus seemed to be some form of arcane tool used to record whatever any book they possessed had written within it as a powerful spying device. While their findings had been ruined, their tomes were still there.
Ownership logs for the Books of Domesday:
Master: Charles Tenmar-Yentz
Kinley, Barrelbog, “Kat” – Unknown
Bell: Mayor Mowngle, Carillon
Coin: Active and being used, unknown author.
Crow: Only recently written, the ink is fresh (it says: Lotte the Lucky – Witchwood)
Crown: Kingsbridge, Ours
Cyclone: Headmaster Hitt, Versity
Diamond: Considered lost, Arcmines?
Oak: Child #43, Unknown
Ship: Captain Bolivar, Deswen Naval Station
Skull: Considered lost, Albertshire?
Sword: Unknown, Tavere Headlands
Arden, Charles Tenmar-Tenmar-Yentz
Karesse now held both the Crown and Apple books, leading her to be quite excited. The party also pocketed a number of military dispatches and notes for future reading, including lords considered “compromised,” and activities of the LCA Special Division.
As they collected this, Arius realized the importance of the war map just as Azmaranthe decoded some of the texts. Together they showed that the men who had summoned the demon had martialed all of their forces to attack Witchwood, seeking “the children” which had been identified as taken refuge with the owner of the Crow Tome, Lotte the Lucky. They then used the remaining blood they had collected to summon “a cleaner” to wipe out anything that remained in the castle. With the airfleet having hours ahead of them, the party rushed to the airship landing to see a single small craft remaining.
Before the party could kill the pilot as he frantically tired to leave, Kino leapt from one of the towers and killed the pilot first, ordering the others to climb on.
Kino: “Hurry, get on all of you. We must hurry! The fleet is going after Chadwick’s children. We can catch them, but we must go now. There is no time to bicker!
With the party understandably dubious of this partnership, she urged them on.
Kino: We both want the same thing. If we dont save the kids, its all over. For all of us. And everything you and I have done will be wasted. DAMN IT, ARDEN IS THERE. WE HAVE TO GO NOW!
Sensing her desperation was real, and needing the airship (as none of them knew how to fly one), they all loaded up and set out after the LCA forces towards Witchwood…