Friday – Twosday, 19th – 23rd of Midsummer:
Friday arrived, and with it came a whole new pack of trouble for Alyndra and Keela in the form of a caravan of no less than a hundred gnomes. The band of “gnome-ads” turned out to be the Laurame clan, led by none other than Keela’s wandering uncle Tomos and his daughter Hollira. The overall-clad, cone-capped patriarch explained that the clan came to Nova Dominium in the hopes of watching the Olympics, but were first held up in Iladia (thanks to a manhunt for a ginger gnome resulted in the entire caravan being searched) and were now being denied entrance by Crixus, who remained hesitant to allow gypsies into a city already facing a witching crisis. Alyndra was able to convince the leader of the Contego to allow the Laurame clan entrance, but Crixus insisted that they were in her and Keela’s custody, and that the adventurers would be held responsible for any tomfoolery caused by the gnomes. Tomos thanked his distant niece, and hinted that he knew the true nature of her spellcasting, but intended to keep mum (implying that many of the clan members were in fact witches themselves). Alyndra and Keela brought the clan to stay in Southwatch Lighthouse, but as they got the gnomes settled in they noticed a seemingly faceless figure watching them before quickly disappearing.
The second event of the Adventurer’s Gambit – the Maze of Blood – commenced that evening. Cedric and Senkara were released within a labyrinth riddled with traps and obstacles, tasked to reach a checkpoint while collecting as many “item tokens” as possible (these would be available during the final trial). The pair first had to contend with a corridor of whirling axes that ended with a wall they had to break down. The acrobatic adventurers easily evaded the trap, and as Senkara slid beneath the spinning blades she spotted and recovered an item token featuring a pair of bracers. The next obstacle was a steep-walled pyramid, with several handholds booby-trapped with spring-loaded spikes. Cedric led the way on this obstacle, finding the safest route for Senkara to follow and plucking an item token depicting a vial from within one handhold. The third corridor was filled with water, and periodically erupted with scalding steam, but since both contenders were experienced swimmers they easily crossed the canal with two item tokens in tow – a necklace and a spear. At this point they spotted the checkpoint across a field of interwoven barbed wires. Both adventurers made it to the finish line, but exhaustion and the threat of the razor wires prevented them from finding any more item tokens, leaving them with a total of four tokens and passage into the third trial.
From the audience, Alyndra’s joy at seeing her companions triumph turned to horror as the faceless figure stalking her near the lighthouse sneaks up on her before mysteriously disappearing. Confused about it’s reappearance in different places, Alyndra suspects the enigmatic apparition is some form of illusion, and begins to wonder if it is a product of the shady modifications the fraternity elves made to Grayson’s Seasong Mead.
Her suspicious were further aroused the next day, when Alyndra and Keela witnessed one of the brothers of Gamma Psi Beta giving something to a guard outside the arena. Both conspirators managed to escape before the adventurers could apprehend them, forcing the two to split up. Keela ran off to find Grayson and expose the clandestine dealings of the brothers, but was halted in her search by a blow to the head, knocking her unconscious. Alyndra was able to catch the guard, and soon realized that he had been enchanted, tasked with bringing a vial of poison to one of the sequestered competitors in the Olympics. While she investigated this turn of events, however, the Masked Monk materialized behind her, and the bard was barely able to recognize that the horrifying figure was naught but a hallucination. The unknown cause of this hallucination, however, was an even more alarming mystery.
After finding a staggered and bewildered Keela, Alyndra hunted down Slade and told him about the recent turn of events they witnessed. Convinced that the fraternity brothers were up to no good, Slade vowed to have them expelled from the games and set out to find Grayson and remove the taint in the Seasong Mead. Keela consulted Wayne and discovered that the vial being smuggled by the bewitched guard was a dose of scorpion venom, though he could not say from where the elf procured it. Alyndra was intercepted by Gervais Tripdirt and informed that the body of Senkara’s sister had been stolen. Alyndra rushed to the graveyard with the old undertaker, and upon investigation concluded that the Crowns stole Alserynth’s corpse.
Meanwhile, Cedric and Senkara were brought into the semifinals of the Adventurer’s Gambit: the Aisle of Liches. Their task was to behead the “lich” at the end of the track before them while weathering the lich’s magical onslaught (provided by the brothers of Gamma Psi Beta). The Lighthouse Infidels started off strong, shaking off an enchantment and evading a magically conjured web, but a subsequent haunting mists effect compromised Cedric’s willpower enough so that a scare spell sent him running in the opposite direction. Senkara continued on her own, only to be blinded by one of the wizards, crippling her progress. To add insult to injury, one of the other teams (presumably the intended recipient of the scorpion venom) began throwing daggers at another team, without any referees noticing the underhanded tactic, and was subsequently the first to decapitate the dummy. Cedric rushed to recover lost ground, just as Senkara triggered the summoning of two fiendish spiders. Senkara was quickly entangled in webbing and poisoned, so Cedric tumbled past the summoned monsters and endured an ear-piercing scream long enough to behead the lich, earning the two adventurers a place in the finals.
By Sunday morning, the Lighthouse Infidels realized that Cedric and Senkara would likely lose their gambit with the underhanded competition if they didn’t resort to a little cheating of their own. Alyndra smuggled several potions to her teammates, restoring them to full health and removing Senkara’s blindness, and warned them about her suspicions concerning the Seasong Mead. Unfortunately, this left Keela to investigate the mead on her own. As she approached the vat of mead, she found Grayson trembling with fear, a trail of blood leading behind the vat, and a dark figure looming over her. Alone and scared, Keela became paralyzed with indecision until Alyndra was able to catch up. Alyndra dispelled the imposing figure as another hallucination, and followed the trail of blood to a critically wounded Slade. After healing the dying Watch commander, they realized that the witches had attempted to cut his throat (just like the Lysts) in order to stop him from interrupting the delivery of the poisoned mead to the Olympics. The three then rushed to the arena, praying that Cedric and Senkara could stall the crowd before the last ceremony…
The final contest in the Adventurer’s Gambit was a duel between the two finalist teams. Cedric and Senkara were outfitted with the gear provided by their item tokens, and waited to see how their opponents (clad in armor from their own tokens) would act. One of the challengers threw a dagger at Cedric (which he easily dodged) and drew a battle-axe, but the reach of Cedric’s spear gave him the chance to run around his opponent, outflanking the elf and allowing Senkara to bring him low. From there it was only a matter of time before the last opponent was flanked and sneak-attacked into submission, resulting in the Lighthouse Infidels being declared champions of the Bronslaw Olympics. The final ceremony – drinking the Seasong Mead – was about to commence, but the two adventurers tried their best to delay the crowd, revealing their patronage by House Drachmaa and padding out their victory speech. Unfortunately, just as Keela and Alyndra arrived, the crowd grew restless and consumed the tainted mead.
At this point, the Masked Monk appeared in the arena, his voice magically amplified, and told the entire stadium that they had been poisoned – in the same poetic fashion as their Saint Olympia – with a diluted, slow-acting dose of Night Terror (the neurotoxin lost by the Thieves’ Guild during the witches’ storm). He informed the crowd that in order to be cured, they must shun the false Faith of the True Light and return to the rocky shoals by the Silex Heights to be cleansed by the Weeping Father.
The Lighthouse Infidels used the time of his speech to close the distance, attempting to talk to the Monk and discover his true motives. When his answers were elusive and vague, the party attacked. Most of their attacks proved futile, but one lucky strike by Senkara allowed her to slash the masked terrorist with her silversheen dagger, revealing that the Masked Monk was at least vulnerable to silver slashing weapons. The Monk did not let this slight go, however, and snatched Josephine’s dagger from out of Senkara’s hand before knocking her out. Alyndra’s consistent use of mage hand also revealed something about the Monk, though not what she expected – when she pulled the mask away from it’s face, some force pulled it back and reattached it, without the enigmatic herald moving a single limb. After a few more rounds of fruitless combat, the Masked Monk made his escape, and the group limped off to lick their wounds.
The group met with Slade, Wayne, and the Contego, but no one was able to come up with a plan to treat an entire stadium of spectators who were all poisoned (excluding Cedric and Senkara, who knew better than to drink the mead). Wayne gave Keela and Alyndra slow-acting antitoxins and said he might be able to brew up some more, but that he couldn’t make much and it was ultimately a short-term solution. The Contego agreed to consult the Church of the True Light, Slade stormed off to investigate the elf fraternity’s involvement (most of the Gamma Psi Beta brothers also went through Ingeni Pontifex’s class, further complicating matters), and the party sent messages to the Thieves’ Guild to no avail. Later, however, Wayne confided in the party that, although Poculum was gone, there may be another alchemist skilled enough to cure Night Terror: a reclusive sorcerer named Gerlach, who lived in the isolated, xenophobic coastal village of Blackcove. Wayne had corresponded with Gerlach in the past, but recently Gerlach seemed to have fallen off the face of the earth.
Without any other leads, the party started to make preparations to leave for Blackcove, which was just short of two days’ walk West of Nova Dominium. They purchased trail rations from Marisa and discovered that Senia had disappeared without a trace (which the group suspected was due to her involvement with the witches). Tomos agreed to hold down the lighthouse so long as his clan could stay there until they were given permission to leave – with the city on lockdown and his whole family poisoned, he saw no reason not to help his niece if she could find a treatment. The group gave the fine-cut diamond from the Wreathe of Olympia to Beacon Patricio, and received several powerful healing potions for remembering his request. The group was ready to leave, but hit one last obstacle: Slade informed them that no one was allowed in or out of the city for fear of the recent turn of events, and he didn’t have the clout to get them through the roadblocks. This snag was quickly resolved, however, when Axe cornered the party and informed them that he could get them to Blackcove, but only if they agreed to return Gerlach’s cure to the Guild instead of to Wayne, since it was a potential source of enormous revenue. If the party gave the treatment to the Guild, they would earn full membership; if they went to Wayne, Axe strongly implied that the Guild would kill him (and likely the party) and take the cure anyway. The group was caught in a rough spot, not only because of the outrageous offer but also because the Thieves’ Guild knew about Gerlach despite the fact that Wayne told them about him in confidence. Ultimately they decided to put this problem on the back burner: they couldn’t make a decision about what to do with the cure until they actually found it.
Axe smuggled the party beyond city limits, and they spent all of Oneday and much of Twosday en route to Blackcove. While traveling along the shore the party encountered a lone fisherman being attacked by a group of monstrous crabs. After fending off the bottom-feeders, the grateful fisherman rewarded the group with a silver comb and a plea for help. The man, Alder, told the Lighthouse Infidels that he was from Blackcove, but fled the isolated village when “something from the deep” began kidnapping the citizens, including his wife. The party agreed to investigate, but the terrified fisherman continued to flee to the east.
By the end of the day the party reached Blackcove, a dilapidated fishing village, and found every building was abandoned. Most of the boats had been sunk out in the harbor, and tracks of massive tentacles could be found winding through the dirt roads. They found nothing in Gerlach’s cottage (save a few scrolls), but ran into a lone soul while returning to the village: Nikolias, a strangely calm and hideous constable who constantly muttered about things stirring in the deep. He informed the party that most of the remaining villagers were holed up in the lighthouse, so the party set out for the rocky coast as a storm brewed out to sea…