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Greetings Everyone! Welcome back to another episode of Tallavanor’s tales! Last week our heroes faced a tricky challenge with multiple oozes attacking from all directions. This week we have the conclusion to this series of adventures, where Watch Officer Tallavanor gets to the bottom of the case of the kidnapped Count. With that, I’ll turn it over to our lawman.

gray concrete building on top of hill

Photo by Suliman Sallehi on Pexels.com

Our battle with the oozes was not going well. With the acolyte slipping out of the room, we surrounded the ooze, striking at it multiple times. It wasn’t until I skewered a human heart out of the ooze that surrounded the body of the dead carriage driver that the thing collapsed to the ground. The smell of fresh rot assailed our noses as the other remaining ooze began to take a pummeling. It struck back at me, and I felt my armor sizzle as it hit my arm, but we turned it and forced it to retreat. It fled towards the wall, obviously trying to get up onto the ceiling again.

So naturally, I didn’t chase it. I shot it. The weight of fire from my and Alastair’s shooting ended up bringing down parts of the ooze as it collapsed onto the ground.

Plop.

Gross.

We hovered around the entrance down into the deeper parts of the tomb, debating what to do next. We were pretty banged up, and our limbs burned from exertion. So we laid a trap, with Gregario creating the illusion of the ooze retreating downstairs. We screamed like we were dying, choking off our yells after a few moments.

Had we tricked them? We knew at least two people remained, the mysterious swordsman and the Acolyte, plus the count.

A minute passed, then two, finally we could hear the sound of hurried footsteps running up the stairs. We ambushed the man and took him down. Strangely enough, he surrendered immediately. “I’m just the town herbalist!” He cried. Babbling about being drug into this and assisting in creating some type of elixir that helped bring back the late count.

“Wait, the Late count?” I asked.

“What happened to the current count?” Claudia said.

“He’s dead. The late count, he’s alive, sort of.”

“Since when?” Alastair jumped into the conversation.

“The count’s been dead for about 20 minutes. The Late count, well, he’s been alive much longer.”

“Damn.” This just got way more complicated. “Is the acolyte still alive?”

“Him? He was when I left…” Great, a prisoner we couldn’t leave behind, and a threat still in front of us. Damnit, I’m so angry I left the manacles on the blacksmith! I dug in my bag for a second, before my eyes fell on the loop of rope on my belt.

“Let’s tie him up. We can’t afford to leave him behind us.”

“I can tell you about where to find the secret alchemy chamber! It’s below the temple to Paylor! Let me go, and I’ll show you where it is!” He begged as we tied him up.

“We’ll let you go, alive, when we’re done.” Gregario said. We were quickly gaining a menagerie of prisoners, and I was wondering how effective the local constabulary would be. Judging by the amount of necromancy and how deep the rot went into the leadership of the area, I did not have high hopes for them. I tied him up.

With our prisoner secure, we listened for any more movement. Nothing. We moved down into the now-familiar second level of the crypt, and while we waited on baited breath for another monster to jump out, nothing stirred. We clambered down rope attached to the long dead count’s sarcophagus, Gregario throwing out an illusion of himself before us, trying to trigger any sneak attack.

Once again, nothing.

We moved into the last chamber. It was different this time, no longer half full of dark ooze on the floor, but a single sarcophagus resting there, the top resting against the side. We entered cautiously, Gregario positioning his illusion before us. Darkness spread over the ceiling, but smaller this time.

“Well, now that you’ve finally come here, you can at least help me die.” A weak voice said as a pale, frail arm draped out of the sarcophagus. We entered, weapons drawn. “Where’s the acolyte?” Gregario asked.

“Can you not see him there? I heard him die a minute ago.” Sure enough, the acolyte slumped against the wall, his throat cut and blood covering the front of his cassock. I went over to check him, keeping one eye on the ceiling. I did not want to deal with another one of those black oozes falling on me. He was dead, very much dead. We walked over towards the sarcophagus, Alastair trailing behind us. Claudia hung back as well.

“I’ve been here for so long, and now it is over. I am ready to embrace death, again. ”

“Again?”

“Yes. It has been too long, and all my chances are spent.”

“What do you mean?” Claudia asked.

“Immortality. My grandson was my last hope for it, and now…” He weakly pointed to the ceiling. We looked up but could not distinguish anything. Alastair stirred, and moved closer. “I had hoped the boy would be able to do something to bring me back beyond this… but that was not to be, it seems. Even sacrificing him, I could not regain a stronger form.”

I blanched at this. “You said that you sacrificed him. Is the Count dead?”

“Yes.” His voice was as dry as dust. I wasn’t sure what to think of this. Was this what I had wanted? Was this the mission? Was it justice?

“So why didn’t it work? Why didn’t the potion bring you back fully?” Alastair asked. His voice was eager, I could tell. It was as if he was seeing the result of a lifelong goal flash before his eyes.

“Only the first part succeeded. Not the second, nor the third. There wasn’t anything else to do. Now the last of my efforts are gone, wasted. I gave up everything for the goal of immortality. The man who sent you. He wants the secret. There is no secret. It did not work. And now, I will simply die.” The old count leaned back into the sarcophagus.

I looked at Gregario. Evil man or not, I should bring him in. How, I wasn’t sure. To whom, I didn’t know. Our mysterious employer? Perhaps Count Magnus? The sheer amount of questions that remained boggled the mind. Gregario shrugged.

“I’ll do it.”

I carefully went about unloading my pistol. One, two, three bullets. I tossed him the gun. He leaned over the casket and pulled the trigger. The puff of smoke and the smell of sulfur lingered. The ooze on the ceiling began to drip down in fat, black drops.

Drip, drip, drip. It puddled on the floor, forming small rivulets that began to pour back towards the rear of the chamber.

Gregario handed my weapon back. I nodded, and reloaded it. We snuffed out the torches and retraced our steps, closing the casket after bringing back up the rope. We locked the crypt as best we could, covering our traces and returned to the castle with our prisoner. It was time we had some answers, but we still found ourselves with few answers, a lot of questions, and spending the night in this damn castle.


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