After a night spent resting, healing, and carousing, the reunited Temple Thieves head back north to try once more to reach Castle Corey and breach its defenses in the hopes of gaining treasure and renown. Or at least treasure. Only Fallenbridge stays behind this time -- for two reasons: 1), He is making a lot of coin off of local travelers, telling the tale of the vampire attack in the night, and 2), He is convinced that the others will get themselves killed going up against a vampire den, even in the daytime. He says neither of these things, however, and begs off with the excuse of a sprained ankle.
So once more the Temple Thieves make their way into the dark bowels of the Forest of Two Moons.
They make it almost to the castle, or where they expect the castle, anyway, when Dolan, who has been scouting ahead, finds that their approach is being watched. The dwarf confronts the stalker, who stays in the shadows, but introduces himself as Dusk Blossom, one of Lady Cordelia's thanes, and someone who is quite anxious to return to the castle and take control of it for himself. Unfortunately, he was expelled from the keep shortly after Nicodemus Fogg slew Cordelia Corey and one of the other vampire spawn. Now, the castle is controlled by Dusk Blossom's 'sister', Falling Petal, who has taken command of the castle's clockwork defenses and sent the Huntsman and his Hounds out to search the woods for, and then slay, Dusk Blossom.
So he has no qualms about hiring our heroes to go in and do unto her before she does unto him.
Five hundred gold and pick of the treasures remaining in Castle Corey is the offer, and the Thieves pounce on it like the broke adventurers they are.
Dusk Blossom gives them a rough map and general idea of some of the defenses of the castle, and the Thieves continue on to where the forest thins, replaced by a marshy, mossy, root-tangled spanse between the circling trees and the ruin of the ancient fortress.
The outer walls of the keep have long been tumbled, their stones overswept by moss. Portions of the inner towers have not fared much better, and few stained glass panes remain in any of the innumerable windows. Now and again, though, the whole castle shudders as one or another of the towers turns on a central axis, swiveling broken stone bridges from one portal to the next, or out into empty air, though the huge, square, main tower seems to be fixed in place, as is a lower, squat, cathedral-like structure and a complex of buildings built into the stony base of the main tower and its two rotating peripherals. Despite there not being a storm, lightning dances infrequently around the keep, arcing from roof to roof, or randomly skittering down the side of a wall.
The party avoids either of the two outer towers and their rotating bridges. They also avoid the Cathedral beyond its rusted portcullis. Instead, they opt to climb a section of ruined wall and make for the 'upper' courtyard, where they hope to access the slanted and partially broken drawbridge that is pulled up and down randomly by hidden mechanisms, but which does offer access to the main keep.
In an attempt to avoid being detected by flocks of strange, mechanical bat-like things that emerge from within the Cathedral, Trajinous throws up a fog cloud over the 'lower' courtyard in front of the Cathedral's portcullis, and then the whole team makes their way to the inner side of the Cathedral's walls and begin scaling, using Dolan's grappling hook and rope.
There follows some amount of difficulty as the Thieves learn that, despite their name and the fact that it implies they'd be pretty good at climbing things in order to break into them, and despite the fact that Trajinous even drank a bloody damned climbing potion ... they all really suck at climbing.
Percy, in fact, is struck by lightning on the way up during her climb.
But, at last, all of the Thieves make it to the upper courtyard, hidden from view now by a fog cloud summoned by Dolan. From there, another series of difficult climbs await them as they gain the slanted surface of the slowly bobbing drawbridge. Ruhst seems to have gotten his confidence back about him at this point, though, and swings merrily up onto the bridge with elan.
Dolan, though, has spotted a new problem: the entrance to the main keep is guarded by at least two clockwork watchmen!
There's nothing for it, though, they must be dealt with if the interior of the keep -- and the caverns beneath it, where they hope to find and slay Falling Petal -- is to be attained.
Arrows and magic fly, but the watchmen are tougher than they look and press forward, themselves. One, however, is knocked over the side of the bridge to fall thirty feet to the tumbled rocks below, even as Percy darts inside the keep itself to discover that there are four more of the watchmen inside!
Halberds swing and draw blood, wearing down the adventurers; Little Sister manifests a strange, back-curving scimitar-like sword and slashes away at the metal men, a bit of gleefulness shining in her eyes. "Far more fun than fighting Tiamat!" she shouts over the din.
The fight continues through wisps of fog even as the drawbridge continues its slow rise and fall. Parties on both sides come close to falling from the heights down into the rubble below.
In the end, it is Kelpip who gives the Thieves the advantage. Using eldritch magic, he draws slick oils up from the very stones beneath the mechanical men's feet and they go slipping and sliding, falling prone. Percy, after slipping around in the stuff herself, slides one off into the void, while Little Sister does the same to the one left on the drawbridge, and Trajinous, with some help, slides the last one out the door. The crew only managed to destroy one of the creatures in face-to-face combat, but the victory is theirs anyway.
Now, a spiral staircase descending into the depths of the keep awaits them.
As does a would-be vampire queen.
Character(s) interacted with
Dusk Blossum, a heavily clothed and cloaked figure wearing a wide-brimmed, low-crowned hat and sporting a jaunty peaked goatee. He has offered money, treasure, and support if the Temple Thieves can secure Castle Corey for his rule.