Despite the fact I rationally understand that our efforts in the demi plane have helped to seal a crack in the mad god’s prison, it honestly feels as if no one but the bad guys got what they wanted on this trip. It felt like tripping from one disaster into another full of gloating megalomaniacal despots that I could do nothing about.
We left Barovia through the mists and emerged in Darkon, the realm of the ancient Oeridian Lich Azalin Rex. I remember stories about various kings in the history of the Great Kingdom that went by that name and it seems they were all the same person. Darkon was a very law abiding domain, but the specter of Azalin’s secret police seemed to be much of what kept things in line. Idrys and Tulla decided not to mince about and drew attention to our group and the fact we were looking for Tatyana. It wasn’t long before we were given an invitation to meet with the king.
Right away, things seemed off as Azalin’s servants evidently knew about my family and our connections to the Von Slythe’s. I learned quickly why — It was Azalin who approved of Balthasar’s plans to corrupt his bloodline and create a vessel for Asmodeus. The Lich gloated and taunted me, of course, but honestly I don’t need someone to point out the failure of my family. Still, I wanted so very much to smash in his ridiculous illusionary face. I suppose I would have been better served by asking him questions, but I’m sure I honestly care for his reasons or their reasons or anything other than how to fix things at this point. He tried to say that Asmodeus’s desires weren’t entirely selfish, and that the devil king wanted the body because he believes only he can stand against the Mad God in the end. Why doesn’t matter, but how they did it does.
He promised to bring Tatyana to us if we did him a favor, which didn’t surprise us. He told us there was a strange, hive mind undead lurking near the border of his domain which he very much wanted to study. He gave us a small golden orb and told us to set it off with a good number of these undead in the immediate area. They would then be transported to Darkon. Once again, we really had little choice. Despite his effort to sweeten the deal by promising to give me all the scrolls pertaining to Balthasar’s work, I still felt revolted by having to perform any sort of task for that vile… thing.
After being told there was a protected halfling village that the undead was attempting to lay seige to, we set out to see what we could learn. Which was when we ran into Quentin and a number of Vistani. It seems he was expecting to rescue us and was quite agitated when we declined. Instead, we figured to ask the Vistani to transport the halflings to Oerth if they were willing. Which we quickly learned they were once we arrived.
The village was protected by a hearthkeeper, a paladin of Yondalla. The last Oerth year they remembered was around 420 CY, so Gladys, the halfling paladin, was quite shocked when we explained things. She admitted that the village also housed the halflings’ piece of the Song of Ages as well, which was why the undead was so keen to get in. She called him Toban the Many and explained that he was cursed by the Vistani for a terrible betrayal and now he possessed any dead body he can in contact with, his consciousness split between them. Gladys explained that he always attacked at the same time, so we were able to prepare.
The fight was somewhat chaotic, but our efforts to contain and funnel Toban’s selves worked very well. Faeren gleefully attacked the undead giant while the rest of us tackled and distracted the rest. The gold sphere Azalin gave us went off as promised, teleporting a large chunk of the undead away. The remainder suddenly changed, gaining the red pin-point eyes of the linch. I was more than happy to kill the ones left behind. Though the knowledge that Azalin now has control of such a collective was immediately disturbing, we knew that the alternative, the crack in the prison of the mad god, was much worse.
Quentin and his Vistani evacuated the halflings and the song, promising to return in one day if we didn’t get back on our own. He gave the sword Mistkeeper to Ardes before departing. We headed back to Azalin.
Somewhat surprisingly, Azalin kept his word and brought Tatyana to us with her memories restored. He also allowed Idrys to search his records where he found the mortal name of the demon who was bound to him: Ashell Terrain. For whatever reason, the Lich also gave Idrys a copy of all the information he had on the man. I’m sure we’ll learn why when Idrys has time to go through the papers. Azalin also warned us that Liannia is not a normal dragon in any sense and that she is beholden to Asmodeus in some deep and terrible way.
For her part Tatyana also surprised us by deciding not to go to Strahd after all. She wrote a note and sealed it, bidding us to take it to the vampire lord. I gave her the Sunsword and symbol of Ravenkind since it seemed entirely wrong to remove such powerful holy relics from a place that desperately needed their strength. Our business in Darkon concluded, we made our way back to Barovia.
Strahd’s reaction to the letter was disconcerting since he seemed more thoughtful than angry. All of us wondered what it said, but it would have been terribly wrong to have opened the missive without Tatyana’s permission. Instead, Strahd gave us Leo and ordered some Vistani to take us home.
And here I sit, feeling as if we did not win any victories. Or at least that in being forced to aid evil, it tainted our success too deeply. I will turn the scrolls Azalin gave me over to the church of Rao in hopes that something in them might aid in finding a cure for the Von Slythes. I honestly have no desire to read them at all and barely want to even handle them. Whatever perverse explanation that Balthasar fed the Lich King… I truly don’t want to know how a man who was supposed to be good became so twisted.