Other patrons and prostitutes begin coming out of the various rooms opening onto the atrium from the first floor or the second floor balcony. They too begin fleeing for the stairs and side exits at the sight of the Hellknights, like rats from a sinking ship.
One girl, however, does not flee. It is the Ulfen warrior maiden that Keng had been seeing earlier. She comes down the other stairwell opposite the one taken by Toshio, Jethrik, and Twilight Blossom. She stands and points to the girl and says loudly, “She is the one who knows where the vampire can be found – she and Anyanka. They are the ones who invited the cursed one among us and allowed her to use this place as a haven and hunting ground.”
Ealisaid hears this and says, “If this is true girl, then you had best tell us where it is and quickly.” Turning to Zeyala she says, “You may not now this but vampires reduced to a mist return to their coffins and reform within an hour. We do not have much time. We must find it before it is back to its full strength. When that happens it will certainly try to hunt down anyone who knows its true nature while the night remains, and there are many hours yet until dawn.”
“Aww crap,” Jethrik comments.
Keng snarls, “Toshio, explain why you risked us for a girl who consorts with vampires?”
Toshio responds, “First we must get as many to safety as possible, and Iolana here in particular to Ionedae’s temple.”
Turning to Iolana Toshio asks, “Do you indeed know where the coffin lays? Much evil can be avoided if the vampire can be destroyed now.”
Iolana looks down at her feet. It is clear that she is deeply shamed to admit that she does indeed know where the vampire is. She mumbles, “It is in the wine cellar. Well, just past it anyway. I will show you. I swear by all the gods that I didn’t mean to release it.”
Toshio looks to the priestesses of Pharasma and says, “Okay, we’ll take you there, and Iolana will lead us, but once you know where the lair is I will be taking Iolana to safety.”
Turning to Iolana he says in a kindlier tone, “Okay, Iolana. Please lead us, and quickly.”
As they go he calls to Keng. “Sorry, friend. My excuses will have to wait a while longer. But don’t worry – I’ll explain everything soon enough.”
Keng snorts, “Yeah, you keep saying that. But a reckoning we shall have.”
Iolanal leads Toshio and the others down the stairs off the atrium that lead into the wine cellar. She tells Toshio that it is down there that they will find Narcizia.
Keng mutters and grumbles to himself, and then whispers to Jharad, though not so quietly so that he can’t be overheard in the close confines of the basement cellar, “Pretty boy is leading us on another fracking bug hunt. Are all paladins idiots? When they swear their vows to be goodie-two-shoes do they leave their brains behind?”
Jharad draws his dagger and smiles at Keng’s comment.
Zeyala has also drawn her dagger. Following behind she says, “I can heal the living or hurt the undead only a few more times.”
On the way down, Toshio tries to find anything resembling a wooden stake.
Keng snickers and suggests, “Samurai, perhaps you could use your pecker as a stake?”
Zeyala can barely contain her snicker, but then composes herself to the seriousness of the moment. ”Keng,” she whispers. ”This is hardly the time.”
Suitably chastised Keng tries hard to make a serious face.
“Thank you for the promotion, Keng,” Toshio responds to the jibe, “but if nothing presents itself, my dagger will have to do.”
Down in the dark and musty wine cellar, lit only by an everburning torch in a bracket by the entrance, Iolana leads Toshio and the others to a series of shelves by the east wall. There she points to a crack in the wall between two of the shelves.
Iolana explains, “I heard from the other girls that the founder of the Blissful Garden was a wealthy procurer named Calogero. The rumor is that he was actually a vampire and that when he was destroyed his ashes were interred among the crypts beneath the Garden that were then sealed off. Some said that this was not true and that his ashes were scattered, but others said that not only his ashes but also the great treasures that he had amassed were also sealed off. I was curious, and I also wondered why the wine cellar did not extend all the way beneath the Garden. I hoped that if I could find the old crypts and Calogero’s treasure then I could buy my freedom and join my friend Piousa at the temple of Iomedae. So I came down here about a month ago and used that pickaxe,” she points to the tool in question lying in an empty barrel nearby, “to see if there was anything beyond this wall. I had only opened a little crack in the plaster and stonework beyond it when a mist poured out into the wine cellar. It was Narcizia. Calogero had indeed been destroyed, but Narcizia had been his favorite. He had turned her but no one knew about her. Her tomb had been down among the crypts that were sealed off. When I tried to get into them the seal was broken. She came through and promised me that with her help I would soon have everything I ever wanted, freedom, power, men falling at my feet. Instead, she enslaved me and used me as a cover so she could get herself invited into the homes of her prey. On three occasions she lost control and drank too much, killing them. Madam Anyanka found out what was going on, and they reached some kind of agreement, but the agreement almost ended tonight after Narcizia used her power on a Hellknight. Madam Anyanka confronted her, and Narcizia took control of her as well. Then you came. When you left with Narcizia I knew that you were doomed. But now you have come back. Iomedae has sent you to rescue me… from Narcizia, from Anyanka, from all of this.”
“You ungrateful wench!” screeches Anyanka as she appears from around the corner of the row of barrels to the south of them. “I provided a home and a family here for you. And Narcizia could have drained you dry, but no! She took you under her wing like a little sister. No matter now. None of you will leave this cellar alive!” Anyanka cracks her whip and at the sound of the lash, barrels begin to crack open in the wine cellar. From out of two barrels on either side of the stairwell leading back up to the atrium and from out of a third in the middle of the stacks of barrels not twenty feet from Toshio and Iolana crawl the corpses of beggars taken off the streets of Magnimar, murdered and turned into undead guardians by the vicious madam of the Blissful Garden to watch over the haven of the vampire Narcizia.
“And you Captain! You have betrayed my hospitality. Feel the sting of Calistria!” Anyanka steps forward sending the lash of her whip curling around his boots. Before he can react she hauls him off his feet, easy prey now for the zombie bearing down on him.
Iolana screams in terror and cowers in the corner between the shelving and the wine barrels.
Jharad magically enhances his dagger and then intercepts the zombie lunging for Zeyala. He stabs the zombie twice, the first delivering a white emblazoned symbol of Calistria on its chest. The second blow takes its head off completely. The undead creature falls inert to the ground.
Ealisaid is outraged at what Anyanka has done. “You would defile the corpses of the slain in this manner! You defy the Lady of Graves blasphemer!” She holds up the spiral holy symbol of Pharasma and a golden radiant light fills the wine cellar. The two remaining zombies moan as flakes of dead skin and muscle begin falling away from them, but they are not yet destroyed.
“Pharasma, cleans these abominations from this realm,” chants Zeyala as she adds her channeled power to Ealisaid’s.
Even as the zombies deteriorate, Jethrik whips out his dagger, races past Zeyala and Jharad, leaps up onto the stairs to get on a level with one of the zombie bearing down on them, and drives his dagger into its lower jaw and into its brain. It too collapses inert.
One last zombie remains and very aware that they may have to face the vampire again Keng grabs an old peg leg off the shelving and attempts to break it. It proves stronger than he thought and Keng soon works himself up into a rage as he tries snapping off the end of the peg to create makeshift stake. Keng screams, “Gorum’s Hairy Iron Balls! What the frack is this leg made of?!” His eyes are red and bulge out, he is breathing in great snorts as he tries again, and fails, to break the peg leg in two.
“Must have been owned by a very heavy pirate!” quips Jethrik.
Toshio gets back to his feet and draws his dagger, readying himself for the final zombie’s charge. At the same time, he observes that the aura around Anyanka is strongly evil, even more intense than the moderate evil of Narcizia. “Get Iolana to safety!” he shouts.
The zombie slams into Toshio, who is appalled at its devastating strength as his head and back cracks into the shelving behind him.
Jharad circles around the barrels to help Toshio, but the barrels hinder his first lunge at the zombie.
Anyanka lashes Toshio’s hand with her whip, causing him to drop his dagger.
Ealisaid continues to hold forth Pharasma’s spiral and the last zombie collapses into dust before it can strike Toshio again.
Zeyala moves up behind Toshio and casts Pharasma’s guidance on him, and then upon Jharad as well.
Jethrik runs back to the eastern portion of the room and peeks around the barrels. Smearing a bit of of butter from the pouch at his belt on his right palm he pantomimes walking across the grease with his left hand. “Whoops!” he exclaims and his fingers take a pratfall. At this the butter disappears in a glowing mist that shoots towards the floor by Anyanka’s feet causing her to slip and fall.
Toshio roars as he charges Anyanka, lands atop her, and attempts to pin her.
“We got ourselves a greased pig contest!” Jethrik announces.
With Toshio holding her, Jharad steps forward and strikes with his dagger, drawing blood from her free left arm as she attempts to intercept the blow with her bracer. Desperate Anyanka grasps the medallion bearing the three bladed symbol of Calistria and calls upon the wrath of the Goddess of Revenge. A dark radiance reaches out and begins sucking the life force from all in the wine cellar. Ealisaid counters Anyanaka by calling upon the life force in the name of Pharasma. Iolana runs shrieking from the wine cellar, just as Toshio finally pins Anyanka to the floor, preventing her from holding forth the symbol of Calistria. The dark energy she was radiating recedes.
Keng, still determined to break the peg leg, wedges it in between the shelves and leaning his entire body weight against it he gives a great push finally succeeding in snapping in two. The two pieces break apart leaving the ends jagged and sharp; perfect stakes for an evil vampire’s extermination. ”Yes!” he cries out.
“Jharad!” shouts Zeyala. ”Get Anyanka’s holy symbol as from her as you can. Without it, her powers are weakened.” As she says this she cast another spell of guidance on Jharad and moves down into the rows of wine kegs to get away from Anyanka.
Jethrik calls out to Toshio and Jharad, “Watch where you put those hands! You don’t know where she’s been!”
A scream is heard from the top of the stairs. It is Iolana, and suddenly she is backing down the stairs again, shrinking from the fully armed and armored hellknight, Sir Caelinus. “Going somewhere, little lady,” he hisses from behind the closed visor of his helm.
Iolana runs to Ealisaid’s side and begs her to protect her from the Hellknight.
Jharad, tearing the medallion from Anyanka’s hand, says to the Hellknight while pointing to her, “Anyanka here is the one who ensorcelled you and our paladin friend…”
Anyanka screams in anguish, bucking and writhing beneath Toshio. She succeeds in throwing him off of her, and tries to scramble to her feet, evading Toshio and Jharad’s attempts to grab her again.
Sir Caelinus roughly shoves his way past Jethrik. Ealisaid, and Iolana until he is able to see Anyanka struggling to get away from Toshio and Jharad.
Ealisaid calls out, “Halt!” as a divine command, but the spell has no power over the priestess of Calistria.
Seeing that Anyanka has successfully thrown them off Keng bellows, “Bitch!” He runs and attempts a flying tackle to grapple her. He ends up sailing over her head hitting the grease and sliding into the barrels along the wall.
Jharad runs after and past Zeyala, turning right at the end of the row of barrels, determined to get the three-bladed symbol of Calistria far from the hands of Anyanka.
Ealisaid takes hold of Iolana’s hand and drags her out of the wine cellar and up the stairs where they are stopped by an officer of the watch and his patrol.
Zeyala stops in the middle of the row and sends forth another burst of healing power. Jethrik is healed of all wounds, and though still feeling a bit shaky, Toshio also feels greatly relieved.
Jethrik tries to run to the west side of the room to meet up with Jharad but is intercepted by the officer of the watch who steps off the stairs and draws his short sword. “Stop right there, gnome! What’s going on here?”
Jethrik responds to the officer of the watch, “Madame Anyanka is harboring a vampire. We’re just trying to stay alive.”
Ealisaid adds, “The gnome speaks the truth. We are here to hunt the vampire down – and Anyanka tried to stop us. We don’t have much time before it is able to attack again.”
“Just everyone stay were they are, until Sir Caelinus sorts it out,” says the officer. “All of you stand back against those kegs and keep your hands up where I can see them.”
Six members of the Magnimar Guard armed with halberds pour down into the wine cellar, some going to the west and others to the east so they can begin a sweep.
Hearing the guard tromping down into the cellar, Jharad slows, sheaths his dagger and stashes the symbol of Calistria in his boot. He then walks around the corner of the row of wine barrels, raising his arms and smiling at the guards as he comes into view.
Caelinus calls out, “No one leaves here!” He then swiftly moves to Toshio’s side to help grab Anyanka.
Keng gets up and runs after Anyanka.
Seeing that she is unlikely to get around Toshio and Caelinus, and that Keng is right behind her, Anyanka whips out a silver dagger and puts her back against the wall. “You’ll never take me alive!” she roars.
Keng tries to doge Anyanka’s blade and grab hold of her. She does manage to scratch him but he succeeds in grabbing her arm.
Already unarmed, Toshio keeps an eye on Anyanka but also keeps his distance. He keeps his hands lowered and non-threatening to let the Hellknight and the Guard take over against Anyanka. The Hellknight clearly has responsibility for the situation at this point, and Toshio has mixed feelings about that. He’s grateful for the extra help – he wasn’t sure how they’d have held out against Anyanka and a vampire – but he had hoped to avoid having the Hellknights coming down on the girls of the brothel. “My lord, it’s true,” he says to the Hellknight. “A vampire is hiding behind that wall.” He gestures to the eastern wall.
Caelinus says to Toshio, “Stay out of the way boy. Go back to the stairs.”
Toshio raises his hands in submission to the Hellknight and says, “Yes sir. Up the stairs it is.” He turns and heads to the stairs, meaning to join Iolana and head upstairs with her.
Caelinus walks over and reaches out to jab at Anyanka with the index finger of his right hand.
Anyanka screams in pain but soon masters herself and with her free hand makes a hammering motion and shouts, “Chaos hammer!” Immediately a multicolored explosion of leaping, ricocheting energy engulfs Caelinus, Keng, and that entire corner of the wine cellar though not quite reaching where Toshio stands. Now it is the Hellknights turn to scream in agony. He staggers back from the awful power unleashed by the priestess of Calistria. Keng, to his delight, finds that he is completely unaffected. If anything, he only feels a warm tingly sensation and a sense of well-being.
Toshio looks back, but Keng doesn’t seem to be in trouble, and the Hellknight seems tough enough to continue. Toshio’s mission is to help Iolana (and, hopefully, the other girls of the establishment), so he continues to the stairs.
Jharad yells out to those near the stairs, “Your Hellknight is losing the battle, you may want to step in and help.”
The officer of the watch and two of his men shove their way past Toshio and Jharad. One guard is left behind at the top of the stairs to prevent anyone from leaving and to keep a wary eye on Ealisaid, Jethrik, Iolana, and now Toshio.
Keng succeeds in pinning Anyanka, but his rage is spent and he can feel his strength ebbing.
“Foul agent of Chaos! I will smite thee!” shouts Caelinus, and though still staggered from the spell, he drops his shield and lays into Anyanka with his gauntleted fists as Keng holds her arms behind her back.
Anyanka manages to twist free from Keng, however. She tries to run for the door on the west wall, though Caelinus buffets her again.
At the stairwell Toshio sees that a Signifer, a Hellknight wizard, has come down the stairs and says to him, “Your captain is fighting the madam, and needs extra help.”
The iron masked red-cloaked Signifer runs to Jharad’s side. He sees that Anyanka is going for the door that probably leads to the cellars beneath the tavern. “It’s time to put an end to this!” He begins gesturing and casting and before Anyanka can open the door a monstrously large hound appears with fiery red eyes. It’s hair bristles like flames as it growls menacingly. Flames erupt from between its jaws and scour the floor just behind Anyanka. She turns and puts her back to the door, and then just sinks to her knees. She knows that there can be no escape from the Hellknights of the Order of the Nail.
The guards rush in and soon she is in manacles and being hauled to her feet. A quick but rough search is made and she is dispossessed of her bracers and a potion. The other guards sweeping the cellar soon find her dagger and whip. The Signifer dismisses the hell hound.
Caelinus, fully recovered from the chaos hammer, takes off his helmet. He turns to Keng and says, “Well, if it isn’t the barbarian who offered to buy me an ale. And now you and your friends have helped us arrest a priestess of Calistria that has been harboring at least one vampire. I know that you three are Agents of Chaos but today you have helped maintain the Law, witting or not. Perhaps it is I that owe you all a round of ale.”
Keng shrugs his shoulders as if to say it wasn’t anything special and says, “Sir Knight, an ale sounds good right now, I am most tired, dinner too? Oh, and here’s something you might want for the vampire,” he hands Caelinus the wooden stake he made.
Caelinus accepts the stake. “Yes, I want that vampire! I owe her something too.” Saying that he draws his sword and advances upon Anyanka, putting the tip of his blade under her chin and forcing her head up so that she must look him in the eye. “Where is she?”
As though speaking against her will, Anyanka replies, “I cannot say. Kill me now if you must.”
Hearing Caelinus question Anyanka, Jethrik says to the nearby guard, “She’s behind that wall.” He points to the east wall.
The Signifer looks over and sees where Jethrik and Jharad are indicating. “Sir Caelinus, they say the vampire is over this way.”
The crack in the wall is soon found. Caelinus orders the guard to start taking apart the wall. In the meantime, he asks those present to explain what has happened. Ealisaid steps forward at that point and recounts the story Iolana had told her about accidentally freeing the vampire while searching for treasure, and how the vampire subsequently used her powers to control Twlight Blossom and Anyanka and to stalk those coming to the Blissful Garden. She explains how she and Zeyala were watching when Toshio and his friends came to the brothel and how Toshio had to be rescued from Narcizia. She discretely does not mention that Toshio is a paladin of Iomedae.
“Yes, I too have felt Narcizia’s insidious power,” says Caelinus ruefully. “I came here to investigate and this Narcizia tried to seduce me. She failed and then attacked me. I tried to strike her down but she weakened me and then took control of my mind. It is good that you drove her off. Now if we can find her resting place we can make sure she meets a more final end.”
Ealisaid continues by telling how she returned to the brothel and found out what had been happening. She insisted that they go back inside and attempt to find the vampire at once. She does not mention that Jharad used illusionary images of Hellknights to do it. She does say that once found and freed of the vampire’s influence, Twilight Blossom cooperated in showing them where the vampire might be found, and that is when the confrontation with Anyanka in the wine cellar occurred.
Caelinus looks to the others and asks, “Is there anything else any of you would like to add to this story?”
Jharad smiles saying, “That is as accurate as I would tell it.”
Toshio adds, “I think she has summed it up quite nicely. Anyanka’s tricks to keep the girls under her thumb led to Narcizia being released, and the rest you know.”
The guards finally break through the wall to reveal a series of catacombs. Fortunately they only extend beneath the Blissful Garden and it is not long before Caelinus, the Signifer, and Ealisaid find Narcizia’s coffin. The vampire lies within it like a fresh corpse only interred days before. Ealisaid tells Caelinus what must be done. Swiftly he drives Keng’s stake into the vampire’s heart, beheads the corpse and anoints the head with holy water given to him by Ealisaid. The head and corpse then disintegrate in moments as almost a century of decomposition catches up to them at once, leaving behind only the skull and bones. These Caelinus scatters. When this is done, Ealisaid checks the rest of the catacombs and then assures Caelinus that there are no more vampires or any other undead in the area. Caelinus then orders everyone out except for the guards who are left to guard the wall until a stonemason can be fetched to reseal it.