Harlon, Alistair, and Vincent prepare to deal with the issue of defection in the south.
After approaching the Church of the Tender to see if they would return the Hoe of Alyssa (and being rejected), the party sneak back into the Church in order to steal it. After Alistair provides some distractions (including some explosion damage and a small tree thrown through some 200 year old stain glass windows), the party manage to escape both the Church and the City.
Travelling towards the affected villages, the party run into two Tyrant Lizards (and a few claw fiends), but after a short altercation the Tyrant Lizards are dealt with and the party move onwards.
The first village is relatively friendly to the party, they aren’t defecting because of a strong hatred towards Acryn but because Acryn simply doesn’t help them. A necromancer has been stealing the dead of the village in order to raise them as undead abominations. This was particularly upsetting for the village, as they believed the desecration would prevent the souls of the dead reaching the afterlife, instead becoming angry ghosts which will create mishaps in the village. After confronting the necromancer, a socially inept and scared wounding mage, Halon Quirk manages to convince him that he should move to Harlon’s tower. Convinced, the necromancer and 3 of his Zombies relocate to the tower while the rest of the zombies are dropped and returned to the village. Pleased, the village explain to the party the political situation in the area, letting them know which villages have been pushing the defection and that there is a large Serradic camp to the south.
Heading to the second village the party establish that the Serradic Empire has been courting the village with stories of a prior relationship, that a cultural hero of the village called Tovy later went on to found Tovis, one of the 4 cities of the Serradic Empire. They have also made promises of a better education (and straight up bribes) to some of the leaders of the city. The party proceed to make similar promises in an attempt to win round the village before moving on.
On the way to the third village the party find a Waystone of Aetheyta which has had a fence erected around it. For reasons which no-one understands, Vincent’s divine aura is twice as effective within the fence, there is some graffiti keeps drawing everyone’s attention, the fence has a mysterious hole, wyverns attack, and the fence refuses to budge under Alistair’s attentions. Following the Wyvern attack, Alistair shifts the waystone to cover the hole, and the party sleep, each briefly dreaming of a woman with flaming hair kicking a hole in the fence while a male voice complains about the act. The mysterious graffi reads: “Lynndis waits while the tinkerer plays. Bored. Should have stayed with the Foreigner.”
As the party approach the final village, they are faced with a number of Serradic soldiers and someone who appears to be Colin Fletcher. Surprised, the party demand to know what Colin is doing with the Serradic forces, even as he unleashes waves of arcane power at them. At least that is how it appears, as Harlon confirms that there is no magic happening despite the rather painful evidence to the contrary. Eventually the party subdue their attackers and discover that Colin is in fact a priest of the Jubilant Mask displaying hitherto unknown powers.
After a abortive attempt at escape, the now Serradic looking priest is taken with the party to the final village where the party get a rather frosty welcome. Things are improved slightly by the return of the Hoe of Allyssa and the party even release the Serradic captives to the villagers. Finally, in an attempt to win over the village, the party excavate the shrine to Allyssa which was buried in the cave in over a year ago.
Having cleared the shrine the party return the Hoe to its resting place, and then everything goes a bit weird. The statue of Allyssa starts to bleed from the chest. In a panic, the party assume that this is a sign of anger and attempt to appease Allyssa with offerings of blood. Alistair goes one step further, cutting himself with a blade blessed by The Traitor and pushing it into the statues chest. For a brief moment the statue comes to life, locking eyes with Alistair and asking “Abraxis, why?”, returning to its lifeless state still staring at Alistair. In an attempt to understand what is happening, Alistair makes use of his souls somewhat loose nature to step outside of his body. For a brief moment he starts to burn, but then the flames die away leaving him as just a translucent version of himself. All around him the party, villagers, and statue have faded into pale shadows, the only thing which seems real in the room is a young woman standing where the statue had been. Her hair seemingly made of fine gold strands while her eyes rippled a deep blue; far more noticeable though was the large dagger wound in her chest and the grey sunken appearance of her skin, this was Allyssa - The Tender, and she was dead, her eyes locked permanently on the City of Acryn.
Returning to his body Alistair begs Vincent to return her (Allyssa) to life, something which Vincent attempts but discovers is impossible using the Tender’s powers. Things continue to go down-hill as the villagers get increasingly angry about the party’s desecration of the shrine, only fuelled by the way Alistairs actions get described: stabbing the villages cultural hero with a sword holy to acryn. His suggestion that Allyssa was killed by her sister Abraxis also increase tensions considerably. The party manage to calm things down slightly when they see tendrils of vine growing from the pool of blood on the floor and request to be allowed to watch the miracle. Over the course of half an hour the cavern is covered with vines which shore up its somewhat about-to-collapse nature, and cover the statue and sword. A duplicate sword made of vine is found shortly after, which is given to Alistair. Eventually the party leave, having been unsuccessful in convincing the village to turn away from the Serradic Empire.
Following their failure at the final village, the party conclude that they will need to severly undermine the Serradic beachhead’s operation. Scouting out the area and identifying where their food stores are kept. Heading in they defeat the guards and, despite fierce resistance, manage to demolish a number of key buildings before making their retreat. A few weeks later Alistair and Harlon return, dropping Alistair’s estates on the remains of the Serradic beachhead, Alistair’s forces clearing up most of the remaining Serradic forces. Without support, the Serradic fleet set sail, the naval invasion of Acryn hampered but not prevented.
Upon returning to the city, the party discover that things have changed considerably. Managing to avoid “The King’s” forces, the party eventually manage to find some council representatives, who are luckily still willing to pay the party despite their current difficulties. They are also willing to shield the party from the worst of the fallout from the Tender church. No member of the party (bar vincent) will ever be able to get help from the Tender Church as an organisation as is likely to be treated poorly by Tender NPCs should they be recognised. Vincent now finds himself at the center of a schism, with much of the church refusing to acknowledge him as having any authority at all, while others are rallying around him as an example of how the church should be behaving.
After a conversation with Harlon, where Harlon admits he is being spied on by the Secret Service (much to their annoyance), Vincent makes a visit to the church of the founders to speak with Kjell. There he witnesses that one of the candles in the Candelabra of the Founders is now burning normally. He also has a discussion with Kjell where he requests that Kjell investigate his mysterious brain some more. Kjell happily agrees, although remembers almost nothing of the operation. Vincent, on the other hands, witnesses memories of his older brother taking his place in some sort of ritual. One in which he almost certainly died.
Finally Harlon and Alistair return to the location of the Serradic beach head, using potent magic to dump Alistair’s estate directly on top of it. Alistair’s forces make quick work of the now devastated Serradic forces. Unfortunately they are able to do nothing about the naval forces, who make a hasty retreat, although heading in the direction of Acryn. Alistair then sends a number of letters to those who are potentially in charge, declaring himself Duke of the Southern Provinces. A claim which no-one has yet challenged (claim to be declared legitimate or illegitimate at the end of Blackthorne Arc).