- Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyahré.
- The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
- Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
- Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
- Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
Since Elaphe was seriously injured, the rest of the party left him to rest in the abandoned village while they decided to scout out the battlefield that Spring Breeze had mentioned. They rode the entire day through the rain, seeing no one except a few animals that fled at their passage, and as the sun was setting their search bore fruit as the Green Knight found a rusted sword hilt poking out of the ground.
All of them spread out to search for any clues. Amos muttered one of the incantations he had learned and asked the birds in a nearby copse of trees if they had seen anything, and after some prodding he learned that there were a large number of the walking dead that had passed through the field and gone away to the northeast, a fact confirmed by the Green Knight's questioning of the local flora. That also revealed there had been three figures that had performed a ritual to call up the dead from the earth, but they had left as well. Shining Star sensed the remnants of dark magic pooling in low places in the earth, but it was faint. Whatever had been done there was fading and not a continual source of problems. Finding nothing else, the four spent the night in an abandoned farmer's house after burying the partially-eaten bodies of the amanita farmer and their family. The night was uneventful, and they left in the morning, again seeing no one as they traveled back to the village they had left Elaphe in.
They found Elaphe peacefully relaxing in the house, looking slightly better but still injured, and spent the night in the village. Near dawn, the Green Knight heard voices outside speaking in Muskalan, and he woke Elaphe who took a look through a shutter. He saw an amanita, a mycon, and a chuzan sitting around a fire, talking in low tones about the walking dead, how one of their number had been killed, and the lack of easy pickings in Fontina. Elaphe woke Amos, who readied his bow and snuck out of the house to get a clear shot, but after observing the group for a few minutes he snuck back into the house and shook his head. They weren't worth the trouble, and indeed, in the morning when the party woke up the bandits had moved on and left only the ashes of a fire.
The group saddled up and rode north toward the town of Gyere, which they had left a few days before after fighting a vampire in the streets. The roads were mostly empty, but just after midday they heard the sound of marching feet and overtook a company of three dozen chuzan mercenaries under the banner of a red dove holding a sword.
Bonnie's player: "Is he cute?"
Me: "He's grizzled."
The group slowed their riding and questioned the captain, who said that he had planned to winter in the Scarlet City but they had heard there was money to be made in Fontina fighting the walking dead. He was less than amused when Bonnie and Shining Star told him about the vampires they had fought, but seemed confident in his soldiers' ability to hold their own. He thanked the group for the information and they kept riding. A mile later, they spotted a speck in the sky slowly descending, and the Green Knight readied his bow, but it turned out to be a pigeon that landed on the head of Elaphe's claw strider. There was a message tube attached to its leg with a note inside that said:
"Vampire in the city. Come quickly."
They reached Gyere just before nightfall, where they found a cold reception. The militia kept the gate closed and demanded they identify themselves, leading to some disbelief until Amos fired off his musket and they quickly opened the door. Elaphe rode straight to meet with Black Salted Earth while the others questioned the militia captain. They learned that six people had been attacked and four were dead, but all of them had been in their homes. They knew the jiang they had seen before couldn't enter structures built by mortal hands without an invitation, so something else must be afoot...
Elaphe met Black Salted Earth, who after asking Elaphe to prove his identity and accepting the Black Rose code phrases he offered, explained that there must be a shedo in town, a vampire capable of disguising itself to look like others. The town was in a frenzy of paranoia because of it and Black Salted Earth didn't have any means of distinguishing a vampire from the person it was impersonating and asked if Elaphe's associates did. He conceded they might, and led the amanita back to the Three Wheat Sheaves, the tea house they had stayed in last time they were in Gyere, and we ended there.
The session this time was a bit shorter, since Elaphe's player has just returned from a two-week trip to Paris and hasn't entirely recovered. We're going to play again next Monday, though, and that's when everything becomes a paranoid search of the town. How do they find a creature that can disguise itself as other people and stop it? Good question. I'm looking forward to what they come up, though I do think they'll heavily consider "burn down the whole town" based on their past performance.
Gyere is, of course, based on "Gruyere," since in classic Mario tradition everything has a cutesy name.