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Music by Kevin MacLeod.
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Ten years ago, the Ghoul Imperium of the Underworld and the vampires of Morgau marched into Krakova and conquered the kingdom entirely, establishing the Greater Duchy of Morgau and expanding the borders of the Blood Kingdom.

The undead occupation has been kept in check by resistance from the Court-in-Exile, as well as opportunistic reaver dwarves who sailed across the Nieder Straits.

But the hidden machinations of the ghouls swirl beneath the surface. Rumors abound of an even more sinister plot that threatens not just one kingdom, but the entire world of Midgard.

Empire of the Ghouls is designed by Richard Green, and published by Kobold Press. It takes place in Kobold Press’ fantasy world of Midgard.

Chapter 2: The Holy Robes of Sister Adelind
Episode 6: The Blood Vaults p1

Active Party:
Alaric, level 4 dhampir Death Domain Cleric/Bard
Bahn, level 4 kobold College of Whispers Bard
I/O, level 4 gearforged Circle of the Moon Druid
Lucian, level 4 dhampir Clockwork Soul Sorcerer
Torben, level 4 bearfolk Ancestral Guardian Barbarian

Along the northern coast of the conquered kingdom of Krakovar, the city of Johzt remained undead-free thanks to the Viking-like reaver dwarves, who carved out the entire northern peninsula into an extension of their northern kingdom of Wolfheim.

The party enjoyed a few days of rest and respite. Lucian helped Archduke Avogst engage in the political maneuverings of ensuring an alliance with the dwarves and the people of Krakovar. I/O and Bahn Mi go shopping to update their fashion choices. Torben looks to expand on his budding alchemy hobby. Alaric also shops, but opts for blackmarket goods and army surplus, anything to help them look like they belong in Morgau.

But adventure calls. As the party plans for their river trip south toward the ruins of Castle Yarosbirg to hopefully meet with the Spear Maidens of Hope, the Archduke has one last mission. 

He’s heard disturbing tales that a new facility is up and running near the city of Varshava in the middle of Krakovar. Modeled after the Blood Vaults of Morgau, such a place represents a big step toward the vampires’ expansion in the region.

Since they’ll be passing through Varshava on their trip, he asks the party to check it out, and do what they can to undermine the Red Goddess’ operations — without starting another full-blown war.

With their affairs in order, the party boards the only riverboat heading into the swamp — the Swamp Rat, piloted by gregarious ratfolk Captain Shellshank.

Shellshank assures them it’s the safest way to travel these days. Vampires can’t stand running water! Getting through the nearby swamp will take a few days, then it’s (hopefully) relatively smooth sailing down the River Yoshtula for several more days before reaching Varshava.

Halfway through the swamp, the Swamp Rat hits a bad snag in the water, stopping the boat and sending half the party tumbling into the chest-deep water. The snag is an undead zombie covered in swampy vegetation and insects — a putrid haunt! (Tome of Beasts). Another pair of putrid haunts rise out of the water. At the same time, several glowing balls materialize above them.

Roll for initiative!

Empire of the Ghouls chapter 2 episode 6 swamp

The will o’ wisps begin assaulting the ratfolk crew, instantly vaporizing one of them! Torbens moves to the back as the captain yells for help, while I/O goes bear form as the haunts climb aboard their boat, spewing undead leeches all over Alaric.

Lucian unloads several twin’d spells, including an effective dissonant whispers on the haunts, while Torben smashes a wisp, trying to avenge the ratfolk crew.

Bahn ironically decides it’s safer to hide in the water, even as more putrid haunts begin pulling up and lumbering toward the ship.

I/O’s bear form drops under an onslaught of attacks while Alaric and Lucian support her from behind.

Torben goes on a berserker rampage, destroying the wisps, and the putrid haunt stuck in the rudder, allowing Shellshank to quickly them get out of there. Torben grabs one of the haunts and drops them into the swampy water as they speed away, just as Bahn quickly scuttles back on and stabs the last one with his psychic blades.

They leave Siakra Swamp behind them and connect with River Yoshtula, which runs from Heiderberg in the north down to Varshava in the south, and further southwest beyond the border.

The river is much more uneventful, though with a shortened crew, some of the party is forced to help with the boat’s maintenance.

As they near Varshava, another boat comes into view, sporting the colors of the Red Goddess, Marena. Thinking quickly, Alaric uses the supplies he purchased in Johzt to good use, putting up their own similar flags and pennants. 

I/O and Torben duck below deck. The two dhampir pop their fangs out, looking a bit more ghoulish, and Bahn activates his masque charm, turning into a Red Sister!

The disguised trio expertly deflect any suspicions, and they’re allowed to pass.

The Swamp Rat arrives at an abandoned dock in the City of Horses, and the effect on Alaric, a former citizen of Varshava and hussar in the calvary, is immediate. He hasn’t returned since the city was conquered, and the experience leaves him suffering from severe post-traumatic stress. Thankfully I/O is there to support and guide him, as he leads them to a friendly tavern.

There they meet with the bartender, Olan, who’s a member of the resistance group in Krakovar known as Invictus — which Lucian was a part of years ago. In a backroom they meet with other citizens, mostly older folks, who are seeking aid. 

As Avgost suspected, the Red Sisters have constructed a new series of blood vaults within an expanded mausoleum just outside the city. If it’s anything like the one in Morgau, it allows the sisters to drain blood and store it for longer periods of time for their vampire masters, giving them greater range of control and expansion.

But this case is even worse. The last few months their conquerors have been rounding up folks for “voluntary” tribute, then returning them in a weakened, nearly delirious state. Yet the last group never returned, and now, only two weeks later, they’re rounding up more.

The elders plead for the party to aid them, and hopefully rescue their friends and families. In return, they promise them safe harbor while in the city, and a safe route to get to where they need to go.

Our heroes readily accept. After a long rest at a safehouse, they sneak outside the city and up a nearby hill, where the entrance to the blood vaults looms. 

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