Eyre 9, 1002 YK
Needing a sacrifice to enter the mortuary city of Hopelorn, the Eclipse Collect again turns to hunting down the Ragdoll Killer. While the rest of the party goes to the town of Xulgos to search, Derli remains in Grey Titan’s Hold, where the Ragdoll Killer makes an attempt on his life, summoning a gate archon to slay him. Kaleth teleports the party back in time to intervene, and with Rilic and Girrrth, stops the fleeing Ragdoll Killer while Conlon aids Derli in defeating the archon.
The Killer is rendered unconscious with magic, and Conlon uses Rilic to probe his dreams. They learn he is a fanatic follower of the Sovereign Host, that he bears the Mark of War, and that he carried the Amulet of Dol Dorn. Derli takes the amulet, though he cannot use it as long as the Killer is alive.
Eyre 10, 1002 YK
The next day, the party gathers protection against Mabar‘s destructive influence and shift the Phoenix Eclipse into Gehenna, flying to where they were directed and offering the Ragdoll Killer as a sacrifice. Before he can be killed, however, the vampire agent of Mellifleur’s Cabal, Narcisa, appears and takes him alive. The party is then brought into Hopelorn, where they visit the Circle of Silent Screams to meet with Mellifleur and seven of the nine Cabal members, all powerful necromancers in their own right.
Mellifleur agrees to help the party (but not necessarily participate in the ritual they’re attempting) if they deal with one of the two missing members of the cabal: the rogue lich Tristuro, who has stolen part of Hopelorn to build a stronghold around a place of power in the darkness of Mabar. The party agrees, but as they go back to their airship they are stopped by Seija, a witchfire and one of the Cabalists, who asks the party for their support in an effort to pit the Cabal against Mellifleur instead. If they get the support of three more members of the Cabal, she says, they will imprison Mellifleur and the Collective can force him to be part of the ritual.
Eyre 9, 1002 YK
Taking the blackguard Bronzesmith and two undead priests of the Blood of Vol along with them, the Eclipse Collective leaves the city of Atur and shifts the Phoenix Eclipse into Gehenna. Here, they debate for a short time about what sacrifice they will offer Mellifleur to enter Hopelorn, at first attempting to convince Bronzesmith before learning that his survival is essential to the Blood of Vol’s task. They ask him for suggestions, and he proposes the Ragdoll Killer, which Kaleth enthusiastically agrees with. They shift the airship back to Eberron, and fly to Grey Titan’s Hold.
Following some investigation, Kaleth learns that the Ragdoll Killer has recently struck again, killing the Count of Xulgos. Along with the rest of the party, including Bronzesmith and the priests, he takes the Phoenix Eclipse to Xulgos to investigate while Derli remains behind to speak with Ser Tabin Hamson about Lavrenti. She wishes to make the boy her squire, instead of Derli’s, because she worries he will be corrupted by Derli’s daemonic influence. Derli says he will consider it, and then emerges from the Cathedral of Dol Dorn to be met by a soldier of the Eran Royal Legion.
The soldier tells Derli that there has just been another murder that he believes to have been committed by the Ragdoll Killer. As the others have just left to investigate the murder in Xulgos, Derli goes alone to the basement of the Mop and Bucket, where he finds the arcane markings associated with the ragdoll killer. He also finds a ragdoll at the center of a circle of sigils, which he tentatively goes to investigate. As he does, the “soldier” that led him there attempts to flee, and Derli tries to pursue, triggering the magic circle meant to imprison him and a gate spell accounting for the rest of the glyphs. Derli breaks free of the magical force restraining him, but turns to confront the being emerging from the gate.
In Xulgos, the airship has recently arrived, and Kaleth begins to grow suspicious. For the first time, he manages to successfully scry on the Ragdoll Killer, and sees the soldier that has just trapped Derli attempting to flee the Mop and Bucket, which is now brightly lit from brilliant light coming through the floorboards from the basement below. Kaleth quickly teleports the rest of the party to the tavern just in time to see the perpetrator jumping out the window and fleeing down an alleyway. Along with Girrrth and Rilic, he pursues the Ragdoll Killer, while Conlon goes downstairs to assist Derli.
While Conlon and Derli battle the gate archon summoned by the Ragdoll Killer, the others manage to corner him in an alleyway. Girrrth severs his arm and Kaleth puts him into a state of indefinite sleep, and brings him to the hospital while Girrrth and Rilic return to the Mop and Bucket to help in the fight. The gate archon is subdued, and the party meets back up at the hospital. Conlon uses his dark magic to send Rilic into the Killer’s dreams, and they learn that he is a zealous assassin of the Sovereign Host, and that he possesses the powerful Amulet of Dol Dorn. They also learn that he has taken the Mark of War onto his body. Rilic exits his dream, and the man is left unconscious in a magically-induced coma. Derli takes the Amulet, but is not able to use it unless the Ragdoll Killer dies.
The Collective then parts ways for the evening to rest the night before heading back to Mabar in the morning.
Eyre 10, 1002 YK
The next day, before departing for Gehenna, the party makes arrangements to protect themselves from the oppressive darkness of Mabar. Some are given warding scrolls by Ser Tabin Hamson, while the others make arrangements to cast spells on themselves (or have the undead priests do it) to protect themselves from the negative energy. After this is done, the Collective boards the Phoenix Eclipse and shifts back into Mabar with Bronzesmith and the undead priests on board.
From Gehenna, they follow the directions given to them by the venedaemon. Frances d’Lyrandar stops the Phoenix Eclipse at a seemingly random spot in the void, announcing that they’ve reached their destination. The unconscious Ragdoll Killer is brought onto the deck, and Derli prepares to slay him as a sacrifice to Hopelorn when a cloud of red smoke springs up on the main deck. A vampire woman, bearing the equipment of an assassin, appears on deck and introduces herself as Narcisa, an agent of Mellifleur’s Cabal. She explains that the sacrifice being offered is acceptable, but that he is of greater interest to the Cabal alive, and so actually killing him is not necessary. She picks him up with ease and utters an incantation. As she does so, the crypt citadel of Hopelorn appears around the airship, forming a landing pad in their immediate vicinity.
They disembark, following Narcisa through the narrow streets and steep staircases of Hopelorn to a great structure resembling a skull. This, she reveals, is the Circle of Silent Screams, the seat of Mellifleur’s Cabal and the point of reception for those seeking an audience with Mellifleur. The Cabal has apparently already gathered and is awaiting their arrival. Before they enter, Narcisa notes that Kaleth resembles a previous petitioner, who called himself a “nechronomancer” and weaved necromancy and chronomancy together. According to Narcisa, he was flayed alive, and she expresses a hope that she will see something similar happen today — not for any personal reason, just because she enjoyed seeing it the first time.
The Collective enters the Cabals’ meeting chamber, a circular room with a mezzanine overlooking a sort of pit into which the party enters. The mezzanine has a ring of nine seats of various descriptions for the nine members of the Cabal. On a level above them, opposite the door the party entered through, Mellifleur himself rests on a seat made of platinum and bone. Two of the Cabal seats are empty, one a fine chair draped in violet cloth, the other a crude thing of blackened wood. The Cabal explains that one of these belongs to a member who has gone rogue, and the other belongs to a member that Mellifleur believed would be disruptive for this meeting, as he has a history with the party and hates them deeply. The Cabal demands the party’s reasons for entering Hopelorn and probes them with numerous questions. They try to make some offers, with Conlon Ostrennar even going so far as to offer up the Rod of Order, but the other party members oppose this strongly.
It seems their requests will be rejected until Mellifleur, who has not yet spoken to this point, silences the Cabal and addresses the Collective directly. Mellifleur offers some assistance for the party (if not necessarily direct participation in the ritual they’re trying to perform) if they solve the problem of the rogue Cabal member. The member is a lich named Tristuro the One-eyed, one of the more senior members of the Cabal. Apparently, the Cabal discovered some ancient source of power adrift in the darkness of Mabar that they had hoped to study and share collectively, but Tristuro instead broke off a piece of Hopelorn and used it to build a stronghold of his own. He has carefully warded it against the members of the Cabal specifically, but Mellifleur believes the wards will not be sufficient to stop the party. He wants them to go to Tristuro’s stronghold, kill the lich in his current incarnation, and bring his phylactery back to Mellifleur for punishment.
The party agrees, and is asked to leave the Circle of Silent Screams. Before they leave, Mellifleur observes that Conlon speaks with the “echoes of a future lich,” and mentions that he has great potential for lichdom within him, which Conlon promises to consider further. On their way back to the Phoenix Eclipse, they are caught by Seija, a witchfire who was seated on the Cabal. She beckons them into a sparsely-furnished building in an alleyway not far from the landing pad, and the party cautiously follows her. In a room prepared with anti-magic, she explains that she is part of a small faction within the Cabal that seeks to unseat Mellifleur and distribute his power equally among the Cabal instead. She has the support of two others, but she will not make a move without a two-thirds majority, and so she asks the party for help in getting three more to pledge their support. In exchange, she offers to imprison Mellifleur and force him to participate in the rakshasas’ ritual before his power is ripped from him.
After some discussion, the party tentatively decides to follow this avenue instead of Mellifleur’s offer.