Today, we ventured into the third portrait. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm actually relieved. In the portrait, nothing can rob you, kill you, or attempt to sacrifice you to an haunted blood deity. At least not permanently. I think. Honestly, once you get used to the visions full of pain and misery, it's not a bad gig. I only worry that the lack of consequences inside the portraits will make me complacent outside of them.
This portrait was of Melissa, the sole survivor of a dinner party that wiped out the city's high-blooded population. When we arrived at the city, we talked to the locals to get the lay of the land, and quickly discovered that there had been a rash of disappearances recently. The most recent of these was a western trader who vanished in the night a week prior. His compatriots informed us that he was headed to local tavern for a drink, but a quick search of his room told a different story. We found an opium pipe hidden amongst his possessions, and deduced that he had in stead visited the local den.
I would like to say that it was my street smarts that found the den, but Mungo was able to discern its location quite quickly. A little too quickly if you catch my drift, but who am I to judge. The proprietor of the joint showed us to a booth and filled the hookahs. I realized that it would seem suspicious if the hookahs remained unsmoked, but I refuse to partake in such things on principal. After all, my mind is intricately linked to the world of the arcane, so who knows what might happen if I lose control of my faculties? Mungo, on the other hand, had no such qualms. I guess its different for "bards". The drug seemed to hit him hard, although we would later learn that it had been laced with sedatives. When the owner returned, I questioned her about the western trader. Her face paled and she bolted for the exit. When I gave chase, I was stopped by a large goon with a club and an odd mask. Alone and with a stoned friend to take care of, I tried to resolve things peacefully, but the man had a strong way with words. So, I did the only thing I could think of, and made a tactical retreat. Kirin was waiting outside, and we ambushed the thugs, driving them off, but setting the building on fire in the process. Kirin tried to rescue Mungo from the building, but he was nowhere to be found.
Thanks to a convenient piece of torn cloak, we were able to identify the thugs as members of the "war hounds" street gang, and track down their base of operations. It appeared to be a normal building, but under a rug we found a staircase leading to a secret dungeon. We found the first cells full of lunatics raving about demons, but at the end of the hallway was Mungo, hung over but otherwise unmolested. We sprung him from his cell and pressed onwards. Past the secret dungeon was a secret lab, full of secret chemicals and chemists who were secretly assholes. After some violent interrogation, they spilled the beans that, under Melissa's employment, they had been kidnapping people to test and develop a poison that made people believe they were righteous crusaders, and that all others were evil creatures that needed to be purged. Furthermore, Melissa planned to administer the drug at the dinner party tonight!
With our party's outstanding abilities in stealth and deception, we infiltrated the party under the guise of the war hounds, claiming that we were extra security brought in by the duke. We stood guard by the door to the kitchen and waited for Melissa to make her move. The first few courses went by without incident, and the food looked so good I wished we had managed to disguise ourselves as guests. The dessert course, however, was slightly less appetizing. The servants brought out brightly decorated cakes, each adorned with a small lit candle. We immediately recognized a strange smell in the candle smoke. The laced opium from the den. This was how she would administer the poison. [Troy's character] was conveniently in the bathroom, but Kiran and I both got sufficient doses of the stuff. The effect was far more dramatic than I had anticipated. My attention was turned to Melissa, and as I approached her I began to see the truth. She was, in fact, a demon straight from the pits of hell, and I was an agent of god, infiltrating her lair so that she may be slain. I came here to cleanse her with fire, and nothing would stop me from completing my task. The illusion was just as strong, if not stronger, than that of the portraits. It influenced not only my perception of the world around me, but of myself. I can't help but wonder, what else could such a poison convince someone of? A curse? Lost powers? It is one of Melissa's descendants that lights the candles before we "enter the portraits" after all. Unfortunately, even with the supreme conviction afforded to me by my delusions, I could not defeat Melissa, and the next thing I can remember was waking up back in the dusty manor.