As the first sun of the month of the Octopus rose over the hills, Anauk arrived at the homestead. He brought a gift and an invitation. Wrapped in cloth was a new suit of plate armor fit for a dwarf, a gift from Bremlai. The invitation was to meet Bremlai at midnight two night hence at Belan’s Amphitheatre.
Azrak expressed gratitude and offered payment. Anauk explained the armor was a gift and no payment was expected or necessary. However, Azrak might expect someday to repay the favor to Bremlai.
The next morning, the party awoke to exchange stories of the nightmares they experienced. Ghevont re-experienced his purification by fire. Azrak remembered being burned nearly to death by hellhounds. Tienarth dreamed of Chubb’s head cut off. Ferris was once again filled with terror when a possessed priest cast a fear spell. Aderian recalled his comrade, Onie, gutted by goggler knives. Darthorian woke screaming, dreaming of falling through an illusion to be impaled by spikes.
Although skeptical, the party agreed to take the invitation at face value. A short walk from the homestead delivered them to the foot of the steep hill on top of which the amphitheatre was carved centuries before. Pines crowded the narrow path up to stone stairs that began where all trees gave way to a bare stone cap. There they met two city guards with torches. Beyond, they noted a glow from the hilltop.
An owl called from deep in the forest as they reached the top, looking down in the bowl carved from the stone hill. Four stairways lead down from each side of the circular theatre to the floor where two figures sat on logs before a raging fire. They stood to wave greetings to the party.
As they descended, the friendly face of Bremlai emerged from the glare of the fire. He introduced his companion as Enguin who wore a suit of dark, red plate armor. The old sheriff explained the new situation in St. Orlan. The inquisition going on for months was necessary and would continue. Enguin was the new leader.
Enguin explained that the witches plaguing the town were real and must be hunted and killed. He thanked the party for killing Sezzar and his men the week prior. It became necessary because of their incurable corruption, a result of carelessness in handling certain red gems.
The inquisitors, he explained, were members of a secret society, The Ears of the Lord. Their duty was the destruction of evil at the command of the emperor. Each carried a unique tool, a red gem that Enguin produced and described as a storage vessel for evil essence. Regularly, the gems must be purified lest the evil escape to corrupt the holder. With demonstrated regret, Enguin disclosed the explanation for the corruption of his now-deceased comrades.
“What of Tosasth?” inquired Ghevont. Enguin advised that while Tosasth was a truly evil location filled with undead, it posed no urgent threat due to white dragon camped at the mountain pass. The party knew of the dragon from dwarf Dacha. Enguin knew nothing of a secret route beneath the mountain nor of the mine closed up with protected with runes.
Sheriff Bremlai addressed their concerns for following the commands of Lah, to find and destroy the evil in Tosasth. He dismissed Lah as an old fool. Waving his hands, he also condemned the people of St. Orlan as rubes and the king of the western lands an idiot. “I am in charge,” he announced. “I’ll let no one stand in my way, but I offer an arrangement.”
Bremlai disclosed his running of gambling and prostitution in St. Orlan. He expected no interference in these businesses, nor in the inquisition run by Enguin. Bremlai knew of their interest in slavery, noting their attempt to bring a goblin slave into the city. No such trade existed in the area and Bremlai expressed willingness to ceded that market to the raiders. This offer was primarily interesting to the dwarf and distasteful to other members of the party.
Additionally, Bremlai pointed out the steady flow of merchants through the town, knowledge of which he usually had well before their arrival. He hinted at an even split of loot taken from such travelers. Of loot recovered from various tombs or ruins in the area, Bremlai declared no interest in taxing them as is done in Morgansfort. He offered to buy loot for fair prices to save trips to the larger city of Slateholm.
These seemed like tepid offers, and Bremlai added one last benefit. As he operated all taverns in St. Orlan, they were free to partake of ale to maximum satisfaction. To this the raiders cheered, and the arrangement was settled. They celebrated by drinking from a small keg brought for the occasion.
Regarding the armor and axe taken from the slain warrior, Enguin asked for their return. The party agreed.
Clues in the Caves
Returning to the cave near Muleshoe seemed like a logical next step. After crawling down, past the magic pool to where they fought hellhounds, Ferris explored a side cave where a weeping statue stood over a sarcophagus. Inside was a skeleton clutching a box with twelve sides and scroll tube. The box offered no obvious lock mechanism but a finger-sized hole on one face seemed interesting to Mygnak. He stuck his finger inside and the box opened to reveal an elven diary. The book was a collection of wooden plates connected with string.
Crossing the chamber, they found another passage leading down to a room with oil covering part of the floor. Azrak pushed into the oil and slipped, though he was otherwise unhurt. Nearby, centipedes scurried from the darkness to begin snapped at them. Presently, Darthorian and Mygnak were poisoned and fell dead, clawing at their hearts. Azrak shrugged off several bites while swinging wildly. Pippen narrowly avoid a bite before the last of the centipedes were crushed.
With the extent of the cave explored, they returned to the goggler murals and the hole in the floor they’d found earlier. They lowered Azrak down the hole to land in a dusty room, well-finished and not a cave. He kicked up dust but avoided choking. A discarded ladder in the room allowed easy access to the hole in the ceiling. The rest of the party climbed down.
Azrak kicked open the one door in the room. Two humanoid figure leaped at him, transforming into half-tigers as they clawed and bit him. Most of the party could only watch as Azrak tussled with the two weretigers. Ferris shrugged off a claw-strike. Meanwhile, Azrak’s luck was quickly running out. Ghevont attempted conversation, but the immediate violence directed at the weretigers made it impossible. Before long, they were cut down with only Azrak suffering significant wounds. Pippen grabbed a small sack of gems from the weretigers.
Exploring further, they found a dark hallway and another door. Again, Azrak kicked the door open, this time facing displacer beasts who raced forward to slash him with their blades. An initial surge to support Azrak reversed in the face of the fearsome beasts. They turned to retreat, leaving Ferris alone momentarily. Running full speed, they narrowly made it out of the dark hallway as Tienarth let loose a lightning bolt down the hallway, striking each beast in turn. Though not yet defeated, the beasts were easy enough to kill in their weakened state.
With that, they retreated again to Muleshoe to rest.
- Treasure: gems worth 1550 gp
- Characters present: Tienart/Tre, Ghevont/Jeff, Aderian/Jason, Ferris/Henry, Azrak/Nick, Mygnak/Michael, Pippen/Michael, Darthorian/Michael
- Virtues: none
- Vices: none