The crosses are a new twist in an aging puzzle. We have nothing to connect them with Rorin’s death, but the coincidence of their arrival makes it tempting. The conspiracy grows. Katrezra, Arkin (Griffin?), Urnsel, and Melira have yet to be found. We know now that Rorin was looing into something, and whatever it was it got him killed.
But we need to figure out what he was investigating in the hopes of catching his killer. His death has caused titanic changes to Trunau; Patrol Leader Jarin Rockfall, Rorin’s father, is in mourning, and his second son, Carsin, seems to be taking over both the roll of his father and his deceased brother. Somehow he’s managing to hold it all together.
In discussions, we worry that the orc are looking for ways into the city, perhaps by tunneling; but other than the odd clue that no-gooders were in town, and an uneasy suspicion, we have very little to go on.
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Starday, 18th of Gozrun 471
A crowd of locals gathers outside the Sanctuary, all staring at the cliff face, at a 15’ tall white-painted cross on the rock-face. None of us can figure out how a brush could get up there without magic. The locals tell us there’s another one at the Barter stones outside of town; but that one is 3 times as big as this.
We head to the top of the cliff above the Sanctuary, but from there see no residual markings or proof that anyone climbed down. Some of the rocks are a bit slippery with hoarfrost so we don’t get too close to the edge.
Gazing out, over the fields and orchards, the land leads to a river some 15 miles away. There is no sign of any dangers in that direction.
As we discuss what the crosses could mean, the locals debate whether to blame kids or orc-kin for the graffiti. Omast Frum wanders right to the edge and stairs down in drunken wonderment. I reach out a hand to hold him to the firmament, but he doesn’t notice.
Omast believes the cross is a sign from Rorin; and that we should pray to speak to Rorin. Omast, in his drunken state, blames Katrezra for Rorin’s soft-hearted view of the orcs (no doubt referring to Rorin’s last play: a social-editorial on race relations. In a town surrounded by Orcs intent on our destruction, the play was not well received). Omast is lost in his grief and the cups. Tiva talks at length to Omast to try and find out more information. She gets very little from him that makes sense. Omast has been off the bottle for a few years, and everyone is saddened seeing him drunk again after so long. Well, everyone but Tora (who is angered at the disgrace of it).
As we get into the Longhouse, Halgra spots us. She signs that she wants to talk to us later.
We get Omast to his room, but he is a weeping mess. We tell him we need him sober. He is willing to help Rorin, but becoming sober is hard. Seamus stays with him, forcing tea down his throat until Omast finally falls to sleep.
We return to the main hall to meet with Halgra. She asks that we separate the prisoners. They are downstairs in the Longhouse storerooms. We move one into an adjacent room, and Halgra marches into the other room.
Halgra interviews Leggly/Valon. She accuses him of assaulting five members of Trunau’s militia in an unprovoked attack with the intent to assassinate them. He is known to be guilty and his life is forfeit as a result. She will not let him get a word in edge-wise. Tomorrow he’ll be given a chance to speak with a priest, given a good meal, and then placed in a cart and paraded about town until he is brought to a place where his head will be placed on a block and his head removed. He will then be cremated to find peace in the afterlife. This is the best option for him.
We know he wasn’t acting alone. Halgra offers Leggly one reprieve, if he can give us any information about his co-conspirators, he’ll be shown leniency. He will be branded on the face. His sword hand will be forfeit. He’ll be given a week’s provisions and he’ll be cast out of town to go where he wills. If he lies, or he falsely accuses someone, if he stalls, or leads us astray – he will be hung by the neck slowly, left to suffocate until he dies. His body will be hung at the crossroads for the scavengers. No gods will be invoked for him and he will have to hope for the mercy of the gods for his afterlife. Leggly is left shaken by her words.
She then goes to interview Graff/Malon. Halgra repeats the monologue. As Halgra goes through her monologue, the colour drains from his face. When Halgra is done, Graff rambles out a description of Griffin: Tall, thin, weak jaw, wears a bandoleer of bottles. Taller than Graff, but much thinner, brown hair, with a hook nosed. We take it all down.
Halgra tells us to circulate a description among the militia. Tiva makes several copies to be given to Carsten to circulate. We learn that Carsten has gone with the father of the missing boy (Ofthen) to see their farmstead.
We head out and get samples of paint off the cross on the cliff behind the Sanctuary and from the room in the Ramblehouse. At the cross, we see Sarah Morninghawlk. She seems apprehensive as she stands below and stairs up at the white cross. She tells us that her wayward apprentice is still missing. We follow her back to the shop to talk.
Sarah and Tiva talk for a bit. When Tiva talks of Rorin’s stolen journal, Katrezra comes out of the back room and corrects us. Rorin’s journal isn’t stolen, Rorin gave it to Katrezra the night before Rorin died. Katrezra admits to having seen several crosses in his dreams. They turn red at night. He’s had visions of the burnt-down church for weeks with things churning in the ashes. He gruffly admits he does not understand his dreams, but has always had them. He doesn’t know if he’s a prophet or just suffering maddening dreams. To him they are one in the same.
Tiva and Torva go through the journal. In it, Rorin mentions a run-in about a week and a half ago at the old church; seeing someone almost twice-as tall as a dwarf, but hunch-backed, with clawed hands, a protruding snout with jagged teeth, a pronounced under-bite, and a long straggly mane. It was wearing non-descript clothes. It seemed equally freaked when it saw Rorin. It muttered something in giantish, and ran away eastwards, out over farmer’s fields. It ran faster than Rorin could follow.
Tiva introduces herself to Djan, Sarah’s apprentice. They chat for a bit, but not much else is learned.
Torva heads to the general store and gives the paint sample to the alchemist to compare it with that from the roadhouse. We are warned this work might take some time.
We inform the guards at the main gate as to our destination, then go to the burnt church outside the walls. The walk around the town’s walls is a quiet one. Nothing seems out of the ordinary, although I have a hard time remembering the last time I went to the old burnt church. Tiva seems to know the way.
The burnt church fronts a large outcropping of rock. The doors are 3’ off the ground and hanging off the wall. The edge of the building has collapsed, so you can walk into the church directly. At the back end of the church there’s a hole, where the supports are leaning into an open gap in the floor. There’s also a small back door nestled against the freestanding rock.
The stained glass windows have survived the ages nicely, but the structure is sagging and the roof is lopsided.
There are red runes on the side of the large stone that flows into the church. A small fire pit sits outside the burnt church. It was recently used.
We go through the western collapsed wall. As we clamber up, the debris under the stairs shifts and giant multi-limbed insects come out. The beasts have pincer jaws and an ant’s head. Their bodies are sinuous, and while their legs are short, they seem able to stack their segmented bodies vertically to reach above their height.
The creatures try to bite and run up our weapons, our legs, or anything within reach. Armour keeps them at bay for a bit, but their mandibles work their way around the armour’s edges.
The first one scrambles out and tries to chew into Tiva’s ankle. Its mandibles are easily turned by her armour. I manage to squish the front end of one, but its back end keeps moving and fouling my Lucerne hammer.
As Sif launches forward with her great axe, the axe befouls in the beams above her head. Shamus takes the opportunity to stay out of the creature’s reach while lobbing a liquid that splashes on them with a burning effect. One creature slithers forward from the ash and clamps onto Sif’s poltroon. Another tries to attack Shamus, but the air between it and Shamus shimmers, keeping the multi-segmented horror from its prey. Tiva tries to beat her attacker off, while the rest of us flail at them without success. Torva’s ancestor chain seems to have their scent, and she’s able to beat them back with its hammer tip.
The creature attacking Shamus finally manages to strike at him, biting his ankle. He drops to a knee as his leg goes numb. In return, Shamus manages to lob more liquid at the creatures, each hit burning the creatures. The rest of us continue to flail against them while they chew against our armour.
Shamus casts protective magics on himself while the creatures move about and make darting attacks at us. Tiva and Sif are bit. I remove the dead horror from my Lucerne hammer and at last was able to strike one horror down, while Torva takes out another.
Sif splits the old oaken beam above her head in an attempt to crush the creature before her. She manages to slice the beam and the horror both neatly in two. Between her and Shamus’s liquid, the last of the creatures dies.
Shamus clamber up into the building anew, and we press on through the hall and up a short stairwell. Shamus finds a secret door that overlooks the hole in the floor in the next room. He is under the stairs. There seems to be a larger room underneath. There may be a couple of pedestals of statues down there. Above is a damaged second floor, there’s not much more than a partial passage and a room that ends abruptly where the celling caved in.
We proceed into the entryway of the ground floor. The freestone has a set of strange red runes. They spell out the word: Skreed. While the script is readable, not one of us know what it means. Maybe it’s someone’s name?
We enter the great hall. There are two rows of scorched iron-wrought beds. A alter is on the far side of the room. A strange ordure filled my senses. It made my hands ache and my eyes sting. There is a great evil in this room. Torva walks down the center of the isle between the beds. The smell of burnt flesh is everywhere. We start to see ghostly shapes. Their skin shrivels and blacken and tongues of flame lick their bodies. And then the screaming starts.
Torva and I stay routed but the others run back out the doorway and out of the building. Torva starts praying and within a few words, I join in. Our voices are melded against the fear, the desire to run. And so we stay. And we see. There’s the smell of charred flesh and it is followed quickly by the unbearable site of people abed and burning. What we saw in that room was reason enough to run; and I will save you the nightmares of describing it in detail. But, after an eternity (and several litanies recited) the screaming stops and the bodies disappear. The room is as silent as the grave. Torva and I share a look. We have to come back. Somehow we have to put these restless souls to their ease. We now understand why local lore says to never enter this room. Ages ago, the old church was used as a plague house. Seems when it burnt down (by accident we suppose), this room was still filled with folk, too hurt to run to safety. Their spirits are still here, as is their terror and their pain; ready to be relived by anyone dumb enough to walk through the room. I do not recommend it.
The small cupboard in the corner has a little gilded brass plate. There’s a little charred box with 63 silver. We find a small gold chain with a heart-shaped locket at the base of the Iomede statue (across her foot). The picture within was lost to the flames. In the dust we find a Hope knife. (We recognize what it is only from its chain) — It’s gilded and ornamental and probably worth a fine copper.
Eventually, we meet up with the others outside the room. We bypass the Room as we now know all its secrets.
Shamus is freaked out and spots something ahead of all of us. The shadows over the doorway shift and move. Something the size of a small dog starts to move down. He throws a weave of colour at it! The legs contract around the body while the sand washes over it, but then it continues moving down towards us. It bites Torva!
Shamus throws his burning liquid at it. In a single blow, Sif cleaves the spider and sends its bits tumbling down off the wall.
On the bookshelf is a familiar Hopeknife. Nearby, there’s a little heart carved into the wood with dwarven runes R & B. It would seem that, on the night Rorin saw someone here, he got bored and carved his initials with Brinya’s knife. When he ran after the stranger, he left the knife behind. Tiva warned us that Rorin did not believe in the zymology of the Hopeknife as much as other Defenders. Seems she might have understated things.
Shamus senses an arcane aura on the steel box in the room beyond the main hall. It sits beside a stairwell going down. As we go down the stairs a giant rat scurries towards us with another behind it.
Torva, in the lead, has not time to react while a giant rat clamps down on her shin guard and another runs up the wall towards her. She keeps the second one at bay while she unrolls her chain. More giant rats scurry up the walls and around Torva, one of which manages to bite her from its seemingly precarious position! Torva swats at it with her chain and knocks it from the wall. The rest of us move back up the stairs to give Torva room to retreat.
As Torva backs up, she takes a few swings at the rats. As big as they are, they are exceptionally agile. She manages to kill the remaining ones with only a little help from her sister.
At the bottom of the stairs are several corridors. A door stands due west of us. The statue in the corner is of the warrior woman, but she’s holding a longsword of dwarven manufacture (master crafted). It was made at the Ironworks. Seamus takes it from the statue and adds it to his pack.
Beyond the door is a crypt. Torva glances around the corner and sees something floating. She points it out to the rest of us, but we have no idea what it is.
Tiva heals Torva’s wounds, and the strange blob slithers forward. After some thought, Tiva identifies the thing is a gelatinous cube. Apparently, it’s some kind of an ooze. As interesting as this is, it doesn’t help us figure out what to do.
Torva calls down Torag’s blessings on us all. The thing ambles towards us and engulfs Torva, Tora, Sif and myself. Seamus legs it out of the way. All of us manage to damage it, but once engulfed, it paralyzes Torva and Sif. I can barely move and suddenly everything hurts.
Shamus lobs one of his balls of acid at it, hitting it easily. Tiva cuts at it from within. My Lucerne Hammer is too tall, and sticks out in such a way that I can no longer wield it. I let it go, but it just hangs within the beast. I swap it out for my war hammer and start cutting my way free.
Tiva continues to cut at it from within, eventually managing to kill it. As it dissolves into liquid, it drops the following:
• A steel scroll case. The scroll has an abjuration effect (it’s a Hold Portal spell. 1st level arcane).
• A falchion
• A fine chain shirt (masterwork)
• an amulet with a quartz stone in it
• An assortment of coins. 20 gold, 95 silver, 144 copper.
• A Lucerne Hammer (which I claim immediately!)
There’s a statue of a burning stone wheel. It’s a celestial being, known as an angel. This one is a depiction of Iomede’s servant; a djinn. Turns out my religious training came in handy this trip.
As we are discussing whether we should stay or go, Tiva and Torva hear the voice of a young male speaking in the common tongue. Tiva unbars and opens the door and finds an old cold fire furnace.
We give the boy water, food and light. He tells us his name is Ofthen. He was dragged down here in the dark. He was out keeping an eye on his flock when he heard a noise, so he came to take a look at the temple and saw something burning and he was jumped by a big guy. It smelled bad and he got hit and passed out. He woke up in here. He hears them talking but doesn’t understand the language.
In the room beyond, we see an encampment (moth-eaten bed rolls) centered on a shallow fire pit. There are seven statues around it. It looks like someone has been breaking up rocks. The hole looks like it was blasted out. The statues are shattered and damaged. It looks like someone is blasting a tunnel towards Trunau. And there’s a body on the floor. It’s partially obscured by the rubble covering it.
The hole seems to go about 30 feet in.
The body is maggot- infested. It’s humanoid and bulky for a human. Its skin is rotting away from the inside out. It is a ½ orc. The accouterments on the body imply he’s a member of a clergy. He has a black silk veil around his neck – he’s likely a priest of Norgorber (evil god of greed, secrets, poison, and murder). He’s been dead for 2-3 weeks. He’s got blunt force trauma; blasted apart by an explosion.
He’s still wearing a suit of chain mail. He’s got a wand (curing), a fine silver dagger, and six black gems. Seamus takes time to gather the goods.
I sense a growing evil from within the tunnel: two sources.