25 Coldeven [28 March]
The Company of Seekers is sitting at Oriel House around 10 o’clock on the same evening as the Cauldron tax riot took place. They have had a late dinner, and Ruphus is thinking of heading back to the temple. Daisy says she’s about ready to head home too, but then she suddenly disappears into thin air.
There is the sudden sound of bells ringing in the city hall tower, and Ruphus immediately recognizes the pattern of ringing as a warning that there is a fire somewhere in town. Several people get up and go outside to look. Below them, at the edge of the lake, they can see the orange glow of a burning building. The heroes quickly grab their gear and hustle down to the scene.
As they approach, the party can see that it is Minuta’s Board that is on fire. This is a cheap inn that rumour has it is or was the headquarters for the largely defunct Alleybashers thieve’s guild. It is also currently housing many of the half-orc mercenaries who couldn’t find space in the town guard barracks.
There is already a bucket-line formed down to the lake, composed of both half-orcs and townsfolk. There are also quite a few gawkers, a few of which are actually hurling insults at the half-orcs as they toil to put out the flames (“Go back to the hell you come from, mongrels!”, “Let’s burn away the rot from your human half, freak!”).
There are a few half-orcs who are wielding their big double-axes, chopping down the front porch of the inn where it is closest to another building, in an attempt to prevent the fire from spreading.
In front of the flaming inn, the innkeeper and a mercenary argue. The innkeeper pulls at his hair, crying and yelling to the big half-orc. “Your thugs are demolishing my inn! Stop them!” The half-orc ignores the innkeeper, and turns away to tell his axemen in Orc to continue. The innkeeper grabs at the half-orc’s arm in an attempt to get his attention. Bewildered, sweaty, and visibly scorched by fire, the mercenary loses his temper and throws the innkeeper to the ground. He grabs the human’s neck with a single hand, puts his mouth at just an inch from the man’s face, and yells, “You tiny idiot! You don’t get it! Flame-demon inside kill us! Fire unstoppable! Blades useless!” As the innkeeper whines incoherently, the half-orc puts his scimitar before the innkeeper’s face, showing its twisted and apparently melted blade. He releases the human and turns away in disgust.
As the party takes in the scene, a gout of fire suddenly explodes through the doorway of the inn, enveloping and incinerating a screaming half-orc. An enormous, 30-foot tall fire elemental has burst out of the inn and into the street. Without any hesitation the heroes move up to engage the creature. Meanwhile Fortuna is climbing up the adjacent building and taking in the scene from there. Her sharp elven ears picks up a cry for help from somewhere inside the burning building. Wasting no time, she uses her spool of endless rope to make a loop around a chimney and deftly leaps across the gap between the buildings and into an open window, headless of the smoke pouring through it.
On the ground the others are doing all they can to battle the elemental, but it is a fast, powerful foe capable of doing tremendous damage itself. Tommy is struck down by two flaming blows, and it is only Baker’s swift response with his lay on hands ability that saves the young cohort’s life. Arithil castes haste on the party to try and add some speed to their side. After using his inspire courage ability, Enzo also climbs up on the neighbouring roof to have a look around. Inside, Fortuna stays low and looks up the hallway. She can see a teenage boy who has been trapped under a heavy wooden beam that is burning at its far end. Knowing she probably doesn’t have the strength to lift the beam herself, she employs her roguish skills for all they’re worth and manages to wriggle the boy out from where he is pinned. She quickly retreats, fighting off the tremendous heat and blinding smoke, and gets back to the window. She lowers herself to the ground while holding the boy, then tells him to go find help out front.
The battle against the fire elemental continues – as a creature of pure fire, it is not taking all the physical damage it should be from the group’s attacks. Ruphus and Arithil use what magic they have to add to the damage. Suddenly though a second fire elemental bursts through the corner of the building, taking part of a wall with it. Things are looking grim. But it isn’t long after when the first elemental finally goes down, disappearing in shower of sparks and embers. Enzo has made his way onto the rooftop of the inn, despite the dangers of smoke and flames shooting through the tiles in several places. He sees the second elemental and tries to use his bardic ability to fascinate creatures. It seems to be working for a moment, but then Arithil directs her persistent blade effect to attack the creature and the fascination is broken. The elemental turns and attacks Enzo, nearly killing him with two mighty blows. The others move to engage the new target.
Meanwhile Fortuna is doing her best to look for someone who may have summoned these elementals, but she isn’t seeing anyone suspicious. The second elemental is finally brought down as well, and the heroes can catch their breath. Ruphus uses his wands to cure Mott and Baker, who have taken the brunt of the creatures’ attacks.
A few moments after the last elemental is killed, a new figure arrives on the scene: he is an enormously tall human at nearly seven feet, with long blue hair and dressed in blue robes. He quickly takes in the scene. He asks Enzo to move away from the burning building, and making sure no one else is in the way, he casts a cone of cold spell onto the flames. He then proceeds to move around the burning structure, casting multiple cones of cold until the flames are all put out.
Kristof Jurgensen, the local cleric of Pelor, has arrived to aid the wounded and those intoxicated by the smoke. When all is finished, and quiet falls again on the streets, he screams out at no one in particular: “Fools! The flames of discord will raise hell in our town!”
The blue-haired human speaks to the lead half-orc on the scene, a Sergeant Rokewko, in orcish, asking what happened. He tells the sergeant to gather up the surviving mercenaries and to meet him at town hall. He gruffly thanks the Seekers for their aid in saving his men, then says he wants to return to the town hall to complain and demand restitution.
The party learns from Sergeant Rokewko that the blue-haired human is named Zarn Kyass, but is otherwise also known as the Blue Duke. This is a name they have heard before. It was mentioned in an article in the Cauldron Herald a few months back, in relation to a foray the Stormblades made into some caverns below the city. This Blue Duke was supposedly involved then in smuggling mercenaries into the city. This was before Terseon Skellerang announced that extra troops were going to be hired for the town guard. The group also learns that Kyass is staying at the town hall guard barracks.
It’s been a very long day at this point, so the heroes make their way home.
26 Coldeven [29 March]
The next morning, several town criers announce that order has been restored in Cauldron. The lord mayor pardons all citizens involved in the riot, and most of those who were arrested are freed before sunset. There is no pardon, however, for the “evil merchant” Maavu. His properties have been seized and he is sentenced to death in absentia. The criers also publicize Alek Tercival’s letter of challenge, but also cite reliable sources that the paladin of St. Cuthbert has been possessed by demons. Thus, the lord mayor declares the challenge null and void. The government offers a reward of 5,000 gold pieces to whoever finds and saves the possessed paladin. Finally, the criers also announce that after the destruction of Minuta’s Board, all half-orc mercenaries in the lord mayor’s service are to be transferred to an encampment outside the city walls.
The Seekers head over to the temple to speak with Jenya about Alek. She has grown increasingly worried about the paladin. She tells them that she and Alek have been friends since childhood. He is heir to one of the city’s noble families, but he became a paladin after his father’s death left him destitute. With Jenya’s assistance Alek joined the church of St. Cuthbert, and his devotion has always remained strong.
Jenya says that she supports Alek’s challenge to Skellerang since she suspects that he is the primary source of the corruption in the government. But she greatly fears this rumour about Alek being the victim of demonic possession. The party asks her about his strange behaviour over the past few months, but she’s unable to add much to what they already know. She does tell them about one encounter she had with him, the day after the Demonskar Ball: “The day after the Ball, Alek told me that he’d had quite enough of this “preening and gesturing” of the nobles, and that he had more important things to do. When I asked what those things are, he said only “Big things, important things, but that’s all I can say right now. Don’t worry Jenya, I will tell you soon, but for now you must trust me.” With that he left town for over a month. I’ve seen him once or twice since, but not at all for the last two months. But he has apparently been seen in areas to the west, including Redgorge.
Jenya gives the party one other important piece of information about Alek. He often sold art objects he found in his adventures to Tygot Mispas, the proprietor of the antiquity shop on Lava Avenue. He sold these objects to accumulate the necessary money to buy back his ancestral manor, which his father sold to pay off some debts. Perhaps an investigation of his latest sales to Tygot might provide some clues as to where he’s been spending his time over the last few months. At the very least, Tygot himself might have some more information on Alek.
Finally, Jenya shares with group the divination she cast about Alek’s current activities. The results were as follows:
Late on the path of justice, trapped between glass and stone, he weeps where many can see him, but he can see only himself.
No one is quite sure what to make of this, but the party thanks Jenya for all the information. They decide to head over to Tygot’s Old Things to see if they can find out anything more.
When they arrive, Tygot greets them warmly. His dog Lepook wags his tail, and then suddenly disappears and reappears instantly right next to Enzo, who is holding some tasty treats in his hand. The party chit-chats briefly, but soon gets to their reason for coming. Tygot says that Alek is an interesting supplier of his shop, and a good friend to boot. Whenever he found art objects on his journeys, he invariably came here to sell them. The shop-keeper keeps meticulous records, and goes to get his ledger so he can tell the party about the most recent items Alek sold to him.
There are several items that Tygot purchased from Alek over the last few months, all of which are still in the shop. He shows the party each one as he describes it. There is the Volcanic Gosling, a small goose carved over 700 years ago by the heroine Tlimida; the Knight in Brown, a 250-year-old painting of a knight from Gradsul; the God of the Lake, a bust of a fish-like monster’s head in pink marble, which resembles some of the paintings seen in the Drunken Morkoth Inn. Finally, Tygot shows the group what he calls the Hegemonic Plate: A rectangular plate of silver etched with odd figures and ciphers. A crude map and a few notes in Giant are scratched into the opposite side of the plate, which would be smooth otherwise. These scratched notes seem to be quite recent, but the plate itself has a definite aura of ancient weight about it.
The party takes a close look at the silver plate, and Enzo casts a tongues spell so he can read the strange writings on the front of it. This reveals that the strange six-armed figures seen in the etching are an ancient society known as the spell weavers. The other figures on the plate appear to be ogres. The spell weavers’ leader is depicted on the right side of the plate; he holds something referred to as the “Starry Mirror” above his head. On the left side of the plate, three scenes are depicted and are read from bottom to top. The bottom scene depicts the ogre slaves of the spell weavers toiling to build some great work. The next scene up depicts the same ogres, but now empowered by something called “Amaranth Elixir,” which grants them great strength to aid in their work. The topmost scene shows the great structure in its completed glory. This is apparently some kind of planar travel installation.
The group knows only pieces of the history of the spell weavers. They were apparently a race that inhabited this region some 2,000 years ago, before humans came here. There was some great catastrophe, possibly with this very planar travel installation, and the resulting cataclysm created what is today referred to as the Demonskar.
The party asks Tygot how much he wants for the hegemonic plate. He says 600 gold pieces, but Lepook howls loudly at this. Tygot then says 500 gold pieces, but Lepook again howls. Tygot looks embarrassed, smiles, and lowers his price to 400 gold pieces, at which point Lepook goes quite. The party pays the 400 gold from the group pot. Enzo gives Lepook another treat and they say their goodbyes.
The group purchases some horses and a carriage, making sure to mention a trip they are making to the Lucky Monkey to see how the rebuilding efforts are proceeding. They spend the rest of the day getting ready for their journey.
27 Coldeven [30 March]
The Seekers head out the South Gate early in the morning, making sure to let anyone who may be listening know that they are headed south to the Lucky Monkey. Once at the bottom of the mountain, they circle around the outer wall until they reach the road headed west towards Redgorge. They have a carriage pulled by two horses, along with two more horses as outriders, one of which is Rashid’s animal companion. The journey is uneventful, and they reach Redgorge before sunset.
The party heads to the Redhead Miner’s Inn. This is a two-story building and contains a large shop full of adventuring gear. The inn has a large common room where villagers often come to have a drink before sunset. The innkeeper is a big, smiling man who keeps his long red hair tied in a ponytail. As the group enters the common room, he is just putting out several bowls of free snacks on the bar, saying to his tipsy customers “Come on over, beggars! You won’t starve as long as Mikimax lives!”
There is a handsome man in his mid-thirties quietly plucking the strings of a lute in one corner of the common room, paying no heed to Mikimax’s call. He is dark-haired and rather short, wearing a fine blue robe and polished knee-high boots. When he sees the group heading towards the bar he calls out a riddle to them: “What can bind with water, sand, and lime?” Several members of the party answer back “Mortar!” The fellow laughs at their enthusiastic response, and invites them over. He introduces himself as Honest Minstrel. He plays a ballad that tells some of the history of Redgorge. After some small talk he invites the party to a meeting with some of his colleagues, which is scheduled to begin soon. He says that Maavu will be there, and that Alek Tercival has also been invited.
The Seekers are lead into a back room, then down a staircase and through a secure door. They enter a comfortable, six-sided room with a great oak table in the middle. On the chamber’s walls, beautiful frescoes depict the glorious moments of Surabar Spellmason’s life, which Honest Minstrel explains to the party:
- Surabar’s arrival near the foot of an extinct volcano, recognizable as Cauldron.
- An encounter between Surabar and a sword-wielding angel, in which the angel gives Surabar a glowing quarterstaff. Honest Minstrel explains that the angel is called Nidrama, a movanic deva said to watch over the region. The glowing quarterstaff is Alakast, a magic weapon said to be particularly potent against evil outsiders.
- The foundation of Redgorge.
- Surabar’s magical construction of the Basalt Bastions that protect Redgorge (which the party learned during Honest Minstrel’s ballad were raised up in only seven day’s time).
- The battle of Redgorge against the demonic denizens of the Demonskar; Surabar leads Redgorge’s forces and a towering hyena-headed glabrezu leads the Demonskar forces.
- The transformation of Surabar into a mountain, symbolizing his death.
When the group arrives in the room there is already someone sitting at the table’s head. He is introduced as Oliron Masht, the Foreman of the group. He greets the heroes and offers them a drink from a cask of vintage wine. At first, he asks a few questions about the Seeker’s interests and goals. After a few minutes Mikimax enters the room, followed by Maavu. Maavu smiles when he sees the party, and greets them warmly.
The party notices that the others are all wearing robes or tabards that have the same symbol on them. Maavu explains that they are all part of an organization called the Chisel, a group that has existed in this region for hundreds of years. (Rashid recalls having been asked what he knew about the Chisel when he was tortured by the Last Laugh. At the time he had never heard of them).
The Foreman observes that Alek Tercival has not shown up. This worries him, but he admits that he did not necessarily expect the paladin to come, so he starts the meeting without him.
He begins by explaining that the philosophy of the Chisel is to protect the region and support artisans and craftsmen. He says that he needs to raise a point of contention with the organization’s current situation. The selfish interests of many of its members have violated this philosophy. Most of the violators are Cauldronites who have shifted towards neutrality and no longer care about the wellness of society as a whole.
The Foreman reveals his fears that some great force of chaos and evil is at work in Cauldron’s government, and that the lord mayor may be under its influence. What sources of divination are available indicate some great disaster is on the horizon, though Oliron says some of his sources are not available at the moment (he does not elaborate on what those sources are).
At this point the Foreman mentions Maavu and notes that although his actions were well-intended, they nonetheless caused more harm than good. He now fears that the Chisel is becoming a scapegoat for the current troubles, and that forces from Cauldron may soon take drastic measures against the organization. Maavu justifies himself by claiming he meant to organize a peaceful demonstration, but that “some villain stirred up the riot to discredit any opposition.” Honest Minstrel suspects the Last Laugh, and chides Maavu: “They suckered you, nothing else!” At this point, a squabble breaks out between Maavu and Honest Minstrel (Maavu: “Better dead than slaves! A wandering strummer like you should know!” Honest Minstrel: “Peddler! You count lives like money! No difference to you, eh?”). The Foreman grows tired of the argument and demands silence.
Honest Minstrel notes that his informants in Cauldron warn him that Terseon Skellerang plans to invade and search Redgorge, using the half-orc mercenaries now encamped outside the city walls. The members agree that their inner sanctum would survive the invasion intact (this room is not that place), but such an event would be disastrous nonetheless. The villagers would oppose such actions and would fight against the invaders. The Foreman muses that Skellerang must be persuaded to cancel this plan. Alek Tercival’s public renouncement of his challenge should do just the thing, but unfortunately, no one knows where he is.
The party tells the members of the Chisel that they have already begun their search for Alek, for which the Foreman commends them. They tell the group what it has learned, and shares Jenya’s divination with them. They also ask if anyone knows of a place where there is a headless demon statue along a river near here. Honest Minstrel says that indeed, there is such a statue several miles downstream to the southwest, on the Red River.
The Foreman concludes the meeting by leading the entire group on a short night walk along the Basalt Bastions. He looks intently west towards the Demonskar at one point, then sighs and says philosophically, “Surabar’s spells raised this wall in seven days, but his guidance has failed to build a righteous society in as many centuries.”