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The Band of the Crimson Mantle
Decembra 7, 887 Af.
With the leader of the Band wrapped in Kasret's binding, everyone sprung into action. The pale woman in black robes acted first, praying to her Deity while gesturing at Kasret. He disappeared, banished to another dimension, and quickly out of the fight. Sharlot saw this, and suddenly decided to repent in her ways. She grabbed Dobra to pull him from the field, and ran back into the tower. For the rest of the fight, she went back through the tower replacing most of that she had taken, and showing Dobra that she was doing so.
The gnome with a frog on his head and very poor hygiene called a blob of grease into existence, barely catching Carta and Sif on the edge of the spell. The two held fast, and were able to avoid slipping. The Daikini shouted for help, and the Goliath responded, attempting to break the binding bands but failing. Then the one Sif called Kal grabbed on, and succeeded in prying them apart, a distinct snapping sound audible to all. As he began to squirm out, Durdeg threw out his faerie fire, illuminating some of the Band.
Carta attempted to calm things down, giving a quick speech about how they shouldn't fight. The gnome didn't think much of the speech and spoke for the others by performing a rude gesture in their direction. Sif ignored the little man, and charged straight up to Kal, grabbing him and trying to get through. By this point, the leader of the Band was able to stand, and told the rest of his people to stand down. He made a few vague threats, and the Gnome made a gesture that caused an unholy smell to surround Durdeg. Durdeg quickly closed up his armor, and returned the favor with a stink bomb of his own. The Daikini called his people off, and they turned to leave. The last one to turn away was the priestess, and they asked for Kasret back. She told them he'd return soon enough, and left with the others.
A minute later, and Kasret popped back into the world. He looked down on the remains of his Iron Bands of Binding, and was heartbroken at their destruction. Durdeg promised he'd find a way to fix them, and Kasret gathered up the pieces.
He's Stump, He's Stump, He's in My Head
The group discussed their next move, and decided that the best thing to do was to seek out Stump, Elinda's adoptive father. Dobra was able to direct them to the right house, and they knocked without an answer. Luckily a neighbor was able to point them in the direction of the ‘Hole, where he would most likely be drinking.
They arrived at the ‘Hole, and with a bit of trepidation they entered. The cramped, smoky and dim tavern was about what they had expected based on previous tales of the place. The barkeep stood behind a counter, and he looked ready to defend himself from his patrons. A man was sitting at a table in the corner, shrouded in shadows, but looking at everyone in sight. A couple of people that looked to be caravan workers were drinking heavily while staring straight ahead. And finally, they saw a gnome sitting alone at a table, with a spike driven into the wood beside him. It was clear that the spike was designed to be affixed to a stump, and the Gnome was missing his left hand. This made it clear that the man was probably the Gnome they were seeking.
Sharlot decided to attempt a song to ease the tensions in the room, and perhaps make them more talkative. This quickly backfired, as the patrons were not a fan of her or music in general. She put her lute away, as Durdeg attempted a different tack. He went to the bar and purchased a couple of tankards of ale, and brought them to the Gnome. By offering the drink, he was at least able to get the Gnome to not object to them sitting and asking him questions. He eventually had to go back to the barkeep and get an empty jug which he filled with wine from his Alchemy Jug, and that finally tipped the scales.
With the Gnome finally talking to them, they attempted to learn more about Elinda and what may have happened to her. The most they could get through at the bar was a general time frame for the last time Stump saw her, which matched with what they had learned thus far. But they did talk him into coming back to his house with them, as long as Durdeg provided more of the wine. He reattached his spike, and they headed out.
When they arrived at the hovel, Durdeg continued the questioning, while the others looked around. It was a simple, one room home, with a few notable items. They saw a plaque similar to the one in Elinda’s tower, except this one held a short sword. Stump confirmed that the sword was his, and the plaque at Elinda’s held a matching sword that he gave to her since he didn’t have much use for it. The group also noted the grandfather clock, and remembered the note that talked about winding Papa’s clock. Durdeg asked a few more questions, and the general thrust was that Stump didn’t know where Elinda was, she had recently left town and returned with a new item that he hadn’t seen, and he was barely holding it together. The downturn in her reputation after her disappearance was disturbing, and in the end he broke down in tears. His hard shell had cracked, and he could no longer answer any questions.
Carta and Kasret wanted to head out to see Bron, the heir to Dunhaven and current head of the Mist Watch, taking Dobra with them. Durdeg wanted to examine the clock, and opened the case that held the winding key. Inside, they found a scrap of fabric, and a poem:With the remnant of a thing that
Once was living, choose the form
Of the beckoned creature stepping
From a worldly shimmering door.
Stump saw it, and said that the writing was definitely Elinda’s, and that the poetry was something she would have said – not great, but conveying some meaning to herself. Sif performed a ritual to attempt to identify the item, and was eventually able to discover that it was enchanted and radiated transmutation magic. It was clearly something else disguised as a scrap of fabric, but they didn’t know what. The group pocketed the scrap for future possible use, and Sif repeated the ritual on the sword. It was pretty clearly a sword enchanted to be just a bit sharper and harder hitting than a standard sword, and would likely grant the wielder a small increase in their ability to strike at and damage their foes. Stump told them he could have told them that, and they replaced the sword on the plaque. Thanking the Gnome, they left and decided to head to the keep by way of the market.
The Watch and the Keep
Dobra, Carta, and Kasret arrived at the barracks, and asked to speak with Bron. They were led to an office on the second floor, and introduced to the leader of the Watch. Bron was a tall, straight-backed man with short brown hair and a luxurious handlebar moustache. He was dressed in scale mail under a blue tabard and a cloak the color of the stone of the city. When he spoke to them, although his answers were as short as they could be while still addressing the question. The most information he could get them was the locations of attacks in the city. They turned out to mostly be close to the city entrances, and the one by the inn the night before was unusual, both in location and number. He thanked the heroes, and his sergeant, Dobra, for their work to find and destroy the demons, and they decided to head towards the keep.
Meanwhile, the others passed through the market. They passed a few stalls and made some deals, then looked for further information. They met a large, red-faced woman in a bloody apron who introduced herself as Matilda. She offered to sell them sausages in between answering questions, and the party avoided her high-pressure techniques. They did hear a rumor from her about some sort of creature clawing its way up through the drain in the middle of the market, and described it in detailed, horrifying terms. It seemed as likely to be an adapted story meant to scare children, but they added it to their store of knowledge.
Kasret, Carta, and Dobra arrived at the keep, and asked to see Lord Arb. While the guard went to the keep to ask, the others showed up to join them. The guard came back and said that he was not available yet, but they were welcome to wait in the guardhouse by the gate. There, a group of guards were gambling with some dice at a table, and they stood up to offer their seats when the party came in. The party waited for a while, until a guard came back in and let them know that Lord Arb was currently speaking with his nephew, Bron, and may be a while. Sif and Sharlot decided to wait, while the others returned to the inn.
At the inn, the group spoke with a serving girl who wanted to hear their tales, and pass on some rumors of her own. She told them of the passages under the city, where the river flows through and eventually comes out of the cliffs with the rest of the water. As the day was coming to a close, they left the inn to rejoin their companions.
Those that stayed at the keep were eventually disappointed when Lord Arb could not make time for them, but they did hear an interesting rumor from the soldiers on guard. Apparently, earlier that day some type of demon had been seen at the docks. They didn’t know what it was, but they talked about going there themselves and seeing if they could kill it and get a reward. When one of them mentioned that they wouldn’t get a reward for doing what was basically their jobs, the enthusiasm waned. They eventually made arrangements to meet Lord Arb in the morning, and left to rejoin the others.
As the group rejoined, they heard distant howling on the streets. While they could not exactly pinpoint it thanks to the effects of the fog and mist on acoustics, they were able to close in. They knew they were on the right path when they started to pass people running in terror down the slick cobblestone streets.
The Keeper of the Hounds
The heroes moved along the streets to where the fleeing civilians were coming from. As they turned down a new road, they saw a man come out of an alley a hundred feet away. He made it a few steps before an enormous hound with fire blackened skin sprang out from behind him. The creature drove the man to the ground, and began to tear open his flesh. The screams were cut off quickly, which was a blessing. The party began to close in, with Kasret unleashing a crossbow bolt with every few steps. He was able to land them all, and the beast fled back around the corner. Sif took the lead, and was the first to the mouth of the alley.
As soon as she cleared the mouth of the alley, two hellhounds immediately unleashed their fiery breath at her. She was able to dodge and weave, and cast a protection spell, which let her avoid most of the damage, but she was still singed. When she looked down the alley, she saw a pack of hounds, and behind them a human shaped being, although his glowing red eyes belied the idea that he was a simple human. The others came charging in and gathered at the mouth of the alley, just as the hounds began to charge out. With all of the heroes in place, the man smiled as he spoke arcane words, then pointed at them. The mouth of the alley was engulfed in darkness, and even those with enhanced sight were blinded.
The other hounds closed in, and focused on Sif. Whether it was ordered by the keeper, instinct to attack the person they had already wounded, or the universe turning against her, Sif didn’t know, but she was soon taking the brunt of the attacks. They snapped at her, and others breathed their fire breath, and she began to suffer from a number of small wounds. Her companions were just joining her to help.
Just before plunging into the darkness, Carta noticed that Dobra was beginning to panic. He touched the man and called on Adalci to stiffen his spine. When Dobra stood a bit straighter and lifted his sword, Carta moved on, plunging into the darkness to help. Inside the darkness, the heroes were swinging blindly, not even clear where the enemy was. Kasret charged into the alley, hoping to run into the humanoid, but came out into the light without touching anything. He shot a few bolts into where guessed the hounds keeper would be, and thought he may have scored a hit.
Durdeg slammed the ground with his thunderous fists, shattering the things around him. A bit of the wall on one corner of the alley collapsed, and the hounds howled in pain. With a bit more room to maneuver, they were able to begin to damage the fiends. Hounds began to go down under the combination of Carta’s blade, Durdeg and Sif’s spells, and Kasret and Sharlot’s crossbows. While Dobra joined in, it was enough of a victory for him to overcome his fear and fight.
Four of the hounds were down, and slowly dissolving into ash, when they could finally focus on the keeper. Carta scored the killing blow, smiting the fiend with the power of Adalci. The two remaining hounds realized their master was gone and fled. They were much faster than the heroes, and although they gave chase, it didn’t take long for them to escape into the maze of alleys. They all gathered back at the alleyway and watched the last of the bodies collapse into ash and be washed away in the rain.
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