Ashes of the Empire

Turin's Journal 4

To the southwest was a section of the sewer wall that had fallen away, revealing a cave behind it. There was a steady stream of sewer water flowing down the slope into the cave. We followed the water into the cave as it curved slightly to the north before heading to the west. We followed the path for awhile before we reached a larger chamber that was about 60×60 feet. The water was flowing out another passage leading to the southwest. Karrauk heard a frail frightened voice chanting in a language he didn’t recognize. When I listened I could only tell that the chanting wasn’t magical in nature, and that the voice referred to Jezra, the goddess of death. Karrauk believed the voice was coming from farther in the cavern, towards the northwest.

Karrauk attempted to sneak around a corner to see where the voice was coming from, but slipped on the uneven floor, making a sound. As he rounded the corner he heard shuffling and saw a ratlike humanoid huddled amongst a bunch of rocks and rat bones. He was dressed in layers of clothing in ill-repair, causing him to appear like a pile of dirty rags. His skin was covered in red rashes and scabs, hanging loosely on his bones. His fur was patchy and he was shaking due to age or weakness. His irises were an opaque milky white and his eyes roved around spasmodically seeing nothing. He feebly attempted to move farther into the corner away from Karrauk and asked “Who comes to torment poor sick Kathek?” He said he knew it wasn’t one of his kind, but that Karrauk was too loud to be one of the “cloaked ones.” Karrauk reassured him that we weren’t here to hurt him, that we were merely exploring the caves. Kathek begged for help, saying that his illness was killing him and that his people had left him to die.

Karrauk attempted to give the man a potion of cure disease, but his arms were to weak to take the vial. He said that Chief Redfang the Foul had thrown him out of their warren due to his sickness. His people did not know what the illness was, and unlike us fragile sun-dwellers they were not prone to disease. Karrauk was able to tilt back Kathek’s head and helped him to drink the potion. Kathek began to shudder and then color began to return to his face and while he remained blind his eyes were no longer glassy. He smiled and said that the face was gone and the whispers had stopped. He thanked Karrauk profusely for helping a poor soul he had never met, and that while he may still die at least he wouldn’t die in terror. When he was exiled they had taken everything from him, even his clothing, but maybe he could reward us with information.

Karrauk explained that we were searching for a tomb with a stone door that had a silver hand on it. Kathek told us he had been laying there for over a week and in that time not many had come down into the cave, but he had noticed some people moving about before he went totally blind. Four or five different figures wearing robes had passed by and the one in the lead held something shiny and metal that wasn’t a weapon. Kathek said that further down the caves there was nothing but some old tombs and a haunted pool. While Kathek was sharing his story, I approached and gave him some water as well as using my Healing Hex on him to help his recovery. He thanked me and said that while he had been in the cave he had no water to drink, and the only thing he had to eat were rats he could catch when they tried to bite him.

Karrauk asked about the haunted pool and Kathek said the surface of the water moved on its own, swirling in an unnatural way. There is a tomb with no entrance to the south of the pool that is rumored to contain treasure, but his people are too scared of the pool to attempt to enter it. Karrauk also questioned Kathek about the face he had mentioned, and he told us it had something to do with the disease he had been suffering from. The face was pale as death and its eyes were like deep pits with tiny red points. At first when he had gotten sick he had only heard whispering, initially only a word or two at a time. As he got sicker it spoke more often, in whispers that seemed to make his brain itch. He could never understand what was being said and then eventually whenever he would close his eyes he would see the face, and it seemed to be looking at him. He couldn’t sleep or it would see him and when the blindness came the face would come and go. Sometimes it would flash in and out of his mind quickly, while others it would seem to come from far away and grow closer, always watching and staring.

I couldn’t think of anything that would cause these symptoms, but I found it highly unlikely that it was anything natural. It had all started when he had been bitten by a rat. Two weeks ago a dire rat had come into their warrens and was mad with a sickness. When his people attacked it to drive it off he had been bitten. Over the next few days his skin had begun to itch and his fur began to fall out so he was banished from the warren. None of his people knew where the rat had come from or recognized the sickness.

Karrauk asked if Kathek wanted help to get somewhere safer, but he replied that he would never go back to the warrens after they had left him to die. Neither Karrauk nor I have had any experience with Ratmen, though we had heard of them as unconfirmed rumors. We doubted there would be anyplace in the city where he would be easily accepted. Karrauk asked about the warren and Kathek said that it was where his people came from and that it was to the east and guarded by four skulls. They live beyond there and have modified that section of the sewers to suit their needs. Chief Redfang rules over them all and they mostly keep to themselves, but at times they fight the cloaked ones. When asked about it Kathek told us they are sun-dwellers who come from the southern part of the sewers. They have made their own modifications to the sewers, and that occasionally the two groups fight for control over different territory.

Karrauk told him that we needed to leave, but we would try to bring him back some food and water. He thanked us again and said as long as he no longer sees the face he is happy. Karrauk gave him his furs to help keep him warm, and then we continued down deeper into the caves. After a short time the cave turned towards the south and then back to the west before opening into another large cavern. As Karrauk scouted around the corner he spotted a structure that seemed to have part of the ceiling collapsed on it. The north and east walls of the structure were exposed, but there didn’t appear to be an entrance. Each of the walls was a solid slab of stone, and the edges were worn and covered with moss.

Karrauk waved me up and pointed out the structure which had been outside of my sight. He crept forward and found the cave opened up more to the north. His examination of the structure led him to believe that the ceiling in this section was going to collapse a long time ago, but the structure prevented it. The structure was square-shaped, and the roof seemed to be like that of a ziggurat. As Karrauk examined it closer he noticed some kind of design on the side of the structure. It was very age-worn and covered in moss and grim, but after cleaning it off a bit we were able to determine it was a symbol of Bahamut.

After searching the walls of the building Karrauk was unable to find any switches or levers, leaving us to believe any entrance there might have been must now be trapped in the wall of the cave. We decided to move further into the cavern and found a large pool of filthy water. The air was foul and smokey, and we could see a tomb to the north with a guttering torch and a door with a flat silver plate in the shape of an open hand. The pool of water was moving in a strange circular motion that didn’t seem to match any kind of flow in the water.

There was another one of the structures on the north end of the pool that was partially submerged and opened on the southern side. It tipped into the pool slightly, and appeared to be flooded. There was also another building on the cave wall to the south of the pool which had cracks in the exposed wall. As Karrauk started to move past the pool, a blob of water suddenly charged out of it and attacked him.

The creature was crystal clear and splashed against Karrauk with a great deal of force. I fired my crossbow at the creature, but it flowed out of the way and then surged into Karrauk again. He hit the creature with his scimitar and it seemed to lose some cohesion. I charged in with my club and unsuccessfully tried to attack the monster. Karrauk is able to damage it again, but it splashes both of us causing serious harm. Finally after a third hit from Karrauk the elemental began to retreat back into the pool. With a final blow from Karrauk the creature exploded into droplets of water, and then the pool was calm again.

After the battle with the elemental we were both exhausted and injured, so we decided to head back to the Trencher’s Rest to recover before investigating further. By the time we got out of the sewers it is late in the day and the sun has started to set. When we reached the inn we greeted Brelnas and asked if he had a bath we could use. Luckily, he said they have a few baths in a separate area around the back that we could use for a quarter slip each. We bathed and washed off the filth of the sewers and relaxed. We had an evening meal of roast beef with biscuit, beans, and ale before heading back to our room. The next morning we paid Brelnas for another day of room and board.

March 15, 2170 AE: Breakfast was a filling meal of bacon, eggs, and toast. Before we headed back to the sewers Karrauk purchased a weeks worth of rations for Kathek. We were able to make our way back to the cave without incident, and Kathek was grateful for the food and water. When we reached the pool again we could see there was another one of the buildings in the eastern part of the room. This one had an opening on the southern wall we could actually reach. As we went inside we found a room with stone shelves, on which there were heaps of ash and broken pieces of pottery. On the ground it seemed as if the ash had been scattered around. It appeared as though some items may have been taken and all of the pottery was smashed to bits.

Finally, we headed to the tomb with the silver hand. Karrauk pushed on the door and it swung open easily. Inside the room was a sight similar to the previous tomb except in the center of the room was a stairway leading down. We headed down the stairs and found it lead to a room with shelves cut into the walls. On the ceiling of the room were the remains of what was once a mosaic pattern, though many of the tiles had been removed. From what was left of it, the mosaic also appeared to be a symbol of Bahamut. The only other item of interest was some sort of altar or box with a stone lid. I attempted to Detect Magic, but was unable to find anything of interest in the room. Karrauk used his any-tool as a crowbar to pry open the lid, but inside we found nothing.

As soon as we had the lid of the altar, four Veln wearing brown cloaks suddenly came charging down the stairs. The one in front was a male silver Veln wearing plate armor with a longsword in hand. Behind him were two other males, to his left was a black Veln wielding a mace and to the right a brass Veln with an axe. In the back was a white female Veln with a two-handed sword resting on her shoulder. The lead Veln glanced at our hands and seemed confused for a moment before stating that he knows we are working for the Ruby Guard and demanding we tell him where we are holding Janvyre. We tell him we are not working for the Ruby Guard, and the Veln on the right commented that you never know where Indies stand before being silenced.

The silver Veln stared at us in a way that almost seemed like he could see into our souls, before relaxing and saying we hold no evil in our hearts. He says it is unlikely the Ruby Guard would trust Indies to work on something so sensitive, much less half-humans. He will grant us mercy so long as we swear this meeting to secrecy. The black Veln reminded the lead Veln about the initiate, and that they still must rescue her. He replied that just because this action failed doesn’t mean he had given up, and that Brak’nal will guide them.

I explained to the group that we are working for Janvyre’s brother and ask if they have any information about her that might help us. They put away their weapons and the brass Veln commented that it seemed all their work tearing down the signs Davkul put up was for nothing. The silver Veln glared at him for a moment before telling us that he believed what we were saying, and that while his colleague spoke out of turn the reason they destroyed the signs was because they didn’t want to get any Indies involved. Karrauk asked why they would want to keep Indies out of it, and the silver Veln explained that the tomb with the silver hand was a trap to lure in the Ruby Guard. He finally introduced himself as Elhand Emberheart, and that the black Veln with the mace was Martiln Ancarv, the brass was Elgretor Flamesbreath, the white was Thersaadi Goldheart, and together they are the Order of Truth. We introduced ourselves in turn, and afterward they say we must pledge not to turn them in to the Ruby Guard before they will tell us any more.

Elhand explained that Janvyre was an initiate of their order, who was sent to Haven in order to meet up with a contact. She was only told that a silver hand would open the door for her in Haven. Unfortunately, the Ruby Guard found out about the meeting and attempted to arrest their contact before the meeting could take place, resulting in his death. When Janvyre arrived and found no-one waiting for her, she began to search the city looking for him. The Ruby Guard discovered her and began to tail her, which prevented the Order from being able to come to her assistance. Eventually the Guard arrested her and, knowing that all the information Janvyre had was about the silver hand and the stone door, the Order decided to set a trap for the Guard. The Order knew that Janvyre was being held at the fort, but they needed to know where her she was located in order to free her, and the prisoners are frequently rotated between cells. They don’t have the resources for a full-scale assault, but they believed they could free her from the outside of the walls as long as they knew where to breach the fort.

The Ruby Guard would never have sent anyone who wasn’t directly involved in the capture of Janvyre, so the Order hoped to capture a member with the knowledge of her location. They assumed Janvyre would break under the Ruby Guard’s questioning, but perhaps they had underestimated her resolve. Now that we were involved and had been asking around Haven about this place it was no longer safe for them to stay here. The silver hand had been placed on the door to this tomb, as it was actually a tomb related to Bahamut. Elhand’s rank in the Order is known as the “Silver Hand” and he was the one who would have been opening the door to new opportunities for Janvyre. That was what had originally been intended by the message to Janvyre, but they figured they could use the literal translation to lure in the Guard.

While the Order would like to discover the cell that Janvyre is being held in, most of the Ruby Guard would recognize their members on sight. Their best option would be to intercept the Ruby Guard daily correspondence. Due to the bloated size of the Guard they regularly have to send updates, including prisoner reports, to the capitol. Every day a courier and guard head through West Haven to a protected transport cart, which gathers supplies before heading west to the capitol. The best solution would be to ambush the courier on route as he travels through West Haven, but it is a wealthier area so there is a larger Guard presence.

Once the Order can get the information on Janvyre, they have some charges they acquired from Dwarven traders that they intend to use to open an entrance to the cell block from the outside of the fort. They plan to retrieve her during the night and escape with the element of surprise. Karrauk asked for more information on what the Order stands for and why they have such problems with the Ruby Guard. Elhand tells us the Order has problems not just with the Ruby Guard, but with all of the Syndicates. They oppose their existence and believe they have perverted a holy artifact of Brak’nal. The Syndicates are built on the horrors of an unending war with the undead, and while in previous ages people brought the fight to the undead the Syndicates were content with just holding their current territory. The Order believes that Kyran Steelscale’s armor should be in the hands of the followers of Brak’nal to be used to fight the undead. The Dwarves also hate the syndicates and Half-Orcs and Half-Elves are detested, they feel it is their duty to oppose both the kingdom and the Syndicates.

They told us that the courier takes a similar path each day. As it has become an very routine event the security has become lax after so long without any problems. There is only one member of the Guard with the courier and they always take the same route on the same schedule. The courier picks up the information from an administrator located in the courts at the fort. The Order felt that setting their trap for the Guard was a safer approach, because it would be difficult for them to avoid notice in West Haven. They would prefer not to have to take any action at all, but they refused to allow the Guard to unjustly hold Janvyre.

They didn’t want to approach her brother because they knew he was being watched. They intend to send them both back to New Adamant as soon as they can secure Janvyre’s freedom. They told us they would like our help to free her, but that we could take our time making the decision. They know the schedule of the Guard and the layout of West Haven, as well as various pieces of Ruby Guard armor that could be used as a disguise. It also might be possible to retrieve the information after it is delivered to the caravan, but they felt that would be a more dangerous approach as members of Cold Steel are sometimes hired to assist in protecting the caravan.

Karrauk asked how we could get in contact with them again after we made our decision. Elhand told us to meet them two days from now outside the city in an area to the north. A few miles out of town we would find an abandoned windmill at an old fallow farm. There we would have plenty of space and time to plan. We are to meet them at ten at night, and we are not to use any torches or lights until we reach the farm. He said that they would be leaving now but they look forward to seeing us there. As he left he removed the silver hand from the door and put it in his robes.

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