[Actual Play] TNC - PoW Chapter 9 - Heretics of Tarantia


On the Road of Kings

The Stygian traveled through an unknown forest. The air was stifling and the trees seemed to close in around him so tightly he could not see the night sky as he made his way through a tangled path. The short hairs at the base of his neck prickled as he felt something watched him from the dark past the trees. He quickened his pace, but the sound of something unseen breathed in the shadows and matched his step. The Stygian began to run, heedless of the thick undergrowth and tripped, falling hard to the ground. He looked up finding his way blocked by a barricade of piled skulls and bones. The slavering beast that hounded the Stygian leapt and wrestled him to the ground as teeth and claw tore through his flesh. The Stygian felt his life, nay his very soul was at stake and he struggled with an increased effort…to no avail. And then, when the very jaws of death were at his throat the sky brightened and the stars finally pierced the veil of oppressive night. One star shone brighter than the rest and the Stygian was bathed in a white light that banished the creature with a shriek. From that light floated a familiar figure. Yag-Kosha, in all his winged majesty, spoke into the Stygian’s head, “Dhakometri. This night Yag will be prominent in the heavens. Usher me forth with the stars’ light at the darkest hour. We must speak. This night. At the darkest hour. We must speak.” The white light grew brighter, blotting the figure of Yag-kosha from Dhak’s eyes and forced him to shut them in rapture. When he opened his eyes again he saw the sun overhead. His companions were already up and breaking camp as Dhak was tangled in his bedroll.

The spring sun had clearly shone Cuana’s, Dhak’s, Tullweim’s, and Xacksmith’s path to Tarantia along the Road of Kings. In the recent weeks of travel they had passed caravans of oxen-pulled wagons, merchants with full complements of armed guards protecting their goods, and fellow travelers moving to the capital city from outlying farms. The great plains of Aquilonia were sporadically broken up by wooded copses of trees and they had covered much ground the last few days of travel. The adventurers needed only travel a day and a half’s ride to the most regal city of the west. This morning their camp was all but broken and their horses were eager to stride. Tullweim tumbled Dhak out of his bedroll and urged him to get ready as the party was moving out. The Stygian grumbled under his breath but quickly gathered his belongings and saddled his horse.

Just as the adventurers started on the road they were hailed by a portly man with sandy blonde hair, a moustache, and wearing the robes of a Mitran priest. The man spurred his horse, an animal that looked as if it had been ridden hard in past days and was well beyond its prime, and galloped clumsily towards the party.

“Hail, my friends, <huff>, it’s good to see familiar faces abroad. <huff>”

Recognition dawned on Tullweim’s face as he remembered the Mitran priest as Daphnis, the very priest who informed the Aesir of the danger of Teotlamatl in Numalia and gave him the means to defeat the black fiend almost a year past. Daphnis greeted the two barbarian like comrades and inquired about their allies. His pleasantries stopped fast when he saw Dhak, however, and he asked who the Stygian was. Dhak cooly introduced himself and gazed into Daphnis eyes finding the priest wielded some sorcerous knowledge as well as a small amount of corruption. After introductions were made the Mitran priest asked if he could travel the rest of the journey to Tarantia in the adventurers’ company. The priest was eager to hear any tales of the adventurers recent exploits and was heartened when told of the defeat of Al’Kiir, though he warned that such evils never truly died. Daphnis informed the party that he too was doing his part in snuffing out the evils of the world. In fact, he was headed to Tarantia to discuss what the Mitran church planned to do about the troubling amount of demon trafficking occurring in these times. Daphnis was pleasant company, exchanged humorous tales on the road but kept a wary eye on Dhak and often spoke of ancient horrors being summoned by clueless nobles or darksome worshipping fools.

As night approached the party stopped at a large copse of trees by the side of the road. Daphnis, Dhak, and Xacksmith began setting up camp as Cuana and Tullweim went into the trees in search of water and game. After about an hour of searching Cuana returned to the camp empty handed but Tulleim had managed to kill an antelope. The Aesir dressed his catch and a fire was struck as the days light faded. Daphnis told the party he had little coin to pay for the food but did have a fine vintage of Nemedian wine which he had planned to save for the priests in the Mitraeum. With a chuckle he said the wine would be better used with friends beneath the stars then at a stuffy banquet table amid dry conversation. The jug was passed to Tullweim, then Xacksmith, then Cuana. The Cimmerian passed the jug to Dhak but the Stygian waved it away. Much laughter was had between the drink and bawdy tales the companions exchanged. When finally the fire had left the revelry, Dhak volunteered to take the first watch of the night.

About an hour after his companions laid their heads to the ground Dhak stole away from the camp. He did not travel far before finding a small clearing in the trees where the Stygian could observe the heavens. The Stygian stared intently through the Elephant’s Heart at the distant world of Yag. The light of the star filled the gem and soon Dhak felt himself to be in a different place. An empty void surrounded him with a low fog on the ground. Before the sorcerer floated Yag-Kosha among the dim light provided by his home planet. The yaggite raised his hand in a gesture of greeting and spoke.

“O man of the south, the time is right in this part of the world. The light of Yag will be shining down from the heavens for a short time. In this time you shall be able to use the powers of my Heart with greater ease.”

“Hrrrmm. Seeing the cast of Yag’s light I sense a force rising in the west. Furious is its power. Malice its intent. Many will suffer if this force gains prominence, though I see not the source… Ohhh.” Yag-Kosha seems to look through the void around Dhak and stated, “We are not alone.” The vision began to fade from the Stygian’s mind and he could hear the Yaggite’s voice trail into oblivion, “Something bars…” As Dhak felt the loss of the connection to the yaggite dissipate he heard another voice call loudly from behind.

“Awake my friends! Awake from your slumber! There is a snake in your camp! A serpent trafficking with devils who will bring doom down on all of our heads! By Mitra’s holy light awake my friends and witness this evil!”

Dhak turned with a hiss, grabbed his sword, and swore as he saw Daphnis yelling among the trees with his axe in hand. The Stygian could tell the Mitran priest had a counterspell prepared and engaged Daphnis in a war of souls. The priest’s will was strong, however, and Daphnis easily repelled the Stygian’s attempt. Meanwhile, Tullweim was the only to be roused by the priest’s cries of alarm. The Aesir grumbled as he grabbed his greatsword and stood up. He noticed Cuana and Xacksmith were still caught among the web of slumber and kicked both of his companions before rushing into the trees. Seeing the Aesir’s actions the Cimmerian and Hyrkanian were as quick on his heels as their drink addled minds would allow them. When they arrived they found Daphnis and Dhak squaring off. The priest again accused Dhak of devil-worship and the Stygian replied with an insult. Tullweim saw the Elephant’s Heart in Dhak’s hand and knew the red gem was used to communicate with Yag-Kosha. The Aesir attempted to explain that there was no harm in the ritual Dhak was performing but the shocked priest would not relent his insistence of witnessing Dhak perform foul magic. Still a bit drunk from the wine and upset at having been awoken, Xacksmith bull rushed the priest. Daphnis responded by hitting the drunken Hyrkanian in the head with the handle of his axe. Tullweim quickly broke up the fight, pulling Xacksmith off the Mitran priest. The disgusted Hyrkanian shook his head and turned to return to his bedroll. Daphnis did not relent on his accusations as Cuana and Tullweim shook their heads when the night erupted into violence.

Bursting from the trees came a small pack of howling, gray-skinned creatures. Their strides quickened as they broke into the clearing, murderous intent in their eyes and fanged mouths slavering. A ghoul attacked Cuana, Dhak, and Tullweim while Daphnis was flanked by a pair of the ravenous beasts. Back at the camp, Xacksmith had just reached his bedroll when a ghoul rushed at him and bloodied the Hyrkanian’s chest. Another ghoul clawed at Dhak’s horse. Daphnis deftly struck two blows at one of the creatures but his axe blade barely scratched the beast. Cuana and Tullweim had better success carving their Akbitanan greatswords into the ghouls’ hides. Dhak struck once with his arming sword before the ghoul wounded him with ragged claws and teeth. Tullweim was likewise hit and the creatures’ relentless jaws bit deep into both the Aesir and Stygian. The Cimmerian suffered only a raking claw and saw that two of his companions grappled in vain against their attackers. Unbeknown to the others, Xacksmith and Dhak’s horse was also caught between a ghoul’s maw. The clearing was a chaos of blades, blood, and ichor as teeth rent and steel slashed, creatures howled and men cursed.

Cuana savagely struck twice, killing one of the ghouls, and cleaved into another which had attacked Daphnis. Tullweim allowed his fury to rise, but despite his great strength could not shake the creature off. Daphnis again struck twice at a beast and again barely penetrated the ghoul’s thick hide. Dhak and Xacksmith remained helpless by the creatures, the Stygian remembering his dream with no small amount of irony. Dhak’s horse was slaughtered mercilessly and Xacksmith’s steed was quickly beset upon. Cuana struck again and felled another ghoul as Tullweim managed to remove tooth from flesh and break the hold the ghoul had upon him. The Aesir’s freedom was momentary as the ghoul again clawed and latched onto the barbarian. The Cimmerian knew that his companions were all in trouble but the sounds of horses being slaughtered caught his attention and he ran back to the camp to find Xacksmith laying still in a pool of his own blood and two of their horses dead, great chunks of flesh torn away from their sides. Daphnis still held his own against the beast he fought with but had taken several grievous wounds. Tullweim again broke free of the ghoul and focused all his rage into a powerful attack on his foe, slaying the beast. Cuana slashed with a powerful attack at the ghoul which felled Xacksmith. Daphnis struck at the ghoul before him and his axe blade sunk deep. Tullweim then turned his attention to Dhak and separated his attacker’s head from its shoulders. The Aesir and Stygian left the Mitran priest alone to fend for himself as they rushed to attack the ghoul which was killing their horses.

With their focused effort on the last two ghouls the battle ended as quickly as it had begun. The whole campsite was splattered with bits of gray flesh, gore, and repulsive-smelling ichor. A deeply wounded Daphnis returned to the camp and admonished the adventurers as he saw to their Hyrkanian companion, claiming the ghouls attack as proof that only harm could come from the Stygian’s communion. As the others mended their own wounds they again defended Dhak. The sorceror himself was livid with rage and demanded the Mitran priest leave their camp or have his gut opened. Daphnis looked to Cuana and Tullweim and saw no objection to Dhak’s threat. The priest gathered his things, mounted his horse and left saying, “My friends, I fear you have been ensorcelled by this serpent. I will be party to it no longer. Mitra have mercy on your souls.” The adventurers roused Xacksmith and gathered their things silently. They broke camp and traveled 100 yards away, Tullweim allowing the Hyrkanian to ride his horse. They spent the next day resting as they could, finishing the meager rations and water they had left before setting on the road again.

The Jewel of the West

At the center of a vast plain dotted with woods and divided into small estates, laid the capital city of Aquilonia, Tarantia. Above the hill the city sat upon the travelers saw the many blue and golden towers of the metropolis rising into the sky and the majesty of the city stole their breath. They passed rich agricultural land, many small villages, the corpses of traitors left to rot, and the bridge of Vilerus the First before reaching the cities’ massive gate in the early evening. There they were admitted through the gate. Tullweim inquired about an inn and one of the guards recommended an inn nearby called the Stag and Whistle. The party quickly found the Stag and Whistle, a simple and functional inn in the South Gate Ward of the city which would not cost much coin from their dwindling purse and would provide the creature comforts necessary after a long journey.

At the inn Cuana, Tullweim, and Xacksmith secured rooms, food, and ale. Dhak had a more difficult time. The innkeeper ignored the Stygian, never looking up from the tankard he washed. The Stygian narrowed his eyes and as the innkeeper set the glass down Dhak cast a simple spell of prestidigitation. The sorcerer then pointed out that the glass was still dirty. The annoyed innkeeper inspected the tankard and it looked as if he had not even touched it with his wash towel. The Stygian then leaned in threateningly close to the innkeeper and dropped several silver coins. He was given a meal, ale, and a room with no further problems.

After bellies were filled, thirst quenched, and accommodations arranged, the adventurers set out to purchase some equipment. Tullweim went to a blacksmith and purchased 2 daggers for Dhak as well as explained the specifics of a Nordheimer weapon he wished to be crafted. Once various goods were purchased the party planned to carouse the night away. They had little coin left and decided to relieve a merchant of his purse. Xacksmith looked around the darkened streets and spied a fat bald man wearing exquisite silver jewelry leaving his shop with 2 bodyguards close by. Dhak and Xacksmith approached the merchant while Cuana and Tullweim approached the bodyguards. The barbarians were given a wary eye and ordered to stand back as the bodyguards reached for their weapons. Dhak engaged the merchant and inquired about the wares the merchant sold. Xacksmith used the opportunity to look as if he were casually walking down the street and with some sleight-of-hand the Hyrkanian relieved the merchant of his purse. Cuana and Tullweim backed away with false apologies that they were only interested in asking where they could find as fine weapons as the bodyguards held. The commotion behind caused the merchant to look around nervously and excuse himself. He invited the Stygian to examine his wares the next day and called his bodyguards to hurry.

Once the party regrouped Xacksmith informed his companions of the the fruit of their haul. They now had plenty of silver to spend on the Avenue of Roses and could afford the company of 2 women each and a bit more drink, if not much else. The group wandered the streets with brothels on all sides and their ears rang with the inviting calls of beautiful blonde Brythunians and eager dark-haired Zamorians known for being skilled in their trade. The adventurers reveled with the taste of ale on their lips and the touch of women at their sides for hours before running out of coin. As they could no longer pay for the pleasure the party was shown the door.

Blasphemy in Delvyn

Torches flared murkily on Tarantia’s streets as the party made their way through the benighted city. Midnight approached and a chill crept through the grimy cobbles, a world apart from the reputed glory and tiled plazas of the Citadel. Ahead of the adventurers, a man stumbled, caressing a nearby wall for support; at first glance, he seemed to be just another drunkard, staggering home after a long night in the taverns. As he fumbled closer, however, they noted that this was no average drunkard. The figure was clad in the black robes of a Mitran priest, and something about his clumsy gait suggested more than mere alcohol had induced it. The faltering priest managed a few more steps before falling to his knees on the filthy cobblestones, a feathered arrow shaft jutting from his back, his hand extended toward the party in a sign of desperation. They recognized the priest as Daphnis, the very man they had traveled with but a day past.

His lips moved as the adventurers approached, a trail of bloody spittle leaking from the corner of his mustached mouth. ‘Treason,’ he gasped in a reedy, failing voice. ‘Heresy … all lies … stop Brotherhood … midnight … cemetery … Delvyn…’ these last few words seemed to tax the last of the dying man’s strength, and his final breath rattled from his lungs. Cuana, Tullweim, and Xacksmith looked to one another, the Aesir obviously upset at the death of a former ally. The questions hung in the air as to who would kill a priest of Mitra and where exactly was the Delvyn cemetery. Dhak told his companions to be silent and they would have their answers. The Stygian knelt beside the body of the dead priest, voiced arcane words and gestured ominously with his hands. To his companions surprise Daphnis’ eyes bolted open and the priest gasped. He looked up at the Stygian’s face and screamed in horror as he realized what the sorcerer had done. Dhak smiled in return and assured the priest he would be returned to death’s embrace after he answered some questions. Daphnis cursed the Stygian and implored him to hurry to the Delvyn cemetery and stop the sacrifice. Dhak asked the corpse of the Mitran priest where they could find the cemetery and Daphnis told him to go to the northeast corner of the city as quickly as possible. The Stygian nodded in understanding and ended the fragile string or sorcery that kept the priest on this plane of existence.

Navigating Delvyn’s cramped alleyways, ramshackle buildings, mouldy tenements, tiny shops and stinking taverns was a difficult task for anyone not born to its narrow, winding streets and dead-end alleys, making the small ward seem much bigger than it was, particularly now as the adventurers hurried through the dark night towards Tarantia’s largest public cemetery. The Delvyn cemetery was a burial ground for the poor, a mostly untended and unkempt field littered with tiny markers, the majority of which had long since been weathered into anonymity. Corpses of those wealthy enough interred individually here, lacking access to family mausoleums, are buried standing up, to make the most use of the available room. Most of those buried here, however, are not even accorded the honour of a private grave, but were cast into deep mass graves, their bodies dusted with lye.

Xacksmith heard the voices of men restraining a woman deep in the cemetery. The party rushed as quick as the cramped tombstones allowed, and arrived at an opening of a particularly wealthy plot. In the light of an overturned lantern struggled a young woman held by two men wearing the robes of the cult of Asura. The woman was against a slab with a disinterred corpse atop it. Two more men identically dressed watched while a fifth man raised a dagger above the woman. With a rapid strike Xacksmrith fired twice before the dagger could fall, each arrow driving deep into a separate socket of the priests’ shaved skull. Cuana and Tullweim rushed forward letting out cries of fury as their greatswords fell upon the two closest men. Dhak’s words of charnel power caused the felled cultist to stir, his cheeks daubed with tears of blood. The woman screamed in terror as one of the men released her and ran as did the cultist who the Cimmerian engaged. Cuana took the opportunity provided by the stark fear in his opponent to split the man’s left shoulder from his body. The cultist Tullweim attacked lunged past the Aesir and attacked the Stygian. Xacksmith sunk 2 arrows into Dhak’s assailant while Cuana landed a powerful attack on the cultist who still held the terrified woman. Tullweim raced after the fleeing cultist and drove his greatsword straight through the screaming man’s gut. Dhak stepped back from his attacker and fired 3 shots into him with his Stygian bow. The woman’s screams in the gruesome scene echoed throughout the cemetery into the dark night.
Hard Questions for Hard Men

The girl’s scream pierced the dark night as she ran amid the tombstones and dead cultists. All those who had taken Alida had fallen in bloody combat. But the lead cultist yet stood despite the arrows jutting from his eye sockets. The girl ran as quick as she could but the tightly packed tombstones slowed her panicked egress. Mighty arms wrapped around her and she kicked and screamed in terror. Alida could barely understand what the man who held her said but he turned her around to face the scene and all who had perished remained still on the ground. Tullweim comforted the attractive young girl while Xacksmith looted the corpses and discovered a small fortune of silver among the 5 cultists. Dhak found a scrap of paper on the head cultist with strange symbols scrawled on it which the sorcerer could not identify. The Stygian contemplated a moment and then asked Cuana to separate the head from the cultist’s body so Dhak could get answers by necromancy in a secure location. The Cimmerian lifted his sword and was poised to deliver the blow when he was stopped by a call to halt.

Up on a nearby hill stood soldiers in the livery of the city watch. The guards came upon the scene and demanded an explanation. Dhak was able to diplomatically pacify the soldiers with the aid of Alida’s tale. She informed the watchmen that she had no idea she was taken or what was to happen to her. She was nabbed from the street by the five men in Asuran robes, bound, gagged, and brought directly to the Delvyn cemetery. The guards decided not to arrest the adventurers but insisted the party accompany them to the guardhouse for further questioning. Once there the party was asked to explain the entirety of the events which occurred that night. Dhak tried to keep any word of the Mitran priest Daphnis from mention, going so far as offering the coin taken from the cultists person. Eventually after telling the tale time and again one of the other sellswords voiced the slain priest’s name. The guards regarded the murder of a Mitran priest as a horrific crime and the tale continued up the chain of command. More and more senior officers heard the story and nearly two hours after being brought in for questioning a man clad in the balckened armor of the Black Dragons, the King’s personal guards, arrived at the guard station. The seasoned soldier informed the party they were released from custody but were ordered to appear at the Chancellory at first light. The adventurers acknowledged the order and returned to their accommodations at the Stag and Whistle for a few hours of much-needed rest.

The Chancellory

As dawn broke over the golden city of Tarantia, a rapping at Cuana’s chamber door woke the Cimmerian. A young pageboy, dressed in the livery of the king, introduced himself as Arn and told Cuana that he had been sent by the Chancellor to accompany the band to the Chancellory. Cuana roused the others who filed down the stairs, following the pageboy.

In the morning light the adventurers approached the Chancellory, which was strictly speaking a mansion, but seemed to be designed to withstand a siege. Parapets and crenulations lined the rooftop, and four of Aquilonia’s Black Dragons, stood to attention before the building’s ironbound door. Clad in their trademark blackened armour and horned great helms, they rapped the butts of their spears on the flagstones three times in unison as the party approached, signalling them to halt.

‘The king’s chancellor is expecting us,’ announced Arn, stepping forward. ‘I am to escort these guests to him.’

The quartet of menacing warriors eyed the young man a moment longer before stepping to one side and beckoning the band forward. The Black Dragons relieved the sellswords of their weapons before they followed the pageboy into the Chancellory. Arn led them down a long, columned hall lit by narrow windows high above and through a heavy wooden door at the passageway’s end. The party passed through two large reception rooms before their young guide stopped in front of a well-worn door, flanked on either side by another pair of Black Dragon guards, every bit as regal as those at the front gate. The young pageboy opened the door and gestured for the party to enter.

The room beyond the guarded door was small, its ornate mosaic floor all but hidden beneath a large collection of rugs. One wall hosted a large bookshelf, while the opposite wall contained a wide hearth, on which a low fire smouldered. The room was lit by three tall windows in the wall opposite the door they came through, as well as a brass chandelier laden with candles which hung from the ceiling. Between the bookshelf and the hearth was a long wooden table, eight chairs set about it.

The pageboy bowed briefly and left, closing the door behind him. A moment later, another door, almost hidden by the bookcase, opened and an elderly man in fine clothing walked into the room. A gauntleted hand reached in from behind him and pulled the door closed again.

‘Please take a seat,’ the man said, gesturing to the table.

‘I am Publius, Chancellor of Aquilonia, and I would like to speak to you about last night.’

The party recited their version of what happened once more, often interrupted as Publius asked for more details on a specific incident. The Chancellor dwelt primarily on the words of the dying priest and the particulars of what happened at the Delvyn cemetery. Publius was a patient and careful listener, but was also extremely insightful and very nearly impossible to fool, evidenced by causing Tullweim to slip when calling Dhak by his true name instead of the alias the Stygian had concocted at the guardhouse. The Chancellor was particularly interested in the opinions and insights the adventurers had into the events of the past night. He asked what they thought of the events of the previous evening meant, whether they had any reason to believe Daphnis sought them out after being shot, or if they were simply the first people he stumbled upon and whether they had any knowledge as to the meaning or origin of the symbols found on the Asuran priests. Only after weighing the parties answers did Publius divulge the truths he knew, that the symbols seemed to be markings sacred to the cult of Asura, but there was no indication they had ever been used in such a manner before, certainly not in Tarantia.

‘Very well,’ Publius said once all his questions had been answered. ‘I thank you for your assistance thus far, and would like to impose upon you further, if I may. This is a troublesome business indeed, one that I sense is more complex than it may seem. Where religion is concerned, passions run high – already rumours of last night’s activities in Delvyn are beginning to circulate through other parts of the city, and I fear the rumours will soon become accusations, breeding violence. I must know exactly what is happening, but I sense I would be best served by not making the king’s interest in this matter public, and that precludes my use of more traditional channels of investigation, therefore, I turn to you. I wish you to investigate this incident, discover if there is indeed a deeper truth, and, if possible, resolve this situation before it festers too long. You will, of course, be compensated.’

Cuana asked to be provided with some kind of writ, establishing in writing their authority to investigate this matter, but Publius would not provide it. After all, a large part of his reason for using outsiders to resolve this problem was to keep the government out of it. He offered the adventurers a reward of 1,000 silver pieces if they were able to unravel this mystery to his satisfaction, and was even willing to pay half of it in advance. Dhak then spoke, demanding absolute truth from Publius throughout the investigation. The wise chancellor turned to the Stygian and spoke with a wry smirk on his face, “Of course…Dhak was it? I will deal honestly with you if thou deals true with me.”

After the party agreed to help, Publius identified the arrow that killed Daphnis as one fired by a man named Essenic, an infamous sellsword of Tarantia who could often be found on the Avenue of Roses. With that lead the band was dismissed, recovered their weapons at the door and journeyed once again to the district of brothels, wine, and whores.

Hunting the Hunter

As the party made their way through the streets of the city that day, they heard rumours of what happened the night before – the unholy murder of a Mitran priest and the terrible rites conducted in the public cemetery – were the talk of the town. Most citizens of Tarantia were only then hearing of it, but still, the alternating tones of shock and anger the adventurers heard as they journeyed through the city proved the chancellor right. Finally the band arrived at the Avenue of Roses, a three-acre section of the city which held all but four of Tarantia’s 53 brothels. The party would not call themselves strangers to the interconnected buildings here, at least three stories high, which created a maze of narrow, winding paths. The streets and byways of this region of the city snaked their way between buildings, each filled with those hawking themselves and their wares to passers-by. After an hour of spreading handfills of silver asking eunuch and whore alike about Essenic the adventurers heard that Daphnis’ murderer had gone into the House of Nine Jewels late last night and had not yet left.

Cuana, Dhak, Tullweim, and Xacksmith arrived at the House of Nine Jewels and made themselves comfortable. They seated themselves at the bar and asked the whore attending them of Essenic. She gestured to a blonde Brythunian and said the sellsword was Yarina’s client. Tullweim took the initiative to speak with Yarina while Cuana, Dhak, and Xacksmith stayed at the bar ordering exotic beverages from the women around them. The Aesir inquired of Yarina about Essenic. The whore smiled and informed Tullweim that she charged for talk-jobs. The barbarian returned the smile and said if he must pay he would require her other services as well and placed 10 silver coins into her palm. The Brythunian led Tullweim to a room upstairs to see to business. Though the Aesir enjoyed the interview greatly there was little Yarina could tell him other than Essenic had not stayed the entire night and did not pay her for conversation. The whore then intimated that Essenic was a tall, broad-shouldered man with an unkempt mane of tawny hair, willing to sell his services to anyone with the coin to pay him, and did not care what he was ordered to do. With the business concluded Tullweim returned to his companions and shared the information he had been given. Not wishing to spend the day asking questions of a populace known for despising Stygians, Dhak split from the party to return to the Delvyn cemetery, where he hoped to find the corpse of the Asuran priest to question.

Fortunately for the adventurers, Essenic was not an entirely unknown person in Tarantia. Cuana, Tullweim, and Xacksmith spent several hours and many coins hunting him down. Unfortunately for them the shocked tones of the previous nights events were now gone, replaced by dark threats of violence against the foreign religions and the adventurers had to be cautious with whom they asked information of. The Cimmerian heard a tale of Essenic once killing a man by picking him up by his ankles and flinging him headfirst into a stone wall. Cuana also heard a rumor that the Asurans and their foul sorceries had caused King Conan and Lord Trocero to flee the city. Tullweim learned the sellsword was originally from Shamar but had come to Tarantia a decade prior. The Aesir was then told of children’s bodies, murdered and marked with arcane symbols found inside a locked warehouse in the South Gate Ward of the city in the morning. Xacksmith was informed of Essenic’s wife, Lyness, who worked in the Khorotas Ward outside the city as a laundress. The man who told the Hyrkanian this warned that a number of trade barges plying the Khorotas River between Tarantia and Messantia had vanished recently. Each time, an Asuran funeral boat was spotted heading downriver within hours of the barge’s departure from the docks. With the costly information gained, Cuana, Tullweim, and Xacksmith traveled out the South Gate to the Khorotas Ward.

Meanwhile, Dhak had traveled across the city and was up to his elbows digging through the many corpses in a mass grave. The Stygian was aghast at the unceremonious manner the Aquilonians disposed of their dead and even moreso aghast at the stench the open grave held. But the sorcerer pressed on with his gruesome task and at length came across the body of one of the men killed in the cemetery. It was not the priest he’d hoped to find but would suffice. Dhak wove a spell of necromancy and the dead man’s eyes opened in shock. The Stygian put forth his questions, threatening an eternity of decomposing underneath the piles of the dead in complete awareness if the cultist did not answer truthfully. The dead man frightfully answered Dhak’s question without hesitation. The Stygian was able to learn the man’s name was Hegerd and that he was recruited in a tavern called the Weary Road in the North Gate Ward 6 days prior by a man he was certain was an Asuran priest. The Asuran priest did not give a name, but offered the mercenaries 1,000 silver coins to kidnap a random girl, take her to the cemetery and draw certain sigils in blood. The mercenaries had to copy the sigils down as the Asuran would not allow them to take the parchment the priest had brought with him. Hegerd also told the Stygian that he and the others had to acquire the robes they were wearing themselves. Satisfied with the corpses answers Dhak stopped the spell and traveled back to the Stag and Whistle inn.

On the banks of the Khorotas

The Khorotas Ward of Tarantia laid outside the city proper, spread out along the banks of the river from which it took its name. It was home to much of the city’s industry – at least those industries that produced the tremendously unpleasant stench that filled the air there. Docks and jetties projected out into the river from both banks and trade barges came and went at all hours, being loaded and unloaded in a near-constant flurry of activity before leaving to ply their wares up and down the Khorotas River. Many of the barges were marked with the crests of the Messantian merchant houses, whose wealth seemed boundless, and those relatively grand vessels seemed distinctly out of place in this stinking, crowded place, full of warehouses, tenements, unfriendly taverns and the grinding industry.

It did not take long for Cuana, Tullweim, and Xacksmith to find the tiny room on the second floor of a small clapboard tenement where Lyness plied her trade. Great pails of water filled the room as well as piles of soiled clothes. Tullweim stood in the doorway and rapped once on the door. The woman inside was not unattractive but had the weary look of one who labored long hours. She barely looked up at the Aesir, commented on his tattered clothes and explained she charged per garment. Tullweim looked down at his clothes and realized the months of travel and combat had left them in a foul state. He laid a generous amount of silver on a nearby table and stated that he would like his clothing cleaned but he had sought Lyness out in order to reach her husband. It was clear from the moment he mentioned the mercenaries name that Lyness bore little love for her wayward husband. However, she had not seen Essenic in nearly a month, so had little to offer the Aesir other than she knew he wasted much time in a riverfront tavern called The House of Lions. The group decided that Cuana and Xacksmith would check out the tavern while Tullweim waited for his clothes to be washed.

The House of Lions was a single-storey building jutting out onto one of the dozens of docks that lined the banks of the Khorotas River as it passed through this district of Tarantia, built so that half of the building was on land, while the other half hovered over the water, a fitting symbol of the men who made up the majority of its clientele. The tavern was a rowdy place filled with equally rowdy men – river traders, bargemen and dock workers all came to deaden the pains and aches of a day’s toil in a jack of beer. The boisterous tavern offered nothing in the way of entertainment – no minstrels plucked at strings, no girls danced for the hollering crowd. Still, it was loud, and all could hear short snippets of bawdy songs even as one approached the door. Within the taverns gloomy confines, the air was heavy with smoke and thick with the irksome reek of stale sweat, wine and beer. Men gathered about the tavern’s battered tables, playing at dice and calling out cries of victory or anger upon the luck of a single roll. Others hovered about the bar itself, waiting like vultures for a fresh mug before rejoining the revelry. In the centre of the room, one man teetered atop a rickety table, the flash of steel in his hand and the flash of silver in the hands of those about the table as he played a drunken game of mumblety peg. A few heads turned in Cuana and Xacksmith’s direction as they entered, took a cautious look, then turned back to their amusements.

The Cimmerian and Hyrkanian’s eyes scanned a sea of hard, weathered faces, the rough patrons of the House of the Lion, looking for their quarry. Their attention fell on the table in the centre of the room, if for no other reason than the sudden and bloodcurdling scream which rose from it. One of the men playing mumblety peg seemed to have badly misjudged his own skill and had impaled his own foot with his blade. A raucous laugh rose above the screams, emanating mockingly from a tall, broad-shouldered man who scooped a small pile of silver from the table and into a worn leather pouch. Clad in a mail shirt and boasting a mane of unkempt, tawny hair, there was little doubt in Cuana and Xacksmith’s mind this was the man they sought.

Xacksmith walked up to Essenic and offered to take the wounded man’s place at the table as Cuana ordered a stiff drink at the bar. Essenic asked if the Hyrkanian had coin to play and Xacksmith nodded. The drunk with the wounded foot was unceremoniously kicked off his chair as the mercenery invited Xacksmith to go first. The Hyrkanian pulled out the dagger he had pilfered off Galbro so many months ago and threw it at Essenic making a slight cut on the mercenaries’ leg. The mercenary spit vitrol and bile at the Hyrkanian and reached for his greatsword. In an attempt to pacify the situation Cuana offered Essenic the drink which had just been placed in his hand. The mercenery scowled at the Cimmerian, refused the drink, and spat out an insult. Enraged, Cuana smashed the tankard of ale on the mercenaries crown. With a swift motion Essenic drew his greatsword and cleaved deep into Cuana’s side. The Cimmerian reeled from the blow and had to lean against the bar to steady himself. The rest of the patrons went dead silent in anticipation of the killing strike they were sure would follow. They were disappointed as Essenic told the men with him to get the Cimmerian out of his sight and Xacksmith followed as Cuana was cast out the door.

When Dhak arrived at his room in the Stag and Whistle he cast a spell of viewing onto the silver mirror he wore around his neck. There he saw Xacksmith carrying a deeply wounded Cuana into Lyness’ home as Tullweim put his slightly damp tunic back on. The Stygian’s brow furrowed and he followed the vision to his compatriots. He arrived shortly thereafter to find the rest of the party arguing over how to handle Essenic’s capture. Dhak asked for an item belonging to the mercenary and Lyness said she had several. The shrewd woman would not part with it without a price however. Tullweim paid to have a battered and broken helm which Essenic had worn in past battles. Dhak took the helm and viewed it from behind Yag-Kosha’s heart. With the gem the Stygian cast a great curse on Essenic. He then looked to the others and stated they were to aid him in replenishing his sorcerous energy and subdue their weakened prey.

After having subdued a pair of Argossean sailors to refuel the Stygian’s power the adventurers returned to the House of Lions. Cuana, barely held together by the quick stitching Tullweim had given him, decided to remain outside behind a corner. Dhak nodded and told Tullweim and Xacksmith to bring Essenic outside where the Cimmerian and Stygian could surprise the mercenary. Tullweim and Xacksmith entered the tavern and the Hyrkanian pointed out Essenic to the Aesir. Tullweim walked straight to his quarry and grabbed the mercenaries shoulder. Essenic rounded on the Aesir and stood up demanding he take his drunken hand off him or lose it. Tullweim replied that he sought to duel Essenic for the state he had left his Cimmerian companion in. Essenic laughed and accepted with much bravado.

The two warriors stepped outside followed by Xacksmith, the 3 sellswords who had gamed with Essenic, and several of the local drunks who placed bets on the fight. Tullweim drew his weapon as the mercenary did the same but before the battle could begin Xacksmith moved swiftly behind one of Essenic’s men and mercilessly slit his throat. Enraged at the treacherous move the infamous mercenary put all his might behind a wild swing at the Aesir but Tullweim easily side-stepped the clumsy attempt. Essenic swung again and the seasoned warrior was bewildered that his movements seemed slow and off their mark as he missed the barbarian a second time. The sellsword closest to Tullweim had better luck as his broadsword cut through the Aesir’s armor and bit into the flesh underneath. Dhak revealed himself by weaving a necromantic spell to raise the mercenary which Xacksmith had dispatched. The sight of the fallen man standing back up, his throat still spitting blood, caused many of the crowd of onlookers and Essenic’s remaining men to flee in terror. Tullweim’s eyes clouded with rage at seeing the raised corpse and he struck Essenic with 2 vicious blows as Dhak retrieved the Elephant’s Heart from his belt. The Stygian looked through the mystical gem at the sellsword who shrunk to half his size. Essenic screamed in panic and tried to run away as the berserk Aesir brought his gemmed Akbitanan greatsword down carving the still shrinking mercenary in twain. Dhak angrily reprimanded Tullweim and ordered him to pick up the 2 pieces of what had once been their quarry. The Aesir did so and the party fled to a nearby dock before any of the local law enforcement arrived.

Amid the refuse which collected underneath the docks along the Khorotas river the Stygian told Tullweim to hold the 2 halves of the diminutive figure together. The Aesir did so as Dhak attempted to sorcerously breathe life back into the sellsword. The result was a bleeding, warbling abomination without the faculty nor vocal functions to answer any of the adventurers questions. Tullweim cast the monstrosity into the river for the fish to devour as Dhak rubbed his temples to ease the pain their current predicament induced. Finally it was decided the party would return to the Stag and Whistle and renew their efforts in the morrow.

Meeting in Twilight

The sun was just touching the western horizon, colouring the buildings of Tarantia crimson and orange and casting long, thin shadows across the narrow cobbled streets the adventurers had spent the day walking. Their limbs ached and the wounds left by the recent battle with the mercenary Essenic stinging, they found themselves looking forward wistfully to hearth and rest, and perhaps a solid meal and a few skins of ale when a carriage rattled to a stop beside the party and the door swung open. It seemed hearth and rest would have to wait.

A man in his late middle years, clad in the dark robes of a Mitran priest, leaned out of the carriage to beckon the adventurers closer. He was a thickly-built, broad-shouldered man who looked as though he would have made an exceptional warrior, and judging by the crook of his nose, it seemed as if he had been in a fight or two during his life. His head was shaven, but he boasted a neatly trimmed beard of dark, if greying, hair.

‘May I offer you a ride?’ he asked. ‘I would like to speak to you for a few moments, and you have the look of those in need of a rest.’

As they all clambered aboard, he asked the parties destination, called it out to the driver, and waited until the carriage was under way again. ‘I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak to you,’ he continued. ‘My name is Constanus, and, as you may have guessed, I am a priest of the one god Mitra. We were all most distraught to learn of the pious Daphnis’ murder at the hands of the blasphemous Asura worshippers. I understand you were the last to speak to him before he went on to the halls of Mitra?’

During the ride back to the Stag and Whistle, Constanus inquired much regarding what the party heard from Daphnis, what they had discovered during their investigation and what they intended to do next. Dhak took the opportunity to look into Constanus’ soul and found him to be a powerful sorcerer. Tullweim answered many of Constanus questions and Cuana inquired if the adventurers could be allowed to look through Daphnis’ room. Constanus told the Cimmerian that Daphnis was from Nemedia, the room he had occupied was for guests of the Mitraeum and there was naught to find there as the dead priests belongings had already been removed. Cuana explained that he would like to see it still and Constanus again refused stating it was only for Mitran priests to traverse those corridors of the church. The priest claimed to have further evidence that the Asurans were behind Daphnis’ murder but stated he was not yet able to reveal it. The cart finally stopped at the Stag and Whistle and Constanus wished the adventurers luck in bringing the Asurans to justice.

Knives in the Dark

After meals were eaten and copious amounts of ale had been drunk the adventurers retired to their respective quarters to rest their weary heads and forget the days troubles. It was late in the night and the entire inn slumbered when Tullweim was awaken by a stirring in his room. The Aesir opened his eyes to see a shadowy figure enter through the window with a short sword in hand. The barbarian bellowed out with rage as he reached for his greatsword. The would-be assassin slashed into Tullweim’s chest and the Aesir responded by lopping his head off with a single stroke. The others had been roused by Tullweim’s roar, each discovering a slayer in their room. Cuana and Xacksmith were both wounded severely by their attacker’s blades, the Hyrkanian succumbed to the oblivion of unconsciousness while Cuana reached for his weapon. Dhak avoided a lethal strike and unsheathed his ghanata knife which he had previously coated with a poisonous concoction. The Stygian reeled on his attacker and struck a glancing blow which did no great harm to his opponent but allowed the poison access to the assassins veins. The man’s once steady hands trembled and his vision clouded as he feebly attempted to strike Dhak.

Cuana struck at his foe with his sword’s pommel. The assassin deftly avoided the blow and sunk his short sword into the Cimmerian’s shoulder. Tullweim threw open the door to his chambers and noticed other occupants in nearby rooms had been roused by the sounds of battle. The Aesir ignored them and listened for his companions, hearing the sounds of battle from Cuana and Dhak’s rooms but only silence from Xacksmith’s quarters. The barbarian bashed in the door to the Hyrkanian’s room and saw another assassin standing over Xacksmith’s still body. Tullweim charged at the slayer and drove his greatsword straight through the rogue’s gut. Dhak watched with amusement as his opponent’s sight completely left him and blood began to trickle from the rogue’s eyes, nose, ears, and mouth. The wretch attempted one final thrust at the Stygian but his swing went wide and he fell dead to the floor. Dhak looked over his foe and noticed a talisman with an unfamiliar sigil around the assassins neck. The Stygian yanked the talisman free and moved into the hallway as the innkeeper tromped up the stairs demanding to know what was going on. Dhak cast a steely gaze at the innkeeper and told him to return to bed. The man backed away from the stairs and called for the city watch. The only foe yet standing squared off with Cuana but he too was brought low as the Cimmerian struck him aside the head with a powerful swing of the flat of his greatswords blade.
Questions in the Dead of Night

In past nights Brocas had grudgingly served soldiers of the watch heavily discounted ale and cleaned the mud they tracked in with a curse under his breath. But never in all the years the aging innkeeper had owned the Stag & Whistle was Brocas happier to see the city watch walk into the common room. “They’re upstairs! The brigands who have wrecked four of my rooms and threatened me in my very inn!” The soldiers grunted at the fat old man to clear the way as they tromped up the stairs where Cuana and Tullweim blocked their path. The highest ranked watchman ordered the Cimmerian and Aesir to stand back. The bloodied slayers did so and gave their names freely when asked.

Meanwhile, Dhak and Xacksmith had stolen into Cuana’s room to deal with the unconscious assassin within. The Stygian searched the body and found a talisman on a leather thong around the rogue’s neck. Xacksmith tied his rope to the nearby window and then to the assassin’s legs. The pair lowered the man down to the alley below before they made their way to the ground silent as shadows. Xacksmith found rubble in the alley to hide the prisoner behind, quickly shackled manacles around the man’s legs and bound his arms with rope as Dhak kept a lookout for the watch who stood outside the front of the Stag & Whistle.

Inside the inn Cuana and Tullweim told their tale of the attempted assassinations. The lead watchman was dubious of Cuana’s version of the story that there were only 3 attackers, for the Cimmerian’s wounds betrayed that he’d been in combat. The watch noted the 3 bodies in the Aesir’s, Hyrkanian’s and Stygian’s rooms. The soldier who questioned Cuana threw open the door to the barbarian’s chamber. Inside stood Dhak and Xacksmith. They too were questioned but Dhak bluffed that his and the Hyrkanian’s presence in the room was due to fear of another attack. The glib tongued Stygian convinced the watchman that the absence of a fourth body was due to there being only 3 assailants.

One of the guards questioned an occupant in the room opposite of Cuana’s. The frightened man whispered of what he heard and saw. His voice lowered further when he mentioned the talisman spied around the assassin’s throat. The watch took on a grim manner as they believed they were dealing with another incident caused by the vile cult of Asura. They gathered the 3 corpses for the meat wagon and were about to depart when Brocas insisted the watch arrest the adventurers. But the watchmen felt the party had done Tarantia a service by killing foul cultists and told the innkeeper if he wanted to eject them from the premises he was free to do so himself. Brocas looked up at the bloodied men and shook his head. He then promised silver if the watch left some men to keep guard and make sure no more damage came to his property. The captain agreed and ordered 3 of his men to stay behind to keep the peace.

As the corpse cart left, Dhak and Xacksmith once again slid to the shadows below their rooms. When Xacksmith uncovered the rubble from the body underneath he discovered the assassin was awake and had undone the bonds around his arms. The Hyrkanian seized the man as Dhak held a ghanata knife to the rogues throat. The Stygian hissed out a demand of who had ordered the slaying and the assassin croaked out the name, ‘Taspius.’ Satisfied and not wishing to attract the guards attention, Dhak slit the man’s throat and left his corpse amidst the offal.

Out of Hiding

The sun had risen high enough to clear the eastern buildings of the city, spreading adequate light for Tullweim to see the general outline of the buildings outside his rooms’ window. As the Aesir prepared to leave his lodgings for another day attempting to unravel the city’s mysteries, there was a soft, almost hesitant knock on his door. Tullweim opened the entryway slowly and saw a cloaked man on the other side.

The man stepped into the room as the door opened, moving with the kind of swiftness most often seen in a thief eluding his pursuers, closing the door behind him just as swiftly. He was tall and thin, dressed in a long, dark coloured cloak bearing more than a few stains of travel. The cloak’s cowl was drawn far forward, concealing his face.

With the door behind him closed again, he turned to the Aesir, pulled back the cowl of the cloak revealing a pale oval of a face, with calm, delicately chiseled features. His hair was dark, with several streaks of grey running through it, and he was clean-shaven.

‘My thanks for receiving me under such odd conditions,’ he said, his voice carrying the accent of one native to Tarantia. ‘After your…recent excitement, I can certainly understand if you feel cautious or uneasy, but allow me to assure you I mean you no harm whatsoever. Indeed, I fear we face a common foe.

‘I could not be certain of your role in what is now happening throughout the city. That is until last night, so you must forgive me for not approaching you earlier. Indeed, it was not until you yourselves came under assault by that band of assassins that I knew you were not actively working as part of some larger plot. Ah, but you must forgive me again. In my haste to explain to you my reasons for not presenting myself sooner, I have forgotten to tell you why I am here now. I am Gaulan, priest of Asura, and neither I nor any of my followers have had a hand in the crimes being ascribed to us.’

Tullweim nodded and whispered that he would like to get one of his companions to hear Gaulan’s tale as well. The Asuran priest agreed and the Aesir left his room quietly so as not to rouse the watchman who slept near the stairs. Tullweim gently rapped on Dhak’s door. When the Stygian opened it he was told that the Aesir needed help moving furniture in his room. Dhak was confused at the request but agreed. When they returned to Tullweim’s room the Aesir moved the bed frame he had propped against his window back to its proper place. The guard in the hallway was in such a deep slumber he did not wake from the sound of wood shoved across the floor. The Asuran furrowed his brow at the barbarian and quickly continued his story.

‘Sadly, oaths I have sworn prevent me from discussing much of our customs and rituals with those who do not follow our path. Indeed, were the circumstances any less dire, I would never have come to you, revealing myself as I have. It may be that these oaths of ours are unwise, that our very secrecy, and the ignorance it breeds, has allowed these terrible rumours now infesting the streets of Tarantia to gain currency. Wise or unwise, however, what is done is done, and it is too late now to reconsider. ‘These terrible crimes – the murder of the Mitran priest, the abhorrent acts in the cemetery, the vile attempt on your own lives – have come as an utter surprise to us. I have attempted, through some eldritch means, to find out more of what is happening, but someone or something has successfully managed to block all such attempts. Logic indicates it must be the same person who is behind these crimes, or at least someone closely allied with them.

‘I regret I cannot tell you who it is that has orchestrated these terrible deeds. I can only tell you again that it was not I, nor was it any worshipper of Asura who follows our creeds of justice and scholarship. If you have any questions for me, I shall answer them as fully as my oaths allow, and if you have any need of me, I shall serve you as well as I can so long as your endeavour is truly to uncover the architect of these terrible deeds.

Dhak inquired of Gaulan about the talisman and the parchment he had found on the supposed cultists at Delvyn cemetery. The Asuran priest looked at the talisman and said the sigil was indeed important in the Asuran religion but it made no sense around the neck of an assassin as the sigil meant ‘balance.’ Gaulan also noted the symbols on the parchment were Asuran as well but were divorced from all meaning. The Stygian then asked if Gaulan knew the name Taspius. The Asuran shook his head but said he would look into the name. He told Dhak to seach for a symbol, which Gaulan sketched in the dirt on the floor, in the alley of the Wren later in the afternoon. Once found, the Stygian should dig and would find any information Gaulan uncovered. Dhak then asked if the Asuran knew where to find any poultices which could aid in the parties’ recovery as several of their number were deeply wounded from the assassination attempt the previous night. Gaulan nodded and stated he could find such items and would bury them with whatever information he found on Taspius.

‘I have one boon to ask of you as well. Tell no one of me, or of our conversation this morning. I freely admit that, given the mood of the city, I fear for my safety, and that of all my followers, should my identity become known. I place my trust in your honour.’ Dhak and Tullweim nodded in agreement and the Asuran went to the window and deftly climbed to the alley below.

Dogma & Bigotry

Shortly after Gaulan left, Dhak and Tullweim roused their two companions and informed them of what had just occurred. Afterwards they went down to the common room and ordered breakfast. There they saw the watchman who had been posted at the front of the inn receive a missive. Once read the soldier called out to his companions and ordered them back to the guardhouse. After the watch left the party discussed their plans for the day. The Stygian stated his interest in going to the Mitraeum to inquire about Constanus and to have Xacksmith’s wounds looked at. Dhak speculated that the Mitran priests might have a skilled surgeon who could mend the Hyrkanian’s wounds better than the Aesir had. With a course of action decided upon the adventurers left the Stag & Whistle inn for the last time as the innkeeper made it pointedly clear they were no longer welcome.

Outside the inn a familiar carriage pulled up to the adventurers. The door to the carriage opened and Constanus beckoned the party over to speak with him. ‘I am quite relieved to see you all still hale and hearty,’ Constanus said, dropping his voice low enough to prevent it from being overheard. ‘Word reached me this morning of an attack against your good selves, but I was unable to discover whether you had all survived the attempt on your lives. I was led to believe that these assassins bore more sigils of the murderous cult of Asura? I trust you are now convinced of the culpability of these heathen foreigners in the spate of crimes gripping our city?’

Xacksmith responded with shouted accusations and insults at the Mitran priest, claiming the priest to be the culprit behind the attacks. Constanus was aghast at the Hyrkanian’s verbal assault and Tullweim held Xacksmith back as Dhak attempted to smooth the situation. The Stygian explained that the attempt on the Hyrkanian’s life had put him on edge and he was suffering from fever due to his wounds. Dhak then asked if the Mitraeum had any surgeons who could aid Xacksmith. Constanus nodded in the affirmative that there were those with skill in surgery and the Mitran priest could get them in with but a word. Dhak thanked Constanus for the information but denied the offer of a ride to the Mitreaum, stating the Hyrkanian’s fever and agitated state as the reason. The priest wished the Stygian luck, closed the door to his carriage and left as suddenly as he had appeared.

The party had traveled through the winding streets of Tarantia towards the Mitraeum for the better part of an hour. The sounds of rumor and gossip about the Asurans had escalated to outright threats against all foreign religions and their worshipers. Dhak spoke to Tullweim from horseback about his theories as to Constanus’ connection to the events of the past few nights when he was struck aside the head by a rotten egg. The Stygian immediately turned to see who accosted him and bore witness to a mob of commoners who all began throwing refuse at the foreign adventurers. As the putrid fruit and horse manure flew so did the insults. Tullweim wheeled upon a lady commoner and backhanded her which caused the enraged crowd to close around the party. Some of the men in the mob drew hatchets from their belts and feebly attempted to strike the Aesir and his companions. Cuana was still on edge about the past days events and had taken all the civilized insults he could. The Cimmerian pulled out his greatsword and swung it through the crowd smiting both men and women with wild abandon. Aware that the watch would be drawn to the screams and sounds of battle, Dhak threw flame powder at a nearby assailant and shouted for his comrades to flee.

The Hyrkanian and Stygian rode away while Tullweim growled at the shrinking crowd. Most of the commoners ran from the massacre as quickly as they could though some remained, wailing their sorrow beside the corpses of their loved ones. Dhak’s warning proved true as the watch arrived at the scene shortly after. Cuana fled while the Aesir was struck by a glancing blow but broke away from his assailant with pantherish mobility. An extensive chase throughout the streets resulted but after a few apple carts pushed over and near stampede the Aesir and Cimmerian were able to lose their pursuers amidst the throngs of Tarantia. Though they had also put considerable distance between one another. Cuana pilfered laundry from a clothesline and hunched over back into the streets while Tullweim remained out of sight moving from alley to alley.

Whispers in the Temple

Dhak and Xacksmith arrived at the Mitraeum while services were underway in the great chapel. The only priest which could be seen was speaking from behind his pulpit casting damnation and hellfire to those who would harm Mitra’s flock. The Stygian looked to a doorway to the side in search of anyone who could lead him to a surgeon for his Hyrkanian ally. The door opened in front of the Stygian as a gaunt man in the robes of a Mitran priest walked out and stopped in surprise to see the Stygian stand ahead of him. Before the priest could utter a word Dhak inquired about the surgeon. The baffled priest looked at Xacksmith and his obvious wounds then pointed to the opposite end of the building. Dhak thanked the priest who hurriedly walked away wiping sweat from his brow.

Xacksmith refused to go into surgery without Tullweim guarding against malfeasance. The Stygian argued that he would ensure the Hyrkanian’s safety when he noticed a lone priest, standing in a barely-open doorway, gesture to them to come to him. The priest took sidelong looks up and down the hallway as Dhak and Xacksmith approached and shut the door behind them when they entered. The priest introduced himself as Caudius and asked if they were the men who had seen Daphnis fall. When they nodded in the affirmative the priest said, ‘Please, good lords, I understand you do not know me, but I feel I must speak to you. First, though, I must know – did the most pious Daphnis say anything about a group called the Brotherhood before going to Mitra’s halls?’

The Stygian told Caudius of Daphnis’ cryptic last words. ‘Very well,’ the priest said, nodding. ‘Then there is something I fear I must tell you. I overheard two priests speaking this morning, though I could see only one of them. They appeared to be arguing, though in hushed tones, but at one point the priest I could not see let his anger best him, and his voice rose high enough that I could pick out his words. He told Barthias, the priest I could see, that, though it was regrettable, Daphnis could not be allowed to betray the Brotherhood. Barthias paused for a moment, and then nodded his assent before they quickly went their separate ways. I saw Barthias again perhaps an hour later, and his face still had a haunted look about it. I have never heard of this Brotherhood before, and I know nothing more of it, but if they are behind Daphnis’ murder, they must be brought to justice.’

Dhak was curious about the other priest but Caudius could not name him. The Stygian then asked if a meeting could be arranged with Barthias. The Mitran priest said he could arrange a meeting as soon as a half hour but though he sought justice Caudius was squeamish about any violence towards a fellow priest. The Stygian assured the cleric that he would not harm Barthias without provocation. Caudius thanked the Stygian then agreed to set up the meeting at a grain warehouse a few blocks from the Mitraeum. Dhak then asked about a surgeon to which Caudius led the pair to a chamber of healing. The priest vouched for the surgeon, claiming the man to be skilled and trustworthy. Xacksmith entered the chamber and began preparations as Dhak made his way out of the temple.

Deep in the shadows behind stacked barrels the Stygian waited impatiently for any approach. He was distrustful of Caudius and he had his blade in one hand and the Elephant’s Heart in the other. Caudius arrived at the warehouse next and called out for the Stygian. Dhak revealed himself and Caudius assured him that Barthias was on his way to meet them. Shortly thereafter another Mitran priest arrived and the Stygian smiled at the realization that this was the same priest he’d run into at the Mitraeum. Barthias angrily chided Caudius for calling him out to this warehouse, away from his duties, and demanded an explanation. Dhak stepped out of the shadows and informed Barthias he was the reason for the meeting. The Mitran priest wheeled upon Caudius and would have attacked the younger priest for luring him into a trap had Dhak not stepped in and held his arming sword to Barthias’ throat.

Barthias held his hands up in surrender and the Stygian threatened to open his neck if the priest did not answer his questions true. Dhak asked about the Brotherhood and Barthias told of his suspicions of a Lord Nadanidus. The priest spoke of reading the nobles soul and managed to see the corruption so carefully hidden within. He now believes that Nadanidus is attempting to use the Brotherhood in some way he does not yet understand. Barthias shakingly told of his belief of something very unnatural going on in the catacombs beneath the noble’s manor in Tamar. The Stygian was about to strike the priest in anger at his obvious attempt at avoiding his question when Barthias rambled on about a discovery which gave some credence to his suspicion. Ten days past the priest had found a scale about twice the size of his thumbnail in the catacombs. The priest believed the scale to belong to some enormous snake.

The Stygian was surprised at Barthias tale, being all to familiar with the giant snakes let loose at night in black-walled Khemi. Dhak demanded evidence and Barthias produced the scale from his robes. There could be no doubt in the sorcerer’s mind that it indeed belonged to a creature from his homeland. Perplexed at this new turn, the Stygian asked when the Brotherhood was to next meet. Barthias became tight-lipped but gave in to Caudius’ pleadings for the priest to do the right thing and atone for Daphnis’ murder. Barthias’ face grew ashen at the younger priest’s words and he betrayed that the brotherhood were to meet that very night beneath Lord Nadanidus’ manor. The priest told of a secret entrance beneath Tarantia’s streets and how to find egress to the catacombs. Satisfied with the information and eager to take what he had learned to his companions Dhak lowered his weapon and was about to leave when Caudius called out for him to stop. The priest ran up and asked was nothing to be done about Barthias culpability in the slaying of Daphnis? The Stygian simply walked away stating his business was done with Barthias and if Caudius sought justice he should be man enough to take it himself.

Publius’ Request

Dhak returned to the Mitraeum early in the afternoon and found Cuana and Tullweim standing watch outside the room Xacksmith was undergoing surgery in. The gagged screams from the Hyrkanian obviously unsettled the two barbarians but the Stygian acted as if all was well. Dhak whispered that he had received information he daren’t speak of around the many ears in the great church. Tullweim nodded and the party waited uncomfortably for several hours amidst the tortured wails of their companion. When the surgery was finally concluded Xacksmith stepped into the hallway looking fatigued but otherwise healthy. The surgeon was paid a hefty sum of silver and the adventurers left the Mitraeum.

They made their way through the city, avoiding main streets and arrived at the alley of the Wren late in the afternoon. Once they found the Asuran’s symbol Dhak related Barthias’ tale of Lord Nadanidus involvement with the Brotherhood and spoke of the large serpent the priest mentioned. The Stygian warned his companions to stay clear of any such creature and allow the sorcerer to handle it. Cuana finished digging up the letter and wrapped package beneath the sigil. Dhak opened the letter which read, ‘Taspius is a mercenary retainer in the service of Lord Nadanidus. He has served Nadanidus for three years, and is a veteran of several mercenary companies.’ The Cimmerian unwrapped the horse blanket and found 8 small clay jars inside with another note instructing the adventurers to coat their wounds with the paste inside. Cuana and Xacksmith immediately doffed their armor and did so.

With their wounds treated and a decision made to enter Lord Nadanidus’ manor in Tamar the party left the alley of the Wren. They did not travel far before they were hailed by a scout dressed in the colors of a King’s servant. The young man was out of breath but stammered out a claim that he and several other scouts had been scouring the city looking for the party. It seemed the chancellor Publius had demanded the adventurers be brought before him to report. Tullweim agreed and the party followed the scout to the Chancellery.

When they arrived the party was relieved of their weapons again and the pageboy Arn escorted them to Publius’ study. Publius looked far more tired than he did when the adventurers saw him last, as though he had not slept in days. The table in his study, so neat before, was now littered with sheets of parchment, gathered into loose piles. The fire in the hearth was long dead, and a smell of cold ashes gave an acrid tinge to the air in this room. Publius looked up as the party entered, his face a grey and impassive mask.

‘For all the trouble your actions have caused me this day I hope you have something to report,’ he said gravely. ‘I fear this situation is becoming more dire by the hour.’

Dhak related all he had learned earlier in the day regarding Lord Nadanidus, below whose manor the so-called ‘Brotherhood’ held their meetings, the sellsword Taspius, and of his suspicion of involvement on the part of the priest, Constanus. Publius indicated these were serious charges to bring against ones such as Nadanidus and Constanus and he could sense Dhak held something back. The Chancellor pressured Dhak to divulge all of his information of the large scale he had been shown by Barthias belonging to what the Stygian believed was a ‘Son of Set.’

‘This is disturbing news,’ Publius said as Dhak finished his tale. ‘Very well. I’ve a favour to ask of you, one for which you will be compensated, of course. You have brought me speculation about Lord Nadanidus, but not proof, and without that proof, I cannot move against him. He is a wealthy and exceedingly influential individual, and if I were to send the guard after him and later be proven wrong, the results would be unfortunate for all concerned. I would, therefore, like you to find the proof I need to justify such a move. If you agree, you will be operating without my official sanction. Should you find no evidence of an alliance to Set, I can likely get you out of Tarantia, but you can never return. If you do find it, however – I will pardon you of the violence in the streets and see you safely out of the city. Do you feel you are capable of such a challenge?’ The adventurers agreed and Publius offered the sum of 2,000 silver to be given when they returned with the evidence needed.
Beneath the City

Cuana and Tullweim lifted the grate in the street Dhak had led the party to. A pungent odor assaulted the adventurers’ nostrils from the cesspits below but the Stygian steeled his nerves and climbed down with Xacksmith behind. The Hyrkanian lit a candle which flared brightly amidst the noxious fumes. The adventurers did not travel far when they arrived at a foul cistern which reeked of the sewage from the nearby noble manors. If the information Dhak was given was correct, this dismal junction room held the entryway into Lord Nadanidus’ catacombs. The adventurers glanced around, but there was no door in evidence, only the room’s old stone walls, slick and green with lichen. The room itself was more or less square, though its low ceiling, supported by four square pillars of brick, caused the party to stoop. Including the entry they used, there were three tunnels leading out of the room, heading, they assumed, deeper into the sewers. A narrow, filth-slick walkway ran around the perimeter of the room, bridging the three exits with rotted wood catwalks. Aside from this walkway, none of the room’s floor was visible, concealed beneath a slow-moving tide of deep and noxious sludge. Stains on the walls marked the level to which the sludge had risen in the past, and the adventurers were grateful there had been little rain in Tarantia of late.

Dhak braved the catwalk and made his way to where Barthias had told the secret entrance would be found. Xacksmith followed with candle in hand but the fatigued Hyrkanian’s foot slipped off the walkway and he tumbled into the filth below. The cistern was not deep and the Hyrkanian was in no danger of being swept away, though he did lose his candle as well as most of the last meal he had eaten. Dhak lit a candle of his own as Xacksmith wiped the refuse from his eyes and climbed back onto the catwalk. Not wanting to follow the Hyrkanian into the muck, Cuana dug his fingers into the lichen patches along the brick wall and carefully moved across the walkway without incident. Tullweim then attempted to cross, but the Aesir’s weight caused the rotten wood to give and he too was swallowed by the sludge below. Tullweim stood cursing and flinging muck off his person while Dhak indicated to Xacksmith where the door to the catacombs should be and the Hyrkanian quickly found a hidden latch revealing a narrow, winding passage with lit sconces showing the way.

The passage ended at a door which appeared unlatched. The Stygian pressed his ear against the door and could hear the murmur of several men behind it. Dhak reached into his satchel and retrieved the dark robes of a Stygian priest he had acquired in Ianthe. Tullweim inquired what Dhak was up to and the Stygian replied that the robes of Mitran priests were similar in color. The Stygian’s plan was to pretend to be one of the corrupt Mitrans come to meet with the others. The Aesir nodded his approval as Dhak quickly dropped most of his equipment and donned his robes. The Stygian then opened the door and entered a room which was empty except for the 3 guards who stood there. The guards challenged the Stygian, who bluffed his intention of joining the meeting. The guards waved him past the southeastern door and closed it behind him. Shortly thereafter the door to the sewer entrance was opened again and the rest of the party charged their foes. Cuana and Tullweim slaughtered 2 of the surprised guards as the third attempted to flee through the southeastern door. The guard was in mid-cry as he flung the door open to be met by Dhak’s blade.

The Brotherhood of the Bull

The Stygian gathered his equipment from Tullweim, stole towards the door which the guards stated the Brotherhood of the Bull met behind and pressed his ear against it. Dhak could hear furtive whispers demand someone investigate the cry that was heard. The Stygian stepped back just as the door opened, revealing a Mitran priest. Tullweim leapt at the priest and easily drove his Akbitanan greatsword through the unarmored Mitran. Constanus stood among the throng of priests who met in this larder and commanded the others to smite the infidel heretics. Many of the priests rushed the adventurers with daggers as several stood afar from the melee, weaving spells targeting the Aesir and Cimmerian. Cuana delivered a slash which would have killed a man upon the shoulder of a priest who used his sorcery in defense, defiantly declaring he would not die this hour.

Constanus hurled a glass orb at Cuana which exploded into fire when it hit the Cimmerian’s armor. Xacksmith skewered several of the Mitrans with arrows from his Hyrkanian bow. Dhak uttered dread words older than Acheron, causing one of the slain priests to rise. Several of the Mitrans panicked at the sight of one of their fallen comrades standing again as Cuana and Tullweim entered a crimson mist. The Cimmerian had suffered much by the machinations of this brotherhood and he could no longer hold his hatred in. Cuana smote the 5 priests surrounding him with a roar that shook the pillars holding up the smoke-blackened ceiling. The Stygian loosed 2 arrows with his Stygian bow and struck down another Mitran. One of the priests finished casting his spell and Tullweim became entranced by the Mitrans hypnotic stare. The priest then bade the Aesir lay his sword before him and sleep. 5 more manor guards arrived at the scene. Dhak reached into a pouch from his belt and threw thunderclap powder with an ear-shattering crash which filled the hallway with smoke.

The Mitran priest Constanus could see the tide of battle was not in his favor as many of his brothers lay dead at his feet. Constanus cast sorcery which affected all who saw him. He suggested the fight was between the adventurers and Lord Nadanidus and he would leave to allow them to settle their dispute. Not even the Cimmerian’s hatred could keep Constanus’ words from subduing Cuana’s sword arm. Tullweim roused to see all stand aside as the Mitran exited the larder through the smoke-filled hallway. Once out of the way a manor guard drove his broadsword to the hilt through Dhak’s gut. One of the remaining priests hypnotized Cuana forcing him to fall to the ground in submission. Xacksmith skewered Cuana’s assailant with 2 arrows to the chest. Tullweim rushed to the door to allow Dhak to break away from his attacker and keep the guards from entering the larder.

Though the guards delivered fierce blows to the Aesir with the intent of forcing him back into the room, Tullweim stood as unmoving as one of the pillars in the room. Instead it was the guards who retreated from the Aesir’s greatsword as he delivered savage sword swings and near sundered a foe’s shield. After knocking the last Mitran unconscious, Cuana and Xacksmith flanked the Aesir and prepared to fill his place should he fall or withdraw. A guard commander shouted an order to clear the way as he moved forward to face Tullweim. The captain delivered a powerful strike to the Aesir, but his grin vanished as Dhak gazed at him through the Heart of the Elephant and hurled shrinking doom on the officer. The other guards gaped in horror as their captain shriveled to the size of a marionette, screaming in unmasked terror as he ran ‘tween their legs. The sound of more guards entering the hallway was heard as another voice commanded the guards to stand their ground and push the intruders back into the room. Tullweim grasped his blade and shouted a challenge to all who would meet their death before him.
The Grim Larder

Tullweim blocked the doorway with sweeping swings of his Akbitanan greatsword and roared out a challenge. The guards who attempted to press into the larder hesitated for but a moment when an order was shouted out as more guards entered the hallway past the adventurers’ line of sight. The guards doubled their efforts to force the barbarian back, striking powerful blows the Aesir could not easily parry. Cuana, Dhak, and Xacksmith did not have room to aid their Aesir companion and were trapped in the larder. The desperation of their plight lent strength to each blow Tullweim struck as Cuana and Xacksmith readied themselves should a guard break through. The Stygian bent over the unconscious Mitran priest and placed his hand to the man’s forehead. For a moment Dhak was exactly the predatory heretic the Mitran’s warned of as he drained the priest of his wits to fuel his sorcerous power. The Stygian then drove his Ghanata knife into the priests chest, spilling his lifeblood in ritual sacrifice. The commander’s voice was heard again ordering the wounded guards back. A man in a mail shirt with a finely crafted arming sword and the scars of many battles on his face squared off with the Aesir. The hardened mercenary announced himself as Taspius, Lord Nadanidus’ guard captain, before delivering two powerful strikes with his Akbitanan arming sword which sliced through the barbarian’s armor and bit deep into his flesh.

Tullweim was close to succumbing to his wounds and swung twice at Taspius before stepping back into the room. The mercenary rushed in after the Aesir and Cuana swung down with his greatsword. Taspius wheeled on the Cimmerian as Xacksmith slid like a shadow and plunged his arming sword through the mercenaries back. The Stygian smiled at the opportunity and with his power replenished from sacrificing the priest, Dhak wove a necromantic spell around Taspius’ corpse. The mercenary stood again, his lifeless eyes looking at the guards who had served under him, filling them with terror. Cuana also felt the cold breath of the grave whisper down the back of his neck and fearfully backed away. The rest of the guards fled to opposite ends of the hallway, half to the entry chamber and the other half past the door they had originally entered from. Dhak sent Taspius’ risen corpse towards the door the adventurers had not yet explored to bash it down.

Xacksmith moved across the hallway to a closed door. He found the door locked but quick use of his masterwork thieves’ tools remedied the problem. Behind the door was a cool room furnished with wooden racks along each wall, holding nearly 200 bottles of wine. The Hyrkanian quickly glanced over the bottles and discovered they were from a variety of countries, though many of the bottles were labeled in a number of unknown scripts. Near the back of the room the Hyrkanian discovered several bottles of black lotus wine and a single glass bottle with a golden liquid within. Xacksmith called Tullweim to him and the Aesir opened the bottle, smelling the sweet wine within. The Aesir had tasted the Golden Wine of Xuthal in the past and thanked Ymir for the luck in finding it now. Tullweim downed most of the liquid then called out to Cuana. The Cimmerian partook of the liquid at the Aesir’s urgings and immediately felt the pain of his wounds ebb. And not a moment too soon. The door which led further into the catacombs was thrown open and fresh guards poured forth.

Despite the guards advantage they could do little more than nick the Stygian as he defended himself from behind a shield taken off a guards corpse. But he knew they would soon press in and the Stygian could be easily overtaken so Dhak let loose a powerful defensive blast which caused the guards around him to become mesmerized. Weakened by the effort Dhak quickly slit the throats of the two closest guards. Dhak once again spoke words any sane man wouldn’t dare whisper and two of the slain guards stood up. The guards, Cuana and Xacksmith were all overcome with terror as the corpses shambled towards the guards who still lived. One of the guards lagged behind the others and was caught by the risen dead and torn limb from limb. The other guards retreated behind doors quickly closed and latched. The adventurers moved into the now open connecting hallway and looked about. They saw stairs which led up, two nearby doors which Nadanidus’ guards quaked behind and a continuation of the hallway. As he moved down the hallway, Xacksmith noticed a secret door and with some effort picked the lock.

Behind the cleverly concealed door laid the treasury of Lord Nadanidus. Coins, precious gems, art objects and other items of great value were scattered within the room. The adventurers were overcome by the sight of the wealth and quickly filled their pockets. Dhak discovered a large diamond the size of his fist. The Hyrkanian noticed another door in the northwest corner of the treasury as he filled his pouches. The door was unlocked and slightly open as if someone had passed through it in a great hurry. Behind the door was a rough-hewn corridor leading to a natural cave.

The Shrine of Set

The rough walls of the natural cave was covered with heavy black hangings which framed the dark alter in the centre of the room. Atop the altar were several golden vessels set with rubies and onyx and behind it a man in the finery of a noble stood intoning a prayer to the Stygian god. Before the altar was coiled a huge snake, the sight of which sent waves of panic in all but Cuana. The snake lunged at the Cimmerian while his allies ran in terror. The lesser son of Set’s huge fangs bit deep into Cuana, grabbing him so the creature could coil around the barbarian and squeeze the life out of him. Once the barbarian quit struggling and lay on the floor as a corpse the serpent chased after the others. It bit Tullweim and wrapped him within its coils. The Aesir gasped for aid and Dhak was able to momentarily conquer his fear long enough to use the Heart of the Elephant to cast shrinking doom on the creature. The son of Set shrank down to the size of a python but Tullweim was still unable to break free. The Stygian then touched the serpent with the diamond he had found in Lord Nadanidus’ treasury, which caused the creature and the Aesir to be sucked into the gem. It took all the Aesir’s strength to pull free from the creature as it was sucked into the gem. The snake hissed and struck at the diamond but was harmless inside the gem.

The adventurers moved back to the shrine and Dhak challenged Nadanidus’, showing the serpent trapped within the diamond. Enraged, the corrupt noble attacked the Stygian with an Akbitanan broadsword which Dhak was unable to dodge. Though he bled from the wound the Stygian moved back from Lord Nadanidus, locked the nobles eyes with his own and engaged him in a sorcerous war of souls. The corrupt noble could not break free but his will proved to be more powerful than the Stygian’s and he drained Dhak of some of his wits. Tullweim then moved to the noble who was unable to physically defend himself and uncerimoniously lopped his head off. The Aesir then spent the next 15 minutes in an attempt to stabilize Cuana. Meanwhile Dhak took stock of the room and shook his head at the ironic events fate had led him to. The Stygian grabbed Lord Nadanidus’ head and wrapped his robes around it. Cuana was roused when Tullweim poured some wine down the Cimmerian’s gullet. When he was able to stand the adventurers quickly fled from the cellar the way they had come. Nobody challenged their egress.

The Confession

Tullweim suggested the party hide the spoils from Nadanidus’ treasury before meeting with Publius. The adventurers ducked into a nearby alley and hid the wine bottles, gems, and coins under refuse that nobody but Tarantia’s most desperate would bother. Afterwards the adventurers headed for the Chancellory.

They were admitted immediately and Publius received them in his study with an exhausted look on his face. Dhak spoke of the events occurred and of Nadanidus’ part in Constanus’ mechanitions. Publius demanded proof and the Stygian presented Nadanidus’ head. Dhak cast sorcery that animated the disembodied head to speak. Publius shrank in horror at the sight but listened intently as the Stygian intimidated the bodiless head into confessing. Dhak then showed Publius the son of set trapped in the gem. The Chancellor nodded grimly and thanked the party for putting an end to Nadanidus’ plot. Publius intimated his desire for the events to remain quiet and gave the adventurers the promised 2,500 silver. Cuana asked the High Chancellor to give his share to the families of those he’d slaughtered in the street. Publius nodded in understanding and told the party they were to be escorted out the southern gate to avoid any trouble. As they moved through the streets, Tullweim looked back longingly at where the party had buried their spoils as 8 Black Dragons marched the adventurers out of the city and into the wild once again.


The adventurers did not travel far in the dark of night. The next morning Xacksmith awoke with agonizing abdominal pain and a sudden fever. He wouldn’t keep anything he ate down and convulsed as if he was in the frozen north in the midst of the winter. Dhak examined the Hyrkanian and determined his blood was poisoned, most likely caused by the unsteady hands of the Mitran surgeon and aggravated by the sewage Xacksmith had fallen in. The party decided to stay where they were for the day, scant miles from the capital city. Morale was low due to Xacksmith’s condition and the lost spoils hidden in the muck-ridden alleys of Tarantia. The day passed with Dhak tending to Xacksmith while Cuana and Tullweim hunted for food.

Late in the evening as the party ate their catch, Dhak heard a sound from the nearby woods. The Stygian called out a challenge and a shadowy figure stepped forward. The figure threw back his hood and revealed himself as Gaulan the Asuran priest. Gaulan thanked the adventurers for their part in foiling Lord Nadanidus’ plot. He informed them that the assassination of the priest Daphnis and the subsequent crimes that had plagued the streets of Tarantia the past few days were laid firmly at the feet of the cult of Set. When asked about Constanus, Gaulan grimly replied that the involvement of the Mitran priests who made up the Brotherhood of the Bull was completely concealed. Constanus faced no charges, no trial in court but Gaulan had heard the corrupt priest would be remanded by the higher ups in the Mitraeum. What fate awaited him at the hands of his fellow Mitran priests was unknown, but was not likely to be pleasant. Gaulan then apologized for almost forgetting and dropped a sack in front of the party. Dhak opened the sack and found several of the bottles of Black Lotus wine as well as much of the silver and gems taken from Nadanidus’ treasury. Even Xacksmith’s spirits rose at the sight of the wealth the party had thought lost. Gaulan ate with the party and listened to the adventurers tales of the past night with much interest. He thanked the party again and took his leave in the midst of night pledging himself an ally and friend.