On the Road
Garus was preparing to leave Sandpoint and begin the ride to Magnimar. He’d decided to wait a day after Raoul, Vinder and Oggrash left. Partly this was to spend some time in wild spaces around Sandpoint rooting out any remnants of the ghouls from Aldern Foxglove, but mostly it was to get away from the overly optimistic paladin and the dour half-orc. They were good companions in a fight, but a bit tedious around town. Garus was not overly fond of most creatures that walked on two legs. The implications of Foxglove Manor pointed toward a longer journey with a group, so a day off was a welcome opportunity for the druid to find the patience to deal with people once he got to Magnimar.
After a day spent roaming the nearby farmlands and dealing with the occasional stray ghoul, Garus spent the night in the Tickwood, east of Sandpoint. The druid had returned to the outskirts of Sandpoint and was saddling his horse in preparation to head south-west on the Lost Coast Road when a large, slightly green tinged man in a dusty traveling coat rounded the corner of stable and made for Garus himself. Garus sighed and wondered how much use another half-orc had in his life. He tried to ignore the man as he approached.
“Would you be Garus, Garus Volarius?” called the man cheerfully.
“No. I’m someone else,” grunted Garus as he prepared to step up into the saddle.
“Seems odd that there would be two druids with enormous gorillas in Sandpoint at once,” chuckled the man in the duster jacket. “I’m Patrick Nyborn, and I’m pleased to meet you. I don’t suppose you have a few moments?”
“Sorry, but I have to ride for Magnimar. Some people are probably wondering where I have been,” excused Garus as he lifted himself up into the saddle and waved to Grodd. Grodd, an imposing mass of gorilla some ten feet from ground to hunched head, was half submerged in a pile of hay. He shrugged upwards shaking hay off and lumbered towards Garus.
“How fortuitous!” clapped Patrick. “I’m headed to Magnimar as well! And here is my mount.”
A stable hand appeared from the corner Patrick had rounded and handed the half-orc the reins of a saddled, packed, and groomed horse. Garus closed his eyes for a moment, willing the half-orc to disappear. It didn’t work, and Garus reopened them as Patrick continued speaking.
“I’ve got a message from Ted Korvaski, too. He said he is spending some time here, trying to find out anything else he can about his late brother. Sounds like that was a rough fight you all had up at Thistletop.”
“Steve didn’t have a bad fight. He walked into a trap,” Garus quipped. “Lost his head to it.”
Garus heeled his mount forward and began riding at the fastest pace he thought the horse could take and make it Magnimar by nightfall. Grodd fell in beside him. Perhaps he could lose this new annoyance? Patrick hurried to mount his own horse, rather clumsily, and fought the animal for the first half hour of the trip as he slowly caught up with Garus.
“So much for a peaceful ride,” thought Garus as Patrick began to open his mouth to speak again.
Back at the Gates
Garus and his newest “friend” Patrick arrived at the plaza before the House of Lords in the Alabaster District as afternoon was ending. Patrick had no end of questions about the events of the last. When not asking questions, the half-orc revealed his back story at length. The ear-worn druid spied Raoul, Vinder and Oggrash approaching an Inn on the south side of the crossroads and hurried to meet them. Or get away from Patrick. Or foist him on the others at least.
Raoul saw them coming and waved, and the five adventurers, some dusty, some bloody, entered the inn. Over dinner Vinder, Ogg and the paladin told Garus and the rapt Patrick what they had found in Foxglove’s townhome earlier that day. Patrick explained that he had been passing through Sandpoint on his way back to Magnimar from Windsong Abbey, and had become fascinated by the stories of the “Heroes” that had come through.
It turned out Patrick had been trying to reconnect with his faith, or any faith, while up at the abbey. He had spent some time studying Lamashtu before deciding against choosing that particular deity. The news of goblins, ghasts, ghouls and such seemed struck a chord, though, and he had hoped to find the heroes and see if he could offer any assistance. Aside from being a rather faithless pilgrim, Patrick was also a sorcerer and figured the claws and blades of the Heroes of Sandpoint might need some help, especially after the wizard traveling with them had left.
As the dinner stretched into a healthy number of drinks, a messenger arrived in the bar and found Vinder. A letter was delivered and after a few moments perusing it Vinder announced a matter had come up regarding an oath he had sworn to the goddess Desna. He would need to leave for a day or two, but would return to find the group as soon as he could. Patrick noted that he lived in the south of Magnimar, and offered his home as a place to contact the group. Raoul noticed the slight hesitation the sorcerer showed when giving his address to Vinder, and suggested the whole party, Patrick included, spend another night or two at their current location. After Vinder left the night wore down, until finally each party member founds themselves turning in for the night.
Under the Guardians
The sun rose, and Raoul woke. He went down to the common room of the inn. As he ate his breakfast, the rest of the party slowly filtered in. It turned out each person had a few things they’d rather do that leap straight into investigating the Seven’s Sawmill. So the party split, each going their own way into Magnimar, and they would reconvene that evening and head to the sawmill the next day.
Before spending perhaps his last night in the Alabaster District, Raoul decided to talk a walk around the southeast side of Magnimar and investigate the shrines rumored to provide blessings from the gods. He walked the streets rather aimlessly, but felt drawn to the neighborhood of Naos to the southwest of the opulent Alabaster, eventually walking into a large square inside the southern wall of the city. Signs along the way indicated this was the Twins’ Gate.
The reason for the name became apparent as he cleared the final corner approach the vast square. Two enormous statues, The Guardians, depicted a pair of men standing with burning staves raised and touching over the gate itself. The statues were probably some two hundred feet tall from toe to stave-tip. A crowd milled below the looming statues and an assortment of priests, clerics and other holy persons appeared to be walking among the crowd giving prayers, healing, or other services to those in the crowd. One of the healers looked up and appeared to recognize Raoul as he looked over the plaza.
“Raoul! It’s Tira, Tira Ronnova,” the woman called out as she walked over, “How have you been?”
“Oh, can’t complain. How have you been?”
She sighed and glanced back at the crowd, “The church keeps me busy,” she said with a tired smile. “I’ve heard rumors of murders around the city lately, they sound similar to what we heard was going on up in Sandpoint. Do you know anything about that?”
Raoul quickly recounted the events of the past few days, and Tira turned he head to side slightly as she asked, “Father Xantos told us about some Heroes. I don’t suppose you are one of the Heroes of Sandpoint we’ve heard about?”
“I’m afraid I am,” chuckled the paladin.
“Well, I see you’ve mastered keeping a low profile. How long have you been in Magnimar?”
“Just a day or two.”
“Seems you brought the murders with you then. I’d love to chat longer, but I can’t now,” she joked, nodding to the crowds. “Did you come here for the blessings of the Guardians?”
“I was trying to find all these shrines people keep mentioning.”
“Well, you’ll not find the Guardians very useful if you looking for more places to swing that sword of yours. There is a shrine that’ll help you get the jump on any foes though. I can’t recall the name, and I know it takes some effort to receive the blessing. Seek that one, if you have the time. Good luck!”
With a wave Tira turned and walked back into the crowd. Raoul left, continuing his walk amongst the monuments of Magnimar.
Wine and Water
Oggrash set out after breakfast on the final leg of a long journey. He had left the Cinderlands in the far east with the goal of reaching the ocean on the western edge of Varisia. After two years of taking odd jobs, hunting, and camping along the Yondabakari River he was about to end his journey at the edge of the Steaming Sea and the Arcadian Ocean beyond. He just had to get through the bright marble avenues of the Alabaster district to get there.
The innkeeper informed Ogg that he simply had to walk out the door, turn north, and walk down the avenue until he reached Fort Indros on the tip of the Fogwall Cliffs. It was only a mile of city street walking. His progress down the main road was uneventful. A shirtless half orc with a greatsword, tattoos, and a necklace of body parts drew a fair amount of attention in this place, but that attention was limited to curious stares from the bold and avoidance by the fearful. He had covered about two thirds of the distance to the Fort when a well dressed man, maybe in his mid-thirties, stepped up directly in front of Oggrash.
“Hello! Name’s Renkin. You seem like a rather industrious sort. I’ve got a proposition for you,” he said.
Oggrash looked at the man, then in the direction of the sea. Coin was always worthwhile. Hopefully this would be quick. “Ok. I’ll hear you out.”
“Fantastic! Say, how about we get out of the street,” Renkin said and he glanced around. “Ah! There, across the street, let me buy you a glass of wine.”
Renking quickly walked across the street and waited. Ogg came up to the door while Renkin stepped inside. As Ogg followed he saw the bartender startle and draw breath to shout Ogg away, but Renkin smoothly interjected.
“Everything is fabulous! Charles, two glasses of that wonderful Andoran red from… Ostenso was it? Or Augustana? That’s the one!”
The bartender cocked an eyebrow and went to find the bottle. Renkin led Ogg to a table in the corner of the café and pulled out a notebook. A waiter intercepted the pair before they sat and hastily brushed down Ogg’s pants and laid a clean tablecloth over the chair he was about to sit in. As Renkin sat he began writing notes in the little book. He had a very expensive fountain pen, quite a luxury over quills and ink pots. Oggrash tried to read surreptitiously, but could only make out what looked like “North Gate” and possibly a list of names. Renkin began to speak.
“Here we are! It’s a fantastic cafe! I took note of you and your friends entering by the Gate. I try to keep tabs on folks coming into town as I often have need of people interested in less… dainty… work than you find up here,” Renkin gestured out the window at the street lined with high end shops and well-dressed upper class persons. The wine was delivered and Renkin took an appreciative sip.
“I need a package delivered, a bit of a ways out of town. Perhaps a day or so by horse.” Renkin paused and checked his notebook. “Yes, I believe you have horses. The job is simple. I need you, or you and your friends, to deliver a parcel to particular place.”
Oggrash considered this and said, “You said “My type”. Is this a dangerous delivery?”
“Not as such, no. I just need jobs like this done from time to time, and I prefer to hire people who look like they’ll get it done.”
“Has anyone failed to complete one of these delivery jobs for you?”
“No. I hope that speaks to my ability to find qualified individuals,” said Renkin with a smile as he sipped a bit more wine.
“Well you know I have some companions. We have pressing matters that brought us to Magnimar. Is there a time frame for this job?”
Renkin considered for a moment. “Not as such, sooner is better than later. But I can wait a few days for you to consider. The fee will change depending on the day of completion, however. Tell you what, you talk with friends. Here is my card, you can contact me at the address. It is a few blocks from here, give or take.”
“How much does this job pay?” asked Ogg as he took the card.
“Well, that depends on when you take the job, and when you finish it. But we’re talking about thousands of gold pieces if you complete the task. Oh, Jake, Jake!”
Renkin leapt up from his seat as a man entered the café. Renkin was about to leave and turned back as he left, “You know where to find me, I look forward to prosperous relationship!”
With that Renkin was off to the bar and the man called Jake. Ogg sat at the table and inspected the card. It had an address and Renkin’s name on it. He tucked the card into his purse, looked out the window, and took mouthful of wine. It was quite delicious. Oggrash watched the passersby as he drained the glass over a few minutes, and then left the café.
About half an hour later Oggrash was standing before a low wall that separated the walk in front of Fort Indros from the cliffs below. It was a good two hundred feet down to the crashing surf. The sun lit the sea and cliffs beautifully. This was no sea of grass or dust. Fort Indros sat atop a small peninsula jutting northwards from the city proper. To the west Oggrash clearly saw Magnimar as it appeared from the sea.
He stood at the northeastern tip of the city. The Alabaster district stretched back southward, the Fogwall Cliffs leading almost due south on the east side of the district, gleaming marble and stone halting at the precipitous drop. The cliffs also continued south of the little peninsula curving from south to west until they were abruptly swallowed up by the ruins of a titanic basalt bridge that burst from the tops of the cliffs and soared northwest out over towering pylons. The pylons rose up some two hundred and fifty feet to meet the bottom of the bridge. The bridge itself was intact for about five hundred feet, still sitting on two pairs of the great pylons. Beyond that the bridge had collapsed into wave-beaten rubble. Three more pairs of pylons lead out into the sea, each in varying degrees of collapse, but still tall and proud given their apparent age.
West of the bridge the cliffs continued and turned south, cutting across the city and creating an upper and lower Magnimar to the east and west, respectively. Underneath the great bridge there appeared to be a slum which filled cove beach on the near side, with small docks leading into the shady underside of the bridge itself. Southwest of the bridge the slums turned into a massive port in a small bay some three hundred feet or so across. The city continued west below the cliffs to the Yondabakari river. A small island covered in mills sat in the mouth of the river, and a slum sat west of the island. A pair of stone bridges connected the east and west sides of the island to the mainland.
The entire city was encased within a large wall, with gates at the Lost Coast Road to the east, underneath two enormous statues of mean bearing stave in the middle of the city above the cliffs in the southern wall in Naos, a large gate to the west in the lower city, and a dilapidated gate in the slums to the far west. Throughout the city towering statues, towers, and temples peppered the mass of buildings. It was noder wonder Magnimar was known as the city of monuments.
Oggrash sat on the wall, looked out to sea and contemplated for a long time. The journey here had been long, but it appeared another journey was beginning. He listened to the wind and the waves and the sounds of the largest city he had ever seen.
After a time he swung down off the wall. A few abortive attempts at conversation later he was able to learn the name of the great bridge: the Irespan. It seemed the young noble he managed to get talking would never think of venturing there of his own accord. But he nervously noted that a man like Oggrash might find it more bearable. Oggrash was not able to hold the young man’s conversation long enough to learn more. As afternoon began to settle in, he began the walk back to the inn on the plaza of the House of Lords.
The Seven’s Sawmill
After the group reconvened at dinner it was decided that they would spend the night and depart for the Seven’s Sawmill the next morning.
Morning came. With Vinder still off on his mysterious and sudden errand, the party of Raoul, Garus, Oggrash and the newcomer Patrick left the Alabaster district and walked west through Naos and skirted the Capital District to the northwest, taking the road down the cliffs to the Dockway. Then west through the docks into Beacon’s Point and on to Kyver’s Islet, the island between the slums of Ordellia to the west of the Yondabakari and Beacon’s Point to the northeast and The Keystone to the southeast. The sawmill sat jutting out form the southwest corner of Kyver’s Islet.
The building sat on huge wooden pilings going down into the riverbed, A boardwalk extended from the path to the mill out over the river on the north side of the building and wrapped around to the western side. On the eastern side a stairway led down do a door on the building a few feet above the high tide line. The building was old, nondescript. It was noisy with the sound of waterwheels churning inside and the sounds of lumber being cut and processed.
Garus shifted into a the shape a great wild cat, nearly as large as his gorilla companion Grodd. The cat, gorilla, and Oggrash walked out across the boardwalk to the a door facing the river. Raoul stayed near the top of the stairs to the lower door. Patrick hedged his bets, moving to the corner of the boardwalk where he could see the entire group. As the group looked around Patrick raised his hand and a large black raven flew down from the sky and landed on the sorcerer’s arm.
“Check it out Korba. See if there is anything useful you can learn,” the half-orc said, and helped launch the familiar up into the sky. Patrick relaxed and let his sense merge into his familiar. Korba was a smart raven, imbued with some of her master’s intelligence and healthy dose of free will. She wheeled around the mill and noticed nothing out of the ordinary. At the top of the mill there was a rookery, however. She sensed Patrick’s command to check more closely and flew down to land outside the iron-caged wooden structure. Three ravens sat strangely still inside.
“Caged friends! I help?” cawed Korba in the language of ravens.
“Seeds! Food! Good seeds!” one of the birds replied.
Korba shuffled to the door and found it unlocked. She pecked and grasped at the handle and was able to pry the door open enough to hop into the caged space. She hoped back out and bumped the bucket of seed outside to the door, then knocked the bucket over, spilling seed into the cage. The ravens stirred and hoped over to peck at the pile of spilled seeds.
“Come out! You free!” Korba squawked. The ravens made no move to leave the cage. “No leave prison?”
“Elf bad. Cage better. No leave. Stay. Eat,” replied the birds.
Patrick sensed the conversation, as it was, through the bond he shared with Korba. He bid her to stay above and keep an eye on the ravens and anyone who might approach the mill, or leave it.
Raoul decided for a direct approach and walked down the stairwell. Patrick gestured to Ogg and Garus and then went to follow Raoul. The paladin banged loudly on the door, and it was opened by a millworker. When Raoul made to step in the worker shifted to block to the door frame.
“I’m sorry. The mill is not open for business. If you would like to make an order, or see the facilities you must speak to our management,” the worker said with dull politeness.
“Ah, who would I need to speak with to make such and order?’ queried the paladin.
“Please take it up with the Seven. If you write a letter stating your intended business I would be happy to deliver it. Please leave it in the box by the door,” the millworker said, then stepped back and shut the door.
On the far side of the mill, Garus had grown impatient. He banged on the door a few times with his paws. The sound of footsteps on stairs was audible over the din of the waterwheels. Grodd smashed one meaty fist into the doors and burst into the room beyond. Oggrash made a gesture and a magical shield appeared around his body, then he walked in after Grodd and Garus.
Below, Patrick heard the door break and hastily cast a spell on Raoul. The paladin swelled in size by a few feet, magic increasing his size and strength to match that of Grodd. Patrick quickly tossed off another spell imbuing the paladin with accuracy, skill and resilience.
At the cages Korba saw an elf rush to the birds and quickly hid until the man left. As he retreated through a trapdoor in the roof one of the birds flew to the north. Korba followed, cawing at the ravens to cease. The raven cawed back, “No stop! Elf Mad! Go lady!”
Korba pushed a questioning feeling to Patrick, who told her to follow the bird, then return.
Raoul shoved open the lower door in time to see a man dressed in something like a perverse jester’s outfit dash into the paladin’s path. The pants were striped brown and black. A red cloak or tunic with long strips tapering almost to the ground covered the man, and was embossed with gold symbols and decorative plates. Over the man’s head was a leather mask with one hideously distorted eye and leering teeth. Spots of dried blood were visible all over the costume. The creature held a vicious war razor in one hand.
The room itself was the entire lower level of the sawmill. A narrow walkway wrapped around the perimeter. To the north were the four great waterwheels, churning with the river below. Mechanisms filling the room to the south were presumably the gears, pulleys and other apparatus that transferred the power of the rushing water to the floors above. There was no apparent way to reach the upper floors besides attempting to climb the pulleys. As Raoul tried to enter he was hit with a wave of pain, and felt needles pricks and small slices across his body beneath his armor.
Raoul drew his sword out. As the blade left the scabbard crackling flames of holy fire engulfed the steel. The paladin swung the blazing weapon down into the cultist jester and the man was sliced and burned from face to mid belly. He fell in a smoldering heap of blood and smoke, bouncing off the pulleys and mechanical assemblage inside the door. The dying man was dragged down through the assembly and fell between the mechanisms and the waterwheels into the Yondabakari rushing below the mill. A second cultist-jester on the far side of the room leapt onto one of the water wheels and disappeared into the mist.
Above, on the ground level floor, Garus, Oggrash and Grodd entered a silent room. This room was also the size of the entire sawmill. Stairs led up the north wall. Beyond the stairs was a low wall to the east from behind which sawdust spilled. To the south were four bays filled with machinery. Two wagons filled the rest of the room. A hole in the ceiling beside the stairs gave access, filled with ropes and slings, to the floor above. The trio ran up the stairs to a landing surrounding the hoists, and took up positions around the door on the landing to the first floor of the building.
Garus pounced through the door after the others were in position and saw a clutch of cultists all near the entrance. The druid, in the form a majestic predatory cat of enormous size, lashed out at the nearest cultist with his claws and eviscerated the foe. The room Garus had entered was dominated by stacks of split lumber, firewood, and finished products for shipment. There were four openings in the ceiling and two chutes of winches along the west wall for raising and lower timber and wood. Grodd followed in, biting one of the cultists, but failed to bring him down as the cultist wrenched free of the gorilla. Ogg pushed in after the others and loosed his greatsword but missed a third cultist and the jester shifted away. Oggrash’s sword bit into the floor and stuck in the wood.
The remaining two cultists weaved around Garus, trying to strike the beastial druid. On drew a thin line of blood across the cat’s shoulder, but the other missed. Garus retaliated, lunging and closing his jaws around the second cultist’s neck, snapping it like a twig. Before dropping the dead man Garus turned and raked the third and final cultist, mangling the man’s face and neck. Oggrash heaved his sword out of the wood and returned to the stairwell. Garus had torn through the room in whirlwind of claws and blood. Sounds came from above and the druid and gorilla followed Oggrash upstairs to the second story.
Down below Raoul saw there were no more foes to smite and hurried back out to the stairwell and around the ground floor, hoping to catch up with his friends. Patrick glanced around, made to follow Raoul, then turned and unleash rays of scorching fire from his hands into the pulleys and mechanisms. The machinery burned, tore, and melted. As Patrick followed Raoul back around the building the mechanical sounds of the mill died down. Screams were heard above, aside the steady creaking of the waterwheels and the rush of the river.
Raoul went into the ground floor room and stopped as Patrick began to climb the stairs towards the sounds of fighting above.
“There is something evil here,” said the paladin.
Raoul walked slowly forward, and a pair of cultists sprang from hiding places behind the carts, attempting to ambush the paladin. The sorcerer and paladin were faster, however. As one cultist charged Raoul, the armored paladin swung his flaming sword mightily and buried it deep into the side of the cultist’s chest. The second cultist rushed across the room but was hit full in the face and chest by another pair of scorching rays from Patrick. Both cultists were dead almost instantly. The victors continued up the stairs.
Above, Oggrash, Garus and Grodd had reached the door on the second floor landing. Oggrash was on the stairs, Grodd near the door, and Garus had vaulted the open gap filled with ropes and slings. Five cultists appeared as if form the wood itself. One burst out of a side door, three appeared from the room to the south, and one appeared climbing up the ropes in the shaft. Grodd plucked the climber off the rope and smashed his masked head into the wall with a wet crunch, dropping the body. Garus clawed one of the cultists near the door, but failed to kill him. Oggrash bellowed in fury, letting his rage course out, and cleaved the cultist coming up the stair, maiming the man’s arm.
The cultists continued unleashing their magical infliction on the trio on the second story landing, drawing minor cuts, bruises and injuries across them. By this time Patrick had made his way up the stairs and caught the cultist facing Ogg with another searing ray of fire, laying the man out burned and twitching. Grodd barreled from the landing, through the doors and into the room beyond, taking a pair of cultists with him. Garus, engaged on the landing, succeeded in killing another cultist by tooth and claw.
Ogg and Patrick followed the ball of Grodd and cultists into the log splitting room beyond. Two large log splitters and saws were arrayed in the middle of the room, and the winches and pulley shafts ended here. The machinery had ceased moving after Patrick’s fiery signal that work was done for the day. One cultist escaped from Grodd as the great beast pummeled the other to pulp. Patrick hit the escapee with searing fire, and Oggrash charged in, hacking down the burning man with his greatsword. The bloodrager calmed, breathing heavily as he pulled his sword out of the dying man. Raoul, who had finally caught up with the group, laid his hands on the fatigued half-orc and the rage sighed and straightened.
The group heard movement above, on the top floor of the sawmill. They readied themselves and cautiously went up the stairs. The top floor was a large room with a few small closets or offices around the edges. The stairwell opened up to the northwest corner of the room, with the access shaft separating a small walkway on the west wall from the east and south of the room. South of the shaft the walkway turned east, a wall with a door to the south and the access shaft to the north. The rest of the room was great workshop strewn with woodworking tools and deep sawdust. Four cultists stood in the middle of the room. An old elf, dressed in a more elaborate version of the jester costume stood near the back.
His tunic was red and gold, and shared the long, tail like decorations, but his tails were starched and pressed and flew off like buttresses on a cathedral. Instead of trailing to the floor, his tunic ended in more tapered flourishes mid-thigh. A purple and white striped skirt hung below, edged with decorated ribbon or possibly prayer shawls. His features were hidden behind a leather mask made of single long piece of tanned human flesh, roughly stitched into a concentric spiral and covered in strange markings. A stern, deep voice came from the behind the mask.
“The heroes of Sandpoint appear to be more of nuisance than expected, it seems.”
None of the heroes said a word. Raoul moved to the space between the wall and shaft, with the others behind him. Garus curled as if to pounce.
“Such silence for so many.”
Raoul ducked his shield and smirked at the masked man.
“Hmm. You have vanquished a fair amount of evil. And had your journey continued past this point, you would have encountered even more. Attack!”
The four cultists spread out and approached to attack Raoul. Raoul prepared to engage the closest cultist, but the man in the mask gestured and spoke, and Raoul was rooted to the spot, paralyzed. Patrick loosed two more rays of fire at the masked man, but both splashed against the wall behind the dark haired man as he ducked. Garus summoned a great orb of water in the north of the room and sent it bowling through the line of cultists at the masked, blowing sawdust into the air as the orb traveled. The cultists dodge and weaved, and their leader was able to sidestep it in time to avoid getting engulfed by the ball of fluid. Oggrash screamed in rage and lunged past Raoul, hacking into the nearest cultist with blind fury.
Raoul’s magical prison yielded to his will, and the paladin sung his sword at another cultist, but missed. The leader of the cultists gestured again and the great orb of water in the south of the room dissolved into the air. The cultists unleashed a barrage of their magical infliction, opening even more minor wounds and cuts on the party. Though not powerful, these constant blasts of evil energy were starting to tax Patrick and Raoul. Their clothes showed myriad tiny blood stains leaking through.
The cultist Oggrash had attacked hit back, drawing blood. Patrick refocused his burning rays on two of the cultists, but missed, flustered by the waves of injury he was enduring. Garus abandoned a magical approach and leapt over the gap to the far side of the room, tackling and clawing a cultists and he landed. Ogg, enraged by the endless assault of gestures and invisible pain, wadedinto a pair of cultists and piles of sawdust. One swing of his greatsword rent off the arm of one cultist, and on the backswing the half-orc slashed across the neck of a second. Sprays of blood and sawdust coated him and he searched for another target. Raoul smashed his shield into a third cultist near the stairs, knocking him down and then delivering the coup-de-grace with his longsword.
As his minions fall, the leader muttered an incantation behind his mask and three maggots made of mud appeared. The abominations wriggled forward baring tooth ringed maws. “Those are not creatures of the light!” Raoul shouted as he felt the unholy presences appear. Two of the creatures tried to bite Oggrash and Raoul, but missed. The landing cleared, Grodd leapt over to the far side, near Oggrash, and smashed one of the maggots under a great clawed fist. Patrick loosed a volley of magic missiles into the third maggot near Grodd to the east of the room and Garus surged forward and sunk his fangs into the mud grub. It squirmed, then stilled in Garus’ jaws as the cat’s claws torn open the last cultist.
Ogg brought his sword down on the first grub, splitting it in two. As Grodd lifted his paw off the second, surprised to see it still struggling, Ogg tried to slash it, but missed as the maggot wriggled. The masked men stepped forward and unleashed an even more powerful blast of painful affliction, searing the nerves of everyone in the room. Raoul, looking pale, ducked behind the short wall and dragged a potion off his belt, pouring the liquid into his mouth as fast as he could drink. A bleeding and pained Patrick loosed another flight of missiles at the last remaining grub and it sizzled, unmoving.
Garus crouched down and then pounced across the room, clawing and biting and snarling as he hit the masked man. The two went down in a roll, and Garus ended up on his feet behind the masked man, who had also managed to recover his footing, turned about. Neither had taken a blow in the tussle. Oggrash seized the moment of misdirection and charged with a curse, impaling the masked man in the back. The force of the blow carried Ogg’s sword through the man’s back and out his chest, lifting him slightly off the floor. The man looked down, saw the blade, and sighed wetly. Oggrash lowered the man to his feet, then braced his foot against the elf’s lower back and drew out the blade. The elf staggered as the open wound released gouts of blood into the sawdust, then fell over sideways as he died.F