Between Freedom and Happiness

Lady Anne Mowbry takes the two Seirian back to the riddlepillars while Hafwyn, Quilate, Keribrar, and Thorne try and break into the next room. The door has been secured and barricaded from the other side difficult. Keribrar tries to use his magic to warp or splinter the door, but someone on the other side counters his spell. Perturbed he resorts to the old fashioned mattering ram. Summoning up as much stone as he can he has it run to and through the door.

Tomb of Aegrin

Inside the room is a sarcophagus on a raised platform topped by a solid iron lid held fast by four large rivets. Four people in gray hooded cloaks are chanting from the four corners of the room. The room is filled with smoke up to the waist, but it does not move like smoke – instead as a living being.

That the choice for mankind lay between freedom and happiness, and that, for the great bulk of mankind, happiness was better. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Keribrar follows his battering ram into the room and doubles over in pain, his skin feels as if on fire. He looks down and sees his skin begin to blacken and rot. Quilate tries to push Keribrar aside, but he suffers even worse as many of his feathers shrivel and fall off. When Quilate begins to cough up blood he grabs Keribrar and retreats. Hafwyn shoots several arrows at the gray cloaks to cover their retreat, but even though both strike solidly they do not react. What does happen is that both Keribrar and Quilate seem to suffer wounds in the same area as the arrows struck the gray cloaks.

Quilate and Thorne take the robes from the dead cultists in the prison room and re-enter the room. This time they do not suffer the skin rot, but after striking one of the chanters they still suffer the same wounds as they cause. They are tied together so much that when Quilate sweeps the leg of one of the cultists everyone in the room falls down. Thorne grapples one of the others and soon everyone, including Throne, has their arms pinned behind their back.

Assassin

While Keribrar is distracted trying to unweave the spell that binds everyone together, Hafwyn senses someone else in the room. She is not sure where or whom, but she knows that someone is watching them – and waiting for an opening. With Hafwyn guarding his back Keribrar creates a large number of small stone elementals and sends them into the room to drag out the gray cloaks while they are grabbed.

Shockingly, several of them stab themselves multiple times to inflict wounds on Quilate and Thorne, but they cannot stop themselves from being drug out by the golems – who are not affected by the spell. Quilate gets out of the room, but Thorne notices a bulbous creature hiding in the smoke. It is nearly invisible and fades into the smoke.

From the shadows comes an assassin diving towards Quilate, but Hafwyn is ready. She intercepts the strike and drives the assassin back, eventually killing the creature with the help of Keribrar’s army of golems.

Sarcophagus

The creature in the smoke evades any attempt to fight it from outside the smoke. Any attempt to use magic simply dissolves as it nears the sarcophagus. The creature seems to know this and stays on the far side.

Quilate and Throne move around either side of the sarcophagus trapping the creature. It fights until the end, but its trapped with no ability to maneuver or hide.

The gray cloaks were trying to use magic to open the sarcophagus and failed. Keribrar understands why as the top is made from solid iron and the base is dwarven concrete, both highly resistant to magic. Even the rivets holding the top down are solid iron.

The walls are covered in beautiful glazed tiles depicting Aegrin, Silverhammer, The Great Tree, and stormy clouds. Behind one of the tiles Quilate finds a hidden key. He uses it to unlock the rivets once the ornate tops are removed. Three more keys unlock the other rivets.

Once pushed aside they find a body wrapped in a white robe clutching a small object wrapped in homespun cloth. Quilate grabs it and finds a large uncut amethyst. When a light shines through the gem Quilate finds that Hafwyn and Keribrar look different. It seems to expose the darkness within them. Thorne looks exactly the same as a fae he can only be himself.

When he looks at Lady Anne he sees the Mistress of the Night. She overpowers his mind and makes him forget what he saw.

Real Seirian

When he turns the gem on the two Seirians he sees one exactly as he saw Thorne – just a reflection of herself. The one they traveled with is very different. She lunges at the real Seirian with an iron dagger what was kept in a concealed sheath.

She wounds Throne, but is knocked unconscious when she tries and recover for a second strike at Seirian. Keribrar ties her up and puts her in the corner.

Aegrin

When the amethyst is used to light up the body it reveals that the skeleton is human. They search around and find a catch that lifts the fake bottom. In the bottom is another skeleton with a silver bracer on their left arm and holding a silver sword in their right.

Qulate takes the bracer, while Thorne lifts out the silver sword. Unlike most other weapons of this world it does not hurt in his hands. The core is not steel, but bronze instead and covered with silver. On the blade near the hilt is strike of Silverhammer.

As Hafwyn is wearing the other bracer she is convinced to wear the other one. It is marked with the crest and motto of the Celestial Court. Her mind is immediately sent to a landscape she knows very well. She participated in this battle where the True Elves first drew the blood of their kin.

She can feel the spirits of Ellowyn and Mardac standing next to her – and the full weight of their guilt.

Outside of this mindscape the others watch as Hafwyn collapses to the ground, the silver bracer smoking on her arm. With the smell of burnt flesh Keribrar drags her over and draws a hasty circle around her. He draws upon the power of the earth to empower his ritual and free Hafwyn. Eventually he is able to force the bracer from her hand with the help of both Quilate and Thorne.

Assassin’s Tale

With night spread over the city everyone goes to the riddle room and sleeps. Thorne stays up and speaks with the assassin. Her name is Batilda and she is only a sword for hire. Her goal was to kill Seirian while in the employ of King Merridan.

Her story is a twisty tale, which is understandable as she has a Fae as her patron, and maybe only some of it is true. Her patron sent her to work for Malcom the Black, who names himself a Bandit King, in search of a wooden box with inlay ivory. Malcom traded the box to King Merridan so she convinced Malcom to send her to King Merridan to aid her in eliminating Seirian a mutual enemy.

Batilda hears two secrets, one is that Seirian has disappeared in the tunnels beneath the city, and two is that someone in that undercity is looking for her. She decides to disguise herself as Seirian and get captured. From her position she was able to explore the undercity and eventually locate her.

She agreed to follow the group into the city using them as a shield until she reached Seirian. After killing the fae she would escape in the confusion, shadowing behind as they left for Natttåke Keep.

She agrees to return to the Riddlestone room and wait for them. She will travel behind them to leave this city and not interfere with them in any manner.

I Cobble

In the morning Thorne wakes up the three cultists that are still alive. The first one will not talk – so Throne kills him. The second is much more willing. His name is Savino and he is a cobbler. He joined the gray cloaks because he was seeking to belong to something. Everything about Fountainhead feels wrong and out of place. He was given the robe by Fiella. Only one of the people in their group knew magic and Thorne just killed him.

The gray cloaks are a secret organization that steal, smuggle, and on rare occasions beat or kill someone. Savino would never kill anyone as he is a Cobbler and that is not part of the Cobbler code. He explains that his group would give everything they stole to someone that distributed it to the poor. It felt good to help the poor of this city as there are so many of them. A cobblers work is never truly done.

The third man is Nazzaro a farrier and student of magic. The other gray cloaks do not know he does know magic, but he is not very good. He once attended a Collegia Magikia in Irill, but dropped out early when this city called to him. He has a pendent that keeps the monsters at bay, but it can only be worn by someone with at least some talent with magic.

Flight to Freedom

Experimentation

When they believe morning has come they leave the tomb and return to the streets. Keribrar is wearing the amulet and everyone stays close together. Several of the creatures pace near them, but none of them get very close. There are even mock charges by creatures the size of large dogs, but they appear to have little bite to their bark. The smaller creatures are gone, but several the size of elephants or horses take up the watch. They expect Batilda is somewhere behind them, but cannot see her.

They reach the warehouse where the scientist spirit stays. They go inside to rest as the journey is tiring on all of them. The spirit notices that Lady Anne has a second spirit possessing her and warns everyone else not to trust her. It is clear that Lady Anne is too powerfully drawn to the darkness and will be an easy pawn for the Circle of Marak.

The Mistress of the Night comes out of Lady Anne and congrats him on seeing her. As the amulet is of her design it only protects them if she wills it. She is willing to grant them safe passage back to the dwarves if they turn over the amethyst, which she calls the Stone of Truth. She kills the cobbler and farrier and reanimates them as putrid zombies.

She also offers them a chance to join her in controlling this city. She cannot be above ground and so will need skilled swords and hands to rule over the city. She was foolish to follow the Circle of Marak and sees the error of their path. She wants to carve out her own path for the city and offers them a chance to be there with her. They turn down her offer, but accept the safe passage in exchange for the stone.

Thorne looks outside and sees more than twenty of the creatures the size of a small house lined up on the street. It would be nearly impossible to avoid them. Quilate could fly over them, but there are now several Grimshaws flying around the top of the cavern. It would be nearly impossible for them to make it safely to the keep, so they trade the stone for their safety.

Once traded she tries and recruits them to her side. She needs those willing to dirty their hands topside and is willing to offering unwavering support. The city is a mess and needs a stable community. Humans simply cannot live in such a chaotic environment. Keribrar is the first to step up and turn down her offer, but the others agree. They don’t want to work for someone else – at least Aegrin is the devil they know.

Kulrnbuldihr

Deathwatch Nargle is amazed when everyone walks into the light. He is concerned about the number of darkspawn that are walking beside and behind them, but after going out to speak with them personally he clears them for passage out fo the city. His healers bind their wounds and escort them to the honorblade village. The Honorblades throw them a large celebration and help them reorient themselves with the day-night cycle. Even spending a few hours in the cavern tends to distort one’s sense of time.

The next “morning”, which actually arrives in just a few hours, the dwarves escort them up a steep set of stairs and several lifts. This leads to a warehouse, more designed as a keep, in the dwarven village of Kulrnbuldihr. The village is nestled under the overhang of Fountainhead. Keribrar suspects the dwarves also have secret stairs that lead to at least one house in the city. All the dwarves in the village are from the Blackthorn Clan and have weapons at the ready. This is a village prepared for a fight.

The March

Skirting around the northern outskirts of the city everyone arrives at Locust Watch and finds the landscape has changed dramatically. A four foot palisade as been erected around fountain where the cup rests. There are still plenty of hovels scattered about the land, but those nearest the palisade have been torn down and replaced with scattered picket lines. There are people walking around with makeshift weapons.

When they step over the “wall” several “soldiers” come towards them, but Benevenuta sees them first. She says a few final words to some richly dressed humans and then comes over to greet them. She greets them warmly and brings them to the central pavilion. It is not a proper defensive keep, but instead a building built from fresh timber and hides.

She wants to know why they were not rounded up with the others that marched with Father Karl. All of the others were surrounded when they reached the Temple District and drug inside. Any that tried to escape never made it through Crofterton and were drug back to the temple for judgment. Scores of guards came to the shanty town and drug away anyone they suspected of helping the marchers. That was nearly a week ago.

Aside from being shocked they have been gone a week they are relieved to find that no judgment has been handed down yet. King Merridan always makes his judgments public by using a town crier.

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