Session VI

The hall widened to ten feet, and before too long there was another door, this time on the eastern wall. Opening it revealed what appeared to be a weapons closet containing two crossbows, four flasks of oil, two quivers of ten (nasty barbed) bolts each, and a black key. The party divided up the flasks and bolts, took the key, and proceeded to the end of the corridor, where there was a hefty iron-banded wooden door. It was unlocked, and heavy enough that Bunny was unable to budge it, so Stark put some muscle into it and the door swung open…

…into a cave. The door swung heavily shut behind them, and they noted that this side was skillfully covered in rock, such that it might have gone unnoticed by anyone not looking for a door. In the flickering of torchlight, the cave itself appeared devoid of any interesting features save a narrow exit at the opposite end, which was flanked (from the outside) by heavy branches. Peering through the branches in the pre-dawn light, Stark was able to ascertain that beyond about five feet of tree cover lay a large clearing. His keen eyes also noticed that the clearing was filling with an even darker darkness than was normal for that time of morning. From the darkness emerged two black-robed cultists, who proceeded in the direction of the cave (and our heroes), but stopped a moderate distance. They stood formally, one at each end of the darkness, and each held a long pole atop which was an unusual – yet familiar – black lantern. From within the darkness rose chanting.

After much discussion about whether to turn around and work their way back through the lair and basement and back to Louie’s apartment, it was decided that Bunny would sneak out and see what was up. Staying within the cover of trees, she edged her way along the edge of the clearing. It became clear that the cave exit (or entrance, depending on one’s point of view) came out of the side of a wooded hill. It also became clear that there was another sentinel on the other edge of the darkness, seemingly identical to the first.

Edging further, Bunny heard something that could well have been a twig snapping, but couldn’t tell what had caused it. Freezing silently, she waited a minute, and then was startled to be grabbed from behind! A brief struggle ensued and she found herself face down on the ground. Turning over, three hooded figures towered over her. One held a sword at her throat, one brandished a staff, and one was unarmed. The unarmed figure leaned in close to her and further surprised her by saying, incredulously, “Bunny?”

It was Turlough, and as the other figures removed their hoods he introduced her to Louie’s niece Lucinda – a curly-haired redhead, who wielded the staff – and Aline, her bodyguard. Deciding that this was not the time for explanations, the three agreed to wait while Bunny sneak-hustled back to the cave to retrieve her friends.

Back in the cave, the rest of the party had been keeping an eye on the sentinels and the darkness, but didn’t do much other than noticing that the chanting consisted of several different call-and-response patterns. Eventually, under the lengthening fingers of dawn, the party – and its new additions – reconvened behind a large rock on the wooded hillside. They learned that though Lucinda’s father Melmoth had sent her – and Aline – to Deadlake on a matter of “routine business,” while there she had heard of the circumstances of Neringa’s death and had started making inquiries. She learned of the impending ritual – which she said was a “purification ritual,” designed to re-consecrate the abandoned lair. As an acolyte of the Red Temple in Southlake, she decided to investigate. She notified her uncle, who sent Turlough to meet her – for both protection and information-gathering.

Thus informed, the party agreed to carry out their original mission of escorting her to Southlake (though they were somewhat chagrined to realize that the journey was about 300 leagues, or 1000 miles). Turlough returned to inform Louie of what he had seen, but before he did the party wrote a note to Louie, informing him of the rest of the gold in Calcidus’ tower and offering him a 50% cut if he could get it out (they also explained how to do it) (they kept the contents of the note secret from Turlough, but that didn’t seem to bother him). Before he left he gave Spiderssen a scroll of Cure Light Wounds.

Feeling somewhat ragged and weak in the dawn, the party followed Lucinda and Aline (whose relationship, it was intimated, was much more intimate than protector and ward) across the wooded hillside. After about 15 minutes, they came to another clearing, and as they crossed it another cloud of eerie darkness befell them, and they heard several screams of attack. Several arrows were fired (one striking Stark) and everything was a bit confused until Lucinda uttered some divinely-charged words and brought forth a light to cancel out the darkness. The party faced three cultists, two with swords and crossbows and one with a sword, yet who was clearly the magic-user of the group.

A vicious battle ensued, with the party taking some light wounds but ending triumphant, as Eiluned, aided by a magical shillelagh, killed one cultist and knocked out another, and Bunny killed the third. Rather than killing the unconscious one, Bunny hogtied him and leaned him up against a tree. The cultist was slapped awake and proved to be full of bile as they attempted to question him regarding his belief. “Fuck you” was the first piece of information he offered, a theme to which he kept returning.

At such a close distance, the party was slightly disturbed to notice that the streaks of black they had earlier noticed around the eyes of the cultists were, in fact, burn marks. However, over the course of the questioning, some party members were more disturbed by the intensity with which their new colleague Spiderssen questioned the prisoner. After  such gnomic statements as “We worship the dark” and “The darkness is everywhere” and “Darkness is stronger than light,” Spiderssen became incensed and cut a finger from the cultist’s hand. The cultist promptly passed out, and when Spiderssen slapped him awake proved to be of no use, despite Spiderssen’s use of the cultist’s own severed finger to intimidate him. Finally, seeing that this was a useless endeavor, the party decided to kill their prisoner, with Eiluned delivering the final blow.

The party, extremely fatigued by now, was heartened to hear that Lucinda knew of an inn that was “only” a day’s walk. Wearily, they moved on.

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~ by erranttiger on July 17, 2011.

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