Aaaz and Cale crept up the cold, stone steps to join the geomancer and see for themselves what lay beyond. A deep prison, wrought in stone and aglow with the fiery light of four great braziers chained to its ceiling. At its centre stood an observation tower with a narrow horizontal window cut through it.
“Sigrid?” Vetch’s guttural whisper dared into the prison. A startled response from around the tower confirmed his assumption and he moved, as quietly as he was able, around and across the open jailhouse floor to his friend. As he crept passed a cell a crazed man’s voice called out from within to alert the guards to this intruder. From within the turret a gruff voice called the old man to silence, threatening him with a sound beating, but his warnings did nothing to thwart the geriatric.
Cale prepared for the inevitable. The heavy latching on the tower door echoed throughout the prison and with a hefty creak it opened, giving way to an irritable Nachtkreed, sword in hand. Cale paused just a moment, enough for the guard to be a step from his tower, before charging. A heavy crack to the skull sent the Nachtkreed careening into the tower wall.
Aaaz put Magidar’s lurid green boots to immediate use and sprang across the room to aid Cale. In a dazzling display not witnessed since the battle beneath the Reinstihl Manor, the ungainly wizard charged his fist with lightning in mid-air before bringing it down upon the guard, leaving him thunderstruck. The broadsword of the Nachtkreed fell from his spasmodic grasp and his last failed attempt to strike Cale was met with a sickening riposte from the Knight’s pommel.
With the old convict’s screeching unabated Cale was forced to silence him with a sling stone, while Vetch scurried back to Sigrid. Here he discovered Caretaker Agven was also imprisoned down in this dungeon. The priest asked for his freedom and also that of a fellow prisoner, an Asuran man in a nearby cell.
Aaaz briefly toyed with a Tanarikin captive before turning his attention to the tower, searching for keys to free Sigrid. Inside the tower he found an array of levers rather than keys and quickly set about heaving the one corresponding to Sigrid’s cell. Vetch ran to the Wizard to help with the heavy levers, stating a further two cells needed opening. As they hauled the handles down, the cylindrical cage at the centre of the tower began to lift; a great chain mechanism clanking and straining.
Sensing reinforcements were on the way, Cale rounded up the freed prisoners and herded them back to the staircase. Vetch sent a gemstone arcing up to meet the elevator as it returned to the prison floor, now full of Nachtkreed, but it did little more than shock the guards within. He ran to join Cale and the others leaving Aaaz with one final task. When the Nachtkreed were but twenty feet from the floor, the wizard threw the lever for the Tanarikin’s pen before bolting for the sewers. As he fled he caught a fleeting glimpse of the predatory demonspawn, creeping to the tower with murder in his eyes.
Aaaz led the party through the sewers to an alley near Eriam’s hideout in the slums. There they regrouped and shared stories and suspicions, fear and woe. Sigrid was informed by Cale of her parents demise, and the Asura was introduced to the group. Akura was a cousin to Jai and was in Renstake to find the slayer of his kin.
Meanwhile Vetch staked-out the perimeter of their shelter. Mere moments after his companions had entered Eriam’s attic, none other than Jonas, the thug from Keelhauled, came sniffing around like a sewer-rat. The geomancer confronted Jonas with a gemstone glowing in a clenched fist and a snarl on his muzzle, but Jonas was less brave without his bar-mates in tow, and he fled into the slums too quick for the kobold to chase.
He returned to his companions and announced their safehaven was anything but safe. The party agreed to move on and after some debate, chose Lord Andar Swift’s estate as the best sanctuary.
A path along the precarious steps of Constitution Way and then along the outskirts of Clifftop was taken to get to Castle Swift, where the party was greeted first by the congenial squire Darius, and then the less friendly step-son of Andar, Syle. Syle protested the incursion but was helpless to thwart Caretaker Agven’s presence. Syle’s wife, and daughter to Andar, Vanessa, also tried to stall Cale and his companions but was forced to relent. Before long, Cale, Agven and Akura were by Lord Swift’s side, the priest bringing light and warmth to the dying man.
Agven noted there had been poison in Andar’s blood, and warned the Lord to surround himself with trusted allies. This began a long conversation into the night wherein the plight of Renstake was discussed at length. Agven pointed the finger at Baron Wolhem, knowing he controlled the Nachtkreed and that the Nachtkreed were deeply entrenched in this conspiracy. The Caretaker, enraged by the desecration of his church, the poisoning of his city and the bloodshed on those who rose to protect them, made a pact with the heroes; he would do all he could to resurrect Umbar and A’ari so they might rise against their slayers and continue the fight for their people. This was no small feat however, and he would need the remains of the fallen bodies as well as his papal crown to proceed with the ceremony. He gave directions to the church’s treasury as well as a password to gain secret access.
The next morning was broken by the clanging of bells brought on sinister winds from Renstake. Aaaz understood the rhythm of the bells to indicate the death of a monarch, and a sense of dread washed over the party.
After Akura had equipped himself from Swift’s armoury and Aaaz and Vetch had rested and meditated, the party of four descended into Renstake again. They planned to contact Aaaz’s university friend, Lychor, and entreat him to act as advisor and protector to Lord Swift. Also they wanted to dig up information around the city regarding the recent underhandedness of the Nachtkreed and the Church. All this intention was stopped dead in its tracks with a single parchment, nailed fresh to a Cryer’s Post in the slums, which announced Baron Wolhem had been murdered in his sleep by five assassins. A price of 1000 pieces of gold was now on the heads of A’ari, Aaaz, Vetch and Cale, and the head of Umbar was already taken and staked outside the city dungeons.
Dread amplified to terror as the grey city closed in around them.