The Warden Lands

09 - The Waste

A violent series of encounters in and around the Renstake sewers results in the loss of two party members

In the catacombs beneath Renstake, where a variety of human effluent converges, the adventurers held fast the unscrupulous merchant and murderer, Magidar. “I Yield!” he cried to the pack of hungry predators as they circled and fell upon him, binding his hands and preparing to dine on succulent vengeance.

The magician, Aaaz, had a spell of charming already prepared and delivered it upon Magidar, forcing him into obedience and readying him for inquisition. But despite the wizard’s directions that their captive not be intimidated lest the spell be ruined, A’ari couldn’t contain his fervour and in his next breath threatened the merchant, bringing him back to his senses.

Magidar already felt his life was forfeit and was reluctant to share information, especially when his pleas for protection were bartered down to the relative mercy of a quick death. As he begged for his life, Umbar and A’ari heard a man’s whispers emanating from the tunnel beyond the grate but his words were strange and incomprehensible. The whispers were obscured by Magidar who started howling in morbid terror. Presuming the whispers were a spell sent to render the merchant’s mind useless, Umbar grabbed Magidar’s head in his enormous paw and thrust it back into the wall, knocking him out instantly.

A’ari had meanwhile been using the merchant’s keys to unlock the grate, though something unseen still held it tight. A firm shunt of Cale’s broad shoulders sent it flying on its hinges and the Satyr and the Scourge charged into the darkened tunnel, hoping to catch a man they hoped might be Sanabalat. A’ari darted along the sewer path and spotted a hunched and cloaked figure on the opposite bank. He hurled his torch at the man, setting the hem of his robes aflame, but the garment was quickly discarded as the figure shrouded himself instead in invisibility. Cale leapt across the river of waste and sprinted along the far side but after coming to a second locked grate at the end of the tunnel, it seemed apparent that the man had somehow escaped.

Umbar dragged the unconscious Magidar back towards the bakery basement and in the darkness plied the merchant with alcohol in an attempt to revive him. Magidar awoke but was still reeling from terror and in a barely coherent ramble enforced that trouble stemmed from the Church but that the Church itself was not the enemy. As the fear took hold again he begged for death before taking matters into his own hand and slamming his head repeatedly into the stonework, spilling his blood and then his life onto the cobblestones.

Aaaz joined the Nari and picked over the merchant’s magical necklace and boots, happily discovering the footwear expanded to accommodate his oversized feet. Once pillaged, the body was hoisted up by Umbar and taken up through the bakery and out into the street for all to see. A crowd of scared and bewildered onlookers gathered and soon a pair of Nachtkreed guards was on the scene.

The guards seemed highly suspicious of the Nari and dismounted their horses, drew swords and approached. They exchanged a knowing glance and a calculated nod and stepped in to attack, giving Umbar scant time to prepare a defence. The baker meanwhile had crept behind Umbar and pushed him beyond the doorway of his shop with the end of a broom before hastily slamming and locking the glass door. Umbar was flanked by experienced swordsmen who quickly cut him open. As the great Nari kicked out at the door behind him trying desperately to find an escape the Nachtkreed hacked mercilessly; a savage slice across Umbar’s belly doubled him over and a mighty overhead sweep severed his head clean. Umbar was dead.

Aaaz and Vetch had given chase as soon as the painful bellow of Umbar hailed from the streets but they charged into the shopfront only in time to see their friend collapse. Aaaz fled back into the tunnels, gathering the wailing Kobold in his arms.

Unaware of the tragedy unraveling above, Cale and A’ari scoured the stinking sewers for any signs of the missing mage. A’ari cast another spell of detection, this time for secret doors, and lo and behold a near-invisible portal revealed itself. The pair felt for some kind of trigger to open the door and eventually happened across a small protruding button. A gentle push and the secret door gave way.

A’ari delved into the blackness, keen to scout ahead while Cale stayed and waited for his companions. In the long, featureless tunnels the Satyr scoured for Sanbalat but found no trace. His search came to a head in an eerie stone chamber, littered with skeletal remains and otherwise empty save for a pair of black double doors at the far end with two stone columns at either side. On closer investigation A’ari saw that the columns were made of rotating cubes decorated with diabolic runes, which could be twisted to make different combinations. A button, not unlike the one on the secret door in the sewers, presented itself upon the doors and the cleric, with no small measure of imprudence, pushed it.

A colossal, fiery explosion erupted within the room, obliterating A’ari, reducing his earthly form to little more than smouldering, ashen remains.

Once united, Cale, Vetch and Aaaz had little time to grieve over Umbar as the distant explosion in the tunnels foretold further disaster. They each broke into a sprint and chased after A’ari, ultimately finding the stone room in which he found his final fate.

Fearing that the secret door in the sewers would now be blocked by Nachtkreed, the trio set about revealing the correct combination of the demonic columns to open the double doors before them. Vetch placed his hands on the stone and used a Geomantric technique of Recall to ‘hear’ the history of the rock and thereby find the correct sequence. Though the process was largely successful, the recent explosion made it hard for the Kobold to be certain of his findings, but after narrowing it down to a 1-in-4 chance of success, the party agreed to at least try.

Aaaz was able to conjure a Mage Hand to press the button itself, keeping the group mostly out of harm’s way, but when the first attempt failed the size of the explosion caught him by surprise and sent him flying. The terrible burns he suffered were enough to convince him now was a bad time to continue the experiment, and Aaaz found a conveniently depressing patch of dark, wet catacomb to sulk in, but Vetch and Cale were undeterred!

An arrangement was forged in which Vetch would send sling bullets flying at the button and Cale would leap to cover the Kobold in the event of another explosion. As the target was so small and the room so long, Vetch struggled to find the target, and even when he did first strike the button, success was rewarded with a fireball. This time the knight and the geomancer were at least able to dive away in time. Bolstered by the ever-increasing odds, they continued…

The next attempt on the door was successful! The heavy stone door lifted, presenting a dark, rising staircase. Vetch, gifted with darkvision, slunk up the cold, stone steps in pitch dark and near silence, to find an enclosed panoptical prison at the top. Whispers reverberated through the jail, borne of familiar voices.

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falrinth

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