Chapter Two.   Posted by GM.Group: 0
GM
 GM, 266 posts
Sat 12 Dec 2020
at 01:08
Chapter Two
With the bodies of the greenskins burning, their filth being seared from the face of the land, the party left the compound behind, and travelled south back to Newkeep. There they explained themselves to the Mayor and collected their bounty for goblins killed - with a bonus for reclaiming the compound. They enquired about purchasing a house, and, once sufficient coin had exchanged hands, the mayor's office rushed through the land acquisition permits granting ownership of a farmstead close to Newkeep to be granted to the group.

They settled down for a peaceful, comfortable night's sleep in their new dwelling. The question of furnishings was never raised, though they thought it belonged to the previous owners and were left when they moved on or died.

The next morning Findor and Broguy visited Zardoz, speaking quickly but little news had been heard so they agreed for Zardoz to extend responsibility for the zombie wand. They decided to follow the Mayor's suggestion and seek a solution to the ogre problem to the south, or at least scout out the area and find out what they were up against.

Purchasing a week's provisions for everyone, and a few days of feed for the animals to supplement their grazing, they set off to search for the ogre camp. Having been told they were currently holding out in a cave in the foothills Findor determined the best estimated path that the two ogres they rescued would take to avoid the human settlements or notice of outriders and roadwardens.

They rode their horses, searching for something, relying on Findor's hunting and tracking skills, they had fresh meat, water from streams, berries and fruit to eat. So successful was he that none of the group needed to use their preserved trail rations.

Three days of searching and the group found tracks from a mixture of humanoid creatures, all larger than humans. One set of tracks Findor decided were those of ogres, the second orc. Following the tracks led to a cave and the party entered. Inside were a number of orc raiders that were put to the word. As the party explored they found that a small group of ogres had taken over leadership by force of a band of orc raiders. Using surprise to their advantage, Broguy was sent ahead to scout, and was able to sneak into the rooms and attack the occupants. In the confusion of the sudden, brutal assaults Grimni would rush in wielding his magical axe Sarg Argler, the orc slayer. Defeating the band of orcs and their ogre masters, the group left one orc alive and learned where the orcs had previously hidden, but had been forced out a few weeks back. The orc refused to say much more, and was executed.

The party moved to the old mine that the orcs had occupied and found a group of zombies within. Strangely, the zombies were using their hands to mine the gemstones from the mine faces. Grimni recognised the minecas a human mine with potential as a producer of gemstones, but it was Shanorin who wanted to cleanse the mine of the taint of the unliving.

The party wasted no time in separating the zombies and dealing with them one at a time, Shanorin drawing on divine energy to destroy and disrupt the foul energies that had animated the corpses. Within minutes the mjbe was free of the unkiving, and the party helped themselves to the gems that had been mined.

It left the questions - who had raised the zombies, and what did they want with the gems?? Or were the gems just a useful by-product of the zombies searching for something else??

This message was last edited by the GM at 10:02, Tue 22 Dec 2020.

GM
 GM, 286 posts
Wed 23 Dec 2020
at 20:36
Chapter Two
Having identified that at least some of the ogres had assumed forced leadership over a small pack of orcs, the group decided that they would return to Newkeep to speak to the Mayor and plan their next move. It took a day and a half of riding, without Findor's skills living off the land, but they made good progress and were relieved to see a number of merchant carts on the north/south road as they approached the town. Trade, it seemed, was returning to Newkeep now that the threat of the goblins had been alleviated - for now.

Taking the rest of the day to rest, heal their wounds and relax in their home (as well as change the layout more to their personal tastes) the group agreed that Findor and Broguy should speak to the Mayor. They reported what had happened, that the information that the ogres from the goblin camp revealed had not allowed them to find the camp, but that there were a number of unliving in the area of an abandoned mine that had formerly been held by a group of orcs. Whatever the zombies were digging or searching for had either already been found (and the unliving left to fend for themselves) or had not as yet been uncovered, meaning the zombies had been left behind. But why had they not been instructed to use the tools left by the miners??

The Mayor asked if the group were available to assist him in a small recovery task. When the pair said that they were staying in Newkeep for another day or two, the Mayor asked for promises of secrecy. He advised that he'd made arrangements for a particular gemstone to come into his possession, however the couriers had failed to deliver and he was concerned that the couriers may have claimed the gemstone for themselves. He advised that there was a superstition around the gem, that it had belonged to a plague demon and had been the center stone of a ring the demon used to wear. He said that while he believed that the gemstone held no powers, he was not willing to take any risk and had arranged for an enchanted box to be made that could contain any magical threat that the gemstone held. He offered the box to the pair, explaining that they needed to go into the sewers beneath the town and head towards the underground river where the gang that had been tasked with delivering the gemstone had their base.

The pair promised to retrieve the gemstone, but did not negotiate on price and were finally offered 500 gold pieces on successful completion of the task. Broguy felt that the Mayor, if pressed, would have offered possibly 150 gold pieces per person but the misunderstanding between Broguy and Findor resulted in the limited offer. They returned to their house and advised the rest of the party that they could only include them if they all promised to secrecy. Grimni promised, provided he was allowed to kill greenskins. When the pair announced that they didn't think they'd be facing greenskins, Grimni didn't look too pleased. Shannorin advised that she couldn't promise to anything without first knowing what she was promising to, as a promise had to be upheld and she would not risk promising something that went against the ideals and teachings of her divine lord, Pelor. An argument occurred where the pair tried to get Shannorin to agree to promise to secrecy without explaining what she was promising to.

Eventually, Broguy broke his promise of secrecy and told the others what they had planned. This helped to appease the group, however there were some questions as to the source of the gemstone, why the Mayor required such a stone and who he was keeping it safe for - if indeed this was true. Katniss felt that the Mayor might be acquiring the gemstone for himself, and unless he was a collector of unusually rare or unique gemstones or artefaces, the question remained quite what his intentions were for this gemstone. However, as an act of friendship they all agreed to help the pair in this task - with Shannorin declaring that she'd help as much as possible, however she reserved the right to take a step back if any potential action risked breaking her vows and promises to her Lord.

The group approached the entrance to the sewers later that night, as instructed, and ensured that they were not followed. Entering the sewers they followed the route that the Mayor had informed them about, and came across a door set at the end of a hidden corridor. They knocked politely, and waited hoping that the gang members inside would answer the door and they'd be able to declare themselves and, as agents of the Mayor, retrieve the gemstone in good order. Noboby answered.

Broguy checked around and found a flagstone that looked... Odd. Making sure that everyone was stood away from the flagstone he attempted to open the door and found that turning the handle as normal caused the flagstone to spring open and revealed a pit trap. Turning the door handle the opposite way opened the door. Inside they found a lever that reset the trap, and a scene of carnage. There were a number of shelves all of which had their contents tossed onto the floor as somebody had searched the room quickly, thoroughly, and without regard for the jars and pots that had rested on the shelves. Pieces of glass and pottery littered the floor, and anything of value had already been taken.

The party continued on, moving through the room and following a corridor east. Inside they found a scene of a massacre. Six bodies lay, four of which had a small, thick piece of paper on announcing that the dead had encountered another gang's "anti-personnel" squad. Two bodies had no such card, but nobody had returned to remove the bodies... Yet. The corpses had been stripped of all belongings, leaving only their blood-soaked clothing.

Moving further into the complex, they found the next room to the south looked to be a bunk room that had another four blood-soaked bodies in it, with another four cards and stripped of all belongings. The party discussed what had happened, thinking that more than one gang knew the layout down here and that some sort of gang turf war had occurred. Along the corridor to the east there was another room with three bodies in it. Broguy went to examine each of the bodies, to look for signs of what had happened or any belongings that might have been missed. He failed to spot that one of the "bodies" moved, revealing a loaded crossbow. The bolt flew true and pierced the halfling's shoulder, biting deep.

The group tried to speak to the injured man who revealed little other than he was a gang member, that he was dying and that another gang had attacked them. They tried to talk about a missing gemstone, however the injured man grew silent and Broguy grew impatient, slitting the man's throat to kill him. He tried to justify his action by saying that the man was dying anyway, but the disgust of killing an unarmed, dying man for nothing other than spite was not missed on the others of the party.

They moved on to another smaller room which held seven corpses and seven calling cards. The damaged door to the east showed how the second gang had gained access to this complex.
GM
 GM, 287 posts
Fri 5 Feb 2021
at 01:25
Chapter Two
Feeling somewhat curious as to the events that had happened in this place, the party continued their exploration and moved to the east through the door. Broguy went first with Findor behind him. The others were told to wait at the exit of the room in case. Opening the door, they were greeted by what looked to be a guard room, with three men sitting round a table gambling. Overconfidently, Broguy called out the password that the mayor of Newkeep had given them, but the three men looked suspiciously at them and, when Findor turned and darted back up the short corridor, the men realised that the newcomers were not members of their gang. As one they stood up, grabbing the crossbows that were ready on the table. One of them knocked over the table and all three dropped behind it. Broguy jumped in surprise and remained where he was, allowing the three gangsters to fire at him and the departing elf. One bolt slammed into the halfling's body, but the other two went wide of the mark. Hurt and bleeding, Broguy ran after his friend who had already returned to the safety of the previous room and had found cover.

A quick discussion as to how to proceed, and the group decided to advance slowly with shields at the front with the others in support. Findor and Grimni would interlock shields and present a united front, Broguy would hide behind them with Wanda and Shannorin safely behind them. As the party advanced with their mis-matched shield wall, the three gangster fired more crossbow bolts at them. The bolts slammed into the shields, or were deflected and disappeared down the corridor behind them. Findor suggested that they rush as they had fired their crossbows, but caution prevailed and rightly so. While the party had been discussing their tactics, the three men had reloaded their own crossbows, and had pulled three more off the walls around them. A second volley of crossbow bolts were released by the men hiding behind the table. With the second volley unsuccessful, the party broke ranks and charged forward. Grimni and Findor both charged and attempted to jump over the table to surprise the men behind, but Grimni's jump was not as polished or impressive as Findor's and he took a step on the table before he was able to land. Findor however vaulted the table cleanly and landed at the side of two surprised looking men. With a quick slash of his rapier, he injured and hurt one as the two dropped their useless crossbows and reached for shortswords. Broguy rushed to the right to support Findor.

The combat was quick and brutal. Broguy found he could not reach any of the men, as Findor was blocking the way round and the little halfling decided that moving the table would be a bad move. Findor flourished his rapier and stabbed at the injured thug, hurting him again, but the man was able to swing his own sword at the elf and he parried the blow with his invisible shield of force. A third flourish and stab, and the man fell. Findor glanced up to check on Grimni and found the dwarf standing between the two other thugs, his waraxe dripping their blood. One hadn't had time to pull his sword from his belt before he'd been dispatched, the second had lost the hand that had been raising his sword, before the dwarf's axe had impaled him in the chest.

The pair breathed deeply as despite the speed of the victory, it had been intense, hard work.

Searching them they found a that the thugs had been playing either dice or cards, as both were now scattered on the floor around the upturned table. A number of silver coins were also scattered across the floor. Broguy was already collecting these coins before the fight had ended, but was careful not o cut his hand on the broken bottle of wine that had also been knocked over and smashed when the table had been turned over. It surprised the party how lightly armed and armoured these men had been for what they believed to be a small guardroom. However, they discussed the prospect that they had been a part of the gang that had killed the others in the earlier parts of the complex, and where not prepared for a counter attack thinking that everyone was dead or had ran away.

They proceeded further into the complex, continuing to head east, ignoring the corridors and doors that branched off to the north. They found that the complex exited into a large cavern, with rock walls and a rough, sandy floor. As Findor was considering what this meant, a flurry of bolts thudded into the walls around the party. A few hit their targets, with Findor, Broguy and Wanda being hurt. The party withdrew further up the corridor and ducked behind cover. They estimated that there had been at least six or seven bolts fired, but there could easily have been more, and that the fight in the last room had alerted whoever was in this room as to their presence. They were ready, and the party had not even been able to examine the large cavern.

A plan was formed. Shannorin created a cloud of fog that would obscure their advance along the corridor and give them time to remain hidden while they examined the cavern and decided on a course of action. It was decided the Broguy would rush to the north, to find cover there or attack whoever had fired a bolt from that direction. Grimni would take the northeast corner of the cavern, and Findor the eastern corner as this was where they felt the majority of the bolts had come from. Shannorin used her magic to heal Findor before they rushed off.

As soon as the party left the cover of the magical cloud of mist another volley of bolts emerged from the darkness. Most of them came from where Grimni was heading, but Findor realised he would be facing at least three people armed with crossbows.

Broguy found that there was a cart loaded with crates and barrels to the north, and he could see two men using the cart as cover. The plucky little halfling, despite his own grievous wounds, darted under the cart and stabbed at one of the men. They mustn't have seen him for they offered no defence, and the first man fell to a number of quick knife wounds that cut his stomach open, and spilled his guts to the floor. The second man reacted and ducked under the cart to see where the attack had come from. Out of range, Broguy threw his magical dagger at the man and the weapon impaled him in the shoulder. This was enough to force the men to twist and turn behind the wheels of the cart, and away from Broguy. However, Broguy realised that another man was standing in the doorway that had been obscured by the cart, and that this man was readying his own crossbow. Broguy retreated back to the protection of the enveloping mist. Shannorin was there, watching the fight develop, and waiting to see where her own force of might would be needed. Instead, she channelled for the power of Pelor and healed Broguy's wounds so the plucky little halfling could continue his fight.

Findor rushed forward and repeated his leap attack onto the cart and beyond. However, he misjudged his jump and needed to take a couple of steps on the cart floor to correct himself before leaping to the ground amongst the thugs seeking cover there. His rapier erupted in flame at his mental command, and he began stabbing with it, catching the thugs somewhat by surprise at the bold, individual assault. Grimni had charged forward, but whoever had been his intended target was no longer in sight so he changed his run and rounded the side of the cart to hit the thugs from the opposite side to Findor. The thugs dropped their crossbows and fought back, but against the brutal onslaught they weren't very effective. Their swords were repelled by the two fighters' shields, although Findor received two wounds that would have felled a lesser elf, but he remained steadfast and resolute and stabbed away with his rapier. It helped that a flurry of arrows were fired from the mist, courtesy of Katniss, that felled a number of thugs dotted around the cavern that were training their crossbows.

As the last of the thugs behind the cart collapsed, Findor signalled to Grimni to check the corridor to the northeast while he rushed down the corridor in the southeast. He darted down the southeastern corridor only to find another larger thug, wielding a wicked looking battleaxe, blocking his path. Overconfidence took hold and Findor stepped forward, flourishing his rapier and stabbing at the heavyset, scarred man. With a cry, the huge thug allowed Findor's blade to pierce into his shoulder and, using the pain as a focus, smashed the axe into Findor. The elf nearly crumpled with the blow, dizziness overtaking him and he fought against the overwhelming darkness that flooded his pained body.
Heedless of the man's threat, he pulled his rapier out and stabbed again, this time the man parried the blow with his axe and brought the mighty weapon across Findor's body. The elf was slammed against the wall, groggy, disorientated and felt his warm lifeblood spilling freely onto the floor. As the man raised his axe again to finish the elf, Findor collapsed to his knees and darkness took him.

Broguy decided that it was time to rush forward again, and he retrieved his dagger as he rushed at the thug that had been hiding behind the cart. He slashed and stabbed, dodging the ripostes, and finally finished his foes with a slash of his dagger having miraculously avoided the thugs' own swords. He'd seen Grimni rush down the corridor to the northeast, so he darted in pursuit, wondering if he could help out.

Seeing Findor fall, Shannorin, Katniss and Wanda rushed to his aid, leaving Broguy and Grimni to their own skills and hoping they wouldn't be needed. Seeing the oncoming pair, the man raised his axe and issued a challenge - to which Wanda responded by hurling three balls of force in his direction. The three bolts slammed into him and forced him back and, not knowing what else was coming, the thug backed down the corridor and stepped behind cover.

Shannorin reached Findor as he lay bleeding, and focusing the healing powers of her lord Pelor, she used what little healing power she had left to prevent the elf from dying. Opening his eyes, Findor felt the warmth racing through his body, the wounds of his body knitting together and healing. With a groan he rose to his feet, thankful his friend for her help. The three decided that they would rush into the room together to see who or what was on the other side, but that they would then withdraw back to the safety of the room. However, as the three women rushed forward, Findor had a change of heart. Whether this was because his courage had failed him, or something else had focused his mind he never said - but he walked but up the corridor and headed to where Grimni and Broguy had disappeared, leaving the two girls to deal with whatever was in the next room.

By the time Broguy entered the room, he witnessed a scene of carnage. Grimni, alone and surrounded, was swinging his axe in an arc, and the seven human thugs who were still left alive were trying their best to get close to strike at the stout dwarf. Three humans already lay dead or dying on the floor, but Grimni showed signs that the sheer number of enemies had caused him problem, for his own blood was mixing with the dirt on the floor. Trying to decide how best to help, Broguy was amazed at the sheer strength and brutality of the dwarf as time and time again his axe sang through the air, cleaving the flesh from anyone who dared step too close. Those thugs that tried to time their attacks found Grimni's axe whistling close to them, so they chose to avoid the axe rather than press their attack - or somehow his shield was in the right place at the right time. One by one the thugs were caught by the swinging axe, and one by one they fell under it's deadly sharpness.

Finally, surrounded by at least ten bloody and immobile bodies, Grimni stood stationary, gasping for breath. Findor emerged into the room and commented about the muscular thug. Grimni roared at him, cursing him for leaving the two girls alone. The elf rushed back into the corridor where he had nearly died, Grimni and Broguy close behind him, and witnessed Shannorin fighting three human gangsters, parrying their blows with her shield and swinging her mace ineffectively at them, but driving them away. She looked a bloody mess, but the two dead humans on the floor suggested all had not been in vain. Wanda stood at her back, pointing with her wand and blasting anyone who looked like a threat. Behind the three human thugs the heavyset brute was throwing insults and encouraging his own comrades to "show them how it's done." When Findor rushed into the room he laughed, mocking the elf and asking if he wanted "more of the same." Findor paused, indecision clouding his mind, and Grimni rushed forward. The dwarf ignored the three thugs that were fighting his friends and targeted the large axe wielding thug instead. Both Findor and Broguy rushed to assist Katniss, Wanda and Shannorin, and were able to quickly dispatch the three thugs facing them. They realised with horror just how pale Shannorin looked, how close to death, as she staggered on her feet and could barely support her weight. Wanda was hurt as well, but Katniss had a couple of horrific looking wounds that poured with blood - her sword was covered in blood though, showing that she had been hurt protecting the other two. As Wanda rummaged in her pocket for some potions that would provide healing to them all, they watched as an exhausted Grimni battled the fierce, scarred thug.

The battle raged across the cavern, with Grimni refusing to stay in one spot for too long. He pressed the man, refusing to let him breathe, and his axe repeatedly sliced at him. But the thug had been in many fights himself, and was turning Grimni's blow aside with swipes of his own axe. He tried a few times to parry and riposte, but Grimni's shield was close by and pushed aside the thug's axe. Grimni took a half step back, looking like he needed to take a breath, and the thug stepped forward, trying to create an opening that he could exploit. But the dwarf was ready, sidestepped and finally his axe bit into the man's chest. Blood poured from the thug's mouth and he staggered as Grimni pulled his axe free. The thug raised his own axe, but Grimni sliced his weapon in a large, downward arc the shattered the shaft of the thug's axe and impaled itself in his head. As the lifeless corpse fell to the ground, Grimni put his foot on the man's chest and pulled out the axe blade with a sickening tearing of flesh. All the dwarf could do was to stand, sucking in great lungfuls of air, and stare at the man he had just killed.

As they looked at each other, trying to decide what they should do next, a rumbling sound could be heard before a loud explosion and a crash of rock. Someone had destroyed the corridor they had entered by and, looking over to the corridor to the north, realised from the dust that poured forth from this corridor, that it too had its roof collapsed. Whichever way they wanted to go, they were limited to going forward deeper into the natural cavern and the darkness there.

This message was last edited by the GM at 19:20, Fri 05 Feb.

GM
 GM, 288 posts
Fri 5 Feb 2021
at 20:52
Chapter Two
After the dust had settled, and the echo of the boom had faded into the darkness of the tunnel, the group assessed their situation. There was no way back through the corridors they had just ventured, and no way to check down the side passages that they had left till later. It was forward or nowhere. After Shannorin had chastised Findor for leaving her and Wanda alone in a combat, and they had drank a number of what Wanda called her "emergency stash", the group's wounds were mostly healed. In the flickering light of the torch, Grimni demanded that the group rest for a few moments while the dwarf regained some of his spent energy. The others readily agreed, finding that they too were weary from the fights that they had faced, and especially Broguy and Findor who had been battered and healed more than once.

From a hidden pocket, Grimni pulled out a flask that he took a few sips at. The reaction on the dwarf's face at the contents of the liquid ensured that nobody asked to share any, and the flask vanished as quickly as it had appeared.

Rested, the group continued to the east, and followed a wide, twisting corridor that led to a large cavern. Torches mounted on walls lit the area, illuminating the men that were stacking boxes and barrels to create a barricade to the east. Whatever was on that side had the six of them worried. Three men stood with crossbows ready, standing on boxes so that they could see over the improvised barricade, their attention firmly on the east.

They didn't notice the group as they approached until Grimni offered an apologetic cough, rationalising that it wouldn't be fair to stab these men in the rear, not when they appeared so engrossed in whatever was to the east. The men span round, shocked that they had been approached from the rear, but seeing the bedraggled group with only an elf and dwarf looking threatening, the crossbows were raised but no bolts were fired. One of the men, their leader presumably, addressed the group asking who they were and what they wanted.

In an unusual act of truthfulness, Findor and Broguy both took turns to explain that they were searching for a lost gemstone that had made its way down here. The group eyes them suspicious, but since no hostile intent had been shown - and they had taken their attention away from the east for long enough - the leader introduced himself, and said that they had been invaded. Something had occurred to the west between the two gangs, but while that was happening a small group of cultists of some kind had infiltrated the complex and attacked the gang here in their lair. The leader indicated two bodies in the corner that had been covered with a cloth of some kind, but it had been unceremonious and quick - the cloth thrown at them from a distance, and it only covered their faces and upper bodies. The markings, blisters and boils on the dead men's hands suggested they hadn't died by a sword. The leader said that they had sent a runner to the west to request that the other gangs aid them in ridding the tunnels of the cultists, but the runner had not returned and he assumed that whatever was happening that way before the huge crash he had heard... Well, his friend was dead and no help was coming.

With that explanation, he asked clearly whether the group were here to help him and his friends or whether they had other intentions. The gang members looked worried, but ready for a fight. Deciding that they posed no threat, the group agreed that they would help as best they could - they wanted the gemstone, and knew the myth behind the gem's creation was linked to demons and decay. Perhaps the cultists were here to find the gem as well. And since they had not left, they decided, that the gem was still in the tunnels somewhere nearby.

They asked the gang leader if there was another way out of the cavern as the tunnels to the north had been purposely collapsed. He indicated that there were two ways out of the cavern - to the east where the cultists were and the underground river that fed the town, and that the gang used as part of their smuggling operations. There were a few boats at the dock there, but they'd have to pass by the cultists in order to get to them, and he didn't know what state the boats were in - or indeed, what the cultists were even doing. The second way was to the north, a side tunnel. He said that it led to an old mine track that led back into the complex and past the other two gang territories. However, he wasn't sure if that way had collapsed as they'd all heard the explosion and crash of rock, and it sounded like it had come from that direction. But because of the echoes he couldn't be sure.

They considered sending a single scout out, but none of the party wanted to go and the gang were not willing to split up. They'd lost too many men people today already, and would stand by each other. Either they'd all go, or none of them would. It was decided that they would leave the barricade and head to the north, to follow the tunnels out and see if there was any escape that way. The party made it look as if they wanted to leave, but they decided that if the cultists hadn't found the gem by now that it didn't lie to the east, and the only other path they had was to the north. So with the party covering from the barricade the gang dropped to the eastern side and ran to the north where they turned and covered the party as they rushed into the side tunnel. Seeing the party were OK, the gang turned and ran forth into the tunnel covering themselves and allowing the group of friends to take up the rear. Passing a minecart and following the tracks, the gang members rushed past a side tunnel and the ground began to move and foam forward - as thousands of rats were startled and alerted and the swarm emerged from their hideout. The tunnel became filled with rats and the party stopped in despair. Broguy jumped into the minecart, to find a body there. Landing heavy on the body forced its arms to move, and a deep green gem fell out of the man's hands. Realising that this might be the gemstone they were searching for, Broguy pulled out the magically protected box and scooped the gem inside.

The rats began to pour into the tunnel, and the party moved back to the cavern out of their way. There seemed nothing else they could do. Findor wanted to rush the cultists, to jump into a boat and leave, but none of the group had ever used a boat before, and they weren't sure that the boats were the kind that needed oars or sails to work, or whether they could escape using the current of the river. The gang leader hadn't said how many cultists there were, nor what threat they might pose. There were too many unknowns so the party decided caution would be warranted.

They moved forward, using the shadows cast by the torches as best they could. But the cultists had put sentries on the narrow entrance to the dock area, and they fired crossbow bolts. Fortunately Grimni and Findor were at the front, and the bolts bounced harmlessly off their shields. With surprise lost, the two warriors raced forward. Findor stopped to engage the two cultists at the entrance of the docks, Grimni rushed past, ignoring their feeble sword swings, and headed deeper into the dock area. Broguy rushed forward as well, acrobatically skipping past the two sentries and rushing behind the stout dwarven warrior.

Findor parried and slashed, flourished and stabbed. One sentry fell quickly, but the other seemed to predict the elf's blows and dodged to one side or twisted out of the way of another stab. It wasn't until the form of Shannorin stepped forward that the odds turned. With two weapons facing him, the sentry gave ground and backed away. Findor pressed his attack, followed by the heavy mace of Shannorin, and he dodged to one side to avoid the rapier only to feel his ribs break as the mace slammed into his chest.  Stunned, he was barely able to raise his sword as Findor stabbed forward, his thin rapier blade piercing the chest. The man's eyes grew dim as his life ebbed out of him.

Rushing to assist Grimni and Broguy, the group rushed to the entrance of the cavern and witnessed what lay beyond. Grimni had rushed towards the cultists, five of which were stood in a circle chanting, the other two were trying to protect their fellows from Grimni's axe. The two fell in quick succession, but they had given their friends the time they needed. There was the sound of something ripping through the fabric of space, and the world twisted in the center of the circle. Something began to materialise and force its way through into this world, a tentacle at first, then another then a hideous face dragged itself through the tear between the planes.

Within seconds where nothing had been before, a foul demon of pestilence had appeared; larger than a horse, with tentacles instead of a face, and a thick, rat-like tail. One of the cultists pointed at the group and issued a command in a language no-one understood. The demon raced forward towards Grimni and Broguy. Broguy tried to step to one side, but a tentacle whipped forward and slashed him across his face. The wound was minor but there was some kind of venom coating the tentacle, and Broguy felt his limbs stiffen as his body succumbed to the creature's toxin, paralysing the little halfling.

But the creature was focusing on Grimni, and chased the dwarf back towards the entrance. Grimni, seeing the effects the creature had on Broguy, withdrew back to the entrance and looked at the others. Findor fired an arrow, but the creature's scales deflected the projectile. Dropping his bow and raising his rapier, he prepared himself to rush in and face the creature at Grimni's side, to block the entrance to stop it from leaving. The creature saw the group, and turned to face them - opening its face to Katniss, who began a steady stream of arrows into that soft spot. Arrow after arrow disappeared into the unprotected face, and a dark green blood sprayed and splattered from the wounds the creature received. Seeing that the creature was not invulnerable, Grimni and Findor rushed forward. Katniss switched her aim from the creature to the cultists, and Wanda raised her wand, throwing multiple bolts of force in their direction. The cultist leader seemed to parry the bolt that was aimed at, knocking it aside, but the others felt the impact and bloody wounds appeared on their bodies. This kept the cultists occupied, and they tried to find cover. Between Katniss and Wanda, the flurry of arrows and bolts of magical force pressed the cultists out of their circle, and disrupted their ritual. Two of the cultists collapsed of their wounds, two more looked beyond help, but the cultist leader and one of his followers were enraged and rushed forward. The cultist leader pointed a finger and bolt of light erupted from his finger and smacked into Findor. He felt his flesh sear and burn, and he cried in agony. But a well placed arrow caught the cultist leader in the shoulder, and the spell was lost.

Grimni persisted, encouraging the creature to wrap its tentacles around him, and focus its attention on him. His axe slashed and swung, slicing at the tentacles and severing them from the creature's maw. It tried to bite him, but received nothing but an axe to its face. The dwarf slammed his shield into its face to gain leverage to pull his axe free, and swung it in an arc. The axe bit deep and the creature collapsed to the ground, unmoving, dark, foul blood oozing from its cracked carapace and severed tentacles. Grimni turned his attention to the two remainining cultists, but Findor, Katniss and Wanda were already dealing with them. A slash of the rapier, two arrows and three bolts of magical force slammed into the two remaining cultists who fell to their wounds.

It was Shannorin who decided that they couldn't leave the body of such a foul beast lying here, for it to begin to rot and its toxins and pestilence flowing into the river. She organised the group to collect wood from the docks and boats to create a funeral pyre and cremate the creature before it could do any harm. Only when the fire was lit and the creature was melting into the rising flames did the cultist bodies also get thrown on the pyre. Thick black smoke filled the cavern, and the party were forced to climb into one of the boats and allow the current of the river to pull them away from the docks. Barely a few hundred meters beyond they found another stone dock where they tied their boat and climbed ashore - it didn't take them long to find their way through the sewers and back up into the darkening evening of the day. The gem was safely hidden in Broguy's pack, but the group began to wonder what the Mayor wanted with the gem, and just why so many people had come in search of it... And whether or not they had mad an enemy of the cult whose followers they had killed without mercy in the complex.