Vario went back down the hill to gather up Lermo and Jalista – saying that he was going to need back up for any more fighting since I was “useless”. He’s not exactly right about that but he’s not exactly wrong either. I examined the men who had attacked us and they didn’t have much of interest to reveal other than the fact that each of them had a tattoo of a hyena’s head of varying degrees of quality. I think the hyena is the sacred animal of some god or another but it could just be something these people did because it looked cool. Who can say?
The only other thing to explore was a narrow wooden stairway leading down into a root cellar – which was floored and walled with brick. Quite an extravagance. Among the older rotting stores were several barrels of molasses, flour, sour ale and the like – definitely more than those three corpses outside would need unless they intended on staying in here for months on end. There was a door that would have been hidden had it been closed, but it wasn’t so it wasn’t – dim light came from beyond. As I examined it Vario returned with the two stooges.
“You found a secret door?”
“Of course I did. I figured out how to open it as well. Alright, here’s what we’ll do – I’ll take the image of the fatman who strangled me and go down there and scope it out.”
Even when you’re disguised it’s best to be stealthy as well so I crept down the stairs a quietly as I could. At the bottom was a door but there was enough room that I could lay down and peer underneath it – on the other side was a large vault that was lit as bright as day with magical torches. There were four stone pillars and standing stock-still by each one was an armed and armored man who looked normal enough aside from the fact that their heads were those of termites or centipedes or some kind of vermin. But you the right size for a person – they didn’t have little tiny bug heads. Dusting myself off, I went back up the stairs.
“Well you boys have your work cut out for you.”
That turned out not to be the case, the insect-headed guard monsters were more or less pushovers and the boys were able to take them down without getting banged up too badly. Although Jalista was bitten by one of them on the shoulder and the wound took on an immediate infected looking redness. While they were doing so a short fellow with a stiff long beard wearing expansive black robes came out of a side passageway – prominent on his chest was a silver and platinum holy symbol of Kralten. I snapped my fingers.
“Kraltenites, I knew the hyena was the animal totem of some god.”
With him were two more dirty looking fellows in leather armor as well as massive humanoid covered with dense fur. It sort of looked like a small hill giant only hairy – I think it may be what some call a bugbear.
The robed fellow had a acerbic look that rivalled that of Vario. “What are you doing in my home?”
“I was told this was the home of a mage called Ather.”
The little man literally hissed at the sound of the name. “Ather the murderer?! He killed my father, all that is here is mine by right.”
“I’m no lawyer, not just now anyway, but I’m not sure that’s how inheritance works. I thought Ather was the one that got killed by Travar and then Travar was killed by his father after he also killed his brother.”
“Lies! Slanderous lies!”
“You’re Travar’s bastard son then?”
Now that I have some extradimensional storage the thing I miss most is my Bag of Tricks – it’s really quite handy to have a ready supply of deadly animals to toss at your enemies. I didn’t like the odds of this confrontation, Vario and two goons against a bugbear and two goons is a toss-up as far as I can tell but you’ve got a man in robes in the mix as well. I took a couple shots with my crossbow, only hitting him once, but that didn’t stop him from skirting around the battlefield and lining up a blast of lightening that fried poor Lermo and Jelista and badly injured Vario. Leaving him alone against three enemies. The bugbear grinned an awful smile as he and his minions closed in around the harried knight.
Travar’s bastard prepared another spell and I took aim for a good shot – I don’t know much about magic but I assume it’s pretty hard to get a spell off if someone shoots you while you do it. I waited for him to start fluttering his hands about like an orchestra conductor and spitting out abnormal words and took my shot. I was aiming for his hand but I missed – hitting him directly in the eye. He slumped to the ground, I ran over to his prone form and quickly seized the bolt protruding from him his head and put my dagger to his throat. I whistled loudly for attention.
“Yo, Kralten people, I got your boss here – stop fighting or I’ll slit his neck.”
One of the goons squinted at him “He looks dead already.”
“He isn’t.” I have the crossbow bolt and shake and he groaned faintly “See? Throw down your weapons or your boss gets it.” The two goons did just that but the massive beastman did not – looking like he was trying to decide what the play was. “Funny thing is, I was involved in a hostage situation with Kraltenites just a few weeks ago – seems longer – it’s odd how time flies isn’t it? That time I was waiting for reinforcements.” I nodded to Vario “Sir knight?”
He sprang forward and clobbered the bugbear with his morningstar, not killing him outright but sending him staggering and dropping his brutal looking sword. The two goons scrambled to grab their weapons as Vario laid into them with his morningstar. I slashed the bastard’s throat and then lined up a throw as the bugbear got his bearings and grabbed up his broadsword. The wooly monster charged at Vario as he dispatched the two lackeys and I hurled my dagger – hitting the beastman square in the massive chest. Vario and the monster slammed together, weapons striking home and collapsed into a heap. Vario didn’t stir, but after a moment the bugbear staggered to its feet, poison making it weak and clumsy. I walked up with my crossbow and shot him directly through the head. You wouldn’t think that a little crossbow bolt could pass all the way through a skull and brains and everything but it surely can.
I searched the rest of the compound, there was no treasure trove of magical books as the legends foretold but legends are often a little off on the details. Looking through the effects of Travar’s bastard he had quite a plan in mind – there was graverobbing and necromancy and all kinds of circuitous strategies. I’m not sure exactly who he was getting revenge on for this father’s death though since all the principals of that tale appear to be dead already. Maybe Maudi’s mentor was the target? He seemed tangentially related to the tragic tale at best but I suppose you have to take your revenge where you can find it.
I gathered up what loot there was to be had as well as the meager provisions available from the Kraltenites and my fallen companions and on the way out I tossed the oil from the lantern on the house and set it ablaze – much easier than digging graves. I stripped all the barding and other nonsense off Vario’s horse and mounted up, I’ve never been in a military saddle before, I understand the point but I would never want to be strapped in like that. With the house now blazing merrily away behind us we turned to the south and headed back towards Arbeven.
Funds: 520 platinum, 1827 gold, 6 silver
Inventory: Noble’s Traveling Outfit, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Fake Signet Ring, False Papers, carnelians (2), Bag of Concealment, Belt of Giant Strength +4, Vest of Resistance +1, Horn of the Hunt Master, +1 Chainmail, Cold Iron Greatsword, Ring of Sustenance, Gem of Brightness, Potion of Invisibility, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Glove of Vampiric Touch, Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Thunder (Heavy Warhorse)
Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane,
Piltis Swine, Rince
Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle
the butler , Alice Kinsey , “ Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad,
Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror,
Eedraxis, Skin-Taker tribe,
Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family,
Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale
Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna
Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee, Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer,
Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium
of Three Rivers