Raw Recruits

Flight in the Night

Shrine of Evil Chaos, Early afternoon, Vatermont 1 1000AC

The small chambers had a small table and chairs, a wardrobe behind a dressing screen, a large bed in dark coloured velvet. Above the bed was a statue representing Orcus, gems shining in its eye sockets. Despite the sinister setting, the mood was light. Wendl served his new friends a light meal.

“So how can I help?” His eyes scanned the group landing on Gwydion’s.

“Well, as you know we’re here on an important mission for the Dark Triad and Orcus in particular.” Gwydion lied fluently whilst Wendl nodded emphatically. “We need to know more about the caves of Chaos and other agents of the Dark Triad in the area.”

Wendl was keen to help “What do you want to know?”

Helga asked “Well, how about who else lives here in the temple?”

When Wendl frowned, Gwydion talked him around. It seemed the most natural thing for Wendl to tell his new friend Gwydion these important details.

“Oh you mean the Shrine? Well, there’s me, the four acolytes Moris, Uther, Hal and Stann; the four neophytes Ruprect, Nige, Derris and Attar; Zoran the Gaoler, but I guess you’ve met him, Otto who was making traps for us, and the medusa, but she’s not going to be here for long, hey?”

Gwydion nudged him in the ribs “Are you going to use her for a ritual? What were you going to do?”

Wendl was conspiratorial “Well, we were going to try to summon Orcus. Every little bit counts!”

Otto interrupted “Zoran. He let me go to the temple when I finished my traps. Yep, that’s just what happened. Zoran said ‘I deserve a break, I’m going outside for a long walk.’”

Gwydion nodded. “Yes, he said he would be back later. You don’t need to worry about Zoran.” Gwydion took the opportunity to change the subject. “Unfortunately the same cannot be said about the acolytes and novices. I think that they got in a fight. I think they must have killed each other!”

Wendl shook his head in disappointment, accepting every word. “Their unbridled ambition was their downfall. I say a prayer asking for Orcus’ blessing in me dedicating their deaths to him in unlife.” His eyes flashed a smile at Gwyidon. “Get it? Dedicating? As in Dead?”

Gwydion’s smile didn’t skip a beat. “Nice one Wendl!”

Kart interrupted their creepy, if fictitious camaraderie. “Right, right, well, moving along, how many of the unliving are here?”

Wendl reeled off a list, the troll skeleton, his personal guards, the temple guards, a wight downstairs in the crypts. With a quick tally there were still two dozen skeletons or zombies unaccounted for. Wendl mentioned that when he hit the gong, the other undead would be guarding the relics in the chapel, resuming their posts an hour thereafter.

Inhabitants of the shrine

Wendl the high priest (Charmed)
Zoran the gaoler, (dead) recently guarding Otto the gnome
Medusa (dead)
A gelatinous cube (dead)
20 chain-scrap dressed skeletons (dead)
20 chain dressed Zombies (dead)
3 plate armoured Juju zombies (1 dead, 2 guard his quarters)
1 Monster skeleton (troll) – in ripose, summoned by the gong
4 Adepts (Moris, Uther, Hal, Stann)- dead
4 Novices (Ruprect, Nige, Derris, Attar)- dead
12 other skeletons (unaccounted for)
28 other zombies (16 accounted for and dead).
A wight, a previous priest of Orcus (in a barred crypt downstairs)

Dargar looked at the priest, “Tell us how you came to be here. You weren’t born here were you?”

Wendl sat on the bed, readying himself for a long story. “Well, I was a young priest, an adventurer in Thyatis, I worked with a group of adventurers and we were out exploring and we found an ancient but abandoned temple to an Immortal of goodness. I picked up these blood stained bowls and I knew that they were important, knew that I had discovered a secret and important purpose. I left my friends shortly after. I wandered slowly up the river under the direction of the relics. As they lead me to the Temple of Evil Chaos. Here I discovered the worship of Orcus and the Dark Triad, becoming the high priest once the previous high priest died from complications of his madness.”

Kart’s face was clouded with concern. “Where are these artefacts now?” he breathed.

Wendl did not note his concern, his face alight with dark devotion “In the chapel- you would have walked right past it on the way here. When you turned right to come to the temple there is a little chapel to the left.” Kart whistled a sigh of relief, they had not touched these cursed relics to date.

Gwydion caught Wendl’s attention again. He was unsure how long Wendl would remain charmed. All of this information was essential. “Tell us about the inhabitants of the local caves, Wendl. How can they help the Dark Triad’s plans?”

Kart bought out his map. Wendl looked over it and asked for ink and a pen. “I have never been in their caves but I can tell you about the inhabitants.” Over the course of ten minutes, he annotated their crudely drawn map, noting the names of the tribes, their races and naming their leaders.

About the other Caves of Chaos (Clockwise from the southeast)

Goblins of the Chaos Horde (worship Leptar and Dark Triad) lead by sub-chief Pak Faz
Ogres lead by Vagom- not aligned, make money selling themselves to the other tribes
Hobgoblins of the Chaos Horde (worship Leptar and Dark Triad) Lead by Chief Rhuun (keeps slaves)
Gnolls of the Horned Heads (worship Dark Triad/Orcus) under sub-chief Grantz Iceringer and his two sons
Shrine of Evil Chaos
Owlbear cave
Minotaur cave
Bugbears of the Chaos Horde (worship Dark Triad/Leptar) Lead by sub-chief Haggak. (Keeps slaves)
Orcs of the Horned Heads- (worship Dark Triad/Orcus) lead by sub-chief Rallg Cracked-Tusk
Kobolds of the Grey Rats, (worship Kurtlemak) Lead by Chief Khizzk, and his shamen Batak and Gazon
Orcs of the horned heads (worship Dark Triad/Orcus) lead by Chief Fornn Grimclaw

After finishing his notes, Wendl chatted amiably. “Further to the north are the Steelwarriors. They support our cause, but don’t really follow our direction. They are planning to start a war, to make a kingdom for the humanoids in the northeast of Karameikos. Their plan is not our original plan. They have started too early but it still achieves our goals of evil and chaos. Our allies across the land are not ready to support them, but their plan may work anyway.”

“Who are these allies?” queried Gwydion.

“Oh, you know, malcontents, warlords, humanoids, some others. At the keep, there are spies who work to get information to us.” Wendls head nodded in a reassuring rhythm.

Gwydion locked eyes on Wendl, smiling and reassuring. Wendl continued helpfully. “They ingratiate themselves with the populace by baking bread and gossiping with the residents every day. When they can, they pass their information through the slavers and they in turn alert the humanoids here.”

Helga waited quietly until Wendl had finished her brow had furrowed inquisitively. “That powerful feeling of evil – is that from the temple or from the artefacts?”

“Ah good question but your guesses are wrong.” Wendl noted. When pressed he elaborated. “The Temple of Evil Chaos was situated here as entrance into the Caves of the Unknown. The temple of evil chaos was made about 400 years ago but the caves of the unknown were here for thousands of years. They tunnel deep into the world. The evil presence comes from there, not from the artefacts or this temple. An ancient child of Thanatos called Iscranin created the tunnels before the world was sundered. From time to time, pilgrims are sent into the Caves on a quest from the Dark Triad. The pilgrims continued to search for Iscranin, his treasure or his remains to obtain a mighty tool of evil. The Tunnel between the Shrine of Evil Chaos and the Caves of the Unknown is filled with lead glance and stone to stop the the corruption mutating the priests or sending them mad over time. This was what happened to the last High priest, the wight in the crypt. There is a hidden cave entrance to the Caves of the Unknown over the hill from the Caves of Chaos.”

Whilst Wendl related his story, Emily padded into the room, smiled reassuringly and beckoned Max and her dogs into the room. “Did you ask him whether there was anything of value in the shrine?”

Gwydion shook his head. “It would be useful to Orcus, to Leptar and probably to Thanatos, if we had some of the treasures you aren’t using. Would you please help us?”

Like it was the best idea ever, Wendl pulled out a ledger and showed them the inventory it mentioned a in the hands of the skeleton king and personal objects interred with the wight ex-priest.

Items of value in the Shrine:

Miscellaneous magical items of no use to him in the store room. (Horseshoes, Finned Gauntlets)
Gems on the thrones- in the Temple 10 rubies and 10 onyx and the skeleton hall(4 garnets)
The sacred relics in the chapel
Belts x4 on his senior priests
Amulets of Protection vs Goodx5 on his junior priests
Amulets of Protection vs Turningx80 on skeletons and zombies
Magical Scimitarin the skeleton hall
Copper dishes in adept’s room
He remembers that the wight (an ex high priest) was buried with his personal effects
Staff of the Python
Shadow-link Cloak (On his person)
Potion of Gaseous Form (On his person)
Wendl’s Plate-mail + 1 (wearing it)
Wendl’s Shield + 1 (wearing it)
500 gold Krona and 50×10gpv gems (in the secret door behind his cupboard)
Eyes of his demon Idol (sitting above his bed)
Juju Zombie’s mundane plate mail x3
32 sets of scraps of chainmail (probably worthless)
24 sets chainmail (20 on zombies, 4 from novices)
4 sets of platemail on adepts
8 non-magical maces
11 rusty scimitars
12 battered shields

Wendl reassured them “You should be able to just take the skeleton king’s sword. On the other hand, in the crypt I will have to hold the wight at bay so that you could quickly retrieve it’s treasure.”

Talking out loud, Gwydion mused to everyone. “I wonder if we should go to Castellan keep and meet with the spies ourselves or if Wendl should come and introduce us.”

Wendl looked worried. “I couldn’t go like this.. I think I’d need to go disguised.”

“Well, I think we don’t want to draw the attention of the humanoids from the Caves either.” Gwydion muttered, “We have to stay incognito too.”

“If you all dress as priests and leave at twilight, they would see that as normal, especially if we take a skeleton to help carry things.” Wendl’s nods were infectious.

Emily approached the dark cultist. “This secret door in your wardrobe. Does it lead back to that other passage?”
Wendl confirmed this. “I vote that we take the short-cut and start collecting the robes, the wight’s treasure and the sword. No time like the present hey?”

Gwydion slapped Wendl on the back, realising that Emily had probably prised all the gems from the thrones in the temple. She probably wanted the eyes of the statue above the bed. “Don’t worry Emily will stay back a bit to tidy up your room! She’s great at that. Lead the way!”

They visited the acolytes’ and novices’ rooms, Wendl shaking his head. “We’ll need to start again,” he muttered.

Gareth and Dargar were disrobing the dead cultists, the dark blood hidden by the dark wool. Emily approached and put some objects in Kart’s backpack surreptitiously.

Heading downstairs, Wendl suggested they should check and see if Zoran had returned, to tell him the bad news.
“Bad news can always wait.” Gwydion urged sagely. They continued on to the crypt door.

Emily piped up. “This shouldn’t take too long, Kart why don’t you and Otto go and look for those items in the store room?”

Kart looked blandly at Emily and headed off to the store room. When he and Otto arrived, he opened some boxes feebly passing the time for their deception.

In the crypt, Wendl held his symbol of Orcus proudly. “Stay back, I command you, in the name of Orcus and the Dark Triad!”

The Wight hovered near the door, but then drifted back away from the sarcophagi. Wendl nodded to a casket and the dwarves pushed the lid open. Looking inside, Emily grabebd a pair of bracers, a mask and a stone. One by one, they backed out of the room, Wendl last of all, before bolting and spiking the door again.

They headed upstairs with Kart and Otto in tow, headed left at the top of the stairs and again passed another passage to the left. “That’s where you came in, and” Wendl pointed to what looked like a rockfall in the passage ahead, “that’s the passage to the Caves of the Unknown.”moving towards the dead end,he motioned to a third leftward passage. “Again to the left here is the Hall of the Skeleton King.”

Most of the skeletons lining the walls were armed with rusty scimitars, dilapidated shields. On the throne one sat one more skeleton with an unblemished blade. Wendl beckoned the skeleton forward making it present the blade to Gwydion. “We can make this one carry our extra equipment.”

Emily suggested “Let’s go to the entrance and get dressed in those robes and head out,” before she quickly slipped out of sight down the passage towards the entrance.

Emily scouted the entrance whilst the rest of the party dressed in their robes. The humanoids were patrolling but in nowhere near as many numbers as the previous day she noted that the light was starting to dim. “Its as good a time as any.” She reported.

They slipped out of the entrance to the caves, heading to a copse near the lip of the valley, they made a fast pace, leaving behind a curious band of orcs.

They drifted through the woods before heading south towards the old road. Reaching the edge of the woods, they waited and watched. Ten minutes went by before they noted the orc patrol waiting in the bushes near the roadside. Emily waved the group back and they slowly made their way around and emerged safely onto the path.

An hour and a half later the keep came into view, and they nominated to camp in the woods nearby, setting a watch through the night.

In the quietest part of the night, Gareth’s voice woke them urgently. “Put your armour on. Otto’s left, he sneaked off when he thought I wasn’t watching. I don’t know what he’s up to. We need to follow him.”

“Didn’t he say that he left some equipment buried West of the keep?”

They skirted the keep and continued on for a half an hour until they could see a small shape moving about at the bottom of a large tree.

Gwydion, Kart and Emily approached him from behind, spreading out and surrounding him from about ten yards away. Otto was heaving a chest from the hole. Gwydion called out to Otto. “Otto, what are you doing there?”

Otto froze and turned to face Gwydion, looking left and right, noting Emily and Kart. “I’m just, ah, getting my stuff.”

“What’s in there?” Gwydion approached, casually tripping the chest open with his new suede boot.

Otto looked evasive. “Another crossbow, some quarrels, my tools, two bags of dust.”

Emily lit a torch and brought it over to the chest. Otto became nervous, incensed. “Not too close. The powder might explode.”

Holding the torch back, she handed it to Gwydion, reached into the chest and folded back a blanket on its floor.

There were two similar devices, one longer than the other. Each device had a hexagonal metal tube ending with a circular hole in the end and at the opposite end the tube joined with a wooden handle. Near the join, there was some sort of trigger, not unlike that on a crossbow. They appeared like a blunderbuss but elegant, precise, alien.

“What is it?” she whispered.

Otto pulled the blanket back, subtly shaking his head. “I’ll come with you. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

They walked back to their camp, carrying the chest between them, they changed clothes, and left the skeleton behind them. The air was crisp and warm for the season the clouds reflecting the light as it crossed the mountains.

Gwydion was exhausted but he reminded Wendl to stay incognito. “Just follow our lead. You met us on the road to the keep, we escorted you here and you offered to pay for our breakfast at the tavern.”

“Good idea but because I gave you my money, you’ll have to pay.” agreed Wendl.

The guards inside the gate this morning were chipper, they introduced themselves as Corny and Appy and chatted amiably as each of the visitors declared their goods and incomes. It was apparent that the adventurers were becoming the talk of the Castle. Slava the scribe worked quickly and expertly. Emily peeked over his work and noted the totals in each of their incomes for the quarter. Her eyebrows arched and then furrowed.

Otto and Wendl were added to the ledger, under the corporal’s watchful gaze and things went smoothly.

Emily suggested to the group “Gwydion, why don’t you go to the Tavern and get that breakfast with Wendl whilst the rest of us drop our equipment off at the Inn.”

Most of the rest of the journey to Fountain Square was Gwydion pointing out the businesses and sights, as they were, in the outer bailey.

On arrival in the inn, Emily informed Marina about Wendl. “Helga, will you come with me to see the Lieutenant at the trader’s road tower.” Helga passed her pack to Emily and left behind Marina. They retraced the road to the tower, requesting an audience with the Lieutenant at once.

The guard called inside the tower and escorted them to the second floor. There they were introduced to Sergeant Phililpa Karendas who was seated behind a large map table. Both Helga and Marina recognised her from the meeting called in the previous week. The Sergeant listened patiently, eyes widening, as Helga reported their charming and capture of the High Priest of Orcus, their sneaking him into the keep. Phillipa sent the guard up to get the Lieutenant, who arrived shortly after.

“Sir, I think you need to hear this and I think that I need to tell this to the Captain immediately, ” she announced.
Lieutenant Sergei Malenkov nodded and she excused herself. The Lieutenant gestured for them to sit “A pleasure to see you ladies again. You seem to be bearers of bad news, I expect to be unpleasantly surprised.”

Helga repeated the story for the Lieutenant. “Where is the Dark Cultist now?” he enquired.

“Breakfasting in the inn with Gwydion who ensorcelled him.” Helga mentioned offhandedly. “He is powerful. We should be careful not to break the enchantment upon him by threatening him. We knew it would be dangerous but we brought him here so that you all could interrogate him first-hand.”

Malenkov’s lips drew a line across his face. “I don’t want to alert his spies to his presence, if they aren’t already aware. I will hold up people leaving the keep for the moment but we will have to act soon. If you can bring him here, we would be able to sneak him into the inner bailey across the curtain wall. Once inside we should be able to get him into the inner keep. Can you get him here without a fuss?”

Marina nodded, Helga agreeing after some thought. The ladies rose and he showed them out. As they walked back Marina quizzed Helga and they hatched a plan.

They stopped at the inn, gathering the party before breezing into the Tavern.

Marina’s entrance was enchanting “Gwydion, is this your new friend? Wonderful! My name is Marina and I just have to show you this keep!”

Wendl looked a bit taken aback, but played along with encouragement.

“Don’t worry about breakfast darling!” Marina continued, “I’ll get them to make you another one when we return.” She took Wendl’s hand and lead him out towards the tower, chatting distractingly. Helga’s tension melted away as she saw Marina put Wendl at ease. Emily caught up to the pair and shared meaningless gossip, tales of their travel up the river and intrigues from her hometown of Threshold.

“You’re about to get a view no one else gets to see!” Marina clucked “These soldiers owe me a favour or two. They’ll let us up on the wall and we can see the whole valley.”

Wendl looked reassuringly towards Gwydion who nodded and smiled enthusiastically. The plan went along swimmingly. First the curtain wall and then through the small tower to the Inner bailey and then into the Keep itself. Marina breezed past the alerted guards and lead him down to the small meeting room.

Gwydion sat down on a couch making room for Wendl. “This is my contact Polibius. You can trust him. Please tell Polibius about the caves, the Steelwarriors and the planned invasion.”

Wendl initally looked suspicious of the patrician Chancellor but haltingly, and then with Gwydion’s encouragement, he related the information he had told the party.

When Polibius noted that there was no more to learn he started incanting a spell. Immediately Gwydion’s hold on Wendl ceased and the dark priest rounded on his new enemy. With the spell cast, silence descended on them all and the warriors tackled the priest, gagging and disarming him. Polibius removed Wendls unholy symbol before dropping the Silence spell. “He shall be arrested and hanged in the morning.” Guards lead Wendl away.

Helga baulked “He didn’t tell us who the spies are.”

“Now he’s unlikely to do so of his own free will.” Noted Emily.

“My mistake,” Polibius apologised, “Is there any way you could figure out who the contacts are from what he said to you?”

Kart thought for a second. “He mentioned them giving away free bread to ingratiate themselves with the people here.”

“That would be Brother Martin and his acolytes.” Polibius concluded. “They are in the apartments near the Guildhouse. Do you know that building?” Emily nodded. “Before this news spreads, the dark cultists must be removed. I will alert the Captain. Will you kill or capture them straight away?”

The adventurers looked around. They were weary, wounded and exhausted. Each nodded in turn and stood up.

Polibius showed them to the entry hall and assigned them a guard to lead them to the outer bailey.
Within minutes they had spotted the apartment. They took seconds to come up with a plan.

“We could go in with a ruse, have a couple more of the unarmoured ones come in ‘accidentally’ and then the dwarves Max and Helga come in and start the battle.” Suggested Emily.

“Your plan, your lead!” suggested Kart, slyly. She hooked her arm through his arm. “Well I need a hand for this to work! Follow my lead.”

Emily lead Kart up to the brother’s apartment and knocked on the door. A quiet acolyte nodded and beckoned them in. “Hello, my name is Emily. We need your help. This here is Kart, my lover and we need some advice.” Kart immediately looked uncomfortable.

In the kitchen a friendly-looking monk greeted them. “Come in and sit down Emily, Kart, I am Brother Martin. Tell me what you need help with. Have some bread.”

Emily dragged Kart into the kitchen. She clasped Brother Martin’s hands and looked him in the eyes earnestly. “The passion has left our love-life, Brother Martin. Kart barely touches me and never tells me that he loves me. We need advice to bring our hearts back together, may the blessings of Halav, Petra and Zirchev save us!”

Brother Martin was calm and measured, smiling at the unhappy couple and pulling some chairs out at the table before another knock at the door interrupted the conference.

Marina breezed in with Gwydion and Otto. “I thought you said you were headed to the gem merchant my dear?” she called to Emily. The monks all looked uncomfortable but not clearly suspicious, at least until the the two dwarves, Max and Helga marched in and closed the door.

With the ambush set, the priests back-pedalled, starting to grab their maces, and usher spells of prayer on their lips. The rooms would have been spacious if eleven combatants had not been crammed in. The cultists were attacked and both novices killed were killed quickly, Martin severely wounded.

Martin threw his mace down and fell to his knees in supplication before being knocked unconscious. Marina left to collect a guard detail, returning shortly with Polibius and some guards.

“We owe you thanks. We will take Brother Martin to the dungeons and he will be hanged with Wendl tomorrow. Feel free to use these apartments for the next month. They are already rented for that duration.” Polibius remarked before leaving.

The bodies were removed, after they were divested of armour and valuables by the victors. The party thoroughly looted the dark priests’ belongings but found no further information.

“Well at least these lovebirds should get the double bed to reignite their love-lives.” Quipped Gwydion, much to Kart’s unease.

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