"Uhh... guys?" I could hear Dante's voice from down the hall.
"We're in here!" I called out, relieve that the footsteps were from an ally.
Dante had returned, but even after healing, Hamlin didn’t feel well, so he stayed behind with the priests to rest.
We quickly explained what had happened while he was gone.
When we mentioned Cairn stepping in the water and then going into a blind rage temporarily, Dante asked, "Does that always happen when you step in water?"
Cairn shook his head and sighed.
Dante wandered around the room a little and pointed at the demon’s body on the ground. “What was a quasit doing here?” he asked aloud.
“Is that what that thing is called?” I asked back.
“Well, I believe it was doing demon things.”
“That sounds about right for a quasit,” Dante replied.
When he got up on the dais, the bard asked what the golden goop was in the basin on the little altar, before walking back down one of the sets of stairs. We told him the quasit dripped some of its blood into the thing, and two sin eaters emerged from the pool of water in the middle of the room.
"Oo! I wanna try that!" Dante ran back up the stairs and over to the basin.
"Are you serious?" I asked. Then I turned to Cairn. “Is he serious?”
Cairn just sighed.
"Of course! I wanna see if I can summon a demon!"
"I'm leaving," Cairn said flatly, heading for the door. I followed him.
We had just stepped outside the door when Dante went up to the altar and actually cut himself, dripping blood into the yellow liquid. Two sin eaters emerged from the pool in the middle of the room, one heading toward Dante as he exclaimed, "Obey me!"
Cairn sighed and stepped back into the room, moving into a defensive stance. I fired an arrow through the doorway at the one that was advancing toward us, but missed.
It moved up next to Cairn. Swing and a miss.
Shadow ran up and took a bite out of it while the other sin eater clawed at Dante, messing him up pretty badly. He retaliated with his shard blast thing, ripping off a good chunk of it, but it remained standing.
Cairn wounded the one in front of him, and I ran up, leaping directly over the sin eater, clearing it by a solid foot, spinning in midair and smashing down with my staff on its head as I landed. It collapsed in a heap.
"Did you see that? You guys saw that, right? That was awesome. Tell me I'm awesome."
"You're awesome," Cairn replied, not very enthusiastically.
“I’ll take it.” I gave him a thumbs up and an ear-to-ear grin.
Shadow ran and jumped up onto the platform the altar was on to help the bard. Dante managed to avoid getting hit again and stepped back, throwing a kukri at the sin eater.
Cairn and I moved up to help, each moving toward a different set of stairs. Cairn got to it first and finished it off.
"Can we please not mess with demon magic going forward?" he said flatly.
Dante suddenly started playing a song that described the little basin on the altar. It was apparently a runewell, and would keep summoning sin eaters until it ran out of the power that was put into it.
“That was… interesting,” I said.
“I just remembered a song about what this thing is.”
"Apparently… So, is there any way to stop it? Like, break it?"
"I think boiling holy water?" Dante shrugged. We figured we could probably get some of the priests in town to take care of the thing.
We continued telling Dante about what we'd done while he was gone, and mentioned the pits with zombies in them.
"Oh, and we got this off that Koruvus guy." I pulled out the smoldering longsword. Dante asked to have it for a little while. It gave him more reach than his kukris in close quarters. Seemed reasonable enough, so I handed it over.
Dante healed himself and Cairn healed his cat, and we moved along to the last set of stairs we had come upon. The druid took the quasit's body and stuffed it in a bag before we left the room.
The doorway at the top of those stairs revealed a small, circular room, with a mural running around it. It depicted a woman who looked a lot like the statue Dante took the bejeweled ranseur from, killing people. There were a lot of dead bodies in the mural. There was a small pool of clear, clean water, only a few feet across, that was constantly flowing up to the top, then out into another circle around it where the water washed out of the room.
We found another spiral staircase, heading up, but it was collapsed. I examined the rubble, and came to the conclusion it had been collapsed longer than the town had even been in this location.
With no other paths, we left the tunnels and headed to the cathedral to talk to the priests. I asked to talk to Father Zantus alone, and when I showed him the book written in Abyssal, he told me in no uncertain terms to leave, and take the evil writings with me.
Cairn pulled the quasit out of his bag and presented it to Father Xantus. "How do we fight these?"
"With cold iron." He looked over at me as I was waiting for Cairn. "Please take that book out of here."
I asked him if he knew of anyone who might be able to help me translate them, as they were likely our best lead to finding the enemies of Sandpoint. He said the scholar Brodrick Quink might be able to help me, and I hurried out of the cathedral.
Cairn wanted to go to the blacksmith to look into this "cold iron" that the head priest had mentioned. The blacksmith, Das Korvut, said he knew of the material, but didn't have any on hand. Cairn and I each ordered a weapon, and he said it would take some time to acquire the material. I ordered a shortsword, and Cairn requested a new two handed battleaxe. We paid half the fee upfront.
We found Brodrick Quink sitting at the base of the Old Light, where I first met him, muttering to himself.
"I knew it! I knew it! They are wrong!" the old man exclaimed to himself as we approached
"Who's wrong this time, my good man?" I asked him.
"They all are! All the Thassalonian scholars are wrong. This wasn't a lighthouse, it was a weapon!"
"Yes, we talked about that before briefly," I reminded him. He blinked a few times then nodded.
I handed him the book, telling him we found it in tunnels under the city.
"Hmm… It seems like some sort of beastiary… No, no… this is just a Lamashtu holy book. It's not useful to anyone who isn't a priest of that deity." He handed it back to me.
"I'm a priest of Lamashtu," Dante said.
"No you are not," Quink replied.
"I could be."
"You are not deformed, nor are you a Mother of Monsters."
Dante walked a few steps away, looking dejected.
"Was the Sandpoint area settled by anyone else since the Thassalonians built here?"
"You don't know much about the Thassalonians, do you, my boy? They disappeared millenia ago." He went on to describe a number of ruins around the continent.
I managed to interrupt him after a couple minutes in order to answer the question he asked, and told him I had only been able to study the language from some books I came into, but wasn’t able to learn much about their history from them.
I think I sort of reset his train of thought when I did that, because he blinked a few times then looked around at each of us for a moment.
Dante was using the jeweled ranseur as a walking stick now, and it caught Quink's eye. He said it looked like the weapon belonging to Alaznist, one of the Thassalonian Runelords. There were seven of them in total, but he didn’t really feel like talking about them more.
Dante took a closer look at the ranseur, then said sadly, "Aww, it isn't magical."
Cairn mentioned the seven pointed stars we found in the ruins under Sandpoint. Quink said it was a symbol of Thassalonian magic, each point of the star representing a different Runelord and their school of magic. That was all we were going to get out of him about the Thassalonians that day.
Later that day, we escorted the priests into the tunnels when they were ready to cleanse the altar, in case there were any enemies that had somehow escaped our first pass through or snuck in through some hidden passage while we were away. It hadn’t been long, since the priests wanted to cleanse the evil as soon as possible, but you could never be too careful where demons were involved.
It ended up being a rather uneventful expedition.
We met with the mayor again, and informed her of what we'd found in the tunnels so far. Dante suggested she increase the guard on the different entry points to the town, and encourage the militia members to stay armed at all times, because the attack Tsuto hinted at could come at any time. She agreed.
We descended into the tunnels again and took the easterly branch. It continued on for about 600 yards, before it started to angle downward and water was starting to drip down the walls, before eventually becoming fully flooded.
We turned back and took the final, northern path, and it led to a beach. There was a burned out firepit, and some half eaten rabbit carcasses. It was at the base of the cliff somewhat northeast of Sandpoint.
We told the mayor, then decided to turn in for the day, and return to the water-filled passage the next day. Cairn said he had a spell he could use, but would need to prepare it first, that would let him breathe underwater for a couple minutes, so he could more easily explore the sunken passage.
We returned to the tunnels and Cairn cast his spell, then dove into the water. After a number of minutes, Cairn came up the passage behind Dante and I, still fairly drenched after walking through the streets to get back to us. It turned out the passage circled almost the entire town, and the current was fairly strong. His spell wouldn’t have lasted long enough to come back the way he left.
We reported our findings to the mayor once again, and she said she would look into solutions, maybe recruiting the Carpenter's Guild to find a way to seal or collapse the tunnels.
The next day, the blacksmith approached Cairn and I at the Rusty Dragon as we ate lunch, and let us know the shipment he was expecting that morning never arrived. The cold iron for the weapons we commissioned, as well as other supplies, and gold to pay for finished goods were all missing.
We came to an agreement that retrieving the shipment would cover the other half of our payment.
As we headed out, Cairn marked a spot on the cliff above the exit we'd found so that we could post lookouts to see if anyone was coming toward the cave entrance.
We found the missing cart fairly quickly, the horse drawing it lying slain next to it, and the cargo left intact.
We followed tracks that led away from it and came upon Pauper's Grave, a cemetery north of where we found the cart. A man's body was in the middle of the cemetery, stripped naked and cut open.
As we moved closer, we could see a seven-pointed star carved into the man's chest. When we got even closer, I heard rustling in the trees and bushes around the cemetery, and spotted humanoid, probably undead things moving toward us.
"Hey Dante, that Bardic Knowledge thing have anything to say about what these things are?" I asked as I fired an arrow into one of the creatures.
"Yep. They're ghouls."
They closed in on us as Dante began to sing, Cairn and I taking chunks out of a couple of them. Shadow took a bite out of one, but recoiled, spitting and coughing and looking a little ill.
Dante skewered one with his new longsword, then I got bit. I immediately felt a little weaker and somewhat nauseated.
Dante was carving up ghouls with his smoldering blade, felling three of them while I struggled to land a hit. I got hit again and drank a potion after the bard killed the ghoul on me.
Cairn finished off the last one, and we decided to take the dead man's body to the cart while Dante ran back to town to get a horse to pull it.
When we returned, the blacksmith paid Dante with a small sack of gold. "I had deals with the other two, but not with you. Thank you for your help." He said he would expedite the work on our weapons as further thanks so we could better take care of the threat to the town.
We made our way to the cathedral and Father Zantus offered to cure the disease from myself and Shadow. I thanked him for his assistance and excused myself to go get Brodrick Quink to see if he knew of any sort of ritual the Thassalonians might have done with corpses since their runic marking was on the body.
Unfortunately, he didn't know about anything like that, and it took a couple minutes after we arrived back at the cathedral to even find that out because he dry heaved for a few minutes when he first saw the eviscerated body.
I guess just describing the situation to him would have worked just fine. I took note of that for the future, though I hoped we wouldn’t be finding a lot of bodies in that predicament.