We rested for a bit, healing up wounds with potions and spells, then descended the stairs.
I searched the door at the bottom of the stairs, and finding no traps, picked the lock. Cairn slowly pushed the door open and we spotted a woman in a hood and cape standing at a table. With items nearby, she was certainly the spellcaster the goblin druid we interrogated told us about.
Hamlin and I lined up shots through the door, preparing to take her out before she could cast anything.
The string on my bow snapped, but Hamlin landed a solid shot in her shoulder.
She stepped back into the corner of the room next to an open door, making some motions with her hands, and multiple images of her appeared.
Cairn and Shadow took swipes at her, duplicates disappearing with each attack. Only one image remained by the time I tried to stab her, and I managed to connect with her real body with my shortsword.
Then the woman disappeared.
“Aww, crapbaskets,” I muttered.
Hamlin fired a crossbow bolt into the space she was occupying, and Cairn and Shadow took a swing in the same space, none seeming to connect. Cairn being between me and the doorway she had moved into, I threw a dagger and it disappeared in midair, a small yelp coming from where it vanished.
The door suddenly slammed shut, and I could hear a sound of stone grinding from behind it.
Cairn chopped down the door, but we couldn’t see anything inside other than some wooden crates and barrels. Shadow sniffed around one of the corners of the little storage room, but we couldn’t find any sort of mechanism to open what had to be a concealed exit.
I pulled a torch off the wall and threw it on the wooden items in the room. “Well, if she comes back this way, she gets to enjoy some smoke inhalation.”
We continued down a hallway to the east, which then turned south. On the western wall was a large set of double doors with the seven pointed star of the Runelords on it. Hamlin and I took turns trying to pick the lock, and I got it to move just a little but still couldn’t unlock it.
A loud, bestial roar came from behind the door, and we decided to head down the eastern passage across the hall. Opening the door, a strange squid-like creature started crawling across the ceiling toward us. Behind it we could see the sea beyond the cliff.
Cairn summoned a fire elemental behind the thing and Hamlin and I let loose with our bows at it from the doorway.
Cairn stepped up behind us and added his sling to the ranged attacks as the fire elemental kept the creature’s attention. It looked like it was oozing some nasty stuff from a stinger it kept poking at the elemental, so none of us wanted to get close enough to expose ourselves to the likely venomous attack that the fire creature was immune to.
Cairn’s next sling rock cracked the thing’s thin carapace, and it fell from the ceiling. I poked the thing with a sword as I crept up the hallway slowly. A pile of goblin bones greeted me as the druid headed up another path. I decided to move back toward my burly half-orc friend, who had apparently come upon some magical hide armor, which he took for himself.
There was also a masterwork glaive that would likely fetch a good price.
As we moved south through the hallways, we took a turn to the west and found stairs leading up to the front entrance to the building.
In the same room were three doors on the south wall. The first door held an unspeakable evil which I cannot describe. I shut the door and opened the next.
Another hallway that bent to the west was before us, and we headed down it, revealing five more doors, two each on the left and right and one at the end of the hall.
We opened the first on the right and a man clad in banded mail armor with his sword and shield resting across his knees was sitting on a bed.
The man slowly stood, raising his sword and shield in his hand. “Well, I guess I have to do my duty.”
Hamlin quickly interjected. “What is your duty?”
Hamlin quickly interjected. “What is your duty?”
“I’m being paid to guard this place.”
I asked, “How much are you being paid?”
He stated, “Two gold per week.”
“I’ll triple it,” Hamlin replied.
“Well, it was a good gig while it lasted, but these people are crazy.”
“Is it really going to be that easy?” I asked.
“I go where the money is. Definition of mercenary,” he replied, holding out his hand. “And again, they’re nuts.”
“Here is your first week’s pay,” Hamlin said as he handed the man six gold coins. “Oh, and by the way, what’s your name?”
“Orik. Tell me what you want hit and I’ll chop it down.”
As he stood up and rested his sword across his shoulder, we got a better look at him and his gear. His shield had his face engraved on it. Interesting choice, but it appeared to be a sturdy shield.
The room next to Orik’s contained neatly arranged living quarters with a stack of papers on a desk, with a small hunk of obsidian holding them in place.
Cairn took the papers, and I tossed the obsidian in my pack. It’d be worth a few gold to the right merchant.
In the next room, which was a little larger than the last couple, we found Nualia’s journal. There were a number of entries, but they started from when she was a child in Sandpoint. She essentially confessed to setting the fire that consumed the church five years ago, with the final entry being just two years ago:
I found him. The Skinsaw cult helped me with the simple request of carving a 7 pointed star in his chest before I opened Delek’s throat. The leader of the skinsaw, a woman with black hair gave me a medallion, with the same star once I had completed the task. On to Sandpoint to complete my holy work!
Cairn searched the next room and found two everburning torches in a case. Endless light that doesn’t burn. Would come in handy eventually.
The last room was covered in blood and dark fur, a stack of bird’s feet at the end of the messy bed.
After searching all the rooms, we backtracked to the room with the stairs that led back to the entrance to the building.
We asked Orik to lead us where we could do the most damage in the little stronghold. He told us there was a prisoner we could set free that would disrupt their plans.
He led us to the west where we found the prisoner. In one of the handful of cells in the room was a dwarf, short even by their people’s standards, with a mostly shaven head except for a short topknot and mutton chops. He was badly beaten and unconscious.
We managed to wake him, but he was in no condition to help us in here.
“So Orik, how was this guy supposed to throw a wrench in their plans or whatever?”
“I don’t know, they were going to sacrifice him or something? That messes with what they were going to do.”
We asked the dwarf if he had any equipment when they took him, and he described some armor and a shield and spear. Orik directed us to the jailor’s “office” where the man’s gear was being kept.
We talked it over and decided to have Hamlin take him back to town. Shadowmist, the horse we found upstairs, could carry the dwarf as long as they didn’t try to move faster than a slow trot, and Hamlin’s skill in handling horses would allow him to lead the horse back to town safely without aggravating the wound on its leg.
With them gone, Orik told us where we could find the bugbear. It would be a good idea to get rid of him now so he couldn’t barge in on a fight later on.
The room was across from the stairs leading to the entrance. Orik opened the door, and I caught a glimpse of the bugbear making out with female goblins.
“Hey, ugly,” Orik said.
“What do you wan-aagh!” one of the goblins said, suddenly screaming as a flaming sphere, courtesy of Cairn, appeared, instantly immolating her.
The other goblin woman charged out, flailing at Orik, who retaliated by cutting her down with one swing of his sword.
Cairn moved the sphere onto Bruthazmus, who howled and charged through the door to attack Cairn, landing a small blow with a large flail.
We were all standing around the doorway and landed a flurry of blows on the bugbear, Cairn finishing him off by moving the ball of fire on top of him.
We found four arrows that were definitely magical, a moderate healing potion, some normal studded leather armor, the bugbear’s heavy flail, a masterwork composite longbow, twenty normal arrows, a few platinum pieces, and a necklace of orc and elf ears.
We left the necklace behind.
I took the platinum, and handed two to Cairn. The both of us glanced at Orik, then each other, nodded, and each handed him a platinum piece.
Orik led us back to the room of cells and to a door on the north wall. He suddenly seemed nervous for the first time as he fumbled with some keys to open the door.
“What’s behind the door?” I asked.
Just as I asked, unnatural growls came from behind the door, sounding like those we heard by the double doors in the earlier hallway.
On the other side of the door was a ten foot tall statue of a pregnant, naked woman, holding a kukri in each hand, one glowing a reddish-orange and the other a reddish-purple. An eerie red light seemed to be cast across the entire room, and two smoky braziers were hanging from the ceiling on either side of the stairs leading up to the dais. At the bottom of the stairs, the room spread out to the east and either side of the path to the double doors was lined with stone pillars.
Two demonic dogs were hovering near the braziers, and I fired an arrow at one of them. It seemed to connect fairly well.
Orik suddenly bolted from the room. The eerie feeling in the room was probably some sort of magical fear garbage.
“I hate demons and magic,” I muttered. Cairn grunted. “Well, when it’s not a friend’s magic. Demons still suck.” The druid nodded.
One of the creatures flew at me and luckily missed. Cairn landed a heavy blow on it, and the other came flying past to attack my druid companion, also missing.
I got struck by one of them and felt the same effect as when the sin eater hit me before. “Not again…” I muttered as overwhelming feelings of guilt made it harder to focus on attacking the creatures.
I took a double stab at the one between Cairn and myself and while I missed with the enchanted shortsword in my left hand, the rapier in my right skewered the creature through the neck and its head fell to the ground, rolling a short distance before the whole thing disappeared.
The other one tried to claw Cairn and missed again, but then I took another heavy hit. I tried to stab with both weapons, but missed due to my injury and stepped back to drink a potion.
Cairn and Shadow kept whittling away at the creature as I healed myself, then stepped back up and landed a blow with each weapon. “That’s what you get, ya piece of crap!”
My druid companion finished it off and the body disappeared like the other one.
We walked up to the dais and found a pool of dirty water with ash and bones in it.
“You think it is Father Tobin’s remains?” Cairn asked.
I just shrugged. “I don’t think there’s a reliable way to tell.”
Cairn looked at the statue, of Lamashtu, we were pretty sure, then moved behind it and putting his back against the statue, placed his feet against the wall and started pushing in order to topple the statue. After a few moments of struggling, I moved over to help and we got it rocking back and forth, eventually toppling it. The head and torso broke off from the rest, and the pieces that fell in the murky water basin sizzled.
I went upstairs and looked around for Orik for a couple minutes and told Cairn I would meet him back in the room where the secret door had to be the woman escaped through. There was no sign of Orik.
“I hate evil magic,” I said to myself as I met back up with Cairn. He nodded.
He had spent the time I was away searching every nook and cranny of the room and found the hidden door.
We went through it and came upon a stone door that looked like it had been beaten and chipped away at, indentations that appeared to have held gems at one time. A few chipped gems were on the ground. Looking them over, I figured they still had a little value to them so I scooped them into a pouch.
There were two alcoves on the north side of the large room, and another two on the south. All but one of the southern alcoves had rubble, the remains of statues. The one that wasn’t completely destroyed looked fairly worn down, but it was of a robed man holding a book and a glaive.
“I… think this might be one of the Runelords,” I said quietly.
There was another door to the east. A suit of armor occupied the alcove on each side of the short hallway beyond the door. The armor looked polished and taken care of.
Another statue stood at the end of the hall. It also looked to be in good condition, as if it were being maintained by somebody.
Cairn detected magic in the hall, but I couldn’t see anything that stood out. Cairn moved forward while I was examining the floor around him from the doorway. Just as he moved between the statues, a portcullis dropped behind him and in front of him. The two suits of armor attacked Cairn at the same time the floor dropped a little and spikes shot up through it.
He managed to avoid one of the suits’ attacks and the spikes in the floor.
I spotted the activation runes along the floor when the trap went off. I told Cairn to hold still when it reset, and I disarmed it.
The armor at the end of the hall had doors flanking it to the north and south.
I asked Cairn which one we should check first. He suggested north.
I opened the door and spotted the wizard woman from before, and someone else who could only be Nualia. Her violet eyes almost seemed to glow, and her left arm was red and scaly, demonic-looking.
I slowly shut the door, but heard her speak from the other side.
“No, no. You’ve come this far.”
I opened the door again.
A red marble table, or bench of sorts, was attached to the wall all the way around the circular, domed room. Crafting tools, ritualistic implements, excavation equipment, and other various items were scattered about the bench. A bubbling pool sat at the north end of the room.
Cairn stepped forward. “I am sorry for the pain and troubles you have experienced in your life, but this evil you are committing will come to an end now.” He set his axe on the ground, leaning it against the wall as he took a large bundle off his back. The cold iron greataxe he had commissioned in Sandpoint was now in his hand.
Nualia replied, sighing. “I had hoped you had come to bask in the glory of Lamashtu, but unfortunately we will have to kill you.”
“Sorry, Nualia, but you’re the one that will be dying here today,” I replied.
Cairn summoned an earth elemental behind the mage, and it landed a solid blow. He then pointed at the mage and said, “Get her.” Shadow darted across the room and clawed at her.
Nualia took a swing with her serrated two handed blade, leaving a decent sized wound in Shadow’s side.
I charged past Cairn, headed directly for Nualia. She started to brace herself for my attack, but I stopped suddenly in front of her, leaping and spinning in the air over her, stabbing with my rapier as I landed, piercing her arm.
Cairn stepped up and took a swing at her as well, and she retaliated by reversing the grip on her sword and… not swinging it at us. She shouted, calling out to Lamashtu, and a wave of energy flowed out of her, all of us reeling back in pain to different degrees.
The mage woman was killed in the attack. She had looked like she was readying a spell, but never got it off.
“I mean, we were probably going to kill her anyway, and I know you’re evil, but that was pretty evil, killing your ally like that,” I said.
The elemental landed a blow against the demonic woman and Shadow ran from the room at Cairn’s call, the large cat looking badly wounded at this point.
Nualia took a step to Cairn’s side and readied her blade. Cairn reflexively took one hand from his axe and moved it toward the ground, then pulled his hand up, a rocky barrier rising from the ground between him and the demon woman.
She smashed right through it, slicing him as well. It slowed her blow a little, at least.
I moved to get behind her and stabbed her in the shoulder with my rapier again, blood dripping from the two wounds I left in her so far.
She shouted for Lamashtu again, another wave of evil energy flowed out of her, and we all recoiled from the pain.
I stabbed her again, missing with the rapier but connecting with the shortsword this time. Cairn followed up with his axe, and Shadow charged back into the room to bite her.
Nualia apparently had a thing against cats, as she swung her blade at the cat, Shadow collapsing in a heap, breathing shallowly.
Cairn and I both shouted in anger as he fell, and dropped the demonic woman in a flurry of blows.
We searched the room and the bodies.
The spellcaster, Lyria it turned out was her name, had a spellbook and a handful of spell scrolls, a Cloak of Resistance, a small bag of spell components, a fine silver comb, and the dagger I threw into her shoulder when she was invisible earlier.
Nualia had magic armor that none of us would be able to use, and an unholy sword with the symbol of Lamashtu on the pommel. That could make it difficult to sell to normal shops…
She also had a sihedron medallion, and amulet with the seven-pointed star of the Runelords, hanging from a leather cord. Cairn studied it for a little while to figure out its properties. It had the same power as a Cloak of Resistance, as well as the ability to temporarily bestow extra life to the wearer.
We hadn’t even thought to heal ourselves yet when we heard a noise from the hall.
And that’s when Hamlin walked in the door.