It’s late afternoon in the Wanderer. The sun is just visible behind the rooftops of the city, but already the streets below are rather empty and dark.
Several of the heroes have come back from a trip in the city, while three of them stayed behind, biding their time with food, books and conversation. Limbes is only partially awake when Valeria, Elia, Sargis and Senna enter their quarters. Sleepy-eyed she takes in Maevin at the other end of the room. He’s still busy with a book, a pile of them lying next to him on his mattress. Salem and Sigune still haven’t returned and Revas is leaning against the wall near the wyvern egg, keeping an eye on it.
The door is barely closed, when Elia flips a coin in Senna’s direction. Her cut of the party pot (1gp). “So… what was up with that guard, huh?”
Senna of course tries to play down the entire situation and says she had a bit of a run-in with someone who refused the amount of money she offered. “We had a bit of a fight and then we were fine.”
Elia is worried about people coming knocking on their door, and Senna nonchalantly mutters: “Well, you don’t have to worry about that, but I might have to…”
“I basically reclaimed some property,” Senna adds. Limbes throws her a look. It only takes a moment and then Senna spills the beans and tells her everything.
“You stole a dracolisk,” Elia says disbelievingly.
“RECLAIMED!” Senna insists.
A discussion about the law and the rules on stolen property ensues, which is only ended once Senna says: “Well, the only law that actually matters is Mages are always right!”
Silence fills the room and Senna awkwardly tries to hide behind Limbes on the bed. Barely awake, Limbes not-so-gently pushes her away, which causes Senna to actually pout. Elia takes a deep breath: “Five seconds ago you complained about a baby wyvern,” and she points to it, “in our room, and now you’ve stolen a dracolisk in the middle of a large city with a massive military installation?! ARE YOU HIGH?!”
“Reclaimed…” Senna pouts.
Maevin, sitting in the corner, pretends to still be reading his book, but in reality his eyes are darting from one person to the next, as he is trying to determine what exactly is going on. At the same time, Limbes is trying to inch further away from Senna, who is trying to hide her pout—unsuccessfully.
“If she gets to keep her dracolisk, then I get to keep the wyvern,” Elia throws in the room, daring anyone to oppose her. Senna rolls her eyes. “FINE.”
Sargis suggests getting a muzzle and harness for the wyvern, and adds: “Maybe we should also go on a vacation for a while…” Most of the heroes agree, and Elia concludes this conversation by changing the topic. She digs up a note from her pockets and shows it to everyone. It’s the piece of paper she found among Manuell’s things: “Stilled Tongues Speak No Heresy! Bear Road, 21.10., Sundown.”
She explains that the cult is known as the Cult of the Stilled Tongue, which seems to surface in Jader every few years, no matter how effectively it was stamped out the last time. Their modus operandi is to kidnap children and cut out their tongues, usually murdering their parents in the process. No one particularly understands the doctrine behind their actions. The most common theory is that the cult believes these children will one day speak heresies against Dumat. No one knows how the children are selected.
Elia suggests investigating Bear Road, sine she wants to “save the children”… It’s not hard for the others to spot the cha-ching in her eyes. It’s for that reason that the others actually agree to investigate.
Unsure where Bear Road is, Elia offers a solution: “I’m sure the cute lady downstairs knows where Bear Road is. We should ask her.” Thus, she exits the room before really waiting for a reply. Quick to act, Sargis is right behind her, and they enter the main room of the inn. Fire is burning in the fireplace, and the room is already filled with people. It’s not even really evening yet, but the sun sets rather early this time of year, and so most tables are occupied with people having a drink or some food, and some of them are playing cards. The room is noisy and smells of ale, and Arna is winding through people, balancing a tablet with more pints. When she spots Sargis and Elia, she winks at them, but it’s unclear whether that was just a friendly acknowledgement of their presence or something more…
Elia is convinced the wink was directed at her, and so she whispers “Dibs” before she walks up to the bar, where Arna is pouring ale out of a large barrel. Arna gives her a huge smile and answers most of the questions Elia has with a wink and a laugh. Clearly inebriated, Arna seemingly can’t help but flirt with her. For a moment, she even sends a sly smile in Sargis’ direction. She then places a pitcher of ale in front of Elia and says: “On me.” The most suggestive smile accompanies the alcohol, and so Elia downs it rather quickly.
Eventually, Arna gives Elia directions to Bear Road, which seems to be just a few streets further south, in the Dregs. They decide to set off now, even though they still have probably more than half an hour before the sun sets. As they enter their quarters to get the others, they find everyone standing around rather quietly, watching Senna and Limbes. Senna—in a rare moment of regret—seems to be apologizing to Limbes in an overly theatrical manner. Revas, for one, seems to be utterly uncomfortable with all of this.
Limbes however seems unimpressed. She gives Senna a short look that says: “How do you always get yourself into trouble when I’m not around?” and Senna actually snorts. Of course it is Limbes who always ends up in a bind, but she wisely doesn’t say that out loud.
Five of them quickly decide to head off before the sun sets, and so Elia, Sargis, Valeria, Revas and Senna leave Maevin and Limbes behind again. Maevin, though clearly exhausted, shifts his focus back onto one of his books and promises to keep an eye on the wyvern. Although clearly worried about its poison, he doesn’t move, especially so after Sargis speaks up:
“As long as you take note of what you did to annoy the wyvern, we know what not to do in the future!” He grins at Maevin and Limbes, utterly satisfied with himself. Limbes rolls her eyes and gets off the bed. On her way across the room, she gives Senna a kick in the shin and then sits down next to the egg, where she pets the wyvern’s head.
The group of five heads outside, where the air is cool and misty. All but the nearest torches and lanterns are glowing blobs of light hanging in midair. The city smells like a wet dog. Elia looks around warily, worried some random guards might show an interest in them. Luckily, none seem to be around.
It doesn’t take them long to find Bear Road. It’s a relatively narrow road, and the buildings around are between one and two stories high. There are barrels standing around, and the heroes assume that during the day there might be merchants here. The mist makes it hard to see in the distance, and so the five of them try to stick close to each other.
Valeria and Revas climb a one story building to the north, while Elia and Sargis squeeze into a small passageway between buildings. Senna tries to follow Revas and Valeria up, but as everyone knows, she’s a mage: Exercise is optional and magic is distilled laziness. Not used to physical activity, she gives up after she’s climbed just barely a yard. Huffing, she joins Sargis and Elia in their small alley.
It’s still quiet out, and they can’t hear much except the occasional dull voice coming from inside one of the houses. So they wait. And wait. And wait. They all know sundown is near, but staying quiet, not doing anything quickly leads to boredom. At some point Sargis gives Elia a hand and helps her up onto the roof next to the alley.
Soon after, the group hears footsteps. In this kind of mist they can hear people approaching long before they can see them. At first they peg the half-dozen or so pairs of feet pounding toward them in the darkness as guardsmen if it weren’t for the horrible gurgling.
When the heroes spot five people emerge from the mist, all of them go really quiet. None of them want to ruin the chance for surprise.
The cultists wear long, brown robes stained with blood. One carries a child’s body over his shoulder. Judging by the shape of their robes, the cultists are wearing some kind of armor underneath.
Spotting the child, Elia immediately looses an arrow at the person carrying it. The adrenaline in her body makes it hard to aim, however, and so her arrow lodges itself into the building behind the cloaked figure with a thud.
“Humans,” Revas scoffs.
Now, Senna finally decides to cast Rock Armor. Knowing that her spell will take a while, Senna focuses her energy on creating armor for herself out of thin air.
Revas, kneeling on the roof, releases his arrow, and watches as it sinks into the tall man’s shoulder, right where the leather breast piece ends. The resulting cry of pain echoes through the street, and sends shivers down Senna’s spine.
Now Sargis steps out from his hiding place and confronts the cultist closest to him: “Huh, you guys actually wear cloaks. How weird!” He then proceeds to strike at him, trying to get his sword to do any kind of damage, but the cloaked guy in front of him is much too quick and easily evades his strikes. In the meantime, Valeria scuffles across the roof, jumps down and lands next to a surprised cultist. Valeria raises her sword over her head and slashes his robe open from shoulder to thigh. The massive blow she deals rips through some of his leather armor and skin, causing blood to collect in his robe and clothes.
One of them yells “Infidels!” and then rushes at Valeria with his longsword. Ducking and evading some of his blows, most of his strikes glance off of her armor. Next to him his fellow companion strikes at Sargis, cutting his arm. “I got this, boss!” Behind him, the other three cultists ready their weapons and look out for more opponents hiding in the mist.
A group fight breaks out, and the cultists curse the heroes several times. During the fight, Revas focuses on taking down the tall man carrying the child, sending arrow after arrow into his shoulder, all neatly packed together, shredding the man’s armor and flesh alike. Elia joins him and sends one of her arrows flying there as well, and it lodges in the man’s abdomen, causing him to almost keel over in pain.
Valeria in the meantime focuses on the enemies close to her, striking left and right, leaving bloody entrails in her wake. She’s so focused on what is happening close to her that she doesn’t see the cultist rushing towards Senna.
“There! She’s casting something!”
His heavy longsword comes down upon her, and while she’s preoccupied with keeping her focus on casting rock armor, she makes for an easy target. The cultist sinks his longsword into her shoulder and blood starts seeping into Senna’s robes.
On the other side of the street, Valeria is busy fending off two of the cultists at once. The one she wounded earlier is talking himself into a frenzy, and the tallest one among them has dropped the kid onto the floor and joined his companion in attacking her.
The only woman among the cultists attacks Sargis, desperately trying to find a weakness in his defense. Luckily, Sargis’ armor is well-made and protects him from most of the damage.
Surrounded, Valeria fends off her attackers and—despite taking damage—does her best to show them who’s the better swordswoman. Once she sees an out, she moves further away from the two, taking up a defensive position. Senna in the meantime finishes her spell and is in a lot of pain, but is relieved when she feels the familiar feeling of rock armor surrounding her body.
Up on the roof, Revas aims for the guy next to Valeria, who is already pretty wounded. His arrow flies towards him and lands in a cloaked shoulder. Angry, the cultist breaks off the shaft of the arrow and throws the offending piece of wood towards Revas somewhere above him. “I curse you, coward! May Dumat strike you down!”
Elia laughs and then nocks an arrow and sends it flying at the cultist leader who was carrying the child. Distracted as he was, he doesn’t see the arrow coming towards him, and the projectile hits him right between shoulder blade and spine, sinking deeply into his body.
In the meantime Senna has stepped further back into the alleyway, but the cultist who struck her before has tasted blood and is hot on her heels. He gets the drop on her and, after a quick few slashes, Senna sinks to the ground, bleeding profusely.
New energy seems to fill the cultists as they see Senna—the mage—fall unconscious. Invigorated, two of them, man and woman, attack Sargis from two sides, and he does his best to fend them off. Some cuts get through, but all in all Sargis does a great job at keeping them at bay.
Behind him, Valeria makes a run for Senna and her attacker, and tries to strike the cultist down. Hearing her approach, however, he turns around and blocks her sword with ease. Frustrated, Valeria curses under her breath, but is satisfied that she at least got his attention.
Sargis in the meantime is surrounded by three cultists at this point, and viscously attacks the leader of the group, hoping to chop him down. He manages to cut deeply into the tall man’s armor, and slices his sword through the new opening for better effect, but the man is still standing. So Revas, still up on the roof, looses another arrow at him, and it again lodges in the man’s shoulder, right where Revas’ other arrows are. The flesh around the wound is visibly red and swollen, and the cultist leader barely even winces anymore when he’s struck by the projectile.
Just then, Elia decides to try something new: Up from the roof she calls down to the cultist, trying to convince him that Senna is cursed so he doesn’t go ahead and kill her.
“I’ll have you know, she is cursed. If you kill her, I’m pretty sure you’re gonna be cursed, too. Don’t ask me what the curse is, you don’t wanna know. It’s that bad.”
The young man looks up towards the sky, this disembodied voice coming out of nowhere, filling his head, and he starts shaking, and the grip on his sword visibly looses. Then, just when he drops his weapon, Elia’s arrow strikes him right in the heart, and for a moment he remains standing, his thoughts clearly visible on his face: Oh shit, she’s right. I’m cursed. Then he falls over dead.
Valeria, her body serving as a meat shield for the still unconscious Senna, fights off several cultists, and Sargis is also busy staying alive. For a moment it looks really bad for him, but then he strikes down one of them and instantly feels safer.
In the alley, Valeria steps over the dead cultist and leans down to Senna. Worry fills her eyes as she searches Senna’s belongings for a healer’s kit. She finds one and bandages Senna’s abdomen as well as she can. The mage seems a bit more stable after that.
Eventually, the heroes take care of most of the remaining cultists, and with Valeria’s help, Senna gets well enough to cast a healing spell on herself. Once she’s well enough, she of course pushes out of the alleyway and hurls a winter’s grasp at one of the two remaining cultists. Already wounded heavily, the hooded man has no real defense against her spell and freezes in place, ice slowly creeping up his legs and body, until it covers his face, which is contorted in fear.
Revas looses an arrow at the female cultist still remaining. His arrow lodges into her ribcage, causing her to curse at him. Afterwards, her rattling breathing can be heard even further down the street. Both Sargis and Valeria now team up on her and Valeria strikes the killing blow as she takes the cultist apart with her sword, ripping open the woman’s torso and decapitating her in one fell swoop.
Satisfied that all of the cultists have been defeated, the group takes a short break to take care of their wounds and Elia immediately inspects the bodies. Valeria on the other hand walks up to the child and takes a good look at it. It’s emitting gurgling sounds and looks barely conscious. It doesn’t even seem to notice that anyone is in front of it. Dried and fresh blood surround its mouth and it is clear to her that someone cut out the child’s tongue.
Meanwhile Elia has found two papers among the leader’s things. One is crumpled and contains a tongue… most likely the child’s. The other is a note with four addresses on it. One of them is circled. Elia also founds 57sp and 20cp.
Valeria asks Senna for help in healing the boy, and Senna actually spends some mana to do so. Just enough to stabilize him. He wakes up and instantly starts screaming and gurgling, trying to get away. Just when Elia tries to calm him down, the heroes hear footsteps coming from the west.
Moments later, four men appear out of the mist, swords in hand, wearing heavy mail. They stop when they see the bodies, and one of them steps forward. He’s a middle aged man, sturdy and sincere. His hair and beard are both short and black, and he runs through it with his hand before he speaks: “I’m Braedon, captain of Bann Nicola Baranti’s house guard.” He indicates the corpses of the cultists and continues: “We learned these bastards were out again tonight. We weren’t fast enough to stop the first kidnapping. Thank Lusacan you dealt with this one.”
Braedon brandishes a piece of paper with four addresses on it, similar to the one Elia just found. “There are two more groups out there, and no time. Who are you people? Can you help?” Elia steps up and shows him the note she found. Immediately Braedon asks them for help again and offers a reward to be paid by Bann Nicola.
The heroes hesitate for a moment and try to discern whether he is being sincere, and when they do, Elia, representing the group, agrees to go to Tern Street and investigate. Braedon is clearly relieved and makes a grimace as he quickly tells them about the kidnapping he and his men weren’t able to stop. He only stops his telling to yell at a random street cat which pops up next to him and interrupts his train of thought as it tries to climb the man.
“Look for me tomorrow at Bann Nicola’s manor, I’m sure there’s a reward.” He then gives them directions and rushes off towards Dogget Lane.
Valeria is quick to follow suit. She jogs off towards Tern Street, urging the others to follow.
As they approach, nothing seems out of the ordinary at the Tern Street house. The house is dark inside save for a single dim light, probably from a single candle.
Elia sneaks up to the door and decides to listen. She can hear thumping and cursing—like
someone’s trying to break down a door. Valeria is already offering to kick the door down when Elia interrupts her and says “I’ll lockpick it” only to find out that it is unlocked. Inside, she spots four cultists. One of them is holding what is clearly a mage’s staff.
Surprising the cloaked people, the heroes sneak into the building one after the other, sending arrows and spells at them rather rapidly. Valeria and Sargis however get right in the thick of it, slashing and stabbing left and right. Elia does the same, attacking one of the men from the back, slashing his entire armor open in the back. Revas then climbs onto the table and lets loose several arrows from there, killing one of the cultists before he can even react.
Senna then follows the others’ attack up with a wintery grasp, trying to freeze the cultist who is clearly a mage. Following her lead, Sargis steps over the dead guy and shield pummels the mage with all the force he can muster, before Valeria steps towards him. Her sword almost rips the man apart, blood spurting in all directions, covering both Sargis and Valeria alike. The mage’s robes fall to the ground in pieces, soaked in blood.
From his spot on the table, Revas again sends his arrow flying, lodging it into the mage’s neck. Another winter’s grasp hits the cultist, icicles beginning to spread all over his body and slowing down his movement, as Senna focuses her attention on him.
“Take care of them!” The cultist trying to break down the door urges his companions on, while he is busy trying to take down the door. Invigorated, the young man next to him attacks Valeria with his axe, hurting her sword arm rather badly. Before anyone can follow his example, however, Elia sends her arrow right between the other man’s shoulder blades.
The cultist mage in the meantime sends a bolt of pure energy, bright like lightning, towards Elia, and for a moment she feels like she is on fire as her body tries to resist the painful shocks.
“Hey, you can’t do that,” Sargis calls. His longsword easily outmaneuvers the mage’s short staff, and many cuts appear in the man’s robe and skin. The cultist’s already pale skin seems bloodless now, as he tries to stay on his feet so he can defend himself.
Valeria charges the man who is trying to take down the door, and her sword find him in a sure strike. Lightning quick she kicks the man to her right, and then stabs him in the abdomen, pulling her sword out just in time to defend herself from his blows. Revas follows this up with two arrows that he sends flying just past Valeria’s head, both of them sinking into the man’s robes and armor.
Senna, still on the other end of the room, forms a small fist which gets bigger and bigger as it approaches its victim. Slamming into the cultist, the stonefist sends the cultist flying into the brick wall, and a loud crack fills the room as several bones in the man’s body break on impact.
Scared because he is now all alone with his mage companion, the remaining axe fighter rushes towards Senna, determined to take down the dangerous mage. Senna uses her staff to parry some of his blows, and manages to prevent the worst of the damage. Next to her, Elia switches from bow to short sword and, holding her sword with two hands, deals a massive blow to the man, almost striking him down.
A little wobbly on his feet, the cultist mage focuses on his surroundings, and purple, almost black tendrils shoot towards Sargis, enveloping his mind. Sargis however, is not so easily taken over by terror, and he shakes the spell of with little effort.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, shit, fuck,” the mage utters and flees towards the small kitchen in the back of the apartment. At the same time, Valeria is hit by a bolt of arcane energy which comes flying through an open window. Looking south, Valeria spots another mage just outside the house.
Sargis gives the mage who so unsuccessfully tried to ensorcell him with unspeakable terrors a flashy grin and then stabs him in the leg. “Next time try harder,” he says as he delivers another blow, splitting the man open from shoulder to abdomen, sending blood all over his boots.
Valeria rushes south, bolts out the window and sinks her sword into the soft flesh of the mage. His rock armor doesn’t protect him nearly enough from the hefty blow she deals as she strikes down, running her sword across his face and torso, effectively blinding him in one eye.
After moving further south so he can get a better look at the cultist who attacked Senna, Revas sends an arrow flying towards him. It strikes the man’s armor, veers off to the right and stops moving in the cultist’s arm. Senna in the meantime decides to get rid of the robed man in front of her by stonefisting him. Her spell strikes the man in the chest, crushing his ribs and costing him his life. The force of her attack sends his body flying towards Revas, who’s standing right behind the man. Crushed between body and wall, Revas suffers some minor injuries, to which Elia responds with a glare in Senna’s direction:
“Maybe a warning next time?!”
Senna just grins at her. “I’m so sorry. It’s only a corpse!” It seems very genuine.
For a moment, Senna is lost in thought.
The heroes, all sitting around the camp fire: “I got this stuff from Senna here. And that was when she did this… what about yours?”
Suppressing a cackle, Senna focuses back on the fight at hand. Her eyebrow raises as she watches Elia, who ignores the still living mage outside the building and instead starts collecting all the arrows she can find.
In the alley behind the house, Valeria is enveloped by black tendrils as the mage in front of her tries to force horrific images onto her. She can feel the hold the cultist has on her, and feels an odd familiarity as the spell washes over her. But even as the spell grows stronger, Valeria shakes it off with ease. When the mage realizes that his spell has no effect on the tall blonde in front of him, he tries the only thing he thinks might keep him alive: escape.
Behind Valeria, Sargis comes closer and peaks out the window, trying to see what’s going on. “Go get him!” She, in turn, gives him a cocky smile and then chases after the retreating figure. Catching up to him, Valeria slides past him, cutting his legs out from under him in the process. Kneeling next to him, she stabs into his back, her sword scratching across his spine.
While Valeria’s killing the last of the cultists, Elia is already busy collecting money she feels she’s being owed for her troubles. She finds 61sp and 32cp on the cultists she’s searching.
Outside, Valeria stalks the alley, checking to see whether more cultists are around. Satisfied that none of them are hiding here, she lets the others know and the group takes a short break to bandage their wounds and drink some water…