New Directions

 

Our heroes wake in the security of the temple buildings.

The Monk, Ramas Zolis, sat upright meditating as the others stirred from slumber. Still bewildered and confused by the rapid shift in their lives, they each desired a chance to touch base with the familiar.

The Wizard; Hereth, wanted to visit his tutor; another Wizard; Mackendrie. Ramas wished to visit his employer; Evendur Buckman, a scribe and papermaker. Raef declared he simply wanted to take the air and breakfast, meanwhile the Bruxx, Slim Shady, seemed to disappear before anyone could ask his intentions.

 

As they set out it seemed the remaining three were all destined on the Merchant’s district yet again, so walking together one by one they peeled off to their various destinations. Raef continued to the market, working his way around, talking with the stallholders and shop keeps more to cover his desire to speak with his contact Garven Helm, a general store owner who could pass gathered intelligence back to the Cult of Ptah; a secret society within the Priesthood of Ptah. All the dealings with Astrid, the Tallhelm merchants and the undead would have to be reported.

Approaching Garven’s store however he saw things were not as they should be. Much of his wears were not on show, his cart missing and the door to the store merely ajar, not propped open. Raef was immediately on guard and cautiously crept closer. His keen ears revealed sounds of a disturbance in the store, pottery smashing, grunts of strange voices, yelps of pain and the pleading voice of Garven!

Raef’s mind was spinning; too much was happening, too quickly. This was not how he operated and he didn’t like it one bit. Panicked and knowing time was of the essence, for the second time in two days, he rushed off to gather aid from two relative strangers. He grasped Hereth just outside Mackenrie’s door and called to Ramas just a little way further who had apparently just left his meeting at the papermaker’s. Some fortune was at hand it seemed. Ramas appeared at their side, almost as Raef finished calling to him, it was uncanny.

Without much preamble Raef explained he needed their help fast, that they must aid Garven – “I’ll point him out when I see him” – assume any others to be hostile.

 

They all rushed into the little yard outside the store entrance. The door was almost closed to, so Hereth stepped forth demanding, in his very ‘correct’ voice, that they cease their violence and face us. The thuggish retort was obscene indeed. Hereth prepared another remark but Ramas cut in, “I don’t speak thug”, and thrust open the door to reveal a store in disarray.

 

Through the door they could just make out Garven cowering behind his counter and launching various items across the room trying to fend off 6 scimitar armed men, with the same crescent moon and horns insignia on their robes over leather armour, as the party had seen the day before.

 

Emboldened, Ramas stepped in demanding they yield or be defeated, but all he received was a few turned heads and threatening swipes of their scimitars. He leapt forth with his quarterstaff, a cruel blow taking one swiftly to the ground before stepping back to the doorway and repeating his challenge.

Raef, still trying to take stock watched as Hereth rushed past him into the store, sending out a spectral claw reaching to grasp one cultist, before he gathered himself and darted in. He skewered one through the heart with his rapier, before sweeping around and slicing the next across the neck with his dagger. His momentum was then halted as the remaining cultists turned to counter them.

Ramas took out another with a flurry of blows, before darting away into the yard. Hereth became pinned in the corner fending off one, another stepped across and sealed the door to trap Ramas outside, while Raef finished of the throat slice with another dagger thrust and slid over the counter to help a collapsed Garven bleeding badly on the floor.

Just as he began to staunch the flow of blood the 3rd remaining cultist reached to an amulet about his neck and muttering alien words pointed to Raef. With the crack of broken glass, the amulet shattered just as excruciating pain wracked Raef and dropped him to his knees in agony. The cultists guffawed at his suffering.

Here the tide turned again. Suddenly, a smashing window, immediately followed by a monk flying through the new space horizontally, marked Ramas’ return. Whipping his quarterstaff round to flatten 1 cultist, flipping himself over the table in an arc before striking down the chuckling brute, all in one smooth motion!

Meanwhile in the corner, Hereth blocked a scything arc with his wand only to see the scimitar shatter! The thug stepped back in shock, but Hereth wasted no time in blasting him with fire and reducing him to a charred mess.

 

Raef, drastically weakened managed to stop Garven’s bleeding, but he was unconscious. He was far off it himself after that eldritch blast. Hereth moved across to see what he could do, handing a small potion to Raef, “use it”. Still in pain he pondered for some seconds before supping it, just to stop himself from passing out. He couldn’t drop his guard just yet.

Ramas had only knocked out the cultist with the shattered amulet, the assumed the leader. Hereth searched them for anything of value, Ramas went to alert the guards while Raef tried to wake the brute for some answers.

Hereth’s search discovered the others wore similar amulets but more simple, emblems only. Ramas returned to stand ready, watching the scene as Raef brought the cultist round with a few slaps.

Demanding to know who sent them, why they were here, what they wanted. All was to no avail, as the cultist muttered words in a foreign tongue again, some parts repeated. Slaps to interrupt and prompts to speak the common tongue didn’t help either, as he continued muttering while laid on his back. His eyes began to turn yellow, and fearing more sorcery Raef punched him, knocking him unconscious yet again.

 

Just then the Cuttersley guards burst in demanding information in very accusatory tones. It felt like they were all about to be arrested and were blamed for damages to boot. With a chance to speak, the party eventually managed to explain the scene and were left only with culpability for the window damage, which Ramas had volunteered his confession to. As they spoke, the cultist leader’s prone form began frothing at the mouth, convulsed and then died.

Raef insisted on staying with Garven until the priests came to treat him and stretcher him to the Temple. As he opened his eyes Raef tried to give him a reassuring/knowing look, then watched them lift and carry him on.

They all left the shop and followed the litter back toward the Temple, but at the entrance to the square before the temple more guards closed behind the litter blocking their path. Demanding to see warrants for access, they were turned away. The only explanation they could gather was the forthcoming arrival of the Lord.

 

Despondent and frustrated their minds were yet alive with thoughts of corruption and Astrid’s cult of ‘necro’ worshippers.

Hereth explained the cultist’s chants were a summons to the ‘lady’ of the Death Cult of Nephthys. She had given him the escape of death that he’d requested. What hideous magick this truly was!

They discussed at length what they should or even could do next, but Hereth was adamant they return to the Tallhelm warehouse to search the torture room they’d seen Astrid in, “There must be a clue”. With nothing else to mind and after some persuasion, they did as he bid.

Upon arriving at the warehouse, they moved around to the outbuildings at the back to find the door closed. All seemed quiet except the sound of dice tumbling atop a surface within. Ramas climbed the walls to explore for a roof entrance. He returned with reports of 2 secure points, a hatch and a grill through which he could see only darkness and two distant voices. They surmised probably the same number of 4 guards; two in the warehouse and two in the outbuildings.
Across the street from the warehouse they argued the culpability of these warehouse guards and their own justification for harm and potential finds. This went on for some time.

 

They’d been discussing for several minutes, hearing distant cheers and the strangely loud voice of Cuttersley’s Lord Ironstrike booming over them all, before a group of 4 hooded figures surrounding the shaven head of a woman appeared around the corner at the far end of the warehouse. Astrid! Clearly spotted the party attempted to move away around a corner, but Astrid’s men closed the gap as she ordered, “Arrest those men!”, before reaching out her arm toward her nearest foe. Ramas felt suddenly weaker and sickened as he saw her mouth moving, staring directly at him.

Raef sang out a sonorous tune, smiling as he saw 3 of her guards slump to the ground in a deep slumber.

One cultist still ran forth to challenge them but was clearly sluggish as Ramas blocked his path, Ramas’ attacks were clumsy though as he was still battling the sickness in his body. Hereth launched a ball of fire that struck Astrid squarely. She seemed relatively unharmed but was clearly losing her boldness as she retreated around the corner of the building, calling to her lackeys to stand and fight, they remained unaware.

Taking their opportunity, Raef rushed forward to see her face as he whipped out a hand crossbow from under his cloak and fired true to pierce her breast. Ramas dealt quickly with the cultist, he and Hereth rushing to join Raef in his pursuit.

Raef saw a flicker of fear in Astrid’s eyes as she cursed, reached into a pocket and threw a cloud of dust over herself. As the dust fell they could see her begin to turn and run before she completely disappeared! Reacting fastest Ramas threw a pouch of oil at where he believed she was but she was too fast. Raef ran headlong trying to catch her but lost track of even the dusty footprints in her wake. The bitch had escaped again!

 

Hereth had spent the last few moments searching through the bodies and found the same amulets, cloaks and symbols as before, but also a parchment with what appeared to be a map!

Events were moving so quickly. They now had a map revealing a hidden base for the Cult of Nephthys in the woods to the West of Cuttersley. Twice they had encountered Astrid, but this time she had been injured. They agreed to return to the square and hear the last of the Lord’s speech as he proclaimed the Cult using necromantic magick to be evil and the enemies of Cuttersley, furthermore that there would be a reward for the capture and or death of the Necromancer Astrid Blight.

 

After most of the crowds had begun to dissipate, the group could get nowhere near the Lord, but instead searched out the Abbot Rumin to discuss their findings with him. The party bartered for assistance, any rewards for the actions so far, a word with the Lord to take action and so on. Abbot Rumin was most supportive of their actions and was frustrated in how little he was able to aid them in their mission. He did however provide them each with a Holy Warrant to track down Astrid Blight and destroy the cult of Nephthys.

Again the group took their rest in the Temple grounds to recover some of their injuries while planning to set out toward the ‘haunted woods’ that played host to the Nephthys cult.

 

 

Published by Pete Fenner