Hammer and Keg Inn
We finally find ourselves at what would seem to be safe place, the Hammer and Keg, where we can drop off some of this dead weight. The Hammer and Keg is a dwarven tavern frequented by Artemis and owned by a dwarf, Phomet, and his lovely half human half ogre wife. Phomet agrees to help us and let everyone in, but once he sees the large number of refugees he begins to argue with Artemis, believing the large number of people will attract too much attention…precisely why I was trying to dump all of them there in the first place.
Overhearing Phomet and Artemis’s conversation Lucius asks Renli to go and convince Phomet to let us stay. As with everything Lucius says, this comes out more as a command and Renli starts to argue with Lucius. Lucius tries, unsuccessfully, to explain reason to Renli, and Renli tries to explain something to Lucius. In truth I stopped paying attention fully, but it was more of the old argument about his duty and why we were foolish not to listen the brash little halfing. All this ignoring the fact that we would be trekking three dozen or more people across a demon infested city. I am sure I will not survive this city, but I do not plan on being slaughtered like the rest of the sheep in here by wandering the city with a large number people. This is precisely why those people should not be given free thought. In either case the argument escalated and continued for a bit, but was quickly brought to a halt by a large explosive noise. After an investigation, which showed I was not dead, the explosive noise appeared to have come from a device in Phomet’s hand. It was a weird looking thing made of wood and a long tube, which he had pointed to the ceiling and smoke was trailing out from the top of the tube. An interesting item that faded from memory when Phomet tells everyone to get out.
Black Powder Pistol
As always it is up to me to clean up as there was no way these people are coming with us. I convinced Phomet that my companions and I will leave him immediately with water and provision provided he lets the useless ones stay. He countered by letting them stay for 3 days. I tell him that seemed reasonable believing we would either find refuge for them or we would be dead and no longer have any worries, but the fires of Hell. I follow Phomet into his back room to fill his kegs with fresh water to honor our deal.
From what I have been told Renli was rather upset about the argument and our decisions. He decided it was time to leave on his own and determine what had happened to his home, The House of the Hollowed Shield. As he prepared to leave Anevia pulled Renli aside and gave him a private message. I know not what was said, but it is rather curious and at this time only known by Renli.
Knight of Iomedae
After their conversation Edorres was able to convince Renli, with the supposed aid of Lathander, that it would be too dangerous to travel on his own and that his strength was still needed. In truth I do not care what was said as in the end he stopped his trivial complaints.
All of this was happening while I was the only one working to honor our host and provide him with the aid he both needed and deserved. Lucius decides to ruin this by following me back to the store room and accuses Phomet of allying with the enemy. Again I am forced to smooth things over as the man lacks tact. Phomet identifies the smell, that led to Lucius’s premature conclusion, as sulfur, a necessary reagent to the mysterious compound known as black powder. Before I can intervene, or even negotiate, Lucius agrees to pay the ludicrous price Phomet had asked for a single keg of black powder. I know little about the substance, but I know how to make a bargain and you never accept the first offer. In either case it seemed to have made Phomet very happy, which makes sense considering the amount we were taken for, but perhaps he will keep the lumps a bit longer if we do not make it back in 3 days time.
Black Powder Keg
With our part of the deal complete we make preparations to leave. This is followed by a quick rest with the aid of the mongrelshrooms as I have come to call them. Those folk may have been positively grotesque, but they had their uses and perhaps I will have more use of them in the future. Although they would have to agree to keep themselves completely covered at all times and of course live separately, but equal to the rest of men.
Lucius speaks to the blacksmith about his weapon and its chaotic tendencies. She is able to suppress its taint for forty eight hours, a blessing that will become permanent if he can sanctify its blade with the life of a demon. Blessing and preparations done we leave the Hammer and Keg and make our way toward the wall seeking a hole that will grant us access into the inner tunnels. Our final destination, the Eagles Watch headquarters as it seemed likely it was still standing and could possibly provide us hidden access into New Kenabres. When we had left the Hammer and Keg I was disappointed that Lathander decided to join us instead of staying with the rest of the others. I would have much rather Helena followed us in his place. However, I will admit there were many opportunities during our journey to the Eagles Watch headquarters where he proved less than useless despite his disabilities.
New Kenabres Wall
Our journey took much longer than I would have liked and was rather tedious. It did not take us long to find what we sought within the wall as there are cracks and holes all over the city. The walls in between the city districts sit high above on top of massive cliffs. This forced us to climb up before we could reach the inner tunnels. Renli decides to climb first and scout the way, which I had no objections to. Finding everything clear the rest of us soon follow. Once up we could only see part of the city as it was shrouded in night, but we could clearly make out the glow of flames in the direction of the blacksmith shop.
Given his oddly superior site in darkness, Renli again acts as point down the tunnels. It does not take long for us to reach an entrance to one of the many towers that are positioned along the wall. The tower itself is of course empty and appears to have been thoroughly scavenged and given the way it looks it was most likely not from allies or refugees. Lathander takes his time finding the exit back into the other side of the tunnels as the way is of course hidden. This man Lathander has a rather odd set of skills. I expect it from someone like Milo, his kind is full of thieves if they are not tamed properly, but perhaps it is the taint in Lathander’s blood. It is something I will have to take some time to study.
Again we find ourselves travelling through a dark tunnel only this time our walking is cut short by a gate. Renli and Lucius inform us this is quite common within these tunnels so Lathander moves forward to see if he can bypass it. I cannot help, but smile and offer praise to The Prince himself when two spears come flying out of the wall and stab Lathander. Moments before this he proclaimed the gates un-trapped and as unlikely as I believed that to be I let him continue on with administrations and was promptly rewarded. The trap did minor damage to him which he quickly was able to heal by his own concoctions and return his focus on bypassing the troublesome gate.
Lathander I suppose can learn a lesson as we encountered several of these gates after the first and he seemed able to pass them all with ease. We trekked through the dreary tunnel until again were forced to stop, this time due to a bottomless gap in the tunnel floor. No doubt caused by whatever creature had destroyed half of the city so far. Wonders never cease as Lathander surprised me yet again and provides a reliable means across the gap with the anytool, a tanglefoot bag, and some rope. Once we are all safely across find yet another entrance to a watch tower, the last tower before the Eagles Watch headquarters.
Once inside the tower it is easy to see that it had not been touched or damaged in any way as the previous tower. Lucius moves forward toward the stairs in search of the entrance to the opposing tunnel and is attacked by one of the two stone guardians of the tower. For some reason they do not attack Renli and Lathander and focus only on Lucius and myself. Renli commands the guardians to stop attacking as they are only supposed to attack the enemy. Interestingly this seems to work on one of the stone guardians. The other is quickly subdued by Lathander, of all people, as he says something to it. We luckily move on to find the entrance to opposite tunnel with me being the only one to suffer injuries and those were quickly healed by my gifts.
Making our way down yet another tunnel we of course come to yet another hole. This one however is not nearly as treacherous and we are able to bypass it by simply climbing down and back up to the other side. The only thing of note about the climb was the screaming. From within the hole the wind brought sounds of those who were in a considerable amount of pain. Worse than this though was that it was coming from the direction we were headed, an ill omen indeed. Suppressing my disgust we move on and come to another gate, surprise surprise.
This time however the gate was not unoccupied. Standing just beyond the other side was what appeared to be a guard who did the only sensible thing and levelled a crossbow at Renli’s head while ordering him to stop. Upon noticing the rest of us he asked us our names and forces us to recite our oaths. Lucius ever eager spits it forward with vigor. This seemed to be good enough for the man as he possesses a candle that would somehow inform him of any deceit on our part. Requirements satisfied the guard, Garwin, welcomes us to the Nest.
Making our way into the Nest Garwin informs us we are to meet with Captain Irabeth Tirabade, head of the Eagles Watch and currently highest, known living, commander of the crusade. It was of course then that the man decided to finally notice Lucius and his certain complexion. What demon had processed Lucius to make him believe he should go unmasked is beyond understanding. Garwin did not hesitate to raise the alarm; however, some quick words from Renli and I, with some help from Lucius himself, were able to convince the man that Lucius was not the enemy. It was most likely Renli’s voice that stayed the execution as these people seem to be very distrustful of the word of an Asmodean. I am sure this is something that can be corrected in time with some work. In either case having said the oath and having several vouch for his character this again seemed to be enough for Garwin although we are forced to give up our weapons. Nevertheless we resumed our journey to see Captain Tirabade.
The Nest as it was called turned out to be nothing more than a disgusting congregation of filthy cramped people. I suppose the name is appropriate as the people looked no better than beasts. Despite the lack of the accommodations I will admit it was better than the sewers, but only by a bit. It was fortunate that we did not have to stay there for too long as we continued on and reached our destination. At the Captain’s door we were greeted by a hideous one armed man. What he lacked in appearance he must make up for in other areas as he introduced himself as Norsellen, Adjunct to General Dyre, High Commander of the Crusade. Perhaps it is former High Commander as Norsellen informed us many of the higher echelons of leadership were still missing including General Dyre. It is safe to conclude that death has found them and if not I am positive they are wishing it had.
We wait while the Adjunct informs Captain as to our arrival and it does not take long; however, he informs us Lucius must be separated and assures us he will not be harmed. I care little for any harm that may or may not befall him, but it would have been inconvenient to me if they were to kill him. Confident they will do no so such thing and that the Captain only wishes to speak to us alone, we entered her chambers while Lucius is taken away.
The stories of Captain Tirabade’s were not exaggerated so that even in full battle regalia, with exhaustion casing all her features, and covered in sweat and dirt the women was beautiful. Unfortunately, the only thing less under exaggerated than her beauty was her cold hard ice bitch persona. We entered to her looking over several maps in the center of the room. There were several officers or assistants, but the room was eerily quiet for some kind of command meeting. Standing as instructed silently to the side of the room the fool Renli decides to open his mouth. I am not sure what is wrong with those creatures for some reason their mouths always seem to be open. It is either food and drink in or talk out and in most cases they know not when to use that object between their ears. It baffles me how they can be so quiet when they wish and positively frustrating that they only seem to wish when it involves mischief. I suppose they are like children and must be taught by their betters something the Captain quickly proved by ordering Renli to shut his mouth. For a wonder he listened.
Finally the meeting came to an end and her attention focused on me for some reason. I was promptly ordered to identify myself which of course did. One of the men started looking through a small black book and once he found what he was looking for told the Captain I was set to take my oath this past Armasse. Once confirmed the icy bitch ordered me to keep my mouth shut. She appears to be of the similar mind and temperament as Lucius and my presence seems to unnerve her. I will have to tread carefully around her as her age and most likely race makes her cooler headed and not nearly as easy to control as Lucius.
Satisfied and done with me she orders Renli to relay our tale for which he does in rather impressive detail. He may be a fool in many ways, but his mind is sharp in others, it would be wise for me to remember that as well. The tale itself is the first time the women showed any emotion and it was a mix of mild amazement and admiration. I must again stress mild with the Captain. During this full recounting Renli mentioned many of those travelling with us; however, it immediately struck me as odd that he would forget Anevia. The one with us that had the most drive to reach the Nest and whom supposedly had important information for the women who stood before us. Not to mention she was the only one among us actually part of the Eagles Watch. Deciding this required further investigation I requested permission to speak and once granted I mentioned Anevia and her supposed important message to the Captain. The look on Captain Irabeth Tirabade’s face, although extremely quick so that I doubt any other than myself noticed, and the abruptness in which Renli cut me off confirmed my suspicions. This scout was more important than I had originally expected, but how and why still remains a mystery to me. It is very useful that I saved that girls life on several occasions as it is perhaps leverage I can use in the future.
Once done we inform her that we have evidence of the Hammers of Heaven’s betrayal and that the ones among them should not be trusted. She in turn vouches for the loyalty to the cause or at least for the ones within the Nest. The leaders may be the scum of the enemy, but the rest seem to be dedicated. Finally she informs us of the current state of the Nest and the war which is grim. With all that completed and information shared on both sides we are ordered to go rest and eat while she has a private word with Renli. I contemplate convincing the more useful halfling to stick around and see what he can find out, but although he may not act it, I believe he is more cunning than he looks. My machinations and schemes would most likely fail with him, all until I can find the right lever that is. Perhaps if we could find a way to combine our two halflings we will have a complete man, but perhaps not.
As a passing note before we leave the Captain puts our minds at ease that we have been pardoned for the crime of consorting with the enemy. Not because we had no idea that we were travelling with a demon spawn or because Lucius may be a steadfast devotee to the cause, but because the cause could not spare a single able bodied soldier…a cold hard bitch indeed.
It apparently had been decreed that Lucius was worthy enough for the cause as he joined us at our table with a brand new metal face, gifted to him by the Captain. As I sat there, ate, and contemplated the last few day’s events I noticed a man get up from his table and make his way determinedly out of the hall. For some reason I had sneaking suspicion that he went off to inform someone of our arrival. Unable to do much about the man at the time I decided to set my mind back to its original task.
Even now I am still undecided as to my path, but I am sure it will come to me. Asmodeus is not like other gods whose followers whine and pray for guidance. The Prince of Darkness does not have the time to listen to such trivial wailing and moaning. He bestows his gifts on those worthy and sufficient enough to do what must be done on their own, and those capable of forging their own path. For now I will see where this road leads. I may not agree with many of my companions, but they are for the most part useful allies and perhaps strong enough to weather what must come to win this war. Renli and Lathander will most likely have to go, but that may prove to be difficult now that Lucius has not been burned. There is still time yet and it is likely I will have to do nothing as Renli seems determined to kill himself and Lathander will decidedly do something stupid and I can petition for his execution. Even if Lucius proves to be too weak for the job I am sure Capatin Tirabade will perform her duty.