The Long Bones
In what is becoming a bit of a habit, I was dragging bound prisoners through the streets of New Adtham. Once again explaining to city guard we were on ‘guild business.’ However, this time, holding up the wanted poster, we turned over to the guard the deep gnome Claagingred claiming a 2000 gold reward. We took our other prisoner straight to the Guild for interrogation but also because I felt the need to talk to Qwand sooner rather than later about what was in the gnome’s journal.
“I hear her voice. It call to me. She is pleased with my stone pit, and delighted at the people I bring in. Sometimes she guides me to entertaining entrants, sometimes she guides me to guests who would enjoy the show. She promises wealth…and I find it! Never been this wealth in the Under. Never COULD have been this wealthy in the Under. I love her, and her glorious voice that whispers. She who is old and young, kind and cruel, who gives and takes. She told me of threats to myself, and when I ended them, her mark appeared on my heart. I’ll always follow the call of her, my Ol…”
The passage trailed off in what appeared to a smear of blood. It smacked of something sinister. Knowing already there were demonic forces afoot in the city, it didn’t seem like a good idea to sit on this information. Arriving at the Guild, we were ushered to an audience with Qwand. To our surprise, the prisoner stood up straight and said in a clear, confident tone, “I am operating undercover for the Guild.” Quickly Qwand had him freed and escorted out of the room. We all of course had nothing but questions, but Qwand simply waved us off. While the others begrudgingly accepted this and depart for The Hippo to claim our reward from Pryce, I hung back.
Showing Qwand the journal and the specific passage, I made clear my concerns. The serious dragonborn looked over the journal and assured me we had done a good job bringing this to his attention. However, Qwand asserted taking and holding the journal before me, what this is concerned with is beyond my rank in the Guild. “if you all keep on track the way you are, soon we’ll brief you on the Black Book. Until then, patience and say nothing to anyone of what you’ve found.”
I could do nothing but agree so hurried to catch up with my cohort. Pryce seemed to explored with vicious laughter after we related to him how we had put an end to the rival fight club and burned down the building housing it. He rewarded us by covering our entry fees into the arena for the season and our choice of some rather finely crafted weapons. I was able to get myself a new warhammer covered in runes similar to the designs of Branok and Pryce’s tattoos. Pryce also made it a point to invite us back later in the day to fight in the Hippo saying there would be some superb foes for us to test ourselves against. Branok, having not gotten a chance to fight in the Hippo, was quite eager.
I nudged him, “Maybe after we settle our tab?” Branok nodded reminded of the score we wanted to settle with the informant he had in the Long Bones pub. We made plans to compete in the Hippos later in the day then began to leave.
“So what are you guys doing?” Flynkin caught up to us and asked.
“I owe that bartender that gave me the in to the mansion a reckoning.” Branok growled.
“Bastard nearly got us killed and knew what he was doing.” I added then let out a long sigh. “I’m going to hurt him.”
Flynkin smiled, “Oh, I want to see this.”
“See what? What are we going to go see?” Octavia appeared at our side at a skip.
“But we are going to fight in the arena again, right?” Nymeria asked on our other side.
“Look we don’t all need to go do this.” I said trying to keep the other’s from making things more complicated than it needed to be.
“I’ll go in first,” Branok said to me.
“They’re gonna go kick the ass of the guy who got us into the manse.” Flynkin replied to Octavia.
“Do we have to fight him?” Nymeria asked. I looked at her and shook my head casually.
Ignoring them, Branok continued, “…then you come in…”
“Oh, yes, I certainly want to see that!” Octavia said smiling. Nymeria shrugged seeming to go with the flow.
“I’ll make my move and then you’ll know what do to.” Branok continued. I nodded at him listening but turned to the others.
“Okay, so you guys can go on in but you’ve got to act like you don’t know us. And stagger yourselves entering. Casual.” I looked at Flynkin and Octavia.
“Don’t worry, Cade,” drawing out my name, “we won’t embarrass you.” Octavia said in a playful huff.
Arriving at the Long Bones, we each entered separately sitting throughout the bar in different places. Octavia and Nymeria were together, Flynkin sat over in a corner striking up a conversation with a gregarious dwarf, and I using Disguise Self lent against a wall casually making sure I could cut off the bartender’s route back into the kitchens as Branok entered saddling up to the bar.
Staring daggers at the barkeep, Branok began to knock on the wooden bar the secret knock he had been given by this fellow. The barkeep eyed him with contempt as the two began to speak in low but aggressive tones. Then Branok reached out grabbing him clearly trying to use some spell on him. Jerking himself away, the barkeep bolts for the kitchen. I threw up my warhammer trying to cut him off but he deftly crouched sliding underneath it. In an instant, Branok and I broke after him. Behind us I could hear a huge commotion in our wake.
In the kitchen of the tavern, we were able to flank the barkeep who was lashing out at us with a vicious and bizarre looking blade. Branok tried to tell him to calm down but to no avail. Soon we had exchanged blows when a disturbing smile crept over his face as he seems to mutter some hellish words. A blast of black smoke and a stench beyond rot and sulfur filled the kitchen, when it dissipated there stood a terrifying creature–some kind of cross between a vulture and a humanoid. Suddenly, we realized we were dealing with something and someone truly evil.
My mind raced as I recalled this type of creature described in the tomes I had been studying at night to learn more about the Abyss–a vrock demon. There was no backing off now.
As Branok and I went into full battle mode, the dwarf who had been talking with Flynkin bursts in and with a tankard in hand slams it down sending a magical wave through the area. I could feel myself fortified. Realizing this dwarf must be some kind of knight or paladin, Branok and I were more certain we stood a chance against this creature and its summoner. Fortunately, trapped in a such a tight space kept the creature from being able to unleash its full potential. However, it did manage to emit some kind of stench that nearly brought me to my knees and then soon after a shriek that nearly deafened me.
Between the three of us, both the summoner and creature were put down. The dwarf was left with his ears bleeding and even though we had only knocked the barkeep unconscious I could feel my bones aching. The barkeep had seemed to be going for a trapdoor in the floor. I found it and flung it open immediately being hit with the stench of blood an viscera. The others were now in the kitchen as shock and confused as we were at the escalation.
Looking down into the darkness, I waved the others off. “Don’t fucking follow me. If I need help, I will call. I’m getting a bad feeling about this place.”
I leapt down instantly discovering a kill room.
Humanoid bodies were strung up along one wall in various stages of slaughter. And it was slaughter, looking around the room, there were tables where butchering had been taking place of various humanoid limbs. Another table there was a dissected eels eerily similar to the one whose venom had nearly coaxed me into a magical addiction. But most shocking of all, hanging over a grate with its blood dripping int the aquifer below was a cultist wearing the same serpent pendant I had found on Ton.
Coming back up to the others, I just shook my head warning them they wanted no part of what was down there unless the wanted endless nightmares. “We need to talk to Qwand immediately.” I turned to the dwarf. “And you…”
“Brother Brownbottle,” he said a little too loudly, apparently still feeling the side-effects of the vrock’s shriek, “of the Brotherhood of the Brew. I dunna know how or why you all uncovered this, but it’s somet’ing I must bring to my order.” With that he poured out the ale in his mug and there seemed to be generate out a wave of protection of some kind. “This one will answer to us.” He said pointing to the barkeep.
“We’re part of the Guild.” Branok said.
“Aye,” Brownbottle nodded, “they’ll understand.”
“We’ll tell our superiors about this trusting you’ll keep this place off limits.” I added as the dwarf agreed. “We need to head off. Now.”
Reporting back, we discovered we had inadvertently stumbled upon something well beyond our pay grade…