24/4/1472 – 29/4/1472
The party spend a few days sorting a number of ongoing concerns out. One of the top priorities is selling the Theon's Bleu, and this is finally competed by Grigori and Seren; the entire crate being sold for 70,000 gold to a Dundorin wine collector in a smoky Dundorin bar out of sight of the forces of law and order. The money is shared out amongst the party, and all set up bank accounts with the Great House Consortium supported “August Society Depository” (Each character pays a 1.5% fee on every deposit made, but is able to access their funds, through the letters of ownership, of their funds in any branch of the depository anywhere on the planet), in which to store their funds.
The party also discuss developing a group identity, and over drinks in the smoke wreathed bar of the Staff of Wands, come up with a colour scheme that will mark their clothing; black and blood red, with a wolfs head motif. During these days several party members move to ensure their kit fits in with this new colour scheme, with Emmiven and Seren taking it the most seriously, each spending no small amount of money on permanently having their clothing altered.
Emmiven also pays Jurgen Throndor'Gulv to be allowed to examine some of the Gnarrak that have been captured for battle in the arena, in order to be able to wear their features as part of the “wolf's head motif” of the party...
On the morning of the 26th, a well dressed Irinite native named Raanulf Ar'Laeden approaches the party and presents a seal to them – the seal of the Irinite Constabulary – the permanent police force of the city. He explains that he has been sent to ask for their help with “some deeply disturbing crimes” that have been occurring over the last few weeks. The group explain that they already have much to be getting on with (that very morning Jaegar has been reminded of his sacred duty to remove the money lender Darius, and both he and Seren have been prompted by the Order about the need for them to hunt down the renegade mage Balskus Morvell), but state that if they had the details of the crimes, they may be able to help.
Clearly nervous and sickened by what he recounts, Raanulf explains that a number of horrific murders have occurred over the last few weeks. All have been pregnant women associated with rich families; ladies in waiting, maidservants, personal tutors and other similarly innocuous ladies, and each has been discovered in a seemingly random part of the city, with their womb sliced open and burned through – the damage suggesting a fierce conflagration had been sent within their bellies. A couple also bore foul symbols, partly consumed by the fires, which seemed to have been burned into their skin around the curve of their abdomens.
Even Shnecke seems horrified at these crimes, and the party agree that once they have dealt with their other tasks, if the murderer is still at large, they will look into it. Raanulf thanks them, and bids them good hunting.
Jaeger also takes the opportunity during this time to do some questioning on the streets as to the layout of the sewers under Irin – or more specifically, which areas are “high traffic” and which are taken as the territory of certain underworld groups – areas that should be avoided by the party. He also looks into where the group will find it easiest to enter the sewers beneath Irin without attracting too much attention from the local authorities, and finds that the ancient storm drains located in a public park in the Dawn Ward district of the city – a large South Eastern area of middle-class homes and businesses, many schools and temples - would be best.
30/4/1472 (grey, humid and warm. Thundery from mid-morning to late afternoon. Clear and cold night)
07:30 – 07:32 The group gather in the gloom of an overcast dawn behind the weather worn and graffiti covered statue of an ancient town official, and watch as Emmiven and Shnecke strain to rip the iron bars covering the entrance to the storm drains out.
The bars come free with a muted roar, and the group move into the darkness below.
07:33 – 08:45 – Drawing on their extensive study of recent and older city maps, the insider information gained by Jaeger, and historical treatise on the cities sanitation, the group move deeper and deeper into the ancient labyrinth of tunnels, moving from the dry and empty storm drains into older and more loathsome tunnels. The stonework becomes crumbling and slime covered, and the tunnels choked with flows of sickening ordure. Rats, cockroaches and strange life indigenous to the sewers dark become ubiquitous, and the stench, choking. A foul miasma, hot with the steam of decomposition masks vision beyond twenty or so feet, and the footing becomes treacherous.
Through the horrifying mephitis, the group can hear the constant spatter and spurting of various fluids and slimes as they drop, drip and gush from the numerous pipes, drains and gutters that lead into the tunnels they are in, matched only by the squeaking and hissing of the vermin.
The group move slowly and carefully through the stinking tunnels, each eyeing the boiling stew of filth that sluggishly flows along the central channels with suspicion. Emmiven in particular is torn between watching his footing in the slippery filth, dodging the falls of ordure spattering from the city above, and avoiding the rats which cluster in sleek, wretched knots all along the pitted, slime streaked walls.
08:45 – 08:55 After a long while, the group enter a series of wide chambers with arched ceilings, who's boundaries are blocked by corroded iron bars. Forcing their way into these, Varracuda explains that they are designed to allow sediment to settle from the main fluid mass of sewage, the weight of this eventually triggering hidden trapdoors beneath to open, allowing the mass of filth to plunge into deeper tunnels where it is broken apart and scattered.
It is within one of these chambers, that the party suddenly find themselves under attack. One minute they are picking their way along the edge of the central reservoir, trying not to focus on the 5' long larvae that squirm and foam within it, the next...
...Schnecke is savagely attacked, after dropping into the calf high filth of the main channel in order to approach the bars blocking the exit from the chamber.
A cavernous mouth, filled with faeces covered teeth, erupts from the midden and fastens onto the Ulnyrr's thigh, drawing a bright slick of blood from the wound and infusing the bite with the frothing waste. From all across the central midden monstrous, hunkered forms erupt; 15' long tentacles ending in a leathery tentacular clubs; some studded with downward curving lines of teeth, others bearing lidless, boggling, alien eyes, which cluster like weird, staring fruit and weep filthy tears as the sewage flows over their oily curves.
Filth explodes into the air, and the choking steam of the tunnels pulses with the deep, belching roars of the monsters – beasts like one the party faced once before in the Black Gob midden – Groth'Ergulg (Otyugh).
There are four of them in all; three are similar to the monstrous thing that attacked Grigori so long ago, whilst the fourth is slightly different, being larger, slightly paler in colour, and bearing unusual spiral markings, which are almost invisible against its flesh through the slimed ordure. The maggots, apparently agitated into some kind of blind frenzy by the sudden disruption of the midden begin to pulse towards the party, extending filthy stylets as they quest for food.
The initial plan for the party is to fall back into the narrower tunnels where the Groth'Ergulg will not be able to access them so easily, and to pick them off at range. Alas, like most plans, this quickly falls apart as Varracuda and Shnecke wade into the filth to deal with the monsters face to face, Jaeger shifts forwards in small shadow to shadow bursts of teleportation, and when Emmiven – who had been making a concerted effort to avoid getting any filthier than he already was – is grabbed by a tentacle, pulled in by one of the monsters, and then dragged into a region of chest high sewage far away from the relative safety of the walkways.
The maggots are a minor inconvenience, and most are mashed by the shockwaves of thunderous anger released by the barbarian's howling strikes, or by the fiery magic of Seren and Varracuda. However, the Groth'Ergulg prove to be resilient and to have a base cunning which sees them using their foul environment to the best advantage; bogging down the warriors in the slick, sucking shit, and dragging them about, ensuring that they are spread out and vulnerable to attack. Worse, at one point, they discover that the pale specimen bears an unusual ability, for when Grigori works one of his mighty restorative spells upon Emmiven (who by this point is stranded in clutching filth, has been wounded severely and is almost certainly host to any number of foul diseases), it seems to draw some of the energy from the magic, and wears it as a protective mantle which absorbs a great deal of punishment before it is dispelled.
However, the group do begin to wear the aberrant monsters down, and soon only the “life leecher” remains; it's thick tentacles swiping madly at anyone that comes too close, its massive mouth tearing chunks from those caught within its fearsome gape. Fighting against the restraining suck of the sewage and the concealing vapours in the air, the group set about the thing with brutal effect; the warriors surrounding it, the others launching ranged attacks from the walkways, and despite its best efforts, the Groth'Ergulg is finally slain, its innards erupting in the loathsome rush from within its muscular, ovoid body.
08:56 – 09:10 – Those wading in raw sewage slog their way, covered in filth, to the sides and collapse against the muck encrusted walls, too weary and pained to worry about the sodden rats and scurrying bugs there. Emmiven gulps down the air, smearing filth across his pale face as he wipes sweat away, and Shnecke quitely catches his breath, trying to block out the pain from his wounds, and the sick feeling that something isn't quite right.
09:10 – 10:00 – The group move on, and it soon becomes apparent that the Ulnyrr is suffering with some kind of ague. He is sweaty and pale, and yet seems to be shivering in the stinking stream of the sewers.
The party wind their way through the bewildering web of tunnels, moving from active sewage tunnels into deeper, older tunnels, which are chill and filled with the stench of rotting water and stone. These tunnels drip with cold moisture, and brittle stalactites and stalagmites crowd their lumen, though after the stifling stench and humidity of the upper sewers they are an almost pleasant change.
10:01 – 10:05 – Jaeger, Varracuda, Seren and Grigori all agree that despite the confusing maziness of the passages and tunnels they transverse, they are heading in the right direction – towards the sunken, unmaintained, abandoned sewers beneath the Roughs, and ultimately, the “secret” back door to the Rookery guild house. However, this also brings them close to the ancient Darkold'Sebbathorimite temple complex that the group briefly entered during their battles with the death loved butcher and his undead servants, and all begin to feel the subtle tremors of psychic dread that begin to resonate blackly through the algid air.
And then they spot something ahead through a section of collapsed tunnel; a large slimed door of onyx and obsidian, covered in painful runes that silently portray the blasphemy they represent without the need of true cognition. An unnatural wind, more psychic than physical, that stinks of ancient decay and wrongness, blows steadily from the coiling darkness beyond the grim portal, and the parties breath suddenly fumes in the air.
“We need to find another way” whispers Jaeger, his eyes bright with dread.
“I agree” murmurs Grigori.
The rest of the party also agree, and turn to move away from the dark place. Jaegar sensing a gathering evil looks over his shoulder back at the yawning portal, and for an instant sees a smoky, pale, luminous form gather within it; spherical, studded with eyestalks and fitted with a wide fanged mouth and rot-lighted central eye...
...He turns back and urges the party to pick up the pace...
10:06 – 10:21 – Shaking with cold now, the party backtrack and clamber through the darkness until they locate a section of collapsing corridor which they feel runs parallel to the region of tunnels leading to the Rookery lair back door. Shnecke gives the wall a good shove, and it collapses in with a dull crash.
A clean, well maintained tunnel showing signs of recent repair stands beyond.
This looks like the place.
10:22 – 10:42 – Fearing traps or guards, the party move slowly along the wide tunnels. However, they prove to be safe and silent – that is, until the sound of pounding water is heard from ahead, around a sharp, right-angled corridor turn.
10:43 – 10:48 – Justifiably paranoid, the group move slowly forwards, each one alert for anything that could suggest an ambush, hidden trap or alarm. The corridor beyond the corner extends for about 20' before ending abruptly. The only way forwards beyond it is along a very rickety looking suspension bridge of wire and wood, which extends beyond the radius of the groups light and into unknown darkness. Either side of the bridge is open black air, the floor falling away beyond the end of the corridor. The ceiling beyond the corridors bounds is also lost, for it is considerably higher than that of the tunnel the group currently occupy.
Seren sends her familiar ahead to check out the bridge, and Grigori cranes his neck like some kind of strange bird, trying to make out details. Swooping ahead, the tiny dracani circles at the boundary of the corridors end and the bridge beyond, and its keen eyes detect the lines of a complex symbol etched in the fitted stone of the roof some 30' above the swaying span of the bridge. Armed with this information Jaeger, wearing the gloom like a cloak moves ahead, discovering that the water sounds are coming from the two falls of sewer water than explode from pipes set in the wall created by the end of the corridor, which tumble into frothing darkness far below. Mouth dry, he edges towards the bridge, noting that it is a typical rogues span – designed to be safe only for the most fleet or foot or acrobatic, and to send all others careening over its sides.
Peering up into the darkness of the roof, he analyses the subtle lines of the symbol, and with a withering feeling within, realises that its a basilisk rune – a complex and expensive magical trap that can turn living creatures to stone.
The rest of the group edge forwards, with Seren staying back a little, and they discuss tactics. Grigori suggests a pulleycentric solution, drawing amused and irritated looks from his companions, whilst Jaeger suggests a more mundane solution – namely that he will weave his way along the cables beneath the bridge, out of the detector range of the basilisk rune, playing out and securing ropes that the rest of the party can use to safely follow him.
The group (including a scowling Grigori as he packs his complex, self-made pulley and winch device away) agree to this plan.
10:49 – 10:51 – With heavy rope coiled about him, the assassin nimbly climbs beneath the bridge and begins to work his way along its underside. Despite his expert movements, the delicately balanced bridge swings alarmingly, and he is forced to swing against its motion in order to prevent its oscillations getting worse, and to stop him being catapulted into the dark waters below.
He makes incredible progress, and is almost two thirds of the way along when his sixth sense suddenly begins to scream at him that he is in imminent danger. A moment later, and an icy sense of wickedness crawls along his spine – a tainted and draining presence of utter wrongness that he remembers from the battle with Maelazieria and her daemonic brood. He also feels the prickle of triggered magic, and knows that some unseen defence has been activated.
The rest of the group also feel the presence of evil, and note with horror the shadowy forms unfurling like foul blossoms from smoky portals either side of the bridge. It is Seren however who panics most, for a shimmering wall of magical energy has suddenly appeared between her and the rest of the group, blocking escape for them from the bridge chamber, blocking their support and protection of her.
10:52 – As Jaeger tries to steady himself, two awful forms – skeletal humanoid seemingly covered in form-fitting leather, oozing a thick crimson slime and bearing a single horn from the backs of their malformed skulls – suddenly manifest in the darkness and move to attack.
The screaming begins in earnest...