We arrived in Haven later than expected due to the unfortunate death of our lost crewman, Veranda, who fell from the ship and perished as we fought against horrible weather that we encountered along the way. Upon arriving, the dock master, an old troll named Sealak, greeted us and asked us our business. I told him that we were dropping off goods, and a few passengers and would be on our way in a couple of days. That wasn’t all we were here for of course, but words were true nonetheless, and that was good enough for Sealak.
I then wished Roinak and his comrades, good luck on their mission into the ruins of Paralinth, and then they immediately set forth into the city. Now my friends, the Unchained and I, had to find our contact, Torgak, the mayor of Haven. This was due to the fact that Urgral had been tasked with hunting down a horror by his trainer in Bartertown, much as I had been tasked by my trainer, Roinak, with seeing his men to Haven. Later I would think about this and wonder if it was some great coincidence that these two groups both requested our eventual presence in Haven at such an opportune time for the city.
Time would tell, but I doubted it was coincidence.
Later that evening, we gathered in my cabin, and left for the Inn in town, which was owned and frequented by Torgak. Everyone was dressed their best, which ironically made us a motley looking crew. Skram and Suulin were both dressed in bright, conspicuous colors, which was in stark contrast to Dremnin who practically blended with the city in his nondescript browns and dark greens, sharply contrasted against the bright bronze colored shield, a powerful pattern item gained in a kaer, which he carried upon his back. Urgral and I were both fitting the part of the soldier, wearing our heavy armor with weapons openly displayed. Even then we presented a stark contrast though, as Urgral’s equipment, though clean, clearly showed signs of wear and tear, as though he just wiped it down after a battle. It gave him the look of a soldier that just doesn’t give a damn, like a common soldier or mercenary. Beside him, I was dressed in my full war glory. My armor gleamed having been shined to a high polish by my squire, Wheeler. My boots were shined and an immaculate black, my blue cloak and gloves were spotless, and on my arms were rings of gold and silver. I appeared to be a true lord of war to all who looked upon me. Trailing our group was the dark form of Vriditch, the tall, skinny elf who was covered head to toe in strange tattoes and whose face was cowled and hidden under the hood of his dark robes.
We approached the Inn and made our way through the doors. There were several groups of name-givers in the room, sitting at worn round tables, most quietly talking over drinks. A few were enjoying pipes, and smoke hung in the room with an almost sweet aroma. We immediately spied the troll we were looking for, and Urgral lead the way to a table near where he was sitting by the hearth.
We settled in, and most of our group ordered drinks. I did not, for this was not a time for relaxation and I saw no point in keeping up any pretenses. Urgral ordered a drink for Torgak, and when one of the barmaids set the drink on his table indicating it was from our table, he barely gave us a glance. Then he polished off his old drink and walked out without a word. I believe it was Urgral who noticed that Torgak dropped a small piece of paper by our table as he left. Urgral read it, and then motioned for us to leave.
It turns out, Torgak was reasonably sure he was being watched, and he feared those watching him would interfere with the task he had in mind for us if we were discovered speaking to him.
Those who had drinks polished them off, and we went out the door. Skram and Suulin hung back, apparently trying to stealthily keep tabs on anyone who might be following us, but none showed himself. It was a smart play, but it was probably a good thing no enemy was behind us as the two of them were dressed in such bright colored clothing that they really stuck out in spite of their efforts at concealment. I’m guessing that any street smart enemy who was following us would have spotted them right away.
We arrived without incident at a shop where Torgak worked. We discussed his summons and essentially learned that the city of Haven had been plagued by a rash of murders and disappearances recently, and that the frequency of them had been increasing at an alarming rate. Each corpse they had found had been mutilated with some strange writing in blood coating nearby surfaces. He gave us a few pieces of paper with carefully crafted duplicatws of some of the writings, but we could make no sense of it. He then explained that he wanted us to find the cause of these happenings, and eliminate it. I remember thinking it would be no small task.
I was right.
Urgral had the smart idea to leave with a crate so if anyone was following us, it would look like we were buyers of goods instead of potential threats. We made our way back to the ship without any trouble. The group broke up with most going below decks to their quarters. I however checked in with the night watchmen first, and then with my first mate, Kerick, to discuss our plan for tomorrow, and finally I made my way to my captain’s cabin. There awaited my beautiful woman, Quorra, with the flickering of the small flame of a candle highlighting her fiery red hair. I slept less than night than I had planned.
The next morning I was up at dawn as usual, spending the first minutes of the day with my comrades from Konigsberg. Eldwulf, Kerrick, Draiden and lastly, Hakka, the former Theran slave-soldier who had been part of our moot in the Twilight Peaks. He had started joining us for these morning meetings. He was always fairly quiet, and I think he joined us mostly because he enjoyed the comradery. I know he still struggled with the memories of his troubled past, but I think the friendships he had made with us were helping. According to Draiden, he had not had a drop to drink in weeks.
About an hour after our daily morning meeting, the deck of the ship was bustling with the crew preparing for their days. It was combat drill day today, and many of the crew were stretching and preparing for the upcoming fight that I regularly organized to train them to fight as a unit. Suddenly, one of the watch at the dock called out. A young boy, breathless, was seeking permission to come aboard.
I signaled for him to come aboard, and he quickly told me that he was a messenger from Torgak and there had been another killing in town. Torgak wanted us to come quickly.
Skram, Dremnin and Urgral were on deck already, and were quickly prepared to go. I had my squire, Wheeler, fetch Vridich and Suulin. Then we followed the boy into the town, steeling ourselves for what we would see.
We arrived in an alley between two buildings and made our way through a crowd of people standing around while a few town watchmen kept them away from the bloody corpse. Torgak was there, but he pointedly ignored us. The body was sprawled awkwardly on the ground, and was that of a heavy-set, middle-aged woman, who had been terribly mutilated. We saw there was a lot of writing in blood on the walls of neighboring buildings. As before, it was in some strange, almost mad script that none of us could recognize. After just a moment or two, I saw Skram, Suulin and Dremnin abruptly take off through the crowd without warning. Dremnin’s eyes were locked to the ground as though tracking something. I was about to say something to Urgral and Vridich when I noticed both of them staring across the crowd at a young woman with jet black hair. She was looking at us, or maybe through us, with a slight smile on her young face. It was a though she were day dreaming about something. Abruptly, and without even the slightest change in her expression, she turned on her heel and began walking briskly away toward the ruins of Paralinth. Urgral and Vridich immediately started to follow, so I trailed them.
I was about to ask what was going on, when Vridich muttered to me, without taking his eyes off the girl. "She was possessed by something as we stood there. She may be leading us to it… whatever it is."
I gripped my sword hilt. This smelled like a trap to me.
We followed her for some time, and I had to resist the urge to charge forward and tackle the girl. I did not want her to die when I could so easily save her! Yet I restrained myself, knowing that she made lead us to something important…. or to our deaths. Luckily it was the former.
I closed the gap between her and I, leaving Urgral and Vridich a short distance behind. As I rounded a corner, I stopped short as she was suddenly surrounded by a dozen or so people in dark gray cloaks. I drew my sword and started forward with the intent to put an end to it. One of the gray cloaks then wheeled around and stood and faced me. He was strangely calm. The others began to strip the girl naked. I started forward again, longing to prevent their actions and save the girl, but I stopped as Urgral and Vridich showed up along with Dremnin, Skram and Suulin. They then pulled a gray cloak, identical to their own, over the girl. Then, in unison they turned and all faced us. The man in front, he was short and pudgy, weak, began to speak in a calm monotone voice. He spoke with his words staggered, as though he were slowly reading them from a poorly written book. I remember the words well.
“We are the Cult of Pain. We serve the Great Dark Master. Through him we shall bring down those who dare to make their homes in his land. Parlainth belongs to our Master. We will return it to him by sword and flame. No one can stand in our-”
The man’s voice changed at this point, no longer sounding even remotely human. His face darkened, his eyes rolled back in his head and his mouth contorted. His voice turned into a guttural, raspy, otherworldly tone that was full of hate and clearly not his own. I was stunned by the sound and the wave of what felt like pure evil that seemed to suddenly emanate from the man.
“You see before you my servitors. Are you afraid, little insects? You should be. These are but a handful of my faithful. Many more in the town you call Haven serve me, and countless others will join their ranks before the dawn breaks. The dawn will herald the cries of the dying and the sounds of battle. Haven will fall to me before night comes again. You are powerless to stop me, little insects. Follow my humble servants to your doom.”
Without warning the cloaked group turned in uncanny unison and dashed around the corner of one of the ruined stone buildings. I charged after them, followed by the others, not wanting to let them out of my sight. I rounded the corner, and they were gone, all that was there was a strange depression in the ground. We stood there for a moment in shock at their sudden disappearance. Then we started looking around. Dremnin discovered that the depression was actually some kind of strange sink hole which is where they went. Where it lead though, was anyone’s guess. After some discussion, we decided that we had to follow them and so we did. I did not like it though, it was too predictable and I hate doing what my enemy expects. Especially in this case where the enemy was a horror and it invited to do just what we were about to do. It was madness. But walking into that pit is exactly what we had to do.
So that’s exactly what we did.