Awaking the next morning, the party found that the attack on the mercenary camp they’d ignored had apparently been minor and done little damage. No one seemed to know how a large quantity of beer and wine had appeared, but it seemed unlikely it was merely coincidental to the later attack. After some later checking, the party learned other parts of the line had been attacked,. as well, with more damage resulting to the besieging forces than the Thalian mercenaries had suffered. Also curious, the party noted an old mangonel being used by the mercenaries to fire stones at and over the city wall. Given the engine’s age and relative weakness, it struck them as odd this single weapon was being used to harass the city, and even that in a desultory fashion. Given all the other strangeness associated with the mercenary force, the party was beginning to suspect that something untoward was going on with them
For the next few days, little occurred, and the party was content to rest and recover. During this time, strange events continued to occur with and near the party, as they had since the entire Crusade began. At one point, an armada of crows came and circled them, seeming to laugh and mock them, until wheeling off and flying away. Strange and empty stares continued to follow them from time to time (especially Lune). And, all the while, preparations for the assault of the city continued.
One evening, the party noted a civilian (one they’d seen before) escorted into Selwin, the mercenary commander’s, tent. After a short time, he was then escorted out of the camp to the north, as darkness fell. Curious and suspicious, Jimmy slipped out carefully and followed the man as he left his escort behind. He was apparently not ntoed,a s the man continued on, becoming more furtive, until at last he went into a depression. When Jimmy arrived there, the man was gone, and all he saw was a rock-lined drainage culvert or sink, with standing water at the bottom. Jimmy probed this with his spear for a time, finding a spot where the water dropped off suddenly on the western end of the pool. He quickly returned to camp and now led the party thither, telling the sentries they were “patrolling.”
Back at the pool, the party suspected the water might hide a sally port or secret entrance to the city. Lune slipped into the cold water and, after a brief swim, found that there was a secret tunnel to the west. The tunnel was dry except for where someone had recently climbed from the water and headed off to the west. The party soon joined Lune and together they took the low stone tunnel which ran due west and a little south, without turn or side passage. After a long walk, they came to the end where a wooden ladder led up to a stout hatch about 20′ above them. They were unsure how far they’d gone, and of the exact depth they’d reached, but they speculated they were under the city now.
Jimmy quietly climbed the ladder and listened, and heard voices above. Assuming these were guards, Ulthar now became invisible and cast wraithform, then filtered up through the hatch into the room above, where he noted a trio of soldiers in a small room and an iron bar closing the hatch. Becoming corporeal again, he pushed the bar open and allowed the party below to throw the hatch open, as he in turn cast color spray, and Perudo cast hold person. The spells all affected the soldiers, though they were able to briefly see the gnome appear. The party slipped from the small room and found themselves in a corridor of stone with a number of doors. Perudo suggested they might be within the city wall itself and that they needed to proceed further west; however, all the openings were to the east.
Moving south, they came to a staircase going up which they took. Avoiding a few doors beyond which they could hear talking, they came to a corridor ending in a stout door, by which stood a single sentry. He seemed somewhat surprised to see them but was not hostile. The party claimed to be representatives of Lord Makalvy sent to inspect the defenses. Surprisingly, this ruse worked, as the soldier seemed to accept their story. When they demanded to be let out of the tower, the soldier simply opened the door and let them go.
Please by their luck, they found that they’d come up into a tower attached the city wall. The interior of the city was largely dark and deserted, though lights aplenty were on the wall above, along with many soldiers. They quickly moved away from the wall, staying on darker streets and moving west towards the river. There they noted that each of the three bridges across the Rivera Har was garrisoned and well lit. There was little traffic but, being around midnight, this was not unexpected, but patrols could be seen along either bank of the river. The party now decided to find a place to hole up for the remainder of the night. Passing a tavern from which they heard much merriment, they chose an adjoining stable with hayloft to hide out in for a few hours.
Next morning, their luck held as a stable hand came in but did not notice them. They now hid their spears in the bag of holding and arranged their clothing to better hide their armor (though this was, of course, not 100%). Jimmy now slipped out and scouted the bridges; the northern was of wood and lightly trafficked, the middle of stone and heavily trafficked by carts and pedestrians, and the southern of stone was just pedestrians. They opted to try the northern bridge and pass as city folk (with Ulthar altering self to a pigeon to fly across and await them, in order to avoid attention for his small stature)
They were stopped by the guards on the bridge, who immediately became suspicious of them. However, Perudo then told them he was heading back to the Temple of Maladominus and was “taking a short cut.” This seemed to mollify the guards who let them pass with no further trouble — they soon found out why when they learned that the Temple of Maladominus was just a short distance away from the bridge. Meeting up with Ulthar, who now turned invisible, they asked around and made their way to the nearby temple.
The temple of Maladominus was large, but nothing compared to those in the Holy See. The party decided that Perudo would go inside to talk to the priests while the others remained outside, at least initially. While waiting, a large stone fell from the temple roof and struck Jimmy, another of the series of unusual accidents befalling the party (and Jimmy Rock-head). Inside, Perudo made his way to the chief priest and laid out their story and how he was empowered by the Holy See on this mission. The chief priest, Dominim, was somewhat upset at Perudo’s story. For starters, he said, he had received no such word from the Holy See and, even if he had, it meant little “this far away from Bolteria.” As to their mission to find the Thurible, he knew little of it and pointed out that there were forty and more temples in the city — without more information he could be of no help. But, above all, he wanted to know how the party had penetrated the city. The priest was a member of the city’s holy council, which was pledged to defend the city. If the party could get in, others could follow. Perudo eventually told him how they did it, but even then the local priest demanded that Perudo submit to a detect lie spell to determine the truth of wall he said. This he did and, though Dominim now clearly believed all he’d been told, he was clearly unimpressed with either Perudo or the Holy See, and was much more interested in his own local troubles. Still, he would aid the them since he was now convinced they were not a danger to the city. The rest of the party soon was invited in for a bite and quick rest.
A little later, with directions from Dominim, they made their way to the temple of Velune, where they’d been told the Thurible was hidden (the Thurible was an artifact associated with Elsirion, brother of Maladominus and god of time and infinity, but was held by the priestesses of Velune, herself goddess of the moon and stars, and his ally). The temple seemed deserted or at least unvisited, so the party found a nearby abandoned shop that they broke into and set to watch until nightfall.
When no one as noted going in or out of the place, after dark they made their way to the temple front entrance which, as they approached, swung silently open. They entered carefully and heard a voice from the air say, “Why do you come thus unbidden to the palace of stars and moon?” Perudo spoke up, saying they were not unbidden, but sent by Maldominus and the Holy See for the Thurible. Now appeared a slight man who appeared from nowehere and bid them follow him through the temple. They passed through several temples and halls, one with a seemingly open roof with the moon shining in and one with merely bright stars. The palce was full of moon and star symbolism. Meanwhile, behind the party, other folk appeared and began to follow them. They noted that one or two seemed to actually have what looked to be tusks in their mouth.
They were led into a great temple hall, where a lone priestess stood across from them, wrapped in robes that glowed with dim moonlight. She now questioned them further on their purposes, seeming neither hostile nor friendly. To the party’s dismay, she referred to their escort as Rat, and the party realized that their varied escorts were all lycanthropes, though apparently of different ilk than their long-running enemies. The Thurible was indeed here, the priestess said, put here long ago in anticipation of this day. At last she asked who would “take up the Thurible of heavenly Meditations,” though she said of Lune “not the tainted one” as he “reeked of chaos and doom.” Perudo stood forward, and the Thurible was brought to him by the wererat, along with a small gold box.
The priestess now said she would seek the guidance of her goddess and began casting a spell (one unrecognized by Perudo). Their path was laid clearly before them, she said, next to Morlin Island and its blasted plain of evil and death. Though hardly necessary, she added that grave danger of failure awaited them there in a bastion of evil hostile to man and god alike. This done, she gave them the blessing of Velune and they departed, escorted thence by the wererat.
Back on the street, they considered how best to escape the city. They needed help, so made their way back to the Temple of Maldaominus. They once again sought audience with Dominim, the local high priest, and asked for his aid in returning to the tunnel exit. This he agreed to and, without other escort, he led them forth and to the close bridge, where his word was sufficient to allow a night crossing without hindrance. He then took them to the tower, where the same sentry at the tower door was on guard and seemed awed they returned with one of the city’s chief leaders. They were escorted back to the secret tunnel entrance and found those same three guard they’d spared on duty. The three were surprised by the high priest’s arrival, but perhaps far more shocked and frightened to see the Gnome, who they’d seen but momentarily before being ensorcelled (it was clear they’d not told anyone of what happened to them, probably because of a combination of how improbable it all seemed). They dropped back into the tunnel and soon were clear of the city.
Once up through the pool again, they decided to avoid the mercenary camp and instead went t the closer encampment of the Mordavian medium cavalry. Although surprised to see the party at this early hour of the morning, they obeyed the order to turn over four riding horses to the party in order for them to “perform reconnaissance.” Not horsed and aware of the location of “friendly” patrols, they rod out and to the north and east towards Harlond, and the hopes of sea passage to Morlin Island.
– Experience: 5500 XP (2500/2500 for Ulthar); includes hefty bonus, of course. Well played.