Nightfall in Brelindia

0 - Prologue
What Has Gone Before

Honora arrives in Brelindia, and becomes involved with the troubles at Scath Hollow. She meets Diedra and goes up against Klogis, the Candle Man for the first time.

1 - Sun and Storm, Sky and Earth
Four heroes come together for the first time, and pay a call on Bone Hill.

The Ulberian half-orc paladin Honora, and her Brelindian companion Diedra, arrive in the town of Rellenford. They inquire about the “lord’s man” Klogis with the guards, who confess not recognizing the emblem he carried or the man’s name. One guard goes to ask the Rellenford guard-captain Gaelvar for information on Klogis, while the other directs the two women to Falcon’s Tavern to wait for a time.

When they arrive, the two draw immediate attention from another pair of out-of-town individuals of note. The autumn elf “miner” Baden immediately takes note of Honora’s gear and bearing, and identifies her as a Valysan on a pilgrimage of the sword. He and his companion, the wandering storm-caller Abbron, invite Honora and Diedra to join them; it’s apparent that all four have certain… interests in common.

The recently arrived women explain the nature of Klogis and his claims of noble protection. The “Candle Man” rumor is very familiar to the other two, though the seal is a curiosity; it reminds Abbron of the Black Gryphon, a mighty knight who rose to the rank of Count centuries ago, but whose descendants have since taken their own variations on his heraldry. At any rate, none of the Gryphon’s line have ever used a blank shield as part of their badge.

The four continue to compare notes until the guard returns, and confesses that Captain Gaelvar cannot assist them at all. He seems oddly confused or worried, and although Abbron attempts to wheedle some more information out of him, there’s little else to be had. Once the guard has left, the four muse that all roads seem to be pointing toward Tor Skalane.

Tor Skalane, from what they know, was a human fort that retained some elven presence until roughly a century ago, when it fell in a night and its defenders were slaughtered or vanished. Some suspect giants: in Brelindia, it’s said the giants come out of the mountains sometimes when the fog is thick. A variety of rumors surround the place: the dead walk, orcs dwell there, all manner of things. But from what Abbron knows, it seems a likely place for the bugbears he suspects of murdering travelers (and setting candles on their corpses) to lair. And Baden is curious to see if there might be some sign of an errant Councilor dwelling there. Certainly it would provide space for a sorcerer like Klogis to work his viler arts — and so, the four resolve to travel there in the morning.

They reach Tor Skalane at midday. The keep is on a hill strewn with immense boulders, allowing them to approach rather cautiously. Baden scouts, and notes potential entryways at the gate, at a large tower, in another of the courtyard walls, and finally an entry knocked into the throne room of the keep proper. (He also notes that the rumors of giants are apparently true, given the immense skeleton lying near a rotting catapult.)

The four enter the keep proper, in the hole hammered into what is apparently the throne room. Several frescoes have been recently defaced, and they spot a pair small and excessively hairy creatures — young bugbears, by all rights. Baden and Honora cut the two down, but not before one sounds an alarm.

And the bugbears come. Honora is first to engage the bone-adorned, skull-painted monsters as they enter the nearby room from upstairs as well as another pair of doors. The goblin men are a brutal group, led by some sort of hexer that carries a stave painted with an eye emblem and wears a large, preserved eye around its neck. The hexer is able to lock up Honora and Diedra with his curses, and the trophy-hunters lay out vicious attacks that nearly kill Baden. But divine wrath and protection, to say nothing of thunder and lightning, are on the heroes’ side. When the last of the bugbears is felled by dual greataxe blows, a momentary quiet again settles over that portion of the ruined keep.

2 - Better To Extinguish a Candle
The "rekindled" Candle Man faces justice at the edge of an axe.

The group rests to recover some strength, as Honora examines the locked door leading from the guard post. It seems to be the armory door, and may have been resealed recently. No sound comes from the other side, so the group agrees to leave it be for a while as they continue to explore the ruined keep. After a quiet glance at the upstairs hall, they move through the corridor leading around the lower level of the keep, noting bloody graffiti and other signs of the twisted goblin hunters. They are noticed as they go, though a creaking door hinge somewhat spoils a bugbear ambush. Two horrid trophy-hunters pour out to assist the crossbow and net-wielding stalker, and then the group is further flanked by the arrival of another Bale-Eye shaman, seemingly the twin of the previously slain hexer. It’s a ruthless and thunderous battle, bloodying the survivors, before the last of the bugbears is cut down.

Somewhat to the relief of the four, the first floor seems to house no more of the murderous goblin brigands, though there are many trophies of their kills (and a valuable sack of witch’s salt) among the spoils, as well as human remains in the larder. The group then moves upstairs, where a pair of doors in the upper hall now stand open, with candlelight spilling out. After securing one portion of the hall, they check the first open door: a workshop where four scarecrows are in various states of assembly.

Honora notices that one is fully completed and feigning dormancy, and immediately moves to attack. As the others move to support her, a horrid fear overcomes Baden, and he strikes out at the waking nightmare only to wound Abbron. The fear seems to come from another scarecrow that flickers in and out of visibility like a heat mirage — a scarecrow accompanied by Klogis, the Candle Man. The Candle Man berates the heroes as he confronts them, claiming to be in the right. His powers are notable, but not enough to overcome the storm Abbron creates in the middle of the hall, and the wards that protect him can’t shield him from the axe-blows forever. He and one of his scarecrows are finally brought down, though the lurker escapes.

The group secures the last few rooms (a chandler workshop, some empty storerooms, and a master bedroom where Klogis was staying, with a small trap door up to the observatory level). Then they rouse the Candle Man and begin to ask him questions. He claims to have been saved from drowning (at the hands of the populace of Drakesbend, a town downriver) by a White Rider, a herald of an unknown lord. That herald “rekindled” him and gave him a baton of passage that was to grant him hospitality from the “lord’s man” at Tor Skalane. He admits to being charged with gathering power, in his case crafting wood-and-straw soldiers for this unknown lord. But he tells too much. Once he mentions that he was intended to make a meet at Giant’s Beacon, he begins to gasp and choke. As the candles on his staff go out one by one, Klogis expires.

The group secures the Candle Man’s goods, and plan to build a pyre for all the bodies once the keep is well and truly secure. They return to the armory and open it, finding little remaining of good value. But wooden stairs go down from the armory, and a hideous charnel reek wafts up from the stairs. Honora and Baden recognize it from experience — the unmistakable smell of ghouls.

3 - The Bones of Tor Skalane
The murderers of Bone Hill may be gone, but older threats are found down in the dark.

The prospect of fighting ghouls while still fatigued and worn is deemed unappetizing, and the four retire to a campsite down by the main road. The tree cover gives them good shelter from the rain rolling in, though they can’t see the keep from the campsite. Late in the night, a few lantern lights can be seen bobbing out in the woods, but the group puts too much stock in local superstition about wisp-lights to investigate.

The rain hasn’t let up by morning, so the trek back up Tor Skalane is an unpleasant one. It quickly proves to be the least of the day’s unpleasantries, though.

Unblocking the armory door, the four head for the stairs. The familiar reek does indeed turn out to be ghouls: a scuttling group, amid the remains of former prey. One of the ghouls has greater charnel power than the others, calling up choking grave dust and summoning clutching hands from the ground to hold Baden and Honora in place. Both sides attack furiously; a ghoul nearly makes a meal of Abbron before it’s hacked and blasted apart, and the knife-wielding leader of the ghouls glances resentfully at a nearby door before Baden’s divine power and Abbron’s conjured storm pull it apart.

The group sifts through the remains and finds some clues of prior visitors to Tor Skalane: in particular, the sword and mastercraft plate of a Brelind warrior, and the gear of a fallen dwarf. Both doors exiting the ghoul’s room are locked, seemingly to seal the ghouls in. Exiting, the group finds a long basement corridor that winds around some large dungeon cells (one of which seems to hold the remains of a man only a few years dead), past a large guard room and into a storeroom with interesting furniture stacked under layers of dust. Baden notices some disturbance in the dust that hints a secret door in the storeroom’s wall: once found, the door leads to a long corridor under the courtyard, perhaps a secret escape route.

The corridor leads to a basement level of the large tower that is part of Tor Skalane’s outside wall. The tower is not unoccupied, though: the skeletal dead of Bone Hill pour from both up and down stairs to attack. Most are old, ragged remnants that seem to date back to the keep’s fall, though several retain a deadly edge. The dead aren’t equal to the sacred might of the Valysan and the Amaelite, however, and Abbron is able to unleash more thunder and lightning to tip teh scales further. After the fight, Abbron heads up to the rotten upper story to investigate, but his weight is too much; the wooden floor gives way, splintering on the stone floor below (and revealing a few treasures as it does so). The power of storm saves Abbron from a similar fate.

After some conferral, the group decides to go farther down from the basement level, using the stairs in the tower. A corridor deep below the keep leads to a stone door that guards a large cavern, natural but somewhat smoothed out by human hands. This lowest area houses more of the dead: a 10-foot hulking corpse and a scattering of ancient skeletal soldiers. The guardians are quickly overwhelmed, but also reinforced by more skeletal soldiers — and to complicate matters, the massive hulk rises again after being cut down, dividing the battlefield. By the time the skeletal champions are cut down, the four living heroes are in a bad way. They pause long enough to ascertain that the most skilled and lethal of the skeletons seemed to be wearing black-lacquered armor with a cat’s paw motif: perhaps the two-headed panther of Lord Magrest, perhaps the paws of the Black Gryphon. Then they retreat to safer ground, the storm still coming down around them, to find a safe place to regain their strength.

4 - The Hill's Heart
The evils at the root of Bone Hill are laid bare, and some hope besides.

As the group rests for the night, Baden notes a faint green light coming from the exterior tower, but it fades after a few minutes. After an early breakfast, the group descends again into the lower caverns. They cut into one of the locked doors, the one with a faint sense of impending evil, and discover in the corridor beyond a secret door and more undead guardians. Two zombies seeping with some sort of alchemical fluid are in the vanguard, under the direction of a pair of undead wizards (later revealed to be Cavredd and Iosli Mardrake). It’s a tight squeeze in the corridor, with the zombies tying up the axe-wielders (and exploding in horrible gouts of fluid when destroyed) as the revivified arcanists cut deep wounds with acid and cold.

Pulling back for a moment — the secret door seems to be the source of the evil miasma — the group opens the other locked door in the nearby cavern, which fills with daylight and warmth. Baden and Abbron succumb to a glamour that compels them to enter a nearby study and take their ease. Honora and Diedra resist and join them. The study has many books, a comfortable bed and a skeleton chained to the wall. Honora notices that it seems to be intelligent but not malevolent, and frees it; the ensuing interrogation reveals something of the backstory of the Mardrakes and the keep. During the course of the “conversation,” Ainlocke reveals a useful treasure to the group (a mug, platter and pitcher enchanted to provide fine nourishment), and Honora smashes the glyph enspelling the Amaelite and the stormwalker. Baden uses Iosli’s orb to lay Ainlocke to rest, and Diedra buries the remains with Chaneth’s power.

Steeling themselves, the group then passes through the secret door. Stairs lead down to a desecrated cavern. The Wraith challenges them here — notably, it wears a tabard that shows the two-headed Madrest panther with one head severed and a snake’s head growing from the stump. Two mummified bog-things come to the wraith’s aid, and it also calls shades from its sword during the fight. The necrotic power is almost overwhelming — almost. Finally the wraith of Tor Skalane falls, and the group claims the spoils from its lair before retreating to less unholy ground.

5 - The Secret History of Tor Skalane
The final secrets of Tor Skalane are unearthed, and largely laid back in peace.

The group considers the roll of arms, noting the symbol of the fallen swordwraith and what clearly appears to be a representation of Klogis, the Candle Man. The emblems are largely unfamiliar, so the consensus is to investigate fully later. Honora is still very interested in finding the shrine to Valysa, and Baden is increasingly curious about whatever relic the giants came in search of.

Exploring further down the corridor from which the undead Mardrakes emerged, the four find more caverns, these seemingly under the keep proper. The worked area here includes a large pair of double doors and a portcullis. Baden’s keen perception discovers a small cache, containing rotting oiled cloth protecting a small silver key and a valuable topaz. The silver key, coupled with one of the larger keys from the wraith’s keyring, opens the double doors onto a vault area, where a book on a pedestal is guarded by a strange creature. Seemingly one part clockwork sphere made of gold and precious gems, one part arcane entity, Baden and Honora recognize it as a pluton, a celestial servant of gods of wealth. The pluton is amenable to conversation (even though its name, being essentially a phrase in the Pria Elerial as spoken by a celestial carillon, is hard to transliterate). Speaking with it, they learn that it is bound to guard an oracular work, that it still must guard the work for nearly a year and a half, and that it wounded a younger man wearing the Madrest tabard many years ago. Seeing no reason to interfere with its guardianship, the group withdraws.

The room past the portcullis features a large stone statue of a guardian with a hammer, one that animates to protect the Valysan shrine behind it. Observing that the guardian is inscribed with celestial glyphs, Baden and Honora deduce that the glyphs are a mnemonic for a Valysan hymn, one that Honora remembers. As she sings, the guardian steps aside to let them pass. The shrine features a statue of Valysa, wearing a shining metal helm. Honora meditates for a moment, then takes the helm, guessing that it is meant for a champion such as herself.

Meanwhile, Abbron notices a reflective surface on the far side of a partially collapsed corridor. A full-length mirror stands at the back of an alcove there, apparently once sealed off with its own door. Abbron immediately becomes suspicious, and when Baden notices his own reflection wink at him, it is decided to leave it behind immediately. The group closes out the investigation of the caverns, finding only a wooden staff that seems to contain some measure of the power of lightning, though the staff seems too flawed to reliably channel it.

The western end of the caverns have two exits up: a rotting ladder that leads up to a secret trapdoor outside the wall (which Baden risks life and limb only mildly to investigate), and stairs leading up to the basement of the keep. These stairs emerge in a small shrine, one dominated by an eight-foot statue of what seems to be a fire giant. The icon appears to be of giantish craftsmanship, perhaps designed for a household shrine. Deducing that this is likely the stolen object that brought the giants to Tor Skalane, the group opts to leave it be and leave through the concealed exit. They pass through a decaying bedroom and a study occupied by moldering books on swordplay, and find themselves in the portion of the basement already traversed. Thus reasoning that their work in Tor Skalane is done, the group returns to Rellinford for rest and some initial queries about the contents of the roll of arms.

6 - The Subject of Reprisals
The reasons for Captain Gaelvas' reticence are made clear, the Baron of Rellinford shares what he knows, and a familiar face returns.

The group doesn’t discuss their doings in Tor Skalane much when they return to Rellinford, with one notable exception. When Honora relates the events to Baron Ardroch’s guard-captain Gaelvas, he responds with dread and immediately excuses himself to inform the Baron. His actions seem to indicate more fear of reprisal than fear of the heroes’ survival, so the group retires to the Falcon Tavern to while away the rest of the evening and wait to see if Gaelvas returns. He doesn’t; rather, the group notices that more of the town guard seem to be absent from their usual posts.

Two hours past midnight, Baden wakes to the faint sound of horns at the Baron’s keep. He rouses his companions and heads immediately there. The keep is on full alert, with most of the lights and activity seemingly coming from the tower that houses the personal quarters of the baron’s family. After finding that the guards are less than immediately helpful (apparently somewhat confused by the contradictory orders given by these new arrivals), he and Abbron let themselves into the keep and open the way for Honora and Diedra. The four assert their way into the tower, where the Baron and his family are kept under high guard in a very well-lit room. One of the guards had reported seeing a shadow moving with no man attached to it; further negotiation reveals that Ardroch is fearful for his wife and daughter, having received a threat from the same “Faceless Gryphon” that acted as Klogis’ patron. With Klogis and the swordwraith of Tor Skalane both dead, Ardroch is worried that the unknown warlord will exact a toll. Honora suggests that perhaps he should kick the lot of them out openly in the morning for going against his wishes, thus focusing any watchers’ attention on them instead of the Baron.

As the conversation unfolds, Baden notices the fingertips of a shadow sliding quietly back out from under the room’s door. Immediately the avenger lashes out with a powerful Amaelite abjuration, searing the shade with holy light and pulling it fully into the room. He, Honora and Abbron invoke their full might, and the thing is blasted into nothingness before it can manifest its power. It leaves behind only a poorly-scrawled threat, one obviously meant to be left behind any assassination. Abbron moves to check on the guards, and finds they have been dropped into a deep, nightmarish sleep but are otherwise unharmed.

This display seems to hearten Baron Ardroch, and he offers his full assistance to the group. Though he doesn’t know much about the figures on the roll of arms, he’s able to identify the arms of Cyr Bastaan the Unbroken, the knight-protector of Spurwall to the west. Bastann allegedly took a wound during a boar hunt that would not heal, and has suffered from it ever since. He also recounts that a body was pulled from the river many settlements downriver some time ago, notable because it bore a brand similar to that of the stylized flame-circled eye in the balance pan. Finally, he agrees to write them letters of introduction that may assist them in the courts of other lords and knights on their journey. His family is also impressed with the group, and his wife Guenphyr spends a good amount of time speaking of the gods with Baden, Honora and Diedra while his daughter inquires of Abbron where he gained the power of the storm.

The next day, Ardroch holds a public ceremony in which he praises the group for dragging the horrors of Tor Skalane into the light, even when he had done what he could to warn them away. Content that this bit of deflection may suffice, the group charters a barge to take them downriver to Drakesbend, where they can ask about the Rider in White.

The barge-master and his sons are willing to take the group, once given a little coin to make up for any profits lost in an off-season trip, and they prove cheery enough conversation partners, at least until the group comes within sight of Tor Skalane. The barge-master even knows more of the story of the branded corpse in the river. He mentions that the body was found downstream from Gollingford, and that it was a lean man with long hair, probably unhealthy before the river’s stones (and any potential murderers) did their work. However, the conversation is interrupted as the barge skews toward a fresh-fallen tree — one that has been set as an ambush.

Lying in wait for the group are a mixed group indeed. The most obvious threat is the massive two-headed troll that pulls itself from the water. Baden’s sharp eyes are able to pick out another living shadow concealed among the branches — like the one discovered in the Baron’s tower, it resembles an emaciated man with wild hair. Most significantly, the strange mind-bending scarecrow that fled Tor Skalane appears to be directing the attack. The shadow and the scarecrow both evoke terrible powers, blinding the heroes and directing them to attack one another (Baden scores a vicious hit against Honora as he’s wracked with delirium). The two-headed troll is a terror in its own right, though it isn’t able to chop Honora apart as quickly as it’d like. Baden is nearly forced into the river, but the shadow can’t outlast him despite its insubstantiality, and the scarecrow is finally torn apart and flung in all directions by Abbron’s storm. Able to focus all their attentions on the troll, they finally bring it down, cauterize the stumps of both necks, and allow the bargemen to decide whether to roll its corpse overboard or take it with them downriver and see what they can sell it for.

7 - Fires In Drakesbend
Two parties ask questions in Drakesbend, but one is not so gentle or just.

The barge stops in the town of Fourthoak before moving on to Drakesbend, where Abbron and Baden mingle with the locals and gain some minor snippets of information. They learn that the canton-master of Drakesbend is the woodsman Shaddan Yale, who seems to have kept the peace for some time.

In Drakesbend, the group continues their investigation. They learn that Klogis apparently worked out of a farmhouse after murdering the owner, an old man named Grawley, and turning his victim into a scarecrow. Though nobody in the village could find or interpret actual proof of Klogis’ misdeeds, Yale made the call that he was guilty enough to face trial by river.

The next morning, Honora, Diedra and Abbron work on bringing the Grawley house back to respectability, while Baden roams the grounds and discovers Grawley’s grave. They find signs that Klogis returned to the house after his “rescue,” including a charcoal map scrawled on the hearth that indicates the location of two of the Gryphon’s armigers. Diedra blesses the house, and they return to Drakesbend proper.

That evening, they speak with Sladdan Yale, who is as reticent as his reputation. Yale is still forthcoming enough to grant them a few bits of information, however, such as the disposition of the former bandit queen who is now Baroness of Tor Valland, the battles against wild men and rumors of sirens and hags around Mere Lorelay, and the news that there’s an old prison near where Klogis’ map had shown the eye-and-fire glyph.

After Yale retires, the sound of a watchman’s bell rings out; Honora immediately moves to armor herself as Baden goes to investigate. A large party with many torches has approached the village gate, and Baden overhears them threaten the guard “not to stand in the path of justice.” With the scales of the emblem fresh in his mind, he immediately returns to the inn to warn the others. The group steps out into the village street to a cry of pain; the pilgrims have forced their way in, burning the arm of a guardsman in the process.

The invaders are clearly zealots of some ilk, most carrying torches and wearing red, mud-stained robes. One has a brand visible, in a now quite familiar design. Among them is a single armored figure, with sackcloth draped over his armor rather than any form of tabard. Honora proclaims that if they are seeking the people who killed the Candle Man, they have found their targets — and with proclamations of judgment, the fanatics rush into battle. Many seem to have some sort of blessing of fire: the two most agile zealots ignite their weapons, and the ironclad enemy emits fire from beneath his armor, even breathing gouts of it over Honora and Diedra. Baden discovers the difficult way that some of the cultists immolate themselves in searing explosions when dealt a mortal blow. On the other hand, Abbron demonstrates that winds themselves can be lethal, hammering the would-be agents of “justice.” The struggle is further complicated when another murderous shadow leaps from hiding; it almost manages to have Baden’s own shadow strangle the elven avenger before it, the last of its group, is blasted apart. And with that, it’s silent again in Drakesbend, with a number of corpses lying in the mud — and one unconscious, concussed zealot.

8 - The Jaws of Tygarn Gate
Downriver to Tor Valland, and to the tragedy of justice perverted.

Sladdan Yale arrives as the violence dies out. Honora and Diedra tend to the injured guardsman while Abbron and Baden explain the circumstance and recommend that he take the captured fanatic into custody. The unconscious prisoner is placed in a secure basement, and after Baden is confident that no stragglers or skulkers have slipped away to cause more trouble, everyone retires.

The next morning, the interrogation of the fanatic goes poorly. The unfortunate man seems split between a fanatic dedication to a perverted sense of justice — describing the world as full of criminals and wickedness — and a deep, consuming fear of something. Abbron recognizes the marks of magical conditioning: someone has apparently used fear magic repeatedly on this wretch to help break him into this near-mad state. Though Honora and Baden greatly want to somehow reach him, he is beyond their assurances — he cannot even reconcile the genuine justice that Honora describes with the “justice” that his band metes out with fire and iron. He babbles some odd references to “a burning eye,” “the consuming flame” and a “dark eye,” but the only soothing mercy the group can offer for him is an axe’s edge. Honora travels with the villagers who cart the bodies half a day away from the town, and lays the corpses to rest with a Valysan ritual; Baden spends the day in contemplation.

The group leaves Drakesbend the following day, traveling by foot down the riverside road. Within four days they reach White Fork, and contract a rough-tongued old bargeman to carry them to Tor Valland.

Tor Valland is a large town, more sizable than Rellinford. It seems a little rougher and more patchwork in culture; most of the citizens seems happy that the Baroness doesn’t interfere with their lives too much. The group makes inquiries about town, learning of the local troubles (leucrotta and perytons are apparently a recurring concern), the band of red-dressed fanatics (they had been noted coming through town, but did not stay so much as a night), and the history of the prison near Gallinburn. Apparently Tygarn Gate was once a bastion of justice, but it went corrupt, and began meting out punishment to even the innocent. When a paladin from the lower heartland came to challenge them, they captured and executed him — but according to local legend, his death brought a great curse on the prison. The judge and his men turned on one another, subjecting one another to the same tortures and executions they had visited on the blameless. The prison has apparently stood empty since then.

Honora writes a letter of intent and sends it to the Baroness’ keep; it draws attention, and Vydesier drops in to visit them at the Red Oak to learn more of their intentions. Baroness Vydesier clearly retains some of her old bandit instincts, even if she’s settled into a more domesticated lifestyle. She notes that the wolf’s head and bleeding heart badge was known among the bandit rumor paths, tied to the Grinthorn Wood in the south. She knows little else, but recommends that the group ask the Count of Graybanks’ herald should they make it that far, and offers to send a letter to him in case they run afoul of trouble somewhere along the way.

The four hire a barge the next day to take them to the old quay near Tygarn Gate, and then to wait for them in Gallinburn. They draw near to the prison as it’s getting dark. Baden scouts ahead to find that Tygarn Gate is built directly into a cliff face, with a small courtyard lit by guttering braziers that defends twenty-foot doors that have been rusted open. The guards are few — a handful of crossbow-armed lesser bailiffs, and two warriors in similar armor to the one that had accompanied the raid on Drakesbend.

The wind and rain and distant thunder seem to make as good a cover for their attack as any. They dispatch the guards efficiently, though Abbron is wounded in the process as another disembodied shadow joins the fight. When the last guard is down, they slip inside. Beyond the gates lies an immense vaulted room, apparently dedicated to public executions of varying sorts. A balcony suitable for a judge’s pronouncements sits high on the far wall, with a massive set of scales below it like some form of elevator. With no immediate threats issuing from the doors to either side, the group pauses to catch their breath.

9 - Chain and Fire
Five prisoners are wrested from cruelty, although the liberators are sorely tested.

The four exits from the execution hall have little to distinguish themselves. The group chooses the leftmost, closest door, which leads them to a large cell-block area. Two massive, hooded headsmen turn from their stewardship to confront the intruders. Baden ducks into a nearby guardroom to confront a pair of less imposing turnkeys who try to strangle him with short lengths of chain. But the true supernatural power of Tygarn Gate manifests when some sort of chain-wrapped devil, the kind associated with the hell of Aaziphon, descends from the ceiling to join in the struggle. The devil learns a harsh lesson in conductivity, however, and although it manages to score Abbron in the ensuing skirmish, it dies by lightning and frost. The headsmen and turnkeys fare little better.

During the skirmish, voices call out from the cells. Once the guards are dispatched, the heroes free four prisoners, all of whom are gaunt and near-starved:

  • Kindrevin, a haggard warrior who claims to serve the falsely disgraced knight Bron, now called Bron the Brigand. He explains that the treacherous Cyr Egran (whose arms are those of a raven on a gallows-pole) enlisted the help of a Rider in White to falsely accuse Bron and drive him from power. Kindrevin’s small group of loyalist swordsmen was overwhelmed by enemies when they moved to explore a lead to their enemy in Grinthorn Wood; half died, the rest were sent to Tygarn, where he is the sole survivor.
  • Firinn, a hunter taken in the nearby woods.
  • Caelonna, a former nun of the Higher Nine from an abbey in Graybanks. She was “excommunicated” and sent upriver for speaking out against the abbot.
  • Belderai, a half-elven courtesan from Kingsfall. She was kidnapped and shipped to Tygarn; she has her suspicions about the rivals involved.

The prisoners eat heartily of a meal Diedra conjures, and relate that most captives are sent for sessions through the north door (undoubtedly for torture) before they are dragged away for a final time. They mention that a Kaealite questor was the last to be taken away in this fashion. The group vows to free him. They arm the freed captives as best they can, Baden going so far as to lend Firinn his bow, and set them to the river to make their way to freedom. Then they head for the torture chamber.

The raid on the torturers is swift and brutal. The head torturer is cloven by the Amaelite’s axe, hurled via divine providence into one of his own cells, and sent to the grave by Abbron’s lightning before he can so much as uncoil his whip. The two assistants cut fiercely into Abbron with their scythes, and the revenant corpse of a former victim actually possesses an iron maiden, lashing out with attached chains at the heroes. But without their master, they fall quickly. Honora frees the Kaealite quickly, and restores him to health. He thanks them, introduces himself as Graydon, and warns the group that the fanatic inquisitors seem to have allies across the country — a warning they thank him for, but of course do not need.

As the four escort Graydon out, their desire to protect him is put to the test. A large group of zealots, much like those who assaulted Drakesbend, has gathered in the execution hall. One proclaims that the omens were correct, and that the unclean are present, and his colleagues rush to “purify” the heroes. Honora and Diedra guard the door as best they can, while Abbron lays thunder and lightning on those on the other side. Baden moves about the room, striking as the opportunity presents itself. But the zealots are numerous and vicious; their blazing weapons nearly lay Honora, Diedra and Abbron low at separate points, and the healing power of the Chanethite and Valysan are only barely enough to sustain them. Once the bloody melee finally dies down, the group decides to take Graydon and find the other prisoners, retreating for Gallinburn: although Honora and Baden would dearly like to press forward and finish the zealots, the group’s strength is at a low ebb, and it’s uncertain just what the unknown Judge has left in store for them.


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