Nightfall in Brelindia

52 - A Plague of Rats

The return to Lanthorn is fraught with sickness and death.

The four set off downriver for Lanthorn. They discuss their plans along the way. Abbron is concerned that the Stoic Man may rampage through the city, destroying everything in his path. The unnamed assassin mentioned by the mist giant Orinor is another concern. Nobody likes the thought of being caught between them. It’s decided that they will have to move quickly and quietly, possibly to draw out the assassin.

When they reach Lanthorn, however, all is less than well. Yellow pennants hang from the towers and walls — a sign of plague within the city. Between Honora and Abbron, they deduce that the quarantine is in effect. It is unlikely that the guards will deny them entry, but if they enter, they might not be allowed to leave.

Their first stop is gathering rumors outside of town. A fishwife on the lake’s shore is able to describe something of the disease’s symptoms: blue blotches around the eyes and lips. She also speaks of doctors and priests being murdered in the disease’s wake. Unfortunately, her gossip is unable to provide more specific detail. The group combs more of the outlying houses for rumors, but thanks to the quarantine, those outside the walls are unable to speak too precisely of the events within.

A short discussion ensues, in which Baden suggests the possibility of simply bypassing Lanthorn and searching for their next target. Honora will have none of it, though; she is determined to see the Stoic Man dead before the spring storms empower the dwarven lightning forge for him. The group advances on the city gates the next morning. The guards try to warn them away, but let them in without trouble.

The first stop is the Tower of the Vigil. The news there is grim: Tangryph is dead, murdered in his bed. The new leader of the Vigilants, an Alvorite named Annith, tells them a note was left on the scene: “Perhaps we are desperate.” Four priests and doctors have been similarly murdered since the sickness began. Disturbingly, Doctor Kravoss is himself missing.

Baden demonstrates great knowledge of medicine, comparing the disease to a similar affliction known to the elves of Tirasel. The most efficacious remedy he can recall is a tincture brewed from the leaves of one of the star-trees: the closer to a god of healing, the better. The four decide to take the knowledge to Countess Vainharte.

The Countess’ court is thick with tension. Vainharte takes umbrage at Baden’s suggestion that she could easily have prevented the assassin’s killing streak by dispatching more guards. She explains that the assassin is clearly on a different plane of skill and strength than the guards of the city, and that many men have already died easily to the killer’s baldes.

While the courtiers are clearly distracted by the events surrounding the city, they listen carefully to the four’s story of the Gryphon’s vassalage and the enemies that have targeted Lanthorn. Baden also explains the possibility of assistance coming from the star-oaks. The group offers the scrolls of phantom steeds taken from Tythoas Nil’s belongings, that a rider might gather an infusion quickly. The Countess accepts, and sends her lieutenant Tenneth on a mission to Stormcrown.

The Countess’ men have had no more luck in tracking the assassin than the group has; there are no clear patterns to the killings, apart from the targets all having some healing skill and having tended to people affected by the plague. Vainharte advises that the group seek divination from the Tower of the Vigil, who aided her family in such a manner.

At the Tower, the Vigilants teach Honora a ritual that calls upon the wisdom of the dead, drawing advice from the deceased spirits of the order’s scholars. The group contemplates casting the divination, but first ask to see Tangryph’s room, in case the assassin has left some clue there.

Tangryph’s quarters have no obvious ways of entry other than the door and the undisturbed window. But a small hole in the corner of the ceiling offers another possible explanation. Baden investigates it, finding a small tunnel through the mortar — worn as if by the passage of hundreds of rats.

Certain now they know something more of their enemy, the group turns to divination. Honora beseeches Valysa for a vision, some form of guidance. The ritual reveals a story:

There was a young girl, who fell ill when a sickness came over her village. She lay weak and frightened among the stinking bodies of her family. But she was spared — given a hundred hearts to beat where her one nearly failed, a hundred pairs of eyes to look into the night. The girl now wanders the night, but she cannot sleep where it is filthy. She needs to smell the scent of cleanliness and healing herbs to be able to rest.

The group deduces that the rat queen must be taking over the quarters of a doctor or priest. They begin to search for a way to detect the proper site and corner the Gryphon’s assassin.

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