Nightfall in Brelindia

61 - A Contract and a Pact

The group pushes into the upper castle, where they learn more of the Gryphon's bonds with his liegemen.

With Bralta’s help, Honora moves the bloody armor of Cyr Bastaan onto the altar of the old chapel. She kneels before it and prays. In the meantime, Abbron muses over ways to defuse the power of the mirror. They settle for stitching the robes of the puppet-priests into a rough cover for the mirror and then hiding it in the ruins of a pew.

Examining the alcoves in the chapel, they find stairs going up. The southern stairwell seems to rise up one of the large castle towers, but also descends a floor before ending in a masonry wall. They carefully examine the wall, but apart from a small crack in the masonry, it is solidly built. The four decide to climb the tower itself.

It’s a grueling march up to the top. By the time they arrive, the sun is lighting the western part of the sky. The view from the half-crumbled tower is spectacular, though, both overlooking the misty valley of Morsevar and down the western mountains to the greater Brelindian plains. Abbron drops a copper piece down the central shaft of the tower, but they are far too high to hear it land. Looking about for signs of smoke — perhaps a clue to the “blazing fire” that guards the safe place to rest — they see some curling from a chimney in the upper portions of the main castle.

They return to the chapel, and then take the second set of stairs in the northern alcove. These lead to a balcony with large bronze-bound doors leading into the second floor, and a pair of thrones overlooking the chapel. Baden discovers a pair of animated corpse dressed in mock regalia in the thrones. They surge to attack him, and deliver a couple of blows before he chops them apart with the searing edge of his axe. The fight is over so swiftly Honora and Abbron don’t even notice, being too engrossed in examining the doors.

Beyond the double doors they find a high-vaulted hall. But halfway down the south wall, a faint change in air pressure and scent of oil gives away the presence of a secret door. Once they find a way to open it, they discover a small room filled with gears and pulleys, attached to a double-screw mechanism that raises and lowers a small stone elevator. Unfortunately, the elevator is little more than a large dumbwaiter and has no controls inside it. After some debate about whether to ride it up or down, or if one could send a scout ahead or leave an operator behind, the group agrees to take it up to the next floor.

The elevator emerges in an even smaller secret access that leads into a cobwebbed hall. The dust is tracked from one end to the other, a cleared path from a pair of double doors at the east to the rear side of a secret door in the west. The secret door draws their attention; it seems to be largely set up to open easily from the other side, and is likely more concealed on that side as well. Bralta still manages to tinker the mechanisms sufficiently to open it, though.

The other side of the secret door shows a smoky room, the only other exit a stone block that gives off some heat as if a fire burns on the other side. Scattered handfuls of coins lie around a single chest, and a skeleton in broken plate armor lies near a torch sconce that seems to be the key to opening the secret door. When they open the chest, it jets out clouds of gas. Honora and Abbron catch lungfuls of the stuff and collapse unconscious. Baden is quick enough to cover his mouth, and the gas is less effective on Bralta’s earthen constitution. The two of them manage to disperse the case, and Bralta pulls out some remedies from her healer’s kit to snap the other two awake.

The chest is empty apart from the gas trap. Their next move is then to open the unexplored secret door, which passes through a roaring fire. They are able to move quickly enough through the fire to avoid injury, and emerge in a well-appointed study. Bookcases line the walls, drawing immediate attention. But the bookcases are guarded by a mechanical trap that emits lightning at anyone browsing. Bralta is put to work disabling the mechanisms.

One book that draws attention is a history of the Gryvault family, including a large roll of arms showing those knights loyal to the Black Gryphon in his day. The structure is far too similar to the roll of arms familiar to the slayers. At that point they determine that this is likely the place said to store the Rider in White’s contract. Baden guesses that the lord of the manor may be the sort to hide such a document in a related work. Sure enough, they find a peculiar contract folded into a work on equestrianism.

They read the contract, which the terms of the Rider in White’s service as well as verifying his native domain. Apparently the Rider is able to leave his old haunt mainly in the service of the Gryphon. The group deduces that destroying the contract would likely revert the Rider back to the status he held before — a dangerous wraith, but bound to his long-abandoned town. The tradeoff seems acceptable, and they throw the contract onto the fire.

With that achieved, they sack the study for the most interesting of the books, loading them into Baden’s magical pack. Abbron makes a particularly interesting find, the title Seven Infernal Anathema. This detailed tome of infernalism elaborates on the names, natures, summoning and binding of seven potent devils — most notably Zegriirgez, the Mirror Fiend. The section describes how to bind Zegriirgez with the use of a mirror. It also describes how to destroy it: smear the frame with the blood of a holy man or woman, and then trick the devil into stepping out of the mirror. The group packs away the book and makes plans to return to the chapel once rested.

From there they explore the other doors beyond the study. A large bedchamber lies to the west — occupied by a young woman. The girl, Ingriva, is quite surprised to see the group, especially as they don’t look like servants of “the prince.” A quick conversation reveals she seems to have no idea of the danger she’s in, or the nature of the Gryvault lord. She does mention that he has knights in his service, though she remembers no personal heraldry. The four decide to leave her quietly there, assuming she’ll be safest where the Gryphon left her until they can dispatch him.

The other doors lead to a large bathroom south of the bedchamber, a moldy dining hall south of the study, and to the north a hall where the roof has partially caved in. Statues lining the walls, apparently the ancestors of the Gryvault line, whisper softly in the night wind. “Our glory lost…” “…more souls for the beast…” “blood, thick and dark…” Since the far end of the hall ends in stairs going down, the group returns to the study with intentions of pushing through the secret passages to find the safe resting spot.

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Barastrondo

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