A Necessary Alliance

Earning Favors/First Descent

Durog follows the mysterious summoning to the furthest end of the city, arriving at a faceless, doorless tower. While inspecting it, a shimmering outline forms on the outside of the pillar revealing a new passage inside, allowing the runaway to enter. Carefully making his way up the steps he first sees strange equipment, equipment that reminded him of his former captors. Next his gaze falls upon a female figure in ornate garb seated facing away from him. She bids him to approach and introduces herself as Amara Greystaff and that being the only mage for miles around, sensed the presence of another user of the craft no matter how minor. She then inquires how Durog came across his skills. It is decided that the best way to get the whole story if for the sorceress to cast a spell into the orphan’s mind and once the tale is gleaned, Amara apologizes for the cruelty of Durog’s former master and vows to show him a better path to power…once certain tasks are accomplished of course. She provides him with a proper spellbook and asks him to enlist his traveling companions to assist in retrieving a small box left behind in the barrows just outside the city. He is given the description of the diminutive black and red metal coffer with strict instructions not to open it. The normally sullen apprentice seems truly thankful for this outreach and asks one last favor. He knows not where his companions might be. The lean and lithe enchantress rises from her seat, towering over Durog and quite possibly even his paladin companion. She asks for a personal effect from one of them. He digs out a dagger given to him by C’haill and after a short incantation their location is revealed. The other three are in the city’s gaol. Durog sighs and sets off to remedy this turn of events.

Hours earlier, as Durog met his new preceptor, Alexandre, C’haill and Gruntu find themselves standing over the dead bodies of Vinepul Margali and most of The Order of the Griffon. Gruntu takes a quick moment to relieve Vinepul of his possessions when suddenly the order member who was spared cries out “Murder!”, which brings the city guard running. The lot of them are arrested as Alexandre tries to make it known that he is not in fact a half orc, taking out his fake teeth. They tell their side of the story and despite the paladin and the others’ protests, they are taken to the city’s jail and placed into holding cells while the surviving member of The Order of the Griffon is escorted elsewhere. After a time a woman in gold trimmed flowing white robes enters the cellblock and asks to speak with them. She identifies herself as a priestess of the goddess, Melik, the patron of truth. She speaks to each of them in turn. Alexandre, who has become withdrawn from the turn of events, sheepishly agrees to be truthful and begins to tell the diviner the story of the Order’s deception and begs his questioner to understand that he is an honorable warrior and would never deceive her. She has a slight look of surprise followed by a furrowed brow before speaking. She tells them she must now speak with the sole survivor of the order before rendering a final decision. She asks them to be patient and departs.

Durog arrives at the prison and after casting invisibility, creeps around inside the cell block and makes his presence known to his companions. Before a plan can be hatched, the priestess of Melik returns and demands that the men be set free. Their words have been given the ring of truth and the member of the order found to be a liar. Alexandre and C’haill are freed immediately but Gruntu was found with the possessions of Vinepul on him when arrested and carries the additional charge of corpse robbing. Gruntu finds the fine unacceptable and decides to wait out his sentence. The priestess informs the others that their presence has been requested by city administrator and vassal to Lord Sulescu, Declan Marley. The druid and paladin reunite with Durog after they are released and after weighing their options, decide to visit Marley first.

Declan Marley, a handsome and imposing older fellow, apologizes for their brief incarceration and asks where their fourth is. They explain the situation and the vassal becomes enraged, saying that he set no conditions upon the party’s release and sends a man off to the prison to have Gruntu liberated. In the meantime he speaks highly of the party’s revealing of The Order of the Griffon’s deception and that the people need heroes. The blow to the city’s morale would be too much to lose the force that they felt offered them protection without someone rising to stand in their place. He offers them paid employment as protectors of the city but is interrupted by Alexandre who explains that they already have jobs. Declan tells him that this is far more glorious…and better paid. The party agrees and Marley tells them of their first task. Attacks against the city have been emanating from the Barrows of Marduk which lie not far outside the city’s walls. They are tasked with clearing the barrows so that mining and other production can resume there. The vassal explains that horse and carriage will be arranged when the party is ready and bids them adieu.

The party returns to the gaol just in time to see Gruntu released and inform him of the task ahead. He reminds them that the dwarf they stood up for at the inn made an offer of weapons and they agree to head there. They follow the instructions given to them to the address of “Weapons by Rudrik”, the faint image of the name “Roger” has clearly been scrubbed from the door recently. Inside they find the now jovial dwarf who again thanks them for their kindness and offers them a choice of mastercrafted weapons from his stock. Amidst small talk, their destination is revealed and Rudrik asks a favor of them. Would they bring back some adamantine ore from the barrows? If a sufficient amount is brought back he offers to craft for them weapons that could carry an enchantment if brought to the right source. They agree and set off to the office of Declan Marley to retrieve the promised horse and cart.

Declan’s word is kept, the party finds the horse and carriage available for them as the arrive at the vassal’s abode. They make haste to pack their provisions and set off to the barrows beyond the city walls. A short time later they find themselves at the mouth of the only known entrance into the barrows, a cave on a slight decline, heading downwards. With Alexandre at the fore, the partly carefully heads into the caverns. Coming to a ledge, the party attempts to scale down a rope over a small drop. Durog and Gruntu have no trouble navigating the passage but Alexandre and C’haill come tumbling down, falling hard on the cavern floor below. After dusting themselves off and assuming a marching order they decide to head east towards a sizable expanse in the near distance. C’haill sends her bat companion, Ialtag, into the space to scout. It barely flutters back after being wounded inside. It warns the druid of danger before the hidden attackers are revealed. Four gnolls attack the party but prove no match for their might. Looting their lair, the party finds ten thousand silver pieces and 13 unknown liquids in various vials and beakers. Heading back towards their point on ingress, they decide to continue downwards before exploring the western side of the barrows. The steeper decline proves less of a challenge and the party makes their way down to the next landing. Heading west, they march for a time before coming to another large opening in the barrows, this one appears to be empty. Gruntu doesn’t trust this and fires a flaming arrow into the room. It illuminates the carrion crawler hiding on the ceiling and the creature begins to move down the wall to advance on them. After taking some pot shots at it , they move to engage the beast and through repeated hammering on the head and body and great physical cost, bring the large armored insect down. The party decides to make camp to heal and replenish spells before moving on hours later. Heading downwards, Gruntu attaches his grappling hook to the rope to help ease his companions’ way. This serves it’s purpose as the decent directly into the next underground pocket, the lair of the carrion crawler which after the sludge is sorted through, yields a shield, an amulet, a vial of liquid and a sealed tube.

After inventorying their new finds they once again head further down into the barrow. The grappling hook fails its purpose as Alexandre and Ch’aill tumble once more into a darkened cavern. Alexandre dusts himself off and sees an orange glow coming from the opposite side of what turns out to be an enormous chamber. An investigation reveals a number of small beings huddled something hidden by their numbers. Once they get close enough, the beings are snapped out of their trance. It is sixteen goblins but their eyes blaze with coral flame. They immediately advance on the party and a brutal skirmish begins. It looks grim at first, the party seems overwhelmed by the sheer numbers but heroic efforts by Gruntu and Alexandre bring the fight to an end just as the party begins to succumb to their wounds. Potions, healing spells and Alexandre’s faith based healing are all that save the assemblage from total ruin. The spoils of their effort however are grand; a fine sword, a number of sling bullets and two hundred platinum pieces.

Another rest session follows out of necessity before they move on, ascending to the first level of the barrows to continue their exploration. Though C’haill and Alexandre suffer on the rope, they make it to their goal without serious injury. Heading westward, they spy another large open area ahead. A horrible gurgling, snorting sound emanates from it. Durog decides that now that his involvement in the craft has been revealed, he might as well use his newfound powers. Casting invisibility once he is beyond sight, he sneaks into the cavern to find an ogre passed out on a bed of filthy but coin laden straw. Drawing his dagger and moving slowly, he edges towards the bed. The ogre does not stir at his approach and Durog takes the opportunity given to him and slits the ogre’s throat.

Calling to the others, the budding mage begins picking the few gems he can see out of the disgusting straw mat. The others arrive and begin to help stripping the room of its valuables. The coins collected, though not all familiar to them, hold tremendous value and they are packed away before moving on to the next chamber beneath them. This next chamber is explored first by Ialtag who reports no threat. What a bat constitutes as not a threat is revealed as the chamber, once descended into, floods with nearly a hundred common bats. C’haill, who had gone in first, is overwhelmed by the throng of flying mammals. The druid searches her memory for a spell and casts entangle. The sparse brush on the cavern floor begins to swell and grow, wrapping many of the bats within its expanse. The shrieking of the immobilized ones warns the others to retreat and the cloud of creatures make flight for the high ceiling. Once cleared, the expanse yields no wealth so after a nearly hidden decline is uncovered, they move along. C’haill once again leads the way, her eyes seeking the presence of heat in the cold dark. She begins to hear something but her infravision reveals no correlating presence. Sneaking around further she spies a skeleton which turns to advance on her, she turns to run and rejoins the others with a warning. The others gird themselves for battle when a dwarf stumbles out of the darkness, his hands raised. They try to speak

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