JOURNEY THRU THE SEA OF FALLEN STARS

Chapter 22

CHAPTER 22

Lyrabar. 8th day of the 1st week of Ches.
The Company awakes in the Inn “Torm´s Rest” . Arriving late yesterday on Lyrabar , the party stays in their rooms for a bit longer then usual , and so , when they finnaly come to the Inn´s common room , it´s the 10th hour of the day, and the Inn it´s very quiet.
And it´s with relative surprise , that Nermathed , Nebin and Mindartis see Frestil waiting for them in a table on a corner of the room , with him , are a taciturn Dwarf and a Shadar-kai woman.
Frestil greets them fondly ,and after the presentations are made among the two groups , where they learn that the Dwarf is Thoradin´s Cousin , and the Shadar-kai woman is Darlaxle´s girlfriend ,his two agents in Lyrabar , they all start to recount their tales , learning from Frestil the novelties of the surface and his fight against the Abolethic Sovereignity and in return telling him of their journey in the Underdark after stepping thru the Portal , back in the Dalelands.
The Captain is delighted with the news they bring , being nevertheless cautious ,cause if they are true, they can deal a huge blow on the Aboleth´s. He remembers tales of the Wizard Andhova and her work against Aberrant creatures , and he also knows the story of the 7 stones , although believed to be a myth . As Nermathed and Mindartis , suspected , he has in his possession the Stone that enables to track Aberrant creatures , the one they got from the Selune Sisters, and he tells them that the last element of the ritual , was recently recovered by the other members on the Swift White Dragon in Aglarond, and is easily acquirable .
It will take some time to get everything ready , but he thinks they might be able to do the ritual in the Greengrass day , in one and a half month time , where the magical alignament of stars is stronger, and if they could clear Ondlespur of their enemies , it would be great , since there are sites of ancient power in the small village. He will arrange for the retrieving of the two, Stones , in Prespur and in Aglarond , and they should get the Korvald stone in possession of the Lord Bronlin in Ondlespur .He also thinks that Andhova´s plan , to get the Portal open in the lighthouse is a good one , and that they should try to accomplish it , because that might mean that the Company will probably acquire an important edge against their foes ,with her amazing powers of transportation.
The news of fights in the Underdark , seem to favor them for the time being , and the fact that the Luminous Society is a front for Drow plots , doesn´t surprise him , since Lyrabar is a veritable nest of spiders , with the constant struggle for power amongs the Thieves Guild. Because of this, having one ally among the struggling forces might be good , they just need to be careful , and find a way to get into Ondlespur whithout attracting to much attention.
With all their talk , most of the day has passed, and when they depart ways , it´s almost evening , nevertheless , Frestil doesn´t leave whitout making Znog , Perryn, Aethan, Brastil and Gonsarth , full members of the Swith Dragon , in recognition of their work already .
After this , the party goes to the Luminous Society to get their well earned reward for killing so many demons.
Kelrek is delighted in seing them alive , and gratefully gives them their money for the killings. As they are chating , an aging men approaches them , and starts talking to Kelrek nervously.
“Are this the Adventurers you , Van Deesbrock ,and the good Haldar spoke of?”
“Indeed they are Lord Gultenov” , says Kelrek , “I didn´t knew where they were , but, as Tymora wished it , they appeared just now. Right when you were paying us another visit.”
“My friends , let me introduce you Lord Gultenov , one of the patrons of the Luminous Society, and a Merchant of renoum in Lyrabar ,and he is in dire need of your skills”, says Kelrek to the Company.
“There is no time to loose, so I will get right to the point. I have lost contact with my only daughter, Salma, who was recently wedded to Lord Bronlin. I have heard of cultists being seen around his estate,in Ondlespur, yet she does not give notice of them in any of her reports. I fear for my daughter’s safety, and I beg you to find her and bring her back home.”speaks Gultenov.
“I am prepared to pay each of you a generous amount for your efforts. I will give you half now and the rest when you return with my daughter,” Lord Gultenov intones, as he tosses a small bag onto their table. The familiar clank of coins sounds from the leather pouch.
He picks up an ornately wrapped box and hands it to the party, saying, “You are to give this to Salma, and only Salma. You must wait for her to open the package and listen carefully to her response. If she says ‘My father is so thoughtful,’ that is a signal that she is in danger. You must do all in your power to get her to safety.
“Now, I am sure you have questions. Make them brief. The safe return of my daughter is your only goal, and the sooner you are on your way, the better.”
He then answers their questions , saying that the marriage was to shore up an fake alliance between his house and Bronlin’s ,he grudgingly admits the marriage was a perilous move.
Gultenov suspects Bronlin’s involvement in the Fraternity of Tharos. He mentions vague rumors from travelers that tell of cultists in the area around Bronlin’s estate, but ,with all spies being found dead whitout finding answers , his daughter came with the plan to marry Bronlin , so that she could find this anwers. Gultenov says , once more that he knows it was a huge risk , but her daughter is very courageous and determined in her fight against the Fraternity of Tharos , who killed her mother ,and his wife. Salma has been writing regularly to her father for the last month since she married. Her letters are coded reports on affairs and activities of her husband is engaged in, though until then she had uncovered nothing suspicious or troubling. But, her last letter, a week ago ,mentioned possible cultists near the estate, and she felt she needed to find out more, dispite Bronlin order of extra security on her.
Gultenov fears his daughter’s subterfuge has been uncovered and she is in danger. Since he is not sure , he does not want it known that Salma was spying, so he thinks that hiring adventurers , who might fake to be passing by Ondlespur , to deliver a present, rather than rely on his house guards , shouldn´t arouse to many suspictions.
The party sees in this the means to get to Ondlespur whitout arousing any suspictions also , and so , decides to accept the job .
After a good night´s sleep , they depart to Ondlespur.
As they move further from the city limits, scattered fields and settlements give way to the gently rolling hills and thickets of trees that dot the landscape. This peaceful setting is in stark contrast to the distress and tension etched on the faces of the few travelers they met along the way.
As they approach a small merchant caravan, on the second day of their travel , one of the mercenaries hired to escort the wagons, eyes them warily, his hand resting uneasily on the pommel of his sword.
Well-armed and armored, this dark-haired man is all muscle, and all business. His deep green eyes study the group closely to determine if they are friend or foe.
Jerric introduces himself as the leader of the mercenary group hired to guard the three-wagon caravan from New Sarshel. He indicates the trip was a perilous one, fraught with danger at every turn and that there were roaming bands of bandits seen along the way, some accompanied by demons.
He proudly boasts that he and his guards scared off all attackers, keeping the caravan safe against seemingly insurmountable odds. Jerric informs the party that a favored tactic of the thieves is to pretend to be a traveler in need of assistance and then lead well-meaning citizens who stop to offer aid into a trap and he urges the Company to be cautious in their travels, to stay to the main roads and to make haste through the wilderness, stopping for nothing and no one.
The Company easily sees him as a boisterous fellow, not to be given credit.
But , on the 5th day of their travel , after the party carefully avoided Mistrenpost and his now closer to Ondlespur , comes across , further into the hills and around a bend , an old man struggling to repair a broken wheel on his cart. He is positioned to the side of the road, close to a dense thicket of trees. The setting is similar to what Jerric warned of.
The old man gives up and stands on shaky legs. He brushes off his patched tunic, and then runs a weathered, wrinkled hand through his silver hair. As the party approachs, he turns to them and calls them out for help and presents himself as Mattaus. The party , after assuring it isn´t a trap , helps the old man , and learns that he just escaped , along with some other refugees , mainly children , from Ondlespur. He is headed for Mistrenpost in seek of refuge for his fellow friends. Since Lord Bronlin took possession of the village ,he brought in his personal guard ,and he slowly started assassinating all who opposed him , then the ones that were of a different religion, and finally everyone that wasn´t to his liking. He spared only the Haflings and some Gnomes , who were easier to control, and some humans , that he kept for his service , like Mattaus. All of the habitants that were Dwarves , Elves and other sentient races were killed.
Mattaus , working within the house , quickly discovered that Lord Bronlin was there on behalf of the Fraternity of Tharos , to get possession of the mine , so as to finance their activities and to use the population of the village for their demonic rituals.
Using a momentary distraction of the guards , he gathered some children and his wife , went to the farms outside of town that were abandoned, found one old wagon and stray horse and escaped.
He tells the Company that Ondlespur has a strong wall surrounding it , and it´s difficult to enter. There is a first line of defense , some 5km´s from the main gate , made of Watchtowers, stones and hedges , that isolates the peninsula of Ondlespur . In between the two places , there are some woods and , now , abondened farms. All of the farming used to feed the village is made in the lower areas , where the sea receded 100 years ago , and that revealed to be , after the salt evaporated ,fertile ground for some plantations.This area is heavily guarded because that´s where the main force of the “slaves “ are held. The only habitants in the village prope , are the Halflings used to mine , the humans that serve in Bronlin estate, the Ilmater priests who tend the wounded , the guards ,and the cultists who tend the new Temple to some evil entity.And finally , of course , the poor wife of Lord Bronlin , the beautiful Lady Salma.
“What made such a beautiful and young girl , with such a good soul , marry the despicable Bronlin , is a mistery to me!!” , says Mattaus.
After fixing his wagon , the party leaves , and decides to enter the village using their initial ruse. Using their diplomacy , they easily convince the guards of both walls , the outer defense , and the main one , of their mission.
The Company uses the time of the voyage between the walls to send Nermathed , Brastil and Nebin to stealthly and rapidly discover anything they can. What they gather is consistent to what Mattaus has told them already and so , their only option , is to go and see Salma as soon as possible.
After being inside the city proper , they see a city that has parts where all is well-kept , and others were all is abandoned , although not destroyed , at the execption of a Tower in ruins amongst a small wood and some Temples with some extensions of destruction.
Bronlin’s estate looms large over the city surrounding it and besides the Lighthouse . Things seem calm and there is no sign of trouble as they approach it , behind it , the formidable walls that protect the village looms guarded.
They are ushered quickly to the big Mansion, but being such a big group , they are told that not everyone is allowed inside at the same time , so Gonsarth and Nebin stay outside with some guards while the others are led inside and are bid to wait for Lord Bronlin , by one of it´s servants.
The room is ample and shows signs of wealth. After a small wait , and without warning, the door swings open and Lord Bronlin glides into the room, a handful of attendants on his heels. The young man’s dark hair and eyes stand out sharply against his pale but fit complexion. “My apologies for the delay, I understand you have a package for my wife?” he says as he looks them over. “She is just returned from a shopping trip in New Sarshel and is very tired from the travel. She wishes not to be disturbed, so if you would give the box to me, I will make sure she gets it.”
Seeing the Company denying his order , claiming orders to deliver the package only to Lady Salma , Lord Bronlin sighs and says, “Very well—I suppose I cannot fault you for following Lord Palentov’s orders. Wait here for Lady Salma; she will be along shortly. Now, if you will excuse me, I have matters to attend to.”
With the thanks of the Company for his comprehension, Bronlin and his entourage exit, leaving them alone in the room.
After an unsettling wait , and whitout warning , some panels in the walls open up , and they are attacked by 3 Archers , a Cultist and 2 Winter wolves.
With the element of surprise the Cultists have the initial advantage , but after some time , the battle ends with the easy victory of the Party.
The party quickly tries to find a way out , but all the ways are barred , until they ear the sound of a the lock of the outside wall being picked , and they see Nebin´s face appearing behind it.
Gonsarth they says that they were attacked outised , but have quickly and soundlessly defeated their enemies , and that they saw a small entourage leaving the mansion ,with a woman being dragged in chains , heading for the Garden Maze nearby.
After inspecting the surrounding area , whitout attracting to much attention, the Company decides to enter the maze , leaving Perryn , Nebin and Gonsarth behind to guard the Maze´s only exit.
The Company soon learns that the Maze has powerful magic in it , but , with the skills of all the party , they finally make it through the maze and find cultists in red and black robes chanting around a circle of stones where some human dead bodies are bound. In the center they see Salma dressed in a dark ceremonial gown, her listless body bound by chains to an obsidian altar. As Bronlin looks on, a priest hovers over her, his arms held high. Suddenly, a wisp of silvery mist curls from Salma’s body, rising to the clouds amassing overhead. The priest laughs.
That is all too much for the Swift White Dragon Company , and they leave the security of their hiding , and jump into the attack.
Sadly for them , their rash move turns out to be a dangerous one , because , laying in wait , behind some brushes , were more enemies , and so , besides the mad Priest and Bronlin, the bodies tied to the pillars start to move , and they are attacked by a Rot scarab swarm , a Viper swarm , a Draegloth and a Solamith.
The ranged power of the Solamith is awesome , and wreacks havoc amongst the Company, while the rest of their foes reveals to be also very powerful. Znog takes the lead and singlehandly delays Bronlin and the Draegloth from entering the fray. Nermathed , Aethan and Brastil deal with the Swarms at first , and then start hammering the other foes. Mindartis , first deals quickly with the Mad Priest , and then starts haressing the Solamith.
The death of the Priest turns out to be a major setback for their enemies , because it disrupted the summoning ritual being made , kills the Undead´s and deals damage to their other assailants.
Neverthless , when the battle ends , with the victory of the Party , only Mindartis escaped from being near death´s cold hands.
As the last cultist falls, a thunderclap explodes around them. The clouds above the altar coalesce into a swirling purple portal. Tendrils of energy reach out and twist around the fallen Undead figures, pulling them swiftly into the glowing opening. As the last cultist vanishes, the portal shrinks in on itself and disappears.
In the eerie calm that follows, the chains simply fall away from Salma, freeing her from the altar
The party leaved Bronlin alive,for interrogation where they discover the true name of his master, Morthak , the black eyes demon that keeps on attacking them .But , after discovering also a demonic ritual that binds the other cultists to Bronlin, Nermathed quickly jumps on him , and slashes his throat , much to Salma´s horror.
With this , all the cultists in the Village drop their weapons and their fervor and start escaping the village.
The Altar is now cold , and so after presentations are made between Salma and the party , where her striking beauty quickly develops a struggle for her attention between Brastil , Mindartis and Aethan, they all leave the Maze.
Outside , the rest is waiting , and they quickly relate their stories , because while the fight was going on inside the Maze , the rest of the party also had to fight , until the moment where the thunderclap was heard , and their enemies escaped towards the village gates.
It´s now the 4th day of the 2nd week of Ches, and the Swift White Dragon Company has the fate of an entire community on their hands…..

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