Prologue: Gates of Stone

Into the Maw
Tirna Umberfreeday

Being an account of the strange occurrences in Riot's Gate
during the Festival of Two Moons, in the 19th Annum Independencia
as told by Thalazzar

Sitting once more in the Bell & Dragon inn, Thalazzar smoked some cheap Dakar pipeweed absently perusing the pages of his spellbook, sorting out his thought regarding the events that had occurred that day. He still had some of his fine weed remaining but it was looking like there were darker days ahead that that weed would be needed for. This time yesterday he had thought little of demons, cultists or gnomes but tonight they weighed heavily on his mind.

It seemed clear that the quest to unravel the mysterious Dream of Horrors would force him to rely on his newfound companions a while longer. If the days ahead were filled with evil such as he witnessed today, he doubted some of his companions would long survive.

After being forced into cooperating with the authorities, the group acquired an additional burden to carry in the form of Corporal Pikett. Apparently the Corporal's duty was to add legitimacy to our efforts to reclaim the Hankuan's daughter Mei Mei. Thalazzar was little concerned about the watchman's presence as it seemed that Riot's Gate was so preoccupied with other conflicts that his group could pretty much do whatever they wished - a situation that Thalazzar had little problem with.

Thalazzar and his motley crew descended into the filth-ridden sewers to search for the Hankuan and her Gluttony Cultist captors. The gnome, constantly babbling her ridiculous thoughts out loud, proved to be quite a burden being incapable of even walking by herself in the sewer depths. Thankfully, Pikett made himself useful by carting her around and lending his ear to her chatter.

The first omen of dark things to come was when the group encountered a foul aberration covered in mouths and eyes, known as a gibbering mouther. While this creature proved quite the challenge for the group it was eventually felled by the warriors Pikett and Domaldi. Domaldi did demonstrate considerable skill of arms in that encounter and notably faced the aberration with little fear. The beggar, in contrast, demonstrated that he was useful only as a sacrifice, throwing himself into the maw of danger time and again with little regard for the consequences. Over the course of the day, the beggar needed to be prevented from bleeding to death several times. At least by opening his mouth and exercising his flagellant behaviour, our enemies were distracted enough to ensure that Thalazzar and the others attracted less attention from the mouther and other horrors.

Tiberio continued to be the one that proved his respect in Thalazzar's eyes. He was the one that kept the team from fleeing from the gibbering mouther and the one that spotted the entrance to the cultist's lair. The lair itself yielded new evil. The cultists, in their perversion, had manacled several humans on stone slabs and had been feeding them vile sustenance to the point that their obesity spilled onto the floor, preventing one from even identifying where man or woman met the pathetic creature beside them. In the centre of this horror was a pit filled with gurgling grey ooze.

The cultists fought to protect their lair, but ultimately tried to flee under cover of magical darkness. Domaldi and Pikett fought with valor while the beggar eviscerated himself once again. Surprising, even the gnome contributed to the fight launching several bolts from a curiously modified crossbow. Thalazzar, while still disgusted with the gnome, found himself wondering if he might have something in common with this creature and her love of mechanics.

Although Thalazzar managed to slay a cultist himself and help apprehend another, the leader of the cult managed to escape in the confusion. One cultist demonstrated his fanaticism by jumping into the pit of ooze rather than face our gang. Further, as the remainder of the group pondered what to do in order to save the obviously doomed mounds of flesh, Tiberio and Thalazzar proceeded to the business at hand, freeing the savable prisoners, Mei Mei first among them, and searching the cult's stores. The other acquisitions were Grist, a capable seeming orc-blood who later proved to have mysterious connections with the town guard, and Drizzen, a half elven merchant who had been sold into captivity by his Dripping Blade enemies.

It fell upon Thalazzar, Pikett and the gnome to return to the surface as they were the only ones fit enough to travel. Grist, reliably enough, volunteered to stay in the lair and protect those that were wounded in case more cultists returned. Once more above ground, they rendered the captive cultist to the authorities, returned the Hankuan to her family and gathered assistance from the priests of Heironious before returning to help rescue his companions.

The end result of the day's struggle was the same tapestry that Thalazzar had seen previously. Indeed, the tapestry did contain images from the Dream of Horrors and it was determined that, while not Hankuan in origin, it had been acquired from a mysterious Hankuan bard known as Wooden Toad. It seems that this character brought the tapestry with him during the arrival of the first Dragon Fleet several years prior and that he now lived in Seluna Port in proximity to the remaining Hankuan flotilla. It seemed that tomorrow would bring more than just a celestial event, it would also bring a decision as to whether Thalazzar and his companions would take the long journey across the sea together, prolonging their association into possibly unbearable periods of time. In any event, based on what he had encountered today, Thalazzar decided that tomorrow it would be wise to memorize some spells…

Next! More Chapter 2
A partial account of the same events from Nimbus

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