Woke up this morning in the torture chamber on the second floor of the temple. Our prisoner was still secure on the rack (not tightened, of course, just restrained).
Spending the night tied up seemed to have improved his mood. He actually started to answer some questions, starting with his name: Derrick.
Still a little wary, but he told us some useful information. He was taken to the “snake thing” by Abramo, and “she” wrapped herself around him and told him he was hers.
That’s how it works, apparently. Abramo and his servants would decide on a victim, and that family would be kidnapped and taken to the “snake thing” – in a cave in the Rushmoor swamp. Then, they would give Her their possessions willingly…they were snared, just like Abramo.
Except Derrick somehow wasn’t charmed – but he played along, and sometimes got paid for helping kidnap or shake down people. Sometimes they would even work on travelers passing through.
He didn’t remember our gnome, Neeblebluer (spl?). He’d only been to the swamp once, so couldn’t give us better directions.
The only other useful things he told us were these: Abramo sent him into the temple last night, to scout and “maybe some of us wouldn’t wake up in the morning”.
He also gave us the names of some of the people on the other side. We already knew the blacksmith and militia constable were with Abramo, but “the widow” was “on the list” to be changed…and so were “everyone at the Slumbering Serpent”, and a couple guys who lived by the mayor, and the farmer who lived near the inn.
We seemed to have pumped him dry, and he was pretty badly beat up, so we had a group huddle to decide what to do with him.
We finally voted to let him go (he wouldn’t have a lot of incentive to go back to Abramo, and he’s not in a condition to fight anyway), and we’d escort him to the edge of town for safety.
Fierce discussion, but we finally decided to keep the key we got off him. He says it’s to his stuff in the Golden Grain, the second inn of the town. We’re not going to loot it (not only does that seem like overkill, but he got a gleam in his eye when he told us that made us think the Golden Grain wasn’t a good place to go), but as Lancell pointed out, this way he’ll have even less incentive to stick around here.
While I got the prisoner off the rack, Lancell and Ezekiel beheaded some of the goblins lying around on the floor (we’ve got to be tidier in future) and loaded them into one of the coffins in the chamber (why are there fresh, new coffins lying around? I wish I knew).
We let Derrick out at the gate, and went to collect more monster heads from the basement (plus some skeleton heads from the skeletons we fought).
Raven made a detour on the second floor. One of the rooms up there is a library, and when we cleared the temple one of the times, we found a book in there – a holy book to Merikka…defaced with ugly pictures and soiled.
He says he wants to get the illuminations repaired. I think it’ll also be another piece of evidence that the caretakers of Merikka’s house have abused their duties.
Lugging the coffin full of monster heads, we sallied out into the town (Raven barred the gate behind us and climbed the wall to rejoin us).
As we descended the hill of the temple in loose formation, one of the farmers who lives at the crossroads came onto his porch with a crossbow.
Perfect opportunity to panic, but we kept our cool and smiled and waved as we just walked on past down the road. He seemed relieved when we left; can’t blame him, can you? It’s not every day you see a band of weird strangers taking their coffin for an outing.
We got to the inn (Slumbering Serpent) without further problems, and I confided in Olwin, the innkeeper (he seemed to take to me earlier, which I’ll certainly be grateful for).
He agreed that lizardmen and goblins had no rightful business in the Temple of Merikka, and suggested we hide our coffin in his winery while he fetched the Mayor to come listen to our case.
Having nothing better to do, we had a late breakfast while we waited.
When the Mayor arrived, we showed him our evidence. If the pile of monster heads hadn’t been enough to convince him, the innkeeper’s wife brought in Cirilli, the poor girl Abramo kept in a cage. He agreed that this was terrible, and should be dealt with.
What we should do about it, though, was another question.
Being back at the inn meant we could reunite with Jill our magic-user (looking none the worse for not being in combat the last few days), and we asked her what might possibly have been cast on Abramo and the others to “change” them.
Could we fix them? Would they never be “themselves” again, and we’d have to kill them?
Obviously, the Mayor was not happy about slaughtering half his town (especially when we weren’t sure who was on which side). It didn’t seem like the best idea to us, either, but I don’t know if we would stand a chance against this “snake lady thing” in the marsh, or if confronting her would free the townspeople, or even what the possibilities were!
While the Mayor and Lancell went to visit “the widow” and advise her to seek safety at the Slumbering Serpent (better than living alone, after all), the rest of us headed to talk to the mysterious hermit behind the inn.
Ezekiel has a “feeling” about this hermit that he can somehow help us.
I said, “Oh, Ezie, you and your prophetic feelings.”
He said, “This isn’t one of those, but I still think we should seek his help!”
Well, I think he’s right there. Jill isn’t high enough level to advise us, much less combat this thing, and the Mayor didn’t have anybody else he could think of who could be our ally.
The hermit lives in a shack of sorts, off in the trees behind the inn, right on the west edge of town.
He was noncommittal when we first showed up, but showing him our monster head collection (and talking about our planning with the Mayor) seemed to break the ice a bit.
We left our coffin in hiding by his house, while he agreed to accompany us to the blacksmith.
The Plan was for Ezekiel to be the distraction and pretend to shop for a shield, while Ramne (the hermit guy) observed the blacksmith from a distance and tried to see what kind of effect was on him. Charm spell? Racial domination spell (from some strange snake/reptile race that Ezekiel had heard of)? Could we counter-act it, and free the people from this bondage?
Well, we set off, trying to keep pace with the shuffling steps of the…er…old gentleman. (He might be reading over my shoulder, you know!)
We passed the house that’s just north of the SS, and the man on the porch greeted Ramne. They seemed to be friends.
The guy was doing something with his hand.
And that’s when I remembered my training, from way back in the village with my Ranger Master.
“It’s like being in a secret club of cool people,” he told me. “This is the Ranger sign. If they make this sign, then they’re a Ranger, too. You’d be surprised where you discover a brother ranger, out there in the wilds of the world.”
The man beckoned me over to talk.
Ezekiel didn’t want me to (probably worried the guy was a fake, or something) but sometimes you have to live dangerously. I told Ezie and Kelsier I’d catch up with them.
When they moved out of earshot, Alan (that’s the man’s name) asked, “What do you want with old Ramne?”
I said, “It’s a long story, but we’re hoping he can help us, and the Mayor.”
He nodded. “I trust him. Good luck.”
I said, “Thanks,” and I warned him not to trust Abramo.
This was probably the “farmer” on the list of potential victims (that we got from Derrick this morning).
Anyway, if Alan’s a Ranger, then he’s a Good guy. That doesn’t mean he’ll trust us (at least not right away) but he’s another potential ally.
As our group approached the smithy, Ramne “the old guy” hung back in the shelter of the building, while Ezekiel and the others advanced.
The blacksmith and his two boys (presumably his sons) were hard at work.
Ezie hadn’t even gotten a word out when the smith exploded in curses and yells, trying to rush him (his sons held him back).
Ezekiel and Kelsier and Mikael all tried to be reasonable and calm him down, but he just got more and more worked up.
I tried to keep an eye on how Ramne was doing, but it’s hard when you don’t know how this magic stuff works. Plus he has a naturally un-flapped face, so I wasn’t sure if he’d figured out what the spell was or not.
“Please,” said Ezekiel. “I only wanted to see your merchandise. I don’t think we’ve even met before.”
The sons lost their grip on their father’s arms…hard to see from where I stood, but it looked like they were surprised by something.
The blacksmith rushed forward, and swung his hammer. Raven was the first one standing in his path, and smashed to the ground in a dramatic sprawl.
I barely registered Ramne’s look of surprise before I raced forward, not even sure what I was going to do.
Ezekiel charged in and body-blocked Raven. Kelsier whipped out his bow and launched an arrow, catching the smith and dropping him to the ground with an ugly wound.
While he was growling and trying to rise, suddenly he crumbled to the ground, snoring gently.
By the time I recovered from my shock, I had reached the others. The two sons were still standing in the shop, staring in perplexity.
“I’m bandaging him,” I told them, approaching carefully. “Here are my hands. Here are my bandages. It’s going to be okay; I’m going to bandage him.”
So I patched up the blacksmith, and then we tried talking to his sons.
Their names are Ben and Josh. They seemed confused, and maybe scared.
“Father hasn’t been the same since…”
Since what? They didn’t say. Josh ran inside quickly, and Ben kept repeating, “Was that real?”
They had all been taken to the “snake thing”. Ben says his father has always had a temper, but he’s been acting…he’s always had a temper…was that real?
That kind of thing. It mostly just confirmed what we had already known.
When Ben went inside to take care of Josh, we bundled the blacksmith onto his smithy porch and dragged Raven behind the privacy of the corner of the building.
Lancell lay hands on Raven, and Raven recovered himself a bit. Still, that was quite a nasty crunch from that smithing hammer.
Apparently, Ramne “the old guy” figured out how to remove whatever charm is on these people, but he says they won’t necessarily be themselves again…or, “fixing” it won’t necessarily have the effect we hoped.
Plus, even he can’t fling magic around willy-nilly, and de-charming all the cultists (without them figuring out what we’re up to and escalating the confrontation) might not be an option.
Gotta remember, there are a lot of innocent folks who just live here, and aren’t involved at all (yet).
We have some more people to interview (like those two guys who live by the Mayor) and we have to take the findings of our experiment to the Mayor and query him for advice.
This Evil monkey-business (whatever we call it) is not going to be dismantled in one day.
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