Dear Diary…mopping up

ALERT: May Contain Spoilers for the Adventure: “Against the Cult of the Reptile God”

We ain’t very sneaky.

After leaving the elves’ house, we sauntered down to the Golden Grain Inn. Ezekiel bought himself some wine and talked to the innkeeper (Bertram) while Raven and I examined the fireplace (strangely fire-less) and the other two spread out through the common room.

The blacksmith’s son had told us about a secret signal the cultists used to identify each other – putting your palm to your forehead – so Ezekiel did that to the innkeeper.

Innkeeper excused himself, conferred with his cook, and went back behind the bar.

Ezekiel and Lancell hired a room for the night and went upstairs with the innkeeper while Raven and I pretended not to know them and tried talking to one of the men drinking at a table.

The man said that the GG wasn’t as good as the other inn (poor food and lousy prices) but he was kind of in the habit of coming here. He also seemed scared off once I started talking; Kelsier would have done a much better job.

Well, Ezie and Lancell came back downstairs, so Raven and I casually left. We grouped up out of sight around the weaver’s shop, and hashed out plans.

Ezekiel and Lancell had been busy. Once left alone in their room, they discovered a secret door that led into a passage that led into all the other guest rooms (no way to open the doors from those rooms – it was simply a route from their room to the others).

They also found a footlocker that fit the key we looted off of Derrick the Assassin. That had a load of platinum and gold, so I guess Derrick wasn’t doing too bad for himself. Wonder where he’s gotten to by now…

Anyway, we wondered whether Bertram the Innkeeper thinks Ezekiel is Derrick’s replacement, since he made the secret hand gesture, as so he put him in Derrick’s old room (that has secret access to all the other guests).

We decided to send in someone as bait, to see 1) if someone tries to kidnap them in the night, or 2) if Ezekiel is expected to kidnap them.

Lancell didn’t want it to be Raven, because putting a Monk of Merikka in there might complicate things – and I pointed out that I’d been seen hanging out with the monk.

So we picked Mikael, since he’s skinny and looks less threatening than some.

Ezekiel headed in to explain that his “goody-two-shoes” paladin friend preferred to stay at the Slumbering Serpent, and to have dinner.

The three rest of us sorted out our observation posts to keep an eye on all the visible exits, and towards sundown Mikael headed into the inn.

I told them both to scream if they need help. Mikael gave me a dirty look.

****

Well, that was disappointing.

Apparently everybody had a quiet night. When Mikael and Ezekiel joined us after breakfast, they said nothing exciting or disturbing had happened at all.

Well, except that when Ezekiel peeked through the secret door to check on Mikael, Mikael poked him with his staff.

Nobody was kidnapped, and from what we can tell, nobody tried to kidnap anybody.

Group decision is to head to the mayor’s and talk things over with him.

****

Mayor Zacharius has confirmed Dorian and Lluwelin’s story that they were his investigative agents.

He listened to the failure of our trap/experiment at the Golden Grain, and asked to have the head of Explictika Deflias to put on a pike in town. We theorized that seeing this evidence will encourage everyone that the cult is well and truly dead. Those who were afraid can be comforted…and perhaps those who are just acting as they were expected to act can be reassured that the ground-rules have changed, and they can return to “normal.” (Note that Ezekiel made the secret cult gesture to Bertram – not the other way around.)

Oh, yes – Mayor Zacharius was also very worried that the village’s militia is in sad shape at the moment. The constable has resigned, after his participation in the cult, and a lot of the townspeople are gone altogether.

He asked if we would stay on for a while and help defend Orlane from bandits. Lancell volunteered to do his part until the people were in better shape to defend themselves, and Ezekiel piped right up and suggested we write to our friends from Ertuli and see if they’d like to settle here, to bring the population up and such.

(I lived in Ertuli longer than he did. There’s a lot of ancestral land back there. I don’t know. I do feel bad that we didn’t get answers to our goblin/bugbear problems. And if they can’t go back because of the invaders, they’ll need some place to live. Orlane is nice and all, but it’s not the mountains of home. Anyway, Ezekiel’s going to write and let them know.)

When we took our leave of the mayor, we remembered that Kelsier was planning to leave for Hochoch this morning. So we sent Raven ahead (because he’s really fast) to have Kelsier wait a bit, while we headed to the jeweler in town to appraise our jewelry and gems.

[long list of numbers and figures]

We went back to the Slumbering Serpent, where we found Kelsier surrounded by a huge meal and a crowd of rapt listeners. Apparently he was telling how Ezekiel got killed…and making it sound really interesting.

He joined us upstairs after his meal, and we divvied up our treasure. We’ll convert a lot of the gold/coins into gems so they’re easier to carry…

[several pages of numbers and calculations]

Okay, so looks like we’ll all get 50 gold pieces, plus 1,160 gp worth of gems/jewelry. We’ll make a trip to Ramne’s hut to give Jill her share, and we made sure to pay the faithful Olwin for the use of his room(s).

Ezekiel dashed out some letters on behalf of all of us (that is, the three of us from Ertuli) and asked Kelsier to deliver them when he goes to Hochoch.

Oh, yes. We mentioned returning to Hochoch while talking with the mayor, and how it would take three weeks to get there…but he said it was three days. Apparently we got a little lost when we took three weeks to get here…but a trip of three days is much less formidable that we had feared.

(When he asked how that happened, I pointed at Lancell – because he was navigating at the time, and not me! How was I to know he was leading us wrong when I’d never been here before?)

****

While we were having supper, who should come in to the Slumbering Serpent than Bertram Bezuwell, from the Golden Grain. (People have been dropping in all evening to thank us for killing the evil snake lady – apparently the mayor stuck her head at the crossroads by his house.)

Bertram came over to us (looking a little sheepish, but then so did I) and asked Ezekiel, “So, did I pass?”

Apparently Ezekiel really freaked him out when he did that palm-to-the-forehead gesture, and he (Bertram) didn’t know what to do. But now he’s been reassured that everything’s back to normal (and that we’re not enemies)…and he asked us to take a look in his cellar, because there was something down there he wasn’t equipped to deal with.

Well, we’d been warned by others about his basement, so this sounded like exactly the kind of thing we should deal with.

Kelsier came with us and we followed the innkeeper back to the Golden Grain, into the kitchen, and down stairs into the cellar.

At the back of the cellar was a secret door that led to a room with rows of benches. He said they used it “for meetings” (again looking embarrassed).

At the end of that room was a sturdy barred door.

Lancell said we’d take it from here, and Bertram went back upstairs while we opened the door.

Beyond, narrow, twisty passages wound back into the darkness. Ezekiel led the way with Lancell and his shield of perpetual light while I lit my torch (I guess this is why you sleep in your gear, so that you’re never without something you might need).

Really cold down there. We came to a junction and picked one tunnel, trying to stay close in the five-foot-wide passage. Mikael’s so tall, he had to walk along with his shoulders hunched so he wouldn’t bang his head.

Around a corner, a huge snake dropped down onto Ezekiel. It was hard to see from way back in the line, but I think he warded it off with his shield.

Mikael cast Faery Fire on it, while Ezekiel and Lancell tried to hit it. Raven zipped past us in a flash of robes, and swung at it with his monk hand gestures.

It was pretty slippery for being so big. Even when Kelsier ducked forward and stabbed at it with his magic short sword (bonus against scaly things) he couldn’t hit it.

Finally, Mikael got in a bone-jarring whack with his staff, and I stabbed it with my sword…but by then it had bitten Ezekiel and started winding around him.

By the time we killed it, he was white-faced and blue around the lips. When we hacked the snake body off him, I had to give him one of the healing potions from his belt (glad he thought to label them after we identified them…it’d be really embarrassing to give your dying comrade a love potion by mistake).

With Ezekiel back on his feet, we continued on – except that Lancell took the light-giving shield and went in front. It was still unnaturally cold.

Entering another little room or side-passage, Lancell said, “Eek! Undead!”

Ezekiel whipped out his sheep toy holy symbol, and whatever was in there groaned unhappily and turned around.

This room was much more suited to marksmanship, so while the melee fighters were attacking the backs of the three ghouls, I tried shooting them (made my second shot – shadows are tricky things).

Mikael cast Faery Fire again, and Raven went to work with his dagger. Even with all that, it was way harder to kill three retreating and cowering ghouls than you might think.

I guess we can just be glad they weren’t attacking back.

With them dead (y’know, extra dead) the temperature started returning to normal. We explored the rest of the tunnels but didn’t find anything except a huge ivory statue of Her.

Lancell said it was made from at least three chunks of ivory, and weighed 800 pounds if it weighed an ounce. Especially given the cramped conditions, there was no way we were getting it out in one piece…and Raven’s always in favor of smashing statues of the snake lady.

So Ezekiel used his mace and broke it into more manageable chunks, and we packed those out. I suppose we’ll have to sell them and divide that money, too! (No more math! I refuse!)

Bertram seemed very relieved when we emerged, and expressed thanks that we had gotten rid of everything we could find down there (he said his memory was foggy, so he wasn’t sure exactly what-all was down there, and kept the door barred on principle).

We said he could set his mind at rest, and hopefully this would improve his professional reputation.

With that final mystery solved, we can get a good night’s rest at the SS. Tomorrow, we head back to Explictika’s lair – the Mud Pit – to clear out any remaining monsters and made sure there are no remaining prisoners to be rescued.

After all, we’ve already been gone almost a week, and we don’t want any poor townspeople starving or being eaten before we can get back.

Hopefully Olwin will let us leave our chest here again, because I’m not keen on lugging around all my treasure, even though it’s not all gold anymore. Especially if we have to lug Ezekiel’s body on the way back again, you know what I’m sayin’?


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