Session 5: In Which a High Priest is Assassinated and a Barkeep Takes an Arrow to the Knee

Sunday, Elephant 21st through Friday, Elephant 26th, 734

The party spends the week resting at the Tower of Madarua to recover from their expedition to the Isle of Death. During this time, they convince the High Spearmaiden to meet on neutral ground with the leaders of the Brothers of Gorm and Magi of Usamigaras. They decide to hold the meeting in the entrance to the Pyramid at the bottom of the shaft through which they first entered the city. The meeting is set for Monday, Elephant 29th.

Also, those members of the party who had been forced to eat Cynidicean mushrooms during their captivity eat well enough that they are no longer ‘shroom-addled. Brother Aubrey decides that the adventurer’s life is not for him, and retires to spread the word of the Gods Above among the people of Cynidicea [his player decided that old-school gaming just isn’t for him and bowed out of the game]. And the party pays members of the Spearmaidens’ congregation to spread word that the surfacers are looking to hire servants and mercenaries, and that those interested should inquire at the Tower of Madarua on Sunday.

Saturday, Elephant 27th, 734

Mercedes recovers from her injuries, Thjolstoff’s strength has returned to normal, and everyone has regained all their missing hit points. Everyone, that is, except Odgrim and Simbra-Nar, who are still recovering from their injuries. Milnos-Sim completes the sale of the rare books recovered from the Isle of Death, netting 1210gp for his efforts. Now that they have something to account for, Mercedes player is appointed party treasurer. After dividing the treasure, the PCs disguise themselves, slip out of the Tower of Madarua, past the zargonian patrols that are keeping watch on the Spearmaidens’ stronghold on behalf of the Chosen, and spend some time carousing to gather rumors. They learn the following:

The Temple of Zargon has received reinforcements – a large High Zargonian warband led by a chief called Zed-Yog the Skulltaker. High Zargonians are the tall, skinny ape-men you faced in the Temple. The warband was sent by Thrak-Sha the Butcher, who is the ruler of Zarakadur and a vassal of Amnos-Sar, the High Priest of Zargon.

The Chosen have increased the number of Zargonian patrols in the city, and are keeping the Tower of Madarua, Fortress of Gorm, and Stronghold of Usamigaras under surveillance.

Bozev Begedinusht and Rubylla-Sim, one of his serving girls, were arrested by the High Priest’s beastmen on Thursday, Elephant 25th, 734.

Bozev, Rubylla, and Peg-Legged Dunstan are being held in the dungeons of the Temple of Zargon and will be sacrificed to Zargon on Wednesday, Horse 1st, 734.

The Chosen of Zargon say that the surfacers come from Ter-Bakar, Cynidicea’s ancient rival city-state, which lies far to the west across the Wastelands on the surface. The Chosen say the strangers are here to finally destroy Cynidicea, but others say they have come to save them, just as Sabban-Ka came from a strange, foreign land to save the city long ago.

It is rumored that the surfacers traveled to the Isle of Death in search of knowledge. They say one of them traded his tongue to some dark entity in return for a method of destroying Zargon forever.

Sunday, Elephant 28th, 734

Potential recruits arrive at the Tower in response to the party’s advertising. Milnos-Sim hires Sablain-Xee, a light infantryman with a big, bushy beard and a 17 STR, and Amab-Rah, an 18-year-old siege engineer. Aisha Alendi hires Lunatha-Sim, a heavy infantrywoman with insatiable curiosity and a beastman’s bloodline. Spinello hires Meldotia-Nar,  a light infantrywoman who is obviously quite enamored of her new employer, and Ablos-Nar (no relation), an extremely confidant, middle-aged normal man with 5 silver rings in his lower lip. The bard would also have hired Selatha-Xee, a precocious 17-year-old girl trained in seduction, but Aisha, disgusted with his womanizing, sabotaged his efforts.

The PCs pay their new henchmen their monthly wage, then all of them pay for a month’s comfortable lifestyle for themselves and as many henchmen as they can afford. This way, they can avoid having to eat tainted Cynidicean food for the next month. Some of them also make donations to the Speamaidens and Magi, partially to repay them for the assistance they have given the party, but mostly to start building an XP reserve.

Monday, Elephant 29th, 734

After picking up the armor they ordered from the local smith, the party heads to the entrance to the Pyramid, and manages to avoid meeting any zargonian patrols along the way. At the meeting, the leaders of the 3 Lawful cults are very way of one another, but Spinello’s rousing oratory is able to convince them that they should band together, overthrow the Chosen of Zargon, and rule Cynidicea as a council composed of the leaders of the 3 cults and a representative of the PCs’ party. Well, they obviously aren’t too keen on the PCs being part of the ruling coalition, and it looks like each of them is already plotting how they are going to seize control for themselves, but it’s a start.

To prove their worth, the PCs decide to rescue the prisoners in the Temple of Zargon – among which are Aisha’s henchman Peg-Legged Dunstan, as well as the helpful Telkaynie barkeep. Aisha asks Poet’s help to perform some soothsaying to learn what she can about where the sacrifices are being kept and how they will be transported to Zargon’s lair. He is reluctant, but she convinces the little demon to help her ask 6 questions of the dark spirits in return for a promise to answer six of his questions truthfully at a later date.  Based on what she learns, and on a discussion of the layout of the Temple with the cult leaders, the PCs decide to break into the High Priest’s chambers on the Temple’s uppermost floor.

They leave behind the normal-man henchmen – who do not have the adventuring proficiency and therefore would have some trouble climbing a rope – and slink through the abandoned streets of Cynidicea to deserted alley behind the Temple. Thjolstoff scales the wall of the Temple’s lowest tier, manages to avoid being noticed by a pair of Chosen inside, and lowers a rope for the rest of the party. They repeat the procedure to get to the roof of the second tier, next to a narrow window that leads into the loft-style apartments of Amnos-Sar, the High Priest of Zargon.

No one seems to be inside, so the barbarian spends a turn hacking away the wooden bars placed across the window to keep the fire beetles out, and then the party squeezes through the window. They take a few minutes to loot a nice pair of bronze candlesticks and a decorative brass plaque depicting legendary Cynidicean hero-king Sabba-Ka in battle with lizard people. There is also a locked wooden chest, but they have no thief, so they leave it alone for now. Then, they hide and wait for Amnos-Sar to come to bed. When the 6th-level High Priest does arrive, three hours later, he hardly has time to register the fact that the bars on the window are broken before he is struck down by several arrows and an assassin’s sword.

Thjolstoff decapitates the High Priest’s corpse with his axe, then the party loots the body. They recover his brass Zargon mask and red robes of office, a fine red silk cloak, a vial containing a red liquid, a simple ring of red metal, a sword of black metal,  a steel dagger, and a ring of keys. The bard recognizes that the ring and the sword are made of dragonbone, as were the swords on the heroes of many tales. They determine that, of their companions, Spinello matches the High Priest most closely in height and build, so he dons the cloak, robe, and mask, and Mercedes does her best to disguise him as Amnos-Sar. The dragonbone sword goes to Thjolstoff, and the ring to Aisha. Mercedes takes the red potion and tastes it. No sooner has she done so than she begins to realize just how beautiful and wonderful Spinello is, much to Aisha’s chagrin. Finally, they take the key ring, open the chest, recover 3 stone of silver coins, semi-precious stones, and silver jewelry, hide the body in the chest, and lock it shut.

That done, the party heads down the stairs. The door at the bottom open into an empty hallway with windows along one side and locked doors on the other. They listen at the doors, and hear someone approaching the one at the end of the hall. They hide back up the stairs, and ambush the patrolling zargonian guard when he comes to investigate the open door. They quickly carry his body upstairs and shove it in the chest along with the High Priest’s.

After waiting a bit to make sure no one comes looking for the guard, the PCs quietly investigate the door he came though, and discover it leads to stairs leading down. They sneak down the stairs and ambush and slay the rest of the zargonian guards who were patrolling this area – another hallway with windows on one side and doors on the other – along with their dog and the Chosen who was leading them. The pair of Zargon cultists who Thjolstoff managed to sneak past while climbing the Temple come out of their room to investigate, but the PCs are too quick for them and cut them down before they can call for help or cast any spells.

The PCs loot the room of the last of the Chosen they slew, as well as several other rooms in the area that open with keys taken from enemies they defeated in previous sessions. They drag the bodies into one of the looted rooms, and lock the door. Then, realizing that the next level below them is the  gallery in the Fane of Zargon, and the doors at each end of this hallway probably lead to the stairs that lead up from the gallery. So they wait in ambush by each of the doors for more of the Chosen.

The first to arrive is a 4th level Chosen, far tougher than the 1st and 2nd level ones that have been leading the zargonian patrols. He is not surprised and begins loudly casting a spell. Fortunately, Aisha is too fast for him, and her Steeds of Slumber carry off his consciousness before he can complete it. Throlstoff decapitates the sleeping Chosen with his now obviously magical dragonbone sword, while one of the henchmen closes and locks the door. Before he closes it, they hear the shouts of alarm from below and the sounds of approaching zargonians.

The party retreats up the narrow stairway to the level above and holds position there, with Thjolstoff in front, Lunatha-Sim behind him with a spear, and several archers and spellcasters at the top of the stair. They make short work of the zargonian patrol as they come around the corner. But they hear more enemies approaching and retreat up the stairs, with Spinello – still disguised as Amnos-Sar – slamming and locking the door in front of the approaching High Zargonian patrol.

The High Zargonian leader pounds on the door, demanding to know what’s going on. Spinello pretends to be the High Priest, shouting “Assassins have infiltrated the building you fool! Guard all the entrances and search the whole building, starting at the bottom. And bring me the prisoners! I want to use them as shields.” Miraculously (boxcars on a reaction roll, plus a bard’s CHA bonus, and the fact that he’s talking to the leader of the High Zargonian reinforcements that have only been working for the High Priest for a week), the beastmen believe him, and head off to carry out his orders.

Not wasting any time, the PCs loot the bodies they left on the floor below (scoring a wand and potion from the 4th level Chosen), and use they keys they find on the dead Chosen to open and loot a couple more rooms. Then they retreat to the High Priest’s chambers and wait for the beastmen to return with the prisoners. Soon, they do, but, when Spinello opens the door, the beastmen realize their error and move to attack. Again, however, the PCs seize the initiative, and Milnos-Sim is able to quietly put them all to sleep before they can act.

The PCs are surprised to find that the zargonians have delivered  seven prisoners: Peg-Legged Dunstan, Bozev the Telkaynie barkeep, Bozev’s serving girl, and 4 other Cynidiceans. The PCs usher them upstairs, kill the beastmen, and loot their bodies. Since the high zargonians are of roughly human build, and the PCs still have limited resources, they take the time to take their weapons and armor as well. Then, they lead their liberated charges out the window and climb down the rope to make their escape.

Unfortunately, some of the other high zargonians see them and start firing arrows at them as they flee. The PCs take a few hits, but none of them are brought down. Aisha, protected with her shield power, bravely covers the serving girl with her body. Alas, the rest of the prisoners are shot down while they run. Thjolstoff carries Bozev’s body down the rope, and kicks Dunstan’s body off the building to be carried back by Sablain-Xee.

When the party has finally made it back trough the deserted alleys of abandoned Cynidiea to their safe refuge at the Tower of Madarua, it turns out that Dunstan’s head was smashed beyond recognition in the fall, but Bozev merely took an arrow to the knee, and will recover, albeit with a slight limp.

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