- the package contains a key with clasped hands in prayer as well as a note that hints of the Fortress of Justice
- Carson is visited and Lando healed, credentials and acolyte robes are acquired
- Hollister, Commissioner of the Sealord’s Watch, is introduced – the companions services will be required in the future, an envelope of cash is given
- entry is gained to the Fortress of Justice using the Sword of the Edict credentials
- the brother of Martin Hawks, Mark, and Brughan’s lover, Kendrick, are requested for confession
- a diversion allows for a secret passage to be opened behind the Mask of Judgement
- a mighty man statue is found, already activated, the companions head into the sewers
- a bard, one of Captain Sil’s colleagues is found on a similar mission to engage the mighty men
- the maze of sewers is traversed leading to the outskirts of Drac’s End
- the bard provides the next key before solidifying into a ship’s figurehead in the moonlight
The companions have some time en route to their destination to investigate the package found in the basement of the Opera House. Untying the parchment wrapped bundle reveals a new key, featuring two hands clasped in prayer, a note, and a magical bag of holding. The note reads:
Above the scales of justice,
the mask of judgement watches.
Cast down judgement and
follow the path of penance.
Monetary resources being somewhat restrained, the group asks the cab driver to make a quick stop at Garvey’s residence to collect on the magical cocoons sent his way. Garvey is excited at the possibilities of studying the akatas and materiel and is happy to compensate for the opportunity. Further, the group disposes of some mundane items.
Coin purses noticeably heavier, the companions continue their journey to the Sword of the Edict’s compound. Ringing Carson puts them in touch with his page Eagel, who advises them that Carson is preoccupied. Eagel meets the group at the gate and escorts them into the building. While crossing the courtyard, the companions observe two figures of stature walking the grounds deep in conversation.
Gaining audience with Carson, the companions are surprised at his condition – he appears sickly. The onset of his affliction coincides with the possession by the accuser devil several days ago. He hopes to see a doctor in the near term for treatment, but has had pressing matters to attend. The companions bring him up-to-speed on their adventures and request magical aid for Lando, who is afflicted in his own right. Carson is able to procure a potion of remove disease – a costly concoction, but worth the price to heal the illusionist. Carson is exhausted and requires rest, he leaves the group in the care of Eagel. The companions bid him farewell and wish him a speedy recovery.
Before leaving the building, the companions wish to research the symbolism behind the stylized key. The page recognizes the praying hands motif as similar to that of the Chapel of Atonement, an institution where acolytes can administer repentance for prisoners of the Fortress of Justice. Eagel explains that the churches play an important role in Freeport, not a surprising revelation given that many of the city’s residents, having a sailor or pirating background, are known to be a superstitious bunch. As such, the Fortress of Justice allows its prisoners regular access to the faiths. Understanding that they will likely require access to the Fortress, the companions are reminded of a prior conversation with Carson in which he had mentioned that the Swords of the Edict has influence with the Chapel of Atonement. The group requests credentials as well as acolyte robes from the page, which he is happy to provide.
Crossing the courtyard, the companions again observe the two gentleman conversing in the garden and recognize one from their excursion to the Opera House. Approaching the two, Magus Mike yells, “Stop that man, he has my wallet – come Eagel, let’s get him!” as they near and Anton slaps the man jovially in the shoulder. The noble, the one with the official looking insignia, has a good chuckle as he excuses himself from his conversation with the Sword of the Edict representative.
Introductions are made and the companions assumption that the gentleman is indeed a high-ranking official is confirmed – he identifies himself as Commissioner Hollister, the head of the Sealord’s Watch. He mentions that this meeting is opportune as he may need the services of a competent and discreet group. The Commissioner and Romica engage in a short conversation via sign language. Angling himself in such a way as to disrupt line of sight, Hollister provides Romica an envelope that is quickly hidden – “I hope you can repay the favour. Always a pleasure gentlemen.” He turns and reengages in conversation with the Sword of the Edict official.
Eagel escorts the companions to the gate and helps to flag a cab. The group asks that he join them in their travels to the Fortress of Justice tomorrow – Eagel’s knowledge would prove beneficial on their “site-seeing tour”. The page is excited at the offer and agrees to meet the group in the morning at The Bard and the Bastard.
Travelling via cab to the tavern, Romica explains that he has a past relationship with Hollister. As Commissioner, he oversees the Sealord’s Watch, an elite faction of militarized soldiers within the Guard, but with separate and specialized duties. Hollister reports directly to the Sealord himself and has a seat on the Pirate Council. If the companions decide collectively to work for him, he can be trusted and they will be looked after – but he warns, he is not to be crossed. Romica also mentions that a meeting will be organized in a discreet location at a later time. Opening the envelope reveals a rather large sum of cash.
Arriving at the inn, the companions catch up with the innkeeper and ask his opinion regarding opportunities to earn some cash flow in the city. The innkeeper identifies several options of interest:
- there are many nobleman/businessman that require a security detail from time to time
- the Arena is a great area to test your brawn and wagers are popular
- the local pick-pocketing ring was recently shut down and is looking for direction
- the longshoreman’s guild is always hiring, its tough work but an honest paycheque
- the Sword of the Edict and Wizard’s Guild could always use a hand
- cabs are a great way to earn an income if one could be commandeered, they’re controlled by criminal organizations but it is likely tough to keep track of them all
The companions thank the innkeeper for his ideas and retire for the night.
In the morning, Eagel joins the crew at breakfast as they plan for the day. He is so eager he even brings bagged lunches for everyone. The companions ask him for information on the Fortress of Justice. The page advises that the fortress resides in the Old City, next to the Sealord’s Palace and Guardsman’s Barracks. The building is rumored to be impregnable, and there are many stories of prisoners trying to escape, unsuccessfully. The most famous is the legend of Sid the Sly, a skilled cut purse and lock-picker. He allowed himself to be imprisoned there so that he would have the opportunity to break out, thus proving himself a master lock-picker. He was shot many times trying to cross the courtyard to gain access to the gates. Even the very best escape artists avoid the Fortress of Justice.
The companions thank Eagel for his insight and take a cab to the grounds to scope out the site. Large walls surround the inner courtyard and compounds with only one gate leading in and out. There are throngs of people milling about, largely family members and friends wishing to speak with their loved ones.
Donning their acolyte robes and stashing their weapons in their bag of holding, the companions use their Sword of the Edict credentials to pass through the gate and gain entrance to the inner courtyard. There are heavily armed guards en masse around the grounds. A straightforward breakout seems destined to fail – finesse and wit, as opposed to bull’s strength, will likely be required.
The companions make their way to the reception area of the Fortress of Justice. Flashing their credentials again, the group identifies themselves as acolytes of the Swords of the Edict – they are here to administer repentance at the Chapel of Atonement, a multi-denominational church in the Fortress. Two guards escort the companions to the Chapel. Once there, they transfer the companions into the care of the Minister of Penance.
The Chapel represents a large room with no exits in sight, save the door the companions entered through. The room is split into a nave with rows of pews on either side of an aisle leading to the sanctuary. The Minister of Penance sits at a desk next to the altar. The companions note a large mask featuring the sigil of clasped hands on the wall behind the sanctuary. The Minister, a man well into his elder years, introduces himself and, recognizing the companions as new recruits, provides an overview of the Chapel. Lando compliments him on his guidance and they discuss best practices in administering repentance.
The companions are ready for their first prisoner and request Martin Hawks’ brother. The guards return shortly thereafter with Mark Hawks who is entrusted into the group’s care. The door is shut and barred behind them. The companions advise Mark that they are here at the bequest of Martin and that they are going to break him out. He is more than happy to play along and is soon repenting for everything he can think of. The Minister of Penance seems pleased with the group’s competence and returns to his desk to take care of paperwork. The companions discuss with Mark that they are also here to break out the lover of a half-giant Brughan, but don’t know his name. Mark knows of the person in question – he is a dwarf named Kendrick, but the companions need to be careful as he is not the accommodating type.
With Mark finding his religion and putting on a grand performance, the companions request for the guards to bring Kendrick. The request is promptly refused – the companions were not aware that only one prisoner would be released into their care at a time. Lando attempts to reason with them – Kendrick is required for an intervention. They don’t care. The companions exchange their lunches for goodwill. Not good enough. Anton puts on a show – we’re nearing a break through and the other prisoner is needed! Nope. And finally Romica straight up invokes the power of the gods to intimidate them. The wrath of the gods is too much and they cave.
However, the Minister of Penance will not allow it – the rules are the rules and the reason that the Fortress functions as well as it does is because of them. Anton argues that the old ways are fine and dandy, but breakthroughs require faith. This strikes a cord with the Minister and he signals his acceptance to the guards.
The dwarf can be heard long before he is seen and the companions quickly learn that “cursin’ like a sailor” is nothing like prison language – especially when the prison is primarily populated by the sailor and pirating type. Kendrick is hauled kicking and screaming up the hallway and roughly deposited into the Chapel. The door is locked and barred behind him.
The companions welcome him to the Chapel and advise that he is soon to receive spiritual healing from “Saint Brughan”. At this mention, the dwarf quiets down and the group explains to him that they have been sent by Brughan to free him.
Continuing with their “intervention”, both Mark and Kendrick play the part, arms raised and praising Saint Brughan. “I see the light!” Barnical Bill casts dancing lights down the hallway as the group cries out in amazement – “It’s a sign from above!” The performance proves stirring, as the Minister of Penance races to the door, opens it, and bolts down the hallway after the guards, who in turn are chasing the lights.
The diversion tactic successful, the companions quickly close and bar the door. Removing the large mask from the wall reveals a keyhole. The companions insert the key with the clasped hands motif and turn – the wall begins to shift and a passageway opens in the stone wall. A ladder leads down into the darkness. The companions, with Mark and Kendrick in tow, descend down the ladder as the wall closes above them.
After about 50 feet or so, the ladder ends, forcing the companions to drop a further 15 feet to the room below. Putrid air fills their nostrils, a deep trough splits the room carrying open sewage through a grate to either side. A door can be seen on the opposite wall.
Kendrick explodes, “What madness is this? You seek to use my secret against me? This game ends now!” Lando, understanding that something is amiss, seeks to calm the dwarf via magical means. He puts on his most affable air and charms the dwarf, outlining the companions plans and soothing his fears. The dwarf calms down and explains that the door ahead leads to his cell – this escape plan has led him back to square one. His eyes suddenly alight – “Wait, there’s a keyhole in my cell that looks similar to the one above!”
Anton sneaks into the cell, careful not to alarm the guards, and opens the door. It leads to a short corridor and a chamber with blue-grey granite walls, similar to those of Ironjack’s workshop. An archway, streaming raw sewage, leads from the room. The flow travels through a channel before exiting through a grate on the opposite side. Anton signals to the rest of the group that it is safe to follow.
The companions file through the cell and into the next room. A quick investigation reveals little of interest. In the distance, a rumble and several sounds that remind the group of the mighty men statues – specifically, what would occur when the statues were engaged. The room begins to shake and soft music, slightly muffled but still distinctly bagpipe in origin, can be heard ahead as well as occasional swordplay.
The group runs through the archway toward the sound of the music. A shelf on either side provides the ability to traverse the short corridor without stepping into the sewage. The passage leads to a second room of blue-grey granite. The companions pile in as the door closes the passageway behind them. A statue of a mighty man – this one a dwarven figure with arms outstretched and hands clenched like they are holding the bars of a cell – stands in the middle of the room on a raised dais. Raw sewage streams into the room from a grate on the far side and flows around the dais, which acts like an island. With the passage behind them closed, the sewage is quickly beginning to fill the room. Under the filthy water, many lit runes can be seen, gently pulsating.
It is obvious that someone was recently here and has activated the dwarven figure. The companions investigate the statue. Instead of a face, there is a keyhole. Inserting the key unclenches the statue’s fists. There is an inscription on its chest that reads:
Two rods have I, one to quench and one to ignite,
2 keys will be needed to find the next knight,
beneath the brewing room in The Honey Pot,
revolved to find the secret sought.
As this is occurring, the doorway behind them begins to close. Suddenly, out of the filth darts a strange undead looking creature. It attempts to rake Lando’s face but misses, slamming into the wall next to the gnome. It quickly recovers and manages to pull Lando underwater. Magus Mike grabs the hapless gnome and drags him toward the exit on the opposite side. Romica and Anton focus their attention on the pustule-covered corpse while the rest of the companions scramble for purchase. The companions are successful in defeating the unsightly creature, but have little time to exit. Barnicle Bill calls upon the powers of his water god and summons a wave to push his colleagues through the doorway before it slams shut, sealing the room behind them.
The bard, still playing his bagpipes, can be seen in the distance fighting off another ghastly creature, “Help matties! Please destroy this abomination!” The companions drag themselves up onto the shelf of the passageway and make quick work of the undead monstrosity. The bard is grateful and takes a low bow. The immediate threat taken care of, the companions are able to get a good look at the bard – he is a tall fellow with tan skin and a rather well used bagpipe, wearing fine utilitarian garb that reminds you of Capital Sil.
“Good work fellow adventurers! We will require subterfuge to make it through this maze of sewers.” The companions confirm with the bard that he is working with Captain Sil, and that he has been tasked with activating the mighty men – between them, they have now engaged four of the statues. The sounds of other undead creatures snarling in the distance can be heard. It is quickly agreed that they should travel together.
The group follows the corridor until it ends in a cave-in. Anton is able to locate a safe route of passage underwater and leads the companions through. On the far side of the tumbled rock, the group finds several potions of anti-plague and anti-toxin. A short time later, a second cave-in impedes their progress. Anton again is able to find a way through, this time by climbing over the rocks. While completing the route, Anton sees a belt deep down in a crevasse. He is able to deftly draw it out, bringing with it a sheathed masterwork cold-iron kukri. The wily swashbuckler is amazed at the quality of the find.
Several forks in the road later, the companions find themselves faced with two passageways. The entrance to both lead through wooden arches. Romica points to the one on the right, and given his engineering knowledge, advises that the beams could give way at any moment. The companions smartly take the corridor on the left. Humanoid scuff marks are found shortly thereafter leading down the passage as well.
While trekking down this passageway, the companions locate a small piece of parchment in the lichen. It is hard to read due to age, but it mentions “mixing the refined elixir with Blackblood, and allowing it to harden will create perfect incense, which can be placed on bellows to achieve…” – Lando notes this in his journal for future reference. Several minutes later, Anton perceives a drop ahead. It appears as if a pit trap was recently sprung. At the bottom of the pit is the body of a gunslinger type. Lando detects magic and identifies the victims bandolier as magical. The companions retrieve the item for use for the magus.
The passageway continues to a streaming body of water. A rope is attached to Magus Mike who is able to swim across to the other side. Using the rope, the remainder of the companions traverse the stream without incident. Further down the tunnel, Lando finds several scrawls on the tunnel wall which describe “Throl-thangar, Temple of Holy Smoke” and point back the way the group just came. Inquiring with the bard, he has not heard of this temple, and the companions decide it too dangerous to investigate at this point.
After countless hours of walking, a light in the distance signals the end of the tunnel. Moving towards it, the bard begins to limp and complains of a cramp in his leg. As the light becomes brighter, the limp becomes worse. As the companions reach the end of the tunnel, the bard turns to the group, “My obligations are profound and worthy, more than life and death itself. I hope in time you will understand. I trust that you will provide these items to the good Captain.” And he hands the companions two rods and a key with an ornate beer stein motif. He folds his arms across his chest as he steps into the light of the moon – his body solidifies into a stylized wooden figurehead that would appear at the front of a ship.
A fever starting to set in for many in the group, not surprising given the amount of time spent in prisoner excrement and other filth, the companions exit the sewer tunnel on the outskirts of town near Drac’s End.