The companions wake to a new day and quickly formulate their plan of attack. The party will split into two groups – Lando, Maydrane, elven scholar Ken, and the captains of the Bloody Vengeance and Kraken’s Spite will embark under the guise of emissaries, seeking entrance to Everstand on a diplomatic mission. The remainder of the group, including Wes Bestern, will attempt to find an alternate way into the city. The two groups will stay in touch via a magic communication device.
By the time the group visits the city gate, it is already busy with citizens milling about the entrance and several lines of people queued to gain entry. Anton attempts to slip in with the companions by using his magical mask to disguise his features; however the ruse proves unsuccessful. The halfling begins a dissident chant before blending into the surroundings and leaving the scene. With tensions rising, Lando speaks with the gatekeeper to advise that their group is on a diplomatic mission – they have the lost ark of Everstand in their possession and would like to deliver it safely to Gauntwood. The guards surround the ark and escort the group into the city.
The remainder of the companions learn from a local information peddler, Gradiant Hempf, that there is a secret way into the city. For a handsome sum, the coordinates of a cave that lead into the dungeon are provided. The peddler advises, however, that the way is fraught with danger. The group heeds his warnings as they hastily make their way toward the cave system.
The diplomatic entourage is led into the city central to an Iron Tower. The unique architecture of the building is notably different from those around it, the iodized stone structure appears natural in formation – the stone glistens like an ingot before it is fired. Inside, the interior walls are inlaid with a blue filigree that frames the windows and doorways.
The group is invited inside to a large room that features a massive table laden with food and drinks. Gauntwood himself, a tall and lithe paladin with a well trimmed beard, greets the group and offers them a seat. Glasses full of a hearty brew are provided. “Welcome humble adventurers. It is a joyous occasion indeed that brings us together this day. The return of the ark, my, this is momentous!” He raises his glass in toast, and takes a long drink. Lando, a light weight in the drinking department, nurses his drink while Maydrane matches their host glass for glass.
Looking around the room, it is easy to pick out a symmetrical pattern with four alcoves. Two alcoves contain relics of the city – from conversations with J-Todd, the companions have prior knowledge of both, a porridge pot that can create enough gruel to feed an army under siege and a stylized eye that allows the perimeter guards true seeing – while the third has a stand appropriate in size to seat the ark. The fourth, however, is conspicuously empty. With a wave of his hand, attendants in ceremonial armor enter the room with the ark and place it in its respective alcove.
A sudden hush permeates the room as a woman enters the chamber. She walks with purpose to the ark, where she performs an elaborate dance around its perimeter. Radiant tendrils of magical power emanate forth from the ark, providing a lavender outline around the ancient artefact. Gauntwood speaks, “My wife Palomina has completed the ritual, the power of the ark will soon suffuse the keep again with its protective aura. You’ve brought glory back to Everstand, with three relics united again, we cannot be defeated. We are indebted to your kindness, you and your descendants will be richly rewarded. But for now, drink up and be merry!” Lando spills his goblet to avoid having to drink the contents, while feigning ignorance. While doing so, he uses the diversion to get an understanding of the ritual that just occurred – a necromantic taint is sensed, an interesting revelation given that the aura that emanates from the ark is divine in origin. That said, the power of the ark now blankets Everstand in a golden glow, providing its protective powers to the city’s inhabitants.
By this time, the other companions, having circumnavigated a massive armored bear, have made the uneventful trip to the top of a cliff overlooking the entrance to the secret cave. There is no easy way down the sheer escarpment, so the magus utilizes his magical abilities to fly out from the cliff for a better viewpoint. He is able to pick out a natural switch back that is hard to see, leading to the beach below. At the bottom of the cliff, he also spots a camp with many figures. As he watches, several more, wearing specialized equipment, make their way from the river to join their companions, before making their way toward the entrance to the cave. They cover the tracks as the move.
Sensing potential allies, Magus Mike flies ahead of his companions to land near the humanoid figures, who turn at his approach. Drawing their weapons, the troop of orcs do not take kindly to the intrusion. Introductions are hastily made – the orcs represent an elite strike force hailing from the Belkzen Hold sent to rescue and extract imprisoned orcs – and the magus is able to convince them that their interests are aligned as the companions are here on a divine mission to liberate the city of Everstand from its oppressive regime. Given the companions ties to the Bloody Vengeance, and by extension the Blood Salt, they agree to join forces for their assault on the dungeon.
The emboldened group scouts out the entrance to the cave, which is partly underwater. Adventure senses tingling, the magus halts the orcs entry into the water and uses a shocking grasp to shoot an electrical volt through the entrance-way. The dead corpses of many small eels float to the surface. The magus steps aside and signals that it is safe for the orcs to enter.
Following the orcs inside, the entrance leads into a large cavern that housed a mining operation at some point in the not so distant past. Most of interior is well maintained; however, one side appears to have experienced a cave-in. A steady flow of water trickles down several walls, and the floor of the cavern is immersed in water. The group decides to scout the unfinished area of the cavern, cognizant that it may still be unstable from the recent cave-in. The air becomes thicker with a pungent, rotting smell the farther in they travel. The rattle of bones halts their progress as ghostly creatures shamble out from the darkness.
Back in the Iron Tower, located in the Charity District, the festivities are beginning to wind down. Gauntwood suggests that the companions be shown to their quarters so they can wash up for the evening. Further, Lando is introduced to High Interrogator Chetley and Wall Lieutenant Briggs, who offer to provide a personal tour of the city. Lando accepts their kind invitation as he hopes to get a better understanding of the cities quarters. The set tour is organized to showcase the very best that Everstand has to offer, and includes:
- Bureau of Better Business (Discipline District) – Lando is introduced to Head Economist Kurt, Chief of the Better Business Bureau. He speaks of the cities prosperity, and how the bureau has been integral in enhancing the local economy through free trade and open borders. It becomes clear that these concepts are a farce, given a system of tariffs and subsidies that serve to control the availability of many goods to the public. Lando notes a foreign script that he would like an opportunity to investigate later.
- Temple of Gorum (Hope District)- our lord in iron has a strong presence in Everstand, which has grown materially in recent months. Worship is fervent, with Head Priest Ilidia Vassen preaching to a packed house every Sunday with a message infused with a lust for war. Is it no wonder that her motto – a good defence is simply a good offence – speaks to the common citizen living in a border town constantly on the verge of war? Her adherents trust in her with their lives, and her advocacy of Gauntwood and his goal of taking the fight to the orcs is absolute. Lando notes that the Temple’s interior is inlaid with orange filigree.
- Everstand Barracks (Discipline District) – unfortunately, this stop is short-lived as Captain Darius Pritchard is on his way out with a band of rangers to apprehend a potential spy. That said, Lando gets a glimpse of the interior of the structure which features a blue filigree inlay.
- Northern Keep (Vigilance District)- the last stop on the tour is located on the far side of the river. The keep has a different look and feel than the other buildings, beyond the yellow filigree that is featured throughout the structure. The two custodians of the keep – Balmorf, who was appointed to his post, and Hercluf, who is a staff-member – are arguing how best to manage schedules as Balmorf is attempting to change how things are done by acting Lieutenant Slice. Hercluf is notably upset, but provides a brief overview of the keep, which represents the first line of defence against the orc horde. As an autonomous keep, they keep the old traditions alive, meaning vigilance in their purpose in protecting Everstand from the orcs. Lando thanks them for their time.
While they return to the tower, Lando makes small talk with Chetley, who mentions that gnomes frequent Everstand from time to time. In fact, there was a couple here not to long ago. When Lando attempts to inquire further about whether they were of the Pathfinder Society, Briggs interrupts the conversation to continue his commentary on the city’s geography. They reach the tower soon thereafter where Lando retires to their quarters to freshen up.