The companions continue their exploration of the catacombs. A corridor leads from the opposite side of the room into a larger area. Bright green and blue fungi illuminates the space, which appears to have once housed various sarcophagi. The strange light adds to the reverent spirit of the room. From its expanse, several passage-way lead in all directions. However, the companions interest is drawn to a large door that adorns the west wall.
Using his gloves of magical insight, Anton places his fingertips on the door, providing of view of the opposite side. Nothing happens, which the halfling attributes to interference from the fungus that lines the door. Inspecting the frame, the group is unable to discern how to open the portal, no hinges or other mechanisms are visible. Stumped, they decide to remove the algae on the doorway’s surface, uncovering Varisian script underneath. The letters of the alphabet are outlined on the door in both upper and lower case. Touching one of the letters results in the character alighting for a short period of time. The fungus removed, Anton again attempts to see beyond the doorway by magical means. This time he is successful; the portal leads to a simple square room, with each wall containing a different type of door. He notes a mechanical door with many gears, the mechanisms hiding his ability to see a keyhole. There is also a solid iron door with no hinges. And lastly, the third wall appears to be cloaked in an opaque energy.
Unable to open the door before them, the companions decide to explore the passageway leading south. The unnaturally long corridor triggers the group’s spidey senses, and the companions move forward slowly in anticipation of potential traps. The caution proves well-founded as several pressure plates are located. As the companions attempt to understand the mechanism, a bullette bursts from the wall ahead. The rampaging land shark sprints directly for the group. Using the trap to their advantage, the companions trigger the mechanism as the land shark nears, perfectly timing its progress with several saw blades that extend from the floor. The weakened creature is quickly overcome.
The group carefully traverses the traps to continue down the hallway. The bullette’s passage has, unfortunately, resulted in a cave-in; however, the group is able to travel up the make-shift tunnel created by the land shark’s burrowing. The passageway angles up, leading toward the surface. A gentle light pierces the darkness of the tunnel, indicating just how close the tunnel gets to the city. Anton uses his gloves to get a peak topside; it is early morning, and with Lando’s help, the companions believe they are located somewhere underneath the discipline district.
Not wishing to cause a disturbance, the group backtracks to the crypt. They investigate several family plots in the area, which from the age of the tombs, likely contain some of the early inhabitants of the city. Nearby, a secret door is located that opens back to the original chamber used to enter the catacombs. The companions consider heading back out to the river to rendezvous with their orc friends; however, their progress is deterred by the guardian ghouls, which have grown in number to encompass several orcish kin. The group decides to head back to the door with Varisian script for further study.
The gnome saunters over to the table and sits opposite Gradiant Hempf, inquiring into his services. Gradiant is forthcoming – he can offer safe passage, forge citizen passes, provide information regarding secret entrances into the city, and fence stolen goods. His relationship to Kurt Bangalore is similar to many in his network, he provides services as recompense for business forwarded his way. Lando advises that Kurt recommended that he chat with Gradiant regarding the Underground Resistance. Gradiant nods, for a modest sum, he is willing to make the introduction. An agreement is struck.
Lando and Maydrane follow Hempf from the city, eventually following a worn forest trail. Conversation is meager, but Gradiant mentions that they are travelling toward a clearing in the forest where he will signal the Resistance. Lando and Maydrane are to remain silent until contact is made. Suddenly, the three are surrounded by bandits. Hempf makes a show of attempting to stop the bandits before they attack, but his theatrics are unsuccessful as the gnome sees through the charade for what it is – Lando and Maydrane have been betrayed. Lando takes a viscous hit to the head, falling senseless to the ground as Maydrane stands over him defensively.
When Lando regains consciousness, dead bandits form a ring around Maydrane. Gradiant is also down, blood pooling around his body. Believing that deep down inside, the Gradiant has it in him to be a good person that helped many refugees to safety, Lando uses several potions of healing to stabilize him. Maydrane restrains him to ensure he is unable to escape into the undergrowth. The bandits are searched and the two head back to the city with Gradiant in tow.
Unsure of what to do, Lando decides it best to return to The Cupped Hands to speak with Vin and Lodmar. Entering the tavern, the gnome is happy to see Ken, who has recently returned from leading the refugees to the Bloody Vengeance. Lando comes clean with Vin and Lodmar; the city is likely to fall within days, and he was attempting to work with Gradiant Hempf to lead an evacuation of townsfolk. However, they were betrayed by Gradiant, who tried to kill Lando and Maydrane, and they are now unsure of what to do. Although Vin and Lodmar find it difficult to accept the veracity of the story, they agree to hold Gradiant for a day, providing the necessary time to gather evidence. Lando advises that his companions are presently in the catacombs; however, they are unable to continue their exploration given they have are unable to find the password necessary to proceed. Lodman, the former High Priest of Imodae, and therefore someone that has spent time in the crypts, advises that the codeword is simply the district name, in this case “Discipline”. The information is passed along and Lando thanks the two effusively for the assistance. Lando, Ken and Maydrane head back into Everstand to continue their mission.
The companions, with the assistance of Lando’s knowledge of the Varisian alphabet, key in the codex on the door. The portal slides soundlessly on hidden joins, revealing the room beyond with its three additional doors. Much investigation reveals the following:
- Clockwork door – the entire surface consists of spools and gears, so it takes some time to even locate the keyhole; it appears that some of the teeth for several gears are missing. A sign above the door references the Charity District.
- Iron door – the block appears solid in substance. Surprisingly, it is slightly ajar; however, no matter what the companions attempt, the portal will not budge an inch. A parchment can be seen on the opposite side. Magus Mike uses mage hand to push the note through, which reads “This section of crypt is being used for…..can be accessed via North-Western Gatehouse.” This corresponds with the sign above which notes Vigilance District.
- Opaque energy door – a strong magical aura emanates from the portal. Although it appears translucent, the companions are unable to see through the surface, nor is it reflective in nature. A sign above the frame reads Hope District.
Returning to the Better Business Bureau, Kurt Bangalore appears momentarily surprised to see Lando and Maydrane. The gnome advises that they met with Gradiant and agreed to a course of action. However, they need to deliver payment to Hempf’s personal residence and are unsure of where it is located. Although coy, Kurt eventually details that Gradiant lives next to the chaplain’s quarters on the grounds of the Temple of Our Lord in Iron. Understanding that Kurt was likely involved in Hempf’s attempt on their life, he asks that Maydrane stay at the Bureau to keep Kurt company, while Ken accesses the archives. Maydrane takes the opportunity to lay her assortment of weapons on the counter for inspection and polishing while she keeps a watchful eye on Kurt.
Lando makes an uneventful trip to the house of Gradiant. The key-ring which was found on Hempf while he was unconscious provides entry to his front door. The interior is primarily nondescript and particularly squalid in nature. Two items of note are found – forgery equipment and a large safe. With no need for the forgery equipment at present, Lando focuses on the safe. The key-ring again provides entry, allowing Lando to find over 60k in gold coins as well as a hope stone. The excited gnome scoops all into his handy haversack for later consumption.
Back at the Bureau, Lando learns from Ken, who is studiously making quick work of the archives, that the fourth relic was reported to have stopped working some time ago. The artefact was dismantled and auctioned off to the highest bidder, the two pieces being purchased by the Temple of Gorum and the Temple of Imodae. There is no mention of Palomina, which is surprising to a scholar of history such as Ken; it is as if any mention of her name has been removed from the records. Lastly, Ken provides a detailed map of the city, broken down by district, which may be of use.
Kurt is becoming stir crazy under Maydrane’s watch, and it is clear that something must be done. Lando decides it best to dimension door to the catacombs to entrust his care with the companions. Satisfied with the outcome, the gnome quickly returns topside to continue the investigation.
The puzzle pieces beginning to fall into place, one lead sticks out like a sore thumb. Leaving Ken to continue his studies, Lando and Maydrane head out to the North-Western Keep to chat with Hercluf. The gnome’s personal intuition justified by Sylix’s journal, Lando believes that the Warden is someone who can be trusted. So he spills the story, that the city is likely to fall, that Gauntwood, likely under the influence of Palomina, can not be trusted, and that something must be done. As Warden of the Keep, the so called last bastion of free will and front line against the orcs, Hercluf admits his suspicions. However, he will require proof before taking action. Lando advises that his companions have proof, both in the journal of the former Wall Lieutenant Sylix, as well as the rescue of Ranger Perry Ledue; however, they are presently stuck in the catacombs behind a solid iron door. Hercluf is well aware of the door, as Warden he administers the prison beneath the Keep – the door has been hammered shut and is reinforced by pitons. It will take need to be opened from the inside. Lando relays the information to his companions, as they discuss their next course of action.