Session 62: Dark Seeds

The group continued along the right wall, past where they had fought the second Minotaur, hoping to make it out of the labyrinth.

When Sapphira wasn't expressing her doubt that they weren't lost, she tried to engage Yanliz in small talk.

"Valeria, if we reach the wide corridor," Prynhawn suggested, "maybe we should turn around."

"Why?" Yanliz asked. "Is that way faster? Don't you want to follow the system?"

Prynhawn nodded in confirmation, and Valeria agreed.

"I'm glad we're taking the faster way," Sapphira quipped. "Did I mention there's a Minotaur in here?"

"We fought several," Vernim shared.

"You fought several?" Sapphira asked, astonished.

"I've been hit by several," Yanliz revealed. "We fought five."

"Five Minotaurs?" Sapphira was amazed. "I thought there was only one. Well you can continue your adventuring after you get me out of here. I don't mean to sound ungrateful."

"...and the world is now a better place, and everything is okay!" Vernim was muttering to himself.

After following the right wall, and making many right turns, they reached the dead kobolds, and Prynhawn led them once more to the right.

"Shouldn't we go left?" Yanliz suggested. "Isn't that faster?"

"Well, we turned around before," Prynhawn explained, "because we knew it would be a...I'm not too sure here."

"Oh, you want to follow the system?" Yanliz confirmed. "We can go the long way."

"Yanliz, it sounds like you know where you're going," Sapphire hinted. " It sounds like you have a lot of experience underground... I hope this system doesn't get us all killed."

At one of the many dead-ends, Valeria found a new secret door.

After traveling for a couple of hours with Sapphira, they reached an intersection. Prynhawn was about to lead the group to the right, when he saw a light to the left.

Unsure of which way they should go, Vernim reminded them, "Tymora is always here to assist us."

"Leaving my fate in the hands of the gods is the last thing I want to do," Sapphira muttered.

"I think we should check it out," Valeria indicated. "Yanliz, take a rope."

Tying one end of one of Jess' ropes around his waist, Yanliz explored the direction of the light. After exploring sixty feet, he returned and confirmed it was the exit.

"Can I have my weapons now?" Sapphira politely asked Valeria.

"As soon as we get to the valley," Valeria replied.

It was midday when they left the cave and returned to the valley.

"Do you have a place to go?" Yanliz asked.

"I'll be fine," Sapphira replied, strapping on her shortsword.

"Are you sure?" Vernim asked. "There's strength in numbers."

"I'm sure," Sapphira replied, glancing at Vernim's holy symbol.

"So, are you good with a longbow?" Yanliz asked, as he slowly walked away.

"Good enough," Sapphira replied, following him.

"So, I appreciate you getting me out of here," Sapphira whispered to Yanliz privately. "I doubt I'll ever see you again. What are you going to do after you finish clearing out these caves?"

"I don't know yet. I guess I'll see," Yanliz asked, "Did it ever occur to you to try to defend yourself against the Minotaur?"

"It seemed foolish," Sapphira sighed.

"Fair enough," Yanliz acknowledged.

"Do you think you'd be able to defend yourself against the Minotaur?" Sapphira asked. "All by yourself?"

"Um, from my past experience, no," Yanliz admitted.

"I didn't want to tempt that fate," Sapphira concurred. "Okay, best of luck to you."

"Good luck to you, too," Yanliz relied. "Are you sure you don't want to stick around?"

"Yeah, I'm sure," Saphira replied. "This is not my sort of thing."

"Thanks again for getting me out of there," Sapphira waved to the group. "I'm grateful and appreciative." She turned and walked across the valley and into the woods to the east.

"Will we meet again?" Vernim called out, as she was walking away. "Hello, it was nice to meet you, too."

After Sapphira had disappeared into the woods, they discussed what they should do next, mainly related to Duranki.

They heard something rustle in the trees above the valley, to the west, and decided to investigate.

As they began climbing out of the valley, Philip struggled to keep pace with Prynhawn, who leaped from rock to rock.

Yanliz, bringing up the rear, heard a thud next to his face, and saw an arrow protruding from a nearby branch, right next to his face. It had a black ribbon tied to it, and something carved on the shaft. He pulled the arrow out of the branch and concealed it in his pack for later inspection. He scanned the woods to the east, but saw no one.

At the top of the valley, they searched the perimeter of the woods, but found no one or nothing unusual.

They descended back into the valley and decided to enter the bugbear's cave.

Brother Martin cast cure wounds on Yanliz, and Valeria cast cure wounds on herself, healing their wounds from the Minotaurs.

The sign at the entrance had been removed. The pole it had been on was broken.

All the bugbear bodies were gone.

Otherwise, all the rooms appeared as they had been.

After checking every other room, and searching the dead-end corridor, they opened the door of the room that had been hidden in magical darkness.

Brother Martin cast light on a copper coin and Vernim threw it into the room. It instantly disappeared as it crossed the threshold of the doorway, but they quickly heard it hit the far wall and fall to the ground.

Vernim gripped his holy symbol and summoned the radiance of the dawn, shouting, "In the name of Tymora, evil darkness begone, and show us the true way of the world...and also if there's any monsters, begone as well!"

In a flash of light, the magical darkness was dispelled, revealing a twenty by thirty foot prison cell. Hanging from manacles on the far wall were four dead kobolds.

Brother Martin examined and concluded that they were actually dead. "They look really banged up. They were probably tortured, but not enough to be killed. They've been dead for days, and I assume they starved to death."

They searched the room, but did not find any secret doors.

They returned to the bandit cave to check on Duranki, and discussed whether the priests of Nergal may have killed the kobolds.

Brother Martin favored letting Duranki go, but Yanliz was strongly opposed to it.

Yanliz recalled that, "Ereshkigal, who rules over the underworld, was almost killed by Nergal, who had stormed her throne room with a bunch of demons when Enki and other gods told Nergal to enter the underworld. She fled for her life and ended up sharing her power with Nergal, and so now he transverses between the upper world and the underworld.

"There's a whole history behind it," Yanliz continued, "about how Ereshkigal couldn't come to one of their gatherings, and she sent her son, and all the other deities got offended."

They found Duranki where they had left him.

Philip prepared a meal for the group, which was mediocre, but they were all quite hungry, except for Jess.

Jess removed Duranki's shackles, and Vernim removed his gag and gave him some rations.

"You're back early," Duranki said, while he ate. "Are you ready to meet with my superiors?"

"We're still trying to figure that out," Brother Martin replied.

"If you want I get put in a good word for you, and they can send an envoy tomorrow," Duranki offered.

Suspicious and hesitant, Valeria, Prynhawn, Yanliz, and Vernim conferred in Orc.

"Duranki, do you have any way of communicating from far distances with your superiors?" Yanliz asked.

"If I had a way of communicating with my superiors, don't you think I would have a long time ago? And if I had, they would have rescued me already." Duranki replied.

They eventually agreed to let Duranki go, and return to his cave.

"Have your leaders meet us," Prynhawn instructed.

"Why don't we meet in a wide open space," Yanliz suggested, "so there's no tricks on either side."

"How about tomorrow at noon?" Valeria proposed.

"Sure," Duranki agreed. "I'm sure that will be fine. Can I have my necklace back?"

Brother Martin returned his holy symbol.

"So, tomorrow at noon," Duranki repeated. "Are you going to stay here tonight?"

"No," Valeria advised.

"Okay, then I will bring them out tomorrow," Duranki assured them nervously. "I'll put in a good word for you. Thanks for letting me go. Enjoy the rest of your...stay...wherever it is that you go."

"Thank you," Valeria said.

"Take care of yourself," Vernim waved.

He walked backwards down the hall, and left the cave.

Yanliz dashed out through the secret door and raced through the abandoned orc cave.

Valeria followed him.

When Yanliz made it to the exit, he saw Duranki enter the westernmost cave.

On his way back, Yanliz ran into Valeria and they returned to the rest of the group.

"Yanliz, where did he go?" Valeria asked.

"He didn't go to the highest cave," Yanliz informed them. "He went to the westernmost cave."

The group gathered their things and made their way back to the keep.

A couple of hours from the keep, Yanliz felt the ground shaking.

"You guys, hear that?" Yanliz asked. "It sounds like a charging Minotaur!"

In the distance they saw a small cloud of dust approaching.
As it got closer they saw it was a lone horseman, galloping fast. The rider and horse were fully covered in black armor, and the horse was quite large.

The group backed off to the side of the road, except for Brother Martin, who wanted to hail the rider from the side of the road, and Prynhawn, who stood by him.

As the rider approached, its lance lowered and slammed into Prynhawn, who was trying to protect Brother Martin, knocking the paladin down.

Yanliz shot two arrows, but the arrows bounced off its armor. Jess landed an arrow into the rider's leg. Philip tried to grab the rider's lance, but it was too quick. He settled for a kick to the horse's shim as it passed. Valeria hit the rider with an eldritch blast. Vernim cast healing word on Prynhawn, and missed the rider with his crossbow. Brother Martin missed the rider with a guiding bolt. Prynhawn scrambled to his feet, casting thunderous smite, but the rider was too fast. Lawrence cast scorching ray, but missed the rider with all three rays, as it sped away.

Yanliz went for another shot, but was too eager, and broke his bowstring.

With the rider fading into the distance, they continued on to the keep.

The sun was setting when they arrived at the keep. Sabine was there to greet them, as usual, and was pleased and surprised to see them return safely after having been gone so long.

"Have you happened to see a horseman," Valeria inquired, "all in black?"

"No, I haven't," Sabine replied. "I'm glad to see you've all returned in one piece. We were worried about you. We thought you were finished. We were afraid you had finally met your doom in the caves."

"Not this time," Vernim replied. "We continue to fight on another day. We appreciate your care Sabine."

"It's getting late," Sabine added, "but I'm sure they will be happy to see you in the inn."

When they arrived at The One-Eyed Cat, there was still a decent crowd.
Calista almost dropped her tray when she saw them. She put it down, and ran over to Jess, embracing her.

"Hail adventurers!" cried Mendel from his usual table, waving them over. "You're back!"
He was sitting with his two bodyguards, and his two female companions at his side. Sascia to his left, but the other was not Chantel, and Baricus was nowhere to be seen.

"Hail Mendel," Vernim returned. "How are you today?"

"I'm as good as ever," Mendel replied. "How are you? How goes the adventuring business?"

"We are, you know, a little bit, uh—" Vernim started.

"It's costly," Valeria interjected, "but it is a worthy profession."

"How is our friend Baricus?" Vernim inquired. "Is he with you at this time?"

"He is not," Mendel replied. "It seems he has found greener pastures...with Chantel."

"Wow!" Vernim gasped. "Have they taken up residence somewhere?"

"I imagine so," Mendel guessed.

"There he goes..." Vernim replied. "Baricus..."

"Sit," Mendel invited them. "Have a drink! Tell me of your adventures? Have you vanquished all the evil?"

While Mendel bought them all a round, Jess went to the kitchen to fetch some food, with Philip in tow.

"It's certainly benefiting," Valeria replied, "Although sometimes it comes at quite a cost."

"Oh," Mendel raised an eyebrow. "It seems like you're all intact."

"A couple have come and gone," Valeria explained.

"I see," Mendel nodded. "That's quite a dent you have in your armor, paladin...I can't quite remember your name."

"I'm Prynhawn," the paladin replied.

"Of course, of course, Prynhawn," Mendel apologized. "Prynhawn, how could I forget. That seems like quite a blow you received."

"Oh, this?" Prynhawn looked down at his breastplate, "I received it today."

"So where have you been adventuring?" Mendel asked. "In the woods?" In the mountains? Did you find that tower?"

"The caves," Valeria offered.

"Oh, the caves!" Mendel nodded. "The Caves of Chaos! Have you vanquished all the evil of the caves? Or, have you vanquished the chaos, I should say. Brought law and order..."

"Not yet," Valeria replied, "but we're getting there."

"Good to hear, good to hear," Mendel drank to their success. "It's people like you that allow people like me to make coin like this! And then I can buy you drinks."

Jess and Philip returned with food, and they ate well, and continued to make conversation with Mendel. Brother Martin and Vernim subtly slid their drinks in front of Philip.

Other patrons periodically came over to thank them, or toast to them.

After they had finished eating, Valeria excused them, "We want to leave early tomorrow."

"I understand, I understand," Mendel insisted. "I could stay here talking with you all night about your adventures, but I'm sure you have to rise early. Evil never sleeps, and I'm sure you can't either."

"It was wonderful to see you again, Mendel," Vernim said.

"Of course, same to you," Mendel replied. "Keep those roads safe. Safe for society and merchants...like me...and my companions. Good night. Sleep well."

They went upstairs, to their rooms, but Brother Martin stayed behind.

"How am I going to get my bow fixed by tomorrow?" Yanliz pondered.

"Man, I don't like Mendel," Philip muttered, taking a swig from the keg he had brought up to the room.

Prynhawn suggested that Yanliz get his bow fixed, and ride their horse to the caves, but Jess suggested that she might be able to get a new bowstring before morning.

"I really love all you guys," Philip continued, "and I wouldn't want anybody to do anything negative to themselves, and you guys are all really great friends, and I appreciate..."

"Yanliz, give me your broken bowstring and see what I can do?" Jess suggested.

Yanliz gave her the string and she left.

Meanwhile, while Brother Martin stayed at Mendel's table.

"So what do you know about this tower?" Brother Martin asked.

"Tower?" Mendel asked, "Oh, I don't know much about this tower."

"You said you heard rumors," Brother Martin pressed.

"Yeah, I heard people talk about some tower to the south, but I don't know anything about it," Mendel clarified. "There's the caves. There's the tower..."

"So it's monster infested, like the caves are?" Brother Martin asked.

"Yeah, something like that. I don't know anything about it," Mendel insisted. "This adventuring business is for people like you, not for people like me."

"I feel if you brought it up it must have some kind of value," Brother Martin insisted. "You're a man of business, right?"

"I am, but this is not my business," Mendel insisted. "This is your business. If you want to talk about fine textiles, and spices, and stuff, I can talk your ear off..."

"He's a liar!" came a rowdy voice from the bar. "A liar! He's a liar!"

Brother Martin looked over and saw Asham the Cooper cursing over his ale. "Excuse, everything okay?" Brother Martin asked as he approached the cooper.

"He's a liar!" Asham slurred, pointing at Mendel.

"Mendel, do you have any idea what this guy's talking about?" Brother Martin asked.

"I don't know," Mendel replied. "He looks like he's drunk. Ignore him. He doesn't know what he's talking about."

"Do you know him?" Brother Martin asked.

"No," Mendel replied. "He's always getting drunk. I don't know what his problem is. So, the tower! Do you think you're going to visit the tower next?"

"Well, I figure the caves are great and all, but it seems there's not that much time left before we're through with them. Gotta think about how to bring that gold back."

"Sure, sure!" Mendel agreed. "Yes, it's always about the gold. I guess we have that in common."

"Yeah, it's always about the gold with him!" Asham yelled, approaching their table. "Don't believe him! Don't believe his lies!"

"Asham, what are you talking about?" Brother Martin asked.

"He's responsible!" Asham cried. "The liar! Don't believe his lies!"

"Asham, I think it's probably time for you to go home," Brother Martin suggested. "It seems like you've had a couple of drinks too many."

Ohtar rose, with his hand on his blade, "You better sit down old man!"

"He's a liar!" Asham cried, cowering. "Don't believe him! He'll send you to your doom!" Asham slunk back to his seat.

"Alright, Mendel. I think I'm going to take him home," Brother Martin said. "It seems like he could use a little bit of help."

"Oh, don't let him disturb our drinks," Mendel urged. "Guys like that..."

"You know, as much as it's about the gold," Brother Martin replied, "it's also about the good of the people, and as much as this guy's a bother, he's also one of the people."

"No, no, stay!" Mendel insisted. "Ohtar, why don't you escort this guy home, and make sure he gets home safe."

"Why don't you come with me," Ohtar suggested, taking his hand off his blade. "Where do you live?"

"Mendel, I have to get home anyway," Brother Martin insisted. "It's obvious we're going out tomorrow bright and early, and we live close together."

"Alright, have it your way," Mendel resigned.

"I'm sure we'll meet again," Brother Martin replied, "and maybe drinks will be on me. Who knows."

Brother Martin escorted Asham out of the tavern and towards their apartments, nearby.

"So what were you talking about with him being a liar?" Brother Martin asked. "Something about him being responsible for something?"

"He's a liar! He's a liar!" Asham slurred "He, he, he deals in bad stuff! My Arpad, she didn't do anything! She didn't deserve it! Where is she? He's responsible!"

"Asham, I think it's probably time for you to get some sleep," Brother Martin suggested, leading into his apartment, where the cooper promptly fell onto his sofa.

Brother Martin returned to his own apartment, and tried to get some sleep for the busy day ahead.

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