by Just Jae
The party thinks they find what they came for
Recovering the Relics
Observing the nearly empty village from their hilltop viewpoint, the group timed the movements of the few guards they saw, planning their approach to the large tower. As they watched, the mist-shrouded form exited the building, trailed by a guard. They headed toward the ruins. Several dozen heartbeats later, the High Priest and his guard left, going into the other priest's building.
"Now's our chance," said Skrie, moving from her hiding spot.
Taking advantage of the empty tower, the group sneaked across the road and into the building. Before entering, Skrie cast a spell to detect any traps in the room. Her senses began tingling, an indication of a dangerous trap inside.
"Careful," she said, "there's a trap here somewhere."
Searching as she moved slowly inside the door, the halfling found no physical traps. The group entered the room and pulled the door almost shut.
Malusk watched through the crack while Skrie and Theren checked the room.
Two torches in sconces on either side of the room provided just enough light for Skrie to see the interior. It was a circular space with several large tables around the edges. One table contained ritual items--knives, urns, candle holders, and braziers. A second held pieces of jewelry, and a third looked like it had been used as a desk with a few books lying on its surface. One of the books was open.
"What's this?" asked Theren, moving to the desk.
"What's what?" said Skrie, not turning to look.
"It looks like a book of magical writings but I don't recognize the language or the subject."
"Hush," said Malusk, crouching low at the door. "Some'un's comin'."
Theren followed as Skrie continued checking each table for traps. A blue glow emanated from one of the books on the desk.
"This ..." said the halfling, pointing to the glowing book.
Theren approached the tome and lifted the edge of the book with his dagger before the cleric could finish her warning. Five skeletons rose from the back of the tower and rushed toward the hapless mage.
Skrie stepped forward when she heard the rattle of bones, raising her holy symbol toward the skeletons and uttering a prayer to her goddess. Two of the undead fled to the back of the tower, doing their best to escape the tiny cleric.
Mainly using magic to put down the skeletons, the party managed to lay the skeletons to rest without attracting the guards' attention some twenty paces from the door. After the short battle, Skrie noticed that one of the skeletons had turned over a crate, and a small ornate chest had tumbled to the floor.
"This is it!" whispered Skrie. "This is what they we're looking for!" Grabbing a couple of empty sacks, the halfling stuffed the chest, jewelry, and ritual objects inside them. Theren pulled the three books from the desk and stuffed them into a bag.
The door creaked open behind them. Skrie and Theren froze. Just as the robed cultist from outside entered the tower, Malusk moved behind the door, slamming it shut, surprising the man, and dealing him a glancing blow. Skrie and Theren joined in and killed the priest with little trouble.
"Let's go get th' others," said Malusk. "I think we can take out th' other priest and his guard."
"I'm spent, my friend," said the cleric. "I don't have enough left to heal if anyone gets hurt. Tymora only grants so much in a day."
"I'm done, also," said Theren. "I'll need time to study before I'm able to do much more than irritate them."
"Dammit!" said the half-orc, slamming a fist on a table. "Right then, let's get this all packed up and get outta here 'afore that misty thing gets back here."
They packed the items they'd found in Malusk's pack. Sneaking out the door and hurrying across the road, they climbed the nearby hill to look back on the village. As they watched, the other priest and his guard entered the tower. A heartbeat later, the guard ran out, yelling at the top of his lungs. The other guards in the village came running at the alert.
One guard ran to the building in the north of town, bringing the black and gold-robed priest, his guard, and two more robed cultists. They all entered the tower.
"Let's go," said Skrie. "I think this is what Geordo's looking for. Let them try to figure out what happened here."
"Good idea," said Theren. "We still don't know how many cultists there are, though."
"I wanna get some distance 'tween us an' this place," said Malusk. "It gives me th' creeps."
"Me too," said Skrie. "They'll be out looking for us soon, I suspect. Let's get out of here."
"If we leave now," said Theren, "we should have just enough time to meet Geordo on the trade road."
Casting a spell to allow them to pass through the forest without a trace, Skrie rode on Malusk's shoulders. They headed into the hills and woods, moving as fast as possible, hoping to get as far from the village as they could in the short time they would be nearly undetectable.
As they were leaving, the cleric turned to look back at the town. Three cultists were searching the area around the tower where the trio had sneaked around the side. The party moved west into the rough forest and hills, traveling along animal trails through the brush for half a league or so before turning north. They stayed in the woods but kept an eye on the road from the hilltops along the way. Two leagues later, Malusk saw movement on the road to the north of them. Three cultist guards. The party avoided them as the guards moved south out of sight.
Another league up the road, they spotted a group of four coming from Nemeademore. Three zombies and a cultist traveled the road, heading in their direction. The group laid an ambush for the four coming from the south. Malusk, hiding in the brush, waited until the cultist and his undead charges passed his position, then jumped out of the bush, surprising the cultist. The big half-orc cut the man down in two swings. Theren and Skrie attacked the undead using magic and crossbows, taking them out quickly. After the fight, they cleaned the dirt as best they could and tossed the bodies off the cliff to the east side of the road.
They traveled along the road for another two leagues before the shadows lengthened. Finding a hill overlooking the track, they made camp on the far side of the mound, settling in for the evening, and watching the road for activity. Not long after the sunset, a glow from the direction of Nemeademore caught their attention, followed by the smell of burning wood and thatch.
Next: "Garrick's Tale"