The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intention
*22 Mirtul, The Year of the Trusted Covenant (1479 DR)
Despite a lack of dwarven speakers, Talak concocts a ritual to decipher the text of Karadhan’s journal.
Soon the party head off to investigate the other building, although the presence of more signs of Asmodeus carved into the trees dictate a cautious approach to the hut, which they soon discover to be empty, but obviously recently occupied. Tanning racks stand in the garden, while the interior hints at a spartan but neat existence – dwarf-sized clothes, neatly made bed, the smouldering remains of a fire and a chest full of sewing equipment.
Close inspection of the ground outside tells a less peaceful story – footprints, lots of them, leading away from the hut, with an indication that at least two of the group did not travel willingly.
The trail is easy for Mani to track and it is soon apparent that it leads in the direction of Karadhan’s mine. A few hours later this is confirmed as the footprints go through a rickety entrance into a cliffside.
The passage down the mineshaft matches the map in Kharadan’s journal, although the tunnels and galleries reveal some odd details – while most of the mineworkings seem soundly constructed, there are areas which have obviously collapsed only to be dug out again – albeit in a somewhat slovenly fashion, and from the inside out. Rok Alim also feels a dim awakening of some ancient elemental juice in his veins.
On reaching a junction the party finally hear something other than the echoes of their own footsteps – an oddly discordant rattle of what sounds like picks on stone to the right, while a muted and undecipherable chanting drifts down the tunnel to the left.
With the fate of whoever has been dragged here in their hands, the party take the left fork and soon come upon a vast mined-out gallery that now hosts an obscene ritual led by a mage and overseen by a female dwarf clothed in a robe of human skin – they are surrounded by obsidian scimitar wielding guards and gibbering cultists drooling over a pair of extremely nervous looking victims, male and female, buff, and tied down to stone tables beneath an obelisk of stone and timber raised to some devilish entity.
It is not long before battle is joined, spells and flaming arrows are flying (much to Talak’s delight as he fixes on the archer who carries such a fine looking weapon) and the ritual is interrupted. It is a tough old struggle as the party fight their way up the gallery towards the victims, but as the battle turns and the mage falls, the dwarf flees for the rear of the gallery, disappearing around a corner and summoning Balol, a nasty looking cambion, to cover her escape.
“Actually, Favria, I was busy you know,’ the somewhat miffed creature shoots at the back of the retreating dwarf, before taking up a position to block any pursuit.
With Malus’ advice ringing in his ears, Kierke rushes at the obelisk hoping to curb the power of the devil, or cancel the ritual or just break something. Crashing into the mound the barbarian sends splinters of wood and lumps of rock flying everywhere. In particular, several heavy and jagged lumps crash into the prone victims still tied to their slabs, much to the delight of the cambion, who found the whole incident very amusing.
There was nothing anyone could have done.
Meanwhile, with Malus’ advice ringing in his ears, Danforth circles around the winged evil one to jump into the ventilation shaft to chase the dwarf, only for the cambion to send a fireball up his arse and the warning shout that if he didn’t come back at once and let her get away, there would be Hell to pay.