There had been some arson when they were gone. Mellikho Rubberworks, where they once found an entrance to the underground lair/place of worship of The Believers, had been reduced to a charred pile. More worryingly, there were clearly burnt-in marks of the fire cult’s emblem on some remaining floors and walls.
Asking around town brought them back to Yalantha’s Boarding House, in search of a chimneysweep named Tythol Prodniev. “Tusk”, to his friends. While he expected a bribe for his full cooperation, he had indeed seen an odd customer leaving the Rubberworks just before a blaze broke out: A child, or possibly some other diminutive creature, clad in a once luxurious but now burnt robe, who seemed to speak to some strange object in his hands.
With that description, they once again started to ask questions of the townsfolk, and Kaylessa Urquhart provided that she had recently seen an urchin boy in the described robes. She was adamant that he was a new addition to Red Larch, but still suggested they go to the local library, as it was the most central place of gathering for orphans in town.
It was not a big place, but it stood out by virtue of the symbol of Ioun covering the entire height of the front facade, made with white bricks in contrast with the otherwise red. Jenny, the warforged running the place, recognized them and immediately asked if there had been trouble with one of the children.
Upon the description, she sighed and offered the name of ‘Bang’. He was indeed a new addition to the urchins frequenting her establishment, but he had yet to offer up anything about himself. He was, however, upstairs right then.
They found him sitting crosslegged by a book in a back room on the third floor. He held an oil lamp up to his mouth, clearly whispering to it as if in conversation. The book in front of him Ethan could identify as one on the elemental plane of fire.
Conversation began, tentatively, with our heroes asking about his interest in fire. Bang would ask his lamp for guidance before answering any questions. Ethan tried to conjure a small flame to impress the boy, but failed for lack of practice. Things then started to escalate, badly, as Bang’s temper was clearly unstable. Before long, he cast a burning hands on them all, and several books as well.
As the others put out books (and Jenny), Jack grabbed the boy, who started to scream at the lamp for help. Rook picked it up, which went bad for him. He was immediately brought under the influence of someone calling themselves “”/characters/haltoth-mal-taun-yi-takoth" class=“wiki-content-link”>Haltoth Mal’Taun yi’Takoth, The Fang of Brass, The Reaver of Daeadum", speaking inside his head. This naturally began with casting of flame wall, and jumping out the back window.
Valna and Ethan got everyone else out, and Jack jumped after Rook. Yanking the lamp from his hand, he to felt the compulsion to help “The Fang of Brass”, but in an uncharacteristic show of mindfulness fought it off long enough to dump the lamp. And, fortunately, this brought Rook the clarioty as well. The Fang did not take kindly to this rejection, and out from the spout a huge, red-skinned genie rose on a cloud of ash. He brandished his wicked scimitar, and started going to town.
Here’s the thing, though: Our heroes all had some level of fire resistance going for them. So The Reaver of Daeadum could suck it. Rather than being killed, he retreated into his lamp again, and was silent. Still, the party was not going to take any chances, and Jack picked up the lamp by mage hand. They brought it to Ulrich, to be put into the vault as well.
Valna still feared for the safety of Red Larch in case of a giant resurgence. Senna had provided them with the name of a treant, Turlang, who would possibly help in this matter, and Valna suggested this as a logical short stop before continueing on the hunt for the elemental cults. Visiting Kryptgarden, where the treant lived, would only take them a day, after all.
The others agreed, and they all arrived at noon to the border of the dark, dense “park” that was Kryptgarden. It was dense and overflowing the wall surrounding it, a literal jungle slap bang in the middle of the city. While finding a recalcitrant treant in a dark wood would be difficult, Senna had also given them the name of Tharra Shyndle, a witch living in the Kryptgarden who supposedly acted as assistant to Turlang. And the locals living around the place told them that finding her hut was as simple as following the red ribbons leading from the main gates.
“Do not stray from the ribbons!” they all cautioned.
Yes, the other generally known bit a about Kryptgarden, aside from its denseness, was the ancient green dragon living in there. “”/characters/claugiyliamatar" class=“wiki-content-link”>Old Gnawbones", they called her. She respected the ribbons, but the rest of the place was hers.
They entered, and walked for some thirty minutes along the ribbons. Based on a map of Kryptgarden this would have taken them out the other side, but parks in Occam had a tendency to be bigger on the inside. At that mark, more pressingly, they began to hear the rumblings of something big between the trees, coming closer. And closer. Until the massive head of a green dragon shot out of the growth above them. In the jaws a skeletong hung loosely.
“What are you doing here? You should be visiting the ”/wikis/Eye%20of%20the%20All-Father/new" class=“create-wiki-page-link”>Eye of the All-Father, in the mountains to the south."
She spoke with a voice like an old crone, suckling the bones in pauses between words. But nevertheless they thought it sounded like a spiel of some desperate soothsayer, like she had said this before to anyone wandering past.
“”/wikis/The%20Ordning/new" class=“create-wiki-page-link”>The Ordning is broken. All the world will feel the giants fight to establish a new one with their own giantkind on top."
She left the script, briefly:
“I have watched you. Hunting these cults. I do not believe they pose a threat like the giants. How could they? They are much smaller.”
And then she disappeared.
Our heroes made note of it all, after they dared to breath again.
They reached the hut of Shyndle some five minutes later, and knocked on the door.
The witch turned out to be a welcoming if not overly friendly sort. They were offered tea and if they would like to buy any of her fine mushrooms, mosses or plants they were welcome to. Rook naturally took the chance to expand into further reaches of his mind.
As for their business speaking with Turlang, she was at first reluctant to speak about him, but as the party explained their intention to defend Red Larch, she agreed to a meeting. So she took them outside, walked up to the nearest tree, and said:
“Wake up, Turlang.”
And the bark split into the outline of a face.
“Why, though? Why?” it said. “I have no patience for adventurers come to beg my aid.”
However, at the mention of Senna’s name, the treants bad mood softened quickly. He reminisced about past days, mumbling to himself a little while, before snapping back to the conversation.
“If she asks for help, she shall have it.”
And his gift for them was two awakened trees and one awakened shrub, who followed them out of the forest and back to Red Larch. With the right skills in magic and horticulture, they could possibly be a source for more of their kind, giving Red Larch a wooden defensive force. But for now, our heroes let them plant themselves in a small patch of grass.
Next step? They all agreed that they had put aside their hunt for the pirate long enough, especially Ethan. Time to set Empyrion’s plan of a bait ship into motion.
Our heroes reached Empyrion Shipping by late afternoon, and walked straight into the unwelcoming two guards outside.
In no uncertain terms it was made clear that Helen was quite angered by the way she had been left on the roof with Kalinoth et al. Accordingly, she had made clear that our four heroes were not welcome on the premises.
However, some light pressure on the issue had one of the two guards go inside to check with her if perhaps she would allow just Ethan to come inside. And what do you know, she did allow that.
“I know that the healthy thing to do after being dumped by your date is to just move on. However, I confess that this time I did some… stalking. And mark my surprise when I found out that you carry the badge of a dead man. In fact, you are part of the ”/wikis/Crushing%20Wave/new" class=“create-wiki-page-link”>Crushing Wave. Or you were, perhaps?"
“I imagine my ex-husband has no idea about this? Of course he does not. No matter. The important thing is that you are still interested in hunting down ”/characters/gar-shatterkeel" class=“wiki-content-link”>Shatterkeel?"
“Yarr. His place as prophet should be mine.”
“Whatever you say. I have a proposal that could work out very well for both of us: You stick to the plan of luring out Shatterkeel with one of my ships, along with the other three, and when you have taken his place, the two of us keep working together to take out some of my most annoying competition. In exchange, I do not immediately reveal who you are to the rest of your party so they kill you.”
“Yarr. I accept.”
“Excellent. This could be the beginning of beautiful friendship. I will have a ship ready for you in two days, which should leavy you plenty of time to prepare.”
“Now. I do have one further request. By no means is it a must. But… I do hope that you can find a way to not kill ”/characters/jack-hughman" class=“wiki-content-link”>Jack. The other two I do not care about. Like, at all. If you have to, the mission comes first. It is just a slight wish on my part."
The others were suprised, but elated, when Ethan returned with the news that the plan was still on. Wasting no time, the four of them together set about the first part of the plan: Spreading the rumour of a valuable shipment leaving Occam for Laorost in two days. Time to get drunk with some sailors.