Our heroes were brought into the large central building, through the bronze doors. The interior was all one big hall. Four huge stone monoliths dominated the room. All of them seemed barely worked and like they had burst from the floor. That and the walls were all made from rough but treated sandstone, several hundred years old. The monoliths looked as new as stone; naked, smooth surface and sharp edges.
In the further end of the room stood an altar next to a square hole in the floor. Mei was led down a set of wide, steep stairs to a mine-like cavity, while the other three were arranged along the hole’s edge and woken with splashes of water. As she had been led through the room above, Mei had heard the thrashing of some large beast below, and to her left she now saw it behind bars. It was like some enormous cross between a beetle and a gorilla, standing on two legs and banging its other two against the metal of its prison door.
The umber hulk, clearly. It seemed to have been mutilated by someone. Two of its four eyes had been poked out, and its claw coated with metal hammered into extra sharp, brutal edges. The monks undid Mei’s bindings and left back up the stairs. The priest-monk they had fought outside, now introduced as Qarbo, walked over to a bronze lever in the corner of the hall and gave it a good yank. Immediately, the steps fell fell down to create a steep slide and the door holding back the monster slid to the side.
It came scrambling out, trying to squeeze itself out before the door was even halfway open. Mei saw the futility even as Jack and Dink tried to free themselves to help her (and paid the price of being knocked out again by the abbess). She shot herself through the temple, just as the beast tore into her.
Celendril was left awake to watch it eat her.
After the umber hulk had been forced back into its cage, they were brought down into the mines as well, but led away to through a side door. They walked briefly through some sort of mausoleum, but were then led back into mine corridors. Before long, they stepped into a rank-smelling room, were Qarbo handed them over to three orogs and an ogre: “Commander” Lurth, his two stooges, and Drool.
Unpleasant people, giving our heroes but two hours of sleep before they would drag them of for a day’s backbreaking work. But the surviving trio made the best of it, by conversing with a key prisoner; the dwarf Teodoro Bruventa.
It seemed the monks of Sacred Stone did not know that he was a key part of the delegation they had ambushed. The other members had made sure that he was looked over as they were transported from the ambush in the Family safe house to the monastery.
The monks were actually a cover for a cult called the Black Earth. According to Bruventa, their attack had taken place roughly two weeks ago now. Half the guard of delegation had simply been left there, dead or dying, but the rest and the key members had been taken by barge south along the Dessarin Canal to Womford. The attackers had paid of some smugglers (apparently affiliated with the well-known Pirate) with Bruventa’s ancient books from the dwarven enclave of Tyar-Besil, neither party understanding their true combined value would be in hundreds of thousands. From Womford they had then been taken east, past Summit and up the favela to the monastery. But when they had barely left Womford, they were attacked by members of the Feathergale Society, who made off with the initiative taker behind the delegation: Deseyna Majarra. The Black Earth brought the rest of them here. Teresiel and Rhundrr had been taken further down the mine.
So why was Bruventa even part of the delegation? He was just some scholar on an obscure part of Occam’s ancient history.
Well, apparently Majarra had come to hear rumours that a number of really weird groups recently found their way to Tyar-Besil through the undercity, all at once, after it had been lost for centuries. Believing anything so strange merited investigation, especially as Occam was experiencing a lot of freak phenomena, with an uptick in monster and bandit attacks. And once they started to tug that thread, groups like the Feathergale Society and cult of the Black Earth came after them fast and hard.
Bruventa realized by what the heroes told him of their adventures in turn that they could be strong enough to attempt a break. So as they were corralled to work, he instructed the other prisoners to provide cover for a discussion with another inmate of some power: A firbolg named Rook.
He had been living below Occam for easily over a 150 years, alone, looking for Tyar-Besil (at least initially, but he really just liked it down there). Then some six plus months ago, he had been stumbled upon by the Black Earth as the dug their way down to the ruin in question. Since then, he had been working in this mine. Not keen to do so any longer, he agreed to help them all get out. But it must be said that he was a chill, patient fellow. The promise of freedom seemed to his liking, but ha was not in a hurry.
They spent the day working the mine so that they could then get a full night’s rest before the attempt.
Dink woke midway through their sleep, shaken by another intense dream of standing next to Marlos Urnrayle, sinking the entire city of Occam into the ground; people being crushed and falling to their death all around them. Next to him, outside the cell, sat Qarbo.
Firstly, he seemed to know what Dink had dreamt of, though remained unconvinced by an attempt from Dink to let him join the Black Earth as he lied that the dreams had led him to seek them out.
Secondly, he related his disappointment in that Lurth had not taken greater care with a wizard under his oversight. Threatening Dink with throwing shatter spells to kill his cell mates, he made him step forward to the bars and place his hands on the ground. He then shaped the stone over them to crush every finger in order to prevent spellcasting.
Still on a cocktail of magic and adrenalin from his dream, Dink remained silent as they broke, which seemed to unnerve Qarbo quite a lot. Enough for him to leave quickly.
The next day, they staged their escape. Trying to kill their guards quick enough that they and the other prisoners could escape through a partially collapsed tunnel before the monks from above would join the fight.
It quickly went wrong, and before the end Celendril bought it. But the others managed to kill or scare of their guards long enough to get most of the prisoners out. As the left, Rook looked over at the body of Celendril, and so it being quickly covered by green moss.
Eventually the tunnel led them out among some rocks just next the wall of Cecil Rock. Rook blinked in the first sunlight he had seen for almost two centuries. He looked out over the city that had´not been there, certainly not the skyscrapers. He took it in his measured manner though. Uprooted he decided to join in what seemed like a worthwhile fight against these cults, at least to kick them out of his home.
All of them headed for Summit, which they spotted some few kilometers away.
Reaching it by afternoon, despite what was unseasonable heat slowing them down, they went into the main hall to meet Lady Stormbanner. At first glance unto their current state, she seemed a bit ashamed, and began an apology that swiftly halted when it seemed that the cause of it was not what she had thought. But she was still keen to know why only two of the had come back, along with 15 emaciated men and women.
They told her what had happened, and with the help of Bruventa and Rook, managed to connect the dots more readily now that things were less dire. Lady Stormbanner allowed that they all stayed in Summit Hall until thoroughly rested.