Godsday, Reaping 4, 552 CY (50 AN)
After the previous evening’s debacle at the Bloodworth Estate, Aerik Sellsword, Burdwulf the Greatly Challenged, and Hilda Giblets rejoin with Falrest Chisoud, introducing him to Jarq’wei Loindeen, Tuggin’ “Tuggs” Nemo, Utne Jarlson, Gaenbert, Helmund, Aenbehrt, and Jaenbald. They proceed to sort through their underworld contacts, fencing as much of the loot as they can. Once the shares are divided, Gaenbert, Helmund, Aenbehrt, and Jaenbald take their leave. Aerik, Burdwulf, Falrest, and Hilda inform Jarq’wei, Tuggs, and Utne about Mithras Vicelord’s offer regarding The Emerald Tome of the Devourer, worth 1,000,000 silvers if they can retrieve it. The only information they have is that it may have traveled through the hands of the lost kingdom of the Duvan’Ku.
Inquiries are made, and certain underworld contacts suggest that a wizard by the name of Eutaric traveled through here, asking about the same artifact. He was also after something called the Red Bell; evidently he found the information he sought, because he took a small company of fixers and ne’er-do-wells down the road. The last thing anyone heard is that he was headed to the town of Burnthorpe, roughly a week’s travel away. He left about a week ago, so he’s probably there by now.
Inquiries suggest he did not find the information he sought among the cities academics — they consider Eutaric an asshole, and won’t deal with him — but no criminal contacts will take credit for the information, either.
Armed with this information, the group invests its ill-gotten gains into supplies for the trip. They purchase a cart, horse, plenty of food and equipment, and horses for all of them. After contacting the Black Hawk Mercenary Company and requesting a small unit of twenty-two mercenaries — ten standard infantry, five pikemen, five archers, and two sergeants — for three months, they also hire a handful of laborers and linkboys and a couple of physicians for the same period. Hilda Giblets has the idea of purchasing an entire fleet of carts and pack animals so that they can deploy the mercenaries like marines, and so he personally invests in transport for the entire party.
Preparations take a couple of days, and they finally leave Vor Taluum on the morning of Earthday, Reaping 6. While the group is traveling normally, Tuggs will ride ahead, taking the opportunity to investigate Burnthorpe and possibly determine Eutaric’s plans before the others arrive.
It takes Tuggs about three days to reach Burnthorpe, arriving around midday on Sunday, Reaping 9. He passes a church — a temple of Erathis, goddess of civilization, by the look of things — before riding into the town proper. Finding the local inn, the Crimson Kite, he investigates, but finds that no one else is currently staying at the inn. He orders a room for a couple of days and buys a beer. Unfortunately, his goal to remain unnoticed is strained when he realizes he only has gold pieces on him; she is surprised to see such a wealthy halfling, and immediately goes to work serving him.
After enjoying his ale, he strolls around town. Finding nothing untoward, he returns to the Crimson Kite around nightfall, hoping to catch conversation about any strange travelers through town. His listening pays dividends — a couple of people in the alehouse are discussing the travelers who recently came through, speculating about what they wanted. Tuggs buys them beer, and inquires further — they apparently left earlier in the week, but they seemed very interested about the church. Since Tuggs previously heard some idle chatter connecting the visitors to the church, he decides to go investigate.
Noting that candles are lit, he quietly creeps to the church and sneaks up to the window. Inside he sees a tonsured priest, who merely appears to be standing around in the nave, almost as if waiting for something. The man occasionally looks at the door, and then back to the altar. Tuggs is about to turn away when he sees two armed men, their faces ashen and their bodies covered in small, circular wounds, come running out of a hole in the floor in front of the altar. They pay no mind to the priest, who appears to be trying to talk to them, instead making a beeline for the door and bursting through it, fleeing into the surrounding woods.
The priest pulls a dagger and goes toward the hole from which the men emerged. When he reaches the edge, he apparently sees something that sends him running for the door. As Tuggs watches, a massive beast emerges, at least eight feet tall. It appears to be made of angry, red tissue — a loathsome amalgamation of stomachs, muscles, organs, tendrils made of intestines ending in biting teeth, and topped with a grotesque, whistling anus. As it lurches out of the basement, four men armed with crossbows flee from an unseen lefthand side of the room, and run out of the building. The creature reaches the door, and finding nothing living, retreats to the basement of the church.
As everyone ran in different directions, but the priest seemed to run toward the town, Tuggs heads in that direction. He finds the priest standing in the shadow of a building, trying to cut the rest of his hair with his dagger — rather like he’s trying to cover a crime. Tuggs sneaks up behind him and garrotes him; the priest manages to shank him once in the arm, but quickly goes limp. Tuggs manages to drag him over to the inn without anybody noticing, and then hoists him up into his inn room using a rope.
Tuggs binds and gags the man, shoves him under his bed, and uses the excuse of him being a halfling to explain away the fact that he purchases more food than usual. He otherwise does not leave his room, waiting for his fellow party members to arrive.
The others arrive during the day on Earthday, Reaping 13. They immediately attract the attention of the townsfolk, as over thirty people on carts and horses arrive and start setting up tents. Upon hearing the commotion, Tuggs comes to find Burdwulf, Falrest, Hilda, and Utne, leaving out Aerik because he is helping oversee the mercenaries and Jarq’wei because he is far too dandy. He brings them to his room and shows them the bound priest under his bed, explaining that he only wanted to interrogate the man after having some backup.
Interrogation yields the man’s name to be Clement. He is not actually a priest; he was hired by the magician Eutaric, along with several other rogues from Vor Taluum, to help him retrieve the Red Bell and The Emerald Tome of the Devourer. When questioned, he indicates The Emerald Tome of the Devourer is located in the town of Trastow, apparently in some complex on the peak of Mount Deathfrost. The Red Bell was buried in the crypt of the temple of Erathis in town. He also indicates that Eutaric and his crew arrived in Burnthorpe earlier in the week, scouted the place, and camped outside the town. They returned on the evening of Reaping 9 to break into the church. Clement disguised himself as the priest in case anyone came into the church in the middle of their robbery.
During the questioning, Jarq’wei comes to find the group, and seems intrigued by the prospect that Tuggs has a bound priest in his room. They quickly explain that Clement is not actually a priest.
Utne indicates that Clement’s answers please him, and so he might very well survive meeting the group. After gagging him and shoving him back under the bed, they split into groups to investigate. Burdwulf, Hilda, and Jarq’wei take a contingent of mercenaries to investigate the bandits’ camp, while Falrest, Tuggs, and Utne ask around town for any information they might be able to find.
Burdwulf, Hilda, and Jarq’wei find only the remnants of a camp about ten minutes outside of town. Whomever camped there is long gone.
Asking around, Falrest, Tuggs, and Utne learn that the standard priest of the town has gone missing — although nobody wanted to investigate the church too heavily once it became obvious he was gone — and that apparently nobody in town is aware that there is a lower level or crypt to the church. Falrest and Utne say they will investigate the priest’s disappearance, and will aid the people as necessary.
Upon reconvening, the group shares information. Returning to Clement, they ask if his group would have any sort of rendezvous point; he explains that the camp was the rendezvous, and if they weren’t there, they likely headed back to Vor Taluum. When Falrest and Utne ask what he did with the priest, he indicates he might have killed the man.
Deciding the time has come to investigate the temple, they shove him back under the bed and leave.
The travelers arrive at the church, leaving the laborers, physicians, and five mercenaries outside with Aerik standing guard. Burdwulf, Falrest, Hilda, Jarq’wei , Tuggs, Utne, fifteen mercenaries, and two sergeants enter the church to investigate. There is a faint smell of rot, of feces and offal, permeating the church. They see the open crypt before the altar, but search the church for clues first. While searching, they become aware of a giant, lumbering creature — the organ-created monster Tuggs saw a few days ago. They let fly with arrows, musket shot, and thrown weapons, while the infantry and pikemen move forward to engage, perforating the creature with swords and pikes.
The monstrous thing is slain within seconds, collapsing and turning into a greasy mist which quickly dissipates.
Once confident that it is gone, Falrest gives a linkboy his everburning torch, and the group moves downstairs, into the crypt.
The stairs lead to a hallway littered with mouldering corpses. They all appear to have been eviscerated, and none match Eutaric’s description. The group gets the laborers to pull the corpses outside the temple so they can be burned on a pyre. They then proceed.
The hallways are made of stone, and there are crypts recessed into the walls, each covered in plain, unmarked concrete shutters. Coming to a four-way intersection, they go left and shortly come to another intersection; to the left is a door, and the path to the right continues into the darkness. They decide to investigate the door to the left; Hilda gets to work trying to pick the lock, and after having no luck for about ten minutes, pries the door open with a prybar. Inside is a small room with a simple stone sarcophagus, etched with the symbol of Erathis. It is sealed and otherwise unadorned and unlabeled. The group turns around and heads down the dark passageway. After about fifty feet, the hallway terminates in another door. Hilda gets to work, and after about ten minutes working with the lockpicks, just decides to pry the door open with his prybar. This room looks much like the first, containing a simple sarcophagus.
Returning to the four-way intersection, they head forward. After about fifty feet, they come to an open door; the padlock appears to have been sawed through. Corpses lie inside the room, covered in circular wounds, and the sarcophagus lid sits ajar. One of the corpses is a man fitting Eutaric’s description. Hilda peers inside the sarcophagus and sees a desiccated corpse in rusted armor bearing a rusty sword and shield. The shield features a red bird atop a watchtower. Sitting on its side near the man’s legs is a large bell cut out of a single red gemstone and bearing minute writing around the outer edge of the bell — the Red Bell. The group fetches a laborer to retrieve the bell, but when he does, he accidentally rings it. The three corpses in the room writhe, as their insides are swiftly pulled out, forming another flesh golem, smaller this time. As it moves to attack, they make short work of it, and it is slain when Jarq’wei shoots it with his musket — temporarily blinding and deafening everyone else as he fires in an enclosed space. The laborer, Hopkin, drops the bell back into the sarcophagus in the confusion.
Once everyone recovers, the group discusses what to do with the Red Bell. Some consider leaving it, but others think the ability to generate “ass-monsters,” as they call them, from fresh corpses might occasionally be useful. Additionally, they wonder if Mithras Vicelord might be willing to pay for the Red Bell in addition to The Emerald Tome of the Devourer. Once it is decided, Hilda takes two of the sacks in his pack, carefully lifting and wrapping the bell so it cannot chime. They consider packing it in a box, but Hilda decides to just keep it in his pack.
Searching Eutaric, they find some coins, a blank scroll, and a scribbled note indicating, “Emerald Tome — Trastow? Red Bell — Burnthorpe?” A bloody sack contains some scattered coins and candlesticks, and they take them.
Before they leave, Utne wants to check one more thing. First, they go down the righthand path, finding the same hallways and locked doors leading to sarcophagi. Additionally, they return to the first room they found and pry open the sarcophagus. They find another desiccated corpse clad in arms and armor, although this one bears no additional items. Satisfied, the group gets the laborers to clean out the bodies and they leave.
Returning to the Crimson Kite, they interrogate Clement further, more or less satisfied that he has told them the truth. Since no spellbook was found, Jarq’wei inquires about it; Clement says Eutaric left it at camp, so his fellows likely took it with them. Where might they sell such a thing? Clement indicates they would probably go to the fence, Osric. Jarq’wei says he would be willing to purchase the spellbook and any other magical accoutrements Clement could retrieve if Clement can get there first. Clement agrees, and they let him go. Jarq’wei gives him a gold piece to tide him over until he returns to Vor Taluum, and Clement confirms that they are next headed to Trastow. He then takes his leave.
The group spends the night celebrating a job well done, preparing to leave in the morning. For coming face-to-face with the Red Bell and an ass-monster, they make certain Hopkin is treated well, and try to set him up with one of the local farmers’ daughters.