The path ahead was not a pleasant one.
The sewers of Fallham were mostly fifteen foot wide hallways with a sunken channel in the middle where raw sewage flowed. The stench was horrid, although after a few minutes we acclimated somewhat and the odor dropped to merely vile. That was before we had to submerge in it, however.
A short way in, the Prince explained, we had to go up a smaller channel that involved opening a grate and crawling through. The only blessing was that we didn’t have to put our heads down into it.
If only that had been the worst of it. Eventually we came to large room with a huge inverted pyramid. The sides were metallic and full of tiny holes through which filth oozed. Apparently this was some kind of shit sieve…and we had to get through it.
Jalen quaffed a potion that enabled him to fly, and headed up for a better look. It didn’t take long for him to find a small locked hatch. Opening that sent a deluge of less filtered matter cascading down into our room. Fortunately, Jalen managed to dodge most of it. This is when we realized that the worst was yet to come. Before long the holding tank above us had lowered enough that passage into the pyramid holding tank was possible and so Jalen tied off a rope and we began ascending into the room above. In this room, pipes from every direction fed into the filter pit which was a deep pool of the city’s detritus and bodily waste. Above the pool the gasses had collected which made breathing difficult and lighting a torch dangerous. The biggest danger, however, were the creatures that lived in the pool.
Through our mental connection, Faelyn warned us that these bizarre creatures were called Otyughs. Thick, slimy tree-trunk-like torsos ended in a large toothy maw above. Additionally, they had tentacles with which they lashed out at us. We felled them, but I’m not sure I’ll ever feel clean again. Nuan Shu took the worst of it as she challenged the largest of the Otyughs. That’s when I noticed that Faelyn was completely clean. It didn’t take much convincing to get him to use his magic to clean the rest of us too.
“Believe me, I don’t want to smell you either”, Faelyn responded.
A small walk way surrounded the pit, and there were locked doors in two of the corners. Jalen inspected the doors and discovered that one of them was of much better construction and had a very high quality lock on it. The other was fairly ordinary. The Little Prince cautioned us that the Syndicate would most likely be in the direction of the best locks and traps. Jalen thought it best to open the both doors, “just to see”, and it turned out to be a useful endeavor.
“If we have to run, we’ll go down through the crap door, but they’ll think we went through that door”.
The better door opened into a hallway that led away for a hundred feet or more. We figured we were getting close, so I created an aura of silence. This also proved to be prophetic, as halfway down the hall a lone guard stood vigil. He never got a chance to sound an alarm, however, as we came at him from the dark in absolute silence. He was standing beside a portcullis that led to a small prison. Sure enough, we found Dayton Golding in one of the cells. He was in terrible shape, but was mercifully unconscious, when we found him shackled to the wall of his tiny cell. Many of his joints were dislocated, and he was clearly the victim of torture. Among his injuries, an eye had been put out, one of his feet had been flayed and his manhood had been cut, or possibly torn off. No mere cure would be enough to get this man up and moving, so I entreated Diakris to fully heal him. Unfortunately, some of Dayton’s injuries would require regeneration, including, we soon learned, his tongue. It didn’t take long to calm him down and explain that we were rescuing him. He balked, however, as I tried to lead him out of the prison, pointing at a blank section of wall with his mangled hand. We soon discovered the secret door that he was indicating. His cell looked out on it, so no doubt he had witnessed his guards using it. Beyond the locks and traps that Jalen bypassed was a large room. We found the note that Dayton wanted in a desk.
All was going well up to that point, but I feared that the longer we delayed the greater the chance of being discovered, which would threaten the whole mission. Sure enough, as we hustled back towards the poop pit we heard an alarm go off. Once through the hatch, we re-closed and latched it. From above the small door would soon disappear under the filth and any pursuers would have to assume we went through the second door that Jalen had opened.
We were not home free, however. As we went back through the soupy gate we were attacked. As Jalen and Tanka were waiting for the rest of us to get through a dwarf suddenly appeared in front of the scout and struck him repeatedly. Later we realized that this was the same dwarf that we’d seen talking to Keltin. His nick name was ‘The Answer’. We eventually slew him, but he led us a merry chase all over the sewers, knocking our weapons aside and striking with blinding speed and surprising power. We managed to keep everyone alive, but only barely. Both Nuan Shu and Jalen were knocked unconscious at one point and needed to be pulled from a grim death beneath the stinky stream.
In the end, I left his body hidden in murky liquid. If his friends looked for him here it will be unlikely that they’ll find him. This will also make our approach and escape that much harder to understand later.
We made it out of the sewers and through the city streets without further trouble. Faelyn cleaned us up with his magic before we set foot outside. Not only was it disgusting, but would also draw unwanted attention to our group to be walking about covered in shit.
We met up with Marala back at the camp after a few hours. We were still a little nervous about being followed, so we broke camp and traveled another hour or so away from town with Tanka carefully obscuring our tracks. Faelyn wouldn’t be able to teleport us until the morning, so we wanted to have as safe a place as possible to spend the night.
Once camped we also got some decent clothes for Dayton. He is about my size, but my spare clothes hung so loosely on him. After our ordeal, no one had much of an appetite, but I prepared Diakris’ Table to sup us all. At the very least, it would cure the diseases that most of us likely contracted in the sewers.
Wow, I know that I am completely clean, but I still can’t seem to get that smell out of my nose.
Faelyn returned us to Earl Summer’s compound in Grinadier, saving us a month of travel. One of the Earl’s servants saw us arrive and let us know that Westin wanted to see us immediately.
Westin was at his desk when we arrived and made us wait for several minutes while he finished writing something. At one point that may have annoyed me, but now I see it for what it is…a silly little power play on Westin’s part. If we have to wait for him, then he has to be more important than us. I grinned and waited patiently once that realization came to me.
When he finally looked up and saw Dayton with us, Westin seemed genuinely pleased. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen him smile before. Even before debriefing, he called someone in and gave him instructions. Soon after, a priest arrived and regenerated Dayton’s tongue. I guess the other parts have to wait.
We spent an hour or so giving Westin all the information we could remember: The state of Fallham; what we knew of the Dark Syndicate etc. The letter that Dayton found in the dwarf monk’s room was of special interest too. Naturally, Westin was able to glean a lot more information from the writing than we were.
The letter read:
You should thank your stars that you have not had to deal with our employer’s candidate! He is a complete idiot. I’m sure you would have ripped him in two by now. Believe me, I have considered it! But I’m slowly learning how to manipulate him and as he gains some maturity, he may be useful yet. At any rate, we are stuck with him.
Our efforts to discredit the target have been ineffectual. It appears our plan may have been compromised. I suggest we reconsider our original plan. As we discussed, the target is highly protected and our information indicates he is further protected with a contingency (teleport) and clone spell. Although the contingency is easy to overcome, I do not believe our Permanent Death will prevent the clone spell from saving him. I have read about a powerful dagger called The Dark Devour, which will not only destroy the target, but his soul as well. This may even make the Permanent Death unnecessary, saving us a tremendous amount of gold. I suggest we look for the location of this dagger to implement our original plan.
It sounds as though things are going smoothly back home. Continue to rely on the Answer. He is very wise and has always provided me with exceptional counsel.
We shared that Aldin Barrington was often referred to as ‘The Brains’ of the Dark Syndicate, so it seems logical that he had written it. Since we knew that Aldin had been, and likely still was, in Grinadier it seems logical that the ’Employer’s candidate’ was someone here in the city. Comments about needing maturity suggest a young person.
We discussed this at length and it seems to me that they are trying to position the Earl of the East to replace the Duke. Obviously they aren’t working with Earl Summers. He’s the one they are hellbent to discredit. The Earl of the North, Howard Whitfield is middle aged and pragmatic. He doesn’t match the description and doesn’t seem likely to be easily manipulated. The Earl of the South, Steward Bowman is also middle aged and likely set in his ways. He’s also the least popular due in part to his sadistic nature. His son, Radley, however, might fit. At 22 he may be immature. Apparently he fancies himself a ladies man as well. If his father were to suddenly die, few would be upset, and if Aldin were positioning Radley then perhaps he is the ‘candidate’.
However, my money is on the Earl of the East. Stuart is just 17 and the two people that stood between himself and the Earldom strangely vacated. His brother is missing and presumed dead while his father unexpectedly stepped down. I know little about the boy, but he seems the most likely candidate and bears gathering more information. Westin agreed and indicated that he would be putting some resources into doing just that.
The second paragraph seemed to refer to their efforts to discredit or kill Earl Summers. Apparently they have moved to plan two which is to kill the Earl. They are looking for a dagger called the ‘Dark Devour’ to bypass the protections the Earl has. This may be the object that The Claw was looking for that Myla’s note said was in the top of Mortimer’s tower. Westin was familiar with it. Mortimer was a powerful sorceror a couple hundred years ago and his tower was South of Grinadier. Apparently he started worshipping Katlan at some point. Followers of Katlan are often either assassins or powerful magicians looking for ways to cheat their own death. Looks like we have our next mission. Westin pointed out something that I had missed. The details in paragraph two suggested a spy in the Earl’s camp…someone who would know what spells he has and what spells are active. Later it occurred to me that his apprentice, Millie, would likely know that. She’s been with him a long time though. We’ll need a list of people who would have that information.
The final paragraph was satisfying. By killing the Dwarf Monk we had likely removed the Claw’s main source of guidance. By disposing of his body in the sewer it is my hope that they never find him and never learn what happened to him.
The last bit of information we shared was Lilliana’s comment about the levies being called. Westin seemed to think that Duke Canard of Celedon was planning something.
I can’t imagine living a life of constantly parsing random details to search for useful information. Hopefully we will not be involved in more intrigue any time soon, but I suspect I may be disappointed.