With much joy the team finally made it back to the safety of the Northern city- having battled wasps, strange giant men and successfully cleaned-out an elderly land owner, everyone felt the need for a much deserved break!
Sadly no respite was afforded, as they sought an audience with Forza to debrief him on circumstances beyond his walls. Grimes passed on their Prisoners to the local Guard, who were surprised; not because the team had somehow bagged themselves 2 hardened assassins, but due to the terrible state the prisoners were in! Battered, bruised, stripped and shackled, some would imagine they were grateful to be released from the team’s care.
After a short wait, the heroes were escorted to the central estate which watched over the city from behind it’s interior walls- clean, spacious and boarderline extravagant, they were led through a calm summer’s garden in full bloom, through a set of imposing, sturdy wooden doors and along a small series of corridors to a large hall. Sitting proudly at the opposite end on an ornate throne-esque chair, flanked by the familiar figures of Connel and Darkhound (who had been cured of their blindness) was a man unknown to the adventurers. Slight in frame, but wrapped in thick animal furs, the gentleman introduced himself as Halas Gremmel.
He explained how Lord Fairbrow was still bound to the South with Terrandor business, and in his stead he was overseeing his affairs. The gang regailed their tale of assassins, vermin and exploding ships which Halas ensured was noted down in the records. He in turn, explained why Connel and Darkhound had to be so secretive- they were part of an organisation who specialise in ridding supernatural evil from the land and protecting the masses from servants of Jul, known as the Scarlet Shield. He continues to tell the team that incidents of such horrors are becoming ever more prevelant, and his resources are stretched as the land becomes overrun with danger at every turn. He then surprised the team by offering them a contract of employment to bring them into the ranks, for a gnerous 5 silver a week each. Reluctanly they accepted; Lylah instructed that her payment be sent straight to her church, and Grimes decided that he would become a property tycoon. Before they could finish drawing up a shopping list for their mass riches, Gremmel issued them their first task: an agent had been sent to the vilage of Half-Hill to investigate peculiar reports of children going missing. He had been gone a number of weeks without reporting back and Gremmel was eager to discover what had happened to his man. While providing a description and a name, the discussion was interrupted by a messenger who informed everyone that the Beaumont Famiy from Rigeselle had arrived, (who were eager to start bidding on the now vacant Halfswith estate)and the execution of the prisoners was to takeplace shortly and Gremmel was required to be present at the spectacle. He invited the party, but only the battle-hardened Grimes and Oben had the stomach to accept his offer.
The huddled hoi polloi crowded around the execution arena, the home of the Brazen Boar! Copper plated and ornately designed, the impressive hollow-grotesque was a favourite way to dispose of particularly violent or ruthless prisoners. The murder of a wealthy Gratian was more than enough to send the peculiar-tongued kilers to their ends; thrown into the beast’s chamber, naked and unable to escape, the pair were roasted alive as a roaring fire heated the metal to white-hot, the screams of the dying whistling out of the boar’s nostrils like a gruesome symphony. During the ceremony Oben spied a set of guests in the Ruby Box (reserved seating for special guests)- a family sitting proud whose traits of black hair and bright blue eyes were easy for him to recognise: the Beaumont Family. Besides the peculiar addition of a blonde haired girl sitting next to a young male, he knew that the family were famed as one of the major players in linen and exotic luxury goods. Alongside the Tellurs (slavers) and Raibanks (armour and weaponry) they were a significant power in Rigeselle.
The slop of human goo was flushed from the boar and the crowds departed- Grimes quickly found a chap who had a vacant property in the cheaper part of town and agreed terms on leasing with the aim to buy. He asked Ralph to stay and work on his inventions in the interim, offering him the cellar due to his prototype design diagrams sadly being destroyed in the crash, which he cheerfully agreed to. That afternoon, the team set out.
It was a weeks travel to Half-Hill, and the team quickly established that they would try and be incognito: Lylah was to be a wandering healer, Phileo an entertainer, Oben.. a Paladin… and Grimes an apple trader (without any apples). They arrived without incident, struggling to maintain their cover with a socially awkward Grimes. The team met with the town leader Malik, who offered them safe lodgings for a time whilst they made plans. The sleepy village was a stark contrast to the choking avenues of Grate, with a handful of erected buildings on a single main dirt path- there was also a bewildering amount of children, who streamed forward to greet the adventurers. The boys took a particular liking to the beautiful Lylah, who they provided with much attention before the young girls took her in for braiding of hair and girl talk. Whilst Lylah gathered information, the gang were taken to the local ‘tavern’, a single open plan room with a stair leading up to a further open-planned bed chamber.
Lylah had gleaned from one of the cockier boys that the children were playing in the forest near to the village when the last child was scooped up and taken away. Taking it as a good lead, she informed the teamwho set out to investigate. They searched the forest without much success, until Oben spied smoke coming from beyond the cusp of the hill to the North- a definite sign they needed to reveal. They pushed on, navigating the cooling terrain to reach a vantage point- they quicky spotted something entirely foreign lurking below; strange hulking men, almost animals, sporting tattered leather tunics. A set of prehensile trunks and ivory tusks struck the impression of an enemy far beyond it’s normal environment. The heroes set about dispatching this foe, which surprised them by being able to ascend a slope to attack them! Grimes took a stunning bow from one, cracking bone and winding the poor combatant. After a quick melee, the tides quickly turned and Oben, Grimes and Phileo managed to floor the beasts. As they looked into the cave which had been hidden from view, they were shocked and appalled to see a horrifying scene.