Alwina's first act, wavering on her feet, bleeding onto the jaundool ritual chamber, is to apologize to Dechan for being unable to reach him sooner. A squad of good men died in the journey. Only she was able to reach the ritual chamber in time to face Reiks-Dommer Ignaz. And, seeing as how the renegade priest's body was carted off by one of the vampire's undead minions, she still sees her mission as a failure.
Dechan stabilizes her when she wavers, and he provides some healing for her. When she says that she will have to follow the reiks-dommer into Rappan Athuk, Dechan suggests that perhaps they should all work together to return to the Enclave first.
Alwina says that he is right. Her first course of action is to return to the Enclave and make a full report. Then, it will fall to her to travel into Rappan Athuk and retrieve the reiks-dommer's remains.
Alwina believes, as does Dechan, that Ignaz may well be a threat still, if he was carried off to Rappan Athuk. The forces of Chaos and Evil that lurk in the Dungeon of Graves would love nothing more than to corrupt a lawful follower of Bane. Ignaz's remains will be hunted down, just as he was in life, but for now her responsibility is to get Dechan home safely.
With several heroes blinded or sickened by the jaundool's green poison, the heroes know that they cannot set out just yet for home. In addition, there are years of treasures in the ritual chamber, waiting to be uncovered.
With the jaundool lair somewhat secure, the heroes reunite with the rest of the expedition, and they rest, finding greater safety in numbers.
David takes time grieving over Drew. He recalls his vow to ensure Drew's safety on the expedition, and he takes the loss seriously and personally. David keeps the young scholar's journal and his cloak as a reminder. In weeks to come, it is Drew's cloak that David is wearing, and it is Drew's journal in which he begins to write.
That evening, Alwina asks for what Dechan knows about Ignaz.Dechan provides a fairly complete retelling of the reiks-dommer's actions and methods. Beatrice recalls something more when Alwina mentions the possibility that Ignaz had not been acting alone. She spurs Dechan's memory of the dream, from which David woke and likely saved Dechan.
Alwina listens. She says the "Gray Maidens" serve the Withershadow Combine, a heretical sect that has been rumored to have come to this area. What they are doing here is anybody's guess, but it is sure to be at odds with the orthodox church of Bane.
The heroes ask what makes the sect heretical. Alwina explains that these priests are violent. The Himmelske Naeve has given a direction that those who see the glory of life under the Lawgiver will choose to give up their futile striving. The Withershadow Combine still believes that true subjugation, militarily, is the only way to bring real converts to Bane.
Ignaz must have gone to this sect for help when he was denied resources to hunt down Dechan. The priest returned from his sojourn half-mad, raving about chaos and evil within the Church of the Morninglord, with Dechan as its source.
As the conversation winds down, Dechan brings up another, closely related subject. The Withershadow Combine used dream magic to invade his sleep. That means that the Combine must have come across the ley line into Darkon. They are here, in this domain.
As the heroes leave the jaundool lair for the Quillande Ferosc, the hear a single caw, somehow approving, from the depths of the forest.
Dechan takes care of the bodies of the fallen, including what remains of Progessor Togren. He seeks a place where they could be buried on sanctified ground. He uses the burial ceremony to ensure that all goes well, and the bodies are as secure as possible.
The trip home begins in earnest. The two pack animals are laden with good from the ritual chamber. Most of the expedition's perishable supplies have been expended or ruined. To survive, the heroes rely on hunting and foraging from Alliama, Gwendolyn, Big, and Maissee.
After traveling for days, the heroes find themselves at the northern edge of the clearing dominated by the great oak tree.
Beatrice, lagging behind for some time, pauses at the tree to see whether the item she noticed previously is still there. It is. Buried among the roots of the tree is an item that is certainly not an ancient relic. Wrapped carefully in oilcloth is a kukri. The steel of this kukri has a red sheen to it, and the hilt has been wrapped in deep red leather.
Beatrice slips this item into the rest of the haul from the ritual chamber, hoping to avoid conversations about what it is and where it came from. Her training with Harriet, though, will put her both at greater ease and greater concern for having taken it.
Five days later, past Raske and the Sleeping Dragon Inn, hot baths and warm meals await in the comfort of the Enclave.
Alliama's masterwork steel scimitar is ready in the Enclave. She commissioned it months earlier, and it is now ready for her. It is exact to her specifications.
After a few days in the Enclave to recover, Gedney, Sylva, Regis, and Maissee meet the heroes at the Double Rose to say their good-byes. They buy the heroes a round of drinks and lament that they will never be able to repay them fully.
Gedney delivers Kyler his first correspondence, begun while he sat outside the jaundool tree, as Kyler had asked him to do, though he asks him not to read it until the expedition members have departed. Otherwise, it wouldn't be correspondence. He promises more when the time comes.
Sylva thanks Beatrice for her level head, and helping her to stay calm herself by always having something to focus on. She also thanks the heroes she met on first shift--Beatrice, Kyler, and Alliama--for listening to her when she must have sounded paranoid.
Regis sits quietly in the corner, with his eyes averted. He is convinced that any attempt at making him feel better is patronizing. His humiliation over his behavior during the expedition is all-consuming.
During the conversation, Maissee reveals that she prefers the wilderness of the Borderlands. She feels a calling to stay here, and continue to practice. And, if Alliama would not mind, continuing to learn from her favorite mentor.
David continues to receive free training through Master Ioan and the Monastery of the Ancient Light.
Dechan and Carrie continue to receive free training through their arrangement with Labonita Androlov, to continue bringing her magical texts for the Androlov library. In this case she is particularly interested in Masters of Necromancy. Though the book has no pages, it was handled personally by an infamous necromancer who was wanted within the House of Sages and across the Core for many crimes against the living.
Alliama receives a visit from her great-grandfather Oliantreer, who is astonished by her foray into the Yolbiac Vale and is eager to learn from her, even as he trains her as a druid and ranger.
Kyler also receives free training from Professor Radu, who is surprisingly gracious with his time, and downright interested on the subject of what happened to the expedition.
Beatrice continues to receive free training from the Lady Harriet Armeikos. She continues to do the Lady Armeikos proud.
Free training is not available in three instances. Moss Charles cannot afford to train Dechan for free, as can't either of Anson's two mentors. The total cost for training in these instances rises to a sum of 4,200 gold crowns.
Labonita offers to fund the heroes' identification of their new magical items. She offers to loan Dechan the funds, and precious components, to perform these divinations, with the possibility of reclaiming some of her loan moneys after she and Dechan discuss his findings.
If Labonita finds no items of interest in what was found, then the full amount of the loan would be due from the heroes.
The heroes also wait while Dechan divines more secrets from some of the other items they have recovered, and digs deeper into two of the iems brought from the jaundool ritual chamber.
Sacks, boxes, and chests:
One item sparks some extra conversation--the kukri of bloodletting, which was apparently dropped at a thieves' guild drop point by a rogue named Rel Mord. How it got from Rel Mord's drop point to the jaundoo lair is a bit of a mystery, one that puzzles Dechan considerably.
In addition to the division of magical treasures, each monetary share comes out to a value of 478 gold crowns and 8 silvers. Some heroes choose to take some of this wealth in the form of gems and jewels recovered from the ritual chamber.
While Labonita is not overwhelmed by her payment in funding the heroes' research, she is satisfied with both the Potion of Gray Slumber and the Oil of Enslavement.
The group pauses briefly before giving her the oil, but in the end they trust her as the daughter of Keradre Androlov, and Alliama's sister.
Dechan intends to learn more about Charles Nimonitti through the remains of his tome, Masters of Necromancy. When he returns to Labonita, he finds that she has already performed a magical investigation of it on her own, eager to present a case for Aedoin that would help her sister's standing in the House of Sages.
Labonita and Dechan discuss what has become known.
After his flight from Richemulot, Charles Nimonitti vowed revenge against the Goblinslayers of the Iron Crown, the heroes now known as The Missed. In order to exact his revenge, he began recruiting new apprentices from across the heartlands of Darkon.
These deathmasters came from baronies such as Karg, Corvia, and possibly northern Tempe. What Nimonitti had not realized, though, was that organizing a cabal of deathmasters in central Darkon is not the same as doing the same in the lawless wilderness of Richemulot.
Before he could finish training his new apprentices, Nimonitti and his would-be cabalists were hunted down by agents of the Iron Crown. The apprentices were all slain, and Nimonitti was sent on the run.
He fled east, towards the borderlands where the Iron Crown's attention is less intense. Along the way, in the forests north of the town of Raske, Nimonitti dropped his ruined Masters of Necromancy text. He was alive when he dropped it, but that is all that a study of the ruined text could reveal.
There was, however, one more detail that the book could yield. Nimonitti was not just running east to escape persecution, or to exact his revenge on The Missed. He had, in fact, been intrigued by conversations with a spirit he met while wandering in the barony of Karg. This spirit had promised Nimonitti great power if he should journey to the Dungeon of Graves, Rappan Athuk, and bend his knee before the master of that place.
David is walking home from visiting Kyler and Anson. It is late afternoon, and the evening traffic is beginning to thin along the King's Way. As he passes the Temple Bridge, a man in a nice-looking coat nods to him and says, "You need a new chapeau." The man keeps walking, and when David tries to trail him he loses him quickly in what remains of passersby.
The term, "chapeau," David knows, is Dementliuese. He resolves to find a haberdasher, preferably one who is Dementlieuese. There are not many--if any--in the Enclave, in large part due to distance but also because of the relationship between The Missed and that domain. David considers the quality of the man's coat. Not nobility but still good quality. He decides to begin his investigation in the Marketplace District.
On his way, he encounters Beatrice and Carrie stepping out of the Double Rose Inn. He explains what just transpired with the stranger, and they agree that it merits looking into. As they speak, Dechan and Gwendolyn come into view, having also just left Valorn House. The group unites and decides to accompany David to the marketplace.
As they walk into the market stands and stalls, David remarks that the last time he remembers the heroes coming here was when they encountered the undead "Valornspawn" hunters. As he says that, Gwendolyn remembers that the first sighting of one of those horrors was at a haberdasher right here in the Marketplace.
They find themselves at that same stall. The place has racks and stands of hats from all around. David quickly sees that there is no one minding the store. He calls to the proprietor of the next stand over, and that fellow remarks that it's unlike "Horndon" to leave his stall untended that way. He does not appear overly concerned, though.
But the stall is not without observers. An old woman named Phandrelle hobbles about the Marketplace District. Dressed in rags, she covers her face and hair out of modesty or shame. Those who glimpse her features understand why, for the woman's flesh is blistered and cracked. Her eyes are milky from age. The hands that bind her scarf are gnarled, with dirty, untrimmed nails.
The old beggar woman sees David looking about and points to a cloth cap of Dementlieuese style. "That looks like a good fit for you," she says. Then she trundles off.
As Phandrelle leaves, Beatrice attempts to use sleight of hand to put some money in the beggar woman's pocket. Phandrelle notices, then smiles when she realizes that she was not being robbed at all.
Phandrelle tells Beatrice to go to the Inn of the Three Witches. She says that Beatrice left her "pointer" there when she visited last.
When David touches the cap he finds a crystal in it. Studying the crystal summons a voice. It booms from the air, and the earth. It burbles with accents from distant water and crackles with hints of hearthfire. Through it all thrums the lives of every creature around him.
"You are brave to seek Espa," the voice says. "But the place at the heart of the Enclave cannot be revealed, it must be discovered. Be warned that you will face many enemies on your path to the correct vantage. There are those who seek to destroy Espa, and thereby that which Espa shelters."
When the message is ended, the crystal has crumbled to dust.
The Dementlieuese cap has one more secret to reveal. Inside is a metal tag, engraved with the name, "Gaston Menthe."
Beatrice remembers the name at once--it is the Mordentish gravedigger who fled to the Enclave when the Goblinslayers lived here. Gaston, also known as Gaston du Menthe, sought asylum because of creatures out of Dementlieu that had chased him north. The Missed took care of him, as they always did.
The heroes discuss the message David received when he studied the crystal in Gaston Menthe's hat. They are particularly interested in deciphering the references to a "vantage" and the "heart of the Enclave."
After discussing several literal and figurative "hearts" of the Enclave, the heroes climb to the height of the Temple District. David scales the pallisade fence and gazes down on the cemetery, but there is nothing revealed from here.
The heroes leave the Temple District and then walk to the north side of the cemetery, where they knock on the door of Chief Undertaker Balfour Raeburn.
Raeburn suggests two options for them. File a request with the Hall of Records in the morning, and find Master du Menthe's home address, if he still lives in the Enclave. Or, return in the morning, and he will gladly have one of his staff find the exact location of du Menthe's grave, if he has passed through the Veil.
The heroes make their way through the cemetery after leaving the Chief Undertaker. As they walk, they look at the gravestones they pass.
One possible "heart" of the Enclave is the escape tunnel that leads from beneath the Temple of Delios. The escape tunnel has not been located since the day after the Rain of Fire. Even people who used the tunnel that day have not been able to relocate it.
Carrie says that people believe that Finnias the abjurer--a confidante of Mikhail Zuffenoft--warded the tunnel before retreating into the Enclave himself. Mikhail would be among the only people who know the location of the tunnel. If Finnias is even still alive; he would be incredibly old.
The heroes do not mount a full search for either the grave or the escape tunnel exit. There is more to do, and easier ways of moving this mystery forward.
The heroes retire for the night. Beatrice pretends to do the same but in truth makes her way to the Inn of the Three Witches.
At the inn, Corinda recognizes Beatrice immediately. She welcomes Beatrice to the bar and says that she has been keeping the satchel that Beatrice dropped the last time she visited.
Inside the satchel is an ash wand. It is eleven inches long and is smooth except for the engraving of two initials in ornate script: "G.V."
Also in the satchel are several scraps of worn parchment, scrawled with notes:
Beatrice takes the wand east of town, past the Sentry Oaks, and triggers it. While she senses that the magic has been activated, there is no noticeable effect.
Beatrice shares what she has found, and the heroes accompany her to work. They find that Gaston Menthe has passed through the Veil, and they also pinpoint the exact location of his grave.
It is after dinner when the heroes leave Beatrice's work. They step out into the shadow cast by the statues of The Missed in the lowering sun.
They have begun to suspect that the statues might be the heart of the Enclave. They also believe they need to enter the sewers. It is possible that the statues might be the proper entry into the sewers.
Dechan performs a thorough search, but he finds nothing out of the ordinary. He does confirm, though, that the sewer grates near the Missed monument have not been opened.
Beatrice uses the wand, and this time there is a visual effect. A secret panel glows in the base of the Alirail statue. It is so expertly crafted that it is almost invisible when the glow fades, even though the heroes have seen it.
There is also no mechanism. The unique device simply slides open as the heroes touch it, revealing a thick covering on a relatively shallow drawer.
The drawer holds a single object, a gold coin bearing the face of Tymora surrounded by shamrocks.
David carries the coin, hoping that it might prove useful.
The heroes travel to Gaston du Menthe's grave. They find it easily, but there is nothing that appears out of place. The headstone merely has his name and the dates of his life. Nothing nearby is out of the ordinary, either.
The heroes decide to enter the sewers. They walk to the Keeper's Gate on the west side of the Enclave. They intend to travel east, in the sewers, under the King's Way, measuring strides.
The entry proves revolting, and both David and Dechan must overcome a bout of sickness that Beatrice, Gwendolyn, and Carrie are able to stave off.
The heroes cross the Enclave under the King's Way. They pass the equally large path that follows Water Street to the southeast. When they reach the far east side, they turn north. Soon after, the tunnels become narrower and numerous; they become a maze.
The heroes are lost in the sewers.
A spectral man appears. At his neck he wears a polished steel disk that has been inlaid with delicate silver to form a pair of female eyes surrounded by seven silver stars. He still wears a suit of resplendent armor, and on his arm is a steel shield decorated with two dozen small metal stars. The shield is in almost perfect condition except for a large gash in the face.
The man introduces himself as Reinhart Josefson. He indicates his holy symbol and his shield--the Shield of the Night--and says that, while he has been at peace, the heroes gave his loved ones peace when they ensured that his final possessions made their way home.
Since the heroes have chosen to accept their legacy as the heirs to The Missed, he has been sent to give his thanks and to guide them through the maze.
Beatrice hears an old man speaking with someone else. She gets the others' attention and then sneaks off after them.
"He's coming into his own," says an old man's voice, gleeful and superior. "He's taken my gifts and adtoped them."
A hollow voice untouched by the stone of the sewer tunnel. "He will turn on you in the end."
The old man laughs. "Like you did? How did your betrayal aid you, ultimately?"
At that, the two arguing parties hear Beatrice approaching.
"You fool!" says the hollow voice.
Beatrice leaps forward. She sees a man-shaped shadow with no source dissolving into actual shadow. Next to the shadow, she sees an old man in a brown robe dissolve into rats with eyes that flash blue momentarily.
Beatrice keeps most of what she's seen to herself for now. Later, she reveals the details to Dechan, knowing that it is likely that some or all of this pertained directly to him.
Reinhart explains that the sewers
"Darius Androlov and Kalromen Pel Belegdur settled the Enclave at the site which Delios indicated. Why did Delios indicate this site?"
Long ago, a powerful force threatened the mortal realm. Three deities not normally inclined to work together formed a brief alliance. They left no trace of their deed, so there are no legends to speak of this momentous event. But over the millennia, the bonds of the threefold prison have begun to fail. And without new guardians, all they will have done will be to delay the inevitable.
Delios chose to involve himself and his agents in this. He often does. The Enclave was his very blatant statement that he will be involved in what is about to happen.
There are others involved, too. This maze, for instance. Without it, there would be no way to face the evil when its prison failed. But the sewers are more than tunnels. There is an intelligence here. The observers that wander the sewers, and the spies, cannot pierce it without divine aid.
The heroes make their way to a door set in the wall of the sewer. Here, Reinhart vanishes.
The door is made of a silvery gray stone that comes just short of luster in the light the heroes have brought. The door has a simple pull ring, made of cold iron, and no apparent lock. The seems around the door are stuffed with deep green holly leaves.
The heroes attempt to identify which three gods could be represented here: Selune, Moradin, Lawgiver...or Dispater.
As they study the door, they become aware of things approaching from the direction they came. Eager chittering describes the excitement of several small, filthy creatures. These short, spindly creatures have warty, brown-red skin and large black eyes. Their long, muscular tongues drag on the ground beneath them.
With them is a hunched creature with a single, huge eye that dominates its entire face. Its body is bloated and misshapen, and its limbs are wiry but strong. Its arms end in claws that reach the ground as it moves in an awkward hop.
This creature throws wide its arms at the sight of the door, its massive eye widening till it appears ready to split. Veins throb and tears drip to the ground. It cheers, and then turns as is to run.
The heroes burst into action. They know that these creatures cannot be allowed to return to their masters with news of what has been found.
At the same time, David seeks to act on the door itself. He wrenches it parially open, and then he realizes that this door could be the prison door itself.
The heroes shout back and forth as they do battle with the creatures. The eye-beast is desperate to escape, but David runs it down and slays it. The others best the eye-beast's minions.
David slams the door, and he tries to replace some of the leaves. The leaves do not fit neatly into place, though the door feels snug. The leaves that have fallen are smahsed and ruined when the effort is made to push them into the narrow seam.
The heroes spot other things moving around. They slip into existence and back out again. There are, most likely, four in total. They are brightly colored, serptentine things that seem to swim through the air.
Dechan asks whether anyone has a statue.
David hands him an old momus figurine.
Dechan studies the statue, and he marks it. Then he places the figurine in front of the door.
The heroes are in the sewers with no way out, and no memory of the last opening they saw overhead.
A man's shadow manifests. It beckons.
Dechan hesitates longer than the others. When Beatrice asks whether he is okay with this, he nods. The heroes follow.
It leads them along winding corridors, until they find themselves at the base of a ladder leading up to a manhole cover. They emerge on Monument Street, not far from Walker's Emporium.
And then Dechan catches David as he falls.
David climbs the ladder but he does not emerge onto Monument Street. He stands somewhere else.
He sees a green campus surrounded by a stone wall. Within the wall are no less than five long buildings, each at least two stories, connected by narrow pathways. There is a sprawling hedge maze and a stone amphitheater on the edge of a mirror-smooth lake. At the center of the lake is a tree, and the tree is aware of him.
David sees familiar buildings beyond the wall encircling ESSPA. It is the Enclave. The Enclave is no different for having these structures inside. The Double Rose stands to the west, and the Rhilmerrid is to the east. They are no farther apart for all the structures that lie between them. It is impossible but quite clearly real. It just is this way.
The voice speaks again, "A total of three new guardians have come to support the three original jailors? This is one of them. ESSPA. The Shield of Knowledge."
David moves, just a bit, and he shifts thousands of feet. It is not teleportation. It is distorting movement, dizzying. He comes to his senses moments later in Dechan's arms.
The next day, Dechan takes the Bartholomew and identifies it, seeking more information about what it is, where it has come from, and why it has comes to him.
The medallion is pure gold but at its center is a kernel of concentrated negative energy, pulled from the depths of the Negative Material Plane. Saturated throughout the medallion is a much smaller measure of pure positive energy, delivered out of the Seven Heavens.
It was created through a convoluted process involving divine magic layered over the will of a being of nearly deific power. The process was corrupted, however, introducing the celestial energies.
The priests who were employed in the creation of this item were priests of Orcus, the Lord of the Undead. However, you also sense that someone else--an intruder, but not a celestial--became involved in the enchantment process.
The original purpose of the medallion was to tempt and ultimately corrupt its chosen bearer, Dechan Mackenzie. That purpose was altered before its enchantment was completed, however. Though there was no corporeal presence in its intervention, the intruder managed to alter the make-up of the item, removing intended compulsions and laying the groundwork for other potential abilities.
In recent months, the medallion has changed hands multiple times. It has indeed been in the possession of Dechan Mackenzie. Before Dechan, it was handled briefly by Nala-Lyn, a Kargat agent of considerable power and age. Nala-Lyn received it from Azalin Rex himself, who had received it from a special courier out of the House of Sages. The identity of that courier, however--or his purpose in carrying the amulet--is vague. It seems that the courier recovered it personally, at great expense (monetary and living), to bring it to the Iron Crown so that it could be delivered to Dechan Mackenzie.