All the fighting, researching, and questioning finally led to a simple knock upon the mansion’s door.
A servant of the home swiftly answered, recognized men of their hire, and welcomed them in. Of course he had to insist they provide him with their jackets and weaponry. Only Johann and Kraiven managed to keep their weapons with bluffs and concealment. The rest had their items placed into a room they merely got a glimpse of just beside the entrance.
The butler then escorted them toward the bustling ballroom. They passed a large living area with a gargantuan painting of a lovely woman in a pale blue dress. Erik immediately recognized her.
The love of his youth…Nia.
But now was not the time to allow himself to be vulnerable.
The ballroom was filled with dozens of attendees. They crowded in groups upon the beautifully tiled floor surrounding a fine red rug with gold trim. It was narrower, but the ceilings were high, and the room was the length of the previous hallway. To the left was the most important table, backed by a large fireplace to keep the valued attendees warm. To the right was a lovely spread of different foods expected of a port city. Lobster, salmon, shrimp, meats, cheeses – a delicious cornucopia of grub only further enhanced by a wall lined with ale and wine barrels. Jadzia minded the table and setup.
The company got to mingling, speaking to various guests and maintaining their cover. Their patrol disguise now unnecessary, they took to their drug-dealing personalities and made some friends. That is until Kraiven decided it was time for a bathroom break. He did have a ring to find after all. It took some convincing, but the servant finally decided to be his escort. It was a deadly mistake that lead to a blade across his throat and a blood-soaked nap in the bathroom’s tub.
The rest kept their cool in the stuffy room until Spencer Duras tapped a glass and welcomed everyone to the banquet. He introduced Callan Dor, the extraordinary Bard, and allowed the party to continue beneath the sounds of his lute. Fenix took the moment to warn Jadzia of the upcoming danger. Her and Mogh needed to slip away as soon as they could.
The olive-skinned Nia found herself at Erik’s side for a quick conversation, but the pressure of Duras’s gaze split them apart. Erik knew something, but had to stay back.
It was then that Spencer grasped at his chest, gasped for air, and fell upon the ground. Panic erupted as the company took the opportunity. They kneeled by his side and attempted to identify what ailed him. Fenix finally came to realize that it was no mere heart attack. Spencer was experiencing a poison. He convinced an older woman, Ms. Young, to fetch his hammer that yielded healing powers. A clever bluff. She obliged.
It was then that Callan Dor himself fell beside them.
“Forget your foolish mission, gawkers. There is much more afoot here than you realize. Go below and what you find – kill it. Or this war will start yet again!”
They understood at least partially. Callan provided them a cover and escorted them toward the exit of the room.
Kraiven found himself before the door to the stairhall. The ring would likely be in Spencer’s quarters since it was not upon his fingers. It took some skill, but he picked the lock and slipped in just before hearing a blood-curdling scream from the restroom he just “used”. He hurried back, found Ms. Young amidst his murder scene, and ended her life as well. Two down. He left her there with the butler and hurried up the newly found stairs to a crowd of guards arguing over cases of wine.
The company followed Callan to the room that held their weapons beside the entrance. It was as easily opened and entered as their items were to find. Fenix however examined a bust of Spencer’s father, Gabriel Duras, closely. He touched the blue jewel upon its chest and the wall before them slid aside. A secret room was revealed, apparently for Spencer’s private use. The spoils of gambling sat upon a table with a drunken guard in a wine-induced slumber.
Godric and Fenix put an end to his dreams, smashing his head into mush with their warhammers. They took the spoils, the guards keys, and a sword mounted upon the wall. Then they made their way back toward the main hall.
Kraiven decided against the stealthy route and made himself known to the guards. Still in his disguise, he convinced them a murder had been committed (which was not exactly a lie) and insisted they check the bathroom. They insisted he lead. So he did.
The two groups met in the halls, the disguised Blackwater Adventuring Company and Kraiven with the guards. He led them to the bathroom and allowed them in, signaling his friends to be ready. When all the guards entered, so did their firebombs. A moment later, they held the door shut while the men inside were burned alive.
Johann befriended their young pet wolf and they continued upstairs. Besides wine and gold, they found the Duras Family Ring and continued below by the Bard’s words.
The young woman in the painting, the lovely lady that spoke to Erik, stumbled through the stairhall entrance disheveled and weeping. Her mascara lined her cheeks in rivers of tears. She turned around and fell to her knees.
“You ungrateful little bitch!” a familiar voice shouted. “I shielded you from the goddamn war, kept you alive and how do you repay me? You dare poison me, you wench?! You and the child you carry are no longer worth anything to me. I’ll fucking kill you both!”
Nia begged for her life between babled apologies. A flick and snap was heard as a small hand-crossbow bolt pierced her chest and forced her to lay bleeding upon the hall’s floor.
Spencer Duras stepped slowly through the doorway, gazing down upon his bride. He looked up to see them standing on the steps.
“Bastards…” he coarsely whispered. He backed away toward the door behind him, obviously intimidated. He said shakily, “you’re next.”
The sound of a quick gust of wind interrupted him. He began to quiver and bleed from the mouth. He fell to the ground.
Callan Dor stood behind him, grasping a dagger. He quickly kneeled by Nia and checked her pulse at her neck.
“Get down there, goddamnit. I’ll take care of her…and the rest of them. GO!”
Kraiven provided him the Duras Family Ring and Callan tossed Nia over his shoulder. He bolted towards the main entrance and was cut off by three guards. He tossed three spheres at them and jumped through the flames they erupted in out of the company’s sight.
They continued below to the dark basement. Two wolves lay sleeping, but barely posed a threat to their onslaught. The cellar became a mess of blood, fur, and wine. Something was down there and they were determined to find it. Fenix made a hole in the ground to discover a hidden panel leading below. A crudely dug tunnel lead further down.
The tunnel continued on until they found it sealed by boulders. Godric had the strength to move one and even proved quick enough to avoid its trap. The pressure plate triggered arrows toward him that would only find the boulder beside him. The rest passed by unscathed as a result.
The small cave became a vast cavern jutting high into the ceiling and far below to dark, reddish, murky waters. Three paths lay before them: two lining the sides and one straight down the middle.
The left was jagged, rocky, and had two spots in which they would no doubt have to jump. The center was more solid, steady, but also had two gaps that lead to the murky fate below. The right looked well carved, well used, and even ended in a bridge.
They split down the middle and right, clearing one of the obstacles before them. Then, a door at the other side of the cavern burst open. Seven orcs rushed through, shouting about the triggered trap. Blackwater continued their advance and fought valiantly against the Orcs, sending most of them to the waters below. One of which even took care of the deed for them.
They made it safely across and passed through the door into a continuing, windy tunnel. What sort of evil was down here?
Just what would they find beneath the mountain?