For those who aren't caught up yet, previous chapters can be found below:
Chapter One: Blood and Butterflies
Chapter Two: Murder and Glass
What lies in the darkness below Sandpoint? We're about to find out.
What Lies Beneath
Once Tsuto was remanded to the custody of Sheriff Hemlock, and Ameiko placed in the care of Father Zanthus for healing, Zhakar and Thok sought their allies to deal with the greater potential threat. They found Zordlan in the common room of the Rusty Dragon, and Mirelinda near the wagons haggling over a trinket. When they saw the looks on the two warriors' faces, both the elf and the Varisian knew something dire was afoot.
|Though what it was, they could not have guessed.|
They formed up, and told Sheriff Hemlock where they were going. The suggested that guards should keep an eye on the glassworks, and make sure that nothing slipped past them into Sandpoint. Then, shields strapped and weapons ready, they descended into the glassworks' basement, and then into the tunnel that had been bricked over in the depths. Beyond it they found rough stone work, but it quickly gave way to ancient halls that bore a strong resemblance to the Thassalonian ruins that dotted the Varisian countryside.
These were no ruins, though. These halls had been preserved for centuries, lurking just out of sight below the prosperous town above. They didn't smell right, though. Something was alive in those tunnels... something foul, and hostile.
The Slaves of Sin
Stepping round a corner, a creature the likes of which they had never seen leaped forward to attack. It was malformed, its too-long limbs covered with ropy cords of muscle and tipped with vicious claws. There was no intelligence in its black gaze... just an atavistic rage that could not be quenched by anything short of violence.
|A meal we were more than prepared to feed it.|
The thing raked its claws down Zhakar's arm, drawing blood and curses. Thok, thinking quickly, thrust his spear over his friend's shoulder and jammed it into the creature's side. It had no interest in death, though, snarling, clawing, and biting at the pair of warriors. Zhakar managed to catch its next blow on his gauntlet, driving a hammer blow into the creature's face. It was Zordlan, though, who tumbled past the creature, and thrusting his rapier into its back. It gave up its awful vitality, and slumped forward, black blood pooling on the ground.
Shaken, but knowing there must be greater dangers beyond, they stepped deeper into the forgotten halls. Though there were other creatures like the one near the entrance, there weren't many. They came across an ancient statue holding a ranseur of masterful quality, a room filled with pits containing the living dead, and a mutated goblin overseer caring for them. They also found carvings of a three-eyed jackal head... the sign of Lamashtu, the mother of monsters.
The Wellspring of Wickedness
In the depths of the lost halls, they found a font of unholy water that smelled of brackish afterbirth, and a pair of double doors marked with the sign of the demonic mother. There was no choice but to see what lay beyond, and to do their best to slay it.
Past the sign of Lamashtu there was a cavernous room, with a pair of curving stairs leading up to a balcony. Atop the balcony was a bizarre bowl filled with swirling liquids. And above that bowl, leathery wings flapping and its tail thrashing, was an imp. It whirled on the interlopers, and smiled a razor-toothed smile. It hadn't been expecting them, but that didn't mean it hadn't been prepared for unwelcome company.
|Even in hell, there is hospitality.|
The imp drew a tiny dagger, sliced open its palm, and dripped its ichor into the strange bowl. Then, as the heroes of Sandpoint looked on, something crawled out of the bowl. One of the creatures they had seen below, with its mouthful of teeth and eyes brimming with rage. They were spawned from this strange item, and from the foulness of the tiny fiend's blood. Sword in hand, Zhakar rushed the stairs, Thok no more than a step behind. Zordlan sprinted up the other side, trying to reach the imp before it could escape. Just as they came within striking range, though, it vanished with a dark little chuckle.
Unsure where their true enemy was, Zhakar and Zordlan flanked the sin spawn, hacking it to pieces before it could reach their allies. Mirelinda shrieked, drawing their attention to the base of the stairs. A man-sized spider had appeared from thin air, scuttling toward her. Thok turned, howling in a combination of rage and disgust, slamming his spear through the thing's side. It gnashed its fangs at him, trying to crawl around his flank, but he was having none of it. Above them rang laughter as the imp admired its handiwork.
Zhakar stood at the balcony, staring at the infernal creature. As he watched, something flared behind his eyes. He laid aside his sword, shrugged his bow off his shoulder, and nocked an arrow. When he loosed, the imp's laughter turned to shrieks, the arrow piercing through its protections and raining its blood down upon the steps. It swore, and lashed back at Zhakar, belting him with a beam of crackling black energy. Though his knees tried to buckle, Zhakar braced himself on the balustrade, and continued firing.
Mirelinda backed up the stairs, spouting words of power and sending balls of force streaking toward the little devil. Zordlan took aim, but drew little blood as the thing's thick hide turned aside his arrows. Thok drove his spear through the spider's maw, piercing straight through its gullet and sending it back to wherever it had been summoned from. The imp's wounds, many of which seemed grievous, began to close. Zhakar reached for an arrow with his gauntleted right hand, but rather than nocking another shaft, his hand drew a vicious short spear instead. With a surge of strength, he hurled the spear, slamming it straight through the imp's heart. It shrieked, and flew apart, the shattered, smoky remnants each being sucked back to the hell that had spawned it.
A Plan Unearths
Just as the goblins were not the only threat to Sandpoint, the imp was merely a single piece in the ongoing chess game. But where were the more powerful pieces? And who was playing this game with the townsfolk's lives? Stay tuned to find out in the next chapter.
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