The One True Game: According to Hoyle, and Others


[Session 8]

[DAY 43 – Weddingday, Jinto 4th, CY 81]

Mirel met Brother Ben in the top level of the tower late in the morning. He was looking around quite impressed by the new stonework. “I don’t even think he notices me or the rain”, she thought. She was to make her usual report about her friend Kayla. That morning the wizardess had been behaving as strangely as ever. But Mirel still could not understand the priest’s disapproval of her magic. Of course, lots of people were scared of magic. No one knew nothing about it. That’s why it was called magic. Maybe she could tell herself he was simply protecting the others from possible danger. She liked that idea. Of course, she liked Kayla a lot too. She thought of Kayla as her friend, and she had proven herself as invaluable as Brother Ben with his bizarre speeches and praying in battle. She decided to tell him only what she felt was interesting to her, which was also her usual way of reporting.

“Well she was alone and she was talking to herself, except she was acting like she was talking to someone who wasn’t there. Plus Igor was there because Rizzle had carried him inside, but he didn’t say very much. He usually doesn’t anyway, but only asks questions when he’s with Kayla, of course he was still injured, but all that’s a very different story.” Brother Ben furrowed his eyebrows in thought, “It seems he was not quite as injured as he let on this morning when I healed him.” Mirel paused to make sure he was done talking, but it was hard to tell. She went on: “What I think happened is Kayla was talking to a spirit or maybe a ghost, because she kept asking the Nothing’s There to do strange things. First she asked it to pick stuff up and then it drew things in a pile of dirt she had carried in from outside.”

“Oh, what kind of things? Well, just a little circle and a triangle and I guess that was all. It was very strange, but also very boring.” He prodded for her to continue. “She put a bunch of things on the floor: books, a pole, a saddle, and a big bag of coins that Igor had in his super-bag. They all rose into the air all by themselves one at a time and then settled back down, all but the biggest bag of coins, which must have been as heavy as Dram. Only that one slid around on the floor like it had an itch on its bottom.” “And?” inquired Brother Ben. “AND… they kept filling it with coins until the thing couldn’t budge itself at all. It was like they were trying to ruin the ghost’s fun. I think they were making fun of it”, said Mirel.

”So then Igor took out a piece of chalk and it began moving around and drawing things.” This seemed to intrigue the priest quite a bit. “It was all very boring. Really! X’s, circles, triangles, they tried to make it count things too, but even I knew it was wrong. Maybe it was getting angry by that point?” Ben kept urging her on. “Well, then Darius went inside. (I hid) And he asked for the Nothing’s There to tie a ribbon, except he had to tell Kayla first and then she had to tell it and only then would it work. But yeah it did it.” Brother Ben’s eyes looked confused. Mirel decided to finish up. “So then the ribbon was a bow and they asked it to float through little holes each smaller than the last until it got completely tuckered out and fell down on the ground. And that was the end really.” Brother Ben seemed to be satisfied and sent her back to her chores. Sometimes she wondered why he even bothered to have her spy on people anyways, compared to what she did for Igor. She headed downstairs to his bedside next.

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At midday Kayla called together all of the corporals for a meeting in the infirmary.

Originally posted by Kayla
After looking back through all of her notes, Kayla takes the first opportunity she gets to gather everyone together somewhere that they can safely talk & goes into further detail about what she found in the books:

“The books in the library make reference to the Caves of Chaos and the map they have been using was found in a book of local fauna and flora. In one book in particular, Marevak the Advisor to Zelligar and Rogahn, who we now know is also Elian's brother, was very thorough in his notes concerning activities there. A cult was found worshipping a strange idol- an amorphous shape with strange globular appendages (which sounds kind of like what we found in the ceiling of the idol room in my opinion). Zelligar went to investigate further on his own. Soon afterwards he installed a temple for sacrifice in Quasqueton (the idol room I presume). He began doing more and more research and leaving Marevak out of the findings. Marevak believes the cult, and now Zelligar, was worshipping one of the Elder Elemental Gods (which means all this may tie in with the war). He wasn't sure which one.”

“All of this is why I encouraged Darius to disobey orders & tell you the truth about the war. To me it seems to all be tied together & I thought you all should know. He told me awhile back in hopes I could shed further light on the situation, which I did through research. At this point though, I think sharing of information is vital as Quesqueton is melting away & it seems we may be missing something very important. My hope is that whatever we are looking for is actually in the caves, but I have no idea...”

Igor moaned from underneath his covers. Propping an elbow behind him he peered at the group surrounding his bed. Strangely he started talking at a very quick pace.

Originally posted by Igor
Okay, do we know what the symbol of an elder elemental god looks like? I mean I wouldn't know one from a hole in the ground. Could the open mouth we saw on the shields be a symbol for one? Do we know anything about any of them? What are their names, (or what are they called by), are they all allied, or are they enemies, or something in between, etc.

As for what the connection to the caves of chaos is... well I think we all know what cave we'll find clues to THAT in. It's in the cave on the right, the one with an X and rhymes with canheater. Of course I'd like to take out any reinforcements he may call up before we deal with him/her/it (now wait, it'll just be another idol or stature inside.)

That being said there's probably another chamber towards the center of the hill that is only accessible from one of the other caves.

Igor then swooned visibly. He slumped back down in his bed. Brother Ben wondered to himself what had happened to the man’s lisp.
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Brother Ben stood up and moved towards the infirmary door. With his back towards the group he said, “An elder elemental god… Kayla is the obvious choice for learning this information.” Quickly, Kayla pointed out the book entitled “Flora & Fauna” was written by Marevak and had his handwritten notes in the margins about the caves and his musings concerning Zelligar. “There are many illustrations of plants and animals, but only the one map of the caves. There are no drawings of any globular idol.” The rest of the party talked over what they knew of Elemental Gods. None had even heard rumor of them before. There were no stories told to frighten little children; no references from Ben’s studies. They were simply unknown in the county of Margrave.

Kayla pondered, “Marevak and Elian are the only people I have ever heard make reference to Elder Elemental Gods. I haven't even actually seen a picture of the idol. I've only read a description. The author of the book was an elf...and the only other being to mention the elder elemental gods was Elian to Darius.” This thought gave Brother Ben pause, but before he could speak up Dram’s deep voice sounded. “The Outpost, and only the Outpost, has been pelted by an unnatural storm continuously for the past several weeks. Couldn’t these Elder Elemental Gods be behind it?” The group sat in silence.

Originally quoted by Brother Ben and Darius
Once again, Ben raised the idea that Elf-friend Elion may not have as pure of motives as the rest of them. “He is advising Lady Devereaux, but he is also looking for his brother Marevak who once worked for Zelligar. It sounds like Zelligar may have joined with or become one of the Lords of Chaos. In my view, while Elion's intentions may be currently in line with the County's plans, they may not stay that way.”

”I asked Mirel to watch Elion because of these potentialities. The aforementioned ‘messaging’ that Elion is casting may likely be his conversations with Lady Devereaux. We still need to confirm that he has contact with her, and possibly her motives for staying out of sight from visitors. If Lady Devereaux is missing (or playing some other game), it might be best for the troops not to learn of it. Their morale is low enough.”

“I agree that the great treasure we have been unable to find still lies in Quesquaton. But I fear that we may lose control of it shortly. I also know our current plans have been to disrupt the Giant's forces and stop whatever is causing the unnatural storm. But because of our last foray into the Chaos Caves the manbeasts will likely attack us in reprisal. We left clear tracks back to our hilltop cave. And Quesquaton has no power to keep anything from passing through the archway. Whatever we must find in Quesquaton may have to be found as soon as possible. Spending even a few full days in Quesquaton could pay off enormously.”

Then Brother Ben asked that all information be shared in the group in the future. “As the current crisis grows, our small band has shown itself to be trustworthy for the most part. I swear that I am willing to divulge any secrets I knows at all, saving those the church requires me not to tell.

Darius: "I hardly call that a fair exchange, Brother Ben. You keep secrets as dictated by your church, but when my commander asks me to keep something a secret, I am supposed to come running to you and let you know?"

Ben: I understand that being in charge is difficult and that the challenges we face are both great and mainly unknown. I would be willing to share secrets of the church with you, Darius, as you are obviously a passionate devotee of Thor. My belief is those in command may not have the best interests of the County at heart; that we are still acting in the dark with most things. Truth brings the light. Sharing information with the group instills trust and helps strengthen us and defeat our foes. I trust in our group as we have faced several battles and defended one another without duplicity. I still has misgivings about some members, but we all are still learning who each of us is.”
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Pacing around Brother Ben tried focusing his agitation into questions on what was actually going on. Kayla and he traded questions back and forth.

Originally quoted by Brother Ben and Kayla
Ben: “What could force the different humanoids of the caves to work together? The ogre?”

Kayla: “Or perhaps they have been charmed. If I were powerful enough to charm that many creatures, I could have them work together to accomplish something”.

Ben: “What could cause this supernatural storm to go on for so long? Zelligar? The Elemental Lords? Maybe the Druid?”

Kayla: “Do we remember what happened right before it began? Was it right after we smashed the pulsing stone? The thought did cross my mind that perhaps that was "fueling" Quasqueston & that Zelligar was in stasis somewhere in it. Then when we smashed it, we might have "awoken" him. That was why I had Darius & Igor look very closely at the image of Zelligar when we were down there during the party. He's one of the last people I want to run into at this point in time. Perhaps we should find out if the resting place, time & method of demise for Roghan & Zelligar are known. We've found a lot about Zelligar, but what was Roghan doing during all of this? Did he participate as well? How did he react to Zelligar adding a temple to Quasequeton”

Ben: “How do we raise the morale of the men without dropping our protections with parties and the like? Should I be holding religious services everyday? Where is the Giant's cave in relation to the Caves of Chaos? And what does it look like? Are the Giant's forces behind the bandit attacks on the road to the keep? Could they serve a different purpose than to draw off our outpost's forces? Has anyone learned the origins of the hill of the chaos caves (it looks man-made)? It’s maddening!”

Brother Ben pulled out a parchment and quickly started writing an inventory. To begin, he would list everyone he could think of that was missing. First – Zelligar, second – Rohgan, third – Marevak, Elion’s brother, fourth and fifth were Pendra and Certa. “Who else?” The rest of the group started brainstorming. Ben remembered something Igor had mentioned before. “Six and Seven are Lord and Lady Margrave, and since no one has seen Lady Devereaux I’ll make her Eight.” Dalin spoke up, “Sergeant Keenan at the keep mentioned Guido’s parents were missing. He said that was why he wanted to be assigned here, because it was a suicide mission. It was presumed bandits had killed or captured them on the road outside the keep. Their names were, uh…Canton and Odelia Oldman.”

That made ten. “My brother is missing too”, said Dram. “Mark his name down. He’s known as Tankurd.” Ben finished and put his quill down. The final total was eleven missing people. Dalin whistled. At that moment a knock was heard at the door. Outside stood two militia guardsmen. They said they were currently on duty to guard the well. But each had heard strange noises drifting up from inside. “I think the manbeasts have invaded Quesquaton”, said Brother Ben. Darius ordered the two soldiers back to the well and to keep a close watch on it as well as keeping others from going down.

Originally quoted by Darius, Kayla & Dram
Darius: “Logically, considering we were on rocky ground, and crossed a stream, I'm wondering how they tracked us. That would take a Ranger. It is possible it's Pendra and Certa, but I'm not holding my breath.”

Kayla: “We should probably just put the wood cover Darius ordered over the well. Can the smith’s modify whatever is there to raise & lower the bucket (maybe just reinforce that) as an improved method for raising & lowering men?”

Dram: We still don't know what kind of noises they hear. Could be rushing water, wind, rats, undead bats or a whole host of other things.”
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The group adjourned for the rest of the day. Brother Ben was happy about this, as he was getting frustrated and wanted to try other methods of finding answers. Hunting down Grizzard Gresslam, he put the man in charge of watching Igor as Ben left the infirmary for his own purposes. Downstairs in the armory he found a large metal hammer. Taking a particular pair of dice out of his pocket, which he had found in the caverns, he crushed them with the hammer. He made him feel somewhat better. Afterwards, Brother Ben inquired among the soldiers about anyone who had been seen with books in their possession. Of course, no one owned up to stealing Igor’s belongings, so he decided to write Father Hat-trick about the lost items and see if he could learn more relevant news from the keep that way.

Remembering he had yet to receive a single message while at Outpost Xavier he crumpled up the half-written parchment and tossed it aside. Then, he decided to go looking for some of the soldiers he written letters for. Upon finding one he asked whether or not she had heard word back from her family when she was stationed at Keep Margrave. Her answer was no. It was the same answer he heard from several others after two more hours of questioning. “It seems letter writing is only another dead end”, Ben thought. Changing tactics, he approached the corporals outside under the watch tent and asked whether or not any mail had been received by anyone at all ever in their stay at Outpost Xavier. Not one could remember if it had. “But it might still be due”, said corporal Chervac.

Increasingly frustrated, a very wet Brother Ben decided he would hold temple for the new contingent of soldiers. “I need to introduce them to the Gresslam Brothers three”, he thought. “And to Dwarf-friend Darius too.” Half way through dressing he realized his head was pounding in pain. He felt oddly light on his feet as if he were floating back and forth like a ghost trapped in his own infirmary. “I need to lie down before I wind up lame like Igor”, he thought. Sending Grizzard to fetch his brothers he gave the man a message to tell the whole camp. Private meetings could be scheduled for those who wished to speak to Brother Ben about personal matters, …but not until the morrow. Without thinking he sat down and promptly dropped to sleep.

Meanwhile, Darius, Paladin of Thor, Emissary of the Dwarven Kingdoms, was acting in a far more normal manner. But regrettably, he too was bothered by the current events. Pacing outside in the rain he checked with the corporals about whether any word or message was received lately. “You know, someone just asked us that same question”, said Chervac. Darius did not laugh. He had been expecting a very important letter for many days now. He was contemplating going all the way to the Dwarven Kingdom to fetch himself. “Listen. When the next supply train goes back to the Keep, they need take a letter to Father Hedrick asking him if his church has ever received any letters addressed to me”.

Darius returned to pacing in the rain with his thoughts. “The next time we go into Quesquaton, we need to use the map more. The supply room with the collapsed floor was adjacent to the parts we could get to without using the magic circle. If we can retrace the tunnels in Zelligar’s chambers using Mirel's map, then we can probably dig from one section to another. If we use some of our picks, we can probably dig through in a few days. Then we will have access to the library again. And we can search for the real treasure!” Determined, he marched towards Elion’s inner-lit tent.


Darius approached Elian and asked him about the final resting places of Roghan and Zelligar, and about joining with his team in defense of Quasqueton. He did his best to be VERY diplomatic.

Originally posted by Darius and Elion
Elian: “No one knows where they went. That is part of what I was hoping to find. A clue to my brother's disappearance as well. It is as I feared. When you first encountered the kobolds and several of them fled. I have been hoping we would have more time until the brutes returned with more force. It appears time is up. I would suggest collapsing the tunnels and pulling the men back to the Keep. Our work here appears to be over.”

Darius looked Elian straight in the eye, the cold grey pupils peering as if into his soul. "Are you suggesting we retreat, sir? To give up? Just how many of those creatures do you think they have down there?"

Elian: “My first report from Pendra and Certa suggested the Giant's forces to be in the hundreds. And your subsequent forays into the area seem to suggest that the first report is true. We don't have the force nor the supplies to last a long siege.”

Darius: "We will not surrender, the line will not break. I will not leave the county of Margrave to the hands of those creatures out there. We were sent here to defend the Keep, and restore this outpost. We will continue doing so. If the Giant returns, I will ride out to face him myself, alone if need be. We will not yield, we will not surrender, we will not retreat. The men deserve better than that, Margrave deserves better than that."

Darius steps up close to Elian. "Why retreat? Quasqueton is not of a strategic importance in the defense of this outpost. We can defend the well easily enough. Why retreat now, Elian?"

Elian: "Is it wise to lead the blind into battle? The men are brave and have withstood a lot. But you and I are the only ones here able to see the true enemy. Our foes don't fear the dark. And while the storm rages, Our Ally the Sun is hidden. Also, the foundation we stand on is collapsing. The fabric that held the magic in place is gone. Soon the land will reclaim the space. I have spoken to Lady Devereaux and have been keeping her informed of the progress to uncover the secrets of Quasqueton. She said to find out all I could before the enemy arrived. And to save the forces of the Outpost by pulling them back when they came in force. The beasts are here now. So we pull back.”

”You and your band of compatriots are under no obligation to leave. You have served your time with honor. But Sgt Keenan will pull the regulars back. In fact, I imagine Yung and Wyat will be reinforced.”

”I'm afraid the chance to strike the Giant's forces in their lair has passed. I can only hope Pendra and Certa have made it out safe.”

”I also have word from the Front. The message I sent to my brother did not go unnoticed. The Lords of Chaos have magic at their disposal too. No help from the Archmage will be forthcoming. And a warning was added to the return message. The enemy may send investigators of their own. This is something else I suspect to the disturbance now below us.”

Darius: "How do you propose we collapse the tunnels? We have no explosives here. Dwarven miners could do it, but we have soldiers."

"And I will obey the orders from Lady Devereaux, but I would like to see them. I would imagine that this is reasonable?"

Elian: "The most I can do to seal the tunnels is to call on the powers of the land. It is one of my most powerful spells. Nature will take its course over time to seal the rest.”

”As for seeing the Lady's orders, I'm not sure you will understand them. (He produces a scroll) Perhaps Kayla can help you.”

Darius: "If you knew that the enemy could intercept your message, why did you send it? You understand magic better than I, for before my tour here, I was only familiar with powers of faith. Why didn't you warn me such messages could be intercepted?"

Elion: ”I did not know that the enemy would intercept our message. I had an idea that they could. But I did not know if they would expend the resources to do so. If we knew the enemies every move this war would be over sooner. If I had warned you would you have not sent the message? You seemed to think it necessary so I did as you bade.”

Darius: ”If you had warned me, then yes, I would not have sent the message at all. It was not worth the risk.”

"I will gather my corporals, and my compatriots, and we will decide where we wish to go from here. However, the tunnels are not to be collapsed until I give the order. Is that acceptable?"

”I will give the magic to Kayla to seal the tunnel, as I will be leaving with Sgt Keenan. It will take me some time to transcribe it though.”

Darius: “During that time, I will see what we can do in regards to what is happening down below, and find out more about the caves. After I talk to my comrades, we will decide to stay here, venture to the caves, or return to the Keep.”
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After leaving Elion, Darius stopped by the soldiers at the well and asked them to describe the sounds they had heard. “As precise a description as you can give.”

Originally posted by Darius and Well Guards
Terson: "As best as I can describe it. (pauses) Mind you it was late in the evening and the rain has still been coming down. At first it was a loud splash. Like something felled in the bottom of the well. And then there was a deep voice cry from a distance, which echoed thru the well. But I couldn't understand the voice. And then some snickering. And finally some other voice barking. And then silence. That what you remember Bolgo?"

Bolgo: "Aye, some splashing continued afore the laughing. But right. Terson speaks the troof. Nothin' since then."

Darius: Could you duplicate what the voice said? Was it in another language, or just muted?

Terson: "Sure, I can try. Let me see. (pauses for a moment) Okay, it was something like... GRrowosllonws..

Bolgo: "No. no. you gotta go deeper. It was GGGrRrowlssssool..

Terson: "The Sgt asked me. I'm sure it was... GRrowosllONs..

Bolgo: "Shut yer yap. It was...” Terson pushes Bolgo. They start to tussle.

Darius breaks them up. "That's enough. I will not have those under my command fight over something like this. So, you're saying it was a deep voice saying GRrowosllonws? Perhaps the first should be Grow? Does that help some?"

Terson: "(he looks sheepishly at you) Sorry Sgt. (then scowls at Bolgo). That sounds right. But I still don't think I could understand it even if I heard it agin"

Bolgo: "(scowls back at Terson, then turns to you but doesn't look in your eyes) Sorry Sgt. It tweren't words. But sounds."

Darius: "Sort of like big dogs growling? Thank you men. Go find your replacements and have them take over your shifts, and get a little rest. Preferably in separate tents. Do not worry, we are all on edge here. Just remember, you are not each other's enemy. We will get you both home soon."

[DAY 44 – Thunderday, Jinto 5th, CY 81]

In the morning, all the army soldiers outside were breaking down the encampment. Horses were loaded up and whatever could not be carried was left behind. Even the outpost militia had been ordered to pack and prepare for departure. The outpost regulars looked confused, but did as they were ordered. After waking and seeing the scene, Dram, Dalin, and the others were completely perplexed. Darius gathered his compatriots within the infirmary in a secluded corner. Igor was still sleeping. He looked to need another day of rest. Darius asked Brother Ben to have his assistants keep people a significant distance away from them, but they already looked to be busy packing. Then Darius recounted everything Elion had told him the night before. Afterwards he handed a scroll to Kayla, but she said she was not prepared to read it. Looking unblinkingly at the others, Dram began to speak:

Originally posted by Dram
“If Elian knew there was a danger of a larger force returning, why didn't he say anything about it before? If we are here to protect the keep & we abandon the outpost, as we were told before, it would leave the keep wide open from this direction. So somehow abandoning post doesn't sound like a good idea, at least not from the view point of what is best for the County Margrave & Elian is supposed to be looking out for Margrave's best interests right? And on that note, how could ‘our work here be over’ if our job is to defend the keep? It seems like our job would be getting much more serious at the moment?"

“Actually, when we arrived at the Outpost as raw recruits it was in no condition, force or supply-wise, to last even for a short siege. There was no talk of retreat then. What has changed? The Giant has seemingly disappeared, we've strengthened our position, we know more about what we're battling, and we've taken out some of the forces of chaos already. I side with Darius on this issue. No retreat.”
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Realizing their militia assignment might be completed, the group hurriedly discussed what needed to be done next. Most wanted to continue searching Quesquaton and find out if they could discover the treasure. A vote was taken. Igor abstained, as no one wanted to wake him. A decision was reached. They would continue to live out of Xavier and defend it until they could safely move below. Then the lid would be locked on the top of the well from underneath. The whole troupe was anxious to head down that day before any more potential monsters could move in to Quesquaton. The Gresslam Brothers were asked to stay behind for a day and watch Igor and the well while the group descended. They agreed for the price of two coppers apiece. Dram bargained on his own with Ormand the Redd as well. He had also been ordered back to the keep.

By midmorning the whole camp was loaded and lined up for return to Keep Margrave. Darius met with Elian before he left. Upon returning Darius said the Elf had mentioned a change in plans, but he did not understand what he meant. “He wishes us best of luck and asked us not to go down the well.” The whole team disagreed with the advice. Brother Ben felt sure the Elf had finally shown his true colors. Pulling off the lid, Rizzle and Goodrich were told to leave it off and listen in case they returned. Darius descended by handholds first without a torch. Peering into the opening to Quesquaton he saw the door had been shut. Climbing back up he led the others down quietly while carrying a long pike in one hand. The other six lit their torches upon reaching the landing below.

It was evident someone had pulled out the stake meant to keep the door from accidentally closing. “Quesquaton” was spoken aloud softly, but the door did not move. Mirel was sent back up for a crowbar. She escorted it down tied onto the rope’s end. Prying the door made quite a bit of noise, but finally worked. To their surprise a massive round boulder blocked the entrance on the far side. They tried pushing, but it would not budge an inch. Darius kneeled down and looked through the gaps. Oddly he saw lit torches along the corridor on both sides. Nothing was moving though, and he could hear no noises either. Mirel was sent back up again to retrieve Igor’s pack. Darius climbed inside and tested trying to “call” himself back out. It did not work. He did find a way to leave part of his body out of the sack though, and instructed the others to push it beyond the boulder. A rope was tied to one end and Darius entered the pack keeping one arm out holding onto its straps.

When the sack had been pushed underneath with the pike like a long fishing line, Darius pulled and pushed trying to birth himself a second time. Successful, he stood up and removed some logs buttressing the boulder in place. “Get behind it now and push!” he whispered loudly back. The oblong sphere rolled towards Darius down the entrance corridor bumping into the walls and torches as it went. About 100’ down Darius called out to halt and helped push it into one of the paired alcoves along the passage. Just enough space was made so Mirel could fit around the boulder using an empty alcove on the opposite side of the tunnel. Its secret door had been closed. Dalin noticed a divot in the side of the boulder and the team began twisting and rocking it into a better position. Darius heard scratching noises coming from behind him down the first corridor to his right.

He decided to keep helping to move the boulder so the others could slide past. Mirel dashed away towards the noises with her torch in hand. Seconds later she returned trembling and with a look of fear on her face. Darius heard a loud CRASH from behind him and the scratching noises stopped. He and Mirel stared at the floor at the far end of the corridor. Chunks of the stone were falling into an abyss below the floor of Quesquaton. Mirel screamed and began pushing at the boulder again, but in the other direction. The floor behind her and Darius fell piece by piece as the chasm stretched hungrily towards them. The misshapen boulder rolled awkwardly back towards the entrance. “Stop!” yelled Dalin. It had shifted into a position with the open space accessible near the top. Darius boosted Mirel upwards and she clambered over to the other side. Darius jumped up attempting to find a handhold, but was too short to find a grip.

“Watch out!” cried Kayla as she pushed the bag and rope through an opening to Darius’s side. The chasm was getting closer. Darius could not see its bottom, but noticed the emptiness extending outwards under the walls to either side and into nothingness. Igor’s bag hit him in the head. He started climbing back in when the others called out, “Climb over!” He pulled his half displaced body over the boulder while the others pulled on the bag using the rope. The entire corridor was rumbling now and every surface was shaking in what appeared to be an earthquake. Mirel was already at the ledge into the well yelling up for the rope to be lowered. “What in glory is going on down there?” yelled back Rizzle.

The rest of the team ran back to the ledge and began climbing up the cut out handholds along the side of the well as it shook too. Darius freed himself from Igor’s pack and hauled it with him. The well’s rope dropped back down and everyone grabbed a hold trying to climb back up as fast as possible. The Brothers in the tower saw the surrounding ground was slowly beginning to shake too. After exiting the well, Brother Ben grabbed a random Gresslam Brother and hauled him upstairs. The crew began pulling out everything of value they could think of and carrying it away from the tower as the shaking continued to increase. Mirel moved the frightened mules out to the roadside, while Ben and Goodrich carried out Igor still asleep in his bed. The quaking slowly amplified, but the team risked a full twenty minutes of moving supplies out of the tower. By the time thirty minutes had passed the earthquake was so intense they could not even stand upright alongside the outpost’s clearing.
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The end of Outpost Xavier was spectacular indeed. It happened both with great speed and infinite slowness. Safely along the western edge and in the road, the witnesses observed the cleared circle of land sink deep down in front of the tower. The hole edged outward bit by bit until it reached Xavier. The tower fell straight downward into the fissure. Dust plumed up into the rain and over the whole scene. The surrounding wilderness remained eerily still afterwards. The entire ordeal had lasted just over an hour of time. Shocked from the loss, the last remaining inhabitants of Outpost Xavier crept forward to inspect the hole. A torch was tossed inside. Mud could be seen collecting at the bottom over 100 feet below. No trace of tower stone could be seen.

After a moment’s respite, the survivors loaded the mules a few of them had originally brought and traveled back to Keep Margrave. After two hours time the rain had faded overhead and they spotted the large caravan in front of them. By evening they and the caravan had reached the keep and the safety within its walls. Brother Ben led the three Gresslam Brothers to the temple to dry off. He convinced Brother Thom to let them stay for the night. “In hopes they may join the clergy” he whispered in his ear. The rest of the team was welcomed in the barracks for the evening. Dalin headed to the Inn instead. There he found a poker table with some friendly players. He tried to change his fortune as he gambled until the morning light.

[DAY 45 – Fastday, Jinto 6th, CY 81]

After two days of recuperation Igor was finally back in good health. As the sun came up he made his way to the supply post within the keep. Mouse was standing within on a stepladder to reach the store counter. Igor had a lot of things he needed to repurchase with the tower gone. None of the others knew where he had kept his secret stashes. “Nothing irreplaceable”, he thought. “At least they saved my packsack for me.” He had retrieved it upon first waking. Mouse was very happy to see him; happier still when he heard all he would be buying. Igor was walking from the back storeroom into the basements below when he heard the doorbell clang again.

Dram entered the trading post slowly. His leather boots thudded on the wood floor as he walked. Igor could hear him from below, “what is he doing here? Following me?” Dram was surprised to see the merchant was one of the Little People. They bartered for a fair bit, but most of the supplies he needed were traded elsewhere. He received directions to a smithy and a good bowyer, so he bought fresh rations in return and headed on his way. In the road he found Dalin passed out from the night before. Dram picked up the smaller man and tossed him over his back. Dalin woke up fairly quickly with his head shoved in a water barrel. *Sputter* “What? What are you…? Oh it’s you… You missed it last night. I met a cow, a huuuge bovine animal. It licked my face and jumped into the air. It flew up and up and all the way to the moon!” Dram dunked the man’s head in the barrel for a full minute the second time.

After cleaning his room in the temple, Brother Ben noticed the Gresslam Brothers in the vestibule by the front door. They were packed and headed back to their family’s farm. Ben tried his best to convince them saying he would vouch for any interested in joining the Holy Order. Grizzard held out his empty palm, but Brother Ben could not figure out what he meant. He wished them safe journey and to watch out for bandits. Then he went looking for Brother Thom, but could not find him. Father Hedrach was missing too. Heading to the keep’s inner bailey he ran into Sergeant Keenan outside. The sergeant was loading another supply train to send out. “Thom and Father Hedrach are meeting with Lady Devereaux inside. Advisor Elion and Captain Radcliffe are there too. I’m headed out to Outpost Yung and Wyat. You’re welcome to come along if you wish to reenlist.”

Brother Ben reported Igor’s stolen books, money and gear to Sergeant Keenan. The man already seemed to know however. Darius arrived a few moments later. He was looking for Captain Radcliffe and was told the same story as Ben. Dram passed by them, while looking for a different kind of store. He had learned an alchemist was working in the keep. When he found the unique green door Kayla was hastily coming out of it. She did not seem to notice Dram, so he went inside and bought several potions. “Something to make me as strong as an ox”, he asked. Outside Kayla returned to the barracks to check out her new ingredients. She observed the sky was very clear with not a cloud in it. The spiraling rainstorm over Xavier had dissolved away.


In the afternoon Mirel woke Dalin and told him he could not sleep in the barracks any longer. He eyed her wearily, put rakishly put his arm around her shoulders. He loudly declared that Mirel needed a proper set of armor. To her chagrin he marched them to the armorer and had the man there dress her in a suit of mail armor. It would take a day for him to cut it down to her size. “We will return next, uh… afternoon”, Dalin said and paid in gold. Darius arrived behind them walking quickly into the shop. He ordered spikes for his gauntlets. Not wanting to feel upstaged and remembering how useful the dwarf’s plate armor was, Dalin decided to spend some of his hard earned winnings. The armorer had only one suit available, but it was in very fine condition. It had a crest on its breastplate and a outlandish amount of colored filigree. It took some convincing, but Dalin liked of looking like a nobleman.

After getting measured and fitted for the armor, Dalin paid with quite a bit more gold and some of the ancient platinum the group had found awhile back. “Make that tomorrow evening for delivery”, he said to the armorer and took Mirel under arm again. He was about to walk back to the Inn when Dram walked up behind him with Ormand the Redd and clapped Dalin on the back. “Not again”, he thought. But the big man only wanted to show him a store where they could buy bows and arrows. In fact, it offered quite a bit more with silver-tipped arrows and ones that had a cord tied to their nocks. When fired they pulled cord behind them and attached to a pulley for feeding a rope down the line.

While the other two gawked at the arrow collection, Darius took Mirel to the Inn at the center of the keep. ‘The Man with Fire in his Hands’ was busy, but the dwarf booked rooms for everyone but Brother Ben and himself. Mirel felt strange at having a room for just Kayla and herself. The feather bed did not help either. But she kept quite about her parents and her home being in the keep. By the end of the day the whole team was talking in the common room below and enjoying food and wine. Dram told the others he had found someone who was a moneylender in one of the homes inside the walls. He suggested transferring the onyx chips into coin, as no one had wanted the bits from him. By late evening Dalin had found his poker friends and this time Dram joined them. It turned out the big man could drink as much as any two other players combined.

[DAY 46 – Holyday, Jinto 7th, CY 81]

Father Hatrick paged Brother Ben early the next morning. The old priest handed him two powerful potions to keep safe. “They will help in healing, if any are in dire need”, he said. The Father requested a meeting with the rest of Ben’s companions at noon. He had important information to tell. Later, Brothers Thom and Ben helped the older man hold services for the keep’s inhabitants. Afterwards, at the Inn everyone met and followed Dram to the moneylender. They received 50 gold coins for each onyx chip. With fifty chips in all it was a fortune in money. The coins were divided equally among the seven main members. Darius would hold on to the remainder as a ‘supplies fund’ for everyone.

At noon in the main temple Father Hedrach told them of his meeting with Lady Devereaux the day before. “There has not been word from the Army for a long time. Lady Devereaux is worried of what is happening at the front. We cannot fail them here at home. It is important the Giant is found and defeated.” He then explained many of the things Elion had already spoken of to Darius about two days before. Keep Margrave and the militia in their 26 outposts were the only defense the county had. The team agreed to continue exploring the Caves of Chaos and to report what they learned.

Afterwards Father Hatrick approached Brother Ben and Darius and asked after their customary tithing. Darius gave quite bit in gold coin, but Brother Ben decided to give less. He was not sure how much to give and donated only 5 gold pieces. It was the most he had ever tithed before and he hoped the Gods’ would be pleased. In the afternoon and evening, they picked up all the completed armor and weapons. Supplies and equipment were packed and readied for the next morning’s trip to the caves. Mirel snuck off to meet with her parents one last time before leaving again. She had not yet told them she was out of the militia. She was scared she would not get to follow along with the others, if they found out.

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