Not wanting to chance the loss of all of their belongings to the plan to “join” the cult, some of the characters left some of their belongings in trust with the innkeeper at Gar’s Last Meal. Their riding dogs and pony left in the keeping of Reginar, who promised to stable them and keep them safe. Ooklar took only his armor, shield, his large mace, and some bread. Red had a potterer bake his holy symbol, the image of the sun in gold, into a small clay plate. Bella entrusted a small red clay item to Thom who hid it in a small bag of curiosities such as a potion of invisibility that he hid within the folds of his clothing, hiding other things such as money in the heels of his shoes.
- Ranger’s Lament
At the inn across the street from the temple the group entered, noting that while other inns nearby were doing a brisk evening business the Ranger’s Lament seemed empty of patronage except for them. As they were welcomed by the innkeeper Rolen Oggersmith they started with requests for small ale, but were advised to wait just a little while as a group of masked priests, some in white and some in grey robes, came out of the back room followed by yet a taller priest in black robes who took the small lectern near the door to the inn and gave a welcoming speech in a charismatic voice ending with the question “Will you join him?”
After unanimously answering “Aye!” the characters were congratulated by their hosts (they would later learn that grey was for priests while the lower ranking acolytes wore white) and served the previously requested ale along with beer and wine and a thick beef stew as they listened to their hosts extol the virtues of being one with the Living God.
Being a suspicious lot the players attempted to discern if the food was drugged or poisoned, but not detecting anything within the first few seconds made short work of the first few servings. After 5 minutes the door to the inn was locked by the priest in black as the odorless and tasteless drug took effect, putting all except for Thomas (6 major saves in a row) into unconsciousness. At the first instant of seeing his friends fall under Thom pretended to suffer the same effects while he actually resisted them and kept his wits as the entire group was dragged through a trapdoor in the back of the inn and through a tunnel underneath the street and into the basement of the Temple where the group was stripped of their armor and weapons and placed into a holding cell.
- Fasting in Prison Cells
Everyone awoke with only their clothing and shoes in a holding pen, just in sight of the bottom of a stairs where a white robed acolyte gave a signal to someone at the top. A couple mites later the black robed priest came down the steps and addressed the group in reassuring tones, introducing himself as Egarthis and apologizing for the manner in which they needed to be drugged and brought into the Temple, and that they should fast (wait, what!?! fast?!?!) and meditate over the next day on the glory and riches of Razmir in order to prepare themselves to join the faith. A bowl of water is placed on the floor within reach of the bars as Ooklar grunts and scowls and mutters about them taking his bread before planting his back to the wall and his feet to bars of the cell and wrenching his back in the process. One of the grey robed priests advises patience and meditation, but is not foolish enough to get too close to Ooklar in the process.
- Acolytes Indoctrinated
The next day the party is escorted by a small group of priests and acolytes out of the basement and up into the main floor of the Temple where they are given their white robes and iron masks and sworn in to rising chants of “All hail Razmir!” and a celebratory shout from the gathering of cultists. After the ceremony the rest of the cultists disperse, leaving the party with Krant, a large man of enormous girth who explains the contradictory tenets of the faith and begins their instruction, starting with hard labor in the courtyard. (One of these is that no acolyte shall approach the 2nd floor, and that their masks must be worn at all times when on the 1st floor or when in public, the better to emulate the Living God whose face must not be looked upon, but also for the strength of anonymity in numbers.)
- Daily Routine and Rhetoric
2 days of routines including manual labor, prayer meetings, bland food, and transcription of seemingly meaningless text go by before the new group of acolytes have proven their worth and are given back their possessions. During prayer services it’s obvious that even the grey robed priests find their own sermons to the acolytes uninspired and boring, but necessary as part of the routine of indoctrination. Trilgar actually pays attention to the writings and sermons in order to figure out their religious worth, and soundly concludes what he was already told in that there’s no actual religion, but only worthless contradictory rhetoric to confuse the casual onlooker. At no time does he see any of the priests perform healing, blessings, or any of the other acts normally attributed to a god that imbues his clerics with power. During training and even mealtimes it becomes obvious that some of the acolytes do not survive their training, either at the hands of other acolytes of at the hands of Krant as they witness him knock one of his students unconscious with a simple backhand. They are also trained in how to move as a group and how to enforce charitable donations (either through charismatic rhetoric, filching, or outright thuggery) before they taken on the first of a couple of outings.
- Working the Crowd
Krant, along with a couple of priests and Xanthar, one of the black robed heralds, take the acolytes to the marketplace to perform an afternoon sermon and enforce donations. The notes that will be turned in by Krant and Xanthar about their performances will read as follows:
Ac. Bella – Casual in her manner, was able to filch several small purses without notice. Her quiet devotion to our cause will help her go far.
Ac. Evran – Beat a donation out of an onlooker who shouted against the LG. Crude, but effective and admirable. Have Renec reward him with a bottle of Chelian wine when we get back.
Ac. Thom – Filched a small purse and was able to lift an expensive brooch. Stupidly returned the brooch, but managed to make the woman sing praises about the honesty of our priests because of it. Watched her berate her husband for his opinions on the church, will send a group to his business later.
Ac. Trilgar – Spent most of the time preaching about the church and it’s glory. Maybe he can take over and give my sermon next week.
Ac. Ooklar – Spent the entire time brooding. Will have to teach him a lesson.
- Collecting from the Baker
A day later Krant takes the acolytes to Welton’s Bakery. This is the same bakery whose apprentice was kind enough to open the shop in order to sell the group a late night snack the evening they arrived in town.
Krant’s instructions are to get the tithe that Welton owes the church for protecting him, amounting to 100gp past due, and to teach the baker a lesson while in there by roughing him up and wrecking the place.
At first Welton tries to buy time by offering them fresh bread, and then promising that he’ll pay next week, but when Ooklar goes back out to try and talk Krant out of the idea the party comes up with a few different ideas.
Thom gives Evran a potion of invisibility so he can run back to the inn they have their possesions at and fetch the 100 gp from their own cash. Bella manages to find Welton’s stash of hidden gold and takes 100 gp from that, handing it to Krant as Evran arrives with the money while Ooklar had been stalling and hands it to Trilgar, who puts it in with the other money Welton had hidden away. For good measure and a few theatrics Thom proceeds to throw a few choice, and unexpected, punches at the Baker to convince Krant that the second half of his instructions are being carried out. The destruction of some pastries follows suit, leaving enough of a mess to both satisfy Krant’s inspection as well as a couple of appetites.
(XP awards according to the scenario were supposed to be based on how the PCs handled the dilemma. How much damage they did or didn’t do to Welton and his shop, and wether they used their own money or took it from Welton’s hiding place. Considering the results wound up being the same regardless of the intentions the full XP for this encounter were awarded.)
- Ooklar vs. Krant
Later that evening as the acolytes were doing transcriptions and Ooklar continued to make rude doodles in the margins of both the copies and the original texts, Krant indicates that Ooklar is done for the evening and needs to come with him… now.
(Bella, Red, and Thom sneak through the halls and follow in order to witness.)
Krant proceeds to take Ooklar into the courtyard where he faces off with his giant 2-handed club, even offering Ooklar the first shot, which is a lie of course, and the pair of brutes trade ferocious blows until the bruised and unconscious half-orc lies of the ground nearing death if not dead already. Looking up to the second floor the group can see Egarthis watching with a detached interest out of the large window overlooking the courtyard. Krant sneers as he refuses a healing potion offered by the kindly Trilgar and one of the other priests steps forward to administer a stabilizing potion to Ooklar, saving him from dying from internal injuries in front of the onlooking acolytes and his body is carried back into the sleeping quarters in the basement.
Following the priests carrying Ooklar to the basement Bella overhears Egarthis say to a couple of other priests, “He could have been useful, too bad we’ll need to feed him to the pit.”
- Deceit and Reconnaissance
After concluding, rightly, that Ooklar’s life in in danger, Bella stays by his side and when Egarthis shows up with a bowl of oatmeal and apologies for the brutal display he asks the acolyte Bella to feed him and nurse the half-orc back to health. Remembering what can happen to people who too trustingly eat food offered by the priests she manages to make an act of feeding the oatmeal to Ooklar while in actuality hiding the food down Ooklar’s shirt with the quiet admonition NOT to eat it, making it look convincing to Egarthis who leaves to tend to other duties and preparations.
Shortly after they are left alone Bella and Thom go and investigate the locked door to the Pit and the viper while Trilgar stays behind to perform some healing on Ooklar. Evran keeps himself busy as lookout in case the priests suddenly show up.
Only one door on the basement level has remained locked during their entire stay, and as Thom uses a bardic spell to cast his sight beyond the door he sees a set of curved stairs leading down to a chamber with statues atop of pedestals at either end. The pedestals have a small hole in their base, and as he watches he sees a giant viper come out of one hole and wander around before retreating into the hole underneath the other statue.
Bella manages to unlock the door and not only detect the trigger plate on the middle stairs, but to disable it as well so they don’t suddenly slide down to where the hungry snake is.
- Releasing the Viper
And then Thom gets an idea and tells Bella to get everyone ready… and summons his mandolin with which to call and fascinate the deadly snake who hesitates coming up the stairs at first, but as Thom stops playing eagerly rushes after the bardic happy meal in pursuit… all the way up to the great staircase in the main hall of the temple and up to the second floor where the viper proceeds to attack and poison both of the guards while Thom uses the last dose of the invisibility potion.
- Hijynx Ensue
As the rest of the party follows out of the basement to the main temple Bella and Ooklar go to the end of the hall where the 2-storied stained glass window depicting the Mask of Razmir glows softly by torchlight, and Ooklar proceeds to smash an exit through the panes of glass and reinforced lead amidst the shouts of “AAaaaagh, a snake!” and “The Temple is under attack!”Before leaping through the opening they hear a shout behind them and see…
On the 2nd floor the invisible Thom goes to the double doors on which the depiction of a triumphant Razmir amongst his followers is done in gold plated bas relief. Thom tests the door without checking or noticing the trap which hits him with a blast of cold. Shortly after which he hears a click and the doors open where he sees…
Evran and Trilgar follow up to the 2nd floor and avoid the tangle of snake and now dying guards just in time to see…
… Krant standing at the opposite end of the main hall, his club in his hand and murder in his eye.
… the double doors opening to reveal Egarthis, who locks eyes with the giant snake he had held captive for so long.
… the room beyond, including the pedestal between the outer door and the inner chambers upon which stands a statue made of hundreds of masks, the head made of a mask with a large sapphire on it’s forehead.
Next Week: Revenge Is Served