We return to the party standing outside of the cave the bandits had been using as a hideout, with the chest they had been dispatched to obtain, and the leader of the bandits, Sarrisa, still their captive.
With some trepidation, they open the rosewood chest. Inside they find a circulate, carved with symbols most of the group are unable to read. Kharis, however, recognises the ancient dialect of draconic from her arcane studies, and is able to decipher the words: ilk şehir taç, crown of the first city.
The team attempt to intimidate Sarrisa into revealing more about her employers. They get little coherent information out of her; she takes on a haunted expression, and begins to rave about ‘Thousands of eyes, always watching.’
There is some more debate about whether to kill her or turn her in to Ceren for an additional reward. In the end, however, they decide to let her ago, planning to tail her back to her masters.
When they release Sarrisa, she turns to them and says “You should be running too.” before taking off into the woods. Fourteen, already shaken by what they have witnessed in the cave, takes off immediately, easily outpacing Sarrisa. The rest of the group share a glance, then follow him.
Some time later they come to a halt to the north. They have seen no signs of pursuit, but they have lost Sarrisa somewhere in the forest. Exhausted and slightly disgruntled, the party begins the long trek back to Tribute.
When they arrive in the city, the party head for Ceren Dorok’s pavilion to announce the success of their mission. Unwilling to walk into a meeting with their employer unprepared, Garret goes ahead to scout the pavilion, but runs afoul of a group of Ceren’s goons, who take a grim view of his loitering with intent.
Garret brings the thugs back to his group, and there is a somewhat tense standoff between the two parties. Fourteen in particular exchanges harsh words with Xeron, a particularly large and brutish dragonborn. Eventually, however, the guards agree to bring the adventurer’s to meet Ceren.
Ceren is pleased with the success of their mission, and pays them for a job well done. They relate the nature of the creature they found in the cave, and press Ceren on the identity of her enemies. She is reluctant to talk, but eventually reveals that the Guild, the cabal of warlocks who control Tribute, often employ such creatures.
As they leave Ceren’s presence, Fourteen barters his share of the treasure to Kharis in exchange for her teaching him to read and write. He wants to start keeping a list of people he plans to kill. Xeron’s name is the first on this list. Some judicious questioning also reveals Xeron tends to spend his off time at a dockfront bar called The Black Fish.
Their task complete, the adventurers prepare to head off to explore the ruined keep they passed on the way to the bandit hideout. Before leaving, they visit Tribute’s library, where Devon Nerrels, the librarian, is able to reveal some additional information about the keep. Most importantly, that some weapon the Arkhosian empire planned to use in their war against Bael Turath was housed there, although no one has ever found a trace of the weapon in the ruins. He also mentions that the Arkhosian’s often sealed used magical seals operated by keywords to protect their most valuable secrets.
The party’s final stop before visiting the keep is the Monastery of the Second Breath, an enclave of Raven Queen worshipers based outside of the city. Taliesin manages to gain the group an audience with the monastery’s leader, a tiefling paladin named Penitence.
Penitence reveals that her followers regularly clean out the undead and other creatures from the keep, and she would support the party if they wish to engage in similar endeavours. She is not willing to provide a monetary reward, but does provide several vials of holy water, and blessings for the group’s weapons.
Arriving at the keep, Garret sneaks close, and discover a group of Kobolds squatting in the ruins. He overhears them bickering with their leader about going to see ‘the stone king’, and trying to guess a word that will open the way to it.
The party encircles the kobolds, but unfortunately Garret trips over a rock as he attempts to sneak up on their leader, and a fight erupts in earnest. After a hard battle, during which Taliesin is briefly knocked down, the party prevail. Exploring the keep more fully, they find a stone door in the basement, with a rather nasty trap in front of it that causes blades to spring from the walls. They all manage to avoid to trap’s pressure plate, and open they door by speaking the keyword: ‘Tas’, draconic for ‘Stone’.
The door rumbles open, revealing a great underground chamber. Four pillars stand in the corners of the chamber, with massive chains trailing from them that seem to suck magical energy from the air. At the far end the wall is crumbled, as if some massive creature once burrowed its way out, and a statue of a dragonborn stands with a staff laid across its outstretched hands.
Closer at hand, a human sized dragon-like creature with stone skin sits on a raised dias, flanked by two snapping maw deamons. The dragon-creature raises its head, and begins to advance toward the party.
Rules clarifications from the session:
Shooting into combat: Shooting into melee came up during the fight with the kobolds. I can’t remember what we ruled during the session, but 4E doesn’t have negatives for shooting into combat. However, if an opposing creature is blocking line of sight to your target, the target counts as being in cover (friendly creatures never block your line of sight).
Cover in melee: During the game I ruled that cover did not apply in melee combat. This was incorrect – cover applies in melee (the exact rules for what counts as cover are fairly simple, but easier to describe with a map in front of you, so I’ll run through them quickly at the start of the next game.
Dagger range: The range of Garret’s thrown dagger came up during the first session. At the time we ran it as the same range as the bandit’s archers, to save looking it up. The actual range is 5 short/10 long.
Firepots: Garret also picked up some firepots in Tribute. Again, to save looking up, I charged them at 50 gold (the same price as a healing potion). The standard alchemist’s fire cost 20 gp and does 1d6 fire damage. We’ll rule that Garret has scored an especially virulent batch – they will do 1d8 fire damage + 5 ongoing (save ends).