Dire circumstances set the stage for pragmatism, or heroism. Fortunately for thousands, the party chose the latter. After taking a moment to catch their breath, the group doubled back on their attackers, threw open the iron door, and faced the undead menace head-on.
It was a vicious battle. As Catsparrow snuck ahead, the rest of the group – including Biggs and Porkins – found themselves in melee with a motley collection of half-formed monstrosities. Hurmanus took several wounds and might have fallen to his death if not for the quick actions of Brek. Leif spent most of the battle unconscious, and Catsparrow’s deadly aim finished off the largest of the monstrosities.
Their attackers thwarted, the party charged back across the drawbridge and down a toothy tunnel, soon finding themselves at the base of a masterpiece of artifice: a gate, according to Brek, leading to the Land of the Dead. And standing beneath it, the Butcher.
Leif – thankfully roused – found himself the subject of a wizard’s duel as the rest of the party dealt with an obscene fusion of dead Snatchers. A hail of missiles in the Butcher’s direction deflected off a shield. Hurmanus uttered a prayer, unleashing a swarm of tiny, biting insects against the Butcher, and allowing Leif to free himself from a tangle of magic.
Those few extra seconds were all they needed: Leif sent a stalactite hurtling down and shattered the Butcher’s shield. A split-second later, Brek’s trident skewered the Butcher, and the warrior hurled the old necromancer into the gate itself.
The gate sputtered and died, only to reignite, like a failing engine, long enough to spit forth the slim figure of a young woman, who rose to her feet and gave the party an imperious frown.
More accurately, she was halfway into doing this when her eyes fell upon Brek, and her lips drew back in a fanged snarl. Screaming a foreign name (“Thon,” to those interested), she hurled herself at him with incredible speed, and Brek – as much to his own surprise as anyone else’s – found himself matching her, blow for blow. A lucky strike lanced her through the arm, and a cloud of bats erupted from the wound, momentarily blinding the party, and allowing the vampire’s escape.
(Brek would later, in his cups, belatedly introduce the group to Vella, a woman with whom romantic complications evidently existed.)
A moment of silence fell. The group performed a search and began an exhausted ascent.
Slowly, it dawned on them exactly what had happened. As they left the Butcher’s lair and accumulated Burrows stragglers, then Cliffside followers, the notion grew. And when they reached the Upper Crust, where hundreds of pensive eyes watched their arrival, then simultaneously broke into cheer, it became undeniable: they were heroes.
A night of revelry, most of which cannot in good conscience be recorded, ensued.
However, certain select snippets should be noted:
- The group was approached by several dangerous-seeming and well-heeled gentlemen. Their leader identified himself as Lucius Latreus, thanked the group for saving the Latreus Ironworks Interest, and promised to repay the debt. The meeting carried an air of menace and the group discreetly disposed of the wine they were offered.
- Catsparrow was gifted a strange creature in an iron cage, called a Beggarbug, by wealthy merchants. So pleased (or possibly shocked) was she by the gift, that she didn’t even try to pick their pockets.
- Leif found himself performing experiments with the local flora, and emerged from a haze of smoke into a small apartment. The apartment contained a basalt mural, depicting a fanciful interpretation of their exile. The occupant (a half-elf named Berthold? an old gnome called Benson? hard to remember) showed Leif how to make use of a strange item in his possession.
- Hurmanus drank deeply and fell deeply into slumber. He dreamed of cataclysms, and conflicted loyalties. He awoke forever changed.
- Brek slept fitfully, remembering his past. He woke to sweat-stained linens, and the faint scent of lilies, feeling just slightly more drained than when he laid his head to rest.