Common Year 579

24. Harold the Free

From 16 to 17 Wealsun, 579 CY

During the night, while a thunderstorm raged, a haggard person stumbled into the camp. Father Dominco tried to calm him down and question him, but his wits were deranged, and the party could make little sense of his ramblings. He called himself Harold the Slave, and he claimed that he had escaped a stockade on a hill held by the Slave Lords and that he had gone through a tunnel and climbed down a rope. He was deathly afraid to lead the party to this stockade, and he refused to go inside Devil Pancake’s magical shelter to sleep. He did take food and healing, and then Dom allowed him to leave, naming him Harold the Free, although he and the rest of the party worried that a lone lunatic wandering the Pomarj would not last long.

The party had no trouble finding the stockade on their own, simply by following the path that they were already on. They also located the rope that Harold had climbed down. Zarra went up to explore and managed to enter the stockade, but suspicious sounds from the other side of a door drove her back to her companions. The party then decided that the best approach would be to burn down the wooden drawbridge that led into the stockade, so that they could all enter at full force. They used magic to start and control the blaze, and in a short time the drawbridge was ashes.

Any enemies inside now knew without a doubt that the party had arrived. Yet entire stockade seemed abandoned, much like the desecrated temple, except for an anhkheg that had been living under the broken stone of the courtyard.

As they pressed deeper into the structure, they encountered some sort of poltergeist activity with a disembodied voice telling them to leave, along with the hanging corpse of a hobgoblin, which may or may not have been related, but they learned nothing more about it.

In one chamber, which appeared to have been a kitchen, the party came face to face with a Slave Lord. He was seven feet tall, utterly silent, and shadowed, but not concealed in shadow entirely like the being in the sewers had been. He was slowly roasting a lizard on a spit. Three wereboars in his service attacked the party on sight, and eight hobgoblins rushed into the chamber as well from different entrances. The party dealt with the attackers and then turned their attention to the Slave Lord. Hessa traded blows with him directly, but he overpowered her with some sort of enchantment, and she lay helpless at his feet. He raised a two-handed sword to kill her, but Father Dominco rushed into the fray and deflected the killing blow with his shield, just as Zarra stabbed the Slave Lord in the back. Her blade pierced his heart, and he collapsed to the floor.

Zarra recognized his sword as Death’s Master, which was said to belong to the legendary hero Icar. Nobody knew if the legends were true or even if Icar had ever lived, but if he had, he would have been four hundred years old. The legends also claimed that Icar was blind. The dead Slave Lord’s eyes had cataracts. The party took his sword and burned his corpse.

Further exploration revealed the Slave Lord’s personal chamber. Father Dominco discovered a secret compartment that contained a bound medusa, who begged to be freed. Icar, being blind, was immune to her gaze, and he used her for pleasure against her will. She told the party that there were twelve Slave Lords in all and that they would soon meet the one called Markessa, and she vowed that Markessa would murder them painfully. Markessa, another legendary hero, was said to be able to be in two places at once.

The medusa then begged to be freed so that she could resume the slaughter of children and the luring of heroes to their doom. Hessa and Zarra felt strong sympathy for the repeated abuse that the medusa had suffered, but Father Dominco was resolute that evil must be smited, and the medusa was, without question, evil. He took it upon himself to slay the medusa, while Hessa and Zarra fell into uncomfortable silence.


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