13 Quintus 1668 (Amardi)
Serenaded to tunes plucked on Rico's 5-stringed guitar, the Heroes leave the city of Starkbrunn, bearing north through the Dracheneisen Mountains toward the Explorer's Society secret stronghold. As they ride through the stark mountain passes, Fenneke watches warily for danger while Rico, still alert, continues to play his guitar, and Ysabel rests her hand drawn pistol across her saddle horn, ready for action should the need arise.
In the afternoon, as the shadows lengthen across the trail, Rico spots…something…moving through the rocks alongside the trail, his nipples hardening on alert. The creature emerges from shadows—a snake-like moving shadow with the toothy maw of an eel—and strikes at the Castillian. Rico attacks with his rapier while Fenneke leaps into the fray with her axe. Ysabel fires her pistol and spurs her horse onward, moving to distract the creature while Rico finishes it off with flourish of his blade. The creature's corpse fades into the surrounding shadows.
"The horrors of Eisen are indeed strange," Ysabel says.
As they continue down the trails, they notice some creatures flying high above them, perching on the distant summits. Two of these creatures break off and start flying toward the Heroes. As one flies over, Rico slashes at it, and then bashes the other one with his sword hilt as it flies by. The second claws at Ysobel, cutting through her expensive dress. Rico slashes again at the low-flying one, waiting for the other one to swing back around. He performs a feint, allowing Fenneke to leap onto the back of the winged horror and dig in with her axe.
As the first one swings back around, Rico points at it with his sword and says, "Before you die, I want you to know the name of Rodrigo Panchito Sancho de la Rosa de la Amor." The creature attempts to bite him, but Rico performs a masterful riposte. He then poses, a move reminiscent of the "way of the flamingo," and ends with a lunge that severs the creature's spine, felling it.
Fenneke, riding the back of the other creature, plunges her axe into it's back, leaps off of the creature, landing in perfect 3-point landing and swinging back, destroys the creature on the backswing. She rises, covered in ichor, but with a satisfied smile on her usually grim face. She then slices off leathery bits of hide from the creatures' wings to use as fabric.
Eventually they come to the pass to the stronghold. Rico comes across the decaying corpse of one of the winged horrors and supposes that perhaps Yngvild had come this way previously and encountered the beast.
The sun is setting as the Heroes make their way down the pass. Ysabel produces a spyglass and passes it to Rico. At the end of the pass he sees that a barricade and a gate has been erected. It is guarded by six mercenaries of the lowest sort.
Rico strides forward confidently while the others follow. Between Rico's convincing manner and Fenneke's intimidating demeanor, they convince the mercenaries to disperse and abandon their post. The leader proves to be a bit harder to convince than his fellows—but can be bribed. With a bit of gold in his pouch, he, too, leaves without a fight.
As this transpired, Ysabel was examining the wall and the gate. She finds the gate mechanism and opens the gate, allowing she and her fellow Heroes to pass through into the courtyard of the stronghold.
Looking ahead, there are two guard towers with 3 guards each perched on top overlooking the courtyard area. None of these guards seem to be giving the Heroes a second glance—the fact that they were "let" in by the gate guards without a fight probably has bought them some time and trust. Beyond the courtyard is a river running east to west.
Immediately to the west is a large set of double doors with the symbol of the Explorer's Society embossed upon it. Rico pushes open the doors and they enter a lit hallway. They move slowly to a "T" in the corridor—to the right is darkness, but to the left are more lights and doors. They head to the first door.
The door is locked with an unusual puzzle lock made up of folding and locking panels that must be placed in the proper combination to properly unlock the door. After a few moments, Rico figures it out and opens the door.
The room appears to be a well-stocked bedroom. There is also a desk and a wardrobe. They all search the room for various useful objects. Rico finds a mapped layout of the stronghold. Ysabel finds a roster of stronghold personnel—including the name of the Master of the Chamber (Rudolfus Klein). Fenneke finds a manifest of relics and objects being held in the stronghold—with a notable exception of an object being held in the "chapel" of the stronghold only noted as "Item X."
As they are examining their finds, Fenneke and Ysabel hear footsteps coming down the hall. They shut the door and remain still as the booted feet move past. After a few moments, they move back by—a patrol. They return to what, according to the map, is the guard tower, accessible by a nearby hall.
They leave the Master's chamber and head to what is marked as the Reliquary.
As they pass the hall leading to the guard tower, they overhear their conversation. Apparently they grow impatient with staying here and the fact that the old man won't "break." They are of the opinion that he should be thrown in the river like the others.
Rico starts heading up the stairs like he owns the place, with Fenneke following, her visage stern and intimidating. Ysabel poses as an attaché, putting on her best officious manner. Ysabel demands all of the guards' names while Rico demands to know where Yngvild is—he was to meet her here. The guards—clearly discombobulated, answer that she is in the Chapel, across the river. Ysabel warns the men that should keep the place clean and tidy. They then leave the guards with a grand flourish.
The troupe head to the river and ford it, making their way to ancient sanctuary. They then turn and make their way to flooded chamber dominated by four carved pillars, the carvings of dragons crawling along the wet columns making an eerie sight. Eventually, they find their way to the outside of the chapel.
In the chapel, they see an old man tied to a chair. He's obviously been beaten and abused for some days. The woman Fenneke has identified as Yngvild is there, as well as 8 other mercenaries. Yngvild is demanding the solution to the puzzle lock on a nearby door and the old man, still defiant, tells her to go to hell. She backhands him.
The three Heroes enter the room. "Turnaround," Ysabel tells Yngvild. "She wants to kill you."
Rico prepares to square off with the mercenaries while Yngvild turns around and sees Fenneke. "My dear, you keep turning up like a bad Guilder."
"Drit og dra," Fenneke tells her through gritted teeth as she closes the gap and attacks the smiling captain. She delivers two slashes, one across Yngvild's face.
Meanwhile, Ysabel moves and frees the Master of the Chamber from his bonds and moves him out of harm's way.
Yngvild slashes twice at Fenneke, slash for slash.
Fenneke cuts twice—Yngvild cuts twice.
Rico finishes off the last of the mercenaries and blocks the exit, displaying his Explorer's Society symbol for the Master to see.
Fenneke attacks Yngvild, and then Yngvild draws a silver dagger from her belt. She cuts a hole in the air—and, as if walking through a parted curtain, leaves this reality behind. The hole seals behind her.
As the Heroes look on, wondering how this supposedly Vesten woman learned Montaigne sorcery, the Master of the Chamber sheds some light. He believes that she is using an item that has been stolen from the Society. It is a magical dagger linked to a sou (a Montaigne coin). It will allow her to be taken to the coin and the coin only. It is limited by the item. He also offers to show them what she was after—"You've earned that much," he says.
Ysabel helps him to the door and he works the puzzle lock, unsealing the room. Looking inside with lanterns, they see a huge metal man, standing over 7' tall with 4 arms and no face. It has a dark gem in the forehead. It is made of bands of overlapping metal. Rico wonders if it is a Golem and the Master says that he is not far off—that is, in fact, their nickname for it. They speculate as to what Yngvild would want with such a thing. It could be a powerful weapon—what would she want with it?
The stronghold will need to have reinforcements. Rico offers to ride back to Starkbrunn to contact Cordula to get that moving. But first…
The Heroes head out into the courtyard. The remaining guards demand to know what is going on. Rico informs them that Yngvild has gone and that they are all that are left. They have two choices—the leave or play "the bleeding game." They opt to leave.
Rico bids farewell to his friends and begins his ride back to Starkbrunn, leaving Fenneke and Ysabel behind with the Master of the Chamber.