The trial proves to be fairly straight forward. Tilburne itself. As no one was killed in the alleged act of banditry, the sentence is hard labor rather than death. The duration of the sentence draws some murmurs, as ten years seems high to the townsfolk. And there are those who mutter about a conflict of interest, since the man passing the sentence down owns the iron mines the men are sentenced to serve their sentence in. Nothing comes of the muttering, but it is noted by more than one of our heroes.is called to testify that the accused did, in fact, attack him and his companions on the road. The charges are simplistic, making no distinction between intent to rob, kill, or kidnap. Simply a single accusation of banditry against each man. There is carefully no mention that three of the accused were actually captured two weeks later in
After securing an audience with Sir Damien Catharn, our heroes amuse themselves for the afternoon at various pursuits. Some accept the invitation to take libations at the Exchange, and make the acquaintance of the exotic Tashmia, owner and proprietress of the high-brow establishment. Others make their way back to the cheaper swill and rougher company of The Silvered Crown. Thus they pass the day and night, and arrive the following morning at Catharn Manor for their audience with Sir Damien. He proves to be as aloof a host as is a governor. His table is plentiful, but not sumptuous. They could get almost the same variety, if perhaps less quantity, at a table in the Baron of Mutton. There are a few delicacies, obviously brought over from the Exchange, but for the most part it is a utilitarian feast. Over breakfast, the knight fields their various questions and asks a few of his own.
The main item of interest is the disappearance of Jalenna, which the knight is unaware of. His concern is pedestrian level at best, as he shrugs it off in his typical aloof manner. A problem, he seems to feel, best left to his appointed constable; and most likely a straightforward case of a young girl falling afoul of bandits. One area their interests and his seem to overlap strongly is the situation with the new marshland forming along Cutter Brook, near Holtan. This present a very real threat to the wealth and self-sufficiency of land he is responsible for. Another area of overlapping interest centers around the forged arrest warrant our heroes took from the slain bandit Jorlanis. The knight informs them that the forged document has already been sent, along with a report of the matter, to his liege, Lord Sandrioc Farthane.
Eventually, Sir Damien offers our heroes a tidy sum of 50 GP each to investigate the affair of The New Mire. If they succeed in actually solving the mystery, he promises them an additional sum of 1,000 gold. Both the up-front fee and the additional reward come in the form of Letters of Marque against the knight’s account in the Exchange. He gives them two weeks to investigate the new marshland. The knight also writes them a writ of introduction to his liege, should they wish to present themselves before Lord Farthane. As the region was originally tamed by adventurers at the behest of the original scion of the Farthane family, Sir Damien is confident they will be well-received. After taking their leave of the knight, they spend some time equipping themselves at the Exchange and about town. In the course of this, Nithauk makes the acquaintance of the eccentric Falstirn at the dry-goods store, and receives some odd advice.
The following day, they set out for Holtan, and beyond that to Cutter Brook. Their wanderings lead them ever higher into the Thatchwork Hills. All along the way, they note that the brook is running clear and fast. There is no sign of obstruction or excess sediment, no indication that there is any blockage. Eventually they reach the very headwaters of the brook, a cluster of small springs. Clearly there is water in the hills, bubbling up here to flow towards the Churnwash, but still no indication of why the brook is slowly seeping through its banks to soak the land. While investigating the springs, they catch site of a goblin with blue skin. It vanishes when they rush towards it, but they eventually manage to find a cave where its tracks disappear inside. Excited, they break out a sunrod and enter.
The tunnel is low, forcing the tallest of them to duck often. At its widest, they can fit two abreast, and they never have to squeeze through any narrow areas when single file. The tunnel forks, and here the troubles begin, though they do not realize it. Mikal Slips away from them, as he seems wont to do. They proceed along the left-most passage, while the bard creeps away in the dark. With their light, they eventually find a cavern and venture in. Here, even Nithauk can stand easily. It is a tense moment of surprise when Ezio comes face-to-face with a goblin whose skin is died blue from head to toe. It has rags for clothing, and a crude short sword. The priest brandishes his holy symbol and prepares for battle. At that moment, roars, his draconic heritage lending a fearsome timbre to the sound. The goblin promptly surrenders to Ezio by dropping its blade and raising its hands above its head. Moments later, five more emerge from the dark to do the same.
Mikal moves through the darkness by feel along, following his instincts. He passes first one fork and then another, always sticking to the largest tunnel. Eventually he sees light and smells smoke. Sneaking ever closer, he find himself approaching a larger cavern. In the center of it, a fire throws dancing shadows about and reveals the cavern’s occupants. An older goblin male sits on a few crude skins. To the creature’s right, an old crone wearing the trappings of a shaman sits on a smaller collection of furs and skins. Like the elder male’s seating adornment, these are crude. To the opposite side, a couple of younger females are seated on some crude furs. Four healthy young males stand in attendance, leaning on their spears and listening to the elder goblin. They seem to be debating what exactly they should do about the mysterious roar they heard earlier. Mikal, in his typical gambler’s fashion, steps into the light and addresses them in goblin.
“I am your god.”