Selanis

Who needs guard captains?

Captain Jamus gave the professor a pitying look, then addressed the party.

“You have a half-dozen invisible crossbows pointed at your chests, so I really think it would be best if you stopped and listened to what I have to say. Do you realize what we’ve found here? This place… and that book, especially… change everything! It changes history! Do you know what something like this is worth? So much wealth and power were invested in this expedition on the mere hint that it would reveal the true founders of Old Amnor. The elves, naturally, want proof it it was them, and to bury the secret if it was the dwarves. The dwarves want the opposite. But to find out that the ORCS were the ancient ones, and that the elves and dwarves had been the ones to throw them down?
The stakes just got so much higher than you can possibly imagine. BOTH sides will want this secret buried, and buried completely. The merest rumor that Mazon enterprises possesses something like this… there will be money, there will be favors, and I will see to it personally that the elves and dwarves are played against each other to the company’s profit. Me and my men are going to have our careers revolutionized by this. Naturally, there’s no point in letting either the elves or the dwarves get their hands on this book: they’d just destroy it, the influence it represents would disappear like water. And we certainly can’t let the orcs get their hands on this: the savages probably wouldn’t even bother to read it before ripping it to shreds. They wouldn’t even appreciate the irony: an artifact like this is even more revolutionary to their culture than it is to the elves or dwarves. This is their history AND their religion, never mind that it is made from pure Starheart!”
“I am offering you a choice. Several choices, in fact. I don’t appreciate the complications you’ve caused in somehow provoking an entire orc army to hunt you down. It’s clear, though, that you are competent and dangerous. I’d rather have you as an ally than an enemy. As I said, this find means a lifetime of wealth and privilege for me and my men. I am offering you the chance to join my company and share in all of that. An item like this is powerful, but it is also dangerous, and it will take dangerous people like you and me to keep it under control. "
“Perhaps you are not as ambitious as I guess. Very well: in that case, I ask for your cooperation until we return to Feldvale. You will be compensated, as promised, and I will see to it that you receive a generous bonus as well. Our involvement will end there, and you will be free to pursue whatever other future you desire.”
“If you are willing to neither join me or cooperate until we return home, I am afraid you leave me little choice, and you will die here. I don’t believe any of you are so foolish.”

Jamus looks at each in turn, then asks “What say you? Please decide quickly, the orcs are on their way and the teleportation spheres take some time to prepare. I would also appreciate your help retrieving those eyes: they’re made from Starheart of the same smelting as the book, so they and the book will all shine as long as they are near each other. They’re too valuable to leave behind.”

After some hurried whispering, the party agreed to help Jamus (some were even seriously considering his offer). Believing himself to have the upper hand firmly and as a gesture of goodwill, Jamus allowed the party to keep their weapons… that turned out to be a fatal error.

The party followed Jamus back out through the strange circular rooms under the catacombs, invisible crossbow men following close behind them. The room with the corpse balloons had changed: glowing stone images of Selanis’ two moons, the larger bloodmoon and the smaller goldmoon. The alcove near the entrance to that room now had a small sapphire placed within the circular rune there, which apparently was enough to light up the room and make the moons glow. Most importantly, whether from light or heat, the remaining corpse balloons had all drifted upwards to the ceiling, allowing plenty of room to pass underneath unhindered.

Halfway across the room, Samiel made his move. He summoned a sudden strong downdraft of air in the space behind him, causing the corpse balloons there to tumble downward. One touched an invisible Mazon crossbowman and exploded, but not before he got a shot off at Sam. The spores from the corpse balloon quickly overcame that guard, and he suddenly was visible, dead on the floor of the chamber. Two other guards were briefly visible flinging themselves away from the falling balloons: apparently there were only three guards, not the six Jamus had claimed, and being dead cancelled their invisibility.

Jamus hissed at them. “Fools!” he said, drawing his sword to fight. The resulting fight was chaotic, as Sam pulled down more balloons, crossbow bolts fired from invisible hands, and Magus grabbed the sapphire to plunge the entire room back into darkness. After a brief but intense sword fight with Gyth, Jamus donned an invisibility ring of his own and fled. Magus and Gyth pursued him, determined not to let him reach the surface and warn his men.

A superior running roll by Magus had him catching up too much for Jamus to risk trying to climb the elevator shaft, so he turned to fight. Magus took the opportunity to disappear into the shadows, then work his way around to the elevator shaft and make sure nothing got through. Jamus made his second mistake: deciding to stalk instead of immediately fleeing or fighting. The party figured out that he must still be in the room. They tipped over the enormous stone basin to flood the room, figuring that even if it wasn’t a deadly acid, the water would at least make his location clear. The telltale rippes gave Jamus away. Magus charged and grappled him, using the magic-cancelling ring he was wearing to keep Jamus more or less visible while Gyth put an end to him. Magus decided to keep Jamus’ head.

For once, Magus wasn’t the only one harvesting body parts. Samiel had been busy looting the dead invisible guards. They all had stained-copped-green rings and some sort of runic tattoo on their arm. Since putting on the ring merely made him tired (but not invisible), Sam concluded that the tattoos were somehow involved and cut them out of their unfortunate owners, carrying the strips of marked skin back with him for further study and/or use. His magic, however, had left him fatigued to the point of exhaustion.

After another hurried discussion (and stealthily retrieving Darak and Razius from the camp above), the party decided their best bet would be to lure the remaining Mazon guards down into the catacombs in small groups and ambush them. The strategy chosen was simple: Razius would tell them that Jamus needed some backup and send a few of them down, where the party would deal with them. Razius reluctantly agreed, and left to do exactly that. Meanwhile, Sam decided to hide in the dark and push the Mazon guards down the elevator shaft with a blast of air when they came to it. The plan seemed to go well: three dark figures appeared, hurrying through the catacombs. As they approached the open elevator shaft, Sam let loose a massive blast of wind, sending all three hurtling to their deaths.

There was only one problem: as the three figures fell into the shaft, the party noticed something not quite right. The front figure of the three had been far to close to the back two, and had they had their hands on his shoulders? Peering down the elevator shaft, their worst fears were confirmed: Beside the two figures in Mazon-branded armor lay the broken and twisted figure of Razius.

Meanwhile, that shield from Narak-Nalun kept getting steadily brighter…

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