The Wrathbreakers have discovered that there is a deep cult outpost in Estona, and that it had some secret plan connected with Eliabak’s misbegotten golem. In a vicious battle at the Academy the Wrathbreakers defeated Eliabak and stopped him from activating his golem, but during the battle they felt a pulse of dark magic from the docks, and they know what whatever plan the deep cult have stretches beyond Eliabak’s golem. They need to raid the deep cult and stop whatever plan they are about to set in motion. The cast for this session:

  • Bao Tap, human stormcaller
  • Itzel, elven Astrologer
  • Ella, spume dwarf scoundrel
  • Xu, human weaponmaster from Ariaka

Having interrogated Eliabak’s changeling assistant, they now rushed to the docks to attack the deep cult in its warehouse lair.

Breaking the deep cult

It was early evening when they reached the warehouse, a small square building a block back from the sea wharf. It was a typical small Estona warehouse, a simple high-ceilinged building with a single small office room attached to one side, and a wagon parking and unloading area in front of that small extension. The building had a small second story on top of the main warehouse, which could be reached by stairs from the extension office building. It was quiet, but there were lights on inside the office building, barely visible through drawn blinds. Ella investigated the area around the warehouse but found no back entrance. There were only two doors: a main set of double doors for entering the warehouse space and a small, locked door on the office extension. She returned to the shadows opposite the main entrance and they prepared for battle.

They used the standard strategy: Bao Tap summoned his nature’s champion, and they followed it into battle. This time, being near the Estona docks, there was little wildlife to call upon, but Bao Tap was aware that the docks were home to a large, slimy, centipede-like sea creature that scavenged dead things and hunted small rodents and other creatures near the docks. His spell, suitably adjusted, called forth a giant one of these dragging it from some dark shadowy part of the river docks to come slinking, stinking and horrific, through the shadows of the dock’s streets to the warehouse doors. It smashed through, and they charged in after it.

Unfortunately the deep cult had heard Ella sneaking around, and they were ready. A ball of dark magic engulfed them as they entered, doing serious damage to Bao Tap and Xu. Inside the room were 20 deep cult fighters, an Astrologer and a Deep Sorcerer. The fighters rushed in to attack the giant centipede thing, some rushed to attack Xu, and the astrologer and sorcerer stood back to cast spells. Itzel cast a magic barrier on Xu, Bao Tap and the giant centipede thing, and every time the fighters hit it two of them died in explosions of acid. Ella sniped at the sorcerer and Itzel fired magic bolts at the Astrologer.

Half the fighters were dead from acid or Xu’s halberd within seconds, but four more emerged from the side room, along with two champions wearing full plate armour. Seeing the real threat was Itzel’s magic barrier, they poured crossbow fire into her before Xu or Bao Tap could intervene. She fell quickly, and Bao Tap also fell, but not before he and Ella had killed both the Astrologer and the Sorcerer. With the magic barrier dispelled by Itzel’s collapse the battle became harder, but Xu engaged the champions, Ella kept sniping, and Calim brought both Itzel and Bao Tap back from unconsciousness to rejoin the fight. The melee with the champions was bitter; Bao Tap lost his hand, and somehow in the hail of crossbow fire Itzel’s leg was destroyed. However, within another minute they had slain all the fighters and subdued the champions, one of whom they were able to take prisoner. They emerged, blood-soaked but victorious, with the deep cult nest purged.

The deep cult plan

As always they knew they would be able to learn nothing from the deep cult prisoner they had taken; they sequestered him to use as an experiment in reversing the cult’s brainwashing spells, but they did not waste their time interrogating him. Instead they searched the building. Upstairs on a narrow balcony they found a strange magical pipe, imbued with deep folk magic, that was set into a steel tripod and pointed at the sky. They suspected that this was the source of the magic pulse they had felt earlier, and perhaps some form of emergency flare or signal. They also found two maps in the sorcerer’s room on the second floor. One map was a map of the town of Estona, with some clear and meaningful markings on it:

  • Strange long squiggly marks with little side strokes on them, one marked at each gate on the walls of the town
  • Square-like symbols with an unclear mark inside them, drawn at the docks and on the other side of the river
  • A cross at the Academy and the Reliquary
  • A line drawn in a smooth arc from Academy to Reliquary, with an arrow head pointing at the reliquary

The second map was a map of the inside of a building, which had many small locked rooms, some traps marked, and a pathway drawn through it. This was a high quality map that looked like it would be between 5 and 20 years old. They guessed – and later confirmed – that it was the reliquary, and that it was the map that Crulhum had been asked by Anyara to steal from his criminal gang, the Nekkers, a few years ago.

After they had looted the warehouse they split up and visited Kay the Myrmidon, the Rimewardens at the Reliquary, and the Myrmidon in charge of the city guard. These visits took them some time – perhaps two hours – but when they regathered at their hotel they were able to piece together a sense of the plan. While they were poring over the maps again at the hotel Itzel realized that the strange marks inside the squares on the map were the symbol of the Skydeath clan – the clan of deepfolk who had driven them out of the middlemarch the previous year.

They guessed that the deep cult had been set up in Estona by Anyara a few years ago, after she obtained the map of the reliquary. They guessed too that at that time she had begun feeding slightly misleading information about how to build golems to Eliabak, ensuring that the golem he finally built would be broken in some fundamental way, most likely designed to go wild and begin randomly attacking anyone and everyone in the town. They also guessed that at some point after the golem activated there would be a concerted deepfolk attack on the town, with a tribe attacking the walls while the Skydeath clan attacked from the river and also from the cliffs on the far side of the river – possibly using bat riders, as they had used to attack Ibara. Looking at the second map, they guessed that the golem had been designed to go wild and begin smashing its way through the town, heading for the reliquary – possibly attracted by the aura of dark magic it must emanate. While the golem was fighting Estona soldiers, killing wizards and smashing its way into the reliquary, they guessed that the deep cult would attempt to sneak into the reliquary, and steal as many relics as they could. Although they had managed to prevent Anyara’s agent from finding it, they knew that there was some evidence from a library in Gon that one of the “seals” the deep cult were searching for might be in the reliquary. Perhaps the deep cult – and the deepfolk? – had decided the easiest way to gather possible “seals” was to recover deep magic artifacts from the largest reliquaries on Rokun?

Had they not stumbled onto this plan, the Wrathbreakers thought it could have been very successful. Even at its weakest, when briefly activated, the golem had crushed Itzel with a single punch. Were it to be fully operational, in a room with some wizards who were not ready to fight it, it would have easily killed many of them. Once they fled the room to regather, it would be free to begin smashing its way across Estona. Troops would gather to fight it and it would slaughter them, drawing more soldiers and wizards in from the outside of the town. Then, when the deepfolk attacked – from air and land – the soldiers would not be in a position to defend the town walls, and the Astrologers would not be in a position to attack bat riders. With the town invested, soldiers would have to be diverted from fighting the golem, which would then be free to smash holes in the reliquary – which the deep cult could slip into, to loot the reliquary. Even if the deepfolk attack were eventually beaten back, the deep cult would have stolen what they were looking for from the reliquary. And if the surprise attack of the golem and the cult were not beaten back – or if there were a powerful weapon in the reliquary that the deep cult were able to liberate – then perhaps Estona would fall, the first time a major city had been captured by deep folk in human history.

Fortunately the Wrathbreakers had returned from Gon to Estona in time to defeat every part of the plan. They had killed Anyara in Gon, and from clues in her room had realized something bad was planned for Estona. Correctly guessing it was a sabotaged golem, they had returned to Estona in time to defeat Eliabak and prevent him activating the sabotaged golem, even though he had tried to move the activation forward. Then they had killed the deep cult that had planned to raid the reliquary, and warned the city authorities of a possible impending deep folk attack. There was one part of the plan that they had yet to interrupt, which held the potential to teach them more about Anyara’s network of contacts inside and outside Estona: Crulhum’s ship. It was Crulhum who had stolen a map of the reliquary for Anyara, who worked secretly with Anyara to sabotage Eliabak’s golem project, who had coordinated with the deep cult in the city and who had organized Eliabak’s criminal activities for him. But Crulhum himself was not a deep cultist, and had been promised a big payment and escape from the city in exchange for his work. Whoever was coming to collect him would arrive at midnight tonight in a ship at the river docks, and Crulhum had agreed with the Wrathbreakers that if they let him keep the money on the ship he would play the part of an escaping accomplice, enabling them to board the ship and capture whoever was coming to collect Crulhum. They hoped with this act they could gain more information about the people helping Anyara, and perhaps find clues about her network outside of Estona. So, they headed at midnight for the docks, to ambush Crulhum’s ship.

The deepfolk attack

They rested for an hour and then took Crulhum to the docks. Since the sun had set the town was again covered in the heavy mist typical of evenings in the month of Thaw, and it was difficult to see very far, especially when they reached the pier where Crulhum expected his boat to arrive. There were few lamps burning here and their weak light was soon lost in the mist. Even Itzel, blessed with elven darkvision, could not see far in the dimly lit fog. The pier was deserted, a 20 metre long wooden structure extending into the cold, sluggish waters of the river. Other piers and jetties for the river ships were all further west, closer to the sea and the town and only visible as strings of blurred light in the mist. Crulhum took a position at the base of they jetty, where it met the land, and the Wrathbreakers settled in behind some crates and coiled ropes to wait for the boat’s arrival. Itzel cast a fly spell and hovered over the pier, ready to drop from above, and Ella took a position hidden at one end of the crates, watching the water.

The boat drifted into view near midnight. It was hard to see in the gloom, but they could hear the beat of its oars as it swung in towards the docks and slowed down, and as it drove closer they could see the outline of the ship itself. As it approached Ella, a dwarf with experience of boats and sailing, noticed something strange – that the rowing was too precise for any human crew, the oars beating in time more perfectly than even the most highly trained dwarven raiders could manage. She could see someone crouched at the bow of the boat waiting for it to reach the pier so they could throw the rope out to tie the ship on, and she could see what looked like sacks of grain or some other trade good slung along the gunwhale of the ship, as if it were overloaded and some of the cargo had been slung to hang outside the ship.

The ship came to a stop at the docks and some people set to work tying it to, their activities barely visible in the dark and the fog. Up above in the frozen air, Itzel could see movement on the deck but could make out no details. Someone jumped off the ship onto the pier and walked towards them, calling out “Crulhum! Crulhum! We are here!” in a thin young woman’s voice. The Wrathbreakers braced themselves, ready to charge the ship once Crulhum made contact. Crulhum stepped forward and hailed the woman, announcing his presence. “Come,” she called, and he walked out onto the pier. Behind him, in the shadows of the crates, Xu muttered “Here goes nothing,” knocked back a healing potion, and tensed to rush.

A flight of arrows emerged from the ship and hit Crulhum across his neck and chest, killing him instantly. The girl fell to her knees and cried out, “I did what you ask, can you free me!?” but was silenced moments later by another flight of arrows. As she screamed and fell off the pier with a splash, Itzel felt a disturbance in the fog and just managed to dodge out of the way as a huge bat emerged from the shadowy sky, hurtling straight at her as the goblin riding it attempted to skewer her with a spear. Below, at the pier, Ella looked upriver and noticed other shapes looming in the darkness – more ships drifting down the river. A huge form uncurled itself from the shadows of the docked ship and leapt with a scream to the jetty: a deepfolk of monstrous proportions, perhaps 3 metres tall, carrying a huge, curved sword in both hands and roaring a deepfolk battle cry to the heavens. Behind it, Griggs, goblins and orcs gathered ready to charge.

As this deepfolk monster leapt out of the ship one of the sacks hanging from the gunwhale twisted, its fastenings knocked loose, and a naked, dead human arm flopped around to dangle over the water. They were not sacks at all, but human victims tied to the gunwale to be carried for some horrible purpose to Estona. Ella cried out in horror, Itzel swooped across the sky trying to avoid bat-riders, and Xu and Bao Tap jumped from the rear of the crates to face the pier and the onrushing deepfolk champion.

The deepfolk were here, and the Wrathbreakers were alone against the whole horde of them!