You now know that the Blue Crystal, known as ‘The Tear of Majere’ was once housed within the Forlorn Tower you located at the foot of the Kadagast Mountains. Both the Crystal and the Tower fell under the sway of a corrupt cabal of priests, called the Kaorti, centuries ago. This cabal had abandoned the teachings of Majere and in secret they changed their allegiance to the darker more corruptive force of Grithstane. Thereafter, they turned the stone’s power to the task of opening a hole to the Outside, an effort that ultimately led to their destruction. With the Kaorti gone, their temple fell into ruin, but it is now apparent that the Tear of Majere survived them. For untold centuries it laid within the Kaortis’ ancient tower, corrupting the tower to its foundation by its mere presence. Seemingly over those years, the ancient tower absorbed enough of the Tear’s essence to draw the Stormcrows whom desperate sought ‘The Stone’, but as you encountered the Stormcrows the stone was no longer there; a fact that incensed their already crazed leader, Black Elomiir. He blamed you, certain that you were responsible for the theft of the stone, but how the Crystal had come to be at the Red Keep is still a mystery to you. The fact that you had carried it was all the proof that Elomiir had needed, and he, along with his cohorts, the Stormcrows, had done their best to kill you and recover ‘The Stone’. Fortunately, you had left it with Nyssa back in Hatram’s Boot, but now it seems that ‘The Stone’ might be responsible for that town’s growing list of sorrows and swift decline.
Entering Hatram’s Boot, a pall hangs over the frontier town, casting this once-vibrant place into the deepening, nebulous shades that seem tainted of madness and a new smothering fear. Within the town you find tensions greatly magnified as townsfolks that once welcomed of the pilgrims, have in your absence grown to distrust and even abhor them, and perhaps their attitude has not only changed towards the pilgrims but to your party as well. Strange occurrences had been happening since your departure, and the townies are fixing the blame upon the pilgrims.
You have also been told that terrors have been stalking the streets by night, and there have been a series of unexplained murders and kidnappings taking place since your departure, and most recently, both ‘The Stone’ and Nyssa have also gone missing. These mysteries along with the nagging fear that more horrors might yet spill forth from the Kadagast Mountains, has led to the spread of this new pervasive paranoia that is now rapid amongst the townsfolk, almost all of whom seemed to be watching you suspiciously now that you have returned to Hatram’s Boot.
As you make your way to the center of town, you find the attendance at the Temple of the Starry Night to be even higher than it was before you’d left, and while the townsfolk are keeping to themselves, you find the pilgrims far more welcoming, even relieved by your return, especially those whom had pledged their service to Rinaldo, but it is clear these pilgrims are fearful too. In your absence they had flocked to Nyssa, but now that she is counted among the missing, the desperation of the pilgrims is clear. The pilgrims aren’t much help though. They say her kidnapping happened silently, under the cover of the night, and in the morning both she and the crystal were gone. That night, had been a bad one, the townies had hidden in their homes, not even daring a peak out their shutters, but the pilgrims tell you stories of screams and shouts that echoed through the streets throughout the night. Listening to their tale, it is all too obvious, if these grim, enigmatic threats are not stopped soon, the flame of Hatram’s Boot’s very soul might well flicker out, a victim of this swelling, enigmatic madness.
Having rested that night, in the morning your party split-up to explored Hatram’s Boot by day. Again, you sought out several of well-placed townsfolk that you’ve become familiar with over the course of the day. Your goal was to locate clues about Nyssa’s fate, and you planned to gather again that evening back at the Blue Plate, the tavern at the foot of the temple. Some of you had sought out the smuggler, Gerald Roy, while others chased down the scholar, Master Vyen; regardless of your source of information, those clues you gained overlapped on several key points. You have discovered that Hatram’s Boot was built upon the back of an older ruin. Master Vyen, explained the many believed the Forlorn Tower to be the site of Baron Rindaelle’s Tomb, but the sage suggested that he believed it more likely that the Baron had hidden beneath Hatram’s Boot itself. And on the other side of town, Gerald Roy also pointed to a ruined understructure, which according to him, might be reached through the town’s sewers. Other than that, relating to the murders and missing people Gerald Roy professed loudly the he was not being involved, and declared that no one was more eager than he, that things might be returned to normal, but he was equally clear that he wasn’t going to involve himself. For those present it seemed obvious that Gerald Roy was not very anxious to go missing himself, but then he did give-up a name of someone that might be involved; a name he’d withheld during your first meeting with him, that of a grey-robed mystic named Kylus. Gerald fingered Kylus as the one who had originally hired the Stormcrows, and he told you the wizard had secured a room at an Inn called ‘The Red Rooster’.
Regrouped, you descended upon the inn, led by Rinaldo’s henchmen, Rarder and Eonwic, both of whom were familiar with both the inn and its proprietor, the hot-tempered, Magden Tyr. Magden was a no-nonsense woman, whom was indeed possessed both of a fierce attitude, but an equally a kind heart as demonstrated by her concerned over the recent absence much closer to herself, that of her young ward, a girl whom had been in her care until she too had gone missing.
Thus, you found Magden, anxious to help and she confirmed what Gerald had claimed, that Kylus had, and was still renting a room, and, Magden also confided that it had been over a week since anyone had seen the grey mage. Furthermore, Magden had not bothered with the room, for Kylus had made it clear the he was ‘very’ private and he had paid a month in advance. Still, she wouldn’t be a party to any of the recent crimes, and if Kylus might be involved, Magden wasn’t about to let him hideout at the Red Rooster. And even if he wasn’t involved, it was Magden’s firm opinion that the ‘strange old bird’, might very well know something about what happened to Aurelia (Magden’s own missing ward). She gave you her leave to open his room, agreeing to let you in to investigate his room. As the venture went forward, and it was easy to see why the Red Rooster was well-spoken of, the inn was extremely clean and well-kept, a fact Allison quietly perceived, realizing that the inn must have a minor magical ward that repels offensive odors, from those mundane sources of fetor such as the adjacent stable, the town’s sewer, and the nearby riverfront district. Kylus’s chambers were up on the third floor, up two flights of steps and at the end of a long hall. Magden being a good hostess, filled you more gaps on the way up.
“Those Stormcrows were strange birds too, but they were clean and polite to the staff, and Kylus, took care of their bills too, and he paid for everything.” She pauses for a beat and then adds, “But as I said, I haven’t seen him since just after them Stormcrows left, and no one has seen him for over a week. And, as you can see the door to his room is still locked.”
“Not that he was anything to look at—just a man, not really large or small, but he didn’t wash enough, and his black mop was always greasy, a gloomy sort of fellah, all in gray.”
So, it must have been the inn’s wards that prevented anyone from noticing the overwhelming stench contained inside Kylus’s room, for after picking the lock, you were hit full-on with the fetor of decay. Seated there in a chair before a small table, sat a dried corpse in gray robes, its head grotesquely deflated, sagging forward; its chin is resting upon its chest, and atop the skull, you spied four jagged holes, as if something had burrowed through the man’s skull. They are the telltale signs of a mind flayer, and Kylus had been dead for weeks.
Finding nothing else at the inn, the day drew toward its inevitable end, and you returned to the town’s square and the Temple of Starry Night, but in the square, you chanced upon a massing of rabble-rousers. The gathered people, no doubt counted amongst the loudest of the grumblers. They had been drawn together in the square by a charismatic dwarf named, Dergan Ironhammer, a respected smith from the Low District. He had position strategically, standing on a wooden box that was set at the foot of Baron Rindaelle’s statue, where he was bellowing to anyone who would listen. “The enemy is all around us!” He said, pointing an accusing finger at the Temple of Starry Night. Worse, Dergan claimed that the town’s watch itself was almost certainly a party to the villainy that was threatening the town. Madness had already taken root amidst the crowd, and the crowd’s rising ire was making it dangerous and unpredictable. Your party acted swiftly, countering Dergan’s arguments, and calming both the dwarf and his angry followers, and in the end, Dergan even admitted that he had felt an unnatural rage come over him seemly from out of nowhere. He described it as something squirming inside him like a wild beast gnawing upon his soul, and asked he asked to be taken into custody, leading to your introduction to the head of Hatram’s Boot’s guard, Clipper Harras.
Clipper Harras congratulated you upon your efforts in the square and explained the knew of you by reputation, due to your previous intervention against the monster in Hatram’s Boot’s square, but then the color of his conversation grew darker—Harras admitted that he and his men had been all but completely ineffectual against the recent string of kidnappings and butchery in the streets at night. Harras offer to deputize all your entire party, admitting that he hadn’t the faintest clue about what was really going on. He said, “Hatram’s Boot needs you. The trouble … It’s these vanishings, the attacks. Hells, everything . . . We don’t have the resources to deal with this, and we need someone of your capability to find out what’s going on. Will you help us?”
Of course, you all agreed, and began discussing plans to explore the sewers and you made a list of tools that might be helpful your planned exploration.
And Harras quickly agreed to provide whatever you might need, anything that was within his reach, as led you through Hatram’s Boot’s darkening streets, to the town’s stores. Suddenly, your passage was interrupted by the starkest horror you’d seen yet. This time it was not a mere tale of woe or another vague description of a crime yet unseen, rather this was something truly horrific; an attack taking place right before your very eyes. A man appeared transfixed, tentacles bursting from his body as he left a trail of bloody footprints behind him as he fled from an alley . . . A woman screams, a bloody pool spreads, as an much larger, hulking monstrosity emerges from the deeper darkness of the alley!
The hulking aberration pursues rudely; the stumbling man, unbalanced by his numerous flailing tentacles, his face, a twisted knot of pain and fear; his clutching fingers wrapped tightly around his own throat, so tight it left him drooling and choking as if he was vainly trying to strangle himself.
He moans and stumbles forward, as the larger monstrosity gives chase; it is a hybrid-thing, grafted from numerous powerful, human bodies, but not in the semblance of a man, like the golem of the Forlorn Tower, no this new monstrosity was nothing of the sort. It moved rapidly in a shuffling, helter-skelter, jerky fashion upon three sets of powerful, humanoid arms and hands, all supporting a great torso that housed a massive jaw, and upon that same torso sat a comparatively, normal-sized head from which sprang a great, massive, three-pronged tongue, and this unspeakable horror was as large horse.
Sayberion charged, but the monster grabbed him easily, slapping him aside with the oversized tongue as if he were merely a toy, and then caught and dismembered the tentacled man before your very eyes. Scattered in the back of that alley, there was a large pile of bodies, yet more names to add to the growing list victims of the Hatram’s Boot Horror. What followed was a most desperate battle that proved to be a true test of your combined mettle, and it took every one of you, all working together to defeat the monster. And in the end, you were victorious, but the battle had pressed you hard, too hard to continue any further that night, so you retired back at the Red Rooster, having acquired the necessary gear from Clipper Harras, so you would be ready to search the sewers in the morning.
That evening, as you lay resting, another mystery befalls your party. Rinaldo, who here before, despite the extreme oddness of his initial appearance among you, and the most peculiarity stories you have heard of his origins; he has never in the long months since he has joined you ever been the cause of worry. Not until this night, there in the relative safety of the inn, Rinaldo fell into a fit of profound restlessness, one from which he has yet to recover.
While everyone was interested in getting some rest, Rinaldo simply could not. At first, he bore his difficulty in silence, but that ended when he shut his eyes. Instead of falling asleep, he fell deep into some unknown abyss of the mind, wherein he found himself assailed by dreadful visions of a sort he was reluctant to describe.
As morning arrived, it was obvious to all of you that Rinaldo hadn’t slept. He was in worse shape than he had been the night before. The Hatram’s Boot Horror had almost killed him, yet here in the room he looked worse. He sat alone in a corner, quaking and shivering, pallid as a ghost, yet gleaming with perspiration, and clearly weakened by whatever he’d been enduring. So diminished was he, that it made your blood run cold just seeing him there. He seemed haunted by an infernal medley of passions, all vaguely visible through his eyes, and the thought came to more than one of you, that you were seeing into the eyes of a man whom had lost his soul.
Rinaldo’s outward form seemed unchanged, but that physicality was just a mask for the hell within. None of what you saw promoted action, this was not the furious lust of battle, nor the hate that burns like fire, only a sense of loss, loss bereft of any hope, and a vacuum filled with horror, horror that shrieked aloud in the silence. Though Rinaldo’s teeth were shut and his lips were sealed, the utter blackness of his despair was clear without any words. Initially, there was nothing to account for it, but then it occurred to you, that maybe it wasn’t what you saw, but rather what you weren’t seeing that was the cause.
For his own part, Rinaldo resisted your probing, insisting you were all worried over nothing and that no doubt he’d be fine, but soon it was even more evident that his ailment was something more serious. Perhaps, an undetected disease or a curse. And then you recognized something stranger, and less mundane than any of that. As Rinaldo struggled to his feet, and then staggered toward the open window to take in the morning’s sun, you realized that he cast no shadow. It immediately became obvious that his shadow was gone. If you live to never see such a thing again, you should be happy. For now, it would be hard to say whether it will be easier for Rinaldo to endure life without his shadow or to be forever swallowed by the darkness as he once was. There in the room, it was as if the all the weight of his long years had suddenly fell upon him. He is like a man no longer belonging to this world, and it seemed that you could see a devil leering out from his eyes as he gazes upon you.
Since then, try as he might, even with your encouragement, Rinaldo has been unable to generate a shadow of any shape or size, and without his shadow, he seems to be deprived of even the simplest of his powers. Given this newly discovered limitation, Rinaldo finally confides that over the previous night, as he shut his eyes, he realized that he was no longer alone, or rather that we are not alone.
“I was being watched, watched by many sets of eyes.”
“At first, I tried to look see them in the darkness; normally, things are clearer to me there, and for a moment I imagined that I had seen something. Now, I can’t be sure, maybe I only fancied that I’d seen something, before I could be sure, visions engulfed me… of those nightmares we fought in the alley; that poor man staggering, transforming, the writhing tentacles and the monster that pursued him. I heard a chant:
O friend and companion of night, thou who rejoicest in the baying of dogs and spilt blood, who hath wanderest in the midst of shades, who longest for blood and bringest terror to mortals: Gorgo, Mormo, The Thousand-faced God, looks favorably on your offering!
Other hideous monstrosities followed—Did you see the sewer grate in the alley, all the blood draining down, pouring in? . . . In the darkness, there was a disembodied eye, I swear it! And in the room, a pack of sinister men, little men with split, cloven-feet, and their master called, and he answered; BLACK ELOMIIR—Do you remember what he said to me? What he promised he would do?”
Sayberion grabbed Rinaldo, “Take courage man, what are you talking about? Who are you talking about?”
Rinaldo’s face ran blank again as he quietly repeated the name: “Elomiir, Black Elomiir! He took him; he took Ankoma . . . And now he’s gone, but he’s coming back. He’s coming for me!”
And just then, there was a knock upon the door, timid at first, and then louder, and more persistent. Still unarmored, Sayberion released Rinaldo and grabbed his sword, before rising and moving to the door. Once there, he quickly worked a latch set over the door’s peer-hole. Calmed, by what he saw, he sheathed his blade and opened the door revealing a young red-haired boyish lass, both easy on the eyes and of cheery disposition. Lifting an eye, Sayberion asked the girl why she was there.
The girl was Magden’s daughter, Wendy. Pardoning her intrusion, she announced that your party had a visitor waiting downstairs in the common room. Quickly gathering yourselves, you sent Brand and Karis as envoys. They find a young runner waiting in the common room, a boy of dark complexion. The boy says, “Gerald Roy, has sent me to fetch you. He says he found something you should see, something he found last night.”
Finding that the boy knows nothing more himself, Brand and Karis agreed to follow the boy back to Gerald Roy, well knowing that the scoundrel’s lair was not very far from the Red Rooster. As the pair arrive they find Gerald seated at study wooden table feasting upon breakfast of hen and biscuits, both drowned in a thick gravy, and as he washes it down with an equally heavy ale, Gerald invites them both to join his repast. Gerald looks-like he’s been up all-night, which he probably had been.
Gerald says, “I’ve been following-up on our conversation, and I had some of my men searching out the entrances to the sewers, but they didn’t get far before they found something I’d call queer. Something new, that wasn’t there before. And, I thought I ought to tell you about it before you go out there; which I’ll do on credit, seeing as we’ve established an understanding, but I’ll expect a cut on anything good that comes of what I’m about to tell you . . . Do we have a deal?”
Condition accepted, Gerald led the pair to the edge of Hatram’s Boot, where despite some initial protests, the envoys follow the smuggler out of the town, satisfied by his promises that they won’t be going far.
“It’s just short trek off-road, some ways through some shrubs and trees to the top of an embankment.”
At which point the stench had begun to fill the air, easily identified as the warming smell of raw sewage. Some little ways further, at the foot of the embankment, and about twenty-feet below they spied a rough-hewn, wood-lined canal which serviced a slow-flowing, befouled, waterway. And, a short way beyond that, at the point where the canal emerged from the underground sewer, seated within the sewer’s disgusting discharge, they came across a non-functioning bot. A robot, of a unique-looking, hybrid design, being of medium size. Larger than a man, but not much, was sitting there inert within the canal’s slow-moving, fell-smelling, sludge. It was likely damaged and at least for the time-being, it was in stasis.
Upon further examination, Karis determined that the robot’s study design and accouterments suggested that it was likely a defense-bot. One of sort developed to defend its owner from attack built to interpose itself into the line of fire for its master. Karis said it was half-sentinel and half-service bot, and a design of both human and Thuu Marth technology. Neither Karis or Brand could find anything that helped them determine how or why it had come to be there, but other than obvious immobility, Karis found few signs of actual damage, other than a missing power source.
Examining the robot Karis explained, “Service robots are built to deal with human needs, and are equipped with the tools needed to fulfill their role. For example, (pointing to the downed bot’s shoulder) this is a shield generator; meaning, this bot is built for defense. Whereas a domestic robot works as a general housekeeper, and would be equipped with cleaning instruments. And this, (he adds, pointing out a hidden compartment) houses tools for basic repairs. In fact, there are still some very workable tools here, and with a little work and some elbow-grease . . . I think I might be able to get this rust-bucket running— given those extra batteries we recovered back at the Red Keep.”