The members of the Iron Star were leaving. They worked with the constable of Fallenrock to organize a town militia, donating all of the weapons and armor they’d taken from the Phaestian thugs and the abandoned Iron Star Outpost. The townfolk themselves would complete and man the newly constructed watchtower and continue to build the town’s defences in the absence of their mercenary protectors.
Everyone was nearly ready to go when a strange man arrived at the edge of town. He came cloaked in grey and riding a mule, and upon seeing the adventurers gearing up to leave, he requested to know just who they were. Upon being informed that they were the Order of the Iron Star, he seemed surprised, having heard rumour of the Citadel’s utter destruction. He asked about LaBella and seemed pleased to hear of the group’s victory over her. In fact, he proposed that they hear him out regarding a contract, since they would be leaving town anyway.
Shortly thereafter, all reconvened at the Dancing Dryad and the strange man made his proposition. He said that he represented the Cabal Argentum, an order of mages which was rather legendary in it’s own right, their heyday being ages ago. The wizards had slipped into obscurity over the years and were now known to be hermetic and few in number. His group had apparently been considering hiring the Black Eagle Company, lesser rivals of the Order, thinking the Iron Star destroyed, but he claimed that the Cabal had tasked Iron Star mercenaries in the past and would happily do so again, if they were interested.
He proposed the retrieval of an artifact called “the Green Book,” which he said belonged to the Cabal Argentum, but was currently hidden somewhere in the tunnels beneath their long-fallen wizard’s tower. The place had been in ruins for a very long time, and the yawning hole in the ground where the tower had once stood now went by a new name, “the Pit of Maws.” During the reign of the King, and under the hand of the King’s Guard, one sentence handed down to the condemned was to be “thrown in the Pit.” Many convicts were left to wander through the Maws, tunnels and natural caverns which offered the weak hope of another exit, though no one knew if one really existed.
The wizard said that the Pit would not be so bad if those who descended had climbing equipment at hand, that they might return the way they’d gone in. He also offered a crystal amulet, which he enchanted so that it would glow green as they approached the Green Book. If the Company brought out the artifact, they will have passed the mage’s test and would be compensated with magical rewards. More importantly, the will have proven themselves worthy of future contracts with the Cabal Argentum. It didn’t take long for the party to agree.
Supplies were gathered for a caving expedition and horses were purchased for the road. The journey was expected to last less than three days on horseback. When finally riding out of town, the Company spied their patron, leaving town in another direction, his mule heavily laden with a wrapped cargo slung over it’s back. He waved, as if to wish the party good fortune, and was quickly gone.
The first day of the journey was uneventful, riding across farmland and weathering occasional drizzles of rain. The rain stopped for the night and the Company slept dry. In the morning, Renuk decided to do some hunting and check traps which he’d set the night before. He intended to follow the party to rejoin them for the following night’s camp. When the Company moved out, Tristem Tsara also stayed behing to study the tomes which he’d brought along and to “meditate.” He would keep Renuk company until the group came together again.
It was the afternoon of the second day, as the wooded hills began to get wilder, that bandits blocked the road. The brigand’s leader, a giant of a man wearing a filthy tabard, demanded that the party give up their gold to keep their lives and other possessions. Enraged by this demand, Whot spurred his horse forward, hoping to knock the three men in the road down the steep cliff to their right. Unfortunately, this was no warhorse and the brigands were skilled with their axes. They managed to step aside and cut down the poor horse as it attempted to maneuver around them on the narrow road, throwing Whot into the dirt. Archers revealed themselves on the other side of the road, and rained arrows on the Company.
The rest of the party dismounted and joined the battle both in the road and in the woods. Whot picked himself up and began to swing his hammer at foes beyond the axemen in the road. Unbeknownst to him, he was being aided by a mysterious benefactor hidden in the trees beyond the bandits. When the battle was won, the brigand’s leader knocked over the rocky cliff beside the road and the rest of the enemy dead, fled or surrendered, the party’s ally in the woods revealed herself.
Cindellian Thornbriar was an elf. Her people were distrusted by most and were quite rare in these lands (excepting, of course, Misrani Karaquazian and the Lady Jenaga). She had certainly helped the Company against their foes here, and now she expressed a desire to travel with them for a time. Misrani was all for it, having missed the company of his people since Jenaga had gone away on her mission. The rest of the party agreed, and it was decided that she would assist them during their descent into the Pit.
Meanwhile, Mara nimbly descended the cliffside to examine the body of the bandit leader. She found him to be still breathing but quickly ended his life. She searched his body for valuables and retrieved his tabard, quickly and impressively scaling the 40 foot cliff back to the party. Upon examination, Misrani recognized the tabard as belonging to the King’s Guard, the protectors of the kingdom before the King died and his soldiery was disbanded.
The prisoners were questioned and claimed that many of the bandits were farmers fallen on hard times. They believed their leader to have had military training, as he’d taught them to fight and planned their strategy. They had apparently been moderately successful until they tried to rob the skilled fighters of the Iron Star. Finding the bandit’s camp and digging up their plunder, the Company decided to have mercy and let the two “farmer” bandits go with a gold coin each.
Weary from the battle, the party decided to use the bandit camp as their own for the night and were eventually reunited with Renuk and Tristem. Cindel proved a pleasant companion, but forewarned them that the lands they would enter near the Pit of Maws seemed “strange” to her and that the animals seemed “affected” by something unseen. On the morrow, the Company would see for themselves…