After dispatching the bugbears, goblins and ogre, the party took a quick rest, and Broak caught up from sleeping in, and Boots decided to head back home (ie: his player was away, and will be for a while). Sweating profusely in the midday sun Broak joined his friends and they headed on to Leedshire.
After two more days of travel in the unusually hot weather (I have a random weather generation system) they arrived in Leedshire in the evening, found an inn, then got some dinner and some sleep.
* * *
The next morning they decided headed over to Gower's manor to help track down hi missing item. After being let in they were greeted and offered wine and Gower told them how:
An elf, dressed like a flouncing dandy going by the name Aladnaril, put me under a spell and compelled me to bring him the key. I’m afraid if that key falls into the wrong hands... I had no idea... this whole time...
He then asked a sagely looking old man surrounded by books and scrolls that was sitting at the table to show them an illustration in a book: a goat headed man in robes holding a ceremonial dagger of a nude body on an altar. From the body, three streams of blood flow down the side of the altar, then converge before flowing into the carvings all over the key, out of the key and towards a gaping hole in the ground spewing flames, and dark shaped of demonic creatures emerging.
Feeling this was some sort of Orcus cult at work with Hiller, they knew they'd have to track him down—fast. They continued to feign no knowledge of the key's location as Gower told them he believed the key may still be in Leedshire. The party also questioned one of the guards that encountered the imp the night the key was stolen to keep up appearances, as well as the old sage, to see if there was anything he could tell them where a cult of Orcus may be operating from on the island.
After leaving they discussed where they might find someone in town that could help them. Broak decided to head to a church of Saint Eliah in hopes a brother of the cloth could help. He found a helpful priest who pointed him in the right direction: an old man by the name of Englehart Neff, who once worked at a place called Cauldron Keep to the north—a prison where heretics and cultists were incarcerated and executed for their crimes that now lays in ruin. Broak thanked the priest and gave some coins for the collection plate and met up with the rest of the party and headed to a tavern—where he was told they could find Englehart.
After asking around they found out that Englehart frequented The Rusty Crown Tavern. The quickly found the old man, placated him with food and drink and he told them his story:
About 50 years ago I was soldier who was shipped out here, and my first post was at Cauldron Keep, way up north on the island. It was a terrible place, it’s where all the traitors, heretics, demon-worshippers and the worst of the worst were sent to meet their fates. At the close of the War of the Fiend, many of these ner-do-wells fled the mainland to avoid the purge that was coming and came to Leeds. But, wanting to protect the kingdom’s interests, the military presence was increased here.
The keep was converted into a prison—a small prison, no one sat in a cell for very long. Bounty hunters, watchmen, mercenaries from all over and anyone who could find these vile folk rounded them up and brought them up to “The Pot”—as we called it.
In the courtyard of the keep was a massive iron cauldron, filled with boiling oil that hung over an iron grate. We tossed them in the pot, we poured it on them, we cooked ‘em night and day. Vile odour, it was.
A lot of people died in that courtyard. The captain at the time, Captain Tendler, started stringing up the corpses along the road up to the gate, so the prisoners on their way up could see what was waitin’ for ‘em.
I was there for a good six years, and as time passed we had less and less to feed The Pot with. Then, around 3377, a strange old man purchased the keep from the king. Most of the guards were let go and replaced by this old guy’s guard, me n’ a few others stayed on for another few months before we left of our own accord—there were strange goings on down there.
Last I heard the place has fallen into ruin, people avoid that place, the bodies are still strung up as far as I know, the place reeks of death. ‘Lotta folks say the place is haunted—wouldn’t surprise me.
Now, the old codger that took over the keep looked ancient, and his skin was pale and tight and he never seemed to speak to anyone—except for the head of the guard—and I think it may have been his son, or maybe grandson. That captain, he was a mean bastard, him and that vile son of his... Hiller was his name. Now his son, maybe 10 years old, he’d pull wings off birds, beat dogs with irons.
Some nights we heard what sounded like chanting from deep in the dungeons. Now I was never permitted past the second level of the dungeon, but I heard there a few more that went deeper.
They got some vague directions from Englehart, thanked him and decided they had make their way to the north of the island after Hiller and his men, and hopefully get to the key before he could do anything evil with it. The party quickly assembled their gear, and decided to hire some hands to help them for what lay ahead.
At Mercenary Square they found their old friend Gerhardt, who now had a mule and cart (with ale!) that they hired to join them. They also hired an irritable sell-sword named Lorentz Becken. Once their payments were secured, they headed out of the town up the road to the north in the afternoon to track down Hiller...