60. Devil Tau Chi

Taken from Tunwéya’s notebooks:

Rested, we set out with the intention of trying to find a way across the Chasm towards High Hall, executing a carefully-laid plan we thrashed out in fine detail before retiring to rest.

Admittedly, the plan did not anticipate that our stealthy progress along Saddlebacks and into Cow Lane would be observed by a party of fallen women (that is, women who contrived to fall some time prior to Elturel, rather than women who happen to be here having fallen. (?query: where are they contriving to get the rouge and cosmetics? See if Hinnerk has ideas.) – they announced they were off to seek succour from the vampires since the flophouses along Grope Lane had begun to fall into the Chasm.

Entering the junction of Cow Lane we saw – and heard – a vast Devil wrapped in chains and jangling with keys, deep in conversation and negotiations with a Drow.

More interestingly, a small plant was growing through the cracks in the edge of the building, and close inspection revealed it to be a young sprig of parsley, growing up through a crack that clearly postdates the fall of the City. This was the only true greenery we had encountered in some time, and I attempted to make a sketch of the vicinity in case there were any relevant factors which could have encouraged the new growth, although I was interrupted by the noise of the Drow and Devil loudly whatever business they had together.

Hinnerk discovered a trapdoor in the corner of the ruined building, and following a hypothesis that the parsley was being nourished by an as-yet undiscovered water source, I ventured below. The space was a small chamber, with a door leading East. Accordingly, I opened the door in search of the watercourse we should logically find behind it.

(Memo: when opening doors in fallen cities infested with Devils, listening at keyhole first should be considered vital initial preparation).

The door failed to lead to a watercourse, but led instead to a cultist lair, crudely guarded by a drunken Zarielite, whose raucous profanities at least masked an inability to perceive us as a threat.

Leofric patiently explained we were likewise Zarielites but had accidentally misplaced many of our robes, although this precaution was probably unnecessary: the guard soon passed out on the floor at our feet.

Further exploration revealed more drunken cultists, including the volubly gregarious Kwai and Baart who laughed at the masks we had donned by way of disguises, insisting, as they caroused in a cellar beneath the earth, in Hell itself, that “we don’t need masks now we’re in the light of Zariel!”

Sadly the obviously casual approach taken by our initial encounters with these cultists led us into something of a mistaken sense of their general level of awareness: as we moved deeper into the lair, seeking information on a mysterious “Captive” Baart had mentioned, we encountered a woman, Katya, who proved exceedingly inhospitable.

Reya used Detect Evil, reporting that everyone in the place appeared to be evil, with the probable exception of ourselves and the extremely improbable exception of an imprisoned Halfling (?query: can even Reya believe this, given halflings we have known??).

Katya passed Leofric, entering the corridor in which Hinnerk and I stood, loudly and unwisely announcing she intended to check whether we were legitimate visitors. As I turned to close the door through which she would exit, the corridor was plunged into darkness and Hinnerk, lacking Darkvision, was very unfortunately able to prevent her from screaming as he repeatedly hammered her ribs with his dagger. Fortunately, as she turned to remonstrate with him, she left her back unguarded and was swiftly “battened down”, as Hinnerk might say, with the Staff of the Woodlands.

We then retreated in an orderly fashion into the room containing the cells and the Halfling creature, anticipating that the cultists would come to us – as indeed they tried to do, all crowding into the narrow corridor and patiently lining up for an entertaining combination of Eldritch Blasts and Tidal Waves.

The resulting encounter was somewhat… suboptimal, in terms of our performance, in the sense that many of our attacks failed to go home, but we successfully eliminated the cultists at very little significant cost to ourselves: admittedly, Lulu the miniature elephant was mildly stabbed in the neck, but I am relatively confident Leofric’s abominably necrotised hand will recover admirably thanks to Reya’s care, and he may even retain full movement of his fingers. (Memo: now would be a sensible occasion to challenge him to darts)

In total we appear to have eliminated approximately 12 cultists: given that Baart previously said “about one third” of their group were present in the chapter-house, this suggests a total number of 36 adherents in this chapter (??every chapter? Need to try and find some form of operational guidance for local leaders). Baart also gave the impression other chapters exist within the City: may require investigation.

And now, I suppose, we should try to speak with the wretched Halfling cowering in the cells…

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