“Protecting our investment.”
Darwin, Amadeus and Roland went to their houses for equipment, and in half an hour they met at the square, ready to go.
Darwin headed for his little hut on the western edge of Saltpans, next to the hives. The door were never locked – rumor had it that he even let some small untouchables into his yard, feeding them honey and stories. Kael was furious about this – he was doing his best to get Darwin out of the city council. Dwarf’s love for gambling and moonshine didn’t make things any better, for he drank and played heavily, but almost never got as drunk as to loose any money. Actually, he kept winning, and that annoyed quite a few townspeople.
He donned his armor and collected his urgrosh, a weapon as archaic and exotic as Darwin himself. Flask with moonshine never left his side, especially now his pipe was gone. And though the trip couldn’t last more than a few hours, he made room for some honey too.21
Amadeus entered his small apartment above town’s garrison, chose one of his favorite armors and simply took as many weapons as he could carry. He even took the long sword, finely wrapped piece of equipment he never used. Three packs of matches, and Wons was ready to face their island’s malevolent visitor. Or anything else, for that matter.22
Roland entered his home after unlocking all of the six locks on his front and only door. He took his fine weapons, hid them under a long cape and had a change of clothes before he got out. He wore long sleeves even on such hot nights as tonight, and was seen as eccentric, at the least, by everyone else. Yet none ever dared to call him “Princess” to his face, and as he heard the word whispered amongst the guards he passed, Roland had no idea they were referring to him.
They got to the lake and took two long boats. One hour later they reached the other shore, and saw a line of two dozen untouchables sitting at the dock, tame as sheep (and thus deserving no better fate, thought Roland), waiting for the boats to take them back to their homes in the caves under the Saltpans. Roland and Amadeus observed, with obvious disgust, as Darwin was passing honey amongst the small unclean creatures, when one of them noticed strange small objects laying around on the rocks. Roland lifted one, and realized the were seeds of some kind, smooth and dark, with small chunks of chewed up fruit still hanging on the edges. With disgust, he threw the thing away, then took off his glove and threw it away too (yes, Roland is a bit of a hypochondriac).
“One of them is missing!” Yelled Darwin. 23
“One is missing, the others say his name is Finn, and he left that way.”
At this point they had a brief discussion about what to do. Amadeus approached the first untouchable to force more information from him. Darwin stopped him in his tracks, and started a patient conversation with two uncleans. As Amadeus listened to this conversation, it became clear to him this is not the first time Darwin is talking like this to these creatures.
“My God, the idiot treats them like they’re children,” thought Wons.
“The fruit came from the sea,” said the untouchables, “Finn brought it and shared it with us. He was soaked, must have been swimming, and went to fetch some more an hour ago. Hasn’t returned since.”
It turned out that Finn had a mysterious friend in caves near by, and that friend gave him fruit.
Roland kept his distance, appalled by the fact someone wasted good food on them, but still agreed to come find Finn with the rest of the party. 24
It was only later, while they were walking the path Finn supposedly took, looking for him aided by two untouchables they took along, that Darwin realized the fruit had feint magical auras.
Amadeus was alarmed, made all the untouchables throw away any fruit they had left, and decided to fall behind, so he could keep an eye on the rest of them.
Roland was shocked by such mad recklessness, acute lack of responsibility and brute violation of the law, and suggested they kill all the untouchables right away, just in case.
Zagor was fascinated, took a bite of the food himself and stored one piece of fruit into his pocket, which almost led to the complete break up of the party. But then Leylana, surprisingly not at all disgruntled by Zagor’s mad action, noticed strange shimmering at the bottom of the lake, right under the place they were standing on. They examined it for a while and realized the light was coming from below, as if there was a hole in the rock they were standing on. They knew there were many caves around, but decided to go back and look for Finn tomorrow.
As they turned to go back, distant but clear in the silence of summer night, they heard the sound of city bells. Signaling danger of demons in the mist. Soon enough, the crows at the boats begun making noise, alarming them of the demon’s presence. The untouchables left on the shore started running around, searching for cover. Then they were screaming, and then they were silent.
Amadeus lit the matches, and they managed to fight off one of the fog creatures. But another came, and then another. Darwin gave an untouchable a knife, and told him to defend himself. He knew very well it was a blasphemous thing to do, but did it never the less. The untouchable fell soon, under the weight of an invisible force that started digesting him alive, and smell of his burning flesh became almost unbearable. They hit Amadeus, hard, but his comrades saved him; they had two options. Stick it out in the open, using matches, or dive into the water. Leylana made the decision for them by simply jumping over the edge.
“There is a cave down here, below the water level” she said.
GMs former secrets :)
21: Zagor took the honey for the untouchables; little Finn especially. Finns father was in the last stage of the Desease, and Darwin made sure he would get all the available healing ointments to ease his agony. But still, he found his consciousness was not appeased.
22: he carried Mortimer, but never used the sword. The first and the last time he did so, he earned himself a few months blackout, a ticket to this island, and a whole new world of enemies. But he never got rid of the thing, either. It spoke in the voice of his brother, and keeping it safe was a matter of honor, if not love.
23: While talking to the uncleans, Darwin realized Finn was missing.
24. Roland wants to find Finn, for Finn he trained and used as a courier when smuggling merchandise and people on and off the island. He used masks, though, so Finn did not know him. Just several days ago Finn offered Roland a trade – an interesting mechanical yet magical device, small and ancient, in change for some cheep medication. The instrument seemed to be a small musical box of sorts, but it seemed there was more to it than just cheep trickery. Ronald suspected Finn found it in the Grave Hills, a forbidden and cursed territory; story said it was once elven graveyard. So he accepted the deal, with morbid curiosity, and trade was supposed to take place in two days, after supplies arrive.