It’s a funny thing, in all the wreckage the Smilers (as the burned-mouth creepers call themselves) left there didn’t seem to be any bodies… or even body parts. I thought that maybe they didn’t kill the clerics of Aldrenard’s Grave after all. Some buildings were still smoldering but some were intact intact so we started a search in the only untouched section of the fort. We found three clerics and a paladin tied up and beaten up bad there. Kelmaa went to work with the healing. We freed a dude named Captain Kraklos first, he’s a paladin of Saranrae. For a paladin he’s mighty scared of the creepers outside, but we told him they’re all dead. (You’re welcome.)
Kraklos told us that several of his other friends were dragged off and are probably dead. Says the Smilers were sent to wipe out the Saranites and take the fort to impress the Lords of Rust. I’m really liking these “Lords” less and less the more we hear about them. In the stables we discovered burnt horses, burnt Saranites, and even burnt Smilers and it looks like they’ve all been butchered for meat. I do some nasty stuff sometimes, but even I wouldn’t stoop to cannibalism. Outside we caught whiffs of meat cooking. It was coming from the remnants of the keep. We discovered it was strips of the victim’s flesh from the stables roasting over a fire. Kicked it out.
Then Kraklos went on and on about Aldernard. Ugh. Love, blah, blah, blah. Devotion, blah, blah, blah. BORING. He’s droning on like the my tin chum does sometimes. The story finally got exciting when he got to the part where Aldernard committed suicide by throwing himself off the battlements of the keep. Kraklos says his ghost now haunts the chapel! Naturally, we went to check it out. The others suspect a presence there during the day and the lady trapped in Jacques sensed it and wandered to the back of the chapel. Didn’t even get my hackles up.
Kraklos asked us if we could help clean up the corpses. Being the nice guys we are, we obliged with the cleric’s bodies at least. The Smilers are just cordwood as far as I’m concerned. Then he started with some idle chatter to pass the time. We, of course, had questions. Well, not so much me. My thinky bits don’t seem to work quite as quickly as the others, but at least it wasn’t another boring story. Some of the highlights from the captain:
- Told us that the Lords of Rust have consolidated power in Scrapwall under their gang leader Hellion.
- Hellion’s gang consists of Helsarg the violent troll, Nalaki the orc cleric, Zagmander the four armed monster, Draze the Ettin, Kolgara the orc, and Meyanda the priestess – who we killed back in Torch.
- Meyanda was apparently worshipping Hellion and thought him a god. If that’s the case, where did she get her power? Is Hellion actually a god?
- One of the Smilers told Kraklos that Hellion’s “sign is his claw, and his voice is the law.”
- Scrapwall is very dangerous if you don’t have a rep. A hive of scum and villiany, if you will.
10Lo perked up at the mention of Scrapwall and downloaded… I mean, went all bardly about it, giving us the lowdown. It’s gonna be rough. I suggested we go in there, pick the biggest, baddest-looking guy and beat him down to establish dominance and rep. My pals are a little more clever than that though and somebody suggested that we have a stack of Smiler heads we could use. That should get somebody’s attention.
The others spent the rest of the afternoon crafting a Varisian style dress for 10Lo out of scraps around the yard. He’s disguised himself as Aldernard’s dead wife Justinia. The others have a plan for dealing with the ghost and I’m more than willing to play muscle for it. Besides, 10Lo’s kind of pretty in his get-up. Night fell and we headed back to chapel. On seeing Kelmaa, the ghost started to get angry. Some beef with Saranrae, I guess. These gods these folks worship are confusing. I thought my smashing services might be needed at first, but how do you smash a ghost?! Kelmaa backed out though and 10Lo’s managed to convince the ghost that he – as Justinia – has forgiven Aldernard and to accept Saranrae as his god again. It was pretty beautiful. I’d shed a tear if I wasn’t a tough guy. A beam of sunlight appeared in the night through the chapel’s collapsing roof and Aldernard’s ghost ascended on it into the sky. Ghostbusting complete!
In the end, we were all feeling pretty healthy, as if some sort of healing magics had been cast… or could be cast?