Into The Fortress

Day 66: We rescued Savannah; apparently she took exception to the guards' methods of waking her up in the morning, and was arrested and buried up to her neck in the ground out by the gallows. No one seemed to object to our quickly digging her out again, but apparently Janus had been taken by someone else. Savannah had nothing to say about what had happened to him. We tried to persuade her that provoking the members of the garrison in the keep, especially at a time like this, was not a good idea. I hope she listened.

After that, we went to Ponitfex's room. We quickly established that he had been poisoned, and began trying to determine the source of the poison. We interviewed his personal physician, and determined that he did not eat or drink much. He had a half-drunken cup of herbs that did no appear to be poisoned, but our investigations into the kitchens and wine cellars did not yield any results. After we had spent a while wandering around various parts of the castle without discovering any new information, I went off to the library to see if I could find information on slow-acting poisons. I didn't find anything helpful, though I did learn a bit about the Soldiers of the Sun, a faction of the Order inclined even more strongly than Father Cain used to be to keep to the old ways.

While I was in the library, the rest of the party discovered that the physician had been giving Pontifex false hazel in place of the witch hazel he had prescribed. This herb is toxic if taken over an extended period, causing symptoms similar to those Pontifex had complained of. They sought his assistant for questioning, but she threw herself off the roof rather than face questioning from Father Cain. However, her taunts left little doubt that she was responsible for the poisoning. As that was taking place, Father Cain was stabbed from behind by an assassin who subsequently disappeared. The group tried to locate him, but found only rats.

They proceeded to the assistant's room, a standard Fortress dormitory room. I came down to join them, and, when we discovered a book written by the Soldiers of the Sword in the room, I explained to the rest of the group what I had read about them in the library. It certainly appeared that they had been behind the assassination, but we still needed to find who had ordered the attack, along with the evidence to prove it. We took the friendship rune we'd found in the room, and headed off to find the one that matched it.

Eventually, the rune led us to a secret door, and we followed it down a long staircase into the deepest levels of the old Fortress. At the bottom, we found a series of tunnels leading off into darkness. The rune led us down one, and so we headed off that way, and were nearly wiped out by a fearsome scream as we set off a magical trap. If the tunnels are guarded by things like that, they must contain important secrets indeed. After recovering from the trap, we went on, and discovered the tunnel guards. They were accompanied by devils, which we had not expected. After we killed the devils and one of the guards, I was able to charm the other one. He explained how these tunnels had been used by the Order in the past as prisons for mages, and that Janus was now locked in one of the cells. Furhter, he explained how Allister was the leader of the Soldiers of the Sun, and that one of his lieutenants was a malconvoker. That was somewhat of a surprise, but it is nice to know I'm not the only one who has learned how to use the power of the planes to advance the cause of the One.

After convincing the guard not to tell anyone about us, we went on, and discovered Janus in a warded cell. The cell was protected with a chain rune, which prevented any use of magic at all. We got around that, and released Janus, despite the wererat assassin that attacked us in the process. The assassin slipped back into the mass of rats, presumably to report to Allister that we had located his prisoner. Janus also told us that Mother Galena was the one who had kidnapped him, not Allister is we had expected. If she is solidly on his side in this dispute, that will make things still more difficult for us.

After we had removed Janus from the cell, Father cain told us that he kept seeing a ghostly child in front of a door as we wandered through the tunnel. Concerned that it was a portent of some kind, we attempted to follow his instructions and find the door in question. After a little while, we did. The door was solidly barred, and apparently shielded from any attempt at looking though it. We tried to force it for a while, but did not succeed. Eventually, Father Cain tried to lift the bar, and discovered that the power of his faith was sufficient to allow him to unseal it. Inside, we found the skeleton of a child and a book. As we entered, we saw a vision of the child being thrown into the cell by agents of the Soldiers of the Sun, who broke his legs and left him in the cell to die. According to Father Cain, the child was Saint Alexander. Reading the book, Alexander's journal, provided corroboration of that. According to the book, the Saint was killed because he represented the newer ways of the faith, which threatened to undermine the established power of the Soldiers and their old-style faction. More interestingly, he was apparently possessed of sorcerous powers as well as the clerical gifts he received directly from the One.

As we left to return to the main level of the keep, we met Allister and his wizard, Vorster, as well as some Soldiers. We defeated the, but Vorster escaped and we were unable to capture Allister alive. This meant that the Order split sharply into those who believed our account, and those who still hewed to the Soldiers and Allister. The split, perhaps inevitably, became violent. We did the best we could to keep the peace and try for a negotiated agreement to keep the Order together, but we could not. As the fighting became steadily more aggressive, we were obliged to join in to ensure that Bernard's faction emerged in possession of the Fortress.

Day 69: Finally, the violence has abated. Father Cain and Bernard control the Fortress, with the surviving Soldiers of the Sun having left to form their own order elsewhere. This dispute will not end here. We did succeed in out goal of preventing the immediate invasion of The Mark, but I did not expect that we would have to pay such a price for it.

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