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Imago Deorum
Chapter 3 — Aftermath
   "Argh!" moaned Jayce in pain, as he rolled the magically slumbering gnoll off himself. "You... shot me..., Leokas."

   "Forgive me, Jayce. I thought I had the shot." Leokas approached him. "It's through your lung. You will live. Don't move. This will hurt, but it will be quick." He yanked the shaft clean out of the front of Jayce's chest, as the latter screamed in pain, arching his back. "Mythlos! Your sword, quick." Mythlos rushed over and touched the flat of his blade to the wound twice. It sealed up, and Jayce sighed in relieve.

   "Save your third healing for the captain," said Jayce. "He and I deserve a smoke after this."

   Romar already had the same idea; his pipe was out and he was reaching for his flintstone and tobacco as Kyrin and Hakam looked him over. "I'll be fine now, Milady" he muttered. "Your prayer saved me, good cleric. For that, I thank you." He did not look fine; the scar around his neck made it appear as if his head had been glued back on. Mythlos touched his sword to the man's shoulder, and more positive energy flowed out.

   The countess stood. "We must search the rest of this lair," she said, "before any reinforcements arrive. One of you, remove the gnoll's armor. Tie it up tightly." Leokas complied, using one of his strongest knots.

   "Two of you, drag him to the surface to be guarded. When he awakes we'll question him. Return with several of the men. We may need assistance carrying loot or evidence from this demon-hole."


   Belvin and Leokas carried the unconscious gnoll to the surface, where they found that the waiting cavalry men had slain the fleeing hyena. They were joyful upon hearing the news of the successful attack and reported that the men on horseback who had been scouting the perimeter had reported no sign of any other gnolls. Three of them volunteered to descend back into the cave with the elves, while the rest guarded the bound gnoll.

   They made their way by torchlight to the others in the chamber from which the hyenas had come. The room was large and roughly rectangular, with an eight-foot deep pit full of bones and hyena dung. A wooden ramp had been lowered into it to allow the hyenas to exit. On the opposite corner, the rest of the group was trying to talk to an old and ragged man that Mythlos had seen earlier when he had quickly explored the area. The man cowered on the ground. Most of his white hair had fallen out. Jayce had given him a swig of his water and a portion of rations, which the man ravenously gobbled up.

   "Greetings, friend," said Jayce. "I see you are hungry. We can get you more food later. You can trust us. What is your name?"

   The man stared blankly.

   "Why are you here?"

   The man continued staring.

   "Are you hurt?"

   "No,... no pain."

   "When is the last time you've seen the sun?"


   "Who are you?" asked Mythlos.

   "Can't... remember."

   "Where are you from?" Jayce asked. "Do you remember that?"

   The man was silent.

   "What do you do here?" tried Romar.


   "He's a slave," said Mythlos.

   "Are there other humans here?" asked Kyrin.

   The man shook his head.

   "Have there been?"

   The man looked at the ground as if he did not hear the question.

   "Anachtyr, show me his thoughts," Hakam prayed in Alzhedo. "His mind seems incoherent," he reported to the others, once his spell came into effect.

   "You can read minds?" asked Belvin. "Couldn't that be considered stealing?"

   Hakam ignored the elf. "I think this poor soul is insane from the torture."

   Belvin nocked an arrow. "Let's end his misery then," he said. "He is only a burden to himself and to us."

   "No!" said Kyrin sternly. "Hakam and Jayce, escort this man to the surface; then return to the central chamber, where we will be going through the gnoll corpses."

   As they walked with the old man, Jayce asked Hakam, "What does the law dictate that we do to any monsters we capture alive."

   "Monsters have no legal standing," replied Hakam. "They are not protected."

   "So they should be killed without trial."

   The cleric nodded. "If they have done evil, yes."

   "Light!" said the old man suddenly. It was not a tone of delight; he covered his eyes and stopped moving forward.

   "He has forgotten the sun," said Hakam, "remember?"

   "Here," said Jayce to the man, "let me put these on you." He placed his sun lenses on the man, who now seemed content to move forward out into the daylight, where they handed off the man into the care of the guards.


   In the large chamber, they joined the others in looking around the fallen and burned bodies of the gnolls. Their camp fire was now extinguished, and the awful stench of gnoll was now unmasked from the smell of burning wood. They found a spattering of coins and small trinkets, the most notable being a silver comb embedded with moonstones.

   "When I quickly searched around earlier, there were several unarmed gnolls in that direction," said Mythlos pointing to the east.

   "The smell would get worse from that direction," noted Kyrin. They approached a ten-foot chamber opening and entered a smaller square-ish room. There was a pit in the center, about ten feet in diameter. The stench was nauseating from the pit, and swarms of flies buzzed about. Across the pit, along the far wall, seven naked gnolls sat crouched, acting indifferent to the intruders.

   "This must be their refuse pit," said Romar.

   Jayce called out to the gnolls, "Do you speak Common?" They did not reply or even so much as turn their heads.

   "If you speak Common, answer us, or we will kill all of you." Kyrin drew a javelin from her back. There was no response.

   She drew back her arm, but Leokas stayed her throw. "What if they are children, milady?"

   "They are easily seven-foot tall when standing;" she answered, "they cannot be their young. Besides, this is the lair of a warband, not a tribe. If we do not kill them, they will be out raiding tomorrow."

   "How much do you think a gnoll head sells for at The Fine Gold Chain?" asked Belvin to no one in particular.

   Kyrin eyed him strangely. Then she said to her captain, "Captain Burnhill, set a guard here with one of the men. We will interrogate the gnoll sergeant first before determining the fate of these."

   "Yes, milady."

   "Mythlos, where to next? Take us away from this smell and filth."

   "They had some sort of altar this way," he replied, and they walked north a short distance into another opening, passing into an oval room. While this room smelled better, it was far more disturbing. Against the north wall, in a large pile, was a collection of skulls, most of them clearly human, but there were a few other humanoid skulls as well; the tiny skulls of halflings and the sharply angled skulls of elves were easily spotted. Hanging on the eastern wall was a hideously carved idol, the deformed shape of a gnoll with needle-like teeth protruding and a long, barbed demon tail. The deity portrayed seemed familiar to Jayce from one of the tales he had read on his travels, but he could not place it. On the southern wall was a large cave painting, likely painted with blood. It portrayed a pack of hyenas devouring fleeing little demons or imps with horns and barbed tails. Then, there was the image of an enormous, pregnant hyena, lying on her back and giving birth to a multitude of gnolls through what looked to be an exaggerated male appendage. (Leokas recalled that Stedd Buckman had once explained to him his belief that hyenas were hermaphrodites.)

   "It's their history," stated Mythlos.

   Belvin approached the large stone slab in the center of the chamber. It was covered in sticky, dried blood. "Some of this is fresh," he said. Then, he dipped a finger in a small pool and tasted a bit of it. "Horse blood," he said.

   "Rhinda had a horse," said Hakam.

   "Not any more," said Belvin.

   "Where is the body of the horse?" asked Leokas.

   "Perhaps they already consumed it," said Jayce.

   "Let us leave this unholy place," said Hakam.

   No one needed any convincing at that suggestion.

   "We have not explored further into the cave at the back of the large chamber," said Mythlos. "Come." He led the way, followed by Hakam. Jayce and Kyrin were in the rear.

   "I would ask you a question, if you would permit me, milady," the bard said to Kyrin.


   "Forgive me, for I should have thought to ask you this sooner, but the woman we are searching for is named Rhinda. She looks very similar to you. She is not, I fear, a relation of yours?"

   "I have six siblings," answered Kyrin, "but none are named Rhinda. I do not know the woman you seek."

   A snarl interrupted their conversation. A hyena had leapt at Mythlos from a small side tunnel. Hakam and then Mythlos swung their swords and swiftly killed the animal. "Good posture, Hakam," said Mythlos. "You listened to what I taught you yesterday."

   "Thank you," said Hakam. Then he called to the rest, "The hyena seemed to have been guarding this small tunnel here. There is a wooden door at the end."

   "That probably leads to the same door in the room with the hyena pit," said Leokas. "Belvin and I will block escape from that way." The two of them rushed off.

   Mythlos led the way down the short tunnel and opened the door, which was unlocked. It swung in, revealing a ten-by-fifteen-foot room carved out of the stone. In one corner was a pile of leaves and hay; in the other was a stone slab that seemed to serve as a desk. Hakam let Bevlin and Leokas into the room from the second door on the north wall, while Jayce approached the "desk". "There is a leather journal here," he said, picking it up. Flipping through the pages, he could not recognize the scratchy letters or the language. "Can anyone speak Gnoll?" he asked. No one could.

   "We'll force our prisoner to read it for us," said Kyrin. "This was likely its chamber. I do not think it was the leader of the pack. Be careful still; another battle may still await us."

   They left the room and returned to the large central chamber. "There is a little alcove over here," noted Hakam. In the small space was a pit, surrounded by a very short wall of rounded stones. "The air smells fresher here," said Hakam.

   Leokas found a stone and dropped it in the pit. Shortly, they heard a splash. "A well."

   Hakam prayed for his eyes to be open to magical auras and peered over the edge. "I see nothing magical," he informed the others.

   Only one passage more remained to be explored, to the south, at the back of the cave. The wide tunnel curved a bit to the left and opened into an even larger cavern chamber than the central one. In one corner their torchlight revealed a large collection of sacks. On the far walls, they could make out chains and manacles. In the center of the large room was a half-eaten, white horse.

   "That, I deem, was Pearl," said Jayce. "May she rest in peace."

   "But no sign of Rhinda," said Leokas.

   "Was the horse dessert or the main course?" asked Belvin.

   "You did not taste human blood on the altar, though?" said Kyrin. "Perhaps your companion still lives. She would have been chained here, perhaps, against this wall. I see one more tunnel over there, which we have not yet searched."

   "Rhinda's armor and supplies are over here," called Mythlos from the corner. He had gone to examine the sacks, which contained loot presumably gathered by the gnolls from their victims.

   "You two," the countess said to her two horsemen, "carry those sacks and the woman's supplies to the surface. The rest of you, follow me, and have your weapons ready."

   The final, ten-foot long, narrow tunnel led to another wooden door. It was locked. "None of the gnolls we slew bore keys," said Jayce.

   In answer, Kyrin swung her longsword at the door, cutting soundly through the wood near the locking mechanism in a single blow. Then, she kicked the door open.

   The room beyond, however, was empty; there was no gnoll awaiting nor any sign of their missing paladin. Kyrin looked depressed. "I was hoping this excursion would end in happier news," she said, "or at least my sword through the heart of a gnoll chieftan."

   "There could still be hope," said Jayce. "See, here is another journal. Perhaps we can learn something of what happened to Rhinda or even your...."

   "It will bring me no comfort to learn of how they tortured, slaughtered, and killed my love," she answered coldly.

   The others filed in and looked around the room. It was a round room, about fifteen feet in diameter. There was a large gnoll "bed" and another stone slab, from which Jayce had taken the second journal, which he was now perusing. On one wall there hung a finely carved set of nunchaku, chainsticks, an exotic weapon from Kara-Tur. Below the nunchaku hung a tiny pair of shrunken feet. On another wall hung a large double axe, the kind used by orc warriors. Below this, hung a set of white tusks.

   "This is very odd," said Jayce. "Look at this!" He held the journal open to a middle page, which was written in a similar scrawl as the other journal. Then he turned the page. The writing completely changed. The page was covered in strange symbols that none of them had ever seen before. "I don't think I've ever seen a language like this."

   Nor had any of the others.

   Mythlos was observing the walls closely. "Something does not seem natural about this wall...," he said. He spotted a round hole about four inches in diameter. Inserting his hand into the hole, he felt a sort of handle, which he pushed. There was a loud click.

   "What was that?"

   "I think I unlocked something," said Mythlos. "But what?"

   "Try pushing the wall," suggested Leokas. They did, and it slid back and opened to reveal a hidden passage.

   Excitedly, the band moved through the new tunnel, weapons drawn. After maybe 300 yards, they could see a speck of light. In 500, they could hear waves and smell the ocean. "This must exit to the cliffs."

   It did. They came out into sunlight about 30 feet above a small sliver of beach below. "It is near low tide," said Mythlos.

   "Unless the gnoll had a boat, it could only have escaped just now, or it has a 24-hour lead on us," said Kyrin.

   There was a treacherous, step-like, narrow path down to the bottom. "I'll see if I can make out any tracks," offered Leokas. He descended nimbly and began to search around. "I see nothing of tracks," he called up to the others.

   "Come," said Kyrin, turning back into the tunnel, "we have an interrogation to do."


   Back at the surface, they stood around their prisoner. The bound gnoll had woken and was struggling against its bindings. Two guards held spears to its neck, and it ceased the struggle.

   "Let's have a little talk, gnoll," Jayce began, "like friends."

   The gnoll snorted and perhaps smiled.

   "My name is Jayce. What are you called?"

   The gnoll stared at him.

   "Look, I know you can speak Common. Surely, your noble race has better courtesy than this...."

   The gnoll snarled derisively. "We are a powerful race, not a courteous one. Courtesy is for the weak. But my name is Gnyrn."

   "That's better. Are you the leader of this pack?" asked Jayce.


   "Who is the leader?"


   "Is he a gnoll?"

   "She is a gnoll."

   "Where is she now?"

   "I do not know."

   Jayce did not sense deception in Gnyrn's voice. "Does she leave the lair often?"

   "She does as she pleases. I care not what she does with her time."

   "Enough of her then; I want to know about what prisoners you have taken recently."

   "Prisoners? Do you mean food?" The gnoll smiled wickedly.

   "You sometimes spare your victims, do you not? Else there would not be shackles on the wall in the back of the cavern nor the human slave that we freed."

   "We enjoy torturing our food before we eat it," Gnyrn said, licking his lips. "That is why we have shackels."

   "What happened to the woman paladin you captured yesterday morning? We came across her belongings."

   "Yes, there was a female knight. Was she a friend of yours?"

   "No, I don't know anything about her except that she went missing," said Kyrin.

   "She was a mercenary hired by us," said Jayce.

   "You lie," said Gnyrn, smiling and licking his lips yet again. "She was a friend of yours."

   "Where is she?"

   "Parts of her are in my stomach," Gnyrn replied.

   "Now you are bluffing," said Jayce. "Tell us where she is."

   "I know not. Perhaps Dagnyra kept her for herself. She always enjoyed the finest meats, and the woman had a meaty rump and thighs."

   "When did you last see the woman?"

   "I saw her last when we forced her to taste her own horse." Gnyrn threw his head back and gave a hyena-like cackle.

   Jayce ignored his disgust. "Then what?"

   "Then I slept. The woman was gone in the morning."

   "Is it common for one of your leaders to keep a prisoner for itself?" asked Kyrin.


   "Has Dagnyra been acting strange in other ways lately?" asked Jayce.

   "She led the pack; I did what she said without question. If I led the pack, I would have killed more of you humans and feasted on your flesh, and I would have shared your flesh with the rest of the pack."

   He held out the second journal. "Is this Dagnyra's journal?"

   "It could be."

   "It could be?"

   "Why would I have seen my pack leader's private journal?"

   Jayce held the journal open to the last page. "Read this."

   "I cannot."

   "Is it not gnoll?"

   "No!" Gnyrn sounded insulted. "I've never seen those signs."

   "Then read this instead." He flipped to the page before where the language change occured.

   "'35th blood moon of Yeenoghu. We took a farmer and his woman and their mule and their carriage. Her hair will make excellent rope....'"

   "Enough!" said Kyrin.

   "When was this '35th blood moon'?" asked Jayce.

   "Many moons ago."

   "How many? What date in the Dale Reckoning?"

   "Why would I have wasted time learning your human methods of keeping time?"

   "You do not have a large collection of loot here in this cavern for the number of prisoners you must have taken," Kyrin stated. "What do you do with everything you capture?"

   "It is traded with a nearby tribe."

   Kyrin grew interested in this. "A tribe? Where?"

   The prisoner cackled. "Why would I tell you that?"

   "We have seven hostages, which we will execute if you do not cooperate with us," she said.

   Gnyrn laughed again. "I care nothing for slaves."

   "We will not hesitate to torture you," said Jayce.

   Gnyrn spit at him.

   Kyrin drew her sword, "See here, demonspawn. If you do not speak with us, I will cut out your intestines while you still live and strangle you with them. Do you care about that?"

   "You are fiesty for a female human," said the gnoll in its gruff voice. "You would make a good servant of Yeenoghu, if you grew some fur and a...."

   Kyrin slashed at Gnyrn's stomach. "Don't try me," she said.

   "Near Vineshade," said Gnyrn, gasping at the pain.

   "How many?"

   "About 300."

   "I am finished with you," said Kyrin. She turned away from him and strode off. "Mythlos," she said, "kill the monster."

   Mythlos obeyed. Gnyrn threw his head back and screamed, "Krigyash Yeenoghu!" just before his head left its body.

   Kyrin gave more orders, "Someone go down and execute the remaining seven gnolls.

   "Milady," Leokas protested, "are gnolls inherently evil that you should kill a slave?"

   She disregarded this. "The rest of you, begin to load up the horses."

   Hakam and Belvin descended back into the cave to perform the executions and recover Romar.

   As the men loaded up the loot and prepared the horses, Jayce approached Kyrin. "Milady, should we set an ambush here for if the leader returns?"

   "How can we know if and when that will happen?" She picked up Gnyrn's head and mounted it on a spear near the lair entrance. "We will take the journals back to Rontal. He has a large library and may know someone who can read Gnoll and perhaps the other strange language, or else he may know a spell to do so."

   Bevlin and Hakam returned to the surface, the former bearing a few more heads. Jayce cautioned Kyrin, "Milady Countess, you may wish to know that we have some concerns about Rontal."

   "He has some concerns," said Hakam, who joined them. "Let's not jump to conclusions."

   "I sensed that he knew more than he was telling us about the... passing of Master Ersemm. I'm not accusing!"

   "What evidence do you have?" asked Kyrin.

   Hakam shook his head.

   "Only my gut instincts, milady, but they are usually sound."

   "Who suspected the bandits that were to ambush us the other day, Jayce?" asked Hakam. "And who convinced the rest of the party to trust them?"

   "That was one time!" answered Jayce. "They probably used some magic to hide their intentions."

   "How do you feel about my farsann, Leokas?"

   "I must support that Jayce does have a talent for judging people's intentions. Moreover, I feel also that he is withholding something, but I know not what."

   "I know that Rontal is a good man," said Romar, "but there are other reasons one might want to hide things. Perhaps blackmail? I agree that it is wise to keep these things from him."

   "Fair enough," said Kyrin. "Captain, post a few men here as guards to overlook the cliffs. Have them send word to us if anyone or anything returns to this lair by surface or sea.

   "Everyone, mount up. We return to The Cliff to celebrate our victory and revenge!"
Session: 25th Game Session (Double Marathon Session!) - Sunday, Jan 12 2014 from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM
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