We left the Stormguard party (now level 10) in the wolf infested great hall of Margon’s abandoned palace. Having slain two dire wolves and five other wolves, they take a moment to get their bearings, noticing disguised windows looking into the hall from the floor above.
Benquil, cloaked in invisibility functional in the dim interior of the palace, begins a sweep of the first floor. His plan is to sweep each floor in turn and he begins with the dining hall, the servant entrance, the kitchen, and the storeroom, where a stair to the cellar diverts his attention. He decides to sweep the basement quickly before finishing the ground floor.
The cellar is dark, but his infrared vision shows him casks of alcohol and wine racks. In one corner the cobbles are sinking into the mud, along with the feet of one of the racks. The wall behind appears colder than the other walls and he looks a little closer. He finds a that the stones behind the sinking wine rack are mortarless and cool water is bubbling through.
He decides to dislodge the stones and see what’s beyond. Upon levering the first stone out of the wall, the rest are blown out as water rushes into the cellar, quickly filling the cellar to 3 feet deep. Benquil scrambles to his feet in the water and moves to look through the hole. He senses an aura of death and sees a disturbance in the water rushing toward him. He fires his crossbow into the water to little effect and the shape, clearly humanoid upon emerging from the water, attempts to tackle him. He spins away deflecting the creature. Out of the corner of his eye he sees a second and turns, leaping up the stairs in time to leave them, and the several others that join them, clambering at the base of the stairs as high as the water allows.
After freezing the water around them to little effect, Benquil calls Hilbrent to the cellar. Hilbrent prepares a spell to destroy water, made long lasting by the enchant on his person. He drops the marble, the focus of the spell, into the water and the creatures are destroyed. The spell continues and soon the water has dried up, only trickling in from the next room through the opened passage.
Benquil crawls through, finding himself behind iron bars. They’re rusted, and he’s able to break the door down with little effort. The other dozen cells or so are empty and he proceeds up the stairs from the dungeon to the ground floor. A couple hidden doors lead to apparent guest rooms with doors off the hall, but he proceeds up the stairs to the second floor, where he finds a couple more guest rooms with hidden doors and a small closet between hidden doors with a bowl full of dust and a blanket. He takes both and proceeds up the next flight of stairs, finding a door at the top that opens into what is apparently Margon’s own chambers in the palace. At a glance nothing seems out of place. Stairs leading to one of the two palace towers look promising and Benquil calls up the rest of the group to Margon’s chambers before going to the tower.
Atop the tower, he is addressed by Margon himself, calling him out for his cowardice, being unseen in the shadows with his magical tunic. Benquil responds that he has come on behalf of Brimahil to obtain whatever knowledge Margon has of the origin of werewolves. Margon laughs a bit, not having much information to give, but calms himself, asking why Benquil would imagine he could so simply gain an audience with a deity. They bandy a bit negotiating until they settle on a duel between Benquil’s champion (Lamila) and Margon’s. The duel will be to the death with no armor or magic, axes only. If Lamila is victorious, Margon will answer his questions regarding the creation of werewolves. If she is defeated, Benquil will allow himself to be sacrificed to Margon. The duel will take place at the outdoor altar in the temple complex.
Both parties agree (only Benquil can speak and understand minotaur) and they go out a different way to get a look around, getting a brief glance some of the rooms they hadn’t seen. Margon’s followers meet them in the great hall, binding Benquil’s hands and leading them to the dueling ring in the temple area.
While Margon’s people paint up their champion, the party prays to Brimahil to let her know what’s happening. She has no aide to give, but wishes them the best in surviving their foolishness. They consider some other dieties, particularly the many Lamila has brushed with, but think better of approaching them with their plight.
Lamila enters the ring and when Margon announces the start, she and her opponent enter a rage. Lamila takes the initiative but only braces herself. Her opponent (played by Thulme Breakbough) rushes her. Thulme hits, she hits back. Both take deep wounds. Lamila swings back but swift in his Rage, Thulme easily dodges away from the attack. He steps in again and again Lamila lets him hit her so she can land a blow. Again both are badly damaged by eachother’s attacks.
Seeing Thume so able to evade her attack, Lamila braces again, only hoping to survive Thulmes third blow and drop him with her own. Thulme hits again, not quite hard enough to bring her down, and she hits back, leaving them both on the verge of collapse and blood flows from three massive wounds each.
Desperate now, Lamila kicks at Thume, forcing him to jump back before she steps in for a swing. Thulme dodges back again, and though the blade passes close, he escapes without harm. He steps in and swings back, striking her brutally in the torso and almost cleaving her in two. She counter blows and in the same moment brings him to the ground, though with the weakest blow she has landed yet.
The werewolves surrounding the ring fall suddenly silent and Margon announces a draw and that the werewolves can devour both combatants, but Benquil implores that Lamila’s body be left to them to deal with according to their customs and they give it to them. The werewolves notice that Thulme is not dead, but only unconscious, and Margon instructs them to bind his wounds.
Turning to Benquil, Margon agrees that in the event of a draw, Benquil’s life will be spared and he will answer Benquil’s questions as if Lamila had won. He is impressed that Benquil was willing to, not knowing the odds, “risk all in the pursuit of nothing” in his estimation.
He answers their questions about the origin of werewolves as it was passed to him down the centuries, after all, he has only been a deity 150 years or so, and the werewolves were created by Lolith nearly 2000 years ago. They also learn that he regards Vardor, though his enemy, as very similar to himself, only misguided in giving his people civilization, the source of all weakness. They take meticulous notes, despite the failure of Hilbrent’s audio recording spell.
They stay the night, Hilbrent using magic to verify that Margon’s bones lie in the casket in the antechamber of the temple. They leave in the morning. Once out of the ruined city, Lamila returns riding an elemental, carrying a bone destroying spell she uses on the casket before escaping to the rest of the group. While the werewolves rush out to hunt them, they teleport back to Fort Gollant.
At the fort, they report back to Brimahil, producing the interview with Margon and the story of their interaction with Margon for entry into the library. They learn from Micky that Duke Leeman from the capitol in Vardorborg will be arriving tomorrow to inspect their progress. Since their investment only pays the promised massive profits if the settlement becomes the seat of a new addition to Vardor, the party has a vested interest in making a good impression. Benquil is also determined to make it known the part Brimahil plays in the settlement.
Lamila prays to Margon, learning that he survived the attack on his bones and is enraged against them. Meanwhile, Benquil goes among the settlers resting from their labors at the evening bonfire and retells the story of their latest adventure. The settlers are delighted and propose they prepare a play to reenact the story for the Duke. Benquil is delighted by the idea and he and Hilbrent begin planning the script and special effects.
The next day a stage is built on the castle foundation. In the evening the Duke arrives and the party greets him, joining he and Emil Gollant for dinner where he enjoys tales of their adventures to augment those has already heard. He also informs them of a war in the east, where cat-people (Match recognizes them as Nekolyn, which he knew in his home chain of islands) are attacking Vardor coasts in large numbers and power. Though Duke Leeman affirms that Vardor will eventually win the war, with winter approaching they desire to speed the effort to free their people for the harvest. Though their expectations are not high, he has come in part to see if Emil can convince some of the human and minotaur tribes he purports to be adding to the kingdom to travel to the coast and join the war effort. If Fort Gollant were able to deploy a small force, it would practically guarantee Emil’s grant of nobility.
In the morning, he receives a tour of the settlement, in particular the now very impressive library. He asks about the observation tower of Brimahil and why a castle is needed if the mighty tower already exists. Benquil explains that the tower is Brimahil’s and is a sacred place. Duke Leeman is not impressed and given the oath nobles must make to worship only Vardor, begins to suspect a conflict of interest in Emil. When he learns Emil does not have access to the tower, he is still more concerned at his limited control of his own settlement.
Benquil, not wanting this to cast a pall on their plans, proposes that he visit the tower and speak to Brimahil on their behalf. Brimahil instructs him to bring Emil and the Duke to her observation dome by way of the door in the tower’s base, openable with his holy symbol received from her. In this way they will be able to stand before her without passing through or seeing the initiation and ritual chambers below.
After introductions, Brimahil affirms a desire to be part of the kingdom and her willingness to see the settlement under Vardor’s authority. She explains that any of Vardor’s priests or others could become initiates into her order and receive holy symbols with no obligation to her. In this way they could worship only Vardor and have access to her tower. She expresses a desire to know from Vardor personally if this arrangement is acceptable.
The Duke prays and Vardor appears, permitted there by Brimahil. The two deities engage in a brief discourse, determining that the arrangement is acceptable. Vardor recounts his amicable interactions with many other deities and expresses a belief that this alliance with Brimahil will be his most potent union yet.
With the day passed, the settlers put on their reenactment of Benquil’s and Lamila’s Confrontation with Margon. The Duke is delighted, flattering them with claims he wishes he could bring them to the capital as a traveling troupe of performers. In the morning he departs, expressing hope that a Gollant fighting unit might find its way to the coast in time to join the war effort.