Adventures of the Cursed Eight 1.7

The story picks up from where we left it in the Adventures of the Cursed Eight 1.6

1.7 The cult of the White Tear

An uncomfortable silence fell over the group as they stared at the cleric posing awkwardly on a pile of rubble.

“Well Mr. Sapienza, welcome to our small company,” said Zal’tat sweeping his arms wide. “The scary elf dressed in black is Shainarra, the happy-looking child is called Grell,” –Grell scowled at him darkly– “the ranger with the bow and knives is Siloqui, Kathra is our local druid and Thorin is the dwarf that appears to have an issue with his ahem, size…”

Thorin clutched his battle hammer reflexively and glared angrily at the gnome.

“…The silver dragonborn is Lady Nala Zarg and I am Zal’tat Spindlefoot, at your service. Now, we are in something of a hurry, so try and keep up.”

With that, the gnome flashed a large smile and strode into the next tunnel. Siloqui glanced briefly at the cleric and losing interest, immediately followed the gnome.

“I’d be careful if I were you, ‘cleric’,” Shainarra whispered menacingly into Lohar’s ear. “We may be collecting all the weird-ass strays in this crypt, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t slit your throat if I smell something funny.”

She stalked away silently, leaving the cleric trembling slightly.

“Sorry about that, Father,” said Thorin stretching out his hand to help him down from his perch.

“She can be a little intense. You are safe with us of course. We’ll make sure to deliver you safe and sound to the world above; we just need to clear out these caverns first.”

“I understand,” Lohar answered dazedly.

“Actually, I can be of assistance,” he offered as the rest of the party moved towards the mouth of the dimly lit tunnel. “After all, I am a priest of Thelas; her light would serve you well in these shadowed halls.”

“Any help is most welcome,” answered Nala bowing her head slightly. Lohar smiled back at her and marched confidently into the tunnel.

As soon as he was out of earshot, Grell sidled up to Thorin and nudged him conspiratorially.

“If he dies, can I keep his stuff?”

***

Farther ahead, Zal’tat was peering around a bend at the cavern beyond. As he’d crept along the dank underground passage he’d noticed the warm glow of firelight reflected on the wall ahead. His current investigation had revealed the presence of four heavily robed figures, gathered around a small campfire. Cautiously, the gnome backtracked to the group.

“Possible enemies in the next cave.”

“More undead?” asked Kathra, her eyes flaring green with the beginnings of a spell.

“No, they looked pretty alive to me,” answered Zal’tat. “They were wearing heavy black robes with a white symbol embroidered on the chest. I wasn’t close enough to see it.”

“That isn’t the sign of any god or Saint I know of,” said Lohar thoughtfully.

“Necromancers.”

Nala’s words sounded heavy in the shadows; a solitary necromancer was bad, but more than one…

“We don’t know that,” said Thorin dismissively, “I propose we create a distraction and take them down.”

“We should keep at least one alive to interrogate,” mused Siloqui, sheathing her blades. She strung her bow and drew an arrow.

“Agreed,” came a whisper from the shadows.

“But what if they are friendly? Or lost?” asked Kathra.

“Don’t worry, I think I can whip up something that’ll distract them and show us their true colours,” said Zal’tat rubbing his hands together. A small spark spat out into the corridor. “Just wait for my signal to attack,” he said padding away quietly.

“What signal?” asked Grell eagerly. But the gnome was already gone.

***

The four figures sat around the fire, shivering slightly in the humid air. From time to time, one of them would get up, march around the little perimeter they had agreed on and glance distractedly at the openings in the rock.

 “So, any idea when this’ll be over?” asked the largest of the four.

“No idea. His Eminence said it could take days,” answered the cloaked man to his left.

“Feels like days already,” grumbled the first.

“Will you two shut up?” asked the one curled up on a bedroll. “I’m trying to catch some shuteye.”

“Oh? This kind of work too tiring for you?” growled the first, kicking him in the small of the back. The weasel-faced protester yelped and jumped to his feet, glaring at the bigger man angrily.

“Would’ve liked to be somewhere else, huh? Nice cushy job thievin’ off merchants on the road from Astralia? Not feeling the faith?”

The last remark turned the angry man pale and he immediately backed down.

“Aw c’mon Berg, you know I believe. Please don’ go tellin’ His Lordship any of this!”

“Ah quit yapping, dog,” growled Berg disgustedly, turning around and taking a swig from a wineskin.

“Ehm, boss?” mumbled the fourth guard, an overweight dwarf.

“What? What now?” snarled Berg.

“There…there seems to be a lady, boss. At the entrance of the cave.”

“Of course there is Minnow,” groaned Berg dejectedly not even bothering to look up. “And what is she doing, pray tell?”

“She’s…she’s waving boss.”

The large cloaked man turned his head and stared.

There was indeed a small woman in the mouth of the tunnel leading deeper into the mountain. Inexplicably, she was waving and smiling at the four guards.

“What the…? How did she get down here?” hissed Berg getting slowly to his feet. Behind him, a small figure ducked behind a large boulder.

“Right. Grab her boys. We have to ask her some questions,” said the big man, a cruel smile deforming his pudgy features, “It’s the rules.”

His three companions snickered evilly and slowly crept towards the smiling woman, each drawing a curved dagger from his belt.

“B-boss…” mumbled Minnow –the first to reach the waving figure-, “I think somethin’s not right…”

Hesitantly, he reached out to touch the waving figure. As his hand passed through her, he squeaked fearfully and backed away in confusion.

“Gentlemen!”

The four cultists twisted around just in time to see Zal’tat come striding up to their campfire, his hands buzzing with magic.

“I am here on a mission bestowed on me by Gerotil himself,” he proclaimed loudly. “Surrender and I will see to it that you be shown mercy.”

“Kill him,” snarled Berg, striding towards the gnome.

***

Now?” hissed Nala peering from behind a rock. Her features had contorted into an expression of horror and she was seconds away from rushing to the gnome’s aid.

“No, wait for the si-”

A terrible detonation cut Thorin short, as Zal’tat finally released the wave of magical energy that he’d been building up ever since he’d set foot in the cavern.

A violent shockwave of displaced air blasted outwards from the gnome’s figure, sending Berg sprawling on to his back. The other three cultists were flung flew backwards into the wall. With a sickly crack, Minnow flopped to the ground unmoving, his back broken. The weasel-faced man staggered to his feet and let out a strangled scream; his third companion was hanging from the wall above him, a stone outcropping protruding from his abdomen.

“Why you little..!” roared Berg as he got to his feet and charged towards Zal’tat.

NOW!” yelled Thorin.

The party immediately leapt into action. Before the melee fighter had had a chance to take three steps, Siloqui had already sent two arrows zipping into Berg’s knife-arm. The pudgy man screamed and dropped his weapon, as he tried desperately to rip out the shafts now protruding from his biceps.

The weasel-faced man took one look at the scene and fled.

“You aren’t going anywhere,” hissed a voice from the shadows as a well-aimed dagger pierced his thigh and sent him crashing to the ground.

“Shainarra!” yelled Thorin as he smashed his hammer into Berg’s shoulder, “Keep that one alive!”

“Fine, fine…” she murmured in annoyance. She bent down next to the man’s whimpering form and twisted the dagger viciously, eliciting another howl of pain.

“I’ll kill you!” screamed Berg, his eyes wild as he smashed a mace-sized fist into Thorin’s armoured chest.

“Nope, that’s my line!” said Grell gleefully.

The half-orc child rushed up and with an effortless swing of his battle-axe, bisected the huge man in half.

“Well, it looks like we really do need you alive, ugly,” said Shainarra, forcing the last survivor to his feet.

As the others gathered round, she slammed him roughly up against the rock wall. He whimpered, as the mismatched –and bloodied- band of adventurers closed in around him.

“Now, lad,” said Thorin sternly, “you’d better tell us all you know. No lies, or I’ll be forced to leave you alone with the elf here…” –he motioned towards Shainarra- “…and she isn’t as tolerant as I am.”

The weasel-faced man needed no more encouragement.

“I know very little, I swear! I was recruited no more than two months ago in Thelasport by this crazy holy man. He was lookin’ for followers…for the Cult of the White Tear. That’s what he calls us. He promised us gold, riches and power in the new world. We did some odd jobs for him: some thievin’, a little murder…nothing big, until we came here. Then he had us break into the Temple and take the gold cup and break through the crypt. That’s all I know, I swear!”

“The cup, where is it?” growled Shainarra, thrusting her blade under the squirming man’s chin.

“I don’t know! I swear! He left us here to guard the entrance while he went and did some ritual or something!” His palms were now drenched in sweat and he was trembling from head to toe.

“Let him go, lass,” said Thorin, “that’s all we’ll get out of him. Let him go.”

“And you,” he said directing his attention to the cultist -who was now doing his best to scramble away from the group-, “go back to the surface and stay there. If I ever catch sight of your wretched hide again, you won’t live to see another dawn.”

“Ye-yes kind sir, yes, yes.” He grovelled and whimpered, as the group moved away into the tunnels. Soon he was alone.

Or so he thought.

“Sorry about this, but I don’t leave any loose ends.”

The dagger swept easily from one side of his throat to the other, sending him falling into Death’s embrace.

***

As she was moving to catch up with the rest of the party, Shainarra crossed Lohar coming in the opposite direction.

“Oh, it’s you,” said the cleric hesitantly. “You haven’t seen that cultist, have you? I wanted to ask him some more questions about this ‘Cult of the White Tear’.”

“He didn’t look so good the last time I saw him. Maybe you should check up on him,” she answered easily as she passed him by.

Lohar nodded and quickly moved back into the cave. Immediately he noticed that something was wrong; the cultist was propped up against a boulder, rigid and unmoving.

“Thelas give me light,” he murmured as he examined the man. “He’s dead!”

The cleric scratched his chin thoughtfully; for all his training, he found himself incapable of discerning any further details from the dead body. A haze of confusion seemed to descend over him as he wondered back in the direction of the small group.“I wonder…how could this have happened?”

The story continues in the Adventures of the Cursed Eight 1.8

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