We go back upstairs. Across the hall from the room where the cultists had lots of papers, I unlock the door and Halved opens it. It appears to be an abandoned barracks. Halved uses his newly-acquired fabled sword of demon slaying, probably the pinnacle of the life’s work of a master weaponsmith, to smash a barrel of water. Susannae argues that she wants the water for cleansing the Garrison temple.
We then try the door to the room where we saw the messenger bird cubbyholes. There are papers and ink and little cylinders for the messages. Plus, three dead demonic flies.
Neva gets impatient and snatches the keys from me and opens up a library with a dead demon, a schir, a short, goat-headed git. There are smoldering piles plus a small unburned stack of useful books. Halved hacks up the schir because, you know, why not. One book stands out particularly. It is titled Manual of War and exudes enchantment magic. I ask about keeping it myself to figure out what it does but Neva takes it and just opens it and starts reading. It details fighting styles.
Susannae asks with concern what is happening with Neva’s erratic behavior. She says she can’t explain it. She has “some things happening.” She has nightmares.
Neva then opens the last unopened door. A large, antlered deer with wings comes flapping at her. It is a peryton, with wolf-like jaws, antlers, and the talons of a hawk on two feet and hooves on the other. Its maw is bloody.
Neva reacts quickly and infuses it with raw chaos. Its shadow on the ground reforms and takes on Neva’s shadow’s shape. She looks down in concern as an antler catches her in the eye, tearing it out of her skull. She shrieks but manages to hold her ground. Now I’m going to have nightmares.
Kostner shoots it with one of three arrows. Halved tries to leap into the fray but can’t manage to do so. Neva smacks it with a gauntlet and steps to the side of the door. I close but just enough so it will have to exit to get me and therefore get in range of Halved, Neva and I.. Susannae misses with an arrow. The peryton moves up and Halved strikes it. I stab it hard with Sphex and suck some of the life from it, making me stronger. I deduce and tell the others, whose attacks had not been as effective, that magic weapons are needed.
It goes after Neva like she’s made of flowers but she manages to avoid major damage. Kostner wastes a couple non-magic arrows against it and Neva hits it with her ranseur.
Susannae uses one of the unidentified magical arrows and it sticks in with deadly effect. Halved then splatters it with his non-magic greatsword and begins to argue with Neva over which of them gets the corpse. Neva wants the part of the antler with her eye stuck on it.
I peek into the room. There is a long table with a relief map of Mendev, plus a bunch of corpses with the hearts ripped out. I guess we know what perytons eat.
Leaving the Grey Garrison, we see some of the first descendants (mongrelmen) and crusaders milling about in the square. The crusaders approach. I have no interest in talking to them and drift off, heading for the Estarron estate. I hear the crusaders and Susannae talk about re-sanctifying the temple and crap like that and “Praise the Inheritor!”
Susannae then corrals the others who are looking to get to the Defender’s Heart to help her look for her mom.
I slow down when I see they are coming. Susannae, upon reaching the estate, approaches, calling out for her mother. I catch her up and whisper, “Don’t be stupid about this!” Remarkably, she takes my advice and we go in together
We look around and find a sign of a barricade. The door is broken down. I ask where she might have hid and she thinks the basement so we go down. I peer into the darkness and she detects no evil presence remaining. Climbing down the stairs, we smell something acrid.
On the ground, a symbol is formed of foul materials, a black insectlike insignia that I recognize and immediately despair. It is Socothbenoth’s mark. Susannae finds against the wall, her mother Auciell’s holy symbol of Saranrae. The interior tube of holy water is empty.
“Sorry,” I say. I know her mother is gone. Auciell, a woman who repaid her debt to me and never flinched from me as others did. Socothbenoth… why? I know Susannae will want to ask questions but I don’t want to be the one to tell her. I make my way out. She continues to search through her house, finding some belongings of her mother’s to keep and to say some prayers of hope.
Halved is outside entertaining Neva and Kostner with the head of the peryton. I mutter something about seeing them around and slip off into the shadows.
After Susannae joins them, they head back to the Defender’s Heart. There is more activity in the city now. Crusaders are patrolling the walls again and clerics are scanning for pockets of evil. At Kimroth’s, people are in better spirits. Irabeth and the Eagle Watch are in charge now.
“Where’s your tiefling friend?” Irabeth asked. She adds that some people have been whispering that I was involved with the betrayal. Typical.
The others stick up for me and Irabeth says she will continue to correct them if it comes up. They see about getting a hot meal.
Susannae finds her dad who is ministrating to some people. She shows him the symbol. He is shocked to hear the news. He tells her she should rest and she replies her heart is in a million pieces. How can she rest? He says Iomedae chose well in making her a warrior and that if their faith is true, they’ll find her mom.
Neva gets some healing but will not get her eye regenerated. She decides to wear it as a necklace as it dries. “Some things happening” indeed.
When some townies ask Halved about my “betrayal” he gets angry and scares them straight. When others bring it up to Susannae, she defends me, crediting my efforts and describes me as being kind to her when she looked for Auciell.
There is news that some military relief and the Queen of Mendev herself are coming. Other rumors fly around that people are becoming demons still, that the Queen herself is a demon, ridiculous shit like that.
Over the next week, Susannae decides to set herself to rebuilding Kenabres and healing the injured. Kostner donates some money to the town and works on crafting a special bow. Halved works on writing a song to increase his renown. Neva wants to see Horgus Gwerm about some coin along with selling the extra equipment we’d found. She may try to hire herself out as a bodyguard as people venture out to reclaim their homes.
Me? I look to be alone, find someone to punch in the face, liberate some whiskey, find out why the fuck a demonlord was in Kenabres, and keep clear of Defender’s Heart and the ungrateful bastards it shelters.