They wandered back towards the tavern, merging with the people coming from the arm wrestling tournament which seemed to be over now. Patrons were pouring out of the doors, talking loudly, settling bets and jostling each other as they made their way home. It seems the usual favorite, Solac the Brawler, had won the tournament again.
"Shouldn't we tell someone about the secret room?" asked Twila, poised to run off and find someone she could tell their big news to. "Don't the villagers need to know?"
"I need to deliver this scroll first," said Faith slowly. She was wondering what to do. They did need to warn the villagers about the underwater tunnel, but how would they explain how they found it? They had no reason to be in the storehouse.
Kal was trying to walk into the Wavecrest but kept falling off the small porch in front of the door.
"Why do they make this thing so wobbly? Doesn't make a bit of sense," he grumbled.
"Why don't you take your buddy home and tuck him into bed?" Faith told Malut.
Malut eyed Kalvenor for a minute, deciding if he wanted to do that or not.
"You said another job tonight. Good to have a healer along," he offered.
Kal bumped into the wall beside the door of the Wavecrest. Then he did it a second time.
"Scuse me, ma'am," he said. Then he belched. "Lovely night, isn't it?"
"Yeah, take him home now," Malut said. "Back soon."
"I'll come with you," said Thysmac and the two of them flanked Kalvenor and guided him to his hut on the backside of the alley.
"Where we goin'?" they heard Kal ask. "You guys takin' me to a tavern?"
"Sure we are," said Thysmac, his voice getting more distant. "A tavern with a bed for you."
"I love you guys," they heard Kal mumble.
"We don't know who to trust," Faith said to Ardan and Twila. "I'm not sure who to tell. I think I'll tell Linus Weir, who gave me this mission, and let him figure it out."
"We ought to get credit for it! Experience towards our union levels," Twila was worried.
"We will, but maybe not right away. Not until this mess is settled. It would put us in danger from whoever the spies in the village are," Faith thought aloud.
"I think we're already in danger, lass," said Ardan. "But I agree with you, let's keep a low profile for now."
"That sounds like it be a good idea," a voice behind Faith said. It was Linus. "Did you get the item?"
"Linus, we need to talk. We got it but there's something you need to know." She looked at her friends. "I'll be right back."
Linus, still half in the shadows, waved for Faith to follow him. He led her past the Union Hall, went around a small building on the end then up a ladder to a third story porch with a boat on it. He stepped into the boat and hunched down. She glanced around, then climbed in too.
It was dark in the little rowboat and Faith had to feel around in her bag to find the scroll case. As she searched for it and handed it to him, she told him about the secret passageway. She couldn't see his face but his voice was shocked.
"An underwater passageway? Right inside the building there? Maybe that's how they got ole' Lars, just snuck up on him. I have to tell the Mayor right away." Linus sounded worried. "I'll just tell him as I was in there to get some supplies and found it."
"Well, you'll need to explain the dead sahuagin in there as well..." Faith explained.
Linus sounded scared when he spoke again.
"I'm just the messenger. I'm not to be making any decisions here, but there's people's lives at stake. I'll make sure your team gets credit for this, but there's got to be silence from you for now. I'll tell the Mayor it was you but no one else until we're sure who's on our side. But for now, take these." He pushed a handful of leather straps into her hands.
"They are magic belts, will give you some additional health. And good luck to you and yours. I'll pass the scroll to Talbron tonight and let him know what you've found."
Faith tucked the six belts into her bag and returned to her friends.
"Linus will take care of it and we will get credit, ok?" She asked. Twila looked frustrated but nodded. Ardan gave her a thumbs up. Just then, Malut and Thysmac returned from their escort duty. Faith handed out the magic belts to everyone.
"Ok, next is Heyton's Crypt," she said.
"What?" Thysmac looked surprised. "We have a job in the crypt? I thought the Bauerson boys were on that..."
"They won't go in at night and we need to find out what's going on," Faith explained. "I promised Kaja we'd go in and see if Lars Heyton is either hiding or being held in there."
"I didn't promise anyone I'd go into Heyton's Rest at night," said Thysmac slowly.
"Are you scared there are spiders in there?" taunted Twila.
"No," Thysmac shot back. "But why us? Why would we go in there and poke around? There's no reward, no treasure and no credit toward our guild levels. It's not a real job."
"Kaja is going to pay us," countered Faith. "I'm not sure what, but she'll see to it that we get credit for it. She knows everyone here. To be honest, it might just be a walk through a crypt and we'll find nothing. Just a few minutes of our time to help out someone in need."
"And what if there is something? We don't even know what that could be," answered Thysmac.
"C'mon Faith, the guys are too scared. We can do this," said Twila as she turned up the path to the cemetary.
"Not scared," insisted Malut in an offended tone. "I'm coming."
"I'm not scared either," said Thysmac. "I just wanted to know why we are doing this. I never said I wasn't coming."
The bustle and sounds of the village had settled down as everyone returned home after the tournament. Throughout the tiny village, lights were being turned off in the huts and a light fog had rolled in off the sea, obscuring the view even more as it mixed with the ever-falling snow. As they approached Heyton's Rest, Ardan suddenly held up a hand to halt them all, then crouched and quietly crept forward along the edge of the cemetery, nearly silent. Twila waved the group to back up behind her as she also crouched into a hiding position.
"Someone's there," she whispered. "At the door."
They heard Ardan's voice, then another speaking quietly ahead.
"It's alright, come along," Ardan called out.
They approached the door to the crypt and saw a large figure outlined in the fog... a warforge. As they got closer, Faith realized it was Compel.
"What are you doing here?" she asked Compel.
"I was just asking your friend here the same thing," Compel waved towards Ardan with a graceful gesture. "He nearly scared me to bits."
"We're investigating the crypt tonight," Twila told her. "Enough is enough, we are going to find out what's going on in there."
Compel nodded. "I feel the same. I am not going to spend another night listening to these noises and not doing something about it."
"You were going in by yourself?" Faith asked in admiration. "Really?"
Compel shrugged. "Yes."
Just then, the wailing started inside the crypt. The entire party, startled, jumped back from the door.
"Well, that's pretty unsettling, isn't it?" said Compel. "Maybe I wouldn't have gone in alone. But with a full group like this, I think we can handle it."
She looked from face to face, her turquoise blue eyes glowing gently through the fog.
"Are we going?"
The others shifted their weight, took deep breaths and pulled out their weapons. Malut stepped up and opened the door of the crypt. They all stepped inside.
Jacoby Drexelhand was sitting to one side of the gate that closed off the rest of the crypt from the entry. He struggled to his feet as they entered.
"What in Khyber is going on here? You'uns have no business here at this time of night," he told them, outraged.
"You are apparently not doing your job, cryptkeeper," said Compel evenly. "We are going to find out what's making those noises. Tonight."
"No golem is going to tell me what to do," sneered Jacoby.
Malut, in one swift move, was across the room and had Drexelhand up against the wall with his hand around Jacoby's neck. A low growl came from his throat as he stared directly into the defiant human's face.
"Is that what you call Master Garant the Wary? A golem?" asked Compel.
"Can't believe they have a golem running Korthos Island! It's disgraceful!" Drexelhand managed to wheeze out. Malut's grip tightened ever so slightly.
"Interesting, that explains your attitude," said Compel. "Nevermind open this gate for us, we are going in."
"No!" wheezed Drexelhand.
Malut leaned in closer.
"Open gate," he growled into Jacoby's face.
"Alright, alright, let me go."
Malut eased his grip and Jacoby fell to the floor, coughing. Malut made a movement as if to strike him and Jacoby scrambled over to a large lever on the floor in front of the gate and with apparent effort, pulled it and raised the gate.
"Thank you for your cooperation," Compel said.
"I'll never cooperate with your kind, you unnatural abberation!" Jacoby cursed. "I'm going to the Mayor! I'm going to tell him all of you are desecrating the final resting place of the Heytons! You'll all be kicked out and sent back to Xen'drik or wherever in Khyber you are from. This is your last warning to take your busybody selves out of this crypt"
The group looked at each other, then one by one, they passed through the gate into the hall beyond it.
"YOU'LL BE SORRY!" screeched Jacoby, then they heard the door slam.
"Do you think he's locked us in?" asked Faith, feeling sick and terrified. The sense of duty and purpose that had driven her to tell Kaja she'd investigate had abandoned her now that they were in the dank crypt. She was feeling weak and panicky.
"Even if he has, the trainers gather outside the crypt in the morning," Compel was reassuring. "We won't be stuck in here more than a few hours."
Twila was looking quickly from one side of the hall to the other. "Um, notice anything odd?" she asked them. "The bodies are all... missing."
The sarcophagi that lined the hallway were busted and broken, but in the rubble there were no bones or other debris that might be the body that had been entombed there.
"This is... freaky..." whispered Twila.
A loud crack and crumbling noise made them all snap their heads towards the hallway ahead. The hallway ended in a right turn and they could see shadows moving in the light from the unseen hallway. They all moved quietly towards the sound. Thysmac tapped Compel on the shoulder as they all sidled towards the noise.
"I'm sorry for what I said to you earlier, at lunch," whispered Thysmac. "I wasn't thinking."
Compel's eyes flickered momentarily. "I overreacted, my apologies," she said quietly.
Thysmac smiled. "Friends?" he asked.
"I'd be honored," she answered.
As the group carefully rounded the corner trying to hide in the shadows, they were horrified to see another sarcophagus smashed open in the hallway ahead. A white robed cultist was hauling the dessicated body out of the wreckage while a red robed cultist stood guard.
"What do the sahuagin want with dead bodies anyway?" asked the cultist working with the body. "I thought they only ate the ones who were freshly sacrificed."
"It's none of our business," answered the guard. "But they want more so stop chattering, get on with it and open that next sarcophagus or I'll give them you for their next meal."
The guard turned to survey the other sarcophagi in the hallway when he caught sight of several heads peering around the corner.
"Hey, we've got company!" he yelled to the other cultist as he pulled out a wand and streams of purple missles raced towards the investigating party.
Malut sprang out at the guard, knocking him flat and with a couple of swings, the guard was no longer a threat. Compel had stepped up and swung her arms, almost in a throwing motion and the other cultist had stopped in place, staring dully ahead at a pinkish swirling cloud that hung in front of him. Faith knocked him out and realized it felt good to channel her fear into combat. She punched and kicked til the cultist stopped moving entirely.
"What's going on here," murmured Twila. "Why are they stealing bodies?"
Just then they heard another crack and crumble from the next hallway. They ran around the corner to see two more cultists and more destroyed tombs. Compel hypnotized the one closest to them and Ardan started shooting the one further down the hallway with his longbow. Malut, Twila and Faith jumped into the fray and fought hand-to-hand while Thysmac shot purple missiles and bursts of fire from behind them. The fight didn't last long; Faith's group had the element of surprise.
"Jacoby was guarding the crypt for the sahaugin!" Twila was outraged as she realized his treachery. "He was keeping people out while they did this nasty business! We have to wake Master Garant and Mayor Storr."
"It's not over," Thysmac said quietly from behind them. He had backed up and was listening at a doorway at the end of the hall. He waved them over. "Something's still going on in there."
They all gathered at the door to listen but Malut lost his balance and pushed against the door. It swung open to reveal a curving hallway that sloped slightly downward, blocking their view of whatever was beyond. Inside they heard strange chanting.
"Arise, Horace Heyton and serve the sahuagin you spent your lifetime persecuting," demanded the voice. "Arise and serve me!"
As they rushed into the room, they saw a large room lined with several rows of shelves containing coffins, many of them broken. A sahuagin was standing over a bizarre purple skull-headed altar that had a skeleton laid out on it. As the sahuagin waved a scepter over the bones, the skeleton twitched and shook as if trying to wake up.
"Stop him!" cried Faith, horrified that she was actually seeing a person being raised as an undead minion. "Don't let him finish!"
Two zombies rose up from the floor and tried to get between them and the sahuagin, but they were quickly dispatched by Twila and Malut. Faith attacked the sahuagin in a fury of blows and he turned away from his ritual. She pounded and kicked the sahuagin with a surge of emotion, outraged at anyone who would desecrate the dead by reanimating them. Once he was dead, she turned her fury on the altar that held the remains of Horace Heyton. She wanted to destroy it so it could never again be used in such a way.
As she kicked the bizarre skull-like face on the altar, it split into two pieces just behind the head. The skeleton was now still. A crest, a small blue shield lined with gold, fell out from under the altar. Her fury spent, she sat on the steps that circled the room, leading up to the many shelved coffins. She needed a minute to catch her breath.
Thysmac picked up the crest.
"This may be useful," he said. "Come on, we've got to check the rest of the crypt. From what I understand, it's pretty big. There's might be more of this sort of thing going on."
"What I don't yet understand," mused Compel, "is how they are getting in here. We've seen a lot of cultists in here- there is no way they are waltzing through the center of the village."
"Obviously. Jacoby is letting them in!" Twila said.
"Yes, that's apparent," agreed Compel,"but from where? We should look for another entrance. An entrance inside the crypt."
They quickly told her what they had found earlier in the storehouse and her eyes flickered as she thought about the implications.
"That is very interesting. There may be a hidden water entrance here as well then," she said. "I am more than a little concerned about what Drexelhand is doing right now- I suspect he might be bringing reinforcements to deal with us before we can leave this crypt. Although he's not too bright, remember what he said when he left? That he was going to tell the Mayor we were desecrating the crypt? I suspect he wants to frame us for all of this destruction. That would be a lot easier for him if none of us were alive to contradict him. We need to finish in here and find a way out, soon."
This had not occurred to the others and a new feeling of urgency took hold of the party.