Faith held her finger to her lips in a "shush" motion as the startled prisoners started to jump up. The voices came closer.
"Who did this? More guards dead! We must check the mayor's daughter, hurry!" the quavering fishy voice shouted.
They heard the splash of flipper feet running past the shrine room and echoing down the far passage.
Hurry up, Compel! Faith thought silently. Hurry! She realized they had left the unprotected cell area just in time- they would be under attack right now if they had not. But the move had only bought them a few minutes- the sahuagin were bound to search the entire complex.
She indicated to the villagers to arm themselves. The weaker prisoners, after sitting at the shrine for several minutes were looking stronger and were at least able to stand on their own. She gathered them up behind her. They all faced the door as they heard the footfalls coming back.
"Don't let them through the door," whispered Faith. "Our best shot is to kill them one by one as they try to get in."
"Let me at them," growled one of the men. His name was Jolly Dolf but he looked anything but Jolly now. The shrine had given him renewed energy and his anger gave him strength.
"They must be in here, over here," yelled a sahuagin from the passage, just outside the door. The metal door creaked and then raised up with a scraping sound. A sahuagin appeared in the doorway. Faith and Jolly leaped forward to attack. Just as Faith swung her fist, the sahuagin in front of her disappeared and was replaced with Kalvenor. The dwarf reacted quickly, stopping her fist in midair.
"That's not a nice way to say hello," he told her.
Faith glanced around, a little panicked with her heart thumping wildly. They were in the Wavecrest Tavern. She looked behind her and all the prisoners were there. Cheers arose from all around them and shouts as people found their loved ones in the crowd. Faith relaxed.
"Why were you fighting? Were there more?" Compel asked in a concerned voice.
Faith told her what had happened after she was left alone with the prisoners.
"You got us out just in time," Faith concluded.
Just then Linus Weir came in to the tavern.
"I heard some people were saved.... Prissine!" he cried, running over to hug the woman who had helped Faith get everyone to the shrine. "Oh, Prissine, you're alive. I've been so worried for you. I knew you didn't turn cultist. I tried to look for you..."
"I know you did," Prissine soothed him. "You are a good brother. I'm all right, now."
The mayor was standing near the bar, his arm around Arissa.
"We've got our people back, let's end this!" his voice was full of rage. The emotions of the entire village were heightened, fear and loss, relief and rage... they wanted to do something. Anything.
Holman Kyerrh had entered the tavern.
"We don't have all our people back," Holman reminded him. " I still need to rescue the Jorasco woman. And aren't you forgetting the dragon? I expect we'll be getting a visit from her as soon as they realize their hostages are missing."
"Which will be soon," Compel informed them. "The sahuagin already know. There were new sahuagin guards in the prison when I teleported the prisoners here."
"We'll fight the dragon!" insisted the mayor. "Continue the evacuation of women and children."
"Hey!" said Twila. "I'm not going anywhere."
"Yeah," quipped Thysmac. "Evacuate all of the children except for Twila."
"All the non-fighting women, that is," Storr corrected himself. "Any non-fighting personnel need to evacuate as planned. The rest of us are going to take back our home and stop living in fear!"
A cheer went up from the crowded tavern.
"Let us discuss strategy at the Union Hall," Garant the Wary intervened. "Masters, trainers and Korthos Guard, please assemble in the Union Hall in fifteen minutes. This tavern is still the safest place on the island, so please stay here if you do not need to be somewhere else. Do not return to your huts unless absolutely necessary and please do not wander around the village. Thank you."
Kal watched the town officials leave, then jerked his head toward the door and headed out; Twila and Faith followed him. Quickly, they went round the corner to the tiny hut shared by Malut and Thysmac and they crowded inside. Malut was sitting up, looking greenish but no longer heaving. Thysmac sat on the cot next to him and Ardan faced them on the other cot.
"So, you helped Holman rescue Arissa Storr?" Kalvenor asked, brow arched.
"Yes, and ten other villagers. They were in a prison on the other side of the island," Faith answered. "Malut, how are you?"
"Better," Malut grunted. "Thanks."
"Well, we've got a lead on Lars Heyton," Thysmac informed them.
Faith and Twila both looked surprised. "Really?"
"Really," Ardan answered. "There's an old manufactury of some type near the center of the island. Ursa was able to get in to it while scouting the other day, but the way was blocked past the first room and she heard sahuagin gathering outside, so she didn't have time to investigate. She thinks Heyton might be there. Thysmac and I checked it out earlier but there's too many sahuagin just outside the place for us to handle on our own. We need more people to help us get in there. Can you two help us? "
"Definitely," Faith answered without hesitation.
"I'm not going anywhere with Holman Kyerrh again, anyway," threw in Twila. "He's a real ogre."
"Aw, he's all right once you get to know him," said Kal. "He's not a bad guy to have on your side, as long as you aren't too sensitive. He can really tick people off but he knows what he's doing, usually."
"Kinda like you, Kal?" asked Thysmac.
"Heck, no!" Kal smirked. "I'm much more fun. And I can be quite charming when I decide I want to be."
"If you say so. And you're really modest, too!" Thysmac rolled his eyes and Kal reached over and swatted him on the head.
"We don't have much time," Kal was serious now. "We need to see if we can find Lars Heyton before the guards here make a suicide run at the dragon. Lars is the only one who can talk some sense into them."
"What's the plan?" asked Faith.
"Ursa is going to open the gate for us, we're going straight to the manufactury and we're going to search it. There are cultists and sahuagin still patrolling the island, so Thysmac is going to cast invisibility on us and we're going to sneak to the manufactury," Ardan answered. "The faster we get this done, the better."
They all agreed to meet at the gate in five minutes. Faith and Twila stopped back in the tavern to have their gear repaired. Dax Boon was working in a corner and quickly handled their minor repairs.
"You've done a great service to this village," he told them. "I'll take two coppers off your repairs."
"Wow, thanks," Twila said sarcastically.
"A man still has to make a living," he winked at her.
When they met at the gate, Ursa Jernsvard was looking worried.
"Maybe I was wrong, maybe I just wanted to see Lars Heyton out there," she murmured. "I don't want to be blamed for you going and getting yourself killed. It's not like you lot are very skilled yet..."
"Just open the gate, Ursa," Kal ordered. "We can handle ourselves."
Just then, the woman Compel had spoken with earlier walked up.
"Are these the adventurers, Ursa?" Dalsmira asked.
"Yes, ma'am," answered Ursa. "But I'm starting to have second thoughts, I don't know if they can get through the wilderness without getting themselves or you killed."
"Dalsamira, what are you doing here?" asked Kal.
"I'm going with you. I have urgent information for Lars, something that he needs to know to defeat the dragon," answered Dalsamira.
"Don't you think you've messed his life up enough?"
"We don't have time for this," snapped Dalsamira. "Are you coming with me or am I going alone?"
"If you get killed, it's not my fault," Ursa asserted as she looked around and seeing no one watching, swung the gate open for them. "And I didn't know anything about it. Ingram patrols the island about this time every day, so he won't be there to see you if you hurry. Good luck."
As the gate shut behind them, Thysmac pulled a stack of scrolls out of his bag. One by one he waved them over each person and they disappeared from sight.
"Follow me," Ardan whispered.
"How do I follow you? I can't see you!" Twila whispered back.
"Right," Ardan said. A stick rose up from the ground and hovered in the air. "Follow this stick."
The stick bobbed in the air about knee-level to a human. Faith watched it as she moved slowly along, not wanting to bump into anyone else. They walked along the side of well-beaten path; a cliff overlooked the ocean on the other side of the path. Ingram, the warforged gate guard, was coming up a path from the beach but did not notice them. The small stick bobbed along near the ground and they followed, stifling small grunts and gasps as they accidentally trod on each others' toes or bumped a shoulder here and there.
The path led over a small hill and between two boulders. A cultist was kneeling between the boulders, chanting quietly. A small rock lifted up off the ground, seemingly on it's own and sailed over the head of the cultist, landing with a clatter behind him and off to one side. The cultist jumped up to see what had made the noise and the small stick went bobbing along down the path. The invisible party followed. They passed a circle of cultists in a small clearing to their right who were chanting and mumbling. No one noticed them.
They continued on to a large plaza made of massive stones that had been expertly cut and smoothed. The stones were discolored with moss and algae in places, many were chipped and weathered. The structure looked ancient. To their right, large steps led up and around a waterfall that appeared to be part of the ancient aqueducts. They avoided a group of cultists and sahuagin that were grouped near the base of the waterfall with no problem.
As they climbed the stairs, the stick started waving wildly and headed into a corner of the landing. They followed, with some bumping and shuffling.
"We are near the entrance, we'll have to fight the sahuagin up here," Ardan whispered. "Your invisibility will wear off when you attack something, so be careful. Let's attack together and try to be as quiet as possible so that we don't attract more. When I drop the stick, attack. Got it?"
Everyone whispered a small assent. Slightly up the steps and to the right, a group of sahuagin were sitting in a pool of water at the top of the falls, talking.
"Heyton's got to be here somewhere," one of them said. "We'll be skinned if we don't find him!"
"Where else can we look?" whined another.
The stick went straight up in the air, then dropped to the ground. The adventurers attacked.
The sahuagin never saw them coming. Ardan's bow dropped the furthest sahuagin from them while Malut took out two of them with one back-and-forth swing. Faith pounded the last one who didn't even have time to call for help. As they turned towards an opening in the wall above the falls, Malut suddenly fell face forward into the water.
"You should work on your balance," laughed Thysmac quietly. He was still invisible and he had put out a foot to trip Malut.
"Thysmac!" hissed Twila. "You are going to attract more of them!"
"He needed a bath anyway."
"Hmnn, the water feels good," Malut rolled over on his back.
"Get inside of here, all of you," hissed Ardan who had already crawled through the round opening.
They found themselves inside of a large, open room where the stone floor changed to a heavy grid of steel. Many pillars held up the ceiling and each had a panel of lighted runes on it. They looked like control panels of some sort. A series of pipes ran from pillar to pillar, some spewing water through cracks, which drained through the grid. They walked across the grid, careful not to slip and get a foot twisted in the many openings in the floor. As they followed the wall around, the floor again was changed to stone and they came to a doorway that had been boarded up. Unlike the rest of the building, these boards looked new. Malut swung his greataxe and the boards splintered and fell away. They stepped through into a series of hallways.
As they rounded a corner, they saw a series of huge blades spanning the corridor ahead. The blades sliced up and down swiftly like a series of guillotines, each one on a slightly different timer. They barely had time to look around before they were attacked by a rusty robotic guard dog. The dog spewed slippery grease in front of him as he attacked.
Kal was closest to the dog and swung a heavy mace at it but the momentum carried him forward and he was soon sprawled on the floor, sliding as he fell. Thysmac managed to hit it with an electrical shock before he too slipped and fell. The dog fell over with a loud clank.
"Who needs balance?" Malut laughed now.
Twila had been looking from left to right in front of the blades, hoping to find a control box to shut them off. An arched stone door lit up slightly and she opened it. Inside there was only a valve. She stepped in and turned the valve until it would turn no more. The blades continued to slide up and down their tracks, whooshing dangerously.
"Well, that didn't help," Twila was disappointed.
"I think you turned off some of the poison traps over here," Faith pointed out. Down the passage to their left, nozzles were spraying a noxious green liquid but the ones closest to them had stopped spraying and now only had a trickle of the green liquid dripping from them.
They moved slowly down the hallway and Twila found another arched door that lit up slightly. She opened it and found a second valve, just like the first. Tightening it down stopped the remaining nozzles from spewing poison across the hallway. Just then a second robotic dog attacked them. Malut quickly dispatched it before it could spew more grease at them.
"Those things are annoying," said Thysmac, rubbing at some of the grease spots on his robe.
The passageway turned and led past the other side of the deadly blades.
"Go on ahead, I'm going to figure out how to disable these," Twila said, studying the blades.
"Be careful," Faith said.
They reached the end of the passageway and could see a shrine and a valve behind a wall of bars. To the left was a round wooden door. Ardan opened the door and they all passed through a low tube into a room humming with energy. Tracks of light ran in several pathways across the ceiling and down the walls. Huge metal parts that looked like giant arms and legs were lying around, covered in layers of dust. Old crates were stacked on each other, barely holding together. They hardly had time to look around before they were again attacked by a pair of rusty guard dogs. Malut was not fast enough this time and the entire party got greased this time.
When everyone was back on their feet and the dogs were dealt with, they moved forward. Ahead was a round opening for a tube just like the tube through which they had entered but this one was blocked by a force field that seemed to be generated by the lines of light coming down from the ceiling. A half wall blocked their view of the entire room, so they walked around it. On the other side of the wall they saw a strange contraption inside of a large steel cage. Three Cannith crystals spun side by side, each one being sprayed by an overhead jet that kept them covered in a thick mist. Ardan tried the gate to the enclosure, but it was locked with no key.
"I"d say we need to turn those jets off to break down that force field; we need to figure out a way in there," Ardan was looking high and low for a lever or valve of some sort that might open the door.
Thysmac opened the round wood door in the wall near the cage. "I think that shrine we saw was this way. I'm going to rest."
"Right! There is a valve in there. Let's try that!" Ardan was enthusiastic.
At the end of the tunnel was the room they had seen from the other passageway. Thysmac sat in front of the blue moon statue and Ardan tightened down the valve on the pipes nearby.
"That did it!" called Kal from the big room.
Ardan returned to the enclosure to see Malut taking a swipe at one of the crystals.
"Ow," he grunted as the mist redirected towards him. "That hurts."
He didn't appear to have damaged the crystal at all but the cold, hard mist had injured him slightly.
"Everyone help me, let's get all these valves tightened down," Ardan suggested.
A series of valves stuck out of the assortment of pipes that made up the machine. They each turned whatever valves they could find and finally the jets did stop spraying.
"Did that do it? Is the force field down?" Ardan wondered.
"No, everything is still lit up," Faith pointed out, indicating the power lines that ran up from the device and across the ceiling.
"I think we need to destroy these crystals," said Kalvenor.
"I hate to do that, I know the villagers need these crystals. Do you think you can remove them, Malut? Maybe we can take them back."
Malut reached out to touch the crystal and it broke.
"Too fragile," he said.
"I'll try," offered Faith but the second crystal shattered at her touch as well.
Kal swung his mace at the third one. With a shudder, the power went off and the room dimmed. "That worked," he said.
They met up with Twila just as they were about to enter the tunnel that had been blocked.
"I got them," she said triumphantly. "I wasn't looking in the right places for the boxes at first."
Ardan held up a finger to shush her. They walked as quietly as they could down the tube; they could hear voices at the other end.
"Amalgam! What happened to the power?"
"I don't know. I will go find out."
They faced a small gold warforged wearing a silver docent. They were in a room lined with bookcases. Beyond that was a deep well covered by a force field. On the other side of the well was a room that looked like an office converted to a living area and standing behind the desk was a white-haired human man.
"I think I have found the problem," the warforged said.
"Who in the Flame are you!" Lars Heyton asked.