Glaceus 12, 603 AR
The recovery from Alexia’s undead invasion of the city still linger, and likely will for several weeks. Rebuilding much of the damage will take months, at least. The stories and rumors will take even longer to fade.
A couple of days after their excursion into the hard, bloody criminal underworld of Corvis, Father Dumas asks the party to join him in the cathedral library. “My friends,” he says, “I cannot thank you enough for all your help in our recent… trying times. Please, be seated.”
It’s obvious from his drawn features that, despite the long hours he’s been putting in with the work around the cathedral and the city, he’s been working privately on something in his off hours. “First, I must apologize to you all, for doubting the evidence you presented. I was blinded by my care for the Alexia, and could not believe her capable of such… atrocity. I now know that witnessing the execution of her mother seriously damaged her, and that she never truly recovered from that horrific experience. It is my fault, and I will atone for my failure. I wish I could say that it is over, but I’m afraid I must ask for your help again. I’ve learned where my errant niece is off to next, and someone must try and stop her. I hope I can count on you.”
The Prelate pauses and looks directly at each of the team. “My research into her recent studies and extensive divinations lead me to believe that Alexia is on her way to a hidden temple of Cyriss. The church has long believed there was a haven for this cult northeast of Corvis, although we have never known its location. You’ll need to find the temple, try to beat Alexia there, and stop her. In my divinations the dark sword she holds shows as a dire omen. I think she plans some unholy ritual. We can’t leave it in her hands. Recover that blade, but be wary of it; it may be cursed. Recovery of the sword is our first priority. I’m not sure what can be done about my niece. She has done terrible things, but I have to believe she is not beyond redemption. If you can return with her, please try, but I would sooner see her escape – without the sword – than be harmed.”
The conversation reveals several clues to the party:
• Cyriss is known as the Clockwork Goddess. Her worship is a relatively new phenomenon within the last 300 years.
• The Church of Morrow has an ambivalent relationship with the Cult of Cyriss, and is uncertain of their intent. Most worshippers of Cyriss are normal and decent (if misguided) people, drawn to engineering, mathematics, and similar sciences.
• Given the cult’s secretive nature, there are rumors of a darker aspect to the Cult, including: they build their temples in secret, away from prying eyes. The temples are actually some kind of giant machine. The machinery in the temple can bring the dead back to life (a forbidden practice), but Dumas thinks this is why Alexia is trying to find the temple.
• Father Dumas is strongly against the idea of Lexaria being returned to life. He believes this is impossible, and that Alexia will only succeed in creating some unliving abomination, similar to the other coveners she has raised. It is best to let the dead rest – only the highest priests at the Sancteum in Caspia have the wisdom to determine who is worthy of the miracle of resurrection.
• Unfortunately, Father Dumas has been unsuccessful in finding any information regarding the sword. Neither the cathedral or University libraries have any references to the weapon, but he suspects that Alexia may have stolen the relevant passages, as a couple of books were discovered to have had pages torn out of them. Where these pages are is unknown, they were not in the papers the team found in her hideout under the church cemetery.
The day is spent scouring the city for rumors, cultists, any information at all regarding the religion of the Maiden of Gears and her mysterious temple in the swamps northeast of Corvis. Many false paths keep them beating feet, but eventually their efforts pay off. Stringer encounters a one-handed dwarf who claims to have heard of a man who fled when his companions entered the temple, 13 years before. He informs Stringer that the doors are a clockwork, opening only under certain conditions, which are due again soon. The team only has three days to find the temple and gain entry!
Fynn is able to track down a ragged beggar named Madrin, who claims to have been a former adventurer and watchman. Madrin demands to be paid, but once paid claims to have been to the temple thirteen years ago. When his party arrived and prepared to enter, he lost his nerve and fled. His companions ostensibly continued on, but they never returned according to Madrin. He has since been out of luck, and living out of a bottle. He believes that trip to the temple cursed his life, and the gods forsook him. The Watch takes pity on him since he used to be one of their own, and Fynn encourages him to put his faith in Markus, return to the Watch, that Sargent Arn and Captain Helstrom would help him. Despite his fear of the temple, Madrin describes the route to the temple, as if reliving a nightmare: 5 leagues north on the Black, 20 east through the bayou, one league south from the second lake.
Now that they knew where to go, with the day waning they needed to find a boat and a crew capable of making the trip in the time they had left. After asking around at the docks and striking out with several boats, (including the dwarven crew of the Old Stonesides, who become greatly offended at the implication that dwarves can’t sail and point out that Rhul boasts the largest inland sea in Western Immoren) Captain Edden of the steamship Comet refuses to cancel the charter he has booked for the morning (a man of principle and honest business ethics) but directs them to his friend Squint, and the good ship Fortune, a couple of slips down. Edden warns them that Squint can be a bit surly, but no-one knows the bayou better.
The Fortune is an old but sturdy single-boiler steamship, 50 feet bow to stern, 29 foot beam across the twin outboard side paddlewheels. Her captain and owner is a rough Morridane known as Squint (not his real name, judging from his eyes). She’s crewed by the brothers Killian and Anouar, Midlunders by the look of them. After learning where they’re headed, and the timeframe they wish to travel in, Squint agrees to the charter, but warns them that he will not sail at night. Period. No negotiation, bribe, or pay bonus will change his mind. “Bayou’s dangerous enough,” he says. “Best I can do is dawn to dusk, but barring complications, I can get you your 25 leagues in two days. We sail at first light. That means at first light, not sunup, not dawn. Riverfolk start early, like farmers. You look like you know what that means. Don’t be late. No refunds if we cast off late waiting for you, and you don’t make your appointment.”
A charter rate of 2gp/day for each passenger, and a fuel surcharge of 5 sp a day is reached. The team has a boat to pursue Alexia with. Further inquiries about the docks doesn’t reveal anything about a girl matching Alexia’s description hiring a boat, but it is noted that the Principia, a small steamboat, is missing from her slip and failed to make a passenger charter that morning. If Alexia took the Principia , she has at least a day’s head start.