In the Business of Corruption

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The day starts off with Auric, Criòs, and Wander finding their way to the notice board in the town square. With no new postings, the party pulls the notice from the infirmary down to take with them. Criòs and Wander, though, remember that they have a tab to settle with the inn regarding the use of their still, so they leave Auric to find out the details of the task at hand. 

Auric makes his way to the infirmary, where he meets Chardis, the local doctor. Chardis, a nervous and twitchy Dwarf, is caught off guard as Auric enters the building. “Oh dear, what can I do for you? It must be bad if I can’t see what’s wrong.”

“Oh no, I’m just here about the notification you posted on the notice board in the center of town. Something about investigating a disease?” Auric replied curtly.

“Oh good, you had me worried there for a moment.” Chardis replied, visibly relieved. “Well, you see, it’s not so much a disease. Or at least not anything like any disease I’ve seen. I would like to think that I know my way around diseases, but this just doesn’t seem to be one. The man was left on the doorstep of the infirmary the other day, and has been mumbling in and out of consciousness. He seems healthy but his mind is a bit damaged I believe. He’s in the back if you’d like to see him.”

With a nod from Auric, Chardis quickly leads him into the back of the building to the patient area. Skittishly, Chardis motioned towards a drawn curtain and said, “Uh, he’s back there. I’d come with you but, uh, I’ve got some things to take care of. His name is Grehm, just so you know. You won’t likely even get that much out of him though.” Auric steps out of the way as the dwarf scurries past him back towards the front of the infirmary. 

Meanwhile, back at the inn, Criòs and Wander had collected their earnings from the week and were enjoying a drink while waiting for Auric to finish up at the infirmary as a new, beautiful barmaid walked past their table. With a glance brimming with nothing but the fiercest competition, both the elf and the cleric begin chugging their drinks to finish first. As was the unspoken rule between them, Wander got the first shot at the fresh face as he finished his drink first. Criòs just sat back and dipped at the remainder of his drink as Wander moved to the girl and began slinging his charm and displaying his acrobatic prowess. Visibly impressed, the girl giggles as Wander balances himself on a upright broomstick, which triggers Criòs to action. 

Stepping over to the girl, he leans in close, catching her off-guard and causing a bit of frustration. However, with a few words, the girl’s look shifts from anger to intrigue to excitement as she grabs Criòs’ hand and pulls him frantically toward the stairs to the rooms. With a smirk, Criòs disappears up the stairs as Wander makes his way back to the table, sullen from the defeat. 

Back at the infirmary, Auric approaches the curtain that Chardis pointed him towards. Grunts and strained breathing issue forth as he approaches, which are accompanied by a grotesquely grey-skinned man tied by leather restraints to his bed. Upon entering, he thrashes once more before locking bloodshot eyes on Auric. 

“Grehm, my name is Auric, and I’m here to help you out. Can you tell me about what’s going on?” Auric says softly, attempting to calm the afflicted man. “Grrrh…urg…I just need another infusion…” strains Grehm through bared teeth. 

Auric asks, “An infusion? Infusion of what?” Grehm hisses at him and replies, “I would even take an unrefined one…I just need something…” Pausing for a moment, Auric starts examining Grehm for diseases or poisons, but after a fruitless hour of examination and fighting against the resistance that Grehm put up, Auric is unable to recognize the contaminant in Grehm. In frustration, Auric asks “Well, Grehm, can you tell me what an infusion is so I can get you some?” 

Eyes darting around the room, Grehm spots the glimmer of the moonstone fitted into the hilt of Auric’s glaive. “There…That…grr.” Auric realizes the intent behind the comment and asks, “Well where can I get you another infusion?”

“Argh…down a few miles from the gate…mmmmmmrh…there’s a cave. Tell them I need another infusion.” 

With this last statement, Grehm begins seizing and falls unconscious. Auric heads back to the front of the infirmary, where Chardis is startled by Auric’s return as if he had forgotten that he was ever there. “Oh. Did you manage to get anything out of him?” Chardis inquires. “I did, it’s not an actual disease, but rather some kind of infusion of mana stones. He told me where he gets them, so I’m going to go get my friends and go investigate a bit more.” Surprised, Chardis replies, “Oh? Well that makes me fell better about my…uh…skills as a medic. Let me know if you need anything I guess.” 

About the same time that Auric finds his way into the inn, a disheveled Criòs makes his way back down the stairs, reuniting the party. Auric relays the details of the events in the infirmary and, to Wander’s distaste, Criòs recalls the details of his excursion as well. The group decides that, even with the sun setting, they should head out immediately. As they approach the gates though, Auric hears Chardis calling out to him. “Here, before you go, take these three healing potions.  I figured you might, uh, need them.” The party graciously accepts and heads out to find the cave. 

Lead by a very confident Auric, the party searches for the cave for hours before Auric realizes he has completely led the group the wrong way. Late into the night, the party starts making their way back, getting lost severs, times along the way. By the time they reach the cave, beams of light are peaking out over the Orthoclast Parapets. Auric leads the group into the cave, following a winding path down into the cold earth until the party finds themselves in a large cave with small beams of the morning light making their way through small cracks in the ceiling. The party looks around and sees nine people in the room in varying states of health; two are unconscious, three are having panic attacks and seizures in the corners, and four others walk aimlessly about the room, muttering softly to themselves. 

Criòs immediately attempts to hide himself in the shadows while Wander runs forward into the room. The rough ground, however, trips him up and he ends up catching himself on one of the ambling men in the room. Rolling with the action, he shifts his stumbling attempt to catch himself into a warm embrace of the shocked man, whispering softly to him.

“Everything is going to be ok. I’ll take care of you.”

With a burst of tears, the man snaps out of his surprise and embraces Wander tightly. “Thank you, that is exactly what I needed to hear. You won’t regret this kindness you’ve shown me.” The scene is so poignant that everyone stops and looks, a common warmth flowing into each heart in the room. While hidden, Criòs even sheds a single tear when he knows no one is looking. At the point where the tear splashes, a small rose begins to grow, unbeknownst to anyone present. 

After this moving display, Auric walks over to another lucid man and says “Hey, Grehm needs another infusion.” The man looks up and responds, “Tell him to come get his own. But I can give you one if you want.” Auric hesitantly agrees, to which the man says, “Hold out your arm.”

Auric recoils at the request, no longer willing to partake. But Wander manages to jump in and tell the man, “Give it to me then!” with his arm outstretched. The man shrugs and produces a large syringe and jams it into Wander’s arm before hammering down on the plunger. Some unknown substance then flowed into Wander’s as he becomes invigorated by the substance. As the newly energized Wander decides to rush the wooden door at the far end of the room, both Criòs and Auric notice that there’s now a faint green glow growing around Wander. Shrugging, they follow their companion towards the door.

Without hesitation, Wander slams straight into the wooden door in an effort to break it down. However, the door is more resilient than he estimated, and while he manages to breach through, the impact staggers him and he tumbles forward into the room, landing finally in a seated position. Recovering from the shock, the other two join Wander in the room, which they see to be an intricately carved out office within the cave. A massive fireplace roars with a billowing flame behind the desk of a seated man sporting a look of confusion at the intrusion while still maintaining his posture of writing something on his desk. The man at the desk was dressed in merchant garb with a clawed and red paw embroidered onto the left chest of his tunic and a hat with a distinct red feather, and after a moment of awkward silence, the man whistles, calling forth four men from doors on the sides of the room. 

“Well, that was a bit unnecessary, but who can expect any better from couriers from the Hadrin brothers.” the man says. “Now listen, I know there’s a shipment due, but you three need to tell your boss that things are going to be a bit late this time around. There’s been some delays.”

Auric casts a brief look to the other two. “Yeah, we can tell them that. Do you know when the next shipment will be ready?” With a bit of delay, Wander adds “Yeah we’re basically best friends with them.”

The man looks suspicious at this comment and nods to his four men around his desk. Each man slowly moves a hand behind their backs. “Oh really? I’m sorry, I haven’t gotten your names yet. And pardon me for not introducing myself to new faces. I’m Devlin.”

With this, Criòs begins setting himself up in the doorway while reaching for his bow. Auric responds curtly, “Just ignore him, he’s new and doesn’t know his place.” Wander smiles and shrugs his shoulders. “My name is Auric, the seated man is Wander, and the elf by the door is Criòs.” Looking to Wander, he continues “We’re not actually best friends with the Hadrin brothers, right?”

“No, of course we are!” Wander replies. A feeling of danger settles into the room as Devlin asks Wander, “What are their names then?”

After a moment of thinking, eyes turned skyward, Wander locks eyes with Devlin, smiles coyly and shrugs again. At this moment, Criòs looses an arrow at one of the guards as Wander jumps to his feet, then onto the desk. With a grand flourish, he utters an encantation and drives his rapier into the table. A thundous boom erupts from the desk, sending papers flying along with syringes that each of the guards were reaching for. Three of the guards are flung to the walls of the room and knocked to the ground while Devlin stumbles a few feet backwards toward the fireplace. The sonic blast catches Criòs off-guard, causing his ears to ring badly enough to blur out other sounds. 

Auric then rushes over to one of the men prone on the ground, heaving his glaive down on him. As the blade cuts through the sir, it glows with a brilliant intensity which bursts forth upon impact. The man has hardly a chance to scream before Auric follows through with a blow from the hilt of his glaive, collapsing his skull inward and ending the guard’s life. 

Still dazed from the thunderclap, Criòs takes aim at the one standing guard and fires, but misses just barely over the shoulder of the man. With this, the same guard begins charging toward Criòs, but the motion alerts Auric to danger and he reels around and catches the guard in the chest with his glaive. Angered by this, he changes target to Auric and swings a shortsword at Auric, but the blow only glances off his armor. Meanwhile, the two remaining guards get to their feet and run to the corners, grabbing the syringes and immediately injecting themselves with them. A bright red glow issues forth from both men and a billowing flame of fury builds in their eyes.

Auric squares himself to the man who just swung at him and brings his blade around, connecting with a solid hit against the guards side. The blow winds the bandit, causing him to drop to his knees. Auric then swings his weapon around to follow through with the hilt of his glaive but catches the blade against the ground, forcing him to drop his weapon.  

While this is occurring, Wander leaps from the desk at Devlin with his rapid extended. He scores a deep hit into Devlin’s abdomen, piercing deep enough to start some deep bleeding. While piercing his foe, Wander lands feet first against Devlin and pushes off in a backflip that sends Devlin into the fireplace. While midair, Wander draws a bead on Devlin and fires a bolt as he lands his feet square back on the desk where he started. The bolt lodges squarely in the center of Devlin’s chest with great force.

With an enraged yell, Devlin jumps out of the fire and pats his clothes down briefly before drawing his scimitar and boot knife. He then lashes out at Wander, missing his first blow but catching Wander off-guard for his second scimitar cut followed by a lunge wih the boot knife that connects against Wander’s armor, piecing slightly through it. 

Criòs, determined not to miss a second time, levels his bow against the guard on his knees. With the reverb of the recoiling bow, his arrow pierces the neck of the injured guard and fells him. However, while this is happening, Criòs is jumped by one of the men in the previous room who injects him with one of the syringes. The material now flowing in his veins, Criòs feels slightly nauseous but otherwise unchanged as a sickly blue glow begins softly shining around him. 

With their comrade fallen, the two remaining guards roar and charge, one at Auric and the other at Criòs. Still disarmed, Auric attempts to brace himself against the blow, but the bandit hits with more force than he expected. The sword strike breaks Auric’s guard and cuts him badly, knocking him to the ground. The other guard raises his sword while charging but misjudged the distance to Criòs and swings too early, missing his target. 

Auric, staggered a bit by the blow, slowly stands up, muttering under his breath. The guard takes this to be a sign of weakness and lowers his guard a bit. What he failed to notice was the glaive now in Auric’s hands again and the growing glow of a white flame along the blade. Auric’s muttering becomes more clear and he hoists his weapon high and come down with a furious blow. The blade emits a blinding flash, and when the light in the room returns to normal, the only remnant of the guard is the charred shadow on the stone floor. 

Wander, reeling from the flurry of strikes, composes himself and strikes Devlin again, piercing him deeply in the shoulder, loosing another torrent of blood from the bandit captain. 

With this blow, Devlin raises his hand and says weakly, “Can we just, like, stop for a second and discuss things? Everything just escalated real fast and I think we can come to an agreement that satisfies both parties here.”

“Drop your weapons and we’ll consider talking to you.” Wander says sternly as he points his rapier at Devlin’s throat and his crossbow at Devlin’s knee. 

“If someone will come patch me up, I’ll agree to that. Otherwise I won’t be much use to you guys here very shortly.” Devlin replies, his eyelids starting to droop more and more.

The three look at each other and nod in agreement, so Auric walks over and starts patching up Devlin as Auric begins interrogating him. Criòs begins tying up the remaining guard. 

“So tell me about the Hadrin brothers. Should we know anything about their strengths or possible weaknesses?” Wander asks, maintaining his aim with his crossbow. 

“Well,” Devlin starts, searching for a starting place, “no one knows their real names. But there’s three of them: The Butcher, The Baker, and The Candlestickmaker. They’re the most imposing men I know, and they tend to keep to themselves and just manage the clan. Th Butcher is known for his brutal handling of external relations and his two huge cleavers he carries with him. The Baker is in charge of production within the clan, and only seems to wear some special gloves. As for the Candlestickmaker, no one knows what he does, just that he’s very greasy-looking and hides in his workshop. People just try to avoid him typically.”

Decently appeased with this answer, Wander prods further, both in question and with his crossbow. “How about you draw us a map and let us know any other information we might need, like passwords?”

Devlin grabbed one of the scattered papers and begins scribbling out a crude map. “It’d be easier to show you myself but if you insist I’ll give you a map.” Pausing briefly, he adds, “Just tell them I sent you, that should get you in.”

As he finishes, Criòs approaches Devlin and says, “Of course you know we must take you to the authorities now. You’re not doing the most legal of activities.”

At this, Devlin’s face flushes, he reaches slowly for a sword but winces from the pain of his severe wounds. Desperation flashes across his face, and Criòs and Wander only catch a glimpse of the morbid resolve that relaxes Devlin’s face as he slams his hand down on his hip, shattering a glass flask on his hip that engulfs him in a bright, searing flame. The immolated body falls back into the roaring fireplace, sending forth a shower of cinders into the room.

Shocked, the party stands there watching the body turn to ash.  After a brief moment, Auric moves to the other guard and asks him, “Do you know where the infusions are stored?”

The guard begrudgingly nods towards one of the doors that all the guards issued forth from before the battle. Auric makes his way into the back room and finds  a large stash of infusions along with a lockbox. After grabbing the lockbox, Auric whispers a prayer that lights the blade of his glade with a holy fire. With one fell swoop, the glaive destroys the stash of infusions, vaporizing the materials within. Before he can react, Auric inhales some of the mist, which makes him feel more powerful than before. 

While this is going on, Criòs and Wander stand at the fireplace, pondering the events that just occurred. The guards, while the two rogues are distracted, manages to free himself and reach for a flask on his hip. With a roar, the guard rushes the two, smashing the vial against his chest which explodes in a violent fireball, burning and knocking the two rogues to the ground. 

Auric returns to the front room, curios of what cause the explosion. Seeing the mess, he helps bandage the two other party members while they recover their senses. After patching the others up, Auric takes a moment to draw upon his divine senses as a paladin to see if there’s anything amiss in the room. At first, he can’t detect anything over the myriad of elements around the room, but as he focuses more, he picks up the signs of something tainted with some malificent touch. He makes his way to the fireplace and determines the source is from the back wall of the fireplace. Using his mage hand, he moves the firewood and charred remains from the rieplace and scatters them so they don’t set the room ablaze. 

The three look at the back of the fireplace and find a circle of sygaldry written in a script that none of the party recognizes. After pondering the writing for a moment, Criòs snatches up a piece of blank paper from the room and a chunk of charcoal from the scattered firewood and makes a charcoal rubbing of the sygaldry in the paper. He then folds up the paper, pockets it, and the three decide to head back into town. Returning to the antechamber, the party finds the cavern vacant. With a shrug, Auric leads the party back out of the caves.

Upon returning to Brightstone, the party returns to Chardis to discuss the results of their investigation. After describing the events as they occurred, the doctor sighs in relief. “Well, at least it wasn’t something I should have recognized. Uhh, as long as it’s not something that will trace back to me. I mean…at least we know what we’re dealing with.” With that, Chardis excuses himself quickly to the back room of the infirmary and the party returns to their room at the inn. 

Upon searching the lockbox, the lot find a sum of money and a pair of golden bracers, which Wander claims due to his affinity for shiny things. 

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