Last week on the Tuesday game...
Just as they are about to step through the portal Titania created for them, Squibbles appears at the fringe of Winter and, yelling that Fenrir still owes him a debt, tackles the ranger to the ground. Helpless as the magic of the portal draw the rest of the party inexorably home, they watch as Fenrir desperately attempt to drive Squibbles back; and yet, despite the goblin's obvious lack of martial skill or strength, the elf seems unable to fend the goblin off. The last thing they see of their companion is Fenrir - eyes wide with desperate fear - being dragged off into the snow outside the path of the Feywild.
When the snow clears, the party find themselves about two days ride from the gates of Yus, capital city of Yaniel. With the weather being too cold even for bandits to show themselves, the road ahead of them was clear, and they hurry into the first tavern they see without further incident. There, Serrano introduces himself as a member of the Road from Wethorp and asks if the innkeeper can help them find someone by the name of Bernard the Mouth, but the innkeeper shakes his head regretfully... all the while making a gesture in Road cant that indicates that it is not safe to talk.
Mere minutes after the party retreat to their rooms to rest, the innkeeper knocks on their doors. Explaining that he too used to be from the Road (who sent him to Yus to keep an eye on the city), he explains that the gang that Bernard used to run with, the Knives, was recently "violently disbanded" by another gang. Last he heard, Bernard was badly injured in a turf war, but his friends managed to drag him to the infirmary in the temple of Cimayi; if the party really want to look for Bernard, perhaps they could start there?
Gabriel is slightly confused by all of this: who exactly is this Bernard, and why is the party so interested in finding him? Serrano explains that Bernard the Mouth (no relation to Bernard the Nose) is the apprentice of Dimplebottom, and that the last time they met with the gnome, he told them to seek out Bernard in Yaniel if they wanted to find out more about Blackwall.
The temple turns out to be located a short distance away from the city centre, beyond the wall, and a large crowd of people have gathered outside the temple, each and every one of them begging for food. The party push through them with some difficulty, and when an attending priest opens the door for Gabriel, the crowd surges, threatening a mad rush into the temple. Using the oratory skills he had honed as the Masked Singer, Serrano drives the crowd back with a few choice words, and in the sudden lull the party slip through.
The priest introduces herself as Sister Miriam and says that the crowd have been gathered outside ever since Sister Abigail, moved by their pleas, prayed and conjured up some food for them a few days back. Although she dearly wishes she can do more, the magic takes a great deal out of her, and as things stand now, she can barely keep everybody in the temple and infirmary fed, let alone feed those outside as well.
With the permission of Sister Miriam, the party make their way to the infirmary where they meet a heavily-muscled man whose orcish tattoos proclaim him to be Thorgrim Giantslayer. Armed with a large two-handed silver waraxe that has neither sheathe nor oil, Thorgrim appears to be responsible for guarding the room that Bernard is currently housed in.
The party make their way into the darkened room, and the first thing Serrano and Lia (both of them being the only ones who can see in the dark) notice is that Bernard's arms and legs are completely tied up, and that the rope is further secured to an iron ring on the wall. The second thing they notice is that Bernard is being held within a circle drawn on the ground with silver and iron.
Popping back out for a moment, Serrano asks Sister Miriam why Bernard is tied up so, and Thorgrim tells them that the last time he broke free of his cell, he managed to claw out the eyes of another inmate and eat them before the orderlies tore them apart. With a thoughtful look on his face, Serrano nods his thanks and returns to the cell, where Bernard is quietly rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet.
When Serrano questions Bernard about Blackwall, he remains coy and insists that he can only help the party if he is freed from this cell. Serrano refuses to do that without something to prove that Bernard knows anything at all, and the madman tells the rogue that Blackwall is currently hiding from him because "something else is currently hunting you".
At this point, Alistair and Gabriel - despite not being able to see anything in the darkened room - interject. "Wait, we're not freeing him, are we?", Gabriel says. "Didn't you hear what Thorgrim said out there? He tore out and ate another man's eyes! We're not letting this lunatic out!" Serrano makes a non-committal sort of noise, and as they are about to leave the room, the rogue tries to secretly rub away a portion of the silver-iron circle. Unfortunately for him, Lia catches him doing that, and she immediately summons Sister Miriam to check if the circle remains intact.
Outside the cell, the party question Sister Miriam about how Bernard came to be in this state in the first place, and the priest says that she does not know; when he was first brought to the infirmary, he was on the verge of death, but even then he was already raving and rambling. And although his physical wounds healed in time, he remains strangely touched in the head even till this day.
"Could it be demonic possession?," Serrano asks, but Sister Miriam shakes her head: Sister Abigail had examined him a while back and proclaimed him free of any sort of demonic influence. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Bernard that they can find, but given that he remains a threat to himself and the rest of the community, they have no choice but to keep him locked up in the infirmary.
As they are about to exit the temple, Sister Miriam pulls Gabriel aside and tells him that "the prophet" is slated to speak to their mystery tonight: would he care to join them and listen to what he has to say? Gabriel replies that he would be delighted to, and they take their leave of each other.
Night falls, and Gabriel returns to hear what this prophet has to say. Calling himself Rasinth, the prophet speaks of glory and ambition, of a return to greatness and of the mystery's rightful authority. His words are strangely compelling, and although Gabriel cannot remember exactly what the prophet said, he leaves the temple feeling joyous and exuberant.
In the morning, Lia discovers that Gabriel is nowhere to be found. Rousing the others, the party head towards the temple, where they find a set of footprints leading towards a stone circle about a half-hour away from the city. Serrano finds the trapdoor hidden beneath the fake grass in the middle of the circle, and they clamber 30ft down into the musty darkness beneath the earth.
The party's arrival interrupts Rasinth's ritual of human sacrifice upon Cimayi's altar, and the false prophet demands that his followers - Gabriel included - attack the intruders. Although most of the party take care to not kill the initiates, Serrano is not quite so prudent: Sister Miriam is the first one to fall to Bloodspine's lust for carnage, and he would have taken more innocent lives if the tides did not start turning against him, forcing him and the rest of the party to flee.
In the ensuing battle, Gabriel manages to shake off the compulsion that so affected his mind and senses and, realising the truth of what has happened, flees with the rest of the party to avoid having to kill the other initiates of his mystery. As they exit the ritual hall, the cleric pleads with the rest of the party to turn back and rescue his fellow initiates from sure death, but with Serrano and Lia both severely wounded, they are reluctant. "We'll return with reinforcements from the temple," they promise Gabriel.
Unfortunately, the temple lacked reinforcements of any sort. Only Thorgrim has remained behind to look after the patients, and he refuses to abandon his charges to follow the party: "all life is sacred, and while I love my friends, I cannot in good faith leave my patients behind to die!". As the party plead and argue, Serrano holds the door open long enough to let a dozen peasants into the temple and, in the ensuing chaos, try to make his way to Bernard's cell.
Thankfully, Lia spots him and, brandishing Kinslayer, fires two arrows at the rogue. The first he parries with his cutlass, but the second flies true and strikes Serrano in the legs, causing him to collapse several feet from the cell door. When Gabriel and Thorgrim return, they find rope enough to secure the stubborn half-elf and hogtie him hand and foot. Lia volunteers to watch over Serrano, to make sure that he does not try anything again, and Gabriel and Alistair make their way back to the stone circle as quickly as they can.
But it was too late: even from outside the trapdoor, they could smell the blood and death that await them inside the ritual hall. On the walls, right behind the altar where the initiates were sacrificed to their own goddess, the party see a large cursive 'B' that perfectly match the ones on the signet rings that Alistair is carrying.
The corpses were piled into a large heap next to the altar. Upon further examination, Alistair notices that someone had gone to the trouble of drawing a magic circle of some kind around the corpse. He recognises the language as being the same one that his variant Fireball employs but, annoyingly, even with the aid of a Comprehend Languages spell, the words remain absolute gibberish; comprehension remains but an infinite inch away, aching and tantalising, and Alistair throws his hands up in frustration.
With nothing else to do, Gabriel and Alistair begin the slow and bloody process of carrying the corpses back up to the surface, that they may at least give the initiates a proper burial. With the aid of Tenser's Floating Disc, the duo make their way back, and the crowd outside the temple - stunned into silence by the gory sight before them - part respectfully to let them through.
Aided by Gabriel and witnessed by the solemn crowd, Thorgrim holds a quiet funeral for his fellow brothers and sisters. There was little else that needed to be said: there was little else that could be said. They were innocents, caught up in the scheme of some madman in the pursuit of some diabolical scheme. They did not deserve to die. But they were dead. They were dead, and in some way, that's all that really could be said.