The day passed individually, separated as they were across the wide spaces of Faran’s Outpost.  In retrospect, that was not perhaps the safest or wisest thing they had done in the last days. Investigation Day

At the Winter Wolf, Burl intercepted the regathering group. The Mayor was calling for the Witch Hunters. It seemed his wife, Aphorisia, had been missing all day, and there was something else he was disturbed about. The Hound pushed past the Mayor’s son and burst into the house.

Inside Aphorisia’s art room, they found Gavin. The room was trashed. And every surface – ceiling, floor, walls, windows, was painted with various versions of a stylized Eye of one of the Ancient Light-bearers. But Gavin was not there. Something else was. They tried to interrupt him in his contemplation of the eye, tried to wake him. He resisted.

At last, Illyria stepped forward, exerting her power to cleanse his system of infection (he was immune to infection), of toxins (he was immune to toxins). Just before the green cloak under his skin cleared, he turned to her, and said, in thickly accented ancient elven, “If they perish, it is on your head.”

Night had fallen outside. They went into the Mayor’s bedroom, locking the Mayor out. They found Aphorisia’s scent. Gavin talked about the corrupted innocents, that Aphorisia was one. Illyria found a note written in silver ink dedicating herself to some quest or goal.

They crossed the city as the rain began. They spoke little of what had passed during the day.

They arrived at the Jeweler’s shop. It had been carefully evacutated, its many little rooms.

The Hound ripped up the floor. Illyria went in, looking around. The private area in the back, the floor seemed… strange. Oddly clean in one area. Gavin entered, used some pigments stolen from the Prospectors and drew the Eye. Illyria knelt and placed her hand upon it as in the outer rooms, Alain examined the place where bookcases once were. Illyria started, pulled her hand back. The Hound, concerned, whined nearby. Illyria knotted her fine and perfect brows. “It’s feeling back,” she whispered, in Elvish.

“Open it,” exhorted Gavin.

She did.

The back left quarter of floor yawned suddenly open. A darkness below. A set of stairs.

Horse hoofs beating on the road. Burl ran inside, on orders. He reported to Alain. “We found the Smith’s wife. She’s at home, in Labor. We also found Orissen, the Monk’s protege. Someone beat the crap out of him. He’s in the back room at the Winter Wolf.”

They split their party, leaving the gate into the pale darkness like a line underscoring Faran’s outpost.

Illyria and Alain headed for the Winter Wolf. Burl led them to the back room. On top of a sack of oats, they found the young Novitiate, cut, beaten. Illyria ran her power through him. He recounted his story of running into the two male prospectors – the elf and the man – on his road back to Faran’s outpost.

He found them doing something to the smell of searing flesh around a fire under an overhang of rock. They saw him. One of them hurled a ball of fire at him, and he survived by flinging himself into a muddy pool. The other pursued him, catching him, beating him bodily. He surprised the Prospector with a burst of his newly-acquired gift of Light. He ran. He arrived in the city. He came to the Winter Wolf.

Illyria healed him with a laying on of her cool hands. The cut on his belly healed. He grabbed Alain, begging him to make sure Claret was safe, wondering what was happening in the city. The Light burned through Alain, healing wounds he had suffered the day before. The Light did not work on the light wielder, Orissen shamefully admitted. They left him there, on the oats. Burl would go out beyond the city. He would find this camp. He would report back. If he survived. Illyria and Alain mounted horses and headed out into the rain.

The Hound and the Witch Hunter arrived in the Smithy. They went upstairs to where the Smithwife was in labor. She was wailing. The midwife was gone, procuring something. The Witch Hunter held her hand. “It’s killing me!” she shouted.

“What dark power have you promised this child to!?” demanded the Witch Hunter, eyes burning.

“I = ” she cried. And then she burst. There was no child of Durn the smith inside of her.  It had the head of a sea-hunter, ringed with eyes. It had tentacles. So many tentacles. It tried to strangle and crush and devour and dissolve them. Its blood was grey and stung slightly and dissolved flesh.

They cut and crushed and slashed and drooled and finallywhen the great eyes of the thing burned and it descnded with its circle of teeth, the Hound back up along the birthing bed and inhaled, exhaled the corrosive essence of fire and shadow. The thing birthed from the dissolving woman, the thing of tentacles and eyes, it burned and then it burst. The blood on the walls was joined by grey explosive shadow.

The Smith at some point had come back with boiling water. The grey goo had taken his eyes. He dropped the pot of boiling water. Burned himself. Fell backward down the stairs.

Alain and Illyria arrived as the Hound and the Hunter rubbed themselves with mud and rainwater. As if the Light, even in the darkness, had contrived some way to help. A small fire had started in the smithy.

“It came out of her, all… ” Gavin waved his arms like tentacles. Illyria nodded. She examined the gluey remnants of the Smith and his wife.

They marched off in the rain, letting the smithy burn. Lightning crashed in the distance.