Two weeks have passed since the companions returned from Kragganthur, encountered the Inquisitor and pledged their aid to The Enlightened. Life, for this time, has returned to some semblance of normalcy. The exception being the fact that the companions have drawn the attention of the commonfolk of the city. It seems that word has spread of their doings; thwarting a band of highwaymen, braving the Blightfen to save the farmer’s daughter, delving into Kragganthur and retrieving priceless Dwarven artifacts, donating gold and aiding those in need.
Most of the commonfolk now treat the companions genially, those that recognize them offering friendly greetings or passing words of thanks. A few merchants and shop owners have even gone so far as to show their appreciation by giving some of their wares for free, such as street food vendors and even some small trinkets from curio dealers.
Two days after their encounter with Ahram, the companions notice signs put up at the museum declaring that, soon, there will be a new exhibit featuring the findings from Kragganthur. Most of the populace seem interested, though none moreso than the Dwarves, obviously. Once they had heard who was responsible, nights drinking at the Golden Grog while there were Dwarves about suddenly became very inexpensive for the companions as they were rowdily toasted and plied with their preferred drink by the stout folk.
In the midst of all of this good, however, there will always be a balancing of the scales as life is wont to do. The people continue to be heavily taxed and treated poorly. Not even the companions are wholly untouched by this. The Three Sisters was in danger of not being able to pay their taxes for this month due to, well, over taxation. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the people of Bramor to justify spending their earnings on things as frivolous as jewelry these days. Luckily, however, the Golden Grog did good business this month and, thus, Rosie’s parents were able to help their children make ends meet.
There have been rumors that the body of a local farmer had been found in an alleyway, bludgeoned to death. The body, however, seems to have been cleared away before the usual crowds had time to gather. This has led to the commonfolk whispering that it was the guards who are the responsible party. It surely wouldn’t have been the first time that the guards had been suspected of having a hand in the death of a citizen. The guards have been known for being heavy-handed and quick to antagonize. This has caused a dark mood amongst the people and much negative muttering about the law…far out of earshot of the guards, of course. There are those, however, who have been unable to keep their true feelings to themselves.
Vyncent Waete has been, personally, leading units of the city guards to quell those who are openly speaking out against the guards and, in some cases, the King himself. Those that are taken into custody for their dissension are brought not to the city jail but to the dungeons of Herrick Hold, itself. This has spawned even more mutterings from the citizens of Bramor.
The more elderly citizens, and even those few children who have heard the stories from their parents or grandparents, whisper that King Caelun keeps strange beasts within catacombs beneath the castle. They say that he uses prisoners as game for the beasts to hunt while he watches from a scrying mirror, as though it were simple sport. Not just prisoners, they say, but disobedient servants and those slaves he tires of. Most wave these off as simple tales told to heighten the feelings of ill will towards the King. Tales to frighten the gullible some call them. Whether the tales are true, or not, the general consensus is that none of the citizens would be surprised if the King were doing something of that nature.
With the squad of guards led by Vyncent, however, the dissenters are beginning to keep their thoughts to themselves. The one good thing that can be said about Vyncent is the fact that he seems to be hesitant to call upon the Inquisitors, content to deal with the problem himself.
While there has not been another incident involving an Inquisitor since the one the companions witnessed, they have not been completely out of mind. Each of the companions on the twelfth night after their return from Kragganthur had been visited by their pale, emotionless, disturbingly beautiful faces appearing to them in their dreams.
Or, more aptly, nightmares.
The nightmares have all been the same. The dreamer would have been experiencing a very normal reverie when, suddenly, the dreamscape reshapes itself. Whatever the surroundings of the dream had been, they now became a room that seemed to be made of black marble shot with threads of verdant green. Braziers set in each of the eight corners filled with obsidian fire cast a strange flickering light throughout the octagonal room.
Three of the ivory-skinned beings turned their expressionless gaze toward the dreamer. One pair of eyes entirely the color of whitest alabaster. One pair the deep crimson of garnet. One pair the deepest jet. While the colors varied, their effect was the same; they all caused intense fear to flood through the dreamer.
Their robes seemed to swirl and drift as though the Inquisitors were underwater while they began, as one, to calmly stride towards the terrified onlooker. Perfect white hands were raised and the dark, smoky, shadowy substance suddenly began to coalesce about the Inquisitors’ bodies. Tendrils of the thick mist twisted and snaked their way through the air between the pale beings and their petrified prey. Slowly, the tendrils reached towards the dreamers’ temples, as though the hands of a nervous lover extending tentatively to touch the face of their partner. The instant before the substance came into contact with flesh, the dreamer would get the overwhelming sense that, though they displayed no emotion, the Inquisitors would draw some sort of terrible pleasure from this act. Almost as though the pain they caused their victim would course back through the mist and fill them with the nectar of the Gods, themselves.
Then, the tips of the tendrils would slip into the dreamers’ minds and the most intense, excruciating, pain the dreamer could experience filled every fiber of their being. It was pain beyond cogent reasoning. It was as if the Inquisitors had invented a new kind of pain, one that even Hyryx, God of Pain, himself knew nothing of. Just as their victims would unleash a scream that would surely shred the flesh of their throat, the dreamer would awake with a cry, drenched in cold sweat.
The next day, each of the companions (save Rosie), would receive an invitation to dinner at the Golden Grog. The words scrawled upon the parchment were in Rosies’ mothers’ handwriting;
You are cordially invited to dinner this evening at the Golden Grog Taproom. A small group of Dwarven merchants stopped by the Grog this morning. They traveled to the city to visit the museum to see the exhibit showing off those items you most bravely retrieved from those ruins with my Rosie.
Apparently, they found out somehow that my daughter and some of her friends were the ones who had made the trek into that place and wished to extend their gratitude. They dropped off one of the largest boars I have ever seen, a giant of a cask of their ale and all of the fixings to accompany.
I, gladly, will prepare the meal for you all if you would care to come to the Grog this evening. Plainly speaking, having you all spend time here has been very good for business, lately. Seeing you all come to the Grog would, surely, draw some of the folk into the common room.
My deepest appreciation in advance. I hope to see you all tonight.