The elven prisoners
The freak squad continues their investigation, searching the remains of the Orcus shrine. However, all they find is an information log of the elves that were brought in as prisoners. Their search continues until they discover a sewer aqueduct that was recently built, and upon following it, they end up in a dark chamber with demonic gnolls playing a tabletop game. Right as they react, Aishe Malinova throws a sunrod at them, temporarily blinding the foes. However, the advantage is short lived as beaked monstrosities living in the sewers, known as gricks, attack the party using pack tactics. The freak squad starts to lose ground but focus their fire on one of the demonic gnolls. Being mortally wounded, he summons a creature from the deepest of the sewer pits to avenge him, the same creature that has been feeding on the corpses of the slain elves, an beaked cerebral tentacled aberration known as a grell.
The grell quickly overcomes Rad Longhammer, grabbing him in its tentacles and injecting him with paralyzing poison as it descends into the deepest depths of the sewage water. While Mazith and Tobin try to regain ground against the gnolls and the gricks, Aishe slithers away and uses her chain to send a shock wave towards the grell, releasing its hold on Rad just before his unconscious body is drowned. The beast shifts focus towards Aishe, and now she is the one grabbed and paralyzed. For precious moments Mazith and Tobin can only watch the grell slowly drag Aishe’s body towards the pit, unable to help since they are defending themselves from the other enemies. Rad regains consciousness and tries to free Aishe, Tobin is able to free herself for a moment to shoot a well placed arrow on the tentacle that has Aishe grabbed, releasing her body into the muck below. In a last attempt to save Aishe from certain death, Mazith leaps into the grell and cuts its open with a final blow from his longsword. The remaining demonic gnoll decides to escape, and finally back on their feet, the freak squad finally defeats the remaining gricks.
After much needed recovery, the party releases the two surviving elves, prisoners among the corpses of their slain brethren. They all emerge on the surface of Timbermoor near the poorest part of town, and seek aid. Then they party visits Chrysanthe Xene to inform her of the recent events. She is pleased that they are all right, and calls her master at arms Neofytos Panos to organize the city watch. He is quite displeased of the way the adventurers handled the situation, and some tension rise between him and Aishe about what’s good and what’s lawful, but sends a squad regardless to investigate the shrine remains.
After cleaning up and resting, the Freak Squad learns from the rested and more lucid elves that Nihilia, the Orcus priestess, had talked about sending agents to raise a fresh crop of corpses near a swamp land. Mazith recognizes this as Cloverfield, the town they saved from a frog people invasion, and now displaying Mazith’s bridge. The party grabs extra horses to prevent them from dying from exertion as they ride furiously towards Cloverfield. Dorito’s pony is unable to keep the pace, and is thus left behind when the party switches mounts. They arrive at Cloverfield late in the night but there is no indication of undead, except for Hazmat, Mazith’s Dad who makes an appearance to remind his son to figure out why he is still a ghost instead of resting peacefully. The spectre mentions that Mazith should seek out his mom, as she might know something. Since the party is now collapsing from exhaustion, the ghost helps keep watch while they rest.
The next day the village elder tries to help the party, but there has not been any suspicious activity that he knows of, except for the inflow of new residents and the carnival. That afternoon Dorito arrives and the whole the party scouts the swamp, discovering a recently used shovel in the muck, and decide to lie in ambush. Eventually, some cultists of Orcus show up but discover the party. The freak squad then tries to appear as if they are also followers of Orcus to gain information, but the ruse is futile as they recognize the lack of symbols and a priest of Pelor among them and attack them with flasks of vile liquid. With luck and skill, the vials do not break but land in the swamp muck. A hail of arrows from Tobin kills a cultist and injures the other one, and all seems fine until Aishe collapses face down in the swamp, hands clutching at her head.
Svetlana Riha Madeleine Riha
Aishe’s vision reveals Lady Oscar waiting in ambush outside the Riha gypsy clan camp. She nocks an arrow, draws her bow, and releases the wooden shaft that pierces Svetlana Riha’s heart as she collects wood for the campfire. Lady Oscar collects her things to leave as Svetlana lies dying, but a scream of anger stops her on her feet. The clan mother Madeleine Riha appears in front of her, the gypsy’s anguished voice calling out the murder of her child. Regaining her composure, Lady Oscar calmly explains that this was nothing personal, and that the world would be a better place because of this act. Madeleine starts to lay a curse on her, but Lady Oscar scoffs, telling her it was of no use, because if she hadn’t done the deed, someone else would have been hired to do so.
Madaleine Riha is maddened beyond logic, and speaks with an iron resolution:
Then I will condemn those you work for! The most powerful curse known to us, spoken with blood, sealed by death… damnation will fall upon all of you!
And then her knife pierces her own heart, and her corpse collapses next to that of her daughter.
Back at the Cloverfield, the swamp beneath the heroes feet starts to shake. The muck water starts to evaporate under intense heat, and bubbles pop out of the swamp revealing small larvae with metallic carapaces. The Freak Squad slay these larvae but quickly start to fall among cracks on the earth. Two huge bubbles emerge from the swamp, but they seem impervious to attacks. Aishe’s shockwave pushes against one of the bubbles, but the result is the huge bubble revealing itself. The huge orb is an eyeball.
A beast of gargantuan proportions emerges furiously from the earth, one two, three, four, five heads rise into the air, each as large as a wizard’s tower! The party is at a loss and just trying to remain on their feet as the hydra finally pushes the rest of its body above ground. One if its head lazily scouts the area, focuses on a snack, and attacks. In spite of the freak squad’s desperate efforts, the jaws close around the young man, who’s expression still pleads for help as he and the surrounding terrain are swallowed whole by the hydra head.
R.I.P. Dorito the wizard apprentice