The three girls joined hands, and beseeched the agents of Hell for guidance. They determined that there was only one spell caster remaining in the keep, and that the Archons do not leave the temple. They also determined that no one had yet called for reinforcements. Also, the Lord Commander has some secret, and that it relates to his brother’s death.
Talia, Lydia, and Heather quickly turned some of the more … sympathetic … townspeople to their advantage. Refugees fleeing the city spread news of the witch hunter’s role in setting the town ablaze, killing several at the inn. Eager to be rid of the wine from the smuggler’s ship and the deceased clothing merchant’s wares, Talia made use of merchants leaving the city. Their attempts to request a meeting with the Lord Commander were rebuffed. Lord Havelyn was simply “up to his neck in internal matters” — the impending execution of two of his captains.
The town was buzzing. They hadn’t seen this much excitement since the goblins were beaten back from the wall 80 years ago. There were also rumors that Mitra was punishing them for the wickedness of the captains. Talia smiled. It seems the holy light of Mitra casts deep shadows. The church in town was overflowing with refugees and ‘burn the wicked’ sermons. So quick to condemn murderers, and quicker still to call for the blood of the accused. As a tiefling, Talia was abomination – condemned by the church to die for merely being born. As a monster she was condemned. So a monster she became.
The girls went to work planting rumors that Captain Mott was impotent, and that it was through no fault of Kaitlyn’s that she sought to bed another to provide an heir. They had the mob’s sympathy, but not enough to overcome the bloodlust of the self-righteous. They would have their show.
Just before noon, the gates of the keep open. What guards remain after the previous week’s endeavors escort the three bound, naked prisoners to the makeshift stage in the center of town. Captain Mott was led up first, and the guards surrounding him spread out around the platform, keeping the crowd at bay. The Lord Commander strides up and unsheathes his sword. Mott is lead up to the block, head pulled down by chains attached to his stocks. With little preamble, the Lord Commander lops off the captain’s head.
A breeze begins to blow in from the sea, and clouds start to form with unnatural speed as Captain “Zack” is forced down onto the block. Off with his head, and the crowd boos the Lord Commander for not putting on a better show.
As the rain begins to fall, Kaitlyn led up on stage. She’s forced into an awkward kneeling bent over backwards position. Lord Commander goes straight for the knife and tongs. He puts the tongs on the brazier as the rain starts to come down. All of the keep’s guards are having a hard time keeping the spectators away. As hail falls around the town square, the woman screams and the Lord Commander finishes his job.
As the crowd is dispersed by the hail, a group of figures approach the keep to take cover from the sudden storm. The guard is friendly, and lets them pass with little encouragement. The young man with them taps him on the shoulder, and the guard quickly forgets that they were ever there.
Past the initial guard, the girls have the run of the keep. Focusing her mind’s eye inward on the magical sensor, Talia surveys the remaining defenses in the keep. The siege engines, the mechanisms to the portcullis, a heavy iron pot of heated sand over a magical fire. If she just focuses, it’s almost… like … she’s … there. A satisfied smile passes her lips as a great crack appears on the heavy pot containing the molten sand, spilling across the floor of the guard room above the murder hole. The siege engines and portcullis mechanisms meet a similar fate.
The girls make their way up to the Lord Commander’s quarters on the fifth floor of the keep. They swing by the magister’s former quarters to see if the witch hunter left anything behind when he fled the city. Apparently his horse had an unfortunate accident when the stables collapsed, but nothing else remains. A single guard stands outside the Lord Commander’s rooms, and the girls slip back downstairs and dimension door inside. It is a very austere, conservative chamber. There is a stout chest in the corner that radiates abjuration and evocation. No appreciation for subtle traps, it seems. Havelyn’s room is plainly furnished, with millitary issue bed linens. Talia suspects that even his smallclothes are standard military issue. An oil painting of a beautiful woman hangs on his bedroom wall, flanked by half-burnt candles. It appears that a family bible is below it.
The magical sensor slides inside the trapped chest. A small mahogany box with brass hinges, neatly stacked sacks with a slightly larger bag tossed haphazardly on top. A stack of gold bars. Ornate chalices. Several securely wrapped small vials. The small mahogany box contains dozens of military commendations. The large bag contains mixed coinage, and each of the neatly stacked bags contains 100 solids.
The three girls join hands, intent on divining Havelyn’s secrets. The woman in the picture is his wife. She was not unfaithful to him. His brother killed his wife, and it was a crime of passion. The Lord Commander did not kill his brother. His brother was put to death. The Lord Commander sought retribution for his brother’s death.
The girls take the holy book, and see Kaitlyn being brought in to the keep as they dimension door away. They return to where they were staying at Captain Mott’s house. Talia takes the opportunity to earn more goodwill from the townsfolk, organizing efforts to construct shelter for those displaced by the fires. Luckily, wood is plentiful in town.
Meanwhile, Lydia and Eliazar examine the Mitran holy scripture. The first ten pages or so are lineage. It seems that great effort was taken to blot out the name of Lord Thomas Havelyn’s brother, Samuel Havelyn, Cardinal of Mitra. Eliazar recalls the goblin chieftan telling them that Thorne had been a Mitran Cardinal, before he turned to Asmodeus. The Lord Commander’s wife was local, and most likely not noble. Lydia finds out that his wife was a local beauty who left town in the company of the Lord Commander’s brother. Samuel had brought her to a family gathering, where he introduced her to his brother. Samuel was later found to possess a collection of banned books and was burned at the stake for witchcraft. Most people thought well of the commander’s wife, and mourned when she died in childbirth.
The next day, the three witches architect the Lord Commander’s downfall. But how does one make a paladin fall?
Five flights of stairs and five grease spells later, Lord Commander Thomas Havelyn was in the basement of the keep. As he reeled from the fall, Talia called forth the names of fire and lightning. The Lord Commander drew his sword, presumably cursing the dishonor of his unseen foe. It’s so hard to tell with no audio. The three girls appear in the storeroom. Talia quickly buffs them, as the paladin stalks down the hallway. The three girls join hands and sing of Asmodeus, of magic, of power. The bars of force coalesce around their quarry. Talia unleashes fire and lightning. Heather looses arrows. Lydia unleashes curses and lightning. At last, the Lord Commander Thomas Havelyn lay dying. Talia kneels next to the fallen paladin. She takes his hand in hers, wrapping his fingers tightly around her dagger. Barely above a whisper, she offers a prayer to Asmodeus, a sacrifice, and draws the dagger across his throat. The girls see the shining armor emblazoned with Mitra’s holy symbol waver, turn dark and baroque. It seems the gift has been well received.
The girls kneel, unholy energy pouring into the paladin. With a lurch, he rises. The three girls strip his body of the keys to the keep, weapons, armor, and headband. Talia claims the headband, despite the fact that terrible things seem to happen to the prettiest girl in town here. Taking shelter in the secret tunnel between the keep and the ruined inn, Lydia informs the goblin warlord that the Lord Commander is deceased and that the attack can soon commence.