The party (still without Lambert) rested overnight at Caerberry Hobs, and experienced a shared dream. In the dream, their view panned over the nearby scrubland. An owl flew by, and suddenly the scene changed to include two figures, one male and one female, moving toward one another across the desolate landscape. The figures were ephemeral, with shifting demonic features, and they were surrounded by the stench of death. As they drew near to one another, the dreamers saw that each figure bore a sigil on their chests. The pair laughed maniacally as they met in the middle of the scrubland, now a battlefield, full of suffering. They embraced, but the dream ended abruptly, before anything truly horrifying took place between them. The last image of the dream was a lingering view of the two sigils, superimposed to create Skeltur’s seal.
The party immediately recognized the woman’s sigil as the mark of Lamashtu, the Mother of Monsters, who was renowned for forming alliances with other gods and demons by taking them as lovers.
The next morning, they told Etheldred about their vision, and he suggested they visit Trimmin the librarian for help identifying the demon-man’s sigil.
Trimmin, a 90-year-old hunchback with impossibly thick glasses, was indeed able to assist with this, although it took the better half of a day. (Velekh used this time to research some new spells). The sigil, he told them, was that of Orcus, Demon Lord of the Undead.
Tracking down Skeltur and keeping Feck’s War Manual out of his clutches was more pressing than ever; the party rallied together and resolved to head to Palon immediately. Etheldred provided the party with official papers to ease their passage as well as 120 gold each from Feck’s stores. He also promised that if the party ever needed a ship, he would coerce Mercutio on their behalf, due to back taxes owed by Captain Albano’s estate.
On the road to Palon, a dead orc flew out of the woods, followed by Robusto (Lambert‘s alter ego)! Several Evil Bird orcs were in pursuit, but the party had little trouble defeating them. After the battle, however, Robusto was still enraged! Anzo tried in vain to calm him, and Velekh almost died from some vicious injuries, but a quick Entangle from Naiaer, plus some patience, drained Robusto’s rage. The party welcomed Lambert back into their ranks, albeit somewhat warily.
The dead orc that Robusto had thrown across the path soon provided new clues. He was attached to a pole, meant to keep him at arm’s length from the other orcs. Also, while he was now dead, he had until recently been *un*dead. Skeltur’s seal was branded onto his neck.
The party reached a thawing stream just as the sun started to set. A young man of about 17 was sitting on the bank fishing, and he was about to get ambushed, it seemed, by three men in Deverin livery, who waited behind some rocks. Xanther fired a warning shot at the three men, having intuited they were up to no good. A brief fight ensued (sparked by Velekh), and Anzo crept off the talk to the boy.
The boy was named Kail and was very difficult to talk to. He had dark skin, black, braided hair, and was armed with two extremely magical short swords. He revealed that he is seeking a man with a chest wound that will never heal, in order to prevent a “great evil,” but he was unimpressed with Anzo or his friends. He left on his horse and accidentally dropped a note, which read, “Ok, I’ll be there – Mukane.”
Meanwhile, the Deverin men surrendered and explained that the boy was rumored to have Feck’s War Manual. The party sent them on their way and rushed to catch up with Kail. Kail explained that Mukane was a friend of his, but the party learned little else about him before he spurred his horse and rode on ahead to Palon.
The party rode through the night and arrived in Palon at first light, arguing all the way about how best to deal with standoffs. Palon was a dusty, western-style town, and at this hour only the bakery was open. The party arrived at an inn called the Horseshoe, where Clive the innkeeper had just awoken, to secure rooms. While the party slept, Velekh chatted with Clive, and learned:
- The book was last seen at the Crossing, another inn in town. This inn used to belong to Clive’s father, before it burned down and was rebuilt by new management.
- Feck’s death by treachery reminded Clive of the death of Feck’s father, who died in Palon when Feck was still just a child. Feck’s father was the local law enforcement, but he was “outdone by treachery,” stabbed in the back by 5 bandits at the Crossing. At the time he was traveling with a 14-year-old boy, with whom he’d go out to kill goblins. The boy was present for the murder, and just after the deed was done, he exacted revenge: The lights went out in the bar, and when Clive’s father had relit the lantern half a minute later, all 5 bandits were dead, and the boy was carrying Feck Sr.’s body over his shoulder.
- A funny-looking gentleman checked in about midnight. He was pale, hunchbacked, had long fingernails, and made strange demands before retiring to his room.
- Clive didn’t know anything about the whereabouts of the spear—no one does. Everyone’s been focused on the War Manual.
- Old Nick’s, the smithy/ammo shop, is down the street. Old Nick has a shot tower, but zombies had recently set it on fire. More generally, there were lots of undead around recently.