20. Actions and consequences
16th of Lamashtan – Toilday – 25th day in South-Western Varisia
Magnimar, Cathedral of Iomedae
It was early evening when we departed Seven’s Sawmill in Kyvet’s Islet. The area had become quiet and I didn’t think anyone spotted us leave. Alfred, his backpack full of cultist masks, and seemingly excited about the fight and still eager to vent some pressure, headed to the Lowcleft for beers and whores, whereas the rest of us headed out to the cathedral of Iomedae. We felt withdrawing to our hideout at the Kaijitsu manor was not wise, especially if we happened to have spies on our tail. We didn’t want to risk it and have them to follow us there. Upon arriving to the cathedral, Vincent Valentine came to see us. He was happy to accommodate us after we told him about our battle and showed him one of the horrid cult masks Harsk had taken with him. He even paid us 200 gold pieces for it, as he sensed much evil in it and wanted it eradicated.
At that moment I really, really hoped Alfred wouldn’t lose his backpack during his raid of the taverns and bordellos. He had over 30 of the very same masks with him.
The commander of the paladins took the mask from Harsk and burned it at the spot. As the flames ate the sewn-together lump of human skin, I was just thinking about the equipment I could purchase the moment Alfred would return and hand over the rest of the masks.
We spent the night in an unused dormitory. The next morning the priests of Iomedae came to wake us up. Smells of burning incense and the voices of dour chanting followed them as they entered. They had guided a very drunk Alfred in to the dormitory some hours before dawn – and the sellsword had woken us all up with his drunken guffaws, singing and shouting. Luckily he had passed out before I had the chance to knock him out cold, or before Ilori had burned his face.
I was half-awake already, and I asked the priests for a glass and a decanter of water. I filled the glass and walked to the cot where Alfred was snoring. He was lying on his back, and his face was to the side. Perfect. I splashed the contents of the decanter on his head. He woke up with a startle, cursing wildly, his eyes wide open in shock.
“Do you have the masks with you?” I asked with a fake smile as I stood next to him. He looked up at me, surprised, and then frowned. I saw from his expression he wasn’t sure. He looked around and finally spotted his backpack, which was lying at the door. It seemed full. “Fuck you Alpharius. Of course I have them”, he said and wiped water of his face and hair. I had been a bit unfair of course, as I had already made sure he had them, but I couldn’t let the opportunity pass to teach him a lesson about disturbing other people’s sleep.
I was fair however as I handed him the glass of water to help with the hangover, and he thanked for it and drank like he hadn’t seen water in a week.
After a modest breakfast, we met with Valentine and Adelbert Steiner again. We went in more detail about the events of the previous evening. When we started to describe the fight with the cult leader, Valentine stopped us and with a grave voice informed us that Justice Ironbriar had been found slain, his ears cut, the previous evening. I was surprised. So what? He was a little piece of shit serving an evil mistress. I voiced my opinion on the matter but the paladin-commander was not pleased. It appeared that our two-faced cult leader had been a very prestigious, well-respected and powerful individual, and the public and the city officials were out for blood, demanding justice. By killing him, we had accidentally dug ourselves into a very deep hole. Cutting his ears off no longer sounded that a good idea.
Harsk stepped in. He volunteered to an interrogation that would be held within a ‘zone of truth’, created by a powerful enchantment spell, wherein a person would not be able to speak any deliberate and intentional lies. Valentine accepted the idea, but concluded that a testimony made within a zone of truth would not be regarded as proof in an official trial. Nevertheless, he trusted his fellow believer, and considered interrogations within the zone to be sufficient proof for him. But he wanted to interrogate us all. I flinched at the thought. I didn’t want anyone to poke at my secrets and my past. But as everyone else fell in, I too had to give in – this way, we’d dispel any doubts the Temple of Iomedae would have against us.
The interrogation was a quick affair, and to my relief, Valentine did not ask about my past or my intentions – instead, I told him about what had happened in Sandpoint, what had led us to Magnimar and what had happened at the Seven’s Sawmill. He frowned when I told him how I had cut Ironbriar’s ears off. He probably felt it was barbaric, honourless and simply gratuitous, but I felt then and I still feel it was necessary to send a powerful enough message to our foes. To the foes of Sandpoint, and Magnimar, it seemed. I ended my story with the Ironbriar’s journal, written in a secret language, and this got the paladin’s attention. I praised Harsk’s farsightedness when Valentine asked to have it – the journal might be, he told us, if its secrets could be unlocked – the key that proves our innocence and Ironbriar’s true nature.
The problem was that no-one at the cathedral knew how to read it. The wisest clerics and priests recognized the other component of the language as infernal, but were unable to decipher the meaning of the texts. We had to turn to the help of the Pathfinder Society.
The Society had a university of sorts at Alabaster District, and the far eastern side of the city. We left there, half-forced, with the paladins for Valentine was unwilling to let us go without an escort. He made it abundantly clear that he would bring us to trial if no solid proof of our innocence or Ironbriar’s lies were found. In my mind, I was already starting to plan possible escape strategies off the city.
At the Society however we found a wizened old scholar called Cid Raines. He was more absentminded than poor Brodert back in Sandpoint, but upon seeing the journal, he affirmed us that he could translate its contents given enough time.
He needed a week. And Valentine needed us to stay within city limits for that time. I was automatically rebelling at the thought – not since Canorate had anyone made me stay anywhere against my will. But cooler heads prevailed. We agreed to stay, for now. But we demanded a concession from the paladin – we wanted to have the right to continue the investigations on our own, unmonitored and unhampered by the temple. We wanted to uncover the truth behind the Brotherhood of Seven and Ironbriar’s facade ourselves. Valentine agreed, but only because of his trust for Harsk.
As a further sign of our good will and good intentions, we handed out the three dozen cultist masks to the paladins. Valentine was pleased, but instead of gold or platinum, offered us a huge, uncut diamond in return. It was easily three times as large as the one High Priest Zantus had used to bring back Vidarok the first time he had died. I knew nothing of valuation of gems and diamonds, but I did the rough math in my head. That diamond was worth three lives. Unsurprisingly, we accepted it as a reward for the masks – now, we had powerful insurance that would allow us to return from beyond the veil of death should it become necessary.
At that moment, without informing others, one of us however made the choice not to be returned. And, ironically, this person had less than a day to live.