Wednesday 17 June 498
The morning after their initial exploration of the complex beneath Katon House, the party convened at the Ridgeview Inn to talk about what they had learned and what to do next. First, Tagart told the others that he had spent some time looking through the spellbook left behind by the mysterious wizard Michan. "I was hoping for something more interesting than what I found," Tagart said.
The spells in the book were written using a dialect that Tagart did not fully understand, so he could not actually learn or use any of the spells himself. But he could generally decipher enough to understand the general effect of each spell, and it was a strange collection. As expected, Tagart did find spells that seemed to be related to the glyph traps, as well as the perceptual concealment effect surrounding Katon House and the amnesia barier protecting Darabont. But apart from these spells, most of the others in the book appeared to be surprisingly useless.
Many of them seemed to be spells for performing mundane tasks like cleaning clothes or getting water out of a well – tasks that would be easier to do without magic. Others were scholarly and abstract, creating intricate patterns of light or sound; these spells were very complex and esoteric and would probably impress other wizards, but were of no practical value that Tagart could see. Nigel, meanwhile, was puzzled by Darnell's comment that Michan did not want to "touch anything." It seemed there was much they still did not understand about Michan.
Orbin then spoke about the conversation Darnell had overheard, in which the Strocchians spoke of expecting the arrival of something they referred to as "the khazok" – a dwarven word meaning "weapon." Orbin had a theory about the identity of the mysterious person the Strocchians had been speaking to: "I thinnk what we have here is a dwarven mercenary," he said. "Bringing them a weapon, or some men, or something. But if the dwarves are involved, what could that mean?"
Everyone agreed that they needed to return to Katon House and continue exploring it. "We definitely have to keep going," Tagart said. "Lord Katon's ghost said he would take us to Michan. He's somewhere down there. And we know the 'weapon' will arrive within a day or two." Tagart offered to spend the day watching Katon House to make sure no one else arrived or left while the others spent the day replenishing their supplies.
During the day, Janis and Nigel visited Nora, the local priest, to see if they could find out any more information about the townspeople who had been found unconscious two days earlier. She took them to see Ted Elwyn and his family, who had woken up that morning. They spoke briefly with Elwyn, and his description of what he had experienced confirmed their suspicion: they had been visited by the ghost of Lord Katon, and the fright and shock had caused them to lose consciousness.
"I don't think this has happened before," Nigel said afterward. "In the 500 years since Lord Katon has been dead, he has never visited town before."
"The disturbance in the house has woken him up," Janis added.
After dinner, the party headed for Katon House, leaving behind Arbala and Trelain to escort Darnell back to his hometown of Kirvin.
They did not bother with stealth as they returned to Katon House, since the perceptual concealment would hide their activities anyway. Nothing had been disturbed since the previous day; they reentered the underground complex and descended to the barracks level, careful to avoid the crack in the floor from which giant centipedes had come the day before. Tagart speculated that the crack might have been caused by Heyraud's blast.
They reached the end of the long corridor – as far as they had explored the previous day – and then proceeded down the stairs to the third subterranean level. They found themselves in a long, doorless, curved corridor, which appeared to be following a circular path. They followed the corridor for some distance until they came to a door on the outside of the circle; the door led to a small room that appeared to some sort of workshop, though nothing remained but the remnants of a wooden workbench along one side. A window opposite the workbench opened onto a view of Heyraud's Bay, and the party realized that they had reached the western side of the Ridge. "This window took Heyraud's blast," Orbin said.
Further down the circular corridor, they came to a large and heavy door that opened onto the inside of the circle. The door was locked, but Orbin was able to pick the ancient lock. They opened the door and emerged onto a catwalk encircling a massive cylindrical crystal that filled the inside of the circular chamber and extended upward and downward as far as they could see. The cylinder glowed faintly from within, and if they listened carefully they could hear a low, pulsing, thrumming sound.
As they examined the enormous crystal, they were startled by a voice: "Beautiful, isn't it?" It was Lord Katon's ghost, who had suddenly reappeared in their midst. Once again the party members were terrified by Katon's horrific appearance, but Katon continued talking, and he was somewhat more lucid than before (perhaps because he was talking about the past). Katon explained how Guildmaster Heyraud had discovered a way for multiple wizards to pool their magical energy into a single, powerful spell. But Katon had adapted this discovery, developing a receptacle that could store magical energy for later use. It had been part of his plan to overthrow the King: over the course of several years, Katon had filled the Receptacle with potent shield magic, which he hoped would make his hidden fortress unassailable.
Indeed, the shield magic had helped to protect the Ridge (and therefore the town of Katon) from Heyraud's blast, although the force of the magic cracked the Ridge, and some of the magical energy did swirl in from above and below the shield (which had only been intended to protect the Ridge from the west). The cylinder had absorbed much of this energy, but the rest had seeped into everything inside Katon's complex, resulting in the bizarre magical monsters like the giant centipedes.
Katon seemed to understand, at least briefly, that his plan had failed, which the party gently confirmed. As he began to ramble again, they reminded him of the other magician he had mentioned earlier, and asked him again to take them to him – and this time, to go slowly. "It seems I have no reason to hurry," Katon replied sadly, and sank through the floor again.
Although they were eager to try to follow Katon, Orbin and Nigel suggested that Tagart first try casting a spell in the vicinity of the Receptacle to see what would happen. He took a copper piece from his pouch and attempted to cast a Light spell on it, but found that his spell was sucked away from its intended target and vanished into the Receptacle without any other visible effect.
They headed out into the circular corridor and found their way back to the stairs. Descending another level, they opened a door and emerged into a narrow corridor that, after a short distance, ended in another door, which was closed but not locked. Opening it, they found a small room containing a desk and a couple of chairs; on a peg near the desk hung a set of keys, and in the opposite wall was another door. It appeared to be a guard room, though currently unoccupied, and they soon confirmed that the keys unlocked the other door.
This door led to what was obviously a small prison block: a single long corridor stretched away from them, and on each side of the corridor was a series of heavy doors with small windows in them. They moved slowly down the corridor, peering into each cell, and were surprised to find the fourth cell on the left side occupied. Inside was a human in robes, huddled in the middle of the floor and seemingly not in his right mind.
Opening the cell, they attempted to talk to this human, initally without success. Eventually Nigel came into the cell and recognized that the prisoner was speaking something that sounded like Old Ilvian -- a language Nigel knew in its written form, but had never before used conversationally. They confirmed that this was indeed Michan, the missing wizard, and offered to help him. He eventually came out of his cell, but seemed to recoil from everything. Although he was very thirsty, he was unwilling to drink any of the water they offered until it had been magically purified.
Nigel speculated, based on his conversational Old Ilvian dialect, that Michan was a member of the Magicians' Guild and had come from Stargald. Perhaps, he suggested, that the Strocchians were behind the plot against the Church, but that the Magicians' Guild was being used by them in some way. Until Michan became more lucid, however, it was impossible to find out what he might know.
Meanwhile, Katra, Autumn, and Janis continued down the stairs to see what was at the bottom. After a long flight of stairs they emerged onto an elevated platform that led to a ramp, at the bottom of which was what looked like a concealed harbor: a large cavern hollowed out of the Ridge and opening onto the waters of Heyraud's Bay. Below them they saw groups of half-orc laborers working on building new docks, restoring Katon's secret base to operational status. Standing guard were orc soldiers. The adventurers avoided being noticed and sent Katra back up the stairs to report what they had discovered.
Leaving Orbin and Nigel with Michan, the rest of the party reformed at the bottom of the stairs and moved themselves into position for a surprise attack on the orcs and half-orcs. Jalafin tripped and made a noise, but as the half-orcs turned toward him, Autumn and Janis opened fire with ranged attacks. The party quickly gained the upper hand and defeated their enemies. After the battle, hoping to deal the conspirators another setback, they decided to set fire to the newly constructed docks. As they were finishing this, however, they noticed something in the darkness outside the harbor entrance: a ship had drawn near and apparently dropped anchor.
They watched the ship for a while, but saw no sign of activity. Remembering the view from Katon's workshop across from the Receptacle chamber, which revealed only the sheer stone wall of the Ridge, they realized that the harbor was invisible from outside. They decided to return to the workshop and camp for the night, keeping watch through the window.
After an uneventful night, the party looked through the window in the light of dawn. The ship, which appeared to be a Dwarven troop transport, was still there, and they could now make out its name: Khazok.