After having escaped the mysterious red orc with their very lives, the party regrouped along the road and headed back to Kerfalazud. The party reconvened at the Bloody Raven, but everyone (except Korg) recognized that Kerfalazud had somehow changed. The church of Voth, which had once been the main building in the northwest of the city, had been moved to the southeast, where the graveyard had been. Also, the status of Tazluth, the great orc hero, was gone and replaced by a small garden. After reconvening at the Bloody Raven, Mathe arrived and was glad to hear the mission was (mostly) a success. However, Mathe informed the heroes that the resistance was not necessarily going to help; the party would have to convince the leadership of the resistance to join.
Daxis did not like this news one bit. The party drug Mathe downstairs and tied him up to a chair. Aeros convinced Daxis not to stab Mathe through the leg, however, Aeros stayed downstairs, making sure Mathe understood the gravity of his lie. Daxis went back to his room to study, and finished deciphering the text left by Aeon, and finally became fluent in ancient Dwarven and Ancient Elvish. The book was a book of poetry, and while reading it, Daxis caught a passage talking about a “Princess Aya.” He wondered if it could be the same person as the elven woman he encountered in the past.
Night fell, and Mathe led the party into the sewers where the leaders of the resistance were to convene. Mathe and Daxis stayed far apart. Mathe introduced the party to Emil, the leader of the resistance in Kerfalazud. Emil was a small man, not much taller than 5’6, and skinny, with piercing black eyes. The party chatted for a bit, told Emil of the red orc and the gunpowder plot with Nea, and asked why did Emil’s cell not know about the gunpowder plot in the first place? Emil’s answer was quick: Korthor was the leader of the Ekruup cell and he and Emil did not get along. As far as Emil was concerned, Korthor was a bull headed braggart and loose cannon who would get them all killed. Anlon asked how the resistance expected to get anywhere if all they did was sit back? A loud and boisterous woman standing at almost 6’4 came by and slapped Anlon across the back with a mighty blow.
The woman introduced herself as Inia. She was a muscled looking warrior woman. Inia said she preferred action to words and would support anyone who would help the resistance in that regard. Aeros inquired about the rest of the council. Besides Emil, the council consisted of Inia, Sogor, Mathe, and Erath. Sogor and Emil were founding members of the resistance, and Mathe had been with them early on as well. Inia was newer, but determined to bring down the orcs and the sins. There was one more man, named Rennet, who was not himself a member of the resistance, but held great sway because of his skill. Aeros and the party addressed the council directly. They told the council of their plan to rescue Aeon, namely, creating a scene and then using Daxis’ invisibility powers to escape with Aeon amidst the chaos. The council soured on the plan, except Inia, who enjoyed the thought of bathing in orc blood. Emil thought the plan to be extreme, but he did not want another resistance member to die. The council retired to their chambers to deliberate, and the party was allowed to talk to the council members to plead their cases in person.
Anlon and Aeros first paid Emil a visit. Anlon pleaded with Emil to reconsider his relationship with Korthor. After all, the orcs were the real enemy, not humans ,and Emil had built an impressive network of spies. Anlon noticed a picture of a beautiful woman on Emil’s desk, and recognized it as the rebel woman who had been executed in the town square. After some persuasive words from Aeros, Emil agreed to send word to Korthor and share some of his network’s intelligence. After all, it was Emil’s network that had known that the sins were sending something in the caravan, a vital clue to finding the red orc. Emil also promised he would support the heroes in the council.
Aeros, not quite satisfied, decided to meet with Mathe next. The party made sure Daxis was otherwise occupied. Mathe was in his quarters, using a large sack as a punching bag. His wall was lined with all manner of sharp weaponry. Aeros calmed Mathe down and discussed their plan. Mathe was disposed to following the party. Mathe said he would lend his power. The next stop was Rennet, who was sharpening his sword in the main area. Rennet was a man of few words, and barely acknowledged the heroes when they came over to meet him. Korg stuck out a hand in friendship, but Rennet grunted and didn’t acknowledge the half-orc barbarian. Aeros did the talking again, and convinced Rennet that he and the party were dependable and wanted action. Rennet would jump at any opportunity to put an arrow through an orc’s eye. The party had his support. Anlon was willing to call it a day, but Aeros said they must seek out Sogor’s support as well. Even though they probably had the votes to go through with their plan.
Sogor was in his study, creating small illusions for fun. He had created an ornate, small music box which played a haunting melody. Aeros approached Sogor, breaking the young sorceror’s concentration. Sogor introduced himself meekly. He was a tiny man, very pale, and spoke in a low tone. He said that as a child he had great magical ability, and that he enjoyed creating illusions to fool people. Aeros convinced Sogor the party was sincere in their efforts and that Sogor should support them.
When the council reconvened, the party’s plan to rescue Aeon was agreed upon. Emil even went as far as to allow the party the use of two members of the council who would help the party and lend their aid. The party chose Rennet and Sogor. Sogor normally did not go out on missions or put himself in danger, but Aeros’ stirring speech reminded him of his duty. Mathe reminded the heroes that G’ruumsh was having another “Crucible of Fire” contest that evening, and that Mathe thought something strange was going on with the fights. The party had missed one of the events while they were out, but Mathe went. Mathe noticed that that evening G’ruumsh had live prisoners fighting in the ring, and when they were done, the prisoners were sent off. Mathe suggested that during the next crucible, the party investigate.
The party returned to the inn and took care of the day to day business. There wasn’t another chariot race until the next week, so there was nothing to do but wait until the crucible of fire match. G’ruumsh’s lackey came right on time, and the party was led to the usual place. The decor had changed somewhat. This time, G’ruumsh had his own throne overlooking the arena, with skulls adorning the hand rails. Black torches and symbols of Voth lined the walls. Dolvion and Mathe decided to wait until the crowd got whipped up before sneaking off. G’ruumsh arrived, wearing black robes, whipping up the orcs and the (few) humans in the crowd. His second in command, Tana’kh, was decidedly displeased. G’ruumsh asked who was brave enough to step forward to suffer his trials, and Daxis boldly stepped forward. The crowd got worked up into a frenzy, and Mathe and Dolvion snuck off. G’ruumsh opened his speech with the phrase “War is hell. Today, I will see how you survive hell.” The arena transformed into a hellscape. There were lakes of fire with human bodies bobbing up and down in agony. There were other humans chained to rocks, being eaten alive by indescribably creatures. The party was beset by a chain demon, a fearsome demon bred from the hellish realm of torture, bearded devils, and a Vrock which had swooped in from the sky. The party battled it out fiercely while Dolvion and Mathe made their way through the cave. They eventually found two hobgoblins wearing prisoners garb. Mathe and Dolvion quickly dispatched them, and fought some more hobgoblins before finding a strange door. Dolvion snuck up the stairs, and was shocked to find that the underground passage was in fact an entrance into the prison!
The party in the crucible survived their encounter, special thanks to some powerful attacks Korg was able to unleash. Korg used his “reduce person” spell to smash a bearded devil into a pancake, and send its head flying towards G’ruumsh, who roared out loud at the gross display of barbarism. Dolvion and Mathe returned, spoke to the party about their findings. The crucible of fire was over, and the party returned to the inn. Aeon was to be executed tomorrow, and they had a scant few hours left before they have to act.