Before they leave town, Julian goes to look for a mapmaker that can help them find the tiny hamlet home of the bandits. His inquiries lead him to the Nobles’ District and to the painter Zinra, whose works are reputed to have mystical powers. Although the painter is foppish and standoffish, Julian commissions the work and agrees to come back the next day.
Meanwhile, Tholt finds his own lead when Senshan directs him to the lady Belinda, a strange old trinket dealer that runs a booth in the town square. She seems confused and more than a little crazy, but when she understands what Tholt wants she falls into a hazy trance. “Behind the butcher’s shop in a town with no name,” she drones, “you’ll find a cellar where they cure no meat. In the back of this cellar, in the wall to the right of the bones of a bull, there lies an entrance to the base where the men of this village hold the boy whom you seek.” But that wasn’t all. She continued, “Beware, for a curse lies upon the village. It consumes the flesh of the young and withers the hearts of the old.”
With that ominous advice and the rich painter’s magical map, the party set off to find the lair of the nameless bandits. On their way out of town, they found a pair of fellow adventurers headed in the same direction and agreed to travel together: Dante, the priest of Maleta Sini, and Ettrigan, a vagabond and skilled thief.
They were about two hours into the forest near the village when the party found themselves being followed by an evil presence, cloaked within a cloud of darkness. Dante blasted the specter with beams of light, which seemed to frighten it off without a serious fight.
The party made it to the hamlet without any further resistance, and they found the homes and shops there eerily deserted. Tholt made his way to the butcher’s shop in the old woman’s prophecy, where he found the cellar and the dark passage, just as she’d foretold.
At the end of the passage, the party found a series of underground rooms with worked floors and walls. This complex was obviously more than the work of a group of thugs.
They came upon a group of men herding two giant scorpions, and a battle broke out. The men proved no match for the adventurers, though, and they easily dispatched all of them save one, whom they offered his life in exchange for taking them to the bandit leader.
The wounded man agreed to their terms, and he led them through a living chamber and deeper into the complex—when they reached an armory, however, the man bolted and left the party standing on a pit trap!
Dumped into an underground chamber with two exits at the far end, the party had to fight for their lives as vengeful archers rained arrows down upon them from above. They made it to the doors only to find deadly traps waiting for them, and the adventurers hobbled away from the deathtrap to lick their wounds and regroup.
But what foul things watched them from the darkness?