After resting and recuperating with the Outcasts, the group rose for its breakfast. They were greeted at their meal by Sir Laeorn. After rehashing some of the previous evening’s discussions, the knight began relating a tale to the group. Apparently an un-typed artifact lies hidden in the marshes south of Gale, somewhere in the bounderlands between the hold of Eoluk and Faltak, in a forgotten ruin called Coldstones Keep. The Order of St. Cyprian has recently been made aware of a private collector in the Kingdom who has hired a mercenary band called the Fingers of Iuz to travel into the marshes in search of the item. Laeorn and his squire were dispatched on a mission to retrieve the relic, or if necessary to intercept and capture it from the Fingers of Iuz. Under no circumstances is the item to fall into hands other than the Order. However, en route Sir Laeorn uncovered pressing business in the east that must be attended to immediately. He offers a commission and 2000 gold pieces to the group if they will be willing to travel into the marshes on his behalf and retrieve the item called the Fiend’s Embrace.
The group happily accepted the commission, and gathered together what supplies they could before heading into the swamps. The group, following a roughly sketched map and with the assistance of [Ian Salzen], traveled for several days and through several harrowing encounters with the denizens of the cursed swamp. One evening the group happened on what the map called “an abandoned hut”, only to find in it’s place a roadhouse inn. In front of the inn was a band of minstrel gypsies who told the group of a fascinating play they were preparing to tour the Kingdom with. The group was intrigued by the story of a vast city and an age-old tragedy within its walls, and several of the members were haunted by a white mask bearing a strange yellow sigil they saw hanging over the troupe’s caravan. Leaving the minstrels behind the group headed for the comfort of the inn, hoping to ease the burdens of their journey with a warm meal and a dry bed. However, the group discovered only too late that their meals were laced with a poison, and they awoke to find themselves locked in cages, bound and gagged.
The party did not have long to anticipate their fate. A burly woodsman entered the underground area in which they stayed, and began removing the group from their cages. Unwilling to accept their lot, the group fought back, and though the supernal assault of Ian was ineffective, Sully’s headbutt proved more than a match for the kidnapper. The two struggled and pummeled each other, as the attacker tried to drag Sully toward a pit in the far corner of the room. However, once at the end, Sully used his inertia to knock the attacker into the pit along with himself. Then he realized the purpose of the grapple, as the pit held an angry and hungry minotaur. Sully, still bound and gagged, lay still, while the woodsman tried to climb the steep walls of the pit, only to be impaled on the horns of the charging minotaur. Sully then leapt to action, doing his best to avoid the claws and horns of the attacker, while trying to loose the kidnapper’s weapons to free his bonds (erstwhile becoming aware of a clawing and scratching coming from the roof above them). He eventually freed his hands and tried to fend off the massive beast, but was gored nearly tot he point of death. Just then, the corner of the roof collapsed and a snarling pile of hair and mud leapt into the fray. The distraction bought sully enough time for a single strike, and and his own blade bit home into the chest of the beast, the newcomer jumped into the air sinking into fangs into the back of the cave-dweller’s neck. With a groan and a satisfying crunch of broken bones, the behemoth fell to earth, and Sully found himself face-to-face with a swamp hyena, which warily edged closer to him and then nuzzled him with it’s gore-stained maw.
The group used the turn of the tide to free themselves and explore they’re new surroundings, hoping to find their confiscated equipment. This they found with a little search, and horrors upon horrors beside. The family running the inn was using the cover to trap traveler’s like animals and kill them as trophies (and possibly for other more grizzly ends). Furious and determined, the group charged up the stairs into the common kitchen, and found the rest of the inn-keeper’s family in their living room. A battle ensued leaving the whole of the inn’s staff dead on the floor (though not before carving up the party as well). The group, true to form, left the loot lying on the floor of the debauched house and set the place ablaze, retreating to the now vacant gypsy campsite for sleep.
The group’s dream were troubled by and image of a long-dead and drowned city, it’s gates opening enough to pour a blinding golden light over them. The Wanderer spoke a single name, full of menace and haunting despair: Carcosa.
The group woke to find the campsite barren even of tracks of the gypsies, and a small ruined hut where there should have been the smoldering ruins of the now-vanished inn. Cautiously, they approached the in, fearful of what lay ahead of them.