The heroes rested after having ousted Captain Skarros and his noble payee, Hong Weitung. Corporal Wiggins had also gone missing, along with several other members of the Imperial garrison at the fortress of Freidvale. Tannis had a fitful sleep, dreaming of a dark shadow that was sniffing the air, moving ever closer towards her. It was decided, after much discussion, that the group would next investigate Lord Bartimeus' slave pens. On the way there, sharp-eyed Vocifera noticed a darkened humanoid shape slip into an alley behind them when she turned around. The group quickly pursued, but found no tracks whatsoever. Once again, the keen eyes of Vocifera noticed that her shadow was not quite tracking with her own movements. When she nervously reported this to the group, her shadow broke away into humanoid form. The being stated it was following 'the master of the cards' (Tannis) and that it could 'smell them'. It said that others would soon follow. It also stated that while it served the master of the cards, it could not follow them into direct sunlight.
Quite alarmed by this development, Tannis immediately set about obtaining some means of obfuscating the cards so that others would not pursue them. It was determined through the knowledge of things Arcane that a simple bag of holding would shelter the cards from detection, which the group quickly procured from Pascal the bookseller. Their detour concluded, the heroes continued on to Bartimeus' manor. The passed town square where holograms depicted various criminals local and national who were wanted for assorted crimes. The group recognized Captain Skarros and Corporal Wiggins and Hong Weitung as a trio of wanted men.
Lord Bartimeus, who had no servants it would seem, opened the door himself, wrapped from head to toe in rags to shelter him from the deadly sun. He led them to the slave pens where two of his 'cattle' had been abducted and murdered. It had been too long for Brog to track the murderers, but he didn't notice a splash of blood on the wall, which Bartimeus decried as being horribly wasteful. There was a passage leading to the undercity, orc territory according to Bart. The heroes resolved to investigate the tunnels, but not before Bart warned them not to head west through the tunnels, as this was the abode of unsanctioned undead. Brog rejoiced that he would finally be able to put his orc-slaying skills to good use.
The group was not long into orc territory when they stepped into the midst of an ambush. The orcs and their Wererat ally had the element of surprise, but it mattered little. Brog made short work of three of the orcs, while Karsh slew the vicious wererat, but not before it scratched him in the face. Thanks to the healing efforts of Vocifiera, Karsh was kept curse and disease free for the time being. The final orc dropped his crossbow and plead for mercy. He escaped with one foot intact, the other in hand (thanks to Brog), but not before he admitted to taking a bribe from some imperial soldiers to let them pass through to Bart's slave pens. Even better, the group had made it to level 3, at 5230 experience points.
The next stop was a return trip to the Fortress, where they visited Lt. Faber, who was furiously filling out paperwork in the absence of his Captain. When questioned, he wiped sweat from his brow, checked the forms, and informed the group that Captain Skarros himself had investigated the crime scene, and that they had received an anonymous tip that the slaves had been murdered. The tip came in the form of a note, Faber reported, that had vanished after the investigation. Before the group left, he handed them a bill for the capture of the leader of the Crimson Claw gang, and asked if the heroes would do him the favor of capturing the criminal. His last known location was at the ruins of the Chapel of Saint Mel, outside of Freidvale.
At the ruins, the group found a single corpse bearing the mark of the Crimson Claw, it's neck having been broken by intense blunt force trauma to the head. Something large and powerful had hit him over the head. Only moments later, two immense, hideous humanoid creatures stepped onto the road behind the heroes. They made their intentions clear a moment later when they threw javelins at the group.
Tannis was quickest and charged, getting pummeled within an inch of her life for her trouble. Vocifera and Fallister managed to get her back on her feet, while Brog and Karsh managed to slay one of the ogres (for Brog recognized the creatures for what they were). Tannis had few hit points and few options left, so she hit the remaining ogre with all her might... a critical hit! She slew the ogre with a single blow.
The group set about investigating the altar and the statue which were still largely intact in the ruins. Tannis checked the altar and detected a crack between it and the stone floor of the chapel. Fallister set the statue aright, putting a stone quill in its hand, which opened the way to a crypt beneath the altar. They also heard a disturbing moaning coming from the crypt. Vocifera detected an undead monster close by, then proceeded to blast the bajeebers out of it using channel positive energy. Saving her last remaining channels for healing, Karsh and Brog bravely stepped into the crypt, ghost-touch swords in hand. The gifts from Lord Fatsbury served them well, as they were able to dispatch the wraith, but not before its chilling touch drained Brog of some of his vitality....
Inside the tomb, the spirit of Saint Melrose awakened, and the luminous being greeted the heroes, granting them his Sacred Quill as a reward for letting his spirit rest once again and purifying his chapel. Using the quill, they translated the document they had received from Gnosh the locksmith, and learned of a secret Project codenamed Guyver. It seemed Dr. Jessup was working on some sort of bomb that relied on living beings for its activation. But what was he planning to destroy? The note did not specify, but it did state the urgency of locating the Apparatus of Kwalish, a device that was crucial to the Emperor's plans....