The next two days were spent interviewing the locals of Red Rock. A crew was needed to clean Greystone Fortress and there were three candidates to lead that crew. Eventually a dwarf named Dane was decided to hire and lead the janitors. He was given a tour of Greystone, a month of wages, and a promise of a bonus for a job well done.
Finally the party left for Brindol. They hoped to find a priest to cure their nightmares, but none of the priests were powerful enough to perform the ritual and such a ritual would cost 250gp per person. So they set about the task of claiming ownership of Greystone Fortress.
After consulting Laeon the scribe they decided the best course of action would be to get the three strongest powers in the area to agree to Brindol’s claim on the fortress and convince Brindol to grant them stewardship. They started with Adren‘s tribe, the Witchwood elves. Adren wanted some peace in the woods to ease his nightmares so he returned to Witchwood alone. The elves were happy to see Adren and thought him somewhat a hero. They cared not about Greystone and agreed to formally recognize Brindol’s claim in exchange for Brindol’s promise to prevent logging in the forest. Brindol had a long understanding to not cut trees from Witchwood, but the recent construction of Bahamut’s temple had led to increased poaching of trees. Brindol agreed to patrol the area and discourage poaching but this bothered Donaar as it would slow down the temple construction.
One morning the town buzzed with rumors of a squad of cavalry wearing white armor and flying the banner of Bahamut riding to town. At the front rode Josseth Crownblade of the Red Dawn of Righteousness, a zealous sect of Bahamut known for extremely vigilance in pursuing and destroying evil. They use force to further their cause, scouring the countryside for wicked servants dedicated to dark powers. Much good has been done in their name, and their vigilance checks evil’s spread.
Next to Josseth rode his second in command, Salavar Dag a hulking half-orc with cold blue eyes. In addition to half a dozen or so human honor guard rode four Iron Talons, Tieflings expert in finding evil and extracting confessions. Bringing up the rear was a Cobalt Inquisitor, a blue and white Deva. Devas are semi-divine beings that are not born, but created in a holy place when another Deva dies. All in all, it was a very impressive cadre.
Josseth rode to the temple location and spoke with Donaar about performing the temple dedication. Astute onlookers might have noticed some hesitation, but Donaar agreed to have such a prestigous and powerful man consecrate the grounds. Josseth then saw Gilbain and spoke with him.
It became clear that Josseth was some sort of mentor to Gilbain a few years back and they were catching up. Like Donaar, Gilbain seemed almost of two minds regarding Josseth. It was evident that he sincerely trusted and respected the man but there was also a sense of unease, like part of him wished Josseth not stay long.
The next day the temple grounds were consecrated. Josseth gave a stirring speech while the Iron Talons chanted a ritual. At the end of the ritual there was a clap of thunder followed by a sudden silence where only the faint chirping of canaries could be heard in the distance. From then on, the area seemed brighter, both visibly and spiritually.
The Grandfather of Dragons commands us to be
vigilant against all evil and to destroy it wherever
we encounter it. Yet many who wear his noble colors
are content to await the coming darkness—they
think that they will be ready for the time when evil
shows its hideous visage. Brothers and sisters, evil
will never reveal itself. Those sworn to wickedness
cannot abide the shining beacon because they find
its brilliance loathsome. No, evil’s servants haunt the
darkness that spawns it. They bide their time. They
spread evil’s filthy seed to unsuspecting innocents,
offering temptations even the innocent cannot refuse.
We permit this festering cancer as we strive to
safeguard our lands. We combat the obvious threats,
but this, friends, is what darkness wants. Evil would
have us fritter away all our strength against its decoys,
laughing at our feeble flailing. How, I ask, can
we ever hope to quench the hated one’s conflagration
when all we do is fight the small fires?
The Platinum Dragon commands us to protect
the weak and to safeguard the innocent from
evil’s depredations, yet time and again the common
person succumbs to temptation We cannot wait any
longer—we cannot allow another day to pass—while
the Dark Lady and other vile forces plot our dooms
from unseen redoubts. We must look deep within
our hearts and find our purity. We must scourge our
flesh to purge temptation and doubt. We must test
our friends, our families, and our neighbors to be
certain shadow has no hold. And where we find it,
we must cleanse the flesh. We liberate the spirit.
If we falter in this holy mission, we fail.
If we quail before the horrors, evil wins.
Giving mercy, we permit evil and become
no better than those we fight.
Brothers and sisters, we are at war.
After the ritual one of the Iron Talon approached the party. “I can see you are troubled, all of your. Your eyes show the burden of sins upon your soul.” Gilbain was inclined to share nothing with the Iron Talon but Elan answered that they have been having nightmares and the local priests could not help. The Tiefling offered, “The ritual to cleanse sin from the soul requires great dedication and training but if the priests could not help then your sins must indeed be heavy.” He looked disgusted. “Bahamut despises sin and you must be purified. If it is his will I can help but I must warn you, it will not be pleasant.”
Elan was more afraid of her purse than a little pain. “Will it be free?”
Ever serious, the Tiefling replied, “No. It will be paid for by other sinners whose property was confiscated to fund our righteous cause.”
“Oh” Elan said, “Let’s do this.”
“Very well. Meet me at our quarters tonight. I suggest you spend the rest of the day contemplating the nature of your sins, praying for forgiveness, and in the event you do not survive the cleansing, make peace with the world.”
“Uh, what do you mean ‘do not survive’?”
“Impurities come from actions repugnant to Bahamut. They can only be cleansed through fire and pain. If sins are too great, the sinner will not survive the flames.”
“Maybe we should rethink this… uh… "
“I will see you tonight. Goodbye.”
Later that night the party nervously knocked on the inn door, guarded by the human honor guard. The tiefling let them in to a dark room lit by candles casting an eerie silvery light. The Iron Talon spoke, “sit down and hold out your arm.” Elan did so. The Tiefling held her arm and touched her forehead and said, “The impurity is strong, your pain will be great. Bahamut is disgusted but the choice to cleanse is yours to make. Do you wish to endure such pain for the chance to return to Bahamut’s good graces?”
Elan had spent the day learning more about the ritual. She discovered the ritual is painful no matter who applies it so was determined to save 250gp even if it meant suffering through some Bahamut mumbo jumbo. “I’m ready, let’s do it.”
“As the nightmares leave the body, they manifest in physical flames which burn the skin. If you survive, where would you like the scar?”
“Uh.. if I survive? Just do it. Put the scar on my upper leg.”
“As you like.” The Tiefland placed his hand on Elan’s leg and started to chant. Elan felt the nightmare chaos build within her and flow toward his hand. It burned her on the inside until the flames erupted through her leg. The Tiefling continued to chant while Adren put out the fire and Gilbain watched transfixed. Soon the ritual was over. It was a terrible ordeal physically but Elan could tell the nightmares were gone and it gave her a sense of peace. The Tiefling spoke, “You are fortunate. Bahamut has smiled on you. Rejoice in the knowledge that he must have great plans for you.”
After that the rest of the party decided to go through the ritual. One person passed out and nearly died but everyone survived. Gilbain was last but he decided to not go through the ritual. “I understand” said the Iron Talon “you must come to terms with your sin yourself before they are removed. Your companions took the easy route but you want to earn your cleansing. Come to me when you are ready.”
The party took some time to recover and waited for Troyas to present their case of stewardship to the council. One evening there was a knock at their door. Troyas entered and said, “It is time” as he pulled a blade and stabbed Gilbain. At the same time, Biatch and Longbreath attacked Elan. This threw the party into confusion. Not knowing who to trust, Elan feystepped out of the room and blasted Troyas into the corner. Elan and Adren ran through the inn looking for a possible enchanter possessing their friends while Gilbain stayed to hold them back. Adren ran downstairs to evacuate the inn and call for the Red Hand of Righteousness. Meanwhile Gilbain was hurting from the attacks. Finally, he had to kill Longbreath but his corpse turned into a grayish humanoid that Adren recognized as a doppleganger.
“Elan! Get down here! They are dopplegangers!”
“Dopplegangers? Fascinating! I would like to observe one up close.”
“Then get your ass down here now! They just dropped Gilbain and I can’t take Troyas and Biatch alone!”
They beat down the dopplegangers and bandaged Gilbain before he bled to death, just as half a dozen Red Hand of Righteousness showed up, including an Iron Talon and the Cobalt Inquisitor. The Iron Talon spoke with seriousness, “Very impressive. Dopplegangers usually kill their prey.”
“What happened to our friends?”
“Hard to say. Dopplegangers prefer to kill those that they impersonate but perhaps they went for you first.”
“Who sent them?”
“They are often hired assassins. Do you have any enemies?”
“We need to make sure there are no more dopplegangers posing as patrons. Everyone! Line up and sit down!” Everyone looked a little confused but did as was told. While the serious guards and impassive Deva watched.
The Iron Talon went to the first in line and held his arm. “This will hurt but if you are without sin, the pain will not be great.” The man started screaming. “You may leave.”
The process was repeated for everyone. Even the children were not spared but nobody was deemed to be a doppleganger. “We will leave now. You have fought well and Bahamut is proud of you.”