Waiting until the cover of nightfall, the Stars stealthily inspected the walls of the second Silverwatch Fort, looking for a breach in its defenses, as, though old and overgrown, the new tenants had taken pains to secure the perimeter. After an hour or so, Janos scouted a small span of the wall uncovered by greenery, realizing that part of the outer wall was an illusion and they would be able to pass through.
Inside, they noticed that the layout was similar to the other Silverwatch Fort, with a few minor changes, and the difference that, besides Silverwatch House, all of the other buildings were still incomplete – wooden beams and skeletal frames of structures littered the area, the remaining lumber and equipment strewn over the grass and dirt, mixed in with a handful of rusty shields, swords, and other old weapons.
Quinn activated the wand for tracking Saze, and they moved deeper into the fort. In the distance, the party could see the orange glow of lit arbalesters at the front gate, and they treaded carefully and quietly at first, trying to avoid another ambush from demons – or something worse.
On the ground nearby was a bright, polished shield bearing a lion’s head – belonging to the Golden Lions, Janos said, a team which had threatened him before and they heard recently had left Meddes altogether.
The trail led to the front doors of Silverwatch House, which Corvus tested, noting they were locked. Fearing a possible ambush, the Stars decided to look for another entrance. Wyverna leapt up to the rear balcony of the house, and Corvus followed, dropping rope to bring Quinn and Janos along.
Inside, the house seemed to be structurally sound, but something wasn’t right. There were no lights, and the place had been completely abandoned, including all furniture, trinkets – there was nothing to suggest anyone had ever been here, other than the building itself. Janos led the party through the dark hallways of the second floor and to a glowing, runic door. Inside was a strange runic circle, which Quinn and Janos determined to be a combination of warding and fiery magic.
Disabling the circle triggered the trap, which shot flames throughout the room, scorching the group. They gathered themselves and moved on, entering a vestibule of the entrance. Wyverna tested the front doors, revealing a pair of demons that had been left on guard. The Stars quickly took one of them down, and the other fled out the door and deeper into the darkness of the fort. Corvus gave chase while he could, hoping to keep the demon from reporting their presence, but lost track of it after several twists and turns.
Back inside Silverwatch House, the Stars began to search the first floor, finding a magically secured door to what they presumed was the basement. Heading upstairs in search of a key, the party encountered another trap while stuck in a stairwell, and as Janos tried to disarm it, were greeted by a familiar face – the tiefling Jaxx, from the Creeping Mold. He greeted Janos warmly and apologized for the violence, then led them down a few hallways and into a room filled with magical and demonic items, where a ritual was taking place.
In the corner was a pile of Golden Lions armor and gear, which Jaxx proudly claimed credit for, saying that he kidnapped them and had been using their lifeforce to power the rituals.
Jaxx explained that he had two different summoning circles going, for bringing demons into Idariel, and that the other was in the basement (and near completion). Foolishly assuming that Janos had come to assist him, he willingly spilled many of his secrets and answered the Stars questions.
They learned that Jaxx was working with the demon Gal’malok to summon demons into Meddes to attack Silverwatch Fort and kill Thorne, who had something of great value to him. Gal’malok had already attacked before, but his army had been depleted and he was himself too weak to kill Thorne (who the Stars now knew was merely Heren Belderone, posing as the Silver Arrow).
Jaxx mentioned that ever since Dalosh (a tiefling that the Stars had found hanged in the woods, months before) had been killed, things had been much harder for him. In fact, they had made a deal with Saze, where she would supply the green gems necessary for their summoning rituals, and in exchange they gave her instructions on how to carry out an ancient ritual for opening a portal to “the black”, a plane of pure darkness that exists beyond the shadow realm in which Gormahoon was said to reside.
The Stars realized that Saze’s plan involved the abyssal key after all, and using it to open a gateway to this plane of absolute darkness.
Jaxx also thanked Janos for destroying New Balbareth, an incident which sparked a tiefling revolution and war against the human nobles of the city. Jaxx said the movement was called the Brotherhood of the Void, and encouraged Janos to join.
In honor of his deeds, Jaxx then offered Janos the honor of finishing the summoning ritual to bring another demon under Gal’malok’s will. Corvus began to protest, but Janos gave he and the others a meaningful look, and accepted the task, intentionally sabotaging the ritual. At first, Jaxx allowed the mistakes, but tried to retake control, and that’s when Wyverna and Corvus grabbed him.
Incredulous, Jaxx began cursing them and then disappeared in a cloud of smoke, barely making his escape from the room and through the next door, which he sealed behind him. He had barely begun taunting the Stars when Wyverna kicked the door in, and the fight continued to the roof, which was frail and barely able to support everyone’s weight. Janos stayed behind to finish destroying the ritual.
Corvus tried to reason with Jaxx, who had been cornered, but still the tiefling continued to fight, trying to evade the Stars long enough to escape. Corvus and Wyverna kept close to him, however, with Quinn attacking from afar, and eventually, they managed to bring him to his knees.
Cackling the evil laugh of those who have a backup plan, Jaxx removed his cloak and revealed that he had written another demonic summoning ritual in tattoos all over his own body, which he then activated. However, Jaxx’s ineptitude showed once more, as the portal instantly sucked him through to the other side, just as Janos appeared in the doorway and joined the others.
Sighing relief, the Stars were shaken by a loud guttural growl, and a pair of enormous, slimy hands reached through the closing portal, forcing it open as it climbed through. The creature was an enormous toad demon, nearly fifteen feet tall and thousands of pounds, enough to make the wood supporting everyone creak, and then break as the Stars and the demon plummeted through the below two floors, landing in a storage room of the basement.
Trapped in a tiny room with an enormous monster, the Stars tried their best to spread out and surround the creature, but the demon could easily reach the party and swung its fists in a frenzy, destroying crates and pillars as it furiously attacked, throwing the Stars to and fro. After a hardfought few minutes, the Stars managed to bring the demon down, and they all took a seat in the ruins to rest.
A nearby locked door led them to the second ritual room which Jaxx had spoken of, where a demonic summoning ritual was nearly complete. Janos quickly assessed the situation, warning the others that there was no way of stopping it, but he might be able to lessen the effects. They stood by as Janos tried to manipulate the dangerous fel energy, bringing a torrent of flames through, which scorched the room as a piercing demonic howl sent shivers down their spines.
Leaping through the portal was a large demonic hound, jet black with bright green eyes and covered with roaring flames. The flames dissipated to a gentle simmer, and the hound shrank in size as a green rune burned itself into both the hound’s forehead and the back of Janos’ left hand. The felhound quietly walked to Janos and sat at his feet, ready to serve its new master.
Though the others expressed concerns, Janos let them know that he had done them all a favor in summoning the least powerful demon possible, and that its will was bound to his own, so the creature would be no danger to them.
Nearby, they found an advertisement for the Brotherhood of the Void, as well as a handful of potions and a pouch of what they assumed was gold belonging to the Golden Lions. They also found a mysterious note on old parchment which read “Beware the weeping man”.
As things settled down, the Stars heard cries for help nearby, and discovered a small antechamber containing three of the Golden Lions: Hobbs, Keller, and Dinnigo. Dinnigo was missing a leg, and the others looked badly beaten. They thanked the Stars for rescuing them, offering them the gold as a reward, asked about their missing friends, and then, together, everyone began the trek back to the other Silverwatch Fort.