After a few days of slow travel (due to Dinnigo’s missing leg), the Stars and remaining Golden Lions arrived at the Pens. They thanked Janos and the Stars (though Hobbs did so reluctantly), and left to rest before heading home and away from Meddes.
Inside, Vara and Heren stood over a desk signing the bottoms of stacks and stacks of official looking documents bearing the FETC seal. The Stars filled Vara in on the happenings at the old Silverwatch Fort, Jaxx’s involvement, and that Saze was looking to open a portal not only to the shadow realm, but to the plane of darkness beyond it.
Vara said that was what they had feared, but now they knew for sure. Answering what questions she could, she explained that they had tried to trap Gal’malok before, but that the first Silverwatch Fort was barely staffed, poorly defended, and that things had failed before they had a chance to begin. Thus, the need for FETC’s funding and support in the games.
She explained that the documents they were signing would give them some much needed resources from FETC, in exchange for signing away Thorne’s name, merchandising rights, and ownership of the mythical (she said) Silver Stash, a secret, legendary vault said to hold all of Thorne’s greatest treasures.
This new FETC support came with many limits and stipulations, and would last only until the evening of Octovon 10th, the day of the final awards ceremony. After that, Vara, Thorne, the teams, and all non-FETC personnel were to evacuate the fort immediately, as it was now the sole property of FETC.
Now, Vara said, it was up to herself and the other house leads, the heroes of old, to find Saze and stop her and Gal’malok both. The Stars wanted to stay and help, but Vara told them that this fight, these foes, were far out of their league, and that they had done enough.
She thanked the Stars for their service and said that FETC, and Nimmonin specifically, were searching for them, and that they should take some time away from Silverwatch until after the awards ceremony, when things calmed down.
On a map, she showed them an abandoned guard post about three hours away from both the Pens and Silverwatch Fort, a post that had been left off of all official documents and maps, left for the Ghosts of Farhoon Forest to utilize in their tasks, but it now sat empty. She advised the Stars to gather some rations and head to the post until things blew over, that she would send someone for them when she had secured them passage off of Meddes. If they didn’t hear from her in seven days, they were to assume things had gone wrong, and to get off of Meddes as quickly as possible.
The Stars left soon after, and found the guard post as described, in a peaceful and sunlit corner of Farhoon Forest. A stream nearby provided clean water and fish, and the greenery around them supplied game, berries, and nuts. The housing itself was built into the trees, empty inside except for some simple bedding and a table, and a magical light beacon which Quinn explained had been one of the lights they had watched for many nights atop the roof of Axe House.
Now out of the games and out of danger, the Stars spent the next week relaxing, recuperating, and forgetting about the troubles of Silverwatch Fort and Meddes. Indeed, within the calm and tranquil forest, it was like the outside world didn’t even exist.
But such a thing could never last.
Announcing her arrival with a loud clanking of clanking metal and supplies, Vara hailed the Stars down to hear her. There had been an incident in Silverwatch Fort the other night: Saze had broken into the basement of the Arena, now being used as a warehouse for FETC, and something had been stolen.
Several guards had identified the intruder as a tall cloaked figure with a pair of halberds – Saze, of course. Though the guards were injured, no lives had been lost, which was a surprise to Vara, as Saze had seemed to have already passed the point of sparing others.
The other house leads were currently pursuing her, but Saze was an expert ranger, rivaled perhaps only by Thorne, and it was unlikely they would find her. In the meantime, Vara had another task for the Stars.
FETC denied the theft, which made it even more suspicious, and Vara said that Saze was cold, cruel, and calculating, and that she did nothing at random. If she broke into the warehouse, she had a plan, and they needed to find out what it was. She and her own men were too well known, she said, but the Stars, if disguised properly, might be able to slip in, find out what had been taken, and escape without alerting FETC to their presence.
Vara emptied out a large sack, which contained four FETC guard uniforms, tabards, swords, and other accessories, as well as a detailed blueprint of Silverwatch House and tunnels beneath it. She said that she knew they had been through a lot, that they had no reason to risk themselves further, but that she needed them, now, to stop a threat greater than one they had ever known.
She said they had all come to Meddes for different reasons, but they had come together something bigger than themselves, for a greater purpose, and that if they were willing, they had a chance to help stop others from experiencing horrors worse than their own, that they could help Thorne put an end to Gal’malok once and for all, before the demon and Saze have time to see their evil unfold.
The Stars agreed, and Vara explained the plan. They were to disguise themselves as FETC guards, enter Silverwatch House through the back door, and enter a series of secret tunnels that spanned the area below the Fort, entering the basement of the Arena and finding out what Saze had taken from FETC.
They would have to be careful, as rumor had it that FETC had hired more muscle after the recent break-in. If they were caught, they were not to implicate Vara in any way, as it would void her recent deal with FETC and put the greater plan in jeopardy. She also warned them against stealing from the warehouse, as FETC had a reputation for tagging and tracking their items.
And finally, she told them not to kill anyone – enough lives had been lost already.
She told them to find her at the Pens as soon as they found out what she had taken, and then she left, saying she needed to get back before anyone became suspicious of her absence.
The Stars donned the FETC gear and swords, leaving behind their other gear, armor, and weapons, making sure not to wear or carry anything that would give them away, then left for Silverwatch Fort.
Arriving near nightfall, the Stars hid in the treeline outside the northeast entrance, while Quinn magically imitated some animals nearby to distract the guards long enough for them to enter without close inspection. They then split up, feigning a patrol as they approached the back of Silverwatch House.
Inside, a pair of guards assumed Janos and Quinn were their replacements, and left, and Corvus and Wyverna joined them shortly after. In the basement of Silverwatch House, the party noticed the cells were filled with civilians and merchants they had seen around the Fort, likely competition for FETC that was being sent away.
In the supply closet, the Stars found the entrance to the tunnels and followed the detailed map given to them by Vara to a secret door in the basement of the Arena. Moving as quietly as possible, the Stars split up and began to search the shelves of goods in the warehouse, paying special attention to the most secure areas.
A short while later, after narrowly escaping several patrolling guards (and Corvus knocking one unconscious), the Stars had seen an empty crate of magical chains, an overflowing barrel of Thorne action figures, and some sort of alchemist’s fire. Corvus found and collected a handful of experimental healing potions, and the group met up near the hallway to the vault, where the most valuable items were kept.
Inside, the Stars found a pair of FETC guards and a door leading up to the Arena, as well as many reinforced metal cages (which had contained animals, previously). They distracted the guards long enough to knock them unconscious, and found what Saze had been after; one of the cages had been ripped to shreds, as well as the crates within, which were labeled as “Megamagic Incendiary Devices” – she had taken powerful magical bombs, and a lot of them.
One of the other cells contained a strange creature – a bull, unnaturally large and covered in interlocking plate armor similar to Razortusk, but more complete, fully armored so that no flesh shown through at all. Labeled LC33L, “Lucille” was fortunately locked in one of the cages, with warning signs plastered around.
Satisfied with what they had found, the Stars turned to leave, and were surprised as five shapes walked out of the shadows behind them. It was Tavus and the rest of the Rolling Thunder, adorned with FETC sashes.
Tavus said that the FETC had paid them to keep an eye out for intruders since the break-in, and how fortunate for him that it was Corvus and the Falling Stars. He dared the Stars to fight back, saying he had waited for this moment.
Quinn spoke up, trying to explain that they were here to help, and that Tavus and his team should step aside, if they wanted to help Thorne and save lives. He scoffed, saying that he wasn’t willing to let intruders go and risk his name and reputation with FETC for whatever the Stars had gotten themselves into.
Corvus spoke up, inciting Tavus to challenge him to a duel. If Corvus won, Tavus would let them all walk out the front door, no questions asked. But if Tavus won, they’d all be arrested and held by the FETC, to his pleasure.
Nearby, Lucille grunted, pacing impatiently in her cage.