Everything became a blur of motion. Sorry yelled. Giggles laughed uproarously. Murdo swore. Violet began shouting at Giggles. Fen dashed forward with a bandage. Elara collapsed and began fitting. Cid rushed to help Elara, as did the newly arrived Orion Pendragon. Fortunately everybody kept a cool head and within a few moments the wound was bandaged and Elara was no longer writing in agony on the floor. There was much shouting, some sulking and a ‘heatfelt’ apology from Giggles. During the chaos Fen noticed that, on the astral plane, some form of energy had pulsed from Violet to Sorry, and in turn from Elara to Violet. A short while later and the group were ready to leave, but a few people decided that they would like to meet stitches before they went to see if she was OK. Sorry wasn’t really keen on the idea, but Struman, Cid and Fen insisted and Sorry took them into the castle ruins to see her. In the dark room, barely lit by the flickering of a small file, Stitches was sat, rocking, in a corner, gently singling “Twinkle, twinkle little star” while playing with her arms. They moved around the room and tried to talk with her but got no sensible response, that is until Cid decided that he might get a reaction by letting a little blood flow and took his knife out to cut himself. Fortunately Sorry stopped him before he made such a reckless mistake. Something he said made Stitches react though and she told them that she was hungry… so hungry, but the reason she was there was that she was that she wouldn’t hurt anyone again. She was twitchy and jumpy, particularly at the sight of Cids knife, so they decided to leave her be. Swiftly the group headed round the mountain, the scenery turning from Scottish lowland wilderness to volcanic wasteland as the move onto the north side of the Law. As they climbed up the now-cold lavaflow, the deepening chasm on the left hand side, the astrally sensitive members of the group quickly noticed the significant number of wards and alarms they were passing through, although they didn’t appear to do anything, at least anything obvious. It was at least the 8th ward before the large stone in Strumans pocket began to vibrate and grow warm. Touching it gently with his hand he spoke with the Great Dragon Hestaby. She was warning him that she feared discovery and that she might have to destroy all those approaching her lair! Fortunately Strumans reassures her that it was a group with him, that he thought they were trustworthy and discrete. She allowed them to enter the mountain; through he door, down the slowly curving descending passage and into her lair near the heart of the volcano.
As they entered her lair they marvelled at the powerful magic that formed a large part of one wall of the cavern, holding back the living lava of the volcano that lit the space with a writhing yellow-orange glow. A few people picked up some of the odd white stone fragments that littered the floor as they tentatively stepped into the cavern. A grey darkness obscured one end of the large space and a deep rolling voice echoed from it, inquiring who they were, and what they wanted. Reassured by Strumans and with the introductions done, Hestaby stepped from the gloom, revealing herself to the party. The discussion that followed was lengthy and at time difficult. Hestaby inspected the sample of Sorrys blood and confirmed that the malady was indeed caused by a living creature, albeit one that was very small. She confirmed that it was a similar sickness to that afflicting Eonan Da -Sgurr, albeing somewhat different, more violent, faster, in many ways. She also confirmed that Elara a’ Tog was afflicted with the sickness. She listened, concerned, as the party related their tales of the situation in Dundee, and in particular of the church and the new bishop. Murdo revealed that he knew the order from which some of the paladins, at least, were drawn; a crusading group known as the Knights Hospitalier. The Knights Hospitalier have a reputation as compassion keepers of their brothers, protectors and a charitable organization, however Murdo painted a far darker portrait. He named them as a group of highly trained killers, assassins devoted to a strict and fundamentalist interpretation of doctrine – particularly with respect tot he Others in society. Not only that, but he claimed that, in the name of god and believing they were angels, they were known to summon, kill and implant bits of demons and spirits to augment them in their fight. Worst of all, it became clear exactly why he knwe so much about these people – having once been a member of the order himself.
Shocked, the party turned to Hestaby for guidance and assistance. She said that she couldn’t openly extend herself to combat this growing threat, but that she may be able to make life a harder for them. It would come at a cost though, if she acted considerably against the church she would be unable to help Elara and that she might not survive. On the other hand, if they preferred, Hestaby could expend more of her power to assist Elara. She was regrettably unable to cure her, but she could buy her time for the party to find a cure, or perhaps a replacement for the human flesh she would eventually crave. Unfortunately, this would limit what she could do to act against the church. The party chose the latter but before Hestaby could perform her ritual another siezure overcame Elara and she collapsed on the floor. As she thrashed about, in a moment of madness or brilliant, Cid decided to see into her deluded mind and see if he could help her at all. He cast his spell as others held her down and he was assaulted by terrible visions as the infection twisted her mind. A gem of hope was to be found though in the madness, darkness, blood and gore that her twisted mind craved, though he did not know it at first. Within the visions were images or dark, twisted trees with spongely bark that bled dark blood when cut – trees that Agnes recognised from her forrest home. Eventually, as Elara recovered, the group decided that maybe this tree was park of the craving – or the source of the infection perhaps, and resolved themselves to find them. Agnes agreed to show them where to find these trees in her home provided Deputy Sherrif Struman agreed to pay for her medicine from Brother Claudius – a price he willingly agreed to (although one he may come to regret!). With a possible solution in hand Hestaby performed the ritual to buy Elara the time she may need and with that they left her lair, though many resolved to return afterwards.
The group returned to Dundee, fragmenting as they went. Fen arrived first, eager to make an appointment. Struman, Murdo and Cid arrived next, followed finally by Elara, Orion and Agnes… just as the crowd began to grow in the city square, gathering around the newly build pyre.