Into The Demon's Maw
Blood of Wintersbreath
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Book 1
Into the Demon's Maw

Featuring

icon-durgan.jpg icon-iandra.jpg icon-mechiam.jpg icon-sloan.jpg icon-tsura.jpg

Synopsis

Returning to the Ironhill region, Sloan and her allies ascended the Mindspin Mountains in search of an abandoning mining settlement, an offshoot of Tovar's Folly where Loga had settled. The nameless thorp had been abandoned for more than a decade and the region renamed Demon's Maw for the rough hole the strip mine carved into the mountains. Sloan and her allies discovered, however, that the area was far from abandoned.

On approach to the abandoned settlement, Sloan spotted the frozen corpses of orcs half buried by recently fallen snow. There was no sign of any other inhabitants, and as Sloan's team drew near the orc corpses rose from the dead to attack. Though the zombies were put down, it became immediately clear that something terrible was amiss there. Examining the strip mine from its edge, Sloan could see a cave entrance at the bottom, and directed her group to descend into the Demon's Maw.

The cave appeared to be discovered during the original attempt at mining, though more recent occupants littered the cave entrance with bones in ritualistic mounds. Inside, the cave was infested with dretch — foul-smelling, craven demons — like the ones Loga had summoned at Tovar's Folly. Fighting through the pack of demons, Sloan's team discovered an unusual ruin deep within the cave: a portion of a Thassilonian library.

The library appeared to have become fused with the cave, sitting at an askew angle. Iandra theorized that the destruction of a ley line — much like what happened at Hangwall Keep — could have displaced the library in space and wound up shunting it from somewhere higher in the mountains to the mine. The presence of a primal magic area within the ruin helped support this theory as well. Inside of the ruined library, Sloan discovered a massive, frustrated demon called a schir — a demon born of the soul of an evil person falsely executed for a crime they did not commit.

The schir demon was attempting to communicate with the corpses of dead Irriseni witches littering the ruin, to no avail. Sloan devised a plan to lure the demon into an ambush and approached the creature alone as bait. When the arrow she fired to get the demon's attention harmlessly bounced off its hide, the creature rose to its full height and demanded she "send it back" and that it "refused to be trapped here." Playing along, Sloan agreed, and managed to trick the demon into revealing that the Irriseni witches attempted to bind the demon against its will but failed after summoning it to the material plane. With no ability to send itself back to the Abyss, the schir was trapped. Sloan successfully lured the cruel schir into an ambush, and with her expert planning was able to fell the incredibly powerful foe with little harm coming to herself or her allies.

On a more close examination of the chamber the demon occupied, Sloan discovered a ritual book belonging to the witches that contained a ritual to bind outsiders. Most notably, the chamber contained a marble statue of a woman that looked curiously like an adult version of Tsura with a fist-sized sapphire in its chest. Tsura seemed unnaturally afraid of the statue and refused to go near, though she could not explain why she was so afraid.

Iandra recognized the statue as a type of construct known as a soulbound shell, a powerful vessel for a creature's soul. This soulbound shell appeared to be empty, awaiting a soul to fill it. Examining the witches record book, Iandra saw mention of Tsura and her family name of Pavril. According to the witches records, Tsura was a member of a Jadwiga family that lots its matriarch and was absorbed by another prominent family. Seen as a threat to the current matriarch, Tsura was sold as a slave to a cabal of witches called the Covenant of Endless Winter who magically experimented on her. The witches' records were not complete, however, and it was unclear as to their relationship with Loga.

Iandra was able to infer from the text that this vessel was intended to serve as a vessel for a demon or devil of some variety currently bound to Tsura. Though she could not understand why the witches went to such an unusual length to bind the fiend—both into Tsura, and then into the soulbound shell — and needed to research the issue further. Tsura was visibly shaken by the entire ordeal and Sloan did her best to console her, though it was clear it would not be a quick fix. Not wanting to leave the statue there, Sloan loaded it into her bag of holding with the intention of storing it in the vault at Fangwood Keep. The group took what books and other remaining objects of interest were found in the ruin and left the Demon's Maw to its fate.

That night, camping on the road, Tsura and Sloan spoke briefly of the ordeal. Tsura claimed that she felt calmer now, and explained that the fear she felt "wasn't hers," and believes it belongs to someone else. Whatever entity it is was so afraid of the statue that it receded deeper into her, hiding from something. While the fiend is suppressed as such, Tsura feels less "distant" from the world and asked Sloan if she should go looking for the voice inside of her again, to find where it went.

Sloan recommended against seeking out the voice, and told Tsura she was strong enough on her own.

Previously Aftermath II
Continued In