As our heroes kick away the last of the bugs, the sound of the sewer grate can be heard and a dark silhouette approaches from the access tunnel they had come by. A small figure ominously approaches swathed in a deep black cloak. He stops at the tunnel entrance to the chamber, and throws back his hood. A familiar face grins smugly back – Hef's, or one mostly like it: a face-cracking smile, a pug nose and impish eyes light up an otherwise bald head. Two bare, hairy legs can be seen beneath the hem of the cloak – and one is clearly devoid of pigmentation, a pale white foot against the sewer muck.
Hef stares slack-jawed, and quickly hides his cigar behind his back. "Hap!"
The halfling in black grins, looking about. "Hef! It figgers, I'd track you here."
"I thought you were still in hiding! Don't the tieflings still have a contract on yer head?"
Hap chuckled. "Naw, not no more. Ma settled with 'em. She promised 'em my next born son, only they don't know about the ol' snip-snip."
"Ha, nice! Yeah I gotta get me that done sometime."
"Yeah, about that. Jenny Bowlegged…"
"...says ya knocked her up. Again. She just had triplets."
"Jenny? I ain't seen her in over a year! Howja figger they're mine?"
"A year is what it takes, dope! And they got the White Foot. They ain't been bleached white, neither, we checked."
Hef squirms. "Triplets, huh. Eh, think the tieflings'd be innerested?"
"Nope, Ma asked, no dice. In fact, Ma thinks on account of this being the third nice hobbit girl ya knocked up, and the second time at that, that its time fer ya to come home and be a father to all the little runts."
Hef looks thunderstruck. "W-What? R-r-really? I'm pretty busy, ay, right guys? I'm on a Druidic Council mission! An official one! I ain't got time fer no fatherin'! Well, least not the after-part of fatherin'..."
"All the Whitefoot brothers tooka vote, too. Ma says ya gotta come home. So does we. Yer runts are really gettin' outta control. The Burrow's a real mess. Every night there's been random slingfire incidents, yer auntie Hoz got hit in her bed while she slept! Took us days to shut her yappin' gob up. Anyways, Ma says I gotta take over yer obligations to make up fer what she did fer me, and send ya home. Like, pront-o."
"Whaddayamean, all the Whitefoot brothers? When was the last time all the Whitefoot brothers got together. Ha, never!"
"Huh, let's see, all the Whitefoot bros got together fer Pa's 100th birthday. 'cept the one called Hef, who was too busy rollin' around in the bushes with some druid chick."
"Aw, screw that, the old man woulda understood, that chick was…", Hef's hand gesturing to describe an impossibly curvy woman. "Wait, Pa's outta the slammer? Since when?"
"Since some of us busted him out, ya nob! Mebbe if ya didn't live in the damn woods like a godsdamned elv… er I mean, elv.. ephant… haha… ya'd be a little more up on family events! Like fer instance, you reaching double digits in mini-Hefs!"
"I ain't goin' back to the Burrows! Naw way!"
Hap sniffs the air. "Ay, is yer back on fire or somethin'? Izzat a cigar? I thought I smelled cigar smoke."
Hef's face drains of color. He shakes his head quickly.
Hap gets in Hef's face. "You know what Ma says about cigar smoking! It killed yer sister Hal! Mebbe I should tell her yer smoking again, eh? She'll tie off ye ol' dicing pouch fer that!"
"Naw… I smoke'm just on special occasions, naw, naw, ya don't have to do that… crap man, she'd rip my liver out fer the Raven Queen if she knew… don't you dare, bro!"
"Ya got over a dozen whelps now Hef. It's time you man down and dig yerself a good hole in the Burrows. Whitefoot blood is special, ya can't just let em play in the gutters without a proper pa, or they'll start gangs! Raise yer runts all proper-like. Chuck those cigars, go home, be a good pa and get them kids offa the streets and them slings locked up, and I won't say nothin' about the smokin'."
Hef kicks the wall, his face screwing up with anger and frustration. After a long moment his shoulders slump. "Well, fine, screw you! I'm going home!" Hef tears off his leather jerkin, and tosses down his box of cigars into the muck. With a sullen wave of goodbye, he stomps off down the tunnel, his white foot the last to be seen disappearing into the gloom.
"Don't let the sewer grate hit ya in the ass on yer way out!" shouts Hap after him, cackling.
Hap waits until he hears the sewer grate shut, snatches up Hef's cigar box before it soaks up too much of the muck, and lights up a cigar with a smug look of satisfaction. "So… a sewer adventure. What fun! Sounds like a job fer a Whitefoot, eh? Ahahahaha! Count me in, but I ain't been in the Sumberton sewers in a long time, meself, so don't ask me fer directions… hey, who the heck is making all that screaming racket? Mebbe we should check it out instead of standin' around here, jawing…"
It was now so clear. Grigori now understood why the Eladrin left this world and went to Fey world.
Justinian, knowing his mother's side of the family only (having been raised by her), now began to doubt if his other half was indeed human after all. After all, this Halfling seems to have sprayed his seed over half of the known continent! sigh
Hap surveys the bug carnage with a smug look, a brightly stoked cigar lending a reddish hue to his face. Shaking his head with wry amusement at Justinian's proffering of a used bandage, he thoroughly dusts off pieces of smoking, hacked bug parts from his person. "That was a good bug-stomping, reminds me of baby-sitting the kids back home. Too bad that devilish lurker twerp got away though, that was a rotten piece'o'luck. Anyway, Hap Whitefoot's my name, dragon-sorcerer, pleasedtameetcha."
Where Hef was thin and sinewy, Hap is more like a solid little bowling ball, all bulging muscles and veins. He extends one meaty hand to shake, and you see that his beefy forearms are covered in bright tattoos - entwined dragons of all colors are shown in various acts – sacking towns, pulling the heads off demons, doing questionable acts with maidens, etc. As his right hand clasps yours you see it is colored to resemble the head of a red dragon; tattooed yellow teeth on his index finger and thumb chomp down on your hand with a glaring eye looking back. Even his bare white foot is lightly tattooed into the form of Bahamut, reclining comfortably (if a bit incongruously) against the squalor of the tunnel, his great silver wings outstretched on either side of Hap's lower leg.
"If there's one thing I can't stand its vandalism," he says pointing back at the obelisk with a sarcastic look on his face.
"Pleased to make your acquaintance, Hap. I think we are both happy to have another Whitefoot around. While we will miss Hef, I'm sure his paternity responsibilities are of equal importance, and we are just glad you have offered to aid us in his place."
"Concerted attack? These vandals have got to be stopped, if that obelisk falls its going to take out at least a few houses! Of course, that's why a man should dig himself a proper house below ground, so yer insulated against falling monuments - plus a good burrow don't catch fire, neither! They can get a little muddy though in the spring, but if ya dug it in good dirt, there ain't nothing more relaxin' than a fine mud between yer toes, knowhaddahmean? Har har har. Mud in the dining room sure beats a monument falling in yer dining room, I'll tell ya what."
"Paternal responsibilities? Har, naw, that was just a practical joke, Jenny's been all around the Burrow, y'know? They ain't his kids, hahaha, they're mine, haha! It'll take him awhile to figger that one out, prolly once one of em gets old enough to start barfing dragonfire. If they got some of the dragonblood anyway, no telling. That's why Ma made me get the ol' snip-aroo, she figgered one dragonblood was causing the clan enough problems. Say, yer a doc aincha… is that reversible?"
"Uh… umm… Oh my. Errr… let me check." (Pretends to consult with Melora through prayer)
"Uh huh… yes… really? Okay. Thank you, oh generous and wise one. I'm so sorry, she says that the procedure is sadly not reversible. One's body is a temple you know, so once you go around altering things…"
"I am…Grigori. Eladrin warrior. Liberator of the Vlaathwood Forest. " Bows his head "Welcome. Your arcane skills are great little one. I believe they will improve our chances of completing our quest." Grigori, not understanding sarcasm, inquires in a confused but serious tone. "If you do not like vandalism, then how did you let someone paint all over your body little one?"
"Well met. Haha, yeah, these tattoos, never walk into a tattoo parlor with a full purse and a belly full of whiskey, har har. As fer arcane skills, well, yeah, sorta. Most of its in me blood though – I may not lookit, but the Whitefoots are direct descendants of Bahamut hisself, I ain't kidding ya. So all this fire and poison and thunder'n'such, it mostly comes natural to me, on account of having a bit more of that dragon blood than yer average Whitefoot."
He holds up his red dragon hand and liquid fire quickly wells up in the palm and drips sizzling from it – the source of the burning spray you had seen him scorch the krithiks with earlier.
"One's body is a temple you know, so once you go around altering things…"
"Ha, yeah… a temple to what is the question," he mumbles underbreath. "Well that's ok, I gotta wipe out a tiefling clan before I can have any more runts, anyway. Thanks fer checking."
The militiaman thanks you profusely for saving him and says he will do as Justinian asks.
After the group finishes up and returns to the rain soaked streets of Sumberton, there are several Sumberton militia waiting, discussing whether or not to go into the sewers. They seem a little startled by the party as they climb up from below but they quickly help the group climb up. They explain that a call has gone out and other soldiers should be arriving.
The area around the Obelisk soon is crawling with soldiers. The Sumberton militia and the Crimson Guard both have come, along with Sir Falston Tordell, a Luminous Order Sunwatch Knight. A permanent guard around the obelisk is quickly set up and a couple of Sumberton militiamen are dispatched to request help from the temples of Pelor and Bahamut.
Several soldiers enter the sewers to inspect the damage.
To your surprise Naryalla also shows up. "Well, well, the three of you look like you're in the middle of something … something larger than was expected. What has happened here?"
Most of the soldiers give her and her black robes a cautious look while Sir Tordell scowls at her presence.
Hap smiles charmingly at Naryalla. "Why madam, there is no need to fear. We put a right stop to these vandalous little bugs, and they won't be snacking on any more of your lovely town's civic monuments anytime soon." He frowns and looks back at Grigori and Justinian. "It was just vandalism, right?" Turning back he whispers quickly to Naryalla, "Ay, Ebon Cabal, right? I know where I can get you an Everfresh Stewpot – y'know, the sort that keeps guts and meat fresh fer blood rituals or a good stew for the family? Cheap, but ya gotta hurry before the guards cart it off… make us an offer!"
"I'm afraid he knows of no such thing. If there ever was such a device down there, I'm afraid it had an unfortunate mishap – most likely due to my praying over it and desecrating the foul contraption least it be used for such evil again!"
Hap glares at Justinian incredulously. "One, I'm whispering here – that means reel yer rude little elfy ears in, I'm tryin' ta make a deal! Two, that thing was valuable (Hap waggles his eyebrows here) evidence of these crimes that I am sure a Cabalist would find important for researchin' the horrific origins of these vandalous insects! Three, research isn't evil, it is vitally necessary to understand the arcane workings of the cosmos 'n stuff, which is what these Cabalists are all about! Or, are you judging a wizard by the color of her robe, eh?" Hap holds up the edge of his own muddy black cloak, waving it in Justinian's face.
"You look familiar but you are not the halfling I have talked to before," Naryalla brings back her hood slightly to get a better glance at Hap. "There is something different … yes, you possess some arcane power don't you?"
"Bugs? But I see no destruction of this obelisk," she glances up at the Obelisk and then wanders over to inspect it.
It is then that some of the soldiers begin bringing up some of the carcasses of the kruthiks and they tell of the structural damage to the obelisk below.
Naryalla kneels down next to one of the dead bugs. "Kruthiks. Born of demonic magic, a union of insect and reptile. These insidious creatures first were seen during the Battle of Slaughtergarde and were thought to have been eradicated in the years afterward. They have been digging away at the obelisk? Then it must be true. Someone is systematically looking to destroy them. Yet, the curious question remains … why? The obelisks hold no power that we know of."
"From what I have been told, the Obelisks served to destroy the Abyssal Mountain during the Slaughterguarde invasion. If you were a Demon with a mind to try again years later, what is the one thing you would make sure was destroyed before trying a second attempt? "
Naryalla stands with the help of her staff, her black robes soaked with rain.
"Too obvious and the amount of effort it took was enormous. Demons are cunning and there must be something else that is going on. I was told by your other companion that one among you carried a shard from the goblin warren. If I could take a look at it I may be able to gather more information about what is going on. Do you have it?"