Joined by Rowen, Clubeck Pluck, Ygnas, and our three bandits, we descended once more into the sewers. I consulted Oscar’s notes and set the valves to drain the swamp around the base of Cloacina’s shrine. I would say vows before her image, and hope for her blessing to bring with me against the rats.

When I swore my vows, she appeared before me in a vision, and told me of Arimaniux’s plans to use the sacrifice of children to rise from a demon prince to true godhood. I passed that message on to my friends, one of whom elected to pray with me, but seemed disappointed when Cloacina granted him neither a vision nor a magical weapon. I left 13 sp in the secret offering drawer (feeling that the silver coins were appropriate). Clubeck left 5 gp in the public offering tray, then took it back when he still received no divine benefit. I glared at him and replaced it from my own purse; the goddess will not be cheated.

We descended into the sewers after that, quite a crowd, observed by rats.

The first chamber was empty. We advanced cautiously, finding the next chamber empty as well. And the corridor after that. Turning the corner, we found stairs leading down, a door to the south, and the sound of chanting from below. we discussed what to do, and decided that we needed to interrupt the ritual in progress, if there was one. Landon the elf led the way, bow out, aiming to fill any rats inside with arrows. I was next, Verminbane at the ready. Trubeck Pluck followed, hoping to use his one spell on the enemy and then retreat rapidly. The others would follow once we had moved into the room. We hoped for suprise, and got it, but not in the way we hoped.

The room was filled with foes. Two giant rats guarded a corridor leading west. A priestess stood, chanting, at an altar just before a strange pool of sewage. A huge, green-furred rat stood to one side, a narrow-face sneak to the other. Cages were suspended from chains over the sewage, holding kids and rats. They were all looking at us as we charged in, the priestess waving her hands in a spell – and suddenly I couldn’t move. Landon, ahead of me, was frozen. I heard voices from behind me, but nothing from Pluck. He must be caught in whatever foul spell the rat woman cast, too.

Speaking of the priestess, she was busy monologing and those behind us had the idea to drag our three paralyhzed corpses off the front line. It wasn’t much but improved our position a little. Then Rowen and Ygnas pushed their way to the front and started negotiating. I was furiously praying for mercy, for vengeance, for anything from Lady Cloacina. But I couldn’t move at all.

The negotiations seemed to take hours. At first, Rowen tried to stall for time, hoping we would come out of the spell and shift the odds back in our favor. Ygnas seemed more resigned, though. Given how long the three of us were frozen, Ygnas had it right.

Eventually, Ygnas settled on 2000gp and ten “extra” kids as her price for leaving. I took none of that money willingly, but I will spend it on swords – well, silver daggers – to complete the cleansing.

We led the rescued children to the temple of Ygg, where we obtained a further reward from the high priest for the children, along with a stern warning thaqt we were not to interfere further with his church cleaning out the sewers. And yet his church has done nothing to clean them out. They have even stationed guards on the one entrance we told them about, guards who do nothing to stop the evil below and may even be meant to give warning.

Pluck leapt to conclusions and action faster than I, throwing his wolfsbane bundle at the priest of Ygg. He missed, and was thrown in prison for his trouble, or his suspicions, or both. I played it cool, made it out quietly, confirmed that Pluck would be released in a week, and on the way back to the Druid and Whale informed Ygnas and Rowen of Pluck’s suspcion and resulting detention.

We face a difficult path forward, with little time to tread it, but at least we are well funded.