Children of Netherhearth
The fight raged on. The ratkin leader kept up a flurry of attacks from its bizarre “tentacles” of green ichor covered in rats, while the stupefied rat-kind with glowing green eyes kept pouring into the village square. Grindle managed to extricate herself from the fray after Stanley revived her with her own luminen vial, and from then on the fight gradually swung in the group’s favour. Eventually, the ratkin leader’s cloak of rats was dramatically thinned and it attempted to flee from the combat, but was brought down by a barrage of attacks from the heroes. Cole howled in triumph; Lareth lay near death at his feet, but was soon revived with Grindle’s healing ritual.
The death of the leader ended all semblance of unity among the ratkin, and near dawn the defenders surged out of the White Tower to thin the ratkin numbers and reclaim their home. This effort continued in the following days as the fighting men of Netherhearth hunted the ratkin through the nearby tunnels, trying to exterminate as many as possible before the remainder finally slinked into the deeper tunnels of the Underdark, gone for now.
The Knitting Circle and Grindle spent the next couple of days tending to the injured and distributing Dreamwort to all those bitten during the attack. This used up almost all the reserve of Dreamwort brought back by the group, and although three more people died from the disease, an outbreak was averted. Following this, the Knitting Circle began the long and slow process of using purification rituals to cleanse the green taint from the soil around Calcott, though it is an effort that will take many weeks to complete.
For everyone else, the process of rebuilding Netherhearth began. Although Leo did what he could to offer his help and bolster the spirits of the community, morale was low as it will take years to rethatch all the rooves, regrow all the crops, and restore the numbers of the livestock. Until then, everyone’s diet will consist mostly of scrim, and people will have to set up crude temporary shelters to protect themselves from the hour-long rain each night. On the bright side, Bessie survived the night (although not unscathed physically or mentally) and because of the need to replace the casualties, there will be no restrictions on baby-making for a while.
Your group is now regarded by most people as the saviours of Netherhearth. You are still considered freaks, but the people of Netherhearth consider you their freaks. Father Winston, the Knitting Circle and – to your surprise – Hubert reinforce the message that without you Netherhearth may well have been destroyed.
In the days following, Varian approached Father Winston and discussed with him the possibility of learning some rituals of the Valleron order. Father Winston was willing to bring Varian back into the order as an initiate, and give him a chance to earn back the trust of the community; mastering the rituals would be a part of that process. However, unless Varian could give him a good reason why he needed the rituals, Father Winston seemed disinclined to teach them to him otherwise. Varian also told him of Grizelda’s divinations, but pretended that they were visions experienced by Grindle. Unfortunately, Father Winston thought it was lunacy to consider abandoning Netherhearth based on the dreams of an untested prophet, and he reminded you how important the three of you were to the continued existence of Netherhearth.
The three of you also approached Magda – with tea – and revealed to her all of Grizelda’s revelations. Magda reluctantly conceded that if there was any chance Grizelda’s predictions were accurate, they must be taken seriously since they represent the fate of all of Gyre. Although it pained her to consider you leaving, she said she would support you in your decision. She also promised that she and the other Knitting Circle women would remain vigilant for anything in Netherhearth that might be the cause of the apocalypse occurring sooner.
Finally, a week after the attack, Viceroy Edward became rapidly sick with a disease of the lungs. He refused to be treated by the Knitting Circle, saying that his time had come, and that it should be the younger Quill who led Netherhearth through the rebuilding. On his last day, he called the three of you into his chambers and confided in you that the Skystone was failing, because of the damage done to it by Varian and the ratkin. He estimated that the Skystone now had only about 20 years of life remaining, but Quill insisted it was more like four or five years at most. The viceroy charged the three of you with travelling to the sunlit world and finding a way to repair the Skystone and save Netherhearth, and ordered you to keep your quest secret to avoid panic in the community.
Shortly afterwards, the viceroy died. That night his body was taken in procession to the stone sarcophagus that awaited him in a cave that he would share with the four previous viceroys of Netherhearth. Quill spent the night in the cave, meditating on his new responsibilities, before sealing Edward’s body in the stone coffin with his magic and emerging at dawn as the new viceroy of Netherhearth.