"The estate is secure, for the moment at least," replied Theodric with a contemplative look. "Thank you for asking. I'm afraid that not everyone in Livien as as safe, however. That is why I came to speak to Father Keane." The young nobleman gave Seabrum a comforting pat on the shoulder and turned to the older priest.
The room was a decent size, but a large ash table dominated the center and forced the party to stand in a circle around it while he high priest continued. Aelstan knew that the blacksmith would like to take a seat and rest his wounded leg, but decided to wait until one was offered by the cleric.
"My friends," began the high priest, "As you are aware, we have encountered some deadly demons that no doubt originate from the Great Abyss. As dangerous as they may be, I fear that there is an even greater danger that will present itself soon enough."
Father Keane paused for a moment and glanced around the room at the strangers. They certainly seemed capable of defending themselves. After all, they had apparently fought with a couple of the beasts and survived. After a few seconds, the high priest gestured toward the table. "Please, take a seat if you will. There is much I must explain."
Aelstan allowed the ladies to sit before he took a chair, and he wondered if Piper would be comfortable sitting in a confined room under such circumstances, but turned his attention to the priest.
"For over a century the Church of Shivaldar has served the small village of Livien, and served it well. We remain an unusually strong presence considering the small size of the village and its surroundings. That is due in no small part to the financial generosity of the people of Livien, and especially the family of Lord Theodric." The cleric turned and graciously gave a polite bow of thanks to Theodric, but the young nobleman was looking away as if preoccupied.
"In addition to preserving peace and offering protection for the people of the area, we have maintained other responsibilities as well. For the last ten years our church has held a secret artifact that we wished to keep away from the forces of evil. Few knew of its existence, and it was buried in a secure, locked vault several levels below the church."
Aelstan took a deep breath and gave a nervous look to the other members of the party.
"Just over a week ago we discovered that this artifact, known by those in arcane circles as "The Orb of Shadows", had been stolen. As much as this concerned us, we could not allow people to find out about such a dreadful turn of events. You see..." the cleric paused, as if contemplating whether or not to reveal any more information. He then tapped his fingers on the table for emphasis as he continued.
"You see, the Orb of Shadows is a useless artifact in the hands of good people. But in dark circles, if used properly by powerful forces of evil, the Orb can be used to summon the very demons we have faced tonight. In fact, it's likely that the demons we faced tonight were only summoned recently, and by someone quite powerful with ill intentions."
Aelstan immediately knew now why the demons had found the orb so quickly back in the Lusty Maiden. They were drawn to its power. They could sense its whereabouts. The ranger was fuming inside over the carelessness of the temple, but held his tongue in check. He looked over at his companions to see what their immediate reaction was...