The Keepers of Los Claustros

Chapter 3: Cages

The Keepers arrive at Ft. Summer. The city is heavily fortified, surrounded by minefield and patrolled by Federation snipers. A thin trickle of refugees streams in through the gates. The heroes make their way inside and are immediately invited to conference with the fort’s commanding officer, General Graf.

Agnam, from his time stationed at the fort, knows that Graf is recent replacement for a retired and well-beloved officer.

Graf is as soldierly a man as they come, but the Keepers see almost immediately through his disguise. This is the last of the changeling spies, the one masquerading as President Summer. The “general” commands a banquet to be held for the Keepers and invites them to stay through the night. The Keepers, sensing a trap, confront the changeling, who reluctantly reveals himself. He confesses that he did not intend to betray the Keepers, and that he only hopes to survive the invasion – that he holds no allegiance to any but himself. As a sign of peace, he surrenders his fragment of the tome they seek, and allows them peaceably on their way.

As the Keepers leave, a young soldier manages to slip a note to one of them: “DONT EAT.” Bewildered, they begin to collect rumors in the central market. Whispers abound of a group of soldiers who have begun a hunger strike and are being held in the brig. Even more alarmingly, the Keepers remember that a number of refugees came in with them, but none can be seen in the central market. They’ve disappeared.

The heroes immediately go to the prison, where they intimidate the guard into allowing them in. He acquiesces, and they enter to find a cadre of emaciated soldiers. When the Keepers reveal their suspicions – that the citizens and soldiery of Ft. Summer have been harvesting refugees for food, the prisoners agree. They tell of a basement “processing center” in which the civilians are taken and butchered for meat. The people of the city are unaware. Only a select group has any idea of this. The refugees are lured to the city by a psionic beacon – a constant message played in the minds of those desperate and dying. “Come to the fort.”

The Keepers find this slaughterhouse easily enough, and manage to get a look at the records of the refugees who have passed through the grinder. Among the names are many citizens of Los Claustros – including Ari’s father and brother.

The Keepers are tempted to seek revenge. They weigh their options – remove the psionic beacon and consign thousands of innocents to death, or allow it to continue, that the meat of the meager might be used to sate the appetites of the hungry survivors. The party argues for hours, finally coming to the conclusion that the beacon must be destroyed. This charade cannot continue. Dissent continues, but it must be done.

Rorith, utilizing an enchanted ebony fly, reaches the hidden beacon at the top of the tall tower, and manages to reprogram the beacon to broadcast a warning. “Stay away.”

The Keepers prepare to leave the fort behind for good. Soon, its inhabitants will be forced to flee or to become marauders in the wastes. This is the price of human flesh. This is the price of war. A sentry asks if they’re ready to come to the banquet.

They leave, turning their backs on such a place.



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