The group assessed the situation; they knew that Lydia Kells must be trapped somewhere within one of the caves before them, and decided it was more likely to be the larger entrance. They threw a torch into the dark cave to try and get some vision, and were able to notice a sliding spike trap guarding the entrance. Evalin suggested they toss the body of one of the fallen gnolls into the way before entering themselves, and they chased a retreating group of gnolls deeper into the complex. Though the gnolls managed to trigger a rock slide to injure Dalen and Eva, the party pressed on.
In the back of the cave, they discovered an eerie purple glow, which turned out to be coming from a wooden staff floating above what appeared to be a ritual table. As they approached the table, they noticed that the room also contained a cage with two prisoners, a sleeping Lydia and a strange old man dressed in traveler’s garb who cheerily introduced himself as Atticus. A quick interrogation through the bars revealed that Atticus can communicate with gnolls, and suggested to the chief that he wouldn’t be a suitable ritual offering, and they would probably do better with a virgin sacrifice. Presumably this prompted Lydia’s kidnapping, but as the group talked with Atticus, they were convinced that he was not malicious, just a little crazy. They released the two prisoners and decided to quickly get them back to town. Atticus snatched the glowing staff out of thin air (after warning the group that any attempt at doing so would be extremely dangerous), insisting that it was his and carrying on despite Dalen’s protesting.
Much to their surprise, the group escorted Lydia and Atticus back to Red Rock Bay without incident. There, they decided that the town wasn’t safe while the gnoll shaman remained alive, especially after all of the cryptic warnings that Atticus had been going on about. They asked Terron to give Lydia a room in his inn until the threat was eliminated (which he agreed to in return for another of Eva’s sold-out shows, the night after), and left Atticus at the bar of the Shanked Lamb while they ventured out to take care of business.
In the woods near the cave, they encountered the shaman and a handful of gnoll warriors. Though they quickly dispatched the shaman, they were not able to prevent him from completing a spell which summoned an enormous, disease-ridden jackal. This seemed to confirm something that Atticus had said about the shaman being a servant of The Plague. As the creature died, they felt an evil presence depart from its corpse in the form of a swarm of flies. Confident that the threat was ended, but eager to drill Atticus for more answers, the group found some scribblings written in an incomprehensible language on the shaman’s corpse, and hurried back to town.
Unfortunately, the group soon learned that not even Terron could take much of Atticus’ babbling, and the strange old man had left town. Evalin elected to chase after him on her zebra, to ask him to come back and translate the scribbled notes they had found. Meanwhile, Eva and Dalen attempted to convince the mayor of Red Rock, a shardmind named Paltho the Scholar that they deserved a reward for their actions. Evalin caught up with Atticus, who didn’t seem interested in returning the way he had come. After negotiations went poorly, Evalin attempted to grab him and forcibly bring him back, but he was able to avoid her and run off. Eva and Dalen met with similar results, managing to convince Paltho to agree to studying the notes they had found, but not to grant them a reward for a threat he hadn’t seen any real danger from.
The company decided that there wasn’t much left for them in Red Rock, other than Eva’s commitment to perform one last show at the Shanked Lamb. They returned to Kells’ Farm to rest and wait for the next evening, after which they planned to head out in search of Durv.