Thursday, February 8, 2018

Fragments of the Last War 2.5 - Temple of the Stone

Played 4/18/2017 to 5/8/2017

The squad began to investigate the stolen Chalice of Grumbar. Dice rolling with a Play by Post game can be tricky.  We tried out The Unseen Servant

****

The 21th day of the month of Equos, 22 years after the opening of the Caers: in the town of Lomah

Later, after Mollie had slept some hours, waking to look at Edwina, she stood alone in the chilly predawn hospital ward.  The clouds had grown heavy in the night, and the rain had increased from a drizzle to a steady fall.  The window in the room where she had rested was still open as Mollie had left it.

Now that she has some time alone and had calmed down from her talk with Dinty, Mollie pulled out the key that she had found the other night.  She examined it closely wondering why it would be in the hands of someone that appeared to be just a random towns person.

It still seemed a solid stick of iron, three inches long by a quarter of an inch thick.  Completely smooth, one end held a purple crystal that seems to swirl with blue.

While she was no means a spell caster, she was fairly certain that the gem was magic.  “What sort of door does it open,” she wondered aloud?  As the rain picked up, Mollie walked over and closed the window.  As she stared out from it, she thought upon what she was going to do in the morning.  She wasn’t sure she’d be able to work with Dinty, but she had to help Edwina. Idly, she rolled the key between her hands.  Flipping it around to look at the gem again, she tapped it with the point of her finger.

The gem glowed and then the purple glow spread through grooves in the black metal cylinder making a series of unknown writing.  In her head, a new voice declared.  Ready.

“Um, no she’s not,” Mollie declared and pushed the gem again.

Two metal prongs flipped out from the cylinder.  The voice in her head said.  Attuned door is out of range.  Mollie heard a strange beeping.  Operator has changed.  Current operator is post-living.  Low horror-taint consistent with post-living.  Another beeping.  Does the operator wish to upgrade?
“What does upgrade mean?” Mollie asked.

This device has a subroutine to provide matrix bonding.  The voice replied. This requires physical integration to access all upgrade potentials.

“Will the upgrade make her alive again?”

The voice said.  Alteration of post-living state is not within the parameters of matrix upgrade.  This device serves as key and interface.

“What is it a key to?”

This key allows interface with all home facilities and portals.  It is currently attuned to local Iron Door.

“Where is that door?”

1800 feet south.  1500 feet down.  Unable to provide connection details.  Upgrade will provide power sensory tracking.

“Wow, that is pretty close!  She should upgrade then.”

The voice stopped and a humming began.  The two prongs sunk into the cylinder and the light on the end flashed.  The cylinder buzzed and then shot into the palm of her hand.  The sensation was odd, but she felt no pain and the wound closed quickly.  The cylinder moved up her arm, across her shoulder, and then to her neck.  Suddenly, everything went black and she felt a pressure on the back of her neck.

Coming to she looked around the room.  The buzzing had stopped and the pressure released.  A small figure sat on the window ledge watching her.

Mollie focused on the figure.  Was it Meepo? Maybe Dinty came by to yell at her some more?

The small figure said. “Meepo, very excited by what he sees.”  Then turning his head the kobold added.  “Are you ok?”

Mollie rose to her feet and replied, “She thinks so.”  After a pause she added, “And what did he see?”

“Mollie has an talky wand and it went into her hand,” Meepo smiled.  “Meepo saw his chief find one once.”

“Did the same thing happen?”  Mollie eyes darted around the room.  “What time is it?”

Meepo looked out the window.  “Not yet dawn.”  He turned back. “Chief, she tell talking wand, 'No way!'”

Mollie nodded.  “His chief was probably smart.”  Mollie rubbed the back of her neck.  “He needs to keep what he saw to himself for now.  There are other things they need to worry about besides the talky wand.”

Meepo frowns but nods.  “We go back to Meepo’s tribe sometime to see other talky wand.”

Mollie nodded in agreement.  “After we save Edwina and the other sick people and figure out the first wand.”  Mollie peered at Meepo for a moment.  “Is he going with us?”

The kobold smiled his toothy grin. “He is always ready to help.”

Mollie looked down at the kobold as the bells rang.  “Well, it looks like he’ll get his chance.”  Mollie held the door open for him then headed to the meeting site.

****

The dawn broke behind thick clouds, the sky becoming a brighter grey.  The sound of the  barracks coming awake filled the air, mixing with cries and moans of the town’s sick.  

Dinty woke from his arm being shook and Arlin saying, “Time to get up.  It’s six bells.” He sat up on his bunk. "I'm up, where's Meepo? We need to head over to the church and have a look around."

Arlin shrugged.  “I don't rightly know.  He took off last night after your lot did.  Said he’d be back by dawn.”  Arlin scratched his chin.  “Maybe he finding some kobold flophouse.”

Dinty nodded. "Have you tried waking Goreal yet?"

Arlin laughed.  “I sent a gnome to try.  The gnome is being healed.”

Sighing, the goblin replied. "Smart, I miss the ogre… he was always ready to move. Well, let's grab some food and get to it!"

Arlin replied.  “Sounds good.  None of the paladin search parties is back.  Don’t likely the find these Nergal priests yet.”

Across the compound in the sick ward, Mollie looked down at the kobold as the bells rang.  “Well, it looks like he’ll get his chance.”  Mollie held the door open for him then headed to the meeting site.

Meepo nodded and hopped off the window sill.  “Meepo ready,”  he said bounding toward the barracks.

Arlin and Dinty crossed the yard in the rain as Meepo and Mollie approached from the ward.  The kobold waved  “Meepo is ready.  Eat and get things!”

Dinty waved away the kobold. "Good to hear Meepo, when we're out there just stay quiet and watchful. Keen eyes and ears are what we need today."

The gates to the barracks opened and a group of dwarves with holy symbols on their chests entered pulling a wagon.  They were followed by a lone human.  Once the wagon stopped at the ward, the lone human approached them.  Once closer they realized it was Hal.  Looking very tired, approached and nodded.  “I’m guessing Edwina is sick.”

Mollie nodded at Hal. “She is very sick like the others.  Osto is taking care of them.”

Hal nodded to Dinty.  “Is the squad ready?”  Glancing at Mollie, Meepo, and Arlin.  “Humans are the first affected by this plague, but I’m sure it will spread. Dinty, you and Mollie are most likely the least in danger from it.”  He looked off toward the hospital ward.  “The Chalice of Grumbar will buy us some time and heal the sick, but we still have to find these priests of Nurgal.  Keep alert and be safe.”  He stopped.  “Dinty, if you will come by and fill me in before the team goes.”

Nodding, the goblin followed. "Right cap'n, will do! We will be heading out shortly, no time to lose."

****

As the filtered light lit Goreal’s sleeping form, he gruffed and rolled over.

Suddenly the light grew brighter and brighter. Goreal opened his sleepy eyes only to find himself lying in a large bed with a great open window.  The room was of faded white stone and a tree grew in one corner.  Though dark Atgur’s light crept across the room.  When the sunlight touched his face, Goreal sat up in the large bed and blinked.

Climbing from bead the great bear, looked about the room then walked to the window out of which he saw a black sky lit by sun and stars.   A quarter of a mile away was a giant rock and the rays of Atgur poked around it.  A long bridge of veined, fine marble spun from somewhere to his left to the far rock.


Approaching the terrace, Goreal glanced over the edge and noticed sky continued below him as well. Standing on the patio was a thin viney creature with a long pod for a head.  It poured water from a ceramic pitcher into two baked clay mugs.  

“I dreamt this temple’d blacked in green balefire, that death and smoke were everywhere, and when I looked our star faded,”  the creatures vines trembles.  “Atgur’s blessing, Goreal.”

“Who are you?”  Goreal asks not sure what the vine man is talking about.

The lithe green-brown plant turned, It’s light green leaves followed the light of Atgur.  “I was called Cerdis Tae in life and I was of the uzija.  Now I am a memory vision from the one you call Atgur though that one goes by many names.”

“Where are we; what am I doing here?” Goreal asked.

“In ages past,” the plant began.  “We served Atgur, and Atgur spoke with us. Now you follow but you do not hear.”  The plant waved its tendrils.  “You are fighting off the sickness, Goreal.  It may not claim you yet.”  Glancing out the window.  “This was our temple or one of them”  It turned.  “What do you wish from Atgur?”

Goreal pondered. “Atgur has given us light to chase away the darkness, warmth to survive the cold, and grows food to feed the hungry, how could I ask for more?”  Goreal suddenly remembers his mission to find the cure for the sickness afflicting the town, “I must help the sick in Lomah, how can I go back?”

The uzija waved its vines.  “That was always up to you, Goreal.  But your shmkia-nature prevents it.” It offered the bear a mug of water.  “You could sleep all day.  You could fall back asleep and not be roused.”

Goreal looks frustrated, “I can’t live by Atgur’s example, if I sleep when my help is needed.”

The plant swayed.  “You could have asked for many things, but you wished to help others.  Go with your wakefulness and also some of Atgur’s light to shine into the world.”

****

Goreal woke with a start and heard the sound of talking and rain outside the barracks.  A human sat on a bunk nearby.  “Hey, you’re awake,” he stated as he finished dressing and grabbed his gear. “Might as well get some grub.  No telling when they’ll be another decent meal.”

Goreal’s stomach grumbled, “That would be nice, but I have to find my squad; do you know where they are?”  Goreal decided he didn't have the time to make it to the barracks, and would eat from his rations as he searched for his group.

“They’re going to the mess hall for eatin’.  Come on.  That’s where I’m going.”  The human replied. “You certainly slept well.”

Crossing the rainy yard, the human and Goreal entered a modestly filled building where the camp was eating.  At one table, sat Dinty, Arlin, Meepo, and Mollie.

Goreal headed over to the table, “Sorry Commander, I hope I havn't delayed our mission.” The human who had followed Goreal in, went to the line, and loaded up a plate of food.  

Dinty pushed and egg into his mouth. "Not to worry, if you hadn't woke by the time we left then we would have gone without ya."

The human warden came over to the squad’s table holding two plates of cooked meats and pudding. The one, overfull, he sat down at an empty spot and said,  “Here you go Goreal,” then he sat and began eating his own breakfast. Arlin looked at the human surprised, but then shrugged.

Goreal sat with a thump. “Oh, thank you. What is your name, I don't remember meeting you before.”

In between chewing a piece of ham, the human said.  “I’m Tav.  We met last night when I carried your halfling for you.”  Eating another piece, he added.  “After losing to you guys, I figured I’d better join up with the Wardens.”

Mollie peeked up from a plate of ham and sugary pudding.  “Did his friends join up to?” she asked the new arrival.

He waved his knife. “We weren’t so much friends as hired thugs.” Thoughtfully, he replied.  “Bilnar and Godan, the bear messed up.  They got sent to a guard hospital and if they pull through they’ll go to the work gangs.  Dildan fell face first after you took out his foot.  That brain injury’ll leave him simple.”  Tav shrugged.  

“Once I saw how you warden's eat, I said to myself ‘Tav, you are in the wrong line of work.’”  He continued eating and moved on to the pudding.

“Well, she is happy to have another person of morally ambiguous character on the team.”  Mollie smiled and went back to eating as well.

Goreal frowned. “Morally ambiguous?” and shook his head,   “That doesn't sound good.”

Arlin finished his meal.  “Goreal, Otso, and Dinty’s the only ones ain't never been a bad seed.  Me, I did house and head breakin’.”

Mollie gasped in feigned shock.  “She is not a bad seed!  She just worked in the carnival!”

“Meepo only stab to defend self,”  the kobold yowled.

The goblin slammed his cup down. "Yes yes, you're all re-formed bad apples who have taken up with a good cause that is bigger than yourselves. Just keep in mind that we don't tolerate law breaking in the wardens. And you don't hurt someone unless it's in self defense or the defense of others! So Tav are you assigned to my squad? We could use a human to round out the minority quota, he said with a wink. Let's finish up, I have to go report to the cap’n. I'll meet you in the yard in 15. "

Tav shrugged.  “In  my experience, you end up killing who your leaders tell you.”

****

Dinty found Hal, newly bathed, dressed in undergarb and stretching in the barracksroom.  “What’s your update, Dinty?”

Nodding, Dinty replied. "I'll make it a quick one cap'n. We had dinner and met a elf bard who enthralled the tavern with her song and is interested in accompanying the caravan to the next post. I suspect that the lift to the docks was sabotaged either to take out my squad or to send us into the ambush that we ran afoul of. Ed took sick right after the ambush and we rushed here. By all accounts the halfling we brought in last night orchestrated the entire thing. He was at the lift when we came down and led the ambush."

Hal frowned. “Why would they try to kill a squad of wardens?”

The goblin shook his head. "Dunno, we’ll have to ask the halfling when he wakes up. Maybe they thought we were doing something other than eating dinner. I'm surprised that human Tav is already walking free and eating our food. He did just try to kill us last night after all!"

“Apparently, he wandered into the messhall when you came back.  Concerned with Edwina, the squad dropped off the wounded prisoners, but Tav just wandered into eat.”  Hal wiped his face. “That's where our commander Gravelfury found him.  Tav said he wanted to join, and Angus questioned him.” Hal began to dress. “It’s just about impossible to lie to the paladin or hide Horror-taint.  Seems Tav’s a veteran soldier of Ralistav, one of the southern kingdoms, and let loose after their civil war.  He’s hired on mercenary jobs since."

Hal turned “It also seems Angus finds the human painfully honest.  They were hired to subdue you for the halfling.  Could be he’s a spy or he could be what he says. Seems too convenient. Keep an eye on him for now.” He finished dressing.  “Any other issues?”

Dinty shrugged, "I don't think so cap'n, other than we need to find this chalice and these priest. Anything you can help with on that front? What'd you find yesterday?"

Hal shook his head.  “Still searching for the priests of Nurgal, but nothing.  Also, the temple of Grumbar can send along someone to help.  They have a witness but we still can't seem to find the thief. Take the squad over and talk to the priest.  Maybe you find more out.”  Hal saluted.  “The Lady of Fate and the Lady of Dreams be with you.”

Still lost in thought, Dinty replied. "May all of your travels be safe cap'n."

****

Having finished eating, the squad made their way across the muddy yard to their barracks to grab their weapons and gear.

Dinty looks troubled as he heads out to the yard to meet up with the squad. "Okay squad we have an important task ahead of us! We are heading over to the church of Grumbar to see if we can divine what happened to their cup of healin! We will then retrieve the cup so it can be used to heal the sick! Keep your eyes open, we're also looking for the priest of Nurgal. Could the halfling that tried to kill us all last night know something about this?  He seemed pretty shady. The rest of you get ready. Mollie and I will go talk to the halfling."

Mollie nodded and started to head off.  She stopped and turned.  “Um, where is he?”

Tav replied.  “The dwarf paladin said they were holding the halfling in the brig.”

Arlin said.  “Sounds good, Corporal.  We’ll grab our gear while you do.”  The rest of the squad piled into the barracks and collected their weapons.

Across the barracks yard, behind the armory, Dinty and Mollie slogged to the barracks jail.  Inside, there were iron-barred cells, all empty but one.  There laying in a cot was the halfling from the night before.  He stared at the ceiling unmoving.  Where his left leg had been, he now had a bandaged stump.

Mollie pulls a stool up and sits down in front of the cell staring at the halfling.
“He appears to be having some bad luck.”

The halfling turned his head to stare at Mollie, then he went back to looking at the ceiling.
Dinty examined the halfling. "Looks like by the end of the night we were looking for you. What's the matter? Upset that the lawmen didn't know who you are? So why did he come after us?  We weren’t interested in him just getting something to eat.  It would have been a quiet night for everyone.”

The halfling did not respond.

Mollie leaned back from the cell.  “That’s fair enough.  If she were in his position, she’d probably be the same way.  Trying to figure out why she decided to listen the people that sent her after the Wardens.  How she can maybe escape.  How she can get away from the people that ordered her around.  How she can get away from the plague.  How can she even survive now.”

The halfling stared at Mollie and Dinty.  “You have something to offer me, Wardens?”

Dinty laughed. "How about a leg to stand on?"

The halfling laughed.  “Your a funny one, goblin.  I can afford a peg leg and no magic in the world can restore my lost leg.”

Shrugging, Dinty told him. "As long as you're in that cell your money's no good to you. It's a busy place what with all the sick. One halfling could be forgotten in all of the mayhem. That could be a benefit if you were released or a long slow legless death if you accidentally starve."

The halfling laughed again.  “What do you want, goblin?”

Why did you sabotage the lift and ambush us on the stairs?

“I was hired to subdue you.  Taking out the lift seemed the easiest plan until that actor and his friends ruined it.”  The halfling coughed.  “The ambush I put together after the lift dropped and your bunch decided to help out.”  He coughed again.

Dinty looked concerned. "Hmm, that coughs not sounding too good. I think you are catching the sickness as well. Who hired you? The quicker we find them the quicker we can heal everyone. Including you halfling, otherwise it's a slow bloody death I'm told."

The halfling sighed.  “He wasn't forthcoming with his name, but he is known as Argus.   An older human with white hair.  Earlier that night I had seen him and a foppish him man come down the lift. They argued.”  The halfling was silent for a while.  “Argus too had a cough and he covered himself in an old hooded robe.  It seems the fop had agrees to something but wanted more money.”  The halfling coughed.  “When he came back, Argus wanted me to subdue your lot and the fop if I saw him.  I guess you’d seen something or he thought you had.”  

Dinty yawned. "Did you see the fop again?"

Staring at the ceiling, the halfling mumbled.  “Nope, I didn’t.”

Mollie nodded then nudged Dinty.  “We should be going.”

The halfling turned his head.  “Argus may have won this time.”

“This time?  What has he done before?”

The halfling sighed.  “He’s always going on and on about how he will kill the world.  Crazy talk from someone who’d seen too much.  He’s go on and on at the Chicken.”  The halfling turned his head.  “Guess he figured out a way.”

Once they were outside, Mollie turned to Dinty.  “She thinks the fop he was talking about was the guy picking the pockets at the inn.  We should find out more about him and Argus after we check out the temple.”

Dinty nodded. "What did you find when you picked his pockets?"

“He had a few different coin purses.  She tossed them into the tavern’s lost and found.  There was one that he took from a coughing man that left," Mollie replied.

Dinty nodded. "I saw the exchange, I'm betting that was Argus and the fop! They fit the description well enough."

****

Soon, they were out of the barracks and off to the Temple of Grumbar.  The streets of the town were quiet, despite the decorations for the festival.  As they, marched their way through the muddy streets, the only one they saw was an occasional guard.

As they approached the temple, Mollie paused to take a look outside. She was looking for ways in besides the front door, places someone could hide or hide something, and signs of entry.

A quick glance and Mollie spotted the entrydoors on either side of the temple.  

Covering the rooves of the building around the Temple of Grumbar sat flocks of ravens.  Silent and staring, they did not move.

Watching the birds, Tav asked.  “Boss, you want anybody to keep watch outside?”

Mollie turned to look at Tav when he spoke. “Hey, he was working with the criminal element.  Did he hear anything about the chalice being stolen?”

Tav shook his head. “Usually, I do caravan guard duty.  When the halfling wanted some muscle to subdue you, Dildan said it was a bounty job.  No one mentioned a chalice.”  Tav stared at the birds.  “Something not right here.”

Mollie paused looking at the birds.  “They are not on the temple.  She wonders why they aren’t.” Mollie walked toward the temple and finding the first spot she could started to scurry up the side.

As Mollie began climbing the blocky stone walls, a heavy deep voice in her head toned. The Stone dislikes anyone on his roof.

Mollie paused for a second.  Was this a new voice?  She hadn’t heard this one before.  She sighed.  “So he keeps the birds from being birds?”

The voice repeated, this time louder. The Stone dislikes anyone on his roof.

“There are so many crazy things she doesn’t understand.” Mollie hopped down and looked for the source of the voice. She quietly made note that if there was ever something she never wanted herself or anyone to see again, that there was this one roof.  Mollie took a step back from the building and paused for a second before collapsing into a heap.

Goreal watched Mollie start to climb up the cathedral, then give up, and fall down.  “Are you alright Mollie?”.

Arlin rushed over behind Goreal watching for an attack.  Meepo hid behind Tav who scanned the rooftops.

Goreal walked over to check on her.  Noticing she wasn't moving, he called over Dinty.

Dinty walked over and checked her over for wounds and saying her name. When there was no response he slapped her face

A few minutes after blacking out, Mollie came to and opened her eyes.

Mollie sat up.  “What happened?  Why is she on the ground?”

Arlin responded.  “You jumped on that wall there, fell, and laid out on the street like you was dead.”

“Well, she is dead but that’s beside the point.”  Mollie rubbed her head.  “She heard a voice say ‘The Stone dislikes anyone on his roof.’ when she started to climb.  She stopped because it was not one of the regular voices she hears.”

Arlin frowned and looked back to Dinty.  Meepo poked his head out.  Tav pulled his longbow and looked at Dinty. The goblin nodded. "You lot have a look around the outside while Goreal, Mollie and I are talking to the priest. Tell me if you see anything or one who seems out of place. Arlin you're in charge out here."

Arlin nodded while Tav made an odd salute.

As they were walking in Dinty asked Mollie if she felt “normal”?

Mollie paused for a moment to contemplate the question then answered, “She not even sure anymore.”

The Temple of Grumbar the Stone is heavy inside with block stone walls and dim lights.  The entryway is lightly guarded by a pair or dwarves who directed Dinty, Goreal, and Mollie to the sanctuary.  There in the center of the Temple is the large room with high windows lighting a great blood red stone that dominated the sanctuary.   A cordon of iron separated them from the Stone.

Finally, a young dwarf approached them.  “You must be the Wardens that the paladin of Desna was to send.”

Dinty told him. "We are. We've come to ask some questions and have a look around."

The dwarf nodded.  “The Prefect will see you.” and the priest of the Stone led them through a side hallway to a spacious office where an elderly dwarf sat.  Seeing them, she said.  “Ah yes.  The paladin, Hal Saldana, said he was sending by his wardens.”  She eyed the trio.  “A goblin sworn to Desna.  Times are changing.”

She nodded to Goreal and then set her eye on Mollie.  “I’m not sure how you were able to walk in here, but obviously the Stone sees you as more than your undeath.” Shaking her head, “There was a time I would have been offended, but you are the one who saved the Carbona girl, I believe.” Mollie nodded and shifted a bit uncomfortably as if she was just waiting for the smite. She eyed them again.  “So, you are here to find the Stone’s chalice?”

“Yes, that is the mission we've been given” Goreal said, trying not to let the size of the priests chambers distract him."

She smiled.  “We have sent out the more able bodied of us already with no success.  I pray the Stone finds favor with you.”  She paused then continued.  “We noticed the Chalice missing yesterday evening, but thought to handle it ourselves.  Until the plague.  First humans, now halflings and gnomes.”

Goreal frowns at the thought off all the sick, “Is there more you can tell us about the robbery?”

She frowned. “The chalice had been kept in the room behind the Stone.  It had one door in, which we found locked and warded.  There is no way we can see the thief entered”  She stared at Goreal.

“What type of key did it have?” Mollie asked keeping an eye on the dwarf.  

She pursed her lips. “An old stone key made from the Stone itself.”

“What did it look like?”

The Prefect replied.  “Two feet long and blood red.”

“So not easy to copy at all.  Is there another door into the room?”

“The only other entrance is blocked by the Stone,” she said.  “Let us look at it.”  With that she called for the young dwarf waiting outside.  Soon she led the out into the hall and towards the sanctuary.  At the last moment, she turned and they stood before a door.  “Here it is.”

Mollie gave the door a quick look to see if there was anything different about it. The door was solid stone and produced very little sound when tapped.

"Do you know of the human Argus?" Dinty asked.

The Prefect shook her head.  “I do not.  Is he connected?”

The goblin shrugged. "He might not be, but I don't believe in coincidences. I think he might be tied into this."

Mollie fidgeted as she stared at the door in front of her.  “Um, she is going to do something then she has a very long story to tell.”  She reached out and put her hand on the door.

The was a long low moan and the locked stone door slid back and opened into a dim room lit by the red light of the Stone filtering sunlight.  The Prefect stared at the open door with an open mouth.

Dinty gasped. "How did you do that!?!"

Mollie took a deep breath and proceeded to tell the story of the night at the bar, picking the fop’s pockets, finding the magic key in the shabby coin purse, how it talked to her, her upgrading, Meepo seeing her upgrade and knowing what the key is, the other door 300 ft south and 500 ft down from the warden waystation, and that her earlier blackout was because she asked the key to shield her from an incoming mental probe.  “She thinks whoever took the chalice used the key that is now inside her to do it.”

Nodding, Dinty replied. So based on what we know either the fop or Argus has the chalice we need! And what do you mean inside you… did you eat the key?"

“After she has seen this door, she thinks the chalice might be where that other door is.” Mollie rolls her eyes when Dinty asks if she ate the key.  “No, it moved inside her by magic.”

Screwing up his face, Dinty pondered. "What does upgrading mean?"

“She not sure.  When it became part of her it called it upgrading.”

Describing the fop to the perfect, Dinty turned to the Prefect. "Have you seen anyone matching that description?"

The Prefect looked stupefied by the conversation, but the young dwarf priest replied.  “I remember those clothes!  He was here yesterday.  He told us he wanted to donate to the Temple and pray to the Stone”

The goblin asked further. "Is there anything else you can tell us about him?"

The young priest nodded thoughtfully. “He was gone within the hour, but no one saw him leave.”

"Mollie can you lead us to this door?" Dinty queried.

“She thinks so. The key can at least,” Mollie replied.

The Prefect regained her composure. “Andre, you must accompany the Wardens.  Provide them with any aid they need.”  The young priest bowed and left them.  “I can give you potions as well to aid you.  Is there anything else you need?”

“It is supposed to be hundreds of feet down.  We need rope or another way to get down.”

She frowned.   “I don't think we have that kind of rope.  Down?  Strange.”

“Maybe a cave or down a hill?”  Mollie shrugged.

The Prefect shook her head.  “Not that  I know of.  Besides that would be even deeper than the cliff and below the ocean.”

“Well, she was standing in her quarters in the Warden station when the key told her 1800 feet south and 1500 down. Maybe she misunderstood…”  Mollie closed her eyes.

The dwarf shook her head.  “Perhaps there is something in the old Chronicles.”  Walking back to her office, she pondered.  “The sewers of the town drain to the cliff, not deep.”  

Showing them back into her office, she took down an old tome.  “This temple was only built a century ago.”  Flipping to the beginning she read.  “It seems the town was built on the ruins of an older town.”  She looked up.  “The Prefect at the time wrote that the Middens beneath the Temple once opened onto a deep cavern, but he had it sealed.”   

Is the sealed entrance here in the temple? That might be the way.

The Prefect looked up.  “It could be, but where and behind how much stone I don’t know.”  She pursed her lips.  “The Steward might.”  She stood and opened the door to call for a servant.  “Get the Steward.”  She turned.  “Andre should be back soon with his potions.  I warn you he won’t be much good in fight.”

Dinty thought for a moment. "We need to send word to the cap'n. Do you have a runner you could send over to the wardens?"

The Prefect nodded.  “Of course,”  she opened the door and called.  A young dwarf woman arrived.  

When we figure out where we are heading I would like for your runner here to go tell cap'n Saldana of the wardens what we're up to and give him this letter. ( The letter contains the description of the fop and Argus plus last known whereabouts. It also suggest that Argus is a / the Nurgel priest.)

The young dwarf woman nodded sharply.

Dinty turned to the undead woman. "Mollie is the magic stomach key telling you anything helpful?"

“There’s another door the key can open close by.”  Mollie walked out of the priest’s office to the chalice room and turned to face the north.  Mollie walked to the door and peeked into the middens. “And suddenly she realized she needs to be more specific.  At least she didn’t ask it to make all skulls in the room disappear.” Mollie looked back at the Prefect.  “Does that stone key she has open all the doors in the temple and is it the only key?”

The Prefect shook her head.  “That is only the Chalice room key.  The other doors open with iron keys.”

“Hrm.  The key says it can unlock the door here, and that it..scanned the iron key five days ago.  She’s not sure what all that means, but it was probably in here then.”

Mollie looked into the midden again. “She is missing something to connect it all.” Mollie stepped into the room and began to look around.”

Dinty turned, "Goreal go out and check on the other three...Let them know we’ll be moving out soon!"

“Yes Commander.”  Goreal scratched his head as he walks out to check on the crew outside.

****

Meanwhile, Arlin, Meepo, and Tav scanned the street.  Arlin looked at Tav.  “Clear the back of the Temple.”  

Meepo replied.  “Meepo can look at the other rooves.”  

Arlin nodded.  “Good.”

Tav saluted again and headed off beside the building.

Meepo watched him go.  “Negul priests,” he sighed.  “Stupid, want to kill all.”  and he climbed up a nearby building.

Arlin shrugged “Cain’t say any Chaos priest is any good.”  He began searching the front street for anyone hiding.  It was deathly quiet.

From the roof of a building down the street,Tav spotted a group of robed men approaching the Temple from the shadows.  “This could be trouble,” he said outloud.  Several houses away, he spied Meepo sitting on a balcony, eating a meatpie.  “That doesn’t look like you’re keeping watch,” he chuckled and pulled and arrow from his quiver.  Eyeing the robed men, he aimed at Meepo, breathed, and felt the wind.  

Tav released the arrow towards the kobold, which struck right above his head.  Meepo jumped up quietly, looking scared and angry, and then stared at Tav.  The human archer pointed below and held his finger to his mouth.  Meepo glanced down and his scowl faded. Looking at the arrow, he nodded and finished his meatpie.

Tav watched the robed men stop, scan the street, and then turn into an alley.  Pointed down so Meepo could see, Tav climbed down the roof to the street.  He saw Meepo scurry down as well.  Close by, Tav was surprised to see Arlin coming towards him.  “What’s going on?” the half-orc whispered.

“Maybe nothing, but I saw some suspicious men cut down an alley.”  Tav replied.  Arlin nodded and readied his axe.

The trio crept slowly down the street to the alley, but when they peered around the corner the alley was empty.

Goreal walked out the large doors at the front of the cathedral and looked for the three left to watch outside. He spotted them a few houses away looking into an alley. He headed over to the three to see what they're up to.

Arlin turned toward Goreal and nodded.  “Tav, he done spotted some robed guys but they done vamoosed.”

“We should let Dinty know; we're moving out soon.”  Goreal looked down the alley to see if he could spot anything.  He wasn't sure what vamoosed meant, but he assumed it wasn't dangerous.

The trio turned to follow Goreal, who took the group back to the cathedral to report to Dinty.

Tav, Arlin, and Meepo followed Goreal through the sanctuary of the Stone to the Prefect’s office.  Tav whistled when he saw the Stone.

****

The dwarf priest Andre, so young he barely had a beard, stood ready in the Prefect’s office with his hammer and bag of potions.

Arlin, Meepo, and Tav followed Goreal in and stood back.

The Prefect said to them. “The Middens are open for you to explore should you see fit.”  She looked at the group.  “Will any of you take a pendant of the Stone for protection?”  

“What does it do?  And is it a good idea for her to have one?  Cause if it wards off undead, she’ll be running from herself and that should be existential not literal.”  Mollie nodded.

The Prefect pursed her lips and said to Mollie.  “I do not think it would sit well with you.”

Goreal shook his head, “Not for me, but thank you.”  He was concerned about carrying a symbol for a god he did not follow.

Dinty nodded. "Thanks, but Desna watches over those who watch over others."

Arlin and Meepo shook their heads, but Tav said he’d take a pendant.

The Prefect, who had been frowning, smiled at Tav.  “Before you go, the Steward is coming to speak with you.  He has water and rations for your trip.  Also some rope and torches.”

A loud knock on the Prefect’s door brought the Steward, a craggy old dwarf, followed by a pair of young dwarves bringing supplies.  He pointed to the dwarves and told them to set their load down anywhere.  “Now,” he began.  “I understand you lot want to speak with me.”

Dinty queried. "Yes, we want to know if there is a way into the underground within the temple or if you know of a place deep underground that is involved with the stone or the temple."

The Steward looked at Dinty confused.  “Well, the Middens are underground, but I’m guessing you don’t mean just our cellars.”  He looked thoughtful.

“There were caverns that were capped.”

The Steward swore.  “That nonsense.  A tale for novices.”  And with that he sent his helpers away, then turned to glare at the Prefect.  

“Getting the Chalice back is what matters,” she began.

He took a deep breathe.  “The cisterns at the bottom of the Middens.  We draw water from them by contraption, but there with the pools is a false door left by the Founder.”  

He pulled a sheet of paper from the Prefect’s desk.  “You go into the cellars, turn left and make your way through the storage rooms.”  He drew crisp lines.  “On further, you pass the base of the Stone, then the long tunnels to the pools.  We try to keep them clear, but once you pass the cisterns into the caverns beyond.”  He shook his head.  “I can’t speak to what might be there.”

***

The story continues with Fragments of the Last War 2.6


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Its Hour Come Round at Last 2.3

Session played: April 22, 2017

Back to London and the Silver Gate this chapter.  No real combat, but some tense moments social rp and hiding. Alaard the Librarian does engage in fisticuffs near the end.

***

Friday, June 17, 1916 - Colcester to London, United Kingdom

That morning, Alaard Vick, Bertrand Merriweather, and Dr. Thomas McKinley returned to London by train where there were met at the station by an agency car and brought back to Headquarters.  Smythe was there; the group discussed the events of the past few days.


That night they were invited to attend the meeting of the Order of the Silver Gate with Dr. Call, but for the morning Alaard recommended they meet with the Motspur Park/West Barnes local historian, Barnaby Pritcher, whose address he had located through librarian friends.

McKinley arranged for transportation to visit Pritcher - (Smythe did not make his roll for Ally Nigel, but the doctor made his M.I. 18 Patron Roll).  Two army personnel (Privates Weber and Taylor) from the M.I. 18 motorpool drove them.  Taylor insisted on bringing mortars but Weber disagreed.

They arrived at the historian Pritcher's home at eleven in the morning.  Alaard had the most success convincing Pritcher they were interested in the old man's works.  After some tea and an excellent port, Pritcher told them he had copies of his books - long unavailable.

Barnaby Pritcher
Though he knew nothing of the order of the Silver Gate, he told them the Scott family once lived in the area. Furthermore, he owned a copy of the Clyde Whipple Narrative from the 18th century and read several sections. The first described an uprising that killed Scott in 1721 where he was burned alive for witchcraft.

The second quote includes a speech from one the witches: "Do you live in hope to see the King striding the earth?  Do you dream of the Fulvid Throne, of joining the flutists who dance there forever?  Purify yourselves.  The King is Coming."

The final passage is from Whipple and describes the awful scenes of men as monsters beneath the earth.

Checking the directions for the farmhouse, the cadre realize it stood where the current Silver Gate Lodge resided and made notes to explore the basements.

Pritcher warmed them that "devils walked the earth."  And that they should be careful.  They all nodded and agreed.  In the car, Alaard proposed the agency recruit Pritcher as a researcher. The rest agreed.

***

Friday, June 17, 1916 - evening in Motspur Park, the meeting of the Silver Gate

They arrived in time for supper and began to mingle.  McKinley and Vick scanned the libraries and chatted about the occult with some members.  Smythe made the acquaintance of John Scott and his second immediately, while Merriweather slipped off with out notice and found his way upstairs.

The Silver Gate Lodge
Smythe noticed the vaguely Eastern European, tattooed, and bald men who seemed to be both guards and servants.  He commented on the help to Scott and his intimates.  John Scott excused himself, but the others shared Smythe's concerns.

Meanwhile, Bertrand Merriweather snuck upstairs to the second floor where he found a lecture hall with the walls hidden by thick curtains.  Examining the walls behind the curtains, he found them plain - except for one door on the opposite end that led to a smoking lounge with water closet and back stairwell leading up to the third floor.

There he found additional paintings by Sabine Landau.  The first and second seemed to interact: an English landscape with a strange dark portal opening onto a barren dark land.  The second a barren land with dead plants and skeletons opening onto a sunny English day.  Another was of a robed individual standing on a barren landscape as a great spiral of stars spun in the sky.

In the center of one room was a two foot tall silver cylinder and another a doll dressed in yellow rags.  At the end of the hall, Bertrand found a locked room and proceeded to open it with his sword.  Inside he discovered a room with the edges rounded off, a pentagram covered in a silver spiral and three books.  He took the books and a voice whispered in his head..  On his return, he decided to move the doll.

Below, the bald servants went wild.  They began shoving the guests and pushing their way back up the stairs. Hearing the chaos, Betrand took the doll to a window, opened it, and threw the doll outside.  The bald servants began attacking the attendants as some when upstairs and some down.  John Scott fled to the back of the Lodge with a tall, built man as most of the guests ran from the building.

Vick, Smythe, and McKinley decided Merriweather may be involved and hid themselves on the second floor until servants had returned from upstairs.  Then they followed.  Merriweather, emerging from the bathroom,  stopped them as they approached the stairs to the third floor.

They debated leaving, but decided to look for the underground that Pritcher had read of to them that very morning.  The gaslights were out now and in the distance they heard crying.  Pistols out they found their way to the basement and with some searching a set of stairs down into the earth. Merriweather noted that the landscape also changed here - much like in Kent - and they passed eighty feet down through the kind of solid rock that should not exist so close to the surface in the Thames valley.

At the bottom they found alcoves - one with a statue of a piper in rags, another with a small book shelf mostly cleared of books except a hand written volume of some kind, another with a wooden box.  Perusing the book, Alaard declared it some kind of manual to create the wooden box which he believed was supposed to open at a distance.

The Bodyguard
They decided to enter the box, two at a time, and soon found themselves in a library of a house.  Creeping to the other room they found two men sitting in the living room listening to a record of Chopin.  One of the men was John Scott, so they agree to rush the pair and subdue them.

The scuffle saw Alaard subdue the body guard and the others grab John Scott.  Realizing they were now in Bristol, England.  Smythe contacted Lady Margaret Jameson who arranged for a car and driver to bring them back to a safe house in London.

***

We haven't yet graduated to rifles, yet already without magical healing the group tends to avoid combat.

Social influence, sneaking, and Occultism tend to dominate.  The one combat consisted of Alaard knocking out the bodyguard with a punch, and McKinley stabbing John Scott with a syringe of morphine.

The story continues with Its Hour Come Round at Last 2.4







Monday, July 17, 2017

Fragments of the Last War 2.4 - Ill Breath in Lomah

Played 3/27/17 to 4/17/17

Thus far the biggest challenge with the Play-By-Post mode is keeping everyone engaged. Some post far more often than others.

After last episode, the caravan arrived in the town of Lomah - the last town before the frontier villages.

****

The 20th day of the month of Equos, 22 years after the opening of the Caers: evening in the town of Lomah

Evening had come on the town of Lomah like a slow fever. With the rain, the shops in the upper town on top of the cliffs closed and most residents stayed inside.  But the lift was still working and the marble steps remained open to Lower Lomah and the taverns and docks.

While waiting for Mollie, Edwina ambled over to Goreal, seated in a pile of blankets on the floor and Dinty cleaning his gear from the day.  “The dead, um, undead, lady wants to go into town.  You two want to come along?” Edwina smiled.

Goreal stood from his mountain of blankets, slowly with a great yawn.  “Yes, I would like to see the town.”

Pausing to spit on his leathers for more polish, Dinty replied. "I'll come along as well, Ed."

*****

Before heading back to the common area, Mollie paused and looked at Hal.  “Did Chuck have a family?”

Hal replied.  “I don't know.  Probably.  The caravan master would know if wanted to ask.  Dwarf by the name of Abel Hoster.  He'll be up early to check the team.”

Mollie nodded. Then tossed Hal the small bag of coins containing her pay.  “If he does, send this to them, but don’t tell anyone who it is from.  She has an image to maintain.”

Hal took the bag and shook it.  “That’s very generous of you.  I will speak with Hoster.”

*****

Out of the compound, the streets turned muddy.  Edwina glanced uneasy at the shadows cast by her lantern.  As she stood in the rain with Dinty and Goreal looking for Mollie.  “Any ideas where you want to go?”

“Somewhere with tasty food,” Mollie exclaimed as she stepped out of the shadows. “Does anyone have any favorites?  She’ll eat it.  She’s not picky.” Mollie smiled and waited for her friends to respond.

Edwina shrugged.  “I’ve never been here before.  What are the docks like?”

Mollie replied. “She’s not been her either but probably full of ships, fish, and sailor bars.”

Edwina clapped.  “That sounds exciting.  What do you think Dinty?  Goreal?”

Dinty shrugged. "I'll eat just about anything, some fish sounds tasty and a good dwarven whiskey to wash it down!"

“I like fish.”  Goreal says gruffly, now thinking of what kinds of fish might be available.

*****

As they stomped through the muddy street toward the cliffside, a tired, heavy-set human town guard turned the corner.  Beside him was a halfling woman.  “Whot now who ye be?”

“We’re with the circus,” Mollie chirped and handed the guard an old flyer.

“Well now, bloody yet coggies.  I like the jumping and small dogs,”  replied the human taking the flyer.

“Carnies,”  snared the halfling.  “I guess your lot is off to the wharves.”

Goreal appeared confused and opened his mouth to speak, but Dinty cut him off.

"Circus performers​?" Dinty replied. "And here I thought we were part of a noble calling to help defend the weak and innocent of this land!"

Goreal grinned widely and nods at his Commander.

They stared at the large bear, the goblin, and the girl with purple hair.  Finally, the halfing guard said.  “Well, now that you mention it.  Circus performers, I can see that.”  She shuffled her feet.  “Well, keep out of trouble.  Going to be a rainy night.  Hope you have a destination in mind.”  Waving to the human, the halfling turned to leave.

“Oh!  Where is a place with some good fish?” Dinty called out.

“Depends on where yoose feels squiggy,” the human began.  “The Racket and Chicken is fair but gots plenty of chimeys to bop yerr hogan.  Ole man Berry got his own place out on a Warf.  Foods nice and tasty, but the prices’ll make ye say Bob.”  He thought for a minute.  “Ye can get some cheap chowders out on the Face of Pierre, but watcher yer wallets and  yer kidknees.  End up in a stew pots ye will.”  He whistled and walked along.  The halfing shrugged. “Squiggy,” she chuckled.

Dinty laughed. "I say we go try out ole man berry… I think I feel squiggiest about that one!"

“Be safe now,” the halfling guard called out.

*****

Streets of Lomah
Throughout the town, the residents had begun putting up decorations for an upcoming festival.  Banners with paintings of trees hung from the shops.  A large statue of a human man in one square was covered in ribbons and chopped wood.  The streets were clean and there was an air of expectation hanging over everything.

At the edge of the town, the black sea churned below; salt spray filled the air even as high as the Upper town.  The lifts up the cliffface hauled goods, fish, and those willing to pay.  An old dwarf with a pegleg stood near the cliff, while lights from mounted torches and lanterns just lit him as they flickered in the wind.  He signed off on another load of boxes as a pair of human men hauled it onto a lift.

Nearby, a pair of half-orcs in leather armor watched the scene. 

Seeing the wardens approach, he squinted in the dark. “Going down?  It’ll be ten silver a piece.”

Mollie peered over the edge. “The first step is a doozy. “

Dinty asked. "Good dwarf, is there not some kind of discount for road weary wardens trying to put some food in their bellies? My squad and I have been eating dust as the rearguard of a caravan heading west out of Cymru. We're headed out to the frontier to battle bandits and unnamed monstrositys and would like to partake of a little respit from all the walking."

The dwarf approaches them and looks the motley gang up and down.  “Aye, you can ride down with the boxes here.”  Returning to the lift, he called to the men who lowered it.  “We have a group of Wardens off to the lower docks.”

"Many thanks!" Dinty gestured widely. "Beautiful device you have here." While walking onto the lift, he nudged Mollie,  "You see there's no reason to lie about our purpose. We provide a good service to people and are respected in turn.:

Led into the lift, the wardens waited while the pair of humans finished loading boxes.  The wind buffeted the lift and it rock sharply against the rocks.  The dwarf yelled at the half-orcs to pull the ropes taut. 

Mollie grinned at Dinty.  “It is an old habit, but we do have a crew that looks like a circus.  It’s homey!”

Dinty laughed.  "I'll admit, we do at that. The ruse might even come in handy some day.  Time to get acquainted with the ways of your new crew."

The lift creaked and a voice yelled.  “All clear!”  Suddenly the lift, boxes, and squad began a slow descent down the two hundred foot cliffs.  Edwina grasped a rope and let out a surprise yelp.

Goreal tenses up and takes a fighting stance at the sound of Edwina yelping.  He relaxes when he sees no immediate threats. “Are you alright Edwina?” Goreal asks.

“So long as I don't open my eyes,” she said.  “It’s just so swayie”  In the light of her lantern, she looked ill.  The sea spray dampened their clothing and the wind deafened their ears until finally the lift came to rest with a small crack. 

Mollie leaned over the side giggling as the wind rushed through her hair.  After being warned to stand back from the edge a second time, she moved beside Edwina and put an arm around the poor girl to steady her.

Lower Lomah sat in an indentation in the cliff that sheltered it from the sea.  In the dim lantern light, they could see a pair of dockworkers come forward to unload the lift cargo. "You can open your eyes and let go now Ed," Dinty said as he swaggered off the lift.

An obese halfling, sitting on a stool, drinking from a bottle of wine.  Seeing the squad walk off the lift, he spit wine on his shirt and sat up.  “By my ear, what have we here?  You there!”

Goreal walked over to the halfling, “Yes?” he grunted.

“Aye, I’m recruitin’ for the ship, the Blue Parrot.  Any of you fine folks lookin’ to ship out?”  the halfling took a swig of wine and belched.

“I'm with the Cymru Wardens, I don't think they'd like me shipping out without them," Goreal replied.

“Eh,” replied the hafling, “and I want no troubles with the law.  Where’re ye heading?  Not looking for me?  I done nothing.”  He frowned.

Dinty stomped over. "What's this? You can't go off recruitering them who have already been recruited! We're wardens through and through." He stomped his foot. "Also we're recruiting I'd you're interested. Decent pay, you get to travel and some previous crimes might be overlooked providing you're gods fearing and walk the straight and narrow."

The halfling stared at Dinty bleary-eyed. “Nah.” He took another swig from his bottle.  “Your headin’ over to the Racket and Chicken, I’d gather by the looks of you.  They have a special soup now on accounts of the Festival.”  He leaned back and waved them on.

Mollie took note that Edwina and her skin tone no longer matched once they were off the lift.  She turned to look at the halfling.  “Soup?  What is special about it?”

“Lots’a fishheads,” sputtered the halfling.  “Just watch yourselves that place gets hairy.”

Dinty nodded.  "Well if you have nothing better to add we'll be on our way for a kip and a nip."

The halfling waved to Dinty as he uncorked another bottle of wine.  Few walked the tight packed streets now that the dark fog darkened the sight of even Goreal and Dinty.
 
A few turns and stopping once for directions, and the squad found themselves at Old Berry’s Tavern.  Among the wharf buildings, the tavern looked in good repair.  Inside, a fire drove the cold, wet chill from their bodies. 

The tavern was half full of patrons, many dressed as travelers or Upper Lomahians looking for a late evening drink.

A portly human with a salt and pepper beard approached them.  Dressed in quality though simple work clothes, he said.  “Greetings, I’m Berry.  Welcome.  We have private rooms for dining, but I recommend the common room tonight as we have a rare performance from the half-elf - and not the typical woodland variety - Currien Revhale.  She is said to be the best harpist in the Republic.

Goreal nodded at Berry, “I would like to watch that.  It has been a while since I had seen a musician, and never one described as 'the best' before."

Mollie nodded.  “She would like that too.”  Her eyes darted around the tavern looking for anything more unusual than the group she was with and a place to sit.

Berry took them to an open table near the fireplace.  The walls here seemed made of old boatwood.  A mounted fish stared down at them with its mouth open.  “The benches may be too weak for you, bear.  I can have some pillows you can sit on.” 

“Thank you, that would be nice.” Goreal waited patiently for the pillows.

Edwina sat at the long table and looked around the room.  “Nicer than the places I used to go.”

Most of the patrons seemed well off but conservatively dressed.  A few older men had kept their robe hoods on their heads. One of the coughed and ordered hot toddies.  Another ate roasted chicken and rubbed his fingers on the hood.  A young man stood out.  Seated across the room, his flashy earrings and fine clothes were easy to mark him as new money.  He chatted up the townsman beside him while sizing up the squad.

Dinty joined Edwina at the table and said. "Thanks to you Berry, we wardens would like to partake of your much boasted about fare!"

First, the servers brought them warm mulled wine and plates of small roasted hens.  A murmur went through the crowd that the bard had arrived and would soon play. 

Edwina sipped her wine and pulled a hen apart.  “A whole hen,” she noted with surprise.  “A pretty good meal!”

“Mfss fmury gwud,” Mollie said as she devoured a hen.  “Uf!  Thuw muwsc if stwarten!”

Dinty tutted. "Calm down Mollie either spell or chew, you can't do both at the same time."

Mollie laughed. “Eh, it’s not like she’s going to choke to death.”

As the crowd ate, a pair of strangely dressed persons, wearing loose fitting silk clothing, whose skin seemed almost bronze brought a great harp of ivory and silver out from the back room.  As they set up, the servers brought more mulled wine and bowls of rich lamb and vegetable stew.  Finally, one of the helpers brought out a simple wooden stool.

The old man with the cough stood and walked out of the tavern, coughing the entire way.  As he left, the young man with silks and earrings caught Mollies eye, flashed a coin purse, and drained his wine.

Mollie nudged Edwina as the man flashed the coin purse.  “She’s attracted someone’s attention.”  She waved slightly and batted her eyes at the mark.

A bit tipsy, Edwina said. “I think he took that off the old guy.  See how ratty the purse is.”

Mollie nodded at Edwina.  “Oh, so he’s just dumb then.”

Edwina nodded and finished her stew.  “Oh yeah.”

Currien Revhale
The room went quiet and old man Berry hooded some of the lights.  The half-elf stepped into the lighted area near the harp.  Several people gasps in surprise.  She was unlike anything most everyone had seen.  Thin to the point of unbelievability, her hair glowed as if it were lit by the moons.  Her skin seemed an incandescent pearl and her purple-eyes, half closed like sleeping cat, seemed to see everything and nothing at once.  She smiled.  “And now.  Music.” 

Her fingers plucked each string of the harp like a kiss and then the notes bled into a tune that seemed to drive shivers into the crowd. 

Edwina swayed to the music cupping her wine, her eyes glazed.  Soon the entire room seemed to sway with the notes.  The half-elven woman began to sing in a language unknown to them which sounded of broken glass and moonlight.  Neither Mollie, Dinty, nor Goreal, while they liked the music, seemed overwhelmed by it.

Goreal looks over the crowd with concern, “Edwina are you feeling alright?” he asks quietly.

Edwina smiled dreamily, but did not reply.  The entire tavern, including Berry, seemed lost in the song.

The harpist opened her eyes though she did not cease playing nor singing.  Noticing, Mollie, Dinty, and Goreal, she smiled around her song.  Her voice, speaking dwarvish, spoke in their heads. So, you are not swayed.

Mollie looked around the room and then at Dinty and Goreal.  “Did they hear that too?  Because that is not one of the normal voices that she hears.”

"No we aren't swayed, and I don't like the attempt neither!" Dinty answered out loud.

The harpist continued her song, but spoke to minds of the three again.  They are lost in the song for a time.  They will not be harmed.  But for you three, I will sing to you words you can understand if you like.

“Wait,” Mollie said as she got up and walked over to the flashy pick pocket.  “She is all for professional courtesy and such, but Mr. Silky here just can’t be rewarded for dumb.”  Mollie removed a couple of coin purses from the fancy lad.

Of the four purses, she found one was made of overly embroidered silk with the initials HJ stitched in gold thread.  Two looked well made if plain.  The fourth, the ratty purse, was light of coin, but held and unusual hard shape inside.

Mollie started to walk to the bar with the purses she had retrieved from the fancy lad but paused.  She held the worn coin purse in her hand rubbing her fingers against what was inside. “Hmm, there is a thing…”  She began to pick at the drawstring with her talon like fingers.

The music of the harp had grown louder and the half-elf's song dazzled the crowd.  The purse strings loosened and inside Mollie saw a three inch long black cylinder.

Mollie took the thing out of the purse and looked it over.  Though completely smooth over most of its surface one end held a tiny purple gem.

Not recognizing the object, Mollie closed the bag up and headed back to the bar.  Peering behind it and locating the lost and found box, she dropped the coin purses into the box with a jingling thump and returned to her friends.

The half-elf watched Mollie during the entire exchange.  In their minds they heard, I was going to tell you my song about the painful loss suffered by elven lovers during the War of the Horrors.  But instead, I will speak with you after this.

****

Finishing her song, the room stood silent with the notes gone, only the wind at the shuttered windows heard.  The crowd stirred itself and cheered the harpist.

Edwina blinked and turned to see Goreal holding his paws over his ears.  She laughed.  “Silly, bear.” 

Goreal slowly took his paws from his ears once the musician left.  Looks worried, he said. "That magical music may return."

The other patrons murmured happily as the harpist slipped from the room. Dinty motioned for the others to follow and headed after the bard.  Edwina stood, tipsy with a far away look.  “So beautiful,” she slurred as she followed Dinty.  Goreal followed behind closely, ready to cover his ears at the first sign of more music.

In the room off the tavern common room, the half-elf sat on a simple wooden chair.  On the table in front of sat a clay pitcher and a plate of grapes.  “Sit please,” she said  pointing to the other chairs. “Perhaps you have questions of me before we begin?”

Edwina smiled at sat in one of the chairs.  She looked on dreamily as the two bronze men brought the harp in the room.

Dinty stomped his foot.  "Yeah I do. Who are you? What do you want? Why'd you entranceate them people? And finally no thanks I'll stand!"

She nodded. “I am Currien Revhale, a musician from the Elven cities to the far south.  Called half-elven, though we are our own people now.”  She ate a grape and poured a cup of water.  “In general, I want to play.  I also travel to see the world.  My music entrances because it is elvish.”  Pointing to Edwina, “The girl saw the story as well as heard it.”  Taking a drink she continued.  “Once in awhile I find someone who was not entranced by my music.  Those I wish to talk with.  I owe you a story since you did not hear my song.  You don't look like you want to hear a love story.”

Goreal replied. "I have no care for foolishness like love."

Mollie plopped down in one of the offered chairs and smiled at the harpist.  “He’s just not found the right person yet.  It won’t be foolish once he does.  As for stories, she likes all types as long as they have a little action in them.”

“I don't know much about music, but I'm willing to hear your story.  I'd prefer it without magic though.” Dinty replied.

“Very well, then,” she began.  “What story do you wish to hear?”

Dinty thought. "Do you know any about the evils of mind reading horses?"

She smiled.  “Yes, I do.”

Slapping his leg and taking a seat, "Well now, that's something I'd like to hear about."

****

“Long ago,” she began,” when my elven ancestors still lived in their great trees that traveled the sky between worlds, a race of horses, whose name time has blotted out, found that they could hear the thoughts and soon force others to their will by their minds alone.  Rejecting all gods, as horses do, they did not believe these abilities to be divine or magical, but explainable in what they called ‘Natural Philosophy.’  Theirs was a terrible Reason of no pity, no mercy, no love.

Rational Horses
“At first, the horses enslaved the humans of their world and forced them to farm and build their housing.  Later, after the horses had seen our great trees they decided they too wished to travel the skies.  But, seeing  as they hated boats, as horses do, and they had no song for the trees, the horses learned another way to travel the worlds. 

“With their Natural Philosophy, they discovered their way to the trods.  Like the Araini with their great iron doors that they opened with their little keys and clockwork contraptions of gears and crystals, or the endless rickety stairs of the Bhreith, the horses found they could run between worlds with enough blood sacrifice.

“And everywhere, they went they enslaved and the races of the worlds mixed.  Those who could fly away to the skies on their ships did so.  Others who lived in the skies ignored the horses.

“But one day, the horses found the goblins.  Was there only one kind then or many?  We do not know.  But the horses could not enslave the goblins.  Too wild, too resilient, or too mad, the goblins fought back for generations across the worlds.

“Some say it was the horses that brought the Horrors as they tried to destroy the goblins.  Some say they brought the Fae from the trods, and the Fae brought the Horrors.

“But the Fae came and the Horrors came and the sky-ships stopped flying and the elves planted their trees to hide and the dwarves went underground.  And the horses who knew Natural Philosophy vanished.”

*****

She drank another cup of water.  “There is your story, my dear goblin.”

Dinty nodded. "Yep, that's pretty much the story I heard. You tell it better though."

The harpist laughed.  “I’m sure the other story was also delightful.”  She finished her grapes.  “I hope you enjoyed your story, dear goblin.  And I hope it proves insightful.”  She stood.  “Now it’s time for me to rest.  I hope to leave tomorrow.”

Mollie leaned forward at the mention of travel.  “Oh!  Where is she going next?”

She smiled at Mollie.  “To the frontier, one village at a time.  And the to the deserts and with a caravan to Caer Pragni.”

“Pooh, she’ll be long gone before us then.”

Goreal nodded.  "It was nice of you to bring us backstage to talk," turning to Dinty, "but I'm ready to head back to the camp."  Smiling his toothy maw. "It was a good story even if I don't believe it."

Dinty asked. "So will you be joining our caravan out to the frontier then, Miss Bard?"

She thought and looked at Dinty.  “What caravan is that?”

Dinty replied. "The warden caravan out of Cymru. We're going out to the frontier. We're tasked with keeping the peace and the law of Cymru."

Mollie clapped. “She should come with us.  It would be much safer.”

“Well,” she said.  “You must speak with your superiors and let us know.”  Curtseying, she followed the bronze men from the room.

Mollie stood up from the chair and turned to face Dinty.  “We will have to ask Hal tomorrow, but for now, she is ready to head back.”

Edwina smiled dreamily at the half-elven woman and then stood to follow Mollie.  Back in the main room, the squad returned to their table.  The other patrons chatted happily, ignoring them. Berry’s servants brought another round of wine with a great beef roast per table served with mushrooms, pickles, carrots, and blueberries.  Pitchers of pure water were brought out as well.

Mollie ate again, but picked around the pickles and mushrooms.

Dinty commenced eating as much as he could as fast as he could - as if he hadn't eaten in months.

****

Finishing their meal, Dinty paid the tavern-keeper, Berry, then heading back into the night.  The sun fully set hours before and the seawind blew spray. They set off in the cold damp for the lift to Upper Lomah.  The close, ocean worn buildings of the docktown seemed to press in on them as they walked though no one could be seen on the streets.

Edwina held a lantern for the group, though it barely lit their way.  Goreal and Dinty took positions to watch their trek as they could see further in the darkness.  Finally, they reached the lift only to find a crowd of people searching through crushed boxes.  "Look lively there," a dwarf yelled and seeing Goreal called. "Give us a hand picking up the lift, the rope gave out."

Goreal rushed over to assist, “Is everyone alright?” He asks the dwarf.

Mollie looked around at the mess in an effort to see how bad the damage was and to see what might have been in the boxes.  “Are we trapped in town for the night?”

Dinty shook his head. "Nah, there's a footpath to the top," turning to the dwarf he asked. "Is anyone trapped in the wreckage?"

The dwarf cursed.  “There were a few workers coming down with the boxes.”  He waved at the splintered wood.  “You, bear, try picking the lift straight up.”  To Mollie and Dinty, “Never seen anything like it.  Them ropes're solid.”  He directed a work team of humans and ur-akesh (half-orcs) as they gently picked up each crate.  Inside the crates were various foodstuffs, clothing, and other trade goods.  One crate filled with butter lay against the wall where the halfling had been sitting hours earlier. 

Edwina looked ill.

Mollie looked over at the crate of butter to see if the halfling had been crushed by it.  There she saw crushed glass, splintered wood, and pools of wine.  Without digging through the butter, it would be difficult to find the halfling but from a distance she suspects no whole body lay beneath the mess. As there was no evidence of butter crushed halfings, Mollie moved on to the other wreckage to determine if there were any survivors.

Dinty walked over to have a look at the ropes and pulleys.  On close inspection, he noticed the rope seems to have been nicked in several places though not cut through.

With help ready, especially the strength of Goreal, the dwarf gave the signal, and the crew lifts.  Guiding them to one side, the dwarf ignores the grunts of the humans and growling of the half-orcs.  Despite the weight, Goreal doesn’t seem too phased.  Finally, the drop the lift away from the wreckage.

Looking through the wreckage, the workers and wardens find the passengers and crew who had been on the lift were crushed to death by the fall and the cargo.  They stopped and looked on the scene quietly.

Edwina sat down on a box and shook her head.  Mollie sat down next to Edwina and tried to comfort her.

“I guess I’m going to have to toughen up,” Edwina said.  “When I was with Dinty and the Irregulars at the warehouse, I killed a man.  I told myself he deserved it.  But...”  She paused.  “It’s a hell of a thing.  We were just on that lift.  We could be them.”  Looking at the sky.  “Beats me why the gods did stop this.  Didn't save Aubrey.”  She frowned and stood.  “Nothing more to do here.”

Mollie listened to the girl rant and waited for her to finish before she responded.  “She should not toughen up too much.  Things like this should bother her.  If that stops happening, she has become too detached and should worry.”  Mollie paused a bit and stared at her hand.  “And she has no idea about the gods anymore.”  She popped up from her seat on the box suddenly, “But we need to get home so we can talk to Hal about bringing a musical elf with us!”

Edwina looked around.  “It’s cold and wet and these people are dead.  Let’s get back to the barracks as soon as possible.”

Mollie nodded.  "She prefers being dead somewhere warm and dry."

After some minutes of checking the ropes, Dinty realized they had in fact been weakened by enough cuts to break.

The dwarf shook his head.  “Best get the priest of Manoc.  Look lively, we needs some tarps for the dead.  The boxes can wait.”  Turning to Goreal, he said. "Many thanks for your help, bear.”

Goreal nodded solemnly at the dwarf, “It is sad that we couldn't prevent this accident. Is there someone charged with checking the ropes?”  Goreal asked as he looked up the cliff.

“There is,” the dwarf replied.  “We do every morning.  But we’ve never had it break before.”  The lift crew all looked at each other.  “It shouldn’t’ve done it that easy.  We just replaced the ropes last week.”

Dinty waved. "Good dwarf, come here please."

“Eh?” replied the dwarf, walking over to Dinty.

Looking around to make sure no one was listening, Dinty said. "These ropes appear to have been cut and weakened in places. Does this look like normal wear? I think you need to get the guard involved in this."

Staring at the ropes in the lamplight, the dwarf shivered.  “I will send for them.  There’s a guard station nearby.”  Glancing at Dinty’s tabard with an image of a bearded badger, he added.  “You folks are wardens?”

"Yes, we are," Dinty said. "But this is guard business."

The dwarf simply nodded.  “Jeralt, go get the Guard,” he told one of the human crew.  “A keen eye, goblin.  And thank you, bear.”  He turned back to the wreckage.

The guard arrived, talked with Dinty, examined the ropes, and concluded someone who had been on the lift was wanted dead. 

Dinty asked. "What are the names of the dead?"

A human guardsman looked at Dinty and told him. “The only one anyone knows thus far is Cyrdak Drokkus. He's some travelling human actor.”

Goreal helped finish the cleanup, while Edwina sat under an eve.  Time to time she coughed and shivered in the cold, wet air.

It was very late now.

Dinty approached his squad. "We should be getting back to the barracks and report to the captain! Ed where is your cloak girl! A warden needs to be prepared for bad weather."

One of the guards overheard Dinty and said to him.  “With the lift down, you’ll want the cliffstairs.  You head down the dock.” He pointed to the east. “And you can’t miss them.   I see you only have the one lantern.  Might want some more light, they put out the torches a few hours ago.”

Dinty nodded. "Thank you for the tips, we’ll be fine."

***

The 21th day of the month of Equos, 22 years after the opening of the Caers: late night in the town of Lomah

Collecting their things, the squad headed off down one of the docks, which rocked in the lapping waves.  Edwina held the lantern for them though she looked lost in thought.  Goreal took the rear and Dinty the lead.  Mollie, in the middle behind Edwina, helped keep an eye on things.

Finally, after a chilly ten minute walk, they came to the edge of the dock and a great crack in the granite cliffside.  Though there were torch holders, the torches had been removed.  The wind whistled down the crack, while amply wide steps had been carved into the bottom.   Though a bit damp, the steps were not slick.

Mollie peered up at the flight of stairs and sighed.  She looked back at Goreal.  “She supposes he can’t carry us?  Oh! She knows!  Ed can carry Dinty, she can carry Ed, then he can carry her!  It will be lighter for him!”  Mollie grinned wide in a way that made one wonder if she was joking or seriously thought her idea would work.

Dinty stared at her. "I don't think I'll ever understand your circus people logic, Mollie."

“He needs to study applied acrobatics then it will all make nonsense.”

Edwina coughed again. “I hate the ocean,” she declared, as the squad started up the stairs.  The one small lantern barely lit the dark granite walls.  Flecks of shiny rock shimmered as the lantern light played across them.  Suddenly, the sound of something moving very fast filled the air and then thud against the wall beside Goreal.  Looking down, he realized it was an arrow.

Goreal stepped towards cover along the rocky wall.. As he did so, he smelled a group of human up the stairs and a halfling nearby.

Mollie slipped into the shadow caused by the rushing bear and grabbed onto a rock outcropping.

Dinty turned and knocked the lantern from Edwina's grasp and drug her to cover.

The lantern flew down the stairs of the crack and broke on the rocks.  The drizzle quickly extinguished the flame.

Untethering his mace, Goreal tried to pinpoint the attackers.  "Up the stairs and one up higher," he sniffed and whispered.

Pulling herself up the wall of the crack, Mollie scanning for the archer.

Goreal and Dinty’s eyes adjusted the soonest as they saw the sky above them was now brighter than the walls and the silhouettes of three humans could be seen up the stairs.

Three arrows bounched off the rocks near Goreal.  An arrow shot past Dinty where Edwina had been standing.

Edwina gasped confused as he stared into the dark.  "Oh, no, she said."

Without the lantern, the stairs behind him were pitch black, Goreal waited sniffing the air.

In the dim glow of a light above the crack, Mollie saw the outline of an archer perched on the rocks above them.  Carefully she flung herself at the rock face along the wall as she closed in on the archer.

Dinty unslung his crossbow.  "Ed, stay close and keep to the wall.  Goreal, up and at 'em.  I'm with you."

Goreal bellowed and charged up the stairs toward the silhouettes.  Hurdling toward the humans, his feet slammed loudy into the rain soaked ground.  As he reached three dim-lit humans, he heard them drop their bows.

Edwina took a deep breath and glanced up the stairs.  Her head swum from the heat on her face and she blinked in the darkness.

From high above them an arrow flew into the dark place where Dinty and Edwina had been.

Mollie swings herself up from the ledge below and stabbed at the archer’s foot as she landed.
“This little piggy…” Mollie’s shortsword bit into the right foot of the archer and cut to the bone, severing his hamstring.  The man screamed and fell forward in a faint, tumbling to the stairs below.

Dinty heard the limp human hit the stairs in a wet thud.

Goreal swung his Sun mace with his weight behind it into the human in the middle, landing his blow squarely in the human's ribs and tossing him like a ragdoll.  The human landed hard and his head bounced off the stairs.

Mollie looked at the bow laying on the ledge.  “She is calling dibs!”
Halfing wizard

A voice from somewhere in the dark chanted something in an unknown language; Goreal’s leather armor began to glow in a purple light.  The two in front of the giant bear, though surprised by the violence against their companion, pulled swords and attacked him.  The first swung high, but was surprised to find Goreal swat away his sword with his mace.  The smhkia then easily side-stepped the next attack.

Edwina stared at the granite wall across from her as it was now lit by purple light.  In an indention in the rock, she spotted movement.  With one quick motion, she slide one of her knives from her sleeve and threw it quickly.  Suddenly a high pitched scream came from the darkness.

In an alcove across from Edwina, Dinty spotted a halfling with a dagger in his shoulder. He aimed his crossbow at his leg and let loose the bolt (Critical success), shattering his knee and leg.  The halfling fell to the ground screaming.

Mollie picked up the bow and looked for the chanter in the dark. Seeing him screaming, she pulled an arrow from the quiver propped against the cliff.

One of the humans fighting Goreal, yelled “We have to go!” and backed away.

Goreal grappled the closest human by head with his free hand, lifted, and d then slams him to the ground, holding him there.

The human moving to flee looked at the scene of screaming and violence, dropped his sword, and put hsi hands behind his head.   screaming and carnage, then dropped his sword and put his hands behind his head.  “I surrender.”  He said loudly.

Dinty rushed the standing human. "Try and kill my squad will you! You're lucky you don't get worse. Now help carry your halfling friend!"

The human shook his head. “That little shit’s no friend of ours.  He just hired us to subdue you not get killed.”  Listening to the halfling screaming, he smiled.

Dinty spat. "Save it for the cap'n you and your friend go pick him up."

The human.  “What about the guy that got hit in the chest by the giant bear’s mace?”

Goreal has begun tying up the remaining unconscious attackers and tossing then over his shoulders, “It seems attacking others for a few coins isn't the safest work.”  Goreal said dryly.

The human looked at Goreal and nodded. “Yeah, good point, bear.  Good point.”  He walked down the stairs grasping his way for the halfling.

Edwina sits down beside the human who had fallen from the cliff. “His face his mushy,” she said then fell over.

Mollie hops down from the ledge with the bow and quiver.  Seeing Edwina, she dashed over to checker her out the best she can.  “Eddie?  Are you okay?”

Edwina’s face was hot and her breathing ragged.  She murmured but had fallen unconscious.

Mollie raised her voice above the arguing wardens and prisoners.  “Something is wrong with Edwina.  She has passed out!”

Goreal’s purple lit armor began to fade and the crack darkened considerably.  He rushed to Mollie and Edwina, calling Dinty over,  “Commander!”.

Dinty swore.  "Alright we're heading back to camp fast as we can. I'll take lead Goreal bring up the rear. Mollie in the middle and keep an eye on these three."

 Goreal tied one of the humans onto his back and picked up Edwina.

Mollie pokes the dead guy.  “What about him and do we have a place to keep prisoners in the camp?”

Dinty replied. We have to get Ed back to the healers now.  I'll send someone to collect the body.":

With the purple light from Goreal’s armor dying, the stairs were plunged into blackness.  Suddenly, a spark and a torch lit from the side of the stairs.  The human called out.  “Well, I’ve bound the halfling’s leg so he doesn’t bleed out and his hands and mouth so he doesn’t cast any whammy’s on us.”  Standing up with the little body.  “Where to?”

Dinty called. "We're going to the camp, you human you're in front."

“Your Wardens?” the human asked.  “I know the way to your barracks.”  He turned and began walking up the stairs with the torch and halfling.  “This little guy’s goin’ to lose his leg.”

Mollie grumbles and gets in line.  "No one ever listens to her."

Late now, Goreal and Dinty began to walk tired.  The human at the lead was whistling as he carried the halfling, while Mollie seemed as awake as ever.  After a half an hour of slogging through muddy streets, the human led them to the barracks.  Once the guards spotted the squad, they were led inside. 

Several local wardens arrived to take the carried prisoners.  The halfling they took to the infirmary.  Once, one of them saw Edwina, the dwarf warden told them “She’s sick.  We have a ward setup.”  And he pointed to a building lit up despite the darkness.

Goreal carefully carries Edwina over to the ward.

A familiar figure, the blue skinned samsaran, Otso, walked out the door to meet him. “Ah, poor dear, Edwina, is sick as well.  Bring her in Goreal.”  Walking inside, Goreal found himself in a large hall with a dozen sick wardens.  Otso ordered a pair of blankets to be set around one bed for Edwina.  “She has this sickness too.  I will do what I can for her.”  Otso had Goreal set the girl on the bed and began checking her symptoms. 

“Hal,” Otso said, “told me to tell you to get rest.  He needs you refreshed in the morning.  The town has been quarantined.”

Mollie snuck in behind Goreal.  Edwina was her best friend ever, and she needed to know what was wrong.  After Otso finished explaining the quarantine, she popped out from behind the bear.  “It is not because of her is it?  She did not make Edwina sick?  Can she help?”

Otso stared at Mollie confused.  “Is your condition a sickness?” He looked thoughtful, then shook his head.  “Later, later.  No, the paladins and I have diagnosed this as a disease called Nergul’s Embrace.”  He waved to an assistant.  “She needs water,” he said pointing to Edwina.  “Get her some.”  Otso turned to Mollie.  “This kind of disease only comes from the sickened bodies of the priests of Nergul.  They must have been in the town spreading this for some reason.”  Placing his hand on Edwina’s head.  “She is now in ague.  She must have been infected by an exposure during your night out.” 

Pointing around the room. “Others are worse.  And the paladins, the priests, and some wardens are looking for these priests of Nergul.”  Looking back at Edwina.  “In about a day, her fever will increase, her body will swell, and she will begin bleeding from the eyes.  A day after that she will begin bleeding everywhere.  Once that starts she has a few hours to live.”

Otso looked at Goreal and Mollie.  “Hal is leading a team to hunt for them, but he has a mission for your team.  He said get some rest if you can, but it seems the Church of Grumbar the Stone had a chalice we could have used to heal the sick.  But it was stolen just a day before.”  Otso took the water pitcher from the assistant and dipped a rag in it.  “He wants you to talk to the priests of the Stone and see if you can find this chalice.” 

Dripping water in Edwina’s mouth, Otso said.  “You can take Arlin, Meepo if you can find him.  Hal will be back in the morning.”

Mollie nodded at at Otso and looked around the ward. She straightened herself up and addressed him.  “She is sorry about her outburst.  She worries about her nature sometimes, but it is not a disease.  We will find the chalice, but for now, he looks shorted handed, and she doesn’t need much sleep.”

Nodding to himself grimly, Dinty asks Otso. "Do you know any prayers that will help with our tiredness?"

“I’m afraid not,” Otso replied tiredly.  “Sleep, the black coca tea the dwarves drink.”

Dinty swore. "Well then, for Ed and the wardens we'll make do. Everyone get some rest if you can we head out at six chimes."

Goreal looks very tired as he stumbles off to his waiting blanket-bed.

***

The human captive, Tav handed off the injured halfling to one of the wardens, then stepped back as Goreal gave his captured companions another pair.  He watched from the edge of the yard as the bear, the goblin, and the odd girl rushed off to the hospital with their sick friend. 

Tav
Glancing around the barracks, he debated slipping out, but instead went to find a mess hall.  Despite his ratty, dirty clothes he walked in and asked for a plate.  Seated at one table, he ate his first full meal in days.  There was a hush over the room full of half-ocs, gnomes, dwarvs, and a few other races.  He was the only human. 

Finally, a dwarf with some rank insignia entered, eyed him, and approached his table.  “What’re you doing here?” the dwarf barked.

Tav stood up.  “Umm, I’m a new recruit.  I came in with Dinty the goblin’s group.”

The dwarf frowned, then nodded.  “Ah, ye’ll be with Hal Saldana’s outfit.”  Looking him up and down.  “Yer filthy.  Go get a wash and a set of clothes.”  He coughed.  “And are ye any good with a weapon?”

Tav nodded. “Bow, ser.”

The dwarf seemed pleased. “At least yer not a damn bird.  Finish yer food and head over to the quartermaster and bath.”

****

The 21st day of the month of Equos, 22 years after the opening of the Caers:

Dawn came on in a gray light in the barracks.  Tav had bathed, obtained some warden gear, and even managed to sleep a few hours.  “Better find the goblin,” he thought. “If I’m going to make this good.”

*****

Our next combat.  This one went much smoother than the first.

The story continues in Fragments of the Last War 2.5.