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


No comments:

Post a Comment