Journal of the Souls of Legend (completed)

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Hostage to a Bargain

Hostage to a Bargain

I’ve signed exactly one Baatezu contract. The Baatezu are masters of creating them, having millennia to practice. And because of that, they are masters in twisting what is written to their desires, and not yours. And I will say without question, that one contract was the most painful experience of my life.

But I was fortunate in having that experience, because I learned two things. First, I learned how to protect myself from the worst mistakes you can make with them. Second, I learned how bad others are in making contracts…on both sides.​


I stood there, cold and shivering in the darkened cave in disbelief. I always believed my fate was my own to craft. To succeed or fail on my own terms. I wasn’t subject to the whims of others, and by the same token others weren’t subject to mine. Everyone was free to do as they wanted or needed.

I was surrounded by my adams; Beepu, Iesa, and Daneath. They were holding on to me as if I would disappear on them again. My eyes were welling up in tears. I heard them say, “We brought you back,” as if they had done me a great favor. I was flattered that, they thought enough of me to even raise me at all. I should have been able to embrace a new future, with friends that cared about me.

But I couldn’t see that. I shed tears, not in joy but in sorrow. My returning had sealed a bargain and their fates. If I had not returned, they could not be held to any agreement. They would have been free to do what they wanted. To seek out their fathers and masters.

I wasn’t going to return, but my absent father decided to alter that outcome. He had a different agenda, whatever it was. It didn’t matter what I wanted or needed. And now, because I wasn’t strong enough to fight his will, it would be my fault that the adams would be held to whatever bargain that was struck.
It also bothered me that compared to my other friends, that I kept surviving. And the one time I didn’t, somehow I had the ‘fortune’ to be brought back. Why should I have that luck? What made me special? Why did my father push me back to life? Why couldn’t have Elisna? She was special…to me.

“What…did…you…?” I started.

“Easy Myrai. We found a way to bring you back,” Iesa said.

“Yes, they did indeed,” I heard the voice of Mordai. “I honestly wasn’t sure if you would return at all. You surprised me.”

I turned my head to look at the smug tiefling. I felt exhausted and ill. I was regaining some strength in my legs, but I felt weak as I replied. “So…some bargain was struck in my…absence?”

The grin never faded, “So right you are. And we have much to discuss of course. But you look terrible,” he said with a mocking tone. “We should discuss things back at the Lusty Bard. You will be there promptly now?”

I caught the edge in the voice; the threat. And Iesa was quick to reply. “Of course, after Myrai pulls herself back together a bit. We have a lot to tell her.”

Mordai nodded, still smiling. He started to make his way towards one end of the cavern, when he turned and spoke. “I think it goes without saying, that you won’t mention this place to anyone. Unfortunate things could happen if others were even to hear rumors.” And he turned and ascended a wooden ladder at the far end of the cave.

“Myrai, can you move?” Daneath asked.

I nodded and between gritted teeth I said, “I need to leave…now.”

I glanced around me at what was clearly a shrine to the Lord of the Nine. The triple triangle symbol was painted on a wall, a grey altar with black candles, torches in sconces, all in a rough hewn cave or cavern. It was really unremarkable, but the place felt wrong. Like just breathing the air would soil my soul and that the dirtiness would never wash out.

The three led me to the ladder, and with Daneath steadying me, I was able to climb up. The ladder led up into what appeared to be a decaying barn. No animals or even fresh straw was here; just a damp wood rot smell. It was dark, and I could see moonlight shining down through holes in the roof. The main doors were only partially open and were cbarely hanging on their hinges. Walking through the barn’s doors I see that we are well deep into anti-peak, with no sign of the sun rising, nor setting.

Iesa took the lead, and silently he led us all down a path that was just off a main road. As we started down the road, I started to feel a little better, and needed less assistance. Mordai and the priest I had seen below were nowhere to be seen.

“How long was I…gone?”

“It is just after midnight I’d guess, but you have been dead since the afternoon.” Said Daneath.

“Ok, so the big question: Why?” I asked.

“Well, we had gone wandering aimlessly into plains and we were not prepared. We felt that it was not right that you died, and we should help bring you back.” Beepu spoke, sounding like he was admonishing the others.

“Wasn’t it you that stormed off in a random direction?” I asked.

“Well…yes. But that is not important now!”

“You’re right about that. What did you pay the bellman?”

“Um…well…we aren’t sure yet.” Daneath replied.

“You made a deal and didn’t get specifics?”

“Mordai said it was be a for a single task, with no questions asked,” said Iesa.

I sighed. This was going to be a mess. Unlike Mordai’s opinion of Aasimar, I didn’t have a strong opinion on Tieflings in general. But I did have one on Mordai, and it was clear he had something in mind for us to do. And I was certain that it would be up a Knight of the Post’s alley.

As we kept walking, I could see the lights of torches ahead, and the walls of Yartar appearing in the moonlight, not far away.

“Why? Why him of all the people to owe a favor?”

Iesa shrugged, “We didn’t really know anyone else, and we figured that we might be able to get a deal out of him.”

I looked at him steadily, “What…like a discount? Is your soul worth so little?”

Iesa looked concerned for a moment, “What do you mean?”

“You had me brought back, not just by any power, but the sodding Lord of the Nine. Any favor is going to cost your soul. Please tell me that you didn’t sign anything.”

Beepu at this point chimed in, “I was not for this particular path, but we felt pressed for time.”

“I wasn’t going anywhere.”

“Yes, but I meant in terms on getting back on track. But I suppose that could be in jeopardy now.”

“You didn’t answer my questions, especially the important one. Did. You. Sign. ANYTHING?”

“NO.” all three said at once.

“Well…you might have a chance at saving your souls I suppose.”

“’You?’ Don’t you mean ‘We?’” said Daneath.

I sighed. “I didn’t agree to anything. So, I can’t be held responsible for any deal you made at least as far as the powers are concerned. The Crimson Star is another question.” My pace had slowed as I thought about the question. “But, I suppose it’s my fault you are in this mess now. So, I might have some responsibility…I don’t know. Depends on the price.”

“Your fault? For dying?” Beepu asked.

“No. For coming back. If I didn’t return, you wouldn’t be at risk.”

“Hey, I wouldn’t blame yourself. A lot of things went wrong first,” Said Iesa. “Besides, shouldn’t we worry about the now, and not our souls in the future?”

“I wouldn’t call dying the future. You can die at any time, and then it’s too late.” I said and then I Looked at Iesa straight in the eyes. “And you really, really have no idea on the pain you are going to face on the other side. Makes anything here a minor event.”

“How do you know? What happened when you died?” asked Beepu.

“It had nothing to do when I was dead. It had to do when I was alive. I’ll leave it as firsthand experience…and I really don’t want to talk about that right now. But pain forever is that; forever.”

We continued in silence for a while and entered in the main gate of Yartar. Two sleepy guards looked us over and were about to waive us through when they looked at me.

“Hold a moment. What in the hells happened to her?”

I hadn’t thought about it, but I glanced down at myself. I was covered in dirt, dried blood and vomit. I could see some large tears in my leathers, a set of holes in my boot. But I had no idea what my face looked like, but I could only imagine it was a mess.

I looked at the guard, “I had a bad day, let’s leave it at that.”

“Are you sure you are ok?” their hands were handling their poleaxes gingerly; unsure if they should ready them.

“No. I feel like blex. But my…friends…they helped me out. Thanks for asking.”

“If you are sure then miss.” And the guards relaxed somewhat but remained watchful.
As we passed through and began our trek through the lower tier I spoke, “I must look…terrible.”

“Well, it really doesn’t compare with how you smell,” said Daneath.
I winced at that, “That bad? Let’s get to the room, and find me …a mirror.” I said with a measure of distaste.

“Sure thing…something wrong?”

“No.” I lied. “Let’s go.”

Yartar was quiet, with only a couple of drunks wandering the streets. We traversed the back alleys and found our way to the ‘Lusty Bard’ and descended the steps. Beepu pushed the door open and we entered.
The taproom wasn’t busy at that hour, but the patrons did start whispering when they saw me. Iesa stepped on ahead to get a room, and I stopped at the tapkeeper. He looked me up and down and said, “You look like you were on the wrong end of an argument.”

“Nah, I won. Got any bub stronger than an ale?”

“Got a half bottle of rye.” And he set a bottle on the counter next to a small cup.”

I grabbed the bottle, ignored the cup, and toss him a jinx. And promptly took a swig. It was warm and harsh on my raw throat, and I felt a quick rush.

“Thanks.” I said simply and took the bottle with me and headed towards the rooms.
Iesa scurried in front of me and opened the door, and I took another gulp from the bottle as I walked.

“You are planning on sharing right?” Daneath asked as he followed me in.

“Pike that. Get your own. Mirror.”

Iesa stepped up with a small polished piece of metal, “Borrowed one from one of the girls…here.” And he handed it to me.

I closed my eyes a second and took a deep breath. I opened and stared.

I was caked in dirt and blood was spattered all across my face and hair, coloring it a metallic rust. My armor around my left shoulder was torn to pieces, exposing my skin. Scabs, blood, and what appeared to be bile and vomit covered my chest. There was a lot of bruising around the neck, already turning from purple to sickly yellow under my skin. The image gave me the chills.

Not because I looked like that now, but because I had seen nearly the same look on me five years before. The only differences were that the blood wasn’t mine and I had a smile like I was on Mount Celestia. An image I always remembered when looking in mirrors. It was an image I desperately wanted to forget.
I tossed the mirror back and take another swig from the bottle.

“This is going to take a bit.”

I put the bottle down on the desk, and I reach into myself for a basic cantrip. Slowly and methodically from hair to my boots, I start to remove the filth from my clothing, skin and hair. The other three quietly arranged their packs on their bunks, and just watched me quietly.

As I was focused on cleaning, I felt something within me. Pausing a moment, I realized that there was a new source within me; something that wasn’t there before.

I opened my eyes and looked down at my shredded leather bodice and concentrated on it. Slowly I saw tears close, the torn shoulder strap now was reforming back to how it started.
I had never done this before…could I always do this? I started to focus deeper when a knock on the door, and it started to open.

I didn’t want to be interrupted and a hot flash of anger arose from me. Gritting my teeth, I felt like I was pulling on something different than I had before, building within me. I then released it in a burst, and the door slammed shut, and at the same time I shouted.

“LEAVE ME!”

But it wasn’t a normal shout; it reverberated in the room, many times louder than my voice normally carried. I could barely hear the scared girl on the other side of the door apologizing.
My companions were startled and stared at me in surprise. They looked at me with apprehension and concern. But Beepu was focused and watched me carefully.

“Myrai…are you?...” Beepu asked cautiously.

I ignored him, and I re-centered myself and continued to mend my gear. My leathers, my boot around my ankle was whole in a matter of minutes. It was slower than cleaning, but it honestly felt good, despite the effort. I was breathing a bit heavily now when I turned to Iesa, “Hold up that mirror.”

I looked at myself again. I was clean, but I still looked like I had a bout with Daneath in the ring. I touched the bruises on my shoulder and neck. I concentrate again, focusing on me and not my gear.
It took far more effort to do, but eventually I pulled more energy up from within me and spread it across my injuries. I felt…warmth, relief, it was almost pure pleasure. The bruises started to change from purple, to yellow, and then disappeared entirely. I could feel pain in my body dissipate as I my wounds fully healed. In moments, I looked like nothing had happened that day.

I turned myself around looking the mirror and saw nothing out of place. As a final touch I changed my scent around me to something with a touch of spice to cover up any ill smells, and I nodded with satisfaction.

“Iesa…please return the mirror and apologize to the girl.”

“Sure,” and Iesa left the room, looking relieved to go.

I grabbed my bottle and sat down on the bunk and took another pull from it, letting the bubs warmth spread inside me. Honestly it was terrible stuff, but I didn’t care. I might have looked clean, I felt anything but. Ever since leaving the shrine I felt dirty. I would have relished a real bath, with hot water. But I hadn’t seen anything looking like the baths at the Great Gymnasium. Nothing close. Perhaps a larger city?

Beepu, who had been silently watching me spoke, “Myrai, how did you do that?”

“What exactly?”

“All of it. I spent a lot of time in Candlekeep studying magic. Some of what you did is not something that
most arcana casters can do. In fact, some of it had a more divine feel to it.”

I was about to respond, when I remembered something that Alionus said:

‘You are a worthy disciple.’

I checked myself and considered my next words carefully. “I’m not sure. But I couldn’t do this before I…so I don’t know how I can do it now.”

“You have changed, Myrai.”

I sat there and didn’t meet Beepu’s eyes. “Well, crossing the veil wasn’t my plan, and it was and wasn’t what I expected.”

“You remember being…dead?” Beepu asked surprised.

I just nodded. But I realized that I shouldn’t have been able to remember it, just like I shouldn’t have been able to remember being alive. The Society of Sensation’s headquarters, the Civic Festhall, was filled with sensory orbs containing all kinds of experiences recorded by Sensates. Passionate ones, sad ones, painful ones, exotic ones. All kinds. But the one experience that was never captured, was what happened at the point of death. There was one where a person died and came back. But there was nothing in between those two moments.

I had experienced something unique. But I wanted to understand it and I needed time. So, I changed the topic, “Let’s find that Kobold King, Mordai and find out how dirty this task is going to be.”

“Kobold King?” Daneath asked.

“I’ll explain after we talk to him.” and I took another swig from the bottle. “Let’s go.”

I stood up and opened the door. Outside, Iesa was talking to the serving girl who I clearly unnerved earlier. Iesa had gently pulled her close to himself and had an arm around her. She was holding the mirror close to her chest and was smiling shyly as Iesa whispered to her. I had seen her before, down in the arena area, but I didn’t know her name. Her eyes locked with mine as I opened the door.

She gawked at me, looking me up and down. She stammered, “You..you were all blood and dirt a moment ago.”

“Half a bottle of rye will do wonders,” I replied. “Any idea where Mordai might be?”

She looked nervous and nodded, “Yes…I was to um…take you to him as soon as you got in.”

I tilted my head and looked at her carefully, making a guess I asked her, “You are afraid of him, aren’t you?” to which she silently nodded.

“Him, or his friends that keep him busy?”

Her eyes looked around, and she spoke, almost too quietly to be heard, but I could see her mouth the word “Both.”

I nod and smile, “Just point out the room…he’s not going to remember we were ‘late.’ I look at Iesa, and smirk, “You two can chat later.”

The girl blushes and leads us down the hall to a door near the end, and knocked on it three times, and Mordai’s voice called from within, “Enter.”

Daneath took the lead, followed by Iesa, Beepu and then myself. Mordai was already seated at a small circular table, with six chairs around it. In his hands was a goblet, and he was swirling what I presumed was wine. He was nonchalant, but when he saw me, he stopped and leaned forward, his eyes disbelieving what they saw.

“Myrai, you look so much different now. I can’t say which is the better look though.”

“You know how to say the sweetest things; must be a character flaw.” And I sat down on chair, propped up my legs on the table and took a swig from the bottle.

He grinned at the retort and replied, “Well put. And I assume your friends have told you about the deal.”

“Enough to know, you haven’t told them anything yet,” I said, as the others started to sit down on the chairs near me.

“Well, the task itself is simple enough, and remember,” as he glanced at my adams, “It was a no questions asked deal.”

“Yes, yes, now get to the point! What is the task?” Beepu said with annoyance. He clearly wanted to be anywhere but back in Yartar.

“To the point. Well then,” and he finished his drink. “It’s quite simple really; the Crimson Star has had some challenges with a particular individual and we need them…eliminated during the hate night, at her own party two nights from now. That individual is the Waterbaroness Nestra Ruthiol.”

Iesa didn’t look happy, “So, murder then.”

The tiefling shrugged, “A life for a life.”

Iesa, still looking unhappy, “Why?”

Mordai looked at Iesa with a very paternal look, “You realize that’s a question.”

Iesa was about to say something, and he shut his mouth quickly. And instead Daneath spoke “So, what are we going to find there as far as guards?”

“More questions again.”

Beepu had had it and jumped up and started berating the tiefling, “You cannot expect us to be successful, unless we know what we are up against. How do you expect us to do this unsavory piece of work?”

“Questions again.” He said with mock sadness.
I looked at Mordai, “Well, if you don’t have invitations or a tailor, then your dreams are going to remain dreams.”

He turned his head and looked at me with a grin, “Ah yes; you understand the game then. And so, I do have access to both.”

Iesa smiled and said, “A means to do the deed would also be necessary.”

“A means has been planned out, and I only have a little bit more information that I will tell you. Anything and everything else is your problem. The party will be covered by her house guards and whoever else she hires. Weapons and armor have never been allowed inside during functions, so I doubt that will change. You can use this to help you.” And he set a small glass vial on the table. “Yes, it is quite deadly. The tailor that you can use, is on the Street of the Larks in the mid-tier. It’s the only one there, and it is across from a cheese shop. I’m sure you can find your way, and just mention the Crimson Star, and they will assist you. They also will have your invitations.”

Silence fell across the room as we absorb the task at hand, and the implications ahead.

“We are going to need a way out of the party after it’s done I suppose,” Beepu said.

Mordai shrugged, “Sounds like your problem; I really don’t care.”

I drink the last of the rye, and sigh, “I guess that’s it then,” and I stood up and walk to the door.

“So, you are going to do it then?” Mordai said, eying me curiously.

I turned around and give him a flinty glare, “Sorry…that sounds like a question.” The others smile at that, and they stand, while Iesa palms the vial. And I reach the door and pull the handle.

A grim chuckle came from Mordai, “Well then, just remember. We don’t like busted deals and we will take pleasure to making…painful examples of those that do break their word.”

“I guess we’ll know soon enough.” I said, and I left the room, with the others in tow.
Moments later, I throw open the door to the room we let and flopped on the bed. Exhaustion was catching up to me and I just wanted to pass out and sleep.

“I can’t believe…” Iesa started.

“What? That he wanted a grim favor in return?” I said. “The shrine wasn’t enough of a clue that this was going to be a bad deal. Sodding Kobold King.”

“What does that mean, ‘Kobold King’” Daneath said.

“It means that he thinks he is very important, but he really isn’t. My guess is that he really is a low-ranking person in the Star, and he’s using this to get ahead. He’s not in charge.”

“What makes you say that?” Iesa asked.

“Because if he was, he would have a toady hand out the mission, so his own hands are clean. That, and if he was that vested in success, he would have hired experts.” I speculated. “Plus, he doesn’t care if we get caught. Seems addle-coved to me that you would leave yourself exposed that way.”

“Well, perhaps he thinks very highly of us then,” Beepu said.

“Doubtful…you went to him for help. We are cheap barkle to throw at a problem and if it works, great. If not, he’ll just deny the whole thing.”

Everyone went silent for a while. Eventually, Iesa broke it with the real question. “Are we really going to do this?”

“I don’t want to do it, but I’m not keen on skipping town with a criminal organization hounding us.” Daneath replied.

“So, you would rather have the Waterbaroness’ enforcers or the person who takes over to chase us instead?” Beepu retorted. “Morally this is just wrong,”

“So…what do we do?” Iesa asked.

“I’m exhausted,” I said, “And I am not going to make a decision right now. But, since we can’t ask Mordai anything, we’re going to have to find our own answers,” and I started pulling off my boots and unbuckling my belts with my blades.

“Wait…are you seriously considering going through with…murder?”

“Well…right now she’s a grave robber at minimum. Desecrating the rest of the dead is a sin, but not a mortal one. But, something extreme has happened for the Crimson Star to decide this is the best solution. We don’t understand the darks here. So we better wise up and figure it out.” And I undid my bodice armor and set it aside.

“She’s right,” Iesa said “We really don’t know what is going on. Perhaps we can figure it out and use it to our advantage.”

“I agree,” said Daneath. “We need more information.”

“Yep,” I said nodding “So we go to the tailor and we dig up the local chant and start learning. Fast.” And I pulled off my bracers and dropped them on a pile with the armor, belts, and daggers.

“So, what do we tell Mordai?” Beepu asked.

“Nothing,” I said. “Let him make his own assumptions after we talk to the tailor tomorrow. Don’t say anything and don’t answer him.”

“Why?”

“Because then you can honestly say you didn’t agree to the job.”

“But I did not say no either.”

“Whose problem is that? If he wanted certainty…he’s should have had a contract written.”

“He’d be a fool to do that,” Iesa said “That would be asking for death if someone found it.”

“True,” I said yawning “But it also means that nothing is fixed. Maybe we can change the deal later. But it won’t matter in four days.” And I stretched out on the bed.

“Why is that?” Beepu asked puzzled.

“Because in three days, the Hate Night will be over. Then he’ll know if we accepted the job or not.”

Session notes:

First off thanks reading my vanity project. I would love comment in PM if you have them. XP would be nice too.

So... there is a LARGE gap here of three players scrambling around to find someone who can raise the dead and figure out if they can get a 500 gp diamond. There was a lot of running around. And somehow, they did go to Mordai, and not the two other churches mentioned in town. If nothing else, it makes a great story and forwarded the plot that the DM had in mind.

The ‘No Questions’ dialog really happened and was actually more ridiculous as I remembered. The table had some very new to D&D players, and they kept trying to ask Mordai about his motivations and why. And the DM (rightly) stuck to his guns and made the party go figure it out and sort out rumor and truths instead of spoonfeeding it right there to them.

Now lastly 39,000+ words later; This was day one of a 5 hour game session. It was one hell of a start.
 
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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Darks of the Past

(Merry Xmas everyone)

Darks of the Past

The Society of Sensation teaches that dreams are incomplete experiences. Normally, they are things your self needs to sort out, understand and know. The Society also says that dreams can be tools; of prophecy, of communication, and of divination.

The sodding problem is figuring out which applies to yours.​

It was nearing peak, and the brimstone laden rain had finally stopped. Dirty yellow rainwater that once was pouring from gothic spouts on buildings, were now slowing to a trickle. The air was muggy, but the rain had cleared the tang of brimstone from the air. We were on the edge between the Lady’s Ward and the Lower Ward. Here the rainwater would flow into channels, draining the streets of water. Perhaps it would flow to the ditch; perhaps it would just sink below. But unlike the Hive and other places, the roads would be clear of puddles and standing water.

I would have said I was wandering, but the truth was I was being led by Elisna. She had declared today was my birthday, for no other reason than realizing I didn’t know when mine really was. And so, she was leading us from the Gatehouse where we lived and across the far side of the Lower Ward in search of…something. Elisna was very direct, and when she wanted to do something, she just did it. Never mind that it meant ditching the Bleakers and their chores for us today. She had a mission, and nothing would stop her. And I, as focus of the adventure was duty bound to follow.

So, the two of us had spent most of the morning dodging the rain as we made our way across the Lower Ward while trying to stay dry. We crossed the Ditch at Zaddfun Trestle and headed along Barmy street, passing through the Shattered Temple District. I had never wandered far from the Gatehouse on my own, and I was drinking in all the sights as if I were a Clueless. But Elisna had a plan and a destination in mind, and she would not be denied. So, she pulled my arm, moving me ever forward.

She led me down Brandy Lane, until it turned into Forgotten, and straight through Anvil’s Square. I remembered Anze, hard at work there, forging steel for cutters with jink. But not us poor kids, as we moved with steady determination, or resignation as the case was with myself. On down Ironmonger, and past Blood Boil, until finally we were on Berk Lane.

I had no idea why we were traversing the Lower Ward, on the Downward edge. We had occasionally stole off before, following the Spikeward edge making our way to the Grand Baazar. That was fun, even though we never had any money. We could look and dream a bit what a bit of money might be like. Elisna liked going there with me, as usually the coster mongers weren’t so quick to chase off an Aasimar as they would a Tiefling. But we always returned empty handed to the Gatehouse, to face whatever punishments the Bleakers had for skipping out on chores. Truth be told, the punishments were fair and mild considering the time wasted. But we were never eager to return.

But we were on the wrong edge for that kind of trip and passed through districts I only had heard of by name. Berk’s Lane wasn’t remarkable really, it was a working district but cleaner than most due to proximity to the Lady’s Ward. So, the shops were less practical, and more ‘fun.’ And it was just the case when Elisna led me to a small stall in front of a narrow house and said, “We’re here!”

I could smell it, before I even saw the sign; the smell of sugar and spice, cinnamon and honey. I knew where she had led us to. Looking up I read the sign: ‘Happy Candies Sweet Shop’ and I almost cursed at Elisna. The worst thing you can do to a hungry kid, is to bring them within a whiff of food they can’t taste. And candy was the stuff of dreams for any kid. So, to stand there in front of bins of sweets and not so much of a greenie in your pocket was the worst form of torture I could think of.
But nothing ever daunted Elisna; not even the impossible. She marched right to the stall and pointed at a bin with an assortment of sweets. The aged human calmly replied.

“Two stingers each.”

Elisna shook her head and pointed again at the same bin.

“I said, one jink each.”

Elisna shook her head again and pointed.

“Are you barmy? Four stingers each!”

I chuckled. Only in Sigil would you have a shop run by madmen. In this case literally; Xaositects. The Chaosmen were random as chaos can let a berk be, and in this case running a shop wasn’t in their favor. Elisna kept pointing, sometimes picking a different bin, but usually the same one. And the price kept changing wildly. Finally, the barmy Chaosman said “Two greenies each.”

And then I was surprised, as Elisna produced four greenies from a pouch she concealed in her shirt. The pouch was full…far more than the price she bargained down the candy to. She quickly grabbed a pair of sweets, smiled and grabbed my hand and ran, pulling me down toward Bloodgem Road, as if in fear the price would change again.

After a few moments, we were huddled together in a doorway. As I tried to catch my breath, I was stammering, “How…where did…you get…the…”

Elisna smiled and pressed into my hand a sweet. She looked at me and simply said, “Happy birthday.”
The smell of both cinnamon and honey was strong, and the color was as deep a red as Elisna’s own eyes. My hand trembled; I had never held such a treasure in my life. I placed the sweet in my mouth, and with that taste my dreams were at that moment fulfilled. Sweet honey, the burn of sharp cinnamon, and even the unexpected tang of salt assaulted my tongue. Elisna eyes must have mirrored mine as she also tasted the morsel. It was pure bliss, that only sugar and spice can bring to a child.

“Thank you…sis.” I said. We weren’t sisters really; it was impossible for it to be so. But when others weren’t looking or listening we would call each other such. We always felt kinship despite being opposites.

I was quiet and comfortable in quiet moments alone.

Elisna was bold and outgoing.

I tried to follow the rules…when Elisna wasn’t getting me in trouble.

Elisna was a rule breaker, following her whims, and leading me astray.

I was the awkward, gangly, funny looking Aasimar.

Elisa was a cute as a button Tiefling

We continued to suck on the candies as we walked past Bloodgem Park and turning up the Doomguard Walk. We held hands, and I remember I was crying. I had never had a birthday, and the gift was the sweetest one could give. I was madly trying to think of how I would repay her when hers came around.

“Stop you spiv!”

I turned my head, and I saw a human running, cradling some type of sword to his chest. Following him was a half-elf, in an apron shouting and pointing at the human running.

The human had turned the corner and was running up the street, right toward us when I heard a sound to my left. The sound of someone running. Time seemed to slow down as I turned towards the sound and I saw her.

She was dressed in studded leather and had a pair of swords at her hips. Her eyes were a colorless grey, and her raven hair was long and wild around her. But now she showed her teeth in a wolfish grin of a predator who had found her prey. She was already moving towards us and as she closed the distance, she began to spin.

The first spin grabbed everyone’s attention. I froze and was transfixed at the artistry and grace of this raven-haired beauty. So was Elisna as she turned her head to look at the woman. I could see the spiv in the corner of my eye, and his head was turned towards the woman as well.

The second spin, the woman approached closer, and the sound of metal upon metal rang out as she drew one of her swords from her hip side scabbard. Elisna was between myself and this woman, and the spiv was approaching Elisna from the rear, attempting to run past us both, as he pushed himself into a run, bumping into Elisna.

The third spin came, and I heard the sharp whistle of the blade through the air, and the sound of metal on flesh. I could see the blade cross through his neck, his head coming clean from his body, and with blood spurting everywhere. But the blade didn’t stop there, as I watched in horror as the blade edge cut into Elisna’s neck as well, severing her head just as cleanly. The woman passed behind us all with her sword trailing, with a smile of pure rapture on her face.

I remember the sweet dropping from my mouth; like it had suddenly tasted like ash. I screamed as I watched the spiv and Elisna’s heads and bodies fall to the ground in a crumpled heap. My heart scarcely beat as I watched their heads bounce on the cobblestone.

I collapsed on my knees on the dirty street. I had turned toward the figure, who had stopped spinning, and now was occupied with cleaning her blade. The small crowd around us made no moves, but they all had the same look on their face as they looked at this woman. A look of fear.

I stared at her in mute shock, and I slowly turned to look at Elisna’s body and head. Her sweet, like mine, was now discarded together on the road, surrounded by blood. Her body had fallen crumpling forward, and her head faced towards the sky with a helpless expression.

Time passed slowly and turning my head I saw the Harmonium guards arrive too late. They had their swords at the ready and approached, but when they saw the woman the same fear that had struck the crowd afflicted them as well. They were talking, but I never heard the words said. But their actions spoke more; they didn’t stop the woman as she strode down the street towards the Armory. She was unconcerned and unafraid of them.

Of anyone.

I turned back to Elisna. I was crying, shouting for my sister. The pain in my heart was the greatest I had ever known. I couldn’t imagine anything worse and wouldn’t know any for years to come.

Then I saw, Elisna’s body twitch and stir. As I was kneeling on the ground, I watched with horror as Elisna’s body, mechanically stood upright again. With precision, it bent at the waist and picked up her own head without fumbling. She delicately placed the head upon her shoulders, and from what seemed from nowhere, produced a needle and thick cord like thread.

I watched with my mouth agape as she started to sew, fastening her head back onto her neck with the thread. She snapped the cord, and then started to sew with the needle and cord above and below her pale red lips, stitching her mouth shut. As I watched, unable to move or intervene she repeated the process, stitching her right eye and then her left eye, closing them forever.

The corpse then turned to face me, and she raised her right hand. She pointed at me, accusingly for all the crowd to see. I screamed,

“Elisna…no!!”

I awoke and sat upright in the darkness of the room. My breathing was labored, and I was covered in sweat. The sound of quiet breathing filled the room. Only the mechanical owl, Foggle showed any signs of wakefulness as its head turned in circles on its nightly vigil.

I leaned forward and rested my elbows on my knees, covered my eyes and wept. Before, I could never remember the nightmare, just the feelings at the end. Now for the first time I remembered; I saw.

It wasn’t history or the past. Elisna’s death was true. The fact she became a zombie was true. But my mind stitched it so everything happened at once. Making me feel the raw emotions that I experienced nearly a decade in the past, fresh again as if they had happened only moments ago.

“Myrai? Are you alright?” I heard in the darkness as Daneath spoke.

I was crying still and could barely whisper, “No.” I heard Daneath move and he was then sitting behind me on the bed. He reached out and touched my shoulder.

“Please don’t,” and I pulled away. After a moment I said, “I’m sorry but…” and I stumble on the words and never really finish. I don’t want to be touched. I don’t want to look needy. I want to feel stronger. Far stronger than I do now.

Daneath said, “I understand. At best you’ve had a trying day. I just wanted…to help.” And he moved back towards his own bunk.

I calmed myself, my tears started to slow, and my breathing became normal. I was shaking my head and could only whisper one word; “Why?”

“Why what, Myrai?”

I gulped and swallowed over the large lump in my throat and whispered, “Why me? Why do I keep…surviving? My…my…sister died, and not me. Markell, died at my feet and I survived. The Faction War, so many…didn’t survive. And now the…dog things.”

“Hyenas,” Daneath corrected gently.

“Hyenas…I am back now. But so many others…so many better people…why me?”

“Doesn’t Kelemvor answer that?”

I shook my head, “No…not really. He teaches us about death, and how to…not to fear it. He doesn’t really talk about not dying, and even less is said about coming back.”

“You’ve lost a lot?”

I quietly nod in response.

“I can relate to that. I barely knew my mother as she died when I was young. My father…I never knew him. And as for my master…well that’s why I am looking for him; he’s the closest thing to family I have left.”

I turned to look at Daneath in the darkness. “I once looked for mine. Sodding waste of time and jink for me. I hope that your…our search has better luck.”

He nodded, “Well, looks like we have some dirty work to do first,” and he stretched out on his bed. “I hope…I hope we can pull it off.”

I laid back down and stared at the roof, “I guess I should be worried about just surviving. But, I don’t seem to have that problem.”

“There are worse things, Myrai.”

“Yes. Yes, there are.”

Silently I stared at the ceiling and I heard Daneath fall back into his own dreams. All the while I wondered about my own. My nightmare was still vivid in my mind. But I wondered more about the immediate future.

I realized that I needed to move forward. Why I was back wasn’t important, if indeed I was dragged back to life for a reason. What was important was that I didn’t make things worse for my adams.
It mattered more to me, that I mattered to them. I was important.

It was a starting point.

Session Notes:

I wrote part of this as the raw character background, so Elisna was always lurking in the past. It however took a bit to flesh her out beyond a name, and a timeframe. One of the core ideas about Myrai, was coping with survivor’s guilt, that keeps reoccurring. The other, is that she was closed off to people in general. Partially because of her introversion, but also about closing herself off and being detached as a coping mechanism.

But that said, part of her story is about reconnecting. And that reconnecting is important for a number of reason. Especially for her father. But’s that’s a chapter far from here.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Dressing to Kill

Dressing to Kill

Sigil is a dirty place. The rain stains everything with brimstone, discoloring cloth and flesh alike. It’s why we wear leather if we can as it doesn’t stain. The Lower Ward and Hive will have standing muddy puddles of filthy water. The worst is the Ditch, an open river of filth and muck where dead bodies are tossed, along with scraps from kitchens and night water.

But every so often, even the Ditch gets flushed from the waters of Oceanus. And so, it becomes a holiday, where everyone dives into the clear, sweet water and cleans up a bit.

And some of us clean up better than others.

Sleep had finally overcome me, and the next day began. We wandered out from the “Lusty Bard” and headed silently towards the middle tier of Yartar. I still felt weak, even after some bread and cheese in my stomach. I was just thankful I wasn’t retching anymore.

“So…I guess we need to ask some questions,” Iesa said with a smirk. “So where do we start?”

“The guards,” Daneath said. “They tend hang out together in most towns. With some drinks, I can find out who is working where. Find out more about the party from their perspective.”

“Well, Foggle can look at the manor from above. See what we can learn on how to get out and in,” Beepu commented, almost to himself.

“I bet our tailor will know something,” I said. “Guests, tidbits about the party.”

“And I want to ask the locals about the Night itself. What really happens,” said Iesa. “Because, we’re going to need to get out somehow during the night.”

“Guess we should split up then,” I said. “I don’t know if we should all go the tailor at once, but I’m going to need to go first.”

“Why?” asked Iesa.

I looked him in the eyes, “Because, it takes longer to tailor a dress than a suitcoat. We can meet back at the “Bard” later the evening. Spire’s Ward.

“Righ…what?” Daneath asked.

“Good luck,” as I walked off towards Lark street.

Truth be told, a moment to myself was nice. Being cooped up with three men was trying. Like everything else lately, I tried not to make a big deal of it, but I only now realized that privacy was something I missed.
Not that I really had any now. All through the market, the gate through the middle tier I felt and heard it. The stares, the whispers. I really stood out here. In Sigil, I would rarely get a second look or a comment. But in Yartar, it made me self-conscious. Well, more so than normal since arriving on the Prime.

Eventually after a bit of looking around on Lark, I spotted the cheese shop. And then I looked across the street. The sign was clear enough; a needle and thread. Striding over to the shop, I took a deep breath and opened the door.

The sound of a bell rang as I stepped inside. The curtains were closed, and candles lit the room. It was crowded though, full of dress forms. Some had coats, others had dresses, all in various states of construction. The shop was cluttered with racks, bolts of cloth and ribbon and trim. Buried in the back was a counter where a young male human was focusing on mending a rip in a seam in a waistcoat. His hand shaking ever so slightly as he worked to sew a straight chain stitch.

Without looking up he muttered, “Who are you picking up for?”

I slowly walked to him speaking, “I need a dress, and I was directed here.”

“Ma’am, it’s a bit late to start looking for one. My master is already swamped with last minute work.” He said, without looking up.

I had reached him, and I lifted his chin forcing his gaze upwards and away from his project. The look of annoyance quickly melted into that familiar wide-eyed look.

“I…uh…well…I…really…the Master…he can’t,”

I frowned, and with some regret said, “I’m sorry, but the Crimson Star said that this shop can help me find one.”
At the mention of the Crimson Star, color drained from his face. “Of…of…course. I’ll fetch the Master at once,” and he put down the waistcoat and scrambled towards a doorway that led deeper inside, calling out “Master Gyffor…Master Gyffor.”

Clearly the Crimson Star was a known quantity here, and a feared one. I just hoped not to scare the boy too much. Soon he returned with an older man in tow. “What is the meaning of…” as he came out to talk with me, his eyes grew wider. “Oh…my,”

I smile apologetically, “Sorry, to disturb you, but I was told that you could help me with a dress.”

“Yes…a courier rudely woke me up last night to tell me that I needed to outfit out four of you. But I wasn’t expecting a…”

“A…what?”

“An angel such as you. I was expecting four men actually.”

“Well, the other three men will be around later,” and I extended my hand. “I thought you would need a little more time with me. You can call me…”

“No…no. I don’t want to know, but…” and he bent slightly to kiss my hand to my surprise. “…It is my pleasure to serve you. Please, come on back, and let me see what I can use to start with.” And still holding my hand, he gently led me into the rear of the shop.

“Myford, if the other three show up, see if you can stitch them up in a coat and breeches. I will not want to be disturbed unless it is vital.”

“Oh Myford, one is a gnome by the way.” I call back trying to be helpful.

Myford nodded, “I better start digging in the children’s bin then. We don’t have much for small folk here.”

Master Gyffor led me into the back and I got a better look at him. He wasn’t ancient, but he was certainly old. His papery skin pale and spotted. He had a full head of silver hair and was clean shaven, and as he turned to look at me with warm brown eyes.

“Let me look at you my dear…Oh my,” as he lifted my arms until they were shoulder height. “You are…lovely. I hope I can find something to match your qualities.”

I can feel myself blush in the cheeks as they grew warm. “Thank you…is there something I can do to help?”
“Help…no. Not unless you can light some candles for my eyes. You being here helps enough. Allows me to pay off a debt.”

“Well,” and I reach within and the warm rush flows up my back as I summon a warm yellow light for a nearby sconce. “I hope that helps.”

Gyffor blinked as the light flooded the room. “Yes…that…that will do. My, were those…wings?”

I shrugged, “You aren’t far off in calling me an angel, but that’s as real as the wings get.”

“I see…yes yes,” and he started opening a pair of trunks in the back and started lifting out material from them. “I know I have it somewhere in here…” he muttered, throwing material about.

I started to look around to keep busy as he dug through the chests. “Well you are helping me with a debt as well. I’m going to guess mine isn’t as cheap as yours.”

The old man sighed a moment, “Perhaps. I can’t say that I regret the reason. Just perhaps the means. No no, not here…where would… Perhaps the other one.” And he moved to a large armoire off to the side.

“So, can I ask you some questions?”

“Hmmm, I suppose. No no…not here either,” he said as he threw out cloth and fabric out from the armoire. “Perhaps…the chest here.”

“So, what should I expect at the party?”

“Oh, I’ve never been myself…what is that? Oh! That’s where I put that baldric! Will need to remember that... But, most of the high-born houses will be there. I’m told that each of the galas are the same though. A lot of drink…Why am I keeping this? Maybe the boy can use it for practice. The Waterbaroness wanders around interacting with notables from families. Of course, most have to go through Vicam or that new captain…Arkhan to approach her. Last several ones she’s been a bit standoffish I heard. But what do I know?”

“Who’s Vicam?”

More cloth is tossed from the chest as he continued to dig. “Vicam? He’s her current seneschal. Manages the house and house business. Only been here since last several winters as I recall. I don’t care for him much. Seems a bit shifty. He tried to kick me out of my shop here in fact.”

“Why?”

“No clue. But finding a new place in the mid-tier is well…difficult. Would have lost a lot of clients if I was in the lower tier. I suppose the debt was worth it then. Ah HAH!” and with that, he pulled out a carefully folded bundle of dark cloth. I couldn’t see much of it as he brought it out.

“I had started this for my daughter for a different gala many winters ago,” and he unfolded it carefully and held it up to the light by the shoulders. I gasped. I had never seen a dress like it before. Black cloth with what appeared to be glass crystals sewn into it. It was like looking at a night sky.

“That’s…beautiful. But I couldn’t.”

“No…please. My daughter never got to wear it…it will suit you.”

I was fumbling for words, “If you insist. Why didn’t she wear it?”

“Ah, she was taken by a sickness a moon before one of the galas,” he said with a note of bitterness. But, you appear to be her shape and form. And…I would rather see it used, than rot in a chest.”

“If it helps honor her memory. Are you going to want it back?”

He shook his head, “No. I don’t pretend to understand the Crimson Star, but for whatever reason you need it, I can’t pretend that your need is well…”

“It isn’t. I don’t want to dirty your memory of it.”

“No. You can’t. If you are indeed an angel, then perhaps my daughter can guide your path.”
I bowed my head down and after a pause replied, “Well, I can use all the help I can get.”
The tailor nodded. “Well…you’re going to need to put this on. There’s a small closet over there you can change in.”

I nod and take the dress from him. It’s light and the material feels like silk, with a fine mesh netting in panels across the torso and sleeves. I stare at it dumbly for a moment and look at the tailor helplessly.

“I…uh. I’ve never worn a dress. How do I put it on?”

In the end, one of the neighbors found a young girl to help me out with the intricacies of formal dresses. I had heard each of my other adams come in and out all the while I stood and was used as a form to customize the dress. The tailor was good; never once was stuck with the needle as he made the changes. Fortunately, I was only a shade smaller than his daughter, which meant taking it in slightly. But, while that made things easier overall, I was still standing most of the day, and it was well after sundown by the time I finally walked down into the “Lusty Bard.”

My adams were at a table already drinking, and they spotted and waved me over.

“You know, I got you three ales already, expecting you to walk in. Where have you been?” Iesa asked. “You really shouldn’t order so…<hic>…much.”

“The same place you were in the morning, where he,” pointing at Beepu “was at mid-day, and he,” pointing at Daneath “was in the afternoon.”

“Doing <hic> what?”

“Standing…sitting for a couple of minutes…standing…I think I had a long discussion about silks…then more standing. What in Baator do you think I was doing!?! I was getting pinched, prodded, poked, and squeezed all day. I just got out and I’m famished.”

“Does it really take that long?” Daneath asked.

I shrugged, “I admit, today was a day of learning. I knew it was complicated…but apparently stylish dresses are something else. I think I have a better understanding of how to get Daneath into his tin, than I do to put on a dress.”

“You mean you have never worn one before?” Beepu asked me with his head cocked to one side and passed me a trencher with some type of stew.

“I was sodding poor growing up, and doing dirty chores and work is easier in breeches. So why would I need a dress?” and I bit into the trencher, tearing off a chunk with my teeth.

“Just one of the boys then,” Daneath commented.

I thought a moment in between bites, “I suppose. But it’s more practicality. Anyway, we should probably talk in the room before Iesa takes another ale for me.”

Everyone nods, and we grab an ale from the taps, and make our way to our private little sanctum. I didn’t really care for it compared to my room in Triboar. But it somehow felt safer by comparison. We all clamber in, and I flop on the bed and immediately start pulling off my boots from my sore feet and started massaging them.

“So…we learn anything useful that doesn’t involve cloth?”

Daneath chuckled, “That good eh? Well I did find a bar where the guards hang out. After some drinks, got them talking. Sounds like every guard in the town will be somewhere in major buildings. Once the fog starts, they stay where they are and wait for dawn.”

“No patrols?” I asked.

“Nope. They all have orders to stay out of it and they were dead serious.” He said and took a sip from his ale. “In fact, the fog seems to do what we have been told; if you step into it, you lose your memory.”

“Is that it?” I asked.

Beepu spoke up, “Yes and it is very strange. Some people have said sometimes they see shadows of people wandering aimlessly. But I heard from a book proprietor that I visited, that the memory loss can be anywhere from the last day, to the last moon.”

Iesa whistled, “That would be <hic> problematic. No wonder they don’t <hic> patrol.”

“Nope,” said Daneath. “And the manor will have about twenty on staff for the night. Which is not a lot really.”

“And no one to cry beef…oh, call for help,” I said.

“And nowhere to run to either,” Beepu said. “I had Foggle fly above the Manor. It is not a serious fortification. A ten-foot wall surrounds it and that wall has one gate at the front. It is two floors on the outside. Lots of windows, although that may not help much. There is a garden on one side and the stables for horses are on the other.”
“It’s not like we have to sneak <hic> in. But that doesn’t tell <hic> us how to get out,” Iesa said. “And even then, <hic> while every place has a party <hic> you can’t really move around.”

“What do you mean?” I asked and took a swallow of the bitter ale.

“The mid and lower <hic> tier houses share walls. But you <hic> can’t get between blocks without <hic> crossing fog. Some folks tried <hic> to see if you run across the <hic> street, between parties. Doesn’t work. Doesn’t matter if <hic> you hold your breath. Takes moments I heard. But, only <hic> when the fog is fully there. Early evening as <hic> it sets, you have a little <hic> more time, before you <hic> slip off.”

“We’ll be stuck there?”

“Yep, and I found out <hic> something else. Yartar doesn’t have a proper <hic> sewer.”
Daneath nodded, “I heard that too. The guards apparently thought about digging tunnels between key buildings. But there is bedrock below, and few buildings even have basements. In fact, this building is the only one in the lower tier that even has one.”

“So, no maze of sewer tunnels then. Why only this place?” I asked

“Because, a family of dwarves owned it and they were stubborn.” Daneath replied. “Oh and better yet, the guards all want gate duty for the Baroness’ gala. It’s a big deal for them.”

“Now why is that?” Beepu asked with his brows knitted in confusion.

“Because, they search everyone going in. Women included. Especially the women. They can protest, but then they can’t come in.” Daneath said taking another sip. “They seem to like that part a lot.”

“Well, compared to getting dressed that’s…annoying, even looking for blades.”

“Not just blades. Looking for pouches, crystals, wands and stuff.”
Beepu and I exchanged glances and I said, “Wait…they look for spell casting things?”

Daneath nodded, “Very explicitly. No spell casting on the grounds…or…”

“Or…what?” Beepu asked.

“They throw you outside, into the fog.” Daneath said. “No clear reason why, but it has been that way a while. Related to that; no armor either, but most just get sent away, with few exceptions.”

“This is getting better and better,” I muttered. “No way out, no armor, no weapons, and no magic. No wonder the Crimson Star wants us to do this for them.”

Iesa nodded, “Yeah, this isn’t a <hic> lot to work with.”

“Well I was thinking about that. Foggle can drop off some supplies for us near a window or door. There are a couple of exterior doors on the manor and there are a lot of windows.”

“Hmmm, might be enough for some pouches and a small blade.” I said thinking.

“Also, in the garden, not far from a servant door is a wooden platform. A gazebo. We could hide some gear there in advance,” Noted Beepu.

“And somehow at the party slip outside when we can. What did we need to stash?” I asked.

“Some weapons ideally. Can’t easily conceal my armor,” Daneath noted. “Your chest piece maybe, but…”

“Not with the dress. Well at least the pouches need to be smuggled in so we can use magic,” I said. “I know I could hide a blade and pouches under my dress. But, what about your coats? I didn’t see them in the shop.”

“Some room. Daggers sure, maybe <hic> a small sword. Nothing <hic> big.”

“Any chance on disguising ourselves as a guard instead?” I asked hopefully, looking for a different angle.

“Daneath shook his head, “No. They all know each other, and they don’t wear helms.”

“Convenient that we <hic> will be masked then.”

“Well, the guards are part of it, but she also has her staff as well,” I said. “Both her seneschal and or her guard captain…what was that name, Eragon?...no Arkhan! They may be a problem in terms of getting close to her.”

“I heard about the <hic> same,” agreed Isea. “The only other tidbit I heard was while the Hate <hic> Nights, started appearing only five winters ago, the Waterbaroness’ <hic> parties have been tighter and tighter on <hic>security in the last year or so.”

“How many nights have there been?” Daneath asked.

“This is the third in this year, which is not common.”

“Wonderful. So basically, we have a no plan or path to success and no clear way out. We should just leave and forget this business,” Beepu said in humph.

“I would agree,” I started to say, “But, when I was getting my dress, I mentioned the Crimson Star. They were afraid. So was the serving girl last night now that I think of it.”

Daneath nodded, “I noticed that. And I asked the guards about the Star, and they really, really didn’t want to talk about them at all. It was like a bad omen to the guards to discuss them.”

We all fell silent, with only the occasional hiccup from Iesa. All of us lost in our own thoughts. All struggling with the same question:

Are we going to this?

“Well,” I said, “I hate to say it…but we probably are going to need to pay the bellmen.”

Frowning, Beepu asked, “Why is that Myrai?”

“Because refusing means we are deaders already. Yartar and any other nearby ones won’t be safe for us. And heading into the wilds and its dangers is what started this mess. I don’t like it, but I don’t see how we have much of a choice.”

“Not really no. We should have never become entangled in local affairs, and should have…done something…different...” Beepu started and trailed off.

“Let’s hope the gods have something <hic> in mind for us tomorrow.”

“Well, what does that leave for us tomorrow? Final fittings, the invitations, smuggling blades and spell pouches.”

We all silently nod. And finally, I said, “Well, it could be worse I guess.”

“How?” all three asked.

“You all could have to wear dresses.”

Session Notes

The Eragon/Arakan joke started here. I take all the blame for it, but Arakan's nickname stuck hard. Even the DM, who wrote the campaign got the name stuck in his head and swore at me for it. For the record I'm sorry.

Sorta.

The other item of note that as a player, the discussion on what to do took far longer than even this treatment was. Lots of die rolls, discussion, plotting etc. Far more time on plotting than actual dialog or roleplaying. This isn't bad, but tracking the number of persuasion / investigation / etc checks while necessary, aren't themselves a compelling story.

On a completely different note, was the research on medieval tailoring. This came up as I was working on this section and my wife commented that a male tailor would never work on a dress; it would be a seamstress. This got me thinking, and I started parsing through the history of tailoring. It's a fascinating subject. But what I found is that modern conventions of thinking, don't apply consistently. Tailoring was usually fronted and run by men for the upper classes, but many times women were tailors. But they weren't consistently allowed into the master/apprentice system or even had guild memberships. The only area of tailoring that women did consistently that men did not was children's clothes, and undergarments. But not hose...

So which in the end, I changed nothing...but it was a good, if incomplete read.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
It Takes One, to Know One.

It Takes One, to Know One.
In the Society of Sensation, experience isn’t just everything; it’s the only thing that matters. Your personal knowledge is the key to the multiverse. That knowledge allows a skilled observer to understand and react to anything the multiverse throws at them.

And sometimes, at other folks for a suitable price.


We ended up sleeping late into the morning, in preparation for the long night ahead and we were very casual until the midafternoon.

It was maddening.

Iesa and Daneath spent some time wagering in the pits. They managed to break even I heard. That left Beepu and I in the room killing time. I was fairly devout, and none of this was sitting well with me. Murder wasn’t exactly ok with Kelemvor…unless a serious crime had been involved. I was somewhat hoping that we would hear that the Waterbaroness had earned a miserable violent end to justify taking her life. Of course, nothing we heard from anyone seemed to indicate this. All we had was some grave robbing and a broken deal with the Crimson Star.

In fact, I was desperately hoping that we would learn something at the party. The decision was always in our hands. We could always choose to do nothing during the Hate Night and run at first light. So, we weren’t damned. Not yet. But a clue would be nice. I couldn’t imagine that I was forced back into life for this price. A price that someone else ultimately was going to pay. But of course, the multiverse didn’t owe me anything, let alone an answer.

While I wrestled with my conscience, I turned my head to look at what Beepu was up to. He was seated at the desk, which he had scattered a number of large pieces of paper or parchment. His spellbook was on the desk as well, but it was closed. Beepu had a quill and ink out, and he was making small notes on one of the large sheets.

I smirked; of course he had books and writings to look at, to keep his mind away from the mortal quandary facing him. A book of anything to read would be rum right now. But I realized that I had never paid much attention to the various documents, papers, and notes that he constantly was working on. And this was the first time I had ever seen this large sheet.

“Beepu? What are you working on?” I asked, genuinely curious.

“My father’s notes,” he said a bit distractedly. “I’m trying to reconstruct them.”

“On the planar device?”

“How did…no wait. I did tell you about that in Triboar...yes that. There is so much missing though, that without finding him I’m not sure If I can fully rebuild the device.”

“Rebuild…you mean he actually created it?” I asked, and I moved over to the desk to look at the paper.

“That is what I believe. And why I have not been able to find him. He may have used it.” And he started leafing through his own pile of notes.

I looked down on the desk, and I appeared to be looking at a functional diagram of what appeared to be a telescope. While some of the arcane notations were clear, a lot of the document was written in a language I didn’t understand. I had to guess it was Beepu’s native tongue. Part of the diagram focused on a series of rings near one of the ends of the scope, with symbols. Those symbols were then broken down onto a table in the shape of a large diagram of a wheel, with more notations. And it was littered with corrections; crossed out words, or entire formulae. Liner notes, and subscripts everywhere. Most of it was beyond me until I looked at the wheel and the symbols written on it. And then I recognized what it was supposed to be.

It was the Great Wheel with a projection above that represented the Inner planes. I remembered seeing one similar to this in the Civic Festhall, when I started to study Arcana. It was only two years ago, but the subject of planar mechanics was still fresh. I notice that the diagram on the desk had notations and some type of math that led to a blank by most of the blocks on the sheet. The blocks which I guessed was a particular plane. In fact, only two had notations by them, but I didn’t recognize either.

“What do the notations here mean?” I said pointed at the completed formulas.

“That is the frequency of resonance, that ties to a particular plane. It is then followed by the musical note that matches. That one is an A-sharp, two octaves above middle C. The other one is broken chord of D sharp,A,E flat on middle C, in that order.”

“How did you match it to the correct plane?”

“By deciphering my father’s notes. He was not very clear.”

“Well I have a guess, that one is on the wrong plane.”

“What do you mean?” and for the first time Beepu turned away from his notes to look at me.

“A sharp is one of the better known frequencies; it ties to the first layer of Mount Celestia. However, the position on this diagram is wrong for that; it’s in the spot that corresponds to Ysgard.”

“So why is that wrong?”

“Because the other one is also well known to be one for Limbo; the notes almost don’t matter but is always a broken chord. I have heard it’s the only one like that. But Limbo isn’t what we call 'adjacent' to Mount Celestia. Based on how this diagram is oriented, Limbo is in the right place, but Celestia should be…here” I point at a different box six spaces counter clockwise on the wheel.

Beepu looked at the diagram and then at me. “You are probably right. Again, my father’s notes are challenging. Do you know any other notes?”

I shook my head, “I don’t remember the details enough. Most of the lower planes were flats, and most upper planes were sharps. But I don’t remember the octave or if a chord is needed.”

Beepu nodded, “Well as I get a bit farther in decoding the writing I’ll check with you on the placement to see if it aligns correctly.”

“If I can help I will. Granted I probably know a bit more about the goings on a particular plane; less about the chord or high-level magic to get there. But I do know what is connected to what.”

At that point Iesa and Daneath opened the door.

“…told you he was drunk,” Iesa said.

“Which is why I bet on him to lose. Made up for those bad proposition bets.” Daneath replied with a smile on his face.

“Don’t suppose you gambled up enough to pay off our friend?” I asked with the faintest hope on my words.

“If only. Felt fortunate to break even.” Iesa replied. “But I did try.”

“Anyway, we probably should get over to the tailor’s and get prepped.” Daneath said.

“We going to leave our stuff with him?” Beepu asked

“I’d trust him far more than either folks here at the taps or Mordai.” Daneath said with a shrug.

“Well…let’s go dress the part.” I said.

Moments later we were outside the bar, and as we made our way to the middle-tier, we saw that the populace was going all out with pennants and long strips of black and white cloth bannerets from every surface available. As we walked through the marketplace, it was crowded with people making last minute sales for supplies, masks, and foodstuffs. The crowd gave off an energetic vibe. Everyone was talking in excited tones and were eager for the night to start, which stood in stark contrast to how we felt. But the crowds did make it a bit slower to get to Lark street, and to the tailor’s shop.

As we walked in, the place was full of empty forms. Many of the coats and dresses were gone. Master Gyffor and Myford were both in the front, looking a bit tired. Seeing us, they gave a wan smile.

“Ah our last customer,” Master Gyffor said with a note of relief in his voice. “Myford, you can take care of the three gentlefolk, while I will take her in back, where Maralee and I will help her into her dress.”

Daneath and Iesa were already undoing straps to their armor, as I stepped into the back room. Maralee was already there. She was a young teenager that Master Gyffor found to help me in my fittings yesterday, so I was glad to have had her assistance again.

And did I need it. The number of layers needed for formal dresses was incredible. She helped me with bloomers, stockings, garters, underdress, crinoline, and finally the dress itself, which was based on a corset. After I was buckled and tied into the dress, the corset laced up, and the final ribbons put into place, I was ready for the mirror, when Master Gyffor gave me a final surprise. Turning towards him, I was going to ask a question, when I saw in his hands two items.

The first was something I hadn’t expected; a wig of white hair. It was in a short conical shape with layers of curled hair, with four tightly wound long curled braids that would cascade down my neck to just below my shoulder line. I hadn’t even considered one, but as I stood looking at it, and thinking about my own hair color, the need was obvious. My natural hair would stand out. But then I saw the mask.

I had been entranced by the masks I had saw in the marketplace, but this one was a shock. A black enameled mask, with a serene expression upon its face. Affixed to it were crystals catching the light, and highlighting the cheekbones, nose line, and the lips. The eyes seemed a bit oversized and had the appearance of being much darker than the already dark lacquer painted face. Framing the mask itself, were long feathers in black and white in a fan shape. It took my breath away.

I almost shivered, as I swore I was looking at a stylized version of the Lady of Pain’s own face, with ‘bladed’ feathers. A face that you would never want to see that close in Sigil. A face you would never wear as a mask or dare to imitate, lest you be flayed by her shadow, or mazed in her displeasure. But I was far from Sigil now and how often could you dare to take her Serenity’s own face? I smiled at the opportunity.

I looked at Master Gyffor, and was trying to find the right words, when he spoke. “Well, I’m sure you didn’t consider that you would need the appropriate wig and mask for the night. But these were also for my daughter as well. They should…unfortunately…cover your beauty well enough.”

I took the mask of feathers from him and looked at the interior and smiled. The darkness of the eyes was easily explained. Across the eye holes was a thin black gauze. It would be enough to hide my eyes.

“Thank you. I’m glad that…I can honor your memory of your daughter.”

Master Gyffor’s eyes were welling up with tears, and he turned me around and started to affix the wig to my head. “It’s enough for me that you can wear it for her. Now there…it’s been fastened to your head. The mask sits slightly in front of your face, so you can eat, drink and converse easily. Come, take a look in the mirror here.”

I then looked at myself for the first time, fully dressed. The black gown, draped over the crinoline giving the impression of wide hips, and the corset slimmed my waist down impossibly smaller. It pushed my breasts together and upwards, creating a shelf of cleavage. On the corset below my bust line were patterns of crystals so it looked like you were staring into a starry night. The crystals were all over the dresses train itself, and not just the corset. My arms were draped in black as well, with ribbons crisscrossing the length of my forearms and trailing off in lengths at the wrists. The mask’s serene face hid my silvery eyes behind pools of black, and the wig’s cascade of white curls around my shoulders gave me a cool and serene look. I nodded in approval.

“It will be a night to remember,” I said. “Can…can we leave some of our things here? We don’t really trust the Inn we have been staying in.”

“Yes…yes. That is not a problem. Come; your friends are waiting.”

I quickly grabbed a small bundle, from the dressing closet and I stepped through the doorway. In the front of the shop stood Daneath, Iesa and Beepu. Each wore a different color of dress coat, with matching colored breeches; red, black and green respectively. Each also had a mask of black lacquer, with feathers surrounding their faces. They all were standing talking quietly, when I entered the room. They stared at me wordlessly for a moment, and then they all gave a florid bow.

“Stop that,” I said and they all laughed. Perhaps the last time for a bit, considering the serious business ahead. At that point Master Gyffor, took Myford into the back, leaving the front of the shop to ourselves.

“Well,” Iesa started, “I have the invitations from Myford, so we are ready there.” and he handed envelopes of paper to each of the others and I in turn.

“Master Gyffor will hold our things here,” I said. “Assuming we can get back here.”

“Foggle will take our pouches,” Beepu said and I handed him mine from the small bundle I held.

“What are you going to do with him later?” I asked.

“You will see,” Beepu said with a wink.

“And I will take the other things.” Daneath said. And we each gave him an assortment of sharp daggers from our gear.

“How do you intend to get that inside?” Beepu asked.

“I don’t. I expect a distraction, so I can jump the wall and hide them, before I come inside. We’ll make an excuse to get them later from the inside.”

“Do you have everything else Iesa?” I asked.

“I gave the vial to Beepu. I don’t want to have to taste it in front of guards should it come to that. Myrai and I should go in first, to get Big D here some cover, then then we can regroup inside.”

“Not that again…but fine. Good luck I guess.”

I raise my hand and motion the others closer. Taking each person’s hand in turn, I place our left hands together on top of each other as we stand in a tight circle, and in my right hand I grasp the medallion around my neck.

“May the powers guide us tonight, forgive us for what we might do, and see us through our folly to the end.”

We all bow our heads and look each other in the eyes and leave the safety of the shop.

It was late afternoon, some hours before sunset. Iesa had grabbed me by the elbow and we walked linked together as any couple might through the streets in the middle tier. The black and white banners flapped gently in the air, and the windows of the shops had already set out candles in preparation for the evening. Some folk were scurrying around with last minute errands, while others were grouped together like Iesa and I, heading to a party spot for the night.

As we walked, I realized it had been years since I held the arm of anyone close like Iesa was holding me. I probably would have shied away normally, but this wasn’t a normal time. In fact, it was comforting, considering the danger that we expected to face.

“So…where did you hide Mo?” I asked as we started to make our way up the main road to the third tier.

“Oh him? Myford promised to keep an eye on him. I hope he listens; the fog sounds bad enough without an addled monkey running through it.”

“Probably would be a bad thing,” I agreed. Ahead the gateway to the manor stood; A small gatehouse of grey stone and an open portcullis Black banners and streamers flanked the entryway. While it certainly looked darkly elegant; it gave me a sense of dread as I felt I looked down the throat of a beast that threatened to swallow us.

“So how do we do this?” I asked as we slowly approached.

“Follow my lead. And if anyone asks we’re from Baldur’s Gate.”

“Alright.” I said and then after a moment I asked. “Where is that exactly?”

“South on the coast, big port city. Here we are.”

We strode casually into the open mouth of the gate and into the darkness of the gatehouse itself. Four guards stood within at attention, dressed in the town livery and wearing studded leather, and carrying pole-axes. With them were four more guards with swords at their sides. They were talking among themselves and they turned and looked at us with surprise as we approached. One of them with a thick bushy greying moustache and muttonchops approached us.

“Wait, wait now. The bell hasn’t rung yet! You can’t come in!” he spoke with a deep voice and with a burbling sound between his sentences. But without hesitation, Iesa was prepared.

“Ah yes, excellent! I was hoping that an enterprising captain could help me. My wife was hoping to look at the gardens here before it became dark and foggy.”

“Well…”the guard burbled, “I’m not a captain, only a sergeant really…I would need to…”

“A sergeant for now! I am sure you are destined for great things…what was your name?”

“Hurm…oh Kingsly sir.”

“…Seargent Kingsly. Obviously, a small favor for the guests of Waterbaroness Nestra would be well remembered.”

At that point, I gentley lay my right hand on Kingsley’s left shoulder, and I turned his head towards me with my left hand. Looking at him through the eyes of the mask and straight into his face I softly said, “Please Kingsly. If you could perhaps escort us through and then out again before the party starts. It would mean a lot to me.” I smiled sweetly as I said this, knowing that while the mask hid my face, that it would help shape the tone and words.

And it worked as I saw the resolve in Kingsly wavered. “I…I…suppose I could escort you. I warn you; I know nothing about the garden itself though.” As he looked at me with a smile.

“Wonderful,” I said with a note of cheeriness “Do you need to search us beforehand? I heard that was needed.”

“Ah…yes…I’m sorry but yes. It won’t take a moment. But first, your invitations please.” And he held out his hand and Iesa quickly and gracefully supplied the two invitations. He looked them over quickly, nodded and then quickly patted down Iesa under the arms, around the back and the outside of the legs. He then looked at Iesa and motioned to his face and Iesa obediently pulled the mask away. Nodding, Kingsly then turned toward me and I lifted my arms in a surrender like pose.

“Search away please…I must see that garden,” I said still smiling under the mask.

Kingsly quickly patted me down as well, his hands firmly feeling around my waist and patting down the dress until his hand contacted my thighs. He was very very brief, far too brief for a proper search, but I noticed that he was blushing the entire time.

“It’s alright,” I said as he was straightening himself up, “I realize you have been given your orders.”

“Ah yes…well, um…I also need to see your face as well.”

“What’s the point of a masked gala, if we can’t stay masked?”

“Oh, you will…we just need to …erm…make sure some scofflaws don’t make it inside.”

I shrug, but I made an effort to squint my eyes nearly shut as he moved my mask aside. He was more interested in my face, than my eyes and quickly reseated it, nodding and burbling all the same.

“Now that is done, let’s go and I will show you the garden.” And with that he gestured us forward through the gatehouse towards the manor grounds.

The manor was a two-storied structure, with wide windows in the front, and white stucco walls, with a central stair leading to a pair of double doored entryway. It was a residence and not a fortification; the walls and the gate were deemed enough by the past Barons and Baronesses of manor and so it remained. Kingsley motioned us towards the left and before us lay the gardens and in the distance a wooden gazebo stood.

The garden was pretty; there were some in Sigil I had seen before, but this one was indeed the largest I had visited before. I however wasn’t a gardener myself, so I found myself trying to stare at the garden’s plant and nodding a lot while walking arm and arm with my “husband” as Kingsly led us. Flowers of all sorts of colors and shapes along with various shrubs along the manor and the manor’s curtain walls. I knew none of their names and was thankful that the mask hid any blank looks I might have had. As we approached the Gazebo at the end of the trail, a number of things caught my eye.

The first was a nearby door to the manor itself. I remember that Beepu had mentioned seeing one with Foggle when he did a flyby. The second was that the Gazebo had on one side, a small side door; probably an access to a storage area underneath. The third thing I saw was a motion on top of the curtain wall nearby. I realized it must have been Daneath, but I didn’t look for him further.

“Did you see that door on the Gazebo?” I whispered.

“Yes…very convenient. D is here too. He should have seen me pointing at it.”

Nodding at Iesa, I then unlinked my arm from him and strode forward towards Kingsley who was looking around without much focus. So, he was surprised as I wrapped my arm around his.

“Thank you again,” I said genuinely, smiling under the mask the whole time. “Kingsly. It is very appreciated.”

“Oh…of course,” he burbled in a sound of joy, “It will be a long night of standing, and stretching out my legs now will be good.” I walked with him slowly back towards the gatehouse and manor entrance. Behind us I could faintly hear a thump, but if Kingsly had heard anything, he gave no indication. But not long afterwards, the sound of a bell carried through the air from the gatehouse.
“Ah, it is time. I must take you back to the gatehouse, but you may then enter the manor. Please enjoy your time here.”

“Of course, Kingsly.” And with our tour concluded Iesa and I relinked our arms and joined the small throng of guests that had collected by the gatehouse. We started to make our way up the short set of stairs that led into the manor. Two guards flanked the doors and talking to them…or rather upbraiding them was a lizard.

No…that wasn’t right. Its scales were a bright red and as it turned, it was clearly one of the dragonborn. And considering the orders it was giving, it must have been the captain, Arakhan. He was dressed in heavy chain armor, and a long sword at his side with his left hand resting on the hilt. He surveyed the guests, spending scant moments on each mask. As we ascended with other nobles in their finery and dress, he gave each of us a formal nod in acknowledgement.

We entered the manor’s double doors, we found ourselves in a marbled foyer. Two stairs curled left and right to a landing that overlooked the floor where we stood. Beneath the landing a passage opened up into a larger room, while to the left and right doorways led into a hallway and another large room respectively.

Upon the landing were three figures; the first was dressed in a gown of silver, grey and white with black beading and a black lace mask with feathers spread from a headband. I couldn’t see her face clearly, but her silvery hair was pulled into tight sets of braids that was bundled and pulled into a wrap at the back of her head. Our target; the Waterbaroness. Standing next to her on her right was a man, with shorter black hair and wearing a burgundy dress coat, trimmed in yellows and gold. His face was covered in a wooden mask with a twisted grin. I guessed that this was her seneschal, Vicam.

But it was the figure on her left that gave me chills. A woman in studded leather, her long bone white hair pulled into a high-top tail, and cascading down to her shoulders, and barely covering her slender pointed ears. Her skin was like dull onyx and her red tinged eyes watched over us all with a shrewd, haughty glare. I didn’t know her name, but I knew that face from the first night at the “Lusty Bard.”

The assassin that found her mark.

And now she was looking down at all the guests below, seeking yet another target.

Session notes:

Kingsly was first of many random characters with a distinct silly voice. And, of course the player of Iesa was particularly fond of him.

This is also the first time we see what Beepu is up to; at this point in the campaign, the device and what it could do was being revealed to the player of Beepu by the DM. So, it was easy for him to incorporate in Beepu’s constant research time.

The idea of the notes of the planes is because of the Plane Shift spell and the tuning fork needed for each location.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The glass is always at half something.

The glass is always at half something.​

Working the gaming halls in Sigil has taught me a number of lessons that I use constantly. A smile opens as many doors as a pouting frown. Pretending that you know exactly what you are doing, gets you out of a lot of questions.
But most importantly, the ability to hold your breath is a very underrated skill.

Iesa and I stepped through the archway below the staircases, and underneath the trio on the landing. Underneath the mask of serenity that I wore I felt anything but. I was terrified; my heart racing and my hands shaking. I was expecting someone was going to cry beef and point their fingers at us at any moment. That this was all an elaborate farce and we were doomed before we even started.

As Iesa was leading me, I briefly closed my eyes and prayed. Prayed that we found our way out of this manor with our lives and our souls intact.

Opening my eyes again, I saw we were in a large hall. On one side of the hall a large sideboard had meats, such as smoked fish and hams, and all manner of sliced fruits and cheeses, near stacks of small plates. And everywhere were stewards ready to hand out a goblet and with another one right behind them to fill it.
I noticed that there seemed to be a small parade of stewards and servants entering and leaving a pair of doors that I guessed led to the kitchen. The ones that left the kitchen scattered everywhere briskly, making their way to the many rooms in the manor. But while the number of servants running around was surprising, it was the surprising lack of guards that stood out. I remembered that Daneath mentioned that there were about twenty on hand. The size of the manor might help us out in the long run; too many rooms to cover.

But the Drow had unnerved me. While I can’t say she wasn’t supposed to be here, it made me wonder who else might be also be lurking in the crowd working for the Waterbaroness.

A steward approached me with a goblet, and it was quickly filled. I sipped a little wine, hoping to take the edge off of my fear. It was likely going to be my only drink of the evening as I wanted to stay sharp. Iesa also took a goblet and we looked around the room.

The guests were...well...they were boring. Some of the richer folk had fine dresses and masks, and others…didn’t. If this was the gala to be seen at, the crowd wasn’t terribly impressive. I leaned over to Iesa.

“The crowd here doesn’t seem to be laden with coin, or am I missing something.” I whispered.

Iesa shook his head slightly and whispered back “No, Yartar wants to be a player but in truth the nobles aren’t quite there. Not compared to Waterdeep or Baldur’s Gate. They do try though…” and his voice trailed off as his focus changed, following a red headed woman, whose busty attire appeared to be more painted on, than worn.

“I know her though…I met her in the second tier two days ago. What was her…Zoe! That was her name.” he said quickly.

“And? Is it relevant, or are you planning on a final fling here?”

He turned to look at me with a bemused smirk below his mask, “Supposedly a friend of the Baroness. Why…are you jealous?”

I was taken off guard and looked at her; she was pretty, and she had an air of comfort and grace about her. She was at home in this arena. Her outfit was a good fit for her frame and complemented her eye’s coloring, being a deep violet. But I shook my head to clear my thoughts.

“What? No…focus. Right now, I’d rather be elsewhere with an ale, and not here with a wine. And right now, we need the others.”

We circled the room arm in arm, pretending to drink. Well I was at least; Iesa I wasn’t sure about as I was too short to look into his goblet as we walked. After some time, the gnome and human entered the room one after the other. Daneath casually walked towards me, but to my surprise, Beepu did not.

Beepu made a beeline to the sideboard and was steadily sampling each and every morsel on the table, all the while nodding his approval or discarding food he didn’t care for. I was still staring at this when Daneath came up to me and reached for my hand.

“Mi’lady,” and he kissed the top of it too my surprise.

“Gentlesir,” I replied nodding. And then I whispered, “What is he doing?”

Daneath turned to look at the gnome continuing down the table at a leisurely pace, sampling more food. “Well, he did say he was famished.”

“Sodding…we need him to get…”

“I said that too. Don’t worry yet. One good thing I noticed; a lot of folks were already in their cups before arriving.”

I thought a moment on that and realized the implication. “So, are we going as a pack to relieve ourselves, or do you have an idea?”

I could see Daneath’s teeth break into a grin. “Yes…Iesa follow my lead once we get near the kitchen entrance,” and he tilted his head backwards with his chin pointed to an open doorway.

“Should I be overbearing or just urgent?” Iesa asked.

“Just less than I, and enough so folks miss a gnome.”

Iesa nodded and led me over towards the far end of the ballroom. On this end, large windows with curtains flanking them gave a commanding view of a pool, that bordered the garden. The windows were all shut, but I could see outside clearly; the fog had not risen.

“So, you two had a plan?”

“A rough one,”

“You could have mentioned it.”

“Not really, you kept the other tailor busy when we came up with it.”

“Hardly fair. What did you need me to do?”

“Depends on the kitchen…the door to the garden is in that direction, so we need a distraction once we get there.
Daneath had reached Beepu at the sideboard and gently tapped him, and they both took a goblet and started to make their way to the kitchen door as well.

Fortunately, the guards in the room were few. Two distracted guards stood lazily near the passage to the Foyer, and two others flanked a door on the opposite wall of the kitchen. But the kitchen door itself was very busy, as servants kept bringing out more food or took back empty dishes.

But as we made our way there, I noticed that guests were opening side walls in the hall, with men and women waiting standing nearby. Looking carefully, I saw there were about four panels on the side walls, two on each side with attending servants.

They were concealing privys! That meant we probably needed to change our approach. An idea suddenly crossed my mind, and I pulled Iesa forward so we could pass by the doors, As I did so, a servant entered, and I got a good look inside.

The doors never really closed so as we slowly crossed in front of them, I could see a busy scene of cooks preparing even more delicacies for the evening. But I was more interested in following the path of a servant who entered with a pair of trays in his hands, and sure enough I saw him take them to a back wall, where there was a decent sized pile already accumulating in the back.

I smiled, “I have a better idea. Let’s move closer and just wait for the noise.”

Iesa frowned a second and then nodded, and soon we propped ourselves near the kitchen door way, crossing Daneath and Beepu. All Iesa did was hold his hand up, palm outward to Daneath and then that same hand point to his own ear.

Daneath seemed to understand the game was changing and he kept talking aloud, while Beepu looked confused on where he was being led.

Once we were positioned, where I had an unobstructed view of the Kitchen I waited. I was looking for a large number of servants leading out more trays of fresh food and a clear view of the pile of dishes in the back. And my patience was rewarded with a foursome of stewards bringing out a whole pig.

Just as they crossed the threshold, I could see the dishes, and as I expected it was a rough unorganized pile to be dealt with at a later time. The pile was a balanced mess of serving trays, pots, and pans. And once the servants and their pig passed us, I reached within.

Focusing on a piece of light within me, I mentally started to shake it. While some of my powers needed my pouch; this one did not. In a matter of seconds, I had shaken the energy enough that I released it near the precarious pile.

The kitchen staff could feel a small tremor in the earth beneath their feet. And they would have paid it no mind, if the pans had remained balanced. But they didn’t, and the dirty pile of cooking ware slid and fell hitting the ground noisily.

“You idjuts! Yer not stackin them right! Get goin, an clean up!” a deep voice yelled in the kitchen. The servants with the pig didn’t even turn to look and they were moving faster away in fear. And with that we made our move.
Beepu and Daneath went into the kitchen first, followed by Iesa and me. They quickly ran over to a hallway that let away from the kitchen, and past a wide set of stairs descending into darkness. As we did so, we passed behind, what I thought was a very large gnome. This was a woman in charge of her domain, and that domain had a pile of pans on the floor.

The mess had touched the head cook or ‘Gour’ deeply, and she was very occupied in the shouting at the servants. And so she never noticed us move behind her. And we found ourselves in a hallway that turned after some thirty feet to the left. The hallway continued, but now there were wooden doors down the length, and a large iron bound door at the end.

“What happened to the plan?” Daneath asked.

“The privys and chamber pots are in the hall, so I figured a simple distraction would be easier than a flimsy excuse.” I said.

“Where are we?” Iesa asked?

Beepu answered, “Servants quarters most likely. Guards as well. But that door on the end is the one in the garden.”

“You sure?” Iesa asked.

“Positive. I can sense Foggle now and he is near that door.” Then Beepu stopped and twisted his head a moment. Suddenly his eyes grew wide, “We need to move. The fog; it’s here.”

We ran down the hallway to the door. It had a large iron bar across it, which Daneath immediately moved out of the way. But as Iesa tried the handle, he realized that the door was locked as well.

He didn’t swear at all, but Iesa swiftly pulled from his hair a long piece of flattened metal. He dropped down to his knees and he begun to work the mechanism with it. Glancing behind us, I saw no sign of any servants, and I created a small ball of light and focused it on one of the ribbons holding the wrists of my dress together, so he could see better.

“Thanks,” he said quietly and after a couple of tense moments, we heard the click of the door. And with that I magically recalled the light, and Daneath opened it.

Foggle bolted inside in a rush, even before the door was fully opened, and landed on Beepu’s shoulder. And while Beepu quietly talked with his familiar, we looked outside, and our hearts sank.

We could see the gazebo, and the edge of the garden. But what alarmed us was the now visible fog. It was rising rapidly from the ground and what started perhaps mid-calf as we opened the door, it in a matter of moments was already waist high and growing quickly.

Daneath, quickly shut the door, and just as quickly, replaced the bar. He stood there with his hands on the bar, braced as if to hold it down, almost like he expected something was going to try to get inside. Moments passed, and he turned to look at us and said, “Well that’s a problem.”

Beepu nodded, “Yes…Foggle was already feeling odd, and the fog was not even that high. But he still has these.” First, he handed the poison vial to Iesa, who pocketed it. Then he handed me my small pouch of components, while he took his own and his spellbook from the bag that Foggle had.

I took it and raised my dress to knee height. With a small piece of thong I tied it around my left leg, just above the garters I wore. I look at Beepu, and he, rather unelegantly stuffed his own pouch into the front of his breeches. Then he took the book and a loop of leather, and hung the book beneath his left arm, under his coat. Considering the book wasn’t terribly large, it was concealed well enough.

“What about him?” Daneath said looking at Foggle.

Beepu without a word, and barely a glance made a wave of his hand and Foggle vanished.

I blinked. “Couldn’t he have just carried our stuff with him, and you just make him reappear with it, instead of doing this?” and I gestured at the door and us wildly.

“hmm. That is a good question. But probably not. Maybe some very small things inside of him, but I doubt it would work.”

“Fine,” I said. “So, we are missing some basic stuff though. Ideas?”

“Let’s hope the guards have a room here and see if they left some equipment behind.” Daneath said.

Door by door we quietly investigated, and we were lucky to find that one room had lodgings for some of the guards. Equipment options were limited, but we did scavenge two small swords and a chain shirt.
The shirt was just large enough to work with Daneath’s frame, and his shirt and coat were roomy enough that with my help we concealed the armor beneath them. The swords were short enough that they too could be hidden along the spine underneath both Daneath and Iesa’s coat.

But Beepu and I couldn’t find anything we could use for weapon. But if it came for that, our magic would have to do. Of course, if it came to that, we had other problems.
After we concealed what we could, we crept back to the hallway and listened. The Gour was still barking orders loudly and the sounds of servants entering and leaving continued.

“So…now what?” Beepu asked.

“Well, we should look around the rest of manor; we don’t know if there is any other way out, and we should at least find out where the other guards are before we do anything.” Iesa said. “So, split up two and two and look around. We’ll head upstairs.”

“Ok fine…so how do we get out of here?” Beepu asked with his hands spread.

“Easy…we walk out,” and I grabbed Iesa’s ear and started pulling him.

“Ow, ow, ow….what are you?...”

“You dullard! You can’t just wander off. You’re not going to embarrass me again!” I said loudly and pulled Iesa into the kitchen and without stopping said, “It’s bad enough that I had to recruit these fine gentlemen to find you wandering around. What were you thinking!?!”

Beepu blinked a second and caught on, “Yes…yes! I am glad I was able to provide assistance to your Ladyship.” And he followed the pair of us, with a look of pride on his face.

“As am I” said Daneath and he pushed Iesa forward to the door to the large hall we were in before. “Please let me know If you need help with your husband again.”

The Gour turned and glared at us as we emerged, “What…this is my kitchen. You aren’t supposed to be here!” she said with tired anger in her voice.

“You heard that dear,” I spat. “You aren’t allowed in here! Now move!”

Turning my head towards the Gour I said sounding still angry, “He wont be a problem again.” And quickly focus some energy on the cooking fire behind her, where a servant stirring a pot looked at us distractedly.

Suddenly, the flames by the cooking fire grew much brighter, causing the servant to suddenly swear and backed away from the flames. The Gour, turned to look just as I lowered the power to the spell, and all four of us calmly left the kitchen.

I let go of Iesa’s ear and took his arm again, “Lead on dear.”

He looked at me with a wry smile, “Sure thing, as long as we avoid the kitchen again.”

We left the grand hall and saw that Daneath and Beepu were headed to another wing in the manor, while we re-entered the foyer. The main doors were closed, with a pair of guards in front of them, presumably to prevent ill-behaved guests from opening them by accident. The landing had guests, but the Waterbaroness and her attendants were elsewhere fortunately, so we made our way to the second floor.

The upstairs floor was a vaulted gallery, which overlooked both the foyer and the grand hall below and bridged the upper floors between the two wings of the manor. On the what I remembered being the east side was a hallway, and an opening to a large room, while the west side had a set of double doors. A pair of guards were in attendance, covering the entirety of the floor it appeared.

And while I could count, this seemed to be far less than the twenty guards. So unless they were congregating somewhere else, I was at a loss on where they might be. What really concerned me was where the host of the party was.

We found a servant with another set of goblets and took them and walked the upper gallery and moved towards the double doors. As we walked by them, I noticed Iesa reach a hand out and trying the handle lightly.

“Locked,” he whispered.

I nodded and noticed that one of the guards was circling the gallery and would be near us in a moment. As the guard approached I also recognized him; it was Kingsley.

“Think you can work the lock fast?” I said.

“Sure, but not with the guar…hey isn’t that?”

“Yes it is. Get ready.”

Soon, Kingsley had circled the landing and was near us, when I dropped Iesa’s arm and stepped in front of Kingsley’s path. He was surprised momentarily.

“Ahem,” he burbled, “Oh it is you! Lady…?” Kingsley blinked and looked my mask in the eyes.

“Kingsley,” and I reached out and grasped his hand that was on the pommel of his sword he wore. “I wanted to thank you again for the favor you granted me.” And as I spoke, I turned him so his back was to the double doors, all the while keeping eye contact with the guard. Iesa moved quietyly behind him and using the burly guard as cover started to work on the lock.

“Oh! Of course, it was my pleasure Lady...?” and he looked at me expectantly.

“Elisna,” I said using the first name that came to my mind. “Lady Elisna.”

“Quite a unique name. Are you from near here?” Kingsly asked. As I watched I saw Iesa was still working the lock, and I knew I needed to buy some more time.

“No. No, I am not, I’m from…Baldur’s Gate actually.”

“Really? That’s a journey for this little gathering.”

“Is it?” I had no idea where the city was at all, as it only was discussed briefly tonight. “The world is such a large place I’m told. Near, far, its all the same when you are stuck in a wagon for days.”

“Days? More like a month or so. You must have been very bored?”

“Yes,” a month? How big was this place? “The days blended together horribly.” Iesa was still working the lock I could tell.

“And the dreadful political situation. Is Dillard Portyr the Grand Duke still?”

Sodding Baator. I should have asked some questions beforehand. “Well…the thing is while we were from the area, I never spent much time in the city. The town I came from had enough politics to deal with, let alone Baldur’s Gate.” At this point, I saw Iesa move aside from the door and look at me and nodded.

“Kingsley, could you do me another favor, my husband wandered off, and I’m not sure if he is still upstairs or went back down. Could you poke your head around and if you see him, to tell I’m waiting in the grand hall downstairs for him? I need to attend to some…personal matters.” I smiled beneath my mask and tried to put on an innocent voice for him.

“Of course, Lady Elisna, I’ll let him know.” And Kingsley with some purpose started to walk across the gallery, without even turning around.

Still smiling, I backed up and Iesa approached me. “Its quiet inside, we should move quick.” He said quietly.

“Let’s go.” And without turning around I covered Iesa opening the door, and I slipped in behind him.

The rectangular room we found ourselves seemed to be either a sitting room or an office. The long wall opposite of the door had several large curtains, covering up the windows to the exterior. A large desk, with a deep burgundy hue sat in front of the curtains. The walls had shelves with a mixture of books and objects on them. A closed single door was on the left of me on the short wall, and a double door was on the righthand short wall.

And more importantly Iesa was right; no one was here.

“Ok,” I said, “Now what?”

“Well, look around here, I’m going to check the doors there,” Gesturing with his head to the double doors.
I decided that the desk might the most interesting thing to look around at. So I moved behind it and looked at its top. Papers where haphazardly scattered on the top, and an ink vial and set of quills and a sharp knife lay in a wooden organizer, while an oil lamp with a low glass bottle sat, with the sticks of wax nearby.
I was beginning to look at the papers, when I heard fast steps. Looking up I saw Iesa swiftly moving to the curtains. I didn’t even think and dove under the desk and pulled my dress together, so it didn’t poke out anywhere and I held my breath.

Session Notes:

So yes, stuff was indeed stuck in the gazebo, and there was a rules pow-wow about if familiars could hide in their pocketspace with stuff. The answer was no per the DM, which I agreed with. Made the whole scene more fun.

So…the funny thing about adventure maps, the privy is frequently left out, or there is an outhouse outside. The reality in noble houses there were a fair number of chamber pot used for this, inside in rooms. But again, see maps.

But what is described here is how one took care of business in the formal halls. Well, at least it was in Inveraray Castle, home of the Duke of Argyll in Scotland the Home of Clan Campbell, which I toured in 1993. The paneled side rooms weren’t large, but they were private enough to take care of things and rejoin the main party.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
The Prisoner Dilemma

The Prisoner Dilemma

There is a Bleaker joke that goes like this:

“A Sensate says to a Bleaker, ‘You know they say its ‘darkest before the dawn?’ right?’
‘Sure I do. You realize that it never dawns in Sigil right?’”

It’s still not funny.​

I heard the double doors open, and then the sound of boots and the clink of armor stepped into the room, in mid conversation.

“…well it’s not like they could sucssseed anyway.” A gravelly voice that spoke with the sibilant sounds stretched out.

“No, but an attempt would undermine the Baronesses’ hold here, and we cannot allow this,” a second cold and tired sounding voice retorted.

“Then hole her up in her room till morning. The rissssk is too high.”

“No Arakhan, we need her visible. Nothing is wrong afterall, and as long as she keeps sending Leoras north looking for graves, she’s doing her job and can enjoy her little party here.”

Hiding under a desk was an idea born of panic and my heart was pounding. My lungs burned, as I scarcely dared to breathe. If the first voice was Arakhan, I could only imagine the second was Vicam. I was both praying not to be found and cursing at myself for being trapped in the room with the pair. While Arakhan came across as someone that was used to “delivering the mail,” Vicam’s voice gave me chills.

“Leorasssss might ssssstart asking questionssss.”

“And the best way to keep him from doing that is to keep sending him out of town. In the meantime, let our hired professionals sniff out the crowd here. If the ‘Star’ is intending to make a statement, our reply will be visible and fierce.”

“And what of the prissssoner? How long until we-“

Prisoner? I strained to listen, still holding my breath. As I looked out from my position, I saw the curtain that Iesa was hiding behind. Inwardly I groaned, as I realized one of his boots was poking out. Not just the toes, the whole boot, as the curtain was caught in the top, basically exposing the entirety of his lower left leg.
I was staring in horror, as I expected either Vicam or Arakhan to notice this. But fortunately, Iesa must have felt something was amiss as I saw some quiet tugging, and watched the curtain being pulled out from the boot, and it was lowered quietly to the floor.

“Until they aren’t useful of course. After the gala we shall resume our…chats.

“You are playing a dangerousss game by keeping them around. Should be dispozzzed of.”

“They are safely hidden below, and no one is looking for them either. The risk is small.”

“Well, let’ssss find out where the Baronessss has gone then.” And then I heard the door open, the din of the party outside grow louder and then the sound of the door shutting again.

I waited as long as I could in silence, and I exhaled quietly in relief. I crawled my way out from under the desk and was helped up by Iesa who had already emerged. Keeping our eyes on the door to the landing we moved in close to each other.

“Prisoner?” I said “Is it normal for a seneschal to be in charge of a prisoner here?”

“No,” Iesa whispered back. “Normally the captain of the guard have such a place for criminals in the city. Private jails of rich nobles aren’t unheard of though. But the Waterbaroness seems to be on the level on the law here. Having a private prisoner doesn’t sound right.

“Perhaps she doesn’t know?”

“That’s not better, if they are going behind their ruler’s back.”

I frowned and thought a moment and said, “Well, we can tell a lot about the Baroness based on the company she keeps; willing or not.”

Iesa smiled, “I agree with that.” He looked at the doors again before speaking, “And if I had to make a guess on where they could be hidden, it would be the stairs down from the kitchen.”

“Let’s go,” I said, “before they come back.”
Iesa and I made our way back to the landing doors, and he pressed his ear against the wood. A moment later he lifted a single finger to his lips, and slowly opened the door, pulling it inwards and slipping through.

I followed him onto the landing, closing the doors behind him. Fortunately, no one seemed to notice where we emerged from and once again we linked arms and made our way back to the twin staircases.

As we descended, I saw Beepu alone talking to a large imposing figure in what appeared to be a uniform. He was tall, and somewhere in his later years with grey streaked hair that once was a solid black. His beard and mustache where a light grey. I couldn’t hear what they were talking about, but it seemed to be causal in nature.

“Beepu’s made a friend,” Iesa noted as we descended, also seeing the discussion. “But I don’t see Daneath.”
Once we reached the floor of the Foyer, I looked around. The party was getting noisier as the drinks kept flowing. From here we could see a doorway to what appeared to be a large study of some sort, and the other was a hallway that had a number of doors. I caught a glimpse of a man in leather entering one, but no sign of Daneath.

“We can likely look around without them for now, “ I said.

Iesa nodded again, and together we travelled beneath the stairs and entered the Great Hall. And there in the center was the Waterbaroness herself. As we made our way across to the kitchen doors, I finally had a good chance to look at her. She was older than I expected, somewhere in her fifth decade. Unlike most of the guests, she didn’t wear her mask, but instead it was fastened on the left side to the end of a wand that she carried. So, I could clearly see the brown eyes, with deep crow’s feet set around them. Her face was lightly lined, tanned and gave the impression of once being a great beauty. Her lips were painted a garish red. Her expression was haughty, and she gave the appearance of constantly looking down upon people, like the guest that she was listening to currently.

Glancing into the kitchen once again, we saw that the staff was very busy preparing food, and the Gour of course yelling at the top of her lungs. This time it was just simpler to just run across and down the stairs as Iesa and I were fairly quick, even though I was wearing a corset.

Within moments we were descending into darkness. There were sconces on the walls with torches, but all were unlit. By the time we reached the bottom of the stairs, there was barely any light at all. It didn’t really bother me much, everything was dim but visible enough. The stairs ended into a room that was storing kegs and bottles. In a corner was a dumbwaiter large enough to move a keg or two to presumably the kitchen. The room was full of racks, but the racks themselves seemed a bit light in terms of kegs or bottles stored.
But while this was my first impression, Iesa of course saw nothing but darkness.

“Where are we?”

“Probably a wine cellar of some type…oh sorry,” And I reached inwards and cast a light spell out again on ribbons on my sleeve and allowing Iesa a real look.

He turned his head and surveyed, “Yep, seems accurate,” and he bent down to look at the dust at the floor. Peering a moment, he moved towards the rows of racks that projected at a right angle from the wall. There were four of these, with the last fully against the back of the room, instead of projecting into the room.

“Most of the tracks are near the front rack. But there is another set that leads back here,” and he moved slowly to the far wall and rack. “And more importantly, this one has marks of heavier boots and not servant’s slippers or shoes.”

As I watched he moved to the racks, and gently pulled. Eventually he found one that moved, or rather pivoted and swung away from the wall. He then stepped forward and examined the wall itself.
“It’s stone, but not the same kind as the one around it. Probably a moveable panel or door. Help me look for a way to open it.”

I squeezed in next to him and we both looked over the stone and the rack. Eventually he found near the floor a small pedal that was underneath an adjoining rack.

“There! Shall we?”

I nodded, “Might get your sword out though,”

He smiled and drew the short-bladed sword from beneath his jacket.

“Ok, you step on the pedal and I’ll be ready.”

Nodding again, I held out my hand with three fingers extended...

Two fingers…

One finger…

Click!
Upon stepping on the pedal, the panel popped out on one side, opening barely the width of a thumb. We heard no other sound, so he pulled the panel open wide enough so I could get my hands on it as well. Together we pulled it open away from the wall and soon it jutted out at an angle, uncovering a tunnel.

Peering down it, there was bright orange flickering light coming from the far end. But it wasn’t enough to light the tunnel, but it was enough to see there was a large room at the end, and from our vantage point we could see a door with bars directly on the other side of the room, opposite of the tunnel.

We looked at each other silently, and I motioned Iesa on with my hand.

Iesa was very quiet, and true to his trade as a Knight of the Post. I couldn’t hear his movements at all, as he crept ahead of me in the tunnel. I followed behind him, quietly as well, but all I could hear was my own heart quickly beating in the darkness of the tunnel. I stayed behind Iesa, and let him take a decent lead in front of me.
When I was down about midway through the tunnel, I flexed and doused the light from my ribbons. The flickering orange reddish light ahead seemed be firelight. Iesa was near the corner, and I was about three paces behind him when I began to smell the sharp smoke of wood, confirming my suspicions about a fire. But then I caught the hint of…something else.

I closed my eyes and focused on the smell, as they taught us in the Civic Festhall. By shutting off your most powerful sense, you helped the other four to become sharper. It was familiar, but being mixed with the burning wood, identification eluded me. Suddenly the scent become stronger and it was then I recognized it.

Brimstone.

I opened my eyes, and was about to whisper Iesa a warning, when he peered around the corner.
The sudden eruption of heat from the tunnel opening was strong, and I watched as Iesa threw himself back away from the end. And now the very strong scent of brimstone permeated my nostrils.

I bolted back down the tunnel wide eyed and in fear. Coming past the panel, I stopped and braced myself against it and waited. Iesa was quiet, but not that quiet and he burst out from the tunnel. Fumbling in the darkness he searched with his hands for me and the panel, and together we pushed the panel closed.

Click.

We stood there panting a moment, and I watched Iesa put his ear against the door to listen. I resummoned the light and now could see the lack of normal color on his face, the streaks of ash on this face, and the clear scent of brimstone drifted from his clothing.

After a moment he shook his head, and then leaned back against the panel and sighed audibly.

“That…that…was…an…ugly…dog.” He said between breaths.

“Let..me…guess…” I said panting, but recovering, “Gaunt and skeletal…spat fire, and…looked ready to use you…as a meal?”

Iesa nodded with a look of confusion on his face, “How did you?...”

“I caught the smell of Brimstone and then once I saw fire…I made a guess.”

“Good guess.”

“Was it alone?” I asked my breathing back to normal.

Iesa thought a moment, “I saw the room was a square with three cells on the far wall, and the Hell…hound. Only saw one though.”

“Not a nice pet,” I said. “The generally only serve evil beings like Baatezu.”

Iesa looked at me with a mixture of shock and surprise, “Wait…you’ve seen them before?”

I nodded, “Sometimes a Baatezu or a Yugoloth will bring one to Sigil to sell or trade. I’ve heard that they keep many a spiv away from your valuables, if you feed them. So, in the market yes…muzzled of course. But you can’t forget the smell”

Iesa just stared at me, and then after a few moments, “You know, I knew that you were from a far away city from here…but I didn’t realize how far.”

“Well,” I smiled “Just wait till I tell you about the Baatezu and Yugoloths. If you thought that hound was bad, their masters are worse.”

“Wait, are one of them here too?”

“I doubt it. If I had to guess its Vicam’s. Doesn’t raise my opinion of him much, or the Waterbaroness if she knows about it. It’s an evil beast.”

“I’ll label it a ‘character witness’ before they hang us for a comparison.”

“Cute thought, I’ll ask the Red Death to…nevermind. Now what?”

“Well, do you have anything to hurt it?”

I shrug, “I could probably hit it hard enough with my magic. But it is going to take several tries. We might get lucky.”

“What if we bring the others?”

“Much better odds, but It’s going to hurt.”

“I have an idea for that too. But we need Foggle and some meat.”

“Foggle and some mea…Oh! That is our ticket to the job...but I’m personally fine with a different way if needed.”

Iesa looked at me, “Come on. You want out of this deal more than any one of us.”

I looked at Iesa, “That’s true…but it’s your head as well.”

Iesa looked down nodding, “Yes, well…If I’m going to murder someone…I’d rather it be a bit more straightforward. Poison seems…like a cheat.”

I reached out to his face and lifted his chin to look into his sad brown eyes. I could see the torment in his face, as he realized how the multiverse’s plan for him was taking a turn he didn’t want to take. He wanted to be in control of his own destiny, and not shoved towards it.

I smiled sympathetically, “I know…I know what you mean.” And I paused a moment before saying, “Well, let’s get the others and see about putting down this dog. After I clean us up though.”

“Look I took a bath, this ‘Iesa is smelly’ joke is a bit much.”

“It’s not that…you smell like brimstone now…and it stands out,” I said wrinkling my nose.

Iesa knitted his brow and lifted his wrist to his nose and inhaled.

“I smell what you mean.”

-----------

After a bit of clean-up with my powers, we made our way back up the stairs to the kitchen and paused near the top of the stairs to observe. The Gour was still yelling, but the servants were bringing in dishes, and moving less food and drink out at the moment.

“So? Plan?” Iesa said.

I looked at him critically, “You’re a Knight of the Post. Go sneak out and find them. And don’t forget some meat from the table.”

“Right…what’s a?...”

I hit him in the bicep, “A spiv? A Knight of the Cross trade?” and seeing the blank look on his face, “A thief?”

“Oh…sure…right. So, you are staying here? Ok, how do we get back?”

“If you push the right most kitchen door inwards and give me a thumbs up, I’ll make a fuss again, and you can bring in the others.”

Iesa pursed his lips together in a frown. “Yep. That’ll work again.” And with that he pressed himself against the wall, waited for a moment, and slipped out the door.

It was a while before I saw Iesa’s hand in the doorway and looking again I saw the pots and pans had once again been piled in a haphazardly balanced heap. I reached inside to the light within me an shook a bit, and once again tremors hit the kitchen.

“You idjits! I told you to stack ‘em pots proper!” the Gour immediately set off, and I saw the trio bolt towards the stairs. Daneath actually looked somewhat graceful, and the muffling we had put on the chain shirt seemed to be holding up as he didn’t jingle. Iesa was as swift and quiet as ever.

Beepu on the other hand was carrying a large plate, with a large cut of cured meat on it, and a dark scowl on his face. We began our descent again into the darkness.

Once at the bottom, Beepu glared at the three of us, “Now what? And why did I need to bring a ham? Do we have a plan or something? I hate this party.”

“Yes, Iesa has a plan. What took you so long though?” I asked looking at Iesa.

“Beepu was easy to find by the food. Big D took a while.” He said looking at the large man.

Daneath was rubbing his neck, “Yeah I was having a conversation and it took me a while to…extract myself safely. So, what is this about?”

“There is a secret prisoner down here,” I said, “And we need some assistance with the…guard dog.”

“Ok…the meat makes sense now,” as Beepu tore off a hunk and ate it. “But this is not going to be a very long distraction.”

“No, that’s why I’m going to poison it, and then we finish it off.” Iesa said, taking the meat from a surprised Beepu.

“Poison it? Aren’t we using that on the Waterbaroness?” Daneath said looking at the smaller man.

“We aren’t required to, and this prisoner might have a better understanding of what is going on.”

“How did you find out there is a prisoner here?” Daneath pressed.

“Vicam mentioned it,” I said.

“Vicam? Did you talk to him?” Beepu asked.

“Nope. He was talking to Eragon.”

“You mean Arakhan right?” Beepu corrected.

“Whatever. Right, him. We were nearby and overheard.” I said shrugging.

“Well, it is probably worth the poison, but is that not excessive for a guard dog?” Beepu asked as he watched Iesa dump the poison on the ham.

“It’s a big dog.”

“What like a mastiff or something?”

“Sure,” I said. “We just need Foggle to drop off the meat and come back to us, then we can take it out.

“Well…that does sound simple enough I suppose. No need to take on additional risk.”

We moved to the panel, and Iesa drew his sword out again, and Daneath did the same. I took my position to press on the pedal, and Iesa listened again at the door.

“it’s clear…I think,” he said.

With a quick motion, and a puff of white smoke Foggle was resting on Beepu’s arm. Beepu didn’t say a word, and Foogle made a small ‘boop’ sound and took to the air. Iesa handed the meat to the golden owl and at that moment I pushed the pedal. Between Daneath and Iesa they quickly opened it wide enough for the owl to fly through, and they both pushed the door shut.

For a moment or two, Beepu just stood and tapped his foot. Then suddenly he straightened up and waved his hand with some irritation and looked at Iesa and I.

“Wait a minute…Foggle said something about fire and Sulphur?”

Iesa frowned, “Must have found a trap?”

“In the air?”

“Well, once we get past the dog, I’ll look for it.”

“Let’s give it a minute to eat,” I said. “Then charge in and kill it.”

“Will that be necessary?” Daneath asked.

“Yes,” both Iesa and I replied.

“Big dog then…” Daneath muttered.

Iesa placed his ear against the stone, and after a moment he smiled.

“It’s wretching, we should go now.”

I pushed the pedal again, and Daneath and Iesa opened the door and started to move inside.

“Beepu,” I said, “Don’t use fire by the way.”

“What? Why?"

“Trust me,” and I bolted inside.

Daneath was in front, followed by Iesa, myself and then Beepu. We ran down the length, and soon Daneath rounded the corner with his sword ready to charge the dog, when I heard him exclaim.

“What THE HELL?!?”

“Close enough,” I said, Iesa already had pulled around the corner and I heard the whistling of blades in the air. Finally, when I stopped at the corner I poked my head around to finally see what I had been smelling.
The hell hound was already bleeding from a pair of gashes in it. Its mouth was dripping foam, and I could smell rancid bile in the air, mixed with the already heavy smell of brimstone. Its coat was coarse and the color of coal. But underneath it, along the ribs was the warm red color of flame and heat. The eyes of the fiend were smoldering cinders and grey dirty smoke came from its mouth of blackened ivory teeth.

Daneath had his blade in front of him, warily looking at the beast, while Iesa was positioned behind it. The hell hound was very aware the pair were trying to flank it, and it was twisting its head to look at each of them in turn, trying not to let either take advantage of it.

I looked and summoned a bolt of purple eldritch energy and flung it at the hell hound, striking the fiend in its ribs. It turned to glare at me, when Beepu rounded the corner, and what was once a confused face turned into one of surprise. He quickly made a motion with his hand and a beam of white energy sprang from his fingers striking it on its flank. Beepu then ran behind the corner and me. He turned to look at me crossly and shouted at me.

“That…is NOT a mastiff,”

“My mistake!” I yelled in return.

Daneath swung and the hound snapped at his hand causing him to miss his mark. Daneath moved back into a
defensive stance waiting for the dog to charge.

The hound had other ideas as it turned suddenly, and I could see the red glow from its ribs turn from a bright red, to an orange and then to yellow. It then breathed a gout of yellow flames towards Iesa, and spreading wide and hitting the wall behind Iesa.

The flames licked up the wall, but fortunately, Iesa had side stepped the majority of the flame and stabbed at the hound with his sword. With a sickening sound of bone being crushed and the sound of the metal hitting something soft and wet the hound yelped in anger.

I stepped around the corner and again threw a bolt of energy at it, and it turned to face me. Just as it did, Beepu also stepped around the corner and threw another frosty beam at it, hitting squarely between the eyes.
The hound staggered a moment, confused. At the last moment it turned to focus on Daneath when his sword came down, nearly severing the head from the body of the fiend. The beast collapsed on the stone below it, and smoke and embers erupted from holes in the chest cavity. Soon the entire creature was covered in flames, adding the smell of burnt hair to the already awful odors floating in the air.

I stepped around the corner and moved to Iesa. His clothing was sooty and had scorch marks on his thigh of his pants. A large hole there exposed his thigh, which already was crusted with blackened burns. He grimaced and leaned against a wall, panting heavily.

Reaching him, I reached inside for some light and poured out energy on the wound. Quickly, the blackened skin sloughed away to new healed skin, and even the red burn marks faded to nothing. Then I focused on this clothing, repairing them so no tear or mark of flame was visible at all.

“What…the…Hell…was that?” Daneath pointed his sword at the smoking pile of fur and ash.

“A Hell Hound,” I said still using my spells to repair Iesa’s breeches. “Are you hurt?”

“A Hell ho…er um. No.” Daneath stopped interrogating me and looked himself over suddenly.

“Well, that’s good. Glad we poisoned it though. Could have gone worse.” I said mildly, and I could hear Iesa stifling a laugh.

“Couldn’t you have told us a bit more, before we rushed in?”

“Honestly, I hoped the poison would kill it outright. Since it didn’t, I’m glad we didn’t use it as intended. It might not have worked.” I said.

“Now that is an interesting point. We did assume it was strong enough to work. We never really looked into that. Beepu said. “Perhaps we were never meant to succeed. Only to fail and be caught.

“Perish the thought,” Iesa said looking down at what was now an uninjured leg and unburned cloth. “That feels much better, thanks.”

“A Hell hound? Like from Hell?” Beepu asked looking over the corpse with interest.

“Some are. They can be found across the lower planes, but they are most common in Baator and Acheron I’ve heard. They follow orders if you are strong enough and can feed them.”

“But what is it doing here?” Beepu asked still looking at the remains.

“Well…I’m going to guess that Vicam summoned it, or he has a powerful friend somewhere. Either way, he isn’t to be trifled with, and giving him the laugh is going to be a problem.

“The what?” Iesa asked.

“Escaping with our lives,” I said. I’m not sure who scares me more now, him or the Star.

“Well? What now?” Beepu asked.

“The cell doors; it’s why we are here.” Daneath said, gesturing behind him.

“I’ll look,” I said, and I then took a moment to examine the room. On one wall farther from the tunnel, were lit oil lamps that hung from the ceiling. A simple stone table was present as was a older worn, but comfortable chair, as well as a simple rough wooden stool in front of it, while two fire pits flanked the table on either side, each with a set of logs burning within. There were three cell doors on the walls, each with a sliding panel at the top, and a hinged flap bolted shut, at the bottom of the door, probably for trays or other objects.

Stepping to the first one, I slid open the panel. While dark, my eyes saw only straw and a stone floor with a hole in a corner. It otherwise was empty.

I moved to the second one, and again opened the little panel. Inside was about the same as the first, with only a bucket tilted over on its side in the middle of the floor.

I finally approached the last door and slid open its panel. The same hole, the same straw. But this one had an occupant; Inside, lying on the pile of straw I could see a figure. I could hear an audible groan and could see it shift to cover its face, from the glare of the oil lamps behind me. The figure was clad in a simple white shift and it moved, trying to stand up.

“Hello?” I said, watching the figure

“You’re…not…Vicam...Who?...” came a thin hoarse voice. The figure had stood, and was slender and appeared to be slightly taller than I.

“Tell me who you are, and we can see about getting you out of there.”

“Out…out!” the figure straightened up and while trying to walk with a semblance of dignity, stumbled to the door. Now at eye level I could see that the person had a shock of long grey and white hair. Looking at me was the face of a haggard and tired woman, with thin pale lips. Her skin was once tan, but it too had lightened in the darkness. The face was deeply lined, looking about seven decades old. I then noticed her eyes, a deep brown with crow’s feet, but her elegant face once had great beauty, and now held the visage of hope and terror, not arrogance. It was like and so unlike the one I saw earlier, so I was not surprised when she spoke:

“I am the Waterbaroness, Nestra Ruthiol, the rightful elected leader of Yartar. Release me, so I can put Vicams’s head on a pike!”

Session Notes:
So, from a player perspective, Iesa had the feat “Lucky” and he used it quite a bit, the curtain was one of many places.

These are the moments that the DM commented, “You know, I have never seen that many cantrips used in one place before,” and we aren’t done yet.

The Hell Hound was…a challenge. It is a CR 3 monster, and we are all level two. So, it was a borderline deadly encounter. If we hadn’t of won initiative, sneak attacked and the dm rolled low for damage, we would have been flame broiled paste on the ground.
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
We’re Altering the Deal… - 2/13/2019

We’re Altering the Deal…​

Some deals are built from desire. Some are built in desperation. But many deals are products of their time and circumstance. So, change enough events around the deal, the deal is going to change.
You just better hope that the exchange is acceptable to everyone, otherwise you will have to pay the bellman at the end.

And that price can be quite steep.

The demand wasn’t loud, but the silence afterwards was telling. I turned to look at my adams. The look of confusion, consternation, and in the case of Beepu, outright annoyance would have been funny in almost any other circumstance. Annoyance spoke first though.

“What? This was not part of the deal!”

“Clearly not, but they couldn’t have known this. If they did, they would have been a bit clearer,” Daneath said.
“What are you babbling about? Just let me out!” Nestra demanded, but the edge in her voice wasn’t there. It was closer to desperation.

I raised my hand up to quiet the others and turned to the prisoner. “I’m sorry, but I need to ask you did you have a…bargain with the Crimson Star?”

The Waterbaroness closed her mouth and took a half step back in surprise. Her eyes blinking, she was slow and faltering in replying.

“What? Why would I…I don’t need to discuss…that is not of your concern!”

I grimaced and continued, “Well, it is a bit. You see it seems Vicam has well…replaced you?” at which her eyes narrowed like daggers. Watching her I kept going, “And so we aren’t clear if your replacement turned stag on your deal, or on a deal they made. All I can say is that the Crimson Star is a bit…upset at the whole thing.”

“Replacement? Vicam can’t replace me, only the ruling families can at a moot.”

“Well…your replacement looks…like you. In fact, she’s partying upstairs in your house, while Vicam pulls her strings.” I replied, while I was guessing the nature of the relationship between the fake Waterbaroness and Vicam, I was pretty sure I was on the mark.

“What?!? That…that…thieving, bottom feeding, low life scum. How dare he!”

“Well, he dared. So, did Vicam not like the Crimson Star?”

“He was ‘advising’ me that they were a threat, the same way the Hands of Yartar are. He is ignorant on how this town works.”

I turned to look at the others and gave a small shrug. I personally believed her; and to my mind that meant the Crimson Star had the wrong solution to the wrong problem.

Iesa spoke next, “Yeah, the Star doesn’t know the truth. They just wanted to force a moot.”

Beepu’s eyes grew wide, “Of course, Vicam must have expanded his power base with the families; all he needs is time. Eventually he could amass enough power and wealth to be named the ruler…”

“…Unless the moot was convened too early, and the Crimson Star sways the vote with their own candidate,” Daneath finished the thought. “But that might be a risky gamble.”

“Unless their backs are against the wall,” I said. Turning back to Nestra “Sorry, you might have missed a bit down here. But you had a cozy deal with the Crimson Star…whatever it was, right?”

Nestra may have been fatigued, but her mind was still sharp, “You could say that. It also explains the questions that Vicam was asking. Well…he’ll pay for this. I will thank the Crimson Star for sending you to get me out then.” She said with a smirk on her face.

“Not quite,” I said with a touch of remorse in my voice, “They did send us. But they sent us to…well…kill you.”

The look on her face was at first shock and then fear. She started backing away from the door of the cell, shaking her head. I could barely see in the light, tears forming in her eyes as she started to mouth the word “No” over and over.

I didn’t really enjoy this. Honestly, I wanted to see her reaction to help me understand what I should do next. It hurt me to see the fear in her eyes, knowing that our little band might be the end of her. But I also wanted to live out my days, and get out of this bargain I felt ensnared in.

I turned to look at the trio, “I think we get her out here, and redo our deal.”

“What, break it? Vicam controls the city forces, the Star the underside.” Daneath said. “How are we going to live to sunrise to pull this off…assuming the Star lets us?”

“They forced this on us because they were desperate, and we were convenient.” I said “And besides, Vicam’s sparkling personality probably haven’t won many over to his side. We can do this…I’m not sure how…yet…” and I turned back to Nestra.

She had backed herself to the far wall and was watching me warily. “Look,” I said trying to sound reassuring, “The Star did send us, but I honestly think they have no idea you are a prisoner. But I can tell you that if we did kill your impostor, Vicam would likely kill you anyway and force a moot. But I have a better idea, for both of us.”

Nestra’s eyes narrowed again at us, “What do you want?”

“I want you to help us with our debt to the Crimson Star. We’ll help you get out of here alive in exchange.”
Nestra’s eyebrows scrunched a bit in thought, clearly considering her options. “Well, if you can do it I will see what I can do with that.”

“That’s all I can ask; do we have a deal?” and I reached through the panel with my arm. I couldn’t see her with my arm through the panel, but I felt her cold shivering hand grasp mine. She clung onto it in what imagined was desperate hope.

After a moment of shaking, I withdrew it and looked at Iesa, “Get her out. Hopefully she can help with some questions.”

“I hope you know what you are doing Myrai,” Beepu said. “I do not like these political entanglements at all. There is no telling if anyone is going to keep their deal.”

Iesa had pulled the pick from his hair and began to work on the lock on the cell door. “I don’t,” I said honestly, “But I didn’t like the original deal and the deal maker less.”

The lock made a click, and Iesa opened the cell door, and Nesta stepped out. She was dressed in a dirty silk underdress, and she looked at us in turn.

“So…it is a Hate Night then?” as she waved her hand at our small band.

“Not at all,” Iesa smiled, “We only do rescues in the finest wear, lest others think we were common adventurers.”
Nestra was non-plussed and the arched eyebrow said everything needed.

“Well, first off we need to get out of the Manor…on a Hate Night. The second is we need allies in town.”
Nestra waved her hand, “I’m sure my captain Veladric can get everything under control without having to leave my house.”

“Veladric?” Daneath said, “I thought Eragon was the captain?”

“Arakhan,” corrected Iesa absently, “See Myrai, you have him doing it now.”

I shrugged and looked at Nestra, “I’m making a guess, that your captain has been replaced. Unless Veladric is a large hulking lizard- “

“—dragonborn,” corrected Beepu. Nestra in the meantime sighed in frustration and her eyes furrowed in thought.

“--Whatever,” I said “Anyone else that you might trust? In the manor…outside the manor?”

“Well, other than the head of staff, Marta, no. She’s always managed the servants and I was never close to any of the others.”

“Who is Marta?” Beepu asked.

“Oh, she manages the kitchen mostly---”

“Loud dwarf that shouts a lot?” Beepu pressed.

“Yes! That’s her. Keeps the others in line.”

“She’s a dwarf?” I asked.

“Of course, she is.” Beepu said. What did you think she was?”

I shrugged, “Thought she was a large gnome honestly.”

“No no no…Gnomish women are more attractive and do not need to yell.” Beepu replied,

“Noted. Nestra, anyone else in the manor? That dark elf woman—”

She shook her head, “I don’t know who that might be.”

“Zoe—

“Zoe Arcincella? She’s a lush as best and a ‘fair weather friend’ at worst.” She said shaking her head.

“How about Leo---” I was about say Leodras, the hunter when I saw Daneath shaking his head quickly and mouthing “No.” That was a surprise but I didn’t push.

“…never mind. How about outside the manor in the city?”

She thought a moment. “Well I would normally say the Crimson Star, but I don’t think I want to run directly to them without some support. The Iron Blades are loyal to the city…I admit to not having the strongest relationship, but they do keep their oaths.

“Wait,” interrupted Beepu “Are these the same group led by Arryn Quinte?”

I looked at Beepu surprised as Nestra answered, “Yes!…is he here? He normally has a standing invitation.”

“Indeed! I was talking to him earlier upstairs. I doubt he has left after all.”

“He would support me I am certain. I just need to talk to him.”

“That only leaves the small problem of getting out of the manor,” Iesa said.

“Well…I might have an option for that…if I can get to my office and bedroom upstairs,” Nestra said.

“Oh?” Daneath asked, his interest piqued. “What did you have in mind?”

“There is an escape route for the manor that goes far below. I have never used it, but the entrance is upstairs.”
We look at each other a moment and we all start nodding our heads in agreement. I am sure I wasn’t alone in my thought:

This could work.

“Alright. Here’s what we should do. We talk to Marta, have her get Arryn down into the kitchen and talk to him, get his support, and then we split and get upstairs to the upper gallery, sneak into her sitting room and use that exit.”

“How are we going to do that?!? Everyone knows the Waterbaroness!” Daneath exclaimed.

“It’s the Hate Night. We clean Nestra up, and we ‘borrow a mask’ Who’s going to know?

“Vicam? Erago….argh Arakhan maybe?”

“The servants can tell us where they are, so we can make our move upstairs when the time is right.”
Iesa was quiet and he started nodding. “It would work. No one pays attention to the ‘help’”

“But she’s a mess…no offense meant.” Daneath pointed at Nestra.

“Not for long,” I said. “All she needs a little fabric and maybe a belt. And a little cleaning,”

Daneath frowned, considering his options. Finally, he looked at us. “Alright, let’s do it.”
I closed my eyes a moment and centered myself. This was going to take a little bit of time. “Nestra, go ahead and take a seat there,” pointing to the larger, more comfortable chair. “This won’t take too long.”
She moved to the chair and then slumped down in it, clearly exhausted. I opened my eyes and started to channel energy onto the Waterbaroness.

I first focused on the soiled dress, pulling away dirt, grime and filth that had accumulated on her during her stay. What once was a dirty shift, was revealed to be a fine silken dress that one would wear in the evenings in private.
I smiled; this wasn’t going to be too hard. I altered my incantations and I could see her eyes widen, as the rents and small tears in the dress weaved themselves shut. She was smiling slightly in approval and nodded. I then focused on her, pulling the dirt smudges that were across her face and arms. Then, I started pulling away oils and filth from her hair. She seemed younger now, less haggard and much closer to the noble self that I saw upstairs in her double.

Smiling I turned to Iesa, “Bring your sword over here and hold it out.”

He didn’t question and did what I asked. I started to work on the ribbons that were woven through the eyelets of my dress on the forearms. I tied one loose end at the bottom loop and pulled the slack all the way through and re-wove it so all the extra ribbon was running out on one end. I then cut it on the sword giving me a yard-long ribbon, and then repeated the same with my other arm, and cut that length in half.

I moved behind Nestra with the longer length and began to weave the black ribbon into her hair, building it up into a long pony tail, and letting fall loosely behind her with the black ribbon standing out as part of a hair weaving.
I then took the other two pieces and wound them around her own forearms and tying them off so there wasn’t any ribbon dangling. Now it appeared to be more a finished formal dress.

Nestra was nodding seeing what I was doing and waited.

“Iesa, I need to cut the lower half of my underdress off away from the top. And cut some material out so I can use it to tie to Nestra.” And I raised the black material up revealing the crinoline hoops.

“Um…Ok…you sure?” Iesa asked with a doubtful look.

“Yes, I am…but watch your hands. I will melt your mind if I have to.”

Iesa smirked and started to cut the crinoline apart, and while I did feel his cold hands on my thighs as he worked splitting it apart, he was polite about it. He then handed me the remains, and I dropped my dress down again. It dragged a bit, as it had lost some of its volume, but I bet no one was going to notice.

I took Iesa sword briefly and took it to the remains of the crinoline hoops, and I used it to split the wooden hoops apart. Then I pulled them together and bound them, so I reduced the diameter of each hoop, so they would be about the same size of the upper hoops in mine. Then I handed the weapon back to Iesa.

I motioned for Nestra to stand up and motioned for the men to turn around. I knelt down in front of her and lifted up her silken dress. Then using some spare cloth from my crinoline, I hung the hoops from her waistline, and then dropped the silken dress down upon them. Then, I stood up to look at my work.

It wasn’t a formal gown if you looked it at for long. But it looked like a party dress that would pass casual inspection. All I needed was a belt.

“That’s…impressive Myrai.” Daneath said. “I bet with a mask, no one will know.”

“That’s the idea. I guess I learned something at the tailors. But it won’t hold up long; the material isn’t that strong.”

“Wonderful. Now get me out of here!” Nestra said, clearly ready to get out of her prison.

Before we returned to the cellar, I use my powers to clean the rest of us, so it didn’t look like we had left a dog fight. I lit up Daneath’s sword with some light, so we could see the way out. I could Nestra gasp a moment, but she didn’t ask questions, for which I was perfectly happy with. We made our way back out the tunnel to the stairs. Along the way I channeled some more power to give a more…perfumed scent to Nestra. I was fairly sure she didn’t smell like dirty, filthy straw anymore. But I wanted to be sure.

Once at the stairs, I canceled the power on the sword, and Daneath and Iesa again concealed their weapons and we crept up the stairs to the upper landing.

“Ok Beepu, go get Marta.” Daneath said.

“What? Why me?”

“Because if I go, she might feel threatened and call a guard. Same with Iesa, plus the smell—”

“Hey now, I don’t---”

“-- And Myrai is probably on her bad side from the last time she talked to her.”

Beepu’s mouth opened and closed a couple of times. He then rolled his eyes, straightened himself up, and marched up the stairs to the kitchen. I was down with Nestra below the line of sight to the kitchen with Iesa and Daneath in front of me. So I could only hear what happened next.

“Madam Marta, I need your assistance come with me!”

“Whot da? Ye aren’t supposed to be in ‘ere.” I could hear the Gour, Marta say. “I don answer to ye, so get out of my kit’chen!”

“I do not have time to explain, so come with me!”

“I’m not goin anywhe…Hey! Watcha you tryin to do?”

I could here the sound of Beepu straining and then the sound of a frantic ‘whumping’ sound. At that point I crept up, and Nestra followed behind me.

When I reached the landing, I saw Beepu was valiantly trying to lift and move Marta. Marta however was standing as a solid pillar of stone with the darkest look on her face. She was hitting Beepu on the back with a wooden spoon over and over.

Whump, whump, whump.


“Let go of me, ye drunkin gnome.”

“You…must…follow…me!” Beepu stammered and continued to strain to move her.

I really wanted to laugh. At Beepu mostly, but it was even funnier that the rest of the cooking staff didn’t even turn their heads or help. They were trying to ignore the situation as if everything was perfectly normal.

Nestra then clapped her hands together twice and Marta’s head shot up ignoring Beepu and looked towards the cellar stairs. Nestra said nothing and waved her over frantically while putting a finger to her lips. Marta blinked incredulously and then started moving to the stairs, dragging Beepu with her. Once she reached the stairs she saw the rest of us. I simply waved and let Nestra do the talking.

“Whot are ye doing with these trouble—” the Gour started.

“Nevermind that. I have been a prisoner in my own wine cellar because of Vicam!” Nestra hissed. At this Marta’s eyes grew wide.

“Whot? That’s not you orderin the wine upstairs?”

“No!”

“Makes sense now. I dina think you would use all the pricy stuff first.”

“What?!? That inconsider…” Nestra started and then stopped herself. “Listen, do what these folks ask, so they can get me out of here.”

Marta closed her mouth and then looked at each of us, and then settled her gaze on Daneath.

“Alrigh…whot needs doin?”

Daneath looked at her, “Look we need couple of things done. We need you to get Arryn Quinte down here to talk to us.”

“And we need a mask and a women’s belt or cinch.” I said quietly.

“Yeah, those things too.” Daneath said. “We also need to know where the other Waterbaroness is right now. Can you help us out?”

Marta didn’t even blink; she nodded and after shaking Beepu loose she strode into the kitchen and grabbed a pair of servants. They nodded, and bounded out of the kitchen, one towards the servant’s quarters and the other through a door on the far side of the kitchen that I hadn’t noticed before.

The servant who went to the quarters returned first with a black quilted cinch, and a simple domino mask and gave them to Marta. She then came over to us and handed them to me, and I started fastening both to Nestra.

“There,” I whispered. “A guest at your own party.”

“Are you certain they won’t recognize me?”

“Well, your hair isn’t the same as your impostor now, the mask makes it hard to tell you are…you. So just don’t talk to anyone that might recognize your voice.”

Nestra grimly nodded, and Marta returned, this time with a man I had only saw briefly talking to Beepu. He was tall and was powerfully built. Blue eyed, his hair around his head was a solid grey but his face was clean shaven. Surprisingly he was armored, and upon the breastplate was the face of a dragon looking forward, wearing an gorget. His face had a confused look on his face as he approached our band crouched on the stairs.

“Now what in…wait I was talking to you earlier about shoes,” as he pointed at Beepu. “What’s going on here?”

“Arryn…it’s me! Nestra!”

Arryn stepped down two steps to look at Nestra, “Wait a minute…what’s going on here? I was trying to talk to you upstairs, but you brushed me off, your excellency.”

“That’s not me; I have better manners.”

“What do…you…wait a moment. Vicam! It must be! What did he do?”

“He’s trying to take over, and I need to get out of here. Can you give me sanctuary in your compound?”

“Of course, but I apologize for this your excellency, but how do I know…you are you?

“Because I will have the proper evidence with me when I show up! Otherwise, you don’t have to do anything, Arryn.”

“Alright. You get to the compound with your proof, I’ll help. I won’t breathe a word in the meantime.”

“Arryn,” I chimed in, “Do you know where Vicam is now?”

“Yes, he was in the library down stairs with her…er the other Nestra, talking with some upper houses.”

I looked at the others, “We should go now.”

Daneath nodded, “Probably is best. Iesa and you go first, Beepu and I will follow with Nestra.”

“Ok, see you upstairs.”

Iesa and I moved to the top of the stairs and made our way to the double doors that led to the great hall. Iesa then spoke,

“Take the other door there. Let’s find out if the other areas are clear as we go. If Nestra, has moved, go back and warn the others.”

“Where does that door go to?”

“I think it’s the conservatory on this floor, it’s the other entrance on the Foyer.”

“Fine. See you upstairs.”

Iesa slipped between the double doors and I walked across the kitchen to the other door. Taking a deep breath, I slowly opened the door a crack and once I saw that the people within were occupied, I entered.

The conservatory was paneled in dark red wood inlays. The large windows to the outside were of course full of mist and fog, so the light was all from some lit candles mounted on floor standing candelabras. There were some divans and salon seat in the room, and an unoccupied desk shaped object with white and black keys in one corner of the room.

No one had noticed me and was starting to make my way to the Foyer when I saw her.

The dark elf was leaving a door from the far side of the foyer. Her hands rested on the pommels of her weapons and she was looking around with a sour look on her face. It was clear that she was heading to the Conservatory in a manner that was brisk and purposeful.

I gulped behind my mask, took a breath and walked right toward the door. I walked as casually as I could and stared straight ahead. Trying not to turn my head to follow her; trying to look like just another patron at a party and not focusing on her.

I entered the Foyer, and she continued to move in my direction. Soon we were within a couple feet of each other. While I was focusing on keeping my head staring straight ahead, my eyes turned to watch her as best I could. We passed within a foot of each other, and I could see her head start to turn to look at me, or at least my mask. My heart was pounding, and I could feel sweat trickling down my back. Everything within me was screaming for me to break into a run.

“She’s found me. I’m going to bite the iron right here. Sodding…”

Her eyes narrowed, and her mouth opened slightly and was about to say something, when she closed it and turned her gaze towards the Conservatory that I had just left. I continued my pace, my heart still pounding, and I took one of the graceful stairs to the upper gallery.

As I made my way up, I saw Iesa was on the landing, already ahead of me. I could see his smile and he offered his hand to me and pulled me to him, so we could again link arms. But as I grasped him, I could feel that his hands were cold and clammy with a trace of the shakes. Looking at him carefully, I saw that he was tilting his head to his right ever so slightly. I took his arm and pivoted so I could see what was concerning him, without turning my head.

On the landing, in the middle of everything was Captain Arakhan. He was surveying the landing, his eyes narrowed. He was clearly looking for something, but it wasn’t clear what.

I pulled Iesa over towards the landing that overlooked both stairs coming up from the Foyer, and at the bottom, Daneath, Beepu and Nestra were making their way up the stairs. I had only moments before they reached the landing itself, where Arakhan could see them.

I looked around desperately, and then I saw something that gave me hope. Across from me, to Arakhan’s right was a doorway to a small room where there were some guests lingering, and on the wall was a lit torch in a sconce. That gave me an idea.

“Iesa, stand in front of me, and look at me,” I whispered.

He did so, looking straight at me as if we were husband and wife about to embrace. His smile beneath the mask exposed his teeth, which he kept clenched tight.

“They’re almost here! I hope you know what you are doing…”

I barely heard him as I focused on that torch and quickly worked that ball of light within me. I was whispering quietly syllables of power and then I released it.

The torch within the room, blazed brighter; what was once a warm orange was now far brighter. Continuing to whisper, I focused on the light within me and then twisted it and channeled my energy towards the torch, just as Daneath and Beepu made it to top of the landing.

Within the room there was a loud murmur and then a woman’s voice said, ‘Oh MY!’

The torch was now a vivid purple, and the onlookers were all pointing towards it. But the sound of the woman’s voice, caused Arakhan to turn his head towards the room. When he saw the torch turn purple his mouth opened and he spoke,

“What issss thisss?” and he turned and quickly moved to the room. The entire gallery was fascinated with either the light or watching the hulking dragonborn move towards it. But as he did so, the five of us moved to the double doors that lead to Nestra’s sitting room. Iesa deftly opened the door and ushered us all in. As he was closing the door, we could hear the Captain bellow:

“Who is doing that!?!”

Iesa was locking the door and looked at the rest of us. “We aren’t going to have a lot of time!”
“This won’t take long.” Nestra said. She moved to the desk and grabbed several seals on top of it. Then after opening a drawer, she started pulling sheafs of parchment, looking for key documents.

“Where’s the exit Nestra?” I asked.

“The door to my left, towards my room.”

I motioned the others to the door. By now Iesa and Daneath had drawn their swords, and Beepu had summoned Foggle from…wherever he was placed earlier. Iesa quickly picked the lock and the three of them went inside.
I looked around and saw discarded on a bench, a satchel. I moved and grabbed it and then stood next to Nestra and opened it. Without a word she dropped seals, parchment and several other objects into it. She then looked at me; “Follow me, the rest of what I need are in the bedroom.”

Quickly we moved to the room the others had went. Once within, Iesa closed the door, and picked the lock again, but this time ensuring it was now once again locked. Nestra ignored everyone and strode into the adjoining bedroom.

Daneath moved over to a shield that hung on a nearby wall. He took it down and fastened on his left arm. Once I saw him grab the shield, I stopped following Nestra and reached within. The familiar warmth spread through my back and Daneath’s shield now glowed with a warm orange light. Then I turned to the wall and used another incantation to wipe away the dusty outline of a missing kite shield from the wall.

Beepu looked at me and said, “I saw what you did. Not sure how, but it was risky.”

“I know, but I needed to get Eragon to look anywhere else.”

“Arakhan.”

“Yeah, yeah right. I’ll focus on getting it right when I’m not running from the manor.”

Nestra returned, the satchel now full and a key in her hand. She moved towards a window where a sconce with an unlit torch was attached to the wall. She twisted the sconce, and revealed a keyhole, which she then inserted the key and twisted. There was a loud click, and a panel popped open from the wall, which Iesa started pulling open while Daneath shined the shield into the darkness beyond.

“Does anyone else know of this door or key?” I asked.

“No. It’s passed as part of documents for the next ruler. I had to break the seal on them to get the key out. No one else knows.”

Iesa had finished opening the panel and the light uncovered a small closet, with a narrow spiral staircase descending. Wisps of cobwebs hung from the ceiling and the dust was thick on the stairs.

Without a word, Daneath was the first on the stairs, followed by Nestra and Iesa. Just as they did so, I could hear the doors to the sitting room unlatch and open.

Beepu and I looked at each other, and he quickly dove inside the closet with me behind. I turned and seeing that there were a pair of handles on the panel, and I started to pull on them, As I did so, I heard a key in the lock to the room.

“Here we go.” I said to myself, and the door closed with a satisfying click. Beepu had already descended. I pulled my dress and the remains of my crinoline together and started my descent into the darkness.

Session Notes:
So yes…we had a bit of cat and mouse during this session. It’s only after reading the notes that I realized there was a third advisor to the “false” Nestra. But since he never figured in any major way in the story, I’m not going to fix it.

Now, there is a lot to do with Nestra’s dress to make it pretty, which was handled as a skill check. Now, technically crinoline didn’t exist until the 18th century. But no one said they don’t exist in the Forgotten Realms. I did have to draw on some of my personal knowledge of sewing on how this ACTUALLY might of happened, versus the abstract. Luckily, it only had to last from the kitchen to the secret exit.

Beepu did try to wrestle the cook and of course it went as badly as could be expected.

And yes, more cantrip Olympics. This is the exact point where I realized I wanted more utility cantrips. And I have been frustrated with other characters because of lack of options at times.

And yeah. The Eragon joke continued…with the DM saying it once or twice as well to his chagrin.

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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Descent - 2/28/2019

Descent
Sigil like most many cities is layered. Tenements in the Hive are built on top of tenements of the past. Go down deep enough and you can find forgotten places. In the Hive, many a kip expand downwards finding remains of rooms, or just piles of broken things.

But every so often, you uncover something you just rather throw back.​


I made my way down the narrow stone spiral stairs, with one hand on the wall and the other holding up my dress so I didn’t trip. The dust was thick now in the air, after the others had made their way down ahead of me. The cobwebs, also broken apart were thick at first, but as the descent continued thinned out to only occasional wisps on the ceiling. While I could see in the darkness alright, there truthfully wasn’t much to see. But the sound of us shuffling down, scraping shoes and boots on the old, worn stone seemed incredibly loud. At one point, I stopped on a step and waited and listened. Soon, silence enveloped me except for the faintest noises from below. But nothing from behind and above me.
I took a deep breath and descended deeper into the rock. As I continued downwards, I noticed that the walls were now damp instead of dry. And while I was exerting myself somewhat going down the stairs, I noticed the air was becoming warmer. I could now taste and smell wet dust in the air.

Finally, I saw the glow from Daneath’s shield shining up from below and I continued downwards. As I approached I could hear tired breathing, and finally reached the end of the stairs. They ended in a small chamber, partially finished. The floors were smooth flagstone, covered in dust. On a wall was a large iron bound door, with rust streaking down the wood. On one side of the chamber was a large pool of water.

The shield was leaning next to the door, shining its light towards the pool and the stair’s exit. The others were sitting on the floor, winded but their breathing slowing. Beepu was nearest the stairs, and looked at me, and held out his hand. In it was a small linen bag. I reached out and took and opened it. Inside was some meat and cheese.
It was then I realized that I felt that I was starving, having had nothing at all at the party. I started to eat and somewhere in the middle, remembered my manners.

“Thanks Beepu,” I said with my cheeks still full. I swallowed and continued, “When did you have time to grab food?”

“Marta actually,” Beepu said. “She was sure Nestra needed something.” And his head jerked to one side to where Nestra sat. She was tearing into a chunk of meat taken from her own cloth.

“Smart,” I said and found an open wall to lean against and sat down and closed my eyes. I was tired and sitting down sounded like the best thing to do at the moment. I leaned my head back again the cool damp rock. It felt wonderful, compared to how hot I felt.

“So, you fell behind…anything?” Iesa asked.

“No. I stopped a while to listen. I heard nothing above.” I said.

He nodded and said nothing more.

I had finished my small meal. We sat quietly, each lost in our own thoughts, with only the sounds of our breathing and the occasional drop of water hitting the pool nearby.
Sighing, I leaned forward and started to unpin the mask and the wig from my head. After a couple of moments both are pulled away from my head and face and I shook my hair free and scratched my scalp with my fingers. I again leaned my head back against the wall with my eyes closed and breathed in the damp air.

I could hear the whispers from Nestra, who was seated next to Beepu. “What is she?” and then Beepu explaining that I was an Aasimar. In my minds eye I could imagine her stares. I knew there were whispers; ‘The Lusty Bard’, ‘Fortune’s Wheel’, ‘Bottle and Jug,’…the streets, the Civic Festhall. It didn’t matter where, there were always whispers. But here on this plane it was…different. I was exotic and interesting. In Sigil, I was different but so was everyone. I was a momentary distraction. Here, I couldn’t be ignored in a room full of people. I stood out, a blazing light in the darkness. Almost like I had cast my light above my head to say “Look here!” But right now, I could hear the whispers from Nestra. Incredulity and apprehension. The notes in her voice evaluating me, wondering if my heritage influenced my thinking or beliefs. Beepu, only told her the basics; I was what Sigilites say “Out of Town.” It really was all he could; as I think he realized he really didn’t know me well. We were simply adams in a bad situation, making the best of it.

“But does she realize how different she looks?” I could hear Nestra say.

“Did you realize I can hear you?” I said without so much opening my eyes. She was suddenly quiet, probably embarrassed to be caught gossiping with the gnome. I then pulled myself up and grimaced and moved towards the pool of dark water.

I knelt beside it and dipped my hand into the pool, pulling up a small amount of water. It had no discernible odor and I tasted it; it had a slight metallic taste, but otherwise was what it appeared to be. I cupped my hands and drank my fill, when I heard a noise from the far side of the pool.

I looked up and saw only the glassy surface of the water. Waiting I watched and listened again. But I heard only silence. Frowning to myself, I blamed it on my fear of being pursued. I stood and turned to face the others, when I heard it again. The sound of a something breaking the surface of the pool. I quickly turned to look.

And once again, I saw nothing but the rippling surface of the pool. But on the air was the faintest odor of something foul, but it faded quickly. I was beginning to think that the silence and the darkness were playing tricks with my mind. So, I turned to face the others and while they were beginning to stir and stretch, none of them seemed concerned.

“So…what’s beyond the door?” I asked.

Nestra was standing and turned to look at it and frowned, “All the letters about the key mentioned that below was a passage through the caverns. But nothing talked about any detail; not any door and certainly not what was beyond.”

Daneath was restrapping the shield on to his arm, looking quite incongruous with the dress coat. “Well, we should be ready. Caverns and unused passages tend to collect unwanted inhabitants.”

Iesa looked at him, “You’re making that up!”

“No, I’m not. I always heard that caves were great homes to monsters and the like.”

“He is right,” Beepu commented “Caves are safe places for many creatures, intelligent or not. We should be careful.”

I was pulling up my dress and tying it to itself, so it wouldn’t trip me up on future stairs or rough floors. “Well then…” and I gestured to the door. Nestra moved towards it and pulled the key from the satchel she carried. The key fit, and at first, she struggled to turn it. Iesa had moved forward to help, but she waved him off saying “I can do this,” in a tone that left little doubt she demanded no assistance. After a moment, the key turned and the sound of rough rusty metal on metal sounded as the bolt turned in the lock.

Nestra did back off and motioned to Daneath, like she would any servant. She was trying to take charge as she normally was accustomed to, and it showed on her face. She had the rigid expression of someone trying to be in charge but hiding it poorly. But Daneath didn’t even react and pulled on the great ring on one side of the door. After a moment, it shifted free. A little rust, and a lot of dust shook free, as the door opened; its hinges grinding upon each other as the door revealed the darkness behind it.

I poured power in Daneath’s shield, so the light would remain on it for the humans, and he stepped in the doorway. He stopped a moment and after looking around, he then motioned us to follow with his head. We entered at the top of what appeared to be a natural cavern. Iesa then closed the door and Nestra relocked it again, and we all turned to look at the path forward.

I had never seen the like; pillars of shiny rock descended from the ceiling with some tapering into sharp points, and other into rounded blunted shapes. On the floor it was the reverse with thick pillars with rounded blunted tops rose to meet once from the roof. Some met and merged, while others were ever so close. The colors of soft brown, tans and hints of green and white coursed through the rocky material. The gallery was large and even with my sight I could not see the edge to the other side.

We started to make our way through the darkened cavern. The light of the shield created strange shadows with the pillars, and eventually the walls of the far side became visible, guiding us to the left. We heard little beyond the sounds of water dripping into pools, and the sound of cloth on cloth, and the swishing of the tied-up portion of my dress. But even those small noises echoed throughout the gallery, making any that we made, that much louder.

“I don’t like this,” Daneath said. “Something feels…off.”

“Well, no need for us to stumble blindly into trouble!” Beepu exclaimed. With a wave of his hand, Foggle appeared and with a quick glance he sent the mechanical owl alight into the darkness ahead. Quickly the brass color faded from view as it flew away from us. All the while Beepu had that distant bored look, nodding to himself.

“Well, good news Daneath, your supposition is correct.”

“That’s good news? What is your idea of bad news?”

“Well in fact…SHIELD!” Beepu yelled and ran to a nearby pillar. Daneath barely had time to turn as he raised his shield in time to bear the brunt of a shadowy figure that collided with it.
The scaly figure and fought with teeth and claws, wrestling with the large man’s bulwark. Fortunately, the creature wasn’t as skilled and Daneath gave it a quick cut with his sword.
With the creature blocking the light from the shield I peered as far as my vision could, and I saw more of the figures racing to attack our band. Iesa was already moving towards Daneath, preparing to strike. Nestra had a look of panic on her face as she looked around her, her empty hand looking for anything to defend herself. I ran to her, grabbed her hand and pulled her over to a nearby wall. As I did so, I threw some of my energy into an eldritch bolt, hitting the creature as it clung to Daneath. I then looked for Beepu.

He was gone; all I saw behind the stone pillar were more small boulders. I didn’t really have much time to process this as after I heard Iesa thrust his sword deep into the lizard like creature, that the smell washed over me. It was overpowering; a rotten stench with all the highlights of rotting fish, rancid meat and the sharp smell of bile. My eyes watered, and I wasn’t even next to the source; the lizard like creature flailing at Daneath’s shield.

Daneath shoved the creature off, and it staggered back giving an opening for the two men to exploit. Daneath swung at it, missing narrowly but it was enough of a distraction for Iesa to stab again deep into its ribs. Blood spurted out from the wound and the creature hissing faded as it clutched its side and slumped to the floor. But by then two more of the lizard-like creatures moved in rapidly from the darkness, and I could hear the sound of claws on stone further in the distance.

Suddenly I saw, a brightly lit white blade, hurling towards the two approaching the warrior. The blade slammed into one and it exploded into razor sharp fragments scattering
everywhere, slicing and tearing into the flesh of the creatures. Both screamed in a language I had never heard before, and I could feel a wave of cold air hitting my face. I glanced again on where it came, and all I saw was the same boulder and pillar.

The two weren’t dissuaded by the cold, nor the pain and they rushed the humans, again flailing madly. There was only mindless fury now as one scratched and clawed against Daneath’s shield. The other attempted to bite Iesa, but he deftly spun away avoiding the clumsy attack. Both the creatures stood next to each other, readying to strike again.
I felt then something inside of me…shift. It was like the sound of the rusty key turning in the lock of the door. Feeling of something solid shifting in myself. And with the shift I looked at the pair of creatures. Reaching within I felt past the light I used before and found something else. It was darker, and I could feel it shifting, almost like it was a caged animal trying to escape. But I didn’t spare much time or thought to analyze it. I mentally reached for it and threw its energy toward the creatures.

A black mist appeared to swirl around them. As the mist formed, I saw a pair pale skeletal arms reach from within the mist and grasp the creatures. I could feel something through these arms, as much as I could feel the warmth of another person if I touched them with my own hands. And I felt their energy fade away to nothing as both creatures slumped down on the floor, neither moving. And as it faded, I could feel that same energy course through me and dissipate.

If I wasn’t already next to a wall and covering the still cowering Nestra I would recoiled. I wasn’t sure what I had done, but I did know what I felt.

Power.

From the darkness emerged two more of the creatures, and they charged at Daneath and Iesa. It was then I figured out what Beepu had done, as I saw a bolt of fire leave a solitary boulder behind the pillar, striking one, just as they clawed onto Daneath’s shield ineffectually. Iesa however yelled in pain as he spun the wrong way and was slashed by a sharp claw. Both slashed at each of their opponents, swinging wildly.

I mentally flexed and called the darkness again. It was easier this time, and I felt again the power extend towards the pair and I realized that what I was feeling was their life’s energy. And I could feel the skeletal hands rip it away from them and warmth flowing through me as their life ebbed. But it wasn’t strong enough to bring them down.
But a blast of fire from ‘the rock’ did hit one solidly in its flank, causing it to spin and collapse in heap on the stone. The other one was stabbed in the torso by both swords, and its hiss faded into a soft gurgle as it sank to its knees and then fell to its side.

It was quiet as we watched the darkness for more, only hearing our own labored breath. After a moment the ‘rock’ spoke:
“Foggle does not see any more of them, so I believe we are safe for the moment.” The gnome said and Beepu stepped out through the rock.

I chuckled, “And here I thought you turned stag on us. Smart play there.”

“Well, I was pretty sure he ran,” Iesa said wincing in pain.

“That’s what I…oh never mind. Are you hurt badly?”

“He can walk it off I’m sure,” Daneath said. “Now that he’s done dancing like a mad jester. But we really, really should move from here.”

“Why, do you think more are coming?” Beepu said puzzled.

“No. It’s because if I have to stand in the stench of these things much longer, I’m going to vomit.”

“Troglodytes…under my…under my home.” Nestra stammered. “Foul creatures…I had no idea.”

I moved over to her and grasped her hand. “Well, one problem at a time. Let’s get you out of here.”

“Foggle found a passage leaving this cavern. And it is the only one he can see, so it appears to be the only path.”

We looked at other briefly; nothing needed to be said. And once again, we made our way through the darkness, lighting the way with the shield. Foggle was now scouting ahead of us, aloft on silent wings. The mechanical owl led us to a natural passageway, leading downwards. Like the other cave, the air in the passageway was moist and warm. Water trickled down the walls, worn smooth over time.

Soon we arrived at an intersection with passages leading left and right. Beepu waved his hand and the owl flew down the right passage. We waited as Beepu concentrated. He then turned to look at the rest of us.

“No. Not that way. There are more of those troglodytes down there,” he whispered, and he tilted his head and he mumbled to himself. “At least a dozen in a large cavern. There is a…stream…and what looks like…nests?” he concentrated more for a moment. “I do not see another exit however.”

“Well, no sense going that way and annoying the natives,” Iesa quipped. “So…the other way then?”

“Looks that way,” I said. And I felt touch of air move past, and I saw the owl fly silently overhead down the opposite passage. After a moment, Beepu again spoke.

“It is a dead end. But…wait. Worked stone! Not natural. We should look there.”

We moved down the passage quickly, and we came to a small chamber. While most of it was natural, one wall was clearly different. It was worked, but not finished. I moved towards the wall, and I reached out and touched it. The surface was streaked with deposits of limestone from the cavern ceiling, but it was thin and flaked away easily. As I pulled some the flaking stone away I realized I felt brickwork, and mortar. Scratching the mortar with my fingernails it crumbled easily.

Beepu came and stood next to me, and also probed the wall and the decaying mortar. “Someone sealed up this passage some time ago,“ he remarked. Turning to Nestra he asked, “Did your documents mention this?”

“Nothing. As I said there were a network of passages below, and it exited near the river.”

“How old is the document that discussed it?” I asked.

“It was written by the last Waterbaron perhaps, forty years ago? But now I think of it, Lardon must have had a note from his predecessor.” Nestra said after thinking about it.

“Well, someone didn’t just build a random wall. It’s was built for a reason. Probably to keep those creatures out of…something?” I said trying to think what it might be.

“One way to find out,” and Daneath placed his shield against the wall and then leaned into it, with the wall blocking the light. At first, he pushed lightly and slowly increasing the pressure. Soon, the bricks started to shift, bowing outward. Then suddenly, as the mortar crumbled to dust, and bricks were displaced pushing into a room, and Daneath fell forward into it. He quickly stood up and pulled the shield from the ground and lit up the new chamber.

“Beepu…. you are going to want to look at this, ” Daneath said.

Session notes:

So, we now begin to really use the familiar to handle critical tasks related to scouting. Because why send a fragile rogue to do it? We also finally got to play with some new spells and some class abilities.

Nestra was probably a bit more quiet at the time though; I seem to remember more cowering, but considering she had no weapons or combat skills, we really didn’t expect much. But we did feel pressure to move and keep her alive. Which required one of us…well required me to babysit her most of the time.

All the while, “Beepu was a rock” was going to be used…a lot. It was one of his favorite go to’s to keep out of trouble. Not that was bad or anything. But it was one of the many cases of “Abuse cantrips until we break the DM.”

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Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Passages of Belief - 03/13/2019

Passages of Belief​


Darkness doesn’t scare me; I can see through it. But Sensates play a game with a blindfold called “A Game of You.” A game where you use the senses to understand the universe around you.

The Game is played for many reasons. And the higher the stakes, the more you learn about the universe.

And yourself.​


Beepu pursed his lips and stepped to the breach in the wall. I couldn’t see in the hole, but I could see his face clearly. His eyes were widening in something between awe and greed. With a quick motion, he waved towards the room. Foggle, who was silently flying circles above us, swooped into the hole, and once again Beepu had that faraway look.

I leaned over to Daneath and whispered, “What did you see?”

Daneath looked at me and shrugged. “Books.”

Of course. If there were hard and fast rules about the multi-verse, one of them must be that the most pious of wizards could barely contain their greed over the idea of forgotten troves of knowledge stored in musty old tomes.

“Are we going to have time for this?” I asked.

“It’s not like we can hide them from him as we enter the room.”

At this point, Beepu’s eyes were growing wider and he began to shake.

“How bad is it?”

“It’s…a lot.”

Beepu’s head suddenly snapped towards the open hole and he leapt in.

“Move.” And I gently push Daneath aside and bend down to the opening and step within the chamber beyond. Standing up straight again I sigh.

It could be worse. The room was large, and I could quickly count perhaps a dozen bookcases. The dust was thick on the floor, and layers of old cobwebs were draped upon decaying wood shelves. The bookcases were full of ancient tomes, bound with leather. I walked to one of the shelves and reached out to touch the spine of a book, and the leather flaked away, crumbling to powder between my fingers.

“No! No! NO!” Beepu was running from case to case frantically.

“What is this place?” Iesa asked as he stepped in the room, followed closely by Nedra and Daneath.
I left the crumbling books and stepped away from the bookcase. Looking at the room itself it appeared unremarkable at first. A door on one end of the rectangular room, but the other end had a table or workspace. I walked over to it, and saw the remains of parchment, now just piles of dust in the very dry air. There were the remains of a candle stub, it’s wax long since melt. But on the table was a green metallic object. Lying next to it was a long chain, that split into three smaller ones. Two attached to the object, while a third lay unattached, with a broken ring laying to one side.

“It might be a temple’s archive,” I said. “There’s a censer with a broken chain here. The only place I have ever seen them in were temples.”

“She’s right,” Beepu said with disgust. “Few the tomes here are intact. Most have dry rot. The two I found were written in an old form of common. But they talked about tithes and families that had paid. Useless.”

“Well, not if you are trying to count the money,” Iesa observed.

“It’s hard to help people without jink. Of course, I’m not sure who this temple is dedicated to from things here,” I said while glaring at Iesa.

“Too many in Waterdeep don’t help anyone,” he retorted.

“Well…this isn’t Waterdeep…wherever that is. But we should keep moving. There has to be an exit somewhere.”

“Well, we agree on that at least,” Daneath said and moved to the lone door. Iesa pressed his ear against it. After a moment, he nodded and opened the it to the chamber beyond.

Daneath’s shield lit up the room; square and the walls were finished smooth, much like the library. Unlike the library it was littered with the remains of broken, dry rotted wood. All of the debris were covered with thick cobwebs. A hallway led from the center of one wall. and in the center of the room were the low, relatively intact circular walls of a pool, or an oversized well.

As we entered the chamber, the air was as dry as the library we had left. As we spread around looking around the room, Iesa stepped towards the well.

“The well has gone dry…but it is a long way down.”

“Looks like a storeroom,” Daneath observed. “With piles of discarded shelves, and furnishings.”
I was leading Nestra and I was moving towards the passageway. I only had a brief look into the darkess and could see it making a turn to the left, when I heard a noise behind me of a small rock tumbling against rock. Turning, I saw that Iesa was throwing loose pebbles down the shaft.

“Really?” Beepu said. “What if something is down there?”

“What are the chances of that Beepu? Anything alive is down here is where the water is…and there is no water down there.”

Daneath was poking in the rotten wood, “Well there certainly isn’t anything up here.”

“See? You are all over…ACK!” and Iesa jumped back from the wall surrounding the shaft. Skittering out from the depths several forms, the size of large hounds appeared. They were black, with a dull shine on their carapaces. They made no noise, despite the large number of legs, that sprouted from each of them. Their movements were quick and within a moment, four emerged from the shaft. Iesa leapt backwards as one scrambled towards him. The rest split up, with one heading towards Nestra and I, and one each for Daneath and Beepu.

I pushed Nestra behind me, and with a quick utterance of ‘zalt’ I cast a bolt of energy towards the spider as it raced towards me, narrowly missing it. The others were doing much of the same; Daneath batted away one with his shield and stabbed it with his short sword, ichor emerging from the thorax. Beepu, cast a bolt of flame at his arachnid foe, and manage to sear off a leg. Iesa stabbed and ran in circles around the well, neither making headway against the other.

“So…you HAD to do it. You had to throw stones!” Beepu shouted as he cast another bolt of flame, missing his target.

Zalt! Well you know where the is water…oh wait! It’s a dry sodding well!” and my bolt hit the square on the large onyx colored abdomen.

“Mistakes were made!” and Iesa moved next to Daneath, and he switched targets, hitting Daneath’s opponent and laying it low. In turn Daneath turned and swung and cleaved the other spider into two.

“I am so glad that you have learned something from this Iesa,” and another bolt streaked from Beepu’s hands and his opponent burst into flames and stopped moving.

Zalt” and I struck the last one between its many eyes, knocking it backwards. “Well, I’m so glad we can put this behind us. But let’s avoid tossing any more rocks down holes from now on.”

“I’ve got to get out of here. First Lizards, now bugs.” Nestra was muttering to herself and shaking her head.

“No, no. no. Troglodytes and spiders. Very different, details like that are important if you are planning to clean out your cella--” Beepu was starting to lecture. I gave him a look and he quickly closed his mouth.

“Anyway, this is exhausting.” I said.

“I ag…ag…agree,” and Iesa collapsed onto the floor. Looking at him, I saw that there was growing stain of blood on his hamstrings. I ran over to him and put some pressure one the wound.

“Anyone else hurt?”

“Well, a couple of scrapes from this one, but I’m a bit battered overall.”

I started pulling on the light within me and let if flow from my hands into the wound. I could the skin closing beneath my fingers, and the seepage of blood slow to nothing. I motion Daneath over to me and lay a hand on upon his stomach, pouring more energy into him. I couldn’t feel his wounds, but I felt his body pull on the stream of energy I gave to him. In a manner of moments, the magical energy flow stopped and where I thought I was tired before, I truly was exhausted now.

“I’m…I’m…I need to rest a bit. But somewhere without a large hole in the ground.”

“The library?” Beepu said with a glimmer of hope in his voice.

“The hole in the wall doesn’t exactly make that secure,” Daneath pointed out.

“Maybe…down the hall. Send Foggle.”

“Right.” And with a wave of his hand, Foggle flew down the darkened hall. He was focused, his brow furrowed when he spoke again. “The hall turns and continues on. There is a pair of doors, one on the end, and the other on the side of the hall, about two thirds of the way down. The one on the end of the hall is open though.”

“Can you see beyond it?” Daneath asked. Iesa gave out a slight moan.

“There is another passage beyond, more doors. And a lot more webs. As I am looking there are tracks here too. They are scattered, but they do lead back to this room.”

“What about that side door?” I asked.

Beepu thought a moment. “No…the tracks go by it and I do not see any sign of anything going in or out.”

“Well, I take it that spiders can’t open doors,” said Daneath. “Let’s check it out. Come on Iesa…up up up.”

“I’m moving…just tired,”

Beepu took the lead, and Daneath followed with a weary Iesa leaning on him. I put Nestra in front of me, and I took the rear, watching the hall behind us for more spiders. Soon we reached the door.

Iesa pulled himself off of Daneath and pressed his ear to it and listened. After a moment he nodded and moved away. This time, Beepu pushed open the door and Daneath shined his shield within.
Satisfied, he nodded and waved us in.

The room was perhaps a small store room; shelves lined the walls and several barrels lay on their side at the end of the room along with some wooden creates. The remains of moldering sacks lay in one corner with some type of grain spilling out on the floor. But there was room for all of us, and more importantly there wasn’t another exit, hole in the wall or open well shaft in the floor.
Beepu closed the door, and Daneath and I pulled over one of the crates to block it shut.

“Think that will be enough?” I asked.

“It should be from ones we saw before,” Daneath said

“And if there is a bigger one?”

“It better be. I’m real tired. Probably the party earlier.”

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Nestra said. “This doesn’t seem to be the safest place, and can we really delay?”

“Well, If I hazard a guess it might be early morning. If Eragon—” Daneath started.

“Arakahn” we all correct.

“—him. If he hasn’t found us, he’s not going to. But unlike him, we’ve been fighting, and we need to rest. This is as good as it is going to get.”

I find a wall and slump down. Nestra looks around confused for a moment and then shrugs and sat down next to me.

“This is absolutely surreal. I’ve been imprisoned in my own home, impersonated by someone else, probably hunted by my former staff, and now I am clearing vermin out from beneath my house.”
I turned to look at her, “And now you are slumming with well-dressed adventurers, who were at one point trying kill you and are now deciding if you can take a nap. Sounds like a full day.”

She chuckled a moment, “Yes, yes it has. Thank you.”

“You can thank me properly when we get you out of here. Get some rest.”

The others had taken positions, and Beepu had set Foggle on the crate by the door. He was trying to read some documents from his spellbook by the light of Daneath’s shield. He looked at me and held out a copper piece and then said, “Myr could you?...

“Sure,” and I flexed and put a light on the greenie, and the light on the shield winked out. “It won’t last more than an hour. So, if you really need it wake me up.”

“We’ll watch first,” and Daneath nudged Iesa who muttered, “Yeah sure.”

“Honestly…let the owl do it. I can’t keep a night light up for you,” I said.

“We’ll do what we can. Get some rest Myr.”

I nod and closed my eyes. And soon darkness over took my thoughts.

Sometime later, I opened my eyes. I could hear the others sleeping quietly. My light had gone out, but my vision saw the grey shapes in the room; the five of us, the crates, the owl and the door. It was unchanged, just colorless.

I sighed; I was feeling better but not myself yet. I settled down and closed my eyes when…I heard it.

It was a quiet deliberate noise. The slow scraping against stone, but many times over. The sounds of many legs moving softly. I turned my head and I saw that Iesa was awake. His eyes were searching the dark, unable to see. But he could clearly hear the sounds as well. I watched him finger the hilt of the sword that lay next to him.

I could see him look toward my direction, and he put a finger to his lips. I nodded, before
remembering that he couldn’t see me in the darkness. I wasn’t sure how he knew I was awake and listening. My breathing? Did I shift? Watching him, I realized that while he wasn’t blessed with the ability to see in the dark, he knew how to survive in it. It reminded me of the Game. You get blindfolded and some of the most basic challenges involve sound. So much so, that I almost always close my eyes when I really want to hear something.

But, no matter how he knew I was awake., we both listened to the scraping on stone, fading away. And I am sure we both felt some relief that the sound wasn’t scraping on the wood of the door. Soon, silence again reigned and we both let out our stifled breaths slowly.

I leaned my head back and again closed my eyes. I wanted to see the light again. To taste the sweet fresh air, and not the stale air here deep below. I smiled to myself; how strange. The air I grew up with was never “sweet;” it was smoky, the tang of brimstone on the tongue. To say I missed the air outside here with the scent of rotten fish on by the river, and the tanneries nearby was surprising to me.

I wondered;

Did I really want to go home?

What I did I really want?

What did the multiverse want from me?

And once again the darkness took me, before I could answer any of those questions.


Session Notes:
The lord of the rings moment with the well was one of those moments. We all have seen it, and yet he touched it anyway.

Considering none of us had any real gear, we were very, very conservative on moving around. Two swords, and spells and almost no armor.

One item you might have noticed were the healing spells; I took a level in Cleric, but originally hadn’t planned on it. We were supposed to have two other folks in the adventure, but they dropped out before we started (a barbarian and a cleric). This ended up being an interesting twist as the DM had us think about “If you are going to multi-class, what is the good reason.”

I’ve always liked Keith Baker’s thoughts on “classes” in the game; they are rule structures and nothing more. You aren’t a fighter, you are someone who knows how to use a sword. So multi-classing is just an extension of that. But you need the rules as a framework.

So at this point I really started thinking about what the character “Myrai” really was, and it was here I started working backwards on the details of the past, compared to the broad starting point.

1333
 

Nthal

Lizard folk in disguise
Cracks in the Darkness - 03/27/2019

Cracks in the Darkness​


I wasn’t popular in the Gatehouse as an orphan. As a child, I could always make something glow with light, and apparently as an infant I always lit up something in my…whatever it was they put me in, to chase away the dark. But this woke up all the children in the room, and in turn they woke the Bleakers watching over us.

Soon, I was the only orphan that had their own room, just so everyone else could sleep. Eventually, it was an imaginary friend, keeping the dark away. It wasn’t until I was three or four…I think that I was put back with the other kids.

But by then, the damage was done. I was different. I was special. And the other kids resented that. Life was miserable from then on. The kids never wanted to see my “friend” and there was at least once where I got a severe beating for even turning it on.

But it was when I was older that I discovered, that people would pay good jink for a lit escort to their kip, after a few too many bubs. It was a discovery that would eventually allow me to pay off my debt to the Gatehouse.

It’s all about need.

I was awakened, by a light touch on my shoulder. In the dim grey haze of my sight I saw it was Beepu. I nodded; time for the last watch. I leaned forward, close to his right ear and whispered, “Anything?”

He shrugged, “Iesa told me about the noises, but nothing at all like that. And nothing else to mention. Thanks for the light earlier.”

“No problem. Get some rest,” and I pulled myself off the floor, and watched as Beepu made himself as comfortable as possible in my spot. I stretched my sore limbs and let my breath out with a sigh of resignation. While I had least gotten a fair amount of rest, I wasn’t looking forward to the boredom ahead. While I could have started the day, Beepu still needed more time to recover his magical facilities.

I quietly made my way over to Iesa and ever so carefully I examined his leg wound. As I had hoped it had healed and wasn’t showing signs of rot or poison. I then stepped over to Daneath. His coat was, at one point draped over him, his chain shirt discarded on a nearby crate. But the coat had shifted during his sleep and exposed his torn shirt. Below were bruises, which were probably turning ugly colors. But for now, dark grey was fading to lighter grey.

Satisfied, I centered myself. I was as rested and needed something to do. Starting with Daneath, I began the process to magically mend his torn clothes. Whispering the chant under my breath slowly rents in cloth, and tears in leather all closed again. I then started to chant a different spell, to clean up the spots of blood and gore that stained his coat and breeches. It took a bit of time as I would pause and listen again for our hallway stalker.

I did the same with Iesa, who had less damage to his clothes, but had far more ichor covering his breeches. Beepu by comparison was only a bit dusty, as was Nestra.

Looking down at myself, I was a bit dirty, and the crinoline was a disaster, but the dress itself was fine. I really wanted to return it intact if possible. The tailor said it wasn’t necessary, but it was important to me. Some minor tears fixed, and it was good enough until I could see everything in color again.
Looking around again I saw a small barrel with an open top along a wall, and above it clay mugs rested on a shelf, covered in dust. Examining the barrel, I found it to be old, but serviceable, whatever it held was long gone. Flexing my powers, I worked over the barrel; fixing rots and making the staves within the hoops, as tight as they were the day the cooper finished it. Or at least I hoped so. It took some time, all the while listening for noises in between my chanting. Once finished, I then cleaned the interior of dirt, wooden remains, and whatever else was left. I then mentally wiped out the three mugs on the shelf.

I nodded; it would do. I reached into my component pouch and pulled from it two items. The first was a bronze symbol of a skeletal hand holding aloft a balance, the second was a necklace which I set aside for a moment. Holding the symbol, I centered myself and focused on the light within me. I felt myself coax it, stirring it slightly. I could feel the energy, respond and resist as if a spoon were stirring in a liquid. After a second or two of this I mentally pushed the energy to the barrel.

Softly, the barrel began to fill with water in the first time in many years. The barrel was perhaps half full when the water stopped rising. I eagerly took a mug, and quietly submerged it in the barrel. I brought it to my lips and sipped. It was clean, fresh and sweet. The Gatehouse’s water all tasted of iron and rust but at least was safe. The same couldn’t be said of most sources in the Hive; and no one would dare would drink from the Ditch willingly. But this was the reason there were so many bars; the water had to be good enough to brew ale or beer. And so, drinking bub like that was far safer than water from unknown sources. Didn’t help the poor who couldn’t afford much in the way of bub though, but if you could drink bub when you wanted, it was a sign you were moving up in the world.

I moved and sat on the crate blocking the door, next to the ever vigilant Foggle, cup in hand. I quietly offered the owl a toast. Then, I sipped more of my creation and rested and waited for either Foggle to tell me, or the others roused themselves from their own slumber.

I put the symbol around my neck, and then regarded the necklace. It wasn’t much; a tangled knot of metal, grey in the darkness. In the light it was a mixture of loops; some gold, some silver. All knotted together, with a chain threading through the loops. I frowned; it was the only token of wealth I had beyond the few coins I carried in my pouch. The reality was it wasn’t originally mine; it belonged to Markell a Sensate that I…cared for.

No; that was a lie. I loved him. And I watched him slowly die in front me. I wasn’t sure what broke my heart more; his slow agonizing death or the discovery that he never loved me at all. I had sacrificed a lot for a lost cause, and I endured great pain as part of that sacrifice. But because of that, I took his necklace as a reminder.

Not to trust.
Not others.
Not yourself.

That was five years ago, and now I questioned the wisdom of it. Here I was in the darkness forced to trust others. Others that with all good intentions tried to save me from death. They could have easily left my corpse to rot in the plains, stripped of anything of value…including this neckless. But they didn’t; they found a way to return me to life. And they did it for less than love and they did it with no guarantee of reciprocation. They took a chance. That I was worth such a risk said much about their faith in me. And I found myself honored to be valued in that way.

And yet I loathed it. It was a debt of honor that I couldn’t easily repay. A debt with strings attached for us all, that imperiled us on so many levels. I felt trapped and afraid.

That I was being setup again.
That I wasn’t worthy of their trust.
That I still couldn’t trust my own instincts.

I sipped my water again and listened. My ears straining to hear something to distract me from my thoughts. Beyond the breathing in the room, nothing else was audible. Certainly not the sounds of the…thing that stalked the halls.

After an eternity had passed, Foggle started to move and made a solitary quiet “Beeppooo.” About time I was thinking. I flexed, and focused my energy on Foggle, and instantly his golden body flooded the room with a soft light. Then, I moved to gently wake Nestra and the others.

Everyone was sore; we didn’t have much between the floor and our skin. Looking over Daneath and Iesa, the magic I cast last night appeared to have made an impact. No open wounds remained on either human. Beepu handed out the last of the food that he had been carrying with him, and afterwards I showed everyone the barrel.

“What? You just drank out of it?” Iesa said dubiously.

“No, I created it.”

Beepu looked at me, “Your magic is peculiar,” and he took a deep drink “But certainly effective. But we need to find a way out. Fresh water is good, but more food is in order. And more light!”

“Well this temple can’t be that big,” Daneath said finishing buckling on the chain armor again. “We just need to avoid any more trouble. Iesa, help me move this out of the way.” And then the pair pulled the crate away from the door.

“Hey…I thought I tore this…” Iesa said looking at his breeches.

“I was bored last night,” I said.

He patted himself down, like he was trying to see if I bobbed him. Satisfied that everything was there he muttered “Well, what can’t you do?”

“Right now, food, and having a clear idea how to get out of here.”

“Well, as I recall Foggle found a passage past the open door at the end of the hall, and some doors beyond. Might as well start there.”

“Sounds like a plan. Light me Myr,” Daneath said having hefted the shield back onto his arm.

A quick flex, the warmth again and the light faded from Foggle, and once again, the shield would light our way. While I did this, Iesa listened again at the door, motioning us to remain quiet with his finger in front of his lips.

“Sounds clear,” and with that he opened the door to the darkened hall. Before entering it, he knelt down to look at the floor. Frowning his eyes swept back and forth, until finally he noticed something in the dust. Not in the middle of the hall, but near the edges. Parallel to the walls in front of us, and the wall near us were sets of prints. They were in a rough line, with round imprints in the dirt.

“Two track sets,” he said after a moment. “Must have been what you and I heard last night Myrai.”

I shook my head. “No. That’s just a large single track.”

“Wait no… “ and he looked again at the marks in the dust. His shoulders then sagged. “You’re right. It’s one big…spider I guess.”

“That’s larger than most horses!” Daneath said.

“Well let’s find a way out, before it finds us,” I said.

Iesa took the lead, with Daneath right behind, followed by Beepu, Nestra, and myself playing the rear guard. We quietly made our way to the partially open door. Without touching it, Iesa was easily able to move into the hall, with Daneath shining a light.

We all followed and found ourselves in a short hallway that ended just to our right, with a door in front of us, and a second one at the end of the hall on the far wall. To the left, the hall opened into a larger room, covered in webbing. With the barest sound of beating wings, Foggle flew into the darkened room.

Iesa had turned his attention down the short end of the hall when he exclaimed, “Well, who do have here?”

Daneath turned his shield towards Iesa, and what was once a shadowy hall with nearly formless shapes, now was lit with a very clear shape of a body on the ground.

Whoever it was, it seemed to meet an untimely end appearing to have fallen suddenly forward onto the stone floor, with an arm extended forward towards the wall. Its robe had nearly rotted away into dust, and the remains of its skin pulled taut against the bones of his face in the dry air. It still had the hairs of a moustache and beard attached.

Iesa was kneeling next to it, prodding the form with his sword. “He was stabbed in the back it appears…a long time ago. And before the spiders…no webs over him.”

“They must have come later,” Daneath said.

“Well…Foggle does not see anything but more webs and dusty furnishings. It winds a bit though.”

“Let’s check the doors here then,” and Daneath opened the door to the first room. The door made little sound, even though the hinges were dusty with disuse. Soon his shield revealed a sparse room, with the remains of some beds, and some open chests. The dust was thick here, and there were again no large spider webs in the room; just smaller cobwebs from normal spiders.

Daneath then moved to the other door and opened that one, it also making little sound. “Another resting chamber.”

“But that chest is closed…let me look at it!” and Iesa darted inside.
Meanwhile, in the darkened hall, I could see well enough. I moved past the nervous Nestra, and the distracted Beepu and knelt by the body. I placed a hand on its back and said a quick prayer:

You are never alone, in life or death,
May Death grant you peace.

Daneath looked at me, as he pointed his shield into the room and nodded simply. But as he looked at
the corpse his eyes furrowed. His head turned back and forth from between the outstretched arm, and the wall.

“What was he reaching for? It looks like he tried to move after he was struck down.” He kept looking at the wall, undecidedly. “Finish up in there, I need the light.”

“Done! Why? What did you find?”

Daneath lit the wall up with the shield. It looked unremarkable. A finished grey piece of stone. “I don’t know. Something?”

Iesa moved to the wall, and then looked at the corpse. Frowning, he traced his hands over the wall just below shoulder height. He then stopped, and then leaned close to the wall, with his cheek barely brushing the surface. He then pursed his lips and blew a steady stream of air. As he blew, a small cloud of dust appeared…as did a thin straight crack in the wall. He continued blowing, and several puffs later he was rewarded with the outline of a square, one hand high and one hand wide.

“That’s subtle,” I said impressed with the find.

“This is strange.” Beepu spoke up. “There is not an exit anywhere this direction. A bunch of desks and …a …I think I’ll have Foggle get…that!”

We looked at each other. “No exit…I bet this might open something.” Iesa said.

“Might as well,” Daneath said. “I really don’t want to back down to those Troglodytes if I don’t have to.”

Iesa nodded and pushed the square stone. It scraped the nearby stone softly, and he kept pushing until we all heard an audible click.

Then we heard a loud scraping sound, coming from the hallway we were in before. I moved over to look down it, and saw a door pivot outwards directly across from the storeroom that we had been sleeping in. It was even louder in the hall, as stone ground against stone as the door scraped itself open.

This got Beepu’s attention, “What is that racket?” and his eyes focused on the group again, and finally at Iesa. “What did you do?”

“He opened a door,” I said simply and I pointed.

We moved toward the still scraping door. It was now open at a right angle from the wall and was still opening. Shining down the opening, the shield revealed a long hallway, which turned to the left.
“That’s promising.” Iesa said, and he started to move down the hall. The rest of stood in the hall, and I was looking first towards the doorway we had just come from, and then I looked towards the hall leading back to the dry well. I was about to turn my head again, when I saw something move.
It was at the edge of my vision, but I saw…eyes. Eyes that had caught the light leaving the edge of the shield. Four…no eight glittering black orbs facing down the hall. And they were starting to move towards us.

“We have a problem…Move!” I said in a loud whisper.

Nestra just ran forward. Beepu turned to look down the hall, and I saw his eyes widen, and he took off down the hall shouting, “Big spider! Big Spider!”

I moved into the hall and Daneath backed into it with his shield in front of him. We both stood there a second, and we started looking at the side of the wall, looking for another trigger. We were looking at each other with wild eyes seeing nothing.

“Iesa!” we both shouted. “Do you see a switch or something?”

“What…no. I can’t see, bring the shield here!”

“That’s not happening,” Daneath shouted.

I felt the rush of air go by me, as Foggle flew over my head and almost got a face full of a leather satchel in the process.

“Sodding…trust me Daneath.” I flexed and shifted the light to the satchel as it flew by.
I could see Beepu’s face light up suddenly, at first perplexed and then nodding vigorously. “Light is here, Iesa” and grabbing the satchel he moved around the corner, with Nestra in tow.
Daneath was breathing heavily as I stood next to him, his arm poised to strike.

“You know I can’t see right?”

“I’ll be your eyes, I’m not leaving.” The spider was moving cautiously, but it was getting closer as the soft sounds in the hall grew ever so louder. I quickly peeked around the corner and with my vision saw it was half-way down the hall. It was slow and patient, certain we weren’t going anywhere.

“Iesa! Finding a switch would be good about now!” I shouted down the hall.

“I’m looking!”

Suddenly the spider scuttled sideways and was now in front of the open doorway. “Swing sword…BLOCK!” I shouted, while keeping one hand on Daneath’s back, so he knew where I was. He swung blindly with the sword, but the shield made solid contact with the forelegs of the spider batting it away. The spider was being cautious seeking its prey and it backed off. I quickly cast a bolt of energy at it, and the purple blast shot over the monstrosity, impacting the wall.

The flash was enough for Daneath to get a glimpse of his opponent and he swung again, knocking back a leg against raising his shield in time to prevent the spider from getting a hold of either of us.

Then, we heard the sudden scraping of the door, and the distant shout of “Found it!” from Iesa. The spider reacted to the loud noise and backed off from the closing doorway. It made no vocalization or sound beyond the scraping of its furred legs on the walls. If it was angry or frustrated it wasn’t clear. But it was unwilling to move towards the closing door. It backed off, moving backwards to the well room still facing us.

The door slowly shut in front of us, but I still spoke to Daneath acting as his sight. “It’s closed, we’re good.”

He nodded and turning around we could see the distant light from around the corner. Squinting a moment he spoke, “Well um…is the path ..”

“I’ll lead you for a bit…I don’t see anything that you would trip you.”

“Must be nice to able to see like that.”

I smile briefly, “It has its moments…still prefer real light. Come on.”

In a moment, I guided the large man down the hall and together we turned the corner where the rest stood looking at us.

“Well, glad you held the door,” Iesa said panting.

“It’s a good thing it didn’t know I couldn’t see. But a sword swinging blindly can look impressive I suppose,” Daneath responded.

“Can’t you make more of those lights?” Iesa asked.

Shaking my head, “No…only one at a time.”

“What about you Beepu?”

“Clearly he can’t” I said.

“How would you know?!” Beepu glared at me and started to waggle his finger at me.

“Because you would have done it already.”

Beepu stopped mid waggle and shut his mouth frowning. Finally, he said, “Good point. And correct.”
I finally looked past the others and saw that there was another doorway open in front of us, revealing a room.

“Anything inside there?”

“No, No. Foggle just did a fly by, and nothing appears to be in the room.”

“Well, that’s good. Shall we?” said Iesa.

Iesa then strode forward into the room, and suddenly there was a flash of light.

Session notes:
Light is a hassle. I was the only source, and course no torches or even a lantern to share. I’m pretty sure looking back at the notes, the we probably ignored the rules on light, until it was important. Like the spider. A lot of this was counter to most of the players experience, as the DM mentioned that the last several games all had races that could see in the dark. He also mentioned that there was always an elf, which made watches a bit more work.

That also highlighted that we didn’t share any language other than common. I don’t think that any of us spoke a language that we shared with another party member. That also rarely came up, but it did mean that we didn’t have a good way to share things privately…until later.

So why the fear of the spider? It was a CR 1 monster, and honestly, we felt “Fragile.” This was intended to be a gritty campaign, and while I managed to survive death once, no one want to repeat that. More importantly, we had it in our heads that the “weakest” person was Nestra. And if Nestra died, we would all be up the creek.

1433
 

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