PBeM report 6 ~ Long Winter Shadows – A Single Step

Continuing the events detailed in the gripping scroll of Marlin Tyrell’s autobiographical tale, “The Kobold Lair”

 GM: …our tale continues…

 Clearly in a lot of pain, and likely owing you his life for your quick thinking in dousing him in the common area’s cistern, the juniour dwarf grips your wrist tightly, trying to speak. The skin on his neck, shoulders, and running down his arm, is crisp and brittle. Reddish foam is thick upon his swollen and baked-looking lips.

 At the foot of the bed, the elder dwarf glowered balefully about the room. If you didn’t know better, you might think he had the look of a trapped and beaten animal…

 The prisoners are mostly quiet now, but a few voices are insistently, though weakly, calling out for rescue. The slain bodies of the guard captain and the chieftain, lay in mute, broken testimony to the violence which ruled here mere moments before, in a way which serves to heighten, not diminish, the grievous wounds of your new traveling companions.

 The room is in the same disarray it was when you left it earlier. The objects once displayed on the desk, are scattered across the stone floor, with its small rug which somehow escaped your notice earlier. The map you had taken down is rolled up beside the bed. You had left it on the desk with the other bits of parchment and writing implements which had caught your eye, but it seems to have unwound itself a little and in so doing, rolled off the desk to stop aligned with the edge of the deceased captain’s cot, without rolling under it.

 The small, matching lamps which once adorned the corners of the desk, have surprisingly not leaked their fuel out over the floor, and might be possible to relight. The very dim light sources near the roof are not bright enough for you to inspect the details of the room. The distant awareness of the Ley Line feels maddeningly just out of reach.

 Against the North wall there is a closed cabinet of polished wood. The secret door to the ‘liver-shaped room’ lies in the South West corner. The other secret door, lies most of the way up the wall above the bed, on the East wall.

 The desk is in front of the south wall, in front of where the map had been placed. It has two large drawers, and one thin central drawer. This latter drawer has a key hole.

 Catching eyes with the elder dwarf, he holds his hand up to prevent you from speaking first. “Ah know…  it appears tha’ there may be a wee bit more’n than the nine or ten guards Ah mentioned. Let’s just say Ah was misinformed an’ leave it at tha’, shall we?”

While it does not sound anything like an apology, it just might be one. There is a good chance it is not to you, either – or at least not entirely… seeing as how you lack injury or apparent sign of duress, and his son lies near death between you.

Player the first:

I will make soothing sounds and offer (possibly pointless) words of encouragement to the son, trying to get him to lay back and rest, all the while detaching myself from his grip. His passing does not seem imminent, but still perilously close and it is a shame that I do not actually know his name, nor the father’s.

With that in mind, to the father, I will say, “Agreed. And yet, several decisions await us.”

I cross to close the door to the prison hall. “We cannot leave those men in there much longer, with neither food nor water, and I do not want to assume the mantle of gaoler to provide such. Nor can we simply let them out and have them leave the way we entered or wander through these halls. There must be another way out of this pit, one that we have yet to find.”

I lean on the staff, clearly uninjured but bone weary nonetheless. After a deep breath I will pick up the lamps and put them on the desk, and see if there is any way to light them.

“I am drained and can wield but few spells. I need rest, and you both need medical attention. Should the fighting continue, I would suggest you don yon Kobold chief’s armour, but I warn you, I am all but useless for a while. On the other hand, there may be a few in there who can help us find a way out of here. There are some weapons in the guardroom that they could use… However trusting any of those prisoners to back us in a fight is a very big gamble.”

 I intend to investigate this room, in the off chance that there are supplies of some sort here that may help my companions. It would be about mid-morning, nigh on noon now, I think and we are probably hungry (despite our foray into the kitchen and Kobold pantry) and thirsty. I have the Captain’s keys which hopefully will open doors and drawers that may yield something of hope. As it is, we have some big decisions to make. I will listen to whatever advice Daddy Foulmouth has to offer.

GM:

The mess across the floor is chaotic enough to make using the Captain’s keys to open the desk seem like the most appealing first step in looking for flint to light the lamps. If it’s on the floor, searching will be time consuming and annoying in your present condition. Still, one does what one must in these trying times…

It is a simple matter to find the one odd key which opens the desk drawer, and the action on the lock is smooth. Inside the central drawer are well-crafted writing implements, ink, parchment in varying sizes, of both high and low quality, a list of some sort in a language you do not recognize arranged on what may be a calendar…  a duty roster?  The flint and a taper for the lamp are neatly in a channel near the front of the drawer designed to hold them.

Getting the lamps lit helps alleviate some of the oppressiveness of the gloom, but does nothing for the rising smell of burned flesh and corpses. In the greater light, you can see that most of what is scattered across the floor are the remains of an intricate wooden model which may have been a 3 dimensional model of this complex. It is smashed to its component parts, but a section of small sticks carefully glued together, puts you in mind of a piece of wall in the liver room…

The two larger drawers open easily now that the central drawer has been unlocked. In the left drawer are two skins with thick wax seals on the stoppers. They are unmarked, but they put you in mind of wine. Four hardened leather travel cups rest neatly in the front left corner of the same drawer. Under the two skins, a strangely-shaped, oblong bottle of smokey glass rests on on its flattest surface at the bottom of the drawer, filled with what appears to be an amber fluid. The mouth of the bottle is stopped with a cork. In the right drawer, there are two small metal chests, locked with padlocks. One is square and about the size of a man’s head. The other is rectangular and is approximately 30cm long, 10 cm high, and 15cm wide. A piece of parchment with more of the unknown language resides with them, with symbols arranged neatly in columns and rows. The key ring, has several keys which might fit these pad locks. As there are no wards on the padlocks, it seems safe to open them.

The wooden cabinet in the corner is a weapons locker, which is nearly empty apart from a short bow with 2 quivers of arrors, and oil and clots for maintenance. Hooks and slots cleverly worked into the layout of the interior provide spaces for the weapons and armor he was employing at the time of his death. The bottom of the cabinet has one large drawer which contains a variety of leather bags and harnesses for personal gear transport, such as belt pouches, sheathes, straps, cords, a backpack, and a few sacks. Wedged tightly against the right side of the drawer are waxed-paper packages bound in twine, that could be rations… of indeterminate age. The room makes you feel that the Captain was a fastidious little monster, though, so perhaps whatever lies wrapped within is edible.

Mindful of the blood seeping ever so slowly across the floor, you scoop up the map of the world to place it safely on the desk. As you do so, your fingers brush across the unmistakable feel of a metal chest or foot locker under the cot.

Looking under the cot reveals a battered but durable-looking chest inscribed with more of the same language – the Kobolds’ tongue presumably – fastened with leather bands and buckles and one small lock. The signs of long miles of travel are clearly etched into its corners and surfaces. It may have once been covered in a thin layer of leather, but those days are long past. A key on the ring seems like it might fit the lock. The chest is about 1m long by 500cm high, by 500cm wide. There is nothing else under the cot.

 As you move about the room, poking into drawers and whatnot, the elder dwarf responds to your comments.

“Aye… if we let them go now, they’ll jus’ git into trouble… or steal my ponies. Not only tha’ but there are terrible things afoot in this section o’ the valley, an’ a man armed with nought but his fists, is nothing but a meal on legs….  but, Ah fear that we are in no’ much better a shape our own selves…. the trouble with priests, you know is tha’ they are always aroun’ when you don’t need them, but never aroun’ on those few occasions when you do. Bastards.

Player the first:

“Do we dare check on the prisoners now? Doubtful at best that there is a healer among them… but maybe there is a fighter or two. Or maybe ’tis best to let them be until we can better protect them once free of here. Ye gods, but I am tired… I don’t know how you can stay on your feet.”

I silently offer the whisky and wine to Daddy Foulmouth. He needs a drink and the son could probably use a painkiller himself. The rations should go to the dwarves first as loss of blood does make a man (or dwarf) hungry. That is, if they are indeed rations, and edible ones at that. A bit of wine will surely help, but nothing short of several solid hours of sleep will get me back to fighting capacity, and it is almost a certainty that we don’t have that much time on hand. The longer we wait, the greater the likelihood of curious Kobolds surprising us. We need to take the fight to them, or clear out of here and re-group. Neither option seems feasible at the moment as moving Sonny would likely be the last thing he does. And I cannot in good conscience abandon the prisoners.

I will suggest we strip the bodies of weapons and armour and dump them outside the south-wall secret door. Hopefully it will cast doubt on the wisdom of disturbing the occupants of the room (us) by enraged cooks, Kobold-ajummas, and any ward-wielding wizards (them). It will, at the same time, hopefully make this room less… disturbing. Crispy Kobold is no good inducement for dwarven recovery. Maybe the rug can be used to sop most of the blood.

Even though I cannot read Kobold, I should be able to reason out how many guards were on duty at any given time, and from that how many there are stationed here. That might provide us with a better idea of what we are facing. I will also attempt to open all boxes, cabinets, and trunks to see what we have here. In the desk I suspect we will find coins, probably guardsmen’s pay. I will hazard a guess that the paper there is an accounting of such. The footlocker/trunk will hopefully reveal some more weapons that we can use, or can at least make use of; wax-sealed jars of “Insta Heal” would be too much to ask for, sadly. From the bags and packs in the travel gear, I think we can safely store all valuables such as ink, parchment, flint and tinder (even the lamps when we are done with them). We can also consider gathering the weapons from the guardroom, and possibly moving those bodies as well. Those doors to the arena surely will have other exits to many areas throughout the complex. It is a shame the model is destroyed, but we can at least be certain that there is much, much more to be explored and more Kobolds to be dealt with and the many points of entry to this area must be secured. Tired yes, but there is still much, much to do.

GM:

The small chests in the drawers do indeed contain coins. The larger, a mixture of different types of coins – mainly silver, but gold and copper as well, arranged in neat rows in cloth rows and trays designed for the purpose.

The smaller has two pouches suitable for wearing on a belt, or carrying in a pack. One contains coins from the Timiro Kingdom and Wolfen Empire, and a few from the Dominion of Man. Most are silver, convenient for travellling. There seem to be some gems at the bottom of the pouch. The larger has gold coins, mostly from Timiro, and good gems.

The chest under the cot does not kill you or in any way present mystical barriers to its opening. Inside, you find normal living tools of a soldier – metal implements, folding camp chair, cloths, bandages, cleaning alcohol, blankets, flint and tinder, a small folio which seems to have coats of arms and other sigils  inside arrayed in and around text in a language you do not recognize. In the back, in a waterproof leather scroll case, you find a sealed scroll, marked with an alchemist’s sigil, bound with a simple ribbon. In the corner of the scroll in Elven you read: For the reduction and easing of bodily harm (3).

 Player the first:

“Ahh, now that is more like it!” I exclaim. I take out the sealed scroll. “More of this wirld endin’; magic, but this time, ’twill save your son!” and flash Daddy Foulmouth a grin. “There are three spells of healing enscrolled here that should be enough to bring your son back from the brink and fix you up as well. That is if you are not opposed to it…” I stare at the scroll in my hand for a bit. “I know that it is possible for a wizard to learn a spell from a scroll but it is hard… and dangerous. With three here…” and let that thought trail off.

Once we see to healing the dwarves, then we can discuss loot, prisoners, etc.

GM:

It looks like he might have more to say, but the dwarf merely nods, and waves a meaty hand toward the bed.  

Slitting the seal with a thumb, you unroll it only slightly, as you were taught by Cadmius… repeatedly. Again, as with the note on the outer edge of the scroll, is a notation in Elven indicating that three inscriptions of ‘For the reduction and easing of bodily harm’ are recorded hereon.

Unbidden the dry, and contemptuously up-tight, tones of your mentor in the magical arts sounds in your head as you shift your grip on the scroll to unfurl and read it. Once you begin the incantation as laid out on the scroll, you will be unable to stop or pause, else the magic will be lost and the inscription wasted.

Taking a deep breath, and clearing your throat, you focus your attention on the younger dwarf, hold his image clearly in your mind, and begin to read from the first inscription on the scroll in a steady, even tone.

The release of energy from the inscription is as bizarre to you as it always is – coming as it does through the filter of the scroll. An immediate effect can be seen as crisped flesh takes on a lighter tone, and more supple appearance. Blood wells up into the flesh, and sores and scrapes begin to knit together. While more healing will be needed, good progress has been initiated. (9 SDC restored, and 5 HP).

Not an expert by any means, but not unfamiliar with magical healings, it seems likely to you that your good work will be wasted to blood loss, and the severity of the injuries if another incantation is not attempted. Moving forward to do so, you unroll the scroll down to the second inscription, and carefully read it as you did the first. Again, distantly and strangely, the energies are released and flow through and around you as they target and penetrate the injured dwarf.  The burns’ angry colour fades to red, and the skin seems much more like dwarven skin, and not the skin of a baked potato. (10 SDC restored, and 4 HP).

The younger dwarf slips into a deep sleep, his breathing untroubled, and his brow unfurrowed.

There is one inscription left, and the elder dwarf’s wounds still to tend.

Player the first:

I turn to Daddy Foulmouth and ask him to sit comfortably. “I dare not risk this last scroll by trying to learn the spell, for such is at best a risky procedure and one most likely to doom us all. I would indeed rather use it to help you, and thereby help us all.”

That being said, I will cast the scroll spell on Daddy and then hopefully try to get a few hour’s rest…

GM:

“Tha ends justify the means, lad?” he asks, as he eases himself down on the narrow foot of the bed. “Give thanks tha span o’ years your race has been allotted is so short, for that is how it always begins.” 

There doesn’t seem to be any malice in his words, but the permanent frown on his face always seems to make even his most jovial comments like “Eat!” seem to be pronouncements of doom.

He nods when he is comfortable and looks over at his son while you unroll the scroll and for the third time focus your waning attention on reading clearly and steadily to release the chained forces in the script.

Keeping the elder dwarf’s image in your mind, you sound out the incantation in a sonorous chant, and feel the successful release of the imprisoned curative effect pass over and around you and into the dwarf. The nasty burns on his chest lose their ferocious redness, and the myriad welts, scratches, and cuts about his arms and chest clot, or close. (11 SDC restored, 4 HP)

The scroll in your hands is now, apart from the title, as blank as the day it was made. Pristine, and powerless.

“Rest, lad. I’ll keep watch…” the dwarf says, and turns his face to the door. “You are no coward, and can be relied on in a fight. For any man…dwarf or human man, to be that, is no shame to his family, or the name of his father. Rest easy, and prepare to see this to the end with me.”

If you have nothing more to say to him, then you can roll up in travel blankets to rest for as long as it’s possible.

Player the first:

I bow at the compliment and curl up in the travel blankets to sleep. At this proximity to the ley line, I should be able to replenish my PPE in about 6 hours sleep. While that is a long time for the dwarf to watch, it should also allow him to heal a bit more now that the worst of the wounds have closed. The staff will be mostly recharged by that time too. If I can get that much sleep undisturbed then we will be ready to tackle the rest of the warren.

GM:

Quiet settles around you as you prepare yourself to meditate. There are many things in your thoughts which need to be cleared away before that is possible. Each deep breath takes you closer and closer to that place where everything makes sense. Sadly, but two short hours pass before your small group is interrupted…

 To be continued around a table as God intended.

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