Monday, September 25, 2006

Dorben, Entry 21 ---15th Flamerule--- We press the attack, lose a good deal of blood, claim some ground and gain a bit of insight

Adventure Journal of Dorben Wainfoster
15th Flamerule (evening), The Year of the Haunting

---Well then, it seems we have once again survived a day of adventure and seized a few moments of respite for ourselves in an impromptu camp. Though I believe this is the first time our camp site has been a storage room that is technically still in use. But again, my writing has gotten ahead of my explaining.

First and foremost, Kaliki and Euphestas have been drawn away from our company; hopefully only temporarily. Our first indication that anything was amiss was an energy field that enveloped only those two of our company. For some reason we all seemed to feel the same assurance that this was not an attack but simply Our Keep making its first claim upon our time. Within the energy field, they slowly turned translucent before finally disappearing altogether. I am sure they will be returned to us once the Keep no longer has need of them.

After their departure we concluded our momentary rest and continued on. Nia’s little crystalline companion, Bug, was slipped between the doors we had used to block off entry to the lower stairwell so it might reconnoiter for us. Bug reported back seeing a large self-motivated device that was digging up and sifting through a great deal of sand and some silvery material. Further, Bug informed us of an apparently empty suit of armor walking about down there.

It seemed of note that this armor was missing a gauntlet and its design seemed to match a gauntlet we had found in the black draconian’s nest. I hadn’t mentioned this gauntlet in my previous writing because we thought it little more than an oddity of some artistic value. But Nia tentatively recalled hearing of an entire suit of armor of said design. I believe she said that during her younger days she had heard her father speak of an ancient Rashemi prince whose armor was said to be made of platinum, gilded and encrusted with jewels. Judging from the gauntlet, it would appear that this armor is literally a work of art. The armor inadvertently stepped on poor Bug for a moment as it went about its unknown errands but then moved on without noticing. I wonder as to what might possibly be motivating that armor. Hopefully we may be able to learn the answer to that question when we have time to explore the lower reaches of the tower later.

Our explorations returned then to the bits of treasure acquired and the trapdoors found beneath the nests. There were several small bags that we took time to examine. Bug had returned to us from his scouting trip and indicated that the silvery dust found within the bundles looked to be the same as what it (he?) saw being sifted from the sand below us. I took a closer look at this substance and then realized at what I was looking. Until today I had only seen and felt its like during my days being tutored in the metallurgical aspects of alchemical theory. I feel certain that it was PURE mithral dust which I felt sifting past my fingertips. Three pouches, each one weighing perhaps half of a pound. I believe those three pouches alone constitute a small fortune. It would seem the device in the cellars below us is procuring a king’s ransom in mithral. But one wonders; for whom?

Our investigation of the “archer’s galleries” proved somewhat puzzling. As expected, the small bunkers were simple rooms, partitioned to protect archers from damage that might befall their neighbor. Illandria spotted a small secret niche within the wall of the first bunker and then found a similar compartment in the other. The first niche was empty but within the other was found a bundle of master crafted arrows. We distributed these amongst our archers as their supply had been somewhat taxed. The puzzling thing about these bunkers was the sand which had accumulated several inches deep upon the floor and clung to most all surfaces. I have heard travelers relate tales of great storms in the deserts which project sand at great velocity. It occurs to me that perhaps somehow that is what happened in these bunkers. We discovered an amount of sand below the arrow slits in the entry hallway as well but with no other clues available to us we were unable to draw any certain conclusions.

I had thought it might be prudent for us to quickly retreat to the West Gate town for some specific resupply. Kaliki’s bardic song, or counter-song as the case may be, and the Silence spells of Euphestas proved very, very useful against the howling sonic attacks of our foes. With support from neither song nor silence presently available it seemed wise to perhaps see to the purchase of scrolls or a wand of Silence to bolster our encroachment into enemy territory. The treasure we had found so far seemed of enough value to provide us with plentiful funds. My comrades pointed out the obvious holes in my logic which had evaded me. However long it might take us to return to West Gate, find the merchants we need and return to the tower, our enemies would have that time to strengthen their defenses. My good comrades were, of course, correct. The last thing we wanted was to give kobolds time enough to build traps at their leisure. We weighed our options and decided it would be best to press our attack. At the least, we wished to push upward to the next floor to see if we might by some luck find a more defensible position there.

Our next stop was that first upper landing. It struck me that it had been a good idea to remove the bodies to the lower entryway. The landing was crowded enough as it was. Thinking it might possibly be useful, we retrieved the smaller draconian’s body for use as a makeshift shield. The contraption put together by Euphestas to hold the door had evidently done its job. We disabled the device as our gnomish friend had directed us and made ready to enter. Aedron held the draconian corpse before him as he forced the door. But the door would not open fully. The draconian body took the brunt of at least one rather large crossbow bolt in those first moments. The kobolds had been busy as it turned out. A rather simple but quite effective wedge kept the door from opening beyond ninety degrees, effectively walling us off from the hallway to our left. This brought us to momentary loggerheads at the entry and we found ourselves facing a hastily erected waist high barricade wall. Said wall was “manned” by another group of kobold arbalesters. The little buggers were armed with siege crossbows! It was the first of several surprises we would encounter this day. Kobolds armed with siege crossbows, let alone skilled in their use, is just not an everyday occurrence.

Surprisingly enough, our initial entry might have gone much worse if not for the size of those siege crossbows. The kobolds were forced to use wall mounts or bipods to brace their weapons and only one had been able to prepare before we forced entry. This is not to say we did not take punishment from breaching that doorway. It was simply not those bloody miniature spear launchers which caused our pain so much as it was the lizardkin and kobold monks. Yes, monks. Again, as I said, surprises did abound for us this day.

The kobold crossbow squad was quickly dispatched after Nia flipped and tumbled over their heads, turned and decimated their ranks from behind with her energy missiles. I believe Aedron knocked loose the rest of the crossbows from their mounts with the thrown body of the draconian as he stepped forward. There were no more kobolds with crossbows by the time I was able to join the fray. But the kobold and lizardkin monks proved more than problematic. They bloody well tripped us! How is one expected to fight while repeatedly finding oneself staring up at the ceiling from the flat of your back and wondering what just happened? It really was QUITE frustrating.

At first our archers gave us continual support from the stair landing while Aedron, Nia and I fought en melee. I believe Illandria must have become frustrated with the humanoid monks snatching her arrows from midair as she soon entered the fight with hand weapons. Meg reduced the lizardman to a shadow of its former self with a Searing Light spell. We were making progress against the kobold monk at that point as well. But the annoying little monster continued to get lucky and repeatedly avoided our swings. I had been occupied during most of the fight casting Curative spells. I believe may have swung my mace thrice and connected perhaps but once. But I fulfilled my purpose and kept my comrades from death’s door. I must remember to send a letter of thanks to my tutor who showed me how to use my Curing spells more effectively. That ability was of inestimable value today. In my estimation, with no hubris intent, at least one of my companions or I, and most likely more, would have been forced from the mortal coil this day if not for the healing spells granted me.

Aedron chased the kobold monk almost completely around the circuit of the hall in his attempt to bring the little blighter to an end. At this point I should describe how this floor is lain out for it was at this point that we had a “whirlwind tour”. The door from the landing opens through the north wall in the northwest corner of a hallway circumscribing a large square with several doors spaced about the outer perimeter. The hallway, approximately ten feet in width and slightly more in height, encloses a central area entered via an open archway in the middle of the eastern interior wall. Within this interior section a grand stairway sweeps up and around the interior of both the north and south walls to a large landing/room on the level of the next floor.

As I said, Aedron gave chase to the fleeing reptile nuisance. The rest of us caught up with the pursuit as it was coming to its culmination within that grand stair foyer. The kobold monk had evidently leapt from the upper landing and was climbing a bell rope that pierced the ceiling above. The kobold might even have made good its escape as the bell rope was fairly large as ropes go and the hole it entered in the ceiling was slightly larger. The kobold may very well have had enough room to wiggle through. But Aedron did not give him a chance. He put an arrow straight through the little invader and finally finished him off.

We had gone back to our first entry point to asses the enemy fallen when we were attacked from behind. This was another lizardkin, male I believe, and its attacks reminded me somewhat of Nia’s psionic powers. Nia identified them as definitely so. And thus yet another “happy” surprise of our venture presented itself. (I do truly believe that there needs to be a punctuation mark so that one might easily indicate sarcasm in writing.) Vicious cunning is to be expected from lizardkin but mind magic is definitely NOT. Ah well, one lives, one learns, and one takes more steps along the path set before them.

The psionic lizardman absconded back around the northeast corner and through a doorway nearly at the terminus of the eastern wall. We gave chase, pausing only momentarily as Aedron was forced to chop through the doorway. It took him two blows but just barely. The door was thick wood, not the iron bound behemoths at the main entrance but still respectable. We found ourselves in a dining hall, the lizardman almost half the hall’s distance away back to the north. The creature made what certainly appeared to be a mocking gesture and then simply disappeared. At first we thought him simply invisible and tried several blind swings but that was not effective. Then we heard a noise from above and thought it must have used some magic to teleport to the floor above.

We thought to press the attack upstairs before the lizardman psion, as Nia called him, could carry the alarm and rouse the entire floor against us. We raced from the dining hall for the grand stair. With the ability of my boots, I was able to keep up with my comrades’ speed. As most seemed to be ascending by the southern stair, I decided to use the northern sweep so as to afford a pincer movement. I fully expected to soon be faced with troops pouring onto that upper landing. What I did not expect was the crumbling of the stone stair beneath me and the spiked pit into which I found myself pitched.

I found the pain to be really quite intense. Spiked pits are not built for the comfort of the target after all. I do not know if I could have climbed out without the assistance of my good friends. And I know my further usefulness would have come to an end right there and then if not for our healing wand. I could stand, but not easily, when first they hauled me out of that deucedly clever pit trap. The healing spells had me able to carry on once again, soon enough.

From that point on we decided to move more cautiously. Aedron took point and soon spotted another trap just where the stair landing became a three walled room, extending to the outer wall where it was pierced by arrow slits. Perhaps “traps” would be a more accurate term. Aedron pointed out how the entirety of the floor beyond the landing was crisscrossed with hair thin trip wires. From there he pointed out how the lines continued upwards to where we could see a multitude of clay jars suspended from the ceiling. It was only then that we noticed an acrid smell in the air which we soon traced to the pots. We are fairly certain that each contains a measure of some virulent acid. Aedron is at least equally sure that disabling this trap is beyond his abilities. He believes that tripping one wire would most likely begin a chain reaction that would send all the pots smashing to the floor. And with both Sa’d and Euphestas currently away from us it seemed advisable to leave the trap be. We ascertained that it would be possible to set off the trap with a well placed shot from the archway or hall just beyond but this would of course leave a fairly large amount of acid sloshing about underfoot. A good way to ruin one’s boots and one’s day, that.

It was decided that we would leave the breaching of the upper floor for later, after we had perhaps had time to prepare some counteragent for the acid at least. We set to exploring the current floor, again, in hopes of finding other access to the upper floors. We began at the entry from the lower floor and proceeded south along the western hallway. Finding the first and next door locked reminded us to finish a chore we had started earlier. We collected the bodies of our enemies for removal to the lower floor and checked their gear for any useful items. We did indeed find a ring of keys that looked to be just what we needed.

The keys did indeed prove to fit the doors’ locks. The first three doors along the western hallway were storage rooms. The first loaded with barrels of water and wine, the next with blankets and linens and the third with dry good food stuffs. The linen closet had been ransacked by the kobolds for some reason. It looked as if they had been searching for something perhaps. The door in the southwest corner, south wall, opened onto a cozy and well appointed kitchen. And a kitchen still in use it seemed. There was a pot of vegetable stew still simmering away on the stove top. This was not some half burned remnant left when the tower staff fled. No; this was freshly made and well enough tended.

As I was examining the stew to make sure it held only non-lethal vegetables and no “suspicious” bits of meat, Aedron quietly caught our attention. He indicated a lower cupboard door that seemed to be shivering almost imperceptibly. Weapons readied, Aedron flung open the door and we found a kobold youngling, possibly male, clinging to the towel ring attached to the inside of the cupboard door. The little creature was by all indications scared beyond its wits end.

Aedron pulled the kobold pup loose from its death-grip on the accoutrements and we could see it wasn’t quite as young as we had at first supposed. Perhaps half the size of the kobolds we had fought so far this day, I would hazard a guess that its age was near about that of young adolescence but little more. Aedron held the stripling suspended by the scruff of its collar while Meg questioned it in draconic. As far as Meg could ascertain, the creature knew next to nothing of the situation and therefore was of no real worth to us as a prisoner. We debated what next to do with our diminutive captive. After all, it was apparently a noncombatant in this whole affair. More than likely little more than a camp follower of some type. We elected to simply take the adolescent down to the front entrance of the tower and release it, with admonishment to run far and away and bother us no more. We did thus and it quickly became a small dot scurrying into the distance.

We returned to the kitchen to continue the exploration. Upon entering we heard a sound from around the interior corner. We found there a door that we assumed led to some larder or other. It was certain by now that the sound we were hearing was a fairly pleasant humming of some unknown ditty. With weapons readied we opened the door and found an odd sight; a tallish male humanoid, thin, with light green complexion and wearing formal attire. “Butler” was the first word that came to mind when I saw that uniform and felt the custodial air of authority this individual seemed to carry about his person.

The green gentleman was in the process of carefully laying out tea leaves to dry in a room which looked to be made for storage and preparation of more delicate provender just such as that. He seemed to barely take notice of our presence other than to hold one finger aloft as if to say, “I assure you that I will be with you in just one moment” silently and politely. Being that we are not simply blood-thirsty mercenaries, we did indeed allow him his moment. This is not to say we trusted him fully as yet. We kept weapons ready to hand in case he made any motion whatsoever of violent intent.

He finished the duty before him and turned to address us. Upon seeing him more fully, it seemed to me that there was a very definite draconian cast to his features. I think of the Jade clans perhaps? Also, he has a definite feeling of power about him; perhaps from his draconian blood or perhaps not. I am unsure. In hushed tones, a butler through and through, he asked how he might be of service. We made polite introductions and after a few questions ascertained that this gentle was G’laern by name; personal servant of Master Kelso. We detected no prevarication on G’laern’s part and dealt with him as a rightful representative of the master of this tower.

It seems the invader’s troops do not interfere with G’laern as he goes about his daily duties tending to Master Kelso’s needs. As G’laern put it, “A painful lesson that they learned early on.” G’laern informed us that the leaders of the invading force are attempting to negotiate with Master Kelso. He was not however privy to the particulars of these negotiations. When we asked if it would be possible for us to speak with Master Kelso, G’laern said that would be difficult. While the invaders do not interfere with him, they do still have control of the rest of the tower. G’laern felt certain that any attempt on our part to gain audience with Master Kelso would surely be met with very forceful resistance by the enemy.

Considering how badly used up we felt our travails so far this day had left us, we thought it best not to push our luck. We asked to make sure G’laern would not be troubled if we were to make ourselves a temporary camp here on this floor. The look on his face was quizzical. We explained that we had come as liberators, not simply another invading force. I believe I may have detected the slightest trace of a pleased smile upon G’laern’s carefully neutral countenance when he said that it was not a problem with which he needed to worry himself. He even turned down our offer to return the ring of keys we had recovered from the kobolds earlier. He said that he felt they would prove much more useful to us than to him. Asking G’laern to keep our location and particulars in his confidence, we took our leave. He assured us as we left his company that the invading forces did not take it upon themselves to speak with him and so he did not feel our presence would come up in passing conversation. I do hope our trust in G’laern is well placed.

A bit more exploration of this floor turned up no more enemy troops although we did find trace of one we thought long departed. We found the secondary door of the dining hall had been left open in our absence. Illandria found tracks of a lizardkin and followed them as quickly as we could. The tracks led to the lower floor and outside. There the trail became somewhat plainer on the open ground and it seemed clear what had happened. The lizardman psion we had thought teleported away had simply turned itself invisible and then avoided our clumsy attempts to locate it with blind swings of our weapons. From there it would have been simplicity to wait for an opportunity to make good its escape. We can only keep our guard sharp in case the psion might return.

In our final exploration of the utility floor we found another kitchen, at the south-east corner, near the large dining hall and connected to it through the hall’s south wall. This kitchen was a bit less cozy, a bit more sparse and utilitarian. I would guess that this somewhat larger kitchen is for the feeding of the novitiates and possibly any staff other than G’laern. At the north end of the dining hall we found yet another door, this one giving access to a storage room full of utilitarian linens, tableware and the like.

The final door we investigated, in the northern wall a short distance east of the entry from the stair, led to the largest storage room yet. The room is full of larger hard goods; crates of varied sizes, bed frames, tools and even some lumber and hardware. Being that this is one of the few rooms large enough to accommodate all of us as well as having only one entrance, we have chosen to use it as our base camp for the moment. The lumber and hardware have provided us with material enough to construct barricades of our own as well as a few devices to afford us some early warning of enemy approach. Our own vigilance will serve as our main defense however. We will post night watches as normal this evening. I believe that is all for now. By my Lady’s grace, I shall write again soon.

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