Saturday, February 03, 2007

Dorben, entry 32 ---Midsummer Day--- So many rooms, so many enemies, so little time

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Adventure Journal of Dorben Wainfoster
Midsummer Day, The Year of the Haunting
Evening Addendum


---I do believe that old adage about “adventuring makes for strange bedfellows” is not quite accurate. At least for this day, it might be more pertinent to say that adventuring has led to strange sleeping arrangements; more specifically, where we are about to lay our heads. Our bedrolls are currently little more than thirty feet from one of the more powerful and reviled members of the giantish races, an ogre magus. But again, I have gotten ahead of myself.

We had been discussing among ourselves, as it seems we do so often lately, what part of the Keep to explore next. The decision was made to explore the final floor of the curtain tower we have been planning to use as a base camp, therefore securing our quarters. As we approached the third floor we were able to detect some light escaping under the base of the door. Other than some curiosity, we thought little more of it at the time. Sa’d, Aedron and Nia worked together to check the entrance for traps and when they found none, I used the Key to unlock the door. We were not cautious enough in opening the door and time restarted right at that moment. Apparently the restart of time flow released an attack spell that had been at its moment of release. Judging by the flash, the tingling of nerves afterwards and the injuries, I would guess it as some type of lightning sphere. All of our number were seriously hurt but Illandria bore the worst brunt of the eruption, her unconscious form falling backward into my arms. We retreated long enough to treat our wounded and then returned to our explorations. Although there did not appear to be much of anything to explore beyond that door as it turned out.

The room was bare; devoid of any furnishing, decoration or embellishment. In fact it appeared that the room had fairly recently been thoroughly cleaned. Even the hinges on the shutters covering the arrow loops looked to have been recently oiled. Our initial instincts were to prepare for an invisible caster or something along those lines but nothing of the like came to our attention. A spell of Detect Magic did reveal at least five auras of differing strengths to me; two minor, one moderate, one strong and one very strong. Beyond that, I could not ascertain.

We spread out to search for possible hidden doors. Suddenly Sa’d and Illandria turned to look toward the same point in the room, saying that they had heard some sort of a popping sound. In the direction they were peering, near the wall had appeared a half dozen small figurines. On closer examination the figures turned out to be an assortment of black chess pieces; a Pawn, Knight, Bishop, Rook, Queen and King. They were scattered as if they had simply been knocked from some nearby gaming table but we found no evidence of any such. Curious, each of us took up one of the pieces for a closer look. And quite a closer look that turned out to be. The pieces are too light to be stone but too heavy to be wood and on further examination we determined that they seem to be bone. But unstained bone of a black color, which to me seems to indicate the creature of origin might have been something from the outer planes. Not necessarily infernal but almost certainly extraplanar. The substance carried no taint of evil still within them as far as any of us could determine and simply appeared to be bone that just happened to be black in coloration. Seeing no hazard apparent, each of us selected one of the pieces and we carry them even now. Of course, it was the Bishop that came into my possession. My friends all felt that was fitting.

Shortly after the appearance of the chess pieces all of us began to feel a tingling. It felt outside the norm but not necessarily unpleasant. Illandria and I felt concerned enough to retreat from the room and observe from the doorway. As the others continued to search, Nia began to open the shutters over the arrow loopholes, including those over the loopholes in the doors leading to the wall walks. As she opened the last shutter, light poured. But the light did not behave as normal. It seemed to connect and coalesce into an apparently solid column of light at the center of the room. Aedron leaned forward for a closer look and a man shaped piece of light separated itself from the column and streaked away. We only saw it for the barest of moments but it appeared to be the shape of a veritable bull of a man formed completely of light. It seemed we had only just registered the existence of the column and the departure of the man of light when five more beings of light sprang from the column and zipped away in separate directions. Again we only barely had a chance to see the creatures in passing and could glean little more than the more or less vague impression of roughly human size and shape as they sped away almost faster than the eye could follow.

Thinking that we might have a chance to get a closer look if we were prepared, Sa’d retrieved the mirror he had been rewarded with from our journey to the mountains not so long ago. He quickly explained that it could send a person through time and turned its powers upon me. Unfortunately, he had remembered incorrectly and I was sent forward in time, not back. At least that is what I was told. From my own point of view there was little more than a lurching sensation and my friends had changed positions slightly but that was it. I think I shall remember to question Sa’d more closely as to his intentions when it comes to using magic from now on.

The column of light turned dark and dissolved in on itself and then resolved itself into the chimney for the firepit below. And truthfully, we had been wondering somewhat about that situation. All seems resolved now on that front at least. Finding nothing else to investigate in that last room, we moved to the stairs to the roof and the trapdoor at their apex. Checking and unlocking the door before proceeding was rapidly becoming a standard procedure for us at this point, as was spreading out in a defensive formation as we entered a room. We found little if anything out of the ordinary on the roof; chest high crenellations all around, a chimney cap rapidly vacated by an irate mourning dove and a steeply peaked roof cap. What was of interest was the view we gained of the top of the gatehouse from this vantage point. Atop the third storey we could see some sort of aerie structure and within that structure was some type of creature frozen in mid flight. In fact, it appeared to be in the midst of take off. We were still at some distance of course and our view was somewhat obstructed so our impressions of the creature were by no means terribly accurate. It appeared to be about human size, black in coloration, with bat-like wings, a long narrow beak that might have actually been its nose, four legs and glowing red eyes. All in all, the first impression was that this did not appear to be a creature with which we really wanted to make a close personal relationship.

Quickly it was decided that the gatehouse should be our next priority, as we had intended just the other day. We descended back within the tower, secured it and then set out along the wall walk connecting the curtain tower to the gatehouse and approached the door to the third floor. It was of course a portal built to withstand siege, of thick wood and reinforcing iron. Unfortunately, after clearing the door for traps we found it had been barred to our entry. Listening at the door detected the sounds of at least two voices on the other side. The voices were speaking in the Common tongue and sounded to be mainly concerned with telling each other to be quiet. Sa’d said that he could take care of this. He began making gestures and we should have suspected something when none of his gestures seemed to be pertinent to any known spell. At the end of his gesticulations, he simply knocked on the door. I believe I was not alone in considering the possibility that knocking Sa’d quite strongly on the side of his head with something large sounded like a good idea at that moment. But it turned out in our favor more or less.

There was almost a chorus of gasps from our entire party when one of the voices from the other side of the door actually asked who was there. It was as if Nia and Sa’d had worked this out in advance and she had only been waiting for her prompt line. She stepped forward so that she took up virtually the entire view possible from the door’s peephole, “fluffed up” her d├ęcolletage and responded in the most sultry voice she could muster, “Hello boys. How about we get to know each other better?” I don’t know if Nia’s time with the guards during our adventures has given her a mastery of the desires of all guards but it certainly did seem to work for the most part. The peephole slid open, revealing a pair of piggy red eyes surrounded by ash black skin. It is possible that several pairs of eyes peered through that peep because we were soon to hear the sounds of a scuffle ensuing on the far side of the door. We weren’t able to hear the whole of the “conversation” but one thing we did hear for certain was several comments of “She looks tasty!” and it definitely did not sound as if they meant it as any kind of euphemism.

We were considering how we might best take advantage of this turn of events when Sa’d, still listening closely at the door, heard the bolt being very slowly and deliberately lifted from its cleats on the far side. Earlier we had been talking about how much of an asset our alliance with the Snow Tiger tribe might prove to be and this was the first concrete evidence that we had made a good choice. It is almost a certainty that it was one of the tribe’s forward scouts that lifted that bar for us even though we never did see him or her. We took advantage of this element of surprise as best we could, entering as quickly and quietly as possible. Our opponents turned out to be a squad of six black skinned orcs and it only took a few more moments of observation to realize that they were in fact of strong fiendish blood. They were still arguing and shoving each other as my stealthy colleagues began to wreak havoc amongst them. I was of course the last to enter.

The ensuing engagement proved more than serious. One of their gang used some sort of ability that struck to our souls with great force and made us feel as if we might be ill but we at least shook off the feeling of sickness. When the fiendish orcs hit, they hit very, very hard indeed. At one point I was forced to withdraw in order to heal myself in order that I might remain able to return and heal my comrades. Our initial efforts quickly focused on the leader who wore a ghastly greenish yellow bandana tied about its head. As always with orcish leaders, he was the mightiest among them, as well as apparently being some kind of caster, and it took some time to bring him down. Aedron and Nia paid for our victory with the greatest amount of blood in this case; Nia fell at almost the same moment as the last two of the orcs, her life’s blood slowly staining the floor below her supine form. Luckily, Nia’s condition had stabilized in the few moments that it took for us to fell those last two orcs to clear the way to her side. As is the grizzly need after any such confrontation, the fallen enemies’ good were cataloged and assessed while we healed our wounded and secured our position.

Our whole team was healed as close to optimal as we could manage before we began to venture outwards again from our position. The layout of the entire floor seemed to be targeted toward allowing defending forces to fight fall back actions bit by bit and slow the advance of any invading forces. The room we found ourselves in had three doors besides that through which we had entered. Another was reinforced wood like the entry door and proved to lead to a stairwell. The other two doors were cage like structures that I would think were to allow the defending forces to employ ranged weapons against their invaders or vice versa. Peering through the cage door immediately to the right of our entry door showed only a large room which we felt we would leave for later investigation as the other cage door presented a much more intriguing vista. Beyond this second cage door, almost directly across and to the right from the entry door on that facing wall, we espied a great deal of packed supplies. Even from our narrow vantage point we could see crates, boxes and barrels seemingly including provisions and ammunition amongst other equipment and materials. We could also see a strongly reinforced wooden door about halfway along the narrow room’s left hand wall and another cage door at the far end. Any thoughts of simply entering and beginning to catalogue our newfound equipment locker were soon driven from our minds by what we saw beyond the far door.

Sa’d, Nia and Aedron had just finished their examinations and announced that the cage door on our side was clear of traps. We were just about to open the door when we saw through the narrow aperture of the far cage door a good sized lizard like humanoid hurtle into view and land flat on its back. We heard an ear piercing screeching howl and the next thing we saw was one of our tribal allies pounce upon the reptilian creature, dig into his enemy with his claws and tentacles and deliver the finishing blow, virtually tearing the reptilian creature’s chest wide open. We rushed across the storage room to the far door, quickly cleared the door and went through. We found a pair of our felinid allies in the aftermath of their fight with their reptilian foes. One seemed to be right at the end of his tether, breathing heavily as he leaned back against the wall and slowly slid to his rump. Having seen these sorts of symptoms before it seemed evident that he was just at the end of the surge of power provided from a bout of barbarian rage, not to mention multiple lacerations and contusions. I quickly applied a curative spell since he seemed much the worse for wear but his companion seemed better off. As soon as the worst injured fellow was stabilized the two of them departed, back down the stairs from which they had apparently entered.

The room we found ourselves in was all but a mirror of the room through which we had entered and a quick exploration proved this out. By this time it was getting later in the day, in fact it was rapidly approaching dark, and we assessed our situation before pressing on. We were all feeling fairly run down by this point and getting low on spells and most of us were not quite as healthy as we would have liked at the moment. It was soon decided that we would attempt to clear the last two areas left to us on this floor but would not press on to the aerie on the rooftop. With no idea of what the creature above might be, it seemed best to face it with fresh power.

We elected to check what we believed to be a large room beyond the cage doors inboard of the wall entry doors. We heard/sensed the barely perceptible pop of time restarting in the room and saw that our conjecture had been correct and we were indeed in a room that spanned the entire width of the gatehouse. Entering the room, we found ourselves face to bony skull with a troop of some ten warrior skeletons. Sa’d quickly joined me and we cooperated on an attempt to Turn the undead. Our energies meshed quite well and the power reduced the skeletons to naught but dust and ash.

The large room proved to hold no threat beyond the skeletons so we returned to the one venue untapped upon this floor: the reinforced door in the storage locker. Since this door was of stronger construction, therefore implying something important or dangerous were most likely kept beyond, our trap investigators made sure to be very thorough. The door was opened with great caution so that we might hopefully have a chance to assess whatever was beyond before having to most likely engage in combat. It seemed we were successful since we detected no pop of time returning to its normal flow within the room. What we saw beyond made me at least glad that we had been cautious. The room was of strong construction and almost full of barrels, casks and crates, and resting atop several of these storage vessels was a large, bluish-green skinned humanoid sporting dark ivory horns atop its head. I was not certain at first but Aedron soon verified my initial thought when he identified the creature as an ogre magus. All accounts brand them as bloody awful creatures, completely and thoroughly evil of intent and deed. Add to that the fact that most of the containers we could see carried one or more symbol denoting dangerous contents. It would seem that we had come across the storage area for dangerous and volatile substances and it was occupied by a violent psychopath. This was proving to be a thorny dilemma.

Since we had been able to breech the room without restarting its time flow we chose that time to withdraw for the evening and face our dilemma fresh in the morn. Not trusting to the fickleness of fate to keep any random wanderer from entering the storage locker, we have elected to “camp” here in the gatehouse. All entries are secured and part of our night watch will include keeping an eye on that oh so open doorway. I shall endeavor to sleep especially light this evening. I will also be turning in a bit earlier than my norm to make allowance for what should most likely be the third and final night of mid evening awakenings from the dream visions. I only wish I had thought to make some sort of arrangement to deliver a message to the General in case this dream vision should prove in some way especially important. As ever, it would seem that only hindsight is perfect. Hopefully at some point in the day to come we shall have time to make the ride to Bloodstone if the dream visions seem to reveal time important information. But enough lollygagging, it is time to rest. By my Lady’s grace, I shall write again soon.

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