Friday, November 29, 2013

PBM: Chapter 1: Arriving in New Phlan: Part 8

In which the first PC death occurs and the party splits up...


You look through the hole into an ancient residence, looking as if it has been used many times through the centuries. The frame of what was once the main exterior door hangs empty to your left and piles of trash, rubble, bones, and other debris litter the floor. Evidence of looters, both past and present, is obvious--holes gouged in the walls and floor from berks looking for secret compartments or pulling down wall-hangings, ancient paint and plaster chipped away, scratches on the floor from furniture being dragged out. One corner bears a pile of debris haphazardly heaped into a mound with a slight hollow--perhaps the bed of the lizard-thing. A half-dozen old doors, mostly indicated by empty arches with the rusting remains of hinges, lead off in every direction.

A single doorway to the east still bears an actual door, an old, heavy oaken thing, nearly petrified with age and bearing a huge, rusted lock. It is around this door that the other party huddles, watching one of the red-cloaked soldiers fiddle with the lock mechanism. Only the white-wigged priestess, standing off to one side, cradling the now withered stump of her left arm, sees you enter. She waves half-heartedly with her good hand and whistles at the others. "Hey guys, our rescuers are here..."


Gendry ducks a little going through the hole, notices the lack of other monster corpses in the room, and waves his sword at the group picking the lock in a manner meant to be equally greeting and threat, "Good afternoon. Just so we're clear, two-thirds of anything you find in there is ours...Capisce?"


Shuddup follows Gendry in and watches the red cloak fiddle with the lock.

After a while he approaches the other party flaking an affable grin.  "Hi! I'm Shudrigan Nishal Aribostos McPillflup, but my friends call me Shuddup.  I was thinking perhaps I could be of some assistance. Your friend here seems a fair hand, but these old Amnish locks can be tricky. Would you care if I try my hand at it? I fear my friend here can be a trifle impatient."


The ogress looks briefly back and forth between the minotaur's sword and her already beat-up companions, the nods. "Two thirds it is."

She smiles--a smile that seems oddly familiar, with her white teeth glinting against her pale-green skin, or maybe its the very large mace she is holding--and shoves the red-cloak away from the door. "One side, Vince, looks like we've got a real locksmith..." She waves Shaddup forward. "Nice to see you again, Mr. Gnome, I knew we'd be working together eventually."


Shuddup stares uncomprehendingly at the ogress for a moment, not putting two and two together, "I'm sorry have we met, mam?" Before really waiting for a response he turns to the lock and begins to inspect it for any unsprung traps before beginning, "Oooh it's been a while since I've seen one like this. These have a tricky half pin about midway through the set that has to come a little forward before they'll unlock. I'm not sure if that was intentional or a design flaw, but the keys would have a catch on them for it. Either way it's a fun lock." He closes one eye as he begins probing the lock and sticks out his tongue as the first pin clicks into place. "Now a dwarven thunder tumbler, that's a fine lock they have coaxial keys that rotate in opposite directions on a 2/1 gear ratio. A real bugger to pick if you've lost the key but they're a beautiful design..."


Lyra tries very hard not to look incredibly uncomfortable with the exchange between Gendry and the ogress, and stays back near Amara keeping alert for other denizens of the ruins and scanning the area for signs of concealed entrances.


Lyra's keen elven eyes are drawn, first, to the crumbling remains of the old fireplace and the heap of bricks that mark the collapsed chimney. Light shining in through a hole in the roof (or what was once the second floor) creates the tiniest of glints off of something behind a loose brick just above the old mantle. Secondly, not quite hidden, she notices a fairly recent looking smear of blood and gods-know-what-else leading around a corner to the north. At about the same time, there is an audible shrill rusty "clank" and the lock falls open.


Donovan walks in behind the others and looks around. "Glad to see you are all doing well...mostly."

He begins walking around the outside of the room, peaking into the various side chambers while Shaddup finishes with his lock work.


Hearing the click of the lock, Gendry stalks forward, still balancing Brother Rant on his back. "Would one of you like the honor of opening the door?" He tries to gesture genteelly towards the door with his sabre, but it looks more like a pirate thrusting his blade at someone to make them walk the plank.


Lyra drops back near Donovan and keeps her voice quiet.  "I recognize her from the boat, or at least her intonation, coloration, and erm, mace.  A bit taller than I remember, though."  She gestures towards the blood smear.  "That blood smear is recent, but I'm not sure what from.  And there is some ... interesting brickwork by the fireplace."


Shuddup takes a few steps back sporting a satisfied look, "So are there any theories on what's behind here?"


The other group stands quietly for a few beats, looking back and forth between each other, Shaddup, and Gendry's sword. Finally the ogress gives a nudge to the second red-cloak, the least beaten-up looking of the bunch--a plain-looking fellow, whose jaw looks square in an unnatural way, like he perpetually grinds his teeth, and who is holding a loaded longbow with a slight fluttering twitch to the string-hand, "Rahm, do the honors." He jerks a little when his name is said, shakes his head, and walks up, draws the bow tighter, nudges the door open with his foot, and aims the bow through the opening before forcing the door further with his shoulder...

As the door begins to open, Amara tugs on Donovan's sleeve, "Ummmm, that's not a good idea..." Then there is a bright red-orange flash, a faint whiff of brimstone, and Rahm is gone, vanished, bow and all.

The door opens into a vaulted chamber, lit by a pale blue glow that seems to radiate from the walls. The ceiling rises a good 30 feet above the floor. Supporting buttresses meet in the center, as in a cathedral's dome. Alchemical equipment lines the far walls, while beakers, vials, chalk, a couple of large books, and a locked metal coffer litter a table close to the center of the room. Dust covers nearly everything from floor to ceiling.

Between the table and the door, a magical circle is inscribed into the floor in solid gold plating. The circle seems completely free of the dust that has gathered everywhere else in the room, though some of the traceries of the diagram outside the golden circle are not as immune to the steady accumulation of the years. The traceries form a much larger circle which runs all the way under the table and up to the threshold of the door.


Donovan replies to Lyra, "Yes, I suspect that the ogress is Miss Rietta. She was actively trying to recruit Shaddup for her team before you arrived on Valkur's Wake. A simple polymorph would do the trick, but that would imply access to some rather powerful magic." He barely registers Amara's tug, but then his eyes widen as the man vanishes. He looks down at the girl, "How did you know..."

Then, turning his attention back to the others, he takes a few steps forward and tries to take control before the other party decides to blame Gendry for Rahm's disappearance. "Those symbols on the floor look like a summoning circle. Not a trap. Perhaps a gate or portal." He looks past the crowd into the room. "Maybe those books could tell us more...if we could get to them."

"Shaddup, do you think there is any way to rig up some kind of bridge? Or perhaps we can get a rope attached to those buttresses and swing across to the table."


Lyra also steps forward, keeping Donovan and Amara nearby.  "It appears to be a one-way portal, likely with a specific destination.  The corners of the room, and, say, the table, should be safe.  I think the rope is too risky."  She looks like she's about to say something else, but stops.

"Miss Rietta, isn't it?  I think we should check out what's hidden in the fireplace first, and then see if there is a better way across."


"Fireplace, huh?" Gendry looks at the crumbling brickwork, briefly ponders knocking the chimney the rest of the way down with his horns, just to see if he can, then decides against it in case the loot is breakable. He sheathes his sword, pulls out the shortsword he took off an orc, and starts prying loose bricks free from the mantle.


With everyone adequately distracted by the fireplace, Lyra whispers to Donovan "Are you truly set on acquiring what is in that room?  If you can get everyone out of here, either after whatever crawled off that way, or taking care of our dead lizard thing before some opportunists do, there may be something I can do to help.  But I don't do it with an audience."


Gendry priest the bricks away to reveal a much older looking stone wall with a small cubby, lined with the moldering scraps of some ancient velvet lining, and containing three ceramic pint jars marked with the holy symbol of Ilmater, the Crying God, two tiny glass vials filled with what looks like a brown powder, and a small, hinged wooden box, maybe two-inches on a side.


Gendry sheathes the shortsword and begins pulling the items out. "Alright, you agreed to two-thirds." He takes one of the jars and one of the vials ans hands them to the ogress. He then scoops up the rest and hands them to Lyra. "Take care of these, we can figure out what they are later."


As Gendry take the box out of the hole, it crumbles to dust in his hand, revealing a single pearl of deep golden colour. He [amazingly] palms the thing and passes it into Lyra's hands without it been seen by anyone save the two of them.

Rietta takes the proffered flasks and nods. "Easy math then. Now, about getting into the other room?"

The other elven woman, who appears to be completely devoid of weapons or armor, looks from the door to the table. "The ceiling's high enough...with a bit of a run I could jump it."


Lyra places the objects in her belt pouch discreetly.  "If it requires a running start, what about getting back?"


"The tables a bit higher, so I should be able to make it back." She pauses in thought for a moment, then looks at Gendry and Rietta, "I might need some to catch..."


Gendry sets down Brother Rant, brushes the dust from the crumbled box off his hand, "You're free to try the jump, and I'll try to catch you on the way back, but I won't be held responsible if you miss." He then looks at the ground and sniffs. "This bloods relatively fresh though, we might want to check it out before anyone tries jumping over an active gate."

He draws his sabre and follows the blood trail into the other room.


Sawdust fills a metal bed frame without a’ mattress which sits at the far side of this rank-smelling room. Inside the frame lies a corpse, which has been there for some months; the bed that had dominated this room is now squirming with vermin scouring the bones. Other bones, clearly gnawed upon and many gouged and burned by acid litter the floor. The smear of viscera leads to a large closet on the south end of the room.

As Gendry enters, his nostrils flare as his excellent olfactory senses recoils from the smell of blood and offal. He sees something crouching in the closet, mostly hidden save for a large, fleshy knob--like the shoulder or knee of someone extremely obese. The thing moves slightly, as if breathing. A large, gaping wound can be seen on the exposed surface, seeping blood and crawling with maggots.


Donovan nods and whispers, "Alright Lyra," then pulls out his hurdy gurdy and follows Gendry into the other room, "Your right Gen," he says much more loudly, "let's check it out..."

"Come on everyone, we night some fightin' music!" He begins playing, loudly, slowly, and as annoyingly as possible...

Born high forever to fly
Wind velocity nil
Wanna high forever to fly
If you want your cup our fill
They call me mellow yellow...


Lyra cringes, regretting not also telling Donovan that she needed to be able to concentrate.  But a distraction is a distraction.


Similarly cringing, Rietta and her companions follow Donovan and Gendry into the other room, all save the one-armed priestess of Beshaba who at this point seems to be in something of an ecstatic state, contemplating her misfortune.

As the drone of Donovan's music builds up, there is a sudden lurch from the closet and a pair of grotesque, disfigured blobs of flesh stagger out towards you, their twisted, melted faces molded into expressions of horrid anguish. They move forward with crude claw-like appendages extended, leaving a trail of blood and viscera from numerous large bite-wounds covering their forms--wounds which appear to be closing as you watch.


"Well that's just gross," Gendry remarks. "Looks like Mr. Lizard had a self-replicating food source. Also looks like acid clearly won't do the trick. Any ideas? Fire?"

He steps in front of the others and strikes an en garde.


Donovan keeps singing, and just shakes his head when Gendry glances back, as if to say 'I have no idea'.


Rietta steps up beside Gendry, mace in one hand, her left hand flipping an electrum coin. "I don't know what they are, but we have them outnumbered five to one. Even trolls stop clawing if you hit them enough." She flips the coin one more time and begins chanting something under her breath.

Another of her companions, a half-elven man with dark hair, a creepy stair, and dark robes that smell like he's been swimming in piss speaks up, in a dispassionate monotone, "They're lemures. Tortured souls used as battle fodder in the legions of Hell." He wanders nonchalantly over to the bedframe and looks down at the corpse within. "You'll want to douse them with holy water..." He pours a vial of foul-smelling water and throws a handful of dirt over the corpse. "Maybe this guy can help..."

Teldicia, the other elven woman, peaks her head in and looks at the things. "Not much I can do to help you guys, other than to say, if it is devils we're dealing with. Acid and electricity will hurt them just fine, silver works good, fire is useless. Of course, they heal so bloody fast that those are just temporary solutions at best." She then skips back to the other door. "You guys keep them busy, I'm gonna jump for the loot. Then maybe we can get the hell out of here..."

The white-haired priestess slumps down to sit beside Rant, giving him a wan smile. She pulls a jar of leeches out of her pack and begins applying them to the withered stump of her arm.

Teldicia, runs for the open door to the portal chamber and leaps, springing a good ten-feet into the air and easily clearing the gap to the table. At the same time, the air above the table shimmers. Just as she is about to land, she passes through the wavering field above the table and vanishes, tumbling out onto the ground right in front of Lyra, who now appears to be holding the two books from the table.

The two fleshy blobs surge forward, more undulating than walking. The first reaches out, its snake-like appendage writhing and twisting around Gendry's defenses, latching a claw onto his forearm.

The red-cloak draws a sword and walks up behind Gendry and Rietta, "Vinny's got your back, Hornhead." He then proceeds to jam the sword into Gendry's back, as promised. "Also...Fuck you and your two-thirds."

Rietta flips the coin one more time and says something under her breath. The coin vanishes with a flash and the air between her and Gendry is suddenly filled with little, floating, pink hearts that appear instantly and pop out of existence just as suddenly like little balloons.


Gendry drops his sword and collapses to the ground, clutching his side where the sword went clean through and glaring at Vinny. "The Shadowlord smiles on you Vinny, but your timing sucks..." He looks meaningfully at the glassy-eyed ogress.


Seeing Gendry go down to such base treachery, Donovan drops his instrument, pulls the scroll of staves from out of his pocket, grabs a splinter of wood off the ground, and begins casting Decastave.


Lyra immediately ceases concentration.  "Are you all right, Miss?  Mr. Shaddup, could you please have a look at this?"  She walks over and passes off a small locked chest to Shaddup.


Teldicia looks up, slightly confused by her sudden relocation. "I'm fine...looks like there is more than one portal protecting that stuff...must be good." She stands, brushes herself off, never once looking at Lyra, then notices the commotion from the other room. "Shit Vinny! Rietta I told you hiring the pervs was a bad idea!" She turns and looks at Lyra, Shaddup, and the priests. "Any of you got holy water? It seems like all the fighters are too busy duking it out amongst themselves to worry about the infernal blobs..."

She pauses and looks at the chest Lyra is holding, then back into the portal room. "Well fuck me. Figured out that other portal huh? How 'bout you, me, and the gnome make a run for it?"


"Holy water!  Of course!  Miss Rietta has one jar, I have the other two.  Or we could try to lure them into the portal room and send them back to presumably where they came from."


Reacting to Vinny's treachery quickly, Donovan summons forth a ten-foot long staff of glowing, blue force and takes a mighty swing at the back of Vinny's head. Distracted both by his success, and the enraged ogress, Vinny doesn't even see the blow coming until it connects with the back of his neck with a loud, sickening crack. He slumps to the ground, instantly dead. Donovan, meanwhile, feels a sudden surge of vigor as Vinny's lifeforce is sucked through the staff into him.

With Gendry slumped on the floor, the two lemures swing wildly at the next nearest target, Rietta. One manages to catch her across the back, though its soft claws barely break the skin.

Rietta growls and also swings at Vince, just a second too slow. Her huge mace whistling over his head as he falls, spinning her in almost a complete circle and, miraculously, lands a glancing blow on one of the blob-things attacking her, sending a spray of molten flesh against the wall.

Hearing the sounds of combat and talk of treachery from the other room, Brother Rant pulls himself up the wall and hobbles to the the door to see what's going on. The one-armed priestess, hearing the same, mumbles "Screw this..." and runs out of the building.


Donovan steps up and swings at one of the lemures. "Lyra, get that holy water in here!"


Lyra rushes over to the doorway and carefully removes the two jars of holy water from her belt pouch.


Gendry lies on the ground muttering, "I'm not dead yet...I'm not dead yet...I'm getting better...I feel fine...I think I'll go for a walk..."


Still amazingly quick, Donovan slams the staff of force down hard on the top of one of the lemures, its head collapsing inward like a fallen cake with a spray of yellow-brown gore. It swings back at Donovan, but flails ineffectually, unable to compete with the reach of his staff.

Lyra runs into the room, holy water in hand, at the same time as the second blob-like creatures throws itself down and forward, a mouthlike orifice opening to bite at Gendry's prone form. Teeth, or other sharp bone-like protrusions, emerge fish-like from the soup of its waxy body, grinding into Gendry's flesh.

Rietta fumbles with her pouch for a second, coming up with the other flask of holy water. She pops the cork and spikes the flask, full force, into the back of the lemure lying on Gendry. The sanctified liquid splashes all around, fizzing like peroxide against the unwholesome flesh of the two creatures...

...within moments the two creatures bubble away into nothing but wisps of thin, yellowish fog.

At which point, you hear a triumphant shout from the corner of the room, and the robed man shouts "Sick 'em!" He spins around, pointing at where the lemures were, the skeleton, now animate, rising behind him. When he sees them vanish, he drops his finger and sighs in a completely crestfallen way.

From the other room, you hear a sharp "click", as Shaddup opens the small chest Lyra had given him. Within is a small fortune in coins; a shortsword with a rather dull-looking edge; a pair of gleaming copper bracers engraved with a lightningbolt motiff; an 18 inch long, 2 inch thick, silver rod with an end-cap shaped like an open hand, the fingers pressed together; and a small, stoppered flask of opaque blue-white glass.


As the yellow blob's teeth grind away at Gendry, he gives a brief anguished cry, and breathes his last.


Brother Rant crawls over beside Gendry and checks his pulse. Rietta falls down weeping over Gendry's body, blubbering such nonsense as "Oh! My love! Please don't die!...blah blah blah"


Donovan looks around in shock as Brother Rant checks Gendry's pulse and pronounces him dead. He surveys the scene, taking in the wailing ogress, the depressed necromancer, and his friends, before his eyes settle on the gleaming pile of treasure that Shaddup has just unveiled. He walks over and looks at the items lying atop the coins, examining the markings and inscriptions and touching each of them briefly before shrugging. "If there is anything useful, I have no idea what it is." He looks at them one last time, "If we've got an hour I can properly identify one of them."

He walks over and kneels down beside Brother Rant and the ogress. "Brother, it appears you are relieved of your obligation to our horn-headed friend. However," he gestures towards Amara, "there is the matter of this young girl that was his charge. Gendry had sworn to protect her on her journey to visit her ailing grandmother in Melvaunt. If you wish to justly discharge your debt, protecting this innocent seems like the proper way..."


Lyra puts the jars back in her belt pouch, lip quivering and holding back tears.  "There's nothing you - or your brothers - can do?"  She looks at the ogress and the stinky necromancer.  "Your priestess ran off.  She looked like she was feeling a bit too blessed by her Lady."

"If we speak with Mother, I might be able to arrange getting Amara to her grandmother quickly and safely.  However, Gendry also has, or rather had...."  Lyra looks like she's about to start bawling any minute as she corrects herself.   "...another obligation to Professor Aumry to fulfill."


Brother Rant sits up, still wincing, and looks at Lyra. "I'm sorry, miss. There is nothing we can do. His spirit has passed on to be with his god. The Bishop might be able to call him back, but is unlikely to do so for a Maskarran, even if I intervened, assuming that his lord would release his spirit into the charge of our order, which is highly unlikely." He looks back at the corpse and grimaces. "He would probably want to be interred in the manner of his faith, which, morbid as this may sound, means that you should loot his body of all his possessions, making sure to take every last scrap, and then bury him in a shallow, unmarked grave..."

Brother Rant then addresses Donovan, "Mr. Donovan, I would be happy to take charge of the girl and see her safely to her grandmother." He stands, somehow looking instantly more sturdy, and bows, only a little shakily. "I swear, in Tyr's name, to see her safely to her destination."

Rietta continues to weep and wail over Gendry's body, odd, given that they only knew each other for a few minutes. The green-haired elven woman walks in, straitening her dress a bit, "Ry, the theatrics are very nice and all, but I forgot to bring the black veils." She looks at Lyra and smiles, sending a chill up Lyra's spine, "So Beryl ran off, Vinny got his head smashed in, and Rahm went to hell, literally. Our little group is not having the best day, and you've lost your muscle too it appears." Her eyes linger on the books Lyra is carrying. "I'm Teldicia. Care to team up? Six have a better chance of survival than two threes, and I'm sure Sur and Ry would rather be receiving a fifth each of that treasure, rather than a third of a third."

The moist-robed gentleman walks over to where the girls are talking, the skeleton trailing along, and looks down at Gendry and Vinny's corpses. "Can I have them?" he asks matter-of-factly.

"Right," Teldicia interjects, "so, he wants the bodies and Ry will want a full share of the loot. I'll cut myself out of any arguments over magic items we find, but would like a share of the funds to cover my studies."


Lyra picks up the silver sword where it had fallen next to Gendry, and then kneels next to his body.  Her shoulders shaking and tears streaming down her face, she quickly and efficiently strips him down to just his blood soaked clothes.  Her face bright red, she turns to Brother Rand.  "When you say loot everything, you mean ... everything everything?"


Brother Rant also blushes, "Ummm, yes. Maskarran morticians are more properly known as rag-pickers. The more devout ones will even shave the deceased hair to be sold as wigs and pluck out their teeth to be sold for...I don't want to speculate what. I think that, as long as you get everything that you believe would be of value, then that will be sufficient." He pauses, looking slightly disgusted even to be discussing the topic, "If it will make you feel less like a grave-robber, you might try to think of it as collecting mementos to remember him by."


"Oh!" Donovan interjects, "Horns can be used to make drinking horns and instruments, as decorations, and in constructing high-quality composite bows. Minotaur horn is also ground up and used as an aphrodesiac in some of the less reputable potion-shops. Ox-tails make great stews and broths...I bet more exotic eateries would pay well for a minotaur tail. We could probably sell his testicles too..." He makes a faux-evil grin, but tears are visible in his eyes as he speculates. "You know, getting a nice bow made from Gendry's horns might be a nice way to memorialize him."


"I'm sure he would've done the same for us."


Shuddup looks up from the lock box appearing not to have noticed the brief but devastating altercation, notices Gendry on the ground and assesses the situation. His bottom lip starts to quiver, "if you want a bow I'll see what I can do."


As everyone stands around discussing what to do with Gendry's earthly remains, Rietta's head snaps up. Her face is soaked with tears and her eyes are flaming red, with grief or rage it is hard to say. "WHAT!" she cries. Rage, you think, definitely rage. "That's my love you're talking about butchering!" Her gaze falls on Lyra and the sword she is holding. "And what are you doing with that, you bitch?! It's mine by right as his next of kin! Or...had h-h-he not died s-s-s-sooo sudd-d-d-enly, I would have beeeen his next of ki-i-iiiiiiiin..." The last sentence is barely understandable as she breaks down sobbing again, but stands and readies her mace as she does so. She holds out a hand to Lyra. "Give it back!"

Teldicia takes a step back, looking perplexed. "What got into her?" she asks no one in particular.


Lyra stands back up, sword and scabbard in hand.  She speaks softly, with nothing but compassion in her voice.  "I am truly sorry for your loss."  She hands her the sword and scabbard.  "He meant much to everyone, and they merely wish to honor his service to his god."

She also hands the scrollcase to Brother Rant and whispers.  "I believe these were originally yours, sir."


Donovan lowers his glowing staff, but keeps it in hand, "Madam Rietta, please cease this unseemly blubbering. Master Gendry was certainly a charmer, but you knew him less than a day, such weeping and wailing is unbecoming a woman of your...stature." He rubs his eyes and puts on a sterner look. "As to your rights to his belongings, you are no more next of kin to him than we. I saw no clasping of hands, no signing of contracts, no exchange of rings or vows. He did not so much as cast an adoring glance your way. Per your agreement with him, you could be said to be entitled to a third of what we take from him, but no more Madam. Now please, set down the weapon and get a grip on yourself!"


"Mr. Donvan!  She's clearly heartbroken.  Clearly you don't believe in love at first sight."  Lyra steps away from the ogress, not quite hiding behind Brother Rant.


Brother Rant takes the scrolls and tucks them into a sleeve, "Thank you, I should have known that is where they'd be." As the ogress rises, weapon at the ready, he takes a step backwards. "My apologies, Miss Lyra," he says to her in low tones, "but I am not in no condition to aid you further at the moment. The gates are not far. I believe I shall take the girl Amara with me back to the temple and leave you all to your grieving. I shall meet you at the gates tomorrow morning to escort the girl to Melvaunt." He bows politely, keeping a wary eye on Donovan and Rietta, and backs out the door into the other room.


"You shouldn't be walking with those wounds, and even short distances in this town seem to be dangerous.  Please, allow me to escort you."  Lyra follows Brother Rant around the corner.  "We'll be at the temple, you can pick up your shares there."


Rietta releases one shaky hand from the mace and accepts the sword from Lyra. As Lyra and Brother Rant vanish around the corner, literally, Shaddup peeks back into the other room and there is no sign of them, or Amara, she drops the mace on the ground and draws Gendry's sabre from the scabbard, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. "What were you saying little man?!" she croaks out between sobs.

Teldicia leans in towards Donovan and whispers, "You probably don't want to make her mad...she looks a little off her rocker...even more than usual." She looks over and makes eye contact with the robed guy, makes a subtle gesture, then turns back to Rietta, "He's right Ry. I don't know what got into you, but you shouldn't waste your tears on that horny joker, or Vinny, or Rahm, or anyone else for that matter. Lighten up..." The soggy guy and his skeleton begin to slide around behind the ogress, the man pulling a short-handled scythe, or maybe a long sickle, from under his robes. "...Would your masters really approve of this behavior? You're on a mission remember. If you're going to get all blubbery over the death of every swordsman who steps in to help us, how are you going to conquer this tow..."


Donovan watches Lyra and Brother Rant leave and does some quick mental math. Three to two, four if you count the skeleton, did not seem like good odds to him. Of course, Teldicia and swamp-boy and his skeleton look like they might be gearing up to deal with the ogress, which makes it either five on one, or two, and a skeleton, on two, which is somewhat better. And what is this talk of conquering the town? Maybe if...

"You should listed to your friend, Rietta." he speaks up.  "Teldicia's right, the people of Phlan would never accept a sniveling woman who goes to pieces over every man who falls at her feet as their ruler. Man up and lets discuss your great plans for this city.." Then, looking as shocked as possible, he shouts, "Look! Behind you! More treachery!"

When she, presumably, turns away, he gesticulates wildly at the door, encouraging Shaddup to close the box of gold and run for it.

Monday, November 11, 2013

PBM: Chapter 1: Arriving in New Phlan: Part 7

Making a TODO List


You all walk the last two blocks to the barely-standing tower. It looks as though significant work has been done--the braces and scaffolding that are in place hold it roughly upright, and you can see several areas where new stone and mortar have reinforced the old--but it is weeks away from being stable, let alone habitable. Possibly months given how lazy the many workers and guards appear to be. Nearly a hundred workers stand around. By the looks of them, most have been recruited from the Slums locals, with even a few orcs and goblins in the mix. Most of them are just standing around, making no attempt to look productive. Some even appear to be napping. A few lazily shuffle bricks around or hammer nails into the scaffolding, but make little progress.

As you approach, you see one man--presumably the foreman judging from the schematics he is holding--jump up from where he had been lounging in a folding wooden chair. The man has long black mustachios, close-cropped hair, and is wearing a set of well-made banded male with a stylized yellow "Z" emblazoned on it. "You, Stop!" he says, drawing a broadsword and looking at the minotaur carrying a bloody, half-dead body. "Not a step closer..." A few workers turn dispassionately to look as he yells, and a small handful, maybe seven or eight, guards stand up and reach for spears, swords, and cudgels.


Gendry stops just behind the gnome, and mutters under his breath to Donovan and Lyra. "Any idea what the Z is for?" He stands still, keeping his hands on the body, and thus visibly well away from his weapons. "Hey now, no need for the pointies. We're just here to see your boss..."


Lyra steps forward, also indicating that she is unarmed.  "Is this the tower of Professor Aumry of Umber?  We are escorting his niece, Amara, at his request."


The mustachioed man glares at you. "Master Aumry is not here, and even if he was, I don't know why he'd want his niece coming out to this place..." He pauses for a moment, as if considering before asking the obvious question. "What are you doing with that body?


Lyra continues, despite his obvious skepticism.  "'He's a priest of Tyr, and we're in the middle of saving him from a small group of orcs, probably Xvim's followers. We managed to get him stabilized, but need to get him somewhere safer than the middle of the street.  And we were headed here to speak with Professor Aumry about the Melvaunt job anyway.  Do you know when he'll be back?  He told us to meet him here."


The foreman's eyes go wide and he spins on his heel sharply, "BOSS IS COMING!" he shouts. The workers immediately animate and begin looking very busy. The foreman then turns back to you. "A Tyrran huh? You're better off just turning around and putting him right back where you found him. Xvim doesn't much like his kind, nor those who help them."


Donovan speaks up, "I believe our good fellow here is correct, we should take the monk somewhere else." Then, under his breath to Gendry, "That 'Z' means Mr. foreman here is a Zhent, and apparently proud of it, and thus, most likely a Xvimlar himself..." He begins backing away.


Gendry looks down at Amara, "Looks like your uncle isn't here yet." He looks back up the street. "Perhaps we can kill some time at the livery over there while we wait..."


As you turn to head towards the livery, there is a loud popping sound, and Aumry appears next to the foreman. "Good afternoon, Captain. Have you made any progress today?" He looks disapprovingly around at the many laborers busily acting like they were busy, and makes a tsking sound. He turns directly towards the tower, makes several large sweeping gestures, and begins chanting:

Eruimus effodientes effodientes effodientes effodientes 
effodientes muniunt nostri per totum diem meum
Fodere effodientes effodientes effodientes effodientes 
effodientes effodientes est quod vere amo efficio
Nullum dolum est non ad divites vivos
Si fodiat rutrum vel cum foderit effodientes pick
In mea! In mea! In mea! In mea!
Ubi lucere diamonds million!

Eruimus effodientes effodientes effodientes effodientes 
effodientes effodientes a mane usque ad vesperam?
Eruimus effodientes effodientes effodientes effodientes 
effodientes effodere omnia in conspéctu
Eruimus ex adamantibus score
Mille carbunculorum interdum
Quam eruimus sed quia non potuimus propter
Eruimus effodientes foderunt-effodientes effodientes!

The entire leeward side of the tower rises a foot, jacking the tower slightly closer to a plumb vertical, and the cracked and crumbling stones around the base fuse and smooth over.

"There, I've made my contribution for the day. Was that so hard, Captain?"


Donovan pivots on his heel and walks back. "Professor Aumry, we were just about to walk over to the livery next door to ask about renting a wagon and team to haul your component shipment. Would you care to accompany us so we can finish our business?" As they walk away from the tower he continues to speak. "I believe your foreman is failing to drive your workers sufficiently. When we arrived they, all of them, foreman included, were lying down on the job. Perhaps a problem with hiring Zhents. If you would like to replace him, I can recommend a number of competent local contractors..."


Gendry nods his appreciation at the high-speed construction, then resumes walking when Aumry joins them. "It seems to me like you don't even need all those workers, Mr. Aumry. A couple of those spells a day and you'd be done, right?"

"Also, I think Shaddup here would like to offer his services installing some security measures in your new tower..."


Aumry walks along beside you with a strange, wobbling gait, as if unused to moving under his own power, much like that of a sailor or someone who spends too much time in the saddle. "You are correct in your assessment, Mr. Minotaur, if my teaching duties were not as demanding of my resources, I could, indeed complete the tower largely on my. Unfortunately, I cannot always spare those couple of spells. Still, I do not expect much of the workers. I largely pay them just for show, to discourage less reputable vagrants or gangs from re-occupying the premises."

When you reach the livery he stops. "I have already arranged for your transport, Mr. Donovan. It will be ready and waiting for you here in the morning." He reaches into the folds of his robe and pulls out five small pouches, handing one to each of you. Then a pair of scroll cases, which he hands to Donovan. "Half in advance, as promised..."


Donovan accepts his pouch and the scroll cases and immediately opens them up, "I hope you won't be offended if I count it here..."

He casts _read magic_ and continues to converse as he examines the scrolls, "Do you have any recent news about the condition of the road between here and Melvaunt, Professor?"


Lyra accepts her pouch.  "The wagon teams might know as well, Mr. Donovan."


Donovan cocks an eyebrow at Lyra, "Can you talk to horses and oxen?!"

Donovan reads off the list of spells to Lyra and Amara. "The first scroll has a wax seal that looks like an octopus and bears three spells: Adhesion, Hand of Tentacles, and Protection from Amorphs. The second scroll is also sealed in wax, the seal looking like a pair of crossed sticks, and also has three spells: Divining Rod, Decastave, and Staffspell. Would either of you like one of these?"


Lyra thinks before she responds for far longer than the question would seem to warrant.  "No, probably not."


Amara looks at the scrolls blankly.  "Those look funny."  She whispers to her cat, who fades out slowly and then fades back in, like a slow motion flicker.  Amara hums a little ditty, and her eyes glow.  She looks over the first scroll and exclaims, "Eewy!"  She looks over the second and and says, "Boring...."  Then she holds up the first scroll, "I like this one better."


"There are only the usual stories--kobold tribes getting uppity, lizard men raids, bandits. Nothing that the good men out at Iniarv's Tower can't keep a handle on." Aumry waves to the man tending the horses at the stable. When the man walks over, he continues. "Ernst, these are the men who will be picking up the wagon in the morning. Miss Lyra, if you need to hire a teamster to handle the wagon, talk to Ernst, he can direct you to appropriate parties, though any additional hires will be your responsibility. Good afternoon. I look forward to your successful return, but now I must return to my classes." He pivots on his heel and vanishes with another loud popping sound.


Lyra stares into the empty space that Professor Aumry previously occupied, fingers splayed to try and feel the rush of air filling the previously occupied space.  Lyra looks resentfully over at the wagons.  "Getting one of those through a swamp is going to be slow going."


"There is a paved road between here and Melvaunt. Better than the one we're on actually. We won't be able to wander much, but we should be fine going through the swamp as long as we stick to the road..." Donovan pauses in thought. "Of course, that means any raiders will know exactly where to look for us."

He looks back and forth between Ernst, and the rest of the party. "Professor Aumry made a good point. Do any of you know how to drive?"


Gendry shakes his head. "I may look like a draft animal, but I don't know a thing about them. What about you, gnome, know anything about steering a prairie-schooner?"


Ernst speaks up. "Pleased to meet you folks. Aumry has arranged for some pretty nice transportation for you guys--an eighteen-foot covered wagon, extra-wide wheels for muddy terrain, water-tight keel for stream crossings, and a pair of oxen, single-beam head-yoked for better downhill breaking." He sticks out his hand, as if expected a shake. "It shouldn't be too hard to manage, even for inexperienced drivers, but if you do want a good teamster, I'd suggest talking to Jack. Funny looking fellow, even by Slums standards, but," he looks hard at Gendry, "it don't seem like you guys have a problem with that. He'll do pretty much anything you ask him to and works cheap."


"Ok, it sounds like most of the travel arrangements are dealt with, and we've got 10 platinum each and like sixteen hours to kill." Gendry snorts, then looks a bit embarrassed. "Our todo list right now includes; (a) Go buy some candles for Amara's grandmother, (b) find this Jack guy and see if he'll drive our wagon for us, (c) meet the sailor-dwarf at the Bitter Blade for a pint before calling it a night, and (d) drink several pints. So, what shall we do first?"


"Yes, yes, let's go shopping!"


"Ernst, where can we find this Jack fellow?"


"Jack has a small shop right by the old Rope Guild. It's about a block from the wall and about midway between the gates. Walk back down the road, hang a right at the old washer-woman's place, then go about two blocks. You might want to make sure you go during daylight hours though, as that street is Dogripper territory." Ernst looks around furtively, then adds. "Or you can go around back of the Livery and ask Huafk for a pass, but those aren't always cheap."


"It sounds like we'd better head over there soon, then.  It sounds like a dangerous route.  Mr. Donovan, where would the best place be to buy provisions, weapons, clothes?"


"OH!" Gendry realizes that he still has the near-corpse of the monk slung over his shoulder. He carefully sets the man down and casts _cure light wounds_ on him. "Sorry guys, I almost forgot we had this joker to deal with..."


The monk coughs suddenly and opens his eyes. He then lets out a ear-piercing scream when he seems a minotaur looming over him.


Lyra kneels down next to the monk.  "Sir, please calm down.  You've been injured by a group of orcs.  This gentleman has not only carried you to safety, but mended some of your wounds."


Donovan quickly addresses Lyra's questions. "We can get provisions either from Jerome of Melvaunt here in the Slums or Cockburn's Grocery in the civilized section. For weapons the best quality are from Matteo's on the far side of the Slums Market, but he usually only does custom orders, so we're more likely to find what we need at 'Petroff's Fine Swords' next to the temple of Sune inside the wall. There weren't a lot of decent tailors in town last time I was here. Jerome's and Cockburn's usually carry basic clothing, or we might ask around either of the markets to see if someone new has set up shop as a clothiers."

Donovan then kneels down by the monk and tries to calm him. "It's okay, the minotaur is not going to hurt you. Master Gendry here just healed you, in fact. You were set upon by a group of gray-skinned orcs. We found you unconscious and bleeding. The orcs were dispatched and we brought you here to heal you." He gives his best, friendly, fatherly smile, and lays a hand on the man's shoulder. "Please calm down. You are in no danger now. Can you tell us what happened?"


Gendry moves back, avoiding rising to his full height, and quickly turns his head to slip off his eye-mask, stuffing it back into his pouch. "I'm sorry sir, I know my appearance can be frightening..." He turns his back and walks over to see what Amara and Shaddup have gotten themselves up to, leaving further discussion to the bards.


The man stops screaming and looks around at you all, his hands moving to confirm that he is whole and his gaze lingering overly long on Lyra. He takes a few deep breaths then tries to sit up, holding his grimacing noticeably--conscious and no longer bleeding, but clearly far from fully healed. "Um, thanks. Sorry for the screaming. I am in your debt, Master Gendry."

He takes a few more deep breaths before continuing. "I hope you weren't too harsh in your reprisal against the orcs. They were infected with ontontis, orcish leprosy. I volunteer at the soup kitchen by the market and they recognized me. They asked me to cure them and became rather emotional when I explained that removing a disease such as theirs was beyond my abili..." He falls into a coughing fit and clutches at his side harder. He coughs for over a minute, and wipes a trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth. "They must have hit an organ. I should have listened when Brother Francis insisted that I should always wear armor when outside the gates." He coughs again. "I recant my previous statement. If you killed them, justice was served, and they are likely glad to be free of their suffering."

He groans and lays back down. "You have already done much, but if you could do me one more favor, I will forever be in your debt. Might I ask your assistance in getting back to the temple in New Phlan? My brothers there should be able to tend to my other injuries."


"We have a little girl who is very anxious to go buy a gift for her dying grandmother, and we need to hire a teamster for a trip we are making early in the morning, but given your state, I think we can take the time to get you to your temple." Donovan looks around at the others. "Agreed?"

"Amara," he lays a hand on her shoulder, "I'm afraid our shopping trip will have to wait."

"Gendry, can you carry him further? Or should we find something to use as a stretcher?"


Gendry wanders back over. "Yes Donovan, I can carry him to the temple."

He kneel down. "What is your name sir?"


The man looks Gendry in the eye, still looking a bit frightened. "I am Brother Rant Harmell of Tyr, Mr. Gendry, and you have my thanks."


Gendry picks the man up and grins rather evilly. "Well, Brother Rant, I've heard much from you Tyrrans about honesty and repaying debts over the years, so I trust one of your order to fulfill a life-debt. I am Gendry FitzTeldar, son of Teldar the Pirate King, and under the watchful eye of the Lord of Intrigue, I expect to be repaid."

Gendry waves the others on. "I'll make sure the law-man makes it safely to his temple. You all go on ahead and get your shopping done. I'll meet you at the Bitter Blade at sundown."


The man's face goes white and he struggles weakly as Gendry picks him up. "I've heard tell that a Maskaran can turn even the best of intentions to their advantage. I guess this is my second lesson for today." He continues as they walk away. "I would rather die than aid a criminal, but I am alive...thanks to a pirate. I will repay my debt, Mr. Gendry, but I will not violate my oath to Tyr to do so. A life is worth a life, so I must protect yours, but I cannot vouchsafe your continued freedom."


Gendry walks towards the gates. "I'm sure you aid criminals every day at that soup kitchen of yours, Brother Rant. The poor and destitute always turn to the Shadowlord. While you might offer a meal, we offer them a way to better their situation in life. By the Shadowlord's grace, even the lowliest guttersnipe can live like a king." Gendry snorts. "You don't need to turn me in for anything, Brother. For now, at least, I am here to help this city of yours. A surprisingly enlightened city, I must say. The Council of Phlan has not only overlooked my appearance, but has given me amnesty for all of my past misdeeds. So, I have no intention of 'corrupting' you or making you break any of your vows, but my friends and I do need all the help we can get...and you should consider yourself drafted."


Donovan watches Gendry walk off taunting the priest, then realizes, "Gendry wait! We're going the same way."

He turns and bows, "Thank you Ernst. We'll be by in the morning."

"Come on, Lyra, Shaddup, Amara. That Jack fellow is supposed to live in that direction. No need to split up the group quite yet." He runs after the minotaur.


Lyra follows after them.  "Mr. Donovan, you also have the charter, if Mr. Gendry needs to get past the gates."


Rant stares long and hard at Gendry, looking almost dumbstruck. "You are not at all what I would have expected, Mr. Gendry. You are correct, there is more to Tyr's justice than just upholding the law, and for now justice demands that I repay my debt to you and your friends." He stops for breath as Donovan and the others catch up. "As soon as I am able, if you wish it, I will accompany you on your adventures, or provide whatever other aid is appropriate."

You pick your way through the rubble and refuse and are not more than two blocks away from the stables when you hear crashing and clanging noises ahead. You then hear a deep, yet feminine, voice shouting, "Lípa úp orm! Horpa pyrur andann hunnar! Hlaupa! Hlaupa fyrur lípu pínu!"


Donovan shakes his head. "Any chance you are a linguist, Brother?" Then draws his knife. "I'm fresh out of sleep spells, so lets hope that whatever it is is friendly, or at least that there aren't that many of them..."


Lyra cocks her head, listening.  "Something like ... "Hark up worm! Harp <something> breath knob! Run! Run agile floor has a bit!".  Ok, so I'm definitely not a linguist, but that doesn't sound especially friendly to me."


Gendry turns and smiles at Lyra, "You're translations are always fun at least." He kneels and sets down Brother Rant, then rises and draws his sword. "Shaddup, would you mind standing watch over our new friend while I go investigate?"


Shuddup snaps to after apparently daydreaming about life with a small child, shit job, and always being in the run.  He looks down at the priest, "Don't worry I'll protect you." With an easy grin. He hands the priest his arquebus, "I may need this if this crossbow doesn't function properly. "


" Sounds like someone found a dragon or something..." Donovan shakes his head. "I fucking hate these slums."

"Amara, stay with Shaddup and Mr. Rant. Gendry, Lyra, let's go...cautiously." As he walks slowly forward, Donovan casts _protection from evil_ on Lyra and _gauntlet_ on himself.

"Oh, and Amara, is there any chance that one of those secrets your kitten whispers to you could be a highly damaging one? You clearly have some formidable magic at your disposal, but I'm none too clear on the specifics. If you can muster some artillery, it would be very helpful right about now..."


With a loud CRASH, a wall of a nearby building is blown open and the nine-foot frame of a ogrish woman is thrown out through the newly-created hole to slump against a pile of rubble in the street. A pair of men wearing matching chain armor and red cloaks then back out of the hole, shields raised before them towards something inside the building, moving to shield the ogress with their bodies against something inside.


Gendry halts his advance, wondering what could throw an ogre through a wall. "Hey Don, are those the ass-watchers from the boat?"

He looks at the opening, gauging distance to it and line of sight out of it, then moves immediately adjacent to the wall of the building and moves up beside the gap, positioning himself to backstab whatever might come out. He gestures to the men trying to indicate his intent and that they should neither talk to, nor look at him.


Shuddup hands the crossbow to the Tyrian priest and begins dragging him to cover in nearby debris. He then begins scanning the nearby buildings for structural weaknesses in case he can bring one down on whatever is coming thorough the wall.


The building that the lizard-thing is exiting from looks extremely old. The construction is largely brick, which appears to have been plastered over several times. Judging from the uneven roofline, it probably had a second story at some point in the distant past, but is now all one floor. The entire facade is crumbling and it looks as though the wall that the ogre just went flying through was load-bearing. Shaddup suspects that the application of significant force on the far side of the building could bring the remainder of the damaged wall tumbling out into the street in such a way as to be significantly damaging to all in the area. The surrounding buildings are all shanty's, built of twigs, straw, rubble, and canvas tarps. The kind of things that look like they would blow over in a stiff breeze.


Donovan moves to the side of the road opposite Gendry and calls out in Auld Wyrmish--because hey, maybe it is a dragon and maybe it's willing to negotiate, "Ho Worm! Is that any way to treat a lady? Sure, she's a little horny, pun intended, but maybe we can talk about this..."

He holds his magically gauntleted hand up in front of his face in case whatever it is decides to breath fire or acid or the like at him. If nothing else, he hopes to keep the thing's attention focused on him and not on the minotaur getting ready to shove three feet of steel into it's backside.


As Donovan begins to call out, you hear a scream and three more people come running around the side of the building, one, a woman in a slightly-askew white wig cradles her left arm, which looks like it has been badly burned or scarred by acid. You all quickly recognize one of the others as the green-haired elven woman from the ship. All three look badly beat-up.

At about the same time, a large reptilian head with four long horns appears out of the hole in the wall, followed by the body of what appears to be a huge, mottled-green lizard, maybe fifteen feet in length, most of that being tail. It looks directly at Donovan with what can only be described as murderous fury, and roars, droplets of spittle bubbling and hissing as they strike the suspect that the creature does not appreciate your sense of humor.


"Acid spit but no wings? Hey, Lyra, you're an educated young girl, any idea what this thing is?"

Donovan tries to keep up a constant stream of patter in Auld Wyrmish, just in case it actually understood him, to keep the thing's attention on him and away from anyone who might be able to actually hurt it.

"Come on you overgrown gecko!"
"Is that your face, or does your butt have an acid attack?"
"I find your propensity toward accumulating monetary wealth through violent means of highly dubious sensibility!"
"You are so ugly that even Tiamat doesn't like you"
"Your skin will make a nice shield!"
"I've seen better hoards come from between sofa cushions."
"You call yourself a dragon? My cohort can fly better than that."
"You call that a breath weapon? Talk to an ogre in the morning, now that is a breath weapon!"
"Seriously, sharpen your claws. A blind farmer with a dull pitchfork could do more damage."


Lyra crouches behind a large piece of rubble as close to midway between Donovan and Shaddup as she can manage, and takes out a sling.

Lyra calls out to Donovan as she places a large rock in the sling and starts to build up momentum.  "Based on the coloration and presence of acid glands, but lack of wings, I'd say that it is most probably a swamp dwelling subspecies of ... big lizard ... thing."


As Donovan continues taunts the thing, it rears back and unleashes a gout of acidic spittle towards him. Donovan holds his mystically gauntleted hand up in front of his face, fingers outsplayed to deflect the worst of it away from his face and vitals.

When they see the lizard-thing turn its attention towards you, the other party heads back into the building, the ogre first, followed by the others. Last to enter, Teldicia waves and throws Donovan a coquettish smile and mouths "Good luck," before disappearing into the crumbling old building.

Gendry lunges at the thing's back, his gleaming blade entering between its ribs, through a lung, and out the front. The thing begins bleeding profusely, but collapses dead, choking on its own blood, long before it could bleed out.

Lyra tries to stop her sling and a rock goes flying wildly off into the distance.


Gendry pulls out his sword and grins. "Think that's close enough to a dragon that I can get 'dragonslayer' engraved on the blade? 'Big Swamp Lizard Thing Slayer' just doesn't have the same ring to it..." He then turns and looks at the hole in the wall that the other group just darted into. "You're welcome!" he yells after them.

"Don, Lyra, what do you think the chances are that those guys just ran back into the building from which the big lizard monster that was kicking their asses came for some reason other than there being large amounts of loot inside?"


Shuddup retrieves his weapons from the priest and emerges from concealment. "Wait. If we're going in there we need to support the wall here and here." He searches for a moment for a log that doesn't appear to be to rotten, then pries loose a cobble stone. "Gendry, can you put one end of that beam in here and wedge the other end against the wall... Here." He pauses for a moment, "If we had a bell we could run it on a line so if the wall did start to give we could get some forwarning."


Lyra rushes over to Donovan.  "Mr. Donovan, are you all right?  We might be able to use some of this limestone to counteract the acid, but without a proper heat source I'm not sure...."

She fusses over Donovan for a bit, checking his injuries before moving to examine the big swamp lizard thing.

"Mr. Gendry, 'Wyrmslayer' would typically be appropriate, since this is, or was a wingless variant.  Do you think Professor Aumry would be interested in it for research purposes?"


Donovan slumps against the wall of a small shack and shakes the acid from his gauntleted hand as best he can. "I'm...fine..." He winces at the pain of where a small droplet touched his cheek. "Gendry, any chance that your god has some healing left for me?"


Gendry wanders over and picks up Rant. "I have the scrolls Don, but that might be overkill." He hauls Rant over. "Brother Rant, would you be able to assist me in patching up me friend?"


Brother Rant leans against the wall by Donovan. "I'll need clean water and something for bandages..."

Assuming the party has anything like those two items on hand, he carefully washes the acid-burns and wraps them up. "There's not much else I can do with these kind of wounds, but that should help a bit."


Donovan stands up and looks at the dressing on his wounds, "That feels better, thanks."

He starts walking towards the hole and smiles. "Well, someone mentioned the probability of large piles of loot..."


Gendry grabs the log indicated by Shaddup and sets it to brace the wall. "Here?"

He then picks up Brother Rast, piggy back, using one hand to steady him, the other holding his sword ready, and follows Donovan.


Shuddup, inspects the log and shoves against it as though he might move it once a minotaur has set it. With a satisfied nod of his head, "That looks good, this beam should support that stone to act as a keystone to hold the wall if anyone applies force from the other side. So now the question becomes do we foray into the ruins with two of our band on the mend or hazard a trip back to a friendly temple? Perhaps it would be wise for us to invest in some herbs and I can make us some home brew that would perk up our spirits... No orc pee, I promise."


Lyra crouches next to the big lizard thing, and mixes a handful of dust from the crumbling limestone building with a pool of acidic drool near the head, stirring with a large splinter from a shattered wooden beam.  She mixes it carefully, then looks at the end of the wood and frowns.  "No, I don't think that is going to work."

She stands up and runs to catch up to Gendry.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

PBM: Chapter 1: Arriving in New Phlan: Part 6

Welcome to the Slums.

The party arrives at the Parkside Gate, leading to the slums and other uncivilized sections of Phlan. The palisade wall here is heavier than on the sea-ward side, easily four-feet thick, comprised of several sharpened spars stacked together and reinforced with stone salvaged from older buildings. The double-gate is just wide enough for a large wagon to pass through and guarded by ten soldiers in heavy, double-linked chain coifs and hauberks. A heavy wooden bar rests to one side, ready to drop into slots on the gate to bar it, and several angled braces for additional support also stand nearby. Seeing you approach, one of the guards steps forward. "Papers please."

Donovan hands the gate-captain their charter, looking at Amara distractedly. "How much does a candle cost?"

Amara shrugs at Donovan.  "I dunno."

Lyra shifts her backpack to her other shoulder.  "It depends really.  They can be pretty basic, or fancy and dyed with incense embedded in it, or marked to tell time.  Mother has a lot of that kind."

The guard looks at the charter for a long time, pulls out a quill and punches a small hole in it, then hands it back. "First day, huh? If you're going shopping in the market, keep a tight hand on your purse. And keep a sharp eye out--the last group through mentioned that the Redhands have been out in force of late..." The guard sets his halberd against the wall and draws a broadsword from his belt, another does likewise. The two then take hold of the large iron latch-bars and begin to pull the gates open, as the others fan out with their halberds ready and pointed towards the gate, as if expecting a rush of enemies at any moment. When the gate is opened, your noses are assaulted by the stench of garbage, mud, and offal, carried on a sickeningly warm breeze. A press of beggars--children, the blind, the infirm, goblins, orcs, half-breeds, and other unrecognizable things--waits immediately outside the gate. The guards lower their halberds and march three steps forward in unison, forcing a break in the crowd. The guards with the swords wave you through. "Good luck..."

When the gate is opened, Amara wrinkles her nose.  "Ew....stinky!"

"Maybe it will smell better if you're a little above the crowd," Gendry picks Amara up and places her on his shoulders again. He then walks through the gate and begins edging his way through the press of beggars, one hand steadying Amara, the other on his sword. He begins scanning the crowd, looking for anyone shifty among the beggars--anyone hanging back and not pressing the alms-bowl hard (spies), anyone near the front keeping the hand not holding the alms-bowl low and hidden (ready to pick a pocket), anyone playing up their injuries far too obviously (faking an injured arm or leg or peeking out from under a blindfold), or anyone with a the tell-tale bulge of a weapon hidden under their rags...

Donovan tucks the charter safely into his left, inner vest pocket, says "Thanks," to the guards and follows Gendry's wake through the gate. Seeing the press of the poor and downtrodden, he reaches into purse and tries to press a silver piece into every outstretched hand and bowl he can reach--while keeping a tight grip on his backpack where the actual valuables are stored.

After detailing his schematics for the self-cauterizing-bone saw to the clerk and following the group to the gate, Shuddup grimaces at the stench of the masses takes a deep breath and follows in Donovan's wake.

The guards gently nudge everyone past the gate with their pole-arms, then quickly shut the gate behind them, leaving the party adrift in a sea of unwashed humanity.

As Donovan begins handing out coins, Gendry notices a man in the middle of the pack edging towards Donovan. His hands are down, out of sight, rather than upraised in the typical begging posture. His face is horribly scarred and his left ear is missing.

Donovan continues to press coins into every upturned hand and bowl, quickly exhausting his supply of silver. You are fairly certain that some of the beggars received two or even more, as there is no way to keep track of individuals in the forest of outstretched hands. As it becomes clear to the crowd that the purse that held the silver has been emptied, they begin to disperse. One ancient-looking goblin tugs on Donovan's sleeve and croaks out in Common. "Huafk has a school. Behind the horse-seller. Tell him Huafk sent you. He'll teach you to fight good." You're certain, contextually, that he said two different names there, but you feel that you don't know enough goblin to distinguish them...let alone pronounce them correctly.

The rest of the party looks around, past the crowds. A twisted warren of shacks, lean-tos, and crumbling ruins stretches out in all directions. The palisade on this side is covered with graffiti--lewd drawings and slogans in a hundred languages, carved or drawn in chalk, blood, feces, or whatever else was available at the time. The ancient Parkside Road continues to parallel the river here, running north-west, but shows minimal upkeep. The cobbles immediately outside the gate are cracked and worn, and just a few blocks on it dissolves into a mud path with the occasional island of old paving. The road looks barely passable, choked with garbage, debris, and people. Indeed, just a cursory look at the people (and things) milling about on this one street leads you to estimate the population on this side of the wall at at least ten times that of "New Phlan".

Gendry steps directly into the crowd towards the skulking man with the unfortunate face. As the beggars scatter, he grabs one of the man's hand and presses something into it--a black silk domino mask wrapped around a single copper piece--and whispers to the man, "The Shadowlord must have his due. Where shall I dump my cargo?" He then lets go and takes a long step backwards out of the mob.

When the man sees the minotaur coming towards him, he turns to flee. The big meaty hand grabbing his wrist nearly pops his shoulder out of joint, then he notices the bundle he's been given and stops. He turns back and gives Gendry a quizzical look. "Ah, guv'na bull, if'n ye wants t' be makin' a donation, finds yerself a well and don'tcha be afraid t' take a swim, eh." He jerks free and bolts. Gendry's superlative ears just hear him whisper, "An' he sees all 'at 'appens secret..." before the man vanishes down one of the numerous side alleys.

Lyra's eyes go wide in shock as she follows closely behind Donovan, and holds her pack tight against her chest under her cloak.  "How long has it been like this here?  That smell....  Is it because the river is fouled and there's not enough water?"

Donovan finishes handing out coins, and pushes his way past the crowd before turning to Lyra. "Oh, three centuries or more, at least. Phlan has been sacked, burned, and rebuilt more times than I can count, and most of the old city is just ruins on top of ruins on top of more ruins." He walks, carefully, up the road as he begins lecturing. "These slums are the result of the last few years. When New Phlan was started, the Council came in with military force and retook the old docks and quickly fortified the reclaimed section of the city. Settlers started trickling in, overland from Zhentil Keep and the Dales to the west and Melvaunt, Thentia, and Thar to the east, or else by ship from the south. Civilized Phlan soon reached a limit on space, and expansion seaward has been slow work, so newcomers were forced to build their homes outside the wall--or occupy and try to renovate existing ruins more often..."

He pauses talking to step over a pile of refuse, then resumes. "Any progress the new settlers have made here is quickly washed away by the old city's long-time inhabitants. Several gangs of monsters run these slums--like the Redhands the guard was talking about. Orcs and goblins have infested these ruins for hundreds of years and they don't know any other way to live--filthy creatures. Walk around here long and you're guaranteed to see goblins crapping in the streets. Settlers that manage to build a half-way decent house outside the walls quickly find that they are targets for burglary, vandalism, arson, and beatings. Everyone living out here pays protection money to one gang or another--though I here the goblins are more likely to actually deliver than the Orcs of Kobolds. The adventurers occasionally manage to get rid of one gang or another, but unless someone can make a concerted effort to knock out all of them in short-order, more beasties will just keep coming to fill in the gaps..."

He ducks a low-hanging beam jutting from an old building. "The Council claims that clearing the monsters out of the slums and civilizing it are their top priority right now. BUT, the Council is made up of a bunch of old merchants--not real governors. They refuse to levy taxes (even though they have a few on paper, none have ever been collected), have only one full-time municipal employee, Deborah...maybe two now...and are willing to invest only in the military endeavor of reclaiming the city. Well, that, and building nice public buildings for their own use. Even the military occupations they prefer to carry out via contractors, like us. Which leaves the settlers, citizens, and creatures of the slums to fend for themselves."

He gingerly steps over a goblin corpse, covering his mouth and nose with his hand to avoid inhaling one of the many flies buzzing around it. "The Council is making progress though. Most of us are just waiting for more of the city to be 'civilized'. We figure once a sufficient number of people and sufficient land are involved, then progress will accelerate, the people will organize, and the Council will have to concede in favor of a more traditional, service-providing, form of government."

"For now, most people out here try to keep a low profile and get on with their lives. Citizens can pass through the gates rather freely, but most real day-to-day commerce happens out here in the Market. Adventurers from the City, either passing through to go raid the richer parts of Old Phlan, or else actively slumming, provide the main way of transferring funds from the Council to the Slums. It's the worst for those wretches by the gates though. If you get injured or orphaned out here, there isn't really anyone to help you. Luckily the beggars are easy prey for the bigger monsters, which helps keep the population of the completely impoverished from getting too out of hand...."

"Luckily?!" Lyra says. "That's terrible!  Handing out silver, yet valuing their lives so little?"

Gendry reaches up to steady Amara again and make sure she's okay, "Let me know if you see any wells, eh?" Then rushes to catch up to the others.

Hearing Donovan's speech he grins. "Sorry Lyra. Really, the Council's politics sound a lot like my father's. It seems to me like being nice to the beggars is a good way to stick-it-to-the-man, by which I mean, redistribute the Council's wealth in a way they would disapprove of, which really has nothing to do with whether or not you care about the beggars' lives. Plus we just bought two good bits of intel for a handful of silver."

He looks around, trying to keep a lookout for any possible assailants, while trying to breath as shallowly as possible to avoid the stench. "If the Council isn't concerned with infrastructure or services, fixing thousand-year-old drainage systems seem the least of their worries." He grins evilly. "Hey Shaddup? Do you think you could design a drainage system that would deposit all of this soilage right next door to the City Hall?"

Donovan looks a little shocked at Lyra's outburst and back-pedals a bit, or thinks he is, though his tone continues with the same lecturing quality. "Miss Lyra, don't take it that way. I just meant that, you know, they aren't really contributing anything to the improvement of the city or our society. Sure, its sad that they are disabled and a lot of them are kids, but they are beggars, leaches really. You help who you can, but you can't save them all."

He steps around another pile of trash and smiles, as if enjoying a personal joke, or just recognizing the irony of his next statement. "Come on. Let's go find Amara's uncle and ask for that money he owes us for services not-yet-rendered..." He begins laughing a bit too loudly.

As you walk along, dodging trash and listening to Donovan's political rant, Gendry suddenly shouts a warning. At the same time a high-pitched, scratchy voice yells out in some unrecognizable, guttural language. "Pooš! Sovetkot!" Donovan turns a little too quickly to see the source of the noise and trips, landing seated in a large tub of filthy water. An ancient-looking woman with waist-length white hair, the sleeves of her dress rolled up past her elbows with a soaked apron over it, stands over him, pointing a loaded crossbow at the bridge of his nose. She continues to scream. "Pooš! Pooš! Pooš!"

The road here is filled with large tubs of water, some dark and filthy, others with a heavy head of soapy foam. Above, the area is criss-crossed with a spiderweb of ropes, from which hang clothes in various states of disrepair, all soaked and dripping. From the old-woman's stance, you can easily tell that she is trying to block you from approaching a ramshackle old wooden and stone lean-to around which the laundry supplies appear to be arrayed. Her home, such as it is, has a heavy, moth-eaten, woolen blanket for a door and a cloud of black smoke coming from a hole in the roof.

She keeps the crossbow leveled at Donovan's face and continues to scream. "Pooš! Pooš! Pooš!"

Lyra slips a dried apple out of her bag carefully, so as not to spook the old woman with the loaded crossbow in Donovan's face.  She smiles apologetically, and holds out the apple for the old woman to take, holding up her other hand to show she's unarmed.  She speaks softly, with an apologetic smile.  "We're sorry, we didn't know this was your home.  If you'll just let him get up, we can be leaving."

Donovan looks from the woman to Lyra and back again. He then looks at his clothing, dripping with the filthy water of her used washtub. "Excuse me, Ma'am. But, how much do you charge for a cleaning?"

He slowly extricates himself from the tub, sliding himself awkwardly backwards, away from the readied crossbow. He then says, quietly, in Elvish to the others, hoping that at least one of them understands--and that she doesn't. "I think she's speaking Orc...or maybe might want to keep your eyes peeled..."

The woman takes a step back, her eyes darting around. She half-lowers the crossbow, but keeps it pointed in Donovan's general direction. "Sorry miss," she addresses Lyra, "I heard this'n talking..." she gestures at Donovan with the crossbow, "...and thought ye were 'venturing types come t' steal me laundry agin." When Donovan addresses her, she finally lowers the weapon completely. "Oh, ye're cust'mers!" She takes a step back and looks at the horrible purple-brown splotches covering Donovan's clothing. "Giv'n that ye just dumped yerself in a tub o' discharge...a copper if ye wants it t' be brown, or a gold if ye want it to be whatever color it was fore ye took yer bath. An' I can't'nt make no promises on the secon' 'un..."

The woman's voice is cut off by several deep voices shouting "Sovetkot!" as four orcs come charging from the alley behind her house. "G-ube!" The woman looks absolutely shocked that anyone actually responded to her cry for help...

Gendry swings Amara down off his shoulders with his left hand, drawing his sabre with the right, the perfectly sharpened silver blade gleaming in patchy sunlight peaking through the smog overhead.  "Everyone stay behind me," he yells.

Lyra moves between Amara and the oncoming orcs and continues trying to de-escalate the situation rather than killing orcs that were nice enough to respond to an old woman's cries for help. "She was just calling for help, and they came!  Either they're here to help an old woman protect her home or she's all paid up on protection money and they're upholding their end.  Either way, they aren't the kind of orcs we need to be cutting down in the street!  Gendry!"

Donovan circles around towards the middle of the washtubs and clotheslines, hoping to put some obstructions between himself and the oncoming orcs.

He then casts a Sleep spell at the orcs, whispering softly under his breath, dropping some sand to look like dirt he kicked up, and concealing the gestures in his dodging--trying not to draw attention to himself as a caster. Three of the orcs stumble and pass-out, their momentum carrying them forward, leaving one face-down in the washtub from which Donovan had so recently extricated himself, the second tangled in a clothesline, and the third snoring peacefully at Gendry's feet.

Lyra breaks out into song to try to calm the orcs down. Amara lets Lyra be her shield and peeks around.  She waits to see what happens, tapping her foot to Lyra's tune.

_Step one: wear a smile._

_Step two: say hello._

A bit late, Shuddup follows the very sensible advice of getting behind the large minotaur, works his back to a corner and drops to a crouching position readying a large metal and wooden tube across a wooden beam jutting out about knee high in the ruins, and touching a match to an opening on its top.

As the lead orc runs past Gendry, the minotaur executes a perfect, deep sideways lunge, driving the point of his sabre into the back of the orc's left leg. He then slashes upwards, tearing through muscles and tendons to sever the orc's femoral artery. The orc collapses to the ground in a heep at Lyra's feet, blood spurting in all directions.

_Step three: introduce yourself,_

As the last orc falls to Gendry's blade, a massive ogre runs, skidding around the corner into the alley behind the orcs. It bounces off the wall of an old house, knocking several stones loose, then fixes its gaze on Gendry, its blue-black eyes bulging grotesquely.

To someone you wanna get to know.

Step four: have a conversation,

Ask a question or two.

Making friends can be so simple,

All you have to do is just be you.

You gotta have friends to make you laugh,

Help you feel better when you are sad.

You gotta have friends to make you smile,

Help you feel calm when you are mad.

You gotta have friends so don’t be shy,

Go out and give it a try,

Anyone would be lucky, ooh-ooh,

To have a friend like......

Lyra's song is cut off by a deafening bang that leaves all of your ears ringing. With a small flash of light, something whizzes out of the end of Shaddup's tube-thing, right over the heads of the fallen orcs, and catches the oncoming ogre in the stomach. The huge creature is knocked backwards, crushing a small lean-to.

The ogre claws its way upright again, looks at the gaping hole in its midsection and the orcs lying on the ground, and runs weeping back around the corner from which it came...

The old washer-women faints, her crossbow splashing into a foamy washtub beside her.

Gendry steps over the hamstrung orc, casually stabs it in the throat to put it out of its misery, and begins going through its pockets. "Sorry Lyra. I think you're right about the latter--the old woman probably paid them protection money. Armed gangs don't just help little old ladies out of the kindness of their hearts. Demanding protection money usually just translates to 'pay us a regular fee or we burn your house down.' Dad used to demand 'protection money' from merchants all the time. I've been involved in my fair share of extortion rackets, and 'protection' tops the list of the classics." He kicks the dead orc for emphasis. "No finesse..."

Everyone can see Gendry's mouth moving, but all you hear is a high-pitched "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" and the low-pitched, thrumming echo from Shaddup's portable explosion device, .

The orcs each appear to be wearing makeshift armor, made by sewing or riveting bits of scrap metal to a hide backing, and are carrying a variety of weapons. In addition, each appears to have a bloody rag tied around their left hand. The one Gendry slew has armor that appears to be made from the recently harvested hide of a black and white cow, not even cured, with a large number of nails shoved through it, is wearing a pair of nice steel bracers, was carrying a spear (more a long, pointy stick with no real head on it), and has a decent quality shortsword tucked into its belt.

In the orcs pockets you find 4 electrum coins, 8 silver, and 7 copper.

Donovan slaps his hands over his ears a little too late to avoid the blast. He stands, dizzy and confused, for a few minutes before he starts asking, "Can you hear me now?" When the ringing has subsided sufficiently, he kneels down and begins stripping the orcs of their cash and grabbing the crossbow, and, as an afterthought, fishing the old woman's crossbow out of the tub and taking it too. "Never hurts to have a spare..."

As he looks to see if they have any ammunition beyond the one bolt each, he addresses (more yells at, since he still can't hear well) the others, "That boom will probably attract a lot of unwanted attention." He looks meaningfully at the heavily guarded gate, less than three blocks away, and the, presumably, fleeing mob of beggars. "And the ogre might come back."

"Anyone want the bracers?"

Amara blinks and sticks her fingers in her ears trying to figure out why she can't hear.

Lyra stands there looking shocked as Gendry finishes off the fallen orc and starts rifling through his pockets.  She shakes her head, and seems to come to her senses, motioning for Donovan to hand her a crossbow.

As you look around, you see the guards up on the wall holding their ears and watching you, but they otherwise have the unconcerned look of people who have to watch killing in the streets from a perch where they cannot intervene every day. The beggars and other slums residents on this street dispersed to whatever hidey-hole they crawled out of as soon as the flow of coins from your purse ceased. Looking up and down the Parkside Gate Road in both directions, the street appears to have been largely vacated, save for a few brave souls peaking out of huts a few blocks up to see what the noise was.

Donovan hands Lyra the better-looking of the two crossbows, and three of the bolts. He pauses for a second, then hands the other one to Shaddup. "Here, you might try using'a a lot quieter and if you keep it loaded you can usually count on getting the shot off before they all drop."

Lyra hands the bolts to Shaddup, and places the crossbow down next to the old woman, glowering at Donovan.

Donovan looks disapprovingly at Lyra. "Whatever..." he sighs. "You're going to be wishing you had that once we're crossing the swamp." He grabs the bracers and tries them on, then starts walking.

Amara tugs on Gendry's tunic.  "I gotta pee!"

Shuddup eyes the crossbow for a moment, "I need a small glass or ceramic ball no more than two inches in diamiter, and pea-gravel or ball bearings. Anyone want to drink a potion, or six?"

Gendry grabs the shortsword and tucks it in his belt, "for backup" he says to himself. He checks the other orcs weapons, casually holding the one orcs face in the washtub until it stops bubbling, but finds them all to be lacking some way. He then tears down a clothesline and ties the two, still-sleeping, orcs back to back in the middle of the road before heading after Donovan.

As he starts walking he looks down at Amara tugging on his tunic, then waves a hand at the refuse in the road. "Go wherever you like, I guess. Looks like that is what everyone else here does..." He then jogs back and grabs the practice sword, thinking maybe he can teach Amara some basic moves while they are traveling.

You hurry away from the old washer-woman's house. While the road officially runs strait, you find yourselves forced to divert down alleys and back again to bypass numerous sinkholes, cesspits, collapsed buildings, and areas where people have built their shacks right in the middle of the road. The overall feel, as you skirt around streams of filth and hastily slapped-together buildings made of litter, is one of completely, unrepentant chaos.

Rounding a corner back onto the Gate Road, Aumry's Tower comes into sight just a few blocks further on. The tower rises seven stories, each floor smaller than the one before, like a circular ziggurat, but leans precariously out over the road. A large scaffolding has been erected around the thing, and numerous workers and guards hang about, most idly chatting, a few sleeping on elevated platforms, and only two or three actually appearing to be engaged in any serious labor.

Nearer at hand, perhaps a block before the tower, on the right-hand side of the road is a relatively new-looking wooden building with a large fenced-off yard, filled with herd animals of all kinds. A triangular sign by the road declares horses, donkeys, cattle, oxen, sheep, and camels for sale.

Nearer still, between yourselves and the stables, five orcs with ashen-gray skin, dressed in rags stand over a body lying in the middle of the road. A large pool of blood spreads out over the ground around the man on the ground. The orcs are arguing loudly in their own tongue, one of them waving a fistfull of papers.

"...eda od ove ora da bde toa!"
"Ḱe se ovde!"
"E, vescte se o!"
"Što? T dur e ože da se pročta!"
"Zošto treba da se od da g ubJat a sveštekot?"
"ToJ e b n g zleč!"
"Da g odese do Mace, toJ ḱe zaat što da pravat."
"E, Mace ḱe g prezee ste ple za sebe."
"O ožeb Mace ože da se zleč."
"A Xvimlar kogaš e se zleč ekoJ bez zeaJḱ aaluvaje..."

Gendry looks around at his companions, "Ok, guys, two questions. One, does anyone speak Orc? Two, there seemed to be some tactical disagreement last time. Anyone care if I charge in there before that guy bleeds out?" He draws his sword.

As they walk, Donovan's pants and boots make a quiet sloshing sound. His gate widens as he tries to keep the wet cloth from clinging to his nether-bits and chafing, and his face seems to have adopted a permanent scowl. "Drink potions for what, Shaddup? Do you have potions we should be drinking?"

When they round the corner and see the orcs, he scowls even more. "Sorry Gendry, no, I don't speak Orc. Given that these ones are not charging us, and we don't know the situation, I vote that we try non-lethal measures first." Donovan begins casting another sleep spell at the orcs.

All five of the orcs collapse mid-argument.

Shuddup looks at Donovan, "No, should I have brought potions ? I just need the bottles." He raises the crossbow, "I'm inexperienced with this type of weapon and can't vouch for my accuracy.  With some small bottles I could have modified some arrows to compensate.  Nothing to  extravagant, just some powder, pea-shot, and a fuse.  It's not like I was going to try to replicate uncle Aldrich's void arrow experiment."

Gendry blinks, "Woah you're fast at that. How often can you do that?"

As the orcs drop, Gendry runs forward. He gently rolls the fallen man onto his back and leans in to check his breathing (and his pockets). He begins chanting a prayer to Mask, to stabilize the man.

Lord of Shadows, Father of Thieves, He who sees all that happens in darkness, hear my prayer.
Look with favor on your servants, these brave souls who would come here to this dark town so that they might line their pockets.
Give us this day our daily loot, and let your will be done in light, as it is in darkness.
Lead us into temptation, and deliver us from the hands of the law-men.

A man lies fallen, gloriously wounded by the treachery of your servants.
Let your grace fall upon him and let him be healed that he might live to steal again.
Staunch his wounds and fill his pockets, that he might in turn fill your coffers.

On closer inspection, the man (who is indeed human) appears to have been stabbed several times, though he is still breathing shallowly. You turn him over to find that he is dressed in, now badly bloodstained, white robes with the holy symbol of Tyr emblazoned on the front. As you pray, the worst of his wounds close. He appears stable, though he remains unconscious and his breathing weak.

The orcs lying asleep around him don't look much better off. Their skin has an ashen-gray pallor and is rough, and scaly, almost like tree-bark, with small chalky-white splotches and lesions. Three of them have knives loosely gripped in their hands, one of which is still wet with the man's blood.

Searching the man, you find a silver chain around his neck with the silver hammer and scales of tyr, a long-handled footman's mace by his hand (apparently unused in his recent altercation), and a scroll case that looks like it was opened a little too forcefully, which is empty.

Lyra picks up the fallen set of papers and looks them over.  "I can understand a little Orcish.  There were a lot of orcs in Waterdeep.  But there was a lot of everything in Waterdeep.  Poos is 'help'.  Mace is a name.  Does it sound familiar, Mr. Donovan?  The closest thing to a sentence I could make out was "Well, Mr. Mace will have assumed the tribes for themselves.", and a word I think is 'heal' came up a lot.  I'm pretty sure I misheard the bit about food and dances."

Lyra shakes her head and hands the papers over to Donovan.  "Can you make anything of this?  It's not one I'm familiar with."

Donovan gives Shaddup a sideways glance as he's examining the orcs. "You seem to be a pretty good shot, and the principles of the thing--point and click--seem reasonably similar to your boomstick. In cases where being quiet is preferable, it may make a reasonable back-up. Also, anything involving powder and a fuse seems likely to defeat the purpose of being quiet..."

"No I have never heard of this Mace fellow," he says turning to Lyra. "What was that about food and dances?" Donovan accepts the proffered papers and takes a look. It appears to be some sort of clerical notation. He hands the scrolls to Gendry, "You should probably keep these. Just let me know what pocket they're in--I have some facility with magical devices and might be able to use them if you're the one that needs healed."

Lyra replies, "As far as I could tell their conversation was something like:
' from these dances be it!'
'He will be here!'
'Well, something about!'
'What?  Major something something to something!'
'Why should that of Mr. something something?'
'It is something heal!'
'To go to Mr. Mace, he will something you to make any.'
'Well, Mr. Mace will have assumed the tribes for themselves.'
'Oh something Mace something to heal.'
'A something something be heal something without something something.'
"I don't actually speak Orc, but I've heard enough bits and pieces to pick out that much.  I'm mostly worried about the "He will be here" bit, which implies they are expecting someone, and the 'Mr. Mace will have assumed the tribes for themselves'.  Is this Mace trying to organize the orc tribes?  And what does any of that have to do with stabbing a cleric of Tyr?"

Gendry takes the scrolls, returns them to their case, and attaches it to his belt. He begins searching the orcs, casually kneeling with his full weight on one's throat as he goes through its pockets. "What should we do about this fellow?" He gestures to the unconscious monk. "I'm not a big fan of Tyrants, but having a few grateful contacts in the law is always helpful..."

Amara goes over to look at the orcs and inspect their odd pallor.  She sets Whiskers down, who sniffs at one of the bodies and then looks at her.

The orc that Gendry kneels on quickly suffocates. The orcs wear only rags and have no valuables. Between the five of them, you come up with a half-dozen knives, one a long skinning knife, none of good quality, a butcher's gut-hook, and a flint-bladed dagger for weapons. Getting this close to them, Gendry's superior bovine nose detects a smell of decay about them, strongly vegetative, almost like peat or compost.

Donovan, nods to Lyra, "I thought I heard something about "Xvimlar". That's a common appellation for worshipers of Iyachtu Xvim, a significant rival of Tyr's...being the actual god of tyrants." He scoops up a few of the knives. "If this Mr. Mace is a priest of Xvim, and is organizing the orc tribes..."

Gendry sighs and picks up the unconscious monk. "Alright..." He draws his sword and stabs the other four orcs. "Let's get out of the street and revive this guy...see if he knows what's up with this Mace fellow." He looks around. "Coast clear? There seem to be a lot of orcs on this street...any ideas where to take him?"

Lyra gestures towards the large tower.  "Professor Aumry's tower is where we're headed anyway, and appears to be well guarded."

Shuddup upon hearing "well guarded" gets excited and moves to point.  "Ooooh, well guarded usually means traps.  What kind do you think we'll see?  I hope they have spring-razors they have some of the most fascinating clockworks..."

Gendry shrugs and heads towards the tower.

Archivist's Note: This attempt at a more cohesive prose will be abandoned in future posts as being too time consuming.