By Brian Flood
Chapter 30 - Picking up the Pieces
In the Marketplace
Asbravn, The Sunset Vale
Mid-Afternoon, 30th Day of Eleint; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
“You know about the same as us then,” Cyzicus pipes up. “We heard screaming and followed its source to find a blob and an oliphant running about the square. Now, to whom can I offer the healing powers of Arvoreen?” The halfling begins to scan the group for wounds to address.
“Oliphant?” asks the senior priest, his face a picture of bewilderment. “What in Ilmater’s name is an oliphant? And who, may I ask, are you, kind sir?” the priest continues, addressing Cyzicus.
At this point, Darius starts to head over to Soft Fang, ignoring the Red Cloaks and the priests.
“You there!” orders the Red Cloak leader. “We have not released you – where --”
The soldier who earlier helped Cyzicus and Kryian interrupts the man’s orders. The soldier places his arm gently on the leader’s arm saying, “Sergeant Malik, let him go – he means no harm. That is his dog over there, near Samborl’s. These people here helped to bring that creature under control. And they had nothing to do with Samuel’s wounds,” the soldier continues, indicating the Red Cloak whose legs have been severely burned by the blob’s touch.
Sergeant Malik nods wordlessly and allows Darius to continue toward Soft Fang. The wolf raises its head at the druid’s approach and whimpers in greeting.
Alani remains quiet as the priests and
soldiers go about her work. Initially,
she looks a little wild around the eyes but soon calms.
Her grip on her bow remains rock-steady at all times, however.
The elf maid refuses the priests offer for healing, pointing instead to the solider that she pulled from the fireball’s fiery reach as well as Kjira and Lucas. She sheathes her bow and kneels beside Dolak trying to conceal her amusement at his squeaking outrage.
Kryian turns to Cyzicus. “I ‘kin use yer ‘elp,” he says. Now that the excitement of battle is past, the companions notice that the mariner’s fine silk shirt has been shredded – a result, no doubt, of being dragged across the cobblestone surface of the marketplace.
Cyzicus moves to Kryian’s side and begins to administer to the mariner’s wounds. As the halfling priest sees to his wounded companion, Dolak decides to answer the priest’s original question on behalf of the party.
“Wull, I kin tell ye what’s what,” bellows Dolak from his strategic point high atop the cobblestone. “We were helpin’ the farmer try and fix the axle on his wagon over there,” Dolak says as he points at the remnants of the wagon.
“All of a sudden, we heard a loud squeal from in the charred house here, and a guy came runnin’ from the building yellin’ somethin’, ” Dolak points at the skeletal remains as he continues. “I never really got the message because that huge Oliphant sittin’ o’er there,” Dolak says, pointing at the trussed beast, “followed right behind him.”
“Wull, me and me friends here tried to get control of the Oliphant, but it had other ideas and basically ran around causin’ most o’ the damage ya see now. Before we got control, a blob came out of the house and slithered on top of the poor sot, and his bones are showin’. The Oliphant hit a wall and it’s a bit slower now, though I bet he’ll be on his feet and runnin’ again in no time.”
“The guard here attacked the blob and I ran across to help him and she,” Dolak says, pointing at Alani, “fired some arrows at it. The slimey residue of yak dung magicked me to this size cause I burned it some with a torch.”
“And then this Red Robe,” Dolak continues breathlessly, pointing at Malik, “came in and held everyone up at bowpoint while that yak dung escaped back into the house! And then the explosion, of course.”
“Anyway, I’m through with the slimy yak dung. Mr. Red Coat here earned the right to charge after him when he held us up! And, seein’ how’s that Oliphant’s daze is gonna wear off anytime now, he kin deal with that too. Now I’m off to fix me current stature problems and then Johann's wagon!”
Finally venting his rage on the Red Cloak, Dolak looks around trying to decide which direction to head off to.
“Please stand still, sir,” begs the junior priest who has been trying to see to the miniscule adventurer’s wounds.
The senior priest – earlier identified as Asgar – nods in response to Dolak’s lengthy discourse. He glances to the Red Cloak who earlier interceded on Darius’ behalf. “And you there, soldier, is this true?”
The Red Cloak nods before responding respectfully. “My name is Stephan, Abject Supplicant. And yes, what the little dwarf has said is true. These people here did not instigate this. In fact, they helped to end it.”
“Dwarf?!” the priest exclaims, crouching down to get a better look at Dolak. “I would have thought him to be some sort of imp! Foul magic is about, indeed.”
Standing again, Asgar turns to address his assistants. “How are the others?”
“These two are stabilized, but we can do no more for them today,” says one of the junior priests, indicating Lucas and Kjira. “On the ‘morrow, we can call upon Ilmater’s grace to heal their remaining injuries. They will need to spend the rest of today and most of tomorrow in bed rest, Abject Supplicant.”
Asgar nods in understanding as the other junior priests make their reports.
“This one shall suffer no longer,” says the junior priest kneeling at the side of the unidentified corpse. “He is in the hands of his power, now.”
The priest administering to Dolak succeeds in making the dwarf stand still long enough to receive a gift of divine healing. Dolak’s wounds close without any sign of ever having existed.
“This one is healed – with the exception of his size,” announces Dolak’s benefactor.
Lastly, the junior priest attending to Samuel, the wounded Red Cloak, speaks. “I have done what I can for this one, Abject Supplicant. But he will need further healing.”
Asgar listens to all of the reports and pauses to think. “It would appear that these people here are not agents of the Black Robes, as I originally feared. Although, I am not sure that the Zhentarim’s evil hand did not play some role in this.”
Addressing the party, the priest says, “Your friends are in need of our care – and several of you could probably use a wash basin, I am sure. And, I would like to be kept advised of your whereabouts while I seek Ilmater’s guidance on this bizarre event. Please, come with us to temple and we will allow you use of our infirmary so that you may recover. I DO insist,” he finishes with a stern look.
Hearing Asgar’s request to the party, Sergeant Malik turns to Stephan. “Stephan,” the Red Cloak leader orders, “take these men here and help Corporal Tomas with the stall fires. Have him send that female over here to join her companions.”
Turning back to the party, the Sergeant says, “Well, travelers, you heard the priest. I would ask that you move with him to the temple for the time being. I must report to my captain – I am sure he will also want to speak with you at length later this day.”
The minor figure of Dolak, somewhat calmer after being healed, addresses the head priest Asgar again. “Three points to consider before we follow the guards to our cells, if I may. Firstly, I dinna know the custom here, but in Dwarven Villages, we generally dinna let invading blobs have the run of town. While we have successfully been captured, the blob is somewhere in this village with magic enough to ruin yer fest tomorrow.”
the Oliphant o’er there is still a problem, though I do believe the guards kin
“Thirdly, and most importantly, we are not mere travelers. We are indeed caravan guards and our employer will sooner or later begin to wonder why we have not returned from our provision run into town. While I have no problem sleeping under a roof tonight, our employer might have a problem with us leaving our charge unguarded tonight. Since we are to accompany the guards to the temple, may I ask that a few guards be dispatched to tell our employer we will not be available tonight, and to help guard his possessions in our absence? Ya kinna miss him. He goes by the name Tomar, and is quite large fer a man riding the trail.”
Asgar looks to Malik, the ranking Red Cloak present. “Well, sergeant? What of this….dwarf’s suggestions?”
Malik, in turn, glances from Dolak to the elder priest. “Abject Supplicant, I assure you we will take care of this problem as soon as -- ”
The sergeant is interrupted as an entire score of Red Cloaks enters the marketplace from the north at a run. Simultaneously, two guards deliver a disgruntled and disheveled Slyvia to back to the party’s ranks. Darius also rejoins the group, a rejuvenated and energetic Soft Fang at his side.
Directing his attention back to Asgar, Malik continues. “It would appear that reinforcements have arrived. I see that Lieutenant Denise is with them. I will bring to her attention the problems of this blob creature and that – did you call it an oliphant? – over there near the ‘Tankard.”
Darius speaks up at this point, “The oliphant is not a problem, it is a natural creature. Do not kill it. If you can carry or drag it out of town and release it that would be ok. If not, leave it there till the morrow and I will speak to it and convince it to leave town.”
Malik pauses as he considers the druid’s remark. Taking in Darius’ outward appearance and obvious determination in this case, he shrugs. “We will have to remove it from the marketplace, as a minimum. Once that is done, we will find somewhere.... secure in which to keep the creature until you can -- did you say speak to it?”
“Yes, speak with it,” Darius replies. “I will cast an Animal Friendship spell and will take him out of town and release him into the wild. He may not understand my words, but he will understand that I wish friendship and that it is best for him,” the druid explains.
“Very well,” declares the
sergeant. “Assuming the captain finds no reason to detain you, we will
search you out tomorrow to deal with the creature. I will be sure the
lieutenant understands that the creature is dangerous, but not evil."
Looking over the priest’s shoulder at the burning Goldcoin House, the sergeant continues. “I do not think the blob will be a problem anymore – unless, of course there is some entrance to the catacombs within the old Waukeen temple. I will suggest to the lieutenant that we form a protective cordon around the ‘House until it is safe to enter.”
Asgar nods at the soldier’s words. “Very well, then sergeant. Now, get along and do your duty. We will care for these would-be heroes in the temple until your captain can come to interview them. I believe one of this group’s members is already at the temple. If need be, we can send him to notify their employer.”
Malik bows in respect to the senior priest and then turns on his heel to go and meet with the Red Cloak officer and the reinforcements. As the sergeant moves away, Asgar returns his attention to the party.
“Well then, let us get you all to the temple so that we may reduce the suffering of your two unfortunate companions. Alleviators,” he says, addressing his underpriests, “help these people move their fellows back to the temple. Four to a body should be sufficient, I would think.”
The junior priests, aided by the party members, begin to ready the unconscious bodies of Lucas and Kjira for movement. Asgar, seeing that Dolak will clearly not be helping to carry anyone, poses a question to the tiny dwarven warrior.
“Tomar, you say?” the priest asks, showing sudden interest. “And a portly man at that? Tell me, what profession does this man hold?”
“He’s a book trader,” Alani says standing and dusting herself off. Her delicate face is streaked with soot. “Why do you ask, holy sir?”
if he is who I believe him to be,” Asgar replies, “then he is known to both
the temple and the Red Cloaks. That
should help your cause when the Red Cloaks conduct their hearing.”
As Asgar’s final words escape his lips, Dolak’s mouth drops open and his face turns bright red, again. “Help.. our... cause.... hearing?” he stutters in utter disbelief to no one.
“Kruk!” he explodes and then clamps shut his mouth and grunts as his thick arms quickly snap crossed in front of his chest. He is quite the picture of stubborn rage, all four inches of him.
The priest responds to Dolak’s rage with utter serenity. “Come now, little one. It is merely procedure. If everything went as you say it did, and if we find that you are indeed who you claim to be and not agents of the Black Robes, then all should be well.”
“Whilst I'm glad that our employer is known in to be in good standing in these parts,” blurts Alani, “I too am not entirely pleased that we must be subjected to a ‘hearing’ simply because we tried to help. But, as long as it kept short I’ll keep my objections to myself,” Alani finishes.
“Now what is this about an entrance to catacombs to an old Waukeen temple?” she asks Asgar curiously. “And what in the name of the nine hells was that blob creature? Have you seen or heard of such a creature before?”
Continuing to walk toward the much under-maintained Temple of the Suffering God, Asgar does his best to answer the elven scout’s multiple inquiries. “This town you see here lies over the ruins of an ancient city – Urdrath of the Horsemen,” the priest begins. He gestures toward one of the six stone pillars, surmounted by crumbling horse heads, that ring the marketplace. “These pillars are the only outward signs that they were ever here.”
“Being nomads,” Asgar continues, now acting as if teaching a class, “the Horsemen moved on from this area long ago – most likely to the North, somewhere. They left behind their city and its catacombs, which today lie beneath the very foundations of our town. Even today, new entrances to these tunnels and tombs are being discovered in the cellars and basements of some of the town’s buildings. Occasionally, some enterprising adventurer or two will venture into the catacombs. Sometimes they bring forth small trinkets of jewelry or decorated weapons. More often, they return in fear, telling tales of creatures that lurk in the dark and seek the warmth that only the living can provide.”
The priest sighs before proceeding. “And, occasionally, something crawls forth from the tunnels and into our lives, here above ground. I must admit, I have never heard of any blob-like creature that could spit forth bursts of magic; and the idea is quite displeasing, to say the least. Judging from your description of when and from where the slimy abomination appeared, I would surmise that there was probably an hidden entrance or two to the catacombs concealed within the Goldcoin House. Leave it to those gold-worshipping Waukeen followers to have an emergency exit up their sleeves. I’m just surprised it hasn’t surfaced before now.”
is thoughtful as she replies, “Yes, that is surprising.
You’d think it would have surfaced to hunt and forage for food.
There can’t be much in the way of live food for such a creature in some
dusty catacombs. Maybe something
has driven it up to the surface? Has
anyone been investigating the Goldcoin House recently?
Maybe they inadvertently stumbled upon it, and it followed them up to the
house...or it slew them and then got curious as to the possibility this new food
supply and followed their path?”
She takes a deep breadth and continues. “I'm worried that even though the fireball laid waste to the house, the blob may not be destroyed. And it may rear its ugly headless self....”
frowns before he responds. “No, I
cannot say that I know of anyone who has displayed an intent to explore the
Goldcoin House. The place has been
boarded up for years – after Waukeen disappeared, her followers found other
powers to hold their loyalty. And
their shrine simply faded into disrepair as the years passed.
It wouldn’t surprise me though, if some would-be adventurer had snuck
inside to see if Waukeen’s former followers had left a spare gold coin or two
“It may well be worth investigating the catacombs in some detail,” suggests Cyzicus. “The risk to innocent civilians is great if this creature, or indeed others of its ilk, decide to rumble to the surface once more,” the halfling opines.
“Do you get many adventurers coming to town and exploring?” Alani asks the priest with a quick smile. “Without even asking permission? Unbelievable. No ethics. SO unlike the honourable profession of caravan guarding...So what else can you tell us of the shrine?”
“Oh, I assure you,” the priest says with chagrin, “we see more than our share of adventurers passing through town. Some come to join the Red Cloaks; others prefer to freelance into the nearby hills and such. Of course, if they should happen to rid this wretched world of a few Zhents in the process, I say more power to them!”
for the shrine,” Asgar continues, “I have told you pretty much everything of
common value. As for your
friend’s suggestion to investigate the catacombs,” the priest shrugs in
indifference, “I would only suggest you check with your caravan master –
this Tomar fellow. Especially if
you intend to remain as….what was
it you called it? ‘Honorable
caravan guards?’ Rather than
roguish adventurers, that is.” The
priest says the last with a notable sarcastic tilt to his voice.
At the same time that Asgar finishes speaking, the small procession reaches the large, double doors that decorate the front façade of the House of the Suffering God. “Please forgive the appearance of our humble temple,” Asgar explains, “Our tithes, of late, have been insufficient to effect repairs on the building.”
One of the junior priests opens the doors and the procession proceeds inside. Quickly turning to the left, the group stops at a wooden door.
“This is the infirmary,” explains Asgar. “Please remain outside for a few moments while my underpriests try to ease your companions’ suffering with our meager means available.”
With that, the junior priests take the unconscious forms of Lucas and Kjira into the infirmary. The remainder of the party remains outside the hospital’s door. After several long minutes, the door opens.
Asgar holds a brief, whispered conversation with one of the junior priests before turning back to the party.
“You may go inside now,” the priest announces. “Please remember that your companions have been pulled from the verge of death itself. It may take them some time to wake. Also, you will see that their wounds have not been completely healed. We will do so in the morning, with Ilmater’s graces. For now, we have taken steps to ease the pain from their injuries. Please, go inside and see to them – you will be under our protection so long as you remain in the infirmary. I will send someone to retrieve you when the Red Cloak contingent arrives.”
The junior priests exit the small room and then the party walks slowly into the temple’s infirmary. Asgar waits until all have entered and then nods in farewell before softly closing the door behind them.
Inside, the infirmary is revealed as a rather austere place of healing. Small, stone washbasins line the twenty-five foot long southern wall of the room. The northern half of the twenty-foot wide chamber is lined with beds – spaced one every five paces or so. A total of five are present. Each bed consists of a stone platform covered by a straw-filled mattress. Simple linens provide a small amount of comfort to the patients.
Lucas and Kjira in adjacent beds near the western side of the room. Lucas lies on his stomach while Kjira lies on her back. Each sleeping mage is clothed in a simple, gray cotton robe – similar to those worn by the priests. A stack of similar, neatly folded robes rests on the central bed. On the far eastern bed is a pile of various items of adventuring gear – obviously the items that were carried on the mages’ persons. On the floor at the foot of that same bed is a pile of scorched and ruined clothing – apparently the remains of the mages’ robes.
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