By Jaap-Peter Hazelhoff
Chapter 61 - Executing the Plan
Berdusk, 1371 DR, Eleint, 11th day (Penultimate Thunder: Hoar), morning
Boarding the carriages in the inn’s courtyard, a small wave of excitement goes through the group. The horses seem to pick up on the slight nervousness and snort and stamp their hooves impatiently. Only when Immerine checks on them they seem to quiet down, the voice of the Rashemi woman soothing their anxiety. The weather hasn’t changed much since the earlier hours of the morning, the cool autumn breeze has dropped slightly in strength, yet overhead the fluffy white clouds still move steadily through the blue sky. Offering his hand, Telsom helps Ditalidas to climb into the first carriage, then extending his offer to Emlyn. With a gentle smile the halfling priestess of Ilmater accepts and follows the young lady Jalarghar inside. The next one to board is Jezbodiah, after which Telsom climbs in, glancing briefly at the others and the second carriage.
Tempest and Portia climb into the second carriage, followed by the lanky bard and Marc, leaving only Matteo and Immerine in the courtyard, the young witch gently stroking the flanks of her white steed. “May Khelliara guide you on your path, Matteo,” speaks the witch softly from behind her mask. “And you too,” the young Sembian replies, running a hand through his hair. With a wry smile he adds, “With any luck the warehouse will be unoccupied and we’ll have a quiet afternoon, though I doubt it.” Sighing, he looks at the masked woman before him then and, in a subdued voice, quietly says, “Take care of yourself, my lady.” Taking a step back, he turns and makes his way to take a seat beside the driver on the first carriage.
With the rattling sound of hooves and iron-rimmed wheels on the cobblestones the carriages move out of the courtyard and into the city. The lead driver follows the directions from Matteo silently, the second carriage a few yards behind. Immerine, astride Qwenta, follows a couple of yards behind the second carriage; the young witch enjoying the freedom of riding in the open – albeit within a city. Soon the two carriages come to a halt. Parked along the route are two other carriages, horses hitched and fresh and two drivers awaiting the transfer of the passengers. Quickly the group changes vehicles, the first set continuing their journey to someplace outside the city walls in order to enhance the ploy, the other set rattling their way down towards the docks and the suspect warehouse.
After an uneventful trip the carriages come to a halt not far from the warehouse, the horses have barely worked up a sweat, yet their breath sends small clouds of vapor in the cool air. Qwenta – not used to these short trips – paces a little restlessly about, Immerine letting the animal vent a little frustration after having been stuck in the stalls so long. A quick look around the corner of the building next to which the carriages are parked learns that the warehouse seem open for business. Only one door of the large double doors is open, giving not much view into the buildings shadowy interior. A couple of crates are stacked outside – apparently waiting for a pick-up or to be carried in later – and the silhouettes of some more crates and barrels can be seen inside.
Moving back out of sight after taking a quick glimpse at the warehouse, Matteo glances at his companions then gives Nik a quick smile. “Right, those if you who are going to act as a diversion get going. Once we’ve seen you do whatever you plan to do, we’ll roll up outside in a carriage and get inside as soon as we can. After that, you can come and join us. Anyone have any questions or problems?”
Immerine, not really understanding what she is looking for, nudges Qwenta forward towards the warehouse. She approaches along a meandering path as if lost, and pauses outside the open door before dismounting. She leans close to Qwenta, “Ware, my beauty, be calm.” She leaves the stallion’s side with a final touch to his muzzle. She leans on her staff as she wearily walks to the open door.
Before Nik or Marc realize, the young witch is almost at the doors of the warehouse. Giving each other somewhat of a stupefied look, the two quickly head off towards the warehouse, arguing between them of who was supposed to do what. To those left behind in the alley, the situation appears rather comical, though it is not sure whether Nik and Marc are putting up some show or if they argue for real.
Next to Portia, Tempest can barely contain his impatience to enter the building. The half-orc lightly taps ‘Death’s Hand’ – his light mace – in his left hand. Ever since the rescue of Portia, the half-orc has been rather silent, inwardly fuming over the injustice done to his fellow priest, and burning with an inner desire to exact revenge on the offenders – all the better that they seem to be Velsharans. A quiet growl escapes him as he regards the antics of the lanky bard and the young peasant.
As Immerine calmly walks up to the entrance of the warehouse, Matteo’s jaw drops open and he whispers in a mixture of amazement and exasperation, “What in the Nine Hells is she doing now? The plan was for her to draw attention away from the entrance, not draw it there.”
Immerine makes her way to the open doors, “Ummm, excuse me? Hello? Can someone help me?” Immerine seems to be testing the air as she walks forward as much as an animal would in unfamiliar territory. Her form suddenly seizes and she gasps aloud. She has frozen in place for but a moment when she screams, “Maman!” The young witch then seems to lose physical control of her body and slumps helplessly to the ground…
Immerine approaches the open door when suddenly her vision goes dark, as if she were fainting. Her limbs start to tremble as she feels a spirit enter her body unbidden. Then a bright spot appears, growing as it seems to come closer in her minds eye. A dark spot appears inside the bright one and as it comes more an more into focus the young witch recognizes it to be a ring with runes engraved on the outside.
Then recognition hits her like a hammer. That ring! She’s seen it before.
In a madcap dash her memories tumble back into time, visions of her past fly by in a moments notice. Further and further the flashback goes into time until that fateful moment:
Her father was gone, leading the faydwer of the village in battle against the Tuigan’s. The day was slightly on the chilly side and Immerine was playing with a family of wolves near the edge of the village. The alpha male suddenly barked a retreat and the entire family disappeared into the surrounding brush like smoke. Wondering what happened to her companions Immerine started off to look for them when a chilled hand dropped to her shoulder.
Startled, Immerine looks up at the intruder and sees her mother. “Maman!” she cries happily but her cry is cut short as her mother grabs her in iron-hard hands and pulls her into the village. All around is butchery – warm blood, from the elderly and very young, steams in the cold snow and hard-packed ground of the streets. Immerine can hardly breathe because her mother holds her so tightly. Tears fall down the child’s cheeks and she can do little except gasp as she is dropped roughly at the feet of a purple-clad man. He speaks in a quick tongue that Immerine does not know. When she does not answer him, she is kicked into unconsciousness.
Suddenly the only thing she sees is the purple clad man’s hand – and the ring on the man’s finger. The same ring she saw but mere moments before.
As her consciousness returns, Immerine finds herself lying on the cold and wet cobblestones. The feeling of the spirit gone, leaving the young woman trembling in a cold sweat. She remains on the ground and tears flow freely. All life seems sapped from her and she looks towards the open door so close to where she lay…
When the young witch suddenly calls out and slumps to the ground a foul curse steals its way out from under the Sembian’s breath. Swearing again Matteo says, “Shit. That’s it, we go in now.” Not waiting to see if the others are following, Matteo starts running towards the entrance to the warehouse, drawing his sword as he goes. “There really isn’t anything like a well thought out plan when it works perfectly is there?” Telsom asks of those around him before sprinting after Matteo his hand on his blade’s hilt.
Seeing the Sembian and the Sunite sprint forward, the half-orc sets himself in motion, sprinting to catch up with the two. The threesome’s sudden reaction to Immerine’s swooning leaving Emlyn, Ditalidas and Portia momentarily stunned. Only the invisible faerie seems to take things in stride. Perched on the head of one of the horses the small creature tilts its invisible head to regard the spectacle.
“By all the djinni and their wives,” Emlyn mutters, “like hell this is part of the plan!” After she recovers from her confusion she quickly joins the gang running towards Immerine, without taking the time to draw a weapon. Instead of just rushing on she keeps poised at the warehouse entrance; if there is anything in there striking at the witch or her companions, mentally or physically, Emlyn will cover them.
Portia watches Tempest jump from the carriage with a look of disbelief. “What if she’s only faking?” she asks to the now empty carriage. With a groan, Portia pulls herself out of the carriage, moving as quickly as she can to the left side of the entrance, and once there, acting on a thought she had while crossing the distance, calls out, “Matteo, don’t forget the ward token!”
Looking at the scene unfolding from the carriage, Jez whispers something unordinary under his breath. He merely levels his eyes before his more proactive companions as they sprint from the carriage. “What?” he mutters to himself as he looks at Immerine fallen form of the damp cold cobble-stone ground. A look of confusion then irritation pours endlessly from his face. “You’re very foolish or very brave, Immerine.” Unsure what will happen next, he waits for a moment to ponder his options before exiting the carriage with his satchel secured next to his waist. As he exits, it finally falls on his senses that he was the last man sitting. Trusting his own luck, he places his hand on the pommel of his rapier and readies for trouble if it should arrive.
The half-orc growls slightly, growing more and more impatient with each passing minute. It is these moments when it shows most clearly that there isn’t just some tall human waiting. “What now?” he asks Portia, trying his best to keep from growling again. With her back pressed against the side of the warehouse off to the side of the doors, and with her mace held firmly in both hands, Portia scans the area around them – letting the others concentrate on the main entry – and says, “Good, question, Tempest.” She doesn’t have an answer.
A little dazed Ditalidas looks at the scene enfolding before her eyes. “But…” She shakes her head as if in denial of what she sees, “…not the plan at all.” She grasps for her crossbow and poises an arrow ready for shooting. Then she starts circling around the scene so she will have a clear shooting range and will be able to overview the whole scene. She keeps a sharp eye on Immerine and the door behind the woman.
Wearing an expression that alternates between bemused, confused, and concerned, Puddy takes to the air whilst the others create – intentionally or no – a spectacle in front of the door. The little fey flies toward the top of the entryway, then draws up short as he overhears the reminder about the ward token to Matteo. Rather than entering the door as he had first intended, Puddy flies close, and peers into the interior of the building. He then hovers in that position, above the frame of the door, in case someone should exit the building to investigate.
Looking into the warehouse, Puddy doesn’t see much difference compared to yesterday; maybe some gods were replaced, but overall it is still the same hodgepodge of crates, barrels and chests. The faerie spots movement to one side of the interior, as someone seems to come forward to investigate the disturbance on the street.
Jezbodiah is the last to arrive at the small group in front of the warehouse, Immerine is sitting up, feeling a little weak still, and looking annoyed at having caused this disturbance. Muttering something in her native tongue she tries to rise.
Matteo, Portia and Ditalidas have taken up a weapon and positioned themselves near the entrance of the building; Telsom and Jezbodiah have not yet drawn their weapons, but are ready to do so at a moment’s notice. Tempest standing close to Portia is also ready to draw a weapon if needed, and focuses on the entrance; his keen eyes picking out someone approaching.
Marc and Nik look a little confused at the sudden turn of events, the lanky bard shrugging his shoulders and with a melancholic tone says, “Well so much for executing the plan, though it might yet surprise our opponents…” Not fully understanding the tall man’s words, Marc moves forward offering his hand to help Immerine get back on her feet. Immerine smiles gratefully at Marc for his assistance. She remains shaky and confused for a few moments and holds on to Marc’s shoulder. Soft sounds come from behind her mask as she murmurs to herself, <No… the ring, I remember. …I hope not, but…>. Suddenly she turns and looks straight at Matteo and walks directly to him, “Your hands. Let me see your hands.” The request is urgent and her voice is raw.
Matteo glances from the warehouse entrance to look at the young witch as she draws near and is about to reply when Nik approaches. The bard hangs back as the others mill around the doors. Immerine’s odd behavior brings first concern and then fear to the tall man’s haggard face. His narrow shoulders hunch slightly, and he peers around as if he expects something horrible to leap out and devour him. His left hand trembles slightly as it rests on the hilt of his fine rapier, and his free right hand reaches up to tug once at the gaudy scarf wound snugly around his throat. “Plan?” mutters Nik bitterly to himself, “There ain’t no plan….”
Abruptly the bard straightens to his full, towering height and draws his sword smoothly. Seeming to ooze purpose and resolve, Nik stalks forward. His long legs quickly bringing himself even with Immerine and the others, his craggy face is aloof and arrogant once again, but his eyes are too bright – a gleam that could be taken for anticipation or eagerness but is more likely fear.
“Well?” Nik murmurs to Matteo, his wild hazel eyes searching the gloomy warehouse for anything out of the ordinary. “What now, O leader?” His voice is smooth and composed, and he holds the slender rapier with the ease and familiarity of long practice. The fear in him is obvious as he draws close, clear in the faint tremor in the bard’s empty right hand and the muscle twitching along the lean, harsh jaw. His terrified eyes have a bit of a manic glint in them now, a touch of almost self-destructive madness that quirk his lips in a strange, fae half-smile as he adds wryly “I think they know we’re here.”
“You don’t say,” Matteo murmurs in a dry tone. Turning back to Immerine, Matteo glances briefly down at his gloved hands, one of which holds his drawn rapier, and says, “We don’t have time to run around looking at people’s hands just now, my lady. This will have to wait until later when perhaps you’ll explain the significance of your request to me.” About to say more he gives a slight shake of his head as though debating with himself and turns back to Nik, Immerine and her request apparently forced to the back of his mind. “We go in now before anything else happens.” With that said Matteo moves towards the warehouse entrance.
“Matteo, give the woman your hand. Let me see if I can sense anything before we move in.” Laying both hands on the hilt of his blade, Telsom begins to focus on the warehouse taking a moment to see if he can sense any hint of evil from within. “Someone check the alleys, if they know we are going in they’ll try to block our exit.”
“Leave that to me, besides I can look for another way into the warehouse.” With the words, Jez dons his cloak and raises its hood over his head. Looking confident, he prepares himself for a sojourn through the dark alley. “Anyone wishing to join is welcomed.” Before he leaves however, he says something to Immerine in a foreign tongue; <My lady, I grow concerned with your behavior. You’re not the woman I know as of I did yesterday. Yet, I see something has shaken your core. There is a problem I can see this. How serious is it?>. His voice sounds concerned and is very respectful. Most of all his speech is spoken in Rashemi, but it sounds archaic and accented.
Immerine smirks at Telsom’s response. “Unless I see your hands now, Matteo, I go no further with you,” Immerine says simply. Flashing Telsom a hard look, Matteo tenses – a muscle along his clenched jaw quivering – abruptly he sheathes his sword much harder than might be necessary; a distinct thud sounding as the hilt connects with the sheath’s rim. His expression flat and rigidly controlled, he looks hard at Immerine and roughly pulls his glove from his left hand and offers it to the masked witch.
Portia flicks a look of annoyance at the gathering in front of the door. “This isn’t the best place for a palm reading,” she says urgently, once more scanning the area in front of the warehouse. The cleric grips her heavy mace tightly, ready to defend against any attack, though at the moment nothing seems to be threatening.
Still, seeing as how they are standing in front of a warehouse with weapons drawn in the middle of the day with no obvious reason to do so, Portia is eager to get inside. “If we have to, Matteo, we can toss the token back and forth. Once past the portal we should be fine. Whatever ward is on the door doesn’t seem to have affected Immerine with anything more than a burning desire to see your hand though…”
“Here,” Matteo says from between clenched teeth, reaching into his jacket with his still gloved right hand handing Portia the ward token while Immerine continues to examine his other hand. “We might as well try to accomplish something,” he adds in a tight voice.
There is obvious relief in Immerine’s form as she checks out Matteo’s hands. She says softly, “We have accomplished something, my dear, something very important, even if you do not believe it to be so.” Immerine turns her back on Matteo to say something to Jez in Rashemi as he heads off. Her voice is irritated and snappish. <You have known me but a few hours, how can you judge whether I am the same from day to day? My behavior is none of your concern, and the seriousness is deeply involved. Be happy you do not know what it concerns. Sometimes ignorance is truly bliss, else you would soil yourself and never leave your parents’ house.>
Jezbodiah retorts and his foreign speech sound aloof and bitter. Slapping the palm of his hand to his forehead, he replies taunting as he does. <Ignorance is bliss indeed. Oh I forgot, the bold witch of Rashemen trots forward like a proud virgin striding a unicorn. Pure and pristine in greatness amongst the barbarians outside your lands.> He ‘tsks’ in the same dialect, <Soiling, such language from an arrogant woman. You. A woman of your heritage, taking a backhand from Sir Matteo. I was excepting more of a retaliation from you the following day, or at least some of his fingers gone missing from his hand. Whatever happened to you following the sewers left you unhinged and scared. You may be courageous outside, but inside you wished you never left home. You can’t hide this from me.> Then he returns to the common tongue. “I leave you then witch.” Jezbodiah turns and proceeds towards the alley.
As she reaches the others near the warehouse, Emlyn posts herself in front of Matteo and Immerine. “If these people have overenthusiastic plans,” she mouths quietly, “like attacking us, I can probably land one blow in uncomfortable regions… but please tell me this won’t take long.”
Portia snags the token in one hand, moving toward the entry, her mace held low with her other hand. Brushing by Tempest she says, “Right then.” Taking one hand off the hilt of his sword, Telsom reaches forward attempting to hold Portia back by grasping her shoulder lightly, but is just a hair short. “I’d expect this kind of rush in behavior from Tempest, not you. At least give me thirty seconds to see if anything can be detected before you enter…”
While Telsom tries to stop Portia from entering the warehouse – unsuccessful; Portia enters the warehouse and steps to the side of the doors, trying not to silhouette herself against the light coming through the doors more than necessary – Immerine’s hand suddenly sneaks out and grabs hold of Matteo’s rapier, in an attempt to draw the weapon. Quickly recovering from the surprise move by the woman, Matteo steps into her and wraps his arms around the Rashemen witch.
The little fey hovers as good as quietly above the frame of the door – trying to divide his attention between the approaching figure, and the scene being created by Matteo and Immerine – when the figure begins to speak. “What’s going on out here? Go away or I’ll have to call the guards.” From the shadows an unarmed man steps forward, a frown on his face as he regards the spectacle before him. Then he notices Portia inside the building, a surprised look replacing the frown, “What… how… Who are you?” He demands. Portia, expressionless, eyes the man before scanning the rest of the interior, ignoring the man’s demand.
The Sunite paladin concentrates a moment on the warehouse’s interior. Wincing, Telsom semi-staggers to the door where he hisses over his shoulder at his companions, “This one is free of the taint, but strong evil is at play here.”
Ditalidas keeps her guard open and looks only with half an eye at what is happening in front of her. As Immerine seems okay she puts her eye out on the street, hoping to see nobody there. When Jezbodiah takes the ally she takes a few steps backwards so she can keep an eye on the ally and on the doors. For a moment she is in doubt, but then she follows Jezbodiah from a distance. She follows him slowly and carefully, since she considers herself not an expert in that field and does not want to be the one that betrays their presence. But she’ll be careful to let him not out of her sight and keeps her crossbow poised.
“Get off me you fool!” Immerine shouts at Matteo while she attempts to break loose from his arms. Tightening his arms around the young woman and trying to prevent her from breaking loose, Matteo snaps: “Stop being so foolish, girl.” Leaning forward into her slightly so that his mouth is near her ear, Matteo continues speaking in an urgent tone, his Rashemi still rough and lacking in true fluency. <Control your self Immerine, you do sisterhood no good. One day you have power of life and death. Will you use the power like this? You control need or never will be witch.>
<I am in control,> she says calmly as she ceases all struggles and drops the rapier to the ground. All emotion disappears from her eyes.
Sighing softly, Matteo quietly whispers, “I’m sorry,” and gently disentangles himself from the young wychlaran, bending to retrieve his new rapier. “Can you pass the token out, Portia?” he asks in a subdued voice as he straightens, rapier in hand. “I believe I can address whatever concerns this man may have,” he adds with a nod towards the unknown man in the warehouse. Portia moves slightly forward and to the left and flicks the token out toward Matteo. Once the token leaves her fingers, she returns to her post by the door, continuing her examination.
“You can’t just come barging in here.” The man says, annoyance creeping into his voice, accentuating the eastern twang to the man’s Chondathan. “And why are you carrying arms. Leave now, or I’ll call the guards. You have no businesses here!” Making a shooing motion with his hands he steps closer towards Portia and the door.
Catching the token Matteo glances towards Telsom and murmurs out the side of his mouth, “I might need you to back me up on this.” Striding confidently forward Matteo walks into the warehouse and pauses to look meaningfully around the warehouse, as though taking inventory of all around him. Finally deigning to notice the anxious man approaching the group, Matteo makes a soft sniffing sound as though the man were of little concern and says in an airy, slightly condescending and bored tone, “Captain Ashgale of the City Guard, here on behalf of the Commander of the Guard, Captain Zaina Tellendar.”
Glancing about once more in some distaste he adds, “I really would rather be back at the Castle, but here I am instead. Now, my good man, why don’t you come over here and answer a few questions I have and maybe I won’t have to confiscate the contents of this fine warehouse and spend my afternoon sorting through the contents.”
Flipping the ward token back out to Telsom, he strides towards the unknown man. “You do have documentation listing inventory, don’t you? It would be so tiresome having to open some of these crates and I am supposed to be spending time with a certain lady at the Castle later.” Fixing the man with a hard glare, Matteo adds, “You wouldn’t want to inconvenience me, would you?”
Immerine watches Matteo move off into the warehouse and listens to his boasts, her eyes remain clear of all emotion. She shakes her head slowly then turns to head down the alley Jez walked down. Marc, head swiveling from one to the other group, seems to be in doubt as to which way to go. Then, deciding his ‘mistress’ has a higher priority, he draws his sword and falls in behind Immerine heading towards the alley.
Jezbodiah and Ditalidas make their way between and over old crates and barrels and other junk that litters the alley between the two buildings. Jez’s eyes adjust quickly to the shadowy environment, enabling him to pick his way without too much noise. There are no windows in the wall of the building, but Jezbodiah recalls having seen some sort of ventilation opening on the sloped roof of the building. Ditalidas, making her way cautiously behind the half-elf takes a little more time to let her eyes adjust, then follows Jez a few paces into the alley.
The half-elf appears to be scanning the side of the warehouse, looking at the placement of its stones on the first level and occasionally gripping one or two to test its strength. Once finished, he examines the crates stacked against the wall by pressing his hands against them. He turns his head one last time towards the alley entrance and notices the Ditalidas, then gestures with his hand for her to enter the alley. Ditalidas approaches Jezbodiah and smiles when she is almost beside him. Then she nods in the direction of the alley and raises an eyebrow questioningly, asking him silently if he wants to continue trough the alley.
“I can see you in the darkness better than anyone else. Come in and try to be quiet,” he whispers. “I’m going onto the roof and see if there is a better way into the warehouse. I believe there is a ventilation duct or some such, besides I could use the company.” He smiles in conclusion, his teeth briefly contrasting with the darkness in the alley.
As Jezbodiah focuses again on the wall and tries to look for a way up, Immerine arrives at the entrance of the alley, a few paces behind Ditalidas. The young woman’s face devoid of any emotion as her eyes coldly take in the scene before her as they try to adjust to the darkness of the alley.
Following on the woman’s heels is Marc, his face a mixture of excitement and anxiety. The young man is holding the sword at ready though, expecting trouble to rear its ugly head at any moment. Still a little doubt seems to be nagging Marc as he peers over his shoulders to the others in front of the warehouse.
The half-elf begins his climb atop of several crates and points up towards the roof. From beneath his cloak, he pulls forth a small grappling hook and tough sinewy looking rope. Securing the grappler in his belt strap, he begins his dangerous ascent to the roof of the warehouse. The rough hewn stones which make up the first section of the wall don’t look too daunting to Jezbodiah. Finding several hand- and footholds, and making use of the crates and barrels littered in the alley, the nimble half-elf makes it up to the small ledge where the wooden wall starts. “I’ll be back once I secure a line,” he whispers.
Immerine observes the half-elf’s climb with little interest. As he climbs, she looks around the alley, noticing the junk that has been carelessly dumped between the buildings. Old and mangled crates and barrels, tattered pieces of cloth and a stench which reminds her of the little outing in Berdusk’s underbelly; this sure must be the pride of civilization, humanity at its best.
The half-elf turns his body until his anterior is facing into the alley and enabling him to look downward into the litter-filled corridor. As he sees Immerine, he smiles then frowns realizing he offended her but just moments ago. “Mayhaps an apology is needed, but much later,” he muses to himself.
Removing the grappler from his belt, Jezbodiah takes some of the slack of the line then slowly drops a considerable amount from his hands until he has enough to twirl the rope and grappler in a clockwise fashion. Jez twirls the simple climbing tool with greater and greater vigor. Saying a small prayer and blessing to Tymora and Lliira, he throws the grappler towards the roof and behind him counting on his skill and a little luck to secure a decent hold on the roof of the warehouse.
Ditalidas keeps an eye on the alley and walks in to it a little further. When she notices Immerine and Marc she leaves it up to them to keep an eye on Jez and moves further down the junk littered alley.
With a ‘clunk’ and followed by some grating noise, the grapple hook lands on the roof and slides down, only to lodge itself somewhere between some roof tiles. Jezbodiah tugs a couple of times to make sure the hook is wedged securely before dropping the trailing end of the line down to those waiting below.
Marc, moving past Immerine as he follows Ditalidas into the alley makes his way over the debris and stops at the rope Jezbodiah let down. Gripping the rope with one hand, he stares momentarily after the young woman moving in the gloom between the buildings, but then shrugs his shoulders and climbs up towards Jez.
Without the protection of the token, Emlyn is still standing safely in front of the warehouse doorway. Seeing that ‘broadly’ Matteo’s statements are true, she throws the stranger an encouraging good – well, maybe not good cop, but at least bodyguard look and when both of them aren’t looking, she salutes smartly at Matteo’s back.
Outwardly, the tall bard seems unaffected by the bickering and confusion going on around him. The small, slightly mad smile still plays across his gaunt face, and he holds his fine sword with apparently confident ease. Again it is the little things that give him away. Nik’s free right hand is now pressed hard against his leg to stop the trembling, clenched into a fist so tightly his bony knuckles are white. His eyes are wild as he stares at the man confronting them, then Nik swallows nervously and mutters faintly “Gods, what am I DOING…”
He catches Emlyn’s salute, and sudden comprehension flashes in the bard’s terrified eyes as Matteo’s words finally settle in Nik’s brain. The fear leaves his dull hazel eyes, replaced by something akin to amusement and the manic grin broadens a bit as the tall man formulates a new plan of action. “You want the Corporal and I should stay out here, sir? Watchin’ the street, like?” he asks Matteo, his clear, erudite speech now the slow, rolling drawl of a man raised in the poor side of some small town. “Or you want we should come in and make with the investigatin’?” He raises his sword meaningfully.
“Good lord, man,” Matteo replies in a condescending, arrogant drawl, “What’s the point of watching the street? It isn’t going anywhere. Get in here and make yourself useful, just be sure to use the ward token the Commander gave us when coming in.” Glancing back at the man in the warehouse he sighs audibly and shakes his head, “It’s so hard finding good help these days, don’t you know. I don’t know what the Commander is doing, taking in fellows like these.”
The man, judging by his attire a porter at the warehouse, seems to be take aback somewhat by Matteo’s appearance and declaration, and takes an involuntary step back. Some color seems to be draining from the man’s face as his eyes dart back and forth between the mace carrying priestess, ‘Captain’ Ashgale and his men.
The tall bard shrugs one shoulder with the casual indifference of a career enlisted man who lacks the ambition and intelligence to make an officer. “Sure thing, Cap’n, sir. Right you are.” he answers, snapping off a slightly insolent salute. Insolence also lurks in the smirk pulling at his mouth as he adds “The Corporal and I will be right in as soon as the Sarge…” he tilts his head to indicate Telsom “…is done with the ward thingy.” Nik grins down at Emlyn from his looming height and adds “Right, Corporal?”
Puddy leaves his post above the door as the party begins to enter the warehouse, and alights on the tall bard’s shoulder, keeping both hands pressed tightly to his mouth in an attempt to muffle his giggling. “Fine acting, your true calling you have missed, believe I,” the little pixie whispers to Nik after the bout of giggles has subsided somewhat.
When the tall ‘corporal’ mentions the ward token in such a casual way, a brief flicker of doubt appears in the porter’s eyes. Portia, looking about warily, ignores the porter now that Matteo is dealing with him. She holds her position, surreptitiously casting a quick spell. As her spellcasting is done, a white gleam covers her eyes, obscuring all natural color of her orbs. Scanning through the warehouse slowly, a sudden throbbing in her head indicates the presence of evil. Focusing some more towards a stack of crates, she ‘sees’ a vague aura in the shadowy recesses behind the crates.
The newly appointed halfling corporal raises her eyebrows at Nik-playing-dumbass. “Well, what’s with the eagerness? I thought you liked nice and quiet watch duty? Like… making sure nobody steals the docks?” She slowly shakes her head and stands at ease, arms folded and waiting for Matteo’s orders.
The tall bard’s smile grows a bit fixed at Puddy’s comment, and for a moment Nik’s eyes are bitter and haunted. “I’ve spent my whole life pretending to be something I’m not.” Nik whispers hoarsely. “I should hope I’ve achieved some degree of proficiency at it.” Emlyn’s gentle teasing brings the wicked amusement back into the bard’s sunken eyes, however, and he gives her a sly grin and a wink. Resting the point of his sword on the cobbles and looking bored Nik shrugs. “Well, seein’ as the Cap’n thinks it’s SO important we check out this warehouse we might as well get crackin’.” The bard’s slow drawl oozes with sarcasm and the annoyance of a lazy man forced to work. “The faster we get this URGENT assignment over ‘n done with, the faster I c’n get back to my reg’lar post.” Nik gives their surroundings an indolent glance and yawns, the very picture of apathy.
Striding into the warehouse, Telsom first looks to his right and then his left before glancing briefly over his shoulder, passing the token to the next in line. Moving up to Matteo, Telsom nods to the man before him but remains silent, his arms crossed over his chest. As Telsom moves into the warehouse, he too feels an irritant throbbing behind the eyes. Somewhere beyond the crates in the warehouse’s interior is something evil, something out of place in a city like Berdusk.
“Sergeant,” Matteo greets Telsom as he draws near, then turns his attention back to the man from the warehouse. “Right,” he says in a no-nonsense business-like tone, “Where do you keep your lading lists and inventory? The Commander expects this to be done with quickly and I don’t want to disappoint her. The sooner we get started the sooner I can hand in my report and get back to the castle.”
Puddy settles down on Nik’s shoulders, giggles dying away at last at the tall bard’s somber response. Allowing a small sigh to escape his lips, the little fey watches the warehouse guard interact with the ‘watch captain’, and mumbles “Livening up, needs this place. Gray rainy day, gray dreary walls…” quietly enough that only Nik and Emlyn might hear him.
Frowning for a moment Matteo glances around, his eyes settling on Portia and then Emlyn. “Corporal, while we go over the paperwork, have the troops give this area a quick look over. You know what the Commander is looking for.” Looking back at the man from the warehouse with an expression of faint distaste and he impatiently adds, “The paperwork, man, we can’t check it standing out here now, can we? Get a move on. What’s your name by the way? I’ll need it for my report.”
As Matteo casually glances over to the stacked crates and barrels, he sees many of them marked with brands of various trading costers. One of them seems to be occurring more often then others. The sigil mark belongs to the Merchant’s League out of Baldur’s Gate. They used to be a big trading group, but all the competition from the smaller costers has ruined their pricing. The man seems susceptible to Matteo’s words, yet certain wariness remains as his eyes roam over the captain’s troops. “Name’s Angarn cap’n, but checkin’ the goods is sumptin’ I need ta ask me bosses.” Angarn replies to Matteo, “Can’t na let anyone in the buildin’. They’d be after me head.”
Behind Matteo, the half-orc priest of Kelemvor steps into the building as well, backing up Matteo, Portia and Telsom. Only Emlyn and Nik remain outside for the moment. Nik, facing Emlyn sees Immerine enter the alley into which Marc, Jezbodiah and Ditalidas have disappeared.
Expressionless, Portia nods without stopping her scan of the warehouse. “Yes sir,” she says softly. Then, continuing to ignore the porter, she moves forward at a slow pace, making just to the right of the feeling of ‘not-good’. She continues to move her head warily about, but never lets her concentration leave the area that she senses evil. Her mace remains at the ready.
“You do that, good man,” Emlyn says from the doorway. She sighs and looks at her scarecrow brother in arms. “Better to do things without trouble, eh?”
“Well hurry up man!” Matteo says, putting on an air of expiration and impatience. Turning his head toward the opening he beckons to the two ‘troopers’ standing outside, urging them to step into the warehouse.
Attention drawn to Immerine as she heads down the alley, concern flickers across the bard’s haggard face. Realizing that his sudden lapse might give the others away, Nik abruptly scratches at his bony arm, trying to make the concern appear about some insect biting at him rather than his companions headed off around the corner.
Noticing that only he and Emlyn – and the invisible Puddy – are left outside, Nik casts a rather annoyed look at Tempest’s back. “Oy, biggie!” he calls to the half-orc. “You gonna pass that ward-thingy back here so’s the Corporal and I can come in, or you gonna explain to the Cap’n why we’re still a-standin’ out ‘ere?” It takes a brief moment for Tempest to realize that Nik is addressing him. “Huh?” Turning around the half-orc looks at the bard a bit quizzically.
As soon as a chance present itself to whisper without their new ‘friend’ Angarn noticing, Emlyn quietly mouths to – the general supposed direction of – Puddy: “If you enter safely, little one, have a peek at those mysterious bosses…”
The little fey fidgets restlessly as he tries to control his urge to play his flute and break into song. Whispering into the tall bard’s ear, Puddy says, “When you get it, in one hand hold it, that grasp it also I may. Not sure am I whether token protects rider as well as steed from magicks dark.”
Telsom looks directly in the direction from which he senses the evil and then turns hard eyes back to the man standing before them. “Whatever paltry amount of payment they give you for your service isn’t enough to pave your way out of Cyric’s hands should this go poorly.”
“Oh the token…” Tempest finaly remembers what Nik asked him. Looking for a moment at the item in his hand he throws it out toward the bard. “Here ya go bard.”
“Ehm, ah well…” The man stammers a little, as he eyes the ward token flying through the air. “Would ye please step outside sears? While I get me bosses. As he steps back and turns to head deeper into the warehouse, suddenly two red flames appear in the shadowy interior, the light reflecting of the skull in which eye sockets they burn.
As the skull comes nearer, the rest of the creature also becomes visible; shadowy armor which appears semi-transparent, showing the bone structure of a humanoid skeleton underneath. A longsword held in its left hand, the thing points the middle finger of its right hand at the half-orc as Tempest turns back to face his comrades inside. Two red sparks glow momentarily on the finger, then dart unerringly forward, striking Tempest in the chest, causing the half-orc to emit a cry of pain.
For Telsom and Portia, the source of the uneasy feeling is revealed as the skeletal being steps from behind the crates. Touching her Holy Symbol, Portia utters a brief prayer to Kelemvor, beseeching his protection against the undead abomination in front of her. Then, mace up, she prepares to attack. Beside the priestess, Telsom’s eyes harden as he takes in the presence of the undead creature, with an annoyed look on his face the paladin draws his blade and moves to intercept the skeleton. His shield held tightly in his left hand, the Sunite’s other hand spins his blade in a tight circle.
One hand clutching at his chest, where the magical force slammed into him, Tempest growls at the shadowy skeletal thing. Gripping ‘Death’s Hand’ tightly, the half-orc steps forward past Telsom and Portia, swinging the mace in an attempt to dislodge a few bones in the undead creature.
When the abomination manifests itself, the amiable halfling corporal’s eyes start to blaze. Suddenly jumping up and forward, the small woman snatches the ward token out of the air as it hurtles towards Nik. Continuing with the same motion, she tumbles forward into the warehouse. Lithe as a cat she easily rolls to her feet next to Telsom and Portia. “This your boss?” She says bitterly to the doorkeeper, without looking at him and throwing the token back to Nik. “Looks like you got some skeletons in your closet.”
Nik stands there, mouth open in abject surprise as Emlyn intercepts the ward token, his right hand still outstretched to catch what the hin has already grabbed. When she enters the building and tosses the token back to him, the bard fumbles with it and finally drops it at his feet. With a muttered curse, the tall bard bends down to pick it up, and when he straightens up he sees the creature confronting his friends. “Oh, bugger…” Nik moans, a tremor running through his gaunt frame. “Bugger, bugger, bugger…”
In spite of the fear that shakes him, or perhaps because of it, Nik clenches his hand tight around the ward token and races into the building to stop beside Emlyn. He bares his teeth in a smile that is really just a rictus of fear and raises his sword. Although the man’s gaunt form trembles slightly, the tip of the sword is steady as it points at their opponent. As Nik catches the ward token, Puddy leaps from the bard’s shoulder and grasps the token while Nik holds it. Once inside the warehouse, the little fey pulls forth his dagger as he tries to fly around the creature in order to flank it.
The half-orc’s mace strikes the bony creature, but appears not to affect its structure; though within the blink of an eye, the undead suddenly winks out of existence, only to reappear close to Telsom. It is clear the thing is not going to leave the scene soon, as it brings the sword up to strike at the paladin, its eyes blazing with unholy fire. In what seems to be a dance macabre the paladin and the skeleton move around each other. Suddenly the thing’s sword lashes out, past the paladin’s defenses drawing blood.
The porter, apparently not surprised by the creature’s appearance, dashes quickly out of the way into the warehouse, ignoring the halfling’s taunt. Blinking his eyes, Matteo stares for a heartbeat at the glowing eyes materializing out of the shadows. Just as fast a chilly feeling runs along his spine, “Zhentarim…” The Sembian utters through clenched teeth, in a move seemingly uncharacteristic, he pulls a dagger forth and throws it after the retreating porter. No sooner is the thin bladed weapon in the air, or grim featured Matteo’s hand snakes down to draw his rapier.
A cry of pain sounds as Matteo’s dagger finds its way in the porter’s back. Stumbling and reaching with one hand behind his back to remove the weapon, the man is almost brought down to his knees as he tries to take cover behind a crate.
Paling a bit when the skeleton pops out and then suddenly appearing next to Telsom, but otherwise remaining expressionless, Portia re-acquires the thing and slams her mace around and down, aiming for the thing’s hipbone, only adjusting her aim at the last moment as she sees Tempest coming her way in the path of her attack. The adjustment brings her mace out of position to strike the undead and it whistles harmlessly through the air.
Seeing an opportunity to strike the skeletal thing as it is engaging with Telsom, Matteo lunges forward, point of his rapier leading. The sharp tip of the blade easily penetrates the chinks of the translucent armor and cracks a rib in the undead’s ribcage.
Seeing his own chance to strike being ruined as the Sembian moves through his path, Nik holds back, stepping a little to the side to position himself out of the way as he sees the others converge on the undead thing.
“Rrrraaarrrgghhh…” Tempest roars as he sees his foe pulling its sword out of Telsom’s armor. Rushing forward, the half-orc’s mace whistles through the air on an impact course with the undead thing; yet with the mace still a short distance away from impact, the undead fades out of existence again. Tempest’s momentum sends him stumbling along, trying to dodge Portia and Telsom.
Whizzing through the air, the tiny and invisible faerie moves to take up position where it can attack the undead while aiding the others in doing so. However before the surprised eyes of the faerie, the creature disappears.
Paying only half attention to the fallen porter, Emlyn remains focused on the shimmering undead. With a quick movement she yanks the old symbol of her faith from her neck, violently enough to make some of the shortened chain’s links cut into her own flesh without noticing it. Trying to use her own body as a conduit for her deity’s power, as before with the zombie-fied farmers, she holds the small bronze disk as if it were a shield. “By the Crying God’s mercy,” she calls out to the skeleton, “may you rest in peace… whether you want it or not!”
As everyone is occupied with the undead abomination, the wounded porter manages to take cover behind a crate and has disappeared from view while the halfling priestess of Ilmater calls upon his favor to expel the undead.
Just like the previous time, a bright, pure, white light starts to shine from the medallion around the hin-woman’s neck, illuminating the area in a wholesome shine. Emlyn’s eyes squinting over the light try to make out the effect on where she last saw the undead thing, eyebrows raising a little as she cannot immediately locate the enemy… ‘Did it work…?’
Wincing, the only thing which keeps the young paladin from crying out as his flesh parts his desire to destroy the abomination before him that seems to disappear at will. Eyes glazing over with religious fervor, the paladin lashes out with his blade attempting to smite the creature in the location where he expects it to return, while he and the others are still bathed in the white light of Ilmater’s faithful priestess.
The paladin’s guess was right – or Tymora might have helped guide his blade – when the enemy blinks back into existence, the paladin’s sword is there to greet it; the blade of the broad sword grating on bone as it pierces through the black, shadowy and translucent armor.
The unholy creature’s attention seems too focused on the paladin for now, as it apparently ignores the stumbling half-orc and the two valiant priestesses. The thing’s blade, reflecting the unholy red light from its eye sockets whisks over Tempest’s head, clipping a few hairs, and passes the paladin’s defenses. The sword, mockingly glistening in Ilmater’s light, scores an ugly gash across the paladin’s face and neck, immediately blood starts flowing, partially obscuring Telsom’s vision as the red fluid flows over and into his right eye.
A sound of teeth clacking onto each other sounds as the undead thing attempts its version of laughter at the sight of the ugly wound on the paladin’s face. Almost as in after thought the creature’s other hand snakes up batting at the invisible faerie, as if it is fully aware of Puddy’s presence, causing the little creature to dodge the skeletal hand.
Buzzing with annoyance and frustration, the little fey circles back around to the things new location, once again attempting to use his dagger while flanking the creature.
Eyes going wide, Telsom’s grip on his blade falters the heavy piece of steel falling to the ground at his side at the same time as his other hand releases his shield. Standing there as if caught in a trance the paladin’s face visibly pales. “Finish it.” he utters his voice cracking as his faith in his goddess’ protection flies away.
“Fool!” Tempest shouts as the paladin opens himself up inviting an attack by the undead creature. Swinging his mace once more to crunch the bones of the evil thing, Tempest steps at the same time towards Telsom in an attempt to attract the thing’s attention. Either because of the move, the surprise of the paladin’s inaction are just miscalculation, but the half-orc’s swing misses as he moves next to the paladin.
Opposite from the Kelemvorite priestess, Nik holds his blade steady before him, looking for an opening to strike without placing himself in to grave a danger, after all, he’s not a warrior. However as he sees the thing’s sword lay open Telsom’s face, something hardens in the bard’s stance. Narrowing his eyes he carefully steps forward, almost dancing on the balls of his feet. Then, spotting an opening he lunges lightning quick forward, only to miss the undead by the width of an hair.
With a scowl at her fellow Kelemvorite for interrupting her blow, Portia once again pauses and invokes her god, while basking in the divine glow of the Crying God. She quickly casts her spell, then readies herself to strike at the skeleton once more, taking a firm two handed grip on her mace.
Frowning as the creature reappears after her attempt to banish it, Emlyn steps out of the way of the other combatants as they engage in melee. Drawing her sling and pulling a stone from her pouch, searches for an opening to strike, as once more the skeletal creature swats at an invisible creature buzzing around in the air.
An agile Puddy moves out of the way of the flesh-less fingers, lunging at the hand at the same time. The undead’s other hand – with the longsword – strikes again towards the now vulnerable paladin. Yet even before getting within a few inches of the defenseless Telsom, it blinks once more out of existence.
Lunging at the disappearing undead, Matteo snarls at Telsom. “Fool! Man yourself and fight!” The Sembian’s sword is not in time to hit the undead, but he is able to position himself between the paladin and the last known location of the thing.
Having determined that his attacks are ineffective against the undead thing, which can apparently see him anyway, Puddy allows himself to fade into visibility. Brandishing his dagger, the little fey changes tactics, trying to time his buzzing flight with Tempest’s swings so that the pixie provides enough of a distraction to allow the half-orc to land a telling blow.
Telsom blinks several times as the creature blinks out of existence once more, raising a hand to his ravaged face the paladin stares blankly at his bloody fingertips his eyes growing harder and full of deep hatred as the seconds pass. Breathing raggedly, the paladin picks up his discarded blade and easily takes up a fencing position, pivoting on his heel to face the area directly behind him. Despite the large size of the broadsword Telsom seems completely at home in his fighting stance prepared to strike out should the creature appear before him.
As the paladin raises his guard once more, the undead reappears in its original location – now behind the Telsom’s back and in front of Matteo. It is facing Portia and Tempest however, pointing once more a skeletal hand at the raging half-orc. Despite the attempts of the brave little faerie, once more there is a flash of red sparks flying from the thing’s bony fingers, striking Tempest in mid-swing and sending the half-orc priest staggering to the floor, dropping the obsidian mace and clutching his chest.
Apparently pleased at the effect the creature gives a bony, hollow laugh that rings of evil things to be dealt to the rest as it brings it’s sword up to parry the red-haired priestess’ attack. The gleaming skull of the half-orc’s mace seems to be grinning on the floor in mockery of the events.
Nik’s eyes widen in shock as he sees the half-orc go down, sending a slight waver through his lanky frame, the echo of it making the rapier appear unsteady in his hand. “Hold on Tempest.” He says, his voice hoarse at the sight of the fallen priest. “I need to talk to you more before I can write a heroic poem.” Trying some sarcasm to bolster the mood of the team, Nik steps forward in a light dancing way, the tip of his weapon leading as he tries to find an opening to strike. With the undead’s focus on the Kelemvorites, the opportunity comes and the rapier dashes in, chipping a shard of bone form the thing’s skeleton.
Grim featured, Portia swings her mace at the undead, passing the thing’s parry and scoring a heavy blow that sends the bones of the undead creaking alarmingly. The flanged head of the heavy weapon smashing through the shadowy armor of the things, chipping away shards of bone from its ribcage, including three complete ribs. An unholy howl of rage issues from between the thing’s skeletal jaws as pieces of it clatter to the floor, next to the twitching Kelemvorite priest.
“NO!” Matteo says as he sees Tempest go down. The Sembian’s rapier flashes in the remnants of Emlyn’s divine inspired light, and plunges through a chink in the shadowy armor breaking another rib in the already damaged ribcage. The moment the sword strikes a strange angry screech sounds from somewhere higher up in the building.
A little frustrated at the undead’s resistance to her power, and angry at the thing’s success in felling one of the team, Emlyn moves in closer to the skeletal being, her body movements fluid as she goes through a complex series of motions almost to fast for the eye to follow. The end-result of the move is her right foot shooting out to connect solidly with the undead’s shin-bone. A loud crack and a splintered bone the result.
No sooner then Emlyn has damaged the undead and come back to her footing – though failing to topple the thing – then from a little deeper within the warehouse two red glowing missiles zip through the air. The missiles strike both the small halfling and the red-haired Kelemvorite, sending both a little rocking on their feet from the impact. Two pinpoints of red light glow in the shadows between a stacked crates as another armored skeleton steps forward.
In the alley, Immerine frowns at the direction Jez and now Marc are moving. She watches the Lady Ditalidas head further into the alley and decides to follow. She steps quietly after Ditalidas, moving around the garbage whenever possible.
Once Jezbodiah reaches the top of the warehouse, he remains perfectly still but crouches into position. Looking around, he scans the following surrounding buildings then he peers down into the dark alley. He waits patiently as Marc climbs up after him.
The roof is a simple slate affair. There are no sky-lights, a chimney and four ventilation openings are the only items that adorn the simple roof. The grappling hook appears to be firmly wedged behind the plain chimney. The slates are covered in various mosses and algae, making it slightly slippery.
As autumn wind which felt cool in the streets, is chillier at rooftop level where it has free reign between the spires, chimneys and other roof decorations. A quick glance around reveals nothing but a virtual forest of rooftops, other then some birds and a few stray cats moving about, there is nothing else visible.
After scanning the rooftop level, the half-elven rogue glances down into the alley. Ditalidas is moving further toward the rear, stopping there where the alley ands and intersects with another. Making her way over the garbage in the alley, Immerine quietly arrives at Dita’s side.
Marc makes his way up the rope with the agility of youth, scampering almost like a human lizard across the wall of the building. With a big grin of excitement he finds himself on the roof in no time, looking about for Jezbodiah. The half-elf has moved further onto the roof and is inspecting a ventilation opening.
As Immerine appears at her side Ditalidas turns to acknowledge her with a nod and a relieved smile. The young lady is clearly happy with the company Immerine provides and it seems to give her the courage to continue. Looking to the left Ditalidas notices that the alley runs dead rather soon. The alley on her right, the one behind the warehouse, looks more promising. Or at least, it does not seem to turn up dead from her point of view.
The young Rashemen woman mirrors Ditalidas expression of disgust at the rats, the memory of the previous day’s encounter still fresh on her mind. Gripping her staff in both hands, she steps warily after the other woman, keeping her eyes alternating on the ground and the alley’s walls.
For a moment Ditalidas just tries to pierce the deep shadows where the surrounding buildings obscure the revealing daylight. The sounds of a few rats rummaging trough the garbage almost makes her jump back till she realizes what the origin of the sound is. She turns back to face Immerine and makes a soft sound of disgust, rolling her eyes upward to underline her statement. Indicating the dark alley, the dark haired woman points to her right, she slowly moves into it, trying to avoid the garbage and the rats. As silently as possible Ditalidas moves further, hoping that she won’t have an up close encounter with the nasty little bastards hiding under the dirt.
Having moved to inspect one of the identical ventilation ducts, Jezbodiah starts to examine it for a way into the building and he peers through the wooden slats of the small wooden structure that covers the opening. The saddle-type roofed structure has been build over an opening which could enable a person to lower himself through; though the slats prevent anything bigger then a rat from entering.
The half-elf ponders for a moment and wonders if he can remove or slide the duct out of place enabling him the descent into the warehouse. He looks at Mark and says, “Can you give me a hand?”
The young lad crouches down beside the lithe half-elf. “Sure. Which one do you want, the right or the left.” Marc says with deadpan seriousness. Looking at the puzzled and slightly annoyed look on Jezbodiah’s face, Marc’s features quickly turn into a big grin. “Lemme see…”
Marc’s hands probe the slats on the structure, the wood is solid enough to withstand the weather, but some of the nails appear to be rusted. Grabbing an old knife, Marc wedges the blade under the wood of one of the slats. “Now you have to help me to keep things quiet… and to prevent things from dropping down.”
“Okay,” the half-elf says as he places his hands underneath the slot. “I’ll catch it went it comes loose.”
In the alley, Immerine watches Ditalidas as the lady maneuvers around the trash. She steps lightly as she goes trying to focus on unnatural noises and finds herself testing the air by sniffing more often than naught.
Ditalidas continuous to the back of the alley, looking for strange looking piles of dirt that could indicate that someone has recently passed through, or maybe a spot clear of garbage that indicates a secret door or something like it. When at the back she turns around with a shrug of her shoulder. “I don’t see anything special.” she whispers to Immerine. The young lady tosses a glance at the roof, maybe to see if one of her friends climbing to the roof is looking down over the edge. Then another shrug. “Shall we go back?”
As the two women are about to end their search through the alley, suddenly their attention is drawn to a grating sound, as a part of the seemingly solid wall slides partially open, and a bloody hand emerges trying to push the sliding section further open. The sound of the door seems to agitate the rats in the garbage as the scurry for cover under shrieks of protest.
Immerine shifts her right hand to the symbol at her chest and tightens her grip on her staff with her left. She waits to see more of the bloody handed creature before jumping to conclusions and attacking.
Almost falling out of the building as the secret door slides open further is what appears to be man, clutching a bloodied dagger in his hand as he stumbles on all fours into the alley. A dark, wet, crimson spot colors his back between his shoulder blades. ‘Blood’ Immerine’s acute senses register, even before her eyes have processed the image. Wafting out of the building after the bleeding man, and coming from deeper into the warehouse are the sounds of fighting.
Ditalidas aims her crossbow at the opening door. “Damn, I missed that.” She murmurs under her breath. Taking a few steps backwards, her back almost against the opposite wall, Ditalidas enlarges the distance between the door and her a bit more, waiting for what is going to happen. Keeping her crossbow aimed at the man, Ditalidas waits for Immerine to act, though at the slightest hint of danger she is ready to fire.
“Explain yourself or I will finish the work of that wound in your back!” Immerine commands in the ringing tones of a woman used to being in charge.
Before the man can answer or react a strange screech sounds from somewhere within the building. The man’s eyes widen in surprise at the sight of the two women. At the commanding voice of the Rashemen woman he tries to move back into the warehouse, but freezes as Ditalidas’ crossbow bolt slams into the floor, a mere inch from his face.
On the roof Marc works his knife under the slats and pries the first one loose. A deft Jezbodiah catches the piece of wood before it can fall into the ventilation hole. As Marc is working on the next slat, something like a flash of light can be seen in the distance below, briefly illuminating stacks of barrels and crates on the floor beneath the two housebreakers, and also exposing a large opening in the floor that seems to provide access further down. Stopping his activities for a moment, Marc listens carefully. “Sounds like a fight down there…” He whispers to Jezbodiah.
“Leave it to Matteo and the Sunite to pick a fight,” Jezbodiah whispers in confirmation then he looks directly at Marc. “We hadn’t waste anymore time.” He turns his head once to the left then again to the right looking for something. “Ah,” he says softly. “Get to work on removing those missing slats. If you drop one, don’t worry. Chances are they’re busy fighting or some such with Matteo and his group. Me, I’ve an idea.”
Jezbodiah sits the piece of loose wood down gently and quietly. “I guess Immerine and Ditalidas won’t be joining us,” he whispers to himself. “I was hoping they would climb up right after us.” He stands but hunched and proceeds to retrieve his grappler and his length of climbing rope with the stealth and graceful quickness of an alley cat.
As Marc uses his dagger to pry the last slat loose, the nails leaving the wood make just enough noise to rouse a few rodent squeaks. “Must have stirred a rat’s nest”, Marc observes with a grin, while continuing working on the slat.
Removing the grappler, the half-elven rogue quickly coils its length around his left arm then proceeds in stealthily manner towards the chimney. He places the hooks of the grappler into the corner of the chimney and wraps three hardy coils lengths around it. Once the rope is tucked and tight to his liking, Jez pops the grappler off the chimney and secures all three coils widths under twin hooks, while Marc is still occupied with the slat.
After a few more moments, Marc meets with success when the board comes off. As he peers into the darkness inside, dust drifts down into the shaft. This is greeted with more squeaks from the annoyed rats. However, one of the squeaks seems to be changing into a screech which is more of a reptilian nature.
Out of the gloom, a draconian head, skin pulled tight against the bone, lunges at the young bard. Then the shape breaks free from the wooden structure, and takes to the sky. Bat-like wings support a five-foot translucent-green reptile, with a curious pink, rat-like tail.
Marc’s face turns white with fear, and barely audible he exclaims: “Crap, it’s a baby dragon…”
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