"My journey never stops - I only pause at places you could hardly dare to quest." - Cora
Previously in our story...
Tobias returned shortly, dragging the unfortunate archer by the scruff of the neck. As he stalked back into our camp, he informed us of a second, smaller camp of ragtag mercenaries hidden over in the ruins. The archer appeared scuffed up, and bore some slight injuries from falling of of the roof where he had tried to ambush us earlier. Scott made some attempts to talk to them man as Lan worked to heal his hurts, and the man told us that he attacked us because they didn't want us to find the stuff first.
I looked at his mismatched armor, and the odd long bow that he carried, and asked him what "stuff" he was referring to. He grew tight-lipped at the question and told us that the leader of his little band was named Gavin. Glaring at the captive man, Tobias again picked him up by the scruff of the neck, and our party gathered our things and promptly escorted him back to his group.
As we approached their untidy campsite, the archer's companions notice us and draw weapons. The archer shouts at them not to attack, and they warily allow us to bring their man into the circle of tents. They all bore mismatched armor, and inferior quality weapons, and I wondered at how far they thought they could get in such a place so ill prepared. I chuckled to myself at the thought, as it reminded me of something Shalev might have said, and I kept a watchful eye on the mercenaries as they talked to their returned man.
They told us that we were looking in the wrong place over by the intact buildings, and that we wouldn't find the dragon there, but rather in the center of town. We all simply stared at them, and they began to realize then, I think, that maybe we were more than we seemed to be. A murmured discussion broke out among the mercenaries, and one of them stepped forward after a moment to state that he was looking for a way out of this place entirely. His companions all glare at him at the apparent betrayal, and we warily say that we can help him with that.
The man said his name was Taryn, that he was a bard, and that he wished to join our group; and I saw Tobias and KelLyn startle in recognition. They stared at him curiously, and I remembered that there had been a bard with that name that had been a part of the party when Shalev and I had first joined the group. I remembered too that the man had disappeared only a day later, and hadn't been seen since then. I wondered if this was the same man, and I could see from KelLyn and Tobias' scrutiny that they were considering the same thing. KelLyn in particular glared at the man as if his appearance was a personal betrayal, and I recalled that she and the bard had once had romantic entanglements.
Taryn's companions all begin arguing with him, asking him why he would want to switch sides so easily, and why he would want to go over to such a group, especially when they didn't even have good armor. I saw Tobias smirk at that statement, and with a prideful flourish, he removed his outer cloak to reveal the imperial layan armor that he wore.The leader of the little ragtag group gaped at the armor and then took a closer look at the rest of the party members, seeing that we all wore quality armor and carried weapons that appeared to be far better than the ones they had.
His eyebrows shot up in surprise for a moment, and then he shrugged and said again that the dragon was rumored to be in the center of town with a sniff, before subsiding into a grumpy silence when he realized that we were already well aware of that fact. Taryn gathered up his single pack of belongings, and joined our group without even a goodbye to his previous companions, and our party,now plus one more, set out to return to the street where the mage academy was located.
As we trekked back over, Scott approached me looking like he wanted to ask me something. I looked at him curiously, and he asked me to gently break in the introduction of Jaeger to the new party member. I continued to stare at him, wondering why he thought I would be the best person to ask about such a thing, and he went on to say that it would either be me or Lan, and did I really want Lan trying to explain anything? I sighed and nodded slightly, and then relay the request to Tobias, as he speaks the common language better than I do. He shrugged and said he didn't see what the issue was. Scott then asked him what the long bow was, and they began discussing the use of the weapon. As they talked, Scott asked Tobias what an "army" was and I saw Tobias just stare blankly at him for a moment before remembering that Scott was also new to the party, and only a farm hand. He began to patiently explain to Scott what exactly he had gotten himself into, and I turned my attention to Taryn.
I did not know much about him from when he was with the party before, and I asked him what the group of mercenaries had been looking for. He said that the dragon had been rumored to have been trying to piece together a "great weapon" which had been a gift from a great mage to a competitor in the courts where the dragon had attended in human form. The competitor had been challenged to a fight, and the weapon had been destroyed. The dragon was trying to reassemble the pieces, and anyone who leaves is sent out with the message that the Head of the Jade Court is looking for the items, with a promise of riches beyond measure if they were found.
I pondered this new information at length, ruminating again on what the winged man had said about everything being tied together. I lost myself in these thoughts until we eventually returned to camp where KelLyn and Jaeger were still working on trying to dismantle the traps on the doors. We appeared to have good timing, for as soon as we walked up, Jaeger reached out and opened the front door to the academy. KelLyn agreed to wait with the cart for a while, as the efforts of disarming the spells had exhausted her and she needed to rest, and the rest of the party stepped inside the door.
Inside, we saw a great empty room with double doors ahead of us. The walls are tastefully decorated with art that depicted stylizations of all four elements. Jaeger walked forward ahead of the rest of the party, and I saw him recast the ward to surround himself and the door. Lan cast a spell to see if there were magical traps on this door as well, and she found that there were. She said that the spells were of a control nature which involved perceptions, and involved both air and plants. Lan commented that the door appeared to be made of "one of her trees" with a nod in my direction, and I walked up to the door cautiously. I could sense, once I got close enough, that the wood was indeed sylvan, and that it seemed quite content that it was a door. I had a thought, and tried to ask it to open in high elven and then druidic. I got no response, but I wasn't really expecting one anyway. As I studied the intricate carvings on the door, I noticed that there were words hidden within the plants, written in elven.
I read the words out to Lan, but she did not understand them, though surprisingly, Jaeger's eyes brightened and he said something to Lan. She told me that he had asked that I keep repeating the words, and I do so, listening as Jaeger tries to copy my pronunciation until he is able to replicate the cadence and accent correctly. The words were a spell, and when said by someone who used magic, they caused the wood of the door to turn transparent.
We looked through the clear door to see two long oak tables, several chairs, and a hutch filled with crystal glasses and decanters. It looked like it was a dining hall, though long disused, and we took note of the double doors on the opposite side of the room. I reached out and knocked politely on the door, and we were promptly greeted by a ghoul. I cautiously asked if we could enter the room, and it - he - replied that we could not because we were not mages. I motioned for Jaeger to move forward, saying that he was, and that we were in his company. The ghoul looked critically at Jaeger and asked him to prove that he was a mage. Jaeger refused, saying that as a mage, he would not deign to prove himself as his presence here is proof enough. The ghoul accepted this statement, and then returned a short moment later to apologize, saying that there was no one here that could open the door. The ghoul thought for a moment, and then came back a few seconds later carrying a heavy bowl, which he dropped on the handle to make the door swing open.
Inside the dining hall, we noticed that there were also doors to the right and left of us, and that the silverware was all engraved with the magic seal of the academy of Emer. We opened the door to the left into a large room with glossy polished floors and an enormous layan chandelier that suspended from the ceiling. The floors of this room were covered with trash and detritus, and as soon as we stepped into the room, the two ogres in the corner stood up and turned ponderously towards the party. They glanced at us in confusion and said "You're not supposed to be in here?" to which we hastily replied that the ghoul had let us in. The ogres looked even more confused, if possible, and said that we didn't look like mages. Scott, thinking quickly, said that we were wearing traveling clothes which the ogres seemed to accept as a rational explanation. Osman spoke up then and asked if they would like some fresh meat? The ogres looked at him, looking for the offered meat, and Osman conjured some goat haunches that we lobbed their way.
As they ate, we saw that they were clearly undead things, and I have to repress a visible shudder at how wrong they feel. As they consumed the goat, we saw their open wounds heal, and Jaeger warned us that the ogres were pledged in service to this place, and that they should not be disturbed. I argue that they are wrong and that their presence here hints to something much larger controlling their allegiance. The rest of the party agreed that they should not bother the ogres though, seeming not to heed my warning about the potential of a larger threat, and I turn to leave the room entirely. A few moments later, the rest of the party followed me back into the main room, closing the doors to the ogres' chamber behind them.
The next door opened into a long and dusty room which looked as if it had served as a gallery of some sort at one time. I saw that there were clear footprints in the dust on the floor, and lighter colored squares on the walls where the paintings had been removed by thieves. I noted the broken window and figured that was the method of entry and exit. Upon further examination, I notice that the nails that had hung the paintings were made of layan, and I pulled a handful of them out of the wall, putting them in my belt pouch. Seeing no more evidence of the nature of the thieves, and no other doors in this room, we turned back to the main room to go through the next set of double doors.
These doors opened to reveal a lavishly furnished bedroom which also boasted two full harps, a cello, and a number of other instruments. There were two full sets of armor, each holding a halberd, which stood on either side of the door. We explored the room, which looked like it might have been set up as a guest room, and Taryn eyed the cello with undisguised awe. He picked it up reverently and muttered to it as if it were a long lost lover. We also saw a strange shaped instrument off to one side of the room with white and black buttons on it. It looked almost like a harp that had been laid on it's side, except much larger. Scott and Taryn spent several moments trying to figure out how it worked, and Taryn named the odd thing a "side hammer harp."
Taryn was insistent on trying to figure out how to take the odd instrument with us, but it proved to be too heavy to more easily, and so with a sad sigh, he agreed to leave it where it was. He brightened noticeably though, when Tobias reminded him of the cello and the two of them went back out to the cart to deposit the instrument in a safe space and catch KelLyn up on the happenings inside.
Once they rejoined the party, we made our way over to the main room and opened the doors to the right this time. This was a small sitting room with overturned furniture that was in shambles. The floor was smeared with old dried blood, and there was a single closed door on the opposite wall. The blood smears extended up to one wall which was empty of all other features, and after a moment of examination, I discovered and opened the hidden door to a small closet sized secret room. Inside the room were two skeletons, which were apparently the source of the blood smeared through the room. The two unfortunate adventurers were obviously on the wrong end of whatever had killed them. Their armor had been heavily damaged, but as I searched through the corpses, I discovered two intact vials of holy water, a 50 foot length of hemp rope from the Southern kingdom, and a small locked box with dwarven symbols inscribed on it. I took all three things, adding the vials to my belt pouch and tying the length of rope to my pack. The small box I worked diligently to unlock, and was successful after several long moments and a muttered curse as my masterwork lockpick broke from the effort. I opened the box to reveal two small dwarven crossbows and a quiver containing 30 bolts. I showed them to Tobias and Osman, who were both thrilled with the discovery. I already carried one of these strange weapons, so I declined the offer, but Tobias and Osman each took one of the crossbows for their own use, and the bolts were split between the three of us.
The single door at the back of the room opened up into a hallway and more doors, which we explored through thoroughly. We discovered another guest bedroom which boasted a large polished silver mirror. Jaeger made a noise of appreciation at the sight, and walked toward the shining pane, only to jump back as an undead specter lunged out of the reflection towards him. Osman immediately tried to banish it, but failed, and Lan worked her magic to pacify the specter. Taryn, unfamiliar with the threat, drew his needle like sword, and Tobias yanked Scott bodily out of the way of the lunging creature. Remembering the times we had encountered undead things in the pyramids, I snapped open one of the vials of holy water and flung it at the specter which caused it to smoke and to howl in fury.
Lan's magic completed, and the specter quickly calmed down, only to have Osman's spell go off which enraged it again at the attempt to banish it. Knowing that I had nothing else that would hurt the creature, and wanting to save the remaining vial of holy water in case I needed it later, I moved over to one of the windows to break it in order to let the sunlight into the room. Jaeger picked up the empty vial and began casting a spell then, and we watched as a black shadow rolled down his arm like tar into the glass container. The specter howled again in anger, and Lan tried again to calm it down. She was successful at pacifying the spirit again, and Jaeger continued to concentrate on draining it's energy down into the vial.
Osman drew his bow and aimed a shot at the shimmering specter, but Scott grabbed the bow and pointed his shot down away from the mirror. The specter and Jaeger continued to be locked in a tug of war, and the spirit gained enough ground to finally touch Jaeger just as Jaeger completed his spell. I heard the tone of his voice falter slightly, but the spell was not affected by the slip up, and the specter dissolved in a fading scream, turning into a thick slurry that oozed into the vial Jaeger held.
Jaeger looked visibly shaken at the encounter, and stood swaying for a moment before straightening up and walking over to the mirror to examine it once again. The mirror was enormous, and much too large to move in its entirety. Jaeger contemplated the polished silver for a moment and then reached out with his hands, muttering something in magic under his breath, to try to cut a smaller piece off of the larger whole. I set about searching the room and uncovered a pen and ink set, several sheets of vellum, and a scroll written in an old clerical form with notes in magical writing.
The scroll described itself as being "in regards to the divine restoration of loss of energy. A single use spell," which had been dedicated to the goddess of the waters. I remembered what had happened when Shalev had been touched by a specter, and the draining effect that such contact could have. I turned toward Jaeger and asked someone to tell him that I was going to use the scroll on him, and not to attack me. I read the scroll at Jaeger, and I felt the energy of the spell release gently. Jaeger straightened up immediately, and his eyes shone brighter as the effects of the spell restored what had been taken from him when the specter touched him.
As this room was fairly secure, even in its trashed state, we decided to stop here and rest for a few moments before we continued to explore. Jaeger was able to remove a small square of the silvered mirror, and I noticed that he touched it to his sword, and half of it disappeared. I noticed that he did this often, offering his sword half of everything he touched, and I wondered at the symbiosis between the two.
The presence of the undead things here bothers me greatly. Especially since Jaeger stated that they were clearly bound in service to... something. It's that something that has me worried. There are a number of things that can command undead, none of which are easy to deal with. It could be that they were simply bound to the service of the place, as I know mages are prone to doing such things, but my instinct tells me that there is more here to it.
Further explorations here are needed, and likely will give us clues as to what we will face.
I would have expected to feel the presence of the dragon by now, and the fact that we haven't has me wondering.
Taryn has returned to the party. I did not know the man before this, as he disappeared only a few hours after we had joined the party, but the fact that Tobias and KelLyn seem so quickly accepting of him seems to indicate that they bear him no ill will for his desertion. KelLyn especially seems to be affected by the return of her once lover, and seems almost uncertain around him. It is obvious that he remembers nothing of his prior encounters with her, however, and I wonder at how this might play out. She is volatile at the best of times, and having her be so emotionally off center might prove to be disastrous.