With clear purpose and mutual hatred for Lamm, the self-styled ‘Wolves’ begin planning for the downfall of Gaedren Lamm. The group is composed of six: Odric the Stout, whom Lamm wronged by kidnapping his master’s son, Kip, Thorgrym the Tracker whose pack of dogs was poisoned by Lamm, Gaius Lirsiiv and Morkeleb the Mighty, both of whom once slaved as a child under Lamm’s cruel hand, Keftan Theron, a man who’s lover was taken and possibly murdered by Lamm, and Ferox Kerr, an Inquisitor hunting the man who supplied his friend with shiver and killed him.
The Master stops writing just long enough to scratch his bald pate. The nib of his quill is sharp and satisfying as it scrapes along his scalp. The inkblot and spots are barely visible in the shadows, but the apprentice notes them and stifles a laugh. The master continues writing while he gazes into his scrying crystal.
Gaius skulks from building to building, melting into the shadows and carefully searching for any of Lamm’s denizens who might offer resistance in the neighborhood surrounding the fishery. Seeing naught but rats and refuse, Gaius approaches carefully.
Hidden in the lengthening shadows of the oncoming night, Gaius covers his face with a corner of his dark cloak, in part to conceal himself but also to shield his nose from the rotting fish and pungent seaweed that clings to the pilings along the wharf.
Through cracks in the walls and in brief glimpses through scummy windows, Gaius is able to see quite a bit of the operation in Lamm’s headquarters. His familiarity with the place helps, and his firsthand knowledge of Lamm’s tyranny makes this sight all the more poignant. Gaius mutters a line of poetry, seemingly without thinking, “And now I seek to right the scale; A third sting I will learn; And down inside the halls of Hell; I’ll send his soul to burn”
Gaius slinks back to Keftan’s home, doubling back twice to ensure he is not followed.
The rogue finds Keftan’s home with no difficulty and raps a secret knock to announce his presence.
Without preamble, Gaius begins “The Fishery looks as though it’s falling apart, and there are children inside working at various tasks, being pushed by a taskmaster. Aside from that, I saw little. No guards or sentries were seen by me. I guess the size of the building to be 70′ × 50′. It is a single story at street level, but there is a level below at sea level with a dock. There is a dilapidated fishing boat tied there.
There are many windows, and two visible doors. A set of double doors at the street, and at the side of the building there is a deck with a second set of double doors. I saw nothing out of the ordinary. To get any more detail, I’d have to get a lot closer.
There are advantages and disadvantages to trying either entrance, or we can try a third option and see if there is roof access.
Whichever entry point we choose, I think we should quickly investigate and disable the fishing boat first, and do that quietly.
What say you?”
After discussion and planning, the group determinesto disable the boat, cutting off escape, then clear the house of Lamm’s taskmasters, free or knock unconscious any child slaves and end Lamm’s reign of terror.
The slippery boardwalk clings to the side of the fishery, held together by barnacle-thick pilings that have been worn halfway through their thickness at the waterline. As Odric steps onto the pier, the ancient boards give an extra loud squeak, nearly breaking under the strain. None of the group think the rotted timbers could handle either a combat or a group of merely standing in place for very long.
Slowly, as stealthily as possible, timing their steps to the lapping of the waves against the barge the group makes its way down. They can see underneath the building that there is a lower level. While light ushers forth from windows, the chaos of the junk and pier obscures any interior view. Gaius is the first to take in the barge in detail. The rotten deck of this ancient barge seems to be barely intact, its hull worn and thick with seaweed and barnacles. The barge is held together primarily by the layers of old rope that lash it securely to the pilings that support the fishery and the nearby boardwalk. A single wooden door leading into the aft cabin bears a crude painting of a red fish on its surface. None of the group are knowledgeable enough to comment on the condition of the craft, but it certainly looks like it’s been moored here since the eldest among them were children. Odric thinks that a climb up the dilapidated ship’s gunnel would be easy, and watches as Thorgrym attempts it.
Odric, seeing Grym’s tumble immediately tries to reach for his falling friend. As Grym’s hand barely misses the railing and Odric’s outstretched hand, Odric curses quietly. Heaving his bulk up and over the decrepit boats gunwale, the big man leaps after his companion, heavy pick in hand.
Odric’s thorough preparation of warm-ups and calisthenics really paid off for Odric whilst he was tumbling through the air. He manages to deftly land on his feet, pick at the ready. Unfortunately his perfect landing was slightly misjudged, and he jars his knee painfully on an unseen crate below the brackish water’s surface.
After a nearly catastrophic fall into the hold of the ship, Grym takes in the interior of the ship as his eyes adjust to the darkness.
Dark and dank, the ship’s hold smells of mildew. Several barrels, crates, and other containers lie stacked here and there, and a shallow layer of river water has collected in puddles. A soft scratching sound comes from behind a few of the crates.
When he lands in the stinking, fetid water, Odric helps a visibly shaken Thorgrym to his feet. As Grym stands flexing his limbs and grimacing in pain, the two hear the scuttling of the spiders almost simultaneously. Before the two can even gain their bearings the source of the scratches becomes apparent as a quartet of scarlet spiders, each the size of house cat come forward.
Perhaps something about Thorgrym’s scent attracted the four arachnids to him; more likely though Odric’s musk registered to their tiny spider brains as ‘less than tasty.’ The spiders rush towards Thorgrym’s sodden calves, but he is able to stab at one with the point of his dripping sword as it closes with him.
Gaius, Keftan and Ferox rally around Thorgrym.
Odric nearly roars, then remembering the need for stealth at the last second he chokes out a curse to the nasty little creatures instead, “Filthy spawn of Norborger! Die!” Odric begins furiously smashing at the eight-legged monstrosities, sacrificing accuracy and precision for brute force in his revulsion. The red carapaces of the spiders’ pulsating abdomens provide a tempting target in the near-blackness belowdecks.
Odric’s heavy pick arcs through the darkness towards the scarlet spider scuttling towards him. As the spider turns its attention from Grym to Odric, its attention is slightly divided between the two humans. Odric’s heroic strength as he grips his eagle-headed pick causes his veins to stand out in stark contrast on his forearms. He hits, causing some horrible crunching sounds to the spider’s carapace.
There is a strange, high pitched shriek heard by the men belowdecks that could not be positively attributed to Odric, but the horrified, contorted expression on the big man’s face may give some of his more observant companions evidence of his uttering of a Girly Noise as the ichor splashes up in an awful spray.
As Morkeleb jockeys for position to bring his magic to bear on the vermin, Gaius takes full advantage of the spiders’ interest in Grym and sneaks his rapier’s point between one’s abdomen and thorax. The initial resistance followed by a small crunch and an easy slide into the spider’s gooey center is both satisfying and repulsive.
Undoubtedly this is the most action this poor excuse for a ship has seen in decades. Still though, crimson spiders don’t grow to this size without a steady diet.
Perhaps the Girly Noise was Odric, but nonetheless the red spider makes a shrieking noise as it launches itself at Odric. It’s vermin mind too small to comprehend the danger, only the size of the meal. With a sickening crunch Odric’s pick skewers it. Ichor and gore continue to fly, splashing the big man in his face. Nothing but arms and shell remain. Despite his bulk, Odric’s views on warming up pay off. He’s ready to take the attack to the remaining spiders.
At the same time the antithesis of Odric’s form is the deft Gaius. With not a moment to spare he brings his rapier to bear on the spider as it launches itself towards him. Gaius and Odric each have scored a kill. Still, Grym is hard pressed, the sickening hip wound is already turning green and purple. The remaining two spiders continue their relentless assault.
From his vantage point, Ferox has a clear line to one of the spiders remaining on Grym. It’s a risky shot, and a normal bowman would be taking a great risk shooting at two foes locked in melee when one is an ally, but Ferox is not normal. The inquisitor calmly draws his bow and lets fly, aiming at the thorax of the spider who just sank its mandibles into Grym.
While Ferox is trained to shoot into melee, Keftan isn’t. With his bow it’s an even greater risk. Still, he draws back his bow; his mind’s eye balancing the risk between arrow and another bite felling his new companion. With the odds now favoring the Harrowed, he readies a shot. If the spider moves away from Grym, he will let fly.
As the situation becomes increasingly dire the dull weight of panic begins to set into the heroes. An arrow from Ferox slices one of the spiders cleanly. Both the spider and the arrow hit the floor with a thunk. Out of its primitive survival instinct the remaining spider leaps away and moves to skitter across the deck into a hole of rotted wood. Keftan lets fly with his arrow and misses.
Seeking final vengeance against the spider, Grym finally brings his sword down as the spider turns to flee. It never makes it to the hole, Grym sticks it, twisting his blade left and right to make sure that it’s dead.
With the vermin dead there is still no time to relax as poison continues to course through Grym’s veins. Morkeleb determines that the combat has pushed the barge beyond its breaking point, it’s going to sink – and soon. This combat has taken a heavy toll on the party.
Odric grimmaces and starts to rub his aching knee, then seeing Thorgrym’s ashen face, bloody hip and putrefying wound thinks better of it. He roots around in his sodden belt pouch and produces a mud-covered vial. He hands it to Grym and nods gravely.
Keftan inexplicably takes his leave of the party, citing irreconcilable differences and goes off to seek his lover elsewhere.
Thorgrym thanks Odric weakly and quaffs the pale blue potion. The two men clasp forearms, “Grym, this means you buy the first round back at the tavern when all this is over!”
Odric clambers out of the boat onto the dock and crouches next to the building quietly. His boots squish and bubble as he shifts his weight slightly. There is a swampy, mildewy odor emanating from the man. Odric fears that no matter how quiet he is or how stealthily he moves the clinging scent from the ship’s hold will give him away. He risks a quick look into a window as he waits for his companions to join him.
It’s as if the brush with death has produced a cohesion in the group. As if this was a comfortable routine they converge on the door. Gaius gives it the lookover. None of the windows lead into this room, as the door is west of the wall in the large room.
As Odric and Grym reconnoiter the window, Ferox glides past and listens intently at the door. You can here a man’s voice. It sounds like Taldane, but it’s hard to tell what he’s saying. The fact that there’s only one voice leads to to think he’s alone…
Odric slides his back up to the side of the building, trying to ignore the fetid stench wafting up from his legs. Taking a moment to catch his breath he turns and peers through the louvers of the window. Inside is a single room at sea level, taking up the whole half of the building. The floor inside is slick with seawater, bits of seaweed, and fish blood – the air is thick and does a competent job competing with the stench Odric has acquired. Wooden catwalks to the north and south allow access to the western part of the fishery facing the street. An open bay to the south allows open access to the muddy waters below. While to the northwest, stands a ten foot tall wooden vat, its sides caked and waterproofed with tar. What’s inside is a mystery as Odric’s angle doesn’t allow him to look deeper than a few inches. Nearly two dozen children labor in here, gutting and chopping fish. Watching it all is a half-orc taskmaster, his size equal to the large fighter observing unseen through the window. Rather than enter the large room first, the group decides to enter through a smaller door to the west of the building.
Gaius approaches the western door, tools at the ready. The door isn’t locked, and truth be known a lock on such a decrepid door would be like bolting an envelope shut. A swift kick would end this door. The timing is perfect. Gaius’ analysis of the door completes as Grym’s feet torque into the wooden pier, ready to skewer an enemy on the other side with a swift bolestra.
Gaius carefully pushes the door open, dagger at the ready. Just as the door does little in the way of providing a solid defense, so to does it do little to help a stealthy opening. With a shrill grind of rusted hinges the door opens. Inside stands Yargin, Gaedran Lamm’s underboss. He stands at a wooden desk which sits in one corner of this room, its side preventing the western door from opening all the way. The table is heaped with dozens of slate boards covered with chalk scrawls, while to the east a cabinet slouches against the wall. To the south, a few moldy boards have been nailed over a door. He turns towards the noise and lashes out to grab a nearly spherical bottle of deep green liquid from the desk. His other hand grabs hold of a wand at his belt.
With a snarl Yagrin jumps up, ready for action. He plants his left foot on the seat of the chair and steps up confidently to place his right foot on the desk. Not quite aware of the odds, nor the grim nature of his attackers, he shouts, “Die theiving scum!” He tosses the green jar at what little of Gaius he can see.
Time seems to slow down for the men. They hear the door creak slightly as Gaius toes it open, then as the voice within erupts and Yargin springs into action, Odric seems frozen in place. The tinkling sound of the vial into a thousand crystalline shards and the subsequent bubbling hissing sound rouse him to action. They can smell the throat-closing, acrid fumes from the acid and underlying that the sickening coppery smell of blood.
Gaius falls, writhing in pain.
Ferox moves into the room, taking position next to the eastern door hoping for a little cover from the cabinet. He draws an arrow and lets loose at Yagrin. The arrow slams into Yargin’s biceps. The group hears the splinter of bone. The underboss twists backwards in a futile attempt to absorb the blow.
Thorgrym lunges across the table to attack Yargin with his sword, the ichor of the spiders still glistening along its edge. His sword hits home. The blade sinks in half way to the hilt, just to the left side of the sternum. Yagrin expires before his lifeless corpse slides off of the sword. His final words are an incoherent gurgle.
Odric is close behind Thorgrym rushing into the room, with the twang-slap-thunk of Ferox’s bowstring and well-placed shot filling his right ear. He could almost swear he felt the fletching brush his cheek. Maybe it was his heightened senses as he entered mortal combat for the second time this night.
Odric hears more than sees Grym’s devastating strike upon their foe and the enemy’s surprised grunt of pain punctuates Grym’s attack. He bends to drag Gaius out of the close room and onto the outer dock. His hands sting and burn as he grabs Gauis roughly by the outer garments, but the awful power of the acid is mostly dissipated.
The ruin of Gauis’ once fine half-elven features is all but unrecognizable. Odric’s mind seems fixated on Gaius’ panicked green eye flitting about in a series of twitches as the life ebbs from the rogue’s face.
Odric had never dealt with trauma on this scale before. His ‘medical’ experience to this point includes a series of treatments for hangovers, black eyes, split lips and loosened teeth. Pretty much all with the same prescription: a pint or two and a good sleep.
He makes his best effort to aid Gauis though, trying to staunch what bleeding he can see in the low light with a torn bit of cloth. As the half-elf lies dying on the filthy dock, Odric does what he can.
Seeing Odric attending to Gaius, Ferox moves to both of the closed doors and listens for any commotion on the other side, hoping that no one’s been alerted to their presence. “Well, gents, how do we proceed? Retreat isn’t an option. If we do, Lamm will be long gone by the time we return. Can any one of you revive Gaius?” Ferox asks the group at large.
Morkeleb searches Yargin’s bloody and still twitching corpse for a means to heal Grym. Being an underboss has its privileges. Yargin has a fair amount on him. The leather armor he wears is serviceable, as is his dagger and crossbow with a full case of quarrels. He wears an amulet adorned with pale garnet. Within his pockets you also find a key. What truly draws your attention is the plethora of vials, bottles, and bags he has. Most of them are inert components, useful only to an alchemist. What is of use though are the three vials of standard issue acid, two bottles of a pale transparent blue potion, two tanglefoot bags, and a thunderstone. Finally is the scorched twig of wood that is clearly a wand.
After administering a potion of healing to Gaius, the scars and wounds from the acid disappear with scarcely a trace. The remaining scars are faint within seconds and after a minute are almost completely gone. By the morning they will be naught but a memory.
Without hesitation, Gaius is up and checking his equipment, then is examining the doors with his practiced eye. “The hinges facing the party offer a tempting opportunity to oil them, but without knowing what lies beyond the door we could face a similar debacle to the one we faced in this room”
Odric looks from door to door and around the small stinking room. He rummages through his pack awkwardly without fully taking it off, reaching over his shoulder to do so. He produces a small flask and drips a foul-smelling oily substance onto each hinge in turn.
“This oil will certainly silence the squeaking hinges, but I think we should extinguish any light sources in this room before we open the door. We could gain the dual advantage of the darkness concealing our position and number, and if the next room is dimly lit we wouldn’t draw as much attention to ourselves.”
Sudden inspiration splits the man’s face into a huge grin, “In fact, what if we opened the door and held Yargin’s corse up as a shield!? We could hide behind it and anyone who came to investigate would recognize him but might not see his wounds in the dark. From there we could drop Yargin, throw him into the fray or fall back if the odds are unreasonable!”
Odric begins doing deep knee bend and squatting low then straightening quickly with a thrust of his hips. He swings his arms rapidly forward and backward. Once sufficiently warmed up and ready for his task, he hoists the corpse of Yargin up in front of him.
Spitting some of the body’s stray greasy hairs from his mouth, Odric grunts, “Turn out the lights, and I’ll go!”
Odric looks to Gaius expectantly, waiting for his stealthy companion to open the door.
Gaius reminds Odric, “Keep your distance, though, buddy, but don’t look like you’re trying to keep your distance.”
Odric mumbles some incomprehensible question sounding almost like a bestial roar, face covered in Yargin’s greasy hair again.
“*I* don’t know. Fly casual.”
Thorgrym is hard on Odric’s and Yargin’s heels. He is looking for a target that need’s killing.
The greased door opens silently. The room beyond nearly as dark as Yargin’s office. A single desk sits in the middle of this room, a moldy chair pushed up against the far side. A small pile of ratty furs and straw is heaped under the table.
Within the room is a malnourished and maltreated mutt. His teeth stand as stark contrast to the shadowy room. Though he doesn’t pounce, his hind quarters are coiled and ready to spring into action. Indeed even through the pervasive darkness of the room, he seems locked on to the only figure he can see, Yargin’s corpse.
In the split second before he lunges, Grym steps from behind the Odric and Yargin fighting team. He makes his best effort at soothing the dog. His experience and his training pay off. Grym is able to ease the tension in the dog’s stance. The malnourished creature lowers it posture and looks at the ranger pleadingly. The dog lays down eventually, the crisis past, the men continue through the dog’s lair.
After searching the small room, Odric takes a few minutes to clean up the frontal portion of Yargin’s body. He makes an effort to make the wounds on the dead man’s bicep and in his gut look less obvious, wiping some of the coagulated blood onto one of the foul rags on the floor.
That finished, Odric and Yargin prepare for a similar plan of attack. Odric hoists Yargin in front of him and frog-marches the carcass to the left hand door on the east wall, allowing Thorgrym room to listen.
“Grym, what do you hear?” Odric asks in a hushed voice.
He stands ready to shuffle to the door, Yargin taking point.
Once Thorgrym has finished listening at the door, Odric turns to ask Gaius if he would be so kind as to check the door for traps or other impediments to forward progress.
With no clues as to what might lay beyond this door, and no traps or locks in evidence, the group advances through the door and into a hallway.
“There’s only one thing that might argue against going into this room. If my sense of this building is right, this room opens to the main entrance to the warehouse. If there are guards posted anywhere, they might be in the front room.”
Odric cocks an ear to Yargin’s lolling head, listening with a look of concentration.
He grins to his friends, “Yargin’s dead quiet on the topic of guards”
The hinges are accessible, so Gaius applies oil. He then steps aside, clearing the way for Odric, Yargin and Thorgrym. He readies his dagger and hides on the western side of the door.
Odric reaches up awkwardly from under Yargin’s armpit, places his hand gently on the latch to the next room. The latch is cool to the touch and smooth, indicating it was once well-used and often. The latch gives to Odric’s gently increasing pressure until the door begins to swing free on its hinges.
As the door begins to swing, Odric with his new friend Yargin, hang back in the shadows. Odric has a knot of trepidation in his gut, but feels a bit better when he considers the new friends he has behind him, and the foot-thick meat shield he holds before him.
With Gauis and Ferox hanging back to provide thrown alchemical weapons and swift arrows respectively into any enemy on the other side of the door should this deception fail, Odric pushes gently on the door and reapplies his grip to Yargin.
Morkeleb is muttering softly in the room somewhere behind Odric, easing the big man’s mind further knowing the magic-user is ready for action with a spell or enchantment of some kind.
He can feel Throgrym close behind him too, and takes comfort in the knowledge of what the ranger is capable of in a fight. How could he not? Especially while holding Grym’s grim handiwork up in a gruesome but hopefully convincing imitation of life.
The stink in this room, a mixture of fish and sweat, is enough to make the eyes water. To the east, a large wooden trough holds a hideous mound of half-rancid fish, seaweed, and brine. Filthy seawater and fish blood stain the floor around this trough. A pair of wooden chutes lead from this trough through holes in the northern wall into a larger room to the east. To the west, a desk and chair sit in one corner while a tall cabinet sits in the other. A sadistic looking gnome bullies a quartet of children as they work in the trough. In his hands he holds a sap, but even a momentary glimpse gives you sight of a khukri at his belt.
The ruse of the Yargin corpse seems to have an effect, though who knows what Odric’s expectations were. The children look to the gnome and to Yargin. They hesitate for a split second, fearing the sap while clinging to a near forgotten hope of rescue.
Thorgrym holds his blade in hand, standing to the side of the door frame. He waits for Odric to enter the room to begin the attack. The site of a gnome makes the ranger slightly nervous. They are small but sly. Grym wonders about an illusion but is still ready to charge in with his new brothers in arms.
A powerful feeling of exultation rushes through Odric when the door swings wide to reveal Kip, the brewmaster’s son who was kidapped seemingly ages ago. In a flash, Odric’s failures of the past seem to fall away a bit and he is rocked back on his heels for a split second, simply stunned that he was able to find Kip.
In that split second, Odric took in the whole squalid scene, the deplorable conditions, the cruel gnome taskmaster and the children elbow-deep in fish guts.
Odric strides into the room and up to the gnome purposefully and shouts, “Children, GET ON THE FLOOR!”
Odric kicks the gnome in the groin through Yargin’s legs, Thorgrym rushes in to flank the taskmaster, Gaius hurls a dagger and Ferox positions himself to support the combatants with accurate fire from his bow, all in a split second. The speed of the action is greater than Morkeleb is accustomed to, and he doesn’t react as quickly as the more battle-hardended of the group. However, react he does nonetheless.
Not certain how the violence will play out, and whether the gnome will get the chance to raise the alarm, the mage quickly sinks into the practiced motions of spellcasting. A few muttered words and a quick gesture with his staff, simulating smacking the end against someone’s forehead, Morkeleb releases the eldritch energies at the gnome. In an attempt to allow the group to take him down quickly with as little noise as possible, he casts a lesser spell, attempting to daze the diminutive opponent.
As Odric’s foot connects with the Gnomish gonads, what might be terms as a Girly Gnoise escapes the Gnome’s mouth. The children, shocked begin to react as Odric instructed, but Kip, recognizing his savior as Odric begins to encourage his companions to follow the gigantic madman’s shouted instructions.
Odric drops Yargin with a muttered farewell and the carcass slumps to the ground, motionless. Oddly, for the third time in as many minutes.
Odric’s extremely unorthodox tactic will surely be the talk of the children for years to come. The gnome’s Girlie Gnoise is one of the highest pitched he has ever heard. The gnome drops his sap and clutches his sac. Grym and Ferox slide in. Gaius hurls his dagger but the chaotic movement of the gnome’s reaction leaves his dagger hungry as it slams into the wall. Already weakened, the gnome tries desperately to fend of Morkeleb’s spell.
With an incomprehensible grunt, Odric draws his ferocious Eagle-headed pick. For a split second, the Gnome’s crossed eyes behold a gleaming eagle’s head with an extremely sharp beak poised right before his bulbous nose.
Behind that pick though, up two long and thickly-muscled arms, above two boulder-like shoulders, up a monstrous neck bulging with purple pulsating veins, past gnashing teeth in a clenched jaw with a few days’ black stubble there is a second face. It is equally as ferocious with eyes that seemingly burn with an inner fire.
Odric swings the pick, describing a complete circle to his right side as the left hand counters in an opposing circle to gain momentum. The pick, as it reaches its zenith above Odric’s head gains the extra force of the left arm’s might as the swing continues to gain power and speed. The murderous gleam in Odric’s eyes disappears as he clenches his eyes at the last moment, willing the last bit of power and hate into the strike.
When the pick connects with the gnome he is gone in an instant. Grey matter and bone fly through the air, much of the wound-slurry landing in the vile fish ooze. The children stare at the scene. Though life under Lamm’s lash is harsh, the enormity of the violence is shocking to them. The youngest of them makes a step towards the door…. unsure of the next few seconds, many of them look to run to the winds.
In an effort to calm them and prevent an exodus, Morkeleb intones soothingly, “Calm yourselves, little ones—we’re here to do to Lamm what we just did to this sack of dirt. You will be free when we succeed. Where is he?”
They run for the door, shocked by the violence and desperate to escape.
One stays behind, the older boy. He finally pulls himself together, “Sirs….Odric, is that you? Are you really here to knock off that solly slop? Through this door is the main room, there’s a hole in the floor that leads to the under room. No one ever comes back from there, and that’s where Lamm keeps his sorry arse. Be careful. Giggles the Half-orc is between you and there. His name might sound silly, but it’s because he giggles when he beats people. I’ve seen his flail hit a man the way Odric’s pick hit Shanks.”
As he opens his eyes, bits of gristle and gore, blood and bone, hide and hair cover his torso. Odric’s intense aggression wanes as quickly as it waxed and he looks up from the cratered Gnome to see Kip standing before him.
Odric answers the boy joyfully, lowers his bulk to one knee and gathers him into an enormous embrace. The nauseating combination of odors almost proves too much for Kip. The only thing saving Kip from retching is the boy’s attenuation to the smell of fish guts after months in this warehouse. Odric does not smell good.
As he embraces the boy, Odric can feel almost a full year of shame and guilt melt away. The feeling of achievement, one not often felt but often dreamed of, is intoxicating to Odric.
“Kip! I’m so glad you’re safe! Are you well? Sound of body I see even if a little underfed, and your description to my companion indicates a soundness of mind I didn’t dare hope for!”
Odric holds Kip at arm’s length and looks at him, eyes glistening with a bewildering whirlwind of emotion. Relief, exultation, the remainder of the ebbing violence with which he dispatched Shanks the Gnome, along with pride, worry and determination battle for supremacy on Odric’s face.
In reality, worry almost triumphs, and Odric briefly considers abandoning his new companions and spiriting Kip back to his father immediately, but pride and a thirst for revenge quickly eclipse that thought. Thinking furiously, Odric casts about for an answer to his dilemma.
“Kip, we are going to kill Giggles and then slaughter Lamm. I dare not send you running through the streets at this hour to search for your home for fear of losing you once again to the denizens of the streets after all this time.”
Odric’s brow furrows and he looks around the squalid room. “I’d like you to hide somewhere close by until I can return to escort you safely home. Can you think of a safe place in here or in another room to conceal yourself?”
Odric looks to Kip questioningly, wondering where the boy will choose to lay up.
While thirsty for vengeance, justice and glory, Odric can persevere without refreshment at this time. He will taste a more potent beverage before the night is through, but that will be hours from now before a roaring fire. He’ll be laughing with his former Brewmaster and regaling him with a tale of heroism that for once, Odric can lay claim to.
His furrowed brow breaks into a wolfish grin. “Gentlemen, we have bloody work before us. Best we get to it.”
The men gather to discuss tactics and strategery. Gambits are suggested, then discarded. The safety of the laboring children is apriority, but the party realizes it must pass through this room and dispatch Giggles before Lamm can be addressed.
Odric considers the room’s layout, waiting for Kip to suggest a decent hiding place. He dismisses the cabinet, knowing that if the battle with Giggles goes poorly, Kip will be trapped without escape.
An idea dawns on Odric, he lowers his stance, puts his hands out to the sides and gets an odd expectant look on his face. At the quizzical looks he gets from all, he boldly states, “I have a Plan.”
Odric begins madly scribbling on a piece of parchment he produces from his backpack with the charred end of a stick he retrieves from behind his ear. The others in the room wonder at how it could have stayed in place throughout the excitement of the evening.
Thorgrym notes that there is a copious amount of grease holding Odric’s hair style in place that may have held it. Grym ponders Odric’s unique hairstyle distractedly while Odric continues to mutter and scribble.
With his tongue protruding from the corner of his mouth and a look of intense concentration on his face, Odric continues his diagram of the Plan. He unconsciously interrupts himself periodically with slashing motions of the arms, ducking and turning as he furiously captures the masterful strategery on parchment.
Triumphantly, he finishes the last dramatic arrows which seem to point off the page to the far, far east, then straightens and addresses the enthralled room.
“First, Gaius will pull the door open without allowing the occupants of the room to see him. Kip will show himself, and shout this to Giggles” Odric leans to Kip’s ear and whispers for an oddly long time while the boy nods gravely. When Odric finishes, Kip breaks into a smile and nods enthusiastically, “which will throw Giggles into a rage.”
“Giggles will immediately rush to strike at Kip for his insolence and gall” Here Odric indicates vaguely a large smudge on the greasy parchment.
“Gaius will then slam the door shut and Morkeleb, you will spirit Kip safely into the hallway and close the door.” Odric hands Kip a large partially eaten drumstick from some unidentified fowl that he produces from the depths of his pack. “In case you see a dog” Odric explains to a bewildered Kip.
“Ferox, have an arrow nocked, because unless I miss my guess the door will fly open and Giggles will come through it looking for Kip’s hide. Morkeleb, I recommend a thrown dagger or some other spell, save your sleep enchantment for Lamm as indicated here”
Odric’s large finger jabs at the diagram distractedly, seemingly pointing at the entire upper left portion of the Plan.
“Gaius and I will be flanking this door, prepared to attack Giggles as he emerges. While I attack with this monstrosity featuring the head of a fucking EAGLE!” Odric hefts his pick impressively, then noting it is covered in gore and is certainly not gleaming as it should be, makes an ineffective attempt and wiping it clean with his sanguinary sleeve before giving up distractedly “…Gaius will stab Giggles in some of his squishier parts.” The stabbing motions are quite convincing and Odric continues indicating minor points of detail on the Plan.
“Anyway, there’s more but this is the main idea. Are there questions?” Odric holds the Plan before him face up and looks from face to face with authority. The Plan is almost completely obliterated and smudged, but Odric seems quite pleased with it.
His commences deep knee bends whist cracking his knuckles above his head. Kip suppresses a laugh as Odric’s gut bulges in a white crescent below his tightly-cinched black leather armor.
“The time for action is now, Gentlemen. This can’t go wrong. We have a Plan.”
Odric maneuvers Kip into position before the door, then looks to Gaius for his fine fingered manipulations around the area of the door. A trapped door at this point could be disastrous, although in the middle of a working fish-gutting plant it seems unlikely.
Now that he thinks about it, Thorgrym notes with interest that Odric’s hair does not seem to move at all, no matter what the big man does. It is thick with grease and completely immobile. Grym is tempted to touch it, although he briefly considers asking Gaius to check it for traps first.
Gaius edges open the door as Kip takes his position. The boy gives a nervous nod to Odric, who responds by slapping the ichor coated head of his pick into the meaty palm og his hand. The sloppy sound and minor spray of gnome speak volumes. The door opens, and the sounds of children working crescendo. Giggles, looks up to see the boy take a deep breath and bellow (as much as a boy can),
“Hey Giggles, you’re so ugly that it looks like your face caught fire and your mother put it out with a fork!”
Gaius slams the door and Kip dives to the side, thinking this plan should have included arming him.
Morkeleb says, “If Giggles doesn’t come through this door in the next few seconds, make sure the door is opened before my spell is done!”
“This spell is far more complex than any I have cast in the heat of combat before . . .” He begins a complex, subtle series of hand motions and arcane utterings. Part of the process includes digging out a small handful of fine dust from one of the myriad pouches on his wizardly belt. I sprinkle some on the crystal that’s at the head of his staff, holding the rest of the pinch in my palm as he prepares to blow it toward the door.
A panicked look comes over Odric’s intent face as he sees Morkeleb’s departure from the Plan. Never having been trained in spellcraft, Odric is not sure what dweomer Morkeleb is preparing, but Odric can certainly see Kip not being spirited out of the room where dangerous combat should commence shortly.
Odric hisses to Kip, “Hide! Quickly!” and jerks his head towards the door to the hallway behind, from where the party came. Wild-eyed for Kip’s safety, Odric looks quite intense. Kip’s reaction must depend on his own initiative. Morkeleb appears engrossed in casting some enchantment, waiting for Giggles’ grand entrance.
Odric tightens his grip on his pick and returns his attention to the closed door. Unsure as to whether the pounding he hears is Giggles approaching the door or his own heartbeat, ringing in his ears, Odric prepares himself for battle.
Gaius looks at Morkeleb, and narrows his eyes. He adjusts quickly to the changing landscape. He hears Giggles tromping towards the door and uses the heavy footfalls to judge his speed.
Ferox takes up a position directly away from the door. He stretches his bowstring back to his cheek, ready to shoot when Giggles comes through the door.
Giggles kicks in the door with his foot as he brandishes a flail, the juxtaposing of the ferocious entrance with his high pitches giggle is disconcerting. He doesn’t even have time to register the trap. It is pure coincidence that his flail absorbs Ferox’s arrow.
Desna contains her laughter for Gaius, whose strike lands true, slamming Giggles in the eye, adding virtuous humor to the liquid uniform covering Odric.
As the eyeball ruptures, Odric rears back in disgust, then continues to lean further and further back, until he is slightly more leaned back than one would suppose is reasonable for balance or tactics. Odric lifts his left leg, then leans a bit further back onto his bent right leg. For an instant, he looks to be on the verge of tipping backward. In that precarious pose, with both arms over his head, the Eagle barely a hands breadth above the floorboards behind him, Odric pauses. Like a stone thrown straight up in the air seems to pause at the zenith of its flight, just so Odric pauses in a moment that stretches two heart beats.
Then like the stone, Odric begins to fall. Thankfully he falls forward. The pick trails behind, gaining speed. The upraised left leg hits first and Odric becomes like a breaking wave. As his foot slams the ground he uncoils, rolling towards Giggles, gaining speed as his arms catch up to his forward momentum. He uses his weight and the speed he has accumulated to drive the Eagle’s beak faster and faster to its mark.
The Eagle has landed.
Yet again, the slaughter is swift and brutal. Giggles dies with a bubbling froth of blood replacing his sobriquet. The children, both in the room and the lower level waste no time. Life on the streets is hard, life under Lamm is hellish. They immediately break and run for the exits. Kip stands his ground, even giving a kick to Giggles side and also delivering an impression of the half-orc that connotes bitter familiarity.
Rummaging through Giggles’ personal effects, Odric uses his knife to slice a strip of relatively clean cloth from Giggles’ admittedly filthy garment. He takes a moment to wipe clean the Eagle’s head and returns to his rough treatment of the body in search of any items of interest.
With his hand inside the half-orc’s back pocket, Odric looks to Kip questioningly, “Kip, tell me about who else might be with Lamm down below. I want to know what we might face when we attack the bastard. Can you draw out a map of the rest of the building?”
Odric freezes, winces and withdraws from his search of Giggles’ with a pained look on his face. He commences breathing in short, shallow breaths and starts bending forward at the waist. Kip stares at the man with growing concern, but when Odric straightens, he seems to be better.
“Just a bit of gas.” Odric explains and returns to his search in earnest. Kip remembers Odric’s bouts with gas from the time the big man lived in the loft as his father’s apprentice. The boy immediately claps his hand over his nose and mouth and takes three large steps away.
Odric’s search is thorough, he examines all the obvious pockets and begins turning the half-orc’s clothes inside-out searching for secret pockets or concealed treasures. Giggles’ boots come off, which adds to the simply awful odor in the close room.
Being accustomed to foul-smelling concoctions of all kinds, Odric the Odiferous only produces a slight curl of the upper lip from the stoic Morkeleb. “I am not without sympathy for my companions who may not have the stomach for such vile emissions, and am willing to part with some of my aromatic herbs in order to spare folks from having to buy a second dinner!”
Quickly, Morkeleb roots around his own pouch and produces some sweet-smelling herbs which the man crushes between his thumb and forefinger then passes to Ferox. The relief the herbs offer is small but welcome. Odric seems oblivious to the grotesque scents surrounding him, perhaps he has become attenuated to it, perhaps he is so engrossed in his task he hasn’t realized the stink is making the others’ eyes water.
Odric mistakes the gags in Kips reply for fear, and pats the boy on the shoulder to comfort him in this time of stress.
“Sirs, no one who goes downstairs ever comes back. It’s where kids go when they’ve been punished one too many times. I doubt that tosser does the killing. He’s old and crotchety, but I don’t think the scalywag can do it himself. It’s his pet gator, Gobblegut, I bet. So I don’t know what’s to be expected if you lower yourself down.”
“I know you’re tough, obviously” Kip kicks Giggles, and repeats his impression as if it’s a compulsion. “but Lamm’s crafty, and he didn’t make it this long without some brains. May Desna smile on you if ye bring and end to his rule of the streets of Korvosa.”
Giggles had little of value. He has perforated leather armor, a heavy flail, light wooden shield, and a cat-o-nine-tails and little else.
Gaius asks suddenly, “Gentlemen? Shall we adjourn to the basement for the night’s main event?”
The rogue enters the main room and begins a search for the trap door to the lower levels, and to revenge!
The floor here is slick with seawater, bits of seaweed, and fish blood—the air is thick with the accompanying scent. Wooden catwalks to the north and south allow access to the western part of the fishery, while the floor here is only five feet above the river below. An open bay to the south allows direct access to the sloppy, muddy water, while to the northwest stands an immense ten-foot-tall wooden vat, its sides caked and waterproofed with tar. Inside is a foul-looking mixture of chum, seawater, and who knows what else. To the east are stacked many barrels and crates, each marked with a painted red fish. Nearly two dozen small hammocks hang from under the catwalks, each with its own filthy blanket and pillow.
A narrow space exists under the fishery, with about four feet of room between the floor of the building above and the languid, foamy river water below. Wooden pilings support the building, and moss and cobwebs hang thick from ropes and rusted chains between them. A wooden walkway floats on the river surface, winding along the inner wall of pilings that supports the building’s frame above, leading from the sodden barge to the east all the way west to a wooden door that leads into an understructure below the fishery’s land bound half.
Once the noxiousness has been as abated as can be, Morkeleb says, “Well, gentlemen, it looks as if our path leads this way. I recommend extreme caution—Gobblegut is quite a nasty creature by reputation. I’ve not laid eyes on him myself, but have heard tales to be sure! Once battle is joined, I will concentrate on making sure Lamm doesn’t escape, and after that I’ll support the warriors in killing the gator to the best of my ability.
I suggest, when we find him, the warriors weaken the gator with missiles before closing. Alligator jaws are most unforgiving.
I also suggest that Kip make himself scarce; since he hasn’t been downstairs, his value as a scout is not enough to counterbalance the danger. Kip, you have our thanks for your help.” I shake his hand firmly.
“Any other suggestions, comments, pep-speeches, or the like, before we delve deeper into this cesspool?”
Odric appears lost in thought. He absently scratches his belly and considers the options before him. He takes the Plan out, studies it carefully and furrows his brow. After a few moments he glances around quickly to see if anyone is looking at him, then flips the Plan over and studies the other side equally as carefully.
Thorgrym chuckles aloud, then noting Odric’s earnestness decides to turn the chuckle into a suppressed cough instead, allowing the big man his pride.
“Gentlemen, the Plan calls for a direct assault on Lamm, however we may find a small tactical adjustment to the Plan might be in order.”
Without another word, Odric draws his falchion from its sheath across his back and begins hacking up Giggles into roughly equal pieces of meat. The meat chunks, each the size of a loaf of bread, are thrown into a large sack until the sack is filled nearly to overflowing.
“I think we could lure Gobblegut out of the room with Lamm using this as bait. We could open the door, then withdraw back onto the walkway. By throwing chunks of meat to the gator we could lure him away from Lamm. Once Gobblegut is out of the room you could all run into the room, close the door and…” Odric gestures vaguely to Yargin, the gnome and the salsa-like remains of Giggles rather than articulate exactly the end he has in mind for Lamm.
“Lamm has probably rigged some clever trap around the door, and I’d bet he has more than one escape route. We should be extra careful that he doesn’t slip away. One last thing, and I’m not sure why I’m suggesting this.” Odric takes a deep breath and continues.
“I heard a man, an adventurer, tell a tale once over a mug of ale of a land far from here where men wrassle Crocogators. They do it not to survive, or for some needful purpose, they do it for sport. These are men’s men, manly men who grow beards by the age of eight and split firewood with their peckers in the winter. They drink firewater for breakfast and fart lightning by lunchtime.”
Odric sees that of the group, he at least has young Kip’s attention, and continues excitedly.
“They leap upon them and grasp the fearsome beasts by their toothy snouts. These men can crush acorns to powder by clenching massive fingers to their thumbs, they forge white-hot blades sometimes using fists rather than hammers on a forge of iron. This massive hand strength is necessary to keep the ferocious beast from whipping its jaws around and biting off a leg. The gators will thrash and fight like demons in church, but the man if he be strong enough can subdue the beast. It takes guts like a river pirate, strength like a mad rutting bull and quickness like a street urchin stealing for his supper, but it can be done. Although I’ve never chopped firewood with my pecker in the winter, I did it one summer for three silver shields a day. I think I can do it, and I mean to give it a try.”
Odric begins swinging the sack of Giggles-chunks around rhythmically in order to loosen up his shoulders for the upcoming test of his mettle and manhood. He bunches up the open end of the sack in one large, blood spattered hand and grabs the other end of the sack with the other. Somehow, with a straining and groaning from his protesting armor, Odric manages to rotate both arms up over his head and down to the small of his back. The sack’s rough sewn seams are straining, and Giggles’ coagulating blood is seeping out of it and coating the backs of Odric’s legs with fresh blood. Odric swings his hips in large circles with the sack behind his back and continues his warm-up.
“You actually want to wrestle Gobblegut?” Morkeleb asks, alarmed. “You realize that saying ‘he’ll eat you for lunch’ isn’t hyperbole? None of us doubt your manliness, Odric, and I for one will not question the prowess of your wood-splitting cock. Once again I’ll suggest everyone lead against Gobblegut with missile weapons before coming into contact with those jaws.
I think your idea is clever and bold, don’t get me wrong. But there is a fine line between brave and foolhardy-and another between foolhardy and insane.
Do as you will. I shall do my part.”
The wizard lightly touches his several pouches, mentally cataloging which components go with which spells, preparing to unleash every ounce of arcane might at the hated Lamm.
Gaius listens intently to the boastful ramblings of Odric, recording every word to memory—though he appears to dismiss and ignore the conversation. He drops down the trapdoor to the floating walkway below, and makes his way to the wooden door moving carefully and slowly in a crouch, to be sure of his footing and to note any traps or unsound planks.
When he reaches the door, he’ll inspect it for further surprises.
He’ll mark planks best avoided with chalk for his companions.
Odric appears to reconsider. “Hmmm… Perhaps I could soften the beast up with some thrown weaponry before I pin it to the decking and wrench its head clean off. Not a bad idea. Morkeleb, I’ve always noted that strength without wisdom is a recipe for disaster.”
Odric gestures grandly with the sack, “Follow me! …Kip stay up here and hide. I’ll be back shortly to escort you to your father’s hearth.”
Odric strides from the room and makes his way slowly and stealthily towards Lamm Lair.
The gigantic warrior has his falchion in his right hand, ready to throw it. His pick is readied in his left hand, the eagle hovering around waist level.
Odric’s breathing is shallow and quick. He instinctively flexes and relaxes his biceps. His jaw is set and his eyes are fixed intently on the door, as he envisions the scene beyond. Once the door opens, the die is cast and he intends to seize the initiative. He leans forward on the balls of his feet, legs tensed and ready.
Morkeleb looks at the huge weapon that Odric is obviously planning to implement in a way counter to its design. “Odric, you’re strong, but…that might be a liiiiitle unwieldy to throw, don’t you think? Would you like to borrow this instead?” Taking out his light crossbow, Morkeleb offers it to the intently staring man. “You can just drop it on the floor after you’ve shot it a time or two, I don’t care!”
Odric’s eye twitches slightly, he half breaks from his trance as though to cast a sidelong glance at the wizard, but his eyes never leave the door. Morkeleb sees that the corner of Odric’s mouth has spittle collected, like dirty sea foam in an eddy. The big man’s muscles bunch again, rippling under a thick layer of fat.
Ferox knocks an arrow and stands behind the tower shield of a man.
As the party enters the room, they take in the environs rapidly.
The air in this large room is somewhat chilly and stinks of the river, no doubt thanks to a huge opening in the floor that drops away to the river shore five feet below. A shark circles lazily below. Several pilings emerge from the waters to support the roof above, with mossy ropes slung between them. In two places, rusty manacles hang from the ropes over the water. Two five-foot-wide walkways cross the hole’s edge to the other side of the chamber, where a collection of old cabinets, lockboxes, and piles of clutter are strewn about. Chipped porcelain plates, a cracked goblet, badly rusted silverware, an old wooden shield with a crossbow bolt embedded in it, the odd dinged helm, and other ‘treasures’ litter the floor of this entire chamber. Three tables, their tops heaped with additional clutter, stand amid this mess, while just west of that a wooden door seems to provide access to a walled-off section. Already crouched behind one of the tables is Lamm. He looks like he was expecting company as he’s got a small crossbow readied. Between Lamm and the party is Gobblegut, the meanest looking gator any in the room have ever seen. “You?!” Lamm shouts, "You sorry lot. You’ve got to be kidding me. I’ll teach you all a lesson you’ll NEVER forget. ’Gut, dinner time!”
The opening in the floor leaves only a five foot wide walkway to get to Lamm. This shorter route is blocked fifteen in by Gobblegut. The long way around is free of obstacles or opponents, but it is about 85 feet around.
Lamm, who is hiding behind cover about 45 feet away, lets lose a quarrel towards Grym. The angle is sharp, and the doorframe provides cover. Lamm adds after the shot, "Is that you dog lover? I hope your little pack at least gave you some meat. Assuming you could find a part that wasn’t spoiled!”
The ranger slips back as Lamm’s crossbow bolt hits the doorway where his body was a mere moment ago. Knowing his comrades are behind him Thorgrym pours into the room. He moves about five feet toward the gator and drops down to one knee against the wall, giving Odric has plenty of room to throw the massive falchion.
Grym stabs his sword into the wood planks in front of him so to keep his blade ready in case the gator closes distance, thus freeing his hands for his sling.
Ferox advances along the southern wall, taking position in the far corner. “I am the will of Abadar and I find you guilty of crimes against Korvosa. Your evil ends today, Lamm.” The Inquisitor pronounces boldly.
Ferox utters a quick prayer to Abadar, calling down the blessing of the Master of the First Vault to help end Lamm’s tyranny.
The vile fiend replies, “Bah! you sure I can’t interest you in some shiver you self-reighteous loser?”
Gobblegut waddles to Ferox, lashes out with his ferocious jaws and holds the Inquisitor in his toothsome grip.
Odric bolts. He runs straight ahead meaning to permanently shut the slavering jaws of the Crocogator. Odric’s concentration is fierce and he watches the floor for obvious holes or tripping hazards. His big talk about wrassling the beast echoes in his ears but is tempered by the dire warnings of his friends and that small insistent voice in his head saying ‘what in the nine hells are you DOING? Are you INSANE?’
Both weapons gripped in his large, hairy hands pump rhythmically as Odric runs around the perimeter of the room towards Gobblegut. He had planned to throw his falchion, but seeing Ferox locked in the gator’s toothy jaws reconsiders and thinks better of it.
Behind him, all of his friends are relieved to be out of close proximity to Odric, given the effect tonight’s exertions have had on his hygiene. Once they resumed normal breathing, several of his new friends certainly breathed a sigh of relief. One of his new friends still can’t get the image out of his mind’s eye of a young Odric chopping wood with his wood, and feels slightly perturbed.
Odric reaches the gator winded. His weight and sedentary lifestyle are not conducive to running full tilt like this. He lashes out with his falchion, cutting at an angle trying desperately to decapitate the beast before it finishes its meal of Filet-o-Ferox. No one could mistake the powerful grunt that issues from Odric with a Girly Noise. Odric’s swing cleaves deeply into the gator’s tail. Blood sprays everywhere, including into the shark infested water. The beast turns his attention on the animal that sliced him.
The keen of hearing may notice a tiny noise. It may or may not be Girly. and the keenest noses might detect the odor of fresh feces from Odric’s pants.
Upon seeing his ‘precious’ Gobblegut slashed the old denmaster let’s lose a croaking howl of anger, “I hope you rot in the Abyss you fat drunk! Let’s see how much you like it when he eats you alive!”
Apparently his concern doesn’t extend to protecting the gator from Odric, as he instead focuses on the ranged threats to himself. A flick of the wrist and he drops a bolt into the crossbow, taking aim at Grym.
Morkeleb takes in the scene quickly and coolly.
He thinks to himself, ‘My first job is to prevent Lamm from escaping. Most of my magicks cannot reach him from here. I could blast the croc, but his physicality makes it likely he would resist the effects. I must get closer to Lamm, and trust the warriors to keep the lizard’s attention.’
After about a heartbeat, Morkeleb boldly steps forward into the room, moving swiftly across the walkway to avoid Gobblegut and close with Lamm, while conveniently ending up around the corner from him, making a shot difficult at best.
The wizard then readies his staff, and draws forth a pinch of fine dust. His face is set in the ecstatic concentration of his trade.
Morkeleb, out of range for the moment of the vicious melee and out of sight of Lamm, begins his chant in what he believes to be relative safety. The somatic components are slow and steady, the arcane words have a soothing quality to their timbre. However, any close enough to actually hear the verbal component might be a little disconcerted…interspersed in the arcane language are clearly words in common. Morkeleb is using his hatred to shape and power his spell.
“May the respite of sleep be no solace; may your quiet form belie the wretched dreams that will twist your mind beyond mortal pain, bring you to the brink of sanity then shove you into the abyss. Your body will calm, but your mind will explode in an agony of insane nightmares, deserving of the villainous scum you are! Relive your deeds, but as the target of your own depravity and hate, in your dreams!”
Spraying blood and in a frenzy, Gobblegut turns on Odric and lashes out with his jaws. It’s tough to tell if this is be animal instinct or happenstance, but Gobblegut backs up a bit and his maimed tail swipes across the defending Ferox. Ferox’ guard is sufficient to save him from damage, but the wounds he already suffered and the jarring strength of the great lizard’s tail rock him back.
Odric gapes silently at the snapping jaws as they close just inches from his leading leg. In a horribly belated reflex, Odric jerks back and jumps into the air. It is only the beast’s haste in reacting to Odric’s cleaving attack on its tail that allowed Odric to remain intact; he certainly didn’t react fast enough to dodge the bite.
Relief flows through Odric midair. As he returns to the ground he does so with his falchion held high. The blade arcs down, a spray of Gobblegut’s blood still trailing from its point. Odric’s sword makes not a whistle but more of a whoosh as it swings down. The sound of wood splintering smothers his heart as it feels like a miss, but in truth, the splintering wood was directly under the beast. Gobblegut has been impaled by Odric’s falchion – reduced to a still quivering corpse.
Gaius locks eyes on Lamm and with a hiss, “Pray to whatever Gods will have you, Gaedran. Pray one of my companions kills you before I get there. It’s your only chance for mercy.”
Gaius moves 30 feet closer to Lamm along the east wall, and watches him very closely for tells, indicating where he might shoot, allowing him to be ready to dodge.
Lamm spits in Grym’s general direction. His breath comes in gasps, a symptom of how many years and how he’s filled them. "Gaius, right? Just go back to your whore goddess and leave me alone. With the last word a plaintive tone creeps into his voice. With Gobblegut dead, the resignation is beginning to sink in, even as the anger continues to pour out. He stands and turns. Grym is in line, no aiming required.
The final movements of Morkeleb’s spell are deceptively graceful and look calming enough. He gently blows the handful of dust toward Lamm. The dust drifts on a magical zephyr to just in front of Lamm’s hiding place. The calmness and serenity is a lie, though: any close enough can hear Morkeleb’s final curse carried on this arcane wind:
I crush your mind!!
Lamm’s eyes widen at the realization of a spell being cast his way. His cantankerous stubborness kicks in, and while his eyes start to droop, he shakes off the magically induced sleep.
“Ha! Hope you can get your tuition back you failure!” Lamm’s taunt flies forth with venom and spittle.
Undaunted by his failed spell, Morkeleb taunts back, “You think you can stand against us all, you giant ass? Your death is nigh. Please don’t surrender.”
Ferox scrambles back about 40 feet across the southern wall to stand near the door along the eastern wall. He draws his bow and Ferox lets fly, the judgment of Abadar aiming true. The arrow tears into the old man’s neck. It seems as if the arterial spray rivals that of the alligator. Staggered, the bitter old man clings to life. Just barely.
You can tell that the exertion will kill him, but he prepares a final bolt in defiance anyways.
Grym advances, altering his speed as he makes his attack, sword raising up to strike down on the balding head of the evil old man.
Lamm raises his crossbow up to ward off the blow but at the last moment Grym whips his blade down and around in a quick belly cut.
When the final blow comes, it comes too quickly for any biying last words. Lamm’s innards spill to the ground by his feet. Grym stands firm, his gaze and his hand as steady and strong as steel. The urban ranger holds his his position for many moments paying no heed to the pooling blood on his boots.
Gaedran Lamm, scourge of Korvosa lies dead.
The party pushes through to Lamm’s inner sanctum. This foul-smelling room seems to be a combination bedroom and study. A wooden bed with a lumpy mattress stands against the east wall, while a round table heaped with dirty plates, bread crusts, stained goblets, fruit rinds, and scuttling cockroaches sits nearby. At the foot of the bed sits a large strongbox, a slighty rusted lock securing its lid. A sagging dresser filled with moth-eaten clothes well past their glory days is in one corner—what appears to be a wooden hatbox surrounded by a small cloud of flies sits atop this dresser.
The old man’s personal habits are very much on display—he has little interest in cleanliness. Bedbugs infest the sheets, a chamber pot pushed under the bed is badly in need of cleaning, and the bits of food heaped on his table have attracted a large nest of roaches.
Odric looks up from his task of removing the teeth from Gobblegut’s jaws and notices everyone gone. Belatedly, he leaps to his feet and fumbles with the hilt of the falchion, trying to dislodge it from the planks between sets of gator ribs. He liberates his blade, stumbles back in his haste and nearly topples as the blood rushes into his legs after so long kneeling.
In a panic, Odric charges into the side room, sword at the ready in his right hand, heavy pick trailing behind in his left. He lands in a ferocious fighting stance and looks about, eyes blazing.
Sheepishly, he recognizes his mistake and slowly lowers the weaponry. He clears his throat and commences officiously searching the room for loot.
Odric’s father once told him something, and this bit of advice has stuck with him since his earliest childhood. “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.” If he could see Odric’s search technique, Odric’s old man would be proud.
Odric leaves the easy itms for his friends. He begins with the chamber pot. Carefully, oh so carefully, Odric walks the chamber pot back into the other room. He carefully dumps the wretched contents out, looking for Lamm’s treasure. Floorboards are pried up, drawer bottoms smashed, the mattress is dragged out of the room and hay thrown everywhere as Odric goes through it like crap through a goose. The clothes are rifled through thoroughly, if at arms length. If there is something worthwhile in this mess, Odric intends to find it.
A search of his chamber reveals dubious treasure, but among the detritus of a career of depravity lays some valuable loot.
The room has nothing in it that would fetch even a few coppers, except for the contents of the chest which Gaius unlocks with a key. Inside are the collected treasures that his children-slaves have brought back. Each of these treasures is wrapped in cloth and tied shut with twine. The treasures include a narrow teak cigar case inlaid with tiny bits of jade, a 2-pound gold bar bearing the Cheliax coat of arms, a miniature gold crown, a fist-sized scrimshaw carving of a kraken with garnets for eyes, a silver ring bearing the inscription “For Emmah—the light in my nights,” a highly realistic and highly scandalous ivory figurine of two entwined succubi, a masterwork shuriken, an adamantine arrowhead, an abalone-shell holy symbol of Shelyn, a tiny glass tube containing a dose of oil, an obsidian wand, a crystalline vial (itself worth something) containing a dose of silversheen, and a bejeweled brooch with a broken clasp.
It doesn’t take a jeweller to know that the brooch is the most valuable object in the entire collection. The circular gold brooch depicts a pseudodragon and an imp coiled around each other in an almost yin-yang pattern. The pseudodragon’s eye is an amethyst, while the imp’s eye is an emerald. It’s clearly worth a King’s Ransom as the saying goes.
While Gaius catalogs the contents of the chest, Odric makes an extremely disturbing discovery in the hat box. Inside the hat box, wrapped in cheesecloth is a severed head. The head looks as if it’s been there for a few weeks. Why Lamm would keep this is anyone’s guess, but the noise that escapes Odric’s lips causes everyone to turn.
The head is that of Zellara, the Harrower….
Underneath is a Harrow deck. Identical to the one carried by Zellara, whom the group met earlier this night.
Odric is stunned by the decapitated and decomposing head of a woman he saw just hours earlier. He wonders at it, a small doubt in his gut begins growing into a nauseating fear tinged with revulsion. While not a superstitious man by nature, something about this severed head unnerves him. A head which at this time has no name.
Nothing particularly catches his fancy, but he sees the ring as an opportunity to set right some injustice perhaps. He imagines a maiden, pining after a long lost love who perhaps perished on an adventure not unlike the one Odric himself is on. When the man died in Odric’s daydream, he had this ring in his pocket. He had planned to gift it to his love but was waiting for the right time.
The general sense of the wealth included here in the gold and the brooch excite him, but only insofar as he looks forward to spending his share at the tavern.
Odric agrees with Gaius, “Lets take all this back to one of our homes for sorting and discussion. Gaius is right, this indicates that something weird is afoot.”
Odric gathers up his weapons and makes ready to depart, leaving the treasure and the head for his companions to pack and carry.
“Tell me where we’ll meet and I’ll be there. I have to escort young Kip home straightaway.”
Odric holds a quiet conversation with Morkeleb, nodding in understanding and leaves confident he can reunite with his party after delivering Kip to the safety of his father’s hearth. The big man goes in search of Kip, a look of consternation on his face as he ponders the strange developments of the night.
After the party finishes looting, Grym tells the party he has to go back for the dog. If they feel the need to leave immediately he will meet them at the specified place.
Grym goes back to the dog room. He gets out a dog leash and uses some canine beast scent. The ranger takes his time, and begins the slow process of gaining enough of the dog’s trust to get a leash around his neck.
The dog is fast asleep when the ranger arrives. It takes every bit of skill, but when he gain the dog’s trust, he takes to Grym. This gives im a chance to look the beast over. The dog may have well been one of “Lamm’s lambs.” He’s malnourished, but also bears numerous scars. He’s missing a few teeth and his left eye is starting to gloss over. It’s hard to get a solid bead on his age, but you’d guess a little North of a decade. He’s not really a fighting dog anymore, yet nor is he done in this world.
The memory of a kind human is dim in his canine mind, but still dogs have that innate sense, and you have that skill.
Odric returns Kip to his family, earning their gratitude and a small reward. Ferox returns to Zellar’s to find some disturbing news, the house is abandoned and the food the group ate earlier was illusory.
Odric shivers in the brisk night air as he makes his way from Master Bartleby’s after returning Kip to home and hearth. The big man took some time at the house to clean himself, thus removing the majority of the foul stench that lingered around him. The only thing lingering now are the faint puffs of his breath in the chill night air as he makes his way to the rendezvous with all haste.
While he walks, Odric thinks about the tearful reunion and a lump in his throat threatens to re-start the tears that flowed freely and quietly down his grimy face an hour ago. In returning Kip, Odric realized he had taken the first steps towards realizing the path he always wanted his life to take but never quite knew how.
He felt the shame of his failures melt away as he stood awkwardly by as father and son embraced in the warm den in the light of the dying fire. Odric knew success and a feeling of accomplishment for the first time in what seemed like years.
Now striding through the streets purposefully, none of his bar mates would recognize him. Not due to some dramatic physical change, rather his attitude which has undergone a polar shift from a layabout and boastful drunk to a man with a purposeful step, a set to his jaw and a gleam in his eye. He shrugs his cloak more comfortably around his shoulders, thankful for its warmth.
The adventurous spirit Odric had expostulated upon for so long in so many smoky and dimly lit barrooms across the city had finally settled in his breast. Odric feels newly alive and excited about the prospects of continuing in this vein.
As he walks, he looks into several taverns where in months gone by he might have never passed by and sees the warmth and camaraderie and feels a slight twinge. It would be satisfying and pleasant to pass some hours before the hearth regaling new-found friends with tales of heroism, triumph and honor. Odric passes by though. He has new companions. They might become true friends in time, real friends rather than the friends ale and spirits make for a rowdy night who disappear the next day to be replaced by a hangover, maybe some unexplained cuts and bruises, and an empty purse.
Odric glances briefly at the address scrawled hurriedly as he parted company with Morkeleb and abruptly turns left. He’s close.
As the big man crosses the intersection outside the rally point, he takes a moment to collect himself. He wipes his face rapidly up and down several times with both hands to ensure no telltale streaks remain on his cheeks. He takes a deep breath to ensure the lump is gone from his throat and knocks with authority on the doorframe, in the pattern agreed upon earlier.
The door opens shortly and the seeking snout of Gramps, the once hostile mutt from Lamm’s lair, meets him. The old dog decides Odric is not worth the worry and trots back to Grym’s feet. Odric enters the room and looks around he dimly lit room quickly.
“Have you gentlemen discussed what may have happened at Zellara’s earlier?”
Morkeleb describes in some depth the arcane possibilities to include illusion, phantasms and glamers. He mentions doppelgangers several times. The terms used are archaic and technical, and while he grasps the gist of it Odric doesn’t completely feel comfortable with the explanation.
“Odric, do you feel especially hungry, like you haven’t eaten since lunchtime?” Morkleleb asks pointedly, apparently prepared to follow through with a stunning point of logic to demonstrate the veracity of his claims.
Odric looks down at his bountiful stomach, then looks back at the slender wizard and points out that his voracious appetite is one of the principle reasons for his apt appellative. “Friend, tell me a time when I haven’t felt that way!”
Odric posits the hypothesis of a twin sister. “It is a much more probable explanation…” he asserts to the group, looking to Gaius for support.
“Regardless of what happened, if what Ferox says is true from his reconnaissance, we ought to make our way to the house to investigate more thoroughly! What if Zellara came to some harm?”
Odric glances to the hatbox which lies open in the center of the floor. He hastily adds, “…Or her twin sister?” Far from a stupid man, the complexity of the problem is starting to make his head spin nonetheless.
Thorgrym interjects, “Illusion or not, let us go as a group to Zellara’s empty place to find some information.”
“I agree with Grym,” A nodding Odric states bluntly. “I propose we go to the house where we met the lady Zellara. We enter the house warily, with weapons at the ready and allow our wizard here,” Odric indicates Morkeleb deferentially, impressed with the man’s suitably mystical suggestions earlier “to conduct a survey of any energies or magicks he might sense. Gaius could inspect for clues of a more mundane nature, I assume the task is similar to the trap-checking you did at Lamm’s?” Odric finishes looking questioningly at the rogue.
“In any case, I say we make haste, the truth of what happened might slip away from us if we delay here much longer, although I do thank you for waiting for me!”
With the party in agreement to explore Zellara’s home, Odric begins the now-familiar routine of limbering up. He is somehow able to swing his straightened leg straight up in front of him to the point his knee almost touches his chin.
Odric continues his warm ups. He is surprisingly limber for a big man with the amount of extra weight he is carrying on his frame. Once he has thoroughly stretched out his legs, he begins swinging his arms around at an alarming rate. Grotesque sounding pops issue from his shoulders and he is working up a sheen of sweat over his pasty countenance.
“It is important to be ready for action at any time.” Odric lectures to the room in general. “I’ve always been a proponent for good physical fitness, although lately I’ve been a bit negligent in my exercises,” the large man admits.
“I learned these stretches from a sailor one afternoon on the docks, actually just a few blocks east of here. This sailor had just come back from a voyage of exploration west of the Varisian Gulf. He had tales to tell of strange lands, of monsters larger than a ship rising up from the sea beautiful maidens with tentacles for legs and seaweed for clothing, and daring men who barely escaped with their lives and a tale to tell. He told of an uncharted island where the men never speak but for one week a year. The rest of their lives they spend honing their acrobatic skill sand training for feats of strength and daring during their annual festival.”
Odric pauses his arm swinging to begin lowering himself into a fairly deep split. His trousers are quite plainly near their ripping point. The other men in room look away in alarm.
“As the sailor recounted, “These men were near their festival week when we arrived, so the village grandmother invited us to stay. The men came out on the appointed day and began this very warm-up routine. They taught their guests some of their distinct unarmed fighting style and began their tournament.” As the sailor told me, and I have no reason to think he might have been lying, as he had never done so in the past, they used this tournament to choose mates for the final night of the festival.”
Odric begins wheezing through a series of high jumps interspersed with running in place.
“In exchange for a few mugs of rum, this sailor taught me these very moves! We nearly fell off the docks as the lessons went on through the afternoon and into the evening. The island men, once the competition was in full swing would challenge their fellows to feats, the winner advancing in some convoluted scheme to determine an ordered ranking for all the men in the village. The men then chose their wives for the year in the order they were ranked from the competitions, and went into the night with them for a final night of intimacy before their year of sequestration, silence and training began again.”
With his clothing disheveled, his hair matted with sweat and his cheeks an alarming shade of red, Odric finally appears to be finished. He cracks his neck once to the right, once to the left and rests, panting.
Stories like these, yarns told over a mug or before a dying fire, birthed an adventuring spirit in a young Odric. He feels like for the first time in his life that he might be embarking on a tale of his own. Odric passes a pale blue potion to Ferox, hoping this will speed the party along this epic tale towards Zellara’s twin’s messy and decrepit home.
Upon arriving at the house that Odric firmly believes belongs to Zellara’s twin, he is torn between offering her condolences for her dead sister Zellara, and assaulting the residence.
He limbers up briefly, holds his falchion in his right hand and the heavy pick in the other and prepares to walk up to the front door. His gut tells him a frontal assault might be more appropriate given the danger the sister sent them into. Odric suspects the whole thing was a ruse in order to convince the party to exact revenge for Zellara’s murder.
He feels a bit truculent, reasoning that if asked nicely, he would have gladly gone after Lamm for Zellara’s twin’s vendetta.
Fully expecting one of his friends to interject at the last second, Odric raises the falchion and appears poised to thump on the door frame with the ring-shaped pommel. Before he does, Morkeleb makes a slight exclamation.
Morkeleb feels an odd compulsion to examine the Harrowing deck discovered beneath Zellara’s decomposing head. First, Morkeleb is suspicious, as always, of illusion magic. Is this “urge” magical in nature? If so, what is its origin?
He then steps to the back of the group, farthest from the front door, and announces, “Gentlemen, I’m getting the feeling that I should look at that Harrow deck we found. It may portent in either direction, so prepare yourselves.”
Morkeleb then reaches into his cloak for the deck, making eye contact with each party member in turn to insure everyone is ready. Only after he’s sure everyone is prepared and there are no objections, he slowly removes the deck, waiting for some guidance as to exactly what he’s looking for, and as prepared as he can be for some sort of mental assault.
Morkeleb realizes quickly that the deck is Divinatory. He is extremely well versed in compulsions, and this urge is not one. In fact as the wizard reflects, it’s not meant for you at all. It’s as if the deck itself wants to go “home.”
“Ask it if it belongs to Zellara’s twin sister!” Odric suggests helpfully.
The door opens on Grym’s knock, not because a hand opens it, but the door is damaged and cannot close tightly. None of the men recall such damage from before. The interior is spartan. A few of you notice that there are voids in the dust. Wall hangings and furnishings mostly, all taken within the last couple of weeks. This place looks like it’s spent about a fortnight empty.
A sudden clamor sends hands to weapons and pouches…
It is the clock, striking midnight, bringing in a new day to Korvosa – nothing nefarious.
But it also brings the change. It flows across the room like sunlight as it crests the edge of a window. Magical energy spills, rolls, and tumbles across. In its wake the living space returns to the warm and inviting place where you met the Harrower. As the dweomer wave cascades to the last of the room, Zellara appears. She is not the hurt, yet confident Varisian you met earlier. Her delicate beauty is still there, but now only sadness remains, the confidence has fled. Teary-eyed she looks at you all. A shuddered breath before she speaks, “Heroes, by now you must know the truth. I have died.” Her voice breaks with a sob. "All that is left to me is my spirit, held within the Harrow deck of my ancestors. I am no ghost, so rest easy dear Inquisitor. I am part of the deck now. It is more than a simple fortune teller’s tool. It is an item with the ability to tell you your future, and assist you in the present.”
“…Wait, so are you Zellara or her sister?” Odric is legitimately confused. His head is swimming.
In a loud voice, spoken slowly and with exaggerated enunciation, as though to a foreigner or an idiot, “Do You Know What Is Going On In The City Tonight?” Odric is not trying to be condescending; he has had precious little experience talking to harrowing decks imbued with dead women with no housekeeping skills.
“I Have Heard Several People Wonder At Some Strange Goings On” Odric continues, trying to be as clear as possible. He leans forward towards the Wizard, addressing the Harrowing deck directly which is in Morkeleb’s hand. Odric seems to think by bending forward and speaking slowly and clearly that the magical item will be better able to understand him.
He recounts in painstakingly slow and precise diction what happened with the guard then the passer-by, hoping for some mystical fortune-telling solution to be uttered by the cards.
Belatedly, he remembers his manners, “I Am Odric The Stout, I Am A Live Human, How Do You Do?” Odric gingerly grips the deck within Morkeleb’s grasp and shakes it firmly along with the wizard’s outstretched arm by way of an introduction.
“Thank You For Leading Us To Lamm, We Were Able To Save Several Children, Including My Friend’s Son, Kip.” Odric glances quickly aside at Gauis and adds conspiratorially in a stage whisper, “We …uh… Killed Lamm and Gobblegut This Evening, So He Won’t Be A Problem From Now On.” He pantomimes a throat being slit with a finger across the throat accompanied by a “skkrtch” sound effect with his mouth. Then, almost to himself, and while looking around expectantly with a worried look on his face, “Unless Lamm inhabited some object and is with us even now…”
Odric begins peering into the dark corners of the room with weapons ready.
Believing Odric’s sincerity to be an attempt at lifting her spirits, Zellara wipes away spectral tears. “I understand you perfectly well my brave Odric. I had hoped that the slaying of Lamm would lay me to rest, but it is not so. I am all that is left of Zellara, and I am the deck of cards in the wizard’s hand. Everything I told you already is true, but it is also true that I was murdered a fortnight ago by Lamm himself. I have experimented with the power of the deck, and think that I can continue to help you. Aside from being able to project myself once each day, I can aid whoever holds me in the identification of items imbued with magic. I can sense the world around me, though I can only communicate with strong emotions when not manifest.”
“As for your clearly put question great Odric,” and this comes with a caress of his face, “I do worry about Korvosa. I fear that there is a great disturbance in her walls, though I know not what it is. Desna has smiled at us, and I believe we are meant to discover exactly what Fate has in store. I sense an object of great value amongst Lamm’s things. The brooch. It holds neither magic nor evil, but it is an Object of Power nonetheless. Only royalty would deign to show off wealth just so. I think that answers to the strange feelings within the city… as well as righting the wrong of the stolen brooch, are to be found with the Crimson Throne.”
Zellara’s posture changes through her speech, as if speaking a purpose out loud has steeled her resolve and given her purpose.
Morkeleb listens with rapt attention to the specter of Zellara and the details of her current state. The more perceptive among the group may notice an ever-so-slight tightening of the mage’s grip on the magically imbued cards as the tale unfolds.
As she finishes her portents and discusses the brooch, Morkeleb says, “Yes, power can mean different things to different individuals, and can manifest itself in myriad ways. Personally, I find opulence for the sake of opulence on the grotesque side. But perhaps that is because I’ve never possessed the wealth to partake in that particular vice, and would think otherwise were my situation different!
In any case, if what you say is true, and at this point I have no reason to believe it is not, this item could prove useful to us. True, we could sell it and gain the coin of its material worth. However, if it was stolen from nobility, then that nobility would, unless I miss my guess, take its return with a great deal of gratitude. A non-material reward, such as a royal favor, can be of far, far greater value than one of coin.
I believe that we would be well served to tease out the mystery of the original owner of that brooch, and return it. I propose to do this; and I further propose that if any of us disagree, then the dissenters should be paid a fair share of the value of the item before we amicably part ways. What say you, gentlemen?
Oh, and since this wondrous deck is most useful in an everyday sense to identify the properties of magical items, I believe that I should be the one to carry it. Agreed?
The party agrees after some discussion to return the brooch to its original owner. Lamm dead, Kip returned and each in his own way a success with regard to the vengeance he sought, this adventure forged bonds of friendship and rid the city of a vile fiend.
The kind hearted wizard closes his tome for a much needed rest. He slumps in his chair, pondering the group’s success and wondering what more he might learn of them. Rather than quenching his thirst for knowledge about these brave men, this scrying has fanned the flames of his curiousity. The apprentice is dutifully cleaning the vast bookshelves behind the wizard’s work table. The soft sounds of dusting the leather bound spines begins to put the old man to sleep.