This story is split between episodes being posted on the second Monday of every month. You can find the first episode here and the previous episode here.
Of Dice and Glen Episode 9: Deathwatch
Waiting for the injured dragonborn to wake, Luna realized she was shivering. Shaddar’s torch had burned out some time ago. Many was the time she had seen a lizard or snake sunning itself on a warm rock in the life-giving rays. Perhaps dragonborn had similar heat needs?
Standing suddenly, she set about gathering old and rotting wood from the bookshelves, the tables, even the bed and dresser from the floor above. Piling it an arm’s length from her friend, there was soon a small, fitful, but sufficient fire.
During this unusual firewood foray, she found two strange relics of the bygone inhabitant of the dessicated tower. The first was a pyramidal shaped lump of some substance she could not and did not wish to identify. As is fell from a shelf she was wrenching off for fuel, it toppled and bounced toward her. The foul odour it was exuding hit her before the black object could and, hissing in a distinctly feline manner, she skittered out of its path. After it had squelched to a stop, she approached it cautiously, but one sniff was enough and she kicked it off into the shadows.
The second trinket she came upon before disturbing it, and was very glad she had. On a bottom shelf, half buried in decaying and unintelligible books, was a tiny but intricate cage of some metal that may once of been brass, but now was so tarnished as to appear unrecognizable. Resting inside the cage was a minute, clockwork, canary. Fascinated, the tiefling caught it up with delicate care and examined it closely. It appeared to have no practical function but she stowed it away in her pack nonetheless.
Threatening shadows cast by the flames danced around the sinister chamber and every so often she would toss a handful of magical fire onto the smouldering pile. After a time, the tiefling’s black eyes began roaming and her concern for her friend was replaced by an almost unbearable boredom.
Her gaze fell upon the magical items they had retrieved above. First she regarded the emerald with deep fascination, still tossing fire onto her makeshift heat source.
After twenty minutes of concentration, a strange smell reached her and she sat up and looked around. A magical apparatus opposite her was sputtering with a feeble flame atop it, caused undoubtedly by a stray fireball and feeding on whatever ancient and mysterious potion had been contained within. She froze with panic, then leaped for the table, frantically reaching for the flame.
She had just reached Shaddar, her body between him and the potion fire cocktail, when there was a small explosion. The force knocked her back a few feet but she managed to stay upright, shielding her face from the expectation of shattered and flying metal and glass. All she felt was a slight tickle on her exposed flesh and when she looked up, the flame was gone. In its place, a fine dusting of what appeared to be chicken feathers sifted slowly toward the floor.
Luna almost laughed with relief and shook her head at the folly of whatever sorcerer had created a potion of chicken feathers. She gathered a few and stuck them in her purple hair as she returned to the study of her emerald.
The emerald was undoubtedly magical. When she concentrated on it, there seemed to be odd whispers surrounding it. There were also peaceful, almost mesmerizing sounds like waves and bubbling streams. After forty minutes of focusing on the confusing words and trying to discern their meaning, Luna was confident she knew what this stone was, and how to use it. It was an elemental gem; if she were to break the emerald, it would summon a water elemental to serve her for a short while.
“Water...” she muttered to herself as she stowed the stone in her pack. “All shall be alert, and beware. Balance there must be, of earth, fire, water and air.”
The recitation of a passage of wisdom an old mentor had given her soothed her initial distrust for such a blatant favouring of one element over the others. She knew there were Elementals in the world, and that there were ones of each type, including evil. This one however, while being wholly water in nature, was in balance with its fire, earth and air brethren and would therefore not be in disharmony with her self-proclaimed championing of the world’s elemental balance.
As she turned to face toward the dragonborn again, her movement dislodged the hood of the cloak they had found. It slipped past her small horns and over her eyes. Grinning, the playful tiefling batted fiercely at it for a moment, before pulling it off and turning her intense study on it.
She tried at first to imagine how the animal Shaddar had said it resembled would fly. Obviously it must be at least partially an air-faring creature with such magnificent wings. Picking up the long, thin tail dangling off of it, she frowned. It looked like the tail on a rodent.
“Sea-mouse... Flying sea-mouse...”
After much study, she found the secret, stitched along the hem with the gold trim. It was in a language she didn’t know, yet somehow she came to understand its meaning, as she had with whispers of the emerald. It told her that if the cloak was being worn with the hood up, it would allow her to breathe underwater and fly through the sea like the majestic manta ray.
Smiling, she fingered the beautiful gold stitching and closed her eyes, picturing herself speeding along under reeds and water lilies. Giggling, she tried to decide what item to examine next. Her eyes came to rest on Shaddar and she at length moved to kneel beside him.
The armour shirt was beautiful and well crafted. Lifting a corner now she wasn’t in the throes of panic, she did notice how light it was, as her friend had said.
The scale armour wasn’t brimming with magic, as had been the other items. It had a subtle magic, not from enchantment, but from the natural magic in the metal itself. On one of the scales, she found a delicate elvish inscription saying that this was armour made out of mithril, as strong as any metal and a fraction of the weight. It was to be stored in a dry place and cleaned by rolling it down a hill in a barrel of sand (or by some other similar means).
Shaddar groaned and Luna jumped back, hastily moving the shirt back into place.
Slowly, the dragonborn’s eyes opened. He blinked a few times.
“Luna?” he asked, sounding surprised.
“Whaddaya mean “Luna?”?!” she demanded, squinting at him irritably, but unable to suppress a wide smile. “I am who I am.”
Turning his head from side to side, Shaddar looked around. “The goblin?” he asked weakly.
“Everyone’s dead except me,” she said, reassuringly and pressed one hand to his shoulder, warning him to keep on the ground. With her other hand, she brought her waterskin out of her pack and offered it.
The dragonborn frowned, confused. “Am I dead? If I’m dead and you’re not, how are you here? Or how am I here?”
“You’re not dead,” she said with withering impatience, reticent of a teenage child explaining the simplest concept to a parent. “But you gave it your best shot.”
Shaddar heaved himself up onto his elbows, looking around. When he spotted the dead goblin, he smiled, impressed. His expression turned to a frown as he looked around.
“What were they doing here?”
Fowning, the curious tiefling glanced in the direction of Shaddar’s gaze. For a moment, the urge to abandon the precariously recovering dragonborn was overwhelming. With a visible effort, however, she dragged back her attention back to him and shook her head.
“Don’t care,” she pretended, obviously. “You’re really hurt and I gotta heal you before we can look around anymore. So now you’re getting better, can we both sleep? I’m really tired. And when I wake up I can heal you again.”
At this last cheerful thought, something of her old grin reemerged and she shook her mane of unkempt purple hair back from her face.
“I’ll be fine after a rest,” Shaddar said, waving his hand dismissively. “It’s one thing to have goblins and kobolds terrorizing the forest. It’s quite another for them to be excavating something no one knew was here.”
He pulled himself up and stumbled over to the kobold first. Searching through its pockets he found nothing more than a few gold coins.
“Dragons,” Luna muttered in exasperation, shaking her head. Clambering to her feet, she wheeled around in front of him. “If you want their metal bits I can do all that for you. What will it hurt to have the mystery wait 8 more hours?”
Ignoring her, Shaddar made his way over to the goblin. There he found more money and a pouch with several gems in it. Smiling to himself, he rolled a translucent white stone with a pale blue glow over to Luna, figuring it would distract her while he continued his search.
Luna had been opening her mouth to continue the argument, when her eyes fell on the shimmering, multi hued stone. It was even more spectacular than the emerald she had been clutching for over an hour. With one swift glance between her newest prize and the dragonborn, she was on it.
Smiling, Shaddar turned back to the goblin.
“Cards,” he muttered, pulling out the remnants of a deck and setting it aside. He kept searching until, finally, he came up with a crumpled piece of paper. “Ah ha!”
“What?” Luna blurted, rudely awakening from her jewel-induced trance. She leapt to his side and stared at the paper he held. Her face was so close to the mysterious document that all Shaddar could see was her shaggy purple mane with her two tiny horns poking through.
“Out of my way, imp,” the dragonborn said, giving her a playful swat as he turned to the side and flattened out the page.
Rubbing the back of her head good-naturedly, Luna decided she like the comparison between herself and an imp.
“Oooooh…!” she intoned, flapping around the room on imitation arm-wings. “I know many secrets of the Abyssal plane, wizard…! But lend me your skill and all my wisdom is yours…!”
The page was covered in a tidy handwriting, written in the common tongue. It read, Good, you have finally found the tower. I was beginning to think I would have to send someone more competent to get the job done. I want no further delays. Get digging at once. Notify me the moment you find it.
The letter was signed not with a name, but with a horned skull crowned with fire.
Frowning, Shaddar read the note again. Whoever had written it clearly had a lot of means and power. They controlled goblins and kobolds, which likely meant they were up to no good. What were they searching for in this tower? What was that skull-symbol? Did it represent an organization, a cult or a single person?
There was no way to know, but they were sure to send more monsters if something wasn’t done about it.
“We need to tell someone about this.”
“What?” the Imp-oster said as she whirled and looked again at the note. Reading it in a few seconds she shrugged. “Who would we tell? Why don’t we just go find them and deal with them like we did these ones? It could be an adventure!” she added with a sudden burst of enthusiasm.
Shaddar started to laugh, but stopped because it hurt too much.
“Because we have no idea who sent this,” he explained.
“But-! Rrrrrr...!” she snarled and scampered about on the floor, in tight, angry circles for a moment to let off her frustration.
“Besides,” Shaddar added, “this could be bigger than we can handle. We’ll have to take it into town to see if anyone knows anything about this symbol.”
He tapped the letter’s signature.
“Tomorrow, though. You’re right that we need to rest. We can use some of the time to figure out our new treasures.”
Pausing in her circles, Luna looked up and hissed viciously.
“What?” Shaddar asked, quickly looking behind him to see if there was some unknown threat approaching. He immediately regretted it as his head started reeling.
“Town...” Luna replied, a quiet growl deep in her throat. “Don’t like town. Don’t like town people. Don’t like walls. Don’t like stones. Don’t like-”
The white dragonborn laughed. “I agree, Luna. But if we don’t go to show this to people, we might have many more unwelcome guests in our forest.”
Stopping dead in mid-hatred, Luna glared up at her friend before standing erect, tail lashing. She frowned and there was a long moment before she spoke.
“After we rest,” Shaddar agreed.
A growl was her only response as she turned moodily and began to make a bed for herself. She did not like the idea one bit, but if it was a choice between some personal comfort and her forest, there was no choice.
Making his way back to Luna’s fire, Shaddar spread out his bedroll, but didn’t immediately lie down.
“Let’s see if we can’t figure you out,” he muttered, pulling over the magical bag they had found for closer examination.
The tiefling lay with her back to the dragonborn, unmoving, her hidden expression set in resentful anger. After a moment of staring defiantly at the nearest mouldering bookcase, her eyelids dropped and she curled into a tight ball of sleep.
After some studying, Shaddar discovered that the blue bag was what he’d guessed - a bag of holding that could carry an immense amount, yet always weigh the same.
Discover what happens next in Episode 10: Strange Happenings
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If there's any subject you'd like to see me ramble on about, feel free to leave a comment asking me to do so.
If there's any subject you'd like to see me ramble on about, feel free to leave a comment asking me to do so.