PLADD

 

Field Trip to the Ancient Dwarven Prison Camp

Part X of the Terrence Saga

Chapter 4: A Warden Edgewise

Posted by pladd on January 04, 2016

The group filed into the room: NGE, moving more stiffly than normal; Chad, eyes alert for anything of value that he could take; Gavin, inscrutable as ever; Derfin, with a thousand-yard stare; and Chomsky, barely visible underneath an ever-shifting layer of rats.

The room in front of them was just as bare and utilitarian as the others. Two tall metal poles, rusted with age, jutted from the floor near the center of the room. Each had a long length of chain attached to its tip. The last few links of each chain were painted: one chain with white, one chain with red.

Behind the chains, the group could see two carved stone desks on opposite sides of the room. Each desk had a small stone baton on it - one red, one white.

“Okay,” said Chad. “Soooo… check out the desks?”

NGE stepped forward towards the desks. Her foot had barely hit the floor when the chain closest to her whipped out, blindingly fast. It yanked NGE to the pole it was attached to and coiled its length around her, securing her tightly to the pole. She flexed, attempting to burst her bonds, but the chains squeezed tighter - in fact, it seemed like they would squeeze until their victim died. NGE struggled valiantly, but was swiftly crushed by the chains, and was never seen again.

OH WAIT NO, Chadwick snapped his fingers and NGE disappeared back to her home plane with a loud popping noise. “Damn, sons, that shit be handy!” remarked Chad offhandedly to his cohorts. “You guys figure this out, imma meditate for a sec.” He sat down on the floor, made an “L” shape with his hand, pressed it to his forhead, and closed his eyes.

Chomsky and Gavin were left to discuss the situation. Gavin jerked his hand at Chad. “What does that guy do, again?”

Chomsky seemed to stand up a little straighter; it was hard to tell. “Well, you seegmgfhfmmmbl–BLECH!”

He spit out a rat that had ventured into his mouth in search of food. “Ahem. The history of the summoning arts began in the year 20XD6, when the Titaniars of Roth began their…”

Gavin’s eyes glazed over and he nodded mechanically, mentally chiding himself for asking Chomsky to explain something. He shook his head to dispel the effects of Chomsky’s voice, and looked once more at their surroundings. Their map showed only one other exit: a hallway to their right. They would have to pass the chains to get there. The chains…

They were inert once more. Gavin looked at the desks with their batons, and back at the chains, and back at the batons. One of them wasn’t too far away…

Gavin flexed his fingers at the red baton and spoke. “Gito-vahear!”

As if by some sort of magic, the baton rose into the air and glided swiftly towards Gavin’s outstretched hand. As Gavin took hold of the baton, Chad opened his eyes and NGE, chain-free, appeared in the exit hallway. Also as if by magic.

Chad was about to speak, but the chains were moving again. They coiled at the base of the pole, and the painted end of the red chains rose up and pointed itself at Gavin, quivering slightly. It looked like a dog waiting for an order from its master, or like a length of living chain waiting for an order from its master. Gavin gave the baton a few experimental waves; the chain followed the baton’s every move.

Gavin tossed the baton to Chad. “Here, hold the chains away from me. I’m going to grab the other one.” Chad caught the baton easily, and the chains glided to point at him. Gavin gingerly stepped within the reach of the chains.

They quivered harder than before, and occasionally pointed from Chad to Gavin and back, helpfully showing Chad that, hey, there’s someone here, we can totally grab him please can we grab him please can we for FUCK’S sake just let us KILL HIM FOR YOU

Chad pointed the baton at the chains. “STAY.”

They quivered.

“STAAAAAAY.”

They quivered.

“Stay. STAY.”

Those chains just kept quivering. Boy howdy, if there was a prize for quivering, they would have wowed the goddamn judges.

Gavin, now closer to the white baton, spoke his incantation once more. With both batons in hand, the group carefully made their way over to the tables, keeping an eye on the trembling chains.

Chomsky bent over one desk and brushed his rats out of his eyes. “There’s something carved into the stone here. Four words: ‘grab,’ ‘release,’ ‘tighten,’ ‘loosen.’ And a longer inscription underneath: ‘Do not question prisoners without the approval of the Warden.’”

Chad looked over the other desk. “Anything shiny?”

Chomsky shook his head. Or maybe he nodded, nobody was sure. “Nope.”

“Alright then.” Chad pocketed his baton. “I vote we immediately forget that we have magical chains under our command. All in favor?”

“Sure!” said Chomsky.

“AIR RAID! GET DOWN!” said Derfin.

Gavin silently disapproved, but Chad wasn’t waiting for no consensus. The group bounded towards the exit, the chains quivering just so hard as they passed.

Our heroes exited the interrogation room and found themselves in the room marked “Processing” on their mapstone. To their left was a closed iron portcullis. A single desk and chair sat in the middle of the room. To the right, twin stone doors led directly back to the entryway.

Across the room from the group was another set of stone doors, but these were different: a thick iron bar was laid across them, effectively barricading the door. Everyone ventured forward to investigate.

The barred doors had words painted on them - and the language was Common, not Dwarven. “The password is ‘Captain Ishak,’ but for the love of Pharasma, DON’T SAY IT!”

Chad read the words carefully. “So…we’re going to say the password, right? I mean, the map says that door leads to the temple hallway, there’s got to be good shit there.”

The others were less enthused. “Christ, Chad,” said Gavin, “the dude in the bar told us that the doors were barricaded for a reason. Maybe we could at least check out the door right next to us, first?” He jerked a thumb at the iron door next to him. “The map said that’s the Warden’s office.”

The door Gavin had gestured towards was also barricaded, but much less securely. A small iron bar was wedged between the wall and the door’s handle. Chad, convinced for the time being, had NGE remove the iron bar. Everyone else bravely retreated several feet away from NGE, in case of traps.

NGE removed the iron bar. Nothing happened. NGE opened the door. Still nothing. Well, if “nothing” includes “a human skeleton, still clutching his sword and shield, fell out of the room and clattered upon the cold stone floor.” Because that happened.

“SHIT! Skeletons!” yelled Chomsky. “Spread out its bones before it can get up!”

“What?” said God, peering down from his throne atop the universe. “I…I don’t think that’s a thing.”

“Yes!” agreed Chad. “Spread ‘em out!”

The group sprang into action, pulling the bones from the corpse across the room. It offered absolutely no resistance whatsoever. Somewhere in the afterlife, a long-dead soldier wept at the desecration of his remains.

“Good job, team!” said Chad. High fives were exchanged all around, and the group turned their attention towards the Warden’s office. NGE, as always, went in first.

The sight of scorched walls, melted stone, and crystal fragments was a familiar one now. This time, however, a skeletal dwarf remained, slumped in a chair in front of a stone desk. On top of the desk, the group found another clue: a letter that had somehow endured the scorching heat as well as the centuries of decay.

Chomsky ventured into the office to examine the letter, rat-cape flowing majestically behind him, like a poem. After a few minutes of translation, he read the letter to the group. It was from the Warden to a friend. In it, the Warden praised Asmodeus, a god of warfare and conquest. The Warden expressed boredom with his post; his prisoners were docile, and the prison’s instruments of suppression remained unused.

The Warden also noted that his weaponry and the weapons of his soldiers was acting strangely that day, “arcing” and “flaring.” He would send for the Chief Arcanist of the region to examine their weapons– and at that point, the letter trailed off, mid-word.

The group had little to say. And so they said little. Chomsky turned his attention to a box marked “Records.” He reached out with stubby fingers to open the box.

breet breet breet breet breet breet

The instant Chomsky’s hand touched the box, a soft alarm sounded. Out of the corner of his eye, Chomsky saw the skeletal Warden lift his molten mace from the floor. The creature turned towards the intruding gnome, eyes burning with blue light. It hefted its weapon and shouted in a ghostly voice, “Savages! Lesser creatures! Asmodeus will have your souls!”

Once more, NGE leapt to the forefront. Her sword struck hard and true into the flesh of the–whoops! Nope! Skeleton! She chipped a couple of bones, slowing the creature down exactly not at all. The Warden gave NGE some nasty blows from his molten mace in return.

Derfin followed Attack Procedure Delta and proceeded to fire arrows at the skeleton. Chadwick followed suit with his crossbow. From their choice of weaponry, one might think that they had never battled a skeleton before. God sat upon his throne and smiled fondly at them, as one might smile at a small yappy dog that’s just so certain it can catch that squirrel.

Chomsky, however, flicked his whip towards the Warden’s weapon. As a carpet of fetid rats washed over the skeleton, Chomsky managed to get his whip wrapped around the deformed mace. With a mighty tug and a lucky rat-induced distraction, Chomsky yanked the mace from the skeleton’s hands! The foul creature was disarmed!

Too bad it wasn’t dis_fingered_, because the skeleton stepped back and flicked its fingerbones out, revealing them to be sharp as all hell. The Warden proceeded to scratch the evershit out of NGE.

Gavin, meanwhile was absent from the fight. Realizing that their animated, skeletal foe looked suspiciously like an animated skeleton, he called out to the group, “CHAINS!” To illustrate his point, he ran towards the hallway leading back to the questioning room.

After a few steps, he turned around. His cohorts were apparently deaf. He yelled again. “CHAINS! LIVING CHAINS!”

Chad yelled back. “OH HEY! THERE’S CHAINS IN THAT ROOM, AREN’T THERE?”

Gavin mentally chided himself for attempting to reason with his companions.

The group retreated to the questioning room with the Warden in pursuit. Chad and Gavin brandished the hell out of their batons, allowing the group to run into the far corner of the room. The Warden entered the room. His skull swiveled towards NGE, and he advanced.

Chad pointed his baton. “Grab.”

The red chain snaked out, grabbing the skeletal Warden and lashing it tightly to the iron pole. The creature snarled hatred at the group.

Chad smirked. “Tighten.”

The chains obeyed.

Pop-pop-crkrkkrrrkkCRACK!

And the chains, sensing no movement, dropped the crushed bones of the Warden onto the floor. His skull clattered on top of the pile, and the blue fire in his sockets flickered, fizzled, and died.


Chad leapt forward with glee - a corpse to loot! Huzzah! The Warden’s postmortem animation had prevented other enterprising adventurers from stealing his belongings.

Among the bones, the group first found a pair of jars filled with an opaque, viscous liquid. Chad tasted some. It tasted like shit. Chad used his magic vision instead of his mouth, and he and Gavin collectively determined that Chad had just eaten some magical paper-preserving paste. Chad felt silly.

In the Warden’s pocketses, the group found a small iron key. Around his neck, they found a necklace with a large iron pendant in the shape of a helmet, with two red gemstones where eyes might be. And on his finger, they found a jet-black ring, carved in the shape of a skull from a single onyx stone.

Upon analysis, Chad and Gavin discovered that the ring was enchanted to bind the wearer’s soul to their body after death. With a collective “fuck that,” the group stowed all of their newly-discovered swag into a backpack. They had re-killed the fearsome Warden, but there were records yet to paw through - surely the most exciting part of any adventure.