The Sky Pirates party ties up a few loose ends before something horrifying is revealed.
Cast of Characters
Wood Elf Barbarian – Red
Andelle (Ann for short)
Wood Elf Druid – new player convinced to try D&D by her wargamer sister and brother-in-law
Human Wizard – 12 year old boy
Dragonborn Fighter/Bard – older teen girl
Tabaxi Druid – lady with a baby
Lizardfolk Monk – guy married to Mistress Mau’s player
“My good lord,” Tyrone started, his armor protesting loudly as he bent into a bow, “We were told to report to you.”
Lord Dumas, his angular face as of yet unobscured by middle-age, regarded the dragonborn with an amused grin. “Tyrone Xavier,” he chuckled, “I am quite disappointed that you failed to announew your presence when you arrived. I prefer to know when enemy agents are in my town.”
The curteous smile fled Tyrone’s face; he had been certain to remove the capelet bearing his familial insignia before entering the keep. “I… I did not mean offense,” he stammered. “I have not been to see my family in quite some time. We are employed by the Acme shipping company. I have no intentions of espionage.”
“Be that as it may, I prefer to know when enemy agents are in my town. Now, your companions fled upon being discovered, my guards tell me. What say you?”
“We had been hired by the gravekeeper’s brother to investigate his appearance…” Tyrone started.
“They may have seemed strange,” Ann injected, “but they are not dangerous. They might not think things through quite right, but they would not harm anyone.”
Del bit her tongue as she listened and watched the lord. The customs here were quite different than back in her forest, and if this Lord took offense at not being informed of every little thing, her words could easily turn against her. Still, Ann and Tyrone seemed to know what they were doing and had soon brought out that Dumas did not intend to arrest them, although he wanted the two wizards found and brought to the keep for questioning.
“Since we are more acquainted with the wizards, perhaps we could aid in the search?” Tyrone offered.
“I am certain my guards can handle it, but should you come across the two, bring them here to stand for judgement.”
“Yes, my lord,” Tyrone replied, his armor clanking its protest as he bowed again before turning and ushering the others outside. With that, the group began to search, combing the town’s thin alleys before returning to the cemetary. From there, they began to scan the edge of the nearby wood, which perhaps hid a cave or hollow.
Before they could approach the waving green boughs, a sound greeted them. Del faltered, her feet barely catching her as footfalls began to crunch on the path behind them. She cast a glance over her shoulder, but nothing peered back.
“The demon!” She shouted in alarm, the footsteps stilling when the others turned to look.
Tyrone scanned the path behind them before motioning for the others to keep walking forward. He followed, but Del caught him slowly removing his new warhammer from its sling. His footsteps purposely slower, Tyrone began to fall behind, and once he was sure he was clear, he swung the hammer about wildly in a long arc.
The sound of soft skin and cloth being impacted threw an invisible something into the dirt on the side of the path. Del’s eye’s locked on the places where the blades of grass bent and where the rocks and dirt were pressed flat, but it was only still for a moment. Mistress Mau’s claws swiping at it, the invisible thing began to swiped ramble away, dirt and rock being flung behind it. Soon it would be gone. They would have to start again.
Del dove at it, her knee sinking into something fleshy, probably a stomach; while her hands grasped for what she thought were flailing arms and legs. Whatever her hands caught, she gathered up. Whatever she felt push back, she pinned down. The thing struggled more fiercely the more she grabbed, until it threw its weight against her, a hard boney projection knocking the air out of her lungs. Still Del held it, and as she panted, suckling air back in, her persistence was rewarded.
Invisibility dispersing like a film of ash falling from him, Bobby appeared, a look of anguish on his face since Del had him twisted into a pretzel. “Get off!” the wizard growled.
“What were you thinking?” Del shrieked, although she did not let go. “Why did you not show yourself sooner?”
“You idiot! We could have killed you!” Ann exclaimed.
“You people are crazy!”
Del paused for a moment, taken aback by his hostility. “We thought you were the demon,” she snapped. “Somebody, get the rope off my backpack and help me tie him up.”
Tyrone and Ann both stepped forward to do so, and soon the wizard was wrapped in tight coils, his hands behind his back and upper arms tied tight to his sides. One end of Del’s rope hung from the knot about the wizard’s waist, and Del used it to pull the daunting wizard along through the streets into the town keep. From there, she handed off the rope to Sergeant Kells, and after dragging the reluctant Bobby off into the dungeon for a time, they returned.
The wizard was red and flustered, quickly moving away from Kells once the two had appeared again, the sergeant casting an amused glance after his skittering form. “Your rope,” he said, handing it back to Del.
“Thank you,” she smiled in return, looking back to the others once the sergeant had left.
They indicated that finding out what was stealing from the townsfolk seemed like a decent idea, and with that, they returned to the manor they had arrived in. Ann sniffed around, her wolfy snot snuffling at the dirt before she made a motion at Tyrone.
“Goblins,” he sighed. “She says their smell is everywhere.”
“I guess we will just have to go back through the portal and deal with them,” Mistress Mau said with at shrug, although the smirk on her face implied she had no problem with killing the little things.
“Why?” Del demanded. “They do not deserve to die. We can stop them by breaking the portal. Then they cannot get here. There was plenty of food on the island, and no one gets hurt if we just break the portal.”
“We might,” Mistress Mau hissed.
“Then stay out here,” Tyrone said with a shrug. “We’ll figure out the portal.”
Hearing no other protest, Del and Tyrone descended into the basement, the secret cupboard door back on its hinges and closed. It looked almost undamaged, as if someone had repaired the crushing and splintering the flesh golem had inflicted on it. Still, it opened without much searching, and beyond it the portal yawned, the furniture in the room with it set back up and tidied to be more inviting.
Del and Tyrone exchanged glances before approaching the giant stone arch, examining its surface and tracing one of the runes etched into it. “Maybe if we break one of these runes, it will just turn off,” Tyrone muttered, mostly to himself, as he extracted his warhammer from its sling. “All I would have to do is break one of these lines…”
He tapped the hammer lightly against the edge of the rune, the steel edged scratching a crack through its outer circle.
A shockwave shook the room, throwing Tyrone and Del against the walls. The furniture disintegrated into a shower of splinters, but they bounced noiselessly against the stone. An overwhelming ringing noise filled Del’s head as she watched the shards fall. Some were sticking out of her arms, and as she plucked at them, movement caught her eye. The stone arch that had been the portal crumbled and collapsed, but the ringing even overshadowed the cacophony that should have created.
Del rubbed at her ears and looked at Tyrone. The dragonborn looked quite confused and had his fingers in little holes on the side of his head – if Del had to guess, they were his ears. She tried to say something, but no noise came out. Tyrone seemed to hear nothing either.
Del shook her head, and as she stood, slowly meandering out of the hidden room, she found the guards from the town looking right back at her. She waved, lips mouthing a silent hello. Sergeant Kells, once again at the front of the line, frowned at her as if she had said something but it had been strange. His mouth moved; he was saying something about them being down here.
Del shook her head, and the ringing finally began to subside. Kells’ voice started out fuzzy but began to come into focus.
“…okay? What… doing down here?”
“I am sorry,” Del said, her voice sounding like barely a whisper in her own ears. “I did not hear. We were fixing the stealing problem by breaking the portal.”
Del pointed back through the secret door towards the now collapsed pile of stone: “In there.”
“It was a hidden room,” Tyrone explained as the sergeant stepped into the room to inspect it. “There was a band of goblins on the other side. They must have been using the portal to sneak into and out of town, vanishing with people’s belongings.”
“Clever,” Kells mumbled. “Well, Captain de Treville will have a reward at the keep for you.”
Del smiled back at him.
After checking the surrounding area to make certain that nothing else could have been stealing from the town, the group reported to de Treville before deciding to ask around town about what had happened at the cemetary. Bobby, Hazudra, and Mistress Mau had seemed uninterested and went back to the tavern. Tyrone went off to search by himself after making sure Ann went with Del.
Happy to have rhe company, Del went off into the alleys in search of the humans that slept out on the street. She had seen some when they had first arrived, and if anyone was going to have seen something running around at night, it would be one of them.
As they wandered through the back alleys, slinking past the black puddles and huddled bodies, Del spotted something familiar. Leaning against a wall, a man in a large black cloak whistled quietly to himself.
“Hello!” Del exclaimed with a wave as she approached. “Can we ask you something?”
Ann sighed loudly, but the man simply looked up at them and shrugged. “Sure.”
“Thank you!” Del smiled, although her grin faltered a little as she noticed the man’s smell, which only underscored the strange look in his eyes and the tiny black bugs crawling around his skin. “Were you by chance at the cemetary last night?”
“Yeah.” He scratched idly at his stomach beneath his cloak.
“Would you mind telling us why?”
“I ain’ sure I kin say.”
“Where did you get that cloak?” Ann asked suddenly as Del floundered.
“This big guy wit a scar gave it to me. Bought me a right good hot meal and told me to stand there with the spooks. Knock on a ‘soleem if somebody comes snoopin’.”
“What did this man look like?” Ann continued.
“Big, big guy – bigger ‘n anybody I met. I never saw him ’round town a’fore. Had all scraggly hair, brown an’ long. Big nose too.”
“Ok,” Del droned, her mind already running off. “Listen, if he comes back and asks you to do something again, let us know please?”
She held a golden coin out to the man, and his bleary eyes lit up, focusing intently for all of a second as he snatched it. “Yessiree!” he exclaimed. “Thank ye kindly!”
“Ann, can you make him something for the fleas? I know the right herbs can do it, but I do not remember exactly how to make the poultice.”
Ann smiled, rubbing her hands together for a moment before a little wooden cup appeared. The herbal mix inside was fragrant and sharp, citrus and sweet. The man happily took it and rubbed it greedily on his skin, a look of relief washing over his face.
Del smiled, and Ann pulled her off. “We should get back to the inn. It’s getting dark.”
“Yeah,” Del agreed. “Where do we go from here… well, he said the man… he had never seen him before. That means he should be new to town, and when people are new to a place like this, they should stay… at the inns and taverns! We should ask around them. The barkeepers should know!”
“Right. There are a lot of taverns and inns about town though, so we should go tell everyone else.”
They were back at the tavern in moments and chatting with Mau and Hazudra in a few more. It was agreed that checking the taverns was the best and fastest course of action, but as they were about to ask the barkeeper here, a howl came down the stairs. Bobby had been sleeping up there, and in a flurry, Del ran with the others up to the second floor.
An impenetrable wall of darkness was all that greeted them, and Del felt along the wall and advanced into the black. As she felt along the walls, the sounds of the others following shortly behind, a whisper of sound came from up ahead, a whoosh and a thud.
“The window,” Bobby’s voice croaked from somewhere ahead. “Out the window.”
Del stumbled into a room, her feet tripping as Bobby’s robes wrapped around them. Ann and Tyrone were right behind her, and both of them were gone, out the window after Bobby’s words. Del, fumbling blindly, found the wizard’s slight frame.
“It stabbed me,” his voice whispered from the dark as Del’s hands found blood slicking the fabric. She flinched, fingers brushing at the torn flesh in his gut and eliciting an angry howl of pain. Her own stomach felt the sear, but she pushed herself up, lifting Bobby by his robes.
She turned toward the door, the sound of Tyrone and Sergeant Kells’ voices convercing outside reassuring her that everything would be taken care of. The darkness around her subsided, and she stumbled into the hallway. Her voice, feeling as if it were not a part of her, shouted out for someone to help. It asked if anyone could heal Bobby, who seemed to whimper in her arms as she surged toward the stairs.
At the top, she could not go any further. The guards were there, broad and armored shoulders blocking the way. Startled, Del reeled back, stumbling almost all the way back to Bobby’s room as the advanced. Once she finally found her footing, she stared in concern as Kells pushed his way through and into the room. His soft eyes surveyed the place, noting the rumpled blankets covered in blood and a number of strange little inscriptions written in black chalk on the walls. Ad he leaned in to inspect one, his eyes flicked down.
Bobby’s bag lay there open before him, and his nose wrinkled in disgust. His gloved hand, almost shaking, reached down and closed around something that let out a sickening squish.
A bloody heart rose from the bag.
“God!” One of the guards howled as another began to dry-heave. Still more sounds of horror and disgust rose from them as Del’s face contorted into a look of pure terror. Her knees wobbled, and her arms gave way, dropping Bobby to the ground, where he howled incoherently before the other guards swarmed him and dragged him to his feet. They dragged him off, half-carrying him as Kells gathered up the rest of Bobby’s belongings as well as the bloody sheet.
As he came out of the room, he reached out a comforting hand, but Del flinched away. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, sadness crumpling his face aways he withdrew his hand and turned away.