Alert: may contain spoilers for the adventure “Scourge of the Slave Lords”
This morning Mikael cast Detect Magic. The lady cleric’s mace is magical (Ezekiel snapped that up) and so is something inside the poor-box…but we’ve been a little busy, and haven’t bothered to look in there yet.
Ezekiel summoned this shimmery, translucent wyvern-shaped thing that he calls a specter, so we don’t have to worry about about some creature eating the dead slaves before we can raise them. Ez says it should scare off most things. Then we escorted the rest of the prisoners to the main gate and let them go their way into town.
We started our exploration of the stables by heading around the outside of the wall, so we came in through the door the horsemen would have used. There was nothing inside the stables except a dead man who must have taken care of the horses (based on his clothes). I’m not sure what killed him; something have chewed on him, but I couldn’t tell if the marks came before or after death. No horses – although Raven found plenty of fodder in the loft above.
Raven and Ezekiel went first, Raven checking for traps as he went. Behind the stable is a long, twisty hallway. One of the rooms opening off it contained what Mikael called a “giant sundew”…he says they’re a kind of plant that sticks up insects and eats them. Heiron and Ezekiel killed it before it could try to eat us, but Ez had to peel his mace and armor off of it afterwards.
The corridor circled up and around until it ended with a door on either hand. Bornthene said he heard someone moving behind the north door, so we tried it – only to find it barred from the other side.
Raven figured out how to unhook the bar by messing with the doorknob or something, and we threw the door open – to discover six shaking orcs, pressed against the far wall and holding unsteady halberds toward our vanguard.
They were strung out enough, Ezekiel had no trouble getting them to stand down and talk (there is another door in the far wall, but I guess they were so nervous they were having trouble getting it unbarred. Once he convinced them we weren’t “spooks” from the cemetery, they told him what they knew…which wasn’t much. Apparently they were just hired to be on guard – when they’re relieved at the end of their shift, they go back into town, to their clan’s territory.
I didn’t see it until we moved up the hall, but the walls were plastered with all kinds of holy symbols – good and bad and neutral. Raven says they just collected them and nailed them there to keep back the “spooks”…which is kinda clever and kinda dumb at the same time.
Anyway, Ezekiel said they could leave if they wanted, and tell their Clan-leader this job is all wrapped up…so they wasted no time unbarring the door north and fleeing into town.
For our part – we went through the south door out of the hallway, into the cemetery to “deal with the spooks.”
Actually, we didn’t find any “spooks” – but we did find the “guard-plants” Raven came across while he was scouting. He tried asking them what was up, and they said they were tasked by Beori to “block” people coming into the courtyard. They didn’t like Mikael’s “anti-plant shell” at all…but they also seemed to relax when we stayed on the path. It seems this really did used to be a place for Beori, some time past.
We followed the path as it wound through the tangled, overgrown greenery to a little structure which could be a shed, or a mausoleum, or a crypt…but which now is a simple stone room protecting the top of a staircase. Raven opened the heavy iron door, and Ezekiel led the way down.
When we reached the bottom of the stairs, we found a soft dirt floor and wooden beams supporting a tunnel very like the one we found the ant-people in. The vanguard notices footprints, and called me to the front to learn what I could from them.
There were a whole bunch of tracks from many different people – both coming in and going out – but after some examination I could tell they were mostly orcs, mixed with humans…and even some paw-prints from giant weasels (like that one in Explicktika’s lair that almost killed me).
At the first fork we came to, the left track seemed to be where most of the weasels went…but most of the humans and humanoids went the other way. Ezekiel decided we would go where most of the people went, so we headed right until we came to another fork. The left choice had strange markings in the dirt, and I wished I had taken more time to examine the ant-people tracks under the sanctuary – before my party trampled them all out, that is. (Ez and Mikael say they called themselves “aspis”.)
Ezekiel had us take the other branch (most of the people seemed to go that way, too), and before too long the floor changed from dirt to stone flags. The ceiling was high enough that even Mikael was comfortable, and there’s a steady dripping of water from somewhere that’s formed stalactites on the ceiling (Ezekiel took some, but I don’t know why he wants them).
What with the general dampness, the muddy footprints tracked across the stones pretty well…that is, until they reached a spot where they smeared up against the wall somehow. In other words, it’s as though something came out of the wall and slid back and forth across the floor. Ez has added it to our list of things to investigate later on.
About this point, we came to a short flight of stairs going up again. I was in front, of course, since I was watching footprints…but I paused to set my arrow on the bowstring, and to give Ezekiel plenty of time to catch up with me (he don’t move so fast in full plate armor. Much as it pains me to say it, Raven might have a point…).
When I reached the top of the stairs, it just took a moment to scan the room. Two rows of cages – with bars from floor to ceiling – stretched away from me into the room. Every cell had one person – human man or woman – though they were plenty big.
Walking down between the two rows was a party in single file: a couple orcs, then three humans, and a couple more orcs.
I had an arrow ready, so I let fly. The lead orc ducked, and the arrow took off his companion’s ear. By the time Ezekiel reached the top of the stairs, I had another arrow ready – and let fly. This one nipped right through the lead orc’s throat and sank into the orc behind him, dropping them both.
As I arced some arrows to hit the orcs in the back, Ezekiel called out, “Hold!” – but he wasn’t talking to me. He was talking to the three humans, who froze, staring at him.
As I was busy drawing a new arrow, Mikael showed up and pointed out one last orc was running away. Raven saw him pointing, and took off after it. Meanwhile, Agnar threw his sword on the ground and stomped his feet because he didn’t get to fight anything.
While Mikael and Raven went after the runaway orc, Ezekiel frisked the three humans, took anything that looked like it could be weaponized, and had Lydia unlock some cages so he could lock them up. Then she went around unlocking the rest of the slaves, and pretty soon it was quite crowded.
Ezekiel summoned another fake wyvern to watch our prisoners, then went around curing the cuts and bruises of the rescued slaves (none of them were seriously injured, but they’ve obviously been mistreated).
After much back-and-forth, Raven and Mikael finally came back – with five more slaves in tow. They say one of the ladies did an amazing job attacking the aspis who was guarding them (so it seems the aspis are more than a convenient natural barrier…they actually have some kind of understanding with the Slave Lords).
Ezekiel tried a hard, “bad cop” tone with the three humans, but I’m not sure it did much. (That’s a phrase Lydia taught me.) Their names are Thuloy (man in robe and tall hat), Kaseeb (woman in chainmail), and Caerden (man in purple – seemed quite shaken by the events, but pulled himself together and answered questions as the leader of the group).
They don’t know anything about any halflings, and when Ezekiel assumed they were in charge here, they laughed at him. Apparently they’re customers, already paid the “Mr. Bluecolts” in charge, and were just selecting their “merchandise”…with the orcs as their guides through this twisty-turny place. They said the orc guides were interpreters for some other orcs, and confirmed the “ant-people” have some kind of understanding with the management here.
About that time one of the slaves started making a fuss, pointing at a second slave…who looked exactly identical to her.
Raven and Mikael said, “No, not Dree!” or something like that…but by this time, we have a system in place.
Ezekiel left his gripping discussion and cast protection from Evil on himself…then asked the “real Dree” to prove it by approaching him.
One girl did (nervously), the other “girl” fled down the stairs where we had come.
Raven was after her in a moment, and shortly he (and Mikael) came back to report another dead doppleganger. How many of those things can be hanging around one secret-temple-slaver-base?
Apparently Dree is the girl who clawed the eyes of the aspis guard, so Mikael seems quite relieved she isn’t a doppleganger. It would be cruel for his second potential girlfriend to also be a creature of magical Evil.
Ezekiel walked the rest of the room, getting in everybody’s personal space to make sure no one else was metaphysically repulsed by him. We seem to be good for now…
Raven investigated two side rooms that opened from the cell-block. They’re full of “supplies”…food, enormous wine barrels, clothes, manacles, branding irons…
Some people have…attitudes I don’t share. But as we pointed out to Ezekiel, to kill everyone who felt fine about buying and selling slaves, we’d have to wipe out the whole Pomarjch. And probably large patches of the Great Kingdom. And definitely the lands of Mr. Ewwy up north. Raven agreed that would take quite a while, so we should focus on the actual Slave Lords themselves for now…but it took a couple minutes to talk Ezekiel down. He really didn’t like talking to the merchants for some reason – and talking is like his thing!
All that said, the storerooms do make great places for the rescued-slaves to barricade themselves while we explore further into the basement. We could lead them back the twisty-turny way we came, up the stairs, through the “cemetery,” and out through the room with all the holy symbols…but some of those tunnels are really narrow, and we voted we might have a better chance defending them if we found an alternate route up ahead.
Raven told us the passage up ahead splits in two: one short passage to the room where they found Dree and her companions, and a short staircase that leads to a door (that had an aspis behind it not too long ago).
We split the slaves up by sex, so they could put on some of the nicer clothes…and then Ezekiel found a man who says he has fighting experience, and made him in charge of defending the others in the storeroom until we get back. I suppose Raven and Mikael probably made Dree in charge of the women, but I didn’t ask. That must have been some wallop she gave the aspis.
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