Alert: Contains spoilers for the adventure “Scourge of the Slave Lords”
With those three “lost souls” found and stashed safely in Homlette, we crossed the fortress and found the stairs to take us down to the shadow-room. Just as before, my skin crawled as I approached the doorway…and the sight of all those men and women just sitting there, not feeling the cold or reacting to our presence or anything, would make anyone’s neck-hairs stand up. Ezekiel’s continual light didn’t seem to have changed anything, although it kept the shadows behaving normally. Raven went through the other door to check on the hobgoblin (and maybe to get out of the room), and sure enough, it was still standing in the hallway like we left it yesterday or the day before (time blurs together sometimes).
Ezekiel drew our attention to the faint moaning sound, and insisted it had something to do with the mystery. I tried really concentrating, but nothing started to glow like it was magical (except all of us, of course). Finally, Mikael pointed at one of the cloaks hanging on the wall behind the bleachers of slaves and said that it was moaning.
So Ezekiel went over and did that other Ezekiel-thing he does – poked the cloak with his mace. Darkness seemed to wash over me for a moment, and by the time I blinked it away, everyone else was gone…everyone except Ezekiel and Heiron (and the giant ant Marie Ant-oinette, but she doesn’t really count, she just stood there rubbing her antennae together). I think I heard shrill screaming somewhere in the distance, but I had other things on my mind.
Heiron launched an arrow, which stuck in the cloak in a way arrows and cloaks do not normally interact. The cloak spun around, and we saw it had much more substance to it than first met the eye — also had glowing red eyes that glared at us from the top area where the hood should be, and two clawed “hands” at the far corners of its body. I had my sword ready (since some things take magic to be hurt), but before I could get that close, Heiron launched another volley and the thing dropped to the floor with a squawk. We all instinctively drew sighs of relief as the air seemed to clear, and though we prodded it a few times to be sure, it was pretty clearly dead.
The others trickled back into the room (we’re not talking about it), and we went around prodding the other cloaks – but they all seemed to be normal cloth. The slaves still didn’t react or show any sign of stirring, but the whole place seemed warmer and cheerier for some reason I couldn’t put my finger on.
When Agnar showed up, he looked over the dead thing, and called it a “Cloaker” from the Underdark. He says they use shadows, their mimicking skills, and their effect on people’s emotions to confuse their prey…and that they can move shadows around to disorient people. Obviously a light spell messes with that, I guess. Agnar says he had a distant uncle who tried to bring Underdark monsters to family get-togethers from time to time, and laughed a bit. I guess my brothers still have some competition.
Lydia unlocked the chains on all the slaves. They kept staring into empty space, although when Ezekiel handed each of them a ration, they ate it contentedly. I still don’t know what the point of this would be… Raven pointed out that the slaves would be way easier to transport this way — but they still need some way to “wake them up” to make them useful servants. Unless, as Ezekiel said, they want them passive and docile like little zombie workers. I mean, I guess they don’t “know” they’re slaves right now, but it still seems even creepier than normal slavery.
Lydia took Raven and Lulu to escort her back to the front wall, so she could readjust the portal entrance. Raven says they didn’t spot any troops along the way, but I can’t believe the fortress is completely deserted. Unless the leaders (like that Mistress Somebody) fled through the well-tunnel or something, they must be holed up somewhere, waiting where they have the advantage of terrain. I’m sure we will find out sooner or later.
We walked the slaves through the portal to Homlette, and Ezekiel says he has arranged for their care and feeding while we research how to help them. Homlette is going to be a much bigger town by the time we’re done here. Hopefully some of them stay to give Sir Rufus a hand in his guard-tower. Raven said he took care of the hobgoblin, too – having the blacksmith take care of it for the time being. I’m disturbed they haven’t told me much about this “blacksmith” (and what is he going to do now that the fortress is depopulated?) but Ez told me to come on, and we headed to the blind leader’s suite for the night. The merchant’s “servants” Cari and Filch are still fast asleep near the stairs; either something’s wrong, or they haven’t slept in years and just need to catch up.
Our plan for tomorrow is to head down the ladder under Ichar’s bed and start clearing the dungeon. Lydia says they must surely have another entrance – besides under some guy’s bed, that is – but I think the fastest way to find it would be from the other end. We’ve been up and down this fortress from the top-side, and explored everything to the best of our ability…what goes down can also come up.
Speaking of Raven’s cooking — just kidding.
We all passed around healing, and I think everyone is feeling themselves again. Heiron is trying out Ichar’s bed, and he says it fits pretty well.
Find the previous entry here.
Read the next entry here.