Monthly Archives: February 2007

What Have You Discovered?

Maruc hoped the the lack of movement from the barn and the Tower was a good sign. He breathed out slowly to release the tension in his muscles…and his head.

Miklos, still concentrating on his spell, awaited the results of the search of the barn. He doubted they would find anything useful like a tunnel, but if they were lucky it would be the best method of entrance by far. He was surprised there were no guards on the look out. It gave him the feeling that the whole thing was a trap designed to misdirect the inquisitive. He smiled, given time and resources its what he would have done.

The dwarf scowled as precious seconds passed. “If they don’t hurry, the wolves will be back in time to enjoy a main course of Elf and Rogue!” Feldard kept his voice low but the impatience showed through anyways. His eyes scanning the edge of the wood for sign of the woodland beasts return.

* * * * *

“Right, lets gather everyone here before we open this. I’d rather have the full back up with us.”

“As it does appear to be a way forward,” Saeth agreed with Nicolai. She peered through the slats in the door, and seeing nothing worrysome beyond, cracked it open and stuck her head through. She waved, beckoning to the remainder of the companions.

“They’ve found something. Lets go and see.” Maruc keeping low and the barn between him and the Tower. With a sigh Miklos snapped his book shut and followed after the Priest also keeping low.

“I’ll see to the boy,” offered Bram, speaking to the dwarf.

Maruc made his way over to Saeth. “What have you discovered?”

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A Trap Door

“Hmm… Intriguing, but far from conclusive,” The Elf spoke under her breath, before turning about. “Any luck on your end, Nicholai?”

“Saeth, look at this. A lever hidden in the pony stall. I think we should gather the others and send Skelly home before we do anything though.”

“Now that, among all these things, could prove the most interesting, don’t you think?” Saeth swung open the stall door. “The boy’s already on his way back to the village. We could wave the others in, though I’d just as soon be certain this is what we think it is first.”

“Come on boy, why don’t you come out of there?” She patted the pony’s nose. Her voice rose an octave or more as she addressed the animal. “You’d like to spend some time with the big old horses, wouldn’t you? That’d be far better than this smelly old stall, don’t you think?” She continued her monologue as she coaxed the pony from its domicile.

Nicolai set about clearing the floor of the stall, so as to better determine if it was a secret door, or just a trap. He found no traps. There was a small gap between the floor and the walls around the stall. There was also a small gap in the floor beneath the pony stall’s gate, separating the floor on the inside of the stall from the floor in the barn.

* * * * *

The other members of the group stood at the edge of the woods where Skelly had originally led them.

Bah! I cannot hold the magic forever. “What is keeping them?” Miklos wondered. He was half prepared to release he spell in case something untoward might happen.

Maruc still kept an eye on the windowless tower in case someone would show his face. “I’d suggest we wait until everyone is ready before we venture further. The last thing we want are surprises!”

From his place at the edge of the woods the dwarf kept watch for the return of the wolves, wondering how much longer it would take the Elf and Nicolai to check the barn for threats? Damn, shouldn’t be taking this long!

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A Hidden Lever

Feldard kept watch on the wolves as they ate the offered meat. He hoped that a full belly would lull the wolves into an early nap but doubted they would be that lucky. So he stood just at the edge of the wood glancing between the wolves and the barn where Saeth and Nicolai had disappeared into. If needed, Feldard was prepared to act as a distraction, calling attention to himself, should the beasts finish their meal and then show attention towards the barn. Until then he just watched, battle axe still in hand, ready as ever.

Maruc kept an eye out of the barn door as concealed as he could be, scanning Thaddigren Dentiata’s tower for movement. The two sides they had seen of the structure thus far were windowless.

Miklos grunted with the effort of concentration keeping the spell under control. He waited for the others to ensure the area was safe before would venture toward the Tower gate.

* * * * *

Nicolai studied the animals. A few of them bore mismatched brands.

“Hmm, I’m certainly not seeing a secret passageway like the Dwarf hoped,” mused Saeth from within Dentiata’s barn. “Do you see anything interesting? She made her way over to the tool rack, looking them over for some hint of their owner–even a bloodstain would be enough to salve her concience. She studied the area intently, and her keen elven eyesight spotted a few stands of long, dark, human hair.

Nicolai searched for secret doors and traps. Looking into the pony stall located next to the horse stall, the young rogue noticed a secret lever located beneath the feed rack. The pony in the stall regarded the visitors to the barn with passive curiousity.

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The Wizard’s Barn

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Feldard regarded the humans sceptically but said nothing. He merely stood back with battle axe in hand, letting them take the lead in the ‘all out attack’. If they felt this was the best course of action in dealing with one of their own, perhaps they were correct. In truth, he knew little of human mages and what was typical of them. His only experience of such coming from Miklos and their encounter with Sevastian.

“Let’s check out the barn and the coop,” suggested Nicolai. “Both of these are behind the main door from the tower. This should give us cover. I would also suggest that if anyone were to escape from there , they would run back through the main door of the tower, this would probably lead them to reinforce the main door. This would only be a problem if there are no upper windows at the rear which I would be unable to climb up to. I think that the first port of call would be to check out if there are any upper windows that I could access, and then we take it from there. Or maybe, myself and Saeth could go through an upper window, whilst Maruc, Miklos and Feldard go through the main door.”

He frowned when he noted that Skelly had taken off at the Elf’s order. He followed Bram’s gaze to the young boy and then moved to stand watch beside the villager—not liking this part of the plan at all.

Maruc waited for the boy to draw the wolves away. He hoped that the boy would guide them somewhere where they could be dispatched silently. Miklos also awaited his moment to cast his spell. He gazed at the parapets in case guards were there. There was no movement from atop the tower.

After a time, the wolves appeared from behind the tower. Skelly threw the meat towards the edge of the forest on the eastern side of the clearing. He retreated back away, giving the wolves space to enjoy their meal. The animals saw the familiar face of Skelly and smelled the meaty snack. As the boy predicted, they did not bark. They approached the meat and began to eat.

With the wolves distracted on the other side of the clearing, Saeth crept through the woods toward the barn. She’d look for the evidence as planned, but their young companion seemed to have made up his mind; he would loot the tower, regardless of Dentiata’s guilt. She hoped she’d find something, because any justice was certainly going to be coincidental to anything the humans had planned.

Nicolai followed the elf to the barn. The building was 50′ x 30′ and one and a half stories high. Inside was the wizard’s livestock; a riding horse, a mule, eight large ponies, one cow, and three back goats. All of the animals were kept on the ground level. Each pony was tied in a stall with 5′ of rope attached from its halter to an iron ring set into the feed rack mounted on the barn wall. The loft contained hay, grain and straw for bedding. A tack room contained harnesses, gear and tools.

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Preparing for a Punch-Up

“I seriously dislike the idea of splitting us up.” said Miklos, the worry of being exposed creeping into his voice. “I’d much prefer having Feldard close at hand when the fighting starts. My opinion is that we allow Skelly to draw the wolves away. When he and they are at a safe distance we can dispatch the wolves out of earshot of the Tower or Skelly can lead them far away. I’d prefer the first choice. Once we have silently removed the wolves we then, as Maruc suggested, ensure the outhouses are free of folk capable of rasing the alarm.” Miklos paused, waiting to see if there were any dissenting voices. “Then I will approach the Tower door and prepare an incantation to determine if the door has been magically enchanted in some way. I suggest a merciless and all-out attack to crush his power.”

“That still leaves to small issue of the door,” remarked Maruc. “It will be barred from the inside, someone will need to be on the other side to break us in.” Maruc thought for a moment. “Maybe it isn’t such a bad idea to create a diversion. If the challenge seems weak enough, brash orcs may well exit the Tower to investigate any troubles. We could then use that opporunity to enter the tower. The question is what would be serious enough to prize the orcs from the tower but not so serious as to lock the tower into ‘defense mode’. Maybe the disappearance of the wolves for a sustained time would force them out. I for one would prefer to fight in the open rather than them baracaded into a tower.”

Feldard regarded the Mage and Priest in wonderment at their comments. One moment they were over-cautious wanting to leave Dentiata to the Duke’s guard, the next they are planning all-out assault based on nothing but village rumours. These two definitely needed to find a middle ground. “Miklos, am I missing something here that points clear evidence towards Dentiata’s guilt? If you are dead set against the group splitting up fine, but to my knowledge this is not a raid but a search for answers. As for what can draw out Orcs.. live bait usually works well.”

“A merciless and all out attack, Miklos? Someone’s bloodthirsty, given that we don’t have anything beyond a human’s word that Dentatia’s up to anything.” Saeth realized he must be eager to loot the tower, but inside she echoed the Dwarf’s apprehension about facing another mage.

“I don’t know about you elves, but as soon as we take out Dentiata’s wolves or break into his tower, do you think he will just pop out and ask us if we would like to have a nice chat?” Miklos shook his head. “The only reason why you hire Orc guards is that they will overlook the more suspect approaches to research. I can tell you now that the Mage Guild Members would never do such a thing and take a very dim view of anyone who did. I do not appreciate the intimation that I am violent. I have just pointed out the facts. Namely, that if we warn Denetiata of our presence, he will study us and prepare for us and our task will be far more dangerous. The only reason I am here is that we will follow the logical approach of surprise. Therefore we must view this as a raid, not because I fancy a punch up, but because we are obliged to help these people and I want to see my next birthday. That and he would have a chance to destroy any evidence before we witness it.”

“Peace Miklos! Mistress Seath was only highlighting your choice of words, not your methodology. Elves have a more sensitive approach to langauge and what you said did sound rather harsh. Also we only have, as Saeth has rightly said, only the villagers word that anything untoward is happening here. Have you actually seen an orc yet?” Maruc interjected.

“None of us have Maruc, but it doesn’t sound like something they’d just invent. Nor the murders, but you are a fine one to talk. You were all up for sorting their problems out. The point is we have made the assumption the Dentiata is behind this. He isn’t going to volunteer information that will incriminate himself ,so we must take it by surprise.” Miklos glared around at the others. “Before we invite ourselves round for afternoon tea in the Tower think on this. If Dentiata is not behind these attacks he will certainly be aware of who is or he is no wizard, withholding such information from his peacable neighbours is akin to perpetrating them himself. I have one simple question—If not him, then who?”

“Now if you don’t mind, whilst our sterling comrades ensure there are no nasty surprises in store for us in the outhouses I shall prepare a scrying incantation for arcane residue such as I did in Castle Caldwell. Leastways we can be assured of the nature of the Tower, be it mundane or not.

Saeth struggled to decide whether it would be more dangerous to be close to Miklos should he do something rash, or far away, where it would be harder to restrain him. “Once the wolves are away, a diversion to get the door open wouldn’t be a bad idea, particularly if we’re still short of evidence. Skelly, do what you can to placate the wolves, and I’ll check the barn. Feldard, can you manage a distraction with Miklos and the others?” That solved the conundrum–the Dwarf wasn’t the cleverest fellow around, but he seemed to be somewhat less flighty than the humans were acting, and could keep her further from the coming disaster.

“Feldard, I think that any evidence will be in that Tower.” Maruc gestured toward the formidable building. “Magi are not reknown for making simple mistakes that would make them vulnerable. If you are all keen on avoiding bloodshed, we must withdraw now and turn the matter over to the authorities or the Mages Guild. But that would lead to exposing the villagers to more atrocities if we are wrong. Look, if the locals are complaining of disappearences and you are a Wizard in a Tower bristling with orcs and wolf sentinels you can’t seriously be telling me that you’d look innocent? As Miklos would say its a logical assumption. Not only have you got to be open, and admittedly he has on his own terms, but he has to be seen to go that extra mile and help protect the village if he was all that honest.”

On Saeth’s command, Skelly left to see if he could draw out the wolves. He was eager to prove his worth to this brave contingent of adventurers. As they continued to debate the best course of action, the boy walked along the forest in an easterly direction. From a distance, Bram kept an eye on him.

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Planning and Plotting

Saeth peered through the treeline, her eye seeking the storied wolves. “Only one entrance to the tower? Feldard, isn’t it usual to have more than that?” After a moment’s thought, she added, “You suppose there’s a secret entrance through the barn or the shed? Or at least some sort of evidence that this wizard is behind these attacks?”

“It would be wise to ensure the outhouses are free of Orcs before we venture to the tower itself, lest they raise the alarm.” Maruc whispered.

Miklos lent down to the boy. “Skelly where is the best pleace for us to hide while you placate the wolves? Surely they would bark if they saw us all.”

“They wander around during the day,” replied Skelly. “Could be anywhere. Usually, I walk along the edge of the forest and they come out after awhile. They don’t bark at me ‘cuz I bring ‘em snacks. If you want, I could go and try ta find ‘em.”

Feldard glanced about the woods around them frowning at Skelly’s announcement that the wolves were free roaming, loosed his battle axe and kept it at hand. He moved to stand by the Elf looking out into the distance towards the Tower. “One entrance is common. Easier to defend a single entrance than having split your forces to keep watch over two.. even if one is supposed to be secret. Yeah, if it comes down to battling our way into that Tower, we will definately be at a disadvantage. As for the evidence, that’s what we’re here for ain’t it?” He shrugged and looked back out over the clearing, scritching at his beard.

The dwarf seemed thoughtful a moment. “Has anyone considered splitting the party up?” He holds up a hand to forestall the criticisms he’s learned to expect with any of his suggestions. ” I ask cause I know my own skills at stealth aren’t worth a copper. If myself and maybe one other present ourselves to the this Dentiata—requesting a tour at the behest of the villagers, that at least would distract him, leaving you others free to slip in and perhaps find evidence tying him to the attacks.”

“Sounds workable to me,” replied the Elf to Feldard. She wasn’t excited about permitting Maruc to do any negotiating with this wizard–she’d seen the sort of bargains he made with their labours–but sending the Dwarf in first otherwise sounded like a capital idea. “Nicolai, are you with me? Miklos, why don’t you keep an eye on the boy, and once he’s done come join us? We’ll be in that barn, or you’ll see us go elsewhere.”

“I was thinking about going round the back and seeing if there were any open windows I could climb through,” offered Nicolai. “and maybe throw a rope down to you guys. Or maybe there is an access in the well shaft?”

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Journey to the Tower

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“Feldard my friend.” Maruc said. “You knew not the layout of Caldwell’s Castle before you entered so do not let a little mystery dull your adventurous spirit. I am refreshed and ready to face this wizard. Halav is my guide and He would not have placed us here were we not meant to aid these people. Do not doubt the wisdom of Halav Reincarnate for He has not lead us astray so far, indeed we have profited greatly. I say, with His help we shall prevail, but as we know Halav passes His gifts and blessing to those who are worthy. We must be valiant and true as I know you all are. Feldard has demostrated to these kind villagers how to keep vigil over their propety last night they will ot forget, but we cannot expect these folk who seek simple lives to challenge Dentiata in his Tower. That, my freinds, lies on our shoulders.”

“Very rousing Maruc. You ought to be a Priest.” Miklos grinned wickedly.

The dwarf joined in on Miklos’ humour, laughing out with a huge guffaw. “Very rousing, indeed!”

“Seriously though, I am pretty much ready.” Miklos finished off his breakfast, shouldered his backpack and picked up his staff. “Anya could you spare Skelly? We will take good care of him and release him from our care well before we get into any danger. Oh, and some meat to placate the wolves please?”

Feldard too stood and shouldered his pack and prepared to head off. He shook his head slightly at Miklos’ insistence of using the boy but said nothing. Instead, once everyone was ready he set off through the wood, being wary of his steps the first while not wishing to set off the Elf’s traps from last night.

Anya Tappe was reluctant to let the boy out. But, she understood that the boy had an unusual gift with the animals, and the situation was truly dire. She agreed to let him accompany them, but insisted that he be brought back to the village once the wolves were dealt with. Bram agreed to come with and escort the boy back once the adventurers entered the tower. Casta, the waitress, brought out some suitable hunks of meat for the wolves.

Delighted to be moving again, even in the wrong direction, Saeth buckled on her blade, awaiting readiness from the rest of the party. Her eye roving the table, she asked, “Nicolai decided to stay behind, it seems?”

“No Saeth, just practicing. Being prepared can take many forms.” said Nicolai as he rejoined the group as they began to depart. After breakfast, he had been sharpening his climbing skills on the outside of the inn.

The group journeyed back onto Westron Road and headed west. Eventually, they turned onto a twisting side path and went into the forest. Morning turned to afternoon and the trees opened up to reveal Thaddigren Dentiata’s tower located atop a small hill in the midst of the forest. The tower appeared to be about 60 feet square and made of blocks of stone.

There is only one apparent entrance ot the tower, a 10′ x 10′ set of iron-bound oak doors intricately carved with scenes of wizardry and war. The doors are set in the middle of the south wall. To the northwest of the tower, on the gentle back slope of the hill, is a livestock barn and a chicken house. To the west of the tower is a covered well.

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