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  • Writer's pictureJames Finger

MKT019: Now What?!

7th of Eleint (The Fading) – Summer 1486

Location: Triboar Keep Dungeon

Smacky awoke in slightly less darkness than in which he had lost consciousness. By the stiffness in his muscles, it had been many hours at least since Moogs the Hill Giant fell on his head. He reached for his Warhammer like a comfort blanket and found not only was it missing, but so was almost all of his gear save the soiled purple flag of the Nandar’s of Nightstone around his neck. Also, his hands seemed to want to follow each other around for some reason. The damp smell and chill air crept slowly into his consciousness as he swung his legs over the edge of the hard cot and examined his surroundings. He quickly concluded he was not in the forest anymore, not enough trees. He then wondered why this cave had bars for a door and what the odd blue light flickering outside was. It provided enough illumination to see the heavy iron cuffs clamped onto both of his wrists and tethered to the back wall by a length of thick chain. It gave him just enough mobility to reach the cell door, but not a step further. “Well, dat aint no good.” he mumbled to himself and started hunting for a big rock.

Pinko disliked the taste of blood left in his mouth when his wild shape ended after his bestial form had enjoyed a little snack. It was even worse when the meal had been another elf, that felt weird, and doubly so when the transformation was ended against his will thanks to a dozen or more crossbow bolts. As he never really slept, unconsciousness was an extremely disconcerting condition to experience. It would seem the Gauntlet wanted them alive and had done at least a rough job of healing his wounds before tossing him into this cell. Though he was alone and knew not where his friends were, he suspected that the sound of rattling metal on stone and Orcish swearing meant Smacky at least was not too far away. He momentarily began to angrily blame this whole mess on Cockseepage before genuine concern for her well-being kicked in. Time to find out then. Nothing moved in the corridor outside his cell which was bathed in a queer bluish light. His druidic focus, a sacred bundle of fur and teeth from the elders of his commune, was predictably missing from around his neck, but there were a few tricks he could get up to without it.

Cockseepage’s head hurt. Her chest hurt. Her stomach burned, but on closer inspection, it also had two fewer scars than it had yesterday. She had fared better than the Twins then. Remarkably used to the feeling of waking up like you’d fallen off and been run over by a wagon, her only real concern was in this instance it wasn’t due to excessive quantities of low-quality booze. Her whip, the ghostly talisman of her pact with her patron, and even her favourite Elven emerald hair clip had all been stripped from her, but she still had her wits and the assets both magical and physical that were innate to her charm… and charm she would. In fact, she’d already spied a likely target half nodding off in a rickety chair just outside her cell. He looked every bit like the burly typical guard who resented being put on prisoner duty in this dank dungeon. She knew she was in the basement of Triboar Keep, she’d been here briefly before. Like last time she had no memory of how she got here, but she was sure that weird pedestal lamp that illuminated the napping guard and two more of his fellows playing cards at a table nearby was a new addition. She tore open her already damaged tunic a little more, fluffed up her crushed long black curls and hugged the bars of her cell seductively.

Without her talisman to focus a Suggestion of her patron’s will, she had to resort to a simpler approach and try to Charm the luddite into unlocking the chunky padlock on the cell door. She manipulated the air and directed a luscious whisper towards the sleepy guard as he looked receptive to her favourite, overtly flirtatious, approach. “Hey there big boy, who’s a girl gotta suck up to get a drink around here?” she crooned. The guard pushed up the brim of his helmet that had been draped over his eyes and stared at her posed form which appeared slightly purple due to the play of the blue light on her red skin. Seeps pouted and made ‘drinky drinky’ motions through the bars while simultaneously pressing her half-exposed chest into the gaps in the metal barrier. The guard smiled, stood, and with a quick conspiratorial glance back at his fellow jailers absorbed in their game, strutted over to the Tiefling’s cell. Gods she was on fire today, Seeps thought to herself as she measured him up.

“Well well well, she wakes. What can Rodger do for you love?” the guard enquired from a safe distance about a foot out of her reach. Great, a third-person guy, Seeps cringed internally. She completed the spell and beckoned him closer. “Rodger could unlock this door and come join me on the bunk. I’d be ever so thankful.” She batted her lashes and smiled coyly as she watched his deep green eyes for signs the Charm had worked. He blinked and smiled broadly. Bingo. Rodger reached for the keys on the back of his belt and shuffled forwards, leaning towards her until his face was an inch from hers. He had a surprisingly fresh smell and breath, and his grooming was rather impeccable, she wasn’t expecting that from a jailer guard. She also wasn’t expecting his balled fist to use the key ring as a set of iron knuckles that delivered a sharp and winding blow to her guts that sent her doubled over to the filthy floor. “Sorry love, but you ain’t got my preferred tackle if you know what I mean. If you’re thirsty, try drinking what’s in that bucket in the corner.” Rodger guffawed and returned to his nap.

A Blue Glow Fills the Cells of Triboar Keep Dungeon

Several attempts to lift the heavy iron gate off its hinges while shackled had left Smacky exhausted and angry. He had also tried bashing it with a loose chunk of brick he found under his bed and even had a go at chewing on the lock, but so far had only earned himself the butt of a spear to the head from one of the guards who told him to shut up and stop ruining his concentration on his card game with all the noise. Furious with the inanimate portal, he tried running at it full steam and throwing the hardest thing he knew at the bars… his head. The collision shook the room and achieved two things. Firstly, the transfer of the rusty impression of the cell door bars to his face, and secondly the pulling loose of the stone from the back of the cell that his wrist chain was attached to. Unfortunately for the barbarian as the brick flew out of its mortared home the laws of physics dictated it would accelerate in the direction of that force, and collided with the back of his head. Luckily the stone floor was a nice cool place to lie unconscious for a few moments more.

Deprived of his spell focus, Pinks needed to remember some more fundamental spell material techniques. Flaking off a piece of rusted iron from an old manacle, he produced a small flame and took to trying to surreptitiously weld off the door lock with a Heat Metal spell while the guards he could just see down the corridor were not looking his way. He quickly realised something was wrong. While the magic was flowing, the second he touched it to the padlock it seemed to be absorbed. He threw caution away and attempted for a solid minute to raise the temperature of the whole iron door but at the end of his efforts, the metal was no warmer than if he’d rested a hand on it. He stared into the dancing light of the blue flame lamp beside the guards and realised the Order of the Gauntlet were better resourced than even Seeps had led him to believe. Counter-magic was creating a protective shell around the boundary of his cell. Bollocks.

While Pinko had made his revelation, Cockseepage was yet to understand why her Charm spell had not worked. She was also doubly angry. Once for being punched, but mostly for having her flirtations towards a rather attractive man rejected so violently, spell or not. Focusing her anger, she gathered an Eldritch Blast of energy into her palms. The three guards noticed the light show and looked at her curiously. This should have been her next clue, as there was absolutely no sign of the usual panic or screams of alarm that her actions should have generated, but it was too late for her to pull out now. The black and purple energies crackled and tore a line straight towards the exit, only to bounce off a shimmering field that flared across the bars as the magic hit it and rippled around the walls, ceiling and floors of the cell. The bolt ricocheted like a racquetball several times around the room before it found purchase in the small of the warlock’s back, flooring her for the second time in as many minutes. She was now triply angry as the jeering laughter of the guards poured over her spasming body adding insult to self-inflicted injury.

Smacky’s rage awoke before he did. It dragged the chain still bound to his manacled wrists (complete with the head-sized chunk of wall attached to the other end) over to the cell door and furiously wrapped a section of the metal links around the bars. Planting one foot on either side of the doorway at hip height, he leaned in, bunched the chains around his forearms and performed a horizontal squat thrust of such force that the plate holding the lock-bolt tore itself from the wall and the cell door flew open, creating a Smacky-sandwich between the hinged bars and stone cell wall as he crashed backwards stunned, but free!

The three guards reacted instantly to the sound of Orcish excitation that was accompanied by the noise of screaming metal and immediately followed by a huge thudding crash. As they grabbed spears and tore around the corner to investigate Pinko seized the opportunity to act. He had discerned that while he could cast spells within his cell, they could not cross the threshold, but what if the spell was completed before then? Focusing on his feet, he attempted to conjure a swarm of eight giant rats and was most pleased when seconds later the high-pitched squeaks and warm bodies writhing around his ankles flagged his success. He directed his rodent minions through the cell doors and was relieved firstly that they could just squeeze between the bars, and secondly, that the spell ward didn’t return their spirits instantly to the feywild. The pack darted across the corridor to the pedestal that held aloft the glowing lamp and began to gnaw feverishly.

Shouts and heavy blows began echoing around the dungeon, followed by an incredibly ear-splitting scream that sent shivers down the Druid’s spine on a primal level for reasons he did not yet understand, though he assumed it heralded that young Smacky had found a way to free himself from confinement and was making the most of the occasion. Moments later a pedestal leg was successfully chewed through, a blue light extinguished as the lamp that held it, now bereft of support, shattered on the cobblestones, and a lock to a captive wood elf’s cell was melted into a smouldering pile of slag. Pinko smiled, exited his cell and fished the warden’s keys off their hook on the wall, feeding his rats the hard bread and cheese left behind by the guards on their crib table. The continuing bloody screams of the guards reassured him that Smacky had things well under control, but the movement of Seeps slowly sitting up drew his attention to a nearby cell. Best he let her out first and make sure she was OK.

As Smacky breaks free of his cell Pinko unleashes a pack of rats to deal with the arcane lamp.

The half-orc appeared around the corner, hands still manacled, and dragging a long chain with a chunk of bloody stone attached behind him. His characteristic broad smile seemed to be at odds with the several obvious spear wounds in his chest, but they closed up quickly as Pinko finished administering aid to Seeps and turned a Cure Wounds on his larger companion. The rats dashed away out of sight following the bloody trail to an anticipated free feed of fresh meat. “I take it those guards won't be bothering us again in a hurry?” enquired Pinko. “Doubtfuls.” beamed back the barbarian, lifting his shackles in front of him and jangling the chains having spotted the key ring hanging from the nearby padlock. “Hey Seepy, I got yous a present!”. As the warlock approached him to unlock the restraints on his wrists, Smacky opened his clenched hand to reveal what could only be described as a dismembered male member, still in part wrapped in the distinctive cloth that made up the uniform of their jailers. “Dat pretty boy poked me wit his spear… so I tore his off! Bwa hahahahaha!” Smacky nearly lost his breath laughing at his own gruesome joke. As his shackles drop away to the floor, a voice called out from the darkness. “Oi! Not Rodger’s todger! That was the only part of him I liked!”

The trio cautiously explored the far corridor of the cell block to discover they were not the only captives the Order had deemed fit to incarcerate at that time. Darz Helgar was a thin man, with straight shoulder-length straw-coloured hair and a surprisingly cheery demeanour given his current predicament. He said he was the Triboar campground caretaker, but in his youth had run with the Xanathar’s Guild in Waterdeep before a long stint locked up with no fun had convinced him to seek a more rural lifestyle in Triboar. “Yet here you are imprisoned again?” Seepage interrupted fearing they’d get his whole life story if he was left to chatter on. “Oh yes, so it would seem. Don’t pay much the ol’ caretaker role. Guards caught me trying to skim a fancy-looking sword off a lad staying at the grounds for a few days and took me in for some hard time again.” Darz explained. “Again?” queried Pinko, “How many times have you been thrown in here?” Darz counted on his fingers. “Oh, this would be my sixth visit.” The vacant stares from the Trio prompted further explanation. “Wha?! Two hot meals a day, time to read me books, no work, and the daily visit from that beautiful man Rog for a bit of light punishment. Couldn’t ask for much more now could I? I really wish you’d not pulled that off him, he was a rude twat, but geez the man had some stamina.” Pinko blushed, Seeps nodded approvingly, and Smacky looked confused. “That is to say I wasn't a big fan of the beatings but I enjoyed him poking me up the…” Pinko cut Darz off. “Yes, yes we get the picture, more than we need, now do you know a way out of here?”

A deal was struck. Darz decided that hanging around after his favourite guard had likely bled out from the crotch by now was not in his best interest. In exchange for his freedom, he offered up the juicy tidbit that the Great Sword he tried to pinch was in the hands of one Lord Zymorven of Zymorven Hall, a stronghold across the Evermoors to the North East. He’d heard the pompous young Lord brag it was his father’s and called the Giant Slayer. With all the reports of increased sightings of the big bastards roaming the countryside, Darz had figured it would fetch a pretty copper in the current black market. Smacky was excited to give it a try and placed 'dibs' on the weapon should they ever track this Zymorven guy down. Seeps unlocked Darz’s cell door and he guided them first to an old chest in the guard's room nearby that contained most of their clothes and adventuring gear, but none of their weapons or more valuable items such as Seeps talisman or Pinko’s spell focus. Much to Cockseepage's dismay, but not surprise, her favourite emerald elven hair clip was not among the trove, but the bloodstained shard of obsidian from Nightstone was. She almost left the sharp rock behind, it had no intrinsic value, but a whisper called to her as she began to turn away and she swore a flicker of darkness passed over its surface. She pocketed the stone.

Climbing the stairs to what Darz said would be the barracks, the foursome scoped out the well-lit facility. Sounds of chatter echoed down the hall, while snoring could be heard from a large room to the left. A single guard leaned against the wall blocking another set of stairs that rose further to what would be the Grand Hall of the keep. Smacky stealthily approached the sentinel and with a quick twist broke his neck, then dragged the body back and rolled it down the dungeon stairs before returning to peek up the now vacant passage to freedom. “Not that way! There’ll be folks swarming around up there… follow me.” hissed Darz before the half-orc got too far ahead. They all crept silently through the dorm room past sleeping soldiers and ducked into the privy which was a long board with a few holes cut in it over a slowly flowing underground stream that had been cleverly utilised to wash away the waste. “Here! This will flush us out into the lake behind the Lion Shield Coster.” Darz proclaimed with curious confidence before dropping down into the sluggish cold water.

The Mickale Trio Escape Triboar Keep Dungeon

It was over 200 feet of belly crawling along a narrow tunnel, across sharp stones, and through decades of congealed muck and foul-smelling scum, but an hour before dusk the Mickale Trio was birthed out into the free air. “Right lads, now I bid you farewell, I think it is time I moved on again. You lot best do the same, they’ll be after you soon enough.” Darz said. As if to drive his point home, horns of alarm rose from the keep which still loomed overhead far too close for Pinko’s liking. “Thank you Darz, be best of luck. We should be near my old home in the Neverwinter Woods, we’ll lie low there for a while. How did you know about the sewer? Have you broken out of there before?” Pinko asked out of curiosity. “Out?! Nah, never busted out before. That’s usually how I get meself in! Gotta run, toodles!”

“What a strange little man.” thought Pinko aloud as the scrawny figure faded into the shadows. “I liked him.” added Seeps. “Argh guys, wez needs to get running.” pointed out Smacky as the sound of hunting dogs' braying emanated from the keep. They rinsed what filth they could quickly from their clothes and weaved their way out of town towards the west. Finally, they were back on track to reach Pinko’s commune, though under far from ideal circumstances, weaponless, copperless, and sans spell focuses, it would be an interesting few days' journey to an uncertain reception.


Next Episode: The Grove of the Furries


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