Loose Ends – Chapter Twenty Two

6th Day of the Claw of Winter: (February):

Troglodyte Tower And The Fire Lizard:

Duck for the oyster, dig for the clam, Troglodyte beware.

Collapsing to their knees and discarding their primitive stone weapons as if they had never owned them – almost an act of surprise – as if to say “where did that come from?” But no intelligible speech emanates from these Troglodytes’ throats: all Sigune hears are guttural clicking noises interspersed with pleading hissing and a strange whining. Combined, these vocal elements encapsulate and describe the Troglodyte creatures’ fear of death and hope of mercy. All this as the death rattles of the Troglodytes’ compatriots escape their lifeless butchered corpses.

Sigune, ‘Magical Longsword’ raised and ready to strike, sweeps the discarded Weapons to one side with her foot. Thora, cleaning her weapon of Troglodyte blood and other oily, foul-smelling substances, casts her fiery gaze on the prisoners.

Thora: “I wonder, hoo much mercy did they show to Alita’s friends and family when they begged for their lives, Paladin?”

Sigune: “None. Zey are foul monsters of darkness and deserve death. But zee code of His Divine Holiness is clear. I cannot kill zem, lest I become zem, or verse.”

Into her mind, unbidden, comes a mechanical perfect memory, something she happened to read in the library in Daggerford:

Monster - Troglodyte
Monster – Troglodyte

Troglodytes are a warlike race of carnivorous reptilian humanoids that dwell in natural subterranean caverns and in the cracks and crevices of mountains. They hate man above all other creatures and often launch bloody raids on human communities in search of food and steel.

Troglodytes stand about 6 feet tall, are covered in roughened leathery scales, and have a toothy lizard-like head. Males are easily distinguished from females by the fin-like crest that runs across their heads and down their necks. Coloration for both sexes varies due to the troglodyte’s chameleon-like ability to change skin tone, but greyish brown is most common. Most troglodytes wear little more than a leather weapons belt, with perhaps a small bag of semi-fresh meat. Leaders adorn their belts with pieces of steel, a sign of power in troglodyte culture. They speak their own language and no other.

Sigune: “Greyish-brown. And zere are no Troglodyte females. Zis is a hunting party.”

Thora: “Aye? Well, they caught more than they bargained for this time.”

She turns her attention to Mirafir Roven, who still floats in a reclining position in mid-air.

Thora: “Wizard! You came this way. What awaits us beyond these doors?”

The Mage’s thoughts return from some distant place and take a few moments to digest and comprehend Thora’s words.

Mirafir: “I thuthpect nothing pleathant, Thora. On the contrary, I thuthpect that a theriouth threat awaitth uth!”

The Troglodytes at Sigune’s feet haven’t moved since prostrating themselves upon the stone floor, as if anticipating an inevitable execution. The middle one can constrain himself no longer and slowly, almost imperceptibly, turns his head to the side so that one slit-like eye opens its scaled lid to reveal a green eyeball with a single black line running through its midst. The black line widens slightly, focusing on the majestic blond warrior towering over it. Sigune stares into the eye, seeking something beyond simple fear. The Troglodyte eye shuts instantly, as the face returns to the blood-streaked flagstone beneath it.

Monster - Kraken - Troglodyte
Monster – Kraken

The rocking of the boat, as it is lifted and dropped at infuriatingly irregular intervals, is not conducive to sleep or rest. In fact, Sigune’s thoughts are terrorised by speculating on the cause of these irritating waves: perhaps the vast Monsters that dwell below the surface, whose occasional dorsal or tail fin could be seen breaking the water?

Not wishing to dwell too long on the potential shape, form, size or intent of these Monsters, her thoughts turn instead to survival. Apart from the unappetising morsels Alita has managed to find, the party’s rations are already beginning to look worryingly meagre. Sigune’s gaze wanders from the water to the subterranean barbarian; her rounded bulbous eyes, pallid grey skin and sinewy build betray a lifetime of primitive hand-to-mouth, hunter-gatherer existence.

These Gloom Barbarians are clearly of human stock, though far removed from surface humans. Their skin is a pale, ghostly white, almost translucent in bright light. Their hands have become gnarled, and their nails are long and claw like. They are hunched and stocky. Gloom Barbarians are always filthy, with matted hair and dirt-strewn faces. They do this intentionally to blend in, for it is only by stealth that they have lived as long as they have in the deadly gloom of the Underdark.

Monster - Gloom Barbarian - Troglodyte
Monster – Gloom Barbarian

Born to this tectonic underworld, Alita has managed to defy the odds, but what chances this small band of surface-dwellers and their love of light, colour and air? Mirafir had already conjectured that after seven days, Bronwyn would be able to locate them and, if required, extricate them from these hellish caverns. But what if she doesn’t? After all, only recently the Adventurers spent a whole year in Barovia without so much as a “how goeth everything?” from Lady Bronwyn.

Sigune senses that Alita’s big round luminous eyes are upon her, and returns the gaze. Despite their alien appearance, there is sadness behind the watery pupils, but it is tempered with steely determination. Sigune points at the water with her index finger.

Alita: “Drazah.”

says Alita.

The Holy Warrior points at her Sword.

Alita: “Orayabab.”

She points at Galan.

Alita: “Elelekam”.

Slowly but surely, her vocabulary is growing… Together with Mirafir’s ‘Comprehend Languages’ Spell, perhaps the time is approaching when conversation with Alita will be more fruitful.

And where was the Wizard now? Somewhere in the stone tower, carved like an edifice into the sheer walls of this endless chamber? It has now been over half an hour since Frimly and Mirafir vanished into thin air, in search of a way through this megalithic structure to unite Alita with her surviving people and to perhaps find a way back to the surface.

Unfortunately, the Troglodytes are expecting trouble, thanks to the one that got away from the initial battle on the shore. There are guards on the pebbled beach, dotted with giant rocks that may have fallen from the cavernous ceiling. And they have a Ballista. For shooting airborne targets? Atop the tower stand more Troglodytes. 50’ feet above the beach, the steam from iron pots of boiling pitch rises like a warning into the stagnant air.

Monster - Troglodyte
Monster – Troglodyte

Meanwhile, beneath the ancient tower, and deep within its shadowy bowels, Mirafir and Frimly have gone their separate ways to gain as much information about its denizens and layout before their limited time ‘Invisible’ and ‘Fly’ is up.

Frimly, in order to pass through locked and closed doors, has imbibed a ‘Potion of Gaseous Form’. Despite these advantages, his speed of movement is drastically reduced, making his choice of direction essential. Following the curious grooves carved into the flagstones to the East, Mirafir opts to head North, casting ‘Wraithform’ on himself to bypass the locked double Doors that stand before him.

The world suddenly switches to its negative form, swirling mists and the shadows of the Dead intermingle with the solidity of the plane of the living. As he passes through the door, Mirafir sees two Troglodytes to the West. They have Metal Weapons and their clothing and bearing betrays a higher rank to that of the others he has seen so far. Chieftains? No matter, the Elf knows his primary objective is to find the way through to where Alita was captured. He remembers her words:

Alita: “Many were killed in the attack, and those of us, who could no longer resist or flee, were bound, hooded and forced to march at a merciless pace. Any who faltered were brutally slaughtered: I hear still their screams in my waking hours. The way was straight. Although I could not see, we were driven through caverns southward. Always southward. Then I felt flat stones beneath my feet, a long straight tunnel.”

V-Shaped Chamber
V-Shaped Chamber

Directly ahead of Mirafir there is a portcullis, with what are most likely guard posts on either side. The mage drifts through the portcullis and begins to head down the tunnel. It is around 10’ feet wide, with ‘Cintinual Light’ gems at regular intervals and vanishes beyond his vision ahead. After several hundred feet, the light gems become less regular until Mirafir, against his better judgement, finally arrives at the end of the tunnel. A replica of the tunnels beginning stands resolutely before Mirafir, yet this portcullis is less well maintained and less frequently used. Still, there is nothing for it, the Elf moves Wraith-Like through the bars into a widening chamber beyond.

Its true scale is difficult to judge because of the sheer number and width of columns rising from the floor to ceiling of this natural cave. Going deeper, yet always conscious of the duration of the active Magic’s the Wizard has running, Mirafir identifies three exits from this chamber: one to the West and one going North , at the far end of the chamber, and one heading East near to the exit of the portcullis. At this point he calculates he has just enough time to make it back to the scheduled rendezvous with Frimly, and quickly turns to eerily float back down the tunnel.

Meanwhile, Frimly heads of to the door in the North-East corner of the V-shaped chamber; where there are 6 Troglodytes accompanied by one in commanded and armed with Metal Weapons like the ones seen by Mirafir. Frimly, in ‘Gaseous Form’ slips under the door and enters a large 30’ by 70’ foot chamber which appears to be living quarters for the Troglodytes. Frimly can see that the Troglodytes have used the little furniture that there is as beds, while others have made nest for moss and other materials.

Frimly: “No cots in a row or racked weapons, at least we don’t have to fight well trained men this time.”

Frimly thinks to himself as he decided there will be nothing of importance in this chamber, he had arranged to meet Mirafir back in the V-shaped chamber in 20 minutes and the ‘Gaseous Form’ Spell made moving quickly impossible.

Frimly then heads West towards the 3 Troglodytes posted behind the makeshift wall and next to the only other Door in the V-shaped chamber. As Frimly floats slowly up and closer the Thief can now that each Troglodyte is wearing Leather garments, not Armour as such, but aprons or vest with gloves and Helms of Leather too. Behind, and to the side, of the 3 leather clad Troglodytes Frimly can now clearly see yards of chain coiled up in one corner and feeding off through a hole into the chamber behind the door, levers and pulleys and other odd mechanics.

Again, not having much time to ponder his findings, Frimly fear the worst but steadies himself and again is the first to enter the ‘Monster Lair’. Inside the chamber is in complete Darkness save for a faint ‘Orange Aura’, for our Thief think it is not a flame, ‘Magical Gem’ or other form of light, originating from a stall in the South-West corner of this stables, for want of a better word. The chamber is, as the one opposite, 30’ by 70’ feet and Frimly can see someone has crafted crude stalls at either end.

Frimly approaches the ‘Orange Aura’ in order to discern it’s threat and hopeful retreat back with his life intact. What the Thief finds nearly has him paralysed with fright as at first he is convinced that he was facing his first ever real life, honest to god, bona fide DRAGON….

Monster - Lizard, Fire
Monster – Lizard, Fire

Frimly: “Shit, we’re going to need a bigger boat.”

In fact, although very dangerous, Frimly had not for now met his first Dragon.

It was a Fire Lizard, which does resemble a huge wingless Red Dragon and are sometimes called ‘False Dragons’ by the scholars They are Grey-coloured with mottled orange and brown back and reddish undersides. Fire Lizards are perhaps an ancestral Dragon type or offshoot of a common ancestor.

Frimly: “Well I think I’m done for the day.”

Frimly floats back to the Door, slips under it, heads towards the Western well to wait for the Wizard and keeps a VERY close eye on the door to the Dragon’s chamber.

Back in the room with the wells, large mysterious grooves in the floor, and several Troglodyte guards standing warily on the Eastern side, Mirafir and Frimly meet.

Mirafir: “Are you still ‘Gaseous Form’?”

Frimly: “It ain’t my fault! I blame the whelks ‘err majesty princess cockle gave us! Oh wait, you mean – err yes, I am.”

Frimly: “There’s a very big, 20’ foot long BIG, in the chamber to the West, best we leave.”

The two Adventurers leave via the front door, and portcullis, of the tower and ‘Fly’ back to the boat unnoticed. They quickly relate the details of the reconnaissance, and all are very interested to hear of Frimly’s curious encounter with some kind of Wingless-Dragon which is being held as a “Pet?” on a leash by the Troglodytes.

A plan is swiftly formed to storm the tower. Frimly and Galan are to go ahead, ‘Flying’ and ‘Invisible’, to secure the door at the bottom of the tower on the inside. As a diversion, Frimly will use one of his cards, from his ‘Deck of Illusions’ at the point where the Ballista is on the beach. Mirafir, Thora and Sigune are to follow shortly after and unleash a ‘Fireball’ on the Troglodytes atop the tower.

Magic Item - Deck of Illusions Frost Giant
Magic Item – Deck of Illusions Frost Giant

Initially, all goes according to plan. Frimly’s card produces an unlikely ‘Frost Giant’, who proceeds to crush the Ballista, by hurling one of the massive boulder stranded across the beach, and then attacking the Troglodytes that were manning, the now destroyed Ballista, on the beach by hurling more of the giant rocks at them.

Several minutes behind the initial assault arrive Mirafir, Sigune and Thora, all with ’Fly’ and ‘Invisibility’ cast upon them by Mirafir. What greets them on the beach is hard to explain but they can see that whatever card was drawn had proved effective as there were a few Troglodytes laying on the beach alone, but no other sigh of life apart from the Troglodytes on top of the tower.

Mirafir’s ‘Fireball’, once Galan and Frimly are safely below, annihilates the Troglodyte guards on the tower, with just one exception, who Sigune is able to dispatch the Troglodyte with a ‘Magical +2 Arrow’. So far, so good, until the still ‘Flying’ and ‘Invisible’ Sigune and Thora are caught in a sudden fireball not of their making, as is the Wizard. Singed and surprised, but having luckily escaped the worst of the fiery blast, the Adventurers notice a Troglodyte Spell-Caster on the beach below.

He seemed to have just materialised from the rock, so perhaps had some uncanny form of camouflage. Thora swiftly dives down to engage, while Sigune tries to target the Spell-Caster with more of her ‘Magic +2 Arrows’ to interrupt any planned spells. However, the Troglodyte Shaman has other ideas and quickly puts some pipes to his mouth and plays a short achromatic tune on the pipes as Thora’s ‘Dragon Headed Mace’ and Sigune’s ‘Magic +2 Arrow’ ends the Troglodyte’s short-lived resistance.

Spell Casters Pipes
Spell Casters Pipes

However, all is not well as the portcullis is swiftly raised and a monstrous worm-like Lizard emerges from the opening, a steel chain around its neck. Before Thora can take to the air, the Fire Lizard, a type of lesser Dragon, breaths a billowing blast of burning fire on Thora, who again manages to dodge the worst of it, but her scorched kilt and singed beard serve only to enrage her further. A combination of Dwarven fury, Elven ‘Lightning Bolt’ and human ‘Magic +2 Arrows’ eventually bring the chained beast to a standstill, as its handlers attempt to pull on the chain to provoke a response from the now lifeless Monster.

The Portcullis is open so Thora, after picking up the Spell Casters Pipes, Mirafir and Sigune are easily able to join Galan and Frimly who are busy fighting Troglodytes inside. Each Troglodyte fight with determination, and inflict injuries on the surface-dwelling interlopers, but their Stone Weapons and chaotic fighting style is no match for the hardened warriors from above, and the malignant fiends are butchered where they stand, with one attempting to flee Northwards towards the Troglodyte Chieftains.

Mirafir and Sigune pursue him and a ‘Magic +2 Arrows’ from Sigune’s ‘Magical Elven Long Bow’ brings him to his knees. More Troglodytes await and they too, are cut down. Three more, concealed behind a crudely built wall, from whence they had been “Controlling?” the Fire Lizard, emerge and throw them on the floor at Sigune’s mercy.

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