Starvale Adventures: A Prelude to Darkness – Chapter 22

“The boy said this prison was located beneath the ruins of the Black Lord’s Lyceum.  It was, as you probably know, burned down years ago by that angry mob and since then has been rebuilt as, of all things, a shelter for the homeless.”  Rillo says, “The rumor is they’ve found some sort of secret chambers beneath it.  If my calculations of the subterranean caverns about are correct, I believe there’s an entrance just on the outskirts of town near the Stojanow river.

“I can’t rescue her myself, but, I can pay you!  I have some gold and I will throw in some trade goods also.  I am a skilled craftsman, even if I am not a warrior.”  He dissolves into tears again, “Or apparently much of a father.”

Rowan looks around at her friends, still recovering from her shock at Tallisk’s outburst and her emotional response to Rillo’s story.  “It sounds like your daughter is in way over her head. We will do our best for you.”

Sebastian looks curious at this proposition. He has a love of the law and aiding a law breaker goes against the grain of his moral fiber.  The brazen abuse of women and children, however, is a far worse offense to his sensibilities.  Showing no outward response to either Tallisk’s anger or Rowan’s concern, he merely nods in agreement to the red haired Halfling’s offer of assistance.

Rowan seems extremely troubled, and her usually sunny expression is now one of furrowed brows and downturned lips. “If this place truly exists, this goes far beyond the life of one troubled girl. This corruption is a blight on all of Starvale, when under disguise of law, a rogue group of guards can torture and kill without any to stop, or even know of them.” She looks at her friends, a look of determination on her face. “I will get my things.”

Hajima nods as Rowan leaves and also shares a look with Sebastian, his new faction-brother. “I agree with both of you in this matter. Although helping a troubled girl get out of jail who rightly put herself there in the first place is not as heroic as our previous missions, Rowan is right too. This is bigger than one girl. This is corruption at its worst and an abuse of power that cannot go unpunished. Our primary objective should be to shut this place down, especially since the authority of the Starshield Guard has now come into question. If we can retrieve the girl too, then we shall do so.”

Hajima turns to Lanaver. “Your idea is also sound. Doing some background checks on this situation through our new resources, before rushing in blindly, is necessary for formulating our strategy. I will go immediately to the Lords Alliance to see what we can learn from them.” With that, he goes upstairs to grab his things. As always, his long coat conceals his rapier, and the long wooden case is always at his side. He puts on his wide-brimmed hat with a parting nod and heads out the door.

“Honestly I could probably spring our little jail bird myself, but if I’m caught, well… You all always come through in a pinch.” Lanaver grins.

Tuskor has been listening intently from his table where he sits alone; staring at the small vase which holds a single wilting flower in the center of the table. Between trying to fathom why these town folk appear to enjoy displaying death on their dining areas and overhearing the gnome’s plight he finally has heard enough. He rises from his stool.

“The crimes of your daughter may warrant punishment, but not at the hands of such despicable sounding ne’er do wells”. He turns to Sebastian, “I have not been in the place, but have passed by that way on my crossings of the river. Though it does indeed lay in ruin; the remnants of the evil done there has left its mark on the land…and maybe the evil is still being done. We should leave immediately”

She goes upstairs and changes out of her performance clothing, donning her leather armor and strapping on her weapons and other things. She takes a deep breath and returns downstairs to the others, nimbly braiding her hair up and away from her face in a complicated braid.

Sebastian catches himself staring at Rowan as she returns downstairs. The passion in her eyes, the way the leather armor fits snug to her form or maybe it’s the red in her braids or the sweet melody of her voice. Whatever it is, Sebastian is distracted and purposefully redirects his mind to the task at hand.

Brother Keefe tells Hajima he does not know anything about this but says those within the Starshield Guard who are members of the Lord’s alliance would be thankful for the uncovering and destruction of this unlawful cohort.

“I agree, sir. The more we delay the more harm may come to her. Hopefully between Tuskor’s knowledge, and what this good gnome has told us, we can find the entrance and see what is going on.” She looks kindly at the gnome. “Hopefully we can bring her back to you, and perhaps this terrible experience will help her get back on the right track. If not, I will speak with her myself and see if I can’t help her understand that she is walking a dark road.” She softly pats him on the arm. “Try not to worry. My friends are very strong and courageous. We will do our best for you.”

He offers Hajima a bullseye lantern saying, the halls underneath the lyceum of the black lord are dark indeed, may this light guide you to life if it is your destiny or death, if it is your time.

“I dinne care what she done.” Tallisk takes a deep breath, steadying herself with visible effort. “Ain’t any child should be subjected ta th no so tender attention a th slenderman. Jest point me at ‘em it’ll be a pleasure dealin with ‘em sure.” She flexes her fingers, knuckles popping in a manner that doesn’t fit with her soft curves and plump physique at all.

“Slender man?”  Rowan asks, looking at her with innocent curiosity.  “What’s a slender man?”

Tallisk shudders, unconsciously touching her upper arms. “Never ya mind lil lass.  Some things ain’t comforting ta know an yer a mite tender fer this.”

“Oh I’m not as thin skinned as you might think.”  Rowan says softly, crossing her arms.

“Slenderman’s one what cuts answers otta anyone fer money.”  Tallisk says, her voice losing some of its charming lilt.  “Ain’t gotta be a man but usually is.  I’ve had a run in or two with ‘em.  Ended badly.”

Rowan’s face pales in horror and then her brow creases in sympathy.  “Oh Tallisk, I’m so sorry, I had no idea…”

“Ain’t nothin.”  Tallisk says, reflexively touching her biceps again.  She hefts her sturdy ash wood quarterstaff.  “Let’s go an get th girl.”

Face grim with determination, Rowan heads out into the night. “So, on to the caves to the secret entrance, then? Do you think we can find the entrance in the dark? I have no experience with secret doors.” She smiles briefly at her friends. “Between us all, though, I bet we can figure it out!”

“Remember friend, I can see in the dark and secret doors are a specialty of mine,” Lanaver says with a jaunty grin.

Rowan smiles widely at her friend and adopted brother. “Excellent!” Her stride takes on a perkier aspect as she fantasizes about rushing to the rescue of a young person in distress. “This will likely make an excellent song,” She whispers and quite unconsciously, she begins to softly hum to herself.

Hajima taps the wrapped package he now carries. “Once our silent friend moves on ahead to scout his way in the darkness, I will light this lantern. It will reveal only a small beam of light which should help us stay as hidden as we can.”

Sebastian who is quite dexterous attempts to move quickly yet quietly along with his friends.

Either unaware of the need for stealth or too angry to try, Tallisk strides purposefully out the door and down the street, her staff thumping on the cobblestones.

Lanaver glares at Tallisk and places his finger on his lips.  “Shhh!”

Tallisk glances around and seems to notice what she’s doing. Shaking her head in chagrin, she slips into a shadow and almost seems to meld with it.

Rillo leads them to the secret entrance, which is simply a stout door in the cliff face where the river emerges from under Starvale.  Beyond that door are the tunnels that lead to the secret chambers beneath the ruined Lyceum.

“I must leave you here.”  Rillo says, “I would only slow you down I fear.” The stonework around the door is well crafted, unlike the rudimentary tunnel.

Tallisk leans forward, trying the door and then carefully listening at the keyhole.  After a moment, she backs away and speaks in a low voice to her companions “Th door’s locked but I cn hear sommat inside. If ya canne pick th lock we’ll have ta force it.”

Rowan whistles softly to herself, summoning a magic light in the form of a wispy humanoid shape and have it drift near the lock so that others can examine it for traps and employ lock picks.

Tallisk jumps at the sudden appearance of a glowing ghost and only barely manages to keep a squeak of alarm from escaping her lips. Seeing Rowan’s look of concentration, she calms her thundering pulse, understanding that this is more of that mysterious arcana at work.

Sebastian suppresses a smirk when Tallisk jumps. He is confident of Lanaver and his way with locks. He will ready himself in case combat begins.

Rowan glances at Tallisk when she jumps and silently mouths ‘Sorry’ and shrugs her shoulders sheepishly. She’s gotten used to her friend’s easy acceptance of magical power, and realizes she’d best be more aware of the new woman. It wouldn’t do to startle her into giving us away. She gestures at the ghostly light, and then she smiles widely and directs the dancing light form in such a way that it makes a slow and graceful bow to Tallisk. She bows in concert with the form, attempting to make it clear that she controls the form. She smiles with delight at her little gesture, hoping her new acquaintance will enjoy, or at least relax around her magical power.

Hajima turns to Lanaver. “Can you open this lock without making any noise?”

Lanaver nods and reaches into his pack and produces his thieves’ tools.  “Give me just a tick.”  He whispers, coaxing the lock to open with a few deft movements.

With a grave expression on her face, Tallisk performs an elaborate courtly curtsy to the ghost, wondering at the powers she has become entwined with. Is this some spirit of light? A Prince long dead? A captured soul? Remembering that there are the lives and virtue of children at stake, she steels herself, hoping that they can sneak and out before anyone notices and then call the guards.

 

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