Starvale Adventures: A Prelude to Darkness – Chapter 23

This room contains eight cells, five currently occupied by prisoners who start begging to be released as they enter. A door to the east is barred from this side, and there is also a door on the south wall. A stone chair is bolted to the floor in the room’s center, and interrogation instruments hang from the walls.

“Shhh” Rowan says, while using her hands in a pushing motion to try to get them to be quiet. She looks around for keys to the cells.

Sebastian also implores them to be quiet.  “If you alert the guards we can’t help any of you.  Hold your tongues and we’ll get you out as quickly as we can.

“Ohhh akushla, my heart bleeds fer ya.” Tallisk murmurs, looking at the nearest, “Are there guards? Do they come often? By the Hag’s teeth I ain’t leavin here without all of ya.”

Rowan is calmly and quietly continuing to reassure the prisoners, she also asks quietly, “Villonah, are you here?” While peering into the cells and trying to open the doors.

The prisoners quiet down for the moment, their cries stifled to sobs and whimpers.  After a brief inspection, they see that female gnome is not among them. Of the five prisoners here, four are in terrible condition from starvation and dehydration. They can walk on their own, but they are in no condition to fight.  Two only have one ear.  The last prisoner appears mad, having been driven insane by his long confinement and exposure.

Rowan continues trying to open the doors while saying quietly. “Where is the gnome girl? Where did they take her?”

“Promise to free us and I will tell you.” One of the prisoners with a missing ear says.

Rowan’s face is full of pity and fear as she notices the madness in the eyes of the murderous soul in the fifth cell. She turns to her friends. “I think the honest guards must deal with this one. Freeing him would be a mistake.” She turns her still sad face too, “What have you done that you are here? None deserve this hidden place, but …” and she trails off, not quite sure how to proceed.

“We’ll find her with or without you,” Lanaver sneers, recognizing the missing ears as a sign of membership in The Silencers.  “But no one is leaving until we do, and I’m going nowhere with that barmy sod,” He points at the homicidal prisoner.

Tallisk is shocked at the expression of disdain from Lanaver. How could he not feel compassion for these poor lost souls? Remembering their mission, she concentrates in the task at hand with effort.  Seeing that Rowan has the discussions in hand and unable to continue to stare at prisoners she is unable to free, Tallisk turns to look at the other doors. Since Lanaver is at one, she heads to the other, listening.

Sebastian is sure the madman is truly unbalanced and likely dangerous, loosing him on the city would put innocent blood on their hands.  “Free all but the one that is mad. We will come back for him.”

Lanaver hears the sound of murmured human speech and the rolling of bone dice.  He tries to find a place to peek through the door to the other side, but the door fits the frame well and there is no keyhole on this side.

The two men call out, thanking Sebastian, calling him a hero. The two Silencers are tight lipped. They take your help and leave immediately. After pointing to the eastern door saying, “She’s in the funhouse”. The mad man slams himself against the bars like a caged animal but is not overly loud for now.

At the man’s proclamation that the girl is behind her door, Tallisk struggles to lift the bar.

“Should have let those Silencers rot Sebastian… Remember they and theirs tried to kill us for that fake egg…”

Lanaver watches Tallisk at the eastern door.  “He’s probably lying you know…”

“Well, hopefully they will spread word that we are the heroes to all. Even Silencers don’t deserve torture. ”

Wondering what a Silencer is, Tallisk lifts the bar with straining muscles and leans it in the rack beside the door, grunting in a most unladylike fashion.  The chamber was once grand but is now in shambles. The walls have collapsed in and given way to earth. An obelisk stands in the middle of the room, covered in sigils. A cage has been erected in the middle of the room surrounded by a number of peculiar obelisks made of black stone. Within the cage, a young gnome woman dressed in a simple gray tunic sits on the floor with her back to the obelisk.

She rocks back and forth with her head in her hands, saying the same thing over and over in a mad whisper, “Can’t run away. Can’t run away.”

Tallisk looks at Rowan with a clear question on her face. This looks like magic. This looks out of her league.  “Villonah?” She says, trying to keep her voice steady. “Yer da asked us ta help ya out lass.  We’re here ta get ya otta this place.”

Rowan looks on with deep pity in her eyes. “Lanaver, is it safe?”  She begins to quietly sing a song of courage and strength. Her words and melody are tuned to encourage Villonah, and reassure her that she’ll be ok.

In spite of her magic and her songs reaching out, Villonah doesn’t seem to hear Rowan’s words, but instead continues rocking back and forth.  The same phrase coming out between her lips as though it’s a charm that could save her from death.

“It’s some kind of magic for sure but I’ll check for anything physical,” Lanaver says to Rowan in a hushed tone.

Sebastian can tell that the pillars contain some old enchantment magic.  This is an undercroft of the of Lyceum of The Black Lord though, so chances are the obelisk will not be pleasant. It is so old and worn it is hard to discern what it does.

“It’s OK, lass yer safe now.” Tallisk says, then glances at Rowan and mutters under her breath, “Ahh… it is safe innit?”

Hajima stands near the door to the guards. “Pending any warning of sinister magic from Rowan or Sebastian, maybe Lanaver can sneak in there, pick the lock on her cage, and bring her out. I’ll cover this door with Tallisk in case we have unwelcome visitors.” He then opens his wooden case and removes his massive crossbow, locking the arms into position and loading a deadly bolt.

“Good thinking you two.”  Lanaver says, “And I’ll happily unlock the girl’s cage just as soon as I know it’s okay for me to step past those obelisks.”

“Them things’r th problem?” Tallisk gestures at one of the obelisks, “Maybe I break em? Would that help? Ain’t no way we cn let th girl be subjected ta this fer another moment!  She’s just a girl…” Her voice to trails off, and she turns away for a moment.  “I ain’t gonna allow it.” The steel is back now, harder than before, but more brittle. “Get ‘er out or I will.”

“Lanaver, Tallisk is right. We must get her out of here.”  Rowan says, “Can you tell if there are pitfalls for us in this room? Can you tell if it’s safe?”

“Can’t run away, can’t run away.”  Villonah’s voice continues, hopeless and terror stricken.

Hajima looks back over from his position at the door to the guard room. “If we don’t have any clear reason to avoid that room, then we’re going to have to risk it. One of these guards is going to come out here any minute. We can’t delay much longer. Either Lanaver sneaks in, or Tallisk breaks in. Which is it?”

“Tyche bless me, I’ll do it!”  Lanaver says, slinking into the room.

Hajima nods at Lanaver, respecting him for his bravery. “Good luck, my friend. We’ll watch your back and be ready to jump in if there’s any sign of trouble.”

Rowan touches Lanaver’s arm as he passes and says, “I am right behind you my brother.” Her magic flows from her hand, giving him confidence and skill.  She lets him get a few steps in and then follows, looking around for danger.

Hajima keeps his ear close to the door to the guards, listening for any sign of approach, while also keeping an eye on the progress of Lanaver and Rowan into the obelisk chamber. “Sebastian, be ready to help them with your spells if they should fall prey to foul magic. Tallisk, be ready to help me with these guards if any kind of alarm goes off when they reach the cage.”

The wood elf takes a deep breath to steady himself before approaching the cage, muttering to himself under his breath.  “It’s just a lock… A lock on a cage… A cage surrounded by creepy pillars… Under the temple of an evil god… Who you hope is dead… It’s just a lock.”

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