Secrets of Mystara

Post 40 - City, Palace, and Temple

City, Palace, and Temple

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Ninmonth 18 (first full day since the expulsion of the dwarves)

Afternoon (Morgan and Thrud)

Morgan and Thrud return to the barracks of the Ducal Guard, where a squad of soldiers is assembling in the courtyard under the sharp commands of a squat, burly sergeant. “Soh, it’s arr ootlander ‘Special Officers’, is it? Special, indeed,” he sneers. “First t’ing yew need toh know is t’at t’is is my patrohl, ya? Yew’re oondter my command, ya?”

Morgan stares him down, unflinching, but nods. Thrud shrugs noncommittally. With no open defiance, the sergeant seems satisfied, and explains to them that they will be going on a tour of the city, reading the Duke’s latest proclamation – and handling any crowds that don’t like it. He thrusts thin clubs at each of them. “T’ese are goodt Rhoonese folk, not trold, ya? Your blades stay in t’eir sheaths.” When the man has the squad ordered to his satisfaction, he sends Morgan and Thrud up to the captain’s office to collect the edict they are to read.

Morgan finds the office easily – they were just there a few hours ago, but the Captain is not alone. Sitting in a chair next to his desk is a tall, lanky man dressed in fine black leather. He does not stand as they enter, but regards them carefully with piercing black eyes. His long black hair is pulled back neatly and looks freshly greased. A needle-thin mustache and carefully-trimmed goatee accent his angular features. A single ruby necklace on a silver chain contrasts with his black leathers and pale skin. A shortsword, long but thin, is belted at his waist.

“So, the newest members of the Guard?” he asks the captain, but without turning his head or taking his eyes off Morgan and Thrud. Finally he stands, offers his hand. “Delighted,” he says, drawing out the word unctuously. Morgan takes his hand briefly, as briefly as possible. The skin is soft, but the muscles underneath feel firm and supple – like an artist’s hand, not a soldier’s.

“Wyman is personal attaché to Lord Draco,” says the captain simply, as the man in black shakes Thrud’s huge hand.

Wyman goes on at length about how pleased “my Lord Draco” is that these outlanders are taking an interest in defending Rhoona and the Duke against the terrible scourge of dwarves, and how promising their career in the guard will be, given their special talents. Morgan keeps the conversation as brief as possible, for her skin crawls at every honeyed word from the man. Finally, with a small grin, the man hands her a bronze tube from the captain’s desk, a parchment rolled up within.

Wasting no time, Morgan leaves the office with the tube and delivers it to the sergeant. He pulls the parchment out, checks that the seal of the Duke is intact, then breaks it, unrolls the parchment and reads, his brow furrowing. “Ve’ll start at t’a docks,” he says darkly, thrusting the scroll at a guard member who is dressed as a herald, in liveried robes rather than crude boiled leathers, “if anyone vill give us problems, it’s t’a fishermen, so ve’ll not give t’em nohtice.”

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Rhoona – a city nestled between twin fjords

The squad marches out from the barracks, down to the docks on the northeast side of the city. The sergeant gives the crowds a few moments to cease their labors and gather around. His men are deployed in a protective circle around the herald, but no weapons are out.

“Be it known to all that his Benign Munificence, Stephen, Duke of Rhoona, has declared the following to be his official decree:" shouts the herald in a clear, strong voice. He speaks in Nordic, but Thrud translates for Morgan.

“Whereas, it is apparent to all but the most feeble-minded that the sun is the most illustrious of heavenly bodies,

And whereas, it is of utmost importance to maintain the goodwill of this most blazing orb of flame during the coming strife,

It is hereby decreed that the burning of all combustable materials – to wit, wood, oil, cloth, peat, etc., etc., etc., – is outlawed during the period of the sun’s resting, lest we incur the jealous wrath of his most heatful self!

The hours include those times between the sun’s touching of the western horizon and his climbing once again into the heavens of the east!

Such is the word of the Duke of Rhoona!"

The assembled crowd of fisherfolk and dock workers is non-plussed at first. Then as they realize the implications, there is grumbling. Fortunately, it is still fall – but what if this war drags on through the winter? The small folk live in shacks, and when a biting winter wind blows through the gaps in their planks, a humble fire is the difference between living until morning and freezing in their beds. Then too, as the days shorten, those who fish in the fjord rely on the lights of Rhoona to guide them home. If they must end their labors early enough to arrive back while there is still sunlight, their catch will get less and less through the fall, at the time when all are worried about how to survive the winter. As the grumbling grows louder, the sergeant barks his orders to the squad to move along, and they turn and begin to force their way through the crowd. Morgan sees confusion and resentment in the faces of the people, but not aggression – no one raises their hand against the soldiers, and she is grateful for that. They march along the waterfront some hundred paces before stopping and repeating the announcement. By the time they have made the announcement thrice, they are done with the eastern docks. As they have gone, the crowds have gathered – some following them to hear the herald again and gossip with their neighbors, some having heard about the announcement already and arriving from other parts of town to see if the news is true.

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The path of the Duke’s edict – from the Guard Barracks along the waterfront. Arrowheads indicate where the edict was read.

They continue west, past the northernmost tip of land that juts into the twin fjords. Here the waters are shallow and not fit for more than low-draft, single-man rowboats, several of which are several pulled up on the beach. They work their way along the fisherman’s shacks, stopping twice to make the announcement before they turn at the Temple of the Spooming Nooga and head inland. They announce twice to the poor folk of the temple district, then march to the foreign quarter and enter the plaza that lies right before the Temple of Cretia. Surrounded by Ethangarians, they make the announcement again, but Morgan judges from the blank faces of the swarthy steppe-people that few in the crowd understand any more Nordic than she does.

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The path of the Duke’s edict. Arrowheads on solid lines indicate where the edict was read. Dashed lines indicate the approximate “crow flies” direction of what was actually a more wending travel on the ground, without stopping to read.

Next they travel to the western docks, making their announcement within sight of the Crystal Girdle. This time there are some cries of protest or dissent, but these come from the back of the crowd and are not taken up by the others. A few in the crowd even begin a chorus of “Gods save the Duke!” to drown out the protesters.

After this they speak again on the block fronting the dwarven barracks, and again under the walls of the new palace. From there, they pass to the High Market. Although it is not market day, there still are several stands set up, for the wealthy can apparently afford fresh greens and meat any day of the week. Here, amidst modest numbers of well-off patrons and within sight of the palace, there seems little chance of a poor reception, so the sergeant lets the squad rest a bit and pull at their waterskins as they wait for a larger crowd to gather. One of their squad is sent ahead with some message – Morgan is unsure where. When a second guard patrol arrives, this one making a normal round of the city, the sergeant bids the herald cry again. Morgan notes the clear difference in reception here – amusement more than concern, even some ignoble smirks on the faces of merchants who will likely flout the edict within the closed walls of their villas. The only glowers are on the faces of the serving men and women, shopping for their masters’ households or carrying baskets in an entourage.

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The Duke’s edict is delivered at the High Market

Leaving the High Market behind but bringing the second squad with them, the squad marches along the wall of the Guard barracks and delivers the edict again, this time within spitting distance of the Lucky Gull. Thrud grins at his recollection of their amusement there the night before. As they prepare to depart, a third squad leaves the barracks and joins them, along with their original member missing since the market, so that they are now fully a score of guardsmen when they arrive at the Low Market.

The Low Market stalls are all closed except for the fish mongers, who must needs sell fresh catch each day. Here, the crowd has already formed, with far more people about than have come to buy fish – it looks like most of the populace of the low city have gathered from their squalid neighborhoods nearby to hear the edict, or hear it again. From their harsh looks and tones the poor people of the city are not as amused as their betters. Morgan even notes a few in the crowd surreptitiously holding rotten produce as they eye the herald, but these melt away at the sign of so many guardsmen together. The sergeant rings the herald with his own troops, while the other two squads work the crowd for a while, making sure everyone there feels their presence. At last, when the murmurs and grumbles have faded, the herald reads the edict again, and the faces assembled register more resignation than rebellion.

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The Duke’s edict is delivered at the Low Market

With all the folk of the low city informed, the squad with the herald continues on to the middle class neighborhoods on the southeast side of the city. Morgan notes that here the sergeant calls for the edict to be read more often, perhaps some seventy-five paces between stops rather than one hundred. They pass in front of the Grinning Goblin, where their camels are stabled, and Morgan is pretty sure she can even hear an odd bleat against the background of city noise. After four stops, they leave the city blocks and emerge in the open slopes of the south, traveling on a road lined with the villas of the wealthy – some merchants, but, Morgan has learned, many retired raiding captains like Draco. Here there are no crowds and no public readings. Rather, the sergeant politely inquires at each household, asking to speak with the master or mistress, or failing that, the major domo.

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The edict is read through the middle-class neighborhoods and arrives at the villas of the wealthy

After the first two villas Morgan is bored. Seeing the city was at least interesting, varied, and possibly of future strategic importance. Now, each stone wall, wooden roof projecting above, and fading fall flower patch looks similar, and eventually even the parade of well-dressed gentlemen and ladies has blurred together in her mind. The soldiers gossip, in Nordic, about the people of the households; about which are seafaring men to be respected and which won their gold only through trade, which serving women are sweet and which cruel, which households have a private guard known to them as an older man retired from the forces of the Duke, and which employ untrained youths, former raiding companions, or outlanders. Thrud translates at first but when the conversations become repetitive Morgan bids him stop. They have done perhaps two dozen of these houses but many more than that lie ahead on the road along the fjord when the sergeant calls a halt.

“I hewp yu tew have learned somet’ing aboot t’a city of Rhoona, ya?” the sergeant says to Morgan and Thrud. He indicates the dozens of villas that lie ahead, but mercifully says that while their karls are beholden to the Duke and receive his protection, they lie outside the city boundaries and are not included in the reading of edicts. Thus, the squad can return to the barracks while there is yet light, for the sun is still in the sky but by now has sunk behind the hills to their west and the chill of evening is upon them.

The squad wastes no time in hurrying back to the barracks. Throughout the city is the smell of roasting meat and smoke, and more than one one family is rushing through dinner before the fire must be put out, more than one karla cursing as she thinks of the spinning, or mending, or knitting that will not be done by firelight tonight.

Both Captain Yurigan and Wyman are waiting in the courtyard to receive the sergeant’s report, Yurigan now in a worn wool cloak and Wyman in a thick black fur capelet that Thrud takes to be fisher or perhaps wolverine. When the sergeant has finished, the captain turns to Morgan. “Nisse,” he says, and Morgan can tell that she has a new nickname, “can you see in the dark?”

“Better than most,” she allows.

“A spellcaster and she sees in the dark,” coos Wyman, “most impressive.” Morgan tries to ignore him and continues to meet the captain’s gaze in the fading evening light.

“We’ll need you to lead night patrol, then. Of course we usually we have lanthorns.” When Yurigan says ‘lead’, the sergeant spits nonchalantly. “Have some dinner, get some rest, and be back here by midnight. Bring Officer Thrud, or not, as you desire. Tomorrow he can move his things into the officer’s quarters here. For you, ah, I think it better to keep your current lodgings. Better for the discipline of the men, if not their morale.”

“Just as well.”

“I have a thrall,” interjects Thrud. “Funny outlander in a mask. He will be carrying my things.”

The captain nods his agreement. “I understand you are quartered at Dahlia’s?”

Morgan does her best to not show surprise as she nods. Is she imagining the glint of satisfaction in Wyman’s eyes?

“Good – then we will expect you at midnight, but send for you before then if you are needed. Of course, either of you is free to use the officer’s hall for dinner, but your thrall, Thrud, will have to use the enlisted mess, and wait until the servants take their turn after the soldiers.”

Morgan and Thrud voice their agreement, and their intention to eat at Dahlia’s, at least this evening, and take their leave.

Afternoon (Odleif and Bhelgarn)
After the four invisible latecomers finish their lunch at Dahlia’s, they talk to Wolfbane and Poncherius about plans. Ember and FluffyKitten favor a return to the palace, to try the few rooms they were unable to access, but reason that they should wait until dark. Odleif and Bhelgarn agree, but they have other plans before then. One rumor claimed that the dwarves had built secret tunnels into the palace, and that this was the reason for their falling out with the Duke and their dismissal. Odleif is in favor of looking for such tunnels as another way in to the palace, while Bhelgarn wants to prove they don’t exist to vindicate his kinsmen. If secret tunnels do exist, Ember sees them as providing an opportunity for them to spirit away the Duke from under Draco’s nose.

Since they have already searched all the exterior walls of the palace itself and both sides of the curtain walls, Bhelgarn and Odleif decide the only other logical entrance for such tunnels would be in the dwarven barracks themselves. They propose using the afternoon light (and their invisibility) to search there, and then convening on the palace in the evening in the event they are unable to find anything.

FluffyKitten says that she already searched the dwarven barracks, and so did the ducal guard, and there is nothing to find there. If they are going to be up all night, she plans on staying here at Dahlia’s and napping. Ember elects to stay as well, both to “mind the halfling” and because she is self-conscious of her dexterity under the best of circumstances, let alone when she and the others are invisible and searching and have the potential to trip over one another.

Odleif and Bhelgarn set off across town, the woodsman with a firm grasp on the dwarf’s cloak. They head through the middle-class neighborhoods and manage to avoid the street traffic all the way there.

[DM’s note: Since Odleif and Bhelgarn are now searching for both secret doors in the walls and secret trap doors in the floors, their search speed depends on the area rather than the linear distance they are searching. The dwarven bunkhouses are about 80′ × 20′, for 1600 square feet, and ten minutes of searching will yield a secret door check for 100 square feet. Thus they will need about two and a half hours to search each one if they both go over the same area, or an hour and 20 minutes if they split the work. Since there are eleven bunkhouses, that is more than fourteen hours work even if they split up! However, if they each do three of the bunkhouses, in eight hours they can have more than half of them done.]

Arriving at the bunkhouses, they find no one around. The first thing Odleif does is open all of the doors, so that they can slip easily and noiselessly in and out even if the guard or someone else eventually shows up. While he does this, Bhelgarn is walking about, calculating areas and estimating search times. He quickly realizes that they will not be able to search them all, at least not today. However, he reasons that his dwarven brethren would likely use the bunkhouses nearest the palace as the tunnel entrances, both for efficiency (less distance to dig), and because the farther buildings are closer to the edge of the fjord, and more likely to have any tunneling under them flooded by groundwater. Thus, when Odleif returns, Bhelgarn has a plan for assigning buildings to each of them and seeing how many they can do.

They have each searched two buildings (without finding any secret passages) by the time it is dusk and they need artificial light to continue. Being dwarf-built, the bunkhouses are stone, with narrow windows and heavy wooden shutters. After closing the shutters, they take the added precaution of hanging woolen blankets (of which there are many about) over the windows before resuming their search, Odleif with the light of his lantern and Bhelgarn with that of his magic sword. By the time they each complete their third building, it has been eight hours, it is the dark of night, and their stomachs are complaining. They return to Dahlia’s, where supper has been left out for them and the rest of the party awaits.

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The Dwarven bunkhouses. Yellow indicates the buildings searched by Bhelgarn for secret doors or tunnels, green indicates those searched by Odleif.

Night (Odleif, Bhelgarn, Ember, Fluffy, Wolfbane)
As Odleif and Bhelgarn eat, Thrud tells them about their afternoon’s activities, and the Duke’s new edict, and the fact that they will be going on another patrol in the night (Morgan is upstairs resting until midnight, which is a few hours off still). When they are done, Odleif, Bhelgarn, Ember, and FluffyKitten, all still invisible, prepare to return to the palace, and this time Wolfbane is going with them. She casts invisibility on herself, and then they leave leave Thrud and Poncherius behind.

At this time of night, the streets should be mostly empty, withonly a few carousers returning home from taverns. But now they are completely deserted, the taverns closed for want of light, not custom. The five of them move quickly and soon arrive outside the palace. Ember shows them the second-floor windows she believes belong to the room she could not get to. In hushed tones, Wolfbane casts levitation on Bhelgharn.

The dwarf ties one end of a rope about himself, and hands the other end to FluffyKitten to do the same. Tethered like a kite, he rises to the second story, opens the shutters, and tries the window. Like the other windows of the palace, it has an iron muntin frame into which the leaded glass panes are set, and is hinged to open in – if it isn’t latched.

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Bhelgarn pushes cautiously against it – and finds it unlatched! He squeezes through the narrow opening and lowers himself to the floor of some vast hall, then gives a tug on the rope. A second later, Fluffy tugs back from the ground. He begins to haul her up.

At that moment, those remaining on the ground at the base of the palace walls hear the tramp of booted feet approaching, though Bhelgarn does not. “Bhelgarn, stop!” hisses Ember, but then the four remaining move away from the palace, back into the shadow of the curtain wall, for Wolfbane is in a dark cloak but now visible.

“Bhelgarn, stop!” repeats Fluffy, though she is not quite sure why. Bhelgarn leans out the window, and can see a patrol of soldiers come around the corner of the palace. They have between them a single hooded lantern. It is lit, but covered, so that the faintest lines of light trace its metal outline. Bhelgarn closes the window as much as he can against the thick hempen rope. Fluffy has now seen the guards, too, and is quiet, invisible, and slowly spinning as she dangles uncomfortably from the rope between the first and second floors.

The men pause at the base of the window and have a conversation, but it is in Nordic – unintelligible to Bhelgarn and Fluffy, and too far away for Ember to hear. They open the bullseye aperture of the lantern ever-so-slightly, and a thin beam of light plays quickly along the palace wall, shoots briefly through the window into Bhelgarn’s eyes. Fluffy holds her breath. Then the lantern is closed again, and the men continue marching, around the back of the palace. The three hiding on the ground remain in the shadows. Bhelgarn listens carefully, then reopens the window and hauls FluffyKitten up to the second floor. She scrambles through the window, drops to the floor of the hall and looks around.

Bhelgarn closes the window, then turns and looks himself, his infravision seeing more than FluffyKitten can by the moonlight through the windows. It is a large, nearly empty room (94). Four unadorned stone columns support the ceiling, and there are two doors.

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They try one door, and find it locked. The other door opens on a smaller, interior chamber. Bhelgarn can spot a few rough shapes like racks and cases, but little else. Seeing no other doors, he closes their entrance door behind them and risks lighting his sword.

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After their eyes adjust, Bhelgarn and Fluffy can see a rack at one end of the room (95) holding six rather battered swords, two hand axes, and four dented shields. At the opposite end of the room is a long, low, glass-topped case. Moving to the case, they look down inside. On a thick cushion of blue velvet lies a complete suit of human-sized full plate armor. The suit glistens silver in the light of the sword. A shield lies over the left side of the armor, gleaming at its smooth margin but with the center embossed and enameled with the Rhoonian crest – like that on the doors of the palace below, but in color. On the right of the suit, with the jeweled hilt just below the gauntlet, is a heavy longsword, itself shining more brightly than even the armor or shield. The display case is hinged so that the top can open, but there is a heavy iron padlock on it.

Bhelgarn, his ancient dwarven desire for items of value and craftsmenship inflamed, stares at the items in the display case for quite some time until Fluffy pulls him away. Shaking his head to clear it, he extinguishes his sword, closes the door behind them, and moves to the window to lower Fluffy out. After she is on the ground, he climbs out himself and levitates down.

With his infravision, it does not take him long to find Wolfbane hiding in the shadows of the curtain wall, and he relates to the party what they saw.

“Well, that doesn’t help us much,” says Ember disappointedly.

“Now we kidnap Mr. Duke?” asks Fluffy brightly.

“Ehmmm, no,” says Ember, but still with a trace of disappointment in her voice. “We don’t have a place to hide him yet, dear.”

“Righty right,” agrees Fluffy. “He too big for my sack!” She holds up the leather bag she keeps her cat in.

“So, whadder we do, now?” asks Odleif.

Ember reflects. They have pretty much exhausted all leads at the palace, and Morgan and Thrud will be at the Ducal Guard barracks now. The dwarven bunkhouses have been searched. Something is rotten in Rhoona, but what leads do they have? She thinks back to Fluffy’s description of the Temple of Cretia – of its opulence and mysterious dark man. Why do the horse people have a temple of such grandeur here so far from their home? Who is this god, Cretia? Something there does not make sense.

“We pay another visit to the temple,” Ember decides, “but this time through the front door.”

They move quickly through the streets, pausing briefly to drop Wolfbane off at Dahlia’s, and are soon at the entrance of the foreign quarter. Although the streets are quiet, there is still the smell of smoke and more than one building has light behind the hide window flaps. Ember wonders whether the ducal guard patrols the foreign quarter, and whether Morgan will need to call upon some Ethangari family to extinguish its hearth. A few stray dogs walk with them as their make their way to the palace, ignoring the fact that they can’t be seen. They try the main doors, and are surprised to find them unlocked.

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The double doors lead inside into the main sanctuary (37) of the worshippers of Cretia. Massive stone columns support a roof that is 20’ above the floor. A raised dais, opposite the doors, elevates a statue of the grotesque Cretia. The god is pictured with a scowling human face upon the torso of a huge ape, and four clawed, bear-like feet. Its eyes glitter evilly with
reflected torchlight, as each of the columns holds a bracket with a burning torch set in it.

Ember doesn’t know anything about the Ethangari religion, but she doesn’t like the look of their god. It seems strong, but cruel. FluffyKitten is at first interested in the ape-god, but then begins to yawn drowsily.

They move further into the room. Suddenly a door behind them opens and they freeze. A man dressed in the robes of a priest, but without ornamentation, comes out and walks among the columns, collecting the nubs of torches that have burned out. Carelessly throwing them against a wall, he collects fresh torches from a neat pile and replaces them in all the empty brackets but one, then uses a single torch to light them all. Dropping the last, lit, torch into its place, he kneels before the statue, mumbles a few words sleepily, and leaves through the door from which he entered.

There are two doors on the far wall, the wall behind the statue. Ember selects one and the party moves into the hall beyond, which is also lit by torchlight.

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To their right, the hallway turns and doubles back to the front of the temple. Noises of conversation and raucous laughter can be heard faintly from that direction. To their left, the hallway splits in two. They choose to go deeper into the temple. They have not gone far when there are doors to their right and left.

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Opening the door on the left, they find an unlit room (43) with four large tables in it. A pair of crude benches flanks each table, and an open doorway leads to darkness beyond. There is a shelf along the wall and objects on it, but they cannot be seen clearly. As the party starts to converse in hushed tones, FluffyKitten sighs. She is tired and cranky, but mostly bored. What fun is there in sneaking around in the dark? She has already found the interesting part of the temple, only the tall people don’t ever listen to her. She goes over to the other door. Impulsively, she kicks at it, trying to kick it open. It is unlocked and unbarred, but unfortunately for Fluffy it opens out, not in. Her strong kick jolts the door, echoes through the temple halls, and silences the party. A few seconds later, the distinct sound of gruff voices and tramping feet can be heard approaching. Three of the party enter the open door and close it behind them, but FluffyKitten stays petulantly in the hall. Invisible, she seems not to have been missed yet.

The men who arrive have dark skin, heavy hide armor, and shortswords. They spread out through the hall, then one of them takes down a wall torch and examines the door Fluffy kicked. He finds a scuff mark in the polished wood surface and calls another man over. After some conversation in Ethangari, the men spread out in pairs, feeling through the air with one hand and making rapid thrusts in unpredictable directions with their swords. Fluffy is actually concerned now, and starts to move deeper into the temple, ahead of the men. Suddenly she is pulled back and gasps – one of the men has grabbed her cloak, though he cannot see it. He instantly drops his sword and grabs the cloak with his other hand, calling to his partner. That man sheathes his sword and crouches, preparing to tackle whatever the first man has restrained. As he pounces, Fluffy struggles free of her cloak and sidesteps. She is still invisible and the second man found only air – but the first man is now holding her cloak, with it perfectly visible. He calls and the other men gather around. Fluffy pushes herself flat against the wall, counting ten men in all.

Inside the dark room, the party runs through a hushed role call. At they end they realize that Fluffy is not with them, just as the voices in the hall outside are raised. They open their door just enough to peek through.

The men again spread out. Two abreast, it is hard to avoid them in the narrow hallway, but Fluffy follows the one with her cloak down the hall, past a closed door, and around a corner. When he pauses to speak with his partner, she lunges and pulls the cloak from his grasp. By whatever obscure laws govern magic, this counts as an attack and she is now visible! She turns and dashes down the hall, with the two men in pursuit. Fortunately, they were nearly last among the guards and she has only to avoid two more before rounding the corner.

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When the party emerges from the room, those in the lead see Fluffy with Ethengari men in pursuit. She is donning her cloak as she runs, and even now her image is fading and becoming difficult to see. The party turns and runs ahead of her, Ember grabbing her hand before she can completely disappear. Most of the party goes to the left at the “T”, but they immediately stop, pressed against the wall. Odleif runs to the right, deliberately stomping his feet and bumping against the walls as he goes. The Ethengari arrive at the intersection, and with no one in sight, elect to follow Odleif’s noise.

Once the Ethengari guards have all dashed down the hallway after Odleif, Bhelgarn, Ember, and Fluffy continue, moving through the door into the great hall with the statue of Cretia and across the floor. Odleif pauses at the other door long enough to spread a handful of caltrops on the floor, then slams the door behind him. As he, too, heads for the main entrance a wail of pain comes from behind the closed door (upon which Odleif becomes visible), then the door bursts open and nine Ethengari run out in pursuit.

The party throws open the front doors of the temple and dashes out into the night. From behind them come the curses of the men, and their cries are quickly taken up around the plaza. Ethengari men and women open the hide flap doors and windows of their houses and take up the hue and cry. Before the party is halfway across the plaza a pack of dogs in on them, growling and nipping at their heels. Bhelgarn has his pack open and is throwing handfuls of jerky and other rations behind him as he runs, so that by the time they leave the foreign quarter the dogs are no longer following them, but are fighting with each other for the scraps.

Winded, the party reconvenes at Dahlia’s, where a role call finds them all present. Having had enough excitement for the night, they organize a watch and go to bed.

Midnight (Thrud and Morgan)
Thrud and Morgan arrive at the ducal guard barracks in the middle of the night. The resentful sergeant of the afternoon is not there – indeed, all the men are new to them and Morgan speculates that there may be a separate night guard. They are met by the Captain of the Night, who seems almost apologetic at the confusion and disarray in the men. “Normally our night men are the most dependable,” he says, “but they’ve never done their rounds without light.” Morgan is issued a lantern, but told to use it only in an emergency. She is to lead the men about the city, apprehend anyone else they see as a suspected thief, and remind the cityfolk of the ban on flame. Only if a citizen refuses to put out their light are they to be brought back – for tonight, a warning is sufficient.

Morgan shakes her head. If the dwarves hear about this, she thinks, does the town think they will restrict themselves to attacking in the day? She keeps her comments to herself, though, and falls into her familiar routine of ordering the patrol – she has done this dozens of times with caravan guards. Once she is sure they know enough Common to follow her commands, she takes them out into the street, with Thrud at their rear. She leads them through the streets of the city, doing her best to replicate the path they took this afternoon to solidify it in her memory, although they are operating at a much finer scale now, house by house rather than whole neighborhoods. She works her way about a block ahead of her patrol, checking for dangers and visible flames both. Once the street is clear, she gives a whistle and the guards stumble and trip their way up the street after her. There should be a moon tonight, but the clouds are thick and low and it really is quite dark.

She has been out several hours when she finds a leatherworker’s shop, a wan light obviously on in the upstairs window. “Hey! Hey!” she hisses up, then beats gently on the wall with the butt of her sword. The heavy sounds of a man struggling downstairs in the dark follow. The man leans against the thin wooden door, whispering a torrent of Nordic to her in an imploring voice.

“Whoa, whoa…do you know Common?” she interjects.

“Common?” he asks, incredulous. “Are yu t’e guardt?”

“Of course,” says Morgan. “You have to put out your flame. Duke’s edict.”

“Please, please, my wife is sick!” From the window above comes the sound of a hacking cough. “She needs der warmth. Everyone knoows t’at Jan’s wife is sick, ya? Whew are yu? Hey, yu are a karla! T’ere are noh vimmen guard!”

“There are now, Jan. Look, my patrol is waiting, you need to put your flame out – at least block the light – you are a leatherworker, hang a a hide in your window or something.”

“Hey, yu are one oof der ootlanders, ya?”

“Yes.”

“Gods help us! Yu must save us from der madness oof der Duke! Der dwarfs are commin! What dew we dew?”

“You put up a hide in your window, that’s what you do. Let the guard worry about the dwarves. But…” and here Morgan ponders. Can she get enough of these people to overthrow Draco if she needs to? Is this what they are doing, again? Organizing the rebellion in the Undercity wasn’t enough? “But stay ready, stay alert. Try to see how many people are with you. Keep your hammer close. I’ll be back.”

“Save us, save us, ootlander!”

“Yeah, yeah. Get upstairs and cover that window, Jan!”

The man moves away from the door, rummages in the dark to find a hide. Several minutes later the flame is darkened. Morgan sighs and whistles for her patrol.

By the time Morgan is leading her men around the villas of the wealthy, the sky in the east is lightening. Exhausted one and all, they turn and head for the barracks.

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