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Session #8: The Mines of Greyditch

And the Man-Eaters

January 21, 2017 E. Jones

Summary

Ambrose jolts awake from another of his recurring nightmares. Clawing out of his tent, he sees that Karl is already partway through repacking his own. At the sight of his companions, Ambrose lets out a long breath and begins to repack his belongings. The act calms his nerves and he takes the opportunity to prepare his mind for the day ahead. Something he felt after his brief encounter with Alton the night prior has him worried, but he decides to keep the exchange to himself.    Together the group begins to clear the forest into the sight of a small village. The buildings are squat and without any ornamentation; appearing to be masoned with rough stone. "Karl, do you know where we are," Ambrose asks.    "If I had to guess, I'd say this is Greyditch. About a four days walk if we stuck to the road," he grinned as Ambrose rolled his eyes. Karl leads the way to the village entrance where the group encounters, unexpectedly, no one at all. "This is supposed to be a mining town, where are all of the people?"   Ambrose purveys the homes and shops nearby, "It doesn't seem abandoned. I -" Ambrose pauses as he hears the sounds of a congregation further into the village. A glance from Karl is all that is needed to approve a deeper investigation. Continuing down the path towards the village center, the trio approach a mob of villagers gathered around a makeshift stage. Upon it a man in a poorly tailored officiator's gown addresses the crowd.   "Please Cornelius, wait for some soldiers or mercenaries from Illivan before taking any more men into the mines. None of us can afford to lose any more family to these things."   "And how long will that take, Mayor? Nolic and Pherren are holding that barricade, but it won't last forever."   The crowd again starts to roar, causing Karl to pull Ambrose aside. "We should see if we can help these people."   "No, we should press on to find Veera's word of power. We should try to reseal the lantern as soon as possible." Ambrose motions to Veera but she is distracted by the crowd before them.    "Unfortunately I lost the direction just before entering the town," her eyes do not break away from the mob. "It is odd, the feeling suddenly became... very dull, numb. It is like it moved very far away very quickly. I do not know how long it will take to come back, if it does at all."   "Well that's just great. Karl, I guess it's up to y-"   "-irs? Sirs? Excuse me sirs, are you mercenaries from Illivan?" Karl and Ambrose turn to see the mob has begun addressing them. The Mayor speaks above the crowd, "We are in dire need of your assistance. Please, we can pay you if need be, but please help rid us of these monsters."   On queue Ambrose replies, "We can work out our payment later. Tell us what has happened to this town."   The man previously addressed as Cornelius pushes through the congregation as he speaks, "Two days ago we were expanding the copper mine north of town using Dwarven blasting powders. One of the blasts opened an entrance to an existing cave system, and the... monsters inside. They attacked the workers that discovered the cave and those that escaped barricaded the mine entrance." Cornelius raises his voice and is observably upset about the events, "Yesterday a second group of men went in to exterminate the creatures, but..." The man words begin to choke.    "Forgive Cornelius," a woman steps forward. "His son was among those lost."   Karl Raises his hands, "That's okay, I think there is enough for us to go on. If you could, my partner and I need to work through our plan." The crowds relief is audible and a few people begin to disperse. Karl pulls Ambrose away so as not to be overheard, "While I'm glad you've had a change of heart on the issue, what do we do if Veera isn't able to find that magic words location?"   "I'm not sure. We should just hope that after we clear this town's monster problem it will resolve itself. For now we just kill some monsters, get paid, and move on." The two nod a non-verbal agreement and turn back to the crowd, but are stunned by the sudden inclusions of a third party. Instead of who they had assumed to be Veera, Karl and Ambrose had been joined by young woman who was all too enthusiastic for the current situation. She smiles at them in her plain, white dress and motions to Ambrose's ring.    "You're from the Triskelion aren't you? I saw your ring when you spoke to the others." She shifts her weight causing her long, brunette braid to fall and reveal a bow carried on her back. "My name is Chrysanthemum. Great to meet you. I've always wanted to go to the Academy, what's it like?" Her tremulous greetings string together without breathing, "Are you a Wizard? Can you shoot fire? Can you..."   "Chrysanthemum," A man calls out from the crowd cutting Chrysanthemum short. The brusqueness must be a common occurrence for the girl as her expression turned to a wince at its sound. "Chrysanthemum, I told you not to leave my side. Now come, girl."   "Yes, Father," replies the now demure girl as she reluctantly turns away from Ambrose and Karl and walks away with man.    "Right. Well, that was uh... something," Ambrose fills in somewhat shocked and the brief exchange. "So Karl why don't we go meet with these, um, miners at the edge of town?"   Karl stifles a laugh, "Pfft... You don't want to stay here and meet more of your 'fan-club'?"   "Oh, come off it Karl"    The duo and their apparition complete the short trip it takes to get to the town's copper mine. The mine entrance exists and the bottom of a large quarry, and at the bottom of the pit stand two men guarding a barricaded, iron door.     "Hail and well met," Ambrose exudes. "I am Ambrose François, the Magus, and this is my companion... Karl." Karl gives Ambrose a sly look, noting the lack of grandiosity in the introduction Ambrose provided on his behalf. "We have traveled from Illivan and have both agreed to combat this, uh, troubling monster issue."   Both men elate at the sound of Ambrose's proclamation. One stocky man that had leaned against the entrance, not much larger than the other, greets Ambrose and Karl back, "I am Nolic and this is my friend Pherrin. We are both miners here."   "And it's just you two guarding the entrance?" Ambrose asks.   "We're all that's left to guard." Pherrin joins," The others were still in the mine when we got out. There wasn't enough time for them to escape, and we had to seal it behind us." Pherrin's eyes never left the ground. "We could hear them scratching behind the door... not our friends, the monsters. But we haven't heard anything since this morning."   A group of men from the village descend down into the pit during the pale story. They inform the current group that they are here to guard the entrance while the two mercenaries and both watchmen enter the caves and kill all of the monsters that they can find. As ready as they will ever be, the posse unseals the entrance and delves into the mines.   Ambrose leads the group into the darkening tunnel with Karl following up on the rear. Before long the lighting had become too dark as to only see silhouettes, six figures standing in the dark. Two of the figures are noticeably shorter than the rest. Ambrose notices for the first time that Veera can apparently cast shadows as well. "Wait," Ambrose stops, "Karl? Pherrin, Nolic?"   "What's wrong, Ambrose?" Karl asks.   "We are one too many," Ambrose whispers a small incantation as he slides his palm along the fuller of his sword. Light shines from the center of the blade revealing the young girl Chrysanthemum had snuck into the group. Before Ambrose or Karl can speak the teenager interjects. "Please, I can help. You can trust me! I know magic too. Please don't tell my dad!" She spits out faster than the men can react.   "How?" Ambrose stops her, "You know what? I don't care. We weren't asked to keep you out. If you want to be here I won't stop you, but do not expect us to keep you safe." Chrysanthemum nods in agreement. Exposed in the new light, Ambrose sees Veera look from Chrysanthemum then to himself. Does she think this is funny? I can't read her at all. He shrugs the thoughts away to lead the group forward, but it is in that silence that they all hear it. A wet, gnashing chorus extends from around the corner ahead; a junction of branching mine shafts.   A tenseness descends over the five as each readies their weapon of choice. Through silent mouthing and hand gestures Ambrose coordinates Karl and Nolic to the front with him. Easing closer and closer along the stone wall to the sounds Ambrose holds up three fingers. Karl acknowledges with a nod. Two fingers; then one. At once the three men leap into the junction facing the direction of the noise, and five pairs of eyes turn in unison to meet them.   Hunkered over the chewed and mangled corpses of the missing miners are half a dozen man-shaped creatures. The eyes reflect Ambrose's light with an glazed, amber luminance. They are still, unmoving, until one stands fully erect. It is lanky and stands close to four feet tall. Their arms are disproportionate to their frame and dangle past their knees ending with fat, three fingered hands. Their palms seem to be coated in miniscule barbs which glisten in the dim light, damp with blood. Each creature's mouth is agape and lined with needled teeth.   Nolic begins to heave at the sight of the corpses, causing the startled creatures to begin their charge. Ambrose deflects his attackers grasping clutches with his longsword leaving deep gashes in the creatures arms, yet the beastly attacker either ignores the damage or doesn't realize it's there. Karl is quickly able to grapple a monster to the ground and the monster folds easily under his weight. The unusual way the creatures arms bent under Karl felt like they had no bones to speak of.   Unlike the other two men, Nolic failed to react to the rush in time. As two of the mannish creatures fell upon him, their barbed slashing hands collided with Nolic's face catching the skin on their spines. Both monster's pull Nolic in two directions causing the his skin to shred along the barbs, leaving him as mangled as the corpses ahead. The sight of his comrade in danger causes Pherrin to lunge forward into the creatures; hefting his wood axe deep into the back of one monster then the other. The effort was powerful, yet not enough to save Nolic.   Ambrose struggles to keep the monsters at a distance and a second attacker encloses on him. Stance wide, he swings his sword across to cut through an opening leaving his blade embedded in a torso. Just before being set upon by the accompanying attacker, a glowing bolt streaks in front of Ambrose striking the creature dead. Relieve, Ambrose whips his head around to find the source and sees Chrysanthemum, bow drawn with faintly glowing hands. "I guess you can use magic," Ambrose mumbles trying to ignore the smug grin on her face.   Karl finishes off his captured creature with his belt knife and continues towards Pherrin who is now mourning over Nolic and the other fallen miners. "I'm sorry, Pherrin. You were very brave though, we will make sure to let the town know that... well... there wasn't much we could do." Pherrin is silent and Karl grimaces at not knowing what to say. "You said that your group blew open some existing cavern. Is it nearby?"   "Yes, it looks like those damn beasts were moving the bodies towards it, over there," he points past the junction.   "We're going to push on. You can rest here if you need to," Ambrose adds calmly.   "No, I'll see this through." Pherring decides as he stands to join the rest.   Journeying deeper into the mine, the survivors discover the opening to the cavern. The new mine walls are rough where they have been blown away and through a break large enough for a man to slip through is a pitch black hall of stone. One by one the group passes through and enters into unknown territory. The stone here is smooth and worn down likely from centuries of potential flooding hinted at by a damp musk in the air.   Soon the four humans and their unseen phantom reach a wide, open room lit by a deep red glow. The group stands at the top a slope that leads to the bottom of the room. The stone is wavy and wraps around the room along their side like an ancient amphitheater. At the bottom of the room are a small group of the monster kneeling towards an idol of sorts on the opposite wall. In the center of the group is a different kind of being altogether. Taller than the rest, its arms raised above making a similar shape to the pointed horns of its head. Unlike the others, the new beast also sports a long barbed tail that slowly undulates in the musty air. The idol before them is round, disk-like, and seems to give off the sick glow that illuminates the gathering.   Karl taps Chrysanthemum and motions to her bow and the monsters, following a geturing of horns with his fingers to the sides of his head. She takes the hint and readies her bow and waits for confirmation from the rest. The others pull their weapons tight as the girl holds her breath and lets an arrow fly. The piercing shot whizzes through the air and strikes the horned beast in the small of its back sending the smaller creatures into a panic.   Ambrose and Karl slide down the hard slope to engage the raging horned beast as Chrysanthemum and Pherrin take shots at the scattered lesser beasts. The tall creature turns to the two and reveals its face, or lack thereof. The front of its head is hollow and jagged like broken pottery. The creatures shows its immense strength as it knocks back Karl who is attempting to pin the creature down. Ambrose takes the chance and slice at the creatures stomach and cuts deep into its abdomen. However, there is no blood, no intestines, or any sign that the creature was wounded aside from the dry gash in the oddly flexible beast.   Growing more enraged the monster fills the room with a deep, rattling roar and its open maw of a face begins to glow a pale grey light. The idol begins to grow brighter as flecks of energy flow from it to the creature. "Karl, it's doing something. Grab it," Ambrose exclaims in a near panic; swinging wildly with his blade in any attempt to critically wound it. Picking himself up Karl throws himself onto the back of the creature grabbing by a horn and one arm around its torso. Karl finds the beast to be surprisingly light and pulls the creatures head back just in time as a beam of energy roars from the beast's face. The pale beam spurts out in bursts over Ambrose's head and narrowly avoiding Chrysanthemum on the lip of the slope above. Panicked, Karl stomps onto the creatures tail to pin it and starts to pull the beast apart at the gash caused by Ambrose's sword. Ambrose sees the cut he made start to grow larger and starts hacking at the wound himself like a tree cutter downing an oak.   The beast fires magic into the air as the two mean savagely tear the creature apart. A pop and a squelch as the energy stops and the two part beast goes limp. Dropping the top of the creature Karl looks around at Chrysanthemum and Pherrin who have dispatched the rest of the smaller creatures. Pherrin appears to be wounded along his shoulder, but is otherwise safe. Chrysanthemum, shockingly, seems to be wholly untouched save for a few torn tatters on her travelling coat.   Ambrose begins to approach the disk idol with his torch-like blade held aloft and notices Veera standing near the object. As his light grows closer the red glow of the idol dims revealing a worn cameo relief on the stone. Veera places her hand on the disk and grows sullen. "Do you know what that is?" Ambrose asks.   "It seems... familiar. These symbols here... well they're too worn to read, but I feel this may be a remnant from my own era." She pulls her hand away from the idol disk and it begins to fall forward off of its makeshift pedestal.   "Catch it," Ambrose exclaims, but Veera makes no move. The disk shatters on the stone floor. Ambrose conceals his anger at the loss of the object and tries to push down his urges to argue with Veera. "What was that about?"   "After observing the actions of those creatures, do you not agree that it would be best if this was destroyed?" Veera states flatly while motioning her arm towards the now dead monsters. Chrysanthemum descends the slope and calls to Ambrose, "Who are you talking too?"   Karl tells her not to worry about Ambrose, that "he just like to mumble sometimes" and if she could help him with this monster "real quick". The two successfully sever a hand of of the large beast and Karl wraps is up and places into his storage as Ambrose reunites. "Don't make up stories about me," Ambrose chides.   "Do you think that's all of those things?" Pherrin asks. The silence in the air affirms that there aren't any more left, at least not nearby. Appeased by this and longing to get out of the mines, the group reunites with the guards at the entrance.   "You've returned," One man remarks, "Where is Nolic?"   Pherring shakes his head and the answer is clear. "I see. In any case you two adventurers should head back into town, the mayor is at the inn preparing your reward. Thank you, Pherrin if you could fill us in..."   The group give their farewells to the miner and head back into town. "How long are you planning on following us?" Ambrose pointedly asks Chrysanthemum.   "Oh. Well. Y'know. I thought I'd might watch a little and-" She is cut off by the shouts of a man quickly approaching.   "Chrysanthemum Ostander!" The anger in the man's voice cause even Ambrose and Karl to tense. Furious, the man grabs Chrysanthemum's arm and whips her around to face him. She makes no attempt to speak as the father strikes her across the face with his open palm. Karl starts to move, but Ambrose halts him. "How dare you disobey me. I explicitly ordered you to stay away from these men. What if you were hurt? What if you had died? Go to the wagon, now. We are going home."   "Yes, father."   "And you two. How dare you allow my daughter to enter that mine. How could you possibly think that it was okay? I never want to see you, either of you, near my family again. Do you hear me?" The two men give no response and the man stomps away after his daughter.   "Although he is in his rights to protect his daughter," Veera quietly interjects. "That man clearly has no idea of the girl's capability."   Both men nod in agreement and move along towards the inn. The innkeeper grants them two free night's stay as a reward in addition to the gold the town gathered together. The men happily accept the lodging, as they begin the unknown wait for Veera's special sense to return.

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