This is a continuation of The Gully Dwarf Chronicles from a few weeks ago, but I had to miss last week's game night. So when Bodunk noticed something shiny, wandered away from the rest of the group, and got lost... well... somebody else had to tell the rest of the tale. Andrew took over this week, and his take on the story from the goliath's perspective is pretty awesome. A big thanks to Andrew for taking over the chronicles and writing a guest post this week... I'm sure everybody will enjoy his work!Cast:
- Anex, human fighter (Jammie)
- Athok, goliath warpriest (Andrew)
- Sjach, spellscale bard (Stetson)
- Hooded One (NPC)
Athok could count no small number of acceptable ways to have been roused from sleep: with an attractive woman in his bed; with the smell of a hearty breakfast served to his room; or even with painfully bright light sneaking in between half-pulled curtains and a pounding hangover.
Waking all but naked, with metal restraints binding his wrists and ankles? That didn't make the list.
Wherever he was, it was dark. Dark and damp and accompanied by a hint of some bitter stench. The latter was him, he realized with disgust. How long had he been out cold that he needed to bathe that badly?
“Athok Magebreaker,” a feminine voice called from somewhere he couldn't see. It came from just outside the light provided by flickering torches on either side of his shackles. “Quite the machismo, your little moniker.”
“Tradition,” he said. “I'm at a disadvantage. Who in sheol are you? This isn’t the bloody inn I paid for and I’m starting to think you ain’t the tavern wench either.”
A hooded figure stepped into sight, hovering just at the edge of the shadows. Athok couldn't make out any details. He had the vague notion she was a female of some kind; he ruled out a few races just by her height and voice alone. That still didn't tell him as much as he would have liked.
“No, you’re quite right,” she said, chuckling. “But no matter- we'll be getting to know each other well enough in all due time. So let's not rush things, deary. We'll start with the basics: what happened at the tower?”
“You know which one I mean. The first time you traveled with other Guardians for a job,” she said. What sounded like eagerness crept into her voice for a moment, before tapering back out.
Personally motivated, perhaps? Though Athok couldn't be sure what it was she was after. No one went through the trouble of subduing someone as dangerous as he without a very good reason. And they had to have either strong magic or a strong arm.
“I want to know,” she said, pacing the edge of the light, “what happened after you arrived on the fifth floor of that tower.”
So she had information already. Had she captured one of the others too? Or – the thought troubled him – was she working for someone he had thought to be a friend? Neither option alleviated his worries. Both were dangerous situations, to say the least.
“Bugger off,” he muttered.
Something flickered in the general vicinity of her hands. Athok felt himself growing light-headed. Biting down on his tongue and, with a surprisingly exhausting mental effort, shook off whatever magic she had tried forcing on him.
No, he wasn't going to be manipulated that easily.
“Alright then, you stubborn little mule,” she said, her words shaded with a sudden harsh tone. “If you don't feel like cooperating, I don't suppose you care if the clergy discovers your dirty little secret? I'm sure they would just love to hear all about it.”
Athok let his body sag in the restraints. How did she know about that? He had been the only survivor. Everyone else who would have known had died. Hadn't they?
“The fifth floor,” she said in faux-whisper. “I'm listening.”
He considered resisting for a moment. Whatever she was after was important enough to capture him alive, after all. But the thought lasted only a moment. He wasn’t sure he could resist her magic much longer in the state he was in. He’d be better off telling her willingly; he could keep things he didn’t want slipping out of his admissions easier this way.
“A demon door,” Athok said finally. “We were ambushed outside a demon door. From the ceiling no less. Clever attackers. Not very strong though. We cut them down in no less than thirty seconds. Friends of yours, maybe?”
“I'm afraid not,” she said, no longer moving. She was paying attention to him now that he was talking.
“A pity. The door gave us a riddle. Fancied himself clever, I suppose. You know how those things can be. It went something like: 'It's hard to give up. Remove part of it and you still have a bit. Remove another part, but bit is still there. Remove another and it remains.' I figured it out after a moment and a repeat. 'Habit.' That was the answer.”
“And what was inside?” She leaned forward, expectant. Athok made out the vague outlines of a face in the torchlight, but nothing telling.
“A bar,” Athok said, managing a half-hearted chuckle.
“A bar?” She was incredulous.
“Seats, drink, and all. Some fox-folk inside fancied himself a trickster. But we got a little bit of loot out of the place. Nothing too major. Nothing you're interested in, I'm sure. The magic bag was nice, though.”
The hooded lady began pacing again. “Alright, fine then. What next?”
“Some sort of stitched-together chimera on the next floor. Bloody thing breathed acid.” Athok twitched at the memory of being caught in that deadly cloud. Twice. Saying it had hurt would be an understatement. “Naturally, we cut it back into the bits it was made from. And then some.”
“I wouldn't doubt it. Not from you, butcher.”
Athok flinched at the accusation, but he made it a point to ignore the provocation. They both knew what he'd done. He was long since past that. He was a different man now. Or so he kept telling himself.
“I didn't say you could stop talking,” she said.
He took a deep breath. The manacles were starting to bite into his flesh, groaning when he relaxed in them. They clearly hadn't been made to support his weight and girth. But he didn't dare try to break them in front of her. Not without his normal armament. Naked flesh had a way of being torn apart very easily by steel and magic alike. He didn't dare presume he could overpower her quickly enough to stop a spell.
“The gem was next. The one we'd been sent for. A blind elephant-being sat on a throne, watching over it. In return for giving us the gem and its power, he asked we do something for him: put him out of his misery and then kill his elven captor on the floor above.”
The hooded lady tensed, as if eager to hear about the gem. Was that it, then? Somehow, he doubted she even knew exactly what it was she wanted to know. He knew he still wasn't certain.
“So, we did,” Athok said, managing something resembling a shrug. “I slit his throat. He died. Rather typical of a cut to the throat. Turns out he was tied to the gem. Magic and all that. His blood flowed from the throne, down the steps, and all the way to the gem. When it touched, the gem turned red. Clear as it had been, but red then. Like blood. No one had been expecting that. But we didn't hesitate to take it with us to the stairs. Didn't want to risk someone else grabbing it while we made good on our promise. The thing was clearly valuable. Far more than we were being paid for it. We were starting to think we shouldn't turn it over to our employer.”
The hooded lady began pacing again. “So you made good on this promise of yours, then?”
Athok nodded. “We found him right upstairs. The elf was scribbling something. When we spoke to him, it didn't take long to realize he was both powerful and mentally disturbed. A spellcaster and no pushover. He took more than one cut from my blade over the course of the battle. And before I could deliver the fatal blow, he changed into a flightless dragon.”
She snorted. “You expect me to believe that?”
Athok laughed and managed another half-shrug. “Don't care if you do. But I remember that all too well. The little dragonling bard of ours nearly soiled himself at the sight of the beast. Two of the others ended up nearly swallowed, stabbing the beast, and getting flung against a wall for their efforts. That was the first time I'd truly wondered if we'd been outmatched. A timely bolt brought him down, though. The thing was covered in its fair share of wounds by that point.”
“I see. Well, what- wait. Just a moment,” the lady said. She turned her back towards Athok, as if she were suddenly somewhere else entirely.
Athok was tiring. He hated to admit a weakness, even to himself, but there was no denying it. Whatever they had done to him had brought him to his threshold of endurance. And he was scared, in pain, and feeling more than helpless. Not something that happened often.
The hooded woman turned suddenly back around to face him. He thought he could see the hint of a smile on her face. “We'll have to get back to your story another time, my dear,” she said. “I have to take care of a dear friend. Poor thing finally woke back up. He was simply exhausted by this whole ordeal.”
With the wave of a hand, one torch went out; with another quick motion, the other followed suit. The room was bathed in pure darkness. Athok thought he could hear the hooded woman walking away, then the near-silent scrape of a door shutting. He was almost certain he heard the tell-tale knock of a bolt sliding into place.
Exhaustion was setting in; he gave into the urge to shut his eyes. Though his prison was cold and agonizing, sleep felt to be an encroaching neighbor. Worry and apprehension were sole companion to his thoughts.
He was afraid. He was in pain. And he was completely, utterly alone.