The group took only a moment to look around the room, knowing they had to get back to the Senate to deal with the assault happening there. Wasting no time, Inori moved toward the nearest door. It led into a small, barren adjoining hallway, connected at its far end to another dark room. This one was full of boxes and shelves, with he far wall covered in rack upon rack of glass jars and the right wall shielded by a haphazard stack of crates. The team pushed forward, turning left to take the only other door leading out of the storage area into another adjoining hallway. This one led through into a lavish suite, lined with portraits and bookshelves, and sporting a massive four-post bed. Unlike the first two rooms, this one was well-lit by strips of glowing energy set into the ceiling. Unpausing, they took yet another left through a larger set of double doors, hoping to find the exit.
All that met them was a fourth room of similar size to all the previous, lit like the last, but this one occupied by a bar in the back corner and scattered sets of chairs and tables. With the only other door exiting the room yet again to the left, the party knew what this meant. They opened it into a final adjoining hallway that led straight back through the second door of the room in which they’d originally appeared. The four rooms formed a square, each with doors leading only into the two adjoining rooms. There was no way out.
“That is not good,” Dara observed plainly.
Trapped, the group began to look around the area, hoping to find some hint of an exit. They hadn’t taken more than the briefest look at each chamber so far, and here in this small tavern seemed as good a place as any. The are behind the bar was lined with cupboards and drawers, most worn out and open, some falling apart entirely. One cabinet stood out from the rest, mounted near the end and sealed with a large padlock. Curiously, the cabinet and lock both showed no signs of age or wear save the layer of dust resting atop them.
As Belor cast another Light spell on himself, and began to inspect the magic auras of the chamber with his own magic, Nell stepped up to inspect the lone, locked cabinet. Finding no immediate way inside, he raised his sword, hoping to chop his way in. His blade was deflected with a metallic clang.
“Definitely magically protected,” Belor muttered, analyzing the transmutation aura enchanted into the both the lock and the cabinet itself. With his own magic, he was able to dissect and understand other magical auras, a basic practice for wizards. Curiously, he found a fairly powerful aura of divination magic locked away inside the cabinet. Noting that, he moved on to continue to scan other auras in the room.
They were interrupted by Martella’s voice inside their minds.
“Where did you go? I just saw you and several others in the Senate vanish into thin air!” she exclaimed telepathically. The party knew the limits of the badges they wore, and that their replies could only be limited and brief. They had precious little information to give her for now, save that they were trapped somewhere seemingly safe.
One thing the party had noticed was that each room contained similar brass and green glass panels just like the first had. Deflected by the cabinet for now, Nell turned his curiosity to them. He was a simple fighter, with little understanding of either science or magic, and the panels intrigued him. Perhaps they were switches, and would open a way forward?
Whatever his thoughts, he laid a hand on the panel in his room. It gave no indication of a response, nor did it depress like a button or a switch. However, the effect was imediately apparent: across the connecting hallway before them, the strips of light illuminating the suite went dark. Nell pressed the panel again, relighting the room.
“Huh,” he mused.
The rest of the party eventually split up, working their own ways through the four rooms. A few discoveries were made, but nothing apparently helpful. Fiddling with the various panels throughout the rooms eventually brought all the lights back online. A golden key rested on the table in the suite, but it was far too large for the lock on the cabinet, the only one they’d found. For the first few minutes, their efforts seemed hopeless.
Martella’s voice rang in their minds once more, interrupting their search. “Out of the Senate. Stavian’s soldiers still pursuing. Fighting throughout the entire Senate building, wherever you are, keep your heads down!”
Reminded of the urgency of their situation, they redoubled their search for an exit. Running out of ideas, they began to search through various boxes and jars in the storage area, while Nell and Inori continued their own investigations.
The first breakthrough was simple: Belor detected a few small signatures of magic behind the wall of boxes in the second room. With Dara’s help, they spent a few minutes moving the boxes away, revealing an intricate and colorful fresco painted on the wall behind it. The beautiful mural depicted a man with his sword held aloft, fighting against dwarves pouring forth from a massive range of background mountains. A brass plate identified it as “Noble Galitian Maramaxus, hero of the Fourth Army of Exploration, champion of Taldor.” The signatures, 3 small motes of conjuration magic, seemed locked behind the hilt of his sword, inaccessible behind several inches of stone.
The second came nearly at the same time. Inspecting the small, attached bathroom in the suite, Inori found a tiny wooden case hung under the rail of the bathtub. Inside it was a simple note: “Fourth bed from the north. Comforter. Backup key.” With this knowledge in hand, she hurried to the first room and searched the noted bed. Quickly, she found a much smaller key sewn into the lining of the cover at the foot of the bed, one that matched the lock on the cabinet in the tavern room. Inside, they found something resembling an ornate crystal ball solidly mounted into the wall through the back of the cabinet. It didn’t immediately appear to do anything, but it possessed a small rectangular slot on the top about the width of two fingers.
With this, they reached an impasse. They’d clearly discovered a few leads, but nothing seemed to connect, and nothing led them closer to an escape from these chambers. The crates and jars in the storage room seemed filled with preserved food and sealed water, and Belor’s magical investigation had discovered an enchanted wand and spoon of similar purpose in a drawer in the tavern. The area was built to sustain a small group of people for months, perhaps even years. It seemed to be a panic bunker of some sort. Surely, there was a mechanism for escape somewhere.
In the next few minutes, Martella contacted them scant few times, giving them what information she could about the events in the Senate. “Not all the military are with Stavian. Assassins seem to be a collection of foreign agents. City guard is in chaos. Lion Blades and Eutropia’s allies still fighting back at the Senate.” The party replied with what little information they’d uncovered.
Barren of other options, they decided to take the time to pore through the masses of crates and toolkits in the storage room. They knew this would take hours, but had no other hope.
“Stavian’s retreating, military is divided. I’m going to guide a dozen or so servants to a safehouse,” Martella interrupted them once more.
“We appear to be in one of some sort ourselves, but very old,” Nell replied to the mental communication.
Fifteen minutes later, the telepathic connection reopened. “Reached safe house,” she began. “Its located at the Dignif-” Her voice was cut out abruptly.
“Does not bode well,” Belor observed dryly. “It’s no use worrying over it now, we’ve got to deal with our own situation.”
Finally, the tossing of the storage room was completed, but it bore no results. The group split, musing around the rooms looking for something they may have missed. Once again, they came upon two revelations: that the power of the crystal ball was tied to the light switches, and that all the portraits in the suite were of heroes and scenes from the Fourth Army of Exploration.
Noting the fascination with the Fourth Army, Belor looked through the books present in the suite’s library. He came across one thick tome of history, a record os the events from that time thousands of years ago. The pages were hollowed out, and hid inside the missing piece of the crystal ball. With the orb reassembled, and the lights switched off in the storage room, it appeared to be a scrying device that highlighted specific portions of the painted mural with a glow. Following the glow unlocked a secret chamber in the hilt, leading to three enchanted coins, and finally, their exit.
The coins fit snugly into three small slots in the wall of the suite near the head of the bed, and opened a magical gateway in the floor with stairs down below. With no idea of what to expect, the party took a moment to ready their weapons, prepare simple tactics, and even cast some preparatory spells. Belor used his magic to protect Inori and himself with a shimmering field of arcane armor. Thus prepared, they headed forth.
Fortune smiles upon the well-prepared, and their time spent readying themselves for the unknown wasn’t for naught. Pressing past the doorway at the bottom of the stairs led them into a dark hall extending out past the range of their simple light spells in both directions. As they stepped out they were set upon almost immediately by strange creatures lurching forth from the walls themselves, seeming to stretch the cold stone in the shape of human torsos as they lashed out. Terrifying as they were, they were no match for the party, and they were put down swiftly. Inori, however, suffered the brunt of their wrath and they emerged from the walls before she could react. Wounded and bloodied just outside the confines of the panic bunker, their chances of escape seemed low.
The hallway was dotted with simple wooden doorways in both directions, and shortly after the fiends were defeated, the nearest one to their right opened. Emerging from the door was none other than Dame Trant herself, the woman that had punched Dara above.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Trant breathed, seemingly stunned. “Wha… what happened? You’re alive? Did you slay them?”
Another man slowly crept behind her, peering past her muscled frame toward the party.
“I don’t know what they were,” Trant continued, clearly distraught. “We appeared here, tried to leave, and those… creatures attacked us! We’ve been stuck here ever since!”
“Since that big flash I’m assuming, right?” Nell questioned, still unaware of the lady’s history with the rest of his group.
“Yes… you… why do the Voritas badges work? Why are you here?” She asked, pointing at the senate badges Martella had provided for the gala.
The party briefly explained what had happened, and learned what Trant knew. Her experienced hadn’t differed much from their own: just after the fighting broke out, she saw the same blue flash and appeared in the room behind her. She explained that the badges had once been enchanted with a magic to protect the Senators and aides that wore them, magic she thought had gone defunct hundreds of years ago. They were now all seemingly trapped by undead horrors like the ones that came from the walls, stuck in what was once meant to be a safe haven for Taldor’s ruling classes.
While they discussed, another group crept forth from their hiding places further down the hall. A light appeared behind the party, showing that the hallway they stood in curved around a corner, away from the Voritas’ family saferoom they’d escaped earlier. With it came three more nobles, similarly trapped here in this complex. Two lords and a lady, all clearly distressed, they pointed back down the hall from where they’d came toward the dead body of the fourth that had been transported with them, where he’d been slain by the undead in the walls.
Quickly amassing a group far too large to move safely (and largely unfamiliar with true combat and survival), the party directed the gathered nobles back into the larger safe room up the stairs. Before they left, the man with Trant introduced himself of a cleric of Abadar, and used his magic to staunch the bleeding from Inori’s wounds. Still injured, but no longer crippled, the party checked behind the rest of the doors in the hall before moving onward. The hall curled around a central meeting room, with offshoots dotted around the outside of the whole arrangement leading to smaller, individual safe rooms. The whole area was protected behind a large hidden door on the northern end, masked from the other side from intruders. Each of the smaller safe rooms was now empty, save for one.
They opened the door to a scream, and a small, ginger halfling scuttling back away from them. He was dressed in leather armor, with a rapier at his side, and stood barely three feet tall. He was in this room alone, sat in the darkness.
“Oh. Oh! You’re not… hmm!” the halfling sputtered. “You’re not them! You’re not the creatures. I heard you talking in the hall! You’re the rescue, yes?”
“It seems like it so far,” Dara replied.
The halfling sprung to his feet, and did a full bow with almost comedic speed.
“I’m Imistos Gulbend! You have to get me out too! Please?”
“You have weapon and armor,” Inori observed.
“It’s a costume,” Imistos pleaded. “I was one of the actors. I’m entertainment, I don’t know how to use this!” He punctuated his message by waving his small rapier around upright in front of him, before dropping it on the ground.
The party accepted, and directed him back toward the safe room they’d emerged from earlier, with the rest of the sheltering nobility. Imistos stubbornly refused, terrified of the creatures in the walls. He offered any service hs could think of, from lantern holding to shoe shining, to stay near the adventurers.
Reluctantly, the party agreed. Traveling through the darkness, a lantern was far from useless, as all they’d had so far was the emanation from Inori and Belor’s simple cantrips. Unable to get the halfling to agree to anything else, they made their way to the stone doorway separating these chambers from whatever lay beyond.
Nell opened the doorway into what looked like an ancient museum. Glass displays of armor lined the walls all around, showing suits from periods all throughout Taldor’s history. Many were rusted and degrading from disrepair, and some from sheer age. A few, however, still looked mostly intact. The inner areas of the room were much the same, with more glass displays filled with ancient weapons and other artifacts. Almost everything bore the heraldry of the Taldan Army, unchanged through the millennia. The roaring lion was emblazoned on shields and breastplates alike.
One artifact near the middle of the room caught Dara’s eye. He was a trained crossbowman in the army, but was left with nothing but the dagger they’d stolen from Vernisant’s display earlier to defend himself here. In the glass rested a magnificent light crossbow, seemingly untouched by time. It was inlaid in brass and adorned with Taldan military symbols like everything else, culminating in a carved roaring lion that rose up from the weapon’s haft. Having been unable to bring his own crossbow into the Gala, Dara needed a proper weapon.
As he smashed the glass, the shattering noise was accompanied by two more bursts of crystal from the sides of the room, as two rusted and ancient armors punched forth from their enclosures to stop the interlopers. Parted from his bow, but not his quiver, Dara grabbed hold of the new weapon and loaded a bolt quickly, loosing a shot into the chest of the nearest approaching armor. Nell and Belor brought down the suit behind him, as Inori capitalized on the opening Dara created to cleave through the rusted breastplate of the one in front. As both suits fell, Imistos cheered and sung of their valor, tossing his lantern into the fray in his eagerness.
According to the display, the weapon was named Dignity’s Barb. It had been wielded by the general Gerefein of the Seventh Army of Exploration. Famously, it turned the tide of a battle against a vicious group of Kellid barbarians, loosing a bolt true into the heart of a chaotic warlord through a blinding blizzard. At the moment, Dara cared not for its past accomplishments, only what it could provide to him in the present.
The rest of the group also took the time to pilfer some of the newer armaments, preparing themselves to explore further through these clearly corrupted halls. Nell took a shield called The Wall, and a magical handaxe labeled Giantslayer to defend himself. Dara and Inori donned chainmail shirt from the displays around the outside. A rack of alchemical equipment in another central display held ancient healing potions and more, sealed in bottles and their powers preserved.
Trading their courtier’s outfits and dressed for more appropriate attire, the group felt much more ready to tackle whatever may lie in the rest of the ancient safe rooms. As they fought, they learned how to play off each other more, their tactics synergizing into a more effective whole. This was only the beginning, however, as the paths ahead held much greater challenges…
Check out the Discord server for a text write-up of #TheStorySoFar (that’s the channel) to get a real quick catch-up to the current episode! Or, look into #WarForTheCrown for fully detailed text versions of the adventures! Also, just come hang out!