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Prelude
The Empty Mansion

…continues from Book #01, Prelude, Scene #01

Synopsis

The 30th Day of Alturiak in the Year of the Sudden Journey

Zero and Tradden have successfully infiltrated an old mansion overrun by bandits, but at some cost. The pair are now barricaded in the mansion with an angry guard dog lying in wait outside.

Scene Length

This scene started on Sunday 11th July 2010 and completed on Friday 16th July 2010.

JUL
03

Article Notice
Originally in Google Wave

!

This scene was originally written within Google Wave. The scene has been transcribed here for completeness, and has been edited where required.

The original Wave was first used as a test bed to allow the players to get to grips with the mechanisms of Google Wave, including any usage of maps, as well as getting used to the rules for the game. Goblins and a Guard Drake were used as simple enemies, with no real plot ot storyline surrounding them. However, we quickly decided to use this as a launching pad for the rest of the story and in our minds changed the goblins to bandits and the drake to a guard dog. The transcription here takes quite an artistic licence in re-representing this Wave, using the same actions, but with different enemies.

This scene has been split into two, with the storyline transcribed here. The subsequent combat, albeit short, is in the next scene.

The original Wave is now lost with the demise of Google Wave, but the PDF extract of that original scene is provided here.

JUL
11

Storyline
Empty Mansion

01

It had been nearly twelve hours since Zero managed to barricade the entrances to the house. Zero and Tradden had managed fitful sleep and although feel refreshed they are not sure if opening the door to the outside of the mansion was a good idea. They could not hear the guard dog, but both had the sense it still might be lurking out there.

Leaving the ruffian corpses to rot in the kitchen might not have been the best of ideas, either, as they were really starting to smell.

As the pair started contemplating their next move, there was a strange thunk from the far side of the room.

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11

Storyline
Empty Mansion

02

Sat on a chair, contemplating, Zero looked up very, very slowly.

‘What was that?’ he asked, not really wanting to know the answer.

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11

Storyline
Empty Mansion

03

‘Wha…?’ came the muffled response from Tradden, his mouth half full of the makeshift bandage he was applying to one arm.

Tying-off a knot, Tradden levered himself out of the ancient chair and walked hesitantly towards the general area where the noise had seemed to come from.

Hesitating halfway across the floor Tradden drew the swords usually slung over his back, mindful of the fact that the vicious dog which had so nearly done for him before might have found a way back in. Inching forwards with blades at the ready, Tradden went to investigate.

‘Erm,’ he half-whispered over his shoulder, without taking his eyes off the various bits of ominous darkness ahead. ‘I am kind of new at this really, Zero, but I believe the phrase here is ‘Cover me’?’

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12

Storyline
Empty Mansion

04

Zero sighed and drew his crossbow. He advanced slowly, keeping a prudent ten feet between him and Tradden.

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12

Storyline
Empty Mansion

05

Another dull thunk echoed around the room. In the gloomy darkness it was hard to see anything and the sound was difficult to trace due to the many echoes. However, Zero and Tradden both strained their ears…

[Zero Perception Check: 1d20+6: 13] - success!

[Tradden Perception Check: 1d20+2: 11] - success!

The noise definitely seemed to be coming from the south of the room, somewhere near the front door, or the large heavy rug nearby. Close to this, in the kitchen area, were the ruffian corpses. One of these held the key to the noise.

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12

Storyline
Empty Mansion

06

‘Oh, here’s a thought…. hang on…’

Tradden sheathed his swords and removed the torch from his newly aquired adventurer’s pack. Not used to using it, he fumbled around clumsily lighting it. Re-drawing his short sword he turned to towards the south of the room, holding the torch up as high as he could.

‘Now … let’s see if that is better…’

[Tradden Perception Check: 1d20+2: 18] - success!

With the light of the torch burning it became easier to see the southern portion of the room.

Tradden, holding the torch aloft, kept still and calm, waiting for the noise to repeat.

After just a few moments, there it was again, the dull thunk. This time, in the light, Tradden spotted a barely perceivable rise and fall in the rug in front of him, somewhere in the centre, in time with the noise.

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12

Storyline
Empty Mansion

07

Tradden felt his pulse rise and the pounding of his heart seemed to echo around the room. ‘Sweet Corellon!’ he whispered to himself.

‘Hmm…’ he gulped. ‘Could be something under there — a trap door or something.’ A thought hit him. ‘Could be a good citizen tied up by the ruffians.’ And then another, ‘Of course, it could just as easily be a nasty. Another dog even…’

‘Any thoughts, Zero?’

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12

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Empty Mansion

08

‘Thoughts?’ replied Zero. ‘Hmm, how about I wish I was enjoying a five course meal at The Plucked Duck in Deepingwald instead of being stuck in a cabin in the middle of nowhere with a bloodthirsty hound outside, the lovely scent of rotting bandit making me want to vomit and some thing banging on the cellar door presumably wanting to have me for its dinner!’

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12

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Empty Mansion

09

‘Ah, The Plucked Duck, they do a good freestyle barn dance every other week,’ said Tradden, characteristically being easily distracted, but savvy enough not to take his eye off the rug. ‘But, I take your point. OK, I am going to run over, grab the corner of the rug and try to pull it off. If there is anything underneath or some foul rat or something bursts out, you do your shooty thing.’

Tradden sheathed his sword and placed the torch on the floor, suitably out of the way of the intended rug pull. He then darted over to the corner of the rug, grabbed it with both hands and pulled it away from Zero and the torch.

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12

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Empty Mansion

10

Zero frowned and readied his crossbow.

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12

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Empty Mansion

11

Tradden pulled away the rug in style, a great draft causing the torch to flicker momentarily. Luckily it didn’t go out. Both men stood for some time choking a little in the dust thrown up into the air.

As the dust finally settled the room became still once more. On the bare wooden floor where the rug once sat was a large trap door recessed to form a level plane. A complicated looking handle with a strange flat lock was fitted on the side nearest the main door.

The thunks seemed to have stopped.

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12

Storyline
Empty Mansion

12

Clearing his throat and wiping the remanents of a thousand, airless days dust away from his face, Tradden surveyed the area of floor revealed by the rug. Buoyed by the fact that there was no obvious and immediate danger, he dropped the corner of the rug and jogged over to the trap door, standing next to it. Drawing his short sword again in one hand he bent down and checked to see if it was indeed locked.

‘No point making assumptions — you never know…’

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12

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Empty Mansion

13

Zero looked in curiosity at the lock. He liked locks. He enjoyed the challenge of defeating them. The ca-click of the mechanism yielding to his skill was the sweet sound of success.

He then ambled over the the first ruffian and, holding his nose, checked it for a key.

The search was fruitless.

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12

Storyline
Empty Mansion

14

Tradden bent over the trapdoor and grabbed the handle in one hand. He gave it a slight pull — there was no give in the door, but there was a small click.

[Trap Door Lightning Trap]

[Primary Attack: 1d20+4: 21 vs Tradden’s Reflex (14)] - hits!

[Damage: 2d4: 5]

A surging pain ran up Tradden’s arm accompanied by an eerie blue and crackling light.

Tradden tucked his slightly singed arm under the armpit of his other arm and wheeled around on one foot, stamping the pain away with the other.

‘Tsssss — One for you I think….’ he hissed, fighting back tears.

JUL
13

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Empty Mansion

15

Zero whipped around at the sound. ‘Are you, okay?’ he asked.

He then examined the trap door closely, very aptly named it seemed.

[Zero Perception Check - Find Traps: 1d20+6+2: 23] - success!

Without touching the handle or locking mechanism, Zero spent a few moments carefully examining the trapdoor, looking for any obvious signs for a triggering mechanism. He spied it — hidden quite carefully just underneath the handle — a small button connected to some sort of small crystal.

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13

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Empty Mansion

16

Zero lay on his stomach for a moment, squinting closely at the lock.

‘A-ha!’ he finally exclaimed. ‘There you are. Nice work.’

He kept mumbling to himself whilst he fished in his pocket and withdrew a small leather pouch. He untied the cord and rolled it open on the floor. Inside were various delicate tools, bearing an array of shaped heads.

His fingers danced back and forth before finally seizing the one best suited for the task at hand. Then he lay down again, cleared his throat, shook his sleeves free of his wrists and carefully tinkered with the dangerous mechanism.

[Zero Thievery Check - Remove Traps: 1d20+8+2 : 21] - success!

With a soft click, the button extended. For a moment Zero lay still waiting for any adverse reaction, but fortunately nothing happened. Brushing himself down, Zero stood up, pleased with his work.

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Empty Mansion

17

Still shaking his reddened fingers to cool them down, Tradden made his feelings on next steps known. ‘Well, my thief friend, you are down there — you open it….’

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Empty Mansion

18

Zero looked up at Tradden. He would have argued, but the swordsman was clearly still angry from the sting of the trap and unfortunately he had just done away with the only thing he could have used to stay the man’s hand.

He let out a long, weary sigh, packed his tools away and grabbed the trapdoor’s handle.

‘Pearls before swine,’ he whispered.

Then he opened the trap door.

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13

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Empty Mansion

19

Zero tugged on the handle but to no avail — the door stayed firmly shut. It looked as though the trap has been deactivated, but the lock hadn’t been picked.

[Zero Thievery Check - Open Locks: 1d20+6+2: 27] - success!

Zero smiled at the smothness of his own actions.

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13

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Empty Mansion

20

Tradden, despite his whiter-than-white goody two shoes approach to all things was nevertheless clearly impressed by Zero’s skill — clearly the rogue’s dexterity with fine instruments was at least comparable with old Mr Ironfoot, the artificer and Tradden’s old dwarven neighbour.

With a begrudging grunt Tradden took a step towards the trap door, pulling out his longsword and taking a few practice swings as he did so.

‘Right then — here we go’.

Waiting for Zero to stand up again, Tradden opened the trapdoor…

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13

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Empty Mansion

21

The door creaked open slowly and revealed a rickety wooden ladder leading down into darkness. A stale odour, although not as bad as the rotting corpses, permeated up from below.

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13

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Empty Mansion

22

Zero’s face soured.

‘Delightful,’ he said.

He took a coin and dropped it down the hole, listening for its eventual landing.

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13

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Empty Mansion

23

‘Phew — Delightful indeed!’ Tradden agreed.

Picking up the torch with his free hand from where it still lay burning, Tradden carefully walked over to the edge of the hole, holding the flickering light source aloft to see if any more could be seen down below.

[Tradden Perception Check: 1d20+2: 4] - failure!

It didn’t take long for the coin to fall to a solid surface — a clear ring after only a couple of seconds. Zero guessed at ten feet or so down. As Tradden brought the torch to bear it became more obvious — the ladder reached about five feet down, and then a drop of another five feet or so to a hewn-stone floor, covered in a light layer of dust and filth.

JUL
14

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Empty Mansion

24

Tradden bent down, holding the torch closer to the hole to try and better understand what the passageway might have been used for in the original house design. Was it a wine cellar, typical of such fine houses, or was it a way out, underneath the gardens and away from the angry dog outside?

[Tradden History Check: 1d20+2: 12] - success!

Tradden thought carefully about the style of the house — houses such as this often had wine cellars, but not secured underneath a trap door — they were more likely to have a proper entry via a staircase.

However, it was often the case that bolt holes would be created for people to leave their houses in times of panic to a secure area some distance from the house.

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14

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Empty Mansion

25

‘Hmm,’ said Tradden, still intently staring into the semi-darkeness below, trying to pick out any shapes of note in the flickering light that the torch afforded. ‘I can’t imagine the ruffians came in this way and then locked the door behind them, especially given that they locked the door behind them. This kind of passageway is suggestive of a way out to my mind.’

Still kneeling, he turned his head towards the concerned-looking Zero, flashing him a mischievous grin.

‘Only one way to find out!’

Not waiting for a response from the be-cloaked rogue, Tradden tossed the torch down the hole, sheathed his weapon and swung himself down onto the ladder. Nimbly clambering down the first five feet of rungs Tradden’s height allowed him to easily drop the last few feet to the floor. Picking up the torch again and drawing his short sword, more suited to close confines, he looked around and waited to see if Zero would follow…

The ladder creaked somewhat as Tradden headed down, but held firm. The landing was soft on the ground and the torch revealed a passageway, about five feet wide, leading off straight to the west, disappearing into inky blackness after about twenty five feet.

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14

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Empty Mansion

26

Zero’s bearded face intruded into the square of light above.

‘Anything hostile down there?’ he queried.

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Empty Mansion

27

‘Nothing with teeth leaping at me so far,’ replied Tradden. ‘Get yourself down here though,’ he added as an afterthought, suddenly aware of the fact that he was on his own.

He looked around to see if there were any other light sources, such as unlit torches on the wall. He also looked to see if there had been any sign of previous use of the passage — tracks and the like.

[Tradden Perception Check: 1d20+2: 3] - critical failure!

Tradden looked around and accidentally stared straight into the flames of the torch — all he could see were dancing sparks before his eyes.

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14

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Empty Mansion

28

Zero clambered down the ladder. He’d almost got halfway down when there was an ominous creak followed by a snap as the ladder gave way.

[Zero Dexterity Check: 1d20+3: 16] - success!

Quickly he managed to slide the rest of the way down, landing unceremoniously, but unhurt. He dusted himself off and tried to regain his composure, before taking out a torch from his kit and lighting it on Tradden’s.

‘Bless you,’ he said.

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14

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Empty Mansion

29

The passageway disappeared into the inky darkness to the west, its end beyond the reach of the torches. The smell had eased a little and there was no sign of the previous *thunking*. However, the dirty floor felt soft and squishy in certain areas, and the adventurers trod carefully.

[Zero Nature Check: 1d20+1: 19] - success!

[Tradden Nature Check: 1d20+2: 4] - failure!

Zero turned to Tradden, his face illuminated by the bright glare of the torches. He flashed a wicked grin and nodded downwards at the floor.

‘Rats’ poo!’ he said, ‘And big ones at that.’

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14

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Empty Mansion

30

Tradden clenched his teeth. ‘Nice. Ah, well, better than that huge dog’s I dare say — let’s see where this leads…’

Tradden led the way down the hallway, torch in one hand, short sword in the other hand, ready for anything.

‘Anyway, bad smell or no, its only a few little rats…’

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14

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Empty Mansion

31

The passageway kept straight for a good twenty or thirty yards, the floor covered in sticky mess in places. The pair picked their trail carefully, avoiding the major mounds. The torchlight in front then hit a bare wall and flickering shadows showed a turning off to the right, its destination hidden.

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14

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Empty Mansion

32

‘No going back I guess,’ said Tradden, turning the corner without hesitation and edging down the new passageway.

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Empty Mansion

33

Following the sharp turning the passageway headed north, again into blackness. However, a sturdy wooden door nestled snugly into the wall on the left in front of Tradden.

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Empty Mansion

34

‘Right — been here before — no mini-lightning shocks for me this time!’

Tradden held up his torch to better allow Zero a good look at the doorway, and made a mock flourish with his sword in the door’s direction.

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Empty Mansion

35

Zero rolled his eyes and took out his thieves’ tools. ‘Would you mind awfully, Zero?’ he muttered to himself. ‘No, no. I’d be delighted.’

He inspected the door closely.

[Zero Perception Check: 1d20+6: 21] - success!

The door was large, wooden, well-made, and sturdy. Zero held his ear close to the door, but couldn’t hear anything on the other side. Judging by the stout lock, he’d need a little time to get it open.

He reported this to Tradden. ‘Want to keep going to map the place out or see what’s inside?’ he asked.

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Empty Mansion

36

Tradden cleared his throat.

‘Well, we have come this far. Sorry, but I am afraid you may have to show off your lock picking skills again.’

Tradden held up his sword as if to hold out his palm, whilst closing his eyes and smiled, ‘No, don’t be modest — I can see you are not that type’, he laughed.

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Empty Mansion

37

Zero chuckled. ‘Just be ready to whack whatever might jump out, eh?’

He examined the lock for traps.

[Zero Perception Check - Find Traps: 1d20+6+2: 18] - success!

A thorough inspection of the door and lock revealed no hidden traps or wards to Zero. However, the door did seem firmly locked and shut. Enough of the keyhole was visible to peer through — the locking mechanism seemed to be within Zero’s capabilities to pick.

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Empty Mansion

38

Flexing what passed for muscles on his otherwise fairly slim physique, a thought occured to Tradden. Without waiting for Zero to get out his tools he took a run at the door, aiming the sole of his sturdy leather boot at the place where the lock mechanism would be.

[Tradden Strength Check: 1d20+4: 11] - failure!

Tradden’s foot slammed into the wooden door, which showed not the slightest sign of moving. Having been soundly stopped in mid-kick, Tradden slowly arced back on his standing foot, landing on his backside in the filth on the floor. Through the shock, and of course the pain radiating through his lower leg, Tradden saw the door still looming over him — it looked smug.

Tradden picked himself up, holding up his arms and trying to crane his neck around to see exactly how badly his designer pantaloons had been affected by the foul slime covering the floor.

Having seen the full extent of the damage, he made a note to himself not to look again until he had escaped the damn cellar and could attend Feversham & Son on the high-street (‘Tailors for the distinguished gentlemen about town’).

‘Right, okay… fine… erm… you do it your way,’ he muttered in Zero’s direction.

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15

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Empty Mansion

39

Zero passed his torch to Tradden.

‘Thank you,’ he said, as his companion held it up giving him some light to work by.

Then he went to work on the lock.

[Zero Thievery Check - Open Lock: 1d20+8+2: 19] - success!

After a few moments Zero heard the satisfying click of another mechanism yielding to his skill.

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15

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Empty Mansion

40

Tradden passed the torch back to Zero.

‘What chances a quick and easy passage out to sweet, sweet daylight on the otherside?’

Typical of the boy, Tradden didn’t wait for Zero to reply and swung the door open…

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15

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Empty Mansion

41

Tradden pushed the door inwards and the glare of the torches revealed a fairly small room, about ten feet square. Interestingly, this room’s floor was devoid of the filth encountered in the passageway, although the pair spotted a large bundle of something wrapped in rope in the corner.

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Empty Mansion

42

Disappointed, but unsurprised at the same time, as to the lack of streaming sunlight, Tradden stepped inside, looking around intently on the basis that if this was a dead end then if there were anything nasty around, there would be no further for it to go.

[Tradden Perception Check: 1d20+2: 11] - success!

There were no exits in the room and the only light was from the flickering torches Zero and Tradden held. As Tradden looked more closely at the rope-tied bundle he noticed it belonged to a stout figure, bound well around its body and with a gag across it’s mouth.

Propped up in the other far corner of the room was a short haft of a warhammer leaning against a steel edged wooden shield.

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Empty Mansion

43

Working on the assumption that dead or alive it’s never nice to have a gag in one’s mouth, Tradden walked over and removed the gag with his free hand, holding the torch aloft so as to take an even better look at the figure.

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Empty Mansion

44

‘Gah!’ the figure spat and eyed the two humans with cautious eyes.

It was a dwarf — bearded, strong and armoured it seemed.

The dwarf looked carefully at the two would-be rescuers and appeared to come to some conclusion of his own.

‘Not bandits, I presume! Always a bonus, methinks. My thanks, longshanks! Now, a hand with these ropes and I’ll be sure to buy you a tankard next time we happen on an inn!’ said the dwarf with gusto.

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Empty Mansion

45

Tradden was unsure about the ’longshanks’ remark and for a brief second considered putting the gag back.

But, having spent a lot of time around dwarves he got the distinct impression that it was essentially a term of endearment and he seemed like an amiable old character.

That said, he went about cutting the ropes.

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Empty Mansion

46

The dwarf scrambled to his feet, trying to muster a little dignity after his misadventure. He scurried quickly to the wall to retrieve his trusty hammer and shield… ‘Ah, a fine hammer is a part of a warlord’s arm! Hail and well met! Khalin’s the name, clobbering’s the game! …er, of bandits that is, haha!!!’ boomed the dwarf. ‘At your service it appears!’

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Empty Mansion

47

‘Nice to meet you also, Master Dwarf,’ said Tradden, who then gestured towards the figure stood behind him. ‘My companion here is Mr Zero Uhlit and apart from telling you that he is a mean shot with a crossbow and an even meaner lock-pick I can tell you little else, for we are of recent acquaintance ourselves. And I, I am Tradden Aversword, agile in blade, agile mind, and I too am at your service.’

They all agreed afterwards that the flourish with which Tradden then executed his bow was most exquisite and that it was a shame that it was ruined by the large section of flattened rat faeces which fell to the earth with a ’splurt’ just as he had reached the end and was holding the bow in a near-crouch.

Unperturbed, Tradden suggested their next course of action.

‘Well, unless either of you gents have any further business here, can I suggest we leave in civilised fashion — via the front door? Khalin, if thine arms are numbed through being tied back , we may have the perfect therapy for you to get them back into shape — there is a nasty, angry guard dog outside who Zero and I have a score with which to settle, should you be willing to assist?’

Tradden turned back towards the door as he spoke, wiping off bits of brown goo from his elbows as he did so. ‘Heh! At least we didn’t run into any rats!’

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15

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Empty Mansion

48

As if on cue, Zero picked up a keen shrieking sound from further down the corridor. He listened for a moment, trying to pick up other cues — the biggest of which was that it was getting closer.

[Zero Nature Check: 1d20+1: 9] - failure!

[Zero Perception Check: 1d20+6: 17] - success!

He wasn’t too sure about what the noise was, but he was sure that there was more than one of them!

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Empty Mansion

49

Zero backed away from the doorway and hastily drew his crossbow.

‘Would this be a good time to mention that I really dislike rats?’ he said.

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Empty Mansion

50

‘Ha! I like you, Mister Nothing! Though what is that thing beneath your nose, sir! I can teach you a thing or two about facial hair!’ Khalin gave Zero a hearty slap on the back and a playful chortle, then charged towards the sounds with a fearsome cry!

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Empty Mansion

51

‘Ow,’ said Zero, rearranging his spine and shoulder blades.

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Empty Mansion

52

‘Come on!’ urged a grinning Tradden as he pushed past Zero, giving him another freindly slap to the back as he did so.

With one hand holding the torch and the other holding his short sword, Tradden chased after Khalin.

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Empty Mansion

53

‘Nothing like proceeding with caution, is there?’ Zero quipped to himself before slipping out of the room in pursuit of his comrades, crossbow at the ready.

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16

Storyline
Empty Mansion

54

Before the new comrades could cross the threshold of the door back to the passageway the shrieking grew louder, and a rushing wind swept towards them.

A swirling mass of small black shapes dived through the door and swirled in a maelstrom around the room, tugging at clothes, and nipping faces with their sharp claws and tiny feet. As the mass grew louder the comrades knew they were in trouble.

[Khalin Nature Check: 1d20+1: 10] - failure!

[Tradden Nature Check: 1d20+2: 20] - success!

[Zero Nature Check: 1d20+1: 11] - failure!

Tradden knew that around these parts groups of bats swarmed around victims and drew their blood — often leaving a man dry.

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16

End of Scene

[...continued in Book #01, Prelude, Scene #02b...]