Echoes of Invasion: Closing Time | Scene 14

When Tric and Heppa reach the eastern gate out of South Tower, Jedeth is waiting for them with an armful of sandwiches and a jug of ale. Although Heppa has seen him around the Parting Glass, they have never formally met, so she introduces herself politely. Tric asks where they are headed, and Jedeth tells them that the whole area was set upon back when it was just a palisade. “Would you be comfortable showing us somewhere where you fought back against Mal-Ravanal’s encroaching tide?” Tric asks.

They pass out of the city and with the country spread out before them, Jedeth describes the first battle of the war. “There were three of them that came at us here.” He points out areas to the northeast, east, and southeast where the enemy encamped. “There was another one that chased us underground,” he adds.

“Three of what?” Heppa asks.

“Well, I’m going to say… lieutenants. I don’t know how Mal-Ravanal organized his army. There were two kind of sorcerer-type fellows and one fancified skeleton who ordered around other ones. That was the fighting up here. Then the fellow that chased us when we evacuated the area, that was another one of those sorcerer types. He chased us down into the caves…” Jedeth considers for a moment. “I assume the dwarves killed him. We kind of just kept running.”

“They do tend to do that,” Tric comments, thinking of the hardy dwarves of Untdunben.

“How did you know he was a sorcerer?” Heppa asks. “Did he cast magic or did he have a certain look?”

“Or was it just that he was one of the few guys who had flesh?” Tric adds.

“He definitely had flesh,” Jedeth confirms, “and it was not rotting. He had these sort of lightning bolt things that would come from his hands if you got too close. Had a sort of creepified air to him. Wore dark robes. The skeleton wore dark robes too, the fancified one, but why would a skeleton even need clothes? I guess it could have been a sorcerer who lost his flesh maybe. I’m not sure how that all works.”

“Now, did you strike down any of the sorcerers personally?” Tric asks, and the older man just laughs. “Two of them?”

“Ah, no. Did you hear the part where I said we fled? We did not get close enough to any of those up here. And our mage, the head mage, he just vanished partway through the fight. Was off doing something ‘important’, then came back and told us to hightail it out of there. At that point Gweddry admitted things were pretty bad.”

“There’s nothing wrong with leaving,” Heppa assures Jedeth. Some fights do not need to be fought. Besides, she has seen a ghost and walking corpses; she knows how frightening they can be.

The elves already know a little bit about the “fancified skeleton.” That must be Mal-Uldhar, the one who chased the survivors of Hisanham. However, the only enemy leader that Jedeth has indicated might have been defeated is the one who went underground. Tric chooses that one for them to investigate, assuring their guide that they have been underground before, so they will be perfectly comfortable there, despite being elves. He casually brags about giving dwarves mining advice. At this point, Heppa asks what exactly they are doing. “We’re going to do some digging and learn a bit more about local history,” Tric says. “We’ll see what we find.” It is what her father wanted them to do, after all.

Jedeth leads them around the edge of the city to a place that has access to the underground cave system. Tric calls Mate down from the sky, and the magpie hides in his backpack, less enthused about traveling through a cave system than his elven companion is. Tric accepts that this will probably mean a depletion of his snack reserves. Heppa does not cower like the magpie, but she does remember unfondly the bats from her last trip underground.

The group spends an hour or so traveling through tunnels with Jedeth occasionally describing features. At one point he indicates a side tunnel. “That one there, Gweddry scouted up to see if there was a way through. It was a dead-end, but he found some fancy necklace there.”

“Was that the amulet?” Heppa asks.

“Yeah, he wore that for the rest of the campaign. Did you want to see the place?” he offers. “As far as I know, it’s just a dead-end room.” Despite the lackluster description, the elves are interested. Heppa asks about how the amulet was discovered, whether it had to be dug up or was just hanging somewhere. Jedeth has no real answers for that, since all he knows is what Gweddry reported. He leads them up the passage to a small cave. 

Jedeth holds his torch up high, lighting the small cul-de-sac while the elves look around it with interest. They find the remains of an old and broken skeleton, with the barest traces of clothing and no remaining flesh. Given the height, it is definitely not dwarvish. Heppa has not examined a person’s skeleton before, but based on her observations of elves and humans, this was the latter. The bones look weightier and wider than she would expect for an elf. “I believe it is a human male,” Heppa says, pointing out the pelvic bones. “Seems like his end was a little violent.” None of the bones are sliced through, but some are crushed. He could have been pummeled or maybe hit with rocks. In addition to dwarves and bats, trolls do live down in this cave system too.

“That’s not one of the ones we fought,” Jedeth comments.

Tric initially looks at the skeleton with Heppa, but the dirt lying around it holds fresh tracks, which is of some concern to him. “We’re not going to run into anyone down here, do you think?” he mutters, as he casts his eyes around the cave. His first thought is that someone might use the area to stash illicit goods, but the signs indicate the person was digging around. “Looks like they were after whatever else the skeleton might have had,” Tric observes with a frown. Someone else may have already gotten everything of value from down here. Sure, coming down here was a good idea, but clearly someone else had that idea first; this may be a figurative dead-end as well as a literal one. The evidence of passage is quite fresh; whoever it is could still be down in the cave system. It does not take Tric much time to determine they headed back down the side tunnel and towards where Jedeth was intending to take the elves. “Seems like someone was here very recently,” he tells the others. “Let’s be cautious moving forward.”

Realizing they are about to move on, Heppa asks the only human representative on hand, “Should we just leave the bones?” She is not sure what their burial practices are.

“Yeah,” Jedeth tells her, puzzled. “We’re just down in the caves. Lots of people died down here.”

“At this point, it might be worse to disturb them by trying to move them somewhere else,” Tric suggests.

“Gweddry left them here, so that’s good enough for me,” Jedeth adds. “We weren’t about to drag a bunch of bones around with us. There were plenty enough bones following us.” 

Jedeth steps over to Tric at the entrance of the cul-de-sac, and they discuss moving on. Heppa looks down at the bones in front of her, wondering whether it would be helpful to have a bone sample to study. She picks up some teeth, a finger, and some crushed pieces of skull and puts them in a small pouch. Perhaps her new alchemy materials, stowed safely away in her backpack now, will help her analyze the fragments. It might be that she can concoct something that would melt through it. They have only fought ghosts and walking corpses so far, but having a weapon geared toward skeletons could be useful.