“Wait – did you kill all… these… guys??” Esteban looked around at the panoply of corpses with an unabashed air of profound respect.
“Not all of them, certa-” began Kainyn.
“Beg pardon,” Esteban said, holding up one hand. “I was talking to Mumpo.”
Across the room, the dwarf was busy rifling a dead man’s pockets. He pulled out a largish wad of what looked like lint, examined it critically, rolled a natural 1 on Appraise, and surreptitiously placed it into the large front-facing pouch of his druid’s smock. He did not seem to have heard Esteban, and he did not seem to be at all affected by the prospect of robbing the dead of their valuable lint.
“I’m not sure he killed anyone.” Kainyn said.
“Well, they look properly murdered to me,” Esteban said with a sense of finality. He smiled, then jerked a thumb at the nearby door. “Anybody open that yet?”
Kainyn frowned interestingly. “I don’t think so, actually…?”
Esteban tipped him a wink, pointed Koji toward the opposite side, and headed toward the door.
The rooms proved to be both empty and mundane – a sad barracks, devoid of of even a single flower in a vase; a dusty weapons storehouse, with an array of notched swords and one melancholy cat o’nine tails with three tails lost. But one room held something of interest: a wrought iron hatch on the floor that fairly reeked of the untapped promise of excitement and the potential for entertaining murders to come. Kainyn and Nisha stood to either side of the doorway, each gesturing to Esteban with curt nods indicating he should go in and investigate.
“What do you suppose that could be, Nisha?” asked Kainyn enthusiastically.
“Why, I just don’t know,” replied Nisha. “But I bet it’s irretrievably locked.”
Esteban’s head whipped around like a cat when it’s master clacks the can opener. He smiled knowingly at Nisha. “Locked, you say?” he purred. He sidled past her, his satchel of lockpicks appearing in his hand as if by magic. Esteban bee-lined toward the hatch, bent over and began toying expertly with some nonexistent hinges, which happened to be on the opposite side of the hatch. But with his attention focused the hinges, Esteban failed to see the three (!) tengu (!) ninjas (pfft), who removed themselves from wall shadows, pulled curvy daggers from beneath their wings, and gave Esteban a pair of ‘get-to-know-you’ stabs in the vicinity of his abdomen. In response, the usually-jaunty rogue emitted a high, womanly scream and desperately tried to pull a fancy-pants (but ultimately nonmagical) shortsword from his belt to attempt some sort of pitiful defense against his assailants.
“Classic Esteban,” Kainyn sighed, drawing his [sword] and leaning into the doorway. Nisha only shook her head.
“Ow!” came a noise from the southern end of the room, where Mumpo had, last anyone had looked, been trying to pry a brass doorknob off an open door with a dagger and a length of twine. Now, however, he’d just been poked by a largish human, dressed in a chef’s coat and sporting a high, vaguely whitish toque with an equally largish butcher’s knife. The man poked him again; “Ow, I said! Quit poking me, you shitbird saucier!” But Mumpo’s entreaties were to no avail as the cook kept poking and was joined by another, equally poke-capable cook.
With a fight now on two fronts, it was obvious to all that the level of murdering that had previously taken place had not been entirely sufficient to the task. Koji leaped into the tengu room with a bare katana and a massively inflated sense of purpose.
He swung about with purposeful abandon, knocking loose the occasional feather but otherwise serving as a large, unimpressive fan. Kainyn followed him, slipping past and coming about to flank. Nisha, with a nod to kainyn, moved toward Mumpo, who had backed away from the angry cooks and was letting his pet tiger keep them at bay. He made a few passes in the air, and spoke a few words: “Dwi ‘ n ffycin cwcis casineb! Beth am roi rhai ystlumod arnyn nhw!*“ In response, a huge cloud of bats materialized atop the now quartet of stabby cooks, driving two of them backward into the room, swearing and swatting.
Between Nisha and the tiger, two of the cooks were down and their poking ways ceased. But the fight near the iron hatch had gone more poorly. The ninja were pleased to finally find a a proper samurai to pick on (finally) and pick on him they did, He was bleeding from a dozen cuts, and it took a fair amount of time before Kainyn and Esteban (who, in a display of uncommon valor, had scuttled to the corner and drawn his bow) managed to whittle away at the birdy assassins and get Koji a bit of breathing room. The Tien took the opportunity to find Nisha, who patched him up a bit with some Mercurochrome (made by the elves, very strong and stingy) and a bandage made of old underpants that had belonged to Mitch before he’d gotten married. Infection, as always, was a worry.
Kainyn and Esteban put an ignoble end to the tengu ninjas, then came back out to see what could be mopped up. Luckily, there was a cook or two mucking about, so they bent to the task of finishing them off, which went well but disappointed the tiger. This second wave of dickheads dispatched, everyone was able to get back to their primary objective: looking for loot.
The outer hallway was full of boxes, with various tools and construction equipment. Esteban located a set of well crafted blacksmith’s tools, which Mumpo claimed immediately on the basis of a dubious (albeit uncontested) allegation of smithing skill, but beyond that there was nothing worth carrying around throughout what remained of the complex. After a comical few minutes creating a pile of boxes to climb up a hatch to the second floor (in which Esteban was given a shot of ego-fluffing bull’s strength so as to lever himself up through the trap in Shoresy fashion), the team located a set of convenient stairs, hidden cunningly in plain site not ten feet away from their now obviously idiotic box stack.
The upper gantries were empty but there were more doors to investigate, and the team checked them out, In one, another room of weapons, Esteban replenished his dwindling quiver (and garnered a single arrow of slaying magical beast, a gift from Mumpo’s Detect Magic, and recompense for the tools). Tehre were others, all along the gantries, including:
C18: cold weather clothing of all types
C9: a cold room, loaded with meats and cheeses
A kitchen, containing two large bread ovens and a door to outside, some sort of courtyard (empty), and
C13: an alchemical lab, with a variety of interesting things,
All agreed that, once everyone here was murdered, the elusive guide had been found and the equally elusive sword recovered, the contents of these rooms would make a solid loot pile for the caravan to Tien Xia, not the least of which was the alchemical lab. Every took a moment to look through the lab, which all in could be sold today for at least a grand, not withstanding the Ring of Counter Spelling that Nisha turned up.
But the most intriguing thing found inthe alchmeical lab was a crystalline cabinet, transparent and containing the body of a man, apparently either dead or in some sort of deep magical sleep (wagering was running about 50/50, although in Esteban’s opinion the smart money was on dead). The smart money lost that day, however, as when Mumpo tapped on the glass. the man’s eyes opened and he began speaking:
“Let me out! Help! Please let me know of here!”
Moved by pity and the welfare of their fellow man as always, all began to seek some way to released the luckless man… JUST KIDDING! They were suspicious from the start, and their suspicions seemed well founded. For one, the man’s laconic attitude and strangely buzzy voice did not seem to be altogether human (although one could make the same claim about Kainyn); second, there seemed to be a fair amount of activity just beneath the man’s skin (which, thankfully, Kainyn was did not have) which gave every indication of being some sort of insect activity. As Mumpo was expert on most things that were gross and/or insectile, he was consulted: “That’s not alive…” he said sagely. “… but perhaps, not undead either.”
And on that definitive adjudication, the team paused for the evening, marveling at Mumpo’s wisdom and generally needing a stiff drink.
*I fucking hate cooks! Let’s put some bats on them!