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Welcome to Episode 17 of the Rescued by Dragons podcast, Tales of the Brunch Club: A fantasy fiction podcast inspired a weekly home brew Dungeons and Dragons campaign.
My name is Dominic White and I invite you to picture yourself in a cozy, torch-lit tavern, ale in hand, gathered around a table with other listeners, waiting to hear the next chapter in the tale of… The Brunch Club.
But first, a quick recap of our previous episode…
In Episode 16, The Brunch Club took the dead gnoll they saved from being burned on the fire to Saberhagen’s sanctum. Drusilla used her ability to speak with the dead to try and find out why the gnolls attacked Wheaton. They learned a powerful druid named Rajat ordered the assault. The gnoll did not know why they were told to attack Wheaton, nor did he know what Rajat wanted with Vorjhon. They agreed Rajat was likely the same druid Saberhagen scried on the day before. They decided it would be safest for Wheaton if they left for Elnor sooner than later. In appreciation for saving them, the mayor told them the town will renovate the lighthouse for them while they are away. They celebrated their good fortune by morning drinking, afternoon drinking, and night drinking, at TJ’s tavern.
Episode 17, “The Cave On The Coast”
Elora felt the warm sun on her face and knew it was morning. The insides of her eyelids glowed orange and she refused to open them to the bright, unforgiving light. She contemplated rolling over and away from the sun but her head hurt too much. It was best if she didn’t move. If she was lucky, she thought, she’d just die right there. She thought she heard her name from some far off place. “Elora,” it said softly. “Elora, wake up.”
She tried to say, ‘Fuck off,’ to the voice, but her lips seemed too dry to move. Her tongue felt like it had been pickled then wrapped in cotton. Something grabbed her shoulder. Her instincts kicked in and she grabbed the arm. She quickly sat up and brought her other arm back, ready to strike. Through blurry eyes she saw Drusilla come into focus. Then she grabbed the sides of her head as the pain made her regret such a swift, sudden action. She collapsed back on the bed, still clutching her head, but now her stomach started to churn and saliva began flooding the back of her mouth. “Just leave me here to die in peace,” she implored as she fought against the impulse to retch.
Drusilla laughed, put her hand on her shoulder again, and whispered a prayer under her breath. Elora’s headache vanished. The queasiness in her stomach subsided. Her mouth still felt dry, but the water Drusilla handed her took care of that.
Elora thanked Drusilla for curing her hangover with a prayer of healing. “I’ll have to remember to make sure I always have a cleric around when I go drinking.”
“We have our uses,” Drusilla modestly understated.
They got dressed and were ready to head out when they heard a knock on their door. They opened it to Vorjhon. The paladin’s armor was spotlessly polished and his travel pack was at his feet. He was ready to go.
Drusilla asked, “Where’s Salys?”
Vorjhon chuckled. “She was… a little slow this morning. I gave her some healing though so she should be ready soon.”
“I guess Salys can’t hold her ale,” Elora said, winking surreptitiously at Drusilla.
Drusilla noticed Vorjhon was put together and ready to go. “You look like you’re weathering the morning just fine. Do dragonborns not get hungover?”.
Vorjhon replied truthfully, “I will admit, I am not one hundred percent. But I didn’t want to waste more energy in case we needed it on road.”
Salys greeted them in the hallway. “What’s up, Brunch Club? I’ll tell you, nothing like having a paladin around the morning after a bender.”
They left the White Claw Inn and headed to TJ’s. Stephen, the tavern keeper, looked tired and bleary eyed, but greeted them with a smile. “I’m surprised to see you four here so early,” she smiled. “You certainly kept me up late last night.”
Vorjhon said, “Our apologies.”
Stephen laughed. “Are you kidding me? I haven’t sold that much food and ale in one day, ever! I’m looking forward to you all becoming regulars!”
They ordered breakfast and discussed their plan for the day. They had learned it was normally a two day walk to Elnor, but with the weather getting cold and the road turning slick, it could take three. They had already reprovisioned and had 10 days of rations with them so they saw no need to stock up before they left. The only thing they had to do before leaving was say goodbye to Saberhagen and get the list of items he needed from Elnor.
A woman about Stephen’s age appeared behind the bar. She had a broom in one hand and an empty burlap sack in the other. “Those rats are too quick for me. I can’t catch any of them.”
Stephen glanced over at the table where his customers were eating breakfast. “Not so loud, Maisy. We have fancy guests here.”
The Brunch Club did their best to suppress some giggling.
“Them?” Maisy laughed. “They were here last night. Trust me, they ain’t fancy.”
Elora waved her fork at Drusilla. “She’s fancy.”
Drusilla did not argue. She was, in fact, fancy.
Salys spoke across the room to Maisy, “Did you say rats?”
Maisy confirmed she did. “Oh yeah. Lot’s of them down in the basement.”
Salys looked between Drusilla and Elora. “Whattaya say, Ladies? Rat party, round two?”
Drusilla was the first to stand up. She picked up her shield and sword. “Loser buys the others breakfast.”
Elora sighed and followed them.
Maisy and Stephen stepped aside when the three women went behind the bar and descended the stairs into the basement.
The tavern keepers stared at Vorjhon with questioning looks in their eyes. He merely shrugged, picked up his plate and mug, and joined them at the bar.
“We are new to this land. Do you see many adventurers coming through here looking for work?” the Dragonborn asked.
Before Maisy could answer they heard a muffled scream from the basement and the sound of boxes tipping over.
The dragonborn seemed to ignore it.
Maisy decided ignoring it might be for the best. “Usually they’re just passing through on the way to Elnor.”
They heard Salys yell from the basement, “Not me, the rat!”
Elora’s muffled voice shouted, “There’s one!”
Drusilla screamed something that sounded like, “Ow! Watch it!”
Stephen glanced down the stairwell then back at Vorjhon. He said, “Sometimes bounties will be posted for bandits and pirates who take shelter in the caves on the coast. Some adventurers do head north into the forest to fight some of the creatures that live up there. Some of the rarer creatures bring good money as pelts or trophies.”
Maisy added, “There are lots of rumors of strange creatures up to the north near Tor in the Aegis mountains.”
“Tor?” Vorjhon asked.
The sound of shattering glass and a chorus of curse words echoed up the basement steps.
Maisy described Tor as a, “Smooth cliff face with all sorts of fancy decorations. Legend says it was carved by dwarves centuries ago.”
Because of the sound of more falling boxes they couldn’t tell if it was Elora or Drusilla who yelled out, “One of them bit me!”
“Sorry,” Salys yelled. “That was me!”
Stephen paused, concerned, then continued answering Vorjhon’s question. “That’s about all I can think of off the top of my head. Your best bet for work around here is definitely Elnor.”
Drusilla was the first up the stairs. Her hair was disheveled and she had streaks of dirt across her face. She held up the burlap sack triumphantly. It wriggled and jerked back and forth erratically in her hand.
Elora and Salys followed her up the stairs with similar messy hair and grubby faces.
“I think we got them all,” Salys announced with pride.
Maisy took the sack from her and went outside.
Vorjhon asked, “Who won?”
They looked at each other and shrugged. Elora answered, “We forgot to count.”
Drusilla handed some gold coins to Stephen. “For the damage,” she said.
They bid their goodbyes to Stephen and Maisy and headed for the Sun Spot.
Saberhagen greeted them when they entered. “Ah, there you are.” He turned his dark feline head to his human familiar. “Jenkins, give them the list please.”
Jenkins wordlessly handed Drusilla a small scroll.
She unrolled it and read the items to herself silently. “Will these be easy to find?”
The wizard nodded. “Yes, yes. You should be able to find most of it in the Crystal District, though I’d look in the Slate and Granite Districts for more of the mundane items first, they’ll be cheaper there.”
Drusilla glanced at the list again. “And the bat guano?”
Saberhagen did not answer the question, but instead filled them in on some of the details of Elnor. “The city is on a large hill that has been leveled into tiers. The first tier is the Slate District. That’s the seedier district. Lot’s of rowdy taverns, slums, unguilded tradesmen, peddlers, that kind of thing. The next is the Granite District. That’s where most of the working class of the city work and live. You’ll find more reputable inns, tradesmen, and stores there. The next tier is the Quartz district. That’s where the military and government buildings are and where most of the bureaucrats live. The top tier is the Crystal District. That is the seat of magical power in Elnor. It’s where the wealthiest, most powerful citizens of Elnor live. It’s also where you’ll find The Council of the Five, and the mage college. The tallest building in the center is the Crystal Spire Library.”
When Saberhagen was done, Salys asked, “Will Vorjhon and Drusilla even be allowed in Elnor?”
The wizard nodded and explained, “It’s only illegal to use divine magic. Though when you get to the Quartz and Crystal Districts, you might receive a better reception if you don’t advertise your religious alignments.”
Elora asked, “Will they let them in the Library?”
“Ah,” Saberhagen said, as though he was remembering something. “That’s another thing. They don’t just let anyone in the library.”
“Why not?” asked Drusilla.
Saberhagen shrugged. “Knowledge is valuable. They hoard it for themselves like dragons hoard gold.”
“Is there way we can get in?” Vorjhon asked.
The cat smiled. “Of course. Just like everything else, you can buy your way in if you have enough money. Or you can try to gain favor with influential groups within Elnor that could sponsor you. Either way, don’t count on walking into the Crystal Spire Library on day one. It may take you a while.”
They thanked their new patron and began their journey to Elnor.
The early winter air was cool, but the sun was bright and felt good on their skin, and scales. There was a light coating of snow on the road. It wasn’t icy so they were able to maintain a steady pace. Vorjhon shared with them the conversation he had with Stephen and Maisy regarding interesting areas around Elnor.
The road gradually moved closer to the coast and by afternoon they could hear the distant sounds of the surf breaking against rocks. The road gently turned southward giving them a distant view of where the forest sloped toward the water and transformed into a rocky coastline. They could see dark spots that looked like holes in the rocks or crevasses between them.
Salys pointed to them. “Is that where the caves are supposed to be?”
“I think so,” Vorjhon answered.
After a few more minutes of walking Elora pointed out muddy boot prints heading down a path that seemed to go in the direction of the possible caves. “Should we check it out?” the ranger asked.
“Rooting out some bandits might be a way to get in Elnor’s good graces,” Drusilla supposed.
Vorjhon agreed, “It would be right thing to do.”
Salys pointed out, “They might have gold.”
Elora tracked the footprints down the path. The others followed.
The ranger was able to follow the prints easily until the path ended at the rocky shore. She could still pick out a trail of crushed lichen which led them to the first cave. The entrance was dark but toward the back they saw the faint glow of torch light.
Vorjhon went first with the others following a few feet behind him. The rear of the cave sloped downward and narrowed into a passageway only wide enough to let them continue single file. Torches rested in crude holes bored into the naturally formed rock walls every twenty feet or so. They had passed five torches when they first heard the low, repetitive chanting echo up the corridor. The cave’s downward slope got steeper and the floor got wetter the deeper they descended. Vorjhon and Drusilla moved carefully in front of Elora and Salys.
The dragonborn lost his footing on the slick rock, fell into a sitting position, and slid the remaining way down the chute of the cave. His armor clanked against the rocks and echoed up and down the hallway. The corridor eventually opened up into a larger cavern and the floor leveled out. Vorjhon’s slide stopped in the middle of thirteen figures wearing red robes with their hoods hiding their faces in shadows.
The paladin looked up at the draped figures, waved, and said, “Sorry! Wrong cave!” He quickly got to his feet, turned around, and began scrambling back up the way he came.
A female voice came from the figure with the most ornate robe. “Stop,” she commanded. Vorjhon felt the impulse to obey, but he shook the feeling off and continued into the tunnel. He made it a few feet before Drusilla, sliding uncontrollably on her stomach, ran into him and knocked them both back into the room.
The pair got to their feet but the robed figures closed in around them with daggers drawn. The woman who tried to command Vorjhon to stop began chanting something that sounded ominus. She stopped chanting when a flaming arrow pierced her throat and disappeared.
The arrow reappeared in Elora’s quiver, from which it was quickly reloaded onto the ranger’s bow and sent into the formerly chanting priestess’s heart.
Drusilla chanted her own quick prayer under her breath. When she finished, her and Vorjhon were surrounded by a swirling cloud of spiritual ravens. The small birds chewed and clawed their way through the dozen remaining figures.
Bright green light overpowered the orange glow of the torches when Salys’s magic missiles slammed into the robed priests closest to her.
Vorjhon and Drusilla bludgeoned and carved their way through their attackers in the center of the crowd. Elora and Salys pierced and blasted the ones on the outside.
The priests’ had no armor under their robes and their daggers had little effect on the cleric’s and paladin’s mail. Within moments the priests were all dead or incapacitated and the cave grew suddenly quiet.
With the immediate danger over they looked around the cavern. There were four passageways opposite from the one they had entered from. Vorjhon held his forefinger up to his lips to ask for silence. They all listened carefully but heard no sounds and saw no lights coming from the dark hallways.
When they were confident they were safe, Elora smiled at the dragonborn and lunar elf. “You two suck at being sneaky.”
Vorjhon shrugged and looked down at the carnage around him. One of the robed figures was still breathing and seemed semi-conscious. He pulled him up by the front of his robe into a sitting position. “Why did you attack us? What were you doing here?”
The man looked at the symbol of Bahamut on the paladin’s shield. “Infidel,” he said with contempt. He began chanting, “The arms of the deep. The many armed creature. The arms of the deep. The many armed creature…”
Drusilla slit his throat. When Vorjhon gave her a puzzled look she explained, “It sounded like he was summoning something. I didn’t want to risk it.”
Vorjhon nodded with approval. He walked to the body of the priestess. She was the only one wearing a necklace. A silver and lapis lazuli pendant in the shape of a stylized squid hung from her chain. The paladin took it and put it in his pack as he guessed out loud, “Information about this cult might be valuable in Elnor.”
The rest of them checked the bodies and found nothing more than the ineffectual daggers and a small amount of silver between the lot of them.
Salys observed, “Whatever they were doing down here, it wasn’t for the money.”
Drusilla looked at the doors in the cave behind them. “Should we check them out?”
Vorjhon shook his dragon-like head. “No. We have no idea how many more are in caves. We should report this to Elnor, then offer to lead them back here.”
The others agreed that was the most prudent choice. They made their way to the road going back the way they came. After putting a couple more miles behind them, they found a comfortable looking clearing near the side of the road where they made camp for the night.
This tale will continue next week in Episode 18
Episode 17 was written by Dominic White and based upon a Dungeons and Dragons campaign created by our dungeon master, Brian Messmer.
Valuable contributions to the story were added by the role playing of:
- JP Black, who plays Drusilla
- Liz Raychard, who plays Elora
- Anna Flemke, who plays Salys
- Dominic White, who plays Vorjhon
- And Brian Messmer, who plays everyone else
Thank you very much for listening Please join us next week to find out, along with the rest of us, what‘s going to happen next!