In the White Shadows

Chapter III: Session III - A Capital time!

Lost Children and the Leather Jacket Blowout Sale

The DFA’s soon reached the Mess Hall for the evening meal. The scene was much like breakfast that morning, with children eating and noisly chattering while teachers roamed amongst them. Behrtogg looked around for Yezka, but the boy was missing…

The group again sought out Naria, who graciously entertained their questions while petting her lapping hound. She had no new information on Swiften, his departure, the spirit animals, or Luden’s whereabouts, but she did express surprise at the vicious accusations hurled at her predecessor. He had always been stern, even to a fault, but never violent. Faustus asked her to elaborate on Yezka’s punishment. He was being banished to his dorm as fitting punishment for sharing food, she explained. Behrtogg pleaded with her that Yezka was in danger and begged to see him, but Naria (understandably) refrained to let visitors in the children’s dormitory. Besides, allowing him visitors would undermine the lesson.

Faustus inquired about other children who had been punished — perhaps a young brunette. Naria explained that children come and go. They either fail out of the program, their parents run out of funds, or occasional horrible accidents occur. The only recent removal was Belia Malfoy, who was withdrawn by her parents several weeks ago and was a young brunette…Faustus again studied the teacher’s face for signs of betrayal. Naria was clearly hiding something, but he just couldn’t quite tell what it was…

Eventually, the party retired to their makeshift chambers in the corner of the schoolhouse. As they left, Naria again reminded them that roaming about campus was prohibited after sundown — it was a liability issue. The party protested a bit and feigned some selective hearing, but the message was mostly received…

Once back in their room, So’Khra dampened all sound entering or leaving the room. The DFA’s then sketched out their master plans for the evening. First, they would sneak into Luden’s loft for signs of the Headmaster. Then they would cross through the Courtyard and contact Behrtogg’s crush. Hopefully, all would remain unseen.

After checking both ways for Taj and Bino (the lovely guards), the party darted to Luden’s loft. Faustus quickly used his magic key to unlock the door. He did so with such alacrity that he disarmed a magical ward, which sparked just inside the door.

Luden’s loft was an eclectic mess of adventuring artifacts. Stuffed albino bears, bone furniture, and books — so many books — dotted the lower level. The party scanned the room and saw nothing of particular note. Drezan remained below while the rest of the party ascended the internal stairs. Noting the large exposed windows of the upper level, the DFAs panicked and hung various flags and furs to prevent their light from being observed. They ascended into the upper chamber, where a large reptilian shell served as a desk. A made bed sat in the corner, and the layer of dust seemed light but uniform. Mounted on the wall was a series of strange translucent gems.

So’Khra began searching the room and felt particular arcane energy coming from a ceramic plate with a handprint in the center. As he placed his hand there and spoke to Behrtogg, some of the wall’s gems began to glow. He removed his hand, placed it down, and said, “This is a secret.” Different gems glowed — it seemed a puzzle had been left for them. On his third attempt, a magic dart fired at So’Khra from somewhere in the wall. The wound smarted with poison, making So’Khra tilt a bit.

Around this time, Taj and Bino—while unintelligent—were observant enough to see strange blankets hanging in the Headmaster’s loft. They rushed inside as Drezan warned the others. Drezan tried to hide behind the door, but the guards saw him immediately. If nothing else, the time spent peppering him with questions bought his allies a few extra seconds. Drezan was able to fool Taj that he had misunderstood the rules, but the guard escorted him out nonetheless. Bino ascended the stairs to look for the hobgoblin’s allies. Behrtogg had managed to hide underneath the bed, while Faustus awkwardly dove behind the desk, his armor clearly sticking out the top. So’Khra did his best to impersonate Naria. For the time being though, So’Khra pulled off the ruse, and Bino left the loft snickering about Naria and the cleric.

The party exhaled with relief and resumed its work on the gems. Eventually, the word “CAPITAL” triggered the mechanism, and a box appeared on the desk. So’Khra disarmed a second rune, and lifted the lid. Inside was a small collection of papers, and a letter tied into a scroll. The letter explained that Luden was frustrated by Swiften’s quick departure; he thought he had more time, and the warriors he sent for had not yet responded! The collection of papers seemed to be a series of doodles and puzzles. Contemplating this, the DFAs realized that Luden was sending them a message! Puzzles inside puzzles! Messages inside messages! They eagerly re-examined the letter and the CAPITALS spelt UDACHA. That name again! Wondering if more could be found, they pulled out the original letter from Luden. Their heart sank when they realized they had been thoroughly worked over by a clever DM foolishly focused on the flowery, indiscernible script…there, in the letter, the capitals again called to them. LOOK FOR ME IN THE ATRIUMHELP! Perhaps Luden wasn’t so far away, after all…

By now, Bino, with all his astuteness, came to a realization. That wasn’t Naria…Naria never leaves her hound!! With a shout, he and Bino again converged on the loft. Hearing this, Behrtogg bolted back to the classroom, Faustus and So’Khra in not-so hot pursuit. Behrtogg flew just past the guard’s sight undetected, but his allies were less fortunate. Bino grabbed Faustus by the cloak and body-blocked So’Khra.

The guard was livid! He berated the heroes for their inconsiderate and brazen disregard for order. Each time they began to respond, he cut them off with a new cursing tirade. The party allowed themselves to be barricaded into the classroom until Naria could sort this out, and the guards left, still in a huff. The DFAs agreed, time was of the essence!

As soon as Taj and Bino rounded the corner, the party skirted to the Courtyard. The night was growing deeper, and Behrtogg could feel the energy redoubled near the pool. As So’Khra began chanting, the goliath saw a shimmer appear before him. The girl called to him. Although she was not the most direct communicator, Behrtogg gently guided her to some answers. She was requesting to “leave and go home.” They had punished her and it wasn’t fair. This was “so much worse than normal.” The “people who punished” had come “since Naria arrived,” but she was “a good teacher.” They had “taken away her ferret” because Yezka had shared some food with her. They did the punishing “underneath the wooden floor.”

Hearing this, the party grew angry. No longer was this just a troubling feeling and fear behind eyes. Someone was hurting children (oh yeah, we forgot, but, no no…it’s different when others do it) and they were gonna fuckin’ pay! They ran to the Great Hall, ready to uncover the mystery.

As they exited the schoolhouse, they heard a crackle and Taj’s voice floated out to them. We knew you couldn’t sit still for long. It appeared that Taj and Bino ran to tell someone alright, but it definitely wasn’t Naria. Taj and Bino now burned with fire, and two huge sword-bearing demons lurked behind them. A sorceress appeared to lead all four…

A fight broke out, with scourging fire nearly burning the DFAs into nothingness, but Drezan’s audacity kept the largest demons at bay, allowing his allies to remain just outside their daunting aura. Behrtogg was particularly vicious in dispatching the lesser demons, twice bleeding on them from his fresh finger wounds. Eventually, Faustus finished off the sorceress, and the party regrouped. A victory…but who knows who (or what!) else might have been alerted by the commotion.

Behrtogg wistfully realized that he probably wasn’t going to break even on those leather jackets after all…

Cautiously, the DFA’s entered the Great Hall. The marbled hallway was splashed with a gorgeous mosaic that stretched onto the ceiling. It depicted some great feat of war, but the DFA’s were unsure which war it came from. So’Khra astutely noticed that four knights, clad in white, seemed to be a central tenet. He recalled experiencing a similar scene when divining upon the Zehiri Triad back on the road to Kievstal…

Without a moment’s more hesitation, Behrtogg crossed the marble hallway for the doors to the auditorium. As he neared, he heard a dread-inspiring sound. His heart lept to his throat as ritualistic chanting met his ears. He opened the door, unveiling an all-too-familiar scene of horror. There, atop the stage, was a glowing altar…and several cultists spun around to face the barbarian…

“I thought we got rid of these guys,” Behrtogg thought, as he tightened his grip on his hammer…

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