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Feeding Time

Page history last edited by Kirk 1 year, 1 month ago Saved with comment

back to the Index, or to Chapter 70:  Grim Discoveries 


Chapter 71

The Caper at Alton Keep: Feeding Time



9:30 Dragon, 20th day of Justinian - Summer


     Our party consisted of:


  • Sextus - Tevinter elf, Senior Enchanter, master of blood, spirit, and entropy magics, Commander of the Wardens in Ferelden, he is just one day away from retirement.

  • Eornan - elvish scout and Dalish advocate

  • Bran - human warrior, one of the Helwyr; (possessed corpse)

  • Landon - human mage and Warden; descended from the Old Korcarians

  • Alpheus - human mage and Warden, with ties to Orlais

  • Sir Roderick - human Templar and Warden; formerly possessed corpse, and has a clockwork left arm

  • Zevran - elven assassin from Antiva, now working with the Wardens (though not a Warden himself)

  • Shivanna - female elven Warden and mage from Arksmonten
  • Elaine Bryland - the wife of Arl Rendon Howe, and sister of the Arl of South Reach; imprisoned until recently by Arl Howe

  • Felsi - the daughter of Bann Franderel of West Hill; she's an apostate mage, and was imprisoned until recently by Arl Howe

  • Esme - Garricks' mother, and a portrait artist; imprisoned until recently by Arl Howe

  • Garrick - a young Warden, imprisoned for months by Arl Howe, and terribly tortured

  • Sir Cory - a Templar, captured and imprisoned by Arl Howe

  • Teacup - a young Mabari hound, loyal to Felsi


     Bran donned Cuthbert's armor, and we distributed the other items being taken. The arlessa was still unconscious, and being carried by Roderick.

     The hall which led past the cells continued into darkness; the last door on one side was for the torture chamber. Through the barred window only torture equipment could be seen, but lit braziers hinted at recent occupancy; Zevran picked the lock and a few of us ventured carefully inside.

     Arl Howe had arranged for every type of terrible device for inflicting pain, plus restraints, cages, etc. Crumpled on the floor, face down in a puddle of blood, was the torturer; a stiletto was embedded in his back, but he still lived. Landon was brought in to remove the blade and wake the man up briefly. At Bran's prompting, Alpheus had Alys check for demonic possession -- none.

     Without even being asked, the man coughed up blood and spluttered, "Gervais, you fuck!" Over a few rasping sentences, we learned that someone named Gervais had heard the battle outside, stabbed the torturer and presumably run away. Other questions were asked of the dying man: "How many of your prisoners were Gray Wardens? Is the name Samesley familiar? What about Laney ... were any of them women?" He had never heard of Laney, and the only Warden he knew of was Garrick.

     Eornan "processed" the torturer, and we hurried away -- the castle was on the verge of being alerted to our intrusions. Beyond the torture chamber, the hall was unlit and dusty -- in the dust were the prints of a person leading into the darkness. We followed the hall, and the prints; the hall descended, and soon became a more "natural" passage.  The passage split, with one side narrowing to a slit barely large enough for a person to fit through; past the slit was torch- or fire-light. Our rogues crept up and heard a conversation by a few men on the far side of the crack:


"Hey, that you Gervais? What are you doing out here?"

"Just stopping by for a refreshment."

"Is this man guilty? He has been accused of beating a mabari."

"I can't stay, very busy ... yes, yes he is."

"No, no!"


     Sextus sent us to the right-hand branch of the passage, with Eornan in the lead, and we soon felt a sea breeze. The rock was damp, and the passage seemed entirely unused; it continued further down. We considered using Shape Earth to block the passage behind us, but that would take time and remove any chance to retreat.

     A glimmer of reflected light was seen, and the passage became a crevice, opening into a storage room, with barrels, crates and stuff. There were no sounds of any nearby people; Eornan was sent to scout ahead.

      Just outside of the storage room, Eornan could see into a vast cavern (at least 80 yards wide), with most of the "floor" being sea water.


Our Heroes were entering on the far right of this picture.


     Docks along two sides held piles of crates and barrels; a few of Howe's men were moving supplies -- while armed, they were not regular troops. A short tower in the water had a platform extending out over a "fenced-off" section of the cave -- presumably where the monster lurked. Various skiffs and other small boats were tied to the docks; a couple of doors, an open archway, and a wide tunnel for boats seemed to be the main exits. 

     The elven scout watched in awe as a "trainer" atop the platform threw a fish down to a tentacular creature at least 8 yards wide. Eornan crept back and told us of the cavern's appearance. We formed a Cunning Plan:  Bran (wearing Cuthbert's armor and sword) would carry what seemed a simple elvish servant to the docks (actually Eornan), with a tale of the elf's crimes; Zevran would be hidden close behind. Meanwhile, the mages would creep along, staying unseen in the less-lit part of the cave. At the correct moment, when Bran's enraged oratory had drawn all the dock workers close, Sextus would use a Sleep spell to put them all down. Sir Roderick and Teacup remained near the storage room, to guard the less-capable members of our group.

     In fact, our plan went very well -- as Bran declared, "He was stealing breakfast wine, and now ... he is brunch!" to a group of intrigued dock workers, the Warden-Commander put them all to sleep. Unfortunately at least a couple of Howe's men -- monster trainers -- were in the small tower, which could only be reached by boat. Bran dropped Eornan, who grabbed his sword and darted forward to the two doors along the dock; the other members of the party began rushing forward along the edge of the water.

     Bran glared at the men in the tower and ordered them to do nothing; while they were intimidated, there were able to slip out of sight behind the tower's parapets. Alpheus cast a Force Field upon the poor victim chained at the tip of the feeding platform. Zevran and Landon darted to the edge of the wide doorway leading to where more of the arl's men were working, and the mage cast a Grease spell in the opening. Bran rushed to secure a skiff, while Eornan slammed the two doors shut. Roderick was leading the rescued prisoners forward from the dim corner of the cavern, to a sort of "beach" on the edge of the water.

      At this moment, the cowering men in the tower beat upon a gong, and a few seconds later the water within the "cage" area began to splash and roil. With a gush of foul-smelling water and spray, a cluster of thick tentacles thrust from the water towards the feeding-platform of the tower!

     As the tentacles stretched forth, it was quickly clear that the sea-beast Our Heroes had seen a few minutes ago was some minor offspring, or smaller species, different from the true horror within the cave. The kraken, frustrated by the Force Field from taking the chained sacrifice atop the tower, swung its arms about with immense force, crushing a section of the fence as if it were paper. Each of the suckers on its tentacles was the size of a helmet! Where the arms came together a terrible sharp beak protruded, snapping furiously.


Cecil appears! Arl Howe uses the name "Polly" for her, however.


     Sextus, prepared for a monstrous appearance, cast a Sleep spell upon the creature ...


He must have cast some other spell before this ... some kind of protection perhaps, or Spell Wisp?


     ... which seemed to briefly quell the sea-beast.

      A couple of Howe's men struggled to their feet, having shaken off the effect of Sextus's spell; but Eornan put his sword at their necks, and they cowered away in fright. Alpheus and Sextus cast spells at the top of the tower, Bran began to slowly row the skiff away from the dock. Eornan ran to jump into the moving skiff.

     To our horror, the vast creature quickly threw off the effects of Sextus' spell; it rose high in the water, and plucked the poor sacrifice from the platform of the tower. At the same time, a tentacle shot forward over the fence and wound around Eornan -- Bran gave a roar and grabbed the elf's legs, bracing his feet on the rowing-bench of the boat.


all that remained of the sacrifice were their hands, chained to the pillar ...


     Zevran marked the cephalopod for death, but more usefully Sextus entered Blood Mage mode and enslaved the creature! He commanded it to "release them", then to "climb the tower and take the people away to the bottom." The elf scout was dropped back into the boat, as the kraken slithered onto and around the tower, brushing aside the parapet and tearing down the feeding-platform. As Bran and Eornan got their oars sorted out, cries of terror could be heard from the trainers, as the massive tentacles slid, yard upon yard, through the tower's window -- in windows on one side, out on another side, and then dipping back in. The masonry of the tower shook, the roof burst upwards, and the screams of the trainers ended. The kraken un-wrapped itself from the be-slimed tower, sliding with amazing speed back below the water.

     Our Heroes and their friends scrambled onto the skiff, and clumsily rowed out of the cave into the morning light. Outside, there were scattered clouds in the sky, with light rain; a 12 mile per hour wind blew from the north. A cargo vessel was moored within a hundred yards or so of the cliff, with other skiffs along its side loading (or unloading) cargo; there was a brief urge towards piracy, but it was realized that the castle, looming above us, could react quickly to any signs of distress from a ship so close to the walls.

     Oars thrashing, we slowly moved northeast, around the cape to the beach where we'd originally landed, out of sight from the castle.


the red star marks the location of Alton Keep


     Early in the afternoon, we brought the skiff onto the beach five miles from the castle. The Grand Wolf could be seen in the distance; Sextus attracted their attention with a Fireball spell, and a couple of skiffs were soon seen moving towards us from the ship. Some of us were sent to travel overland to Linna Manor to bring Bartreg, and a lot of our gear, back to the beach.

     Thus, by the evening we were were all aboard the ship. The Wardens and their accomplices met in a cabin, and Sextus laid out his plans:


  • several people had to be taken to safety, including the arlessa, Sir Cory and Bartreg

  • Bran, Landon, Eornan and Alpheus had to travel to Redcliffe

  • Sextus was going to alert the Seekers of Truth about Arl Howe's alliance with abominations


     "The Grand Wolf will sail to the Free Marches or to Cumberland. The rest of you will be landed near Denerim." With a grim expression, his voice rose; "I am naming Anwen Cousland as Warden-Commander -- fuck this country, and fuck this job!  Once Bartreg and Garrick are safe with other wardens, we'll contact the Seekers of Truth and make our statements along with Ser Cory. An army of mage-abominations is not the Wardens' problem." Our Heroes were briefly stunned, as the Tevinter elf glared around the cabin. Nobody had much to say in reply ...

      In the middle of the night, a boat moved quietly to the docks at Denerim, and six persons stepped ashore:  Bran, Landon, Eornan, Alpheus, Zevran and Sir Roderick. With a few bundles concealing some gear best not shown in public, we slipped through the streets to the dockside tavern The Pearl, while Zevran was sent to scout out the Thirsty Dog tavern. Bran handed five gold coins to Eornan, for safekeeping; the Helwyr was now wearing the Ring of Tempest, and Cuthbert's armor. We washed in fresh water and had a meal in a private room.

     Zevran returned to report the tavern was only half-full, and had prepared a storeroom for us; we paid our tab for dinner at The Pearl (probably 3 silver total, including some "look the other way" tips), and walked through back streets and empty market-squares to the Bella's tavern.



The Thirsty Dog


     A recently-established tavern in Denerim. The red-haired proprietress, Bella, arrived as a refugee from Redcliffe in Bloomingtide of 9:30 Dragon, and rented a former cobbler's shop and converted it to a tavern. While not a great cook or brewer, her food and drink are (at least) untainted -- fish from the ocean, foodstuffs from un-Blighted areas -- and thus expensive. 

     The enterprise was secretly financed by the Wardens and their allies. A storeroom in the rear is available for Wardens to make a rough bed in. The tavern is located in one of Denerim's worst slums, halfway from the docks to the market.


     Upon seeing Bran, Bella said, "You look unwell." We asked her to have her staff begin heating a lot of water before dawn, for bathing Bran. A proposal to raid the arl's manor was made by Bran -- this would (at least) free any prisoners there.


the Arl of Denerim's estate


9:30 Dragon, 21st day of Justinian - Summer


     We had a good night's sleep, but expected a busy day. Bran made a midnight errand to acquire Warding Salts and in the pre-dawn hours began his warming-up bath.  With the supplies to revive Bran ready, we gathered at dawn in the back storeroom Bella set aside for our use.   Bran rose from the tub of hot water, the magical tattoo on his neck still glowing blue, and lay flat on a table.  The Warding Salts were placed around Bran and Eornan.  Bran commended the dagger to Eornan "Hold my life until I can use it." Alpheus then cast Rejuvenate on Bran, quickly followed by Landon casting Shock at Bran. The helwyr's body convulsed and gasped to life.  Eornan destroyed the rune binding Bran's spirit and guided it back to its proper home. The warrior was revived, sitting bolt upright, a faint shifting aura visible about him, then fell back unconscious.

     Alpheus had a vague sense that "something touched Bran" when he examined the warrior; but whatever it was, it had left. Bran was exhausted, and would need a lot of rest.


     Zevran went to re-stock his supply of Antivan Sleeping Dust, and to buy seven horses with saddles and tack, at a stable outside the city walls. Landon and Eornan paid a visit to the Wonders of Thedas as soon as it was open, to sell some items and make some purchases. One of Bella's servants was sent to buy some travel rations, shirts, and other minor items.


To Sell


  • the dragonbone quarterstaff (taken from Julian)

  • the masterwork Orlesian leather armor (taken from Julian)

  • the Paragon's Luster bastard sword (taken from Cuthbert)

  • minor un-named items taken from the dungeon crew


     The above items would bring about 2.5 gold coins when sold.


To Buy


     These are listed in order from "essential and vital" down to "nice if they have them and we can afford them". Not all come from the Wonders of Thedas shop, of course. We weren't going to buy any lyrium potions, since that would require us to reveal our Warden status.


I've listed the normal prices, if I could find them; it's up to the referee to say how much the costs actually are.


  • Warding Salts (at least one dose; a spare might be useful); normal cost, 6 silver

  • seven riding horses, with saddles and a few days of oats for each:  normal cost for the horse is 120 silver, but I think the referee mentioned they're currently closer to 2 gold each including tack and saddles

  • travel rations for 6 persons for two weeks each; normal price total 24 silver

  • magic arrows

    • examples:  Swift Missile, or Bull's-Eye Arrows

  • injury kits:  master would be best, but obtain as available. Usual cost is basic, 2 silver; journeyman, 5 silver; master, 20 silver

  • Restoration Potion:  normal cost 10 silver. These are preferred over regular Healing potions when treating Bran.

    • heals 1d6 Health and removes 1d6 fatigue; then heals 1d6 Health per round for rounds equal to the caster's Magic

  • Mighty Offense Potion; normal cost 12 silver

    • +1 STR, and heals 1d6 Health per round for a number of rounds equal to the caster's Magic (store-bought versions = 4 rounds)

  • Potion of Luck and Skill: normal cost 25 silver

    • for duration of battle, get 2 extra Stunt points any time you generate stunt points

  • Healing Potions:  normal cost 15 silver, or 40 silver each for greater potions; or 100+ silver for potent potions

  • a half-dozen one-ounce capacity potion bottles normal cost is 25 copper each so 1.5 silver total

  • Hale's Mercy:  normal cost 2 silver

  • Paints of Warding; normal cost ?? silver

    • adds +5 to Armor Rating when applied "in fearsome patterns" to the visible face of a combatant, lasts until washed or worn away (perhaps several days). Note that this implies it has no effect if concealed by a helmet ...


     Presuming we have three rooms at the Thirsty Dog, that would cost the group 6 silver per night. Food is probably getting expensive in Denerim:  in a normal year, two hearty meals a day would cost each of us 50 coppers.


     Keep in mind we had also obtained a couple of items from Gwen:  


  • Gwen's first ring:  provides a +2 to casting spells from the Primal school. We took this; one of our Primal mages should use this.

  • Gwen's second ring:  allows the user to cast Rock Armor as a Major Action (instead of the regular amount of time). It doesn't provide the spell -- the caster must know or learn it; but the casting time is reduced. "Oooh, nice," says Landon, who would like to use it.


I suspect Gwen's staff was left with Sextus to use or sell -- it might be too clearly tied to her specifically to be sold at the Wonders of Thedas in Denerim.




Plans for Denerim


     Bran awoke mid-afternoon and started scheming with Alpheus and Bella about recruiting helpers for hanging the banner and papering the town with his posters.

     "'Passage out of town' will be a good offer for a lot of the poorer folk.  We can also offer them a chance to help homestead at our 'village on the coast'.  If memory serves, we have a score or two of Gwaren refugees at the site so our lumberjack/lumberjill needs are well met.  We won't find any guilded people (too well off to bother approaching) but a mason's assistant or two, maybe a cabinet maker's apprentice --- what other skills should we look for?  I figure baking bread and brewing beer aren't that damn hard but experience would be welcomed.  We should also look for a weapons instructor / drillmaster to train the villagers as militia. Able-bodied folk will be employed or pressed into service already but there may be a disabled vet that has the spirit we need."

     "We might need to postpone the assault on the Arl's estate til the next night - coordinating the papering of the town and transport for the recruits and their immediate families will take more than half a day, I fear."

     Bran still looked like death warmed over, but nothing a few good night's sleep or a lot of stamina potions wouldn't fix / keep-fixed.

Bran is exhausted, feeling the aftermath of fighting and hauling six people up the side of the keep




The Thirsty Dog


     A recently-established tavern in Denerim. The red-haired proprietress, Bella, arrived as a refugee from Redcliffe in Bloomingtide of 9:30 Dragon, and rented a former cobbler's shop and converted it to a tavern. While not a great cook or brewer, her food and drink are (at least) untainted -- fish from the ocean, foodstuffs from un-Blighted areas -- and thus expensive. 

     The enterprise was secretly financed by the Wardens and their allies. A storeroom in the rear is available for Wardens to make a rough bed in. The tavern is located in one of Denerim's worst slums, halfway from the docks to the market.

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