The Whisperer in Darkness

Day 4: Rescue Impossible

Is there any way to free the captured comrades?

Wistark awakens in a dilapidated slum house. Despite having been there for several hours, he is keenly aware that the place has a terrible stench. It is likely this nauseating odour that is responsible for the absence of any occupants. The poor district is a crowded place so most of its squalid houses have six or more residents. Blinking groggily, the wizard pulls himself free of the warm dogpile in which he slept with Grimlock and Komodo (both still snoring at an incredible volume), and wanders to the only other room on the ground floor. He urinates in a corner and, yawning, supposes that he should count himself lucky.

He thinks back to the hours spent searching for a place to sleep. Knowing that the city guard would be searching frantically for a giant dragonborn, they had been forced to find a witness-free refuge as quickly as possible with the sunrise as their time limit. They had attacked the dean of Esselfine University and the king’s filthy rich pet merchant, and lost! Alone he would be invisible, but in the company of Grimlock Skullfucker he was almost certainly a dead man. Yet, without him it would be impossible to rescue Ignatious and Norman. The pyromancer is torn between his fears and his loyalties.

He returns to the dogpile and settles back in against the chest of Grimlock’s huge steed, enjoying its warmth and the motion created by its deep, rhythmic breathing. His sharp mind works itself into frenzy, dreaming up plans and discarding them just as quickly. Eventually he decides it is necessary to gather information. He reluctantly evicts himself from the dogpile once again and steps out of the ruined shack into the bright alleyway beyond. Proceeding a short distance into the slums, he finds a group of young urchins playing a game in the dust. He watches for long enough to discern which of them is the most capable and trustworthy, and pulls the selected boy aside.

The child is paid to spy on Esselfine University, and promised additional coin should he determine the location of his two imprisoned comrades. Glad to have done something, Wistark returns to Grimlock just in time for the great dragonborn to awake. He yawns so loudly that the wizard is almost deafened, clearly having momentarily forgotten that he is a fugitive in a city filled with eyes and ears. Wistark watches silently as the disastrous events of the night before come back to him. Finally, a grimace settles on his fearsome face, presumably over having lost a four-on-two fight with a scrawny scholar and a fat noble.

While they wait for the street urchin’s news, Wistark and Grimlock eat from their rations and work on their combat skills. Inspired by the filthy stench of the refuge, the wizard devises a powerful, poison-based spell and memorises the magical incantation necessary to cast it, while Grimlock tries to come up with a badass new fighting move. There is a loud knock at the door. The fugitive pair freeze. Another knock, louder and more insistent. Grimlock slinks behind the door, ready to bash some heads at a second’s notice, as Wistark approaches it. The wizard pulls it open.

A brute stands at the door, flanked by two cronies. The brute does little more than glance at the wizard before making a gruff demand, “Have you seen any dragonborn lately?” Wistark is filthy and his unkempt moustache sticks out at odd, irregular angles. He adopts a tired, unimpressed tone and replies, “A dragonborn? Do they even exist?” The brute begins to look bored and says, “If you see ANYTHING, you tell the Riffs”, his voice laden with menace. Turning to his two comrades, he walks back into the street, glad to escape the stench.

The street urchin returns shortly after midday, informing his employer that Esselfine’s campus is swarming with guards, and also with curious citizens. It will take more than two bruised vigilantes to rescue them, then. Dismissing the boy with his earned pay, Wistark decides it might be a good idea to seek out Wasp. Grimlock insists in coming along, despite being instantly recognisable. The pair go to the alley where they found Ratback the night before, and walk in on him being questioned by Riff mercenaries.

Fortunately, no, he hasn’t seen any gigantic dragonborn assassins recently. Wistark and Grimlock stay in the shadows until the heavies move along, then approach the fat hobo. He is bawling piteously, but cheers up very quickly when Wistark offers him a sweet from his rations. Unfortunately, he has no idea where Wasp is. He insists he never does. Dispirited, the two Punishers decide to go back to base. Gravilla may still be there, and even if she isn’t there’s that Droog prisoner to feed.

The only safe way to get there unnoticed is to take the sewers, which means leaving Komodo behind again. Unfortunately, it must be done. The sewers are a confusing maze, and it takes the entire day to find their way to the abandoned part of the trade district. Finally, Wistark climbs up a maintenance shaft, lifts a manhole cover and sees the Punisher HQ. It is bathed in an orange glow. The wizard is suddenly yanked upwards, disappearing out of sight. Grimlock emerges onto the street and sees him held by an armed thug. Beyond are more thugs, and a voice behind him confirms there are more still. The voice expresses its pleasure at finding them without needing to wait for the fort to burn down.

Grimlock turns and sees a crooked man surrounded by cronies. The man orders Grimlock to put his weapon down, step forward 10 paces and kneel. The dragonborn turns back towards Wistark and counts that there must be 14 men in all. The wizard meets his eye and stares at him intensely, waiting to see what he will do. Grimlock doesn’t do anything. The twisted man repeats his previous instruction. Wistark struggles and shouts out, “What is your guarantee that he won’t be killed the second he complies?” The twisted man laughs and answers, “There is no guarantee”. Grimlock continues to stand where he is, as intent on reading Wistark as the wizard is on reading him.

Again the twisted man says, “Put down your weapon, step forward 10 paces and kneel”. At least a dozen archers appear on surrounding rooftops and aim arrows at the giant lizard. The dragonborn holds Norman’s halberd firmly in his right hand, then begins to lower it towards the ground. Wistark looks at Grimlock and sees the defiance in his eyes, and in a moment of insane clarity realises that he is going to set his hands on fire and punch someone. Shouting in the dragonborn’s native draconic tongue, he is able to get out the words “Go down sewer” before a hand is clamped over his mouth. Summoning the depths of his power, he articulates the necessary gestures with his one unrestrained hand to cast the stinking cloud.

This powerful spell bursts from Wistark like a black fog, obscuring his form with a thick gas that has a truly indescribable stench. Grimlock is also enveloped, and he kicks a fire bottle at Wistark’s feet to detach the wizard’s captor. The thug in question has already been convinced to let go by the vile smell, and staggers backwards from Wistark to vomit onto the street. Hidden by the cloud, Wistark and Grimlock dash for the manhole that they emerged from. 14 arrows fire in unison. Though the cloud does its job, causing enough arrows to miss Grimlock that he is not instantly slain, each arrow is laced with enough Drow poison to drop him like a stone. Wistark leaps protectively to his comrade, screams “We surrender!” at the top of his lungs, dispels the stinking cloud and stands over the fallen giant. The twisted man orders the ceasefire, and the pair are taken into his custody.

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Wistark

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