Fairmeadow Fair, session 9

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Last time, our heroes traveled to Templeton, site of the Fortinbras School of Mines, hoping to learn about the strange living statue that gave them so much trouble back in Fairmeadow.  They met Flint, a friend of a friend who might be mixed up in some shady dealings, and he offered to show them around campus the next day.  Maybe he can get them into the school library.

A map of the city of Templeton, built into a cinder cone volcano.

After leaving Flint, Gleador and Lucia decide to watch the sunset.  Templeton is built into a cinder cone volcano, so they head up the spiral streets to the crater rim.  The rim is lined with tall towers, most of them private buildings.  The tower that powers the school’s sundial does have an public observation deck.The deck is a crescent surrounding the central tower. The huge crystal at the tip of the tower focuses a powerful beam of sunlight down onto the sundial at the base of the volcano. The gap in the crescent prevents anyone from accidentally walking into that beam.  The deck is surrounded by high walls of strong glass, with decorative metal filigree to make it visible.  Many people are up there to watch the sunset, sitting on benches or standing against the glass.  Shortly before the sunlight fades from the crystal at the tower’s tip, an attendant comes out and slides open panels in the posts supporting the glass wall.  Inside are continual flames, magic light sources.

Gleador and Lucia head back to the hostel they are staying at.  Supper is included in the price of the room. The other lodgers in the 10-person room have a few friends over for a lively gathering, but quickly make excuses to take the guests elsewhere.  Lucia look like an authority figure and they don’t want to cross her.

The next morning, they have some time before they meet Flint in the afternoon, so they look for a public library.  Much of the volcano’s caldera is public buildings, surrounding city hall at the very center.  There is a public library: four stories of floor-to-ceiling windows following the slant of the caldera.  Inside there are many patrons, and pages wearing neat vests.  Gleador looks for the most enthusiastic page. That’s Angus, a young dwarf who loves books and hopes to get into the Fortinbras School of Mines when he’s old enough.  Gleador asks to see Angus’s favorite section, a section that most people might skip over.  Hidden gems, if you will.  Angus takes him to the literal hidden gem section: a half-shelf about precious minerals behind three big stacks of books about geology and mining.

Gleador asks if Angus knows what “OOLITE” is. Angus recommends asking the reference librarian.  Angus guides Gleador and Lucia up to the top of the four-storey building.  The reference section not only contains stacks with weighty tomes and ledger, but cabinet with wide, low drawers for oversize parchments and maps.  The reference librarian sits at a large circular desk with aisles arranged radially around it.  The whole floor points to this elf woman.  Her red hair is pulled back in a large bun wrapped in braids. If she let her hair down, it would be extremely long. She’s been growing it out for decades.  Hearing Gleador’s request, she takes a slip of paper, writes “OOLITE” on it in impeccable Dwarven letters, then burns the slip in the flame of a large blue candle on the desk in front of her.  (There are several such candles arranged on the desk, each a different color.)  The flame separates from the candle, takes a vaguely humanoid shape, and flies out into the stacks.  “Please wait for the indexing sprite to return,” says the librarian.  Lucia is curious about the different candles. The librarian explains that all the candles contain indexing sprites, and the different colors of candles help her keep track of different queries running at the same time.  Another sprite returns to the desk. The librarian excuses herself and fetches two waiting patrons to follow that sprite to their books.

The sprite for Gleador’s query returns, but the librarian is still assisting other patrons.  Gleador asks the sprite if other people have been asking about OOLITE. The sprite gesticulates, but does not speak.  Lucia realizes that it communicates through writing, so she swipes a slip of paper from the librarian’s desk, writes her question down, and burns it on the blue candle. The sprite zooms away, and Gleador follows it.  The sprite leads him to an old book and surrounds it with cool, non-destructive flames. Gleador brings it back to Lucia and they open it on a table.  It’s a ledger, but it’s written in Dwarven, which neither of them can read. Gleador wants to know what book the sprite found for the librarian’s original query, so he writes “OOLITE” on a third slip of paper and burns it. He can copy the letters for this particular word, even though he can’t read the language.  The sprite leads him to another ledger, this one written in Elven.  It records some deliveries of metal from the OOLITE company to an Elven furniture and woodworking company. The metal was used for fasteners and fittings. It’s an old ledger. Deliveries from OOLITE stop about 120 years ago.

Gleador heads downstairs to find Angus again. Dwarven is Angus’ native language, so surely he can translate the Dwarven ledger.  Angus says that translation will take him away from his page duties for quite some time, so Gleador will have to make it worth his while.  Gleador says he knows a guy at the college, and can put in a good word for Angus’s eventual application.  Angus wants to meet this contact now, before he translates the ledger. Gleador balks because his contact is Flint, a second-year student with no impact on admission, so he returns upstairs with the ledger untranslated. They try to return the books where they found them, but the shelves magically repel the books.  They return to the reference desk, which has a big shelf labelled “Return books here” and talk to the librarian, who has finished with the other patrons.

“We tried to reshelve these books…,” they begin.

“Did you see the shelf labelled ‘Return books here’?”, says the reference librarian, clearly annoyed.

Undeterred, they ask about the Dwarven ledger.  Of course the reference librarian can read it. It contains shipping manifests for the Balfour Trading Company from 160-140 years ago, and often mentions shipments of metals from OOLITE. The Balfour company survives to this day. There’s a warehouse here in Templeton, near the highway.  The party places the two ledgers on the “Return books here” shelf, and the books magically float back to their proper place. They are impressed by the system the reference librarian has going.  With obvious pride, the reference librarian says she’s had a long time to perfect and improve it.  Before they leave, Lucia says a quick prayer to ask what here is evil.  Some books and all of the indexing sprites are evil, but not the librarian or Angus.  Interesting.

Now it’s time to head back to the college and meet Flint for a tour.  He arranged to meet them at his lab in one of the more industrial college buildings.  They could arrive early if they hustle, but they arrive on time and find Flint waiting at the outside door of the building. The doors and hallways of this buildings are bigger than usual to allow equipment to be moved in and out. The roof is about 2 feet above ground level, with the rest of the building built into the ground.  There are skylights on the roof. Instead of a storm door. there’s a wide ramp going down to a pair of vertical doors that open inward.  Although the halls are wide, they are lined with lockers and cabinets full of tools, specimens, and so on.  Flint leads them to the door of his metallurgy lab.  He unlocks the door with a big old-fashioned metal key, holds the door open and says, “After you!”  Lucia and Gleador know a trap when they see one.  They make eye contact.  Gleador steps in and Lucia does not.  Flint waits a moment, then shrugs and steps in. Lucia steps in after him.  There’s a cabinet in the center of the room, work benches at either end, and a dumbwaiter in the far wall.

Upper storey of science building: lab, cold storage, and connecting vents.

It was still a trap!  The door slams behind them and they hear something heavy dragging outside, probably one of those cabinets blocking the door.  Flint panics and runs back to the door. It opens outwards, so the cabinet prevents it from opening, even though it’s unlocked! Flint kicks the door several times. The door fractures, and sticky expanding gel starts oozing and growing from the cracks. Flint recoils, avoiding the glue goo. One of the shady dwarves from yesterday appears at the skylight, opens it, and throws in a canister which starts spewing a thick, dark gas.  The party tells Flint that he’s stuck with them, and he must help them or die!  This has obviously escalated past what he signed up for, and he’s panicked.  The gas is spreading. The dumbwaiter is only big enough for one person at a time, so they reject that method of escape.  The movement of the gas reveals an air vent that they didn’t notice before.  “Into the vents!” orders Lucia. She pries the grate off the vent and she and Flint go in. Gleador grabs tongs from the workbench and tries to throw the gas canister into the glue goo to seal it shut. He fumbles and bounces the canister off a wall and back into himself. He receives a minor burn from the hot canister and a lungful of gas, which reduces his constitution. He flees into the vent.

In the vent, they are temporarily safe from the gas. They demand that Flint explain what he’s gotten them into.  He reveals that the two dwarves that were lurking about yesterday are paying his tuition in exchange for a special alloy.  It’s brittle, an unpleasant color, and has the exact same density as gold.  He doesn’t ask what they use it for. He doesn’t want to now. He didn’t want to get involved, lest something like this happen.  There’s a T intersection several yards away. Flint’s in front, so the party crowds him forward to look. He’s pushed to the right, and yelps because he’s now next to a significant drop-off into a smelting room.  There’s a fall, sharp implements, and fire.  That might be worse than the gas. There’s also a shaft that leads down to a lower storey.

They decide to go left. The grate to the left is covered in frost. Lucia has metal gauntlets, so she can touch the grate without freezing her flesh to it.  It’s cold storage. Shelves and crates fill the room. The floor is covered with ice, but Lucia slides out confidently, grabbing a crate to make a turn and end up at the door.  The crate she grabbed was a coffin!  Unimpressed, Lucia examines the door.  It has the same lock as Flint’s room, so it probably has the same gel inside. There’s a small magical heat source right under the lock keeping it thawed. The lock is wet with melted frost, and the frost refreezes in icicles underneath it.  Flint faceplants on the ice.  Gleador digs some lockpicks out of his adventuring gear and sets to work on the lock. He’s making progress and here’s a sharp ‘click’ but then glue goo comes pouring out of the keyhole onto his tools and hands!  He quickly yanks his hands away from the lock and apart, shaking the glue goo off. His hands are free, but encrusted with dried goo, impairing fine manipulation.  There are two machines keeping the room cold by constantly emitting cold air.  Each has four canisters attached, supplying it.  Lucia considers ripping one of the machines out, but the canisters aren’t that secure, so she stops to avoid dropping and breaking them.  They turn the machines off.  Now they won’t freeze to death if they stay here.  Maybe someone will notice the machines aren’t working and will come check on them.  Flint reads the warning labels (it’s all written in Dwarven) and says that if the canisters break, they’ll flash freeze whatever is nearby.  They consider re-directing cold air to the door to freeze and shatter it, but can’t find a suitable tube.  Throwing a canister at the door might work, but Gleador has had awful luck today and doesn’t want to risk it.  They look to the skylights to consider how they might reach and open them.  They see that same dwarf looking down at them!  “There they are,” yells the dwarf.  “Rott, no! I’m in here,” yells Flint.  Rott opens the skylight and grabs another gas canister from his satchel.  Lucia lassos him, but only gets his arm. They struggle and she only manages to pull the canister he was holding right to her!  She quickly holds her breath and retreats to the vent.  Flint runs for the vent right through the cloud of gas and collapses at Lucia’s feet. She says, “We have to go down!” and pushes him down the shaft to the lower level. He’s unconscious, so he goes over the edge with no resistance and is injured on landing.  Gleador holds his breath and dives into the vent.

Lower storey of science lab: automated smelter, secret super-max prison cell.

On the lower floor, vents lead left and right. To the right is the smelter, but now they are at ground level, so they can enter it safely. The furnace is in the middle of one wall. There are no skylights.  The chimney is open to the outside, but there’s an 800-degree furnace under it, so climbing it is extremely dangerous.  There’s a waterwheel on the far wall. It powers some mechanical equipment that feeds ore into the furnace, pours molten ore into forms, then places the cooled ingots into a hopper. The pipes that carry water into and out of the room are a foot across: too small to fit through. This room has the same locked door as the other rooms.

Gleador goes back into the vent and checks the room to the left.  He emerges under a table with chairs.  The far side of the room has metal floor, walls, and ceiling, as opposed to the stone of the other rooms, and the near side of this room.  There’s a heavier, scarier, more secure door on this room. There’s also a person sitting on the plain metal side of the room.  A bald male Dwarf. “Hello, friend,” says the Dwarf, “I didn’t expect to see anyone come in that way.”  Gleador calls Lucia over, and she drags in the unconscious Flint.  The bald dwarf is quite surprised by this motley crew’s unusual entrance.  Gleador gives Flint an anti-toxin to counter the effects of the gas, and Flint wakes up.  Lucia heals him. They greet the strange dwarf, who is a full five feet tall, as tall as Lucia, and totally bald.  His name is Andro.  As Gleador steps forward, Andro holds out a hand to stop him. “Watch out for the wall of force.  Here, where the floor turns from stone to metal. If you try to cross this line, magical electricity will stop you.”  They ask Andro how he came to be in this situation. He doesn’t remember how long he’s been imprisoned, but he indicates his bald head and says it can’t have been too long.  There’s no bed, chair, dishes, or anything on his side of the cell.  He says that sometimes people come in, sit at the table, and take notes, but not very often.  The party is unlikely to be discovered and released any time soon.  There’s a control panel on the wall by the door. Flint says the writing indicates it controls the Wall of Force, but it’s magical as well as mechanical. He tries to work the controls, but when he reaches out to demonstrate that the wall of force is gone, it zaps him!  Lucia exhorts him to try again, promising that if he gets them out, she’ll keep him safe from his former associates, but he’s had enough and hides under the table.

Lucia: It’s a good thing he didn’t stick with law enforcement!

Lucia tries the control panel and realizes that the crystal in the center is a status indicator.  Moving these controls changes the color, and this color must mean the wall is down.  She’s right!  Andro is free! Well, Andro is as trapped as the rest of them.  Gleador asks if he’s good with locks, and Andro says he can give it a try.  Gleador leads him away from the high-security door in the cell, through the vent, to the door in the smelter.

Andro approaches the door of the smelter, which is next to the water wheel.  He says, “I’m really sorry, friends,” and dives into the drain pipe. His head fits, but his torso won’t. His shoulders bend back at impossible angles. His whole body starts stretching, lengthening, disappearing down the drain.  Gleador grabs at his legs, which are now soft and floppy. Gleador’s fingers dig long grooves in Andro’s flesh as they struggle to find purchase. Gleador’s hands to find something solid, which he pulls out of Andro’s leg as Andro finally disappears down the drain.  It’s a small wooden box with a sliding lid.  Gleador hands it to Lucia, turns into an electric eel, and pursues Andro down the drain. He’s able to catch up easily, but does not electrocute him, instead following him until the drain exits the building into a culvert leading to a stream.  Andro drags himself to shore and starts reforming into proper dwarven shape. It’s not perfect. One of his shoulders is higher than the other, and one side of his face sags. He looks like he’s survived some industrial accident, which isn’t too rare here in a town of miners and engineers. He might be remarkable, but his strange non-humanoid status is no longer evident.  Gleador transforms back into an Elf while Andro is pulling himself together. Andro is surprised that Gleador was able to escape and follow him so easily. They are both full of surprises.  Gleador says that Andro had better return and break the others out, or Gleador will make a scene and turn him in to the authorities.  Andro doesn’t want to go back to the cell, so he agrees.  “Do we head back up the drain?”

No, Gleador leads Andro into the science building like normal people, and they find the smelter door.  It’s locked. Andro reads the sign. “No admittance from 9:00 to 6:00 during automatic smelting. See Mr. Haverly in Room 213 if you have any questions.”  Gleador yells through the door to Lucia. Gleador asks Andro to pick the lock, but Andro reveals he only said he was good at that so he could get close to a door and escape.  They are so close, but they can’t figure out what to do.  Lucia opens Andro’s box and finds 200 gold pieces and a magical amulet.  That reminds Gleador about the strange coin they found on the living statue.  He shows Andro the large rectangular coin and asks if he recognizes it. Andro thinks this is a very odd thing to be asking right now, but instantly recognizes the coin as being from Saarland.  Gleador has never heard of Saarland, which Andro thinks is odd, since it’s such an important city.  (Gleador isn’t ignorant. Saarland is not an important city that anyone talks about. Why does Andro think it’s well-known?) Gleador talks through the current situation, trying to think of what to do next. He says that Andro could just leave, and Andro thinks that’s a great idea and starts walking off. Gleador says, “We have your stuff!” but Andro would rather have his freedom.  He turns back, points at his eyes, points at Gleador, then continues walking away.  Gleador lets him go.

Gleador heads up to find Mr. Haverly’s room and get the key to the smelter. Mr. Haverly’s office is in a row of faculty offices on an upper floor.  The door is locked and there’s a sign that Gleador can’t read that says “Back in 15 minutes”. Gleador wants to wait around, but a school official thinks he’s a loitering student and starts scolding him. “Show me your student ID, young man! I’ll write you up.”  Gleador tells him to look him up in the directory and leaves.  In an nearby hallway, he waits until no one is in sight, then turns into a newt and crawls out the window.  He crawls along the outside of the building to Mr. Haverly’s office. The window is open! He goes inside and finds the key: an old-fashioned metal key like the one Flint used. It’s as long as his newt form and much too heavy to carry.  Footsteps and the sound of conversation approach the door. Gleador crawls back out the window and watches.  Mr. Haverly enters, accompanied by a student. He’s an older dwarf, with a neat white beard and small round glasses.  Gleador can’t understand Dwarven either,but he figures out that they are discussing classwork. Unsure what else to do, Gleador waits for an opening.

Back in the smelter, Lucia grills Flint about the his involvement with the shady dwarves. There are two of them. The one who threw the gas canisters from the roof is named Rott. He’s got a buzz cut and a similarly short beard. He’s demonstrative and impulsive. The other one, who probably trapped them in the first room, is a female Dwarf with long straight shiny black hair and beard. She looks like a shampoo ad. Her clothes are not flashy, but have high-quality fabrics and are tailored for her.  Flint has provided them with about 20kg of alloy so far. The alloy is brittle, ugly, and the same density as gold.  He made a delivery last week, and another is due in five days. The materials for the alloy are not expensive, but the procedure is precise, which is why they need Flint’s expertise. Since the materials are cheap, no one has noticed that Flint’s been stealing from the school’s supply. Lucia wonders why Flint’s buyers don’t just provide the materials, if they aren’t expensive.

Everyone has been waiting around for some time.  It’s time for Mr. Haverly to collect the day’s ingots.  Flint and Lucia notice the automated machinery stop.  In the office, Mr. Haverly wraps up his conversation with the student, takes his key, and heads out. Gleador follows along on the wall as a newt. Mr. Haverly goes downstairs and meets two TAs with handcarts who will carry the heavy ingots.  Gleador considers startling Mr. Haverly by flicking him with his long newty tongue, but that will cause Gleador to turn back into a Elf, and he wants to stay hidden.  Lucia and Flint hear people approach the door and hide in the vent. Mr. Haverly opens the door and all three enter the smelting room to begin loading ingots.  Gleador stays out in the hall and transforms back into an Elf.  Lucia waits for a chance to dash out unobserved, but makes a noise. Mr. Haverly looks into the vent and sees someone in full armor, crouched and ready to pounce! He screams, and he and his TAs run for the door.  Gleador blocks their path out and spins a tall tale about a security audit. They don’t buy it. One of the TAs rushes him with his handcart. Gleador falls into it and is carried down the hall. Mr. Haverly and the other TA run the other direction. Lucia tries to drag Flint out, but he starts to flee as soon as they exit the room. Gleador extricates himself from the handcart but does not prevent the TA from fleeing. They are all free!  Lucia thinks Flint will be tracked down and killed by his former co-workers, but if he’s determined to run away from her, she’ll leave him to his fate.

Gleador and Lucia huddle. Should they report this to the authorities? They are sure they are innocent victims in all this, and want to be more honest than they were in Fairmeadow, so they head upstairs to the faculty area. Gleador sasses the official that he clashed with earlier, which gets him an express trip to the dean’s office, just as he planned. The Dean interrupts the official’s rants about disrespectful youngsters. “Simmons, did you notice notice the fully-armored Paladin accompanying him?  What’s your story, young lady?” The party starts by saying that they came from Fairmeadow to visit a friend, which is pretty boring. Then they get to the part about “trapped in a room with poison gas” and the Dean says, “You should have led with that!” They give the Dean Rott’s name and a good description of the other dwarf and what class she’s in, so the school definitely has enough information to find her. They also say that the freezer room is defrosting, several doors are jammed with glue goo, and that they released a prisoner. The Dean looks very concerned. He sends some people to check the damage to the rooms they describe and asks the party to wait until they report back.  “Like, here on campus?” “In my office, please.”  Gleador makes sure there’s a window as an escape route, and they sit down to wait.

GM notes: This was the first time I locked the party in a dungeon. I imagined multiple scenarios in which they effortlessly avoided or escaped the dungeon, leaving me with a whole evening and nothing prepared.  Instead, they enjoyed exploring the facility and puzzling over its strange contents.  You’ll notice the maps above don’t fill the whole page.  There were a few rooms they did not find or explore.  Andro is actually a character I’ve blogged about before.  I don’t have a game to play him in, so I put him in this game as an optional NPC.

These poor adventurers just wanted someone to get them into the college library, and now they are involved in more plots and trouble than they know!

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