The Heroes did not so much fall asleep last night as completely fail to stay awake.
It is 4:00AM on Day Eight. The Party has awoken in the 5th Underground level Storage Room that had been the command center for the Dwarves of Khör. Captain Ironhaul’s operations center was in the process of moving when the Heroes crashed last night around 8PM. On waking today, they find the Storage Room abandoned.
Or almost so. There is a Dwarven Defender present, a sentinel watching the Storage Room doors overnight. And a Dungeon Delver whose modest skill at Healing kept him busy through the night, tending to the Heroes to help them recover as much health as possible while they dozed.
The Heroes had left instruction for the Dwarfs to not wake them “unless we’re about three seconds away from dying”, and even Lester considers that much warning a waste of valuable shut-eye. Now that the Party is awake and stirring from a much-needed sleep, it is only a few minutes before messengers return.
Two Dwarfs enter the room, a Scout and a Dungeon Delver. The Dwarven Defender challenges them. Both sides appear to exchange passwords. The Defender permits the messengers to pass.
The Scout explains that the Dwarfs of Khör made significant progress last night, and that a discovery has been made that demands the Heroes’ attention. In no state to adventure just yet, the Party requests an hour delay so that they may eat and armor-up and memorize spells for the day. The messengers agree to return. When they do an hour later, the Heroes are packed and ready, and follow. It is Lester, Genive, Kartug Igmutin, Jaques, Faldorn, and the Dread Pirate Wobberts.
The Scout and Dungeon Delver answer questions en route. The discovery has been made in the Stockade room on the 3rd Underground level. This room is now safely behind Khör Dwarf lines. While the Heroes slept, Captain Ironhaul marshaled his forces and made a push up from the 4th Underground level. Casualties were very high, the gains in territory were not as significant as was hoped, but the offensive was still a success. It is believed that all of the Duergar forces have now been eliminated from Moonwatch, barring any sleeper-cells of Fighters or Rogues that slipped away, Invisible.
When the Dwarves attacked the rear of the Duergar lines on the 3rd Underground level, the Barbarians saw the advantage and attacked as well. The primary target for the Duergar was the Dwarves. The Barbarians, not knowing Duergar from Dwarf, attacked both…but since there were more Dwarves left than Duergar, the Khör allies suffered a greater share of this devotion. At several sites there had waged intense, frenzied warfare.
Now the lines are stable, for the time being at least. Exploring their gains, Scouts found something most unusual in the Stockade area, and require the Heroes to investigate. And as noticed, all Dwarves now travel at least in pairs. Captain Ironhaul enacted trained regimental safeguards of passwords and groupings to thwart infiltration by the shapechanger encountered by the Heroes yesterday afternoon. So far there has been no further sign of this mysterious interloper.
On the 3rd Underground level, at the entrance of the jail, the Scout and Delver stop, and direct the Heroes’ attention to the last cell on the right. It has been left exactly as it was found a few hours ago. The Delver waits at the door, the Scout leads the Party.
The Heroes cautiously advance down the central hall. On the left and right are standard-sized jail cells, sparsely furnished with cot and bucket and small desk and chair, blankets folded and awaiting an occupant. Their iron-bar doors sit open. Not meant for prisoners of war, these cells are intended to cool the heels of intoxicated or quick-tempered soldiers whose battalion might find itself a guest at the Fortress – and whose infantrymen have caused ruckus enough to be invited here to sleep it off.
At the end of this row of cells, is a most curious sight indeed.
Obvious first is the cell door. It is shut, and locked, but the lock’s keyhole is permanently wedged with a shard of metal. Looking inside the cell, and setting aside both the dead body on the bed and the marks on the wall, the Heroes see a broken dagger below the foot of the cot. It is obviously what was used to jam the lock. The broken dagger is otherwise clean.
On the cot is the dead man, lying on his back. He is dressed like a Moonwatch soldier, but is clean in appearance and so unlike the Barbarians that have been seen. Wads of brown-stained cloth mound upon his abdomen. That same stain marks the cot sheets and splatters and puddles on the floor. Dried blood. Looking closely down the hallway where they stand, the Heroes make out blood splatters on the dirty stone floor that indicate this man came here injured. By now has been dead for perhaps ten days.
The Dwarf Scout points to the wall. The Heroes crowd to one side of the cell bars to see better. On the cell wall is a mosaic of graffiti, sketched in charcoal-pencil, covering most of the flat stone surface.
In amongst the seemingly random graffiti, however, those Heroes of the Party who are fluent in Elven can make out words in that language. These words are interspersed at random between pictograms and doodles, to hide their nature as parts of a message. Spotting these hidden words, this is what Genive and Lester and the Dread Pirate Wobberts can put together :
For the sake of those in the Party who lack fluency in the language, and because he has the nicest narrator’s voice, Lester is chosen to translate. The Halfling reads the message to himself twice, before relating the following aloud :
The Heroes do a Spot check on the dead man on the cot. At the proper angle, some Heroes see that the dead man is a Half-Elf. An INT check tells them that Sgt Kaervon Rees was, in life, a clever man. The Moonwatch soldier had the good sense to write his message in Elven – foiling both the illiterate Barbarians and the Duergar who would have no understanding of that language.
This new information confirms what the Dread Pirate Wobberts had suspected for the last day or more: that the Duergar and Barbarians had been allied, until turning against each other for some reason. Lester wants to speak to Captain Ironhaul. This discovery has put the Halfling in a mind to try a new strategy.