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BTW: "Whispers in the Walls"


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The dwarves made their farewells and as they left the building, the Templer Essine entered accompanied by the young adventurer’s friend, Meara.

 

Once they had joined Artoria, Arden, and Celis, Essine was first to speak. “I hope your meeting with the dwarfs went well I had wanted to be here to make sure they didn’t take advantage, but was duty bound elsewhere. I do wish I could stay but again duty calls. Now if you three will excuse us I must speak with The Proctor.”

 

The two older women walked away to toward the alter leaving the young ones alone in the pews. Meara leaned forward motioning her friends to get close, “Essine found me in the market, she didn’t say anything, but I think she saw me asking some questions. I don’t think she approved.”

 

“Did you find anything?” Ardan asked hiding his own disapproval.

 

Meara smiled broadly, “I did. Something is going on, just from listening at various stalls most of the folk here have restless nights and bad dreams. Most don’t seem to recall the dreams; not like we did, or maybe they don’t want to talk about it. Anyway, form what I did catch most everyone that has any memory of the dream only recall damp walls and mummering voices.”

 

“Do you think it’s a spell,” asked Artoria.

 

Meara sighs and shrugs, “While I wandered, I looked to see if I could feel or see any magic and I didn’t. There don’t seem to be any sorcerers at least not where I was, I didn’t detect an active spells and what few items I could detect were not very powerful.”

 

Suddenly Meara sat up and pulled away from the other two, with glances around, Ardan and Artoria did likewise as Celis and Essine approached. Essine gave them a nod and a somebr farewell as she continued past without stopping toward the fron entrance of the temple. Celis stopped and watch her friend leave then turned to the three young people sitting on the pews.

 

“Essine has been given a task by the Count, and it concerns these dreams. Now I know you find them odd and because of your youthfulness poking around,” she directs a look at Meara, “could be harmful. I suggest that a cup of wine before bed to let you sleep through. As for poking aound on this I don’t want you three… “ she paused, “to do anymore. Essine will find out what its all about and I don’t want any of you getting into trouble. I have some duties of my own now if you will excuse me.”

 

As she walked of each of them could hear the unspoken “kids’ that she didn’t say when she paused.

 

 

 

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Ardan sighed.  "Translation, "Let the adults handle it, now run along now children."  He said quietly once she was gone.  There was abit of bitterness regarding this, but a tinge of relief.   He looked to Meara and Artoria.  "So we just got stonewalled by the authority who was willing to talk to us."   

He didn't really expect the two of them to back down, but there was a first time for everything.   Ardan shook his head.   "We're not going to back down, are we?"

"So what is our next step?"  He asked his two friends, clearly signaling he was with them, whatever they decided.

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"No, we aren't," confirmed Artoria with the confidence of someone who has guaranteed food and shelter for the next month. She frowned, thinking. This place was a village stacked on a village stacked on another village, way too big to search every odd door for the tunnel from their dreams. That was a quick way to get bit or stabbed for sticking their noses into someone's unsavory business. Still, she didn't want to let go of this if only because they had been told to let go of this. Achings were determined like that.

 

A thought occurred to the blonde smith and she looked down at Meara, voice soft, "You're the smart one. Do you think they might have written down any maps or hints we could use? I bet they have way more than 5 books in this city." 

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Meara smiles "There is a Library, a place where books are stored to be copied and read, we can look there..."

 

Hours later and dozens of books gone through the travelers form the north are just as clueless as before. A kindly old man in a brown homespun approaches. "It is very nice to see young folk interested in books, most seem not to have the time to read. But seems to me you are looking for something and not finding it. Prehaps I can help. My name is Del, and I am the book keeper here."

 

Meara looks at her companions, "We are looking for anything about tunnels or cellars, or underground buildings."

 

"Cellars?" The book keeper looks startled and maybe a little afraid but the look passes quickly. "We do not dig them here, the water underground is too near the surface, all of our storage is above ground. The only underground construction would be at the castle, up on the hill. But i don't know anything about that." The old man rubs his chin, "I don't know anything but there is one who may. His name is Lodo, he is very old, in his time he was a stone mason. I have heard him talk about working on the castle in his youth when  he is in his cups. you can find him at the Tilted Cup, that is where he stays, day and night."

 

After taking directions to the Tilted Cup the three walk to distance. The tavern is old in the oldest part of the city, easily marked by the difference in style and construction. to say the place was rundown was understatement.

 

The inside of the tavern was the same as the outside, it had seen better days and those days were many many years int he past. The three drew a few looks but most soon returned to their cups. they asked the serving boy after Lodo. The boy scrutinized them but eventually pointed to a table close by the big fire place.

 

Lodo was old, scrawny, wiry, his weather beaten face a mass of wrinkles but his hand on his mug was steady and his eyes were bright as he looked at their approach.

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Artoria could read, but she had no idea that the answer to her rhetorical joking question had been a treasure trove of books so big it had its own building. As spooky in its own way as the elven ruins. This. This was better. Artoria flashed a smile of gratitude the serving boy's way before she focused on Lodo, the big blonde tip of their little formation.

 

"Master Lodo," she offered respectfully to the elder, not quite believing that there was no such thing as even an informal stone mason's guild in a city built of so much well-crafted stone, "My name is Artoria, and these are my friends Ardan and Meara. I'm told you helped build the castle, and we'd love to hear about it over a pint or two if you're willing to share, maybe answer a question or two."

 

She took preemptive action, pulling out a chair across from him and sitting down, all smiles and sparkling interest in her eyes, confident.      

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Ardan took his own seat quietly, Not pulling one for Meara because he knew she didn't like it when he did.  His father had instilled certain values, but he and his friends stood as equals, so they were exceptions to the normal conventions.  "if Lodo was amenable he'd order drinks for the four of them.

 

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  • 1 month later...

Ardan signaled the barkeep who sent the boy with beer for the four of them. All the while Lodo watched them through shrewd narrowed eyes, grunting every so often then finishing his beer in one long swallow as the serving boy arrived with a new mug.

 

"Heh, You girls want to know about the castle eh?" He set his beady eyes on Ardan, "And you boy, what you after treasure what kind you loking to dig into..."

He trailed off laughing then took a long swallow from the new mug.

 

Meara smoothed her skirt and pushed her beer, untouched, toward the old stone mason who gave her a nod. "So did you help build the castle," she asked?

 

Lodo finished his mug with two more swallows and picked up Meara's mug laughing. "No haha, no, I be old but not that old. That bloody damn monstrosity been standing there on that hill fer almost three hunnert year. But I did work there when I was a boy learnin to be a stone man, back before we made peace with the dwarfs and they took all the stone work for themselves."

 

He put both hands on the mug but doesn't drink, "So what is it yer after about that place?"

 

 

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Artoria made a show of finishing her beer with a hearty gulp and grin.

 

"No treasure, Master Lodo, but a mystery the brains of our group refused to let go cold. And I'll have to beg your grace to not laugh until I can explain The nightmares people have been getting lately? The three of us had the same one, detail for detail far as I can tell, seen clear as I see your face now," the blonde bladesmith continued, jabbing with her finger to emphasize her point, "Spooky enough, right? So we went to the temple. And besides them getting *very* interested, the very next thing they tell us is to drop it in the scrap bucket like burnt iron. And we've just spent a moon traveling away from all we've known to your village of many, many villages. Determined. Not gonna do that."

 

"We dreamed about underground tunnels in your city. And apparently only your castle isn't water-logged enough to stop people from digging them, Master Lodo."   

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At the mention of nightmares Lodo silently swept his gaze around the tap room then back at Artoria.

 

He took a deep breath and coughed, his breath rattling in ancient lungs. “Heh, nightmares, well been plenty of those I suppose.

 

Yeh, the castle you see up there on the hill was erected after the original collapsed in 682. Now the original, at least I suppose it were the original who knows when it were built maybe a hunnert years before then or maybe five hunnert. Either way it were old. This land here has always been soggy. But back in those days the kingdom as we know it today didn’t exist. It was all little fiefdoms every man who sat in a castle called himself a king and ruled what he could.”

 

Lodo glanced around again but this time when he settle his gaze was on the fire in the hearth and even then they could tell he didn’t see the fire he was seeing the past…

 

In the distant past before the kingdom this whole area had been called simple the north. Those men who lived here were in almost constant conflict with the neighboring Dwarves who occupied the near mountain range. A trade town was first set up because of the natural landing along the wide a fast river. That town became a fort then a some one lost in histories dim past decided they were a king.

 

This king whose, name is long forgotten wanted a castle but the land was too marshy, faced with this fact and still desirous of his castle the forgotten king brought mages from the south to raise the land with sorcery. This was no easy task but it was accomplished and then the king had the wizards raise a hill for his castle to stand upon and dominate the all the lands that could be seen from it lofty towers.

 

After the land had been raised and the hill, most of the mages departed returning to the south, but one stayed to serve the king. When the old castle was being built the king want dungeons, the mage advised against it but the king was determined and in the end the mage acquiesced. Using mor magic he made it possible for dungeons to be dug into the magic hill. And so the castle was built and stood for centuries.

 

Eventually the kingdom here was absorbed into the realm of the Kingdom of Apria, the kings who had ruled here were replaced by Aprian Counts and life went on. Then in the year 682 in the Aprian calendar, a series of earthquakes caused the castle to sink and finally collapse.

 

Since there was a city here then it was decided to rebuild the castle on a smaller scale of course. It was built on top of the ruin of the old castle.

 

“When I was lad prolly no older than yerselves, a quake  shook the city and the walls were damaged and so was the castle. That’s how I became a mason, the foundations of the castle had cracked and they needed small fellows to slip into the old ruins underneath and do the work to shore up the foundations above.” He sits back and points at himself. “It was hard dangerous work, the air was close under there and it was unstable…and there were I don’t know maybe ghosts. Most of us was kids, a lot of us died in that hole. A  in the end we didn’t finish the repairs. The king made peace with the dwarfs down south and that led to the dwarfs up here making peace and the count hired dwarfs to finish the repairs. And that’s that.”

 

He sits back glances at the young adventurers but seems to avoid looking them in the eye…

 

 

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Ardan listened intently, and then shook his head slightly.  "No mention of what happened to the Mage who remained after that?"  He was curious, as if the Mage had simply vanished. "Are Earthquakes that frequent and serious here?"  He'd felt them once or twice in the mountains, but they were small, barely making the trees sway.     "The Dwarves just repaired the foundations and none of you were sent to inspect the work?  Does anyone alive know what's actually down there, and that the work was truly done?"

Ardan had many questions, but was trying to be mostly polite in how he asked, so as to not offend Lodo.   

 

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"Sounds like long past time someone go down there to check it out, Master Lodo," Artoria gently prodded, killing her own mug with a deep pull of the beverage and flagging down someone for as many refills as the quartet wanted, "Especially if just talking about the nightmares is enough to get the temple to warn people off from looking into it."

 

She smiled, "We'd be grateful if you'd show us how to get down there. More hands in the right place lighten the burden and find the lost lambs."

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