Cleric Journal: Day One Hundred and Seventy Nine

DearFatherMulcahy

 

 

You know how exhausting it is to be attacked all the time, I mean seriously. It’s like I do nothing but run from one combat scene to another, expanding the experience of my life with new and interesting things that want to kill me, many for no discernible reason. I did not know this were-creature and had no beef with him. I’m fairly sure that he was just as easily food to the giant cube of ooze in the hallway as I was.

I hit him with my shield and he stumbled back, dazed. I think he must’ve been asleep by the way he looked so befuddled. I whipped my mace up and held it high, ready to brain him.

“Stop it,” I said with a growl. And lo and behold he did.

The rat/man slathered and slobbered for a bit longer, all the while twitching on the floor, like he’d been covered in ants.   Then he was scooting out of my reach on his backside, his tail shrinking and his muzzle contracting to transform him back into a small man in a tattered night shirt with his boney knees up around his chin.

“Why did you wake me?” he groused, wiping spittle from his chin.

Fairly polite to have asked so calmly, I thought. I had him by six stones easily and a full two spans taller in my stocking feet. I could press my advantage, but it seemed improper.

“My apologies,” I said, giving a little bow. “I was running from a crazed weasel gnome who turned my friend to stone, then ran into a large cubic ooze that lashed out at me with acid. Your rooms here were the first available to duck into.”

He eyed me, listening with dawning comprehension.

“I thought the place abandoned,” I said, pointing to the broken furniture.

He shrugged. “Got a little too exuberant during my last game of dice with the others,” he waved his thin left arm, indicating a wide swath of the ruins beyond the walls of the room. Thinking on my bearings, that would indicate south. I should really try and map this place out or risk becoming hopelessly lost. If Bob were here, he could navigate with aplomb.

“Others like you?” I asked, calculating how many were-somethings I could kill before I was somehow tainted.

“You mean prisoners of that cow Cassandra, I presume?”
I blinked twice. Cow? He showed a catastrophic lack of respect for the power and sheer terror I had been privy to the first two times I had run across the dragon.

Turns out these halls were full of an assortment of individuals with rather unsavory backgrounds and states of being, beyond my wererat (confirmed) friend Paul. Three doors down was a ghast who did not like company, but moaned too much, keeping Paul awake some days. He and most of those here preferred prowling at night, though they had little opportunity to prowl.

Each had been lured here to this region by the rumor of a weak dragon and ample treasure. Turns out Rufus was the one who spread those rumors in order to fill in the ruins and protect Cassandra while she slept. She apparently sleeps poorly at the best of times, which is very counter to the natural state of dragons. Frankly anything that large consumed an immense amount of food just to walk around. Sleeping for centuries at a time was really the only way for them to remain viable.

Lucky for me, we were in a waking period.

Paul turned out to be a fairly greasy sneak-thief from one of the cities several days west of the swamp. There had been a string of bungled burglaries, some debt or other, and a thing about a girl and a baby. All of which sent Paul out of the city. But not before he was ambushed and bitten by another wererat. When he realized he wasn’t going to die, he ran for the swamp, thinking to buy a cure, and his freedom with the treasure that was just laying about for any clever thief to pick up.

For someone who hadn’t seen the working end of a bar of soap in far too long, Paul was rather glib and charismatic. Explains the girl and the baby, at least. He said I could stay in his room and keep him company for another hour or so, long enough for the Cleaning Service, which is what he called the cubic acidic ooze, to move on to other halls. I mentioned the skull and femur floating in the ooze, and he nodded sagely. “That was Johann. She grew tired of dicing with us, and with the moans of our erstwhile neighbor. Said she was going to either escape or kill herself. He shuddered then, as did I. Suicide by digestion did not seem like the quickest, most efficient death. I never got any specifics about Johann other than she was cranky when she lost and would not return poor Paul’s affections.

By the end I spent nearly two hours in Paul’s company, which was interesting and useful from an information point of view. He tried to offer me wine and bread, but I declined. His nails were longer than I was comfortable with and filthy to boot.

I guess he lost patience or something because just as I was about to take my leave of him, he attempted to stab me in the back. Did I mention he wasn’t a very good sneak thief?

Luckily for me, his thin blades, which would slide ever so cleanly between the plates of a suit of armor, and happened to be coated in poison, did not do well faced with penetrating plate mail proper. See, I turned to thank my host for an enjoyable conversation, fouling his stabbery and causing both his blades to snap as they glanced off my really awesome armor of love. Knowing his propensity to drooling and biting, I cut to the chase and brained him with the mace. Rather inauspicious way to end a conversation, but I was not in any mood to be killed.

To add insult to injury his bedroom was nothing more than a nest of bones and old clothes from his previous victims.  He never had bread or wine to offer. There wasn’t even a copper to be had in his affects and I left the room as I found it, disheveled and one corpse heavier than when I entered.

At least the Cleaning Service had moved on. Now I just had to decide if I wanted to clear out the rest of the vermin in this wing for good measure and insure I wasn’t accosted when I least expected it, or should I go on, following the cubic ooze to see what new and exciting things awaited me in the rest of the dragon’s lair.

I hiked up my small clothes, tightened my gauntlets and glanced one way, then the other. Which way should I go? Kithri knows that ghast wasn’t getting any fresher.

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