Tarbolton

A Macabre Coffin
Taken from the journals of Archmage Cianar Brazen

XXXXday, the XX of XXXXmonth, in the Year of the New Divinities XXXX

Today began like any other, I woke up early and struggled with a poorly translated version of Sage Tabegon’s Dark Mana: Applications of Residuum in the Sunless Empire. Maera1 curled up on my lap and I read it aloud to her and, by Barolt, I swear she understood more than I did. Work was dull enough, but I’m saving up for some gold ink to use in my ritual book, so it’s necessary. Saraid2 had opened the inn for the lunch crowd and it was bustling by the time I made it there for the after-work rush. We were doing a good trade, lots of factory workers, and a trickle of students, I noticed Maera chatting with young Sindri, who I can’t quite approve of, but then again he’s young, and everyone’s a bit of an idiot at that age. It seemed like any other night until a figure in plate armour burst through the door.

Armoured head to toe, it seemed to be moving strangely. I hailed it, a hand on the crossbow behind the bar, when it didn’t respond I levelled the weapon at it, and when it swung an armoured fist at a patron, I let fly the bolt, which punched through the armour, but provoked no reaction. Always quick off the mark, the Ironbank Miner’s punter Awa, a regular, and fellow worker at the factory, leapt her table and dealt the creature a mighty blow with her fist. With a glance back at my old greatsword, hanging with my service chainmail behind the bar, I jumped over the bar, bludgeoning at the creature with the but of my spent crossbow. In a brief melee, I took a blow to the head and received unlikely aid not only from Awa but Sindri, who leveraged his sorcerous talents against the creature, laying it low with a blast of flame.

As the dust settled we saw that the attacker was not a creature wearing armour, but enchanted armour enclosing the fresh corpse of Stan, one of the workers at the factory. In what, in hindsight, might have been an error of judgement I enlisted the aid of Sindri and Awa to hide the body in the Browns, where such an occurrence might more easily go unnoticed.

As I write this, I am studying the armour, the enchantments on which were fixed using Tarbol script, a rarity among wizards, most of whom prefer the arcane applications of Daedric or Eladrin for such purposes. I’m sure I read about something like this in one of my Dwarven translations…

XXXXday, the XX of XXXXmonth, in the Year of the New Divines XXXX

This morning I woke at my desk, head buried in a battered manuscript, which must have had some relevance the night before, but in the cold light of dawn appeared to be nothing more than a supply report from a Late Period daedric logistician. I scrambled to make myself ready for my shift at the factory, and as I made my way there, I was intercepted by Mistress Dee3. She healed my bruises and enquired about the attack at the inn. Arriving at the factory, I found the floor was abuzz with gossip about the attack, with rumour extending so far as to suggest I had been almost slain. I met up on my lunch break with young Awa and Sindri, and we resolved to discover the origin of the strange attacker. Sindri quizzed some of his fellow artificers about Stan and I asked some of his day labourer colleagues, a few others of whom had gone missing, about his recent activities. The word was, Stan had recently started seeing a new girl, he had been throwing around a lot more money than a simple labourer could be expected to earn and that he had taken up lodgings at a local boarding house, a step up from the factory floor where most of the workers slept.

That evening, as I asked some of the local students about their acquaintance with Stan, while Awa and Sindri headed to his lodgings. Failing to learn anything revelatory from the students, I worked the Brewhouse until near close when I was interrupted by a bloody and battered Awa, with Sindri in tow, emerging from the night. They filled me in; employing Sindri’s magical charms, they’d gotten access to Stan’s room, but found two more of the enchanted suits of armour inside and, after a short exchange of blows, decided to return for reinforcements. With a heavy heart, I lifted my greatsword and old army chainmail from the pegs behind the bar on which they had been gathering dust for the best part of ten years. The sword’s hilt felt strange in my hand, without the calluses I’d developed in the army and the weight of the maille on my shoulders was at the same time strange and familiar. Leaving Saraid to close up the inn, I accompanied the two youngsters back to the boarding house, the streetwise young Sindri taking us by an unusual, but undeniably shorter, route.

Of what happened at after our arrival I remember little, a few flashes of the enchanted suits of armour and the corpses therein, and white-hot flashes of pain. I awoke in my bed back at the inn, with Maera by my side and in more pain than I can remember feeling since I left the army. As Maera tended my wounds, my young companions filled me in on the battle. Though the three of us bested the enchanted suits of armour, which were revealed to have contained the bodies of some of Stan’s friends and colleagues, I was knocked unconscious. The two of them searched the room, finding a fair sum of residuum and some love letters from Stan to a Charlotte, including an address.

I have stumbled to my desk to set this down, but my head is still ringing and sleep beckons. I feel all this business will come to a head tomorrow.

XXXXday, the XX of XXXXmonth, in the Year of the New Divines XXXX

I woke feeling almost myself again; though I sported a set of bruises that would do the fiercest punter proud, I didn’t feel the previous night’s adventures had done me any serious harm. Shuffling off to the factory, Awa, Sindri and I decided we needed to fill Dee in on the new developments to our investigations. It was revealed that Sindri had been less than honest in his report on the sum of residuum found in Stan’s rooms and, in a flash of insight, it occurred to me that Stan had likely been stealing the residuum from the factory, Dee confirmed that the substance had been going missing from the stocks. Now committed to getting to the bottom of the mystery, my companions and I requested the rest of the day off to look into the matter on the factory’s behalf; Dee eagerly accepted.

Our first port of call was to check in with Stan’s lady-friend, who dwelled in a much more upper class region of the undercity. Our first mistaken instinct, that Charlotte might be the lady of the house, lead us to inquire at the main entrance, the stiff-necked bootlick of a butler informed us of our error and directed us to the servant’s entrance and a Mrs Haggins. I was more than happy to deal with a less obsequious member of staff, we gained entrance to the servant’s quarters and tried to subtly get information about Stan and Charlotte out of Mrs Haggins. Quite thrilled to gossip while we waited for Charlotte to come down from the upstairs, Mrs Haggins informed us of her low opinion of Stan, and her doubts about the success of his and Charlotte’s relationship. She was almost nauseatingly glowing in her appraisal of the master and mistress of the house, but seemed to take a shine to me, dropping hints about her bachelorette daughter.

With the appearance of Charlotte, the last pieces of our investigation fell into place. At first hesitant to say anything, when we revealed we were looking into his “disappearance” (I feared revelation of his death might make it more difficult to get information from her, I would later be proved wrong on this point) she started to tell us more. He’d been coming into money recently, and she knew it was by less than legal means, implying that he had been dealing with some unscrupulous mages. I attempted to dance around the issue, but she could sense my deception, and we were forced to reveal that Stan had been killed by one of the enchanted suits of armour. Her face hardened, and with fire and back-bone I’d not have expected, she told us everything, that Stan had been supplying a low-class wizard by the name of Caine with residuum stolen from the factory, but that he had wanted to end the arrangement, and had been planning to inform Caine of this fact. Most importantly, she was able to provide us with the address of Caine’s workshop, a tenement deep in the Browns.

Feeling sorry for the girl, and knowing well what it is to have love cruelly snatched from you, I implored Mrs Haggins to relieve Charlotte, at least for the rest of the day. At first she was immovable but, upon promising to accompany her daughter to the theatre, she yielded, and Awa, Sindri and I departed for Caine’s workshop.

In hindsight, this would have been a sensible point at which to pause and gather our strength, perhaps enlisting some reinforcements from the factory, but I fear we were caught up in the thrill of the chase, and with our goal close to hand we did not act in the most sensible fashion.

Finding the door to the tenement locked, Awa and I wasted no time in breaking it down, to be greeted by two swords floating in mid-air, blades poised to strike at any intruders. Clearly Caine’s talents extended beyond merely animating suits of armour, but the swords posed little threat, and the three of us wasted little time in knocking them out of the air. The second story, what appeared to be a study containing an arcane library of comparable size and quality to my own, held another brace of floating swords, which met a similar fate to their ground floor companions. From the upper level we could hear what sounded to be a mess of chopping and slashing, and approached it with caution. We opened the door to the final level to reveal a chaotic scene; the room had obviously been a master bedroom, but it now housed three of the floating swords, which were destroying everything within in a frenzy of blows. Three warm-blooded creatures seemed to be of more interests to the blades than furniture and bedclothes and they turned their attention to us.

I don’t know if the enchantments on these manic swords were stronger, or if the three of us were simply tired from our previous trials, but we were much less successful than we had been to that point. Awa was the first to fall, and in attempting to rush to her aid with a healer’s tools, Sindri too was knocked to the ground; I suddenly found myself alone and facing two of the swords. I couldn’t tell you quite how I did it, but somehow I summoned the strength to knock them both from the air and see to my companions. Neither of them were at any great risk but, without magical healing, they would be little help to me for at least a day or two. Carrying both of them downstairs, I placed them on the tattered mattress and dragged them from the house, finding respite in a nearby alleyway. Giving a few coppers to a young urchin, I told him to run and fetch Mistress Dee from the factory, promising him a silver on his return.

Sure enough, the best part of an hour later, the boy returned with Dee, Andre and Patters in tow. Employing her clerical powers, Dee ministered to Sindri and Awa, and remonstrated me for assaulting the tenement without enlisting aid from the factory. For the most part, renewed and restored, the six of us returned to the tenement, for we had found no sign of Caine, and there was one more level to check: the basement.

Descending into the lowest level of the building, we were greeted by the sight of a suit of armour this one not, as the others had been, encumbered by a body. It stood over the crumpled body of a robed figure, it appeared that, as with the blades in the bedroom, the wizard had lost control of his creation, and it had cost him his life. Awa wasted little time and, with a punter’s reflexes and speed, rushed the suit of armour, dealing it a ringing blow, but this effort would be for naught when, a moment later, Andre lifted his hand and let forth a torrent of magic (a Magic Missile, cast with the full power of a full mage, unless I was mistaken), blasting it to scrap metal.

And with that it was done, Stan’s killer had fallen to his own hubris, and the threat to the factory and its surrounds had been neutralised. A quick search of the basement turned up a notebook filled with arcane musings, which I was quick to pocket, and the resources to create more suits of animated armour and weapons, I also availed myself of enough pieces of armour to equip myself with plate, once they had been ministered to by a skilled smith. I do not know what to make of my instinct to do this, I certainly don’t plan to spend any more time hunting down murderous wizards. In recognition of our service to the factory, Dee granted the three of us a week of paid leave.

As I write this, I am poring over Caine’s notes, and am disappointed to find that, far from being an overlooked genius of any ilk, he was simply a deluded and quite frankly sloppy wizard whose ideas ran, at the very best of times, only to thrift, not brilliance. I’m looking forward to my week off, having some time to spend with Maera, to do some work around the inn I’ve been putting off, and, of course, catch up on some of my arcane studies. I suppose I should also make good on my promise to Mrs Haggins, and take her daughter to the theatre.

The one thing that keeps picking at my brain is: why did that first suit of armour come crashing into the Brewhouse?

1 Maera Brazen, a name surely known to all, the adopted daughter of Archmage Cianar
2 The Archmage’s older sister
3 Dee Voliers, The owner of the factory that employed the Archmage at this time

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