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Hard Times in Narsileon 
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Ulthal
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Joined: Tue May 09, 2006 7:00 am
Posts: 545
Location: Greensboro, NC
Post Hard Times in Narsileon
Since I've been sending detailed reports to my players, I thought I might as well share them with the board. This is a new campaign, begun in late January, with three sessions to date. It is set in a homebrew world which combines some overtones of middle-period Byzantium with Melnibone. Four PCs arrived in Narsileon, newly reclaimed city of the empire of Archontos on the western continent, looking for adventure and treasure.

The heroes were these:

Gren, level 1 human (archontean) Bard
Lakontios, level 1 human (archontean with demonic blood) Sorcerer
Godfrey, level 1 human (archontean) knight of the Order of the Azure Shield
Naluvya, level 1 human (mixed blood) cleric of Idris
Cara Long-Arrow, level 1 elven ranger (played intermittently by my 10-year old daughter)

Edit: BTW, the players are all relatively new to gaming and quite enthusiastic. Perhaps overly so, as events will demonstrate ...

_________________
My C&C campaign journal: Hard Times in Narsileon http://www.trolllord.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=11032
My OSRIC/1e campaign journal: Expedition to Arden Vul http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=59080


Fri Mar 18, 2011 2:36 pm
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Ulthal
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Joined: Tue May 09, 2006 7:00 am
Posts: 545
Location: Greensboro, NC
Post the Trail to the Red Keep
The Trail to the Red Keep

PCs
Gren, lvl 1 human bard
Lakontios, lvl 1 human sorcerer
Godfrey, lvl 1 human knight
Naluvya, lvl 1 human cleric
Cara Long-Arrow, lvl 1 elven ranger


Gren, Lakontios and Godfrey had arrived in Narsileon in the last session, where they met Cara. After avoiding the stiff entrance tariffs through judicious use of Lakontios' charm spell, and wondering at the arrival at the same time of an important personage, the Lady Ysabet, the four ended up at the Grey Minstrel tavern. Lady Ysabet soon showed up at the Minstrel, accusing the four of complicity in the theft of the Eastern Star. When Lakontios refused to come quietly, a brawl ensued in which two of the Lady's bravos were killed. The innkeeper seemed terrified, and rescinded his offer to let them stay; it appeared that the Lady came from one of the Five Families and had come to Narsileon to marry the Exarch. A bystander, one Rudigard, offered a solution to the predicament: service to his master, the Archon Gedeon, master of the Red Keep, a border fortress designed to impress imperial authority on the local Tharbrian tribes. Apparently the region around the Keep has been subject to a rash of attacks in which farms have been burned and farmers killed; in addition, reports of strange collaborations between usually-inimical humanoid races have been filtering out of the woods. Gedeon needed bold adventurers to help stem these problems.

Despite some suspicions, the four decided that it might be wise to leave Narsileon for the time being. As they were gathering their belongings, the sharp-eyed Gren noticed something fluttering by the rafters: it was an 8" tall, grey, warty-skinned biped, which, upon discovery, immediately shrieked "Do not move! Apprehension is imminent! Resistance is futile!" This news provoked a new paroxysm of fear from the innkeeper, who started babbling about Keko the Lame: "Keko is involved. I will be ruined! Not Keko ..." and so forth. Rudigar confirmed that Keko the Lame was the dreaded logothete (chief administrator) of the Drome, the imperial 'diplomatic' service that was widely known to also serve as the imperial spy agency. Rudigar hustled the the group away, and led them by a circuitous path through some of the worst back-alley slums of Narsileon (the Tharbrian quarter) to the north gate. Rudigar paid the exit fee and the five had just managed to clear the gate when the same (or an identical) small homonculous apparated at the gate and demanded that the guards apprehend the heroes. Sacrificing dignity for security, the band ran for it and quickly put Narsileon behind them.

The party spent two pleasant days traveling the impressive imperial road towards the north until, late on the second day, they heard the sounds of steel-on-steel and men shouting. It appeared that a group of brigands of some sort had accosted a horseman and his companions, and were even now just about to finish off the rider. Godfrey the knight spurred his warhorse forward and demanded that the brigands explain themselves. The four turned out to be Tharbrian barbarians by dress and speech, who, responding in a surly manner, told Godfrey to mind his own business. Recognizing the rider as an imperial courier, Godfrey attempted to ride down one of the bandits with his lance; he scored a clean hit, but only managed to graze the brigand's side. The battle was on! Cara and Lakontios stayed at the rear, firing arrows and bolts. Gren and Rudigar charged the brigands. Strangely the brigands focused their attentions not on the well-armed heroes, but on the courier, who took several nasty spear thrusts before rolling under his horse and sprinting into the wheat field to the side of the road. The eagle-like eye of the elf, Cara, began to take its toll as she feathered the brigands with cloth-yard shafts, while Lakontios' blasts of energy contributed their part. Godfrey elected to attempt to save the courier by chasing the largest brigand, who had rushed off in pursuit of the courier. It was then that our heroes learned the true value of a well-trained warhorse, as trusty [name?] the warhorse closed the distance easily and inflicted serious damage with her/his hooves. Soon the battle was over, with three brigands dead and one having surrendered. The courier immediately called for the death of the captive, and some discussion ensued. They learned that the Tharbrians were clan-mates, and had agreed to help out the leader, Breth, who had requested their assistance in some matters of revenge. A search of the bodies found a domino-sized piece of gold with unusual legends: on the reverse, it read "Remember!", while the obverse read "TRL E.S." The captive and Rudigar surmised that TRL stood for "Tharbrian Recovery League" and "E.S." for "Eadric Strigona", the former prince of Narsileon and symbol of resistance to the Archontean Empire. What to do with the captive? Lakontios wished to keep the tharbrian as a bearer and/or slave/captive, but Gren, remembering his own past life, refused, and eventually knocked the captive senseless. The courier took matters into his own hand and, to the surprise and disgust of the party, slew the unconscious Tharbrian. After recovering their gear, the party continued on its way.

That night they were surprised at their campfire by the appearance of young boy who begged for shelter and companionship. This was Naluvya, who was quickly found to be a young girl with no small amount of skill. Naluvya recounted her story to the group, and it was an impressive and horrific one. Abandoned by her parents to the temple of Idris when young (for her parents wrongly believed her touched by chaos and evil), she grew up as a Tharbrian servant in this Imperial temple to the south of Narsileon. One day the temple was assaulted and sacked, and Naluvya was the only survivor, albeit one whose body and hair had been changed in the magical assault. She was picked up by a troop of wagon folk who travelled around entertaining the local villagers, and spent some happy times there until one of her adopted family used force to gain his way with her. She responded by trying to knife him, and the wagon folk left her to die. She was rescued by a hermit and eventually set out to make her way in the world. The heroes welcomed their new companion as they pressed on to the Keep.

Several days of travel through a light woodland ensued. The only break in the routine was a ruined trade caravan, still smoldering from an attack that had happened only days before. Strangely the attackers had not taken anything except the loose coin from the farmers, choosing to slaughter and burn everything. The only clue left at the scene was the broken shaft of an arrow which had been painted blue.

Finally, just as they were nearing the keep, the ranger, Cara, called a halt. Her keen senses had detected something amiss along the road. Scouting revealed the presence of an ambush. The group chose to reverse roles, and lure the ambushers into their own trap. Brave Godfrey charged down the road on his warhorse and flushed out the attackers - five more Tharbrian men, three with spears and two with longbows. Dodging arrows, Godfrey reined in and began to canter back down the road, where the heroes laid in wait. The spearmen ran after him, and the archers stepped from the brush for better shots. It was then that Naluvya showed her connection to the gods by calling down words of power which resulted in a burst of intense sound. The spearmen were injured and stunned, and were easily finished off by the weapons of the party. Meanwhile a combination of Gren's rapier, Cara's longbow, and Lakontios' missiles of energy finished off the archers. Just as self congratulations were seemingly in order, a final attacker burst out of the brush next to Lakontios and dealt him a wicked cut with his longsword. It was Harold the Heavy, leader of the band! Without his minions, however, Harold was quickly ridden down and defeated. Pleased with itself, the party recovered some valuable equipment from the attackers, as well as 10 more of the gold dominoes with the Tharbrian revolutionary slogans. Harold also held sheets of parchment that seemed to indicate a program of shakedown of certain persons (a list of names with sums and recommended actions: 'tolerate', 'tax' or 'eliminate'), and another which contained a calendar which seemed to point to his role in the assault on the caravan some days before.

Gathering all this information, the group emerged from the woods into the valley of the Rushing River. There, on a hill, stood the Red Keep, looming over a score of farms which dotted the sides of the river and road. Rudigar urged speed, and they made for the Keep. Although Corporal Bledsoe, in charge of the gate, was not particularly enamored of most of the group, Rudigar's presence ensured entry and the promise of some nights at the Traveler's Rest. The group stabled their mounts. Then they visited the smith, where they sold some armor, and the provisioner, who bought the rest of the looted equipment. Finally they made their way to the lone tavern, the Wet Hen. The low building was crowded, with a group of mercenaries at the bar and a band of adventurers occupying the prime table by the fire. Naluvya chatted with Mistress Edith, who took a maternal interest in the young girl. The rest went over to the adventurers, who were led by a fierce Skandik named Ragnar, but whose spark seemed to reside in a chippy goblin rogue named Doffy. The two groups traded mild insults, and the heroes learned that their rivals had brought to the keep for the same purpose and were waiting to meet with Archon Gedeon.

Pondering this news, the group made its way to the Traveler's Rest and bed.

_________________
My C&C campaign journal: Hard Times in Narsileon http://www.trolllord.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=11032
My OSRIC/1e campaign journal: Expedition to Arden Vul http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=59080


Fri Mar 18, 2011 2:43 pm
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Ulthal
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Joined: Tue May 09, 2006 7:00 am
Posts: 545
Location: Greensboro, NC
Post Re: Hard Times in Narsileon
Adventures around the Red Keep

PCs (all level 1):
Gren, human bard
Naluvya, human cleric
Lakontios, human sorcerer
Godfrey, human knight
Cara Long Arrow, elven ranger

When last we turned our eyes to the heroes, they had arrived at the Red Keep, where Archon Gedeon was striving to bring peace and order to a lawless frontier region. The group took some time to explore the small community of shops and dwellings in the outer bailey. They met the gregarious Uthar Redcloack, travelling priest of Thufir and his two silent acolytes. They spoke with the smith, and with the provisioner, Jilla of Newmarket. After bidding adieu to their travelling companion, Rudigar, they explored. Gren the bard decided to see if he could locate their 'host', Gedeon, and tried to enter the Inner Bailey. At the gate, however, he was stopped by Joxer, the captain of the Guard. Joxer proved to be a vain and lazy man, and eagerly accepted Gren's invitation to visit the Wet Hen for some libation. There Joxer proved most voluble, and most opinionated, as he spewed his mostly-contemptuous beliefs about Tharbrians, the Keep, and Gedeon. Alas, his capacity for alcohol did not equate to a pass into the Inner Bailey, but his comatose state earned Gren some kind looks from Joxer's men at the inner gate. Naluvya spent some time in the Hen, observing carefully from a corner (as is her wont). Lakontios was most interested in a group of fellow adventurers, led by a doughty skandik named Ragnar. Ragnar's group of five (Ragnar the fighter, Doffy the rogue, Eadred the ranger, Janeel the illusionist, and Fredegar the cleric) seemed to have been drawn to the Keep for purposes similar to that of our heroes. Lakontios enjoyed verbal sparring with Doffy, a chippy Goblin who seemed to enjoy insults more than he should. The group garnered various rumors, some of which individual players kept to themselves, and others which they shared with each other. Among the common gossip, best learned from Edith the garrulous wife of the tavern keeper, Warren, were the following: the Keep was rebuilt on top of an old Archontean fortress; there are old passages below the keep; the Archon seems well liked by the local Tharbrians because of his fair policies and lack of xenophobia; and so forth. She - and others at the Hen - confirmed that there were stories of humanoids gathering in unholy (unusual) unity to the northeast, at a place called the Caves of Chaos. Rumor had it that the ravine was riddled with caves, with the tougher monsters inhabiting the upper caves. Naluvya cast Detect Evil in the tavern, and several individuals - including Eadred the Ranger - seemed to be evil. Naluvya also chatted with Georgios the curate, a priest of Mitra and chief advisor to Gedeon. Georgois was an elderly and cautious man, much in contrast with the hale and hearty Uthar; he listened to Naluvya's accounts and offered some small tidbits of history of the region, as well as an invitation to a private conversation at the temple of Mitra in the future.

After a night's rest at the Traveler's Inn, the party rose to meet Archon Gedeon. The Archon addressed both groups of adventurers in the market square in front of the Wet Hen. He told them he was pleased they had accepted his offer, as he had more troubles than his men could easily handle on their own. He mentioned two primary problems: a spate of farm burnings along the road leading south to Narsileon, and reports of humanoid attacks on the more isolated farmsteads to the the northeast. He offered a reward for stopping these threats: 250 gp per person for proof that the threat had been eliminated, plus the right to keep any treasure found during the expedition. After exchanging some taunts with Ragnar and Co., the party headed northeast along the road. They came to the Tharbrian farmsteads, where they spoke with goodwife Gleddor. She demonstrated the most recent example of burning, and was able to explain how it seemed strange that the burners were not interested in valuables; their motive seemed to be destruction and killing, rather than gain. Armed with this information, the group headed north into the woods, mostly because they had heard from Naluvya that an old hermit lived there and might be able to provide them with information. They located a path into the woods, and, eventually, found the hermit, whose wits seemed to have declined since the time in which Naluvya had dwelled with him. He spoke about his friend, his kitty, and how he loved living in his hollow tree; he even invited the group to come by for lunch. When pressed a bit for information, he could offer little specific in the way of information, save for a game path through the woods which would lead to a spot overlooking the ravine. He, too, spoke of the evil in the ravine. When the group, itching for action, chose not to press him further, he trotted away. The group made its way slowly through the underbrush until it reached a tree line by the edge of the ravine.

The ravine in which the Caves of Chaos are found was long and narrow, with steeply rising sides. Trees and groups of bushes grew along the ravine in scattered clumps - all were twisted, bent, and vaguely forboding. The party spent a fair amount of time watching the ravine, and noticed a few things happen. From their perch (to the southwest) they noticed a pair of figures emerge from one of the caves on the north wall, furtively dodge through the trees, and toss an object into another cave, before running back to their cave. Much discussion ensued concerning what should be done. Most favored entering the nearest cave, a small slit on the south wall near the rim of the ravine. While this discussion was taking place, a larger figure emerged from the cave into which the object had been thrown; he/she/it heaved the object into the ravine and shouted "You little weasels! Show your faces! Better yet, why don't you come over for dinner? [evil laughter]" The figure then disappeared back into its cave. Gren inched forward and listened from the top of the selected cave (J on the map, for those keeping track at home); he could make out some low noises, possibly some barking. Lakontios could bear the inaction no longer. Taking charge, the sorcerer edged over the mouth of the selected cave , and sprang down into the entrance. Bellowing his now-famous war-cry, "I Came to Throw Down!!", he fired a flaming crossbow bolt into the cave. The flame illuminated the shapes of several humanoid figures with canine features. Barking their own war cry, they raised their bows and shot arrows back at the bold sorcerer. Surprised by this response, Lakontios was only saved from certain death by the fates themselves, as one of the arrows lodged in his staff (fate point burned). Calling for help, Lakontios chanted mystic words of rest and relaxation, and several of the gnolls keeled over, asleep. The remainder of the party quickly arrived to help, and were able to dispatch the sleeping gnolls. Lakontios' comment on this situation was brief: "Bad Dog!" One had escaped by running down a worked-stone tunnel into the ravine-side. The group took some time to search the bodies, turning up a few coins in the process, as well as the guardroom in which the gnolls had been resting. They were able to make out some dim paintings on the wall, now long faded, which seemed to suggest funerary processions. As they group searched, they heard the sounds of barking from the passageway - more gnolls were approaching!

Quickly taking battle positions, the group arranged Godfrey and Cara in the entranceway, with Lakontios and Naluvya behind. Gren waited by the side. The gnolls reached the turn in the passage and began chanting something in their barking voices - it sounded as if they were readying themselves for a charge. One gnoll leapt out into the open passageway and shouted, in broken common, that the intruders "Must go, before brave gnolls kill all. Why you attack us? Easier prey to be found elsewhere. Go pick on the little ones, or else we chew your bones!" Unimpressed with his boasts, the party responded with their own taunt: "Come on, you smelly mutts, and smell the Blue Thunder!!" (Lakontios, naturally). Naluvya produced her holy symbol and chanted a divine prayer - suddenly a burst of holy sound echoed in the chamber, stunning several of the gnolls and causing all of them to howl in distress! Four gnolls leapt to the charge, and the battle was on. The heroes swung their swords, loosed their bolts, and produced bits of eldritch energy. This proved highly effective, save for the one big gnoll who burst through the wall and attempted to grapple Naluvya. Fortunately he tripped on Gren's outstretched foot (the legend continues! gotta explain that fumble somehow), and fell prostrate on the chamber floor, where he was dispatched by the warriors. Several of the heroes were badly damaged, including Naluvya who took a bad spear wound to the chest, and Cara and Lakontios who suffered similar wounds. In the end, though, the heroes slew all but two of the gnolls, and the remaining two elected to flee. As they tried to do so, they were brought down by missile fire. Score to date? Heroes: 10 dead gnolls. Gnolls: no dead heroes! Some coins were found on the body, and the group debated whether it should rest for the night in the cave. Choosing prudence, they finally decided to return to the Keep for healing and recovery of spells. All in all, it was a highly successful first expedition to the Caves of Chaos!

Much satisfaction was had when the party returned to the Keep to find Ragnar and Co. trudging home, tired, frustrated, and without any spoils.

[some DM notes. I was utterly surprised by the party's decision to go overland, and to assault one of the higher caves. This meant I was slightly less prepared than for other eventualities. I was also amazed by the party's luck in routing a strong force of gnolls. Some of my decisions at the start of the campaign - max HP +4, and fate points - clearly helped the party tackle a group that I thought would be a lot tougher. This encounter also set the stage for Lakontios' bold - errr, rash - behavior]

_________________
My C&C campaign journal: Hard Times in Narsileon http://www.trolllord.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=11032
My OSRIC/1e campaign journal: Expedition to Arden Vul http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=59080


Fri Mar 18, 2011 2:50 pm
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Ulthal
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Joined: Tue May 09, 2006 7:00 am
Posts: 545
Location: Greensboro, NC
Post Re: Hard Times in Narsileon
the Assault on the Caves of Chaos goes badly .... or when to let sleeping wights lie

PCs:
Gren, human bard 1,
Naluvya, human cleric 1,
Lakontios, human sorcerer 1,
Godfrey, human knight 1,
Cara Long Arrow, elven ranger 1,


The heroes gathered again to renew their search for the causes of the unrest and destruction which have plagued the borderlands. Fresh from their stunning victory against the gnolls (cavern J), the heroes took the time to repair to the Wet Hen to trade insults with their rivals, the band of adventurers led by Ragnar. They also informed Uthar Redcloak, travelling cleric extraordinaire, of their successes, and he begged to be allowed to come with them, along with his acolytes Klim and Gort. The heroes momentarily considered bringing along Ragnar and Co., but settled for the gregarious and seemingly naive Uthar. Healed and raring to go, the party retraced its path to the ... Caves of Chaos!

Sneaking over the edge of the ravine, the heroes re-entered the small cave where they had found the gnolls. Stopping to check the ravine itself, sharp-eyed Cara spotted movement, as well as some previously unidentified caves. It appeared as if a mixed group of humanoids was gathering in the ravine. Under the cruel leadership of a pair of huge bugbears, the humanoids headed out in what looked like a warband. Anxious about the farmers with whom they had so recently spoken, much debate ensued about what to do. The heroes were nervous about challenging a group of 20 enemies by themselves (they were only 6, plus the acolytes), and so elected to send a message back to the Red Keep in the hopes that the militia could prevent another massacre. Uthar was nominated for the mission, so he retraced his footsteps (with his acolytes).

The party pressed on, entering the gnoll caves. They found the entrance chambers to be utterly deserted, lacking even the simple pallets that had been present only the day before. Moving down the passage they explored several rooms - all filled with primitive wooden furniture, shabby bits of torn clothing, and nothing else! Taking a side chamber they finally reached a larger room with a fireplace (cold). Just as signs of frustration were starting to show, keen-eyed Cara spoke up: "That wall doesn't seem right." Indeed, the elf had noticed a secret door. Excited, Lakontios pushed it open. They found what appeared to be a long-dead adventurer lying in a thick carpet of dust; taking some gems they found in his purse, they pushed on.

The narrow passage opened into a different sort of region - it had a polished black granite floor, with worked walls interlaced with striations of red and black rock. A large mosaic decorated the center of the floor, and a score of crates were piled up all around. Gren was the first to notice that the crates were recent, and some bore the imprint of the Empire. Stolen goods, perhaps? Some time was spent sorting through the gear - most of it not particularly valuable, although some handaxes and torches were found. Just as preparations for moving on were being made, Naluvya heard a slurping sound and turned around to find a 10' tall cube of translucent gelatin bearing down on her. Nimbly leaping away (curse that DM fumble!!!), she avoided the Cube's inexorable attack. The party sprang into action: Gren lit some boxes on fire, Naluvya shot it with her bow, and Cara gouged it with her sword. Once again the Cube lunged forward at its prey, but the dexterous heroes avoided its bulk. Showing incredible martial spirit, they inflicted yet more damage on the creature, which deliquesced into a quivering pile of toxic goo. They liberated some coins from it, and Godfrey noticed an unusual bone, which turned out to be a magical wand of some sort. The victory was short-lived, however, as the noise of the fight (and the breaking up of boxes) had brought new visitors: 8 zombies! Once again the heroes looked unstoppable. Naluvya stopped seven of them in their tracks with a soundburst; Gren lit the pool of Cube-goo on fire, and the rest poured missile fire at the lumbering corpses. Another soundburst slew three of the zombies outright. The other five stumbled through the flames toward the party, with most catching fire and burning themselves in the process. Short work was made of the remnants, and only Gren took any damage. The heroes briefly puzzled over the strange 'uniforms' worn by the zombies, and confiscated some copper amulets they had been wearing.

The heroes pressed on into the eerie complex. After some twists in the hallway they came across a door. Rather than moving on, they stopped to investigate and found that the door, which opened into the hallway in which they stood, had been spiked shut from their side. Intrigued, Lakontios boldly seized a flask of oil, dashed it on the door, and lit the oil. The damp wood began to smolder and burn, and Godfrey, over his better judgement, stepped up to lend his shoulder to the door. [this elides a long in-game discussion about why they heroes should want to open the door at all!]. When a passage in the door big enough to admit a human had been carved, Lakontios stuck his head in and reported a passage leading down a flight of steps to a low-ceilinged room full of rectangular boxes. Naluvya was concerned, and cast Detect Evil. The entire room radiated evil strongly, and particularly one of the boxes. Half the heroes wished to leave, but Lakontios insisted on exploring the crypt (for so it was). They found approximately 15 sarcophagi and coffins, some ancient and stone, and some more recent and wooden. The sarcophagus which radiated evil the most had two words incised on its lid, which Gren kindly translated from the Old Archontean: they read "Valerian. Beware!" Gren noted, incidentally, that Valerian was also the name of the current Exarch of Narsileon. Coincidence? Hard to know .... Again, more discussion ensued, with Godfrey and Naluvya wishing to leave, and Lakontios urging further exploration. The group retreated to the entrance stair, and Lakontios tried summoning the spirit of this Valerian: he tapped his staff and shouted "In the name of Lakontios, terrible and omnipotent, I command the shade of Valerian to rise up, or be known as a coward in the spirit world!" Gren repeated similar comments. Godfrey, however, looked with incredulity at the sorcerer and wryly remarked "Why don't you just swallow some arsenic if you want to die?" The group then listened - and heard some faint scratchings from inside the tomb of Valerian. After yet more delay, Naluvya 'went with the flow' and pushed off the lid of the sarcophagus. Out sprang a thin being, with skin stretched tight over its bones, with elongated, claw-like fingers; a cold despair rose with it as it leaned towards Naluvya and whispered, almost tentatively 'Valeriaaaann." At that point the DM let loose an unguarded comment about the probable fate of the group ("you guys are f**ked!") Before Valerian could grab her, Naluvya showed her holy symbol and chanted "In the name of Idris, I command you to return to the grave." Amazingly, Valerian slunk away to the corner, cowed (nice turning roll!). The group chose to retreat. They returned to the gnoll caves, and made one more discovery - another storage chamber, complete with armor, weapons, and more imperial crates. A softly glowing sword was also detected, and swiftly given to Godfrey (although its true nature remained unknown). At this point, they decided to return to the Red Keep. On the way they discovered that the humanoid warband had indeed sacked another farmstead; only as they arrived did the soldiers of the Red Keep, led by Corporal Bledsoe, arrive. They tracked the warband to the edge of the ravine, but the soldiers refused to enter the ravine, and the group retired to the Traveler's Rest for the night.

There they once again traded taunts with Ragnar and Co., even as the latter demonstrated 5 heads of Tharbrians they claimed to have apprehended in the act of gross banditry. While resting, the group contemplated their choices, and in the morning struck a bargain with Ragnar. They told him they had awakened an ancient demon, and needed the assistance of his men to put it down. Ragnar demanded details, and the story came out. Suspicious, Ragnar was loath to agree to what seemed like a trap, but Fredegar, his cleric, urged otherwise. Demanding the right to set marching order, Ragnar agreed and the joint party set off for the Caves of Chaos. Arriving swiftly at the crypt, the party elected to try to sneak up on Valerian (if, that is, he was still in the crypt). Rather than bashing down the rest of the door, they decided to squeeze through the partly broken door one-by-one in hopes of taking Valerian by surprise. After four heroes had entered - Ragnar, Godfrey, Doffy the Rogue and Lakontios - Valerian sprang into action, and in a feat of amazing dexterity, vaulted over the fighter and knight and into the second rank! As he sailed over their heads, Godfrey swung desperately with the glowing sword - despite his belief in his roll (err, prowess), the sword seemed to push against the brave knight and failed to impact Valerian (gah! a cursed sword!); Ragnar's doughty blow with a battleaxe also failed to leave an impact. Wasting no time, Doffy dove for the exit, while Lakontios fired a Magic Missile. The two clerics each called on their deities, but the gods were silent and Valerian continued to advance, all the while whispering "Valeriaaaan." The wight turned his claws on Lakontios, who miraculously managed to push the claws away with his staff (last of the fate points!). Another round of fighting ensued, with the fighters now shouting that their weapons did no damage. Lakontios bravely took charge, and urged them to return to doorway - Ragnar and Godfrey slowly did so, although they were loath to leave a colleague to his (deserved?) fate! Several moments later, as Godfrey wormed his way through the doorway, Valerian's claws sank into Lakontios' shoulder, and the sorcerer collapsed into a motionless heap. The rest of the parties beat a swift retreat, all but Naluvya, who wondered if the creature would follow. To her horror, it was not Valerian but Lakontios who emerged from the doorway - but it was a different Lakontios, already with taut skin, sharp claws, and a foetid breath. She turned to flee as the new horror whispered "Lakontiooos". A desperate chase ensued, as Naluvya strove to reach the apparent safety of the secret door in the storeroom. She did so only to feel the monster's breath on her back. Just as he reached forward, claws poised to devour her, Naluvya tripped on a piece of broken crate, and literally fell through the secret door, which her comrades immediately slammed shut (saved by fate points, again!). Despairing of their lost comrade, both groups trudged bitterly back to the Red Keep.

May we all stop for a moment and recall the valor of Lakontios, a fiery man of action whose loyalty to his comrades was only exceeded by his rashness!

_________________
My C&C campaign journal: Hard Times in Narsileon http://www.trolllord.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=11032
My OSRIC/1e campaign journal: Expedition to Arden Vul http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=59080


Fri Mar 18, 2011 2:56 pm
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Post Re: Hard Times in Narsileon
I LOVE this campaign recap. Thanks Geleg... there is some inspiration in these posts for sure!

~O

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Fri Mar 18, 2011 3:34 pm
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Ulthal
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Location: Greensboro, NC
Post Re: Hard Times in Narsileon
thanks, Omote! I've been enjoying your high level one as well - oughta post that instead of lurking.

no doubt you've identified which adventure we're playing? B2. A first for all involved, myself included (despite gaming since 1978/9). This is meant as a precursor to my homebrew megadungeon, but if the players don't wise up quickly they may never get out of the Caves of Chaos alive!

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My C&C campaign journal: Hard Times in Narsileon http://www.trolllord.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=11032
My OSRIC/1e campaign journal: Expedition to Arden Vul http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=59080


Fri Mar 18, 2011 3:46 pm
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Ulthal
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Post To avenge Lakontios!
Characters
Gren, 1st level Human Bard
Godfrey, 1st level Human knight
Cara Long-Arrow, 1st level Elf Ranger
Naluvya, 1st level Human cleric
Hadhod, 1st level halfling rogue
Cleopatra, 4th level human wizard

the Deceased:
Lakontios, 1st level human sorcerer


The night began with the heroes stunned at their losses in the finished section of the Caves of Chaos. Their boon companion, their sparkplug - the fiesty Lakontios - had been lost to foul undead. What was worse, it seemed that Lakontios had been turned into one of the undead! Gentle recriminations filled the air of the Wet Hen, interspersed with vulgar insults from their rival, Doffy the Rogue. Fortunately for the group, two new companions presented themselves. One was a highly experienced wizard, the exotic Cleopatra; Cleopatra was from the southern reaches of the Empire, was a member of the Collegium of Macrina, and had most recently explored sections of the fabled Halls of Arden Vul. Her mystical talents were deemed most welcome [the player of Naluvya wasn't happy playing a cleric, and wanted to turn to an arcane caster - he dredged up his previous character with my permission]. The other new recruit was a halfling named Hadhod, he of the blithe demeanor and wandering hands ("I find things. Sometimes they're not mine, but I've found them anyway. Sometimes I forget to return them."). Indigent, the halfling was eager to accept the party's offer of fabulous treasures [this was the replacement for Lakontios' player].

And so, after little discussion, the group elected to return to the caves of Chaos and seek an end to the humanoid threat. They chose their now-familiar path, which snaked through the woods to a convenient vantage point south of the ravine in which the caves lay. Along the way they encountered the strange hermit, Nic, with whom Naluvya had spent time some years ago. Nic seemed to have grown more strange, as he kept talking about his 'kitty.' Naluvya wondered if Nic might know more than he was letting on, and decided to accompany the eccentric old man to his residence, while Cara tracked the pair and led the rest of the party on their trail. Nic was delighted to show Naluvya his hollow tree and cooking pot, and even promised to brew up a most healthful draught should she procure Elfbark, Annis and Aloe in sufficient quantities. But it was 'kitty' who was most surprising, as it turned out that Nic had acquired a new companion - a fully grown mountain lion! The big cat was aggressive, but tolerated Nic's commands. Nic hinted that kitty had a taste for the 'little green skinned ones', and that she liked to hunt by 'the old cave. you know, the unknown one? by the stream? It's a verryy nice cave.' Naluvya politely thanked Nic and retreated to where the party was watching, and reported on the situation. The group continued on its path to the Caves of Chaos!

Lurking in the tree line above the ravine, Cara's sharp eyes bespied a group of goblins emerging from a cave on the south side of the ravine. They moved north and began to shout insults outside a different cave mouth, one which the group had previously learned contained orcs. Hoping to take advantage of the goblins' absence, the group sent their newest member, Hadhod, scouting nimbly along the top of the ravine. As he moved away from them, however, a shout came up from a group of trees overlooking the entrance to the gnoll cave: "Oh ho! The little mice return to steal some more cheese! Why don't you come to our home for dinner, little mice??" A group of humanoids burst from cover and attacked with surprise! The ambush contained three large, dominant creatures resembling bears (bugbears), two more of the dog-like humanoids (gnolls), and six goblins with bows. Things looked ugly, as the humanoids' initial assault was deadly: Godfrey took an arrow through his coat of plates that staggered him (critical hit!), and Hadhod and Cara also took bad hits. Fortunately, the sultry Cleopatra was there, and shouted words of mystic power: huge fists of air began to pummel the goblins, killing one and sending the other four sprinting for their home in disarray! [a homebrew spell: Punishing Fists of Arak-Zhorr; also a failed morale check]. The tougher bugbears and gnolls closed in, however, and began to dish out fearsome punishment [indeed, the DM rolled two 20s at the same time in one round!]. Hadhod, caught in the open, was torn apart by a gnoll, with only the fates saving him from serious injury! Naluvya spent her energies healing the wounded. Most seriously, the brave Godfrey, who had found a softly glowing sword in the last excursion to the caves, found that it would not leave his grip - it was cursed! Indeed, the curse was so powerful that with his first blow, the blade shattered on a bugbear's thick leather hauberk, causing such a stinging sensation that the Godfrey was unable to grip a weapon for several rounds [a bad fumble, although we allowed it to dispense with his curse]. Brought nearly to his knees by the blows of the bugbear's mace, and urged to flee by his mates, Godfrey instead manfully stood up and delivered a pummeling flurry of punches at the bugbear, one of which actually inflicted a bruise! Although the party was nearly wiped out, the wizardry of Cleopatra proved decisive, as her powerful staff delivered blast after blast of eldritch energy into the party's foes (using charges, though!). Eventually the last gnoll decided to flee, and the last bugbear was brought down by a magic missile. Godfrey stood panting, blood streaming from multiple wounds. Hadhod, however, lay unconscious on the ground. Once again the group had been dealt a serious reverse! Trudging back to the Keep, they rested, healed, and plotted some new strategies.

Three days later the party elected to approach the ravine from its eastern opening. Again sending the nimble Hadhod scouting ahead, they crept towards the cave from which they had seen the goblins emerge. Fortunately no activity was taking place in the ravine, and the group was able to slip into a 6'x6' cave mouth which led into the side of the hill, and to a fairly wide and sandy-bottomed cave. There they risked some light, and found evidence of much foot traffic leading right and left. Hadhod listened carefully to the left and heard the sounds of goblin voices! Quickly using his sneaky skills, the rogue assembled a set of trip-wires at the mouth of the cave; once finished, Cleopatra called in her most sultry voice "Oh my! I need help! come and find me!" A group of goblins came rushing down the passageway, shouting their cry "Bree-Yark!" Alas for them, the roguery of Hadhod had its effect. The first goblin stumbled and fell, and the others crowded in behind them. Cleopatra whispered words of power, and the entire group fell asleep; they were easily dispatched. But as the bodies were looted for some small coins, more goblin voices emerged from the right! Four more goblins were rushing forth with spears, alternating shouts of "bree-yark" with what sounded like a name 'Grawp!' The cries of "Grawp" seemed plaintive, as if the goblins were summoning some ally. The group waded into the fray, with Cleopatra deeming it a suitable time to get some melee experience (against simple goblins, right?), and Hadhod and Godfrey also engaging in the goblins. Cara, Naluvya, and Gren waited in the wider cave for clear shots. Several minutes of furious swinging and missing ensued (with some of the worst rolling by PCs that we have seen in a long time!), and the goblins getting the better of things. Indeed, one goblin - nickhamed "Super Goblin" by Hadhod - not only skewered Gren with a thrown spear, but began putting holes into Hadhod with his second spear! The tide seemed about to turn in the heroes' favor, when a new enemy emerged - a fearsome, 8' tall being with huge muscles and arms, wearing only a bearskin as protection! It was Grawp, the ogre, summoned to the aid of the goblins: 'Grawp come to help little friends! Why mean humans hurt little friends? Grawp smash them! Grawp grind them!" Grawp's massive fist caught Cara with deadly force, and hurled her backwards into the cave. Cleopatra fired a sickly green bolt of energy that burned and sizzled against the bear skin (and Grawp's skin), and the rear rank closed for a tougher fight. The nimble ranger, Cara, grievously wounded, raised her bow, and despite the close range, let loose the shot of her career! It was a perfect strike into Grawp's left eye, one that partially blinded the ogre and caused prodigious bleeding! [Hadhod's player, rolling for my daughter, finally rolled a 20, and then a 99 on the crit chart 'o doom!] Although he continued to flail around, the fear which surrounded Grawp's arrival had been neutralized. Grawp continued to take acid damage, and continued to bleed out. Finally, Gren managed to spear Grawp in the back, and the ogre fell over, dead. Meanwhile, the unusual front line had only been able to slay four of the six goblins. What was worse, Cleopatra could hear more cries of Bree Yark as a new force of goblins advanced from within the complex! She quickly disengaged and cast another Pummeling Fists spell, mostly to impede the advance of the new threat. The two goblins remaining in combat were sorely disheartened by the fall of their protector, and fled back into the caves, where they ran into the Pummeling Fists and were slain! Just as all seemed to be going well, however, Hadhod lunged forward to taunt the goblins, slipped on some blood and, in a slow-motion nightmare, slid slowly down the tunnel into the area of Pummeling Fists. Already badly wounded by Super Goblin, the unlucky halfling was pummeled to death by Cleopatra's spell! The advancing goblins took some casualties from the fists before deciding to retreat.

And thus the session ended in media res, with the party gasping for breath and bleeding badly. They stood in the entrance cave of the Goblin complex, proud of their defeat of the ogre, but saddened by the loss of yet another comrade. Hadhod may have spent only a short time with the group, and may have been exceedingly unlucky, but .... well, he was exceedingly unlucky. Rest in peace, master hobbit.

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My C&C campaign journal: Hard Times in Narsileon http://www.trolllord.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=11032
My OSRIC/1e campaign journal: Expedition to Arden Vul http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=59080


Fri Mar 25, 2011 12:16 pm
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Ulthal
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Post Re: Hard Times in Narsileon
sadly, there's been another delay in our gaming schedule. I'm hoping we'll rebound next week. Lakontios' player is finally going to roll up the type of character he should have been playing all along - a fighter!

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My C&C campaign journal: Hard Times in Narsileon http://www.trolllord.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=11032
My OSRIC/1e campaign journal: Expedition to Arden Vul http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=59080


Thu Apr 21, 2011 8:17 pm
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Ulthal
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Location: Greensboro, NC
Post the Plot is Stirred ....
The heroes reconvened after a long absence last night.

Present were:
Gren, 1st level human Bard
Sir Godfrey, 1st level human knight
Cleopatra, 4th level human wizard
Cara Long-arrow, 1st level elven ranger
Stilicho, 1st level human Gallowglass (an alternate fighter class)
[note: Gren, Godfrey, and Cara are close to leveling up ...]

The deceased:
Lakontios, 1st level human sorcerer
Hadhod, 1st level halfling rogue

The departed (but not deceased)
Naluvya, 1st level cleric

When last we left our heroes, they were standing in the goblins' section of the Caves of Chaos, with conflicting emotions coursing through their bodies. On the one hand, they had just vanquished the mighty Grawp, a powerful ogre, and had put the goblins to flight; this was surely the stuff of heroic legend! On the other hand, they were filled with remorse for the loss of another companion, as Hadhod the halfling had died in the combat. A decision was necessary - to advance further into the caves, pressing their advantage against the goblins? After all, Grawp's lair and loot must be nearby ... Or to retreat, so as to renew spells and seek a replacement for their company? After some discussion it was decided to retreat. A general sense of frustration was felt, since despite generally prevailing over a variety of humanoids, they had neither secured much treasure nor come any closer to explaining why the humanoids were massing in such a way. Recriminations and doubt flew among the party as the frustrated heroes trudged back to the Red Keep.

As they approached the Keep, it became immediately apparent that something was amiss. Corporal Bledsoe, the gate warden, seemed not to recognize them as he demanded explanations for their presence. Indeed, a higher level of security, professionalism, and impersonality seemed to pervade the Keep. The charms and blandishments of Cleopatra soon loosened Bledsoe's tongue, however, and he explained the altered state of the Keep as the result of a surprise inspection by a certain Uthrike, thesmothete of the Private House [thesmothetes are bureaucrats; the Private House is the branch of imperial administration charged with oversight over the Emperor's personal estates and rights], who had arrived with an escort of 15 troopers from the elite XXIst Cataphracts Regiment (the Cherry Pickers). Although this Uthrike was a minor bureaucrat, the polemarch in charge of the troopers was none other than Iskarion Xenarcheon, an aristocrat from one of the Five Families! Bledsoe warned the PCs to be on best behavior so as not to cause trouble for Archon Gedeon.

The party reached the Wet Hen, where they found five of the cataphractii - tall, handsome, well-dressed, and aristocratic-looking men - guffawing loudly as they lounged outside the tavern. These men were quite arrogant and self-assured, as their vulgar invitations to Cleopatra seemed to indicate. Within the tavern, the heroes immediately spotted Ragnar, Doffy, and their friends [the rival adventuring party] holding court at the end of the common room. All seemed in good spirits, and kept looking at a sack which rested on the table. The goblin Doffy, never one to miss a chance to exercise his tongue, called forth "Hey Losers! Where's that lazy halfling of yours? Lost another friend, eh? I guess Gedeon should have given us all the business. Chumps!!" Ragnar the skandik, flush with ale, called for a round of drinks for the PCs, adding that he could certainly afford it, given his success at eliminating the threat of the Tharbrian rebellion around the Keep. Thumping the sack on the table, Doffy added "Yeah! We got 'em good! Crucified the lot, save for the leader, whose head'll make a nice present to the archon, right Ragnar?" Apparently the heroes' rivals had been successful in eliminating one of the two threats for which both groups had been hired! Stung a bit, Cara retorted: "Yeah? Well we killed an ogre, didn't we." To which Doffy smirked "Don't see no head, do I now ..."

Amid the banter came a new voice from the bar, that of a well-muscled human who carried a gigantic claymore. This man, who appeared to have some skandik ancestry in him, introduced himself as Stilicho, a warrior, looking for honor and honest pay. He described a bit of his story, which had involved arriving in Narsileon as a bodyguard for one of the important Archontean nobles assigned to that city; in Stilicho's line of work, such guardianship is a practically sacred calling, in which both lord and guard share a bond of respect and loyalty. When his lord began to show disturbingly perverse and sadistic tendencies, Stilicho made some comments, which got him summarily fired. Fired! Gallowglasses are never fired. What is worse, the lordling had seemed to think that all he need do was pay off Stilicho with a bag of 30 gp. Stilicho had been dishonored by the whole incident and was looking for comradeship and loyalty to rebuild his sense of self and duty. He was quickly accepted by the party.

Cleopatra chatted up Edith, the mistress of the Wet Hen, but learned little more about the new arrivals in the Keep. From her perspective it was wonderful to have such high lords visiting, since they seemed to have limitless purses. Although she agreed it was a bit unusual that such a noble person as Iskarion Xenarcheon would be leading a mundane mission such as this, she seemed more content to bask in his nobility than to wonder about his motives.

As the party meditated on these events, Georgios, the curate of the Keep (and priest of Mitra) arrived at the Wet Hen, looking anxious. To the heroes' surprise, Georgios seemed, for the first time, eager to talk to them. Indeed, Georgios looked anxious, even distraught! He begged the PCs to come to the chapel for a private meeting. Surprised and intrigued, they agreed. Running the gauntlet of the troopers' wolf's whistles (to which Gren had puckishly responded, forcing Cleopatra to calm an evidently insecure trooper), they arrived at the shrine of Mitra. There, Georgios confessed that he came to them out of desperation. "Politics are afoot," he whispered, "and we must save the archon Gedeon before his enemies in Narsileon destroy him. Should that happen, all that we - that Gedeon - have worked for here at the Keep - harmony between Tharbrian and Archontean, peaceful expansion - will be threatened." Georgios went on to reveal his suspicions that the visit of Uthrike the thesmothete was simply a pretext to bring pressure upon Gedeon. The real danger here was not the bureaucrat, but Iskarion Xenarcheon - as was well known, the Xenarcheon family is one of the Five Families, those most noble clans whose members constantly feud with each other for power, influence, and wealth. The current Exarch of Narsileon, Valerian Krakteros (known as ‘the Iron-Fist of Archontos’) has agreed to marry Ysabet Basileon, thus forming an alliance between the Families Krakteros and Basileon. But it is well known that the Basileon clan is the traditional ally of the Xenarcheon family, despite the somewhat dark history of the Xenarcheoi. Georgios is thus concerned that Gedeon, himself from the Ligareon family (a fourth of the Five Families), is being out-maneuvered by a rare alliance between the Krakteros, Xenarcheon, and Basileon families. What is worse, the local representatives of these three Families do not share Gedeon's generally progressive views about civic harmony and tolerance. Thus, Georgios explained, it seems likely that Iskarion has come to the Keep in order to reveal or produce evidence that will incriminate Gedeon. Georgios ended this disquisition by inviting the PCs to be his guests at the inquest to be conducted by the thesmothete in the inner bailey at the first hour in the morning. Should they agree, the PCs must agree to be silent, only speaking when and if Georgios might indicate that it was appropriate. In return, Georgios would supply them with healing and a place to rest.

The following morning the PCs accompanied through the gate to the inner bailey for the first time (nodding genially at Joxer, the gate captain) as they passed. There they found the thesmothete seated behind a table in the center of the courtyard, wearing his orange robes and cylindrical hat of office and flanked by his secretaries. Standing just to his right was a tall, extremely handsome aristocrat in the dress armor of the XXIst Cataphracts: it could only be Isakarion Xenarcheon! Also waiting in the courtyard, as if they were to be participants in the inquest, were Ragnar and Co., looking smug. Georgios quickly guided the party to the wall, and again urged them to be silent and observe. Such a command was too much for Cleopatra, who ducked below her friends, and began to chant a spell that would charm the handsome Iskarion. It did not seem to work, but despite Georgios' frantic 'shusshh", no one seemed to notice. Cleo, irritated, again bent her mind to magic, and quickly turned herself invisible, and then once again attempted to charm the officer. Her efforts seemed fruitless, although the thesmothete commanded "silence!" Frustrated, Cleopatra sent a quick message by magic to the Officer, telling him "Gedeon is a good man. You will not prevail!" Surprised, Iskarion momentarily lost his cool. And then the inquest began.

Uthrike summoned Gedeon, who was invited to address three charges. The first concerned the disappearance of a conroi of the XXIst Cataphracts, which, Uthrike said, had been operating in this region in the last month. Could Gedeon explain their disappearance? Gedeon, in fact, looked shaken, but quickly drew himself together and said that he had seen no units of the XXIst until the arrival of the present company. Iskarion stepped forward, and in a posh accent, insultingly added "So you are unaware of the goings-on in your own Keep, my Lord? Things are worse than we expected." The second charge involved the general breaches of the peace and threats of insurrection. Uthrike noted reports of farms burned, citizens killed, and, what was worse, loss of imperial income! Again, Iskarion stepped forward and added "And we saw no sign of crucifixions, my lord Archon. As you undoubtedly know, it is the traditional punishment for non-citizens. Have you forgotten the Twenty Tables? What say you? Indeed, were it not for the efforts of these private citizens [he nodded towards Ragnar and Co.] it would seem that the province would be lost to rebels. A firm hand - or, shall we say, a firmer hand - is needed, I think." Ragnar stepped forward and, after tugging his forelock in respect, described how he and his friends had come upon some rebel Tharbrians, had captured or killed them, had crucified five along the South Road, and had brought the head of the leader to the Keep for reward. Ragnar gave no sign that he had, in fact, been employed by Gedeon (as had been the PCs). Gedeon refused the bait, and simply replied that he was working hard to uncover the causes of any unrest, which he expected was greatly exaggerated. Indeed, looking at Ragnar, he added "These 'private citizens' have produced no proof save some commonly available coins and symbols that the men they executed were anything other than tribesmen on their way to the annual gathering of their clan." Gren whisperingly asked Georgios "Why does not Gedeon reveal that Ragnar worked for him?" Georgios answered "Such information would be twisted and used against him, for they would claim it as weakness that he resorted to mercenaries". The third charge involved the alleged disappearance of a half-talent (3000) of silver coins, which had, Uthrike said, been shipped from the Keep to Narsileon, but which had never arrived. Could Gedeon explain this? Gedeon denied any knowledge of such a shipment, claiming that the next scheduled payment to the Private House was not due for another month. To this, Uthrike replied "But my lord, we have a document with your seal and signature, authorizing the release of the coin to Narsileon!" And, at that moment, Joxer the Gate Captain stepped forward, bowed, looked meaningfully at Iskarion, and spoke "Indeed, my lord Archon. I have your charter here. I was present when you authorized it, and your seal is clearly visible here!" "Betrayal," hissed Georgios. Unable to contain himself any longer (and chafing at too much DM exposition - sorry guys!), Gren the bard stepped forward and announced that he had much experience with documents and their legitimacy; should another of the archon's charters be brought for comparison, this misunderstanding could no doubt be cleared up. Seizing the moment, Gren approached the table, boldly snatched the document and tried to compare the signatures. Invoking the Rule of 30, he nevertheless found himself unable to make head or tails of the complicated formulae, and so switched into charismatic doubletalk. In this he succeeded in bewildering the thesmothete with talk of ascenders, descenders, minims, and other minutiae of paleography. Having at least sown the seed of doubt in the bureaucrat's mind, Gren bowed and retired. The inquest was over. As the PCs departed they spied Ragnar speaking with Iskarion ....

Shortly thereafter, a cloaked Gedeon met with the party in the basement of the shrine to Mitra. There Gedeon expressed dismay over the double betrayal of Ragnar and of Joxer. He reiterated his concern that should he be removed, even for dubious cause, things in the region would become much more harsh and onerous. He invited the PCs to redouble their efforts, and asked if they had found anything, anything at all, that might explain any of these three problems: 1) why normally antagonistic humanoids might be massing together; 2) whether a conroi of the XXIst had really been operating near the Keep, and if so, where it had gone; and 3) how they might quickly amass a sum of silver to produce as the missing half-talent of tax revenue. Here Godfrey spoke up and informed Georgios and Gedeon about the wight, and the unusual temple to Dyareela that seemed hidden within the humanoid caves. Gren also added that they had found crates marked with the imperial seal within the caves. The two were shocked to hear about Dyareela, and admitted that this forbidden cult might connected to political factions in Narsileon, particularly to the Xenarcheoi, which had a history of practicing dark sorcery. All agreed that it was also possible for factions from the city to be manipulating events around the Keep so as to discredit the archon. Gedeon again implored the PCs to find answers to any and all of these questions. When Godfrey politely pointed out that they could not stand against a wight, let alone two wights, Gedeon apologized. "Of course, those foul barrow-dwellers may only be harmed by enchanted blades. Here, you may borrow Catscratcher, my personal sword. It will aid you in such a fight." [he also explained that Catscratcher could produce light and detect lies. Nuge!] Georgios added his own assistance in the form of a half-score of healing potions. And thus, after much exposition, the party was ready to venture into the wild again!

Talk of strategy then ensued. Some were in favor of a return to the Caves of Chaos. Others wondered about the 'old, nice cave' [aka "the Cave of the Unknown"] mentioned by the old hermit, Kris. He had indicated that it lay near the mouth of the stream, and after much discussion, the party decided that this might represent a back entrance to the Caves of Chaos. The cave was easy to find, as there was a human skull on a stick outside it, with the words "Keep Out!" Ignoring this, the party plunged within, sending Dancing Lights ahead to flush out any potential threats. Cara was unable to discern any tracks save a variety of scat - large mammal and bird - and so they moved on. Inside, the tunnel led to a tall, sandy-bottomed cave with numerous exits. Lying at a crazy angle on the floor was a colossal head, some 7' in diameter; the head had gaping, coconut-sized holes where the eyes should have been, and wore a cylindrical head-dress. It appeared old, and radiated strong magic. After some prodding, and much discussion about how it came to be in this cave, the party moved into a northern tunnel. Godfrey, who was wielding Catscratcher, reported that the tunnel ended after about 50' in a 30' drop; worse yet, the cliff wall was peppered with punji stakes. The group retreated to the entrance cave. As they emerged, they were startled by five winged creatures with long probosci (Stirges). Stilicho dextrously used the giant head to leap into the air for a strike, but missed badly. Fortunately, Godfrey was present, and he proceeded (with Cara's help) to make short work of the stirges. Only one managed to hit Godfrey, but he pulled it off his neck before it could do further damage. The PCs took the tunnel from which the stirges had emerged and, within 40', made a startling discovery - four human corpses lying on the sand. Three of the corpses wore cataphract armor, albeit bady broken and damaged armor; the fourth wore a toga. All insignia had been stripped from the bodies, but they group did manage to find a signet ring lying under the toga-wearing man. It read 'Janos Bok'. It was clear both that the men had been slain by weapons (not stirges) and that the killing had happened elsewhere. Moving on, the party took a left turn at a t-fork, and entered another cave. There they discovered a sinkhole and yet another tunnel leading away. Gren dropped a torch into the sinkhole (20' deep) and thought he saw more corpses at the bottom, as well as a tunnel leading off the hole. Alarmingly, though, the torch also indicated some capering forms, which moaned wordlessly in hunger and anticipation. The PCs elected to take the tunnel. As they started out, Cara shouted a warning (dang! she rolled a 19!): "Stop! there's a trip-wire!" The bold Stilicho, perhaps channeling his predecessor Lakontios, tripped the wire with his stick, and a huge block of stone dropped out of the ceiling, partly blocking the passageway. "That would have hurt," remarked Stilicho drily. As Godfrey stuck his face over the block to see what lay beyond, a pair of arrows buzzed past them. Gren responded in kind, and a shout of pain in a goblinoid tongue emerged. The PCs regrouped at the foot of the stone block, and as they did so a voice shouted "You go away now! Or else we kill you and feed you to the dead ones!" Some banter ensued, and Gren realized that he could actually try negotiating with them. Unfortunately he mispronounced a key word in goblin (that is, he rolled a crappy reaction roll), and the Hobgoblins (for so they were) turned hostile. Finally, Cleopatra, tired of all this, cast a sleep spell at maximum distance, hoping to catch the enemy unawares. Finally, some success! Stilicho rolled over the block and found six Hobgoblins, out cold. Another sink hole lay in the corner of their room, and more tunnels led out. The group executed five of the goblins, and then bound the arms of the sixth, on whom they proceeded to employ 'enhanced interrogation' techniques. The Hobgoblin was bold and proud, and proclaimed his warrior code, but ultimately spilled all. He worked for Analgon, priest of the Great Deceiver [aka Set], who had given him the honor of guarding this important tunnel [the PCs were surprised, as the Caves of Chaos seemed to indicate that Dyareela was responsible for the humanoid organization]. The Hobgoblin's 'friends' had 'slaughtered' all the arrogant humans in their fancy armor. "No, the battle had not taken place here, but over in the ravine." (i.e., the Caves of Chaos). Why were the humans at the ravine? "Dunno, that's priest business. Analgon and the Chief Priest will know." What did he think of the kobolds? "Bah! servants, but the priests say we must work with them." And the bugbears? [nervously] "Uh, friends, yes. Friends. Strong warriors, them. The Clawfist Hobgoblins are the friends of the bugbears."

The PCs were delighted with this information, as it seemed to help solve part of one of the mysteries. Yes, the cataphracts had been present, and no, Gedeon had nothing to do with their disappearance. In fact, the heroes had one of the culprits as their prisoner! But they were no closer to explaining why the cataphracts were present in the first place, nor why the humanoids were acting in concert. The PCs wished to press on, but didn't want to lose their valuable prisoner/witness. With a stroke of genius, Cleopatra remembered their former companion, Naluvya, who had departed the group to rejoin her hermit friend. They quickly bound their captive, and had him drag two of the decomposing corpses to the hermit's glade, where Kris and Naluvya promised to watch over the bodies and prisoner until the PCs should return.

And so the evening ended with the PCs hot on the trail .... of something!

_________________
My C&C campaign journal: Hard Times in Narsileon http://www.trolllord.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=11032
My OSRIC/1e campaign journal: Expedition to Arden Vul http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=59080


Thu May 05, 2011 2:52 pm
Profile
Ulthal
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Joined: Tue May 09, 2006 7:00 am
Posts: 545
Location: Greensboro, NC
Post Desperate Struggles in the Cave of the Unknown
PCs:
Gren, level 2 human Bard
Godfrey, level 1 human knight
Cleopatra, level 4 human wizard
Flavius Stilicho, level 1 human gallowglass
Cara Long-Arrow, level 1 elf ranger

the Deceased
Lakontios, level 1 part-human sorcerer
Hadhod, level 1 halfling rogue

The departed:
Naluvya, level 1 human cleric


Having deposited their hobgoblin prisoner as well as some incriminating at the hidden campsite of their former comrade, Naluvya, and her mentor, the hermit Kris, the heroes quickly hurried back to the Cave of the Unknown, anxious to press their advantage. After some scouting at the entrance, where Cara spotted the tracks of a large mammalian predator, the group decided to investigate one of the unexplored passages. It proved to open into a humid, warm cave filled with beautiful stalagmites and stalactites; these impeded movement, so the group decided to have Cara scout the edge of the cave to see if anything of interest lay within. As she began her investigation, the air filled with the flutter of wings as ten stirges dove upon the heroes. It was a difficult fight, with tactical movement impeded by the rock formations. Cleopatra used a "Pummeling Fists" spell to kill half of them, while the heroes strove to prevent the stirges from attaching their probosci into unprotected flesh. Cara and Godfrey took the worst of it, as they were unable, despite lots of contortions, to rid themselves of the pests. The last stirge was literally popped like a pustule by Stilicho, who looked pleased to be able to put an end to this threat. Once the stinky stirges had been despatched, Cara continued her explorations - she found a limed-over skeleton to one side. Strangely, the skeleton's cloak was still intact, as was a pouch which contained some pearls. Cleopatra quickly reasoned that the cloak had to be magical. so they extracted it from the lime and added it to their inventory for future identification. Moving on, the group located a side cave whose foul stench proved its status as the stirge lair; within lay a huge mound of vegetal and animal matter. Gren, repulsed, found himself unable to enter the chamber, and several others were overcome by nausea. The iron constitution of Stilicho rendered him invulnerable to the stench, and so, after Cleopatra's spell identified the presence of a small magical item within the heap, Stilicho waded into the guano and began pulling out bits of treasure. Among these were a magical ring, a number of loose coins, and, tellingly, the soiled-but-still-recognizable silk cloak of a trooper from the XXIst Cataphracts!

Feeling cocky, the adventurers pressed on, past the cave with the sinkhole (into which Gren tossed a dead stirge, which provoked a mild feeding frenzy from what the bard recognized as ghouls), and into one of the tunnels which exited from the hobgoblins' lair. Strangely, that tunnel had been barricaded, from floor to ceiling; it was not a cave-in, but rather a built barricade. As they pondered this new information, the sharp ears of Cara heard the sound of goblinoid voices approaching from the other unexplored tunnel. Shrinking into the barricaded passage, the party extinguished lights and prepared for an ambush. Hearing the new group of hobgoblins grumbling about a 'smelly cave', about the 'dead ones', and 'boring duty assignments', they reckoned the approaching enemy to be a replacement for the hobgoblins they had slain some hours before. The hobgoblins proved oblivious to the skulking heroes, at least until the last rank had passed their hiding place; just as one hobgoblin turned to look directly at Stilicho (with claymore raised above his head!), Cleopatra shouted the command words for another "Pummeling Fist" spell! Three of the six hobgoblins went down immediately, and the party made short work of the remnants (despite the incredible morale of the final survivor, who successfully knocked Stilicho over before the gallowglass managed to hurl him away, where he was finished by Godfrey). Advancing onward, the party found a supply cave containing six new crates of goods, each crate marked clearly with the imperial seal, and five sets of fine chain mail. Wondering at first whether these had been the supplies of the lost conroi of the XXIst Cataphracts, they quickly realized that this was garrison goods, most likely stolen from the Red Keep. Stilicho ripped apart one crate, and took the bit with the imperial seal for future evidence.

As they proceeded deeper into the cave system, Cara's sharp ears (again! curse her lucky d20!) noticed the sound of creatures up ahead. She reported, with some puzzlement, that it sounded like dogs. Stilicho carved up one of the hobgoblins and flung the meat up the corridor. Sure enough, three large black dogs with glowing red eyes soon appeared, tracking the scent of meat. Gren, confident in his status as dogs' best friend, stepped forward and said "Good boy! Here boy!" The dogs advanced, but instead of wagging happily, the first one coughed up a bright yellow globule of fire which exploded against the bard in a fiery explosion! They were hellhounds! A tough combat ensued, with the dogs biting (and scorching), and the heroes hewing, firing bows, and lobbing magic missiles. In one short period, Stilicho performed amazing feats of swordsmanship in defense of his comrade, Gren, as he decapitated one hellhound and then severed the spine of a second [two crits in a row!]. Godfrey got the worst of it, as he seemed unable to land a blow with the magic sword loaned to him by the Archon Gedeon. Indeed, he was just about to go down under the snapping jaws of the hound, when Cleopatra, reduced to casting minor cantrips, devised a desperate means to save his life. She formed a Dancing Light into a human-shaped form and sent it rushing at the hound, just as its jaws were closing on the knight; distracted, the hound chomped futilely at the ephemeral light [Godfrey's player used a fate point to avoid a nasty critical hit; we decided that Cleopatra's Dancing Lights ploy had done the trick]. Eventually the hounds were despatched, leaving the heroes bleeding and out of spells.

Not content to retreat, they downed some healing potions and proceeded cautiously onward. Cara reported back that the hounds had come from a large (50x50') cavern, which had a ledge on the northern side and a tunnel exiting to the east. There proved to be a rope attached to the top of the ledge (some 30' up), so Stilicho climbed the cliff and reported back that there was sign of sentient presence there: hammer, pitons, a water barrel, and another tunnel leading north. Cleopatra put her foot down at this point, and demanded rest. The party decided to make camp at the top of the ledge, with Gren and Stilicho keeping the watch. To the amazement of all (especially the DM, whose rolls for encounters were miraculously bad!), Cleopatra was able to rest a full 8 hours, and the party pressed on.

They descended the cliff and investigated the tunnel to the east. After they had advanced through some twists, they heard human voices speaking Archontean ahead. Alas, the voices had spied the light from their torch, and shouted out a warning: "Who goes there? Is it the Dead Ones? Agh! Get Analagon!" Gren shouted back in his most dramatic and deep voice "We have come to feast on your bones" while Cleopatra yowled menacingly behind him. Unfortunately for this clever bit of deception, the voices were not deceived (finally the DM rolled well) and, after the party lost initiative, two things happened in quick succession. First, a single shouted word ("SETH!") echoed in a deep, forboding, and echoing way immediately over the party; cringing from this sonic assault, the party was damaged and partly stunned by this unholy word (a Sound Burst). Second, immediately after the soundburst, the area around the party grew completely silent. They were facing spell-casters! Godfrey and Stilicho rushed forward, hoping to engage the still unseen enemy. As they emerged into another cave, they saw an eery sight: a campfire illuminated a camp site at the top of another cliff. Facing them were two men dressed in unusual armor: red lorica segementata body armor, with copper greaves and arm bands, and a red-copper helmet topped wtih an image of a strange beast (long curved snout, squarish ears, dog body, and split tail). As the rest of the group rushed forward, the two acolytes raised strange sticks (looking sort of like a pry-bar, with a curved top, and a forked bottom) and pointed them at the heroes. Stilicho dodged desperately as he brushed off the magical command to freeze in place; Godfrey was less fortunate. At last the party drew close enough for hand-to-hand combat, and was able to bring down one of the acolytes. As they moved towards the second, however, a third figure emerged from another tunnel. This figure was wearing identical armor to that of the acolytes, but moved with a self-assurance that suggested his importance. It was Analgon, the priest of whom their captive hobgoblin had spoken! Analgon, too, shouted the dread word "Seth", and again waves of sonic force rolled over both the party and the surviving acolyte [not very nice, Analgon!]. Cara went down, bleeding from her ears and unconscious, and the rest were badly damaged. Gren rushed to administer a healing potion to the fallen elf, while the fighters tried to recover their senses. Desperate, Cleopatra shouted the words for a sleep spell and, to the astonishment of all (and the curses of the DM), Analgon collapsed like a sack of potatoes. He was quickly bound and gagged, and the party surveyed the scene.

Recognizing the value of their prize, they elected to retreat, but not before Cleopatra cast Invisibility on Cara and asked the elf to scout the two exits from the cavern. Doing so, Cara reported the existence of two dead-end caves. One seemed to be the residence of Analgon. In it they found a cot, chair, a crate serving as a desk, and a locked chest. Stilicho, eager for recompense for his mighty deeds, smashed the lock, and was promptly struck by a needle with an acute contact poison. He survived, perhaps a bit wiser (?!), and emptied the chest. Inside were 2000 silver coins (perhaps the remnants of the missing half-talent of money?) , a bolt of blue silk, two potions, and two important notes.

The first was a writ from the Exarch, sealed with a 12" yellow-wax seal. It read: “To Ptahros, priest. My servant who bears this note will ensure that the Dark Mother receives whatever resources she needs. In return you will ensure that the Red Keep is put under siege. Should you fail, know you that the agents of the Empire will note be merciful. [signed] Valerian, Exarch” It was dated 10 months previously.

The second was a simple letter, dated 2 months ago. It read: "Ptahros: these are your orders. Use the funds to manipulate those Fools in the Dyareela Temple to do our Lord’s bidding. They will organize the humanoids, and we will use all for our advantage. Report back each full moon to the main temple at Arden Vul. We are sending a contingent of our well-organized friends to stiffen the humanoids’ resolve. Do not fail. Use that fool Iskarion as a conduit. [signed] S." [there was also a mark that looked much like the sticks carried by Analgon and his acolytes]

The heroes pondered this interesting evidence, and speculated that 1) Gedeon had enemies within the Empire, possibly even the Exarch, who wanted him neutralized or killed; and 2) a third party, which Analgon and co. seemed to represent, was probably manipulating the imperial forces in Narsileon (since the empire did not know that Ptahros was apparently reporting to this mysterious 'S.').

Cara quickly scouted the other chamber, and found it to contain a small shrine. Flanking a blood-stained wooden altar were two 10' statues (made, it turned out, of plaster and wood) of bipeds with animal heads similar to those found on the copper helmets of the acolytes. Gren quickly identified the iconography as that of the ancient deity Set. Behind the altar they found an open box, which Cleopatra - carefully! - tipped over. Inside were some blood opals and three scrolls containing wizard spells!

Pleased with themselves, and excited to report back to Gedeon, the heroes gathered their loot, their hostage, and whatever armor they could carry, and retraced their steps out of the Cave. Arriving at Naluvya's campsite, they collapsed into a heap of happy adventurers!

Next time: Rendezvous with the Archon ...

[DM note: despite the rather anticlimactic demise of Analgon, this was an exciting adventure. I had planned for the party to face the Hell Hounds and the three Set priests at the same time. But, due to some luck and smart tactics, they were able to fight the two groups (hounds and priests) serially. This probably saved them from some pretty serious damage. Still, there were almost two deaths - both Godfrey and Cara were almost killed. The players were also pleased because this marked the first adventure in which they recovered significant treasure. Although Gren had already leveled up, the haul in terms of treasure and dead monsters is almost certainly enough to bring the rest of the group to 2nd level]

_________________
My C&C campaign journal: Hard Times in Narsileon http://www.trolllord.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=11032
My OSRIC/1e campaign journal: Expedition to Arden Vul http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=59080


Thu May 12, 2011 6:02 pm
Profile
Ulthal
User avatar

Joined: Tue May 09, 2006 7:00 am
Posts: 545
Location: Greensboro, NC
Post Things take a turn for the worse, or when not to poke at sta
PCs:
Gren, level 2 human Bard
Godfrey, level 2 human knight
Cleopatra, level 4 human wizard
Flavius Stilicho, level 1 human gallowglass
Cara Long-Arrow, level 2 elf ranger

the Deceased
Lakontios, level 1 part-human sorcerer
Hadhod, level 1 halfling rogue

The departed:
Naluvya, level 1 human cleric

The heroes stood conversing in the secluded glen of the hermit, Kris, where they pondered their next move. Having successfully, and surprisingly, defeated a trio of evil priests and garnered much loot, as well as some seemingly incriminating evidence and an important captive, the group wondered how to proceed. One potential course seemed clear: to bring the two letters, and the captives (a hobgoblin and Analgon) to the Archon Gedeon and let him sort through the mess. A few heads wondered, however, whether it was wise to ally with Gedeon so publicly, especially if the might of the Exarch was being levied against the Archon. Still, good motives and honor triumphed, and the party elected to bring some of their information to the Archon’s attention. They left the hermit to guard Analagon, and returned to the Keep with the hobgoblin and the two parchment letters. As they entered, Corporal Bledsoe at the gate had a conniption as Stilicho, wearing the distinctive armor of the Set priests, strode into view. Bledsoe stuttered and stammered and said “We can’t be having any of that here, you! Don’t you know those old cults ‘as been banished! I’ll have to report this, I will!” Gren’s smooth words allayed the corporal’s fears, and the group insisted that Stilicho conceal himself until more should be learned.

Despite attracting a crowd eager to taunt their prisoner (including a palpably jealous Doffy the Rogue), they went straight to Georgios, the curate and intimate of Archon Gedeon, for a private audience. There they explained what they had found, and hinted that they had more and better evidence which they did not dare to bring openly into the Keep. After some increasingly enhanced interrogation of the hobgoblin, it emerged that what the hobgoblin knew was this: the priests in the temple [presumably of Dyareela, in the Caves of Chaos] had arranged a meeting with some poncey fellow, who arrived with some cataphracts; after a meeting, the priests had ordered the humanoids to ambush and kill the entire embassy; the hobgoblin and his mates had done just that, and had dumped the bodies in the Cave of the Unknown; it was boring duty being stuck in the Cave of the Unknown, away from the fun of the ravine and the Caves of Chaos, but he was a good soldier and did as he was told. The group arranged a meeting with the Archon at the mouth of the Cave of the Unknown for the following morning, and Georgios thanked them and promised them the Archon’s love and support. They left the hobgoblin to the tender mercies of the Keep’s jailor.

With their purses finally bulging with coin, and flush with new experience [Cara, Gren and Godfrey had made 2nd level], the heroes strutted through the Keep, buying equipment and commissioning some new armor and weapons: Hob the Smith was tasked with forging a fine longsword for Gren, a pair of fine dirks for Cara, and a chain suit for Godfrey. Stilicho visited the bar where he played a few rounds of dice with Doffy, losing badly. Stilicho contemplated painting the town red [carousing! Thanks, Jeff Rients], but his purse couldn’t quite justify the possible risks; plus, he had to be up early in the morning. Cleopatra also identified the magic cloak they had found as a Cloak of Elvenkind, of which she, after some debate with Cara, soon took possession.

The next morning the group left early to rendez-vous with Kris and pick up their other hostage. Arriving at the Cave of the Unknown, they found Archon Gedeon already there, waiting impatiently. He, too, was delighted with the information the heroes had obtained, and praised them thoroughly for their rapid and comprehensive efforts. Interrogation of Analgon then commenced, aided by Stilicho’s gentle encouragements and the Archon’s enchanted blade [which detected falsehoods]. Analgon proved fiesty, as he repeatedly sneered warnings and predictions about the imminent demise of all the heroes and the return of his lord, Set, to his proper dominion in the Empire. Cutting through the boasts, and following some extremely enhanced interrogation, they soon learned the following:

- Analgon was a junior priest under the command of Ptahros;
-the two had come from Arden Vul and had subverted the cult of Dyareela for their own ends;
- having learned of the embassy from the Exarch to the Dyareela cults, they let it play out for a brief while before ordering the annihilation of the ambassador, Janos Bok, and his cataphracts;
- Analgon did not know Iskarion Xenarcheon;
- the Set priests’ mission was to engineer the demise of Archon Gedeon prior to the wedding of Exarch Valerian to the notorious Lady Ysabet, a marriage scheduled two months hence;
- the humanoids were the pawns to be used towards this end;
- Lady Ysabet was a true believer in the Lord Set;
- there were Set followers in the Red Keep, including the bailiff, Yon, who was to assume command prior to the Exarch’s wedding, and the traveling priest, Uthgar;
- the myserious ‘S.’ of the letter was the dreaded high priestess Stephania, located in Arden Vul;
- a secret tunnel linked the Cave of the Unknown to the temple areas of the Cave of Chaos

This was a lot of information to assimilate. Gedeon shook his head, and slowly spoke: “The Game of the Five Families continues. I should have known that the Basileon clan, with their ancient ties to the old gods, would be connected to this plot. But it extends more deeply than I would have expected. I cannot believe my old friend Valerian, the Exarch, knows of this plot; it smacks of that she-wolf, Ysabet Basileon. And yet I am not fully sure who to trust anymore!” More discussion ensued concerning several open questions. First, what to do with Analgon? Gren spoke boldly: “I care only for justice. Milord?” Gedeon nodded sternly, “As Archon of the Red Keep, with rights of high, middle and low justice, I sentence this specimen of filth to death for blasphemy and treason.” Gren looped a rope over the nearest tree, and Analgon was soon kicking his heels. Second, what to do about the traitors in the Red Keep? Some wished to return immediately to confront Uthgar and Yon the bailiff, but others pointed out that the traitors were likely unaware that they had been discovered, whereas Ptahros would soon notice the absence of his minion, Analgon. The group voted to press on, with the goal of finding and eliminating the other Set priest. Gedeon returned to the Keep, where he promised to watch the traitors carefully.

The heroes decided that the most logical place to search for the secret tunnel was on the upper ledge at the back of the Cave of the Unknown, so they swiftly moved through the sections of the caves that they had already explored. Climbing the ledge, they ventured slowly into the passage leading north. Cara reported that it soon opened into a broad, 20' wide tunnel running NE to SW. Stilicho took charge, and the group turned left. The gallowglass’ lantern revealed a caved-in passage, in front of which loomed a menacing, 8' tall statue of a squatting toad-like thing. The creature seemed a cross between biped and amphibian, and gleamed with moisture. The heroes moved in for a closer look. Suspecting trouble, Cleopatra ordered Gren and Cara to prepare their bows while she raised her fungal staff [taken from the Pod-Caverns, and imbued with the ability to spring to full length when enemies were about] and, with the warriors Stilicho and Godfrey flanking her, approached the statue. The tension mounted as she drew closer, until finally she gently tapped the thing with her staff. Immediately a brief crackle of energy echoed through the tunnel as two strange beings teleported directly behind the wizard and her friends. They appeared as skeletons, albeit as a sort of cross between a biped and an amphibian (with large thigh bones, crouching demeanor, and exaggerated mouths). Their eyes glowed with an unholy light that seemed to flicker across the spectrum from blue to red, and a sickly green tongue of light could be glimpsed in their enormous maws. The undead frog things leaped - literally - to the attack as Gren and Cara frantically loosed arrows! As they leaped, their sickly green tongues lashed out and burned both Cleopatra and Godfrey on the face, leaving nasty acidic burns. The heroes jumped to work and in short order had despatched the two undead frog warriors [bad DM rolling, heroic swings by Stilicho, a sweet arrow to the head by Cara, and liberal use of her wand of magic missiles by Cleopatra]. Cleopatra returned to the statue and noticed its eyes were two large garnets. Taking command, she asked Stilicho to chip them out. As he did so another crackle of electricity rippled through the cave and Cleopatra, Stilicho and Godfrey dematerialized! They were gone!

Gren and Cara, who had been covering their friends from up the corridor, were shaken. [Meanwhile, the missing three contemplated using fate points to reverse their decision, but the cost - three per player - seemed too high]. “Teleportation,” muttered Gren, “I guess we’d better follow them.” “Really?” asked Cara, “does that sort of thing really work?” “Let’s find out,” said Gren. Picking up the one garnet that had fallen to the floor, the two friends approached the statue and attempted to prise out the other eye. In a flash, they too were gone!

The five heroes found themselves in a dark cavern some 60' by 85'. A glow of light came from the south. Amid recriminations and much nervous chatter [while the DM had to print out the materials necessary to let them continue!], Cleopatra and Cara began to scout the cavern. Suddenly a loud ‘hisss’ and some quick motion announced a new threat - a giant lizard, which bore down upon them! This monstrosity was a good 12' long, looked very hungry, and wore a strange leather collar and harness. It leaped to the attack and took a huge bite out of Godfrey! The group spread out and began to defend itself. After several minutes of desperate fighting, a voice boomed across the cavern: “Set commands you to surrender! Do not harm Apophis, the sacred lizard!” Advancing from the lighted area to the south were six human warriors wearing the now-distinctive Set armor and what appeared to be a Set priest! Gren shouted playfully, “What will you do if we surrender?” The Set priest replied, “We shall deliver you to the slave pits, where you belong!” As this did not sound enticing, the heroes renewed their efforts. While the fighters hacked at the lizard, Cleopatra quickly cast her “Pummeling Fists” spell at the newcomers. Three of the Set warriors were stunned by the fists of air and dropped their weapons, and all took slight damage. The Set priest responded with a deeply shouted word of command, “Seth!”, and waves of sonic force rippled across Cleopatra’s location. Reeling from the sonic assault, the wizard managed to keep her senses. As mighty Stilicho hewed the lizard in half, Godfrey rushed to confront the Set warriors. One of the warriors loosed a strange set of bolos as Gren, but the bard nimbly dodged them. The forces of Set moved away from the pummeling fists and engaged the heroes. “Not so fast,” thought Cleopatra, as she dropped a second area of pummeling fists over the bolo-flinger and the priest. Badly damaged, the priest maintained his footing and pointed his was stick at Cara; the elf found herself unable to move! Fortunately Godfrey, who had gulped down his healing elixir, was engaging two of the warriors, while Stilicho cut another down; one of them fled immediately. Quickly the combat turned in the party’s favor, as Cleopatra’s wand blasted the priest into oblivion, Godfrey held his own, and Stilicho cut down another. With the death of their leader, the remaining warriors turned in flight ... and ran through the pummeling fists! Two more dropped, and Stilicho skewered the final one with a javelin as he tried to climb out of the cavern. Badly wounded (particularly Godfrey and Cleopatra), and short of spells, the heroes panted for breath ... and began to curse anew as the sound of an alarm bell began to ring to the south. Ripping the collar from the dead lizard, they looked for an exit.

But the real question remained: where were they? And could they find their way back to the Keep?

[there's going to be a hiatus in the game until July, at which point the group has to find its way out of wherever they now find themselves!]

_________________
My C&C campaign journal: Hard Times in Narsileon http://www.trolllord.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=11032
My OSRIC/1e campaign journal: Expedition to Arden Vul http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=59080


Fri Jun 10, 2011 2:09 pm
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Ulthal
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Location: Greensboro, NC
Post Fly, you fools!
after a long summer hiatus, we picked up where we left off ...

PCs:
Gren, level 3 human Bard
Godfrey, level 2 human knight
Cleopatra, level 4 human wizard
Flavius Stilicho, level 1 human gallowglass
Cara Long-Arrow, level 2 elf ranger

the Deceased
Lakontios, level 1 part-human sorcerer
Hadhod, level 1 halfling rogue

The departed:
Naluvya, level 1 human cleric

Where were they? Where had the evil toad-statue teleported them? How would they find their way back to the Red Keep? These questions and several more of dubious salubrity echoed through the huge cave in the aftermath of the desperate fight against the giant lizard and the implacable minions of Set. To make matters worse, an alarm bell began ringing to the north, down the corridor through which the remaining Set guardsman had escaped. Time was of the essence, and the heroes sprang into action. Cleopatra ran to inspect the passage from which their foes had emerged, Cara began to look for egress along the north-western wall, Gren took the eastern wall, Godfrey covered the southeastern side, while Stilicho gathered up the corpses, removing any valuables and stripping off their distinctive red cloaks and helmets for use as a potential disguise.

To their initial pleasure many exits were soon discovered from the huge cave. Cleopatra reported that the northern tunnel looked like it led into an area of worked stone, as it was paved; in addition, the bell could be heard clearly from the lip of the tunnel, some 10' above the cave floor. Cara found a wide natural tunnel snaking away to the northwest; more significantly, she noted in it the regular passage of the giant lizard and thought she could detect the odor of dead or rotting meat from up the tunnel. Godfrey reported yet another tunnel leading to the southeast. Gren thought he detected a bit of a slight breeze to the east, but could detect no passages. Excitement turned to frustration - which of these passages led to freedom?!

With the warning bell still chiming and time a-wasting, the group decided to follow the tunnel to the northwest. It lead upwards, over some rough-hewn rock steps, to another small cave, where the lizard (Apophis) had made its nest. An exit led off to the north. As they inspected the cave, the heroes could hear the sounds of angry voices in the cavern they had recently abandoned. Investigating the exit from Apophis’ lair, they saw the tunnel led to an area that was brightly lit. It seemed they had chosen the wrong path! As Godfrey searched the lizard’s nest (producing a silver ring inscribed with a feather), Cleopatra and Stilicho came up with a plan. Using the cloaks and helmets they had taken from the dead Set Guardsmen, they would return to the large cave and try to brazen it out. Interpreting some dubious looks from the DM, they decided to send only Gren and Stilicho to attempt this trick. Returning to the cave, the two spied eight Set Guardsmen and two more priests inspecting the dead bodies and the corpse of Apophis. Even though Gren moved with the grace of a ninja, Stilicho could not, and his bumbling quickly alerted their foes to their presence. “Who goes there?” demanded one of the priests. Gren spoke quickly and persuasively, attempting to mimic the tones used by the minions of Set whom they had recently defeated: “Some of them came this way, headed straight for the exit. We killed a few, and they turned around and fled that way [pointing to the SE tunnel].” Despite his honeyed tones, something rang false to the priest, who otherwise seemed to accept their disguise. “Exit? What exit? But you’ve just come from the main temple? What are you talking about?” And in more threatening tones “Where is your commander, soldier!” Stilicho jumped in: “I’m not sure. We’re stuck with a couple of corpses, and the rest ran off that way.” The priest looked suspicious: “Did you get the spell-caster?” Stilicho: “I dunno. They were moving fast, and we only killed a couple before they ran for the exit.” The second priest spoke up: “Excellent. I will track down those who fled. You, Theo [pointing at the other priest], stay here with three of the men and guard the way to the stairs. You, soldier [pointing at Stilicho], bring the bodies to Theo. We want to see who you bagged.” Turning to his colleague, he stage-whispered “We’ve got to get some smarter guardsmen for the main temple.” The first priest departed with five of the guardsmen, leaving the second priest with the remaining three at the lip of the tunnel to the north. Pulling his forelock, Stilicho turned, and he and Gren scampered back up the tunnel.

Frantic discussions ensued, and a plan was quickly hatched. Stilicho cut his arm to draw blood, and smeared the blood over Cleopatra’s neck and face. Hoisting the wizard over his shoulder, he and Gren returned down the passage. Godfrey and Cara followed, lurking behind in the shadows. [ahh, the old Star Wars trick ...] As they entered the cave, Stilicho appeared to stumble and spoke up : “Can I get a hand here? This one’s heavy” (earning himself a disapproving glare from Cleopatra). One of the guardsmen came over and took the wizard’s legs, and as the group shuffled into view, the acolyte rubbed his hands together, “By Set! It looks like we did bag the wizard after all. And I’ll get all the credit!” He approached the ‘dead’ Cleo and gave a start: “Wait a minute. I thought I saw this one breathing. Are you sure it’s dead?” Instantly Stilicho dropped the wizard and attempted an overhead swing with his enormous claymore. The Set guardsmen were shocked [i.e., surprised] and could only shout “Treachery! Betrayal! Treachery!” The acolyte tried to move back, shouting all the while “Carolus! Carolus! Carolus! I need you!” The party sprang into action. Cara buried an arrow in the priest’s shoulder, Godfrey charged forward at the closest guardsman, and Stilicho and Gren assaulted the other two. But it was Cleopatra, from her supine position, who dealt the decisive blow: raising the wand she had been concealing in her sleeve, she fired a blast of magical energy at the priest, who dropped like a stone, dead. Two of the guardsmen also fell swiftly to the blows of the heroes, and the third quickly dropped his weapon and begged for quarter.

Sadly, the party had no time for niceties. Torture ensued, and of the cruelest sort. Cara [played by my 10-year old daughter] even tweaked the guardsman’s nose rather harshly! Amidst such ferocity, the guardsman broke down. Cleo and Stilicho kept shouting at him “Where is the exit? Where is the exit?” He looked bewildered. “Wha’, wha’, what do you mean?” Cleo, losing patience: “I want to feel the sunlight, and as fast as possible.” The guardsman looked even more confused: “But you are deep beneath the mountain, in the Halls of Arden Vul. I have not seen the light in over six months. You must travel beyond the Forum and main Temple to reach the cliff face.” [let us pause for a ‘dum dum DUM!’ to let the enormity of the PCs fate sink in]. Pressing for specifics, the PCs learned that the northern tunnel led to the ‘Stairs of Sighs’, named for the sighs of the condemned and of the slaves who had cut them, and that the Stairs led both to the Main Temple and to the Forum. The Southeastern tunnel led to the ‘wild southern caves’, which were on the other side of the Forum. The tunnel from Apophis’ lair led directly to the Main Temple. Filled with anxiety and frustration (for they were out of spells and badly wounded), the ‘heroes’ sent their prisoner to his God and prepared to move out. Taking one last tour around the huge cave, Cara’s vision noticed a ledge some 20' up on the southwestern wall. Hoping this would lead to a safe refuge and possibly an exit, the party expended precious minutes attempting to climb the rock face [the lack of a rogue was certainly felt here ... again!]. Finally Gren managed to pull himself up, attach a rope, and help the rest of the group up. They found a shallow ledge, covered with over an inch of cave dust (and no tracks); best of all, yet another tunnel led away to the west. Following it for 50' through an increasingly rocky passage they reached a small cave filled with stalactites and stalagmites. Scouting it, it appeared completely empty and uninhabited ... save for a 5' diameter hole at the west end, into which descended a rope ladder. Dropping a torch on a rope, they learned that the hole and ladder appeared to descend about 20' before opening into an area of worked stone. Desperate, the party posted a watch and attempted to rest among the rock formations. Resting proved possible, although their watchman reported the return of the other Set priest and his men, and the arrival and departure of a larger and angrier group of Set cultists.

With Cleopatra’s magical talents reinvigorated, the heroes decided to move on. But in which direction? Unable to pass up a hole that screamed for investigation, Stilicho successfully argued that they should investigate the new area. And so he was lowered on a rope to check it out. He reported, in hushed tones, that the area was a sort of necropolis, with 15' high ceilings and countless burial niches carved into every available bit of wall. In the niches he glimpsed (but did not touch, for he remembered the fate of Lakontios!) skeletal bodies with minor grave goods. He cautiously proceeded to sketch out a rough map of the immediate vicinity and, after some prompting, reported that although the language was archaic, he thought he saw the name ‘Thoth’ inscribed on some of the niches. At that point he heard a heavy thump, and then the sound of slow-moving feet. Peering around a corner, he spotted four zombies moving his way. Scurrying back to the hole, he signaled his friends to pull him up. The heroes dropped their torch down the hole to see what would happen - and were surprised to see the zombies milling about directly beneath the hole. Stilicho turned to Cleopatra: “Drop a ‘Pummeling Fists’ on them, and we’ll make short work of those zombies!” Cleopatra replied with some acerbity “I have much better things to do with my spells, Stilicho. Honestly!” So Stilicho looked around, and got a wonderful, terrible, grinch-ly idea. He broke off a stalactite, carried it to the hole, aimed, and then dropped the pointed rock. It scored a direct hit, and soon a new sport (“zombie bowling”) was invented. Pleased at their success, they waited until they had slain the zombies and then re-lowered Stilicho and Godfrey into the pit. After some more scouting, a new sound was heard: this time it sounded like scratchy feet. Retreating, the two saw a band of skeletons moving their way. Hoping to repeat their success, they returned up the rope and waited for the skeletons to present themselves for ‘skellie bowling’. Alas it was not to be, and finally Cleopatra was prevailed upon to destroy them with a spell. Grumbling, she did so. Back down the hole a third time, the two warriors were confronted by two more powerful zombies, one of which delivered an impressive wound to Sir Godfrey before being despatched. Tiring of this bait and switch game, the entire group descended and attempted to map a way out of the catacombs. Alas, they found themselves at a dead end, just as another group of undead reached them: this time it was four zombies and two skinny cadavers with long nails and sharp teeth. Despite an excellent flanking maneuver, the group were soon hard-pressed, and the former jollity of the ‘bowling’ games turned into a battle for survival. Indeed, the fates seemed against them as the party’s archers proved unable to find their mark, leaving Stilicho and Godfrey to bear the brunt of the monsters’ attacks. Stilicho took a few whacks from a zombie, and survived a bite from the cadaverous thing, but Godfrey fared less well. Despite slaying one of the zombies, the other proved formidable, as it delivered such a ferocious blow that it permanently damaged his armor and left the knight stunned! In this state Godfrey found himself close to death, and, when the ghoul (for so it was) raked him for more damage, it looked like curtains for the doughty hero! Luckily the ghoul dealt only a glancing blow [the DM rolled poorly for damage. curses!], although Godfrey was paralyzed by his touch. Stilicho leapt to his aid, knocking the knight down in an effort to prevent any further injury [Godfrey was down to 1 HP and paralyzed!] All at once the tide turned, and with a mighty hew Stilicho slew the ghoul and then the zombie, and finally all turned to lend their aid to Gren, who had been badly wounded by the remaining zombie. Shocked by their brush with disaster, the party retreated (dragging poor Godfrey with them) back to the rope and hole, into which they climbed in search of another night of rest and recovery.

The evening ended with the heroes relatively safe, but still badly hurt and nowhere closer to an immediate escape from their predicament.

_________________
My C&C campaign journal: Hard Times in Narsileon http://www.trolllord.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=11032
My OSRIC/1e campaign journal: Expedition to Arden Vul http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=59080


Fri Sep 02, 2011 1:36 pm
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Battle Stag
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Location: The fairest view in the park, Ohio.
Post Re: Hard Times in Narsileon
Nice!

~O

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Fri Sep 02, 2011 4:07 pm
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Ulthal
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Joined: Tue May 09, 2006 7:00 am
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Location: Greensboro, NC
Post Re: Hard Times in Narsileon
thanks, Omote! It was great to get back in the saddle after our hiatus. Next week we're adding another new player (a total newbie). Maybe he'll appear as a fugitive from another failed expedition to the halls ... albeit with a map!? Thoughts? How nice am I? Do I let them blunder around in the megadungeon or give them some hope and/or a lifeline?

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My C&C campaign journal: Hard Times in Narsileon http://www.trolllord.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=11032
My OSRIC/1e campaign journal: Expedition to Arden Vul http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=59080


Sat Sep 03, 2011 6:54 pm
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Location: The fairest view in the park, Ohio.
Post Re: Hard Times in Narsileon
Blundering around a megadungeon is cool to a point. Some players love it, others only love it for a certain period of time. I like the map idea with the newbie, particularly if the players have no other recourse of exit. BUT... the trip to the exit is frought with danger, and perhaps the party goes another direction to avoid the dangerous exit.

~O

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Mon Sep 05, 2011 6:31 pm
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Ulthal
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Joined: Tue May 09, 2006 7:00 am
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Location: Greensboro, NC
Post Re: Hard Times in Narsileon
@omote: yeah, I've got to watch out that I don't impose what *I* want instead of what's going to make us *all* happy. They're sorta scared of the megadungeon, and have heard me enough to know that their first step is to get out. I'd hoped to lure them in with the coolness of the megadungeon, but we shall see. As you know, they've some significant plot threads hanging loose back at the Keep, so it does make sense to go back there and finish up, even if they come back to the megadungeon.

The party badly needs a rogue/thief or a cleric, so I think I'm going to have the new player appear as the sole survivor of another failed expedition to the megadungeon; he'll have some local knowledge (a tiny bit), and a crude map. I'll work up a couple of cool encounters as they strike for an exit.

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My C&C campaign journal: Hard Times in Narsileon http://www.trolllord.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=11032
My OSRIC/1e campaign journal: Expedition to Arden Vul http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=59080


Wed Sep 07, 2011 12:18 am
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Post Re: Hard Times in Narsileon
A crude map as a player handout, that is always awesome. Perhaps the map is a little flawed, or shows a section that the party can't get to. Perhaps the map has a reason to STAY in the dungeon; secret treasure stash of a former adventuring party? Wealth? Power? Glory? What can the map hold? I think there are some cool routes you can take here.

~O

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Wed Sep 07, 2011 2:39 am
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Ulthal
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Post Out of the frying pan?
Characters
Gren, 3rd level Human Bard
Godfrey, 2nd level Human knight [Godfrey levelled at the end of this adventure, but cannot receive the effects until he is in a safe place]
Cara Long-Arrow, 3st level Elf Ranger
Cleopatra, 4th level human wizard
Stilicho, 2nd level human gallowglass

the Deceased:
Lakontios, 1st level human sorcerer
Hadhod, 1st level halfling rogue

the departed:
Naluvya, 1st level human cleric

Cleopatra and Cara sat on watch, while their wounded companions tried to rest and recuperate from their wounds. The pair were frustrated, for they seemed to be getting nowhere. Only hours before they had been fighting for their lives in a cul-de-sac of the necropolis of Thoth. Retreating from this encounter with ghouls and zombies, the heroes had retired to their hidden cave-lair to lick their wounds. Even a decision to send Cara jogging down the straight path of the necropolis corridor had proved indecisive; she reported a side passage which her intuition suggested was the wrong direction, and the continuation of the main corridor towards the east. So now Cleo and Cara sat in the dark, trying to decide what to do while the warriors slept. At last Cleopatra proposed a plan: “Cara, I will render you invisible from the normal sight. Perhaps you could scout the tunnel leading to the ‘southern caves’ indicated by the late guardsman of Set?” Cara, not pleased by the prospect of solo scouting in an unknown region, pondered for a moment before nodding her head in acquiescence. Seeing the elf’s troubled eyes, Cleo added “I would accompany you, but someone must watch our friends.” And so the elf slipped down the rope and into the large cavern, and moved invisibly towards the east.

After about 45 minutes, Cleopatra was startled by a gentle tug on her gown - it was Cara, and she had returned! Still invisible, the elf spoke quickly: “Alas, the prospects to the south are not clear, my friend. The tunnel quickly forks, and the left fork leads downward quite a ways, through natural tunnels and down some rough steps, ending finally in a large-ish cave that appeared to possess some fresher air. The right fork is more curving, descends much less, and ends in a small cave that appears to have a hole in the floor.” Feeling that their scouting had not accomplished much, the heroes began to consider their options when, from the darkness, a light whirring sound was heard and a thin, reedy voice piped up and said “Well met, my friends. You intrigue me. You seem quite the parrrradoxxx” [the last word was slurred, betraying a metallic burr in tone]. Sitting straight up, Cleopatra perceived a small ‘bird’ fluttering in a a stationary position directly in front of them on the ledge; although it had the shape of a wren, its motions were regular, even mechanical, and its unnatural eyes swivelled continually between the wizard and (the still invisible!) Cara. Quick-witted Cleopatra replied slowly and in good humor, “Ahh, yes. So we are. And you are who? Or what?” The ‘bird’ continued on as if it had barely heard the wizard:
“Parradoxxxical, yeesss. Mighty and bold, and quite competent, or so it seems. But at the same time rrrrrrudderless, like a Yskith schooner sailing the Ethereal Sea. What to do with such a strange conjjjjunction of possibilities? Bargain? Yes? Yes. Yes! Bargain. [the bird’s voice rolled lovingly over that word, which it repeated several times] Barrrr-ggaain-ing. It shall be like the olden days. Yesss. We enjjoyed the barrgaaaaining then. We shall ‘ne-go-she-ate.’ [chirp] You inquire as to my identity, no? I am Kerbog Khan, and I see all. You, of course, are Cleee-o-paa-tra. Yes?”
[a pause occurred to let that sit in, and to allow various Shatnerian shouts to fly from the table. ‘Khaaann!’] Cleopatra was quite startled, but upon a minute’s reflection whispered to Cara: “I have heard of this Kerbog Khan. He was, once upon a time, one of the masters of my own Collegium, the Collegium of Macrina! But ... but ... I think he abandoned Archontos over 150 years ago and, well, disappeared!” Turning to the bird, she replied, “Kerbog Khan, mighty master, I greet you. It is good to hear the voice of one with whom I share a magical bond through the teachings of Macrina.” The bird continued as if it hadn’t heard. “Bargain we shall. I invite you to the comfort of my rooms, where you may re-fffresh yourselves at my table and recuperate in perrrfect luxury. Then we shall barrrgain. I shaalllll offer you the opportunity to perform one of several services for me. Should you agree, and accomplish this service, I will then arrange for you to be transported to a location conducive to a swwwifft exit from these Halls. I shall return in one hour to hear your answwer.” The two women woke their sleeping companions and related all that had transpired. The five heroes agreed that it was probably wise to take the strange creature up on its offer.

In an hour, the ‘bird’ returned and the group informed it that they had decided to accept its offer. It urged them to follow it, and to use all possible care to avoid noise. Agreeing, they descended from their lair and followed it down the left fork of the tunnel which Cara had scouted. At the foot of the descent the bird stopped and spoke in a quite voice: “One must be verrrry silent here, lest one dissturb the owlish-bears.” The cave was about 30' in diameter, and boasted a spear thrust into the floor from which fluttered the shed skin of an enormous snake. A powerful reek emanated from a passage to the east. The bird turned to a much smaller passage leading north, and the heroes followed. At a second crossroads, the bird again spoke, “Here is the last point where I offer you the opppportunity to not barrrgain with me. To the east will you ffffind a large, open cave; it is the back door of the Forum of Set, and is heavily guarded. But the minions of Set know not everything which exists in these caves, as their experrrtise is reduced since their return. To the north lies passsaage to my rooms.” Gren sought more information: “Where are the slave pits?” The bird replied, “The Fffforum of Set is well known to alll ssssentient beings for its regullllar slave market. One may buy, sell, and barrrgain at the Forum.” As the party still seemed willing to follow the bird, it proceeded north for a short distance into yet another small cave. Despite appearing like any other cave, an aura of peace seemed to fill the small space, and the bird once again spoke: ‘This place is fine for resting, as the old ones enchanted it to make it lesssss desirable to their enemies.’ The heroes found a secret door to the north, and, with the bird’s prompting, opened it.

As the door swung open, they were greeted by a rush of noise, as some 10' in front of them a swift underground stream raced to the west, where a roar seemed to indicate a nearby waterfall. The space in front of the river was of shaped and worked stone, and the blurred and indecipherable riot of colors on the wall suggested that once upon a time it had been brightly painted. At one side of the landing was a 6' diameter mosaic circle, which featured various piscine and aquatic creatures and an odd, brown ovoid shape. On the other side of the room were two full-sized examples of the ovoid object: ungainly egg-shaped containers made of a supple, but strong leather and measuring 8' in girth and 6' in height. Upon investigation the ‘eggs’ appeared to be made of a hide unknown to any in the party; they also possessed a flap of skin which allowed one to climb into the interior, where three wooden seats and a metal box (affixed to the floor) could be observed. The bird spoke one last time: “To visit my rooms, you must journey down the river. Do you have the reqqqquisite ssssstabilizing rods? Without them, your jourrrney will be mosssst painful.” At the heroes’ quizzical glances, the bird replied “Use my wings; inssssert them into the control box.” The bird then collapsed into a pile of metal, sinew, and wire. The party took a wing each, and found that the sharp quill-end of the metal wing fit perfectly into a hole in the egg. And without further ado, the heroes entered the eggs, rolled them to the river, and set off into the unknown!

A long, jostling journey ensued, as first the strange transports were ‘flushed’ down a sink hole and then sped along a lower branch of the river. Finally the current ceased, and the heroes peeled back the flap; they found themselves bobbing in a quiet side cave, at one side of which was a stone jetty lit by two smokeless torches. On the jetty was standing a strange-looking automaton made out of metal shards, bits of leather, gems, and other unidentifiable materials. The automaton spoke with the voice of Kerbog Khan: “Welllcome to my rooms, please enter and refffresh yourselves.” They found a square chamber decorated with comfortable cushions, couches, and small tables on which were platters of enticing meats and savories. Another automaton greeted them and invited them to rest as needed. Stilicho spoke up: “We are badly injured. Can you heal us?” The second automaton lurched forward and placed both of its metallic-skeletal hands on each wounded hero, and instantly a good portion of their wounds were eased! Feeling safe, the heroes rested, ate, and prepared spells. Godfrey politely inquired about the foods they were eating. “Only the finest cave rat, blind cave cricket paste, and mushroom juice. They are quitttte savvvory, no?” was the reply. Blanching, the group smiled thinly. At long last, they felt ready for the interview. The automaton led them through a door to a second square chamber decorated with vivid, even psychadelic patterns of geometric shapes and swirls. At the far end was a shimmering wall of force, but the automaton approached it, stuck his hand into it, and with a crackle, the wall was gone. Behind it lay a plain, undecorated stone wall of fitted blocks. In the exact center of the wall was a rectangular opening perhaps 8" tall and 18" wide. From the darkness behind the opening came Kerbog Khan’s voice, bright and eager: “Barrgaining time! I shall prropose two solutions to your, um, dilemmmma. You will choose and we shall barrgain. First solution. You will surrender to me objects of magical power, one per perrson, and I will trannnsport you to an exxxxit from the Halls. Secconnd solution. You perrform for me a service and procure for me an object, and I shall provvvide to you a mappp leaddding to a safe exit from the Hallls.” Then proceeded some fine negotiating, led by the inimitable Gren. Gren wondered to Kerbog Khan what the nature of the service and object that might be required. Kerbog Khan then recounted a narrative in which he revealed that he had been present in the Halls for many centuries, and had seen many factions come and go: “I recall the lassst effort of the Emperor to occupy these Halls, and his failure. I recalll, too, the arrival of the Beastmen. They are fine negosheators ... but one musst avoid their missstress, Deino. She is most foul! Avoid also the Priscians! They are not to be trusted, for they are greedy and selfish. But I digressss ... I have learned much lore and discovered many secrets dating to the days when the Old Priests of Thoth the mighty governed the upper levels of these Halls. I have learned of the great Ptarmis, finder of the Great Cavern, creator of the Fungal Groves, delver into many depths and creator of many powerful devicces. Ptarmis possessssssed an amulet, yes. An amulet of copper, most beautiful, with many glass bits placed in it. I require the amulet.”

Gren then engaged in some clever bargaining. He first proposed that the real place to which the heroes wished to be teleported was the Red Keep. Might that substitute for Kerbog Khan’s other suggestions? At this Kerbog Khan chuckled, and praised Gren for his ‘ne-go-sheee-ating’ skill. Sadly, Kerbog Khan, said, such a service was more difficult, as the Keep was some 200 miles from this location, and therefore he would only agree to transport the party there if they offered both the amulet of ptarmis and the five magic items. More dickering ensued, and Gren finally got Kerbog Khan to agree that if they found the amulet, then the party would be allowed to choose its path: either the map to an exit profferred by Kerbog Khan or teleportation to the Keep if the party surrendered three magical items. Kerbog Khan announced: “Bargaining is complete. Barrgains must be sealed with blood.” At the same time a parchment appeared in the rectangular window; on it was a scrupulously accurate account of the bargain they had secured. Sir Godfrey looked incredulous: “You want our blood?” “Barrrgains must be sealed in blood” was the reply. Much discussion ensued. Stilicho was the first to yield, and the automaton came forward to stick a needle-like finger into his arm. The others fell in line, with only Godfrey wondering aloud “Here’s an evil wizard. And he’ll have our blood. Our blood!! Well, if the rest of you insist, I’m not being left behind ...” Once the final sample was taken, a lump of reddish waxy material appeared on the parchment, with two intertwined letters ‘k’ inside it. Kerbog Khan spoke once more: “The barrgaaain is sealed. When you are ready, my incarnation will transport you.” Godfrey, who had watched all this with growing unease, said quickly: “Wait! Where exactly are you sending us? And what threats can we expect?” A throaty ‘hrrumm’ came from the rectangular opening, and Kerbog Khan replied “Well, the beastmen stay mostly to the north of the Great Cavern. If you encounter one of theirrr, um, units, you should be able to barrgain with them. But avoid Deino! She cannot be trusted! Do not let them take you to her! I have seen, also, that a young wizard has taken up residence in the Fungal Forest and on the parvis of the Great Cavern. He should pose little trouble. But thrreeats? I would not pessssster the Mushroom Men. They can be, hrrmm, irrrrritable.” Cleopatra spoke up as well: “Can you give us a map of the Great Cavern?” Kerbog Khan assented, and a second piece of parchment was produced on which was the sketch of a huge cavern some 200'x200', complete with a lake, a river, a raised pavement [the parvis] and several paths marked through the fungal forest. Cleopatra tried to make a second, private bargain with Kerbog Khan to have him re-charge her wand of magic missiles, but the price proved too high, and her offer of a specimen of red veil mushroom provoked only a snort of disdain and the comment “Ahhh yesh, Ranko is dead, I see. Well done, my daughter.” After more consultation, the heroes made one last demand: they requested that Kerbog Khan teleport them directly to the parvis. As his final “Yerrssss” faded into silence, they recognized they were alone. Turning to the automaton, they said simply “We’re ready.”

The heroes found themselves suddenly on a platform sheathed in slabs of cracked and pitted white marble. All around them as far as they could make out was a strange and wondrous forest of giant mushrooms of varying size and shape. All was lit by a dull orange glow of phosphorescence, lending the surroundings a mysterious and gloomy aura. Unlike the other caves in which they had journeyed, this one was filled with motion and sound: insects, bats, chittering albino monkeys, and a myriad other scents and sounds filled the cavern. Immediately behind them, to the north, loomed a pair of enormous black stone doors. At the foot of the parvis, some 60' away to the south, was a small raised platform on which sat a giant 10' square stone chair surrounded by a portico of slender black-marble columns (supporting nothing, since the ceiling was some 80' above them). Two torches burned in sconces near the chair. Reclining on the chair was a young human (25 years old or so) dressed in an absolutely filthy brown robe, with matted hair, and a palpable unwashed stench. Sitting up, he peered at the group and shouted “Who disturbs the meditation of Trocadero, errr, I mean, Ptarmis, lord of the Cavern, master of Fungi, Father to the children of the groves? Have you come bearing tribute?” Cleopatra and Gren both bowed deeply, and the wizard adopted her most silky and seductive tone: “Of course, my lord! We have been sent here by an evil mage, and beg your forgiveness.” Said Trocadero/Ptarmis: “Oh, I understand. Those evil wizards are always so troublesome!” Gren took over negotiations. He respectfully described how an evil sorcerer had sent them there against their will, and how the heroes were thus unaware of local custom. “Could we ask your highness some questions?” Ptarmis was willing, and so Gren attempted to figure out who Trocadero/Ptarmis was, and what he was doing in the cavern. It quickly emerged that the young man claimed to be Ptarmis, finder of the cavern and father of his ‘children’. Ptarmis even rang a small chime and shouted loudly, “Children! Children! Come and join my court!” Gren tried to turn conversation towards any special symbols of power than ‘Ptarmis’ might have, but Ptarmis seemed to miss the point, and declaimed about how his riches were in fact to be found in the natural wonders of the cavern and in the loyalty of his children. In fact, from outward appearances, it did not seem as if ‘Ptarmis’ cared much for material wealth! As they traded badinage, the sound of slow shuffling was heard among the mushroom groves, and slowly eight bizarre mushroom men climbed out of the forest and onto the platform. With their pupillless eyes, mottled ‘skin’, and caps of varying size, the mushroom men were quite distinctive, and not a little creepy. At length Gren requested permission for the party to wander through Ptarmis’ domain. This was granted and, as Godfrey whispered “This one is as looney as a bat!” to Stilicho, Ptarmis coughed and held out his hand for tribute. Gren produced 5 sp with a great flourish and lay it before the chair. Ptarmis beamed and told the party that they could depart. “Watch out for the Cloud Caps in the forest, though! They produce a most vigorous toxin!” he shouted as they departed. The heroes climbed down some steps into the fungal groves, past the unnerving stares of the mushroom men.

For the next hour the heroes tramped all across the cavern, following the several paths to see where they might lead. To the east, one path led past two enormous natural columns which appeared to stretch towards the ceiling, and on to a passageway of worked stone leading from the cavern; alas, the passageway was filled with rubble, as if from a cave-in. To the south the path led to the lake, where they discovered a jetty and two soggy wodden rowboats; in the middle of the lake was a low island. Cara caught a glimpse of motion up high and spotted a cave opening in the wall near the lake. To the west they passed another wide natural pillar, and found two apparent exits from the cavern, the second at a distance of 25' feet from the cavern floor. Just as they looked up at it in wonder, two dark shapes leaped down upon them! The beasts appeared as lean panthers, albeit with a pair of 8' long tentacles grafted into their shoulders! Nimbly leaping from mushroom to mushroom, the beasts leapt to the attack. “About time,” muttered Stilicho. He and Godfrey successfully attracted the attention of the beasts, and a strange combat ensued, with the heroes attempting to avoid the neighboring mushrooms while attempting to maneuver to attack the beasts. Adding to the confusion was a strange optical effect which made it hard to be certain where exactly the beasts were at any given moment. Despite some quick hits, the beasts proved tough, especially as their tentacles proved to inflict serious damage in the form of electrical shocks. After some desultory swings, one managed to hit Godfrey twice, and drop him to his needs with a tremendous ‘zzzap’ of electrical charge. As the knight tried to recover, the beast once again attacked with a sure eye. But the gallowglass, Stilicho, performing his duty as a loyal guardian of his boon companions and took what might have been a death blow on himself. Muttering thanks, Godfrey renewed the fight, and one beast fell to their collective blades. Sadly, the second beast managed to get the advantage of Stilicho, and the wounded warrior fell to the mucky floor of the cave, apparently dead! But not quite dead, it seemed, for Cleopatra was able to rush forwards and force one of their last healing potions down the gallowglass’ lips. Restored, but still dangerously wounded, Stilicho could only look in horror as the beast landed two terrible blows on Godfrey in the same flurry [the DM rolled two natural 20s in the same roll of the dice! That was 2d4x2 twice!] The knight staggered, but the fates were kind [i.e., he burned 3 fate points to avoid death] and the electrical current fed back on itself, and instead of stopping the knight’s heart it merely produced an arc of electricity which burned out the knight’s left eye! Godfrey, reeling and barely able to see, dealt a serious wound to the beast, and Cara managed to find its heart with an arrow. Pleased with their victory, but badly wounded, the heroes stopped to take stock of their situation.

_________________
My C&C campaign journal: Hard Times in Narsileon http://www.trolllord.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=11032
My OSRIC/1e campaign journal: Expedition to Arden Vul http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=59080


Fri Sep 16, 2011 7:55 pm
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Ulthal
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Joined: Tue May 09, 2006 7:00 am
Posts: 545
Location: Greensboro, NC
Post Re: Hard Times in Narsileon
a couple of quick comments.
1. length. Sorry! This one got away from me. It reminds me of what a prof told me in grad school: "If you start out a narrative, the problem is that you have to finish it ... and that may take a long time". I adopted a tone which took on its own life and near killed me in the write-up. I'm gonna try to be more succinct in the future.
2. I agonized a lot about whether to introduce a mechanism like Kerbog Khan. There's a part of me that feels soiled, as if I saved their a**es by Deus Ex. I had my reasons, mostly related to the composition of the group, but still.
3. The entire Kerbog Khan business was spontaneous improvisation, despite the fact that I've got pages and pages of key(s) to this sucker.

anyway. Thanks for reading ...

_________________
My C&C campaign journal: Hard Times in Narsileon http://www.trolllord.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=11032
My OSRIC/1e campaign journal: Expedition to Arden Vul http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=59080


Fri Sep 16, 2011 8:08 pm
Profile
Ulthal
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Joined: Tue May 09, 2006 7:00 am
Posts: 545
Location: Greensboro, NC
Post Re: Hard Times in Narsileon
PCs:
Gren, level 3 human Bard [absent for this adventure in a black hole! :)]
Godfrey, level 2 human knight
Cleopatra, level 4 human wizard
Flavius Stilicho, level 1 human gallowglass
Cara Long-Arrow, level 2 elf ranger
Gulafre, level 2 cleric

the Deceased
Lakontios, level 1 part-human sorcerer
Hadhod, level 1 halfling rogue

The departed:
Naluvya, level 1 human cleric


Proud but battered, the heroes wrapped Godfrey’s eye-socket in bandages while Cara kept watch. Things looked bleak: they wanted to locate an exit from the Halls, so as to return to fulfill their important duties at the Red Keep, but it seemed that they kept getting further from that goal! Kerbog Khan had seemed a godsend, but after some hours marching around in the humid half-life of the fungal forest and just barely surviving an attack from two displacer beasts, the nature of Kerbog Khan’s assistance seemed open to question!

Just then Cara Long-Arrow nocked and arrow and raised a hand for silence. “I hear something,” she whispered grimly. Emerging from the forest was an unusual sight: a human, clad in a dirty but capable coat of plates, loaded down with a backpack and equipment. The figure stopped, raised his palms to show his lack of aggression and spoke: “I am Gulafre, a doughty priest. I have been lost in the mushroom forest for a week and was begining to despair. If you be in need, perhaps I could be of assistance? I could certainly use the companionship in my quest for an exit.” The heroes liked the cut of Gulafre’s jib, especially after he offered Godfrey a healing potion and indicated a patch of strange purple mushrooms which he pronounced to be ‘restorative’. Introductions were made, and Gulafre described how his expedition to the Halls had gone awry. When Cleopatra indicated that they were seeking the amulet of Ptarmis, presumably located in the tomb of the same, Gulafre spoke up: “In my wandering this past week, I did spy a strange structure atop one of the massive natural columns which extend towards the ceiling of this cavern. Perhaps that is the site of your tomb?” Feeling that, once again, their luck had turned, the heroes welcomed a new member to their group with some enthusiasm, and set out through the forest to find this structure.

They approached the first natural column on the east side of the parvis and Cara quickly reported that it only rose about 50' into the gloom. Close inspection revealed some handholds - or perhaps ‘claw-holds’ - notched in the rock, although seemingly for beings differently proportioned than humans! Cara scaled the rock easily and found a 20' square section of ancient, cracked pavement, from which a 10' diameter pillar rose another 30' in the air! The air was still in this location, with none of the usual cavern clatter, and the elf felt a shiver of dread as she approached the pillar. Plucking up her courage she examined the spiral carvings on the side of the pillar, but a wave of nausea and disgust rolled over her and she was forced to wrest her eyes away from the horrific figures she saw [i.e., made a saving throw!]. All that she had been able to see were a writhing column of bipedal amphibians spearing and otherwise trampling some lizards. Edging away, she followed the slope of the rock formation upwards to the east, where she found another flattened area; there was a 5' hole carved by sentient hands. When she dropped a pebble into the hole, she could not hear it hit the bottom! Cara returned to the cavern floor, and reported this to her friends.

The heroes elected to examine the rock formations on the west side of the cavern, and so tromped across the parvis where they ironically bowed and offered their best wishes to Trocadero/Ptarmis, who was still slumped on the great stone chair. “Ptarmis” leapt to his feet and greeted the band, saying that “My children have reported your wandering through our domain! We are pleased that you continue to respect my children, and that you are dutiful in your treatment of the forest!” Stilicho stopped and whispered to Godfrey, “Let’s kill him now! You know he’s got it.” Godfrey shook his head at the gallowglass’ eagerness, and the party proceeded to the west side of the cavern. There Cleopatra knowingly observed that the nearer formation was ‘too obvious’ so they inspected the further formation. Gulafre kindly produced magical light on a rock, which they used to throw towards the ceiling. Alas, it appeared that this formation did reach the ceiling, so they quickly returned to the first formation. There Cara spotted yet another set of hand- and foot-holds, this time human sized. She scaled the rock easily, and reported another level area some 50' above the cavern floor. Peering over the lip, she espied an ancient temple-like structure, some 25' long and 15' wide. Its walls were formed of slim columns rising to a triangular roof. The front frieze seemed to be carved with images, and a large rectangle loomed within the mausoleum. The remainder of the party quickly joined Cara on the ledge, and Gulafre tossed his lighted rock into the structure seconds before the enchantment expired. All could see a massive sarcophagus flanked by eight stone urns, each 4' wide and tall. As Godfrey commented drily on the inches of thick dust that lay everywhere on the ledge and in the mausoleum, sharp-eyed Cara spoke up: “But look! Human footprints, and recent ones! They are bare prints, and lead directly to the sarchophagus!” Stilicho interjected “I knew it! That weaselly wizard already has the amulet!” Ignoring the warrior, Cleopatra urged close inspection of the site.

The frieze of the mausoleum featured a central image of a human in priestly robes wearing a tall cylindrical headdress. Around him were arrayed mushrooms of varying sizes and shapes, seemingly growing out of the bodies of dead toads and frogs. The sarcophagus was 10' long and made of heavy stone; on its lid was carved the following: Here rests Ptarmis/ loyal servant of Thoth/ seeker of hidden ways/ who destroyed the loathsome ones/ raised his children from seeds/ and opened this cavern./ Those who disturb his sleep/ Will be returned to the mulch/ from whence they came . Godfrey further noted that the sarcophagus had been swept clean, and that holes for a tripod (holding what?) were now empty. The urns were filled with earth and biological matter. Taking these facts in, Godfrey observed “I think that wizard took the amulet from the mausoleum. Maybe we should go get him?” But Stilicho looked askance at him: “We’ve got a sarcophagus here! It’s just asking to be opened!” Lest anyone accuse him of rashness, though, Stilicho continued “But I think that we should throw these urns over the cliff. You just know that something will come out of them if we open the sarcophagus.” Everyone agreed, and mighty Stilicho, aided by Godfrey threw first one, and then another of the urns over the cliff. Both produced pleasing, if loud, sounds of shattering masonry, but the second also produced a different sound - as if steel was scraping on stone. Godfrey, eager to use his ring of feather fall, floated over the side of the cliff and investigated - in the rubble he found a short sword in a battered scabbard. He also noted some fist-sized seeds, and some strange spores among the debris. Returning to his friends, everyone examined the sword. It looked like a gladius, and was richly decorated. To their surprise, it spoke, and loudly: “Aha! ‘tis time I awake! For my dreadful thirst to slake! I froth to lay waste the foe! To slash and deal them woe! Let not the bloodlust wane, as the fungi shrivel before me, Plantsbane!!!” Questions posed to Plantsbane were greeted with bombastic boasts of his prowess, although they did elicit the fact that he/she/it knew nothing of the sarcophagus. Unimpressed, Stilicho continued throwing urns off the rock while Godfrey sheathed Plantsbane and stowed him in his rucksack.

Shouting “Let’s do this!”, Stilicho put his shoulder to the sarcophagus lid and gave a mighty heave! Stumbling backwards with a sore back, it was left to the remainder of the party to collectively lift the sarcophagus lid a few inches, as a puff of compressed air escaped. Nursing his back, Stilicho lent his mighty thews to the effort, and the lid was shoved aside. Inside was a glittering, bejeweled inner coffin of exquisite craftsmanship! The head of the case was formed of solid gold, with lapis inlay and a variety of precious stones studding the image of a solemn priest wearing a cylindrical, orange-colored headdress. As they gaped at the wealth collected in that one object, the lid of the case shifted and an ominous groan emerged from within! Slowly but surely a hideous form emerged from the case: it was as if a human corpse had been embalmed with some strange mixture of fungal broth, for the flesh of the mummy seemed to made of strips of fungal material. Its eyes burned with an orange glow as it lifted itself from its tomb and groaned loudly! Immediately a wave of intense terror swept over the heroes, and all fell quaking to their boots. All but Godfrey quickly rallied however [ahh, fate points!] and, quivering, advanced against the foul creature. Godfrey was shaken to his soul and barely had the presence of mind to run towards the rope exit instead of rushing off the cliff [that is, he rolled a natural 20 wisdom saving throw!]. Cleopatra pointed her potent wand at the creature, and three blasts of purple energy slammed into the creature! Stilicho swung his huge two-handed sword, delivering a powerful cut to its flesh (which, however, seemed to absorb some of the blow). As bits of fungal flesh flew in the air, a cloud of foul-smelling spores was expelled, and Stilicho began choking as the noxious spores filled his lungs! Cara dropped her bow and pulled out a flask of oil, into which she began stuffing a rag for a fuse. The creature rose and delivered an enormous *thwack* to Stilicho, which sent the warrior reeling. Again, Cleopatra blasted it with magic missiles, while Gulafre aimed a bolt at it. Cara tossed her burning flask of oil and (thanks to the d30 rule) scored a direct hit! It seemed the creature was especially susceptible to fire, for it burst ablaze and seemed visibly staggered. Before it could deliver another blow, a second crossbow bolt from Gulafre knocked it backwards, and it collapsed into a pile of burning fungal matter. As Stilicho hacked and coughed, trying to clear his lungs, the party congratulated itself on its surprising victory, and then peered into the sarcophagus, where the happy sight of 250 coins, three huge gems, and a silver amulet (with the inscription ‘Heraclius’ and an ankh - sadly, not Ptarmis’ amulet) greeted them. Stilicho turned once more to Godfrey: “I told you that wizard had the amulet! Now we know what we have to do”

_________________
My C&C campaign journal: Hard Times in Narsileon http://www.trolllord.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=11032
My OSRIC/1e campaign journal: Expedition to Arden Vul http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=59080


Sat Oct 01, 2011 7:16 pm
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Ulthal
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Joined: Tue May 09, 2006 7:00 am
Posts: 545
Location: Greensboro, NC
Post Re: Hard Times in Narsileon
PCs:
Gren, level 3 human Bard
Godfrey, level 2 human knight
Cleopatra, level 4 human wizard
Flavius Stilicho, level 1 human gallowglass
Cara Long-Arrow, level 2 elf ranger
Gallafrey, level 2 human cleric
Astra, level 2 human rogue

the Deceased
Lakontios, level 1 part-human sorcerer
Hadhod, level 1 halfling rogue

The departed:
Naluvya, level 1 human cleric

There was much pride and satisfaction among the heroes as they surveyed the remains of the foul fungal mummy that had been Ptarmis, ancient priest of Thoth. The riches of his sarcophagus gleamed in the half-light, and all imagined what they could accomplish if they could bring it all back to the Keep! Only Stilicho’s cough, caused by his ingestion of a cloud of fungal spores produced when his blade bit into the creature, served to dampen the general excitement. Gallafrey, wise in the ways of such matters, took Stilicho aside and offered him some advice: “You will need to seek a healer, my friend, and within the next few days, or I fear that your recent foe will triumph over you, even unto death!” Hearing this, alert Cara Long-Arrow rustled through her pack for some of the herbs she had collected and, approaching Stilicho, administered a poultice to him which she assured him would delay the onset of any ill effects of the spores.

Amid the happy chatter a new voice rang out, rising from the foot of the outcropping. “Alloo! An impressive victory! Could you use an ally in this treacherous place?” Stilicho unsheathed his greatsword and invited the newcomer to climb up to their perch. It proved to be a human, clad all in leathers and looking a little worse for the wear. “I am Astra,” she said, “from a small village to the east. I seek companionship for profit and glory.” Some cautious banter ensued, and Astra proved reticent to reveal much of her past, but seemed obviously to be useful ally. Sensing a rival, Cleopatra greeted Astra with thin lips: “Just keep away from my boys [looking at the male members of the group], and we’ll get along fine!” Astra chuckled and replied “We shall see.”

Following this good-natured badinage, however, a tortured howl rose from the parvis, some 40' to the east (and 30' below their perch). It was the wizard Trocadero/Ptarmis, and his wrath seemed great! “Nooo! What have you done? Desecration of my House? It is unforgivable! Children, come to me! [the sound of a bell ringing] We must restore order to our realm and drive out the desecrators of the House of Ptarmis!” Much consternation ensued, as the heroes were still recovering from the fight with the fungal mummy. Godfrey shouted back “We mean no harm! Someone else has already plundered this tomb. We would like to negotiate with you.” But Gren, perhaps sensing the fates in motion, drily muttered “As a peace offering, here’s one of my arrows!” Letting it fly, the fight was on. The party felt themselves to be in an excellent position, as Trocadero’s ‘children’ (the mushroom people) were unable to climb to their perch on the outcropping, and they therefore felt it likely they could shoot down the wizard from afar. But, alas, the situation proved more fraught than they had imagined! For Gren’s arrow whistled through empty air, and Trocadero’s response to Godfrey floated down from a spot some 60' above the cavern floor: “Only if you surrender your weapons and submit to my Children. Then, and only then, can there be peace!” For Trocadero was flying!

A desperate struggle ensued. The party rallied, and unlimbering their missile weapons, let fly at Trocadero (Cleopatra cast sleep at him). To their shock and chagrin, however, even the best-aimed bolts were ineffective, as they bounced off an invisible wall that hung in front of their foe. Even worse, Cleopatra’s magic missiles also had no effect. “Damnation, boys,” swore Cleopatra, “he’s using a Shield spell.” And so it appeared, for almost none of their attacks struck home. Some of the heroes resorted to taunts, including Cara’s memorable “Come down from there, or I’ll put Peanut-Butter in yo face!” [complete with a hip body-shake as only an almost-eleven-year-old can do]. Godfrey, lacking a ranged weapon, pulled out Plantsbane, the intelligent sword they had found in one of the broken urns, and was pleased when the sword sang out ‘I sense the ancient foe/Time to bring them woe!’ It was true, as Gren detected movement in the mushroom groves below them - mushroom men! Godfrey tried interrogating his weapon about the wizard, even asking whether Plantsbane had ever served Trocadero, but the arrogant sword was both vague and uninterested: “I know him not/he’s just a little snot. Let’s turn to real fun/fungus carving to be done!” In return, Trocadero began peppering the outcropping with spells. He managed to put Cara to sleep briefly, struck Godfrey with a powerfully corrosive burst of green energy, and caused a flicker of fear - but only a flicker! - in mighty Stilicho, who quickly threw it off.

Eventually, given this impasse and their realization that Trocadero would swiftly begin to wear them down with his aerial assault, the heroes resorted to new measures. Gallafrey began to climb down from the outcropping in the hopes that he could flank the screaming wizard. Several of the party sought aid from the deities, lucky charms, and assorted other desperation measures [i.e., they pulled out the d30 - thanks, Jeff Rients!] and once more bent their bows to an attack. Some of these missiles managed to get through, as did Gallafrey’s thunderous clap of sound - “ODIN!!”. But the wounded Trocadero proved to have at least one more trick up his sleeve. As Gallafrey rushed into the mushroom groves, seeking cover, and Godfrey began to climb down the rock face, Astra squinted, blinked, and squinted again - she saw a small red dot the size of a marble coming closer and closer. “Look out!” screamed the rogue. Ka-boom! A conflagration of intense heat blossomed from the bead and all were knocked backwards as a fiery blast shook them to their boots! Astra, Cara, Cleopatra, and Gren managed to dodge behind parts of the Mausoleum, and only received a partial impact, but Stilicho, turning at Astra’s warning, only managed to mumble “Oh sh...” as he took the full blast in his face. Stunned, the heroes inspected their charred belongings: Gren had lost nearly everything, including his bow; Cara fared better, having lost only a magical potion, while Cleopatra fared worst, losing both her cloak of elvenkind and several potions! Stilicho, smoking and motionless on the floor, was more fortunate (in a way), as his turning into the blast may have cost him his consciousness, but seemed to have protected almost all his gear!

Now the battle was truly on! Gren rushed to aid Stilicho, and poured a healing potion into his mouth, thereby bringing the warrior back into consciousness. Godfrey rushed past two hideous mushroom men to support Gallafrey, who had taken an enormous *thwack* from yet another mushroom person. As he did so, Godfrey incurred yet more acid damage from Trocadero’s spell and himself received a buffet from one of the mushroom things. Gallafrey invoked Odin’s support for warriors, and laid hands on Godfrey, who, brandishing a joyous Plantsbane, managed to decapitate [heh! Good pun, eh?] one of the mushroom creatures with a single blow. Meanwhile, on the outcropping, the heroes again turned to missile weapons, with Gren landing a lucky hit using Stilicho’s crossbow, while the latter began climbing down the outcropping so as to support his colleagues. As the mushroom men moved in on Gallafrey and Godfrey, the cleric of Odin swiveled and pointed his crossbow at the hovering Trocadero. To his delight, he was directly below the wizard. His bolt avoided the shield and found its mark, and with a gurgle, Trocadero came plummeting out of the air, dead! But the fight wasn’t over, as the mushroom men moved in. Both Godfrey and the newly-arrived Stilicho fell to blows from the leader of the mushroom men, and Gallafrey was forced to flee. At long last, however, the archery of the party on the outcropping began to tell (as did Cleopatra’s final spell), and the mushroom men were eventually defeated.

Sobered by this near defeat, the survivors dragged the unconscious bodies of Godfrey and Stilicho back up to the outcropping, where Godfrey was revived. Posting Cara as a guard, Cleopatra and Gallafrey began to rest and prepare spells. Gren and Astra descended once more and inspected the corpse of Trocadero; on him they found a magic ring, a magic wand, and, best of all, the silver-gold amulet of Ptarmis, featuring a prominent image of a mushroom! They also climbed onto the parvis and inspected the huge chair, where they found a locked iron box. Astra picked the lock; inside they found a stash of coins, some huge gems, a spellbook [Cleopatra’s eyes grew large as she read it - for it contained Fly and Fireball!], and a battered journal. Perusing the journal, it emerged that Trocadero had come to the cavern, found the amulet, and had gradually gone insane, coming to believe he was Ptarmis. The heroes gingerly took the amulet of Ptarmis and placed it in the iron box, not wishing to suffer a similar fate.

Gren also turned to the huge black stone (hematite) double doors which stood at the opposite end of the parvis. They were about 15' high, and featured four glowing sigils on them, two on each door. The left door had sigils of an ankh and an ibis, while the right featured an ankh and a feather. Puzzling at this, Gren wracked his brains for comparable icons. He finally decided that these were symbols of Thoth - the ibis was Thoth himself, the feather was ma’at, or balance, and the ankh was life. Gren further intuited that the sigils were enchanted, and that speaking or touching or tracing them might trip some sort of spell. He also found a 1" diameter hole in one of the doors, which he thought to be a keyhole; he tried inserting various objects, but none seemed to work. After many hours of rest, Cleopatra and Gallafrey joined the bard. Cleopatra cast Knock, but to her dismay it merely revealed two more enchanted keyholes; alas, the door was enchanted beyond the power of her spell! Gallafrey tried to detect secret doors, also to no avail, although he was able to deduce that the entire wall (with the doors) had been erected ontop of the older parvis, presumably by the priests of Thoth. Frustrated by their inability to penetrate these valves, the heroes rejoined their comrades on the top of the outcropping.

And so the session ended, with victory over a powerful foe, and with the recovery of the object which Kerbog Khan had required! A few questions remained - what was the status of the valuable sarcophagus cover (after the fireball)? Was their melted coinage still worth anything? How badly infected was Stilicho? Could they successfully ‘barrrr-gain’ with the bizarre Kerbog Khan? Could they return safely to the Keep? Only time would tell ...

_________________
My C&C campaign journal: Hard Times in Narsileon http://www.trolllord.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=11032
My OSRIC/1e campaign journal: Expedition to Arden Vul http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=59080


Sat Oct 15, 2011 3:50 pm
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Ulthal
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Joined: Tue May 09, 2006 7:00 am
Posts: 545
Location: Greensboro, NC
Post Re: Hard Times in Narsileon
PCs:
Gren, level 3 human Bard
Godfrey, level 3 human knight
Cleopatra, level 4 human wizard
Flavius Stilicho, level 2 human gallowglass
Cara Long-Arrow, level 3 elf ranger
Gallafrey, level 2 human cleric
Astra, level 2 human rogue

the Deceased
Lakontios, level 1 part-human sorcerer
Hadhod, level 1 halfling rogue

The departed:
Naluvya, level 1 human cleric

Discussion continued among the adventurers. All agreed that the time had come for further negotiations with the bizarre wizard, Kerbog Khan. A few, notably Cleopatra, were in favor of challenging him, or at least in presenting an aggressive face to his still-unglimpsed one. Others, including a suddenly-cautious Stilicho, favored simply complying with his requests so that they could “Get the Hell out of Here!” Godfrey produced the strange clay amulet which Kerbog Khan had given them, and handed it off to Cara. Cara examined it minutely, smelled it, and tapped its edge thoughtfully. “There is a hint of warmth to this object,” said the elf, “and it is definitely hollow.” The group gathered in a circle around Cara, ready for teleportation if that should ensue immediately, and Cara flung the amulet to the ground. It shattered into a score of pieces, leaving a thick, viscous silvery substance to pool on the ground. As the heroes crouched over it, two stylized eyes appeared in the reflective quicksilver and a familiar voice spoke from the ether around them: “The barrrgain! Hassss it been, urm, commpleted?!”

Cleopatra took the stage, and used her most charming demeanor on her fellow mage. “My Lord Kerbog Khan, we have indeed procured the Amulet of Ptarmis which you have sought, and we wish to deliver it to you. Please transport us to your home so we can do so!” Kerbog Khan hrrrmed and hemmed, and some strange clicks and whirrs were heard; he replied “There is no needdd for you to, ermmm, vvvvvisit me. Arrrangements have been made for receipt of my amulet. Have you chosen your rewwwward? Shall it be the map, or will you delivvvvver i-tems of magical power in return for telepppportation?” The party spoke in one voice: “We wish to be teleported to the Red Keep.” Cleopatra then added, “And we will require the return of those samples which you took from us when last we met. You know of which I speak, no?” She was referring, clearly, to the samples of blood which all party members had provided to the wizard’s automaton. Kerbog Khan flatly refused: “Barrgains must be sealed in blood. The blood is now mine, and you shall surrender the amulet!” Thinking quickly, Galafrey held the Amulet over the pool of quicksilver and introduced himself: “But I, Galafrey, possess the amulet now! I am not subject to the terms of the original bargain, and would bargain anew. Return the blood of my friends, and stick to the terms of their contract, and I will give you the amulet.” Amid much chuckling and approving nods from the heroes, Kerbog Khan’s faceless eyes appeared to narrow: “Barrrgaains may be eeeeemended, but once sealllled in blood they are binding! You are nothing. The barrrgain must be completed [whir, click, pop]!” Other voices were added, all attempting to argue the point suggested by Galafrey. But Kerbog Khan proved obdurate, and when Galafrey noted wryly that since he had found his way into the Halls, and could therefore find his way out, Kerbog Khan’s eyes flashed and then disappeared! Consternation followed, with much cursing of wizards (“Nothing personal, Cleo!”) and their tricks.

Eventually the heroes calmed down, assessed their situation, and shouted into the humid air of the cavern “Kerbog Khan! Come back! We will do as you wish!” After ten anxious minutes the eyes reappeared in the quicksilver, and Kerbog Khan’s metallic voice rasped “An aggggent of Kerbog Khan will arrrive in pre-cisely, ermm [click, click, click] sixty-two secconds. You will deposit the i-tems - Amulet and obbjects of magical power - in it. Inssstructions shall be provided.” The party quickly discussed which magic items to surrender, a process complicated by Kerbog Khan’s refusal to accept certain items that they suggested: “I have no nnnnneed of pppotions!” and “Bahh! The wwwwas sticks of the minionssss of Set are worthlllesss to me.” Eventually the party decided to give up yet another amulet which they had found in the tomb of Ptarmis (it was marked with the name “Heraklios”), a wand of magic missiles (which had only a few charges left), and a third item whose identity this scribe has been unable to discern. Precisely sixty-two seconds later, another of Kerbog Khan’s strange automatons appeared: it was one of his birds, about the size of a huge raven, flapping its wings symbolically since it was clearly powered by magic. The bird’s eyes were large and glassy, and it possessed an exaggeratedly large mouth. It spoke in Kerbog Khan’s voice: “The terrrms of the barrrgain [whirrr] must be completed. All those wishing transssport must seal the barrgain with blood. These two [looking at Astra and Galafrey] must provide blood!” After some grumbling, and one last effort by Galafrey to negotiate a new deal, the bird’s beak jabbed the two new companions and withdrew a sample of blood. The bird spoke again: “The iii-tems must be deposited!” And so the heroes surrendered the three magic items and the amulet of Ptarmis. The automaton spoke one last time, its glassy eyes reflecting the orange light of the mushroom forest: “Transssport shall be obbbbtained by touching the Sttttanding Stonne in the south pppportion of the Fungi Forrresssst within fourteen hours. Do not be lllate! You will recognize the Stone by its bllllack and oily sssurface.” As the bird turned to go, Cleopatra wisely requested one last item of information: the location of the standing stone on the rough sketch map of the cavern. Obligingly the automaton pecked a hole on the map and slowly flapped away.

As the warriors were badly wounded and the distance to the Standing Stone seemed not far, the group elected to rest and bind their wounds from the relative safety of the rock outcropping. Galafrey invoked mighty Odin to provide some relief to their wounds, while sharp-eyed Cara located another crop of curative mushrooms. Thus refreshed (to a degree), the party set off cautiously down the trail through the giant fungi. The forest had come back to life, with plenty of squawks, numerous whirring dragonflies, and the capering of the strange albino monkeys. Cara the Ranger scouted the trail, and announced that no foes stood between them and the jetty. Moving swiftly to the jetty, they prepared to cross. Suspecting unknown dangers [bwa ha ha! My work is done!], they spent some time sending a Dancing Light spell across the water - it revealed nothing save for a small sandy island and a swifter current on the other side of the islet. Tying the two rowboats together, with Stilicho and Godfrey rowing, the group set out for the southern shore. Cara, convinced something dire was about to emerge from the waters, kept a close eye on the black depths. To their relief, nothing impeded their arrival at the southern jetty.

Cleopatra quickly took charge. Noting that the clearing in which the Standing Stone was supposed to lie was only about 50' to the right, she murmured an enchantment, and instantly a bank of dense fog rolled down the pathway towards the clearing. Cleo turned to her companions: “Now we will be able to advance without revealing ourselves. May I suggest that we hurry?” Indeed, they had about 45 minutes left before the 14 hours were up. As they moved into standard formation, however, a voice spoke out of the forest on their left, and a small figure advanced a few steps towards them before stopping and displaying empty hands. It was a human-sized figure dressed in impressive chain mail, with hauberk, greaves, and gloves. The phosphorescence of the fungi played across its face, revealing strangely rodent-like features. The figure spoke: “I see you are the heroes who have defeated the insane wizard, Trocadero. All of us who hunt in the forest owe you our gratitude. My komes will be told of your valor, as will great Deino herself.” On hearing these words, the heroes started, and several whispers flew back and forth: Godfrey reminded all that Kerbog Khan had warned them, in the strongest terms, against the ‘foul witch Deino’ who ‘pollutes the upper levels of the Halls’, while Galafrey noted that this figure was undoubtedly one of the fierce beastmen warriors, bane to many adventurers who delved within the Halls. The figure spoke again, “I am Trestor, sergeant of the Long Range Cavern Patrol, and we have been aware of your activities these last few days. My own komes, Trisko, would doubtless welcome you to our hall, if only to share information - although I am confident he would entertain you in a kingly manner.” [In this world, komes is a title for a mid-level military commander, perhaps the commander of 100 men]. Behind Trestor could now be glimpsed a line of eight similarly-clad figures, each bearing a javelin, a short stabbing sword, and rectangular shield. At the mention of this Trisko, the eight slapped their javelins against their shields and gave a low but confident cry of “Hoy!” Unsure how to proceed, and anxious about the ticking clock, Cleopatra politely declined the invitation and, with a wink, signaled the rest of the party to disappear into the fog bank. Watching them disappear, Trestor gave a shallow bow and observed: “Well met. We shall meet again, I think!”

Marching swiftly through the fog, the party drew close to the Standing Stone. As they drew close, however, Stilicho stopped suddenly, for he had heard a series of loud cries, as if of a hunting predatory bird. The party steeled itself and emerged into the clearing. There, rooting around among the mushrooms, was a 7'-tall creature out of nightmares: it had the body of a large, furry bear, with the head and back-feathers of an owl. Seeing Stilicho stand ready with his great sword, the creature gave another shriek and lumbered into action! Despite its fearsome appearance, the owlbear proved little threat to the heroes, who used a combination of magic, missiles, and a great blow from Godfrey to cut it down. There, at the far side of clearing, was the Standing Stone, carved of some soft, black rock, incised with strange runes, and glistening as if oiled. Gathering round it, the heroes joined hands and counted down. “Three, two, one ....” and then they touched the stone. Instantly all were gone. All, that is, save Stilicho, who had ignored the command. Planting his great sword in the loam, the proud warrior shouted a cry to the cavern: “Here I am! Come and get me, if you dare!” Apparently Stilicho had planned a little jape whereby he would await the approach of foes and then touch the Standing Stone, disappearing before they could affect him. But when he glanced at the Stone, it appeared inert! Was the magic a one-time effect? [well, yes!] Fortunately for the warrior, the automaton of Kerbog Khan was nearby and chirruped a humorless bark: “Most amussing, how you tempt the fates and generosity of your master. You minnnnions are always so un-pre-dicccctable. Still, you may yyyyyet be of some use. Never let it be said that Kkkkerbog Khan is without merrrrcy.” The Standing Stone once again glowed, and the nervous gallowglass touched it immediately, and was gone.

And thus the heroes effected their retreat from the Halls of Arden Vul! They found themselves on the path outside the main gate of the Red Keep, where a startled Corporal Bledsoe greeted them with a curse. “Cor! Look wot the catoblepas dragged in. These ruffians, is it? I had 3 shillings laid with Cap’n Joxer that you’d scarpered! ‘Course that curate fellow was certain you’d be back. You are back, ain’t you? If so, you’ll find the Keep locked up tighter than me daughter’s well, errrr, you get the idea, right? First off, the bailiff of the lower keep, our Yon, ‘as disappeared! He’s gone! And that traveling priest, that Uthgar, he’s gone, too! Mark my words, strange times is afoot. Still, I have me orders to let you in, so long as you report direct-like to Georgios the curate.”

With this greeting, the party trudged once again into their home base. Georgios the curate was delighted to see them, remarking many time that he had been one of the few who knew that the party would be back. He also filled the group in on recent developments. Yon the bailiff, who had been implicated by the tortured testimony of the priest of Set, Analgon, had in fact been quietly seized by the Archon and was currently being interrogated by a few of the Archon’s loyal men. The information to date gleaned from this ‘interrogation’ pointed to a complex web of conspiracies radiating out of the Exarchate of Narsileon. Some of the plots involved the traditional political infighting of the Five Families, with Iskarion Xenarcheon and Ysabet Basileon at their heart. As Ysabet was betrothed to the Exarch, these affairs struck to the heart of imperial power. Some of the conspirators, but not all, seemed aware of the resurgence of the illegal cult of Set. Worst of all, Yon the bailiff seemed to have been reporting to Keko the Lame, imperial spymaster whose Drome was feared across the empire. As for Uthgar, the traveling priest who had also been unmasked by the party’s actions, Georgios was more troubled; indeed, it seemed that Georgios had disappeared out of thin air, from within the Keep. No one could understand how and why they had been unable to take him.

With this information out of the way, Georgios listened to the party’s account of its strange journeys within ancient Arden Vul, a place which Georgios knew of, but had never visited. He was most interested - and alarmed - by their report that the Set cult seemed to have a larger footprint within Arden Vul. Muttering to himself, Georgios remarked grimly that this evil cult would need to be despatched, but when and by whom it was not yet clear. Georgios also provided healing and refreshment, and sent messengers to bring the armorers to the chapel so that the armor and weapons specially ordered by Godfrey, Stilicho and Cara could be, at last, delivered. Finally, the party dumped out its backpacks and took a good look at the wealth it had accumulated. Even with the somewhat unfavorable terms offered by the jeweler of the Keep, the gems and coins were enough to provide for everyone’s needs, and then some! Several of the adventurers were also pleased to learn that their labors had resulted in higher levels of skill in their chosen professions.

Some of the group paid a quick visit to the rooms of the evil priest, Uthgar, where they managed to locate a concealed space under his desk. Inside it were a sheaf of papers detailing his mission and contacts (all known already through the ‘interrogation’ of Yon), and a few other items. All agreed that the next step in their quest required a return visit to the Caves of Chaos, where they had to decapitate the humanoid threat by slaying Ptahros, the chief Set priest in the area. Such a venture was likely to be risky, as Ptahros by now knew that his plans had been (partially) exposed. The group agreed that a frontal assault, through the caves, seemed unwise, and that, after they had recuperated, the best course of action would be to use the tunnels found in the Cave of the Unknown to track down Ptahros in his evil lair. As the heroes mused about this difficult task, Godfrey spoke up brightly: “And don’t forget. Now there are two wights hanging around that temple. Valerian annnd Lakontios! Won’t that be fun ....”

Stilicho, however, had more prosaic affairs on his mind. He concluded the homecoming by directing a pointed question to the curate: “Is that rascally goblin rogue still hanging around the Wet Hen with his good-for-nothing friends?” Georgios nodded: “Yes, he is. Although I share your distrust, you must take care, for they have broken no laws.” Stilicho laughed drily: “Not yet, not yet. I think it may be time to have a talk with Mr Ragnar and Co.”

_________________
My C&C campaign journal: Hard Times in Narsileon http://www.trolllord.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=11032
My OSRIC/1e campaign journal: Expedition to Arden Vul http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=59080


Mon Nov 14, 2011 9:39 pm
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Ulthal
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Joined: Tue May 09, 2006 7:00 am
Posts: 545
Location: Greensboro, NC
Post Re: Hard Times in Narsileon
Thirteenth Laisse: Showdown with Ptahros

Ed. note: the first part of this laisse seems to be lacking, and is probably to be explained by poor manuscript tradition. We may infer that more discussion and investigation took place in the Red Keep before the events recorded in the only surviving manuscript commence, as follows:

… but wiser heads prevailed. “Let us worry about that problem later,” said Cleopatra, “I think we know what we have to do now.” The knight nodded grimly, “Time to return to the Caves of Chaos.” And so the heroes put aside petty grievances, cleaned and checked their weapons, and set out early on the next morn for the caves. At the gate of the keep faithful Georgios the curate was present, offering them some badly-needed assistance from the Archon: a pair of enchanted weapons. “These relics from Archon Gedeon’s family are loaned on a temporary basis only.” Continuing more gently, Georgios added “But he cannot think of a more trustworthy band to whom he might entrust these relics.” Pleasantries complete, the party trudged off to the Cave of the Unknown, where they intended to take the ‘back door’ passage into the heart of the larger evil complex.

They limited their journey through these caves to previously-visited areas, and were pleasantly surprised to find no new threats. Reaching the cliff face at the rear of the set of caverns (once guarded by the hell-hounds), they climbed the cliff and ventured into the tunnel to its rear. Looking down the leftward passage at the still-squatting idol of the toad-like thing, Cleopatra could not resist a jape: “Maybe we should pry out its eyes?“ Amid groans, the party turned right, and immediately were struck by a blast of eldritch force. Apparently they had tripped a glyph planted on the rocky floor. [Ed.: gap in manuscript] reeled, clutching their eyes and shouting “We cannot see!” With wordless moans, three zombies lurched out of the gloom and attacked. Despite the surprise, the undead were easily dismissed and the party waited for the effects of the blindness to fade. To their delight, the blindness did turn out to be temporary. And so they continued down the dark tunnel, this time moving more slowly and entrusting their safety to the sharp eyes of the rogue, Astra.

After a long and circuitous trip through the earth, Astra held her hand in the air. “Quiet! We are approaching a wider opening. And I have detected another glyph.” The glyph was located just before a large boulder standing in the center of the tunnel. Just beyond was a jagged opening into a worked, twenty-foot wide hallway. The hallway was floored in black stone, worn smooth by countless feet; the walls were black marble interspersed with blood-red striations. An oppressive sense of evil hung almost palpably in the air. “I think we’ve found Ptahros’ house,” commented Galafrey. “Let’s get it on!” whispered Stilicho.

The heroes proceeded into the hallway, which echoed sharply from their booted feet. Proceeding cautiously, they discovered openings on either side of the hallway. Peering into the right-hand opening, they found a macabre sight: a file of skeletal warriors lined the walls, while a blood-red stone chair stood on a dais at the far end of the chamber. When the skeletons did not move, much discussion ensued. Finally, ever-impetuous Stilicho leaped into the room and beheaded one of the skeletons. “Let’s see if that wakes them up!” he shouted. To the surprise of all, none of the warriors moved. And so a merry time was had, as the rest of the group took part in dismembering the skeletons. Inspection of the chair revealed several gems embedded in its arms. Amid some joking, the gems were quickly pried free, leaving time to wonder about the quiescent skeletons. Finally Cleopatra noted “They were probably activated by the glyph which we bypassed.” With heads nodding, the group proceeded to the other opening; peering within they detected more undead, this time zombies lined up along the walls. At the far end was a small altar behind a huge set of drapes on which appeared a strange animal-headed humanoid figure. Feeling cocky as the zombies also proved immobile, Galafrey decided to have some fun by invoking Odin. Suitably chastised, the zombies clustered in the far corner. Gren and Godfrey, viewing the curtain with disgust, pulled it down and threw it at the cowering zombies; behind the altar they also found some bundled-up pennons with a different insignia on them, which Galafrey identified as the mark of Dyareela. Gren then ignited the curtain with some oil, and the room was quickly filled with thick black smoke. Once again the heroes easily dispatched any escaping zombies. Puzzled by the ease of their efforts to this point, they proceeded down the hall.

With footsteps ringing on the black stone, they investigated a third opening, which proved to exit to the outside, apparently at the very back of the ravine holding the caves of chaos. Cara spotted a pair of doors far down the corridor, but as she turned to tell her friends, one of the doors opened and four men dressed in the red greaves, arm-bands, and breastplates of the cult of Set! The four priests, for so they proved to be, burst into action. Dread words of power echoed down the hall, stunning most of the party while only second later the heroes found themselves enshrouded in a zone of silence! As Stilicho and Godfrey charged forward they were met by the eldritch energies of a pair of was sticks, and were frozen in place! Only the archery of Gren, Cara, and Astra kept the heroes from being overwhelmed. Cleopatra, recognizing the silence spell, ran forward until she could hear her boots again, and began to counter with her own magical energies. Sadly, the priests resisted her efforts to put them to sleep, so she turned to magic missiles. Despite some early desperation as the heroes found themselves taking more damage than they were inflicting, the tide eventually turned, and after Cara drow an arrow through a third priest, the fourth turned and fled. Stilicho chased after and attempted some futile bowshots at him. With their frontline heroes wounded severely, the intrepid heroes could only groan as they heard the deep tolling of a bell echo down the corridor.

Quickly ransacking the bodies of the three priests, and eagerly putting some healing elixirs to use, the group took frantic counsel. Should they retreat to the Keep? Hide in the room from which the priests had emerged? Cleopatra announced “My friends, this recent battle has almost exhausted my arcane energies. I fear we should retreat.” But the warriors felt they had the priests on the run, and did not like to surrender any advantage they might have gleaned. Eventually Gren suggested that they retreat to the large boulder at the end of the corridor to await further events. With the bulk of the group crouching behind the boulder, sharp-eyed Cara lay on top of the stone, watching for trouble. Soon they could hear the skittering sound of boney feet on the stone floor, and a line of skeletal warriors clattered into view. There were twenty of the monsters, led by another Set priest! Cara let loose an arrow at the priest, hoping to use surprise to her advantage. Although it missed, the heroes were still able to seize the initiative. Deep and comforting words of power burst from Galafrey: “For the All Father!” Cleopatra wove her magic, and the air above the skeletons was filled with Pummeling Fists of air. The skeletons advanced and, just as the heroes planned, tripped the glyph lying in front of the boulder: several of them went blind! Using the boulder for cover, the warriors advanced to its sides, while Gren, Astra, and Cara poured missiles into their enemy. Galafrey advanced with one of the enchanted weapons offered by the Archon - a mace - and found it especially effective against the skeletons. The priest went down in a storm of arrows, and the skeletons were held up by Cleopatra’s fists of air. A tone of jovial confidence spread through the group, even as a few unlucky incidents occurred (Godfrey lost his weapon momentarily!). Just as the battle was turning into a skeleton-shoot, Cara whistled a warning: new foes were approaching.

Striding around the corner were four figures, led by a tall priest of Set wearing, in addition to the usual Set Armor, a flowing cape. This figure exuded a palpable aura of command and power, and could be none other than Ptahros, high priest of Set, and instigator of the collusion of humanoids in the region! Ptahros gestured imperiously at his minions and glanced across the struggling mass of heroes and skeletons. His icy tone carried clearly above the ring of weapons: “Kill them all. I grow tired of their meddling.” Gren immediately shouted orders: “Target the high priest, before his spells can tilt the balance!” It might already have been too late, for again a veil of silence fell across the heroes. Stilicho smashed one of the skeletons in two, but again Godfrey lost his footing - and his weapon. Cleopatra moved out of the zone of silence and fumbled in her pack. Gren and Astra, busy firing arrows at the priests, heard her mutter “Enough, you fools!” A marble-sized object flew over the heads of all and landed in the midst of the priests. To the surprise of all, a mushroom of fire burst out from the impact site! It was a bead from a necklace of missiles which Cleopatra had been hoarding for months, and it turned the tide. All four of the junior priests went down, along with a number of the remaining skeletons. Ptahros looked shaken, but stood his ground, and Stilicho rushed to confront him. The wily priest lashed out with a staff and the warrior laughed, but his tone changed as the staff turned into a snake. Fortunately Stilicho was able to dodge the python, and Ptahros fell over dead with an elvish arrow (Cara’s) through his chest! And with that dramatic finish, the battle was over save for some mopping up. As the warriors turned and looked at Cleopatra with new respect, she wryly commented “A girl has to have her secrets, doesn’t she?”

The heroes quickly looted the bodies of the priests, gingerly taking the snake staff and some other choice objects. They proceeded down the hall, inspecting two chambers in which the subsidiary priests had obviously lived. They also discovered a small shrine with a stone altar covered in dried blood; the aura of the chamber was evil, through-and-through, and the party contented itself with burning the drapery and gingerly ignoring the evil-looking altar vessels. Bypassing an empty chamber that they guessed was the resting place of the skeletons, they entered, at long last, the temple to Set. The site contained a huge bell, as well as three altars. The walls were draped in floor-to-ceiling curtains, on which were blasphemous images both figural and geometric. As the heroes poked around, Stilicho became entranced by the swirling patterns on the drapes, and sound found himself chanting in an unknown language! The bell tolled once, twice, thrice! and seven more skeletons filed out of their waiting room. Gren quickly tore down the drapes, while the heroes squared off against these skeletons (whom, the realized, had been the remnant who had been turned by Galafrey earlier in the adventure). Eventually the skeletons were worn down, and the party proceeded to collect some valuables from the chamber. At long last they entered Ptahros’ personal chamber, where they discovered a valuable gold ring with a black gem, a handful of potions, a scroll of cleric spells, and some platinum coins. They also noticed a strange crouching idol made of gold (which might have fallen on them had they not taken wise precautions). Inside the priest’s wardrobe they found a scattering of coins, a magical amulet, and a secret door, which led back to the main corridor.

And with these treasures, and an enormous feeling of accomplishment, the heroes retreated to the keep. As they marched Gren sang a lively song of victory, for the outlook was merry indeed.

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My C&C campaign journal: Hard Times in Narsileon http://www.trolllord.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=11032
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Sun Feb 05, 2012 9:25 pm
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Ulthal
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Post Re: Hard Times in Narsileon
to any readers: sorry for the lack of posts. We had a session in mid december, and then not another until mid January. I fell behind on write-ups and finally managed to get them all worked into this one longish post.

hope it may provide some entertainment ....

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My C&C campaign journal: Hard Times in Narsileon http://www.trolllord.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=11032
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Sun Feb 05, 2012 9:28 pm
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Post Re: Hard Times in Narsileon
*sits down and waits for the story to continue* ;)

~O

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Mon Feb 06, 2012 2:33 am
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Ulthal
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Post Re: Hard Times in Narsileon
thanks, Omote. I appreciate the feedback. I confess that I felt that the final battle (B2, obviously) was anticlimactic. But the PCs had worked for a long time to achieve their goals, and ultimately the victory was well-deserved. There are still the caves of humanoids to clear out, if they so desired, and Valerian and Lakontios the wights in the crypt, but my sense is that they are ready to move on to greener pastures. Not sure what, exactly. We've got a session tomorrow, and I think it's going to be more role-playing oriented, as the Archon will want to celebrate their accomplishment. I've got a little mystery lined up for play inside the Keep which may lead to some conflict, or may not. Ya never know!

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My C&C campaign journal: Hard Times in Narsileon http://www.trolllord.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=11032
My OSRIC/1e campaign journal: Expedition to Arden Vul http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=59080


Mon Feb 06, 2012 4:19 pm
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Post Re: Hard Times in Narsileon
It's amazing to me that you remember these types of details when writing up the summary. I used to keep logs like this for some of the campaigns I ran, but the players kept insisting I was getting the details wrong. I have since stopped trying. Despite the fact that this last battle seemed anticlimactic, you can tell you are having a good time DMing this campaign. I think that comes out in these posts. As always, thank you for sharing these moments with us.

~O

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Mon Feb 06, 2012 6:29 pm
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Ulthal
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Post Re: Hard Times in Narsileon
Thanks, Omote. I confess (and freely tell my players) that I feel free to fictionalize slightly as my memory requires when it comes to write-ups. All the major events occur, but I will sometimes re-imagine conversations. I do sometimes jot down especially memorable lines during play.

After a long hiatus, we gamed again last week ... and will do so again tonight. So, look for some new updates ...

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My C&C campaign journal: Hard Times in Narsileon http://www.trolllord.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=11032
My OSRIC/1e campaign journal: Expedition to Arden Vul http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=59080


Tue Mar 27, 2012 10:58 am
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Ulthal
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Post Re: Hard Times in Narsileon
Fourteenth Laisse: In which the Heroes show their Selflessness

PCs:
Gren, level 3 human Bard
Godfrey, level 3 human knight
Cleopatra, level 4 human wizard
Flavius Stilicho, level 2 human gallowglass
Cara Long-Arrow, level 3 elf ranger
Gallafrey, level 2 human cleric
Astra, level 2 human rogue

the Deceased
Lakontios, level 1 part-human sorcerer
Hadhod, level 1 halfling rogue

The departed:
Naluvya, level 1 human cleric

Fresh from their victory, the heroes reveled in the esteem of the inhabitants of the Red Keep. Hushed voices, long looks, and the adulation of the local barkeeps greeted the party at every turn. As they rested and healed, Georgios brought them back to earth: ‘Archon Gedeon wishes to see you as soon as you are rested!’ And so, for only the second time, the victors entered the inner bailey, and indeed, into the Archon’s hall, where they found Gedeon dressed in the typical yellow robes of an imperial official and seated on a simple - but elevated - chair. Gedeon rose as the heroes entered and honored them with a slight bow. ‘My friends,’ the Archon began, ‘you have provided a service of inestimable value to the Empire and to me. Thanks to your valiant efforts, the evil which has been growing around the Keep has been banished! The priests of Set are dispersed, and with them the humanoids. We can once again turn our efforts to the true goal of the Empire, peace and harmony!’ As the characters looked on in a pleased manner, the Archon continued: ‘You have demonstrated yourself to be heroes of extraordinary resourcefulness, and I count myself wise to have taken you under my wing, if even temporarily. What would you say to making this relationship more lasting?’ The archon clapped his hands, and a servitor emerged with a silver tray covered in a yellow silk cloth. Gedeon beckoned, and then swept off the cloth, revealing seven heavy gold rings set with intaglio yellow crystals which featured the symbols of House Ligareon. ‘I would be honored to welcome you into the clientela of my house, where you will share the glories of the Ligareon and act to further her needs and interests as you have done so well already. What do you say? Shall you continue in my official service?’ Taken slightly aback, the heroes stammered slightly before Stilicho spoke up: ‘My Archon, I would be delighted to accept this token of your faith.’ The others followed in turn, although Cleopatra did ask what such ‘service’ might entail, for she had plans of her own. Gedeon assured her that joining the clientela of Ligareon did not force one into prescribed activities, but merely served to indicate loyalty and, in times of extreme duress, the expectation that the clients would aid the House. Cleopatra sighed in relief, and spoke boldly, ‘Well, Gedeon, that is good, for we have plans of our own, ones which take us to Narsileon. But, in truth, I am happy to be allied to such a noble house. By the way, are you married?” It was the archon’s turn to look flustered, and Georgios, who had accompanied the heroes, harrumphed loudly. ‘My dear wife has been dead these past four years,’ said Gedeon. Cleopatra smiled winningly.

Gedeon cleared his throat, and went on ‘Well, I am most pleased by your decision. It seems that Rudigar has still to fail me, for he has as keen an eye in choosing heroes as he does in, well, in those activities of which we shall not speak publicly. Indeed, I am so well pleased that I am willing to change the terms of the loan of those enchanted weapons which I lent you; you may keep the two maces and the gladius, for I now know that you will be using them in the service of good. But, that said, we must move to business. I depart for Narsileon myself two mornings hence, to prepare to investigate the shocking news of the marital alliance of my old friend, the Exarch Valerian Krakteros, to that harlot of a Basileon, Ysabet. I swear to Mitra, I turn my back on Valerian for a moment and he is embroiled in some new scandal. You must realize, of course, that this marriage spells disaster for the empire and for the Ligareon. I am drawn, therefore, to Narsileon, and would be pleased to greet you at our clanhouse on Imperial Row a week hence. Do not tarry too much, however, as the nuptials are set for 3 weeks hence.’ Some small discussion ensued, with the heroes learning a bit about the Dance of the Five Families, and learning that the impending marriage would upset the delicate balance between the families. Gedeon finished the conversation with another request, ‘My friends. Before you follow me to Narsileon, I would ask you to look into two small matters here in the Keep. The one involves the continuing depredations of the so-called Tharbrian Recovery League (TRL). I confess to no small amount of pique, even hurt, at the senseless slaughter inflicted by these scofflaws. They seem bent on replacing harmony with chaos, justice with lawlessness, and peace with murders. Sergeant Bledsoe [yes, he had been promoted!] reports that another of the Archontean farmsteads has been burned out. If you could look into this and see if these brigands can be dispersed, I would be most grateful. The second favor is, ah, well, a bit more unusual. Your fame seems to have grown, and the local merchants have sent me a delegation to request your assistance in a small matter regarding some thefts. I really don’t know much about it, but Narbo the jeweler is waiting in the Wet Hen to seek your assistance. Do you have anything to ask of me?’ Stilicho spoke up: ‘And what of our counterparts, Ragnar and his band of cutthroats? You employed them as you did us, but they have stymied us at every turn, and have even, we believe, killed innocent villagers in an effort to seem useful. We would like a few words with them …. I don’t suppose you would mind if they, errr, met with an ‘accident’, would you?’ The Archon rose and moved to depart: ‘No, they have proven themselves outside the law, and I will not begrudge you your - and my - vengeance. I wash my hands of their fate.’ And Stilicho grinned.

Amid a happy buzz, and with some heavier purses, the party trooped off to the Wet Hen to listen to the pleas of the merchants. There they found Ragnar and Company to have departed, to be replaced by a convivial crowd, as the barman, Warren, and his wife, Edith, had thrown open the doors and were declaring a holiday in honor of the ending of the siege from the Caves of Chaos. There, too, they found Narbo the Jeweler, standing in company with Geth the Scribe. Both of these worthies looked distinctly less jovial, and, amid the revelry, pulled at the arm of Cleopatra. ‘Mistress,’ they spoke sharply, ‘a word. The archon said we might impose on you.’ ‘Yessss, boys?’ drawled Cleopatra, ‘what may we do for you?’ Narbo took the lead, nervously, and spoke: ‘It’s, err, the Gifter. We are worried that he will return, seeing as the new moon is only two nights off. We were, ahh, wondering if you would help stop this nefarious fiend before he strikes again.’ Gren and Cleopatra looked blankly at the two: ‘The “Gifter”? What or who is that?’ ‘Why, we’ve all been visited by him,’ said Narbo. ‘He comes on the new moon, violating the sanctity of our homes and lockboxes, stealing items of value and leaving in their place a, uhhh, gift of sorts. It’s most humiliating, and we wish it to cease. Since you are the heroes of the Caves of Chaos, we have no doubt you can fix the problem!’ Cleopatra looked up with a frown: ‘Really? Petty investigation? What’s in it for us? What’s the reward?’ Narbo managed to look properly offended, but Geth spoke up ingratiatingly, ‘Why, there’s no reward save for the glory of your deeds! We aren’t wealthy men. The archon said you would help us and, after all, you are heroes.’ He looked accusingly at them. A quick discussion ensued, and it emerged that a good half of the party -Sir Godfrey, Cara Long-Arrow, Astra, and Gallafrey - was lost to the revelry. Gren, eager for social engagement, argued for the acceptance of the task, whereas Stilicho and Cleopatra seemed more dubious. But Gren’s arguments carried the day, especially once he pointed out that they were not expected in Narsileon for a ten-day. The three agreed to look into the matter.

Lengthy investigations followed, as the three heroes willingly (Gren) or unwillingly (Stilicho and Cleopatra) began to assemble a picture of the so-called Grifter’s activities. Interviews with most of the permanent merchants and outer-bailey officers produced the following pattern. The thefts seemed to have begun about a year ago and occurred on the new moon. Objects of value were taken, and replaced by strange ‘gifts’ which seemed tailor-made for their recipients. Some of the gifts were downright insulting, suggesting as they deed the crasser characteristics of the recipient. And so, arrogant Narbo the jewel-merchant lost pearl earrings and received a piece of coal carved as a badger; taciturn Hod the smith lost a bar of silver and received a hummingbird wrought of straw; smug Halicos the moneychanger lost some silk gloves and received a ‘bad penny’ which magically returned to his box when he tried using it as change; defensive Jilla the provisioner, a Tharbrian, lost a jug of her best olive oil and received a delicately carved set of wooden ‘pats of butter’ which, if used, produced a tasty meal for one; the tavernkeepers lost two bottles of fine brandy and received a bundles of straw tied with twine; and Geth the scribe lost his best quill and ink set and received six pieces of common chalk. Gren led the way, assembling the details and asking the questions. He was eager to learn who had ‘not’ been visited, and to try to catch out any of the merchants in falsehoods. And so, for instance, Griff the Trader claimed to have lost nothing, but when Stilicho grinned at him, he quickly confessed that he had lost a cashmere blanket and had received a wooden snake which hissed loudly in the presence of lies. ‘It’s terrible for business,’ the Tharbrian merchant whined, ‘and I’m unable to get rid of it.’ Master Honris, local representative of the Golden Band, also initially claimed ignorance, but after some mild threats also admitted that he had been visited, losing a set of ivory chessmen and receiving four pieces of coal strung on some twine. Only Joxer, the captain of the guard (but not very mighty), sunk in his drink, seemed to have received nothing at all. It even turned out that Gedeon, the archon, had himself been visited, a fact confirmed by the secretive Gilthor, an elven advisor of the lord; Gedeon had lost some golden candlesticks, but received a carved wooden soldier and a beautiful picture-egg featuring an Archontean princess. According to Gilthor, the archon had dismissed the one-time robbery as ‘a prank.’ An early suspect appeared to be the inkeepers, Ricos and Anna, whose stories conflicted; the one claimed they lost a silver mug, while the other an iron poker. Both thought they had been robbed ‘only days ago’, and pointed to a black onyx panther as their ‘gift’. Even Cleopatra, grudging in her accompaniment, raised an eyebrow (and a pretty one at that) at the pair’s pretty thin story. One last fact seemed pertinent. Although both Tharbrians and Archonteans had been robbed, it emerged that Ils, chief deity of the Tharbrians, was a notorious prankster, and that one of his many festivals coincided with the new moon.

Once the investigations were complete, the trio gathered to discuss their actions. Cleopatra was for riding directly to Narsileon, for the affairs of merchants concerned her not. But Stilicho’s sense of justice was intrigued, and he joined Gren in voting to set a trap for the thief. They decided to use Cleopatra’s arcane powers to render two of them invisible on the day before the new moon. The invisible pair would mingle in the monthly market festival that took place in the lower bailey that day, while the third observed from the tavern. They would pay special attention to the areas of suspicion - the innkeepers - and to the premises not yet visited by the Gifter, i.e. Georgios’ shrine to Mitra and Joxer’s quarters. Chief of all, they hoped to attract the attention of the Gifter such that he might target them on the new moon, for they felt confident they could deal with such a thief. And so the plan was put to work. Cleopatra and Stilicho turned invisible, and Gren worked the crowd at the market, telling stories in such a way as to get himself notice. The bard showed a fine knack for boasting, as he told increasingly exaggerated stories of the band’s adventures in the local caverns, and of his own prominent role as leader of the expedition. As a result of his fine persuasive abilities, the bard managed almost single-handedly to create a reputation for himself among the locals, for he was “Gren, the Hero of the Red Keep”! Sadly, the day spent observing the market produced nothing, and the day turned into night. Stilicho and Gren returned to the inn to watch the patrons, while Cleopatra staked out the well-square. Just as frustrations were rising, Cleopatra noticed something unusual - a fine silver mist was rising from the well, and was moving in a purposeful direction across the square! She quickly ‘messaged’ her companions, urging them to rouse themselves. As the mist floated above the roofs of the inn and tavern, it seemed directed at the shrine of Mitra! Telling her compadres to follow, and quickly, Cleopatra ran as quickly as she could to keep up with the swift-moving mist. Stilicho dropped out of the window of the inn so as to save time, but as Gren tried to imitate the warrior, he turned his ankle. The chase, however, was on!


By the time the trio reached the shrine, they were able to see the mist passing through the narrow crack under the front door, and into the shrine. Throwing the doors open, the heroes were in time to see a wondrous sight - the mist was gone, and in its place a slender, tall, fair-haired man was bending over the chest holding the altar objects. It was the Gifter! Gren was the only visible member of the party, and he shouted a challenge: “Halt! What do you think you’re doing!” Stilicho moved invisibly to take up position, while Cleopatra prepared a spell. The fair-haired man’s face registered pure shock for a moment, but he quickly composed himself. ‘Ahh, I see that the Cat has finally been caught. Well, Hector,’ he said, apparently referring to himself, ‘it must be time to move on, if you have been so lax as to have been followed by one such as this.’ Turning to the bard, Hector gave a low bow, and concluded, ‘I salute you and your dedication. Alas, I fear that I will disappoint you, as I have no intention of allowing you to apprehend me.’ As his hands moved towards his belt, the room exploded into activity. Cleopatra chanted an invocation, and the Cat’s eyes once again widened - ‘Ah, that explains it. Sorcery. There are more of you, it seems.’ Stilicho readied his giant two-handed sword with a low snick, which again brought a quick flicker of acknowledgement from the Cat. The enchantment (a sleep spell) did not take effect, and Stilicho’s initial swing managed only to lightly wound the feline robber. Finally taking charge of the situation, the Cat produced two clay figurines from his pouch and shattered them on the floor - two enormous black panthers appeared instantaneously, and leapt into the fray! One pounced on Stilicho, and the other on Gren. The bard was sorely mauled by the ferocious predator, and things looked grim for the heroes. Strangely, it appeared that Hector did not intend to stay and fight. For he produced a potion, drank it, and - in a flash - was once again a circle of silvery mist. Cursing, the still-invisible Cleopatra shouted to her friends: “Boys, you take care of these kitties. I’ll follow the main attraction.” Following the mist out the door, she saw it rise and begin to flee over the rooftops. A moment of sober debate followed inside Cleopatra as she contemplated repeating the triumph she had achieved in the climactic battle with Ptahros by hurling another bead of force at the fleeing burglar. But, she realized, the explosion would likely destroy a good portion of the Keep, and so she fired a magic missile at the mist before it drifted away. Meanwhile, Stilicho had managed to fell one of the panthers, but the other had practically killed Gren. Stilicho rushed over, thrusting the bard behind him, and taking the panther’s full assault. As sounds emerged from the basement, where Georgios the Curate, wailing about intruders, was only now beginning to emerge up the stairs, the desperate climax of the battle ensued. Stilicho, dripping with blood, hewed at the panther, taking much damage in return. Just as Georgios emerged, Gren stepped up and administered the coup de grace. Georgios saw this, and his eyes opened. “It is as they said in the market,” he said. “You are truly Gren the Mighty.” Moving swiftly forward he ran to support the bard, barely sparing a moment for the injured gallowglass. “You have done an immense service to Mitra, friend Gren! We cannot thank you enough! But, what is this? You are wounded! Allow me to minister to you.” Gren had the kindness to say “And what about my friend, Stilicho.” Stilicho grinned once more, shook his head, and announced. “Enjoy it, little bard. I seek my healing in the Wet Hen.”

And so the career of the Gifter seemed to have ended in the Red Keep. Gren, however, could not get rid of a strong feeling that Hector the Cat might turn up when they least expected him ...

_________________
My C&C campaign journal: Hard Times in Narsileon http://www.trolllord.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=11032
My OSRIC/1e campaign journal: Expedition to Arden Vul http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=59080


Tue Mar 27, 2012 10:59 am
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Ulthal
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Posts: 545
Location: Greensboro, NC
Post a 'heroic' episode?
PCs:
Gren, level 3 human Bard
Godfrey, level 3 human knight
Cleopatra, level 4 human wizard
Flavius Stilicho, level 2 human gallowglass
Cara Long-Arrow, level 3 elf ranger
Astra, level 2 human rogue

the Deceased
Lakontios, level 1 part-human sorcerer
Hadhod, level 1 halfling rogue

The departed:
Naluvya, level 1 human cleric
Gallafrey, level 2 human cleric

Fresh off their triumph over the Gifter, the heroes turned to the second task left them by the Archon. It seemed that the infamous group of Tharbrian rebels known as the Tharbrian Recovery League had struck only two days ago, burning the homestead of an Archontean family to the ground. Newly-promoted Sergeant Bledsoe led the group down to river, where they inspected the remains of the burned-out house. The single-story dwelling was completely destroyed, with only some skeletal beams projecting out of the ruins. Nearby were the tumuli of the four members of the family who had been slain in the attack. Two cloth-yard shafts, dyed blue and with blue feathers, projected from one of the beams. Pointing to the arrows, the sergeant noted that they were the classic sign of the TCL. And so Cara Long-Arrow began looking for tracks and signs while Cleopatra and Stilicho interviewed the closest neighbor. It appeared the attack came in the night, and that the neighbors suspected Tharbrians. Cara had better luck, and located a set of tracks - of about 15 to 20 men - which led south towards the river and the forest. She led the party to a concealed ford, and then to a new set of tracks which led straight to a game trail at the forest’s edge. Feeling that Cara would have better luck as a scout without the entire party trooping noisily behind her, Cleopatra bade the elf to see if she could find the Tharbrians’ lair. So Cara moved lightly into the forest, using all her woodcraft to follow the tracks. She passed a pair of crossing trails, but kept going straight until she reached a clearing about a mile into the forest; the clearing opened onto a medium-sized pond. More of interest to Cara was the fact that the clearing was filled with goat carcasses! Taking note of another path leaving the clearing on the far side, Cara retreated and rejoined her comrades.

Some discussion ensued about what to do, and about the reason why the Tharbrians seemed to be leaving goat carcasses about. Stilicho, however, decided it was time to ‘Throw Down!’, so the entire party, joined by Sgt. Bledsoe and two guardsmen, followed Cara back up the path. Assuming they could lure the Tharbrians into a trap, they posted Cara, Gren, and the guardsmen along the edge of the clearing, with Cleopatra and Sgt Bledsoe along the path itself. Stilicho and Godfrey advanced boldly into the clearing and the gallowglass shouted “Hey You! Come on out!” The tension was thick as he struck a pose with his massive claymore and the entire group waited, eyes on the far side of the clearing. Alas! They should have been looking to the heavens, for the stillness was suddenly punctuated by the beating of heavy wings and a flight of thick quarrels towards the warriors. It was a manticore, and it had taken them by surprise! Fortunately for the heroes the majority of the beast’s quills missed their target, and the fight was joined. As the creature circled, firing more quarrels, Cleopatra quickly wove a spell, and instantly the air just above the creature was filled with Pummeling Fists. These powerful gusts forced the creature to the ground, where Stilicho and Godfrey ran to engage it. With arrows and magic missiles flying, and the two warriors hewing, the manticore was swiftly brought down, although not without inflicting some nasty wounds on the warriors and depleting Cleopatra’s magical strength. Eventually the heroes prevailed, and, with no small amount of pride, they stood around the beast, chattering excitedly about their deeds. Stilicho moved forward and with a quick swipe beheaded the manticore; “This will make a fine trophy for your hall, eh Bledsoe?“ he quipped. “Aye, lad,” said the Sergeant, “and weren’t it mighty lucky we had Gren the Mighty here to show you youngsters how to handle such creatures?” Stilicho ground his teeth, for despite his deeds, the legend of Gren the Mighty had clearly taken ahold among the Keep’s garrison.

Cleopatra took charge. “Cara,” she said, “see if you can locate the creature’s lair. I will acquire some specimens from the beast.” Just then, however, a familiarly shrill and mocking voice drifted across the clearing: “Why, look what we got here, Ragnar! Lambs ripe fer the fleecing!” It was Doffy the goblin rogue, with the rest of the heroes’ arch-rivals! Worse of all, the heroes were completely surprised! “Ja, Doffy. So it seems,” said Ragnar, fingering his axe, “and it’d be a shame to have to butcher them as well.” Addressing the party, the Skandik continued: “It looks like this ain’t your lucky day, friends. Why don’t you all back away from the corpse, peaceful-like, and make your way back down that track. Since we’ve got the drop on you, we will be generous and not slay you. Shall we call it a truce? You can leave the clean-up to us.” Ragnar grinned as he indicated his comrades, ready with spell sand bows. Stilicho swore under his breath, for despite his injuries he wanted nothing more than to silence Doffy once and for all. Some hurried conversation ensued, with some of the party - namely Stilicho - wishing to rush the enemy, regardless of the results, and others - Gren and Sgt. Bledsoe - urging a strategic withdrawal. Surprisingly, it was Cleopatra who spoke up, and loudly: “Okay, boys. They’ve got us. Let’s go.” As she turned to leave, Stilicho caught her eye and mouthed “You’ve got a plan, right?” Cleo winked, and the heroes trudged towards the exit, their recent triumph turned to glum resignation. Doffy offered a few choice comments about their courage before Ragnar silenced him, saying “There’s no dishonor in knowing when you’re beaten. We’ll see them again, I think.” As the fighter finished his speech, Cleopatra whirled and threw a small, bead-like object the length of the meadow. “Now we fight, boys!” shouted the enchantress. To the surprise of all (including the DM!), Cleo had hurled one of her remaining beads of force into the enemy party; it exploded with a massive “WHUMP!” and a ball of flame. “Now we’ll see who’s taunting whom,” shouted Stilicho as he rushed across the clearing. The rest of the ‘heroes’ were shocked, but quickly nocked arrows and prepared for action. Sgt. Bledsoe, however, looked askance at the wizard: “What have you done, missy? Gren would never have broken a truce like that!”

As it turned out, the rest of the conflict was brief and anticlimactic. Ragnar was dazed by the force of the explosion and most of his equipment was incinerated; he fell forward onto his knees, with his hands raised in surrender. Fredegar the cleric was slain outright. The robes and hair of Janeel the White, Ragnar’s wizard, had caught fire, and she was screaming in agony. Doffy merely shouted, “So it’s like this, eh? See you later, suckers!” and disappeared into the woods. Eadred the ranger also took the opportunity to flee the scene. Stilicho, still looking for someone to slay, was forced to accept Ragnar’s surrender while Gren helped extinguish the flames on Janeel. Ragnar, true to his Skandik origins, was phlegmatic in defeat, and proved willing to talk. He confirmed that his band had fled the Keep and had been living in the forest for about ten days; moreover, they had been using goats to placate the manticore and thereby ensure free passage through the forest. He knew where the manticore laired, and, more significantly, knew of a secret trail which Cara’s keen eyes had missed and which led to the camp of the Tharbrians. “But you had better watch out,” Ragnar warned, “since that Wulfric fellow - their leader - he’s got about twenty men with him. You gotta watch out, too, ‘cause Wulfric’s girlfriend is a spell-caster. One nasty piece of work, that’un!” After locating and looting the manticore’s lair the wounded and exhausted party returned with their prisoners to the Keep. There Stilicho approached Ragnar with a surprising offer: “You seem pretty honorable for an enemy, Ragnar. Would you like to join us?” Ragnar responded in kind, “Well, I admire your toughness, Stilicho. I would be happy to swear an oath to you. I would need to receive my fair share of your proceeds, though.” “Done!” exclaimed Stilicho happily. Meanwhile, Cleopatra had another mission in mind. She visited Janeel the White in her cell and asked, perkily, whether Janeel might like to trade magical knowledge. “With you, you fiend? You, who broke the sacred law of the truce? Never!” “Enjoy your cell, then,” replied Cleopatra, and she departed.

Leaving Janeel to the tender mercies of the law, the band once more journeyed into the forest, joined this time by Sgt. Bledsoe, his two guardsmen, and Ragnar. With the latter’s assistance, Cara was able to locate the hidden path to the Tharbrian camp. “You better watch out,” Ragnar added, “since Wulfric has got some men in the trees here and there.” With his assistance, they were able to surprise the first watchman and feather him with arrows before he could alert the main base. As they drew close, they could smell the cookfires and hear the sounds of the Tharbrian camp. Cara once again scouted, and reported that the camp included a long house, a shrine, a shed, an open-sided structure, and a square block house. Feeling the blood-lust rising, Stilicho urged a frontal assault. “We’ll surprise them!” he pleaded. Gren wondered a bit, especially given Ragnar’s description of the size of their forces. But the warrior’s counsel took hold, and a quick, direct assault was devised. Stilicho, Godfrey, Bledsoe, and Ragnar would burst into the clearing and form a shield wall, while Cara, Gren and the guardsmen fanned out on each side to shoot arrows. Cleopatra would direct the action and use her spells from the rear. And so it was done! Shouting his war cry, “I came to throw DOWN!”, Stilicho led the charge. A number of Tharbrian bandits were surprised at their tasks, and events began to unfold rapidly. Cleopatra cast one of her Pummeling Fists spell at the door of the longhouse just as the Tharbrians began to pour out of it. The party’s archers took out the initial group of Tharbrians by the campfire. Suddenly the group began to take arrow fire in return, and Gren reported four scouts located in platforms above the campsite. Several tougher Tharbrian Lieutenants, moreover, began to direct the bandits into a semblance of order. Shouting for the warriors to hold their line, Cleopatra hurled another of her precious beads of force - leaving only two remaining! - at the mustering forces, and they began to go down. Cleo also used her last Pummeling Fists spell to force one of the sets of Tharbrian scouts to leave their post in the trees. But, just as it looked as if an easy victory was within reach, the numbers of the Tharbrians began to take hold. Godfrey was badly wounded, as was Ragnar. Cara took a serious arrow shot and had to retreat, where she gulped a healing potion. What was worse, some new enemies emerged from the blockhouse - it was Wulfric the Unwashed, the mighty leader of the band, and his paramour, an enchantress of Archontean extraction! As the party’s warriors hacked at their enemies, this enchantress - a certain Amelie Ligareon - wove her hands in an arcane pattern and … WHUMP! … the party was rocked by an fiery explosion! Amelie had cast a fireball on the party! Sgt. Bledsoe and his two troopers died instantly, Cleopatra was sorely burned, and the warriors’ visions of victory began to fade! Cleopatra called out “Perhaps we should retreat, boys! Best to live to fight another day, and all ….” But Stilicho would have nothing of it. And so the hewing continued, made the more desperate by Wulfric’s appearance among the combatants. Cleopatra used the last of her beads of force and a goodly stock of charges from her wand of missiles, and Stilicho and Godfrey fought back to back as the pile of Tharbrian bodies grew. Gren’s bow had been destroyed in the fireball, and he rushed to join the struggle. As the wounds began to mount, desperation grew. Finally, with an enormous blow, Stilicho dropped Wulfric; his paramour let out a shriek of hatred, and she swore on the name of her family that she would avenge his death. Despite her threats, however, Amelie was no fool, and as Stilicho charged towards her she disappeared from sight, leaving only the echoes of her rage. Although almost all the heroes were close to death, they were able to slay most of the Tharbrians, leaving only a last couple to flee into the woods. The brutal slog of a fight was over, and the heroes had emerged triumphant. It had been a near thing, however, and all mourned the death of brave Sergeant Bledsoe. “And now for the looting!” grinned Cleopatra.

_________________
My C&C campaign journal: Hard Times in Narsileon http://www.trolllord.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=11032
My OSRIC/1e campaign journal: Expedition to Arden Vul http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=59080


Mon Apr 09, 2012 4:43 pm
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