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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 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
Profile
Ulthal
User avatar

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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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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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
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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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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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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
Drogden, level 2 cleric

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
Astra, level 2 rogue (probably departed ...)

Fresh off their amazing victory over the Tharbrian Recovery League, the heroes set to the looting with gusto. The Tharbrians’ camp site featured several areas of interest. The long house, in which had dwelled the majority of the warriors, produced some copper coins, a pair of bone dice, a fine lute, and a handsome wolfskin. The corpse of the rebels’ leader, Wulfric, was more lucrative: it produced an enchanted battleaxe, with the name “Strigona’s Avenger” incised on the hilt. The stronghouse, however, offered the juiciest rewards: a quarter talent of silver coins, two valuable rugs, six bottles of fine brandy, six enchanted arrows, Amelie’s red-calfskin spellbook, a locked iron chest, and … a bound and gagged human! The human proved to be a battle-cleric of Werrab who had rashly challenged several of the Tharbrians to combat before being overwhelmed. He gave his name as Drogden, and volunteered to accompany the heroes. Already concerned at the loss of their companion Galafrey, the heroes were quick to welcome Drogden to their party. And as for the iron box? Its valuables came in the form of intelligence rather than wealth: a set of the gold tokens stamped with TRL on the obverse and Remember! on the reverse; a small codex with the names of local farmers, with dates and notes about attacks; a cache of iron pins shaped like feathers; a jeweled eye, blue with a yellow pupil (identified by Drogden as a symbol of the Tharbrian deity, Ils), two parchment letters; and a sketch map, apparently drawn by Wulfric himself. The enormity of the letters’ content is such that this scribe will reproduce them below, but once again Drogden was able to point out that the sketch map indicated a section of Tharb-town in Narsileon.

But the letters indicated serious conspiracies! The first read as follows:

Wulfric - We have the Archon on the run. Continue your mission, using whatever means necessary to disrupt the Empire’s grasp on our homeland. You may find an imperial messenger traveling to the Keep shortly. He is loaded with what we need. Take him! Give our best to Amelie, and our thanks for her support. Yours, Aelfgar.
For Eadred Strigona!


Much discussion was had concerning this letter. It appeared to reveal that the Tharbrian Recovery League was more extensive than previously surmised; in fact, it felt as if their recent triumph was but the first step in a much more elaborate dance. All agreed that this mysterious Aelfgar would need to be located … and dealt with! The second letter was more personal:

Dearest Wulf - of course I am yours forever. Our cause is just, and I am pleased to be able to offer whatever advantage my outer skin provides me in its furtherance. Once I’ve gathered the supplies from the usual source in Narsileon I shall rejoin you. The game is proving entertaining! Much love, A.

Again, more discussion ensued, as the heroes discussed the apparent treachery of this Amelie Ligareon, member of one of the Five Families! How could she be supporting rebels against the empire? Was it politics, or ‘merely’ love? What seemed more pertinent, however, was the letter’s intimation that a regular source in Narsileon was supplying Wulfric … and others? Could the sketch map have been related to the supply situation? It was time to find out.

The heroes returned to the Red Keep bearing the bodies of Sergeant Bledsoe and the two troopers. The residents were simultaneously saddened by the losses, but delighted by the news that they might finally be safe from attacks, whether humanoid or Tharbrian. Healing, resting, boasting, and plotting ensued before finally, after a few days, the party set out for Narsileon.

The road was relatively peaceful, as it traveled through farmlands under Imperial protection. The second day out, however, they were met by torrential rains which might have caused flooding had they not been traveling the imperial highway. Amid the torrents they did espy a strange sight: a band of mercenaries some 40 strong was engaged in mortal (but soggy) combat with a trio of manticores. Cara scouted the scene, reported back to her friends, and the heroes decided not to get involved. And so taking a detour through the rain, they passed on to Narsileon.

Lo, Narsileon! Shining jewel of the Empire! Bastion of civilization among the heathen! Who would not wish to return to the womb of culture and learning? And so, as a bee drawn to sweet nectar, the heroes drew close to the home of the Exarch. The shining walls were visible from leagues away, as were the enormous Hippodrome, the three sorcerers’ spires, and the shining compounds of Imperial Row. The heroes passed the cantonments of the imperial legions and moved through the extramural districts, honing in on the War Gate. There they paid their toll and, after some testy dialogue with the watch commander, allowed their weapons to be bound with red silk ribbons in accordance with Imperial Law and the Exarch’s peace. Once the grumbling was over, the heroes moved into the city. “And now, boys,” grinned Cleopatra, “it’s time to shop!”

First a pied-à-terre was needed. Gren reminded his friends that, well, he enjoyed a ‘certain reputation’ at the Grey Minstrel, located just around the corner in the Collegium district. Without other obvious options, they made their way to the Minstrel. There the patron, Edgar Flatnose, was delighted to greet Gren, whose legendary one-night performance some months back was, Edgar assured him, still the talk of the tavern. Edgar and his wife looked a bit more suspiciously at Godfrey, recalling a bar fight from the same era, but as Godfrey seemed to have abandoned his seedy, ugly companion (Lakontios, RIP!), they eventually warmed to the group and offered lodgings at a reasonable weekly rate. Cleopatra demurred, however, as she was certain that she could stay at her Collegium; Godfrey, moreover, thought he should seeking lodgings with the Azure Shield. The rest happily took up lodging at the Minstrel, where Gren was immediately pressed into service in the common room. Edgar actually had a message to relate: “That fellow who dresses all in red, Rudigar is it? Yes, well, he asked me to tell you that he has an important message for you, and will deliver it in a day or two. I guess you know what that means, for I surely do not!”

As heroic deeds, not bartering with vendors, is the proper source for epic songs, we shall pass over the mundane (if necessary) activities which occupied the heroes over the next few days. Needless to say, Cleopatra renewed her membership in the Collegium of Macrina, which allowed her the opportunity to consult the spell books owned by the Collegium and the recipes of the Collegium’s alchemical laboratory. Cleopatra also sought out Philemon’s Emporium of Rare Goods, where she sold some knick-knacks and admired Philemon’s merchandise.

It must be noted, however, that Flavius Stilicho chose to divert himself in other ways. The warrior, so fierce in combat, so loyal to comrades, so unflinching in the face of adversity, was, after all, human. As is so often the case, the temptations of the civilized world proved too much for the simple soldier. With his bulging purse just screaming to be lightened, Stilicho set out to sample the pleasures of the big city [Ed.: he decided to carouse for XP. Thank you, Jeff Rients!] Accompanied by his new friend Drogden, Stilicho commenced with several rounds of congratulatory beverages at the Minstrel before moving on to the Diamond Spider in the Docks district. There, amid the longshoremen and sailors, Stilicho was introduced to the delights of Heseltine’s Lotus Powder; several hours later, with a new group of friends and with Drogden abandoned, Stilicho moved to the lowest den of iniquity in the worst district of city, the Sign of the Rampant Monkey in the Wall district. Alas for lost virtue! For the sake of modesty we pass over the legions of doxies, pimps, actors, rogues, and other undesirables who frequent this foul dive! Needless to say, a full purse made Stilicho a popular man. Before his mind succumbed fully to the pleasures of Heseltine’s Powder and his memory abandoned him, Stilicho recalled a delightful young lady named Freidel, whose experience with the 51st Way of Opening the Lotus is without comparison; a new boon companion named Gregor, who was fully acquainted with all the ‘best people’; a pair of twins named Thora and Thorel, about whom nothing more need be said; and even a donkey of a temperament most sweet. At some point in the long evening, however, Stilicho found himself alone, his purse empty, and subject to the most cruel of beatings. When he awoke, lying in a circle of his own effluvia, naked save for a loincloth, he could not recall exactly where and when the good times ended. Needless to say, he had lost all his money, all his equipment, and a good portion of his vitality. Wiser (at least to an extent), but much poorer, Stilicho trudged all the way back to the Minstrel, where a relieved Drogden hurried him upstairs before Edgar could register his dismay.

When the heroes reconvened in the common room after a day of recovery, the first order of business was moral instruction! Godfrey and Cleopatra clucked at the warrior, offering him much useful advice concerning urban behavior. Stilicho was in no mood to listen: “Let be!,” he roared as he cradled his aching head, “I have learned my lesson. Haseltine’s is not the best Lotus powder!” As his friends snickered or frowned (depending on their own proclivities), a shaggy, disreputable fellow who smelled strongly of fish approached their table. He was practically dancing from foot to foot, as if impatient or uncertain of his surroundings. At first all assumed he was one of Stilicho’s new ‘friends’, but he addressed the entire group: “I am Hesteon.” Pause. “Some call me the Fish [aha! The odor!]” Pause. “Right, well your man Rudigar wanted to pass on some information to you. Said it was right urgent, he did. Said you’d reward me handsomely, he did [with a glint in his eye]. He said to tell you this [and he adopted a sing-song voice, as if reciting from memory]: ‘I have found an informant who knows who took the Eastern Star [a diamond]. It is imperative that we secure this source before Other Powers locate him. Please act without me. I will return as quickly as is possible.’” Pause. “So that’s it, then. Rudigar, he asked me to lead you to this bloke, the one in the message. You ready?” The party conferred. Stilicho was without any equipment, and so they begged a two hour delay. The Fish looked uncomfortable and hopped back and forth: “Well, you knows your business, doncha? Two hours, then. But don’t be late! This here is important! I’ll meet you at the edge of the Hippodrome, on the Street of Veils. Two hours!” Pocketing a few silvers which Cleopatra threw at him, Hesteon - and his stench - sidled into the street.

The heroes took another look at Stilicho. “No equipment, eh?” said Godfrey. “Not another word,” replied Stilicho, “Let’s go to the armorer.” It took the full two hours, but eventually the band located a good weaponsmith and armorer, and agreed on a price. Sadly, Stilicho had NO MONEY [ed. Insert maniacal DM laughter here], so he was forced to beg from his comrades. Cleopatra pursed her lips and shook her pretty head, “Stilicho, you poor fool. I will loan you the money for armor [650 gp]. But you will pay it all back, or I will take it out of your hide!” Godfrey kindly fronted Stilicho the money for a new greatsword (40 gp). Thus indebted and amused, the heroes set off for their meeting with Hesteon.

They found the Fish hopping from foot to foot. “Haste, me hearties! Haste! We can’t let this bird run, can we now? Let’s move!” And thus commenced a bewildering journey into the heart of that foul district known as the Wall, for it brooded under two shadows, that of the Slope, where the palaces of the rich loomed just out of reach, and a fragment of the old City Wall, now mostly decrepit and home to cutpurses, rats, and worse. Hesteon made great haste, as the heroes moved between ramshackle tenements, rotting warehouses, mansions now fallen on hard times and divided into apartments, and worse. After about 20 minutes, Hesteon turned a corner and shouted “This way! He’s right up ahead.” As the party followed him down a narrow alley, flanked by two- and three-story buildings, Hesteon darted ahead, dropped down a manhole, and pulled the lid shut, muttering “So long, suckers!” as he disappeared. Hardly before their disbelief had been registered, a shrill, mocking, and utterly familiar voice drifted down from the rooftops: “Heh heh heh. Sooo, Stilicho. You and Cleopatra and your treacherous friends thought you could betray Doffy, did you? Well we shall see about that! At them boys!” It was the goblin rogue Doffy, their nemesis, last seen escaping from Cleopatra’s fiery assault in the forest outside the Red Keep!

The trap, for so it was, was well-planned, and better executed. Archers appeared on the rooftops and began peppering the heroes with arrows. As Doffy shrieked hysterically, one other threat emerged - straight out of the pavement at the mouth of the alleyway. It was an 8’ tall, vaguely human-shaped being apparently carved out of solid rock, and it was able to move through the earth and stone like a fish through water! It was, of course, an earth elemental. Cleopatra looked around desperately - most of the doors were barricaded, but one to the right seemed still useable. Stilicho called to her “Use your spells, dammit!” “I prepared for negotiation, not a street-fight,” she retorted, “I fear I will not be of much help!” Stilicho, Godfrey, Ragnar and Drogden stood tall, even as Cara and Cleopatra sprinted for the doorway. As Drogden took an arrow to the shoulder, he grinned and shouted “Ahh, the battle lust rises.” Stilicho strode forth and delivered a massive blow from his greatsword, but the sword left no more than a slight ‘ding’ on the ponderous elemental. The elemental delivered two massive blows to Drogden, who went down like a sack of potatoes … bleeding but not quite dead yet. Godfrey the knight took command: “Ragnar and Stilicho, you drag the cleric back into the building - I’ll hold him off.” Godfrey shouted his battle cry, inspiring confidence in all around him, and charged forward with his blade held high: calling on his higher power, he unleashed a wicked slash at the monster - to no avail! [He rolled the d30, got a total of 23, but failed to impact the elemental!] Cleopatra had gained the room inside the building, where she was dodging arrows: “Come on boys!,” she shouted, “What are you waiting for?” “We are in deeeep trouble,” came Godfrey’s reply, “I think we need enchanted weapons to hit it.” As the elemental battered the knight with its massive fists, Godfrey turned and ran for cover.

The party gasped for breath, and Stilicho sized up the situation - a stairway led to the second storey, but the dwelling was almost entirely empty, as the slum-dwellers had pillaged it for anything useless. Just then came a massive crash and the sound of snapping and splintering wood followed: the elemental lurched into the room. “Up we go,” shouted Stilicho, “Ladies first!” Cleopatra and Cara raced up the stairs as the warriors argued briefly for the honor of being the rear guard. As their dispute had some negative consequences - namely the massive fists of the elemental which hammered at Stilicho - they, too, turned and ran. On the second floor Cara spotted a ladder leading to the roof. “I’ll check out the roof,” she muttered. As she emerged gingerly onto the roof, fully expecting to take arrows and worse, she found that Doffy and his allies had already fled. Calling this news down the ladder, she scouted the perimeter of the roof. Once again the warriors argued tactics; aware that their mundane weapons were inflicting no damage on the elemental, and equally aware that Cleopatra had only a couple of magic missiles left, they wasted time debating whether it was honorable to run. Godfrey switched to the enchanted mace given him by the archon, Gedeon. Meanwhile, the elemental inexorably climbed the stairs. Stilicho finally threw himself at the thing - “Climb the ladder, you fools!” Ragnar took him at his word, and climbed up. Drogden, now conscious due to the application of healing herbs, followed suit. Godfrey lingered in the rear, uncertain whether his knightly code would permit him to leave. He, too, took a mighty swing at the elemental, but apparently the enchantment on his mace was still insufficient to harm the stoney monster. He turned towards the ladder. But where was Cleopatra? She had simply … vanished. As Godfrey ran for the ladder, he saw Stilicho fall beneath the elemental’s fists. “No!,” shouted Godfrey, and he turned back towards his fallen comrade. “What are you doing, fool?” barked Drogden, and he and Ragnar leaned down and bodily lifted the struggling knight up the hatchway to safety. “It won’t help if you go down, too!” From the relative safety of the roof the shaken heroes heard the sounds of more splintering wood as the elemental destroyed the ladder and much of the structure before clomping back down the stairs. All the while Stilicho lay there, bleeding out ….

As the elemental turned the corner, however, a voice emerged from the emptiness: “What’s that idiot Stilicho doing bleeding out his lifeforce on the floor? Doesn’t he remember that he still owes me money?” It was Cleopatra, who had turned invisible and had been lurking, quiet as a mouse, in the corner as the elemental completed its destruction. Quickly applying her last healing salve, she halted the bleeding and called up to her comrades: “Boys, help me get this debtor up to the roof!” And so it was done. Stilicho was revived by Cara’s potion of healing, and as his eyes opened he took stock of the situation: “Thank the Gods! I’m still clothed!”

Chastened, the heroes clambered over the rooftops, encountering no small number of illicit groups doing any number of illegal activities. But, perhaps humbled by their experiences, they adopted a ‘See no evil’ approach, and eventually made their way back to the Minstrel, where they all collapsed in exhaustion. “It’s city living,” observed Cara, “I always knew it wasn’t very healthy.”

_________________
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 17, 2012 6:21 pm
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Battle Stag
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Joined: Wed May 03, 2006 7:00 am
Posts: 10705
Location: The fairest view in the park, Ohio.
Post Re: Hard Times in Narsileon
You guys don't play often enough. ;)

~O

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Thu May 17, 2012 8:06 pm
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Ulthal
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Location: Greensboro, NC
Post Re: Hard Times in Narsileon
Omote - I appreciate it! I have to say that I never laughed as hard at a rpg session as I did this past time - Stilicho's misadventures with carousing nearly brought tears to my eyes.

Just finished another session tonight, and I will try to get it down while the memories are still fresh. Another classic Stilicho moment: jumping out of a third story building that was on fire (due to his own rashness), clutching the strongbox they needed to find, and shouting "Son of a biiiiitttch".

But everybody had a chance to shine tonight. Hopefully the write-up will reflect that ....

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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 May 18, 2012 3:21 am
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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 4 human Bard
Godfrey, level 3 human knight
Cleopatra, level 4 human wizard
Flavius Stilicho, level 3 human gallowglass
Cara Long-Arrow, level 3 elf ranger
Drogden, level 2 cleric

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
Astra, level 2 rogue (probably departed ...)

Out of the frying pan ...
Sobered by their brush with disaster, the friends rested for the next several days at the Grey Minstrel (or in their alternate accomodations, as Cara and Cleopatra were residing at the Collegium, and Godfrey with his fellow-knights). Such relaxation was welcome, if unusual, and allowed the more contemplative to muse about a number of pressing matters. Cara wondered, for instance, about Doffy’s rapid appearance and his ability to mobilize such formidable forces on short notice; “How come I cannot summon such allies? she complained. Gren was contemplating the fleetingness of fame, and was planning how best to ensure his continued popularity as the new resident bard at the Minstrel; he was delighted, moreover, to find that his adventures had improved his skills! Godfrey and Drogden had more prosaic matters on their minds, as they worried that the quality of their equipment did not quite match their exploits; both took their earnings off to the weaponsmiths of the Crafters’ Square, where each ended up as the owner of a weapon of renown. Godfrey purchased a Nine-Ring Sword that had spent six generations in the Hopkile family, where it had been wielded by the famous knight Theodore Hopkile; what is more, the Hopkiles swore that the blade had originally belonged to the legendary Larel One-Eye, he who features in so many instructive and amusing folk-tales. Drogden sought out a battle-axe whose pedigree was more recent, if no less illustrious; handing over his coins to the Skandik smith, he became the proud owner of Keeldring, the axe wielded by the famous skandik chieftain Eirik White-throat during his epic voyages along the Crimson Coast. Cara felt keenly the press of the urban bustle, and spent her time in the relative quiet of the Collegium’s halls. Ah, but what of Stilicho? Fame mattered nought to him, and more to the point he still possessed no coin with which to procure it. Indeed, he was more concerned with sorting through the stream of ‘new friends’ who came to greet him, some recalling half-remembered games of chance from his epic binge, others demanding the return of promised coin, powder, or worse. He sent them all packing, vowing that no unremembered jackal could bind him with word or smile!

The band was paid a visit by Rudigar the Red, finally. Rudigar was able to shed some light on a few of their perplexing mysteries. Sharp-minded Gren asked an obvious question: “Wasn’t that Amelie girl that we fought in the forest from the same house, House Ligareon, as Gedeon, archon of the Red Keep?” Rudigar nodded at the clever question, and confirmed the sad coincidence. Amelie was indeed known to Rudigar, and to Gedeon, whose second cousin she was; she was daughter of Theodoric, head of the third lineage, whereas Gedeon was son of Larmesol, head of the eldest lineage. Amelie was considered a black sheep, disavowed (at least publicly) by the more prominent members of her kindred. Still, Rudigar felt there was more to her story than met the eye: laying his finger aside his nose, he commented “There are circles within circles, you know.”

Rudigar also offered his opinion on Doffy: “That goblin is well-connected with the Brotherhood.” Ragnar, Doffy’s former employer, concurred: “Sure, and that little rascal came well-recommended. Some fellows I know in Narsileon, they told me he was one of the best. And despite his yapping, he sure was a good little rogue.” The Benevolent Brotherhood is, of course, the empire-wide organization of ‘gentlemen of the night’, whose official (and public) guildhouse in Narsileon was located only blocks from Stilicho’s new favorite drinking establishment, the Rampant Monkey.

Sensing the group’s strong desire for vengeance against Doffy, Rudigar shook his head. “It will take more than charging into the Slope and knocking on doors to shake that nut out of the tree,” he noted wryly, “you just can’t confront the Brotherhood directly, or you’ll all be swimming in the harbor. You’ll need to perform some serious - and quiet - reconnaissance work and, preferably, get into the good graces of the Priors of the Brotherhood. Then, and only then, might you be able to take on Doffy without retribution.” Stilicho grinned, and the sweat broke out on his brow: “Oh well,” he said, “it’s nothing. We’ve got lots of better things to do.”

As they enjoyed a few of Edgar’s fine ales, Rudigar broached a few subjects of his own. “What about the Tharbrian Recovery League?” he asked. “Don’t worry about them,” said Godfrey. “We took care of them already.” Rudigar puffed his pipe: “All of them? Surely you don’t imagine that the one cell you eliminated near the Keep constituted the entirety of the TRL? I took you for more clever folk than that.” Cleopatra did not appreciate ‘her boys’ being belittled by an outsider, as she considered such work to fall solely under her purview. Thinking hard and quickly, she replied with a touch of asperity: “Well, of course we know that. We have some good leads, including a letter from a certain Aelfgar and a sketch-map, both of which we took from that thug, Wulfric.” Rudigar nodded, impressed: “Ahh, so it’s Aelfgar again, eh? The name is a code name for one of the main political and financial backers of the TRL; some think he’s one of the dispossessed Tharbrian nobles, others dare whisper - treasonously, I might add, that he is actually an Archontean. But what about this map?” Stilicho produced the sketch and all gathered around to examine it; it showed what seemed to be a road called Thufir’s Row, above which was an establishment called ‘Othir’s’, an unnamed temple, and a three-story house marked with an X. To most of the party, the map meant nothing. But Rudigar, Gren, and Drogden took sharp breaths, and Drogden muttered “Aha, it all points back to Tharb-town.” He meant of course, that district of Narsileon to which the bulk of the Tharbrian natives had been pushed upon the return of the Empire some century ago; Thufir’s Run was one of the main streets running through the district. Rudigar again adopted an ironic smile: “Hmmm … After your encounter with Amelie Ligareon, I wonder how well you will be treated by our fellow-citizens in Tharb-town? She will undoubtedly have spread the word of your involvement in the destruction of one of the TRL’s cells.” “Still,” he continued, “this is vital information, and we musn’t let it grow too cold. Gedeon and his friends would be most appreciative to be able to inform the Exarch that the TRL had suffered an even greater blow, and at hands other than those of the officers of the Drome. Perhaps at your hands?” He shrugged and left the question hanging.

But Rudigar was not finished. “I bear news of other pressing business. Political business,” he said with some disdain. “The Exarch is exercised because one of the members of the Dwarven embassy to Narsileon has gone missing in the Slope district. You know, of course, that Dwarves keep mostly to themselves, rarely leaving their fastness of Kazildor. It was quite a coup for the Exarch when he was approached by a small group wishing to set up a trade mission between the two cities. The dwarves elected to build their embassy not on Imperial Row, but at the edge of the slums, just down the slope from the Exarch’s palace. At any rate, one of their ambassadors, a certain Durtal the Tapper, went missing, and the Exarch wants him found. Keko’s got agents of the Drome crawling all over that area, but the Drome is pretty well known. Once again, Gedeon feels that if you could find this missing dwarf before the Drome does, it would be a feather in the cap of House Ligareon. I am able to provide an initial introduction to the dwarves, if you like. Finally, there is also the matter of the Eastern Star, still missing even though the Exarch’s wedding to that witch of a Basileon is fast approaching.”

Gren and Cleopatra looked at each other. “We will need to consult amongst ourselves,” said the bard. Rudigar graciously moved to another table, and the debate commenced in earnest. Some were in favor of tracking the missing dwarven diplomat, while others wished to pursue the TRL. Finally a vote was called by Stilicho, and the majority’s will prevailed: they would follow the hot lead from the sketch-map and hope to knock out the TRL supplier. Of course, how to accomplish this goal provoked just as much argument as the question of which task to undertake. After much bickering, and several reminders that they would all stand out like sore thumbs in Tharb-town, the heroes decided to gather at Ophir’s, the tavern marked on the map. Most eschewed their armor, and Godfrey reluctantly put aside his new blade. All ensured that the peace-knots which bound their weapons were tight and evident.

And so, hoping to allay the suspicions of any watchers, they drifted into Tharb-town in twos and threes. All but Cleopatra and Cara made for Othir’s, while those two worthies sought out the temple that had been marked on the map. Othir’s proved to be a two-storey, traditional and unassuming tavern, one which clearly catered to the local Tharbrian workingmen. As the heroes entered, the buzzing common room first quieted, and then went completely silent. Drogden, unafraid of any fight, marched up to the bar and ordered a drink. The barman looked at him and said, in a thick Tharbrian accent “Don’t you think you’d better find somewhere else to drink, friend?” The emphasis on the last word made it clear that the party had no friends there! Godfrey took a corner seat. Gren tried the univeral language: music. “Good barkeep,” he began, “how would you like to double your clientele? I am available and willing to entertain your friends with any number of popular songs!” The bartender looked unconvinced. Stilicho, tired of mincing words, tried the direct approach: “You heard of Aelfgar? Or Eadric Strigona?” The bar quieted again, and huge man rose from his table. “Who wants to know? Eadric is great hero … to us! Your kind can go suck eggs!” Laughter welled up from the common room, and several shouts of “You tell ‘em, Byrtnoth” could be heard. Gren laid his arm on the warrior: “Now is not the time, Stilicho.” Out of the corner of his eye, Stilicho spied a small, weaselly man slip out the front door with a nervous look on his face. Adopting a cunning look, Stilicho grinned and said “Okay. I don’t want any trouble. I was just leaving.” The giant Byrtnoth snorted, and sat back down amid a cacophony of hoots and jeers. Stilicho rushed out the door and, keeping the weaselly man in his view, followed him up the street as best he could.

Meanwhile, Cleopatra and Cara had located the temple indicated on the map and had discovered it to be the temple of Meshpri, the Tharbrian goddess of healing and nurture. The temple was a large bungalow, with a wide porch running around the outside; within was the home of the God and the dwellings of her priests. Crammed along the porch were dozens of sick, diseased, and crippled persons of every age and creed; some were being tended to by a cadre of kindly Aides, while a few of the senior priests moved slowly among them. Cleopatra had an idea: “I will pretend to be ill, Cara. You will be my tender. We shall see what we can learn from these priests.” And so another desperate soul joined those on the porch of Meshpri, hoping for mercy from the goddess. The fine clothing of Cara and Cleopatra quickly drew a ranking priest, who asked solicitously of Cleopatra’s woes. She groaned convincingly, and asked if she might be conveyed into the temple proper for healing. The priest smiled benignly, and replied smoothly: “That all depends on the will of Mesphri! She is only able to help so many people per day.” Pointedly ignoring the elderly and impoverished man to her left, a man who had clearly been languishing on the porch for a matter of months, Cara wondered how likely it was for Meshpri to grant her blessings to a specific individual. The plump priest smiled again, and repeated that it was entirely up to Mesphri’s will. Cleopatra, a bit more savvy in such matters than Cara, reached out and dropped 5 gold coins in the priest’s hand; he palmed them quickly, and his smile turned thin: “Well, we shall see how you fare. Meshpri’s favor is difficult to gauge.” One of the younger Aides, looking tired, shook her head and apologized: “This is the way it works, my friend. I’m sorry your donation did not put you higher on the list.” Cleopatra grimaced in mock pain, and cried out piteously: “No matter. I’m sure Meshpri will visit me soon! Besides, I wonder if you can tell me what is going on? Why so many sick?” A conversation sprang up, and Cleopatra quickly divined that the new high priestess, Relowena, was responsible for the blatant favoritism evident at the temple; more significantly, Cleopatra learned that the temple staff had no love of the TRL, since they considered them nothing but troublemakers. “Those ruffians?,” spat the Aide, “they bring false dreams to the poor, and end up letting the poor take the short end of a spear. If we could run them out of the quarter, we would. And now, my lady, I hope you feel better soon.” As the Aide moved down the line, Cleopatra sprang out of her litter and spoke to Cara: “Why I believe I do feel better. Let’s go find the boys.”

Back at Ophir’s, tempers were starting to flare. Gren’s songs were greeted with some mild approval, but thus far none of the Tharbrians had deigned to speak with the heroes. Drogden decided to take matters into his own hand. The fiery cleric marched over to Byrtnoth’s table and sat down at an empty chair: “Hey. What’s going on?” Byrtnoth turned slowly and said “We don’t like imperials in our tavern. Go away, little man.” “Me? Little? What rubbish is that?” replied the priest. Sighing heavily, Byrtnoth rose and pushed back his shirt: “I see I’m going to have to teach you what I mean. Let’s do it, little man!” Drogden took a long drink of his ale, and then stood up. “Fine! Let’s go,” he said, fingering his axe. But Byrtnoth looked at him with contempt: “Weapons? You wanna bring the watch? What, are you afraid to prove yourself with your fists?” Within moments the fists were flying. Byrtnoth was a heavy man, and well-versed in brawling; quickly Drogden was reeling. Still, he had gotten in one massive clout to the giant’s head, a blow which drew a slow nod from the Tharbrian. “Ya, that was a good one, little man,” he said as he spat out a tooth. But soon the Tharbrian’s brawling skills began to tell, and with one final swing Drogden toppled over. As he fell, silence reigned in the bar. But Byrtnoth, who was himself staggering rather woozily, spoke up; “Now that was a fight. The little man has got the right stuff. Henrik, get me an ale.” Splashing it over the unconscious cleric, Byrtnoth helped him to his feet, clapped him on the shoulder, and proclaimed “You can drink and fight with me any time, little man!” And with that, the bar burst into conversation. The heroes had won some grudging acceptance!

More usefully, they learned from their new drinking companions that the weaselly man was a newcomer, one not well-known or -liked by the regulars. He was richer than the rest, and occasionally disdainful of their working-class ways. Drogden and Gren soon learned that the Tharbrians were generally proud of their heritage, but most were not interested in treason or rebellion, and had little truck with those who did. Finally Byrtnoth tipped them off that the ‘bad apples’ of the neighborhood had taken over the third floor of a triple-decker just up the alley.

Meanwhile, Stilicho had been exercising every ounce of stealth and restraint that existed in his huge frame. Given that he was not particularly stealthy or restrained, this was more difficult than he had imagined. Still, the busy streets helped conceal him as he followed the weaselly man up the street to a row of three-story houses. Most had a retail space on the first floor, and apartments - some abandoned or decrepit - reached by external stairs on the 2nd and 3rd floors. Stilicho watched the weaselly man mount one of the external stairs, knock at a new-looking door, and enter. The gallowglass, pleased with his stalking, decided to creep up the stairs and see if he could eavesdrop on whoever was inside. Grateful he had left his armor (for which he was still in debt to Cleopatra!) back at the Minstrel, Stilicho climbed the stair and stood on the stoop, listening carefully. He heard only snatches of conversation, but enough to confirm that this was one of the TRL’s hideouts. Indeed, the weaselly man was reporting to another the arrival of the heroes at Ophir’s, and the fact that they had been inquiring about Aelfgar. The warrior heard these ominous words “Well, we’re going to have to take care of these meddlers.” Delighted with his results, Stilicho rushed down the stairs to find his colleagues. To his amazement, he encountered all of his friends rushing towards the very same building that he had just left, for Cleopatra and Cara had caught up with Gren, Godfrey and Drogden just as the three were leaving Ophir’s. Stilicho quickly filled them in on what he had learned.

A hasty and sotto-voce discussion ensued on the street about what to do. Some were in favor of placing the apartment under surveillance. But Stilicho argued forcefully for direct action, since, as he put it, “We’ve got them cornered like rats!” Gren and Cara climbed the outside stairs of a neighboring triple-decker, and the elf nimbly pulled herself onto the roof; Gren followed suit. The rest climbed - as quietly as possible - the stairs of the house in question. The rickety stairs creaked and groaned, but few spared the heroes a second glance. Untying their weapons, Stilicho whispered, “We take them on ‘three.’ One, two, and … three!” With that he threw himself at the door, smashing it into fragments. Sadly, neither he nor his more scholarly friends had elected to inspect the door, and as his shoulder impacted it, Stilicho ignited a set of Explosive Runes that had been placed there by the agents of the TRL. KA-BOOM! A fiery explosion rocked the quarter, as flames blew back against all the party on the stairs and inward into the building. What was worse, the tindertrap three-decker immediately began to burn with a vengeance. Drogden, still bruised from his fisticuffs, went down scorched and bleeding. Cleopatra was badly wounded, but managed to dodge the main force of the explosion. Godfrey and Stilicho took the brunt of it, and stood in the doorway.

Events unfolded rapidly. Stilicho called for magical support from Cleopatra, who replied acidly that she had not expected combat, and was ill prepared for street-to-street fighting. Godfrey took a glance at Drogden and saw that the cleric was in dire straits; hoisting him onto his shoulder, Godfrey dragged him down one flight of stairs, applied first aid, and then dragged him to the street. Inside the apartment were four thugs; one had been killed instantly, and other three, desperately afraid of burning to death, threw themselves at the doorway. But the mighty warrior Stilicho stood in the doorway and barred the way. One tried to grapple with the gallowglass, but Stilicho, grinning wildly, ducked under his rush and, using the man’s momentum, hurled him backward off the staircase. He plunged three stories to his death. Within the room a fifth man was scrabbling for some papers as the fire began to roar around him; he ran to the wall opposite the door, coughing amid the smoke, and pulled open a hidden panel. He tossed a rope out the hidden exit and started to climb away. Stilicho quickly despatched the remaining thugs, but was growing nervous about the flames. Gren and Cara began to fire arrows as the climbing thief, and their cries alerted Cleopatra, who raced to the other side of the building; seeing the thief on his rope, she chanted some arcane words and a mass of webs appeared below the fleeing thief. He dropped from the rope, miraculously bounced off the web and was about to flee when he was struck with a second spell - he was asleep amid the webs!

Up on the blazing staircase, Stilicho was faced with a difficult dilemma. Godfrey had helped all the inhabitants of the lower floors to flee, and the thugs were either dead or incapacitated. But the evidence! Where was the evidence of TRL activity? Taking a huge gasp of fresh air, and ignoring the scorches the fire was already inflicting on his skin, the warrior rushed into the roaring inferno. Spying a lockbox on the now burning desk, he grabbed it, even as he stumbled and was scorched again. Desperate, he looked across the chamber and spied the secret exit. Racing as if his life depended on it [DM note: it did!] Stilicho threw himself headfirst out the narrow opening. As Gren and Cleopatra looked on in disbelief they saw their flaming companion come flying out of the third story window, shouting “Son of a biiiiiitch” as he fell. He dropped like a stone, landing without further mishap in the webs, just beside the snoring thief. Clambering to his feet, he avoided the sticky webs, and dropped to the pavement. “F***K YEAH!” shouted the grinning, and still-smoldering warrior. Gren looked on wryly: “At least he stuck the landing.”

Still, even if Stilicho was safe, the group was still in trouble. Most of the inhabitants of the district were out in the street, as smoke and flames poured from the triple-decker. Godfrey knew that in an instant the entire quarter might be reduced to ashes. Grabbing a wailing cobbler by the collar, he shouted at him “You! Stop sniveling! Where’s the nearest well? We need a bucket chain and we need it NOW!” Exerting all of his knightly authority, Godfrey soon transformed the rabble into a willing, if still frightened, fire brigade. Meanwhile, Cleopatra had Clara secure the thief, while she applied a curative potion to the unconscious Drogden. Watching Godfrey organize the crowd, the sorceress shook her head: “That fool is going to drag us all down with his nobility. We have to get out of here!” At her gesture, Stilicho ran to Godfrey, and physically drew him away. Bruised, scorched, and hobbled, the six - with their captive - began to struggle away through the side streets. “At least we avoided the watch,” observed Cleopatra. But she had spoken too soon! Just around the corner came the watch, rushing towards the flames, still visible on the horizon. Cleopatra leaped into action: “Officers, thank Mesphri! We are aiding this wounded man [indicating the prisoner]. There’s a terrible fire! You are badly needed.” And as the Watch raced toward the conflagration, the heroes slunk back to the Grey Minstrel.

_________________
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 May 30, 2012 10:16 pm
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Ulthal
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Posts: 545
Location: Greensboro, NC
Post Re: Hard Times in Narsileon
I dropped by to look up some facts in this thread for the reboot of this campaign (last night), and was shocked to see how many hits it had. Thanks, folks.

I do feel sorry I haven't updated in over 6 months. For anyone still interested, I have two sessions from the summer that have not yet been written up (and will probably receive a short write-up in the near future). But the better news is that we reconvened yesterday and are committed to a once-every-three-weeks schedule until May. A few changes will be noticed, but much of the gang is still together: Stilicho, fearless as ever; Drogden the battle-mad cleric; and the lovely and arrogant Cleopatra (who sprang her own surprise on the DM last night). A new face has joined the group, Ceras the Knave!

Some teasers:

- a summons by an imperial chartoularios to stand trial in the court of the Exarch on charges of arson
- a desperate defense of their "safe-house" from an assault led by thugs from the Benevolent Brotherhood.
- a search through the slums for a missing dwarven diplomat, culminating in savage fighting in the sewers of Narsileon
- pitilessly tracking down the remaining known members of the Tharbrian Recovery League and subjecting them to enhanced interrogation (alignment? ahem!)
- a cunningly-laid trap, and the seizure of an old enemy
- gratifying rewards from on high

I hope to get the story going again this weekend ...

_________________
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 Jan 24, 2013 7:40 pm
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Ulthal
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Posts: 545
Location: Greensboro, NC
Post Re: Hard Times in Narsileon
PCs:
Gren, level 4 human Bard
Godfrey, level 3 human knight
Cleopatra, level 4 human wizard
Flavius Stilicho, level 3 human gallowglass
Cara Long-Arrow, level 3 elf ranger
Drogden, level 2 cleric

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
Astra, level 2 rogue (probably departed ...)

Seventeenth and Eighteenth Laisses

Ed.: the quires containing these entries appear to be lost, and the story of the heroes’ actions subsequent to the Great Fire of the 8th year of the Exarchate of Valerian must be pieced together from the writings of later compilers, particularly the Vita Stilichonis (VS); the quasi-apocrophyal Interviews with a Great Arch-Mage, by Cleopatra of Archontos (IGA); the oral ‘Battle-Memoirs of Drogden’, as recorded in Oronius’ famous Histories of the Pagan Cults (HPC); the Song of the Azure Knights (SAK); and the Grenaead, the one surviving epic from the great Bard of Narsileon (G). The following fragments provide the general gist of what happened. The source of each paragraph is indicated by the relevant abbreviation found in brackets at the end of the paragraph.

… amid great bellows of laughter, the Warrior smiled benignly through the pain of his burns at those whose lives he had saved. Great Stilicho was certain that the Tharbrian Recovery League was destroyed, and that rewards would be forthcoming from appropriate authorities. He turned to Gren and slapped him on the back, saying “Now, little Bard, it is time to drink! Then we shall interrogate that ruffian” … [VS]

The tiresome mundanity of dealing with public authorities is well-known to all those versed in the arcane arts. There is nothing more annoying than to have to endure the prattling of such bureaucrats. Why, you can imagine the shock when some minor chartoularios presented himself at our door shortly after our great victory along Thufir’s Row. The fellow had the effrontery to issue a summons to me! To me! And for what? Some minor infraction, of course. A student of the art has no time to bandy legal niceties with functionaries! And to accuse such a potent mage of intentional arson, and to hint at severe punishment? Why, it is nearly impossible to bear. Were not the demands of practical magical training so great, it is a wonder that any of us would leave our towers. I myself had to spend valuable time interviewing snivelling advocates. The most highly recommended did not suit, as her looks would have competed with my own, and we ended up with a most unfortunate fellow named Herbert, who by all account was nonetheless a practiced pleader. [IGA]

Once the red haze of battle is lifted from the acolyte’s eyes, it is all the more important to give thanks to Werrab and to praise his mighty battle-thews. I recall how, after one blood-rimmed and flame-darkened slaughter, which took place in the district they used to call Tharb-Town, this priest had to tamp down the battle-lust, sheath his hammer, and practice the breathing techniques of the lord of carnage. This priest knew, however, that the interval between battles would be short, as it always is. And so, despite a maddeningly boring lull as some shopped, wrote, and drank, this priest bided his time. And not in vain, for Lo!, as his companions strove craftily to hide away the prisoner taken in battle, and to force his speech with torments and persuasions, Werrab showed his mighty face to this priest once more. There were at least six of them. Some came in through the front door, others through the second-floor window. As the elf tried to protect the spoils of previous battle, and the singer nervously questioned our tactics, the warriors smiled and the low snick of the blade loosed from its sheath was heard once more! Although this priest has seen numerous mighty battles, that one had its moments. Werrab smiled that day, as this priest took down two of the foe single-handedly and the mighty gallowglass’s blade became wet with blood. That comrade [ed., he means Stilicho] knew the favor of Werrab on that day! Finally, throwing down his greatsword, that warrior threw himself onto the fleeing enemy, bringing him down in the very street outside the alleged safe-house! And so Werrab teaches battle in all its forms. [HPC]

Bright was the moon on that day,
‘Ere the enemy entered the fray!

Thru window and door came they,
Looking to snatch the captive away.

The hands of the warriors flew,
And the intruders dropped in the dew.

The werrab-priest sought aid from above,
So the singer dropped down the flue like a dove,

As the mouths of the warriors gaped
The singer carved the ogre a new nape.

And so thanks to wile the battle was won,
And brave Gren wrote it down in a song.

The warriors gave him thanks once again,
For granting sweet victory to the men. [G]

Once the miserable thugs and their ogre companion had been defeated after their dishonorable attack on Sir Godfrey’s friends, a new captive joined Gothort. He, too, sang a tale of treachery at the hand of the Brotherhood, albeit one linked to those gadflies in the TRL. The knight sighed, for his work was not yet done. Traipsing about the city following the whiff of the TRL and the thieves who supported them was hardly exciting work, but at least it was honorable. The trail led to a noted den of iniquity just outside the city limits, the notorious Jubal’s Place. [SAK]

The Warrior was eager for action, as it seemed that enemies of the secretive and dangerous sort were accumulating like flies on a corpse. Cutting through the dithering of bards and wizards, the Warrior slammed his fist on the table. “You go to Jubal’s Place, to ferret out the rats. Let them start singing before I have to start swinging! I will guard the captives while you pull secrets from the little men!” [VS]

Another crucial lesson, my apprentices, is to avoid committing incriminating details to paper. The wise mage memorizes details and destroys all records. Why, in the early days when I was engaged in forming the reputation which I now enjoy, we dealt with some surly villains who had foolishly committed the names of their troupe to writing. Once we had shaken the tree in Tharb Town, and disposed of a band of ill-fated intruders, it was easy for anyone as intelligent as I to pull on the threads and unravel the conspiracy. One captive gave us the next link, a certain Devlitt, resident in a most unsalubrious bar. Pay attention! Here again, wiles may complement wit. I posed as a beautiful and eager potential companion, and that fool of a Tharbrian followed me outside, where the boys subdued him. Under threat and awed by the glamor of my person, Devlitt spilled all. He explained that he was merely a contact for the Brotherhood, who had been approached by a ‘cove’ who gave his name as Aelfgar (note well my use of the vernacular word, ‘cove’! Impressive, eh?) seeking to engage the Brotherhood on behalf of himself. Even Devlitt knew this was TRL business, but the poor ‘cove’ (again! My cleverness knows no bounds!) revealed that “Aelfgar” was not Tharbrian, but rather Archontean, and a mighty posh one at that! “Not-Aelfgar” wore a ring with an opal and a carving of a horse, and had a hidden tattoo on his forearm in the form of a snake twined about a sword. Before we left him tied - but living -on the gibbet, Devlitt revealed that “Not-Aelfgar” came from Imperial Row, and frequented the Belt. As we left I sowed more disinformation, calling cheerfully to him: “Doffy sent us! Be sure to let him know we thank you.” And that is how it is done - one moves swiftly to capitalize on the stupidity of the lesser, all the while keeping one’s own status hidden. [IGA]

The Battle-Lord offers many paths to glory. Even as this priest pursued the foolish rebels of the TRL, a new opportunity presented itself. A skulker in red appeared, and distracted the others with tales of potential favor to be earned by locating a missing dwarf. Although the blood of the TRL was still singing in this Priest’s ears, his fellows chose to follow the way of influence rather than that of battle! But great Werrab did not abandon his devoted follower. A new struggle emerged! The missing dwarf had been abducted by skin-changers, who lurked like thieves beneath the streets, preying on the weak and helpless. If only these unfortunates had known Werrab! Then might they have resisted on their own. Still, their ignorance once again provided opportunity. This Priest followed the mage, the elf, and the singer into the sewers, where glorious battle again awaited. The skin-changers fought ferociously, but were no match for the Hammer of Werrab. Once despatched, the dwarf was found and glory obtained. So it is with battle. [HPC]

Of rats I say nought,
‘Though plenty have I fought.

Skin-changers were those,
Who were found by my nose.

When battle drew near,
And some moaned in fear,

Brave Gren led the way,
Through the slime and the spray.

In sewers most foul,
Back to back ‘gainst the wall,

The priest led the way,
But Gren had his say,

And when bodies lay cooling,
The songs came un-spooling. [G]

Heed me, young ones! Another lesson on the varieties of fauna that may be observed even in the midst of the great cities. Once, as my reputation was being made, I encountered a tribe of skin-changers, or were-rats as they are commonly known. These foul beasts are most dangerous, as puissant magicks - of the sort I possess - are required to bring them down. They are most crafty as well, and are logically difficult for all but the most well-trained to discern. On that occasion, we had been asked by Rudigar the Red - you know of him, right? - to boost our standing (as if mine needed boosting!? I ask you!) with the mundane authorities by solving a most unusual disappearance. A young dwarf - a fellow named Durtal the Tapper - had disappeared from the dwarven embassy in the Down Slope district. Dwarves are most secretive and dour, and entirely no fun. Their leader at that time - a certain Frantin the Speaker - was immune even to my impressive charms! I myself had little interest in this task, but I agreed to help so as to lift the reputations of my less able companions. And so we followed the path of this missing dwarf through the most pitiful slums, asking here and there amongst the brothels, taverns, and abandoned buildings for signs of his passing. His people had called him ‘frivolous’ and ‘immature’, and claimed he wasted his time in investigating ‘all manner of carving in all manner of substances.’ It appeared they felt he should have stuck to the stone work for which his people are famed. Still, this was helpful, as it allowed me to deduce that he had left the embassy to speak with a certain scrivener named Lod, one whose skill belied the squalor of his location. But I digress! The subject is skin-changers. Once this scrivener’s shop was located, it was childishly easy for me to infer that multiple abductions had taken place in that pitiful square, and eventually to locate an abandoned well leading into an older section of the sewers. Sending the boys ahead, we descended into the filth. There we were ambushed by the skin-changers and their rodentine allies. I must impress upon you the difficulty of discerning mere rat from were rat, especially in darkened sewers. My magicks were mighty, however, once targeted on the ‘changers. And despite some whining by the boys, the business was quickly brought to an end. I procured samples of the were-beasts’ ichor and viscera, of course, but it was the wealth of their lair that was most impressive. Indeed, it paid for a most fetching robe and several new spells! The dwarf? Oh, yes, he was found and returned unharmed. But that robe! Ahh, that was quite a beauty. [IGA]

While the Warrior loyally guarded the captive, his comrades engaged in lighthearted interaction with the low-lives of the city. Thieves were interrogated, were-rats slain, and witnesses sought for the upcoming trial. Indeed, mighty Cleopatra even sought the aid of a Theora, one of the Burning Mages [ed., he means ‘Collegium of Cinders’] to prove that the fire could not have been the product of offensive magic. At least while performing his task so faithfully, the others were able to win the favor of the Archon Gedeon once more by recovering a missing dwarf. And such is the fate of the Warrior! Forced to wait, while the chattering classes pursue their insignificant tasks! Yet loyalty and fidelity were once more rewarded, as the efforts of all - even the chatterers - helped to demonstrate the fidelity of all. [VS]

_________________
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


Sun Feb 10, 2013 3:00 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
some explanation on the last entry. The events described took place in sessions held in May and June 2012, for which I have only scanty notes. Instead of skipping the entries for those sessions, I decided I should try to fill in the gaps. My first thought was to just add a few lines according to the conceit that the accounts of those events had been lost from the manuscript containing the overall set of session reports and needed to be filled in from later, and less trustworthy, sources. That grew into a slightly more ambitious post than I had imagined. Still, it was fun to write in the voice of some of the characters ... Next post (up later today) will resume the main style and story.

_________________
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


Sun Feb 10, 2013 3:06 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:
Cleopatra, level 4 human wizard
Flavius Stilicho, level 3 human gallowglass
Cara Long-Arrow, level 3 elf ranger
Drogden, level 2 cleric
Ceras the Knave, level 2 knave (Rogue variant)

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
Astra, level 2 rogue (probably departed ...)
Gren, level 4 human Bard
Godfrey, level 3 human knight

Old Threats and New Beginnings

A week had passed since the great victory over the were-rats, and the heroes were anxious. Sir Godfrey had been recalled to active duty in his sept of the Azure Knights. Bidding his fellows a gruff, but fond farewell, the veteran, one-eyed knight offered a quiet word to Stilicho: “Keep an eye on them, brother. Don’t let Cleo’s vanity drag you down the wrong path.” Gren, too, was offering farewells. “I’ve got enough material for my epic tale. Time to settle down and pursue the muse. And the landlord here at the Grey Minstrel has offered me a permanent position! Good luck to you all, and don’t forget your waitresses!” Offering but a wan smile, Cleopatra was clearly not pleased. “The Boys are dropping like flies,” she complained, “I shall have to take matters into my own hands - again! - and find some new defenders.” Stilicho didn’t rise to the bait. “Let’s just see what Rudigar the Red wants this time,” he replied agreeably.

Just then the red-clad factotum arrived, bearing with him a companion in sober, unobtrusive clothing. As the right-hand man, particularly for ‘private’ dealings, of Archon Gedeon Ligareon, Rudigar was well known to the group, even if the near-catastrophic incident at his alleged ‘safe-house’ still rankled with some. The Red Rogue had grave news indeed: it appeared that the heroes’s trial for high treason had been abruptly moved forward, to a date only 10 days hence. “I believe the Exarch’s exact words in this matter,” said Rudigar, “were these: ‘I shall be much, much too busy as a newlywed to engage in any judicial nonsense, particularly concerning arson.’” As Stilicho’s eyes glazed over with talk of more legal matters, Cleopatra took charge. “You should know,” she said, “that we have procured an advocate with a decent, if unspectacular reputation. All eyes shall be on me, however, and I have prepared numerous statements designed to demonstrate our superior intellect and character. We shall have no problem.” “Ahh, then you are indeed fortunate,” replied Rudigar, “for the judge assigned to assist the Exarch in this matter of High Justice is none other than Georgios Basmil, who is well-known for his preference for emotional testimony from the accused.” Drodgen spoke up with impatience, “Surely this is all a waste of time? We have better things to be doing, like cracking the skulls of the TRL. We believe there is no evidence against us, and that the entire affair should be dismissed.” Rudigar grimaced, and explained gently the legal procedure of the empire, according to which witnesses as to character were as important as witnesses as to fact. “Furthermore,” said the red rogue, “it appears that you have garnered some formidable foes, several of whom are said to be planning to offer character testimony against you. Chief among them are Iskarion Xenarcheon, of the 21st Cataphracts, and none other than Lady Ysabet Basileon herself, the Exarch’s bride-to-be! You had best plan on using more than Cleopatra’s pretty face in your defense!” Stilicho snorted at the name of their old enemy: “That ponce, Iskarion? What a joke. I’ll just challenge him to manly combat.” Rudigar ignored the threat and went on to list another half-dozen individuals said to be ready to testify against the heroes, including handful of low-lives who claimed personal knowledge of Flavius Stilicho’s predilections. “One,” Rudigar noted archly, “a certain Gregor, is said to be most talkative and forthcoming about narcotic powders and other, more intimate, matters. And whom have you found to speak on your behalf?”

Cleopatra batted her eyes and replied smoothly, “Why you, of course, Rudigar. And Lord Gedeon. And I believe that lovely dwarven fellow, Durtal the Tapper, may be persuaded to thank us for saving him from a terrible fate. Moreover, I have many friends at the Collegium of Macrina, and Sir Godfrey is in good standing with the Azure Knights.” “Let us hope it is enough,” Rudigar sighed, before moving on to other business. It appeared that the Archon Gedeon was concerned about his allies, and had sent Rudigar to encourage the group to perform some sort of public service that might stand them in good stead with the Exarch. To that end, Rudigar had brought along a new recruit to join the heroes; this fellow, named Ceras, was the one accompanying Rudigar. “Ceras is adept at all those matters which seem so elusive to some of you,” said Rudigar, looking pointedly at Stilicho. “Stealth is his middle name, and he has more than a few surprises hidden under that drab exterior.” After introductions were made, Rudigar continued: “So how can you help the empire today?” After much thought, the heroes boiled it down to two main options. The first was to see if the Tharbrian Recovery League could be crippled for good, while the second was to attempt to locate the Exarch’s missing wedding gift, the infamous Eastern Star diamond. Although Stilicho grumbled for a while about avenging themselves instead on their nemesis, Doffy, the rest felt that they were close on the heels of the TRL and that this path was more likely to lead to success. “Let’s take another look at that list of names we took off of Amelie and her lover back in the woods near the Keep,” said Cleopatra.

And so the heroes buckled down to some serious investigation. From their list of eleven names, a few were known and a smaller few eliminated. They knew that Eadric Strigona, at the top of the list, was either the mastermind or a symbolic figurehead representing a long-lost Tharbrian hero. The second name, “Aelfgar - Imperial Row”, remained their top target. But how to get at him? Gothort was their prisoner, taken in the fiery assault in Tharb-town. Wulfric had been slain near the Red Keep. With her neat lettering, Cleopatra annotated the list as follows:

Eadric Strigona - ? Top Dog? Or Symbolic figurehead?
Aelfgar - Imperial Row All signs point to him. Archontean. Noble.
Eadwine - ?? ??
Teodor - friend of Cyneric Cyneric will tell us. Heh!
Cyneric - brotherhood; monkey One of our first targets. Stilicho will lead ...
Wulfric - northern sept Died Screaming
Amelie - w/ Wulfric - but loyalty? Archontean, of clan Ligareon. B**ch
Gothort - DUH! Our captive. Squeeze him ...
Leofric - 3rd shift at the mint A likely source. Let’s get him!
Godiva - priestess Vague. Maybe those Meshpri folks will know
Ebba - stupid pissant! Servants
cannot be trusted Need more info. Servant to whom?

Looking at their notes, the heroes decided on two plans. First, they would attempt to locate Leofric at the mint and get him to talk. Then, since it was well understood that Stilicho was an expert on the seedy underbelly of Narsileon, they would attempt to locate Cyneric. Hopefully one of these two would direct them to Amelie Ligareon and/or to “Aelfgar”.

As they prepared to leave, Cleopatra withdrew, saying mysteriously that she had business that needed her attention. So Cara, Stilicho, Drogden and Ceras made their way to the Mint just as the night was falling. As one of the largest structures in Narsileon, and the home of all the myriad offices of the House of Coin as well as the kritai and the halls of justice, it was difficult to know how to proceed. Drogden made it easy, and approached the guards at the gate. Instead of a city guardsman, though, these were tough veterans from the 2nd Cohort of the Imperial Tagmata. “Hello, officers, a friend of ours who works here is a bit late on returning some monies he borrowed from us. Do you think we could come in and talk to him?” “Bugger off,” came the reply. “Wait! Who is this bloke? One of the Tagma?” “No, mate,” chimed in Stilicho, “he’s a tharbrian who works within.” “Oh, a Tharbrian, eh? Well that’s a different story.” The trooper proceeded to utter a string of ethnic stereotypes and implausible scenarios so foul that Cara’s ears turned red. “Oy,” said the trooper, “Let’s have a bit of fun, eh? Meet us at the Dock Gate just after midnight, and we’ll bring this Leofric bloke along.” Saddened at the racism, but heartened at the unanticipated aid, the heroes lounged around the Mint for a couple of hours, keeping their eyes on the small doorway which gave way from the north side of the massive structure. At precisely 12:05, the door opened and a small man peered forth. Then he lurched forward, kicked by a hobnailed sandal, and the door slammed shut. Stilicho and Drogden moved in swiftly. “Why, hello Leofric,” said the Gallowglass. “We have some things to chat about.” The frightened man looked at the massive warrior and shook his head: “I don’t know you, and have nothing to say to you.” Drogden loosed his dagger, and returned a hard look: “Oh, yes you do.” As the two moved in, they heard the soft slap of sandals on stone; it was a band of twenty-some legionaries from the 2nd Cohort of the Tagmata, there to watch the fun. “Don’t mind us,” whispered one of the troopers, “just do what you have to do to this Tharbrian scum.” Leofric tried to flee, but there was nowhere to go. Although he tried to feign ignorance, proper application of incentives soon had him singing. He revealed that Amelie was in Narsileon, but moving around from place to place. He was sure that Cyneric at the Rampant Monkey, or Teodor at Jubal’s Place, might now of her whereabouts. He confirmed that Aelfgar was Archontean, and provided information that ‘Godiva’ was a priestess of Father Ils, bringing comfort to the oppressed in her peripatetic wanderings. As for Ebba the servant, Leofric knew only that he served in the household of some powerful Archontean clan. Pleased with their information, the heroes turned to leave. Julianus, a legionary from the 2nd Cohort, stepped forward. “We’ll take it from here, boys. I’m sure this traitorous scum has lots more to tell us.” The four friends hurried away as the sound of screams rose over the square. Only Cara, with her sharp hearing, heard the eventual sound of a splash into the river. “So much for Leofric,” muttered the elf.

Slightly ill at ease, the four returned to their usual haunts, in part to let Cleopatra what had transpired. Despite all their useful information, the mage was short of both attention and temper. “Stop bothering me, boys,” she snapped, “Can’t you see I’m not feeling well?” And she staggered off towards the privies. “What did she eat?” wondered Stilicho, “whatever it was, remind me to give it a pass.” It was time to move. When confronted by his friends, Stilicho agreed that on the night of his great debauch he had visited a low dive known as the Rampant Monkey. Sadly, though, he couldn’t recall the exact route he had taken to that establishment. What he did remember, though, was that this Gregor fellow, who it appeared was about to testify against him at trial, was also based at the Rampant Monkey. So the four set out into the night, delving deeper and deeper into the slum district known as the Wall. Although the path was not known to them, the sight of the well-armed band helped the denizens of the district to provide directions to that infamous hole. Finally they arrived at the Monkey, a low bungalow sprawling across several city blocks, with a battered sign of a monkey swinging outside the main door. Noticing the sign’s rather lewd imagery, Ceras noted drily “So that’s why it’s called the Rampant Monkey.”

Inside, the common room offered a smoky whirl of activity around the bar and central tables, while rows of more private booths lined the two ells of the building. Stilicho began peering through the sweet-smelling haze. “Aha!” he proclaimed, “and there he is! At least I think that’s the one …” “You’ve spotted Cyneric?” whispered Cara. “No, lass,” boomed the warrior, “but I’ve spied Gregor, my erstwhile partner in debauchery.” Striding past the craps tables, Stilicho walked confidently up to a gaudily-dressed fellow of saturnine countenance, whose arms embraced two ladies of questionable virtue. “Err, is that you, Gregor?” stammered the warrior. “Stilicho! So good to see you! Have you brought another fat purse? I am feeling lucky at dice tonight? Let us play again, for old times’ sake!” Stilicho showed him his empty purse. “Oho, looking for a free handout of Haseltine’s Lotus Powder, eh?” The reeking fellow grinned conspiratorially: “Well, I don’t see why not. Maybe one of my friends here will help you out, eh ladies?” The two women in question, who upon closer inspection seemed rather heavily caked with paste and powder, and rather more wrinkled than they had initially appeared, simpered coyly. “Ahh, that sounds nice, Gregor, my, uhhh, friend,” replied Stilicho, “but in truth I need some private conversation with you.” “You old rogue!,” came the cheery reply, “I do all my business here, in the open. It’s much safer. Don’t you agree?” Stilicho came to the point: “Err, Gregor, I need to ask you as a, uhhh, errr, ‘friend’, to help me out with a bit of a legal spot. You see, I heard from a little birdie that you might be planning to testify against me in a certain trial. I was hoping to persuade you to act otherwise.” “You old sea-dog, you!,” wheezed Gregor, his irises glowing with the tell-tale of chemical stimulants, “How could I turn against my companion on the 51st Path of the Lotus? He who introduced me to the Sutra of Love? The friend whose generosity is now legend in the district? Don’t you remember that donkey? Such fun! Why, I have been living on your generosity this past tenday! I wouldn’t dream of speaking a word against you.” Only Cara caught his less blustery aside: “At least not at the price they offered, I won’t.” Stilicho blushed beet-red and grinned. “Oh, well, thank you. I think I can guarantee you future considerations if you were to keep away. And - uhh, did you say ‘donkey’? One more thing: do you know a Tharbrian named Cyneric who is said to work here?” “Ha ha ha! Stilicho, you old lecher. Donkeys, twins, powders, fine brandies! They are all part of your palette!,” shouted Gregor, “and yes, I know the fellow. That’s him in the blue tunic, cheating at craps over there.”

And so the group sidled over to the craps table, where a fellow in a crusted and filthy blue tunic was holding forth with the dice. Drogden walked right up to him and grabbed his arm in mid throw. When the fellow tried to complain, Drogden merely said “Leofric sent us. We’ve got important business to discuss.” Grumbling at the interruption, Cyneric - for it was he - took them to a side booth and sat down. Drogden sat next to him, but Stilicho crowded in next to the Tharbrian. As the latter began to complain, Drogden poked him with a dagger. “Quiet, you! And start singing about your pitiful organization.” Stilicho glared at him and Cyneric crumpled. Quickly the information started spilling out: he didn’t know the identity of Aelfric, only that he was an ‘important Archontean’; he did know Amelie, and in fact knew that she was holed up at Jubal’s Place with Teodor, looking for vengeance. Ebba was a servant in the Imperial Palace. The two heroes looked most pleased with this information, and were content to let the frightened Cyneric flee into the night. “Back to Juhbal’s place,” said Cara.

So the foursome trooped from one sleazy tavern to another. On the way, they discussed how best to proceed, especially since Amelie would be sure to recognize Cara, Drogden and Stilicho. “But she doesn’t know me,” said Ceras, “I’m willing to go in and ingratiate myself with her.” The others quickly agreed, but when they came to fetch Cleopatra, the wizard was again having serious problems with her stomach, and declined to join them with some asperity. Outside Jubal’s Place, the plan was hatched: Cara, Drogden, Stilicho, and their henchman Ragnar, would prepare a campsite in a copse of trees two miles outside of town. Ceras would enter the inn, talk to Teodor, and convince him to take him to Amelie, where Ceras would drop hints of the location of the irascible Archontean’s enemies. If allowed to leave, Ceras would join the heroes as quickly as he could; if not, he would accompany Amelie and betray her as needed.

As Stilicho boasted afterwards, the plan “worked like a bleeding charm!” Ceras, armed with a description of Teodor extorted from Cyneric, entered the crowded inn, avoided the illegal but well-known fighting pit, and found his man. Sounding breathless, the knave spoke quickly: “Teodor, I need to see Amelie, and quickly. Cyneric has sent me to inform her of some danger to her person. Quick!” The tone and specificity of his information took Teodor by surprise, and he led Ceras to a hidden cellar, below the sub-cellar devoted to spear-throwing contests. There, in a cramped and narrow chamber sat Amelie Ligareon, her red tresses contrasting with her pale beauty. “You fool, Teodor,” came the sharp retort, “I told you never to bring anyone here. You’ll ruin everything!” Teodor stammered and explained that Ceras was ‘one of us’ and had dire news from Cyneric. Clearly suspicious, Amelie led the pair to a barn, where Ceras was swiftly grabbed by a group of young toughs. “Now, talk!,” spat the mage. Ceras quickly explained that he was part of Cyneric’s cell, that he hated the Archonteans - “No offense to you, Milady!” - And that, most importantly he had come to warn Amelie that she was being hunted by some thugs. Grunting “None taken”, Amelie quickly demanded a description of the ‘thugs’. “One of them,” began Ceras, “is a big hulking brute of a man, who wields a fearsome great sword as if it were straw. Another is an elf with a penchant for bows. A third is the priest of some obscure deity.” “Enough!” shouted Amelie, “it is they! The murderers of my Wulfric! And they dare to hunt me? We shall see who is the hunted this day! You! [Pointing at Ceras] You will take us to their camp immediately, and I will finish this once and for all.” Pulling convincingly at his forelock, Ceras shrank before her rage and murmured “Your will is my command.” Then he smiled secretly.

Six Tharbrian toughs accompanied Amelie and Ceras down the road to what they imagined to be the campsite of Stilicho and company. As they drew near and saw the remains of a fire, with five bedrolls surrounding it, Amelie gave orders to her men: “We will creep up and stab them as they sleep, like the dogs they are. You, Ceras, will come with me.” The hunters crept through the night to the camp and soon were poised on the edge of the fading firelight. “Now!” whispered Amelie, and her six friends rushed forward with spears, jabbing and striking at the sleeping companions. As Amelie crowed with glee, one of her men turned and held up what his spear had caught - not flesh, but rags! Just then came the bellow of Drogden as he leapt from the low grass surrounding the copse. Cara, perched in a tree, began peppering the Tharbrians with well aimed shafts. Drogden ran at one of the toughs, while Stilicho, rushing forward with blade drawn, shouted “Aim for the sorceress! We have to take her out quickly. And … try to take her alive!” As Amelie turned in fury, one last bit of treachery erupted as Ceras swung at her with his ready dagger. Screaming in outrage, she dodged nimbly but was still unable to find the correct material components for her spells [ed.: she was surprised for 2 rounds]. Stilicho sprang forward and attempted to knock her out with the pommel of his great sword, but once again the lithe Archontean dodged away. Drogden paused, set his feet and demonstrated the might of Werrab with a mighty shake of his axe “Glory to the AXEMEN!” This time the words shook the toughs with divine fury. Stilicho followed up with a more mundane “Stand still, you stupid bitch!” Indeed, Amelie, roused from her surprise, was attempting to flee, but Ceras, having dropped his dagger in the melee launched himself at her in a desperate attempt to tackle her. The forward roll worked, and he had her quickly in a headlock. Stilicho came running up and applied a sound ‘knock’ to the skull that rendered her unconscious. Meanwhile, Drogden, Rudigar and Cara had accounted for four of the six toughs. As two turned to flee, Stilicho clove one in twain with an enormous swing of his mighty blade, but the sixth managed to escape into the night. “Oho!,” chuckled the warrior, “that plan worked rather well. Let’s see Cleopatra top this one? Eh?” “What’s important,” said Cara archly, “is that we have Amelie, and that she is alive. Let’s get her up to Imperial Row and to Lord Gedeon before anything else happens.” “Not before we relieve her of some excess items,” muttered Stilicho, who liberated a nice selection of coins, potions, and an unusual chime. “Werrab has blessed us this night,” observed Drogden, and the heroes set off for the city.

Somewhat unsure of the political repercussions of all this, the heroes stopped just outside the city and sent Cara to fetch Rudigar. He arrived some hours later with a platoon of men in the livery of House Ligareon: “Well done!,” said the rogue, “This is most welcome news!” And with that Rudigar took Amelie off to her ancestral clanhouse to meet her fate. The heroes decamped to the Grey Minstrel for wine and song, and to let Cleopatra know of their successes. Amidst the tale-telling, Stilicho craftily traded the items liberated from Amelie to Cleopatra in return for the cancellation of his previous debts. “Finally!,” he sighed, “I hate owing money to wizards, even if they are the friendly sort.” Amidst the celebration, a messenger arrived from Lord Gedeon, who required their attendance immediately. And so, stopping merely to prettify their appearance, the band trooped up Imperial Row, passing through the Imperial Gate, and reached the clanhouse of the Ligareons. There they were welcomed like brothers, and ushered into the finest solar, where they found Gedeon Ligareon awaiting them alone. As they entered, the great Archon rose and bowed as deeply as they had ever seen a noble bow: “My friends,” he stated slowly, “You do me and my kinsmen a great honor. We are forever in your debt. Not only have you saved the empire much trouble with the TRL, but in bringing my cousin Amelie back into our … errr, ‘care’ … you have ensured the removal of a significant blot on the lineage’s honor. No longer will the Ligareon be laughing stocks amongst the Five Families! For that, and much more, I honor you!” And the Archon bowed thrice more. Looking uncomfortable at this display, Cara took a seat and the others followed. Cleopatra, whose face look pale and pinched, spoke up. “We are pleased to have been of assistance, Lord Gedeon, but allow us some curiosity. Has your cousin been able to provide the name of this elusive ‘Aelfric’ fellow?” Gedeon smiled, and said merely “I thought it inappropriate to interrogate her before you arrived. She has been cooling her heels in one of our less salubrious cells. Let us summon her, and thus gain some answers.” Amelie was fetched while the heroes enjoyed some excellent wines, and the sorceress was soon seated sullenly in their presence. Although she tried bravely to deny everything, and even let loose some choice epithets about Gedeon and his side of the clan, she began talking after the Archon walked over and slapped her face with his silken glove, saying “Do not try my patience, Cousin. Your bravado is at an end. Your choice is to talk willingly or to suffer unbearably in the third sub-basement.” Shuddering visibly, she decided to talk willingly, spilling details about the entire operation of the TRL in and around Narsileon. Gedeon practically shone with pleasure as he took notes: “This will ensure the complete demise of the local rebellion!” But Stilicho was not satisfied: “This is all well and good. But who is Aelfric?” Silence ensued, broken only by the Archon’s slow display of his glove. Amelie quickly spoke: “He is Stavros Basileon, prince of the 2nd lineage of the Basileons and brother to Ysabet Basileon.” Audible gasps were heard from all, since Ysabet Basileon was due to marry the Exarch in only two weeks! Gedeon spoke slowly, “While I cannot say the news that a prince of the Basileons is a traitor to the Empire is welcome, it is nonetheless useful and valuable. Lord Keko and my old friend Valerian [ed. Valerian is the Exarch] must be told.” Turning to the heroes, Gedeon bowed once more. “Your services are even greater than I had first imagined. There is no way now that Valerian can marry Ysabet, and for that fact alone patriots will be grateful. Whatever spell she has cast over him will be instantly broken, and the wedding cancelled. What is more, I am certain that the Exarch will be grateful to those who procured such important - if troublesome - news. I can guarantee that the charge of arson hanging over you all will be dropped. Finally, I humbly wish to make you an offer. I would - and I hope you will accept - adopt you as kinsmen, so as to join your honor and fortunes to those of clan Ligareon. Your services and your discretion have certainly proven your worth, and I can think of none better to be added to the clan. What say you?” The heroes looked with surprise at each other, and then nodded in acquiescence. Gedeon clapped his hands, and a servant appeared bearing a pillow on which rested six gold rings mounted with an enormous green tourmaline. Kneeling in turn before each of them, Gedeon slipped the ring on their fingers and exchanged oaths with each of the heroes. They were now legally members of the Ligareon clan, one of the oldest in the Empire! Although Gedeon offered them apartments in the clan house, they preferred to return to their lodgings in the city. With the Archon’s words ringing in their ears (“Then go forth, and bring glory and honor to house Ligareon!”) they walked slowly down Imperial Row, fingering their new rings. “Well, that was an unexpected turn of events,” said Drogden. “Yes,” grinned Stilicho, but you know what it means, don’t you? We are now free to do whatever we want!” Cleopatra tried to grin, but a queasy look came over her. “I guess it’s time to let you know, boys,” sad the mage, “I’m pregnant.”

_________________
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 Feb 13, 2013 6:54 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:
Cleopatra, level 5 human wizard
Flavius Stilicho, level 3 human gallowglass
Cara Long-Arrow, level 3 elf ranger
Drogden, level 2 cleric
Ceras the Knave, level 2 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
Astra, level 2 rogue (probably departed ...)
Gren, level 4 human Bard
Godfrey, level 3 human knight

Chapter 2: Plots are Hatched, and Rugs Acquired

“In fact,” continued lovely Cleopatra, “I think my water has just broken. I am going to give birth!” Stilicho stood there, with his mouth agape, looking as if he had been hit by a poleaxe. It was Cara who bustled about, and ensured that Cleopatra was quickly borne by the ‘boys’ to her college, where some hours later she gave birth to a son. As the friends crowded into the birthing-room, some excited and others nervous, all eager to hear from Cleopatra how it was possible for her to bear a child without their knowledge, the raven-haired mage waved a tired hand. “Stop! No questions. I shall inform you merely that I enjoyed a pleasant liaison with a fellow while you were busy carousing, Stilicho. It turns out, however, that he was not as he originally seemed. I have reason to believe he was a prince of the Fey, which would explain the rapid gestation of my darling Amphiax. I was as surprised as you by the swift term of the pregnancy.” Watching their faces fall, she continued: “But you needn’t worry. I know you cannot make a move without my careful wisdom and potent spells, so be at peace - motherhood will not stop me from joining you in further adventures. Indeed, Lord Gedeon has agreed to provide a wetnurse for so long as it will be necessary, and the clanhouse will be a perfect spot for Amphiax to learn swordsmanship.” Shaking his huge head, Silicho merely muttered, sotto voce to Drogden, “As if she needed some other pretext for pride! Really!”

Yet amid the surprised celebration came another message from the Archon, Gedeon. He invited them to join him immediately at the Exarch’s palace, in order to attend an interview with none other than Keko the Lame, Master of the House of Sight, or, as it was more commonly known, the Drome. “Aren’t those the spies?” asked Drogden rather loudly. “Shhhh,” replied Cara, “don’t be impolite. Keko’s ears are everywhere. We had better go see what he wants.” And so all - including Cleopatra! - headed off to the Exarch’s Palace to speak with the high and mighty. “All this talk is making my blade rusty,” grumbled Stilicho, but he perked up as the legionaries at the Palace gate bowed humbly at their passing. Inside, they found themselves in the First Solar, where a slim man of about sixty years, with grey, close-cropped hair, sat sipping tea in a severe straight-backed chair. “Forgive me, my friends,” he slowly declaimed in a commanding voice, “if I do not rise, but, as you no doubt know, I have had some misfortune with my legs. Please seat yourselves and take some of this excellent tea. I have summoned you and my friend Gedeon [the Archon smiled thinly at the exaggerated compliment] to thank you for your loyal service to the empire in rooting out the weeds of rebellion in our vineyard. Truly, although the news of the treachery of the Basileon clan was a great blow to the Exarch, he has empowered me to show his gratitude to you for drawing forth that poison from the wound in which it has festered.” And Keko waved a lazy arm, in response to which a young secretary brought in heavy purses filled with coins. “A small reward for such loyal children of Archontos, all of whom are - at least now - also siblings in the noble clan of Ligareon. Now let us speak of how you may aid the glorious Basileus, Constans XXV, and his local agent, the Exarch Valerian. For you seem well adept to move forward in the service of the Emperor. While perhaps hasty and vengeful, as are all young men, your hardiness and tenacity appear to be sufficient to overcome your mistakes. I thus offer you the following proposal. Serve me! Serve the Exarch! Serve, even, the Basileus himself! We have need of agents of your ruthlessness and tenacity. I extend my hand to you. Take it! Take it!” Catching a microscopic shake of the head on the part of Gedeon, the heroes looked flummoxed, and hemmed and hawed. Indeed, while it is not often wise to refuse the largesse of the great, it is equally proverbial that the affairs of the great are no affairs of the honest. Silken-voiced Cleopatra tried to sidestep the offer: “We would be eager to offer what assistance we can, Lord Keko, but our affairs are such that we cannot, as yet, commit to your service. Rest assured, though, that we will be happy to aid you, and to send news to you, as best we can.” Keko adopted a pained look, and laid his hand on his thigh: “I was afraid of as much. I do not withdraw my hand. Return to me, if you like, and when you like, and you shall find me a kind and generous lord. But even if you will not join my service, hear me out. The needs of the empire are great, and you could accomplish much, even as you pursue your own agenda.”

Keko went on to sketch the outlines of an affair so shocking in its evil that even Drogden produced his holy symbol of Werrab to ward off ill omens. For Keko spoke of the return of Set and his priests to the lands of the Empire. Keko was quick to remind the heroes - or at least those who were paying attention, for the attention of certain warriors was drifting! - that the temple of Set had been one of the cornerstones of the ancient empire, tolerated for its practices so long as its priests supported the expansion of the empire, But when the dark days of the Great War between the Sortians and the Theosophs broke out, it became clear that the Temples of Set cared only for Set, and not for the Basileus. And so the Temples of Set were thrown down in Archontos, and in the great exarchal cities of Narsileon and Arcturuos. The main temple of Set, located in lost Arden Vul to the west of Narsileon, was also destroyed - or so it was thought. Keko paused to sip his tea and then continued, “But now the reports of my many friends [pause for effect] gives me reason to believe that certain priests have revived the worship of the Red-Headed God, the Desert Storm, the Sower of Deceits, and that they intend no less than the overthrow of the Exarch and of the Emperor himself. My friends report that a certain Stephania, late of Archontos itself, has reoccupied the old cult centers in Arden Vul, and there seeks for the lost artifacts from the golden age of the Empire. Should she find them, she would be in a position to challenge the legions for dominance on this continent!” Cleopatra’s ears perked up at the thought of artifacts, and she politely inquired as to the specifics of such artifacts. Keko described a variety of them, including general artifacts of the golden age of Archontos, but more particularly some artifacts of the legendary Rudishva civilization, which were said to lie unclaimed behind the Obsidian Gates within Arden Vul. Among the Rudishva objects were reputedly a sky-sled, various wands or orbs of power, and some powerful enchanted weapons. Then Keko paused, as if considering how far to go, and then went on: “But the chief artifact which cannot be allowed to fall into the hands of the Set cult is the so-called Compact of Ennius, said to be a gold- and ivory tablet on which are inscribed the ritual phrases and oaths which bound the first Archontean Emperors to the Elder Allies, of whom nothing more is known. Along with the Compact is the the Torc of Ennius, made of gold and studded with gems, which has some sort of powerful connection to the ritual words inscribed on the Compact. Imperial scholars have determined that the Compact and Torc were stolen from Archontos by the arch-traitor and head Sortian, Priscus Pulcher, during the early months of the war between the Sortians and Theosophs. He is thought to have delivered the Compact and Torc to a group of Sortians at Arden Vul, who used it to undermine the defenses of the city, thereby ensuring the destruction of the great Temples of Thoth, Horus and Set at Arden Vul. We think that this Stephania hopes to find the Compact and Torc, and to use them to summon again the Elder Allies in a bid to seize the Shining City of Archontos. This cannot happen!”

Drogden gently prodded Stilicho, who had begun nodding, and the priest declared in a most satisfying way: “As long as it involves crushing the skulls of Set priests, I’m all for it!” Stilicho shouted “Hear! Hear!” and stood as if to leave. The others nodded their agreement. But Cleopatra was not ready to depart. Hearing the name Arden Vul from the spymaster made her think of her own brief expeditions - both planned and unplanned - into that dangerous venue, and she wanted more information. She knew from experience that Arden Vul was vast - “How,” she asked politely, but sharply, “are we to find such artifacts amid monsters, traps, and strange mushrooms? It is like the proverbial needle in the haystack! We require a map of the halls. Can you provide one, good Keko?” As Cara gasped at her familiar tone, Keko smiled. “No,” he replied, “but I believe that your own Collegium, Cleopatra, may be able to help. Look to Rixos-who-Laughs, and tell him that I have asked - politely - that he assist you.” “And what about a strange wizard called Kerbog Khan,” continued the pert mage, “Have you heard of this one? We had some extremely strange encounters with him and his automata amid the caverns of Arden Vul.” Keko thought and then nodded: “Yes, the name is familiar. He was a potent wizard from the Imperial College, whom many thought might rise to the 23 Circle and thus move into the Basileus’ counsel. Then, abruptly, he left. You would do well to direct your enquires to Julian of Archontos, at our local chapter of that august collegium.” “And how are we to enter Arden Vul, sweet Keko?” purred the mage? “Ahh,” replied Keko, “I have this worked out. It appears that Stephania has a small network of merchants who are buying up grain, alcohol, dried meat and dried fruits from the surrounding towns and villages of Burdock’s Valley. These merchants enter Arden Vul to supply that bitch of a priest and her followers. I propose that you join one of those supply missions - a specially chosen one, led by one of my ‘friends’ - and infiltrate the so-called Forum of Set in that guise.” “Excellent,” replied Cleopatra, as she rose to leave, “for two days of motherhood have proven almost as much as I can bear! I am ready to depart.”

Despite the mage’s eagerness, other matters needed settling. First Cleopatra paid a visit to her friendly rivals at the Imperial College. There, Julian of Archontos confirmed Keko’s account of the strange departure of Kerbog Khan. The aged Julian nodded slowly, and described Kerbog Khan as having grown increasingly interested in techno-sorcery and particularly in the properties of blood magic. Cleopatra frowned to herself, and thought of the vial of her own blood that the odd sorcerer had collected. “But worst of all,” continued Julian, was Kerbog Khan’s theft of six unique volumes of sorcerous lore and practice from our library in Archontos. Even though 200 years have passed, there is still a standing reward of 10,000 gp and 20 spell levels for anyone who returns the six tomes.” Cleopatra’s eyes perked up as she thought of the finery that such a sum might bring, but she was wise enough to ask whether a lesser reward might be forthcoming for information as to Kerbog Khan’s location and residence. Julian apprised her thoughtfully and then smiled. “Yes, I would be willing to pay 5000 imperial solidi for an accurate - accurate! - map to Kerbog Khan’s lair.” Cleopatra smiled back at him and stated “Consider it done!”

Next Cleopatra paid a visit to her own collegium, where she tried to find Rixos-who-Laughs. Although the mighty master of the 7th Circle and thus not usually accessible to tiros like Cleopatra, the name of Keko the Lame opened all doors. Rixos-who-Laughs met with Cleopatra and promised that within a week he would have news and perhaps a map of the Archontean regions of Arden Vul. Returning to her companions, and to her baby, Cleopatra passed on this news and informed them that they could leave in a week.

Drogden rubbed his hands together. “Excellent news,” he stated shortly, “for Werrab’s word needs to be better disseminated in this town. I intend to start a newer, grander temple to honor the Battle Lord!” Drogden returned to the House of Sight, where a second interview with Keko the Lame produced a document most valuable - a charter deeding a city block in the Wall district - indeed, a block nestled up against the ruins of the Old Wall itself - to the cleric. Drogden, taking his recruit, Byrhtnoth, with him, made his way to the Old Wall, in the heart of the terrible slums, and, mounting the Wall itself, summoned the Voice of Werrab: “I claim this territory for mighty Werrab, Lord of Battles, the Blood-Drenched One, Cleanser of Wrongs, the Axe-Wielder!!!” As this Voice boomed across the slums, a few of the desperate poor looked up, and an even smaller few came over to see what was going on. Freely distributing his coin, Werrab soon had a small band of 10 new recruits hard at work, clearing away the ruined tenements, expelling squatters, and planning the new temple. Recognizing that he needed money to erect a proper temple, in which Battle Lore could be taught and practiced by all, Drogden decided to pay a visit to the existing - and in his view, pitiful - temple of Werrab, tucked into a tiny overhang on Imperial Row. There he found a lazy, older priest named Ervil. Drogden greeted him “The Axe-lord be with you, Brother Ervil. I have been called by Werrab to build a new, and glorious temple to the Battle Lord. Come and join my efforts!” Ervil seemed most unwilling to give up his meager rights, however, and so Drogden stood and looked scornfully at him. “Well, if you refuse, then I challenge you to combat. Let the Battle-Lord judge who shall prevail in Narsileon!” Ervil rose to his feet, found his battle axe and shield, and adopted the position: “Young pup, you have much to learn if you think you can defeat me. Taste my axe!” “Old Man,” replied Drogden, “You’ll have to hit me first. And by the way, shields are for pansies!” Swinging his enormous bearded axe, Drogden began to hammer the older, but more experienced priest. A crowd swiftly grew, but the acolytes assured them this was a ‘religious rite’ and not an infringement of the peace laws, and so quickly the crowd began to shout encouragement and lay bets. Drogden tried to pull his blows enough that he could defeat Ervil without killing him, but it did not appear that the other man was following suit. After a long, and tiring exchange of blows, though, Drodgen laid Ervil out with an enormous blow from his axe. Lying insensate on the pavement, Ervil was only brought back to life by a bucket of water, after which he sullenly agreed to come to the Wall District and supervise the training of the new recruits. “And now,” grinned the bloody but not beaten Drogden, “we need only to find a nice chunk of money to fund the new temple. Arden Vul, here I come!”

After a week of preparations, the heroes regrouped at the College of Macrina to hear Rixos-who-Laughs’ results. He produced an ancient tome, which, he explained, contained a description of a lesser shrine of Thoth which contained a map room. Rixos-who-Laughs was almost certain that the map room contained schematic maps of the Archontean levels of subterranean Arden Vul. He had also located this shrine, known as “Ibis’ Roost”, and provided clear directions to it. So the companions set out from Narsileon. As they exited the Grain Gate, a messenger from Keko the Lame arrived, directing them to their ‘fake’ merchant contact. This person, a certain Cedric Swinesfoot, was waiting with his four mules and 3 horses in the caravanserai and was eager to meet them. Cedric spoke slowly, with a thick rural accent, and seemed perpetually to be tugging his forelock. Still, something about him looked familiar, but it was not until he leaned over and pinched Cleopatra’s cheek, saying “It is I, Rudigar! I see I’ve fooled you” that they recognized their old friend. “Are you ready to depart?” asked Cedric/ Rudigar, “or shall we meet up somewhere en route?” “We’ll catch up with you,” said Drogden, “since we have some Ibises to roust.” Smiling at his own pun, the priest led the part off into the countryside.

The shrine known as Ibis’ Roost proved to be a circular cleft in a steep hillside, which, although open to the skies, was almost entirely enclosed on all sides by rock. Only a narrow, 10’ entranceway led to the shrine. Ceras peered in past the broken doors, and reported a courtyard in which a forest of broken columns lay in pieces on the pavement. Ceras decided to scale the cliff so as to get a better view. This he did, and in so doing noticed a large flock of ibises as well as a huge cult statue of an ibis-headed man in a niche at the far end of the open plaza. Several doors in the circular rock walls led to side rooms. More alarmingly, at least three fresh corpses lay moldering among the broken columns. Returning to his friends, Ceras reported all this, but confessed that he saw no signs of movement. Since Werrab favors the bold, Drogden took charge - bidding Stilicho to ‘watch and learn’ - and strode within. As they poked among the pillars and approached the corpses, a tremendous roar emerged from one of the doorways to the left. Four gangly, skinny, green-and-grey-skinned bipeds came bumbling forth. The heroes smartly jumped into battle formation. Drogden invoked the Battle-Lord’s aid, and three of the four creatures were halted in their tracks, momentarily stunned. Cleopatra, smiling a rather vicious smile, pushed her fists together, shouted a word of power, and pulled them apart: there in her palm, lay a pulsing ball of flame. Reaching back, she hurled it at the creatures, and with a tremendous “WHOMP” it exploded. One was slain instantly, and the other three were grievously wounded. The crazed creatures ran forward, gangly arms practically dragging on the ground as their long pointy noses dripped foul fluids. Drogden and Stilicho ran to confront them, as Cara pumped arrows into them and Ceras disappeared into the shadows. As the two friends hewed and hacked, two more went down. Stilicho showed his teeth, and noted “This is entirely too easy!”

The warrior had spoken too soon, for another door opened and a lithe young man dressed in red robes emerged. Chuckling loudly, he shouted “Thanks for the diversion, chumps. They had us cornered. Now I think it’s time for me to depart.” And with that he hurled his own ball of fire into the midst of the party. Drogden collapsed, Stilicho was badly wounded, and Cleopatra only barely managed to avoid the worst of the blast. Cara ran forward with a healing elixir for Drogden, as Stilicho tried to fend off the remaining creature. The enemy mage - for so it was - whipped out a small bit of carpet and, as it hovered in mid air, he jumped on. Abandoning the two men at arms who had followed him, the cowardly wizard prepared to flee. Her eyes wide with greed, Cleopatra shouted advice to her friends: “He’s got a MAGIC CARPET! Don’t let him escape!” Ceras, hearing this, launched himself forward in a sprint. The dextrous rogue leaped on to the top of one of the fallen pillars and launched himself towards the Carpet. Before the wizard could zoom away, Ceras was upon him, dagger drawn! Although his leap was true, his arm was not, and a quick struggle took place on the carpet, which ended, Alas!, with the enemy mage kicking Ceras from the carpet. Just as it appeared that he would plummet 20’ to the pavement, Cleopatra’s magicks came into effect. She had used the delay won by the brave Ceras to conjure a mass of webs, into which both the carpet-riding wizard and the fortunate Ceras fell. As Cleopatra, Ceras, and Cara desperately attempted to bring down the enemy mage with arrows, magic missiles, and anything else, Stilicho and Drogden kept fencing with the last creature. Or was it the last? Suddenly one of the creatures laid low by Stilicho’s mightly blade leaped up, its wounds miraculously healed (in part). “Trolls?!,” shouted the warrior, “I didn’t know that trolls could regenerate! Help!” Drogden applied fire to the one remaining corpse, while Stilicho fought off the two trolls [ed. Once again the Dm’s dice were stone cold]. Eventually the pair brought down the remaining trolls, and burned their bodies beyond recognition. Panting, they turned to see Cara fire an arrow into the mage on the carpet, who had managed to navigate his way through the webs: just as it appeared the mage might escape at last, the elf’s arrow hit its mark, and the foe was dead. The carpet rolled up and dropped to the ground. “Well done, boys!,” Shouted Cleopatra, “I’ve always wanted one of these! I count this mission a success.” “I thought we were here to find a map room,” retorted Stilicho. “Bah! Map rooms are dime a dozen! It’s not every day you get your hands on one of these babies!” And Cleopatra ran her hands over the silk threads of the carpet, her eyes positively aglow with avarice. “Sometimes you scare me, Cleopatra,” said Cara quietly.

_________________
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 Feb 27, 2013 3:32 am
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