Welcome back! We are continuing where we left off, the four Dwarves getting ready for a dab at this supposed rock formation that the Wulfan may or may not have a lair in.
The characters for this session:
Fennec, wandering hedge-wizard;
Cauleigh, city-born student and warrior;
Jotunn, strange wilderness-hunting warrior; and
Crompton, ex-Runebearer and disowned rogue
They begin in Hopespyre’s town square. Foulstock, the guard officer they rescued from the Cut, has asked if they want a hireling.
A Hobb hireling: Nash, ranger in good standing
After quite some minutes, the other three heroes of Tigley allowed Cauleigh to persuade them to hire one of Foulstock’s lad’s.
“Roll out your boys then, commander, but make sure they are of good character”
This caveat caused some confusion but at length they made themselves clear: they needed someone in good standing in Hopespyre, someone whose testimony would offset possible damage to the sacred pyre. Foulstock promised to return, but when he did, it was with one Hobb.
“So that really left me with one brother… this is Nash – I highly recommend him, he was trained by master Shan himself”
Nash stood a sturdy 3’ on shoeless hairy feet. His beard was but scrappy. Surreptitiously Cauleigh checked the Hobb’s ears for signs of a beard-wig’s ties.
[A little extra AP for Cauleigh who picked up that he could use Shan’s name to encourage Nash to ‘be all the ranger he could be’]
Banja gives Crompton an advantage
Nash deposited his wages (5 gold) with ‘er indoors then joined them again. By this time it was well past noon, though the Dwarves had used the delay wisely. Jotunn had scrounged up four fathoms of sturdy rope, and Crompton had not only found a bundle of pitons, but had caught Banja when she was able to speak frankly:
“I ain’t allus been faithful to Annan, see. Don’t tell ‘er, but I palled around with a stone-mage for a time. These ‘ere…” – she passed Crompton a handful of stones – “will go off with a bang once ya throws them. The key word is: ‘Bul-Bekhazaal!’ – Now, that’s primed them. So remember the key-word and remember they go off when you yell it.”
It seemed an easy key-word: Bul-Bekhazaal was the senior-most Dwarf of Esgaroth.
Finally ready, they set off on the trail!
Speaking loudly of ‘patrolling around’ the five set off through the familiar south entrance, down the trail then off due south into the forest. Nash soon had them on a good game trail. Jotunn, striding second, spotted the footprints of a tallish, narrow-footed man moving at a swift pace. The prints were recent.
They speculated that the prints might belong to Katin, the half-Elf Banja had bad-mouthed as untrustworthy.
An aerial attack and a pothole
Their ruminations were interrupted by an aerial attack: but Fennec was ready. He threw a spell, but the tiny flying Pixie (or Fairy) countered it. Crompton, Jotunn and Cauleigh all triggered their seeker-bolts and the attacker was flung far afield, dead in an instant. That done, the conversation renewed.
“How long has Katin lived in Hopespyre?”
“Ooh… 12 year or so…”
More to the point, the tracks helped guide them to the rock formation Banja had suggested. It was well south, closer to the Cut than Hopespyre, and probably in or near Curuilas’ estate.
The first sign they had the right place was a pothole. Nash stopped in surprise.
“Someone’s tied off and gone down there!”
Jotunn inspected the rope. It was extremely weathered. Or had it been old tatty rope to begin with? Hard to say: he was no rope-walker. Cauleigh, who professed to know something about ropes, believed it to have been out here a long time, months maybe.
They left it and since the only good rope they had was a mere four fathoms none suggested potholing down. Night was close on their heels as they set out again.
Nash led them around the west side of the formation, dropping down through bush-clad shelves and hard limestone, to a low cavern entrance. A brief exploration by Jotunn and Nash distinguished two tunnels in, one spider-webbed, the other bare.
Into the Wulfan lair
After some debate and trial Nash took a torch from them and lit it. Cauleigh packed his lantern away. They set the party order: Nash leading, then Jotunn and Cauleigh, and Fennec and Crompton. As they headed into the bare tunnel Crompton glanced behind: Full night had fallen. He clutched his crossbow tight.
The natural limestone tunnel wound around, often leaving Crompton out of sight of the lead. As Jotunn announced a T-junction, Fennec’s paranoia rose. He cast:
“Oh There It Is!”
Sure enough a light glow to the left led them to a slender stone bridge across a gully. Choosing not to fall for the obvious trap, they headed right.
Soon, they found themselves in what had once been a common lair for perhaps five Wulfan litters. Simple family adornments and utensils marked five hide-carpeted areas out, near a broad black pool. Set next to the pool were a few communal treasures: a cauldron and a few implements used by the pack at large.
Jotunn probed cautiously at the pool’s edge, tasted the water, then cursed mildly as the chill feeling in his toes announced leaking boots.
“Yep, we’ll all need new boots,” Cauleigh agreed regretfully, “and I was so comfy in these marsh-boots.”
“My boots are still alright,” Crompton assured him, “good Esgaroth welting.”
Nash held his tongue.
A trail leads down to a flame trap
A number of possible exits suggested themselves, but by walking with the draft they soon found themselves below the pothole. The frayed end of the rope could be seen. Below it, marks where someone had landed heavily then dragged an oblong shape, like a heavy backpack, towards another tunnel.
Cauleigh stooped where the pack had scraped hard. He raised three coins for their inspection.
“Copper! We’re onto a major treasure here boys!”
The scrape-marks led down to a cavern where a wooden cabinet, simply fitted with pegged hinges and leather loop hinges and fasteners, nestled against one wall. A small pool wet the other side of the room. Jotunn stepped in, and was enveloped in a gas explosion!
[Easily makes the L3 CON SR – he has over 50 CON thanks to his TARO]
Somewhat singed, they waited back above for the gas to burn out, then retraced their steps. Crompton scouted, finding the cabinet scorched and the contents, a honey pot and jars of conserve, ruined. The pool had burned out.
This was where the scrape-marks ended. From here on, they navigated by likelihood of descent or air movement. A steepish tunnel led them down again, and soon to a new trace of tunnels and caverns.
A clue: the sun-swallower’s symbol
At length, they found a cool-store of grim kind. The smell of rank old meat came from a rock shelf above their heads. Clambering up with a boost, Cauleigh found the chewed-but-clothed corpse of a creature Fennec identified as a Kobold. Searching the clothes briefly Cauleigh turned up a bent metal symbol of Ūrheru sun-swallower, and a smoking-pipe. A white canvas pouch lay next the corpse. Suspiciously Cauleigh tested it, and found a tripwire.
He and Crompton exchanged places and the rogue sifted through some ‘tools’ he happened to have with him.
The wary Dwarves hurled themselves to cover but Cauleigh’s foot turned and a heavy stone stalactite smashed down on him. He got up, rubbing at his side.
“Better armour! That’s what I need! I swear Hopespyre must have at least an iron hat!”
[Cauleigh’s player rolled a 3, Fennec and Jotunn managed L1 LK or DEX; Crompton was out of the trap zone.]
Trying not to snigger at another’s misfortune Crompton scooped coins back into the pouch – at a rough guess there was at least a hundred, a good portion of that in gold – and tossed it down, then followed.
Wulfans and fey, really?
Exploring further with the same means, Jotunn pushed his torch out into a large cavern. Indeed as Cauleigh and Jotunn crept in, the deep shadows their torches threw up only made the space more menacing. Along the right-hand face they crept.
And not far along, found an audience-seat where a Wulfan leader might have parlayed with Fairy-kind. A damply defaced wooden board held a tattered fresco of a unicorn and around it, Pixies. Or possibly Fairies.
They reach the cavern of evil flame
After some simple testing of options, the Dwarves detected gas and pools of flammables in one tunnel leading down from the great hall. The same toss-the-torch precaution was used, and after a decent wait, the way was pronounced safe.
Jotunn now led, though Cauleigh was still near at hand. A large cavern opened out below a limestone shelf. And down and beyond, no more than short range for crossbow, a great flame burned, licking around two figures locked in some kind of wrestling stance.
Was this some elaborate statuary? Some of the party edged along the shelf to get a better view. One false step and they would slide down slick limestone some 25 feet to the cavern floor.
“The flames make it tricky, but I think they are alive”
The smaller of the two figures was perhaps large-human size, and fangs could be glimpsed. The larger was much larger.
Driving in a piton with the hammer of his axe Jotunn tied off the rope. It reached almost the whole way down. Cauleigh eased down and found his footing, then advanced crossbow at the ready.
Katin enters – and exits
After some nervous second-thoughts about keeping together versus being well away from danger, Fennec joined him, then Jotunn. Fennec’s magic senses were a-twitch and his grandfather’s legacy of weird experiments was strong in him!
Finally Crompton joined them, and all four agreed that what they were looking at was a vampire and a false-troll, grappling each other, and being burned away and regenerating inside the flame.
Fennec caught a movement far off to one flank. He reacted with a screech of warning, then hurled his go-to spell:
“Oh Go Away!”
A slim figure dropped its war-bow and raced, features grimacing in hate, at Fennec!
[I was very soft on Fennec allowing a warning and a little think and a spell. It won’t happen again.]
Three axes smashed it down and its head leaped clear, rolling to where Nash could see it:
“What! Why… that’s Katin!”
Crompton loses his advantage, and nearly his hand
Nash hardly needed to identify the corpse. To confirm his suspicions Cauleigh frisked the corpse and found another Ūrheru medallion. Then it was time to turn back to the main issue.
“I don’t know about the troll but vampire, that’s definitely something we need to deal with!”
As Cauleigh levelled his crossbow Crompton reached into his pouch and drew forth a stone.
“I got something good for that… Bul-Bekhazaal!”
The stone immediately exploded, damaging Crompton’s hand severely.
[Ouch! The other players assured Crompton’s he was told about that. With a CON of 12 the damage, 10 points, was no joke.]
Groaning, he explained and the others decided to use the remaining stones. Crompton was raised back up the rope to the ledge, where he joined Nash.
“That looks really bad! Got a bandage for me to fix it with?”
One source of evil at least is done
Rolling or tossing or bowling, the remaining eight stones were grouped at the vampire’s feet, then someone yelled the key-word and a multiple explosion sounded.
The vampire was taking notice! His eyes shifted…
Crossbow bolts thudded into him and with a violent crack Fennec’s TTYF lanced into it as well. The vampire crumbled to dust, and the Troll lurched forward off balance and out of the flame.
A quick exit and a heroic return
Up the rope they scrambled as the troll began to find its feet and get its bearings. And up the way they came they ran, pitter patter, and out into a pre-dawn sky.
[L1 DEX to make sure they were able to fasten crossbows back as they ran, both Cauleigh and Jotunn make it.]
Back on the path to Hopespyre they followed the known route and passed the south watch safely. They had made such good time that the villagers were still at service around the pyre. But a difference was obvious: the pyre now burned with a tall clear flame.
The saviours of Hopespyre move on towards their reward
Yes, they were saviours of Hopespyre and once Jotunn Crompton and Fennec practically sat on Cauleigh’s chest he allowed Nash to explain what had happened to make the flame change. The Hobb being in good standing with the brothers and Dagor, his account allowed the sudden murder of Katin to be waived.
In the days that followed it became clear that the Wulfan and Fairies had ceased their encirclement of Hopespyre. The flame that burned bright and clean was surely sucking toxins out of the caverns as well. Soon all the joyous woodland would rejoice as hungry young Wulfan pups were born and Fairies (or Pixies) were free to gambol and play games with mortals. And of course, most importantly, Hopespyre was free to follow its heretical cult in peace.
Some days later the saviours of Hopespyre departed with the well-wishes of their hosts going with them, as well as an iron kettle-helm on Cauleigh’s head. They were bound for the River Way and the money waiting for them in Palgwyth.
We had time for a lot more and the GM was caught on the hop, flipping through thread options, but I will deal with that in one piece in another blog entry.
A big fail on the accent front from me with Nash’s accent – it was just supposed to sound a bit yokel-like but wandered around the British Isles like a drunken tourist on the wrong train.