TI3.45: Re-clearing Level One

 

The characters for this session

Fennec, L3 wizard

Cauleigh, L3 warrior

Jotunn, L5 warrior

Crompton, L3 rogue

ably assisted by the Herbal Teas:

Sage, L3 wizard

Trefoil, L2 warrior

Heartsease, L2 warrior

Wolfie, L2 wulfan

 

Let go! Servitor apes have new instructions?

The Herbals are pretty much out for the count. The ponies suck up almost all the water, then feedbags are slipped over their muzzles. Trefoil wearily agrees to stand watch while the Dwarves set out for fresh water and a quick scout around.

Exactly what to carry takes more time to decide and by the time the four are ready to open the door, bearing what they consider a minimum of gear, Sage Heartsease and Wolfie are deeply asleep and even the ponies are at rest.

They plan to work deeper in, locate the great chamber, and check that its guard-rooms are still handy for standing watch. But their scouting stillborn: as they turn right out of the inner (southern) door the lead pair, Jotunn and Cauleigh, realise a group of apes is shuffling up the tunnel out of the southern arch.

As they pause, the apes too shuffle to an uncertain halt. Fennec blows his neutral G chord whistle, and that seems to decide the apes. A pair eye the Dwarves closely – which is quite unsettling, because their faces are quite blank of expression – then head purposefully past, as though to pass them by and move into the base camp. The Dwarves, as usual, let them be. One opens the door and the pair head in.

There’s an outraged cry from base camp! and in the tunnel outside it, where the Dwarves are, another pair of apes shuffle closer.

“Blow the whistle! Don’t attack them!” Crompton cries, and Cauleigh races back past the rogue and into the base camp.

Inside the base camp Trefoil is desperately fending the apes away from Sage, who, it seems, they want to pick up. “Put me down!” the Gnome shrills “I’m not one of your band!” The ponies are severe obstacles to anyone else helping, or Sage wriggling away. Cauleigh lends his strength to Trefoil and the pair keep the apes from grabbing Sage – for now!

Outside, Jotunn falls back, and joins Crompton where the rogue has his back against the door so no more apes can get in. Fennec stands back and to their left, away from apes. The next pair of apes head towards Jotunn!

Inside, Cauleigh tries speaking slowly and firmly, pointing to the outer door.

“For goodness sake! Doooo something!!” Sage shrills.

“Trying my best, Sage!” Trefoil protests, fumbling out the whistle and dropping it – then Heartsease makes a splendid diving catch and blows it!

[Trefoil has made three DAROs in a row to block the grappling ape. He rolls a fail on the L1 DEX to get the whistle out!]

Between Cauleigh and Trefoil one ape is physically lifted over Sage and to face the outer door. Wolfie scrambles the door open and one by one the pair of apes shamble out.

A moment’s silence falls and the base camp can hear the sounds of Fennec alternatively cursing and blowing an open G chord.

For in the meantime, Fennec has decided to investigate more closely: and the second ape trying to detach Jotunn from his post decides to collar Fennec!

Oh Go Away! Fennec yells then Oh f*&^! he shrieks as the ape immediately attacks!

Jotunn hurls himself over the ape he’s trying to fend off, while Crompton activates tempus fugit, whips the bladed chain around the leg of Fennec’s ape, and hauls on it. It’s a remarkably accurate cast and the ape is toppled away from Fennec before it can do more than a few scratches: then Jotunn flattens the ape, and Crompton jumps on as well, quickly whipping out some twine.

Cauleigh now steps out into the tunnel. An ape is almost directly in front of him: it eyes him up and down, then swings towards the struggle. Cauleigh clonks it on the back of the head with his silver-headed mace of stunting. It falls, stunned.

Crompton finishes tying the other ape’s hands. It shrugs its massive shoulders and the twine parts. Immediate re-tackle! Having had its head banged on the stone tunnel floor a number of times, the ape loses consciousness.

“Why are we being so careful not to kill them,” wants to know Fennec the Bloody, but he’s distracted from this philosophical dilemma as he spots more pairs of ape eyes visible in the now-dim torchlight.

“Let’s drag them away,” Cauleigh suggests and having checked east (tunnel turns south, there’s a big ape statue) returns, grabs a pair of ape ankles and starts dragging it west.

The others straggle after Cauleigh, Jotunn and Crompton easily managing the second ape between them, and they locate the refectory north. It looks as though the other apes – the ones Fennec spotted – have headed north through it. Dragging two apes with them, the Dwarves check north. Heartsease and Wolfie, obviously still exhausted, stumble around to intercept them. It seems all is clear – the other apes have headed towards the exit. From behind him, west, Jotunn catches the muffled rattle and booming noise of a portcullis dropping.

“Let’s leave them here,” Cauleigh decides: his ape is heavy. They do so and re-gather at base camp.

“Find a better base camp?” Sage hazards.

“We will, but for now, make sure you’re not obvious to apes” Fennec sternly replies.

With ponies now moved adjacent to each door the Dwarves set off once more.

 

Portcullis lifting is old stuff – but there are still dangers!

The next shift of scouting is much simpler. No ape blocks their path or even walks across it. The four follow the tunnels around to the small portcullis on the exchange’s north wall. A sand-creature sifts through it, but instead of attacking proceeds on past them. They lift the portcullis (with due precautions including a WoW through) and check the exchange. Crompton scents a rank smell east, like rotten vegetable matter.

Crompton persuades them to check store-rooms and get petrified spars to prop the portcullis up. Then a pause. There’s uncertainty about what the priority is, until dry throats prompt them to head along the west tunnel to the ape-feeder room. A pair of apes are eating, and once again as Fennec sounds his G chord decide the order of the day is ‘arrest that Dwarf wizard!’

[Jotunn has said the two tallest should do it, then Fennec has decided to follow the two tallest]

Cauleigh king-hits the nearest ape as it shuffles past him, and Crompton tangles the other’s leg. Jotunn, who has been peeping round the corner, dashes past Fennec and uses the flat of his axe on that one.

“I don’t understand why we are going easy on these f***ing apes!” Fennec growls, relaxing out of his TTYF stance.

“They could turn out to be people, turned into apes,” Crompton points out.

“So far we haven’t needed to fight apes the whole way and not having an immediate ape riot on our hands is a good thing,” Cauleigh argues.

As the water canteens are filled, Fennec, who is standing guard, dives to one side! [Makes L2 of L6 LK but makes L4 WIZ] Smoky tendrils wind out of an unexplored archway and tower over them. He casts a Glue You on the magical creature and Jotunn – and thanks to his mace of stunting Cauleigh – drop gear and protect the wizard.

As Crompton flings a zapped dagger and Cauleigh and Jotunn use their magical weapons the thing breaks up and dissipates.

[Fennec also buffs Cauleigh with a Little Feets but it’s not needed]

They retrieve gear. “Thank you, Ponderblade,” Cauleigh mutters, kissing the mace.

Checking west confirms the path through north and towards Level Two, but since it leads more immediately to ape chambers, they retreat to the exchange, full canteens clonking heavily.

 

Now, all they have to do is head straight back to the Herbals and base camp!

 

A battle with black dwarves seeking to flee

“Let’s store the water in a store room… well not our own water… so we can finish checking around here” suggests Cauleigh. He inspects the north portcullis, propped up with struts, then glancing to its right, [L3 LK SR] exclaims:

“Hang on – that door wasn’t open last time!”

Realising they should have closed it completely, a small phalanx of short-but-broad, dark-skinned, white-eyed creatures charges! They are intent on breaking through to the tunnel west.

Cauleigh and Jotunn block them while Crompton snares one’s ankle.

[Cauleigh and Jotunn both need to make a CHR SR to avoid some disadvantage. Both were near-killed by another formation of squat Morlocks. Jotunn misses by 1.]

Fennec drops to one side and hits the lead enemy with GY. The snared ‘black dwarf’ turns on Crompton with a short sword, curved at the tip: Cauleigh sweeps his other ankle with his mace of stunting. Jotunn attempts to activate Temerity as he deals with the remaining two:

“Metrity!”

Even so the two-hander mace is an awesome weapon. Jotunn is driven back, slightly injured, but as they were intent on fleeing the pair simply push past him and run.

Fennec calls “brace yourself!” and throws OGA at the pair – leaping to cover behind his warriors!

They come charging back into the light. Crompton casts VB and smashes his ancestor axe down on the sprawling black dwarf’s iron cap, shattering it and chopping into its skull. He wheels and attempts to use the chain on the incoming pair but he is hopelessly out of position to do that.

Temerity!” yells Jotunn, getting back up and intercepting. Cauleigh agains uses his mace and trips [SPD] one – the other simply nips over it. With a satisfying explosion of iron fragments, skull and brain, Temerity shatters the incoming black dwarf’s head. The corpse flops down in front of Fennec.

Cauleigh and Crompton jump on the tripped one and finish him.

Then the GY’d black dwarf attacks Fennec!

The wizard fends off as best he can, as Jotunn spins and smashes Temerity at the berserk enemy.

Fennec is again merely scratched as Jotunn’s strength and his own staff keep the berserker at bay. The others help finish him… then the black dwarf Crompton thought he’d killed begins getting back up!

“Let’s take the heads off!” yells Fennec the Bloody.

The corpses (which render no loot) are dragged back and piled up in the ape-tomb and the door closed.

 

Reclaiming the great chamber and a joyful reunion

Breathing freely once again, they return to their chosen job of scouting east through the small portcullis. All of them pick up the smell Crompton mentioned. A WoW shows reassuringly familiar territory beyond. It’s heaved up and again propped up with spars.

The source of the rank smell proves to be a large pot, left outside the kitchen. It seems the Lizardman cooks did not return. Inside the kitchen, the cooking materials are as they were abandoned. Moving through and out the opposite door, they scout around the ‘circuit’ down to guard/store rooms and around to the great chamber’s dais. Stores do not seem to have been disturbed since the last Gnolls fled.

 

They walk, solemnly, through the great chamber, noting that bodies and dropped weapons are absent, and remind one another of the barricaded area in the north-west corner.

Checking the Gnoll barracks left, they discover there are no poultry left in the hutch, but hurrah! Fennec’s ruined pack is still lying where he left it. He quickly checks that map, abacus, brain-in-a-jar, and weird magic crystal cube are there and not broken, then slings the pack on one shoulder. The only real casualty is a sack, which is now more of a burlap rag.

Cauleigh draws the attention of the others back to himself. He gestures to the two connecting barracks. “Is everyone agreed – we can bring the others back here?”

The others nod – it seems sensible. Then back to the great chamber, through the double-doors north and to the windlass room. By great good fortune a Gnoll axe is still lying there. They check briefly behind the false mirror-wall (it’s just as they left it) then retrace their steps back through the great chamber, let the east portcullis down, walk back north again, winch the portcullis up and jam it, loop up round to the base camp and wake the ponies and – let’s be honest – Trefoil, who has nodded off.

“We’ve got our base camp sorted out – all’s well!” Cauleigh says cheerily.

“That’s good…” Trefoil replies, unconvincingly.

As ponies are readied the other Herbals wake and groggily assemble, then follow around and under the open great portcullis. Jotunn steps into the windlass room and drops the portcullis. It settles with an important-sounding Booom.

The Herbals are mightily impressed with the great chamber, and – other than Trefoil – are stretching and looking more alert. Sage reminds Fennec of the matter of useful treasure.

“That reminds me,” Fennec frowns, “do you have Omni Eye?”

“Yes…?”

“Then it may be worthwhile evaluating a few,” Fennec muses, just as though Sage were his personal magical valet.

Sage rubs his hands and looks pleased.

“We’ll be pulling some sleep,” Cauleigh says wearily. And strangely enough the Herbals seem keen on that idea too. Cauleigh looks around and senses he’s on watch. He lulls the others to sleep with a ‘Cauleigh special sauce’ theory of where the black dwarves came from. “They were part of the plan,” he reiterates, without elucidating which plan.

 

Jotunn on watch – weirdness on the portcullis

Jotunn is woken a couple of hours later, and Cauleigh hands over a square of tarp with a charcoal map on it. “Pretty much done,” he brags. “I’ve even noted that other big portcullis we got through from the other side.”

[It’s nearly open-map, except for the unscouted corner leading to level two]

Jotunn sits quietly through his watch until near its end, he hears what he at first takes to be Dwarven. But if Dwarven, it’s in a dialect he finds hard to follow. There’s a faint noise of a door, then a soft curse-sound, some quiet struggling then a terrible choking cry.

The others wake groggily. Wolfie is quickly ready, slipping his chain-blade-claws on. But no-one advances, and the sound of retreat comes fairly distinct. Fennec floats a WoW down.

[L5 LK]

As Jotunn and Cauleigh gaze out along the dark tunnel, they note, in the candle-light, a soft yellow glitter associating itself with the portcullis, as though a yellow foggy cloud had been stopped by it.

Wolfie does not scent any fresh blood. Swapping jokes, they nerve themselves up and investigate with more light.

The portcullis is part-smothered in the same yellow mould Cauleigh once noted on the ape bodies in the larger tomb chamber nearby. Just visible from their angle and through the bars, the body of a black dwarf can be seen in the tomb doorway.

 

Fennec gargles yellow mould

“Those fuckers! They smeared the portcullis with yellow mould!” exclaims Cauleigh, randomly guessing.

“And one fumble-fingered himself and died!” Fennec co-guesses.

“We’ll find something to clean it off,” Jotunn says confidently.

They pour boiling water – as much as the kitchen holds – over the portcullis and brush it into crevices. Some spores roil up and Fennec breathes in at the wrong moment. [Rolls a fail on CON]

Cauleigh leaps to position behind him, grabs him by the head and pours boiling water down his throat.

“AAEEIIGHRGFHRGRRF!!” gargles Fennec. Once he’s finished crying in agony Crompton PBs him.

The portcullis (and Fennec) is clear of mould but more lies on the floor between the portcullis and the tomb-chamber.

“Can we just leave that for now? Our water supply is back down to what we’ve got left in the canteens” Jotunn suggests.

They settle down, resting again. Ponies nudging at feedbags tells Crompton his watch, the last, is over. Rations are chewed. Wolfie still has some dried meat. The Herbals are well-rested – in fact only Cauleigh has missed out on adequate sleep.

 

We can clean this, but don’t boil vinegar

They do a detailed stocktake of kegs and casks and find a good-size keg of pickled onions. And sour beer. And three small jars of brains, which may or may not also contain vinegar.

“Don’t boil the vinegar” warns Crompton. “The bad humours boil off first and kill you.”

“So you’re saying that can be made into a weapon?” Sage says, sounding immensely interested.

“Have you considered a career as a combat specialist?” asks Fennec.

“I trained as an artillerist” explains the Gnome.

The vinegar does a good job on the mould after they wind up the portcullis and splash it on a section at a time. There’s a very unpleasant mould-infested corpse in the tomb doorway. Another ranseur is fetched and used to push it fully inside and the door is shut.

 

They say exercise is good for you – now shift that barricade back

They shake out, fully equipped, into the great chamber and head to the barricaded corner. The barricade is built up of crates. Very heavy crates. Cauleigh and Jotunn heave a top crate off and shift it to one side. Then, with more heaving, they pull the bottom crate away. Now they have a sturdy-dwarf-width of clearance.

But the shifting of crates has caused something inside the room beyond to begin scratching at the door. It could be a rat.

“Dead” decides Wolfie.

“Sounds like a good reason to push this back again,” Sage suggests nervously, pushing with his full Gnome might at one of the removed crates. They don’t move.

Fennec uses a DetM powered up but nothing lights up, so they laboriously rebuild the barricade.

 

A break for Sage to do his stuff with Omni Eye

That just leaves the off-shape chamber (the one with the snake poo in its outer area) that has never been fully explored.

First though, Sage is curious about those magic items Fennec referred to. They vote for yes, that is important, and head back to the comfort and security of the barracks.

“This is going to take some time,” Sage warns, rubbing his hands and looking at the cube, brain-in-a-jar, and two lockets.

Soulcube: has the power to encube a being. There’s someone in it. It could be that it’s a swapsie deal: swapping out whatever is inside, for whatever is inside. Sage is keen to experiment on something small but evil.

ESP potion: the brain’s suspension liquid allows a one-shot ESP potion.

Nekasm’s locket: Eyes of the bat paste: rubbing the dark paste on your eyes blinds you but you ‘see’ perfectly in dark, like a bat.

Decyvedu’s Fire: swallowing a glassine bolus, and pronouncing the name ‘Decyvedu‘ etched on the locket’s inside lid, allows fire breath: per L3 Blasting Power spell.

 

Hurrah! Most of Level One is clear!

“Lets do the poo-room,” decides Cauleigh romantically and they set forth once again!

The denizen of the room is large and serpentine. Cauleigh dodges away from its strike, and as it slashes past him he sees that the creature is blind. With a fine arquebus shot and a L3TTYF the thing topples into death throes. Its scales are deep grey and eyes white-blind.

A short verse in archaic script on the back wall of its chamber is copied down.

Disregard the body – its many forms deceive

Follow the eyes – they unerringly shepherd the mind

And that is all. Wolfie dislikes the smell of the corpse and won’t eat it. But Trefoil, using his footman’s spear as a lever, snaps out a long fang, and he and Sage consult as to withdrawing the poison sac.

“Level one is clear enough!” Cauleigh cries, rallying them from their detail work. “Next – level two!”

And as the eight-strong party sips water, arranges light sources, and heads for the deeper corners of the dungeon, the session ends.

 

Lucky for Fennec the old-school yellow mould rules weren’t being applied! In OSR rules only fire will destroy yellow mould. And missing your CON SR would mean death.

I shudder to think how the lads will fare in Level Two, if they are completely thrown off guard by apes “arresting” them. There also seems a lack of clarity about what the Herbals are there for. It could all turn to custard. Stay tuned!

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