Chapter seven of The Broken Land continues…
A DCC/Mythic solo play (with other emulators as required)
Episode 5: Evidence of a plot
Somehow, shouting “I’m a diplomat curse you! Stop making me kill you!” has failed to produce the results Black Gorgun, widow-slayer, orphan-crusher, Ogre-mangler, is hoping for. He’s saddled himself with a long and mostly useless tail of goblins, a dwarf, a couple of humans, and only one seemingly-normal uruk woman. After a fracas on the tunnel that was to take him away from the boat dock and up to Ignorick the uruk chief, he’s struggled from one fight to another. And now, having raced across a stone bridge to sort out some uruks shooting crossbows and distributed their booty, black dwarves erupt out of the dark tunnel beyond!
Chaos is 7
LCK check: excellent.
Initiatives: goblin guards/black dwarves, Zudi, Gorgun (twice) rogues.
Range round: These black dwarves are much heavier armoured than those the Restorers fought in the Gann, and although Noregz and Zudi (crossbow) hit, the missiles bounce off. Zab drops his arrow, Scab simply misses. The three rogues likewise miss completely.
Round 2: The black dwarves charge home as the light-armed goblin guards fire before fading back to “support” distance. Noregz’ arrow finds a chink in armour, just. Scab’s leather armour saves him, another black dwarf throws his axe away in a wild swing, Gorgun’s fighting skills evade another dwarf’s swings, but Elyn takes a savage cut [burns LCK, loses the 2 she recently recovered]. Zudi lassos a dwarf and hauls him off-balance [opposed STR:AGI] and Gorgun chops that one twice with savage blows: the dwarf falls dead. Elyn misses a stab at her attacker and rapidly backs off – but Borer and Binye land good strikes.
Round 3: Seeing one of their number fall, the four remaining howl, exposing sharp teeth, and redouble their attacks! The goblin guards fall even further back; but three of the trader goblins – Gbus to the fore – are now able to get line-of-sight up the tunnel.
Two dwarfs each attack Borer and Gorgun, one drawing a reserve dagger to replace his lost axe, and both take light damage [2 each]. Binye maneuvers for a thrust and takes Scab’s arrow in his back! [6dmg] but Zab’s arrow slams through a joint in chest plates of one of the dwarves, and he falls, lung-shot and choking.
Zudi’s next lasso attempt is fended off. Gorgun attempts to decapitate that distracted dwarf, but only connects solidly with the helm [6dmg], then mis-times his next stroke [1 on fumble chart]. Binye is pardonably distracted by pain, but with no such excuse Borer makes a sweeping strike with Harken – and throws it across the tunnel. Safe(?) back a few feet Elyn loads her crossbow. More goblin arrows come flying into the melee – one from Gbus takes the dwarf Gorgun knocked dizzy, in the eye – he crashes dead on the spot!
“No more shooting!!” Gorgun roars!
Round 4: Seeing his chance a dwarf ducks clear past the weaponless Borer and drives his axe at Elyn, but her crossbow and wood-scale armour save her. She can’t safely do anything, and thief-rolls clear again. The lone unwounded dwarf chops hard at Binye: his chainmail resists the axe blade. Zudi’s lasso snakes out and settles on a dwarf wrist – and with a violent jerk, he drags the rope away from her! But Gorgun has been watching for the distraction and brains that dwarf with a massive downstroke! Now only one dwarf remains facing Binye – Gorgun wheels and back-swings but Binye’s attacker is not off-guard, and the axehead merely scrapes heavy armour. Borer leaps to the off-flank and lunges up under the cuirass with his broadsword – the dwarf falls, coughing up blood.
With dropped gear regathered, and no-one immediately attacking or shouting, it’s time to loot and decide whether to head back to where the endless skirmishing all began. Three very nice gems are found, as well as 40sp. Borer takes some time (as Elyn is preparing poultices anyway) assembling undamaged plate armour. It’s made of some weird hide, but is very near as hard as steel. “Another time, I c’n pretend ta be one a’ these hyar tattoed fellas,” he reasons.
Zudi helps make sure the arrowhead is out of Binye, poultices are applied, and Gorgun signals the way – forward, not back.
Chaos rises to 8, the party is going nowhere but trouble
Gorgun gestures his ‘sneaks’ ahead. There’s a 4-way junction but from the passage ahead comes a distinct metallic scent. In the chamber ahead, light illuminates a work-bench where a wizened old uruk is busy over retorts and beakers. Binye and Elyn cautiously approach. Gorgun and Borer follow up, then Zudi and the three goblin guards, and finally, straggling a prudent distance back, Beareen and the other six entrepreneurs.
Three tough-looking goblinoid guards bounce to their feet and challenge the newcomers. They have some features of goblins, such as scaley skin and webbed fingers, but other features of uruks. And they don’t seem intimidated! The rogues shift into useful places – Elyn once again tries to blend in the the shadows – and the goblin guards shuffle closer to their chief, arrows nocked to string.
The old uruk peers up. Gorgun makes a noble attempt to introduce himself and get directions:
“I am Black Gorgun, slayer of widows, slayer of…”
“Ah? Naive! Heheh… But perhaps there’s a use for such a large test subject… just step over here, submit…”
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN SUBMIT??!!”
Gorgun swoops on the alchemist and grabs him – but the old fellow is surprisingly slippery and weasels clear! Drawing scimitars, the guards leap to the fray! But one gets in the other’s way, and only one stabs Gorgun [4dmge]. With a roar of frustration Gorgun once again finds himself in a fight!
The alchemist leaps back, agilely sweeping up a glass beaker – Scab shoots him and the beaker drops at the alchemist’s own feet! He seems extremely agitated by this! Some brown powder wafts out and over his guards’ legs, but none of them seems affected. Zudi’s lasso snakes out but fails to land. Elyn tries a knife-throw but misses. Binye, trusting that Blood Spear’s reach will keep him on the safe end of whatever that powder is, thrusts it into the alchemist, who dies with a horrid scream, bleeding out. Borer scythes Harken into the lead guard, killing him on the spot, and Gorgun contemptuously smashes first one then the other remaining guard before they can untangle themselves.
“This is quite something,” Elyn opines, walking around the workbench. “I can spot a couple of poisons right off, and can guess what some of the other stuff does…”
Zudi joins her and the two girls have great fun deciding what to pack. It’s just like shopping, only for murder! Meanwhile Gorgun checks his wound and mops the blood. Borer and Binye loot the guards. Binye raises his head and glances at the bodies uneasily.
“Say, ya hear some kinda… moanin?”
“Y’all haveta git t’ru me first!”
Now that conversation has quietened, the diplomatic mission can indeed hear something like moaning. It comes from directly beyond the workroom. Stealing along the connecting tunnel, the rogues – Gorgun look,ing behind – see an ogre at play with his rack, torturing a dwarf. Gorgun gestures his team back and steps in to inquire as to the right path back to Ignorick’s audience hall…
“So, y’all jest kilt m’boss? If’n y’all’s killin’ ya way t’ru dis place, y’all’s gonna go t’ru me first!”
“I am Black Gorgun, mangler of Ogres! You want to decorate the walls of your own chamber? Come at me!”
With a bestial howl the torturer sweeps a great curved sword off its rack and leaps at Gorgun!
Initiatives: Gorgun, Borer, Binye, Gorgun again, Ogre, Elyn
Round 1: There’s a flurry of blows, parried off by the shamshir, then Gorgun lands a cut and receives a deep cut in reply! [8dmg] Then Elyn’s backstab finally works [burns LCK] as it should – she rams her sword into the small of the ogre’s back – he stiffens with shock and pain as the envenomed blade does its work – and his eyes go blank, blinded.
Round 2: Gorgun connects with a monstrous blow, then he spins a reverse backhand, and the axe bites deep into the ogre’s gut. It folds, falling face down.
“Great work Elyn!”
“Yer, ya nailed that shit.”
Gorgun examines the latest injury. “I will need leechcraft. I am minded to rest, if this area is safe.”
“Ah, say Gorgun, whaddabout thisyere dwarf onna rack? We ain’t gonna jest leave ‘im?”
“A reward for your efforts – free him, question him gently as to what he is doing here.”
“Zudi – gonna need ya touch – th’ poor sap’s hurtin’ real bad.”
Elyn preps a couple more poultices in the alchemist’s room as Gorgun clears it of offensive corpses. Zudi eases the rack loose bit by bit, and Borer massages the victim’s joints. Eventually, Bulgrim is able to hobble after them back to the lab. His tale is simple – like many another adventurer-prospector, he was seized by a wandering band of uruks. He dos pass on the information that quite a number of prisoners are over the river in cells, including elves and their womenfolk, but he has no idea why. There’s a couple of gnomes and hobbs from his own party still alive last he heard.
Since none of the party have ever heard of elves living in these southern parts they are none the wiser.
Chaos drops to 7.
Meanwhile, what of the uruk guards?
Three defeated figures skulk into Ignorick’s tunnels and then, out of sight of the mighty Gorgun, stop and crouch down.
After some time arguing, they heap dust on their heads and skulk off into paths unknown, away from any accounting for their failure.
And meanwhile in the alchemist’s chamber
Nine hours of sleep do the wounded a power of good.
Binye is now fully fit. Borer is on 10hp, Elyn is on 5 again, Gorgun is on 7, Bulgrim is on 2. Zudi and the goblins are fully fit.
How all this happened
Right from the original battle over the small dagger, each encounter up to the black dwarves was a cascade, owing to proximity. Then, random choice leads them to the alchemist. LCK check is OK but PRS check fails, but then the alchemist fails his PRS check. So, LOC and UNE guide me to the idea that the alchemist demands Gorgun submit.
The torture chamber is quite close at hand. The party pretty much has to at least check it. LOC and Mythic tell me that Gorgun won’t intervene, but UNE tells me the ogre refers back to the last scene. I ask: did the ogre really admire the alchemist? (50-50) Yes. Gorgun makes his PRS check; the ogre fails. but UNE tells me ‘combat last story’ so there we go!
As for the defeated uruks I just use LOC: abandon path. Then check they won’t report to Ignorick.
The night’s rest is a chaos check succeeding and a d14 to decide how many hours.
New NPC: Bulgrim
Chaos drops to 6
Another day, same diplomacy
“I am minded to push forward,” Gorgun announces, after briefly acknowledging the goblin guard for their watch. And so the ‘sneaks’ Binye and Elyn, with Zudi linking, head on through the torture chamber and around and down to what appears to be a rock ledge over the river. It is part-lit by phosphorescence along the river, allowing the rogues to see the outlines of well-constructed bridges running left and right, and a uruk guard picket.
The scouts sneak back and report. “We got us Bulgrim, whyn’t we jest try ta fool ’em,” Borer suggests. Gorgun looks doubtfully at him. “Lookit – he tolt us a heap’a secrets, now we gotta get th’ info ta this Ignorit y’all’s bin talkin’ ’bout!” Borer insists.
“Fine, if I can get an escort straight to Ignorick – and not mention accidentally killing his alchemist and torturer – that will be best.”
Bulgrim nods loyally. Borer seizes him in a gentle ‘come-along-a-me’ grip and eases him in front, Zudi following close at hand, to act as interpreter:
“Let us through, we are bringing this fool to babble his secrets to Ignorick”
“He was put to the torture, eh?”
“That he was – and what we learned is so important Ignorick must hear it at first hand. Indeed, if you can bring us, that would be best.”
“So if he’s got secret info, and been tortured… why’s he looking so healthy?”
With an enraged bellow – something like “Gaaah! That was never going to work!” Gorgun charges out and battle is joined.
Initiatives: Gorgun, Zudi, all goblins, Bulgrim, uruk guards, rogues, Gorgun again.
Round 1: Gorgun arrives, loudly. Zudi trips a surprised uruk, toppling him back into the river below. Noregz and Scab land fortunately well-placed arrows on the two remaining, and no friendly is injured. Bulgrim attempts to duck back but can’t [misses Refl] so punches the uruk in front of him. More in reaction than anger the uruk runs Bulgrim through with his scimitar. Elyn appears out of the shadows and kills that uruk, but Borer and Binye have less success with frontal attacks on the remaining one. Gorgun finishes that one with an unnecessarily violent slice.
Then there’s a moment as those with good vision in the dim light realise that the entire affair was witnessed by the uruk trio opposite the left bridge, who are levelling crossbows.
Round 2: Three bolts whip across the distance, two strike goblins – Scab is pinned to the rock behind him – and the third misses.
“AAAAARGHHH!!!” And so saying, Gorgun charges.
Binye and Borer glance at one another. “Guess it’s still our best shot,” Binye confesses, and they run after the mighty uruk, Borer at a much slower pace than Binye. Zudi bows her head and places fingers to her temples. Elyn pats her shoulder. “Yep, just lucky,” she muses. Behind them, scared and alarmed goblins loose arrows – Noregz is still mobile [3dmg] – but those go nowhere near the opposite platform.
Round 3: As the uruks draw scimitars Gorgun arrives, destroying one with a head-shot. The other two waver for a second then leap in [ML just OK] but one drops his weapon through shaky fingers and the other skins his blade harmlessly along Gorgun’s hide armour. Binye arrives and [burns LCK] rams Blood Spear through the nearest uruk. Borer’s heavy-armoured legs power him across the bridge too; as he arrives Gorgun pile-drives the wounded uruk into the ground.
Round 4: The remaining uruk stands his ground and rams his dagger into and through Gorgun’s armour as Gorgun chops at him with a shortened grip. [2dmg each] Both Borer and Binye strike accurately and the uruk falls dead. This time, there does not seem to be any inconveniently close guard-station. The fighting attracts no attention, except far downstream where a soaked uruk scrambles out… and is torn to pieces by killer apes guarding a boat bay.
Gorgun sighs and peers around for options, as the two others with him loot the few silver and couple dozen copper the uruks had. In attacking the uruks directly, he avoided a pit-trap concealed by a tarp and dirt. Good to know. The platform runs quite a way upriver very near the great cataract down from kobold level, but has no secrets that way. The downstream end leads to a narrow, twisting tunnel that smells foul… like a prison. Since the now-dead Bulgrim described the prison, Gorgun has little doubt.
He walks back to collect the human and dwarf:
“Let’s get back across and try the other bridge. And watch out – there are pits here and there!”
Apart from direction choices, this is how this happened:
Towards the first platform:
Mythic: Peaceful approach? (Likely) Yes, cascades to attainment suffering, cascades to abuse vehicle.
Mythic: Do they use Bulgrim as a trojan horse? (VLikely) Yes.
PRS check is good, but so is the guards’.
LOC: Neglect good.
Mythic: Have they missed an obvious clue? (Likely) Yes! – hence the guard noticing that Bulgrim had part-recovered.
NPCs removed: Scab, Bulgrim.
Chaos falls to 5, they are not randomly gong down tunnels any more
The shaman is up to no good
Having recovered the full party and said a brief prayer over Scab, then committed his body to the river, they head at 90 degrees to the first bridge, over the river once more. The platform here is narrower and briefer, and a pit trap – easily found with Blood Spear – leaves them little room to maneuver into the tunnel beyond. It turns sharp left then a fairly steep flight of crude steps leads upward. It turns right at a landing, to a shorter flight of steps. A faint but sinister chanting can be heard…
At the top, there’s another pitfall. Beyond, a profusely-lit chamber is cluttered with all manner of sinister junk. Binye looks for an easy way round, the pit, then mutters a disgusted curse: the wall and roof of the tunnel are covered in a disgusting mucus-like substance. Then it collapses onto him! He avoids falling into the pit, but not to avoid the foul stuff completely, and his arm is be-slimed. Then it starts eating away at his flesh!
As Binye screams, and fumbles to light a torch off the multiple candles burning everywhere, Gorgun unsympathetically ignores him, vaults the pit, and calls:
“Shaman! By your courtesy!”
Across the far side of the chamber a bed is visible, and a weirdly dry-looking corpse lies on it. But the corpse is female, and elven. Then from an alcove a line of shuffling uruk-women, obviously animated dead, emerges, a staff-bearing shaman behind them. He gazes at Gorgun with an evil glint in his eyes:
“I know what you have been up to, O ‘diplomat’ – now my sweet courtesans shall caress you – to death! Aaahahahahahahaaaa!”
Gorgun takes a half-step forward then hears Zudi pass on Elyn’s message:
“Lure them on – we’ll use the pit against them!”
“Owowowowwowow fire burn acid!” screams Binye, taking as much damage killing the acid-stuff as he is from the acid itself [4 each for 8dmg]. He dances half-towards the zombies as they shuffle towards Gorgun. Borer skirts the pit corner and braces: then charges right past the end zombie and at the shaman! For their part, Elyn and Zudi throw loud, rude comments at the zombie girls:
“That dress what the pig-brides are wearing this year? You got that hair styled that way? Sss… I hear none of the other girls like you!”
Borer slices Harken sideways before the shaman can parry, and for a change the approach works perfectly! The shaman takes a huge, life-threatening cut to the ribs and several audibly break! But he focuses, spits blood, throws a spell at Borer… and nothing happens. [Makes his concentration check, then rolls a 2 on spell check for a total of 9]
Gorgun, reluctant to just back off, whips his axe at longest grip and takes a zombie head off. Binye flicks the burning sludge at the nearest zombie. Then they both hop back behind the pit, and the five remaining zombies, one beginning to sizzle, shuffle to attack.
Before the shaman can come up with a better tactic Borer swings reverse backhand in imitation of Gorgun and the shaman is cut down.
The zombies are toppled into the pit. Gorgun gingerly drags the elf corpse off the bed (taking care not to touch it) and slides the blanket-wrapped corpse into the pit with the zombies. Then looks around alertly – the shaman is bound to be the mastermind!
The goblins, who didn’t get into the chamber before the action was over, kick the zombie head around for a few seconds. Then one more alert than others notices something:
“Hey – that body’s movin'”
Sure enough Uglariche the shaman is beginning to show signs of life. He is dealt with harshly! Hands and head are lopped off and that seems to be the end of that! A ring he wore finds its way to Zudi’s inner pockets.
The two headless corpses are now pitched into the pit, and the heads follow. The goblins look eagerly down to see what the zombies do, but the spell has now worn off.
“We stood watch – let’s get some shuteye,” Noregz decides.
First evidence of a plot
Zudi tries a few options on Binye’s seared arm, until the acid is fully neutralised. Then another of Elyn’s poultices is bound on.
Meanwhile there’s a concerted search quietly going on. They find a secret trapdoor to a very webbed, dusty and foul-smelling tunnel; a small chest or cask, and some good loot on the body.
Using thieves tools Elyn disables a fire device inside the chest, and Gorgun looks through the contents. There are well over 200sp, and a document. “House Danforth… a ‘blayde’ to be found in the lake settlement… some plot is being hatched! My lord must be told!
“But not until we have some more rest.”
How this happens
UNE is used under ‘hostile’ for the shaman since being disturbed in this lair provides for that automatically. I get ‘combat last story’ so the programmed zombie attack goes ahead.
The rogue tactic is decided by LOC: work [them] inside.
Finally Mythic to check if they will rest up here again.
Chaos rises to 6, this is a new plot twist that may derail the scouting, or serve it perfectly