Saturday, January 29, 2011

Village of Hommlet - D20 Style (Part 6)

[continued from here]

Up the Hidden Stair

The party is silent with shocked grief over the death of their companion. Kendra, walking behind you, weeps openly as you grimly lead the way up the steps. At the top you find yet another door, concealed to look like stonework, but from this side the catch is readily found, and you open it quickly, and plunge through.

As the torchlight seeks the shadows, you recognize the jumbled and wrecked room where you find yourself; it is the lair of the brigands and the site of your battle with them. Through the doors opposite the secret panel you will find the ruined audience chamber, and through that is the courtyard and fresh air! You have led your companions back to the surface and it is just a few short yards to from where you stand to sunlight, the gate, and the road back to Hommlet!

Even their grief cannot mask the elation of the others as they come into the wrecked room and realize where they are. All are glad to be out, and proud at your ability to lead them. However, not all are quite so eager to leave the moat house as you are!

Kendra says, “Christoff, we should return for the prisoners now that we know the exit is so close to the lair of the ogre! Leaving them there for another servant of Darkness to find would be a terrible thing to do, and one that my patron god would not allow me to do in good conscience. It is but a short way down the steps, and there is no excuse for leaving defenseless captives to torture or worse! Surely the ogre had friends, and they will take out their anger at his death on the prisoners.

“Also, I feel strongly that we should not abandon the body of Spugnoir below. Not only is it disrespectful to leave our fallen comrade to the soup pots of any foul creatures, but I believe it would be better not to leave any evidence of our passing!”

Making Camp

By your leave, Bryant and Kendra head back into the dungeon, while you gather broken pieces of furniture to start a fire and Geffen looks to Eldoran. He is visibly agitated, but it is a couple minutes before he speaks, “Um, Christoff…there is nothing more I can do for Eldroan today, and the others could probably use my help, if only as an extra pair of hands. I’m going back down to find the others, but I’ll leave Eldoran here with you.” Before you have a chance to say anything, Geffen disappears through the hidden door! Eldoran looks at you sorrowfully but has given up trying to communicate through her wrapped jaw. She leads back against an old, moth-eaten cushion and closes her eyes.

You get the fire started and un-wrap your provisions. Only now do you realize how extremely hungry you are! You wonder how long you were in the underground without eating, but it must have been more than a day. Inside the brigand’s lair, you are not even sure of the time. The fire light is comforting to you.

It is only about thirty minutes before you hear a clattering on the stairs, and several figures stumble through the secret door. The first two are human, followed by a gnome, and Bryant comes in last. The ones you don’t recognize shirk away at the sight of you and the fire, until Bryant tells them that you are a friend, and not another brigand. Then they throw themselves at your feet and praise you for your help.

“Apparently,” says Bryant, “these folk are merchants who were waylaid by brigands some two leagues west of here…past Nulb even…but I’ll let them tell the tale. Come on Christoff, don’t be a poor host – give us something to eat!”

You grudgingly spare some food for the newly-freed prisoners. Though this was not your original plan, Eldoran and Bryant outnumber you and quickly break out some rations for the ex-captives. The taller human, who has the trademark red hair of Gilea, speaks while you eat.

“Our caravan was ambushed by brigands about three weeks ago; though it seems like a year, we kept time by scratches on the wall. We were not the only one captured, but we are the only survivors. The rest of our men were tortured, murdered, or eaten!

“I am Horg of Gilea. Our merchant caravan was coming from the city-state of Tryss on the western ocean, bringing trade goods through the Gray Hills to the plains of Gilea. Our assailants were hooded and cloaked in black, and carried the symbol of the golden eye of fire, a symbol unknown to me. We were brought here under cover of darkness and tortured and questioned, by one who calls himself Lareth ‘the Beautiful.’ In the end, we were left to rot in the ogre’s pantry and await our fates as meals for the creature!

“We thank you for our lives, and are indebted to you. If you can take us to the nearest town, where we can be outfitted for travel, we can provide you with some reward. Certainly our fortunes have not been favored of late (since all our goods were taken by the brigands), but in our homelands we still have some wealth, and I would not begrudge to spare some for our rescuers.”

At this, the gnome steps forward, and taking your hand bows low.

“I am no merchant of Gilea, and I have no wealth to offer. I am Togo Skintbiscuit, and I know that sounds a funny name to human (and half-human) ears. However, my people are seamen, and have been for many generations…a long number of years by human reckoning. The Skintbiscuit family has long been shipwrights and captains of vessels, and while I cannot offer any wealth at the next town, I do offer the gratitude of my family. This ring,” the gnome gives you a plain iron ring “will show you as a friend to my family and the gnomish race. It should be good for passage on any gnomish vessel, and you have but to give it to the master of the ship; he will see that the ring makes it back to me and my family. I daresay if you can ever brook passage to Gnomehold and the Gnomish Isles, you will find warm welcome in my house!” You note that inside the iron ring are several curious runes in the gnomish language.

Just then, Kendra and Geffen arrive, carrying between them the lifeless body of Spugnoir the wizard. They carefully lay him in a corner of the room, and cover him with his own cloak, blood-stained though it is. “We will bury him tomorrow,” says Kendra “At dawn.”

The captives have already met Kendra and Geffen, who helped to un-bar the door to their cell. They tell you that they did not bother to search the ogre’s chamber, but came right back after retrieving both Spugnoir and the captives. Bryant carefully sets spikes of iron in both doors, as the rest of the party settles down to their meal and to discuss the next day. Kendra feels that it is the party’s responsibility to take the captives back to Hommlet. Bryant likes the idea, if only to collect a reward from the merchants. Eldoran and Geffen say nothing, but go to sleep exhausted from their wounds and exertions.

Return to the Ogre’s Lair

You awaken the next morning to cool, fresh air and the far-off chirping of birds; someone woke before you and flung open the doors to the room. You find Eldoran and Bryant tending the fire and sizzling bacon. “Kendra and Geffen are burying Spugnoir. Horg and the others are bearing witness.” Soon enough the other party members return and you outline your plan:

..."Well, before we do anything, we're going to search the Ogre's lair. And thank you, Skintbiscuit, for the ring. I shall hold it near to me at all times. After searching the Ogre's lair, we will take you all to Hommlet to recover from your ordeal. While there, perhaps we shall run into a more useful spell caster, perhaps not. After that, I say we head for the Plains of Gilea ( or whatever that place was called ) where these people were captured, this may get us closer to the source of the problem..."

“Actually, sir,” says Horg “we were captured yet a few miles north and west of here…I would judge about five miles north of the town of Nulb. We were still in the Gray Hills, making for Gilea (the land south of the Hills) and I’m sure that no bandits would trouble us in the plains…not with the Knight Protectors of Gilea still riding the grasslands!

“The brigands and their superiors spoke specifically of the fact that they did not want to alert the nearby townships (Hommlet and Nulb) to their presence…that is why our caravan was ambushed so far from their actual headquarters, or so I gather. Your enemy is here, in this outpost, and they are many strong. Your party was lucky not to encounter more in the complex below!”

Horg’s words trouble you, but you are still decided on descending to the ogre’s chamber before leaving the moathouse. Geffen and Kendra take their time healing the various members of the party, and then you make ready for your reconnaissance. Bryant instructs the prisoners in the spiking of the door and not to open it unless the proper code be knocked by a party member (two sharp raps followed by three). And then you begin again.

It takes only a few minutes to descend to the landing between stairs and open the secret door to the ogre’s chamber. Eldoran volunteers to stand watch at the entrance while the rest of you search the chamber. Amazingly, it appears that no one has yet investigated the slaying of Lubash. You wonder how many actually inhabit the moat house; perhaps Horg was exaggerating.

The once barred door of the ogre’s pantry is now thrown open, and you find nothing in it but the stench of decay and quickly exit. Bryant finds a large purse inside Lubash’s skin cloak and it jingles with the sound of happy coins. Poking through the rags and skins that make up the ogre’s bed, you find a cloak of obvious elvish origin (obvious to your eyes anyway…you remember an uncle who possessed such an item of his people) and it appears to be in good repair. You take this for your own, easily stuffing it into your pack.

Kendra on the other hand has found a small chest containing a mass of articles including candlesticks, trinkets, glass beads, and many coins of various metals. She and Geffen easily left it between the two of them and carry it near the secret entrance. Meanwhile you open the other door (after carefully listening and hearing nothing) which moves silently on greased hinged. Beyond is a 20 foot square antechamber littered with useless rubble…there is also another door. But you ignore it for the surface.

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