Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Village of Hommlet - D20 Style (Part 8)

[continued from here]

Into the Dark

As the party begins to glibly explain the upper lay-out of the keep, you wrestle with your doubts about Burne. Did you do the right thing, bringing him along? Does the party really need his assistance? Do you really want to give up one-third of the loot?

You are just about to tell the smug wizard to leave, but at the last moment decide against it. One more party member will certainly help and the mage might well get himself killed. Even if he doesn’t you might be able to stick a knife in his back yourself if there is a problem with dividing the treasure!

Geffen secures the horses and the party checks that their weapons are loose in their scabbards as you file one-by-one into the ruined moat house. The stones are hard underfoot and you hear nary a sound as you climb the stairs to the main keep. Behind you stride Eldoran and Kendra, followed by Burne then Geffen and finally, Bryant. Past the ruined doors and into the old audience chamber, and straight to the ‘dark room’ that was the hide-out of the brigands. Here you, Kendra, and Bryant all light up torches.

“What – no lantern?” asks Burne incredulously. “You should have told me. I could have gathered at least two from the fortress!” You ignore him and lead the party through the secret door in the back of the brigand’s lair.

It is only a short descent into darkness till you come to the blood-stained landing on which Spugnoir met his demise. To the left, you can lead the party down a second flight of steps. To your right and through the half-open secret door lays the ogre’s chamber, from which you can still smell its rotting corpse. “Hoo-boy,” says Burne, “What a stench!”

You carefully descend the second set of stairs to the corridor below. It turns gently to the right and continues into darkness. Your part moves as quietly as possible, though there is an awful lot of jingling from Eldoran and Kendra. You pace a few yards ahead to put some distance between yourselves and the party.

Suddenly, the light from your torch picks out something gleaming dully ahead of you. You slow your pace and carefully approach, holding up your free hand for caution. As you get nearer you see that it is a heavy iron portcullis that has descended from the ceiling and imbedded itself in the floor, sealing the corridor shut!

You turn to tell the party of the bars across the way, but they already talking…somewhere behind you in the corridor you hear a clattering of weapons and a roaring of voices…someone is approaching and your party is trapped like rats!!


You grab your crossbow from your back while spinning on your heel, and charge back to the party. People seem to be jostling among themselves as they struggle to get past each other in the narrow corridor. You hear a roar and the dim torch light you see a pack of seven foot tall, furry humanoids with morning stars charging! Bryant is yelling, and Eldoran and Kendra are trying to get past Burne and Geffen to help him, but Burne also is shoving his way past the druid. Torches have been dropped on the floor, and you cannot get a clear shot past the pack of your friends!

Suddenly, you hear Burne shout a word of magic. A light streaks over the heads of the party to land amidst the bugbears and then flowers into a tremendous orange explosion of flame and sulfur!

“Burne you son of a bitch!” yells Bryant, falling back as the flames lick the corridor. “You’ve killed us all!” But only warm air washes past you, not flames, and many charred forms litter the corridor floor. Kendra and Eldoran have finally struggled to the front of the pack and Bryant stands behind the dwarf with an arrow knocked. You step up past Geffen next to Burne and try to aim your crossbow between party members, but it is a tight fit.

Your fighters have just enough time to take a quick step forward before they are charged by a group hyena-headed humanoids: gnolls! The two in front each hit their marks with their battle axes and both paladin and dwarf return the favor. You and Bryant fire arrows as rapidly as you can reload and seek foes, but you cannot shoot the fiends once they are engaged in melee with your friends, and your targets are few.

Burne, on the other hand, generates dart after dart of mystic power that races from his fingers to unerringly seek enemies, whether in melee or not! He has not even drawn his wand and he has managed to fell two foes by himself, and helped put down two others that were wounded.

Kendra has taken two wounds and Eldoran one but the gnolls are down to three in number and the rest of the party is unhurt. Then the gnolls back off, and as you press forward you hear a voice saying, “Ah, friends! Why must we make war amongst ourselves when your cause is hopeless, and you could be of use to our side?”

A bolt of searing light streaks down the corridor, missing Eldoran but striking Bryant; he shrieks in pain. The gnolls redouble their efforts and Eldoran is wounded again before she can slay her attacker. You push back the gnolls, wondering at first why they won’t flee…then you see that behind them is a line of armored men, holding out long glaives! Behind them stands a dark figure that you cannot make out from here.

The last gnolls fall and Burne shouts another spell…a bolt of lightning crackles in the air and streaks towards the men, who you can see wears the sign of the flaming golden eye on their chest…however, the dark figure gestures and the spell fades without striking a single man! Burne is taken aback, but quickly draws both his wand and his dagger. The armored men start marching forward slowly.

Ambushed Again!

Your crossbow bolts bounce off the guards scale mail, but Burne’s wands fells two of the guardsmen in their stride. Suddenly several things happen at once: you hear the twang of bow strings and feel a sharp pain in your back. You hear cries of pain from both Geffen and Bryant, and the dark figure behind the guardsmen shouts a word in some unholy language and the hammer falls from Eldoran’s nerveless fingers; she has been paralyzed! Then Burne shouts his own words of magic and disappears from view!

You whirl around and see that behind the portcullis are two rows of guardsmen with crossbows, three kneeling in front, three standing behind, with a sergeant overseeing them. They are reloading and taking aim. The dark man laughs.

However, it appears that Burne hasn’t deserted you; magic missiles streak out from thin air striking several of the crossbowmen! You fire your own crossbow and pierce a man over the bridge of his nose, slaying him. Bryant aims an arrow, but it strikes one of the portcullis bars and is deflected. “Surrender now, or be buried,” shouts the leader, “Though it cost me all my servants, I shall slay you in this tunnel!” The dark man’s guards seem fearless, as they quickly load and fire a second barrage of arrows. Geffen falls, pierced in the belly.

Behind you there is another explosion, this one closer! You look over your shoulder and see that Kendra’s sword has shattered from tip to hilt! Magical missiles drop two more of the glaivesmen but the final two march forward with confident surety and cut down Eldoran and Kendra where they stand. Kendra is badly wounded and lurches back as the two halt with stances wide. They have a ten foot reach with their glaives.

“Oh, come now, wizard! Let’s have no more of this invisibility!” Another word of magic, and Burne appears again wand in hand. Waving it, four more missiles streak out, two striking each of the guards with pole arms, slaying the men. He is then struck by several arrows and gasps in pain.

Sweet Surrender

You yell for everyone to get down on the floor and give themselves up to the dark lord. Bryant and Kendra obey immediately dropping down next to you and their fallen companions, but Burne shouts words of magic in defiance.

“Surrender, wizard, or suffer the consequences!” yells the dark lord stepping forward.

This must be Lareth the Beautiful. He is handsome and young, not much older than yourself. His body ripples with muscles beneath his plate armor, and he grasps his quarterstaff with obvious skill. He is confident in his power, and there is a demonic gleam of insanity in his eyes. On his chest he wears the symbol of the flaming golden eye.

Burne does not answer but begins to gesture and chant. Lareth makes a sign to his men, and shafts let fly easily striking the standing wizard. However, the arrows bend upon his robes doing him no harm; he has somehow warded himself against their missiles!

Lareth is undaunted as he gestures to his lieutenant. The man drops his bow and draws his long blade and a hand ax, stepping forward. But Burne finishes his gesturing at that moment and the fighter undergoes a swift transformation…into a toad! The priest stares open-mouthed!

“Bastard! You will pay for that…and my patron will give me the power to break your spell!” In answer, Burne lifts his wand and four missiles of magic might streak towards the cleric, swerving to miss the last guardsman that tries to place his body between the missiles and his master. They strike one after another, and blood flows from beneath the cleric’s armor.

Huddled on the ground with Bryant and Kendra, you can barely believe what you’re seeing! “Burne! Stop it, wizard!” But it does not matter now as Lareth, completely enraged by the mage’s actions, charges with staff in hand as more missiles smite the cleric in the torso. Swinging his staff, it glows in the dim light of the fading torches. One iron shod end reaches out to jab Burne in the gut, doubling him over, then whirling brings the second end to crack across the wizard’s skull, utterly shattering it! Burne’s brains are splashed across the corridor wall, and his body flung against the portcullis.

The high priest’s legs in front of your eyes prove too tempting a target for you, and nodding once to Bryant, you draw your knife and swiftly plunge it into the cleric’s unprotected calf! Lareth the Beautiful gasps in pain, already wounded by Burne’s missiles. Bryant lunges to his feet drawing his long sword and crashing it down on the mage’s shoulder and spinning him around. The priest brings his staff up, but now Kendra is on her feet as well, Burne’s dagger in her hand. She smites the priest drawing upwards with the blade of the dagger and splitting him from groin to neck!

Now you are on your feet, and somehow you have Burne’s wand in your hand. How the hell does this thing work, you think to yourself as you wave it at the guards and shout the words you heard Burne use. Somehow, you manage to activate the thing, and missiles streak from its tip striking the sergeant standing behind the crossbowmen, and slaying him!! The remaining guards drop their crossbows, turn tail, and flee down the corridor!

You turn on the remaining guardsman, but he is also fleeing and has reached the stairs already. You shout and wave the wand at him, but nothing happens, and he disappears into darkness.

Holy Smokes! Victory!

You survey the carnage around you for a moment before gleefully stooping to loot Burne’s body. Kendra gives you a VERY disapproving look, but she is in no condition to stop you…still she IS holding an enchanted, blood-stained dagger in her good hand. “I think we should have a little more respect for our fallen companions, don’t you?” You shrug and set about looting Lareth the Beautiful instead.

Bryant finds the toad and slays it with a swift thrust of his sword. It immediately reverts back into the dead lieutenant. “Here’s another one to check out, Christoff!” You can’t help but smile.

You also can’t help but pocket Burne’s magic wand. You don’t know how many charges remain, and you’re not sure you’ll ever get it to work again, but you know it’s no use to the dead wizard…and you note that Kendra hasn’t put down the wizard’s knife yet, so she’s not one to talk (of course, her master crafted broad sword was shattered…).

Kendra kneels first by Eldoran and lays her hands briefly on the dwarf. “She will live, now, but she’ll need more healing power than mine to regain consciousness!” She then stoops by Geffen and lays her hands on his wounds for a longer period of time, and he begins to rouse. Kendra leans forward and hugs the druid, who groans in pain.

“Don’t re-open my wounds!”

The paladin apologizes and then Geffen staggers to his feet and begins the healing of the wounded. Kendra, Eldoran, and the druid himself are the recipients who need the most healing, though Kendra does bind the wounds of you and Bryant. Poor Burne is beyond saving, however. You wrap him carefully in his cloak and take his body back to the surface and out in the sunlight. The party decides that they will take Burne back to Hommlet for burial as he is a friend and leader of the people. However, you see no reason not to “borrow” his equipment while you finish exploring the dungeon! Besides you don’t want a passing ruffian to despoil his corpse while your party is below.

Burne has many items of wonder on him. You find a gem studded ring on his left hand, and a long silver chime in another wand case at his belt. His wand of magical missiles is already in your possession as well as his enchanted dagger. His pouches contain spell components for his spells, most of which are of little use to you, and of course there is your potion back again. However, he carries no spell book or scrolls with him…which is just as well, since they would be more baggage then you could easily carry.

A search of the corpses in the corridor below yields even more loot. Each of the gnolls carried some sort of coin, mostly copper and silver, and the guardsmen carried gold and platinum as well. The bugbears torched bodies yield more coinage and a silver necklace and several gems (carried by the leader). Lareth’s lieutenant carries a bag of gemstones and wears a platinum chain set with a large topaz, an obvious piece of treasure. Finally, Lareth himself carries a small purse with a few pieces of platinum and a dark, shining opal. He also wears gleaming plate armor, obviously master-crafted if not enchanted, and you’ve already noted the power of his magical quarterstaff (as demonstrated on Burne). Finally, Lareth has some sort of clerical phylactery on his left arm that is carved with what looks like magical runes. You take this for good measure.

None of you are able to lift the portcullis, nor discover a way to open it, and cannot get to the bodies on the other side. You’ve made quite a haul of spoil, but you feel there must be more in the dungeon…a hoard or war chest from which Lareth paid his men. Also, you’ve yet to discover the supplies stolen from the ambushed caravans. The weapons and armor of the fallen guardsmen would fetch a good price, but you’d need a cart or wagon to carry the equipment back to town.

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