Father Rochouart looks down sternly upon Miolla, who shrinks back from the intensity of his scowl.
"Need I remind you, little elf," says the priest, "that we are here on a Holy Mission, to do the Will of the God of Light, He Who Is Most High. This gold, this silver, they do not shine of their own accord; they only shine in the presence of His Great Radiance. What paltry treasures we may find in these damp ruins mean nothing. Nothing! Cleansing the world of the stain of the foul undead, accomplishing the Light God's most holy Task, that is the true treasure we seek. And you," he says, pointing an accusing finger at the mercenary, "I thought you'd finally understood our Great Purpose. Do I need to explain the gravity of our situation here to you two? Right now?"
"No, sir," says Miolla weakly. "But I just thought we could use some of that treasure to buy more silver weapons... seeing as how the undead don't seem bothered by the ones we have."
"She's got you there, Rev," says Worland.
The rest of the party look on in silence, wondering what the fanatical cleric will do next. He clenches his fists for a moment, then suddenly seems to relax. "I concede your point," he says, then adds, with a sweeping gesture towards the northern corridor, "Shall we continue?"
The northern passage leads them to a large triangular chamber [A6]. Milling about the room are seven hideous animated corpses [claw fiends], twisted into nightmarish shapes by some awful sorcery. Their grey leathery skin is stretched tight over their bones, and covered in pockmarks and protrusions. Their legs are bent and twisted, and the knees seem to bend the wrong direction. Their hands end in hideous claws nearly a foot in length. Attracted by the lamplight, they turn and shamble towards the living, eyes ablaze with red hatred.
[round 1. party has the initiative]
As they unsteadily advance, Aldira throws a spell into their midst. Strands of webbing fill the centre of the room, immobilising [2d4-1=] four of the fiends. Lycinia throws her torch into the webs, which burst into flames. Miolla smashes one's head in with her mace, Worland strikes another [a] with his axe, but barely hurts it at all [2 damage put it at 7hp].
Théscine and Géraint fight side-by-side, but both fail to land a blow on their opponent. Miolla joins Worland, and the pair have even worse luck. As Miolla overextends, Worland raises his axe above his head for a crushing strike. The creature seizes the opportunity, and grabs Worland about the waist, long claws piercing his armour and sides [5 damage drops him to -1hp]. The creature shakes him violently, then throws his unconscious form at Miolla's feet. Two of the creatures are completely consumed in the flaming webs, the other two struggle their way out, charred and smouldering [having 3hp & 4hp remaining].
Miolla steps over Worland's body, interposing herself between her fallen comrade and the furious undead fiend. She presses her new-found advantage and smacks the creature back further with a sharp blow to the sternum [5 damage reduces it to 2hp]. Fr. Rochouart rushes to the unconscious Worland, pulling him back and keeping his head above the water. Théscine and Géraint cut their foe in two with their flashing blades.
[rounds 4 & 5]
Miolla advances steadily, forcing her foe back with every step. It trips over something in the water and goes down. Her mace crashes against its skull as it tries to rise, putting it down for good. Théscine's enchanted sword plunges into the breast of another, and it drops, the glowing malice in its eyes suddenly extinguished. Aldira thrusts at the last one standing with her rapier. The blade misses the creature, who catches her arm in its horrible claws and lays open her skin up to her shoulder [6 damage leaves her at 3hp]. She manages a savage riposte, though it fights on [7 damage reduces it to 1hp].
[rounds 6 & 7]
Lycinia, Miolla, and Aldira circle the creature, fending of its attacks. It finally lunges forward at Aldira, but encounters only a wall of iron and steel [all three of them hit, dropping it to -13hp].
Meanwhile Géraint has helped keep his unconscious henchman from drowning whilst Father Rochouart uses his holy power to cure him [cure light wounds restores him to 2hp].
Lycinia lights a new torch whilst Théscine and Géraint inspect a large iron trunk, whose lid sits a few inches above the water line. Théscine points out a suspicious-looking needle in the lock. Géraint laughs and tells her not to worry, for he's an old hand at this sort of thing from his misspent youth in Frommsport. But perhaps the Light God is punishing him for his hubris, or perhaps the proximity to such a radiantly lovely faerie girl is making his hands to tremble -- who can say? He manages to stick himself with the needle right underneath his fingernail, and lets out a surprised yelp [his Tinker roll is 5; he needed 3 or less, but he makes his save vs. poison]. Fortunately whatever toxin may once have coated the blade has long since lost its potency, or perhaps the Light God, in His Infinite Mercy, had decided this would be enough of a lesson for his servant -- who's to say? Théscine laughs herself to the point of tears.
Inside the trunk are 500 silver coins in small bags of 10-20 each and dozens of scraps of papyrus: evidently an old payroll. There is also an ivory scroll case which has been sealed with lead, and an iron torch holder that is strangely rust-free.
The coins are passed round so that no one need carry too many. Géraint stows the scroll in his pack. Lycinia feels oddly drawn towards the iron torch (though only subconsciously). She announces that she will keep it, since she always carries a torch for exploration. Some of the others had also found it intriguing, but they concede that it should be hers. Miolla doesn't see what all the fuss is about over such a boring old torch, and Aldira finds it all a bit suspicious, but neither says anything for now.
All the fighting has left them feeling a bit exhausted, and the weight of all those coins they found is beginning to get a bit much, so the party unanimously decide to return to the surface to rest and recuperate. They trudge back through the freezing, knee-deep water, daydreaming of the hearthfire that awaits them in the soldiers' mess.
[Q: Do they make it out without an encounter? 50/50: 66, No +Event - Move away from thread - vampires - carelessness/illusions (see below)].
Lycinia, having led the party's march back through the corridors is the first up the steps out of the round tower. A group of crossbowmen, swordsmen, and halbardiers is right outside to meet them. But it's not the reception they had anticipated; the crossbowmen raise their weapons and fire. Lycinia is the only visible target.
CH CN DX IN ST WI HP
a m 16 9 12 11 11 6 4 Leather armour, heavy crossbow
b m 14 9 12 8 14 9 4 Leather armour, heavy crossbow
c f 11 10 9 10 15 10 5 Leather armour, heavy crossbow
d f 9 11 13 13 9 10 4 Leather armour, heavy crossbow
e* m 10 10 16 12 16 9 5 Chainmail, shield, sword
f f 7 14 6 16 9 14 5 Chainmail, shield, sword
g m 9 14 9 11 6 10 5 Chainmail, shield, sword
h m 12 9 12 9 12 10 4 Chainmail, shield, sword
i m 9 14 10 7 7 11 5 Leather armour, halberd
j f 9 16 6 7 11 13 6 Leather armour, halberd
*all 0-level except the leader (e), a 1st level fighter
ML 8, +1 if leader present
[A roll of 1 indicates surprise; heavy crossbows ignore 4 AC points from armour, so chainmail is completely bypassed. Lycinia's effective AC for these attacks is therefore (12+2=)14. The attack rolls are 18,8,1,17+1=18; 2 hits, for 3 points each makes 6 damage. She has 6hp left.]
Two crossbow bolts sail past her, but two others pierce her armour as if it were cloth, wounding her in the thigh and shoulder.
[round 1. the enemy has the initiative, though the narrative will group things in a more logical sequence.]
The two halbardiers and a swordsman [h,i,j] rush forward to attack Lycinia [ polearms get +1 to hit vs. armour; but rolls of 15, 12+1-1, 7+1 all miss]. She backpedals down the stairs fighting defensively [+2AC, -4 to hit], and hoping her companions won't trip her up. Aldira and Miolla were fortunately the only others on the stairs, and have already moved down and out of her way. Théscine remembers her magic scroll, and starts to get it from her belt pouch [it will take (1d3+1=) 2 rounds counting this one]. Haddie runs to hide in the corridor, and douses the lantern's flame. There is still more than enough daylight coming in to fight by.
The swordsman and lead halbardier [h&i] are able to attack Lycinia as they follow her down the narrow steps, but as she is still concentrating on defence [and so, AC20] their arms clash brutally against one another without landing a blow. Aldira speaks a charm to protect herself from the soldiers' blades [Shield].
Four of the soldiers [g,h,i,j] are now in the room. One of the swordsmen [g] rushes Miolla, but his attack is so weak that she smashes his own blade back into his helmet; he falls senseless into the water before her [at 0hp]. Lycinia's two foes [h,i] press their attacks, but she leaves them no opportunity of scoring a hit. Despite her defencive posture, she spots an opening too good to pass up as the swordsman stumbles over something beneath the water. Her blade catches him up underneath his helm, and he is dead before he falls [roll of 19+2-4(def. fighting) scores a hit for 9 damage, putting him at -5]. A halbardier [j] takes a swing at Worland. Worland sidesteps the blade and runs up along the haft, striking with his battleaxe as he does so. The axe crashes down on the woman's shoulder, inflicting a mortal wound [9 damage drops her to -3hp]. Worland advances toward the remaining halbardier, who is still threatening Lycinia. Géraint, seeing still more soldiers on the stairs, draws his matchlock pistol.
The sergeant and his right-hand (swords-)woman [e,f] descend the stairs to join the mêlée. The four crossbowmen tromp in hard on their heels, and spread out along the curved wall of the chamber and take aim. The sergeant lays into Lycinia with his sword, giving her a nasty wound in her stomach [5 damage leaves her with 1hp]. She moves back to get away from him. He starts to advance but stops short, unable to go forward; Théscine has ensorcelled him with a spell from the scroll [Force of Forbidment]. The second in command [f] engages with Miolla, who deftly parries her every thrust. Her mace slips in under the woman's guard and catches her in the side, shattering ribs, lacerating organs [10 damage drops her to -5]. She collapses in a heap. The halbardier tries to back up, but Worland follows close and the man cannot bring the weapon to bear. Worland's advance brings him right by the sergeant who is struggling to move against the magical force impeding him. Taking an opportune swing, he lands the blade of his axe between the sergeant's shoulders, killing him instantly [9 damage drops him to -4]. Géraint sees one of the crossbowmen aiming in his direction. His gun roars like thunder, reverberating off the bare stone walls of the tower. The woman falls, with a small red hole placed neatly between her eyes [8 damage reduced her to -4hp].
[round 5 (sort of) - Enemy losses are now over 50%, including their leader, so it's time to check morale. A roll of 10 is a failure.]
The few remaining soldiers throw down their weapons in a panic and run back up the stairs. The party members stand in silence for a few moments, their ears ringing and the scent of powder filling their nostrils. "Did you really," sighs Aldira, "have to use that in this echo chamber?"
"It got rid of them, didn't it?" replies Géraint peevishly.
"I don't know what that thing is," says Miolla, wide-eyed, "but I want one!"
[Q: Did the gunshot and subsequent fleeing soldiers attract attention? 50/50: 11, Exceptional Yes + Event: NPC Action - Siorighan - Oppose Friendship (she's agreed to assist the Count; more on this later.)]
Raina and about 40 other soldiers come running to see the commotion. The fleeing soldiers are caught, and the commander has them thrown in irons whilst she decides what is to be their fate. The three fort chaplains are summoned to tend to the party's more grievous wounds [they have (1d4-1=) 2 cure light wounds spells available, one each for Lycinia and Worland].
The commander invites the party to dine in her quarters. The fare is simple and fortifying. The wine is an excellent vintage from her far away homeland. She wastes no time in getting down to business.
"I'm truly sorry about this... lapse of discipline in my fort. I had given orders that you were to be shown every courtesy here and given whatever assistance you need to deal with our vampire troubles. They claim their sergeant had received instructions from the agent of the crown who passed through a few weeks ago on his way North, that no outsiders be allowed to live who go down where they have no business going, meaning the old donjon. There's been no royal agent come this far up the coast, I can assure you. With the season turning, we've hardly gotten any visitors at all, no merchants, no bawds, no travellers. Just this weird elf a week or so back."
"An elf?" asks Lycinia.
"Yes. A lone elf. And a strange one at that. Said his name was Yerli Manan, or someting like that."
"That was it."
"I don't believe this. What is wrong with you?" asks Lycinia angrily. Miolla stifles a giggle. Théscine looks on nervously.
"Lycinia," says Aldira gently, "I'm afraid not that many people -- many humans at any rate -- are conversant in Literary Elvish."
"Very true," says Father Rochouart, "Should that mean something to us?"
"It's not even a name," explains Aldira, "it means 'deceiver of mortals'. It's the cognomen of an insidiously corrupting devil in an ancient elven epic."
"A saucy bastard, that Neldir of yours," laughs Worland.
"This is dark news indeed," says Father Rochouart. "If this heretic Neldir has spells with the power to cloud minds, he could have convinced the vampires to part with their blood willingly -- perhaps even have recruited them to his evil cause! We must proceed carefully, and be alert for a trap. When we are done here -- and not until --, we must pick up the trail of this elf, and put an end to his unholy machinations. Now, Commander, I would humbly request that you keep our attackers in irons until we have left your fort, but then let them go without reprisals. They are as much victims in this sad affair as were we. I shall not have another punished for the obscene sorceries of this most wicked elf."
Commander del Gado y Jimixez accedes to the holy father's request for leniency. The party spend the next two days resting and recuperating, and staying inside out of the pouring rain and cold, during which time:
Miolla and Théscine are fascinated by Géraint's gun. None of the elves had ever seen one before. Miolla had thought it was an over-large smoking pipe, Théscine a kind of flute. He shows them how it works, and even lets them try a few shots, but as he only has 12 remaining the fun is soon over. Théscine spends the rest of the time avoiding Géraint, who becomes nervous and tongue-tied whenever she's around.
Worland drinks & gambles with the fort's soldiers to while away the time, despite the disapproval of Father Rochouart.
Aldira sits with Una's spellbook and broods. Miolla often sits nearby, but is afraid to say anything.
Father Rochouart divides his time between ministering to the soldiers, and keeping Haddie from running off with any of them for 'immoral purposes'. He also takes charge of the coins and jewels they have acquired in the dungeon, putting them in a strongbox for safekeeping, not to be divided until they have completed their holy mission at Foehrenfort.
Lycinia manages to open the lead-sealed scroll case, which was sadly not water-tight. Inside is an old papyrus covered mysterious writing. She unrolls it carefully to dry by the fire. Parts of it have been completely ruined, but much remains intact. Only by dint of her magic can she read the unknown language, and then only for a half hour at a time [she had fortunately memorised Comprehend Languages before going into the dungeon; she can memorise it twice on each succeeding day]. What she finds is terrible and wonderful at the same time. Such horrible stories, such awful knowledge! There are secrets to be learnt here, such secrets...
--- --- ---
This heavily-damaged papyrus contains an anonymous treatise on demonology. It also contains an important clue as to what Neldir needs the vampire blood for. I didn't actually determine what the clue was until after the PCs finished the dungeon, so more on this later.
The Iron Torch
This enchanted item looks to be a normal iron torch holder, though it is conspicuously free of rust. The torch exudes a subtle aura of fascination. When it is first seen, if it does not have an obvious owner, all onlookers must save vs. spells or desire the item subconsciously. The power of the fascination is not so great that it can cause strife. If two or more onlookers fail their saving throw, the one who fails by the greatest margin will be the one who takes the item (unopposed). The torch can be lit as a normal torch, and it will always catch on the very first try. If it is brought near to other sources of flame, it will draw them into itself, and burn for an additional length of time accordingly. Sudden bursts of flame will even be sucked into the torch; this gives the bearer a +4 on all saving throws versus fire, and they will take either no damage on a successful save, or half damage if the saving throw is failed. However, this comes at a price. As the torch consumes physical fire, it also nourishes itself with the fire in the soul. Each day that the torch is weilded, the bearer suffers a point of Wisdom damage. And every time the torch consumes a fire attack (one which requires a saving throw), it eats an additional point of Wisdom. Normal attribute recovery applies to these losses. A character whose Wisdom is reduced to zero by the torch is forever dead, as it has completely consumed their soul.
The contents roll for room A6 came up as Special, so it had to contain the special item which was indicated in the interrupted Mythic scene setup: 'move toward a thread - Neldir - Triumph / Technology'. Since the special item was just a scroll, I rolled a second time for room contents to see what else was in the room with it, and got 'Monster & Treasure', which randomly included a magic item.
First I tried the tables in the Expert rulebook, and for about the third time rolled up Sword +1/+2 vs. Lycanthropes. After the last time I generated and rejected that sword, i did actually write up a version of it that I will use, but I am still hesitant to let my party have it. There's already one magic sword in the group, and I have thought of a nice sub-plot to run involving lycanthropes should the PCs end up in a certain place. I don't want to spoil it.
So I decided to try an experiment with some tables in the back of the Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion. First I rolled on the Random Container Contents table and got 'Eggs, exotic pickled'. OK, forget that. So I payed attention to what was on the tables and opted for Miscellaneous Room Contents; I rolled 'Torch, partially burned'; Random Characteristics yielded 'consumes'. From those two I constructed the torch.
flitting spirit 50xp
shroud phantoms 4x 75xp
shaggy lopers 3x 75xp
claw fiend 7x 25xp
Ftr-0 9x 5xp
Father Rochouart is now 3rd level. He gains 2hp and an additional spell per day.