Friday, 27 November 2015
Dragon Warriors solo - Part IX: A night visitation & Into the underworld
With the hobgoblin defeated, a stillness settles over the ruins. Loys leads his companions out of the great tower and over to the hole the hobgoblin had pointed out as its secret treasury. Ysmena rekindles her lantern, which she hands over to Loys. He shines the light down into the hole, and peering into the blackness. A faint, guttural moaning is heard emanating from the hole, and rattling of chains. This certainly bears investigation -- perhaps after a few days' recovery.
Ysmena and the three battered and bloodied knights trudge back across the green to Brother Quintinus' tower. The hermit receives them warmly, and has a nice stew simmering for them on the fire. At midnight Ysmena once again employs her healing magic to aid the injured knights.
In the morning Brother Quintinus takes up his spear and announces he must go hunting, as having guests means his food supplies are depleted much more rapidly, and their own provisions are quite sparse. Reynaud wishes to go with him, so Ailbert hands over his crossbow.
Whilst they're away. Loys tells Ysmena he must speak to her on a topic most serious. Ailbert offers to step outside the tower that they may enjoy some privacy, but Loys says that this concerns him too. Ysmena is terrified that Loys is going to bring up painful incidents from their past, and Ailbert is certain that his valour has been found wanting and they are going to take him before a magistrate to be tried for banditry, but Loys is really only concerned about Ysmena fighting with such poor weaponry. He suggests that, since Ailbert owns no shield, he give her his sword, and use the battle axe they took from the second brigand for himself. They both laugh in relief, and happily take up their new arms.
[There were a lot of dice rolled for the above, and for other matters concerning the situation. But I prefer to start with narrative, so here they all are now:
Q: Does the remaining goblin want revenge? Likely (3+): O5 C7, Yes. Adding it to NPC list
Q: Is it brave enough to sneak over to tower and spoil the PCs' remaining food with its evil power (vide DW Bestiary) before it scarpers? Doubtful (6): O3 C8, No.
At midnight, Ysmena regained and immediately spent all 4 magic points on healing; current HP totals: Loys 6, Reynaud 8, Ailbert 5.
Q: Any encounters? Unlikely (5+): O4 C4 - No, +event: NPC action - goblin - Arrive / A representative (the goblin knows a monster on the moors who will help it take revenge)
Q: How does the Hermit primarily get his food? (1d6): 1-2 hunts, 3-4 gathers, 5-6 both: 5=hunts.
He hunts with...(1d6): 1-2 spear, 3-4 sling, 5-6 bow: 1=spear.
Reynaud goes with him carrying sword and crossbow, and wearing only the padding from his plate armour (counts as a gambeson, AF1)
Q: Decent hunting? 50/50 (4+): O5 C6, Yes. 1d6+2=back in 4 hours (no random encounter)
Q: Random encounter at the tower whilst the hunters are away? Doubtful (6): O5 C5, No + Event: Introduce a new NPC - Celebrate / Masses: a priest, then: (1d6) 1-2 capital P Priest, 3 other profession, 4-6 normal human: 6=normal
Personality: Discouraged, Thankless
1. complete the elite
2. shepherd resources
3. execute religion
(1-3 m, 4-6 f; 3) He has (1d8-1=) 5 attendants. Each is (1d6) 1-4 cleric, 5-6 soldier; 4 other clerics in train, 1 spearman (all normal humans).
Now, to rejoin the PCs.]
"... and so the priest goes: 'I want to know who these unchaste women are and where to find them'." says Ailbert. [adapted from Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1459)'s Facetiae, #CXXIII; the original Latin is much nastier, but Ailbert won't use the f-word in mixed company]
Ysmena doubles over with laughter. Try as she might to stifle it, she only ends up snorting in a most unladylike fashion.
"I don't get it," says Loys.
Ysmena looks up. "Oh, Loys," says she, through peals of laughter, "it's like how... you know... the priest..."
"No, I still don't--- shhhh! What's that sound?"
The three fall silent, Ysmena clapping a hand over her mouth to stifle any residual chortles. They strain their ears, and a far-off sonorous chanting is heard on the wind. They take up weapons and rush from the tower to investigate. It is with no small relief that they find the chanting to be coming from a small band of priests making a procession across the grassy field before the ruins. The head priest with mitre and crosier leads a group of 4 novices, all bearing books, censers, and other holy paraphernalia. Behind them walks a single spearman in a dented helm and shabby byrnie. The spearman calls something out and the procession abruptly comes to a halt. The priests turn to see the trio crossing the green to meet them. The head priest looks them up and down and gives an audible sigh.
NPC Relationship: distrustful
Conversation Mood: guarded
prejudiced - belief - future action]
"We have come," says he, "to exorcise the foul spirits who have too long plagued this decrepit heap. Wherefore are you here?"
"We are simple travellers, domine," says Ysmena. "We sought shelter here for the night, and were attacked by wicked fairies. These brave knights drove them off, but were sorely wounded by the fiends." [Looks (15) roll, at a +3 penalty: 2d10+3=22, big fail]
"Wherefore would you shelter here? The foul reputation of this ancient abode, and the fearful noises that come over the moors... none come here but bandits -- or fortune seekers! Which be these so-called 'knights'?"
"I am just back from the Holy Crusade," interjects Loys. "I'll not be insulted by the likes of you!"
[For the priest's response, I rolled again on the UNE charts, with the proviso that a non-sequitur means he simply blows up at Loys: inquisitive - interest - allies]
"And this other knight," says the priest impassively, "is he too a crusader?"
"N-no, reverend father," says Ailbert. "A simple man-at-arms."
[Q: Will the priest eventually give up and leave the party alone? 50/50 (4+): O3 C2 - No, and..."
"You will all either help us or move on," says the priest. "I shouldn't want to have to inform His Lordship that there be bandits lairing in the ruins."
"Fine..." grumbles Loys.
The cleric intends to start by re-consecrating the old chapel, performing a series of rites that will last [1d8=] eight full hours, until early evening. The spearman must stand watch, so he is aided in his task by Loys and Ailbert, who take the time to sound out his opinions about the priests' endeavour. The spearman is a simple peasant from Fitston Parva, and he has absolute confidence in the awesome holy powers of his village priest.
[UNE for the spearman-
NPC Relationship: peaceful
Conversation Mood: neutral
insane - illusion - current story
Q: How does the hermit get on with the priest? Abandon / Trials
His danger sense (37%) roll about the NPCs: 15, success
Q: Are they dangerous? Unlikely (5+): O4 C4 - No, but... they will attract danger
+Event: Ambiguous event - Cruelty / Environment (storm)]
Reynaud and Brother Quintinus come back with some rabbit for the pot. He looks in on the priests to see what they are doing, then comes back to the tower, shaking his head. "Leave him to his nonsense," says Brother Quintinus. "Who knows, perhaps his faith is sufficient to banish the stain from these old stones. Or perhaps he'll see what a fool he really is! But let us be prepared ourselves to do battle with evil this night. I've a terrible feeling about this lot."
That night sees a terrible downpour. The hermit's lean-to is not big enough to hold more than two people, nor indeed is its roof the equal of the storm. They all take refuge in the tower, up upon the first landing whose opening faces away from the driving wind.
[Q: Cleric's party join them too? 50/50 (4+): O2 C8, No.]
The priests decide to make their shelter in the kitchen cellar which is proof against both wind and water. No one tries to dissuade them, or mentions that was the goblins' lair.
[Q: Quiet night? Likely (3+): O1 C6, No.
What happens? Vengeance / Pleasures]
A shrill, awful wail is heard in the distance, even above the howling wind. A second, moaning wail echoes it, seeming to come from beneath the great tower itself. The first one gets closes and closer. Inside the tower, weapons are taken up, and battle lines are formed. Even the hermit brandishes his spear. For a few agonising minutes the wailing ceases, then abruptly starts up again, much nearer. A chorus of horrible screams is raised in answer, echoing down the long passage and up into the tower staircase. None dare stir from the tower. "I shall pray for their souls," says the trembling hermit.
[Q: Does anyone escape? Unlikely (5+): O5 C3 - Yes, but...
Q: Does an attack on the tower follow? Unlikely (5+): O1 C5 No.]
The rest of the night is spent in fear and anticipation of an attack which does not come. Ysmena refrains from casting any spells at all that night; she doesn't want to use all her power on healing when some more destructive magics are required. But nothing else does happen.
By morning, the rain has stopped. The exhausted knights emerge from the tower to survey the area. They find the head of one of the priests, the eyes gouged out and a large patch of scalp missing, placed on the bottom stair, right inside the door to the tower. Other than this grisly warning, they find no trace of their mysterious nocturnal enemy. "It wasn't those little goblins that did this," says Reynaud. "The little bastard must've found help."
Loys takes up the severed head and tosses it down the steps into the long passage. "best we not mention this... trophy. Not in too much detail, I mean."
Deeming it safe, Loys calls the other two down out of the tower. Ysmena applies her healing magic to the injured knights [healing Loys 4 to 10hp, Reynaud 2 to 10hp, and Ailbert 2 to 7hp].
Searching the grounds, Brother Quintinus finds one of the novices cowering in a hole. His mind seems to have gone; he cannot but weep and prate like a child. The hermit says he shall care for the unfortunate.
Everything within the hermit's little tower has been destroyed. It is obvious that more than the storm was at work. The remaining stores of food are in a terrific state of decay, spoilt by goblin magic.
Loys announces that he and Reynaud must go down into the cellar to see if there be any survivors. Ailbert volunteers to come, but is visibly relieved when Loys refuses. They spend less than a minute for the whole expedition. Reynaud comes back bearing a spear, but neither of the knights will discuss what they saw.
Come mid day they are distressed to find that the provisions they had taken into the great tower have also been ruined by the fairy curse. Ysmena and Ailbert stay behind whilst the others go out hunting (with crossbow and 2 spears).
[Q: Decent hunting? 50/50 (4+): O4 C8, Yes. 1d6=back in 2 hours (no random encounters)
Q: Random encounter whilst they're away? Doubtful (6): O5 C2 - No, and... stop asking this question.]
The hunters soon return with some venison. Fortunately Brother Quntinus' cooking pot is still in a condition to hold water, once the dents are pounded out.
Whilst the hermit cooks, the others bring up some heavy rocks and loose flagstones into the tower, in case they need to throw them down upon attackers. After a hearty meal they decide to look for the treasury.
[I gave the treasury entrance an effective Stealth of 20, so the PCs need to roll higher than 20-PCN on 2d10 to detect it. Reynaud had the only good roll: 20-5=15, so 16+ to detect it; 2d10=17.]
They all search around the area the hobgoblin had indicated. Reynaud feels brave and jumps down into the little hole itself. Time and the elements have filled whatever chamber once was here with soil, but between two stones of the wall (or foundation?) he feels a slight draft. The dirt comes away easily when he digs at it with his steel gauntlet, and one of the stones seems to pivot slightly. "Through here," says Reynaud, "there's a passage. It shouldn't be too much work to clear a bit so we can squeeze through."
"Not today," says Ysmena bluntly. "I won't go down without my magic."
"Dear Lady," says Loys, "none of us would would even dare it."
[Q: Mostly quiet night? Certain (2+): O3 C6, Yes.]
The night is mostly restful. From time to time a chilling moan emanates from the recently uncovered hole. Whatever lurks beneath the tower, it knows it will soon have company.
* * *
The next morning...
It takes about an hour's work to free up the pivoting stone enough so that an armoured man may enter the secret passage. It slopes downward for a few paces before emptying out into a cramped and foul-smelling circular chamber. Some worm-eaten wooden chests are strewn haphazardly about the room. One side of the room is heaped up with rubbish and bones and filth.
Loys and Reynaud cautiously edge into the room. Ysmena hold the lantern high above their heads.
[Stealth roll: 12-6 (Loys' Perception) = 6 or lower needed; 2d10=13, failure, no surprise]
There is a rattling of chains, and then a horror bursts out from under its bone and rag pile nest, sending bits of detritus flying. The hunched-over, man-sized beast has long arms and claws that scrape against the floor, and its furious face is nearly all fangs. The thick chain attached to one ankle scrapes loudly across the stone floor as it moves. It is attached to an imposing iron ring set into the wall -- but its length is more than sufficient to reach the knights. Grasping nails outstretched, it springs straight at Loys.
[The creature is an Ire Goblin (bugbear), because again I saw it in the bestiary and wanted to use it.
Special rule I made up for this fight: anyone rolling a natural 20 will trip over the chain. They must then roll their REF or lower on 1d20 or fall down. The bugbear is not exempt. Its REF score is (3d6=) 9.]
Reynaud takes a swing at the advancing bugbear, but it evades his blade. Its claws reach for Loys' face, but he raises his shield just in time, and the creature merely rakes the front of it, leaving deep rents in the lacquered surface [hit deflected by shield roll]. Loys' feeble counterattack does him no credit [rolls a 19]. Ailbert rushes in to join the fight, whilst Ysmena puts the lantern carefully down on the ground, where it won't get overturned.
[Round 2 - Initiative: Y,R,B,L,A]
Ysmena pronounces syllables in some ancient and forgotten tongue. Her magic causes the bugbear's limbs to slacken and its muscles lose their vigour [casting Weaken for 1MP. It's a Direct spell, so Mag. Attack 17 - Mag. Defence 4, it will take effect on a roll of 13 or less; 2d10=12, success. The bugbear suffers -2 Attack, and inflicts -1 damage]. Reynaud lunges and sticks the point of his sword into the creature's shaggy flank. He is surprised by the thickness of its wiry hair and taut hide [AF 2 vs. non-magical weapons], but the blade bites deep. The bugbear lets out a deep groan and black blood spurts around the blade as it is withdrawn [4 damage drops it to 4hp]. The bugbear turns and strikes out at the knight who wounded it, but it does not reach far enough [miss]. But as it turns, the chain whips round and gets caught under Loys' foot [rolled a 20 on his attack & failed his REF check 11]. He loses his balance and clatters to the floor. Ailbert has to step over him to avoid falling himself, and can't get near the creature with his axe [missed by a lot].
The bugbear's weird groaning gets louder and more grating, and it begins to swell, its head and torso increasing in size at an alarming rate, its arms seeming to lengthen and stretch beyond its feet [a wounded Bugbear swells up over 3 rounds, gaining +3HP, +2 Attack, and +1 ABR & damage per round. It will reach its maximum on round 5, and revert quickly to normal on the 6th round]. Ysmena draws her sword, preparing to join the fray. Reynaud slashes down the thing's front, but the blade seems to slide over the stiff fur and leave it unscathed [failed ABR]. The bugbear swipes its claws down Reynaud's torso, and is similarly defeated by the stout breastplate [also failed ABR]. Loys clambers to his feet. Ailbert hefts the battle axe over his head and rains it down in a mighty blow -- which also bounces off wiry hair as if it were polished steel [he too failed his ABR].
The bugbear continues to grow, becoming a misshapen and distorted lump of rage. Ysmena brings her sword down upon its head with both hands. There is a loud crack and spray of blood as the steel glances over the thick skull of the fiend [4 damage drops it to 6hp]. Reynaud takes advantage of its momentary distraction, and burys his sword in the groaning thing's side. This time it finds purchase, and cuts a deep gurgling wound [4 damage leaves it with 2hp]. The bugbear throws itself at Reynaud, but he parries every strike with sword and shield. Avoiding the rattling chain and each other, neither Loys nor Ailbert get close enough to strike [miss].
And now it is twice its original size, and attacking more furiously than ever. Ysmena swings at it, but it merely backhands her sword with its terrible paw [she failed her ABR]. Reynaud continues his own furious assault, and opens another gash in the beast's flank [4 damage drops it to 1hp]. It yowls in pain, but cannot get its claws round the throat of this most persistent knight. Loys can barely swing his sword in the direction of the creature, so fast does it move now [and so poorly does he roll], but Ailbert swings his battleaxe down hard upon its shoulder, removing its left arm entirely [6 damage drops it to -4hp].
The creature falls to the ground, deflating like a burst wineskin, with black blood squirting from its various wounds.