Friday, 5 May 2017

LotFP solo hex & dungeon crawl : Part VI

[Turn 5]

The explorers continue down another narrow corridor, which empties out into the top of a long, rectangular chamber [Area 7 - encounter]. Ancient corpses lie in the alcoves on every wall, which run the lengths of the walls and all the way up to the vaulted ceiling [LL AEC random features = Ceiling]. The ceiling is painted with once-vivid frescoes depicting episodes from the lives of the saints and martyrs, but the colours have long since faded. What remains is a scene of faceless ghosts in a grey nightmare landscape full of tortures and wild beasts.

But as our heroes are looking up at the lurid scene above, they fail to notice movement in the walls. A group of half-human fiends creeps out from their resting places amongst the mouldering bones, and fall upon the explorers in an instant.

[Encounter: 2d4=7 degenerates (AC: 13, HD 1, Move: 120', 1 attack, Dmg: 1d6, ML: 9)
No surprise, but the party lose initiative. 1d8=Werner is not attacked].

[Round 1]
The fiends surround the explorers, tearing into them with filthy claws. One shreds Paulus' back; he falls to the floor, barely clinging on to consciousness [2 damage puts him at 0hp]. Margarita is slashed across the stomach, but does not succumb [3 damage leaves her with to 1hp]. Éliane's reactions are significantly more rapid; she twists away from the assailant, garnering only a deep scratch across her shoulder [3 damage reduces her to 10hp]. She turns and instinctively draws her pistol, discharging it directly into the chest of the thing that hurt her. The sound of the shot reverberates through the chamber, setting everyone's ears a-ringing -- all save the fiend she shot down. Beate deals a telling blow to another, but the furious creature continues undaunted [3 damage drops it to 4hp]. Fredrik stabs one through the heart [6 damage puts it at -4hp]. Werner steps in over the fallen Paulus, using his halberd to dissuade the creature from finishing him off [1 damage].

[Rounds 2-4]
The explorers fight back to back, and keep the things at bay with their longer weapons [i.e. the monsters rolled incredibly poorly]. One finds a chink in Artuš' armour, but only gets a single claw through [2 damage leaves him with 8hp]. Lalie skewers one with her rapier, and Artuš hacks down another with his sword. The remaining three break and run out the exit in the south wall.

The explorers move after them in cautious pursuit, into a long, narrow gallery [Area 8 - trap: alarm] with walls carved in bas-relief. They haven't time to admire the carvings though, as a clanging, clattering racket sounds ahead in the darkness outside the reach of the lantern light.

Artuš and Fredrik take the lead, with Werner's halberd between them from the second rank. Beate holds the lamp high as they advance. The glow finally reveals the three creatures violently shaking a makeshift alarm made from pieces of armour, swords, and pots strung up on cords.

[trap = gong/chimes, 50% chance to attract wandering monster. There was a tripwire, which they set off on purpose. As they actively sounding it, I didn't bother with the percentage dice. It summons 1d6=6 more, coming from the south.]

Éliane taps Fredrik on the shoulder with her pistol, and motions for him to duck. Her ears are still ringing too much to hear his mumbled admonition, but he complies in the and Artuš does likewise. Half a dozen more of the half-human creatures appear behind the first three, and begin pushing their brethren towards the explorers.

Éliane and Lalie both fire pistols at the onrushing mob. One of them falls and is trampled by the others. Then Fredrik and Artuš stand firm and prepare to meet their foes.

[The gallery is 10' wide, so only 2 can fight abreast, but Werner can attack with his pole arm from the second rank. If the first rank falls, the second can move up and attack in the same round, but will be subject to any remaining attacks. The PCs win initiative.]

In the darkness at the back of the line of explorers, Sister Margarita falls to her knees and starts praying loudly. Artuš and Fredrik begin hacking away at the advancing horde with their sharp swords, and Werner's halberd thrusts between them, stabbing at any that resist their steel. One by one the creatures are cut down, and the others scramble over the fallen to meet the same fate. Lalie nudges Margarita to her feet as the soldiers and the holy man start to fall back slowly -- not because of the relentless press of the enemy, but rather to avoid being tripped up by the dead and dying bodies underfoot. After what seems an eternity of hacking, cutting and thrusting, the final creature is brought low.

[The fight took 5 rounds, and the monsters never hit. Sister Margarita originally was supposed to be casting Protection from Evil on Fredrik, but I forgot the range was touch; I don't think any of the monsters missed him by 1 in the first two rounds anyways. In hindsight, I probably should have given them a -1 attack penalty for having to climb over the fallen, but as the dice seemed to hate them this wouldn't have made a difference either.]

Most of the slain creature appear to have once been peasants, or else their clothes are so tattered and soiled as to make their former station unknowable. But a pair of them are clad in filthy silks, and upon their persons the gleam of precious metal catches Éliane's eye. Her finds are a little disappointing up close, being gilt silver rather than real gold [3x cheap jewellery], but she does find three worthwhile pieces: a gaudy amulet (30sp), a clunky bangle (60sp), and a rather nice fleur-de-lys brooch (80sp), and a pair of silk purses (stained and worthless) containing a total of 51 silver coins of recent mint.

"Really!" scoffs Fredrik. "I thought we were here for a holy purpose."

"Oh, but we are, mon père," says Éliane, throwing him both purses full of silver. "These are for the poor box."

"And those other baubles? What use have the poor for such vanities?"

"Mais non, mon père, these are for me!"

Father Fredrik's rejoinder is cut off by an anxious Margarita, who blurts out "Where's Brother Paulus?"

They rush back to the room with the vaulted ceiling to find the poor monk collapsed on the ground. Father Fredrik recites a short prayer over him [Cure Light Wounds], and moments later the good monk is up and about as if nothing had happened -- though the slashes down the back of his robe do make it a bit draughty.

[Turn 6 ]

Though Paulus is once again fighting fit, none of the others save Lalie are uninjured. They unanimously decide to return to the surface and tend to their wounds before the next descent. They begin to cautiously retrace their steps. When they get back to the room with the statues of the evangelists [Area 6], they see another of the huge, twisted humanoid creatures. It is crouched on the ground over the body of the other gigantic mutant when the lamplight discovers it, and it snaps up to see who should dare bring the hated light into its domain.

[Round 1]
Artuš surges forward and swings his heavy sword at the crouching horror's head...

[mutated degenerate (AC: 13, HD 4, HP 20, Move: 120', 1 attack, Dmg: 1d6, ML: 9, Special: blinking)
no surprise, it wins initiative]

...and it swishes through the empty air. The creature has disappeared! The rest file into the room, weapons raised, looking every which way for an invisible enemy.

And then it is standing behind Paulus. It grabs him by the neck and lifts him two feet off the floor, shaking him violently. There is a loud snap and the light leaves the poor monk's eyes [6 damage dropped him to -4hp]. Margarita is close enough to lash out with her mace; there is a wet crunch as she smashes its hip [4 damage leaves it with 16hp]. It bellows in pain, but the sound stops abruptly as the thing disappears again. Brother Paulus' body falls limply to the floor.

[Round 2]
It appears right behind Lalie, and grabs a handful of her hair, violently jerking her head back. She turns the rapier about in her hand and stabs blindly backwards, and is rewarded with a terrifying shriek of pain [both hit for 5 damage; she's down to 1hp, it to 11]. And then she is staggering forward as it vanishes.

[Round 3]
Then it is behind Margarita. It shoves her face first into the statue of St. Luke, leaving a bloody splotch on the evangelist's robe. She slumps to the floor and is still [2 damage puts her at -1hp]. Werner rushes forward with his halberd, but the thing has already disappeared.

"We must fight back to back!" screams Artuš.

[Round 4]
It reappears before Éliane, and grabs her wrist violently so she cannot stab forward with her dagger [3 damage reduces her to 7hp]. "The more fool you," she thinks, for a loaded pistol is in her other hand. As the beast is drawing back its arm to throw a vicious punch, she puts the barrel right over its heart and fires. But its heart -- should it even still possess such a human organ -- no longer resides in its accustomed seat. The pain of the shot causes it to release Éliane's hand but does not slay the creature [6 damage drops it to 5hp]. It winks out again.

[Round 5]
This time it comes before Lalie. She slashes wildly at the air with her rapier, mostly ineffectually, but it does keep the creature at bay [miss,miss].

[Round 6]
It blinks out again and appears before Artuš. It delivers a glancing blow which is cushioned by the heavy padding beneath the mercenary's armour. Moments later it is falling to the ground at his feet, transpierced by his sharp sword [7 damage drops it to -2hp]. Artuš removes the blade, then plunges it in thrice more to finish the evil fiend.

They make it back to the surface without further incident. It's slow going, as they must carry the unconscious Margarita and the dead Paulus, but that does mean that the ringing in their ears has subsided by the time the last of them has climbed up the rope into the fresh air.

[Q: Is Horst still OK back at camp? Certain (2+): O1 C8 - No.
Q: What happened? (1d10): 1-2 fled, 3-4 missing, 5-6 dead, 7-8 currently being attacked, 9-0 turned evil; d10=3
Q: Is the mule still there? Unlikely (5+): O5 C6 - Yes.]

They get back to their camp in the old prayer hall to find everything in order, but there is no sign of Horst anywhere. There is no evidence of a struggle. The arquebus is still leaning against the outside of a tent, the campfire is low but still burning, and the mule is still tied to a tree. After several hours he has not returned, and despite some small, armed forays into the surrounding areas, they can find no trace of the man.

That night two are on guard duty at all times, with arquebuses and a small fire; at least the walls surrounding them mean it will not be visible from a distance.

[Watches are AB/ÉL/FW. d6=1, night-time encounter. 1d3=2nd watch.
1d6=1 ghoul (AC: 14, HD 2, Move: 90', 1 attack, Dmg: 1d8, ML: 11, Special: paralysis)

Q: Is the ghoul responsible for Horst's disappearance? Likely (3+): O1 C8 - No.

The PCs are surprised; Attitude(SH): Willing to talk and can be persuaded to friendliness]

As Éliane and Lalie are on watch -- which is mostly the sore and battered Lalie leaning on Éliane's shoulder and trying to make conversation but mostly dozing off -- there is a purposeful cough over by the crumbling wall, outside the circle of firelight.
Éliane nudges Lalie awake, then stands with both pistols drawn to issue the challenge: "Qui va là ? I mean, who goes there?"

"It is just I," whispers a harsh, yet quaintly-accented voice. "I would talk with you. May I share your fire?"

"Show yourself!"

"Be not alarmed when you see me good ladies, for I am not as I once was."

Into the light steps a horrid creature, an ambulatory, grey-green corpse, clad in rotten garments and reeking of grave-mould. It lopes with a  distinctly canine posture, and its distended, taloned fingers nearly drag upon the ground.

Éliane gestures with her pistol for it to sit. It takes a place on the opposite side of the fire, and only then does Éliane sit back down, though still brandishing both her weapons. Lalie does not draw hers, which makes Éliane just a bit more nervous, for she knows Lalie must fear that only her magic could best such a monster.

"What is it you want?" asks Éliane.

Conversation Mood: helpful
scheming - bargain - power]

"I would fain make a proposition," says the monster. "I know you are here to plunder the tomb."

"To cleanse it of evil, rather," says Éliane.

"That's what the priests believe. I'd hazard a guess that for you it's merely a means to an end."

"Cleansed is cleansed. What of it?"

"I have no intention of hindering you. Indeed, I rather come to offer you assistance... for a small consideration, of course."

"What is your offer?" asks Lalie.

"There are more of my kind who sometimes venture into the ruin. The... humans who reside there now pay us little mind. Should you see anymore like me, I can tell you what to say so that they will not seek to harm you." [aid / words]

"And in return?"

"If you can open the tomb... I wish to eat the saint."

"You want to do what?" asks Éliane.

"I am become that, to which the Mahometans give the name ghūl."

"Oh!" exclaims Lalie. "Of course. I understand."

"I didn't know you spoke Arabic, chérie," says Éliane.

"I don't, ma bichette," replies Lalie. "But I know that word. Now, ô necrophage, what about these others you mentioned?"

"They shall let you pass if you say to them the phrase I shall teach you. But please, do not reveal to them our arrangement, or your purpose. There may not be enough saint to go round. You understand."

"I don't see how this could hurt."

The ghoul teaches them how to meep out a sentence in a sort of guttural, ghoulish Plattdeutsch: "It's ok; Gary sent us" [which gives them a +2 reaction modifier when they encounter other ghouls]. Once satisfied with their pronunciation, the ghoul politely takes its leave and lopes off into the darkness. Éliane and Lalie decide not to tell the others of this encounter. If they encounter more ghouls, Lalie will speak the phrase, and try to pass off whatever happens as the effects of a spell.

to be continued...

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