Saturday, 9 February 2019
LotFP Solo - Part the Sixty-second: "Go, grasp the shadow of your vanished power"
A preternatural shiver of unease comes over Lycinia as she crosses the threshold in to the enormous, low chamber. "There is old magic here," thinks the elf. Hazarding a glance back over her shoulder, she sees her two human companions following hard behind her shudder as they pass through the stone doorway. "Even they can feel it."
The immense chamber [Room XII - special] seems to have been carved in one piece out of the living rock. Despite the low ceiling (scarcely 8' high), the room is so vast that it not only swallows the elf's torchlight, but there is a zone of utter blackness between her illumination and the lanterns glowing near the far wall.
Lycinia can make out four figures in the distant lantern light. A pair of women are sitting on wooden crates, absorbed in a game of cards. One of the women wears a coat of mail, and their weapons and shields are lying close at hand. Behind them is a long wooden table, piled high with all manner of jars and beakers and parchments. The other two figures are rapt in deep contemplation of a section of the wall, upon which some writing or sigils have been scrawled in chalk. The man holds a parchment scroll, and appears to be taking dictation. He is clad in a mail byrnie, and wears a broad sword at his belt. The woman is unmistakable: expensive, brocaded coat of foreign make, white-gold hair, striking yet almost emaciated features: the witch, Jola.
The four soon realise they are not alone, and turn to meet the approaching band, as their circle of light moves closer through the vast darkness. Weapons are taken up and held in cautious readiness.
[CRGE: to endings
Q: Are they willing to talk at all? 67+8=yes, surge 10]
"There's a face I didn't expect to see," says Jola. "Tell me, elf, do you come in peace? or are you bent on ruining all my great works?" [UNE: hostile-injury-last story]
"I shan't stand idly by whilst you call forth beings who do not rightly walk this plane, if that's what you mean."
"A pity it is, my fairy friend, that that one who should have such command of the secret arts would throw away the promise of such knowledge for a trifling prejudice!"
[Q: Does Brichtrethe over-react to Lycinia's accusations of summoning? 89+10, Yes, and unexpectedly...Entering the Red]
"Fine words from one who r--"
"Daemonolaters!" shrieks Brichtrethe and charges across the room, heavy mace poised above her head to strike.
[Surprise rolls for her outburst: Party 1, bad guys 6
Initiative: bad guys win initiative, so act before Brichtrethe (and/or as she is charging)
CH CN DX IN ST WI HP AC
Anna f5 f 10 11 16 8 14 14 27 19 chain, shield, battle axe
Vere s6 m 5 10 8 14 12 13 26 15 chain, broadsword
Neli f0 f 10 10 5 6 12 6 3 15 leather, shield, broadsword, lt. xbow
Jola m7 f 14 11 11 16 10 7 24 12 shortsword
Vere: potion of undead control
Jola: Potion of Defence (+4AC for 10mins), magic boots*
1 Shield, Sleep, Hold Portal, (Magic Missile, Charm Person, Read Magic)
2 Invisibility, Mirror Image, Continual Light, (Wizard Lock, Forget)
3 Army of One, Hold Person, (Dispel Magic)
4 Minor Globe of Invulnerability
* the boots' effect doesn't apply in this scene
** spells in parentheses are not currently memorised]
The woman in leather armour (Neli) fires her crossbow at the charging cleric, but the bolt sails past her and clatters against a wall in the darkness. Jola begins rasping out the words to a sinister incantation as the man beside her (Vere) draws his broadsword. The mail-clad woman hefts a double-bladed battleaxe and waits behind the crossbow-woman until the last moment. She lashes out at Brichtrethe, and deals a punishing blow to her helm, which --by the Light God's Radiant Grace-- glances off it with a spark [still doing 7 damage, leaving B with 6hp]. Brichtrethe's impetus carries her on and she brings her weapon down upon Neli's sternum with a crack that her companions can hear even across the room. She falls lifeless, the impression of the mace head stamped permanently into her leather cuirass [(6+3=9)x2=18damage drops her to -15hp].
Jola finishes her awful spell. Complete enervation overwhelms Oswold, Thiery, Ruprecht, and even Manfred. They slump to the floor, unconscious [she cast Sleep, affecting 2d8=11HD: everyone but Lycinia, who is immune].
Anna and Brichtrethe are now locked in combat. Each circles the other, as axe and mace rebound repeatedly off stout shields. Vere slinks up behind Brichtrethe, but her heavy mail turns aside the blade of his sword [all miss]. Jola chants a staccato string of sibilant syllables. A shimmering globe envelops her and stretches out to cover Anna [Minor Globe of Invulnerability. 1d3-1=1 friends in range: 1d3=Anna (Jola can't move if casting)] as well.
Meanwhile Lycinia has been working magic of her own. Vere begins to droop. His sword begins to fall, the he suddenly lays himself down on the floor for a nap [a targeted Sleep spell puts him under].
[As half her party has been taken out, Anna needs to make a Morale check; rolling for her as Jola's hireling gives her ML9; she makes the roll easily.] Brichtrethe tries to press her advantage as Anna is suddenly facing her alone. But she falsely adjudges hesitation in her opponent, whose axe strikes true. Brichtrethe is dashed to the ground at Anna's feet, bleeding profusely [7 damage reduces Brichtrethe to -1hp, hors de combat]. Jola pulls at the hidden strings of the world, and in a moment is surrounded by [1d4=] four perfect duplicates of herself [cast Mirror Image], who mimic her every movement.
Lycinia kicks Manfred awake.
Anna kicks off from the fallen Brichtrethe like a runner off her mark. She charges at Lycinia, whose enchanted sword rings as it knocks the axe well aside. Manfred makes a lunge at Anna before he has quite regained his feet[-2 to hit], with predictably little effect.
Jola whispers the secret name of the Air, and it promises to ward off the blows of these her enemies [casts Shield for AC17, 19 vs. missiles].
Lycinia ducks back at the last moment, as Anna's axe whooshes past her face [Anna missed by 1]. Her own riposte bites deeply into the links of Anna's mail, but they do not yield [miss]. Manfred snakes his sword under Anna's shield, and she earns a nasty gash along her forearm [6 damage puts her at 21hp].
Jola again uses her magics, and tries to dazzle the Lycinia's sight with a glimpse of the Ultimate Truth (though were Brichtrethe aware thereof, she'd no doubt point out the blasphemous nature of this Counterfeit Surety), but the young elf [makes her saving throw against Continual Light] feels the hateful magic pass over her and drain away.
Anna cannot find a weakness in the elf's defence. Manfred makes another feint at her, but she's learnt his trick, and knocks his sword away on the rim of her shield. Lycinia chooses that very instant to lunge, and the tip of her blade comes back all bloody [6 damage drops Anna to 15hp].
Jola gives up on trying to affect a creature of magic with magic, and targets instead her mortal comrade. Manfred feels a jolt of pain flash along his spine, but such is the rage seething within the former earl's breast that the curse can have no hold upon him [saves against Hold Person].
Anna's rage may nearly be the equal of Manfred's. She smashes through Lycinia's parry, and only the elf's mail coat keeps her arm from being severed at the shoulder. She is staggered from the pain, but as Anna is in close, she smashes the human woman's jaw with the hilt of her sword [both hit; coincidentally they both rolled 9 damage, and both are left with 6hp]. Manfred doesn't want to hit his friend, and hesitates [miss].
Jola kicks Vere awake.
Anna's eyes go blurry from the pain of her broken jaw and her wild swings go nowhere near the elf until she finally lands a glancing blow against her mail-clad thigh [3 damage drops Lycinia to 3hp]. Lycinia ducks and weaves under the heavy axe, and connects mostly with Anna's shield. She gets in a single hit, which is stopped completely by Anna's steel pauldron, but the shock jars her injury anew, sending fresh waves of pain through her skull [4 damage drops her to 2 hp].
Vere and Manfred square off. Manfred meets his workman-like swordplay with a bit too much flair, and nearly loses an ear in the process [6 damage leaves Manfred with 11hp].
Jola stands back and watches, content to let her cronies risk their lives. She begins to suspect that, once again, that damnable elf girl's friends are going to be victorious, and uses her magic to disappear [casts Invisibility].
[Q: Do Anna & Vere notice Jola's disappearance? 66, Yes; surge 2
Vere ML8; A makes her Morale roll, V fails]
Jola's companions notice she is no longer in the room. Vere panics and bolts from the room. Manfred is almost too startled to give chase. He hesitates just long enough for Vere to sprint out of the chamber and disappear into the darkness. Manfred halts at the edge of the ring of Thiery's lantern light. He is none to concerned about the fleeing warrior, but the thought of being caught alone in the darkness by that strange witch stops him cold.
Anna and Lycinia circle each other. Each makes a few tentative swings at the other, but their arms scarcely even connect. And then there is a blur of motion [natural 20!], and Anna watches dumbly as the elf retracts a gore-drenched sword from her stomach; the light leaves her eyes forever [7 damage puts her at -5hp].
As Lycinia wipes the blood from her sword, Manfred sets about waking the rest of their companions, roughly shaking them, seeming to take perverse delight in shocking them back to their senses. At last, with vulgar bravado, trying to conceal the worry in the pit of his stomach -- from himself even more so than the rest -- he goes to check on the fallen Brichtrethe. So great is his joy at finding her still living, that he thunders and blasphemes with relief.
"Can she be moved?" asks Lycinia. "Jola's going to be coming looking for us before too long. Once she realises I've stolen her spellbook."
"We need time to regroup ourselves," says Thiery with a yawn. "You three are looking a bit worse for wear. We should probably let you rest a bit. I know: we'll use the time to dig through all their treasure!"
"Charming," growls Manfred. "But in this instance I am inclined to agree with you. It might hold some clues to... to whatever this nonsense is."
"This must be the gate," says Lycinia, her eyes sparkling. "The stone door those guild apprentices told us about. The one Jola can't open..."
"Does any of this scribbling mean something to you?" asks Manfred. "Can you read it at all? Lycinia? Lycinia, I'm talking to you... <sigh> I'm afraid we've lost her in wizard land, lads. Come, let's have a look at this treasure and determine what's good to keep!"
[The piles of treasure include Treasure Types C+F (from the vanquished shadows & thouls)
C: 8x bulky items (worth 2d10sp each), fairly large opal (2000sp)
F: 70GP, 3x special item: bolt of silk (40sp), rare spice (9.8lbs, 70sp/lb. =686sp total), statuette of gilded silver (600sp)
Anna: 4xjewellery (900sp, 1000sp, 1100sp, 1400sp)]
Most of the [bulky]items on the table are either alchemical devices too heavy or fragile to move, or else domestic implements of no great worth. But there is a bolt of fine silk which has miraculously survived the damp, and several jars of rare spices mixed in amongst the expected containers of salt, sulphur, and mercury.
In one of the crates, a rotten leather purse contains 70 antique gold coins, and a good-sized opal is wrapped in mouldering cloth. There is also a heavy statuette of gilded silver in the form of a temple façade, in which a scene from the life of some saint or other is depicted. Sadly the cleric is not in any state to elucidate the sacred meaning of this lovely piece, or perhaps her companions are fortunate to be spared the accompanying sermon; who is to say?
Thiery finds that Anna had a penchant for fine jewellery: a pair of golden rings with pink sapphires, a delicate golden brooch, and a gold pendant in the shape of a dragon with a drop pearl and mother of pearl inlay. His first instinct is to pocket at least one of these items, but he suspects that Manfred doesn't like him, and is probably watching.
They divide up the coins and jewels for now, and decide to come back for the rest. Lycinia wants to check on the poor apprentices, and asks Oswold if he will watch over Dame Brichtrethe whilst they are gone; it should only be a few minutes. He at first refuses, but Ruprecht agrees to stay behind too, and shows Oswold how to use Neli's crossbow.
[Q: Will Oswold wait with Dame B whilst they look? 19-2=17 No. surge 4
Q: What if R stays too? 84+4=88, Yes and... he'll even take Neli's xbow
I allowed a 1-in-6 chance for the PCs to get lost, as they weren't really mapping before: d6=not lost
I also rolled for random encounters, my usual 1-in-6 per room traversed: no encounters
Q: Jola been here? 80+4, Yes. surge 6
Q: Was she able to convince them of anything? 41-6, No surge 8
Q: Is there anything keeping them here? 44-8, No surge 10
Q: Will they come with PCs? 76+10, Yes and... fight Jola if needed]
The wretched trio of fledgling magicians do not seem at all surprised to see Lycinia, Manfred, and Thiery's return, though Thranxar is seen to shudder at the congealing blood still dripping from the elf's mail.
"She was here," says the young wizard. "And in such a state as we've never before seen. What did you do?"
"Oh, you know," says Lycinia, "just talking over old times."
"She tried to convince us to come with her -- she said you were slaughtering everything still living in the dungeons."
"Would that we were!" says Manfred. "One of 'em got away."
"Did she say anything else?" asks Lycinia.
"She's still certain she can unlock the power below. She just needs more time." [UNE: prejudiced-belief-power]
"She probably doesn't yet know that I took her spellbook," says Lycinia. The apprentice wizards cannot but laugh at this most unexpected news. They readily agree to accompany Lycinia away from this accursed place.
[Q: Has Jola laid an ambush? 28, no. surge 2]
The easily portable treasure is divided up [everything except the silk and bulky items], and the apprentices are given arms. Ruprecht elects to carry Brichtrethe, though getting her up the ladder at the entrance requires some hastily devised pivots and a goodly length of rope. Manfred supervises the operation with more than a little solicitude.
By evening they are back at their camp on the beach. They gather enough driftwood for a small fire, and set upon their travel rations as 'twere a lordly feast.
Thiery espies a deer away in the long grass. He takes a shot at it with Ruprecht's arquebus, but the affrighted beast merely bounds away unharmed; no venison shall supplement their meagre victuals this day. [1d6=random encounter, herd animal. It occurred to me well after the fact that this island is probably too small to reasonably support a population of deer. Whatever they really saw disguised as a deer can be determined later; though it's a safe bet the encounter was no coincidence.]
As night falls, the watches are set. The addition of the three apprentice wizards more than makes up for unconscious cleric. Manfred's uncharacteristic concern for his fellows continues, as he suggests Lycinia's injuries [3/22hp] should excuse her from watch duty, and -- even more surprisingly -- the elf acquiesces without an argument. She does, however, settle in by the fire with Jola's captured spellbook, taking advantage of the eternally-disapproving cleric's incapacity to peruse the tome. When Manfred is awakened for his watch, he must chide the curious elf into finally going to sleep -- lest she be too tired in the morning to work any of the new magics she has found.
[Lycinia cast Read Magic on the spellbook, so can memorise spells out of it from now on.
Q: Can B get spells in morning for curing? 94+2, yes and... she's aware enough that Lycinia doesn't dare use Jola's spellbook in front of her
O & R +1hp overnight
morning cure light wounds (x4):
L+6 to 9hp
B+9+8 to 17hp
M+8 to 19hp
Q: Is there enough room in the PCs boats for passengers? 18, No. surge 2]
In the morning, Brichtrethe works her miracles to heal the most egregious injuries of her companions -- and herself. A small detachment marches up the beach to look for the boat which the apprentices sailed to the island, but it is no longer where they moored it. Nor indeed are any boats that Jola and her minions may have used.
[Q: Boat(s) still there? 28-2=26, no surge 4
Q: Can they make a raft from timber? 98+4, Yes, and Unexpectedly...Montage]
They return to their companions with the news, strike camp, then march en masse back to the ruins. They discover that the provisions from Jola's encampment in the high tower have been befouled, but there is no other sign of the witch. But they are able to find a sufficient quantity of useable timber, and spend the rest of the day constructing a raft. As they labour, the sounds of distant cannon are heard thundering across the water. "That should end the siege," remarks Brichtrethe.
The guns continue late into the night, but the weary company manage to get unimpeded rest [no encounters]. In the stillness of the morning they set sail across the calm waters of Lake Ild, and reach Uldmere by nightfall. Brichtrethe pulls rank to get an interview with the general, who has naught but bad news to relate.
The siege of Castle Uldmere has indeed been ended; the fortress' walls were holed, and the defenders quickly surrendered. But alas there is no joy in victory, for de Molleré and his trusted companions have long since fled, taking the castle's treasures with them [2d6=11, Thiery's rumour (from character creation) is Completely True].
The mood in the King's army was already bad, but worsened still as rumours of the empty treasury fly through the ranks. Many mercenaries have been heard to open consider sacking the village of Uldmere for war booty. The King's soldiers just want to go home. Brichtrethe returns to her companions to find that Oswold [ML=7] has scarpered with his share of the treasure, and the horses they left behind are nowhere to be found.
Anxious to put some distance between themselves and the simmering discontent, the party set out along the lake shore heading for Ildmarch. The journey passes almost without incident. They [1d6=randomly] encounter at one point a group of six soldiers-turned-bandits, but these wretched souls are so cowed by the fearsome and bloodied aspect of the travellers that they let them pass by in peace [outnumbered; they failed their Morale check so didn't attack].
And thus they arrive at Ildmarch on the evening of the third day. Lycinia makes straight for the Mage's Guild with the three apprentices, occasioning much excitement in that otherwise quiet and brooding place. One wizard in particular is pleased to see the elf's return, and with such news; but of her plans we must yet be silent, until the time is ripe for such knowledge.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Then it was time to break for some accounting and downtime activities before the return to the dungeon.
Each surviving PC earned 2676xp.
Ruprecht is now a 3rd level fighter, his hit points increase by 1d8=1 (damn! I totally called that when he rolled 8 for 2nd level...)
Thiery becomes a 2nd level specialist; +1d6=4hp, +1 tinker, +1 search (his XP total caps at halfway to 3rd level)
After converting the spices and some of the ugly jewellery to cash, the PCs receive 2254sp & 4cp each. To simplify accounting, I gave them each the equivalent of 2100sp, assuming the rest to be (over-)spent on food, lodging, and carousing (or tithing).
Each of them ponies up 1200sp so they can buy a small sailboat to get back to the island more easily. Lycinia gives a little extra to Brichtrethe so she can afford the 1000sp for a suit of plate armour.
Lycinia spends most of the two weeks in Ildmarch at the guild. I used the Cities catch-up tables for everyone else. Ruprecht did his best to lay low, and had no events. Manfred befriended a merchant, and was able to invest 900sp in a shipping concern. Thiery helped an aristocrat, who gave him a 10,000sp investment! Brichtrethe recruited another fighter for the party. I have a few old PCs lying round, veterans of random dungeons from when I first got LotFP, and it seems foolish to let them go to waste, so party numbers from losses (and/or desertions) can be made up by them for a while.