Once again they set out through the steamy jungle, relying on the barbarian's memory for navigation -- perhaps they'd ought to have brought a map. For he was sure that travelling south would soon bring them to the river -- the one which runs from the mountains through the jungle to the sea, where it is lined by the spires and graceful domes of Ulq. But after a full day's march they have not reached it [Jungle lore at +1 to find river: 2d6=11, fail]. At least they avoid any run-ins with dangerous fauna, though Ilog and Grebdal Themp nearly blunder into the tendrils of a gigantic carnivorous plant [both successfully test LUCK to avoid].
The next day --again-- they set off in search or the river. By mid-day they are despairing of ever finding it, but after a pause for food and rest, their ill-fortune (with its concomitant ill-humour) departs, and they soon stand on the bank of the wide and swiftly-flowing river [jungle lore succeeds].
"That water looks divine!" says Grebdal Themp. "Shall we swim to the other side?"
"I don't like our chances against the current," says Ksandajja, eyeing the churning water.
"We could at least go paddling."
"And provide a feast for the crocodiles?" asks Ilog.
And so they head upstream along the bank, looking for a safe ford. They've still not found one as evening dims the sky, but they press ever forward, hacking their way through the thick foliage.
"Listen!" says Ilog, and stops short. The sound of drumming is carried on the breeze.
"We're not alone in this jungle," says Fhenteskeer.
As they proceed upriver, the drumming grows ever louder, reverberating through the trees and over the surface of the water, drowning out the groans and cries of the unseen wildlife.
"Is that a light ahead?" says Ksandajja, pointing up the river.
"Yes," says Grebdal Themp. "There's torches on a bridge."
"No, not a bridge," says Ilog. "A village! A village built on stilts, spanning the river entire."
[feature: hamlet, fortified settlement]
And there can be no doubt but that the village is the drumming's source.
"Let me handle this," says Fhenteskeer once the explorers have crept up to the outskirts of the village, and he disappears into the underbrush. Several minutes creep by as the drumming shakes the very darkness of the falling night.
[He needs an Etiquette roll to treat with the villagers. Magic 6 + Etiquette 1 + 3 (Silver Tongue talent)=10: 2d6=7, success.]
Fhenteskeer re-appears suddenly, flanked by jungle warriors. "They will allow us into their village and across their bridge. And they are happy to trade with us as well! But they say we must hurry inside so they can pull up the ladders. Even their mighty drums can't keep all the evils that stalk the night at bay."
In between courses, the explorers discuss their travel through the jungle, and trade for some items to help them in their endeavours. The villagers have no use for coins, but the herbs, jewellery, and precious stones are commodities they desire. Ilog comes away with a new bow and quiver of arrows, Grebdal Themp has a magical rising sun glyph tattooed on his shoulder for protection against the weather [from the Heroes' Companion], and a goodly quantity of dried provisions rounds out their trade. Strangely (or perhaps not at all), no one was interested in the elixir of Rage.
Q: Are the villagers at all interested in coinage? unlikely (5+): O3 C6 - no.
The herbs are worth 61gp total, jewellery 50gp.
Q: Is anyone interested in the potion of rage? 50/50 (4+): O2 C5 - no
Q: Is a magical tattoo available? Unlikely (5+): O5 C1 - yes, and... more than one practitioner
Ilog wants to buy a bow (30gp) longbow & quiver of 20 arrows
Grebdal Themp wants a Rising Sun tattoo 65gp -- puts in his peridot & jewel to make up the cost.
I gets bow + 30gp
g gets tattoo +30gp
x gets mirror & crystal
f gets green gas + 30gp
Q: Does anything untoward happen? 50/50 (4+): O2 C1 - no, and... all the PCs are on good behaviour (Ilog's pretty much a PC at this point).
For finding a safe haven in the wilderness, each PC regains a point of LUCK.]
After the first good sleep in what seems an aeon, Ksandajja awakes in the cool darkness of a flower-strewn hut. Gone is every care, every lingering sense of fatigue from her arduous journey. But gone too is her long-limbed companion of the night, and possibly (she discovers after a quick search of her surroundings) one of her sandals.
Ksandajja totters out into the sun and heat, her head still fuzzy from palm wine and other nocturnal succulence. She finds Grebdal Themp eager to show off his new tattoo, alternately admiring it in a copper mirror and rubbing ointment on it to keep the swelling down. Fhenteskeer is chatting away with some of the villagers, still trying (in vain) to trade away the rage potion. Of Ilog there is no sign; he's gone out with some hunters to test his new bow. Grebdal Themp tells the sorceress to pack her things and be ready to set off once he returns. She's not convinced that she's in any fit state to travel, but Grebdal Themp knows a cantrip against hangovers, so her protestations go unheeded.
After many joyous (and one reluctant) farewells, the journey resumes on the far side of the river. The jungle begins to thin as the leagues pass, and by nightfall gives way to scrub-covered hills.
[jungle lore ok, no encounters
feature: ruin - half-collapsed castle
Why This Place Fell Into Ruin (via Age of Fable): The place was built for defence. When the threat was no longer present, there was no reason to maintain the place.
Q: Does conveniently bad weather force them towards it? 50/50 (4+): O5 C2 - yes, and...]
The weather takes a sharp turn as they are looking to make camp for the day. Thunderheads have rolled in down the mountainside and unleashed a torrent of rain upon the hills. Lightning streaks the sky and Sukh [the storm god (neutral)] booms out his displeasure at those who do not cower before him.
"We could shelter there from the storm," says Ilog.
"Ummm.... I've done this before," says Ksandajja. "It didn't go very well."
"Sought shelter from a storm in a ruin."
"I hardly think it will be haunted."
"I have to agree," interjects Fhenteskeer. "I find all this water... disconcerting."
"My new tattoo protects against heat and cold," says Grebdal Themp, "but I'm still soaked through to the bone."
"Fine. But don't say I didn't try to warn you."
"What happened to you before to make you so reticent?"
"It's a long, miserable story I'd rather not think too much on now. Perhaps I'll recount it in the morning -- to whoever survives."
[Q: It's inhabited, isn't it? Likely (3+): O6 C1 - yes, and... one roll each jungle & ruins tables]
The ruined fortress is a warren of time-shattered walls and indistinct piles of stone. Few of the old chambers still bear any semblance of a ceiling, but at last they find a darksome hall offering protection from the wind and wet. Ksandajja notes with elation that there is no sign of an entrance to underground chambers. But her elation is short-lived. As they are collecting bits of what must once have been a grand table to make a fire, a terrible creature floats into the room.
Ksandajja is the first to see it, a bloated sack of flesh bristling with venomous spines. In its centre is a staring, iridescent eye. It catches Ksandajja's glance for a moment, and time slows. She can see it drifting closer, ever closer, the quivering spines coming ever nearer, poised to prick her exposed flesh. She tries to call out but cannot utter a sound, her body held fast by the EYE STINGER's entrancing gaze.
EYE STINGER SKILL 7 STAMINA 2
But Ilog has seen the abomination. He bounds up next to the sorceress, swinging his morningstar in an overhead arc. The eye stinger bursts as it crashes down, spraying Ilog and Ksandajja with a vile, caustic substance.
[All the PCs needed to Test their Luck to avoid the hypnotic gaze; only Ksandajja failed her roll. Ilog hit for 4 damage, destroying it. The acid splash from its demise did 2 damage to both I & K.]
The feeling returns to Ksandajja's limbs, followed immediately by a sharp burning. Ilog too is reeling from the searing pain. He turns about just in time to see an ebon paw strike Grebdal Themp out of the shadows. Claws rake down his back, and the paw comes away trailing bloodied strips of his leather armour, and not a little of his skin besides. The BLACK LION steps into the lantern-light with a mighty roar, drowning out Grebdal Themp's shrieks of pain and surprise.
[The PCs rolled Awareness vs. the Black Lion's Sneaking (=Skill), but none of them beat its total (a modest 2d6+11=19) so it attacked a random PC with Surprise (+6 attack, +2 damage roll). As this was all in round 1 (the Lion is cunning enough to use the eye stinger to its advantage), its target was chosen on 1d3: 1 G, 2 F, 3 I. Grebdal Themp took 5-1=4 damage, putting him at 6 Stamina.]
BLACK LION SKILL 11 STAMINA 11
Grebdal Themp and Fhenteskeer face the snarling beast. Its mighty paws swipe the fire priest's axe aside with ease [attack total 15 vs. 15, neither hits], but this gives the canny rogue a rare opportunity, and his sword opens a gory wound the whole length of the lion's sable flank [natural 12, crit. 3x2=6 damage].
Ilog and Ksandajja rush into the fray. The beast jumps up at the barbarian, nearly knocking him down, but as the sturdy barbarian wrestles with the snapping lion, Ksandajja and Grebdal Themp skewer the beast with their steel. Ilog casts the bleeding corpse to the ground. [The PCs got +3 on their rolls for outnumbering the lion; G&K hit for 7 total damage.]
Grebdal Themp looks at Ksandajja sheepishly. "Not going to say 'I told you so'?"
"I'd rather hoped you'd all be laughing at my timorousness come morning."
Ilog does his best to wash Ksandajja's acid burns off with wine and bandage them, then tend to his own. The hardy warrior has a surprisingly delicate touch and superlative skills as a healer; Ksandajja supposes a lifetime of ferocious battle has given him plenty of opportunity for practice. [He's the only one in the party with the Healing special skill, as it happens (skill 7 + healing 1). Both checks succeed, restoring 2 Stamina to each of them].
Fhenteskeer meanwhile calls on he power of Filash to remove all injuries from his brave companion. His wounds close up without a trace [Heal spell, back to full Stamina].
Their wounds tended, they decide to search the rest of the fortress again to make sure there are no more surprises in the night. Fortunately they find no other fell creatures lurking amongst the ruins.
[Q: Any treasure in lion's den? 50/50 (4+): O5 C2 - yes, and... (rolling on both the monster and the humanoid tables (for a victim)]
Luckier still, amongst the scattered bones in the black lion's den, they find the purse of an earlier visitant to this forlorn place; inside are [2d6=]six golden coins of an uncertain minting and an elixir, which Ksandajja pronounces to be a draught of invisibility [Magic Lore roll succeeds].
After a quiet -- if still uneasy -- night, they head south over the hills.
[Each day of travel requires a Hill Lore roll to avoid getting lost (I will not mention this unless the roll fails).
In the hills, random encounters will occur only on a 1-in-6 chance (checking for day & night). One feature roll per day, but with 3-in-6 chance to avoid it if desired (=they can see it from a distance when on high ground).
On the first day, no encounters were rolled as such, but the Feature roll came up as random encounter, and since I rolled Harpies, I ruled the 3-in-6 to avoid didn't apply.
Then using the AoF What Are the Monsters Doing? table to set the scene, I rolled: Wandering Chasing, or running away from, another creature or group of creatures (generate the other creature or group - the stronger side is chasing the weaker one).
So d3=2 Harpies chasing 1d3=3 Giant Wasps
Q: Do they ignore the party? 50/50 (4+): O5 C4 - yes, but... only the uninjured ones. So I ran a quick fight for them.]
The day is calm and the weather fair. In the afternoon they witness three GIANT WASPS being chased by a pair of HARPIES. The harpies catch the wasps -- to their detriment. Soon the leathery-winged fiends succumb to the wasps stingers, and plummet to the ground. The two injured wasps buzz away and out of sight, but the third one decides to have a go at the travellers it spotted below.
GIANT WASP SKILL 6 STAMINA 6
It swoops down at [1d4=]Ksandajja, who lops off one of its legs as it goes past. With an annoyed drone of wounded pride it flies away. Ilog looses an arrow after it for good measure, and shrugs as it falls well short of the mark.
[She'd hit it for 3 damage, dropping it to half Stamina. It failed its morale check.]
The following day is nearly as uneventful as the last, until -- seemingly out of thin air -- a vicious NANDIBEAR rears up behind Fhenteskeer and slashes at him with its terrible claws.
NANDIBEAR SKILL 9 STAMINA 11
But despite the monster's awful reputation, the ensuing combat is over in mere moments, and none of Fhenteskeer's companions are at all injured in the mêlée. Indeed, the scratches down his back are merely superficial, and a splash of wine on them to kill any infection stings more than did the claws themselves.
[The sneak attack did 2 damage, which was healed by Ilog's first aid roll. The fight was over on the second round.]
In a hollow near the foot of the mountains, they come across a rocky grotto. A waterfall bursts from the cliff wall, filling the grotto's bottom with a clear pool.[feature: spring (enchanted or holy) 50/50=holy
Q: Are there priests present? Certain (2+): O2 C3 - yes, but... lone hermit
reaction 2d6=6, neutral]
An old [d6=]man with a flowing beard, and dressed in pure white robes trimmed with golden thread rushes to meet the weary travellers, who are suddenly conscious of the dust, grime, and caked blood staining their raggedy travelling clothes.
"Who sent you here? you certainly don't look like pilgrims." [UNE: Mood=guarded; prejudiced - belief - superiors]
"Please, good sir, we are but travellers in this land," says Ksandajja. "We make for Drammub, there to consult a sage about a terrible thing we found lying forgotten in the jungle." [Etiquette roll (skill6 +2learned=8): 2d6=4, success]
"Drammub, eh? Dangerous place that is, e'en all locked up against the desert and those things that dwell there. But there is help here for those who ask."[friendly - aid - antagonist]
"Please, good sir, any assistance you can offer for our quest will be most appreciated."
"Come then. This spring is sacred to Telak, god of courage and combat. After his battle with the infamous SLIME DEMON Szughishyhgh, he split the rock with his golden sword so the waters would come forth and cleanse the land. Now any who bathe in it, weapon in hand, will enjoy the blessing of great Telak, provided their hearts be bold and courage unwavering."
[the blessing gives +1 to damage rolls, and the weapon counts as magical. It lasts 7 days, or ends immediately on any show of cowardice or retreat.]
Fhenteskeer, as a fire priest, refuses the water blessing on principle, but his companions are all too eager for a dip in the cool water.
[Q: Can they get passage downriver to town? likely (3+): O3 C8 - yes]
A stream flows from the pond for a short ways before joining a navigable river. A dock is there with a waiting raftsman, who earns a meagre living transporting pilgrims to and from the shrine. He wants 6 gold per passenger, and steadfastly refuses to haggle. [1d6+1=6gp each; G attempts to bargain (at -3) but fails]
Sailing down the river on large raft is a welcome respite from walking, though the monotony begins to chafe at some of their more adventurous natures.
[Q: Other passengers? unlikely (5+): O4 C3 - no, but... cargo]
There are no other passengers on the voyage, just a pile of empty crates being brought back to town to re-fill with supplies for the shrine priest. Fhenteskeer attempts to make conversation with the raftsman, but finds him unusually taciturn. Grebdal Themp mostly naps. Ilog lies back to look at the pictures in the clouds, but soon succumbs to sleep himself. Ksandajja trails her feet in the water behind the raft, and thinks long on the road ahead of her.
[random encounter=hill troll
Q: Is the troll overtly hostile? 50/50 (4+): O4 C4 - yes, but...
+Event: (see next post)]
next post: type 8a standard adventure plot