Friday 12 April 2024

AFF solo - Part XIX: Reversals

The figure barring the companions' passage is covered head-to-toe in dusty but ornately-moulded plate armour, and wears an equally dusty black cloak of fine linen. Black plumes top the fearsome crested helm.

The KNIGHT's booming voice rings hollow under his helm as he brandishes his gleaming greatsword. "Turn back, or face my blade!"

"Who are you?" calls out Fhenteskeer.

The challenge is merely repeated.

"We've no quarrel with you," says Grebdal Themp. "Our business is with Thalman."

[Q: What next? (1d6): 1-2 stands, 3-4 attack, 5-6 summon help:1]

The figure shifts its grip on its greatsword.

"I've had enough," says Ilog, raising his morningstar. "I accept your challenge."

[Q: Stats? (1d6) 1 chaos warrior, 2 normal mercenary, 4 elite mercenary, 4-5 freelance knight, 6 an illusion; d6=5]


[Round 1]
The knight is overconfident. He swings his blade in a contemptuously slow arc, allowing Ilog to dart in under his guard and slam his whirling morningstar into the side of his great helm. It connects with an almighty clang, but the thick iron shews barely a scuff [4-3= 1 damage].
[Round 2]
Ksandajja is suddenly beside Ilog. "He's a necromancer's pawn. An honourable duel is meaningless to such a cur!"

Ilog is glad of the help, for the knight is fighting in earnest now. Neither warrior nor sorceress find a way past his guard. The greatsword crashes down on the boss of Ilog's shield. Though it protect him from the keen blade, the force of the impact wrenches his arm and he can feel his tendons strain. [he's hit for 4-1=3 damage, down to 9 stamina]

[Round 3]
Let not Telak, god of battle, be watching from his heavenly fortress, for the only red in this mêlée comes not from spilt blood but ruddy-cheeked embarrassment. The sorceress gambles on a fancy manoeuvre, and with a whirl of silvery steel she wheels about -- only to expose her back to the knight. Said knight rushes in to profit from her blunder, but swings a full pace shy of his foe, and with nothing to impede the blade, it whips round so he smashes himself in the shoulder with the spiky cross-guard. Ilog's ball-and-chain does at least strike his enemy, but right in the thickest, most unyielding part of his breastplate.

[Ilog hit for 3-3=0 damage. Ksandajja and the knight both fumbled. She exposed her weak spot (+2 to enemy damage roll), whilst the knight hit himself for 3-2=1 damage.]

[Round 4]
Recovering from her error, Ksandajja strikes the knight in the calf, but her blade glances off the heavy plates [3-3=0 damage]. The knight slices into Ilog's chest, leaving a long bloody rent and exposing several ribs [5-0=5 damage, to 4 stamina]. As the warrior cries out in pain and shock, the knight's tabard erupts in flames; Fhenteskeer has called on mighty Filash to intercede [casts Flame on the knight for 1d3=3 damage; the knight is at 7 Stamina].
[Round 5]
The flaming knight cackles like a madman. Grebdal Themp reluctantly joins the fight, and he and Ilog both manage to catch the knight unawares, though as always the heavy armour eats up most of the force of the blows.

[Round 6]
But the raving knight battles on, and his terrible sword cuts Ilog down before he finally succumbs to the flames. [Ilog takes 5-1=4 damage, down to 0 Stamina].

Fhenteskeer rushes to his fallen comrade's side, and finds his soul has not yet departed for the other realm. He prays again to his fiery god, and Filash shews his mercy, re-kindling the spark of life within the gallant warrior's breast. [Casts Heal; Ilog regains 9 Stamina.]

Having all recovered their breath, they advance into the dim opening of the domed manse at the street's end. Grebdal Themp lights his lamp against the oppressive dark.

[Q: Is Thalman hard to find? likely (3+): O2 C3 - no, but...]
They must pass through many rooms full of the relics of bygone days, and come upon more than one dead end, but at last signs of recent habitation are observed.

[Awareness rolls as they get nearer: only Ilog fails.
Q: Something to notice? 50/50 (4+): O1 C2 - yes
Q: What? Dimly / Aromatic]

"What's that smell?" asks Grebdal Themp.

"Incense?" says Ksandajja.

"No, something else."

"Under the incense, you mean?"

"I don't smell anything," says Ilog, "but dust. And that latrine we blundered into. Phaugh!"

They table their discussion and creep forward until they see dim light glowing from round a corner. Ksandajja pauses to throw a counter spell over herself, proof against the malisons of the vile necromancer who they are all certain lurks just ahead [MAG, -2 Stamina].

[Time to roll for the complication (SS&SS): d66=Characters’ Weapons are Useless]

They turn corner to see a shadowy circular atrium with half the roof fallen in. Eight oversized copper braziers still smoulder round the perimeter. A recent, swollen corpse in black robes lies in the dust before an iron-bound tome propped open on a chunk of masonry, surrounded by implements of the Art.

A pithy observation dies on Ilog's lips as the phosphorescent green form of the slain wizard coalesces over his corpse. The terrible SPECTRE shrieks with inarticulate rage as he floats towards the quivering mortals who would steal his prize.

[Notes: The spectre can attack 2 PCs each round. They can't hurt it with normal weapons, but won't know that until they score a hit in combat.]

[Round 1]
It is suddenly before them. Ghostly claws tear at Fhenteskeer and Ilog. Wounds open on the priest's neck and the warriors shoulder, but the pain in their flesh is nothing compared to the cold of the grave piercing their souls.

[It rolled a natural 12, a critical, doing double damage (6 each) and inflicting the loss of 1 Skill. Ilog now has 4 Stamina, Fhenteskeer 1.]

[Round 2]
The startled companions bring their arms to bear, but the enraged phantom flits among them so rapidly that every swing seems to pass through the air just behind it. Fortunately Ilog is able to fend off its assault, but the awful talons rake down Fhenteskeer's back. His life-essence is siphoned off by the caterwauling spirit, and he collapses in an ungainly heap.

[It, Ilog, and Ksandajja all rolled 17s, so no hits. Fhenteskeer's total was a paltry 12, so he got hit. He Tested his LUCK to reduce damage to minimum (in hopes that his armour might absorb it): 2d6=10, fail; 4-1=3 damage to -2 Stamina...]

[Round 3]
The spectre's rage turns to glee. It gloats over the fallen priest, giving warrior and sorceress time to strike. They lunge at it -- Ilog swinging his mace-and-chain right at its head, Ksandajja slashing her sword at its abdomen -- and their weapons swish right through. The spectre's malicious mirth only redoubles.

Behind them, Grebdal Themp only stares dumbly at the corpse of his oldest friend [technically, he fumbled (leaves self open)].

[Round 4]
Ksandajja's resolve breaks. "Run!" she cries, even as she summons the magic of a defensive spell to keep the clutching claws at bay. An invisible barrier springs up before her, and the spectre vents its rage in vain against the mystical bulwark. Her companions back out hastily, not daring to take their eyes off the glowing horror.
[She cast FOF, costing 4 Stamina; she's got 3 left. I&G fought defensively (+2), and neither were hit.]

[Round 5]
It takes a supreme effort of will to keep the barrier up, especially with a leering, jeering phantom clawing at one's face. Ksandajja confines herself to a single, petulant sticking out of the tongue, which only increases the fury of the assault. She backs slowly out of the ritual chamber, concentrating on maintaining the barrier until well after the spectre has ceased to follow.

[Q: Can the spectre leave the chamber? unlikely (5+): O4 C6 - no.]

Back in the sunlit street, Grebdal Themp is still sobbing, a dishevelled Ksandajja appears as one who's not slept in weeks, and Ilog is trebling and feverish.

"We need to find somewhere safe to recuperate," mumbles the sorceress.

[For being wounded by the Spectre, there was a 5-in-6 chance of losing a point of Skill. Combined with the -1 from the critical hit, Ilog's current Skill is now 5.

Q: Can they find somewhere high-up, safe, and defensible? 50/50 (4+): O6 C 6 - yes
+Event: Introduce a new NPC - Assist / Attention
Q: What are they like? Wildly / Quaint]

Just then a grey, winged GREMLIN flits out of the shadows and hovers right before the enervated explorers. "Hold!" it says in a shrill, nasal voice. "My master wishes to talk with you. Put down your weapons. It is safe."

Grebdal Themp shrugs and sheaths his sword. Ksandajja and Ilog lower their weapons. They follow the curious creature down the street until it stop short, and lets out a tiny screech. With a slow shuffling gait, a stooped vulture-headed humanoid in a drab travelling cloak emerges from a shadowy doorway, leaning on a short staff. The HAMAKEI looks the companions over, then rasps out a pointed question.

"What are you lot doing here? Treasure hunting?" [prejudiced - view - current scene]

"No," says Ksandajja. "Trying to recover stolen property before it can be put to evil use."

"The necromancer?"

"The same."

"A victim of his own experiments -- cursed now to guard that wretched tome for eternity."

"We must destroy that foul guardian," sobs Grebdal Themp, "to avenge our fallen friend!"

"And bring the tome back to one who's wise enough to keep it safe," says Ilog, "and not be tempted by its evil."

"But our weapons pass right through it," says Ksandajja.

"I might know a way you can defeat it," says the hamakei. "In the great temple at the centre of the city, there is a artefact of great power, the enchanted Skull of Ukhuttaz."

"Ukhuttaz!" gasps Ksandajja. "The lich-king!"

"I'd be loathe to touch such a thing," says Ilog.

"Surely, there must be another way to fight this fiend," says Grebdal Themp.

"Forgive my momentary astonishment," says Ksandajja. "I didn't mean to imply that I'm afraid to wield it."

"Wait-- really?" asks Grebdal Themp.

"Yes, really."

"Oh, well, if you're willing, that's fine by me."

"As long as you're absolutely sure you want to do this," says Ilog.

"Why wouldn't I be?! I'm surprised that neither of you wanted it. I was afraid this would sorely test our friendship!"

"It won't be easy to obtain," says the Hamakei. "It was secreted somewhere in the maze of chambers within the city's greatest temple. The maze is full of traps and terrors, designed to test the mettle of the initiates, so only the most worthy could wield the Skull."
"But wouldn't that make it harder to bring the Skull's magic to bear in a time of crisis?" asks Ilog.

"I didn't build the place," says the Hamakei. "I'm just telling you what the old books record."

"How can we get there?" asks Ksandajja. "Will you show us the way?"

"Of course. But you're in no fit state to go there now. Come, share my camp for the night, and brave the temple's dangers on the morrow."

[Q: Quiet night? likely (3+): O5 C6 - yes
+1 LUCK for finding ally (I&G back to initial levels, Ksandajja is still down 1)
+8 STAMINA (meal, sleep, morning meal; K & G to full, I up to 12)
Q: Is it far and/or hard to get there? 50/50 (4+): O3 C8 – no]

next post: temple of the skull

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