Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hommelet thinks it's about time for you all to take your leave.

Following the attack on the farms south of the village, the council explained to the company that if they wished to remain in Hommelet a little longer, they could be quartered in the cellar of the church and in the barracks at Rufus and Burne’s tower.  They had been perceived as a threat and it was unfair to draw attacks of the undead onto defenseless widows.  The company complied, and while Angus recuperated from his wounds, Caber tried to find a buyer for the magical staff they’d recovered from the moathouse.  Meanwhile Godith tried to recover her dog which, after deserting her at the moathouse, had found its way back to the traders.  The traders, however denied it was the same and then argued that she had mistreated it.  Lem was able to communicate with the dog, and convinced Godith that she was better off without him.  After several days bedrest, Angus started licking the blue frog snad trying to put them in his mouth.  After watching him wretch and dry heave a few times, Steele declared that the patient seemed well enough for another trip to the moathouse.
Given the number of times they’d visited the foul place, the company reasoned that its thinking inhabitants was beginning to learn their movements and sought toapproach in a roundabout way, first heading south out of Hommelet along the main road and then cutting east through the forest.  It was tough going, especially with a mule and after a few hurs, they returned to Hommelet and followed the path, with the plan that in the last half mile or so, they would leave and make their own way through the thickets and brambles. 

anarchy by Brayo

As they were reaching this point, they heard a clanging and clanking coming from ahead of him.  Immediately they crashed into the underbrush, and tore through it, seeking to evade the source of the sound.  They nearly stumbled upon a man in a black cloak who, seemingly alerted and alarmed by their approach, sprung up and ran deeper into  woods on a narrow path.  Angus and Roark chased after him.  As Angus was catching up with the man in the black cloak, that man turned and shot Angus with a crossbow.  Angus tumbled to the ground and Roark fired his own bow, and felled their enemy.  Angus sprung up, clobbered his enemy and then, with Roark, limped back to join the rest of the company.

And meanwhile the others had been investigating the clanging noise in the road.  It was made by a man—or once-man, his jerky movements and stench gave away his present state— who was wearing various bells and chained to a stake in the road.  Arpad, who had assumed position of the magical staff brandished it at the zombie.  The zombie recoiled from the sight of the staff and, when touched, exploded in a blast of light as bright as the sun.

Arpad tended to Angus’s wound.  Roark searched the body of the hidden assailant and inspected the place where he had been hiding.  The crushed weeds suggested at least two men had been watching the road.  He had been carrying a few pieces of gold and silver and wore black livery with the sign of a burning eye. 

The company followed the trail on which the watched had been running.  After a few hundred yards, until it intersected, at a sharp angle, with another trail.  The company followed this new trail northeast (and seemingly forward) until, after about a hundred yards, it brought them into the boggy area around the moathouse.  They evaded the giant frogs by walking around to the breach by which they’d entered on previous expeditions.
So read the greeting painted on the wall outside the breach.  The company did not feel welcome, but uneasy, but after Roark had thoroughly checked the area for trip wires on other traps, they ventured inside.  Once inside, everything seemed much the same, but still they moved cautiously, Roark gliding along the wall and carefully inspecting the door that led into the next large hall. 

A flash of red light from down the south wing was oddly comforting.  “Oh, those giant bugs.”  The company decided they would delve into the lower level of the moathouse, and returned to the mouth of the pit from which they’d previously retreated.

Besides another message painted on the wall, there was a coil of rope, one end helpfully tied around a spike in the floor.  Godith lit a torch and Roark leaned out over the edge of the pit, surveying its contents.  The green slime had grown back to cover most of the floor, the shrieking mushrooms were silent, and hiding in one corner was the undead creature that lurked at the bottom.  It smiled.  After some debate, the company concluded that fire would likely solve at least one of their problems and retrieved from the mule 10 flasks of oil.  Roark dumped the oil on the slime and on tossed it on the mushrooms and tossed it in the general vicinity of the undead creature.  They used the “welcoming” rope as a wick and created a big fire.  While it burned, they retreated to the great hall.  They listened to the shrieking mushrooms and watched the black smoke.  When the shrieking it stopped, they planned an all-out assault.  They anchored their own rope well outside the room, and then charged in, Steele sliding down the rope into the pit while Arpad stood at the top calling up St. Bocrates to drive the unholy things back into the darkness.

They were not repelled.  As soon as the rope fell to the floor, two of the undead creatures leaped at it.  Steele evaded their skeletal claws and took a position in the middle of the room, making room for Angus to follow him.  Two more of the wights emerged from the shadows.  Roark shot silver arrows at their enemies and Lem flung silver pieces while the warriors engaged with their swords.  Arpad slid down the rope, brandishing the staff that had destroyed the zombie, and one of these undead creatures was similarly obliterated.

Here the tales of the survivors are unclear.  (No, not all survived.  But some did.)  Roark tossed a silver dagger to Steele the Paladin, but before the hero could reach, the terrible creature reached him.  And with a touch of its claw, Steele turned ashen white and fell in a heap.  Moments later, Angus was similarly slain.  Did Arpad destroy another of his assailants with the holy staff before he was killed?  Regardless, he was killed.  But as the wights began to drag away the bodies of the fallen heroes, those who had remained at the top of the pit shot them with more missiles.  And killed the undead horrors.  There is moral here, favoring guile over valor, but few in Hommelet are in a mood to hear it.

The bodies were retried from the pit.  And place on the mule.  And carried several miles away from the moathouse.  And buried in the forest.
entrance by Brayo
entrance, a photo by Brayo on Flickr.
It’s not the job of the living to take care of the dead so we should forgive them.  For in making their way back to Hommelet, hacking through the forest and driving their mule and its almost unbearable burden, they came upon a group of men in black cloaks, who were watching for their return along the main path.  The men had crossbows, but the company had magic.  At Lem’s command the undergrowth entangle the black-garbed men.  The men’s calls for help were silenced by Godith’s spell of magical slumber.
But not before they were heard by another group.  As the shots of these men were heard and their black cloaks were sighted through the thick screen of trees, Roark and Lem took off running.  But loyal Godith stayed with the mule, and the bodies of Steele and the other heroes.

As the blackguards reached their fallen comrades, they too were ensnared.  And Godith, patiently, slowly, drove the mule on her way.  She says she heard one of the men escape and come running after her.  She ducked into a hollow and allowed him to run past.

Godith rejoined Lem and Roark at the edge of the forest, at a place where they good see woodsmoke rising from the cooking fires of Hommelet. They buried the bodies.
The council listened to the survivors’ account of what happened.  And then explained that—it was in everyone’s best interest— the company should leave Hommelet.  Winter was coing and it was going to be a lean harvest.  They did not want to further aggravate forces of evil that seemed capable of fierce and terrible counter attacks.  And the Paladin was gone.
The council gave Caber the money that Angus had stored in the jeweler's bank.  They gave the frogs to Lem.  They offered a large sum for the holy staff.  They provided everyone with sausages and drinking water. 
“Stay in the tower tonight.  In the morning, you should be prepared to take your leave.”

Leaving Hommelet, the company saw the mammoth demon-pigs peacefully grazing in Squire Denton’s fields.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hommelet is in some sense impressed-- and yet . . .

Angus and Lem wanted a place where they could keep their brightly-colored frogs without bothering anyone or anyone bothering them.  About a mile south of Hommelet, they found a spotted a dilapidated barn and bargained with its owner, “Mama,” and her lodger/servant, “Mr. Penny” to rent the place for a month.  There were chickens but no large animals, and it was plenty wet enough for the frogs.   They made a wooden box, filled it with dirt and started catching crickets to feed them.
down to the shed by Brayo
Lem asked the frogs if they liked their new home.  The Blue ones did, especially the food.  The White ones liked it, except that they didn’t like being so near the Blue ones.  The Red one had nothing to say.  He was inside a Blue frog’s belly.  Lem made a barricade to separate the Blue and White frogs.  And then, feeling a bit out-of-sorts after sleeping under a leaky roof for three or four nights in a row, Lem went to spend to find a nice warm bed in the forest.  He was replaced by Arpad and Roark.  They didn’t care so much about the frogs as the cheap rent.
One night, the barn-dwellers were awakened by a traveling priest, the overnight guest of one of the neighboring homesteads.  His hosts were under attack!  The Wandering Dead were breaking down the front door!  (Some in Hommelet have wondered why the priest and only the priest managed to slip out the back, but that’s Hommelet for you.)
The three adventurers formed an instant alliance with the traveling priest.  Hearing screams at a second house that was under attack, Roark charged to investigate.  Already two zombies had broken in and killed the man of the house.  Roark shot one of the zombies with arrows and lured the other back outside, giving the children and their mother a chance to escape.  Meanwhile Angus intercepted two more zombies as they were breaking into Mama’s house and destroyed them.  Arpad and his fellow priest killed zombies wandering the yards between the houses. 
But then as Angus emerged from Mama’s house, he was set upon by a pair of the wandering dead.  For the first time, he saw his foes clearly—they were the frog men that they had killed in the forest, now reanimated with unholy magic.  Using both the same spiked clubs and their own limbs as weapons, they struck Angus down in the dooryard.  The priests rushed to his rescued in time to save his life, and Roark killed the last of the zombies.
When at last their foes were slain, they went to check on the first house, knowing what they would find.  The priests said a prayer for the slain family, and then all the bodies were burned, the innocents wrapped in shrouds, the undead in haphazard pile. 

A Christmas Tree on Fire by Jamison Wieser
a photo by Jamison Wieser on Flickr.
The next morning, a farmer wandering by was stopped by the widow who told her terrible tale and asked to be escorted into the village.  Roark and Arpad ran ahead of them, rousing Steele the Paladin (He does have a name.  It’s Steele.  We’re not sure how it’s spelled but we need to know so we can carve it on a tree.) and beseeching him to plead their case with the village council.

Everyone agreed what was going on.  The newcomers were a serious threat to an evil power that resided in the area.  And when that evil power fought back, innocents were going to die.  So the newcomers needed to finish what they started, and quickly.  They asked for and received more holy water and longbows.  And then Steele, Roark, and Arpad decided they should visit the moathouse again.  They had seen zombies there.  And the zombies who attacked the farm were re-animated frogmen, probably the bodies of the forgmen they had killed on the road to the moathouse.  That was where the evil lived.
Angus was too wounded to accompany them.  Lem had not come back from his visit to the forest.  And Godith had become thoroughly engaged in an local game involving balls and sticks that she was learning from the village youth.  And writing jolly good poems about it, too.  There was one Caber, another wanderer and resident at the Inn who promised that he was good with a bow and asked to join them.  And so he did.
The four heroes (five if you count the mule) made their way to the Moathouse.  At the scene of their battle with the wild frog men, the bodies of the vanquished were predictably missing.  As they came close to being in sight of the moathouse, they departed from the path and hacked and tramped through underbrush and march, taking a widdershins route around the moathouse, aiming for the northeast corner where they’d made their earlier entry.
Before they reached that point they came upon a faint but definite trail, seeming to lead from the moathouse or its vicinity to points further east.  After some debate, they crossed that path and reached the northeast corner where they crossed the sludge-filled moat and entered the moathouse.

Swamp Ruins by Drik7
Swamp Ruins, a photo by Drik7 on Flickr.
Soon after entering they saw a flash of red light from the end of a corridor.
They explored the great hall and both wings, surprising several solitary zombies standing guard, watching the courtyard through an arrow slit.  These zombies were destroyed.  They also found the source of the red light—very large )two feet long) beetles with glowing red glands.  The beetles fled from light and sound, but the party surprised several of them, killing them and harvesting their glands as a light source.

And then one surprised them.  After climbing out of a pit and onto the walls and then ceiling, one dropped on Roark, and caught his neck between its mandibles.  Fleeing he shook off the terrible thing and his comrades destroyed it.  Arpad kicked the body into the pit and they a horrible once-human trying to climb up the sides.  Steele pour a vial of holy water onto and the creature—like a zombie, but more thoroughly imbued with undead energy, capable of movement as fast as a living man.  The company began to consider their options.  A loud piercing unmitigated shriek drowned out their voices and their thoughts.  Braving another glance into the pit, they saw that the glowing glands of the dead beetle were beginning to fade, consumed by the greenish sludge that covered the bottom of the pit.  They dumped a canister of oil, followed by a torch into the bit, the entire insect carcass caught on fire and in its light they better perceived the nature of the room beneath them.  At least forty feet by forty feet, it was covered with greenish slime except for where it had been burned away by the fire.  In the eastern end of the room, a half-dozen giant mushrooms seemed to emerge from the slime and these fungi seemed to be the source of the wailing.  The undead creature had returned, with a friend, and they were both smiling, especially when the company started shooting them with arrows.  The slime turned black under their feet.
Then Caber and Steele started shooting silver arrows.  The undead creatures fled again. 
Rather than chase them, the party decided to take a breath of fresh air outside in the courtyard.  But wait—Steele sensed the presence of evil there, coming from the sinkhole next to the crumbling curtain wall.   Surveying the pit from the safety of an arrow slit, they saw it was filled with refuse and foot-long centipedes—nothing obviously and categorically evil.  The company tore up some of the zombies they’d killed earlier and tossed hunks of carrion toward the edge of the pit, hoping to draw out some of the centipedes.  This proved effective and the company processed and distributed more and more chum to the centipedes.  When about a score had crawled out of the pit and no more seemed likely to follow, Steele ventured into the courtyard for a closer look.  The pit was at the base of the curtain wall and seemed the result of natural entrophy—rubble from beneath the curtain wall.  A scrap of cloak was visible, emerging from the raw earth about halfway down the 10-foot pit.  There were silver coins littered here and there along with bones, refuse, centipedes, and a dead man lying face down, his flesh nearly consumed by the centipedes.  After being prodded by Steele, he rose from the the pit, only to cleaved in two and sent to his final final rest.

A few centipedes, perhaps confused perhaps not hungry, perhaps enjoying their own private repasts in the pit presented a challenge to retrieving the pit’s more interesting contents.  So Roark and Caber shot those centipedes with arrows.  Next Roark secured himself with a rope and asking his companions to hold it, he climbed into the pit and begin pulling on the cloth.  More loosened rubble and clods of earth tumbled down, along with a skeleton that spilled out of its winding shroud.  And also a staff of long mace.  Roark grabbed the staff and got out of the pit.  The silver coins were buried but no matter.  The new staff—or maybe rod—was about 6 feet long, made of heavy wood with one end wider than the other and about two-thirds of its length embedded with metal studs.  A brass disk, engraved with a sunburst capped the wide end.
And so, burdened with their mysterious treasure rather than their wounded companions, the company returned to Hommelet.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A brief linguistic history of Alyan

Humans were living there.  Elves arrived.  The Elves taught the humans many things including a simplified version of their own language, now known as “Common.”
If human characters speak an additional language, it will probably be dialect of Common that’s spoken in their home area.
Pure elvish is the language of educated people, though most humans know a few words. 
Not all humans were so eager to welcome the elves and those who have continued to live aprt in the swamps, forests, and mountains, are known as Gray People.  They speak their own language, which includes many local variants.  As with elvish, everyone knows a few words.  Grayspeak is great for swearing.

The Hobbits’ language sounds like a dialect of common, though like other common dialects, its accent can be exaggerated to become nearly unintelligible to outsiders.  All hobbits understand each other when they speak this language, even if they come from areas very far apart form one another.
There’s little reason to know dwarfish or gnomish as most trade is conducted with members of these groups who speak perfect common.  Dwarvish is a very difficult language both to speak and to read/write.

Only people with very specialized knowledge will have made a point of learning Oanoise, the language of a group of settlers/invaders/guests who were driven out of Alyan a century ago.   Even those who “know” Oanoise might be able to do little more to recognize certain characters.  Pronunciation varies from one sage to another.

Orcish, goblin, hobgoblin, etc.  The monster languages are almost unknown.  Some sages argue that these creatures do not exist and that their languages have been artificially created by hoaxsters.
wyrm script by Brayo