Saturday, December 20, 2014

The White Queen's Resting Place

Several days after the undead attack, Wolfgang returned to Gold Hill one morning, hoping to meet the formidable stranger.  He went to the tavern, sat with his friend Gerilynn the Prophet and ordered breakfast.  Soon they were joined by Lareth.  Lareth had heard about Wolfgang's adventures at the White Queen's palace and asked about the books and maps they'd found.  These Wolfgang was happy to share.

Wolfgang's breakfast was interrupted by a pair of deputies.  The Head Constable had his money.  Wolfgang, despite his lingering concern was eager to become rich and went with them to the Constables office.  Gerilynn and Chickie the Stick came along.  The Seargent on duty waved them by the front counter and into the Constable's shadowy council room.  The Constable himself wasn't there, but several other men were.  Wolfgang lost his nerve and announced that he'd overvalued the necklace.  "I meant to say it was worth more like two hundred gold pieces."  Was he sure?  An older men pressed him, asking why he had said the larger amount.  Without explaining, Wolfgang insisted he'd been joking about the extravagant sum.  Now all he wanted to do was leave.

"Sounds like you learned your lesson," came a voice in Wolfgang's ear-- and along with a punch in the back of the neck that sent him sprawling onto the table.  It was the Constable.  "Be off then, and consider that a warning."

Wolfgang hesitated and Gerilynn began to whisper a chant under her breath.  "What's that?" the Constable demanded, drawing his sword.  Gerilynn fell silent.

The Constable asked Wolfgang, "You sure you don't want your money?"  He was wearing the necklace and held it so Wolfgang could see it,  "Are you saying it's a present?  I've got the money waiting for you down in the treasury."

Wolfgang was torn, but Gerilynn pressed on him and at last he stalked out of the Constable's offices, muttering insults as he went.

Lareth was waiting for them at the inn.  He had a sympathetic ear for Wolfgang's misfortune and a chuckle for the young druid's insults about the Constable.  "Don't worry," Lareth said.  "He'll get his come-uppance when the White Queen returns."

Lareth explained that a powerful Queen had ruled that area long before the Constable, long before the gold vein had been discovered and played out, even before the village of Whitkey had been founded and fallen into ruin.  And she, the White Queen was coming back. The Constable, his deputies, all of Gold Hill would either submit to her or be destroyed.

"Was she good or evil?" Gerilynn wanted to know.

Lareth waved this question away. "She could be your enemy-- or he could be the enemy of your enemy-- what more do you need to know?"

From a practical perspective, they needed to know where to find the White Queen's resting place- so that they might be ready to greet her when she returned.  There was a map and they began to study it together.

Wolfgang recognized the symbol of the rising sun in the right corner of the map, it's rays shining on three distinct places.  The Midsummer ray shone on a cross surrounded by a ring of trees.  The Midwinter ray shone on cave at the top of a mountain.  An intermediate ray shone on a spot at the base of the mountain.  A piece of parchment from the White Queen's Palace referred to a key of binding and loosing and of its hiding place.  Wolfgang told Gerilynn and Lareth  about his exploration of Whitkey with Sir Henry and Sir Henry's discovery of a powerful sword.  This sword, the group decided, was the cross marked on the map by the Midsummer dawn.  The next day, the group travelled to Whitkey and Wolfgang brought the others to the grove and the white stone from which Sir Henry had claimed the sword.  Gerilynn surmised that in the right conditions, the morning sun would illuminate the white rock, especially in the days before the grove had been planted and the church built around it.  It seemed unnecessary to puzzle over the full meaning of the map-- it plainly showed the cave (tomb?) lay directly north of the where the sword had been hidden.

But now, for the first time, Gerrilynn and Wolfgang appreciated the implied scale of the map.  While the immediate area was low-lying with some grassy hills, the ground rose to the north.  Gold  Hill, itself was noticeably colder than Whitkey.  But the real mountains-- like those shown on the map, lay beyond any of the roads or trails on which they'd travelled.  The jagged horizon cut by those mountains might be several days away.

The group returned to the Inn at Gold Hill to sleep.  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Wolfgang and the Bad Dream

That night, Wolfgang began to regret putting the Head Constable under a charm. The silver necklace, he considered was obviously worth much less than 5,000 gold pieces. If the HC was gathering sacks of gold to pay for silver, his advisors might realize he was under some kind of spell. Brooding over these faults, Wolfgang wandered out of the inn to breather fresh air, consult the stars, and try to eavesdrop on the drowsy deputies who were on night watch. He was the first to see it—a column of gleaming white figures marching up the path that led into Gold Hill Center. They were animated human skeletons, brandishing rusty swords, and trailed by lumbering zombies. Raising the alarm, Wolfgang made a dash for the woods and the nearby hollow where his animal companions lay hidden. As he reached the trees, he heard the deputies beating the alarm gong. He heard, rising above the general panic, a powerful voice announcing, “I know what to do.” By the time Wolfgang returned with Wolfie and Bruno, most of the skeletons had been destroyed by a a single man, the stranger in black robes named Lareth. He stood in the middle of the marketplace, wielding his Warhammer, surrounded by bones and shattered skulls. About a dozen deputies, crouching behind boulders and tree stumps, took opportunity shots at the advancing zombies. Residents crowded around the entrance to the inn, their panic, gradually overtaken by curiosity and admiration as Lareth destroyed the last of the undead foes. Bruin took down a straggling zombie, but no one noticed. Wolfgang decided not to return to the inn at all that night, but returned to the woods with his animals.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The White Queen's Palace

The Constable wanted to clear more of his land for grazing and planting, but the crumbling ruins of an ancient palace, overgrown and infested with vermin impeded his plans.  For the promise of ten gold pieces each, he assembled a sizeable company of adventurers:

Wolfgang, itinerant druid, and after three months in Gold Hill, nearly a long-term resident
Chronos, druid adept, charged by his leaders to go and check on what that Wolfgang is up to
Thoric, recently appointed Sergeant Constable who had led the successful expedition to the Harpy’s tower
Mark the Magician, who had also established his reputation at the Harpy’s tower
Sir Henry, self-styled knight and bearer of the long-lost Sword of Whitkey
McDowell, good-natured rogue from the mountains
Abner (" Bruiser"), a burly, headstrong warrior
"Thief", An honest, upstanding citizen
Elirond, Servant of the Church of Alyan
Circe, Mysterious Mage with an unknown backstory

The group of adventurers made their way to the ruins, rumored to have been a palace or fortress of the last monarch—a queen— of a long-gone kingdom.  The two-story building was shaped like an X and still generally intact, though overgrown with moss and overshadowed by towering oaks.  At Thoric’s suggestion, they began by circling the structure.

In making their reconnaissance, “Thief” stumbled upon the body of a hobgoblin, killed it seemed, by several puncture wounds.  While puzzling over what had killed the fiend, a hairy, bird-like creature dropped from the trees onto Elirond’s back, and stabbed its long, needle-like beak into his back.  “Get it off me, get it off me!”  Sir Henry drew his sword and neatly cut the bird-thing in two, making the withdraw of the beak a simple matter.  Elirond healed himself and they completed their circuit of the structure.

As there were no other easy entry points, Abner (the Bruiser) shouldered his way in through the front door.  The entire first floor of the structure seemed to be a single large room, dominated by the white marble statue of a beautiful woman.  In exploring the room, McDowell stumbled upon more dead hobgoblins.  Mark spotted the likely killers—giant spiders that patrolled the ceiling right above their heads.  Mark killed one of the spiders while his companions loosed their arrows.

When the spiders were dead, the party looked behind a curtain and found stairs leading both up and down.  They chose to climb up to the top floor of the tower.  In surveying the upper floors, some mebers of the party lingered to rifle through the extensive library, gathering up the most interesting looking maps, scrolls, and books, and Sir Henry found a shield.   In a desk, Wolfgang found a silver necklace.

Wolfgang also found a room that opened onto a balcony filled with nasty blood-sucking bird things.  Chronos called on the overhanging tree branch to assist him and it did—sending out green branches that ensnared the nasty vermin.  Circe lit a torch.  The green branches did not burn until they were doused with oil.  The bird-things burned more quickly, as did the rotten floor boards, the interior walls, and the dry books and scrolls.

The adventurers returned to Gold Hill to claim their rewards.  The Head Constable paid them and also offered them a free night at the inn.  Wolfgang offered the Head Constable first opportunity to buy the silver necklace, using his magic to make the suggestion that 5,000 pieces of gold would be a fair price.  The Head Constable heartily agreed.  Accepting the necklace, he asked Wolfgang to come to his office the next morning to claim his money.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sir Henry and the Sword of Whitkey

Gold Hill continues to attract new migrants, especially those of pioneering or adventuring spirit. Wolfgang encountered some of them in the tavern at the trading post. Sir Henry, a warrior, of possibly noble background and McDowell, of more obviously dubious extraction had just arrived from the Hommlet area. They introduced themselves to Wolfgang who found that they seemed trustworthy enough and began sharing information about his adventures, including his search for a relic hidden in Whitkey, and his map to a hidden tomb. Another traveler, a powerful-looking man in black, showed his own interest in the subject. After learning the man’s name (Lareth), Wolfgang let him have a look at his map.

Wolfgang, Sir Henry, and McDowell decided that they would search for the relic of Whitkey. Wolfgang purchased a cart and Sir Henry purchased a donkey. The trio of heroes set off for Whitkey in comfort and style. Along the way they were joined by Wolfie the Wolf and Bruno the Bear. To calm the bigoted donkey’s fears of being eaten, Wolfgang got out of the cart to walk ahead with his animal companions.

They drove the cart through town and found a place to hide it between an old barn, a shady maple tree, and a pile of refuse. Then they began to explore the village.

None of the ruined or dilapidated buildings looked likely to contain a powerful relic. While debating whether to explore one of them or walk through the village, the party was startled by their donkey running out of its hiding place, while shaking free of the cart, and being chased by two giant flies. The party killed one of the flies and drove off the other, but not before the donkey received mortal giant fly bites. The heroes mourned the fallen donkey. Wolfgang retrieved his magic glowing painting from the overturned cart and hid it in a tree.

After exploring several buildings and dealing with oversized spiders and centipedes, Wolfgang recalled an earlier adventure on the plateau overlooking the village. On top of that plateau, he told his companions, there were ruins of a tower. A strange undead creature had crawled out from a hole beneath the ruins and attacked them. They had been killed the creature, but had suffered grievous wounds from its terrible claws and fangs, that they had fled to the safety of Gold Hill village without further investigation.

Sir Henry and McDowell agreed that further investigation was warranted and the three of them climbed to the top of the plateau. They found the hole at the base of the tower. They lit a torch and tossed it inside. The light illuminated only excavated earth. The passage was so narrow that they could enter one at a time—and once they were inside it was difficult to mover around because of piles of coins! Most of the coins were silver, but in carrying them out, they happened upon an iron box containing loose gemstones and gold necklace.

But still no relic. From the top of the plateau, they could see the entire village and picked out buildings of interest, both on the other side of the mill pond. One was a more-or-less intact building. Smoke rose from its chimney and there was an animal tethered in the yard. Across the lane from this building was what looked like the ruins of a stone church with an oak tree growing out of a hole in the tiled roof.

The climbed down the plateau and crossed a bridge to the other side of the village. Hearing men singing inside the house with fire going, they knocked on the door. The men inside recognized Wolfgang (“the animal guy!”) and asked him to leave Wolfy and Bruno outside. “But come in and drink some beer with us!” Wolfy and Sir Henry declined the beer. McDowell accepted, and after a few sips, fell asleep on the table.

The men in the house explained that they were working hard to restore Whitkey to its former glory. If Wolfgang and Sir Henry had found their visit enjoyable and profitable (one of the men prodded Sir Henry’s backpack full of silver, then they would surely not mind paying the tax?

With a few words, Wolfgang and Sir Henry agreed that paying some silver would be the surest way of protecting their more valuable treasure. Together, the two poured hundreds of silver coins onto the table.

Their hosts complimented the adventures on their haul and encouraged them to return to Whitkey anytime. They shared some stories about the area, including stories about a White Queen or Silver Princess who had some connection to the church across the lane. They had not yet ventured inside it themselves, but reminded the adventurers to return and pay the tax should they discover any more lost treasure.

In time, McDowell awakened, and the three adventurers bid goodbye to their hosts. McDowell chastised his companions for paying extortion to the brigands and refused to pay “his share.” The party briefly discussed attacking the brigands/village council or stealing their mule, but at last decided that exploring the church was more important.

The church was small, but well-crafted. Though its windows had been smashed and the interior burned, it was structurally sound. Even the hole in the ceiling seemed to be a design feature. The ground beneath the hole was seemingly fertile. Besides the oak tree they had seen from the plateau, mulberry bushes and briars grew so thickly that one couldn’t see through the mass of vegetation from side to the other.

The party walked around the overgrown garden and approached it from three sides. In the center, obscured by vines and weeds, they found a sword embedded in a white stone. Sir Henry tried to draw it out, but could not. Wolfgang, half-translating the runes on the sword and on the stone as best he could, explained that the sword was both a gift and an obligation: whoever drew it from the stone could do so only by making a promise about the Queen. Sir Henry was unsure. According to the stories he had just heard, the most famous Queen in the area was long dead and had a mixed reputation. McDowell encouraged him to stop worrying and just make the promise. After some discussion with his companions, Sir Henry made a promise to protect the Queen’s people. And drew the sword from the stone. The sword glowed with a silvery-blue light and felt warm in his hand. Wolfbang wondered aloud why he had elected to become a druid.

The three adventurers avoided the taxmen on their way out of the village and back to the Gold Hill trading post.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Wolfgang and the Silence from the Tower

After the catastrophe with the singing bird-woman, Wolfgang committed himself to the mission of destroying it. Gold Hill sent out a plea for assistance and three adventurers heeded the call. Mark the Magician, was lured by rumors that the tower was originally constructed by a powerful wizard; he was told he could keep any magical artifacts recovered from inside. Korito, a lonely ranger of the wilds had tracked the hobgoblins to the area, and offered his services in driving them from the community. Finally, Thoric, exhibited natural leadership and was deputized as a sergeant and given a command of exceptionally brave six deputy constables. The newcomers listened to what Wolfgang had to say about the bird-woman—or as he called her a “harpy.” He explained that her hideous appearance was combine with a beautiful voice such that few men would be able to resist the sound of her singing. His propsed defense was a simple one—candle wax to plug their ears.

The group ventured toward the tower. They plugged their ears with wax as soon as they caught sight of its battlements above the treetops. They reached the tower without seeing anything. And of course, they heard nothing, but could not, without risk, confirm that there was anything to hear.

The tower had huge doors of thick wood, and was barred from the inside. They divided into two parties, with one group remaining to batter the door, while the others, circled the tower from the edge of the clearing. Those circling the tower caught sight of the Harpy peering over the battlements. Mark the Magician blasted her with a bolt of magic energy. She descended on the group and killed one of the deputies, while also sustained several wounds herself. She flew back up to the top of the tower. Covered by the deputy archers, Mark moved to edge of the clearing where he could shott the harpy again. This time, his magic killed her.

Using a combination of vines and ropes, practiced climbing skills and the assistance of others, most of the group climbed to the top of the tower. A few deputies, plus Wolfie the wolf stayed at the bottom. 

At the top of the tower, the group found the Harpy’s nest, a noisome nest of bones and filth. Under the debris, they found a trapdoor leading down into the tower. A couple of the archers removed the wax from their ears; doing so, they heard commotion from below. Hobgoblins had burst out of the bottom of the tower and had put the rearguard to flight. The group on top of the tower surprised the hobgoblins from above, quickly downing all of them. But very soon after, more hobgoblins attacked from inside the tower. But again, the heroes had the advantage of position. Mark directed his magic at the very large hobgoblin who seemed to be the leader. That monster’s sudden death put the others to flight. The party tended their own wounded, and ensured that their fellows on the ground had secured their position at the bottom of the tower. 

They were surprised to find no sign of hobgoblins in the first two stories of the tower. They found the undisturbed furnishings of the former inhabitant—even several portraits of the wizard himself. They made a careful room and deduced that a secret room existed somewhere in those top floors. They were not, however, able to find an entrance.

And of course, there were still hobgoblins to contend with. Attacking the hobgoblins from above and below, Wolfgang and his fellows quickly killed the remaining hobgoblins. They looted the chief’s treasure. The deputies noted several items that had once belonged to their fellows who had been ambushed in the forest. The group returned to Gold Hill in triumph, to be feted and rewarded by the Head Constable and the people of the community.

The next day, Kiroto and Wolfgang discussed their adventures with Gerilynn. She asked about what treasure they had found in the Harpy’s nest and they realized that in the heat of the moment, they had forgotten to search thoroughly. The trio proposed to the Constables’ office that another group should make an expedition to the tower. The Head Constable praised them for their valor the previous day, but reminded them that the tower was under his jurisdiction. He would not send more men with them and in fact he forbid them from returning on their own. Gerilynn made a show of agreeing, but of course, the three adventurers decided they would disobey the HC and return to the tower alone. A quick trip to the top of the tower and back was likely to yield great profit with little risk. On their way out of Gold Hill, they were pursued by a single deputy. Delta, one of their comrades from the previous day, said he wanted to go with them. He didn’t want pay, he wanted a full share of whatever they found. Admiring his spirit and his frankness, they agreed.

The plan went as expected. On the way there, Topher asked for Kiroto’s assistance in dealing with some giant bees. Kiroto agreed, but the others convinced the ranger that recovering the treasure ensuring that there weren’t any more hobgoblins was more pressing.

Reached the tower, the group climbed up the outside as before. They fought off the giant flies that were devouring the harpy’s corpse and searched her nest. They collected hundreds of silver coins and also found a small pouch full of garnets.

Back in Gold Hill, things didn’t go so smoothly. Delta collected his share before they reached town and took off down the highway. Gerilynn, reading his cue, returned to town, but retired to her room at the inn. Kiroto and Wolfgang headed straight for the trading post to sell the gems and buy new weapons. The would-be sellers were ushered to a back room, and they were soon joined by the Head Constable and several deputies. Belligerent at first, Wolfgand and Kiroto at last had no choice, but to admit the obvious. They agreed to pay a “tax” on their unauthorized treasure-hunting. They proceeded to sell the remains of their booty and Kiroto acquired a new bow, but on both sides, good will was replaced by suspicion.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Wolfbang and the Song from the Tower

After a couple quiet days in Gold Hill, Chickie told Wolfbang that he had decided to stay a bit in Gold Hill. Following some conversations with Brau, he had come to understand that he was risking his lif to little purpose. While Wolfbang may be destined to do great things, he, Chickie, was replaceable. Not completely replaceable. Not replaceable to himself, and that was why he was choosing a new life, assisting Brau in the Divine Workshop. He was going to become an assistant blacksmith. Wolfbang protested- he did value Chickie’s contribution to the group’s efforts. But Chickie was sure: “This is where I need to be now.” The conversation was interrupted by a deputy’s announcement on behalf of the Head Constable, summoning the following individuals, should they be in the vicinity of the Gold /hill trading post or at their earliest convenience, to the office of the Head Constable for Gold Hill and the associated domain, one druid named Wolfgang, Gerilynn, Priestess of Raud, Vulpio. And that’s all.”

The constables were in a serious mood, following the lead of the Head Cobstable, who introduced the party to “Falcon, probably my best seargent, probably the one man who knows this area better than any other man.” Falcon had gone on patrol that morning with a group of eight men. Unlike the other seargents, Falcons liked to lead his patrols beyond the main road and well-traveled side paths, to seek out traces of hidden threats before those threats manifest themselves as something larger and more dangerous. That morning, he’d taken his men off the track completely, into the forest above Topher’s orchard. They were ambushed by beastmen, armed with swords and crossbows, armored for war. His lightly-armed scouts were outmatched, and those few who returned alive were lucky to do so. He needed a new group to return to the forest, to retrieve the bodies of his fallen men and to find out where the monsters were coming, why they had come. He had heard stories about some brave newcomers, about their success against evil and powerful foes. He wanted to ask them, as a group and individually, Wolfbang, Gerilynn, Vulpio, to lead a group of deputies on a scouting mission. After a little negotiation, all three agreed. By mid-morning, they had set off, in the company of seven deputies.

They followed the path past the Buseys homestead and reached Topher’s orchard. Topher offered them a taste of his cider and they lingered until early afternoon. Beyond Topher’s the track disappeared in the forest, and they wandered on the edge of the trees, not certain what they were seeking or if they actually wanted to find it. Vulpio stumbled upon the dead body of one of the monsters described by Falcon. It looked more muscular and powerful than the average man and had a green tint to its skin and features that looked not just ugly, but evil.

Gerilynn found heavy tracks that she reasoned were those of the monster’s comrades. These led deeper into the forest and higher into the rocky hills. As they climbed, the party glimpsed above the trees the top a ruined tower. They fell silent, listening to beautiful, unearthly singing that seemed to come from the top of the tower. Gerilynn urged caution, but few of the others heeded her. The laggards picked up their pace and two deputies sprinted ahead of her. She hastened to follow. As the group reached the tower, those who arrived first circled around it, searching for a way up. On one side they found several vines and began to climb. Gerilynn used her magic to hold Wolfgang and Vulpio in place and she did her best to persuade the deputies not to climb the vines. They didn’t even seem to hear her. All but two scaled the tower. They climbed with remarkable agility and soon reached the top. Despairing of what else to do, Gerilynn, with difficulty, followed them.

As she had expected, the source of the beautiful music was a vicious-looking creature, a woman with talons and wings of a vulture. The deputies stood around, mouths gaping, entranced by her singing.

Gerilynn attacked, calling on Raud to smite the foul creature with a hammer of righteousness. The bird-woman was struck by the spiritual hammer, and attacked Gerilynn, tearing the priestess with its talons as took to the air. Gerilynn realized she could not survive a fight alone with the creature and began to climb back down the vine. The bird-woman made another swipe at Gerilynn as it returned to its nest on the top of the tower, but did not otherwise hamper her retreat.

Back on the ground, Gerilynn freed Vulpio and Wolfgang from the transfixion spell she had placed on them. Free to move their limbs once more, they both rushed to climb the vines. Happily, they were, compared to the deputies, not very good climbers. Gerilynn climbed after them and pulled them down. After multiple falls onto the rocky ground, both men finally regained their senses. Giving up on the bird-woman’s still enraptured audience at the top of the tower, Gerilynn, Vulpio, and Wolfbang, plus the two strong-willed deputies who had not climbed the tower, returned to Gold Hill.

They gave a report to the Head Constable but did not claim any reward.

Wolfbang and the Bears

Wolfgang, Gerilynn, Vulpio, and Chickie continued to explore the Gold Hill area. They came upon other remnants of the area’s past. These included a dilapidated barn infested with giant bees and a once ostentatious, now ruined graveyard haunted by skeletons, zombies, and likely worse things. Nahnyuk forbade Valu from leaving the homestead. And he instructed Wolfbang to sell his donkey, intimating that ownership of domesticated animals compromised a man’s own wildness. (Wolfgang did tearfully sell the donkey at the Gold Hill trading post. Chickie bought it back.)

During the weeks they lived on Nahnyuk’s farm, they learned that he never harvested more than a frugal sample of his grapes and honey, though with proper equipment he might have a very profitable operation. Valu had explained that it was “for the bears.” People at the trading post—Brau, the traders, the constables—all confirmed that Nahnyuk never sold his harvest. One evening, near the end of the season, when the grapes were beginning to fall off the vine, and when the warm, still air was thick with their, sweet, winey smell, half a dozen black bears lumbered out of the woods, and through the briars to feast. They began in the vinyards, tearing down the vines as they devoured the fruit, crushing more feet than they consumed. The bears moved from the vinyards to the apiaries. As the invaders knocked over one of the hives and began shovelling honey and bees into their mouths, Nahnyuk scolded the onlookers, urging them into their huts. Wolfbang and the others listened to the buzzing of angry bees and the triumphant humming of the ravaging bears. When the sun set completely and darkness settled over the homestead, the bears finished gorging themselves and returned to the forest.

The next morning, Nahnyuk set Valu, Wolfbang, and the others to work. They righted the overturned hives, and they replaced broken vine poles. The sun was hot and the work was hard, but they were motivated by a sense of purpose. (Except for Valu, who was especially sulky and often absent.)

Late in the afternoon, the bears returned. There were more this time, and they were more deliberate, finding a tangle of half-wild grape vines that they’d missed the first time, and thoroughly tearing apart the hives. Again, they stayed until nightfall.

The next morning, Nahnyuk gave the same instructions to repair the bears’ damage. Or, as Gerilynn saw it, prepare another feast for bad-mannered guests who took no notice of proper table settings. So instead, first chance they got, Wolfbang and his friends followed Valu’s example and slunk off, certain they could find another way to spend the day.

So they returned to the ruined graveyard! On a previous visit, the party had encountered walking skeletons. These macabre constructs stood as guardians on the column-lined processional that bisected the graveyard. The party had fought and destroyed several of these on the day before the bears’ first visit; all were happy to discover that these bones had been laid to final rest at last. Other skeletons, from the other side of the graveyard, were driven away when Gerilynn presented the holy symbol of Raud. While Gerilynn held the skeletons at bay, the rest of the party approached a large tomb at the east end of the graveyard. There was a door in the tomb and the door was open. The party entered, Gerilynn still warding the skeletons. When Vulpio, Chickie, and Wolfbang entered the dark vault, zombies emerged from all sides. The living intruders raised their weapons to defend themselves against the undead attackers. Gerilynn turned to present her holy symbol to these new enemies—the zombies clambered back off the walls and into their individual tombs.

But now the skeletons, seized their advantage and began to advance across the graveyard. Gerilynn instructed her friends to prepare to fight the zombies, and as the skeletons neared her, she turned on them once more, calling on her faith in Raud to keep the walking bones away from her.

This time her friends were prepared to fight the zombies, assailing the animated corpses as they emerged from their cubicles. Showing neither fear nor pain, the zombies sustained the blows without flinching; those not destroyed clubbed the party with their rotten limbs. When the zombies pressed too hard, and Chickie and Vulpio had both suffered solids blows, Gerilynn once again turned her back on the skeletons and once again sent the zombies into hiding.

The skeletons moved much faster than the zombies and the party had but a moment to catch their breath before they had to face the zombies once more. Spot the dog and Wolfie were called into the tomb to assist their human companions. Spot, like a dog, gave all. He was killed by the last and largest of the zombies, just as the walking corpse was sent to its final rest by Vulpio’s crushing war hammer.

Gerilynn healed the party’s wounded, and all prepared to meet the skeletons, gathering rocks, fragments of headstones. The skeletons approached close enough to be destroyed by a volley of thrown missiles.

The party’s reward, if any, wasn’t found in the tomb. A rusty axe was their only trophy. Wolfbang observed there were other large burial monuments, but Gerilynn firmly opposed any thoughts of further exploration. They had all been injured by the zombies, Gerilynn was exhausted from warding the undead powers, and unless they returned immediately, they wouldn’t reach home until after dark.

So they returned to Nahnyuk’s homestead. The bears were there, and their bacchanal was bigger, louder, and more destructive than ever, but the party paid them little attention, collapsing into sleep before the party ended.

Did the ursine rampage go the whole night? Surely no, Vulpio was later say that once during the night he was awakened by the pounding in his head and heard nothing outside the hut. Nevertheless, it was bears and not headaches that awakened the party in the morning. They were close, very close. The crashing sound was that of a stone wall collapsing. They were not overturning beehives, but breaking into a hut. Valu screamed. Geriynn emerge in time to see a huge black bear, standing on its hind legs, tall as a grizzly, and holding Valu to its body. Gerilynn rushed to attack it, but two other bears blocked her away. As the others—Vulpio, Wolfbang, Chickie—emerged from their huts, Nahnyuk, standing in his own doorway, ordered them back inside. Vulpio ignored him and attacked the bears that had attacked Gerilynn. At first the bears simply avoided his blows, but after Vulpio’s war hammer connected solidly with a bear’s snout, they both attacked him with ferocity, swatting him back and forth with their claws until he fell to the ground. Meanwhile, the large bear carried Valu nto the forest. His screams became more distant. Gerilynn did not follow, but instead tried to help Vulpio. The bears relented and followed the larger bear into the forest. Gerilynn tended to Vulpio. He was battered, but not seriously wounded.

Nahnyuk did not offer any explanation for the bear’s behvior. He was subdued and showed no interest in repairing his homestead or in rescuing Valu. 

Gerilynn convinced the others that they should track the bears. They put on their armor, ate a quick breakfast, and set off. Gerilynn found the bear tracks easy to follow nd the party made their way through the forest for several hours, generally in a westward direction. In the afternoon, near a large briar patch, they met a man. Big and tall, with a thick black beard, this man was as wild as Nahnyuk in appearance, but he met the party with a clear gaze and understandable speech. Yes, he had seen some bears, and he thought he knew which way they had gone. He led the party north, first down the ridge toward the road, then across the road and up the ridge toward Gold Hill. Here, as dusk was falling, the stranger announced that he had lost the trail. “But normally, if bears do things, it’s for a purpose.”

The party spent the night at the Inn. Brau agreed that if Valu had been taken aay by bears he must be very frightened, but could give them little practical advice. A few off-duty constables overheard the conversation, and waited until Brau had returned to the kitchen to give their own advice: “Be careful what you tell that Brau woman, everyone knows she’s a witch.”

The next morning, the party reported Valu’s disappearance to the constable’s office. The deputies promised to send out additional patrols.

The party returned to Nahnyuk’s homestead They found Nahnyuk in his hut, and his bed, dead, and looking very peaceful. Chickie and Vulpio made a report at Gold Hill, and soon returned with Brau and one of her acolytes, plus the Head Constable and several of his deputies. Wolfbang and Brau conducted a burial service. Someone remarked that the land on which Nahnyuk had been living belonged to the Constable. The Constable assented, and announced his plans to “turn the plan to productive use—but no need to talk about that right now.” He assured Wolfgang & co that they continue to stay on the land “for the time being.”

The next day, Gerilynn convinced the otersthat they should resume their search for Valu. /they followed the same westward path that they’d followed the day before, This time, when they reached the briar patch, they stayed to investigate, and came across two berry-stained bears lounging in the sun. Wolfbang sent the others away and spoke to the bears. They knew about the boy and knew that he had gone with the big bears. The big bears lived on the top of the high ridge. They didn’t know why the big bears wanted to take Valu.

The party spent another night at the Inn. Wolfbang didn’t like the idea because of the deputies’ rumors about Brau. He was out voted, but he didn’t sleep well, and when he saw a cat in his room, his screaming woke up the others. Two of Brau’s assistants came running. Meanwhile the cat had disappeared. The assistants assured Wolfgang tat plenty of cat roamed Gold Hill and sometimes they wandered into guests’ rooms to beg food. After the sleepy assistants returned to their quarters, the cat returned, and showed himself to be Jaroo. Resuming human form, an impatient Jaroo suggested that Wolfbang should leave the bears alone and instead consider the question of who would guard the grove in Whitkey? Deflecting questions from Gerilynn, Jaroo assumed the form of a lizard and scuttled off into the shadows.

Gerilynn was not yet ready to give up. Remembering the briar patch bears’ information that the big bars lived on the high ridge, she suggested that the party venture into areas they had no yet explored. Besides the main path that led from Gold Hill back down into the valley, there were other, more narrow tracks that led higher into the hills. Choosing one of these, they travelled for about an hour until they came upon a sprawling homestead and a pair of goat herders, surrounded by their goats. These men introduced themselves as members of the Busey family. They did see bears from time to time, but did not see any bears traveling with a bear and had no interest in discovering where the local bears made their home. They showed little interest in conversation until Chickie mentioned their combat with the evil magician. The Buseys showed restrained interest in hearing more and invited the party to one of their houses for lunch.

The party joined their hosts for a simple, but large meal, during which other members of the extended family visited to hear about Valu in the bears. No one pretended to have any useful information. In time, the Busey clan revealed that they were concerned about the disappearance of one of their own. A young man named Hem had long shown that he had little aptitude for any of the tasks associated with keeping goats. Instead, he had studied ark magic and recently apprentice himself to a traveling magician. The Buseys were glad to know that the magician himself was dead, and said quick quiet prayers of thanks when they heard that in the midst of the fighting, Gerilynn had spared the lives of at least two of the magician’s compatriots. Based on his description, one of them may have been Hem. Maybe he would return one day or maybe he had heeded Gerilynn’s advice to go away and find a better life.

But the Buseys wanted more than hope, they wanted closure. Three men of the clan asked the arty to take them to Whitkey and show them where the battle took place. The party agreed.

There was little to show. The body of the magician as gone. There were no other dead. The party didn’t tell the Buseys about the wolves who laired in one of the ruined houses and who had scavenged the magician. Nevertheless, the Buseys were grateful to the party. Thy took their leave, promising to be on the lookout for Valu.

The party stayed in Whitkey, reasoning that they could not remain at Nahnyuk’s place indefinitely. Some of the buildings looked habitable. One of the most stable houses was at last ruled unsuitable because it was so dark, being thoroughly overgrown with vines and twisted trees. The inn, Gerilynn discovered, had a weak floor. She crashed through it into the cellar and was attacked by rats the size of cats. Wolfbang let a rope and Chickie came to her aid. Moving to the outskirts of the village, the party noticed the ruins of a tower on top of a rocky outcropping. They climbed the outcopping to investigate and found a hole in the rubble. As they began to light a torch to investigate, a greenish, clawed, undead thing burst out of the hole and attacked them. It as both faster and hardier than the zombies, and most terrifying of all, its toxic touch caused near instant paralysis. Both Vulpio and Gerilynn soon found their limbs frozen. The undead thing suffered wounds from Wolfbang’s spear and Chickie’s axe, but it seemed to barely bleed. Then Chickie was caught by a clawd hand and he too was frozen. For a moment, Wolfbang considerd flight, But then Wolfie clamped his jaws around the undead thing’s leg and pulled it to the ground. Wolfbang took this moment to plunge his spear through the undead thing’s chest and pin it to the ground, holding it there until it stirred no more.

Wolfbang draggd his friends down off the outcrop. After an hour or so, they recovered from their paralysis and they all returned to Gold Hill for the safety of the Inn.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Wolfbang and the Beekeeper's Prophecy

Wolfgang resented Jaroo’s strictly-worded advice, but after some prodding set off for the Southlands. Although Danderion and Fernac slipped away to find their own fortunes elsewhere, Gerilynn agreed and Chickie begged to accompany Wolfbang in his journey. What’s more, Gerilynn had heard that a warrior she knew, one Vulpio, was staying in a village not far from Hommlet. Vulpio, for reasons he wouldn’t explain, joined the young druid in his journey south. Vulpio had a dog named Spot. Spot showed proper deference to Wolfie and the two canines became friends.

For several days, the new companions had no known destination but “south.” The steadily deteriorating road passed through farms and orchards into pastures and rangelands. There were no inns, only barns for their nights’ rest. Theirs hosts and the few people they encountered on the road had never heard of a village called Whitkey.

The party made their way ever southward over brokenlands and foothills. They slept rough, and badly. Wolfbang did not fully trust Chickie to stand guard.

After several days of overland travel, they reached a rough road. It cut east and west, but the party decided that even if it didn’t take them where they wanted to go, it least it might take them to a place where they’d meet other people.

The first people they met were a large group of armed men who identified themselves as constables. The constables did know of Whitkey and even the beekeeper, but advised the travellers that they should check in with the head constable “before you just go wandering around.”
The party agreed to accompany the constables to “Gold Hill,” a played-out gold mine whose tunnels now contained a tavern, an inn, a blacksmith, and a trading post—as well as the Head Constable’s office.

The party enjoyed a hot meal, some wine, and a good bed. The innkeeper, a priestess of the order of St. Cahsey of the Divine Workshop, gave them a warm welcome, asked polite questions about their reasons for being in Gold Hill, and told them a little about both Whitkey and the beekeeper.

According to Mother Brau, Whitkey’s last inhabitants left nearly a decade ago, “long before my time.” It predated the discovery of gold, and did not survive the sudden influx of fortune and fortune-seekers. Now the gold was gone, and families were returning to area. They kept goat and sheep in the high pastureland. And the Matofaa family had apples.

“And then there’s Nahnyuk—and his bees. If he’s the one you’re supposed to meet, I’ll let you meet him with an open mind. Everyone around here knows about him, but none of us really know him.”

The next day they followed Brau’s directions. She had advised them to avoid meeting the magician who had recently camped at the crossroads. The party heeded her advice, taking to the woods when they saw the circle of tents.

Their path brought them onto sunny, rocky hillside. They did not encounter the wooly old man they’d expected, but an odd boy of about 12 who was initially very excited, but then disappointed when he leaned that they hadn’t come to talk to him “about the prophecy.”

But then he did take them to Nahnyuk who was everything they’d expected and more. He was, old, hairy, and pungent, and spoke in a belligerent roar that only Wolfgang could ken any meaning besides undiscriminating disdain.

Nahnyuk kept not only bees, but also sheep, and grapes. He instructed them to build huts for themselves, pointing at his own and the boy’s as models. These were constructed of timber, dry stone, and mud, with thatched roofs. He spoke to Wolfgang only, using a combination of druidic language and some other tongue with its own grammar and vocabulary, and punctuated with growls, grunts, and punches.

The boy, whose name was Valu, was more sociable, though his main interests were “the prophecy,” himself, and the connection between the two. He was excited to learn that Wolfbang knew Jaroo, and told them that “druids visit here all the time to talk about the prophecy.” He was part of a druid’s family himself, being the child of a couple who had tended the sacred grove in Whitkey. They had been killed when he was a baby, “and that’s when everyone in Whitkey ran away.” According to Value, he too, was learning to be a druid and, as proof, he made Wolfgang glow purple.

He knew little about the prophecy. There was a “relic,” he said, hidden in the grove. And he was supposed to find it when the time came.

In between tending Nahnyuk’s bees, sheep, and grapes, Wolfbang and the others made jaunts around the surrounding area. Nanyuhk’s closest neighbors were the Head Constables extended family. Wolfgang showed great restraint in ignoring the taunting of the HC’s teenaged sons.

One day, Valu convinced Wolfgang & co. to accompany him to Whitkey. It soon became clear that he had little idea how to get there and had rarely gone more than a mile from Nahnyuk’s hillside. Near the magician’s encampment at the crossroads, they met a man chopping wood. He begged them to meet his boss, the magician. The magician, a man dressed in blue and black robes shd great happiness to see them, especially Valu. He asked his new visitors to sit and drink with him, and gave orders to his assistants—various other scruffy-looking men, in addition to the woodcutter.

The tea was bad and the meeting was short as the magician moved with clumsy directness to his point—he claimed to know something about the prophecy and wanted to talk to Valu in private. Gerilynn allowed this, but didn’t allow them to go far. She watched the two talking on the edge of the woods, but gesticulating with wild excitement. After a brief conversation, Valu returned to thank Gerilynn, Wolfgang, and Vulpio for helping him find the magician, and then to dismiss them, explaining he didn’t want to go to Whitkey after all. He wanted to stay in the camp and talkto the magician.

Was he sure? Yes, very sure.

So instead the party went to Gold Hill. They ate lunch and talked to Brau about their plans to go to Whitkey. She gave them directions—return to the crossroads and follow the main road west.

When they reach Whitkey, they had little time to explore as they heard a boy screaming. They followed the sound of the screaming to the other side of the village and met Valu as he was running up a path from the woods, chased by a heavily armored man wielding a sword

Gerilynn stepped in to stop the man with the sword, Wolfbang, Chickie, and Wolfie ran with Valu, and Vulpio and Spot ran down the path.

Vulpio encounter the woodchopper they’d met at the crossroads and the two engaged in a brief melee, ending in the woodcutter’s death. Another of the magician’s assistants, dodged Vulpio and ran up the path to attack Gerilynn, who was fighting the man in armor. The surprise attack to Gerilynn’s blind side gave the armored man the chance he needed to continue his pursuit of Valu. Valu, for his part just ran and ran, not answering Wolfbang’s questions except to so sob, “They killed them, they killed them!”

Vulpio heard the magician in a clearing at the end of the path, shouting, and knocking over statuary. Vulpio crept in for a closer look and, waiting until the magician’s back was turned, rushed into the assault him with his war hammer. The magician fell to the ground, and rolled away, fumbling into his robes to retrieve a potion. @After drinking the potion, he soared into the air.

Gerilynn soon got the better of the thug who attacked her but, instead of killing him, gave him a chance to save his life. Expressing his gratitutde to be free of the magician (“I never knew what a wicked man he was,”) the ruffian threw down his spear and ran away.

Wolfgang tried to guide Valu threw the abandoned village, but a wrong turn brought them to a dead end, pinned between a ruined inn, a massive thornbush, and the armored man with the sword. Wolfbang, wielding his staff, prevented the man from getting to Valu.

Back in the grove, as the magician rose into the air, Vulpio lifted his crossbow but before he could take aim, he was engulfed in a cloud of noxious green gas and he fell to the ground coughing.

Gerilynn arrived in the village to assist Wolfbang in his combat against the armored man. He fought fiercely, but was now greatly outnumbered. Again, Gerilynn gave him a chance to save himself, demanding only that he throw down his weapon and run away. This man wavered. The magician passed over them. Thinking fast, Chickies pulled out his dagger and threw it at the magician. The blade found its mark and the magician crashed into the millpond, dead.

The armored man ran away.

The party regrouped. Valu understood that he had been tricked. The old coupe who tended the grove told the magician that they knew of no relic. His temper was short and he ordered his men to kill them. The party also searched the grove and found no sign of what the magician had been seeking. They retrieved the magician’s body and found nothing out of the ordinary on his person.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Wolfgang outlawed

A few weeks after Phoebe’s death, Jaroo introduced Wolfgang to Danderion an elf, explaining that the two had something in common— a reason to oppose Burne’s recovery of the lost magic that was hidden under the Moat House.

Jaroo explained that at the last council meeting, Burne had announced that he was planning to send a group of guards to secure of the Moat House. He had been vague in his reasons, but everyone remembered his recent remarks about a re-opened portal or a long-lost source of magic. Jaroo said nothing. He was, as he explained “not surprised.” Now that the frogs had been re-located or exterminated, it was only a matter of time, Jaroo reasoned before, Burne began an earnest search for this magical secret.

Jaroo observed to Wolfgang that as druids, they should be wary of anything that might permit sudden changes to the natural world. And of Danderion, Jaroo asked whether it wasn’t true that elves considered most humans too immature to use magic responsibily? Didn’t Danderion agree that for the elves to continue to quietly maintain peace in Alyan, that humans should be prevented from increasing their ability to employ magic? Yes, he agreed.

Gerilynn joined the party for reasons of her own. Fernac smelled the promise of loot. Finally, Chickie, the fourth son of a poor farmer, convinced Wolfgang that he could be of assistance in this adventure.

The four adventurers, plus Wolfgang’s wolf (“Wolfie”) set out for the moathouse. They noticed immediate signs of improvement. The moat itself had large been cleared of debris, and its banks had been reinforced. A solid wooden bridge crossed the freely-flowing water. The courtyard had been cleared of weeds. As the party approached, they heard dogs barking. They entered the courtyard in time to see the last of the dogs entering the moat house.

gap in wall - arrow slit???
Soon the party noticed arrows at the arrow slits. A voice commanded them to state their purpose. Danderion pointed his finger at one of the slits and in a tone both charming and weirdly commanding, invited the hidden man to come out.

There was some commotion inside the moat house, but soon the commanded man emerged, followed by two of his comrades and the dogs. The commanded man was friendly to Danderion, but still suspicious of the others. Their questions were pointed and the party’s answers were impudent. Wolfgang insulted Burne. Gerilynn chanted a prayer of transifxation—one of the men stood paralyzed in his spot. The commanded man realized that Danderion was not a friend and ran for the courthouse, the other un-transfixed man following him. Danderion and Wolfgang let them run to the steps and then loosed missiles against them—one was killed with an arrow, the other by a sling stone. Gerilynn killed the transfixed man and the dogs ran away.

After putting the dead men in the river, the party entered the moat house.

The group entered the moat house. They found sleeping pallets and the embers of a fire in the great hall. Counting the pallets, they reasoned that they’d already killed the sole occupants. They explored the corridors leading out of the hall. They found a hole in the floor. Sensing that the object of their quest lay beneath them, they secured a rope and lowered themselves down. Wolfie stayed on guard at the top. Chickie lit a torch.

In the lower levels of the moathouse they found rifled storerooms and one empty chamber after another.

Hearing in one direction a strange clanking, accompanied by several voices arguing in an unknown language—the party chose to try going the other way.

This proved fruitful. Gerrilynn remembered passing that way with Phoebe and Philch. She remembered the place where Philomena had found a secret door.

They descended by way of a long spiral staircase to the door they’d previously opened and without realizing it, released the magical atmosphere that had caught Burne’s attention in Hommelet. The door was still open and the party passed through it into a natural cavern, much larger than their torch light could show.

They followed a path through the stalgmites and into a narrow tunnel. The tunnel wound one way and another. Danderion mapped their progress. In one of the side caverns they explored, they were attacked by large spiders the size of cats. Danderion killed one with an arrow, and the others scurried into the recesses of the cave. Chickie lit another torch and another. In the enhanced light, they could see dozens of tiny, twitching, reflective eyes.

The party hastily passed through the chamber of spiders, and pressed deeper into the caverns. A side passage of worked stone captured their interest. After taking it appropriate precautions, they made their way down it and soon found themselves in an artfully carved room.

This room was most impressive in its proportions, having twelve sides of equal side, and also having a low, domed ceiling comprised of twelve trapezoidal parts that met to form a twelve-sided cap at the apex. In the middle of the room, there was a shallow, circular depression a few feet in diameter. The floor was smooth, and in the center, polished so that in shone in the torch light.

Especially unusual was the ceiling, or the trapezoidal panels that comprised it. Each was carved with writing. No one, at first, could read the writing, but all agreed it was gracefully-formed.

Looking more closely, Danderion recognized the writing. It was a form of elvish. More particularly, it was a form of elvish developed centuries ago in a largely abandoned effort to share with humans the secrets of elven magic. But there was something weird about the writing—it was backwards.

The party emptied their waterskins into the shallow depression on the floor. The newly formed pool of water reflected the words on the ceiling. By standing in one place or another, and with the assistance of a companion’s carefully positioned torch, one could read one or another of the panels, reflected in the water.

At least Danderion could read the panels. They included the fundamental spell by which the uninitiated might learn written-and-memorized magic. They included other basic spells he knew and some he didn't knew. Philomena, Wolfgang, and Chickie took turnings holding the torch (Fernac stood guard in the passageway) while Danderion inscribed the spells into his book. Or began to inscribe them-- as he finished copying the first, there was a small burst of flame, and the water in the pool evaporated.

The party agreed that they had learned enough. Wolfgang could make his report to Jaroo. Danderion could inscribe the other spells later.

They traced their way through the caverns and back up the staircase. Wolfgang met them gratefully as they emerged from the moathouse dungeons. They followed the path back to Hommelet, cautiously congratulating each other. It was later afternoon, the weather was fine, and they succeeded in learning what Burne seemed to be after, or at least a part of it. They were startled by the scream of a hawk that swooped down out of the trees and landed on Wolfgang's shoulder. It spread its wings and expanded in size, slipping from Wolfgang's shoulder to land on the ground as Jaroo, still hissing in Wolfgang's ear. "What have you done, what have you done!"

The dogs had returned to Hommelet. Their masters, Burne's guardsmen had been found dead in the river. Everyone guessed what had happened.

The party argued. Jaroo apologized that he had asked them to search the moathouse without having the foresight that they would be unable to accomplish this without the use of brute force. He was grateful for the information they shared. He gave them instructions for evading the avenging mob that would be looking for them and for seeking their fortunes elsewhere. There was a beekeeper near the village of Whitekey, nearly one hundred leagues away to the south, who could use Wolfgang's assistance. The others would likely be wise to accompany him. Jaroo would send word to the druids of the south country, who would provide discreet protection and guidance if they were able.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Phoebe's quiet passing

After they rescued the giant frogs who lived in the swampy area surrounding the moathouse, Wolfgang, Gerilynn, and Phoebe enjoyed a few days of tacit notoriety: everyone knew it was their fault that there weren’t any frogs left kill on frogskin bounty day, but there were no out loud accusations. 

This lasted a few days. A half-dead merchant had been found on the road. He’d been beaten by robbers and left for dead on the road that passed near the marshes. And they stole his wares—a few barrels of wine and brandy. When he advertised a reward for the recovery of the wine, everyone looked at Hommlet’s newest heroes.

Wolfgang and co. volunteered. They did know the marshes and they had encountered humans there—what people live in marshes except brigands.

So they went to the swamp and after several hours of following its crisscrossing trails, they encountered a group of likely thieves: five scruffy, desperate men, with one-and-a-half pairs of shoes between them, armed with crude spears and bows. They were friendly, showed surprise to meet other people, and were vague about their purposes. They had killed a ducks and were looking for wood. They didn’t know anything about wine, but sure would like some. They didn’t like Wolfgang’s wolf, but did like his female associates. Their leader (the one with two intact shoes), introduced himself as Gumm and invited them to share the “hospitality of the marshes.”

Wolfgang, Phoebe, and Gerilynn agreed to share a meal with their new associates. The men did not have any wine, but they did have frogs—small, red, live amphibians carried in pouches. “Wanna lick?”

Wolfgang, Phoebe, and Gerilynn watched as the men licked their frogs’ backs, and then each accepted a squirming creature from its owner and did the same. They were hesitant, but the men were impatient, “Just lick and give it back here!” The taste was at once hot and soothing; immediately, the strain and fatigue of a long day wandering in mud and stagnant water left them. They felt some annoyance to find that, in that half-second of peaceful oblivion, the men had reclaimed that seemed to halfway belong to them. But then their head quickly cleared. They did not feel the dulling effects of wine or ale, but instead, a new sharpness.

The men seemed to experience the taste of the frogs in different ways. One plucked the duck with uncanny speed and focus. Gumm showed the same hyper-alertness that Wolfgang & co. were experiencing. Two others continued licking their frogs until they fell asleep. Another suddenly turned Gerilynn’s questions about wine back on her: “who wants to know? And what is it you are doing out here in the swamp with no other folk for miles around?”

Scarlet O'Hoppy
Gerilynn apologized and everyone fell quiet. Dusk gathered. There was more talk of finding some wine. Somehow the duck got cooked, and those who were awake ate hungrily.

Hunger banished, the group revived its convivial spirit. Gerilynn’s interlocutor volunteered that they did have friends in the swamp and the friends did have wine, but they shouldn’t share. “Can we go there?”


“Why not?”

The man hesitated.

Gumm interrupted. “It’s dark.”

It was. The heroes discussed returning to Hommlet. They disagreed about which direction it lay.

“We’ll show you,” one of the men said, “in the morning.”

Gerilynn argued, but the men said nothing. “Ok,” she agreed, “morning.”

Among themselves, Wolfgang, Gerrilynn, and Phoebe agreed that they would rest, but that that they wouldn’t fall asleep. But then one thing led to another, and one of the men offered Phoebe another lick of his frog. This time, she fell asleep. Wolfgang and Gerilynn, gave her some playful prods, and shouted her name to rouse her, and this gave the men some good laughs. Then Phoebe drifted off again; Wolfgang and Gerilynn fell asleep.

The group stated at the smoldering fire, and picked at the remains of the duck. 

Maybe Gerilynn drifted off for a moment. Or maybe she got drawn into a conversation about missing wine and the inhabitants of the swamp. There was a sudden movement, a gasp. One of the men was kneeling over Phoebe. He stumbled over to Gumm and whispered something. Gumm looked at Phoebe, at companions, and at the wolf.

Gerilynn jumped over to Phoebe and shook her. She wouldn’t wake. Her body didn’t feel right. She wasn’t breathing.

Gumm stood up, and held his hands out in front of him. The other two men started putting their packs together.

“What have you done to our friend?” Wolfgang demanded.

Gerilynn started casting a spell and the men ran. Wolfgang threw a rock.

Gumm got farther than the other two, but Wolfgang’s wolf caught him by the leg and pulled him to the ground.

Gumm begged for mercy and Wolfgang called off the wolf. “You poisoned her!”

“No one tried to do nothing,” Gumm pleaded, “it’s the frogs.” As he spoke, he reflexively drew his own frog out of his pouch and alternated between licking it and pressing it to the wound on his thigh. “It’s all good and bad sometimes.”

Gerilynn and Wolfgang spared him and let him get up and wander off into the swamp. The other men who had tried to run away were unconscious. When they revived, they were also sent away. Finally, Gerilynn and Wolfgang kicked the sleepers awake and sent them away.

They sat down, and without meaning to, fell asleep, waking up in the morning cold, sore and stupid.
  Seneca Creek State Park
Back in Hommlet, no one knew much about Phoebe or where she’d come from. Wolfgang gave her last rites.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Wolfbang, the frog protector

 During the winter, a new group of treasure hunters visited the moathouse, and finding the upper levels virtually entry, took their time searching the dungeon area, and found a hidden staircase leading to a still lower level. The survivors of that expedition shared news of their adventures back in Hommlet. New rumors of strange, bestial creatures circulated the village. Burne the wizard, and a few others with rare sensibilities, kenned a change in the environment that suggested the treasure hunters had unwittingly re-opened a source of magical energies or knowledge. Burner convinced the elders that it was time for Hommlet to establish an official claim to the moathouse and its contents. He proposed that a force of vermin-hunters, led by several of his own men-at-arms, and supported by Hommlet's militia clear out any remaining giant frogs or other similar odious creatures that laired in the ground level of the moathouse. This would allow a garrison force to secure the entrance until the village decided on a plan to exploit the magic resources below.

Jaroo, Hommlet's chief druid and a member of the council, was muted in his opposition to the plan to eradicate a species from its natural home. He provided sound reasons to delay the extermination plan, and in the meantime called on his fellows to send a young druid who could help him save thee frogs.

The druid college sent Wolfbang, a headstrong and bellicose initiate who arrived in Hommlet with his pet wolf and a donkey laden with spears. Jaroo explained his plan. The frogs days at moathouse were numbered, that was clear. But there was an expansive swamp south of Hommlet that would provide a better home. Wolfbang should hire some assistants and transfer as many frogs as possible from the moathouse to the swamp. 

Wolfbang talked to some of the treasure hunters who had previously visited the moathouse. Gerilynn and Phoebe accepted the job, making terms with Jaroo that involved payment of 10 gold pieces for each successfully re-located frog.

The group started by surveying the swamp, seeking a suitable new home for the frogs. The swamp seemed to extend for miles in the area south and east of Hommlet, becoming progressively swampier in the area near the moat house. They were surprised to find signs of human habitation, a criss-cross of narrow tracks through the trees and mud.

Next, the group approached the moathouse. Gerilynn, based on several previous experiences, explained to the others that frogs, if hungry, would attack anything living that made its presence known. The party came to within 30 yards of the muddy water surrounding the moathouse, and then began throwing stones and clods of dirt to attract the frogs' attention. 

Sure enough the frogs came. Wolfbang accosted the largest of the frogs and made it understand that he was not food. The second largest frog lashed at Phoebe with its long sticky tongue and began to draw it toward its mouth. Phoebe drew her sword and severed the tongue-- that frog retreated to the water. Several smaller specimens lingered on the edge of the water.

The remaining large frog made Wolfbang understand that it was still hungry and that if he was not food, then there should be food somewhere else close by. It looked meaningfully at Gerilynn.

And so Gerilynn started to run. The frog ran after her. Wolfbang, Phoebe, and the wolf followed the large frog while the smaller frogs followed them.

The merry chase led away from the moathouse and toward the swamp. Gerilynn sprinted toward one of the few trees suitable for climbing, and pulled herself into it. Wolfbang, Phoebe, and the wolf ran into the swamp. The smaller frogs began to gain on them in the thick mud, but the advantage was reversed once the party reached one of the tracks they'd located earlier. 

The large frog, finding it couldn't reach Gerilynn with its tongue, joined the smaller frogs in their pursuit of the main party. After waiting to be sure it was safe, Gerilynn climbed down, and returned to Hommlet on the path through the woods.

Running on the trail, Wolfbang and Phoebe discovered they could easily outrun the frogs, but varied their pace enough to lead their pursuers well into the swamp. Only when the shadows were lengthening toward the end of the day, did they run their hardest and complete their escape.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Beatriss and Tetsukishi return to Khanbaliq

After their victory, Beatriss and Tetsukishi left Tempat Larang and settled with their companions for several weeks in a good-sized village nearby. They traded a small ruby for a couple huts and also hired servants to manage the household. They made plans for their return to Pasar, debating how they would avoid the vampire swamp.

They made plans for their return to Pasar, debating how they would avoid the vampire swamp. Before they had made any final decisions, they were awakened one morning by their servants, warning them t requirhat there were imperial servants in the village, asking questions about them—and based on discussions among the villagers, it seemed likely that someone would answer those questions.

Rather than run away, the company asked to meet the soldiers. They were three, and they were still asleep when Beatriss and Tetsukichi arrived. Thrown on their back foot by their sudden good fortune, the soldiers couldn’t help but hide their happiness, and when they tried to assume an intimidating air, and demand that Tetsukichi return with them to Khanbaliq and explain himself to the empire, the company’s eagerness (“Sure, can we leave today?”) knocked them flat. There were questions about Gwinch, Goyat, and Kawabi, but after some bluffing about a need for proof about Tetsukichi’s victory, the soldiers agreed that they had enough success to show at least to justify a report to their superiors if not to the Emperor himself.

The journey back was slow. The party’s maps were poor and their memories were foggy. Everything was green and there was no horizon. IMG_3144

Slow, but uneventful, as return journeys often are. The travelers stopped in one village where the soldiers rested while the party members accepted work on a construction project. Not only did this help them avoid having to pay for bowls of rice with rubies, it also let them find out some information the vampire swamp. One of the workers pulled Beatriss aside, eager to pass on some secret information. He told her that she could meet “the others” in a field near a village on the other side of the swamp. And he gave her detailed instructions for avoiding the dangers of the swamp. He also stressed the importance of her bringing the ones she was traveling with. After this, the worker challenged Tetsukichi to a friendly, no-weapons fight. Tetsukichi accept the fight and was hurt quite badly by the worker’s strange maneuvers. The priests intervened with their magic. The worker shrugged off the spells, but ended the fight, winking at Beatriss as he walked away.

The workers instructions proved helpful. The journey through the swamp was long, but they avoided not only the vampire, but also the giant leeches, and the plague that, according to the soldiers, had killed many of their companions. Weeks later as they wee nearing Pasar, Beatriss recommend a detour based on the mysterious worker’s comments the field where she would meet “the others.”

The field was full of snakes and the snakes led the party to a hole in the ground. The party walked down into the hole and encountered more snakes, these ones translucent spectral forms that flew through the air. Tetsukichi hinted that perhaps they did not want to meet “the others. Beatriss reluctantly agreed.

The group reached Pasar. The soldiers made a report to their commanders. The commanders questioned the party, and like their subordinates seemed satisfied that they could not return home claiming success. Also in Pasar were Beatriss’s children and Tetsukichi’s family. After a happy reunion, Su-Laing explained that she had demanded to be escorted over the mountains to find her husband. She explained that the Sansar clan, hemmed in by lizardfolk and imperial harassers had deserted its grazing grounds near Menkan and migrated westwards. Kreppu-san and Sukh,two brave warriors, and Shoji, a shaman had assisted them in their encounterswith lizardfolk and guardian statues. Sadly, Su-Laing’s maidservant had been killed by the guardian statue. The fox-children’s nurses had died in the high cold mountain.     

After a week or so of organizing and false starts, Beatriss & Tetsukichi, escorted by the imperial soldiers, now numbering over a hundred, made its way north and east.
china - south yunnan

They passed through Quitokai, finding the squalid village now engulfed by an imperial garrison. Menkan, too, had an even stronger martial and imperial presence. 

After several weeks of uneventful travel through the empire, the party reached the capital, and were brought before the Emperor. The Emperor’s ministers were visibly surprised by His Imperial Majesty’s delighted and trusting interest in the party’s outlandish tale, and then surprised everyone when he announced he knew the exact date when they had triumphed over Goyat. Without revealing how he knew, he announced the date, and the party confirmed that he was correct.

The Emperor showered gifts on Tetsukichi and Golfo (who had officially received the mission) and also on Beatriss (whose joint leadership was likewise commendable). He informed Tetsukichi and Golfo that he would call on them again in the future, and give them additional opportunities to win honor and esteem for themselves and the Sansar clan. Turning to Beatriss, he asked her accept a post in Imperial City. Would she the Supreme Commander of the Guards of the Women’s Palace? The position was important and also delicate, as the Emperor was loath to allow the Palace’s resident to come in contact with any man. And yet Beatriss’s fighting prowess and martial leadership seemed to exceed that of most of the men in his Empire. Beatriss, however, declined, and the Emperor did not argue. 

The Emperor dismissed the heroes. Tetsukichi and Golfo were instructed to take up residence in a walled compound in the Green Zone as official representatives of the Sansar clan. Beatriss was provided an apartment within the Imperial City itself.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Wolfbang's Journal #3

We went went into a cave in a moathouse because it had magic? I Searched with this elf guy called Dan Darian who was trying to get this magic stones that was total awesome it could teach you epic spells. It Was kinda weird he used alot of water and a lot of other stuff to try to get the stone? To get to the moathouse we had to get pass Berns minion. I ended up killing them. NOW I CAN BRAG ABOUT GETTING KICK O-U-T OUT OF TOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wollfbang's Journal #2

We met a guy named Fernic. He was a annoying gambler. Next we went to this swamp near Hommlet.  Trying to get back some wine that was stolen we met the robbers. They let us lick there frog. We did and go plus 3 of any stat of are choice febee lick it twice and died. Then Jerry Lin used hold person. {she’s a cleric}. Woflbang used shellighla {he are drewed}.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

About OA6 "Ronin's Challenge" (1990)

The victory of Beatriss and Tetsukichi in Tempat Larang marked the end of my use of OA6 Ronin's Challengeover a three-year span!  It’s not a great module, but it’s very useful in some ways, and given that I may have spent more time with it than anyone, I’d like to share a few thoughts on how to make it useful to you.  After all, it’s a freedownload.

Background, specific to my campaign:  My use of the module began when Gwinch received the mission from the Emperor to track down the rogue General who he’d sent to deal with a rogue Governor.  After about a year-- and no word from Gwinch-- the Emperor decided he needed a cat to catch the birds he sent to catch the spider sent to catch the fly . . . and he called on Tetsukichi.  Both Gwinch and Tetsukichi were supported by other PCs and NPCs.

 The geographic area of the adventure is enormous, comprising a series of valleys based on real world cultures across Southeast Asia from Yunnan Province China to Indochina (Thailand, Laos, Vietnam) to Indonesia.  The physical scale of the adventure might not be quite as large as its real-world model, but it is close.  These valleys are roughly 100 miles wide and choked with jungles and swamp.  In dealing with the question of how adventurers could have any practical hope of crossing such a wilderness in pursuit of their goal, the adventure relies rather heavily on plot coupons—there’s a chance encounter with a sultan who tells them a story about a pirate trapped in a tomb, and if the pirate is released he tells them about such-in-such . . . .  It’s a sandbox that assumes DMs will build a railroad.  There are other ways to give the adventurers a way to pursue their quest without waiting for things to fall into their lap. I made the following decisions:

Many of the people the PCs encountered had a stake in their quest, because the mini-war between the General and the Governor was something that affected their lives.  The adventure includes a good way of stitching everything together, but doesn’t develop it properly.  There are some allusions in the random encounter tables to the fact that the rogue general and the rogue governor, each with his own army played a cat-and-mouse game across this area, and that the adventurers should encounter ruined villages and burned fields.  But this is treated as just background material.  As I ran it, when the PCs arrive at a large town (Pasar), there were able to find people there who encountered these armies, and can give some insight into what they were trying to do and what they might have been looking for. 
The devastation caused by the Governor and General created lots of potential adversaries for anyone else passing through.  The adventure also has a weird sub-plot about one of the Emperor’s advisers sending her own men to spy on the PCs (following them over hundreds of miles!).  Instead, I reasoned that deserters from the armies had set up shop as slavers and marauders throughout the region.  So rather than simple encounters, I had good material for developing side adventurers.  This also broke up the slog of “the longest backpacking trip ever,” but without taking away from the feeling that it was a grueling, dangerous journey.  Plus they were another, more natural source of information that propelled the PCs forward in their quest.

Underground shortcuts are at least half of what makes D&D great.  The adventure includes one labyrinthine mini-dungeon.  It had a cool atmosphere, being flooded with slightly acidic water that the adventurers had to navigate with miniature canoes.  But the individual encounters, beyond the swimming zombies, started to pall after a while.  Later groups of PCs found other ways to pass through the same mountains.  Some of the tournament modules, with their gauntlet-style series of challenging puzzles and encounters were very useful to me here. 

The various ancient buildings with cool powers and useful information are all located in Tempat Larang.   As written, the adventurers should discover a library, and observatory, and a shrine before they arrive at the climatic encounter in Tempat Larang.  There are a couple reasons why this wroks better in a movie or video game better than in an RPG.  First, in passive media, the protagonists' progress from one far-flung location to another just happens.  There might be obstacles along the way, but the audience doesn't notice that the protagonists rarely have to stop and ask for directions.  In an RPG, the automatic scene-shifting feels more jarring and contrived.  Forcing PCs to figure out where they want to go and how to get there adds depth, but can become tedious, so it's good to have just one final destination rather than several.  Second in movies/graphics-based games, the visual element comes cheap and can compensate for deficiencies in other areas.  In RPGs, the big challenge is helping everyone visualize the surroundings.   I wanted this ancient ruled capital to feel like an ancient ruined capital and to do that I needed buildings.  I used some other modules, including Faster Monkey’s Mor, to develop the layout of the larger city.

Run the climatic encounter as it’s written.  It feels a lot like a video game—the PCs take turns controlling a spirit dragon, with a dizzying selection of magic powers, while their enemy— after each “defeat”— takes on a new, more fearsome form, until it’s finally destroyed.  It was really fun for everyone.

(As a side point, the martial arts tournament has no meaningful connection to the rest of the adventure.  It's just a way for  the Emperor to take notice of the PCs.  Their main rival in the tournament has a shadowy backstory and he pops up throughout the rest of the adventure, giving one the sense that he has some interest in the tournament beyond the obvious.  But it seems that he just really wanted to win that martial arts tournament and that's it.) 

I used to think it would be cool to have a paladin based on Immanuel Kant

But someone has beat me to it . . .

Monday, March 3, 2014

Victory in Tempat Larang

The altar of Nung Chiang, according to Afu, who saw it at the Observatory, was local to the unnamed village where the party had been resting for the past several weeks. The party returned to the village and sought out the shrine and the altar. Screened by the plants of the jungle, several members of the party had, during their weeks in the village, walked near it without seeing it. They sat on the ground, Afu began to pray. The smell of cooking rice filled the air, mixed with the smell of flowers. A man with golden eyes appeared, and they all understood that he was also a dragon. He asked him why they had come. Tetsukich and Beatriss explained. He told them he would give them the power to defeat General Goyat. They should return and confront him in the Courts of the Seasons, near the citadel where they had already met him. What does he want with Gwinch? Beatriss asked. Nung Chiang explained that Goyat wanted the blood of an outlander to awaken the sleeping army. "Good thing we didn’t bring him here."  "Yes."

The party made their plans to go back down into Tempat Larang. They couldn’t find the sinkhole that led to the lair of the snake people from which they’d emerged several weeks ago. They met some hunters in the jungle who sowed them some strong vines that grew from trees at the top of the cliff and dangled all the way down into the city. There was a problem. One of the hunters shook a vine. Giant wasps emerged from a hole in the cliff. Everyone ran into the jungle to take cover. Beatriss paid the hunters with a gem they’d taken from the black dragon and enlisted their help in killing the wasps. Everyone prepared an arrow, while one of the hunters went to shake the vines again. After several seconds, two wasps, each the size of a sheep apeeared at the top of the cliff—and were shot down with arrows. Then Beatriss decided she would climb down. Asking the rest of the party to cover her, she drew her sword of invisibility and started to climb down the vine. (No one asked her to explain.) She chose a section far from where she’d seen the wasps emerged and was cautious to shake the vine as little as possible until she reached the part of the cliff where she’d seen the wasps emerge—there she moved more quickly. She caught a glimpse of the wasps papery nest but saw nothing moving and didn’t linger to look more closely. It wasn’t until she reached the bottom, that she saw two more wasps crawl out. These crawled up the vines, then flew to the top to be shot by arrows.

As they moved through the city toward the citadel and the Court of Seasons, the party were distracted by another large, intact building, several stories tall and adorned with numerous turrets, balconies, and statuary.

Mỹ Sơn
Circling it, they found an archway where, under the vines, they hoped they might find a door. As they approached, the vines lashed out to attack them, entangling their limbs. They broke free or hacked free without losing anyone to the strangling vines, but decide to leave exploring that building for another day.

When the party reached the Citadel General Goyat emerged to meet them, twitching and smiling. He asked for Gwinch, and Beatriss answered, “We don’t have him.” Under their breath, she and Tetsukichi began reciting the incantations for summoning Nung Chaing. Even before they began, a thing white mist began to blow in from above the city.

Goyat’s smile turned into a sneer. “I have given you more than enough time. Useless! You will be destroyed.”

The wind grew stronger, blowing away the layer of ash that covered the ground and revealing the colored quadrants of the Seasons of the Courts. Beatriss and Tetsukichi did as Nung Chaing had instructed. Tetuskichi took his position in one court—choosing that of Winter while Beatriss chose the court of Spring. Their companions stayed close to them, but on the edge of the Courts of the Seasons.

Barongsai Peh CunThe mist thickened into a dome, and a golden dragon swooped in from the top just as the dome closed at its apex. Goyat, his face twisted into a terrible grimace called for the help of the powers of darkness. A bolt of black lightning sliced through the mist-dome and struck Goyat. He turned into a pile of cinders. The cinders throbbed and pulsated and then took on the shape of a giant man of black stone. The stone cracked, revealing the face of Goyat. Beatriss and Tetsukichi fainted and collapsed to the ground. The Dragon attacked the stone man.

The Dragon turned from gold to silvery white as it summoned javelins of ice from the mist and hurled them at the stone man. The stone man broke off chunks of buildings and hurled them at the dragon. The rest of the party struck at the stone man’s feet with their swords or chanted a prayer of support for the dragon. Next the dragon turned gold and descended, slapping the ground with its tail. A tentacle of stone sprang up and grasped the stone man as the dragon returned to the air, turning first red and then black. The stone man continued to swat the dragon and hurl stones. The dragon resumed its white color and hurled more ice javelins, destroying the stone man.

As the stone man crumbled, hundreds of soldiers began to rise from the dust. Although each soldier could be obliterated with a simple swing of a sword, they were utterly fearless, and attacked without ceaselessly, swarming out of every crack in the ground. The hardiest members of the party guarded the defenseless bodies of Tetsukichi and Beatriss. And the dragon cycled through its seasons: Silver to Gold to Red to Black. It settled on the ground in the midst of the melee, drawing the attacks of as many soldiers as possible.

The dust and ash spewing from the ground did not only take on the form of soldiers, but also began to spin itself into an immense black cloud. Suddenly the globe took on a solid form and then shattered, revealing an immense floating human head—that of Goyat. The head opened its mouth and spewed a torrent of bones at the dragon. The dragon responded by breathing fire, burning the flesh off the floating head.

The charred, floating skull swooped down on the dragon, snapping at its back as the dragon molted from gold to red and then black. Then, as the dragon turned back to silver, it lashed out with its claws, swatting the skull against the wall of the citadel. The dragon turned to gold and summoned another stone tentacle from the ground. The tentacle lashed the head as the dragon rested in its red and black states. By the time the skull had destroyed the tentacle it was battered and cracked. It swooped down on the dragon once more, but the dragon, now silvery white once more, lashed the skull solidly with its tail. The skull shattered. At once, the ash soldiers crumbled. The dragon flew into the dome of mist, which began to dissipate with the breeze. Beatriss and Tetsukichi rose as if from a long, refreshing sleep.Dukono ash cloud