Saturday, February 28, 2015

Lareth's treasure

The day after the attack on Matopher's farm, a few of the younger sons-- Vlad, Dumetru, and Mihir went into Gold Hill to report their success and sell some cider.  Vlad convinced Dumetru to trade his silver dagger ("you don't really need it anymore") in exchange for a battle axe and the materials Vlad needed so he could repair and retrofit Lareth's plate mail armor for his own use.

A couple days later, Sir Miles, Chrono, Circe, and McDowell went out to the Matopher farm, interested in hearing more of the story and seeing where the battle had occurred.  Sir Miles, because of his oath to protect the White Queen was especially interested in hearing about what her part in it might have been.  While most of the family, including Matopher himself were satisfied that the old man's secret life work was complete, and that the evil replica of the ancient Queen had been destroyed.  Mihir believed otherwise.

But that was a question for another day.  There was a more immediate problem.  In his room at the inn, Lareth had left a shadow behind.

Vlad, Dumetru, and Mihir agreed to accompany the others back to Gold Hill to investigate.  Brau explained that during his stay at the inn, Lareth had politely requested that no one else enter his room.  When he stopped returning to the inn, she had barred the door, but now that he was dead and his true nature revealed, she wished to remove any trace of him.  But his room lay in permanent shadow.  Brau, standing in the doorway with a candle, showed the party how the candle's light did not extend more than a few feet into the room-- the rest lay in complete darkness.  She tossed the candle into the shadow and its light disappeared, even before they heard it hit the floor.

What's more, she had discovered another place of shadow.  There was an underground stream at the back of the inn, separating that part of the old mines that had been made habitable from whatever lay beyond.  There was a path along this stream that led to a half-forgotten storage area.  A second shadow blocked this path.

The party decided it was be less disruptive to deal with this shadow first.  McDowell prepared his rope and grappling hook and tossed the hook into the shadow, hoping to catch onto anything inside.  Something caught the rope and started pulling McDowell toward.

Without letting go of the rope, McDowell quickly backed away, letting out enough slack to avoid getting pulled into the shadow.  Sir Henry's sword began to get hot.  When drawn, it glowed with a hot white light.  As McDowell was backed into corner, Sir Henry leapt forward, slashing at the center of the shadow.  His blade struck something solid and then broke through it-- bone fragments and a gleaming white human skull exploded around the room accompanied by  the sound of clanging metal hitting the stone floor.  The shadow remained, though it no longer moved.

Vlad stepped into the shadow, and began tossing out the debris he found on the floor inside the shadow: lots more bones, a shield, fragments of armor.  And then something that seemed to be the source of the shadow-- a curved sword.  Though they couldn't seem it, it felt rusty and not especially sharp.  Vlad wrapped the sword in a sack and the shadow disappeared.

Encouraged by their success with the first shadow, the party went to Lareth's room to deal with the second.  Circe fired a magic missile into the core of the shadow, and then Sir Henry and Chronos charged in with their weapons.  They destroyed a second skeleton.  It too carried a rusty sword, but this was not the source of the shadow.  There was instead, a box.  Through trial and error, they discover that there was something in the mosaic lid of the box that was the source of the shadow.  They covered the lid so that McDowell could pick the lock on the box.  Inside the party found more treasure than they had ever owned, touched, or seen.  Silver serving pieces and goblets, an alabaster box, and a gold chain with fire opals.  After sharing out this treasure, they went to see what the other shadow might have been guarding.

Returning to the stream at the back of the inn, they followed the once-blocked path upstream to where it ended at a ford.  Crossing the stream, they found a rough natural cavern filled with junk.  A dim red light shone from a large hole on the opposite side of the room.  Vlad stepped closer to investigate.  The rest of the party saw the red light get brighter and then both Vlad and the light disappeared into darkness.  Moments later, two giant insects-- three-foot long beetles with glowing red heads, charged into the room, attacking them with their mandibles.  The darkness dissipated and the party could see Vlad, nearly overwhelmed by two more beetles and with his darkness sword returned to its sack. 

The beetles were fierce and fearless, but the party killed them all without suffering any serious wounds.  They climbed into the beetles lair, a noisome place.  Finding no way to continue their expedition, they searched the lair thoroughly.  Mixed in with pile of bones, Circe came upon a finely-wrought dagger of ancient design.  Although happy about the find, the party was nonetheless puzzled-- What was Lareth guarding with the second shadow-skeleton?  Could he even have known the dagger was there? 

After reporting to Brau on their success, the party enjoyed a delicious meal on the house.  Amid joking and boasting, they agreed that their treasures were worth more than anything in Gold Hill.  To learn their true value or anything else about them, they would need to seek out a larger settlement.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Silver Dagger Cider

When Wolfgang left Gold Hill, Lareth led the settlers in celebrating his departure.  A man who was friends with bears and wolves could not be a friend to his fellow man. The Constabulary added their cheers, fueled by a keg of ale paid for by the Head Constable himself.  Not everyone celebrated, but no one raised his voice to defend Wolfgang's reputation now that he was gone.

Lareth requested assistance from the Head Constable in seeking the tomb of the White Queen . . . and recovering her treasure on behalf of the Constabulary.  Of course the request was granted.  A sergeant and six deputies set out with Lareth for the peaks to the north.  None of them returned to Gold Hill.  A couple weeks later deputies from a local patrol returned with a terrible story-- as dusk fell they had been set upon by undead monsters, commanded by a man in black plate mail whose voice sounded like handsome Lareth's.  The attacking fiends were pale like corpses, but with burning eyes, and with twisted features that resembled those of their lost comrades.

Matopher, who owned the apple orchard up the road from Gold Hill trading post had long been known for the quality of his cider and for his many eccentricities.  He was often drunk, he had lots of children and grand children, he welcomed strangers onto his land and made them family, and he insisted that every grown person on his homestead carry and know how to use a weapon made of silver.

So, when Lareth and the wights attacked, Matopher and his family were ready.  It was late in the night, when those on watch heard sounds of attackers approaching.  Mihir, the pious brother, chanted a blessing of protection and raised his glowing holy symbol.  By its soft golden light, he and the watchers saw half a dozen figures charging up the road, a large man in black plate mail whispering curses from the rear.  Torches were lit, the women gather the children, and the men went to their battle stations.  The sentries drew their daggers to meet the undead fiends, but they were overcome by Lareth's spells.  Frozen in place, they were overrun by four wights.  Three of them did resemble deputies from Gold Hill, but the fourth, wearing long robes and draped with jewelry was identified as the White Queen.

Matopher's grandson Vlad, unlike most of his  brothers and cousins, did not carry a silver dagger, but a crossbow loaded with silver arrows.  His aim was steady and as Lareth surveyed the destruction he had wrought, Vlad shot and killed one of the wights.

As the Matopher clan roused from slumber, they organized themselves into a counter-sortie, led by brave Dumtiru.  They focused their on the White Queen.  She was a fearsome opponent.  Her touch was deadly and more of the sons and daughters of Matopher lay at her feet before she herself was destroyed.

Vlad, joined by two of his cousins who also carried crossbows, killed the other lesser wights.  Lareth saw that his fortunes had changed and threw down his shield to flee.  He used his magic to dissuade those who pursued him, but he could not deflect the arrow that hit him in the back of the leg.  He stumbled and, before he could rise again, was hit by two more arrows.

The Matopher clan blessed the bodies of their fallen brothers and sisters and watched over them through the night.  At dawn, the nine cold bodies were buried in a quiet corner of the Silver Dagger farm.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Wolfgang, Thimbur, and the Reflecting Pools

While glad to understand the source of the strange noise under the Moathouse and thus to remove this excuse from posting a standing garrison, Burne's ultimate interest was, again, the magic pools.  The stomachs of Mapper and Roquelle were suffering the effects of raw potato consumption, but Thimbur, another long-term resident of the Inn was willing to take the job.  Wolfgang and Gerrilynn agreed that, this time, they would work harder to remember the magic pools.  Once again, Burne was represented by his apprentice Panyus.  And Chickie and Riff rounded out the party.

This time, the group avoided the gnomes. (And perhaps vice-versa-- the moathouse cellars were empty.)

Thimbur had visited the moathouse on his own and consulting his maps, he helped Wolfgang and Gerrilynn find the secret staircase that led to the caverns far beneath.  Wolfgang relocated the pool room and showed Panyus how by filling it with water, one with the proper background could read the words reflected therein and learn new spells.

Panyus showed his gratitude by testing one of the spells on Wolfgang, and confirmed that the young druid would willingly hand over his ashwood staff as a token of friendship.  Panyus returned the staff, and asked Wolfgang where they would find other pools.

Wolfgang answered that he didn't know of any, and that they hadn't delved any deeper.  Panyus was satisfied with this and ready to return to the surface. but Thimbur had a suggestion.  Just because Wolfgang hadn't found other pools didn't mean they wouldn't.  After slight hesitation, Panyus agreed and the group moved deeper into the caverns.

After some time they came to a strange cavern which seemed to have the site of a cave-in.  Most of the room was filled with fine red earth and huge chunks of sandstone.  The only obvious exits were three holes in the ceiling, reachable by a rope.

But as they were discussing their next moves, Thimbur began climbing up the pile of silt, soon sinking up to his hips.  Gerrilynn called out for him to stop.

"Stop what?" he asked, before disappearing completely.  Gerilynn and Wolfgang sprang to his rescue, trying to dig through the piles of dirt, and reaching into it trying to grab him.   There was no one sign of him.

But then Thimbur stepped simply stepped back out on the other side of the room.  "What are you saying?  I'm fine."

Clearly there was magic at work.  Thimbur took the torch and walked into the dirt pile and back-- the flame was completely unaffected.  Thimbur indeed claimed that there was no dirt pile at all, that they were all in a large circular cavern, and that he had found some tracks in the "hidden" part of the room.  Panyus also seemed to see through what he declared an "illusion" and suggested that it was some kind of test of one's mental prowess. 

Then Riff walked after him, oblivious to not only the pile of dirt, but to the on-going debate about it.

While Wolfgang and Gerilynn struggled to climb over boulders, Thimbur found a secret passage in the hidden part of the cave.  Wolfgang and Grilynn allowed themselves to be tied to the end of a rope and, after taking a deep breath were pulled into the "dirt" and through it into the passage that Thimbur had discovered.

The caverns beyond were much narrower, labyrinthine, and wet, seemingly still in the process of being carved by the constant slow trickle of water.  Following the flow of water, the party reached another regularly constructed chamber with a pool at its center.  Once again there was writing on the upper walls of the chamber, and as this pool was well-supplied with water, this writing was reflected at their feet.  But it was unreadable.  The letters were not deeply carved and the water wasn't still.

Wolfgang had recovered a glowing lens in one of his earlier adventures.  He placed it in on a platform in the center of the pool.  It's light reflected off the ceiling and made the writing in the pool readable.  Panyus was thoroughly pleased.  After conferring with Gerrilynn, he confessed the charm that he'd cast on Wolfgang and dispelled its effects.

The party set up watch so that Panyus could copy one of the spells from the pool into his spell book.  Thmbur, exploring the immediate area, heard voices and rushed back to warn the others.  Panyus used the magic of the pool to make Thimbur invisible.  Thimbur remained in the pool room while the others found places to hide in a narrow side passage.

Moments later a group of six large, shaggy, and fanged creatures entered the room, bearing heavy swords and spiked clubs.  One of them noticed that the pool was empty and pointed it out to the others with much enthusiasm.  They clapped their hands, licked their lips and salivated and then began peering down the side passages, shouting for silence.  When a moment of silence was achieved, Thimbur tossed a stone down one of the side passages that led away from where his friends were hiding.  The monsters eagerly charged down it. 

Thimbur followed.  He trailed the monsters through the cave to their lair, a narrow noisome cavern strewn with charred bones.  The monsters were searching their home with a mixture of rage and excitement, until they came above the half-eaten body of an earlier body.

Thimbur went back to tell the others.  They agreed they would ambush the monsters in their lair.

By the time they returned, the monsters had a fire going and were busy eating.  Thimbur, still invisible, circled around it, finding the one he'd identified as the leader.  He rushed forward  with his sword drawn and, tripped over a rock to land in the middle of the cooking fire.  The monsters jumped to their feet only to be assaulted with arrows and stones from Thimbur's friends.  Thimbur himself rolled on the floor to extinguish the flames.  As two of the monsters grabbed for him, they were transfixed by Gerrilynn's magic.

The remaining monsters rushed at the group in the hallway and Panyus unleashed his most powerful magic, suddenly growing two double his size and sprouting foot-long horns from his face.  The effect was instant, temporary, and probably an illusion, but the monsters turned and fled.

The party pursued all the way to a large cavern.  There the monsters turned and attacked, but were destroyed by arrows and magic.

There was a large pool at the far end of the cavern.  It did not seem to be a "magic" pool, but a natural body of water, large enough that they couldn't see the other side of it.  As Wolfgang approached to investigate, a seemingly insignificant puddle expanded to engulf him.  He was trapped inside a membrane of living water.  Panyus pointed his wand and blasted the strange being with magical energy.  It sizzled and evaporated.

Thimbur cautiously approached the larger pool.  He could see the pool reached to end of the cavern and beyond.  That is, it flowed into a deep underwater cavern that extended beyond where they could see.  The water was clear and there was a rope bolted to the bottom, perhaps a guideline for a swimmer to reach what lay beyond.  Deciding that there was something wrong with something so easy, the party explored other ways of exiting the room.  Gerilynn discovered a crawl hole, about three feet off the ground and less than two feet in diameter.  By use of Wolfgang's glowing lens they saw the tunnel went on for twenty feet before curving out of sight.  Thimbur, Wolfgang, and Panyus agreed that they would see where it led.

Thimbur led the way, holding his dagger in his teeth, Wolfgang followed with the glowing lens, and Panyus came behind with his wand.  This prevented them from raising the question of when they should turn around until it was too late.  The passage was twisty and rough, and seemed to narrow further.  But the further they went, the more they hated the idea of retracing their steps going backwards-- it was far too narrow to turn around.

When they did finally reach the end, they found another pool.  This one, unlike the previous two, was not on the floor but on the top of a platform.  Thimbur climbed up to take a quick look from the narrow lip of the pool.  The ceiling was reflected on the water.  But not the writing.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Wolfgang and the Noise under the Moathouse

Burne's apprentice Panyus and a few of Burne's guards ("The Badgers") escorted Wolfgang and his pets, Mapper, Roquelle, Gerrilynn and their retainers Chickie and Riff out to the Moathouse.  Burne's Badgers had made some improvements.  The moat had been dredged and its banks shored up, providing a fast-flowing stream that seemed inhospitable to frogs.  And they'd contructed a sturdy bridge to cross it into the Moathouse's courtyard.

But they refused to stand guard overnight.  Although they'd fixed up the upper level, they continued to hear strange noises coming from below: clanking and banging, and strange voices, sometimes whispering and other times shrieking and shouting.  The first order of business, before finding the magic pool would be deal with whatever was making these mysterious sounds.

Burne's Badgers unlocked the trapdoor they'd constructed to close off the dungeon.  They put down a ladder the adventurers could climb down into the darkness.  Wolfgang left Bruno and Wolfie to guard their retreat.   

Mapper, relying on maps he'd drawn on previous visits to the moat house, led the others through a number of empty chambers, asking Wolfgang and Gerilynn where they'd found the passage to the magic pool.  But before they had gone far in their exploration, the group heard the banging they'd been warned of.  They traced its source easily enough, a large room without a door, but obscured by a heavy curtain.  The party soot outside and listened.  There was a steady pounding sound, then an angry cry, and then silence.  The party waited, and heard whispering arguing in a language they didn't understand.

And then a small man with a long gray beard stepped out.  He wore a red cap and a leather apron stained with soot.  "Ah!  Visitors, what a happy surprise, welcome!  We were just about to prepare our supper, will you join us?"

The party accepted the offer, and were put to work peeling carrots and potatoes.  Two more gnomes, nearly identical to the first except for the colors of their caps (blue and green) joined in the preparations.  They sang in exaggeratedly loud voices, but not loud enough to cover the noise of large heavy objects being moved around in the room behind the curtain.  Roquelle asked about the noise. "Can we go back there?"

Red answered, "Noise?  What noise?  Oh, that noise.  One of my brothers has a very bad cold.    Listen to that cough-- sounds like a worn-out gearbox.  Very contagious, too I'm afraid, maybe I should have warned you before I invited you to supper . . ."

Gerrilynn answered that in fact that they had eaten recently and had come down for another reason.  "We're looking for a magic pool.  Or any pool."

The gnomes knew nothing about water, or magic, and to prove the point, showed the party where they kept their water barrels.  "Would have been near impossible to get it here without the Fallinator."


"Blue!  They don't know who that is!  There's our mule, see, Fallin, the mule, the Fallinator we call him to encourage him on account of h's not any stronger than a normal mule and actually weaker.  Look here, I always say potatoes are best raw so I've prepared you a nice package here.  Don't let us keep you."

The party remained curious about exactly what was behind the curtain, but declined to impose any further on the gnomes.  And Panyus was satisfied that at least they had a general explanation as to the source of the noise.  The party climbed up the ladder to return to Hommlet and report  this small success.  Burne was mildly grateful for the news, but nowhere near satisfied.