“The Delving Band With No Name”, Session #5

by mshrm

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ:

  • Alric Redbeard, the barbarian with a heart of gold (PC)
  • Gabby, sailor-turned-pirate-turned-adventurer, whose love of gold outweighs her sense of self-preservation (PC)
  • Mississippi Jedadiah Walker, singer of songs and teller of tales (PC)
  • The Knight Of The Blood Oath, like a rock (PC)
  • “Dobby”, goblin henchman and keeper of the sables (NPC)

Missing, but mentioned:

  • Needles, rogue who doesn’t know the trouble he’s got in his pouch (PC)

Rumors Gathered:

None, since this was the second half of their third trip into the dungeon. No rumors, but plenty of good intel…

 

What Happened:

Picking up where we left off last time, the party had made it to the far side of the Great Bridge and through the door. Inside, they found a hallway, much larger and more impressive than the halls of the area they had left behind. The chasm shadowed the door, so the sunlight only went so far. From the darkness beyond their sight, they could hear the sound of many approaching feet, the cracking of whips, and angry bellowing in a disturbingly deep register.

“I’ve got an idea,” Needles said, then faded into the shadows, to be seen no more this session.

Quickly discussing their situation, the party decided they could better fortify themselves back on the side of the bridge where they had come from. “We’re running?” Gabby asked. When she got the nod, she tore off at a full sprint.

Before the others could really get their retreat in gear, the orcs’ first wave came in sight: half a dozen humanoid slaves in loincloths, chained to a battering ram with a crude “cow-catcher” on its front and running full-tilt with their heads down. With sinking hearts, the party saw the plan. The enemy hoped to knock them off the bridge to their doom as they fled.

Knowing that there was no way TKotBO could outrun the sprinting slaves, Alric grabbed him by the collar of his armor and took off dragging him. Being fleet of foot, Alric seemed to have the speed advantage, even with the extra weight.

Jed wasn’t as fast, but he was plenty quick. Dodging around the door, he avoided being caught by the ram. He jumped astride it as the slaves ran by and used his Rapier Wit to distract them all. Losing their teamwork, the group became tangled up and fell in a heap, Jed among them.

Meanwhile, the second wave came into view, observed only by TKotBO, being dragged backwards. First came an enraged, bellowing siege beast, a goblinoid creature even bigger than Alric, with bands of metal crudely welded around its entire body and huge metal hammers enclosing its fists. It was closely followed by two orcs with whips, snapping at its heels to encourage it. They, in turn, were followed by a gang of ragged, armed orcs.

Meanwhile, Gabby had continued her headlong flight, paying little attention to the sounds behind her. The one exception was when she heard the arrow coming towards her back, from the windows overlooking the bridge. She narrowly dodged the arrow (to a chorus of “She used to be an adventurer like us” jokes), making it to the cover of the bridge’s central structure. She would make it all the way back to the door that the party had originally come through, then stopped there, panting, before looking back.

In a moment of pure team spirit*, Alric spun in a tight circle, using his free hand to grab up Jed from where he was struggling free of the wreckage, and carried on running away, with the bard over his shoulder and TKotBO dragging behind, sparks flying. This prompted a cheer from the observers at the windows, twenty feet above. The equivalent of “Hey y’all, watch this!” in Goblinistani came from the right-hand windows… and a streak of light flew from the window towards Alric’s feet.

Thinking quickly, and with very few options remaining, Jed used his bard’s magic and spoke a Command to Alric: “Throw!”

Burdened as he was, and carrying his two comrades the way he had been, Alric, too, had few options. He chose to interpret the Command as requiring him to try for distance. He spun and flung TKotBO before him. The heavily armored warrior flew nearly five feet before plowing into the paving stones.

Then, the explosive fireball went off at Alric’s feet.

Both the bard and the barbarian were hurt. Jed went down, unconscious and on the verge of death, while Alric struggled on. TKotBO felt the heat of the blast, but with the extra distance from being thrown, his armor was sufficient to protect him.

While all of this was going on, the siege beast had trampled over the fallen slaves, crushing them beneath its metal-shod feet. The wreckage somewhat hampered the escorting orcs. After the fireball went off, the beast was able to close the distance. It hammered Alric into the ground, unconscious, to a round of cheers from the watchers above.

TKotBO made it to his feet during this time. Shouting at Gabby to save herself, he turned his shield towards the siege beast and stepped forward, prepared to hold the bridge.

This drew another round of cheers. As the two combatants closed the distance between them, the same voice from above jeered, “I’ll put ten copper on the knight!”

TKotBO shouted back “I’ll take some of that action!”

Then the melee was joined. The orcs stood back and cheered. Gabby took advantage of the distraction to return, going over the edge of the bridge and climbing along the side, where she eventually discovered a narrow ledge to run along. TKotBO and the siege beast — inevitably christened “Mongo” — went at it hammer and tongs, with neither able to land a telling blow. TKotBO was dripping with sweat, burning Fatigue at a breakneck pace, to keep up an impenetrable defense with his shield. He repeatedly landed shots on the beast’s head, trying to find the chinks in its armor.

As he did so, TKotBO kept side-stepping to the right, slowly rotating the fight around his opponent. Finally, he had the beast turned entirely around, facing back the way it had come from. Gabby took advantage of this to spring back over the edge of the bridge and try to sneak up behind it. Her rapier wasn’t able to penetrate the beast’s armored hide, but it was enough to distract the thing. TKotBO had been playing the long game, getting into position, and that was the opening he had been looking for. He had been holding one of the party’s new healing potions in his shield hand the entire time, just as a standard precaution. He threw the vial onto Alric, shattering it and dousing the barbarian with the potion. Enough entered his wounds to bring him back to consciousness, if only barely.

Now, the siege beast faced three opponents, using wolf pack tactics. TKotBO shouted to Alric to hang back, then joined Gabby in harassing the beast. Amazed at the spectacle before them, the orcs began to cheer on both sides. Alric grabbed another healing potion from Jed’s bandoleer, bringing him back to fighting shape. Ignoring TKotBO’s warnings, the barbarian entered the fray, joining the line alongside the holy warrior.

The big man’s great axe made all the difference. With several mighty strokes, and another head shot from TKotBO’s morning star, the siege beast fell. It was unconscious, barely. TKotBO was ready to drop from fatigue, while Alric was still badly wounded. They quickly slipped Jed a healing potion, which brought him back to the land of the living, then turned towards the rest of the orcs.

Luckily, the enemy was impressed by their performance. The owner of the voice, Gort the goblin mage, and his partner, Grogmar the orc ranger, came down to meet the party and parlay. Jed was shaky, but on his feet, so he took over the diplomatic negotiations. TKotBO staggered about, administered first aid, while Gort and Jed talked. As it turned out, Gort’s mocking wager had earned him some winnings, so he was kindly disposed towards TKotBO and the others, while the orcs respected the show of strength. Sips from flasks were shared. TKotBO did some first aid on Mongo, then gave him one of the party’s lesser healing potions. Gestures of goodwill were made on all sides. Alric found that he shared a certain rough kinship with these people. Finally, the orcs invited the party upstairs for drinks.

They were taken back to the door on the far side of the bridge, then perhaps another eighty or hundred feet down the hall. In consideration to the humans, the orcs lit torches. While the hall continued on, there was a broad stairway off to the right, which they took. At the top of the stairs, they found a curtain of moldering tapestries and lengths of chain, hung to foil sneak attack, which the orcs parted for them. Beyond the curtain, they found a landing where the stair turned before continuing up. Several dire wolves were here, along with bedrolls and such, indicating a standing watch.

At the top of the second flight of stairs, they came out into a crossroads of wide halls. In the middle of the juncture sat a statue of a subjugated goblin in rags and chains, sitting on a pedestal. As the crowd approached, the statue moved, seeming to tilt its head to listen to the hubbub. The party remarked upon this, but their hosts waved off their questions: “Oh, don’t worry, it does that.”

Jed approached the statue to investigate closer, with the orcs and Gort following along. He tried speaking several words to the statue, to no avail, until he finally hit upon the Dwarven word “treasure”. The statue straightened up and pointed towards the right, where the orcs obligingly held up torches to display a set of double doors, further down the hall. “We never have gotten those open,” Gort commented. TKotBO went to check out the door more closely, while Jed tried a few more words on the statue. At the word “armory”, the statue pointed to the left.

Satisfied, Jed went to join TKotBO. The two noticed a brass plate over the doors. They wiped off the soot and mold of years, revealing the word “storeroom” in dwarvish runes.  “So are we drinking or what?” Gort asked.

“Drinking,” the party answered. Gort and the orcs led the party to the left, in the direction of the “armory” indication, and brought them through another set of double doors into a large room. The room had clearly been a fine place in its day, with extensive carvings and goblin gargoyles holding up the corners of a vaulted ceiling. It had windows looking out on the Great Bridge, and signs that this was the orcs’ common room. A place of honor was given over to an elaborately painted barrel of dwarven beer. Drinks were drawn for all. Jed wisely let Gort take the first toast before joining in on the revelry. TKotBO was just happy for a place to sit down and rest.

As the carousing went on, the party offered to act as go-betweens with Tembladera’s merchants on behalf of the orcs, hoping to set up profitable trade. Gort seemed somewhat interested in the idea. When asked what sort of goods they would be interested in purchasing, they were told “Strong drink!”

When asked about the dead slaves, Gort was dismissive. “If we need more, we’ll go across the bridge and take some more,” he said. As far as Dorgob, the dead orc knight, the goblinoids’ position seemed to be that since the party killed him in a fair fight, that he had agreed to, his stuff was their loot. Nobody made much mention of their treachery during that duel.

For his part, Mongo didn’t seem to have any hard feelings about being beat down. He had been given healing, which was somewhat more than he was accustomed to, and then Alric poured drinks into his mouth. For a siege beast, that’s a good day.

TKotBO mentioned their quest for orichalcum, which prompted Gort to call for one of the orcs’ treasures. It was a globe of orichalcum, outlined in curved bars with thin wire in between. The party was properly impressed. Jed made an offer to trade many “goblin cigarettes” for the thing, which drew a laugh from Gort. “We can’t sell it, that don’t mean we don’t know it’s expensive.”

Eventually, Gort offered to show the party what the orcs “farmed”. He led the party, and the horde of orcs, down the hall to a large room. On the right, there was a profusion of hanging chains, pulleys, and cranes, with an elderly goblin moving among them with an oil can doing maintenance. On the left, they saw Mongo’s nesting place. In the center, the floor fell away into a dark well, perhaps thirty feet across.

Everyone looked over the edge into the impenetrable darkness. TKotBO could sense that the pit was just chock-full of supernatural beings, including demons.

Gort called for a lit torch, which was passed up quickly. He tossed it over the edge. As everyone watched, the torch tumbled for around a hundred feet, then was suddenly snuffed out. The way the torch went out was strange; it didn’t seem to go out like you would expect if it had, for example, fell into water, but the distance was too great to be sure.

“May I?” Jed asked, making as if to drop a second torch.

“Go ahead,” Gort said. “We do it all the time.”  As Jed leaned over, he added, “It makes them mad.”

The bard used his magic to enhance his vision, and threw the torch over. This time, he could see something like hands of darkness reaching out to take the torch. Comparing notes with TKotBO, they combined their knowledge of demonology and thaumatology, concluding that they were seeing the work of Demons From Beyond The Stars.**

Gort and Nort, the elderly goblin, explained further. The orc band’s main occupation was “farming” this pit. They had found it, full of darkness and demons. (“But they’re thicker towards the bottom,” one of the goblins confided.) The demons had apparently occupied the pit since the days of the fall of the dwarves, since the pit was still full of ancient dwarven treasures. They would tie ropes around searchers, then lower them into the pit to grab what they could, before the demons gathered to tear them apart: high risk, high reward.

The party met one goblin slave who had made the trip.  “Three times,” he proudly announced. He described the general outline. The pit descended for some distance before opening into a wider shaft. That shaft was surrounded by balconies and ancient dwarven apartments.

TKotBO announced that his destiny would be to go down in that hole, but not today. It would have to wait for proper preparations. Strategy. Gear. Planning, and contingency planning.

“There’s treasure down there?” Gabby asked. This was confirmed.  “Give me a rope,” she said. The orcs cheered.

A crane was brought up to anchor Gabby while TKotBO and Jed tried to talk her out of going in. Alric’s response was more direct: he took his ax to the crane, citing its untrustworthy technological nature. As everybody passed around a “is the barbarian drunk?” look, Gort had Mongo and Alric led away for more drinks, while Nort had a replacement crane brought up.

Gabby could not be talked out of making the descent. Taking one of the party’s enchanted torches, she waved off her comrades and rappelled into the pit. When she hit the section where the wall fell away, she free-climbed across the blocks to get a better look at the situation before jumping in. This turned out to be wise, as she found three zombies standing over a corpse on the nearby balcony. There was no rail along the edge, but she could see the holes where they had likely been anchored. It seems that the wooden railing and stairs had rotted, or been torn, away.

Scrambling back, she reported what she had seen. TKotBO still protested against any further descents until they had improved their situation. Of course, Alric and Jed declared that they had to make the trip, too. TKotBO was talked into supporting Alric’s rope, so the barbarian wouldn’t have to depend on evil technology. The three descended.

Gabby repeated her free-climbing escapade, but Alric and Jed couldn’t match her performance. They swung around to get a grip on the edge of the balcony, while Gabby flanked the zombies, dropping in behind them. The party members tossed one of their enchanted torches on the corpse to better light the scene for the fight with the zombies.

To their surprise, the corpse rustled when hit. Then, three creatures shot from the corpse towards the delvers’ faces. Leaping leeches!

Gabby side-stepped hers, which splatted against the wall and was rapidly stepped on. Jed was barely on the edge when he saw the leech flying towards his face, so he simply stepped back one step and let the rope take his weight. The leech sailed out into the darkness to fall to the bottom of the shaft.

Alric’s leech, on the other hand, hit him squarely between the eyes. It rared back and tried to drive its fangs into his skin… and failed. Northern barbarian hide is some pretty tough stuff. Seeing that it was harmless, Alric ignored it for the rest of the fight.

…which was really short. Gabby put her rapiers through one zombie’s head multiple times. The other two were tricked and/or shoved over the edge, following the leech. The three happily looted the corpse, finding some unexceptional armor and one quite exceptional gold ring***, set with a piece of polished amber. They tugged on their ropes and returned topside.

The orcs cheered to see that all three had lived. Gort happily slapped them on their backs and said, “Next time, we’ll talk about payment for a dive.”  Apparently, first trip’s free.

The party parted ways with the orcs on good terms, trading final toasts and promising to return with trade goods. They quickly returned to the familiar areas of the dungeon. This time, rather than trying to climb around the pit trap that claimed Rho’s life, they sent Gabby on ahead to fetch the broken door from the ogre’s room, and used it to bridge the gap. No further injuries occurred.

Hustling back to the stone face where the party met Jim Kadabra, they paused for a moment so Jed could take a closer look. He discovered a live-capture mouse trap behind it, containing a piece of cheese. He tried to steal the cheese, but managed to get his hand caught. Alric had to tear the trap apart to free him.

The party returned to Dobby and the mounts, then made their way back to town without further incident. Each received nearly $1500 as a share, easily enough to pay their bar tabs for the coming week.

* … which did, indeed, earn him the Cool Point for this session…

** And, oh my YES did that get a wide-eyed stare of disbelief. 🙂

*** First gold!

 

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