“The Delving Band With No Name”, Session #7

by mshrm

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ:

  • Alric Redbeard, a towering storm of mail, beard, and flashing axe (PC)
  • Gabby the Cabin Girl, swashbuckler, recovered and ready to grab life by the throat and shake it until it coughs up its wallet (PC)
  • Mississippi Jedadiah Walker, fully multiclassed into Wizard and sporting the colors of a new gang (PC)
  • Needles, thief-swashbuckler who knows how to treat a prisoner (PC)
  • The Knight Of The Blood Oath, one who believes the best offense is an awesome defense… and he might be on to something (PC)
  • “Dobby”, Alric’s devoted goblin henchman and leader of the second crew (NPC)
  • Höss, brute and enthusiastic hireling (NPC)
  • Dean and Roman, young shieldbearers and soon-to-be squires (NPC)

Rumors Gathered:

  • (TkotBO) The dwarves were working on something called “The Unstoppable Armor” when their empire fell. Only one suit of Unstoppable Armor was ever built, but it can resize to fit any wearer.
  • (Jed) An ancient dragon has slept under the mountains since before the dwarves themselves came. A serpent mound covers its resting place atop an unbelievable pile of treasure.
  • (Needles) Timlas Proudfoot says he once fell into some ruins, spent the night drinking with monsters in a hidden tavern, then woke up outside the North Gate the next morning, unharmed. Aside from the hangover, of course. Timlas also claims he won his safe passage playing pai sho with a floating eyeball. You’ve got to remember, he admits he was drunk to begin with.
  • (Gabby) Wizards are drawn to Tembladera. They’re involved in some kind of strange competition with each other. Some of the nobility around Tembladera are secretly wizards involved in the deepest levels of the competition.
  • (Alric) Strang keeps a stable of prize-winning slorn. His stablekeeper is always interested in slorn eggs.

 

What Happened:

Even back in bard school, Jed had always been more interested in the mystical side of the job. In the magic-rich society of Tembladera, his full magical talent has blossomed. Between trips into the dungeon, he had sought out training in the wizardly arts, and this week, he graduated to full membership in the Order of the Sun. As a fully-fledged wizard, he was invited to the weekly wizardly get-together for tea and conversation. While there, he saw Strang, in the distance, from behind. He also learned of the competition among the arcane in Tembladera, which has drawn wizards from around the world. They’re all seeking the three so-called Wondrous Projects, artifacts of craft and enchantment which were the focus of the dwarven empire’s efforts in the days shortly before its fall. Details of these artifacts are not readily available, but there’s lots of speculation. Apparently, if any one wizard were to get ‘hold of all three Projects, that wizard would be able to learn the secrets of the universe, return to the Old World and take over Spain, achieve his heart’s desire, win friends and influence people… They’re your basic, all-around MacGuffins.

The next day, the party heard back from Strang about the orichalcum globe they had recovered from the orcs. Strang’s manservant, Mamu, delivered a sealed message, a small box tied with twine, and a crate. The message indicated that the globe was, indeed, one of the relics that Strang has been collecting. It spoke of a song, growing as more pieces are gathered, indicating that more pieces would be found in the ruins, in the chambers of the the beings that the party calls flame lords. He explained that the small box contained the price of safe passage, while the larger would serve as payment and reward for the globe.

When opened, the crate turned out to contain an oversized great axe of fine quality, carved with dwarven runes declaring it to be named “Cleaver”. Jed immediately saw to the heart of Cleaver’s enchantment, declaring that it would strike more powerful blows against foes of the goblinoid races. A grin split Alric’s beard, as he picked up the new axe and took a few experimental swings. Seeing the barbarian’s glee, the rest of the party considered it fair payment and then some for the otherwise-useless globe.

This led to a discussion of their plans for the next trip into the ruins. Gabby suggested a return to the pit of darkness for another “fishing” expedition, but that idea was voted down as too dangerous, for now. It was put aside until they’re better equipped.

TKotBO felt honor-bound to pursue the aims of Strang. Having developed something of a working relationship with the nobleman, he felt the first stirrings of what could develop into a liege/vassal arrangement. Thus, his honor demanded that he further Strang’s work. He argued for investigating the fiery men that Gabby and Needles had seen. Jed agreed, adding that they had clues indicating Jim Kadabra was being held by the flame lords. In the end, the rest of the party agreed to this mission.

During the debate, Höss showed up, asking if the party planned another trip into the ruins. Being pleased with his performance on the previous trip, the party agreed to hire him for their next. The fact that he sends much of his income back home to his family came up in conversation.

On the way out of town, the party ran into Dean and Roman, the young shieldbearers, and re-hired them, as well. In all the excitement of getting going and moving against a strong enemy, the party neglected some of their usual preparations. They didn’t stop off at the church to receive new blessings, and so some of the party did without. (The lucky few still had their blessings from the previous trip.) It wasn’t until they were at the dungeon that they realized the Continual Light enchantments on their torches had worn out.

Still, the party was in good spirits as they made their way out of town, along the trail, past the statues of the one-eyed giant and the three monkeys, through the ford at the river near the ruined watchtower, and up the steep mountain trail towards the stone table. It was there that Needles spotted an over-eager sniper, attempting to conceal himself behind the table. When he raised the alarm, a gang of around a dozen bandits sprang their ambush prematurely. Even so, the party was surrounded.

During the first few seconds of the combat, the party didn’t even know who was attacking. Even so, they reacted with quick and decisive action. Gabby and TKotBO turned to deal with the bandits coming up from behind, throwing one to his doom on the rocks below, then ganging up to cut the other down. Jed threw a Concussion spells, one of his favorites, which opened a gap in the enemy lines to the front. Alric and Needles advanced forward, taking advantage of that gap. Alric set to chopping down the main body of goblins, so identified by the axe’s extra damage kicking in. Needles moved past that group to engage the left flank, taking an arrow wound to the leg from the snipers in the process. This wasn’t enough to slow him down, so he continued on and got into a short, brutal sword fight, throwing one off the cliff and gutting the other.

In the time it took the snipers to fire once and re-load, every bandit within twenty feet of a PC was messily dead, so they decided to head for the horizon. Seeing the poorness of the bandits’ equipment, the party declined to pursue. They efficiently stripped the bandits of all useful equipment, upgrading a grateful Höss’ armor in the process. Dean and Roman would have scored some armor, too, but they already had better equipment… which speaks to the poverty of the bandits. The party paused for a few minutes to patch up and rest, then continued on to their usual “parking spot” near the dungeon entrance with no further excitement.

At this point, now wary over the threat of bandits and other danger above-ground, the party re-considered their usual policy of posting Dobby, alone, as camp guard. Instead, they left the mounts and all the hirelings, with only the main PCs making the trip into the dungeon.

This time, they were feeling pretty confident. They went in loud, with Gabby in front “beating pots and pans” followed by a rattling Knight of the Blood Oath, at a jog. Even so, nothing took any interest. The entrance area appeared to be deserted. Putting together a more conventional marching order — and discovering that they had to actually light their torches — they moved through familiar territory: down the long hall to the second stone head. Along the way, Needles noticed and pointed out a lurking reek, which Jed disposed of with one of his new yellow-robe spells.

Here, the party paused, with Jed observing that he had never actually seen the other side of the stone head, only heard about it from the others. Needles and TKotBO described the troll room in disparaging terms, dismissing any ideas of being interested in returning. Jed pointed out the two unexplored exits on the map.

It was pointedly observed that whenever the party finally gets themselves organized and on a mission, that’s when people start thinking of all the side quests and unopened doors. 😉

In unanimous agreement, the party forged ahead. They made their way through the rough terrain of the old goblin ambush point, then stopped off at the little shop of Zing the Unworthy. Back in town, the party had picked up a broad, sturdy plank. Jed negotiated with Zing to store this plank, when the party isn’t using it to bridge the infamous pit trap up the hall, offering $25 a week. Zing nearly hurt himself agreeing to the deal. Promising that they would be back later to drop it off, they left and put the plank to its intended use, further up the hall.

At the intersection on the far side of the pit, a disagreement came up. With a small hall to the right, and a larger hall to the left, they weren’t sure which direction to turn. They unfolded the map and set to studying it, while disagreeing over it loudly, while holding torches high for light. Even so, no wandering monster appeared. (Even so, players have started noticing when I’m rolling the dice “aimlessly”. They realized their peril and got it straightened out quick.) They took the left turn, coming up to the door into the room full of statues.

As team negotiator, Jed took the lead, carrying the small tied box. He carried it through the breach in the wall, into the warm natural caverns of the flame lords.

As before, two of the fiery humanoids were here, playing at some obscure game while guarding the two exits. They didn’t seem to speak any natural language, so Jed started off with gestures. As Strang had predicted, the contents of the box were accepted to buy the party safe passage (with some caveats, which came up later). One of the flame lords burnt the cord and opened the box, taking the amulet it found inside.

The flame lords led the party to the right, into a room where another half-dozen of the fiery men were standing around. On the far side of the natural chamber, they could see a hole leading downwards. Their hosts didn’t object when the party moved towards it, so they climbed down the hole to see what they would find.

The already-high temperature rose as they went, so Jed cast Resist Fire on everyone. They made their way through a twisty cave, eventually dropping a rope down a twenty-five foot sheer rock face to make their way to a wide ledge. The ledge overlooked a huge cavern, probably a hundred feet deep and over forty feet across, lit from below with a reddish light. Towards the bottom of the chamber, a hole in the wall was spouting molten lava, which collected in a pool at the bottom of the cave.

This huge space was occupied by at least a couple dozen of the flame lords, as well as flying birds made of fire. The flame lords would climb up the walls to perches around the cave, where they would high-dive into the lava.* Some of the flame lords were swimming around in the pool. There were two other objects to be seen, floating in the lava: an open ring, about eighteen inches across, and something shaped like an elephant’s tusk, about five feet long. Both were made of metal that looked like bronze, but they weren’t melting. Likely, they were the pieces of orichalcum that Strang was expecting.

The party stood in indecision for a moment, tossing around different ideas. Finally, Jed sent the rest of the party, less Alric, back to the top of the twisty cave, where the air was only hot, rather than deadly, so he could stop maintaining their Resist Fire spells. (Alric was rugged enough to do without, at least for a little while.) He then attempted to cast Apportation to lift the metal objects from the lava at a distance. Just as he got a “grip” on the orichalcum ring, the flame lord wearing the amulet, who had been acting as their guide to some extent, stepping in front of him and raised a warning finger. Apparently, “safe conduct” didn’t include removing the flame lords’ toys.

It was about this time that Alric realized that the four ice potions he had packed in his bandoleer back in town, in anticipation of battling fiery people, were now missing.

Meanwhile, yards above, the rest of the party were climbing out of the hole only to find themselves confronted by a huge, multi-tentacled worm-thing. The half-dozen flame lords were lined up against the wall, heads down. The worm-thing introduced itself, in an arrogant tone, as “Lord Kimboat”**, and demanded that they surrender. TKotBO answered the challenge from the edge of the hole, where he was clumsily climbing up, then watched as Gabby and Needles flew up the last of the climb and across the room, puncturing the thing from every direction. After only a few attacks, the thing popped like a soap bubble, leaving no sign of its existence. This was cause for great upset and unrest for the three PCs.

Alric and Jed returned from their experiment to find the others shaken by their experience. Discussion of their next steps was inconclusive. While they had gathered valuable intelligence, they didn’t have a clear plan to act upon that intelligence. Jed used his magic to get around the language barrier, using Lend Language on their apparent guide. This allowed the party to get the answers to some of their questions, but still no plan appeared. The flame lord denied any knowledge of worm-things in general, or Lord Kimboat specifically.

Nervous, the party started to head back to more familiar environs, then realized that they had only taken the right-hand fork after the statue room. They asked if they could check out the left-hand fork, but this request was denied. Their guide claimed that the left fork wasn’t their territory, and that they had a long-standing peace treaty with someone, but part of the treaty was to keep quiet about details about that someone.

Intrigued, the party asked the flame lord if any of them had seen Jim Kadabra, giving a description. The flame lords conferred among themselves, and agreed that they had seen such a creature. It had been dragged through by “another creature”. Again, no details could be had about this other creature.

By now, the party’s curiosity was unstoppable. While the others distracted the flame lords, Needles and Gabby quietly slipped into the shadows and down the left-hand passage.

There, they found another half-dozen flame lords, wandering aimlessly around a cavern similar to the one they had just come from. Similar, that is, except for the corner walled off by wooden beams, with a sturdy door in the wall. With, forsooth, a welcome mat.

Needles moved to unlock the door, then hesitated. Moving aside the welcome mat, he found that it covered a cavity holding a set bear trap, ready to clamp down on the first foot laid on the mat. Chuckling to himself at his own cleverness, he tossed a rock to trigger the trap, then turned his attention back to the lock. As he was working on picking the lock, he felt the sting of a needle trap poking his hand. It was poisoned, but he made his HT roll and took no damage. However, he was mightily distracted for a moment.

While Needles was busy, with his attention on the door, Gabby was standing back keeping an eye on the situation. This didn’t help at all, though, as she felt, but did not see, a rope garrote settle around her neck. Suddenly, she was being strangled from behind! Of course, she couldn’t speak to get Needles attention, so she struggled alone for several seconds. Gabby finally did manage to get Needles’ attention, though he didn’t know exactly what was going on. Seeing no enemy there, he nevertheless aimed his sword at the back of Gabby’s neck. Just before he laid the point to her skin, the pressure on her throat was released.

The two swashbucklers were again unsure what to make of events, but they had their eyes on a prize, now. They moved towards the door once again. This time, a translucent, skeletal figure wielding a two-handed sword stepped through the door and announced that they would not pass. After a bit of inconclusive conversation, it swung at Needles, which seemed to signal the six nearby flame lords to advance.

Thinking quickly, Gabby reached into her pack and pulled out… her dire wolf pup! “Go get help, boy!” she shouted, toss the pup scrambling towards the cave entrance and fast-drawing her rapiers. The flame lords started throwing balls of fire at the two adventurers, who were agile enough to avoid any serious damage. They responded by attacking the nearest pair of flaming men, who turned out to be quite rugged.

The untrained pup ran wildly back into the cavern where the others were still pulling their shuck-and-jive on the guide and the other flame lords. Alric, being knowledgeable in the ways of animals, immediately realized the import of the canine’s appearance and body language. (Crit success on the Animal Handling roll.) “They’re under attack!” he shouted, running for the left-hand passage, followed closely by Jed and TKotBO. They left the startled flame lords in their dust.

The party reunited in the cave with the locked door. Gabby and Needles started off across the room from the rest of the party, who came piling in the doorway. A sprawling melee followed. The six flame lords displayed the ability to absorb an astounding amount of damage, and the party began to think they had bitten off more than they could chew. That is, until Needles drew one of his two ice potions and poured it over the head of a flame lord in close combat, finally producing a satisfying amount of damage, which showed the way to take the foe down effectively. In the end, two of the flame lords were extinguished, leaving valuable cinders behind, and four were knocked out.

During the later stages of the combat, Needles moved back towards the door, ignoring the apparently-harmless ghost, and found himself under attack. He felt a rope settle around his neck and begin strangling him, but he was able to wriggle free. He saw a length of rope fall to the ground at this feet, then he felt the distinctive sensation of his armor absorbing a stab in the back. Turning, he saw nothing, and menaced it with his short sword.

Jed (rolled a critical success on a Hearing check and) heard the sound of footsteps running by him, where he saw no feet to make the sound. Thinking quickly, he threw out his baton and cast Fascinate on whatever unseen creature was hurrying past, capturing its attention. Holding the pose, he drew TKotBO’s attention to the area where the whatever-it-was must be lurking. The Knight, for his part, shield-bashed the area. With a solid BONG!…

… an unconscious halfling fell to the floor. A quick search revealed that he was carrying a short sword and wearing a gold ring.

Meanwhile, Needles had paid no attention to the ineffective ghost, which Jed had finally identified as an illusion, and concentrated on unlocking the door. Managing this neatly, he threw open the door, then jumped backwards at the sound of a firing crossbow. Aside from the bear trap and the poison needle, the door had also had a crossbow on a tripwire! Saved by his quick reflexes, he moved into the space beyond the door.

He found a small but cozy apartment, with a bed, small table set for two, fireplace with rug in front of… and a familiar gentleman sitting in a rocking chair, nursing a glass of cognac: Jim Kadabra! He babbled out a surrender, but then made the mistake of starting the words of what sounded like a spell. Needles put an elbow into the illusionist’s jaw, knocking him to the floor and putting a decisive end to any of that nonsense.

The others grabbed up the unconscious halfling. Knowing that they would at least have to fight that same fight over again in the next room if they tried to exit, they instead followed Needles through the door. They slammed the door shut and locked it behind them. Jed wasn’t surprised to see his friend, but was a trifle startled at his position on the ground. Alric threw himself, exhausted, onto the rug in front of the fire.

Next step, they tell me: interrogation.

 

* Totally stole it, from a classic source. Probably worth a rumor to identify where from… 😉

** Stole that, too, but I bet it’s easier to research, so I’d only give bonus xp.

 

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