“Corbin, Inc.”, Session #10

by mshrm

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ:

  • Alric Redbeard, over-sized artist with the great axe (PC)
  • Mississippi Jedadiah Walker, all-around utility artillery wizard (PC)
  • Needles, swashbuckler-thief who finds enlightenment in the face of poultry (PC)
  • Posy, cat-folk scout, feeling a little claustrophobic (PC)
  • The Knight Of The Blood Oath, holy knight who has come to suffer from fame (PC)
  • “Dobby”, Alric’s hench-goblin (NPC)
  • Trevor, Jed’s bright-eyed and asthmatic young apprentice (NPC)
  • Höss, honest and loyal brute, despite recent abuses (NPC)
  • Dean and Roman, the left and right wings of the shield wall (NPC)
  • The Mount of the Knight of the Blood Oath, a mount sent to TKotBO from his god, in the form of an awe-inspiring dire chicken (NPC)

Still healing, and sleeping it off, back in camp:

  • Gabby the Cabin Girl, one-armed bandit (PC)

Rumors Gathered:

Alric hung around in the inn, listening to the tales swapped by the drinkers.

  • A fisherman tells the story of Salty Salvatore, a giant salt-water catfish said to haunt the waters around Tembladera. It is said to capsize fishing boats to get at the crews. Some sailors, it eats, while others, it carries away to a magical undersea paradise.
  • A tipsy barbarian claims to have wrestled with a spider as big as himself while on a delve. He said the funny thing was that it was wearing a crown the entire time.

Jed worked the town for recent news.

  • Something’s on the mind of the noble wizard Vanger d’Hast. He’s been keeping to his tower, where strange lights have been seen of late.
  • A dragon’s been sighted flying over the mountains near Tembladera.

Jed and Trevor also spent some time among the dusty tomes. In a moldy old book of obscure languages, Jed found mention of the phrase “Shald Ula”, which means “mother of…” something. The discussion in the book claimed that the last world definitely refers to creatures with eight legs, and argued it should be read as “spiders”. Annotations in the margins attempted to discredit this theory, arguing that it should be “octopus”, instead, or possibly “mutant squid”.

For his part, Trevor discovered an old treasure map. While initially resistant to sharing with his mentor, he soon saw the sense of cooperation.

TKotBO spent some time at the bar, giving patrons the stink-eye. While there, though, he heard that some parts of the dwarven ruins aren’t what they seem. They’re not stone, they’re alive! The dwarves kept watch-beasts that disguised themselves as rooms and halls, so that anyone who didn’t know which turn to avoid would find themselves drawn into the belly of the beast.

Needles put some time in at the gaming tables, and came away with a treasure map for his winnings.

What Happened:

One morning, TKotBO was approached by a dire chicken of remarkable beauty. It glowed with an inner light of holiness, and spoke to him in the voice of his god, Saturn. Witnesses to the scene fell to their knees in religious awe at the bird’s mighty call of “wark!” At last, his dedication to Saturn’s (sometimes bloody) business had been rewarded with a holy steed.

As Saturn’s-Day approached, most of the party gathered for their usual pre-delve huddle. Gabby remained in camp, still recovering from her crippling injury at the hands of Zombie Mongo, the undead siege beast. The party’s nigh-patron, Dektor Strang, remained in isolation with the large new pieces of orichalcum that Corbin, Inc., had taken from a party working for Vanger d’Hast. Having kept an eye out for signs of trouble, Jed reported on rumors that d’Hast’s rest has been troubled of late, speculating that the wizard’s plans had been upset by the loss.

Those of the party who expressed a strong opinion were in favor of returning to the caves of the flame lords. With no other pressing concerns, the mission was agreed to, and plans were laid. Jed obtained a large number of fire resistance potions, distilled into yummy chocolates. (Halloween episode.) Furthermore, he revealed that he had been researching spells for the inevitable battle with the flame lords, and could now “enchant” the party’s weapons with cold. When he used the word “enchant”, several pairs of stranger’s eyes darted his way in suspicion, so he explained he was speaking metaphorically:  he didn’t mean that he could permanently enchant them, only that he could now cast the Icy Weapon spell and maintain it on a couple of weapons for a short time.

Still, everybody was pretty happy with the idea of being invulnerable to the enemy’s attacks and wielding weapons suited to the enemy’s weaknesses. Words like “unstoppable” and “juggernaut” were thrown around with wild abandon.

The high confidence level wasn’t enough to distract them, this time, though. Before leaving town, they obtained the assistance of their favored hirelings. They were also careful to make sure that everyone’s blessings were up-to-date. The hirelings and henchmen got a simple blessing, while the major party members got the more expensive second-tier blessing. Supplies were re-stocked, including healing potions and torches.

The trip to the party’s accustomed entrance to the dungeon was uneventful. In fact, with TKotBO riding fully-armored on his chicken, and Trevor riding on the back of the donkey thus freed up, they made better time than ever. As usual, they left Dobby in charge of the camp and the mounts, with the exception of TKotBO’s chicken, who tagged along.

Posy took point and investigated the entrance. Inside, in the gloom, she saw three human figures, two woman and one child, dressed in rags. They were against the back wall, with one peeking around the corner into the hallway that led to the giant stone head. Posy gestured to the others for a conference and reported what she had seen. TKotBO searched his feelings and reported the presence of supernatural beings, relatively nearby, inside the dungeon. The party formed up, with Posy and Needles travelling in advance, keeping to the shadows. The two shield-bearers and TKotBO formed a wall with the henchmen on the flanks, and the dire chicken following close behind. Alric, Jed, Trevor, and Höss gathered near the entrance, while the shield-wall moved up into the entrance. At the signal, the dire chicken gave out a loud “Wark!”

The women jumped, turned, and rushed towards the party, crying for help. Their story was garbled, but the gist of it seemed to be that they were being pursued by ogres. They were directed to get themselves to the rear. Accordingly, they stepped past Jed. The women moved to embrace Trevor and Höss with cries of gratitude, while the kid stuck close to Jed’s heels.

Just as Jed thought that he might apply magic to the frightened women, just to make sure they were what they appeared to be, there came a wild howl from the dark dungeon hallway. Three ogres, wearing armor, with shields and morning-stars, showed themselves and made a warlike display. This drew the party’s focus.

At that point, the women transformed, revealing themselves to also be ogres, of similar breed to the ones in armor! They briefly scuffled with the two men, with the rest of the party unaware of what was going on. Posy revealed herself, peppering the oncoming ogres with arrows. Alric rushed ahead of the shield wall, deaf to TKotBO’s curses and calls for discipline on the line, where he engaged two of the ogres, was nearly flanked, and took a painful blow to the head. Needles and Jed realized what was going on behind the party, and turned to assist.

The momentum of the engagement seemed to be firmly in the party’s hands, when the dire chicken unleashed its aura of holy awe. The only one who was affected at all was Needles, who saw the unvarnished faces of the gods and collapsed in religious ecstasy.  Even without the thief-swashbuckler, though, the party still took the field. In the end, five of the six ogres lay dead, while the sixth was attempting to use Trevor as a human shield, with a firm grip on his neck.

“My life or his!” it exclaimed.

TKotBO gave this consideration, and then agreed, saying “I promise, you will live.”

The ogre nodded once, threw Trevor tumbling to the ground, and took to his heels, running up the road in the direction of town. There was some idle speculation, wondering if Dobby might hear the traveler coming and set up an ambush all by himself… which ended abruptly when Trevor chanted the harsh syllables of a spell. He threw the most powerful Concussion spell he could, shooting the ogre in the back as it fled. This was enough to knock the creature out, but luckily left it still breathing, and technically preserving TKotBO’s word.

Playing it as it lay, the party collected the ogre and tied it, hand and foot. Out of the heat of battle, Trevor was able to study the creature and declare that it was a kind of spirit, cursed to repeated reincarnation as a physical being in the mortal world. TKotBO used his healing touch on it, then questioned it while the party rested up. The chicken applied its own healing touch to Alric, and the others searched the bodies.

Aside from the ogre’s armor and gear, each ogre also carried a single, shiny, new gold piece. One of them also had a sheet of parchment bearing a charcoal drawing of a man in distinctive armor, carrying a Rol-X shield. Clearly, this was meant to be TKotBO.

When questioned, the ogre freely admitted the plot. They had been hired by a representative of Vanger d’Hast. They had been told to lurk around this particular dungeon entrance, which was known to be regularly used by the party of the man in the sketch, almost every Saturn’s-Day. They had been instructed to kill him and his companions. The ogre observed that this hadn’t really worked out for its comrades, but didn’t seem particularly upset about their deaths, mentioning that they would be back, by and by. It returned to its female human form, in a halfhearted attempt as seduction, but couldn’t quite manage a straight face while doing so.

Finally, everybody decided it was a fair enough finish to the interaction and they should all let bygones be bygones. TKotBO returned the ogre’s gold piece, saying it could go free, but if they ever met again, it would mean the ogre’s death. It agreed to the terms, and scampered.

Rested and restored, the party returned to the dungeon entrance. To start, they used the dire chicken’s holy glow to see by, but as they got deeper into the dungeon and ran into tighter spaces, TKotBO dismissed it and they lit torches instead. Posy took point again, walking about ten feet in front of the edge of the party’s light, with Needles covering her from the edge of the light. There was some disagreement about who should bring up the rear, which ended with Alric taking the position.

So, in good order, the party advanced. They passed by the interior stone head. They gave up the chicken at the point where they found the twenty feet of rough terrain, set up by the goblins long ago. Finding the short-living “dungeon convenience store” still empty, they scavenged some planks to bridge the infamous pit trap. At the pit, they threw a pebble down, to check for occupants, but received no reaction. They crossed the pit without trouble, peeking in to the old goblin kitchens as they passed. Finding them unchanged, they proceeded to the room that had once been filled with wooden statues, now littered with the half-burnt remains of those statues.

Girding themselves for the coming conflict, the party swallowed the candies that Jed handed out. After quietly organizing themselves, they advanced, with little care about stealth. TKotBO and his two shield-bearers led the way, running in to some crowding as they made their way through the narrow cave entrance.

As TKotBO entered the chamber, the flame lords’ trap was sprung. Two sentinels, one on either side of the entrance, blasted him with thrown balls of fire. Both hit him squarely, but neither did any damage at all, thanks to alchemical protection. Seeing this, the two split up. One backed towards the exit on the left, while the other turned and sprinted to the exit on the right.

The party was engaged by a small group of flame lords from the left, and then shortly after, a much larger group from the right. They were able to split up and hold the doors for several seconds, with TKotBO’s shield-wall plugging the left-hand group and Alric and Needles holding the right, supporting by spell- and missile-fire from Posy and Jed. Jed wasn’t able to keep up his usual rate of fire, though, since his main responsibility was maintaining the spells of cold on Alric’s axe and TKotBO’s morning-star. Trevor and Höss stayed in the statue room, keeping an eye on the party’s path of retreat. (Afterwards, they reported seeing a flicker of movement at the room’s door, but nothing entered, and they didn’t get a clear look at whatever it was. If it was anything.)

The flame lords opened with a volley of fireballs, to no effect. Seeing this, they switched to using their fists and feet. The party held the entrances for a several seconds, until a couple of retreating defenses opened up gaps. The flame lords were quick to exploit these gaps, and pressed in to the room. The party was pressed back towards the entrance, but came back strong. Jed tossed Explosive Lightning into the crowd, the warriors unleashed several flurries of strikes, and soon, more than a dozen flame lords were converted to valuable embers. The last couple of survivors turned and ran.

As the party regrouped, a single flame lord wearing a blue amulet appeared from the right-hand chamber. Using gestures, it offered a truce: the party could hold the entrance chamber and the right-hand room, and they would call it even. The party, pleased with their victory, was not disposed towards accepting this offer. When they attacked the creature, it disappeared like a popped soap bubble. Jed muttered a few curses towards Kadabra.

The party took the right-hand chamber. The next section of the caves, as they knew from their previous visit, was a series of mostly vertical climbs. They placed a pair of guards at the top of the next section, half-expecting a flood of flame lords to come boiling out. The others searched the chamber. Looking behind some stalagmites, Posy discovered a pile of ashes and charred bone fragments. Stirring through the remains, she discovered a pile of somewhat-melted coin and a beautiful short sword. At first glance, Jed announced that the sword was magical. (One might wonder, at this point, why Needles didn’t wrap himself around the sword in joy. The answer is, his player had to leave, so Needles vanished around the time that the flame lords broke through.)

Since the flame lords didn’t seem ready to produce a counter-attack, Posy volunteered to go down the hole and see what they were up to. With great care for stealth, she climbed down to see the huge home cavern of the fiery creatures. There, she saw perhaps two dozen more of them, arrayed around the room, along with a good number of flaming birds flying in the center of the chamber. The entrance chamber let out onto a small ledge, where four of the flame lords stood with their backs against the cave wall. Anyone attempting to descend would be at a great disadvantage.

For some time, Alric and TKotBO tried to dare each other into joining in a two-man assault on the ledge, but in the long run, they decided it just wasn’t worth the risk. They moved back towards the cave entrance. There, they decided they might as well check out the left-hand fork, as well.

Once, Doughal, also known as “that damned halfling”, had had an apartment, bricked off from the natural caverns controlled by the flame lords. Now, there was nothing but a burnt-out wreck. Four flame lords stood where a door and welcome mat had once been. Two of the flame lords had dug up a couple of greatswords from somewhere.

So, of course, the party chose to pick a fight. The first flame lord went down quickly under Alric’s ice-covered axe. The remaining three, their backs against the wall, went on a crazed, doomed offensive. They slipped around the side of the shield-wall and threw themselves at Jed, as he was the softest-looking target within reach. A greatsword to the skull bore him to the ground, making death checks.

The party strove to push the flame lords back. In particular, Alric pushed his way in and stood between them and their target. Trevor showed his true calling in life, coming from behind to fast-draw healing potion after healing potion, pouring them onto his mentor’s lifeless form. The flame lords got in one more good shot before being wiped out.

Exhausting their supply of healing potions, the party got Jed back on his feet. TKotBO mockingly repeated the bard’s words from a previous trip, “We’re in pretty good shape, I say we press on and check out one more room!”  Nobody else was up for it, though, so after making doubly-sure that they had swept up all the flame lords’ valuable remains, the party left the dungeon, making it back to camp, and thereafter, town, without further troubles.

On the way, TKotBO announced his plans. He would take his share of the loot from this trip — profitable, though not exceptionally so, as it turned out later — and use the funds to buy passage back to the Old World. Since Vanger d’Hast only had his description, he would leave town to draw his assassins off. (Also, his player’s eager to play a cat-folk martial artist. Or possibly a corpse-eater excommunicated evil wizard. Or something. Opportunity abounds.)

 

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