“Corbin, Inc.”, Session #12

by mshrm

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ:

  • Alric Redbeard, barbarian who knows his first taste of fear (PC)
  • FuBar Bombad, amateur botanist and would-be spider (PC)
  • Gabby the Cabin Girl, underage pirate swashbuckler, now with all four limbs! (PC)
  • Mississippi Jedadiah Walker, only able to hit architecture with his lightning (PC)
  • Needles, slicer and dicer (PC)
  • Posy, cat-folk scout who finds the tables turned (PC)
  • “Dobby”, Alric’s loyal goblin servant, keeper of the campsite (NPC henchman)
  • Trevor, Jed’s apprentice and potion-carrier (NPC henchman)
  • Brother Farooq, cleric and healer who really, really gives it his all (NPC hireling)
  • Höss, hired to carry heavy things but pressed into combat, to his expense (NPC hireling)

Rumors Gathered:

Jed kept his ear to the ground, and learned the news:

  • Some people have met a man weeping on the road who won’t give his name. Those who have talked to him say that he claims to be under a curse, and offers to grant a wish to anyone who can break it.
  • Ham the Turnip Farmer is scheduled to be hanged next week, for the unprovoked murder of a stranger in the market. His accomplice, described as having a shaven head and wearing an orange pyramid strapped to his head, managed to escape the scene by slipping away in the crowd. Ham protests his innocence, but there are over a dozen witnesses to the crime.
    • “So,” the party remarked, “you’re saying that Ham the Turnip Farmer is getting boned. Got it.”

Then he and Trevor hit the library:

  • The long-term use of goblin cigarettes can lead to respiratory ailments and vulnerability to demonic curses.
    • This provoked a string of curses from Jed, known for enjoying the occasional goblin cigarette… 
  • A dragon’s been sighted flying over the mountains near Tembladera, on occasions several months or years apart, for a matter of decades.
  • Some dragons have blood so poisonous that anyone who wounds the beast in battle will soon perish from the toxin.
    • “Ranged weapons. Check.”
  • Underground fountains in the New World will sometimes take on magical properties. Alchemists will pay handsomely for water from some of the magical fountains around here.
  • Dwarven watchtowers often have no doors at all to the outside world, only observation windows and an internal staircase.

Gabby returned to town and spent some time carousing. While she was at the inn, she overheard a drunken swashbuckler loudly mention something about “drinking on the coin of the Fiddlers Three” before her companion, an obvious rogue, kicked her in the shin and hushed her.

Needles also heard about the Fiddlers Three, in his professional life. “Word is that rogues and swashbucklers who want to earn good coin can sign up with the Fiddler’s Three, a trio of outlaws who have set up shop outside Tembladera. They’re hiring, but nobody seems to know exactly what the job is, only that the pay is good.”

While drinking, an old man said to Needles, “Magic gets twisted, under the earth of the New World. You’ve got to keep an eye on your wizard. Some places, they can’t cast spells at all. Other places, they’re all powered up and can throw spells all day long. Still other places, if a wizard tries to cast a spell, he’ll explode, or turn into a newt, or be possessed by a demon. So be sure and watch ’em close.”

What Happened:

The party was happy to greet Gabby upon her return to town. They admired her right arm, which had regenerated nicely during her time away. (In a flashback, the party dug up the most accomplished cleric available to cast the Restoration spell, then paid for an extra Blessing, to make sure the one-shot healing “took”.) The others quickly brought her up-to-date on the whereabouts of TKotBO and their accomplishments over the past month or so.

Alric picked up a long-coveted purchase: a dragonhide helm, fashioned in the shape of a dragon’s head. Jed touched base with Höss and Farooq, making sure they could both come along on the next delve.

On Saturn’s-Day, the party left Tembladera. On the way, they picked up FuBar, who was standing by the side of the road, dancing for alms. On the way, they discussed the question of their goal. Needles suggested that they seek employment with these “Fiddlers Three” that were being talked about so much, but this plan was rejected on the grounds that they aren’t a party of swashbucklers and rogues. (GM aside:  I would suggest a trip to the mirror, on that count.) FuBar was game for anything, anything at all, just so long as he got first pick of the meat. There was some interest in seeking out the so-called “pit of darkness” and going fishing for treasure. (Memorably, at one point, Posy and FuBar were talking about how much in favor of this plan they were. FuBar announced he would be quite willing to go into the pit. Straight-faced, without missing a beat, Posy answered, “Well, I don’t know if I’m that willing.”) In the end, though, the party agreed with Jed’s plan to fill in their map of the area near the main entrance, off to the left of the second giant stone head.

Along the way, Gabby went looking for any berries she could find, but came up empty. Observing this, Alric gathered a meals’ worth of berries and gave them to her. She rejected them, though, saying she wasn’t looking for berries to eat, she was looking for the ones that entertain

The party made its way through the entrance hall, finally taking their time and counting all the exits. Some, they had been down, while others, they had overlooked. There were two doors, off to the right as one walks in, that were mysteries. They checked them out. One led to stairs downward, which they realized must lead to the scene of the fight with the rust monsters. Thinking of the curse inflicted on Posy at that time, they backtracked and tried the other door.

The second door led to a bare room with the clean-picked skeletons of several giant rats. Alric declared that the skeletons were unnaturally clean, for bones so fresh. There were two exits from this room. One seemed to be where the rats were coming from. The party carefully investigated, finding a smallish, conspicuously-clean room. FuBar’s finely-honed senses alerted him in time to avoid the attack of an erupting slime, lurking above the door. The interested members of the party gathered around to check it out and poke it with sticks, then Jed blasted it to ashes with a gout of dragon’s-breath. FuBar scraped up what few scraps were left, hoping to nurse them into a full-grown oozing doom grenade.

They checked the second exit, finding yet another stairway down. They felt it likely met up with the cursed area, and decided to drop that route, as well. Re-establishing their marching order, they traveled to the interior giant stone head. After a brief disagreement concerning the orientation of the map, they got their bearings and went to fill out their map of the left-hand hall. After a couple of turns, they came to the door to the evil temple, carefully pointing it out to each other as something they did not want to mess with on this trip. Further down, they opened a door and confirmed that it opened onto the room where they had earlier fought a man-sized animated mushroom.

Feeling that they could all use a breather, and that the room had escaped a careful search on the previous visit, the party entered the room and started poking around. They shortly discovered a trio of tiny, animated mushrooms, rooted in a corner and sheltered behind a pile of debris. They stood only about three or four inches tall, but were very stout and broad of cap. They hadn’t grown their legs yet, but they were clearly of a type with the mushroom that they had fought before. They had tiny arms, and little mouths, which they used to make “hungry baby bird” noises.

Gabby and FuBar were both immediately charmed. They wanted to take one with them as a pet. Their first experiments killed two of the tiny mushrooms. First, FuBar attempted to pull one up by hand, but found himself overpowered, put into an arm lock, and borne to the ground! Releasing the sewer troll cost the little crushroom’s life. They then tried to cut the second with Alric axe, which killed it, as well.

So, they reasoned that they had to take their time and dig up the final survivor to be transplanted. The others were okay with taking a half-hour break, so the two set to work carefully digging up the mushroom. As they worked, Alric started a little fire and roasted one of his dried rats for a snack.

Things got really casual, really fast. Jed, Trevor, and Höss were sitting down, having a smoke. Gabby and FuBar were absorbed in their work, backs turned to the entrances. They had closed the doors, but hadn’t made any effort to secure them, or to post lookouts. Thus, they were caught utterly flat-footed when five full-grown crushrooms opened the door.

The first few seconds were a mad scramble, and it didn’t look good for our heroes. Alric had been tending the fire with both hands still on his great axe (Akimbo is a wonderful Perk), so he was able to fend off the two mushrooms that jumped him, from his seated position. Höss had been idly fidgeting with his pick, so his weapon was to hand. One mushroom grabbed Farooq by the leg, pulling him prone, and followed up by slinging him head-first into a wall; he was dead before he hit the ground. Posy had been looking for secret doors, without her bow in hand, and was quickly overpowered. That crushroom made an attempt to drag her away from the fight, pulling her out the door and down the hall.

Back in the room, the tide of battle turned. Once on their feet with weapons in hand, Needles and Alric started dealing horrific damage. Jed threw a lightning bolt which injured one crushroom and fried another. He then attempted to imbue the crushrooms with magical terror, but found that the only thing inside the spell’s area of effect that had the brains to feel fear was Alric, who spent a couple of seconds convinced that the mushrooms were actually some sort of clockwork.

Enthusiastic at being back in action, Gabby nearly exhausted herself throwing flurries of blows with her rapier, rapidly perforating a third crushroom. FuBar dropped from his position on the ceiling, took a quick bite out of the lightning-cooked ‘shroom, then rushed to catch up with Posy’s captor.

They stopped the fleeing crushroom just a little way down the corridor. It was forced to drop Posy, then turned to grapple with the others. Despite a desperate final defense, it died, the same as its brothers.

Injured and aching, the party returned to the room for more rest… but this time, they posted guards at the doors. They confirmed, Farooq was beyond their help. FuBar and Gabby finished digging up the baby crushroom and sacked it up for transport back to town. Since Gabby already had her dire wolf pup to care for, they decided that the crushroom could be FuBar’s responsibility.

Höss heard something squishing down the hall and drew the others’ attention to it. No one could see anything, even Posy with her night vision, but they could hear the squishing noise getting closer. “Gelatinous cube,” was Posy’s professional opinion, so they quietly pulled the door shut and waited for it to proceed past.

Once the noise of the cube had turned the far corner, the party left, retracing their steps to avoid catching up with it from behind. At this point, they had gone through quite a few healing potions, as well as other consumables, and had no treasure to show for it. They decided to go for the pit of darkness after all. They returned to the giant stone head, then made their way to the Great Bridge.

There, Alric spent some time scanning the arrow slits on the far wall for possible attackers, observing none. The party moved to make their way across the bridge as stealthily as possible. (This effort was somewhat spoiled when Posy decided to try out the echo.) Gabby dug into her pouch and brought up her invisibility ring, putting it on. Shortly after stepping onto the bridge, she decided she didn’t much care for the sensation of being invisible, so she took it off, stumbling a bit with the distraction.

At this point, two things happened at once. First, a black crossbow bolt came arcing up from the tower, unseen by most of the party, taking Alric in the stomach. Second, Doughal, the halfling who originally owned the invisibility rings, came sprinting from the hall behind them, screaming “Mine! Mine!  Give it back!” and the like, throwing himself at Gabby.

Gabby stepped back, leaving the halfling to land where she had been. FuBar pounced on the halfling, biting his nose entirely off, before Posy finished him with an arrow to the forehead.

“Braaaiiins…” they heard, as three zombies came from the darkness from the same direction as the halfling. The party fled. Jed’s steps faltered, though, as he heard the zombies switch to moaning “Waaaiiit….”

“‘Wait’? What?” he said, turning to look closer. He noticed they weren’t showing shadows, despite having shambled into the afternoon sunlight. “Hey, Posy, shoot one of these guys for me?”

When she did so, the zombie vanished like a soap bubble. “Illusions! KADABRA!” Jed shouted, then joined the rest of the party in the shelter of the far side, where the others were tending to the sorely-wounded Alric. Digging even deeper into the stock of healing potions, they got him on his feet and moving. FuBar brought along the halfling’s corpse, insisting that it was part of his share of the loot.

Up the hall, they took the right-hand turn for the stairs. At the landing, they found the bodies of the dire wolves, torn apart. (FuBar had a little snack, while the others tried not to look too close.) They made it to the top of the stairs, and realized there was one hall that they hadn’t explored. Postponing the main mission (as is their way), they went to check it out. They quickly discovered that the hallway ended in a cave-in.

Between Höss’ pick and a couple of shovels that FuBar scrounged up, they had the tools for excavation. Alric and Höss set to work, while the others kept an eye out for trouble and rested up. After about 45 minutes of digging, the pair broke through into the space beyond the cave-in, coming face-to-face with bad air. Alric passed out, unbeknownst to the rest of the party.

The first they knew of anything happening, was when Höss dragged Alric out of the tunnel, falling down in a swoon, himself. Some quick first aid got them on their feet. Then, the party considered how to crack this nut.

First, Jed sent his wizard eye to check out the discovered room. It couldn’t see much in the darkness. Infravision was little better, only showing that the room was uniformly cold. Jed put a continual light spell on one of Posy’s arrows, which she fired into the room through the small hole at the far end of the tunnel. This revealed a once-fine, now-ruined room, covered in slime and mold, with a skeleton sitting in an armchair and an extremely stout iron-bound door. (GM clarification:  A skeleton, as in, the bones of a dead humanoid creature. Not the undead, animated version.)  Deciding this seemed safe enough, they cleared the dire fumes with a wall of air and crawled through to check out the room first-hand.

An aura of palpable cold fell over those who crossed the room. This was determined to be coming from a bastard sword, leaning against the wall next to the skeleton’s chair. The sword was wrapped in canvas and tucked away in Alric’s treasure sack for later invstigation. The skeleton was wearing a necklace, and had a carved ebony pipe in its fingerless hand. Neither hand had any bones for fingers or thumb, despite being otherwise intact. FuBar swiped the pipe, sharing the contents with Jed while the others searched further.

Finally, their attention turned to the door. It rebuffed all their usual tactics: Needles was unable to pick the lock, and neither Alric, with strength, nor FuBar, with kung fu tricks, were able to burst the hinges. They were just about to set to work with crowbars when Gabby asked if she could take a shot at that lock. With luck and her default skill, she managed the trick. The lock popped open.

Jed cast a spell to make the door transparent, before they rushed in. Inside, they discovered a bedroom, just as ruined as the room they were in. In the bed, they could see a humanoid figure, showing no signs of decay. It was pale, with fine, handsome features and pointed ears. Some of the party thought it was a vampire, while others thought it was an elf. (Though, nobody could say that they had ever heard of an elf dressing so civilized: it seemed to be wearing a black robe, from what they could see under the blankets.)

Assuming the worst, the party formed up behind Jed. FuBar threw open the door, and Jed tossed in a Continual Sunlight spell. The party rushed in, expecting a flaming vampire on the defensive. What they found was one peaceful corpse.

Somewhat puzzled, they pondered what to do. The creature was wearing a robe and a ring, both of which appeared to be magical. A magic staff was leaning against the wall next to the bed. Around its neck, it had an unfamiliar, squid-y holy symbol.

“When in doubt,” Jed announced, “loot the corpse.”  He pulled the robe off the man without incident, packing it away in Alric’s loot sack. When he took the ring off the man’s finger, though, he began to stir. He coughed a couple of times, then brought a hand to his face. All of his fingers writhed like boneless tentacles.

“Hit it, Alric! Hit it!” Jed scrambled back while Alric stepped up, axe at the ready. A single mighty blow removed the waking creature’s head at the neck.

Moments later, after making sure the head was really and truly dead, while Jed was examining the staff, the party heard movement from outside, then growling voices, and then the sounds of a heavy object being used as a club, apparently wrecking some of the decayed furniture in the anteroom.

“We know you’re in here, mortals,” a voice called. “Come out and plaaaaay!”

The party didn’t like the sound of that. They quickly looked around for an exit, finding none. Gabby even got down and checked beneath the bed. Finding nothing suitable, they arrayed themselves around the room and made ready to strike whatever came through the door. Nothing did. Eventually, a curved wall of darkness appeared, obscuring the area around the door. They heard the door squeak open.

A group of naked, undead-appearing babies carrying rusty knives came out of the darkness. The party quickly figured out a couple of facts about them: they were extremely hostile, they weren’t all that rugged, and they exploded at the point of death. Luckily, the explosions were no great danger to anyone at a yard or two distance and wearing armor. The party knocked down two waves of the evil babies before FuBar decided it was time to take the offensive.

The sewer troll dove through the darkness where the door used to be, into the room on the other side, tumbling into the far corner. He found himself surrounded by many of the little beasties, as well as two big, red, hairy, barbed-tailed, devil-horned, cloven-hooved humanoids, each towering over seven feet tall and wielding a spiked chain.

FuBar yelled back a quick version of what he had found. The quicker members of the party pressed through the darkness, in some cases feeling the creepy sensation of many tiny, angry bodies brushing past their legs. Trevor and Höss were both ganged up on, both taking some damage. In particular, Höss attempted to grab one of the little beasts, in preparation to throw it, but received a knife through his right hand, crippling it. Both FuBar and Jed had four, each, jump them, and managed to escape from the tight spot, using the creatures’ explosive natures against them.

The party used the darkness to their advantage, hanging back until Jed could be the first one out. He used his long-underutilized Rapier Wit to confuse the big demons. Needles slipped silently out of the darkness behind one, taking advantage of its distraction to give it the gift of many bleeding wounds, including blinding shots to each of its eyes. It absorbed an unbelievable amount of damage while still keeping its feet, until Posy managed to put an arrow through its heart.

The other big demon never had a chance to figure out Jed’s confusing insult. When it finally stirred, Jed caught it with a Fascinate spell. Sadly, FuBar broke the spell by kicking the demon. Still, disarmed and outnumbered, it didn’t take long for the monster to be brought down. They didn’t actually kill it, despite Alric removing its head. They put the snarling head in its own sack, to bring back to town as a trophy.

Looking over their battered teammates and the pile of expensive, enchanted loot, the party decided they had had enough of it for one day, and made for the bridge. They made it back to Dobby and the campsite without further trouble, and returned to town before sundown.

 

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