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The Arvan Game Pt. 33: In the City (of Chago)

A day later after renting the largest room in the top floor of a seaside saloon called the Leaping Fish, its placard displayed a blue fish leaping from an ale keg our heroes were in the tap room enjoying several rounds of ale and platters of roasted fish and steamed vegetables. They were a little miffed after spending a fair sum buying carry licenses for each weapon they were carrying save for 1 dagger each, taxes equal to 10% the value of the goods they were carrying and intent on selling and a gate toll. They were also warned by the gate guards that the shaman would have to purchase a Wizard’s License from the Pillars if he was thinking about doing anything “magical”. The place was patronized mostly by brawny, sunburnt, pipe-smoking sailors from along the Ivoran coast as well as hairy similar appearing sailors, probably pirates, from the Hill-Lands and dark-skinned Creschans even a few naga from the far southern Serpent Coast. The dragon-slayers noticed when a group of southron Ivoran brothers, all identical, wearing green-dragon hide armor, bronze bracers, bronze open helms with a flying dragon crest set on the scalp walked in. They were handsome young men with long black gleaming hair and blue eyes, Bers was smitten but they weren’t interested in her the bar-maid on the other hand was a different story. They were a bit snobbish and tight-lipped but were somewhat friendly and talked with the group especially when our heroes paid for the drinks and food. They were non-guilded dragon-slayers and archers from the city-state of Xuun far to the south in Gorloc. The next day they set out to explore the city.

Bers wanted to see if she could find out if Sir Chinsalis had survived the winter at Veringer’s Field (see Pt. 14) so she walked to the cathedral. Vorwulf wanted to purchase some potions as well as sell a few of those he was carrying Grom decided to follow him as he was at a loss as what to do in a city. Bers donned the wooden chalice medallion Sir Chinsalis had given her upon her and Dead-Eye’s “conversion” to the Hyvalian faith (see Pt.10).

She wended her way along the twisting streets which became more twisted and shorter as they approached the great rock bluff at the foot of which stood the impressive cathedral of Chago. She went up the steps into the open archways of the front entrance the place was sunlit by skylights and brightly painted with massive murals, great works of art, on all of the walls and ceilings. Her nose was almost overwhelmed by the strong scents coming from piles of smoldering incense mixing with the perfumes worn by the wealthy and body odors of the beggars whom loitered within. There were performers, jugglers mostly, performing for coin which were plinked into shabby earthen plates at their feet. There were tables set up by the entrance where scribes and lawyers were plying their trades. She observed the collection of brightly colored banners among the streamers hanging from the archways one of which she recognized as that which the Templars led by Han-Moro and another which the knights had flown back at Veringer’s Field. The Templars were called the Order of the Rose and their arms were a black escutcheon on a white field bearing a red rose with a thorny green stem. The knights’ heraldry was a golden chalice with a gold sword conceivably being thrust into it contained in an escutcheon of powder blue on a black field. She approached a young priest and asked after Sir Chinsalis. She was told he was indeed alive but was absent from the city on a mission to recapture an escaped criminal named Xiahmnecha which she took to mean Siamnecca pronounced with an Ivoran tongue. She also found out that the druids had a center of power in the Strignor Lagoon almost directly north 10-miles and tensions were high.

Vorwulf found himself in a small shop where dim beams of light shone through the glass windows on both sides of the door. Drying herbs and plants hung from the rafters providing a strange and cloying spicy scent which pervaded the small cramped space. Behind the counter lining the shelves were dozens of jars and some vials of various oils and extracts. The herbalist was an Ivoran named Wezra, really Weishi in the Ivoran tongue, whom was friendly enough. He was dressed in shabby but clean clothes his peppered grey hair was shoulder length and wiry appearing somewhat unkempt. Vorwulf found out that business in the city was completely controlled by the multiple guilds and he would have to sell any magic items to the mages’ guild called the Pillars of Vision and the potions to an alchemist guild approved alchemist. Upon Vorwulf letting him know about the dragon-bone and hide possibly for sale he directed to the Blackwing Dragon-Slayers guild house at the foot of the King’s Edifice, the other large stone formation on which the royal manor was built where the Colonial Regent lived as this city was still loyal to the Hyvalian Emperor.

Wezra (in a heavy Ivoran accent): “Ya know, you could sell some of yer stuff unofficially.” He tapped his nose and winked. “I know a guy in the not-so-good part a’ town.”

Vorwulf: “Hmm. Yeah I guess so and where’s the best place to stay if we don’t wanna be bothered?”

Grom: “Hey, hey. Where can I buy a chicken?” Cris scowled at Gil.

Wezra directed the shaman to the livery and told Vorwulf that the same guy could put him up in a place that no one will bother them at. The man was a Westlander ex-dragon-slayer named or rather his “street name” was Stumpy and he could be found sitting at the café in front of the apartment building he owned.  It was a white-washed four story place found in the “bad” part of the city, the poor part right off of the central market plaza. They made a note of their itinerary in their minds, they would see Stumpy first then on to an alchemist in the marketplace then after reuniting with Bers they would go to the Blackwings and then the mage guild. They would also try to pick up on any rumors or tell of dragons or trolls and such while running their errands.

They went to the livery and bought some chickens before returning to the Leaping Fish. The shaman was fascinated by a captive dragonsaurus which was obviously unhealthy and a small lizard called a Dragon-Lizard by the proprietor. It had six legs and its scales were of an earthy red-brown color fading to a greenish-black at the nose horn and along the bumps of the crocodilian skin. He was told these are highly sought after pets but decided against it as Vorwulf didn’t hold a high opinion of it so he bought a pick instead.

Later while eating at the Leaping Fish Bers pulled a stool up to their table followed by a tall nearly 7ft high amazon named Persis, her newly accepted protégé. Vorwulf and Grom shrugged their shoulders. Draznor was elsewhere sent to check the wagons at the carriage house where they rented space and paid for security. Vor and Grom had shared the rumors they had gathered of a red dragon terrorizing caravans traveling along the shoreline of the Firth of Woe in Northmarch far to the north and Bers was updated on all of the other business over a round of ale. They also heard of a giant two-headed troll prowling the beaches near some Cliffside ruins about 10-miles up the coast. Soon after they departed the saloon leaving a message for Draznor letting him know where they went with the barkeep. They met with Stumpy and wound up renting the top 2 floors of his building and had Stumpy send a runner to relay the message to Draznor to move their stuff to their new digs. Stumpy was a short very fat man with dirty stringy grey hair and a greying black moustache. His chin was studded with grey, white and black stubble. He was wearing a stained soft leather tunic and breeches with a faded red soft leather knee-high boot on his one leg. His crutch was finely carved and lacquered blue-black which he kept under his one-arm, the left one, when he stood. They sold him a few things which were identified as mundane (non-magical) and he was happy with the deal as they let go of very valuable objects for around 10% of the actual value less in a few cases.

Stumpy (as they left for the Blackwings guild house in a slight Ivoran accent): “If you guys need anyting, anyting! Jes ask I can get it for you!”

About a half an hour later they were sitting in a cool meeting room with smooth plastered walls and a hanging chandelier which was providing the light as the chamber was windowless. They were visibly exited to be inside of the Blackwing guild house at a large oblong table of polished redwood inlaid with mother of pearl. On the wall behind them there was a banner with the arms of the Hyvalian church on it bearing a golden chalice radiating orange and white beams which filled the field. Behind the guildsmen who sat opposite to the adventurers at the table there hung a banner with the symbol of the Blackwings against a split field of sea-blue and forest green. Douamo the guild master sat at the center of the guild side, next to him Trogon his apparent second and guild steward, with a clerk on either side of them. Draznor drug a sack of dragon-bone and a roll of dragon-hide he had fetched from the wagon which they had brought along and began laying the pieces on the table for the inspection of the guild. Persis was outside guarding the wagons while they sat in the guild carriage house. They also sent him back out to bring in the skulls which they had kept from the wyvern of Black Brow, the green dragon of the Cleft-Rills and Sawback. The Blackwing guild master was a broad muscular man of Ivoran descent but tanned and sun-hardened. He was wearing an eye-patch over his left eye and had large visible scars on his arms, face and neck. His studded soft leather shirt was open at the collar exposing the tattoo on his chest of the guild brand. They were impressed with the skull specimens and were sorry to hear about the loss of their men in Hirok-Nor and the murder of their people in Merdna where they had hoped to establish another guild house. Vorwulf let them know that they wanted to petition for membership and hopefully help them start a guild house in Hirok-Nor. In response Douamo asked for a steep entry fee which the adventurers easily paid right there. Douamo told them they were known to them via the last message that was relayed by their messengers of dragon-slayers from the Cleft-Rills that were plying their trade in Hirok-Nor before we lost contact (remember the messenger that galloped up in part 20, he was riding a magically disguised six-legged sleipnir and had a short conversation with the adventurers and followed the party to the lair and from there he left to relay the info).

They then asked if they could pay guild dues and when our heroes said they could pay a year in advance they were given the good news that they were now members. They were to sign or make their marks in the guild ledger and would have the run of the guild house save certain chambers and of course the vaults were off limits. There was a library, Vorwulf was literate and Bers had since learned to read, which contained the guild’s treasure the Tome of Dragonslaying which was housed in a locked side-chamber which they would have to be overseen by Babilla a guild alderman in charge of the book and whom was charged with the key to the chamber. They were invited to stay in the spare quarters for their stay in the city as they were now obligated to leave for Hirok-Nor by the next year. When they asked him where the mages’ guild was as they had some magic items for sale Douamo invited them to stay and offered to send a runner as the Blackwings had to offer the dragon-bone first to the Pillars anyway.

Douamo: “Now, let’s sit down to some spiced wine while we wait.”

Grom: “Oh yeah, they’ll sell me a Wizard’s License right?”

Bers and Vorwulf turned and glared at him.

Grom: “Hey, just in case!”

While they waited Douamo let them in on some guild news and rumors. A shadow dragon prowled the Strogo Swamp 4-miles north of the city but was tolerated for now as he seemed to keep the marsh-trolls of Troll’s Marsh out of Lachmor just 3-miles or so west. However a rumored new power is rumored to be rising in the Troll’s Marsh but who or what is not yet known. He repeated the rumor about the red dragon which they had already heard. Also there were outlaw dragon-hunter outfits wandering into town with some frequency including a notorious group of poachers calling themselves the Green-Dragon Archers all of them identical brothers. Vorwulf and Bers shared what they knew of them when they realized to whom Douamo was referring. He told them to “keep an eye on those guys”. After an hour or so have expired according to the sands of the hour-glass the representatives of the mages guild had arrived and as the last mage entered the meeting room Bers and Vorwulf recognized him.

Cris and Jen simultaneously: “Xanto the wasp!” (see Pt. 31)

Xanto did not make eye contact with them trying not to acknowledge that he knew them by constantly rubbing his guild badge, a sad beat up and tarnished bronze affair as opposed to the silver badges, gold on the eldest, of the others. The mark of the Pillars of Vision mage guild were the oblong images of an eye with their corners set on a common axis lending the appearance of a flower placed on an octagon, normally blue but the badges were of varying metals based on rank, with a motto ribbon stating “nothing is unknown” along the bottom. The eyes of the petals on the badges were set with gems of multiple colors those on Xanto’s badge were missing. The mages bought up almost all of the magic items that the adventurers had brought and could offer custom magic items but only to the guild and as new recruits their guild budget was reserved for when they arrived in Hirok-Nor. Cris just looked at me when I told him that. The eldest mage offered to have Xanto show them the town and introduce them to the necessary guildsmen of which there were many as they were going to stay in the city for at least a year. They accepted.

He dutifully showed them around town until the evening and was constantly offering to show to hidden gambling joints and dens of iniquity which catered to varying tastes. When asked if he knew Stumpy he replied:

“Yeah I know the guy. He doesn’t like me much.”

Vorwulf: “Well I like that guy even more now!” He laughed out loud (both the character and Cris) and slapped the narrow mage on his back.

Bers: “Hey let’s throw a party! I wanna throw a party and invite all the guild guys! Could you [to Xanto] help with that?”

Xanto (a big toothy grin broke across his face): “Of course! I could hire the entertainment. Buy the food, booze and hire the cooks. Rent a hall. What’s the budget I have to work with? I’m a superior party-planner if I might say so myself!”

Bers: “Oh spare no expense!” She tossed him a fat purse pregnant with gold and platinum coins.

Xanto: “Yes ma’am! When?”

Bers: “At the end of the week!”

Cris (to Jenn): “Good move. Keeping that guy close is a good idea. We might be able to use him.”

Jenn: “Oh yeeaah!”

They retreated to Stumpy’s place for the next three days having ordered prostitutes, young gigolos, booze and food through the wasp of course. Xanto made appearances here and there afterwards asking for more money which Bers always gave him as well as delivering and taking their orders for whatever they wanted at the time. On the fourth day as they nursed hangovers at the Leaping Fish, Xanto found them and let them know that he had rented a hall and all the invitations for the party had been delivered. They checked the hall out and found it was a wood hall built with a floor plan similar to a Westlander hall with a stone oven at the center and was sectioned off by sliding doors which could be slid back and folded to open up the entire hall as a single continuous space. He said the entertainers and the minstrel were hired and he would introduce them on the afternoon of the party as the guests would begin arriving at dusk.

The day before the party the shaman fed his chickens and pig which he planned on taking to the party for some reason or another. While he was “socializing” a strange warrior dressed in skins with fur girt shoulders hailed to him from across the narrow steep street in front of Stumpy’s. Vorwulf and his protégé, Draznor, were performing some accounting of the group funds and going over the gear and goods on the wagons. Bers spent the day with her protégé, Persis, shopping and having a pair of expensive silk party gowns made which were … loud shall we say?

To Be Continued…

The Arvan Game Pt. 32: The Road to Chago

After taking on the dragon cult known as the Disciples of the Divine Flame and slaying the great adult dragon Sawback we rejoin our four heroes, Bers played by Jenn, Vorwulf and his protégé Draznor both played by Cris, and Grom the shaman played by Gil as they check out the lair. The lair consisted of 4 massive chambers with domed ceilings from whence iron chandeliers were suspended and finely honed & polished walls. The central entrance chamber was the largest with large archways connecting to the other 3 chambers. There was a small hoard pile in the south archway consisting of 5,000 malachite, 2,000 alexandrite, 4,000 gold pieces, 2,000 silver pieces, 600 star metal ingots, 5 suits of high quality lion-skin soft leather armor (2 of which Vorwulf took for himself), 2 high quality bronze pectoral plates, a hammer (which they took as it was probably more than just a hammer), and a set of steel bracers with iolite rivets. The walls had niches dug into them which sheltered large gold oil lamps which appeared to glow with magic flames. There were bags and chests in the northwest corner and 2 hogshead of fine southern wine and 6 amphora of olive oil in the northeast corner. They took account of the bags and chests.

There was 1 large alligator skin sack, 1 large lion-skin sack, 1 large leather sack, 1 vulture-lion hide sack, 1 rhino-hide sack covered with decorative runes, and 1 large purple velvet sack. There were 3 chests which were 1 orange metal chest, a mother of pearl chest with a blue steel lock, and a titanium chest with quartz hardware. None of the chests were locked and the sacks were each filled to bursting. The treasure contained within is simply too much to list here but Bers took an ebony barrette with decorative runes for herself and all non-healing/curing potions were given to the shaman and he put on a string of amber prayer beads. Each of the three senior slayers took possession of a chest, Vorwulf the orange-metal chest, Bers the Mother of Pearl of chest and Grom the titanium chest with quartz hardware. They followed a careful process while sifting through and splitting up shares of the treasure by having Grom make use of his Repel Vermin spell to keep the swarms of gold scarabs at bay which eventually dispersed. The north chamber was lined with shelves sagging with 5 booklots and some potions & spell powders. On the bare portion of the wall hung an adamantine chest plate and a high quality star metal shield. A high quality bloodmetal suit of full plate armor was standing next to the shelves. The south chamber appeared to be a scrying chamber with a large scrying pool and a large circular polished-silver mirror. The large pile of loot consisted of 1,000 high quality garnets, 4,000 superior quality diamonds, 3,000 citrines, 4,000 rubies, 1,000 pieces of coral, 2,000 pieces of agate, 200,000 gold pieces, 600,000 electrum pieces, 300,000 steel pieces, 100,000 star metal pieces, 1,000 steel ingots, 600 bronze pigs, and 10 large superior quality rubies. Needless to say taking even a small portion of the booty would prove to be a feat of logistics.

They figured out a method of setting up a series of rope pulleys and a combination of using Bers’ Cape of Bat-Flight and Grom’s Nature’s Ability spell allowing him to grow wings. They took the treasure out by the upper entrance onto the top of Hirok. They managed about 3 sacks and all 3 chests their bags of holding were already fully loaded. They woefully stood inspecting the mirror-polished vault door unable to figure out how to gain entrance though they did spy a maker’s mark etched into one of the bottom corners resembling a conical mountain surrounded by a moat and a dragon with wings outstretched above the pinnacle.

Later the next afternoon after a good rest and the gathering of their shares of the treasure they mounted a level-top hill next to the top entrance of the lair finding a pair of ruined towers with a sink hole next to them where the ground had collapsed into some earthen tunnels and chambers. They buried their chests under the shadows of the broken towers each burying their own with their own hands with Draznor helping Vorwulf of course. That completed they decided to retreat to Fertum Vorahd via the North Road for a well-deserved rest. From the Fertum they decided they would travel to Chago come early spring as it was now late summer and they knew it would take at least 1 season to reach the coastal city.

Come spring they left Fertum Vorahd following the West Road passing between the skeletal remains of the Varidvir and Varid Woods as they traveled into Varidna the wheels on both of their wagons creaking all the way. They had a covered wagon for travel and their open wagon packed with rolls of Sawback’s tanned hide and a healthy stow of dragon-bone. They continued west for 2 weeks until they reached the town of Anaster where they had a 1 week stopover then continued for 4 weeks to the town of Wenbaer where they had another 1 week stopover. They continued from Wenbaer for 3 weeks until they came to the fishing town of Corvik and the ocean.

They spent the first night on the beach as it was the first time any of them had seen the ocean. The shaman stepped into the foaming waters, “it’s glorious!” His arms were outstretched Gil miming this at the table. He then cast the Swim As Fish spell on himself and dove in determined to swim as deep as he could.

Cris: “Watch it man! Don’t go too deep.”

After a few minutes Grom had gone very deep under the salty waters and caught a glimpse of something very big swimming below him. Bers and Vorwulf saw the shaman shoot from the water and run back up onto the beach pointing back at the water.

Grom: “There’s something down there!”

Bers and Vorwulf laughed while Grom marched back to the wagons where Draznor was guarding the gear. The next night Grom cooked a bunch of mud-worms while the locals, who all had heavy unidentifiable accents,  looked on and were surprised when he had an edible meal that actually tasted as well as smelling tasty (Natural 20 on his Cooking skill). Normally the grey slimy slugs taste like mud and smell worse. Of course, the rest of the slayers refused that meal and stuck with the fish stew. After a 1 week stopover in Corvik or rather Corvir as the Westlander farmers further inland called it they followed the road as it turned south across the Corvir Moor and into the Corvast Plain into Chago’s sphere of influence. It was slow going up the Chago Rise but it was easy going across the Weisha Plateau, through the Chago Forest and ultimately into the city itself. They had to stop and gawk in awe at the massively high stone walls of the city the highest they had ever seen that were not in a completely ruined state.

It was still early summer as they passed through the massive gates. It had taken 3 and a half months of travel between the Ivoran city of Chago and Hirok-Nor. The banners wafting from the battlements on either side of the gates displayed a turquoise peacock on a red field with a golden heart in the top right corner and a bundle of black arrows tied with a white string beneath the bird. They could see even before they entered a cloud of low hanging smog hovering over the city and they could smell the place long before they could even see it. They joined a flood of other caravans and wagons entering the city mixing into the river of flowing faces that crowded the avenue the chief commercial artery of the city from which all other streets diverge. There were a multitude of faces, the bristly goatish faces of fauns from the Hill-Lands, the flash of a darting ratling, the dusky faces of Creschan sailors, an occasional Arborean with a baffled expression, the sun-baked faces of the southron, the yellow tint of Hyvalian visages caked with cosmetics and draped in fine silks strung with beads all melded together into a cacophony of color, clattering hooves, grinding wagon wheels on the paving stones and general noise. They passed between two high plateaus of stone which jutted up inside of the city walls before the land suddenly dropped to the natural sea-cliff bounded harbor providing the highest vantage points in the city. On the flat pinnacle of one a large manor house the noble residence of the King of Chago surrounded on varying lower levels by the smaller houses of miscellaneous nobility. On the other formation sat the manor-complex of the Hierophant of Chago and the Hyvalian priesthood. Below its spires stabbing into the sky built higher than any other building in the city stood the Cathedral of the Hyvalian Theocracy. The stone faces were carved with the gigantic depictions of ancient Westlander warriors and warlords carrying aloft bundles of severed heads and walking on the decapitated corpses of their long forgotten enemies centuries worn and pocked with the nesting of sea birds. The land began to slope sharply and the avenue widened as they made their way to the waterfront. They found themselves in the city marketplace where the street was lined with booths in which all of the trades were represented. Shops and offices occupied most of the buildings that were here and almost all were of  3 or 4 stories tall most made of wood with tile roofs built in the Hyvalian pagoda style others were very square, only 2 levels high and built of quarried stone blocks of varying dimensions. The multitude of voices blended into a constant and overwhelming white noise over which could be heard the regular shouts, bids and bargaining common to the market. The group found they had to shout at each other or get close enough to talk directly into each other’s ears in order to be heard.

Cris: “Oh man, Dead-Eye would’ve hated this place!”

To Be Continued…

The Arvan Game Pt. 31: Desperately Seeking Sawback

We rejoin our four wayward heroes Bers the fighter played by Jenn, Vorwulf the archer/ranger and his protégé Draznor both played by Cris, and Grom the shaman played by Gil stopped in the middle of a hidden back road in Nor Forest. In front of them stands a man in full plate armor whom just declared himself Boshi Ironskin wielding a pudao seemingly waiting for them to charge. Behind him they could see what appeared to be another Ivoran, a mage wearing black and yellow striped robes and cape, yellow gauntlets, a high quality scimitar at his side. At either of his slight shoulders buzzed a large, 6 inch long, wasp. Vorwulf sighted a familiar face hidden in the bush behind these two, an archer wearing yellow silk with scaly skin known as Wu’ahm (see Pt. 25). Vorwulf shot at the hidden archer and stuck an arrow in him and he returned fire. Vor dodged the arrow. Grom tried to cast a spell but failed his casting check so the spell just fizzled out. Bers charged and was struck by a dusky skinned woman whom tumbled out from the bushes on one side of the road with a cutlass so she swung at her in a simul attack wounding her badly and forcing her into a recovery check before she could roll away. Draznor shot Wu’ahm the half-dragon archer and the striped mage cast a spell which summoned another comparatively large wasp different but similar in appearance to the other two. Wu’ahm shot Grom with three arrows at once one a critical hit forcing him to into a recovery check while the dark-skinned woman started to run away. Bers readied and waited for Boshi to rush her while it appeared he was guarding the mage waiting for someone to rush him. Draz aimed at the dark-skinned woman through the bushes she had run behind and shot her dead with a lucky shot. Vorwulf dueled it out with Wu’ahm with arrows killing him halfway through the second round being only lightly wounded by one of Wu’ahm’s arrows. Bers charged and took a power attack on Boshi her great sword blowing through his armor wounding him badly. He power attacked back slashing at her with his pudao but missed and was killed by her follow up strike. The striped mage sent the summoned wasp at Grom who dodged its dagger-like stinger. Draz shot the mage but the arrow bounced off of his robes. As they advanced on the mage, all 3 of his companions dead he surrendered all the while whining pathetically and begging for his life.

Vorwulf: “What’s yer name!”

Striped Mage: “Xanto, Xanto the wasp! Wait! Wait! Here, here’s my money just don’t kill me!” He tossed his hip purse at their feet.

Bers: “Should we kill him?”

Grom picked up the purse and emptied it into his hand. It was apparently a Hip Purse of Holding and out fell 6 potion vials, some coin which a few were stamped with the mark of Fertum Vorahd and a single gold talon stamped with the Coiled Dragon symbol. Vorwulf noticed as did Bers.

Vorwulf: “Where did you get that talon! Where’d you get the gold from!”

Xanto: “From the guy with the black mask on! The boss of tha’ guy that led you guys here! Their… the cult’s cave is at the end of this road!”

Vorwulf: “What are they called! Their name, their name!”

Xanto: “The Disciples of the Divine Flame! Please, please!”

The mage was slowly backing up the entire time as well as sweating profusely. The dragon-slayers conferred as to what to do with him but they forgot to keep an eye on him. As soon as all of their backs were to him he cast a spell on himself causing him to sprout golden-brown wasp-like wings and he buzzed off over the trees. Vorwulf and Draznor could have gotten a single shot at him each but decided to let him go as he was just a “hireling” anyway. They decided to go after the dragon cult and swallowed some of the potions that they were carrying realizing they were getting a bit low on healing potions though they gained 3 Closed Wounds potions from the hip purse. The rest, 1 potion of each Adhesion, Fly and Sharpen Smell they put back in the purse and let the shaman carry it. They began marching forward.

The hacked through the four draconian guards by the beginning of the second round and killed all four of the cultists’ pet dragonsauri. Lesser members fled their approach and they found themselves very shortly in the main chamber of the cultist lair. The chamber was massive and its floor sank 20 ft lower than the rest of the complex and they entered by way of a stone ramp-way. At the end opposite them was a 5 ft high dais accessed by two narrow ramps on either side. Atop the wide dais stood two cultists in yellow robes with the familiar flaming black spiral embossed on the front with one wearing a polished black dragon-skull mask and the other a white one. Each ramp was blocked by 2 human cultists dressed much the same but with chest plates bearing the cult symbol and armed with halberds. Two naga cultists armed and armored the same way sat in front of the dais. After dropping a naga cultist Bers got hit by a Slow spell cast by the white mask failing her saving throw. Vorwulf and Draznor shot at the two leaders and the shaman threw fire at the white masked leader finding the fire burnt off his robe but didn’t affect the scaled skin beneath also revealing the draconic wings protruding from his back. By the end of the first round one more cultist was killed and both of the leaders dead feathered with arrows but not before the white mask had hit Grom with a magical blast that forced him to make a recovery check. By the beginning of the second round they had killed all but one human cultist and promising to let him go he told them where the dragon Sawback’s lair was located. It was the mouth of a cave approximately 5 miles to the northeast, a big one from whence a large creek flows into the Estnik River a spur of the larger Nirix River. Just follow the bluffs of Hirok.

They were moderately wounded and were low on potions so they decided after they rest for the night they would go to Ekit’s Watch and try to purchase potions from the hedge-mage there. They also decided since the lair is obviously under or within Hirok they should check the north side for any other entrances into the dragon’s lair. Meanwhile the shaman was fascinated with an egg-shaped object of agate on a polished brass stand behind where the black masked cult leader had been standing when they rushed in. Ultimately he left it alone as it was too large to carry and it wouldn’t fit into the mouth of his hip purse. He didn’t sense any magic on it anyway. He also noticed the cave walls had a plethora of carvings and graffiti, symbols of various gods, cults and the vandalism of travelers. Some had been newly defaced and among the newest additions was the spiral symbol of the cult.

The next morning they found themselves in the dark storeroom ground floor of the tower called Ekit’s Watch which the eccentric mage which owned it had told them was called Raven’s Eyrie. He was wearing a bright red robe the deep cowl of which hid his face which must have been of a very strange elongated shape judging by the way the crimson hood draped over it. He sold them nearly a dozen potions of Close Wounds for a steep price which they paid without haggling. They then scouted out the north side of the Hirok bluffs and finding a cave they entered guessing this was the cave called Merchant’s Stow the mage of Ekit’s Watch had told them about when they asked about the north side of the hill. The wretched stench of carrion filled their noses and mouths with foulness. Within it was a bent cavern which contained some old molding crates and boxes as well as a couple of pits in the floor which opened into deeper caverns. Vorwulf descended into one of these with a lit torch while Bers stood by holding the rope. He found a larger cavern which curved around where he stumbled onto the rotting corpse of an adult wyvern. It had died of a severe wound which was a single bite that had nearly split it into two halves. He continued past it and found another opening which lead into a deeper and larger cavern beneath. Deciding this was the rear entrance to the lair he fetched the rest of the dragon-slayers and they entered the low cavern.

They found it a massive feeding chamber its floor littered with bones rotting flesh still clinging to most. Here they fought and killed 4 dragonsauri of a more wild variety than those that belonged to the cult. They continued on as the ground rose and found another ancient and apparently deserted feeding chamber with two passages exiting. The left rose and a bright greenish magical glow filled the large chamber at its end. The other to the right was shorter and glowed with the faint shimmer of sunlight on water. They went towards the sunlight and found themselves in a large chamber which opened to the outside with a large body of water at its center which was flowing out of the cave mouth. At the north of the chamber was a 20 ft. cliff at the top of which was an entrance to the chamber which glowed with the magic light. Immediately they were attacked by 4 draconians one of which was an adult and almost 10 ft. tall. They had glided from the top of the cliff with their short spears in hand at the adventurers. The fight didn’t last long with the slayers easily chopping through the monsters within two rounds. The group discovered that the glowing chamber had a large emerald at its center placed atop a stone pedestal shining with its own inner light which the shaman entertained the notion of taking until talked out of it by Bers.

Vorwulf: “Well, if you’re going to take it at least let us back out of the chamber first!”

They wandered around the caverns for a spell until they found their way to the High Chamber of the lair and were staring down the main shaft which led to the subterranean water chamber far below. The shaman drank the potion of Fly that they had taken from Xanto the wasp and he carried Draznor. Bers and Vorwulf dove into the shaft hoping once they were in complete darkness her Cape of Bat Flight would start functioning and she could catch and carry him. Surprisingly this actually worked. The water chamber was the largest chamber yet and snaked to the north and the south curving in such a manner as to conceal the end lengths of the chamber. Vorwulf was able to spot a faint flickering light at the north end and that’s the way they flew.

They came upon a bluff which dropped into the dark waters of the Water Chamber and atop that a large passageway with a high vaulted ceiling and lit by dozens possibly hundreds of oil lamps placed within the niches in the walls. There was a golden double door at the opposite end bearing the image of a ridge-back dragon. It was to these and over the dozen halberd-wielding cultists grouped at the center of the passageway. They fought with the cultists cutting them down though at the end of it Bers was now feeling the accumulation of all of the wounds she had suffered through all of the fights that they had experienced since entering the lair. She downed potions while the others tried to figure out how to open the massive gold doors all were also downing potions in an effort to heal their wounds. When all had drunk all of the potions that they were going to the doors opened and all could see old Sawback.

The dragon was 40 ft. long from nose to tail and probably a Great Adult. The gold diamond-encrusted claw sheath shone on its right forefinger and a gold necklace with a single large ruby glittered against its chest. Its throat puffed out and they could hear and feel the great rush of air as it inhaled. Bers, Grom and Draznor were terrified (failed their Courage Saves against the dragon’s Horror Factor) and Bers turned and fled. Vorwulf shot at it and planned on advancing. Sawback blasted them with its fire breath, Bers being fortunate that she had run outside of the maximum range of the flames. Bers was able to overcome her fear and turned and ran back to the fight determined to close with the dragon. Grom cast Dispel Fear on himself curing his terror but Draznor was paralyzed unable to conquer his fear until the end of the round. The dragon clawed Vorwulf dealing a fair amount of damage. Grom had to cast a healing spell on himself due to being badly burnt by the dragon’s fire breath. While fighting the dragon Vorwulf found his strikes were being stopped by a Mage Armor spell which he was going to have to chop away before he could make contact with the dragon. At the beginning of the second round the dragon again blasted the group with its breath luckily Grom was out of range. Draznor peppered the creature with arrows which was helping to knock down the magical field around it but knew his arrows may not do a thing to the creature itself even on a critical hit. Grom maneuvered around to what he thought would be a safe distance and cast Nature’s Ability on himself wings sprouting from his back. Bers and Vorwulf closed with the monster and hacked away at it. It took an attack of opportunity on each of them as they closed with it hurting them badly. They began to back away in turns and down a potion from their bandoliers while one fought and the other would run back in to fight allowing the other to fall back. The third round began to go their way as the field was finally knocked down and they dealt plenty of damage to it with Vorwulf “working the leg” trying to slow it down and Bers getting in a devastating power attack with her sword.  At the end of the round it swiped at Grom with its tail as he flew in approaching from above. In the fourth round of combat the dragon backed into its lair, a massive rounded cavern with another chamber to the north, south and west (directly behind the dragon) joined by gigantic chiseled archways. Bers got in a couple of power attacks, Vorwulf hung back to guzzle a potion and ran back in to engage the dragon while Grom pursued it by air and tried to cast a spell on it but his magic wasn’t strong enough to penetrate Sawback’s spell resistance. Draznor stayed back but remained within bow range but was taking a range penalty for the distance and kept hoping for a lucky shot with his arrows which kept striking and shattering on the iron-hard scales. The dragon blasted them again with its breath and tried to trample the two in front of it both successfully dodged, barely in each case. In the fifth round the dragon had positioned itself well using the trample and unleashed a fourth gout of flame-breath catching all but Draznor in the heat cone forcing Bers and Grom to make recovery checks to not get reduced to cinders. Grom moved as far back as he could winding up by Draznor. Vorwulf continued on the attack even though his potions were spent and he was badly injured and Bers dodged a strike from one of the dragon’s massive scimitar-claws. It snapped its powerful jaws at Vorwulf who tried to dodge but got chomped and swallowed instead. Bers swung her sword in a power attack at the end of the round and scored a powerful hit cutting the creature deep and splitting its side open suffering burns as she got sprayed with a flood of scalding dragon’s blood. The monster shrieked and as it collapsed Bers having to run away from the massive bleeding body as it came crashing to the smooth stone floor. A few minutes later Vorwulf emerged acid eaten and a bit worse for the wear having cut himself free of its gut. All four had survived but were all very badly injured. Bers’ and Vorwulf’s armor was completely destroyed or hanging off in shreds barely having enough hit points left to hold together. They surveyed the massive treasure filled chambers which glowed with firelight from huge solid gold braziers and various magical lights. What really caught their attentions was the massive mirror-polished vault door behind the dragon’s main pile of treasure in the far end of the north chamber. They decided to simply spend the night here and take account of the treasure, at least the bits they would plan to carry out after a good rest. They were careful however to avoid the hoard piles until they could figure out a way to dispose of the gold scarabs which were likely swarming within.

To Be Continued…

The Arvan Game Pt. 30: Dagger-Tooth Cave

Leaving behind two columns of black smoke rising into the sky behind them from the Varidna Plain they made their way to Fertum Vorahd to gain some well-earned rest. They were disappointed at not discovering the dragon hoards they were expecting or being able to harvest any dragon-bone. The few days they spent there were occupied with purchasing another wagon and some donkeys to haul it, drinking in the tavern and being openly avoided by the remaining members of the Crossed-Staffs and keeping an eye on the ratlings which they occasionally caught watching and following them. Vorwulf recruited a protégé of his own named Draznor a human ranger/dragonslayer. After they were all fully recovered from their foray into the Varidna Plain they decided to “take care” of their ratling problem.

They decided to set a trap up for the ratlings by stocking up their wagon with their gear and the dragon-bone they harvested from the young Crimson Reaver then Vorwulf would lay in wait since his Hide skill was the highest. The others would wait around a corner or near the door in the tavern nursing some full tankards. They assumed that the street urchins were not going to bother their stuff since they were probably under the auspices of the Crossed-Staffs.

It took until late afternoon until a ratling took the bait revealing itself to approach the wagon but before it could presumably pull one of those magic flasks Vorwulf made his move and jumped out and shouted for his comrades. They pursued the ratling down the main street, the small creature unable to lose the pack of howling adventurers. They chased it out of the gates and beyond as it fled north into Morik’s Wood. Draznor was assigned to follow behind them with the wagon. It seemingly got away as they lost sight of it in the bush but Vorwulf was able to pick its track back up and they pursued at a more leisurely pace eventually coming to a clearing and once they walked to the center of the tree-lined ground a group of 10 cultists wearing yellow silk robes leapt from the bushes and crossbow bolts shot from the 10 ratlings hidden in the surrounding bushes. The first round was a stalemate as the adventurers and the cultists/tat-eyes did more maneuvering than anything else with Bers forced to wipe her eyes as a ratling assassin spat in them in a dirty fighting maneuver after revealing itself. Three of the thugs were dead by the end of the first round. At the beginning of the second round a roar ripped through the clearing form above and a brown-fang dragon wielding a giant-sized two-handed mace dropped through the canopy snapping branches. It had to have been 30 ft long from nose to tail but fairly light weighing in at around 960 lbs. It was wearing a steel pectoral plate bearing the insignia of the dragon-cult. The four battled the dragon and the ratlings with 2 more back-stabbing ratling assassins making their presences known at key moments but proving to be ineffective in turning the battle. Only 1 ratling assassin dropped by the end of the second round. By the end of the third round 5 ratlings, a second ratling assassin and the dragon were dead. At the end of the fourth round all but two ratlings were killed and the adventurers were only moderately wounded at worst and began chasing the surviving two ratlings down both of which fled north and were bleeding profusely. After an hour they came across the corpse of the first dead of its wounds and continued chasing the other which they found dead after another hour at the mouth of a cave. They were immediately attacked by 3 ratling savages who were all dead at the end of the first round.  They entered the cave determined to eliminate every ratling they came across especially now that they knew they were in league with the dragon-cult.

They tore through the cave complex which featured a subterranean river they found their way into a cavern filled with the cowering offspring of the Daggertooth ratlings defended by their mothers which attempted to engage the adventurers with their bare hands and teeth. Draznor was put out of action by a barbed javelin to the leg, nailed when the javelineer popped out from behind a stalagmite. Our heroes backed out of the cave and were swarmed by the tribals which they hacked through without a problem barely taking a scratch. Draznor was sent back to the entrance to keep watch for any reinforcements. They leapt over a chasm when the narrow planks that crossed them were kicked over by the ratling defenders, Bers flew over using her Cape of Bat-Flight. They eventually found themselves in a large chamber where the leaders of the tribe held court and by the third round they had eliminated them and taken their treasure a blue-steel chest with a mirror polish. Within it, after finding the key hidden on the chief’s corpse, they found a fair sum of coin of several different types and 10 gold talons and 6 bronze pigs. The talons bore the symbol of the dragon cult, the flaming spiral. Their aims achieved the dragon-slayers left for the fertum by the next morning.

They spent a few days in Fertum Vorahd trying to decide what to do. They still weren’t entirely sure where the dragon Sawback’s lair was located and decided to travel back to Merdna where the dragon cult seemed to operate openly and to call upon the corrupt druid under the pretenses of identifying the two items they had taken from the Black Cathedral (see Pt. 28). They were in Merdna as soon as Draznor was fully recovered. That day after flashing their cash all over town they were meeting with the presiding druid of Hirok-Nor and rumored dragon-conspirator. He was a perfumed fat-man who was rude, overbearing and draped in fine and expensive clothing his fingers and neck weighted with gold and gems. He became instantly courteous when he realized they were not the servants of his new clients but they were his new clients though he kept a perfumed handkerchief to his nose the entire time. He had introduced himself as Jeorwe the Priest of Hirok.

They handed him the ring and he immediately began to tell them what it was.

Jeorwe: “This is a ring of the Slayers of the Tower, a ring of dragon …” he trailed off then looked up at them with an expression as he if he were trapped.

He exhaled deeply and continued on, “A ring of dragon protection”. Vorwulf recognized the name attached to the gem-encrusted ring. It belonged to a legendary group of dragon-slayers whom mysteriously disappeared somewhere in the Great Delta (a still wild region far to the southeast) and are known mostly due to a song sung about their leader known only as Redtooth the mighty. They were actually a group from some of the very first test-games in which Cris had played, but not as Redtooth. An NPC bard hired by Redtooth to write and sing his epic had rolled a Natural 20 to write it and during its first performance in front of a full house some of which were bards. There were 5 rings which were commissioned by the group and were +5 rings of protection versus dragons. They handed the sword to the druid.

Jeorwe (as he turned the sword over in his hands): “This is interesting. You said you found it in some ruins in Varidna eh? It’s not extraordinary though it is magical. I have another client who wishes to remain anonymous that will be interested in this and will offer you a fair price.”

They knew that he was probably going to lie to them about what the sword actually was and told him they weren’t going to sell it and took their leave. They exited the backroom of the tavern which they had “rented” for the meeting and put Draznor to keep eye on any tails. They immediately went to find another magic user and found out the local Apothecary was in fact an Ivoran Alchemist. He identified the sword as a Dragon Bane weapon which could absorb the breath weapon of the last dragon it killed within its large pommel stone and the wielder could unleash it as additional damage on a strike. The runes on the blade read, “Suck the Breath & Drink Deep the Dragon’s Blood”. Vorwulf took the sword for his own and Bers the ring.

They then split the party in two with Grom the shaman and Draznor going off on their own and doubling back around so that they can keep an eye on the other two and anyone that may be tailing them. Meanwhile Bers and Vorwulf sported their new items, the ring and the sword, in public. It wasn’t long before the shaman and Draznor caught eye of street urchins spying on the other pair. Draznor was able to snatch one up and interrogate him getting the info that a cult member was waiting in the beerhall and wasn’t wearing his robes. After the kid described the guy Draznor tossed the kid a gold piece and told him to carry on with the job and to mention nothing of “this”. The group reunited in the beerhall and kept an eyeball on the cult member when he got up and left they followed. He departed on his horse from Merdna that evening with Draznor following and leaving sign for Vor while the others hastily prepared the wagon and their gear for the chase. They pursued him into the night as he rode hard first north on the road then suddenly cutting east leaving it and going into Nor Forest towards the hills/highland known simply as Hirok. They passed under the hateful gaze of Ekit’s Watch the long red banners bearing the black raven fluttering the night breeze. They lost him as he cut deeper into the forest but figured they could track him in the morning as their donkeys were exhausted. They also needed sleep and so laid down for a short nap for the few hours they had before dawn.

Late the next morning the four adventurers were tracking the cultist’s horse traveling southeast. After about 2 or 3 hours of travel on foot with the shaman leading the donkeys they came to a clearing and an obviously well-traveled and remote trail. As they broke the tree-cover they noticed a large man wearing a suit of full plate armor painted with the image of a horse severed in two on his chest. The armor appeared to be of Hyvalian design, the crown of his great helm had a horse-tail tassel and he had a pudao in his hands.

Armored Guy (in a strong Hyvalian accent): “I am Boshi Ironskin! Your heads shall fetch me a decent wage!”

To be continued…

The Arvan Game Pt. 29: Dragon-Hunt

Vorwulf (played by Cris), Bers (played by Jenn) and Grom the shaman (played by Gil) stood around a wide and ancient well. It was so completely covered by moss and fungus that it appeared as part of the landscape and the mossy stones that jutted from the ground next to it. They had arrived by late morn traveling from Varder’s farm and turned from the road tracking the Ivoran Merchants wagon trail easily straight of the mouth of the well. They had attacked a pair of “tat-eye” ratlings (they had begun calling the ratling savages this) which they had caught trailing them, the fight taking two rounds as they found the ratlings very hard to hit and both successfully fled the group of dragon-slayers. Vorwulf was tempted to track them down but as they were already “trailing a dragon” and upon inspection no dragon-bone had been missing he decided to let them go.

Looking down the well’s mouth they could smell the moisture and feel the cold draft coming up from the well its bottom masked in darkness. After tossing in a stone Vorwulf figured it 100 ft deep. They secured a rope to their wagon which they parked right next to the low stone rim and dropped it down. The first to go down would be Vorwulf then Grom and the finally Bers the logic being that if she should fall one of the others might catch her (I didn’t say it was sound logic). Both the ranger and shaman made it about half way, 50 ft down the rope. Bers on the other hand as soon as she descended on the rope pass the lip she slipped. She collided with the shaman knocking him from the rope and Vorwulf acrobatically leapt from the rope into a short tunnel dug into the slimy side of the wall. While falling the shaman cast the Swim Like Fish (see The Great Grimoire Vol. I) spell on his self and dove into the water 50 ft below breaking the vapors hovering over its surface. Bers crashed onto the water’s surface and sank like a stone due to her armor. She was wearing a star metal chest plate at this point which she was trying to unbuckle as she sank into the murky depths. Grom had to swim down to grab her and hauled her with some effort to a ledge just above the water. Vorwulf had observed that there were 2 other openings like the one he was currently squatting in. Each appeared to have been clawed into the rock and opened into moist dirt tunnels. He was absolutely certain this was a dragon’s lair of a species they had yet to encounter. From above the scene of Bers and the shaman below he could see something like a snake just under the surface of the water but could not make out what exactly it was in the gloom.

Vorwulf: “Lookout!”

Bers pulled the great sword she had taken from the ruins of Black Brow (see Pt. 6) and the shaman tried to take some cover behind her and prepared to sling a spell. The waters broke and a serpent-like creature rose up rearing like a viper. It was definitely draconic with a long beard hanging like wet Spanish-moss from its chin and a fin-like ridge running along its spine. The creature had to be easily 20 ft to 30 ft long and several hundred pounds in weight. The creature struck at Bers who parried its jaws with her sword then struck at it just missing as it dodged. Vor shot at it with his bow his arrows dealing some damage. Grom using magic threw fire at the monster which dealt very little damage. Its neck inflated as it sucked in its breath and exhaled blowing a narrow blast of noxious gas down at the ledge. Bers didn’t suffer the tear-gas effects of the stuff but was unknowingly infected with the same disease which had been ripping through the farmers. Grom jumped off of the ledge into water dodging the gas altogether. Vorwulf continued to shot down from his vantage point dealing virtually no damage. Bers swung at the creature but her blows were easily dodged by the serpent-dragon. At the beginning of the second round Grom leapt back out of the water as he realized he was essentially dead meat if it decided to pursue him. Luckily for him the gas had dissipated enough not to affect him. Vorwulf put his bow on his back and pulled his weapons. Bers swung and missed and the dragon again blasted her with its breath and again the shaman jumped back into the water avoiding it. Vorwulf leapt from the low tunnel mouth and slashed with both of his weapons as he careened down from above delivering two powerful blows to the creature using his acrobatic skill to flip in the air and dive into the water. Bers slashed at the enraged creature and hacked it nearly completely through. Black blood spilled changing the color of the water as its corpse sank into the depths of the well.

They wasted no time in climbing back out of the well claiming victory though they had no hoard or dragon hide or bone as booty. Vorwulf using his knowledge of dragons figured out it was a Guivere a serpentine water-loving dragon whose breath is a disease inflicting miasma. Grom on a hunch cast the Cure Disease (see The Great Grimoire Vol. I) spell on Bers. They began the journey back to the West Road and from there back to the farm to rest a little then track down that adult Crimson Reaver. As they approached the road they could see another draconian standing in the way and then after Vorwulf pointed them out, two ratlings coming in from the sides.

The fight was another quick one. One of the ratlings coming in from the side, especially fast mind you was shot dead by Vorwulf. The draconian was slain in a single stroke by Bers who was able to wrench her sword free of its corpse before it turned to stone the instant it died. Another ratling they had yet to spot stabbed at Bers which she successfully dodged. Vor spotted and shot at the other which was trying to sneak into the gap left by Bers when she charged the draconian. Probably to get to the wagon as it had a glowing flask in one of its hands. The ratling that had gotten close turned its knife on the shaman who could see the blade was covered in a poisonous looking substance and dodged the strike. As the flask wielding ratling kept trying to get close enough to through its payload Vorwulf targeted the flask and shot it. The ratling burst into a pillar of blue flame and was instantly reduced to ashes. The knife wielding ratling turned to run saving successfully against the spell leveled at him by Grom and being missed entirely by Bers. He was felled by one of Vor’s arrows which stuck up out of his back.

They returned to the farm by late afternoon and decided to use the “cow method” to bait the dragon into revealing itself but found the ranchers unwilling as they had lost “too many animals already”. It took would have taken some convincing but the party was not the most charismatic group so they purchased several very fat sheep for a hefty sum. So they decided to rest and take up the hunt the next morning probably leaving immediately after slaying the dragon to Fertum Vorahd. So Grom decided to buy a few chickens for some reason and put them in their wood cage on the wagon. The next morning most of the bait had been taken and Vorwulf began to carefully track the trail of bloody bits of wool and footprints which proceeded west towards the Varidvir Woods. It took them about an hour to catch up to the dragon which had by this time doubled back around on them charging at them when they reached the center of the wood.

Bers closed with it using a charge, it parried her blow then it spit its venom at her forcing her to dodge. Vorwulf shot at it and Grom threw some flames at it to little effect. It came to the second wave of turns and Vorwulf joined Bers in closing with the monster and Grom cast a Call Lightning spell and lost control of it (rolled a Natural 1 casting check). The area of effect was magnified to a 100 ft radius and struck everybody and everything within including the dragon, Bers, Vorwulf and the wagon. All were wounded save the shaman who was unaffected, the field of battle which was cramped with trees and bushes was now for the most part cleared and the remains and outer perimeter were now on fire. The oxen and chickens were killed however and the wagon was blasted to pieces. The battle continued with the adventurers and the dragon on full attack with Bers taking a tail swipe getting stuck with the dragons tail-spines (fortunately they’re not poisonous). The second round put all three slayers on the defensive at least once during the fight with Vorwulf being forced to dodge twice and getting rent in the dragon’s jaws. In the third round Bers was forced to dodge twice and was stomped on wounding her severely though she successfully landed a devastating power attack with her sword. By the end of the third round the adventurers were all badly wounded as was the dragon so it fled as fast as it could manage. The adventurers letting it go so they could guzzle some potions form the bandoliers before taking the hunt back up very well-knowing that the dragon would be fully healed by the time they were able to reengage it in combat.

With the burning Varidvir Woods far behind them they found themselves confronting the dragon again in the early afternoon within the Varid Wood approximately 8 miles southeast of the Varidvir Woods. Bers tossed another dancing ax into the air which she had in her equipment to lend them assistance and it began to fly about striking at the dragon which on its first attack snatched it out of the air with its jaws and reducing it to scrap metal between its teeth. The dragon was stunned by fumbling a claw attack against Vorwulf and falling on its face. By the end of the first round the shaman had missed the dragon when throwing fire at it hitting a nearby clump of bushes and trees setting the forest aflame. They continued to battle the dragon in the midst of the flames and easily took it down in the second round with only Bers being forced to dodge on her second action after nailing it with a power attack. Realizing they were in the middle of a forest fire they ran from the burning woods without being able to butcher out the dragon’s corpse. Hauling their gear in the two sacks and 1 backpack of holding that they carried with them they fled north stopping at the West Road.

To Be Continued…

The Arvan Game Pt. 28: The Blackened Cathedral

A few days later we rejoin our pair of survivors in Merdna. After recuperating from their wounds and grieving for their lost companion they decided to try to bury the hatchet with the Crossed-Staff gang once and for all. Vorwulf and Bers tossed a street urchin a gold piece and told him to send word for the new leader of the Crossed-Staffs and meet with them at the beerhall. That evening a shaky small man, not wearing yellow, arrived and cautiously introduced himself as the acting “guildmaster” of the Crossed-Staff. Vorwulf simply put it to him that they were tired of killing his people and were willing to pay. They passed him a purse of gems and silver pieces amounting to a fairly great sum. He hastily accepted their offer and summarily made his exit. Cris’ reasoning was that if they were going to try to found a guild in the area they couldn’t conduct business with the local mob out for their blood.

The next day after purchasing new beasts of burden, a pair of strangely reluctant oxen, and their dragon-hide bandoliers heavy with potions they departed Merdna for another attempt at a foray into Varidna. By just after noontime they were approaching the fork at the edge of the Varid Wood having just passed through the latter part of the Pass Road where Dead-Eye had met his end. They had taken a lunch of trail rations by his grave before continuing on. As they neared the fork determined to take the northward path, the West Road, they spotted a strange creature step out of the shadow of the trees.

It appeared as a dragon-man with an elongated jaw and draconic face, a pair of horns and thick, scaly skin with a pair of small leathery wings on its back. The creature was armed with a falchion, a buckler painted black and wearing a bronze pectoral plate. Behind him filed 3 men with swords and unpainted shields wearing yellow silk robes bearing a black spiral wreathed in black flames. Wooden masks painted white and carved into the image of a dragon’s skull covered their faces. Vorwulf engaged with his sword and dagger, a fighting style reminiscent of his master, and Bers pulled her (currently) favorite magic ax and went to meet the dragon-man (their first Draconian). Bers fought with the draconian for the first round killing it and losing her ax in its death-throes as it immediately transmuted into a puddle of acid thereby destroying the ax and forcing her to dodge to avoid any acid-splash. Vorwulf fought with the swordsmen using a consistent combination of parry-simuls (simultaneous attacks). Bers waded into the skirmish with the swordsmen on the second round and picked off two as well destroying the last’s shield. Vor slaughtered the remaining fighter at the beginning of the third round. They inspected the bodies leaving the pool of sizzling acid alone of course. They found a piece of paper, Vorwulf was literate unlike his former master, but could not decipher the writing as it was probably in code but he did take note of the three symbols which were stamped on the bottom of the note. The first was recognizable as that seen around the left-eyes of the savage ratlings which had been raiding their dragon-bone supplies, the other the symbol on the robes of the swordsmen and finally a peculiar coiled dragon.

They continued on as they were not particularly injured from the encounter. They traveled on for a few more hours and as the time reached early evening they noticed that the Varidvir Wood was on the north side of the West Road. There was the sudden earsplitting sound of cracking wood and the trees flew apart and a dragon crashed into the road out from the Varidvir Wood. The creature’s scales were colored red, magenta, crimson and deep purple. Its horns and claws were gleaming blue-black with a long neck and lacking wings it had six legs. Spines ran along its spine gathering at the tip of the tail which it was whipping back and forth in agitation. The dragon roared and charged them.

Jenn: “I try to get in front of the oxes between the dragon and them so it can’t get ‘em.”

Me: “It’s not charging them it’s charging at you.”

Vorwulf (after a successful dragon-lore check): “Don’t that thing spit on you!”

They took it out rather quickly with Vorwulf claiming the deathblow on his second attack. They camped there for the night to allow Vor to skin and bone it. He realized it was a young dragon as it was only about 30 ft long from tail to nose and barely breaking 1,000 lbs. He had identified it as a Crimson Reaver (see Monster Magnus Vol.I) and was happy they had a new reserve of dragon-bone and hide. He then failed his roll to skin it and ruined the hide but boned it successfully. In the morning they continued west along the West Road.

They soon encountered an old rancher sitting out front of his ranch-house (a typical Westlander longhouse with a porch) smoking his pipe. He introduced himself as Varder and after finding out that they were dragon-slayers eagerly updated them on the local goings-on. He told them of the dragon problems they were having with the dragon, the slayers mentioned nothing of their killing the young dragon on the road, and when shown the symbols on the paper they had taken from the draconian he identified the ratling tattoo as the mark of the Daggertooth ratlings a savage tribe which make their homes in the North and Nor forests, worshippers of that old dragon. He told them of Sawback, the dragon which rules this region from the shadows using the ratlings to carry out his will and deliver messages. Rumor has it that the Druid of Hirok-Nor is in league with him.

Vorwulf: “Corrupt @$$ druid.”

They were also updated on the presence of a dragon cult that wears yellow silk robes.

Varder: “Ivorans I think. Came up this road here and went that aways.” He pointed east towards the Pass Road with the stem of his pipe.

Varder also mentioned the Black Cathedral when asked about any local ruins telling them that the land there was cursed and no one goes anywhere near that place when the sun goes down. So justifying their decision to seek the Black Cathedral out by convincing themselves that the dragon may have used it as a lair they immediately took off south off of the road. They had been instructed by Varder the old rancher that the ruins sat atop a low hill south of the North Road. They pulled their wagon up below said hill by early evening. The ruins were indeed the remains of an old cathedral built by the Hyvalian Theocracy probably over 100 years ago give or take. Its stone walls were indeed black, fire blackened that is. The slit set high up in the walls and empty. The front entrance gaped the interior visible but cast in deep shadow and mote polluted beams of golden light shot through the west-facing slit windows and the multitude of holes in the old lead roof. The floor of the nave was covered in detritus and dirt, the flags beneath being completely buried. They carefully entered the gutted building and spent some time tiptoeing around as they checked it out. They avoided the choir since they could see a large statue on a raised platform of a young man in possibly monk’s garb in supplication praying due to their (or at least Bers’) past experience with statues in lonely places. They found a crusted bronze door recessed in the west wall which Bers kicked down. In the small and strangely clean and barren room behind they found a stairway down through the floor. They descended and made their way through a subterranean complex of rooms and fought with the denizens found there including 2 blackened mummies, 4 undead skeletons and scarab swarm summoned by the last mummy. They reached the last chamber after defeating the last mummy and using a bottle of lantern oil to defeat the swarm. They found a room littered with black and crumbling bones with a small silver casket at the far end set in niche in the dirty plaster wall. They were both badly wounded at this point having been hit at least once in each fight. They were debating whether or not to enter the chamber but as they looked on a roiling black mist began to seep into the chamber from between the cracks in the floor along with an audible moaning coming from below. Vorwulf dashed in and snatched the casket.

Vorwulf: “Run, run, run!”

He tore off for the door as did Bers. The black mist having flooded the final chamber, hideous faces filled with pain and horror could be seen swirling randomly about within it and as they ran it followed. Vorwulf barely jumped over the threshold of the entrance to the nave as it caught up to him and made a snatch at him with a smoky claw. There it waited and slowly began to ease outside staying within the shadow of the building. They both noted this peculiar action and realized it was now dusk and rushed to their wagon committed to fleeing as far as possible from the Black Cathedral as they could. They looked black at the silhouette of the building against the red-orange dusk.

They continued moving for a few hours until they reached the farm house of Varder and threw down their sleeping rolls for the night. At dawn they opened the casket and found a longsword with a razor-sharp blade and covered in decorative runes. Its grip was wrapped with gold wire and had a large rock-crystal pommel stone. The only other item in the casket was a gold ring emblazoned with tower of inlaid adamantine with an onyx dragon winding about it. The ring was encrusted with diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires. They were pretty sure the stuff was magic but had no way to tell until they got back to a decent sized settlement. They took breakfast with Varder and his family and went to investigate another dragon sighting finding a footprint which Vorwulf identified as those of an adult Crimson Reaver. They also noticed a couple of shrouded bodies and were told that a sickness was sweeping through the ranches and seemed to start in the west. They told them of a shaman who crept in from the wilderness was trying to help the victims for the past week or so but was so far unsuccessful.

They found and talked this shaman who introduced himself as Grom (played by Jenn’s brother Gil). He told them that even his spiritual arts have had no result leading him to believe that the plague is supernatural. An Ivoran merchant caravan passed along the West Road early that evening and stopped at one of the farms where they had the farmers send for the shaman. Bers and Vorwulf followed Grom to them. The group found that several in the caravan were also sick, all those who had drunk from an old well they had found a mile or so off of the road.

To Be Continued…

The Arvan Game Pt. 27: The “A Death in the Family” Episode

We pick the story back up as Bers, Dead-Eye and Vorwulf depart the large town of Merdna by the lake the city arms consisting of a crossed hammer and axe silhouette against a background of deep green waved in the breeze. The previous few days they had met the Brothers Dracorian, a small gang of Hill-Lander thugs who were at odds with the Crossed-Staff gang and offered to be the slayers’ informants. A berserker cult, the Coiled Serpents, have been strolling about town causing trouble probably just waiting for violence to explode between Asternor and Achoran over the control of river trade. They were already taking bids from the competing merchant guilds. Merdna was probably going to take a neutral stance if hostilities went that far. They also bought some info which told them of an ancient dragon which held sway over this land for centuries named “Sawback”. They also found out that the town was the primary residence of Hirok-Nor’s druid and his apprentice. The druid was draped in jewels and appeared to have expensive tastes but where he was getting the cash the group could guess. The manor-house of Lord Vorahd was also within the town. The day before they left they talked to a survivor of the “North-Cross Massacre”. The man’s compatriots, a merchant caravan, were killed by a winged creature which slithered away during the night. The creature had gone southeast as far as he could tell. They mulled all of this information over as they sauntered through the gates.

They took the Sirti Road, a short 4 and a half mile stretch, traveling west to Sirti. They entered the town just after midday which was located at the base of one of the low Sirti Mountains on the top of a flattened hill surrounded by a cyclopean stone wall. Its banners bore crossed black hammers hovering over a grey block of stone against a field of orange. Sirit was populated mostly by Westlander Hill-Giants which ran the town’s mine and worked the local quarry both of which bored into the root of the mountain. Everything in town was built on foundations of stone and had massive entryways and cavernous ground floors of every building. They secured a space near the front gates for a pittance and left Vorwulf to care for their donkeys. They took up seats in the local tavern and at about the third round and after they enjoyed a sumptuous meal for which they had thrown down silver, gold and the last of the fliks they were carrying. They had collected some information mostly about a place called the Black Cathedral, it was a shunned place and they got the usually, “but you better leave that place alone,” speech so they marked it down as a to-do. As that was out of their way they talked it over as to whether or not to travel to Fertum Vorahd 6 miles by road to the north first or make a right at the crossroads which would take them into the Sirti Pass/Pass Road and after onto the Varidna Plain. They discussed the ratling savages which they occasionally caught sight of trailing them but dismissed them with the words, “we’ll track the little b@$%*&ds down the next time they steal from us”. They eventually made the decision to not waste any time in getting to the Varidna Plain and their quarry.

It came to the middle of the next day as they had just made it through the pass to where the road dropped onto the Varidna Plain passing between the foothills of the Sirti Mountains. As they approached the fork in the road splitting the Pass Road into the West road and the North Road which would take them southwest they noticed there were large berms of piled earth on either side of the road and Dead-Eye warned the group to slow and tread carefully. Directly in front of them about 50 ft away where the berms ended a hill-giant stepped out into sight wielding an iron staff, the gold necklace on his neck glinting in the sun. He was followed by Taga his Ferenoi mate. Thugs with crossbows trained on them appeared at the tops of the berms on both sides of the road, leading them on top of the southern berm was the familiar Thug Captain (see Pts. 23 & 24) his yellow waist sash flapping in the wind. Behind them two more hill-giants identical to the first and similarly armed stepped out into the road. They all had smug grins on their faces.

Giant Leader: “Well, well, well. Look who we have here!”

Cris/Dead-Eye to Jenn/Bers: “Looks like this is it we’re taking these f*&#ers down!”

The captain was the first to act firing a crossbow bolt into one of their donkeys killing it. The giant leader grasped his necklace which was in the shape of a lightning bolt and spoke a strange, alien word aloud. Arrows of electricity which boomed like thunder when they struck rained down on Bers and Dead-Eye hurting them both and deafening Bers. Taga charged and engaged Bers immediately and her mate met Dead-Eye in melee combat. The four thugs on one of the berms fired their crossbows at the wagon and Vorwulf whom took a couple of bolts but was barely scratched but the other donkey was dead. Dead-Eye was landing just about every attack he made with his sword and bowie knife and holding his own but the giant was landing just as often. Bers was swinging and missing with her axe as the amazon was landing more and more with the tips of her double-spear. Vorwulf was assailed by one of the other giants and forced to dodge and take cover nearly being killed by a single blow. Bers retreated to defend Vorwulf as Dead-Eye was too far forward and cut-off by the amazon Taga. Bers hit the second giant easily hurting him but taking the heat off of Vor. Dead-Eye was forced to make a recovery check to not be killed by a blow from the giant leader and his armor was essentially shredded and not providing much protection at the moment. The third giant moved in to attack Bers but was too slow and she was attacked again by Taga. By the beginning of the third round it was evident that they were losing and losing bad. All three were badly wounded and their armor was either completely gone or almost gone. Then Bers pulled off a power attack against the wounded second giant spilling his guts all over the road after pulling away from Taga. Vorwulf tried to run away to a small knob with a tree growing on it in order to pull a few potions and maybe so he could take a few shots and even the odds a little. The Captain and his thugs just looked on with loaded crossbows at the ready cheering. Dead-Eye was forced into two more recovery checks in order to survive the battle with the giant leader and he was almost as badly wounded to where only a single successful blow dealt to either would decide the duel. The third giant charged Vorwulf and bashed him into unconsciousness and prepared to deal a coup de gras blow waiting in order to savor his victory. Bers got hit hard, tripped then got pinned by Taga’s spear to the ground. The amazon’s bloody face locked in a bare-toothed grimace of hate. Bers reached for her belt and pulled the Mallet of Harm. The giant leader then scored a strike roll of a natural 20 and Dead-Eye failed to dodge with a Natural 1. His limp and broken body was flung 30 feet before smashing face first into the dirt of the road. Bers hit the ground with the mallet even though Taga twisted the spear hoping to stun her with pain. The magic rippled in all directions along the ground dealing enough damage to reduce the thugs and their captain into a red mist which coated everything it touched with blood. Taga’s equipment and jewelry dropped to the ground with a splash of blood drenching Bers. The remaining two giants shrieked and gasped blood exploding from their wounds as they died.

Bers limped over to Vorwulf, snatched a potion from his bag and poured it down his throat though he did not wake he was no longer bleeding out then collapsed to the grass. They both awoke at dusk and appraised the situation. They dug a grave for Dead-Eye burying him with his equipment he was loaded with magic items and money of various kinds, and set up a tombstone of a 20 lb. stone to mark it. They saluted their slain companion and moved through the night pulling the wagon behind them trying to avoid any potential encounters with anyone or anything. They moved at frantic pace deciding to return to Merdna completely exhausted and still badly wounded.

To Be Continued…

The Arvan Game Pt. 26: Robber’s Roost

So, after purchasing a pair of domesticated diatryma imported from the south for their wagon they got their little foray to the ruin underway. They began on Hill Road and made it north and followed it as it turned east at the Southern Hills and as it approached the edge of Estlavir Forest which concealed half of the East Bend. They reached the point on the road where the Southern Hills were at their left (to the north on the compass) with the forest ahead and to the right (south) of the road. It was approaching evening and they had about an hour before they had to look for a good camping site when Dead-Eye spotted a dragon flying furiously towards their position from the rear (west).

The dragon appeared to be a grayling but spotted with bright patches of red scales fortunately it also appeared to be a young one. Bers shot at it with her crossbow and missed by a mile. Dead-Eye got a shot off on it as it flew in wounding it badly using up his last dragon-bone arrow. It exhaled a cone of fire as it strafed them roasting the birds hauling their wagon and scorching it black. Vorwulf shot the dragon hurting it badly before it flew out of range. Bers began to reload her weapon while Dead-Eye to another shot carefully aiming as it was near the end of the range for his shortbow. His aim was true and the dragon crashed into the forest a ways off with a shriek. They were determined to get to the corpse and skin and bone it. It was then that they noticed ratlings ducking and fleeing at the edge of the trees. They appeared to be of the savage kind and the few that they got a clear look at bore tattoos around their left eyes. Bers and Dead-Eye barreled through the trees shouting to Vorwulf to take care of the wagon and meet them at the bend!

It was well dark before they got to where the dragon’s corpse had landed and remained hidden in the bushes as they approached as they caught site of a dozen or so savage ratlings gathered around the body. The apparent leader was lifting an eerily glowing jewel above his head and mumbling what appeared to be a prayer. The chanting ratling appeared unusual in that he seemed to scaly skin rather than hair. He soon tossed the gem at the corpse and it exploded with a violet light which turned into bright blue flames surrounding the corpse reducing to ashes in an instant and with that the mischief scattered as Dead-Eye and Bers watched with mouths agape. They tried to track the ratlings following their tracks for about an hour heading in a northeasterly direction but eventually losing the trail. They decided to turn back after Dead-Eye failed to pick it back up.

They met with Vorwulf a short while later at the bend. He had pulled the blackened wagon to the bend by himself and had set up a decently concealed campsite without a fire as he had cut the choicest bits of the wagon-birds for food.

Cris (Dead-Eye’s player): “Hey why waste it. I don’t have time to hunt today besides Dead’s tired of trail rations.”

Bers snatched up a leg and began munching. Late that night those sleeping were woke by an unusually loud and deep wolf-howl. Vorwulf due to his previous experience with a certain pack of wolves (see Pt. 22) was not happy though he had bonded somewhat with Rrhga the sentient wolf (see Pt. 23) when they had hunted together on the road while traveling to Hirok-Nor from the Falmark.

The next morning Dead-Eye and Vorwulf found ratling tracks around the campsite and spent a few minutes pondering the mystery of who they might be working for. They began following East Bend into then out of the forest and when it began to turn north they stayed north going off of the road into the Ot Lake farmlands. They encountered a farmer whose land they cutting through on the first day who told them about a hungry and unnaturally large wolf that has been killing their animals recently. It had been sighted but ran away north towards the hills. He also told them out about a hedge-mage who’s taken up in the ruins of Ekit’s Watch and exacts a high price from the local farmers here and around Merdna for his services. He’s been threatening curses on their crops and pox on their livestock and families. They have been paying in money, goods, crops and on occasion a daughter. That got Bers’ dander up but Dead-Eye didn’t want to “mess with no wizard” so they stayed focused on reaching the ruins of Robber’s Roost. They spent the day wandering around the base of the hills after spanning the farmers’ lands. They then encountered a hill-giant who seemed to be good-natured but mute. He didn’t carry any weapons aside from a large but crude knife and a hide kilt. On guard they started to try to communicate which took a while and since neither Vor nor Dead could find a trail over or through the hills for the wagon they asked the giant. He nodded his head acknowledging that he did know a path and offered to guide them. Night was falling however and they decided to camp at the base of a hill.

Jenn (Bers’ player) to Cris: “Hey. You don’t think the giant’s a werewolf?”

Cris: “Nah. He [meaning me of course] wouldn’t do that to us.”

The next day the giant led them up into the hills and though the path was wide enough for the wagon it was still rough going, the local farmers simply take the East Bend going around the hills, especially tough since they were pulling/pushing it along. They made it through the hills by evening into Ot Lake and the farmlands thereabouts. They still needed to cross another set of hills further to the north on the other side of Ot Lake and asked the giant about those and found he would guide them through those as well. So they set camp on the shore of Ot Lake and started a fire. Around first watch with Vorwulf on duty the giant walked away northward. On second watch Bers saw a large black wolf around the edge of camp seemingly afraid to step into the firelight and soon ran away after she woke the other two. On the third watch, Dead-Eye’s watch, he saw a large bird shape, like that of a great black raven fly over camp. In the morning the hill-giant came striding into camp with a freshly dead cow slung over his shoulder its throat appeared to have been ripped out. The giant had already crudely dressed the carcass. They put two and two together but decided to let it go. They cooked the beef and found themselves eating a good breakfast well into late morning.

Later that day as they reached the top of the Ot Hills they could see Robber’s Roost less than a mile off and directly north of them as well as a large hill-like ridge to the northeast near the height of a low mountain rising lazily above the trees of the Nor Forest. At its westernmost tip they could see a 50 ft high tower set on top of a hill flying a red banner about 4-miles off. They assumed that was Ekit’s Watch and as they traveled down into the glade towards Robber’s Roost the giant stayed behind and waved bye.

They reached the ruin and stashed their wagon in the bushes, Vorwulf deftly camouflaging it. They inspected the tower which looked like an ancient watch tower its pale walls pocked with holes dug by birds. The wood doors on the front however looked new and were painted to look old and weathered. One of the double-doors was hanging open and Dead-Eye checked the ground finding a fresh trail of footprints coming and going. They decided to proceed with caution and prowled into the dark interior of the tower. The inside was unusually well kempt and looked to have been recently swept. The bottom floor was barren saver for a set of stone steps which wound up to the second floor. Dead-Eye also spotted a suspect flagstone on the floor in a far corner which may conceal a hollow underneath. They proceeded up the steps and walked into the second floor. The room was far sized and comprised of the whole floor. All four walls had two arrow slits and on the floor scattered randomly about where bedrolls and packs of gear. At the center of the room was a weapons rack with a sword and a couple of wood staves on it and a table with four chairs and a few oil lamps on its worn boards. The center of the ceiling above them was open to the upper part of the tower which was intact enough to form a ridge along the inside edge at the walls and along that ridge were dozens of clay and glass jars and some casks some of them broken and others studded with crossbow bolts. A fixed wooden ladder went up from the floor to the ridge. They decided to go back down to the bottom and investigate the suspicious flagstone as they had guessed that Robber’s Roost was currently being used as a highwayman’s hideout, probably the Crossed Staffs gang, and that they probably stashed some loot under the floor. They left Vor upstairs to keep an eye out if the criminals should return.

Bers borrowed Dead-Eye’s iron crowbar after they found the stone stubborn and easily pried it up. A cloud of poisonous gas sprayed out, Dead-Eye was unaffected as he had a Ring of Breath Without Air. Bers however, was hit full in the face and suffered some strength damage and hit point damage having failed her Fortitude saving throw. They found a hollow in the floor ripe with a small chest. Prying that open they found it contained some gold coinage and a handful of potions. Just then Vorwulf came down and quietly got their attentions leading them back up to the second floor in time to spy a group of 6 Crossed Staff thugs entering the tower. The group took up positions in the room readying to pull off an ambush as the thugs entered. Vorwulf squatted on the far side of the room and covered the doorway with his bow. Dead-Eye and Bes got against the wall on either side of the doorway ready to strike the first ones through. It wasn’t long before they heard booted feet jogging up the steps along with shouts, “check the upper floor!”

The first through the door was a fairly skilled swordsman wearing a steel pectoral plate over his yellow tunic whom was able to avoid Dead-Eye’s initial blow and dodge into the room. He was immediately followed by a knife fighter who spotted Bers and immediately backed into the room and threw a knife at her, she dodged it and clanged into the wall imbedding itself in the plastered stone. Vorwulf shot at the knife fighter hitting him in the back wounding him some his scale mail vest protecting from most of the damage. Four more thugs wielding short staves filed in. The fight lasted for three rounds with the swordsman being the last to fall dropping at the beginning of the third round. Dead-Eye had been wounded pretty badly by the swordsman and Bers had taken some wounds from the knife-fighter and was reduced to whacking his head off using called shots to the neck since her reduced strength had dragged out the fight but was not that hurt in the end. Vorwulf was also hurt but still in good shape comparatively having taken a few knocks by the staves and the point of a thrown dagger. When they searched the place again and the area around it they found no more gang members but found that their wagon had been pilfered of all the dragon-boned which was not being held in the sack of holding. Both rangers saw the multitude of ratling footprints around it. Dead-Eye immediately began to track the prints cursing to himself the whole time with Vorwulf helping him. They tried to follow the spore for several hours until it got close to evening. The ratling had split up and though they were all moving in a northeasterly direction they either disguised their tracks too well to follow or were leading their pursuers in a circle. The three decided to break off the chase and went back to the wagon. They snatched up the loot and moved as fast as they could back over the hills where they would camp. It took another 3 days for them to get back to Asternor.

The morning after getting back to town they decided they were going to travel to the Varidna Plain in the northwest as they were dragon-slayers and there were dragons about there. Figuring they didn’t know their way around the Hirok-Nor region they found a cartographer and he had a map of the area ready-made.  They picked it up for a very steep price but which they could easily afford. They then stopped by the fletchers’ shop as the dragon-bone ammunition should’ve been finished by their reckoning. They found that the master fletcher’s throat had been slit and all of the dragon-bone had been stolen. Cris wasn’t happy at hearing that and let out a pretty long stream of cusswords.

They left town immediately and were going to make their way to Merdna and from there they were going to go through the Pass Road which passed between the Sirti Mountains and into the Varidna Plain.

To Be Continued…

The Arvan Game Pt. 25: The Gold Arrow

The archery contest was set for the next day. As they rode the river ferry, basically a raft, they spoke with the ferryman. They found out about a ruin nicknamed Robber’s Roost about 10 miles north of Asternor past Ot Lake and about 4 miles south of Merdna, another trade town similar but to but smaller than either Achoran or Asternor. They were again reminded of the dragon troubles the farmers of Varidna were having on top of the plague and crop blight that they were suffering. They entered town taking note of the flags that were being flown bearing the image of brown ram’s horn pierced by an arrow with white fletching against a yellow field.

They secured rooms in the second story of a tavern which was teaming with foreigners and travelers most of who were wielding some kind of bow. They drank in the tavern instead of the beerhall (which flew the heraldry of Fertum Vorahd, the white wooly ram’s head with golden horns against a green field) as the tavern being more expensive and lacking locals (locals drink free in beerhalls) it was probably safer. Later at late afternoon they found a fletcher and commissioned a quiver of dragon-bone arrows which would be ready in 8 days. Cris was worried as their supply of raw dragon bone was running low and he had only a couple of dragon-bone arrows left. They then went and registered for the tourney at the cost of a gold piece each and gave their names to the scribe.

The next day they found themselves in an open field just outside the city-palisades between the northwest running High Road and the more southerly western running Low West Road. The contest began at mid-morning with a carnival atmosphere, exhibition empty-hand fighters, jesters/actors and gypsies were along the road presenting entertainment, selling refreshments and trinkets and running scams. The field was packed; a farmstead could be seen in the distance about 2 to 3 miles off directly to the west. A portion of the field was cordoned off for the contestants with them shooting from decently enough crafted generic longbows supplied by the promoters at varying types of targets and different phases of the competition. There were spinning targets, targets that moved and/or ducked and large hay targets at varying distances. The prize was to be revealed to the audience and the contestants by Lord Vorahd when the final two contestants faced off. It started with over 100 participants and took only till high noon to be whittled down to a handful. Both Vor and Dead-Eye made it to this phase of the game. By late afternoon only Dead-Eye and one other were left. Vorwulf’s string snapped in mid-pull thereby disqualifying him. Dead’s opponent was named Wu’ahm a Hyvalian half-dragon/human the dark brown scales over the cheeks and nose contrasted with the light human shade of the rest of his exposed face. He was clad in a yellow silk cape embroidered on the back with sea horse, polished high quality green scale-mail and yellow silk pants. He had brown leather gauntlets and polished black knee high boots. His black hair tied in a topknot.

Both men had made an impressive showing up to this point and bets were readily being made in the crowd en masse.

Bers: “I’m taking some of that action!” She shelled out 100 gp on Dead-Eye to win.

Lord Vorahd made an appearance stepping down from the stands built for him and his family next to that built for the Asternor Civil Council clad in deep green drapery. He announced the names of the two who were competing for the prized and held up a solid gold arrow of obvious superior quality which he had found on an outing and thought it interesting to offer as the prize. The crowd was awed. The contest continued into the last round.

They began shooting their last four arrows and both were hitting bull’s-eyes and even splitting their own first and second arrows with the second and third. It came to the last volley for the prize and the crowd was hushed by the palpable tension that settled onto the field. The dragon-slayer was drenched in sweat as the sun continued to beat down on his shoulders. His opponent was focused and all too dry. Dead-Eye wiped his forehead. The two knocked their last arrows, drew back their bows and shot. Dead-Eye was just off center, the Hyvalian had struck dead center splitting his third arrow (he rolled a natural 20). After the crowd dispersed around late afternoon the group went to the beerhall to drink and ask around for information on Robber’s Roost and how to get there.

They saw that Wu’ahm was there fending off a crowd of archery fans with an air of typical Hyvalian arrogance. Dead-Eye tried to congratulate him and the man just brushed him off as well. Dead-Eye shrugged and went back to the table occupied by Bers and Vor to, in Cris’ words, “get stinkin’ drunk.”

They were determined to head off north and follow the Hill Road into the part of the road called the East Bend around the Southern Hills and break form the road there. They would then cut across, still traveling north, through some farmlands and make their way over the Ot-Norian Hills finally coming at least within sight of the ruins called Robber’s Roost. They were warned away by just about everybody they had asked about it. Especially since a few “fools” had went nosing around up there recently and summarily disappeared without a trace. This only encouraged them.

To Be Continued…

The Arvan Game Pt. 24: Crossing Staffs

They intended to stay in town and “rest” for the 10 days that it would take for their commissioned gear to be ready for pickup. They spent the time going back and forth from their room in the Hammered Helmet and the beerhall located on the main street across from the market place. So around day 7 they were randomly shopping, checking out the shops and merchant tents in the marketplace when they saw a vendor being harassed by 4 Crossed-Staff thugs basically pulling a protection extortion racket. Both being good-guy (good aligned) characters they stepped in when it looked like they were going to beat the guy up which of course ended up in a brawl where two of the four thugs ended up dead. The other two fled and at the sound of the approaching guards our two heroes fled as well ducking into a dark alley as the guards ran by the shop-keeper unwilling to point them out. They were not alone.

Leaning against a wall with a nonchalant air about her was a pretty red-headed violet-eyed woman with half of her face concealed in shadow and a wave of red bangs. She was wearing an arming doublet, polished bronze bracers on her arms, and polished greaves on her legs. On her side was a rapier and what appeared to be two daggers on her arming belt.

Red-Haired Woman in a light Ivoran accent: “Nice Skills. So you’re the dragon-slayers I heard came into town. Suppose you have a few enemies.”

Neither answered, their grips creaked as they clutched their naked, bloody weapons. The players seriously considered just cutting her down. She just grinned from the visible corner of her mouth as they ran past her down the alley. After they broke into the street after wiping off their weapons and sheathing them in the alley Dead-Eye sighed, “I know I’m gonna regret not killing her.” Bers just shrugged.

They made a round about the town and after an hour of walking they returned to the marketplace and began to enter the beerhall when a masked man burst from the saloon doors bumping into Bers and as he ran away he hissed, “See you at dawn!”

A ruckus could be heard in the hall and when they entered they found a crowd surrounding the body of the man Bers had drank with (see Pt.23); the one in that had admitted to her, or rather bragged drunkenly, that he had made a big score and was wearing a mystical disguise. His throat had been slit and as they watched the ratlings which had accompanied him were also gathered about the corpse with worried looks on their faces and one snatched at the gold amulet around his bloodied neck and as soon as it was snatched and the ratlings coursed out of the hall the mystical disguise faded away. Bers and Dead both recognized the dead-man. He was crossbowman who was heading the ratling crossbowmen when they were ambushed at the border of the Falmark. He probably betrayed the gang when he saw how much the potions were worth that were in the chest they stole and having the loyalty of the ratlings he absconded in the night. As for sticking around in the gang’s territory that was due to his personality (cocky, Wildman, takes unnecessary risks). The duo dismissed it and sat down to eat. They returned to their room where Vorwulf was waiting and updated him on goings on and then went to sleep.

They were waked at dawn by someone yelling from outside and tossing stones at the windows. When they looked out bleary-eyed they saw a large group of Crossed-Staff thugs these armed with staffs with the Captain with the tattoo on his neck standing in front of them with the red-haired woman next to him apparently amused. They, all three, yelled back down in chorus, “What the hell do you want!”

The Captain: “Get down here and face us or we’re goin’ up there and drag you out!”

So the group quickly geared up, stomped down to the waterfront and the situation instantly became a standoff.

The Captain: “You killed my men we have witness!”

Dead-Eye: “They deserved it!”

Bers: “Grrr!”

Vor knocked an arrow and readied.

The Captain: “We want satisfaction!”

Dead-Eye: “A duel eh?”

Bers began to step forward but Dead-Eye stepped in front of her.

Dead-Eye: “Alright then who am I dueling?”

The Red-Haired Woman strode forward: “Me.”

All the non-combatants parted and formed lines behind their duelists. Dead-Eye armed himself with his longsword and bowie knife, a buckler with a large emerald strapped to his right arm. The woman drew a rapier and one of the daggers on her belt which flicked open revealing it to be a rapier-trident. With a wide smile she readied herself for the fight a sea breeze blew and the lock of bang that hid half of her face moved revealing a savage scar appearing as a ragged gash from her mouth to what was left of her ear.

The fight went for two rounds consisting of constant strike, parry, counter-strike and simultaneous attacks. The actual blows were few but powerful. Dead-Eye did suffer significant wounds killing the female duelist on his last attack in the second round. The Crossed-Staffs were visibly shaken which quickly turned to a smoldering hatred on their faces as they dragged her corpse and tossed it over the side after stripping it of all its gear. They parted in silence. The dragon-slayers waited there until they were gone and went to the White Star shop to buy some healing for Dead-Eye. They decided they were going to try to keep a low profile but on their way back from the healer they noticed a lot of travelers just getting into town from various lands some fairly far away and among them a fair amount of archers. When they asked around they found that in two days in Asternor across the river there was going to be an archery contest with a mysterious prize offered by Lord Vorahd to the winner. This definitely got both Dead-Eye’s and Vorwulf’s attention. They then pledged to keep a lower profile than they had been and made a beeline back to their room. They noticed they were being followed by the Crossed-Staff Captain a couple of lackeys in poor disguises.

After getting back inside they secured the room the best they could setting up sound traps on the door but neglecting the window, after Bers picked up a cask of ale from the beerhall that is. Then they hunkered down for the day and took turns keeping watch at night. The next morning Dead-Eye and Vorwulf left Bers in the room, she wanted to go to the beerhall but they told her no, and went out to pick up the dragon-bone quarrels and 2 quivers of arrows they had commissioned. Unbeknownst to them a ratling with a tattoo around its left eye was tailing them and watched them return to their room with the dragon-bone ammunition. They did however notice that they being followed again by some Crossed-Staffs in lousy disguises.

Dead-Eye: “That’s it.”

He and Vor marched up to the room and told Bers that they were going to the Prancing Pig.

Bers: “Yippee!”

They marched in and immediately all eyes went right to them and stuck the whole time that they were in there.

Cris (Dead-Eye’s player): “We’re showing these pukes we’re not afraid of them.”

There were six thugs at one end of the place around a hill-giant with a gold necklace gleaming on his neck and an iron staff against the wall next to him. At the table next to him and cuddled up to his shoulder was the Ferenoi (amazon) they had seen entering the place when they first found it. They didn’t see their former hirelings anywhere. They ordered ales but only pretended to sip on them and noticed that every time they did so every thug in the place leaned slightly forward in anticipation.

Cris: “We’re not stupid ya know.”

After about an hour the amazon walked over to their table, the one by the door, and pounded both her fists onto the soggy wood.

Ferenoi: “You! Hey you. What’s Yer name?”

Bers: “Me? Bers the dragon-slayer!”

Ferenoi: “Yeah? I’m Taga and see him?” She pointed to the giant. “He’s my man and you were staring.”

She went to punch Bers in the face and missed. Bers swung at her with a power punch as she jumped up from the table forcing the amazon to dodge the blow.

Taga: “You saw her! You all saw her! I want satisfaction NOW! OUTSIDE!”

The giant smiled and the thugs all snickered as Taga began to walk through the saloon-doors followed by Bers. When all were outside in front of the dive two thugs came out struggling with a solid steel double-ended spear which Taga lifted with a single hand it thudded loudly as she set one end to the ground. Dead-Eye said he was watching her back and nocked an arrow and as he did so the giant readied himself to act if Dead-Eye would make the “wrong” move. The duel began and it lasted only two rounds.

Taga was using her double-ended spear as paired weapon and Bers was using her newly acquired feat Counter Attack to full advantage. In the second round Bers was able to disarm Taga and being badly wounded she fell to her knees and surrendered.

Jenn: “Damn! I wish I wasn’t GOOD!”

The Crossed-Staff again humiliated went back into their drinking hole and the three triumphant adventurers went to the beerhall to have a celebratory round, Bers was not that badly wounded.

In the beerhall they again saw the red-bearded man in the grey cloak he seemed poised to approach their table his face displaying pure hostility. He was interrupted by a ratling, one in nothing but a loincloth and appearing scraggly and unkempt, a savage probably, ran up to him and whispered something into his ear. His fist pounded the table and he left the place with the little ratling leading, the man locked eyes with Dead-Eye. Bers and Vor noticed the ratling’s tattoo, the one around his eye.

That night during Bers’ watch sometime after midnight the window quietly opened and someone small stole into the room. Bers saw a ratling emerge from the shadows as it leapt to the window sill cradling 3 quivers in its arms. She shouted and swung at it missing as it hopped outside and Dead-Eye shoved his head outside and saw a trio of ratlings duck into an alley. One had looked back and as the light caught its eye he could see a tattoo, a tribal pattern, around its left eye. Dead-Eye didn’t even gear up before ran out into the streets shouting and trying to pick up a trail which he followed into the alley but lost it as it seemed the ratlings climbed a wall and fled over the roofs. They tried a few times more to pick up a trail but it was fruitless. Cris just kept repeating while staring at me, “Bastards, little f*@&ing bastards!”

They decided to depart for Asternor immediately.

Bers: “You don’t think that ratling has anything to do with the Crossed-Staffs do you?”

Dead-Eye: “They have to. Thieves for hire or something. The Crossed-Staffs aren’t going to call us out anymore, we have to watch our backs.”

Bers: “What if they aren’t the Crossed-Staffs?”

Dead-Eye: “They have to be.”

To Be Continued…