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The Arvan Game Pt. 23: Limping into Hirok-Nor

We rejoin our group of dragon-slayers Bers the fighter (played by Jen), Dead-Eye the ranger/dragon-slayer and his protégé Vorwulf the ranger/archer (both played by Cris) pushing their wagon with Vor pulling, a part of his training according to Cris, just four days out from the mountain pass from the Falmark. Wentum the human mage, Grik the Arborean pugilist and Rrhga the sentient wolf hired by the dragon-slayers before the pass following. They had lost their oxen in the pass.

A few days previously they had made it to the center point of the deep cut pass which sunk deep between the mountains and narrowed with high sheer cliffs on two sides. This is where a small group of Yellow Reapers (middle weight dragons with black scything talons on their rear feet like a velociraptor in place of a breath weapon or venom). The battle was quick as the dragons only wanted to snatch up a quick meal targeting their oxen. The group consisted of 3 young dragons and 1 adult. During the battle the wolf ran under the cover of the wagon, Grik tried to protect the wagon but wound taking a claw and being forced into a recovery check to not die. Bers tried to participate with her crossbow getting off two shots in four turns/attacks but not hitting anything. Wentum let loose with a lightning bolt at the adult but it had no effect as his magic simply wasn’t strong enough to cause damage to it. While Dead-Eye and Vorwulf shot at them wounding two of the younger dragons one of whom ripped an oxen free of the wagon and retreated immediately. Another tried to pull off a dive attack on Dead-Eye and rolled a natural 1 to pull out of it when Dead-Eye dodged the initial strike causing it to crash into the ground killing itself with a thundering crunch. The adult fled at the end of the round with the second oxen dead in its talons.

After emerging from the pass they had found themselves in a thick wood, the Southern Forest and came to a deforested clearing near the end of the fourth day. They were given permission to camp close to the lumber-jack’s camp and found out that they were about 1 mile south of a city called Achoran on the banks of the River Nirix, “just follow the road.” They also found out that there was another forester’s camp on the other side of the river referred to as the North Camp and where they currently were was called the South Camp as well as about 3 and half miles down the river banks from Achoran there was a ruin which the dragon-slayers were interested in but they wanted to get into the city first.

By late morning they came to the gates of Achoran long banners bearing a black silhouette of ram against a split field of yellow and green hanging from the palisades on either side of the gate. Standing at the gate were small group of guards collecting a gate toll and just past them a stalky man with a yellow waist sash, a falchion on his side and a black’X’ tattooed on his throat turning a critical eye to all newcomers sometimes stopping folks and extracting a ‘tax’ as well as asking questions. He had no other arms displayed as the guards had the arms of the city painted on their shields and bore the black rams head on the chests of their leather cuirasses. He was surrounded by a handful of other thuggish looking guys and a few rogue types were hovering around them as well all wearing a yellow sash. Of course they stopped our heroes.

Yellow-Sash: “You there! Yeah, you! There’s a Wagon Wheel Tax before you can enter.”

Dead-Eye: “How much?” He grumbled under his breath.

Yellow-Sash (looking them up and down): “Hmmm. Four gold pieces, 1 for each wheel.” He grinned.

Bers: “Hehe, that’s nothing!”

Dead-Eye: “We’re not paying him, we’re not paying YOU!”

The gang of thugs and rogues started creep around the wagon putting the entire group on guard.

Dead-Eye: “You’re not guards so get out of our way!” His hand went to his sword and Vor immediately nocked an arrow.

Yellow-Sash: “Alright, now you’re gonna have to pay the Goods Protection Insurance fee. Ya’ know just in case sumthin happens to your goods.”

The gate guards began to eyeball the situation and the toothy grin on the lead thug fell away for the first time.

Yellow-Sash: “Suit yerself. What’s yer names again?”

Dead-Eye: “F@*& you!”

They entered and paid the three they hired the other half of the promised gold before the pass and they took their leave saying that they’d be in the Prancing Pig tavern and probably “abouts elsewheres” if there was more work. The three dragon-slayers decided to find some accommodations in an inn, a two-story plaster-walled structure found at the docks called the Hammered Helm its shingle displaying a picture of a hammer and a helmet. After paying for the best room in the place Bers and Dead-Eye left Vor to set-up the room and secure their booty as they went out to the main street carrying dragon hides and some bones as well as full purses. They saw a shop with a small flag flying the white star on a blue-field, the White Star healer’s guild, and found the beerhall which flew a white wooly rams head with golden horns on a field of green, the heraldry of Fertum Vorahd a Fertum a few miles to the north and the other side of the river. They went to a fletcher to commission some dragon-bone crossbow bolts (for Bers) and 2 quivers of dragon-bone arrows. Then took the green hides to the armorer and ordered 2 full suits of dragon-hide armor as well as 2 potion bandoliers. They paid half of the money asked at once and were told that it would take around 10 days to be finished. They then got directions to the local alchemist in order to stock up on some potions as well as to sell off any they didn’t see a need for from their hoard. While there they asked after the guy at the gate and the others they had seen with the yellow sashes. They were told that those were the members of the Crossed Staff Gang the local mafia and part time highway men. They were being led by 3 hill-giant brothers. The guy at the gate was a high-ranking captain in the gang. They completed their business and thanked the alchemist. They talked ot various guards and fellow travelers and amongst the information they collected they found that there was another large town further west on the north bank of the river and could take a ferry there for 1 copper piece (cp) per person and 1 cp per bit of luggage. They also found that the Merchant’s Guild of Achoran was the big dog in the Hirok-Nor region and was at odds with the Merchant’s Guild of Asternor often involving plots and pacts with criminals and river-pirates. They were also told of the river dragon which had been terrorizing the ferries and river boats but decided they couldn’t do much against an aquatic dragon, at least not right then. They were also told the farmers in the Varidna Plain (located in the far northwestern corner of Hirok-Nor) were having some dragon problems. After checking back in with Vorwulf for a few minutes they departed once again for some well-deserved “rest” and headed along the docks towards where they were told a tavern was supposed to be.

They found the tavern, the Prancing Pig in the apparently poor quarter of Achoran and seeing a couple of shiesty looking fellows hanging outside with yellow rags on their heads they decided against drinking there. They did however catch a glimpse of a Hill-Giant clad entirely in a yellow robe with a wrapped oblong object strapped to his back entering the substantially large saloon-doored entrance accompanied by a muscular and very beautiful 8 ft tall woman, a ferenoi by all appearances (an amazon from the Feren culture). So they decided the beerhall would be fine.

The beerhall was enormous as compared to those that they were used to. It was filled with both long plank tables and small round ones most were crowded with travelers and locals alike with a bar at one far end the entrance being at the opposite end allowing patrons to enter directly from the street. They picked a small round table near the saloon-doors and ordered a couple of large pitchers of the “best stuff in the house” along with a platter of food. Dead-Eye immediately noticed that a cloaked figure that had been following them after they left the alchemist’s shop walked in a few minutes after them and sat at a table near them. He didn’t recognize the man. He was young and strong looking with blood-red hair and beard and grey eyes wrapped in a grey cloak and wearing a powder grey chain shirt underneath. When he walked up to the bar later on he found a loud but laughing man surrounded by a few ratlings celebrating something or other. Bers eventually joined the guy and found he had probably ripped someone off and was wearing a “mystical disguise”. During the course of the evening they observed a large group of Ivorans all wearing identical red silk robes bearing a black symbol of flaming spiral on their backs and chest. As the day melted into dusk they left the tavern for their room at the Hammered Helmet suitably hammered Dead-Eye caught eye of a kid trying to nick a bauble in the marketplace across from the beerhall. The merchant snatched at him and he tried to run past the heroic duo bumping into Dead-Eye a dagger dropping from the rags he wore. Dead-Eye and Bers immediately recognized the marking on its blade; the mark of the Blackwings guild. Dead-Eye snatched the kid and after forcing him to give back the bauble asked where he had gotten that dagger.

The Kid: “From a corpse when those 5 strangers got their throats slit. Hey!”

Dead-Eye: “Where at!”

The Kid: “The Rat Quarter [poor quarter where the Prancing Pig was located].”

They released him and he disappeared into an alleyway. When they checked out the story they found a two-story residence which had been reduced to a smoldering pile of ash. They figured this is from where the messenger (see Pt. 20) had been dispatched, probably. They stumbled back to their room all the while aware they were being followed by the grey-cloaked red-bearded guy.

To Be Continued…

The Arvan Game Pt. 22: Into the Great Wide Open

After slaying the green dragons which dominated the Cleft-Rills region our heroes took their gains and bought some more oxen to haul their wagon which they packed for the trip to the west coast and the city of Chago. The trip would probably take months if not most of the current year maybe arriving in Chago the following summer if they wintered somewhere between. They decided to take the Trade Road traveling north through the North Gate Pass (another mountain pass) into the Hill-Lands to follow the Coastal Mountain Range West then through a southerly valley into the Falmark from the north. The Falmark being a small 30 mile (approx. 510 square-mile) stretch between the Cleft-Rills region and Hirok-Nor a more civilized western region. They figured it approximately a 250 mi trip and should take just over a week of constant travel if all went well. Dead-Eye had also picked up a protégé named Vorwulf a ranger/archer whom was more proficient with his bow than Dead-Eye but less so with a sword.

On their travels westward they ran headlong into a rainstorm which delayed them by about a day, after that they noticed a young dragon tailing them which appeared to be a larger than normal grayling with red-spotting whom they later shot at (Bers missing horribly with her crossbow) wounding it badly causing it to break off and a pack of wolves which had prowled into camp nearly dragging Vorwulf off and definitely would have if Dead-Eye hadn’t shot the wolf that had him locked in its jaws. Just before entering what should be the Falmark they were ambushed by a large gang of highwaymen led by three identical Hill-Giant brothers wielding iron staffs with a Half-Naga/Human lieutenant with a fighting spear and a chainmail clad human captain with a steel cap along with 10 crossbow wielding ratlings led by the human captain taking cover behind a hedge. All had yellow waist sashes and faces covered by yellow handkerchiefs. The battle lasted 2 rounds with Bers running back to drink a potion after getting clobbered by one of the giant’s iron staff and Dead-Eye dodging a similar blow with Vorwulf taking cover in the back of the wagon covering them with his bow. The third giant smashed the new recruit and held him on the ground with his staff. The Naga dropped unconscious from his wounds at the end of the first round and died convulsively in the dust of the road. Eventually two of the giants took a great deal of damage as had all three of our adventurers with the least wounded giant snatching up the small banded chest which was full of what Cris deemed “worthless” potions taken from the green dragons lair and the highway men broke off and fled.

Finally, at the end of the seven-day stretch starting from Fertum Dreyhawk they arrived at a fork in the road both ends of which went west nestled between trees of the Low Wood. They observed a marker stone at the fork which was fairly large though nowhere near the size and height of a menhir. It was badly pitted and worn by time, lichen spotted and patched with moss. It was covered what appeared to be graffiti some of which may have been useful information but Bers and Dead-Eye were still illiterate at this point, they had Vorwulf read it finding the terms Falmark with a west directed arrow as well as the name Fort Ebernel scratched deeply beneath that. The stone also revealed that the northern lying road was the Old Road and warned of a swamp. The sun had begun to dip behind the trees and the mountain immediately east was creating an early dusk. Dead-Eye sent Vorwulf to find a campsite. He found a shallow hollow off of the road.

During the night on Dead-Eye’s watch a thick rolled in around midnight so thick that he could barely see beyond 10 feet. Put on guard by the lack of visibility he sighted a large shape bearing down on him. After avoiding the swing of a polished black wood club he caught sight of the 8-foot tall powerfully built nude male torso lacking a head and neck before him. He yelled waking the other two and all could feel the unnatural cold that the creature emanated. The wagon oxen seemed unable to move and lowed miserably. The fight went quickly with Dead-Eye getting in a killing shot with his bow after backing away Bers stepping in forgetting that she was unarmored. The creature immediately dissipated as did the thick fog that had covered the camp. Dead-Eye warned her not to touch the club which sat gleaming where it had fallen. During the last watch Bers drowsed and suddenly a hideously wizened creature stood before definitely female and probably a faun as she had horns. The thing cackled and the fire flared temporarily blinding her and when her vision returned the hag had vanished. Come the dawn she shared her story with the others and she went to check on the club when Dead-Eye wasn’t looking. All she found was a rotten piece of moist wood.

An hour or so after breaking the tree line of the forest for a second time, the road comes out of the tree line then goes back in, they came to a motte and bailey structure flying the flag of a rampant rooster against a field of purple lying in the crotch of another fork in the road. The guards said that the southern turn was the South Bend and to avoid the swamp to the north beyond the ridge and Hag’s Walk. It was a death trap. The guards directed them west continuing on the Trade Road to Fertum Ebernel which flew the same flag as the fort with the town of Falton directly south of that which flew the green serpent biting its tail against a field of brown. By late afternoon they reached Fertum Ebernel and entered a crowded bustling main drag. They walked past a band of actors entertaining a crowd.

Dead-Eye: “F*@k them let’s get to the tavern.”

Bers: “Aww. I’m watching.”

The entertainers were a family of jesters telling to what amounted to fart-jokes against a painted backdrop. His toddler-age son hobbled from behind the gaudy canvas and he held him up for the crowd to see whom clapped as it seemed the end of his routine.

Bers: “Aww, how precious!”

A cloaked figure sat by the covered wagon by the backdrop which Dead-Eye had identified as a hedge-wizard in disguise attracting his pupil’s attention as he was “eye-balling” them and the wagon as was the rather large wolf at his feet which had a strange air of intelligence about its yellow eyes. As they continued to mix in with the bustle they talked to random passerby to try to get their bearings and a little information about the area. They stopped a grizzled farmer smoking a little oak pipe. They asked him about the area.

Farmer: “Well”, he champed at the stem of his pipe, “y’ave already passed the swamp did ya? Now yer gonna wanna stay out of the Fool’s March to the north.”

Dead-Eye: “Fool’s March? What’s that?”

Farmer: “People see the Will-O-Wisp at night flirting all over there, spirits ya’ know of the dead warriors that sunk there long time ago. A spring suzerain it is. Looks dry as a bone but underneath’s a quagmire sure as death. Sometimes in summer, gett’n close ta that time, we that is me a few other kin folk, go diggin’ but not too deep mind ya. Ta find a sword or helm to sell, fetch us a few fliks.”

Dead-Eye asked after the best way west, they were headed for the coast.

Farmer: “Well”, he took a few tokes from his pipe, “the best way west as far as I’d know, and I don’t know much ‘bout that, would be to follow the Trade Road as it turnt ta’ tha’ north skirtin’ the Witch’s Wood. You mind me and stay outta there. That hag she’s a mean ‘un. But as I syas, stay on ta’ road and you’ll come to the Mountain Pass.”

Dead-Eye: “Thanks.”

They continued on towards the tavern only to stop as a group of men carrying their shirtless, bloodied and limp companion by apparently looking for a healer. Looking to where the men came the adventurers saw a small fenced in ring where stood an Arborean, a tree-man with bark-skin and wooden body, stood holding a silver helmet.

The Arborean: “Is there no one to take up my challenge only 1 silver piece to challenge my skill, if you win then the whole purse is yours! You may even wear this helm as I will only use my fists!”

A Spectator: “Yeah! Well, what ‘bout yer woody hide there fella!”

The Arborean: “I have these,” he held up pair of steel gauntlets from his belt, “to even the odds!”

Bers: “Ooh! I’m gonna fight ‘em!”

Dead-Eye: “Wait! Let’s see what he can do first. Besides we’re gonna want to do some hiring.”

Bers: “Oh yeah.”

It didn’t take long for a challenger to come forward, a brawny half-faun who happily donned the helmet and pitted his apparent wrestling skills against the Arborean’s wooden fists which pummeled his helmeted head into the dirt in two turns. The crowd cheered and a money changed hands. They approached the Arborean and got his name, Grik-Watervane of Granfor and he and his companions were for hire so our heroes arranged a meeting for later that evening in the tavern. Vorwulf was sent by Dead-Eye to secure a space in the Merchant’s Quarter as Bers and he were going to the tavern.

As they entered the tavern a drunken mountain of a man with blacksmith’s tools jangling from his belt stumbled into them. Drunk and distraut he blubbered, “My wife, my wife!”

Bers: “What about your wife?”

Drunk Blacksmith: “She’s-she’s..”, he broke down and began blubbering incoherently.

A scrawny dark haired fellow appeared from behind the blacksmith. Dead-Eye saw the skinny man’s eye’s which were yellow with slit-pupils hinting at a gypsy heritage (Southern Nomads).

Scrawny Man: “I’m sorry I’ve just come to fetch my friend back to his drink. I’m Wetl and my friend is Dravor. His wife has run-off with an Ivoran actor last year and just before winter she hopped the last caravan out with him.”

The Blacksmith (ruthlessly): “I’ll kill ‘em too if I ever get my hands around his neck!”, holding up two clenched fists.

Wetl bowed with a slimy grin before he led his friend back to their table. The tavern was small and narrow crowded with long wood-plank tables. Bers noticed the jester from before sitting at a table by himself eating a meal. The three sat at a table where they could keep their backs to the wall at Dead-Eye’s behest of course. The group noticed while they waited for their food and ale that Wetl, the scrawny guy, was leaning over the table whispering into the blacksmith’s ear and didn’t seem to be drinking at all. After a little while Wetl moved over to the jester’s table and seemed to engage the jester was slighter than himself in a quiet conversation. It wasn’t long before Dravor the blacksmith stomped over the same table and thudded next to the jester. This is when our heroes began paying attention to what was going down.

Wetl: “You’re an actor!”

Dravor: “You’re an ACTOR!?”

Jester: “Well, not really.” in a noticeable Ivoran accent shrinking in his seat.

Wetl: “Then we should kill you, it’s only logical.”

Jester: “You’re funny”, an exaggerated smile broke his face as he began to sweat.

Wetl: “You’ve gone pale. Something on your conscience?” He pulled a knife.

The jest looked around helplessly as the rest of the patrons gazed back scowling at him.

Jester: “You want to hurt me? Why? Have I done something to anyone? I’ll just leave and never come back!”

Bers (to Dead-Eye): “Oh no! Are we going to have to fight again?!”

Dead-Eye: “Shh. Do what I do.” He unfastened his sword pulled it slightly from the scabbard all the while keeping his grip on it. Bers picked up her ax as stealthily as she could and set it across her knees.

Wetl (pointing the knife at the jester): “Go on! Get up there so everyone can see you!”

The jester climbed quaking and unsure on top of the table and Wetl and Dravor forced him to perform a jig while they threw his half-eaten meal in his face and washed it off with his mug of ale.

The tension drained out of the air and Cris and Jen’s (Dead-Eye’s/Vorwulf’s and Bers’ players respectively) shoulders dropped with a sigh.

Dead-Eye and Bers relaxed as their meal was delivered to the table on several large wooden platters and in wood pitchers. Come evening the group fairly drunk but still stuffing their faces were met by the Arborean pugilist Grik and his two companions. The first was the cloaked figure which had been sitting on the jester’s caravan, a human mage named Wentum and the wolf they had seen at his feet named Rgrha who was wearing a gold necklace. The wolf turned out to be a sentient animal with the ability to communicate telepathically much like an Arborean. They had come here from the south and were both, Wentum was from the southwest from the foot of the Gohmar (mountains), from a small region in Granfor. After a little small-talk they struck a deal to employ the three as body guards and magical consultation. Night fell outside and the tavern began to lock up so our intrepid bunch left to the Merchant’s Quarter. Suddenly a crack like thunder ripped through the street and the image of a horrible hag appeared in the middle of the Fertum wreathed in blue flames and large enough for all to see. “I will send my vengeance slithering to punish you all for trespassing on my land!”

Bers: “Crap! It’s the one I saw in our camp last night!”

Dead-Eye: “That’s it let’s get out of here … in the morning.”

 

To Be Continued…

The Arvan Game Pt. 21: The Big Green One

The interior was massive and strangely clean. The walls were rough and unfinished yellow and white limestone. The floors were polished and smooth their boots echoing as they stepped further and further inside. Large quartz firestones embedded in the walls lit the massive cavern with their flickering mystic light. They noticed the signs of battle all around them, slash marks and sword-scores on the walls, the pitting of acid on the floors and walls and the crimson stains which marred the white floors. As they surveyed the cavern they could that it bent suddenly as it continued north and sharply probably turning to the south. The passage that gaped in the north wall before the sharp turn slanted up but turned and snaked to the north-west concealing the interior from their point of view. In a diagonal wall to their south as they continued, still in the main cavern, was a man-sized passage from which a sharp smelling and warm, moist draft was blowing. Upon inspection Dead-Eye could see that it was choked with cobwebs and the floors and walls were very rough and dirty. Further along the same wall where it turned straight north there was a small window-sized hole about 10 ft from the floor. Dead-Eye decided to inspect this route as I guess he felt it the sneakiest.

The small passage opened into a wide circular vertical shaft open to the sky and well lit by the sun. He could smell brackish water wafting up from far below in the darkness. He immediately began to back out and saw that a swarm of gold beetles was rushing into the passage. He and Bers backed back out into the main cavern attempted to face off with the swarm. Dead-Eye attempted to light a torch as their weapons were useless against a swarm of biting insects and shouted to Bers, “the mallet! THE MALLET!”

Bers: “Oh yeah!”

She pulled out the mallet (taken from the Winter Dragon’s hoard; they had it identified during their rest period at Fertum Dreyhawk after arriving back from Veringer’s Field; it had 10 charges left at this point) which was a Mallet of Harm. When struck on the ground it could deal 120 hit points worth of damage to enemy targets within a fairly wide radius. She pulled it out of her gear as she kept it tucked in her belt after finding out what it was “just in case” and struck it on the ground. The swarm was instantly reduced to dust.

After the dust settled they decided to go into the man-sized passage which Dead-Eye wanted to avoid as the webs were indicative of giant spiders (tee-hee). As his torch was already lit he tossed it into the passage causing it to burst into flames hopefully incinerating any giant arachnids. They began to travel down the rough passage and realized that the floor was at an increasingly steep angle as they continued. Clumps of bone and spider webs continued to smolder and burn dimly lighting the passage. Bers slipped as the passage continued to angle downwards and slid along the detritus and gravel of the floor taking Dead-Eye with her until he was able to stop them both. They stopped a step short of a depression in the floor at the center of the passage which was a bubbling acid pit. The passage was acid-widened here and the ceiling was higher allowing the giant spiders to shelter from the flames and drop down on silk ropes to attack. The fight didn’t last long ending on Bers’ third attack on the first round. The three man-sized spiders attacked from both the front and behind and above, the one above being the last to be taken out by a strike at the silk cable which suspended it falling into the acid pit. Dead-Eye told Bers to lead the way as he had fell behind on a dodge to avoid the hanging spider as it attempted to drop onto him. As soon as she stepped past the acid pit she slipped again and rocketed all the way to the end falling out the other end into darkness.

Dead-Eye hurried up to the end where the passage apparently dropped off into darkness so he lit another torch finding the passage terminated in a large chamber which was masked in a cloud of luminescent mist. It was stifling and the walls of the passage was sweating and dripping with moisture. He resisted the temptation to call down to Bers. She found herself on her back having fallen 20 feet to the sandy bottom and began to stand when she heard growling circling her position. She called up to Dead-Eye and the creatures attacked unseen in the darkness and steam. Dead-Eye tossed down a torch and leapt down using acrobatically to avoid taking damage from the height. When the creatures attacked they could see that they resembled wolves but lacked and were instead covered in bright green scales. The green wolves were quickly dealt with all three being slain by the second turn in the first round. The chamber was again huge and had a wide walkway like a stone ramp spiraling up and turning north, directly north of them lay a wide gaping cavern mouth which apparently went deeper underground. The floor of the chamber was of loose hot sand and through which the moist steam exuded. Dead-Eye immediately identified the place as the egg-chamber of the lair and proceeded to look for eggs and finding two angrily stomped them into mush. Bers had wanted to take one and maybe raise a dragon.

Dead-Eye: “We ain’t raisin’ no stinkin’ dragon! All dragons must die!”

Dead-Eye had been the sole survivor of a dragon attack when he was still a child.

They quickly investigated where the walkway led confirming what Dead-Eye had guessed that it led back into the main cavern on the opposite side of the sharp bend. They decided to take the cavern further underground. They came to an enormous water chamber steam raising in columns from various spots in the underground lake the walls running with slime. Sunlight streamed down from a large central shaft in the ceiling directly above the center of the lake. Bers wanted to scout ahead using her Cape of Bat-Flight but the chamber was too bright the cape only worked in the dark or at night. After spending a while checking to see if they could find a way across and even resorted to baiting the dragon but their taunts went unanswered. They then decided to go up.

They made their way back into the main cavern and went into the passage that slanted upward and snaked north. They found a chamber where the passage spiraled in on itself rising as a narrowing spiral walkway that wound up, way up. The spiral rise left the lower levels vulnerable to any possible enemies on the upper ones as on the outside edge of the spiral was a gradually rising cliff. The chamber was well-lit by more fire quartz in the walls and they could see sunlight coming in from the opening to which the spiral walkway rose. They began to ascend and about halfway up when four crossbow bolts flew at them forcing Bers to dodge. Dead-Eye spotted a group of ratlings above armed with small crossbows and similarly sized swords. Dead-Eye returned fire forcing one of them to dodge twice but pegging him with the third shot. The other three continued to fire their quarrels at the dragon-slayers while Bers tried to use her crossbow against them but she’s a terrible shot and missed and was forced to dodge again noticing the bolts that they were firing were tipped with poison. Dead-Eye killed another with his arrows and at the beginning of the second round the remaining two made leap attacks as they jumped from their ambush positions to the tier below. Our heroes were impressed with their magic silver bucklers each baring a large finely cut emerald at the center. The fight lasted for 3 turns until Dead-Eye finally cut down the second to the last ratling and stepped back to let Bers finish off the little bugger she was engaged with. It was able to parry her strike and locked its tiny weapon with her massive axe and chittered in anger at her as she failed to break on the first try. On the second she whipped her axe free and cut the creature’s tiny body in two both of which flew over the edge to the floor below.

Cris: “Haha, I was kinda rooting for the brave little ratling!”

Dead-Eye gave a salute dedicated to the “brave little ratling” and they both moved into the light after collecting all of the bucklers (+5 magic bucklers also gaining the +1 to parry a buckler normally gets on top of that). They found themselves in another gigantic cavern with a domed ceiling open at the west end to the outside with a ledge where a large patch of earth in floor was occupied by a hedge cut into the shape of a winged dragon. Even from their vantage point they could see they were now in the side of a low mountain probably one of the nearest of the Arns. The floor in the rest of the gallery was polished and a carved stone archway opened to the north into another sunlit gallery this one with a large patch of very high grass obscuring its center growing in another large patch of earth. In the East lay a set of steps leading to a golden double-door of human proportions baring the ugly relief of a troll’s sneering face with lit sconces on either side. They began checking the golden door for a way to open it and for any possible booby-traps. While they were doing this they were attacked by the dragon-hedge both getting scratched by its wooden claws and finding quickly that the thing was poisonous delivering an irritant which caused incessant itching. Bers got in the last blow chopping the thing down in a heap at the very end of the first round. The door’s troll-face laughed at them.

Troll-Door: “A couple of fools who let bushes sneak up on them. Well, you’re not getting in here!”

Bers: “The hell we aren’t” She readied her axe.

Troll-Door: “Unless you answer this riddle first.” She held back.

Troll-Door: “”

They answered correctly pretty quickly and the doors opened splitting the troll-face down the middle. They walked into a large brick-walled chamber with a pillar in each of the four corners and a large golden brazier burning at the center of the room. There were two doorways in the north wall, another double-door of rusty iron to the east with a lit sconce to each side and yet another to the south of which they were apparently on the inside. The doors to the east were closed and those to the south were slightly ajar. There was a weapons rack next to the southern doors on which a quiver of bronzewood shaft arrows, a silver rapier and a blue-steel dagger with carved redwood grip and a chalcedony pommel stone could be easily seen. A blast of lighting shot from one of the doorways from the north fortunately both adventurers dodged the bolt in time. The green archer appeared armed with her green-wood bow which had a large emerald on its front. She was wearing a silver helm with a dragon crest with green scale mail armor and a green cloak with a golden clasp with a black sword and a silver dagger on her side. A second enemy charged through the other north doorway, a seemingly human male wielding a silver scimitar and a silver buckler identical to those of the ratlings. He was wearing silver chainmail with a green cloak with a silver and emerald clasp, a silver dagger at his side.

Dead-Eye: “The dragons! KILL ‘em!”

They started to fight the dragons in human form and Jen (Bers’ player) was shocked when she suffered quite a bit of damage when was hit the first time by the green archer. Dead-Eye scrapped with the green fighter whom traded blows both using paired weapons Dead-Eye using his longsword and bowie knife and the dragon using his scimitar and buckler. The fight lasted for two rounds until the dragons led by the female whom suffering a fairly hard whack from Bers’ axe pulled her cowl over her head turning invisible and perceptibly running through the troll-door to the west with the green fighter following immediately behind. Dead and Bers decided to imbibe the potions they were carrying to boost strength, combat bonuses and most of all healing. They checked the rooms from whence the dragons had charged and found a pile of gear being split into shares which they recognized as the Blackwings’ especially the gold amulet and great sword. They decided not to take any of it since it was probably all guild-marked though they thought twice about the pair of arbalests with cable & reels. They did take, however, the money which consisted of 70 gold pieces, 60 silver pieces, 6 platinum pieces, 190 copper pieces, 1 large citrine, 3 diamonds, 2 emeralds and 2 sapphires. Dead-Eye also snatched the quiver on the rack on the way out. In the north room beyond the doorways there was a pair of superior quality lion-skin boots and 10 green cloaks with silver & emerald clasps hung on a row of 12 wood pegs. They left those alone as well.

After this they rushed into the sunlit gallery Dead-Eye tracking the diminishing drops of blood through the east archway into the tall grasses. They both knew the dragons were probably healed up completely by now.

Dead-Eye: “Careful, let’s put some space between us.”

Bers: “Okay.”

They both rushed blindly into the grass. As they approached the center of the grass the blades began to twist about their bodies impeding their movement and ability to move. They both made their reflex saves in order to not be completely entangled but their movement was impeded and the dragons attacked. Dead-Eye tried to move as far north as he could to try to break out of the high grass but found he had to hack at the grass with his sword and knife in order to move. The male charged in at Dead-Eye in full dragon form revealing his self to be a young green dragon but still giant sized. The female lunged through the grass at Bers revealing her to be an adult green and colossal in size. Jen was again stunned when Bers was hit by a claw attack suffering a great deal of damage in a single strike wounding her badly and reducing her armor from a full suit to a half suit and forcing her to make a recovery check to survive the blow. When she got the chance Bers power-smashed her ax into the dragon injuring it and it backed off out of her sight. Dead-Eye had no choice but stand face to face with the male and was caught in its jaws before winning the grapple and leaping out before it could swallow him but was still fairly injured and his armor fell apart reducing it from a half suit to a partial. Then the female unleashed her breath weapon catching both Bers and Dead-Eye in the cone of chlorine gas which both successfully dodged out of but the grass was cleared by the acid damage. Now completely free the adventurers tried to back off as the dragons surged forward hoping to get time enough to guzzle a potion. In the second round Bers got in a power attack which felled the big female and Dead-Eye desperately tried to put distance between him and the dragon hoping to get a shot with a dragon-bone arrow but was forced to fight sword-v-claw. Seeing his mate dead sent the male into a dragon-rage and he flailed wildly forcing Bers to dodge twice but she got to drink a healing potion. Come the third and final round the dragon took a blow from Dead-Eye and then forced him to dodge a blow and Bers swooped in with a power attack dropping the creature hacking through its long neck with ease suffering fire damage from the dragon’s blood causing her armor to finally just fall completely off. Dead-Eye tossed off the shredded remnants of his armor (it had about 2 hit points left!) and they limped to the massive golden doors at the rear of the sunlit chamber. They found a major horde but were reluctant to mess with the large piles of treasure as they feared another swarm of gold beetles but decided to anyway as Bers simply used the Mallet of Harm eliminating the giant swarm which emerged from the treasure. To list the treasure horde would be ridiculous so I won’t.

Needless to say they carried out what they could after resting for a day and sucking down a few potions. Bers snatched up a diamond studded mace with a silver grip and a suit of adamantine chainmail which she donned for the trip back. Dead-Eye snatched up a back pack of holding which could hold 40 cubic feet of stuff which he promptly filled with potions, coinage of all denominations including Bronze Thorns from Poisonwood and gems of all kinds (most were of a greenish hue and color). It took about 5 days to make it back to the Fertum and there they sold treasures and items for a pittance (though still for thousands in gold coin). There after several days rest and lots of drinking and bathing Dead-Eye revealed his plans to Bers to try to gain membership into the Blackwings guild and start a chapter of their own in the Cleft-Rills and so they became determined to travel to the coastal Ivoran city of Chago.

To Be Continued…

The Arvan Game Pt. 20: The Killers Three

The trip to the suspected area of the lair would take the party of slayers north-east along the Old Road until they would reach Loc Lake where they could cross Farm Creek over the cart bridge since Miller’s Bridge was still being rebuilt and the creek was raging from the snow melt; more of a river at this time of year really. They could then follow the creek south-east and follow the rise up to the cliffs over the canyon where the former Greyling lair is located (see Pt. 4) where they could investigate the woods on the plateau in the foothills of the easterly Arn Mountains and the possibility of a low entrance in a narrow strip of canyon formed by the foothills whereabouts the low entrance to the Greyling lair was. The trip would take around 4 and a half days if they moved at a decent pace and baring any unseen trouble.

The trip began without incident our heroes keeping up the rear while the three covered wagons and horses trotted at a leisurely pace for around two days. Lundo rode next to Bers often both flirting with one another. A messenger on a fast steed rode up the evening of the second day of travel as the party sauntered towards Miller’s Fork where they would set up camp. The rider rode up to Orik and delivered some papers and took up a position in the rear next to Dead-Eye. They had a short conversation with Dead-Eye getting a bit more information about the Blackwing Dragon-Slayers Guild.

The main guild-house was located in Chago and the guild was seeking to establish itself outside of the Chago sphere of influence. The contract with Lord Dreyhawk was exactly what they were waiting for. The guild specialized in the hunting of marsh dragons and chromatic blacks as well as a few other species found prowling the coastline and dealt in the loot taken from hordes when found and dragon bone and hides. He also found that they had a poor knowledge of the Cleft-Rills and any part of the Westlands outside of the Ivoran Coast.

The party camped near the base of a hummock about 2 miles north of Miller’s Fork the area was mostly an open glade of high bright green grasses with clomps of bushes and trees scattered across the scene with a few hedges immediately around the camp. Once the camp was set Orik decided to crack open the ale casks, a job Lundo, Anizia and Shin eagerly volunteered for. The wagons were circled and the camp at center was gathered around a large fire and the whole party excluding Dead-Eye and Bers drank and ate late into the night. Bers played it off that she was drinking when Lundo would hand her a wood jack filled to the brim with brew and Dead-Eye kept patrolling the immediate area occasionally checking around the hummock just knowing something “was gonna go down.”

The entire camp began to echo with a chorus of snores as just about all of the slayers fell asleep save for the questionable Ivorans and Bers Dead-Eye being out of sight a fair distance away and Olf having wandered off the previous day. Bers decided to play it off and closed her eyes and acted as if she had dozed off. Lundo who was immediately next to her bought it; Jen (Bers’ player) rolled a Natural 20 on her Bluff. She heard him get up from his bedroll and felt his boots at her sides as he apparently stood over her. Jen was smiling asking, “Is he going to kiss me?” Bers opened her eyes. She saw Lundo hovering over her half straddling her with a big sh*%-eating grin his face and his fist cocked back ready to bust her straight in the face the emeralds on his silver bracers glittering venomously in the firelight. She immediately shouted and luckily Dead-Eye heard and started running frantically back to camp. Meanwhile Lundo cracked her in the face breaking her nose and Anizia knocked Bers’ axe away with her green quarterstaff. Bers threw Lundo off of her and went for her axe. Anizia tripped her then smashed her with the staff. Dead-Eye reached the covered wagons in a dust cloud and was immediately ambushed by Shin whose gold necklace bearing a single large emerald was glowing with an intense green light which outlined his body and armed with a pair of matching bowie knives. Dead-Eye immediately pulled his sword and bowie knife and engaged the Ivoran knife fighter. Lundo immediately leapt onto Bers again but was unable to pin her and she power-punched him in the head bloodying his mouth and was bashed with Anizia’s staff again on an attack of opportunity. As combat progressed into the second round Dead-Eye continued to battle Shin both of whom kept parrying with one weapon then striking with the other both getting badly wounded in the fray. Bers jumped up again power-punching Lundo yet again hurting him badly and snatched for her axe but was tripped by Anizia and cracked again by her staff. Lundo punched her again in the face while she was down filling her mouth with blood. By the end of the round Shinzarro dropped and Dead-Eye was bleeding badly and Bers managed to get her ax and cut Lundo in two with a single stroke and was again bashed squarely in the head by Anizia’s staff in another attack of opportunity. Dead-Eye and Bers attacked the half-Ivoran acrobat with Dead-Eye getting in the deathblow on his second attack of the third round. During the fray none of the sleeping Blackwings stirred.

Our heroes went and checked each one finding they were only sleeping and investigating Lundo’s saddlebags found an empty bottle from which probably had contained a powerful sleeping potion. They also found a cloak the gear of each of the three which had been painted in a camouflage pattern (see Pt. 6 & 12) but thought nothing of it.

Bers: “Were they assassins?”

Dead-Eye: “The damned green dragon sent ‘em.”

Bers: “I knew that guy was shady.”

They left the apparently draconic gear on the three would-be assassins and waited for the Blackwings to awake which they did around noontime. They told all that had occurred to Orik and they buried the bodies in shallow graves along with their gear just in case the dragon had built in some surprises. A few days later they had arrived at their destination on the high ground overlooking the ground entrance of the old Greyling lair with high cliffs directly south. The night passed quietly ‘too quietly’ in Dead-Eye’s words as the dragon didn’t attempt anything during the night. Come dawn Orik gave the orders to gear up and the search began. It didn’t last long the first to find the ground entrance to the lair was Dead-Eye using his impressive tracking skill. The mouth of the cave was fairly high up on a steep rocky hill-slope on the far northern face of the narrow canyon north of the former Greyling lair. The cave could be accessed by a steep slope of talus but there was a small open glade before the pile of gravel which was covered in Blister Plants. These poisonous plants grow along the ground covering a large area with their leafy vines. Four leafless vines grow from the top of the plant which if the plant is disturbed by (detects any) creatures within reach of these four vines these flail wildly delivering toxic sap which causes blistering and severe itching.

The Blackwings thanked Dead-Eye and Bers and paid them their due but wouldn’t let them accompany them into the lair.

Orik: “Guild business ya’know.”

Dead-Eye: <grumble, grumble>

Bers: “Aww, that sucks!”

The professional dragon-slayers left Bers and Dead-Eye on the high ground with the wagons and the few hirelings that they had hired in Fertum Dreyhawk promising more money if they help them haul the dragon-treasure back. So our duo waited…and waited.

After two days the hirelings left, Dead-Eye keeping a close eye on them so they didn’t walk off with anything. He then checked the wagons for anything they might use finding several iron chests locked and guild-marked. He found about a 100 feet of high-quality rope and a couple of healing potions in an already open and mostly empty lock-box.

Bers: “Those guys are dead aren’t they.”

Dead-Eye: “Yup.”

Bers: “All of them?”

Dead-Eye: “Probably.”

That afternoon they made their way to the edge of the Blister Plant field. They took great care to prowl through the clearest route through the Blister Plants, found by Dead-Eye of course, which they surprisingly did fairly easy. They got to the talus slope and Dead-Eye surmounted without a problem. Bers on the other hand made it half way up the slope, slipped and slid all the way down into the Blister Plants which began to whip her with their vines causing her face and all exposed skin to be covered in ugly (bringing her Physical Beauty even further down BTW) weeping blisters. In an effort to help her Dead-Eye shot the closest plant to her with an arrow forgetting that the plants are covered in sap-filled blisters which splatter toxic sap everywhere thereby covering Bers in more poison.

Dead-Eye: “@#$%! Just run!”

She ran away from the plant and again made it almost to the top of the talus and stumbled again and slid down to the bottom. At this point Dead-Eye tossed her the end of the rope he had found and pulled her to the top.

Dead-Eye: “Do you need a healing potion?”

Bers: “Na, I’m good.”

They walked into the cave mouth not bothering to try to sneak as they figured the dragon probably knew they coming by now.

To Be Continued…

The Arvan Game Pt. 19: Black Wings

After a couple of weeks we find our pair of heroes relaxing in the top rooms of the inn at Fertum Dreyhawk. Olf remained outside of the walls in the surrounding wilds while his companions indulged themselves (as best they knew how). They had high-tailed it to the Fertum after a week and a half or so of dragging the cart around the woods before hitting the road and spotted the “Blue-Hand” rabble rousing a large group of peasants near a farm South of Dreyton. The Blue-hand which they had heard about in Part 7 (sorry I glossed over it) and had a run-in with him and his father when he lifted some jewels from them after looting Blackbrow upon their return to the Fertum but before hunting down the were-wolf in Part 8. I forgot to include it in the blog, my bad.

Basically, they got the information that the Blue-Hand is a descendent of the original lords of the Cleft-Rills who lifted the yoke of the Lich of Blackbrow from the region but were weakened losing their best in the fight and the rest too afraid and occupied by a sudden invasion by another noble family, etc. etc. The players didn’t care about the story. All brought about by the old man seeing the stamp on the blade of the sword that Bers had copped from the hand of a corpse (see Pt.6). Dead-Eye had told the old-man and the Blue-hand, “Well, your ‘heritage’ is in tower stuck through a corpse. Ya can’t miss it.” They were only concerned with recovering their gems which they did.

Guess what he was waving around, yup the glowing sword which had pinned the mummified corpse to the jade throne in Blackbrow (again Pt. 6). So our pair of heroes did their best to avoid that “mess”. They spent a solid week of drinking in the village beerhall and Bers spent money taking hot baths with perfumed soaps every night in the Merchant’s Inn located within the Fertum. Bers disposed of her old armor which was to put it mildly “grody” and badly damaged then purchased a new breast-plate.  During their weeklong bout of self-indulgence they ran into some familiar faces in the beerhall.

Around the middle of the week Bers strode into the Beerhall in Dreyton where she was waved over to a table by Lundo, the handsome Ivoran “sportsman and sword for hire” sitting with his companions, the dark woman Anizia and the unfriendly Shinzarro (see Pt. 13). Lundo offered to buy a round but Bers decided to pay for everything and carried on trading flirtations with Lundo as his strangely quiet companions imbibed very little. Dead-Eye joined them when he entered after paying the Fertum armorer to craft him a suit of superior quality hide armor from the Hill Dragon hide and the village fletcher in Dreyton to craft some dragon-bone arrows from the mass of dragon bone they were wheeling around. He had just left the resident wizard’s shop in order to have his Greyling hide gauntlets enchanted with Iron Grip (found in the Great Grimoire Vol. I, RGS1006) magic ability. He had 3 weeks, 3 days and 17 days to wait respectively for each item to be finished. They sat and drank for at least an hour before the saloon-doors slammed open and a young man of apparent Ivoran extraction shouted with out-stretched arms, “never fear the Blackwings are HERE!” There was a general applause with whispers of the dragonslayers that lord Dreyhawk had sent for at the beginning of winter had finally arrived to deal with the green dragon which had been extorting sacrifices of cattle from the people of the Cleft-Rills. Lundo and his companions kept looking back and forth with puzzled expressions to our duo (Bers and Dead-Eye) then to the young Ivoran with a pair of black draconic wings emblazoned across his brigandine, bracers studded with dragon-teeth on his forearms and his companions who came shuffling in behind him. The three excused themselves from the table unceremoniously and jaunted over to the newly arrived Blackwings apparently to schmooze. All Dead-Eye could do was to say, “Aww s%@$t!”

After a while the pair approached the professionals and introduced themselves. The leader of the Blackwings while abroad from their native city Chago on the Ivoran Coast was named Orik-Falin. He introduced Zanio his right-hand man, a large man in plate-mail emblazoned with the same guild mark whom just grunted and gave a short, curt head twitch in Dead’s and Bers’ direction. Dach, a short wiry fellow that hadn’t stopped complaining about the food and “poor” quality of the ale since the group had first sat to table their “tunnel-rat” (actually dungeoneer) whom was wearing a superior quality arming doublet. Zebin the magus whose gold amulet and bloodmetal bracelet with a large piece of jade immediately caught their eyes he quickly covered his bejeweled wrist with his ample red satin sleeves and proceeded to snub them while they remained at the table. Finally there was Yelchi, a 3-foot tall ratling who had set his pair of hand-crossbows on the table as he ate and appeared to be nervous to be meeting our two adventurers and remained relatively quiet. They meaning the Blackwing dragon-slayer guild of Chago on the coast far to the west had been contracted by the lord of Dreyhawk to take care of their little dragon problem and when asked by Dead-Eye if they had ever dealt with a “big green” Orik answered that they specialized in the black and marsh dragons which stalked Strogo Swamp, the Troll Marshes and the Corcander Moorland north of Chago where the Guild-house was located. Orik was delighted to hear that the pair were themselves dragon-slayers that knew the local area well and thus after volunteering they were quickly contracted to help guide the Blackwings to their quarry as Dead-Eye already had good idea where the lair might be located (see Pt. 4). They were planning to move out at the end of the 7-day.

A few days passed as they drifted around the Fertum and Dreyton until one foggy morning with just 3 days to go till their guide job the pair had met back up with Olf and all three were busy hopping from shop to workshop to try to figure out what they would need for their adventure an out of control wagon came rumbling through the gates with a bloodied, unconscious young farmer at the reins. Curious and strangely calm the group went to see what was going on. While Olf tried to heal the lad his dying words “Loc Troll” fled the blood-flecked lips. The boy’s wounds were deep and at least a few hours old. A bystander recognized him as the son of a farmer whose homestead was a ways up the Old Road to the north-east. So as the group had a few more days to kill they decided to hunt down the Loc-Troll.

They began loading up their wagon after purchasing some oxen to pull it and were readying to move out on the Old Road and double-time it to Loc Lake (about 1 and a half days off) a familiar sandy voice crackled out. “Ah! My friends!”

They turned to see Zancor the one-armed with a tall slender companion next to him completely cloaked in long black robes and a face-obscuring cowl. Zancor was seemingly trying to introduce them to his new friend but they brushed them both off and trundled off to “kill” the troll. They wasted no time in getting to the lake in about a day traveling through the night and decided to sleep a few hours until the evening when they got up and entered the cave on the other side of the lake which opened up under the cliffs which cupped the north, west and east sides of Loc Lake.

To make it short they trounced just about everything that came their way while stumbling through the rather large lair located at the rear of a complex network of caverns. In all they faced a Giant Void Spider, four strange blue monitor lizards, four latter-generation trolls, and a Violet Fungus before arriving at the mouth of a finely masoned arch-ribbed passageway which terminated at a large rectangular opening at the far end where the Loc-Troll stood by two mechanical levers. The troll was 8 feet tall and heavily muscled wearing a scale-mail suit of armor with a finely made chest plate with spiked shoulder plates over it his massive troll-hammer standing next to him and him wielding a loaded arbalest, a black horned helmet on his head. Needless to say Dead-Eye decided to try a charge staying away from the center of the flagstone floor “just in case” and trying to use the brick support arches along the wall which protruded about 2 feet from the walls as cover. Bers decided to simply fly right at him using her Cape of Bat-Flight. As soon as battle began the troll pulled a lever and loud clicks sounded throughout the passageway and Dead-Eye found that there were a couple of very large trapdoors in strategic places one of which he had stepped on and narrowly avoided being swallowed up by acrobatically leaping onto stable ground. He had to dodge a spring-loaded mace which swung from the archway above aimed at face-level triggered by an unseen tripwire and while slinking against the walls he triggered a fusillade of darts by stepping on a pressure plate deftly dodging those. The troll shot the arbalest at Bers but missed and she moved right up on him, mind that all save Olf were wounded from their previous encounters. Bers regretted her decision immediately after the troll snatched his hammer and bashed her but good. She immediately retreated “to pick up Olf”. Dead-Eye tried to find a spot to be able to lob some arrows at him but couldn’t and decided to try to get to the end of the several hundred-foot long hallway and the troll as soon as possible without stumbling into any of the traps that is.

Bers flew back and dropped Olf by the archway and engaged the troll. Another creature shorter, bloated but definitely troll-like stepped out from behind him and began to sling spells at Bers and Dead-Eye all of which they were able to shake off. Bers and the Loc-Troll traded blows and the troll was wounded badly by the third round as was his troll-wife whom Dead-Eye had engaged when he reached the fray. The trolls retreated and the door slammed shut behind them. It took a while for the team to pry open the rusted iron door but open it they did charging right into the lair proper. The room was fetid and fire-lit the walls lined with human and faun skins. The Loc-Troll waited at the far end of the chamber appearing fully healed. Dead-Eye charged and was surprise-attacked from a doorway he was passing by the troll-wife wielding a crusty two-handed meat-cleaver. An imp flew into the room at her shoulder and spit bolts of electricity. The battle lasted only two rounds with the Loc-Troll being felled by Bers whom was getting healed as needed by Olf whom stayed at her back and the troll-wife being cut-down by Dead-Eye the imp disappearing in a puff of foul smoke immediately after. Bers entertained the idea of taking the troll-hammer for herself until she realized she would take a fair penalty for the size and weight of the weapon and just left it. They swallowed some healing potions to ease their wounds and began to ransack the place.

The workshop held an iron chest which they simply pried open with Dead-Eye’s newly acquired pry-bar after a few tries and copped 20 gold talons, 10 platinum talons, and 3 large emeralds. The kitchen was well-stocked large pieces of meat and what appeared to be smoked ham-hocks/beef-legs hung from hooks. The scene in the scullery was gruesome. The place was blood spattered and had a small prison cell attached to it which held a limbless human corpse of a young man with a freshly slit throat. They loaded the two sealed kegs of ale they found in the kitchen promptly leaving a great sword with the serpentine blade (a blade akin to a Kris) set on a pedestal in one of the rooms alone (good call if I might say so) and high-tailed it out of there. They followed the ridge until they came to the Old High Road East of the lair and decided to make camp between the ridge and the road.

By morning they were traveling along the Old Road headed south back to the Fertum and their tracking contract. They were taking their time and made it about 8 miles south-west of Miller’s Fork, about 20 miles from the Loc-Troll’s cave and 16 still to go to Fertum Dreyhawk by that evening and as the dusk came and began to fade into night they turned off of the road near the base of an outcropping of the foothills. They could see a bright blue bonfire burning atop outcropping and guessing it was the local witch they decided to turn back around and find a campsite on the other side of the road. It was there they were confronted by a black knight in full plate armor astride a ghostly steed which seemed to be semi-transparent. In the encroaching dark they could see two pale pin-points of light glowing beneath the visor.

Cris: “Damn! A death knight!”

They could see the creature’s shield was bore the image of a black fist gripping a white star against a purple field (see Pt. 3) as it lowered its lance and began to charge. Dead-Eye shot an arrow which passed straight through the charger as if it weren’t there and Bers pulled out her lonspear, the one she took from Blackbrow and activated its magical power, Phantom Scourge, which caused a multitude of phantasmal spiked tentacles to project from the spear catching the undead rider and its stead. Instantly the spectral charger was rent to shreds and disappeared with an echoing shriek. The Death Knight landed on his feet. Bers dropped the spear and pulled her great sword (the one she took from the corpse at Blackbrow) and engaged the monster. Dead-Eye and Bers hammered it while Olf provided back-up with his healing powers for 4 rounds before Dead-Eye got the killing blow at the beginning of the 4th. The empty armor fell to pieces onto the ground. What was once fine black armor now appeared to be thin and brittle with age rusted completely through in large areas of each piece of armor. Dead-Eye put it best when he asked, “What the hell is a Death Knight doing out here!?.”

Bers: “What’s a Death Knight?”

They sauntered through the Fertum gates late the following morning to find the Blackwings hastily loading up their covered wagons in front of the Merchant’s Inn.

Dead-Eye: “What the hell! I thought you weren’t goin’ to get the big green for another 4 days!”

Orik: “Ah! Well, I decided why wait? I sent a few street urchins scouring the village for you as you weren’t here but alas dragons wait not my friend.” He put on a wide sh*%-eating grin.

Dead-Eye: “Well, my arrows should be ready at least. I need to make a stop in Dreyton to pick up my arrows!”

As a slight breeze sifted through his heroic mane Orik said, “Well we’re not waiting so make it quick and catch up with us on the road, the Old Road right? Good.” He donned his visor-less helmet the crown studded with dragon-teeth.

After fastening the chinstrap, slapping a sneering Dead-Eye on the shoulder and with a wave of his arm, “Let’s move OUT!”

To Be Continued…

The Arvan Game Pt. 18: Winter’s End

Our heroes meaning Bers (the female fighter played by Jen), Dead-Eye (a ranger played by Cris) and Olf (an Arborean healer played by Mike) return from slaying the Winter Dragon in its lair hefting along sacks of riches only to stumble into the Crusader camp now a smoking bloody body-strewn battlefield. The Hill-landers that had accompanied them on shared in a portion of the treasure ran off to find the Paladin Sir Chinsalis whom they were following and owed their fealty to for some reason or another (hey the players never asked). The lean-to and the stables where smoldering piles of ashes which exuded the columns of black smoke they had seen from afar along with all of the wagons around camp which were arrayed in semi-circle in front for the manor house which was largely intact. They surveyed the corpses which comprised of all of the Crusader’s servants, most of the Templars save for two and when Bers and Dead-Eye found out which had gotten away (Han-Moro and his second Zavan the Red) they were disappointed. Jen said, “Awww, I was hoping to see him dead!”

Along with the crusaders and predictable score of Westlander bodies there were also Otkid bodies all over the battlefield and the stink of chlorine was still strong enough to burn the eyes and nose. “The GREEN Dragon!” exclaimed Dead-Eye. They figured the green dragon had set the Otkid on both the Westlanders and the Crusaders after setting those against each other before showering all with a caustic cloud of chlorine gas. Dead-Eye scanned the tree-line in time to sight a Westlander who was looting the corpses flee into the forest. Of course he and Bers pursued leaving Olf behind chasing the man for several minutes into a tight clearing surrounded by tall evergreen bushes. That is when the pursued man turned tomahawks in each hand.

 

Bers: “Crap it’s a trap!”

Dead-Eye: “Yeah, no s*%t! But I’m still gonna kill ‘em all!”

Bers: “Yeah!”

 

A javelin flew from above the bushes directly in front of them revealing an 8 ft bluff atop a javelineer sat and Bers dodged it. The tomahawk brandishing warrior engaged Dead-Eye who pulled his long-sword and bowie knife. A Barbarian in war paint and a fighter bearing a battle-axe and shield leapt from the bushes. The battle lasted for 3 rounds, the first to drop was the warrior with the axe & shield dropped as attacked Bers and she walloped him after only two actions cutting him in two getting herself covered in steaming gore. The barbarian went into a berserk rage and charged to attack Bers, the tomahawk fighter kept at it with Dead-Eye and the javelineer continued to lob javelins at both of them missing once. When the javelineer ran out of javelins after the first round he pulled a pair of tomahawks and leapt into battle with Bers. By the third and last round the javelineer was the first to drop and the tomahawk fighter followed after expending all of his attacks as parry/simul combos before being dropped by Dead-Eye. The barbarian was finally killed by Bers. The pair stumbled back to the carnage of the camp as snow began to fall. The Hillmen met with them and told them that Han had found Sliepnir tracks and recognized the shoes of Chinsalis, his squire and Han-Moro and his second appearing to drag along a prisoner and presented them with a scrap of clothing which the pair recognized as a piece torn from Siamnecca’s robe. They had departed hastily to the West and the Hill-landers were going to follow. Bers and Dead-Eye refused they were going to to shelter in the Manor for the rest of winter. Dead-Eye was convinced the Hill-Landers were going to die in the snow as he watched them jog off into the haze of the ever-increasing snowfall.

They walked into the manor and found it intact with all of the furnishings left by the crusaders finding Zancor quite drunk and guzzling the Templars’ ale. They went to the cellar to check the stores and found two bodies of Templar butlers with their throats cut, they didn’t bother to ask questions they just dragged the bodies outside and locked the place down figuring they had enough to survive for the remainder of winter. Olf sat by the fire seemingly traumatized into silence.

A few days later during the night a frantic beating sounded on the door and when opened they found a young Westlander woman in the blizzard which had roared unceasingly since they had shut the place up. She immediately warmed up to Dead-Eye, Bers was suspicious and after rolling a Natural 20 she recognized the features of the female warrior with sharpened teeth that had frozen to death awhile back after escaping the Templars. Bers grappled with the creature which immediately revealed itself to be a shriveled corpse with skin like rawhide and tossed out the door Olf bolting it shut after. The creature had already cast its spell over Dead-Eye and they had to tie him up to keep him from opening the door and running outside. Zancor who just sat there the whole unimpressed eating and drinking told them that she was a Snow Maiden (see MMI) an undead creature out for vengeance against the living but not to worry she and her magic will disappear come the snow-melt. It took a couple of days to dig through their potions and finding a Potion of Purification gave it to Dead-Eye (which Cris hated since the potion is a fairly valuable one) freeing him from the curse. Of course they had to listen to the creature come back every night for the next two weeks scratching and pleading at the door.

The melt came and with it the end of winter. The dragon-slayers decided to high tail it as fast as possible back to Fertum Dreyhawk where Dead-Eye wanted to take a month or so off to relax and then go after the Green Dragon. They would leave Zancor there on his own recognizance. They left Veringer’s Field with a wagon-load of treasure and hill-dragon hide and bone as the winter dragon’s corpse had fallen through the ice where they had slain it sinking into the icy waters of its lair. Bers and Dead-Eye took turns pulling the wagon not particularly bothered by smell of rotting flesh mellowed by winter as the sun glinted off of the bones and rusted armor that littered the grounds behind them.

 

To Be Continued…

The Arvan Game Pt. 17: Dragon of Winter

Upon returning to the Hyvalian Crusaders’ camp at Veringer’s Field that evening the trio (Dead-Eye, Bers and Olf played by Cris, Jen and Mike respectively) accompanied by Zancor (or One-arm as they were referring to him) were greeted with the news that a guard posted to watch the manor at night was found dead, they were in time to see the corpse, frozen solid with what appeared to be a branded mark on his forehead which resembled a pair of pursed lips. They were told the night before a guard had disappeared probably wandered off into a snowfall. They shrugged that off and introduced Zancor to the camp Corporal, a Westlander strongman, and went to eat and sleep as on their way to camp Dead-Eye had managed to hunt some small game. That night as the adventurers decided to keep watch Dead-Eye spotted someone which resembled a half-naked woman wandering about the camp but decided not to follow-up on it. During Bers’ watch there was a crash and the sound of splintering wood as well as the screaming of the Sleipnir in the stables. The adventurers rushed out with Dead-Eye unarmored to the stables in time to spot something flying away in the distance which Dead-Eye identified as a winter-dragon.

It had taken another Sleipnir and torn a hole in the roof of the stables. Sir Chinsalis set the pair of “dragon-slayers” to task, “kill that dragon”. So, with Olf they decided to try to ambush it by concealing themselves in the stable that night and every night after until it would strike knowing the remaining Sleipnir were too tempting a target for it not to try it again.

When night fell they concealed themselves in a stall under some hay and waited. Around midnight or so they heard it approach as it clung to the stone side of the manor house and put its massive white head through the hole it had made the night before. It scented them immediately of course and it snapped at Bers who swung her axe and missed flinging it outside of the stables into the snow by the second round of battle Bers was forced to dodge as she was badly injured and dealing minimal damage using the sword she had taken from the corpse in the ruins of Black Brow. Dead-Eye jumped up and ran outside so he could get a clear shot with his bow as the dragon was well covered by the roof and could take an attack of opportunity on him when he drew his bow inside of the stable. Olf did his best to keep Bers’ hit points up using his healing ability. By the third round Bers was forced to use a Recovery check to keep conscious even though Olf had already healed up some of the damage she had already taken. Dead-Eye shot the dragon once with a roll of a Natural 20 using a dragon-bone arrow no less wounding the creature severely. It shrieked and immediately smashed into the roof demolishing it as it leapt from the wall and beat its wings fleeing into the frigid night sky. Dead-Eye made a desperate wild shot at it as it flew but missed and even chanced it again losing another dragon-bone arrow in the process before it disappeared over the treetops. He ran to get the Hill-Landers to see if they would help them track the dragon hoping it would bleed enough to leave a trail with bearing to its lair while Olf tried his best to heal Bers’ wounds and she drank a few healing potions. It was nearly dawn before they were ready to move out but move out they did the trail of frozen dragon’s blood gleaming like rubies in the red-orange light of dawn.

It was approaching dusk before they finally lost the trail. Dead-Eye was in the lead along with the Hill-Lander Ranger/Archer, Han. The others plus Bers and Olf who had run to join back up with them as they left camp in the pre-dawn hours were taking up the rear. Dead-Eye climbed a tree as high as he could getting a treetop view of the land above the trees and was able to spot a low mountain among a ridge of hills in the distance perhaps a day’s walk from their current position along the same bearing they were already traveling. He decided (correctly) that was where the dragon’s lair lay. He and Han found a good and well-hidden camping spot as they all needed rest especially Bers who was still wounded from the previous night’s scuffle.

During the night as the others slept Dead-Eye caught a glimpse of the dragon streaking by overhead, luckily they did not light a fire and those sleeping were in a snow-igloo. Come morning he warned the others that the dragon was probably on the lookout and they continued on. All was quiet, too quiet, as they approached a clearing and when traveling through it they were hit by a blast of the dragon’s frost breath from above during another fly-by surprise attack which was completely ineffective against our dragon-slaying heroes but which hurt the Hill-landers. By early evening they made to break through the forest edge into the shadow of the low mountain and were again hit with a blast of frost-breath which again was ineffective against the slayers (successful reflex saves all around plus cover for the trees) and again wounded the Hill-Landers. The dragon landed at the mouth of its cave and ran inside, the slayers and the Hill-Landers immediately dashed after with Dead-Eye leading the charge. They ran headlong into the dragon in its feeding chamber where it had just dropped a freshly killed bear. It took an attack of opportunity on Bers as she charged to meet it while still within its reach and bit her but good. They battled the dragon for 2 rounds and by their second turns Bers and Dead-Eye were already dodging as was the dragon. Dead-Eye opened the second round with a Recovery check and Olf kept using his healing touch to keep the adventurers alive. The Hill-Landers hung back though Han, the archer/ranger, slung a few arrows they were completely ineffective against the dragon’s icy hide. The dragon tore off on its turn deeper into its lair at the end of the second round.

Han and Dead-Eye both used their tracking skills to follow the dragon’s path through the lair until they came to a lower large chamber which was dominated by a frozen lake across which lay a landing of stone on the far side and another passage probably the entrance to the horde chamber according to Dead-Eye’s Dragon-Lore (again, he was right). The ice of the lake had several large holes in it and was cracked everywhere appearing very uneven and unstable but they had no choice but to chance running over the ice to the opposite landing in order to corner their prey. The dragon was nowhere in sight.

They began to cross and immediately the dragon’s head popped from the water in a hole in the ice and blasted everyone on the landing with its breath weapon badly wounding the Hill-Landers whom took shelter behind a boulder on the landing and the instant after its head dunked back under. Bers and Dead-Eye with Olf behind began to cross the ice at a careful pace until Bers remembered she had the Cape of Bat-Flight taken from the vampire knight of Hornstone. The dragon’s head came up again to blast those on the ledge injuring all of the Hill-Landers enough that they yelled to the slayers to carry on without them as they were running back out of the lair like “sane men do”. The dragon lunged from the water shattering the ice-crust of the lake causing Bers to fall into the frigid waters; she desperately clawed her way onto a loose piece of ice. Fortunately she remembered she had the Cape of Bat-Flight taken from the vampire knight of Hornstone and shot into the air.

The battle commenced and Bers and Dead-Eye both had to dodge, Bers twice in the first round and Olf had to make a recovery roll after getting swatted with a claw after the dragon took an attack of opportunity as he ran past it to try to heal Dead-Eye instead of running to the other ledge like Dead-Eye instructed him to. In Cris’ words, “Dude, I told you!”

By the second round Dead-Eye led off with a Recovery check and Bers remembered she was carrying a Dancing Axe (a weapon which can fly and attack on its own) from a previous sojourn and tossed that into the air to assist them. Olf healed himself. The dragon was then forced into a Recovery roll and by the end of the round destroyed the flying axe with bite splintering it to shivers. In the third round Dead-Eye again led off with a Recovery check ( a turn used up in the previous round to avoid dying from a savage bite attack) and Olf again healed himself. It was Dead-Eye who finally dealt the death blow with his last dragon-bone arrow. They climbed off of the ice onto the ledge, Bers just landed and then she whistled for the Hill-Landers if they could still hear (they would need help carrying out the horde). The Hill-Landers did hear and came running back to join the others in the glittering horde chamber lit by large fire-gems embedded in the walls.

The horde consisted of 1 Black Pearl, 3 pieces of Chalcedony, 3 Opals, 1 large Opal, 7 pieces of Lapis Lazuli, 7 bits of Phenacite, 6 pieces of Turquoise, 3 large bits of Tiger-Eye, 1,000 iron pieces (ip), 2,000 fliks (fk), 4,000 silver pieces (sp), 4 pieces of ivory, 3 magic potions (Greater Strength I, Heal [120 HP], and Blinding Strike), Jar of Powdered Quartz, a high quality Quarterstaff, 1 quiver of highest quality midnight steel arrows (quickly claimed by Dead-Eye), 1 mallet (tool) picked up by Bers because it may be useful plus Olf sensed “magical vibrations” coming from it using his newly acquired ESP ability, an ugly, poor quality (bad art) painting in an embossed jet frame which they left there, and finally, a Book of Invocations with pages of Astral Drift-metal and two spells written within which have to wait until they get the book identified. The Hill-Landers were given a share even though they were “useless” in Dead’s words which consisted of 4 bits of Lapis Lazuli, 4 phenacites, 3 turquiose, 166 ip each, 333 fk each, 666 sp each, getting all of the ivory in lieu of the potions, the black pearl, and the large opal. With the treasure accounted for and split amongst them they decided to sleep through till the next morning in order to heal up a bit before trekking back to camp.

The victorious march back went quickly and was uneventful. They neared the location of the crusader camp when they all spotted the large pillars of black smoke rising lazily into the sky. The Hill-Landers shouted, “No!” They ran towards camp drawing weapons the dragon-slayers just stood there gawking. The players just sighed and stated they were drawing their weapons, but not dropping their bags and packs, and approaching slowly and carefully.

To Be Continued…

The Man Behind the Mask: A Mage from Poisonwood (Intro)

Baerig-ScarbornUpon the unfortunate turn of luck with the last mage I played and his traveling companions Jen, Gil and myself got about making new characters. Cris informed us that we were going to keep moving forward in his campaign and would start in the same venue, the town of Rockhollow whose mine is recently defunct as it suffered an unknown disaster and was now completely flooded and mostly collapsed. Lessons learned, I decided to roll up another mage.

His name, Baerig Scar-Born a native of Tanglethorn, the poisons of the Poisonwood probably responsible for the deformities he’s suffered since birth. He was born to a whore-priestess dedicated to the Satyrina goddess Bastana. It was within this powerful cult (the secret face of the Livery of Pleasures prostitutes’ guild) that he was first exposed to the magic arts by his mother and the other prostitutes. It was soon recognized that he had a certain natural talent for the arcane arts.

When he turned 12 he was sent to serve the Brotherhood of the Green Well where he was trained & educated to the level of novice but soon realized that he would not be allowed to advance further in the hierarchy due to the very nature of the institution itself (described in brief in the Arvan: Land of Dragons setting manual to be published soon). It didn’t help that he was seen as reckless and quarrelsome as well. He has an appetite for strong drink, food and Yellow Lotus. He also mumbles a brief prayer before the first drink or hit an intoxicant due to his exposure to the cult of the Satyrina. He was unceremoniously expelled after completing a ritual that granted him the Eldritch Ability of Acid Bolt which severely scarred his body and destroyed a brotherhood lab. Seeing he was never inducted into any of the brotherhood’s litany of secrets he was simply booted into the streets instead of being killed. He quickly shifted allegiance to the reigning lord of Tanglethorn whom was soon overthrown during a violent coup.

Baerig fled discarding the dead lord’s arms which had been sown to the breast of his pale green robes. He hitched a ride with an Ivoran Merchant Caravan leaving the city and the entire Poisonwood behind.

Originally dubbed Baerig Whoreborn, the title which he detests, has 2 older siblings named Deevir Softskin (a sister) and Haavor Hardknuckle ( a brother) with both of whom he has had limited contact. He knows who his father is as he is the result of a ritual sex-act but a grave disappointment due to his deformities which consist of a slightly contorted frame and large lumpy growths about the face. His father, Haevor the Wyvern’s Flame apprenticed him while he was a novice for the brotherhood; essentially he was just an errand-boy, being a member in high-standing but was somewhat negligent in favor of another. Another member stepped in to become Baerig’s true master,  a mage in lower standing to his father and who now is very likely dead.

Baerig Scarborn appears as a tall and slender human of approximately 120 lbs and 6’7”. Dressed in a pale green cloak and cowl with matching robes that have a gold-leaf emblem of a ring of thorns with nothing at the center. He wears a bronze mask made in the image of a gender-neutral but beautiful countenance which is expressionless and has a single black tear enameled under the left eye. He also has knee-high soft leather boots and gloves as well as bronze bracers bearing the thorn-circle motif with the image of a pair of crossed daggers within. He always is careful to keep every inch of his ruined flesh covered and seeks to amass as much arcane knowledge as he can.

He is of the Chaotic Good Unprincipled alignment and his personality is “gung-ho, guts & glory type; sees self as hero; likes combat.” His I.Q. and M.E. are his highest attributes being +7 and +6 respectively. His DEX and CON are fairly high as well as both being at +4. His flaws are Slow and Disfigured and has the Apprentice concept as well as having Spellcraft as his family skill (coming from a guilded family). He has also chosen Mage as his favored class. His inborn traits are Chemical Tolerant and Naturally Wise.. His most notable abilities are his Eldritch Talents which are Teleport I and Bolt of Acid which lowered his AUR and BEA attributes leaving him with an AUR of -3 and a BEA of -4. His most valuable piece of equipment at start was a Bronze Amulet which provided a Damage Reduction of 2 as magic armor.

Baerig met Tweena, a Dungeoneer played by Jen and Drogo, a ranger played by Gil on the caravan all sticking with it for an undetermined length of time but long enough to get to know each other well. When it made a stop-over in Rockhollow about midsummer we decided to seek our own fortune in this place letting the caravan move on without us.

To Be Continued…