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The Dragonslayers III Pt. 20: Dragon-Blood

Our intrepid heroes, the Blackwing Dragonslayers (Hirok-Nor branch), had finally found their way to the town that they were seeking which they had been given directions to TWICE after having made a wrong turn. The slayers’ strange craft floated by the ancient stone idol that stood a far way outside of the city palisade, it was chiseled into the crude shape of a grinning Satyr but the horns had been recently hammered away. The pennant flying above the open gates of the town of Aáhké bore a split field of white and red and a golden chalice with a longsword and golden mace crossing behind it. The guard loitering before the gate bore shortspears and freshly scraped round shields where the old heraldry could still be made out. The shields had borne a quartered field of white and light green with a red ram’s head being the central charge, the banner of the Achaánal clan but had been scraped and probably sanded. The presumed captain of the guard stepped forward to greet the incoming strangers his shield did have a fresh coat of red and white paint on its face. Vorwulf using his magic helmet halted the magic hovercraft. The guards were a homogenous mix of human, faun, and hill giant common to the Hill-Lands and were puzzled by the adventurers’ weird vehicle but not disturbed.

Vorwulf [Played by Cris]: “Is there a healer or a White Star Guild in this town?”

The Captain of the Guard [pointing at Magiia]: “If ya need help for your friend see the priest, Norwe, he might be able to help. What’s wrong with her? Doesn’t look like Marsh Fire.”

Grom [Played by Gil]: “She got bit by a Lindwurm.”

Vorwulf: “Dragon-venom.”

The captain shook his head knowingly and directed them to the Wayman’s Camp and the Travelers’ Inn not far inside the gates. Vorwulf caught sight of a prison-wagon, as this town apparently lacked a proper jail, across from the inn and a familiarly colored cloak from between its iron bars. He approached to get a better look at the person bundled underneath the black and yellow striped cloak. To his disappointment it wasn’t Xanto the wasp but rather an old faun vagrant. The pathetic old drunk told them that a young wizard gave him his cloak as he left town about two days ago along with someone he called “the outrider”. Soon after that the adventurers had already paid for a room (4 gp per night) and leaving Maggi in the room both Grom and Vor had made their way into the market place where all of the early season merchants were set up.

In the small market place they found that there were no permanent storefronts but a collection of wagons most of which opened up to show-off the goods for sale. They found the usual collection of snake-oil salesmen, weapons dealers, and local produce especially fish and eels. They quickly found they couldn’t understand anyone there so the shaman “chugged down” a potion of Comprehend Languages. He instantly realized that they were speaking Westlander, the native language of our heroes, but with an extremely heavy Hill-Lander accent. They quickly find a trader in alchemical gear and potions. Vorwulf picks up 2 potions of fire protection and 3 alchemist kits paying with 75 gold pieces and a pair of large emeralds. Grom the shaman got 1 potion of Purification and 3 alchemist kits but then charmed the salesman getting a discount putting down 4 aquamarines and 160 gold pieces.

Cris: “Man! You wanted a DISCOUNT! You know rich we are! Like when I was trying to get that info from the wasp CHEAP and you threw down those diamonds!” (see the Dragonslayers II Pt. 2)

So Vorwulf tossed 4 rubies into the merchant’s eager hand as “f*@# you money”.

They returned shortly to their room, more a bungalow really, and gave Maggi the 6 alchemist kits. The shaman gave her the Purification potion which after she drank it seemed to have an effect as her shaking immediately stopped but in retrospect the shaman realized later that it couldn’t have done anything for her. The Ferenoi immediately leapt to her feet and snatched up a kit and began brewing Dragon-Blood Potion. The other two left her to her labors as they departed tot eh tavern which was almost directly across the street adjacent to the town cistern. A red bull on a white field adorned the pennant that hung from a post that faced the muddy winding street.

The Red Bull tavern was under a semi-permanent canopy of oiled-leather that extended from an open counter of a longhouse which served as the kitchen and bar for the place as well as the proprietor’s home. The tented portion of the tavern was held by a perimeter of evenly spaced poles set into a floor of flat stones held by packed earth and clay and the sides were roll-up panels or flaps. The flaps were all currently rolled up leaving the place practically open-air. The place already had a few rough-looking fur-clad dirty faced trappers drinking their breakfasts. Several others, obviously fighters, well-equipped were doing the same the heraldry on their actons was a pair of crossed black maces one spiked against a quartered field of light blue with one white and one red quarter. By himself near the bar sat another trapper with a full meal in front of him and counting a copious number of gold coins. Vorwulf immediately approached him asking him if he would hire on with them as a guide. He replied with a backwater accent in bad Westlander saying he would but the shaman sensing something not quite right with him said he would “like a second opinion” about the direction the shifty looking woodsman would take. Grom pulled his friend from the table to the counter.

Next to the counter mounted to the wood-log wall of the house was a painted carving of the arms of the Achaánal Highlander clan on a round shield. It was badly defaced and studded with various throwing implements, throwing daggers, darts, and tomahawks. The barkeep was a bulky and tall old faun nicknamed ‘Ole Twist’ due to his badly deformed and twisted horns gained form a childhood bout of Twist Horn, a disease which is often lethal to young fauns of the Hill-Lands. Over the hearth which could be seen from the bar-counter in the corner of the kitchen area hung a Satyr Blade, a double ended sword with each of the blades curved like a scimitar, which was notched up and down both of the wicked looking blades. They found the man friendly enough, an old adventurer, especially since the first thing that Vor did was slap down a platinum piece on the soggy bar.

Ole Twist told them about a more reliable guide known only to him as “the Boar Hunter”, a Hill-Giant that spends all of his time in the wilderness “somewhere abouts” Black Boar’s Heath just south of the White Heath they were asking after. The wasp had been in town for a short while and looking for a guide the one he found was hardly reputable, a traitor who had been a sell-sword for the Achaánal clan during the rebellion against their rule but he was tolerated due to the amount of gold and silver he spent around town. He was a ratling known as “the Outrider” who rode a war-goat.

Ole Twist: “The lil’ turd don’t fight fair with his feet o’ the ground but from o’ back o’ da goat wid’a spear, canna ya believe dat?”

After a few jacks of ale and a few more of some decent Hill-Lander whiskey Vor bought “something special” from the old goat, a bottle of carved glass with a ruby stopper. The contents of which seemed to whirl and surge of their own accord though Ole Twist said that it was whiskey of a “pow’ful vintage”. He described to Vorwulf the bottle contained a Whiskey Elemental, he had taken it as a share of some loot from an adventure a long time ago and it was only now that someone happened by with the wealth to buy it. He packed it away and sat down to finish the remainder of the booze he purchased prior. The shaman took off to the market again to buy some more potions buying out the alchemist of his Alchemist Fires. As dusk came both Vorwulf and Grom stumbled into the bungalow at the inn and found Maggi back to her full capacities. Vorwulf slopped into his bed. The shaman got Maggi to pry herself away from her work, she was brewing the rest of the Lindwurm-blood into Dragon-Blood Potions, long enough for her to buy a carved glass bottle of some “good stuff” from Ole Twist and while she went back to the room to continue her alchemical task which she did until dawn, the shaman decided to follow the shiesty woodsman that he and Vor had talked to earlier who was now thoroughly drunk.

Gil: “Don’t worry guys this’ll be easy.”

The shaman’s quarry immediately noticed he was being followed and shot off towards the West Gate with Grom in hot pursuit. Just as the town gates were being closed they both dashed out into the dark and that’s when the trapper turned and pulled out his dagger in one hand and his battleax in the other.

 

To Be Continued…

The Dragonslayers III Pt. 19: Inquisition at Hangman’s Fork

Come noon the mysterial-rowboat was zooming along Barbarian’s Tread between the North Forest to the east and the ever thickening tree-line what was rapidly becoming The Left Wood to the west. By sundown they were going to be at their destination, the town of Aáhké, barring anything unexpected happening. Suddenly, just ahead of them a massive tree crashed onto the road. Vorwulf stopped the boat with a hard jolt throwing them all forward and Vorwulf almost head over heels out onto the ground. Another fell across the road behind them sealing them in the narrow cut between the trees of the two forests that served as the road. There were punji stakes studding the trunks of the fallen trees. Bursting from the bushes and from behind trunks were around twenty highwaymen, most had trained loaded crossbows on the adventurers. The thugs were fairly well-armed the cheap black paint on their weapons and shields showing heavy with large swaths rubbed nearly clean and the black dye in their leathers and hides fading into a sickly grey.

Cris (Vorwulf’s Player): “Must be some of those ex-black-soldier guys.”

Their leader sauntered into the road before the slayers with a smug look on his face which disappeared as soon as he caught full sight of the Blackwings’ weird vehicle. He then noticed Magiia was very ill; shivering with large streams of snot running down her face. The robbers immediately backed off panicked shouts of “plague” erupted from their ranks as they attempted to make the most space possible between them and the perceived plague-carriers barely able to prevent themselves from fleeing. Grom, the shaman, confirmed their fears acknowledging, falsely, that indeed she did have the plague. He feigned a slight cough. Almost shaking the leader waved his arms and the road blocking log ahead of them lifted up from the road, they could hear more hidden bandits heaving. A strong rope was tied to its top end as it stood on end disappearing into the tree line on one side of the road. The head-highwayman began waving them through and shouting at them in a heavy Hill-Lander accent, “Begone! Get da’ hell OUTTA here! Gew!” So the slayers did as they were told and sped off laughing all the way. Vor contemplated the apparent wasp-stings he had spied that were spattered over some of the bandits’ faces and necks.

Come evening, the boat was stopped and setting in the embankment among the bushes while Vorwulf looked about for a suitable campsite. He found a spot and went back over to the other two when he spotted, and just barely, a serpentine dragon stealthily gliding over the treetops directly at the rowboat and the sickly Maggi. He shouted to alert the others. Maggi sprang to life and snatched up a short-spear and her shield. Grom tried to identify exactly what species the dragon was but failed. Vorwulf quick drew his composite longbow and shot at the monster with a dragonbone arrow which it instantly knocked aside midair. Maggi chucked her spear missing by a mile and losing the weapon in the bush. The dragon swooped by in a flyby attack, its talon strike thwarted by Maggi’s shield. Grom called down lightning from the sky which had no effect when it struck the dragon’s hide. Vor shot another dragonbone arrow which was swatted down by the monster’s tail. Maggi grabbed a javelin and threw it at the beast. It barely parried the weapon, the javelin stuck into the dirt of the road. The dragon turned in midair and threw itself fanged maw agape directly at Magiia. She met it with a shield bash wounding it badly even in her weakened state but also taking a nasty bite at the same time. She found instantly that the creature was venomous. Bolts of lightning struck down once again on the beast dealing little damage. Another dragonbone arrow shot at the monster but this time found its home. The dragon crashed into the trees about a hundred away from the rowboat. Without missing a beat Maggi downed a Neutralize Poison potion and ran to the giant, bleeding corpse Alchemist’s Kit in hand.

Vorwulf, after getting a good look at the thing, recognized it as a Lindwurm, a native species of the Hill-Lands which usually preys on livestock, and probably the one the trappers had warned them of. Grom cut off the dragon’s nose horn. Maggi struggled with the shakes and her own impatience as she attempted to brew up at least a single dose of Dragon-Blood Potion, she failed using up the materials of the entire kit. To say the least she was a little disappointed but she still had the presence of mind to fill up all eight of her empty potion bottles with the creature’s blood. It was near dawn by the time Maggi finally collapsed back into her place at the rear of the rowboat. It was third watch and Grom the shaman was sitting on a log by the glowing embers of the dying fire.

The chance sound of a snapping twig alerted him to a presence very near him. He looked over his shoulder and only about a dozen feet away coming out of the tree-line were a small group of black-skinned trolls were trying to sneak up on him and when they noticed they were spotted silently melted back into the bush. They were long gone by the time the shaman had woken the others. Vorwulf waited till first light and found their tracks guessing there had been at least four trolls. Soon after that they were again on their way. After a few hours and enduring a slight drizzle they came to a fork in the road, a gibbet and a rotting corpse to great them.

Vorwulf: “Crap. Which way? North or East?”

They had broken the tree-line about 20 miles ago passing a rough, stone monolith engraved with the spiral horn symbol of the Old Satyrs, the elder gods of the Hill-Lands, a signpost that they were now in the Norusk region. They found themselves coasting over a rolling grassland along the well-traveled dirt road with the trees of the North Forest less than a mile or two to the right (south). They inspected the corpse hanging from the gallows at the fork. It was the corpse of a full-blown Satyr the remains of his Acton emblazoned with a red ram’s head on a quartered field of white and light green. The rope stretching its neck was fashioned from a knotted tartan sash. It looked as if the body had been there for a full season at least.

Grom [referring to the emblem]: “Why is that familiar?”

Cris (Vorwulf’s Player): “Wait! I have Speak with Dead on my helmet!”

Vorwulf [using the gold helmets second ability]: “Which way to Norusk.”

The Corpse: “You are here.”

Vorwulf: “Which way to the nearest town then.”

The Corpse [lifting its decayed arm to point to the North]: “Traitors to the right [North].”

Grom: “Come across any giant mushrooms?”

The Corpse: “Seasonal on the cursed White Heath.”

Magiia [to Vorwulf]: “What was he hung for?”

The Corpse: “For being of the Achaánal, there was a rebellion.”

Vorwulf: “Know of a red dragon in the area?”

The Corpse: “No.” With that the putrid thing went limp and its horned head dropped back to its chest.

Cris: “Well, I guess we go right then.”

It wasn’t long, a few minutes at most but a distance of about 6 miles, before they came to another fork in the road. The road continued west and spurred off to the northeast.

Vorwulf: “Okay. Now which way are we goin’”

They unanimously voted for the left so Vor mentally steered their strange craft along the northeast spur. A ruined stone keep atop a low hill soon rose before them. There was no town or anything living for that matter in sight.

 

To Be Continued…

The Dragonslayers III Pt. 18: Carriage-Spotting

The beginning of spring, the morning sun was golden bright and peaking over the silver-grey clouds that still lagged along the horizon. The slayers began preparations for their trek north along Barbarian’s Tread into Norusk on the hunt for the red-dragon lord of Grom’s visions. Magiia was in bad shape, sweating and shivering. She had run out of Dragon’s Blood Potions and was jonesing. Bad. She had stretched her supply as far as it could have possibly have gone over the past few weeks in anticipation of the spring melt running out completely the just week before. She was well into the first stage of withdrawals. While she convalesced on a table in the Hopping Rat Vorwulf wrangled the horses and kit into the tavern stable. Grom made arrangements for Kyrahma, his hound, with his protégé Og while he was away. Olf had parted a few days hence as the shaman had failed in his efforts to convince the healer to stay with the guild. It would be the last they would ever see of the Arborean. The slayers had re-hired Ebor the bartender to mind the Rat and he began to wipe up and get things in order from the utter mess left behind by a very busy winter. While in the stable Vor sent off a Magical Pigeon from the guild scroll they had been given in Chago upon joining to the Blackwing guild master there.

The message had been, “Starting to build guildhouse. Need experts, trap-builders, vault-makers, top stone masons, castle engineer, pigeon-keeper; send immediately to Merdna. On Red Dragon Hunt, Trollguard, spring. Vorwulf.”

After, Vorwulf galloped off on a horse while the shaman tried to figure what to do to ease Maggi’s pain in the meantime. He found that he could do nothing. Vor returned in less than an hour dragging with him a simple row boat. The shaman was puzzled so Vor told him that he was planning to use the jeweled gold closed helmet taken from the Skulls (see the Dragonslayers I Pt.37) which had the Mysterial Chariot ability on it allowing him to cause the boat to be enchanted and levitate about 5 ft. in the air and travel at a very brisk pace. They were going to brave the spring rains and have to deal with a lot of mud, it could take up to 3 weeks by horse. This was their best option.

Cris (Vorwulf’s Player): “It’s essentially a magic hover-vehicle.”

Gil (Grom’s Player): “Coool.”

They began loading up the row boat in the staging area, the small courtyard between the stables and the tavern lastly depositing Maggi and her gear. As they made their final preparations a merchant and his fully loaded wagon rolled up.

The merchant appeared to be Hill-Lander bearing the embroidered image of a blue-bull against a green field on his chest as well as a tartan sash over his shoulder. He was selling various grades of whiskey so Vor purchased 1 barrel of whiskey and a cask of the merchant’s “best” for 1,880 gold pieces. The merchant, the only name they got from him was Aáhdrahké (a-AH-draw-KAY), after the sale trundled off without a word. He seemed a little snobby and was not forthcoming to any of the slayers’ questions. Fortunately another friendlier Hill-lander merchant approached them with his wagon which was loaded with several hogshead of strong ale. On his chest was embroidered a white rabbit with a silver tankard on its back against a green field, the same was painted on all of the hogsheads. They didn’t bother to get his name though he gave the name of his boss, Craftsman Banik of Baáchkul (bah-AH-kool), a brewer from Aáhké, a town, basically the only town, in Norusk. Vorwulf asked for directions to the town after asking after the dragon, which the ale-seller revealed that no one has yet seen a dragon but they know it’s there due to the forest fires to the northeast of Aáhké. As for directions they were to “go north along Barbarian’s Tread, take the north road at Gallow’s Fork and stay west ‘til you run inta’ town”. Vor purchased 2 hogshead of ale for 800 gold pieces and the talkative seller went on his way.

Shortly after that with a better idea of where they were going the shaman jumped into the boat and Vor took up his position at the bow and activated the helmet. The boat rose and then shot forward moving very fast, the still chilly but moist air blasted into their faces. Magiia was huddled against the transom bundled up in furs and blankets. Her nose was running and she was groaning with severe stomach cramps. Grom intending to read for the duration of the trip reached into his Bag of Holding and pulled out Blackbrow’s spellbook, the one covered in chromatic-yellow dragon hide, but was already familiar with its contents so he deposited back into the bag and instead pulled out the Tome of Dragonslaying. They had yet to get it open, the first thing he noticed was that there were no locks, the animated troll face on its iron bound cover was not pleased.

The jeweled eyes of the thing menaced him as it slung insult after revolting insult in his face and when that failed to dissuade Grom from trying to open it, it glowed red hot burning his hands. A little miffed the shaman convincingly threatened to burn it. It immediately relented and opened itself. It was then that the shaman realized that either the thing believed itself to be an actual troll or it was animated by the imprisoned spirit of a formerly living troll. The first thing he found in the tome was a song titled, “The Epic of Red-Tooth Dragonbane”, a very well-known bit of pop-culture throughout all of Ar along with a colored crest of a tower enwrapped by the coils of a black serpentine dragon surrounded by mutli-colored stars, it was identical to the crest on the Ring of Dragon Protection that had once been Bers’ but which now Maggi wears (see The Dragonslayers I Pt.28). It was apparently the oldest entry in the book. He flipped through the vellum pages and found some invocations: Protection from Dragons, the counterspell for Expel from Lair, and Track Enemy (Dragons only). When flipped the next page after the last spell he found another, apparently the newest entry in the book. The spell was titled “Draught of the Dragon’s Soul”. He was able to identify it as a Spell of Legend. He seriously contemplated trying to use it.

Gil: “This is cool, I’m gonna do this.”

Cris: “Dude it turns you EVIL.”

Gil (flipping through the Great Grimoire: Book of Spells Vol.I): “I don’t see that here. I’m gonna do it when we kill that dragon.”

Cris (pointing out the applicable passage in his copy): “See. Right there. The recipient of the benefits of this spell gains an evil alignment automatically.

Gil: “I dunno, it might be worth it.”

Cris: “Dude. It’s an EVIL spell you’re feeding off of a dragon’s SOUL.”

Gil: “Oh. Well, guess not then.”

In no time the slayers’ transport was passing through the gates of Fertum Vorahd, the long banners on either side bearing the gold-horned white ram against a green field wafted in the breeze. Magiia’s eyes were rolling blindly around in her head. It was still mid-morning; it had taken only about 10 minutes to get from Merdna to the Fertum. The guards were a little taken aback by the strangeness of their vehicle which as soon as Vor had walked into Lord Vorahd’s manor dropped with a slap to the ground with Maggi still twisted in her sweat-moistened bundle.

The shaman and Vor walked into the main hall where Vorahd was waving a sword around apparently bored while a scribe worked on a pile of documents spread over the heavy wooden feasting table. He was very happy to see the slayers especially the shaman whom he embraced heartily. Vorwulf got the shaman to ask the lord for the deed to Ekit’s Watch, in his own name not the guild’s “just in case”, which the relieved old lord had his scribe attend to. They were to pay 100,000 gold pieces for the deed and pay a flat 100 gold piece annual tax to Lord Vorahd’s tax-collectors. Vorahd warned them that the Merdna Elder Council also laid claim to that land but to “nevermind them it’s mine plain and simple”. That business concluded they gave Lord Vorahd the two ebony staffs with skull toppers, the blue-steel pike, and the blood-metal longsword.

Gil & Jenn (Magiia’s Player): “What? We’re not gonna try to sell ‘em to him?”

Cris: “Naw. You don’t know how RICH we are right now, it’s just geesh.”

Outside as they prepared to leave from the Fertum following the northwesterly Barbarian’s Tread into Norusk, Vor found a traveling alchemist trying to ply his wares and purchased all of his available healing potions with a large emerald and a ruby. He also asked the trappers that had just arrived if they had any information concerning the road they were about to embark on. The trappers said there was dragon-sign mostly Grayling and Lindwurm. The Lindwurm was further north several days however. Vorwulf had to consult his dragon-lore to figure out what a Lindwurm was. It was a native dragon of the Hill-Lands which primarily predated the herds of the hillmen. It was essentially a winged serpent with a pair of eagle-like talons and that it was:

Cris: “Venomous. Great.”

Jenn: “It’s what, poisonous? What about its breath?”

Cris: “It’s got a poison bite instead, so don’t get bit.”

The slayers jumped into the boat and soon enough they were off. Maggi was hanging her head overboard to be violently ill.

Jenn: “Man we need to find a dragon quick!”

The slayers in their weird little vehicle whizzed out of the Fertum’s north gate onto Barbarian’s Tread, trees on either side. Magiia hung her head over the side and wretched.

 

To Be Continued…

The Dragonslayers III Pt. 17: Bookkeepsta’s Paradise

The Mysterious Seal of the Gryphon

The Mysterious Seal of the Gryphon

A day after arriving safely home in the Hopping Rat in the city of Merdna, the slayers identified and split the loot acquired in the Blackbrow expedition. They drank ale, Og & Trasknor (Grom’s & Vorwulf’s protégés respectively) had purchased 3 hogshead during their absence (just in case), while gathered around a table in the currently deserted taproom, a snowstorm roared outside. Among the gear of note they found that the vampire-faced helmet was a Creator Level 10 item with the constant Blood Sense and constant Vampire’s Kiss abilities.

The black bearded-axe was a Creator Level 8 item with the constant Blood Thirst and blood drain (1D6 bleeding damage on a critical strike) abilities on it. The black full-plate armor was a Creator Level 12 item with the constant Aura of the Dead and Sanguinary Reprieve (2 x day) abilities. Frankly, they had no idea as to what to do with the “evil things”. The skull staffs, one taken from Zancor the one-armed and the other with tourmaline eyes found in a secret compartment, were Creator Level 25 items both with the Whisper (3 x day) ability with the gem-set one also having the Tele-location (3 x day) ability tied to the one that had been Zancor’s.

Cris (Vorwulf’s Player): “Oh. Okay. So, the jeweled one can locate the other one. Makes sense.”

After taking possession of the items that they wanted or could use out of the pile the slayers decided the Ring of Animate Armor and the Ring of Animate Statue sifted from the lich’s ashes were to be “treasuried”. The rest they would sell when they got the chance. Upon getting into the guild treasury in the secret compartment in the taverns cellar they found all of the coinage and gems missing from the 3 chests within. Vorwulf ranted something about “damned” ratlings for some minutes. The group went back up to the tap room and pulled up to a table.

Grom (Played by Gil): “So, there Magiia. Where’s my alchemists’ fires?” (see the Dragonslayers III Pt.4)

Magiia (Played by Jenn): “Ummm. Uh.”

Jenn: “I roll a Bluff check!”

Grom easily saw through Magiia’s ruse though she was able to talk around the issue and stall until Vorwulf convened a second meeting, “guild business” this time.

They had a discussion about building their guild house and acquiring the land needed to do so around the Hopping Rat tavern still hoping to simply expand that building. Ultimately since Vorwulf held the titles of (unofficial) Guildmaster/(official) Alderman he would be the one to go to the Civil Authorities’ Hall to talk to the officials about purchasing the deeds and the permission/documents needed to begin the construction of their guildhouse as soon as the weather would allow. Shortly after high noon the snow stopped and Vorwulf left for the civic hall with Grom in tow, a different mission on his mind. Shortly after their departure Magiia left to keep an appointment leaving Olf in the company of the protégés.

Vorwulf found himself in a small meeting room at a table with a scribe, a city warder charged with what was essentially city-planning and contracts. It took a few hours for Vorwulf to work out the details with the city warder to gain the deeds from the properties around the Hopping Rat especially since the slayers’ neighbors are looking to sell to the drastic increase in the occurrence of particularly destructive street fights in their vicinity. The guild was offered the lease to the West Gate and the opportunity to build their guildhouse around it like the Woodcutters’ and Clothworkers’ guilds for 10,000 gold pieces down and 12,000 a year. Vorwulf took it. There were also stipulations in the lease that they had to use the city architect and hire from the resident manpower of Merdna barring any special services that cannot be had within the city. Vorwulf set 5 large emeralds on the table for the down and went about hiring woodcutters, blacksmiths, the architect, 100 general laborers, and arranged for the importation of masoned stones from Sirti in all spending 26,250 gp with 50 gp recurring per month for the laborers and 1,200 gp recurring per season for the master architect.

Grom in the meantime had hired the stockade located in the civic hall. After the jailor left him to his own devices the shaman pulled out the corked bottle that contained the snail named Kyrahma. He took the snail out and set it on the floor of the cell afterwards closing and barring the wood door. Through the small barred window in the door he kept eye contact with the miniscule creature and released the spell that had kept the rogue Feren berserk in that form.  Instantly she was again herself though stark naked and extremely angry. Foaming at the mouth she immediately kicked at the door. The wood bowed and splintered. The door held but could not take another blow like that without completely shattering. Grom cast Animal Form again upon the Amazonian and instantly she was reduced to a dog.

Gil: “I want to have her as a pet.”

A little while later the three slayers met up in the street and snow in blue gloaming of evening approaching the warm yellow light of the tavern, Vor with the contracts and deeds in hand, Grom accompanied by a fine hound and Magiia with a package a tall as she was. Together they entered the Hopping Rat. When he saw them, Vorwulf stopped dead in his tracks; the ratling adventurers, the “tat-eyes” were gathered around a table drinking. They were decked out in new very expensive looking clothes and were sporting new jewelry that glittered in the lamplight.

Vorwulf surveyed the taproom and saw no other ratlings hanging abouts. He made beeline to the cellar and brought back a dusty bottle of high quality wine the seal of the gryphon stamped into the glass of the bottle and slammed it onto the ratlings’ table.

Vorwulf: “Compliments of the house.”

The Mantck ratling (a medium-sized ratling from the Poisonwood) spoke tossing aside his cape of red feathers: “Don’t worry our underlings won’t molest your customers.” A wide verminous smile spread over his rodentine features.

Vorwulf took a seat, Grom kept an eye on them from his place at the bar. Maggi was busy pulling the oilskin wrapper from her package revealing a portrait in a fine frame oblivious to the current situation. Vorwulf offers the ratlings 1 platinum piece as an “insurance payment” and offering it per year to which the Mantck, named Nomet Redblade, reacted very favorably. Vor demanded a contract since the ratlings had already taken their “down payment” referring to the repeated plundering of the treasury. They were soon working out a formal contract where the ratlings were going to provide a level of special security & insurance for all of the holdings of the Blackwings guild of Merdna. On top of the down for the “ratling insurance” Vorwulf also tossed 1 gold and 1 platinum talon on the table as a “retainer for future services”. Nomet whistled through his fingers after the contract was signed. Trasknor shouted to Vorwulf from behind the bar. There was a horde of ratlings vacating the building out the secret back door from an unseen passage presumably up from the cellar. With that the ratlings shared the wine with the ranger/dragon-slayer and then took their leave shortly thereafter.

Maggi finished hanging her portrait on the west wall between the windows and admired it. It was a portrayal of her with her foot on the headless bleeding corpse of a dragon, the muscles of her half-naked body glistening under a heroic sunset as she lifted the dragon’s severed head, the resemblance of her lost axe in her other hand. It was a masterwork indeed.

To Be Continued…

The Dragonslayers III Pt. 16: Begone Foul, Black-Brow’d Night!

Magiia stood over the flinders of her axe lying scattered over the two halves of the severed zombie head. She tossed the splintered haft to the floor. The wooden clunk echoed down the empty dark halls.

Jenn (Magiia’s Player): “I want my axe back.”

The GM (me): “You broke it. There’s nothing I can do. You did 90-something points to a 2-hit-point zombie-head.”

Jenn (pointing to Cris): “Yeah but he was hitting ‘em too!”

The GM (me): “I gave you both one. The clanging of your weapons hitting the stone? I told you guys you were lucky not to break your weapons.”

Jenn: “Damn. I’m gonna miss that axe.”

Mourning her axe Maggi followed the shaman as he ran into the library from the steps. She whipped out her sword and casually hacked a skull that leapt off of a table in two while it was still in mid-air. Grom and Maggi eyeballed the octagonal chamber. The floor was covered in a moth-eaten carpet which squished with dampness as they tread over it. In the south by the entrance to the chamber sat the polished table which had served as the platform for the leaping skull. The heavy oak table was inlaid with amber and had gold leafing under its polished surface but was otherwise barren. The walls were covered in dark wood paneling with high shelves built into the three western walls. To the north in a large niche stood yet another statue of Parkannis which was 10 ft. tall and chiseled from pure white alabaster with a golden circlet resting on its brow bearing a blue-steel wand shaped like a human femur in one hand at the end of an outstretched arm and a finely carved life-sized obsidian skull in the other.

Grom became obsessed with taking both the wand and skull from the statue. He yanked on the arm with the skull, it moved and all heard a loud click and a slight creak as if something were opened. The shaman didn’t hear it and failing to get the skull he tried the blue-steel bone wand and found it was also too firmly attached for him to pry form the statue. While Maggi stepped in and began ripping the treasures from the stone hands, Vorwulf carefully worked his way around the room clockwise from the south trying to find what he believed to have been a secret door opening somewhere in the room.

He saw that the shelves of the library contained about 3 master booklots on exactly what one would expect of a lich; the books were of Alchemy, Spellcraft, and Necrology. When he made it past the amazon and shaman, still working the statue over, he found the door behind a false panel. The shaman after packing away the skull and wand, neither of which seemed to be magical, he helped Vorwulf grab up the newly discovered loot. They had found scrolls of cone of frost, craft ring of invisibility, and teleportation along with a magic scroll of mass teleportation (Creator Level 12 with a single remaining charge) on a small scroll-rack.

The shaman suddenly and desperately began checking his bags finally exhaling in relief as he pulled out a small corked glass vial containing the snail named Kyrahma (see The Dragonslayers II Pt.14: Betrayal!).

Gil (Grom’s Player): “I pull her out one-time every day to give her some air.” He thought he might have left her in his backpack (see Dragonslayers III Pt.13).

The shaman put the snail in its bottle, corked it and then back into his Bag of Holding as he followed the others when they turned their attentions to the other end of the hallway. They realized it was an arcane laboratory.

The chamber was lit dimly with the strange mystical light emanating from three fire gems (an emerald, ruby, and tourmaline) sitting on a hard-worn table at the center of the room among the equivalent of 2 alchemist kits worth of lab glassware. They quickly cleared the table of 6 empty potion bottles, a crystal ball that proved to be magic, a gold oil lamb with a bottle of oil, and of course the gems. They left behind the small iron cauldron and the alchemy hardware. In the northwest corner was a set of steps winding down. In the east wall was a hinged grating which covered what appeared to be a waste chute and below that squatted a locked bronze banded chest. To the south a short hall connected the lab to a small room, a potion store, which had a bronze grate in place of most of its east wall through which they could see a wide deep shaft, the chain-tackle that ran from above into its depths tinkled in a cold draft.

Cris (Vorwulf’s Player): “So this runs down to the well huh?”

The GM (me): “Yup, you guys could’ve climbed straight up to the third floor.”

Cris: “Not with all those people with us.”

The GM: “Yeah. You would’ve lost a few.” I mimed a guy falling to the bottom of the shaft into the well screaming.

Another passage opened to the east and bent sharply south that southward passage, half of its west wall was another grating bordering the shaft, terminating in a stair which wound down to the floor below. In the southwest corner a small wood cabinet was set on the wall, it was apparently locked as well. A small niche was in the north wall and sheltered a small high quality ivory figurine of a skeleton embracing a naked woman, the woman was painted in living colors. All of this was under the gaze of a wall portrait of Parkannis surrounded by the instruments of wizardry next to a black mirror which reflected a human skeleton to the south. Patches of the portrait were falling away from the wall.

Vorwulf immediately tried to pry open the chest but failed and so left it to Maggi. Inside was a red bottle with a ruby stopper (apparently empty), various disgusting spell components, 4 pieces of obsidian craved into little skulls, a coin purse made of chromatic yellow dragon-hide  with 50 silver pieces inside, 6 empty bottles, and a small astrolabe. As they took what they wanted to keep Vor snatched up the red bottle and immediately felt as if his very life-force were being drawn into it. He then could see a small bit of blood at its bottom. He wrapped it in a rag and stowed it away. Afterwards, Magiia turned her attention to the small wall cabinet which she easily just pulled open. That was then a swarm of crawling claws, animated severed humanoid hands, poured out of it and all over her grabbing and scratching at her armor. Grom hit her and the swarm with a blast of hurricane force wind which Maggi, maintaining her balance, was able to endure blowing off all of the crawling hands into the short hallway to the west. After that she and Vor made quick work of the little monsters expertly dicing them into a scattered mess of fleshy bits and wriggling wormy fingers. All that was in the cabinet were 3 superior quality gold rings and a dragon-ivory wand of ‘maximize spell’ which the shaman took.

They went into the potion-store and found 2 potions of adhesion, clairvoyance and comprehend languages and 2 bottles of oil of animate dead. Vorwulf found another secret compartment which contained 3 gruesome wands made from human femurs, a gold rod wrapped with copper tipped with a large diamond, and 1 ebony staff with white skull topper with tourmaline eyes (very similar to the one that Zancor had back in Merdna). They went back to the laboratory and went down using the steps in its northwest corner.

They began moving from room to room clearing the way of various “ghoulies” and other hazards as they wandered through the confusing jumble of rooms, dead-ends and multiple staircases. Vorwulf locked a black pudding in the latrine, they fought a mace-wielding wraith in an apparent scrying chamber which had a single black pedestal at its center with a crystal ball and bronze bowl atop it and three of its four walls had polished obsidian insets which eerily reflected the living visage of the hideous wraith. They happened upon 5 guardian-zombies in an apparent zombie barracks where they looted a blood-metal longsword with a silver guard and citrine pommel and a blue-steel pike off of a weapons rack. Vorwulf found yet another secret compartment there; it was armed with a trap which due to time had long since ceased to function. Within was a suit of black full-plate armor with a great helm the visor of which was shaped like a maniacal vampire baring its fangs; next to that was a black bearded-axe. They eventually ended up in room which opened up like a balcony out onto the entry chamber visible below, a single beam of cold sunlight shining through the oculus in the domed ceiling cutting through the dimness to the floor. They sat there debating on what to do for long while by the wooden railing while the beam of sunlight grew weaker and weaker. Finally they decided to go back up to the kitchen to eat, have the shaman rub some healing salve on their wounds, and catch a little sleep.

Come sometime the next afternoon they again found themselves leaning on the balcony railing. Earlier they had discovered a supply closet where Parkannis stored his spell components and the second set of steps in the laboratory dead-ended. The shelves were lined with bottles of revolting spell components (all fresh of course) including a jar of mummia, a bottle of necroplasm which slurped around in the jar of its own accord, and a jar of blood that was still warm to the touch.

Cris (Vorwulf’s Player): “Alright that’s it. We gotta find a way outta here.”

The players and their characters consulted their running maps of the place. They all came to the same conclusion pretty quickly. They were hopelessly lost. They couldn’t retrace their steps because they didn’t want to end up in that “tesseract thing” again so instead they stood there racking their brains.

Grom: “Oh yeah! Hey guys I can fly!” The others just grumbled.

So, for the next 4 hours while the oculus sunbeam slowly dimmed and began to disappear, Grom and Vorwulf repeatedly tried to read and thus activate the magic scroll of mass teleport they had found behind the false panel in the musty library. It took them both reading it (a cooperative skill check) to finally activate it. The scroll disintegrated and instantly the group (Voruwlf the ranger/dragon-slayer, Grom the shaman, Magiia the dragon-blood-warrior, and Olf the Arborean healer) found themselves standing in front of the locked front door of the Hopping Rat.

The entire group let out a sigh of relief.

To Be Continued…

The Dragonslayers III Pt. 15: Plundering Blackbrow

Morning, the slayers gathered again in the feasting hall/dining room of Tower Blackbrow determined to loot the place. The gear they had swiped from the remains of Parkannis Blackbrow had been safely packed away including the lich’s chromatic-yellow dragon skinned tome which Magiia had picked up after activating her Shield and that was dispelled by the Seal of Death on its cover rendering it “safe” to carry. Vorwulf gave Grom the shaman the smaller crystal orb that he was carrying to go with the two others the shaman had picked up (he recovered the big one from the battlements). The shaman could sense that all three of the crystal orbs were spiritually linked via the Astral Plane. They decided to go through the locked door to the north, another heavy wood iron banded door with an iron skull at its center.

After kicking it down with a single kick Maggi moved in while keep an eye out for danger. She found herself in a narrow 15 ft.-long hallway the ceiling covered in a netting of dusty cobwebs to her immediate right was an archway which opened into a small dark chamber with a wood floor and a well-crank with chain and tackle. Strangely she could smell freshly cooked food wafting on the chill, still air from the room ahead at the end of the short hallway. She saw a couple of ‘somethings’ scurrying under the webs on the ceiling.

The amazon shouted a warning and struck with her axe at the lead ‘thing’ whacking it into two convulsing spidery chunks which evaporated away before they hit the floor before her feet. Vorwulf unable to get past Maggi shot over her shoulder at the second shadow-spider-thing, the arrow passed right through as if it weren’t there burying itself in the ceiling. Grom slung a stone at the creature nailing it and Olf the Arborean Healer just stayed back and readied to heal should it be needed. The creature dropped onto Maggi and bit her but was unable to get through her armor. She struck at it but hit nothing but the plank floor. Vorwulf readied not wanting to waste another arrow and unable to engage in melee with his blades through Magiia. Grom and Olf both decided to hang back and Maggi finished the thing with an axe-blow that didn’t just pass through the shadowy blasphemy of its body. They continued forward.

They soon found themselves in an ancient kitchen its crumbling plaster walls draped with tapestries of spider-webs. An open archway lay to the west that led into a small larder/pantry, the dusty shelves within were bare and the floor was covered in dirt. Next to the archway was a barrel which was strangely new looking and quite clean and from which came the delicious smell of hot food. They found it to be a magic larder from which one could pull full-meals for 6 people 3 times-a-day complete with flatware (all of which faded away after the meal was finished of course). An old butcher’s block squatted in the south-east corner and a table and chair sat in the north-west next to the oven/fireplace in the north-wall to its right with an open passage into a short westerly hallway to its left. A bit of grey daylight could be seen peeking through the narrow smoke at the oven’s rear. Vorwulf checked this passage and found some steps which wound down. At the center of the east wall was a hinged bronze grating which covered a presumed waste-chute. The shaman and Magiia began to eat and pack away some of the fresh food from the larder. Grom contemplated taking the magic larder but cooler heads prevailed. The group backtracked back to the feasting hall and Maggi kicked down the other north-door which lay past the open west archway.

The door opened into a small foyer which opened up to the west into a small 10 by 10 ft. chamber with an iron-banded door to the north and which opened up into a room to the west where an arrow slit in the wall let in some outside light. There also were human skulls set on the floor of the small chamber and a medium round wood shield painted with the fading colors of Blackbrow hanging from a peg on the south wall. Maggi hesitated, Vorwulf charged in and the skulls began leap everywhere madly snapping like bear-traps. Maggi and Vor were able to quickly clear the room though Maggi nearly imbedded her axe in the floor on the last. Vorwulf checked out the arrow-slit room and found a decaying barrel full of naphtha. A small hearth lay in the north wall by the far north-west corner and a stone curbed basin with a drain at its center was built into the floor at the center of the room.

Vorwulf: “Probably drains through the spouts above the front doors.”

Magiia: “What? Why?”

Vorwulf: “They’re like murder-holes. So they could pour flaming naphtha on everybody outside near the gates.”

Jenn (Magiia’s Player): “That’s f@#%ed-up man!”

Cris (Vorwulf’s Player): “Yeah. And that’s why we came here before he could rebuild everything. We’d never get in here.”

Gil (Grom’s Player): “And that Black Moon thing too.”

Maggi had kicked the north door down and entered another small chamber which was dimly lit by a large piece of superior quality fire-quartz set into the torch-loop in the north wall shedding its eerie light on the moth-eaten war-banner sagging on the east wall with a glittering gold buckler hanging on a peg next to it; at the center of the room stood an animated alabaster skeleton-statue. The Feren-amazon was able to shield-parry its claws with her shield and bashed it to pieces with her shield. They saw that there were steps which wound down in the north-west corner, so after snatching the golden buckler they backtracked again back to the feasting hall and kicked down the door in the south-west.

They found a pair of ruined and badly neglected chambers which were probably the lich’s suite when he was alive and in need of such things. Among the detritus they found and fought a pair of giant spiders. Maggi and Vor made quick work of them. The slayers backtracked yet again and took the steps which wound down from the disused kitchen.

Maggi led the group this time and charged down the steps which T’ed into another short hall which opened into what appeared to be a dimly lit library to the west and into a dark room, possibly a laboratory, to the east. Directly in front of her in a small niche in the wall facing he stairs was a severed zombie head. Its sticky yellow eyes slowly opened. She threw her shield down and went to power-chop the thing. It opened its rotten black-gummed yellow toothed maw and screamed a scream which tore through all of their ears and skulls. Magiia chopped down onto the head with all of her might splitting the filthy in two, as usual, and drove her axe deep into the stone blocks of the wall completely shattering the axe-head and reducing the haft to splinters.

Magiia/Jenn: “NOOOOOOO! That was my favorite AXE!”

To Be Continued…

The Dragonslayers III Pt. 14: Smack My Lich Up

Magiia immediately whipped out her short-spear and threw it with all her might in the surmised direction of the invisible lich but missed by a mile. The spear disappeared over the battlements into opaque blackness. The Blue-Hand’s grip tightened on the sword dubbed the Anvil and stuck close to Vorwulf. The ranger/dragon-slayer pulled the sword named the Hammer and sent the sonic orb from among the small magic spheres that were orbiting him from the still active Ring of Orbs spell to strike the unseen enemy and when it did he knew exactly where the monster was though it did little but elicit a hideous, dry laugh. The lone Hill-lander warrior surged forward blindly and Canohk remained by the trap-door and started to play his pan-flute to inspire bravery in his companions.

Gil (Grom the shaman’s player): “He WHAT! What good is that!”

Cris (Vor’s player): “Well, it’s something. He’s a bard after all, we might need that bonus.”

Gil: “Useless bard.”

Grom called to the spirits of the sky, the distant rumble of thunder answered but he failed to call down the lightning on the skull of the still invisible lich. Suddenly, the lich appeared and called out a strange name in a draconic tongue. In answer a fierce and strange roar cracked over the snow-choked battlements and a giant undead dragon leapt sluggishly over the crenulations landing heavily onto the battlements among the slayers its leathery black wings fully spread. Its black scales were like lumps of foul coal with large openings and tears in its mummified hide exposed white bone and the shriveled brown fibers of long-dead muscle.

Jenn (Magiia’s player): “Ooh! A dragon! Does it have any blood?”

Cris: “No. It’s some kind of undead dragon-thing.”

Cris (to me): “That’s a draco-lich isn’t it?”

I just shrugged my shoulders and smiled.

The dragon unleashed a line of putrid acid-breath aimed directly at Maggi. She dodged easily and charged the undead black dragon striking at it with her axe chopping straight through a rack of steel hard ribs. Olf used his telekinesis to grapple the draco-lich to try to hold it still to allow Maggi’s hungry axe to do its terrible work. Vorwulf ran at the lich of Blackbrow swinging wildly with the Hammer landing the blow, his hands rung with the hardness that the blade met. The Blue-Hand followed suit striking at the undead mage with the Anvil but missed. The Lich took a step back and unleashed a bolt of lightning from his hands striking Vor. It rippled through the unfortunate ranger/dragon-slayer zigzagging over the area of the battlements to strike the other slayers one-by-one. However, the Blue-Hand was uncannily able to avoid the chain lightning. Olf was sheltered by the Shield spell that originated from his magic bronze open helm which disappeared immediately after absorbing the electricity. Maggi on the other hand was hit hard and hurt badly. Grom was struck and injured. Vorwulf however had taken the worst of it (Natural 1 saving throw) and was in the worst shape. Fortunately for him the lich, using his Teleport I eldritch talent, blinked out and appeared on the opposite side of the battlements.

Grom shouted to the sky-spirits again this time calling down a bolt of lightning that crashed down onto the draco-lich’s serrated back but which dealt no real damage. The Draco-lich roared with supreme wrath as it was unable to free itself from the healer’s telekinetic grip. Maggi took the time to drag in a deep breath and recover from the shocking blast she had just endured. The lone Hill-lander clan-warrior struck at the grappled dragon landing a blow with his claymore which did little. Vorwulf ran across the battlements to close with the lich but the grinning monster remained just outside of his weapon’s reach. Grom cast another spell granting his companions Bull’s Strength. The lich called another bizarre name into the black sky but nothing happened. The draco-lich however was able to break loose of the healer’s power.

Magiia struck at the dragon again chopping into its petrified hide. Parkannis the lich shot a bolt of pitch black energy at Grom which the barbaric shaman was somehow able to avoid. Vorwulf again charged the lich and landed another blow the lich teleported again in a failed effort to avoid the blow reappearing on the opposite side of the battlements. Grom activated the Heal All ability on his mithral helm restoring his companions to very near full health. The draco-lich snapped the lone Hill-lander up in its jaws chomping into crimson pulp in a single bite, thus passed the last of the Achaánal clan. Vor swigged down a potion to ease his still existent wounds.

Parkannis began to cast another spell still out of the reach of all of his righteous foes, energy gathered between his boney claws then a sudden look of what could’ve passed as surprise swept across his twisted, shriveled visage before the magic went wild the explosion covering the entirety of the battlements save the lich himself in a cacophony of fire, splattering snow and bits of stone shrapnel. Olf’s body was splintered and blackened in the blast and the healer was as close to death as he had ever come. The Blue-Hand again was able to uncannily avoid any damage. The others were all moderately wounded. Maggi without skipping a beat struck with a power attack at the dragon hacking through dried flesh and smashing bone. The creature retaliated by turning its gaze to her the hell-lights that shinned in the bottomless sockets failed to deliver the death gaze to the amazon. The Blue-Hand zipped to the lich, his sudden burst of speed probably attributed to his pair of blue-leather boots, and struck it wounding it and causing it to immediately teleport away in panic. Olf activated the second use for the day of the Shield ability on his helmet. Canohk continued to blow his pipes with a failing wind.  He was bleeding out. Grom attempted to cast another spell but failed. Parkannis unwittingly (my bad) had wound up within range of Vorwulf who immediately ran up and struck again chopping out a wedge of the would-be lich-lord’s bone who then teleported away again escaping to the opposite side. Maggi power-attacked the dragon again nearly hacking it down in a single blow but it was still active and snapped at her ineffectively. Vorwulf continued to follow the lich around the battlefield with the Blue-Hand trying to keep as near the both of them as he could.

The lich again called the same strange name to the sky. This time something happened. The darkness congealed and twisted in on itself forming into a hideous winged creature standing near the unfortunate bard. The creature that appeared as if bursting from a blasphemous cocoon stank of rotting flesh steeped in brimstone. It was winged, and horned, and emaciated in appearance.  Parkannis had summoned the Death Demon which had struck down Bers in Sawback’s Lair (see The Dragonslayers II Pt.17). It immediately shot a bolt of black-death at the bard slaying him instantly.  The Blue-Hand and Vorwulf charged Parkannis at the same time finally able to maneuver to be able to attack him both at once but the Blue-Hand was unable to lodge his sword between the monsters ribs. In response the lich unleashed its cold aura in a blast of withering cold from which the Ring of Orbs protected Vorwulf but when he looked to his side at the Blue-Hand he found that the boy was frozen solid and very much dead. The lich again zipped away to the opposite side near the dragon hoping to gain some cover behind its gruesome mass. Maggi struck at the dragon again causing the thing to collapse and move no more. The pinpoints of evil light in its sockets faded away. Parkannis shot a bolt of black lightning at Vorwulf but to little effect. The shaman cast Bestial Might on himself growing a pair of feathered wings and pulled the Mace of Supernatural Power from his belt. Vorwulf snatched the Anvil from the Blue-Hand’s freeze dried corpse; the hand breaking off into a dozen pieces tinkling to the freshly explosion-swept flagstones.

Vor sent his last orb zipping off at the lich to no effect and started to move in. The death demon waved its arm towards Olf and a searing scythe of black energy swooshed through the healer dispelling his second Shield. Maggi charged the lich but fumbled the strike nearly losing her weapon in the attempt. Grom flew at the death demon striking with his mace crunching bone and tearing the necrotic flesh. The lich shot a shadow bolt at Maggi sapping some of her strength and wounding her slightly then teleported to the head of the dragon’s corpse. Olf used his telekinesis to grapple the death demon catching it easily (natural 20 versus a natural 1). Vorwulf charged around the dragon-corpse and struck at the lich using the Hammer and Anvil as paired weapons slashing into the creature just before it was able to teleport away. He had almost killed the lich with that attack.

Cris: “S#@t! I gotta stab ‘em both into it don’t I?”

Basically had he killed Parkannis without triggering the magic in the swords they would’ve had to hunt down the monsters phylactery which was VERY well-hidden and protected somewhere inside of the tower.

The lich activated one of the rings on his skeletal hands and almost all of the wounds he had suffered disappeared, the bone like wax melding back together to be whole again. Maggi maneuvered to get in position to charge it. The death demon broke free of the psionic grapple and was able to parry another mace blow from the shaman. The lich got off a second casting of Chain Lightning wounding Vor badly (he rolled a natural 1 on his save), zapping Maggi wounding her horribly as well, and dispelling Olf’s last Shield of the day. Vorwulf gulped down another potion. The death demon missed Grom with a twisted black claw and the shaman struck the demon down with his mace before it too leapt into the freezing night air. The creature’s corpse dissolved into fetid black smoke then was gone without a trace. Vorwulf redoubled his efforts against Parkannis and stuck both of the blades between the ribs of the lich (on a double called shot no less). The blades and the lich burst with bright white light. The obsidian gems dangling from his wrists, the phylacteries of his underlings, glistened with crackling purplish light before they popped. Out drifted spirits which surprised at first then a look of relief as they drifted into the sky and disappeared one after the other, the last being the spirit of the draco-lich which majestically soared into an opening in the clouds.

Grom: “Spirits huh? Hmmm.”

After the light faded away all that was left was a pile of ashes, the lich and the swords were gone forever. Among the ashes were several of the personal possessions of Parkannis Blackbrow which the Dragon-slayers immediately began to go through and log.

 

To Be Continued…

The Dragonslayers III Pt. 13: The Heroic Charge of the Blue-Hand

By the time Grom was able to push his way past the rest of the party including the bard and the Blue-Hand and bursting onto the scene Magiia had just smashed through the third and last iron skeleton sending its rusty bones scattering into the air and clattering across the floor of Blackbrow’s feasting hall/dining room. A large gold jewel-studded chandelier hung from the center of the deep blue vaulted ceiling studded with diamonds like stars over the long dark oak dining table. The plaster walls of the rectangular chamber were painted with a landscape mural which was that which could have been seen from the battlements of this very tower as it was ages ago. Web sheeted gold candelabras stood in the northwest and southeast corners of the room and the jet cabinet against the north wall housed a full set of superior quality gold flatware. To the north next to the jet cabinet was an iron banded wood door which was securely locked. Opening in the west wall was a small archway which led to another locked door bearing an iron skull decoration through it and immediately around a short bend. Another door identical to the previous lay through an opening in the southwest corner after a short bend to the west. To the east was a locked bar-door behind which the slayers could see a set of dark steps leading up and turning to the north around a corner out of sight between the bars. They decided since they were “storming” the tower they had to go continue up through the bars.

Cris (Vorwulf’s Player): “After we get that lich out of the way we’re gonna get that Brown-Spine!”

Magiia pulled out a vial of Rust Powder and emptied it over the black iron bars which secured the staircase. While they hung back and kept a lookout Vorwulf took the sword named the Hammer from Grom and stuck it in his belt – “just in case”. After the metal was rusted through, the magic powder had failed to completely disintegrate the bars to the groups’ disappointment, Maggi kicked the door down. Vorwulf walked up to the steps and checked for traps and listened. He heard shuffling coming from around the corner but could see nothing in the pitch-black the choked the passage. He quietly signaled the others to get ready and moved cautiously onto the steps.

Vor had just stepped around the around the bend when he caught sight of a hand reaching from the shadows as if from out of a pool of black water sheathed in an orange-metal gauntlet reaching towards the Hammer. He knocked it away with his magic (+3) buckler and immediately leapt back out into the dining room. The shaman dropped his lantern and prowled onto the dark steps. Olf the Arborean healer readied himself. Maggi steeled herself dropping her axe and pulled her sword (for some reason). The shadows in the dining room seemed to stretch and deepen. The orange-metal gauntlet leapt from the shadows around Magiia she countered with a power attack slashing into the shadows. Her blade met unseen flesh and hot blood spattered everywhere as two halves of a cloaked corpse emerged from the shadows, the Shadow Meld spell which had enchanted their mysterious attacker suddenly dispelled, and fell at the amazon’s feet.

Vorwulf: “Yup. That’s Zancor.”

Grom: “The one-armed guy?”

Magiia: “Who?”

Vorwulf: “The necromancer guy we fought in the snow back in Merdna.” (see The Dragonslayers III Pt. 1)

They took the Gauntlets of Transmutation from the bleeding corpse and proceeded to recover a few bits of gear the dead necromancer had taken from Bers’ corpse. They recovered the Cape of Bat-Flight, the Ring of Dragon-Protection (the one bearing the jeweled seal of the Slayers of the Tower), the green cloak of Invisibility with an emerald clasp (which Vorwulf took possession of), and the Shaman took the necromancer’s staff. It was a black polished heavy piece topped with a small white skull. They split up the take from Zancor’s coin purse which was made of tattooed human skin finding 3 platinum talons, 4 gold talons, 20 fliks and 15 silver pieces. The Blue-Hand began complaining and the rest of the war-party grumbled along with him so Vorwulf the rest of the slayers turned back to leading the raid.

They found the steps led to a trap door in the ceiling which led out onto the top battlements of the tower. As Vorwulf was carefully opening it up using his axe the Blue-Hand pulled his sword, the one named the Anvil, and called a charge! The slayers were pushed out into the cold with the rest of the raiders spilling out behind them into the snow. It was dark the sky was covered in angry black clouds though the slayers couldn’t tell if the sun was behind, they had no way to tell how long they had stumbled through the tower. The snow was falling limiting visibility in addition to the dark. About 25 ft. away they could see a fire burning beneath a cauldron and a tripod in front of that was the diamond-oculus which provided light and fresh air to the lower reaches of the keep. The Blue-Hand and his warriors were looking all about clueless as to what to do next while they lacked a clear target.

Vorwulf: “Idiots. Stupid Blue-Hand.”

The slayers moved forward cautiously getting within 5 ft. of the fire and cauldron. Olf used his presence-sense ability but was unable to zero-in on anything but definitely knew that something was there due to the level of power which was tweaking his psychic senses. Grom’s backpack exploded in a burst of flames burning the bag, his rations, rope and hunting horn to cinders. The large round crystal thudded into the snow glowing brightly with the image of an angry Parkannis Blackbrow. Vor knowing that this was probably a “distraction” immediately scoped the area and spotted footprints appearing mysteriously in the snow almost 40 ft. away. The Arborean moved past the flames of the fire and since he could see into the ultraviolet spectrum, could see the invisible lich where he stood and pointed him out.

Olf: “Lich! There!”

Immediately a burst of evil green energy flashed from the faceted crystal globe and all of the Westlander tribals and all but 1 of the Hill-Landers disappeared. The slayers, the Blue-Hand, Canohk the bard and the lone Achaánal clan warrior prepared for battle.

 

To Be Continued…

The Dragonslayers III Pt. 12: Evil Blue Eyes

The stinking remains of the disembodied zombie-head oozed in its wall niche and the floor was strewn with the shattered fragments of skulls. The slayers were all somewhat wounded, some more than others, and as they saw only a single path before them they decided to continue on.

Cris [Vorwulf’s Player]: “Man, we’ve got no choice! It’s this or the end of the world!”

Gil [Grom’s Player]: “You think no one else will stop him?”

Cris: “No.”

Jenn [Magiia’s Player]: “It’s up to us then. Let’s go!”

Vorwulf crept up to the start of the short north-running hall. At the end of the bend of the L-shaped passage he could spy a door and stopped to see if he could spot any traps. There was something not right about the skull decoration on the door. The door at the end of the hall was another iron-banded heavy wood door with no visible locks with a white enameled sculpture of a skull affixed to the center of its face. He withdrew so Olf, the Arborean healer, could use his telekinesis to open the door in order to bypass any potential magical traps (those activated by touch anyway). The fighters and the Blue-Hand were whispering amongst themselves while they waited for the slayers to give the go-ahead. The door creaked open arthritically on rusted hinges but to no other incident. Vorwulf, being somewhat cautious tossed a copper piece into the dim, mystically lit room to see “if anything happens”. When nothing did the ranger/dragon-slayer led the war-party in.

The atmosphere within was damp and smelled strongly of mold and mustiness. Heaped into the center of the room were the decayed remains of a large leather chair and a small table. A fresh but cold breeze blew in from behind a fancy but badly corroded vent-grating in the north wall just above the open door. To the south-east in the eastern wall was a stone step rising to the next floor. Standing in a large niche indented into the south wall was another statue portraying the beautified countenance of Parkannis Blackbrow, a large superior quality multi-faceted crystal orb held in an outstretched polished white-marble hand but this one was glowing with a fairly strong pale blue light. The statues sapphire eyes sparkled poisonously and held high in the other cold, white hand as if ready to strike was a solid gold javelin artfully styled into a lightning bolt. Along the eastern wall of the musty 15 ft. square chamber hung a large bronze shield with a large eye motif at its center with a large fist-sized sapphire as its pupil. The shield hung between two sets of crossed battle axes and great swords. As soon as the slayers were within the eerie chamber the crossed weapons on the east wall shot from their hooks and flew at them as the shield-eye began to flicker then strobe with angry blue light.

It didn’t take long for the adventurers to smash the flying weapons to shivers, less than 1 melee round, though Maggi’s armor took another couple of dings. The light in the shields eye winked out and the chamber was again filled with the soft blue glow from the large crystal. Again, they began to move through the room in a southeasterly direction towards the steps. Suddenly the shields eye blazed and Vorwulf’s heavy astral-driftmetal battle-axe was surrounded by an angry blue aura and seemed to wriggle like a living thing in his hands for a few moments but he was able to maintain his grip and the shield eye again blinked out. He motioned for the rest to follow; the Blue-Hand motioned the rest of the party to temporarily sheath their weapons as they moved past the sorcerous shield. Grom however, walked over to the statue, the glowing crystal having caught his eye. He pulled out his dagger and began to work on prying the crystal from the statues hand carefully as not to damage the treasure. He was concentrating on his efforts and didn’t notice when the last of the fighters walked up the steps out of sight. Soon after, the shaman heard the crash of breaking wood from above echoing down the steps.

After about a minute he finally yanked the crystal free. Its glow intensified. He heard a soft male voice whisper into his left ear with a slight but perceptible effeminacy.

Parkannis [the lich]: “SO why do you and your companions harry me barbarian? They and you are very skilled, powerful; and may have a place with my army. You can be rich and powerful serving the rightful lord of these lands.”

Grom [looking up at the 8 ft. tall statue]: “Um. Uh. We come in peace?”

Cris face-palmed.

Jenn snickered (she does that a lot).

Grom jumped back when he felt a hand land lightly on his left shoulder.

Gil: “Aw sh*t!”

Parkannis: “DO NOT insult me you savage!”

Grom backed towards the southeast easing towards the stairs but afraid to turn his back on the enemy mage. Parkannis, appearing as a beautiful youth with long gleaming black hair fixed by a glittering gold circlet with a single black pearl, his turquoise gold trimmed blue robe flapped when his raised his arms in the air revealing a pair of solid gold bracers studded with diamonds and emeralds on his wrists, the 3 rings on each hand shone in the reflected light of the statues crystal the light of which suddenly diminished before it went out entirely leaving Grom in a dark room under the flickering flame-light of his closed lantern which was fastened to his belt. The youth slowly followed after Grom at a leisurely pace gliding along the floor with a certain amount of measured grace ultimately leaving only a slight space between himself and the shaman.

Parkannis: “You think you can break into my HOME and disturb my RESOURCES and thwart MY right to reclaim MY lands. I AM MAGNIFICENT; I AM FURST, I AM PARKANNIS THE BLACK, and you are NOTHING!”

A golden spear stabbed through the apparent body of Parkannis towards the shaman as the image of Parkannis (for that was what it was; an illusion) dispersing it as smoke though no doubt Grom had been conversing with the authentic Parkannis, revealing the white statue made in its image wielding the gold lightning bolt lance as its weapon.

Gil/Grom: “Uh, guys?”

Cris: “Dude, we’re busy! You gotta deal with it yerself!”

Maggi had kicked down the door revealing a fairly large and hideously underused dining room, fully set and decorated, and the 3 iron bone skeletons attendant within that sizeable chamber.

Cris: “Three! THREE! REALLY!”

Me [the GM]: “Well, only one has six-arms.”

Cris scowled at me as he picked up his D20 and began to roll initiative.

A brief battle ensued with Vorwulf and Maggi slinging powerful blow after powerful blow at the iron skellies and Olf catching the third skeleton in a telekinetic grapple after buffeting it from atop the long table. The six-armed skeleton scored a lucky slash with the serrated blade of one of its falchions on Vorwulf wounding him horribly. Magiia took her share of the wounds and found herself at the same level of physical damage that she had been at before the scant healing that she had received previously.

Meanwhile, on the floor below in the eye-shield chamber, after avoiding a jab of the golden lightning lance, now crackling with electricity, Grom quickened a Bull’s Strength spell on himself and whipped out his Mace of Supernatural Power. A blast of magical energy shot from the statues sapphire eyes.

Gil: “Nope.”

Me: “What!?”

Gil: “I just remembered. I have this Ring of Eldritch Aura so it has to get through my Magic Resistance first.”

Which it didn’t.

Cris: “This guy! Uh! Oh I forgot I have this THING that will completely wipe that out!”

Grom quickly pummeled the animated statue to dust. He snatched up the sapphire eyes from the shattered head and wrapped the crystal he had taken from the statues hand in a rag and dropped it into the Bag of Holding on his hip when he noticed a pale blue light shining within his backpack; the other crystal was glowing. In it he could see a clear vision of Parkannis pacing back and forth presumably at the top battlements of the tower. He pulled off a fur he was wearing from his shoulders and wrapped that crystal up as well stuffing it back into his pack. He jaunted up the steps to rejoin his companions the sound of ringing steel rising with every step.

 

To Be Continued…

The Dragonslayers III Pt. 11: Iron-Bones & Pudding

The small chamber that Vorwulf and Magiia found themselves after being sucked through a shadowy archway began to fill rapidly with their companions so they stumbled around from tiny room to tiny room for a little while before Olf used his ESP to try to find the shortest route of escape and it was through his power he realized that the group was trapped in a 4th dimensional room also known as a Tesseract. The only way to get out would be to use a dimensional ability of some type or make their way to the farthest chamber to the “east” where there was a water bucket which was enchanted and would let whoever was touching it to walk out of the archways putting them outside of the anomaly and back within the tower proper.

The first to walk into the aforesaid “bucket room” was Vorwulf and narrowly avoided a Black Pudding that had leapt at him, Magiia was not so lucky emerging with her armor a little acid-pitted. The battle was fairly quick though the four oozes, the Black Puddings, became five when Magiia chopped one in half with her battle-axe as soon as she got into the room. The slayers won the day easily by beating them into sizzling tar with their torches. After that it didn’t take long for the slayers to figure out to link hands and walk through the archway in a daisy-chain, the healer carrying the magic bucket. The war-party wound up in a damp, slimy chamber down a flight of steps next to a barely used fungus choked well. There was no other way out other than moving back through the shadow-hung archway through which they had already presumably passed.

Grom: “I’m not going down that well!”

Vor: “Sh*t.”

They moved back into the Tesseract and Grom cast Clairvoyance for guidance to the path that would lead them to the lich. The shaman suddenly realized that if Vorwulf used his Scimitar of Dimensional Step in the chamber which they had initially entered in a certain archway the ranger could get access to another room “above” that chamber (translating into the third-dimension a fourth-dimensional description) where there was a staircase to the upper levels of the tower. It took a little while for them to figure out how the entire party could step through the dimensional rift created by the sorcerous sword-slice. Hint: it involved the magic bucket.

The party stumbled into a chamber not unlike the rest of the Tesseract though it lacked the black-filled archways on all four walls, it had an archway in the western wall which had a stone step going up and what appeared to be an iron-boned skeleton with six-arms wielding a serrated-blade falchion in each of its six hands. The chamber crammed with the entire party the 3 slayers were front and center noses to nasal cavity, their breaths clouding the polished metal of the gleaming iron-skelly.

Magiia charged the monster pressing it back with her shield pushing it all the way up the winding staircase to the chamber above out of sight of the rest of the slayers. They followed a short time after with Olf the Arborean healer hanging back with the rest of the party. The battle commenced and it took only a short time for the experienced dragon-slayers to chop the strange undead creature down, it falling to pieces. Maggi and Vorwulf were savagely wounded in the fight. Grom had used his last healing touch for the day during the battle so Vorwulf drank down another of his dwindling supply of healing potions. Olf healed some of the Amazon’s wounds stopping, at least, the bleeding. They were in another small chamber dimly fire-lit by a gold brazier with a danse-macabre masterfully beaten into its sides. In the east wall was a locked heavy-oak door near the steps down and an open way into another chamber in west wall diagonal from the oak door. Grom picked up and bagged the iron skull then walked over to investigate the other chamber which was dark.

He could see pale light shining from above past a wood railing forming a balcony of the north wall allowing a view into high ceilinged domed entrance chamber. There was stair going up presumably to the next floor through the archway in the south wall behind him. When the shaman turned from wood rail he was dazzled by a flash of blue light blasting him with a Frost Bite spell. Maggi immediately leapt into the room and shattered the sapphire-eyed black skeleton that had been lurking in the statue niche in the west wall with a single powerful axe-blow. Olf was able to restore the frost and temporary DEX damage that Grom had suffered. The shaman then cast a heal other spell on Magiia. The slayers weighed their options while the rest of the party followed the Blue-Hand up the stairs and waited in thrall for them make a final decision. They decided to go through the nearest door, the heavy oak door and elected the Amazon to kick it down.

The door flew off of its hinges and clattered down a pit just behind the door. They had found the towers oubliette. They decided to take the stairs up. Vor lead the group and was the first to enter the second floor chamber. It was a small nearly non-descript 10 ft.-square room, a cob-web draped iron chandelier hung from the low ceiling, and there were small niches in the west and south walls. There also was an archway which opened into a short L-shaped hallway, he couldn’t see the end of it but assumed a door at the termination, to the north. At the center of the room on the floor sat a bleach-white skull. The severed zombie-head stuffed into the western niche sneered, its maggoty eyes shot open exposing the bile-yellow eyeballs and it began to scream.

The slayers began to suffer damage from the sonic waves of the zombie scream and Vorwulf chopped the severed head in two halves with his astral-drift metal axe. The skull at the center of the floor leapt its jaws snapping at him. The pair of skulls in the southern niche took turns blasting the group with their sonic screams. Magiia was taken aback when her axe bounced from an identical field surrounding the second of the pair. Grom used his sling and shot a bullet striking one of the niche skulls in the forehead, the pebble bounced off of a magic shield that had surrounded the skull dispelling it.

Cris [Vorwulf’s Player]: “Shield spells they should be dispelled now.”

Gil [Grom’s Player]: “My sling isn’t going to do anything?”

Cris: “Naw, the shields are gone now, that’s the thing with shield spells it completely absorbs all the damage then goes away. If its minimal damage it still disappears!”

Vorwulf smashed the chattering skull almost lodging his axe in the floor. Magiia cleaved through the remaining pair reducing them to bone-dust with hers.

Jenn [Magiia’s Player]: “Aw man, I’m at halfway [Magiia’s hit point total]!”

 

To Be Continued…