The Arvan Game Pt. 28: The Blackened Cathedral

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vorwulf: “Corrupt @$$ druid.”

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

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

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

Vorwulf: “Run, run, run!”

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

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

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

To Be Continued…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Be Continued…

The Arvan Game Pt. 26: Robber’s Roost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Be Continued…

The Arvan Game Pt. 25: The Gold Arrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Be Continued…

The Arvan Game Pt. 24: Crossing Staffs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dead-Eye: “They deserved it!”

Bers: “Grrr!”

Vor knocked an arrow and readied.

The Captain: “We want satisfaction!”

Dead-Eye: “A duel eh?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dead-Eye: “That’s it.”

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

Bers: “Yippee!”

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

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

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

Cris: “We’re not stupid ya know.”

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

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

Bers: “Me? Bers the dragon-slayer!”

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

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

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

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

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

Jenn: “Damn! I wish I wasn’t GOOD!”

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

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

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

They decided to depart for Asternor immediately.

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

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

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

Dead-Eye: “They have to be.”

To Be Continued…

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…