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Rats of Tanglethorn Pt.7: The Tree of Woe

Afheesh shot after Wufcor who was free of his shackles, fleeing, and armed with a stolen dagger. The Tree of Punishmentquickling guard tripped the fleeing canny-jack with his tail. Wufcor flopped onto his back hard with a blast of dust and dry leaves. Afheesh held the tip of his dagger to his former companion’s throat.

Afheesh (kicking dirt on the prone ratling): “Drop the dagger gutter trash!”

As a result, Wufcor let loose his white knuckled grip on the dagger letting it drop to the ground.

Wufcor: “I surrender!”

Pabst tried to move in and grapple the traitorous ratling but missed by a mile.

Jennifer (to me): “You traitor! I won’t forget this!”

Isis (shrugging): “Look Sis I figure he could’ve killed me at any time, so I hope he has a plan.”

Pabst reluctantly surrendered under the remaining guard’s spear points and Sergeant Neek’s sword. The prisoners were shackled once again and after another hour were finally led to the Tree of Judgment.

A large twisted trunk was before them that sported large thorns here and there over its pale striated bark. Deep scars crisscrossed the bole where prisoners had been lashed to it and left to die in the Poisonwood. The lower limbs, as thick and twisted as the rest, also exhibited deep hanging scars most still with some rusted bit of chain or rotted rope still dangling wafting or tinkling in the slight breeze. There were a few skulls and fragments of bone scattered among the surfaced roots and woody knees. Due to their diminished numbers, the guards were in a rush and so lashed the pair of prisoners to the bole before hastily retreating aboard the wagon.

The pair watched Afheesh ride away as the sergeant congratulated him, his attitude towards the ratling totally changed. The officer was counting himself fortunate that the guard had discovered such a skilled new recruit. The criminal pair was mumbling curses under their breaths. All too soon, the wagon was out of view and then the rolling crunch of its wheels faded into the general ambience of the dreaded Poisonwood.

There they were, Wufcor the ratling canny-jack and Pabst the female human duelist all alone and lashed to the bole of the execution tree. Intermittently tiny vermin of all kinds swarmed and crawled over their bare skin, fleas, wood lice, beetles, the occasional spider or centipede. Never had the pair felt more vulnerable, every crunch or slight movement of serrated leaf or thorny twig caused them to cringe. They nearly panicked when a large shadow swooped far above the autumnal umbrage momentarily blotting out the scant rays of sun that penetrated the reeking tree cover.

The poisonous musk of noxious weeds and nettles stung their nostrils and the rough, dry bark chafed and scratched at their skin. The thorns drew some blood. Adrenaline sharpened their ears and to them it seemed that the whole wood had come alive. It had come alive with things that were crawling and slithering through the dense underbrush. They writhed with discomfort.

Meanwhile, Afheesh was sitting with Sergeant Neek in a random saloon who was slinging back drink after drink. The ratling had tried to make use of the officer’s improved attitude towards him by getting assigned to the moneychanger at the front gate. However, that had gone nowhere. It was very near sundown when a still sober Afheesh took his leave and rushed to rent a wagon.

In the now dark Poisonwood, a very upset Pabst kicked a large black scorpion from her foot. Wufcor finally worked himself free of the ropes and soon freed his companion as well. The duelist secured an old branch that she could as a club. All the while, they swore to each other that they could see large black shadows skulking in the darkness behind a tangle of thorn trees and a dense thicket. Indeed, something was approaching them. They prepared to defend themselves determined to throw stones, bite, claw, and kick, whatever it took to survive.

On the trail to the Tree of Judgment to which his partners had been tied, Afheesh whipped the horses to speed. He was racing the setting sun as the golden disk sank into a blood-sky behind the black horizon. Already the purple moon with its golden ring was strong, dominating the eastern horizon. Although he could barely see it through the still dense but sickly foliage of the autumnal Poisonwood. He kept madly snapping the reins hoping to keep going just a little faster than before.

The wheels smashed into a small ridge of stone jutting from the rough path, the wagon jumped suddenly up onto the air for a split second. When it smashed back down onto the road, the ratling found himself airborne as the pungent winds of the wood roared into his face. Soon enough he flopped hard back onto the hard wooden driver’s seat with a guttural “oof”. It seemed an eternity until he had reached his goal. The wagon stopped in an explosion of dust, pebbles, and dry leaves.

Wufcor was guarding a paralyzed Pabst. Several giant spiders had attacked them not long before Afheesh’s arrival. Fortunately, they had been able to fight the monsters off killing virtually all of them. Unfortunately, Pabst had been bitten.

Afheesh (from the driver’s seat of the hay wagon): “Good you’re free! Get in HURRY! They close the gates at first gloaming!”

Seconds later the wagon was speeding back the way it came hitting the same bump again and nearly throwing Pabst were it not for Wufcor who was just able to grab onto her before she flew free of the wagon. For a short stretch just before the great thorn ring became visible, they could all hear something quite large chasing after the wagon. Whatever it was, it had halted as soon as the thorn-wall of the city came into view. The outer gates were just starting to be closed. Without stopping Afheesh raced the wagon in through as he kept shouting, “Don’t shoot, Guard! Guard! I’m a GUARD!”

Sometime later, the pair of ratlings, Afheesh and Wufcor, were dragging the limp, unconscious body of Pabst. They were nearing a deserted warehouse where they had planned to pass the night and wait for the effects of the spider venom to wear off of the duelist. Suddenly from around a corner they heard, “Well, well, well. What do we have here eh boys?”

A group of Bronzeboy gang members stepped out of an alley from around the corner confronting the ratlings. There were three well-armed humans, a single Mantck ratling (a medium sized ratling), and a Darkthorn Arborean (a purplish-gray tree-man covered in thorns).

Exhaling a mighty sigh pregnant with frustration, Afheesh dropped the paralytic duelist and pulled his paired weapons as he walked towards the gangsters. Wufcor followed pulling the dagger Afheesh had given him earlier “just in case”.

To Be Continued…

Rats of Tanglethorn Pt.6: Oh My Captain!

Come sun up, Afheesh (played by me) was feeling good still from the strange green glowing liquor from Tanglethorn - City of mothslast night. For that reason he strutted down the wide street on his way to meet his two compatriots in front of the Yellow Lotus Inn where Pabst (played by Jenn) had room. He rounded the southwest corner of Mezcor’s black-stone keep when he spotted a full regiment of guards hauling away a pair of prisoners down the wide boulevard eastward.

Afheesh was in the middle of smirking to himself, “amateu…” until he realized the two prisoners were Pabst and Wufcor (played by Isis). An experienced city captain was leading the group of 16 guards, his lieutenant was to his right holding up and inspecting a glittering medallion. Afheesh recognized the polished gold medallion as that previously worn by Phenox, an acolyte of the Brotherhood of the Green Well, who they collectively murdered and decapitated for a bounty.

The ratling quickling was just about to turn around and consider recruiting new companions. However, at the last minute turned on his heel and began stealthily to follow. His aim was the captain; he easily prowled into the crowd even under the noses of his companions and crept up behind his target. Suddenly, the captain glanced to his side and asked, “hey little ratling what business is this of yours?”

Afheesh (sputtering in surprise for a second): “Um, What’s going on here? With them.”

The Captain (with increasing levels of braggadocio): “Well, looks as if we caught ourselves a couple a’ killers. They murdered a popular apprentice of the Green Well. Robbed ‘im and cut off his head. Taking ‘em to the Green Well to see what they wanna charge ‘em with.”

The greying, scarred old captain adjusted his belt. Afheesh was at a loss but was curious how this was going to play out.

Isis (at me): “HEY! You can try to RESCUE US!”

Me: “*ahem* Evil game.”

Isis: “crap”

Jenn: “I don’t think I like games where we play evil.”

Afheesh thought a little about the situation. He gazed back at his colleagues.

Afheesh (to the Captain): “Soo, what are the benefits of being a guard anyway?”

The Captain: “Ha, ha, you wanna join the guard little ratling? Well, just follow us! After we pick up the charges and return the medallion, we’re headin’ back to the Main Gate. That scum there will face my judgment then. Heh, don’t worry I’m a fair man, I always let the guilty have their say before I execute ’em!”

Afheesh puffed out his chest and proudly marched alongside the captain and the guard as they completed their circuit.

Isis: “Awww! Come on!”

Jenn: “Really!? REALLY!?”

Jenn: *sigh*

Jenn: “I guess this is kind of my fault.”

Isis: “KIND of!”

Cris (the GM): “Well you put that thing on…they tracked it to your room *sputter* and you WEARING it when they busted in! *shrug*”

When the company reached the main city gate just southeast of the Green Well, Afheesh was sent for outfitting while the prisoners were tried in the training yard. The ratling met with one Sergeant Neek whom issued him his kit. He was given a beaten-up wood buckler, a dull bronze skullcap, a short spear fit for his size, and a dirty brown cape fit for his size bearing the thorn ring symbol in black. Pay was 100 bronze thorns (bt) at the end of each 7-day but actually 85 in coin since 5 are for Mezcor and 10 are for taxes.

Sergeant Neek: “And you have to serve at least the greater part of each day that week to get paid! Your first mission is to report to the gate and help me escort the new prisoners to the Tree of Judgment.”

Afheesh: “Wait. How do you already know they’re getting sent to the tree?”

In response, the sergeant just puffed derisively and motioned for him to hurry. In Tanglethorn, the execution of criminals often involves tying them to a tree far outside city thorn-barrier. Typically, something comes along in the Poisonwood that eats and/or kills them soon after abandonment.

About an hour later, Afheesh, in his full guardsman outfit, followed the group of guards as they transported the two prisoners along a barely visible road through the Poisonwood. The two criminals had been stripped naked and were stumbling barefooted through the spiny, spiked, and thorny autumnal waste. They were being dragged behind a strong-wagon by chains and manacles, consequently their feet bloodied and covered in pale thistle burrs and bull thorns.

The wagon was plated in thick bronze plates iron-riveted to the heavy wood frame. Razor-sharp spikes lined its bottom edges and covered its roof; the driver enclosed by chainmail netting. Afheesh kept an eagle eye on Wufcor as the company reached an area of thick dull green overgrowth.

Wufcor (suddenly shouting): “Watch out! Plant monster!”

Afheesh (jamming the butt of his spear into Wufcor’s stomach): “Shut up you pig!”

Suddenly, a large green seedpod emerged from over the bushes and a long purplish spike shot from it lodging in the neck of an unfortunate human rookie guard. Hence, he was sucked dry in almost an instant. So, Afheesh immediately launched himself at the creature slashing it to death with his paired hook-guard daggers. Another previously unseen plant monster emerged and swung a seedpod fist at the ratling but missed. A hard wooden seed shot into the ground narrowly missing Wufcor from yet another plant monster as it emerged from cover. Another creature emerged and stabbed at Pabst with its purple tongue but it missed. Another tongue from yet another creature darted at Afheesh but he easily avoided.

The guards were in full combat against a fair number of these plant monsters, three monsters and five guards were killed in the first minute of fighting. Another tongue stabbed at Afheesh as he dropped a second plant creature. As the fighting began to die down he could see that only seven guards remained and but two monsters still stood. He immediately leapt at and dropped another monster.

Four nameless guards managed to take down the last creature. Afheesh facetiously congratulated the lot of them on killing a single creature together as compared to his three by himself. They sneered at him. Another guard suddenly shouted, “The prisoners, they’re escaping!”

To Be Continued…

Rats of Tanglethorn Pt.5: The Ruthless Trio

Afheesh (played by me) yanked his bloodied weapon from the throat of the Bronze Boy at his feet. The ruthless trio had just made quick work of a small group of Bronze Boy gang members. Consequently they had looted some 40 bronze thorns (bt’s), 4 dirks, and 4 saps. Pabst (played by Jenn) collected their bronze badges, their gang colors. Wufcor (played by Isis) suggested they all take the badges to the Troll Boys’ hangout, the Bloody Tankard, to see if they could score some free drinks.

It was not long after the three found themselves before a rundown saloon front. It was of pale cracked wood built onto the ground level of one of the old orange stone buildings. A hot yellow light poured through the entryway as did a pungent stream of smoke. Hanging from the placard hitch was a broken tankard, brown stained or rusted they could not tell which. There was a large group of Troll Boys out front guarding the door. A few appeared to have troll blood oozing in their veins but most were human. Pabst was the first to approach.

Pabst (tossing the Bronze Boy badges to the dirt): “How many drinks are these worth?”

The Ugliest Troll Boy (spits on the badges): “Maybe a half jack! We do our own fightin’, we don’t pay others to fight fer us!”

Pabst (undeterred): “Well then, do you Troll Boys have any GOOD fighters among you?”

Isis: “Sis…”

The Ugliest Troll Boy laughed at her and poked his head into the bar from over the saloon doors. Consequently he shouted a name none of the trio could make out, it could have been in trollish for all they knew. However, to their relief a human stepped to the door. He walked slowly out to the creaking plank porch with an air of supreme arrogance about him. He had a scale-mail vest and gleaming bronze bracers on his forearms. Circling Pabst for a few seconds and smirking said, “You’re too wounded to fight me tonight. Come back when you’ve healed and meet your death at the edge of my blade”. With that he turned heel and walked nonchalantly back inside.

Jenn (checking her character sheet): “Crap! I am still wounded, BAD!”

The trio parted ways shortly thereafter. Pabst and Wufcor headed off to find a White Star Guild house of healing and then back to the Yellow Lotus Inn to rest. Afheesh headed to the livery for food and some simple companionship for the night.

Several hours and 1,500 bt’s later at dawn Afheesh arrived refreshed and impatient in front of the Bloody Tankard. The place was shuttered until noon. The other two arrived sometime after with Pabst appearing fully healed. When they had seen the place was shut tight for another few hours they decided to go to the nearest armorer. There Pabst purchased a high quality bronze medium shield for 1,400 bt’s.

On the way back to the Bloody Tankard the ruthless trio was assailed from an alley by three giant earwigs. They made quick work of the monsters with Afheesh slaughtering two of them and Wufcor and Pabst slaying the last.

It was not long after the three were again in front of the Troll Boys’ clubhouse. The fighter that Pabst had challenged the previous evening was sitting leisurely on a chair leaned against the doorframe, his booted feet up on a stool. At his side was a rapier-like weapon with a razor-sharp polished blade, a full brass knuckle-guard, and a pommel spike. He was a professional swordsman, a Quick Blade.

The Quick Blade (taking his pipe from his lips): “So, what is it that we are dueling for?”

The trio proposed that the prize be a shot from the green bottle at the Green Bottle Tavern. The Quick Blade agreed and then terms of the fighter were worked out, drawing first blood would make the winner. That last stipulation was Pabst’s idea by the way.

As the gathering crowd of Troll Boys and curious passerby marked out the ring, Afheesh slipped into the Bloody Tankard unseen. He found two locked doors of interest in the empty bar when he heard the crowd lament then the Quick Blade and the Troll Boys laughing in victory. He darted back outside.

The Quick Blade had drawn first blood on the very first strike of the fight.

Jenn: “Awww! But I’m a GREAT duelist!”

Cris (the GM): “Well, his back is turned to you and the Troll Boys are congratulating him.”

Jenn: “Umm…”

Isis: “Sis! We might be over our heads here!”

Cris: “So, do you do it or not?”

Jenn: *sigh* “No, I put my sword away.”

Later, that evening the trio, the Quick Blade and five Troll Boys sat at the bar in the Green Bottle. Afheesh had already put down the money for the shot from the titular green bottle. The Quick Blade held up the small glass with green swirling liquor in it.

The Quick Blade: “Whosoever would duel over this shot may have it as their prize!”

Hence, a Troll Boy stepped forward. Afheesh sighed in disgust and stepped forward drawing his paired weapons.

Afheesh (looking back at his companions and shrugging): “I paid for it, it’s mine.”

Suddenly, the troll-blood lunged and struck with his dirk missing the agile ratling. As a result Afheesh jabbed with both blades striking deep, wounding the troll-blood badly. In desperation, the Troll Boy slashed narrowly missing his target (by 1 pt.). So Afheesh retorted killing the Troll Boy instantly.

The Quick Blade (sliding the shot glass over to the ratling): “I guess this is yours.”

Without thinking, the ratling slung it down and when it hit the bottom, he began to feel dizzy. However, he did fight off the dizziness and as a slight drowsiness faded, he felt strangely invigorated. Meanwhile, the Troll Boys grumbled as the swordsman led them out of the tavern. Finally, Wufcor approached Afheesh and gave him a small sack of coins.

Wufcor: “I made a little side bet. Here’s your share.”

The purse contained 150 bt’s so feeling very refreshed by the strange green booze, Afheesh decided to take his leave and go back to his favorite place, the livery. A jaunt in his step he whistled as left the place.

To Be Continued…

 

Rats of Tanglethorn Pt.4: The Duelist

The ratlings, Afheesh (played by me) and Wufcor (played by Isis) stood in the front ranks of the city guard ofWhite Rose Duelist the White Rose Well smart in their uniform green cloaks with obsidian leaf clasp. They were in formation to the northeast of the White Rose Well in the plaza before the White Rose Perfumery dozens of feet away from the well. Captain Fenom wearing an open helm with a bright green and gleaming black feather plume was over by the well talking with the human duelist, Pabst (played by Jenn).

The ratling quickling, Afheesh, strained to overhear them as the captain’s subordinate, wearing an open helm with a bright red feather plume, maintained the formation. As a result, the ratling could see that a shiny new great sword hung on Pabst’s back. “That’s new”, he thought.

The captain passed Pabst two potions, a Bull’s Strength Potion and a Cat’s Grace Potion to drink on the spot. Apparently they were had some sort of delay effect brewed in. It was not long before another company of Tanglethorn guardsmen marched in from the east cloaked in brown with a yellow lotus circled by black thorns on their backs. Their leader had on a bronze open helm similar to Capt. Fenom’s but with bright yellow feathers mixed with black.

The opposing captain’s second halted the incoming march only a dozen feet away from the well. For a split second, there was a strained silence as the dust settled. Bronze chest plates reflected the late morning sun as it glinted from the shining tips of steel pikes and polished bronze helmets.

The yellow lotus captain strutted over to captain Fenom removing his helmet as he neared. Their opens palms smacked together then they squeezed, their knuckles creaking. Then they began to speak as Fenom dismissed Pabst whom rejoined her comrades at the line.

Pabst: “I’m totally excited you guys! My first DUEL!”

Afheesh: “What!?”

Pabst: “Something about control of the White Rose Block. Whatever. I got this.”

Isis: “Sis! Watch it!”

Captain Fenom (his voice echoing his arms rose): “Terms have been agreed upon; a duel will determine the ministration of the White Rose Block hence forward! Our champions will meet here at the well! Both armed as they are! This duel is to the DEATH!”

Afheesh (to Pabst): “Still got this?”

Pabst: “Yeah, yeah, don’t worry I said I got this.”

Afheesh: “I’m not worried; if you die I’ll have to recruit another fighter. It’s a hassle.”

The yellow lotus captain raised his right arm and shouted, “Agreed!” He then motioned for his champion to come to the well. From behind the ranks of the yellow-lotus-guard emerged a short vicious looking human. He was wearing a bronze pectoral plate, bronze bracers on his forearms and a steel buckler on his right arm. He had paired dirks.

Capt. Fenom motioned for Pabst. She strutted over to him and the well. She pulled her scimitar and prepared her buckler.  Each captain seemed to give his respective fighter a painfully short pep talk and then both backed off. Fenom gave the signal, “Fight!”

The yellow lotus champion, obviously a knife-fighter, struck with a double dirk attack, Pabst tried to parry both thirsty blades with her buckler. However, she had opened herself up and both blades struck home (she rolled a Natural 1). Pabst backed off to recompose herself blood gushing from her side (recovery roll). Showing a razor-tooth grin, he let her take a breath. She moved back in and retorted with her sword but he parried with his right and struck again with his left opening another nasty wound in her belly. She struck out yet again but again he parried and slashed. This time she parried his retort and countered. He parried and stabbed but she parried the blow.

Pabst charged and hacked at his head, he parried the blow. He struck out at her she parried and countered. He parried that blow and stabbed at her throat, she parried, barely. The two opponents circled one another like hungry beasts searching for any opening. She attacked again but fumbled the strike accidentally tossing her weapon several dozen feet away. Without missing a beat, she immediately drew her back up weapon, her brand new two-handed great sword.

Pabst leapt back and struck hard with her great sword cracking through each of the knife-fighter’s ribs like a butcher against a rack of beef. A long ribbon of blood streaked his side and gushed onto the ground. He retorted with a masterful stroke that awed all onlookers (a natural 20). Pabst’s companions stood frozen with horror. Suddenly, she parried both blades with a single sweep of her buckler (natural 20 parry) then immediately struck at his bared ribs burying her blade to the hilt deep in his heart. His lifeless body flopped to the dirt. She withdrew her weapon from his mutilated chest. Both companies were struck with silent awe. Then captain Fenom and his men roared in victory.

Pabst (still bleeding, turned to her companions): “Drinks are on me!”

Later that afternoon the ruthless trio was having drinks in the Thirsty Thorn Tavern. Pabst was still was still worse for the wear but seemed not to care at all. Captain Fenom had paid her 10,000 bronze thorns (bt) for championing his cause. She had also told him where she was staying, at the Yellow Lotus Inn, in case he needed her again. Wufcor was a little annoyed with this as he was also staying with her and was nervous about the city guard knowing where they were sleeping.

Pabst ordered a bottle of Assassin Vine Wine and after paying the 1,000 bt bill, she stood up in the crowded bar and shouted, “Cheers to the greatest duelist in Tanglethorn!”

Isis: “Sis! Noooo.”

The three villains ate stew and bread and guzzled the bottle of expensive wine shortly thereafter. Pabst and Afheesh caught a nice narcotic buzz. Wufcor on the other hand, passed out felled by the powerful wine. The remaining pair drank until the early evening when they left with Wufcor piggyback on Pabst. They began walking back to the Yellow Lotus Inn when suddenly they heard warning bells ringing.

When they looked in the direction of the sound, they saw a massive insect swarm like a thundercloud descending on the city from above. The trio immediately beat it to Pabst’s room at the inn and made sure the door and window were shut and sealed. They tossed Wufcor into a corner.

Several hours later the all clear signal rung out and the trio, never ones to miss an opportunity, went out into the streets to see if they could loot anything from among the carnage. Wufcor was still a bit groggy. Of course, it was not long before they ran into a small cadre of gang members, Bronze Boys. The gangsters, like the trio, had found nothing on any of the bodies lying in the street.

Pabst: “He you Bronze-Boys! You need any help with the Troll Boys again!?”

Their leader shouted back, “We handle our OWN! Why you lookin’ fer TROUBLE!?”

Afheesh pulled his weapons in response, Wufcor did the same and Pabst began to laugh as she pulled the great sword from her back.

To Be Continued…

#actual_play, #arvan

Rats of Tanglethorn Pt.3: Captain’s Bounty

The ratlings, Afheesh (played by yours truly) and Wufcor (played by Isis) took a corner table at the rear of the Green Bottle Tavern. They had crept in unnoticed by the barkeep and trio of patrons. Pabst (played by Jenn) had ordered a glass of Assassin Vine Wine and a pitcher of ale. She chatted up the bartender, his name Neelneez, Neel for short. The trio was seeking Captain Fenom’s promised bounty.

Not far from Pabst, the barfly druid eyeballed the interior of his empty jack. She invited the elder over and shared the pitcher with him. He was grateful but had no information. Disappointed she looked over at the pair of Green Well apprentices further down the bar. They were embroiled in a drunken conversation and thus paid her no heed. Seemingly, in reaction to her gaze they moved to a table further away.

Observing from afar, Afheesh took the initiative and darted around the place unseen and under the apprentices’ table. The pair was gossiping about another apprentice they did not like, one that was to be promoted to Journeyman in the guild. It took some time but eventually they mentioned his name, Phenox. Immediately Afheesh darted from the table over to Pabst and relayed the info. She lithely rose from her spot next to the blubbering druid and approached the apprentices’ table with a fresh jug of wine.

However, the first of the pair was rude and the other laughed waving her away. Afheesh who had already stolen under the table unseen pulled one of his weapons and jabbed the tip into the rude one’s crotch.

Afheesh (growling): “She’ll sit and you’ll LISTEN.”

Pabst calmly talked with both of them trying to get the whereabouts of her target, Phenox, from the pair but they did not want to see their “brother” dead. Afheesh pulled his second weapon and jabbed it into the crotch of the second apprentice. He drew a drop of blood from both with the razor points of the weapons.

Afheesh: “Take us to him NOW!”

Pabst (amused): “Seems my little friend under the table is getting impatient.” She waved at Wufcor to dissuade him from slitting one of their throats from behind.

Eventually they gave a detailed description of Phenox and revealed that he would be at this very bar later that evening to celebrate his promotion. Shaking, the rude apprentice chugged down his jack of wine. Pabst dismissed them both with a casual wave of her arm. Both of them bolted for the door. Afheesh and Wufcor went in silent pursuit. Pabst joined the hunt after the pair had cleared the saloon doors.

The hounded pair had split in different directions Pabst pursued the rude one. Afheesh and Wufcor chased the other. He made it as far as the vine-covered wall that cordoned off the grounds of the Green Well from the rest of the city. He hit a patch of shadow and that was when Afheesh leapt at him with both blades. It was an instant kill. Wufcor looted the body.

Later, the pair of ratlings rejoined Pabst in front of the Green Bottle; she had easily done in the other apprentice when he turned down an alley. Pabst wanted to wait in the alley across from the joint for Phenox’s arrival. However, Wufcor wanted to sit and drink in the Drunk Lotus until dusk instead. It was north of the Red Lotus Well and a place run out of the back of an apartment building with the benches in the alley behind with a canvas tarp overhead.

Afheesh surmised the place had the worst grog and gruel in the city but it was cheap, a few bits for some drink and “food”. The trio stayed there until dusk. They went back to the Green Bottle and found the place crowded and jumping with perfumers, there were many green robes. The guest of honor of a party near the bar was one Phenox newest journeyman of the Brotherhood of the Green Well. A polished gold medallion hung from his neck inscribed with the image of a lotus and set with emeralds gleaming as it dangled on his chest.

He was soaked with ale and wine and sloppy drunk as various patrons had been buying him drink after drink. Afheesh darted over to a place at the bar. For a lark, the ratling paid 25gp for a shot from the green bottle for Phenox. As the bartender handed the glass to the journeyman, he turned to point out his beneficiary but the ratling is gone. Shrugging, the young man took it down and the whole place erupted in celebration. He was still standing after a sip from the green bottle! Shortly after that, Phenox stumbled drunkenly out of the bar, alone. The murderous trio swiftly followed.

As soon as he neared the first dark alley, Pabst rushed him into the trash-strewn narrows. Afheesh and Wufcor then made quick work of him. Pabst hacked his head off and bagged it. She also pocketed the gold medallion. After their red-work was done they hightailed it straight to captain Fenom.

The rough captain pulled the head from the bag and mocked it slapping its cheeks. He was very pleased with the three brigands. The captain tossed a sack filled with the bounty of 9,000 bronze thorns. After the split, the brigands were each parting with 3,000 bt.

Captain Fenom: “By the way, you three, be back here tomorrow a couple a’ hours after sunrise.”

The three shrugged and parted ways after leaving the captain’s office.

Afheesh wandered aimlessly through the streets of Tanglethorn for a few hours until he turned a corner and found himself face-to-face with a large troll. The creature was gigantic in comparison to the little ratling. It was wearing scale-mail armor and carrying a massive iron maul. The hammer had a skull wearing a fang-lined grimace inscribed on the flat.

The Troll (pointing a clawed finger at the weapon): “He named Skull-biter. When I swing, him swallow the skull and he leave me the brains! Haw! Haw!”

The ratling was thinking of running but his legs would not cooperate.

The Troll: “Now you little ratling will help me find me a wife or I step on you! Squish you like bug!”

Afheesh wanted to disagree but was still easily bullied into assisting the troll in his wife seeking. He had to climb storm drain pipes, peek into windows, and peep over walls all at the end of a rope tied too tightly to his tail. He seriously had considered hacking through his own tail to get away but just could not bring himself to do it. The troll kept him at this fruitless quest until just before dawn.

Right before the sun rose the troll let the ratling go free and sank into one of the wells, Afheesh did not take note of which well. The ratling ran back to the burned out temple. He was able to fetch a couple of hours of sleep before he had to rush to meet the other two at the captain’s office at the White Rose Perfumery.

When he finally made it he saw that the captain and his men were fully equipped and in formation. The ratling’s partners were standing next to him wearing the same cloaks as the rest of the guard, green with an obsidian oak leaf clasp. Their expressions did not fill the ratling with confidence. The captain turned towards the ratling. He motioned a subordinate who handed him a small version of the same cloak. The black and green plume in the captain’s helm fluttered in the slight breeze as he held out the cloak to Afheesh.

Captain Fenom: “Put this on, we’re marching out!”

To Be Continued…

 

 

Rats of Tanglethorn Pt.2: The Green Well

Afheesh the ratling quickling (played by me), Pabst the human duelist (played by Jenn), and Wufcor the ratling Brotherhood of the Green Wellcanny-jack (played by Isis) had been escorted by a contingent of city guard to an office near the White Rose Perfumery. The office was small, crowded with stacks of yellowed parchment sheets. Also scattered everywhere were small wooden ink stamps bearing various official seals from past regimes.

Meanwhile sitting at the desk, which the crew found themselves facing, was a large Westlander in full plate armor. The seal of the city guard, the ring of thorns, emblazoned on his breast. Within it was a black oak leaf under a yellow crescent moon. His plumed helm with spiked facemask sat on the well-worn desktop and his heavy bearded axe leaned against the wall behind him.

The guard that had pushed them into the office had introduced the man at the desk as Captain Fenom. The street crew had to wait while he packed his long stem bone pipe with a fresh load and lit it.

Captain Fenom (exhaling a massive fog of pungent peppery smoke): “Those gangs have been a hassle of late, the uh, Bronze Boys and um, Troll Boys …”

He took another long drag.

Captian Fenom (again exhaling): “I like that; you’re good fighters, real good. Here.”

He reached under the desk and then tossed a leather sack filled with 8,000 bronze thorns onto it. The thud of the bag and the jingle of the coins were music to the trio’s ears.

Captain Fenom: “Take it, it’s yours. You work for me now. There’s another 8,000 thorns for you three if you bring me the head of Feenox, an apprentice of the Green Well. “

He put his feet up on the desk and dismissed the scrappy trio who made themselves gone very quickly. Pabst had snatched up the coin sack.

The trio beat it to a burned out building. The place had been a cult temple but the city lord has been hunting down and chasing out the smaller cults that have sprung up around the city. The rumor was the last holdout of this temple, a black guard, had met her fate within the charcoaled not too long ago. It was boarded up. However, Afheesh parkoured up through a window in the second story and kicked out the boards over the door on the ground letting his partners in crime in.

Wufcor dove into a pile of trash to sleep. Pabst pulled out her sleeping roll in a corner free of debris and Afheesh found a large crack in the wall and a small crevice beyond that. That was where he decided to sleep. It was where he felt most to secure to be able to sleep. However, before he drifted off he made sure to count his share of the gang bounty, 2,666 bronze pieces. Pabst had taken up the left over coin.

The robust yet still small thorn-runner lay curled up and perfectly hidden for most of the night and for most of the night he had slept rather peacefully until suddenly awakened. He heard someone arguing. He poked his head out very carefully and saw that a pair of Mantck ratlings (medium sized ratlings) and a pair of humans one carrying a sack were harassing Pabst. She had her weapon out.

Slowly the quickling crept out of his hiding place and quietly drew his weapons. As he neared striking distance, the sack bearer screamed in pain. Wufcor had stabbed him in the back.

The first Mantck struck at Pabstcan, she parried his dirk. The second rushed Wufcor wounding him badly. Afheesh charged and struck out with both of his weapons at the second Mantck whom managed to dodge the first blow but caught the second full on. It nearly killed him. The human that had been carrying the sack dropped it and taking a defensive position drew his shabby scimitar. Pabst swung wildly with her scimitar at the first Mantck but her clumsy strike did not get anywhere near him. The second human, apparently the leader due to his wearing a scale mail vest, attacked Pabst with his scimitar. She parried then immediately countered but the leaders’ sword stopped it dead. The ring of steel echoed from the blackened walls.

The second human shrieked and dropped to the dirt dead. Wufcor’s dirk had been unerring. The first Mantck lashed out at Pabst narrowly missing. Afheesh slaughtered the second Mantck with his paired swords. Pabst hacked into the leader’s side, blood gushed. He retorted wounding Pabst badly, his scimitar easily piercing her brigandine.

Wufcor moved around the fight flanking the leader and striking injuring him further. The last Mantck struck at Pabst, she barely deflected his blade. Afheesh struck at the Mantck with his first weapon and then at the leader with his second. The first landed horribly wounding the medium-sized ratling. The leader easily deflected the second. Pabst in turn chopped him down.

Wufcor jabbed his blade into the Mantck. Horribly wounded and soaked in his own blood but he was still standing. Afheesh got in close and all but eviscerated him with a double sword strike. The fight was over.

The trio immediately dumped out the sack. Out tumbled two bottles of wine, an ivory box with mother of pearl inlay, 3 silver candelabras, a poor quality carved aquamarine jar, 20 high quality arrows, a highest quality set of wrenches, and a poor quality hand mirror. Inside of the ivory box were 3 gold rings, 1 silver ring with ruby, and 5 copper rings. Their foes had been burglars. Come morning the trio decided to find a fence for the goods.

The next day under the leadership of Wufcor the crew was able to sell off all of their ill-gotten loot with Afheesh receiving a 2,311 bt (bronze thorn) cut for a total of 4,977. He left Pabst to her shopping for a great sword and Wufcor’s quest to find a leatherworker to craft a coin purse from what he cut from the Troll Boy leader. The quickling had decided to take up residence, for the night anyway, in one of the brothels operated by the Livery of Pleasures. There he would get a skilled companion for the night, a hot meal, and a lot of good wine.

The following day, and 1,500 bts poorer, Afheesh caught back up with his other two companions at the Drunken Lotus Tavern. The trio sat for a round, courtesy of Pabst, while they decided if they should pursue the head of one Feenox apprentice of the Green Well. A difficult decision especially since the Green Well was the province of the most powerful guild in the city, the Brotherhood of the Green Well. They could not resist the pay however. It was not long after that they asked around. Shortly after that they headed off to another tavern, the Green Bottle where their quarry was said to spend his lunchtime.

The trio wandered past an old tree, and from the overcrowded, and noisy plaza into the Green Bottle. It was spelled “Bottel” on the signage but all three were illiterate. The rear half of the place was elevated reached by a wide wooden stair. The bar was at the front to the immediate right of the saloon doors. The heavy counter stretched from wall to wall. Behind it at the far end were the doors to the kitchen.

Not an apparent fighter, the bartender was a broad-shouldered human, a wet leather apron over his front. Behind him were shelves lined with bottles of all shapes and sizes filled with various liquors and juices as well as a giant hogshead of ale coming halfway out of the wall. However, in a place of reverence among the shelves was a large green carved glass bottle that contained a glowing green liquid. At the bar were a very drunk barfly druid slurping ale from his leather jack and two young men, humans, in green hooded robes, a pair of apprentices of the green well.

Pabst: “Well, this seems to be the right place.”

Wufcor: “Heh, heh, yeah. Which one do I stab first?”

To Be Continued…

 

Rats of Tanglethorn Pt.1: Street Mercs

The two small groups of gang members were facing off in the middle of the wide paved boulevard just outside of the Caskroom Tavern (#15 on the Map). It was a chill evening and the cobblestones pale and moist with fresh filth. Rag pickers, the occasional wagon, and the odds and ends of Tanglewood society were still trafficking the street in unhealthy droves that parted their unstoppable course to make room for the hooligans.

The whole scene partially lit by a few candle lanterns outside of the rough establishment was bathed in warm yellow half-light. On one side were the Bronze Boys, a gang of 20 humans each with a torque of bronzed thorn vine. Opposing them were the Troll Boys, a gang of 10 humans with a white troll facemask baring its fangs painted on their worn tunics. Their leader was big and appeared to have troll blood in his veins.

Without warning, the street thugs fell upon each other using their fists, feet, and daggers. Meanwhile from the shadows the two ratling, Afheesh (played by me) and Wufcor (played by Isis), and the human duelist, Pabstcan (played by Jenn), watched the fight. It was Afheesh’s plan to wait a little bit and then approach the leader of the losing side offering to assist for a price but both sides seemed evenly matched. Four Bronze Boys had fallen and only a single Troll Boy lay in the dirty street.
Impatient, Pabst stepped from the shelter of the shadows and shouted a challenge to the trollish leader of the Troll Boys.

Pabst (played by Jenn)(brandishing her scimitar): “Come and meet your doom by my blade!”

He ignored her as he smashed in an opponent’s face with the pommel of his short sword. Afheesh took it upon himself to dash into the fray approaching the Troll Boy leader. The big brute accepted the ratlings offer but would pay after the fight was won. Afheesh dashed back to the befuddled and slightly miffed Pabst and the agitated Wufcor. As soon as he delivered the message, the other two lunged into the fight against the Bronze Boys.

Jenn started to giggle.

Cris (the GM)(with furrowed brow): “Why you laughing!?”

Jenn: “Because I picture them as a bunch of blonde and tanned surfer boys without shirts.”

Isis roared with laughter.

By the time the thuggish trio joined the fight there were 11 Bronze Boys and 6 Troll Boys still standing. Afheesh charged the Bronze Boy leader slashing savagely at him with a paired weapon blow. He tried to parry with his dirk but fumbled badly stepping into the blows. The gang leader dropped dead into a puddle of his own blood. Wufcor moved around behind a gangster occupied with staving off an attack from a larger Troll Boy and stabbed him in the back horribly wounding him. Pabstcan hacked at a “random @$$#ole” but was easily parried.

The skirmish continued for about another 15 seconds until all of the Bronze Boys were dead and only two Troll Boys and their Leader stood in the middle of the carnage. The adventurer trio all gave the last gangsters toothy grins expecting a monetary reward. The three gang-members turned and began to walk away.

Troll Boy Leader (casually waving his left hand in a gesture of dismissal): “Get your pay from the corpses.”

The trio exchanged glances and charged while the three gang-members had their backs turned. The leader suddenly spun around and nailed Pabst in the chest with his sword. Afheesh struck one of the other two who dodged one blade but hit by the other wounding him badly. Wufcor tried to stab the same target but missed. He retorted with his dagger but missed. The third Troll Boy also struck at Wufcor with his dagger but missed by a mile.

Afheesh struck at the untouched Troll Boy dropping him with a nasty double blade strike. The leader swung again at Pabst but missed. The other thug fumbled and dropped his dagger while trying to slash at Afheesh. The ratling Quickling sank his twin blades to the hilt into the second to last gangster standing.

Pabst yelled out that she “declares a duel” against the last Troll Boy. The gang leader parried Pabst’s scimitar. Afheesh readied his blades should Pabst’s self-declared duel go badly. Unheeding of Pabst Wufcor flanked the Troll Boy leader and sank his dirk into the man’s side nearly killing him in a single blow.

Afheesh hung back from the fight and Wufcor sank back into the shadows. Pabst engaged her foe one-to-one once again dropping him with a critical chop through the ribs. The butchered corpse flopped onto the cobblestone street. The ruthless group immediately fell upon the corpses and collected the loot. They gathered up 17 dirks, 90 bronze thorns, 10 suits of soft leather armor, 17 pair of bronze bracers, 8 saps, 4 short swords, and 7 pair of greaves.

That was when the trio was aware that they were receiving applause. A group of mercenaries in black was clapping. They had greatly enjoyed the show and invite d the three to drinks in the tavern. Embroidered on their chests was a red rose pierced diagonally by a curved sword with a drop of blood coming from its blade tip. The trio of sweaty and blood spattered adventurers gladly accepted. Especially after some guardsmen who had also been watching prevented Wufcor from violating the Troll Boy leader’s corpse.

The group had just barely begun to wallow in their victory and had only waded through the first round of frothy ale before a group of guards burst through the saloon doors. One of the guards pointed right at the trio and shouted, “Arrest them!” The mercenaries around the adventurers, members of the Bleeding Rose, melted away to other tables.

Jenn (looking at Cris): “Aw man! Already!?”

To Be Continued…

 

Rats of Tanglethorn: Intro

Since Game-Master Cris’ game turned out to be so lethal Isis, Jenn, and I had to generate new Where the ratling dwells.characters. I decided on a ratling male. We were still playing in an “evil” campaign in the Poisonwood city of Tanglethorn. I dubbed my new character the ratling Fourthborn Afheeshh the Nervous.

He is a thorn runner ratling native to the Thorn Ring, a dense wall of thorn-vines that bounds the city. His hair is light brown, matching the thorns, has light blue eyes and what skin is exposed is fair. He is a chaotic evil scrupulous character with Quickling as his class. His weapons are custom versions of Psi’s. They have a thin but sharp blade allowing for a slashing weapon that can stab and hook. Afheeshh’s disposition is hotheaded, quick tempered, emotional but basically nice. His flaws are Shy and Jumpy.

Isis decided on a ratling male Canny-Jack named Wufcor and Jenn a human female Duelist named Pabstcan (exasperated sigh). Both were natives of the wretched city of thorns. The city of Tanglethorn has been under the thumb of one Lord Ebikom for the last two and half years. Rumors that the city lieutenants are planning a coup were circulating. There was tension in the air and the filthy streets were a network of raw nerves, no one wanted yet another violent political upheaval. The two ratlings and the duelist were sitting at a badly stained and damp table in a crowded smoke filled saloon called the Caskroom.

The dregs of the city packed the place along with small groups of the two local beggar-gangs, the Twisted Horns and the Broken Dirks. In addition to them, there were two other local street gangs, the Bronze Boys and the Troll Boys, facing off over an undeclared drinking contest. Wufcor was picking at the table with his dirk in anticipation of a brawl. Pabst was “hanging tough” by the table downing her jack of frothy ale, it had cost her the last coin in her purse. Afeesh (how those round the table pronounced it and it is easier to spell) was watching the two cliques as they grew increasingly hostile to each other.

It took about an hour before both parties stood and walked outside to “handle it”.

Afeesh (played by me): “That’s our queue.”

Wufcor (played by Isis): “Yeah! I wanna stab someone!”

Pabst (played by Jenn): “I’m gonna duel the big guy!”

The three pulled their weapons as they passed between the still swinging saloon-doors following the angry gang members outside into the street.

To Be Continued…

Moths of Tanglethorn

After a full year in the Game-Master’s chair, I finally was going to get to play. Of course, Cris was GMing Tanglethorn - City of mothsand going to set his campaign in the Poisonwood capital of Tanglethorn. It was going to be an “Evil Game”, a campaign where all of the Player Characters have an evil base alignment. Everything was fine and dandy, everyone showed up to the table with their characters already done for the most part. However, as with most of Cris’ games the ending would be abrupt.

Four Evil Characters Enter a Bar

Seated around a small dagger-scarred table in the Bronze Tankard Tavern sat four villains. The place was small and cramped due to the briskness of its business. It was a repurposed ruin of strange orange stone and as dark as a cave. It was also dank but with the stench of spoiled ale and the noxious sweat of generations of drunks.

Around the small table awash in the stale smoke of scavenged pipe weed sat Suttradra (played by Jenn),Xiani Weiren (played by Isis), Vorahk (played by Gil), and Aigi (played by me). The four were contemplating on ways to make money, wet their blades, or both. Suttradra was a poisonborn human blackguard wearing studded leather armor and a demonic bronze mask. A great sword hung at her side.

Suttradra was the only Tanglenite, a native of the Poisonwood, and was essentially the de facto leader of the gang for the time being. She had been a black guard of a rather strong cult of demon-worshippers whose makeshift temple within one of the old orange ruins was raided and burned not long ago.

Xiani was an Ivoran Death Grin, an assassin/juggler dressed as a clown. She leaned back in her seat in fuchsia and yellow jester’s clothes. Her weapons were a pair of iron claws she wore on her hands. She gave some ‘tude to Suttra whom laughed at her and replied, “You’re lucky I like you’re looks and clothes”.

Vorahk was an Arborean Rune Warrior. Every inch of his ugly knotted wooden hide was covered in deeply carved runes that granted him various magical powers. He was from the Granfor Forest, an ethnic Arborean, and looking for mercenary work. He had a great club next to him and wore a bronze pectoral plate. His hollow black eyes swept the crowded tavern. He noted that only a single patron was unarmed. The man who was sitting at the bar bore a red rose and a black scorpion embroidered on his waist sash. Suttra said that the guy was a proxy champion for members of the Bottled Rose, best to avoid him.

Aigi was a young Hyvalian man from the crumbling empire’s western reaches. He had been a temple orphan and trained in the martial arts as a temple defender. He was a Sword Saint and very skilled with his paired “Lion Swords”. They were modified long swords with straight dual-edged blades and bastard grips with bunches of brightly colored ribbons and tasseled cords hanging from the pommels. He had wended his way to the Poisonwood on various ships and caravans that needed a swordsman. Across the chest of his dirty tunic was embroidered the image of a dog, the symbol of the common soldier of the imperial armies.

His sole purpose in life was to test his metal against “worthy opponents”. He was told that he would definitely find plenty of those in Tangelthorn. Suttra was sure she could make some money on him somehow. He was sure that XIani was thinking of stabbing him in the back the first chance she got just for fun.

The four villains were drinking the last of their coin except for Aigi but he wasn’t about to let them know about his small reserve of gold coins and bronze thorns (the bronze currency of Tanglethorn). Just then, the sound of a wagon sliding to a stop in the road preceded the blast of road dust that whooshed in through the entryway. A stranger in leather armor bearing the mark of a gray moth on his chest strode in after.

The stranger walked up to the bartender and began to haggle. Suttradra said that he was a member of the Moths, a street gang. One of the largest in Tanglethorn and there were a lot. XIani pranced up to the moth and said in her most charming tones, “is there a problem here sir?”

The Moth: “Who’re you foreigner?”

Xiani: “Just a simple entertainer, hee-hee.”

The Moth (tossing Xiania a small vial of yellow lotus): “Here. Take this. If you want more you can find us, the Moths, everywhere. I’m Fenik. I have no need of entertainers at the moment.”

Aigi shot up and walked over to Fenik with his hands in the air, “Sir, what about swords?” Fenik said that if Aigi and his companions were warriors go see Vornor at the Empty Bottle, tell him Fenik sent you. Not long after Suttra led the foul four to the Empty Bottle Tavern.

The Empty Bottle was an even smaller bar though fortunately mostly empty. Only the afternoon rays that seeped in through a long horizontal window next to the bar and the entryway lighted the place. It wasn’t long before the crew of four had their marching orders, kill a Hill-Lander Whiskey Merchant named Ba’acor. He was staying at the Long Rest Inn and had two heavily armed human bodyguards with him. The job paid 1,000 bronze thorns apiece.

The Long Rest

By evening the group found themselves in the Long Rest Inn. It was a three-story structure housed in a restored orange-stone ruin. The taproom and reception shared a large common room, which was packed with merchants and foreigners as well as the occasional inattentive city guard. Xiani was disguised as a whore (an unguilded prostitute).

It wasn’t long before they located their prey. Ba’acor, a faun, was in a far corner at a table guarded by his two very large Tanglenite bodyguards, one armed with a great club, the other a claymore. The guard with the claymore appeared to be the more experienced of the two.

Thinking quickly Aigi goes to the bar and buys their cheapest grog in a glass, a glass being somewhat expensive. The others hung back at a table and watched. The young Hyvalian swordsman walked carefully through the place and when he got in front of the great club-wielding bodyguard, he stumbled and dropped the glass.

Aigi then challenged the club-wielding guard to a duel but botched the language and thus the guard looked dumbly at him. Therefore, Aigi spat in his face and the fight was on.

Aigi swung with his swords scoring a single hit as one of his blades was parried. However, he scored another two hits on the backswings horribly wounding his opponent. As his blood gushed over the floor the bodyguard swung his only to be parried by one of Aigi’s blades and the other opened his belly spilling his intestines over the filthy floorboards.

Isis (to the GM, indicating Aigi): “Um. I’m not gonna stab that guy in the back now.”

The GM (Cris): “Why not?!”

Isis: “He’s SCARY!”

Suttra fought with the Claymore wielding bodyguard and Vorahk fought with Ba’acor who wielded a knobkirri against him. Xiani snuck in behind the whiskey merchant and managed to coup-de-graced him with her claws. After the slaying his compatriots the last bodyguard surrendered and Aigi let him flee after he dropped his coin purse and sword.

A city guard intervened shouting, “Enough! Fair fights only!” He pointed to the killers, “You clean up the bodies!”

Aigi hacked off the merchants head and left the Inn headed for the Empty Bottle. The other three assassins looted the corpses before they paid a couple of drunks to haul the bodies to the charnel house.

Not long after Aigi delivered Ba’acor’s head to Vornor in the Empty Bottle did his companions follow.  They were each paid 1,000 bt as agreed and given a free bottle of Hill-Lander whiskey which was watered down by almost half. A few wagons trundled by outside each loaded with hogsheads of whiskey and each bearing the mark of Ba’acor on the side, a whiskey bottle crossed by a knobkirri.

Vornor: “You guys did good. I don’t know if anyone’s hiring right now but I’ll put the word out. Oh, there’s a city Lieutenant of the Guards named Neelom at the Bronze Tankard after dusk usually. Tell him I sent you.”

Vorahk pulls out some coin to pay for drinks, Vornor stoops him.

Vornor: “Ahh! My friends your money is no good here. Barkeep! More drinks for my friends!”

After several rounds of water-diluted Hill-Lander whiskey Vornor appears to be very drunk. Aigi had been careful to not drink too much.

Vornor: “Ah! I like foreigners, so quick with swords. The drink has loosened these lips! Ask me anything!”

So, Aigi asked him who the best match of a swordsman for his caliber was in Tanglethorn. The answer was Drox Bloodsword, a Hill-Lander Duelist. The Empty Bottle began to become very busy. Aigi noticed that a couple of guys were filling the bottles of whiskey that they were selling through the window to customers on the street with water thinning the whiskey down by half.

Aigi (somewhat outraged): “DO your customers know that you’re diluting their drink!?”

Vornor: “Ah my friend, you know Tanglenites cannot handle Hill-Lander whiskey at full strength!”

Aigi: “Ha! You’re right! Tanglenites are weak; I should know I’ve faced a couple in battle already!”

Vornor shot him a dirty look.

Suttra had already done a little recon the said duelist and found out that he was a member of the Blood Moths street gang, a subset of the Gray Moths. She also knew that he could be found at the Blood Moths favorite hangout, a tavern called the Broken Cask. The Blackguard offered to guide the group there; she knew the way like the back of her hand.

Scuff Up

Hence the four criminals were traveling down a back alley headed towards the Broken Cask Tavern in search of the Hill-lander Duelist Drox Bloodsword. Just as they neared the end of the wide alleyway with the tavern within sight, a couple of cloaked thugs stepped out to block their way.

One of the Thugs: “Stop there foreigners! Drop yer coin and we might let you live!” Both had red moths painted on their chests.

Three more were suddenly behind the four adventurers. All five were armed with shortswords, dirks, and bronze bracers.

Suttra pulled her greatsword and charged the lead thug, he parried her sword slash easily with his dirk. She in turn parried his dirk. Another at the rear struck at Xian, she used her claws to parry his dirk. Aigi flew at the second thug; all his blows were either parried or missed. The last was clinched on the thug’s bracer. Xiani’s claws were parried and her attempt to kick dirt in her assailant’s face failed. Vorahk rushed to the rear and let loose a powerful swing missing his target but catching him on the backswing. Surprisingly his weapon spewed acid upon contact horribly wounding the street gangster. The street gangster replied with his dirk but it glanced harmlessly off Vorahk’s bark on a direct hit. So the gangster turned to flee and Vorahk splattered him on a wall on an attack of opportunity

The thug clinching one of Aigi’s swords stabbed the young Hyvalian wounding him but in turn took a slash to the belly nearly killing him in a single swing. Another thug stabbed Vorahk but only managed to score his pectoral plate even on a critical strike. A Darkthorn Arborean suddenly appeared out of nowhere and punched at Vorahk but missed. Suttra cut into the lead thug horribly wounding him. Xiani parried a dirk blow and struck back ripping a nasty wound in her foe. A few more thugs came out of the woodwork and made it hard on Xiani wounding her to near death but the tide had turned. Soon each adventurer was dropping an enemy at a time.

The fight was over and the street thugs that had stayed to fight were dead. Xiani was barely standing. The last one left on his feet was the Darkthorn who was smashed to bleeding splinters by Vorahk’s greatclub. The four battered adventurers had barely time enough to take a breath before they were surrounded by dozens of Blood Moth gang members to the front and rear and all along the roofs.

They begin to close the noose when Vorahk shouted that we were looking for Drox Bloodsword. A very big human pushed his way to the front of the mob, “that’s me”. He was huge, about 7 ft. tall and a over 300 lbs. some Hill Giant’s blood probably coursing through his veins. He was armed with a Claymore and a buckler. So Aigi challenged him to a personal duel come next morning. Drox was about to charge anyway until he saw the wound in the Hyvalian’s side and thus agreed to the duel after a full day’s healing.

The Duelists

Finally the day of the duel with Drox Bloodsword came and the group found themselves in a massive crowd of Blood Moths and various others in an unfamiliar part of town. At the center of the rowdy mob was a small clearing made by arm linked city guards to be used as the arena. The captain of the city guard was refereeing the fight. He was a fat man in bronze scale mail with an open-faced peaked bronze helmet with a white and black feather plume and a green cape thrown over his shoulders.

Bets had been made throughout the crowd with Xiani and Suttra betting 100 bt apiece on Aigi to win. Vorahk however, had bet 10,000 bt (which he didn’t have) on his companion with the only one in the crowd who could cover that kind of money. The guy was dressed in green robes with gold trim and bore the symbol of the Bottled Rose Guild on his chest, a red rose surrounded by a ring of thorns. They were one of if not the most powerful guilds in the city.

Meanwhile at the center of the roaring crowd stood Aigi stripped to the waist his swords still sheathed and looking supremely confident, his only bit of armor were the chain mail gloves on his hands. Opposite him towered his foe, Drox Bloodsword the Hill-Lander Duelist. The duelist was similarly stripped to the waist exposing his scar-matted flesh, his claymore in one hand and his steel buckler in the other. His claymore was rusty and blackened as it had never been washed.

The captain shouted, “As soon as this gauntlet hits the ground FIGHT!”

Aigi had it all figured out in the second before the gauntlet clunked onto the cobblestones. He was going to wait for his opponent to attack him and he would defend by simultaneously attacking and parrying with either sword. He maintained his middle stance. Of course, when the gauntlet hit the floor Aigi broke his stance and charged flailing wildly with his paired blades. Drox parried both in a single swipe of his claymore. Then Aigi came with the backswings and nearly fumbled the first and clinching the claymore with his second.

Meanwhile, the Captain approached the other three adventurers and warned them that if Aigi should lose the Blood Moths WILL swarm them.

Aigi kept the clinch on Drox’s claymore easily preventing his attack. He struck and then backswung with his free sword but Drox easily deflected the belly blows with his buckler. Drox used his superior strength to break his claymore free of the clinch. Aigi struck again but his third strike was parried and he fumbled his second sword throwing it 12 ft out of his reach. Consequently he made use of the bastard grip of his one remaining blade.

Drox swung with claymore and scored a nasty hit nearly killing Aigi in a single blow. The younger fighter was bleeding out and would soon drop. Meanwhile Vorahk tried to get to the thrown sword in order to throw it back to his horse but the guards stopped him. Xiani tried to bluff a guy to throw a rock at Aigi, in hopes that would stop the fight, but failed. However, Suttradra successfully cast Pain on Drox causing him some penalties.

Drox struck again but Aigi parried it. Aigi took the middle stance, struck his first blow, and then followed it up with a nasty backswing horribly wounding the Hill-Lander. Suttra cast Wound on Drox hurting him a little bit more. Drox swung again and struck the young Hyvalian hard nearly killing him. It was a miracle that Aigi was even standing (it was a very high recovery check). It was clear that the Hyvalian was going to drop soon. In anticipation of this Vorahk quietly pulled his club. That was when he noticed the subtle sounds of a legion of daggers being stealthily pulled from their sheaths. Suttra cast Wound again hurting the Hill-lander a little more. Xiani tried to bribe the Captain with a ruby, he refused.

Drox swung and very nearly fumbled his sword. Aigi swung and hit and again with the backswing almost dropping the Hill-Lander. It was down to whoever could get in the last lick would be the winner. Drox got the last hit in immediately after hacking the young swordsman in twain. Xiani flung her dagger at Drox nailing him in the back killing him.

Gil: “Well. Some dice are good guys but other dice; those dice, they’re motherf@#%ers.”

The Captain strode out into the clearing and shrugging picked up one of Aigi’s swords and dropped it on the dead Hill-Lander’s chest, “There’s his trophy”. Hence the guards quickly snatched up the bodies and began to depart. That’s when the Blood Moths descended upon the surviving three adventurers.

The first to fall under a rain of daggers was Xiani, the second was Suttra. They had at most taken out only a handful of the moths.

Isis (in response to Gil’s “why didn’t you just runaway?”): “Aww man! I couldn’t run! If I did they would’ve all taken their attacks of opportunity on me and would’ve killed me anyway. At least I took some out with me!”

In conclusion, Vorahk, the sole survivor, ran away ablaze as several alchemist fires had been hurled his way. He continued to run right through the city gates having a greater chance than a fleshy creature for survival in the Poisonwood. Besides, he couldn’t stick around now that he owed a guildsman so much money.

Isis: “Death? Screw death we have new character sheets!”

The End

Campaign Played between July and August 2017

Afterword: Gil let us know that due to work and potential move he has to leave the group.

Necromancing Xuun Pt.12: Funny Little Death Games Pt.3

That evening half-hill-giant Skull-Smash whom the odds favored would be the opponent to Skull BashBludbaer as finale to the Pit Games. The official gladiatorial games would kick off with a fair the next day. Then the crowds and their money would flock to the bigger venues.

Jíen the necromancer greeted the morning sun with little enthusiasm. He stared out over the walled courtyard from the second story bedroom window. There were throngs of people trailing brightly colored streamers and waving flags everywhere. It made no difference to the dark mage. Through his eyes all was insubstantial. The sun drenched sky was a dull grey and an ethereal cloud obscured the distance even on the clearest day. The throngs of the living were as transparent as an army of colorful ghosts.

There were also bands of paladins and guardsmen on patrol among them. The young Deadlander thought it best if he stayed inside until he was to take his fighter to the match. He occupied himself by brewing potion (Aura of the Dead) using the adobe villa’s kitchen and a few secret ingredients. Later he stored it in one of the empty potion bottles he had been carrying on his person. The potion was of the highest quality.

The rest of the day he spent repairing, mostly stitching and channeling negative energy, the massive damage Bludbaer the mindless Dread Guard had sustained the previous day. It was nearly sundown when Jíen had finished his work almost restoring the creature to full capacity.

Evening came and the young necromancer brought his fighter/creature to the arena with no incidents on the way. There were a few prize matches beforehand then came the main event, Bludbaer versus Skull-Smash. All proceeded as before and soon the large heavily muscled opponents were facing off against each other in the ring. Bludbaer though huge was dwarfed by the half-giant who was wielding a heavy wooden great club.

The bell for the first round rang and Skull-Smash came out swinging landing two massive bone-crunching blows on Bludbaer one after the other dropping him. Immediately Jíen played it up doing the pantomime of a bereaved and ruined manager imploring the crowd to cheer for the miraculous rise of the fallen gladiator. It actually worked, the crowd roared for Bludbaer. So, the necromancer had the fallen fighter rise again. (Out-of-Game I did it to steal away Skull-Smash’s crowd bonus against my guy which Gladiators can get when being cheered on.)

It wasn’t long before Bludbaer was again smashed down without landing a single blow. However, Jíen playing his part as flamboyant fight manager worked his crowd-magic again and once again Bludbaer slowly, and what appeared to all, painfully rose to his feet. The look of disbelief on the half-giant’s face was priceless (unfortunately he didn’t suffer any morale penalties). Jíen however knew that if his creation dropped once more it would be the last.

Skull-Smash landed another horrid blow onto the battered corpse of Bludbaer but on the backswing the Dread Guard parried with his great sword catching the half-giant in a clinch. The crowd went wild. Suddenly, Bludbaer broke free and chopped into the giant, the crowd began to flip completely over to Bludbaer. Skull-Smash nearly silenced the crowd with a mighty roar and put all of his power behind a horrifyingly powerful finishing blow.

The crowd gasped and was silent for the instant before they let loose a deafening roaring cheer. The boneless mess of a corpse in the dirt of the arena that used to be Bludbaer lay at the feet of the triumphant Skull-Smash. Jíen stood wide-eyed and stunned. He was out of a lot of money. Then horror struck him and he rushed into the ring to salvage the corpse before the Disguise Undead rune branded on its forehead faded in its power.

All would see that Bludbaer was really a mass of rotted meat pilfered from the grave if that should happen. In fact, that’s what the potion of Aura of the Dead was for. He would shout that it was a vial of poison to his accusers, drink it, and then feign death. Fortunately a cloaked and hooded stranger helped him with his frantic work of hauling the broken but still very heavy body away on a cart that the stranger had conveniently helped the necromancer procure.

The Stranger: “It’s me.”

Jíen (Played by Me): “What?”

The Stranger lifted up his hood revealing himself to be Trantox the assassin.

Trantox (Played by Jenn): “It’s me. You tried to get me killed!”

Jíen: “What me? No! No I did not!”

Trantox (with a Yeah-Right scowl on his face): “I was there about 5 ft. away when you talked to that Naga. Hiding.”

Jíen: “Oh. Um. I thought I’d get paid more. He ripped me off.”

Trantox: “You know I should totally kill you right now.”

Jíen: “Um, uh. Hmmm. Don’t you have bigger problems right now? Like the Shakai.”

Trantox: “That’s why I found you. Um, huh what?”

The necromancer looked at the assassin like he was crazy before realizing his attentions had diverted to talking to the intelligent dagger. Jíen shuddered.

Trantox: “Naw we won’t kill him yet. We won’t kill you yet but the dagger wants bloooood, so don’t cross us again.”

Jenn was wagging her finger at me. Sheesh.

The necromancer and the assassin delivered the mutilated, rotten pile of meat and shattered bone to the charnel house. The pair decided to walk back to the Troll and wait for whatever would come besides Jíen had a debt to pay off. On their way out of the charnel house a street rat stopped them and passed them a message that Dravor (played by Gil) had skipped town with the dark priest Exvorum (Gil couldn’t continue the campaign as his work schedule had changed). The pair shrugged and continued on.

The dark duo made it to the Whiskey Troll Tavern later that night very near the middle of the night. The place was mostly empty save for those huddled at a table in the corner. These were the Half-giant Skull-Smash, his manager the faun, a human fighter in chainmail (probably a bodyguard), and a saloon bum. All were fairly drunk and the table was packed with mostly empty vessels and half-eaten food.

Jíen settled his debts with the faun and while doing so had noticed the bulging sack of gold at the faunic manager’s side. Skull-Smash’s winnings were substantial. The necromancer returned to his coconspirator’s side and together they hatched a plan. They ordered drinks for the whole place and before the waitress took the pitcher to Skull-Smash’s table the assassin dropped some paralysis toxin into it. Then the villains sat back and waited.

After an hour it was apparent that the poison had only affected the faunic manager and the fighter. The giant, though extremely drunk, showed absolutely no sign of the toxic effect. The saloon bum on the other hand seemed a bit stiff in the joints but otherwise he was okay as well. Trantox began mumbling to his dagger again and was preparing for a fight by oiling its blade with poison. Jíen was getting nervous.

Suddenly, a naga in a black-dragon hide cloak wearing a golden snake mask with emerald & onyx scales appeared right in front of the dark duo’s table. The creature pointed at Trantox and then his dagger shouting, “Thief! Return what you have stolen now!”

Another naga slithered from behind a pillar equipped with a naginata, there were undoubtedly more slithering about in the shadows of the musty tavern. Trantox stood and seemed to want to give up the dagger but simply could not bring himself to do it.

Cris (the GM): “Its not gonna let you do that. It’s want blood.”

Jenn (after failing the dagger’s ego check): “Awe man. I guess I’ll attack the cloaked guy then.”

Trantox (gnashing his teeth and sneering at the Cloaked Naga): “You’re gonna have to pry it from my cold dead hands!”

The assassin lunged at the cloaked naga but the one with the polearm leapt in front of the blow taking the point and the poison. The cloaked naga, recognizable as a mage, cast a spell that Jíen recognized as Bone Blast. The assassin’s left arm went limb as the bone shattered. The necromancer, while no one was paying him any mind, calmly but quickly moved over to the half-giant’s table.

Skull-Smash was completely embroiled in the fight before him. The necromancer eased over to the side of his unconscious manager and drew out a black pearl from his robe. The naga mage cast another spell and Trantox froze in place as another naga fighter slid from the shadows over to him.

Jíen noticed on closer inspection that the body guard was actually dead ( rolled a Natural 1 on his save) so the necromancer cast Animate the Dead and shoved the black gem into the corpse’s gaping mouth with orders to attack the drugged and sleeping manager. It immediately rose and coup de graced Skull-Smash’s manager. But the giant hadn’t noticed as at that same moment another naga fighter used his curved sword to decapitate Trantox.

So harnessing his experience as a gladiator manager, Jíen shot up and shouted, “Look! That evil wizard has cursed your companion and he’s killed your manager!”

The howl of anguish that escaped the mighty lungs of Skull-Smash rattled the bones of everyone in the place and froze the naga mage in his place his hand inches from plucking the prized dagger from the assassin’s headless corpse. The table splintered and flew as the half-giant kicked it away and charged the naga assassins wielding his great club. Jíen absconded with the sack of gold just before the carnage began.

Later, safe back at the villa, Jíen found that the sack held 20 gold talons stamped with unfamiliar hill-lander brands, 600 platinum pieces, and 1,000 gold pieces. Combined with his stash he was pretty well off. However, his companions were either dead or fled away. There were paladins patrolling the street and the city was probably going to carry out a no tolerance policy for the 7-day while the games were taking place.

Jíen the Deadlands necromancer thought hard about the direction his life had taken and quickly decided on what he would do with the rest of it. After all, managing fighters was very profitable and he knew where to get a real champ in need of a manager. Even if the champ didn’t survive the fight with the nagas Jíen could always fix that.

The End

Campaign Played between February and May 2016

Afterword: Skull-Smash did survive that fight by the way and Jíen was able to talk his way into becoming his manager. Go figure.