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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.

Necromancing Xuun Pt.11: Funny Little Death Games Pt.2

Game day, the morning the pit-games were to begin. The pit-games functioned as an amateur Weapons fit for a fighterfighter-league apart from the formal and in some respects over regulated official gladiatorial circuit. The fighters matched according to general size and weight with some attention paid to their respective physical prowess and strength. Armor restricted to the arms, legs, and the center of the chest. Other bits legal if both opponents are equipped similarly. Weapons were similarly regulated and rigorously inspected more so than the fighters.

Just before dawn Jíen got his fighter to the arena. It was a large stone building with coliseum seating covered by an awning-like ceiling under which lay the vault-ceilinged galleries. The wounded tended to and fighters vetted and equipped within. Also under the stone step-seats was the entry gallery where vendors sold their wares and bets tendered. The ring was a dirt floor surrounded by a shallow moat meant for the handlers, referees, and judges. On opposite sides of the arena were the gates through which the fighters would enter the ring.

Jíen’s fighter Bludbaer was to face off against one Zurat, a Westlander savage armed with a double-sword. The place was bristling with flags, banners, and ribbons of every color imaginable. The fight doctor cleared Zurat, his face painted with evil blue designs. The doctor moved over to Bludbaer as Zurat jaunted out of sight to await the match behind his assigned gate. The doctor cleared Bludbaer after a cursory glance. Jíen let out a relieved breath.

The Swampers’ Guild was backing Zurat and Jíen couldn’t resist making a gentleman’s bet that his fighter would win. Pit fights continued until one of the competitors couldn’t. They were almost always a death-match. The bookies gave Bludbaer 2-to-1-odds in his favor. Jíen took that bet.

It wasn’t long before Jíen collected 290 gp from the swampers but Bludbaer had taken a fair amount of damage (a whopping 20 Hit Points). Fortunately the wine-blood gambit had proven believable to all onlookers. So much so that White Star healers kept approaching and offering their services for a small charge. So the necromancer quickly shuffled his fighter into a quiet corner of the hospital gallery and repaired the undead thing’s damage the best he could using his Necrology (and spell slots).

The next match and the last of the day for Jíen’s creature would be against a double-axe wielding fighter named Scarnor but the odds were again on Bludbaer’s side. Again, it was a short bout and the necromancer took 2,075 gp in winnings. At the end of a very bloody day the fighters left in competition were Baenox Blood-Axe, Zarcar the faun (Rantcor’s “guy”), Skull-Smasher a half-hill-giant, and Bludbaer. After some of the officials began making off-hand comments that Bludbaer had an uncanny resemblance to another fighter, one who had come in second place last year Jíen took that as a sign to get out of there quick. He was long gone when they remembered the second place fighter’s name, Baercor.

Later at the Troll packed and noisy with fight fans, Jíen fed Bludbaer red wine which several fans were also sending over to the table. It was soon crowded with bottles, tin goblets, and wood cups by the time the necromancer retreated with his fighter back to the tomb.

The next day at midday, Bludbaer was again in the arena facing off with Zarcor the Rockhollow faun armed with a trident and gladius. The odds were 10 to 1 in favor of Zarcor. Jíen bet 2,000 gp on Bludbaer. Emboldened by his observation of the pit doctor, Jíen had cast Invigoration of Unlife into his creation just before leaving the tomb that morning heightening his fighter’s abilities a few notches.

The fight was a desperate one nonetheless. Bludbaer fell quickly and Jíen mentally controlling the undead fighter from the sidelines put his charisma to use. He howled and pulled at his hair and actually got the crowd to begin chanting Bludbaer’s name. That’s when he allowed the creature to rise again to wild cheers from the bloodthirsty throng. Though as a result it’s Negative Aura (the animating force behind the undead and their abilities) diminished (permanent -1).

The second round was brief. Bludbaer chopped down the unbelieving faunic warrior. The arena was erupting with chants of Bludbaer! Jíen’s take on that fight was a respectable 18,000 gp. Only 8,000 of it was given in coinage however, the rest was in a Writ. The matches concluded with Skull-Smash wining his match in quite the messy fashion. The other fighters were either dead or too wounded to continue progressing through the ranks. It would be Bludbaer versus Skull-Smash the next day with 5 to 1 odds in Skull-Smash’s favor. Jíen was hoping for a massive payday as he had a plan forming in his wicked little brain.

Jíen with his bandaged fighter in tow (just to keep the healers away) went straight to the betting tables to make a 10,000 gp wager. A grizzled faun introducing himself as Skull-Smash’s manager approached the young necromancer and the two began a bragging contest which the faun won. After a little more verbal sparring the young necromancer became flustered and ended the conversation with “oh yeah”! He then went on to place the 10,000 gp on Bludbaer to win on the morrow because “that’s how unsure” he was about his own fighter. The young necromancer walked hurriedly away back towards the tavern eager to leave the arena behind when he stopped suddenly in his tracks as a sudden realization smashed into his brain.

Me (Jíen’s Player): “$#!*”

Cris (the GM): “Ahahah! That’s right! You were supposed to bet AGAINST yer guy! Nope! You already made the bet! Ah-hahaha!”

Later at the Troll the necromancer again found himself talking to the faunic manager of Skull-Smash. After a few rounds, on the faun of course, they decided to wager a little side bet; 2,000 gp each winner take all. After that Jíen sat back, drank, and ate a little more.

Later in the night, the necromancer saw some Scael Nagas surround a peasant in a dark corner of the tavern as they harassed the poor man with questions about the theft of a certain star metal dagger. He also spotted the mark of the Shakai tattooed on their arms. After they dealt with the peasant he approached the one that appeared to be the leader and was paid 150 gp in exchange for some information about Rantcor and the Broken String. The necromancer was disappointed as he thought that the information provided was worth more but he shrugged and left the Troll with Bludbaer following.

Instead of retreating to his familiar old tomb this night though, Jíen decided to crash at the haunted villa instead for safety’s sake. He simply had the resident wraiths open the locked gates to him. During the night before going to sleep the necromancer had a conversation of sorts with the “boss” wraith. At least as much, a conversation a mindless undead creature can provide. Wraiths only retain a few negative emotions and the thoughts tied to what they used to be both of which replay like broken records in random combinations.

They do harbor some of the knowledge and secrets they knew in life though that can be brought out through careful and clever manipulation granted the thing isn’t trying to kill its interrogator. The withered-horror revealed to the necromancer a long undisturbed cubbyhole, unfortunately empty, in the bedroom wall. So Jíen used it to stash a small horde of 8,520 gp.

To Be Concluded…

Necromancing Xuun Pt.10: Funny Little Death Games Pt.1

Late morning in the Whiskey Troll Tavern, Dravor the blackguard and Jíen the necromancer were eating a breakfast of stewed stringy gray meat, probably rat, tough coin bread, and whiskey Dagger and snake assassin guild markfortified ale. Trantox the assassin swooped in and sat at the table joining his compatriots. The Poisonwood assassin turned to the young necromancer.

Trantox (Played by Jenn): “Hey! Could you I.D. this for me? But don’t let anybody see.”

Jíen did as he was bid but as a favor. The weapon had a razor sharp serpentine starmetal blade with decorative runes winding up the cheek and a finely wrought gold guard and gold-wire wrapped grip with a strange purplish-black stone as pommel. The Deadlands necromancer visibly tensed as he touched the weapon and after summoning up the best of his arcane knowledge, almost spasmodically he slid the thing back to the assassin.

The assassin snatched it up and tucked it under his cloak quickly surveying the half empty tavern to make sure nobody saw the item. Jíen told Trantox that the weapon was intelligent and evil to boot (also a +2 weapon). The assassin was affected by a strange and disturbing (in Jíen’s opinion anyway) sort of glee. Trantox immediately slunk away softly giggling. The necromancer was suspicious that the weapon’s ego was already taking root in the assassin’s mind.

A little while after the assassin left the tavern for destination unknown the blackguard casually pointed out a corpse slumped against a pillar to the necromancer. Upon investigation the corpse appeared to be a murder victim with a gaping wound in the back, its feet bare, and the tethers to its missing coin purse cut. So, naturally the necromancer dragged it back to his tomb under the pretext of delivering it to the charnel house.

It took until evening to animate the corpse, programmed with a mission of vengeance against the one(s) responsible for its death whoever they may have been. Frankly, it was just something for the necromancer to occupy his time. A short while after the thing stumbled off into the streets Jíen made a beeline back to the tavern.

The Troll was packed it was again a familiar but reeking, as if it ever smelled anything but bad, sea of yellow light. After wading through the congested haze the necromancer quickly found a seat near the wall where hung the giant spiked club and near the always vacant and bone dry carven table. The place was noisy with agitated conversation and excited argument. The atmosphere as taught as knotted troll-gut, everyone was anticipating the games. There were Westlanders, Ivorans, and various others of all stripes most wearing cheaply dyed sashes painted with the heraldry of their favorite fighters marking them as games fanatics.

Then a fight broke out between the members of what appeared to be an adventuring group. Jíen spotted an unrolled parchment upon their table, the apparent source of ire. The young necromancer tried to keep an eye on it to see if anyone snatched it up. Eventually a few of the adventurers ended up dead and the others fled. Somewhere in this Jíen had lost track of the parchment and only realized too late that it was gone.

It wasn’t long after that before a duel between two pirate swordsmen broke out. Weary with boredom the necromancer took his leave of the place and retreated to his tomb. He spent the night preparing his fighter, making sure its makeshift stomach, a wineskin, was secure and filled with red wine.

Come morning the necromancer found himself breakfasting alone. Just as he finished eating Trantox stumbled to the table. He was covered in blood with a serious gut wound. A fat sack of swag tucked under his left arm.

Trantox (to Jíen): “You sense any magic?”

Jíen (Played by me): “I can only sense death and undeath.”

Trantox: *Blank Stare*

Jíen: “I have to inspect the item (using my Spellcraft skill). And it takes a little while.”

Trantox (disappointed in a sinister sort of way): “Oh.”

With his usual uncanny sense of perfect timing the bard, Rantcor wandered in and sat down with the necromancer and Poisonwood assassin. He passed Trantox a small vial of healing potion. He told the assassin to meet back up with him at the Broken String at midnight. To maintain appearances the bard signaled for a round of whiskey fortified ale for the table.

Jíen engaged the bard in some small talk about a few odds and ends eventually turning the subject towards the upcoming games.

Rantcor: “Putting my money on Zarcor, last year’s pit champ. 3 to 1 odds; can’t lose.”

The necromancer also found out that the underdog was one Blood-Axe with 12 to 1 odds. He was a half-faun from a place called Rockhollow or somewhere thereabouts. The bard took his leave soon after that. A few minutes later, a few of the city guard chased some “scumbag” thieves into the tavern from the street and thought that they had cornered the rogues who still were able to slip away.

Come midnight, Jíen found himself accompanying the assassin to the Broken String. The place was low key and quiet as usual with the same drunk passed out at the bar and the same faun bartender on duty. Exotic incense still perfumed the air that the necromancer found repulsive in its sweetness and for the first time he noticed that, the plastered walls were lavender in color. Quite the expensive pigment, he thought.

Already there, Rantcor waved them into a private booth. Trantox placed his sack on the table and slid it across the table over to the shady bard. He peeked into the bag shifting it a little here and there, inspecting its contents. After a few seconds, he produced a leather sack of his own and poured out a measure of gold coins. Nothing could make the necromancer’s eyes gleam more but a beautiful corpse or a pile of newly struck gold.

In total, the bard insisted that Trantox count them over a bottle of wine, the assassin had netted 3,600 gp. Trantox bagged the money and placed the purse inside of his shirt next to his heart. Rantcor then took it upon himself to give the hapless assassin a “head’s up”.

Rantcor (almost casually): “The Shakai are after you.”

The assassin shrugged it off meanwhile Jíen shot the assassin a wide-eyed WTF glare. The Shakai were the premier assassin’s guild of Xuun. Their emblem, a dagger with a red serpent coiled about the cold blade. The necromancer sat stunned while the bard took his leave. Trantox unconcerned went to haggle with the faunic bartender for some healing potions. After he was able to recover his senses, Jíen quietly slipped away back to his tomb.

To Be Continued…

Necromancing Xuun Pt. 9: Poison Phantoms

The dark duo stood before the looming adobe villa under the light of the white moon. It was time to face the wraiths of the house and earn some gee-pees. They had met up at the Troll, as usual, earlier that evening but Dravor the blackguard had been late.

On the way back from their initial inspection of the villa Jíen the necromancer and the blackguard had encountered a minor but loud argument in the street. A couple of town guardsmen were harassing a small group of peasants. One of the guards was holding a wanted poster aloft which was bearing the likeness of Dravor.

Jíen immediately pivoted and began walking, calmly, the other way away from the blackguard and the small group of guards and townsfolk.  The necromancer burst into a panicked run when Dravor cast Banefire on the wanted poster. As the Deadlander skidded around a corner he heard shouts of: “Over there! That’s HIM!”

After things had calmed down Jíen met Trantox the assassin from Poisonwood at the Whiskey Troll Tavern and the assassin had passed him 2 vials of paralysis toxin to be used to complete the gas grenades he had already ordered from the Deadlands necromancer.

It was dusk before all three were finally around the damp boards of their customary table. The newly united trio was again destined to split as Trantox had some mysterious “business” to take care of. The blackguard and the necromancer had decided to go on the ghost hunt come nightfall.

Both exited the place leaving the warm yellow light of the raucous and overcrowded tavern behind and trading its thick pipe-smoke rich atmosphere for the fresh empty night air of the city streets. They had little trouble finding their way back to the accursed villa.

They entered the place; Zarkar had lent the necromancer a key, and immediately the duo noticed that they had forgotten about the corpse in the kitchen.

Cris (the GM): “HA-HA Ha! That’s right! You guys left it right there! It’s all rotten!”

Me (Jíen’s Player): “Damn. Well, I guess after I’m done here I’ll drop the body off at the charnel house.”

Ignoring the sweet stench of rotten human flesh, Jíen began to use his uncanny sense of the undead to “sniff out” their quarry. It was no surprise that he was able to sense something hovering about the kitchen where the maggoty corpse lay.

Suddenly, emerging from the shadows was the wraith of the dead cook bearing a butcher’s knife. Its flesh appeared pale blue and withered which stretched it tight across the phantom skull underneath.  Jíen tried to rebuke the creature but to no avail. But, unable to resist its aura of despair (he rolled a natural 1), the young necromancer collapsed to the ground rendered utterly helpless at the feet the monster.

Dravor’s faith in his demon lord preserved his sanity. It slashed at him fumbling the attack badly losing grip on its weapon. The wraith’s butcher-knife flung across the room landing point first into the butcher’s block in the corner.

The blackguard used his Hold Undead ability against it stopping it in its tracks. He smashed his zanbato into its strange demi-corporeal phantasmal flesh then fumbled the follow up blow flinging his weapon across the kitchen floor. As he ran to fetch his horse-cutter Jíen was finally able to shake off the effects of the monster’s unholy energies.

The blackguard readied his weapon after snatching it back up and waited for the necromancer to work his magic. Jíen seized control of the shriveled monster (a successful Rebuke Undead). Upon questioning as to where the one who turned it the creature simply pointed up.

They guessed that in the upstairs bedroom they would find the “head” wraith. So without hesitation the daring duo stomped up the steps and found the heady old wooden door ajar. Just inside they could it. Its skull was bald and its mummified face hideously withered with its skin pulling away from the wet black rims of its eyes and gums. It was dressed in fine blue-green garments which appeared as if new. In its claw-like right hand it clutched a mace.

The pall of despair that surrounded the creature failed to take hold of the young necromancer’s mind but the blackguard backed off and wept that it was a losing battle. They were going to lose and die and if they didn’t die here they would eventually die anyway.

The creature struck out at the necromancer thumping him with the mace. Jíen felt a little of his life-force seep away (he suffered a Constitution point drain) so the young necromancer tried to seize control of the creature but failed. The cook’s wraith put itself between the necromancer and the mace-wielding monster granting Jíen some cover. Dravor fighting through his deep misgivings and loss of drive tried to cast Hold Undead on the creature but failed.

The necromancer tried with all of his will again to try to control the monster but again failed. The blackguard readied his weapon should the necromancer fail again.

Me (Jíen’s Player): “Aw man, don’t kill it! I want this thing as one of my minions!”

Gil (Dravor’s Player): “Okay. It’s your funeral. But if I get a chance I’m going to destroy this thing!”

The necromancer’s last rebuke attempt was successful. Jíen dismissed both wraiths to the astral plane “until further notice”. The creatures faded back into the gloom from whence they came.

Later that night, the duo split up and went their separate ways, after collecting the 25 gold pieces Jíen headed back to his tomb. He was certain he had a new place to hide out besides the stuffy and somewhat crowded tomb even though Zarkar had taken his key back. As he laid back on the slab to sleep Jíen counted the days until the games. He figured only 2 or 3 more to go.

Next morning Jíen headed back to the Whiskey Troll and passed by a sight that caused him to rubber neck, stop, then cock his head to one side. There were wanted posters, a lot of them, and everywhere. All of them had the woodcut likeness of Dravor on them.

The bills listed his crimes. He had robbed the Silver Coil, roughed up the clerk at the Golden Feather Inn, a place he had also robbed, and killed a couple of city guards. The price on his head was 1,500 gp.

To Be Continued…

Necromancing Xuun Pt.8: A Bag of Black Pearls

Dravor the blackguard and Jíen the necromancer found themselves before the blazing Black pearls from a ratteroversized marble hearth of the black hearted Korvo-Doom, master-slaver. They had presented the underworld boss with the severed heads of four Hyvalian Templars. The pair was now each 400 gold pieces richer.

The young one-armed necromancer offered Korvo an extra service, to make one of the heads speak the answers to two of his questions. The master-slaver offered 5 platinum pieces and the Deadlander worked his necromancy.

Jíen (played by yours truly): “You may now ask your questions. Um, sir.”

Korvo-Doom (rolling his eyes to the gory skull on his table): “Who’s… was, your leader?”

The dead thing lurched a bit as its jaw seemed to flap uncontrollably for a second before a gurgling wet voice oozed from behind blood-crusted teeth.

Severed Head (opening its eyes, the yellow orbs rolled slowly transfixing on Korvo-Doom): “Croale Strohm … High paladinnnn… of the light.”

Korvo-Doom: “How many troops on the boat, the Golden Wind?”

Severed Head: “Left port… with… Fifffty templarsss… ten… paladinssss.”

The thing’s miserable yellow eyes rolled back up into its head as its eyelids drooped and it was still. Almost reflexively in a fit of disgust Korvo snatched the head by its scabby hair and tossed it into the fire.

Jíen: “Um. Do you need the heads for anything else? I could take them for you.”

Korvo-Doom dismissively gestured with his hand as he sat and gulped a mouthful of dark wine. “Take ‘em all.” The necromancer even pulled the head from the fire before parting ways with Dravor and retreating to his temporary home, the tomb in the city cemetery.

Jíen went about de-fleshing and boiling the heads the roasted head providing a meal of warm brains to fuel his night work. He thought about perhaps a nice head-cheese after he fished the clean skulls out of his small black iron cauldron. However, he hadn’t any spices and was an abysmal cook. So he satisfied himself by creating four Chattering Skulls instead which would help to secure his tomb. He later just dumped the steaming Templar renderings over a nearby grave.

After animating the skulls, the necromancer charged an unused long-bone from his stash with a Wound spell. Amid the musky stench of boiled human flesh the necromancer laid on the slab of the sarcophagus to catch some shut-eye, sleeping under the unblinking watch of his undead gladiator Bludbaer.

Morning at the Whiskey Troll Tavern, Trantox the assassin slid 10 gold pieces over to Jíen. The assassin wanted the necromancer to make a poison-gas grenade. The trio, Dravor the blackguard was also at the table enjoying his morning whiskey, noticed for morning the place was quite crowded.

There were cultists with black tattoos of chains around their necks, wrists, and ankles, currently probably apathetic allies at most. There were also gladiators and their entourages from far and wide, presumably for the games and a few Hill-Lander fauns whom were talking to the Troll’s owner bearing with them several barrels of high quality Hill-Lander whiskey.

Trantox then passed Jíen a slightly used Alchemist’s Kit but the assassin also lacked the poison with which to actually arm the grenades. The two reached an agreement where the assassin would go concoct the poison and the necromancer would formulate and fill the glass containers for the grenades. Hopefully after about a day the assassin would have 3 poison-gas grenades.

Trantox left the tavern with a flourish of his cape and as the necromancer stood from the damp board readying to leave for his lair, a human ratter accosted him.

Ratter (in a hissing phlegmatic whisper): “Hey! You the one lookin’ fer black gems.”

The necromancer asked to see the gem and was shocked to find a weighty large black pearl in the palm of his corpse-pale hand. The ratter shook then opened his bag slightly revealing several other black pearls of the same apparent quality.

Ratter: “A hundred gold apiece.”

Jíen paid the price and stuffing the small bag of black pearls in his shirt over his heart left with Dravor following. In lieu of going to his tomb to bother creating the grenades for Trantox as he lacked the essential ingredient, poison, he instead decided to go check out the haunted house gig to try to rake in some more cash and maybe scope out a new target.

Sometime later, the duo met Zarkar the landlord in front of the tall wooden gates that stood as entrance into the adobe villa’s courtyard. After a brief and somewhat terse round of greetings, Zarkar knocked on the gates, somewhat reluctantly, but as no one answered he took the two hired Ghostbusters in. He was very displeased that the servants had failed to answer the gate or the summons he had sent at the top of his lungs.

Zarkar told Jíen in the brief stroll through the overgrown courtyard that a trio of adventurers leasing the place at the moment. They had paid him for a year in advance but had so far not really stayed in the place much. In fact, they had been gone for a few months now and he had no idea when they might come back, if ever.

The three men wandered into the heavy iron-studded front door which creaked open onto a dark, quiet, and apparently deserted front hall. Zarkar squeaked out a demand for the servants to answer but his weak words choked off suddenly as a foul stench met his nostrils.

Jíen (inhaling the foul air as a professional wine-taster sips a fine wine): “Yup, that’s a corpse.”

Indeed they found the shriveled semi-mummified corpse of the cook lying face down in the kitchen by the scullery.

Jíen (stooping as he inspected the corpse): “Maybe been here several days. Maybe a week, though not much actual rot. Hmmm.”

Zarkar (sweating and shaking): “But, but, I just talked to him YESTERDAY.”

Jíen: “Well then there’s definitely something here. I think I can deal with it.”

Zarkar (as he flies out the front door): “Let me know when you’re done. I’ll be outside with your fee!”

The young necromancer cast Commune with the Dead on the corpse and found that a resident wraith had killed the man, a wraith now himself along with an upstairs maid. The necromancer’s senses were piqued as finely attuned to the uncanniness of the undead as they were. Jíen could sense a presence over the corpse which then left the kitchen then floated almost aimlessly upstairs into a bedroom behind a closed door.

The blackguard made Jíen lead the way as he could “sniff it out”. The necromancer fearlessly opened the door to the bed chamber. He already knew wraiths are nocturnal and can really only manifest and therefore be dangerous at night. The duo left and met Zarkar outside. The necromancer telling him that he would be back after dark to exorcise the creatures from the property. Dravor asked after the occupants.

Zarkar: “Adventurers. Might be Swampers or something like that. They must be adventuring out somewhere; they’ve been gone for a few months now. But they did pay me in advance so I keep the place running.”

Jíen: “Can we know their names. Just in case they come home and um … I’m in the middle of … this.”

Zarkar: “Oh yeah. I believe the lessees are called Cantra and Phenox.”

To Be Continued…

Necromancing Xuun PT.7: Golden Wind, Silver Gauntlet

It was night, the white moon was full and bright its light dancing on the black waters of theHoping for a Templar blood-moon lagoon-bay. Rows stirred by the blackguard Dravor sloshed in the water as the dark trio made their way towards the three-mast lugsail Templar ship, the Golden Wind. The trio was about to take action for Korvo-Doom against the Hyvalian Theocracy having just barely avoided some town guards on the night-watch.

Dravor had been extremely nervous at their appearance as if the authorities may want him. For what exactly was unknown to Jíen. As the guards neared them the young necromancer threw a Gnat Swarm their way and thus distracted, the trio beat it to the harbor. For the meantime, Dravor found himself rowing a rented boat which cost an additional silver-piece to keep its owner’s lips sealed. As he rowed he wondered why he hadn’t just murdered the man.

As the Ivoran-style flat-bottom row boat clunked lightly to the planks of the Golden Wind’s stern the team decided to go over the plan one more time. Jíen had failed in his part as they simply couldn’t track down a sailor from the ship. So, it was the assassin, Trantox that would have to silently scale the ship’s side and slip onboard killing the man on watch and then lowering a rope for the other two.

Jenn (Trantox’s Player): “Wait. I have to climb?”

Me & Gil (Jíen’s & Dravor’s Players respectively): “YES.”

Jenn: “Uhm. My Climb skill sucks. So…”

Me: “Let me see that, um, WHAT!? It’s at negative TWO!”

Jenn: “Well yeah. My strength sucks. But my DEX ROCKS!”

So, Trantox pulled out his trusty grappling-hook and promptly tossed it into the water unintentionally with a profound splash. The trio froze and listened, they could hear the muttering of at least a handful of sailors. Suddenly, a head popped over the edge of the railing and before the sailor could yell Jíen cast Gnat Swarm on him. While the sailor swatted at the flies sputtering Dravor rowed the skiff to the opposite side of the boat.

Sailor: “Hey! They’re over here! I see ‘em!”

Another Hyvalian thrust the business end of a crossbow over the railing and shot at Trantox. The assassin barely dodged the bolt. The deck bell began furiously ringing and the trio thought it best to abort their mission especially since none of them could swim.

Cris (the GM): “What? Really? None of you can swim? Huh.” He jotted something down in his notes.

Fortunately the trio had a wide lead over the other two boats which were in pursuit that first had to be lowered from the ship into the water. The trio was already dissolving into the filthy alleys of Xuun before the theocrats were halfway to shore.

Next morning the dark trio met back up at the Whiskey Troll Tavern. Dravor came to the table with some info on a couple of Templars whose morning routine was to head from the Golden Feather Inn to the Silver Gauntlet, a tavern that catered primarily to Hyvalians and a favorite of those theocrats that hadn’t given up the vice of drink.

On his way to the troll one Zarkar had approached Jíen as the man required the services of someone that could deal with “spirits”. Apparently the man was a landlord of an adobe villa which was haunted and he wanted the ghosts gone when his current tenants, a trio of adventurers, got back. It paid 25 gp and the necromancer had already promised to do the job but on the morrow. The other two weren’t particularly thrilled with that idea when Jíen  had brought it to the table and declined as “backup”.

Trantox however, was determined to seek out and eliminate his target, the Scael gladiator. His companions once again declined his plan. So in a huff the assassin got up from the table and headed for the Silver Scale. After a couple of whiskey fortified ales, Jíen and the blackguard took their leave and headed into the north-side of the city seeking the Silver Gauntlet. It would be an even two-way split on Korvo’s bounty.

It wasn’t long before the pair of miscreants with zombie-girl in tow, were skulking in the shadows of an alley that looked out onto the “good-guy” tavern. After some time the duo saw a group of four Hyvalian Templars approaching the mouth of the place.

The Templars were decked out in full chainmail suits with gold-trimmed white surcoats bearing the golden sun and rays on their chests and open helms. A golden chalice medallion hung around each of their thick necks. Each armed with a straight one-handed great sword and dagger. One of them was also carrying a light crossbow.

The group of churchmen immediately took notice of the scrawny one-armed necromancer near the mouth of a nearby alley especially when he shouted at his partner in crime: “Yeah! Get her Dranor! She’s a follower of Boahng! Let’s do her right in this alley!” They could see the large blackguard apparently dragging a struggling girl into the dark recesses of the alley. So of course they immediately pulled their weapons and jaunted heroically into the shadows.

In the alley the blackguard took a high guard stance with his zanbato as he and the necromancer waited to waylay the Hyvalians. As the first Templar charged in Dravor took an attack of opportunity. The blackguard smote the Templar on the helmeted head wounding him badly. The brained churchman responded with his great sword carving a nasty gash into Dravor’s side.

The second Templar into the alley grabbed the zombie in a mistaken attempt to rescue her. The third stopped about 10 ft. from Jíen and shot him. The zombie smashed her tiny fists into the second Templars face in a completely unexpected attack. He reacted instinctively by chopping her down in a single stroke, sudden horror smeared over his rugged but still boyish features.

Jíen cast Dread Invigoration and stepped in towards the first Templar touching him. The energy drain nearly stunned the man. The Templar then lost grip of his great sword which he flung deeper into the dark alley when he clumsily struck at Dravor. The zombie slowly rose back up.

The second Templar even more horrified chopped her back down again. The third Templar reloaded his crossbow. The first deflected a blow from Dravor’s horse-cutter with his dagger. The fourth who was lagging behind the group, charged at Dravor his sword narrowly missing the blackguard’s chest. The zombie rose for a second time.

Jíen tried to cast Animate Necrosis on the first Templar’s wounds but the church-warrior easily resisted. The second Templar shouted, “Undead!” and hacked into Jíen’s zombie, the sound of steel breaking through bone echoed down the filthy alley. The zombie however was still on her feet though she was now wearing her entrails as an apron.

Jíen hit the first Templar with another Dread Invigoration and Dravor followed up with a sword blow finally dropping him. The blackguard tried to cast a spell but failed distracted by the heat of the battle. The crossbowman nailed the necromancer with a bolt but dealt little damage through his magic amulet of armor. The second Templar chopped Jíen’s zombie down for the third time.

The zombie painfully lurched back up. Jíen hit the fourth Templar, the only one currently facing off with Dravor, with his Exsanguination spell wounding the churchman badly and healing his own wounds in the process as he gulped down the blood forced from the Hyvalian’s body.

The zombie slammed her mutilated body into the second Templar dealing no damage. His horror now turned wholly to disgust. Dravor struck the fourth Templar hacking a gory wound into his side. The Templar retorted wounding Dravor severely. The second Templar cleaved the zombie in two finally destroying it. The third reloaded his crossbow.

Dravor clinched with the fourth Templar on a parry and the second zombie-gore encrusted Templar hacked into him while he was helpless.

Cris (the GM): “Man, you could always just drop your weapon.”

Gil (Dravor’s Player): “No way! I need my weapon! My Zanbato.”

The blackguard was able to break the clinch and swung his massive blade around opening the fourth Templar’s chest dropping him. In a panic the crossbowman shot Dravor. The second Templar then hacked into the blackguard with a vicious strike and then easily parried the Dravor’s retort. The third Templar dropped his crossbow which clattered to the cobblestones and drew his sword.

All the while Jíen cast spell after spell but the Templars were either able to withstand the damage or resist the crippling magic of his spells altogether. In desperation Dravor power attacked the fourth Templar splitting his mail wide open and cleaving him into two gory halves. The last Templar charged and parried Dravor’s attack. The Templar responded with his sword and Dravor barely parried the desperate blow.

Again the Templar resisted the necromancer’s magic and Dravor eager to finish the fight put all his might behind another power attack hacking off the Hyvalian’s head in a single stroke. The trash strewn alley an abattoir soaked in blood, still warm guts squirmed over the filth.

Of course, before collecting their heads the duo looted the bodies for a grand total of 18 gp, 75 sp, and 70 cp. The pair split the take evenly and headed off to see Korvo-Doom with 4 bagged heads, after Jíen harvested a couple more long-bones, that is.

To Be Continued…