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Ratlings of Tanglethorn Pt.16: Judgement Night

Visual of the final confrontation with the roaches

It had been a week since the last street fight with the Roaches. Afheesh had just finished guard duty, already changed out of his colors, and bopping his way to the Dancing Rat. Surprisingly, it had been an interesting day. Near the end of the shift, he had ended up in the Bronze Tankard with his squad. Not much earlier, the ratling had single-handedly helped to avoid a confrontation between his squad and a group of Moth gang members. At the Bronze Tankard Afheesh paid for the entire squad’s drinks and on top of that, he had sprung for “the good stuff”.

Random Guard (the same one that started the trouble with the Moths earlier): “Haw, Haw! Didn’t know that ratlings were so RICH! Maybe next time we make your cut a little SMALLER! Haw, haw!

Afheesh (pulling one of his weapons): “Oh yeah! I’ll make YOURS a little smaller!”

Afheesh proceeded to try to mash the butt-spike of his troll-make weapon into the eye of the offender. The guard parried with his short-sword and their weapons locked.

Sergeant: “Knock it OFF! The ratling has purchased us some fine drinks!” He saluted Afheesh with his overflowing cup.

Afheesh holstered his dagger slapping over the offending guard’s full cup spilling it.

Afheesh (to the bartender and pointing at the rude guard): “I’m not paying for HIS!”

Afheesh strutted through the saloon doors of the Dancing Rat. Inside he spotted Wufcor (played by Isis) already bellied up to a table along with Needles (played by Natalie) and Sikeek (played by Jenn). Sikeek was in the middle of an all-day bender; she was flush with cash from gambling most of the day.

Wufcor motioned his fearless leader over. The canny-jack had been scoping out the alley where the Roaches had “handed them their  @$$es”. He had also been roaming through the series of alleys and streets for the past week that the Roaches had led them through that night. That path was the Roaches primary trafficking route for stolen goods and what-have-you. Because of his extra effort, Wufcor was eager to get to bloodletting. Afheesh cheerfully agreed.

Wufcor (angrily gulping down his jack): “Let’s go find us some Roaches!”

Sikeek: “Yeah! I have some bones to pick with them too!”

Later after dark, the ratling gang found themselves hiding in the alley across from the East Stacks and the Red Rose Well. They observed six Roaches (3 thugs and 3 gangsters) walk out of a side alley to loiter on the corner. Wufcor strained to listen in on their conversation. However, unable to control himself Afheesh immediately began to make a beeline, though prowling, directly to them. A second later Wufcor jaunted up to his side just before contact.

Wufcor: “Uhm. They’re on the lookout for three ratlings.”

Afheesh (yanking his troll-make weapons): “Well ain’t it their lucky day!”

Both ratling killers, undetected so far, leapt from the shadows each dropping a gangster before the Roaches knew what hit them.

One of the three Roach thugs frantically shouted a signal call and ran away towards the Stacks. Afheesh turned on the nearest gangster but the target easily parried his savage thrusts. Wufcor stabbed the same gangster in the back wounding him horribly. The blow forced the gangster to recuperate from the blow or drop immediately. Sikeek prowled around behind the remaining two thugs and got in a sneak attack against one wounding him bad. Sikeek easily avoided their clumsy retorts.

Afheesh fumbled one his weapons but stuck the other hilt-deep into the last gangster killing him instantly. Wufcor turned his attention towards the unhurt of the last two thugs and slashed him badly. The last two thugs turned and ran and the ratlings were ready to run them down but then heard the boots of reinforcements running in from all sides.

Dozens of Roach gangsters and thugs charged in from every alleyway flooding the plaza and crowding the area at the corner of the building that the ratlings had killed three of their brothers. Wufcor engaged a gangster who was able to keep up with the ratling’s speed and Sikeek got in a good blow on another but left only a scratch. A gangster covered in tattoos charged Afheesh. His dirk was easily parried. Another thug slashed at Sikeek striking only air. Yet another thug hurled himself recklessly at Wufcor and missed by a mile. Afheesh easily dropped the tattooed gang member.

Another thug attacked but missed Afheesh; Sikeek attacked another thug but got clinched. Another gangster struck at Afheesh with his dirk easily auto-dodging the ratling’s counter-attack. Afheesh then turned and killed another thug. Wufcor attacked the thug clinching Sikeek’s weapon wounding him badly, the bloodied street thug was determinedly keeping Sikeek’s weapon tied up no matter the cost. Afheesh dropped another Roach. There were now too many gang members to easily tell them apart. It was a mess of blood, struggling bodies, and death shrieks.

Even in this violent, tangled mass of humanity and ratling, our heroes could hear yet another wave of gang members running in all the while shouting, “it’s them! The ratlings! Get ‘em!” In response, Wufcor screamed, “Give me Phenor or there’ll be MORE bodies!” Immediately he dropped another thug with a single blow.

The ratlings found that in the current wave of Roaches their numbers were bolstered by knife-fighters using paired daggers. The numbers of thugs surrounding them precluded strategically focusing on any one target but instead flailing at the nearest foe. The storm of thirsty blades rained on the ratlings opening dozens of little cuts. Stomps, kicks, punches, everything from the gangsters was slowly bleeding and beating them down. Bouncing around between gangsters the ratlings transformed into bleeding bruised danger-balls with their flying blades finding random targets including eyes and testicles. However, the ratlings despite their wounds and suffering a few severe wounds from the knife-fighters continued hoping that victory was just a few more corpses away.

Suddenly, several quarrels thudded into the ground and walls near each ratling. Some of these appeared tipped with an oily poison.

Sikeek: “Aww crap! They have CROSSBOWS!”

Each ratling was close to losing consciousness from their wounds thus each decided to run for their lives. As they fled, they barely avoided the opportunistic knives of nearby foes. Once again, Afheesh found himself dropping barely conscious to the floorboards of the White Star healer’s guild. He looked over and found Needles standing over him soaking wet.

Needles (almost proud of himself): “I was hiding in a storm barrel.”

Natalie: “Seriously, no way I was gonna survive that.”

The next evening, Afheesh and his crew had gathered in the backroom of a shop backed by the Obsidian Brotherhood Mage Guild. Out front below the signboard hung another sign escutcheon shaped and painted brown with a black border and a golden eye at the center. The seal of the brotherhood. They were meeting with the owner, a mage by the name of Cankilnor. The fragile old man was dark of skin and in the drab plain brown robes common to his order. The ratlings were taking their turns making their marks on a scroll that the wizard had presented them at their leader’s behest.

Earlier, Afheesh had shirked guard duty and found a mage after he had had an idea. It turned out that he could get the old mage to cast a spell that could grant him a vision of his lost weapon and use it to track whoever had it, presumably the Roaches if not their Mantck leader. However, it would cost him 2,800 gold pieces or 56,000 bronze thorns. Nevertheless, the wizard had offered him an exchange. It was that he and his crew were to steal a tome bound in black dragon’s hide from one Malrig. This mage currently resided in a tower at the northwest corner of the Tin Well block. He and his crew would have to sign a pact of sorts, a Geas Quest. The rest of the crew could split a 5,000 bt reward amongst themselves after the job was done. Of course, the 5,000 was coming straight from Afheesh’s pocket.

Afheesh did understand what a Geas was generally, his crew did not and all signed. It was not long after that they were all on their way to Malrig’s tower. They were in view of the four story square tower its plastered exterior painted in yellow and black bands with red and spirals. However, just as they had gathered in its shadow and were contemplating a plan of attack…

Scarred Mantck Bounty Hunter (drawing his paired rune inscribed scimitars): “Well it was easy to find all of ya, probably be just as easy to kill all ya too!”

Behind the bounty hunter were a dozen charging Roach gangsters. Out of nowhere, Needles screeching a war cry leapt out and did a flying punch against the lead thug. He bounced off dealing no damage.

Cris the GM (to Natalie): “What!? Where’s all your ninja gear!? You have some bad @ss ninja stars that I gave you too!”

Natalie: “Oh all that’s back in my nest, I don’t want any of these people to know that I’m a ninja they’re evil.”

Isis (commenting on Needles total lack of a weapon): “Oh yeah I took my dagger back so I could sell it! Hah HAH!”

Needles was in reality a Moon Rat, the Arvanian version of a ninja along with specialized equipment and armor. Natalie had decided when roleplaying her character that Needles would strive to keep all of that secret from everybody.

Afheesh charged the Mantck with a pair of powerful strikes. Both attacks simply swept aside. As a result of the charge, the Mantck struck back at Afheesh and the ratling barely auto-dodged both blades. Sikeek struck at a nearby gangster who parried her blow. Needles bouncing around easily dodging the strikes aimed his way but got nailed by a natural 20. The blow forced Needles back to recover. Another gangster buried his dirk to the hilt in Afheesh getting in a lucky gut-shot wounding the ratling badly. A wave of knife blows fell all around the ratlings fortunately missing them all.

Afheesh dropped a nearby gangster. The Mantck struck again at Afheesh but the Quickling easily dodged (Natural 20). Wufcor turned on the Mantck and jabbed him good but leaving only a scratch. Sikeek dropped a gangster. Another storm of blades fell on the ratlings from the large group of Roaches. Needles was nearly killed but was able to endure long enough to run away (he rolled a natural 20 recovery). Afheesh dropped another gangster. The Mantck scored a double hit on Afheesh wounding him horribly. The rune covered scimitars glowed evilly and the Quickling realized he was no longer as quick as he had once been. The Mantck swung at Wufcor missing both times and then backed out of the pile up and drank a healing potion healing him completely.

The Mantck bounty hunter charged back smashing his magic weapons in a double-weapon power attack at the ratling leader catching Afheesh completely off guard (Natural 1 auto-dodge). The paired blades sheared through the little ratling’s scant flesh and fragile bones. Before either of the two halves of his corpse hit the ground and as his fading vision beheld his companions in full retreat, his last thought was, “Heh, Geas Quest, at least those wimps will soon be joining me in HELL!”

The End

Campaign Played between September 2017 and February 2018

Rats of Tanglethorn Pt.15: Gangsters in Paradise

colors of roach gangsters

Early evening over the city of Tanglethorn, the dimming sky was aflame with yellow, red, pink, and smoky orange. Already a deep bluish gloom shrouded the narrow alleys completely and the already long shadows of buildings flowed like widening black rivers on either side of the wide paved boulevards. Along these murky paths, the group moved through the streets like the murderous thieves in the night that they were in pursuit of gangsters. The group of shadows led by Afheesh (played by me), was followed by a zigzagging Wufcor (played by Isis), the pad foot Sikeek (played by Jenn) taking up the rear.

Afheesh had thought that the scrawny Needles (played by Natalie) had not been able to keep up but was proven wrong when the group came to a stop under cover and where they had a superior vantage, behind some rain barrels. Needles had just appeared from seemingly nowhere when Afheesh turned to survey his troops.

The ratlings had been tracking a small group of low-level Roaches (a little history and a little more). The street thugs led them to an old tree growing near the thorn wall to the far east  of the city but still adjacent to the East Stacks. However, there the small gang of five thugs had joined a contingent of 10 full-fledged gangsters hanging around the tree where a human, presumably Phenor the Knife, leader of the Roaches conversed with a Mantck with a cutlass at each hip. Undoubtedly, that was Ikeek the Roach lieutenant.

Afheesh: “I guess they’re planning something. Let’s hang abouts and wait until they get on the move.”

Sikeek: “Then what?”

Afheesh: “Then we follow ‘em wait until it’s time to strike and go after the leaders and kill ‘em.”

Wufcor: “Yeah! Let’s kill ‘em all!”

Sikeek: ‘What are you CRAZY? There’s too many, they’ll kill us all!”

Needles: ‘Yeah. Especially me.”

Afheesh (turning to Sikeek initially): “Shut up you. By the way, that’s what the RIGHT TIME means! Now shut up and follow.”

Soon half of the gangsters broke off towards the west end with the Cutlass leading. Thus, the ratlings decided to follow them. Meanwhile, Afheesh kept an eye on Needles as they traveled in silence and recognized the wimp’s superior stealth, even when compared to his own. He became suspicious of the slight ratling.

The Roaches stopped in the plaza of the Pink Rose well to the north of the Pit. Subsequently, they walked to a tree across the street from where the group of ratling adventurers hid in an alley. Three merchants emerged from a nearby doorway and rushed south. Their multicolored silk robes ruffled and their cheap bronze jewelry clinked. Consequently, the gangsters and the ratlings followed them all the way to Mezcor’s Tower where the Roaches relaxed and waited.

Not even the Roaches were going to interfere in the paying of Mezcor’s tribute. The gates slowly creaked open by themselves as the last purple-red flames of dusk faded into night. So the lead merchant tossed a bag of coins onto the white flagstones of the forbidden courtyard and exhaled a sigh of relief. That was when he noticed the gangsters and he and his two cohorts began to move at a more rapid pace south pushing past and through other merchants that were converging on Mezcor’s black tower.

The gangsters kept up and the ratlings kept pace with them. During the moderately paced chase, it seemed to Afheesh and Wufcor that the gangsters knew that they were being followed. However, suddenly both ratlings and Sikeek spotted another group of five thugs with the Roaches leader waiting in an alley just ahead of the merchants. In an instant, the merchants were surrounded and pleading for a cheap exit.

Afheesh: “That’s it! Let’s get ‘em!”

Wufcor: “Alright!”

Sikeek: *exasperated sigh*

Needles (drowsily): “Well. Okay.”

A thug charges Afheesh missing by a mile with his dagger. Ignoring this lesser enemy, Afheesh in turn charged the Mantck leader but both of his weapons were easily parried. Wufcor stabbed a thug with his new dirk drawing some blood. Seeing that, Sikeek flanked the same opponent and nailed him with her dagger severely wounding him. Several of the thugs tried to overwhelm Sikeek and Wufcor with a rain of slashing blades but the ratlings avoided their clumsy strikes. Meanwhile, Afheesh and the Mantck fell into a lightning round of simultaneous attacks and counters leaving the Mantck barely scratched by a powerful blow and Afheesh suffering multiple, deep wounds.

The Mantck attacked again, Afheesh tried to anticipate but failing that tried to intervene with a final simultaneous attack but although wounding the Mantck badly he was also barely standing having failed to intercept the paired blows. Consequently, Wufcor rushed in and buried his blade in the Mantck’s back wounding him horribly. A mass of thugs surrounded and attacked the trio of adventurers from all sides while the Mantck was able to withdraw and drink a healing potion. Additionally, the ratlings could see Phenor, the Roach leader, whistle and be joined by five more full-fledged gangsters.

The trio of raltings was overwhelmed as Phenor and his gangsters attacked. In short, from the very first blow, the ratlings were obviously outnumbered. A series of parrying multiple blows and barely defending against the higher level and better-equipped gangsters ensued. However, Phenor attacked and nearly killed Sikeek with a single blow. She dropped to the ground and Afheesh moved in and slashed the gang leader. So, Wufcor ran away. At the edge of utter and thorough defeat, Afheesh roared and redoubled his attacks.

The Quickling managed to avoid the flurry of blows made at him lucking out when a few thugs had to retreat after fumbling their weapons. Vastly outnumbered he fought head-to-head with their leader, wounding him but nearly killed by a glancing blow. Then, suddenly, Phenor caught hold of one of his hook guard daggers with his knife and disarmed the ratling. Fortunately, Afheesh had been fighting with his old weapons and not the new troll-make daggers. It was obvious that the ratling in his current state and under these circumstances was no match for Phenor especially as he was without a single ally and outnumbered.

Because of his utter desperation, the ratling gritted his yellow teeth and dashed for freedom avoiding knife-blow after knife-blow leaving the brief battle behind. As a result of this flight, Phenor strutted after roaring in triumph through his broken teeth, every muscle in his slender frame flexed to bursting. Later, Afheesh flopped onto the floor of the nearest White Star guild. There he also met up with Wufcor. Here also was Needles.

Afheesh (to Needles): “Where the HELL were you!?”

Needles (shrugging): “Hiding. I ran away when I saw Wufcor running.”

Afheesh: “You spent the whole battle HIDING.”

Needles: “It’s what I’m good at.”

Isis (thumbing towards Natalie): “Yup, she’s really good at it; I’ve seen her character sheet.”

Immediately after his restoration, Afheesh dashed back to the scene to retrieve Sikeek who was barely alive. He also noted that his hook-guard dagger was gone, taken probably by a gang member after the fight. Back at the guild house, Wufcor paid for Sikeek’s healing. It later turned out that Wufcor had pickpocketed Sikeek on the way to the fight and used that money for his own and Sikeek’s healing costs.

Jennifer: “Aww man! They looted my body!”

Isis: *shrug*

Sikeek (to Wufcor): “Hey! Do you have any money I could borrow to buy new stuff?”

Afterwards, thoroughly beaten down, the four split up and limped off to their respective rented rooms. Needles slipped off to a hollow in the Thorn Ring amongst its thorns, a traditional thorn-runner nest. As a precaution, Afheesh switched establishments that night from the Long Rest Inn to the Yellow Lotus Inn.

The Quickling struggled for sleep although he was more than exhausted. He could not stop yearning for vengeance not just against the Roaches but Ikeek the double-cutlass and Phenor the knife. He would not stop until they were dead. His last try at sleep was ultimately successful. After all, he had guard duty in the morning.

To Be Continued…

Rats of Tanglethorn Pt.14: Wicked Blades

A readied blade whooshed past Wufcor’s head. Afheesh (played by yours truly) charged the human fighter one of his paired psi-like weapons parried easily as the second found its target. The human fighter winced trying to back further into the room as the ratlings flooded in. Sikeek (played by Jenn) dashed into the gap and buried her dagger to the hilt in his side. Blood ran all over the floor even so the fighter in bronze plate gritted his teeth, stopped, and stood his ground.

Wufcor (played by Isis) leapt back in and caught him under the arm blood spurting everywhere as the evil ratling laughed. The fighter swung his sword desperately at Sikeek who was still angling for an opening in her opponent’s defenses. He missed by a hair. Again, Afheesh jumped in one of his weapons getting clinched by the fighter’s longsword the other, however, rammed into the human’s throat. As a result, the fighter dropped immediately to his knees as a pained expression came over his clean features. Afheesh tore his weapon free; the fighter dropped dead face first into a sea of his own blood. Sikeek rushed to the door and shut it.

Sikeek: “Well, we need our privacy!”

Wufcor: “Yeah, we need to take our time and REALLY rip this place off GOOD!”

Afheesh (motioning towards the two shut doors to the left and the two openings to the right): “Shhh! Let’s do this.”

Subsequently, Afheesh prowled gracefully to the nearest opening and peeked around the jamb. Inside the other well-lit room sat a table spread with three still steaming plates of food, each meal lying partially eaten. After that, Wufcor glided up to the next opening finding the kitchen and the cook cowering in a corner. Before anyone could say a word, the vicious ratling slit the rotund and elderly man’s throat.

Jenn (frowning at Isis): “Y’know sometimes you make me wonder about you.”

Isis (laughing evilly): “WHAT!? Wufcor’s EVIL! He LOVES to slit throats and smell the blood!”

Me (highly focused on the mission): “Besides it’s witness elimination. HE wasn’t who I’m lookin’ fer.”

Jenn shook her head.

The fiendish group of thieves then turned their attentions to the two doors. Both locked. So Wufcor went to work on one and Afheesh put Sikeek to work on the other. Soon enough, Wufcor got his door open and found behind it an expensively stocked study. Meanwhile, Sikeek opened the lock on the door in which Afheesh was interested. The scrawny saloon bum stepped aside and Afheesh excitedly kicked open the door finding a bedchamber. Hiding under the bed Afheesh found his target, a terrified young woman. He withdrew a small vial of sleep toxin and tipped one of his weapons with the noxious oil.

Before long, the prize was unconscious and slung over the surprisingly muscular shoulders of the villainous Afheesh as he lowered himself into the streets via a rope through a window. He left any booty to be found in the apartment for the others to despoil. Anyway, they were  too focused on a strange chest in the study to even notice his leaving.

Later that night, Afheesh waited as the fearsome shadowy form of the troll known as Snotnack rose from the mouth of the Green Well. Shortly the troll was inspecting the sleeping woman the ratling had at his feet.

Snotnack (all the while sniffing her): “Hmmmm, this very fine woman little ratling. She is high quality.”

Snotnack immediately turned to the ratling with one greasy lice-sprinkled black eyebrow raised.

Snotnack: “Where you get her? Huh!? She no wizard woman huh!?”

Afheesh (very nervous): “No no, she’s alone, her um betrothed was a warrior, I killed him. Heh heh.”

Snotnack (stroking his gross chin): “Hmmm. Okay, here.”

                The troll tossed the ratling a small bundle. Grabbing up his prize Snotnack slunk back into the depths of the Tanglethorn underworld. Afheesh was long gone for the reason that he did not want the troll to change his mind. When he though he was far enough away to be safe the ratling criminal undid the bundle and found a pair of highest quality, heavy, razor-sharp, serpentine bladed hook-guard knives. The wrap on the grips was some sort of exotic leather, he guessed human though he did not know for sure. Most notably, the exquisitely balanced troll-make blades each had a nasty butt-spike. Expertly, the ratling twirled his weapons into their sheathes.

                Now, utterly self-satisfied, Afheesh finally strolled to the Dancing Rat tavern where he met up with Needles (played by Natalie). He sidled up to his new and often-absent recruit at the bar and called the runt “a loser”. Needles suddenly leapt onto the bar as he had done when they first met and performed a perfect backflip, he even managed to easily avoid Afheesh’ attempt to hook his ankle and trip him. The slight ratling even convincingly lied telling Afheesh that he had been drunk before. Afheesh was puzzling over what secrets the “fodder” might harbor as he drank his tankard. After finishing a single round of strong ale, Afheesh left to retire to his room.

Come morning and another predictable shift of guard duty above the gate Afheesh lined up for his previous shift’s pay at the bursar’s office. After several minutes of waiting, he had finally come to the bursar’s desk and had just received his pay when he consequently noticed a large wanted posted pasted to the wall behind the desk. The poster boasted drawings that had a passing resemblance to both Sikeek and Wufcor.

 The quickling inquired about the poster. Apparently, those two were wanted for attempted burglary, murder, and the suspected kidnapping of a Mage of the Red Robe’s mistress. The pair had been caught by the mage in question trying to push a rather large and heavy spell-locked chest out of a window. Fortunately, the incompetent thieves had gotten their ill-gotten gains stuck. They got away with nothing. Hence, the reward was currently at 500 gold pieces.

The Stacks highlighted in gray.

“Useful information”, Afheesh thought to himself briefly having weighed the profits of betrayal against his companions’ current value to his plans. He thanked the bursar and ran to join a patrol in the Stacks, the stacks being large blocks of tall apartment buildings in the northwest and northeast corners of the city and the known territory of the Roaches street gang. He needed some intel on the Roaches.

Later that evening, while Afheesh stripped off his uniform and geared up for the streets he contemplated some newly acquired information. There were two leaders in the Stacks, Ikeek a double-cutlass wielding Mantck and Phenor the Knife. The latter was a human who rarely ventured out from Roach territory. Either could be found around the East Stacks with the other at the West Stacks on a typical night. Ikeek often hung at the East Stacks near a large tree extorting the local merchants that had to pass through there.

It was not long after that Afheesh was dragging his lackeys to the East Stacks in search of a fight.

To Be Continued…

Rats of Tanglethorn Pt.13: Walking on Needles

After a forced march around the parade ground and a breakfast of fruit, veggies, and bread in the mess, Afheesh (played by your dear narrator) went to the bursar. He collected the previous day’s pay, 95 bronze thorns (it would have been 100 but for the 5% Mezcor tithe). He spent the rest of the morning atop the thorns above the gates spotting for incoming caravans.

Less than an hour into the shift on the battlements, the rest of the guards, Thorn-runner ratlings like him, were asleep. In frustration, Afheesh approached the ratling wearing the captain’s helm, also snoring in a dirty corner. The helmet was a bronze peaked open helm with a thorn design around the edges and a faded and ratty red-dyed horsetail, there was a groove just above the brow for a turban wrap, which was missing. Portions of the bronze were badly tarnished other spots were polished to mirror shine. The helmet did sport some signs of combat, blade gashes and multiple dents, all old and oxidized.

The snoring ratling once wakened turned over the helmet without argument. When Afheesh shouted out commands it only elicited grumbles and groans from the rest, so he spent the time marching up and down the guard walk occasionally glancing outside. All was business as usual.

When his shift was finally over, Afheesh went to return the captain’s helmet.

Formerly Snoring Ratling: “Just toss it in the corner. That’s where I found it. The sun was in my eyes there so…”

He stumbled off leaving Afheesh standing there looking perplexed. Eventually Afheesh threw the worn helm against a wall putting a new dent into the old bronze. He left in a huff.

Later, after first stopping by the White Rose Perfumery to purchase some sleep-poison, Afheesh met up with his cohorts at the inn for some dinner. Then they made their way to the Caskroom. There was a single remaining target to eliminate there, the bartender. It was not long before Wufcor (played by Isis) and Afheesh were engaged in a full-blown fight versus the bartender and the cook, the latter armed with a longsword. Meanwhile, Sikeek (played by Jenn) was off picking pockets of the onlooker mercenaries that populated the rear tables and benches.

After the ratlings already slaughtered the two bar-backs, the mercenaries jumped up and pursued Sikeek and Wufcor who were fleeing through the back door. Unseen, Afheesh broke off and ran out of the front door, then turned, shouted, and laughed at the mercs distracting them long enough for his other two coconspirators to flee.

The next day Afheesh got himself onto a patrol that protected the streets around “the good blocks” and took the opportunity to familiarize himself with the place. The day went slowly until a fight broke out in the Blue Lotus Well plaza among street toughs, the captain let them go after they paid a hefty “fine” which he cut the rest of the guards in on, Afheesh’s cut was 30 bronze thorns. Eventually, Afheesh was able to spot his goal, a young woman who presumably lived alone in one of the apartments. He had taken note of the building and got her apartment number by stalking her. He could feel his new troll-make weapons in his grubby little claws already.

After his shift was over, Afheesh went to the Last Rest Inn to his room to change his outfit. Afterwards, he walked to the Dancing Rat to try to find the other two. As he entered the rowdy establishment, he spotted a female ratling leaving with a familiar backpack cradled in her paws. As a result, he barred her way and did everything he could to try to snatch the pack back. However, she was highly agile and dodged nearly everything he could throw at her. Nevertheless, she had to drop the pack to recover from a successful trip when he hooked one of her legs with one of his weapons.

Afheesh snatched up his companion’s presumably stolen backpack. He introduced himself to the she-rat impressed with her skills. Her name was “Riknik” and she was not interested in working for anybody but herself. With that, she turned to run. Afheesh snatched one of five coin purses at random in the pack and tossed it to her before she ran away.

Afheesh: “Here! You earned this!”

Riknik (as she ran): “I owe you nothing!”

Afheesh shrugged.

Sure enough, when Afheesh entered the place he immediately spotted Wufcor asleep with his head on a table. Riknik, if that indeed was her name, had drugged him.

Later, Sikeek and Afheesh were dragging an unconscious Wufcor through the streets to Afheesh’s room at the Last Rest Inn. Suddenly, charging them from an alley buried in garbage came three giant centipedes.

Me (at GM Cris):  “Again!?”

GM Cris:  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The battle was brief but Wufcor was almost dragged away to be eaten. Eventually they got their companion to the room. Morning came and they parted ways once again pledging to make the Dancing Rat their common meeting place.

On the way to guard duty, Afheesh passed by a sanctioned duel with a green robe behind each fighter. It was a disappointingly quick match. The two brothers of the Green Well exchanged two handfuls of gold.

Afheesh (laughing derisively): “With that much money changing hands you’d think you’d get better fighters! Aha-ha-ah! I could’a taken ‘em both on! Aha-ha-ha-ha!”

All the ratling got in passing were several dirty looks. Afheesh served out his guard duty at the West Gate and in the course of the afternoon accepted a bribe from some Troll Boy gang members earning a 75 bronze thorn “bonus”. Later, he went to the Dancing Rat finding his companions there. Sikeek was drunk after losing a drinking contest sitting alongside another scrawny ratling named Needles (played by Natalie). Wufcor was sitting next to them quietly drinking keeping his drinking jack close.

Afheesh (to Needles): “So, you have any skills?”

Needles: “Aw yeah, I got all the skills! What you need, I got it! I’m good with weapons and I could balance on a leaf!”

Needles back-flipped easily onto the tabletop and Afheesh easily tripped him by hooking his ankle. Having fallen face-first, Needles suffered a bloody nose. In disgust, especially as Needles started to cry, Afheesh turned his back on the scrawny ratling and addressed the other two.

Afheesh: “We have a mission let’s go!”

Sikeek grumbled as she rose from her seat.

Sikeek (motioning to the bawling Needles): “Come along, you’re good for a laugh.”

Afheesh (mumbling angrily): “And for fodder.”

On the way to their goal, five giant cockroaches swarmed from the Blue Well itself. The fight did not last long but Needles proved himself very inefficient in combat. He was unarmed and punching the giant bugs doing nothing but annoying his enemies and allies until Wufcor tossed him a dirk. Needles killed the last with a single blow. However, as he almost died from a single bite he ran off to the nearest White Star guild. The others continued on their way to the target apartment.

After sneaking past guards and picking the lock on the door, the ratlings prepared to burgle the place. However, after carefully opening the door so that there would be no sound a human fighter in a bronze chest-plate, a full bronze helm, and short sword confronted them.

Us (the players): “What!? Really!?”

GM Cris: “Hey, he natural 20’d the listen when you guys approached the door.”

To Be Continued…

Rats of Tanglethorn Pt.12: Petty Vengeance

The pair of guards walked in, one with a bottle of wine, the other placing the key in his satchel. He lit an oil Murder D20lamp and then set to lighting the fireplace. Afheesh (played by yours truly) from just up inside of the flue, could hear the second guard pop and pour the wine. He was shaking with anticipation. His vengeance was soon at hand. Two thuds on the floor indicated that their helmets were off.

The first grabbed some logs from the woodpile next to the fireplace. Just as the first guard knelt down to place the first log into the hearth, Afheesh picked a chunk of cinder from the inside of the chimney and flung it down. Of course, the first guard poked his head in to check it out.

Suddenly, Afheesh dropped down and stabbed him in the neck. Wufcor (played by Isis) leapt from his hiding place under a table stabbing the reeling guard in the back. Sikeek (played by Jenn) sprung from her dark corner and stabbed the wine guard who then snatched a fighting spear from the wall. Afheesh redoubled his efforts against the first guard nailing him again but the guard’s chainmail absorbed most of the damage. Sikeek moved in on the other guard and slashed him.

Wufcor struck at the first guard wounding him badly. He in turn pulled the spiked mace from his belt and desperately swung the weapon at Wufcor accidently smashing a small table. The second guard struck at Sikeek with his spear barely missing. Afheesh ran the first guard through with both of his weapons killing him instantly. He and Wufcor then turned their attentions towards the spear-bearer.

Sikeek struck out and got a good hit in on the spear-bearer. Wufcor ran in and jabbed him in the back causing the blood to run. He thrust at Sikeek catching her in the belly. The small ratling stumbled backward from the fight (requiring a recovery check to keep from dropping). Afheesh leapt in missing with one weapon and hitting with the other but again the guard’s armor lessened the blow significantly. Wufcor tried to get in the last stab but tripped over his own feet. The spear-bearer lunged at Sikeek once again but missed then swung the butt of his weapon around and smashed her in the skull. Sikeek stumbled back once again nearly passing out.

Afheesh lashed out with both of weapons but the haft of the guard’s spear easily parried both blows away. Wufcor moved in and stabbed him again. He thrust then swung with the butt of his spear but missed both times. Afheesh landed the killing blow through the guard’s clumsy defense (a Natural 1 parry).

The blood was still pooling as the trio of ratlings looted the place and cracked the lock off a chest. They absconded with 5 gold talons, 6,000 bronze thorns, a low-quality bullwhip with a butt-spike, a silver ear-cuff, and a high quality dirk.

Thinking that no one was looking, Sikeek found a secret compartment at the bottom of the chest discovering a gold and ruby ring, and a sack of 6,000 bronze thorns and 4 gold talons.

Afheesh (to Sikeek): “Good, we each get more shares!”

Sikeek: “But I found this…”

Afheesh: “And we both saw you. So now, it’s group shares. Besides you’re a hired dagger or would you rather be dead?”

Sikeek (turning over the loot to Wufcor): “Aww man.”

Meanwhile, Wufcor tried to get away with the 900 bronze thorns he found on the corpses to Afheesh’s chagrin.

Wufcor: “Don’t kill me boss! See, I’m putting it in the group PILE!”

Afheesh gritted his teeth and the trio began to file out into the street after vacating the apartment building. However, just as they broke out onto the street they ducked swiftly back into the cover of a shadowed corner. A gang of roaches with a Mantck leader was out front obviously looking for trouble. There were too many to deal with at this point. The ratlings easily snuck past the gangsters and proceeded to travel to their other mark’s home in another apartment building to the south.

Soon enough, the trio clustered around a sturdy locked wooden door in a narrow plastered ill-lit hallway. There were only a couple of clay chamber pots set outside the doors aside for the sparse lamp lit niches in the walls. The smell was not pleasant.

Afheesh (to Sikeek): “Okay thief, get to crackin’ that lock.”

Sikeek: “Hey, c’mon guys, we already have money. Let’s just get outta here.”

Afheesh: “No…hey weren’t you badly wounded a little while ago?”

Jenn: “Yeah, healing potions. That guy almost killed me in a single hit TWICE back there!”

Sikeek: “So, I really don’t wanna go in there guys. C’mon, we already got some cash…I need to roll some BONES!”

Wufcor (flashing a piece of quartz to Sikeek): “Betcha can’t open that lock.”

The Canny-Jack (Wufcor) put his ear to the door as Sikeek went to work on the lock.

Again, Wufcor (in a hushed tone): “Hmm…I think I can hear him. Sounds like he’s messing with …metal stuff?”

Sikeek kept trying the lock but its artisanship kept evading her skill. After three tries at it, finally the click of success tweaked their twitching ears.

Wufcor: “Hmmm..I don’t hear anything anymore. … Um. What’re we gonna do?”

Afheesh had his back against the wall opposite the door ready to pounce. He was huffing in the foul air of the hallway with every deep breath. His needed to quell his thirst for vengeance.

Afheesh (through clenched teeth, yeah he knew this was a bad idea): “Let’s do this.”

Sikeek slowly opened the door while trying to stay under cover. The door came to a creaking stop and revealed the guardsmen, their target, in full chainmail wielding a bronze shield and a great sword replete with bronze great helm.

Guardsman: “You Ratling thieves have come to die eh!?”

What ensued was a deadly dance of whirling weapons, lightning reflexes, and sheer luck. Eventually, Wufcor buried his blade in the guardsman’s kidney nearly killing him then Afheesh followed up with a paired weapon strike ultimately downing their prey. Their enemy had not landed a single blow in two full rounds of combat. Afheesh felt some satisfaction standing over the body of the last guard against whom he had pledged vengeance. Vengeance indeed tasted sweet. However, he was now also eager to hurt the Roaches in any way possible.

As before, the ratlings ransacked the place, again finding a chest, and again breaking the lock and absconding with a fat sack of coin. Inside they had found a bag of 4,000 bronze thorns, a bone pipe with a bowl carved into an eagle’s head, a pouch of high quality smoking herbs, and 5 gold talons. They also looted 400 bronze thorns from the corpse. The three eventually landed in a room, rented by Afheesh, at the Last Rest Inn where they split the take. Afheesh netted 4,566 bronze thorns, 4 gold talons, and took the silver ear cuff. “Not a bad start”, he thought.

After the dividing of the spoils, Afheesh and Wufcor decided to cut Sikeek in on a standard share instead of paying her thereby welcoming her into the crew. Shortly thereafter Wufcor and Sikeek left. The latter mentioning something about getting “one more game in” before dawn. Afheesh settled in for some well-deserved rest. Thoughts of making the Roaches suffer never far from his mind.

To Be Continued…

Rats of Tanglethorn Pt.11: Dagger for Hire

A few days later, the pair of ratling villains, Afheesh (played by yours truly) and Wufcor (played by Isis), walked through the crowded streets at evening. The pair neared the plaza of the Blue Well and the Dancing Rat Tavern. They were going to drown their sense of loss in a sea of cheap booze. Even possibly work off some frustration in low stakes fights there and then maybe start recruiting for their own gang. The roguish pair stepped up to the saloon doors.

Overgrowth partially buried the tavern building underneath the snaking thorny vines of the Thorn-Ring. The hedge of thorns that serves as  Tangelthorn’s city defenses along gatehouses and partial fortifications at all four compass directions. The thorns spilled over the top of the three-story building canopy-like and wrapped tightly around the eastern half, the thorny vines at grips with the alien waxy-orange masonry. The ratling companions strutted into the yellow lit, smoke flooded tavern.

The thorn-creepers had extended into the bar itself cramping what could have been a spacious establishment. The woody vines shaped into a second tier in the western half of the combo taproom/common-room was crowded both atop and underneath with ratlings most bearing the light golden brown hair of thorn-runners. Tending the bar itself were ratlings and a human bar-back. On the far end, a half-troll sat on the floor wedged into his cramped station overseeing the all-sorts barrel. It was 1 copper bit (copper piece of eight) to dip your jack, no fliks accepted.

Layer after layer of compacted filth interspersed with sawdust and straw covered the floor. A fresh layer of straw and sawdust added a welcome fresh vegetable musk to the somewhat fowl and smoke-thickened air. Large scorched areas attested to the fact that the place was a fire hazard. As a result, there were water buckets on both sides of the entrance and the side door as well as behind the bar.

However, the ratling patrons used the water-filled buckets to relieve themselves thus adding a certain unmistakable bouquet to the place. It also made the extinguishing of the frequent fires a most disgusting affair. Even so, patrons still lit matches from the straw on the ground using the enclosed candle lanterns (no open flames allowed) often absentmindedly tossing them back to the floor.

The pair of beleaguered ratlings shuffled in among the rowdy crowd. Most of the tables were occupied, both of small and average size, with raucous rogues slinging down copious amounts of cheap grog and sour wine. Crowding the rear of the place, patrons at the gambling tables eagerly lost their shirts, some literally, to the house dice.

Afheesh and Wufcor settled into a couple stools at the ratling end of the bar the occupants wisely vacating their seats after being told to “scram”. Afheesh bought a pitcher of low quality ale fortified with some sort of cheap grain alcohol. As they commenced getting “sloshed”, a scrawny ratling sidled up to the disheartened pair.

This ratling was brown with white-grey spots on her face. She had on a wool jerkin, leather gauntlets, and had a horn-handled bowie knife at her side. She seemed a viable candidate for their gang.

The Ratling (very excitedly): “Hey Guys! I’m Sikeek! You wanna go throw some bones in the corner?”

The pair shrugged and joined Sikeek (played by Jenn) in a corner and started throwing dice. After a few small wins, Afheesh tossed a piece of quartz onto the table.

Afheesh (to Sikeek): “If you can’t pay the losses after this round against me, you’ll work off your debt in my service!”

Sikeek agreed to the terms and easily took Afheesh for his money. Apparently, Sikeek was a very skilled gambler. After that, the conversation turned to her weapon skill. She assured them that her skills at the gaming tables matched those of her roguery. As a result,  Wufcor and Afheesh took her on as a hired dagger to their cause.

Later, all three were well pickled and Sikeek’s appetite for gambling whetted. Wufcor and the new employee headed to a squat in the north. Afheesh went back to the guard barracks to catch some rest.

Early the next evening, Afheesh found himself hiding on a roofline. Wufcor hid in an adjacent alley and Sikeek was “acting casual” while leaning against a nearby corner. They were staking out the Cask Room to observe the three guards against which Afheesh had a vendetta (see last episode – Rats of Tanglethorn Pt.10: All These Roaches). They watched as two of the three guards approached the place from the west and a little while later the third from the north. The doors to the Cask Room seemed to have been opened from the inside to allow them egress.

The ratlings watched carefully and took mental notes. They also followed the guards when they left late at night. They repeated this the next day.

That night, the ratling trio had just broken up and Afheesh was loitering around the streets hoping to run into members of the Roaches street gang. He was hungry for trouble. Instead, he ran directly into a troll. The same troll that he had encountered almost two weeks prior. The little ratling recognized that massive iron maul, “Skull-Biter”, which was slung over the monster’s hill of a shoulder.

This time instead of panicking, Afheesh decided to try to strike a deal with this troll. The troll ability to forge extraordinary weaponry well-known and renowned in Tanglethorn. It was not long before Afheesh had struck a deal with Snotnack the troll. If the ratling were to bring the troll a beautiful human woman, he would and give the ratling a reward. He would forge a pair of weapons just like those that he now bore but “better”. For his new hook-guard daggers in three days, the ratling had to bring the young woman to the orange well. He would also have to call the troll’s name into the well. Of course, Snotnack bullied Afheesh into accompanying him all night long anyway.

By morning, Afheesh was exhausted and later in the evening was late for the third day of tracking the guards. This time, the trio was able to track two of the guards to a single apartment. The next night, the ratlings went to the apartment just before the time the guards would be getting off work. Sikeek picked the lock although it took a few tries. She popped the lock just before the pair of guards came up the stairs. The ratlings carefully shut the door and turned the lock, jaunted quickly to hiding places around the well-furnished room, and waited for their prey. Their ears perked as the lock turned and the door opened.

To Be Continued…

Rats of Tanglethorn Pt.10: All These Roaches

Three gang members ran in through the shattered front door of the abandoned warehouse armed with loaded Afheesh's anti gang weaponscrossbows. They spotted out Pabst (played by Jenn) and one took a shot. She knocked the bolt aside with her buckler (more of a targe but virtually the same in game terms). Afheesh (played by yours truly) pulled his paired weapons, matching variants on the sai, and lashed out at the Mantck who was blocking his egress through the rear door. The first blade stung the intruder but the second easily parried by a cutlass.  Afheesh turned to see Wufcor (played by Isis) leap from his hiding place and engage with five more Roaches who had surrounded Pabst. Pabst lashed out with her scimitar missing horribly. Afheesh turned his full attention back to the Mantck.

The Mantck slashed with his paired cutlasses, missing badly with one and the other parried easily by the ratling Quickling. Afheesh retorted striking deep with a single strike, the other deflected harmlessly away. Two thugs behind the Mantck pushed their way through the doorway as Afheesh took this opportunity to strike at both once each with his weapons. One of his narrow blades struck home, the other clinched by a short sword. The battle between the other two street mercs and the hordes of Roaches raged behind Afheesh where he could not see the fate of his two companions only hear the clash of steel.

It was at this moment that the Mantck took this opportunity to hack at the ratling while his human accomplice kept the clinch on the Quickling’s right arm and weapon. Afheesh was barely able to swat aside the Mantck’s double cutlass strike with a single weapon. He tried to break the clinch but failed. The Mantck took another paired weapon strike but again parried by Afheesh’s left-handed weapon.

In a desperate gambit, Afheesh reversed the clinch hooking the thug’s wrist with his weapon. With his second weapon, Afheesh stabbed the Mantck further wounding him. The Mantck responded hacking into the ratling’s side after a failed parry attempt (Natural 1). Both blades glanced of Afheesh’s tiny ribs. Horribly wounded he started to bleed out. The human thug broke loose of Afheesh’s hook. Breathing hard, the little ratling glanced around on the edge of panic looking for an escape, any escape. He spied through a window, the boards having been knocked out by the surge of Roaches, a naga with a large scythe on her back amongst the horde of gang members.

In a last ditch move Afheesh tucked and dove between the legs of those gangsters blocking the door. However, Roaches overflowed the alley, their daggers and swords bared and thirsty. In response, Afheesh leapt to the wall and used his supreme parkour skills to scale the bricks up to the roof all the while narrowly avoiding flurries of enemy blades. He found dozens upon dozens of thugs already atop the roof!

Cris (the GM): “They’re all heavily muscled and full of gang tats too.”

Me (to GM Cris): “So they have street gangster levels?”

GM Cris: “Yup. They look very experienced.”

Me: >:(

He made a quick survey of the roofline intending to jump to another roof. All of the surrounding roofs were populated with Roaches bearing loaded crossbows. Afheesh barley dodged several poisoned crossbow bolts that flew at him imbedding themselves in the bricks.

Me: “POISONED!?”

GM Cris: “Well yeah! They’re not taking any chances!”

Afheesh jumped onto the roof and ran around gaining momentum avoiding the clumsy strikes of the gangsters and leapt onto a neighboring roof tucking and tumbling as he landed followed by the thud, thud, thud of misguided poisoned bolts. He kept running as he bled finally escaping the few human-led ratlings that tried to pursue him over the building tops. Eventually he stumbled over the threshold of the local White Star guild where he collapsed.

An hour or so later Afheesh came to. The White Star had treated his wounds and taken their pay from the coin on his person, and no more. The ratling thanked them and left before they could go into their “would you like to come and pray with us” shtick. Although exhausted at this point, he had to find his friends.

At the Caskroom Tavern, Afheesh found Wufcor the ratling Canny-Jack. Pabst had been killed in the raid and he himself had barely escaped through a window. They sat in silence for a while and then began pounding jacks of ale. Afheesh pledged vengeance against the Roaches and Wufcor concurred with a hearty gulp from his frothing cup. The Canny-Jack mentioned that he did have a lead, there had been a naga bard with the Roaches maybe she could help them get their revenge. Afheesh grabbed the other ratling by the collar to make him lead him to the bard. However, Wufcor just lifted a finger and pointed. She was currently singing some poetry drifting from table to table for tips.

Barely a second later a beggar came to the ratling’s table apparently to beg. As a result, the bard passed their table up. Enraged Afheesh stabbed the man in his neck who then stumbled away and out the door bleeding. After her number was finished, Wufcor waved the bard over. As soon as she sat next to them Afheesh threatened her and got the name Skilneel from her for the Mantck that had fought him during the warehouse raid.

The Bard (played by Natalie): “I’m just gonna go, um.” She got up and slithered over to the bar.

The bard tried to rent a room from the bartender. He told her that there were no vacancies. Afheesh strode up next to her and asked the bartender how much a plate of food ran. The bartender set down a half full tankard in front of him and tossed him a plate of half-eaten food from the other side of the bar in response. So Afheesh smashed him in the face with the tankard and told the bard that she was coming with him and his friend. Wufcor sidled up to her on the opposite side smiling.

The Bard: “Uhm, I’m just gonna leave?”

Afheesh (with one of his paired weapons pointing at her): “If you try to run I’ll kill you.”

Wufcor: “He will, he’ll kill you so don’t run.”

The bartender groggy from the rattling that the Quickling gave him snapped his fingers and three guards ran from a back room. Armed with pikes they wore scale-mail.

Afheesh: “Wufcor. Pull yer weapon!”

The scuffle with the guards was brief. They attacked all three equally, the ratlings and the bard. The latter of who fled through the saloon doors into the street. Wufcor followed, after stabbing at one of the guards a few times.

Guard Captain (to Afheesh): “Ratling! Just leave! Get outta HERE!”

Then the guard captain got in a lucky hit that nearly skewered Afheesh. The ratling tumbled out of the saloon doors and into the street. The other pikes hit the floorboards fortunately missing the little hoodlum by a mile. As Afheesh galloped away from the tavern, he caught sight of the naga bard and Wufcor side by side just ahead. He increased his speed to a full run.

Afheesh flew into the air in mid leap attack and came down on the naga’s back practically nailing her thrashing half-serpent body to the street with both of his weapons. He twisted them as she died then ripped them free, wiped them clean with her hair, and scabbarded them. He stomped off to the White Star guild house once again.

With a tear in his eye, Wufcor looted the bard’s corpse. He then cut a swatch of her scaly skin from her shoulder. Then he sweetly caressed the still warm swatch to his hairy cheek before jaunting off to catch up to his leader.

To Be Continued…

Rats of Tanglethorn Pt.9: Merchant Boxing

It was early morning, already the sun was beating down upon the dead yellow dirt, and Afheesh the ratling merchant chestQuickling was beginning to feel trapped. After a forced march around the parade ground and a breakfast of fruit, veggies, and bread in the mess, Afheesh (played by yours truly) went to the bursar. He collected the previous day’s pay, 95 bronze thorns (pay was 100 but there was the 5% Mezcor tithe). Subsequently, he spent the rest of the morning atop the thorns above the gates spotting for incoming caravans.

Only ratlings were assigned the battlements over the gates as the Thorn Crown had grown over the ramparts ages ago leaving only small tunnels through the winding thorny vines. Moreover, the thorns acted as an additional cover for those manning the hidden crenulations of the gate. Therefore, it allowed the guards, armed with darts and some with crossbows, to fire with impunity on any enemies without the gates. It was also horribly cramped, suffocating, and filthy not unlike the hovels of Thorn-runner ratlings that subsisted within the confines of the thorns surrounding the city.

There was bird mess everywhere, not only the white and black-purple of their droppings streaking the woody vines but clumps of flea-infested feathers, filthy nest litter, and the cacophony of chittering from above where the small birds would alight atop the thorny canopy. The most common birds there being pigeons and shirkes the latter of which were known to impale the uneaten portions of their prey, other smaller birds and rodents, on the thorns. It was getting near noon nearing the end of his shift when he spotted something of interest.

A Hill-Lander caravan pulled up to the south gates with three hill giants in escort. There were four covered wagons, two vardoes, and iron strongboxes chained atop each vardo. The giants and the faun and half-faun drivers were all well-equipped. Consequently, Afheesh was intrigued. As the caravan was allowed entry the ratling excused himself, the rest of the ratling guards were asleep anyway. He trailed the caravan as it made its way north towards the city center and Mezcor’s tower.

Mezcor’s black keep sits at the very center of the city like a single coffin nail holding all the requisite parts of the rotting box together through shear gravity. Every night the single round window at the top of the tower glows with candlelight that burns from behind the purple glass. A high black stone iron spike-topped wall bound it with a single bronze double gate in its southern face. The gates opened of their own accord at dusk revealing the white flagstones at the threshold the engraved message warning “step not beyond the white stones trespasser”. It was here that traveling merchants could expect to toss their tribute lest they incur Mezcor’s curse.

The Hill-landers were evidently confused that the gates were closed. For a brief second Afheesh had considered fleecing them in the name of Mezocr as he strode up to the caravan leader in his guard uniform. However, he was no fool and Mezcor’s curse had proven itself true at an alarmingly constant rate. He kicked one of the giant’s in the toe to gain their attention.

Afheesh (to the lead driver): “What’s this now? Looks like you guys need a surprise inspection!”

The Lead Driver (exasperated): “Hey! We already paid our way in an’a’ gave a little sometin’ o’ tha guards!”

Afheesh (lying in a surprisingly convincing way): “That was for the South Gate guards what about those that secure this road for you?”

The First Giant (his ultra-baritone voice vibrating the ratling’s bones): “Didn’t I jes see ya come from ta gate back dare?”

Afheesh (apparently, he’s a good liar): “No.”

The Lead Driver (with a frustrated sigh): “Okay, here’s some coin…”

Afheesh (cutting him off): “No, give me a bottle of that famous Hill-Lander booze!”

With a sneer, the driver tossed the ratling a bottle of whiskey; it had been previously opened but was still mostly full. Consequently, the little extortionist tucked his prize in his belt and kept a tiny-clawed hand on it at all times.

Afheesh: “Now you lot make sure you pay the proper tithe to Mezcor at dusk!”

The hill-landers all shook their heads in both agreement and realization. Meanwhile, the ratling snatched a good look at their strongboxes and figured the locks though high quality looked easy enough for a crowbar to break or Wufcor to pick. He took his leave and high-tailed it to look for his crew. He intercepted them on their way to one of many taverns. Soon they were back at the warehouse conspiring together.

About an hour later, the ruthless trio found their way to the local market where the Hill-lander caravan had set up shop. Pabst (played by Jenn) strutted over to the merchant. She was going to try to work her charms on the goat-man.

Jenn (to me the plan-maker): “I don’t know why I’m supposed to charm the guy. I can just intimidate them…”

Me: “No! We need a distraction!”

Isis (Wufcor’s player): “Yeah sis! We’re trying to avoid a fight!”

Jenn: “My intimidate is better than my charm.”

Isis: “Nooo.”

She swished over to the head merchant who was eyeballing her suspiciously. Subsequently, Afheesh and Wufcor remained hidden in the shadows of the alley across the way from the shop stalls. Pabst began to work her magic.

The Hill-Lander Merchant: “Get away you ugly wh*#@! We’ll deal with your kind when we get ta da livery tonight! Maybe one a’ these giants would want you! Haw, haw, haw!”

So she decked him.

Isis face-palmed.

Meanwhile Afheesh stripped off his guard uniform and hid it in a trash-barrel. The Hill-Lander merchant cocked his fist back aiming the blow right at Pabst’s face.

The Merchant (just before smashing his fist into Pabst’s nose): “Aw an’ here I thought ya Poisonwood folk were tough!”

Wufcor darted to the stands followed by Afheesh. Her nose bleeding Pabst threw another punch at the merchant opening a cut along his cheekbone. The merchant circled from around his table and popped her good in the jaw. They were now facing off like a pair of street boxers. The crowd including guards gathered round to watch.

Afheesh began to walk nonchalantly towards the tent-back of the hill-lander stall where he believed the strongboxes were located playing it off as if he were watching the brawl. Pabst started talking smack to the merchant then she nearly tripped over her own feet when she went to throw a punch. The merchant tried to take advantage throwing a body blow her way but she knocked his hairy-knuckled fist to the side.

Meanwhile, a large group of gang members, the Roaches, flooded into the area attracted by the chaos and inched their way to towards the stall. Afheesh unawares cut a slash in the tent fabric and rolled into the stall. Outside the stall, the merchant threw a wild punch missing Pabst by a wide margin. Pabst swung and the merchant caught her arm in a clinch. Both fighters were in bad shape, panting, bleeding, and barley standing. The crowd roared for blood. Afheesh looked at the two strongboxes noticing the largest had runic markings over its outer shell. Wufcor rolled in and shimmied to the Quickling’s side.

The merchant caught Pabst in a grapple getting her in a tight headlock. She struggled as hard as she could but his iron grip held her skull fast. That was when Afheesh noticed that the two Roaches standing at the counter had spotted him and Wufcor. They were human, probably street rats and/or thugs maybe thieves. After a few moments of an improvised hand-signal-thieves’-cant back and forth between the ratlings and the Roaches a deal for their silence was worked out. Wufcor then picked the lock easily (Natural 20 picklock check) but immediately struck by an electrical bolt emanating from the runes on the chest. Fortunately, by chance, the crowd had roared at the exact same time concealing any noise.

The crowd groaned as the merchant locked in a chokehold on Pabst’s neck and she went limp her nose exploding as the vessels succumbed to the pressure.

Wufcor (after spotting the result of the brawl): “Oh boy! Time to go!”

Wufcor snatched two full bags from the chest and darted away. Afheesh threw a couple of signals at the pair of Roaches meaning to have them pick up and carry Pabst to the nearest alleyway. He then snatched up the last two full sacks, ran from the back of the canopy, and made his way around as stealthily as possible heading right for the nearest alley.

The ratling’s heart shot up into his eyes when he heard, “Stop THIEF!” He glanced over his sack-laden shoulder and saw that the bleeding and shaken Merchant had spotted him, by pure chance, as he was being taken back to the tent on a pair of his guards’ shoulders. Immediately the three hill-giants roared in unison and the ground began to thunder with their charge.

It took some minutes for the ratling to evade his gigantic and very fast pursuers. However, taking sudden sharp turns and ducking under obstructions that for the most part, the giants had to burst through did the trick. After he was sure that he had lost all three of his pursuers, he circled back around careful to stay in the narrowest of alleys until he was sure he had arrived where he had said he would meet the pair of street rats. He heard a faint whistle and saw the pair of Roaches with Pabst’s unconscious body leaned against a filthy brick wall.

The ratling swiftly checked the sacks; one filled with silver pieces and the other with bits of tanzanite. He tossed them the tanzanite sack and took charge of his friend. The Roaches with which the ratling had canted with gave his name as Neezik. He wasted no time in beating it to the warehouse careful should someone be following. When he met back up with Wufcor he found that the Canny-Jack had a sack of gold pieces and one of quartz.

The split, with Pabst included (she was still out), was 66 gold pieces, 20 quartz, and 166 silver pieces.

Jenn: “Yeah you guys better cut me in!”

The sun was down and the crew put their money away. It was time to decide what to do and where to go for the night.

Suddenly the boards blocking the front entrance smashed down with a crash and blast of dust. Standing in the door are Neezik and an uncountable number of the Roaches street gang. Afheesh dashed to the rear door just in time for those boards to come crashing down. A Mantck ratling wielding paired cutlasses stood in his way. The Quickling could hear dozens of feet outside around the building and dozens more climbing the outside walls and even feet clattering over the top of the roof. Pabst had just come to and both she and Wufcor tried to hide.

Jenn: “Damn! I’m still at K-O POINTS!”

Isis: “Yeah, I’m really bad right NOW! That bolt almost killed ME!”

To Be Continued…

Rats of Tanglethorn Pt.8: Ratling Life

With the blood of their enemies still fresh on their weapons and dripping from their faces, Afheesh (played byrat or ratling versus centipede yours truly)  and Wufcor (played by Isis) dragged Pabst’s paralytic body (played by Jenn) into a boarded up warehouse a few blocks from the South Gate. They just assumed the place was completely abandoned. Soon after, Afheesh wiped his face and donned his guardsman uniform before beating it back to the barracks.

Afheesh spent early next morning scouting out the grounds of the south-gate-guard-post finding something of interest: a large building next the bursar. The building was windowless save for arrow slits at least two stories above the ground and built of white stone with an iron portcullis and heavy solid bronze doors behind. Before that intimidating edifice leaned several elite guardsmen. Afheesh soon found out that the place was the treasury of the southern guard. At once, a singular fantasy rippled through his tiny rat-brain, that of ripping off the city guard and fleeing from the curse-polluted Poisonwood to the greener pastures beyond.

After a forced march around the parade ground and a breakfast of fruit, veggies, and bread in the mess, Afheesh went to the bursar. He collected the previous day’s pay, 95 bronze thorns (pay was 100 but there was the 5% Mezcor tithe). He spent the rest of the morning beyond the thorns  inspecting incoming caravans. Relieved of duty at noon, he went to meet up with the rest of his crew.

Upon returning to the warehouse, he found Pabst fully recovered but also very stoned. At least she had donned the studded leather they had looted from a gang member’s corpse.

Wufcor (shrugging): “She stole some of my leaves and ate ‘em!”

The ratling canny-jack was referring to the leaves he had plucked from the corpse of the Dark Thorn Arborean from the previous night.

Afheesh let out a sigh and excused himself; he was going to find some work. After all, one cannot be a kingpin with no cash. Suddenly, three giant centipedes burst from a pile of garbage just outside of the warehouse and scuttled into the open doorway, Afheesh had apparently forgotten to replace the boards after entering.

Me (at GM Cris):  >:|

GM Cris:  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Wufcor immediately leapt upon and stabbed the first one through the door. Afheesh pulled his weapons and attacked the same centipede wounding it badly. Pabst stumbled forward and clumsily swung a short sword missing her target completely. The second centipede struck at Pabst but missed. The first wounded centipede got in a lucky shot burying its poison legs into Afheesh’s chest wounding him horribly. Luckily, the ratling was tough enough to resist the monster’s paralytic venom.

Wufcor finished Afheesh’s attacker. Afheesh buried the points of his paired weapons in the second vermin nailing its corpse to the floor. Pabst hacked at the last centipede but her blade bounced harmlessly from its poison-red exoskeleton. Afheesh smashed his blades into the creature wounding it severely leaving Wufcor to finish it with his dagger spilling its verminous innards over the dirty floor.

After wrapping his wounds, Afheesh changed out of his guard uniform. Upset that it now had two large holes in the chest he folded it away. He left his two companions to see what jobs he could rake up, the higher the pay the better. First stop, the Bronze Shield Tavern, in search of Sergeant Neek.

A dense cloud of acrid pipe smoke combined with the stench of alcohol-drowned breath was as thick but nowhere near as fragrant as the sea. The clamor of rollicking patrons and the clatter and shouts from the tables where the bones rolled was deafening. The clientele were almost solely off-duty guardsmen and they were a getting very rowdy butting helms and beating armored chests and small bronze bucklers with daggers and short-swords. It did not take long, even in that noise, for Afheesh to find the sergeant. In turn, Sgt. Neek steered the “little ratling” to one Madame Canica of the Pink Lotus Livery who had a penchant for wearing purple and white silk.

Later at the Pink Lotus Livery, the ratling sat with the Madame. Canica was not overly tall but very heavily built save for the aquiline and sharp boney features of her face with almond shaped eyes set at high angles. The iris of her eyes was a reflective gold color and her pupils slits. Her nose was very small as well hinting at the Naga blood in her veins. This disturbed the ratling on a primordial level.

Over a few glasses of blood red wine, the Madame, a top member of the Livery of Pleasures guild, offered a substantial bounty for the head of the Courtesan Ebiak for leaving her house at 10,000 bronze thorns (bt’s). Soon after leaving that meeting and his head still full of wine, the Quickling easily located his quarry at the Blue Rose Livery. Afheesh rushed back to the warehouse to gather his troops.

As the three street mercs gathered and readied their gear, a loud commotion burst out just outside of the warehouse grabbing their attention. Wufcor and Afheesh strode outside where they saw a small-scale street fight involving the Moths and the Blood Moths. Wufcor shouted at them to stop.

Isis (to the GM): “Hey we gotta protect our territory!”

Afheesh followed suit but the gangsters ignored the pair of ratlings. Because of this perceived insult, the pair pulled their weapons and prepared to wade into the scrap. Pabst immediately charged from behind, past the pair, and directly into the fray.

Pabst hit and wounded the nearest gang member with her short sword. Afheesh on the other hand, spotted out the Moths’ leader and charged him. The gang leader parried one weapon but nailed by the second. He retorted with a massive and accurate blow Afheesh dodging the short sword point by a hair. Another gangster engaged Pabst, she parried and then counter attacked dropping him in a single blow. Wufcor backstabbed “the weakest looking guy” dropping him instantly. A scimitar blade wielded by a Mantck ratling (a medium sized ratling) barely missed Afheesh. Another Mantck struck at Wufcor barely missing the canny-jack.

Desperately, Afheesh stabbed at the leader who clinched the first weapon but the second skewered the man’s belly wounding him badly. However, the leader easily wrenched the clinched psi from Afheesh’s small claw tossing it away. The Mantck on Wufcor easily parried his blow. The other Mantck swung his scimitar at Afheesh barely missing the smaller ratling. Pabstcan attacked another gangster but was caught in a clinch. The Mantck on Wufcor struck at him barley missing.

Afheesh moved towards his lost hook-guard weapon. Wufcor struck with perfect accuracy at the Mantck but was equally masterfully parried. The Moth leader that Afheesh had wounded called for a retreat. He was apparently bleeding out. The opposing Blood Moth leader called his retreat immediately after.

Pabst broke the clinch and as that gangster turned to run, she drove her blade into his spine killing him instantly. Afheesh triumphantly held up his recovered weapon as the last of the street thugs disappeared into the shadows and filthy alleys of the city. After looting the corpses, the split turned out to be 133 bronze thorns each with the remainder going to Pabst her share being 134.

Afheesh eyeballed his crew. They were still in no shape to take on a job at this point. Pabst worse for the wear, stated that she was going to rest for another full day. Wufcor figured why go out to work now, he had just been paid. He was going to go pay for some fun. Afheesh shrugged and went to go procure a cheap room; he had guard duty in the morning.

To Be Continued…

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…

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