Blog entries may slow down in the next few months. This as I am doing much more writing right now on the Storywise project. I am also preparing the Armatelorum for print through various outlets. Every other week I will try to post to the Actual Play Blog. I will also get the final entry for Corpse World published in about a month. Additionally, I am also starting a new Dice & Glory Arvan campaign. It is centered in the Eastern Frontier. I will be playtesting some of the new items from drafts of The Great Grimoire Vol. II and The Monster Magnus Vol.II during the campaign.
This campaign will take a little more time out of my schedule than normal. This is due to the ongoing quarantine here in Cali so I have to conduct it over the internet. So compiling my notes. learning the ropes, writing, and generated game items will take up more time than usual. Basically, I’ll have less time to transcribe the actual plays from my notebooks and writing them to the blog. I might also drop a few more Brilliant Botanics, Bizarre Beasties, and Genera into the Downloads section irregularly.
I may also have a full write-up and stats for Xanto the Wasp for the Nefarious NPC’s section. However, that one will definitely need some revision, so it may take a while. Plus, if the Cabal of Eight campaign starts back up after quarantine I have to keep some tidbits to myself.
Note I do have a Ko-Fi account and am currently running adverts. This is an effort to scrounge up more revenue for Ranger Games Publishing. This is mostly for editing help and artists so I can focus on the writing. I would be very appreciative if you could
The Cabal of Eight II Pt.11: The Labyrinth of Weird Death
The paths and twisted walls of the labyrinth disappeared in all directions into a hazy blue-green horizon. Clouds of blue-green mists rolled over the impossible landscape and the fabric of reality itself seemed to seethe and roll, as do the deeps of the ocean. The dense, moist air was cool and made her head swim. It smelled overwhelmingly of fresh-cut greenery carrying the spice of moldering wood. The walls of the labyrinth also seemed to shift with the tide rearranging in the wake of each swell. She could see no center, no goal towards which to strive.
Again, she began drifting towards the black iron spikes atop the wall. Fauna (played by Jenn) canceled the power of her ring of levitation. She had snagged the ring from the group treasury, the hiding place in the clubroom back at the Red Helm Tavern. The druidess had made a quick stop there before heading out to the secret meeting in the secret caverns beneath the Old Amphitheater.
Her feet landed softly onto the cold stone. She found herself back in a narrow lane of the maze. The floor was of damp flagstones and the walls were a chaotic patchwork of adobe, fired bricks, natural stone, and mortar. From every crack, uneven surface, and fissure grew twisted woody branches, clumps, and patches of hairy and bright green mosses, as well as flows of yellow slime molds. The great flagstones were also uneven causing the floor of the lane to undulate up and down, so deep in places that one could hide in the dip easily from others approaching from either end of the seeming infinite lane.
Fauna exhaled and began moving forward turning with every corner into identical lanes, some short, some dead-ends, and some choked with woody vines and dead branches. Occasionally, she happened upon the corpse of a fellow competitor for head priest/priestess of the Brotherhood of the Rope. She turned a corner and saw a giant pale mushroom blocking the way with the terrified face of an initiate sinking and disappearing into it. She turned the corner.
Not long after that, she found a huge clump of limp black roots blocking her way lying across the way. The druid was going to climb over it until she saw a pale human arm hanging out of the clump banded by purple bruises as if squeezed by ropes or tentacles. She quickly changed direction. Along the way, she managed to avoid a tripwire, a trapdoor, and a spring-loaded scythe blade as she progressed. Eventually she came upon a high narrow red-lit opening in the wall that glowed yellow with firelight.
She slipped into the lit and comfortably warm chamber. The walls and low ceiling were of finely masoned but large blocks of stone that shone red-orange in the firelight that blazed from the two large golden braziers. Before her was a throne carved of the same stone as the wall blocks with an imprint of the reclining human form in the stone with a golden and jeweled crown where you would expect, over the crown of the human-shaped crevice.
She noticed a young girl with long black hair standing against one of the walls, another initiate. The girl had sneered at her in the lineup.
Jenn: “I hope that b***h dies.”
Jenn: “Well, she was mean to me!”
Stepping in front of the throne was yet another blue-robed petitioner, Fauna also recognized him from the lineup. Certainly, she and this pair seemed to be the only surviving pledges to have reached the center of the labyrinth. The man contemplated the throne, at its foot was a high step carved with druidic script. It said, “A good druid is humble.”
He strode over to the step bowed his head, said what sounded like a brief prayer and sat in the broad stone seat. Immediately the golden crown dropped to his shoulders around his neck, he screamed, then the seat and back of the throne opened like a trap door and his body and severed head dropped into an unseen sepulcher. Consequently, the stones swung back and the blood that covered it slowly faded and disappeared. Fauna grabbed her neck.
Jenn & Isis (in unison): “Oh boy!”
The young girl chewed her upper lip then stepped forward violently. Then she yelled at Fauna to “step back you heifer!” She strode forward full of class-born bravado. The girl stopped on the step of the throne suddenly aware she had no solution to this puzzle. She turned to Fauna and the expression on her face turned from terror into an arrogant reserve.
Young Girl (solemnly): “If I am fated to die then I am reserved to my fate.” She lowered herself lightly into the cold, hard seat. The crown slid down and she let out a “gack” at the same time as Fauna heard a mechanical spring sound. Blood burst from her mouth. Her severed head and the decapitated corpse fell into the depths beneath the throne. The spots and spatters of dark blood disappeared. The throne was solemn again and even more threatening.
Jenn: “Crap it’s my turn right?”
Isis (to Jenn): “Oh my gawd! You’re gonna die!”
Isis (to me): “Can’t we help her solve this riddle!?”
The GM (me): “Nope.”
Cris: “Naw we can’t help her! We’re not there! Sorry but we’re not there!”
Jenn: “Maybe I should just sit down on the throne.”
Isis & Cris (in unison): “NOOO!”
Finally, Fauna sat with her legs crossed, she contemplated the throne and the inscription at its foot. She took a small dose of Yellow Lotus powder from her robes and snorted it. Shockingly, she was able to maintain consciousness. What played repeatedly in her fevered brain afterwards were Anishi’s words just as he pushed her into the labyrinth’s aperture, “Tread with care my child and be humble”.
Fauna: “Ah-Ha! I got it!”
Immediately she walked over to the step before the throne and kneeled upon it as if in prayer. The stone gave the slightest bit and she could hear a click somewhere inside of the throne. She then rose and sat down in the seat. The gold crown dropped onto her head then she saw a section of wall to her right suddenly slide down and reveal a recognizable chamber in the cave beneath the amphitheater. The crown rose back from her head and she rose as if in a trance towards the exit.
In unison both Jenn and Isis let out a loud sigh.
The next thing Fauna could remember was that Anishi put a necklace of polished raw gems around her neck. After that, she only remembered slogging home through the streets and the hammering light of dawn in her normal dirty robes. She was starving and every muscle screamed along with her lotus-soaked brain. It felt as if she had been in that place for several days rather than a few hours. Her feet really hurt.
Jenn (a sudden realization shooting through her eyes at me): “Oh my gawd, I could have really died.”
The GM (me, shrugging): “Well, yeah.”
To Be Continued…
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The Cabal of Eight II Pt.3: Blue Robes & Bankers
There was a break in the incessant Dragon-Summer rain, the street and alley mouth choked with a thick roiling blue fog. If there had been onlookers at this time of night, they would see the triumphant outline of Szoo (played by Isis) erect in the middle of the street. The fog was in actuality steam resulting from two blasts of fire from his Fire-Fang. The stooped form of Fauna (played by Jenn) was feeling about on the ground. The dozen or so pirates that had tried to waylay the trio of mages had since fled with no casualties on either side.
Szoo: “Alright let’s go home.”
Fauna: “No! I’m not going anywhere without my knife!”
During the brief skirmish with the pirates, the druidess had thrown her dagger and missed her target. Meanwhile, both Szoo and Fauna could see Excor (played by Cris) casually puffing on his pipe as he continued down the alleyway towards home.
Szoo [after a quick detection check]: “Found it! NOW let’s GO!”
The morning of the 18th of Monsoon – Excor, Szoo, and Fauna all decided to go to the bazaar for some shopping however, their first stop was Babia’s Apothecary [Cabal of Eight Pt.6: Gold Devil], Excor and Fauna needed some smoking herbs.
In the fragrant shop, bundles of various herbs hung from the rafters to dry, Excor bought the usual but Fauna purchased “the good stuff” paying a gold piece for an ounce and some high quality healing herbs. Szoo bought some of the “house mix” which cost him 1 copper. Fauna inquired about a pipe and Babia directed her to a peddler named “Vez”; he likely had his cart around the bazaar.
A little while later, all three were cruising the bazaar, Fauna remained outside after immediately finding the pipe vendor. The plaza around the bazaar and the bazaar itself was crowded and bustling with people. The constant chatter of a million conversations and the occasional yell or shout from a merchant trying to attract customers mixed with the smell of food, herbs, exotic oils, fresh fish, and the butcher stands all merged into a thick atmosphere familiar to all residents of Ezmer.
Eventually, Fauna settled on a pipe akin to the vendor’s masterwork. It was a carved ironwood pipe. The stem was long and flat with a dragon holding the bowl. Afterwards, realizing she had spent all of the coin in her purse she decided to exchange the gems in her pockets for gold. She headed for the central market district to find a jeweler to cash her gems.
At the same time, Excor was seeking an “ivory-handled horsetail flyswatter” preferably with jewels set into the handle. However, he could not find what he was looking for. Although he had found several gold-leafed wooden handled swatters with a few bearing “jewels” which turned out to be polished beads of glass. Nevertheless, he did purchase five scrolls of paper at 5 coppers per and 1 blank dragonskin scroll though it looked somewhat aged. Szoo purchased a gold chain because “it was shiny” and then headed home.
A short time later, Fauna wandered into a jewelry store the doorbell ringing as she entered. Just inside the store waiting impatiently, was a regal looking woman in a blue silk gown with a diamond tiara in her long black hair. The druid immediately received a rude remark about her “stench” from the woman. Fauna pushed past the exasperated blue clad noble and dropped a handful of gems on the counter in response to the jeweler’s snotty attitude. However, he tried to rip her off by under-valuing her haul so rightfully taking offense, she grabbed her gems and left.
She started home but ran into Szoosha along the way.
Isis [to me, the GM]: “Wait, how likely is it that we run into each other?”
The GM: “Pretty likely if you’re taking the main streets and going directly home.”
Isis: “Hmm, I don’t think Szoo likes that, what if he gets ambushed or somebody’s waiting to get him?”
After Fauna spent some time calming down the naga, who kept mumbling something about “changing up the routes”, they both decided to go to the bank. Fauna needed to convert her gems and Szoo needed to stash some cash. They caught a rickshaw to the bank, which was located among the city administration buildings.
The building was large and constructed of marble blocks with a large dome on top. The bank doors were a solid bronze double-door and to each side was a guard in half-plate. At first, Fauna thought that they were city guards but noticed their equipment was of a much higher quality and the men appeared better trained and far more experienced. Inside the massive white stone interior, inlaid tile floor, and its painted walls depicting unicorns of all colors and bright fields of stylized crops of grain, vegetables, and fruit blew the minds of both mages.
All of the light was bright, natural sunlight shining down from the multiple openings in the grand white dome above them. There were massive white columns along the walls and several heavy wood tables where scribes and presumably bankers were weighing coin, shuffling, signing, and reading through paperwork. Against each column there stood guards in polished black full-plate armor each bearing a short-spear. At the rear of the building, there were vertical slits in the wall akin to arrow loops. A skinny old man with oiled hair wearing a purple and green silk gown with a gold-colored shoulder sash with a gold and crystal clasp immediately walked up to them and blocked their path.
The Banker: “Ahem. This is a place of business…”
The druid whipped out a handful of gems.
The Banker: “Oh! Well, right this way, I’ll be helping you today, my name is Xander.”
Fauna opened an account and deposited 10 sapphires, 10 emeralds, and cashed out a single emerald getting 900 gp as the bank took 10% for the exchange. Her account would also be charged 1 copper piece per gem per month as long as she kept her gems there. Szoo also opened an account and deposited 10 sapphires and 16 emeralds. He also cashed 25 obsidian pieces and 25 pieces of tiger’s eye for 450 gp. Both left the bank at the same time but split up, Szoo was headed home but was going to take a different route than usual and Fauna wanted to go to the harbor for some reason.
A while after, Szoosha was pushing through a throng of people in the North Quarter determined to cut through guildsman’s Square (for some reason) when he spotted a pair of blue-cloaked men each armed with a high quality cutlass.
Isis: “Aw jeeeesh! Two!?”
Szoo took off in an attempt to flee and evade his pursuers. However, they eventually caught up to him a few blocks south of the square. Therefore, Szoo decided to turn and fight. As the pair approached, the naga could see that they were twins. They appeared skilled in arms and may have had magical talents though these were probably minor in compared to his own. Steeling himself, the naga elementalist cast Elemental Half-Plate Armor (fire) on himself. As red flames swirled around his black-scaled body and hardened into plate, the blue-cloaked twins lost their reserve, turned, and ran.
City Guard [from behind Szoo]: “Hey YOU!”
The guardsman warned Szoo about casting magic without a special license and the guard, along with two other partners (who were pointing halberds), recorded the naga’s name and address with a stylus on a wax tablet. After that, Szoo was free to go, hopefully the Sapphire Star Guild, who had authority in such matters, would ignore the write up.
Elsewhere, Fauna had just finished strolling near the cliff at the far north of the North Quarter and enjoying the sea air and the sound of seagulls despite the gray sky. She was walking back southwest on her way home. Suddenly, a large muscular warrior with a horned helmet charged her his light blue robes flying backward held only in place by his thick black belt. Above his head raised with both hands was a tulwar aimed for her head.
His weapon smashed into her Mage Armor instead of splitting her skull in two which if she had not been wearing her gold-threaded robes of Mage Armor she absolutely would have been killed in a single stroke. She threw a Lightning Bolt his way hitting him but to little effect. He drew back and swung his massive weapon again but missing badly he lost his grip and the big sword went flying clattering onto the cobblestones of the street. She struck at him with her dagger, which he easily parried with his bronze bracer. The guards began shouting and Fauna turned to see six guards running towards her wading through the crowd, when she turned back the barbarian was gone.
Fauna spent some time getting smart with the guards whom recorded her name. They let her go when she claimed that the barbarian was simply trying to mug her especially after she slipped them a gold piece each.
Fauna (pointing at the tulwar cradled in a young guard’s arms): “Oh yeah, that’s mine too, hand it over.”
Jenn [to the GM]: “Hey what was I doing here anyway?”
The GM [me]: “What!? *sputter* Why’re you askin’ ME!?”
After packing up his haul, Excor made his way back towards Fauna’s house. However, he had not gotten far when he noticed that someone in a blue cloak was following him. As a result, Excor dodged into a nearby alley and cast Invisible to Sight on himself. He waited as the blue cloak followed stealthily. As the man walked past quiet as a cat, by the looks of him a professional thief. Excor spotted a silver neck manacle on him a silver medallion dangled as his throat with black enameled dragon-scratch runes on it. It was not long before the blue-cloaked thief realized that he had lost his prey and fled the area.
Cris: “Damn! Poor guy’s a slave!”
Cris: “That thing on his neck, it has dragon writing and I sensed magic on it. He’s a slave to a dragon!”
As usual, Fauna was the last to get home. She entered while Excor and Szoo were already huddled in conference.
Fauna [throwing the tulwar onto the edge of the hearth]: “Guys! I think we have a problem!”
The other two stared at the superior quality tulwar with a blue crystal pommel stone and a dragon-scratch marking enameled onto the blade.
To Be Continued…
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The Cabal of Eight II: Introduction
This campaign is the continuation of The Cabal of Eight. So, for those who did not read the first half, it takes place in the city of Ezmer at the tip of the Ezmerian headland extending into the Silverset Sea. This sphere is collectively named Ezmeria. All characters are mages and involved in a secret cabal with the mission of enriching members and gaining influence.
The Player Characters are Fauna a Druid played by Jenn, Szoosha a Black-Scale Naga fire elementalist and high-strung paranoiac played by Isis, and Excor a Mage played by Cris. Fauna is a young Southlander woman, dark-skinned, red-haired with violet eyes, and a demonstrable tendency towards hotheadedness. Excor is a young Ivoran mage but still dresses and tries to speak as a Westlander. Although he has a tendency to being a schemer and gambler, he has found the rat fights are magnetic more so than any gaming table. Above all, his secret of being of noble blood remains unknown to Fauna and Szoo.
Nearly a full month and a week and a half have passed since our fine adventurers had last had an adventure. The story thus far is Captain Nelig, the captain of the gate guard has finished his lessons in training Fauna horsemanship, Virtra Wefa and her man-servant have since drank poison in lieu of execution, and Xanto the Wasp and his pupil, Ilna of Nezorik aka Bumble, have made themselves scarce as a result of their shady actions.
In addition, Belrae the cabal “leader” and Riahm, his right hand, have become somewhat secretive with the other cabal members and have seemingly struck up some sort of business relationship with Draega Skullshine, the publican of the Red Helm Tavern and all around shady person. The Bronze Heads as well have been keeping an obvious eye on our heroes whenever they wander the Eastern District and Old Town. The gang has been deliberately obvious but has otherwise left the adventuring mages alone.
On a positive note, Jirek the secretary of the cabal maintains his friendship with our heroes and Paej, Szoo’s primary contact in the city, has managed to purchase her own ship. Apparently, she used her life savings being a successful and avid gambler as well as saloon bum. The ship is named the Angry Sea-Lion and is an 8-oar Feren Merchant with a triple rig of a Thrahssk’ Tradesman (Arvan pg.103) and an artemon foresail with a small rear cabin.
Rat fight season, winter, is 3 months away though the weekly exhibitions continue under the wall with Excor and Szoo occasionally entering a “good candidate” from their stable and watching and betting more often. So far, no real progress on the rat-fighting front. Both PCs are however looking forward to full on fighting season.
Gornix the salt lotus wizard (played by Gil) was understandably AWOL since the Black Knight (aka the White Swan, Sir Illin) was still seeking his blood. None of the cabal members has seen much less heard from him in about a month. Although Excor has seen a courier, a foreigner of Ivoran extraction, with the same salt lotus imagery on his cloak asking about town for his missing friend.
However, rumors have it that the Black Swan, the white knight (Sir Illjin), and the brotherhood of knights that they lead, the Checkered Knights, had gotten into a scrap after setting up a sting on an assassin named Ssthriss when he made an attempt to kill the head of the Gold Sashes (political party). They pursued him into the area around the Rum Palace where he evaded them. The Black Knight decided to stay and keep the heat on the assassin as well as Gornix. The white knight and his men have left Ezmer sailing north after receiving word that a Creschan ship has sailed carrying a secret weapon back called Creschan Fire back to friendly territory.
Fauna, Excor, and Szoosha found themselves stumbling home from an ale-soaked dinner at the Red Helm down a narrow alley headed home. Hence, they were about half the distance home when Fauna and Excor noticed a beggar in a grey cloak following them. He ducked into a side alley as soon as they turned around. Immediately Szoo whipped around and charged in the man’s direction…
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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!”
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…
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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 lamp 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…
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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…
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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 crossbows. 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.”
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.
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…
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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 Quickling 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.”
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.
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…
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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 by 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…
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