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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.7: The Tree of Woe

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

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

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

Wufcor: “I surrender!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Be Continued…

Rats of Tanglethorn Pt.2: The Green Well

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

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

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

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

He took another long drag.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Be Continued…