zaterdag 30 november 2013

Herculon to the rescue?

n the morning of the next day, Herculon is feeling better, practically back to his normal bloodthirsty self.  The party decides to return to the forests, kill the broos, and investigate exactly what the chaos fiends are doing in the dwarven caves beneath the natural caves complex.  They approach the entrance once again, and Raiko sneaks to the cave mouth, while Sharkan tries to bind his ancestor for support and advice, but fails three times.  Giomanach positions a big rock boulder in the narrowest part of the entrance tunnel and secures it with holdfast, and soon enough they manage to draw the attention of a gang of broos, led by a huge Bison broo and commanded by a broo shaman.

The hubbub at the entrance, and that's without the Walktapus! 
 A fight ensues near the entrance.  Raiko and Daerius battle it out with the broos, while Giomanach smites the enemy down with Palsy.  From the left tunnel a walktapi now appears.  Herculon rushes forward to face it, and although the chaos abomination oozes fear, Herculon quickly dispatches it by hqcking it in four parts.  The broo shaman and Giomanach try to suppress each other, but the duel remains undecided, until Giomanach releases his boulder, and wreaks havoc on the remaining broos with the boulder, until he manages to crush the broo shaman with it.  Herculon steps forward and, in his inimitable style, decapitates the enemy leader.  Raiko also distinguishes himself, by facing one of the broos, and masterly chopping it's arm off.  The broo collapses on the floor.  The rest of the broos scatter back into the cave.  That's the last they saw of them.  The party descends into the tunnel where Giomanach discovered the hatch, watching their steps carefully, in case the remaining broo have set up an ambush of some kind, but they find nobody else in the natural cave complex.

hey descend into the hole in the floor, and find a dwarven made tunnel, with runic markings around the entrance.  The entrance bodes ill news for spirit followers, it seems to be set up to prevent spirits from entering the complex.  Sharkan casts his spirit sight, and immediately receives an overload of spirit feedback.  The place turns out to be full of spirits, haunts, wraiths, and the dreaded bane spirits.  As the party follows the corridor into the complex, they notice a second passage.  Here too they notice the dwarven runes.  Unable to read the ancient symbols, they investigate their surroundings, and notice a room right behind the passage, where a huge troll skeleton is standing guard.  The moment they set foot into the entrance hall, the troll skeleton charges forward, and several others appear to be guarding with it. Four opponents attack them, and the party, used to beating down their opponents, pick up the fight, but the guardians turn out deadly and they quicklly retreat back into the entrance portal.  The many broo corpses strewn about in the big entrance cave make much more sense now.  It seems the skeletons, driven by powerful undead spirits, have done their job defending the caves from intruders, and the broo learned the lesson the hard way.
An overview of the complex and Daerius and Giomanach
After several more attempts, the guards turn out too powerful to be defeated in a head-on fight, and Giomanach develops another strategy.  He casts haste on the party, and they run into the caves, fingers crossed that they will not encounter too much resistance.  The skeletons are quick, but not as fast as the party with Giomanach's sorcery, and the group splits up.  They manage to make the skeletons split up as well, and run around and descend into a weirdly shaped cave with a polished floor.  They notice a statue with his hand open, and a part seems to be missing, and while the rest of the party distracts the skeletons, even managing to hit one in the head while running away, Daerius locates what looks like the missing semi-round stone near one of the broos, runs back to the statue, and fits the ball into the hand, which causes the immediate retreat of the undead guardians into the guard room whence they came forth.  With a bit more time, the party now further investigates the rooms around the polished cave.  Herculon and Giomanach discover a mummy on a stone slab, and as the fearsome creature awakens, Giomanach's Palsy of the head stops the undead at once.  As they head back out, they are confronted by three more mummy's that appear to have been triggered by their entrance into the tomb, or maybe the killing of the mummy's master.

eanwhile Sharkan and Raiko started climbing the stairs in the rear cavern, a long flight leading alongside the wall of a huge cave, with a rocky bottom, and a dark still pool of water at the back.  Sharkan's witchsight allows him to see the pool for what it is, a huge heap of bane spirits, and the party steers well clear of the threat, in spite of the protection given by Giomanach.  The moment Daerius appears at the bottom of the stairs, Sharkan stumbles on the stairs, making a lot of noise, and draws the attention of two more skeletons, that head in their direction at once, to the bottom of the stairs.  Daerius takes a stance, and Herculon, who returned to the statue with the ball in his hand, returns quickly as this new threat appears.  So does Giomanach, and the three compagnons await the skeletons.  Meanwhile Raiko and Sharkan have reached the top of the stairs, and Sharkan has noticed a wraith waiting upstairs.  Their approach does not seem to alarm it, or maybe it is bound to its location?  As Raiko and Sharkan approach the spirit in its cell, Daerius comes under attack from the skeletons below.  The first attack is fearsome, Daerius manages to parry it but is flung back from the power of the blow.  Herculon arrives at this instant and steps in immediately.  As the fight develops, Sharkan and Raiko come under  attack from the wraith, but manage to best it.  The next cell is empty at first sight, but turns out to hold a surprise, another skeleton is animated by an undead spirit as they enter, and Raiko and Sharkan have to face it alone.  Much to their credit, they manage to overcome this opponent, with some considerable luck.  They loot whatever seems variable, and return to the ground floor, and the entire party then heads to the dwarven made tunnel near the entrance, where they saw two smaller skeletons stand guard near a large door.
The door turns out to be locked, and the lock looks like another gem of dwarven engineering.  A large iron cabinet, with thick, impenetrable walls, and a triangular hole on the top, as well as four openings on the front, each in the shape of a quarter of a cylinder.  The characters immediately recognize the shape of the elements of the guardian globe, and decide to get the ball over.  However, as soon as Herculon removes the ball from the statue's hand, the skeletons attack.  The globe controls the actions of the guards, but upon putting the ball back, one of the party deems it a good idea to try and knock down one of the retreating skeletons, triggering all undead guards at once, in spite of the ball being in place.  They have no choice now but to fight or perish.  Herculon fights like a rabid lion, but suffers several blows.  Daerius' ability to tank is thoroughly tested.  Giomanach, still standing outside of the room, manages to holdfast one skeleton, and after the skeleton breaks free much against all expectations, manages to keep it out of the fight.  That, and the fact that the narrow corridor narrows access, allows the party to wear the enemy down one by one, and they emerge victorious after all, as the party charges into the central hall to aid Giomanach and finish off the last skeleton guard. 

The throne room, Sharkan and Daerius looking worried.
The need for the guard suppression now gone, the party quickly discovers how the lock works, and enters an empty room with a throne in the middle, surrounded by a mountain of bones, skulls, and the odd weapon.  While Raiko relinquishes control to his ancestor, who starts his trance ceremony, Sharkan's witchsight reveals that a haunt is residing on the throne, and four powerful undead spirits circle the throne in an irregular pattern.  Giomanach, confident that his powerful spirit block will safeguard him, enters the room unafraid, only to find a pointed scepter is launched at him.  He is hit, and tries to grab hold of the rune inscribed scepter, but is unable to control its motions, and he is stabbed again, collapsing to the floor, and needs to be evacuated out of the room.  Herculon now advances, and triggers the undead spirits, all four of them animating another huge skeleton unexpectedly.  Raiko, having bound his ancestor, enters spirit combat with one of the undead spirits, bringing the number of skeletons down to three.  An essential action, as the room is open, and the three remaining skeletons prove just about too much for the party.  Herculon enters berserk mode, and violenty hammers away, but suffers too many attacks, and has no choice but to end his berserk spree and collapse, lest he dies after two atrocious blows hit him on the head.  With this all pressure comes on Daerius, who just about loses his spear arm immediately afterwards.  The scene turns ugly, with Giomanach being unable to do much more than try to damage one of the skeletons sufficiently to make it collapse with his staff.  With Raiko out of the battle, Sharkan is the only remaining damage dealer, and as his arm is crushed by a hammer attack, it looks like the fight is over and the party goes down, but the river folker comes back with a vengeance, heaving his crushed arm, and finishing of the first of the skeletons.  Still the situation remains bleak at best, and Raiko's ancestor loses the spirit combat with the undead spirit, and is destroyed. 

The shit hits the fan
It is down to Sharkan now to put down the other skeletons, while Daerius desperately tries to pull Herculon to relative safety.  Against all odds, the battle turns their way, and with Herculon's healings, they manage to pull through.  After standing face to face with their demise, the party now investigates the white stone bathing room and the bedroom behind it, and sees the risk of the endeavor well compensated.  Again they collect all things valuable, and they head to the final tunnel of the complex, the spider tunnel.  This turns out to be inhabited by two giant spiders, that Giomanach quickly takes care of, and the party discover a second exit out of the cave complex.  This exit requires a risky climb into the cave ceiling, but Giomanach helps the party up using a slab of stone controlled by his animate sorcery spell.  They quickly make it to the top of the mound, and discover a bunch of Lunar troops standing by the entrance.  It seems their cover is blown.  They quickly attempt an escape, and in spite of a griffin rider initially spotting them, they manage to make a clean getaway and return to the farm, only to find their young follower and the women from the farm in chains, ready to be taken away by Lunar Troops.  However, the Lunar conscripts don't know what hits them, as Daerius starts hurling his spears and Giomanach scatters them with a palsy.  Within one minute, the fight is over, and the prisoners released, and with a ox cart full of spoils of war, the party heads east.

zaterdag 9 november 2013

A taste for revenge

 Early morning of the 18th day of the Dark Season, the weather changes, overnight it became much colder, and the party feel they are in for a cold day.  They return at the farm before sunrise, having traveled overnight to avoid patrols, and learn of the dramatic turn of events at the longhouse.  Herculon, however, has been taken seriously ill, and is unable to accompany them to the Chaos caves, but urges the others to go ahead and scout the place out.  While having a simple breakfast, they discuss the events at the farm, and Alara explains how it has become impossible to remain living here, without the regular Quivini clan patrols, with the constant harassment of brigands, Lunar scum, and now this threat of Chaos so close.  Sharkan feels sorry for the stricken woman and hands her some silver pieces, giving her the advice to move to one of the towns and try and start a new life, if not for her own sake, then for her daughter's.

The party than dons their pelt clothing, and starts off into the hills, led by Daerius.  Before long they arrive at the patch of forest, which is looking ever more corrupted and vile.  Trees have been deformed, the branches no longer upright but drooping down, and the forest spiders that normally inhabited the forest quite peacefully now have no nesting space, and can be seen sitting between the tainted trees in every direction.  The path indicated by Daerius seems accessible enough, with just two spiders in view, and initially there is little reaction as Daerius and Sharkan slowly step forward.  The moment Giomanach advances, however, both spiders spring into action, and attack the sorcerer.

Giomanach charging in before the warrior...
Giomanach has to take a few steps back, keeping out of range of the spiders' attack, before he manages to touch palsy the animal on the head.   The second spider is dispatched by Sharkan with a brutal leap.  The party encounter no further spiders and continue towards the entrance, sneaking to the best of their ability.  They see no opposition and almost stand in front of the entrance, when they suddenly find themselves face to face with two broos.  Giomanach, against better judgment, charges forward, and starts hitting one the broo with his staff.  The others quickly advance, and notice there are more broos in the bushes.  The situation quickly turns into a full fight.  Raiko sneaks through the brushes, and surprises one of the broos that is trying to get behind the party, lopping off its arm as the chaotic fiend blindly runs into him.  Sharkan gets wounded in the madness at the entrance, and collapses, bleeding heavily.  Meanwhile, Giomanach is still hammering away at the broo, and as the last one tries to make a run for it, Giomanach follows him into the cave.  His haste gives him the advantage, and before long he is able to palsy him to a standstill, only to discover two scorpion men, standing guard in a cave, and heading in his direction immediately upon spotting him.  The sorcerer tries to crush one of the scorpion men with a rock, but fails.

Nobody noticed the Dragon Snail, or that Sharkan had passed out.
Giomanach goes down, and Daerius and Raiko charge forward to save him.  Raiko's heal fails, and it takes a miracle from Daerius to stop Giomanach from paying with his life.  The fight with the scorpion men continues, and the party is so occupied that they fail to notice a two headed dragon snail heading their way from out of the dark caves beyond. Just as Raiko manages to kill one of the Scorpion Men, Giomanach, having palsied one of the Dragon Snails' head, almost loses his arm by the other head.  The fight turns ugly, with Daerius and Raiko having a lot of trouble getting the upper hand, when Sharkan, still with witchsight on, notices an old tomb wall, full of spirits, and he steps forward through a stone portal.  Without anyone noticing, Sharkan collapses.  Meanwhile, Giomanach hears a rattling noise down along yet another corridor, and he decides to quickly investigate.  As he stumbles down the rocky slope down, he realizes he has no idea what he is about to find, but before he can have second thoughts, he stands in a lighted, man made corridor, and 30 meters in front of him are several broo's, operating a kind of lever above a hatch or hole in the ground. 

The big broo was surprisingly quick for such a big beast
Giomanach slowly tries to back out, but stumbles, and the broo leader is able to hear him, above all the noise.  Only at that moment Giomanach realizes what trouble he is in.  The broo leader is a huge bison broo, and upon spotting the sorcerer the huge creature starts charging in his direction, with an uncanny speed, especially for his bulk.  Giomanach, not an athlete by any standard, scurries up the rocky slope back to his henchmen, panting and yelling.  Daerius comes to his aid, slowing the creature down with some well aimed javelins, and the party intends to run, when they discover Sharkan lying unconscious.  Raiko loses no time, and loads his big fellow river nomad on his shoulders, ready to run for his life.  Giomanach casts his most powerful haste spell on the entire party, and Daerius assists Raiko with Sharkan, as they run out of the cave, back the way they came.  Just when it looks like they are going to get out alive, thanks to the powerful sorcery spell giving them superhuman speed, they run into the big rock Giomanach tried to crush the scorpion man with earlier, and have a hard time getting the big body of Sharkan over.  As the broos close in, the party tries everything, but they cannot take the obstacle while carrying Sharkan, and Giomanach, in a mild state of panic, fails his Rock magic several times, before he manages to finally clear the way. 

A walktapus tries to block them but fails
The party speed on, only meters in front of the advancing enemy.  They head towards the exit, and see yet another shape looming ahead of them.  A mass of tentacles on legs is coming from a corridor ahead of them, and hurrying to block them in the caves.  With seconds to spare, the party makes it to the exit, and miraculously, the two warriors manage keeping up their speed for several more minutes before having to finally slow down, spent,  with no more sight from neither the broo or the dreaded walktapus.  It seems a barbarian berserker has his uses after all...

zaterdag 2 november 2013

A Farmer's life

Daerius and his Hoplites have a hard time escaping the Chaos area.  They are spotted by a patrol led by a Scorpion Man, and have to run for their lives.  It takes them considerable effort to seemingly escape, and they manage to get a breather and return to Xeiros' farm.  There they learn that the rest of the party have left for Boldhome, in order to find a messenger to Pavis and to the Old Wind Temple.  They have left nobody behind, and Xeiros and his wife and daughter are very pleased to see the party return.  They breathe a sight of relief as the mighty hoplites appear in sight on the hill, in front of the mighty sunset, and walk the last part down to the farm.  Their rejoicing quickly fades when, after a short report of what occurred, the pursuing chaos band appears over the same hill.  The hoplites have been followed, and before they have much time to react, the broo and their scorpion man leader charge forward.  Our heroes urge the farmer's wife and daughter inside, and turn around to face the charge, only to discover Xeiros the farmer has been hit by missile fire and is lying 20 yards in front of the farm, unable to move.  With a split second decision Daerius decides he cannot take the risk of breaking the line, and only seconds later the broos come charging across the field, while the scorpion man, at an incredible speed, makes a dash for the house.

Further seconds of indecisiveness, and the broos are upon them.  One of the broo though stops at the fallen Xeiros and starts the foul impregnation on the fallen farmer.  The fellow screams in agony, as the broo starts his nasty business, and Daerius and his hoplites cringe.  Inside they hear his wife sobbing and crying out the farmer's name.  There is nothing they can do, as the charge hits them, and the green hoplites face the ferocious attack.  The scorpion man, in the meantime, is dashing around the main farm building, and within seconds he is standing behind their shield wall.  Their only bit of luck is that the farmer is keeping one of the broos busy, it allows the party the small advantage trey need to quickly reduce the broo numbers and be able to brace for the scorpion man attack.  They manage to down the enemies, one by one, and the scorpion man is the last to go down.  They emerge as victors, but there is no happiness, as Alara stumbles out of the longhouse, her daughter in tow, and falls to her knees, weeping over the ravaged body of her dying husband.

The party stand around her, not knowing what to say.  They do what is necessary, and give the farmer a decent last voyage, before bariccading up in the house for the night.