Monday, June 21, 2010

Campaign Journal: Retainer Dogs Session 5

Session Report of Mighty Hargreave the Self-Interested

Written by Bryan Clark

Well that was pretty, wasn't it? I don't think I'll be needing another cave full of scorched, wriggly things today.

Where were we? I think we pick up right after I singlehandedly saved practically the entire group from certain death at the hands of an ugly bat-thing and a bunch of cave locusts. Okay, yes, we lost that mage, but honestly, what's one novice mage more or less?

So we looted out the cave – not much, for all that trouble, although I have to admit with a little drawn butter those locusts might... oh, never you mind that. Anyway, there was a quiver I think I'll be keeping, and a few silver arrowheads. Junk, mostly.

The other heroes in my oh-so-illustrious band got seven shades of shit beat out of them (by a bunch of bugs, I'll note), so we chose to make tracks back to the farmhouse. On the way back, what should we find but another wagon full of idiots, heading north.

Oh, let's see if I can even remember the lot of them. There was a hotheaded young halfling among them – a shire halfling, mind, not a civilized one. Oh, he had stars in his eyes, this one! Turns out he was pining for that Brigid bird we buried back at the Fools' campsite, of all people. When I let on that I'd had a piece of that, and that I wasn't the first or the eighth, well, I had to dissuade the lad from doing anything rash. Twice. His jaw will heal, I think. Tough, farmer's jaw he had. Might have bruised my pinky a little, but the look on his face was so worth it.

A human warrior there was also, this one seeking Olef. Some old comrade in arms, I gather. What are the odds? We just need to find Aethyl's long-lost sister or something and we'll have the whole set. But I digress. We showed this fellow what became of Olef, and explained how it happened. He seemed to think that Olef's oath is binding on him, too, so I guess we've got a new blade hanging around. We'll just have to see how long this one lasts. Solvig, I think his name is. When he told us, there was this long pause, like a sound from the trees and the very air that I couldn't quite hear, as if to say that it was supposed to be funny somehow. I have no idea why.

Then there was a human woman, Nancy, looked like she just might be worth a damn. She had a look about her, a bit like my old mum. The kind of look mum got when she came home with unexplained jewelry. Quick eyes, nimble fingers – pity this Nancy's a human, but surely she’ll serve well enough for fleecing other humans, anyway.

Rounding out the group was a dwarf who acted like he was in charge. I didn't pay him so much attention, as he was moving on north and taking the hotheaded shire hick with him. They asked to sleep in the barn that night, which was fine by me. In hindsight, I reckon they might have paid a few bob for the privilege, but no sense crying over it now.

We determined there was a little village nearby, with a hedge-mage in residence. Since we preferred not to spend the week waiting for the walking wounded to recover, we thought we'd just pop in and see what he could do about our heroic elf's little boo-boos. Nancy’s ears perked up at the mention of the mage, and she elected to stick around with our little band. I didn’t argue – as I said, instinct told me she’d have some useful skills.

We pulled into the village, a small collection of huts, really, and found what passes for an inn. It wasn't too bad, actually – they had some decent stew, and some very serviceable beverages, but it was priced like eating quail's tongues at some fine restaurant in the city. Fortunately, the elf had the sense not to argue when I said he was buying my drinks – the dwarven spirits were excellent.

Moving on to meet the mage, we found he was even more proud of his product – perhaps the innkeep learned the attitude from him. I have no problem with skinning the punters of their cash, but I much prefer to do the skinning. If I'm honest, I was getting a bit bored with the whole affair until I glanced at our new human comrade, Nancy. I watched how her eyes were moving about, and once again the mannerisms were familiar. She was casing the place! I think she may indeed be worth having along.

Once the niceties were concluded, and the elf had spent what must have been his entire share of the gold plus his life's savings, most of the group decided to make their way back to the farmhouse for a nice bed of hay that stinks somewhat less of kobold than it does inside the house. Nancy said she'd prefer to stay in town; I could see that she had designs on the hedge-mage's stock, so I elected to join her.

Sadly, the outing was a bust. She couldn’t get through whatever special wards he had on the door and the window latch, and the old bugger wouldn’t come out to answer a call of distress. Not very civic-minded, that one. In the end, we had to call it a night and retire to our strikingly overpriced bedrolls in the inn’s common room. Honestly, this village is priced like a boom town without the boom.

Next day, we met up back at the farmhouse and went to take another look for that other cave entrance that’s supposed to be lurking somewhere near the ape cave. This time, we were to have a bit more luck, if you want to call it that

So like I said, it was next morning. Somehow, the first light of morning always has a way of bringing out the shit on your shoes. That’s why back home I sleep through it if I can. But we had finally managed to track down the other cave entrance we’d heard about, and it seemed there was money to be made. Money I’ll get up for. Nine times out of ten.

I took the lead so that the courageous tall folk behind me could cower with their bows, and we tapped our way in. Pretty sizeable passageways, it seemed. First intersection we came to there was a door ahead of us, a door to our right, and a passage to our left. Nancy allowed as how she had a pretty good ear, so she checked out the doors, and told us the one straight ahead had voices on the other side. She opened it just a crack to see what she could see, which wasn’t much, so in the end we just flung the door open and charged. The two guys inside were garbed in black cloaks and looked a bit like the riders we’d seen on the road a while back who were in such a damned hurry. Wasn’t much about them to be impressed with, though – they went down pretty easy. Mind you, they had about as much coin as they had skill, but I tried not to take it personally.

We rifled the room without finding much else. The acolytes had some kind of symbol, red and black, but it didn’t look like it was worth much, so I didn’t pay it much heed.

When we looked back in the hall, a group of shuffling zombies were heading toward us – alerted by the noise of fighting, I suppose. Osamu shouted at them, and three of them shuffled off. The rest quickly fell to fire and arrows.

Checking the other door, we saw a staircase spiraling down into the darkness. We opted to explore the rest of this level before returning to it.

We proceeded along a broad, curving cavern. A couple of doors came up on our right, and we had Nancy check out the first. Again, she detected voices, and cracking the door it appeared we were about to interrupt a poker game. Clothing Nancy and the elf in the acolytes’ cloaks, we sent them in to get closer before we sprung our interruption. The plan was fairly solid, but it fell to an unavoidable piece of rotten luck: the elf opened his mouth.

Alerted, the four dark priests leaped to their feet, but fortunately they were still standing in their places as they readied their weapons. I darted under the table, then quickly straightened and flung the table end over end on the two who had been sitting opposite. I kept on running over the flipped table to deal swiftly with the two I’d toppled, while the other members of the group dealt with the other two.

My two didn’t give me much trouble, but apparently the other two were a little much for everyone else in the party to distract, and I took a nasty gash from behind. Regardless, in a few moments they all lay dead, and we quickly stripped the bodies. They wore belts of woven copper that looked like they were worth some coin, and they had a little gold in their purses. Decent armor and weapons. All in all, not much to write home about. We also found some evil-looking books with shifting script – you know, the sort of thing dark cultists get off on. Not really the sort of thing you can readily move in the secondary market. Nancy got a bit excited about getting rid of them, and Osamu followed suit, so we fed them to the flames. It took me back – I haven’t seen a good bookburning in a while.

Once we felt we’d done enough damage to the literary establishment, and I’d had time to wrap up my new orifice so my guts would stay in, we proceeded. The next doorway was the second door to the same room, but a little further on, we found another little door, also on the right. Hearing nothing inside, we gently pushed it open and took a look.

When we opened it, we were glad we’d had the foresight to garb the tall folks in the dark priests’ clothes. Inside were ranks upon ranks of zombies and skeletons, probably near four dozen in all. They stirred for a moment, then seeing the garb of the dark priests, they fell still again.

We closed the door, then decided to scout what lay ahead in the large, open cavern before deciding what to do about the crowd of corpses in the storeroom. Ahead the already large hallway opened into a huge cavern, complete with wall hangings, wall sconces that burst into light as you walk by, a creepy ivory throne, and three, count them three sacrificial altars.

This place looked like a lot to commit to before making sure that a horde of undead wouldn’t be blocking our exit. We pooled our remaining lamp oil, and the tall ones in priest’s garb went back into the storeroom and doused the undead. The corpses still didn’t react, and once everyone was out, we lit the last flask and tossed it in, slamming the door after it. I jammed the door with a pair of maces taken from the priests, and we swiftly retreated to the priests’ chamber to see what reaction would come. If they all burned down, there might not be much – smoke tends to rise, so most of it will go back out the way we came. The burning itself won’t make much noise, so if the corpses didn’t thump around too much, anything deeper in this crypt might not have much notice anything happened. But there’s certainly a chance that something might be alerted, so best we’re on our guard.

I’ve got a foolproof plan ready if something overlarge does come, of course – all I have to do is slam my dagger through the elf’s boot and run like hell. As the old saying goes, I don’t have to outrun the unholy, soul-eating peril. I just have to outrun you.

ahem. Or was I oversharing just then…

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