Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Saturday, June 16, 2012
Chi Chi remained determined to get Riccardio out of prison and to save him from execution scheduled for a few hours time. The fiasco that had been the first attempt did not deter her. This time she sent for Loft, the little gnome who had helped her steal the Eye of the Beast with Romano; Paddon the Hobbit was prepared to stick with the job if he got paid again. The Rogues’ Guild took some responsibility for the buffoons whom they had sent to Chi Chi only hours earlier so they took greater care in supplying more mercenaries eager for a pay off. There was an ogre of little brain, depressingly named Shrek, a goatman of only marginal greater cerebral activity named Rougvie, a very capable elven wizard called Nympie and a elven rogue, Cuthbert by name. This group seemed to carry greater chance of success and clearly had more muscle. Chi Chi heeded the chiding from the venerable elf who had got so upset when Jim the dwarf and Yamato the living statue had opened doors and generally goofed about before getting their come uppance in the sewers below the Guild building during the aborted rescue mission #1.
With terms agreed, the party descended into the sewers without the farce of the first expedition. Loft did not fancy swimming and his height would have given him no other option without help so he requested a ride in Nympie’s backpack. Nympie generously agreed, quite forgetting what he had stored within, which would come back to haunt him. Paddon didn’t fancy being up to his chin so got piggybacked by the goatman who was eager to try out the one spell he knew, Super Butt, which tripled his normal three dice attack. The ogre took the lead and the party set out, following the map Chi Chi clutched securely in one gloved hand. Before long the disconcerting sound of sewer rats floated over the oily water towards the party. Both Cuthbert and Nympie were familiar with rodent language and speak/squeak a little. Understanding the intentions was extremely heartening. Even though they were not friendly and involved the summoning of a wizard, the delvers were able to stay several steps ahead. They also learnt that the dwarf, Jim, was the subject of keen interest to the rats when they heard them wondering if other humanoids would provide such sport.
Their first encounter was with another former companion of Chi Chi and Paddon: they heard Yamato splashing his way towards them. They had the choice to get on with their mission or to take him out and the overwhelming wish was to give him a good seeing to. Yamato obliged them with battle but was no match for such overwhelming numbers. His constitution was rapidly brought down from 160 to the point that Chi Chi’s whip could decapitate him. Coming away with only spite damage against the ogre, the party were swelling with testosterone. They made short work of finding the entrance to the prison complex (where they had no idea of what they would encounter) but were slowed down by their failure to see that the low tunnel roof presented no problem with reach – put it down to over-excitement.
Loft was keen to find the red moss he remembered from his first visit to the sewers. How long ago? This same night – incredible to think! The others were interested to hear of it’s acidic properties. When the manhole cover was eventually raised the ogre was slow to realise that he had encountered the tilting of a fulcrum point. A crash above confirmed what he’d done: upended a heavy statue which shattered on impact with the stone floor, releasing a great number of scorpions. Six promptly dropped on him and he failed to respond until they began stinging him, What good fortune that his metabolic system proved invulnerable to their venom. This made him think of swatting them off him into the water which in turn caused the scorpions to resort to biting their unlovely host. The ogre’s constitution of 20 was on the slippery slope downwards.
The gnome cast a Fly Me spell from the safety of the elf’s backpack thus enabling him to join his protector in the scorpion chamber above. Once a Will-o-Wisp had shed some light on the matter, the pair located a giant scorpion lurking in the depths of the cavern. A Level 3 TTYF did no more than knock a chunk of exoskeleton from the arthropod but then Paddon had the notion that alcohol might prove deadly to the monster. As luck saving rolls would have it, three members of the party had spirits with them and were willing to forego them. The aerial attack began. Bomber command took off and pursued its target. A small disagreement ensued as to whether the whisky should be poured or thrown, shaken or stirred, but once that was settledt it turned out that the hobbit was right. Greatly weakened by its shower, the huge monster was easy prey for the two wizards. That felt good!
The rest of the party then felt bold enough o enter the cavern. The goatman leapt through the manhole, squishing small scorpions as he landed. Some of the red moss was used to repel the creatures but they were not hard to deal with for an armoured group such as this. Two ladders, running up to the ceiling and to further manhole covers 20 metres (65 yards) above were spotted. The two ladders were some 50 metres apart and Loft suggested the party split up. Agreement was reached with surprising rapidity. The gnome stayed with Nympie - Chi Chi and Cuthbert preferred joining their splinter group, leaving Rougvie, Paddon and the ogre to climb the second ladder.
The smaller group immediately hit a problem. Hooves. Rougvie was not designed for climbing ladders. He resorted to hooking his forelimbs over the rungs and used his powerful hind legs to propel his bulky form upwards. There seemed some risk that he might not hang on, putting the hobbit in unwelcome danger beneath him but the goatman managed the climb in inelegant style. There was nothing above these two manhole covers so opening them did not present any difficulty. However, Loft’s desire to separate was evidently futile as the upward thrust heads of Chi Chi and Shrek blinked at each other in the cavern above. Oh well, at least they weren’t being attacked. Yet.
To their left they saw one end of the cavern. It consisted of a pair of doors, surrounded by rock, with a huge portcullis in the centre. The portcullis was down. In front of each door they could see a group of four coloured rods – emerald, vermilion, indigo and lemon, as they soon read. To their right, off towards the unseeable other end of this cavern lit by wall torches, was a huge gong with the striker lying beneath it, positioned close to another ladder leading up to a manhole cover. It seemed safe enough…so one by one Chi Chi’s band of mercenaries emerged into this great cavern.
So far, so good, certainly compared to rescue mission #1. But it was now that the ogre’s computational difficulties exploded into life. He might be a towering mountain of muscle but he was also an intellectual pygmie. Seeing his companions 50 metres off to the left, he bellowed a greeting at the top of his lungs. This brought cries of dismay as his shout reverberated around the cavern. It really did not seem likely that only the party would hear him. He then turned his attention to the big, shiny gong. Why, yes, surely a gong is made to be struck? And with a big, hefty striker like that one lying there, free for the taking…Shrek rushed past Paddon and Rougvie and hit it hard.
Howls of protest met this act of wanton stupidity. Shrek bounded across the cavern to see what his companions wanted. He was instantly intrigued by the coloured rods. Chi Chi and her group were rather more occupied by the portcullis which was now rising, coupled with the sound of heavy footsteps. Wanting to see what wicked thing was coming their way, they paid no heed to Shrek’s delight in the coloured rods. There were holes in front of them, just the right size to fit the rods into…A lightbulb flashed in the ogre’s brain. It happened maybe once a month. The names of the colours were written boldly by each rod. Not that Shrek understood a word like ‘vermilion’. But he did see that the first letter of each word, much larger than those following, could be arranged to make a word he knew – ‘LIVE’. He picked up one rod after the other and slotted them home. Nothing had happened so far as he could tell but he wasn’t about to stop in full flow.
By now, Chi Chi and Nympie had seen what was coming – a Cyclops with a big bunch of keys and two beefy barbarians armed with broadswords. She had a vorpal blade on her own broadsword and stood ready to strike. Loft jumped from the backpack and he and Nympie retreated to where the watching Cuthbert stood. From this vantage point they could observe the ogre’s follow up action. Loft threw a Hold That Pose at the Cyclops but a protective charm froze the caster instead of the target. Just as well he didn’t opt for a TTYF, too bad no one ever thought to take the charm later on. Shrek moved over to the right hand rods. This time it occurred to him he could make a different word from the same letters – ‘EVIL’. ‘What a good idea!’ he thought and immediately slammed the rods home in the necessary order. Still nothing…
Chi Chi brought her blade sweeping down on the first barbarian, cleaving him in two from shoulder to waist. Not bothering to retrieve the sword, she backed off and readied her deadly whip for an assault on the huge Cyclops. Loft ande Nympie were now testing the left hand door, probing it with a Knock Knock spell without success. Nympie was also having to explain the blue dress Loft had found in the backpack but, saving Nympie’s blushes, no one else heard the gnome’s question. Shrek had run back to join the goatman and the hobbit, possibly keen to have another go at the gong. The sheer length of the whip meant that Chi Chi had time to strike at the Cyclops before it could reach her or anyone else and the deadly lash brought the monster jailor to his knees, grunting with surprised pain, severely lacerated.
The surviving barbarian confronted the ogre, goatman and hobbit and engaged them in a finely balanced combat, where spite was the governing factor. Cuthbert at last made the decision to act and fired a TTYF at the Cyclops just as Chi Chi lashed the monocular monster for the final, life stealing blow. The four by the portcullis left the other three to their fight with the barbarian and some began exploring the lair of the jailor while Cuthbert beat Loft in a race to the keys. Chi Chi found nothing of note beyond the portcullis but when Nympie opened the left hand door all hell broke loose.
The brighter members of the party might have thought the rods through. The ogre was never going to do that. One set released the force fields securing the ‘normal’ prisoners in the cells beyond the two heavy, locked doors either side of the portcullis. The rods had to be inserted in the holes in the order which would indicate ‘LIVE’ just as the ogre had worked out. The other set could release the really nasty captives, the natural born monsters, and using the order ‘EVIL’ did exactly that. One of Shrek’s companions exacerbated his folly by unlocking the left hand door and within minutes it exploded off its hinges as a minotaur and a particularly ugly demon made their bids for freedom. Next the right hand door disintegrated and a medusa and a dragonman appeared. Everyone made their saving rolls to avoid looking into the gorgon’s eyes and Nympie staggered the bullman with a vicious TTYF. What could make things worse?
Sooner or later the prison guards were going to get reinforcements – bang a gong, get it on. At least twenty came pouring down from above. Paddon took a nasty head cut just as Shrek and Rougvie were getting on top of the barbarian and a spell from Loft brought that battle to an end, with just more spite damage suffered by the ogre and the goatman, while the hobbit was contending with a stream of blood running down his face. Loft then sprinted for the manhole escape down to the scorpion cavern and Paddon and Rougvie decided his thought was a good one. Chi Chi retreated beyond the portcullis with Nympie joining her. As the guards chased after Rougvie and Paddon, the vertically challenged gnome realised his short little legs weren’t going to get him to safety in time and so he swerved back and hurtled towards Chi Chi. The rogue leader figured lowering the portcullis was a good bet and Cuthbert ran to join her and Nympie rather than be on the outside looking in.
This was getting confusing for everyone. Loft avoided the eyes of the medusa but reached the portcullis too late. Shut out, he attempted to wriggle his way through the bars. Chi Chi and co had found no way out beyond the Cyclop’s quarters and it began to dawn on them that they had really done the prison guards job and trapped themselves. Duh! Paddon climbed up on to Rougvie’s back and the goatman jumped down the manhole, just as the guards caught up with him, forgetting that there was a 20 metre (60’) drop below him. As the grim prospect of a crash landing penetrated his none too sharp mind, he banked on truly being as sure footed as a mountain goat is alleged to be. The guards then saw a wounded minotaur, a demon, a dragonman and a medusa homing in on the most obvious escape route and found they had a very different job on hand – fighting off monsters for their lives rather than recapturing humanoid fugitives.
Guards began to petrify under the medusa’s stony gaze but still more were fighting their way to the portcullis. There was an argument going on now behind the heavy grates – should they stay put or break loose? The stay put argument crumbled and the ogre wound the great portal up again. Now things took on an even more chaotic guise as a banshee made to escape, wailing devastatingly as it came. The delvers were fast enough to react and spent the next few minutes with their fingers in their ears whilst the majority of the guards fell foul of the fateful cry. At least more monsters escaping meant no more prison guards for the party to worry about.
Rougvie took damage from his jump but his goat nature meant it was minimal and Paddon landed unscathed. Hearing the demon coming and smelling its disgusting breath, the two danced over a few more scorpions, crunching them underfoot or hoof, as they sprinted for the exit to the sewers. They dropped into the water and pushed against the walls until all the monsters had made good their getaways. They had no light source and no map but felt confident that they knew their way out. They were wrong and were soon wandering about hopelessly lost in the dark. Before long the rat squeaks returned…
Chi Chi and Loft decided the coast was clear to search the prison cells. They, unlike Paddon and Rouvie down below, were right. They ignored the cries for help from the other prisioners, most too weak to move, and found the elf – the much unloved Riccardio at last. He was in a bad way, no doubt, but Chi Chi cast a Poor Baby which revived him enough to be able to walk independently. He was quickly updated and, characteristically, didn’t seem very grateful towards his rescuers. Perhaps the four fingers missing from his left hand from the second knuckle explained his disgruntled mood. His days as a master archer seemed over.
Paddon and Rougvie heard creatures approaching from both sides now. In total darkness even the goatman’s vision did little to help. He somehow got his Super Butt spell cast despite his low intelligence and took out the first attacker but the pair were quickly overwhelmed, bitten and dragged off to a fate that Jim the Dwarf could probably described accurately to them had he the opportunity.
The mayhem above was resolving itself. Chi Chi had the map and she and the rest of her party salvaged weapons from the fallen before getting out of the caverns at the double. Their route through the sewers was simple and uneventful. They returned to the Rogues’ Guild manhole since they had quite forgotten that they were told it would be sealed and so had to make their way to the perimeter of the sewer system, back to the abandoned village of Aardvark. Nympie contemplated knifing Chi Chi as they climbed up the ladder inside the well but Cuthbert was between the two and, in any case, Nympie realised that Chi Chi would not be carrying the riches she had received as her share of selling the Eye of the Beast to the Death Cult.
So they were out into the poltergeist-infested village at about 9am and there we will leave them with Chi Chi paying wages and Riccardio silent on the subject of reimbursing the rogue who strangely chose to save him twice over.
Friday, June 1, 2012
For reasons quite unfathomable, Chi Chi decided that - having stolen the Eye of the Beast and got the payoff from the Cult was not enough – she wanted to rescue the only known elf with a talent for being obnoxious. Romano, her dwarf accomplice, had no interest in saving Riccardio’s skinny red neck from the hangman’s noose so they part company, considerably richer… but wiser?
It was now 4am. Chi Chi decided she should have some help and was prepared to pay (maybe Riccardio would cough up later, she somewhat optimistically thought) and so, being a rogue, she hotfooted it down to the Rogues’ Guild, careful to conceal her death-dealing whip, this being the obvious means of identifying her as one of the gem-thieves. The Guild was open 24/7 and she flashed her token to get past the yawning door guards. When she told the front desk clerk her business she was taken through one of the eleven doors ringing the atrium and she was left to sit in a very comfortable padded armchair to wait. Not for too long, fortunately, given the elf bowman’s execution scheduled for the day just about to dawn.
A middle aged woman with silver hair wearing a deep blue velvet dress entered through the room’s only other door and soon showed she was easy to do business with. Chi Chi’s willingness to pay could have been a telling factor - 600 gold pieces to have the Guild find within, the hour, a wizard, an expert in traps, someone good at sewer fighting and a fourth talented in causing distractions. Chi Chi had given quite some thought as to what she wanted at her disposal. Her luck held and within forty minutes the silver haired woman returned with the four potential recruits. Chi Chi thought better of asking where they had been found or what they were doing in the small hours when decent folk should be a-bed.
The first was an aged yet novice elf wizard, quaintly named Wizzie, who professed some knowledge of traps. He filled two of Chi Chi’s needs in one and was quick to accept her terms – 100 gold pieces if they brought Riccardio out alive, 50 if they brought him back dead and 25 if they failed in that but escaped with their lives. Next was a dwarf by the name of Jim who was a janitor who had frequently to deal with leaky pipes in basements, more often than not ending up knee deep in water. He too took the price and shook hands, triggering the curse the Rogues’ Guild had in place for any deal broken that was initiated under their auspices. Following on from Jim was an interesting specimen: a living statue of dark grey hue who clearly had a formidable constitution and who claimed a knack for distractions. Yamato, too, was hired and Chi Chi’s shopping list appeared to be filled.
The last fellow paraded in front of Chi Chi was a hobbit, a warrior of sorts. More likely out of sorts, since he had not the strength even for a kukri, that standby of so many desperate delvers. This Paddon could offer no talent he chose to name and, unlike the others, quibbled over the price, notwithstanding there being nothing obvious Chi Chi might gain by his employment. The rogue was anxious to get going so the hobbit too was hired.
The Guildswoman made two more offers. Firstly, the sale of a healing potion for a further hundred gold, which the team were pleased to see their leader pay up. Secondly, rather than having to trace their way out of the city and round the walls to the abandoned village of Aardvark, where she and Romano had previously entered the sewer system, the party would be allowed to descend into the bowels of the Guild, there to find quick ingress into the tunnels. Chi Chi gladly accepted this too.
The woman authoritatively summoned another elf, not young in years, but junior enough to Wizzy for him to give a slight bow in deference. This rogue led the party out into the atrium and through another panelled door. This led in its turn to a thickly carpeted corridor, lit with dripping candles, which ended abruptly in a staircase of stone, spiralling downwards.
Events now began to unfold as they would continue. Badly. Stupidly. Wizzy tried blowing a candle out. The elf rogue didn’t like it and told him so sharply before leading them down the stairwell. ‘Don’t’ was all he said . Wizzy then tried to bump his way down the stairs on his backside and tried opening one of the regularly spaced doors they passed by. ‘Stop’ the elf told him, fixing him with a stern stare. He was shot another warning but carried on aggravating the guide. Enough was more than enough. The elf cast Hold that Pose and then sliced Wizzy’s right ear lobe off – 2 points of CON gone for no good reason. The wizard, now chagrined and down to CON 9, pulled himself together and shrugged off the night’s drinking.
By now, both Yamato and Jim had been set a bad example. As the rogue led them down and out into a rough stone cavern with a manhole cover leading to a ladder down into the sewer system, the statue tried opening the last door on the way down. ‘No,’ the elf instructed. Yamato ignored the punishment meted out to Wizzy and pushed the elf out of the way to get to the manhole cover. A final warning didn’t suffice so the rogue cast a spell to show the statue who was boss – he gave him shocking yellow hair as a permanent souvenir of his transgression. Jim scratched his head and wondered if a living statue could cut his hair off.
The elf left them, admonishing Chi Chi to take control of the group and telling her that they would not be able to return via the Guild’s sewer entrance. Wizzy now decided to start earning his fee by checking out the manhole. When he saw there was an iron ladder running three metres down to the sewer, he scuttled down and began testing the depth of the water. ‘One metre, no problem,’ he called up to Chi Chi, who was on her way down, now blocking out most of the light from the cavern above.
Now things went seriously wrong. There was no danger, no reason for Chi Chi and Wizzy to worry. However, something snapped in Yamato’s brain - whatever it was transmitted itself instantly on to Jim. The living statue hurtled past a nonplussed Paddon and leapt down the manhole. Jim flew after Yamato, not far behind. The outcome was clear - injuries accrued to three of the party, two serious. The living statue was extremely heavy. Chi Chi heard him coming, looked up and twisted desperately as she saw him coming straight at her. She twisted in a futile effort to avoid harm but took the full weight of Yamato on her shoulder. Not before she hit the warrior with a Hold That Pose spell though. She was smashed savagely against the stone side wall and the crack of breaking bone echoed in the well. Her shoulder was badly broken and she had to make a L1 SR on her current CON (7 down from 29 as she took 5d6 damage). She made the roll thanks to her level and now it was Wizzy was in dire trouble. The rogue crashed down on top of the wizard, with the statue and the dwarf providing the crushing force. The 2d6 damage that Wizzy suffered reduced his CON to zero and he slipped out of consciousness. Jim took 2d6 damage as retribution for his idiocy but, being a dwarf, he scarcely noticed.
The four delvers were now underwater in the sewers and in near total darkness. Chi Chi struggled to her feet and cast Poor Baby on herself, using up all her remaining khremm. The bones rippled under her shirt as they knitted themselves back together and she breathed easier with CON up to 15. Yamato was still held by her spell but it would elapse in a few seconds. Jim got to his feet, up to his broad chest in the foul water but little troubled given his talent. In the gloom, he went to draw his katar with the intention of taking the map of the sewers from Chi Chi which he knew to be in her pocket. The rogue was too quick for the dwarf and brought her whip slashing down on the hilt of the punch dagger. She made the L5 DEX SR required to hit the target. The whip had magically toughened glass shards embedded throughout its length and the force of this lethal weapon was enough to sever Jim’s hand left hand at the wrist. He bellowed, spurting blood in the darkness, falling into the water for a second time.
Meanwhile Yamato had risen and picked up Wizzy’s still unconscious body. He sensed Chi Chi mounting the ladder back to the Guild cavern and threw the elf in what he hoped was the direction of his employer. Jim was now reaching for his lantern with his remaining hand. And what of the hobbit? Paddon had decided he wanted nothing to do with this crew and was struggling to push the manhole cover back in place. His strength of 5 made this a slow process. Wizzy crashed into Chi Chi’s legs but she was strong enough to retain her grip on the iron ladder and she entreated Paddon to let her back up to safety.
The hobbit thought about it and decided she was the only other sane one so soon he and Chi Chi had closed the manhole with its snug-fitting cover. Being thrown some violently by Yamato had finished poor Wizzy off. His corpse sank under the oily water. Jim failed to locate his severed hand, instead fastening his fingers around the blade of the katar, taking another cut. At this, he threw his head back and began singing. Yamato ripped the ladder from the wall in frustration and then leapt away from a wheezing, rasping sound he heard behind him. He stumbled over Wizzy’s body and knocked Jim over. Reaching down for Jim’s lantern, he instead pulled up the dwarf’s hand, which he threw away in disgust.
The breathing was now in Jim’s ear. Yamato got to his feet and surged powerfully off into the pitch black sewer. Jim stopped singing and felt teeth puncture his neck before strong arms encircled him and he was carried off, helpless, into the tunnels.
To be continued.