Monthly Archives August 2017

Bear-hug

As the watchman slumped against the wall, and it became apparent that no one was watching the watchman, I led the rest of the party across the wall walk and into the shadow of the keep.  We paused briefly for me to listen at the door, but I didn’t hear anything, so we cautious started opening it.  This was met by a shout from inside (strange how they didn’t assume it was just the watchman coming in to relieve himself), so i threw caution to the wind, threw it open and rushed in.  I rapidly assessed the situation within.  Two of the strange water cult warriors were sitting at a table on my right, while another two were reposed on a bunk straight ahead of me.  I’m a lover, not a fighter, so I used my small size and nimbleness to dash across the room in front of their startled faces, and slide under the occupied bunk on the far side. As I did so, I used a minor magic to extinguish the torch on the wall next to the door, leaving only one torch illuminating the room.  I reasoned that we could all see well in the dark, and they might not be able to, so this would give us an advantage.

From my position under the bunk, I could observe little of the start of the fight, although there was the clash of steel.  I could hear Thorg’s characteristic stream of Dwarven invective that was a sure sign that he had missed, and the appearance of a large pair of furry claws in front of the bunk told me that Sorrel had once again transformed herself into a bear.  Seeing that the bunk above me was still occupied, I stabbed upwards through the mattress and was rewarded with a scream of pain.  Unfortunately whoever I stabbed wasn’t killed by it as an arm wielding a sword appeared over the edge of the bunk and scythed under it.  I was unfortunately overstretched and unable to extricate my sword from the mattress to block it so the hideous serrated edge of it caught me and tore through my scalp and shoulder, ripping open my flesh.  I was gratified though to see Sorrel tear my assailant’s arm off with her next blow.  Rolling out from under the bed, I stabbed at another one of the warriors, bleeding heavily from various claw and bite wounds, finishing him off.  As I caught my breath, I saw that my companions had finished off the rest of the warriors.

Given the noise they had been making, obviously in an attempt to summon reinforcements, it was obvious that taking a rest wasn’t really an option.  I gladly took a potion of healing that Thorg proffered and quaffed it, which staunched the worst of the bleeding.  Hopefully I won’t be left with any kind of permanent scar.  While I was doing this, Sorrel barged through the other door of the room while Allyria barricaded the door behind us.  Slipping round Sorrel, I saw that the door opened (or would have opened if Sorrel had used the handle) into a short corridor.  To my right was the balcony that I had seen over the great hall.  I could see Jollivar and his lieutenant standing by the fire, and two more of the warriors rushing up the stairs towards us.  Seeing Sorrel they briefly paused, but a roar from Jollivar spurred them on.  Assuming that Sorrel had things in order, I went the other way up the corridor to investigate the door at the far end.  Trying to listen with all this noise seemed pointless, so I opened it.  The room beyond occupied the whole of the semi-circular end of the keep and was sparsely furnished as a bedroom.  My interest was attracted by some chests on the far wall when a shout from Feyabelle attracted my attention.  Tempted as I was by the chests, and irritated by the rest of the party’s inability to function without my aid, I turned back to help them.

Thorg told me afterwards what had happened.  The two warriors had advanced on Sorrel.  She had grabbed one, snapped his spine in half and thrown his limp body over the balcony to the floor below.  Feyabelle had used the opportunity when Sorrel moved forward to plug the other warrior with an arrow, and Thorg had finished him off with his axe.  By now though, Jollivar and his lieutenant were advancing up the stairs, one on each side.  The lieutenant was now shimmering with icy blue light light though, and Jollivar had transformed into a strange boar-man hybrid, human in body, but with a boar’s head.  Feyabelle had hit the lieutenant with another arrow, causing her blue light to briefly flicker and diminish somewhat in intensity, but Jollivar had charged straight up the stairs and into Sorrel, knocking her off her feet and slashing her with his tusks.  Sorrel had clawed back, but the deep slashes she inflicted had healed with preternatural speed.  Recognising from her lore the unnatural healing of a were-boar, Feyabelle had realised that magic or silver weaponry was required to hurt Jollivar, so had called me.

As I reappeared, the lieutenant transformed as well, metamorphosing into a great constrictor snake of water.  Feyabelle shot it, knowing that he arrows would do no damage to the were-boar Jollivar.  Thorg slashed at it with his axe, cleaving it mightily, but also suffering himself from the intense cold that was radiating from the blue light.  With his blow though, the blue light flickered, faded and vanished.  On the other side, Sorrel, having realised that her claws were not hurting Jollivar, rushed at him and knocked him right back down the stairs.  Once again, though, he stood up, straightened his broken arm and started charging back up the stairs.  Realising the need of the situation instantly, I whipped out my wand of magic missiles and blasted him with three of them. This time Sorrel stood aside from the top of the stairs, so Jollivar was unable to charge her down, but he wielded a great maul in one hand.  He hit Sorrel with it, sending her reeling.  Sorrel once again grabbed him and hurled him down the stairs, and I send three more fiery darts into him, but this was a slow way of inflicting damage upon him.

Meanwhile, now that her icy blue aura had dissipated, Thorg, Feyabelle and Allyria set about the lieutenant with a vengeance.  She managed to throw her coils around Thorg and start squeezing, but that was her last action.  A blow from Allyria finished her, and she transformed back into a woman as she died.   Sorrel and I were continuing to struggle against Jollivar however.  Thinking quickly, now that the lieutenant was dead, I shouted at Feyabelle to grab my daggers and attack Jollivar with them, as they were magical and would at least hurt him, unlike any of our more potent weapons.  She did so, and Sorrel quickly adapted to the idea.  Rather than throwing Jollivar down the stairs, she grappled him in a bear hug and swung him round to face Feyabelle.  She plunged both daggers into him, not once but twice, as he wrestled to escape Sorrel’s grasp.  I fired another set of fiery darts into him.  Still he rages and struggled, trying to break free from Sorrel – was there nothing that would fell this monstrosity.  We were conscious that our attacks were mere pin-pricks to him, but at least he was now bleeding and showing signs of exhaustion.  Thorg leapt in to try and help restrain him, but was unable to get a good grasp, and Sorrel once again pinned him for Feyabelle to stab.  Thorg in his turn grabbed the daggers off Feyabelle and lunged with them himself, putting all his strength behind them to push them deep into Jollivar’s flesh.  He screamed in pain, as I hit him with another three fiery darts, and slumped in Sorrel’s arms, transforming back into a man as he died.  At last, our thousand cuts had finished him, but we were all weak and battered ourselves.

Sorrel and Thorg rushed downstairs to barricade the great doors of the hall before Sorrel slumped and turned back into a woman again.  Allyria and I investigated the room upstairs that we had not seen.  It also was a bedroom, but the floor was covered with a mysterious sheen of water.  Concerned, we returned to the great bedroom at the far end, which we assumed was Jollivar’s.  The chests turned up some sacks of coins and gems, but nothing more interesting.  We returned to the watery bedroom, which we assumed belonged to the lieutenant.  Espying a chest under the bed from my low eye-level, I cautiously advanced across the floor and extracted it.  It too proved to contain coins and gems, but also two scrolls containing spells that I had not seen before – one for hastening a person for a brief period of time, the other for creating a wall of water.  Both looked rather complex for my current understanding of the magic arts.  Downstairs, Sorrel and Feyabelle started to leaf through a large sheaf of papers lying on a desk by the fire…

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I am legend

After a gentle sail up the impressively large Dessarin river (around half a mile wide here it appeared, which convincingly disabused even Sorrel of her initial plan for swimming across it from the Sumber Hills on the way to Summit Hall), including a quiet and restful overnight, we arranged our pace such that we would arrive at Rivergard Keep as dusk was falling.  We proceeded as we approached to put my carefully designed plan into action.  While the rest of us cowered in the cabin, I disguised myself using my previously acquired skills in this department as the recalcitrant halfling who had formerly served as the first mate.  We also disguised Therel as the deceased deck hand, while Thedorm played himself with remarkable facility.  As we neared the chain boom that stretched across the river gate, a we were hailed by one of the sentries on the wall.  I cast an illusion of Captain Quanderil sitting on the quarterdeck, and Thedorm responded that we were the Rivermaid returned.  A lanky head poked out of a window in the left hand river tower and looked us over, asking what our voyage had been like.  I made the illusion seem to be Quanderil waving to the man and then going below.  Thedorm replied that the pickings had been reasonable.  Obviously satisfied with our responses and identity, the chain was lowered and we moored along the quay by the outer wall.  The guards from the wall were watching us, which prevented us using plan A of all sneaking off the boat, so we moved seamlessly to plan B.  Thedorm called up, to explain that he had four new recruits that they had picked up.  Two guards appeared, armed with curious shark-teeth swords and shields made from turtle shells.  They brusquely accompanied Sorrel, Arielle, Feyabelle and Thorg us to the keep and showed them in.

Inside was a large, gruff man, who we immediately assumed was Jollivar Grimjaw.  He was attended by a woman who appeared to be his lieutenant and two guards.  Words were exchanged I understand, and I get the impression that Jollivar was not at all jolly, and pretty suspicious of the new recruits.  Nonetheless he agreed to try them out and ordered them to be quartered for the night.  I then say them being marched from the keep into a low building in the centre of the fort.  Here they were introduced to other members of the garrison, and allocated two bunks (between the four of them).

They soon reappeared at the boat, saying that they had received an unfriendly welcome from the rest of their bunkmates, who were eight mercenaries and two of the elite guards, called reavers.  They proposed to take a keg of ale back with them to try and get their companions drunk enough to sleep through them leaving the barracks.  I promised to remain in touch with Thorg using my messaging cantrip.

I messaged them in an hour and received a curt response from Thorg.  Plans had changed apparently.  The reavers were not drinking and grudgingly allowing the others to drink.  There were now four reavers in the barracks, and one bandit would guard each door through the night.  Sneaking out was no longer an option, Sorrel and the others had decided that we needed to kill them as they slept.

I was concerned about this turn of events, because I am not usually in favour of killing those who are helpless, unless truly evil, and I felt that a great many of the garrison, like us, were just trying to make an honest living in a hard world, trying to escape from hard lives scrabbling a living from the soil.  Plus some of those garrison members were also the young lads from Womford that had joined up – should they really be punished like this for a momentary lapse of judgement?  But a message cantrip is no place to try and change the mind of a hardened killer, and Sorrel’s instincts were definitely driving her at this point.  I went along with the plan, because it would be even worse to leave my friends without backup at this time, and it is certain that this fortress is a focus for evil along the Dessarin valley, as Endrith had indicated.  Or rather he had indicated that there was evil afoot along the Dessarin valley; I had traced the source of it to this tumbledown castle.

I snuck carefully up to the east door of the barracks and messaged Arielle to let her know I was there.  I didn’t know why I needed to do this, but soon understood as I saw the black smoke of her shadow magic wreathing me.  Satisfied that I was now almost completely invisible to those on the walls, I snuck around to the north door as I had been ordered and messaged Arielle again, then activated the poison on my venom blade. I teased open the door, and then before the guard sat next to it could respond, struck him with my dagger.  The strike was true and the venom did its work quickly.  Looking around the room, I saw my friends rapidly dispatching the sleeping guards and reavers.  Soon we were standing alone in our gruesome charnelhouse, and they filled me in quickly.  The guards on the walls were pretty drunk, having partaken from the key before they were replaced, and would now be on guard until morning.  The reavers had threatened to call in Jollivar if anyone had gotten too drunk though, so the other bandits were only merry, which is why they had had to kill all of them.  The two awake guards had meant that they had had no chance of leaving without the alarm being raised in some way.

We had an hour before the shadow magic would wear off, so we needed to move quickly.  We crossed the bailey, wreathed in shadow, and listened at the great door of the keep.  We could hear low voices within, and Blinky, perching by an arrowslit high up in the wall could see Jollivar and his lieutenant talking in front of the fire.  We decided not to confront them and moved east around the other big building in the bailey.  On the east side were double doors – cautiously opening these we saw it was a temple.  Thedorm had spoken of a crazy woman who urged on the cultists in the chapel, and there appeared to be some sleeping pallets at the far end.  I snuck up the chapel alone, and could see a woman sleeping there with two of the reavers.  Creeping forward, I slit her throat, and then the throats of the two reavers sleeping on either side of her.

Exiting the chapel, we proceeded to the northernmost river tower.  Listening at the door there, we heard guttural tones in a language that sounded a bit like goblin.  Feyabelle examined the ground outside, but a quick sniff of the air confirmed to her that there were bugbears inside, although only a handful.  We decided that killing even a couple of bugbears would be a noisy task and decided to leave them while we continued to search for the missing ambassadors.  Returning to the opposite corner of the castle, we passed the ruined stableblock and found the gatehouse.  There was no noise at the door, but on opening it we found four more sleeping guards, who we killed as they slept.  Ascending the stairs to the upper floor, we found more guards sleeping, along with two more reavers.  All these also perished at our blades as we slept.  Killing men in their sleep still seems a nasty business to me, but I could not disagree with Sorrel that it was allowing us to venture almost unhindered around the castle, although so far we had found no sign of the captives.  The upper floor of the gatehouse had doors onto the wallwalk.  I opened the one to the wall leading to the keep – the guard on duty there was slumped bored against the parapet.  Swiftly I cast a sleep spell upon him, and watched him slump down against the wall.

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