Deck the table with our game stuff, tra-la-la-la-la, la-la, la-la...
The team began to hack at the door to the cellar with axes, desperate to escape before the coffin opened. Their blows soon splintered the wood in several places but as they made holes in the door they found more wood beyond it. Hacking at that, they heard the clank of metal and the crash of ceramics.
Suddenly, the new wood began to slide aside and a helmeted head appeared through one of the gaps. The team asked the newcomer to open the door; a couple of slid bolts later, they were out of the cellar.
Profusely grateful to their rescuer, they were keen to find who he was. He was young, armoured and very handsome, with an aura of goodness about him that they had encountered before. He introduced himself as Alagon but before he could get much further, a young woman in armour, beautiful but determined, came striding down the corridor and asked what was going on and who the Team were. Introductions were swiftly made; it turned out that the young woman was a cleric named Ceritha, who was Alagon’s superior at their temple.
Alagon was a paladin, a warrior for truth and justice and they had both been on the trail of the Third, having traced him to the town and to that particular house. A debate began as to what to do with the coffin in the cellar. Olaf suggested carrying it out into the courtyard by the fountain, which was agreed. Once there, they settled on taking the coffin out of the town and burying it somewhere secluded, piling stones on top of it so that it could not open and keeping guard. A somewhat frenzied race to hire a horse and cart, load up the coffin and find an out of the way spot for the interment.
They found a spot with but three quarters of an hour to go and although Olaf was a swift digger, even he could not dig a six-foot hole in that short amount of time. They managed to get it half-dug and then Olaf came up with the brilliant idea of turning the coffin upside-down so that the lid could not be opened anyway. They then piled earth and rocks up on top of it and settled down to stand guard.
Alagon had been slated to appear as an NPC, along with Ceritha, on the vampire's trail but I had been informed that we had a potential new player and so decided to bring him in as the young paladin. It seemed to work very well.
The night passed without incident for once. The next morning, leaving Ferros and Olaf on guard duty, the party returned to the tavern to see what was what (and get a beer!). Whilst they were there, a messenger arrived from the auctioneer, who had managed to re-arrange the sale for that day. With no further ado, Cafaror headed off to the hotel, hotly followed by the rest of the party who were not Olaf and Ferros.
Security was tight, considering what had happened last time. The Prince was there as was Thorgrim’s employer and two men with snakes around their necks, who were sitting at a table some way back. The bidding started and at 3,000gp, the snake wearers dropped out, leaving soon afterwards. Alurax decided to follow them, with Zanurax in his pocket.
Now, the bidding was between Thorgrim’s employer and the Prince. At 8,000gp, the former dropped out and the Prince was the proud owner of an intact giant lizard skin. Thorgrim and his employer did not seem at all happy and began a muttered conversation.
...to the extremely rich NPC
Whilst all this was going on, Olaf had appeared, having arranged to swap sentry duty with Ceritha, who seemed more interested in keeping an eye on the coffin. Creeping close to Thorgrim, he overheard him discussing, in dwarvish with his employer their disgruntlement at losing the auction and suggesting that they hire the Team to journey into the wilderness and hunt large specimens of wildlife which would make good trophies. Olaf ‘appeared’ in time to discuss this with Thorgrim and agreed to take him up on the offer; the dwarf and his employer still had 8,000gp which they had not had to spend after all.
Once the auction was out of the way, the party decided to start looking for the fourth key for the coffin. Alurax had arrived back now, reporting that had had lost track of the snake wearers in a network of alleyways. Figuring that the fourth key must be back at the house where they had met the Third, they headed back there but when they arrived, the place was sealed off; the town guard were all over the place, investigating three vicious murders and the theft of a rare artefact.
Unbelievably, the party actually did what it said on the tape
The party concluded that this must refer to the three servants of the Third that they had killed when they raided the house and the coffin itself. Engaging the guards in conversation (with some very odd questions from Cafaror about their working conditions and rates of pay) they found out that the guards were also investigating reports of a missing girl; a serving wench in a tavern had vanished after her shift ended.
The party were convinced that this had something to do with the Third but yet how could this be with the vampire secured inside his own coffin?
Zanurax had gone up to the skylight on Relic again, but had managed to find nothing of any interest in the house. Frustrated and seemingly dead-ended, the party returned to the tavern where Thorgrim had sent a message saying he and his employer would meet them after breakfast the next day.
At this point, I feel it only appropriate to reveal (hope none of my players is reading this) that Alurax had encountered slightly more than he let on when he rejoined the party. He had in fact managed to trail the snake wearers to a house down an alleyway and had sneaked in, only to overhear a strange conversation in a foreign language and some sinister hissing coming from an upstairs room. Sneaking back out, he then knocked on the door, posing as a legitimate visitor and was welcomed in by one of the snake wearers, affable and friendly. He was taken upstairs and shown into the room where he was confronted by a snake with the head of a woman. She greeted him in friendly fashion, all the time attempting to meet his gaze which she eventually did. Junior Grognard failed his save vs. Paralysation and fell under the Charm ability of the Spirit naga. She bade him return to his party and wait for further instructions on how he could serve her Snake Cult.
With much of the day to use up, the party visited the burial site again, this time digging the hole deeper so that the coffin could be properly buried, just to make sure that nothing bad happened. Ferros swapped duties with Galzor.
When they woke the next morning, they were fired up with the prospect of getting back out into the wilds and wetting their blades again. Their two new comrades arrived and they were soon heading for the town gate, ignoring the gossip from the tavern delivery men about a gruesome murder that had happened the previous night. Time will tell whether they were wise to do so.
You will recall that Cafaror had been told not to leave town, still being a suspect in a murder enquiry but he was (just about) disguised as a comely elf maiden (!) and the guards, still being in that early-morning mood, waved them through with a few quizzical looks but no suspicions.
I am an elf maiden...no, really. My name is Galadriel. Do you not find me beautiful?
At the burial site, everything seemed perfectly normal. Ceritha and Galzor were happy to keep watch in case something suspicious happened, so the rest of the Team, plus Thorgrim and his boss set off up river, planning to make the Moat House their first port of call. Not long afterwards, they ran into a couple of merchants and their man at arms, who reported that the wilds were no longer safe after a gang of bandits had take up residence in an old ruined house further up river. Realising that their hard won property had been invaded by squatters (and why not, since it had been left vacant for quite a while since its liberation), the Team spurred their horses on and thus rode straight into an ambush by archers hidden in the trees. Fortunately, the bowmen were either bad shots or the Team were too hard to hit and in the firefight that followed, seven attackers were killed with no casualties for our heroes. It was noted that the bandits (for such were they) were not quite human, having pointed ears and ugly faces with large noses and sharp teeth.
They were in fact half-orcs, but as the party had never encountered this race before, I decided to keep things vague for now; that they were aware their adversaries were not human was enough to be going on with.
Having brushed this feeble opposition aside, our doughty band rode on upriver, arriving at the confluence of the stream and river where they had been attacked by wolves all those weeks ago. There was nothing to bother them now, although a giant eagle soaring over the camp site made Alurax reach for his bow; he soon lowered it again after a stern word from Elysia.
The next morning, as the sun was rising, there was movement on the far side of the river as a herd of wild horses emerged from the trees to drink at the water’s edge. Ferros, using his spell ability to Speak With Animals, chatted to them for a while, determining that they had encountered bandits and that one of the horses had been killed by them. Apart from that, the herd kept its distance from humans.
Yes, we do know where the next dungeon is...
The Team pressed on to the Moat House, arriving a little before midday. They could see a ribbon of smoke rising from somewhere inside and concluded that this meant the bandits were in residence. With Alurax in the lead, they charged across the flat ground towards the drawbridge, meeting a hail of arrows from the watchtower as they did so. A horn blast of alarm went up; Alurax and Alagon dismounted and burst into the watchtower whilst Ferros and Cafaror raced across the courtyard, past the ettin statue and quickly overwhelmed three bandits who had emerged at the top of the steps and were firing at them.
Alurax and his trident made short work of the four bandits in the tower – three were killed and a fourth leapt through a hole in the wall and slid down into the moat. As he swam for safety, one of the giant frogs saw an opportunity for a meal and headed towards him. The bandit tried to climb out and up the side of the moat but the frog hopped out of the water and dragged him back in again.
Six more bandits were waiting for the Team as they joined forces and burst into the Great Hall. Although several of the team took wounds, they were able to wipe out the bandits, as well as another four who were in a room beyond the hall. Three others managed to escape both the Team and the frogs and make good their escape into the forest. In the inner room, the party uncovered the bandits’ stash, a sizeable haul which brought a satisfied smile to their faces. Having won back their Moat House, they could begin to plan the next stage of their hunting expedition.
This session was the first time we had tried out our new, larger dining table and as can be seen from the picture at the start of this post, it seats the Team comfortably with plenty of space for character sheets, figures, floor plans etc. We also had a salad and pizza lunch for the lads today as it was the last session of the year. I'm very happy with the way that things have gone this year - we've retained the core team with one or two dropping out and another attending intermittently (through no fault of their own, I hasten to add) and have now recruited another player, who went away from the session very fired up for more. We've got a good thing going here, playing it Old School and keeping the torch burning. Long may it continue.
Hexcrawling a City, an early look - One thing I've been slowly working on for the last year is another fantasy sandbox campaign. My prior one was generally map-based, although a city feature...
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