Friday, 29 October 2010

Age of Chaos - Session 9


Barur - Dwarven noble, accompanied by his two henchmen - Angur and Barath
Darian - Wandering Bard
Arthanius Lex - Servant of Arg (god of storms), member of the Order of the Hammer, witch-hunter, accompanied by his faithful hound Bane
Kratos - Warrior from the Northlands, follower of Arg, accompanied by a horse known only as "the entertainer"

The session continued straight on from the events of the last - with the party making a hasty retreat from the ruined village of Ballan, where they'd had a narrow victory against a horde of bugbears.

Firstly Barur took care to heal the seriously wounded bard, using two of the healing salves which he had purchased previously from the local herbalist. In return Darian revealed his own healing powers, which he used on Arthanius - the first time he had let on to the party that his music could produce magical effects. After this revitalisation the party journeyed back to their base at Keet, carrying with them the bodies of the two deceased town guards who had aided them and perished.

They left the bodies with the guard captain, who bemoaned their fate and yet stated that a warrior could ask for no more in life than to die fighting the forces of Chaos and to be remembered as a hero.

As the party were talking with the town guards, and describing the battle in Ballan, a hulking man clad in furs and carrying a long spear rode into the village and approached them. It was Kratos, an erstwhile companion of Barur, who had wandered back into Keet out of curiosity as to how the Dwarf's adventures in the region were progressing. He was, of course, eager to join them on their return to Ballan, hoping to wet his spear with bugbear's blood.

As planned, they journeyed back to Ballan in the afternoon, hoping that the fleeing bugbears had not yet returned to the manor. On arriving at the ruined village, they found it quiet and empty, as had always been its first appearance. Heading through the village, they returned straight to the manor house, the front doors of which were still hanging open.

Firstly they explored the upper floors, discovering a series of more or less ruined chambers, one containing a strangely green coloured corpse of a woman. They also found what appeared to have been the master bedroom, where a figure was chained to the four poster bed. The huddled figure seemed to be alive, so they approached and tried to rouse it. Upon the first touch the figure sprang up out of the bed, as far as its chains would allow, and started clawing at the adventurers. It was a woman, wild with some kind of madness, and in some state of transformation - with blood red eyes, vicious claws, and a horrid grinning mouth full of fangs. They attempted to talk to her, hoping that she might be at least partly lucid, but all their words were met with blind animalistic rage. In the end Kratos drove his spear into her chest, putting her out of her presumed state of misery and suffering. Exploring the ex-baron's suite further, they found one noteworthy item amongst the ruin - a single long black feather tipped with a band of bronze.

Next, finding a wooden staircase and trapdoor leading up, they ventured into the attic. The top of the house was filled with broken wood and smashed crates and furniture, and two gaping holes in the roof were seen. A large mound of wood and crates was gathered beneath one of the holes, and the party went to investigate. The first gentle probing of the pile provoked the sounds of rustling and scurrying from within, and a full thrust of Kratos' spear unleashed the inhabitants - a swarm of black winged creatures, half bat - half bird, with talons and long, murderously sharp beaks. The disturbed flock swirled briefly in the rafters before diving upon the adventurers, attempting to find weak points in their armour to pierce with their beaks. The birds proved no match for the party, even in their large numbers, not even getting the chance to demonstrate their blood-draining ability. Many were slain and the scant remainder flew screeching out of the hole in the roof. Searching through the pile of crates which had been home to the birds, the party discovered a haul of coins and several valuable items, which had obviously been lying there for some time, undiscovered by the bugbears.

Returning to the ground floor, the party explored the remaining rooms of the manor, which were mostly full of rubble and ruin. At one point Kratos exerted his might to break down a stuck door, and narrowly avoided falling head first into a pit which was on the other side - it wasn't clear whether this hole had been deliberately put there as a trap, or whether the floor had coincidentally caved in, but in any case a hole leading down to the cellar was revealed. The party also found a room with a series of paintings, most of which had been shredded. One painting however was mostly intact (it had been spattered with blood, but the image could still be seen) - it depicted the ex-baron of Ballan, seated and holding an orb of dark stone in one hand, and a quill in the other hand. The quill was recognised as the feather they had found upstairs.

Lastly, as the day outside was beginning to wane, the party descended into the cellars (via a stairway which they found elsewhere). They had previously lit a torch to investigate one of the upper rooms with boarded windows, and this was still burning, allowing the non-Dwarvish members of the party to see in the gloom of the cellar. The cellar appeared to consist of two large rooms, both thick with mould and damp, and full of broken and rotting barrels and caskets. The first of the two cellar rooms had some odd formations of green mould on the walls, which had formed into what looked like some kind of runes or writing. Unfortunately none of the party could decipher what the mould had to say.

On a wider inspection of the cellar it was discovered that both of the large stone rooms had been "extended" by several rough, low-ceilinged tunnels, running off at odd angles. As the party were considering their next action, Darian heard a whimpering sound coming from a barrel in the corner. They gathered around, and shook the barrel slightly, provoking a more determined wailing from within. Kratos fearlessly opened the barrel, which was sealed, and saw a small boy cowering within. (Not one member of the party thought for a moment that the boy was what he seemed to be :)) Kratos reached in to grab the boy, suspecting that he may be some kind of shapechanger or demon, and in fact discovered that he was a ghost - the Northlander's hand passed straight through the phantom, causing it to wail even louder. Darian suggested that maybe Arthanius should try to do something with or to the ghost, to which he memorably replied "I'm a witch-hunter, not a ghost-buster".

At about this time the party's luck was up. Unbeknownst to them, a group of bugbears which were lurking in the one of the low tunnels had been sneaking up on them, and, aided by the noise and distraction of the screaming ghost, leapt on the party out of the darkness and completely by surprise. They attacked Barur's henchmen, Angur and Barath, who happened to be situated at the back of the group, and the nearest victims of the ambush. The henchmen were taken completely off guard, and were both run through by the bugbears' spears and fell to the ground. Barur and the others retaliated quickly, and slew the bugbears in their wrath, but the henchmen had both taken fatal wounds, and were dead by the time anyone could get to them.

After the battle the party noticed that their torch was burning very low, and only at this point realised that this was the one and only torch they possessed between the six of them. (A fact which I found rather amusing :)) And, seeing the diminishing light coming from the hole in the ceiling which Kratos had earlier almost fallen through from above, they realised that dusk was nearing. They took these two facts as a sign to get going, although they were eager to explore the tunnels leading out of the cellars. Kratos had taken a liking to the ghost in the barrel (which was still crying), and formed a plan to take it back to town and to try and make some money by displaying it as a curio of some kind. So he began to roll the wailing barrel up the stairs. It was only the smoking and hissing of the barrel dissolving which saved him from the nasty surprise of stepping straight into a corrosive black ooze which was now spread across the stairs leading up. The ghost vanished as the barrel dissolved, and the black ooze began to slowly advance on the party, spreading itself wide over the floor of the cellar. With no other escape route, Barur swung a grappling hook up through the hole in the ceiling, and the party climbed out one by one, with the ooze advancing on them as they fled. All living members of the party narrowly escaped without being dissolved, but poor Angur's body became ooze food.

They left the manor and the ruined village at sunset, carrying with them a nice haul of treasure, and the body of their fallen comrade.

The two hour journey back to Keet became perilous as night descended, and they had to resort to creating makeshift torches with sticks, rags, and the large amounts of oil they had (but no lanterns!). They skirted around the edges of Grinwold wood on their way back to civilisation, but their light and movement did not go unnoticed. A band of mountain goblins leapt out of the woods in an attempted ambush, which Arthanius' dog Bane warned the party of just in time. Despite their number, the goblins were easily defeated - Barur and Kratos slaying large numbers of them with an initial strike, causing the remainder to flee in terror.

The session ended with the slightly diminished party safely back in the village of Keet, indeed just in time for supper.

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