Conquering the Barbarian Altanis: Session 14
|Brother Kallahan||Cleric level 1||Crooked, broken nose; big bags under eyes; long hair, bald spot hidden under old pilgrim's hat; and emaciated figure. Mosquitoes and the smell of dampness always accompanies him.|
|Taaaz||Fighter level 1||Tall figure whose skinny frame is hidden behind plate armour he never takes off—including the helmet.|
|Gabriel Faria||Elf level 1||Cravatted silk shirt and a gold-encrusted rapier are all this 7th son of a duke needs to carve his own empire.|
|Amanda Hugencuise||Thief level 1||A new girl in town, claiming to be foreign exchange student, up for some “exciting missions” and enjoying the local cuisine.|
Taaaz's report linked at the end of the post.
Having recovered a little over thousand coin, our enterprising gang was eager to head back for more—despite the horrific monstrosity they've encountered. But rest and recruitments was in order before any further adventuring.
Taaaz spent his days skimming through “The Complete History of Botany,” and looking for the biggest helmet 8 gold pieces could get him. Brother Kallahan prayed for guidance, and then held a fiery sermon at main plaza. Many asked to join him, but only Otsus and Samlan were worthy of his attention. Amanda was nowhere to be seen; she was probably sampling various recipes at the Walled Bazaar.
Gabriel, drunk with power and promise of treasure, nailed the following notice at the docks:
NOTICE of GREAT IMPORT
All ye Elves of pure sylvan blood, a new Martial Company is being founded in this city, and if ye are of brave character, and strong in skill with both bow and blade, then come seek out the Royal Faria in the ——Quarter. Pledge allegiance to your generalissimo and earn a monthly stipend of 4 gold pieces per calendar month.
Some of ye may earn the title of Lieutenant, dependant on skill, and with such graces be able to fill thy fists with treasures unheard of.
He too made a trip to the legendary Walled Bazaar; purchasing himself a mean looking mastiff. One of the stalls he passed was of a cartographer whom was selling the “finest map of Antil one can find, with all the True names and Locations of highest importance” made by “the best cartographer in all of the Known World, Dwarkanath Forlong!” Price was 28 g.p. “a bargain for such masterpiece.”
“Five gold pieces.”
“I thought you were a man of culture! Such art is well worth the asking price! Say what, how about I include a nice leather protective tube with the map?”
“Ten gold pieces!”
“Sir, I believe you need to educate yourself! I don't think we'll reach a mutually beneficial agreement!”
“I never forget a face. I shall see you about town.” and with those words, Gabriel dramatically turned and left. He made a mental note that if he sees him again, he shall cut his face.
On the evening of the second day a young, bald man asked for audience with Gabriel. Although the man was dressed in simple clothes, Gabriel noticed that he was quite tidy and clean. He was confident, but not cocky, with his request.
Careful man our Gabriel is, and thus he only agreed to speak with this new face outside in the public. Turns out a wealthy patron has some sensitive business to be taken care of. Paranoia getting the better of him, Gabriel requested a meeting at the city market at noon.
“As I said, it's sensitive business. I can either take you to him right now, or inform him that you are not interested. Perhaps you are not the right man for the task if you are afraid of your own shadow?”
“Then lead the way. I shall talk with your master.”
Bald man accommodated Gabriel's marching requests, leading him through winding alleyways. Elf noticed that his guide was unarmed, a rare sight on streets of Antil, and moved with certain lightness about him.
After some half an hour, he stopped in front of a nondescript building wedged between two larger ones. It seemed to be one story high, and sported nothing but doors at the front. No windows, decorations, or marks of any kind.
“We have arrived. Master awaits beyond the door.”
He stood by the door, prepared to open them.
“Are you ready?”
“Absolutely.” with those words Gabriel waved the man aside, and pulled the doors open. A room some 25' wide and 15' deep, bereft of anything but two chairs revealed itself. There was another, similarly looking, door across Gabriel. Two lanterns placed on the far ends of the room were the only sources of light.
“Where is your master? Noone is within?” Gabriel inquired.
“Master is a careful man. Treachery roams free on the streets of Antil.”
“You understand why I am cautious then.”
“Would you like me to step inside first?”
“I shall go in alone.”
“I will close the doors and stand guard so you have privacy.”
Gabriel carefully inspected the northern wall and doors. The room was eerily quiet. Finally, he decided to attempt the handle.
“Ser Faria, it seems I've invited the right man.” a voice in fluent elvish spoke from behind Gabriel “I value your trust at this dark hour.”
“You move silently, a valuable skill. I am the Royal Faria, seventh son and Herald of my lineage. Whom may you be?” Gabriel followed his words with a bow.
A red-skinned man with silver-gray hair framing his square face stood in front of him. Similar to the man who brought him here, this one was also dressed in clean but plain clothes. The man moved slowly but with grace, almost as if he was gliding through the air.
“Pleasure to meet you. Years spent with your kin are something I fondly remember.”
His fingers were adorned with several rings, that Gabriel immediately recognised to be of gold and platinum only a noble-man would dare wear. His belt buckle seemed to be made of precious metal as well. There were no visible weapons or armour.
“I'm a man in need of peculiar help. Ser Faria, I wish not to waste our time with trite pleasantries. Can I candidly speak of my... Difficulty?”
By the time he finished speaking he sat himself on the right chair.
“As you desire, I can respect a man who likes to get straight to business.” the elf sat across the figure “Please, tell me what ails you?”
”'Might makes right' they like to chant, and yet so many questionable figures have found home in this wonderful City. One such figure dabbles in arts unfit for any man of good faith. As it usually goes, one of his 'experiments' got out of hand... And even worse, out in the world. Ser Faria, I'm looking for a man to erase any evidence of that experiment. Quietly. Gracefully.”
“Humans often dabble in the arcane, they don't have the longevity to understand its subtlety. Tell me the experiments nature, and, if you know it, its location.”
“Are you afraid of snakes?”
“My friend I fear nothing.” Gabriel chuckled “The mercenary trade is not one for the faint of heart.”
“You will find the 'experiment' near Latevamp, a hamlet east of Antil, just before the jungle. It lairs in one of the nearby caves. You are looking for an abominable mix of snake and man, nine in total. One of them is female, potentially capable of reproduction. Their fangs secrete lethal venom. All must be erased. If I may suggest—fire would be ideal.”
After some pause, the man continued “Am I speaking to the right man, Royal Faria? Can you take care of this?”
“Well my friend, that does sound like quite the infestation. It shouldn't be too much trouble I assure you. There is the delicate matter of payment, rather uncouth of me to mention, but it is after all my business. How much to destroy these vermin?”
“Why don't you tell me?”
“How about 50 gold pieces a head? 450 in total.”
“A true professional knows their worth. That shall await you upon your return. And please accept the following as advance. Make sure to drink it before the venom reaches your heart.”
He handed Gabriel three small vials with dark brown liquid in them.
“A pleasure my lord. Always a pleasure to do business with cultured men such as yourself. What should I call you?” the elf inquired, whilst extending his arm as to shake his hand.
The man returned the shake, and answered with a subdued grin “I value our cooperation too much to endanger it with such trivialities.”
Gabriel hurried back to his abode, and excitedly told his co-adventurers of this new mission he got for them.
Next day brought forward even more good news. Arelael, an experienced elven mercenary with a company of four elves—Dyffros, Deldrach, Aimon, and Wyninn—came in response to Gabriel's aid. Together they worked out a monthly deal sufficient to ensure their loyalty.
A party of twelve marched out of Antil on the morning of Flowerbloom 18th, Earthday.
Flowerbloom 20th, Spiritday
It was high noon by the time they reached the monster's lair. Retracing their steps, they went straight to the waterfall cavern. Intent on recovering thousands and thousands of coin, they set up a pulley system using block and tackle, ropes, and iron pitons.
Alas, their march was soon disrupted by a cauldron of giant bats. All but four flew over them, going on about their own business. The four descended with bloodthirsty fury. One was so disoriented by all the light sources, that it rammed the limestone wall, knocking itself unconscious. Another one was much more successful, biting off both Dyffros's ears.
Kallahan accidentally threw his sling into the pond, whilst a short-bow slipped out of Amanda's hands. Luckily, the retainers were obviously quite eager to prove their worth, and quickly dispatched of the bats. In true display of leadership, Arelael comforted Dyffros, restoring his poise.
With the bat threat out of the way, secret tunnel was the next stop. Watches and tripwires were set, guards assigned, and machinery prepared. But whom was to go in first?
“Pssst.” Aimon called out to Gabriel “Lights incoming!” The party readied themselves, preparing an ambush.
“Who goes there!” a booming voice inquired.
“Merce–” Gabriel's response was interrupted by Brother Kallahan's shoulder taps “Remember, we are here as saviours, on a holy mission, you know...”
“Gabriel Faria and his adventuring party, on a mission to recover some valuables...”
An average built man dressed in chainmail with feathered shoulder pads entered into their sight. Brother Kallahan recognised the insignia—same order as Sister Silente and Brother Theo—Shang Ta.
“Brother! What leads you here?” Kallahan asked.
“Brother? If we are brothers, then you surely know our salutation?”
“Might makes right!”
“Might makes right, indeed, brother!” the man enthusiastically responded, beating his mace against the shield. “Now brother, tell me the truth. What are you doing here?”
“As Gabriel had said–”
“You are in the presence of Grand Inquisitor Dwarvard Blumer! Speak true!”
By now, Taaaz felt all the strength leaving his body. It was as if his legs cannot carry his weight anymore. Unbeknownst to all, he leaned against the cave wall; sweating profusely.
Even mosquitoes stopped buzzing, as Kallahan tried to answer the man. He told him all.
“Perhaps this will be your pilgrimage brother. You know what you have to do. Do not disappoint me. I'll be waiting outside. Might makes right!” and the man disappeared back into the darkness he cometh from.
“I'll crawl into the lair... For three shares!” Amanda offered.
“No, two shares.” Gabriel countered.
“I'd go in, survey the area, find where the monster is, and distract it long enough for you to extract the treasure.”
“Well... That does sound like risky business. It's a deal for me! Taaaz? Kallahan?”
“Why yes, that indeed is risky.” mosquito ridden priest chimed in.
Amanda dropped on all four, and worked her way through the tunnel. She covered the lantern with some cloth, allowing only a minor ray to guide her path. A horrific sight greeted her. Massive mangled humanoid head with horse-like jaw was staring at her. It was lying on the ground sideways. Amanda crawled back slowly and informed the party.
“My service will be five shares now.”
“Nonsense. What is this? You wanna give shares away?” Taaaz protested “I'll do it for four shares. Step aside.”
“Remove you armour boy! Let's oil you up!” Gabriel had already popped open a small oil vial, ready to lube the warrior.
“The hell are you on about? Step aside, I'm going in in full armour.” rebuffing all oiling offers, Taaaz dropped on the ground and crawled through. The same sight greeted him. The creature didn't seem to respond to light. Nor to the stones the warrior flung at it. Brave (or foolish?) Taaaz stepped into the chamber; finding three more monstrous heads lying there. All were attached to long, veiny, tubular necks; rotting and emanating horrible stench.
“Carefully,” he unveiled his lantern and walked over to the treasure pile. There it was... Untouched. So vast. So marvellous.
There was nothing to be seen down the corridor the monster came through last time. But something was different—there was a faint sound akin to a mother's lullaby. Ignoring it, Taaaz went to the tunnel and informed his friends that the lair if free for looting.
Oh, and looting it they were. Taaaz, Kallahan, Gabriel, and Otsus were the only ones to specifically look for golden pieces. Others were stuffing in whatever they could grab.
Since the secret tunnel was barely wide enough to have two people crawl through it, the party needed quite some time to assemble in the cave. Amanda was watching over the corridor whence the monster cometh from last time. As an added layer of security, Gabriel pinned his dog's chain to the ground, despite its protestations.
A smart but selfish move. After nearly an hour of stuffing their sacks, the dog started barking and jumping frenetically. It ripped itself free, and fled with a whimper.
“Well, this is our signal boys!”
Alas, they were so encumbered with all the treasure, that they were moving at snails pace. Amanda was the only quick enough to flee through the tunnel without seeing the monstrosity.
Gabriel made a daring escape, sprinting right by the hulking beast. Confused by its bravado, only three of the heads got to attack—and all missed! Lady luck had indeed blessed Gabriel Faria on that day.
Taaaz, Kallahan, Otsus, Arelael, and Deldrach made it to the tunnel at the same time—but resolved to violence in order to answer “who goes in first?” Otsus managed to crawl through during the commotion, while other four were deadlocked. Brother Kallahan, in a bout of inspiration, managed to push both elves and Taaaz aside, to crawl in next.
The warrior, properly pissed off by now, threw Arelael and Deldrach over rotting heads, and made his way through. Blood chilling screams echoed behind him. Perhaps even more chilling was the realisation that these two were carrying most of the treasure haul...
Amanda, Kallahan, Otsus, and Samlan fled for their life. Taaaz waited for Gabriel, unsure of his fate. Gabriel was sprinting through unknown caves, following the walls. He managed to find a passageway so narrow he had to turn sideways to get through. He joined Taaaz just in time to prevent a fistfight with Aimon, Wyninn and Earless Dyffros.
“They died a valiant death. Follow me; we will avenge them later!”
As they fled out of the caves, an unexpected sight greeted them:
Brother Kallahan, Amanda, Samlan, and Otsus standing as petrified in front of a mounted figure yelling at them.
“This?! This is what you came out with 'brother?!' Oh, how you disappointed me!”
It was the same booming voice as they heard earlier—of the man whom introduced himself as the Grand Inquisitor Dwarvard Blumer. Seven heavily armoured figures joined him: two by his side, three surrounding Kallahan, and four in front of the cave entrance.
The sun was setting. Will it set forever for this group?
Player Session Reports
- Taaaz's diary entry
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