Fairies and Prophecy, Day 47 of Perils on the Borderland

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It was early morning the 3rd week of midfall when Arden and Company rode across the heavy oaken planks of the drawbridge. Martin watched the treeline in the distance. A red-tailed hawk took wing from the nearby field, a mouse clutched tightly in its claws. The weather was colder than yesterday and the wind had picked up a bit. Thane tucked his beard into his belt and nicked at his pony to get in line.

The Company stretched out along the dirt cart path marking the Old Trade Road. Sergeant Tenning commanded his dozen archers, impressing on his men that they were mainly a bunch of layabouts and lacking any redeeming qualities afforded to humankind. His demeanor was different when addressing the principals of the Company. Arden was his junior by a dozen years, but the sergeant showed respect for the fighter. Arden had earned it as did the others who came back from the Caves with their heads still attached.

The castellan had made it clear to his men that Arden would be in command. The archers were to play a support role only. None were expected to enter the Caves. If the Company were pursued by hostiles, they would provide a volley of arrows and as a last resort, close combat with sword or axe.

The sergeant had seen combat in his day, but most often he and the troops would chase down bandits or other ruffians. Chasing was the operative word. Most bandits would flee in the presence of a larger force.

Egg Barkley was whistling a tune as he rode along on a chestnut gelding. He seemed in particulary good spirits this day. Corwin inquired on his disposition and Egg replied, “I’ve sent a letter down to Haversham. Me missus, is packing her things and bringing our girl up to Coot’s Mill.”

Haversham was the county seat of the northernmost county of the Kingdom of Eyre. The county proper was called Dent and the Duke of Dent had holdings in the town. Some of the lumbermen in Coot’s Mill have families there. Until the wilderness around the Keep can be settled, they have left their families behind in safety. Pay is better up in the logging camps surrounding the Keep, but bandits and other dangers make it an uncertain place.

The Old Trade Road is now little more than a trail that winds northward towared the great mountains called the Five Kings. Thane hails from Irendall, a dwarven kingdom in the nearest of the mountains. To hear the dwarf tell it, the mountainside is much more dangerous, that is if you stray from the guarded mountain passes that zig zag through the rocky terrain. Most dwarves would rather be deep in the earth, carving out vaults in search of precious ore.

Martin and Arden rode in the lead of the Company. They stopped for a break as they neared Overlook Hill. Martin noticed that the ground around the hill seemed greener today than elsewhere. Wildflowers bloomed on the green mound. Corwin tapped out the remains of his pipe and silently studied the ground. Of all the group, he was most likely to notice the signs of enchantment.

The chill in the air seemed to warm as the Company neared the hill. The sun poked out from behind the clouds and the wind settled into a gentle breeze as the sound of children came lofting down to their ears. The voices had a bell like ethereal quality that caused all listeners to pause in anticipation for more.

The green grass smell of spring came heralding the arrival of the fairies. Darting like dragonflies, they came. Three of them. One buzzed Corwin’s head, playfully pulling his hat off. They settled on a stone in front of the Company. One of the fairies spoke up, telling of their missing companion, a fairie named Zinnia. They had searched the forest and could only think that Zinnea had been captured by the wicked bugbears living in the Caves.

Corwin, the magician, knew that fairies were trouble, but their magical power made them prized captives for those that would do that. Rumors of granting wishes and treasure were often told to children at bedtime. Corwin doubted the wish granting bit, but fairies held deep knowledge of the land and would offer this up to those they favored.

Bugbears frightened the fairies, more so than any other creature. Perhaps it was due to the legend of Big Yog and his band of bugbears or something perhaps something else. Nevertheless, the fairies had it in their heads that Zinnia was at the mercy of the bugbears in the Caves of Chaos. Corwin could sense worry in the usually lighthearted creatures. Had they been in good spirits, Corwin’s hat would have been tossed into a treetop and Thane’s beard seeded with cockleburs.

Arden and Company spoke with the fairies for a short while. Aster, their leader, gave Corwin a small glass vial of purple liquid. It was the distillation of dreams, both good and bad, that gave the imbiber visions of the future. The fairies bid the company good travels and promised to reward them for the return of Zinnia.

When the faires flew away, the clouds grew darker again, wildflowers were no more to be seen, and the hill lay orange and red, covered in a blanket of fallen leaves. The most remarkable thing was that the sun was sinking in the west. What had been at most only a few minutes of conversation with the fairies, had actually been hours of time passing.

With night falling soon, Arden and Company made camp and set a watch.

_______________

Game Notes – This scene came about with the throw of a couple dice. As the Company left the Keep, I checked for an encounter. Result=1, so yes. I consulted the Pits & Perils rules and rolled a wilderness encounter of fairies!

Corwin and the others had encounter fairies in this area about one month ago. They were friend to the Company at the time, so I ran with it. Rolling a Story Cube…result=a lock. I reasoned that one of the fairies was imprisoned. The Caves of Chaos seemed the logical place. I decided the bugbears had one of the fairies held captive. The last thing was to determine some kind of reward or favor for the Company. I rolled on the magic potion table and result=potion of prophecy. It didn’t take a stretch of the imagination to fit this into the story. Just a few dice rolls and plenty of adventure came through!

More to come… 

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Smoldering Wizard

My gaming buddy, Doug, has a blog that shows some real love for original dungeons and dragons and the well known retro-clone, Whitebox. In reading through his blog, I am impressed with his insightful postings and his knowledge of the game. Almost every weekend he has run Roll20 games for our group of fatbeards. He also hosts the Smoldering Wizard Forum to support Whitebox. Give his blog a look and also check out the forum. It’s a great resource and well worth looking into.

Thursday Game Club

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This is the fourth meeting of our school game club in which we have played Tiny Dungeons 2e. This simple rules game most closely followed the dice games that I’ve taught the students in our math class. The mechanics of rolling x number of d6’s and counting any 5’s or 6’s. The students take to it like a duck to water.

We’ve been exploring the Ancient Academy by Stuart Robertson. This is a one page dungeon with very brief room description. It is a great dungeon crawl that works well for the rules lite gaming that I’m playing.

My players, all of them my students, explored the depths of the abandoned academy. They played a karhu (grizzly bear), a human sorcerer, and a goblin. The party made some inroads into the dungeon and encountered a pair of wandering dwarves who were looking for their brothers. Other creatures encountered were a squad of goblins (that the sorceror cast sleep upon), a giant spider, poisonous centipedes, zombies, a crypt thing, and a pair of nasty robber flies.

The kids worked their way through the dungeon using their abilities rather well. One kiddo was playing a goblin and he encountered a group of evil goblins. Instead of fighting, he used his charisma and bluffed them into joining with him! They had a couple dwarves tied up and the player sent the group out of the room to meet with his friends. It was funny, but the other players were surprised by a band of goblins walking into the other room!

Play went smoothly and the combats were fun. It was interesting to see how the kids roleplayed several of the encounters. If I forgot how a rule worked, I just made a ruling on the fly and away we went.

One of the PCs lost his halberd to a rust monster. The game notes stated it was dead, but I didn’t read it correctly. It was all the better for my mistake. The only thing I wish the kids would have done was explore the arena area better and encounter the two neanderthals imprisoned there. I’m a bit nostalgic about this part of the adventure. My son was exploring this same dungeon many years ago. He met up with neanderthals and freed them. They became henchmen for him! Who knows, maybe the kids will return to the arena and do that.

Stay tuned…more to come…

Nicodemus, Champion Mouser

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Nicodemus sat beside the fire purposely ignoring the magician. A warm bank of coals heated the modest upstairs room of the Traveler’s Inn. Corwin watched with amusement as the black cat cleaned his fur. He has no need to do that, I’ve not seen a smudge of dirt on him nor even a whisker out of place, thought the magician. Yet all the while the familiar was grooming himself, it kept one inky paw on a small field mouse.

The mouse lay still in its captor’s grasp. Corwin bent down gingerly and took the creature in both hands. “There, there, my little fellow, we’ll not be seeing that mean old cat any longer.” Nicodemus took offense at the words and launched himself upon the bed, where he proceeded to claw the magician’s cloak.

Corwin was too busy to notice. He carefully held the mouse in one hand and uncorked the small vial with his teeth. Setting the vial carefully on the nightstand, he produced a small glass rod from his robes. Touching the rod to the bottle, he then placed a small drop on the mouse’s nose. The creature hesistated but Corwin managed to coax a bit into its mouth. Setting the rod down, he watched and waited.

A few seconds passed and the magician was relieved the mouse did not die. Not poison…

Holding the mouse closer to the lamp, Corwin saw it fade quickly from sight and then back again. That’s it…

The magician stoppered the bottle and placed it in the dresser. He set the mouse in a stone crock, donated by the innkeeper. The mouse did circles for a bit as Corwin observed him still. Grabbing a generous slice of cheese and some bread sopped in ale, he placed them in the crock. “Eat well, little friend. You’ve done me a great service. Nicodemus prefers smoked fish.”

The black cat perked up his ears at that and leapt off the bed to follow the magician into the common room.

Game notes–Corwin the magician lacks any type of identifying spell. He needs to write the spell KNOW in his spellbook, but hasn’t come acrossed it yet. This is a Pits & Perils spell for identifying magical items. Until then, he would rather not test an unknown potion on himself. It also helps to have a familiar that is a first class mouser.

More to come….

Day 43 ~ Giant Stag Beetles

Most of the morning was spent in ale-fueled dreaming. Arden and Company would not be traveling to the Caves of Chaos this day. Thane was not impaired by the large amounts of ale. He was feeling rather good now that the financial matters were put behind them. Thane was like many dwarves, tight-fisted with coin. He was certainly no fool though. Meklin, Handsome, and even that young one, Catamont, had saved his bacon before. Paying them a fair share of the loot would go a long way towards keeping them all alive. You can’t spend it when you’re dead…his father would tell him. Thane believed that. He wasn’t about to throw money away, but being a miser would leave him lonely or dead.

Thane sat at the table dipping crusty slices of bread in the yolk of his eggs. I ‘ll have to admit it, this is better fare than my own mother made, he thought. Thane’s mother worked the family oven like she did the smelting oven…all sparks, sweat, and curse words. Needless to say, her bread smelled like pig iron.

After a late lunch, the Company assembled. Arden wanted to stretch his legs and the Company took an afternoon stroll out of the Keep. Martin was wanting to check on the progress of the new church in Coot’s Mill.

As the Company wound down along the narrow path from the Keep, Martin spied a couple large lumbering shapes moving out of the woods. They were a far distance yet but slowly rambling toward some farm huts. A couple farmers fled from the dark shapes. The Company moved cautiously towards the huts.

On approach, they saw two large beetles. They were the size of draft horses and had wicked mandibles that could cleave a man in two.

The Company spread out and unslung their weapons. Arden tipped his spear at the targets and they fired.

Egg Barkley and Martin both slung stones at the beetles. The rawhide cords whipped in circles about them and the stones whistled as they launched. Egg’s stone flew wide, but Martin’s cracked hard off the smaller beetle.

Meklin and Catamont drew back their longbows and released. Both arrows glanced off the hard carapace of the beetles. It did get their attention, however. Both beetles began waving their mandibles in the air towards the Company.

Thane cranked back his crossbow and took careful aim. Thunk! The iron tipped bolt hit the larger beetle and disappeared into its carapace. A gout of black blood splashed on the ground.

Goat Bentley brushed his greasy, gray beard and pulled his longbow back to its full draw. With a puff of air out the side of his toothless mouth, he let the arrow go. It found its home, dead center into the giant beetle’s head. “Lookit that, Master Dwarf! I got him!” Goat was still proud of his kill shot on the great ogre in the goblin caves.

Handsome fires his longbow, but curses when the arrow flies short. Arden stands ready to throw his spear and then engage a beetle with his greatsword. If the others kill both of the beetles with missiles, he would be just as happy.

Corwin stood a few paces behind the rest. He fumbled with his spell components and rehearsed the incantation in his head. The beetles were out of range for his magic just yet, but his time would come.

Disturb from their foraging at the farmer’s hut, the beetles shook angrily and looked towards the Company. Despite their poor vision, they could see a line of dark shapes in the field. With surprising speed, they moved.

Arden ordered all the men to fall back when he saw the beetles cover half the distance in a moment. The men did not hesitate. All fell back and prepared to fire again.

Egg fumbled in loading his sling. The burly cook tripped over his own feet and landed on his face in the field. [I rolled snake eyes on his attack…a critical miss. Consulting the criticial chart, result=trip and fall.]

The beetles charge seemed to unnerve the Company. The others fail to hit their mark. Goat fumbles and falls too. The beetles lumber on, anticipating an easy meal.

Corwin speaks an unintelligible phrase and points his finger. A bolt of fire streaks away and hits the larger beetle with a glancing fire ball. [Arden rolled a 1 for damage and gets +1 for being 3rd level]

Arden casts his spear and strikes the larger beetle for more damage. The others seem to rally…Meklin, Handsome, and Goat all hit with their bows.

Martin moves backward in an attempt to lure the other beetle away.

The larger beetle scrambles towards Arden and scrapes him twice with his mandles [I’m basing these beetles from the Giant Stag Beetles in the Monster Manual, converting to Pits and Perils was simple. I made them Level 7, large creatues, with 3 attacks. They are fairly potent.] Arden feels the chain mail give way and wonders if his ribs are broken. [He took 4 points of damage.]

The smaller beetle rambles over Meklin, slashing and biting. [Meklin takes 4 points of damage.]

Corwin casts another fire bolt at the smaller beetle this time. It catches the beetle squarely and causes severe wounds. [Corwin rolled a 6 and adds 1 for 7 points of damage!]

Thane and Catamont rush to help Arden. The giant beetle is surrounded. Thane and Arden both hit the beetle. [I rolled morale for the beetles, they only have a few hit points each.] The smaller beetle turns to flee. The fire magic is too painful to endure. The larger beetle is too stupid to realize it is near death and attacks Catamont.

Catamont takes a full hit. The beetle slashes and bites the young squire. Catamont falls to the ground unconscious…and bleeding out.

Goat and Handsome rush to pull the lad backwards to safety as Thane and Arden press their attack. Thane misses with his magic handaxe, but Arden stabs deep into the beetles mouth, killing it!

The smaller beetle falls to a hail of missile fire. Martin rushes to Catamont to cast a healing spell. Arden’s bruised ribs will have to wait.

Additional Game Notes ~ The idea for this scenario came from using Rory’s Story Cubes. I wanted to run something short this evening…a short trip into Coot’s Mill. I didn’t really have time to foray into the Caves of Chaos, so I grabbed a Story Cube and gave it a throw. A symbol of a beetle came up. Terrific, I thought. How can I work this into the adventure. Maybe the Company has bed bugs?! I threw another die for inspiration and a castle tower was the result. Okay, I decided it was a monster encounter in or near the castle. I used the FU die mechanic and asked the question, “Does this occur inside the Keep?” Result=3, No, but… So I ruled that several giant beetles were near the Keep, coming from the forest to nose around the farmer’s grain bins. I used the Monster Manual to find som beetle stats. The giant stag beetle listed there is a powerful monster. I scaled the numbers back because it was so close to the Keep. Two giant stag beetles lumbering towards the Keep made for a lot of fun.

More to come…

A New Deal ~ Day 42 Continued

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Arden and Company sat around the long wooden table in a private dining room in the Traveler’s Inn. The innkeeper, Joseph, was mopping his brow and trying to clear the trenchers from the table. A well-picked turkey carcass lay in surrender in the middle. Goat Bently wiped grease on his long gray beard and then reached for the bird, finding a last morsel of dark meat.

“If that man could sniff out gold coin as well, we’d all be feasting in the Keep Fortress on a permanent basis!”, laughed Handsome Brune.

The Company was in rare form tonight. The cares of the past seemed but a trifle. Corwin sat back in his chair, a mulled wine in one hand and his long clay pipe in the other. No books or scrolls were in sight for once.

“Arden, you summoned us for a feast, but I think that revelry is only part of tonight’s meeting, true?” the wizard asked.

“Well, as you know, I’ve been to see the castellan…Thane was present as well. His lordship wants to help us secure the Caves of Chaos. This would, unfortunately, come at a cost. He wants a share of the treasure.”

Arden stopped a moment to gauge their reaction. Uncertainty colored many faces, a flash of anger in others. He drained his cup and continued, “I thought that if the castellan were to get a share, then we will need to discuss wages all around.” This perked up the ears of the men. They grew quiet in anticipation. 

Thane interrupted, “Of course his share will be bigger…”

Arden looked irritated at the dwarf, “It will be the same as the principals of the Company. It’s something that may be need doing. He has an advantage. We’re in his Keep. He will send archers to provide support for our foray and we shall give him a share of any valuables we find.”

“Not enchanted items, I hope?” asked Corwin. The wizard didn’t care to be sharing the magic that they found with Florian, the keep’s advisor and wizard.

“No, the catellan will get a share of the treasure–coins, gems, art objects. We’ll keep anything that you deem useful, Corwin.”

Egg Barkley cleared his throat, “I guess if’n his lordship is sending troops with you, then you won’t be needin’ as many of us dirty sods?”

Arden chuckled, “Actually, I was thinking of giving you boys a raise. It’s up to you. If you want to sign on and join the Company, then you won’t get 2 silvers a day from us. You’ll have to fight for it and dig it out of the Caves for yourself. The Company is going to need some henchmen. That’s a little bit different than a hireling. You lot have been hirelings, taking orders and getting your pay…and then spending it on booze and cheap entertainment. That’s fine, you can continue to do that and we will cut you in with an eighth of a share. That’s more than two silver coins a day, if we are lucky.”

“Others of you are front line fighters. You’ve kept the Company in one piece when things looked grim. I say to you, let us improve your lot. The Company has to grow. If you sign on as henchmen, you’ll be expected to do your share and more. You’ll have to learn to master a weapon and be ready to fight for your companions no matter what the odds. With this comes a greater reward. A half share for each man that signs on as henchman. Be warned though. You’ve seen days when all we brought back from the Caves was our fallen brothers. I know that more treasure lies down those filthy holes. But it won’t be found unless we can band together to get this done. If you become henchmen, you stand on your own. No one buys your room and board, you share in the Company’s fortune for good or ill. What say you?”

Goat was the first to stand up. Greasy beard and well past his prime, “Aye, son! I’ll hench for ya! Tell me who to shoot and give me some room to do it.”

Arden wrinkled his nose a bit at hearing this. “Perhaps a bath first and then some archery practice.”

They drank well into the evening, discussing plans for taking the Caves of Chaos. The newly made henchmen talked excitedly of what they would buy with all the treasure they hauled back.

Day 42, The Castellan’s Deal

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“But why do we have to give the Castellan any coin at all? He wasn’t there with us, now was he?” grumbled the dwarf.

“You know, as well as I do, that he loaned us twelve of his archers and a corporal of the watch! And he will certainly catch wind of what we pulled out of that hole. It’s better to offer up a small purse of silver than have him take it all, right?” Arden replied.

“Maybe, but his archers didn’t do anything! They just stood outside that goblin hole and waited for us to come back!”

“That’s what they were supposed to do, Thane. If we had come out of there loaded down with loot, we would’ve been in a much worse position when reinforcements began to chase us.”

“Harummphhh! I know I’m a dwarf and all, and my father would hit me for saying this, but I’d prefer to have our wizard friend just wave his hands around and scare them all away.”

“Corwin can’t be expected to save us everytime, now can he?” Arden grinned.

“I guess not, but maybe he could snap his fingers and “Poof!” a pile of gold and jewels would appear right in front of us?”

Arden laughed at Thane. They walked along the cobblestone street, climbing the low rise up to the inner gatehouse. The pair were met at the gate by a pair of guards wearing chainmail and standing with polearms. Arden paused as the Sergeant of the Guard was summoned.

The sergeant came out of the gatehouse and said in a gruff voice, “Don’t tell me you’ve come back for more soldiers? You’ve only been back a couple days.”

“Not yet, sergeant. We’ve come to see the castellan. I have sent a message earlier requesting a meeting.”

“Very well, then. Guard! Let them pass!” and the guards stepped away from the entrance to give Arden and Thane the right of way.

Guardsmen were on the practice field within the inner bailey. Men were in mock combat with wooden swords and shields. Arden watched for a moment and then continued to the Keep Fortress.

Sir Kent, Lord Castellan of the Keep, sat before the two in his office. Arden made no prententions about their relationship for no chairs were given and the two stood in front of the castellan. Even still, Sir Kent was cordial to them both. He looked at his desk where Arden had placed a small cloth purse of coins.

“Arden, you know that we had no such arrangement. My men were to accompany you and your company and assist you with longbow. Payment was not a consideration.”

“I know, my lord. Consider it a token of my company’s appreciation. We had great fortune in the Caves of Chaos and felt that your lordship and his men ought to benefit as well. I placed two silver pieces for each of the dozen archers and double that for the corporal. Also, I wanted to give the merchant’s reward of 100 silvers to you, sir. My company wishes to continue exploring the caves and may require your assistance in the future.”

Sir Kent smiled. “Of course, you have my support. You are doing good work for the crown. Please, don’t let us hinder you in any way. Of course the fact that I send my troops along with you will be viewed favorably by the duke and maybe will even reach the ear of the king. Better yet, I propose this arrangement. You shall have a contigent of archers to travel with you to the caves. I shall cover their expenses, food, board, and mounts. You in turn will offer the Keep a small portion of what you collect…let’s say perhaps a full share? How many of you take shares in your company now?” The castellan was figuring this in his head, but Arden beat him to it, “Seven, sir.”

Thane looked at Arden and made ready to correct him, but thought better of it.

“Very well, then. I shall be the eighth member of your company…but my men will go in my stead of course.”

The agreement was set forth and discussed with Arden explaining that he would return tomorrow after discussion with the company.

As Thane and Arden were leaving the fortress, Thane softly said, “There’s four of us that get shares, you know that, right?”

Arden replied, “When I heard the castellan’s proposal, I decided that Meklin, Handsome, and Catamont needed a promotion. We’ll give them a half share each.”

“Okay, that get’s us to five and one-half shares. Where’s the other shares going?”

“I don’t know yet,” smiled Arden. “Maybe Goat will get a share, but only if he starts shooting better and takes a bath. Maybe we’ll need to hire a couple more men…good fighters that will earn a share. Regardless, I’d rather spend it on our own men instead of giving it to the castellan.

They walked along, Arden content with the transaction, and Thane busy calculating in this head.