Thursday, 17 October 2013

Doggerland Session 2:6 (Village of Hommlet)

This is the start of the adventure proper; my interpretation of the TSR module T1 - The Village of Hommlet. The previous few weeks have been building up clues and atmosphere in readiness for tackling the Temple and its minions from now onwards. There are changes I have made to the module to fit into my campaign universe but it should still make sense on the whole. Here is the first session that involves their first experiences of Hommlet - in my campaign this village is named Staneford. Now read on...

Rumours in Staneford (16th October 2013)

The Adventurers
Hallan – Fighter
Johan - Cleric
Paulix – Thief
Vox Comwy – Magic User

Magician in Flux - Freyasday 5th Quattrober 963 (Day 10) – afternoon

The village of Darenth lay under a grey blanket of drizzle. Everything was as soaked through as a washerwoman’s apron on wash day. Vox, loaded down under his heavy sack of adventuring equipment, slipped and slid his way down the slight incline from Sir Richard’s mansion, bringing up the rear of the party as they headed towards the comfort and dryness of the Miller’s Arms tavern.

Once inside and sat at a table nursing a drink, he considered what he wanted to do with the scroll that had come into his possession. He quickly downed his jack of ale and squared his shoulders for the return journey to Sir Richard’s manor. He told his companions that he would be heading out to try to exchange his scroll for something more useful.

Vox stepped back out into the rain, trudged his way back up the slope to the mansion and asked the guards at the gate whether he could see Godefroi, Sir Richard’s vizier. The guards recognised him, and after a few moments they returned to escort him into the presence of the vizier. Godefroi asked what he wanted and when he was told that he had some information for him, his attention fixed upon Vox. The magician offered up the scroll and suggested that as Godefroi was a superior thaumaturge he might make more use of the magic contained within but that he would like something in return. Godefroi quickly studied the scroll and realised that it was a spell that he did not already have within his repertoire. He considered Vox’s offer and countered that he would teach Vox a spell in return for the scroll and something extra as it was not certain that he would be able to copy it into his spell book without error.

Vox agreed to the trade and handed over the scroll. Godefroi led the adventurer into his study and attempted to teach him a variety of spells, but Vox could not grasp the subtleties involved in copying them down. Godefroi suggested that he might be tired after all of his adventuring and should he return on the morrow he would spend a bit longer with him; but for a price.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party who were still in the tavern wondered who the two prisoners that the men-at-arms had escorted into the lord’s manor were. They thought about it and realised that it could not be any of their friends from High Beeches as Albus had only just recently started his return journey to the hamlet and could therefore not be a captive. They assumed that they must be a couple of scapegoats for the troubles that had occurred recently in the small village; burning crops, summoning demons (in the form of the living dead), and being in cahoots with legions of strange creatures were all things that could lead to accusations of witch craft and strong punishment.

Trial by Fire - Godsday 6th Quattrober (Day 11)

Just after the six o’clock morning bells, Vox sprang from his cot in the tavern, bolted down his breakfast and sprinted up the hill to see Godefroi for his magical training session. He ignored the drizzle in his haste and arrived at the gate out of breath. The guards chuckled at the sight of the highly energetic trainee mage, and ushered him through to Godefroi’s study as arranged. As this was to be a training session, and would take the whole day, Godefroi charged Vox the going rate for his services; one hundred silver pieces. Vox handed over the coins and began his first session of serious study under an accomplished wizard.

The rest of the party killed time by sharpening their weapons, cleaning their armour and tending to their clothing and adventuring equipment. Paulix heard from Jaden that the trial of the two prisoners would be held later that afternoon, but he didn’t see them getting out of their punishment. Samson headed to the woodworker’s cottage to collect and pay for his newly affixed axe handle. The weapon was as good as new and he swung it in a few experimental strokes before being asked to practice his dangerous art elsewhere.

Just after lunch, the most important members of the village, Jared, the miller, the two priests and a couple of the more important farmers, trudged their way up to Sir Richard’s manor, where they were ushered straight into the great hall. No-one else was allowed into the hall, either to take part in the proceedings or to watch from a public gallery. It was to be a trial by a jury of peers behind closed doors.

After a few hours of deliberation the verdict was given and a minor ruckus erupted within the hall that momentarily put Vox off his studies. A couple of Sir Richard’s retainers headed down to the local carpenter and ordered the execution equipment to be set up. The party, still in the tavern, managed to see the activities begin through the tavern window and saw that a pair of large stakes and several faggots of wood were taken to the village green and set up for the guilty parties.

Just as the evening bells rang out to bring the farmers in from their fields, a sombre procession led down from the manor house to the green where the two prisoners were bound to the stakes, protesting their innocence all the way. The senior priest read out a sermon, asked the guilty to repent their sins, and when they refused he asked Sol Invictus to cast the evil-doers into the Abyss where they belonged.

The flames were lit and the crowd watched intently as the two sinners were taken to meet their demonic lords.

Later that evening a caravan pulled into the village and hitched their horses for the night. Hallan, Johan and Paulix approached the lead merchant and asked if he needed more guards for his caravan. He replied that he already had as many guards as he needed but would appreciate their company as extra security and would feed them on the journey the following day as a thank you for travelling with him. The party questioned the merchant about his journey so far and he replied that it had become increasingly more risky to transport goods around over the last year or so and less profitable due to having to hire more guards. He said that this danger from bandit raids could occur anywhere on the route from High Beeches right through to Castleford in the north by the river Abis.

Arrival in Staneford - Moonday 8th Quattrober (Day 13)

The caravan had an uneventful journey to Staneford. The first day passed without incident and the night they made camp to pass the night at the halfway stage passed without incident. The party almost wished for trouble to ease their boredom as the caravan wound its way through the woods and over the hills and dales on the journey north towards Staneford.

As the morning of the second day of the journey wore on, the caravan travelled down a muddy, rutted road lined with closely-grown hedges of brambles and shrubs. Here and there the road cut through a copse of trees or crossed a small rivulet. To either side, forest and meadow gave way to field and orchard. A small herd of cattle grazed in a field nearby and in the distance could be seen smoke rising from chimneys. The party passed the great stone-built chapel to Sol Invictus upon a nearby rise, noted the huge stone tower on a granite outcrop in the distance, and then to either side of the road ahead they passed many well-kept cruck and plaster barns and buildings before stopping in the courtyard of the largest building they had ever seen; the Plough and Stars Inn.

The merchant thanked the party for their help and got to work ordering his teamsters to unpack the produce and stable the horses. The adventurers looked around at the rest of the village before heading inside the tavern.

The interior was well aired and lit and there were a dozen or so customers dotted around the main common area, seated at comfortable tables and benches. The innkeeper, his wife and a handful of serving girls and pot boys bustled around the inn serving the hungry customers.

Ostler Gundigoot introduced himself and asked if he could be of service. The party booked private rooms for the night and headed back outside the doors to follow up on the clues that they had.

The Druid – afternoon

They decided that their first port of call should be Jaroo, the druid. They had spotted what looked like his grove just down the road from the tavern. The well-tended small copse within the village was obviously a place of worship. The trees lining the path were neatly pruned and the grass was well tended. A carefully placed line of bluish stones lined the path to a rock cairn covered in offerings of nuts, corn dollies, candles, garlands and flowers to the nature god Cernunnos. A small path beyond the shrine led to a low-roofed building placed under the boughs of the great central oak trees.

Vox knocked on the door of the small building but he received no answer from within. A few moments later a man dressed in un-dyed plain robes emerged from the trees and asked them their business. The party introduced themselves and showed the druid the metal amulet, asking him if he knew what it was. He said he didn’t know what it was but recognised the symbols as being from the ancient Cthonic rune language. He couldn’t read it but did know from the way that it was written that the runes spelled out a cartouche of some ancient demon.

The party asked him whether anyone else in the village would know exactly what it meant. He mentioned that Terjon, the new Canon who had replaced Canoness Y’Dey when she disappeared suddenly about a month ago, might know, as might Burne, the sorcerer in the round fortified tower. If they had no luck then they could always attend the New Moon meeting held every month where anyone could ask a question of the village council.

Just as they were about to finish their conversation, Jaroo led the party to the standing stones and asked them for a personal offering. Johan gave his staff, Hallan his cudgel and Vox a scattering of tea leaves. Paulix had nothing of any real personal value, so left a small pile of coins.

Jaroo walked them to the end of his path and bade them farewell but Vox had one last question. He wanted to know what it was with all the rain. Jaroo replied that he did not know but it did not feel right.

The bells for six o’clock rang out and the village began to return from the fields and prepare for the evening prayers. They noticed that maybe a third to one half of the village made their way to the church; more people than they had ever seen attending a Sol Invictus service. Johan swore that he must do something about this turning from the old ways.

The party returned to the tavern and spent the night carousing. They spoke to the ostler who told them about many of the characters in tavern and the village. Paulix spotted a card shark at a table; he won more than he lost but did it in such a way that the others at the table didn’t feel cheated although Paulix concluded that he must either be an extremely good card player or he was cheating in some way. They also spotted the caravan merchant who stood them a round of ale. The men-at-arms, who were neither from Vannin nor Thuringia, were quite sociable and answered a few questions about security in the region. They mentioned a tale of a monstrous troll being hunted down by a bunch of adventurers about a year ago but were unsure what had happened to the adventurers except that they brought back the troll’s ashes and a load of treasure before disappearing again. They also repeated the story of the bandit attacks beginning again about a year or so ago and that they had begun to get more frequent. No-one knew who the perpetrators were as there were never any bandit corpses or merchants left alive to tell the tale. Rumour had it that they might come from either the moat house in the marshes or from the despicable village of Nulb to the north. Throughout the night they saw one particular man by the name of Elmo wandering throughout the tavern, scrounging drinks and laughing uproariously in a drunken way at all and sundry. He offered the party his services as a fellow adventurer as long as they supplied him with a big axe and armour as he wanted to be like his brother Otis who had left the village at the same time as the Canoness Y’Dey. The party realised that they would get no more information that night, so retired to their rooms to plan what they would do the following day.

Getting to Know the Locals - Tirsday 9th Quattrober (Day 14)

The following morning the party rose early and broke their fast on the splendid morsels on offer. They glanced out of the tavern windows and realised that at long last the rain had stopped. They each had tasks to carry out, so they said that they would meet up again later after gaining as much information as possible.

Vox and Johan decided to take a look at the tower on one of the large granite outcrops. They noticed that there was a hive of activity going on. When they approached the outcrop they noticed that foundations were being dug for a curtain wall and a variety of stones were being worked on for the wall itself; the quarry being across the river at the other granite outcrop. There were maybe twenty or so labourers at work in a variety of roles and they seemed to be accompanied by their womenfolk and children as well as a few mangy curs. Johan and Vox realised that they might be able to grab a few converts from the workers and began to move amongst them healing a few sprains and closing cuts that affected the type of work some of the labourers could carry out. They spent the rest of the day with the workers, eating with them and preaching the word of Balder. This met with a little resistance from some but many were happy to hear the energetic preaching of the young cleric.

Meanwhile, Paulix headed up towards the temple in time for the first service of the day. On his way out of the tavern he noticed that there were a couple of warhorses in the stables being brushed down. He headed inside to the main altar room after making a small donation at the door under the insistence of the deacon Calmert. He watched the congregation rather than listening to the sermon and noticed that two well-dressed members were seated at the front. He assumed that these were the magician Lord Burne and his accomplice Sir Rufus due to the fact that they were surrounded by a number of men-at-arms. He took note of all the others present and waited for the service to end.

At the end of the service he approached the main priest Terjon and asked him if he recognised the runes on the amulet he held out to him. Terjon took a good look but admitted that other than it being in an old runic language he didn’t really know what it said. The Canoness Y’Dey would have known but she had been called away at short notice only a month or so ago and he was her temporary replacement. As it gave off a magical aura, he suggested that maybe Lord Burne would be the best person to ask about this.

Paulix made his way up to the tower, passing a very busy Vox and Johan along the way. He walked up the pathway towards the tower and was called to halt by a guard on the tower walkway. The main tower looked to be about thirty-five feet tall with another centrally placed smaller tower rising a further twenty feet. On certain parts of the walls Paulix could make out several other guards and the shapes of several war machines (scorpions and mangonels). The entrance to the tower was only accessible by going up a flight of stone steps which terminated about ten feet above the ground. The outer door of the entranceway to the tower was lowered to form a bridge to the stone landing, and a raised portcullis and thick iron inner door completed the entranceway defences. Paulix observed that there were a number of arrow slits around the tower and the base of the tower was reinforced with a six foot splay to add more strength.

The guard asked Paulix what he wanted and came down to meet him when he said that he had urgent business with lord Burne. Paulix briefly described what he wanted to share with the mage and the guard mentioned that he could try to get him an audience for a small fee. Paulix handed over a few silver coins but the guard harrumphed until five silvers were sitting in his palm. He asked where he could be found later and when Paulix responded that he is staying at the Plough and Stars he said to the thief to await him there with news of an audience.

On his way back to the tavern, Paulix decided to have a short wander to see the last parts of the village he had not seen until now. On his travels he spotted Elmo bumbling around; he seemed to always be wandering around the village in his drunken stupor. Just across the ford from the tavern Paulix spotted a sturdy new building with a sign displaying three golden balls; the universal sign of a usurer. He remembered that he still had four of the gems left from the mara’s treasure, so he headed to the door to change them up. He was met at the door by a burly guard in chainmail cradling a loaded crossbow in his arms with a fine looking sword at his belt. Two mastiffs chained nearby growled as he approached. The guard asked what he wanted and upon receiving Paulix’s answer he rapped on the door. A slot in the door opened and the guard whispered to the man within. Paulix was then admitted to a small workshop by Melubb the moneychanger. After a brief look at the gems, he offered Paulix a value slightly less than he himself had appraised them at. Paulix needed the coins, so accepted the offer graciously and bid Melubb a good day.

An Audience with Lord Burne - afternoon

Paulix met up with Hallan at the inn and sat down with him to discuss what he had found out. Just after lunch, a couple of men-at-arms entered the inn and made enquiries after Paulix. They said that they had come to escort him to see Lord Burne about the news he wished to impart. Paulix and Hallan grabbed their weapons and followed on, picking up Vox and Johan along the way. All four were asked to hand over their weapons before being ushered through the entranceway, past the winding gear for the portcullis and up a flight of stairs to the upper level and into the chamber of the magician.

He welcomed them into his cluttered abode with a wave of his hand and said that they had magic about them. Paulix said that this was the reason he had come to see him and produced the metal amulet. Lord Burne leant forward and took it from him inspecting it as he did so. He went quiet for a while. He then said that this was one of the keys to the great doors of the Temple that bound a great demon. He asked how they had come by it but was puzzled by their response that Albus had one day found it in his treasure chest. He then proceeded to tell a little of the back story about how ten or so years ago an evil Temple had arisen in the area close to the village of Nulb and had terrorised the area. Warriors and mages from the surrounding nations got together and defeated the Temple’s denizens, but not without great loss. A terrible demon that had aided the Temple followers was subsequently locked away in the lower levels of its dungeons before the whole lot was razed to the ground. Then, about a year ago, a small band of tough adventurers hunted down and destroyed a great troll which had nested within the Great Gnarley but was terrorising the surrounding countryside. It was at this point that the bandit raids grew more frequent and seemingly more organised. No clues could be gained from the raids as the bandits always got clean away and there were never any survivors to tell the tale. The appearance of the goblins and kobolds showed that evil humanoids were again being summoned from beyond the Void to do the job of someone or something. The places where the evil started ten years ago were around the Temple which was just outside of Nulb, but nearer to Staneford was a moat house in the fens that held a garrison that was the perpetrator of the local raids. Burne thought that this was most likely where the bandits were coming from at the moment as it was within striking distance of the village and easily re-enforceable from Nulb and the river.

He handed the amulet back to Paulix and said he would like them to go to the moat house to reconnoitre; any treasure found there they could keep. Burne said that he would just like any information detailing the new set-up of the Temple or any other similar clues relayed to him so that he could pass on the details to his superiors. Slightly annoyed at not being offered a reward, Paulix agreed that they would look into it and asked Burne if he would look after the amulet as it seemed so important. Burne quickly made his excuses and said he did not want anything to do with it.

The adventurers made their obeisance, leaving the wizard to his reflections, and headed back to the Plough and Stars tavern to figure out what to do next.

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