The Moathouse – Part 3 (11th November 2013)
Bow – Ranger
Hallan – Fighter
Johan - Cleric
Paulix – Thief
Vox – Magic User
Spugnoir – Magic User (NPC)
A Face in the Crowd - Thunorsdsay 11th Quattrober (Day 16) – late evening
The warm glow of the cosy common room fire of the Plough and Stars Inn reflected from the expectant faces of the awaiting crowd. Hushed in awe and anticipation of the tales of the five adventurers, the villagers crowded around the companions and listened to their every word. The tales waxed from the lyrical lips of Paulix and sent shivers down their spines and raised the hairs on the backs of their collective necks. Each and every person within the common room hung onto his every word and each had suppressed a cold shiver as they listened to the tales of wonder and intrigue; or perhaps it was the free ale that made them such a pliant audience?
During the course of the evening, and in between rounds of drinks bought by the intrepid explorers, each of the companions managed to speak to one or two of the patrons alone to gain as many rumours as possible from the pliable audience. They managed to find out that the two war horses in the stables belonged to Kobort (the well-built fighter they had met a few days previously whilst conducting their enquiries into hiring possible companions for their jaunt to the moat house) and another man-at-arms type whom they had not met yet. They were told by Gundigoot that he was quite a private person and he was only there awaiting a particular caravan to pass through so that he could sign on as a guard to earn some silver.
Elmo attempted to get hired again, but his drunkenness and demands for some decent armour were met with the usual negative response from the party. The usual patrons were also in the bar; the card shark, a table full of Sir Rufus’s men-at-arms from the tower up the road, and most of the farming community, many of whom the party had not seen before; the scent of free drink and a merry tale brought many a person out of their homes for the evening. Melubb the money changer also showed his face and toasted his new found customers with much merriment, and the glum trader Rannos also made an appearance alongside his three or four equally moody companions.
Towards the end of the evening, Vox spotted a person that seemed very familiar to him get up from a table on the other side of the room and furtively leave the inn. He nudged Paulix to take a look but all he caught was the tail end of the person’s cloak as he exited the bar and could give no more information as to who it could be. Johan sprang quickly from his seat but by the time he got outside, there was no sign of the person. He scratched his head and then returned to the bar for more drinks.
Back to the Moathouse – Freyasday 12th Quattrober (Day 17)
The party rose early in order to catch Sir Rufus and Lord Burne on their way to the temple of Sol Invictus for the early morning prayers. Paulix and Johan made their obeisance and requested whether it was possible to purchase some armour from them in order to be better protected on their next foray to the moat house. Sir Rufus suggested that they contacted his captain who would see them right. Meanwhile, Bow had some fun at the expense of the magic user Vox by suggesting that he might be able to make some money at the cost of Sol Invictus. Bow whispered that if he held out a bowl at the entrance to the temple he might be able to gain some valuable silver and keep it from the pockets of the priests at the same time. Unfortunately, this was met with looks of disdain from the congregation and the patrons passed him by with their noses held high and their purses firmly tucked within their jerkins.
Tired of being ignored and realising that he had been at the butt end of one of Bow’s pranks he headed into the village to purchase half-a-dozen throwing knives and a shoulder sling in which to hold them. He also headed to the teamsters who were able to supply him with a block and tackle for one of his hare-brained schemes.
After they had purchased some decent armour from the captain at the fortified tower, Bow and Paulix collected up the rest of the party and headed off to the moat house.
The warm, comforting rays of the sun had burnt off the early morning mist and the party made good time along the now well-travelled paths to their destination, but rain clouds gathered in the west. Other than the warbling of birds and the grunts of small woodland creatures they heard nothing untoward and encountered no trouble on the paths and track ways of their route there.
The moat house hove into view when they crested the final rise and it seemed as quiet as ever. They made their way nervously past the pool outside the gates but there was no sign of the giant frogs that they had encountered on their previous two visits.
The party cautiously made their way across the broken drawbridge, and again Johan slipped into the algae filled waters. Vox laughed at his companion’s repeated misfortune only to fall in again himself. Hallan sighed in frustration and pulled the damaged gateway door off its hinges to cover the part of the slippery bridge with the holes in it in the hope that no-one fell in again; the splashing noises were sure to alert anyone within of their approach.
Whilst the fighter and spell casters were preparing the new bridge, the ranger and thief stole forward and began to take a look around the courtyard. They could find no signs of any extra traffic leading towards the doors at the top of the steps but the door to the spider tower hung slightly open (they had closed it when they left) and it looked like something had gone on there.
Paulix clambered up the tower wall for a better look when suddenly the door was thrust open further. A small group of shambling corpses ambled out of the tower towards the terrified party. A quick glance showed that these were the bandits that they had slain the day before, but they had a new lease of un-life. The party closed up to form a battle line and a few missiles were hurled but no real damage was done to the zombies until Johan the cleric stepped forward and called upon the might of Balder. The power of the Bleeding God smote the undead, and they all crumpled to the floor; any demonic possession being completely wiped away from them.
A quick look at the corpses showed that they were covered in the grey ooze, so the party left them where they fell as they did not wish to waste time at this point when the set of stairs down from the rats’ pantry beckoned them onwards. A quick look inside the spider tower revealed that the bodies of the giant critters that they had left there the day before had gone.
Bandits at Eleven O’clock
The party advanced across the courtyard and hastily mounted the steps into the main castle vestibule. The first thing that struck them was that the door that they had chopped open the day before had been repaired in a make shift pattern. As they approached the door to investigate further they heard the sounds of movement beyond. Hallan quickly bunched his huge shoulder muscles and heaved aside the new woodwork only to notice the feet of a person being drawn up through the hole in the roof.
Paulix and Hallan took a quick look around the room before scrambling up the rock fall after the leavers. They got to the roof and spotted seven men carefully tip-toeing across the moat on sub-surface stepping stones. The bandits then sprinted for the fenlands. Paulix got a shot off with his bow but was unable to hit any of them and was rewarded only with a shaken fist for his troubles.
The pair of adventurers descended back down the rubble and investigated the room further. They could find no more treasure but the seven new bedrolls gave away that there were indeed seven bandits that had taken up residence again. Paulix and Bow, wanting to stop any further returns by the bandits, trapped the cascade of rocks that led to the roof. They hoped that any movement on the pile would cause it to avalanche and cut off any further chance of egress.
Whilst searching through the bedrolls, Paulix noticed that the stone slabs in the eastern wall at one point looked a tad different to the rest; a point he failed to spot the day before when he had searched the area. A quick feel around with his fingers and he noticed a tiny hole in which there was a release catch. He checked that there were no traps and pushed the lever. The slight outline of a very tight fitting door appeared. The thief pushed it slightly and it opened into a black void beyond. When his eyes had adjusted he realised that there was a steep stairway down, so he called for Hallan to supply him with a torch.
Lubash the Ogre – early afternoon
When the lit torch was thrust into his hand he was able to see that the stairwell led down to a small chamber – a priest hole, a place of refuge in times of trouble. His curiosity got the better of him so he clambered down the steps to see if there was anything at the bottom. There were the remnants of cloth and wood that may have made up a cot but nothing of value. The rest of the party had followed him down and were doing their best to get in his way whilst searching for anything of value. Suddenly, Johan called out – he had found another small catch in the wall.
Paulix jumped to the fore and placed his fingers into the hole. The catch popped quietly and the door swung away from him silently on its hinges. He noticed that there was light beyond door and he also heard muttering in a deep guttural tongue. The party prepared their weapons and Paulix flung the door open.
The huge being beyond the door looked up from his task and demanded who they were in a very thick Vannin accent. He stood up from the chest he was sitting upon, raised his weapon and advanced towards them menacingly. Johan shouted a Command for him to sleep, and the ogre tumbled to the rag strewn floor. The companions all advanced upon the ogre rapidly and began to hit him with all their might.
Unfortunately for them, this broke the spell and the ogre awoke but was obviously in some confusion. The party rained blows and magic upon the beast but he would not go down. However, with the flurry of blows aimed at him he found it difficult to retaliate, especially when he was Cursed by Johan. Eventually, after several minutes of gruelling combat, the ogre crumpled to the ground covered in cuts, gouges and contusions. The ogre only managed to get a couple of strikes off in the confusion but they hurt the two fighters sorely.
Not wanting to risk the ogre being brought back as a zombie, Paulix removed its head and hands. Meanwhile, the party rummaged through the rags strewn across the floors and pointed out the great chest he had been sitting upon to Paulix to see if he could open it. Paulix saw that the lock was very primitive and ascertained that there were no traps, so he popped open the lid to find a stash of coins and some very cheap and tacky trinkets; enough to keep an ogre happy but would barely fetch a decent price if they were traded.
Just as they were about to push open the door in the western wall, Paulix spotted a cloak in amongst the detritus that appeared to be made of a material none had ever seen before. He stashed it into his adventurer’s pack and joined the others at the door.
Prisoners of the Temple
The ranger pushed the door open and the party advanced into it, weapons drawn. There was nothing to be seen in this chamber other than the tapestries that hung in tatters on the walls, the piles of broken furniture and cloth strewn about the place, and the threadbare carpets upon the floor. The ceiling appeared to be on the point of collapse and the many small holes in it could have let in several of the giant sized rats from the castle above.
Bow decided to search a bit further and pushed open the door in the southern wall. He poked his head past the wooden portal and took a good look round. He saw a large chamber with some hefty supporting pillars dotted throughout, as well as many doors down the western wall and a set of steps that led upwards (he assumed to the rats’ den). Just as he was about to enter the chamber he spotted in the distance two shambling beings. He quickly hissed back that there were zombies beyond the door and Paulix stepped in to spike the door closed.
The party returned to the ogre’s chamber to investigate the locked and bolted door in the southern wall. They drew back the bolts and pulled the door open only to be greeted with cries of dismay and a scrambling noise that moved away from them further into the darkness.
Paulix and Bow advanced into the room with their torches held high and the three beings in the room cowered from the light. Johan moved in and began calming the prisoners, telling them that they were to be rescued. He then proceeded to heal the small boy who had been beaten by the ogre in preparation for him being eaten.
The two men said that they were merchants and that they would pay the party handsomely if they could return them to civilisation. The party agreed to this and passed them over to the care of Spugnoir.
They spent a few moments talking to the merchants and the small boy and found out that they had all been captured on merchant caravans which had subsequently been wiped out and from which all valuable goods and food stuffs had been stolen. Injured members of the merchant groups had been slain and those still in reasonable health had been brought to the moat house as food for the ogre or for an even worse fate. The bandits that had attacked the caravans all wore a similar garb; a black robe or cape with a yellow spiral on it. Paulix produced one of the wooden amulets and showed it to the merchants who agreed that the symbol matched the ones that they had seen borne upon the tunics of the bandits. Johan reached for the amulet in his pouch only to notice that it had gone missing! He knew he had it before he went to bed the previous night but as he hadn’t checked upon it throughout the day so far it could have gone missing at any time.
The adventurers decided that they should deliver the merchants and the boy back to Staneford, so they returned to the priest hole and clambered up the steps into the stronghold above ground. They left Spugnoir and the three prisoners in the large vestibule outside the bandits’ lair to shout in case of trouble and advanced to the stairs that led down from the rats’ pantry.
Johan led the way down the steps with his holy symbol held forth in one hand and his flail in the other, closely followed by Bow. Paulix and Hallan came next, and finally Vox brought up the rear.
As he led the way downward into the pillared crypt below, Johan felt something land upon his shoulder. It was a large blob of green slimy stuff. He thought nothing of it so just absently brushed it away with his left hand. Behind him, he heard Bow remark that some gunge had fallen onto him too. The pair of them noticed that despite their efforts to remove it, the green slime did not get removed but was spread even more so over their upper arms and shoulders. It was at this point that Johan noticed his armour and glove were beginning to get eaten away by the stuff, and that the slime was growing slightly as the armour was dissolved. Johan then tried to brush it away with his flail handle, but that too started to dissolve. Bow’s efforts with using one of the magical arrows had no better effect but at least the arrow did not begin dissolving.
Worried about the damage that the slime might do to their bodies, the two adventurers stripped off their armour before it got through to their skin. The two piles of armour began to rapidly dissolve when piled in a mound at the bottom of the steps.
To add to their woes, the two zombies that Bow had seen earlier from his vantage point behind the now spiked door had noticed their arrival. As the two walking cadavers advanced upon them, Johan prepared himself to turn the undead. Meanwhile, Bow called up to everyone else to watch out above their heads as they ventured down the steps. Paulix, the third in line, used his torch to burn away the green slime pools placed strategically above their heads, but it would take a few minutes to destroy it all.
Johan and Bow joined combat with the two zombies, thinking they would be relatively easy opponents, but just as melee ensued, two more zombies emerged from one of the row of doors along the western wall of the south leading part of the room. Johan decided that it would be best to try to turn them with the power of his holy symbol, but his god failed him on this occasion.
The two adventurers began to panic as four of the zombies were now locked in battle with them, but luckily Paulix had completed ridding the area above the steps of green slime and the rest of the party joined their comrades at the crowded area at the bottom of the steps.
The combat dragged on for a while as the numbers of zombies was added to periodically as more and more cell doors opened. The adventurers were slowly becoming ground down by the sheer weight of numbers but Johan was occasionally able to Turn a few zombies to ease the pressure. As the injuries mounted for the party, the breakthrough came as several zombies were felled simultaneously through their own accumulated injuries. Finally, Hallan and Bow laid low the last two reanimations and the party heaved a collective sigh of relief.
The companions wiped their weapons free from the gore and grey ooze that coated them and then checked their wounds for infection. Everyone seemed to be OK except for Johan; one of his wounds looked particularly inflamed and most definitely had some of the grey ooze smeared within it. Paulix and Vox got to work with burning the corpses so that they could not be raised again.
Rather than search through the rest of room and behind the closed doors and run the risk being attacked by even more adversaries the friends called it a day and left the confines of the underground tomb. They wearily climbed the steps, collected Spugnoir and the prisoners and headed into the sunlight of the moat house courtyard.
On their way across the courtyard, Bow made a slight detour and sprinkled burning oil onto the zombie corpses there to make sure they did not raise again either.
An Audience with Jaroo – early evening
The journey back through the fens and forest was again uneventful, which was lucky for Johan as his condition worsened. He swore that he would not visit the priests of Sol Invictus due to his animosity for them but wondered where else he may be cured. Vox vaguely recalled that the priests cast some sort of Cure Disease type spell upon him as well as douse him in Holy Water. He couldn’t be sure of the whole process as he was delirious at the time.
Whilst Bow, Vox and Spugnoir accompanied the ex-prisoners into the Plough and Stars inn, Johan decided to call upon the druid Jaroo to see if he could offer up any aid. Jaroo rubbed his chin and said that he was able to cure most diseases but he had never seen this particular infection before. Paulix asked if he could make some Holy Water as that seemed to be required too to fully cure anyone, but Jaroo said that that was way beyond his capabilities. He suggested that the priests at the church of Sol Invictus may be their only hope as they had cured Vox previously.
The party were not happy with the verdict, but realised that it was not Jaroo’s fault, so they thanked him for his advice and supported Johan on the path up to the temple. He was welcomed in and shown to a private room where he could be healed. The acting-Canon, Terjon, consulted the library tomes after speaking to Johan and said that the cure would cost 600 silver pieces. Paulix found this from the party funds and paid the cleric. Terjon said that Johan should be right as rain sometime the following morning.
Paulix and Hallan made their way back to the inn to join their companions for a well-earned rest. As Paulix crossed the common room, the young boy who they had rescued approached him and pressed a small iron ring with a few symbols inscribed upon it into his hand and whispered into his ear that this would identify him as a friend to his associates in Castleford.
The mood in the party was not as jovial as it had been the previous two days – the treasure haul was tiny compared to last time (although Spugnoir identified the cloak as magical), they all had taken a severe battering and their friend was to be beholden to the church that nobody particularly liked.
To make matters worse, a thunderstorm was brewing in the hills to the west. It looked like it would rain on the morrow.