The Moathouse – Part Four (11th December 2013)
Bow – Ranger
Hallan – Fighter (NPC’d)
Johan - Cleric
Paulix – Thief
Vox – Magic User
A Few Questions Answered - Thunorsday 18th Quattrober (Day 23) – afternoon
The constant drip of the rain thrumming through the lead guttering of the Tale Hanger’s Inn began to grate upon the nerves of the adventurers waiting for Vox to recover from his faint after casting the identification spell. He had given them plenty of valuable information but the cost had been quite high. Johan had still to recover all of his spells after healing Hallan, the fighter, so he retired to his room and began to pray to Balder for his next divinely allocated powers. The prayer session took a little longer this time as he found that his god had granted him an additional couple of spells for the day. Hallan, still sore from his resurrection ordeal decided that he would look in on the two magic users whilst the ranger and thief went out to investigate in The Wynde to try to pick up a few more clues as to how this town was run and how the underworld linked in with the village at Nulb.
Bow and Paulix hurried through the constant downpour back to the tavern that the ranger had visited a day or so previously. The Hidden Dirk seemed to be affected by the rain as its customer base consisted of just one patron until the duo of adventurers arrived.
The bar-keep did his best to not recognise Bow and asked what he could get the gentlemen. Bow ordered drinks for himself and his companion and then engaged the tavern keeper in conversation. The bar-keeper gave away little knowledge until he had been shown a handful of silver with the promise of more to come. He shooed the only other patron out of the door and barred it against further entry. When he was free of the potential eavesdropper he was able to tell Bow a little about Nulb and the set-up of the various factions there…
There was a bit of needle between the two major factions; the pirates and the brigands with the barge folk, fisher folk and farmers caught in between. He could tell them that Tolub ran the pirate operation and Silk, based in Castleford, ran the recruitment and dispersal of the bandit gangs that were shipped up river to an unknown contact and then possibly onto other places like the Moat house and Nulb. He mentioned that there were two pirate ships that patrolled the river between Nulb and Castleford, as well as carrying out raids on the River Abis to the north. The pirate crew possibly consisted of 40-50 men and their battle-scarred leaders. The bandits were no less tough but many of their leaders remained hidden.
Bow downed the rest of his ale, slipped a gold coin under his empty jack and with Paulix in tow let himself out of the tavern back onto the muddy streets of The Wynde. Paulix parted company with Bow there and headed back to the Tale Hanger’s to check upon his companions and to get dry. Bow had another short mission to run.
Magic Arrows – late afternoon
Bow made his way back to the Artisan’s Quarter looking for someone to buy one of his magical arrows as his funds were running extremely low. Unfortunately, the price of the item was a bit more than any of the artisans could afford to pay so it was suggested that he visited the Merchant’s Quarter, where they had more money and bigger markets at their disposal to purchase items of such quality. Bow made his way to the Merchant’s Quarter and rapped upon the familiar, well-fortified door of Robert’s town house. A few moments passed before the small peep hole in the door was opened and he was asked what he wanted. He requested an audience with Robert but he was told that the merchant was busy. He asked the porter if he knew of anywhere he could get some good quality weaponry priced up. The porter knew of a couple of respectable dealers and gave him directions to Statler’s (for armour) and Waldorf’s (for weaponry) manses. Bow thanked the porter for his time and headed to Waldorf’s place.
He rapped on the door and was again rewarded with a porter asking his business. Once he had told the porter what he had for sale, and waited the obligatory ten to fifteen minutes whilst the merchant was tracked down, he was shown to a sumptuous reception room and asked his business by a corpulent, bearded, well-dressed merchant and his tall, thin accomplice.
The merchant introduced himself as Waldorf and asked how he could help Bow. Bow showed him the magical arrow and wondered if it was something that he would consider purchasing. After a brief look at the arrow and a whispered conference with his associate, who waved his hand over the arrow to determine its legitimacy, the merchant offered Bow forty-five gold coins for it, but the ranger refused as he had been told by the artisans it was worth around a hundred. A bit of bargaining went on before the pair finally agreed upon a price and the gold was handed over. Bow retuned to the Tale Hanger’s with money in his pouch once more.
Back to Staneford - Freyasday 19th Quattrober (Day 24) – mid-day
The evening passed uneventfully for the adventurers as they sat quietly in a private booth within the Tale Hanger’s. All except Vox, who was still recovering from his casting ordeal, swapped their news and brought each other up-to-date with things. The discussion then turned to what they should do on the morrow, and it was decided unanimously that they would head back to the moat house to grab more treasure and to try to finally put a stop to the banditry that was occurring around the area.
At lunch time Vox made his way downstairs after his long sleep and tucked into a very large lunch. As soon as he had finished his last morsel, the rest of the party hauled him to his feet, grabbed their equipment and headed out into the wilderness on their way towards Staneford.
The rain still beat down incessantly, but the party were getting used to it by now, their newly crafted wolf-pelt cloaks kept their shoulders drier than they had been in a long time when outdoors.
Ambush – early afternoon
The wilderness proved to be a dangerous place as the party found out an hour or so after leaving the safety of the town walls of Castleford. The party headed along a game trail that Bow had picked up on when a couple of crossbow bolts darted through the air and hit Hallan, one causing a small wound to the fighter. Paulix, in cover and almost invisible due to his magical cloak spotted the enemy and warned the others of where they were. A brief melee broke out but the bandits were no match for the now-seasoned adventurers. The seven attackers were soon put to the sword and their pouches robbed. Unfortunately the bandits were smeared in grey ooze, so the party had to spend some time constructing a pyre to burn the bodies and their clothes, as well as inspecting Hallan’s wound for any signs of infection. Luckily there were none, and the companions were able to continue on their way after wiping their blades clean and burning the rags.
The journey to Staneford was long and arduous, but they managed to arrive about an hour or so before the Plough and Stars shut its doors for the night without any further troubles. They were greeted warmly by the ostler who saw that they must have gone up in the world as the weapons and armour they now possessed was much finer than what they left with only a few days ago. Bow noticed that his little collection of trophies had been taken down and either destroyed or passed onto someone who had a use for them.
The party grabbed a quick meal, got healed up and then had an early night.
Return to the Moat House - Godsday 20th Quattrober (Day 25)
The party rose early and tucked into the fine board prepared for them by Gundigoot. They wandered down to the trader’s establishment where they bought some more dungeoneering equipment. The trader eyed them warily, but was polite, if taciturn, in response to their eager questions about what items would be best in what situations. As soon as they had distributed their kit, the party set off towards the moat house.
Three hours into the journey, just before they arrived at the fortification in the fens, Paulix called the party to a halt and drew them off the pathway. A heavily guarded merchant caravan hove into view down the wooded pathway. Bow stepped out form his hiding place to be confronted with the sound of a dozen crossbows snapping to his direction. He held his hands up placatingly and said that he only wanted to talk to them. Wary but feeling safe due to the hardware aimed at the party the merchants told them about how they had taken a wrong turning further up the road and had ended up travelling down this little-used track way. They had passed the moat house about half a mile back but all seemed quiet in there. There was no sign of any inhabitants either natural or otherworldly. The merchants then asked if it was far to Staneford and the ranger responded that it would take them little more than three or four hours to get there. The merchants thanked them for their answer and proceeded cautiously along the road again. The party made their way to the last rise that they knew before the moat house hove into view.
Brigands – late morning
The sound of the whipper-whorls trilling to each other throughout the fen was the only sound that the party could hear as they approached the giant frog pool. Johan was especially nervous when he passed the point they were last attacked, but Bow sprinted with confidence over the fallen door that now covered the rotten drawbridge. The sound of his footsteps reverberated from the walls of the inner courtyard but there appeared to be no-one home. The rest of the party followed him in, with Paulix covering their entry with his drawn bow.
A mound of burnt decaying bodies lay where they had left it and there were few signs that there had been any other movement within the fortress. Vox crept over to the spider tower, but afraid to look inside, just listened instead; he heard nothing.
Bow advanced up the steps to the main door of the building and peered within. He saw nothing but did manage to hear a scampering sound in the distance, but he was not too sure where it came from. All was still until the twang of two light crossbows went off in unison winging their steely death towards him. He ducked into the main entrance hall only to hear a yell go up from within. He was confronted by two armed men who had sprung out of the old bandits’ lair towards him. Another voice from within shouted to others to stir their lazy butts and get out to repulse the attack.
The rest of the party, except for Paulix, sprinted to the doorway to help their companion. Paulix began a circuit of the outside of the fortification to try to catch the bandits in the rear through their roof top entranceway.
A terrible melee ensued with enemies attacking the party from two sides. Bow and Hallan attempted to block any further egress from the bandit room whilst Johan faced down the two crossbowmen that had now begun firing bolts into the melee. The leader within barked more orders and the rest of his men entered the fray to stop the adventurers.
It only took a few minutes for the superior skill at arms of the companions to tell as they beat down the opposition. The leader within the room cursed and could be seen to clamber up the rock fall as he once again admitted defeat at the hands of this determined bunch of individuals.
Outside, Paulix had got to within bow range and shot at the first head he saw poke above the parapets. The arrows sailed past the bandit which encouraged him down the outside of the rock fall at double pace, smoothly followed by a second fellow that looked to be the leader due to his superior chain armour.
The fight inside the hall quickly came to an end and the ranger sprinted up the fallen masonry to try to catch the leader of this bandit troop. Paulix’s arrows hampered the descent of the two bandit leaders as they picked their way down the fallen rubble. Arrow after arrow found its mark in the leader’s body, but his armour saved him from the worst of the attack.
In his desperation to catch the leader, Bow put everything into the chase and dispensed with scrabbling down the rubble by jumping down instead. He twisted his ankle slightly but not enough to slow him in his rage. After chasing through the marshes for a minute or two he caught the leader, but he was felled by the last of Paulix’s arrows that were still in range. The aide managed to get away as he was more lightly armed than his compatriot and knew the marshes better than the ranger.
The party convened within the bandit lair and discovered that there was a tenth man lying on a pallet in a sweat; their little punji-stick trap hard worked! He was in no fit state to put up any resistance, so the party quickly stripped the bodies of anything of value, washed off any grey ooze they found on the items and checked themselves over for injuries. It was then that they counted the pallets and realised that perhaps one more man was unaccounted for.
Vermin – mid-day
Otherworld Rats - courtesy Oubliette Magazine
Knowing that the fens were a wild place and that any empty niche would not lie empty for long, the party realised that they might have to give the upper storey one final sweep to protect their escape route before they descended into the dungeon.
They set off into the west wing of the fortress and popped their heads into each door, one at a time. Each door opened in turn to reveal a scene similar to how they last left things, except the bodies of the critters they had killed had been moved again by someone else and a few more footprints showed in the dust of each room. All were empty except for the kitchen, where the tick was last encountered. Hallan kicked open the door and strode in to take a good look around, closely followed by Bow. A swarm of giant rats boiled out of the rotten sacks in search of fresh meat. The rats were no match for the party and were soon hacked down; one was even magically spoken to by Johan who warned it that giant cats would be coming to get them. This kept the king rat out of the way until it was easier to deal with on its own.
The few bites that were taken by the party caused little damage and the party continued with their search down to the south wing. Again, nothing was encountered until they stepped into the final end room that previously contained the snake.
The darkness, cut only by the feeble rays of the clouded over sun that ghosted into the room via the small arrow slots and holes in the roof, took a few moments to adjust to, but that was all the two giant ticks needed to attack their prey. The pair of grotesque insects launched themselves at the fighter and ranger who had point, closely followed by two of their offspring. A mound of rotting corpses, including that of the last of the bandits not so far accounted for, lay in a heap with several more tick eggs.
Bow, not wanting a repeat of what had happened to him the last time he encountered a critter of this ilk quickly stepped out of the way to allow Johan to help with the melee.
Hallan quickly brought down the larger of the two monsters, but the second one managed to get hold of Johan and pierce his flesh with its spear-like proboscis, sucking his life blood as each second ticked by.
The two younglings scampered towards Hallan, but he swiftly chopped them into pieces with his great sword whilst the rest of the party slowly, but surely, hacked to pieces the last remaining tick attached to Johan’s chest, showering the corridor with Johan’s blood.