Sunday, 27 April 2014

An early Anglo-Danish Warband for Saga

After several months' hiatus I got my figures and tools out to start working on something to get my creative juices flowing in a direction other than AD&D RPG. Doggerland has been taking up an inordinate amount of my time lately, and as a result my paintbrush and tools have not left the cupboard since way before Christmas.

As I had recently bought Saga at Salute I decided to do something with respect to that ruleset. A few years back I got hold of (two of) the Gripping Beast Anglo-Saxon Thegns box set, as well as two boxes of Vikings (I'll do something with those at a later date). I got them out of the box, and sat and stared at the sprues this afternoon to work out what I could do with them. I finally got the clippers out and created two units and the warlord for my starter force.

I decided I wanted to create a force that was post the first Viking Age (i.e. Alfred vs. Guthrum era) but pre-1066. I decided upon an early Anglo-Danish force based upon the early years of the Godwin dynasty. Lots happened during the Godwin era and they fought or opposed armies of many peoples during that time (other Anglo-Saxons/Danes, Welsh and Normans just for starters).

This is what I got for about four hours of procrastination, snipping and gluing...

First up is the warlord himself. There was a little kit-bashing involved to get this figure sorted as the shield and Dane-axe are from Conquest Games' Norman Infantry set.

The first batch of figures were made into a unit of Huscarls that I will use to represent the professional warriors who carry the warlord's banner. The banner bearer and horn blower had a kite shield added to their backs. The next unit I am hoping to arm with Dane-axes for striking fear into the enemy.

The second unit I created will represent what Saga calls Ceorls - a mixture of the better trained members of the Fyrd and lesser thegns. Eight spear-armed troops to bolster the numbers of the elite Huscarls. I will create another unit similarly armed and armoured at a later date to bring the army up to a basic 4 points. If I go for a standard 6 point army then I may take an extra unit of Huscarls and then invest in a box of Gripping Beast's Dark Age Warriors to make a unit of 12 levy.

After gluing the plastic kits together, I mounted them on 2p pieces. Now that it is no longer a criminal offense to deface the coin of the realm, I can use them without fear of losing my head - and they work out far cheaper than any base I have seen for sale anywhere! They also have the added advantages of being exactly the same size without fail, being magnetic, and they give the figures a little bit of heft which plastic figures generally lack.

I will attempt to get them undercoated this afternoon if the rain holds off, and maybe get the mail dry brushed to give them a little contrast.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

White Dwarf Weekly #12

Since a few weeks back I now have a new local Games Workshop. My usual haunt was the shop in the Bluewater shopping centre, but recently a new store was opened in my local shopping centre of Bexleyheath. This is a lot more local and I have consequently visited it a bit more often than the one that is further afield.

I have had a good chat with the manager on a couple of occasions now but unfortunately I am unable to get down there to game still as my work finishes so late that I don't get home until the gaming time has prettty much ended. Still, that does not stop me popping in for a browse around the shelves and taking a look at the gaming tables and painted minis in the cabinets.

I got chatting to a fellow gamer in the shop today who runs a gaming club in Belvedere - I may very well pop down there if the timing is right work wise. It would be nice to supplement my Wednesday night RPg stuff with some tabletop battles. It might also make me pull my finger out and get some figure painted this year!
Picture courtesy of Games Workshop's website

Anyway, back to the main point of this article; White Dwarf #12.

I missed this particular issue going on sale last week but found out via The One Ring forum that it contained some The Hobbit SBG material. As this is so few and far between I decided to try to track it down. The manager of my new local shop had a few copies put by out the back just in case rather than send all of them back to head office for shredding - good man! I duly picked up a copy. Here is a brief run down of what is on offer inside...

32 page magazine with a soft card cover
The new Citadel Tool Set (5 1/2 pages)
An Unexpected Journey battle report (4)
Sprues and Glue hobby article (4)
Paint Splatter hobby article (2)
Weekly Roundup snippets (2/3 of a page)
GW Staff The Hobbit armies (1)
Mini Picture (glossy back page)

So, we have 6 2/3 pages of The Hobbit material and 11 1/2 pages of generic hobby related material. Not as good as the contents of WD#08 but for 15-20 minutes read on a Saturday afternoon with a cup of tea and a slice of cake it is not bad value for money (£2.40). I will continue to pick up more of the magazines that contain The Hobbit material (and I hope this brief article encourages others to do so) in the hope that it spikes the sales figures thus drawing Games Workshop's attention to the player base for the SBG and encourage them to produce more material for its undoubtedly large fan base.

Doggerland Session 4:28 (Pool of the Standing Stones III)

Pool of the Standing Stones III (23rd April 2014)

The Adventurers
Bow – Ranger
Cormac – Fighter
Gull – Thief (NPC)
Johan – Cleric
Theoderic - Fighter
Vox – Magic User

Adjusted map courtesy of White Dwarf 12 - copyright Games Workshop

A New Arrival - Sunday 28th Quinquember (Day 61) – early evening

The sun had set and the dark fingers of the encroaching night obscured the path through the woods that the stout warrior Theoderic was taking. He knew from his talks with the denizens of the Gryphon Inn n Steeplfell that a party of adventurers had headed out in the direction of the standing stones at the top of the hill earlier that day and he did not want to miss out on any treasure that was going. His mission was to aid in the rescue of the missing village girls if he could, but he was given free rein to do as he pleased with anyone he came across within the glade.

The doughty fighter brushed aside the undergrowth with the uneasy feeling that he was being watched but no attack came. He was certain that he should come across the approach path to the ring soon but he must have gone astray because the positions of the stars he could occasionally glimpse through the woodland canopy showed that his path was not true. He was on the point of stopping for the night when he entered a small clearing and noticed something unusual with a patch of ground besides an old elm.

He searched about to work out what had caught his attention when he found a large iron ring bolted to a stout wooden door buried beneath a false turf. He grabbed hold of the ring and pulled. A loud creak erupted from the rusted hinges and the wooden portal slammed back on the turf to reveal a deep, dark hole.

The fighter lit his torch and thrust it into the Stygian darkness to reveal a solid stone spiral stairwell that led into the gloom. He drew his trusty blade and followed his nose towards adventure.

After he had descended twenty or so steps he began to hear the muffled sounds of fighting and the bark of a manic dog. He hurried his descent in anticipation of glory and treasures beyond counting.

Temple Guards Defeated

Three of the Temple guards at the rear of the skirmish fought to release their companions from their binding within the Rope of Entanglement whilst their fourth companion ducked beyond the curtain that separated the guard room from the chamber beyond from which emanated the enraged snarls and barks of a rabid dog. Cormac and Vox hacked at the bound guardsmen in frenzy whilst Gull covered the corridor outside both the guard room and the room which contained Johan and Bow who battled the ticks.

The leader and one of the bound guards fell to the blows of the two companions but their comrades had some luck with cutting partially through the rope that bound them. Vox feared for the magical item and called for Gull to help but no sooner had the words left his lips when a heretofore hidden door burst open.

Two of the guards turned at the entry of another interloper within their demesne and challenged Theoderic as to his actions. The fighter just snarled back that he was here to rid the world of the likes of those who challenged him and leapt into action.

The missing guard now returned with a rabid dog in tow and he commanded it to attack the party at the door. The dog leaped towards the entrance where Gull had just arrived. The thief swiftly gulped down his Potion of Animal Control and commanded the dog to stop. Unfortunately he could not fully control the dog in its rabid state but he did manage to confuse it enough to make it stand still.

The lull in the fight gave Cormac just enough time to slay his final opponent and leap to the aid of Theoderic who was being tightly pressed, whilst Vox controlled the last remaining guard still bound by the rope. The fight between the two fighters and the two guards was over swiftly as the far superior skills at arms of the adventurers shone through.

The two fighters nodded to each other in recognition of a kindred spirit and introduced themselves before they put down the dog and looted the bodies of their purses. They then darted into the chamber separated by the curtain to investigate what was beyond. They espied a bunk room beyond and set about searching it for valuables. They found a small gold plated casket filled with gems and jewellery at the end of a rope that was immersed within the latrine. Vox robbed the leader’s corpse of a fine looking scimitar and began to question the sole survivor of the guard troop.

None of the adventurers got anywhere with their questioning of the guard so Cormac, who had lost his patience, allowed him to see if his promise of a demonic afterlife was true.

Giant Ticks Defeated

Meanwhile, Bow and Johan had got the better of the ticks in the bed chamber of the plate armoured cleric. After the fight had gone agonizingly wrong to start with and had led to the retreat of their other three companions, the cleric and ranger fought on. They dispatched the noisome invertebrates within a few minutes without further injury and then proceeded to examine the room for the hidden entrance that they assumed the evil cleric had escaped through. However, try as they might they could not find any secret exits from the room, but Bow did manage to procure two magical scrolls from under the bed which he handed to Vox when they met up again a few minutes later after both fights had concluded.

Once the guard room had been searched from top to bottom, and Theoderic had been questioned as to who he was and what his mission entailed, the four new companions joined Bow and Johan in the boudoir. The darkness still reigned supreme, but they were able to navigate their way through it to the light beyond.

After everybody was introduced to their latest companion, they all set about searching the chamber for a hidden door. Even with Gull’s superior skills at finding this kind of thing they were unable to find such an exit.

Bow in the meantime had become bored and had sauntered off on his own in pursuit of further adventure. He kicked open the next door down the corridor and lit his lantern to combat the gloom beyond.

Monks from the Temple of Zuggtmoy

He advanced along the downward sloping narrow corridor and turned left (southwards) when it led that way. He could just make out a light that glowed at the end, so he doused his own lantern and advanced to within a few dozen yards to listen. He could hear the sound of heavy blows, as if sacks of corn were being dropped or sides of beef were being hacked. He decided to await the arrival of his companions before he went any further.

He only had to wait a few minutes before he could hear the approach of his fellow adventurers. He managed to motion for them to douse their lights and draw their weapons, before he charged into the room.

The great stone statue of Zuggtmoy that faced him as he entered the obvious prison cell block made him miss a step as he charged into the room and he was quickly accosted by two strangely garbed fellows who carried out the orders of their similarly garbed master beyond. He managed to parry the blows from their great swords before the rest of his companions entered the fray. Johan’s magical Hold Person did the trick by rooting the master and one of his acolytes to the spot but the third fought on bravely, if foolhardily, without their support.
Unfortunately for him, the three warriors in the invading band were more than a match for him and he went down under a flurry of blows.

The party wasted no time in cutting down the other two monks (the party reasoned they were monks due to their similar look and garb as Turuko whom they encountered in Staneford only a month or two earlier) and looked for a key to the cell doors.

They found a bunch of keys hidden within a pile of rags close to the door at the other end of the room and proceeded to open each of the three cells in turn to find that they only contained the sleeping pallets of the three monks. A swift slitting open of the mattresses revealed an amulet in what looked like the chief monk’s cell. This was quickly pocketed and the door at the far end of the room was kicked open.

Captives Rescued

Beyond the wooden door they heard the sounds of weeping and pleading coming from beyond the doors within the chamber. The cell doors were unlocked and opened in quick succession and each revealed a few of what the party presumed were the village girls. They all sported the signs of being mistreated except for one, Gilnet, the sister of the young lad back in Steeplefell.

They were all comforted and then asked what had happened. They replied by telling the story of their kidnap by Ash and then their subsequent release into the custody of Braken who kept them here for his own amusement. They could not tell the party much else, but after a few more minutes of questioning they enquired about their friend Leonora. The party assumed she was the maid who was slain by accident in Braken’s boudoir, so they told the girls that they were sad to inform them that Braken had killed her earlier.

The girls needed to be returned to their village, so Theoderic, being the newest arrival suggested that he would take them back to their loved ones and get right back into the action when he could. Bow led the way to Braken’s chamber where Cormac retrieved the body of Leonora and handed it over to Theoderic to carry back to Steeplefell.

The party said their goodbyes and escorted Theoderic back to the way he had come into the dungeon. He bid them farewell and left them to carry on with their investigation into finding the magical sword that would destroy the Golden Orb.

Rest and Recuperation – late night

The party realised that the druid Ash had not been telling tales about the two entrances to the subterranean complex, but he had been economical with the truth as to the strength of the guards at each entrance.

They decided that as they had been quite beaten about and their new comrade may not make it back before they continued further the party decided to rest up whilst the spell casters got their magical powers back and the party healed.

Bow led the party back to the teleportation wall. As he thought, it returned then to the first corridor that they had entered the complex through. He quickly paced back to the gnoll guard chamber in which they had rested previously and set about securing the room against attack.

The party either slept in shifts or learned spells for the next four hours. On the last watch, Bow returned to the main entrance hall and peered up through the illusory pool at the night sky. His ranger skills came in handy as he realised that time had passed rapidly and that it fast approached midnight. Only a couple of hours separated the party from the next day; the day of the new Moon.

The Bedchamber and the Shadow Guards

Vox recovered the spells that he had used, and Johan emerged from his prayer trance fully restored with his god’s divine powers. The other members of the party were then subsequently healed to full fitness before they donned armour and readied their weapons for further adventure in the dungeon.

The party turned left out of their safe room and headed down the other corridor towards another dead end. The adventurers were not fooled this time by the teleportation trick and, after Gull had checked the way for potential traps, walked towards the end wall. They were again transported to another corridor but this one was laid out slightly differently to the previous one.

Whilst Cormac headed towards the first door, Bow made his way to another further along the corridor. The rest of the party lined up and prepared themselves for combat behind the fighter at the first door. He kicked the door open and stared in on another bed chamber; this one most likely inhabited by a woman judging by the d├ęcor and items of make-up strewn around the room.

The floor was covered in a plush carpet and the huge four-poster bed against the far wall spoke of comfort. The two plate mail adorned statues spoke of wealth.

Bow’s conscience got the better of him this time and he decided not to go it alone just in case the party got themselves into difficulty and could not come to his aid if he required it. He returned to the first door and followed the rest of the party into the boudoir. He spotted the doorway beside the right hand statue by the bed and he headed straight for it.

When he got to within a few feet of it, the statue came to life and swung its sword at the ranger. Johan quickly cast a Bless spell to aid his companions and combat was joined. Even though the plate armoured opponents looked deadly, it did not take long for the party to reduce them to scrap metal; only their black capes survived as they crumbled to dust after each being struck once or twice.

Waking the Dead

Bow was in a hurry to get to grips with the leader of this complex now. He knew that there was a well-armed cleric around, as well as a female companion and the bone devil Dando to deal with. He also wondered what had happened to the other four gnolls that had escaped their clutches.

The ranger made his way to the door that was alongside the bed and popped it open to reveal a small empty chamber beyond, with another door opposite. He took a brief listen at the second door and forced it open to reveal a strange vista.

In the centre of the room stood two very large stone plinths, upon which lay two very large bodies. The bodies had been stitched together from the largest parts of the largest of men and looked menacing even whilst immobile upon their stone tableaus. To the far side of the room was a strange contraption that was covered in levers and handles. Several ropes of metal snaked their way up to the ceiling and down to the stone tables upon which lay the two bodies.

Bow and Cormac headed straight towards the device and began to push and pull the various levers. Every now and again a few sparks were emitted from the device, but on one particular turn of a dial a loud humming noise was emitted from the device and a blue snake of electricity arced along one set of metal cables to create a halo of energy around the head of one of the corpses.

A long, slow breath was drawn into the dead lungs of the being upon the slab. Its eyes opened and a long moan escaped its lips as it spotted the intruders standing beside it. The creature sat up with a menacing slowness and cast its gaze upon the party.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Paulix's Side Adventures II

Paulix's Side Adventures II (12th March to 16th April)

The Druid’s Broch - Tirsday 2nd to Wodensday 3rd Quinquember

Paulix joined his old companions at the druid’s broch and caught up with all the rumours that both parties had gathered (the rest of that adventure can be read in the main body of the blog).

Return to Castleford - Wodensday 3rd Quinquember

After being debriefed by the baron Tancred, Paulix headed back to his room in The Pike down by the docks outside the West Gate of Castleford. He was soon contacted by Purloin who again debriefed him on his mission to the druid’s broch. Paulix told his superior most of what had happened with his companions but realised before it was too late that he had admitted the treasure he had gained. Purloin asked for the guild’s usual tithe of ten percent and then briefed the thief on his continuing mission to track down Gauk and to try to find out any information about the cleric he had previously encountered at the moat house just outside of Staneford.

Temple Investigations – Wodensday 3rd to Moonday 15th Quinquember

Paulix spent the next few days stalking around Castleford following up his previous enquiries about the thief Gauk. He managed to pick up the trail again and on Freyasday put on a disguise and headed off to Nulb.

He arrived in good time to see that the underbelly of the village was preparing for something. A few gold coins were passed across well-oiled palms and he found out that there had been an arrival of a very important Temple personage in the last couple of weeks. A few more gold coins revealed this person to be none other than Lareth the Beautiful – the evil cleric that Paulix and his companions had flushed out of the moat house. He had arrived with several of his followers and they were currently encamped within the Waterside Hostel. They were planning an initiative for the following month regards the Temple.

The first amulet that Gauk had stolen back from the party had been delivered to Nulb and then subsequently taken by another important Temple denizen for a ritualistic opening of one of the magically sealed portals. This ceremony had been successful because the aftershock had been felt and the lightning show of a couple of weeks previous backed up the theory.

His investigations after Gauk then led him to Staneford where the evil thief had paid a visit on the traders’ establishment. When Paulix arrived in Staneford though Gauk had already left the village and made his way back to Castleford only a couple of days previously.

Paulix paid out a few more gold coins to gather a little more information and he found out that the traders had been arrested and taken to the tower of the lords Rufus and Burne. They had been questioned for a day or so and then transported to Castleford for trial.

Paulix returned to Castleford two days before the raid on Nulb was about to begin. He reported his findings to Purloin and was then allowed to rest for a while. He also made a quick visit on his contact at the castle (Sir Guy) where he reported the same. He was rewarded with 100 silver coins for his troubles. The thief returned to his room but found that he could not sit easy with so much going on. He ventured out into the Wynde to make enquiries elsewhere. He found out that something big was about to go down both in Nulb and Castleford just a few days hence. He noticed that there was a large amount of troop movements within the town and the guard was doubled on several gates and main thoroughfares.

On the eve of the Battle of Imeryds Run, Paulix was warned to stay indoors by Purloin if he valued his life, but was informed of his next mission. Being a contrary type he ignored the advice and took up a prime position on the roof of a nearby tall building and began to watch the comings and goings at the castle. He saw that at the usual curfew time the city gates were closed and all movement into and out of the town was closely watched by the large amount of guards now stationed all over.

When darkness fell he saw that the castle gates opened and a long stream of men-at-arms, knights and siege engines filed out of the town led by several of the town's high ranked dignitaries. A few hours later, a second stream of troops headed down towards the docklands area by the West gate. Several people attempted to escape the confines of both the docklands and the town but were swiftly caught. He noticed that a few were undoubtedly members of the Iron Ring; his new found colleagues in the guild.

As soon as the bells sounded for nine, the attack within the docks went ahead. Torches flared and troops moved in. The docklands inhabitants scattered in all directions but other troops had exited the town earlier and blocked their path both north and south. Those who had not returned to their own homes were kettled in and then led off to the town castle where they were taken for questioning.

The heavy troops and archers made straight for the pirate ship berthed there and boarded it swiftly. The magical Silence and Darkness aided their approach. The battle was very short lived, with only a token resistance put up by the pirates.

Paulix watched all of this from his prime position accompanied by a few flagons of wine. After the docklands raid had finished he remained where he sat and stared up at the stars sipping at the wine. He thought back to what Purloin had requested of him and began to piece things together; Gauk had delivered the first amulet to his contacts and it had been used to open the first magically locked portal on the Temple. The second amulet had been traced to the traders in Staneford but they had got it away to Gauk before they were arrested and imprisoned. The third amulet was in the hands of Lareth in Nulb, but no doubt if the Thuringians were as efficient in their attack on that village as they had just been in the docks then that should fall into their hands. However, his next mission involved tracking down the fourth amulet and then finding the whereabouts of the Golden Orb (a golden skull without its lower jaw that all of the amulets fit into - if this was destroyed by a certain sword then the demoness would be banished for 666 years.

On with the Mission – Tirsday 16th Quinquember

Paulix stayed in his bed late the following morning. The raid and troop movements from the night before kept him awake and he thought deeply about how things all fitted together and how he could gain from all this. The Iron Ring, although useful for certain things did not make him much money and would make even less now that the city was in lock down and half the guild was either captured or killed. He would make more throwing in his lot, albeit quietly, with the Thuringians.

This thought made up his mind, so he breakfasted quickly and headed up to the castle to meet with his contact. He was directed to a nearby tavern and a short while later a hooded and cowled Sir Guy slipped in. He bought the thief a plate of food and a flagon of ale before he asked what he wanted. Paulix said that he had a few ideas on how he could get to the bottom of a few of the outstanding plots involving the Temple.

Paulix nervously stated that he was a member of the Iron Ring but Sir guy waved his comment away and said that he already knew that and said that it helped their situation better that way. He then continued that if they could arrange a staged break out of a few members of some of his fellow members, he would not only gain more trust but may also get more information out of them. Sir Guy considered this a moment before he asked the thief to continue.

The thief suggested that if a few of the more senior members in the dungeons had some kind of magical trace put upon them then he would jail break them with a small team of suspected Temple loyalists and then accompany them to their hideout as if he was a member of the Temple faction. Hopefully he could then gain more information about forthcoming plans and locations of other members of the Temple within the vicinity.

The Thuringian knight said that he thought that might just work and said he would be in touch within a few days. Paulix made his way to the Wynde and began to make contact with some of the suspected Temple affiliated members of the Iron Ring.

Passing Time – Wodensday 17th to Thunorsday 18th Quinquember

Paulix spent the next few days gathering adherents to his new cause and asked them for a meeting where they could discuss the actual plans in more intimate detail. The five or six thieves and bruisers he had tracked down agreed to meet him on the following Moonday to discuss matters further and to introduce him to some of the more senior members who would accompany him on the mission. The Temple would be very grateful for masterminding this break out.

The adventurer reported in to Purloin directly after and over the next couple of days he was asked to perform a few minor jobs. Paulix carried them out with his mind on other things and was almost caught on one occasion by a pair of merchant’s guards.

He then laid low until the appointed date for the meeting with the Temple’s contacts in order to plot the prison break.

Doggerland Session 4:27 (Pool of the Standing Stones II)

Pool of the Standing Stones II (16th April 2014)

The Adventurers
Bow – Ranger
Cormac – Fighter
Gull – Thief (NPC)
Johan – Cleric
Vox – Magic User

Partial map of the Pool of the Standing Stones dungeon (White Dwarf 12 - copyright Games Workshop) - amended for game purposes
Gnolls in the Darkness - Sunday 28th Quinquember (Day 61) – early afternoon

The solid oaken door swung away from the party to reveal the gloom beyond. As the adventurers’ eyes began to adjust to the dimness their ears were assaulted by the barking of the half-dozen gnolls beyond. Morning stars orbited the heads of the gnolls before streaking out comet-like towards the fighters at the front of the melee, and the whip of the discipline master cracked forth with a snap to keep the unruly warriors in line.

The poison from the darts that had hit the mage and thief in the stepped entrance corridor continued to pound through their veins in time with the footsteps of more of their adversaries disappearing along the corridor to either side.

It was not long before Vox collapsed as the venom of several darts caused his muscles to fail. Johan, who was away from the combat for a short while, was able to resuscitate the magic user with a Healing spell, but the poison, although ebbing in its potency, dragged him under once more.

The fighters managed to push the attacking gnolls away from their fallen wizardly companion and slowly cut them down but then Gull, the thief, finally succumbed to the dark ichor coursing through his veins. Johan, alert to the dangers of both his ailing companions managed to force the last of the Healing potions down the thief’s throat and used his final dweomer to bring Vox back from his stupor again.

When he was satisfied that both the thief and mage were stable and that the poison had run its course Johan joined the fray. The last of the gnolls fell in rapid succession with the added might of the cleric of Balder.

The party collected their thoughts and gulped in breath after the brief but frantic combat. They decided that as they were almost out of magic and that their injuries were rapidly mounting they needed a place to hole up to recover. There was no sign of the runners coming back, so the party headed to the left through the portals after searching the bodies of the gnolls for any treasures.

In the Western Guardroom – spider carving and grey ooze

Bow led the way forward with Cormac on his shoulder guarding the flanks. The woozy mage followed and the unconscious thief was then carried along behind by Johan, whose ears were primed for the sound of returning guards’ footsteps.

Directly to the left of the western valve a set of stairs led upwards. The ranger took the steps two at a time and realised that he was on the gantry that the gnoll guards had shot poisoned darts at them from. He shone his lantern along the wall and made a note of where the small holes were for future reference. He quickly listened at the door opposite the guard wall and pulled it open. The room beyond was lit by several smoking torches and a few lanterns on the centrally placed table. He noticed that he was at the head of a set of steps that led down into the room that was obviously a guard room.

As Bow eagerly stepped down the flight of stone stairs he surveyed the room with a critical eye. There were five bunks, five guarderobes and five small chests that lined the walls between three more doors that opened into the chamber. On the table surrounded by five stools in the centre of the room were the remains of a nasty looking meal.

He motioned for his companions to enter and they did so in swift succession. The door that they had entered through was closed and their two poisoned companions were laid upon bunks to fully rest.

Johan, backed up by Bow, went to investigate the other doors whilst Cormac stood watch at the door they had entered by. The door to their right opened up onto the main corridor in which they had just fought the gnoll guards. The inward opening door was closed again and blocked by moving one of the large bunks in the way.

The two adventurers then crossed the room and opened the door on the opposite wall. They jumped with fright at the sight of a huge spider that hung from the ceiling. Luckily it was a carved and realistically painted effigy so would do them no harm whilst they searched what appeared to be a store room. Inside was a motley collection of gnoll-like weapons, foodstuffs, a small pot of some unguent and a locked steel box.

The friends realised that there was not much of value in the room, so they took the pot of unguent and the steel box and left the chamber. The key to the box had been found on the body of the guard captain, so it was opened with relative ease to reveal the gnoll guards’ pay in silver coins.

The cleric crossed the room to the final door and strode straight in not expecting anything untoward. Unfortunately he stepped onto a floor not made of stone but of grey ooze; not the type used to make zombies but an altogether nastier one that resembled the green slime they had encountered at the moat house dungeon entrance. Before he could even shout a warning he had plunged in over his head. He spluttered to the surface and was swiftly pulled from the mess without harm but his metal armour, flail and sling stones began to corrode rapidly. He stepped out of the armour and dropped the weapons only to see them dissolve into a molten mess.

Displeased at being made to look such a fool he cast about to see if he could at least replace his armour. The gnoll captain’s armour, albeit very smelly would have to suffice at a pinch but Johan’s scowl turned to a smile when Cormac offered him the magical mace he had picked up from Lareth in Nulb (he had bought a decent magical sword in Castleford, so was more than happy to give his companion his second weapon).

Johan then announced that he would use the first store room to prepare his spells and that he should not be disturbed for a few hours unless they were sorely pressed. He suggested that the others took their rest whilst they could and that Vox prepared his next set of spells, and stressed that no-one should wander off alone in the interim.

The magician was already hard at work on his spell-craft when Johan gave his order and he realised that he could cast his remaining Strength spell and learn a new swathe of magiks knowing that the dweomer would last for several hours thereafter.

In the Eastern Guardroom – Giant Spider – late afternoon

Cormac took first watch and was then replaced by Bow at the door a couple of hours later. Gull rested fitfully on his bunk but the poison had completed its ravages upon his body. Vox perused his spell-books whilst he looked after the thief and Cormac snored on his bunk in the corner of the room. Bow heard that Johan was coming to the end of his prayers and divinations and was certain that no danger would be forthcoming from the escaped gnolls as nothing had happened in the last four hours, so he satisfied his curiosity itch by stealing from the room in search of adventure.

Nobody saw or heard him go as they were either asleep or studying for their spells. The ranger stole down the steps and into the main corridor. He passed the dead gnoll bodies in the grand hallway and noticed that on the right side of the main entrance doors there was an identical stairway. He strode straight up it and popped open the door at the top.

The sight within the room was almost exactly the same as the one that greeted him when he entered the first guard room except some of the furniture was arranged slightly differently. There was the same number of doors and the bunks also numbered five. A quick calculation showed that four of the gnoll guards were not present at the fight for the doors; he wondered where they might have gone.

The ranger popped open the door to another storeroom but found nothing of value in there other than another small, locked steel box and another jar of unguent. He picked them up and closed the door after him before he turned his attention upon the second door in the room.

He then strode purposefully over to the store room that was the equivalent of the one with the grey ooze. He opened the door with care and looked within. He could not make out much in the darkness, but when he thrust his lantern in for a better look a looping coil of sticky substance wrapped itself around his torso and bound him tight.

He yelped in panic when he saw the great bulk of a giant spider crawl its way across the ceiling of the chamber, clicking its pedipalps in anticipation of an easy meal. Bow was anything but an easy meal, and with his magically enhanced strength he pulled the spider from its eyrie on the ceiling and onto his sword.

The ranger’s shouts roused the rest of his companions; Johan completed his prayers and enquired to his companions what was going on. Vox remained seated whilst he watched over his sleeping companion and shrugged his shoulders. Cormac, meanwhile, had grabbed his sword and sprinted towards the source of the noise.

The cleric and fighter got to the scene of the disturbance just as Bow had cleaved off the spider’s second leg. The rest of the party made very short work of the arachnid thereafter. After the combat, Bow was berated for his single action but all were relieved that he was alright.

Juggernauts and dead-ends

The three adventurers quickly returned to the first guard room to pick up Vox, Gull and the rest of their equipment and also opened the second steel box to reveal a bit more silver and a small gem. Johan dispensed magical healing to those still in need and awoke Gull from his poison induced slumber.

After a brief discussion, they reached the consensus that they would head down the right hand, eastern corridor to see if they could find not only the kidnapped village girls but also the prime motive for their mission, the magical sword that was feted to be located in the vicinity.

They resumed their battle order and re-entered the main corridor. Now that they were not so preoccupied with combat they were able to see the frieze that was carved and painted upon the main entrance hall wall. The scene was one of wanton destruction caused by a huge construct that rolled over countless humans in its quest for blood. Vox and Cormac paid the frieze a little more attention than the rest of the party and spotted that one of the human figures had a golden locket suspended from its neck. Cormac plucked it from the frieze and popped it open to find five very small vials of liquid contained within. He passed the whole lot onto Vox who dropped it into one of the hidden pockets within his voluminous robes.

The party then continued around the corner very cautiously and could just make out in the distance that the corridor seemed to finish at a dead end. Bow and Gull took point whilst Cormac and Vox brought up the rear with Johan in the centre. They edged slowly down the corridor with Gull on the lookout for secret entrances or traps. As a result, the ranger and thief paced twenty feet ahead of their companions until they reached the end of the corridor and promptly disappeared.

This sowed panic amongst the rest of the companions and they raced forward to a few feet before the point the two scouts had disappeared to see what had happened.

Meanwhile, Bow and Gull examined the wall at the end of the corridor. They found nothing so turned round to tell their companions the news and realised that they had disappeared. However, they noticed that the nature of the corridor had changed. It was now longer and there were a few doors interspersed along its length.

Just as the duo were about to panic, Johan bumped into them from behind, closely followed by a very nervous Cormac and Vox.

The party surveyed their location and realised that some sort of teleportation had occurred. Vox was not fazed by the revelation so he nonchalantly daubed a little ink sigil on the wall to mark their position, but the others were a little wary.

Braken, his captive and the ticks

The party reorganised themselves into their usual marching order and headed quietly and carefully down the corridor to the first door on the left. Gull listened at the door but heard nothing beyond so the door was slowly opened.

The small square chamber beyond was quite empty except for a black curtain at the opposite end. The thief twitched a corner of the curtain aside to see what was beyond and was surprised to hear the sound of tinkling bells that were sewn to the other side. The man in armour beyond had risen from a great divan in full armour but the naked woman he had been lying with rushed towards the now revealed party screaming with arms outstretched.

This surprised the companions who had filed into the room to combat its occupants. The man in armour fumbled with some strapping and called out for an attack. Six giant blood-sucking ticks rose from the heavy carpets and cushions and swarmed towards the party along with the screaming woman who made a beeline for Cormac.

The party managed to strike at a few of the ticks to keep them at bay but then their world went black. This was not just a lack of torch light as they could still feel the heat emanating in their hands as they still burned but a complete lack of light. Johan realised that this must be a magically conjured darkness so called for his companions to retreat.

Gull got off a shot from his crossbow in the general direction of the man in armour but only heard his quarrel bounce off of the far wall in the chamber. The screaming woman had clung onto Cormac, so he dashed her with his sword in the darkness and felt her fall. Bow suffered again from the encounter when one of the ticks attached itself to him and began to suck at his life’s blood.

As none of his companions had retreated, Johan re-joined the fray. He too had a tick attach itself to him in the darkness. He called for Vox to blast them with a fireball but the wizard realised that if he did as requested then the whole room and corridor they had entered from would be engulfed in flame, and would most likely kill half of the party. He decided to get out to the corridor to keep watch in case those gnolls came back.

The ticks that attached themselves to the party were quickly swiped off and so the companions retreated to the corridor; all except Bow who had got caught fighting the vermin with a passion born from his previous near-death experience at the moat house near Staneford.

Temple Guard Reinforcements

Unfortunately, as the companions stumbled back into the corridor they heard the sound of soldiers arming themselves. Gull covered the next door down with his crossbow as Cormac ran to block any reinforcements from getting through it.

The door popped open to the jingle of harness, the scrape of hobnailed boots and the barking of a rabid dog. Cormac had a scant few seconds to ready himself before he was assaulted by several men-at-arms in Temple livery.

Vox saw that his companion was in grave danger, and hopelessly outnumbered, so he scampered down the corridor, unravelling the Rope of Entanglement as he went. As he reached the door he drew back his casting arm, and then spoke the command word as he let loose. The leader and four of his companions became magically entangled within its coils whilst the rest of the troop attempted to cut their comrades out from the restrictions now placed upon them.