Lareth the Beautiful (2nd March 2014)
Bow – Ranger
Cormac – Fighter
Gull - Thief
Johan – Cleric
Vox – Magic User
Gull and his Cat - Moonday 15th Quinquember (Day 48) – dawn
Gull, a small-time vagabond who was passing through some lean times in Nulb, was woken with a start from his slumber in the early hours of the morning. The splintering noise of a large object hitting wood had roused him but the shouts and screams from the docks outside his window at the Boatmen’s Tavern made him fully alert. He quickly dressed and armed himself then took a peak out of the window at the flickering glow coming from the docks area.
The large ship in the dock was on fire and several men were attempting to put out the flames with sand and river water. Unfortunately for the sailors on board they were fighting a losing battle as more huge rocks were thrown across the pool to crash through the decking and rigging of the raiders’ ship. He was not too sad at the demise of the tars on the ship as some of them had robbed him blind in a game of cards the night before. He could have sworn that they were using marked cards.
He grabbed his pet cat from its basket and swiftly made has way down the stairs and into the common room of the tavern where he heard the proprietor, Skole, bark orders at his henchmen. They armed themselves and rapidly formed up into battle lines outside the inn.
Gull realised he wanted no part in this and made for the centre of the village where he thought he could get some answers to the questions that were buzzing around his head. On his way to the blacksmith’s he saw old mother Screng and her doting daughter emerge from their herb shop and hobble towards the safety of the smithy. He asked if they needed any help but he was dismissed curtly.
He met up with Smith and a small gathering of armed villagers, farmers and fishermen who had also made their way to the village centre. The smith commanded authority, being an ex-mercenary, and he led the militia to the fields to the east of the village and formed the motley band into the semblance of a shield wall to wait and see what would pan out.
To the south he saw Skole’s men from the Boatmen’s Tavern meet up with more of his henchmen and head to the south road where in the distance he could see a small army of soldiers. To the north-west by the bridge he could discern the hissing of arrows and the clash of arms, as well as the confusion of trebuchet and ballista fire at the docklands area.
Lareth – Cleric of Zuggtmoy
The evil cleric swaggered his way over to the top of the stairs and followed the retreating fighter and cleric of Balder on their way down to the common room of the Waterside Tavern. When he got to the top of the stairs he shouted something which Johan recognised as Old Cthonic; it was not a spell but sounded like a summons. Cormac approached Vox and after agreement downed his Potion of Invisibility.
As the cleric began to descend the stairs Vox saw his opportunity and took it by launching his Rope of Entanglement, but the rope could not find purchase on the glowing surface of the black armour. Bow ran up the stairs to block the cleric’s exit but the evil priest merely mumbled an enchantment and slipped by Bow, Johan and the invisible Cormac without any of them being able to land a blow. Johan recognised the Sanctuary dweomer but realised that there was not a lot he could do to counter it.
As the sable-clad priest left the tavern, the objects of his summons appeared at the top of the cellar stairwell in the main bar area; thirteen zombies – the original eight villagers from Staneford and the five guards that were killed by the party on the bridge that last time they were in town.
The evil cleric made his way towards the small jetty that the party had tied their boat up against, the power of the spell he had cast upon himself stopped every attempt by Johan to strike him by magical or mundane means.
Bow’s Boudoir Foray
Meanwhile, Bow made his way upstairs; if he could not physically strike the cleric then he would hit him where it hurt more – in his purse. He took the stairs two at a time and popped open each of the doors in turn.
In the first room he spotted the usual trappings of a nice room with carpets of fur and good quality bed clothes. There was also a chest under the bed and a couple of golden statues of the demoness Zuggtmoy arranged as if on an altar on a small table beneath the sill of the dormer window. The ranger popped the chest open, and only just avoided a poisoned needle that would have pricked his thumb; he made a note to be more careful in future. He stole a glance inside the chest and noted its contents for later.
He did the same with the next two rooms which both appeared to be more lived in. Both had been exited in a hurry and some valuable items had been left hanging around. He grabbed a handful of coins from a chest and raced to the dormer window. He climbed out onto the roof and looked around him from his great vantage point. He saw and heard the thunderous approach of more than two-dozen heavy cavalrymen through the village and grinned as he saw what the outcome of their impact into the rear of the brigand’s ranks holding the bridge from the Thuringian men-at-arms would be.
He then spotted the rest of his companions and thought quickly about what he could do to help them out. He downed the Potion of Speed and then dextrously hopped down from the roof of the building level by level and raced across the sward towards the escaping priest.
Vox realised that he had just been left alone in the smouldering ruins of the common room with a baker’s dozen of zombies bearing down on him. He suddenly remembered he had a potion on him that controlled the undead and so he rifled through his pack until he found it and swallowed the bitter contents with gusto.
His few words of command aimed at the zombies had them follow him across the common room to the main doors of the inn.
Amazed at his new found competence, the young mage led the zombies in a line out into the street in the hope that he could use them to swing the tide of battle in favour of the troops from Castleford. Unfortunately, the Thuringian archers only saw the shambling corpses emerge from the tavern and several of them let loose arrows at the line of shambling bodies thinking that they were reinforcements for the Nulbian bandits. Vox was winged by an arrow before he could thrust his arm up into the air to show the red wrist-sash that showed he was a friend.
Unfortunately for the little mage, the heavy cavalry chose that moment to sweep by the tavern on their way to destroying the Nulb bandits defending the bridge. The zombies that had shambled out of the tavern were ridden down in a thunder of hooves but luckily Vox had made it to the corner of the building so was able to duck out of the way of the passing mass of horseflesh, heavy armour and long, sharp lances.
The impact of the knights completely destroyed the ranks of the Nulbian defences and the bandits were wiped out to a man.
Rock the Boat
The evil cleric made it to the jetty without being struck and was surprised to see a small boat moored there. This was fortuitous for him as it meant his get-away would be easier. He pulled on the lightly tied hitch-knot that held the boat to the jetty and prepared to jump aboard.
However he did not count on the continuing tenacity of Johan’s attacks so he turned and swiftly cast a Hold spell that stopped the good cleric in his tracks. He then returned to the task of getting into the boat.
This was Cormac’s moment. The evil cleric had not seen his invisible assailant so assumed he could make a clean get away. As he stepped over the gunwale to take up the oars to push off the boat rocked furiously and he nearly lost his footing. The evil priest swore but assumed it was just the nature of river travel. Cormac, determined to stop the priest from getting away, but loath to give away his invisible advantage held onto the skiff. The evil priest attempted to push away from the shore with one of the oars but the boat was held fast. He used brute strength to heave away and only just managed to get away from the grip of the steadfast invisible fighter. Cormac knew the game was now up but made one final leap into the river in an attempt to hack down the priest before he got away. He didn’t manage to hit the cleric but he did take a chunk out of the bow of the boat as it drifted slowly away from the shore.
Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Gull had seen the defeat of the Nulb banditry in the eastern sector. The Thuringian men-at-arms had pushed aside the brigands and slowly ground them into the dust by their superior numbers, weaponry and tactics. Smith held the village militia at bay on the field and said that they would await the final outcome of the battle before they joined in on either side. Mother Screng and a few of the others nodded their agreement.
As the Thuringian heavy cavalry thundered past on the road that was now cleared by their footmen, Gull saw his opportunity and darted back into town in their wake; there was bound to be treasure from one of the burning buildings to be had.
He could still see the combat going on at the bridge as he approached it but knew it would soon end when the heavy cavalry got there. He also noted that there was a lot of activity around the Waterside Tavern close by so decided to head there.
Bow had dropped from the roof of the tavern in next to no time whilst under the influence of the potion and he saw his opportunity to waylay the priest of Zuggtmoy. He saw Vox and the bridge combat come to a close out of the corner of his eye and then saw Johan suddenly stop in his pursuit of the evil cleric.
He then wondered whether he would be too late to stop the cleric but then he saw that the boat was doing some strange things not immediately noticeable to the cleric in his full plate armour. He downed another of his stock of potions that would allow him to breathe under water and leapt into the river to overturn the boat.
The evil cleric now realised that he had two assailants upon him so he too downed a potion and jumped into the water in the hope he could out pace his pursuers to the far bank. Unfortunately for him he was unable to get away from Bow as the ranger sped along the bed of the river. A brief combat ensued where Bow attempted to stab the cleric but the cleric was only intent on getting away. Cormac was now out of his depth but he had managed to slow the cleric’s escape enough. The fighter returned to the bank to watch the progress by the bubbles that rose to the surface of the river.
The Demise of a Champion of Zuggtmoy
Vox was quick to approach the baron Tancred within the knot of riders being ordered around outside the tavern. Several dismounted and drew their swords before they entered the tavern to dispatch the last of the zombies. He pointed to the commotion down by the river bank and asked the baron if he could aid his companions against the high powered cleric. Tancred barked orders at his knights and the heavy cavalry rode across the bridge to head off the cleric and to summon magical aid from the lady Mathilde and lord Ralph just in case.
Bow and the cleric of Zuggtmoy continued their fight on the river bank but Vox used the last of his magiks to send a Magic Missile across the river at the priest. The cleric staggered under the magical blows and almost fell before he righted himself and drank another potion. This, however, did him no good and he may have been better off with an attempt at stopping the ranger but he feared that another magical onslaught would catch him. This moment of indecision cost him, and he was ridden down by Tancred’s lieutenant.
The ranger was quick to disarm the cleric and then the small conroi of knights made sure that the evil cleric could do no more harm before they bound him tightly.
With his booty under his arm, Bow raced back across the river and into the smouldering tavern. He passed Johan who was being roused by Cormac from his stupor along the way and said to meet him in there if they did not want to miss out on the treasure that was bound to be held within. Cormac, Johan and Vox looked across at what the knights did to the cleric and noticed that when they removed his full-faced helmet he had very pale white skin and long black hair beneath it. He was carried away under heavy guard.
Vox was already in the tavern drinking from the barrels at the bar and boasting of his magical fire prowess when Cormac and Johan walked in. The knights were not impressed as their heads were also in their cups. None of the knights had strayed further than the lower floor though when Bow had raced through and up the stairs. Cormac went up the stairs and joined the ranger in ransacking the building.
Cormac rummaged around on the first floor and returned to the common room with a pile of booty whilst Bow searched the attic room where he also found a lot of valuable treasures that he stuffed into his backpack. He took a final look out of the dormer window where he saw that the battle had ended and the pirate ship in the docks had limped into the main flow of the river and was headed back towards Castleford. He smiled grimly to himself knowing that it would not receive a friendly welcome when it got there. He also noticed that now the melee was over the Thuringian men-at-arms had begun to dig something on the highest ground in the village. His curiosity peaked he left the tavern to take a look.
Aftermath – late morning
The baron Tancred collected his lieutenants in the Waterside Tavern and gave them their orders. Some of the men-at-arms were to return to Castleford with the prisoners taken in the battle, along with Lord Ralph, the high Priest of Sol Invictus, who would accompany their political prisoner. The trebuchets would be dismantled and returned to Castleford and the wagons with building materials were trundled through Nulb down to the earthworks that Bow was investigating. The rest would be detailed to collect up the dead bodies for burial back in Castleford or for burning on a great pyre by the fenlands to the east.
Bow realised that the Thuringians had come to accomplish two things; to subdue the town and bring it into the Thuringian fold, and to foil the expansion of the Temple. They had subdued the town by killing off most of its ring-leaders and brigands, and they were about to build a fortification to bring the rest of the village to heel.
The ranger mulled this over just as Vox came panting up beside him with a request from the baron to meet him in the tavern. The pair returned to the tavern and the party’s role in the mission was discussed. After the main bulk of the discussions were over and the party had divvied up their treasure they noticed that there was someone in the room that they had not noticed before. Vox went over and chatted with the man who stroked his cat as he drank ale purloined from the now open bar and counted out the coins he had picked up from the cellar where the bugbears and gnolls had come from. He then introduced Gull to the rest of the party just as the lady Mathilde offered them their reward for their part in the raid; the valuable necklace from around the evil cleric’s neck. Johan asked if the cleric had a name and Mathilde replied that he was known as Lareth the Beautiful.
All throughout the day the Thuringians were busy shoring up their defences and running around on their errands. The party stayed put all day to heal up and count their treasure. The baron left them to their own devices but said that he had another mission for them should they wish to take it.