Friday, May 27, 2016

Idalium Game 45: "I Want to See the Look on His Face!"

Session date: Monday, February 29, 2016
Game date: Thursday, October 17, 208 to Friday, October 18, 208

Tod P. Quasit, Jr., Fighter 3, hp 16, xp 4390/8000
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 3, hp 15, xp 7607/8800
Tyrriel, Elf 2, hp 7, xp 4617/8000
Caryatid, Magic-user 3, hp 15, xp 9240/10000
Axel, Thief 3, hp 5, xp 3614/4800

Brother Jibber, Cleric 2, hp 10, xp 2333/3000
Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 2233/4000
Wilhelm, Magic-user 1, hp 4, xp 1793/2500

The sun set over the western wall of the fortress monastery, as the adventurers made their plans to engage the horrible ice beast that was said to lie at the heart of the curse that afflicted the monastery and its pious occupants. The creature's burrow had been discovered in the abandoned blacksmith's shed, a structure about twenty feet square, with sort of patio roof that extended east, supported by pillars. Several of the party members hid behind pillars, while Tod and Gulleck waited with weapons drawn at the head of the burrow. Before dusk, they had sharpened some wooden stakes and gathered what pointy metal implements they could find, and arranged them in the burrow as a barricade. Brother Jibber, aware that they were facing some sort of supernatural cold, prayed blessings over the party that filled them with an inner warmth and protected them from the chill emanating from the burrow.

As darkness fell, there was a scratching and scraping from deep without the burrow. Tod and Gulleck readied their weapons, but then the sounds stopped momentarily, and then retreated. The adventurers could hear claws scrabbling at dirt, and realized that the creature was burrowing out on the other side of the wall, outside the shed.

Tod and Gulleck ran out of the shed and then around it, rounding the corner just in time to see an enormous creature, lizard-like but with six legs, emerge from a newly-dug burrow near the west wall of the shed. It gleamed a pale blue in the moonlight, and the two warriors could feel the intense cold radiating from the beast, drawing all warmth from the space around it, but Brother Jibber's blessing still lingered with them, and they were able to withstand the icy chill without distraction. With fearsome cries, the two fell upon the beast with sword and axe.

Meanwhile, the other party members ran around the shed in an attempt to help. Axel decided to put his thiefly skills to use, and nimbly bounded up the stone wall of the shed, hoping to shoot arrows at the beast from above. Down below, Caryatid tried to line up a Magic Missile spell, but as she rounded the corner of the shed and began invoking the arcane words, the lizard scrambled up the wall of the shed to escape the battering it was receiving from Tod and Gulleck, heaving its bulk onto the roof with surprising dexterity for its size. And there stood Axel, standing on the flat shed roof with mouth agape as the enormous ice lizard snarled and slavered at his.

Axel made to drop back down onto the ground as the beast lunged at him. Situations like these come down to an initiative roll. Faces were tense at the table as Axel's player rolled the dice... and lost initiative. And then I rolled a natural 20 for the monster, and alas, poor Axel was no more. With one ferocious snap of the beast's jaws, Axel's head was chomped right off his body.

The monster, emboldened by this kill, leapt back down into the alley behind the shed. Caryatid had been trying to cast Magic Missile at it on the roof, and was again frustrated as it ducked out of sight. But Brother Jibber was able to strike it with an unerring sling stone, which hit it square between the eyes, stunning and disorienting it just long enough for Gulleck to plunge his magical battle axe into its skull.

Tod used his sword to open up the belly of the beast, in order to retrieve Axel's head. "I want to see the look on his face!" he quipped grimly. They did indeed retrieve Axel's head, plus the "Clarity" medallion of mind-reading that was still wrapped around what was left of his neck. In the belly of the monster they also found a golden necklace, covered in gore but still valuable. This encouraged them to search its burrow for treasure, and Caryatid crawled in and discovered two more pieces of valuable jewelry. They retrieved the rest of Axel's body from the roof of the shed, and paused a moment to collect themselves.

So, Axel's player quickly rolled up a new PC and decided to play a hobbit named Simon Sackwell. Now, as a DM I like to get players back into the game as soon as possible, and I don't might stretching one's suspension of disbelief to do so. Normally, it's never a problem, since the megadungeon of Idalium is known to be a popular adventuring destination and we can always use the "sole survivor of a TPK" premise like we did for Gulleck, for example. But here in this remote monastery, isolated from civilization, sealed behind fortress walls, it seemed harder to justify how a new character would arrive. In the middle of the night, no less! "Maybe I fly in on an eagle!" quipped Simon's player. "You know? Why the hell not?" I said in return.

So as the adventurers were catching their collective breath, they heard the echoing cry of a giant bird of prey. They looked up in time to see an enormous dark shadow cross the moon, and then there was a whistling shriek and a terrific crash and then a splash, as something (or someone, as it turned out to me) plummeted through the air and into the well not twenty feet from the party, destroying the little wooden roof and bucket winch. It was Simon! A giant eagle had swooped him up and carried him away across the mountains, and only released him when he stabbed it in the leg with his dagger. How lucky he was that his fall happened to be broken by the monastery's well! The adventurers hauled the soaked hobbit out of the well, made their introductions, and invited him to join them (as you do).

Problem solved!

The group marched over to the entrance to the temple, that they had been forbidden to enter, and knocked loudly, wanting to announce their victory to the monks. There was silence for a long time, and then a monk spoke from the other side of the heavy wooden gate. The monk's voice was strange, slightly shrill and strained.

"We have defeated the curse! The monster that was troubling you is no more!"
"That is excellent news. We shall glad to speak to you of it in the morning."
"You don't want to come out here now and see it?"
"It can wait until the morning. Please leave us to our rest."

Puzzled and suspicious, the adventurers made their way back to the guest house and settled down to their own rest, getting a few hours of sleep in before morning.

The next day, the monks were all smiles at the sight of the corpse of the six-legged lizard beast, hacked apart behind the blacksmith's shed. The Abbot met with the adventurers and effusively praised them to St. Rathmus with glowing words. He welcomed them to a feast in their honor, to be held in the monks' house that afternoon. When the group was asked if there was any other way the monks could help them, Tod showed them the headless body of Axel and asked if there was anything the monks could do. Did they have the power to revive the slain?

"Ah, yes," said the Abbot. "This is quite tragic, but it may be possible to help him. We will bring his body into the temple and pray for the mercy of St. Rathmus. It may be that his soul can still be recalled to his body."

And so the adventurers handed Axel's body over to several of the monks, and watched as the monks carried it into their temple and vanished from their sight.

When the time arrived, the group walked across the courtyard to the monks' house. The monks welcomed them in and escorted them into a simple dining room. A low table was surrounded by cushions, and set with bowls and platters of delicious-looking nuts, vegetables, and fruits. The monks smiled and made to leave the dining room.

"Aren't you joining us?" asked Tod.
The Abbot smiled awkwardly. "This feast is in your honor, dear friends. Our faith does not permit us to partake in such a decadent feast with you, but we are honored by the opportunity to make this gift to you."

The Abbot left and the adventurers exchanged glances and raised eyebrows. Nobody dared taste any of the food, except Meat, who failed a morale check and tucked in heartily, being right fed up with the rapidly diminishing supplies of hard tack and jerky. The adventurers were having a whispered discussion about whether to attack the monks, pretend to be poisoned and see what happened, or lock themselves up in the guesthouse to get a full night's sleep, when Meat's eyes rolled back and he faceplanted right into a bowl of grapes, snoring loudly.

The adventurers decided to head back to the guesthouse, and knocked on the dining room door to be let out. The monks looked surprised and expressed concern for Meat. "Oh, he's just had a tiring day," said Gulleck cagily. "We hope you enjoyed your meal," said the Abbot as the adventurers carried Meat back to the guest house. There, they nervously began setting a watch schedule and making plans to defend themselves during the night. They had been slightly suspicious of the monks from the beginning, but the strange "feast" had done nothing but strengthen those fears. They were dozens of miles from any sort of civilization, running out of edible rations, and it looked like they might soon find themselves under siege by these unsettling brothers of St. Rathmus...

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