Friday, October 10, 2008

House of the Worm Part 1

Hey ya, (faint echoes from an empty chamber...) ;-)

I had mentioned earlier that I had run a game of Microlite20 during a fest, and that I was going to post the recap of the session. Well here's part 1. Enjoy:

Players / PCs:
Ben - Human Rogue (Atadus "The Salesman")
Chris - 1/2 Elf Ranger (Duncan Sabastian McLoud..(NO that's not a misspelling of McLeod))
Ed - Lizardman Fighter (Sleeeestak)
Ray - Drow Paladin (Zenin)

DM: Jeff

A bright Fall day dawns clear and crisp upon the small town of Botkinburg. Located on the far eastern borders of the Great Kingdom, the town embraces some of the less savory citizens that the kingdom has to offer. It is as far as an individual might get from the law, and yet still be in "civilized" lands... For not far to the east, in fact just across the Hruesen river, lies the Wilderness. And everyone knows that the Wilderness holds only death and danger.

It is this fact that draws the four adventurers to the small town, for it is well known among that particular sect that danger usually equates to money and glory. The Bent Hook is the only tavern in town, better known as "Ortloff's House of Sludge" (for the thick beer brewed in the basement), it provides a warm place to sleep and incidentally, also some valuable information. Apparently many years ago there was another group of adventurers that had tested the Wilderness to the east, and it was here, the Bent Hook, that they utilized as their base between forays. Unfortunately about 10 years ago there was a fire that burnt The Bent Hook to the ground and killed a few of the adventurers. The catastrophe caused the group to disband...An adventuring party hasn't been seen in Botkinburg since.

A back room of the tavern was where they met, planned and drew what they new of the Wilderness on the wall with whatever was handy. Often as not it was a knife or some charcoal from the fireplace used to indelibly mark their progress. Over time a map emerged. It was not particularly accurate but it was a log of where the adventurers had been, the things they had seen and those area that had as yet to be conquered. This wall became famous amongst the patrons at the House of Sludge, it gave the common man a view into the danger that lies only a short distance beyond their dusty doorsteps.

Fast forward a decade and the only remaining part of the famous wall is a section that Ortloff found amongst the ashes after the fire that destroyed his establishment. This small surviving piece of wall seemed to detail an area called Pike Hollow, somewhere off to the north east of Botkinburg...Maybe a day or so of marching through tangled woods, sloping hills and sharp ravines. In the Hollow though lies a hill, and upon that hill lies the House of the Worm. According to the small section of map, it had never truly been explored, but only just "stumbled" upon. And engraved in the wood next to the map itself was a poem of sorts, some if it burnt and obscured by the fire:

"Below the ground, where pale worms crawl,
lies darkness vast, so cold, and deep.
Lord Ramm holds court at the end of the fall,
and there lies the tool, the treasure we seek.
His mind has sipped chaos at the edges of space,
appease his longing with artifice, lor... (burnt)
... (burnt)... of sanguine will slake."

Ortloff takes the group outside and points off into the hazy distance, "That's 'bout where Pike Holler lies...least ways, that's what them that's been there's told me. You git across that river by way of the Troll Bridge." Each of the adventurers look at one another, "Troll Bridge or Toll Bridge?" 

Ortloff scratches his head, nods and says, "Yeah, that's what I said." 

Meanwhile, Duncan takes careful note and memorizes the landscape as reference in preparation for the march through the dark trees.

A few preparations take all of an hour and the doughty band of explorers are off, heading down the bank of the mighty Hruesen river in search of this "Toll / Troll" bridge. Warm and crisp fall weather accompanies the group on their journey to the bridge, but the landscape changes quite drastically. It's more than obvious that the town's folk do not venture this way, for the banks are overgrown with thick vegetation and there's nary a trail to be seen.

Not long after their departure though the group happens across an old, weathered, stone bridge spanning the Hruesen. This must be it. Sitting in the middle of nowhere this obviously dwarven structure has no roads leading to it nor is anything evident upon the opposite shore. Old Spanish moss hangs under the bridge, slowly dragging it's hoary fingers idly in the water and lichens cover nearly every other weather worn surface. Nonetheless, it looks structurally sound.

Atadus approaches from the side, under cover of the foliage, while using the susurrus of the Hruesen to mask the sound of his approach. The contrast between the shadows and the bright sun makes peering under the bridge difficult, and therefore the thief is taking his time. Zenin is not of the mind to "wait", and he proceeds to stomp across the bridge, throwing caution (and prudence?) to the wind. Sleeestack joins the dark elf, and the noise of metal clad boots on stone reverberates up and down the river.

A dark shape, detaches itself from under the bridge like a bloated bi-pedal spider and clambers up from the dark. "Who walks upon my bridge?" rumbles forth from the creature as it makes its way up. Zenin answers with a query of his own, "Who wants to know?". As the creature finally makes its way to the top of the bridge and stands up, it's full size can be seen. Standing between 7 to 8 feet tall, the hunched grey-skinned brute's hands swing below its knees and nearly drag on the stone of the bridge. Beetling eyes stare from beneath huge brow ridges set in a craggy face appearing to have been carved from primordial stone.

"I want to know....I am the keeper of this bridge. And to use it you must pay." rasps the monstrosity. Zenin asks what the toll might consist of. Goats, replies the guardian. "Well, we're fresh out. I think we'll just pass instead." quips the dark elf paladin as he attempts to nimbly step past the brute.

"No, you NOT pass!" roars the creature as it takes a double armed swipe. Battle is joined, and as hoary as this monstrosity seems, it is no match for the combined might of the adventurers. Sleeeestack's enchanted sword proves to come in handy, as part way into the combat the creature slams its palms down onto the stony surface of the bridge and quickly regenerates all of its wounds minus those made from the lizardman barbarian's blade.

Soon enough the wounds are too much to overcome, and the behemoth topples over. As it's massive body strikes the bridge a resounding "CRACK" splits the air and dust rises from the ancient structure as it starts to shake in its foundations. Seems that the guardian was connected to the bridge in more ways than one.

Atadus, ever the conscientious adventurer quickly grabs a rope from his pack, ties it about his waste and hand the bitter end to his Lizardman companion. With a shout he runs across the shaking bridge, plants a foot and swings over the side, using the rope as a lever...and up underneath near the large central pillar. Quickly surveying the situation through choking dust and falling stone, the thief spies a cleft in the pillar with a small black box firmly ensconced. He nabs it and swings back out. Just as the far end of the bridge on the Botkinburg side collapses with a groan and a splash.

The small worn box is dealt with quickly and opens to reveal 40 or so grey coins. They are obviously quite old, as the face of each is stamped with a frightful lizardlike countenance of a long forgotten king of the Lizard Empire. It is not recognizable by any of the adventurers so they divide them up and pocket their just rewards. Wounds are cleaned, a little food is broken out and thirsts slaked, and afterwards the journey towards the House of the Worm is continued.

The foliage becomes thicker and the travel that much more difficult. Duncan takes his bearings many times, and the party is thankful for that as they make their way through tangles of scrub oak and tight underbrush. As the day passes its zenith Duncan raises his hand as he hears a noise up ahead...

Again, Zenin seems to care naught for subterfuge nor the party's safety as he continues on his noisy way. Sleeeestack shrugs his massive shoulders, and again, follows the paladin's lead. Atadus and Duncan, on the other hand, figure that this is the perfect time for prudence as they disappear quietly into the surrounding brush.

Stepping out of the forest not far ahead comes a group of men...if they can be called that. Rumors and children's ryhmes have hinted at these proto-humans for decades. From the mist shrouded past, these creatures appear man-like but yet again, not like "modern" man. They have jutting brow ridges, thicker jaws and are stoutly built, not to mention the primitive skins they're clothed in and the stone tipped weapons they carry... These are most certainly "cave men".

A brutish character steps to the fore, he raises his hands in the air and stands still, appraising the newcomers. The only sound is the creak of Duncan's bowstring.

No one makes a move as each side sizes up the other. There seem to be nearly a dozen of these cave men and they are obviously on some type of hunting expedition, as small capons and birds hang from crude rawhide belts alongside leathern sacks and other stone trinkets of lesser known use.

Surprisingly, the apparent leader steps forward, hands still raised in the air, and in halting common asks where the characters are bound to. They mention that they are going to slay evil. The leader of the cavemen shakes his head in confusion, but at the same time seems to take particular notice of the metal weapons that the dark elf and lizardman are wielding. He takes another few steps forward and slaps his hand on an obsidian axe, while still looking longingly at the metal weapons. " kill. Good. Last long and long." he says, and he points to the weapons.

On a hunch Zenin pulls one of the platinum coins from the bridge out of his pouch and shows it to the leader. Looking over his shoulder at his wary men, the proto-man approaches and reaches out for the coin. He looks at it with amazement and then bites it, apparently satisfied he puts it in a sack at his waist and fishes around in it for a second. He draws forth 5 small, smooth, black stones. "Fire god live here", he says as he points to the stones, and then he drops them in Zenin's palm. They're immediately warm...warmer than they should be.

Looking closely, Zenin sees a dim red glow at the stone's heart. Their use is determined soon enough...

With a nod of his shaggy head, the leader turns and strides off into the thick woods. His hunters, following in a loose band, disappear with him, like wisps of smoke on the wind. After some dead reckoning by the ranger, the group decides that they're moving in generally the correct direction as they move off through trees.

Time passes and the terrain becomes more ruggedly hilled, with small gullies and ravines appearing, making travel that much more difficult. Eventually, towards evening, a hill is crested and off in the distance the ruins of a tumbled tower are sighted. At last, the House of the Worm.

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