[Actual Play] Swords Against Chaos 20 (B/X Mystara); Reconnoiter in Force

Within the walled estates of Penhaligon on Fyrmont 10, they returned on horses laden with gold and trinkets, and drew many a curious glance from its population of trappers, merchants, hunters and yeomen. So laden down with loot were they, that they were eager to spend some, if only to lighten the load on their horses’s backs, and give relief to straining saddlebags.

Dyed and embroidered cotton, jade fox statues, gold, silver combs, crystalline trays, furnishings and many types of gemstones they carried along all manner of coins in numberless quantities. It was Hummingbird who took to him a lion’s share, sending it to one of his companions known as White Ape. “Ah young Grasshopper,” spake he, “the Elders watch your progress with great anticipation.”

“You are mistaken,” quoth Hummingbird. “For my name is Hummingbird.”
White Ape paled and muttered “There has been a terrible mistake. Never in a thousand generations…Hand over the donations. I must go speak to the Elders.” And left.

Great quantities of Silver were handed over to Orlando the Omniscient, a local sage, who had set up shop in the muddy streets near the walls of Penhaligon. For quantities of apocalyptic silver, he identified the mighty shield of Illya, champion of Halav, its many layers of hide and tin covered with designs of concentric circles in bronze, silver and tin. So too did he discern the Scimitar of Al-Azred, of white steel and inscribed with Ylari scripture, its every stroke filling the air with prayers to that savage desert god. The serrated knife of the Obsidean Heart, a vicious dragon-worshipping cult that had been expunged less then a century ago by a band of hardy adventurers. 8 bolts belonging to Turgin the Hunter, a legendary Traldar hunter of monstrous creatures, whose obstinacy and lack of manners saw him thrown out of the village without his trusty bolts one night, to face devourment from the Werewolf he was chasing. Another ring of protection in the shape of the Ouroboros, an heirloom of distant Alphatia, a mocking gift to lure targets of assassination into a false sense of security.

Hummingbird purchased a Halbeard, and many a scheme they sought to enact, from replicating the poisons of the Wizard Kavorquian to obtaining them from the Kingdom of Thieves, but these designs were vainglory, for the King of Thieves had gleaned that the eyes of the Realm were upon their efforts, and deemed it best that no attention be drawn to them. No poison for them, and Suit armor was slow, and thus they spent but two days, Shing and Niffa learning spells, the mighty Invisibility spell for Shing, as well as the less formidable Shield spell. Many spellbooks they carried now, and weary their poor, suffering horses.

They thought of great casks of oil or fire, to smoke out the defenders of Haradraith from the catacombs, but smoke is light, they say, and who knew what strange arts of ventilation the ancients had used in constructing these century-old halls? If Ilyana was to be dealt with, it would have to be done with fire and sword.

With new supplies they travelled to Haradraith, coming upon a band of savage goblins along the way. From a distance they jeered and taunted until the SLEEP SPELL struck them down, and six of them were undone, and the remainder fled in fear. They dealt with them and moved on, barely taking time to pocket their silver.

Onto Haradraith they marched, and they surrounded its hatch. Rallo donned the Boots of Elvenkind, and Shing cast on him the Invisibility spell, and down he moved to reconnoiter alone, with no light to guide him, confident in silence and invisibility to aid him.
In a dark hall he arrived, blood trails leading east, another door south. He peered around the doorway, and opening, saw an ogre roasting dwarf-mutton over an open flame, some hideous beast in a cage nearby. He left the room, but heard muttering behind him, the Ogre having noticed his door ajar. Motionless he waited, the Ogre suspiciously putting the door half-ajar, to notice invading attackers.

On he prowled, his way lit by desultory oil-lamps in crumbling sockets, down night-haunted halls silent under the weight of centuries of oppressive evil. Past empty cells and rooms filled with broken pottery and mouldy food he crept, overhearing three guards, the last of the band of bandits, muttering and grumbling over the merits of their remaining captain, the vicious Blackmaer, whom it was death to oppose. Past, past the guards crept Rallo, his footsteps silent, his form invisible, and past cell doors filled with nothing but air and into the door leading into the beast’s Cage.

The Owlbear. Unstoppable, freak of nature, creature of chaos, half bear and half owl, its scythe-like talons lengthy and its ferocity sharpened by unnatural senses. As it stirred when the door opened, Rallo quickly closed the door, hearing desultory claws scarping the doorway and the mutterings of Segreb the Ogre. Into the west corridor he went next, stopping when one section was lightless and daring not to risk it.

He devised a plan, and opened the door to the Owlbear’s Cage, striving to sneak away and release it into the dungeon. A fine plan, but premature, for as he snuck away the Owlbear, its huge bulk filling the corridor, followed after, its leisurely pace sufficient to match that of a sneak-thief silenced with elven magic!

Rallo strove to run away, and the Owlbear followed, monstrous instinct driving it to follow the footsteps. Back! Back to the entrance ran Rallo, shutting the door behind him, striving in vain to hold it as the creature broke through. The wood splintered and the iron hinges bent and Rallo was again motionless and silent as the creature stumbled in, now confused. Segreb the Ogre followed, and together they swept the room, bewildered and irate, whilst Rallo crept back up the entrance.

Panting but unharmed, he moved again, cold fear sweat invisible on his face. He moved downward into the western passage, and felt his way by touch until he emerged again into light, before a great double door carved with ancient horrors.

Opening the door by a length, he beheld the great throne room of Queen Ilyana, bedecked with crudely hewn thrones of wood, and great tapestries of torture and degradation, and portraits of Ilyana and her ill-fated Sire. Men in servants livery stood like statues, and two great wardogs laid by her throne, and her tonsured councilor, her tutor in dark arts, sat beside her at all times.

Back went Rallo once again, neglecting to close the great doors. As he crept back he was startled to hear the growling of a great dog behind him.

Still hidden by illusion and all but inaudible, the spell could not mask his scent, and the great hound was wary, and followed him on his trail. He strove to end it by a single devastating stroke as it growled once more, and struck for a vital spot.

Woe! Unused to fighting whilst invisible, the blow struck nothing but air. The invincibility dissipating, the hound and he exchanged blows. With maw viciously cut it bit and assailed him, biting him in ankle and arm until he broke off cursing and fled, sprinting through the dungeon, the great beast on his heels until it broke off persuit at the stairway and he moved up, wounded now.

The healing staff of Edmin assuaged his injuries, and rejuvenated he reported to the rest.

Now they formed up, in ranks of two, and marched down the steps with weapons and spells, to deal with the ogre and reap what bounty they could while daylight remained. With arrows aimed and swords drawn they arrayed themselves before the door, expecting the Ogre to come forth, but instead finding the Owlbear released, and screeching hideously!

Merkull and Ioric faced the beast, while halbeards and missiles struck it from afar, and Rallo prepared for ambush from the south. It hammered and wrenched and savaged Ioric, invulnerable to any normal blow behind enchanted shield and ring and well-forged steel plate, until Ioric bled from many wounds and could barely stand. Had Edmund not applied the Healing Staff, he would have succumbed, an even then their fate was balanced on a knife’s edge. Blow by blow they wore it down as the Sleep spell washed over it, doing nothing, and the doors in the south opened up to reveal three well-armed men.

Rallo and Hummingbird broke off to match the guards, blow by blow, as the sleep spell washed over them and rendered them inert. While they were cutting the guard’s throats, from the south emerged SEGREB THE OGRE. Bellowing, it charged, deflecting the Halbeard set against it, and struck Hummingbird a blow that he survived. A hurled dagger by Shing killed the monstrous creature, and Niffa’s SLEEP SPELL struck down the Ogre before it could wreak more havoc.

They left no survivors, and applied the healing staff twice more, and prepared themselves to venture forth and finish what they had begun, or retreat and lick their wounds. 

The Tally
8 Goblins
3 Human Warriors
Segreb the Ogre
An Owlbear

The Book of the Living.
[C] Ioric the Reborn (Ftr 3, 17 hp)
[B] Niffa (Elf 2, 9 hp)
[D] Rallo the Bastard (Thf 3, 19 hp)
[E] Shing the Golden (MU 3, 6 hp)
[F] Hummingbird Twiceborn (Mys 3, 7 hp)
[G] Edmund Os Traytor (Clr 1, 6 hp)
[NPC] Sarah (Thf 3, 15 hp).
[NPC] Merkull (Ftr 3, 20 hp)

The Book of the Dead:
[A] Ilyanka Pjottrsdöttr (Clr 1) – Beheaded by Giant Chameleon
[B] Liliath the Elf-maiden (Elf 1) – Skull-split by the horrid Bugbear
[C] Cold-Souled Fenrig (Thf 1) – Cut down by the Orc menace
[D] Balan the Lame (Dwr 1) – Cut down by the Orc menace
[B] Earendil (Elf 1) – Struck down by vile Orc Sorcery
[G] Azalesh Slyly (Clr 1) – Shanked by common robbers
[NPC] The Wardog Biter (Dog) – Cut down by the Orc Menace

The Rolls of Honour:
[A] Egil Soft-pate (Ftr 1, 18 Str) – Long may he Reave!
[NPC] Erren (Thf 3, 10 hp) – She wanders the roads, looking for who knows what.


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