Sunday, June 21, 2009

Side Quest #2: Maurice vs. the Vampire

An episode from Maurice's past.

Maurice Fitzcecil is travelling west out of Catam, away from unspecified troubles he has had in the empire, away from Catamrab, the capital city.  He is down on his luck and almost out of cash, but he moves on, hoping for a better payoff in a future adventure.

He stops in a small town named Dagger Rock in western Catam, where he eats a meal with a strange, lonely merchant who drinks too much and talks too loudly.  The merchant, himself feeling the sting of recent poverty, tells a rum-doused tale about a treasure hidden in the nearby graveyard.  An ancient exporter, powerful and wealthy when alive, is buried there, he says, entombed with his favorite weapon.  That weapon is a sword forged of Abyssal ice, and he says it will still be there and its powerful magic still active.  He wants to steal that sword, and any other treasures they may find, and sell it all for enough money to put him back on his feet financially and re-establish his trade caravan.  Maurice agrees to go help him.

In the deep night they stumble drunkenly through the outskirts of town and arrive at the crypt.  There, Veikko (the merchant) tries the door to the crypt and finds a way in - the door is inexplicably unlocked, and the merchant stumbles in first.  They set about searching the crypts, looking for an ancient merchant's sepulcher.  Maurice finds one that indeed might fit the bill, but when he goes to bring Veikko to see, he hears the merchant fighting with someone else, and they are talking to each other as if they knew each other already!  Maurice senses trouble and decides to flee, but something flies out after him in the night, catches him, and orders him to walk straight back to the crypt.  Maurice is helpless to resist.

When they get there, Veikko and Riikka, the vampire, tussle with each other as Riikka reveals his true purpose: to kill Veikko and avenge a bad debt on behalf of an employer in Catamrab.  Maurice manages to shake his domination, and when Riikka kills the hapless merchant, Maurice finds the sword he came to find in the first place; but it turns out to have been Riikka's sword all along.  He brandishes it, and Riikka explains his true purpose and the reason Maurice is there in the first place.  The vampire was magically ordered to have a witness present when he murdered Veikko, and he tricked Veikko into bringing along his own witness.  Part of the ruse was to have been the hidden sword (to match the story Veikko would tell), but Riikka in a lapse of judgement forgets to reclaim the sword.  Now that Maurice has it, the balance of power has shifted.

Threatened with the sword, Riikka explains that he cannot kill Maurice anyway; he must bring him back to Catamrab alive to be his witness, or the magical geas will destroy him.  Maurice agrees to do so in exchange for the sword, and its lore.  They set off together the next day.

After a hard ride back toward Catamrab, Maurice insists on a rest, and Riikka agrees to stand guard at night.  But a short time later, Maurice is woken up by a dire wolverine sniffing at his backpack.  Soon he finds himself attacked in the middle of the night by two of the insane beasts, driven there by Riikka.  On the point of death, he hears Riikka explain: "I control them.  Give up the sword and I won't allow them to knock you unconscious."  Maurice agrees to toss the sword back to the vampire, but in the meantime he has wounded both animals with the evil, greedy blade.

This turns out to save his life.  The wolverines, confused by the power of the blade, no longer obey the vampire; in fact, they turn on him and attack!  Maurice manages to pick the sword back up, and he and Riikka take turns for a while fighting the animals off as they seem to have no idea whom they wish to kill.  Riikka manages to ignore most of the injuries, his vampiric powers keeping him safe, but he is unable to gain a clear advantage.  Maurice attempts to turn the vampire, but this action has no effect.  The vampire in turn attempts to dominate Maurice, but cannot command him to do anything before the wolverines tear him down again, and Maurice protects himself from the domination with a protection from evil spell.

Maurice finally manages to break the standoff by attacking the vampire directly with the blade.  This destroys the Abyssal weapon and its black shards melt into the ground as the vampire, his magic broken somehow by the evil weapon, collases and expires.  The last remaining wolverine is finally driven off by Maurice.

The cleric is victorious over the vampire, and travels off into the sunset, with but one token of the events: a black shard of ice, still permanently frozen, left over from the Abyssal weapon.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Road to Selt Lat

The party begins to explore an extensive and intricate cave system underneath Grimcatch, looking for a way down to Dol Gemen Lom.

They find the place mostly barren and deserted.  They track bare footprints through the dust for a while that seem to go nowhere, and in the empty echoing halls find the skulls of grimlocks, spiked to the walls with sharp iron stakes, and another skeleton spiked to the ground (and a potion and a gem nearby).  There are wide, maddeningly deep chasms crossed by rope bridges (which are at least in good repair), and a lot of twists and turns and dead ends in the rock.

They come upon a place where a tribe of primitive humanoids has made a home, but find that it is quite recently scoured by fire, and all the humanoids are dead, their paleolithic artifacts left where they lay and a pile of burned bodies off to one side of the cave.  (Mixed among those bodies, there are also the bodies of zombies, the less-recently dead.)  Near that, they find a very strange zombie with a wooden crate instead of a head.  This creature has had its arms and legs destroyed by the fire, and it strikes itself in the head repeatedly with its remaining arm stump.  Tiffy stabs it to death, and then pries the lid off the box but finds nothing but an infestation of spiders and some kind of recently-living internal organ on top of its neck.
After a bit of investigation, they discover that the box is some kind of spell container.  Written on its front, in infernal, is the word "Purge".  On the inside they find the spell summon swarm (spiders).

Deeper still into the caves, the party finds another chasm and another bridge.  This time they spot a bunch of the zombies standing near a lit torch.  They start to move toward the heroes, but Maurice cows them with a powerful rebuke, and only a few are left to attack.  Tiffy and Ellira begin to spray them with lightning, but this has an odd effect; spells seem to go off randomly every time one of the zombies loses its head.  When the party finally manages to immobilize all the zombies with webs and rebukes, one ill-timed lightning bolt splits open a crate that causes a powerful fireball, which consumes several more zombies, causing lightning bolts to fire back at the party, a magic mouth to start screaming, and other strange effects.  Ellira ends the threat of the remaining zombies by magically warping the bridge to drop them into the void, and the party continues on.

Finally, they arrive at Selt Lat.  This appears to be some kind of underground haven for monstrous humanoids.