Posted by : David Guyll April 28, 2014
- Augustine (level 2 human paladin)
- Jaya (level 2 human bard)
- Mouse (level 2 gnome thief)
The great spider scuttled down to stand before them. It was the size of a small house, and looked like a spider in every way except one: its "face" was less lots of eyes and fangs and more a pale, emotionless, human-like mask. Jaya was not sure if it was an improvement.
White-Hair stood and addressed her as Madra, the Queen of Spiders, before motioning to the duskies carrying the child to bring it forward and present it to her. Madra loomed over it and inhaled deeply. Her body shuddered and she remarked in a pleasant tone that its fey blood would "create many new eggs"; Mouse found another reason to be glad that he had kept out of sight.
At this Jaya interjected, stammering out an introduction before offering the ring and circlet. Madra declined. From his hiding place Mouse could spot the glimmer of gold beyond even the dense sheets of the funnel web, and he was not surprised that she would refuse their comparatively paltry offering. While he tested the webs and weighed the risks of trying to rob a giant spider, Jaya tried a different approach, asking her why she wanted that specific baby in the hopes that they could offer something that would better appeal to her.
Madra explained that she specifically needed fey blood to produce eggs. In exchange for delivering regular...tributes to her, Madra not only agreed to not harm the duskies, but also provide them with spiders to use as mounts. Jaya also learned that the duskies had contacts among the mortal world, and had made a deal with one Baron Hargrave—yes, the one Jaya had written a defamatory song about—to make sure that the child "disappeared for good".
This explained why White-Hair had not just killed it herself: Madra would do that for her, fulfilling her part of the bargain, and Madra would get the blood she needed. Two birds, one stone. It also explained why she was so keen on preventing Jay and company from getting their hands on it: who knew what Hargrave had given them in exchange for it, or what he would do to them if he found out they had not upheld their end of the bargain.
Jaya was at a loss: Madra had obviously known the duskies for quite some time, and they were giving her something more immediately valuable than gold. Mouse had fey blood, but she had no idea where he was, how much Madra would want, and given the past few days if he even had any to spare. Plus, if she really wanted fey blood there was no reason why she would not just take Mouse and the child. On the other hand chances were that he was in a good position to plant a knife in someone's skull, so she considered her odds of success in snatching the child, and hacking her way back into the bowels of the Marble Halls in one piece.
They were not good.
She knew Augustine would not back down—especially since he had recently made a vow that would protect him from poison and enchantments—but while she tried to think of some way to covertly signal an attack Madra again sniffed the air. Mouse froze, fearing that she had smelled him, but his breath slowly returned when he heard her inquire as to whether the hammer Augustine carried in fact belonged to the Mardral the Black-Handed. Jaya explained that they had "liberated" it from a family of troglodytes, and Madra replied, voice dripping with enough malice that no expressions were needed to convey it, that they had long since kept it from her grasp.
Of course to Augustine the life of a child vastly outweighed the value of a hammer, magical or no; he asked if she would exchange the child for it. Madra leaned close and extended a pair of arms, and asked if she could hold it. Augustine wondered if she would just take it, or if she would also order the duskies to execute them. He considered making the first move but quickly dismissed it: yeah, he might be able to smash her head in, but there were plenty of other spiders about and the duskies were at this point looking for any reason to attack.
He could have to chance it and hope for the best. He handed the hammer to her, and she took it in her...legs? Forelegs? Augustine was not well-versed in spider anatomy, but she took it with the smaller, front-most pair of leg-like appendages and held it up to the light, turning it over and inspecting every inch of it closely. She then handed it back.
This stunned Augustine, but not nearly as much as when she not only declined the hammer, but stated that she would trade the child if he would but wield it on her behalf. White-Hair started to protest, but Madra dismissed her with a raised front-most-leg-like-appendage, and again stated her terms. Augustine and Jaya exchanged anxious, confused looks before he turned back to Madra and—wisely—asking for clarification as to what capacity they would wield it.
She wanted Jarl, the Lord of the Hunt.
Mouse and Jaya had heard of Jarl in stories. He was a powerful fey creature that inhabited the Great Forest south of Pine's Draw. He had been a sometimes literal thorn in Baron Hargrave's side, who wanted to exploit the forest for personal gain. Fey creatures were fueled by the territory they inhabited, so the Baron had been gradually chipping away at the forest's borders for years in an effort to weaken him enough so that they could finally destroy him.
White-Hair's eyes widened with anger. She glared at Jaya, holding her in a venomous gaze for several long moments before curtly nodding to Madra and turning to leave, followed by her dusky entourage. Jaya and Augustine assumed that the truce was off, meaning that in addition to having to find their way out of the labyrinthine halls they would have to fend them off, too. She looked about, considering asking Madra if there was some way she could stop the duskies from attacking them, or maybe have some spiders escort them out, when she again noticed shafts of sunlight lancing from the ceiling.
She asked if Madra could have her spiders lift them directly out, both to expedite their task and to help ensure that they even got to the surface. She agreed, and as she began instructing her spiders to carry them out Mouse had no choice but to reveal himself: even if he somehow managed to get out of the room, he was certain that White-Hair would make sure he never made it to the surface for the "crime" of merely being associated with Jaya. So, he did his best to look casual as he strolled out of his hiding place, waved a greeting to Madra, and stated that he was with Jaya.
He could not be exactly sure thanks to her immutable face, but Mouse was pretty sure she was surprised. She mentioned something about his blood—specifically that there was so much of it—and wanting to speak with him when they returned—probably about the aforementioned blood—but did not stop him. They emerged within the Troll's Maze, but thanks to the markings they left on their way in they managed to easily find the exit, where they met up with Jacob, Whitestar, and...a woman that Jaya had never seen before.
Just as she was about to ask who she was Mouse and Augustine interrupted her, referring to her respectively as "you" and more accurately Fiona. Fiona spared a brief, uneasy glance to Augustine before going to Mouse, frantically asking where her baby was. Mouse calmly responded that the duskies had delivered it to the Queen of Spiders, but it was fine because they made a deal with her and she promised to not harm it so long as they brought back the Lord of the Hunt.
While this understandably did not exactly make her happy, she took it better than expected: she had had her share of fey experiences, and knew that as a fey entity Madra would be compelled to uphold her end of the bargain. Still, it was probably better to wrap up their end sooner than later. Jaya asked how she got involved with the duskies, and she explained that she had been fleeing from the Baron and looking for Jarl. She became lost, and the duskies ambushed her and stole the child.
On that note they assumed that the duskies would try to attack them as soon as night fell, so rather than try to make it back to Pine's Draw decided to make camp and hope that a big fire would at least give them some sort of edge. Sure enough they spared no delay, attacking almost immediately after Mouse and Jaya had settled in to sleep. Thankfully Augustine spotted their glowing green eyes in time to rouse them for battle.
There were over a half-dozen scattered among the trees. They remained at the edge of the light, but he could still see that they carried bows and rode on dog-sized spiders. He was considering his course of action when he heard a faint noise behind him, and turned in time to see another handful launch a volley of arrows at him. Most clattered harmlessly off of his armor, but a few bit into his skin. He could feel a strange tingling sensation, similar to before, but his vow shielded him from the magic bound to them.
Mouse rolled out from his hiding place under the wagon, snatching up a burning brand from the fire and lobbing it at one of the groups. It struck a dusky full in the face, knocking it off its spider. Jaya focused her will, unleashing it as a high-pitched note at one of the spiders. It staggered about for a bit before shaking its rider from its back, and then turning upon it, savagely tearing into its face.
Augustine waded into a group by himself, girded by his armor and vow. By themselves the arrows were virtually inconsequential, leaving him little to fear. As Mouse went for another log a group of duskies fired a volley at him. A few of the arrows struck him in his arm, causing him to stumble back and drop the log in the wagon. The blanket Fiona was using caught fire, but while she was able to escape the flames she found herself confronted by a small band of duskies. Jaya rushed to her aid, dodging arrows and slinging songs to confound the senses of the spiders, causing them to turn on their riders and then, ultimately, each other.
The enchanted arrows did not affect Mouse much, what with his fey blood and all, and as plucked them out saw a couple of the spiders descend upon Jacob. As they tried to wrap him up in webbing Mouse threw a knife at one, killing it instantly, before getting close and personal with his sword. He ran it through, but it managed to get in a few good bites before finally dying. All things considered they did pretty well; the only casualties being the cart and blanket.
The next day they made it back to Pine's Draw without further incident. Fortunately enough merchants were heading through the mountains to the west, that they were able to eventually exchange the circlet and ring into something most would accept as payment for goods and services. Jacob's father was upset about the cart despite the fact that they had paid cart-and-donkey prices for the mere privilege of renting, but given their considerable windfall decided to pay him full price again and upgrade to a wagon, which they would at least need to haul all their cash.
Given that they would be heading into the Great Forest the following day—and had the scratch—they resolved to try and be better prepared this time around: they filled up their bags with various tools and supplies, loaded up on food and bandages, snagged a few healing potions, and Mouse was even able to swap poisons with an equally objectionable individual. One of the merchants had a keg of dwarven stout, so once they were confident that they had everything they would need, bought it and rolled it into the Tipsy Gnome.
The life of an adventurer is dangerous and rough, but it is not all bad.
Behind the ScenesAnd the plot thickens!
I so wanted to try and cut my way through the funnel web and snag some loot, but was not sure how I would pull it off or how Madra would react to that. We considered trying to have me offer up some blood, but were also not sure how much she would want. She did mention wanting to talk to him later, so maybe on the way back I'll just hang out in the Troll Maze.
Ben's armor and immunity to enchantments and poison made him virtually invincible during the dusky fight. Each group volley would deal like, 1-2 damage. Not sure if you are allowed to double down on immunity boons, but there ya go.
Having watched Melissa play a bard for several sessions, I am not much of a fan of it. Mechanically it is fine: she can heal and deal some damage, but some of the fictional elements rub me the wrong way. I get that it is based on Dungeons & Dragons, but aside from 4th Edition I have never been a fan of the bard (also mostly for mechanical reasons). I am thinking it is time to write up my own bard playbook.
Would anyone be interested in getting all this stuff—steadings, monsters, magic items, dungeons, etc—as a kind of adventure write-up?