Posted by : David Guyll July 22, 2014

Cast
  • Augustine (5th-level human paladin)
  • Jaya (5th-level human bard)
  • Mouse (5th-level gnome thief)

After some discussion it was decided that Augustine and Jaya, respectively "disguised" as Henry's recently slain companions Bernard and Squeak, would accompany him to the boat. Mouse—much to Henry's relief—would keep to the upper corridors, make his way to the skybox above the water arena, and try to find a way to sneak down onto the boat undetected.

The skybox featured numerous uncomfortable-looking stone seats and several wide windows. Mouse started across the room, but stopped when he noticed something glinting at the edge of his torchlight: in the center of the room was a brass hatch, complete with a large, prominent keyhole.

Mouse considered a variety of factors: the time it took him to make it all the way to the skybox, how long Augustine and Jaya would squabble over a needlessly convoluted plan, the age of the lock and whether the mechanisms even functioned, and the potential weight of whatever was inside. He then considered everyone else: there was a lot riding on the line here, what with the Autumn Monarch preparing to attack, it was obvious without his help his companions would get into all sorts of trouble, and it was not like whatever was in the hatch was going anywhere any time soon.

Despite its age, and presumably its importance, Mouse was surprised at just how easy it was to pick. The heavy doors creaked loudly as he pulled them aside, revealing a ladder. Mouse climbed down and found himself in a kind of control room: viewing ports allowed him to see the entirety of the arena, and there were all manner of levels, dials, and buttons surrounding him. Mouse had only a rudimentary understanding of the dwarven language, so most of the characters were unfamiliar to him, which meant that he would have to do some...experimentation to figure out what they did.

Henry lead Augustine and Jaya through a large, open chamber that looked to have been used to store supplies in case of a prolonged siege, and down a ramp towards the edge of the water arena. Given that the place had not been used in who knew how many years Jaya had expected it to smell bad, but it far exceeded both her expectations and her stomach's tolerance. Whatever was stewing in the water, the troglodyte soup she had been forced to eat was appetizing by comparison.

Their destination was a large boat located in the middle of the arena. It was clearly illuminated by several torches and what looked like a large brazier. They climbed into a small boat and Augustine began rowing. It was not until they were well away from shore, surrounded by deep water and darkness that it hit her: trolls. Or, more specifically and ominously, a type of troll that was all too well adapted for water.

Jaya asked Henry if they had ever encountered trolls down here. He looked about worriedly, but claimed that they had never encountered any before, though his tone was less certain and more...trying to convince himself that there were not any. She could not be sure if he was telling the truth, but was unsure why he would risk putting his own life in danger. Before she could press him further the chamber began echoing with the deafening sound of grinding metal as ancient gears slowly stirred to life. After a few minutes the noise lessened somewhat to a more tolerable volume, and the room was suddenly flooded with light.

Henry's eyes widened and his mouth dropped as a massive glowing, golden sphere capped at the end of an equally impressively-sized bronze arm began to slowly drift across the room. Jaya took this as a sign that this was was either something new, or something bad. Given that she was fairly certain as to who was responsible, odds were good that it was a bit of both.

From his vantage point Mouse could see people flocking onto the deck to observe the orb. He saw the boat approach and, assuming it to be his companions, decided to give the lever next to it a pull. A smaller, silvery orb flared to life and begin drifting towards the "sun". To his disappointment its arm was longer, and both were curved in a way so that they could create an artificial eclipse as opposed to a kind of mock celestial collision, but at least this would keep everyone occupied for a while.

Jaya and Augustine made it to the ship and boarded it using a thick rope ladder. Once they were on deck they were immediately confronted by a young man, and the only person not watching the light show. He had short, blonde hair, wore a heavy fur cloak, and carried a sword that looked almost too big for him to wield. He petulantly declared that it was about time they had returned and demanded a report. Their very safe assumption that this must be Mark was confirmed when Henry addressed him as such.

Henry began stammering out an explanation, obviously both fearful of retribution and trying to make sure that his story would not draw much scrutiny. Thankfully the very recent, well, events lent credence to his claims that a "wild, bloodthirsty gnome" was loose in the Deeps, and that it had also bitten off Squeak's (Jaya's) tongue, so of course he would not be able to rely any spoken information.

As he spoke Mark glanced behind himself. A woman with wild, greasy hair was chanting inside a circle that had been scored into the ship's deck, crouched over various arcane accouterments that surrounded her: small piles of various powders, bones, a bowl filled with some strange substance, stones inscribed with symbols, and a few cruelly shaped knives.

Once Henry finished Mark turned to Bernaugustine and asked if he had anything to add. He did his best to confirm the story with as few words and syllables as possible. Mark sighed irritably and then asked if Jayasqueak needed medical attention. She shook her head and made a kind of sound, to which Mark nodded with a mixture of something approaching grudging respect and approval. He turned away and barked out a list of names, and while they stepped forward ordered Henry to go below deck and fetch some invisibility powder.

Henry left and quickly returned with two bags made from black velvet. Mark told them that once they were invisible they would hunt down the gnome and return with it if possible for questioning. If not, kill it and bring the body back to see if Shorna could question its spirit. Before Henry could begin dusting everyone Jayasqeak bit her tongue, and forced some blood out of her mouth for Mark to see. She looked at him, shrugged and tilted her head towards the door leading below deck. His patience all but depleted, he instructed her to go fetch Martin and then patch herself up.

Since she had no idea what the layout of the boat was, Jaya would have to go from room to room and hope for the best. Since she also had no idea who Martin was, she would only have a limited time to figure it out before Mark sent someone down to find out what was taking so long. Henry had not taken long to retrieve the dust, so she started with the closest doors, but it was not until she had checked nearly every room that she found the prison. There were several cages, though due to the limited light could not see what they contained. She made a mental note and continued searching: if she was going to get them out of here, she was going to need invisibility powder.

The last room she ended up checking was the captain's quarters. It was well appointed, though bore signs of obvious age and disrepair: a bed, some chairs, an oak table covered in carvings, and most importantly numerous small chests overflowing with bundles of herbs and bags sewn from various materials. On the table was a book that had been propped open by a dagger that rested across its pages. Since none of the sacks were labeled, she examined it first in the hopes that it was a kind of ledger or catalog. It was not, though every space of every page was filled with recipes and notes for all manner of poisons and potions.

Jaya was considering taking it when she noticed a metal cage on the desk. At first it looked empty, but when she looked closer—much, much closer—the form of an unconscious dusky materialized. She tapped on the cage and whispered to him, and after a few tries he began to stir. She asked if he was the dusky king, and after a few labored gasps he managed a weak nod. She explained that she was here to rescue him, and inquired as to whether he could manage any useful magic. He shook his head. She looked at the sacks, and then asked if he could identify invisibility powder if he saw it. At this he nodded with perhaps slightly more vigor.

She opened the cage.

Back on deck Henry had long-since finished rendering everyone invisible, and was waiting on Martin. Mark paced about impatiently muttering to himself, and Bernaugustine helpfully offered to go see what was taking Squeak so long. He started walking without waiting for a response, and as he walked past Shorna saw that she was muttering over a strange-looking burlap doll. He quickly looked away and picked up his pace, but  before he made it to the door her face jerked up and she loudly hissed.

She pointed an accusing finger directly at him, declaring in a raspy voice that his soul was not one of theirs. She reached into a pouch at her side and withdrew a pinch of something that he assumed was bad for him, then began stalking towards him. He had no idea where the other soldiers were and did not want to get close, so he loosed an arrow at her. The arrow nicked her hand, causing her to drop the dust. It exploded as it hit the deck, creating a cloud of black soot that obscured her form. He knocked another arrow, but a blast of swirling green energy erupted from the cloud, striking him in the chest and paralyzing him.

Below deck the dusky king was rummaging through various bags. Jaya thought she heard someone shouting, followed by numerous sets of boots thundering about, which meant that they probably did not have much time. She was about to tell the dusky king to hurry when he reached into a bag and sprinkled some dust on himself. Nothing happened. Well, nothing that she could see, which was not what she was expecting from invisibility powder. Instead he sighed with relief, stated that his powers were restored, and that he no longer needed her to escape.

Jaya's stomach fell. She explained that she was here on behalf of the Autumn Monarch to safely retrieve him and the other prisoners, and that without him the city would fall to his army. He dismissively replied that he did not care about the others, but that if she promised to help negotiate a treaty with the Monarch that he would at least help her escape. Jaya thought about her friends, the people of Hell's Arch, and everything she had done to get here, but before she began screaming at him something else came to mind.

She agreed to his deal, and then remarked about how it was too bad for those other prisoners, who would surely owe a great debt to anyone that managed to get them out of here alive. The dusky king pondered this for a moment, then grinned and nodding his approval at her wisdom. As they left the captain's quarters he stated that she was thinking like a fey, but given her interactions with them thus far she was not sure if this was necessarily a good thing.

Mouse watched as the witch began pointing at...well, nothing. He had seen a bunch of men disappear several minutes ago, Augustine among them, and so assumed that she was pointing at him because he had done or said something to betray his identity. He lost sight of her as a cloud of smoke exploded around her, but then saw a green bolt of magical energy arc out of the cloud and strike empty air. As the dust cloud settled he saw her moving in the direction that the magic had gone. He was not sure exactly what was going on, but since Jaya had gone below deck in the likely chance that Augustine had gotten himself in trouble, it would be up to him to do something about it.

He started pulling random levers.

The entire chamber began to shudder again as many more gears started to turn, and several blocks of stone even fell from the ceiling. After centuries of disuse Mouse was not surprised that they protested so loudly, but then the noise stopped and was replaced with a low, straining groan, like a thick tree trunk being bent. Mouse looked about, but could see nothing obvious happening: the orbs were still moving, and the ships-ah. Like the orbs, the ships were apparently attached to arms, something Mouse learned as one of them, following a loud snapping noise, rocketed towards Mark's barge. It smashed into it, punching a hole in the cargo hold and knocking everyone off of their feet.

Well, at least with the arms they would not sink.

Jaya had been heading above deck when the other ship struck, and as she picked herself up any uncertainty she had before concerning the glowing orbs vanished: this was definitely Mouse's fault. She then looked about the deck: most of the soldiers were gone—either still invisible or pitched over the side after the impact—leaving just two along with Mark, and Shorna. The witch was already standing. She blew a pinch of dust, revealing the nearby form of Augustine. She was not sure how or why, but he looked like he had tried to ready his bow, got knocked over, and for some reason decided to remain in that same position.

Shorna leveled her wand at him. It began to glow brightly, and when Augustine did not speak or react in any way Jaya understood. She sang out a soft, flowing melody. The words drifted past Augustine, absorbing whatever baleful enchantments might be afflicting him and carrying them away. He suddenly jerked into motion, rolling away just in time to dodge the blast from her wand.

Augustine made his way to the ship's rail, both to get some distance and to prevent himself from being surrounded by unseen foes. He heard a gurgling sound behind him, and when he spared a glance saw that the water had vanished down numerous wide holes. All that was left were piles of what he hoped was mud, and a handful of what he knew from experience were trolls.

Though they were quickly shambling towards the arm that was supporting the barge, first things first: the witch was again gathering power into her wand, and both Mark and his men were advancing. Augustine charged forward, dodged a blast of green energy, plowed between a pair of soldiers, and crashed into her. The momentum carried them both out of her circle, and as she left the confines of it he could hear what sounded like a pane of glass shattering. He hoped it was a good thing.

They fell to the ground, and as Augustine tried to pin Shorna down he was surprised as to how savage and strong she was. She clawed and bit his face, and as he fumbled for his shadowsteel dagger she even managed to drive her wand between a chink in his armor and stab him with it. The wound burned, which meant it was likely poisoned: all he could do was hope to kill her before he succumbed to it. Well, that or for Jaya to heal him. That would probably work, too.

Jaya whistled a sharp tune and Mark drew his sword and drove it through one of the visible soldiers. He whirled upon her almost immediately, and his look of confusion quickly gave way to outrage. Jaya suspected that it was less because he had killed one of his own, more because he he had been magically compelled to do something. He stomped towards her, but only managed a few steps when the other soldier struck him from behind and knocked him to the ground. He demanded to know what the hell was wrong with Mark, but when Mark tried to point out the intruder Jaya had already scampered below deck in search of the dusky king.

She found him, or what was left of him, near the prison: apparently during the collision he had been impaled on a fragment of high velocity ship hull. To make matters worse, nearly all of the cages were demolished. She checked them for survivors she found that the first contained a dead unicorn, the second seemed to be empty, and the last was inhabited by a pegasus, wounded but at least still alive. She managed to coax the pegasus out with some soothing words and a healing potion, but as she wrapped up the dusky king's corpse heard the sound of wood splintering, followed by the sound of triumphant grunts and guttural speech.

Trolls.

Mouse had managed to manipulate another ship beneath the skybox. Randomly pulling levers was fun, but seemed to be doing more harm than good: it was time to try a more graceful and reliable approach (ie, daggers). He attached a rope to one of the levers, and scaled down another one. Once he made it onto the ship he yanked hard on the rope, and after a few moments of rumbling and groaning the boat began to swiftly propel towards Mark's barge. He was not sure what he he would accomplish by doing this, but it would probably look awesome.

Augustine was still struggling with the witch. He had wounded her with his dagger, but despite the loss of blood she seemed no weaker or slower than before. Invisible hands grabbed him, and while she went for her wand he wrested himself free and struck at her. He missed, driving his dagger into the deck, and when he tried to wrench it free she gripped him firmly, brought her mouth close to his ear, and began...whispering. Augustine dropped his dagger as he recoiled with equal parts disgust and terror. Shorna took a few moments to cackle maniacally before ordering the invisible soldiers to kill him.

Jaya was quietly and carefully trying to put some distance between herself and the trolls by moving the pegasus into the other ship, when it nervously began stomping and braying as the trolls stomped through the lower deck. The door burst from its frame as one of them effortlessly smashed it in, but when it tried to force its way through Jaya whistled sharply and another troll grabbed it by the neck and heaved it through a nearby wall. Jaya's relief was momentary as the other one grinned, and began barging its way into the room, arms outstretched.

Will Mouse land? Will Augustine kill the witch? Will Jaya become troll-chow?

Stay tuned for more Duuungeon Wooorld!

Behind the Scenes
I gotta say that I really appreciate all the opportunities to do crazy, random things. I did not directly deal any damage this game, but still had a lot of fun fiddling with the levers trying to indirectly help out. I just hope that I can get my hands on the book of potions and poisons.

As a heads up we are going to be wrapping up this campaign soon, after which I will be compiling it into a kind of campaign front foundation for publication, complete with the maps and magic items that just did not make it into these play reports.

Also, Melissa and I are going to be moving near the beginning of August, which means that without an immediate local group we are going to be doing more Hangout gaming (we already do a lot of board game hangouts). So if you ever want to roll some dice with us, let us know!

Dan: There is room for a couple dwarves...
David: Or one gnome.
Dan: ...and lots of levers.
David: For one gnome.
Ben: Remember, we're on the ship.

Melissa: Henry, what are you really feeling right now?
David: I feel like I am being needlessly grilled with random questions.

Dan: You dodge another bolt from her wand, grab her by the waist, and pull her out of the circle. She hisses and tries to bite your neck.
Melissa: Ooh, kinky.

Dan: You see the dusky king, and he has a shard of wood stuck through him.
Ben: You killed him!
David: I didn't kill him, the boat killed him.

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{ 3 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I would be so down to be part of a DW campaign via hangouts. I hope your move and all of the stuff leading up to it goes well.

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    1. We've had a lot of fun playing Descent with you: a table-top RPG is the next logical step!

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