Crown of the Dead [D&D v.3.5] – Part 24

This adventure was Friday October 2, 2015. A.T., E.G., T.F., and C.H. were present.

Gnome Barbarian Wee Jack and half-Orc Ranger Xorn give the small cabin a once-over Search. Apart from busted-up undead-Skeleton bones, there is nothing to find.

The next structure to check in this abandoned farm village is a barn. This is across a patchy dirt road and behind the supply-depot cabin belonging to a group called the Knights of Stormrise.  Ranger Carson Readey and his Redmond Brigade friends raided this storehouse the other day and then promptly left this region for home.  Wee Jack isn’t yet sure what to say when the Knights eventually show up at Riddley’s Crown; the Gnome was gifted a Stormrise weapon by a Redmond Brigader who probably didn’t know she’d stolen it.

A greeting startles the Barbarian from his musings. His friend, Cleric Jere Collado, has just arrived at the eerily-quiet farmstead.  Collado slept in this morning, but has reached his friends in time to help with the rest of the village.

There are no threats in the barn. Looks like someone had set up camp inside it.  Last year, from the condition of the tent and scattered supplies.  There are no signs of struggle; the camper simply left and didn’t return.  Xorn checks the drifts of rotted hay for hidden items or a ladder down to a cellar, but there is only damp silage and bare dirt.

In between the houses of the village, some fencing still delineates pastures and paddocks. The party investigates lean-to sheds decaying in the corners of these weedy plots; at best these shelter rusty tools and weathered coils of hemp rope.

North of the Stormrise cabin, only two cabins remain un-checked. The one on the right is the largest house in the village, physically in excellent condition and closed up tight.  The one on the left is a modest cabin, missing windows but with an intact front door.

The party decides on sweeping the big house first. Near its front door, the party makes a Listen check.  Though Collado’s hearing is the best on this occasion, it is Xorn who hears something.  The Ranger doesn’t think the sound came from inside the house.  Something is in the back yard.

Collado and Wee Jack watch the front door. Xorn Moves Silently around the south side of the house, his sickle and adamantine short sword drawn.  He Listens again at the corner, hearing nothing but sure something is just around the corner.  The Ranger takes the initiative and jumps out to engage.

To his surprise there is a very attractive half-Orc woman, in studded-leather armor, casually leaning against the wall. She plucks the petals off a weed-flower collected from the ground at her feet.  Glancing over at Xorn, she smirks.  There is some mix of anticipation, boredom, mischief, and indifference to her.  She hooks a thumb at the house, and tells Xorn there are two Wights and three Zombies waiting for him in there.  The half-Orc encourages the puzzled Ranger to go in and kill them.  Then she sprinkles the flower bits on the grass, winks, and saunters off around the far side of the house.

It takes a second for Xorn to collect his wits and chase after her. About a dozen questions are on his mind.  But when he turns the corner of the house, she isn’t there.  Nothing but broken fence and waving grasses separates him from open plains.  He Searches for her tracks but finds none.  Could be she was a Druid, could be she cast Invisibility.  The Ranger is perplexed.

Around front of the house, Xorn tells Wee Jack and Collado of his encounter. The Barbarian and Cleric didn’t see anyone come or go.  They don’t know what to tell him.  Last night Jenny mentioned that a new arrival was a half-Orc woman.  The cook thought she might be a Fighter, but it is possible Jenny was mistaken.  That must have been who Xorn saw.

There is a sound from inside the house; all three of the adventurers hear it. Something’s at home.  Cleric Collado casts Eagle’s Splendor on himself, then Divine Vigor, then Divine Protection.  Xorn gets his head back in the game, and nods for Wee Jack to open the door.

Daylight illuminates the interior. Xorn charges in, to find five Zombies charging at him – though his instincts tell him two are Wights.  He marks them to his allies.  Wee Jack hangs back at the entrance; the Gnome is in no mood for Negative Level damage.  The fight is swift; Xorn and a Spiritual Weapon summoned by Collado mow through their opponents.  Jere invokes a Turn after his ethereal hammer disappears, and the surviving Undead cower before the living and soon meet their end.

The occupants of the house carried gems and gold, and a scroll and a potion. Ranger Xorn does a careful Search and, defying long odds, uncovers a Notice of Claim to the house, hidden below a loose floorboard.  The interior of the house has been well preserved, apart from the Undead lurking in it.  Unlike other cabins they have cleared, this one is partitioned off into three separate rooms.

The party closes the door behind them and moves on to the last house on the left. This structure’s front door is unlocked.  Chairs, shelves, a dresser, and a bed, have been overturned.  Wee Jack notices that the floor under their feet is wood planks; the dark gaps between the boards suggest a root cellar below.  Listen checks hear nothing.

In the far corner is an opening without a cover; a ladder leads down into blackness. Jere Collado casts Light on a silver coin from his pocket, and drops the illumination into the basement.  Then, without thinking to see what the light exposes, Collado descends the ladder to the cellar’s dirt floor.

The moment he steps off the ladder, three Wights rush him from the other corners of the musty space. In a panic Collado goes Full Defensive, but only after he has been hit and dealt two Negative Levels of damage.  Above him, Xorn drops to the floor and offers his arm, grasping Collado’s and hauling the unlucky cleric up and out of the press of dangerous Undead.  Wee Jack grabs the table near him and blocks the basement opening once Jere is clear.

Drawing back towards the door of the cabin, the party sees the movement of the wights between the gaps in the floorboards. The party wants to kill them but no-one wants to go down the ladder again.  Xorn resists a curious urge to do just that.

There must be another, easier way. They look at the situation.  The cabin is made of wood; the wights are trapped in the cellar; and there doesn’t appear to be anything flammable between this structure and the others of the farmstead village…

The three adventurers reach the same delightful conclusion. Wee Jack digs into his pack and comes up with several pints of lamp-oil. He sloshes this onto the floorboards, parched wood furnishings and grass-stuffed mattress, and up onto the walls.  Outside on the road, Ranger Xorn calmly packs his ‘duck-quack’ pipe with tobacco.  Jere Collado strikes up a tinder-twig, lights his friend’s smoke, then tosses the twig into the cabin after Wee Jack has made his exit.

A blast of hot air dries the morning mist from their armor and faces, as the cabin erupts in a searing yellow-orange bonfire. The flames spread quickly and envelop the structure within seconds.  The party lingers to be sure the wights are safely trapped under a weighty pyre, before taking a stroll back to Riddley’s Crown.  Xorn’s pipe quacks a smug eulogy for their enemies.

The half-Orc guards are gathered on the east wall of the enclave, watching a thick rope of grey-white smoke spread into the misty skies. As Wee Jack and his friends enter the main gate, one guard asks what happened out there.  Xorn taps the spent tobacco from his pipe and suggests some wights got careless with flint-and-tinder.

The group splits up to attend personal business. Wee Jack is in their storefront cabin looking for a place to hide the Stormrise Knights’ +1 light mace, when he hears Jenny start screaming.

The Gnome Barbarian and his friends quickly converge on the main hall. They burst in the entrance with weapons ready, expecting the worst.  Jenny the cook is standing on a table, parchments in hand rolled up ready to swat a large bug on the floor.

The bug is, in fact, a nearly seven-foot-tall Thri-Kreen – an uncommon, intelligent insectoid race. The Thri-Kreen regards the half-Elf cook with passive curiosity.  Seeing a Gnome, half-Orc, and Human rush in armed for a fight, also doesn’t seem to bother him.  The Thri-Kreen folds two of its arms, and scratches its mandibles with its other two arms.  This is a strange situation and he’s not sure how it came about.

Fortunately, half-Orc guard captain Norrick arrives on the scene before Jenny screams again or the adventurers have to act. Norrick calms everyone, and invites Jenny down off her table.  She complies, keeping an eye on the lanky insect standing uncertainly in the middle of her dining hall.  The guard captain hands her a folded document to read.  Jenny skims it, then asks Norrick if it is for real.  He says so.

With a sign of relief, the half-Elf laughs nervously, and apologizes to the newcomer. She offers to make him food if he is interested or if he…eats.  The Thri-Kreen either doesn’t understand or doesn’t want anything.

Administrator Lumberg appears in the doorway. He is half-faint with the effort of walking forty feet from his office to here.  Lumberg introduces the party to H’AI-CH Q’A (new character played by A.T.) – pronouncing the complicated name as “ H-K ”.  The Administrator explains that H’ai-ch Q’a is a family friend of the Oakesworths, the nobility who hold title on the Undead lands.  The letter shown to Jenny is passed around to Xorn and his friends.  It was written by Lord Oakesworth, and vouches for H’ai-ch Q’a.  The Thri-Kreen tucks the document into a belt-pouch when it comes his way.

The Thri-Kreen gentleman is here on his own business, speaks excellent Common, and is trustworthy. Lumberg would appreciate it if the party might include him in their excursions.  Wee Jack doesn’t see why not.  Xorn knows they could use another capable warrior.  Collado did Minor in Entomology at his seminary, so he’s comfortable with the idea.

Lumberg and Norrick drift away. Collado still needs a Restoration from Sister Janus.  The party plus new member H’ai-ch Q’a visit the eccentric cleric.  Far from being shocked at the sight of a Thri-Kreen, Sister Janus speaks a few words of greeting to him in his native language – as best she can approximate the sounds.  H’ai-ch Q’a simply says ‘hello’, in Common.

Janus heals up Collado’s Negative -Levels problem, and offers the group some licorice-root tea.

It is now afternoon on the 30th day of March, by the local calendar.


(end of Part 24)




About d20horizons

D&D player.
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