We had 6 of our regular players in attendance for Saturday's outing, which once again featured one of the Lich Lord's devious schemes to gain magical control the city. Placed at regular intervals around the city, the Lich Lord had erected large circular wheels made of bones, lashed together, and then mounted on tall wooden pedestals so that the wheels could freely turn. Hanging from the spoke of each wheel was a victim bound up tightly, unconscious, with a magic bejeweled bag tied around its neck. These bags contained various objects needed for whatever bizarre ritual the Lich Lord was trying to enact.
To read the report from last month's game, click here: The Dark Cauldrons
Unfortunately, I got the next to last choice of set-up zones, so was stuck in the center spot of one side. This positioned my Sigilist, Quail, and her warband, with Bemis the other Sigilist on her left, and the Summoner, Challara, on her right. Directly across was the Elementalist, Alfred the Unready, and to my diagonal left front was Gru the Soothsayer, and on my diagonal right front was the Necromancer, Missy.
|A view of the table at the start of the game.|
"Join me in a tale of cold-hearted betrayal...", Quailelyn began in her spookiest voice, as she leaned forward in her chair and looked out over the eager faces of her warband members. They were seated around her, on various chairs, stools, or the floor, in the great hall. A fire crackled in the large fireplace as a cold wind blew around the tower, making a low moaning sound. The Sigilist leaned back again and smiled to herself as she continued her story; they were hooked. There wasn't much to do in the cold nights on the outskirts of the frozen city, so the Wizard was often called upon to use her skill as a trained Storyteller to provide some entertainment for the assembled soldiers of her party.
She hadn't gotten far into the tale when the door of the tower creaked open, making everyone jump a little, and the one absent member, Sir Cardidil the Knight, came in and stood for a minute stamping his feet and rubbing his hands together to warm up. He looked up when he felt all the eyes upon him. "Ah, good, you're all here!", he said, oblivious to the fact he had just interrupted the story. "I have news from the tavern. It seems our evil friend in the city is up to some new tricks." And with that, he told them all about the strange gigantic wheels, made of bones, that explorers returning from the city that day had seen being built by teams of Death Cultists.
Quail frowned, and tried to wrack her brain to think of what these wheels, that the Knight had described, could possibly be. The Maga Librarian of the Wizards' University library knew a lot of arcane magics, but these baffled her. She knew they would need to check them out for themselves, so story-time was cancelled, with some grumbling from the audience, and she gave the order to prepare for an expedition into the city first thing in the morning.
And the morning came quickly. There was much hustle and bustle in the tower as preparations were made. Quail was pleasantly surprised when her Apprentice, Bailisette, came down in the morning and reported that she had taken the liberty to research the Magical Atlas at first light, and had made an interesting discovery near where they were heading that morning. Apparently there was a rare Archangel Blade that was kept in a place called the Giant's Rest. It would be a great prize to find one of these swords; in effect exactly like a Vampire Blade, but it's nature was more aligned to Good than Evil. The Sigilist was glad that her Apprentice had taken the initiative on this, as she had had no time herself to even think about looking at the atlas that morning. (Quail fails Reveal Secret roll, and Bailey passes her's)
The pair then got to work preparing potions for the day's trip, but with all the commotion in the main hall that morning, Clol the Barbarian, accidentally knocked into their work table, and both little cauldrons toppled off their stands just as the Wizard and her Apprentice were adding the last ingredients. (Both Spellcasters fail Brew Potion.)
|Quail's deployment at the start of the game, and showing their proximity to the Banshee and Bone Wheel|
The group crept forward to find a position where they could get a better look at the situation, but not risk their lives. As they advanced, they spotted the Giant's Rest, or the ruins of it anyway. It appeared to have been a massive house or inn, with windows and doors all sized and located for Giant-sized inhabitants. But they couldn't concern themselves with recovering the treasure that was there just yet. In the distance they could see the source of their problem; a ghostly form of a woman sat upon a rock wringing a red cloth over and over again in her hands. As they watched the thing tilted it's head back and let loose with another extended cry. Everyone immediately clapped their hands over their ears. Some fell to their knees in pain. Their blood turned to ice and their heads throbbed. Quail's eyes watered as she closed them tightly and tried to block the sound and the pain. Then as quickly as it started, it was over. Everyone felt a little dizzy and nauseous, and, like before, their ears were ringing.
"We have to go now!", the Knight urged in a loud whisper. Quail nodded as she blinked tears from her eyes, and reached over and touched Clol on the arm. Being the two soldiers with magic weapons, Sir C., and the Barbarian had been elected to join the Sigilist in a single mad dash at the immaterial creature, hoping they could surprise it and overwhelm it before it could let loose with another shriek. At the distance they would be, it could be fatal. The three ran as fast as they could at the ghostly woman. She looked up with empty eyes, shocked at the sudden appearance of intruders. Luckily for the attackers, her first reaction was to stand and face them her clawed hands raised in defiance. Just as they reached her she lashed out at the Barbarian with a clawed hand, but he swerved and escaped the claws. The Banshee's mouth opened wide to wail, but only a short single note came out before Quail was there with her magic blade, and rammed it into the creature's chest killing it in a single blow (Quail rolls 13 + Fight 8 = 21) . The note was cut off almost before it started, and the ghostly woman looked at the Sigilsit with sad pleading eyes as it slowly vaporized into mist.
The Maga Librarian reached over and put her hand on Clol's shoulder beside her, and bending over, resting her sword hand on her knee, gulped large breaths of the chilly air. Quail was not use to sprinting like that, and she found herself winded by the exertion. The Wizard, however, was brought back to the immediate situation by Sir Cardidil who said merely, "M'lady." to get her attention. She sensed the urgency in the Knight's voice, and looked up to see him pointing to behind where the Banshee had been.
|Quail, Sir Cardidil and Clol rush the Banshee.|
As Quail watched a bank of fog appeared blocking the whole side of the building. (Bailey cast's Fog.) The Sigilist would need all her wits now, so quickly she began reciting the words of the Awareness spell. Casting it effortlessly, she felt her mind open to possibilities before her. Quickly she ducked behind a nearby wall to consider her options. Sir Cardidil caught a glimpse of a shadowy movement behind where the warband had entered, and taking his leave of the Wizard, went to investigate. He didn't get far before the Elementalist Apprentice, Aardvark the Unsteady, appeared from behind a wall on their left, and unleashed an Elemental Bolt at the Knight. Luckily the lad only managed the weakest of spells, and the Knight felt little more than a strange electric tingle. Meanwhile, Clol, seeing the Duckmen who had entered on their right, charged directly at them, his huge Club of Battering waving above his head.
Luc Demic, the Marksman, seeing the Barbarian's wild charge tried to provide some covering fire, and spotting a Duckman archer behind a low wall, fired at him; but his shot went wide. Bailey took the matter into her hands and quickly recited Fog again, though she stumbled a bit in her haste, and felt a painful pressure build up behind her temple. (Pushes spell for 2 HP) Recovering herself, she completed the spell, and produced another wall of white mist blocking the view of the Duckman Archer and some other Duckmen as well. The Apprentice then turned to Kinny, the Halfling Treasure Hunter, and pointed to the Bone Wheel and the poor souls hanging from it. "See if they are still alive and if you can help some of them."
Kinny was off like a shot toward the wheel. She reached it, and her Treasure Hunting eyes lit up as she saw a large bag, speckled all over with ornately mounted gems, tied around each victims neck. Each bag was the size of a knapsack. and they were obviously full of something. The Halfling called out to her fellow Treasure Hunters, "Innis! Dorch!", and then jumped up onto the nearest victim and clutching the chains with one hand, grabbed a limp hand and sensed a weak pulse. Quickly she picked the lock holding the chains and the limp body fell to the ground. The Halfling quickly relieved the body of the jeweled bag, as the poor soul slowly woke up from whatever trance it had been under. He was a scruffy looking man, and rising slowly, he looked around himself with wide fearful eyes, then bolted off into the ruins. Kinny watched the man flee, then realized the weird quack-talk of the Duckmen was getting louder; and she turned to see a number of them now swarming all over the wheel, seemingly oblivious to her.
As Sir Cardidil ran back, he spotted the shadowy figure he had seen: a Frost Wraith. Drawing his sword, empowered by his Ring of Life, he prepared to meet the creature. It came at him, it's own ancient blade drawn, and both of them struck simultaneous blows. (Both rolled the exact same Attack totals) Sir C's thrust was enough to shatter the icy form of the Wraith and the frozen particles rained on the pavement a the Knight's feet. Unfortunately, though, the Frost Wraiths blade had hit Sir Cardidil in the shoulder and it's icy effect shot though his body, chilling him to the bone. (Sir C. takes 7 HP damage.)
|Opening advance. On the left Cirvid the warhound can be seen in his ill-fated attack against the Elementalist's Apprentice. The Apprentice laid the dog low with a single blow.|
With all the Duckmen involved with grabbing the jeweled bags, Quail took the opportunity to move up and inspect the Bone Wheel. She reached a hand high up and tentatively touched one of the bones, and felt a strange and uncomfortable tingle. Quickly she withdrew her hand. Her mind considered the meaning of it all. (20 Experience for Wizard in contact with Bone Wheel.)
Meanwhile, Clol and Barc saw the old Elementalist hiding behind a pile of rotting barrels and ran at him. They both prepared to swing, but the Wizard struck at Clol first, giving him a nasty gash. Then out of nowhere a crossbow bolt hit the big Barbarian in the back and he toppled over into the snow. Both Barc and the Elementalist were equally shocked at this, and they simultaneously turned to see a pair of Missy the Necromancer's Marksman along a nearby wall. What's more, some of the Necromancer's soldiers were approaching as well. Alfred the Unready called out to his Duckmen, "On the Flank!" Barc took the opportunity to give the wizard an ungracious jab with his spear to push him away, and then tried to extricate himself from the direct line of fire from the enemy Marksmen.
|Clol and Barc charge Alfred the Unready. Some wandering zombies can be seen in the background.|
Quail had been alerted by Alfred the Unready's and Sir C's calls, but she hadn't noticed the Summoner's or the Necromancer's men; she was alarmed to see a pair of the wizard Gru's strange yellow minion creatures pass from under a viaduct off to her left, and head towards the warehouse. Likewise, a Warhound she recognized as being Bemis appeared charging up from behind. And there was one of the other Sigilist's soldiers rushing forward as well! Quail realized if they didn't act fast they could be cut off and surrounded. Urgently, she shouted, "Fall back!" as loudly as she could. Then before the hound could reach her, she cast Teleport upon herself, and in a flash was back near where the Giant's Rest was. She saw Bailey and called to her, "The Sword!"
Bailey, hearing her mistress' call, recited the spell of Teleport herself, and soon materialized back in the ruins of the Giant's building. Sallisee the Ranger had moved there as well in an effort to cover the retreat, and had spotted a promising looking chest. She pointed it out to the Apprentice.
|The flanking attacks begin! On the left one of Gru's minions, as well as Bemis' warhound and one of Bemis' soldiers can be seen moving to intercept our unsuspecting warbands.|
|The desperate attempt to flee. Bemis' hound catches Dorchesman by his cape, as even more of the other Sigilist's soldiers come charging in from the left.|
They looked over the two bags they had recovered. Then gems themselves would be worth about 40 GC for each bag. When they opened them, one held a Grimore of Furious Quill, a spell Quail and Bailey already knew, but a valuable tome nonetheless that they could sell for a nice sum. The other contained a pair of Gloves of Casting. Quail held them up in the candle light and admired the fine stitching. Though they seemed large and bulky, when she slipped them on, they shaped themselves smoothly to her delicate hands. She could feel the magical energy against her skin. Taking them off again she turned her attention to the case with the Archangel Sword. Opening it, they all gasped at the beautiful glowing blade inside and the fine carving on the untarnished silver hilt. It hardly looked like it had sat unattended for a thousand years. She would have to think about who in the party warranted such a prize.
|End result: three treasures recovered, Cirvid and Clol fall during the game.|
An exciting game! I knew this game was going to be tough because the set up requires that all the treasures are in one concentrated location. However, I had no idea the players on each side of me (and the Elementalist player) would silently decide amongst themselves to simply divide up the treasure on their Bones Wheels 50/50 and then come after ours! In the end, all of them doing it turned out to be the failure of their plan, as I might have tried to hold my ground against one or two of them. In the end there was no choice for either of us in the center but to hightail it and run. My only regret was that I was only able to recover two of the Bone Wheel treasures and not my equal share of three. How those dastardly ducks were able to strip four treasures off that thing so quickly still escapes me. I'd love to see the video replay! :)
It was a very average game otherwise, with the 3 treasures recovered and 8 spells cast. Quail also earned 20 EP for contacting the Bone Wheel, and 20 EP for killing the Banshee. Also the rushed retreat of the Elementalist's and my warbands made for a short 5 turn game.
And a note about the Vampire Blade/Archangel Sword. When I rolled the Vampire Blade after the game it seemed like a pretty neat magical weapon to have, but I knew, given Quail's strong dislike for Necromancy and Undead things, that she probably wouldn't be too keen on keeping such a vile weapon. So, using literary license, and a gamer's prerogative to tinker, I simply decided to rename the weapon to something with more of a Good alignment; drawing strength from the wicked to heal the just.
We're all looking forward to next month now. The big showdown with the Lich Lord should be quite the battle. Be sure to stay tuned!
To read Bemis' account of the battle, see: The Bone Wheel Goes Round and Round